The Nation Debunks Russiagate Conspiracy “Fantasyland” And Irresponsible Media Coverage

As was the case in the run up to the Iraq war when a small number of us were disputing the claims used to justify war, there also continues to be articles disputing the Russiagate conspiracy theory that Donald Trump and Russia successfully colluded to alter the 2016 election result. This is most often spread by establishment Democrats who cannot face the fact that Hillary Clinton was such a terrible choice for the nomination that she could not beat someone as awful as Donald Trump. While Robert Mueller’s investigation is uncovering evidence of financial crimes, and obstruction of justice, no evidence has been presented to support the claims of Russia altering the election results which has not been quickly retracted or debunked. Yesterday I quoted from an article by Jackson Lears, Professor of History at Rutgers University. Another article on this subject by Aaron Maté in The Nation is less extensive but has the benefit of being more likely to be read by Democrats who are being duped this conspiracy theory.

There have been so many debunked claims regarding Russiagate that no single article can deal with them all. Maté concentrated on the numerous reports which have been circulated by the mainstream media, only to be quickly shown to be false–a subject I previously discussed here. He also touched on the false claims of Russian hackers hacking the voting systems of 21 states and the claim that there was a consensus from all the intelligence agencies that Russia was responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee. This later claim continues to be repeated by many Clinton apologists despite having been retracted by The New York Times last June. It is also worth noting that, while no evidence has been presented so far showing that Russia hacked the DNC, if future evidence should happen to show this, it would be a negative regarding Russia but would still not support Clinton’s argument that Russia is responsible for her loss. The hacked email which was released by Wikileaks provided factual information regarding unethical behavior by Clinton and the DNC, and Clinton would still be responsible for any votes lost because of this.

There are at least five reasons why the Russiagate conspiracy theory is so dangerous. It allows the Democratic establishment to deny responsibility for their mistakes, making reform less likely. It promotes McCarthyism and promotion of restrictions on freedom of expression in the United States. It unnecessarily increases conflict with a nuclear power (playing into the hands of Clinton’s neocon allies who desire to attempt regime change in Russia). It strengthens Putin by showing him to be a far greater master strategist than he is, to the frustration of anti-Putin forces in Russia. Maté began his article with a fifth reason. Concentrating on such false charges distracts from forming a true resistance to the many terrible things Donald Trump has been doing.

After this introduction, Maté more directly addressed the unsupported claims regarding the 2016 election:

The basis for the “virtually uncontested truths” of the year’s “biggest story” remains the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s January 2017 report, which accused Russia of hacking Democratic e-mails and using social media to influence the 2016 election. Yet the report openly acknowledges that its conclusions are “not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact.” Nearly one year later, we have yet to see a shred of proof.

What we have in its stead is a stream of Russiagate stories that make bombastic entrances only to quietly slink away. The pattern persists thanks to a media and political culture that embraces credulity and shuns accountability.

Virtually every major outlet reported claims in September that Russian-government-backed hackers targeted the voting systems of 21 states. But last month Christopher Krebs, a senior cyber-security official at the Department of Homeland Security, quietly informed Congress that no such hacking had occurred. “The majority of the activity was simple scanning,” Krebs told a House panel. “Scanning is a regular activity across the Web. I would not characterize that as an attack.… If that context was not provided, I apologize.” He added: “When we talk about that scanning, it was not also necessarily an election system that was scanned.”

Krebs’s contrition did not ring out among the media that had fervently reported the scanning as a hacking attack, and continue to do so as part of Russiagate’s “virtually uncontested truths.” The falsity of the “21 states” claim went largely unreported, outside C-SPAN and the marginal Russian website that took notice.

Meanwhile, accountability has been resisted even when the mistakes are seismically embarrassing. The most recent case was CNN’s erroneous report that the Trump campaign was offered access to Wikileaks’ trove of stolen Democratic Party e-mails before their public release. In a story line worthy of Better Call Saul, it turned out that CNN got the date wrong—someone had in fact e-mailed the Trump campaign a link to the Wikileaks e-mails, only after they were already all over the Internet. As Glenn Greenwald noted, the mistake was egregious not just for the story’s ultimate uselessness, but also for the fact CNN and other outlets all reported they had confirmed it with multiple sources. Yet none of the networks have explained how their “multiple sources” all “confirmed” the same incorrect date.

Maté discussed CNN’s error in greater detail. He next discussed the claims that Russia affected the Brexit vote. As was the case with Russia’s actions on Facebook and Twitter in the United States, he showed that the claims regarding Brexit were highly exaggerated, and then discussed Russia Today and the investigation of Jill Stein:

Just weeks ago, The New York Times warned that reports of Russian-linked social-media activity around the Brexit vote “could raise questions about the legitimacy of the referendum” itself. “I have a very simple message for Russia,” declared British Prime Minister Theresa May on November 13. “We know what you are doing. And you will not succeed.”

