Sunday, December 16, 2018

Last Call For Russian To Judgment, Con't

We're now getting more information on just what the Russians were doing during the 2016 election, and there is no doubt that they were manipulating social media in order to help Donald Trump, to attack Hillary Clinton, to demoralize Democratic voters, and to misinform the electorate, and that Russian assistance to Trump continued after the 2016 elections.

A report prepared for the Senate that provides the most sweeping analysis yet of Russia’s disinformation campaign around the 2016 election found the operation used every major social media platform to deliver words, images and videos tailored to voters’ interests to help elect President Trump -- and worked even harder to support him while in office.

The report, a draft of which was obtained by The Washington Post, is the first to study the millions of posts provided by major technology firms to the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), its chairman, and Sen. Mark Warner (Va.), its ranking Democrat. The bipartisan panel hasn’t said if it endorses the findings. It plans to release it publicly along with another study later this week.

The research -- by Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project and Graphika, a network analysis firm -- offers new details on how Russians working at the Internet Research Agency, which U.S. officials have charged with criminal offenses for meddling in the 2016 campaign, sliced Americans into key interest groups for the purpose of targeting messages. These efforts shifted over time, peaking at key political moments, such as presidential debates or party conventions, the report found.

The data sets used by the researchers were provided by Facebook, Twitter and Google and covered several years up to mid-2017, when the social media companies cracked down on the known Russian accounts. The report, which also analyzed data separately provided to House intelligence committee members, contains no information on more recent political moments, such as November’s midterm election.

“What is clear is that all of the messaging clearly sought to benefit the Republican Party--and specifically Donald Trump,” the report says. “Trump is mentioned most in campaigns targeting conservatives and right-wing voters, where the messaging encouraged these groups to support his campaign. The main groups that could challenge Trump were then provided messaging that sought to confuse, distract and ultimately discourage members from voting.”

There's every reason to believe given the revelations of the last two years that Trump not only knew about this, but was actively seeking this assistance, and that it made a concrete difference in states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, and on top of all this it helped him win the election.

When Mueller comes in his his proof that this happened, it's going to be a gut check for this country.  I don't know if we'll pass it.

The Easiest Political Consulting Job On Earth

House Republicans like Rep. Kevin Yoder of Kansas who got incinerated in November really want to know why they lost, and they want the GOP to conduct a detailed, in-depth study of what spelled their doom.

Yoder signed onto a draft letter that House Republicans are circulating in response to the party’s dramatic loss of 40 seats in this year’s midterm elections. The copy, obtained by McClatchy, includes Yoder’s signature alongside those of Carlos Cubelo, a moderate Republican who lost his re-election race in Florida, and GOP Reps. Elise Stefanik of New York and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. It’s unclear how many members signed it as of Friday, or whether the letter has been sent.

Stefanik served as the first female head of recruitment at the National Republican Congressional Committee — the House’s campaign arm — but only one of the 100 women she recruited won. Next year there will be 89 Democratic women serving in the House compared to 13 Republican women.

Yoder’s office did not respond to request for comment on the draft letter. Nor did the NRCC or Stefanik.
Yoder lost his race in a suburban district outside Kansas City by 9 percentage points to his Democratic challenger, Sharice Davids, who will be part of an historic class of 35 female freshmen Democrats in the House.

Yoder was deeply frustrated with what his team saw as a lack of NRCC support even before his loss. When the committee decided in September to pull out of spending in his district, Yoder didn’t receive a courtesy phone call. He learned the news on Twitter.

Yoder called NRCC Chairman Steve Stivers at the time to vent.

“When people ask me what I think of you, I can’t decide whether to tell them you’re a f***ing idiot or a f***ing liar. But now I think you’re both,” Yoder reportedly told Stivers. A source close to Yoder confirmed the quote, originally published by Politico.

Colorful language aside, I'm going to save Mr. Yoder and the GOP a considerable amount of time and effort on that whole autopsy process and just write two words in Sharpie on a 3"x5" index card.  Can you guess what those two words are?

Donald Trump.

That'll be several hundred thousand dollars in consulting fees, thanks.

In all seriousness, the party that pledged utter fealty to a idiotic neanderthal white supremacist reality show host, one mobbed up with Putin's boys and so bad at business that he managed to lose money on casinos shouldn't be surprised that women turned on him to such a degree that they lost 40 House seats.

If you need an "in-depth autopsy" to tell you that, you shouldn't be in politics at all.

He's going to jail, the people who protected him in the GOP should go to jail too, and I hope in 2020 that America rips apart the rest of the GOP in the Senate and of course the White House.  No wonder Senate Republicans are fleeing from Trump in droves.

