Saturday, January 28, 2023

Shocker: #Russiagate Is a Big Fat Fraud

*Updated below.

As much as the US government has been infiltrating and pressuring both the corporate media and social media platforms in a fear and censorship campaign to soften up Americans for its proxy war on Russia, we're now learning that some Twitter executives, at least, were disturbed enough to feebly push back against the overreach. 

In Twitter Files #15, journalist Matt Taibbi reports that the Hamilton 68 Dashboard's list of hundreds of Twitter accounts, supposedly run by "Russian bots," is mainly comprised of innocent human users. The contrivance of an USAID-funded bipartisan think tank called the Alliance For Securing Democracy, the Dashboard has been a prime source of disinformation for such outlets as the New York Times, the Washington Post, CBS, NBC, ABC,  CNN, and MSNBC. Even so-called "fact-checking" sites have treated the specious Hamilton Dashboard as a bona fide source of information for the relentless parade of anti-Russia media reports over the past several years.

Although it's long been obvious, to  some of us anyway, that the McCarthyite dashboard of dangerous Twitter accounts was pure fake news propaganda, Twitter itself was able to discern that they were, in fact, mostly legitimate accounts from the U.S., Canada and Great Britain. But its executives apparently were too cowed by the "Deep State" operatives who  persistently browbeat them into censorship compliance at the time to blow the whistle publicly. Taibbi was finally granted access to the true identities behind the list of "Russian bots," and has proceeded to notify many of them of their dubious distinction as designated Kremlin plants and stooges.

“I think we need to just call this out on the bullshit it is,” Taibbi quotes Twitter Trust and Safety Chief Yoel Roth as having written when the fraud was first proven beyond a doubt. 

“The selection of accounts is… bizarre and seemingly quite arbitrary,” wrote Roth. “They appear to strongly preference pro-Trump accounts (which they use to assert that Russia is expressing a preference for Trump… even though there’s not good evidence any of them are Russian).”

Even Twitter execs were stunned to read who was listed. The names ranged from well-known media figures like David Horowitz to conservatives like Dennis Michael Lynch and progressives like Consortium editor Joe Lauria. It’s crucial to understand that the list captured not just Trump supporters but a range of political dissidents, including leftists, anarchists and humorists. Wrote policy chief Nick Pickles, upon seeing the name of British satirist @Holbornlolz:

“A wind-up merchant,” he wrote. “I follow him and wouldn’t say he’s pro-Russian… I can’t even remember him tweeting about Russia.”

These people never knew they were used for years to drive hundreds if not thousands of media headlines about supposed Russian bot infiltration of online discussions: about the Brett Kavanaugh hearingsTulsi Gabbard’s campaign, the #ReleaseTheMemo affair, the Parkland shootingDonald Trump’s election, the #WalkAway and #IStandWithLaura hashtags, U.S. missile strikes in Syria, the Bernie Sanders campaign, the “Blexit” movement to peel black voters away from Democrats, calls to fire National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, “attacks” on the Mueller investigation, and countless other issues.

Read Taibbi's whole piece for more on the neocon/neoliberal personalities involved with the Hamilton Dashoard fraud, along with reactions from some of their many unwitting victims. One Dashboard fraudster that Taibbi doesn't mention is Jake Sullivan, who is currently Joe Biden's national security adviser and a chief architect-cheerleader of the Ukraine-Russia proxy war.

Both the think tank running the Hamilton Dashboard propaganda scam and the Twitter managers who eventually uncovered the scam were well-stocked with other future Biden people, many of them alumni of both the Bush and Obama administrations. Taibbi writes:

...Twitter is not guiltless. Though people like Roth wanted to go hard at the fabulists — “My recommendation at this stage is an ultimatum: you release the list or we do,” he wrote — ultimately people like future White House and National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne advised caution. “We have to be careful in how much we push back on ASD publicly,” she wrote. Carlos Monje, future senior advisor to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, concurred.

“I also have been very frustrated in not calling out Hamilton 68 more publicly, but understand we have to play a longer game here,” Monje decided.

Taibbi is expecting neither media nor political class culprits to be held accountable for the fraud, given that Twitter execs already did privately warn both complicit Congress members and media people to steer clear of the Hamilton propaganda as a source of their news and information. Don't look for any mea culpas from anybody in the halls of political and information power for their own roles in this massive deceit of the public.