We now have a full accounting of what Russia was doing: According to Twitter, the Kremlin-backed network Russia Today spent just over $1,000 to promote its Brexit coverage to UK-based viewers. Facebook reported a grand total of 97 cents spent on three ads, “all centered on immigration and aimed at American users,” reaching no more than 200 of them over four days. Whatever Russia was doing, May’s confidence that they would not succeed was doubtless well-founded.

The unquestioning faith in evidence-free or overblown claims coincides with the targeting of those who dare challenge them. The forced registration of RT America as a “foreign agent” was followed by the revoking of the outlet’s congressional press pass, with the usual silence from press-freedom groups and media outlets, even progressive ones. Without explanation, The Huffington Post removed an article by veteran reporter Joe Lauria that methodically challenged Russiagate’s precepts. On Tuesday, Green Party candidate Jill Stein confirmed that she is complying with a Senate Intelligence Committee investigation looking into, in the words of panel chair Senator Richard Burr, “collusion with the Russians.”

Despite multiple interviews explaining the nature of a 2015 trip to Moscow, Stein remains the target of a smear campaign, cheered on by liberal groups, painting her as a Kremlin stooge. “Here’s hoping this lying sack of piety-spewing shit goes to jail with the rest of the bastards Mueller is investigating,” commented liberal sex-advice columnist Dan Savage. Zac Petkanas, a Democratic Party senior adviser and Clinton campaign staffer, was so enthused by the Senate probe that he repeated the phrase “Jill Stein is a Russian agent” to his Twitter followers eight times.

Stein calls the investigation part of a “resurgence of McCarthyism, to suppress opposition voices, to suppress independent politics.” But for its proponents to recognize that would mean acknowledging that it derives from the same kind of behavior that is recognized in Trump. “Any genuine interest in objective reality left the building a while ago, replaced by a self-sustaining fantasyland,” the New York Times editors write of Trump’s right-wing defenders. The tragedy of Russiagate is that its enthusiasts have constructed a “self-sustaining fantasyland” of their own. A fantasyland is no place from which to confront Trump’s reality.

USA Today Blasts Donald Trump Following His Attack On Kirsten Gillibrand

The loss by Roy Moore following Donald Trump’s endorsement was not the only humiliation for Donald Trump this week. USA Today, hardly known for their editorials, blasted Trump following his tweet yesterday attacking Kirsten Gillibrand. From their editorial:

A president who’d all but call a senator a whore is unfit to clean toilets in Obama’s presidential library or to shine George W. Bush’s shoes: Our view

With his latest tweet, clearly implying that a United States senator would trade sexual favors for campaign cash, President Trump has shown he is not fit for office. Rock bottom is no impediment for a president who can always find room for a new low.

If recent history is any guide, the unique awfulness of the Trump era in U.S. politics is only going to get worse. Trump’s utter lack of morality, ethics and simple humanity has been underscored during his 11 months in office. Let us count the ways:

  • He is enthusiastically supporting Alabama’s Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused of pursuing — and in one case molesting and in another assaulting — teenagers as young as 14 when Moore was a county prosecutor in his 30s. On Tuesday, Trump summed up his willingness to support a man accused of criminal conduct: “Roy Moore will always vote with us.”
  • Trump apparently is going for some sort of record for lying while in office. As of mid-November, he had made 1,628 misleading or false statements in 298 days in office. That’s 5.5 false claims per day, according to a count kept by The Washington Post’s fact-checkers.
  • Trump takes advantage of any occasion — even Monday’s failed terrorist attack in New York — to stir racial, religious or ethnic strife. Congress “must end chain migration,” he said Monday, because the terror suspect “entered our country through extended-family chain migration, which is incompatible with national security.” So because one man — 27-year-old Akayed Ullah, a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. who came from Bangladesh on a family immigrant visa in 2011 —  is accused of attacking America, all immigrants brought to this country by family are suspect? Trump might have some credibility if his criticism of immigrants was solely about terrorists. It isn’t.  It makes no difference to him if an immigrant is a terrorist or a federal judge. He once smeared an Indiana-born judge whose parents emigrated from Mexico. It’s all the same to this president.
  • A man who clearly wants to put his stamp on the government, Trump hasn’t even done his job when it comes to filling key government positions that require Senate confirmation. As of last week, Trump had failed to nominate anyone for 60% of 1,200 key positions he can fill to keep the government running smoothly.
  • Trump has shown contempt for ethical strictures that have bound every president in recent memory.  He has refused to release his tax returns, with the absurd excuse that it’s because he is under audit.  He has refused to put his multibillion dollar business interests in a blind trust and peddles the fiction that putting them in the hands of his sons does the same thing.

Not to mention calling white supremacists “very fine people,” pardoning a lawless sheriff, firing a respected FBI director, and pushing the Justice Department to investigate his political foes.

It is a shock that only six Democratic senators are calling for our unstable president to resign.

