• Why the Trump Toilet Story is Full of Crap

    February 19, 2022 // 2 Comments »

    While President Trump was in office, White House staff periodically discovered wads of printed paper clogging a toilet and believed the president had flushed documents. So reports the NYT’s Maggie Haberman, based on anonymous sources. How does a literate media consumer know the story is garbage? Read it like an intelligence officer.

    Start by applying some of the same tests intelligence officers do to help them evaluate their own sources. Thinking backwards from the information to who could be the source is a good start on evaluating credibility.

    For example, is a source in a position to know what they say they know, what intelligence officers call spotting? The “position to know” idea scales up sharply when a source says they are privy to important conversations; how would they know the contents of a call the president-elect made to a foreign leader? Only a very few people would be in the room for something like that. Would any be likely leakers?

    In Haberman’s toiletgate, the circle of real sources is very small, the same as those who have access to the president’s personal crapper. Notice Haberman does not characterize her source, as in “one who has direct access to the pooper,” another red flag. If there is any source at all, it is likely cafeteria gossip. Remember in the case of journalism’s most famous anonymous source, Watergate’s Deep Throat, his information was used to guide the reporting, not as a scoop by itself, because it could not always be verified.

    As for verification, watch out for what intel officers call loops, where multiple reports come in to different people/journalists, with the fact that they came from the same source disguised. This is often how reporters erroneously confirm each other’s fake news, not realizing they are all talking to the same “anonymous” source. Now Google “Christopher Steele.”

    Any article that cites a source who claims to know the “why” behind some action, what was in the head of a decision maker, should be subject to special skepticism. Key officials are generally not in the habit of explaining their true motivations out loud. In Haberman’s submission notice how she avoids addressing the “why” directly. She claims her sources “believed” the president flushed pieces of paper, with the implication Trump was destroying records instead of over-wiping.

    Haberman also suspiciously released her scoop along side stories some White House records had been sent to Mar-a-Lago, not the National Archives. She manipulates her readers by telling them something in line with what they already believe. This is one way double-agents try to fool intel officers. A careful reader has to honestly ask himself whether he wants to believe such a thing bad enough to overlook its improbability.

    Legitimate sources risk something by talking, such as job loss, maybe even jail. Is what they will get out of the leak worth the risk? In this case the actual source would have to be an intimate staffer, or at least a White House plumber. Why would such as person risk his job to feed free gossip to Haberman? Did Trump anger them by leaving the seat up one too many times?

    If the answer to the question of “what’s in it for them?” is not obvious, the source is suspect. Intel officers always work to understand their source’s motivation, usually a combination of money, sex, revenge, personal advancement, and nationalism. Any of that apply to the White House plumbing staff, most of whom have worked at the place for years?

    Sources may push out info intended to influence public opinion. If you the reader can’t suss out the mystery source’s likely agenda — what they want — then you’re the guy at the poker table who can’t tell who the rube is, and needs a mirror to find out. Remember what happened when journalists failed to see what leakers of false info about Iraq’s WMDs were up to, and helped start a war? Always ask, cui bono, who benefits?

    Similarly, is what you are reading consistent with other information on the subject? Does the new info track known things, what intelligence officers call expectability? Overall, the further away from expectability a story stretches, the more obligation to be skeptical. Falling back on “it might be true” or “you can’t prove it’s not true” are typical signs of fake news. Same for “news” which can by definition never be proven false, such as proving the negative Trump did not flush documents. It’s like claiming Putin kills fluffy kittens for sport; how can you disprove such a statement?

    So there is the expectability question of why would Trump flush documents when shredders and burn bags are literally everywhere in the White House? And why would he do it “periodically,” as Haberman asserts, after finding out it is not a good way of getting ride of something because it only ends up in the wet hands of some plumber? It literally makes no sense.

    The closer information gets to something you want to believe is true the more skeptical you should be. The best example of this is the infamous dossier and especially the “pee tape” (shown to be disinformation created by an actual intelligence officer to discredit Trump.) The tape was the magic bullet which would end Trump. About half the country wanted it to be true. In addition, the supposed tape too easily hit all the Trump tropes: hatred for Obama, sexual piggishness (notice how like a fetish the media loves to connect Trump with scatological themes?) and of course the Russians. If it seems too “good” to be true, it probably is.

