Matt Taibbi Attempts to Reinflate Patrick Byrne’s Maria Butina Story

The buzz around Patrick Byrne’s story about having an affair with Maria Butina has almost entirely subsided.

In spite of the fact that folks have moved on, Matt Taibbi, claiming that he’s writing now because Byrne “is taking a beating in the press,” has decided to write up the story.

The tale is now out, and Byrne, whom I’ve known and liked for almost a decade, is taking a beating in the press. It’s unfortunate, and the import of his story is going unnoticed because reporters are focusing instead on Byrne’s eccentricities.

Taibbi reveals that, “Byrne came to me months ago,” which would mean Taibbi was, like Sara Carter, one of the journalists Byrne told about this during the summer, which makes a second journalist who had not covered the Butina prosecution to whom Byrne chose to make claims about the Butina prosecution.

Taibbi explains that he didn’t tell Byrne’s story earlier because he couldn’t confirm it. “Unable to confirm enough of his story, I ended up hesitating.” He also admits that Byrne’s, “hyperbolic storytelling needs to be sorted with care.”

So let’s look at how Taibbi “sorts with care” this story.

He gets one of Byrne’s hyperbolic storytelling references wrong, claiming Byrne used “Men in Black” to refer to the “senior federal law enforcement officials, who encouraged him to pursue a relationship with the Russian.” While Byrne has always said his reasons for using this term would become clear, they never are, but he does explain that the “Men in Black” are actually the line agents who — he’s sure — felt horrible about making the request for him to reengage Butina in July 2016.

I wish to emphasize this: the Men In Black are honorable men and women, and they were extremely discomfited by this request. There was no leering. They felt horrible. I think they wanted me to refuse it. They insisted that in their careers they heard never heard of such a request.

And Taibbi continues to struggle when he discusses counterintelligence.

Taibbi misuses the term “agent” (which in spying lingo is the person recruited, not the one doing the recruiting), while making a big show of not using it to refer to Butina, even though that’s the legal charge she pled guilty to. “(I’m not using the words ‘Russian agent’ because the term is misleading: Butina was not convicted of espionage).” He then calls the 18 USC 951 charge — with which Anna Chapman and Carter Page recruiter Victor Podobnyy were also charged with — a technicality.

However, the government never made an espionage case, charging her with an obscure technicality: acting as an unregistered foreign agent.

While we were discussing this on Twitter, Taibbi made a technicality argument Butina’s lawyers tried but failed to make during the prosecution, that this was just like a FARA violation.

Then Taibbi argues that the real scandal about this is that DOJ took ‘no real action … for nearly a year.”

Byrne’s claims would be explosive if true in the smallest part. For instance, the government asserted in Butina’s sentencing memorandum that her “actions had the potential to damage the national security of the United States.”

If Byrne told authorities about Butina in July, 2015, and no real action was taken for nearly a year, that would fly in the face of the government’s assertions at sentencing about the threat she posed.

Aside from how difficult counterintelligence investigations are and all the reporting that shows Obama didn’t respond aggressively enough to Russian efforts, Taibbi’s story explains what happened. And that’s that she tried to get close to a presidential candidate’s son, and all of a sudden her aggressive effort to get close to politicians began to look different, which is when FBI reportedly came back to Byrne and asked him to help gather more information.

Then there’s the documentary sources Taibbi relied on to carefully sort Byrne’s “hyperbolic storytelling:”

