Friday, April 12, 2019

I want apologies from the Russia-bashers

In 1972, I went to Leningrad. This was the age of Brezhnev—scary, dark, humorless USSR. Just getting off the boat was about all I could muster. To make matters worse, the Israeli Olympic team was taken hostage the morning we were scheduled to go on our very first Intourist guided tour. I spent the morning going from fretful to scared shitless. Once the bus got underway, I began to notice things I thoroughly disapproved of. The trucks were ugly and belched thick black smoke. Consumer goods were an insult to the Instinct of Workmanship. Construction sites were a disaster. But beneath the seediness of 70s Leningrad was an undeniable reality—this was the Imperial Capital of Peter the Great. This is one of the most beautiful cities on earth—a city where over one million died of starvation during the Siege rather than surrender it to the Nazis.

It took most of the day, but I came to the conclusion that if they had better political and economic systems, this would easily be the richest country on earth. Considering USSR had to be built twice (Stalin's industrialization and then post WW II reconstruction) they weren't doing so badly even in 1972. Then came the Harvard boys to teach the Russians neoliberal "capitalism." Caused nearly as much damage as the Nazis.

Here's the mess the son of Leningrad / St. Petersburg Vladimir Putin inherited from Yeltsin in 1999:

    ▪    The country was deeply in debt to the scum like IMF and World Bank?
    ▪    The Harvard boys had created such an economic catastrophe that life expectancy was falling, whole industries lay in ruins, the former Russian middle class was reduced to selling heirlooms in the winter cold, their savings had been wiped out, the best and brightest had emigrated. (For what Jeffrey Sachs inflicted on Russia makes him a walking advertisement for bringing back crucifixions.)
    ▪    The oligarchs who had seized the best Russia had to steal escaped with their loot—mostly to London where they triggered a bubble the real estate speculators love so much.

Add to this list of great headaches, he has had to deal with: NATO encirclement, international slander, the Banderite-fascist coup in Ukraine. Of course he had to move on Crimea. The Red Army lost around a half-million folks trying to defend and then retake Sevastopol during WW II. Crimea is REALLY important for Russia and so he had to remake economic and foreign policy to deal with the fallout of keeping Crimea Russian.

In the meantime, Russian aerospace is back on its feet. The military fights with pride and professionalism. The things Russia has been good at, they are good at again—figure skating, ballet, etc. Putin is still wildly popular. He has rebuilt relationships with China. He has opened elite schools so Russian education is again world-class. Russia became the world's leading exporter of grains last year—all GMO-free.

The list is nearly endless. And why not. He has at least 40 IQ points on any politician we have in USA and was given one of those elite educations that the commies could do so well. He is so fluent in German he holds press conferences in Germany in German. He holds 3 hour press conferences for the international media without notes. He has done something that anyone examining the wreckage of 1999 would not have predicted—he has restored pride in a people who not long ago were just drinking themselves to death.

What I find so amazing is his willingness to brush off some of the most ridiculous slanders and provocations. I was raised around pacifists so am pretty conversant with the dilemmas and contradictions of this practice. I would give Putin a solid B+. Turns out it is pretty easy to be a pacifist when armed with nukes ;-) Or maybe it really is the Orthodox church. I don't know much about those folk beyond the fact they have incredibly ornate churches and their male glee clubs have amazing basses. Reportedly Putin's mother was very devout and baptized him as a baby. Whatever. It's just that under Putin, most of the damage those barbaric Bolsheviks inflicted on this element of Russian culture has been repaired or rebuilt—reportedly over 40,000 churches have been rehabbed since the end of Bolshevism.

I have not been thrilled by the mindless Russia-bashing we have had to endure these last 2.5 years. Most of it unbelievable lies. And while I detest the liars who have reintroduced the unholy practice of red-baiting, I am even more distressed by the endless stream of self-identified "progressives" who bought into the Russiagate hoax. Robert LaFollette was a real Progressive—was the party's presidential candidate in 1924. He tried to keep USA out of the insanity of WW I thereby ruining his career as a Senator. So no, anyone who was cheerleading a restart of the Cold War and McCarthyism is most certainly NOT a progressive.

