Well, then can I walk beside you? I have come to lose the smog;
And I feel myself a cog in something turning:
And maybe it’s the time of year; yes, and maybe it’s the time of man
And I don’t know who I am, but life is for learning.
We are stardust, we are golden; we are billion-year-old carbon
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden…
Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, from “Woodstock”
Life is for learning. Occasionally, as events of great moment pass us by without destroying the world, as they may have had the potential to do, we sigh with relief, and say, “There was a lesson that came at tremendous cost – I just hope the right people learned something from it”. And if the disaster was one which resulted from an unsafe situation such as a badly-planned intersection or a highway with inherent dangers, there’s every chance the right people will have learned something, and that the situation will be quickly addressed; municipal or federal governments frequently get sued for safety situations, often successfully.
Not in politics, though. Oh, people get sued in politics, too, from time to time. But politics is not what you would call a rich learning environment. People get used to doing things a certain way, and they keep on doing things that way. Party loyalty often inspires bizarre behavior and indefensible statements long after it is obvious they are indefensible. Fortunately – for politicians – it is the one forum in which people are seldom punished for being wrong, or for continuing to maintain they were right long after it is evident they were wrong. And no forum is more illustrative of this than American politics. Few examples are more illustrative than the ridiculous position – seized upon and promoted by the Democratic party – that Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election because the Russians rigged the election for Donald Trump.
The Mueller Report, recently released, tried its best to imply that there was collusion even as it stated baldly that the investigation had yielded no evidence of collusion. But what struck me with the most force was the manner in which the Democrats – and the entire crowd which has so much invested in having had an illegitimate president foisted upon them by the Godless Russians – simply shook its head, took a deep breath…and went right on blathering the same lunatic narrative. The Russians interfered with our democracy. Nothing is safe. Russia is the enemy of democracy, and will not suffer a democracy to live. Get the kids and pack up enough food for traveling, Mabel; we’re headed for the mountains – it’s “Red Dawn”, babycakes.
Amazing as it will sound, America has learned nothing.
Part of it, of course, is America’s belief in its own omnipotence; if something came out differently from the way it was planned to come out, then America was tricked. Hoodwinked, by unscrupulous actors. It cannot be that America is subject to the same vagaries and pressures and caprices as the rest of the world; America decides, and so it shall be. Part of it is the diligent pick-and-shovel work that America’s political forces do to preserve that illusion; that America is an unstoppable force, so much more than just a big rich country.
So, the premise endures. Russian trolls, acting on the personal orders of Vladimir Putin, generated a storm of hateful social-media messages on race relations in America, in a coordinated strike which included Russian release of Hillary Clinton’s personal emails, and America faltered. It scratched its head in doubt, and Donald Trump slipped past the worthy – and oh, so wronged – Mrs. Clinton to seize the presidency with his soiled hands.
Matt Taibbi did some excellent work on the subject, which I admit grudgingly, as I hoped to get something out on America’s inability to learn from its mistakes before the heavyweights. Taibbi’s writing will make you wonder whether you should laugh or cry, as you wonder how an influential country could survive the embarrassment of the past couple of years, encapsulated by a journalistic mantra which holds that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Russia is guilty as sin, and you can take that to the bank, so the very fact that Mueller will not leak any proof to us must mean that his findings are so devastating, so jaw-dropping, so “shut up!!” that they would break the media. The one possibility which was not considered a possibility at all was that there was nothing, and that the accusations had been fabrication and desperate damage control from the first.
But the frustrated narrative of Russian collusion is the only component which has been discredited to the point that Democrats and Russophobes of all political persuasions must admit there is no happy ending to the promise that Donald Trump was going to be fired so high he would need to go on oxygen. Mueller – probably deliberately – continued to hint that Russia had ‘meddled’ in the 2016 election, and that the effect had been important enough that democracy is under attack. No longer listening to anyone outside the party-faithful echo chamber, the Democrats now insist that US Attorney-General William Barr resign, for ‘misleading the American people about collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia”.
“Barr’s news conference ultimately did nothing to help Trump, because the public has eyes. Americans could read the damning evidence of obstruction of justice and communications with Russians for themselves and make their own judgements.”
Democrats continue to try to make up in volume and intensity for the fact that there is no evidence at all of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, nor of obstruction of justice by Trump. The Republicans shout that the Democrats are on a senseless witch hunt, that the report makes clear there was no collusion between Trump and the Russians…but are perfectly happy to agree that Russia meddled in the election. For his part, Mueller is happy to drop hints that both obstruction and collusion probably took place – he just couldn’t find any proof.
All are loony. Russia did not interfere in the 2016 election at all, at least no further than Europe did. A lengthy list of European political leaders and former leaders publicly expressed their support for Mrs. Clinton’s election to the office of President of the United States. In 2008, just one is recorded as having done so; Mona Sahlin, leader of Sweden’s Social Democrats. Interestingly, in the same list of endorsements of Mrs. Clinton in 2008 – right after “Adult Entertainment Artists” – is this one: under “Well-Known Individuals”, “Businessman and television personality, Future Presidential Candidate & Rival for the United States presidential election 2016, future President of the United States Donald Trump”.