  1. The CNN and Fox coverage of Byrne
  2. An ABC report on the initial filing that suggested Butina was engaged in a utilitarian relationship with Paul Erickson that addresses both the claim the defense refuted and the one that the defense offered a far less convincing rebuttal of; it does not link the filing
  3. The CNN report saying that Robert Mueller interviewed Butina about JD Gordon
  4. Byrne’s father’s NYT obituary
  5. An SI report on Bison Dele’s murder
  6. A WSJ report on changes to short selling after 2008
  7. A link to the main FreedomFest site
  8. A Business Insider account of Trump’s speech at FreedomFest
  9. A link to the website for Butina’s gun rights organization
  10. A link to Rolling Stone’s coverage of Russia, generally
  11. A link to a subpage on CFR’s website
  12. A link to a NYT story that includes the picture of her posing with Don Jr
  13. A KY story of Butina’s NRA appearance from after she was arrested
  14. The government’s sentencing memo in Butina’s case
  15. A preview of Peter Strzok’s public congressional testimony that Taibbi claims also featured Lisa Page (Page testified privately in July 2018, but those transcripts were not released until March of this year, so if they changed Byrne’s mind about the investigation it raises interesting questions about who told him about her testimony)
  16. A report of a NYT report on the filing where prosecutors retracted one, but not the second, claim to substantiate Butina’s relationship with Paul Erickson was overblown (neither the report itself nor the NYT story link to the filing)
  17. A WaPo report on Judge Chutkan’s admonishment of prosecutors in a hearing where she nevertheless granted their motion to deny Butina bail; the story also described Chutkan criticizing Butina’s lawyers’ public characterizations about evidence
  18. A CO report on the offer to give Butina her own reality TV show
  19. A Newsweek report about a NYT story on Butina’s effort to get a jet fuel deal with an NRA official’s wife; Butina’s lawyer, Robert Driscoll, presumably has access to the emails the NYT story is based on, but appears not to have shared them with Taibbi
  20. A NYT Report on John Durham’s appointment to review how the Russian investigation (which Taibbi of course calls “Russiagate”) got opened
  21. A Market Watch report deeming Byrne’s story “one of his most bizarre statements yet”

21 links. That’s a lot! Except just one of them is to a filing from the case, and the three stories most critical to Taibbi’s points about Butina’s treatment by the press don’t link to court filings themselves, which takes some doing.

That’s utterly crucial, because Taibbi misunderstands how the question of Butina’s possible use of sex came up in the case (indeed, he miscites what the WaPo report on Chutkan said). It was not a document about her tradecraft. Rather, it was part of what prosecutors used to argue that her relationship with Paul Erickson was utilitarian and therefore she should be denied bail.

During the course of this investigation, the FBI has determined that Butina gained access through U.S. Person 1 to an extensive network of U.S. persons in positions to influence political activities in the United States. Butina, age 29, and U.S. Person 1, age 56, are believed to have cohabitated and been involved in a personal relationship during the course of Butina’s activities in the United States. But this relationship does not represent a strong tie to the United States because Butina appears to treat it as simply a necessary aspect of her activities. For example, on at least one occasion, Butina offered an individual other than U.S. Person 1 sex in exchange for a position within a special interest organization. Further, in papers seized by the FBI, Butina complained about living with U.S. Person 1 and expressed disdain for continuing to cohabitate with U.S. Person 1.

The second allegation in that paragraph — that she bitched to a friend about living with Erickson — was not credibly refuted by her lawyers. In the followup filing that Taibbi references in a link claiming that Chutkan “threw out the sex charge,” prosecutors note that,

Even granting that the government’s understanding of this particular text conversation was mistaken, other communications and materials in the government’s possession (and produced to the defense) call into doubt the defendant’s claim that her relationship with U.S. Person 1 is a sufficiently strong tie to ensure her appearance in court to face the charges against her if she is released.

Given Byrne’s claims to have told the FBI about his relationship with her before all this, the reference to her using sex and prosecutors’ suggestion it may have happened more than once appears to be parallel construction to hide something the FBI otherwise believed (that she had initiated a sexual relationship with someone Torshin sent her to meet at a time she was supposedly romantically committed to Erickson), but the source of which they were trying to keep secret.

Especially if Byrne described that sexual relationship to the FBI like he described it in his own account, by loading his description of how they first slept together with insinuations about how spectacular she is.

A gentleman does not normally say, but it would be ridiculous to omit, given how germane it is: when I arrived, Maria made immediately clear that she had not been pretending. She had indeed watched my videos, and thought I was pretty cool. She, the Greater Moscow Powerlifting Champion (amateur) swept me and my liberalism off my feet. I was helpless, helpless I say….

Well, not really. About the “helpless” part, anyway. The rest is true. And I will say this: Maria is a spectacular woman. An unforgettable woman. So as to avoid returning to the subject, I will state once that every tryst with Maria she astonished me with her intellect, character, and intentions for the world. Great props to Mother Russia, for producing such a daughter.

