Category Archives: Uncategorized

Courageous Cassidy Hutchinson; Mysteries Remain; Origin of Plot to Overturn Election

The testimony of Cassidy Hutchinson on day 6 of the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol exemplifies courage, composure,  consistency, memory, lucidity…courage. We always come back to the courage of one of the finest members of her generation.  Her account witnesses evil intent, while additive to descriptions of a dangerously volatile personality.

In 2016, I wrote CIA Chief: Trump “Unwitting agent of the Russian Federation” Quoting,

Trump’s TV show, The Apprentice, is a microcosm of this. Contestants compete in the arenas of property management, marketing, and hospitality. His TV demeanor, combined with the impressions of the campaign trail, are of a person specialized to Darwinian success in these niches of capitalism. Nota bene: Trump is always the smartest guy in the room. This is a form of narcissism, an exploitable trait.

Narcissism and volatility do not completely explain what has transpired. The interaction of POTUS with advisors was amplified by an enabling positive feedback loop that persisted against the urgent warnings of legal council and Justice Department officials.

Hutchinson’s testimony is additive to lurid accounts of criminal behavior of some members of the orbit, extending outwards towards the conservative fringe in apparently random directions, and past politics to the domain of violent extremism.  This may be a distraction from complete characterization of a conspiracy:

(CNN) Feds search home of Jeffrey Clark, former DOJ official who pushed Trump’s false election fraud claims. The hearings sketch an apparently autonomous and audacious proposal by Clark to be appointed attorney general. His personality and lack of relevant prior experience are incongruous. Was he a front man?

The confiscation of Jeffrey Clark’s electronic devices, and John Eastman’s phone, are the first visible steps to answer a question that cannot be definitively addressed by the Committee:

Who was talking to who?

 

 

 

 

How Long Will it Take to Restore Abortion Rights? Counter to CNN

(CNN) A stunning moment in American history decades in the making will reshape politics asserts that restoration of abortion rights will take a long time, citing the 50 years it took to reverse. (CNN) End of Roe v. Wade may not hurt Republicans in Congress, but it could sting them in the states, suggests the Roe vs. Wade reversal will have minimal near term impact.

These predictions have elements of conventional wisdom. A different view:

  • It took 50 years of turnover of justices to assemble the conservative majority that would commit to void precedent. This implies nothing about the time frame for legislative relief.
  • The statistics of the second article cite only before-the-reversal and immediately after.
  • There is a grass  fire in the grass-roots. The weather is hot, dry, and windy. Punditry cannot predict how fast it will spread or how big it will get.

Repeal of Roe Versus Wade; the Beginning of a Republican Decline  asserts that no effective political counterstrategy is available to the Republicans. Their alternative is nonpolitical,  to violate or abrogate our democracy. In Politics Part 5; House Select January 6 Committee, I wrote,

Political science draws broadly from the social sciences. In Western democracies, the assumption that the system will endure results in a media tactical focus.   Statistical models and sophisticated punditry dominate. Complacency avoids recognition that our system is a consensual box, with consent in danger.

Back in the 70’s and 80’s, we  decried  political apathy, and the convergence of both  parties to cultural norms that were almost indistinguishable. In retrospect, this provided security for the consensual box. The current challenge has these roots:

  • Liberalism, to which I adhere, has, in the red states, outgrown the box.
  • With the decline of Big Labor, the Democratic party lacks the cohesion of a large center bloc.
  • The  advent of Falwell’s Moral Majority, and successor evangelical movements, marked the emergence of a large bloc of voters whose religious concerns are superior to continuation of consensual democracy.  To many, it is expendable in pursuit of their goals.

So how long will it take to restore abortion rights? It may be quick — or never.

 

 

 

 

 

Repeal of Roe Versus Wade; the Beginning of a Republican Decline

This will be recognized as the Republican high watermark.

In the overturning Roe vs. Wade, the abortion issue now becomes an enduring political issue. Since a broad majority of Americans favor abortion rights, it is available to the Democratic Party.

U.S. politics is a pendulum that swings between liberal and conservative poles over an irregular period of some decades .  The swing  is characterized by which pole has the active voice, which flips when one pole wins the polarizing issue.

Abortion rights is such an issue, more polarizing than immigration. The Democratic Party now possesses the active voice, against which there is no effective political counter-strategy.

So the Dems have the ball. But can they run with it?

Question for the January 6 Committee / Intelligence Community; Russian Involvement?

This is a question for both the January 6 Committee and the intelligence community.

In February, I wrote (CNN )Unspooling the latest twists in special counsel John Durham’s investigation – The Alfa Bank/ Trump Tower Connection – Screen Scraper Theory, which describes this exploitation:

My suspicions were not allayed, so I developed a hypothesis. The Trump campaign was running NationBuilder  software, or something like it. The Russians wanted the donor database for future espionage.