Retraction Of False Russiagate Bombshell From CNN Yesterday Was Just One In A Long List Of Retracted Claims By Media

Yesterday we had yet another example of a story being promoted as a bombshell revelation about Trump and Russiagate, only to be retracted soon afterwards. CNN ran a story claiming that Donald Trump received a web address leading to Wikileaks documents on September 4, 2016 and later corrected the date to September 14. This is quite significant as the information was made public by Wikileaks by the time of this email on the fourteenth. Instead of showing collusion with the Trump campaign receiving secret information from Wikileaks as CNN’s story suggested, all they received was a web address to information which had already been released to the public. CBS and MSNBC were making the same claims of this being evidence of collusion until the story was retracted.

What is remarkable about this is that this is just one in a long string of similar events which have fueled this story. Three CNN reporters had already resigned in June over an incorrect Russiagate story.  Last week I noted that ABC News had retracted a story claiming that Michael Flynn had made contact with Russia during the campaign when it actually occurred after Trump had elected. (This, along Jared Kushner’s reported attempt to achieve a secret backdoor channel to Russia in December, also contradict claims of collusion during the election as there would be no need for such backdoor communications by either Flynn or Kushner if they had been colluding during the campaign.)

In November there was the bombshell that Russia had sent money to its embassies marked, “to finance election campaign of 2016.” Rather than evidence of rigging the US election, it turned out that this money was to fund voting in the Russian election by Russian citizens living abroad.

The claim that seventeen intelligence agreed that Russia was responsible for hacking the DNC continues to be cited by Democratic partisans long after it was withdrawn, and despite the lack of any evidence being presented by those in the intelligence community who believe this. Pro-Clinton conspiracy theories are increasingly basing their arguments on claims of secret intelligence which nobody can verify.

Other questionable stories include the Russian web site which, instead of trying to influence the election, contained pictures of puppies. The Congressional testimony showed how ridiculous the entire argument was that Russia influenced the election by using Facebook and Twitter.  It was revealed that Russian-purchased Facebook ads accounted for “less than 0.004 percent of all content — or about 1 in 23,000 news feed items” on Facebook. Over half the ads were not even seen until after the election, and many had nothing to do with promoting Trump over Clinton. The biggest success attributed to Russia on Facebook has been to get 5000 to 10,000 people to turn out for a rally–a rally protesting against Donald Trump after the election. The impact on Twitter was not any more significant. The largest of the alleged Russian troll pages had 25,045 followers at its peak, and the others had far fewer.

There have been many other false claims which have been retracted, including the hacking of the US electrical grid and even of our election systems. The Intercept has provided just a small sample:

  • Russia hacked into the U.S. electric grid to deprive Americans of heat during winter (Wash Post)
  • An anonymous group (PropOrNot) documented how major U.S. political sites are Kremlin agents (Wash Post)
  • WikiLeaks has a long, documented relationship with Putin (Guardian)
  • A secret server between Trump and a Russian bank has been discovered (Slate)
  • RT hacked C-SPAN and caused disruption in its broadcast (Fortune)
  • Crowdstrike finds Russians hacked into a Ukrainian artillery app (Crowdstrike)
  • Russians attempted to hack elections systems in 21 states (multiple news outlets, echoing Homeland Security)
  • Links have been found between Trump ally Anthony Scaramucci and a Russian investment fund under investigation (CNN)

Many of the Russiagate claims are are looking no more valid than the claims of WMD in Iraq which precipitated that war, or the lies which the United States has used to become in wars elsewhere. This is very risky when applied to a nuclear power–where neoconservatives have also desire to seek regime change.

While Donald Trump very likely has had illegal financial dealings with Russia, and the campaign did seek to obtain information on Clinton from Russia, there is no evidence either of actions by Russia which altered the election result, or of active collusion during the campaign. Even if such evidence should arise in the future, it is clear that Democrats were making such claims without evidence at the time. As was revealed in Shattered, Hillary Clinton devised a strategy of blaming others, including Russia, for her loss within twenty-four hours of losing. The claim that Russia affected the election result was largely based upon the Steele Dossier. Clinton and the DNC had covered up their role in paying for this report for months, casting doubt on its reliability.

I suspect that Clinton’s claims that Russia was responsible for her loss continue to receive credibility from much of the media because many are unwilling to believe that Donald Trump could have beaten Hillary Clinton, despite all the evidence that Clinton was an extraordinarily weak and unpopular candidate long before the election. Their personal biases might have led to these repeated examples of journalistic carelessness in which they ran with stories which seemed to confirm their suspicions without doing sufficient fact checking. Retracted stories with false information continue to be cited by Democratic partisans.

Fox Wins First Annual Fake News Trophy

Donald Trump recently called for a Fake News Trophy on Twitter. While I can understand that Donald Trump might be upset with CNN (the Clinton News Network), his attempt to exclude Fox from the award backfired. After all, Fox probably does remain the largest major source of false information after Donald Trump himself. Earlier this month the Washington Post Fact Checker found that Trump has made 1,628 false or misleading claims over 298 days since becoming president.

