Really interesting story directly from a guy who defected from North Korea to South Korea. The amazing part of this story is that the defector, Chul-Eun Lee, was a high ranking North Korean government official, working in the North Korean equivalent of the US’s National Security Agency (NSA). He explains how his family is a well off family in North Korea, describing how his parents and uncles also worked in the same high levels of NK government. And because his family was in the ‘upper 10%’ of NK society, he was able to ease right into the high ranking job he had. From there, he explained how he planned and executed his escape by traveling to the southwest part of NK to the Yellow Sea, where the geography is such that the distance to South Korea was not that far. He ended up planning his escape route with a friend of his, and then in the dark of night, found his way to the shore by crawling through mud and using his intelligence background to avoid getting electrocuted by an electric fence (Pro tip: If you ever find yourself face to face with what you think is an electric fence, touch it with the back/top of your hand instead of grabbing it in the palm of your hand. The hand’s natural instinct after it touches something with a live charge is to create a fist. If you did that with a live fence, you are literally toast.) After he got past the fence, he found his way to the sea and swam the 6 miles past the South Korean border where he was picked up by a South Korean military boat. All the folks here in the US bitching about being oppressed because they have been asked to wear a mask for the past 18 months is nothing compared to what the folks in North Korea have to deal with.
In case this was overlooked with all the other news that is out there these days, a press release from the US Treasury department confirmed what most thought was true but had not been confirmed by the Mueller Report or the bi-partisan Senate Intelligence Committee – what actually happened after Paul Manafort provided Konstantin Kilimnik with the polling data and campaign strategy back in 2016? Yup, Kilimnik passed it on to the Russian Intelligence Agency (aka the “new” KGB) and it likely made its way to Putin himself. From the always excellent Letters From An American Substack:
We also knew from the Senate Intelligence Report that Manafort had provided Kilimnik with secret polling data from the Trump campaign in 2016—his business partner and campaign deputy Rick Gates testified to that—but the committee did not have evidence about what Kilimnik had done with that data.
Today’s Treasury document provides that information. It says: “During the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign, Kilimnik provided the Russian Intelligence Services with sensitive information on polling and campaign strategy.”
It is hard to overestimate the significance of this statement. It says that Trump’s 2016 campaign manager, Paul Manafort, provided secret polling data and information about campaign strategy to a Russian intelligence officer, who shared it with Russian intelligence. Russian intelligence, as we also know from both the Mueller Report and the Senate Intelligence Committee report, both hacked emails of the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign, and targeted U.S. social media to swing the 2016 election against Democrat Hillary Clinton and to Donald Trump.
By itself, the statement that the Trump campaign worked with Russian intelligence is earthshaking. But aside from the information about the exchange of this particular kind of intelligence in 2016, this statement also indicates that the Trump campaign itself was not simply operating in happy if unintentional tandem with Russian intelligence– which was as far as the Muller Report was willing to go– but in fact had an open channel with Russian operatives. That’s a game-changer in terms of how we understand 2016 and, perhaps, the years that have followed it.Heather Cox Richardson
Just so we’re clear, 70 million US citizens voted to re-elect a US President who worked directly with the Russians to ‘win’ the 2016 election, got impeached twice, incited an insurrection on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, and botched the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic to the tune of 500,000+ dead US American citizens. Amongst other things.
Yesterday was the last day that we never had a female Vice President of the United States. Congratulations to VP Kamala Harris. This is a big deal and we should not let it go unnoticed.
And stating the obvious here, but the poem by Amanda Gorman. WOW!
Today is a good day for the United States and the World. There is work to do. A LOT of work. But today is a good day to build on.