To keep Church Ladies from hammering me on message boards, and because it is relevant: For Maria’s part, she sounded like there were some big-shot Republicans in her life in America she was seeing, she was back and forth to Russia, nothing was too serious, etc. I didn’t really pry.

Taibbi’s story replicates such insinuation, quoting Byrne describing Butina as having “one in a million” drive and ability in the same sentence addressing the two becoming intimate.

Later, Butina and Byrne made an arrangement to meet in New York. “We became intimate,” he says. Byrne says Butina impressed him as a being “one in a million” in terms of her drive and ability.

If you’re trying to convince people a woman is not a trained Red Sparrow, separate your comments about how spectacular she is from your descriptions of how she seduced you. And if you describe her this way, don’t be surprised if the government then goes on to make similar insinuations in court documents.

In other words, it may well be that the government made this claim because of what they knew about the timing and specifics of Byrne’s sexual relationship with Butina.

Taibbi seems to believe that people didn’t take this story more seriously because journalists covering it had to address Byrne’s eccentricities, just like he had to. What he utterly misunderstands — perhaps because he relied on thirdhand reports of the investigation rather than the source documents — is that Byrne’s story makes Butina’s far more damning.

I don’t doubt the main thrust of Byrne’s claim, that he had a serial affair with Butina and after it had ended the FBI asked him to resume contact. I do, however, know (because I did cover the Butina prosecution) that his story that Butina told him Aleksandr Torshin sent her to seek out Byrne confirms parts of the allegations against Butina. And Byrne’s story completely undermines two claims Butina made as part of her defense: that she had no idea she needed to register as a foreign agent (he warned her she did) and that she was truly in love with Paul Erickson.

There may be real questions about what Byrne’s relationship was and why the government didn’t disclose it to Butina’s lawyers. But any story about those questions should — as I do here — mention that Driscoll didn’t do two things (ask in writing and ask the government’s witness at sentencing, who likely also knew about Byrne) to pursue those questions either. It suggests he suspected he might not like the answers he would get.

Plus, there’s the question about why, if Byrne changed from believing there was a 2/3 chance she was a spy in July 2018 when she got arrested and referred in terms that may reflect what he told the FBI to believing she wasn’t, he didn’t do something about it then.

But Byrne’s story actually makes the government allegations against Butina stronger, not weaker and none of Taibbi’s “careful sorting” of Byrne’s “hyperbolic storytelling” changes that.

68 replies
  1. Sam says:

    This whole episode is very strange. Anybody who has ever read a fact based spy novel knows what an “agent” is. I guess Matt doesn’t.

    I’d like to see a SEC investigation in trading of Overstock stock. Was Byrne giving Butina, her interlocutors, or anyone else inside info?

    When I saw Byrne’s first interviews, I was suspicious he was caught up in something that would reveal his own wrongdoings.

    Who knows

  2. orionATL says:

    this is very interesting and well documented. the more I read reports like this, the less I am inclined to give any credence to the view that butina was merely an enthusiastic young gun moll from russia trying to get some schooling in the u. s. of a. though I must admit I had been skeptical from the beginning. the problem with that is it was based solely on “intuition”. I did not have a scintilla of evidence in mind. just suspicion.

    so the story of butina just keeps on unwinding.

  3. drouse says:

    I really am not surprised that he would attempt this. He has been one of the most prominent voices on the left dead set on poo pooing the Russian ratfucking of 2016. Must be an affinity thing. Just because you party with someone doesn’t mean you can trust them.

  4. Yette says:

    I guess the disappointing part of the Butina espionage is that the most important aspect is lost in the sexual allegations. Butina worked her way into the NRA via a fake Russian group. From there, she began meeting with numerous Republican politicians through “prayer” breakfasts. The NRA then began receiving huge dark money donations. Moscow Mitch was infiltrated by the Russians through the NRA and willingly accepted their money. You won’t read that in Rolling Stone, Taibbi doesn’t cover the non-sex portion of the story.

    • emptywheel says:

      Good point.
      I’m actually just as interested that Torshin was interested in Byrne’s role on blockchain.

      • Rayne says:

        Everything about Overstock after Byrne acquired it screams opportunity if one is a transnational criminal.