Rasmussen, the Republican-leaning polling outfit, conducted a poll to award the Fake News Trophy. Despite the biases of Rasmussen, the First Annual Fake News Trophy went to Fox. While there was the expected partisan bias in the results, overall Fox did win at 40 percent, with CNN well behind at 25 percent. From Rasmussen:

Trump suggested earlier this week that the media should award an annual Fake News Award for the worst coverage of his presidency but left Fox News out of the running since it is the only network the president and his supporters believe gives him fair coverage. But 40% of all voters think Fox News should be the winner of the first annual Fake News Trophy.

CNN is in second place with 25% support, followed by MSNBC (9%), ABC (4%), CBS (3%) and NBC (2%). Six percent (6%) say the award should go to someone else, and 11% are undecided.

A closer look finds that while 53% of Democrats and a plurality (42%) of voters not affiliated with either major party declare Fox News the winner, just 24% of Republicans agree. Forty percent (40%) of GOP voters opt instead for CNN, a view shared by just 13% of Democrats and 24% of unaffiliateds.

Republicans and unaffiliated voters are more critical of MSNBC than Democrats are, too. Views of the other networks are more comparable among the three groups.

Democracy Under Attack–From Both Major Political Parties

The fundamental principles of democracy have been under attack for several months, unfortunately by both major political parties. The lack of respect for democratic norms by Donald Trump and his Republican supporters has been well documented. Rather than presenting a clear alternative, the last nominee for the Democratic nomination has also been attacking Democratic norms, including acceptance of election results and freedom of speech. Hillary Clinton repeated her attacks on the legitimacy of the 2016 election in an interview with Ari Berman of Mother Jones.

During the election, when there was a question of Donald Trump not accepting the results of the election, Hillary Clinton said that Donald Trump “threatens democracy” by not accepting the election results. She also said, “We know, in our country, the difference between leadership and dictatorship. And the peaceful transition of power is something that sets us apart.”

Since then, Hillary Clinton lost the election after running a terrible campaign. It was a huge mistake for the Democrats to essentially rig the nomination for a weak candidate as opposed to allowing a stronger candidate capable of winning a national campaign to be its nominee. Democrats made a terrible mistake, but once the election results were in, in a democracy there was no choice but to accept the results and look forward to the next election. Instead, as was revealed by in Shattered, Hillary Clinton devised a strategy of blaming others, including Russia, for her loss within twenty-four hours of losing.

The claim that Russia affected the election result was largely based upon the Steele Dossier. Clinton and the DNC had covered up their role in paying for this report for months, casting doubt on its reliability. More recently we learned that Christopher Steele is saying he believes the report is 70% to 90% accurate. In other words, he admits that thirty percent could be inaccurate.

Over the last several month, as information has come out on the Congressional and Mueller investigations, the evidence has cast further doubt on Clinton’s claims. We have seen substantial evidence of improper business dealings between Trump, members of his family, and key people in his campaign having improper business relations with Russia. We have seen evidence of Trump conspiring to cover this up. The indictments to date have related to financial dealings, and it appears that this is what Mueller is concentrating on.

On the other hand, evidence released through the Congressional hearings have shown that Russia’s advertising on Facebook and use of Twitter was too inconsequential to have had an impact. We learned during the recent Congressional testimony that material including ads from Russian Facebook pages accounted for “less than 0.004 percent of all content — or about 1 in 23,000 news feed items” on Facebook. Over half the ads were not even seen until after the election, and many had nothing to do with promoting Trump over Clinton. We also learned that the Russian Twitter accounts were not very large and that, of the tweets attributed to troll accounts Russia’s Internet Research Agency, only  “9 percent of the tweets were election-related .” Even former Clinton adviser Mark Penn has argued that the Facebook ads were not the reason Clinton lost.

It has been commonplace to see sensational headlines of a smoking gun of Russian tampering with the election results, only to have them quickly shot down. One supposedly Russian site consisted of pictures of puppies. Just this week we had the revelation that Russia had designated money “to finance election campaign of 2016.” Rather being a smoking gun, this appears to have been money spent on the Russian Parliamentary elections. Yes, Russia has been caught meddling in their own election.

With report after report falling apart, we have no evidence of any more Russian meddling in the 2016 election than has been occurring for decades–with the United States similarly meddling in other elections. There is no evidence of a vast and successful conspiracy to change the results of the 2016 election. The biggest success attributed to Russia on Facebook has been to get 5000 to 10,000 people to turn out for a rally–a rally protesting against Donald Trump after the election.

In the interview Clinton claimed, “This is the first time we’ve ever been attacked by a foreign adversary and then they suffer no real consequences.” This is an especially chilling statement from a politician who has already participated in lying the country into wars, and is aligned with neoconservatives who wish to attempt regime change in Russia.

