Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Richard Dawkins and Free Speech

Thomas Riggins
Considering all the different views people have it seems impossible not to express religious and political views that might "hurt people." Richard Dawkins has said some incredibility stupid things about Islam and Moslems but should he be banned from giving a talk on evolution, or science, or atheism when he is internationally recognized as a scholar in these fields? 
The station's general manager says “We believe that it is our free speech right not to participate with anyone who uses hateful or hurtful language against a community that is already under attack.” So he cancelled Dawkins' talk. His comment amounts to "We believe in free speech as long as we agree with it." Well we couldn't use "hurtful" language against the Nazi movement since it's a community being attacked.
Granted that as a scientist Dawkins should not get carried away with his emotions and make really dumb unscientific pronouncements about Islam but pointing them out should be sufficient remedy without attacking free speech rights.
Examples: Nobody calling himself a "rationalist" would make this stupid Dawkins tweet: "I think Islam is the greatest force for evil in the world today. I've said so, often and loudly." There is no such thing "Islam" tout court -- there are Sunni's, and Shites, and Alawites, and Sufi's, etc., and many permutations of all the above -- saints and sinners just like any other group of humans. Such a general tweet is just foolish ("evil" isn't even a useful term for a rationalist).
" In 2015, he wondered whether Ahmed Mohamed — the boy in Texas who was suspended after bringing a homemade clock to school that officials said resembled a bomb — wanted to get arrested given that the episode led to an invitation to the White House and crowdfunding." Dawkins must think the young man has prescience.
Just like the rest of us Dawkins says stupid things and doesn't always let logic and science overrule his emotions. As a "passionate rationalist" we can hope he will be more rational and less passionate but even if he isn't he shouldn't be censored and have his talks canceled by hypocrites.

A Berkeley radio station canceled an event promoting Mr. Dawkins’s new book, citing past comments and tweets that it said had “hurt people.”

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Chit-Chat or After Dinner Conspiracy?

Thomas Riggins

Undisclosed? They sat and talked in full few of the people at the dinner. This article is so slanted it looks like the liberal version of a report by Bill Riley. Look at this ridiculous comment the NYT reproduces from one of its hearsay sources who wasn't even there: “We have the worst relationship as a country right now with Russia that we have in decades, and yet we have these two leaders that, for reasons that do not make sense and have not been explained to anyone’s satisfaction, are hellbent on adoring each other,” Mr. Bremmer said. “You can take everything that’s been given to us, and it doesn’t add up.” Really? 1. It makes perfect sense to try and improve the "worse relationship" so Trump's initiating a one on one talk at a dinner is a positive development. The idea that he was lured into this by Putin (expressed elsewhere in the article) is laughable -- he went over to talk with him on his own. 2. Nothing either of them has done indicates that Putin is "hellbent on adoring" Trump (or vice versa). This is just propagandist hyperbole more suited to the NY Post but becoming more frequent these days in the NYT as well. What doesn't add up is the nonsense passing as "news" concerning Russia and Putin in the mainstream media. There are millions of our fellow citizens completely ignorant of anything going on outside of their own backyards, their occasional contact with the press should alleviate not reinforce this ignorance. They should especially check out, online, The People's World (while occasionally succumbing to this meme it provides a much more realistic portrayal of realty than the mainstream corporate reality).
There is no official American record of the prolonged discussion between the two presidents on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit meeting.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Democratic Party Base Must Oust Corporate Leadership

Thomas Riggins

There are two sides to every story and this one by Robert Parry (one of our best investigative reporters) points out that while the Clinton campaign, and past presidential candidates, have all engaged in the same kind of "dirt search" as Trump Jr, the Russiangate narrative of the corporate media and reactionary Clinton-wing of the DP is ignoring the past to make Trump's behavior stand out. Seen in historical context, this is what is going on. Trump is an ultra-right domestic extremist who has an anti-working class agenda and must be fought against with all means possible. The focus must be on his disastrous environmental policies and betrayal of the interests of the people on behalf of private business interests. The DP under Clinton essentially abandoned its alliance with working people and sought a new base in the upper middle class professionals and moderate to liberal independents. A major sector of the US economy is based on the military industrial complex [MIC] and prospers from military spending and the active promotion of armed conflicts and confrontations around the world. The MIC uses three main sticks to beat the American people into line in supporting its goals --1) Iran is one of the major sources of Islamic terrorism and is a major threat to the US, 2) Russian aggression is an on going problem and needs to be constantly resisted, 3) China is a growing threat to American interests. All three of these are political myths to keep the MIC in power and to befool the American people. The Clinton wing of the DP and the Republican establishment promote all three of these myths as does the corporate mass media. Trump is not a whole hearted supporter of #'s 2 and 3 (as were the Clintons, Bush and Obama) and the MIC worries that real rapprochement with Russia and not confronting the growing power of China will threatened its monopoly of power and wealth. This entire attempt to drum up a new cold war and new McCarthyism with regard to Putin is based on this and has two aims 1. to whip Trump into line or replace him with Pence 2. to sabotage the resistance of the American people to the dominance of the ultra-right by keeping the Clinton corporate wing of the DP in the leadership position of the party (which is manifested by trying to split the popular fightback by advocating alliance with the reactionary corporatist Democrats instead of exposing them for they are). The left should ignore the Russiagate red herring and concentrate on the domestic struggle against Trumpism and continue to support the peace movement internationally.
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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Academic Effort and Social Class

Thomas Riggins

"What this implies is that in order to promote meaningful sustained academic effort, researchers, educators and policymakers should consider what sorts of systemic changes to the educational environment might provide these students with concrete routes to mobility that are viable for students from their backgrounds." [In our capitalist caste system background is usually destiny.]
Beautiful! Educate the poor for "viable routes to mobility" considering their low social economic status. We already have a defacto two tier educational system -- one for the well off and one for those who wait on them (and a diminishing middle class of waiters striving to become more waited upon).
This article shows that those groups within our capitalist society that do poorly academically do so because society has stacked the chips against them and they know it. The social "science" solution of the bourgeoisie is not to get rid of capitalism but to modify "the educational environment" to make the poor better satisfied with their role at the bottom of the heap. Betsy DeVos is doing her job.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Trump. the NYT, and the Great Hearsay Email

