Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Next Domino To Fall

We know that former Trump National Security Adviser Mike Flynn is under federal investigation for his connections to Russia, but now we know that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort is also being investigated for his Russia ties, and again the old adage proves true: follow the money.

The Justice Department requested bank records of President Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort as part of the federal investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to a new report.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Justice Department requested Manafort’s bank records from Citizen Financial Group Inc. in April. It’s unclear whether that was the only bank that was asked to turn over records, according to the report.

Manafort has come under intense scrutiny for his financial transactions. In March, the Treasury Department obtained financial records from Cyprus as part of a federal anti-corruption probe into Manafort’s past work in eastern Europe.

Those Cyprus accounts were investigated for money laundering, NBC News later reported.

Manafort also came under scrutiny for financial dealings immediately after he stepped down as Trump’s campaign chairman last year.

On the same day he stepped down, he formed a shell corporation and took out loans worth $13 million from Trump-connected businesses, according to The New York Times.

Manafort left Trump’s campaign as questions swirled around his finances and past lobbying work for Viktor Yanukovych, the ousted pro-Russia Ukrainian president and other pro-Russia figures.

So it's not just Flynn anymore.  And again, Manafort's been under investigation for Russia ties since last month.  We're finding out about this now because Trump moved up the game due to Comey's firing.  The leaks are going to start coming fast and hard now and my advice is to get ready, because things are going to move quickly now.  The message is clear: there are multiple investigations, multiple targets, and multiple connections between them, and none of them are going away.

If you thought this week was a whirlwind, the true hurricane is still on the horizon.

Spies Dislike Us, Con't

So remember last month when we found out that hacker group Shadow Brokers (who are totally not Russians) released the NSA's hacking toolkit worldwide to see just what chaos they could cause and of course people started asking some questions:

The real mystery here is why the Shadow Brokers released this data. Ordinarily, a hostile intelligence service wouldn’t tip their hand by showing that they had obtained this information but there are some clear strategic benefits to that kind of signalling. Releasing the vulnerabilities themselves goes a step further. It ensures not only that the NSA is unable to use the Windows 0-days against targets, but that you aren’t either. It is a matter of short time before these tools are patched, and thus unavailable to anyone. These are tremendously valuable tools to just burn that way, so it does make one wonder (and worry): what exactly is the intended payoff here?

Today we have our answer.

Employees and patients across multiple UK National Health Service facilities were displaced on Friday thanks to a large-scale cyberattack on network computers across Eurasia, including Great Britain, Portugal, Spain, Russia, Turkey, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Japan
Doctors and hospital staff were locked out of patient files and forced to relocate emergency patients, the Guardian reported. The attack made use of ransomware, a type of malware that restricts file and system access by encrypting data. The hackers then demand payment in exchange for decrypting the data and restoring access. Patient records, emails, schedules, and phone lines were all ensnared in the attack. 
British health officials said its systems were not the target of the attack. But security experts believe the vulnerability exploited during the attack was discovered by the NSA, and was included among the many cyber tools previously stolen from the American intelligence community earlier this year, the New York Times reported. The ransomware was distributed via email. 
Hospitals and telecom companies in western Europe, Russia, and Asia were also affected, the MalwareHunterTeam told the New York Times. 
The hackers demanded each user pay $300 in bitcoin to a specific bitcoin account in the next three days, potentially totaling thousands of dollars worth of bitcoin. The ransom doubles if payments aren’t made in that time, according to the hacker’s message obtained by the Guardian, and files will be kept restricted “forever” if payment isn’t received in seven days.

Meanwhile, you'd be crazy not to suspect that somebody just gained access to thousands of medical files in the UK and that's just a drop in the bucket.  Maybe this was the work of the Shadow Brokers, maybe it was somebody else, but my money continues to be on Vladimir and his friends, who sure could use a massive global distraction from the Comey firing and Trump/Russia investigations making worldwide headlines right now, particularly a destructive move that affects our closest ally in Britain.

Suddenly the Brits are all tied up dealing with this cyberattack rather than looking into any Trump connections and backing up US investigators.  Nice plan if you can execute it, and like clockwork:

Funny, the timing on this.  Just when the US intel community gears up to go to war with Trump over Comey's firing, this happens.

You do the math.