The FBI “ruled out any improper cyber links”. I was not satisfied, so I developed a scheme that uses only volatile computer memory. In computer lingo, nonvolatile memory is persistent, and available for forensic examination unless it has been deliberately erased . Data stored in volatile memory vanishes without a trace when the power is cut, or sometimes, but not always, when the machine is rebooted.

A scheme that uses only volatile memory would allow a perpetrator to leave no traces, other than the inexplicable ping traffic between Trump Tower and Alfa Bank. Inexplicable, because the context was contained in volatile memory. One part of the scheme is a well known software gadget called a “screen scraper.”

I have great respect for the FBI. Maybe they made a rare mistake. While the remaining evidence cannot confirm my explanation, it may not be possible to rigorously reach the conclusion “ruled out any improper cyber links”. Perhaps the only rigorous conclusion is “we don’t know”, to which I, but not the FBI, have the freedom to add “It sure looks suspicious.”

In February, I asserted, The Russians wanted the donor database for future espionage. Since I am suspicious, here is a purely speculative idea of how they could exploit. No implication is made that  such has occurred, or that it explains the behavior of some Republican lawmakers or executive branch officials. It requires these premises:

  • If the Russians could make clandestine payments to lawmakers and office-holders, and they assessed the risks were minimal, they would. They already do this with spies.
  • They have the donor list.

It  then becomes a purely technical problem for Russian hackers:

  • Hacking the computers and email address books of donors, they work their way  through chains of contacts to office holders.
  • They don’t come at their targets with “Hi, we’re Russians, and we want to pay you.” Their fronts are fictitious donor organizations, whose “members prefer to remain private”, e.g., “Committee of Great Americans for a Great America.”
  • The perps take advantage of  surveillance gaps in FISA since the end of NSA warrantless surveillance in 2007.  If I were the Russian running the op, I would set up an in-U.S. server with a sat-phone connection to a third country, a digital cutout. With skillful camouflage, a solicitation could be made to appear, per FISA restrictions on domestic surveillance, as a dialog between two domestic parties.
  • Payment is by non-fungible token. This is tricky; token anonymity can be cracked. The actual device is left to experts.

The many courageous members in Congress give hope that democracy will survive. So it tempts to skip a dig. Yet as per the WaPo masthead, “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” So I defer to Will Rogers:

We have the best Congress money can buy.

I hope not. There’s always room for improvement.

 

 

 

 

 

Politics Part 5; House Select January 6 Committee

We continue from Politics Part 4; House Select January 6 Committee.

The period beginning in the middle of the 19th century, till perhaps 1970, was marked by the development of the social sciences, and of psychology, the science of the mind. Replacing the mere assertions of philosophy, Marx, Pareto, William James,   Freud, B.F. Skinner, et.al took inspiration from the physical sciences to find, derive, and prove unicorns of the real world,  cold hard facts about human behavior.

The unicorns do not exist.  Due to the stubborn persistence of free will against the assaults of Skinner, nothing can be proven about individual behavior. Study of behavior en masse has had some success; the limitations are more obvious. It is still impossible to predict large scale social change. For a society in stasis, Pareto’s Principle is a remarkable, isolated exception.

Vilfredo Pareto was, for some period of time, a fascist sympathizer, remembered for encouraging Mussolini to march on Rome in 1922. His work other than mathematical is largely ignored. What sociology professor would put on the reading list an out-of-print book whose author had a fascist taint? With some justification, his rehabilitation has been attempted, his fascism downplayed as the temporary aberration of a committed libertarian. This was my assumption when reading his great work of sociology, The Mind and Society. There is nothing political about it.

The Mind and Society is a backdoor attack on free will. It is a meticulous four volume compilation of what people believe, mostly primitive, replete with an indexing system resembling Dewey Decimal. It argues that among the vast majority  in whom belief is the dominant mode of thought, the menu is finite and repetitious. It has a part in the explanation of why, if history does not repeat itself, it does tend to rhyme.

The Mind and Society is useful in challenge of the idea that a political system can idealize human behavior.  It is the undoing of Marxism — how can a new proletariat be created if the extent of their beliefs are limited to Pareto’s dictionary? It implies that evolution of any society or political system in the liberal direction has limits.  At some point, the consensual box  of democracy is punctured by a recrudescence of the primitive. As a liberal, I am not happy about this.

This is just a nibble at what’s going on now. In the hard sciences, the goal is unique explanation. This is not (or should not be!)  legitimate in the social sciences, where legitimacy requires triangulation.  If you choose to challenge, you might assert something about culture, which overlays the primitive. You might assert that the limits of culture are not etched in stone.

