Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Donald Trump rigged the Miss universe contest so that the winners were from countries where he had business deals. Go ahead, act surprised.

Trump at the 2013 Miss universe contest in Moscow.
Courtesy of the New Yorker:  

From 1996 to 2015, Donald Trump co-owned the Miss Universe Organization, which also included the Miss U.S.A. and Miss Teen U.S.A. pageants. A day or two before a pageant began, Trump would casually visit the contestants while they conducted their final rehearsals. Former contestants told me that Trump would circulate among the young women, shaking hands and chatting with each of them, periodically turning to speak with Paula Shugart, the president of the Miss Universe Organization, who followed him at a discreet distance. (Paula Shugart declined to comment.) Adwoa Yamoah, who competed as Miss Canada in 2012, told me, “He made comments about every girl: ‘I’ve been to that country.’ ‘We’re building a Trump Tower there.’ It was clear the countries that he liked did well. He’d whisper to Paula about the girls, and she’d write it down. He basically told us he picked nine of the top fifteen.” Kerrie Baylis, who was Miss Jamaica in 2013, described a similar scene and added that, when the finalists were announced, “the list looked like the countries that Donald Trump did business with, or wanted to do business with.” Shi Lim, who competed that year as Miss Singapore, told me, “The finalists were picked by Trump. He was really in charge. We called it the Trump card.” (A Miss Universe spokeswoman said that the pageant rules allowed the company’s staff, including Trump, to participate in naming the finalists.) 

Trump has long viewed his businesses as mutually reinforcing, with all the products—from hotels to steak, vodka to golf resorts—complementing one another. As he said in the introduction to the first episode of “The Apprentice,” the reality-television show that made him a global celebrity, “I’ve mastered the art of the deal and have turned the name Trump into the highest-quality brand.” Trump often staged the Miss Universe pageant in cities where he had other business interests, and finalists usually came from countries where Miss Universe had strong television ratings. Under Trump, the pageant was held twice in Las Vegas, twice in Florida, and twice in Puerto Rico. In the other years, Trump kept the pageant true to its origins as a swimsuit competition by setting the ceremony in warm-weather locations like Panama City, São Paulo, Quito, and Mexico City. (Although interest in beauty pageants has faded in the United States, it remains high in Latin America.) Only once did Trump steer the pageant away from temperate environments—in November, 2013, when Miss Universe took place in Russia. 

Today, the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow looks like a harbinger of the Trump campaign and Presidency, featuring some of the same themes and characters. Miss Universe represents a paradigmatic example of Trump’s business style in action—the exaggerations that teeter into lies, the willingness to embrace dubious partners, the hunger for glamour and recognition. Trump got away with this kind of behavior for decades, and he played by the same rules during his run for the Presidency.

So it appears that rigging contests is kind of in Trump's blood.

After all you did not think the winners of "The Apprentice" won due to their ability did you? 

So riddle me this Batman. Would a man used to always getting the winner he wants balk at a little help in winning his own race?

I think not.

White House officials saw the Florida school shooting as a "reprieve" from their constant concern about the Russia investigations and talk about Trump's extramarital affairs.

Courtesy of WaPo: 

The White House was under siege. 

Domestic abuse allegations against a senior aide were ignored, pointing to a potential high-level coverup. Two Cabinet secretaries were caught charging taxpayers for luxury travel. A Playboy centerfold alleged an extramarital affair with the president. And the special counsel’s Russia investigation was intensifying. The tumult was so intense that there was fervent speculation that President Trump might fire his chief of staff. 

But a gun massacre at a Florida high school last Wednesday, which left 17 dead, seemed to shift the media glare away from the Trump scandals and gave embattled aides an opportunity to re­focus on handling a crisis not of their own making. While the White House mourned the loss of life in Parkland, Fla., some aides privately acknowledged that the tragedy offered a breather from the political storm. 

A tentative plan for White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly to address the news media from the briefing room Wednesday — where he would have faced intense scrutiny over his role in the mishandling of the domestic abuse allegations against former staff secretary Rob Porter — was scuttled. 

One White House official said the shooting forced the White House to focus on critical and serious issues — like consoling the victims and trying to heal the nation — rather than getting bogged down in what they view as more trivial West Wing drama.

“For everyone, it was a distraction or a reprieve,” said the White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to reflect internal conversations. “A lot of people here felt like it was a reprieve from seven or eight days of just getting pummeled.”

The official compared this media change of focus to the one that happened after the Las Vegas shooting which claimed 58 lives.

Isn't it nice that all of these innocent Americans keep laying down their lives so that the White House can take a break from talking about Trump stream of infidelities and his possible collusion with Russia?

