Category Archives: Society

Social media is ripping apart society

Former Facebook exec: Social media is ripping apart society
www.fastcompany.com

Facebook’s former vice president for user growth Chamath Palihapitiya recently gave a talk at the Stanford Graduate School of Business that’ll probably make you think twice about your social media use (via the Verge). The entire talk is well worth a watch, but some of his most prominent remarks included:

  • That he feels “tremendous guilt” about Facebook. “I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.”
  • “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created [including the hearts, likes, and thumbs up of various social media channels] are destroying how society works.” He added, “[There’s] no civil discourse, no cooperation; [only] misinformation, mistruth. And it’s not an American problem–this is not about Russians ads. This is a global problem.”
  • Regarding an incident in which seven innocent men in India were lynched after a hoax about kidnappings spread through WhatsApp: “That’s what we’re dealing with. And imagine taking that to the extreme, where bad actors can now manipulate large swathes of people to do anything you want. It’s just a really, really bad state of affairs.”
    Unsurprisingly, when it comes to social media, his children “aren’t allowed to use that shit.”
    MG

 

SOLITUDE AND CREATIVITY

Study: Being Alone Can Be Good For Your Health, Sparks Creativity
www.studyfinds.org
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BUFFALO — When it comes to seeking solitude, many people often blame mental health issues as an underlying cause. But a new study finds that being alone has its benefits too, particularly when it comes to people looking for a surge of creativity.

Researchers at the University of Buffalo interviewed 295 privacy-valuing individuals who reported a variety of reasons for their tendency to spend a lot of time alone, ranging from feeling fear or anxiety around others to preferring to use spare time working on a craft.

Just because you prefer to be alone doesn’t mean you’re depressed. A new study finds that being anti-social from time to time is linked to creativity.

Although research has traditionally suggested that excessive time alone can be unhealthy, some seclusive pursuits, such as trying to connect to nature or get a better sense of self, can be constructive, the researchers found.

“We have to understand why someone is withdrawing to understand the associated risks and benefits,” says Julie Bowker, the study’s lead author, in a university release.

“When people think about the costs associated with social withdrawal, oftentimes they adopt a developmental perspective,” she continues. “During childhood and adolescence, the idea is that if you’re removing yourself too much from your peers, then you’re missing out on positive interactions like receiving social support, developing social skills and other benefits of interacting with your peers.”

Bowker believes that the presumed downsides of being alone and withdrawing have lent such a preference a hard-to-erase stigma.

More recent research, including this latest study, has begun to recognize the potential benefits of alone time — provided it’s an intentional choice prompted by positive emotions.

Deeming individuals who follow such guidelines “unsociable,” Bowker explains that they may enjoy reading, working on the computer, or otherwise spending precious time alone.

Importantly, unsociable individuals, whether young and old, are not at increased risk of experiencing negative health outcomes. In fact, the researchers found that they may enjoy a special benefit: improved creativity.

“Although unsociable youth spend more time alone than with others, we know that they spend some time with peers. They are not antisocial,” Bowker emphasizes. “They don’t initiate interaction, but also don’t appear to turn down social invitations from peers. Therefore, they may get just enough peer interaction so that when they are alone, they are able to enjoy that solitude. They’re able to think creatively and develop new ideas — like an artist in a studio or the academic in his or her office.”

Other, less healthy forms of isolation include social avoidance (i.e., choosing to withdraw due to fear), and social withdrawal (i.e., shyness), she notes.

While these two forms may overlap with unsociability, neither would appear to confer the benefits of the latter.

“Over the years, unsociability has been characterized as a relatively benign form of social withdrawal,” Bowker concludes. “But, with the new findings linking it to creativity, we think unsociability may be better characterized as a potentially beneficial form of social withdrawal.”

The study’s findings were published Personality and Individual Differences.

LATEST STUDIES ON STUDYFINDS.ORG:

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The Bill Clinton Affair – Gross Disservice to Women

What if Ken Starr Was Right?
www.nytimes.com

Former President Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton in 1998. Credit Paul Hosefros/The New York Times

In the longstanding liberal narrative about Bill Clinton and his scandals, the one pushed by Clinton courtiers and ratified in media coverage of his post-presidency, our 42nd president was only guilty of being a horndog, his affairs were nobody’s business but his family’s, and oral sex with Monica Lewinsky was a small thing that should never have put his presidency in peril.

That narrative could not survive the current wave of outrage over male sexual misconduct.

So now a new one may be forming for the age of Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump. In this story, Kenneth Starr and the Republicans are still dismissed as partisan witch hunters. But liberals might be willing to concede that the Lewinsky affair was a pretty big deal morally, a clear abuse of sexual power, for which Clinton probably should have been pressured to resign.

This new narrative lines up with what’s often been my own assessment of the Clinton scandals. I have never been a Clinton hater; indeed, I’ve always been a little mystified by the scale of Republican dislike for the most centrist of recent Democratic leaders. So I’ve generally held what I’ve considered a sensible middle-ground position on his sins — that he should have stepped down when the Lewinsky affair came to light, but that the Republican effort to impeach him was a hopeless attempt to legislate against dishonor.