There’s gratitude for you.
The Presidents of Taiwan, Chile, France and Ukraine, the former Presidents of Mexico, France, Kosovo and Ecuador, the Prime Ministers of the Czech Republic, France, Italy, New Zealand and Sweden and former Prime Ministers of Sweden, the UK, Canada, Australia and France all openly expressed their hope that Mrs. Clinton would be elected President of the United States. None of this was considered meddling. I don’t recall any official endorsement from Russia, although the international English-speaking media helpfully informed us that Putin hoped Trump would win, because he felt Trump would be more approachable for concessions and because he disliked Mrs. Clinton. When Trump did win, despite wrong guesses by just about every political analyst on the planet, it was considered ‘additional evidence’ that meddling had taken place, instigated by you-know-who.
Perhaps, in highlighting just how stupid America is making itself look with this painfully stubborn insistence that Russia rolled it in 2016, it would be useful to take another look at what American partisans claimed to already know, and could prove as easily as demonstrating that if you put your hand on a hot stove, you will burn it.
One of my favourite American partisans is the Duchess of Displacement, the Baroness of Bulk, Molly McKew. We took a look at her work a long time ago, on the old blog – just before Trump commenced his term, in fact – or perhaps I should say his first term, since the barking madness of the political landscape in today’s America makes it entirely possible he will serve a second, unbelievable as that may sound. In that article, we closed out like this; “Look, we’re getting close to the end of this, and it’s time for plain speaking. Americans are confused and don’t know fact from fiction because their own government feeds them bullshit with a side of spin day in, day out, and you’re part of it. There was no Russian interference in the American elections, and you know it.” My take on what happened has not changed a bit.
McKew is still regarded – highly, I should imagine, by her feeble-minded peers – as an ‘information-warfare expert’. Hardly amazing that she sees information-warfare attacks everywhere. Here’s what she claimed to know about Russian election interference and general friggin’ in the riggin’, a little over a year ago. She bases her conclusions on Mueller’s Grand Jury indictment, which was issued more than a year in advance of his report – an indictment in which Mueller claimed the Defendants (a variety of Russian advertising and research agencies operating both in Russia and the United States) “…knowingly and intentionally conspired with each other (and with persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury) to defraud the United States by impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the government through fraud and deceit for the purpose of interfering with the U.S. political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016.”
You know the old quote about how easy it is to get a Grand Jury to indict someone or something.
Something McKew claims is now – meaning as of early 2018 – “undeniable” is that Russia had, and has “a broad, sophisticated system that can influence American opinion, which cost tens of millions of dollars spent over several years to build.” She must be talking about RT, although I suggest her cost estimate is a little low. RT, which the west considers a ‘propaganda network’, cost $30 million to set up, in 2005. Its operating costs now are in the hundreds of millions annually, although 80% of the costs are incurred outside Russia, paying for partner networks who distribute its channels.
We kind of have to give her that one, because it is true that RT’s coverage is often at odds with the bullshit du jour that CNN and NBC and FOX are spreading. Bullshit, for example, like CNN’s non-stop yammering about the collusion that Mueller could find no evidence ever occurred, and said so. Bullshit like NBC News anchor Brian Williams’ recollections about his helicopter being shot down in Iraq – echoes of Hillary ‘sniper fire’ Clinton – ,which never happened. Williams is not a nobody; he was the nation’s longest-serving and top-rated news anchor.
I submit, however, that the American people are not subjected to RT’s ‘propaganda and disinformation’ about American propaganda and disinformation against their will; there is a button on the remote called “On/Off” that will free the American enslaved from malign Kremlin influence. Alternatively, they can switch to another channel. I would just point out, though, that if they switch to a popular US news channel, they are very likely to be listening to a broadcast which has been curated by its corporate owners, and who “are unlikely to report news that is broadly hostile to corporate capitalism and the American elite.” That’s according to a report entitled “Corporate Control of the Media” (in the USA), printed in 2009.
Warming to her subject, McKew goes on to claim “The Russian efforts described in the indictment focused on establishing deep, authenticated, long-term identities for individuals and groups within specific communities. This was underlaid by the establishment of servers and VPNs based in the US to mask the location of the individuals involved. US-based email accounts linked to fake or stolen US identity documents (driver licenses, social security numbers, and more) were used to back the online identities. These identities were also used to launder payments through PayPal and cryptocurrency accounts. All of this deception was designed to make it appear that these activities were being carried out by Americans.”
This might be a good point at which to suggest there is every reason to believe ‘these activities’ were carried out by Americans. Americans working for national intelligence agencies.
In March 2017, The Washington Post’s Ellen Nakashima had an article published which was entitled “WikiLeaks’ latest release of CIA cyber-tools could blow the cover on agency hacking operations.” It detailed, among other things, a cyber tool called “Marble Framework”. This could be used, it was claimed, to re-assign attribution of material posted on the internet so that it appeared, for forensic purposes, to have originated from a different source. Test samples, it was reported, were included in Chinese, Russian, Korean, Arabic and Farsi.