What kind of scumbags are we allowing to occupy the People's House?

Okay this is just insane.

President Obama pushed for sanctions against Russia, evicted a number of their diplomats, and made sure to protect the data needed for an investigation.

Donald Trump denied Russian interference until just recently, tried to set up a cyber security program WITH Russia, and refuses to implement the newest Russian sanctions that were overwhelmingly agreed upon by Congress.

This is the tweet of an insane person. 

The Dutch have created a parody of gun violence in America. It's actually pretty good.

Courtesy of Vox: 

Sunday with Lubach, which is sort of like the Dutch version of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, looked at guns — specifically, the US’s love of firearms. And it’s very telling. 

For one, the satirical Dutch video describes America’s love of guns as so bad that it is an illness: Nonsensical Rifle Addiction, or NRA — a reference to the biggest gun lobby group in the country. 

“Dear fellow Europeans,” the video’s narrator begins, “a devastating humanitarian crisis is threatening a small country on the coast of North America: the United States of America.” 

The video goes on to list some of the statistics related to America’s gun homicides and accidents from Gun Violence Archive: 24,000 injuries and 11,000 deaths so far this year, culminating to roughly 40 deaths a day. The video pins this on “a terrible epidemic.” 

“NRA is a constitutional disorder caused by a dysfunction of the prefrontal Second Amendment in the nonsensical cortex, causing patients to shoot people,” the narrator explains. “It starts with an innocent Colt, but soon patients will show signs of shotguns, sniper rifles, and M16s even. Often, patients use silencers to hide their condition.”

This is certainly not the first time that Americans have been mocked for our ridiculous obsession with guns, but it is one of the more creative attempts.

The take away for us is the realization that the whole world sees our problem, as well as its solution, but we remain incapable of doing anything about it.

Watch the Secretary of State admit that he called Donald Trump a moron, by refusing to admit that he called Donald Trump a moron.

Oh man, I could watch that all day.

Monday, February 19, 2018

How the take down of Al Franken was orchestrated by the Right Wing and supported by Russian Twitter bots.

Courtesy of Newsweek:

While everyone has been focused on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election to support Donald Trump, the Franken take-down originated in—and was propelled by—a strategic online campaign with digital tentacles reaching to, of all places, Japan. Analysts have now mapped out how the initial accusation against Franken by Hooters pinup girl and lad-mag model Leeann Tweeden was turned into effective propaganda after first being hinted at by right wing black ops master Roger Stone.

A pair of Japan-based websites, created the day before Tweeden came forward, and a swarm of related Twitter bots made the Tweeden story go viral—and then weaponized a liberal writer's criticism of Franken. The bot army, in tandem with prominent real live human right-wingers with Twitter followers in the millions, such as Mike Cernovich, spewed thousands of posts, helping the #frankenfondles hashtag and the "Franken is a groper" meme effectively silence the testimonies of eight former female staffers who defended the Minnesota Democrat before he resigned last year. 

The operation commenced on November 15, when Roger Stone— who is now banned from Twitter for racism and profanity—tweeted from one of his accounts “Roger Stone says it’s Al Franken’s ‘time in the barrel.’ Franken next in long list of Democrats accused of ‘grabby’ behavior.” 

On the same day, a web domain called realusa.site was registered in Japan by a developer named Atsufumi Otsuka. A fake-news website was then established at that web address, and then a second one was created a few days later, according to research shared with the voting rights research outfit Unhack the Vote. 

Tweeden’s account of being groped by Franken was first amplified by a network of right wing media, including KABC in Los Angeles, where Tweeden has a radio show, The Hill, Infowars and Breitbart, which mobilized within hours of Stone's tweet and the release of a picture of a Tweeden and Franken clowning around at a USO performance before he was a senator.

By November 17, the trending of “Al Franken” was officially also a Russia Intelligence operation, according to the Alliance for Securing Democracy, an organization tracking Russian social media accounts, based on a sample taken that day of 600 of the fake accounts.

There is apparently a sophisticated botnet called "The Voty botnet" that was instrumental in pushing a story by a liberal writer called “Dear Al Franken, I’ll Miss You But You Can’t Matter Anymore” out to millions of people.

That article provided legitimacy for actual liberals to pile on Al Franken as well, and before you knew it Democrats like Kirsten Gillibrand were calling for his resignation. 

The rest, as they say, is history. 

And this serves as yet another reminder that it is not only the Right Wing who can be manipulated by Russian tactics online, but also seemingly intelligent liberals.

We have to examine literally every bit of information we see to discover its roots, and to determine if it is indeed accurate, before we accept it as fact.