1. The email itself wasn't sent by any Russian entity but by "Rob Goldstone, a publicist and former British tabloid reporter."
2. The email doesn't seem to be available so we have to rely on the hearsay evidence of " three people with knowledge of the email."
3. There is no evidence that this incidence has anything to do with the alleged hacking of computers by the Russian government.
4. It seems Goldstone sent his email based on hearsay he got from a chain of other people with hearsay evidence: ''One person who was briefed on the emails said it appeared that he was passing along information that had been passed through several others.'' I.e., the NYT story is about hearsay about an email containing hearsay.
5. The rest of the article is speculation about who said what and why to Mr Goldstone and what sort of information was involved other than what might have been some secret financing from Russia to the Clinton campaign (no interest in following up on that).
6. As to the notion that a political campaign might be interested to checking out some info to get dirt on another campaign, the NYT thinks " such a meeting was unusual for a political campaign.'' Really. The morally pristine high standards of American politicians and their campaign supporters may have been sullied by this meeting. This hearsay gossip of collusion is more troublesome than the actually available emails showing collusion at the top of the Democratic Party with the Clinton campaign to derail the Sanders campaign. Well, the ruling class decides what news is fit to print and if a footnote should be a headline. Marx said the ruling class determines the "truth" and ours doesn't trust Trump and hates the Russians for interfering with its plans for how the world should be run.
Trump is doing enough real damage, we don't need red herrings to distract us.
The president’s son was told in an email that the Russian government wanted to help Donald J. Trump’s election bid last year.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Proof is a Diversionary Tactic -- The New York Times

Thomas Riggins

An amazing editorial wherein the NYT just accepts as "truth" what the CIA et al announces it to be and then adds "... Mr. Putin denied involvement in the election, as he has in the past, and asked the Americans fogr proof — a familiar diversionary tactic by Russians caught red-handed." Being caught "red-handed" implies unassailable proof of an action but the reason Putin asks for proof of Russian government hacking is because the US has never provided any real proof -- just allegations that we are supposed accept because the CIA etc., says it's so! This is the same thing Trump expects when he asserts one of his alternate reality factoids and the NYT now decides that CIA factoids are acceptable and peddles its own alternate reality based on its adherence to outmoded anti-Russian cold war policies! It's nice to know that if someone asks either the US government, or now the NYT, for proof of what it says the new paradigm is "Asking for proof is a diversionary tactic." All the news fit to print indeed!
The president, meeting with his Russian counterpart, seems too eager to put the hacking issue behind him.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Racism, Housing, and the Government

Thomas Riggins

"What this means [i.e.,only putting projects and funding in minority neighborhoods] fair-housing advocates say, is that the government is essentially helping to maintain entrenched racial divides, even though federal law requires government agencies to promote integration." This is an example of the system's structural racism: the racial divide is automatically perpetuated due to the economic "laws" of supply and demand plus the function of bourgeois democracy within a pre-existing racist cultural environment. The democratic rights of upper income people living in a specific area have to be curtailed (their rights to vote on the zoning rules and building codes enacted in their area) since their pre-existing cultural prejudices lead them to vote for discriminatory laws that curtail the democratic rights of low income people to be able to choose where to live. Under capitalism the two rights are in conflict. The solution involves a lessening of income inequality and a strengthening of public state controlled education to ensure equal educational opportunities for all. These two factors, at the present time, are exactly the opposite of what the capitalist state is promoting. The solution can only be provided by a socialist alternative and that is why the struggle to change the present top leadership within the Democratic Party and replace it with a progressive working class leadership is so important as one of first steps (along with other progressive civil society movements) in the direction of a truly enlightened democratic socialist solution (based on Marxist principles) to the structural racism in the United States.

In Houston and in other cities, efforts to build low-income homes in wealthy, majority white neighborhoods have stalled.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Fourth of July 2017

Thomas Riggins

OK for the 4th of July (who likes George III anyway). But do we want to get rid of RACISM and do we believe Black lives matter (of course ALL lives matter but in our country Black lives are being assaulted and disrespected in ways that other lives are not and the government acts as if Black lives don't matter that much so the government needs forceful reminding).  If we want to eliminate government supported racism then we have to be serious, serious beyond removing a few statues from public places (they should be removed including the one honoring Robert E. Lee that stands in the nation's Capitol rotunda!
And talk about GOVERNMENT SUPPORTED RACISM the following states have official holidays celebrating the BIRTHDAY  of Robert E. Lee -- a traitor to the US and a man who led the insurrectionist armies in a failed rebellion to perpetuate racism and slavery! These pro-racist states are: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas,  and Virginia (it has Lee-Jackson Day). What does that say to minority citizens? These states have to quit officially honoring Robert E. Lee, a traitor. And three of them also have state holidays in honor of Jefferson Davis - another traitor who supported slavery and racism -- i.e., Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi. On top of that  all of the above, except for Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, Virginia and adding North Carolina dishonor all the veterans and members of the armed forces who died serving the US by having official celebrations of Confederate Memorial Day honoring those who took up arms against the United States to fight for slavery and racism! As long as these holidays are on the books and these states continue to celebrate those who tried to destroy the US -- the very country that Lee and Davis took oaths to defend, then the message is loud and clear -- racism and white supremacy are not only ok -- but the governments of some states openly laud its perpetrators and honor their memory. Until these shameful holidays are abolished  and reparations made to the victims of racism throughout this country -- all the victims of white supremacy -- let no one think on the 4th that, in the words of the Pledge, we have "liberty and justice for all."

