Glenn Greenwald reports:  Anonymous Leaks to the WashPost About the CIA’s Russia Beliefs Are No Substitute for Evidence

There are many obvious reasons for skepticism about anonymous press leaks regarding Russia, but they are no match for partisan needs.

Source: Anonymous Leaks to the WashPost About the CIA’s Russia Beliefs Are No Substitute for Evidence

The Washington Post late Friday night published an explosive story that, in many ways, is classic American journalism of the worst sort: the key claims are based exclusively on the unverified assertions of anonymous officials, who in turn are disseminating their own claims about what the CIA purportedly believes, all based on evidence that remains completely secret.

These unnamed sources told the Post that “the CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system.” The anonymous officials also claim that “intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails” from both the DNC and John Podesta’s email account. Critically, none of the actual evidence for these claims is disclosed; indeed, the CIA’s “secret assessment” itself remains concealed.

A second leak from last night, this one given to the New York Times, cites other anonymous officials as asserting that “the Russians hacked the Republican National Committee’s computer systems in addition to their attacks on Democratic organizations, but did not release whatever information they gleaned from the Republican networks.” But that NYT story says that “it is also far from clear that Russia’s original intent was to support Mr. Trump, and many intelligence officials — and former officials in Mrs. Clinton’s campaign — believe that the primary motive of the Russians was to simply disrupt the campaign and undercut confidence in the integrity of the vote.”

Deep down in its article, the Post notes – rather critically – that “there were minor disagreements among intelligence officials about the agency’s assessment, in part because some questions remain unanswered.” Most importantly, the Post adds that “intelligence agencies do not have specific intelligence showing officials in the Kremlin ‘directing’ the identified individuals to pass the Democratic emails to WikiLeaks.” But the purpose of both anonymous leaks is to finger the Russian Government for these hacks, acting with the motive to defeat Hillary Clinton.

Needless to say, Democrats – still eager to make sense of their election loss and to find causes for it other than themselves – immediately declared these anonymous claims about what the CIA believes to be true, and, with a somewhat sweet, religious-type faith, treated these anonymous assertions as proof of what they wanted to believe all along: that Vladimir Putin was rooting for Donald Trump to win and Hillary Clinton to lose and used nefarious means to ensure that outcome. That Democrats are now venerating unverified, anonymous CIA leaks as sacred is par for the course for them this year, but it’s also a good indication of how confused and lost U.S. political culture has become in the wake of Trump’s victory.

Given the obvious significance of this story – it is certain to shape how people understand the 2016 election and probably foreign policy debates for months if not years to come – it is critical to keep in mind some basic facts about what is known and, more importantly, what is not known:


“Choice” Moments: Rebranding Trump | The Choice 2016 | FRONTLINE | PBS

After the collapse of his business empire in the 1990s, Donald Trump’s reputation was in need of repair. In 2004, he found the perfect comeback vehicle: “The Apprentice.”

Source: “Choice” Moments: Rebranding Trump | The Choice 2016 | FRONTLINE | PBS

For much of the 1980s, Donald Trump’s name had become a symbol for wealth and luxury. But after the collapse of his business empire in the 1990s, his reputation was in need of repair. In 2004, he found the perfect comeback vehicle: The Apprentice.

The Apprentice gave Donald Trump substance,” says Omarosa Manigault, a contestant on the first season of the show and currently head of African-American outreach for the Trump campaign, in the short film above. “It allowed him to tell his story on his own terms. He got to sell that image to America, and they bought it. They loved it.”

The show turned Trump into a reality television celebrity, and gave him the image makeover and ratings success that would help him become a political star.

“Rebranding Trump” was drawn from FRONTLINE’s reporting for The Choice 2016, filmmaker Michael Kirk and his team’s highly anticipated dual biography of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Since 1988, The Choice has brought viewers in-depth, interwoven biographies of the two major-party U.S. presidential candidates. The Choice 2016 premieres Tues., Sept. 27 at 9 p.m. EST/8 p.m. CST on PBS and online. Check your local PBS listings.

Meet Myron Ebell, the Climate Contrarian Leading Trump’s EPA Transition | Climate of Doubt | FRONTLINE | PBS

President-elect Donald Trump has turned to a leading contrarian of the scientific consensus on global warming to lead his EPA transition team.

