Russia has been on my mind lately. I think we're in trouble. I think that Russia is covertly working on behalf of Donald Trump.
Arguably, if Putin force-fits Donald Trump in the oval office, the Russian leader will be giving the United States some much-deserved payback. We inflicted Yeltsin on the Russian people, and we inflicted a Nazified nightmare on Ukraine. Turnabout is fair play.
I can see little reason why Putin would not
love to see a corrupt, incompetent, dimwitted egomaniac take control in DC. The decline of US power can only aid the rise the BRICS alliance. How better to insure our national decline than to engineer the triumph of Donald Trump?
Please understand that this theory is still in its germinal phase, and that it will go into revision as new facts arrive. Understand as well that I normally don't gravitate toward this kind of idea. I'm not anti-Putin -- in fact, I've written many posts in opposition to the New Cold War. Hell, I was no great fan of the old
Nevertheless, an unnerving and unbidden scenario has crept into my consciousness, and the idea refuses to vacate. On a day when most pundits are sneering at Trump, I am predicting a Trump victory -- perhaps even a landslide -- thanks to the Russia Factor.
With Trump, the key name is always Roger Stone, who, years ago, formed an indirect alliance (of sorts) with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Stone engineered the Ukrainian parliamentary election of Volodymyr Lytvyn
, an ally of the pro-Putin former Ukrainian leader Viktor Yushchenko. There are many who believe that Lytvyn arranged the murder of a journalist named Georgiy Gongadze.
(Roger Stone wrote a popular -- though not particularly credible -- book about the JFK assassination. It's quite ironic that, around the same time, he aided someone widely believed to have masterminded a political killing.)
We don't know, and probably will never
know, the full story of the Stone Gang's involvement with the Ukraine elections of 2007. We do know that Stone engineered events while remaining in America. We know that Stone's associate Michael Caputo -- now a key Trump campaign adviser -- was
on the scene, and even married a Ukrainian woman. And we know that another key member of this effort was Tad Devine, now the chief strategist for none other than everyone's favorite "progressive," Bernie Sanders.
Then there's Trump's campaign consultant Paul Manafort (another Stone partner), whose ties to the pro-Russia faction in Ukraine have been widely reported -- see here
. This under-discussed piece
appeared a couple of days ago:
Paul Manafort is a “real-world” advisor, with a real-world résumé of working for Ukrainian oligarchs: all-powerful men carrying past criminal charges on their record. One of those is Putin’s puppet Yanukovitch, who was jailed twice in his youth, first for robbery and assault and then for a drunken brawl, but yet made his way up to Ukraine’s Presidency. Another is oligarch Dmytro Firtash, who made his fortune on deals with Russian Gazprom. Back in 2013 he was charged by the U.S for a bribe scheme, arrested in Austria, but then released on a bail of 125 mill euros, the largest in Austria’s history. While Firtash denies the allegations, he is still wanted in the USA. Manafort has worked for both of them.
Known in Ukraine and Russia as a strong pro from the West, Paul Manafort has catered to another Ukrainian oligarch as well – Rinat Akhmetov. Akhmetov is one of the richest men in Ukraine, who the then US Ambassador John Herbst called the “Donetsk clan godfather” and his political Party of Regions “long a haven for Donetsk-based mobsters and oligarchs.”
And it’s not only Manafort on Trump’s team that raises eyebrows among those who know the Kremlin.
Yet another Soviet connection to Donald Trump is Carter Page, as a foreign policy adviser. Page had pitched major deals for Russian Gazprom between 2004-2007 and was an investor in the Kremlin’s state-run gas company. Again, Trump takes his “faith in business” approach over policy-making experience to another level. A Wall Street investment banker as an international affairs expert? Anything is possible, we surmise, if you really aim to make America great again.
Putin has already praised Trump for being “a really brilliant and talented person without any doubt” and “an absolute leader in the presidential race”. Trump has reciprocated this sentiment, as well, his plan to move on to a new, more substantial relationship with Russia should he be elected president. Many wonder if these mutual endorsements are related to Manafort’s and Page’s alarming connections with Ukraine and Russia.
Yes, this passage contains a lot of "new Cold War" argot. Sorry. It's not the sort of verbiage one usually encounters in this blog.
