Monday, December 31, 2018

Reason #6974 - 6984 That Trump Was Elected

At Althouse! "Trump's Top 10 Achievements of 2018." At Real Clear Politics.
1. Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court...

2. Confronting China... America now embraces its strong bargaining position and demands reciprocity in trade and an end to rampant industrial theft and piracy.

3. Middle-Class Wages Rise – Incomes in general soared in 2018...

4. U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Deal...

5. Ending the Iran Nuclear Deal...

6. Moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem...

7. Smashing the ISIS Caliphate and Exiting Syria...

8 Increasing Minority Jobs...

9. Holding the Line with Migrant Caravans...

10. Record American Oil Production – In 2018, the U.S. surpassed Russia and Saudi Arabia to become the world’s largest producer of crude oil....
Of course, some of these are repeats, but it's a good day to remember what we got for all the noise.

The Final Russiagate Post . . .

. . . of 2018. Yeah, I know, it keeps going and going, but at least Michael Isikoff admits Dossier's Trump-Russia collusion claims 'likely false' 
Yahoo News’ Michael Isikoff, an early public conduit for Christopher Steele’s anti-Trump dossier, now says the former British spy’s sensational Russia collusion charges lack apparent evidence and are “likely false.”

As Election Day loomed in September 2016, Mr. Isikoff was the first Washington journalist to write about Mr. Steele’s memos. He focused on Mr. Steele’s contention that Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page met with nefarious operatives of Russian President Vladimir Putin during a publicly announced trip to Moscow in July 2016.

As reported by the Daily Caller, Mr. Isikoff this month told Mediaite columnist John Ziegler: “When you actually get into the details of the Steele dossier, the specific allegations, we have not seen the evidence to support them, and in fact, there is good grounds to think that some of the more sensational allegations will never be proven and are likely false.”

Mr. Isikoff is best friends with Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson, who hired Mr. Steele in May and June 2016 with money funneled through a law firm from the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Mr. Isikoff was one of a handful of mainstream journalists who met with Mr. Steele in Washington as arranged by Mr. Simpson.
A quick run down of the dossier's allegations, and the lack of evidence.
The Washington Times looked at Mr. Steele’s core collusion charges to see how they have stood up:

⦁ Accusation: The Trump campaign was a partner in an “extensive conspiracy” with the Kremlin to interfere in the 2016 election.

Today: There is no confirmed public evidence. No Trump person has been charged in such a conspiracy. Mr. Mueller’s office informed President Trump that he isn’t a target.

⦁ Accusation: Then-Trump attorney Michael Cohen secretly traveled to Prague in August 2016 and met with Putin aides to organize cash payments to hush up hackers who infiltrated Democratic Party computers.

Today: There is no confirmed public evidence. Cohen, who has pleaded guilty to tax evasion charges and is cooperating with Mr. Mueller, still vehemently denies he ever went to Prague. No court filings indicate he has any knowledge of Trump collusion, and he has said he doesn’t. McClatchy news service has published two stories asserting that Mr. Mueller has evidence Cohen went to Prague.  Fusion’s Mr. Simpson told Congress that Cohen could have traveled to Prague by way of a yacht and Russian aircraft. Daniel Jones, a former Senate Democratic aide, told the FBI in 2017 that he had amassed $50 million from wealthy donors to keep investigating Mr. Trump. He said he hired Fusion GPS and Mr. Steele.

⦁ Accusation: Carter Page met with two Putin operatives and discussed a brokerage fee in return for pushing an end to U.S. sanctions on wealthy Russians and businesses.

Today: Pro-Russia energy investor Mr. Page embarked on perhaps the most suspicious course of action when he traveled to Moscow to deliver a public college speech in July 2106. He once worked in Moscow as a Merrill Lynch banker. The FBI wiretapped him for one year based largely on the dossier. No evidence has emerged publicly that he ever met with Putin people or discussed bribes. He has told the FBI and Congress that he didn’t. He has not been charged.

⦁ Accusation: Mr. Page and campaign chairman Paul Manafort worked as a team to coordinate election interference with the Kremlin.

Today: No public evidence to support this scenario. The two say they don’t know each other and have never spoken. Manafort stands convicted of tax fraud and other charges. Mr. Mueller has made no court filing that indicates he is involved in a Russian election conspiracy. Manafort attorney Kevin Downing filed a court paper saying he asked Mr. Mueller for any evidence of his client talking to Russian government officials. There was none, the attorney said.

⦁ Accusation: Mr. Trump actively supported ongoing computer hacking.

Today: No public evidence.

⦁ Accusation: The Trump “team” paid Russian hackers.

Today: No public evidence. Mr. Mueller brought indictments against the Russian intelligence officers who did the hacking and stole emails released by WikiLeaks. There is no indication that the funding came from Trump people.

⦁ Accusation: Mr. Trump maintained an eight-year relationship with Kremlin operatives in quid pro quo intelligence-sharing.
Today: No public evidence.

⦁ Accusation: Russian entrepreneur Aleksej Gubarev, owner of computer server provider XBT Holding, hacked the Democrats under pressure from Moscow intelligence.

Today: No public evidence. Mr. Gubarev’s attorneys say no U.S. authority has asked to interview him. The Mueller indictment against Russian hackers doesn’t mention XBT. A U.S. District judge dismissed Mr. Gubarev’s libel lawsuit against BuzzFeed but not because the dossier is true. The judge ruled that BuzzFeed, which had published the unverified memos, was protected from libel because the FBI and intelligence agencies were using the dossier in their probes.
To be fair, he's said this before Giuliani rips Mueller: ‘It’s time to put up or shut up’. Can Mueller hold out long enough for a 2020 October surprise?
“It should have been wrapped up probably in May or June. That’s when they figured out they had no evidence of collusion," Giuliani asserted, adding, "Collusion is not a crime, by the way."