        — Worldstock, its offering of goods directly from developing nations, may have been conceived with good intentions but it could be a smuggling and laundering opportunity (who buys $10,000 rugs online after all?);
        — Byrne’s obsessive concerns in the early 2000s about ‘naked short selling’ never appeared to have panned out (coming off more like SCO-Linux opportunistic vulture suits), but eventually led to his interest in a digital stock exchange and blockchain;
        — Byrne’s push for increased immigration driven by his need for more programming developers for blockchain is at odds with the NRA crowd;
        — Building venture capital firm Medici Ventures under Overstock as holding company is just plain weird, as is development of blockchain for real estate transactions under Medici.

        Everything about Byrne’s business just seems flighty and strange yet there hasn’t been solid comprehensive reporting on Byrne and everything under Overstock.

    • sand says:

      Speaking of “prayer” breakfasts, I watched the Netflix docuseries “The Family,” which reminded me of some of these disturbing connections.

      I thought the series did a nice job describing the organization (which says that it’s not an organization) behind the National Prayer Breakfast. (Note: The series has five episodes. The first has a bit of an odd format with a lot of dramatization of past events. The remaining four episodes were more of a standard documentary style, in my opinion.)

      The details of “The Family’s” involvement with Russia were particularly interesting. In addition, it’s disturbing to recall the prominent U.S. politicians that have been involved in this group that have had affairs that derailed their political careers when revealed. (e.g., Mark Sanford, who can apparently still consider a run for president, because if Trump can win, anyone can win.) Either way, it seems that there was plenty of motive and opportunity for significant leverage of our elected leaders by a foreign adversary. No news to the readers here.

      Bloomberg has a fairly concise summary of the Russians that attended the “prayer” breakfast with Butina and Torshin in 2017. [] It also appears that the Russians had the largest delegation at the breakfast in 2018. I did a very quick look to see if there was significant Russian presence at the 2019 breakfast, but I don’t see significant press coverage on that issue. It’s probably out there, but I have not researched further.

    • Desider says:

      For me one of the disappointments is just how plain looking she is. So much for Russian bombshells, of which there are an abundance. But why pull out a nuke – which would garner attention – when you can subvert the puerile juvenile GOP with a popgun.

        • bmaz says:

          Yes. Ugh.

          There is nothing wrong with her looks. And people are much more than how they look in a single photo.

        • Desider says:

          “…much better looking”? We’re talking Russian women here, the real life “Boris & Natasha” types, the ones who wear furs even in summer, legs from here to Sunday, nothing less than designer totes – penthouse suite, take me to Crimea, not avg streetwalkers. Even Nastya Rybka was a bit common by that standard, but she had a face that oligarchs would die for. The GOP has pretty awful taste when selling its soul – hard to make that movie plot work without a better actress, at least a Scarlett Johansson or such.

      • Tom says:

        Physical attractiveness is only skin deep. The women I’ve known over the years who still stick in my memory are the ones who had more enduring qualities such as intelligence, a sense of humour, ambition, creativity, independence, and a certain je-ne-sais-quoi.

        I’m also reminded of a bit of dialogue from the movie “The Professionals” where Lee Marvin observes that, “Certain women have a way of changing some boys into men. And some men back into boys.” I think that applies to Ms. Butina.

      • vicks says:

        I think they picked the perfect woman (and dyed her hair red)
        IMHO there is an approachability factor about her type of attractiveness (decent looks combined with a personality that pumps up the male ego) that made her work easier.
        I think a more attractive woman would have had a harder time controlling wanted vs unwanted attention.
        She was an agent after all.

      • orionATL says:

        all I will say is that reading this section from 12:52 on down made me feel really uneasy, like the time I made a smart-assed wisecrack to my sister, a very attractive woman, about the plain looks of a very well-known and respected female columnist we both admired and saw the look of hurt and irritation in her face. she never said a word; she didn’t have to.

        • Desider says:

          Yeah, because female columnists are the same as attractive Russian agents/komprobait. Really, why can’t we separate things into logical components anymore?

        • orionATL says:

          a very good point. you can. I can. everybody can. anytime. in fact, we all do?

          I realized that my comment would be considered prescriptive, might give offense, and might shut down conversation, but that’s the price for speaking. I’m just one opinion and no more right than any other.