Friday, June 23, 2017

Will US Confront Russia in Syria: A Trial Balloon

Thomas Riggins
Here is a nice trial balloon to prepare us for a military confrontation with Russia in Syria. How the world reacts to this balloon will decide whether there will be a wider war in the Middle East. Here is the basic story line. 1. The US does not want a military confrontation with Russia and is trying to avoid it. 2. There could be an inadvertent confrontation that accidentally leads to conflict with Russia. 3. This will be Russia's fault because (a) Moscow likes “escalation dominance” and (b) unlike the US "Russia has never been shy about escalation." Meanwhile, since 9/11 the US has fostered the escalation of military confrontations in 6 countries in the region (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia) and aided and abetted Israel's escalation of conflict with the Palestinians (so that makes 7). Russia has engaged in 1 (counter) escalation in Syria in response to the US entering the civil war and trying to overthrow Russia's ally the legal government of Syria. Make no mistake about it -- the American people really are getting flooded with "fake news" just as the Germans were in 1939 when they read about the Polish invasion of Germany and the German counter attack in self defense, and from the same kinds of sources -- war mongering fascists dressed in the uniforms of democratic patriots: Trump will carry out the grand plans that he inherited from the Obama/Clinton regime that were originally drawn up by the neoliberals of the Bush/Cheney era and have been slowly hatching in the pentagon since the end of WW2.
Recently the United States has shot down a Syrian warplane, came close to shooting another and downed two Iranian-made drones that were nearing American-backed…

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Politico and McCarthyism

Thomas Riggins

"We're certainly interested in any efforts the Russians made to influence our election,” says California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russia’s alleged meddling in the election. “There have been public reports, I think, that Jill Stein was also in Russia attending the RT function, so we’re going to need to look at any efforts the Russians made through whatever means to influence our elections."
This is pure unadulterated McCarthyism coming out of the neoliberal Clintonite wing of the Democratic Party (Schiff supports the Saudi slaughter in Yemen). This entire article is nothing but speculation, innuendo, and typical center-right BS: if it is typical of Politico, then reading Politico is probably a waste of time.
Whatever you think about Jill Stein and the democratic rights of people who are neither Democrats nor Repubicans, HRC is history; it's time to move on.
The Green Party candidate has no regrets, even as Democrats accuse her of helping elect Donald Trump and cozying up to Vladimir Putin.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Philosophical Reflections on Micah Goodman NYT Article

Thomas Riggins
Some philosophical reflections: 1) " Mr. Goodman argues, both remaining in the West Bank and leaving it could spell the end of the Zionist project." This is a paradox he has discovered as a result of trying to maintain a mono-ethnic or religious state when there are two ethnic/religious groups involved. It is a function of philosophy to resolve paradoxes so it appears the conclusion is to abandon the Zionist project.
2) "Mr. Goodman lives in the settlement of Kfar Adumim, but “I would rather not be called a settler,” he said. “It’s where I live, not who I am.”" This appears to be an example of what Sartre called "mauvaise foi" (bad faith). He is certainly not just a settler but he is choosing to live on other people's land taken by conquest and colonized by his group and he is a "settler" despite his druthers.
3) "The occupation does not lead to a lack of morality,” he wrote. “The occupation itself is immoral." The occupation is the logical result of trying to maintain the paradox discussed in 1) and the logical implication is that Zionism itself is immoral (as is, perhaps, any philosophy based on religious or ethnic exclusivity).
4) He seeks to “shrink the amount of occupation without dramatically shrinking the amount of security for Israelis.” If the occupation qua occupation is immoral this solution amounts to shrinking the amount of immorality. But it is a goal of philosophy (ethics) to eliminate immorality not justify its perpetuation.
5) Conclusion: The present security of Israel has resulted in an immoral occupation of another people's land and must be ended. The security of Israel can be assured by a guarantee of a condominium of the Great Powers and the UN to protect the existence of the Israeli state in an analogous way as Kuwait was protected from an invasion by Iraq. Hypothesis: A deeper study would reveal all attempts to justify Israeli behavior on the grounds of "security" are bogus and are really motivated by racism and a desire to dispossess a militarily weaker people of their land and liberty; this behavior is analogous to the treatment of native Americans by the US government.

In a provocative new book, Micah Goodman, 42, concludes that there is no possibility of any comprehensive final peace deal with the Palestinians.
NYTIMES.COMA Best-Selling Israeli Philosopher Examines His Country’s ...
Jun 08, 2017 · ... Philosopher Examines His Country’s Inner ... A Best-Selling Israeli PhilosopherExamines His ... inner struggle over their conflict ...

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Reactive Mismeasures: The New Yorker and the "New" Cold War Propaganda (Part 5) Turbulence Theory

Thomas Riggins

This  is the fifth part (of 5 ) of a paragraph by paragraph commentary on a recent article posing as journalism in the March 6, 2017 issue of The New Yorker. I hope to demonstrate that this article is basically a totally mendacious concoction of cold war US propaganda constructed out of unsubstantiated opinions expressed by US government officials and various journalists and others who are hostile to the current Russian government. There are a few paragraphs exempt from this characterization and they are duly noted. I have put a link to the article itself so that my commentary can be compared, paragraph by paragraph, to the  original. However, the commentary can be read on its own. I contend it expresses the real meaning of the original paragraph  and my evaluation of that meaning. The original is there for anyone to check to see if I have distorted rather than clarified what the paragraph's actual meaning is. It is my position that this article is junk journalism which misrepresents the objective reality it purports to describe and that my commentary points out the misrepresentations and attempts to correct them. I hold that no self respecting journalist would write an article such as this New Yorker piece and palm it off on the public. My commentary is also an object lesson on how to distinguish between reportage that at least attempts to be unbiased and obvious nonobjective propaganda. You will know more about Trump, Putin and the New Cold War from the commentary than you will ever know from the original article.

Active measures were used by both sides throughout the Cold War. In the nineteen-sixties, ... Evan Osnos joined The New Yorker as a staff writer in 2008, ...

Section Five “Turbulence Theory”  This last section contains 16 paragraphs.

1. The Russians were “gleeful” over Clinton’s loss as they saw theTrump victory as upsetting the established political consensus in Washington. [Putin may have felt his ambitions to have normal relations with Washington and the EU and lower the hostile actions of NATO would be possible to achieve. If so, it appears he was mistaken] .

2. The “News of the Week” anchor Dmitry Kiselyov, revealed how benighted the social consciousness of many in the Russian elite has become since the demise of the Soviet state. Their ambassador to the US has either failed to enlightened them about Trump’s base or he has been ignored, as Kiselyov informed his audience that Trump’s views revealed neither any racism nor sexism, only “a real man” who believed in the family (with three wives to show it), as proved by the fact he doesn’t approve “of protecting the rights of gays and lesbians.” I’m surprised this reactionary commentator even thinks gays and lesbians have rights to protect.

