January 06, 2017

#CozyBear, #FancyBear, #GrizzlySteppe; natsec hashtag nuttery against Russia (and Wikileaks)

First, it's "interesting" that President Barack Obama's new sanctions against Russia were launched oh, about an hour after a new cease-fire in Syria was announced — a cease-fire mediated by Russia and Turkey alone, not the US, which was deliberately cut out.

I find it more interesting that, reading between the lines, a Russian spy house an hour or so away from the White House suddenly and massively hit a new level of spookery after the Russkies have been there for 44 years.  A WaPost piece on Friday, while describing the history of both now-closed sites, says nothing about the idea that spy level ramped up in the last couple of years. And, in fact, a Saturday NBC piece says the two sites had no special intelligence capabilities beyond other Russian sites. Obama is closing them because he wants to hurt the Russian cushiness factor.

It's also funny that Russian President Vladimir Putin punked Obama by not retaliating in kind.

Second, that they're little more than a list of protections needed against malware, or otherwise, a group of vague warnings pinnable to nothing.

In light of that, one should read Jeffery Carr calling other work by national security consultant CrowdStrike "a work of fiction." (And, stand by for his details on that.)

Or, let's go back six months, to when the natsec establishment was throwing #IBlamePutin bullshit at the wall to first see if it might stick.

Here's Carr then:

As Mark Twain said, good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment. The problem with judgment calls and attribution is that since there’s no way to be proven right or wrong, there’s no way to discern if one’s judgment call is good or bad.
The metadata in the leaked documents are perhaps most revealing: one dumped document was modified using Russian language settings, by a user named “(Felix Dzerzhinsky),” a code name referring to the founder of the Soviet Secret Police
OK. Raise your hand if you think that a GRU or FSB officer would add Iron Felix’s name to the metadata of a stolen document before he released it to the world while pretending to be a Romanian hacker. Someone clearly had a wicked sense of humor.
That, in turn, the Carr piece, is referenced by a brand-new longform at Harper's, from Andrew Cockburn, one of the better pieces out there about the rise of a new McCarthyism.

Third, per CrowdStrike, et al, c'mon, folks!

#FollowTheMoney, if you want another hashtag. Carr also addresses this issue. (He also seems to reference people who think Robert M. Lee knows a lot more shite than him.) I can't believe that people out there are smart enough to not think about this — people who are generally smart, and not normally apologists for the natsec spinoff of the military-industrial complex. But, I guess I need to start believing.

Fourth, as I've said before, Hillary Clinton was not hated to death by Vladimir Putin. Google "Frank Giustra" plus "uranium" plus "Clinton Foundation" if you don't believe me. In fact, this NYT piece should be your top Google hit.

Fifth, and related, just because Trump is allegedly a sucker for flattery doesn't make him "controllable," even if all the allegations are totally true. It just makes him an unstable, mercurial, sucker for flattery with the flattery's effect being short-term only, because of that.

Putin might well value the stability and experience of a Hillary Clinton over that.

But, she's a warhawk!

And, Putin might use that as flypaper, if she had been elected and really had tried to put a no-fly zone over Syria into effect. Even more so now that Turkey and Russia are current BFEs.

Sixth, but Julian Assange is a Russian agent, right?

Well, first, let's set aside the MSM's repeated attempts to smear him, including the Guardian, one of his earlier collaborators.

Is it possible that, in some areas, Assange has been a kind of a fellow traveler? Yes. (And Glenn Greenwald should be more suspicious of that.) That doesn't make him a Russian agent, or even an implacable foe of US interests. After all, Wikileaks' dump of Syria leaks was largely anti-Bashar Assad, just like the US government is.

Seventh, speaking of, the natsec eggs and their MSM mouthpieces have been dead wrong about Russia before, in this case, specifically, Russia and Syria.

Eighth, speaking of MSM mouthpieces, one, the Washington Post, or at least its owner, has a $600 million conflict of interest vis-a-vis the CIA.

Summary: As of right now, this is a thin, runny stream of crap held between sheets of one-ply toilet paper. Click those links, purge your brain of what the MSM and the government has been feeding you, and you might learn some new stuff.

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Update, Jan. 6: The new, allegedly more thorough, national security report is now out. Highlights, or lowlights, at a glance include —

So, "press reporting" is a CIA/FBI/NSA analytics source, re Guccifer? (page 12) Vladimir Zhirinovskiy is a credible source? (page 14) Yes, Schröder and Berlusconi (11) may have had business reasons to be Putin-friendly, like Trump allegedly did. So did Clinton. Again, folks, Google "Frank Giustra" plus "Clinton Foundation" plus uranium. Even while mentioning Russia Today's negative coverage of the Clinton Foundation (14), the NYT piece on the above isn't mentioned. As for RT mentioning (16 ff) that current US political structures don't represent many Americans? It's true! Finally, half of this 25-page report (hey, better than the 13 pages 10 days ago, right?) is focused on RT.