          I think it is entirely likely that women talk similarly in each other’s presence, in fact I know it is the case from what I hear from my spy operating in the female-only world. so maybe for example:

          “I’d like that tall guy with the cute butt more if he didn’t have those googly eyes and that horrible Cyrano nose. what is he – French extra long?”


          “that little blond guy with the curly hair is really fun but his short legs and Hottentot butt is yuck lovely!”

          spoken in-company is the key, though to be sure a lot of both sexes take all this in stride and aren’t at all offended. the best of both worlds.

  5. Frank Probst says:

    Was a post on here recently deleted? I’m having memory issues at the moment (which I think is because I just switched from brand-name Lyrica to the new generic form), and I’m blanking on things I really should remember. (The biggest one is that my partner says a stray cat got into our house a week ago, which is something that I shouldn’t have forgotten. It’s kind of freaking me out right now.)

    • bmaz says:

      I don’t think so. You mean a front page post or a comment? Also, too, forgetting stuff is part and parcel of getting older and trying to process too much. And there is a LOT to process these days. It’s okay, and we all do it.

      • Frank Probst says:

        A front page post. I’m used to having difficulties with remembering when something happened, so I tend to write a log of date/time notes for myself. But I’m not used to not remembering things at all, which is what has me a bit unnerved. I’ll go back through the posts and see if I just didn’t see it when I looked this morning.

        • bmaz says:

          I don’t “think” that happened, but it is certainly possible. Every now and then one of us hits “publish” instead of “save draft” while working on a post and then pulls it back. To my knowledge not recently though.

    • Vicks says:

      Generics are not (exactly) the same.
      The active ingredient is supposed to be, but the fillers, coatings and extended release technology used by different drug companies can vary wildly.
      Depending on where in the body this drug is processed and absorbed, using a different coating, filler (or quantity of filler) can change the way SOME people absorb the drug and for SOME create a different effect than the original recipe.
      If you can’t get around using a generic, it may be worth a shot to check and see if other pharmacies in your area carry a different brand that you can try.
      Of course ask your doc first!

    • Eureka says:

      From experience (incl. b/w diff generics) I’d suspect the switch. As you know, variability in carriers, binders, and excipients can make all the difference.

      Adding: what Vicks said.

      • P J Evans says:

        Individual biochemistry is individual, and a generic may not be a good choice. (This is where you start swearing at insurance companies that require you to use the generic even if it doesn’t work the way the non-generic does.)

      • bmaz says:

        You and Vicks are both spot on. Fillers and binders. That affects how the key ingredient absorbs. Some generics are truly the same, some not so much. That goes all the way down to common aspirin by my experience.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Doesn’t help that testing is usually done against a placebo rather than a competing drug. In that context, the slightest improvement is cause for celebration rather than laughter.

        • bmaz says:

          I learned this the hard way long ago. In the late 70’s I spent summers working in Santa Monica. But, being young, stupid and living two blocks from the beach, my head sometimes hurt in the morning. Back at home, we always had Bayer aspirin, but in the shop there was this gigantic bottle of generic aspirin in the restroom. Seriously, I think there was like a thousand pills in it. I complained to my boss that they didn’t seem to work as well as real Bayer aspirin. He laughed hard and said, “Oh, they work just as well, you just have to take twice as many”.

        • Eureka says:

          This reminds me we have two bottles of acetaminophen (same kind/ lot), one open for way longer, and it works for shit. Air. Moisture. Bad. I guess.

        • P J Evans says:

          The primary-care guy we went to in the late sixties and the 70s said, about aspirin, that you should use the cheapest one that works for you. I think that also goes for other OTC pain-relievers. (My current guy is a DPharm as well as an MD, and his advice, with the various drugs I have to take, is no aspirin or ibuprofen.)

        • bmaz says:

          I know a lot of people do not, but I have always tolerated aspirin pretty well. And find it a lot more effective for me than the newer fangled pain relievers.

        • P J Evans says:

          Aspirin works for me, too, but the drug interactions apparently can cause problems. (I think it’s the SSRI that’s the problem. But I need that to stay reasonably functional.)