3. The article now does an about face. Having spent four sections insinuating that Putin and the Russians were a major cause of Trump’s victory they declare it’s not so after all. They were factors (even this is unproved) but not “the dominant force.” The most important factor is ‘’resentment.”  This sentiment has resulted from “the effects of globalization and deindustrialization.” Resentment has caused the rise of the right in Europe and the US. So, let’s forget about the DNC and the election. The real problem is a paranoid fear that Putin is out to take over the world and Trump lacks the cojones to stop him. We shall see this is not a real fear but is totally concocted as an excuse to try and hold together militarily a teetering world order constructed by the ‘West” after WWII in order to ensure American and European control of the world economy: an order that is unraveling because capitalism cannot regulate itself and is resulting in war, famine, pestilence, and environmental destruction on an apocalyptic scale.  The authors assert “many fear that Trump cannot be counted on” to defend the West: he says (or said) nice things about Putin, also about Brexit, and has “doubts” about NATO — oh my, what is the world coming to? If Trump backs way from the usual US stance re NATO and the Russian “Threat” [Russia has been a threat, it seems, since Peter the Great, what ever system it has: feudal, communist, or capitalist] then, we are told by a British ex deputy commander of NATO  “it gives Putin all kinds of opportunities.” For example, he might not have to invade the Baltic states to dominate them. [No evidence is presented that Putin has any plans, or even desires, “to invade” the Baltic states but that’s the excuse for NATO’s build up. Would it signal the imminent fall of the West if Trump and Putin agreed to de-escalate the tensions along the Russia border?] The general also says there may be a “re-nationalization “ of Europe if Trump doesn’t stand up for keeping the EU together.

4. An “advisor” to Reagan and Clinton is quoted. The authors have a habit of selectively quoting journalists, “advisors,” generals, etc., with whom they happen to agree. They evidently believe it makes their article more credible. They simply ignore equally qualified, or more qualified sources, whose opinions would under cut their viewpoint. They share this methodology on “fair and balanced” reporting with Fox News. Anyway, the advisor ponders how long Angela Merkel can “hold out against” Trump. She is alone in Europe and Putin will soon be seen as “the preeminent power in Europe.” Germany versus Russia; we’ve been here before. A conservative German news weekly is quoted (“Der Spiegel”) to the effect that Germany must stand up to Trump who is turning into “a danger to the world.” Well that lets Putin on off the hook (Russia is a “regional power” remember.)

5.  Next up on the New Yorker’s Fantasy Island is the Clinton advisor “Strobe Talbott who really does have an almost apocalyptic vision of the what the future portends ( we could have been saved this by HRC!). Talbott thinks that Trump (who had one casual encounter some years ago with Putin) is a “pal” of Putin’s [they have a “perverse pal-ship”] and that Trump has an “almost unfathomable respect” for Putin.  Because of this we may have a “second Cold War” [why if they are pals?] and we may lose it! Trump is also putting “the world in danger” because he doesn’t respect [i.e., has called into question NATO and the world wide net of American military bases] the world order established by the “political West “(the US) over the last 70 years. It doesn’t occur to Talbott (or the authors) that it is precisely that political world order, sustained by American hegemony, which is beginning to unravel of its own accord by its failure prevent worsening climate change and to provide economic security for hundreds of millions of people because of growing inequality, that is putting “the world in danger.” Trump is a symptom not a cause. Talbott doesn’t see this. He sees that we may lose our position in the world  and it will take years, and years to regain it: “we the United States and we the champions of the liberal world order.”  We, the liberal order that put Pinochet in power in Chile, killed 5 million Vietnamese peasants in a colonial war, lied and invaded Iraq and virtually destroyed the Middle East in a trumpeted up war, who can’t even properly feed, clothe, house and medically care for our own people properly: we are doomed because Donald Trump suggested he could sit down with Putin and make a “deal.” 

6. If Talbott’s  not enough we are treated to the totally ridiculous musings of one  the corrupt oligarchical Yelsin regime’s former ministers who has resettled in Washington and who tells us the “same people” [he means kind of people] are in the Kremlin as in the White House. Trump’s people and Putin’s “like each other and feel that they are alike”. I can just imagine Putin watching Trump and reading his tweets,  rubbing his hands together in glee and thinking, “That Trump, he’s  just like me!’’  The two groups “ care less for democracy and values, and more for personal success . however that is defined.” That also pretty much describes Yeltsin, Clinton and most politicians; but it’s how “success” is defined that is really important and whether or not your personal success coincides with that of your country and its people or not. 

7. The authors now decide, towards the end of an article that pounded away on the trope of Russian interference, that maybe it’s not the “master narrative” of Trump’s victory after all.  While, they say Russia’s tampering with our election “appears convincing” [to those at any rate  who are convinced by hearsay, speculation, bare assertions and the lack of any definite proof]  it is never the less the case that Trump “is a phenomenon of America’s own making.” In fact, they could have junked all of the previous paragraphs and said all they had to say in these last 10   paragraphs which conclude the article. 

8. A long paragraph using McCarthyite guilt by association techniques to suggest that maybe the “phenomenon” is not so American after all. Examples: Putin likes Tillerson types as they “don’t talk about human rights.” Trump didn’t make any negative , comments about  Russian court cases i.e., Russia’s internal affairs (Putin “controls” the courts) involving charges against an  opposition figure charged with fraud (he was convicted after the charge had been overturned by another court — Putin’s “control” of the courts must have slipped up the first time). “The Russians see friendly faces in the Administration.’’ [Why no Gerasamov type frowns? ] Tillerson , when he was CEO of Exxon, had a “close relationship” with the head of the state oil company who is both rich and close to Putin. Michael Flynn was paid a $40,000 fee  by “the Russian propaganda station  RT” to attend an anniversary celebration dinner (he sat next to Putin). [RT is partially funded by the government as is PBS, is the latter “the American propaganda network”? Is the BBC “the UK propaganda network”? It seems any news outlet subsidized by a “hostile” government is automatically a “propaganda” outlet. Radio Havana: propaganda. Radio Free Cuba: news and entertainment.]

