rashbre central: August 2018

Wednesday 29 August 2018

fixing an epson printer with vodka

I'm not recommending this, but it did get me out of a jam. Some years ago I donated a broken Epson printer to the local tip. The device didn't print although everything else seemed to work.

The salutary point was that someone at the tip asked if they could have the plastic crate that the printer was in, but the actual printer ended up in a skip with the broken lawnmowers.

This time, away from rashbre central, I thought I'd try something different. I read that print heads can get clogged if the printer isn't used enough. Even the cleaning cycle won't fix it. There's various kits with syringes and special paper to fix it for about £15. I didn't have time for this, because I needed something printed "Right Now".

Time for the J-Cloth and vodka.

I started the printer cleaning cycle and then powered the whole printer off when the big print head was in the middle. It can be pushed by hand at that point. I cut some J-Cloth into a strip, folded it double and put it under the print head (ie where the paper would normally sit).

Then another piece of J-Cloth onto which I dabbed a small amount of vodka. Transfer the vodka to the J-cloth strip in the printer, move the head backwards and forwards. Like I was 'ironing' the J-Cloth with the print head. Lots of colourful smudges transferred to the J-cloth. Alcohol was breaking down the blocked ink.

Remove everything, reset the printer, run the printer cleaning cycle once and then...

Hooray. It all worked like new again.


Tuesday 28 August 2018

prioritising prior pieces at the prior priory

As well as reading a book for discussion, I've also joined another creative writing group. I used to belong to one which met every couple of weeks to review a small piece of a text and to write something short triggered from it. We'd all review one another's creations, in a positive way.

That group folded, but the new one I've joined seems like a good alternative. So far we've had an on-the-spot writing session and separately a session to review excerpts from each others' writing. It's also a great way to see some interesting pieces of the local scene.

This time we met in the beamed roof of an ex-refectory from a Benedictine priory. It was originally established at the behest of William the Conqueror around 1070 and had rebuilds during the 450 years the monks occupied it. Then in 1536, King Henry VIII brought about dissolution of priories and the old monastic church and cloisters were pulled down. The imposing hall remained and around 1650, the original tall refectory space was divided to make three floors of chambers.

We were now on the top floor for our review session. Most folk had written something new, highly varied and all well-written. I decided to take a piece from one of my unfinished NaNoWriMo sessions, which I'd produced around three years ago. It wasn't so much laziness as just not knowing what to expect until I'd been to one of these sessions.

We all received suggestions for changes and improvements, and I found the whole process most interesting. Not only feedback on my own work, but also the ideas applied to the writing of others. It's re-fired my enthusiasm for further writing as well as a chance to review and tidy some of my prior efforts.

But here's the thing. The tuning efforts seem to take much longer than the original writing. At least the writing conducted as part of the NaNoWriMo thing. That's when I have attempted to write 1,666 words per day/50,000 words total in the month of November. The doctrine of NaNoWriMo is to keep going. Can't think of anything to write? Add some weather/scenery/throw in a McGuffin.

For the revisions it's very different. And that's the piece I'm working through at the moment.

Monday 27 August 2018

bugs from outer space

The next book to discuss in our pub-based book club is an oldie. The Andromeda Strain by Micheal Crichton, the writer of Jurassic Park. Now I hadn't read any Crichton for years and recollect thinking that his novels were somehow similar to one another. I mainly remember them as something I'd be reading standing on rush hour Central Line. Not too taxing and easy to restart. His other books include Congo - monsters in the jungle. Jurassic Park - monsters on an island. Prey - mini monsters in the desert.

But that's a but unfair. After our last pub group book (Dave, by Will Self), this one was a much easier page turner.

The Andromeda Strain is one of Crichton's earliest works about a nasty bug that comes back inside a space capsule. Although the plot is mini monsters in the desert, there's some interesting bits of science included, particularly considering the book dates from about 1969.

The book is not available on Kindle, and doesn't seem to be in publication anywhere. I managed to get an American copy via eBay, but I'm wondering if there's about to be a bumper anthology version issued for Christmas, or something?

