Feb 20 2018

Van der Zwaan

Sorry to revisit this so soon but when I started writing my last piece he hadn’t pled guilty yet and accepted a deal to testify.

I see a lot of commentary on how this is just “deterrence”, you better not lie to Mueller and his FBI interrogators or we’ll send you to prison (though it does that of course). I think it has a deeper implications.

Attorney/Client privilege does not apply to criminal conspiracies. Attorneys are not allowed to advise their clients how to commit crimes without getting caught. Van der Zwaan is going to be forced to disclose everything he talked about with Manafort and Gates (if he hasn’t already). Gates has flipped already (probably) and he was a part of the campaign from beginning to end and the transition too, in fact it’s Gates’ testimony that most likely convicted Van der Zwaan.

Manafort seems reluctant to turn but this makes his position almost untenable. He’ll roll or he’ll rot in jail and his testimony probably doesn’t matter anyway at this point. Mueller has it all.

Manafort’s daughter, Andrea, was also an Associate at Skadden Arps, Slate, Meagher, and Flom, hired 1 month after they produced a report called the “Tymoshenko Report” (as in Yulia, a pro-Western and duly elected Prime Minister of Ukraine who was also spectacularly corrupt, as are they all). This “independent” report was supposedly produced for a mere $15,000 which put it below the level of expenditure that required Parliamentary approval. Later Skadden Arps, Slate, Meagher, and Flom was forced to return $500,000 to the Ukrainian Government and reliable reports indicate that they actually billed $4 Million.

The Ukrainian Government and Skadden Arps, Slate, Meagher, and Flom have both filed lawsuits for libel against Buzzfeed and Christopher Steele over the infamous “Steele Dossier” and Buzzfeed at least has countersued both of them and also the Democratic National Committee (to turn over documents that relate to the Dossier).

Manafort is cooked at this point. He’s 70 years old and will die in prison. The point is it will be interesting to see if he’s as willing to throw his daughter under the bus as Trump evidently is to throw Don Jr., Eric, and Javanka.

“Deterrence”? “Signalling”? Make no mistake, this is a direct attack of devastating proportions and anyone at the White House who’s not pissing their pants tonight is an idiot.

Of course they are idiots too. Think this will be on Maddow?

Feb 20 2018

Agency

While you are considering Mueller’s Friday indictments of 13 Russian Nationals and 3 Russian Companies, and today’s charges against Alex van der Zwaan, attorney to Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, former employee of prominent U.S. law firm Skadden Arps, Slate, Meagher, and Flom, and son-in-law of one of Russia’s richest Oligarchs, German Khan, founder of the privately-owned Alfa Bank, you might find it interesting to know that last Thursday Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the British Labour Party was accused by The Sun, a Murdoch owned tabloid, of being a “Commie Spy”. This story was based on allegations by Ján Sarkocy, a former agent of the Státní Bezpečnost

(A) plainclothes secret (political) police force in former Czechoslovakia from 1945 to its dissolution in 1990. Serving as an intelligence and counter-intelligence agency, it dealt with any activity that could possibly be considered anti-state or western influence.

The basis of Sarkocy’s claim is that he met with Corbyn in the House of Commons during the 80s and it’s reinforced by the fact Sarkocy listed him as an “Intelligence Contact” in some of his reports. In reality “Intelligence Contact” means about as much as one of Tom Friedman’s mythical cab drivers, just some guy you met and talked to. Sarkocy says he paid Corbyn and other Labour figures sums between £1,000 and £15,000 for information.

Unfortunately there’s no evidence of that at all.

No evidence Corbyn was a communist spy, say intelligence experts
by Robert Tait, Luke Harding, and Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian
Tue 20 Feb 2018

Communist-era files from the intelligence agency of Czechoslovakia provide no evidence that Jeremy Corbyn was ever a spy or agent of influence, experts and academic researchers who have reviewed the papers said on Tuesday.

Radek Schovánek, an analyst with the defence ministry of the Czech Republic – which emerged, along with Slovakia, from the peaceful breakup of Czechoslovakia in 1993 – has spent 25 years researching documents filed by the now-defunct spy service. He told the Guardian the suspicions against Corbyn were unfounded, and the claims of Ján Sarkocy, a former intelligence officer expelled from Britain in 1989, to have signed the Labour leader up were false.

Schovánek also poured scorn on Sarkocy’s boast that he used 10 to 15 other Labour politicians in the 1980s as sources, including the current shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, and Ken Livingstone, the former mayor of London.

Schovánek said Sarkocy’s assertions were at odds with the security files, which represented the definitive record on agents and contacts, and made no reference to Corbyn as a recruited agent, or to McDonnell or Livingstone.

