Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Cambridge Analytica boss caught on camera offering to hire sex workers and offer bribes to compromise politicians.

Courtesy of Buzzfeed: 

The boss of Cambridge Analytica, the analytics firm at the centre of an international storm over the misuse of Facebook user data, has been caught on camera bragging about how the company could blackmail political candidates with sex workers, and telling a prospective client that it has been secretly operating around the world to campaign in elections. 

In an undercover operation by Britain's Channel 4 News, CEO Alexander Nix and two other high-ranking Cambridge Analytica staff took meetings with a reporter posing as a fixer who wanted the data firm's help getting candidates elected in Sri Lanka. 

On Monday evening, Channel 4 broadcast undercover footage from four meetings across three months, with Nix telling the reporter that one of the services of Cambridge Analytica could be to “send some girls around to the candidate’s house”, adding that Ukrainian girls “are very beautiful, I find that works very well”. 

Nix also told the undercover reporter: “We’ll offer a large amount of money to the candidate, to finance his campaign in exchange for land, for instance. We’ll have the whole thing recorded. We’ll blank out the face of our guy and we post it on the internet.”

Representatives of the company also offered to spread fake news about political opponents in order to help sway the elections.

Well gee, no wonder the Trump campaign wanted to work with these guys, they were singing the same tune.

This is what the whistle blower who outed the company's Facebook data mining operation said about this video 

Wiley couldn’t speak as to how this relates to the firm’s work for the Trump campaign, but he went on to say “there is a perverse company culture inside of Cambridge Analytica, and as the undercover shows, they’re willing to go to extreme lengths to service their clients, and they’ll do anything that helps, whether it’s legal or not.”

Do we really believe that the Trump campaign did not utilize that skills set?

We also learned yesterday that before they started using their possibly illegal tactics to help Donald Trump, that Cambridge Analytica worked for Ted Cruz.

Courtesy of Raw Story:  

Before they ran shady data operations for Donald Trump’s campaign, Cambridge Analytica worked for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) during his presidential bid. Now, the Texas Republican is under fire for hiring the group amid reports that they improperly used Facebook data. 

The Dallas Morning News reported Monday that the Cruz campaign kept Cambridge Analytica on retainer six months after initial reports of the firm using illicitly-sourced Facebook data surfaced in 2015 — a fact the Texas Democratic Party touted in a news release published on Monday. 

“Ted Cruz will stop at nothing to weasel his way into power, even if it means weaponizing stolen information to manipulate people to like him,” Manny Garcia, the deputy executive director of the Texas Democratic Party, said in a press release. “Cruz’s campaign exploited personal information to create psychological profiles on millions of Americans. All to keep lining the pockets of Cruz’s billionaire super PAC donors — like Robert Mercer, who funded this propaganda machine.”

Color me unsurprised that Cruz would resort to tactics like this, nice to see that it might end up biting him in the ass and costing him this election.

Oh, one more thing.

I appears that Cambridge Anaylytica currently has a contract with our State Department: 

Strategic Communications Laboratories, best known for its work with its offshoot and collaborator Cambridge Analytica, appears to have an open contract with the State Department. DefenseOne first noted the contract on a government contracts database, where it is listed as still open.

Well, I ma going to have to take a really hot shower after this post to get the sleaze off. 

Another school shooting. This time in Maryland.

Courtesy of the AP: 

A shooting at a Maryland high school Tuesday wounded three people, including the shooter, a sheriff’s spokeswoman said. 

Authorities said the situation was “contained” as deputies and federal agents converged on the crime scene. 

St. Mary’s County Sheriff spokeswoman Cpl. Julie Yingling said three people hurt, including the shooter. She didn’t know the extent of their injuries, but said all three were taken to hospitals and none were killed. 

The Baltimore Sun reported that a student said the shooting happened around 8 a.m. Terrence Rhames, 18, told the Sun that he heard a gunshot and saw a girl fall as he ran for an exit. “I just thank God I’m safe,” Rhames said. “I just want to know who did it and who got injured.”

