Monday, January 21, 2019

A Cold Serving of Russiagate

Yesterday at this time it was 55 F outside. But the temperature did nothing but drop all day as the wind picked up to 30 mp or more. By sundown it was only 32, and by this morning it was 14. Brrr!

Anyway, Russiagate. The story continues to be the busted Buzzfeed story. In short, the media only regrets that it got caught with its pants down. BuzzFeed is sticking to its guns with this NEW: Latest statement from BuzzFeed.
“As we’ve re-confirmed our reporting, we’ve seen no indication that any specific aspect of our story is inaccurate. We remain confident in what we’ve reported, and will share more as we are able.”
CNN admits: Reporter with checkered past comes back with Trump Tower Moscow bombshells for BuzzFeed. Rick Moran PJ Media:  BuzzFeed Reporter Cormier: 'We Can't Get Into, Like, the Details Here'

Stephen Green (VodkaPundit) Instapundit quips, That's because they're all made up!  Mark Levin says stop praising Mueller, release of BuzzFeed denial was ‘to cover their own asses’. Cynical, but entirely possible. Taking the usual digs at Fox for being pro-Trump, Caleb Howe at Mediaite admits Fox News’ Restraint on Buzzfeed Paid Off, and Should Be a Lesson to Other Outlets. Should be. Won't. Pilot Online: Analysis, BuzzFeed's stumble fuels doubts about the press, even if a few details are missing. No, it further confirms our knowledge of a deeply biased press corps. At Patterico's  Brian Stelter and His “Reliable Sources”

Rachel Maddow, and MSNBC generally, is in the bargaining phase. BUT HE’S STILL A BAD MAN! Don’t stop trying to impeach him just because Buzzfeed may have screwed up, and anyway, maybe Buzzfeed’s report is false but accurate! RUSSIA RUSSIA RUSSIA!

It took Maddow 10 minutes to conclude “Happy Two Years of the Trump Administration” before turning to Ben Smith, who defended the story.

See what she did there? Mueller’s rebuke of Buzzfeed becomes an afterthought.

Michael Goodwin at NyPo: The media’s ‘Gotcha!’ hysteria is shameful. Without a doubt.
I have my doubts the media will do the necessary soul searching. As I have argued repeatedly since 2016, too many outlets are too invested in getting the scoop that brings down the president they love to hate. They have trashed their standards, and Friday was the inevitable result.

But there is another possible silver lining emerging from the dark day, and I have more hope this one will make a difference. It is it a recognition that the endless Mueller probe has become a problem of its own making.
Stacy McCain: Haunted by Ghosts of ‘Fitzmas’ Past: Jason Leopold’s Trump/Cohen Debacle
Watch that interview closely, because something Cormier said may give away where this story actually came from:
“[Our sources] have been working the Trump Moscow tower portion of the investigation…before Mueller. So they had access to a number of different documents, 302 reports which are interview reports,” he said. “That stuff was compiled as they began to look at who the players were speaking with, how those negotiations went, who all from the Trump organization and outside the organization were involved in getting that tower set up.”
“They began to compile the evidence before Michael Cohen decided to cooperate and speak with the Special Counsel,” Cormier added.
Doesn’t this indicate that this story is coming from sources who are no longer involved in the investigation, perhaps James Comey, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, et al.? In other words, it appears that Cormier and Leopold are taking the word of “individuals” who say they “know this happened,” but this doesn’t tell us anything about the direction of Mueller’s current investigation or what Mueller can actually prove. In other words, even if it were true that Trump directed Cohen to lie in his testimony to Congress, the sources cited by Cormier and Leopold would not have knowledge of whether Mueller could prove this, because their sources were involved “before Mueller.” He was appointed special counsel in May 2017, so when Cormier says these sources “began to look at who the players were speaking with” prior to May 2017, shouldn’t we infer that these “two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation” are not relating any recent information obtained by the Mueller probe?

A gigantic nothingburger — that’s what this story was . . .
Moving on, Mueller Team Knew 'Dossier' Kicking Off Trump Investigation Biased. Not new but worth reminding yourself. Mueller did not pick the probe; the probe picked him to be it cover. Victor Davis Hanson wonders how it would have gone if the outgoing Bush team had done a similar probe of the incoming Obama administration in Should the FBI Run the Country?. Well, for one it wouldn't have had all the favorable media enablers. They would have been screaming about civil rights instead. Mark Levin again: Find the criminals in Mueller’s office.
“If, in fact, either of these so-called reporters for BuzzFeed saw documents … now where would those documents be?” he added.  “They would be with Mr. Mueller and his people, in Mueller’s office.”