"You have to show a conspiracy to hack [the Democratic National Committee]," he added. "They don’t have any evidence of that — which is the reason they don’t submit a report, because they are embarrassed."
. . .
"So, I am challenging them: It’s time to put up or shut up. It’s time for them to submit a report," Giuliani said. "They don’t have, as we would say in New York, a damn thing.”
. . .
“Mueller should be investigated for destruction of evidence for allowing those text messages from Strzok to be erased, messages that would show the state of mind and tactics of his lead anti-Trump FBI agent at the start of his probe,” Giuliani told Hill.TV this week.
At Polico, a lot more speculation about A Holiday Mystery: Why Did John Roberts Intervene in the Mueller Probe?, but no progress towards answering it.

Time: Russian Ex-Spy Pressured Manafort Over Debts to an Oligarch It's not a good thing to owe money to the Russian mob.
In his only interview with the media about those connections, Boyarkin told TIME this fall that he was in touch with Trump’s then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, in the heat of the presidential race on behalf of the Russian oligarch. “He owed us a lot of money,” Boyarkin says. “And he was offering ways to pay it back.”

The former Russian intelligence officer says he has been approached by the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. Boyarkin’s response to those investigators? “I told them to go dig a ditch,” he says. Peter Carr, the spokesman for the Special Counsel’s Office, declined to comment. Through his spokesman, Manafort likewise declined to comment on his alleged connections with Boyarkin.
I trust Manafort would sell his soul for a million dollars, if he could find it.

Page 6, Michael Cohen’s story may get the Hollywood treatment. Hollywood invariably fucks up the story and slants it toward the liberal view, so I'm not shocked.
Cohen’s attorney David Schwartz told Page Six: “There is a lot of interest in Michael’s story, but he isn’t open to doing anything at the moment because of continuing

Cohen has reportedly spent 70 hours in interviews with Robert Mueller’s prosecutors and other federal investigators.

Meanwhile, producers can begin hashing out who will play Cohen in any movie version.

Our suggestions include: Bobby Cannavale, Ray Romano, David Schwimmer or Ben Stiller — who’s already comically played Cohen on “SNL.”
 Bob Odenkirk from Better Call Saul would be perfect.

USA Today: Trump's tweets: Judges in government secrecy cases say they are 'speculation' and not 'pure fact'
"Speculation." "Unofficial information." "Political statements rather than assertions of pure fact." Those are words federal judges have used to describe President Donald Trump’s tweets while guarding the secrecy of ongoing investigations that have shadowed his presidency.

And in an unusual twist, these rulings mark victories for Trump’s own Justice Department, which has argued repeatedly that the president’s comments on the probes are not always to be taken literally, or to be trusted.

In one tweet in March 2017, Trump claimed that the Obama administration tapped his phones as a candidate in Trump Tower. He insisted in May 2017 that he had the "absolute right" to meet with Russians in the Oval Office, even if critics worried he revealed state secrets. And he announced in June 2017 that he was under investigation for firing the FBI director.
 And at Jonathon Turley at Da Hill: Donald Trump is completely transforming the Democrats
Democrats are now defined by Trump the way that antimatter is defined by matter, with each particle of matter corresponding to an antiparticle. Take the secrecy. Democrats once were the party that fought against the misuse of secret classification laws by the FBI and other agencies. They demanded greater transparency from the executive branch, which is a position that I have readily supported. Yet, when oversight committees sought documents related to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act investigation of Trump associates, Democrats denounced the very thought that Republicans would question the judgment of the FBI that any such disclosures would be tantamount to jeopardizing national security.

Democratic Party leaders including Pelosi declared that the oversight committees had moved beyond “dangerous irresponsibility and disregard for our national security” and “disregarded the warnings of the Justice Department and the FBI.” Likewise, House Intelligence Committee ranking minority member Adam Schiff expressed shock that the FBI was not given deference in withholding the information in the surveillance investigation.

Yet, when the information was finally forced out of the FBI, including the disclosure of previously redacted material, it was clear that the FBI had engaged in overclassification to shield not national security but to shield the bureau itself from criticism. It included discussion of the roles of high ranking FBI officials and their reliance on such sources as the Christopher Steele dossier, which were already publicly known. Democratic House members like Schiff presumably knew what was in the redactions and, nevertheless, wanted deference to the classification decisions of the FBI.

In supporting the investigation of Trump, Democrats have embraced expanding definitions of crimes like obstruction, conspiracy, and the like. Historically, Democrats have resisted such efforts to stretch the criminal code to criminalize broader and broader areas of conduct. During the Trump administration, Democrats sound like legal hawks in demanding criminal charges for conduct long treated as civil matters, such as campaign finance violations and foreign agent registration violations.

In pursuing Trump, Democrats have also adopted a type of “red scare” mindset. While Republicans long pumped up the Russian menace as a political Cold War narrative, Democrats are now adopting the same type of rhetoric over the Russian attempt to interfere with the 2016 president election. Democrats for the past two years speak about how Russians “stole” the election or destroyed the legitimacy of the results, with little empirical data to support such irresponsible and unfounded claims.

While many of us support the Mueller investigation and the need for sanctions against Russia for its interference, Democrats now routinely refer to Russia as our “enemy” and accuse any people with alleged connections to Russians as “traitors.” Special counsel Robert Mueller may have more to reveal on Russian hacking, but there is little evidence that either the trolling operation or leaked emails of the Hillary Clinton campaign had a material impact on the 2016 presidential election.
The Democrats position with Trump is much like my position with Femen, whatever they're against, I'm for, just to keep the bare-breasted protests going!

Reign of Pain Update: Trump Helps the Coasties Get the Check Cut

Concerned about U.S. Coast Guard forces losing a paycheck in the partial government shutdown, President Trump personally urged his team to find a solution that would allow the administration to make this week’s $75 million payroll, according to officials.

Trump stepped in on Wednesday, calling on top lawyers and staffers to determine if the Coast Guard could make payroll despite being included in the shutdown that has impacted about 25 percent of the government, including the Department of Homeland Security, which houses the Coast Guard.

Military personnel under the Department of Defense are not included in the shutdown, because their appropriations were approved earlier in Congress.

At his urging, the Office of Management and Budget, DHS and the Coast Guard determined that the rules governing pay to Coast Guard forces requires it be made through the end of the year. To make it, the lawyers said that unused funding could be tapped for pay. The service had a bit more than the needed $75 million left over from its past continuing resolution appropriation, enough to make this month’s last payroll check.

