Thursday, June 29, 2017

Last Call For Russian To Judgment

Today's Russia bombshell story (and we're well into the uncharted territory where we have enough regular bombshell stories for me to use the term today's Russia bombshell story) is from the WSJ's Shane Harris, who tells us the story of a GOP political operative named Peter Smith.  Smith, it turns out, is the cutout man linking Hillary Clinton's stolen emails, taken by Russian hackers, and Mike Flynn and the Trump campaign

Before the 2016 presidential election, a longtime Republican opposition researcher mounted an independent campaign to obtain emails he believed were stolen from Hillary Clinton’s private server, likely by Russian hackers.

In conversations with members of his circle and with others he tried to recruit to help him, the GOP operative, Peter W. Smith, implied he was working with retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, at the time a senior adviser to then-candidate Donald Trump.

“He said, ‘I’m talking to Michael Flynn about this—if you find anything, can you let me know?’” said Eric York, a computer-security expert from Atlanta who searched hacker forums on Mr. Smith’s behalf for people who might have access to the emails.

Emails written by Mr. Smith and one of his associates show that his small group considered Mr. Flynn and his consulting company, Flynn Intel Group, to be allies in their quest.

What role, if any, Mr. Flynn may have played in Mr. Smith’s project is unclear. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Smith said he knew Mr. Flynn, but he never stated that Mr. Flynn was involved.

Mr. Flynn didn’t respond to requests for comment.

A Trump campaign official said that Mr. Smith didn’t work for the campaign, and that if Mr. Flynn coordinated with him in any way, it would have been in his capacity as a private individual. The White House declined to comment.

So if you wanted to know what the big shoe waiting to drop on Trump was, judging by his screaming Twitter rants all week, this appears to be it.  By the way, Peter Smith is now dead.  Did I mention that?

Mr. Smith died at age 81 on May 14, which was about 10 days after the Journal interviewed him. His account of the email search is believed to be his only public comment on it.

The operation Mr. Smith described is consistent with information that has been examined by U.S. investigators probing Russian interference in the elections.

Those investigators have examined reports from intelligence agencies that describe Russian hackers discussing how to obtain emails from Mrs. Clinton’s server and then transmit them to Mr. Flynn via an intermediary, according to U.S. officials with knowledge of the intelligence.

It isn’t clear who that intermediary might have been or whether Mr. Smith’s operation was the one allegedly under discussion by the Russian hackers. The reports were compiled during the same period when Mr. Smith’s group was operating, according to the officials.

Mr. Smith said he worked independently and wasn’t part of the Trump campaign.

His project began over Labor Day weekend 2016 when Mr. Smith, a private-equity executive from Chicago active in Republican politics, said he assembled a group of technology experts, lawyers and a Russian-speaking investigator based in Europe to acquire emails the group theorized might have been stolen from the private server Mrs. Clinton used as secretary of state.
Mr. Smith’s focus was some 33,000 emails Mrs. Clinton said were deleted because they were deemed personal. Mr. Smith said he believed that the emails might have been obtained by hackers and that they actually concerned official matters Mrs. Clinton wanted to conceal—two notions for which he offered no evidence. Mrs. Clinton gave the State Department tens of thousands of emails related to official business.

Ahh, but it gets better.

In the interview with the Journal, Mr. Smith said he and his colleagues found five groups of hackers who claimed to possess Mrs. Clinton’s deleted emails, including two groups he determined were Russians.

“We knew the people who had these were probably around the Russian government,” Mr. Smith said.

And better.

Mr. Smith said after vetting batches of emails offered to him by hacker groups last fall, he couldn’t be sure enough of their authenticity to leak them himself. “We told all the groups to give them to WikiLeaks,” he said. WikiLeaks has never published those emails or claimed to have them.

No, that would have given the game away.  But Flynn had them.  The Russians had them.  Smith talked to the WSJ.  And now he's dead.

Fun times, huh?

Gunmerica Declares War

The NRA is apparently sick and tired of liberals wanting to not have schools full of kids being shot up and have decided that the real enemy of the United States is people who don't like firearms. If you think I'm exaggerating the "liberals are the enemy" angle of the NRA, this is their newest video.