Source: Meet Myron Ebell, the Climate Contrarian Leading Trump’s EPA Transition | Climate of Doubt | FRONTLINE | PBS

Myron Ebell, a leading contrarian of the scientific consensus on global warming, will lead Donald Trump’s transition team at the EPA.

President Barack Obama has called climate change a threat to national security and to future generations. As president, he championed the Paris climate agreement, which aims to tackle global warming by committing more than 190 nations to reducing heat-trapping emissions over the coming decades. In September, Obama warned that if “the current trend lines on a warming planet continue, it is certainly going to be enormously disruptive worldwide.”

But as Obama’s presidency draws to a close, the United States now looks to how Donald Trump will address the issue as president.

Trump has called climate change a hoax as recently as December 2015, and in March, he told the editorial board of The Washington Post, “I think there’s a change in weather,” but added, “I am not a great believer in man-made climate change.”

On the campaign trail, Trump signaled a radical shift from Obama’s policies, vowing to end America’s participation in the Paris agreement and dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency.

As Trump now begins the process of staffing his administration, his pick to head the transition team at the EPA, Myron Ebell, offers more insight into the future of U.S. climate policy.

Ebell, a leading contrarian of the scientific consensus on global warming, leads environmental and energy policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian advocacy group financed in part by the fossil fuel industry. Ebell also helps chair the Cooler Heads Coalition, a group which describes its mission as “dispelling the myths of global warming.” He’s been described as “enemy #1” to the climate change community, and his own bio highlights how he has been named a “climate criminal” by Greenpeace.

Ebell has been instrumental in crafting a national strategy challenging research showing that global warming is both man-made and real. The action plan, drawn up in 1998, said victory would be achieved when the public recognized “uncertainties in climate science.” As head of the EPA transition, Ebell will play a leading role in choosing personnel and shaping the future of government agencies that deal with environmental and climate policy.

When FRONTLINE spoke with Ebell for the 2012 documentary Climate of Doubt, his strategy had already helped propel a shift in the political debate around climate change, contributing to the collapse of cap-and-trade legislation in Congress in 2009.

“There are holdouts among the urban bicoastal elite,” Ebell told FRONTLINE, “but I think we’ve won the debate with the American people in the heartland, the people who get their hands dirty, people who dig stuff up, grow stuff and make stuff for a living, people who have a closer relationship to tangible reality, to stuff.” He added, “We need to keep banging away on the science.”

“What we’re fighting is the expansion of government,” Ebell tells FRONTLINE in the below scene from Climate of Doubt, and climate change policy, he says, is just one of “many pretexts for expanding government.”


Why Trump’s Commerce Nominee Says Regulation Wouldn’t Have Stopped the Housing Crisis | Election 2016 | FRONTLINE | PBS

As Wilbur Ross told FRONTLINE in a 2011 interview, lack of regulation wasn’t to blame for the financial crisis, but rather “an abject failure of supervision.”

Source: Why Trump’s Commerce Nominee Says Regulation Wouldn’t Have Stopped the Housing Crisis | Election 2016 | FRONTLINE | PBS

President-elect Donald Trump has tapped billionaire investor Wilbur Ross to serve as Commerce Secretary. (AP Photo / Peter Foley File)

President-elect Donald Trump has picked billionaire investor Wilbur Ross to lead the Commerce Department. If confirmed by Congress, Ross will be responsible for implementing Trump’s promises to toughen U.S. trade policies and promote economic growth.

Ross, who made his fortune by buying distressed businesses and turning them around for profit, is known as “the king of bankruptcy.” He is the chairman and CEO of the private equity firm WL Ross & Co., and has an estimated net worth of $2.5 billion, according to Forbes.

Ross got to know Trump in 1990 when he helped the real-estate mogul avoid financial collapse. As FRONTLINE reported in The Choice 2016, Trump borrowed heavily to help finance the Taj Mahal Casino — he’d spend more than $1 billion on the Taj. The 1,250 room hotel with $14 million worth of chandeliers was meant to be the crown jewel of his growing real estate empire. But the Taj Mahal failed to turn a profit. Trump and his companies owed $3 billion to its lenders.