As I wrote here nearly four years ago, the Hamilton 68 fraud, designed to grease the skids for their desired war on Russia, uses the same m.o. that the media-political complex sold to the public as the casus belli for the illegal invasion of Iraq:

The initial public acceptance of the invasion of Iraq, as well as the "belief" of the majority of polled subjects in Russian meddling in the presidential election stays alive thanks largely to the process of amplification.

The first part of the conflict-creation recipe involves bellicose think tanks and defense industry-beholden politicians planting scary stories in the mainstream media, whose stenographers graciously grant the planters anonymity due to the "sensitivity" of the situation and fears that national security will be threatened if the public gets too much detailed information  The second step is for the warmongers to then point to these planted stories as proof positive that they are full of facts, the actual details of which must unfortunately be withheld to protect the interests of the planters. These two steps are like yeast. They make the disinformation cake rise and rise.

This is what former Vice President Dick Cheney did in 2002.  His office fed New York Times reporters Judith Miller and Michael Gordon the "scoop" that Saddam Hussein was buying uranium from Africa and using it to build nuclear weapons. Then Cheney went on Meet the Press and pointed to the New York Times as his proof that Saddam did indeed plan to attack the US.  To give the disinformation an added dose of verisimilitude, "investigative" reporter Miller even went to jail for a time to protect the powerful sources of the false information. Rather than out herself as a stenographer, she made herself a martyr - until the whole scam fell apart, and she lost her job at the Times'

Now, with another manufactured debt ceiling crisis rapidly approaching, it might be a good time to remember that the gaslighting Hamilton 68 fraudsters had also blamed Russia for the shutdown mess in 2018, and that all legitimate Twitter criticism of the hapless Senate leader Chuck Schumer came not from independent-thinking Americans, but from the Kremlin, which had stealthily infiltrated the brains of Americans!

Current New York Times columnist Lydia Polgreen had just (temporarily) migrated to the Democratic veal pen known as the Huffington Post from her previous top post at the Times when the former unquestioningly and breathlessly reported:

#SchumerShutdown has surpassed #ReleaseTheMemo as the highest trending hashtag among Russian influence campaigns. They seized on that hashtag earlier this month in an effort to pressure Republican lawmakers to release a classified memo written by House GOP aides that allegedly describes abuses in FBI surveillance practices. Conservative organizations like Breitbart and the Daily Caller have given major coverage to the memo, but Democratic lawmakers have denounced it as deeply misleading.

Alliance for Securing Democracy tracks activity from 600 monitored Twitter accounts linked to Russian influence operations. It has found that Russian bots and trolls frequently amplify content attacking the United States, conspiracy theories and misinformation.

As I'd reported at the time:

Coincidentally (of course) Twitter has just sent emails to 677,775 users informing them that they were being monitored for the thought-less crime of having read and/or shared tweets from Kremlin propaganda mills.

Also, totally coincidentally, HuffPo has just sent its own emails to its entire stable of unpaid freelance contributors informing them that their "content" would no longer be accepted. This  includes all content from writers like Joe Lauria who dare to express healthy skepticism that RussiaGate has any basis in reality, or that endless war might not be in the best interests of humanity.

  HuffPo editor Lydia Polgreen, late of the New York Times, told the New York Times that she's banned the messy, noisy, free-thinking bloggers so as to "declutter" the site and give more room to quality journalism, such as, presumably, the pro-war propaganda provided by neocon think tanks.

Guess who one of those Hamilton Dashboard-identified Russian bots turned out to be?

Why, it was Joe Lauria, the current editor of Consortium News, which is critical of the war and surveillance policies of the United States. Matt Taibbi has Lauria's reaction at the above-linked Twitter Files article. Lauria was disgusted, but not all that shocked.

Even though the Hamilton Dashboard has been completely discredited,  thanks to the last bastions of independent journalism still standing, it will doubtlessly be reborn under a different name, in another think tank, another corporate newsroom, another corrupt politician beholden to the war racket and to the interests of the oligarchy. 

All that we can do is keep chipping away at their various pathological disinformation campaigns, and shooting all the disinfecting sunlight at them that we can. Since they have no shame, they will never go away quietly or voluntarily. 

*Far from it, actually. In a detailed rebuttal of Taibbi's revelations, the Alliance for Securing Democracy website pleads that its critics were either taking their dashboard way too seriously, or else all those stupid journalists, Twitter executives and doubters of all stripes were themselves irresponsible in the way that they used it.