“The president is trying to make the shutdown as painless as possible for workers, and this case proved it,” said an official. 
My question is why the DHS officials didn't see fit to use the unused funding more salaries on their own. The Smithsonian did.  Were they more interested in having something to bitch about?

This only solves the problem for one pay period.
"Will I get paid on Jan. 15? This approval only covers the Dec. 31, 2018 paycheck. It does not guarantee a paycheck on Jan. 15, 2019. Meeting active duty and reserve military payroll for January 2019 will require a fiscal year 2019 appropriation, a continuing resolution, or passage of an alternative measure."
Build the wall.

All Kneel Before the Illuminati!

Cynthia von Buhler
An inside peek at the erotic New Year’s Eve ‘Illuminati Ball’
In this day and age, risqué can be risky. But Cynthia von Buhler is bringing sexy back to NYC.

The illustrator has thrown, by her own estimation, hundreds of over-the-top parties over almost three decades. But this year marks her first-ever New Year’s Eve bash — and she’s going all out: hosting a massive, “Eyes Wide Shut”-style blowout for 800 guests at the Williamsburg Savings Bank Tower.

Attendees, who are shelling out $200 to $400 per ticket, are coming “from all over the world — Amsterdam, Germany, Australia,” said von Buhler, 54. “We have people flying in just for this.”

‘New York has become more sanitized, and this is old-school underground craziness.’

Although von Buhler makes clear the Illuminati Ball “is not a sex party,” there is no mistaking the titillation factor. Hers is a sophisticated, fun brand of sexiness — giving guests the old-fashioned thrill of the tease.

“New York has become more sanitized, and this is old-school underground craziness. It’s respectful, but erotic and decadent,” she said. “I think this is a chance for people to really let their hair down and be free.”

At the Dec. 31 bash, there will be a human “cake” — with a model’s face, hands and feet sticking out of a body-shaped dessert — and a swimming mermaid in a tank. Von Buhler plans to create her own version of the New Year’s Eve ball drop: acrobats descending from the bank’s famed stained-glass dome.

And then there’s Kamadhenu the cow goddess and her four maidens. “You can milk the maidens’ [fake breasts] and also taste their milk [from a baby bottle],” the hostess said.

Although she doesn’t want to give away too much of the plot line, she revealed that the New Year’s Eve story centers around “human-animal hybrids who have escaped a lab,” including half-woman, half-bird sirens.

By day, von Buhler is a Newbery Medal-winning illustrator and children’s book author. By night, she has developed a reputation for throwing some of the sexiest, most provocative parties around. Last year, she hosted two Illuminati Balls, with scantily-clad fire-breathers, contortionist and aerialists, guests in masks and bustiers, and dancing men in bondage-style bikinis.
She writes kid's books? Now that's unsettling.

Sounds like a heck of a party. Sorry to miss it!

Wombat-socho has Rule Five Tuesday up at The Other McCain.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Last Fishing Trip of the Year?

It was a cool but windless day, so I decided to go out and try my hand.
Location X was being visited, but was not as crowded as it can get at times.
Only a couple of 18 inch fish fell sucker to the rubber lure, but it was better than a skunk.

Linked by EBL in Marie KondoNational Whipped Cream DayMonica Bellucci and SpaghettiWhy are I.Q. levels dropping?, Medici: The Magnificent: Synnove Karlsen, Alessandra Mastronardi, and Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz.

Russiagate: Stuck in Prague With Those Dossier Blues Again

The reporters who broke a potentially bombshell story claiming evidence that Michael Cohen visited Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign did not see for themselves some of the underlying intelligence cited in their report, one of the journalists who wrote the story revealed Thursday.

In an interview on MSNBC, Greg Gordon said that he and his McClatchy colleague, Peter Stone, did not physically see cell tower records and intelligence intercepts that they claim placed Cohen in Prague in summer 2016.

Gordon also suggested that the four anonymous sources he and Stone cite in their article also did not see the intelligence for themselves, meaning that the report is based on third-hand information.

“Is there anything that you were able to physically see for yourselves?” MSNBC host Joy Reid asked Gordon.

“I wish we had. We held out for a while for that, and it came a time when we thought we had a critical mass. It is a competitive business,” Gordon said.

“Some of the sources have government sources, and some of the sources are people who have told us that they have trusted intelligence-type sources that they get information from. We don’t know the specifics, but we have used these sources on many subjects, and they have been very accurate,” Gordon added.

When asked if he has seen the intercepts, Gordon responded, “No.”

He said that his sources were told that the intercepts exist.
Da Spectator: The Prague delusion - The Central European city is the last stop for the resistance fantasy
Many months ago, when Michael Cohen first came to the attention of CNN, Bill Kristol, and other acolytes in the anti-Trump sorority, a rumor was floated that he had been in Prague in 2016 and had spoken to unnamed but highly placed ‘Russians’ either to hand over the US government to Vladimir Putin or to assure Putin’s connivance in making Donald Trump President.

A notable flaw in this theory was that Michael Cohen had never visited Prague, not then, not ever.

If you think that is a disabling flaw, however, you do not appreciate the robust goad to invention that hysteria provides. That fact that Michael Cohen has been shown not to have been in Prague is merely a fact. What is that against the ardent heart’s desire to Get Trump and cancel the effects of the 2016 election?
JE Dyer at The Lid:  Michael Cohen’s Cell Phone In Prague Story Has Huge Holes
First, to cut to the chase, the case I made in April 2018 applies here. This information cannot be from the source you immediately imagine — i.e., a U.S. intelligence agency tracking Michael Cohen’s communications — if it comes with only a general timeframe and not exact dates of detection. Nor could it come directly from any other credible source; e.g., British GCHQ, another European intelligence agency, the police in Prague. It isn’t possible to detect Michael Cohen’s cell phone interacting with microwave towers in Prague and not have a time-hack.
All of which leads Tom Maguire at Just One Minute to come up with the same theory I had a couple of days ago in Stuck In Prague:
Suppose Russian Intelligence decided to exploit Hillary's paranoia and opportunism by spoofing a meeting with Cohen, hoping to spark a Obama-approved investigation of his political opposition with resulting finger-pointing, division, and de-legitimization. Mission Accomplished!
Great minds really do think alike!