Ross, who at the time worked at Rothschild & Co., represented bondholders who helped finance the Taj Mahal. He met with Trump and struck a deal to take over part of his failing business.

“We could have foreclosed [on the Trump Taj Mahal], and he would have been gone,” Ross said in an interview with The New York Post earlier this year.

Ross can now be counted among Trump’s inner-circle. On the campaign trail, he served as Trump’s chief economic advisor on trade. He denounced key trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement for “draining jobs and wealth from America,” writing in September that Trump would end “the undeclared trade war now being waged on American workers by cheaters like China.”

As is common in the high-stakes world of private equity, some of Ross’ acquisitions made him a fortune, while others brought controversy and second-guessing. He drew praise for buying struggling steel mills owned by companies in Ohio and Pennsylvania and selling them to Mittal Steel, the world’s largest steel and mining company, for a $2.5 billion profit in 2004. The year after the sale, Ross faced criticism when 12 miners died in an explosion just weeks after he invested in Sago Mine in West Virginia.

In 2008, as the global financial crisis loomed, Ross began putting together a list of small, struggling banks that he could invest in. Over the next few years, he poured more than $1.8 million in failing banks, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

The spending spree would lead some to call Ross a “vulture investor,” but when he sat down with FRONTLINE producer Martin Smith in 2011 for the documentary Money, Power & Wall Street, he described his work differently.


From VAMboozled! blog:   Miami-Dade, Florida’s Recent “Symbolic” and “Artificial” Teacher Evaluation Moves 

Last spring, Eduardo Porter – writer of the Economic Scene column for The New York Times – wrote an excellent article, from an economics perspective, about that which is happening with our current obsession in educational policy with “Grading Teachers by the Test” (see also my prior post about this article here; although you should give the article a full read; it’s well worth it). In short, though, Porter wrote about what economist’s often refer to as Goodhart’s Law, which states that “when a measure becomes the target, it can no longer be used as the measure.” This occurs given the great (e.g., high-stakes) value (mis)placed on any measure, and the distortion (i.e., in terms of artificial inflation or deflation, depending on the desired direction of the measure) that often-to-always comes about as a result.

Well, it’s happened again, this time in Miami-Dade, Florida, where the Miami-Dade district’s teachers are saying its now “getting harder to get a good evaluation” (see the full article here). Apparently, teachers evaluation scores, from last to this year, are being “dragged down,” primarily given teachers’ students’ performances on tests (as well as tests of subject areas that and students whom they do not teach).

“In the weeks after teacher evaluations for the 2015-16 school year were distributed, Miami-Dade teachers flooded social media with questions and complaints. Teachers reported similar stories of being evaluated based on test scores in subjects they don’t teach and not being able to get a clear explanation from school administrators. In dozens of Facebook posts, they described feeling confused, frustrated and worried. Teachers risk losing their jobs if they get a series of low evaluations, and some stand to gain pay raises and a bonus of up to $10,000 if they get top marks.”

As per the figure also included in this article, see the illustration of how this is occurring below; that is, how it is becoming more difficult for teachers to get “good” overall evaluation scores but also, and more importantly, how it is becoming more common for districts to simply set different cut scores to artificially increase teachers’ overall evaluation scores.

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“Miami-Dade say the problems with the evaluation system have been exacerbated this year as the number of points needed to get the “highly effective” and “effective” ratings has continued to increase. While it took 85 points on a scale of 100 to be rated a highly effective teacher for the 2011-12 school year, for example, it now takes 90.4.”

This, as mentioned prior, is something called “artificial deflation,” whereas the quality of teaching is likely not changing nearly to the extent the data might illustrate it is. Rather, what is happening behind the scenes (e.g., the manipulation of cut scores) is giving the impression that indeed the overall teacher system is in fact becoming better, more rigorous, aligning with policymakers’ “higher standards,” etc).

This is something in the educational policy arena that we also call “symbolic policies,” whereas nothing really instrumental or material is happening, and everything else is a facade, concealing a less pleasant or creditable reality that nothing, in fact, has changed.