Asked if he was calling the ex-intelligence officer, now living near the Slovakian capital Bratislava, a liar, Schovánek said: “When you compare the documents which he had written and signed himself with what he is saying today, based on that he is a liar. He signed a list of documents in the UK which said Corbyn was an intelligence contact, not an agent.”

The term “intelligence contact” in reality meant little, Schovánek said. Czechoslovakian intelligence officers could have many such contacts, who provided little, if any information.

Schovánek, 54, who secretly smuggled banned books from the west into Czechoslovakia during the cold war, said he felt compelled to speak out on Corbyn’s behalf, despite strongly disagreeing with the Labour leader’s leftwing politics. “I personally don’t like Corbyn. I’m Roman Catholic and conservative, but I think we have to defend people against a lie,” he said.

Daniela Richterová, a politics and international studies researcher at the University of Warwick, said the files showed the Labour leader was never a “witting source”. “We know how the process of arranging a collaboration works,” she said. There was “no evidence” Corbyn was recruited during four meetings with Sarcozy, she added.

For recruited agents, Prague’s intelligence services would include how a contact was recruited, handled and developed as a spy. None of this is described in the Corbyn records. The archive indicates that when meeting Corbyn, Sarkocy – who posed as a diplomat – was instructed “not to raise suspicion” and to keep his true identity secret.

Corbyn first appeared in state security records in August 1977, after he toured Czechoslovakia on a motorbike holiday. Fellow MP Diane Abbott, who accompanied him on a similar holiday to East Germany, was not with him on that trip.

Labour party members active in the 1980s who knew Corbyn at the time said his political leanings were not towards the Soviet Union.

Richterová said the Corbyn records were in contrast to the files on British MPs from an earlier generation, whom Czechoslovakian intelligence actually recruited. In the 1950s and 1960s, the StB succeeded in co-opting two Labour MPs – John Stonehouse and William Owen – and one Tory MP, Raymond Mawby. The relationship lasted a decade, and in Owen’s case, for nearly 15 years.

All three MPs were fully recruited StB agents, with their file category marked up as “Agent” or “A”. Their files comprise thousands of pages of documents. These feature strategies for recruitment and development, minutes of meetings with agents, assessments of their performance, and tasking plans, Richterová said, plus details of communications and counter-surveillance.

To begin with, Mawby and Owen believed they were passing information to Prague’s foreign affairs ministry. Gradually, however, they were made explicitly aware that they were indeed collaborating with communist intelligence, Richterová said. Prague paid Owen about £5,000. His nickname inside the StB was “Greedy Bastard”.

Running high-profile British agents was a complicated and often frustrating endeavour, she added. Stonehouse turned out to be evasive and overly cautious, Owen not well-suited to be a spy, and Mawby notoriously unreliable. Remarkably, the files reveal that MI5 were aware of Stonehouse and Mawby’s repeated contacts with Czechoslovakian “diplomats”.

You may ask how we know all this in such excruciating detail. Well, when the Warsaw Pact fell apart in the early 90s all the Secret Intelligence files got turned over to the non-Communist successor regimes, most of whom made them available to Historians like Radek Schovánek and Daniela Richterová.

It’s really not news that those on the Right would accuse those on the Left of being Communist spys, more a dog bites man kind of thing. It is sort of unusual to have it refuted so thoroughly so quickly.

Still, I think the contrast to our current situation is instructive and I encourage you to read the works of John le Carré.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Feb 20 2018

Ghouls. Have They No Shame?

For the weary White House, Florida shooting offered a ‘reprieve’ from scandals

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 likened the brief political calm to the aftermath of the October shooting in Las Vegas that left 58 dead and hundreds more injured. That tragedy united White House aides and the country in their shared mourning for the victims and their families.

“But as we all know, sadly, when the coverage dies down a little bit, we’ll be back through the chaos,” the official said. [..]

From an awful, cynical, purely political point of view, the tragic events in Florida probably helped the White House this week by distracting from the awful wave of scandal and bad news they have faced,” said Michael Steel, a Republican strategist. [..]

“The national tragedy in Florida has really, for now, turned the page on some of these crises,” said Ron Bonjean, a Republican strategist close to the White House. “They’re going to come back, but what it does do is give the White House a chance to collect itself and, if they can, organize a communications strategy and get their ducks in a row.”

While families were burying their dead nearby, Donald Trump played golf on his golf course at tax payer expense. Ghoul.

Feb 20 2018

Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Paul Krugman: The Content of the G.O.P.’s Character

Even those who have long since accepted the premise that Donald Trump is corrupt, self-centered and dishonest seem a bit shocked by his tirades over the Presidents’ Day weekend. Using the Parkland, Fla., massacre as an excuse to attack the F.B.I. for investigating Russian election intervention on his behalf — while lying about his own past denials that such intervention took place — took vileness to a new level, which is truly impressive given Trump’s previous record.