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air: Hmmm: Mueller Files Early Response On Magical Mystery Subpoena. Apparently the Mueller team did not appreciate the Court putting a stop to one of their coercion tactics.
Will the Supreme Court issue a ruling on Robert Mueller’s magical mystery subpoena before the ball drops in Times Square on Monday night? Politico’s Josh Gerstein reports that the government got its response submitted to the court three full days ahead of an expedited deadline, although it might not have come directly from Mueller. The seal on the case is so encompassing that it’s tough to tell the players without a scorecard … and a decoder ring
. . .
Unfortunately, whoever submitted the response to the challenge requested that the case remain under seal. That means we won’t get a chance to find out the identity of the subpoena target nor the reason for Mueller’s interest at least until the Supreme Court decides the matter. We won’t even know if this part of the case features any nude selfies, although that may be for the best depending on who got targeted for that picture.
 SF Gate: Investigators examining Trump golf club's employment documents, lawyer says.
Federal and state investigators are scrutinizing the employment documents of immigrants without legal status who allegedly worked at President Donald Trump's golf club in New Jersey, according to their attorney.

Anibal Romero, a Newark attorney who represents five undocumented immigrants who say they worked at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, said in an interview Saturday that he met with investigators from the New Jersey state attorney general's office and two FBI agents in November, before the workers began to go public with their stories.

Romero said he turned over fake green cards and Social Security numbers that supervisors at the golf club allegedly gave one of his clients, Victorina Morales, a 44-year-old Guatemalan national. He also gave investigators the pay stubs of Sandra Diaz, a Costa Rican native who now has legal status but said she was undocumented when she worked at the club for three years.

The FBI agents told him they would "coordinate" with the New Jersey state attorney general's office, Romero said.

The materials collected by law enforcement agencies, first reported by the New York Daily News, indicate that investigators may be launching a probe into the hiring practices of the president's golf club.

A spokeswoman for New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said the office's policy is "to neither confirm nor deny investigations." The FBI declined to comment.
So, suddenly, someone in San Francisco thinks it's bad to hire illegal aliens?

Honestly, How Much Worse Could it Be?

Angelina Jolie doesn’t rule out move into politics
Angelina Jolie has not ruled out a move into politics — and has joked that she might be tough enough to take the rough and tumble that comes with it.

The American actress and U.N. envoy told BBC radio she “can take a lot on the chin” — a possible reference to her bitter divorce from Brad Pitt.

When asked if she is moving in the direction of politics, the 43-year-old Oscar winner said, “I honestly will do whatever I think can really make change.”

Jolie is a special envoy for the U.N. refugee agency. She used her slot as a “guest editor” on the BBC to highlight refugee issues in the Middle East.
She's crazy as a bedbug, but in Congress, that's a feature, not a bug.

Linked by EBL in Marie KondoNational Whipped Cream Day, Monica Bellucci and SpaghettiWhy are I.Q. levels dropping?,  Medici: The Magnificent: Synnove Karlsen, Alessandra Mastronardi, and Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz. Wombat-socho has Rule Five Tuesday up at The Other McCain.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Don't Worry Folks They Still Have a Couple of Days

To beat these: The Top 10 Rake-Stepping Fake News Stories The Liberal Media Trafficked In 2018 from Town Hall and The Most (32) Egregious Fake News Stories Of 2018 from the Daily Caller:

1. WaPo Blames Border Patrol for Death of 7-Year-Old Migrant
The Washington Post published a story in December focusing on a 7-year-old migrant child from Guatemala who died in border patrol custody.

Despite WaPo’s misleading headline suggesting border patrol was to blame for the girl’s death, the full timeline of events and statements from the girl’s father praising border agents revealed a different story.
2. CNN and The Hill Spread Retracted Sexual Assault Claim Against Kavanaugh
CNN and The Hill both reported on a sexual assault claim against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in late September without ever mentioning that the claim had been quickly retracted.

Jeffrey Catalan apologized for making a “mistake” in leveling the false claim against Kavanaugh, but CNN and The Hill’s initial reports on the claim failed to note the retraction. The Hill later retracted a tweet bolstering the claim and CNN updated its misleading report.
and so on (there is some overlap between the lists).

And for best in show, we must surely go with Claas Relotius (doesn't that sound like a name out of a Monty Python skit?), the German "reporter" for Der Speigel who was caught in a sea of embellishments after inhabitants of a small town actually read the story he wrote about the small Trump-supporting town in Minnesota, and noticed quite a few details, that, to put it nicely, just weren't so. Der Spiegel suspends two senior editors after fake news scandal:
Influential German news weekly Der Spiegel said it has suspended two senior editors following the scandal involving a reporter who admitted faking stories for years.

The company said the contracts of Ullrich Fichtner, an editor in chief, and Matthias Geyer, a chief editor, had been suspended. The suspension "will remain until the (magazine's) internal commission has completed its investigation into the affair," the editor in chief Steffen Klusmann said in an internal letter.

Earlier this month, Der Spiegel stunned the media world by revealing that one of its award-winning reporters had falsified stories for years. Claas Relotius, 33, resigned this month after admitting he had made up stories and invented protagonists in more than a dozen articles in the magazine's print and online editions.
. . .
Der Spiegel said last weekend that a criminal complaint would be filed against Mr Relotius after it emerged he may also have embezzled donations intended for Syrian street children.
Stealing from homeless orphans? That's low even for media. 

My Plan for Living Forever is Going Swimmingly

People who drink moderate amounts of either coffee or alcohol and who pack on a few extra pounds in their 70s tend to live longer than their peers who don’t, according to a new study.

The research out of the UC Irvine Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders, called The 90+ Study, began in 2003 to try and determine what, exactly, helps people live well into their 90s, ABC News reported.

The team found that those who abstained from either drink lived shorter lives on average than those who indulged — in moderation — in coffee and booze. Oddly, the scientists also saw that those who were a bit overweight in their 70s continued to live longer than those who were average weight at the same age.