But a moment of reassessment is a good time to reassess things for yourself, so I spent this week reading about the lost world of the 1990s. I skimmed the Starr Report. I leafed through books by George Stephanopoulos and Joe Klein and Michael Isikoff. I dug into Troopergate and Whitewater and other first-term scandals. I reacquainted myself with Gennifer Flowers and Webb Hubbell, James Riady and Marc Rich.

After doing all this reading, I’m not sure my reasonable middle ground is actually reasonable. It may be that the conservatives of the 1990s were simply right about Clinton, that once he failed to resign he really deserved to be impeached.

Yes, the Republicans were too partisan, the Starr Report was too prurient and Clinton’s haters generated various absurd conspiracy theories.

But the Clinton operation was also extraordinarily sordid, in ways that should be thrown into particular relief by the absence of similar scandals in the Obama administration, which had perfervid enemies and circling investigators as well.

The sexual misconduct was the heart of things, but everything connected to Clinton’s priapism was bad: the use of the perks of office to procure women, willing and unwilling; the frequent use of that same power to buy silence and bully victims; and yes, the brazen public lies and perjury.

Something like Troopergate, for instance, in which Arkansas state troopers claimed to have served as Clinton’s panderers and been offered jobs to buy their silence, is often recalled as just a right-wing hit job. But if you read The Los Angeles Times’s reporting on the allegations (which included phone records confirming the troopers’ account of a mistress Clinton was seeing during his presidential transition) and Stephanopoulos’s portrayal of Clinton’s behavior in the White House when the story broke, the story seems like it was probably mostly true.

I have less confidence about what was real in the miasma of Whitewater. But with Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky, we know what happened: A president being sued for sexual harassment tried to buy off a mistress-turned-potential-witness with White House favors, and then committed perjury serious enough to merit disbarment. Which also brought forward a compelling allegation from Juanita Broaddrick that the president had raped her.

The longer I spent with these old stories, the more I came back to a question: If exploiting a willing intern is a serious enough abuse of power to warrant resignation, why is obstructing justice in a sexual harassment case not serious enough to warrant impeachment? Especially when the behavior is part of a longstanding pattern that also may extend to rape? Would any feminist today hesitate to take a similar opportunity to remove a predatory studio head or C.E.O.?

There is a common liberal argument that our present polarization is the result of constant partisan escalations on the right — the rise of Newt Gingrich, the steady Hannitization of right-wing media.

Some of this is true. But returning to the impeachment imbroglio made me think that in that case the most important escalators were the Democrats. They had an opportunity, with Al Gore waiting in the wings, to show a predator the door and establish some moral common ground for a polarizing country.

And what they did instead — turning their party into an accessory to Clinton’s appetites, shamelessly abandoning feminist principle, smearing victims and blithely ignoring his most credible accuser, all because Republicans funded the investigations and they’re prudes and it’s all just Sexual McCarthyism — feels in the cold clarity of hindsight like a great act of partisan deformation.

For which, it’s safe to say, we have all been amply punished since.

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LIBERAL FASCISM BLAMED ON TRUMP!


Do Trump’s liberal critics seem increasingly unhinged?
thehill.com

Last week’s anniversary of Trump’s election sparked widespread teeth-gnashing by the nation’s pundits.  Trump is supposedly the gravest threat to American democracy since the secession of the Confederacy. His presidency, probably, continues to be a boon for antidepressant sales across the land.

New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg, in a column last week headlined “Anniversary of the Apocalypse,” lamented the “terror-struck and vertiginous days” after Trump’s win and the ongoing “metaphysical whiplash” and “hideous interregnum,” which leaves her “poleaxed by grief at the destruction of our civic inheritance.” Professor Henry Giroux of McMaster University frothed that Trump’s “ascendancy in American politics has made visible a culture of cruelty, a contempt for civic literacy, a corrupt mode of governance and a disdain for informed judgment that has been decades in the making.”

It is understandable that folks would be riled by Trump’s bluster about revoking the broadcast licenses of his critics or calling for the firing of protesting football players. His administration’s rhetoric on trade and the drug war threaten to revive moronic policies that should have been banished forever by perennial failures.  But while Trump poses plenty of constitutional perils, many of his opponents are even more authoritarian.
Anti-Trump fervor is making liberals far more illiberal. Commentators in the Washington Post and New York Times have called for selective censorship of ideas and doctrines they abhor. A recent Washington Post article touted 38 fixes for democracy including mandating three years of compulsory labor for young people in the military of AmeriCorps-like programs, outlawing private education, punitively punishing gun owners, and vastly increasing redistribution to end racial inequities.

Thanks to Trump’s firing of James Comey, Democrats are exalting the FBI as if J. Edgar Hoover and COINTELPRO never existed. Political mob violence by Antifa against conservatives was vindicated in the Washington Post and cheered by prominent Democrats as the moral equivalent of the American soldiers who stormed Normandy beaches in 1944.

Some liberals believe the federal government should become domineering to vanquish the fascist tendencies of Trump supporters. But this is imprudent unless liberals irrevocably control all three branches of the federal government.