Singapore is a highly atypical  yet successful multicultural state, with weak protections for the individual, no freedom of the press, and no jury trials.  Yet it has a reputation for good government. In some situations, culture can supply what is absent in law. In the U.S., the obverse is the failure of constitutional protections when undermined by political culture. (CNN) Texas GOP’s election denial underscores the ongoing threat that’s central message of Jan. 6 hearings.

Why is Singapore, a tiny country with no natural resources, successful?  Does it have any lessons for us? In the next article, we’ll continue with triangulation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Politics Part 4; House Select January 6 Committee

This continues Politics Part 1  , On New Year’s Eve, Goodbye to the Future; Politics Part 3, and particularly, Politics Part2.

The Committee narrative comes as no surprise to me, with my anticipation given in Coup in the United States? In May of 1964, this almost happened… , Coup Still Possible from Inside Government. See also (CNN) New Trump revelations underscore his undimmed danger.

Questions…

In the hard sciences, the approach to a problem tends to have a limited, exclusive structure, with the goal of resolving contradictions over time.  In the social sciences, to which political science belongs, mutually contradictory ideas persist indefinitely. There is no monopoly on starting points or solutions, no proofs of truth or falsity.

So where do we start? With the surprising vulnerability of Republicans to a charismatic authoritarian figure? (The Hill) Sasse claims ‘the right wants a strongman daddy figure’. The appearance of such a figure explains the “now”, but it is not the beginning of the story. For that, we must look to our genes, and their manifestation in political culture from ancient times.

We might cast our eyes on Greek democracy, circa 500-300 B.C. Around 375 B.C., stimulated by the instability of the Greek city-states, Plato authored The Republic, which has captivated some with the promise of stable, just government. Although Plato’s solution has never been realized, Plato’s five regimes, 2400 years in the past, arguably anticipate every subsequent form of government. These definitions do not themselves spell doom; it’s the transition from democracy to tyranny, described by Plato, that dogs us like a family  curse.

Political science draws broadly from the social sciences. In Western democracies, the assumption that the system will endure results in a media tactical focus.   Statistical models and sophisticated punditry dominate. Complacency avoids recognition that our system is a consensual box, with consent in danger. From the inside, the consensual walls are not visible. The dynamics of how and why the electorate may (or may not!) consider the box a thing of value is visible only from an out-of-the-box viewpoint.

The problem facing American democracy is ancient. Although Plato anticipated the present, the solution he proposed is distant to Western thought and unpalatable to just about everybody. The hour is late, but it’s worth a try to create a new garden for democracy.

In the next article, we will turn the lens on the many dimensions that characterize a problem of the social sciences.

Think outside the box.

 

 

 

 

 

Is Putin Seriously Ill?

(Guardian) Rumours continue about Putin’s health – with little to back them up.

Compared to prior photographs, Putin’s face is swollen, but without inflammation, redness or other discoloration that would indicate a focal inflammatory process. This sign cannot be discounted; unless he became a glutton, he has some disorder.

The absence of facial inflammation suggests the swelling is the side effect of a glucocorticoid  drug, typically prednisone, which induces a well-known suite of side effects known as Cushing’s syndrome. The “moon face” is a hallmark sign, which may be disguised in photography with the absence of frontal views.

Prednisone is specific for adrenal insufficiency,  palliative for some leukemias, brain tumors, lymphomas, kidney damage… various autoimmune diseases, a  bunch of other things. Since the side effects are serious, the drug is given only when remission is not possible.

If he has ALL, 50% survive 5 years from diagnosis. AML is much worse. With CML, he could last a long time. NHL, 70% at 5 years.  If prednisone is in fact used, HL is not likely, since there are better therapies.

This is just a guess: three years, if stress of the job doesn’t truncate the illness.

 

Texas Gun Laws Then and Now; 21 Lives Murdered by the Gun Lobby; Texas Can’t Protect its Babies

(CNN) Deadly shooting at Texas elementary school. 

Today, Texas cannot protect its babies. Was it always so? Let’s take a trip back to 1871. Quoting from (Houston Chronicle, 2014) First to ban open carry, Texas could be one of last to OK it,

That all changed in 1871, however, when the Legislature first outlawed the carrying of pistols outside of the home: “If any person in this state shall carry on or about his person, saddle, or in his saddle-bags, any pistol … he shall be punished by a fine of not less than twenty-five nor more than one hundred dollars,” or around $2,000 today.