    In addition to considering the source of the information, consider the source of the reporting — what do they have to gain? In this instance, Haberman released her toilet blockbuster to directly promote her new tell-all book on Trump. It is obvious her story is advertising, not journalism. Let’s ask Haberman why she squatted on “reportable” poopy information, flushing it into the MSM public sewer only when she needed to pimp her book.

    In the end, an intelligence officer rarely knows what is 100 percent true, so he assigns a rating, such as high, medium or low confidence, and acts on the information (or not) in line with that. A reader can similarly never know with certainty the truth about an anonymously-sourced story. But while anything is possible, only some things are probable, and that’s usually the way to read it.

     

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Biden, Trump

    Lev Parnas is Not the Impeachment Witness You are Looking For…

    January 29, 2020 // 34 Comments »


     

    Lev Parnas is who we all hope is the last “Did too! Did Not!” player in the three year effort to find someway to  drive Trump from office.

     

    Parnas is a Ukrainian-born “businessman” who claims to be the missing link between Trump and evidence needed to impeach. Parnas is also under indictment for breaking campaign-finance laws by disguising donations from foreign entities to unnamed U.S. politicians, and so is singing like the girl from Frozen to be let go. The media christened him the new White Knight of democracy. Is he?
     

    Nah. Parnas is mostly an opportunist, with notes of stalker, groupie, and crazy guy who imagines Jodi Foster is in love with him from afar. He takes his place as the Hail Mary play in the blob that is impeachment now. He joins James Comey, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Robert Mueller, Michael Cohen, Michael Avenatti and his aggrieved porn stars, Christopher Steele, the tattered Russian oligarchs still waiting for their checks from Christopher Steele, The Masked Whistleblower, and so many others who came before them.

    Though the media label him a Rudy Giuliani henchman, associate, thug, or fixer, and thus by extension a Trump henchman, associate, thug, or fixer, Parnas instead paid Giuliani hundreds of thousands of dollars for “business and legal advice.” He didn’t work for Guliani, Giuliani worked for him. And in the you-can’t-make-this-up category, Parnas’ company is called Fraud Guarantee.

    Parnas was supposedly paying for the privilege of being used to gather dirt on Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, which begs the question of why. As America’s ambassador to Ukraine, Yovanovitch served at the pleasure of the president. Trump did not need a reason to fire her. He did not need dirt gathered. He could simply instruct the State Department to recall her (or any other ambassador) and that’s that. It happens all the time without the need for third party cloak-and-dagger work by a B-grade Clouseau. Yet Parnas has gone on at length about the process of firing Yovanovitch being so difficult the most powerful man in the world with the Article II-guaranteed right to fire someone needed Parnas’ help.

    Actually the only “work” Parnas wanted in return for this generous payments to Rudy was the appearance of access, grip-and-grin photos, a sleazy form of currency in the markets people like him travel through in Eastern Europe and Asia. They decorate the walls of fast talkers across the globe, like the “awards” small town real estate agents and insurance brokers favor. So via his payments to Giuliani and his generous donations, Parnas amassed photos of him and Trump. Those photos are the cornerstone of Democrats’ case against Trump, who says he really does not know Parnas. See, there are pictures, what the media insist now are to be called “receipts.”

    You want some photos with the big boys and girls? Easy. You write a modest check to a campaign. You get invited to a campaign event for a quick picture, maybe at first with a tier-two Trump kid. You write a bigger check, you get invited to another event and maybe are led past the Man himself for a quick snap. More money, better photos. Start to bundle donors, and you get invites to “private” breakfasts attended by dozens of people with a drop-by from the candidate. None of this means you “know” Trump or he knows you. You or may not exchange a word of greeting as the photos are taken in assembly-line fashion. And of course if your politics runs Democrat, these same photos are available with Biden, Bernie, Pete, or whomever. For a price. Now, show us a photo of you with Trump in matching Speedos poolside and you’ll have our attention.