“Mr. Whitaker and Mr. Rosenstein and the director of the FBI must now trigger a leak investigation. Find who the criminals are in Mr. Mueller’s office, if it’s not Mr. Mueller himself,” Levin continued.
Da Beast is horrified: Giuliani: ’So What’ If Trump Talked To Cohen About His Testimony. That's kind of what lawyers are for.

And for our lighter moment, Russia detains model claiming Trump secrets (Yahoo!)
Russia on Thursday detained a Belarusian model who claimed she had evidence of Russian efforts to help Donald Trump win office, witnesses told AFP.

Anastasia Vashukevich, known by her pen-name Nastya Rybka, was held for questioning at a Moscow airport on Thursday evening after she was deported from Thailand as part of a group convicted of participating in a "sex training course," other passengers on the flight told AFP.
Anastasia Vashukevich
Deported from Thailand for prostitution? What's the problem. Giving competition to the local talent and depressing wages? Build a wall!
Russian authorities detained her and several others including Alex Kirillov, a self-styled Russian seduction guru, witnesses said. Plain-clothes officials led away four of the group including Vashukevich and Kirillov, a woman who gave her name as Kristina told AFP after emerging at Sheremetyevo airport arrivals.
And later,  from Legal Insurrection: *Sexiest* Russian Collusion Story Bites The Dust
Alleged prostitute Anastasia Vashukevich, also known as Nastya Rybka,was detained last year in Thailand on charges related to soliciting for sex and conspiracy to solicit.  At the time of her arrest and subsequent plea, she claimed to have video and audio tape evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 U. S. presidential election.

She has now retracted that claim and apologized for making a false claim.  It’s not clear why she initially made this claim, but reports suggest that she was trying to leverage this purported “evidence” into a lesser charge/sentence.
Which is what we all thought at the time. But you can't blame a girl for trying!
Frankly, she’s not the most reliable of witnesses, and it doesn’t appear that she made any assertions that the Russians she claimed discussed “a plan for the elections” were in any way working in collusion with the Trump campaign. It doesn’t appear that she ever indicated she had evidence of any such connection at all.

I don’t think anyone is in doubt that Russia attempted to interfere with the 2016 U. S. election; if they didn’t, it would be an historical anomaly.

But this retraction and apology underscore yet again the tenuous claims that Russian interference in our elections rises to the level of collusion with the Trump campaign. Indeed, the connection between interference and collusion is further exposed as, thus far, a complete fabrication based on sour grapes and anti-Trump wishful thinking.

Well, I Suppose That's One Way to Keep the Weight Off

Model Ruby Tuesday Matthews has shocked fans by openly revealing she followed a strict diet of cigarettes, black coffee and cocaine to stay thin.

The social media model from the beach town of Byron Bay in Australia made the surprise admission in a fan question-and-answer session on her social media yesterday when one of her 193,000 Instagram followers asked how she maintained her 120-pound frame, explaining it was down to her lifestyle of “tapas and cocaine.”

“I did a lot of cocaine, like a lot, so basically I just smoked cigarettes, had [black coffee] and did coke.”
Not a lot of calories in black coffee. Maybe some of the coke wasn't sugar free.

She went on to say that many people never really understood how she could eat and still be so thin.

“People don’t realize how easy it is to hide something. Whether it’s addiction, depression, anxiety, it’s easy to hide those things.”

The 25-year-old then dished the dirt on the entire, glamorous influencer industry, claiming she’s not the only “influencer” that follows the same diet.
Thin is one thing; death camp chic is another
Shocked, I'm shocked that girls would use drugs to stay thin.
 As part of the honest discussion, Matthews, who is a mom-of-two, said she gave up cocaine three days before she learned she was pregnant.

“I didn’t know I was pregnant. I was with a friend and we were out at a party and I was feeling really sick and went home. I had the worst hangover the next day, and I never used to get them.”
I hope the kid doesn't have fetal alcohol syndrome.
After a pregnancy test revealed, she immediately became concerned her big night out might have hurt her unborn baby in some way, but she said doctors reassured her everything was fine.

“I didn’t think I was pregnant — I was really thin and partying a lot and no one thought I would be able to fall pregnant,” she told her followers.
Well, better late than never, I suppose. I hope it sticks. She looks like she could afford to eat a burger or two.