Unfortunately, Trump’s biggest follies (thus far) have evoked the loudest cheers from his Washington critics. Trump’s finest hour, according to much of the media, was sending 59 cruise missiles to blast the Syrian government based on mere allegations that it had carried out a chemical weapons attack. Pulling the rug from under the Iran deal (one of Obama’s solid achievements) was cheered by much of the foreign policy elite as if destabilizing the Middle East was akin to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Trump’s threats to “totally destroy” North Korea spurred no effective resistance on Capitol Hill. But blundering into another war would do more harm to American democracy than 10,000 raving Oval Office tweets.

Many Democrats sound ready to rush to impeachment regardless of what Trump has actually done. They seem inspired by the Soviet secret police chief who declared: “Show me the man and I will show you the crime.” Desperate assertions that $3000 in Russian-linked Facebook ads swung the election results in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin are indicative of the pathetic logic of many Trump critics.

Many Trump opponents are the same type of zealots who, in the late 1700s, proudly labeled themselves “Friends of Government.” In their eyes, Trump’s greatest sin is tarnishing the majesty of the presidency and the federal government. Trump is exposing the sham of a Leviathan Democracy which pretends that presidents will be philosopher kings — instead of merely talented vote catchers. However, Trump cannot be blamed for destroying Americans’ trust in Washington. This was already achieved by presidents such as George W. Bush and Obama who the media occasionally exalted to the skies.

Trump’s critics are correct that the president has too much arbitrary power. But many people happy to believe the worst about Trump will heave all their skepticism overboard when the next political savior is anointed. Such naivete is being encouraged at the highest levels of Democratic Party. Recall that Hillary Clinton’s recent book declared that the lesson of George Orwell’s 1984 is that people should trust their leaders and the media.

Hysteria remains the 2017 political badge of honor. Last Wednesday, thousands of people gathered across the nation to shout at the sky to protest the anniversary of Trump’s victory. But righteous rage is no substitute for focusing on the real perils that Trump and any other president poses to our rights. The Friends of Freedom need to keep their intellectual ammo dry.

James Bovard is a USA Today columnist and the author of 10 books, including “Lost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty” (St. Martin’s Press, 1994).

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FBI PROBES PLANNED PARENTHOOD

FBI seeks Senate documents, signaling possible probe into sale of fetal tissue
thehill.com

The FBI has asked the Senate for unredacted documents it obtained from abortion providers, signaling agents may be investigating whether Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers illegally sold fetal tissue and body parts, according to sources familiar with the document request.

The request was made in recent days, the sources said, to the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), last December referred Planned Parenthood and several other abortion providers to the FBI for investigation after a lengthy probe into the transfers of fetal tissue.

Grassley said at the time that his committee had uncovered enough evidence in its final investigative report to show abortion providers had transferred tissue and body parts from aborted fetuses to firms for use in research by charging dollar amounts above their actual costs.

Abortion providers are allowed under a 1993 law to transfer fetal tissue for research at a cost equal to the price of obtaining it, but are not allowed to sell it at a profit.
The Justice Department declined comment, saying it does not confirm nor deny whether an investigation is taking place.

A spokesman for the FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Planned Parenthood said that while it is aware of Grassley’s prior request for a criminal probe, none of its affiliates has had any contact with the FBI. It noted it provided more than 30,000 pages of documents and several witnesses to the congressional probes and believes it has complied with the law.

“Planned Parenthood strongly disagrees with the recommendations of the Senate Republican staff to refer this matter to the Justice Department, especially in light of the fact that investigations by three other Congressional committees, and investigations in 13 states including a Grand Jury in Texas, have all shown that Planned Parenthood did nothing wrong,” said Dana Singiser, Vice President of Government Affairs for Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

“These accusations are baseless, and a part of a widely discredited attempt to end access to reproductive health care at Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood has never, and would never, profit while facilitating its patients’ choice to donate fetal tissue for use in important medical research,” she added.

The Senate probe and a similar investigation by the House were prompted by the public release in 2015 of several undercover videos from an anti-abortion group showing abortion providers or fetal tissue firms discussing how they took money for aborted fetuses. The Senate committee conducted interviews and gathered documents on its own as part of an investigation triggered by the videos.

It is that information, including the unredacted documents Senate Judiciary gathered from abortion providers and fetal tissue firms, that was requested by the FBI, the sources said, speaking only on condition of anonymity.

“The report documents the failure of the Department of Justice, across multiple administrations, to enforce the law that bans the buying and selling of human fetal tissue,” Grassley wrote last December when he asked the FBI and Justice Department to investigate Planned Parenthood and other abortion and fetal tissue providers. “… It also documents substantial evidence suggesting that the specific entities involved in the recent controversy, and/or individuals employed by those entities, may have violated that law.”

Grassley staff is working to comply with the FBI’s document request in compliance with Senate rules, sources said.

One option would be for FBI agents to be allowed to come to the committee’s reading room and review the documents. A full Senate vote would be required if copies of the documents needed to be transferred to a grand jury, according to a source directly familiar with Senate document procedures.

Lila Rose, a prominent anti-abortion activist, praised the FBI’s document request.

“We, of course, applaud any action taken to follow the evidence to where it leads and to hold Planned Parenthood accountable,” she said. “The only thing that could hinder this investigation from leading to indictments of Planned Parenthood and the companies involved in the sale of fetal body parts is politics.”