The dashboard’s original methodology acknowledged that “the content within the network is complex and should be understood in a nuanced way.” Members of the media, pundits, and even some lawmakers often failed to include appropriate context when using the dashboard’s data, despite ASD experts’ extensive efforts to correct misconceptions at the time. Because the data was consistently misunderstood or misrepresented, we published multiple follow-up instructions clarifying key points, including: “Some accounts we track are automated bots, some are trolls, and some are real users. Some are in Russia, but many are not”.

This, of course, is the same kind of techno-legal babble used by many dishonest players whenever they are caught out in a crime or a scam.  For example, the Justice Department could not possibly prosecute Wall Street after the 2008 financial collapse, because the complex financial instruments of the experts could  never be understood by mere mortals. As a matter of fact, some of the same malefactors who precipitated the crisis in the first place were often elevated to government positions, the better to sort everything out while absolving themselves, if not outright proclaiming themselves saviors. If anyone was to blame, it was those greedy people who took out subprime liar loans on houses they couldn't afford.

The Alliance  fatuously adds that they (unlike, they insinuate, Elon Musk and Taibbi) were sensitive to their victims' privacy rights and never "doxxed" the people whose Twitter accounts ended up on their dashboard. It's the "shoot the messenger" ploy all over again. They try to change the topic from their own bad behavior to the worse offense of the leaking of their own bad behavior.  What the people whose accounts were linked to Russia didn't know didn't hurt them, the Alliance asserts. How could anyone possibly construe that the Dashboard was a McCarthyite blacklist, when they only linked Twitter accounts to Russian influence, and were not directly responsible for anybody losing their job or getting de-platformed as a result. All they really did was warn other people to beware of the provenance of the listed accounts. And Twitter did it too, sending its users those thousands of emails warning them of certain suspicious accounts they had been reading.

The whole disclaimer is just another layer on a disinformation cake puffed up with a very generous helping of enriched gaslight. These people not only have no shame, they've severely overdosed on their own chutzpah.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

War Is Peace

Since that satiric Orwellian nostrum does sound a bit trite after all these years, the New York Times tried mightily to put a more modern original gloss on it with the headline "Biden Announces 31 Abrams Tanks For Ukraine, But Says the Move Is Not Meant To Escalate the War." 

If it seems that it was only last week that he was balking at sending the tanks because it would be viewed as more provocative evidence of US involvement in its proxy war, it's because it was only last week. The U.S. hegemon's browbeating Germany to unilaterally send its own tanks didn't work, so Uncle Joe had no other choice but to cross his own phony red line in the sand and cave to his increasingly skittish NATO ally.

 And miracle of miracles: what was a provocation last week has been magically transformed into an olive branch constructed of tons and tons of military metal this week!

That is heavy stuff. The  critical term "mission creep" cannot possibly apply in this latest escalation, coming as it does after the more discreet and even stealthy procession of billions of dollars and grenade launchers and guns and CIA "advisers" and NGOs and private mercenaries and freelance arms dealers.  As creepy as these monster tanks are, they definitely can't be delivered stealthily.

Therefore, the language of war itself must be rendered ever more stealthy. Star Times correspondent Peter Baker once again does the obsequious, power-serving honors:

“These tanks are further evidence of our enduring, unflagging commitment to Ukraine and our confidence in the skill of Ukrainian forces,” Mr. Biden said, flanked by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III.

But he emphasized that the buildup was not meant to expand the war into Russia. “It is not an offensive threat to Russia,” he said. “There is no offensive threat to Russia. If Russian troops return to Russia, where they belong, this war would be over today.”

They are described in contradictory, magical-thinking terms, both as harmless little toys and lethal killing machines, these Abrams tanks. Ukrainian troops may not be qualified to actually operate them, but Biden is confident in their innate skills. 

The Pentagon itself is slightly less sanguine than the president, but still euphemistically optimistic: Per the  CNBC coverage:

“The M1 (Abrams) is a very capable battlefield platform and it’s also a very complex capability. And so, like anything that we’re providing to Ukraine, we want to ensure that they have the ability to maintain it, sustain it, to train on it,” Pentagon press secretary U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters Tuesday.

What about the mission-creep of American boots on the ground to provide those driver training courses and issue the learning permits before the Ukrainian soldiers finally pass their road tests and get their licenses and their advanced degrees in tank maintenance? To hear the military and the White House and their corporate media partners spin it, hundreds of Ukrainian troops will be required to forsake their own embattled homeland for prolonged periods, to get their training on "neutral" ground, including on US military bases.