Russia and the Democrats

Rob Urie, March 27, 2019

Two years ago authors Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes wrote in their book Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign that within 24 hours of her 2016 electoral loss, Hillary Clinton’s senior campaign staff decided to blame the loss on Russian interference. Given the apparent source of the charge in opposition research funded by the Clinton campaign, the move seemed both desperate and pathetic— a thread for Clinton’s true believers to hang onto, an effort to keep campaign contributions rolling in and a ploy to cleave liberals from the left through red-baiting.

For perspective, from the time leading up to the 2016 election through today, I chose to live amongst poor and working-class people of color, with occasional forays into the rural working and middle classes and the urban bourgeois. What became apparent early on is that the audience for the Russian interference story was the urban and suburban bourgeois who had seen their lots by-and-large restored by Barack Obama’s bank bailouts and who had no knowledge of, or interaction with, the 90% of the country that is living, by degree, hand-to-mouth.

What this implies is that the received wisdom amongst bourgeois Democrats— the bosses, bank managers, academics, realtors and administrative class, looks to be what it is: a combination of class loathing that their ‘lessors’ didn’t perceive the munificent blessing of their electoral choice; mass delusion on the part of self-styled ‘high-information voters’ about who really controls American ‘democracy;’ and studied ignorance of the consequences of the last half-century of bi-partisan neoliberal governance.

As I wrote in early 2018:
“Prior to the 2016 presidential election, if one were to ask what single act could seal a new Cold War with Russia, align liberals and progressives with the operational core of the American military-industrial-surveillance complex, expose the preponderance of left-activism as an offshoot of Democratic Party operations and consign most of what remained to personal invective against an empirically dangerous leader, consensus would likely have it that doing so wouldn’t be easy.”
The Clinton campaign’s decision to blame her electoral loss on Russian interference demonstrates why she was, and still is, unqualified to hold elected office. In the first, the U.S. – Russian rivalry is backed-up by hair-trigger nuclear arsenals that could end the world in a matter of minutes. Inciting tensions based on self-serving lies is stunningly reckless. In the second, the claim demonstrates utter contempt for her most loyal followers by feeding them purposely misleading explanations of the loss. And most damagingly for political opponents of Donald Trump, these actions give credence to the insurgent status of his retro-Republicanism against liberal and left defenders of the political establishment.

Most damaging to the burgeoning left in the U.S. is the deeply ugly character assassination of poor and working-class voters carried out by the urban bourgeois, many from the self-described radical left. People I know and like, but with whom I disagree politically but am working hard to convert, have spent the last three years being derided as traitorous, marginally literate hicks too stupid to know they are pawns of the Kremlin. The irony, if you care to call it that, is that they knew the Russian interference story was cynical bullshit all along while the graduate degree crowd was following every twist and turn as if it were true knowledge.

The Democratic Party ‘leadership’ that pursued this story is as stupid as it is corrupt. The purpose of Russia-gate was apparently to keep the Party faithful, faithful. But as was demonstrated in 2016, the faithful alone can’t win an election. This leadership turned what could have been an effective ‘give ‘em enough rope’ strategy against arrogant jackass Trump back on itself. The establishment-left had been in the process of giving self-described socialists someone to vote for in 2020. Too-clever-by-half liberal twaddle about ‘post-truth’ now has liberals— universally conflated with the left, perceived as both idiots and liars. And rightly so.

Democrats who spent the last three years making less than plausible (and politically retrograde) accusations against Mr. Trump likely still don’t understand their current position. Their call for an exhaustive investigation carried out by people they trust was honored. While the investigation was underway, the mainstream press put one ludicrous fantasy after another forward as news. This while a host of real issues affecting real people’s lives were studiously ignored. As incredulous as I am that it could be done, liberal Democrats have made corrupt oligarch Trump appear to be righteously aggrieved. Who says these people have no talent?