The advent of a criminal investigation into abortion providers would mark a major escalation in a controversy ignited by undercover videotapes made by an anti-abortion group back in 2015.

The Center for Medical Progress, which released the videos, saw two of its executives charged with state privacy violations for making the undercover tapes. The charges were dropped in Texas but remain pending in California, where they are being appealed. The group denies any wrongdoing.

The center’s head, David Daleiden, said Monday that an FBI probe is “long overdue” and that the ”sale of aborted baby body parts is the greatest human atrocity of our times and must finally be brought to justice under the law.”

The Senate report concluded that the prices paid for tissue and body parts exceeded the actual costs, and that in some cases such costs weren’t even calculated until after investigators began asking questions.

In one example cited by the Senate report, a firm’s own records show it paid $60 for an aborted fetus from a Planned Parenthood clinic, then transferred the various parts for $2,275 – including the brain for $325, two eyes for $650, and a part of a liver for $325. The firm also charged additional fees for shipping and disease screening, the report said.

“The companies involved in transferring fetal tissue have been free to receive substantial payment with impunity, relying on an expansive interpretation of the exception to the ban on buying and selling fetal tissue,” the report said.

Some of the companies involved in the transactions “had not, in fact, conducted any analysis of their costs when setting fees, and their post ad hoc accounting rationalization invoked a bevy of indirect and tenuously related costs in an attempt to justify their fees,” the report added.

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2017 DNC CORE MELTDOWN

Democrats Determined to Wage Civil War Forever
www.thedailybeast.com

DNC Chair Donna Brazile
Democrats Determined to Wage Civil War Forever. Donna Brazile lit another match. But, really, the flame hasn’t gone out since Trump won.

Gideon ResnickSam Stein11.03.17 3:57 PM ET

During the final week of the most important election of the calendar year, the Democratic Party finds itself in a familiar place: subsumed by internal divisions and sniping.

The latest fracas is owed, in part, to Donna Brazile, the former interim chairwoman of the party, who released an excerpt of an upcoming book this week detailing an agreement between the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign that gave the campaign early control over the party’s finances and some staffing decisions.

This agreement, which was later revealed by NBC News, pertained to preparations for the general election and was in addition to a joint fundraising pledge, which was previously widely known during the first months of the presidential campaign. But Brazile’s piece provided an incisive reminder of what critics see as a fundamental rot within the party: a disposition to the establishment, a dependency on mega donors, and a top-down operational structure. That the piece landed as the DNC is still attempting to right the ship under new leadership made it downright pyrotechnic.

Some DNC members argued that it behooved the party to come to grips with its past—even in full public view—before moving forward; that it took particular courage for Brazile, who infamously passed Clinton a debate question, to help validate Democrats’ complaints with the DNC.

“Democrats all across the country are angry that our party was being controlled by a few at the top,” Jane Kleeb, the chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party and a member of the DNC’s Unity Commission, told The Daily Beast. “This goes against everything we stand for as Democrats. Some in our party will want us to continue the status quo. But most of us are rolling up our sleeves pushing for reforms inside the party and electing Democrats so we are not facing a tax plan that leaves middle class families holding the bag.”

Others outside the DNC were furious with Brazile, calling the essay a selfish attempt to sell books at a time when the party’s fundraising is flagging and its attention should be on the upcoming, critical races. “She’s playing into Trump’s hands,” one Clinton campaign vet said. Brazile declined to comment until her book was formally released.

Whether it was necessary medicine or opportunistic marketing, Brazile’s piece reverberated throughout the party, up through DNC’s leadership. “We knew that there was stuff going on that we didn’t know about,” James Zogby, a current member of the Unity Reform Commission told The Daily Beast.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), who serves as deputy chair of the DNC, meanwhile, issued a lengthy statement on Friday saying that the “account cannot simply be dismissed.”

“I’m committed to working with Chairman [Tom] Perez to make the DNC more transparent and accountable to the American people, whether that’s by ensuring that debates are scheduled far ahead of time or by guaranteeing that the terms of joint fundraising agreements give no candidate undue control or influence over the party,” Ellison said. “Additionally, when the DNC Unity Commission presents its recommendations on reforming our party, we must listen and act. If we do, Democrats can move forward and retake power at every level of government across the nation.”

Moving forward constructively has proven a tall task for Ellison, Perez and others at the DNC, which has been beset by poor fundraising and internal strife. Hours after the Brazile story was published, the organization dismissed its top money-raiser. Emily Mellencamp Smith, a veteran of Sen. Maggie Hassan’s (D-NH) Senate campaign, had been brought in over the summer to help the committee close its cash gap with the RNC. She lasted five months on the job.

Michael Tyler, the DNC’s press secretary, said in a statement to The Daily Beast that the DNC was “grateful” for her work and that Smith was “staying on in a consulting role for the DNC.” But others in the party were uncharacteristically livid.

“I’ve seen a lot of bosses scapegoat staff to cover their own failures but Tom Pérez takes the cake for this one,” Paul Tencher, chief of staff for Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) tweeted. “Really really despicable.”

