Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Last Call For Russian To Judgment

We've known for a while that the Trump campaign was actively benefiting from Russian social media manipulation, but Spencer Ackerman and the Daily Beast's crew have now connected the Trump campaign directly to a Russian propaganda outlet pretending to be the digital voice of the Tennessee GOP.

Some of the Trump campaign’s most prominent names and supporters, including Trump’s campaign manager, digital director and son, pushed tweets from troll accounts paid for by the Russian government in the heat of the 2016 election campaign.

The Twitter account @Ten_GOP, which called itself the “Unofficial Twitter account of Tennessee Republicans,” was operated from the Kremlin-backed “Russian troll farm,” or Internet Research Agency, a source familiar with the account confirmed with The Daily Beast.

The account’s origins in the Internet Research Agency were originally reported by the independent Russian news outlet RBC. @Ten_GOP was created on November 19, 2015, and accumulated over 100 thousand followers before Twitter shut it down. The Daily Beast independently confirmed the reasons for @Ten_GOP's account termination.

The discovery of the now-unavailable tweets presents the first evidence that several members of the Trump campaign pushed covert Russian propaganda on social media in the run-up to the 2016 election.

A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment, “for privacy and security reasons."

And several times, including before and right up to the election, the Trump campaign helped spread tweets from the fake account.

Two days before election day, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway tweeted a post by @Ten_GOP regarding Hillary Clinton’s email.

“Mother of jailed sailor: 'Hold Hillary to same standards as my son on Classified info' #hillarysemail #WeinerGate” the tweet reads.

Three weeks before the election, Brad Parscale, the Trump campaign’s digital director, retweeted a separate post from @Ten_GOP.

“Thousands of deplorables chanting to the media: "Tell The Truth!" RT if you are also done w/ biased Media!” the tweet read.

President Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. followed the account until its closure on August 23rd of this year. Trump Jr. retweeted the account three times, including an allegation of voter fraud in Florida one week before the election.

“BREAKING: #VoterFraud by counting tens of thousands of ineligible mail in Hillary votes being reported in Broward County, Florida Please, RT,” the tweet read.

Trump Jr. also retweeted the account on Election Day.

“This vet passed away last month before he could vote for Trump.. Here he is in his #MAGA hat.. #voted #ElectionDay,” the account wrote.

Former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn retweeted the Russian-backed troll account at least once. His son, Michael Flynn Jr., retweeted the account 34 times before it was removed from Twitter in August for its ties to Russian propaganda.

The account notably pushed for Flynn’s reappointment as Trump’s national security advisor, a job Flynn lost after press revelations that he’d lied about his telephone discussions with the Russian ambassador after the election hacks. It also repeatedly pushed Breitbart-backed talking points, including a fake news story about a gang rape in Twin Falls, Idaho that merited dozens of articles from Breitbart News.

And even though this was clearly a fake account, it had over 100k followers (mostly Russian bots of course) and was challenged and reported by the actual Tennessee GOP account @tngop, Twitter allowed it to continue even after being suspended in July. In fact, the @Ten_GOP account was operating up until six weeks ago when it was shut down by Twitter as part of the service's crackdown on fake Russian propaganda accounts.

But the larger story is that this account was specifically retweeted multiple times by the Trump campaign.  They knew to do it, and knew to retweet this particular account.  It's the most obvious evidence yet that the Trump campaign was an active participant in spreading Russian propaganda on social media, propaganda designed to help the Trump campaign win in 2016.

This one is big, guys.  And you'd better believe there's more evidence like this coming.

Bevin's Pension Deficit DIsorder

Today came the announcement of Kentucky GOP Gov. Matt Bevin's super double top secret plan to fix the state's unfunded pension liability problem, and since what Matt Bevin believes is that the problem is that "Kentucky state employees are people who should be paid and everything" his solution pretty much fixes that "oversight".

After months of planning and closed-door negotiations, Gov. Matt Bevin and GOP legislative leaders on Wednesday released a plan they say begins to tackle Kentucky’s multibillion-dollar pension debt while honoring promises to retirees and public employees. 
As expected the plan calls for transitioning most public employees from traditional pension plans to 401(k)-like plans – but it does so in a much more gradual way than recommended by the Bevin administration’s pension consultant. 
New workers and teachers will go into 401(k)-like plans, but instead of immediately shifting current state and local government workers to 401(k)s, those workers would be able to remain in their current pension plans for 27 years.

Current teachers with 27 years of service also would be moved to the 401(k)-style savings plans. But their plans will be more generous than those of other public employees to compensate for the fact that teachers do not draw Social Security benefits.