The Secret of the Ancients diet that Georgia has us on (don't eat so damn much!) continues to pay off, slowly but surely. I have now lost over 20 lbs since we started back at the end of September. But I'll never be a decent human clothes hanger.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

An Uncommon Visitor

A few days ago, Georgia got word that a neighbor on the street below us had reported an uncommon bird in the area. Not rare exactly, but uncommon, one that had not been seen in the area for years. Then our next door neighbor told Georgia that it had been coming to her feeder regularly. Georgia even watched it using binoculars. She changed the food in her feeders, and added fresh suet and meal worms hoping to attract it. But after several days, nothing. She started to mutter about the ungrateful bird

But then yesterday it worked! She managed a few shots with the good camera, and this one came into good focus.

A Red-Headed Woodpecker.
The gorgeous Red-headed Woodpecker is so boldly patterned it’s been called a “flying checkerboard,” with an entirely crimson head, a snow-white body, and half white, half inky black wings. These birds don’t act quite like most other woodpeckers: they’re adept at catching insects in the air, and they eat lots of acorns and beech nuts, often hiding away extra food in tree crevices for later. This magnificent species has declined severely in the past half-century because of habitat loss and changes to its food supply.

Reign of Pain Update: Progress Since Trump Proposed Compromise

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Sunday Morning Russiagate Coming Down

Yesterday, we summarized the fallout from Robert Mueller's team debunking of the infamous Buzzfeed story alleging that the Mueller team had documentary evidence that the President had asked personal attorney at the time Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress about when they stopped considering building a Trump Tower in Moscow, a project that never went forward.

Tom Maguire at Just One Minute: You Can't Make This Stuff Up. Unless You Do.
I actually have a laughably simple explanation for how we arrived at this train wreck that does not involve wilful lying by anyone. Suppose Cohen imagined the ongoing Moscow project as a big payday for himself and was Keeping Hope Alive while Trump, who had been chasing this for decades, had mentally written it off.

Then, somewhere in the course of a two hour meeting on other things, or during an elevator ride, Cohen gets two minutes on Moscow, which Trump tunes out.

Now, months later, Cohen has to testify to Congress. He has a clear memory of discussing Moscow with Trump, so he asks Trump what he should say. Trump has a clear non-memory (if that is even possible) of the topic being raised, so he instructs Cohen to say it was never discussed after January.

Trump is sincere but wrong-ish. Is it a "discussion" if he is not listening and gives utterly distracted answers such as "Yeah, yeah, sounds great"? Is there other evidence of his engagement, such as emails he clearly wrote or approved?. However, Cohen sincerely believes Trump was engaged in these discussions, so he interprets Trump's directive as an order to lie and testifies to that effect to Mueller.
As I have written before (but where?), it's pretty easy to imagine scenarios where Cohen and Trump have different opinions on when they stopped considering the Moscow project. It's not like there's necessarily a bright line.

Citing a leak in the Mueller operation, the WaPoo attempts to autopsy the death of the story: Inside the Mueller team’s decision to dispute BuzzFeed’s explosive story on Trump and Cohen. Basically, BuzzFeed was gently warned they had it wrong, and published anyway.
The reporter informed Mueller’s spokesman, Peter Carr, that he and a colleague had “a story coming stating that Michael Cohen was directed by President Trump himself to lie to Congress about his negotiations related to the Trump Moscow project,” according to copies of their emails provided by a BuzzFeed spokesman. Importantly, the reporter made no reference to the special counsel’s office specifically or evidence that Mueller’s investigators had uncovered.

“We’ll decline to comment,” Carr responded, a familiar refrain for those in the media who cover Mueller’s work.

The innocuous exchange belied the chaos it would produce. When BuzzFeed published the story hours later, it far exceeded Carr’s initial impression, people familiar with the matter said, in that the reporting alleged that Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and self-described fixer, “told the special counsel that after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie,” and that Mueller’s office learned of the directive “through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents.”