This puts a huge burden on each of us, but right now this is essentially our only defense against allowing ourselves to be used to spread and weaponize misinformation.

So wait, WHAT almost happened with the nuclear football?

Courtesy of Axios:  

On Thursday Nov. 9, when President Trump and his team visited Beijing's Great Hall of the People, Chief of Staff John Kelly and a U.S. Secret Service agent skirmished with Chinese security officials over the nuclear football. 

I've spoken to five sources familiar with the events. Here's what happened, as they describe it: 

When the U.S. military aide carrying the nuclear football entered the Great Hall, Chinese security officials blocked his entry. (The official who carries the nuclear football is supposed to stay close to the president at all times, along with a doctor.) 

A U.S. official hurried into the adjoining room and told Kelly what was happening. Kelly rushed over and told the U.S. officials to keep walking — "We're moving in," he said — and the Americans all started moving. 

Then there was a commotion. A Chinese security official grabbed Kelly, and Kelly shoved the man’s hand off of his body. Then a U.S. Secret Service agent grabbed the Chinese security official and tackled him to the ground. 

The whole scuffle was over in a flash, and the U.S. officials told about the incident were asked to keep quiet about it. Trump's team followed the normal security procedure to brief the Chinese before their visit to Beijing, according to a person familiar with the trip — but somebody at the Chinese end either didn't get the memo or decided to mess with the Americans anyway.

The article goes on to state that at no time did the Chinese have the nuclear football in their possession, but I do not take a whole lot of comfort in that.

It sounds to me like the Trump Administration barely avoided yet another foreign relations nightmare.

This is what happens when a puppet of the Kremlin fills his cabinet with the modern version of the Keystone Kops.

All I have to say is that we NEVER heard stories like this during the Obama Administration.

Rush Limbaugh literally went on Fox News yesterday to say that the solution to school shootings in more guns in the schools.

Courtesy of HuffPo: 

Minutes after interviewing a group of Parkland, Florida, students organizing marches in response to the mass shooting at their school, “Fox News Sunday” put conservative pundit Rush Limbaugh on the air to dismiss their plans and condemn them for trying to advance a “political agenda.” 

“Marches aren’t going to solve it,” Limbaugh told Chris Wallace, the program’s host, after a segment featuring student survivors of last week’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that claimed the lives of 17 of their classmates and school faculty members. 

“Chris, the next shooter is out there. The next shooter probably has the gun that he’s going to use. … How is anything that we’re talking about going to stop that?” he asked of the planned demonstration. 

Limbaugh then proposed guns be allowed in schools. 

“The solution to me ― and I know this is going to cause all kinds of angst ― but the solution is we need concealed carry (of weapons) in the schools,” he said.

You know I would say that this is unbelievable, but of course it's not, it's exactly what you would expect from the Right Wing.

Well for a counterpoint I offer these statements from two of the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 
I wonder how much money Limbaugh receives from the NRA?

Former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates will plead guilty to fraud related charges, and has agreed to testify against Paul Manafort.

Courtesy of CNN: 

Former Trump presidential campaign aide Rick Gates has agreed to testify against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and will plead guilty to fraud related charges, according to the Los Angeles Times. 

The Times reported Sunday a revised plea will be presented in federal court "within the next few days." 

CNN first reported last week that Gates was finalizing a plea deal and that he had been in plea negotiations with special counsel Robert Mueller's team for a month. 

Gates can expect "a substantial reduction in his sentence," to likely about 18 months in prison if he cooperates with the investigation, according to the LA Times report. He is also likely going to have to forfeit any cash or valuables obtained through his alleged illegal activity. 

Aside from the legal maneuvering, the father of four has faced personal and financial pressure to bring his legal proceedings to a speedy resolution, a person familiar with the situation told CNN.

Apparently Gates had hoped that wealthy GOP donors would have come to his rescue and donate to his defense fund, but since he is not a gun lobby or a candidate running for office, they simply could not be bothered.

I wrote about this on Friday, but now we know some of the details.

This of course ramps up pressure on Manafort who seems so far to be holding his ground, and maintains that he is not guilty of the charges against him.

Let's see how long that lasts now.

Sarah Palin brags about Breitbart giving her a platform after the Gabby Giffords shooting when Roger Ailes tried to keep her from embarrassing herself.

Still  from Sarah Palin's "Blood Libel" video.
Unfortunately I have to link to Breitbart in order to share this story.

I of course do not encourage you to click the link, but it is only good blogging etiquette to provide it.