Nevertheless, those paragraphs do much to explain Team Trump's long-standing links to certain powerful associates of Vladimir Putin -- and, ultimately, to Putin himself. It seems counterintuitive, but even as much of the media (both on the right and on the left) has waged a frenzied campaign to demonize the Russian leader, one faction of the GOP has worked for the other team. Trump's closest associates belong to that faction.
Putin knows that if Trump gets in, there will be no further American meddling in Ukraine.
Hackers against Hillary.
All of which brings us to the recent Russian hack of the DNC's servers
Russian government hackers penetrated the computer network of the Democratic National Committee and gained access to the entire database of opposition research on GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, according to committee officials and security experts who responded to the breach.
The intruders so thoroughly compromised the DNC’s system that they also were able to read all email and chat traffic, said DNC officials and the security experts.
The intrusion into the DNC was one of several targeting American political organizations. The networks of presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were also targeted by Russian spies, as were the computers of some Republican political action committees, U.S. officials said. But details on those cases were not available.
I must emphasize that this is unprecedented
. Never before has Russian intelligence played this kind of role in an American election.
The DNC said that no financial, donor or personal information appears to have been accessed or taken, suggesting that the breach was traditional espionage, not the work of criminal hackers.
The intrusions are an example of Russia’s interest in the U.S. political system and its desire to understand the policies, strengths and weaknesses of a potential future president — much as American spies gather similar information on foreign candidates and leaders.
Given the demonstrated ties of Team Trump to Vladimir Putin, I think that the Russians have a motive that goes beyond personality assessment. I think that they want to influence the outcome of the election.
In fact, I know
(Added note: In what may be his most ridiculous conspiracy theory yet
, Donald Trump has accused Hillary herself of staging the DNC hack. Did Nixon ever claim that Liddy worked for McGovern? No; he lacked Trump's audacity. The fact that Trump feels obligated to provide rhetorical cover for the Russians fits into the theory I'm proposing here.)
A new document dump appeared on The Smoking Gun
An online vandal using the name “Guccifer 2.0” has claimed credit for the recent hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s servers and has provided The Smoking Gun with documents stolen during the illegal operation, including a 237-page opposition research report on Donald Trump.
In an e-mail today, the hacker wrote, “Hi. This is Guccifer 2.0 and this is me who hacked Democratic National Committee.” Claiming that the incursion was “easy, very easy,” the hacker added that, “Guccifer may have been the first one who penetrated Hillary Clinton's and other Democrats' mail servers. But he certainly wasn't the last. No wonder any other hacker could easily get access to the DNC's servers.”
"Guccifer 2.0" pretends to be your friendly neighborhood anarchist -- but that persona is, I am sure, a masquerade. We're dealing with Russian intelligence.
The first document to receive public release is the oppo file on Donald Trump. You may now be asking: If "Guccifer 2" is Russian intel, and if Russia wants Trump to win, why release this
material first? Obviously, the intent is to forestall any accusation that "the new Guccifer" favors one candidate over the other.
Think about it: Nothing in this data dump can harm Trump, since the Democrats already had the information
. They were going to make use of it anyways. If anything, releasing the document at this
time works in Trump's favor.
Here is Guccifer 2's website
The main part of the papers, thousands of files and mails, I gave to Wikileaks. They will publish them soon.
I guess CrowdStrike customers should think twice about company’s competence.
Fuck the Illuminati and their conspiracies!!!!!!!!! Fuck CrowdStrike!!!!!!!!!
We are supposed to believe that Guccifer 2 is just another conspiracy nut -- but, like Hamlet, this person is "mad north by northwest." He knows a hack from a handsaw.
The Irvine cybersecurity team Crowdstrike has the DNC account. Here is their response
to the Guccifer 2 release:
CrowdStrike stands fully by its analysis and findings identifying two separate Russian intelligence-affiliated adversaries present in the DNC network in May 2016. On June 15, 2016 a blog post to a WordPress site authored by an individual using the moniker Guccifer 2.0 claiming credit for breaching the Democratic National Committee. This blog post presents documents alleged to have originated from the DNC.
Whether or not this posting is part of a Russian Intelligence disinformation campaign, we are exploring the documents’ authenticity and origin. Regardless, these claims do nothing to lessen our findings relating to the Russian government’s involvement, portions of which we have documented for the public and the greater security community.
