Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Syria, Hillary's (fake) sex tape, Ryan -- and more

Syria. My heretical views on Syria are one reason why this blog no longer has the readership it once had. It's nice to know that I'm not alone in suspecting that Assad did not order the recent chemical attacks. In the video embedded above, former British ambassador to Syria Peter Ford explains his own reasons for believing that something else is going on.

Trump's tweeted response is terrifying:
Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!
Scary stuff. But I'm not as worried as others are.

In the preceding post, I argued that we are about to see a piece of theater, in which Trump talks and acts very tough toward Putin. Doing so will worry many people but will also do much to erase the Trump/Putin collusion narrative.

In reality -- and it's a reality that no-one is talking about right now, even though the facts are easily verifiable -- Russia has formed a new partnership with Saudi Arabia. In other words, Russia now favors the Saudi side of the Saudi/Iran competition. Since Assad is in a deep partnership with Iran, Russia suddenly has no reason to want to see Assad hold onto power.

My prediction: Trump will stage a massive public "break" with Putin. There will be booms and bangs and deaths. There will be a demand: "Assad must go!" After a period of nuclear fear and trepidation, Putin will back down and agree to Assad's removal. Trump will then be hailed as the heroic tough guy who put Putin in his place. The collusion narrative will fade, no matter what kind of evidence Mueller finds. The Republicans will stand a much better chance of controlling both the House and Senate after the November elections.

I believe that Putin and Trump have already agreed to play out this scenario. The story will seem breathtaking as it plays out, but it's all been planned in advance. What we are seeing now -- and what we are about to see -- is pure theater. Why else would Trump have issued such a tweet? Trump's sudden display of newfound confidence and swagger indicates the presence of an ace up his sleeve, and I believe that the scenario outlined here is that ace.

If and when nukes start a-flyin', I will admit that my prognostication was incorrect. Somewhere in a Baltimore suburb, a glowing green skeleton will offer you his sincerest apologies.

Another Trump tweet shows us what Dave's Insanity Sauce would be like if it had no Dave and no sauce:
Much of the bad blood with Russia is caused by the Fake & Corrupt Russia Investigation, headed up by the all Democrat loyalists, or people that worked for Obama. Mueller is most conflicted of all (except Rosenstein who signed FISA & Comey letter). No Collusion, so they go crazy!
So...what's happening in Syria is all Mueller's fault? Vocabulary note: "Conflicted" is Trumpspeak for "not loyal to ME."

It's always cute when Donnie accuses his enemies of being crazy. Projection.

They're still going after Hillary! The Russians faked up a sex tape which purportedly shows Hillary Clinton with a black man. The video was published to PornHub, where it soon garnered a quarter-million views. One can only imagine the comments.
A whistleblower from the IRA had previously told Russia's TV Rain that the troll farm had created a fake porn video of Clinton. The former employee, Alan Baskaev, said the troll farm sought to create racial discord by publishing such material.
On several previous occasions, this humble blog has mentioned a precedent: In the 1980s, one of the East Bloc services faked up a Ronald Reagan/Vicki Morgan sex film, using lookalikes. Presumably, the original intent was to embarrass Reagan. For whatever reason, the production was never used for that purpose.

American intelligence got hold of the thing and used it in a complicated scam perpetrated on publisher Larry Flynt, who (as few now recall) had initiated a political magazine called The Rebel. A wild character named Gordon Novel -- whose name pops up in all sorts of scandals, from the JFK assassination to Watergate to Waco -- used the fake Reagan/Morgan tape to worm his way into Flynt's good graces. In short order, Novel became Flynt's right-hand man -- and as a matter of pure coincidence, Flynt suddenly began to act in an ultra-bizarre fashion. (Some of you may recall the time he wore diapers into court.)

Flynt has frequently shown the bogus Reagan/Morgan tape to guests -- I've spoken to people who have seen it -- but he has never allowed it to appear on the net. I don't think that any other copies circulate, even on the dark web. Doesn't matter. The thing's a fake.

As is the Hillary video. It amazes me that the Russians still consider her to be worth the effort.

Update: In the interest of science, I checked out Pornhub. The Hillary video described above is not there. However, I did see a 3D animation of Hillary giving a lap dance to the Grim Reaper.