I held off on posting about this because as usual there was all kinds of misinformation coming out, including that there were far more than three shot, including some fatalities.

What we think we know now is that there was one shooter, weapon unknown, who fired on at least two students and was taken down by a school resource officer. The shooter and a female student remain in critical condition.
So keep in mind that the school HAS a police presence on campus and still there were students shot.

The fact that there were no fatalities (As of yet.) is good news, VERY good news.

The bad news is that it appears that this will never end.

Update: Okay new reports are that the shooter has died.

Let's hope he is the only fatality from this unfortunate, and all too common, incident.

Trump hires lawyer who embraces conspiracy theory that FBI and Justice Department worked together to frame him.

Courtesy of the New York Times: 

President Trump hired the longtime Washington lawyer Joseph E. diGenova on Monday, adding an aggressive voice to his legal team who has pushed the theory on television that the F.B.I. and Justice Department framed Mr. Trump.

“Former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia Joe DiGenova will be joining our legal team later this week,” said Jay Sekulow, one of the president’s personal lawyers. “I have worked with Joe for many years and have full confidence that he will be a great asset in our representation of the President.” 

Mr. diGenova has endorsed the notion that a secretive group of F.B.I. agents concocted the Russia investigation as a way to keep Mr. Trump from becoming president. “There was a brazen plot to illegally exonerate Hillary Clinton and, if she didn’t win the election, to then frame Donald Trump with a falsely created crime,” he said on Fox News in January. He added, “Make no mistake about it: A group of F.B.I. and D.O.J. people were trying to frame Donald Trump of a falsely created crime.” 

Little evidence has emerged to support that theory.

Of course as we know Trump loves him some conspiracy theories, after all it was the Obama birth certificate conspiracy that brought him such national attention in the first place. And a conspiracy theory that suggests that he did nothing wrong and is being framed he would love that most of all.

Bringing this bomb thrower into the mix indicates to me that Trump has NO intention of agreeing to that interview with Robert Mueller.
I think all signs point to Trump tripling down and stonewalling the Mueller investigators while tweeting out that he is being framed by his own Justice Department, and is the victim of a massive liberal conspiracy to remove him from office without cause.

Just when you thought this whole thing could not possible get any crazier.

P.S. Just a reminder that there is a tweet for EVERYTHING.
Stupid New York Times being a week too early.

John Oliver turns his attention to Vice President Mike Pence. Poor Mike Pence. Update!

Courtesy of the AV Club: 

With the chaos at the Trump White House mounting every single day to what seems like an inevitable flashpoint involving a constitutional crisis, impeachment, indictment, diversionary declaration of war, or simply a White House staffed with no one but Trump relatives and their wedding planners, it’s tempting to look ahead to the theoretically more stable prospect of President Mike Pence. But, as John Oliver lays out in the main story of Sunday’s Last Week Tonight, be very fucking careful what you wish for.

Oliver, calling Pence “the opposite of whatever a silver fox is” (settling on “ashen weasel”), takes a hard, typically incisive and hilariously pissed off look at exactly how extreme the positions of the (current) Vice President are. From his vocal opposition to women in the military, his prayer-based non-response to an HIV outbreak in Indiana when he was governor, to his ongoing abetting and excusing of literally every ignorant, hateful, or outright lunatic and untrue thing that dribbles out of his boss’ mouth, Oliver presents a portrait of a man whose outward appearance of un-Trump-ian sanity barely conceals the frothing, right wing loon within. Especially when it comes to the LGBTQ community, where Pence’s long history of bigotry includes overt, verifiable support of one James Dobson and the organization Focus on the Family, your go-to zealots for “shock ‘em ‘til they’re not gay anymore” “conversion therapy.”

Of course the point Oliver is trying to make is that Mike Pence is a fucking three car pile up, which we all seem completely oblivious to because he is always standing next to the human train wreck.

Look I want Trump out of office at least as much as the next guy, probably more actually, but if we take him out and leave Pence in place we may simply find ourselves exchanging one walking nightmare for another.

Update: So apparently John Oliver's bunny book is outselling Mike Pence's bunny book.