Crowdstrike does not come right out and say that Guccifer 2 is a persona adopted by Russian intelligence, but the implication is clearly there.
The intrusion was perpetrated by two separate Russian intelligence teams, which Crowdstrike has nicknamed COZY BEAR and FANCY BEAR.
We have identified no collaboration between the two actors, or even an awareness of one by the other. Instead, we observed the two Russian espionage groups compromise the same systems and engage separately in the theft of identical credentials. While you would virtually never see Western intelligence agencies going after the same target without de-confliction for fear of compromising each other’s operations, in Russia this is not an uncommon scenario.
Is it possible that the first
Guccifer -- a Romanian cab driver named Marcel Lazar Lehel (a toon with a penchant for truly insane conspiracy theories) -- was himself a front for a Russian
intrusion? The thought never occurred to me previously. However, it has always seemed odd that a hacker noted for his unimpressive skills and disorderly thinking could do what he did.
Given Team Trump's longstanding alliance with Putin, I cannot believe that the DNC intrusion was conducted for the small-potatoes purpose of profiling the players in the 2016 election. Something more is afoot. Julian Assange -- who despises Hillary -- will be used as a puppet in this; it's clear now that Putin's services handed him the emails he has been threatening to release.
(I don't know why so many speak of Assange as though he were a hacker himself; he is nothing of that kind. He simply transmits goods provided to him by other parties -- parties who may be state actors, and who certainly have agendas of their own.)
This DNC intrusion was worse than Watergate. And we all know that Trump's long-time friend Roger Stone was part of the team that gave us Watergate.
I now proceed to the most conjectural part of this theory: Has Vladimir Putin been waging an astroturf war against Hillary Clinton?
In order to pursue this idea, I must briefly turn from Team Trump to Team Bernie. As you know, I posit that these two efforts are conjoined twins.
Astroturf is the creation of a false "grassroots" online campaign against a political opponent in order to whip up hysteria, commandeer perceptions, and dominate the national discussion. Astroturf is the most significant weapon in the modern political armory. Astroturf made Barack Obama president.
One of the key figures involved in Obama's 2008 online campaign was Scott Goodstein. He later formed a company called Revolution Messaging, which was hired by the Bernie Sanders campaign to smear Hillary throughout the length and breadth of social media.
In this election cycle, the enormously influential website Reddit has played a key role: Reddit provides the ground on which the astroturf is laid. For months, Reddit's headlines and comments -- particularly on the main political subreddit, r/Politics -- have demonized Hillary and Bill Clinton with a vehemence which we may fairly describe as maniacal.
Suddenly, as of yesterday, some unseen hand flipped a switch. The r/politics subreddit ceased to be a toxic dumping ground for anti-Hillary, pro-Trump propaganda, and returned to something close to normality
. The breathtaking rapidity of the shift is discussed here
Articles that were pro-Sanders and anti-Hillary were consistently and almost automatically upvoted 4k. But the comment sections didn't really reflect that level of engagement - upvotes would max out at like 50, or top comments would be focused on an opposing POV . So it did seem like the front page was manufactured.
Which has a certain irony after all the 'Shill' and CTR accusations.
I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of it was simply due to berniebots creating shitloads of accounts to mass-upvote/downvote & then regular users doing the same...but yea, looking at /r/politics today made me wanna cry tears of joy before realizing how ridiculously suspicious it is for the day after the last primary
"Berniebots creating shitloads of accounts..."? I don't think so.
Creating and using that
many accounts takes more effort than you may realize. In order to comment more than once, one must log out of one account and log in with another, a dull and time-consuming process. (Does Reddit check IP numbers? If you know the answer, please share!)
As fanatical as the Sandernistas were and are, most of them do not have the skills, the time or the energy to turn multiple-persona astroturfing into a full-time job. I doubt that young, unpaid political newbies would coordinate their efforts in a highly-disciplined fashion. Young progressives have always been notorious for their inability to work together effectively. They are too disorganized, too emotional, too prone to internal bickering, too easily distracted by pot and pettiness (and a third "P" word which I ought not use here.)