Paul Ryan won't run for re-election. I don't know what to say except...HOORAY! YIPPEE! HOSANNA! BRAVO! The Atlas of democracy has shrugged off a tic.

Let the speculation begin. What caused him to make this decision?

Ryan's great ambition has always been to remake the economy according to the vision of Ayn Rand. In furtherance of that goal, he has demonstrated a willingness to gulp down every fecal missile emitted by Donald Trump's brobdingnagian butt. Did he tire of these meals?

Or is Ryan the victim of kompromat? That theory -- and I'm hardly the first to suggest it -- would explain why a man who clearly can't stand Donald Trump would display such a disgusting degree of obsequiousness. If the "kompromat" scenario is correct, then the only way for Ryan to stop playing toady is to hop out of the toad pool.

This hop makes his seat much more likely to be won by a Dem. Unfortunately, a "win" for Trump in Syria will keep the seat red.

I've read that Ryan actually used the hoary "spend time with my family" excuse. This formulation is so tired, so obvious, and so hokey that the "kompromat" theory becomes almost inescapable.

This just in: Republican congressman Dennis Ross of Florida is also retiring. He too wants to spend more time with his family. Seriously. I'm not kidding.
Ross says he wants to spend time at home, with two sons getting married within the year. Says he planned to do 10 years but after 8 decided, "This is a good time."
2018 is looking to be the Year of the Family.

The raid. In the preceding post, I said that the Michael Cohen raid was conducted by the United States Attorney for Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman, a Giuliani partner and Trump appointee. We now know that Berman recused himself, which means that the decision to go in was made by someone lower in the hierarchy. Still, if Berman had hopes of holding onto that job, he never would have recused himself. We all know what Trump thinks of people who chose honor over loyalty.

So...bravo, Mr. Berman!

Cohen has apparently told associates that he fears being the "fall guy" in the Trump/Russia scandal.
Stressing his loyalty, Cohen has steadfastly denied wrongdoing and defended Trump. But he has confided in associates in recent weeks that he is fearful of being a fall guy, according to a person familiar with his thinking but not authorized to speak publicly about private discussions.
Obviously, one doesn't worry about being pegged as a fall guy unless one is party to an actual crime. Just as obviously, Cohen must fear that the crime will soon be exposed.

Poor Mike! He doesn't really look like Elisha Cook Jr., does he?

(Sudden thought: In The Maltese Falcon, what would have stopped Cook's character from ratting out Gutman?)

Added note: Devin Nunes wants to impeach FBI Director Christopher Wray and Rod Rosenstein.

You know, I really should write that piece about Nunes that I've been threatening to write for months now...
Vlad doing some multitasking?
Supporting Assad while making nice with the Saudis to max out oil profits?
My only question is how does Putin use Trump's markers?
Demand payment or make them public?
I’m a new reader of your blog. You have some interesting things to say. Yes your views on Syria are surprising (although I wouldn’t be so dramatic as to call them “heretical”) but you don’t seem to have provided much hard evidence to support them. Comments from someone calling herself Syria Girl and a retired diplomat don’t make anything even close to a solid case.
Anon, to a large degree you are right. I can't come up with hard evidence. I don't mind speculation as long as it comes clearly labeled as "speculation," and as long as the speculator is willing to change opinions when new facts arrive. A healthy paranoia devolves into demagoguery whenever ego prevents one from saying "I could be wrong."

In this case, my cynical attitude arises in large part from the evidence against Assad's authorship of the 2013 attack, which was the topic of many previous posts. I'm a little embarrassed to cite those posts, since my attitude was a lot more pro-Putin (or at least Putin-neutral, or perhaps isolationist) back then. The ascent of Trump turned me around.

Syria Girl, whose real name is Maram Susli, is a special case. In the past, this blog devoted a lot of space to her, not least because...well, jeez. LOOK at her. I'm not made of stone!

Maram came across as a Joan-of-Arc-ish crusader for peace and non-intervention. Being a Joan of Arc buff, I found that stance irresistible. But then Maram revealed herself as a friend of the far right, appearing on Infowars and even David Duke's broadcast. She became a Gamergater. Alt Right terms like "cuckservative" started to pepper her dialogue.