9. Obama, near the very end of his term, expelled 35 Russian officials and closed a couple of Russian diplomatic compounds as a result of the allegations of Russian election hacking. Initially Russia said it would retaliate but later Putin reversed this. During this period Michael Flynn and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner had contact with Russia’s ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. Michael Flynn lied to Vice-President Pence about his meeting and had to resign as a result. Obama had placed sanctions against Russia and Flynn is suspected to have had inappropriate conservations with Kisyak. But the reason he was fired was for lying to the Vice-President.

10. Over the years Trump has made contradictory statements regarding Russia and Putin.  He has said he has and hasn’t met Putin. Basically it seems this confusion has developed as a result of the 2013 Miss Universe contest which was held in Moscow. Investigations are in progress to sort all this out.

11. By early 2017 US officials had collected multiple examples of contacts between “Russians” and Trump “associates.” What remains to be seen, as a result of the called for investigations, [there is apparently not enough evidence at present to draw any conclusions even though “conclusions” have been drawn all over the place] is if there is any proof “for potential illegal or unethical entanglement with Russian government or business representatives.” [Well, the use of the word “potential” muddies the water  as there is always the “potential” for people to collude  in improper behavior; the investigations need a stronger  resolution such as finding they actually  colluded  in such behavior. Mixing up governmental activities with private business dealings is also problematic.  There is a big difference in working against your own government and engaging in corrupt business practices. Finally, “illegal’’ practices and “unethical” practices should not be lumped together.  So far, nothing has been proven!]

12. A question is posed by one of Obama’s top advisors: Celeste Wallander. The question assumes that there will be some proof of Putin’s election hacking. Putin recently stated there can be no proof since he ordered no hacking. The question: “Will Putin expose the failings of American democracy or will he inadvertently expose the strength of American democracy?” [It would have to be inadvertent since it’s difficult to see the strength of a “democracy” in which the person with the lesser number votes wins and the one with the most votes loses.]

13. It seems the Russians were “stunned” by Trump’s victory. [Who wasn’t?] The authors tell us the “working theory” of the agents involved in the Russian election interference case is that it wasn’t a  well thought out plan but it was improvised. [ When all is said and done, I think we will find out it was the US government’s charges of Russian hacking and election tampering that was improvised and not well thought out.]

14. Mr. Trump (and Mr. Putin) learns a lesson. Being a candidate and being a President are qualitatively different. Candidate Trump made comments making it seem as if he really wanted to reset the US relations with Russia and move from an offensive hostile approach towards lessening tensions and more respect and cooperation. In other words he would  not act as if the US was the world’s  policeman and other countries could like it or lump it . But this would violate the 70 year old “world order” set up by a bipartisan Republican/Democratic foreign policy elite and constructed  by the US based on it’s becoming the only world superpower  and whose interests were paramount. The Russians, thinking this was his intention, initially praised his victory over HRC. But the US intelligence community and national security apparatus went to work blowing up a Trump/Russian electoral conspiracy theory that makes it impossible for Trump to fundamentally change the direction of US foreign policy with regard to Russia. The  Russians have realized this and “the Kremlin ordered television outlets to be more reserved in their coverage of the new President.”

15. Next we get some totally unreliable hearsay via Konstantin von Eggert who hosts a television show in Russia. He says a friend told him that he saw an “edict” sent to state owned media. The friend told him the edict amounted to “no more Trump.” Von Eggert then explains what the “implicit” meaning of the edict (which he never saw) means; in fact he tells us what “the Kremlin has apparently decided.”  [It’s fairly obvious that the authors are not too scrupulous with regard to the sources of credible “evidence” of what the “Kremlin” is thinking. So, lets forget von Eggert’s speculations and simply report that Russian state media has toned down its uncritical  coverage of Trump.]

16. The last paragraph ends the article, not with a bang but a whimper. The editor of the anti-Putin “Echo of Moscow”, Alexey Vendiktov, with “deep contacts” in the elite, make some “suggestions” which the authors evidently think we should take seriously. Vendiktov suggests that Putin supported Trump because he upset the traditional [cold war] elite in the US with his unconventional foreign policy views. It’s also unclear how important a world power Russia really is — “So, well then we have to create turbulence inside America itself .” [So it all boils down to Putin’s inferiority complex.] The final suggestion is once America “is beset by turbulence” it will close “up on itself — and Russia’s hands are freed.” Freed for what? Our whole problem with Russia is that the US wanted a free hand in Georgia, Syria, and Ukraine (it already has one in the Baltic states and East Europe) and our “free hand” resulted in negative discriminatory behavior against the Russian speaking minorities in Georgia and Ukraine who fought back and elicited counter meddling by Russia to our meddling and the same in Syria where Russia intervened to help an ally and to protect its naval base on the Syrian coast. The US wants a free hand to continue its encirclement of Russia with military bases (we are already moving into former Soviet republics in Central Asia) and the sponsorship of anti-Russian governments along Russia’s borders. The “New Yorker” may support these foreign policy objectives of the US and the New Cold War we are launching but they are naive in the extreme to think publishing disinformation articles such as this will dissuade the Russians from defending their legitimate state interests from the machinations of US super power hegemony.  

 This is the end of part five and the last part of this article. From reading part five of The New Yorker Article you  will not have learned anything at all about whether or not the Russian government or Putin had anything to do with the "hacking" of the DNC or if they interfered with our elections.  In fact, there is nothing in the whole article regarding Putin and the alleged hacking of our election process except innuendo and unproven assertions. And this is The New Yorker! Once upon a time, not that long ago, it was a better and more reliable source of information. Seymour Hersh where are you?