        • Frank Probst says:

          The biggest problem is that it inhibits platelet aggregation, which is great if you want to inhibit blood clots in arteries, but not so good if you’re also taking a drug like Coumadin or Eliquis, which inhibit the coagulation of blood and therefore keeps clots from forming in veins. Platelet aggregation and coagulation are the two “arms” required for blood clots to form. If you inhibit both “arms”, you can get some pretty nasty bleeding, but internally and externally.

      • Eureka says:

        Reply-all Vicks, PJ, bmaz:

        LOL Frank’s a bench geneticist so those are maybe the lesser of the fancies, but point being the experience transfers.

        With insurance issues, in some states you can force a brand name with something like a DAW/or brand-necessary script from the doc, though you will still often pay more. But as I had parens’d, there is variability even between different generics so that can get frustrating from pharmacy-to-pharmacy or even refill-to-refill depending on the pharmacy benefit managers involved vs. your own need/ physiology/ preferences.

        Agree, def. as simple as aspirin from store-brand to store-brand vs the different name brands. A big one I noticed long ago too is medicated creams– big differences between delivery vehicles.

        As I recall, the rule for generics trials was 85% shared *efficacy* (which can be defined pretty ~ unhelpfully if you’re reading the details) vs. brand; there might be sample size quibbles, too. A quick look at e.g. the generic drugs wiki doesn’t address these topics, tho, so can’t quickly verify. In any case, Caveat emptor!

        And OMG football is on and they *had* to humiliate poor Cody Parkey. And Meek Mill is a man traveling the world now…

        • Frank Probst says:

          So I found out about the generic because my insurance company sent me a letter saying that they would not pay for brand-name Lyrica anymore. My pharmacy didn’t even have the generic yet. I was expecting to have some changes in the efficacy of the drug and worsening of the side effects. Efficacy seems about the same. I can notice a slight difference, but it’s very mild. But gaps in memory like this are outside what I was expecting. The two people who said I was there when the cat got into the house now say I may have been upstairs at the time and that I didn’t come until down a few minutes later, which is how I remember it. Now I just need to find the “lost” post.

          (I’ve since seen the cat, but outside. It seems to have adopted my partner, who says this is the first cat that’s has ever been friendly toward him. He wants to keep it. I have to keep reminding him that both of us are allergic to cats. My allergy is a lot more severe than his, and the cat could pretty easily put me in the ER with breathing problems.)

        • Eureka says:

          Well hopefully those couple of maybe-blips were just that and that concern will pass. (FDA did just approve multiple – nine!- Lyrica first generics– whether more than one is yet available, and/ or available via one’s plan’s underlying PBM is another matter (though likely yes with that number of generics)– so maybe there will be other options for anyone who doesn’t get along with the first one out.)

          Aw, gosh, now I am torn for you all about this cat situation. To be admired by one’s first cat is huge, but is indeed outweighed by risk of death. Years ago a neighborhood-roving cat came to me like it was a *dog* (we all have our weaknesses), even rolling on its back with the take-me-in, I’m-really-a-dog antics. Spouse said No (reasons). So I have fond memories as opposed to cat hair on the counters and such.

        • orionATL says:

          Frank p. –

          I have a grade 4 cat and dog dander allergy (highest) on the Mayo clinic test scale.

          the pulmonologist’ s advice was to stay away, but I’ve lived with cats and dogs all my life and I ain’t stopping now. so i ignored the advice, given three years ago, and have not had any problems. further advice was that if you have an allergy program from pets, try loratidine in one of it’s brand forms (an anti-cholonergic med). I will use it for any allergy if needed, but the need has been rare and related to oak and pine pollen in spring.

          in would suggest you try petting and interacting with the cat (cat toys, especially those that swing and encourage leaping), before forming any strong anxiety. you may find it is amazingly enjoyable and relaxing.

          if you have a cat in the house, do not let it sleep in your bedroom. we used to until problems developed from high-powered drugs, but now it’s elsewhere in the house, Charlie.

          I never let any of my animals stay out at night, this is when they get hurt from fights, gun shots, and cars . if the basement (lower floor) won’t do, a garage or tool shed is fine with a cat. just buy a cat box and change the litter and things will work out just fine. go slow into your opportunity.

    • Frank Probst says:

      Found it. Thanks to all who commented. The main post was about Flynn, but the discussion in the comments also talked about Pence, who was just in Iceland–after he went to Ireland–where he was greeted with trolling and eye-rolling. I think I must have thought the main post was on Pence, which is why I missed it. The Icelanders’ reaction to Pence has been fun to watch. Rainbow flags and rainbow bracelets everywhere.