Neither Tyler nor Tencher responded to requests to expand on their statements.

Both the reaction to Brazile’s piece and the nasty backlash towards Smith’s firing reflect a party still searching for an identity and functionality in the Trump era. Democrats seem clear that they want to turn the page from the 2016 Clinton campaign. But they’re unclear how best to do so.

In this climate, even an employee shakeup becomes a point of contention. A congressional Democratic source described Smith as “an extremely talented and qualified person,” and said that the a big chunk of the DNC’s fundraising woes this year occurred prior to her arrival.

Indeed, while Brazile’s piece centered its criticism on the Clinton campaign, it did not spare Barack Obama either. It was the former president, Brazile wrote, who left the committee in financial disrepair and who felt comfortable putting in a chair—Debbie Wasserman Schultz— who was plainly not up for the task.

When asked about her reaction to the piece, Wasserman Schultz said in a statement: “It was a tremendous honor to be asked by President Obama to serve as chair of the DNC. I am proud of the work our team did to support Democrats up and down the ballot in the 2016 election and to re-elect the President in 2012.” A spokesperson for the Congresswoman did not respond to a follow up question asking her to address specific claims made in Brazile’s book excerpt.

Clinton allies, meanwhile, insist that they did more to help the DNC than to harm it. The joint fundraising agreements were made available to her and Sanders (which DNC Chairman Tom Perez noted in a letter to DNC members on Friday.). And though Clinton was afforded a large degree of operational control over the committee (which former Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver told The Washington Post they did not have), she also helped it get out of debt, even as she reportedly pillaged a huge amount of the money that had been ostensibly donated to help state parties.

On Friday, Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign director, tried to take temperature down a bit. “Eye on the ball, Democrats!” he tweeted, saying the focus should be on the upcoming Virginia gubernatorial election. Others joined in.

“There is a race, a very important one, for governor in Virginia that if we are not careful could slip through our fingers,” said Clinton’s former spokesman, Brian Fallon, in an interview. “If [Ed] Gillespie were to pull of an upset there, it would basically ensure that Republicans would spend the next year running Trump-style campaigns that give in to race baiting because they will be convinced it is a successful strategy in the Trump era.”

“So, while it’s important for Democrats to take stock of our failings in 2016, there comes a point where it is just time to rally together and take a stand against the authoritarian regime that has taken over the U.S. Government. I hope people won’t lose sight of the bigger picture,” he concluded.

And yet, befitting the times, Democrats are encountering intraparty hiccups on that front too. On Friday, Democracy for America, a political action committee formed by former Governor Howard Dean, announced that it would not provide aid directly to Virginia Democratic candidate Ralph Northam due to a slight change in his position on sanctuary cities—which Virginia doesn’t have.

Dean, who is no longer affiliated with the organization, blasted the decision as “incredibly stupid.”

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The real Russian Meddle – with Bill & Hillary Clinton

A YEAR of Clinton lies about the ‘golden showers’ dossier exposed
www.dailymail.co.uk

It’s claimed that Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer Marc Elias and other Democrats falsely denied to reporters their involvement in the ‘dirty dossier’
Two New York Times journalists say they were lied to at every turn
It’s now established that Clinton lawyer Marc Elias arranged for the campaign and the Democratic Party to pay a dirt-digging firm to produce the dossier
‘Folks involved in funding this lied about it, and with sanctimony, for a year,’ Times reporter Maggie Haberman tweeted
A Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer who launched what would become known as the anti-Trump ‘dirty dossier’ denied involvement in the project for a year as reporters pressed him for information.

Marc Elias brokered a deal between the Clinton camp, the Democratic National Committee and opposition research firm Fusion GPS to dig up dirt on the president while he was running for office.

But a pair of New York Times reporters said Tuesday night on Twitter that Elias and others involved had lied about their ties to the arrangement.

‘Folks involved in funding this lied about it, and with sanctimony, for a year,’ Times reporter Maggie Haberman tweeted after The Washington Post linked the dossier to Elias and his law firm Perkins Coie.

Kennth Vogel, another Times journalist, tweeted: ‘When I tried to report this story, Clinton campaign lawyer @marceelias pushed back vigorously, saying “You (or your sources) are wrong”.’

Hillary Clinton’s campaign lawyer Marc E. Elias hired opposition research firm Fusion GPS in April 2016 to dig up dirt about Donald Trump, but falsely denied involvement to reporters

Two New York Times journalists blew up on Twitter when The Washington Post broke the story

The Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee funneled money to Fusion GPS through Elias’s law firm.

The deal began in the spring of 2016, when Elias was approached by Fusion GPS, and lasted until right before Election Day. When Fusion approached Elias, it had already been doing research work on Trump for an unnamed client during the Republican primary.

But the dossier itself was funded entirely by Democrats, using Elias as a middle-man.

After the DNC and the Clinton campaign started paying, Fusion GPS hired former British spy Christopher Steele to do the dirt-digging. His work later resulted in the dossier.

Trump has called the material ‘phony stuff,’ and on Wednesday he portrayed himself as the aggrieved party.

Fusion GPS co-founder Peter Fritsch (left) and partner Thomas Catan (right) took the Fifth last week rather than talking to Congress.