Read the full story at ABC News
I might have to work on the alcohol part, though, because I cut down on beer in an effort to lose weight, and it doesn't look like it's important to become rail thin. But I am down 20 lbs as of this AM.

It looks like Elle Johnson just might live forever, too.

Linked at Pirate's Cove in the weekly Sorta Blogless Sunday Pinup and links. Wombat-socho has Rule Five Tuesday up at The Other McCain.

Really Reaching for Russiagate

Not a lot happening as the year winds down. Daniel Chaitin, WaEx, Jerome Corsi claims FBI, Mueller 'harassing' my family
During an interview on Fox Business on Wednesday, Corsi said federal agents are needlessly surveilling his family while he is being scrutinized as part of the Russia investigation.

"Right now I've got evidence that the FBI and Mueller's team are now harassing my family," Corsi said during an interview on "Trish Regan Primetime." "They are doing door knocks on my stepson. They are parking surveillance vans with two agents in it outside the places where various members of my family work."

"My children have done nothing wrong," He added. "My wife, I've been married to her for 27 years, and now they're gonna try to make them criminals? I mean this is harassing my family, it's beyond bounds, and I won't stand for it."
Even paranoids can have real enemies. We know from Gen. Flynn that Mueller is not above such tactics. John Solomon at Da Hill: Giuliani calls for Mueller to be investigated for destruction of FBI evidence You know those 18 minutes 19,000 texts between Strzok and Page that were "inadvertently" not saved after they were forced off the Mueller team, for, get this, swapping a whole bunch of anti-Trump texts before they joined the Mueller team. Yeah, that's pretty fishy, but not in a good way.
The report said a technical glitch was to blame for the FBI’s failure to save those text messages, but the IG was able to recover more than 19,000 from the early part of the Russia probe before Mueller was named special prosecutor.

However, the IG said it was unable to recover messages from the time Strzok and Page worked for Mueller’s office in spring and summer 2017 because the memories of both FBI officials’ government phones were wiped clean by technicians.

That erasure occurred after Strzok and Page left Mueller’s team over revelations they exchanged anti-Trump text messages, including one string in which they talked about stopping Trump from becoming president.

“That should be investigated, damn it, that should be investigated fully. You want a special counsel, get one for that,” Giuliani said.
Politico: Michael Cohen still denies report alleging his cellphone was traced near Prague in 2016. Tom Maguire at One More Minute: Prague Summer Yet Again
Trump fixer Michael Cohen's cell phone was pinging cell towers in Prague in the summer of 2016? Lock 'em up!

This is interesting:
McClatchy reported in April 2018 that Mueller had obtained evidence Cohen traveled to Prague from Germany in late August or early September of 2016, but it could not be learned how that information was gleaned.
We can flashback to that report and this Jake Tapper follow-up:
CNN’s Jake Tapper reported Wednesday morning that intelligence officials looked into allegations from an explosive unsubstantiated memo that Trump lawyer Michael Cohen visited Prague in late August to meet with Russian officials, and found that it was a different Michael Cohen who visited the city.
Cohen strongly denied the charges Tuesday, saying that he had never been to Prague. The Washingtonian reported that two sources at the University of Southern California confirmed that Cohen was in Los Angeles at the time he was supposed to have been in Europe.
Tapper seemingly confirmed Cohen’s story. “People tried to run that down and concluded it was a different Michael Cohen. It was a Michael Cohen with a passport from another country, same birth year, different birth date,” he said.
Eventually Cohen showed his passport to Buzzfeed with no relevant entries to Europe, prompting me to wonder whether he has two passports (not unheard of!).

And here we go again.
Jonathon Toin, Da Federalist, If Russian Bot Tactics Didn’t Defeat Roy Moore, They Didn’t Defeat Hillary Clinton
What is most interesting about this “experiment” is that among its architects was the head of a firm that “wrote a scathing account of Russia’s social media operations in the 2016 election that was released this week by the Senate Intelligence Committee.” The Times obtained a report on the effort led by Jonathon Morgan of the New Knowledge cyber security firm. It detailed their efforts to mislead Alabama voters and thus aid Jones.

Both the Times and supporters of Jones are correct when they assert that this plot didn’t influence the outcome of the Alabama election even though the Democrat wound up winning by less than 22,000 votes out of more than 1.3 million votes cast. But there are two significant conclusions that can be drawn from the newspaper’s exhaustive account of the Democrats’ attempt to mimic Russian tactics.

First, the attempt to minimize the Alabama experiment’s effects while claiming that the larger-scale version of the plot was a major factor in allowing President Donald Trump to defeat Hillary Clinton simply falls flat.

The other is that the narrative being spread by the Democratic Party and the mainstream media, about Republicans being uniquely hostile to democracy and engaged in a consistent pattern of behavior involving elections cheating of one sort or another, is false. What happened in Alabama demonstrates that both parties are equally willing to do anything to unfairly hobble their opponents.
The Senate Republicans should refuse to seat Doug Jones because of the fraud.

CNN, House Democrats scooping up staff, lawyers to power Trump investigations. Mueller's slowly laying off staff. Maybe they'll end up working for open Democrats.

Rule 5 Saturday - There's Nothing Fishy About Laura Haddock

This week's Rule 5 inductee is Laura Haddock:
Laura Jane Haddock (born 21 August 1985) is an English actress. She is best known for portraying Kacie Carter in Honest, Lucrezia in Da Vinci's Demons, Meredith Quill in Guardians of the Galaxy and its sequel Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Alison in The Inbetweeners Movie and Viviane Wembly in Transformers: The Last Knight.
Sci-Fi to period pieces.
Born in Enfield, London and raised in Harpenden, Hertfordshire (where she attended St George's School), She left school at the age of 17 and moved to London to study drama. She trained at Arts Educational School in Chiswick.
Some NSFW, mostly from  Da Vinci's Demons.