  Have the sticklers for details never heard of dual controls?  Have they never learned that presidents can say something one week and then abruptly shift into reverse gear the next? It's called defensive driving, people!  Sheesh.

The Abrams tank is manufactured by General Dynamics, which reported Wall Street gains just as Biden made his announcement on Wednesday. However, the business press reports that these gains are from increased revenue from its other contributions to the Ukraine war rather than from  investors copiously salivating over billions more in profits from the looming tank and related hardware sales.

"This is about freedom," as Joe Biden so originally and lyrically reminded his audience today. "Freedom for Ukraine, freedom everywhere."

He could have made his Orwellian newspeak remarks downright Oscar-worthy, and elevated Freedom to "everything everywhere all at once." 

But that would have been a lie too far for Biden's carefully crafted media image as a "decent" man.  He doesn't make promises he can't or won't keep. He has been there and done that, by way of reneging on a health insurance public option, keeping tax hikes for the wealthy purely aspirational, and only verbally "shutting down" the pandemic. The citizen-consumers of America know, or should know, that the freedom of record windfall war profits is always reserved for the very select few at the very tippy-top of the finance-capital hierarchy. That's how they keep us safe.

Meanwhile, despite assurances that Biden's tank gift to Ukraine might come too late to be anything other than one more head-fake, the announcement has at least enabled more squeamish NATO allies to send their own tanks to Ukraine. ETA's would be weeks to months for the first few shipments from the more Ukraine-adjacent allies.

 “Sending the Abrams appears to have been the key to unlocking the (German) Leopards, which will probably get to Ukraine much faster,” said Sofia Besch, an expert on European defense issues at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.

Andrew Carnegie, the robber-baron philanthropist who funded the "think tank" bearing his name and who championed the United States' entry into World War I in order to make the world "safe for democracy" (but which spawned more than a century of global conflict), the Orwellian "war for peace" thinking permanently chiseled into the brains of the Best and the Brightest doesn't come as so much of a shock.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Biden Takes Classified Documents... Seriously

 Whereas when Donald Trump smuggles top-secret papers out of the White House, he takes them very capriciously. He apparently just crumpled them up and thoughtlessly tossed them in boxes with other household miscellany.  Then the boxes got spread, willy-nilly, all over the tacky, garish grounds of MAGA-Largo.

Joe Biden, then the outgoing vice president, on the other hand carefully folded and sorted classified papers before responsibly removing them from the White House and then securely locking them in a closet in his think tank. That should prove to everyone's satisfaction how thoughtful and serious he is. 

And to prove just what a down-home regular guy Joe also is, he even folksily stashed some of the stolen papers in the humble garage of his Delaware home. He reportedly did not store them in his beach house, possibly because, unlike Trump, he knows the dangers of flooding from hurricanes, not to mention the damage that salty air can do to exposed paper. 

Feigning surprise that a team of his own lawyers just happened upon the first batch of papers in a closet during the routine performance of their professional duties, Biden scoffed during a Mexico summit press conference, in a non-admission admission that "People know that I take classified information seriously."

As Biden is fond of insisting before many a misleading statement: "No joke". He gives you his word as a Biden that he has no idea what's even in the purloined classified documents. As long as he knows people who know, what more do you want of him?  If you're not one of those people who know, then you ain't human. The same way that if you're an African-American and you didn't vote for him, you ain't Black.

The weird similarity between the discovery of Trump's stolen documents and Biden's is that both were accomplished by whole teams of lawyers - rather than, say office assistants or household cleaners. Either the job description of lawyers has radically changed, or else mere servants simply aren't good enough for presidents. Just being speculative here, but when you're a former or current president with a consciousness of guilt, it seems that using whole armies of expensive private attorneys to ethically discover your booty before the cops do is a fine way of shielding yourself you from any culpability -  before, during or after the crime.

But, hidden deep within the New York Times article on the second garage discovery, lies the real crux of this story. 

The inquiry, according to two people familiar with the matter, is a type aimed at helping Attorney General Merrick B. Garland decide whether to appoint a special counsel, like the one investigating former President Donald J. Trump’s hoarding of sensitive documents and failure to return all of them.

The all-too-convenient discovery of the stolen documents on two of Biden's properties may give the Justice Department just the excuse it needs not to prosecute Trump for his own thefts as they go through the serious motions of investigating Biden.* They probably don't have a case. It would be uncomfortable for Garland to prosecute The Donald without also charging Uncle Joe. The Republicans would only play their hypocrisy card were Biden to be given a pass when Trump went to trial. These two sticky-fingered presidents may just end up canceling each other right out. We can put it behind us, turn the page, go forward and not backward.