Yet if you step back a bit and think about it, Trump’s latest outbursts were very much in character — and I don’t just mean his personal character. When did you last see a member of the Trump administration, or for that matter any prominent Republican, admit error or accept responsibility for problems?

Don’t say that it has always been that way, that it’s just the way people are. On the contrary, taking responsibility for your actions — what my parents called being a mensch — used to be considered an essential virtue in politicians and adults in general. And in this as in so many things, there’s a huge asymmetry between the parties. Of course not all Democrats are honest and upstanding; but as far as I can tell, there’s almost nobody left in the G.O.P. willing to take responsibility for, well, anything.

Thomas L. Friedman: Whatever Trump Is Hiding Is Hurting All of Us Now

Our democracy is in serious danger.

President Trump is either totally compromised by the Russians or is a towering fool, or both, but either way he has shown himself unwilling or unable to defend America against a Russian campaign to divide and undermine our democracy.

That is, either Trump’s real estate empire has taken large amounts of money from shady oligarchs linked to the Kremlin — so much that they literally own him; or rumors are true that he engaged in sexual misbehavior while he was in Moscow running the Miss Universe contest, which Russian intelligence has on tape and he doesn’t want released; or Trump actually believes Russian President Vladimir Putin when he says he is innocent of intervening in our elections — over the explicit findings of Trump’s own C.I.A., N.S.A. and F.B.I. chiefs.

In sum, Trump is either hiding something so threatening to himself, or he’s criminally incompetent to be commander in chief. It is impossible yet to say which explanation for his behavior is true, but it seems highly likely that one of these scenarios explains Trump’s refusal to respond to Russia’s direct attack on our system — a quiescence that is simply unprecedented for any U.S. president in history. Russia is not our friend. It has acted in a hostile manner. And Trump keeps ignoring it all.

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Feb 20 2018

The Breakfast Club (We Stand With You)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Astronaut John Glenn becomes the first American in orbit; the Rhode Island nightclub fire; Actor Sydney Poitier born; Tara Lipinski becomes the youngest gold medalist in the Winter Olympics.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

What the people want is very simple – they want an America as good as its promise.

Barbara Jordan

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Feb 19 2018

Bigots, Racists, and Nazis

White as white gets here. I mention this because I’m going to call people out and if I use the word Nazi it’s because I’m allowed to.

It is a source of unending amazement to me that fast on the heels of Trump it’s not only ok to be bigoted against Hispanics (How is Puerto Rico doing? Very badly, thanks for asking. THEY ARE UNITED STATES CITIZENS!), and racist against Blacks (All, y’all- Slavery is BAD! Justifying it by equating skin color to virtue and intelligence is worse.), but also, once again, open anti-Semitism is tolerated.

Now historically anti-Semitism is not an exclusively Germanic fault. Let’s take democratic (sometimes), enlightened, and tolerant France as an example.

In 1894 Captain Alfred Dreyfus was sentenced to life imprisonment for Treason because he supposedly transferred French military secrets to Germany. In fact it was Major Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy who did it and when conclusive proof was offered in 1896 that this was the case-

(H)igh-ranking military officials suppressed the new evidence, a military court unanimously acquitted Esterhazy after a trial lasting only two days. The Army then accused Dreyfus with additional charges based on falsified documents.

Dreyfus languished on Devil’s Island until 1899 when he was given a new trial where he was convicted and sentenced again (this time for 10 years)!

How could this happen? Esterhazy was a conventional Catholic and Dreyfus was Jewish.

Anti-Semitism was rampant all over Europe and Jews had been persecuted for centuries. When the Nazis adopted systemic anti-Semitism as part of their public program (damn Mexicans stealing our jobs) and acted to murder Jews on an industrial scale (6 Million people is actually the low end of respectable Historians’ estimates) they got a lot of support from people in France (only 25% but still 73,000) and also places like Poland and the Ukraine where the death toll was much, much higher.

Ukraine is now governed by United States supported fascists (thanks Obama and the CIA) and Poland’s new regime of unreconstructed Authoritarians has now made it illegal to openly discuss Polish complicity in the Holocaust.

Polish foreign minister indicates ‘Poles of Jewish ethnicity’ share blame for Holocaust
by E.A. Crunden, Think Progress
Feb 19, 2018

Saturday, (Polish Prime Minister Mateusz) Morawiecki told a conference of world leaders in Munich that Jews had a role in the Holocaust akin to those of other groups, including Nazis themselves.

“You’re not going to be seen as criminal [if you] say that there were Polish perpetrators, as there were Jewish perpetrators, as there were Russian perpetrators as well as Ukrainian perpetrators — not only German perpetrators,” Morawiecki said.