It's quite interesting to see an author developing his style in this type of book. He has the various players make a variety of mistakes, but to help the reader, they are all quite heavily signposted as the story runs along. Kind of "Don't take the mysterious capsule back into town...Don't try to open it...Don't forget to wire up the security buttons in all of the secret underground rooms" and so on.

I enjoyed it as a read for our upcoming discussion, and my copy of the book is interesting of itself. Its pages are cut right to the very edge of the text and in my copy there were a couple of squished items.

I couldn't help thinking that maybe the andromeda strain was lurking in these old library books, waiting to be released.

Saturday 25 August 2018

time to find a guide to the labyrinth?

Cell XIV (Portrait) - Louise Bourgeois
Everyone knows 'follow the money'. It's a frequent plot in TV cop series, especially ones with corruption in their story.

There's the related point about knowing who suffers from an action but going on to discover who profits.

So adding the money man long-term Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg to the list of Mueller investigation inputs is an interesting move. Weisselberg is said to have been given some immunity, but presumably only his interactions with Cohen. That's both Trumps long term lawyer and financial officer now being offered deals by prosecutors.

Cohen provided that tape saying how he'd used Weisselberg's advice about how to clean and insulate payments to the two women. It begs a question about how just how hypothetical Weisselberg's knowledge was?

In many TV-show stories of this type, a direct threat to the main man may be too difficult. They'll insteadgo for other family members. Maybe that could put a few interesting other people under a prosecution spotlight?

Weisselberg's history with Trump is continuous from the 1970s when he first worked for Fred Trump. Most recently he has has been handling the family business through the Trump Old Post Office LLC Trust, which has put Weisselberg and Donald Trump Jnr as the only two trustees of a mechanism to keep Trump away from his businesses whilst in office.

Famously the trust was also modified a few days after its press release. Eric Trump was removed as a trustee and a new piece was added which gave Donald Trump the right to take money from the trust at any time.

Labyrinthine situation? Hardly describes it.

Friday 24 August 2018

long scream

The screams of last century's politician Screaming Lord Sutch might not be long enough for what is happening at the moment. I've had a quick look through some of those 'no deal' papers. They seem high level and puffed with pre-ambles before getting to their main points.

A few quick examples:
  • For farming and farm loans, the UK Government will unilaterally continue to pay loans started under EU conditions through to 2022. This 'kick the ball further away' is the response to a number of issues but soon gets expensive.
  • For banking services, the UK will keep EEA Passporting for EU firms through to 2020. That's all well and good but it is only in one direction. The EU doesn't offer any reciprocity, which means that many financial institutions based in London with major EU business could run into difficulties.
  • Similarly, the loss of the Financial Market Infrastructure means that many EU-wide guarantees on financial matters are no longer valid to UK.
  • At a consumer level, for plastic card transactions, all the no-surcharge agreements end. Same for phones and anything else. Happy holidays.
  • For trade, there's complicated revised rules. A short extract: For movements of excise goods, the Excise Movement Control System (EMCS) would no longer be used to control suspended movements between the EU and the UK. However, EMCS would continue to be used to control the movement of duty suspended excise goods within the UK, including movements to and from UK ports, airports and the Channel tunnel. This will mean that immediately on Importation to the UK, businesses moving excise goods within the EU, including in duty suspension, will have to place those goods into UK excise duty suspension, otherwise duty will become payable. Simple.
Of course, this is the 'no deal' situation although many vox-pop won't really care about any of it except the cost of European selfie-phone usage. But no deal also highlights the un-agreed points of the so-called 'deal'. The politicians are masking everything. It's like looking at that famous screaming Munch picture from the perspective of the two other people on the bridge.

Crackpot politicians swagger with 'wish of the people' intent, hiding the reality of the original lies and the now looming consequences. After 18 months asleep at the wheel, the driver was eventually fired in the certainty of no time left to fix anything.
Even with 7000 civil servants already working on exit, the Treasury has now approved another 9000 more.

It seems to be a case of more people to pedal faster.

That classic disasterous project delivery problem.

I sometimes ride a bicycle turbo session called the long scream. It's designed to be intensive, although it has distractions built in. I'm wondering if distractions are what we're getting now as the finest outputs of our collective government and its supporting machinery are presented?

Thursday 23 August 2018

red walls and carpet?

