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Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Putin problem

The Putin/Trump alliance has sent this blog into tricky waters. For years, I decried the "New Cold War" paradigm. I despised American support for the neo-Nazis in Ukraine. I advocated a Russia-USA alliance against ISIS. (John Kerry seems finally to have gotten the message.) I protested when our media rushed to blame Putin for the death of Litvinenko and the downing of MH17. I insisted (and still insist) that the annexation of Crimea was in accordance with the wishes of the Russian-speaking people who live there.

And beyond all of that, I've always admired the culture of Russia, the art of Russia, the music of Russia and the sheer indomitable orneriness of the Russian people.

But that doesn't mean we can tolerate Russia placing its giant ursine thumb on the scales of an American election. I was more prepared than were other Americans to make excuses for Vladimir Putin's many dubious acts.

But...Donald Trump?

No. You're asking too much, Mr. Putin.

We can never reconcile ourselves to rule by an immature, unintelligent, ultra-impulsive wailing man-baby who reduces all of life's complex conflicts to the simplistic theatricals of professional wrestling. Trump would bring chaos and insanity; worse, his ego is such that a rebellion against his ill-considered dictates might result in emergency rule and an end to democracy. Even a Stalin would be, in some ways, preferable to a Trump. Stalin may have been evil, but at least he was bright.

Charles Pierce recently offered a small essay which explains why one need not be a New Cold Warrior to say NO to what Putin is up to:
It is not red-baiting to point out that Putin is clearly an authoritarian white nationalist who is (at the very least) romancing other authoritarian white nationalists around the globe, including in the Netherlands, Great Britain, and in the upper levels of the campaign of the Republican candidate for President of the United States. He's a kleptocrat and a gangster, and he could be far worse than that. Putin, who learned his trade among the departed masters of tradecraft, is monkeying with the 2016 election, and it is not red-baiting to be concerned about it.

Are we supposed to believe that Donald Trump really went on RT television by accident? That nobody on his staff knew that the Russian government's American network picks up Larry King's podcast? Are we supposed to ignore the fact that El Caudillo del Mar-A-Lago—and his trusty sidekick, Pancho Vanilla—have doubled down on their belief that Putin is a better "leader" than the current president of the United States purely on the merits of the argument?

Are we supposed to forget that American conservatives have been swooning over the manly Muscovite for a couple of years now? Are we supposed to wave off the revelations that Russian hackers may already have ratfcked this election, and that they may be preparing to do much worse? Are we supposed to not notice that my man Chuck Todd's 2016 BFF, Hugh Hewitt, likes the taste of shiny leather as much as he clearly does?
The Putin/Trump alliance is actually a Putin/Trump/Assange alliance. Wikileaks, which began as a pro-transparency operation, has recently come out as a full-fledged outlet for Russian propaganda.
A trove of hacked emails published by WikiLeaks in 2012 excludes records of a €2 billion transaction between the Syrian regime and a government-owned Russian bank, according to leaked U.S. court documents obtained by the Daily Dot.
The court records, placed under seal by a Manhattan federal court and obtained by the Daily Dot through an anonymous source, show in detail how a group of hacktivists breached the Syrian government’s networks on the eve of the country’s civil war and extracted emails about major bank transactions the Syrian regime was hurriedly making amid a host of economic sanctions. In the spring of 2012, most of the emails found their way into a WikiLeaks database.

But one set of emails in particular didn’t make it into the cache of documents published by WikiLeaks in July 2012 as “The Syria Files,” despite the fact that the hackers themselves were ecstatic at their discovery. The correspondence, which WikiLeaks has denied withholding, describes “more than” €2 billion ($2.4 billion, at current exchange rates) moving from the Central Bank of Syria to Russia’s VTB Bank.
More than 500 pages of sealed documents reveal in extraordinary detail how a handful of activists seized near-total control of Syria’s internet and then employed that power to conduct real-time surveillance on many of the nation’s top ministry officials. The leaked records, amassed during the U.S. government investigation into WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and affiliated hackers worldwide, likewise confirm RevoluSec to be the source of “The Syria Files,” a cache of more than 2 million Syrian government emails published by WikiLeaks over the summer of 2012.

The leaked documents offer evidence that not every email intercepted by RevoluSec found its way into WikiLeaks’ database, despite the fervor of the hackers who wished them exposed.
I invite you to read the rest. Bottom line: Wikileaks is protecting Russia while assailing American interests on every front.

Here's the part that truly outraged me...
In response to a request for comment, WikiLeaks said the preceding account “is speculation and it is false.” The spokesperson continued: “The release includes many emails referencing Syrian-Russian relations. As a matter of long standing policy we do not comment on claimed sources. It is disappointing to see Daily Dot pushing the Hillary Clinton campaign’s neo-McCarthyist conspiracy theories about critical media.” (WikiLeaks threatened to retaliate against the reporters if they pursued the story: “Go right ahead,” they said, “but you can be sure we will return the favour one day.”)
That cheap film-noirish threat tells us a lot about Julian Assange. But the really revealing statement is that bit about "Daily Dot pushing the Hillary Clinton campaign’s neo-McCarthyist conspiracy theories."