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Hybrid War: Part Four of Reactive Mismeasures: The New Yorker and the "New" Cold War Propaganda

Hybrid War: Reactive Mismeasures: The New Yorker and the "New" Cold War Propaganda (Part 4) 
Thomas Riggins

This  is the fourth part (of 5 ) of a paragraph by paragraph commentary on a recent article posing as journalism in the March 6, 2017 issue of The New Yorker. I hope to demonstrate that this article is basically a totally mendacious concoction of cold war US propaganda constructed out of unsubstantiated opinions expressed by US government officials and various journalists and others who are hostile to the current Russian government. There are a few paragraphs exempt from this characterization and they are duly noted. I have put a link to the article itself so that my commentary can be compared, paragraph by paragraph, to the  original. However, the commentary can be read on its own. I contend it expresses the real meaning of the original paragraph  and my evaluation of that meaning. The original is there for anyone to check to see if I have distorted rather than clarified what the paragraph's actual meaning is. It is my position that this article is junk journalism which misrepresents the objective reality it purports to describe and that my commentary points out the misrepresentations and attempts to correct them. I hold that no self respecting journalist would write an article such as this New Yorker piece and palm it off on the public. My commentary is also an object lesson on how to distinguish between reportage that at least attempts to be unbiased and obvious nonobjective propaganda. You will know more about Trump, Putin and the New Cold War from the commentary than you will ever know from the original article.

Active measures were used by both sides throughout the Cold War. In the nineteen-sixties, ... Evan Osnos joined The New Yorker as a staff writer in 2008, ...

Section Four: “Hybrid War”  37 Paragraphs

1. Russia wasn’t very advanced in computer technology. It didn’t get on the world wide web until 1990. However, it caught up and by 1996 it had expert hackers and now “cyber tactics have become an essential component of Russia’s efforts to exert influence over its neighbors.” [The US of course does exactly the same: no great revelation here].

2. Spring 2007, somebody cyber attacks Estonia: news, banks and government sites go down.

3. Russia and Estonia were at odds over Estonia’s decision to move a Soviet WWII war memorial (a statue of a soldier) out of the capital’s (Tallinn) center.

4. April 27, 2007 the statue is removed. Soon Estonia’s sites were flooded with DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) disabling them for two weeks. [Who did it? Angry Russians living in Estonia? The Russian government? Private Russian computer trolls? Political enemies of the current Estonian president?] “Investgators never pinpointed” who did it. In other words, nobody knows who did it so let’s blame the Russian government. [This is very analogous to the current blame laid at the feet of Putin for the  “hacking” of the DNC and the US elections. The Russians could have done it therefore the Russians did it.] The then Estonian President (Toomas Ilves), who left office last year, is not content to just blame the Russians but believes it was the Russian government + “mafiosos”: and why not? Without evidence you can cast blame wherever you feel like.

5. What do the authors of the New Yorker article conclude? Well, they don’t know exactly  what happened but they do know what the ex-president thinks happened, or rather believes happened, therefore “it was a landmark event: a state-backed  cyber-attack for political purposes.” And to reinforce their conclusion they quote a Pentagon official who doesn’t know anymore about who did it than they do. A shining example of  first rate investigative journalism.

6. 2008 Russian tanks crossed over into South Ossetia in the former Soviet Georgia [they don’t mention until later that the Georgians open fire first ] and at the same time hackers disabled the Georgian internet. In “defense” circles the Russians were becoming  well known for their “ambition, technical acumen, and speed.’’

7. The Georgia operation showed that the Russians knew how to coordinate cyber activity and ground operations [could walk and chew gum at the same time]. 

8. The Russians were, however, upset over the propaganda side of the Georgia operation. Although they released the films proving the Georgians attacked first when these films were presented in the Western media they were made to look as if the Russians attacked the Georgians. The authors remark that “Russian generals took this lesson to heart.” As a result they made a study of “information war” and how to use the media more effectively, putting what they learned to use in Ukraine and Syria. I wonder if the authors are aware of the meaning of their own paragraph?  The Russians give the proof of who started the fighting in Georgia to the Western “free press” and media and the information is altered to conform to a  US disinformation campaign at the time which alleged that the Russians started the fighting. One of the points the authors are trying to make in their article is the Russian press is obedient to Putin while the Western press tells the truth. It reminds me of the German news reels in 1939 that showed Poland invading Germany and starting the war. The author’s own words imply the Russians just recently learned “disinformation” from the Western press. [What? All those years under Communism “Pravda” was telling the truth!]

9. The authors report that the US was also successful in waging a cyber attack around this time. In 2008 the US and Israel teamed up and placed a “worm” into an Iranian network  to make their “centrifuges to spin out of control” to slow done Iran’s “nuclear development.” [The US is proud of this achievement yet voices in Congress say it’s a casus belli if the Russians spied on the DNC and told WikiLeaks what they found out.]

10. A meaningless paragraph about our so-called “reset policy” with Russia and a quote from the hawkish Evelyn Farkas about “big Russian spies” [they do eat a lot of carbohydrates] and our attempts to work out an “arms control for” cyber activities with the Russians.

11. This paragraph gives the gist of the US’s counter cyber policies which basically target Russia, China and Iran. Robert Kanke, NSA director of cyber security policy, summed it up in this quote: “As long as we think we’re getting more value from this set of rules than we’re losing, then this is the set of rules we want to promote.”[So the answer to any question about our counter security polices must be, “Because  we think this works better value wise.”]

12. A confusing paragraph in which we are told that Russia was developing a “new” doctrine which consisted of “an amalgam that states have used for generations.” This calls for a strategy that says an enemy should be destabilized “at minimum cost” by a combination of tactics: “military, technological, political, and intelligence.” [This seems like common sense rather than some cunning new doctrine.] This has become known as “hybrid war” and because these rather common place observations were written about in an article by the Russian army’s chief of staff (Valery Gerasimov) they have become known as “the Gerasimov doctrine” and although the article was only written four years ago, we are told this generations old amalgam has become “a legend.”

13. We are told Gerasimov is 61, looks stiff in photos and frowns a lot. He thinks future wars will have a four to one ratio of non military (“subversion, espionage, propaganda, and cyberattacks”)  to military actions. He writes that the cases of Libya and Syria point out that a basically stable and functioning state can be reduced to “a web of chaos, humanitarian catastrophe, and civil war” in just a few days by a well planned intervention by a hostile state using the tactics listed above. [Although the US has been successful using these tactics in Syria and Libya, it has basically been practicing the Gerasimov Doctrine avant la lettre against Cuba for over 50 years without success so there must be some sort or hamartia within the targeted state for this Doctrine to actually work.)