The Whole Goal Of The Troll Patrol

Former right-wing talk radio host Charlie Sykes takes to the NY Times to write an op-ed on recent events and finally finds what I've been saying for years: it doesn't matter what Republicans do to their own voters as long as they are making liberals second-class citizens.

If there was one principle that used to unite conservatives, it was respect for the rule of law. Not long ago, conservatives would have been horrified at wholesale violations of the norms and traditions of our political system, and would have been appalled by a president who showed overt contempt for the separation of powers. 
But this week, as if on cue, most of the conservative media fell into line, celebrating President Trump’s abrupt dismissal of the F.B.I. director, James Comey, and dismissing the fact that Mr. Comey was leading an investigation into the Trump campaign and its ties to Russia. “Dems in Meltdown Over Comey Firing,” declared a headline on Fox News, as Tucker Carlson gleefully replayed clips of Democrats denouncing the move. “It’s just insane actually,” he said, referring to their reactions. On Fox and talk radio, the message was the same, with only a few conservatives willing to sound a discordant or even cautious note. 
The talk-show host Rush Limbaugh was positively giddy, opening his monologue on Wednesday by praising Mr. Trump for what he called his “epic trolling” of liberals. “This is great,” Mr. Limbaugh declared. “Can we agree that Donald Trump is probably enjoying this more than anybody wants to admit or that anybody knows? So he fires Comey yesterday. Who’s he meet with today? He’s meeting with the Soviet, the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov! I mean, what an epic troll this is.” 
Given the enthusiasm of the president’s apologists, it is likely that much of Mr. Trump’s base will similarly rally to him as it has in the past.

But perhaps most important, we saw once again how conservatism, with its belief in ordered liberty, is being eclipsed by something different: Loathing those who loathe the president. Rabid anti-anti-Trumpism. 
In a lamentably overlooked monologue this month, Mr. Limbaugh embraced the new reality in which conservative ideas and principles had been displaced by anti-liberalism. For years, Mr. Limbaugh ran what he called the “Institute for Advanced Conservative Studies.” But in the Trump era, he told his audience, he has changed that to the “Institute for Advanced Anti-Leftist Studies.” 
With Mr. Trump in the White House, conservative principles were no longer the point. “How many times during the campaign did I warn everybody Trump is not a conservative? Multiple times a day,” Mr. Limbaugh said. “How many times have I told you: ‘Do not expect Trump to be a conservative? He isn’t one.’ ”He went on to emphasize that the campaign was not about conservatism, because that’s not what Mr. Trump is about.
That was a remarkable admission, but it is also a key to understanding what is happening on the right. While there are those like Sean Hannity who are reliable cheerleaders for all things President Trump, much of the conservative news media is now less pro-Trump than it is anti-anti-Trump. The distinction is important, because anti-anti-Trumpism has become the new safe space for the right. 
Here is how it works: Rather than defend President Trump’s specific actions, his conservative champions change the subject to (1) the biased “fake news” media, (2) over-the-top liberals, (3) hypocrites on the left, (4) anyone else victimizing Mr. Trump or his supporters and (5) whataboutism, as in “What about Obama?” “What about Clinton?”
For the anti-anti-Trump pundit, whatever the allegation against Mr. Trump, whatever his blunders or foibles, the other side is always worse. 
But the real heart of anti-anti-Trumpism is the delight in the frustration and anger of his opponents. Mr. Trump’s base is unlikely to hold him either to promises or tangible achievements, because conservative politics is now less about ideas or accomplishments than it is about making the right enemies cry out in anguish.

I'm glad that Sykes arrives at this conclusion, it's important that we admit one party is now dedicated to the destruction of half of America in order to try to benefit themselves in the chaos and carnage. But again, this has been the obvious point of the Republican party since Reagan if not Nixon: crush the other guys and rule unopposed over them.

This is why we see the victimization complex on the right these days, that Christianity is always "under assault" (but not by the admitted serial adulterer, abuser of women and the literal walking poster boy for graven images).  They have to be the victims, because it gives them the excuse to take whatever measures are necessary to destroy us, crush us, kill us.

It was always about putting us in our place, and increasingly that place is a shallow, unmarked grave. That's why they will hold on to Trump as his regime crumbles around him, because if they don't, they will know what it's like to be us.  They can't handle it.  They will burn this country down rather than see another non-white president, and Trump will let them.

Cry out in anguish indeed.
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