This transformation was an awful thing to watch. Sort of like Dorian Grey turning into Dorian Grey's picture, right before your eyes.

The whole episode caused me to rethink a lot of things. She taught me that a seeming peacenik may actually be a fascist in disguise.

Heartbroken, I bid her adieu and have not referenced her work in many a moon. You can either pal around with the likes of Alex Jones or stay in my good graces, but you cannot do both.

A day ago, perhaps foolishly, I cited (with a qualifier) a recent video she offered on latest Syrian CBW outrage. I did so primarily because her video uses remarkable footage which I have not seen anywhere else. Of course, it is possible that the video was used deceptively.

(I still think that Maram is hauntingly beautiful. Too bad about her choice of political bedfellows.)

The comments from Peter Ford may not make the case "solid" in your eyes, but his voice should not be dismissed. He WAS the UK ambassador to Syria.

So I present my scenario to you not as established fact but as a prediction. This is the way I'm betting. I could be wrong. Still...keep my theory in mind; the future may prove me right.

You know, I really should write that piece about Nunes that I've been threatening to write for months now...

+1 -- unless it's tied to that hooker cruise; I just don't think the links are there...
The gas attack was most likely exactly what it appears to be. Cui bono? Jaysh al-Islam had been intransigent in surrender talks with Assad, the gas attacks happened, the surrender happened. Pretty straightforward. Did Russia back it, sure, but did they do it? Doubtful. Agree on the broad outlines of the staginess of the response, at any rate, and the likely Potemkin nature of the coming reprisals.

Syrian Girl's transformation is not just some personality quirk; she's representative of a broader backwash of far right bullshit into the mind of the so-called antiwar left, and it's absolute poison. Once again: Max Blumenthal is the most vile and mercenary of the lot but he's far from the only one. Along those lines, "It's Assad or al Qaeda" is arguably also another Far Right/Assadist talking point. Consider this:

"It is not Assad or the Jihadists but rather the Jihadists because of Assad."

I'm glad to see your views have evolved on Syria and Russia but I wish they'd evolve a bit further. I don't support an escalation but "Trump is a lunatic who's stupid and compromised and can only make everything worse" is honestly the better anti-war argument at this point.

I may have read you so often that I've gone even more cynical than you. Ryan is second in the line of succession, just after Pence. Pence is up to his piggy little eyes in the "NO COLLUSION!" affair. Ryan decides if and when impeachment proceedings begin, which I think will be very soon, because the GOP needs to be able to take advantage of the 2-month memory of the average voter. Ryan sits in the perfect spot to be able to promote himself to the Oval Office with no election required, but time is running out for candidates to announce their intention to seek his seat. So, Ryan, being nothing if not a true-red Republican, is announcing his "retirement" so that another Wisconsin republican that can be presented publicly without frothing at the mouth will have time to enter the fray for his soon-to-be-vacated seat. If Ryan can accomplish this by September, and I don't see why he couldn't, he will be sitting pretty in November, and will probably be able to hold onto majorities in the House and Senate, as traditional Republicans and independents can sigh with relief that the crazy uncle is gone and that nice-looking young(ish) man will be in charge. Is that too nuts even for you? Or have I fallen into a trap by believing Ryan is that smart?

Oh and also: Peter Ford works for Assad's father in law. He's not some kind of "deep state whistleblower," he's a fucking fascist and his talking points are fascist propaganda. You'd do a lot better to question why assholes like that get ambassadorships. (Don't forget, Syria was a CIA torture black site during the Bush years.) That bullshit about the White Helmets is just as reprehensible as US crazies calling the Parkland kids "crisis actors". Just because dumb fucks on the left like Moon of Alabama and Max Blumenthal regurgitate that swill doesn't make it anything but propaganda from the far right.

Replying to Joseph:
The video you posted was the first time I’d ever seen one of Syria Girl’s videos. To me she came across as disingenuous almost immediately.
Yeah there are a lot of skilful producers of propaganda out there these days. Especially anywhere, as in Syria, that Russia has a big stake. All the more reason to reserve judgment until facts are confirmed.
I’m in agreement with others of your readers. The simple explanation would seem to be the best one in this case. The gas attack was most likely Assad and possibly Putin. Their motive? Terror. Control.