Oops. That so-called president must be an unlucky fellow. Not since Tony Soprano can one person have been so surrounded by people under criminal suspicion or prosecution. Maybe he just doesn't ask the right questions?

But then again, Trump and his multifarious corporations have been involved in over 3,500 legal suits. Trump or one of his companies were plaintiffs in 1,900; defendants in 1,450; and bankruptcy, third party, or other in 150.

Maybe he's used to a certain undercurrent running through his daily life? A whole slew of his one-time friends and associates seem to have had a hard time.

There's that lower profile Rick Gates who kind of started the ball rolling. Last February he was found guilty of conspiring against the United States. Another 23 counts of tax fraud were dismissed without prejudice possibly because Mr Gates helped on other matters. He testified that he and Paul Manafort effected elaborate offshore tax-evasion and bank fraud schemes using offshore shell companies and bank accounts in Cyprus, St. Vincent and the UK to funnel millions of dollars from their political consulting work in Ukraine.

Then there's the usually ten thousand dollar suited Paul Manafort. He's just been found guilty of a bunch of financial crimes, although 10 of 18 charges were closed as a mistrial with one juror opposing the conviction. Manafort still has another set of charges, to which he pleads not guilty.

These 7 counts are: conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading FARA statements, false statements, obstruction of justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Luckily his buddy Trump has said he'll look into ways to getting Manafort off the hook and to somehow pardon the 80 years or so of potential sentence.

The very same day as Manafort's sentence, we get Michael Cohen's guilty plea to eight charges: five counts of tax evasion, one count of making false statements to a financial institution, one count of willfully causing an unlawful corporate contribution, and one count of making an excessive campaign contribution at the request of a candidate or campaign.

Now there is a 28 page plea deal, although I suspect there may be further supplements over the next few days.

It is also interesting to see that Cohen is able to walk around on bail, a mere $500k, compared against his undeclared income in the document of around $4 million.

The document is also somehow reminiscent of the tawdry mechanics of some of those mob movies.

One of the counts is from profiteering on proceeds from a Birkin handbag. Unrelated, but cheery Jane Birkin herself had reason to cry 'Non' when there were questions of cruelty to the crocodile swamp dwellers in the name of her bag.

Back to Cohen. Other Soprano-like counts involve laundering money via Chicago taxi operators. Then there's the two women paid off (Woman-1 and Woman-2) and the implicated other person the so-called Individual-1. Maybe Magazine-1 will be able to shed further light?

It makes that simple George Papadopoulos conviction for lying about working with the Russians seem almost clear cut.

And that Micheal Flynn prosecution too. It seems to be about interfering in US/Russian sanctions.

The specific inferences around paying off women for silence seem to be at the hub of current developments and although they can be built up, they are comparatively slender charges compared with (for example) Russian electoral interference, money laundering and clandestine tax avoidance. There's already technicalities being used to try to demean the current accusations.

The Trumpers appear to be getting increasingly desperate to put a stop to all of this. Surely, just because a number of his personally selected advisors have been a bit swampy doesn't mean they all are?

With those mid-terms looming they'll apply pressure to try to shut all of this down. Guiliani is already making moves. And I suppose someone would profit from everything else staying under the increasingly red stained White House carpet?

Monday 20 August 2018

after all this time I still wasn't ready for player one

I've eventually got around to watching Ready Player One. It's taken me three attempts, mainly because each time I started watching it I decide I didn't really want to go any further.

Slight spoiler paragraph: Man invents game. Everyone plays it because real life is inexplicably dystopian and horrible. Man dies leaving his avatar to tell that there's three keys hidden in the game and whoever can find them can take control of everything. Quest. A bad corporation wants the keys. Act 2 jeopardy. Act 3 swaggering resolution.

Nearly the whole film is CGI and every corner of the 4k HD screen is filled with detail. All of the time. Minimal f1.8 bokeh cinematography. If they've drawn it you can see it.

Even the posters are complicated.

It's pretty full-on. Compare it with other popular sci-fi greats.

These others each carry an idea from their movie, but don't try to put the entire plot onto the poster. Admittedly that fourth one for Star Wars one is a curio from an early VHS version, later changed for the box sets.