The report which encouraged President Trump to ask his CIA Director – Mike Pompeo, at the time, who is currently the National Security Advisor – what he knew about this was co-authored by Skip Folden, who for 25 years was the IT Program Manager for IBM. I think it is safe to say he has some credibility in the field of cyber-forensics. The authors of the report contended that the ‘hack’ of the DNC’s server was not actually a hack at all, but the at-source copying of data directly from the server using a storage device, probably a thumb drive. The data transfer rate, the authors claimed, was far too rapid to have occurred over the internet.
Since then I have seen a couple of ‘rebuttals’ which claimed that under certain conditions – like if nobody else was using the internet during that time – such copying from a remote source was possible. I never saw anything like proof. Like someone demonstrating how it could be done. Much like the old ‘clean pee swap’ the completely-discredited McLaren Report claimed the Russians performed on athletes’ urine samples; he claimed to know how it was done, but never demonstrated it, and appeared to be unable to do so, as it would have strongly supported his allegations.
Having taken us such an eye-blurring distance on the blarney rollercoaster, Molly at last falls apart. “So anyone trying to tell you there was little impact on political views from the tools the Russians used doesn’t know. Because none of us knows. No one has looked. Social media companies don’t want us to know, and they obfuscate and drag their feet rather than disclosing information. The analytical tools to quantify the impact don’t readily exist. But we know what we see, and what we heard—and the narratives pushed by the Russian information operation made it to all of our ears and eyes”, she tells us.
So if you saw advertising by Black Lives Matter, or perhaps some other civil-rights organization, pushing a false narrative that blacks are second-class citizens in their own country, then you were exposed to Kremlin propaganda. And it affected how you voted, if you’re an American. How much? Nobody knows. What everybody does know, or should, is that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, although not the determinate vote in the electoral college – quite a trick for the Russians to manage.
Let’s summarize. Americans were supposedly pushed into voting for Donald Trump by the misuse of stolen data which was all true. The DNC did conspire to rig the primary so that Clinton was the Democratic candidate rather than Bernie Sanders; the Chair of the DNC resigned in disgrace because of the revelations which came to light. Her replacement, Donna Brazile, admitted to having fed the primary debate questions to Clinton in advance, giving her an advantage over Sanders, who was unaware of them as he should have been. At its very core, the Democratic party is as corrupt as the Nigerian prince who keeps e-mailing me to help him hide his ill-gotten fortune. American intelligence and technical professionals with no discernible benefit in making their country look bad insist that no hacking of the DNC’s server took place, and that the stolen information which kicked the Democrats’ feet out from under them on the eve of the election was not hacked, but stolen by direct physical transfer from the server using a portable storage device. Wikileaks insisted the information it released did not come from the Russians. The serving American intelligence services at the time of the 2016 election had a secret program which was capable of mimicking the origin of posted information on social media so that forensic investigation would find traces of Russian authorship, or other non-American authorship. The CIA has vigorously denied any involvement whatsoever in various international events at the time they occurred, only to admit much later – when it would be pointless to punish it – that they did in fact play an influential role. Data from 2014 established that at that time, 27% of black Americans lived below the poverty line, compared with 11% of all Americans; 38% of black children lived in poverty compared with 22% of all American children. I have seen no compelling evidence that this situation has improved. According to the perfidious Kremlin mouthpiece RT, citing American sources, American blacks are incarcerated at a rate six times as high as the national average.
Molly McKew, the information-warfare goddess, tells us that it is ‘undeniable’ that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, by making Americans doubt the integrity of their political candidates. In the case of the Democrats – which is by no means intended to spare the Republicans – they were demonstrated by their own repeatedly-verified and admitted shenanigans to understand ‘integrity’ about as well as the average crab fisherman understands how to calculate the mass of the sun. Everything they were accused of doing, they did. Candidate Hillary Clinton unambiguously lied – as she has done on other occasions – about the security classification of her ‘private’ emails and completely fabricated consent of the State Department for her to maintain a private email server for the sending and receiving of official message traffic. America does have an uneven scale of justice, law enforcement and standard of living based on race. There is no proof at all which has so far been made public that any of those situations were reported, compelled, exacerbated or invented by Russia, or by anyone from Russia. According to persistent revelations from Kiev, the American Democratic party energetically sought dirt on candidate Trump from Ukrainian sources, not Russian. McKew closes her soliloquy on election interference by maintaining that while it is undeniable that Russian interference occurred, nobody knows the extent to which it influenced the vote, which resulted in a popular win for the candidate who lost the election.
Let me posit another reality. Russia played no part at all in the outcome of the 2016 election, although it certainly was a surprise to most. There is no proof even offered that there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials of any description, and no proof which could not have been fabricated that any coherent social-media campaign originating with Russian operatives took place, or that any such imaginary social-media campaign had anything to do with Trump’s victory. The Democrats, by sticking to their ridiculous and incredible narrative of Russian masterminds warping American democracy, are setting themselves up for having their headlights sucked out again by the passing Trump juggernaut in the next election, when they will be totally out of excuses if they do not wake up and do some serious retrenching.
But we are probably going to have to wait for history to teach that lesson to Americans.