The dossier, compiled by British spy Christopher Steele, contends that the Russian government amassed compromising information about Trump

The president posted a quote on Twitter that he attributed to Fox News: “Clinton campaign & DNC paid for research that led to the anti-Trump Fake News Dossier. The victim here is the President”.’

The FBI has worked to corroborate the document, and special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, which is investigating potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign, questioned Steele weeks ago.

The dossier circulated in Washington last year and was turned over to the FBI for its review. It contends that Russia was engaged in a long-standing effort to aid Trump and had amassed compromising information about the Republican.

Among its wild claims was that Russian officials have videos of the president cavorting with prostitutes, filmed during Trump’s 2013 visit to a luxury Moscow hotel for the Miss Universe contest

It also contains a highly unusual and unsubstantiated report that the call girls performed a ‘golden shower’ routine that involved them urinating on a hotel bed as a sign of disgust for then-president Barack Obama.

Trump has repeatedly dismissed the document as false and in recent days has questioned whether Democrats or the FBI itself had helped fund it.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly denied the dossier’s claims, including the salacious allegation that he hired prostitutes in Russia

Trump called himself a ‘victim’ of the infamous dossier that Democrats helped pay to produce

Trump also has challenged the findings of the FBI, NSA and CIA that Russia waged a large-scale influence campaign to interfere in the election.

The FBI and the CIA have said with high confidence that the effort was aimed at hurting Clinton’s candidacy and helping Trump. The NSA found the same with “moderate” confidence.

It’s unclear what Fusion GPS had dug up by the time Perkins Coie hired it in April 2016. According to a copy of the dossier published by BuzzFeed last year, the earliest report from Steele dates to June 2016.

It was not immediately known how much money Fusion was paid or how many others in the Clinton campaign or DNC were aware that the firm had been retained.

Clinton campaign officials did not immediately comment, but in a statement, a DNC spokeswoman said the party chairman, Tom Perez, was not part of the decision-making and was unaware that Perkins Coie was working with Fusion GPS.

Former Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said on Twitter that he regretted not knowing about Steele’s hiring before the election, and that had he known, ‘I would have volunteered to go to Europe and try to help him.’

‘I have no idea what Fusion or Steele were paid but if even a shred of that dossier ends up helping Mueller, it will prove money well spent,’ Fallon in another tweet.

THE TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE
2016

June 20: The dossier is first dated June 20 and had contained several unverifiable periodic reports made over the summer, according to Mother Jones. It was sent in dated sections from a former Western intelligence officer to the FBI and alleged Russia had enough to blackmail Trump.

It alleged that Trump had been cultivated by Russian officials ‘for at least five years.’ It also claimed that the Kremlin had compromising material related to ‘sexually perverted acts’ Trump performed at a Moscow Ritz Carlton where former President Barack Obama once stayed.

Dossier also alleged that Trump’s inner circle was accepting a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin on Hillary Clinton.

July 27: Trump asks Russian hackers to find Clinton’s 30,000 emails during a press conference.

July 31: Kremlin weighing whether to release more information about Clinton.

Late July: The FBI opens its investigation into Russia’s interference in the election, and the Trump campaign’s possible role in it.

August 27: Then-U.S. Sen. Harry Reid sent a letter to then-FBI Director James Comey and called for a full investigation and public disclosure. He wrote: ‘The evidence of a direct connection between the Russian government and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign continues to mount and has led Michael Morrell, the former Acting Central Intelligence Director, to call Trump an ‘unwitting agent’ of Russia and the Kremlin.’

September 23: U.S. intelligence officials began investigating links between Trump adviser Carter Page and the Russian government, Yahoo News reported. Page had extensive business links in Russia and is a former Merrill Lynch investment banker in Moscow.

October 7: The Obama administration publicly accuses Russia of ‘directing the recent compromises of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations’ to affect the US election.

October 30: Reid sent Comey another letter demanding that Trump’s possible ties to Russia be fully investigated and he cited the existence of ‘explosive information’ that the FBI has in its possession.

November 3, 2016: Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev flies into Charlotte, North Carolina on a private plane. Trump’s plane lands on the tarmac not long after and parks next to Rybolovlev, whose plane stays in Charlotte for 22 hours afterward. Trump rallies in nearby city Concord.

November 8: Trump wins the election to become the 45th president of the United States.

November 10: President Barack Obama warns Trump during a meeting at the White House that national security advisor Michael Flynn, a former U.S. Army lieutenant general and Defense Intelligence Agency chief, is a problem.

November 18: During a security meeting in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Sen. John McCain hears about the documents and dispatches a former US official to meet the source of the documents and gather more information.

December 9: McCain meets Comey gives the FBI director the documents, The Guardian reported.

December 13: This is the last date of the memos from the dossier written by the British source.

December 29: The Obama administration issues new sanctions on Russia in retaliation for Russia’s hacking of the Democratic National Committee in the summer and other efforts to interfere with the U.S. election.

2017

January 10: Obama and Trump were both given a two-page summary of the dossier, CNN reported. BuzzFeed News then reported on the dossier and published it in full about how it alleges Trump’s deep ties with Russia.