The New York Times and Washington Post have been publishing politically motivated ‘fake news’ in support of establishment interests since their inceptions. Their service to powerful interests is why they are still around. The FBI, CIA and NSA have been putting out politically motivated bullshit since their respective inceptions. They exist to serve the rich and powerful against all comers. To claim these as bastions of integrity was always a tough sell. To continue to claim it is the stuff from which revolutions are made. In this case, right-wing revolutions.

While the urban bourgeois have long been dismissive of the ‘burn it down’ contingent of Trump voters, they seem incapable of seeing their own roles as defenders of the establishment as corrupt and ultimately, politically suicidal. I voted for a woman for president and a black man for vice president in 2016. But they weren’t Democrats. Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election because she is a corrupt, neoliberal, militaristic piece of shit. Ironically, or not, most of Trump voters I’ve spoken with know more about the Democrats’ actual record than the highly educated urban bourgeois pontificating on NPR or in the New York Times.

A quick bet is that the 2020 presidential election is now Donald Trump’s to lose. Lying sacks of shit like James Clapper and John Brennan will tie their lots to whomever will fund their adventures in mal-governance as the world burns and species become extinct. The tragedy here is that there are real issues in need of resolution. The Democrats’ three-year adventure in red-baiting served to legitimate a financial-military-industrial complex that apparently intends to end the planet as it makes as many people miserable in the process as is possible. Congratulations assholes. more

A Very Incomplete List of Sinister Things Russia Has Been Accused of by the Finest Minds of Western Media-Political Life

From sowing discord with sex toys to weaponizing humor, sexual assault allegations, and "black America’s experiences"

A friend of the site has been keeping tabs on everything that Russia, “The Russians,” and Vladimir Putin have been blamed for in the past two years or so. We thought this list was a perfect window into the hysteria of Russiagate and published it with a few additions of our own.

Forcing Donald Trump to hire Rex Tillerson (Laurence Tribe, Harvard Law professor).

Forcing Donald Trump to fire Rex Tillerson (Laurence Tribe, Harvard Law professor, eight days later).

Forcing Donald Trump to give concessions to North Korea (Rachel Maddow, MSNBC anchor).

Meddling in the 2018 Italian parliamentary election (George Soros, billionaire; Anders Fogh Rasmussen, former president of Denmark, former secretary general of NATO; and Michael Chertoff, former U.S. secretary of homeland security).

Winning the 2018 Italian parliamentary election (Haaretz, The Hill).

Hacking the 2017 French presidential election (Michael Rogers, NSA director, Politico, numerous other outlets).

No, really, hacking the 2017 French presidential election (Jamie Raskin, U.S. congressman, after French government denied Russian involvement, stating the hack was “so simple it could have practically been anyone”).

Brexit (New York Times, numerous other outlets).

Helping rise of far-right AfD party in the 2017 German election (Time).

Causing the 2019 U.S. government shutdown (Haaretz).

Making the New York Times editorial board criticize Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko (Petro Poroshenko, president of Ukraine).

Weaponizing sexual assault accusations in order to attack Kremlin critics (George Takei, Kremlin critic accused of sexual assault).

Weaponizing information (Theresa May, UK prime minister).

Weaponizing misinformation (NPR).

Weaponizing the Syrian refugee crisis in Europe (Philip Breedlove, U.S. general, NATO, John McCain, U.S. senator).

Weaponizing humor (CNN, BBC).

Weaponizing “black America’s experiences” (Slate).

Using the popular cartoon Masha and the Bear as “soft propaganda” to indoctrinate British children (The Times of London).

“Promoting sex toys on Instagram to sow discord in the US” (Quartz).

Influencing the Standing Rock movement (Buzzfeed).