Courtesy of The Daily Beast:  

On Sunday night John Oliver announced on HBO’s Last Week Tonight that A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, a children’s book about a gay bunny, named after a pet rabbit owned by the family of Vice President Mike Pence, would be available immediately. That meant it beat a rival children’s book, Marlon Bundo’s Day in the Life of the Vice President, written by Pence’s daughter, Charlotte, and illustrated by his wife, Karen, by mere hours to the digital shelves. 

As of Monday afternoon, Last Week Tonight’s book—which was written by Jill Twiss and illustrated by E.G. Keller, an artist from Pence’s home state of Indiana—was the No. 1 seller on Amazon, with the Pences’ book lagging noticeably behind at No. 6. With over 1,200 user reviews by that time, the Last Week Tonight book earned a rare five-star rating. The Pences’ effort had less than 50 reviews, and a woeful one-and-a-half-star rating.

I swear John Oliver is a national treasure. 

Two men injured outside a Utah gun show after their weapon exercised its 2nd Amendment rights.

Courtesy of KUTV: 

Two men are recovering from gunshot wounds after an accidental discharge in the parking lot of the Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy where the International Sportsmen's Expo was being held. 

According to Jason Nielsen from the Sandy Police Department, the two adult men were sitting in their car at 3:45 p.m. on Saturday when one tried to hand a firearm off to the other. 

The gun discharged hitting one man in the hand, ricocheting and hitting the other man in the leg. 

Both were taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

The report does not say that the men just purchased the gun at the Sportsmen's Expo but that is likely the case. 

Which would mean that almost immediately after purchasing a weapon for protection they were injured by gun fire which could have potentially ended their lives.

There has got to be a lesson here somewhere.

Monday, March 19, 2018

After Donald Trump attacked him on Twitter James Comey's book moves to number one on Amazon.

Courtesy of The Hill:

Former FBI Director James Comey’s unreleased book has landed at the No. 1 spot on the Amazon best-sellers list just one day after he told President Trump that “the American people will hear my story very soon.” 

Comey’s book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership," rocketed up the list over the weekend, after starting at No. 15 on Saturday. 

The book is scheduled to be released on April 17. 

The fired FBI director is expected to use the upcoming book tour to challenge attacks on him and the FBI by Trump and some Republicans.

Speaking of attacks it appears that Comey's book got a boost after this tweet from Trump.
In response Comey tweeted this out.
You know I am going to go broke trying to keep up with all of these new must read books. 

So I think we know why Donald Trump suddenly decided to attack the Mueller investigation publicly.

Courtesy of the New York Times:  

The president’s tweets, posted on a Saturday in which he remained inside the White House with no public schedule, came as Mr. Mueller is said to have sent questions to Mr. Trump’s legal team as part of negotiations over an interview with the president. Mr. Mueller is seeking the interview, according to two people close to the White House, in order to ask follow-up questions, but put forward the list as a start. 

Mr. Dowd’s remarks about Mr. Mueller’s investigation represented an extraordinary shift in public strategy for the Trump legal team. Since taking over the case last summer, Mr. Trump’s lawyers have urged a strategy of restraint, in which the president avoids discussing Mr. Mueller or criticizing him, and the lawyers had done nothing publicly until now that could agitate the special counsel’s team. 

The comments by both Mr. Trump and Mr. Dowd lent credence to Mr. McCabe’s assertion that the president sees his firing as directly tied into Mr. Mueller’s case. Mr. McCabe, who is a potential witness in the investigation, declared that his dismissal was an attempt to undermine it.
According to Axios these are the questions that Mueller sent to Trump's attorneys:

Axios has learned that special counsel Robert Mueller has focused on events since the election — not during the campaign — in his conversations with President Trump's lawyers. The top two topics that Mueller has expressed interest in so far: the firings of FBI director James Comey and national security adviser Michael Flynn. 

That suggests a focus on obstruction of justice while in office, rather than collusion with Russia during the campaign. But both sagas are interwoven with Russia: Trump himself has linked Comey's firing to Russia, and Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with the Russian ambassador during the transition.

