Maria Butina. The NRA and National Prayer Breakfast

Russian operative Maria Butina is being held without bail after being arrested for not registering as an agent of the Russian government. A whole bunch of Republicans are probably extremely nervous now, as she was busy busy busy infiltrating the NRA and the National Prayer Breakfast. (Well, “infiltrating” is probably the wrong word, because they happily and cheerfully welcomed her.)

Person 1 is probably conservative activist Paul Erickson. Person 2 might be Religious Right activist George O’Neill or (be still my heart) Donald Trump Jr.

Screens shots from the affidavit and complaint against Butina follow.

Flashmob, by Christopher Farnsworth

In Flashmob, John Smith, ex-miltary badass who can read minds, tracks down the shadowy operator of a nasty website called Downvote that crowd-sources violence and murder against people who have displeased its users, who vote on the violence.

Sounds like an extreme version of 4chan, incel derangement, Qanon dementia, and white supremacist websites, doesn’t it? In addition to being a cracking good read, Flashmob posits an important if unsettling question. What if violence can be created and fomented by software? Meaning, people don’t just somehow find a murderous site like Downvote. Rather they are deliberately led to it, then manipulated into rage and violence once there.

Well, that’s just crazy talk, isn’t it? Maybe not. The only difference between targeting middle-aged soccer moms in Philadelphia to buy Diet Coke using Pandora ads and riling up the already unstable to commit mayhem and murder is morality and ethics. The same technology can do both.

Facebook has experimented with manipulating news feeds to produce what they call “emotional contagion,” manipulating user emotions so they feel good or bad based on what Facebook shows them in their feed. Facebook and others also have the ability to deliver micro-targeted ads based on what they know about you. We saw this happen in the 2016 election with openly racist Facebook ads only appearing in targeted people’s news feeds.

Two years ago most thought the idea that Russia interfered in a U.S. presidential election by using technology and the net was crazy conspiracy theory. Today, even Republican senators acknowledge it happened.

There have been too many lone killers radicalized on the internet for it all to be random. Maybe they’re being guided to commit violence. It wouldn’t be that hard to do.

And do read Flashmob. Farnsworth is a gifted writer.

Chiat: Putin is Trump’s handler

Chiat makes a well-documented case that Trump / Russia ties, which started in 1987, go way deep than many previously thought, that we are still standing outside the cave of corruption and treason looking in, and are not yet inside the cave itself.

TLDR; Trump is so recklessly stupid and venal that he makes an ideal target for Russian blackmail. And that is exactly what happened. And now, Trump is about to meet with his handler, Putin.

A few quotes follow. Read the entire article. It’s devastating. We Never Trumpers on Twitter have known most of this for months. However it is useful to have all the damning information in one place and have it come from a mainstream publication. Much of what is in the article was viciously attacked when it first became public, especially the communications between Trump Tower and Alfa Bank servers.

In 2015, Western European intelligence agencies began picking up evidence of communications between the Russian government and people in Donald Trump’s orbit. In April 2016, one of the Baltic states shared with then–CIA director John Brennan an audio recording of Russians discussing funneling money to the Trump campaign. In the summer of 2016, Robert Hannigan, head of the U.K. intelligence agency GCHQ, flew to Washington to brief Brennan on intercepted communications between the Trump campaign and Russia.

“I think [Trump] is afraid of the president of Russia. The Russians may have something on him personally that they could always roll out and make his life more difficult.”

While the fact that the former CIA director has espoused this theory hardly proves it, perhaps we should give more credence to the possibility that Brennan is making these extraordinary charges of treason and blackmail at the highest levels of government because he knows something we don’t.

The combination of a penchant for compromising behavior, a willingness to work closely with criminals, and a desire to protect aspects of his privacy makes him the ideal blackmail target.

The person who managed the campaign of a pro-Russian candidate in Ukraine was now also managing the campaign of a pro-Russian candidate in the United States. And Trump’s campaign certainly looked like the same play Putin had run many times before.

One of those servers belonged to Alfa Bank in Moscow and the other to the Trump Organization. Alfa Bank’s owners had “assumed an unforeseen level of prominence and influence in the economic and political affairs of their nation,” as a federal court once put it.
The analysts noted that the traffic between the two servers occurred during office hours in New York and Moscow and spiked in correspondence with major campaign events, suggesting it entailed human communication rather than bots. More suspiciously, after New York Times reporter Eric Lichtblau asked Alfa Bank about it but before he brought it up with the Trump campaign, the server in Trump Tower shut down. The timing strongly implied Alfa Bank was communicating with Trump.

Manafort even allegedly took the reckless step of trying to coach a fellow witness to coordinate his story and was thrown in jail for it while he awaits trial.

Why would Manafort, who has a law degree from Georgetown and years of experience around white-collar crime, behave like this? Of all those in Trump’s camp, he is the furthest thing from a true believer, and he lacks any long-standing personal ties to the president or his family, so what incentive does he have to spend most or all of his remaining years in prison rather than betray Trump? One way to make sense of his behavior is the possibility that Manafort is keeping his mouth shut because he’s afraid of being killed.

Google Page Speed rankings for mobile

Google is rolling out mobile site speed rankings. It’s a bit confusing. Slow sites will get penalized (unless they have really amazing content.) Medium to very fast sites won’t improve their rankings if they get faster. Slow sites will.

This only applies to mobile sites, which Google increasingly views as important. If your site doesn’t have a mobile theme or if it’s old and slow, you will now be at a disadvantage.

Mobile themes are used when a mobile browser like a cell phone is identified. The theme is optimized for mobile. Modern WordPress themes often include mobile themes. JetPack, a hugely popular plugin from WordPress, also has one. I use another plugin, WPTouch Pro, for mobile themes on several client’s sites.

Let me know if I can help with testing your website’s speed, speeding it up, or installing a mobile theme.

Only affects the slowest mobile sites.

Incremental improve to your site can make big impacts in speed.

Fast sites that go faster won’t see a ranking improvement.

Be Flood Safe

The two most common ways of dying in deserts are not enough water and too much water. Flash floods can happen very quickly and are extremely dangerous.

Do not drive into flooded street or intersections. Hidden debris can puncture tires. There’s no way to tell is there are potholes or sinkholes for the car to get stuck in. A seemingly mere 12 inches of water is enough to wash you and your car away. Yes, even in your big truck.

Tucson has signs saying don’t enter flooded areas and if someone does and has to be rescued, they get a bill from the city. I believe they call it the “Stupid Fee.”

A few years back massive flash floods took out part of I-15 north of Vegas. The video is from that. The people in the van were rescued and were ok. This is normally a peaceful, placid section of the interstate.

So, beware of flooded areas. Turn around and find alternate routes. If there aren’t any, part someplace safe and wait.

P.S. Las Vegas has an elaborate system of flood catchment basins that work entirely by gravity. The water flows downhill to water treatment plants and then into Lake Mead where it does not count against the allotment that southern Nevada gets from Lake Mead.