I'm quite sure that paid
workers did the job of spamming Reddit, Facebook, and other sites. But who hired
Most would suggest that Revolution Messaging ran the operation. That's very possible, but from my perspective, this idea has one problem: If RM runs a "boiler room" of astrotrufers on Rhode Island Avenue Northwest in DC, someone will inevitably talk. Workers get fired, beliefs mutate, conscience takes hold -- and mouths start moving.
I would like to propose another possibility.
You may recall this story
from 2013. I didn't mention it at the time because I had a phobic reaction to anything that smelled like "new Cold War" agit-prop. But now that we have evidence of Russian interest in manipulating the US election, we need to take a look.
Russian news site the St. Petersburg Times describes the story of one woman, Natalya Lvova, who said she attended a job interview in August at a “posh cottage with glass walls” in a village near St. Petersburg:
"Mud and abuse..." "Everyday readers stop responding to news articles entirely..."
“To my question about a technical task—what exactly should be written in the comments—a young guy, a coordinator, told me, briefly and clearly, that they were having busy days at the moment and that yesterday they all wrote in support of [Moscow acting mayor Sergei] Sobyanin, while ‘today we shit on Navalny,’” she wrote on her VKontakte [ed: a Russian social network] page.
A Russian journalist who visited one such comment-mill, the St. Petersburg Internet Research Agency, met with a coordinator who said the job was not unlike writing copy for a hair dryer: "The only difference is that this hair dryer is a political one."
According to Lvova, each commenter was to write no less than 100 comments a day, while people in the other room were to write four postings a day, which then went to the other employees whose job was to post them on social networks as widely as possible.
Employees at the company, located at 131 Lakhtinsky Prospekt, were paid 1,180 rubles ($36.50) for a full 8-hour day and received a free lunch, Lvova wrote.
The coordinator then provided an example of such postings, including several about Alexei Navalny, Russia's main opposition leader. “Navalny is the Hitler of Our Time," one said.
Others targeted the U.S.:
“Friends, wake up! America is not our friend, but really the worst enemy!” one blogger wrote. “Behind America’s smile and handshake, there is only its task of genocide and the complete destruction of our country.”
Paid, pro-government commenters aren't a new phenomenon in Russia, and similar practices are widespread in countless countries. In their Freedom on the Net report released last week, the NGO Freedom House said the strategy has been on the rise over the past two years, and is now rampant in 22 of the 60 countries the group examined. China, Bahrain, and Russia are at the forefront of this practice, Freedom House wrote.
But some Russian opposition journalists point out that this trolling creates a chilling effect on the few independent media outlets that remain in the country. Finding themselves drowned out by paid propagandists, as opposition activist Vladimir Volokhonsky told the St. Petersburg Times, everyday readers stop responding to news articles entirely:
“The effect created by such Internet trolls is not very big, but they manage to make certain forums meaningless because people stop commenting on the articles when these trolls sit there and constantly create an aggressive, hostile atmosphere toward those whom they don’t like. These include commentary systems on the web sites of every major media outlet in the city that the trolls began to occupy a long time ago and react to certain news with torrents of mud and abuse. This makes it meaningless for a reasonable person to comment on anything there.”
Do those words strike a familiar chord?
(For more, go here
No, I am not arguing that Bernie Sanders was cognizant of this operation. The 2016 astroturf campaign was designed not to make Sanders president but to create fractures within the Democratic party. You may have noticed that the pro-Bernie astroturfers rarely discussed the candidate's ideas in any detail, and rarely quoted him. This is the key distinction between Obama's online operation in 2008 and the Sanders online operation in 2016. In 2008, astroturfed demonization of Clinton was matched by wild overpraise of every thought and observation made by Barack Obama; the online effort was both negative and positive. This year, it was all
about Hillary-Hate; Bernie was just the excuse.
Before you say it: Yes, I am quite certain that many other countries, including the US, engage in similar cyberwars. This post is not about the larger phenomenon of internet comment manipulation: Today, we're talking about Russia. We are focusing on the capabilities of that
Bottom line: I think Putin wants Trump to win.
If Hillary faces Trump in a fair fight, she stands a good chance, because Donald Trump is an unlovable fool and a national disgrace. But what if Hillary's true
opponent is the intelligence apparat of a formidable foreign power?
If that is the case, she cannot win.