In other words Mueller may have Trump locked down both coming and going.

It has been clear for awhile that Trump's attorneys have barely managed to rein him in when it comes to tweeting out his frustrations with Mueller's investigations, but now having seen the questions that Mueller intends to ask him, and realizing that answering them under oath will be very bad for his presidency, I think that Trump is losing his shit entirely and only sees the firing of Robert Mueller as his only possible way out.

Of course if he actually does finagle a way to get rid of Mueller that will essentially e an admission of guilt, and then this whole things ramps way up.

Cambridge Analytica, who stands accused of stealing data from over 50 million Facebook users, is working overtime to stop media outlets from issuing reports revealing their tactics.

Courtesy of The Hill: 

Cambridge Analytica is trying to prevent an undercover report by London’s Channel 4 News that shows the firm’s CEO Alexander Nix speaking candidly about the firm’s practices from airing, according to the Financial Times. 

Reporters for Channel 4 posed as prospective clients and secretly filmed a number of meetings with the firm. 

The Financial Times's report did not make clear how the data firm was working to stop the report from airing. 

Cambridge Analytica also threatened to sue the Guardian to stop this story about the guy who blew the whistle on their Facebook data theft from being published: 

The Observer also received the first of three letters from Cambridge Analytica threatening to sue Guardian News and Media for defamation. We are still only just starting to understand the maelstrom of forces that came together to create the conditions for what Mueller confirmed last month was “information warfare”. But Wylie offers a unique, worm’s-eye view of the events of 2016. Of how Facebook was hijacked, repurposed to become a theatre of war: how it became a launchpad for what seems to be an extraordinary attack on the US’s democratic process. 

Wylie oversaw what may have been the first critical breach. Aged 24, while studying for a PhD in fashion trend forecasting, he came up with a plan to harvest the Facebook profiles of millions of people in the US, and to use their private and personal information to create sophisticated psychological and political profiles. And then target them with political ads designed to work on their particular psychological makeup. 

“We ‘broke’ Facebook,” he says. 

And he did it on behalf of his new boss, Steve Bannon.

Clearly that didn't work.

In another piece by the Guardian that I am sure Cambridge Analytica would like to make go away, we learn that the guy who orchestrated the data mining on Facebook has ties to Russia: 

Aleksandr Kogan, the Cambridge University academic who orchestrated the harvesting of Facebook data, had previously unreported ties to a Russian university, including a teaching position and grants for research into the social media network, the Observer has discovered. Cambridge Analytica, the data firm he worked with – which funded the project to turn tens of millions of Facebook profiles into a unique political weapon – also attracted interest from a key Russian firm with links to the Kremlin. 

Energy firm Lukoil, which is now on the US sanctions list and has been used as a vehicle of government influence, saw a presentation on the firm’s work in 2014. It began with a focus on voter suppression in Nigeria, and Cambridge Analytica also discussed “micro-targeting” individuals on social media during elections. 

The revelations come at a time of intense US scrutiny of Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, with 13 Russians criminally charged last month with interfering to help Donald Trump.

Man no matter what the story, it always links back to Russia in some way or another. 

By the way Robert Mueller has requested all emails between the Trump campaign and Cambridge Analytica, so this party is far from over.

Interesting that not only is the Trump White House all super double secret about what they are up to, but so is just about everybody who helped them to get there in the first place.

Donald Trump had senior staff sign NDA's, which would extend beyond their time in the White House.

Courtesy of WaPo: 

In the early months of the administration, at the behest of now-President Trump, who was furious over leaks from within the White House, senior White House staff members were asked to, and did, sign nondisclosure agreements vowing not to reveal confidential information and exposing them to damages for any violation. Some balked at first but, pressed by then-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and the White House Counsel’s Office, ultimately complied, concluding that the agreements would likely not be enforceable in any event.

The nondisclosure agreements, said a person who signed the document, “were meant to be very similar to the ones that some of us signed during the campaign and during the transition. I remember the president saying, ‘Has everybody signed a confidentiality agreement like they did during the campaign or we had at Trump Tower?’ ” 

At that time, in February or March of 2017, the source said, “There was lots of leaking, things that just weren’t true, and a lot of things that were true and should have remained confidential. The president’s point was that they [staff] would think twice about that if they were on the hook for some serious damages.” 