That was the law in Texas, until 1995, when concealed carry was allowed with permit.  The 1871 law has been deprecated as a tool of oppression, first as a Reconstructionist tool against the defeated confederacy, later as a racist tool to prevent the arming of black freedmen. While impure motives can be ascribed to anything, (History News Service via ndsu.edu) Gun Control and The Old West paints a different picture. Quoting,

Old West cattlemen themselves also saw the need for gun control. By 1882, a Texas cattle raising association had banned six-shooters from the cowboy’s belt. “In almost every section of the West murders are on the increase, and cowmen are too often the principals in the encounters,” concurred a dispatch from the Texas Live Stock Journal dated June 5, 1884. “The six-shooter loaded with deadly cartridges is a dangerous companion for any man, especially if he should unfortunately be primed with whiskey. Cattlemen should unite in aiding the enforcement of the law against carrying of deadly weapons.”

Texans back then understood the sanctity of life better than Texans now.

Texans, you can’t protect your babies.

 

(CNN) ‘I’m smiling’: Ret. Lt. Gen. Hertling reacts to Putin news; Putin takes Command

(CNN) ‘I’m smiling’: Ret. Lt. Gen. Hertling reacts to Putin news.

The news that Putin has fired under-performing generals and taken personal command of tactical decisions has General Hertling in a gleeful mood. I share with him the sentiment that bad news for Russia is good news for Ukraine. My glee is tempered by the single pair of hands that now control both conventional operations, and use of WMDs. In the words of CIA, this further heightens unpredictability.  It complicates intelligence work.

History suggests that Putin  is motivated less by high casualties than stalemate. Look at the Donbas map; it contains a de facto Ukraine salient, extending to Severodonetsk, that defies Kremlin military logic.

Russian military minds recall that in World War II, in almost every Soviet  victory, save the great encirclements, the Russians suffered much higher casualties than Germany. The Battle of Kursk, by some measures the largest tank battle in history, was 200 miles from Severodonetsk, so it bears comparison, even if the comparison is faulty.  Here the Soviet forces were defending a salient, which the German forces attempted to reduce.

Then, as now, the Soviet forces had a primitive command structure, which included the motivation of commissars who summarily executed soldiers who abandoned the front. At least one current Russian POW claims the threat still exists. By some counts, Germany lost 165,000; the Soviets lost 863,000. This is celebrated without qualification in Russia.

A more discretionary example. In the Winter War with Finland, Russia ran out of parachute silk. So paratroopers were nailed into barrels, and rolled out of planes into deep snow; 60% survived the drop.

(Euromaidan Press) Russian troops suffer epic fail while attempting to cross river at Bilohorivka.  The bunching of troops has been exemplified as tactical incompetence. While true, it may not have been discretionary. Reports of low morale, which implies fear not neutralized by motivation, may have required the “commissar solution”, threat of summary execution, corralling and pushing masses to the bridges. Those who reached the other side probably bunched up out of fear.

The battlefield balance of terror is now heavily in the favor of Ukraine.

  • Does Putin intend to continue the kind of mutual attrition that gave victory to the Soviets in WW2?
  • Or does he intend to flip terror to Russian advantage in  the Severodonetsk salient by the use of WMDs ?
  • In view of historical  losses that the West has not experienced since WW1, would the inevitable self-inflicted losses of Russian forces to their own WMDs be acceptable to Russia?

Watch the colonels: Power Transition in Russia? Revolution? Part 1

 

(CNN) ‘I do not have an explanation’: Pentagon official shows video of unidentified object.

(CNN) ‘I do not have an explanation’: Pentagon official shows video of unidentified object.

This article contains an index into my articles on the subject: (CNN) James Clapper on UFOs; Let’s do Hyperspectral Imaging.

Observations

  • The new openness is noteworthy, but not by  itself enough to engender a resolution. Neither is the modest step of sensor calibration.
  • Committee members were severely handicapped by the technology gulf. In viewing the spherical ufo of the video clip, Representative Schiff was not sufficiently informed to ask the most obvious question: Was the sphere in absolute motion relative to the earth, or only in motion relative to the fast-moving navy plane? DDNI Scott Bray does not discuss this.
  • Technology exists that has application to the problem. See (CNN) James Clapper on UFOs; Let’s do Hyperspectral Imaging. The cost ranges from significant to huge. No one wants to spend.
  • If the problem were recast as “target identification”, rather than UFOs, there might be a rationale for funding.
  • Moultrie and Bray are truthful and accurate: There are no material samples.

(NY Times) No Longer in Shadows, Pentagon’s U.F.O. Unit Will Make Some Findings Public.  The conclusion of  Eric W. Davis  that some recovered material samples are beyond our technology is the result of compartmentalization of classified technologies.

Retrofitting existing targeting systems with sensors of sufficient breadth and flexibility is not feasible in most cases. It might be considered for external targeting pods, as found on the F-15, the B-52, which has some room for it, and upcoming systems, such as the B-21 Raider.