Beata Mazurek, a spokesperson for Poland’s ruling far-right Law and Justice Party (PiS), said the prime minister’s initial comments “told the truth that is difficult for the Israeli side to accept” and asserted that Morawiecki had nothing to apologize for, a sentiment Foreign Minister Czaputowicz echoed a day later.

The back-and-forth over Jewish accountability in the Holocaust is only the latest in an ongoing dispute over Poland’s own role in the genocide. Last month, the country’s PiS-led government approved legislation banning any implication that the Holocaust was led by Poles or that Nazi concentration camps were in any way Polish. Those found in violation face stiff fines and up to three years in prison.

During the Nazi occupation, six death camps were established in Poland. More than 90 percent of the country’s Jewish population — once the largest in Europe — died during the genocide and the population has never fully recovered. While Poland’s government actively resisted the Nazi regime, Jewish Poles experienced persecution and discrimination both before and after the occupation at the hands of their neighbors.

(A)s the target of a genocidal campaign, many Jews were forced to police and report on their neighbors and families. While some went so far as to commit suicide rather than help, others complied. Those who assisted were ultimately sent to their deaths regardless.

“First, the scope of the phenomenon was marginal in the Jewish case – important but marginal – whereas the hostile reaction of many Poles to the persecuted Jews was a norm in most parts of Poland. Poles hated and feared Nazi Germany, but many of them saw the murder of the Jews as a ‘positive’ outcome of the war. Second, there is the question of motives,” Dreifuss said. “While most Jews collaborated hoping to save themselves, their family or part of their community – Poles helped Nazi Germany hunt Jews due to various reasons, among them hatred and financial benefits.”

Poland’s ongoing efforts to distance the country from its dark history are in line with a broader PiS-driven push to revive Polish nationalism. A surge in anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiment has spread across the country in recent years, targeting minority communities — including Polish Jews and Muslims — in the process.

During a Polish Independence Day march last year, upwards of 60,000 people marched in a demonstration widely decried as a display of white supremacy and nationalism. Marchers carried signs declaring “Europe will be white” and a number of other slogans, including “Poland Catholic, not secular.” Interior Minister Mariusz Błaszczak later called the march “a beautiful sight.”

Folks, when I say we are living in 1938 Germany I am not kidding.

Feb 19 2018

“We Call BS”

Emma Gonzalez, a student at the Parkland, Florida high school where 17 people were left dead after a mass shooting, calls out President Trump and the NRA by name at an anti-gun rally in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

I cannot tell you how proud I am of these young men and women. They are our future.

Feb 19 2018

Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Charles M. Blow: Attacking the ‘Woke’ Black Vote

One thing that is clear to me following the special counsel’s indictment of 13 Russians and three companies for interfering with our election is that the black vote was specifically under attack, from sources foreign and domestic. And this attack appeared to be particularly focused on young black activist-minded voters passionate about social justice: The “Woke” Vote.

The tragic irony is that these young people, many of whom already felt like the American political system was failing them, were encouraged to lay down one of the most powerful political tools they have, thereby ensuring an amplification of their own oppressions. [..]

What happened in this election wasn’t just a political crime, it was specifically a racialized crime, and the black vote was a central target.

Jennifer Rubin: Trump, panicking, reveals the depths of his awfulness

Apparently set off by a sweeping indictment of 13 Russians and plea deal with one American, which revealed the extent of the Russian conspiracy to manipulate the election President Trump spend the week in a frenzy, blaming the FBI and Democrats for the shooting in Parkland, Fla., and suggesting that if the authorities lay off investigating him, then more children won’t die. [..]

Aside from the blizzard of lies, one is struck by how frantic Trump sounds. The number and looniness of the tweets arguably exceed anything he has previously done. His conduct reaffirms the basic outline of an obstruction charge: Desperate to disable a Russia probe that would be personally embarrassing to him, he has tried in many ways to interfere with and end the investigation. In doing so, he, at the very least, has abused his office. In turning on his inquisitors rather than to the job of protecting America from Russian influence, he confirms his peculiar fidelity to Vladimir Putin and reminds us he continues to violate his oath of office. There is no doubt he has, based on what we already known, committed actions constituting an abuse of his office. What, if anything special counsel Robert S. Mueller III intends to do about it remains to be seen. Trump’s meltdown over two days is likely to re-raise questions about his mental stability and temperamental fitness to govern.

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Feb 19 2018

The Breakfast Club (Presidents’ Day)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

A pivotal battle in the American Revolution; President James Garfield dies; Bruno Hauptmann arrested in the Lindbergh baby case; Unabomber’s manifesto published; ‘Mary Tyler Moore Show’ premieres.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.

Abraham Lincoln

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Feb 18 2018

Rant of the Week: Bill Maher – Traitor Trump’s Toxic Trysts

Bill recaps the top stories of the week, including the latest Mueller indictment and another alleged Trump affair.

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