Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Paul Manafort, Roger Stone and the Ghost of Roy Cohn

            From 2005 to 2014, Donald Trump's Campaign Director Paul Manafort was a political advisor to Ukrainian President Viktor F. Yanukovych who was staunchly pro-Russian. In 2014, Yanukovych was driven from office. Hand-written ledgers in the offices of Yanukovych's political party contain entries of $12.7 million in previously undisclosed cash disbursements to Manafort.

            When asked for comment about these entries Mr. Manafort stated that:

“The suggestion that I accepted cash payments is unfounded, silly and nonsensical,” Manafort said, adding that he never worked for the governments of Ukraine or Russia and that he stopped working in Ukraine after the October 2014 elections there."
            Mr. Manafort's response is an adroit non-denial denial. There is no indication in the ledger as to what the cash disbursements were for. The issue is whether cash was disbursed at his direction and, if so, for what purpose. Roger Stone is a longtime political operative and partner of Manafort.

            There is an incident in 1980 in which Stone was involved that illustrates just how evasive Manafort's non-denial may be. The basic facts of the incident were reported by Matt Labash in The Weekly Standard in a profile of Roger Stone.[i] Some underlying facts which fill in gaps of the story I can fill in from confidential sources in the Liberal Party which was the supposed object of a $125,000 cash bribe. It was gathered by Roy Cohn and delivered in an unopened valise to an attorney associated with the Liberal Party by Stone. The intent was to purchase the endorsement of the Liberal Party for John Anderson as an independent candidate for President.

            The Liberal Party did in fact endorse Anderson and the Anderson vote on the Liberal line allowed Reagan to carry New York with a plurality (not a majority of the vote).

            It is fairly clear that the attorney who received the bribe money was the late Ray Harding. In 2009, he pleaded guilty to charges that he had taken $800,000 for doing favors for Mr. Hevesi. He had acted as a sham intermediary for associates of the comptroller who were awarded lucrative contracts to manage the state’s $141 billion pension fund. He also had schemed to secure a State Assembly seat for Mr. Hevesi’s son.

            According to one source what Cohn and Stone were paying for was "garbage." The leadership of the Party was totally uniformed of the bribe. The vote occurred within two days of delivery of the cash to Harding.

            The reason the purported bribe was garbage was that the leadership had already decided to endorse Anderson because despite much lobbying by the Liberal Party, the Carter White House had been unresponsive to Liberal Party complaints about the outsourcing of US jobs to foreign countries. This was over a decade before NAFTA. The Liberal Party was actually the creation of New York City garment center unions. Saving NYC garment center jobs was paramount to those unions. Despite weeks of lobbying, the Carter Administration offered no support to the Union demands. The Anderson vote was foreordained before the Cohn-Stone $125,000 bribe.

            I have noted on occasion, that in my opinion the first and greatest politician of all time was Chanticleer,  the rooster who crows so that the sun may rise.

            Here's what this tale has to do with Paul Manafort and his non-denial denial: Did Roy Cohn receive a cash payment? Did Roger Stone receive a cash payment? They may have conspired to bribe the Liberal Party, but they both could argue they were only conduits for cash payments, not the recipients.

            The bottom line is this: Manafort's carefully worded denial tells us nothing and may be technically true. The issue might be to whom did he either deliver or direct the payments to? That might be something that keepers of the register would have wanted to keep secret.

            Hear the laughter? It's Roy Cohn's ghost.

[i] Matt Labash, "Roger Stone Political Animal," Weekly Standard, November 5, 2007

Monday, August 15, 2016

Putin's "fold em" moment

The NY Times which came in second to the Washington Post on the Watergate scandal just took the lead in what will become a race for the Pulitzer with a documented story on the financial interests and probable corruption of Donald Trump's Campaign Director Paul Manafort in his dealings with the Ukraine AND some hint of his relationship to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Yesterday morning, I posted about my concerns that the activities of Russian intelligence agencies posed a clear and present danger for the integrity of the November 8, 2016 US Presidential election. There is still danger for mischief without doubt but the Times story raises substantial issues of criminality for Manafort and ultimately Trump that may moot Putin's cleverest plans.

When it comes to the survival of US democracy I think an appropriate metaphor might be the Battle of Gettysburg (July, 1863) and Picket's charge when an over-confident Robert E. Lee gambled on an all or nothing attack on the heavily defended Union center. He lost his gamble. I remember a legend that after the Confederates were repulsed, Union commander George Meade rode the line horseback yelling "The Union is saved." 