9 AM and already linked at The Right Way in Rule 5 Saturday LinkOrama. Linked at Pirate's Cove in the weekly Sorta Blogless Sunday Pinup and links. Wombat-socho has Rule 5 Monday: Michelle Dockery and FMJRA 2.0: Day Late & A Dollar Short up at The Other McCain.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Maryland to Blow $3 Million on Oyster Restoration

$3 million approved for oyster recovery
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has been approved to invest more than $3 million in oyster recovery and restoration activities in Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, following unanimous support from the Board of Public Works.

The board, consisting of Gov. Larry Hogan, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp, approved three contracts to the Oyster Recovery Partnership aimed at collecting oyster shell, constructing oyster reefs and planting hatchery-reared oysters, according to a DNR news release.

“Through this funding we will continue to enhance and rehabilitate native oyster habitat and populations in Chesapeake Bay,” Maryland Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton said. “These contracts are key to reestablishing a self-sustaining oyster population and meeting our watershed goals.”

One contract will construct and restore oyster reefs in direct support of the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement that calls on Maryland to restore native oyster habitat and populations in five tributaries by 2025. In Maryland, these large-scale restoration projects are focused in Harris Creek — which has been completed — as well as the Little Choptank, Manokin, Tred Avon and Upper St. Mary’s rivers.

Another contract will fund construction and restoration of oyster reefs in support of the department’s new initiative to enhance oyster restoration efforts in other state sanctuaries beyond the five large-scale projects, namely the Nanticoke and Severn rivers.

An additional contract will aid the Marylanders Grow Oysters program to construct and restore oyster reefs in sanctuaries. A minimum of 6 million hatchery oysters will be produced and delivered to participating waterfront residents throughout Maryland in support of this community-driven oyster recovery and restoration effort.
Despite all the ongoing oyster restoration efforts, oyster populations in Maryland waters (as reflected in landings) are about half of what they were in 2014:

Maryland Public Fishery Commercial Oyster Landings  since 2000

and the dockside value of that harvest is barely twice the cost of the oyster restoration efforts:

Estimated dockside values of Maryland public fishery commercial oyster landings
Remind me again, why are we spending this money?

Fritz's oyster restoration program. Forbid harvest of "wild" (planted) oysters for 5-10 years, without any new restoration efforts. If oysters show significant ability to rebound in today's Chesapeake Bay, continue to protect them until they reach the desired density, and then allow carefully controlled harvest. I'm sure that aquaculture will take up the slack in the meantime.

Obamacare Schadenfreude: Obamacare Still Killing

It Sure Looks Like This Obamacare Program Has Led to More People Dying
To determine whether a government program is successful, it's often necessary to look not only at how well it does what it's supposed to do, but what it's doing that it isn't supposed to. For example, killing people.

Take the hospital readmissions program built into Obamacare. The program derived from a simple observation that hospitals were treating lots of people who would then return for more treatment within the month. Unnecessary readmissions cost Medicare an estimated $17.5 billion a year. If hospitals were treating people effectively, the thinking went, those people shouldn't need to return so soon.

So the health law instituted a Medicare payment penalty for hospitals with too many readmissions for pneumonia, heart failure, and heart attack. Since 2012, Medicare has assessed about $2 billion in penalties on hospitals with too-high readmissions rates.

Hospital groups have argued that these payments are punitive and unfair, particularly to so-called safety net hospitals that serve the poorest, sickest patients. These patients tend to have higher readmissions rates, and the hospitals that treat them were more likely to be hit with payment reductions. (Earlier this year, the Trump administration changed the penalty structure for safety net hospitals.)

But the program has often been labeled a success because it accomplished its primary goal. Readmissions dropped between 2.3 and 3.6 percentage points for the conditions targeted. Readmissions associated with other maladies dropped by 1.4 percent. The authors of one 2016 study suggested that the lower readmission rates "point to how Medicare can improve the care that patients receive through innovative payment models." It offered proof, and hope, that with the right incentives, Medicare could save money and provide better care.

A new study appears to dash that hope, at least as far as readmissions are concerned.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and conducted by by researchers associated with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical and Harvard Medical School, looked at hospitalizations between 2005 and 2015. It found that "30-day post-discharge mortality"—the number of people who died within a month of leaving the hospital—increased for heart failure patients after the readmissions penalty program was implemented.

Although heart failure mortality was already on the rise, the rate of increase became more rapid after Medicare started penalizing readmissions. In addition, mortality rates amongst pneumonia patients, which had been stable, increased.

Fewer people were being readmitted to hospitals, but more people were dying.
But Obama and the Democrats meant well, right? That's all the counts.

Reason #6973 That Trump Was Elected

Hospitals required to post all prices online beginning January 1
Medicare will require hospitals to post their standard prices online and make electronic medical records more readily available to patients, officials said Tuesday. The program is also starting a comprehensive review of how it will pay for costly new forms of immunotherapy to battle cancer.

Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said the new requirement for online prices reflects the Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to encourage patients to become better-educated decision makers in their own care. “We are just beginning on price transparency,” said Verma. “We know that hospitals have this information and we’re asking them to post what they have online.”

Hospitals are required to disclose prices publicly, but the latest change would put that information online in machine-readable format that can be easily processed by computers. It may still prove to be confusing to consumers, since standard rates are like list prices and don’t reflect what insurers and government programs pay.

Patients concerned about their potential out-of-pocket costs from a hospitalization would still be advised to consult with their insurer. Most insurance plans nowadays have an annual limit on how much patients must pay in copays and deductibles — although traditional Medicare does not. . . .
I myself will be comparison shopping for a lobotomy. All this worrying about healthcare costs is killing me!

Linked at Pirate's Cove in the weekly Sorta Blogless Sunday Pinup and links.

Reign of Pain Update: Shutdown? What Shutdown!

From Power Line: Shutdown? What Shutdown
Rumor has it the federal government has shut down. Have you noticed? I haven’t. I was on Howie Carr’s radio show this afternoon, talking about the shutdown–or perhaps we should say, alleged shutdown. Here are a few observations:

1) It goes without saying that the shutdown is the Republicans’ “fault.” It makes no difference whether the president is a Republican or Democrat, or who controls congress, or whether the shutdown is prompted by Congressional inaction or by a veto. An iron law of reporting holds that the GOP is to blame for all shutdowns.