January 19: The New York Times reported that ‘intercepted communications’ between Trump associates and Russians are being investigated as part of the FBI’s inquiry into Russia’s election meddling.

January 27: Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, holds a meeting with Russian-American businessman Felix Sater and Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii Artemenko to discuss a backchannel ‘peace plan’ for Russia and Ukraine.

February 13: Flynn resigns as national security adviser after reports emerge that he misled Vice President Mike Pence.

March 2: Attorney General Jeff Sessions recuses himself from the investigation into whether the Trump campaign communicated with Russia.

March 4: Without presenting evidence, Trump tweets that Obama had Trump Tower’s ‘wires tapped’ during the presidential campaign.

March 15: Rep. Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, announced that the committee had not found any evidence to support Trump’s wiretapping claim.

March 20: Comey said he has ‘no evidence’ to support Trump’s wiretapping claim. He confirmed that an investigation into Russia’s election-related meddling includes an examination of contacts between Trump associates and Russia during the campaign.

Late March: Flynn asks for immunity in exchange for testifying to the House and intelligence committees investigating Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election.

April 1: Trump tweets: ‘It is the same Fake News Media that said there is “no path to victory for Trump” that is now pushing the phony Russia story. A total scam!’

April 3: Trump calls Putin to condemn a Saint Petersburg, Russia terrorist attack.

April 6: Nunes steps aside from the Russia investigation, because he himself is under investigation.

April 11: Page is now under investigation by the FBI who obtained court permission to monitor his communications. The U.S. believed he was acting as a Russian agent.

April 27: The Pentagon inspector general is investigating whether Flynn violated military rules by accepting foreign payments from Russia and Turkey, which is disclosed by a House committee.

May 8: Trump tweets ‘Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax’.

May 9: The president fires Comey from his position at the FBI.

May 10: Trump meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at the White House.

May 15: The Washington Post reported that Trump shared highly classified information about Islamic State with the Russian diplomats during a meeting the previous week.

May 17: Former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III is appointed the special counsel to take over the Justice Department’s Russia investigation.

Late May: Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner is revealed to be under investigation by the FBI. According to the Post, he proposed a private back channel between the Kremlin and Trump’s transition team during a meeting in December.

June 8: Comey testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee and answers questions related to Russia meddling into the U.S. election.

June 13: Sessions denies colluding with Russia during Senate testimony.

June 14: The Washington Post reported that Trump is being investigated for possible obstruction of justice by Mueller.

September: Several news outlets, including POLITICO and Buzzfeed, are suing under the Freedom of Information Act to get records about how the federal government tried to vet the claims in the dossier.

October 24: It’s revealed that Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee helped bankroll research that led to the ‘golden showers’ dossier on Donald Trump. Clinton’s campaign lawyer Marc Elias hired research firm Fusion GPS back in April 2016 to look into allegations of Trump’s ties to Russia, according to the Washington Post.

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The FBI’s Political Meddling

The FBI’s Political Meddling

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller, now special counsel on the Russia investigation, following a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on Capitol Hill, June 21. Photo: saul loeb/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Let’s give plausible accounts of the known facts, then explain why demands that Robert Mueller recuse himself from the Russia investigation may not be the fanciful partisan grandstanding you imagine.

Here’s a story consistent with what has been reported in the press—how reliably reported is uncertain. Democratic political opponents of Donald Trump financed a British former spook who spread money among contacts in Russia, who in turn over drinks solicited stories from their supposedly “connected” sources in Moscow. If these people were really connected in any meaningful sense, then they made sure the stories they spun were consistent with the interests of the regime, if not actually scripted by the regime.

The resulting Trump dossier then became a factor in Obama administration decisions to launch an FBI counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign, and after the election to trumpet suspicions of Trump collusion with Russia.

We know of a second, possibly even more consequential way the FBI was effectively a vehicle for Russian meddling in U.S. politics. Authoritative news reports say FBI chief James Comey’s intervention in the Hillary Clinton email matter was prompted by a Russian intelligence document that his colleagues suspected was a Russian plant.

OK, Mr. Mueller was a former close colleague and leader but no longer part of the FBI when these events occurred. This may or may not make him a questionable person to lead a Russia-meddling investigation in which the FBI’s own actions are necessarily a concern.

But now we come to the Rosatom disclosures last week in The Hill, a newspaper that covers Congress.

Here’s another story as plausible as we can make it based on credible reporting. After the Cold War, in its own interest, the U.S. wanted to build bridges to the Russian nuclear establishment. The Putin government, for national or commercial purposes, agreed and sought to expand its nuclear business in the U.S.

The purchase and consolidation of certain assets were facilitated by Canadian entrepreneurs who gave large sums to the Clinton Foundation, and perhaps arranged a Bill Clinton speech in Moscow for $500,000. A key transaction had to be approved by Hillary Clinton’s State Department.

Now we learn that, before and during these transactions, the FBI had uncovered a bribery and kickback scheme involving Russia’s U.S. nuclear business, and also received reports of Russian officials seeking to curry favor through donations to the Clinton Foundation.