Probably if I was more into gaming culture, I might like the freneticism of the story telling. Twitch-reflex 360 degree POV. The opening shows that to good effect, with shots of our hero in the stacked containers of the real world. Curiously, the sequence reminded me of Zemeckis establishing Back to the Future's worlds.

That's before our hero clips on VR-shades and flips into the OASIS, a sort of champagne supernova of gaming environments, deemed preferable for pretty much anyone living in Stacks.

There's references to other movies/games sprinkled all through this one. There's dozens, which is because of the pulling power of Speilberg and his studio's backing to do just about what they like. Often the references are simply in the graphic backgrounds. As an example:

It's an exposition scene back at the workshop, just a after gimmick where they put the 'Valley Forge' from Silent Running back into a toolbox. Look closely in the background: There's the pod from 2001. But wait: There's (to me) the iconic Swordfish II from Cowboy Bebop, a series that has featured in rashbre central several times. Come to think of it, there's also the Battlestar Galactica Viper. It reminds me of the (sigh-no longer available) backlot tour in MGM.

Apparently there's no deliberately Spielberg film references included, and surprisingly little direct Bladerunner, which might be a copyright thing. However, like that crucial scene in Bladerunner when Deckard's eyes reflect the same orange-white light as the Replicants, there's an equivalent piece of double dealing in this movie.

I know I wasn't the target audience for this movie, but I might well be for another one, due in November.

It also deals with virtual worlds, this time the whole of the internet and I have a feeling the effect will be altogether more joyful.

Sunday 19 August 2018

lunch break for some, an epic swim for others

Sunday lunch, watching the world go by.

We decided to go to one of the local pubs on the river. Usually, subject to tides, it's morning when the boats go out and early evening when the boats come back.
Today was a little different. There was a solid line of (I estimate) more than a hundred swimmers doing the crossing from beside one pub to land on the other bank beside another pub.

Not direct across to the other bank. Instead it's an epic crossing. I've only made that route by boat and the long way around by bicycle.

Saturday 18 August 2018

back to the metal

There's been two media type protests this week. The one led by Boston Globe about press freedom in the wake of so-called fake news and the one about unsavoury inhabitants of the twitterverse.

It's that dilemma around 'eternal vigilance is the price of liberty' and other similar quotes. Come up with something good and it won't be long before subverters arrive. The classic novel plot line. Someone has something good and so someone else sets out to steal or control it.

That's why I'm wary of the whatever next best thing is that's just turned up. Replacements for services which have been compromised through bad users, over-monetisation, loss of privacy, scams.

There's loads of new or newish offers: Protonmail. Mastodon. Duckduckgo. Pleroma. Wire. Syncthing. KeePass. I2P. They hit edge-stream after about 12-18 months. The latest moves include the data gathering clothes - now available via Tommy Hilfiger.

Some of these services like ghostbin are already being naughtily exploited. Ghostbin posts password cracks. These systems frequently run on open systems and have open source coding with different cost models in order to exist.

So for these new things, who is the owner? What are they really doing with private data? How do they handle passwords? Are they hooking into any other services? Like some of the early cryptocurrencies that stole PC cycles, it is hard to tell.

I've never really got into Facebook, but manage a couple of personal accounts. One in my real name which is designed like a set of railway buffers. Nothing to see folks, move along.

The other for my browsing and with occasional bursts of activity if publicising something. I added one of those robot scripts, which suppresses some of the traffic.

Now I have to decide whether to do anything about other social media systems.

I use them but have to go along with the deal. Get something for free and there'll be a monetisation process somewhere in the background. How else do we get all of these systems without buying subscriptions?

Take advert suppressors. I use them on my browsers and phone. I pay for the services, but clearly it's not enough. The monetisation has reached further. Now the big gun sites can detect my advert suppressor and refuse to serve me pages unless I disable it. Who sold them that service? Why the advert suppressors of course. It's not a crime, but it's certainly organised.

Along the years several solutions have quietly disappeared, if not completely, at least in terms of their influence. Myspace. Haloscan. Compuserve. AOL. They may still be around but many folk won't even have heard of them. Then there's the early sharing systems. The Well. Tools like Archie, Gopher, Veronica, Jughead, WAIS. The use of Usenets - like a twitter before twitter. Digital Spy's best bits are probably still in its forums.

