CONTENTS: YORK – Hacking Report, DURDEN – Intel farce; McCARTHY – “Podesta”; ZITO – Kellyanne; NY Post – Replacing OCare; DARCY – Drudge assaults; SHARP – Build boats; FRITZE – Fed jobs?
LEADS: JOANNE – Ravitch; BLANC – BO pardon frenzy; WATSON – Build the wall.
NOTES: BRODY – Mark Steyn.
Byron York, Washington Examiner: “Six questions about the Russia hacking report”
“Julia Ioffe, a writer for The Atlantic who watches Russia carefully, tweeted this about the intelligence community’s unclassified report on Russian hacking released Friday: “It’s hard to tell if the thinness of the #hacking report is because the proof is classified, or because the proof doesn’t exist.”*
“‘Thin’ is right. The report is brief — the heart of it is just five broadly-spaced pages. It is all conclusions and no evidence. In the introduction, the IC — the collective voice of the CIA, the FBI, and the NSA — explains that it cannot supply evidence to the public, because doing so “would reveal sensitive sources or methods and imperil the ability to collect critical foreign intelligence in the future.”
“The problem is, without evidence, it’s hard for the public to determine just what happened in the hacking affair. So here are six questions the IC might consider answering in the days ahead:
“1) When did the Russian hacking campaign begin? The report says Vladimir Putin “ordered an influence campaign in 2016.” It also says Russia’s intelligence services gained access to the Democratic National Committee’s computer system in July 2015 as part of an effort targeting both Democrats and Republicans, as well as individual campaigns, think tanks, and lobbyists. The IC also notes that some of Russia’s ‘professional trolls…started to advocate for President-elect Trump as early as December 2015.’ This could be a simple writing problem, or it could be something more significant. Is the report saying Putin ordered the 2016 campaign in 2015? Is it saying Russian activities in 2015 were routine operations to mess with U.S. institutions and then became part of the Putin-ordered campaign in 2016? Is it saying something else?
“2) Was the Russian campaign intended more to help candidate Donald Trump or to undermine President Hillary Clinton? The report says Putin ordered the 2016 campaign “to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.” The report goes on to say that at some point Putin ‘developed a clear preference’ for Trump. But it also says that, ‘Moscow’s approach evolved over the course of the campaign based on Russia’s understanding of the electoral prospects of the two main candidates. When it appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win the election, the Russian influence campaign then focused on undermining her expected presidency.’ That suggests some sort of shift in the Russian campaign. But when? What does it mean when the report says, ‘When it appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win…’? Because if the Russians were following U.S. coverage and commentary, it always appeared that Clinton was likely to win — from the primaries through the Democratic convention through the general election. In other words, during the entire campaign, the consensus of the American commentariat was that Clinton was likely to win. Did the Russians disagree, or did they have a degree of insight into the polls, or simple clairvoyance, that Nate Silver didn’t? Or was the Russian campaign overwhelmingly devoted to ‘undermining [Clinton’s] expected presidency’?
3) How much of the Russian campaign was garden-variety propaganda? The IC report says, ‘Russia’s state-run propaganda machine — comprised of its domestic media apparatus, outlets targeting global audiences such as RT and Sputnik, and a network of quasi-government trolls — contributed to the influence campaign by serving as a platform for Kremlin messaging to Russian and international audiences.’ Indeed, the report devotes more space to analyzing RT, the Russian TV network, than it does to hacking. It’s hard to know how much of the alleged Russian influence the IC attributes to hacking and how much to propaganda.
“4) How and when did Russia transmit the hacked information to WikiLeaks? ‘We assess with high confidence that the GRU used the Guccifer 2.0 persona, DCLeaks.com, and WikiLeaks to release US victim data obtained in cyber operations publicly and in exclusives to media outlets,’ the IC report says. ‘We assess with high confidence that the GRU relayed material it acquired from the DNC and senior Democratic officials to WikiLeaks.’ But when did that happen? Was it during the period when Putin supposedly thought the U.S. presidential race was anyone’s game? Or during the time he thought Clinton was likely to win? And if it was the latter, did Russia transmit the information to WikiLeaks as part of an effort to undermine Clinton’s ‘expected presidency’?
“5) Just what did the Russians do to target Republicans? The IC report has one sentence devoted to Russian cyber efforts against the GOP: ‘Russia collected on some Republican-affiliated targets but did not conduct a comparable disclosure campaign.’ There have been reports that the Russians attempted to hack the Republican National Committee, but that those efforts were unsuccessful. The word ‘collected’ in the IC report suggests some effort against GOP-related targets might have been successful, but what happened is not clear. And the report does not elaborate on the IC assessment that there was a big disparity between efforts targeting Democrats and Republicans.
“6) Why can’t the IC release more? Intelligence officials have already leaked classified parts of the report. For example, the Washington Post recently reported that U.S. intelligence agencies ‘intercepted communications in the aftermath of the election in which Russian officials congratulated themselves on the outcome.’ The Post also reported the intercepted messages ‘revealed that top officials in Russia anticipated that Clinton would win.’ There will likely be many more leaks to come. Why not at least release the information that has already been leaked?”