In the view of the special counsel’s office, that was wrong, two people familiar with the matter said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. And with Democrats raising the specter of investigation and impeachment, Mueller’s team started discussing a step they had never before taken: publicly disputing reporting on evidence in their ongoing investigation.
Continuing on, Trump Thanks Mueller For Slapping Back At Buzzfeed Story (Hot Air)
‘It hurts me to say it but mainstream media has really hurt its credibility”, Trump said. He called the story – one that claimed President Trump instructed his former lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about a prospective business deal in Moscow a “total phony story” and a “disgrace to the country, to journalism. Media coverage was disgraceful.” Apparently, disgraceful is the word of the day. He’s not wrong.
Althouse:"BuzzFeed's report... as written, was as clean as it gets: Trump directed Cohen to lie about the Trump Tower in Moscow project, and there’s tons of evidence to support that."
"Very rarely has a story been so unequivocal — usually there are more hedges and acknowledgments of what isn't known. And unlike most other reportage in this saga, this accused the president of a felony — a very different bar. Democrats read the story and began immediately dreaming up articles of impeachment. Even some conservatives joined the 'If true' chorus...."
Writes Axios in "A reckoning for political journalism" (also reporting that BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith is standing by his story, saying "We literally don't know what the special counsel is referring to" and "This is a line of reporting that has been repeatedly vindicated").
WaPoo, Mueller publicly disputed the BuzzFeed report. Here’s why it’s a such rare move for a prosecutor. Again, boiling down the verbiage, it seems like the Mueller team doesn't mind innuendo, but they don't want their investigation blamed.  BuzzFeed Won’t Say Which Documents Its Reporter Saw For Story That’s Been Disputed By Mueller
 “In the interest of protecting … sources, we aren’t going to speak further on the details of who saw what and when, beyond what’s in the reporting,” BuzzFeed spokesman Matt Mittenthal told The Daily Caller News Foundation on Saturday.
Why are they protecting sources who clearly lied to them? So they can publish more lies later. Eric Wemble at WaPoo: BuzzFeed and 'if true’: The day when no one knew anything, but they sure speculated a lot.

The media reacted the way you might expect. Crying that someone would dare credit their honesty and objectivity. WaPoo: BuzzFeed’s stumble is highest-profile misstep at a time when press is under greatest scrutiny

Harsh But Fair:

Wa Freebe: CNN Analyst: Many Americans Will Dismiss Media as ‘Leftist Liars’ Over Disputed BuzzFeed Story. Well, they were revealed to be such. Twitchy: ‘You fail your profession’: Chris Cuomo says ‘Mueller didn’t do the media any favors tonight’. Does he owe them any favors (though, to be fair, they've been pretty nice to him all the way along)?
Levin Blasts Buzzfeed Report, Past Questionable Reporting: 'Yellow Journalism as Low as I've Seen'. A high bar but it just might meet it. Roger L. Simon, BuzzFeed, Acosta, and the Non-Existence of Journalism.Twitchy,  Chris Hayes steps on a rake with a ‘Nixon was literally impeached for this’ hot take

To be fair, the word literally has literally switched meaning. . .

Sundance at CTH: Buzzfeed, Like Lawfare, Has a Role to Play in Resistance Operation….
All of it is a nothing-burger, but that doesn’t technically matter for the needs of the ‘resistance’; what they need is a tenuously valid innuendo trail they can exploit with Michael Cohen on February 7th, that will allow Elijah Cummings to pass that specific aspect to Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler.

See how that works?
Sara Carter: Ohr’s Testimony: Is It Enough To Launch DOJ Investigation Into FISA Abuse? It should be. But they need to get rid of the Democrat partisans at the heads of DOJ and FBI. Curt at Flopping Aces: Judge Rules State Dept. Officials and Clinton Aides Must Be Deposed About Clinton Email Scandal and Benghazi. That's a start

The Bulwark, What Do You Mean ‘No Mueller Report’?
The bad news is that, while months of discourse has focused on whether the “Mueller report” will be made public, Barr signaled that there probably won’t be any “tell-all” tome for potential public consumption in the first place. As he properly noted, there are two reports referenced in the language of the special counsel regulations—one by the special counsel and the other by the attorney general.

The first one is “confidential” and goes to the attorney general exclusively. The point of that report is to “explain[] the prosecution or declination decisions reached by the Special Counsel.” Disclosure of that kind of information in the special counsel’s files is governed by routine DoJ regulations. Those don’t authorize public release of documents relating to “subjective observations” and even limit release of factual matters. In short, how prosecutors make decisions in individual cases is not the kind of information that the public has a legal right to know.

The second report is the one that people have been calling the “Mueller report.” But that report involves “Notification and reports by the Attorney General”—not the special counsel.

Morning Music - "Delusions Made of Wax"

Sophie Lloyd