I can remember installing TCP/IP stacks into Windows before Microsoft decided that the Internet was probably better than Blackbird. Then came Winsocks and after a few years it was built-in and didn't need to be reconfigured every time Windows was updated. Of course, the idea was to make it all consumer friendly. Apple understood this need before Microsoft. Microsoft crashed the pricing models so that erstwhile expensive software became end-user affordable. Apple made the Macintosh 'for the rest of us'.

In other words for the people that didn't want to spend time editing the Registry and re-installing device drivers. I've done both. Many times. And all of that is all still there right up to Windows 10, although not for the faint-hearted.

And then, I've always been wary of the demographic tuning that the search systems use. Google has my entire search history back to when I first ran into them at the old Mountain View SGI headquarters in the early 2000s. Used Google? It'll remember. Same with Amazon. I'm now in the category where there's a diarised rotation of 'recommendations' based upon what I bought on each different day of the year.

So now, as I tinker with the latest replacement tools, I can't help thinking how they are are reminiscent of a step backward. Distributed. Whose version am I running? What are their policies? It all sounds friendly, but if I'm on a small server somewhere, what happens when it gets overloaded? Who will buy them out?

At its simplest, what's the entry cost and how do I know whether the person is good?

Experimentally, I decided to take a look at the mechanics of setting up my own Mastodon server. What's the smallest device I could use to run it?

Maybe a Raspberry Pi? I found one in the garage. Use the NOOBS install to get the Pi running. Then install Ruby, Rails and PostgreSQL.

Okay - It took me an hour to get that far but then I realised that the Pi 2 would need a much bigger swapfile to work with something like Mastodon. I've abandoned the project (for now) although I can see how this could be done. I expect someone else has found a way to get the Debian image to clone a Mastodon repository, create a SQL database and fire up nginx. When that happens expect to see more instances of mastodon appearing in a low entry cost and unregulated way.

But there's the rub. Some of this newer stuff is still quite primitive. Two years in and there's equivalences of registry editing and sub-optimal usage characteristics.

I'm sure this will pick up pace, but I'm not sure that it is yet 'for the rest of us'. For the people that don't want to dive into tekkieland.

So I'll have to hedge. I'll continue to carefully use the current places but dip a toe into the flow of these other technologies. They may evolve quickly, but I feel the need for a new caution.

Update: (1) My selected mastodon open source server isn't returning pages. (2) The administrator has overridden a mute that I set up. (3) Potentially tricksy and somewhat dubious 'name squatting' discussions are already underway.

Friday 17 August 2018

there in a cockatrice?

Another nearby pub that I hadn't previously visited. One of those deceptive ones, with a small entrance through an archway and then a long building on both sides of a narrow paved area.

The bar area somehow reminded me of a galleon. Narrow corridors with wooden sides. Angles and hidden areas. Not surprising as the original structure dates from around 1420.

A one-time deadly well once took part of the site and around in 1649 there were rumours that a cockatrice lived at the bottom.

By 1832 the area was beset with cholera, and a few years later the pub was in cash-for-votes corrupt elections.

I had to find our group, who said they were in a back room. I hunted around and despite getting to know the layout of both sides of the paving, I eventually had to admit defeat.

A quick phone call later and I discovered that the back room was actually outdoors in a twinkly corner of the garden.

Thursday 16 August 2018

field notes around #topsham

The combine harvester paid another visit to the field opposite. A seriously high-tech device - the CLAAS Lexion 770.

It has tracks at the front which somehow provide stability from a narrow platform, considering the width of the spinning orange vario header which is used to cut the hay. It's also got some fancy telematics so that the exact paths it takes around the field can be tracked back at base.

When they sowed the field we saw all the rabbits running to the edge. This time (for the second cut) I guess the rabbits read the memo.
I'll have to see how my hay fever handles the next couple of days, although so far so good.

Wednesday 15 August 2018

targeting, but not a market

Now that the so-called president is using his powers to settle personal scores, we can expect to see ever more people on his hit list.

After John Brennan's security clearance revocation which bypassed the chain of command completely, there's a long list of others to follow. The targets are Trump critics as he removes the separation between political and national security powers.

