Democrats See Russians Everywhere

The Russiagate Hysteria Persists Despite Lack Of Evidence

Democrats and War

Glenn Greenwood Exposes Anti-Gabbard Smear From MSNBC

Rachel Maddow In Her Infowars Period

This also doesn’t help Maddow’s credibility (via Glenn Greenwald):

“What’s there even left to say? Russia is coming to shut off your heat in winter and make you really cold, says the most influential TV liberal personality.” –Glenn Greenwald

Unfortunately, MSNBC has become the pro-war network.

Meddling in Venezuela

Blogging In The Age Of Social Media

The blog has been far less active the last several months. This has largely been due to the effects of social media on the blogosphere. Social media has made blogs near obsolete, and has cut tremendously into traffic.  The days are long gone with a small blog like this can regularly draw in traffic exceeding 10,000 viewers, and will probably never return.

For a while social media and blogs could be used together, using Facebook to drive blog traffic to make up for some of the lost viewers. However, thanks to Russiagate-inspired censorship of social media, a Facebook post with a link to a blog post will receive far less viewership on Facebook, leading to a situation where I now get more readers by posting brief items on Facebook as opposed to longer material on the blog. Therefore, as a combination of these realities, and being busy on other matters, I have been using Facebook far more for politics the last several months.

The nature of many of the political disputes of the last few months have also had an impact. Blog posts opposing Trump receive very little attention simply because there is an abundance of anti-Trump material in the mainstream as well as other blogs. Blogs are of greatest value in discussing topics which receive too little attention from the mainstream media.

As we enter the primary battles, this could change. The mainstream media concentrates on the horse race as opposed to the issues, and there will be far more to discuss in comparing the candidates. Blog posts also provide greater ability to utilize longer posts and include multiple links.

I recently thought to try doing matters backwards–instead of posting blog posts on Facebook, primarily posting the links and short comments from Facebook here on the blog, using Facebook’s embed feature. This also enables readers to click through to see the discussions on Facebook. I tried this in the previous post, starting to use a quick blurb as a post, and then proceeded to add some brief additional material.

I am going proceed to add some links back to some other recent Facebook items which remain relevant, and in the future probably continue with a combination of such links as well as posts which are preferable originating on a blog.

Democrats Slap Donald Trump On the Wrist In the Midterms

The midterms were a mixed success for the Democrats in 2018. Most notably the Democrats took control of the House, but unfortunately this probably means Nancy Peolsi returns as Speaker. They also regained about three hundred of the near one thousand seats in state legislatures they lost over the past decade, have a majority of state attorney generals in the nation, and won some key governorship battles, especially in the midwest. On the other hand, despite a Republican president as terrible as Donald Trump, their midterm gains in the House were historically not terribly impressive for the party out of power, and they did poorly in the high profile battles in the Senate. (I’m waiting to hear Rachel Maddow explain why the Russians meddled in the Senate races but not the House races this year.)

This was far more a slap on the wrist than a shallacking for Donald Trump.

The Senate map was undoubtedly very unfavorable for Democrats, but it will be so virtually every year as long as Democrats are unable to come up with a message to win in the smaller states beyond the east coast. The system of giving two Senators to each state regardless of size makes the Senate extraordinarily unrepresentative. Still, don’t be tempted to repeat the memes showing up since the election regarding winning the popular vote. They are misleading as the entire nation did not vote for Senate, and this can be tilted by which states do vote. This was especially true in 2018 as California had two Democrats running for Senate due to a system where the two leaders in the primary get on the November ballot regardless of party. This leads to a tremendous number of Democratic votes if the mythical Senate popular vote is counted, but only one Democratic Senator.

Democrats are always far quicker to list off the problems which make it more difficult to win than to change their strategy. They showed once again that moving to the right in the hopes of attracting Republican votes does not work. Nor did recruiting veterans help them do any better than expected. I would prefer to see Democrats be more consistent in supporting a reduction in  the role of government in the private lives of individuals–an attitude which might make defense of reproductive rights part of a consistent philosophy that might be accepted in the more libertarian minded portions of the country. Taking a rational anti-war line, as opposed to acting as if they are apologizing for appearing weak on national security, might also help in those areas which are hurt by perpetual warfare–and rejected Hillary Clinton in 2016.

This does note mean that the Democrats don’t have many valid complaints, including regarding voter suppression and gerrymandering. Some of the election results will help, including increasing their strength in several state governments before the next redistricting. While the high profile races in Florida did not turn out as hoped (how badly did campaigning with Hillary Clinton hurt Andrew Gillum?), but there was a victory in passing a ballot initiative to restore voting rights to convicted felons who have served their time.

While Democrats continued to struggle in Florida and Ohio, their hopes for Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin being more blue in 2018 look favorable after Tuesday’s results, including the defeat of Scott Walker in Wisconsin. Besides possibly giving the Democrats their electoral votes again in 2020, there might be an increased number of representatives as the heavily gerrymandered system of drawing Congressional districts will be replaced by an independent redistricting commission in Michigan.