Over the past 5+ years, one of the most vocal and astute observers of the 45th President has been Seth Abramson. Through his Twitter feed, his “Proof” trilogy of books, and now his Substack, he has done a masterful job of aggregating all the reported news on everything having to do with 45, his family of grifters, and the corrupt politicians and lackeys that have enabled him over the past 5+ years, and then stitched it all together into a compelling and damning narrative of the lies, deceit and corruption that has taken place over this timeframe. The damage that has been done to the United States over this short time frame can not be understated. So on the last day of the “Agent Orange” presidency, take a few minutes to read his reminder to never forget what has actually happened over the past 5 years and the utter chaos and damage that has been sowed on our country, to people’s lives, and to the rule of law. Seth’s essay closed with the following:
All I can ask is that we remember the reason for our forgetting: that this president staged his presidency in such a way as to generate so many needless crises per week it was impossible to focus on any one of them for very long. And when finally caught out in illicit conduct he couldn’t distract us from, he used a pliant right-wing media and equally pliant political partners to shame mainstream journalists into a risible “bothsidesism” we still haven’t moved beyond. Had media not permitted itself to be falsely chastened by this historically hypocritical president, it would have given more than a passing mention to the genuinely jaw-dropping revelations about Donald Trump and his aides, allies, advisers, associates, agents, and attorneys that were contained in the bipartisan Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Report.
Just so, there would have been follow-ups on stories that were instead permitted to fall through the cracks for the sake of newer and shinier scandals. So it was that the policy atrocities of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos largely escaped sustained attention, or the president’s handling of our immigration system through nothing more than a vanity wall and xenophobic contempt, or the way he orchestrated the brutalization of social justice protesters in the nation’s capital and elsewhere in the summer of 2020.
A man as monstrous as Donald Trump can only continue to move in polite society if he leaves in his wake a swell of forgetfulness so dazzlingly mercurial we can’t help but watch the foam and spray glisten in the sun. Those of us who never bought into this inveterate con man’s schtick might think ourselves immune to his supposed charms, but we are not immune to the way he controlled and manipulated and artificially foreshortened over a thousand news cycles full of disgrace, horror, and vile conduct.
In other words, we don’t remember what we don’t remember, and Trump counts on it.
So for all that this despicable brigand from New York City really should have attended Joe Biden’s inauguration, and really should have written a nice note for his successor to leave in a drawer in the Resolute Desk, and for all that he really shouldn’t be seeking to upstage the inauguration of the 46th President of the United States via a schlocky pseudo-military sendoff at Joint Base Andrews, can we also remember—not just in broad strokes, but the rank particulars—that Donald Trump is a career criminal, a seditious insurrectionist, a serial sexual assailant, and a grave national security threat?Seth Abramson
I was on a family vacation in London in November, 2016 when the news came that he had won the Presidency. And at that time, I said that we as a nation were completely screwed (using much more colorful language). Four years later, THAT may have been the understatement of the century.
The work needed to extricate our country from the damage of the past 4+ years only now begins, and it will not be easy to get us back on the right path. That said, let’s celebrate the incoming administration and the fact that we elected a woman of color to the post of Vice President of the United States, and that the residents of Georgia elected a black pastor and a Jewish man to their two Senate seats.
Unless you live under a rock, or choose to live in a media bubble filled with lies and misinformation, you should be aware that after the violent mob attacked the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021, the ‘unfiltered’ social media site Parler was also taken offline by Apple, Google, and Amazon. In addition, a social activist hacker who was thinking quickly downloaded practically all the activity that was posted to the service.
Operating on little sleep, @donk_enby began the work of archiving all of Parler’s posts, ultimately capturing around 99.9 percent of its content. In a tweet early Sunday, @donk_enby said she was crawling some 1.1 million Parler video URLs. “These are the original, unprocessed, raw files as uploaded to Parler with all associated metadata,” she said. Included in this data tranche, now more than 56 terabytes in size, @donk_enby confirmed that the raw video files include GPS metadata pointing to exact locations of where the videos were taken.Gizmodo
After that, all this amazingly valuable and incriminating information was released and from there, the folks at Pro Publica sifted through all the videos that were posted to Parler, pulled out about 500+ of the most relevant ones, and aggregated them by the time they were shot and the location that they were shot at. The result is a chronological mash up of all these videos from about Noon on January 6th through to 6pm.