Peter Strzok and James Comey are obvious hits, although they could easily be bundled within a larger list. Trump's game isn't just to shut these people down, he also wants to stop any investigations which could damage him.

Manafort's trial could lead a challenge, although omissions from witnesses though sweetheart 'get out of jail' deals may create a chink in the prosecution case. The Fifth Amendment means that witnesses can trade silence for non self-incrimination.

But Trump won't be put off from his path to destroy anyone who he doesn't get along with.

"Fired FBI Agent Peter Strzok is a fraud, as is the rigged investigation he started," the president lambasts. "There was no Collusion or Obstruction with Russia, and everybody, including the Democrats, know it. The only Collusion and Obstruction was by Crooked Hillary, the Democrats and the DNC!"

It's not a subtle approach. A broken record with embedded hate chants suitable for use at his rallies.

Bruce Ohr might be the next to get fired. An easy target with Fusion ink on his (and his wife's) hands.

But all of this is lining up towards another target. It has to be stopping Mueller, perhaps via Jeff Sessions. Or to find another way to bypass the hierarchy. On Tuesday Trump again blamed Sessions, labelling him as not a 'real' attorney general. That's after Saturday, when the president accused Sessions of being 'scared stiff' and 'missing in action.' He's trying to get his own puppet in place instead.

And perhaps he is saving his more dogged insults for later, whilst routinely dishing them to others.

Meanwhile, the so-called president's administration continues to create its own truth. Last week Ms Sanders wrongly told a media briefing that Mr Obama created 195,000 jobs for black workers which was much less than the 700,000 in Mr Trump’s first 18 months. Grossly inaccurate.

About three million more African-Americans were in work by the end of the Obama's second term, according to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics. Equivalent recent stats for Trump's regime show a rise in black unemployment from 6.7% to 7.7%.

None of it matters to many of the voters. They'll pick a baseball cap and ignore the rest. Or just rely upon others to make the decisions.

Tuesday 14 August 2018

Chèvres en équilibre (retour)

Sometimes, after a complicated blog post, it's good to have a simple one.

Aficionados will know that the full version is on YouTube.

Monday 13 August 2018

one too many diagrams and a thousand lies behind?

A curious facet of the upcoming US elections is that quite a few voters need to re-register before they can take part. Simple enough if you're a householder with a passport or similar i.d.

Less so for a student, whose student i.d. would be insufficient and might need to find something like a gun-owner licence to be able to register. Last time the mid-term turn-out was around 37%. Perhaps this time a Russian presence in some key areas might tip the numbers upwards a little?

I've been working out the Russian leverage. It has to be money. Sleaze won't cut it for the so-called President. Power might, but Putin doesn't play that game.

It'll be about the US sanctions against Russia and the leverage will be the loans and business model offered to Trump's companies. The 2016 Trump Tower 'adoption' talks were really about sanctions removal, as well as possible dirt-dishing.

Drawing a diagram doesn't really work. It's too complicated. That's the accidental brilliance of cutting everything into 140 character bursts.

Instead, let's look at a few events.

In 2008, Donald Trump Jr. told a real estate conference: “In terms of high-end product influx into the US, Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets; say in Dubai, and certainly with our project in SoHo and anywhere in New York. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia. There’s indeed a lot of money coming for new-builds and resale reflecting a trend in the Russian economy and, of course, the weak dollar versus the ruble.”

Where that money comes from exactly could be a moot point. How it gets cleansed as part of the process could be another interesting discussion.

A quick example of funding comes from a Putin controlled bank which helped out Toronto Tower. The Russian-Canadian developer of the project sold a Ukrainian steel mill and received $850 million. A Ukrainian industrial group bought the mill through five offshore companies, funded with money from Russia’s state-owned Putin-chaired bank (VEB). The developer thereafter put $15 million into Trump Toronto.

Then there's the May 2017 story of a reporter Dodson asking Donald Trump, "'What are you using to pay for these (golf) courses?' And he just sort of tossed off that he had access to $100 million... So when I got in the cart with Eric, as we were setting off, I said, 'Eric, who's funding? I know no banks — because of the recession, ... have touched a golf course?~' Eric said, 'Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.' I said, 'Really?' And he said, 'Oh, yeah. We’ve got some guys that really, really love golf, and they're really invested in our programs. We just go there all the time.' Now that was three years ago, so it was pretty interesting."