Putin is a brilliant strategist intent on Russian world hegemony. He has bet the house on undermining the November 8, 2016 election in order to elect Donald Trump. Yesterday, I warned that the sky is falling. Now, given who Paul Manafort is, and Trump's reputed $700 million debt to the Russians, Hillary's lead in the polls will undoubtedly stiffen or rise. I doubt that Manafort will be making too many TV appearances. There is in the Times links to Putin's own finances. Perhaps it's time for Putin to heed the advice of Kenny Rogers. When it comes to the US Presidential election. "it's time to fold 'em"

Problems of electronic ballot security remain but today, reading the NY Times, my only thought is: The Union is saved!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

PUTIN and TRUMP: Will the American Dream end on November 8, 2016

I do not mean to sound like Henny Penny warning that the sky is falling, but it may very well fall on November 8, 2016 and effectively extinguish American democracy. It is under assault from two directions and like any good assault, there is strong evidence that the two prongs are acting in coordination.

One of those prongs is the campaign by Vladimir Putin to seek Russian world hegemony by supporting right-wing fascist groups. His first goal is to break-up and destroy both NATO and the common market of the European Union. The British BREXIT vote was a triumph for that policy.

It may never be possible to determine to what extent Putin intervened in the BREXIT referendum. However, actions of hackers linked to Russian intelligence attacking the Democratic Party raise an interesting question: to what extent did those same Russian intelligence assets intervene in the BREXIT vote. One problem is that there were no exit polls for the BREXIT voting on referendum day to give us a clue.

The sophistication and targeting of the Russian effort is illustrated by its focus on an individual who might not seem to be a prime target of Russian intelligence until you understand just what this individual was doing: investigating the connections of Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign director who in fact has strong connections to the Russian oligarchy that surrounds and enriches Putin.

Clear and Present Danger

The second prong is the Trump campaign whose director, Paul Manafort has known ties to Putin's Russian oligarchs. Trump last week claimed that the only way he would lose Pennsylvania would be if the Pennsylvania vote was stolen by Clinton. He urged his supporters to organize and watch the polling places to prevent "fraud." What's really odd, and thus disturbing, is the simple fact that according to the Real Politics index of polls, the last four polls in Pennsylvania have Clinton leading by double digits and the combine average for the last six polls is a lead of 9.6.

What's terribly disturbing is the make-up a large segment of Trump's shrinking voter base: armed militias and armed supporters of "The Second Amendment," who Trump says must protect us from a Clinton Presidency. The Supreme Court has remarked that the Constitutional right to free speech does not include "the right to falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater." Metaphorically, that is what Trump is doing.

One apparent object of the Russian hacking operation was Alexandra Chalupa. On May 4, 2016, she wrote a colleague at the DNC  that ever since she began collecting information on Trump campaign director Paul Manafort, she had been receiving daily security warnings from Yahoo that her personal account may have “been the target of state-sponsored actors.” Such notifications are routine when an internet or email provider suspects that a user may have been hacked or is likely to be hacked. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/07/25/fbi-suspects-russia-hacked-dnc-u-s-officials-say-it-was-to-elect-donald-trump.html

The combination of Russian intelligence operatives and Trump's strange claim that only fraud will prevent him from winning a state where he trails badly in the polls, auger badly for election day in Pennsylvania and probably other states.

I am afraid that the sky is falling, I might just be right. I only hope I am wrong.

Wiki Leaks posting on communication between Chalupua and the DNC

Re: You saw this, right?
From:ChalupaA@dnc.org To: MirandaL@dnc.org  Date: 2016-05-04 01:56 Subject: Re: You saw this, right?
A lot more coming down the pipe. I spoke to a delegation of 68 investigative journalists from Ukraine last Wednesday at the Library of Congress - the Open World Society's forum - they put me on the program to speak specifically about Paul Manafort and I invited Michael Isikoff whom I've been working with for the past few weeks and connected him to the Ukrainians. More offline tomorrow since there is a big Trump component you and Lauren need to be aware of that will hit in next few weeks and something I'm working on you should be aware of. Since I started digging into Manafort these messages have been a daily occurrence on my yahoo account despite changing my password often: [image1.JPG] Sent from my iPhone On May 3, 2016, at 10:50 PM, Miranda, Luis > wrote: http://www.politifact.com/global-news/article/2016/may/02/paul-manafort-donald-trumps-top-adviser-and-his-ti/ [SigDems]Luis Miranda, Communications Director Democratic National Committee 202-863-8148 – MirandaL@dnc.org - @MiraLuisDC