Other ballot proposals passing in Michigan will make it easier to vote and legalized marijuana for recreational use. Newly elected Governor Gretchen Whitmer is looking at legislation or issuing executive orders to free prisoners convicted for marijuana related charges which will no longer be crimes after the ballot proposal passed. I did hold my nose and vote for Whitmer, despite her reliance on dark money and financing by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Action such as this will make me happier that I did so. A judge has already put some new marijuana cases on hold.

Medicaid expansion passed in Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah, and is also expected in Kansas due to the victory for a Democratic governor. While there is no chance of it becoming law imminently, there are also more Democratic supporters of Medicare for All in the House.

There were victories for various groups. The media has covered extensively how there are more women and people of color in the House. In addition, seven more scientists were elected to the House–all Democrats as the Republican war on science continues.

It remains to be seen how some issues will play out now that the midterms are over. Are we still supposed to be terrified by the caravan? Donald Trump quickly took advantage of having control of the Senate by firing Jeff Sessions.  I never would have guessed that I would see this as a bad thing when Sessions first became Attorney General. On the one hand, Sessions might have been the worst Attorney General in history. On the other hand, Sessions was absolutely right in his dispute with Trump in recusing himself from Mueller’s investigation, and his firing could be a sign that Trump plans to take action against Mueller. I suspect that Mueller has prepared for this by being ready to turn over evidence of financial crimes committed by Trump and his cronies to state prosecutors. Congressional Democrats will also be able to take over the investigation if needed. Hopefully they concentrate on Trump’s financial crimes and obstruction of justice, as opposed to the dubious conspiracy theories popular among many Democrats blaming Russia for Hillary Clinton’s loss.

A Welcome Reduction In Hysteria As We Are Hearing Less About Foreign Hacking Of The 2018 Election (For Now)

The New York Times today asks, Where Are The Russians? In other words, they have bought the sensationalized and highly exaggerated media accounts of Russia’s impact on the 2016 election, and are now surprised that they cannot find evidence that Russia is trying to hack the 2018 election.

Aaron Maté has a more reality-based view at The Nation in writing,With Just Days to the Midterms, Russiagate Is MIA–And that’s a good thing. He wrote, that despite all the “histrionics,” Russia has been found to have done little of consequence:

Russia’s alleged midterm sabotage to date has been disclosed in a newly unsealed criminal complaint against an employee of the Internet Research Agency (IRA), the Russian troll farm previously indicted for using fake accounts to spread divisive content on social media. The defendant, Elena Khusyaynova, is not even directly accused of online manipulation. Instead, she is singled out for being the chief accountant for “Project Lakhta,” an IRA initiative that targeted audiences in Russia and around the world, including the United States. The only actions directly ascribed to Khusyaynova concern her “meticulous record-keeping and management” of IRA funds.

As with the initial indictment of 13 IRA employees in February, prosecutors accuse IRA trolls of using social media “to sow discord in the U.S. political system and to undermine faith in our democratic institutions,” including in the upcoming midterms. But reading the fine print, it is difficult to see how that purported aim can be taken seriously. In the first six months of 2018, Khusyaynova submitted expenditures of $60,000 for advertisements on Facebook and $6,000 on Instagram. The only advertising-related activity that gets detailed in the complaint is an alleged IRA employee’s offering to give organizers of an anti-Trump protest $80 for a Facebook ad. (It’s unclear if the proposal was accepted). The IRA’s alleged social-media accounts impersonated both liberal and conservative personas. The complaint shows six images that were posted by Russian trolls to Facebook; the most impactful of the bunch appears to be a thinly disguised anti-Muslim ad that attracted 104 comments.

Some of this content is overtly racist and bigoted; other posts are banal. All are so juvenile or inconsequential that it is difficult to see how they could have vastly greater influence than the millions of other pieces of political clickbait littering the Internet. The IRA’s social-media imprint seems to have as much impact now as it did during the 2016 election. Back then, the IRA spent a reported on $100,000 on Facebook ads, with most of those ads having nothing to do with the election, and more than half of that total spent after the election.

According to Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch, posts generated by suspected Russian accounts between 2015 and 2017 represented “a tiny fraction of the overall [News Feed] content on Facebook.… about four-thousandths of one percent (0.004%) of content in News Feed, or approximately 1 out of 23,000 pieces of content.” The widely cited figure that “material generated by the Kremlin had reached a hundred and twenty-six million American Facebook users,” (The New Yorker) is in fact a creative take on Facebook’s own speculation. “Our best estimate,” Stretch testified to Congress in October 2017, “is that approximately 126 million people may have been served one of these [IRA] stories at some time during the two year period.” So the 126 million figure is an “estimate” of how many people “may have been served” one piece of IRA content—most unrelated to the 2016 election—in their Facebook feeds over two years. Over on Twitter, a new analysis by the Atlantic Council’s DFRLab finds that “Russia’s troll operation primarily targeted Russian speakers,” posting “significantly more in Russian than in English.”