Update 2, Jan. 12: Masha Gessen also weighs in on the nuttery. From what's arguably the nut graf, at the end:
(T)he intelligence report does nothing to clarify the abnormalities of Trump’s campaign and election. Instead, it risks perpetuating the fallacy that Trump is some sort of a foreign agent rather than a home-grown demagogue, while doing further damage to our faith in the electoral system. It also suggests that the US intelligence agencies’ Russia expertise is weak and throws into question their ability to process and present information.
Bingo. Whether deliberately or not, our intelligence "establishment" looks more idiotic by the day. Of course, that's because it IS.

Update 3, March 7: Yasha Levine has got a must-read at the Baffler on what's behind Cozy Bear, et al, from last year's Russian snooping and hacking.
Update 4, March 8: Per Reuters, Wikileaks new Vault7 release about CIA device hacking has implications beyond the obvious.
Stuart McClure, CEO of Cylance, an Irvine, California, cyber security firm, said that one of the most significant disclosures shows how CIA hackers cover their tracks by leaving electronic trails suggesting they are from Russia, China and Iran rather than the United States.
This is directly relevant to Cozy Bear, Fancy Bear, Schmaltzy Bear, etc. Yes, those attacks MAY well be by Russian intelligence services. (If so, whether they were deliberate on the DNC at first, or just general fishing expeditions, and even after they eventually became deliberate at some point, how high the knowledge trail went within Russian intelligence circles are yet other questions.)

That said, national security establishment "eggs" claiming that Russian intelligence was incompetent here and there and with Guccifer 2.0 as well, when he was alleged to be a Russian agent? What if those were CIA bread crumbs instead? Not likely, but officially now not disprovable. 

Update 5, March 17: Multitudinous national Democratic politicians are admitting that, at a bare minimum, they'll not find proof Putin hacked elections, and at a maximum, there's no proof because — he didn't! At the same time, the man likely to have been named Clinton's CIA director is admitting there's nothing behind Trump-Putin collusion claims, which is the flip side of the same coin. Also per Morill, the Christopher Steele documents are bullshit, including paying informants.

Second update of this same day: Jeffery Carr reports that the Russians who allegedly hacked Yahoo were independent actors, not carrying out an official mission.

NBC: The new Fox uptown? Megyn Kelly, Greta Van Susteren and reality

First, it was Megyn Kelly moving to 30 Rock.

Now, Greta Van Susteren is headed to MSNBC.

A few notes, starting with some for the snowflake neoliberals out there.

First of all, don't think this is going to help the Peacock's enlightenment level. After all, both are lawyers, and both probably knew about sexual harassment issues of Gretchen Carlson (and others?) at Faux, and apparently said nothing, did nothing. Kelly even claimed Ailes sexually harassed HER, and ...

That was it. Crickets. Said nothing more. Did nothing more.

Second, neither is that close to liberal in general. Right-neoliberal might be the best to hope for. (That's even as the Old Gray Lady, at the first link, is already trying a bit of spinning.)

Third, don't think that Madcow Rachel Maddow will rub off that much on either. She's no more than a left-neoliberal, really.

Fourth, sorry, Megyn:
In an interview with Charlie Rose on “CBS Sunday Morning” last year, Ms. Kelly described the television show of her fantasies. “How about if we merge a little Charlie Rose, a little Oprah, and a little me all together,’’ she said. “And we serve that up as an hour? Wouldn’t you watch that?” 
But people aren't watching a daytime version of Charlie Rose. Not the high-dollar viewers that NBC wants. Nor are you a dash of Oprah. Maybe a more glam, kinder, gentler Phyllis Schlafly? Certainly not if an informed female guest on the daytime show brings up Kelly's past silence on sexual harassment.

Oh, and NBC and MSNBC? Don't expect some cascade of new viewers from this.

January 05, 2017

TX Progressives kick off the new year

The Texas Progressive Alliance hopes that fewer of its childhood icons die in the new year as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff pointed to Brazoria County as a potential, and necessary, opportunity for the Democrats going forward.

Socratic Gadfly takes a look at Cozy Bear, Fancy Bear, et al, and while rejecting Trump's flippancy, expresses skepticism toward the mainstream narrative.

Texas Republicans expose themselves by making the lives of women, children, and prisoners as miserable as possible.  CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme sees Donald Trump is not the only white nationalist.

The Brainiacs of 2016, formerly the TPA's Texan of the Year and awarded solely by PDiddie at Brains and Eggs, are The Democrats.

Neil at All People Have Value took a picture of train tracks at a Houston light rail station. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

The Bloggess eulogized Carrie Fisher as an inspiration to people who struggle with mental illness.