A reporter hadn’t even finished asking about President Trump and the sentencing of his former lawyer Michael Cohen when Republican Sen. James E. Risch indicated he would have none of it.

“Oh, I don’t do interviews on any of that stuff,” Risch said when questioned about Trump’s shifting explanations on efforts to buy the silence of women who claimed sexual dalliances with him.

Well, why not?

“I don’t do any interviews on anything to do with Trump and that sort of thing, okay?” Risch (Idaho) responded curtly before quickly slipping into the Senate chamber.

As Trump’s legal woes — rooted in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe and the Southern District of New York’s investigation into the hush payments — continued to spiral this past week with new revelations and fresh presidential denials, congressional Republicans found themselves in a familiar position: struggling to account for Trump’s behavior and not-so-consistent statements about his personal controversies.

This week, Republicans responded to the latest chapter in Trump’s saga by rationalizing his actions of those of someone who didn’t know any better, carefully rebuking his Cohen-induced reactions while praising his policies, or putting full faith in his explanations — even as they’ve changed over time.

Or — as Risch showed — by not answering the question altogether.

“Oh, I don’t know anything about that,” Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) said, as a reporter tried to ask him about Trump denying that he directed Cohen to pay women in exchange for keeping quiet about their sexual encounters with the now-president. “I don’t know anything except what I hear and read about all that.”

“Stop,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said. “I have not heard what you told me he said. Until I read, actually read, what the president said, I won’t comment on it.”

“Honestly, I don’t think that’s a fair question,” said Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.), when asked if he believed Trump’s explanation. “I wasn’t there. I don’t have any way of assessing that.” 

Like everyone else, Senate Republicans who have been protection Trump, are waiting to see just how bad the Muller bombshell will be when it hits, and if that doesn't finish Trump off, the Southern District of New York state investigation into the Trump Organization and its shady business will.  Once the indictments start piling up, the dam may actually break.

The one thing you can count on is that Senate Republicans will jump ship if they determine saving Trump is a lost cause.  Cowardice cuts both ways once the cowards find something scarier to be terrified of.  When they become more worried about the general electorate than the GOP base, that's the second the Trump regime ends.

Whether or not we get to that point depends on the fallout.  The Senate GOP saw their House colleagues get scorched.  They know what awaits them in 2020.  And there's evidence now that the events of the last two weeks have pushed voters to the point where they no longer believe Trump about Russia.

Six in 10 Americans say President Donald Trump has been untruthful about the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, while half of the country says the investigation has given them doubts about Trump’s presidency, according to a new national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

The survey, conducted a month after the results of November’s midterm elections, also finds more Americans want congressional Democrats — rather than Trump or congressional Republicans — to take the lead role in setting policy for the country.

And just 10 percent of respondents say that the president has gotten the message for a change in direction from the midterms — when the GOP lost control of the U.S. House of Representatives but kept its majority in the U.S. Senate — and that he’s making the necessary adjustments.

“The dam has not burst on Donald Trump,” said Democratic pollster Peter Hart, whose firm conducted this survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff. “But this survey suggests all the structural cracks [that exist] in the dam.” 

Only a third of Americans believe Trump is being honest on Russia now, with 62% saying Trump is a liar, and that's up six points since August. The bigger problem is how many Americans actually care about that, and the answer still remains "not nearly enough."   We'll see if the dam breaks or not.

But for the first time in two years, I have slight hope that it will.

Sunday Long Read: It Was Definitely About Suppression

Georgia GOP Governor-elect Brian Kemp won in November through no small amount of voter suppression as Secretary of State, but his most vile tactic was accusing Georgia Democrats of "hacking" into the state's voter database the weekend before the election, a move the Atlanta Journal-Constitution found was a smokescreen to allow Kemp to gather a team of security experts and supply them the access they needed to cover his own dirty tracks.

Brian Kemp, the Republican candidate for governor, had a problem. As did Brian Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state.

It was Nov. 3, a Saturday, 72 hours to Election Day. Virtually tied in the polls with Democrat Stacey Abrams, Kemp was in danger of becoming the first Georgia Republican to lose a statewide election since 2006. And, now, a new threat. The secretary of state’s office had left its voter-registration system exposed online, opening Kemp to criticism that he couldn’t secure an election that featured him in the dual roles of candidate and overseer.

But by the next day, Kemp and his aides had devised one solution for both problems, an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows.

They publicly accused the Democratic Party of Georgia of trying to hack into the voter database in a failed attempt to steal the election. The announcement added last-minute drama to an already contentious campaign. More important, it also pre-empted scrutiny of the secretary of state’s own missteps while initiating a highly unusual criminal investigation into his political rivals.