Maté went on to further debunk many of the Russiagate claims, seeing them as no more than “fodder for ongoing efforts intent on convincing Americans that unsophisticated social-media trolling could somehow divide and weaken their society.” He showed problems with claims that Russia penetrated state voting systems and the many problems with media coverage of Russiagate, as I, and others, have also done many times in the the past.

Matt Taibbi also discussed the problems with coverage of Russia in an interview with Recode, pointing out, “You see a lot of stories where there are four unnamed intelligence sources all saying something that is totally unverifiable.” He discussed additional problems with some stories:

So recently we had a story that … I’ll give you two. Okay? There was one from pretty early on where the New York Times said, “Trump campaign officials had repeat contacts with Russian intelligence.” All right? And again, it was four current and former officials, none of them named. Now, I knew and anybody who lived in Russia knew that you constantly have contact with intelligence officials there often, whether you know it or not. And the story didn’t specify whether the contract was knowing or unknowing, like what the nature of it was, but the headline was incredibly damning, right?

I was very concerned about the vagueness of it, the inability to verify it. And then, sure enough, James Comey came out months later and said, “Well, that story isn’t true.” All right? And so if I’m the reporters, I’m really pissed about that, right? Like, “you burned me on this.”

Right.

Then later, more recently, we had a story that said, “Oh, all of our informants in Moscow have gone dark.” Now, I get that the sources in that story had to be high level.

Sure.

Of course they were, but how do you confirm that story? Think about it as a journalist. If you get a call, it doesn’t matter to me if the source is the head of the CIA.

It’s not like you can go find those intelligence sources and confirm with them.

Right? I mean, can you look at the string of cables that have suddenly ceased? You can’t, right? I even called the paper and asked about that. I said, “What’s the deal with this?”

Taibbi noted a time when The New York Times fell into a similar trap in reporting unverified intelligence claims: FROM THE EDITORS; The Times and Iraq.

While talk of Russia rigging our elections has calmed down going into the midterms, this might also be a temporary break, with politicians on both sides likely to be searching for people to blame for losses after the results are in. However, if there really should be a threat of election rigging, it is notable that, despite all the hysteria since 2016, The New York Times is right on one thing. Very little has been done to change how our elections are held and to deal with the risks in our electronic voting systems. If politicians (along with journalists who called 2016 incorrectly) really took the risk of election hacking seriously, as opposed to a convenient excuse for why Hillary Clinton could not beat Donald Trump, we might expect a strong movement towards paper ballots and more secure voting systems.

The Halloween Horror Story Of Another Clinton Run For President

As if we didn’t have enough terrible events in the past week, yet another scare before this Halloween is the prospect that Hillary Clinton might run for president again. The last Clinton candidacy scare came when she said she would like to be president when asked about running:

“Do you want to run again?” Recode’s Kara Swisher asked during a Friday night Q&A with Clinton.

“No,” Clinton replied quickly, sparking laughter from the audience. But when Swisher pressed her further, she added: “I’d like to be president.”

By itself, this means little. If they answered honestly, pretty much everyone who has ever run for elected office would say they would like to be president, even if they have zero actual plan of running at the time.

This comes shortly after a former aide Philippe Reines raised the question of her running: “It’s curious why Hillary Clinton’s name isn’t in the mix—either conversationally or in formal polling—as a 2020 candidate.” Reines was asked about the likelihood of her running: “It’s somewhere between highly unlikely and zero,” he said, “but it’s not zero.”

Fortunately the chances of someone winning the nomination after losing the general election are very remote. Nobody has successfully done so since Richard Nixon. There are additional circumstances around her loss which must be kept under consideration. Clinton lost to a candidate as terrible as Donald Trump, being possibly the only politician whose own negatives were high enough to balance out Trump’s. Clinton’s approval ratings remain below those of Donald Trump.

Clinton also won the nomination under unusual circumstances in which the Democratic National Committee did everything possible to rig the nomination in her favor, and yet she still faced a stiff challenge from Bernie Sanders.

If Clinton has any desire to run, there remains the possibility she might convince Democrats to nominate her after losing as a solid majority of Democrats believe the story she fabricated after the election blaming Russia for her loss, despite the evidence failing to support her claims. This helps blind many Democrats to how terrible a candidate she was, and helps her cover up the actual reasons she could not even beat Donald Trump.

Clinton has gone on a series of tours to promote her book, and herself, since losing the election. The Clinton tours have received the expected criticism from the right, along with criticism from the left. Interest in paying to see the Clintons might be higher if the Clintons could convince people that Hillary has a future in politics (at least among those who might see this as something they could support).

One reason Clinton has managed to survive politically has been a lack of awareness by many Democrats of the amount of damage Clinton has done around the world, including causing the development of slave markets along with the casualties in Libya. We might soon receive another reminder–if Americans were only more aware of Hillary Clinton’s role in the coup which destabilized Honduras–creating the conditions under which some have fled to come to the United States.

Hillary Clinton says she would like to be president. I would like to see her brought to justice for all the people around the world who have died and suffered as a result of her policies. Neither of us are likely to get what we would like.