Pro Publica had access to this ‘meta’ information because Parler uploaded the raw files to their servers – meaning all the original ‘meta data’ attached to the videos such as time and location – and this information was still there and attached to these videos.
I’m sure this will be very valuable information for law enforcement.
One person familiar with almost all the conversations with the leaders of Russia, Turkey, Canada, Australia and western Europe described the calls cumulatively as ‘abominations’ so grievous to US national security interests that if members of Congress heard from witnesses to the actual conversations or read the texts and contemporaneous notes, even many senior Republican members would no longer be able to retain confidence in the President.
The insidious effect of the conversations comes from Trump’s tone, his raging outbursts at allies while fawning over authoritarian strongmen, his ignorance of history and lack of preparation as much as it does from the troubling substance, according to the sources. While in office, then- Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats expressed worry to subordinates that Trump’s telephone discussions were undermining the coherent conduct of foreign relations and American objectives around the globe, one of CNN’s sources said. And in recent weeks, former chief of staff Kelly has mentioned the damaging impact of the President’s calls on US national security to several individuals in private.
The most jaw dropping elements were saved for describing 45’s interactions with Putin and Turkey’s Erdogan
The calls with Putin and Erdogan were particularly egregious in terms of Trump almost never being prepared substantively and thus leaving him susceptible to being taken advantage of in various ways, according to the sources — in part because those conversations (as with most heads of state), were almost certainly recorded by the security services and other agencies of their countries.In his phone exchanges with Putin, the sources reported, the President talked mostly about himself, frequently in over-the-top, self-aggrandizing terms: touting his “unprecedented” success in building the US economy; asserting in derisive language how much smarter and “stronger” he is than “the imbeciles” and “weaklings” who came before him in the presidency (especially Obama); reveling in his experience running the Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow, and obsequiously courting Putin’s admiration and approval. Putin “just outplays” him, said a high-level administration official — comparing the Russian leader to a chess grandmaster and Trump to an occasional player of checkers. While Putin “destabilizes the West,” said this source, the President of the United States “sits there and thinks he can build himself up enough as a businessman and tough guy that Putin will respect him.” (At times, the Putin-Trump conversations sounded like “two guys in a steam bath,” a source added.)
Just as a reminder, a summary of how the Senate voted during the impeachment proceedings earlier this year. (Remember that?)
As the country heads into the start of the ever critical 2020 election season, here is a great piece from The Daily Show’s Jordan Klepper that profiles the fine, ‘diverse’ (“Iowa is 90% white but the 10% that’s not white, is 100% not white.”) folks of Iowa, the Iowa Caucuses, and why Iowa is first in the electoral primary process.
Klepper left TDS for about two years to try some other projects, and I have to say, I didn’t realize how much I missed his humor and bits until he came back to do the Iowa piece above along with this quietly savage take on a 45 rally in the heart of ‘Pennsyltucky‘, Hershey, PA.
I have to wonder if Pelosi’s smart move to hold submission of the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate will maybe make those in the GOP to take a step back and really think about what they have in front of them. Maybe when others in the GOP start to vocalize a strikingly logical perspective, like what Jeff Flake penned in the WaPost, some sense of sanity will start to sink in. Or does nothing truly matter anymore?
But what is indefensible is echoing House Republicans who say that the president has not done anything wrong. He has.
The willingness of House Republicans to bend to the president’s will by attempting to shift blame with the promotion of bizarre and debunked conspiracy theories has been an appalling spectacle. It will have long-term ramifications for the country and the party, to say nothing of individual reputations.
Nearly all of you condemned the president’s behavior during the 2016 campaign. Nearly all of you refused to campaign with him. You knew then that doing so would be wrong — would be a stain on your reputation and the standing of the Republican Party, and would do lasting damage to the conservative cause.