MoJo's Kevin Drum on what amounts to a right-wing white supremacist recruitment video:

I’m not sure this video is even unusual for the NRA, which, these days, is more a purveyor of wholesale culture war zealotry than it is just a gun rights group. But it’s still a pretty spectacular appeal to the seemingly bottomless resentment of liberal sophisticates that eternally haunts conservatives despite controlling virtually the entire political apparatus of the United States. If there were a secret version of this video that ended with a call to march on Hollywood and raze it to the ground, I wouldn’t be surprised.

This raises a question for “both sides” apostles: Can you think of a recent video anywhere near as vicious as this one from a left-wing group? I don’t mean some dude on Twitter. I mean some significant organization associated with mainstream liberalism. It’s an honest question. I don’t watch a lot of propaganda videos, so I could easily have missed something. Any takers?

That's Dana Loesch in the video, by the way.  If the name sounds familiar, she's one of Glenn Beck's friends at The Blaze and is married to equally awful conservative media jackass Chris Loesch.

Her response to criticism of this video?

“The language of the left is violence and it has been because they think it’s an acceptable form of protest,” she said. “I thought these people were supposed to be open-minded and creative and funny, and I’ve never seen people who are the dullest crayons in the box in my life, and these people who try to overreact — hyper-reaction — and feign outrage about condemnation of violence that they themselves don’t have the balls to condemn.”

When somebody tell you straight out that "the only way to stop their violence of lies is with the clenched fists of truth" as an endorsed, public statement of an advocacy group for the promotion and use of firearms, it is not "rhetoric"or "metaphor" or "hyperbole", it is a statement that the NRA believes and is openly advocating that firearms should be purchased to be used by scared and angry people as a tool of resolution of political disagreement, to be used on Americans, by Americans.

It is a declaration of a belief that the time is coming when firearms must be used not in defense of liberty but as offense to put down enemies of the state.

It is a call for civil war, a clarion call to take up arms and to use those arms.

It's the most irresponsible and hideous thing I think I've seen in a long time, and the racial undertones of it are both indelible and unmistakable.  This goes far beyond the sick lunacy of a single man's attempt to kill a Republican Congressman earlier this month.  It is a call to open fire, during an open season of blood.

No Republican will dare disavow this.  But if I were making a recruitment video for a anti-government militia group, a white supremacist sovereign citizen movement, or I just wanted to inspire someone to start shooting up the next Black Lives Matter demonstration, in sixty seconds I could not have done a better job.

This is terrifying.  And there will be bloody consequences from this, I guarantee it.

The Bible Belt Meets The Bourbon Trail

It's no wonder that here in a state with the twin national embarrassments of the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter theme park, in a state where religious organizations now have the same "equal access" to discriminate against LGBTQ organizations on public university campuses and use tax dollars to do so, that GOP Gov. Matt Bevin is now putting Bible study courses in Kentucky high schools.

Public schools in Kentucky can soon teach reading, writing and the book of Revelation.

At the Capitol on Tuesday, Gov. Matt Bevin gave his public “Amen” to a bill allowing Bible courses in public schools.

Normally, a bill signing does not open with prayer, but in this case, it may have been appropriate. At a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda, Bevin signed House Bill 128, which allows public schools to teach courses on the Bible.

The bill's sponsor says students need to understand the role the Bible played in American history.

“It really did set the foundation that our founding fathers used to develop documents like the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights," said Rep. D.J. Johnson (R-Owensboro). "All of those came from principles from the Bible."

The bill, which easily passed the House and Senate, gives local school boards the option of developing a Bible literacy class as part of their social studies curriculum. The course would be elective, not required.

“The idea that we would not want this to be an option for people in school, that would be crazy. I don't know why every state would not embrace this, why we as a nation would not embrace this,” Bevin told the crowd.

The ACLU of Kentucky said it’s concerned about how the law might be used in schools.

“A Bible literacy bill that, on its face, may not appear to be unconstitutional, could in fact become unconstitutional in its implementation,” said Advocacy Director Kate Miller.

Miller told WDRB News the ACLU will monitor the law closely.

Comparative religion courses are one thing, I took such a class in college and hey, I learned about the Bible, the Qu'ran,  the Torah and Talmud, the Mahabharata, the Tripitaka and more.  But teaching the Bible in high school, even as a social studies elective, is tricky and in this state probably going to get ugly fast next year.

I'd argue that we need more Constitutional literacy, or literacy in general here in Kentucky, but that's why I'm not on any school boards around here. Go figure.

Bonus question:  When do we get the high school elective courses on literacy of the Qu'ran or any non-Christian religious text?

But you already know the answer to that.


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