Courtesy of Breitbart:  

The late Andrew Breitbart helped Sarah Palin defend herself when Fox News Channel’s former Chairman Roger Ailes denied her the opportunity to respond on air to the media’s false accusations framing her for inciting the attempted assassination of former Congresswoman Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords (D-AZ) in the days immediately following the 2011 Tucson mass shooting incident. 

“If it weren’t for Breitbart, so much of our commonsense defense wouldn’t have gotten out there, because I was working for Fox News at the time, and I was not allowed to go on the air to defend myself for days,” Palin said, speaking publicly about this for the first time, during a Friday interview on SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Tonight with Breitbart’s Senior Editor-at-Large Rebecca Mansour.

(That's right, Palin and RAM together again.)

“I think that that time was our toughest time in this last decade of being out there on a public platform, [with] false accusations that we were to blame for the Gabby Giffords shooting,” said Palin. “If it weren’t for Breitbart, so much of our commonsense defense wouldn’t have gotten out there, because I was working for Fox News at the time, and I was not allowed to go on the air to defend myself for days, and finally I bucked management of Fox News—I never even talked about this publicly—I bucked management and said, ‘I’ll do my own video, and I’ll post it, and I’ll explain to people that, no, we are not to blame.’ My relationship with Fox was never the same after that.” 

Palin noted Ailes’ repeated refusal to allow her a platform to defend herself from a barrage of media attacks falsely accusing her of inciting mass murder. 

“I had asked [Roger Ailes], ‘How many days do we have to go listening to this with no defense articulated at all? May I please go on the air?’ And he wouldn’t let me,” said Palin. “So that was a tough time.”

Ailes, for his part, was simply trying to protect his on air talent from embarrassing herself and attracting national ridicule, since at that time she was still considered a draw for Fox News.

Of course Palin defied Ailes, made her now famous "Blood Libel" video, and attracted far more scorn and ridicule than any amount of silence on her part would ever have brought down on her.

Which apparently she STILL does not realize.

Palin went on to make it even worse: 

“[I wish] people understood what it does to a family, how it potentially could rip apart a family because everybody has a different idea of how to react to the circumstances around you, and that causes some stress,” said Palin. “I thank God every day that I have a strong family, and we’re doing great. Hopefully our story could inspire people to know that whatever they’re facing, the sun will come out tomorrow and things can get better. It’s just a matter of how you react to sometimes horrible circumstances around you.”

That's right folks the sun WILL come out tomorrow, and then if you have a "strong family" like the Palins by tomorrow evening your son might break into your house and beat your husband half to death, or y'all might show up drunk to a party and end up fighting with just about everybody until the police arrive, or you could once again wind up in court trying to help your daughter attempt to take custody away from another one her baby daddies. 

Apparently in Palin's world that's what constitutes "doing great." 

Did you see former Green Party candidate Jill Stein essentially lose her shit on MSNBC yesterday?

Courtesy of Raw Story:  

Speaking with MSNBC’s Alex Witt, the two-time nominee at times shouted over the host, after deflecting questions about Russian involvement in her campaign, saying she knew of only one post on her Facebook page out of “trillions” posted on the social media site. 

As Witt attempted to ask the candidate if she was aware of Russian’s helping her campaign, Stein talked over the host, complaining that they should be discussing the “$6 billion dollars” in free advertising the networks gave to then-candidate Donald Trump. 

“No, we were not aware,” Stein exclaimed. “Let me say we were aware of other kinds of interference. For example, we know that $6 billion in free air time was given to Donald Trump by the big networks. Six billion, this was twice as much as Hillary Clinton’s campaign and four times as much as Bernie Sanders’ campaign and way more than the independent candidates.” 

“But it is not Russian interference, and I am proud to say that we had you on our broadcast several times and I had you on in person,” Witt reminded the former candidate. 

“Donald Trump, he was damn good, that was the word — he was damn good for the networks even though he was not good for America.,” Stein pressed on, ignoring Witt. “The point I am making here, Alex, is we don’t want to miss the forest here through the trees. Yes, there was Russia interference but there was compelling interference going on by way of media and the DNC. Did the DNC did not rig the primaries?”

No they didn't.

And that conspiracy theory has already been debunked multiple times. 

You know I could almost understand people supporting Bernie Sanders, I mean he seemed reasonable and intelligent.

But Jill Stein is a fucking lunatic.

Third party candidates, and protest votes, are a waste of time, and I hope after what we saw in 2016 that simple fact is now universally understood.

We are in war here, and standing on the sidelines, or backing a loser candidate to "make a point," is a luxury that we simply do not have.

I think this is one "conspiracy theory" that I am totally on board with.