2) So that’s a given. The question is, will anyone care? The public has become rather jaded about shutdown theater, I think. In 2013, the Obama administration deliberately tried to dramatize the shutdown by closing the national parks and D.C. monuments, and taking other measures to make the shutdown relatively visible and even impactful. I don’t suppose the Trump administration will do the same. . . .
With EPA, the Commerce, Homeland Security, and HUD leading the list of the 25% of agencies affected, there's not going to be much public impact. Trump will keep the parks open if they have to chain the gates open and let people roam at will through the properties they nominally own.

If the shutdown goes beyond Jan. 1, it may start to effect me. The Smithsonian is currently running on "old" money, but if the shutdown goes on, their facilities may close to the public in 4 days, and only "essential" personnel will be working. Every Thursday, I have a band practice with the old people (in more ways than one) at work in Edgewater, and if the shutdown continues, next Thursday, practice may be cancelled. Oh well!

Russiagate: Did He or Didn't He?

A new report from McClachey suggesting that Michael Cohen's phone pinged in Prague: Cell signal puts Cohen outside Prague around time of purported Russian meeting
A mobile phone traced to President Donald Trump’s former lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen briefly sent signals ricocheting off cell towers in the Prague area in late summer 2016, at the height of the presidential campaign, leaving an electronic record to support claims that Cohen met secretly there with Russian officials, four people with knowledge of the matter say.

During the same period of late August or early September, electronic eavesdropping by an Eastern European intelligence agency picked up a conversation among Russians, one of whom remarked that Cohen was in Prague, two people familiar with the incident said.

The phone and surveillance data, which have not previously been disclosed, lend new credence to a key part of a former British spy’s dossier of Kremlin intelligence describing purported coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russia’s election meddling operation.

The dossier, which Trump has dismissed as “a pile of garbage,” said Cohen and one or more Kremlin officials huddled in or around the Czech capital to plot ways to limit discovery of the close “liaison” between the Trump campaign and Russia.
. . .
Both of the newly surfaced foreign electronic intelligence intercepts were shared with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, people familiar with the matter said. Mueller is investigating Russia’s 2016 election interference and whether Trump’s campaign colluded in the scheme. Mueller also is examining whether Trump has obstructed the sweeping inquiry.

McClatchy reported in April 2018 that Mueller had obtained evidence Cohen traveled to Prague from Germany in late August or early September of 2016, but it could not be learned how that information was gleaned.
Da Caller: New Report Claims Evidence That Michael Cohen Visited Prague. Michael Cohen denies, it, of course, and Mueller never charged him with anything in relations to it Da Hill Cohen denies traveling to Prague in 2016: ‘Mueller knows everything’
“I hear #Prague #CzechRepublic is beautiful in the summertime. I wouldn’t know as I have never been. #Mueller knows everything!” Cohen wrote on Twitter late Thursday afternoon in response.
And the Daily Mail points out how easy it is to clone a phone and make it look like it's been somewhere it hasn't.
McClatchy didn't explore in print the possibility that a Cohen adversary might have obtained the unique digital ID of his phone and put it on another one, a simple task for the technically inclined.
Or the records could just simply be faked. My guess is that this is Russia behind the "eastern European" countries spies sowing discord. But this will serve to keep Democrats hope's alive that the PP tape exists and is out there somewhere.

Meanwhile back in the USSA, If You Only Get Your News From CNN, You Have No Idea This Story Happened 
Linkedin co-founder Reid Hoffman, an early investor in Facebook, was behind a six-figure misinformation campaign that involved falsely linking Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore to Russian influence operations during Alabama’s December 2017 special election.

Hoffman funded Democratic operatives who staged a “false flag” — in their own words — meant to falsely link Moore’s campaign to Russian bots in order to boost Democratic candidate Doug Jones’ Senate campaign.

Jones went on to win the election after defeating Moore in an upset. (RELATED: Democrats Ran Russian Bot ‘False Flag’ Operation In Alabama — And Media Fell For It)

Hoffman devoted the same amount of money toward the misinformation campaign as actual Russian operatives are said to have spent on a Facebook influence operation during the 2016 operation, according to reporting by The New York Times.
. . .
CNN hasn’t touched the story, even as it has undergone several developments.

Hoffman apologized on Wednesday for funding the misinformation campaign. Hoffman’s apology came after Facebook suspended the operatives he paid for their role in the misinformation campaign.

And yet, as of Thursday morning, CNN’s readers and viewers remained completely in the dark about the domestic misinformation campaign in the Alabama Senate election.

The Alabama operation isn’t the only Democratic misinformation campaign that CNN has ignored.

CNN also failed to publish any articles on the fact that North Dakota Democrats falsely targeted hunters in the state with misinformation meant to keep them from voting in the 2018 midterm elections.

Democrats’ North Dakota arm targeted hunters with false advertisements informing them that they could lose their out-of-state hunting licenses if they voted in the 2018 elections.
That's not new, but this is:  Disinformation campaign targeting Roy Moore’s Senate bid may have violated law, Alabama AG says. Well, there's a law against everything if you look hard enough. Gotta be a conspiracy charge there somewhere. Better slap him in irons until we sort this shit out, as I suggest yesterday and make a good honest effort to bankrupt him with lawyers fees. Oh, and we need to demand a re-vote.

Da Wire: Supreme Court Blocks 'Mystery' Mueller Subpoena. Not so much blocked, as allowed the mysterious Russian company being subpoenaed to escape fines while fighting it in court.
"The Supreme Court is putting on hold a contempt order against an unnamed company fighting a subpoena in a mystery case with possible ties to special counsel Robert Mueller," according to The Hill. "A lower court last week upheld the subpoena after the company, which is owned by a foreign government, argued that it was immune from criminal proceedings under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and that the subpoena was unenforceable because it would require 'the Corporation' to violate 'Country A’s' domestic law."

The company was paying an estimated $500 per week in fines, and the new order could give the justices more time to review the subpoena and even issue a more direct order, potentially ending Mueller's probe into the mystery company,
Victor Davis Hanson at American Greatness: Mueller Investigation Stirring Up More Trouble Than It’s Finding. And that always was the point. Point a finger at some untouchable Russians, convict a few Americans of lying to FBI, and call it collusion.