        • Frank Probst says:

          Lyrica definitely causes memory problems. I’m not taking any typical anticholinergics, but it honestly never occurred to me to run through my med list to see if anything causes typical anticholinergic side effects, which is a really good idea!

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Does the world need more rehabilitation of eccentric millionaire sons of millionaire fathers? The ones who think the world is theirs to remake in their own image? It is worth noting that the stock of Byrne’s company shot up 9% on news of his departure as CEO. Would that be true of Rolling Stone were Taibbi to leave and join John Solomon at Politico?

    Taibbi acknowledges that Byrne is hyperbolic and an unreliable witness. He uses him anyway because if any part of his story were true, it would be “explosive,” proving that Taibbi knows a thing or two about hyperbole. It suggests that Byrne is less a source than a hook on which Taibbi wants to hang another anti-“Russiagate” story.

    Granted, were it a crime to trade sex for power, the jails in America could never hold a tenth of all the inmates. The idea was considered, as it should have been, and rejected in Butina’s case. But Taibbi uses that to suggest the entire case against her was manufactured. The conclusion furthers his longstanding belief that Russian involvement in US politics is largely a fiction.

  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    When Boris Johnson’s brother quits the Cabinet because he cannot support family and the national interest at the same time, it is a stunning rejection of Johnson’s priorities and methods.

    Brexit, of course, is not just about the UK, or even that it remain a united kingdom. It impacts all of Europe, the US, and trade relations worldwide. That sort of chaos is a disaster capitalist’s wet dream, and would be highly sought after by Vlad the Impaler.

    • drouse says:

      It’s all about fracturing the alliances that constrain Russian ambitions.They played essentially the same role in Brexit that they did in the 2016 election. As well as support for far right parties in Italy, Hungary ect. Not the least is the wooing of Turkey and support of India in Kashmir.

      • orionATL says:

        right on! breaking up the EU. and nato alliances are what they are trying to do. retired u.s. secretary of defence james mattis is explicit about this in recent comments re his new book.

        it is astonishing to me that the entire brexit debate has occurred without any serious discussion of russian intervention, nigel farage, and aaron banks. it is no wonder that these far rightwingers and new pm Boris Johnson are pals with russian poddle Donald j. Trump.

        but there is another undiscussed systemic problem in British society that is behind some of the working class ordinary folks support leaving the european union, known by the vacuous but catchy acronym “brexit”. that problem is the cumulative disastrous effects on the british economy of the austerity introduced by pm Margaret thatcher decades ago. the analogue to this is similar distrous effects on the lower end of the economic scale here in the u.s. beginning with prez reagin, especially the failure to fairly regulate corporations, notably banks and oligopolys like Comcast and some other media companies.

        further and generally speaking, corporations give birth to billionaires. there has been a complete failure to regulate billionaires, those oft malevolent children of corporations. as a class, billionaires and many-multi millionaires are offshoots of corporations that have proved exceptionally damaging to the politics of a fair and decent Democratic society.

        finally, in the covert push to force Britain out of the European Union, little has been said about the influence of the enormous sums of money that Russian billionaires and mafioso have poored into the banking and investment community of Britain, especially London.

        incredibly, no British leader will allow a second referendum on leaving the e.u. despite the fact that a majority of Britain’s have wised up to the propaganda Nigel farage and pals fed them. this last is such a profoundly self-serving and disastrous result for Britain that every notable leader of most political parties should be banned for life from British politics. worsening poverty and social unrest, the break up of Britain, and war with Ireland are likely consequences of this most severe dereliction of duty!

        • P J Evans says:

          I know people in the UK who ha e been hurt by that “austerity” – they depend on NHS, and their politically-powerful nutjobs want to privatize (or at least severely cut) services like that.

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Rear Admiral Peter Brown, a subordinate of John Bolton at the NSC, with the title of Homeland Security “Adviser,” seems to have been chosen to fall on his sword.