    Along with most of the media and American public, sleazy businesspeople in Eastern Europe don’t seem to grasp the meaningless of these photos, and imagine a guy like Trump isn’t using Parnas as an ATM while a guy like Parnas isn’t using Trump for pretend status. Meanwhile, as con men do, Parnas was going around Ukraine telling everyone, without any evidence, he was working for Giuliani and Trump, gathering dirt on the American ambassador. But there was always a little wiggle room in the actual relationship — note the “like” when Parnas said “I became like Rudy’s assistant, his investigator.” How one works for someone one is paying is, like, unclear. Parnas, like generations of grifters before him, is free to go around claiming he is important and trying to tie himself to important people but none of that makes it true.

    In fact, perhaps having been introduced to the legal term perjury or its vernacular cousin “lying” by his defense attorney John Dowd, a former Trump lawyer he and the media made a big deal out of hiring, Parnas further qualified his relationship with Trump to say “I mean, we’re not friends. Me and him didn’t watch football games together. We didn’t eat hot dogs. But he knew exactly who we were.”

    Following his indictment and ahead of impeachment proceedings Parnas has become a one-man media event. He claimed to Federal Elvis-level investigator Rachel Maddow he knew Trump knew everything bad that was going on, though admits he never spoke substantively to Trump and his knowledge is second or third hand at best. To say he was photographed with Trump at fundraisers is miles from claiming Trump directed him in the Ukraine caper which in fact even Parnas does not claim. The media has done that for him, imaging a selfie is a receipt for impeachable offenses.

    And of course there’s more as the story oozes downhill from drama into comedy. Remember how the Russians had Trump on tape with prostitutes? And how the media headlined Michael Cohen had incriminating tapes of Trump no one ever heard? Parnas supposedly has tapes, too! Parnas also introduced a somewhat dubious legal gambit. Without evidence he accused Attorney General Bill Barr of being involved in all things Ukraine, and thus must recuse himself from Parnas’ campaign finance illegal donations case due to this “conflict of interest.” Parnas also accused Vice President Pence of “having to have known” about the Ukraine stuff. Parnas dismissed hints in a text by an alcoholic Trump supporter that Ambassador Yovanovitch was under Giuliani-ordered surveillance and/or the target of assassination. Democrats have called for an investigation anyway. And the fact that Parnas chose to reveal all on the Maddow show, as opposed to a proffer, or under oath anywhere, should not distract from his credibility.

     

    Enough. There is no evidence Parnas ever spoke substantively about Ukraine with Trump. There is no evidence supporting Parnas’ claims he in any way worked with, at the direction of, or otherwise for Trump. His statements now, only after indictment, raise significant questions about his credibility and thus demand supporting evidence. Selfies with Trump are not supporting evidence. Nothing corroborates Parnas but Parnas.

    That ends Parnas’ value as a potential witness in these impeachment hearings. But what about his enablers in the media without whom he’d be telling his tall tales to the cafeteria ladies at some Federal prison facility?

    The old adage about not being able to cheat an honest person extends to the media; a con man can only be elevated to the national stage by a dishonest media willing to ignore his lack of credibility for its own agenda. And so the same people who drove the Russiagate train for years embrace Parnas as the new smoking gun. The NYT’s own queen of that particular swamp, Maggie Haberman, admitted “One of the hallmarks of the Trump era is anybody who is oppositional to Trump gets instant credibility. We’ve seen it over and over again. Michael Avenatti, Cohen even at points, even when he was admitting he was lying to Congress at some point after he pleaded guilty to other charges.” That’s a hell of a thing for Haberman to say given how much credibility she and her paper of record have bestowed on a parade of transparent liars.

    This all started three years ago with Christopher Steele, who at least had a nicely-typed dossier and an MI6 pedigree. Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and a few of the others probably did know things even if they didn’t snitch out. But now we’re down to the media primping a guy who before he was a recognized as a savior by CNN was called by CNN a radioactive wolf who shook down Ukrainians pretending he had a connection to the White House.

    With impeachment soon to be over and the Democratic primaries starting hopefully there won’t be bandwidth left for another round of this with whoever feeds even further below Lev Parnas. The list of people who have been used by the media to try to bring Trump down is long. Most of them are now in jail, were fired or disgraced, or received Pulitzer Prizes. Time for this to end. Maggie, come get your people, they’re embarrassing themselves out here.

      

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Biden, Trump