Lone Star Ma urges people to email the Chemical Safety Board.

The Great God Pan Is Dead highlighted the art that moved him in 2016.

Swamplot presents its awards for real estate in Houston in 2016.

Grits for Breakfast defines the top criminal justice stories for the year.

January 04, 2017

#ObamaLegacy — let's start talking

Since McClatchy came out with a poll last week, it's a good time to talk.

Is Barack Obama better than George W. Bush? But of course. The Nobel Pizz Price committee learned in hindsight that doesn't make him great, though. (And, no, Democrats-first libruls, this left-lib doesn't consider Shrub the worst president in history. I would unarguably place Andy Johnson, Buck Buchanan and Frank Pierce below him, and very arguably also slot Warren Harding, Ulysses S. Grant and Zach Taylor lower too.)

Sorry, neolib Democrats with Bush Derangement Syndrome. He may indeed have been bad, but he wasn't godawful.

That said, Obamiacs? Yes — Obamacare put more people on health insurance — if they can afford to use it with the high deductibles and high copays. And, contra my Dems right or wrong folks, this IS a problem.

Of course, a second problem is that Dear Leader himself blocked the implementation of about, what, one quarter of Obamacare, by executive order. When you have to block one quarter of your own signature legislation, you can't be that good.

And, there's the complication of his ethnic background and its ties to larger black historyy. S-USIH has an excellent post on this, with links to a longform by Ta-Nehisi Coates and responses to it. I think Coates gets a fair amount right, but also a fair amount wrong. The specific wrong areas are best addressed by Tressie Cottom, also linked there.

So, where does he rank?

Obama? Even without wading through an individual listing, off the top of my head, he's probably below the top 15 but above the top 33. (This ranking is of 43 presidents, throwing out William Henry Harrison for shortness of service. That said, in future rankings, I'm willing to throw out Washington as sui generis, which gives us 42, if we're still doing two separate presidencies for Grover Cleveland, or 41, if we're giving one rating to Cleveland the man.)

Per this ranking list of mine from 2007, which needs an overhaul, I had Reagan at 15 and Clinton at 16. Obama would probably slot a slot or two below.

I have started that overhaul, which I intend to be done by Jan. 20, or soon thereafter.

Having read two Walter Karp books beyond my first reading of him years ago, and gotten moderate insights from one and limited thought from the other, and having now read Sheldon Wolin's "Democracy Incorporated," several presidents are getting significant grade drops, and a number are getting moved around.

They're also being put into tiers, which will further indicate how many poor holders of the office we've had.

That said, on to the man I've "affectionately" called Dear Leader for eight years.

Obama's biggest failures?
1. Expanding the spy-and-snoop state against American citizens more than Bush did.
2. Not getting out of Afghanistan.
3. Killing at least one American citizen without due process.
4. Continuing the militarization of US police departments.
5. Underfunding the stimulus in 2009.
6. Not nationalizing banks in 2009.
7. Presiding over a "recovery" where 95 percent of new jobs since the Great Recession are NOT traditional full-time, direct-hire, permanent jobs.
8. Wrecking the Democratic Party's immediate future by doing a horrible job on the Congressional hustings in 2010 midterms.
9. Libya.
10. Selling more military weaponry abroad than any previous president.
This Foreign Policy article has a good wrap on all of his presidency, both domestic and foreign. I pretty much agree, other than on some specifics on Syria; contra the article, I've still not seen clear proof that the Syrian military was behind the alleged crossing of Obama's bright line on chemical weapons.
11. As a subset of No. 1, an unprecedented use of the Espionage Act and other tools against journalists, in an attempt to "plug leaks."

This well-written screed from Counterpunch, coming after Dear Leader's farewell address, sums it up well.

A semi-failure:
1. A partial change to health care, called Obamacare. When one-quarter of your own signature legislative achievement is blocked from implementation by you, Dear Leader, it's certainly not a clear-cut success. The price spikes a month before the election may have done as much as James Comey's reopening of the emails issue to sink Hillary Clinton's election.
Oh, and claiming Berniebros undermined Obamacare is just bullshit.

His successes:
1. His PR.
2. Not being Bush.
3. His Nobel Piss Prize.
4. His mellifluous voice and his Kumbaya chorus.

More serious successes:
1. Obamacare, to the degree it's a success
2. Getting us sort of out of Iraq.
3. Not getting us bogged down in Syria.
4. Doing what he did, inadequate as it was, for economic recovery.
5. Perhaps being more of an environmentalist than I have thought. On the other hand, it's Douglas Brinkley making the claim, so take it with a grain of salt. On the third hand, he continues to use the Antiquities Act, even if many of the new national monuments are BLM ones.