Just as chilling has been how this contrived scandal has been used to restrict political discourse. With the new McCarthyism which has overtaken many Democrats, to question this march towards conflict with Russia, no matter how reminiscent it is of the march towards war with Iraq over fake WMD, is countered with attacks of being pro-Russia. To oppose conflict with Russia over fake claims from the Clinton camp and other neocons no more means one is pro-Russia than opposing the rush to war with Iraq over false claims of WMD meant one was pro-Saddam.

One consequence of this hysteria has been to censor Americans on social media as I and others have been pointing out. Clinton, who has a long history of lack of respect for First Amendment rights, has used the bogus claim that her loss was illegitimate to call for government censorship of information critical of her as she labels it “fake news.” She also claims this is not protected by the First Amendment.

Nobody likes to lose an election, but we have never encountered a situation such as this in which the loser questions the legitimacy of the election, endangers our national security in promoting unnecessary conflicts, and attacks First Amendment rights. Of course we have also never encountered much of what we have seen by the winner of the election either, but this provides no justification for Clinton’s actions.

Russian Facebook Ads And Tweets Turning Out To Represent A Minuscule Percent Of Their Traffic

It increasingly looks like a journalist can simply put out a headline with Russia and either Facebook or Twitter in it and create hysteria. Despite all the hype, we learned during the recent Congressional testimony that material from Russian pages accounted for “less than 0.004 percent of all content — or about 1 in 23,000 news feed items” on Facebook. Over half the ads were not even seen until after the election, and many had nothing to do with promoting Trump over Clinton.

It also looks like the biggest success attributed to Russia on Facebook has been to get 5000 to 10,000 people to turn out for a rally–a rally protesting against Donald Trump after the election.

Today’s hysterical headline is about Twitter, but looks far less scary when looking at the details. Apparently there were trolls on Twitter supporting Donald Trump. There is an enormous number of tweets going out every minute on Twitter, and a tweet does nothing if someone is not following the person tweeting. According to this article, the largest of these Russian troll pages had 25,045 followers at its peak, and the others had far fewer. These are far from widely viewed tweets. It also seems a safe bet that if these accounts were tweeting pro-Trump material, they were primarily followed by pro-Trump individuals and it is questionable whether they could actually change votes, especially considering the far larger number of people tweeting in favor of both Trump and Clinton.

The likelihood of them impacting the election appears even less after noting that of the tweets attributed to troll accounts from Russia’s Internet Research Agency, only “9 percent of the tweets were election-related .”

Most likely we are seeing a combination of things going on. There were probably Tweets and Facebook ads designed to disrupt American politics in general without supporting a particular candidate. There were many which had nothing to do with the election, very likely posts from Russian troll farms designed to obtain page hits, sometimes by making controversial comments. There very well could have also been some intentionally posted to try to help Donald Trump–but considering how small a percentage of overall Facebook and Twitter traffic they represented, it is absurd to say they were more important than Hillary Clinton’s war chest of over one billion dollars, and many others helping her (including paid trolls for Clinton). Even former Clinton adviser Mark Penn has written that this is not what cost Clinton the election.

Russia very likely has been misbehaving–as they have for decades, and as the United States government has. According to a paper of election meddling reviewed by Slate:

Using declassified documents, statements by officials, and journalistic accounts, Levin has found evidence of interference by either the United States or the Soviet Union/Russia in 117 elections around the world between 1946 and 2000, or 11.3 percent of the 937 competitive national-level elections held during this period. Eighty-one of those interventions were by the U.S. while 36 were by the USSR/Russia. They happened in every region of the world, though most commonly in Europe and Latin America. The two powers tended to focus on different countries, though Italy was a favorite of both, receiving eight interventions by the U.S. and four by the Soviets.

We should certainly work towards making Facebook and Twitter more transparent so people know when they are reading ads purchased by Russians. We should not be so naive as to think that we can control what appears on line in the internet age. We should also not take this to mean that there was some sort of unique conspiracy to push Clinton over Trump on social media in 2016. As was revealed in Shattered, Clinton came up with the excuse that Russia cost her the election within twenty-four hours of losing to distract from her own mistakes which cost her the election.

While there are legitimate responses to this issue, this should not be used as an excuse to restrict freedom of speech. The dangers from restricting free communication on Facebook and Twitter are far greater than the actual risk of Russia using social media to alter election results. The consequence of this hysteria has been to censor Americans on social media as I and others have been pointing out. This is what we must concentrate on avoiding. We also must be cautious about playing into neocon propaganda, with many of those now making the same noise attacking Russia are the same people who got this country into a war based upon false claims about Iraq and WMD.

Donald Trump May Have Reached A New Low With Attacks On Mayor Of San Juan

Donald Trump has done so many despicable things that I’m no longer sure where to rank his latest feud with the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico. His mishandling of this situation is reminiscent of George Bush’s mishandling of Katrina. The New York Times described his latest atrocious statements criticizing someone during a time of crisis:

President Trump lashed out at the mayor of San Juan on Saturday for criticizing his administration’s efforts to help Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, accusing her of “poor leadership” and implying that the people of the devastated island were not doing enough to help themselves.