It's also possible that Team Biden simply created the classified documents drama as a way to deflect attention from his son Hunter's own legal troubles and imminent GOP attacks and congressional hearings. By coming clean on his own misdeeds, Joe Biden aims to be seen as seriously and nobly and pre-emptively copping to innocent mistakes that were made, in an aw-shucks kind of way. He's shielding his kid by pretending to fall on his own sword.

Since it is still theoretically possible to fool some of the people most of the time, or at least most of the people some of the time, Biden can even use his trademark motto ("Here's the deal, Folks!") to market the latest diversionary product in his Battle For the Soul of Our Nation franchise.

Dems Vs. GOP: The Play's the Thing, Or "You Can Bring a Sword to a Gunfight!"

*After I posted this, Garland did indeed appoint a special counsel to investigate Biden's stash of classified documents. The appointment gives the appearance of fairness and equity with Trump's own ongoing special counsel probe. It's probably only a matter of time before someone dubs this "GarageGate" - because Biden's immediate goofy defense argument was that his expensive Corvette is in the same hallowed space as the second stash of documents. And if he keeps his precious car so secure, then the documents adjacent to the car must be secure, too. Seriously.

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

An Auspicious Start To the New Year

As I write this, Kevin McCarthy just lost the fifth vote in his quest for the speakership of the House of Representatives. Squad member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was spotted strategizing with the very same jerk (Paul Gosar, R-AZ) who was censured last year for posting a cartoon of himself slashing her. Always a quick study, AOC apparently has let bygones be bygones, and is heeding the maxim of Rahm Emanuel, uttered in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown: "You never want to let a serious crisis go to waste."

Or as she laughingly put it“I think in chaos anything is possible, especially in this era.” 

 All of this chaos and intrigue is unfairly taking the spotlight off the fabulous fabulist who is being shunned by the cool kids in both establishment cliques. Not only is incoming freshman George Santos too stupid to lie and commit fraud skillfully, he has actually admitted to being a fraudster and a liar. This kind of ex post facto honesty simply will not do at Hallowed Halls High School.

Congressional Chaos also makes it easier for the mainstream media to continue ignoring the revelations in the so-called Twitter Files, which essentially prove that the FBI and CIA are engaged up to their eyeballs in the censorship of political speech. The latest scoop from Matt Taibbi is that BMOC (Big Man on Campus) Adam Schiff  personally called for banning a journalist skeptical of his beloved, discredited #RussiaGate franchise.

If you want to learn about this scandal, and other recent revelations of government/corporate censorship and attempted censorship, your only choice is to peruse such right-wing media outlets as Fox News and the New York Post. That is because liberal establishment outlets aren't touching these stories, thereby practicing censorship by omission.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden's own main concern is that the speakership voting chaos is a terrible cosmetic problem for the entire political class hierarchy. And he should know, because despite his own lies about his mediocre academic record, he'd managed to skip the Lower House altogether, matriculating straight to the Senate a whole half-century ago.  

Biden did manage to let some truth escape by admitting that the  keeping up of appearances is the only glue holding the ruling establishment together. The ongoing intramural junior varsity squabble would normally be beneath his notice, were it not for the gawking spectators in the global stands. The lack of decorum and cohesion is terribly embarrassing to him, personally, even as he strives to rise above it all by taking his former frat buddy Mitch McConnell on a joyride aboard Air Force One as a way to brag about doing bipartisan things. This would be the same Mitch McConnell who hazed the whole country by almost single-handedly packing the Supreme Court with far-right ideologues. 

Speaking at the White House on Wednesday before traveling to Kentucky for an event to highlight last year's bipartisan infrastructure law with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Biden said of Republicans, “I hope they get their act together.” Biden said that “the rest of the world is looking” at the chaotic scenes on the House floor but that his focus was on “getting things done.”

One of the things Biden is not getting done is returning the millions of dollars of campaign cash donated by indicted crypto fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried. And anyway, "getting things done" iis just bipartisan-speak for reducing social benefits to everyday people while funding the US hegemon's endless wars and corporate welfare packages and paranoid surveillance activities.

Therefore chaos at the very highest levels of government should instill just a wee smidgen of hope in the rest of us. Oppression delayed is oppression denied, even if it's only for one more day, until somebody gets bribed, and caves, and then it's trumpeted as a victory for democracy.

Happy New Year, fellow Sardonickists!