14. Gerasimov maintains that in the 21st Century the nonmilitary means can often be more effective than the military.

15. By studying primarily the US the Russians concluded that it is very effective to manipulate information technology. Cyber techniques are superior to handing out leaflets or trying to manipulate radio and television.

16. The authors maintain the Russians used these methods in annexing the Crimea and in “pulling off” a “stage managed referendum.” [Other reportage indicates the referendum fairly reflected the views of the vast majority of people living in the Crimea but this article only presents one side of the story].

17. In this paragraph the authors do recognize you can’t use these hybrid war techniques unless there is some basic underlying social contradiction at work. “They are less a way to conjure up something out of nothing than to stir a pot that is already bubbling.” Knowing that they could have been more objective with regard to who put the pot on the fire in the first place. A weakened regional power such as Russia, in a qualitatively inferior economic and military position vís a vís the US since the Soviet Union, a super power, collapsed, is more likely to be trying to turn down the heat to keep the pot from boiling over, a pot others have overheated. If you went to England to stir up dislike of the Queen you wouldn’t get very far as the preconditions for such discontent doesn’t exist. This according to Alexander Sharavin a member of the Academy of Military Sciences in Moscow. But the preconditions to stir up trouble against the political order in the US do pre-exist. [As, perhaps, they also do in Russia].

18. Tensions were rising between the US and Russia over the Ukraine and Syria .[it is taken for granted that the US has the sole right to decide the future of both.] The Russians “stung” the US with a “common Moscow tactic” called “weaponized leak” [apparently revealing the truth of an action to the press which the actor would rather not have been known.] What dastardly deed did the Russians do? It seems the US was planning to replace the pro-Russian president of Ukraine with their own puppet behind the backs of the EU and everyone else and the Russians were listening in to a phone conversation between American officials about this plan [the NSA isn’t the only one tapping private phone conversations]. During the conversation it was pointed out the EU wouldn’t like the US forcing its choice for the next leader into office and the response, from Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, was a very diplomatic “Fuck the EU.” The authors tell us the Russians knew releasing the conversation  would cause trouble between the US and EU but did it anyway and, horrors!, no “form of penalty was extracted from Russia” for revealing the truth. [Of course the real issue wasn’t the release of the profanity. It was catching the US plotting the overthrow of the democratically elected government of the Ukraine and putting in a new leader of its choice. That’s what Putin does, not us!]

19. It was the kicking out of the elected President of Ukraine that commenced for real the new Cold War but a much more serious kind of Cold War than before. [The US and EU had plans for Ukraine which included eventual membership in the EU and NATO, the removal of the Russian naval bases in Crimea and the downplaying of Russian influence in Ukraine in general. The Russians responded by asserting their rights and interests and supporting the rights of Russian speaking Ukrainians whose status was being threatened by ultra right Ukrainian nationalists in the replacement government.] How did the US respond to Russia’s not accepting the US plans for the future? Here are the quotes from Benjamin Rhodes, one of Obama’s top advisors who saw the push back as “Russia’s aggressiveness,” according to the authors, and said. “Putin’s unwillingness to abide by any norms [i.e., US norms] began at that point [the forcing out of the elected President]. It went from provocative to disrespectful of any international boundary.”[This respect is not required from American allies such as Israel or from the US itself in its invasions of other countries and bombings across international boundaries.  The stench of hypocrisy is overwhelming.]

20. This paragraph reveals two things. First there is a group of hackers called “The Dukes” also known as “Cozy Bear.” Nobody seems to know exactly who Cozy Bear is but “In security circles” it is a belief [but not a known fact] that Cozy Bear is “directed by the Russian government."  Second, the Russian government is building up it cyber defense forces. But, “Very little is known about the size and composition of Russia’s team of state cyberwarriors.” There is then a lot of filler about Russia’s cyber program.

21. Interesting information about how many may be working in Russia’s cyber program. [It seems that many countries are building up their cyber abilities, Russia included.]

22. Cozy Bear [suspected of connections with the Russian government] has tapped into unclassified State Departments computers, unclassified computers  in the office of the President and by  2015 “Russian intrusions” into political targets has roused national intelligence director Clapper to tell the Senate the “Russian cyberthreat is more severe than we have previously assessed.” [This is all based on actions by Cozy Bear  and neither Clapper nor anyone else seems to know who Cozy Bear really is but the language has shifted from a “belief” to sound like it’s a “fact” that the “Russians” i.e., the government] is doing this spying. This now becomes the main theme in the same mass media that faked the war films from Georgia —that the “belief’ has become a “fact” — it actually hasn’t but it will be drummed into us day and night by the NSA, our politicians, and the mass media that it is a fact, fact, fact, that the Russians are, were and maybe are still inside our internet and websites and our computer systems, etc., that they hacked the DNC and tampered with our elections. Once conjured up this genie of hysteria will be impossible to put back in its bottle or lamp. It will do its job: give us an external enemy upon whom to blame all our woes and to justify even more military spending.]

23. The head of the French spy agency is “reportedly worried’’ that Russian agents are working to help Marine Le Pen. [Well he either is or isn’t worried.] Russian state  media [?] have attacked one of Le Pen’s opponents [there are four main people, including Le Pen, running for French president]. A Russian Bank [the authors don’t say it’s a private bank] has loaned Le Pen money. Le Pen also supports the return of the Crimea to Russia. [Russia actually has a fairly good case for taking back the Crimea but the New Yorker  article isn’t really interested in presenting the Russian side in an objective manner. This info on France is somehow supposed to make Clapper’s  beliefs more like facts but they have nothing to do with Cozy Bear.]

24. Bruno Kahl, the head of German foreign intelligence is concerned “that Russian hackers are also trying” to interfere in German politics. He uses as evidence “Russian interference in the American elections.” [ This is assuming what is to be proved.  The belief that Cozy Bear is directed by Russia and hacked the Americans is used as a fact to provide evidence that the Russians want to hack the Germans. The head of German domestic intelligence says hackers are at work in their elections. [Who is behind it all. He doesn’t say].