As emergency workers and troops struggled to restore basic services in a commonwealth with no electricity and limited fuel and water, Mr. Trump spent the day at his New Jersey golf club, blasting out Twitter messages defending his response to the storm and repeatedly assailing the capital’s mayor, Carmen Yulín Cruz, and the news media.

“The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump,” the president wrote on Twitter. “Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help.”

Mr. Trump said the people of Puerto Rico should not depend entirely on the federal government. “They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort,” he wrote. “10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job. The military and first responders, despite no electric, roads, phones etc., have done an amazing job. Puerto Rico was totally destroyed.”

The president’s stream of Twitter bolts appeared repeatedly over the course of 12 hours and touched off a furious day of recriminations that fueled questions about his leadership during the crisis. Although Mr. Trump earned generally high marks for his handling of hurricanes that struck Texas and Florida recently, he has been sharply criticized for being slow to sense the magnitude of the damage in Puerto Rico, an American territory, and project urgency about helping.

He has explained that the challenges are different because Puerto Rico is “an island surrounded by water — big water, ocean water,” as he put it on Friday, but in recent days he has stepped up his public statements and dispatched a three-star general to take over the response. Mr. Trump’s aggressive Twitter messages on Saturday were in keeping with how he has acted during other moments of crisis, notably when he assailed the mayor of London, who is Muslim, after a terrorist attack, asserting that he did not take the threat seriously enough.

The Washington Post has described her record far more favorably, and objectively, than Trump has. Attacking her during this crisis must fall among the worst statements from Trump. James Fallows calls it a new low:

…his Twitter outburst this morning — as he has left Washington on another trip to one of his golf courses, as millions of U.S. citizens are without water or electricity after the historic devastation of Hurricane Maria, as by chance it is also Yom Kippur — deserves note. It is a significant step downward for him, and perhaps the first thing he has done in office that, in its coarseness, has actually surprised me. (I explained the difference, for me, between shock and surprisewhen it comes to Trump, in this item last week.) Temperamentally, intellectually, and in terms of civic and moral imagination, he is not fit for the duties he is now supposed to bear…

A man who can say these things—from a golf course, while millions of his fellow citizens are in dire straits, and during an emergency that is worse because of his own narcissistic inattention—does not understand the job.

This has not happened before. It is not normal. It should not be acceptable. The United States is a big, resilient country, but a man like this can do severe damage to it and the world — and at the moment, he is leaving many Americans in mortal peril.

During the campaign, I argued that the greatest responsibility for Trump’s rise lay not with the man himself—he is who he is, he can’t help it—but with those Republicans who know what he is, and continue to look the other way. Their responsibility for the carnage of this era increases by the day, and has grown by quite a lot this weekend.

As it happens, I wrote and published that preceding paragraph a week ago.  The Republicans’ responsibility is all the graver now, and deepens by the day.

Of course similar criticism can be made about Democratic partisans who ignore how Hillary Clinton has spent her career undermining liberal values, repeatedly promoting unnecessary, lying almost as much as Donald Trump (nobody is likely to surpass Trump here), and (like Trump) using her public positions for personal financial gain. Democratic partisans who excuse Clinton’s disregard for government transparency, lying to the American people, and probable obstruction of justice with slogans like “but her email” are hardly any different than Republican partisans who support Trump. Ignoring evil out of partisanship is wrong regardless of party.

I don’t see much hope for improvement in our government until more people from both parties judge politicians by both higher standards and by the same standards, regardless of whether they are from their party or the opposing party.

Update: Vox writes, Puerto Rico is all our worst fears about Trump coming real–A real crisis comes and Trump can’t handle it.

How Could Hillary Clinton Possibly Win With Twitter And Facebook Both Infiltrated By Putin?

We all know that most people base their votes upon what they see on Twitter along with Facebook ads. As Twitter goes, so goes America.

Of course I am being sarcastic in response to the latest anti-Russia scare to hit the media and be investigated by Congress. Reportedly Twitter was packed with fake news the week before the election, allegedly even including fake news from Russia to attempt to sway the course of the election.

So far we have seen many sensationalist reports of Russian attempts to influence the election, with many quickly falling apart. At this point we really do not know if the release of email from the DNC was from a Russian hack or an inside leak–although nobody questions the accuracy of the information from Wikilieaks which shows how the DNC violated their own rules to rig the nomination for Hillary Clinton. Russians might have attempted to hack voting machines, but even if these reports are accurate, they all indicate that none of the attempts were successful.

Similarly reports of Russia using Twitter may or may not turn out to be true, but even if they are my true view is the same as the reports of Russia spending a rather trivial 100,000 on Facebook ads. What is posted on Facebook and Twitter is not what determines election results. It is questionable how any persuadable voters there are period. Those who are persuadable are faced with far more campaign ads and other efforts from the campaigns themselves (including paid trolls used by a pro-Clinton SuperPAC known to have coordinated with her campaign using legal loopholes), and these actions on Facebook and Twitter are rather trivial in comparison.