But no evidence supported the allegations against the Democrats at the time, and none has emerged in the six weeks since, the Journal-Constitution found. It appears unlikely that any crime occurred.

“There was no way a reasonable person would conclude this was an attempted attack,” said Matthew Bernhard, a computer scientist at the University of Michigan who has consulted with plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging Georgia’s use of outdated touch-screen voting machines.

To reconstruct the campaign’s final weekend, the Journal-Constitution interviewed more than 15 people — computer security experts, political operatives, lawyers and others — and reviewed court filings and other public records. That examination suggests Kemp and his aides used his elected office to protect his political campaign from a potentially devastating embarrassment.

Their unsubstantiated claims came at a pivotal moment, as voters were making their final decisions in an election that had attracted intense national attention.

The race seemed to turn on whether rapid demographic changes – coupled with dislike of Kemp’s most prominent supporter, President Donald Trump – would help break the Republicans’ hold on political power in Georgia. Kemp was a typical Georgia Republican standard bearer: conservative, business-oriented, an abortion-rights opponent and a gun-rights advocate. Abrams was different: the first African-American and the first woman nominated for the state’s highest office, an unapologetic progressive appealing to young and minority voters who felt disenfranchised.

Ultimately, Kemp won with 50.2 percent of the nearly 4 million votes cast. In Georgia’s closest race for governor since 1968, any voters swayed by a purported Democratic cyberattack could have tipped the election.

The episode highlighted the inherent conflicts that Kemp straddled throughout this election. He rejected calls to resign as secretary of state or to step away from election-related duties, despite concerns that he could use his elected office to his campaign’s advantage. When he assigned his own staff to investigate his opponents, Democrats say, Kemp proved their point.

“He was doing anything he could do to win,” said Rebecca DeHart, executive director of the Democratic Party of Georgia. “It was an extraordinary abuse of power.”

Brian Kemp manipulated the election, and he was able to do it because Brian Kemp was also in charge of counting the votes and determining the eligibility of voters.  The Atlanta Journal-Constitution team makes the very convincing case that Kemp stole the election from Abrams, plain and simple.

The accusations of Democratic party meddling in the voter database were 100% false, and it becoming the final major news story in the 72 hours leading up the election is what gave Kemp the win.

Furthermore, it allowed Kemp, gubernatorial candidate, and his security team to go in and clean up the evidence that Kemp, Secretary of State, illegally purged hundreds of thousands of black Democratic voters from the rolls, and the fact that Kemp did everything he could to leave the state's systems vulnerable to attack so that he could blame Democrats in the waning hours of the campaign.

This is a pretty important read, and it raises a number of legal questions about Kemp's status as Governor-elect.  I'm hoping Abrams and the state's Democrats choose to take legal action.

We'll see.

French Toast For The Weekend

French President Emmanuel Macron may have backed off from the green fuel tax as the Yellow Vest protesters said they wanted, but the protests against his government have not stopped, and they probably won't anytime soon.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of French cities on Saturday in the fifth weekend of demonstrations against Emmanuel Macron’s government, ignoring calls to hold off after a gun attack in Strasbourg this week.

In Paris, police were out in force to contain outbursts of violence. But the demonstrations were noticeably smaller than in previous weeks, possibly a response to the Strasbourg attack or to the cold, rainy weather.

Police fired water cannon and teargas in the afternoon to disperse groups of protesters in sporadic, brief clashes with riot police on the Champs-Elysees and adjacent streets.

Topless feminist activists braved the cold to face off with security forces, a few meters away from the Elysee Palace, the president’s residence.

And French media showed footage of clashes between police and protesters in Nantes, western France, and further south in Bordeaux and Toulouse.

The ‘yellow vest’ movement started in mid-November with protests at junctions and roundabouts against fuel tax increases, but quickly became a wider mobilization against Macron’s economic policies.

Successive weekends of protests in Paris have lead to vandalism and violent clashes with security forces. Despite the protests, several major stores, such as the Galeries Lafayette, opened to lure in Christmas shoppers.

Loic Bollay, 44, marching on the Champs-Elysees in a yellow vest, said the protests were more subdued but the movement would go on until the demonstrators’ grievances were addressed.

“Since the Strasbourg attack, it is calmer, but I think next Saturday and the following will come back.”

The Macron government remains wildly unpopular and Macron himself seems to be doing everything in his power to get tossed out of office.  Eventually the only thing that will sate the Yellow Vests is Macron's resignation, and it's going to happen pretty soon, I would expect.

I could be wrong, but I don't think I am.
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