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Roy Cohn's Spirit infuses the Trump Campaign

Like Jacob Marley in Dickens's A Christmas Carol, Roy Cohn is dead and gone. Now his ghost is paying us a visit in the context of Donald Trump's candidacy for President. There are some differences. Marley's spirit sought to warn Scrooge to mend his ways; Cohn's spirit, in the form of his protégé Roger Stone, is the apparent advocate of the worst of Trump's rhetoric including his claim that the November election is rigged and threatening a revolution if Trump loses the rigged election. See https://mediamatters.org/blog/2016/08/05/trump-confidante-roger-stone-pushes-clinton-aide-911-conspiracy-claims-trump-views-rnc-chairman/212214

Roy Cohn is immortal. In Angels in America, the 1993 Pulitzer Prize winner for drama, the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg tells us so.

ETHEL ROSENBERG: You're immortal.
 ROY: I'm immortal. Ethel. (He forces himself to stand) 
I have forced my way into history. I ain't never gonna die.

Angels' America is a bleak surreal plain, where lost souls teeter on the brink of apocalypse. Cohn is a metaphor for the seductive, dark side of the American dream. Awash in intransigent denial, the playwright limns Cohn's audacious ego, cunning seductiveness, brutal transcendent power and helplessness against ravages of AIDS. It is a chilling, provocative portrait. 

As black as the playwright's perception may be, the reality of Cohn's life is darker still. His career embodies the confluence of two primeval forces of our day, organized crime and rabid anti-communism, into a single, swift current. Those forces manifested themselves in Las Vegas casinos, Havana gambling palaces, the Bay of Pigs, Dealey Plaza, Watergate and beyond. While Roy Cohn was not solely responsible for these events, or clearly a direct participant in all of them, so much of the current of his life runs through each of them, that the study of his life and power enlightens the causes and effects of many of the most significant events of our times.

There is an excellent posting this week which relate Stone's involvement with Trump's campaign. 

Another posting warns of Russian interference in our election process on Trump's behalf.

I would also recommend Wayne Barrett's Trump: The Greatest Show on Earth: The Deals, the Downfall, the Reinvention which has been updated and reissued for this campaign year. It's available in E-Book format or paperback on all major internet bookseller pages.

As Bob Dylan sang:

"You don't have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing."

This is not a promo for my book Quantum Christ but you can find out about it at:

Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Plot Against America

There is an old saying among loan sharks: I loan you $10 you owe me $10. I loan you $100,000, I own you.
Donald Trump and his various enterprises are indebted to the Russian oligarchy for millions of dollars. Donald Trump Jr. has remarked that they are disproportionately reliant on Russian money. That's because US banks won't deal with him after all Trump's bankruptcies. There is no question but that Putin is the "boss" of the oligarchs and gets a cut of their profits. The simple point is that Putin owns Trump.
Russian intelligence agencies have hacked into the databases of the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign. They have released through WikiLeaks items that embarrass the Democrats and Clinton with more to come.
What bothers me is not the embarrassing stuff. Trump can try to take all the advantage he wants from the Russian leaks. It's the potential for election day result tampering that bothers me.
Sometime ago when I was active as a Vice-Chair of NYS New Democratic Coalition (NDC) I ran across Dick Morris who was then a young Democrat Turk who master minded a takeover of the NDC on the Westside of Manhattan. They weren’t all bad and actually some of them were quite good. However, Morris became bipartisan and sold his talents to both Republicans and Democrats. He was a member of the Clinton administration until he became involved in a sex scandal, sharing state secrets with a prostitute.
Among his activities as I recall was helping to monitor the fairness of elections in the Third World. One of the checks they utilized was election day exit polls. If there were significant deviations between the polls and the announced results it was an indicia of fraud.
By the 2000 election, Morris having left the Clinton administration had become a straight Fox News expert. When there was a disparity between the Florida exit polls and the announced results, he attacked the accuracy of exit polls. We later learned that in just one area, West Palm Beach which was strongly liberal there was a butterfly ballot which confused voter and many more votes were counted for Pat Buchanan than might be expected - far more than Bush's margin of victory.
What really bothers me, is given the fact Trump is in Putin's pocket, and given the expertise of Putin's intelligence services in hacking, those areas of the United States where there is electronic voting with no printed ballot in the process, this election may very well be stolen iin those areas.
In NYS, we vote by marking a printed ballot and then having it scanned and the results recorded electronically. The printed ballots are a protection against fraud.
This weekend, Trump has acted very unusually. He made an appearance in Colorado on Friday but then cancelled an event scheduled for Florida on Tuesday. The odd thing about Colorado is that Clinton has scaled back some activities in Colorado, because her internal polls place her 10 points ahead and the resources may be better spent elsewhere. She and Kaine (and Bill and Ann) are busing through through battleground states PA and Ohio,
The Russian oligarchs own Trump. Trump has undercut US policy in the Ukraine and the Baltic states. He favors a virtual break-up of NATO. He has become Putin's puppet. I am afraid. I am very afraid.
On the other hand there is also FDR. "We have nothing to fear but fear itsel" - as long as we have the courage to act,
This is not a promo for my book Quantum Christ but you can find out about it at:

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Can Democracy survive the Internet?

I suppose I should be complimented. I seem to be getting a lot of hits on my blog from Russia. Somehow, however, when I check the stats from Google, the individual hits do not add-up. No doubt there are non-sinister reasons for this. Maybe.

However, there is an old saying: even paranoids have enemies. I have one in particular who quite skilled at Internet stalking. He is quite angry at me for my success in preserving a news stand site for an Indian imagrant that he wanted. I get these terrible comments for my page that I delete and do not allow to be posted. One of them claimed that a departed relative was burning in Hell.

Today there is story in Slate which really bothers me and I connect it to a Wiki-leaks story yesterday revealing hacked and embarrassing E-Mail from the Democratic National Committee. Then there is a story about how Putin intervened in European elections to aid ultra-right candidates Prime examples are Marie Le Penn in France and Berlusconi in Italy. Of course Berlusconi was ousted eventually and Le Penn has yet to win control but her influence is growing.

Putin is the new Stalin seeking to expand his influence. I do not think there is any limit to his ambition. One of his goals to break-up the unity of Europe (and the United States).  That seems to be okay with Trump.

The Wiki-Leaks release was clearly designed to drive disaffected Bernie Sanders voters away from Clinton.

Frankly, I'm scared. Saturday afternoon, I saw Tim Kaine get and deliver a knock-out performance in Miami when introduced by Clinton. While, I am bit to his left, he is supporting the Democratic platform to be adopted at the DNC and that is more than enough for now.

But, there is no question that Trump in his statements about the NATO and the Baltic states (Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia) is music to Putin's ears.

I have at times metaphorically tabbed Trump the Anti-Christ because of his blatant narcissism and his disdain for nuclear non-proliferation. It now seems clear that he is at best a tool for a real Anti-Christ, his pal Vladmir Putin.

Then there is story on why  all the Brexit vote wrong. When I first became involved in Bronx reform politics in 1969, I was told that "We have to win by 10% because anything less they steal."

We have become so dependent on the Internet. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
This is not a promo for my book Quantum Christ but you can find out about it at:

Friday, July 15, 2016

Empathy and Nice, FR

Events in Nice and Orlando and San Bernadino and …and …and the reaction to them bring to my mind a poem I first read more than six decades ago as a Freshman at Syracuse U. It's not the failure to react that bothers me, it's the cheap shots that some politicians make about terrorism without an ounce of sincere empathy. The Trump reaction: build a wall!, Ban Imigaion. It was the death of a US father and his 11 year old son in Nice that brought to my mind the Auden poem.
Yet, but as bad as some self-serving reaction to the events nothing can compare to the indifference, and even grotesque joy of the ISIS adherents to the suffering they impose on others.

Follow the link to see the painting.

About suffering they were never wrong, 
The Old Masters; how well, they understood 
Its human position; how it takes place 
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along; 
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting 
For the miraculous birth, there always must be 
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating 
On a pond at the edge of the wood: 
They never forgot 
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course 
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot 
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse 
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree. 
In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away 
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may 
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry, 
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone 
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green 
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen 
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky, 
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.