Good lord. Where do we even begin...?

1. Where is the proof that Hillary Clinton has any relationship with the Daily Dot? This is sheer conspiratorial nonsense. Whenever a media outlet publishes something Assange does not like, he pretends that said publication is a paid component of an imagined all-powerful Evil Clinton conspiracy. If Hillary had that kind of power, why were there so many horseshit stories all over the media landscape concerning her emails and her charity?

The danger of conspiracy theory is that it gives simple minds a mechanism for ignoring the reality that is in favor of the reality they prefer.

2. Right after presuming an inane conspiracy theory to be true, Wikileaks accuses the Hillary campaign of pushing conspiracy theories. In the same fucking sentence. What hypocrisy!

3. Wikileaks dares to use the term "neo-McCarthyist" to describe Hillary? Are they kidding?

The one who has actual, verifiable, non-deniable ties to Tailgunner Joe is Assange's butt-buddy Donald Trump. Trump Tower would not exist without the aid of Roy Cohn, who was Joe McCarthy's despicable mobbed up lawyer and partner-in-crime. (Speaking of film noir: In at least one instance, Cohn personally threatened an author researching an unapproved Trump biography.) Cohn was the mentor to Roger Stone, who is not only Trump's good friend but a consummate dirty trickster -- a proven master of conspiracy.

Yes, some conspiracies are real -- and the real ones bear the signatures of guys like Stone, Cohn and McCarthy.

Assange, like Putin, has crawled into bed with the far right. I don't think that Assange began as such -- his original intentions were probably sound. But history has placed him in a collective cot with white nationalists and worse. Decent people must have done with that vile man.
Are these guys sending out trial balloons for their October surprise? I read something this week about Clinton campaign sending threatening messages to Bernie Sanders and a couple of men physically roughing up Jane Sanders to get him to drop out.
Charles Pierce calls Putin a "white nationalist". Is that because Putin isn't pro-gay or what? :) Russian politics isn't US politics. It isn't founded on ethnic identities to anything like the same extent. (Is Putin's ally Ramzan Kadyrov a "white nationalist" too?) Nor do Putin and the ~KGB choose which western parties to fund and otherwise support on the basis of agreement with their political ideologies. (Is Pierce kidding?) That's not how psychological warfare works.

I wish more people understood psywar in the cyber age. Russia is kicking US arse in that area. Never underestimate the ~KGB.

It has been clear to me for a LONG time that the ~KGB holds a large share in Wikileaks. I mean come on! A band of security-conscious committed left-wing activists, running rings around senior editors at the New York Times and the Guardian? Or perhaps a network of assets working for George Soros? Or an outfit in which the ~KGB are a major shareholder? Seriously, which seems more likely?

STOP PRESS: the ~KGB own a big chunk of Ed Snowden too. Who'd have guessed?

As for the Russian "opposition" - the gay groups, the "anti-corruption activists", Alexei Nachalny, Pussy Riot - hello US embassy. Hello CIA. Which isn't to say that the ~KGB doesn't own a share in them too. By the same token, US intelligence will also have a share in Wikileaks, albeit smaller than the share that belongs to their Russian counterparts.

War nowadays is fought over the enemy's entire territory.

Eventually, as I understand it, Boris Berezovsky started to understand the strength that those who control the Kremlin derive from the strength of the (state) religion in Russia. Watch the reaction of audiences at Russian pop concerts when the band on the stage starts to play the Russian national anthem to get a handle on just how weak the US strategic hand is. All that money on Russian gays. All that money on "election observers" and the Russian "opposition". They might as well have burnt it! Will they make the same mistake as Napoleon and Hitler? It's possible.

Many people mention the "cold war" without having much of an inkling what it was, or even when it was. It lasted until the 1960s and was defined by the race to produce extremely destructive weapons, especially nuclear-capable ICBMs, and its secondary feature was trade and cultural blocks. We're in a different epoch now, an epoch in which the psychological warfare stage of WW3 has already started.

It isn't cold-might-turn-hot. It's WW3-will-definitely-happen-and-its-psywar-has-already-started.

When the stage of military conflict will begin is a matter for speculation, but it's likely to be within a few years at most.

Why do so many US generals like Trump? Have they been duped? Do they give a shit about illegal immigration? No, it's because they want more military spending and they want a major war.

How the ~KGB elite must laugh whenever it seems that the opposition to Trump consists mainly of a rainbow alliance of minorities.

I reckon we aren't just in for one October surprise. Before the election there are likely to be two or three massive surprises - the first is likely to be before the first TV debate on 26 September - and in some of them Wikileaks won't play the primary role. The flavour of Trump's declarations about Putin is likely to CHANGE.
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