Also, Tyler Durden, ZeroHedge: “Here Is the US Intel Report Accusing Putin of Helping Trump Win the Election by ‘Discrediting’ Hillary Clinton”
“The farce is complete. . .”
Also, Andrew McCarthy, NRO: “Missing from the Intelligence Report: The Word ‘Podesta’”
“There is a word missing from the non-classified report issued Friday, in which three intelligence agencies assess “Russia’s Influence Campaign Targeting the 2016 US Presidential Election.” The FBI, CIA, and NSA elide any mention of . . . “Podesta.”
Salena Zito, Washington Examiner: “Kellyanne Conway unplugged”
“. . . “The worst day of the campaign was the day before I became the campaign manager. It was Aug. 11, it was a Thursday, and I went out on the road with Gov. Pence, who I adore, who has been a client and a friend of mine for 10 years,” she says.
“Conway describes in detail a creeping malaise that filled the organization, and people wondering aloud, “Is it worth it? Can we win? What is going on? What are they meeting about? Why did he say that? Who is in charge?”
“At the time, Manafort, Trump’s second campaign manager after Corey Lewandowski, reportedly didn’t get on with the candidate, and there was dark talk about political work he had done in Ukraine.
“When the New York Times reported Manafort may have received cash payments from a political party affiliated with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the atmosphere reportedly within the campaign began to turn sour and despairing.
“The next day Conway was back in Trump Tower, helping with a video shoot in which Trump ‘was doing different commercials and appeals and videotaped messages to groups that were holding meetings that he could not attend.’ They had been working on it for an hour or so and were about to leave for Pennsylvania when Trump asked everyone but her to leave the room.
“After the others had gone, Conway asked Trump what was going on. ‘You are running against the most joyless person in presidential political history,’ she told the candidate, ‘and you don’t look like you are having fun anymore.’
“Trump insisted he was having fun but admitted that he missed the days of the Republican primaries, when he traveled around the country and met people. ‘And I said, ‘Well, those days are gone, because it is not the primary, it is the general [election]. But in fairness to you, sir, let’s find a way to replicate that and put it into proper context for a general election strategy.’
“It was then that Trump offered her the job. . .”
NY Post: “The right way to start replacing ObamaCare”
“Obsessed with the need to make good on their promise to “repeal and replace ObamaCare,” but hamstrung by Democratic strength in the Senate, Republicans in Congress are looking to pass a fast partial repeal, with replacements to come later. Bad idea.
“To be clear: Full replacement will likely take at least a year — both because of those Senate issues, and because it needs replacing with not just one thing, but many.
“Democrats’ insistence on ‘fixing’ everything they thought wrong in American health care in one giant bill is a key reason the ObamaCare law was such a disastrous kludge.
“But any true repeal/replace effort must start with giving Americans more choices — not just killing all ObamaCare taxes and spending, as GOP leaders (especially in the Senate) seem to be planning.
“Conservative activists Heather Higgins and Phil Kerpen point the way to begin: by “zeroing out penalties for selling non-compliant plans (a k a, the plans people actually want, not the ones designed by bureaucrats in Washington) by adding language to the repeal bill that is similar to that used to eliminate penalties for violating the individual and employer mandates.”
“This would allow the private insurance market to begin to regenerate the millions of policies cancelled thanks to the ObamaCare law. (We also like the Higgins-Kerpen idea of a Trump executive order that would end Congress’ exemption from the law, but that’s up to the president-elect.)
“The core power grab of ObamaCare isn’t the money, but the regulations . . .”
Oliver Darcy, Business Insider: “Someone is trying to take down the Drudge Report — and it’s a mystery who’s behind it”
“The Drudge Report, the highly trafficked conservative news website, has been knocked offline for extended periods of time over the course of the last two weeks, succumbing to large distributed denial of service attacks, according to its founder, Matt Drudge.
“And it’s a mystery who’s behind it all.
“Drudge wrote on Twitter that a December 30 attack was the “biggest DDoS since [the] site’s inception.”
“A DDoS attack is executed by using hijacked computers or electronic devices to flood a website with redundant requests, aiming to overload the website’s hosting server and render it unavailable.
“But, according to cybersecurity experts who spoke to Business Insider, using such a method to take down the Drudge Report would not be easy.
“The website is already equipped to handle a high volume of visitors and scale out to accommodate spikes in traffic. Moreover, a website that generates so many page views would likely employ strong defense measures, the cybersecurity experts said.
“‘The Drudge Report has a massive readership,’ said Ajay Arora, CEO and co-founder of the cybersecurity firm Vera. ‘Generally someone that has that kind of viewership is going to have sophisticated hosting and counter defenses against DDoS attacks.’
“Since its inception in 1996, the Drudge Report has been a home to conservatives who feel disenfranchised by traditional media. Drudge has marketed his website as a news destination not controlled by corporate interests or politicians. And he’s had great success. . .”