To avoid a rush of teacher retirements, those teachers will be given an option of remaining in their current traditional pension plans for three additional years.
And both current and future workers in “hazardous duty” jobs like law enforcement would not go into the 401(k)-type plans. They would retain their current pension benefits instead. 
The plan also would bring legislators, who have more generous benefits, into the retirement system of other state employees. And it would end the ability of teachers to use accumulated sick days to boost their pension benefits – but not until July 1, 2023. 
And the plan would begin to pay for pensions under a new approach “that mandates hundreds of millions more into every retirement plan, making them healthier and solvent sooner,” a summary of the plan said.

“If you are a retiree, if you are working to be a retiree at some point, you should be rejoicing,” Bevin said. “... It guarantees by law that your pension is going to be funded. There will be no more kicking of the can down the road.” 
Some immediate response to the plan questioned Bevin's statement that all promises have been kept. 
"I think the plan includes some very harsh cuts to benefits," said Jason Bailey, executive director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy. Bailey said the handouts summarizing the plan say cost-of-living increases for teacher retirement benefits would be suspended for five years and that teachers and other public employees will have to pay more for health care benefits.

So, cops and firefighters get full benefits, but teachers and other state employees get benefit cuts and have to pay more into the system in order to fund it.  The suspension of cost of living increases is pretty ridiculous.

Meanwhile, Bevin's too busy playing Good Cop, Bad Cop to actually get the plan signed into law.

Bevin has said all year that he would call a special legislative session in 2017 for lawmakers to pass a reform plan to set the state on course to pay off pension debts. Those debts are officially listed at more than $40 billion, but Bevin estimates them at more than $64 billion. 
The plan released Wednesday is only an outline of the bill to be considered. And Bevin did not say when that session will begin. 
“As soon as we are ready,” he said when asked when he will call the session. “There’s still a little ‘I’ dotting and ‘T’ crossing” before that announcement, Bevin said. 
The plan is much friendlier to employees and retirees than many of the highly controversial recommendations offered in August in a report by the administration’s Philadelphia-based consultant – PFM Group. It does not, for instance, call for raising the retirement age for public employees or the clawing back of any benefits earned by current retirees. 
“Nothing is changing for retirees," Bevin said. "They’re going to be getting everything they’re getting now.”

That's a lie, of course.  But the devil is in the details, and not word of those details has been written yet.

We'll see.

The Commander, Chiefly In Need Of A Soul

When it comes to basic empathy for human beings, Donald Trump's circuits are emotionally cauterized.

President Donald Trump told U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson's widow Tuesday that "he knew what he signed up for ... but when it happens, it hurts anyway," when he died serving in northwestern Africa, according to Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami Gardens.

"Yes, he said it," Wilson said. "It's so insensitive. He should have not have said that. He shouldn't have said it."

The president called about 4:45 p.m. and spoke to Johnson's pregnant widow, Myeshia Johnson, for about five minutes. She is a mother to Johnson's surviving 2-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter. The conversation happened before Johnson's remains arrived at Miami International Airport on a commercial Delta Airlines flight.

A top advisor later told Local 10 News "The president's conversations with the families of American heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice are private."

Wilson watched as the widow, who is expecting their third baby in January, leaned over the U.S. flag that was draping Johnson's casket. Her pregnant belly was shaking against the casket as she sobbed uncontrollably. Their daughter stood next to her stoically. Their toddler waited in the arms of a relative.

There was silence.

Local politicians, police officers and firefighters lined up to honor Johnson for his service and for the efforts and discipline that got the former Walmart employee to defy all odds and become a 25-year-old member of the 3rd Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Johnson, who participated in a mentorship program Wilson founded in 1993, died during a mission fighting alongside Green Berets. Islamic militants ambushed them on Oct. 4 with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns. The team reportedly didn't have overhead armed air cover and was in unarmored pickup trucks. Reuters reported the lack of planning upset the French.

So Trump's response, two weeks after American soldiers were killed in Niger in an ambush, is "he knew what he signed up for" to a serviceman's pregnant, grieving widow.

Let that absolute lack of empathy sink in, folks.  He has no empathy because he's incapable of it.  He is incapable of empathy because his clinical narcissism is so pathological that he cannot process the basic human function of being able to emotionally relate to anyone other than himself, because that would require him to give a damn about somebody other than Donald Trump.

You might be able to get away with saying that this was a case of nerves, or early term jitters, except that lack of empathy has driven pretty much every decision Trump has made since attaining the office, and he's proven that lack of empathy again and again.

The man is a monster.  Like I said, pathological.


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