Is Clinton really trying to claim that Russian trolls on Twitter were more effective in campaigning for her in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania than her own campaign was?

The real fake news is Hillary Clinton’s attempts to shift the blame for her loss to others. Shattered revealed that Clinton decided within twenty-four hours of losing to blame others such as Russia, as opposed to taking responsibility for her own mistakes. Did Russia send Hillary Clinton a tweet telling her to set up the private server–and then spend the next couple of years lying about it? Did Russia send Hillary Clinton a tweet telling her not to campaign in Wisconsin or Michigan?

Update: Best response to the post on Facebook–“Lord knows it’s hard enough to know what to think when my husband doesn’t tell me. So glad I have Twitter and Facebook to help me when he’s not around and I don’t know what to do!!”

SciFi Weekend: The Orville; Star Trek Discovery; The Magicians; Saving Dark Matter; Legends of Tomorrow; Game of Thrones; Doctor Who

I probably agree with most of the criticism of The Orville. Although flawed, as a long time Star Trek fan (as Seth MacFarlane is), I intend to give the show longer. The pilot did rely too much on jokes about the Captain and first officer’s divorce, but there were some other amusing moments. The episode introduced the major officers by having most of them being new to the Captain. Here’s one exchange as he met the second officer:

All right, uh, Lieutenant Commander Bortus, our second officer. You know, I’ve never met a single-gender species before. Your entire species is male, isn’t it?
That is correct, sir.
So, there’s probably not a lot of arguments about leaving the toilet seat up and that kind of thing, right?
No. Moclans urinate only once per year.
Really? That’s Me, I’m-I’m up two, three times a night.
That is unfortunate.
It is.

My favorite exchange was this parody of the technobabble often seen on Star Trek as the crew encounters something new. They saw a device which aged a banana a month, causing its destruction:

Janice has been experimenting with temporal fields and has made well, a breakthrough would be an understatement.
So, it’s an anti-banana ray?
It’s really interesting. We need no longer fear the banana.
Does it work on all fruit?
What about salads?

Obviously there are other uses for such a device.

Some previous Star Trek actors are interested and have agreed to cameos, including Wil Wheaton. has interviewed Seth MacFarlane regarding his plans for the show. Information on tonight’s episode here.

Obviously there will also be some cross over between Star Trek: Discovery and previous series. Jonathan Frakes has directed an episode, and revealed that Discovery will be doing a Mirror Universe episode. looks at the latest trailer for the show, giving some of the biggest clues as to what the series will be like one week before its September 24th premiere.

Netflix has listed the ten most rewatched episodes of Star Trek. They are not the ones I would choose, with a heavy concentration on Voyager.

Critics will not be able to review Discovery until after it airs, with no screeners being released. Some shows might suffer from reduced hype by taking such an action, but I don’t imagine this will happen as this is Star Trek. Plus it probably doesn’t matter to CBS whether people watch when first aired as with other shows. Their goal is to get people to subscribe to their streaming service, which will allow them to catch up after the original episode airs.

Netflix has listed the ten most rewatched episodes of Star Trek. While I agree with some choices, such as The Best of Both Worlds, they are not the tenI would choose, with a heavy concentration on Voyager.

Entertainment Weekly has this news on the upcoming season of The Magicians:

EW can exclusively reveal that Candis Cayne will return as the Fairy Queen in season 3 (see the exclusive photo below), which finds magic-free Fillory under full but secret occupation by the fairies. In the new state of affairs, Eliot (Hale Appleman) and Margo (Summer Bishil) are the unwilling pawns of the Fairy Queen, who has her own dark vision for Fillory’s future and whose demands on Margo tend to be particularly baffling and hilariously humiliating — which is what you’d expect from this typically whimsical, mysterious, and at times sadistic species.

I have grown to like Margo, but seeing her tormented by the Fairy Queen could be amusing.

Dark Matter fans continue to push to keep the show alive, including with Twitter storms. Several campaign links here. I wish them luck. This is a show which is well worth continuing for the entire planned story arc.  The Mary Sue gave several good reasons for saving Dark Matter.

Legends of Tomorrow went from a weak series its first season to being the best of the CW DC shows last year. This was partially due to other series weakening with time, but Legends also did become much more fun the second season. Third season premiers on October 10. Promo above.

Game of Thrones will be going to great lengths to avoid spoilers of the ending of the series, including shooting multiple endings

The BBC has released the synopsis for the Christmas episode of Doctor WhoTwice Upon A Time:

Two Doctors stranded in a forbidding snowscape, refusing to face regeneration. And a British army captain seemingly destined to die in the First World War, but taken from the trenches to play his part in the Doctor’s story.

This is the magical last chapter in the Twelfth Doctor’s epic adventure. He must face his past to decide his future. And the Doctor will realise the resilience of humanity, discovering hope in his darkest frozen moment.