But oh, then Eric denies it all two days later.

However, Trump in Moscow: “The Russian market is attracted to me,” he tells Real Estate Weekly, describing his Moscow meetings. “I have a great relationship with many Russians, and almost all of the oligarchs were in the room.”

As for the organisation of it all. A quick example is the link to the Bayrock Group. Founded in 2001 by Tevfik Arif, a former Soviet official from Kazakhstan. Arif hired Russian businessman Felix Sater as MD then COO of Bayrock. As COO, Sater assisted with several projects, including the Trump SoHo project. But Sater left Bayrock in 2008 after a New York Times article revealed that in 1998, Sater had pled guilty to stock racketeering and fraud as part of a US and Russian mafia-connected $40 million stock pump and dump scheme.

Answering deposition questions in a case involving a Fort Lauderdale project, Trump says he had only "limited involvement" with Bayrock Group, which was a Trump tenant. Trump testifies that he spoke with Felix Sater “for a period of time” when he was an executive with Bayrock.

Now here's the thing. Allegedly, after leaving Bayrock, Felix Sater becomes "senior adviser to Donald Trump," according to his Trump Organization business card. He also had a Trump Organization email address and office. The phone number listed on the card had belonged previously to a lawyer in Trump’s general counsel’s office.

But then after a BBC reporter questions Trump about Felix Sater’s alleged prior connections to organized crime, Trump ended the interview.

Fast forward to this year. The White House were forced to correct the Putin/Trump Helsinki meeting transcript. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow reported that the White House had deliberately omitted key language from the official transcript of Vladimir Putin’s answer to a question from Reuters reporter Jeff Mason. Eventually the White House revises the transcript to include the missing question and answer:

“Q: President Putin, did you want President Trump to win the election? And did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?

“PRESIDENT PUTIN: (As interpreted.) Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the US-Russia relationship back to normal.”

Vladimir Putin also told Russian diplomats that he proposed a “Peace Plan” to Trump in Helsinki. According to Bloomberg, Putin’s proposal calls “for a vote conducted under international auspices by the residents of the separatist territories on their status,” including eastern Ukraine. Some eighteen months earlier – in January 2017 – Michael Cohen had met with Felix Sater and Andrey Artemenko to provide a proposed ‘Peace Plan’ that Cohen said he would deliver to then national security adviser Michael Flynn. The Sater-Artemenko plan reportedly provided that Ukrainian voters would decide in a referendum whether Crimea would be leased to Russia for a term of 50 or 100 years and, eventually, to lift US sanctions against Russia.

Okay, a slightly simpler diagram:

Still, a lot of information. Let's net it down.
  • Trump's organisation brags that it gets lots of money from Russia.
  • It's hard to tell where it all came from or how clean it is.
  • Much seems to flow from the demise of the Soviet Union, when the Russian 'wild east' opened shop.
  • There's an intertwining of tarnished advisors in the mix too. Felix Sater and Paul Manafort have some challenged back-stories.
  • An as yet unexercised 'Peace Plan' is hatched to give new Russia and Putin tactical gains as well as better access to the global economy.
  • As for the leverage: "Do our bidding or we'll call in all the loaned money and fire off some of the kompromat."
Time will tell.

Sunday 12 August 2018

one less visit to the shops

Sometimes it all goes wrong. I bought some jeans, got them home and discovered they still had a security tag on them.

A grey tag on grey jeans. You'd think they'd make the tags bright yellow or orange? I could have gone back to the store, but I wondered if there was a simpler solution.

The innards of the non-ink tags are basically magnetic ball bearings which lock against a sprung collar. I thought I'd just need a big magnet to un-ping it.

So I looked behind my guitar amp and there was a big Celestion speaker with some kind of neodymium magnet thingy. I tried a few brisk taps (I don't recommend this etc.), and astonishingly the tag was freed.

The other way, so I'm told, is to use a hammer directly onto the bit that holds the ball bearings. Also not recommended, although I have a strong feeling it would work.