Making “‘useful idiots’ of unwitting environmental groups and activists”(U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology).

Targeting the U.S. embassy in Cuba with “some kind of microwave weapon, that is so sophisticated, that the Americans don’t even fully understand it” (Ken Dilanian, MSNBC reporter) [The microwave weapon turned out to be crickets. As in actual insects].

“Infiltrating” America’s Christian conservative homeschooling movement(Casey Michel, Think Progress).

Inflaming “race wars” across America with Facebook ads (Julia Ioffe, The Atlantic).

Assassinating self-exiled Russian journalist Sergei Babchenko (Ukrainian government) [Babchenko turned up alive the following day and revealed that he had faked his death in cooperation with Ukraine’s security services].

Whatever the hell Jonathan Chait was trying to explain with a Glenn Becksian diagram – “a plausible theory of mind-boggling collusion” (Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine).

Arming the Taliban (John Nicholson, commander of US forces in Afghanistan; Nick Patton Walsh, CNN) [Nicholson’s claim was debunked by a two star US general speaking under oath. The report by Patton Walsh was thoroughly demolished by Task and Purpose].

Employing U.S. senator Rand Paul (John McCain, U.S. senator).

Interfering in the Catalan referendum (US Congressional Democrats).

Planning to interfere in Israel’s 2019 elections (Israeli Shin Bet General Security Service).

Recruiting Princeton/NYU professor emeritus Stephen F. Cohen to influence U.S. policy (Bill Browder, CEO Hermitage Capital) [Browder’s tweet was deleted after people pointed out that casually calling for Americans to be investigated by the FBI is not a good idea].

Funding The Intercept (Howard Dean, former Vermont governor and DNC head).

Spreading disinformation about Ukrainian neo-Nazis carrying out Roma pogroms (Howard Dean, former Vermont governor and DNC head).

Inflaming the NFL kneeling controversy “to make a big issue seem like an even bigger issue” (James Lankford, U.S. senator).

Inflaming ICE detaining immigrant children in cages controversy – “using the current family separation & immigration debate to sow discord among Americans” (James Lankford, U.S. senator).

Orchestrating the mailing of pipe bombs to Democratic lawmakers and liberal figures (Chuck Todd, MSNBC anchor).

Tricking Guardian journalist Luke Harding into writing a questionable, thinly-sourced story in order to make it look like Harding is an untrustworthy journalist (“Alex Finley”, ex-CIA officer writing under fake name).

Using “Soviet-era tricks to evoke racist white fears” (Terrell Starr, Washington Post).

Harvesting “American rage to reshape U.S. politics” (New York Times).

Dividing America (New York Times).

Using “vaccine debate to sow discord” (New York Times).

Sowing discord in the 2018 elections (Dan Coats, director of national intelligence).

Targeting African-Americans to suppress 2016 election turnout (New York Times).

Amplifying “existing divisions in American society” (USA Today).

Hacking “the mindset of the American people” (Malcolm Nance, MSNBC contributor and grown man).

Tricking Americans into thinking Jesus hates Hillary Clinton (New York Times).

Supporting Bernie Sanders (New Knowledge, which was later caught interfering in the 2017 Alabama Senate election).

Tricking Americans into voting for Bernie Sanders, via Facebook ads featuring drawing of buff Bernie Sanders (New York Times).

Turning Jill Stein into a Russian agent (Zac Petkanas, Democratic strategist, former Hillary Clinton campaign director of rapid response).

Is Putin using his influence to support/oppose [insert whatever you want here]? You’re probably right! For more information, please contact the appropriate Putin disinformation warriors:
  • Anything that can be sprinkled with meaningless terms like “active measures,” “useful idiot,” and “kompromat” and repackaged as expert analysis – Atlantic Council’s Disinfo Portal.
  • Things even the Atlantic Council won’t touch – Louise Mensch.
  • Game Theory – Eric Garland. more

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