    According to Kaitlan Collins, Brown “confirms” that Trump’s briefing on Sunday included the possibility that Dorian could inflict “tropical storm force winds in southeastern Alabama.” That still leaves room for maneuver: a tropical storm and a hurricane are not the same; was the mention of Alabama explicit or was it what Trump inferred from looking at the pictures.

    Funny how the White House reached into the NSC – controlled by a non-Senate confirmed presidential appointee – to find someone to make that confirmation. Apparently, no one was available at NOAA’s National Weather Service, or DHS’s FEMA.

    Being subject to military discipline, Rear Adm. Brown could either comply with a direct order from a superior in his chain of command or tender his resignation. The US will spend decades paying the price of Trump’s eggshell-thin ego.

    • Eureka says:

      Even the Fox/and Friends meteorologist was going in on him yesterday (her comments interaction is worth seeing, too: ), so this had nowhere to go but ante-up & all-in.

      Trump’s whole self-manufactured debacle, with NWS and their data as ‘enemy’, reminds of the risk– per longstanding GOP-and-donor plot, including the stalled Myers nomination to lead NOAA*– of AccuWeather taking over, via privatizing, the NWS’ public functions.

      *per wiki, we still have an “acting” there, too

      Links at:

      • P J Evans says:

        The problem with privatizing NWS is that it’s the main source for the data the private services use.
        (I’m sure those pushing for privatizing it aren’t mentioning that.)

        • Eureka says:

          Per Walt Shaub &c., they wanted to have private cos like AccuWeather be the ones to release NWS info to the public, instead of NWS doing so, privatizing those functions while we taxpayers foot the bill for secreted data collection, basically.

          NWS releasing the info ahead of or alongside the private companies, as they do now, steals their corporate thunder.

          I’m sure the public paying twice for one thing makes perfect sense to someone. LOL.

          ETA: though Trump’s sharpie-show might actually be great PR to *stop* this from happening, should they take up these ‘ideas’ again.

      • Eureka says:

        So they did eventually rustle up someone at NOAA. Whoever could have guessed that Trump would take it this far. Perhaps he shall be impeached, after all, by confidence intervals:

        Allan Smith: “NOAA releases a Friday evening, unattributed statement disavowing the NWS Birmingham tweet from Sunday saying Dorian wasn’t going to impact Alabama. [screenshot of statement]”

        Jamil Smith: “Things are worse. In an unsigned statement, @NOAA rebukes its own Weather Service scientists and sides with Trump’s Alabama lie. This is blatant and dangerous corruption. Who cares if folks don’t trust the forecast? As long as they believe Dear Leader. [links to WaPo here; this tweet is 2nd in thread. 1st links to his own Rolling Stone article]”

        Adding, from the “President of the NWS Employees Organization” per bio:

        Dan Sobien: “Let me assure you the hard working employees of the NWS had nothing to do with the utterly disgusting and disingenuous tweet sent out by NOAA management tonight #NOAA”

        • P J Evans says:

          I wish they could tranquilize him and put him in a locked room – with no twitter-enabled phone – for at least a week, just so the rest of the world can get some time to unwind.

        • Eureka says:

          Yep, even a shot of good old fashioned Vitamin H (old medical slang for Haldol, or more for the anticipatory relief of all in the presence of one needing same). The rest of us can enjoy it by proxy.

          Halciyon days are short, few and far between, in the Valley of the Dons.

  9. Eureka says:

    This isn’t a comment on our strange world, where youth who purloined their mothers’ copies of _Fear of Flying_ could never have imagined growing up to find the author (via her own daughter) on twitter, with said author having been cold-called with a tattle (the daughter, again!) by a candidate for President of the United States of America.


    This is a receipt showing that candidate Wmson knows *exactly* the outcome of both vote suppression (from haterade) and a Jill Stein (-like) run. May it remain filed away never to be used:

    Molly Jong-Fast: “So Marianne Williamson DMed my mom to complain about me and I have receipts.… ”

    In other news, Sister Helen Prejean is on another case, details at top of thread:

      • Eureka says:

        The language is/was so directly horrible that I didn’t want to put it here, so went with the Sister Helen reply.

        While we have arguably worse individual and societal harms from the indirect wink/nod/ OK sign varietals of prejudice, I am still shocked when overt bias or hatred runs as long as it does, if only because their failure to shut it down risks breaking the kayfabe on their whole operation.

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