It’s the end of an era. But the Doctor’s journey is only just beginning.

Mark Gatiss will be playing the British army captain and David Bradley will play the first Doctor. This episode will also introduce Jodie Whittaker as the thirteenth Doctor.

As I led with Star Trek and related news this week, it is worth noting that it was recently revealed that Peter Capaldi had once auditioned to play Benjamin Sisko on Deep Space Nine. It is hard to see him in the role in place of Avery Brooks. If the audition tape ever is released, it will be interesting to watch.

Pearl Mackie has been cast in her first role for after she leaves Doctor Who following the Christmas episode.  She will play Lulu in Harold Pinter’s 1957 play The Birthday Party. The link includes an interview with Mackie.

Karen Gillan has revealed the disguises she used, along with Matt Smith and Arthur Davill, to blend in at a convention.

Claire Foy, who stars with Matt Smith in The Crown, has been cast as Lizbeth Salander for The Girl in the Spider’s Web. It will be interesting to see her in such a completely different type of role.

Hillary Clinton Smears Bernie Sanders In What Happened

More excerpts have been released from What Happened.  After Bernie Sanders spent months campaigning for Clinton, she repaid him by smearing and lying about him in her new book. While Hillary Clinton does get dirtier than most, such attacks on political opponents are expected during a political campaign. Hillary Clinton takes the political slime to new heights by continuing her dishonest attacks long after the primary is over, undermining her claims that Bernie only entered the race to disrupt the Democratic Party. If anyone is disrupting and damaging the party, it is Clinton.

CNN reported on this exchange from her book:

In her forthcoming book, Clinton noted that the Vermont independent “isn’t a Democrat.”

“That’s not a smear, that’s what he says,” she wrote. “He didn’t get into the race to make sure a Democrat won the White House, he got in to disrupt the Democratic Party.”

After outlining how she disagrees with Sanders’ view of the Democratic Party, Clinton concludes, “I am proud to be a Democrat and I wish Bernie were, too.”

Clinton also complained that Sanders “attacks against her during the primary caused ‘lasting damage’and paved the way for ‘(Donald) Trump’s ‘Crooked Hillary’ campaign.'” Actually it was Hillary Clinton who paved the way for the Crooked Hillary campaign when Clinton used her political position to sell access and influence. This includes grossly violating the ethics agreement she entered into before she was confirmed as Secretary of State. What is really sad is that she does not even understand why her actions are rightfully considered crooked.

Clinton is also clueless as to the ideological differences between Sanders and his supporters and Clinton: “Because we agreed on so much, Bernie couldn’t make an argument against me in this area on policy, so he had to resort to innuendo and impugning my character.” This ignores the many areas of disagreement, including her support for neoconservative interventionism, her far right wing record on civil liberties, her right wing views on social issues, and her dishonest attacks on single payer health care.

Clinton contradicted her own argument elsewhere in the book when she criticized Sanders’ ideas. She cannot consistently both deny there were disagreements on policy on one page and attack his ideas on another.

Despite her claims of agreeing on so much, during the campaign Clinton falsely claimed to be to the left of Sanders on guns during the campaign, despite his D- lifetime rating from the NRA, when it was Clinton who had described herself as a “pro-gun churchgoer” in 2008.

Clinton’s problem is that she did not stand for anything and could never answer questions as to why she was running. If she really stood for something, she might have written a book promoting what she believes in as opposed to resorting to a book of bogus excuses for why she lost.

Clinton even resorted to repeating the debunked Bernie Bros narrative, which was actually created by Clinton supporters in an attempt to discredit her opponents. While sexist attacks on her supporters as she described undoubtedly did occur, comparable attacks on Sanders supporters from Clinton supporters were probably far more common on social media, with their attacks being both racist and sexist with their repeated slurs against “white males,” often including quite a bit of profanity. I have blocked far more supporters of Hillary Clinton on Facebook than backers of any other candidate for their rude, dishonest, and harassing behavior. This included Clinton supporter Tom Watson, who released portions of the book on Twitter.

Clinton’s arguments were essentially the same type made by her most rabid supporters such as Peter Daou, who launched a new pro-Clinton propaganda site over the weekend, which I wrote about yesterday.

There is some justice in the world. Despite the attempts of Clinton and her supporters to promote her with such falsehoods, Clinton’s favorability has fallen further since the election. As The Hill points out:

According to the latest Harvard-Harris Poll survey, Sanders is the most popular active politician in the nation, at 54 percent favorable and 36 percent unfavorable. Clinton’s favorability has not improved in her time out of the spotlight. She remains underwater at 42 percent positive and 53 percent negative.

There is an excellent chance that Clinton’s book will backfire and her favorability will fall further. RogueDNC correctly showed what section of the book store What Happened belongs in their graphic above.

Update: The Hill reports, Sanders brushes off Clinton criticism: ‘Look forward and not backward’