Ask yourself today: Has the president changed his behavior? Has he grown in office? Has the mantle of the presidency altered his conduct? The answer is obvious. In fact, if the president’s political rally in Michigan on Wednesday is any measure, his language has only become more vulgar, his performance cruder, his behavior more boorish and unstable.Jeff Flake, OpEd, The Washington Post – 12.21.19
Robert Mueller, presumably, still doesn’t know what a truthful Manafort would have to say, but Trump does. If Manafort is, in fact, playing for a pardon, a route that even disgraced former N.S.A. chief Michael Flynn, whom Trump steadily defended, didn’t take it would speak volumes about how damaging Manafort’s testimony could be to Trump or to those close to him, such as his son, Donald Trump Jr., and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. If Manafort’s truthful testimony was simply going to absolve all of them of conspiring with the Russians, he could have made a deal long ago. Such testimony would have been as likely to earn an eventual pardon, once the smoke cleared. Manafort’s problem, then, seems to be that Mueller may already have evidence of collusion that threatens to endanger him, his former colleagues on the campaign, and possibly Trump himself.
Turow’s article does an amazing job of laying out how deftly “Bobby Three Sticks” is playing this and how Manfort’s already limited options are rapidly dwindling to nothing. Even if Manfort holds out in the hopes of getting a pardon from 45, Mueller can still bring him in front of a grand jury because in that scenario, Manafort would have to talk as he would lose his Fifth Amendment right to silence since he has no risk of prosecution based on his testimony. But if he lies in that scenario, he could still face the music. If 45 fired Mueller, Washington would explode, not to mention the electorate, and impeachment hearings would start faster than you could say “kompromat”.
The National Archives will make yet another attempt, using advanced high tech methods, to once and for all figure out what happened during those infamous 18 and a half minutes of tape that were erased from the records of a meeting between Nixon and H.R. Haldeman on June 20, 1972, three days after the Watergate break-in that eventually brought down the Nixon presidency.
The Arizona legislature has just sent a bill to the Governor that would allow concealed guns in bars.
Critics of the measure say guns and alcohol are a dangerous combination. “We don’t let people drink and drive, why should we let them drink and carry guns?” said Sen. Paula Aboud, D-Tucson, who voted against the bill.
Ah, really?…a dangerous combination? Nothing makes me more comfortable than going into a bar full of gun totin’ drunken fools. It may truly be the Wild Wild West.
The Obama team started off their first week of his Presidency with the harsh realization that they have moved into the dark ages from a technological and communications perspective.
It is kind of like going from an Xbox to an Atari. Two years after launching the most technologically savvy presidential campaign in history, Obama officials ran smack into the constraints of the federal bureaucracy yesterday, encountering a jumble of disconnected phone lines, old computer software, and security regulations forbidding outside e-mail accounts.What does that mean in 21st-century terms? No Facebook to communicate with supporters. No outside e-mail log-ins. No instant messaging. Hard adjustments for a staff that helped sweep Obama to power through, among other things, relentless online social networking.
It appears they will be working on beige computer boxes with Windows 2000 on them. I realize that the Federal Government is quite a large organization and upgrading the systems is not a simple task, but you would have to think that the staff at the White House of all places would have an IT system and infrastructure that employs standards and technology from this decade.
On the day the NY Times endorses Barak Obama, they also posted an interesting interactive display of their Presidential endorsements through the ages. What were they thinking endorsing Wendell Willkie over FDR back in 1940? Also interesting, but not at all surprising, that they have not endorsed a Republican since 1956.
Interesting article by Jim Cramer in NY Magazine this week about the sorry state of the economy today and what could possibly happen a year from now:
What will New York look like a year from now? The answer: bad and probably worse, and perhaps downright catastrophic. Three degrees of awful. The first step was passing the bank-bailout legislation. Now that it’s done and if it didn’t get done we would have been looking at a guaranteed economic collapse, the critical issue will be presidential leadership. And while any president will be an improvement over the current one, there is a growing belief on Wall Street that Barack Obama has the capacity to lead us out of this wilderness while John McCain does not. I’ll go a step further: Obama is a recession. McCain is a depression.
No matter how we cut it, things are just screwed up.