Well said.
Fred, Joseph, I see your points, but lean to Anon1234...
No green-yellow chlorine gas=likely sarin. Ford is not a credible independent source. Snip and paste is easy. We prefer a fiction aligned w/our wishes: videos from comely come-ons, fake community reporters, or allied forces lead us to overlook lies.

“Rebel” isn't a shared identity or cause. The middle class Arab Spring “rebel” resistance is gone (even if engineered by outside agitators). "Rebel" groups – Jihadists, PTSD’d targets of Assad, and mercenaries working for Prince, UAE, Saudis and Qatar – are residual opportunists. When cornered, they embrace what it takes to survive, especially if a target is in a rival faction’s territory.

In Eastern Ghouta, Jeish al-Islam released caged prisoners in exchange for passage out as the Syrian army advanced. Was a quid pro quo deal made when Faylaq al-Rahmanm (a faction supported by Qatar in Zamelka) abandoned a "medical" warehouse a couple of days ago, or was it just as David Pattemore 4/5/18 suggests: "They are weak, they will be hunted by other Jihadi groups..."

One “rebel” faction – whether a U.S. ally or friend of a U.S. ally -- made a devil's bargain with Assad and Russia to live and fight another day. The ethical question remains how this differs from Assad & Russia bombing, shelling, or gassing civilians, since Assad’s forces moved into the void created by the gas.

A better question to ask now is who is propping up the Assad regime financially now that Russia's currency has hit a bump in the road?

Syria has become a "virtual" battlefield in a proxy war triangulated by "outside" interests: Saudi/UAE, Russian/Iranian/Turkish interests and Qatar. We know Bin Salman's new BFF is Russia. We know the wanna-be-arms-dealer, Erik Prince (Sec. Devos' bro), was up to no good in several Seychelles meetings with the U.A.E.’s fixer, Nadir, and Russia (e.g. Jan 11). We know Qatar is being squeezed by an alliance between the Saudi/UAE and Russia/Turkey.

It's no longer clear what side(s) the U.S. is on. Jared hit paydirt with the help of Saudis and passed GO for 666 Fifth Ave at the 11th hour. Trump and Republicans sailed into power in 2016 on a tidal wave of cash the NRA received from Russia banker Torshin. 6 bankruptcies and a banking drought, Trump stayed afloat for decades on Soviet oligarch largesse laundering $ in real estate & "branding" deals. Despite key military bases in Qatar, the Saudi’s top princely plutocrat went on a victory tour to meet U.S. movers and shakers. Trump backpedaled on sanctions against Russia after the Skripal poisoning. Now, he threatens shock, awe, and with it restrictions on privacy & public assembly to defend our nation. Stormy wasn't impressed or cowed. We have 2000 troops in Syria, Russia has jammed U.S. communications, and Dutch IT experts won’t help us. Why would anyone be impressed by Trump’s missile threats after our last missile "performance"? Agreed: it’s an act.

The CIA and Republicans were gung-ho to outsource our Nat Sec data ops to Palantir, a firm that rolls over to serve pay-for-play private oligarchs and foreign nationals. No one asks why Thiel -- founder of PayPal and EBay -- is still on Facebook's board, or what Thiel did to massage Facebook data for Computer Analytica (overlay it with Voter Records, CIA data, Aetna, Equifax, or RNC data?). The interesting question is what data Palantir still has, how they violated citizens' Constitutional rights, & what needs to be done to bring U.S. laws into the 21st century.

The pay off for a gargantuan series of missteps is a nation that is increasingly weak and isolated. Reliance on outsourced market-based intelligence and technology undermines our democracy -- so does putting personal business interests ahead of affairs of state.
DataFlo & Anon1234 have provided some of the best, most insightful and liberating reads I have ever come across. Coming here to Cannonfire blog, to this specific post and seeing their comments here makes everything worth it. They cut right through the bullshit and are right on target. I sincerely hope to read more from Dataflo and/or Anon1234. They've convinced me to stop listening to Jimmy Dore. I wonder what they make of Intercept? Is it reliable or no?