Moreover, said the source, this confidentiality pledge would extend not only after an aide’s White House service but also beyond the Trump presidency. “It’s not meant to be constrained by the four years or eight years he’s president — or the four months or eight months somebody works there. It is meant to survive that.” 

This is extraordinary. Every president inveighs against leakers and bemoans the kiss-and-tell books; no president, to my knowledge, has attempted to impose such a pledge. And while White House staffers have various confidentiality obligations — maintaining the secrecy of classified information or attorney-client privilege, for instance — the notion of imposing a side agreement, supposedly enforceable even after the president leaves office, is not only oppressive but constitutionally repugnant.

The draft of the NDA seen by the reporter for this story levied a fine of 10 million dollars for every unauthorized revelation about Trump or the Trump Administration.

That is beyond punitive, that his draconian.

It is also not enforceable, as explained by this professor of political science:
I am having a hard time getting over the fact that Trump is treating White House personnel in the same way that he treats an adult film actress with whom he had an extra marital affair.

After he does something criminal or despicable, they are just loose ends to be tied up by his attorneys.

Really makes you wonder exactly what Donald Trump is so concerned with people finding out about him, doesn't it?

New NBC poll shows that Democrats have a 10 point lead going into 2018, while Donald Trump's numbers have ticked up four points. Wait, what?

Courtesy of NBC News:  

Democrats enjoy a 10-point advantage over Republicans in congressional preference for the 2018 midterm elections, even as President Donald Trump's job approval rating has ticked up, the latest national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds. 

Fifty percent of registered voters say they prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress, while 40 percent want a GOP-controlled one. 

That double-digit lead — typically a sign of strong Democratic performance for the upcoming election — is up from the party's 6-point edge in January's NBC/WSJ poll, which was 49 percent to 43 percent, though the change is within the poll's margin of error.

That falls in line with other polling that shows the Democrats with a substantial lead going into the 2018 election.

But then there is this: 

Meanwhile, the NBC/WSJ polls finds that Trump's approval rating stands at 43 percent among all Americans — up four points from January. 

Fifty-three percent of adults say they disapprove of the president’s job, down from 57 percent two months ago. 

The improvement for Trump comes from Republican respondents (who went from 78 percent approve in January to 84 percent this month), white men (52 percent to 59 percent) and independents (33 percent to 45 percent).

Man am I embarrassed to be a white man some days.

I am trying to work it out in my head exactly what Trump has done in the last month or so that could have improved his image even by four points.

Could it be his blatant attacks on our Justice Department?

The constant turnover in his White House?

Or was it the fact that he has definitely been outed as banging a porn star right after his wife gave birth to his last child, and his attempts to keep her quiet?

Yeah, I simply don't get it.

But who cares? Because once we get enough Democrats into office we can shut his ass down hard!

During Trump rallies there was an increase in violence. I know, color me surprised.

Courtesy of the New York Times:  

A study published on Friday appears to confirm what news reports suggested long ago: President Trump’s campaign rallies were associated with a rise in violence when they came to town. 

A city that hosted a Trump rally saw an average of 2.3 more assaults reported on the day of the event than on a typical day, according to the study, led by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and published in the journal Epidemiology. The authors found no corresponding link between assaults and rallies for Mr. Trump’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. 

“It appeared to be a phenomenon that’s unique to Donald Trump’s rally,” said Christopher Morrison, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania and the lead author of the study. 

It may come as little surprise that the rallies were associated with increased violence, as the often volcanic clashes between Mr. Trump’s supporters and opponents were widely covered at the time.

Yeah I think we all knew this even without a study.

And most of that violence probably happened right there at the rally.

So now that Trump is elected it appears that uptick in violence is now spreading across the country.

Natasha Bertrand ties it all together.

This my friends, is evidence of collusion.

I think that Mueller probably has all that he needs to make Donald Trump eat these words.