David Sharp, Yahoo!: “Navy, Trump planning biggest fleet expansion since Cold War”
“BATH, Maine (AP) — With President-elect Donald Trump demanding more ships, the Navy is proposing the biggest shipbuilding boom since the end of the Cold War to meet threats from a resurgent Russia and saber-rattling China.
“The Navy’s 355-ship proposal released last month is even larger than what the Republican Trump had promoted on the campaign trail, providing a potential boost to shipyards that have struggled because budget caps that have limited money funding for ships.
“At Maine’s Bath Iron Works, workers worried about the future want to build more ships but wonder where the billions of dollars will come from.
“Whether Congress and the government can actually fund it, is a whole other ball game,” said Rich Nolan, president of the shipyard’s largest union. . .”
John Fritze, MSN: “Federal workers worry about their jobs under Trump”
“Federal workers nationwide are bracing for reductions in head counts, civil service protections and salaries when President-elect Donald Trump and Congress turn their attention to government spending later this year.
“Trump, who ran on a promise to ‘drain the swamp,’ has identified hiring freezes at most federal agencies as a top priority for his early days in office. Republican lawmakers, many of whom have long advocated for reducing Washington’s workforce, are looking to cut benefits and make it easier to fire poor performers.
“The threats and preliminary steps taken by Congress have created anxiety for many of the government’s 2.1 million employees. . .”
Joanne: Diane Ravitch
“I think that most receiving these educational E-mails from me are aware of Diane Ravitch. A brief background obtained on-line notes that “Diane Silvers Ravitch (born July 1, 1938) is a historian of education, an educational policy analyst, and a research professor at New York University‘s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. Previously, she was a U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education.”
“Although our political views differ, I had always respected Ms. Ravitch for her educational expertise and felt that we were on the same page working against Common Core and the egregious testing associated with it. To that end, I signed up to receive her blog posts by E-mail which she sends out perhaps seven times/day and have received hundreds over the last several months. After today, I am unsubscribing from her E-Mails for reasons that will become evident below.
“The purpose of my E-mail and the opinions expressed herein is NOT to engage in political arguments but rather to note how totally disillusioned I have become with this person whom I once admired.
“Summarizing the problem in three words…Ravitch HATES Trump. I totally understand one’s having strong opinions regarding the two candidates and sympathize with those whose candidate lost. However, the vitriol that has been spewed by her and her posters about her nemesis has gone way beyond educational issues; her blog has expanded into unwarranted, unprofessional, and inappropriate commentaries. . .”
Sebastien Blanc, Yahoo!: “Obama set for pardon frenzy as he leaves office”
“Washington (AFP) – A Rastafarian prophet, a former Taliban captive and thousands of minor drug traffickers have one thing in common: Their names have been submitted to President Barack Obama for clemency before he leaves office in two weeks.
“Some US presidents have used this regal power of leniency in a pointed way near the end of their term in office.
“On the last day of his term in 2001, Democratic president Bill Clinton granted pardon in a highly controversial move to late fugitive trader Marc Rich, whose ex-wife had been a major donor to Democrats.
“Sixteen years later, Obama is fielding pressure from all sides to grant unlikely pardons or commutations of sentences to people whose supporters say have been unjustly sentenced or sought out by the justice system.
“Among them is Bowe Bergdahl, a US Army sergeant held captive for five years by the Taliban before his release in a prisoner swap, who is due to be court-martialed for desertion. . .”
Steve Watson, InfoWars: “HILL REPUBLICANS EMBRACE BUILDING OF BORDER WALL, DESPITE COST”
“Republicans on Capitol Hill say they don’t need to wait for Mexico to make good on President-elect Donald Trump’s central campaign promise: building a southern border wall.
In fact, they are happy to underwrite the wall themselves, at a potential cost of many billions of dollars.
“The GOP’s willingness to fund Trump’s border wall with taxpayer money could put the party’s deeply held desire to rein in government spending in conflict with its long-standing goal of cracking down on illegal immigration and toughening border security. Nonetheless, many Republicans do not see an inherent conflict.
“It would be a proposal that would cost billions of dollars to get done, but if it’s an appropriate priority for our country, it’s worth spending that kind of money,” said Rep. Luke Messer (R-Ind.), chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee. . .”
BRODY: To Mark Steyn
- You autographed a book for me, 11/28/07. “Let’s win” (You spoke at a temple in the Philly suburbs.)
- I’ve missed one issue of my newsletter in that 10 years, something to do with a woman! We are winning!
- You argued that Russia’s time is past. Wish it were so.
- Russia has a dozen military bases in the Arctic. See the LONG discussion in http://intpolicydigest.org/2016/01/24/5-ways-russia-is-positioning-to-dominate-the-arctic/
- Russian forces approach the Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia) and Poland. We have moved combat forces closer to those borders.
- Sweden has a problem with Muslim rapists. It could be that Putin is in the best position to be helpful.
A fan forever!