Citation: Gurney, K. (2016). Teachers say it’s getting harder to get a good evaluation. The school district disagrees. The Miami Herald. Retrieved from

Reagan Administration “Cavalierly” Leaked NSA Signals Intelligence — Apparently Without Informing the Agency

An NSA analyst who wrote an intelligence report on Poland selling helicopters to Nicaragua recounts how the information was leaked by the Reagan administration.

Source: Reagan Administration “Cavalierly” Leaked NSA Signals Intelligence — Apparently Without Informing the Agency

Additional exclusive disclosures on The Intercept this week came from a batch of 262 articles from the NSA’s internal news site, SIDtoday. One document revealed that the Reagan administration leaked classified signals intelligence to the Washington Post for political purposes. Others showed that the NSA had amassed 85 billion call records but lacked enough linguists and network analysts to effectively process the data it was interdicting.

Read more here:

Phone-Cracking Cellebrite Software Used to Prosecute Tortured Dissident

Like any good, vaguely sinister corporate spy outfitter, the company deflects questions about whether it would sell its infamously powerful phone-breaching software to a repressive, rights-violating regime.

Source: Phone-Cracking Cellebrite Software Used to Prosecute Tortured Dissident

Phone-cracking company Cellebrite does not like to talk about its clients; it would prefer people think its hacking software is used to rescue abducted kids or fight terrorism. But The Intercept’s Sam Biddle hunted down one user: the repressive regime of Bahrain. As Biddle wrote in a story reported with help from a human rights group, Bahraini authorities tortured political activist Abdali al-Singace, then prosecuted him using evidence obtained via Cellebrite software. This revelation came barely a month after a Cellebrite executive told The Intercept, “We have a strong ethics backbone, a clear-use case for our capabilities, and dramatically less potential for abuse should ‘evil customers’ attempt to deceive us.”

Read more here: Newsletter: The election is over, but donations continue as challengers who bested incumbents reaped $70,000 post-election funds

Company PACs and even individuals are still writing checks to candidates’ campaign committees, even though the campaigns they’re funding are done.

Source: Challengers who bested incumbents reaped $70,000 in post-election funds Newsletter:

The election is over, but the donations continue

The 2016 election is over. Ballots have been cast, and (most) federal candidates know the outcome of their hard-fought races.

Yet company PACs and even individuals are still writing checks to candidates’ campaign committees, even though the campaigns they’re funding are done.

“Giving after the election clearly shows the donation is not given to support the election of a specific candidate based on shared ideology or to see robust democracy, but to endear themselves to the particular candidate,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist at Public Citizen.

Running a federal campaign is an expensive business, to say the least. Candidates can end the political season hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of dollars in debt.

Read the full article here!


Pipelines of funds support allies of Dakota Access project

When the Army Corp of Engineers announced Sunday it would block construction of an essential part of the Dakota Access Pipeline Project and study alternative routes, thousands of protestors at the site — members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, environmentalists, veterans and others — joined hands in jubilation.

Concern about potential damage to the tribe’s sacred lands and leaks that could poison the water supply led to the outcry; a semi-permanent encampment of RVs, teepees and tents sprang up in recent months as the ranks of the objectors grew.

… read more.

State casts ballots Saturday

Under the Bayou State’s unique system, all 24 Senate candidatesappeared on the Nov. 8 general election ballot. None received a majority, so on Saturday the top two vote-getters will face off: Republican John Kennedy, the state’s treasurer since 2000, and Democrat Foster Campbell, a Louisiana public service commissioner.

Though the seat will not determine control of the upper chamber of Congress, the runoff election presents Democrats with the opportunity to grow their ranks to 49, which might prove crucial in contentious legislative or confirmation battles.

read more.

Female candidates poorly funded by PACs, donors, and major parties

Representation2020, Common Cause and the Center for Responsive Politics have released a new report revealing the systemic disparity in funding for female candidates by PACs, individual donors and major parties. Women are underfunded to run for open seats despite that they are more likely to win open seat races than those in which they challenge an incumbent. In addition, Republican women are likely to face additional barriers and increased opposition funding.

Despite high-profile wins in several states, women continue to occupy fewer than 20% of the 535 seats in Congress.

 … read more.