As someone who is not a Democrat, not a conservative, not a Christian, not a centrist and most definitely not a Clintonian New Democrat or Hillary supporter (or an Obama supporter), I come here to the Cannonfire blog because Joseph Cannon's criticisms of the Republican Party (GOP) and El Trump (or Der Donald or the Orange Twittler, whatever you want to call this evil man) are therapeutic.

It seems the Far Left has turned into a Russian propaganda movement disguised as peacenik socialists or sub-Marxists. How sad, considering Far-left polity is as close to my own values as politics gets. Is there anyone for me?

With children dying in Syria (and elsewhere) due to decrepit and corrupt pseudo-empires like the United States and the Russian Federation, asking if there's anyone for me sounds so wrong.
@Anon1234 - Thanks for that info about Peter Ford and Bashar Assad's father-in-law Fawaz Akhras. I found this in the Torygraph about the British Syrian Society. But it is typical for British ambassadors to belong to such associations.

Fawaz Akhras is a Harley Street cardiologist. Interestingly there seems little mention of the heroin connection in Syria these days. A while back it was known that that was the Assad family's main line of business, in which they were a global player. Not that that has ever been a point of interest in the Torygraph as far as I'm aware.

It is not just as crazy to call the White Helmets a fake outfit as it is to say that the alleged victims of the latest US school massacre were all "crisis actors". That line of thought is a mindfuck. (It is akin to denouncing scepticism about the US government's 911 narrative on the grounds that insane shit also sceptical about that narrative has been spread by the far right.) There was the Germans entering Belgium with babies on their bayonets story, then the Iraqis taking babies out of incubators in Kuwait story, and so on. I'm sure that on occasion the WH have saved babies and children and older people - there has been a large supply of victims of the civil war in Syria - but that does not argue against their ultimate propaganda role. Also even if there has been a chemical attack in Douma that doesn't mean the Assad government did it and there needs to be a feasible explanation for why they might carry such an attack out, especially given the Valery Gerasimov prediction which was certainly an action by the Russian government and not the result of personal whim.
Apologies, but that Ambassador is talking nonsense.

There is no "staging" of this attack.
Trump's latest tweet:

"Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all! In any event, the United States, under my Administration, has done a great job of ridding the region of ISIS. Where is our “Thank you America?”"

Ah, the fog of war!

The one positive thing that can be said about this tweet from the maniac is that he admits that the topic is "an attack on Syria", rather than using a phrase such as "air strike against the Assad regime's installations". If you attack a country, you should not whinge like a crybaby if its allies attack you back.

From where I'm standing, an attack on Syria looks imminent.

If Israel attacks first, will Russia take out its planes or launch sites? If the Israelis didn't want an escalation, they wouldn't have bombed the T-4 airbase on Monday.
@Anon 5:36

I've read that document. The argument that it was the Syrian government that carried out a chemical attack in Douma is based on heliocopter spotter evidence from "Sentry Syria". To judge from the iconography at their Twitter account, they are part of the same organisation as the White Helmets.

That argument is bullshit.

"Staged" doesn't mean "faked".

Actuality isn't agency. Think of climate change. That the climate is changing doesn't mean the change is anthropogenic. Many including Barack Obama have lied to the contrary.

"I will provide a propagandistic casus belli. Its credibility doesn't matter. The victor will not be asked whether he told the truth." Adolf Hitler, 22 August 1939.

To support your position you would have to argue for the credibility of that statement regarding helicopters by "Sentry Syria".
So the rebels have a secret stash of chemical weapons that they only use on positions they hold, but not on their enemies', in order to provoke a "regime change" intervention that never seems to arrive. And then they promptly surrender after the attack. Sure.

Propaganda doesn't need to be coherent, there's always multiple versions to appeal to different audiences. If you don't want to take a deep draught of koolaid and say that the White Helmets are literally al-Qaeda staging chemical attacks for NATO, well then you can just take a sip and hand wave vaguely about their funding and propaganda use. But it's just a different grade of the same bullshit.

Uh...far left? Which far left is that? Where is this mythical far left you speak of? Canada? Norway?

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