25. A familiar story. September 2015 FBI warns the DNC that Cozy Bear is cozying up to their computer system. The DNC fails “to mount a full-scale defense.”

26. 2016 a “second group of Russian hackers” [remember it has not been factually  established that Cozy Bear is a Russian government operation] called Fancy Bear is messing around in DNC leadership’s emails — esp. those of John Podesta. Both Bears have left their cyber foot prints around the globe. These foot prints are unusual as most change their M.O.s once they are spotted so they are harder to recognize.

27. It is revealed that getting into the email at the DNC and stealing it “didn’t require an enormous amount of expertise”. The “hacking” [it wasn’t really  hard core hacking which is entering a system to muck it up not just to swipe info] of the DNC was “mediocre”; it wasn’t done by sophisticated cyber experts. [This would seem to upset the theory that the well trained cyber warriors of the Russian government were behind the DNC email theft. It is perhaps more likely, as some independent experts have suggested, that it was done by a lone wolf (or bear), unaffiliated with any government, who wanted to expose how the supposedly “neutral” DNC was really working for HRC and trying to see that Sanders didn’t get the nomination. But the Democratic Leadership and the Obama Administration has decided to pin it on Putin and on Putin it will remain pinned in popular culture and the mass media; at least for now.]

28. WikiLeaks gets copes of the emails and releases them three days before the Democratic Convention. The fix for Clinton is exposed and the DNC chair, one of the master minds of this anti-democratic  authoritarian maneuver [the type of thing Putin is accused of with regard to Russian elections] Debbie Wasserman Schultz is forced to resign. [The FBI is blamed, even though it warned the DNC in advance, by the Democrats for not doing more to prevent the American people from finding out how dishonest the HRC supporters on the DNC were, by investigating and preventing the theft.  The revelations soured millions and may have prepared the way for Trump’s surprise victory. You can’t fool all of the people all of the time. Now it’s Trump’s turn.]

29. Donna Brazile becomes interim chair of the DNC but still engages in pro-Clinton activity instead of neutrality. She is fired from her CNN position for giving copies of the questions CNN might be asking at an upcoming debate to the HRC campaign. She doesn’t understand why all the underhanded activity has caused so much resentment against the DNC.

30.  A “torrent of fake news’’ about HRC begins to appear on social media. It’s being generated in several different countries (the article implies it’s all from Russia). It seems to be originating from individuals trying to make money from ads on their Facebook and web sites by generating large numbers of “hits” so their revenue will increase. Despite the evidence pointing to this explanation, no one knows exactly who is doing what except for a few culprits who gave interviews to the press, Obama Administration officials who blame all the fake news reports as due to “the Russians” [there is no proof of this] are quoted in the article in a one-sided way. [This in itself is a characteristic of “fake news.”]

31. Some one, or some group, put fake pro-Sanders pages on social media with made up stories about HRC and her campaign. [These were fake news sites created to garner ad revenue due to the many hits they would receive from web surfing] The Sanders campaign said it was being “played” and had nothing to do with the phony sites.

32. More information on the “fake” news phenomena. Automated twitter accounts, known as “bots” and fake news in general ended up producing four times as many pro-Trump as pro-Clinton  stories. [This was market driven as Trump generated more hits and ad revenue.] The authors conclude with: “Internet researchers and political operatives believe that a substantial number of these bots were aligned with individuals and organizations supported, and sometimes funded, by the Kremlin.” [Such generalized speculation based on what some people believe is worthless as far as any real knowledge of what happened is concerned. It is just a standard propaganda ploy to plant in  reader’s minds that they learned something, when they learned nothing, about the Kremlin. It all boils down to “some people believe the Kremlin did X and some people believe the Kremlin didn’t do X. Readers learned something about some people’s beliefs but learned nothing about what the Kremlin did or didn’t do.]

33. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has released 50,000 emails from Podesta’s account and has exposed many underhanded and embarrassing activities of the US government. He once hosted a show on Russian TV. [Fat chance that he will get a show on American TV.]  He said about HRC she “will push the United States into endless, stupid wars which spread terrorism.”[ Bush, Obama, and HRC as Secretary of State seem to have already done that. And Trump is on his way.]

34. As more and more HRC campaign emails were released by WikiLeaks, the “Clinton campaign tried to shift focus from the details in the e-mails to the fact that they had been hacked.” [Again, they were not “hacked” in the hard sense; they were not properly secured and were swiped and revealed.] That ploy failed, as people were more interested in  what the emails revealed about HRC and her people than in how the information fell into the hands of WikiLeaks.

35. Roger Stone, an erstwhile supporter of Trump, is suspected by some Clinton aides of advising WikiLeaks on the timing of the disclosures. [More speculation, the entire article is basically one big speculation and one wonders what was the point in writing it.] Stone denies it and also denies he has had anything to do with any Russians contrary to any news reports. The FBI never contacted him and he said “If they have evidence of a crime, indict somebody.” [No one will be indicted  as a result of this article. Stone’s statement is reminiscent of Putin’s statement that the US, instead making all these accusations about Russia should put up the proof for the world to see or shut up. The US has done neither.]

36. The authors point out that the HRC campaign was committing a lot of “tactical errors without foreign assistance.” They also note that Trump was getting more support “than the media recognized” especially from the white-working class [HRC was taking them for granted — her undoing]. Podesta thinks the emails did a lot of damage. [Actually it was the information in the emails that did the damage. An honest and honorable campaign would have had nothing to worry about].

37. More opining by Podesta who thinks in the end,
 re the election result, “it’s hard to say if any one thing made the difference.” [That includes the last minute FBI announcement about new Clinton emails turning up, the WikiLeaks revelations, the unsubstantiated charges of Russian hacking, the tactical errors of the Clinton campaign, the unpopularity of the candidate, and Trump’s surprise appeal in the swing states virtually ignored by HRC. It was HRC’s election to lose.]

This is the end of part four. From reading part four of The New Yorker Article you  will not have learned anything at all about whether or not the Russian government or Putin had anything to do with the "hacking" of the DNC or if they interfered with our elections.  Maybe we will learn something in part five.