This criminal activity was apparently not disclosed to agencies vetting the 2010 transfer of U.S. commercial nuclear assets to Russia. The FBI made no move to break up the scheme until long after the transaction closed. Only five years later, the Justice Department, in 2015, disclosed a plea deal with the Russian perpetrator so quietly that its significance was missed until The Hill reported on the FBI investigation last week.

For anyone who cares to look, the real problem here is that the FBI itself is so thoroughly implicated in the Russia meddling story.

The agency, when Mr. Mueller headed it, soft-pedaled an investigation highly embarrassing to Mrs. Clinton as well as the Obama Russia reset policy. More recently, if just one of two things is true—Russia sponsored the Trump Dossier, or Russian fake intelligence prompted Mr. Comey’s email intervention—then Russian operations, via their impact on the FBI, influenced and continue to influence our politics in a way far more consequential than any Facebook ad, the preoccupation of John McCain, who apparently cannot behold a mountain if there’s a molehill anywhere nearby.

Which means that Mr. Mueller has the means, motive and opportunity to obfuscate and distract from matters embarrassing to the FBI, while pleasing a large part of the political spectrum. He need only confine his focus to the flimsy, disingenuous but popular (with the media) accusation that the shambolic Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin.

Mr. Mueller’s tenure may not have bridged the two investigations, but James Comey’s, Rod Rosenstein’s , Andrew Weissmann’s , and Andrew McCabe’s did. Mr. Rosenstein appointed Mr. Mueller as special counsel. Mr. Weissmann now serves on Mr. Mueller’s team. Mr. McCabe remains deputy FBI director. All were involved in the nuclear racketeering matter and the Russia meddling matter.

Let’s stop here. All this needs to be sorted out, but not in a spirit of panic and hysteria. We are a prosperous, successful country, in pretty good shape right now by historical standards, even if our officials behave in the frequently dubious, self-interested way they always have.

But still: By any normal evidentiary, probative or journalistic measure, the big story here is the FBI—its politicized handling of Russian matters, and not competently so.

To put it bluntly, whatever its hip-pocket rationales along the way, the FBI would not have so much to cover up now if it had not helped give us Mrs. Clinton as Democratic nominee and then, in all likelihood, inadvertently helped Mr. Trump to the presidency.

Appeared in the October 25, 2017, print edition.

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UN: TRUMP DESTROYS SOCIALIST FAIRYTALE

Trump at the UN

Trump: ‘The Problem in Venezuela Is Not that Socialism Has Been Poorly Implemented’ but ‘Faithfully Implemented’
news.grabien.com

‘All people deserve a government that cares for their safety, their interests and their well-being, including their prosperity’

Sep 19, 2017

TRUMP: “The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented. (Applause) From the Soviet Union to Cuba to Venezuela, wherever true socialism or communism has been adopted, it has delivered anguish and devastation and failure.

“Those who preach the tenets of these discredited ideologies only contribute to the continued suffering of the people who live under these cruel systems. America stands with every person living under a brutal regime. Our respect for sovereignty is also a call for action. All people deserve a government that cares for their safety, their interests and their well-being, including their prosperity.”

GREAT AGAIN! LESS FOOD STAMPS

Food Stamp Usage Has Fallen Every Month of Trump Presidency – Breitbart
www.breitbart.com

Food stamp usage has declined every month since President Trump took office in January, according to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) statistics on food stamp enrollment.
Participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) dropped to 41,310,785 in June 2017, the latest data available from the USDA, from 42,691,363 in January 2017.

Food stamp usage has been on a steady decline since Donald Trump began his presidency in January 2017, with the latest data showing that SNAP enrollment decreased by more than 1.3 million, or 3.23 percent, since the beginning of his term in office.

A closer look at the data shows that food stamp usage has been consistently decreasing each month since January 2017.

Here is the breakdown of how many people dropped off the food stamp rolls each month of 2017:

January to February- 408,956
February to March- 95,152
March to April- 521,295
April to May- 176,527
May to June- 178,648
The most significant drops in enrollment took place from January to February and March to April.

The two months where SNAP participation dropped the most can be attributed to states that started reimplementing work requirements to receive food stamps around that time.

Georgia, for example, expanded work requirements in 21 more counties that went into effect starting April 1, 2017. The state began implementing work requirements in a handful of counties in January 2016.

Alabama fully implemented work requirements in all of its counties by January 2017.

Many policies at the federal level have also contributed to the decline in food stamp enrollment overall.

Trump’s 2018 budget proposal proposed cuts to SNAP, and suggested that states match up to 20 percent of federal money allotted for the food stamp program.

The president also called for states to expand work requirements for able-bodied adults receiving food stamps if they have not already done so. Some federal lawmakers are crafting legislation to implement this policy nationwide, along with time limits on how long food stamp recipients can receive benefits.

Trump’s illegal immigration crackdown has also indirectly affected food stamp enrollment. Many immigrants, both legal and illegal, canceled their food stamps over fears they might be denied citizenship or deported.

Food stamp participation on average in 2017 has dropped to its lowest level since 2010, and the steady decrease in SNAP enrollment shows this trend has no signs of stopping.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that this downward trend will continue through the next decade, with food stamp enrollment dropping 1 to 2 percent each year. By 2027, CBO estimates that 32.5 million people would be receiving food stamps.