Only one after looking through literally millions of emails and texts? Mueller team found mystery 'nude selfie,' says indicted Russian company
Special counsel Robert Mueller's team has allegedly collected a "nude selfie" over the course of its Russia investigation.

Lawyers for Concord Management and Consulting LLC, one of the Russian companies charged by Mueller for its role in sowing discord and interfering in the 2016 election, made the claim in a court filing Thursday.

“Could the manner in which he collected a nude selfie really threaten the national security of the United States?” asked attorney Eric Dubelier in a filing in support of a motion to compel discovery.

No further details were given on who the selfie might be of and how it was obtained, and Law & Crime, who reached out for comment, reports that it has not yet heard back.
As long as it's not Michael Cohen, or Oleg Deripaska. 

Friday Morning Fear

Who remembers when TV used to be funny? Posted by a commenter at Althouse. Wombat-socho has Rule 5 Monday: Michelle Dockery up at The Other McCain.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

It Sure Is

From the local paper Fishing is big business
Fishing is big business. Recreational anglers buy tackle, rent or buy boats, pay charter or guide fees, buy fuel, stay in hotels for overnight fishing trips, and some lucky ones even buy second homes to be even closer to their favorite fishing destinations.

Most fish caught by commercial fishermen end up on a dinner plate. They are sold to restaurants or grocery stores. Other commercial catches are bought by factories that manufacture pet food, vitamins or medicines. From the commercial sale of sea scallops and lobster to charter fishing trips in Biscayne Bay, there’s money to be made, to the tune of about $39 billion in 2016.
By comparison, US GDP in 2016 was about 18 trillion (with a "t"), so, only about 0.2%. Still, it's a lot of money, and a lot of jobs.
Some of the highlights of this year’s reports include one-half of the total expenditure on tackle ($1.8 billion) was made in Florida, 57 percent of sea scallop landings (23 million pounds) were caught in Massachusetts and the largest increases in commercial landings were for lobster and menhaden.

While Maryland doesn’t make any of the top-10 lists in the report, it does come in a respectable No. 11 for number of jobs supported by the recreational fishing industry, about 8,000 jobs. Number 1 on that list, Florida, supports 95,000 jobs. That’s not surprising considering the most charter fishing trips were hired out of that state as well.
Some of the best fishing, and some of the best weather to fish in the whole country.
I bet you can guess what state caught the most striped bass. Striped bass isn’t Maryland’s state fish for nothing.

Actually, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Virginia all lay claim to the striped bass as their state fish as well. But only one state can be Number 1, and the Old Line State had that honor with 5.1 million.
 I thought that was just Pete's share. . .
Do you wonder where all the flounder have moved? New Jersey must be to their liking, since they caught the most — 6.9 million. Our neighbor Virginia caught the most Atlantic croaker and spot in 2016 (5.6 million fish).

I bet you can also guess the most valuable species for Maryland’s commercial fishermen. The big three were blue crabs, oysters and striped bass.

In 2016, oysters commanded the largest price per pound at $13.83. The price of rockfish more than doubled in the last decade, going for an average of $4.15 in 2016. Lowly menhaden commands just 16 cents per pound in Maryland.
The going rate of rockfish (striped bass) varies in time, but there is a sliding scale for size, where smaller fish (2-3 lbs) sell for, say $3 per lb, where large fish, 8+ lbs,  might get $6 or more per lb.

Wombat-socho has Rule 5 Monday: Michelle Dockery up at The Other McCain.

The American Kulaks

From Stacy McCain: Kulaks of New York
If you have studied Soviet history, you know that Josef Stalin waged a campaign of economic warfare against the kulaks — peasants who resisted the Bolshevik agenda of agricultural collectivization. The Democrats who control the state government of New York are doing something similar to their own “class enemies,” deliberately destroying the economy in Republican majority communities:
Since the start of the decade, a million people have moved out of New York.
For Andrew Cuomo, that’s not a problem, that’s a victory.
It has solidified his party’s hold on power, and it has reshaped the state and its culture in a fashion more congenial to his interests and agenda.
The subject comes up because of new Census Bureau numbers which show, yet again, that more people decide to move out of New York than any other state in the nation. Those move outs are so numerous that they outstrip population growth and leave the state with fewer total people. . . .
[M]ore than 40 percent of all the net population loss in America took place in New York.
Under Andrew Cuomo.
And that’s a win for him.
Because almost all of New York’s net population loss took place upstate, where values and party enrollment are in conflict with the governor and his progressive agenda.
Forty-two of New York’s 50 upstate counties have had a net loss of population in the last year. All of them were counties that voted against Andrew Cuomo in the recent gubernatorial election. . . .
There is a decade-long depopulation of upstate New York underway, and it is hard to conclude that that is anything other than a policy objective of Andrew Cuomo. In this dramatically bifurcated state,Cuomo’s efforts to make New York — in his words — “the progressive capital of the nation” require a weakening and suppression of conservative, rural and Republican upstate.
I'm not going to accuse Cuomo of trying to drive out the upstaters, but it's almost certainly true that it doesn't bother him a lick. Democratic politics are almost exclusively the politics of the urban centers, and to a lesser extent, their suburban hub, because that's where there votes come from. Fewer people upstate makes his election only slightly easier. Any competition is likely to come from a fellow democrat.

As I have written previously, the urban/rural split is, as it long has been, the fundamental issue in American politics. Cities are the location of the poor and undereducated underclass, whose votes can be purchased for a few loaves of bread. Government services make more sense in an urban environment, where transportation, water, sewage, etc services make community sense. A farm, or even a less dense suburb is unlikely to have these services covered by the government.

Take us, for example. In our community, water is a local co-op, which originated as a private company (which went broke because government regulations forbid them from raising rates before making upgrades), sewage is handled by septic tank, and public transportation is minimal, a "short bus" which rides the circuit of the county on a very skimpy schedule (although a pretty efficient commuter bus serves to feed DC commuter demand. I hate being taxed for the services provided to Baltimore and Monkey County.