so the jews will fry too, big deal

A Record-Setting Climate Going Bonkers
Robert Hunziker, Counterpunch, Mar 27 2017

Never before in the history of the human species has climate set so many spine-chilling new records as last year, 2016. That dire assessment comes via analysis of the World Meteorological Organization’s (“WMO”) annual report d/d March 21, 2017, prompting a thought: Does a wildly out of control climate threaten lifestyle and/or life as we know it? The answer is a resounding yes it does! It’s just a matter of time. Still, nobody knows for certain, meaning 100%, whether an out of control climate is truly life-threatening or not (it is a new experience, so nobody knows what to expect), but on the other hand, who can possibly know for sure until it is way too late. As for example, nobody knows if and/or when runaway global warming kicks into high gear as the result of massive methane eruptions, the Big Burp, across the Arctic’s shallow East Siberian Sea, which is fast losing its protective icy cap, in turn sizzling agriculture as excessive methane in the atmosphere traps heat, which a small core of scientists believes will happen within a decade, taking temperatures up so high so fast as to sear and blacken the landscape. As such and in consideration of the all-powerful rightward shift in Pindosi politics, which embraces an off-the-wall oddball denial of science, threatening climate/environmental regulation, analysis, and critical funding, it is imperative to expose the upshot of the impending thrashing of public science institutions by this mean-spirited right wing cabal. That upshot is easily identified as an abrupt end to America’s comfy lifestyle metamorphosing into societal riots in the streets, rampant theft, gang warfare labeled as terrorism, and non-premeditated murder, in certain respects similar to Syria today.

Trump has already spotted impending trouble because of an overheated climate. The Middle East is home to 350 million people, more people than Pindostan. Trump intends to keep them out of Pindostan, as drought has forced massive movement and unrest for years now. The southern Mediterranean coastline and the Middle East are drying up. Look to Europe for the impact. It’s not just Syrians escaping war but middle easterners throughout the region hightailing it out. According to John Vidal (Middle East Faces Water Shortages for the Next 25 Years, Study Says, Guardian, Aug 27 2015):

The World Resources Institute (WRI) claims water shortages were a key factor in the 2011 Syria civil war. Drought and water shortages in Syria likely contributed to the unrest that stoked the country’s 2011 civil war. Dwindling water resources and chronic mismanagement forced 1.5 million people, primarily farmers and herders, to lose their livelihoods and leave their land, move to urban areas, and magnify Syria’s general destabilization, says the report.

Science is nearly 100% unanimous that anthropogenic (human-influenced) climate change is happening, and it is happening with a swagger. It is ugly and a threat to lifestyles and to life in multiple ways, for example, forcing hundreds of thousands of Middle Easterners to migrate to Europe. The leading indicators of impending climatic trouble are found in reams of data that threaten to turn civilization upside down. Across the board, record-setting climate data has been identified by the World Meteorological Organization Highlights of Global Climate 2016, Geneva, “Climate Breaks Multiple Records in 2016, With Global Impacts,” published Mar 21 2017:

  1. Global warming new record;
  2. Atmospheric CO2 new record;
  3. Global sea-ice drop new record;
  4. Global sea level rise new record;
  5. Global sea-surface temperatures new record;
  6. Arctic sea ice new record low;
  7. Severe droughts displace hundreds of thousands;
  8. 18 million people seek drought-related emergency assistance

Everything that can go wrong with the climate is happening altogether at the same time, including an overheated overtaxed ocean, exerting maximum stress on the ecosystem, prompting the question of the century: Can our trusty life-supporting biosphere hang in there? Even as the climate signals deepening trouble, the Trump administration is dead set against science, at war with environmental regulations, and remarkably (really mouth-dropping) oblivious to the status of the biosphere. Regrettably, this calculated ignorance is fact. Just look at Trump appointments of radical right-wing nutcases, and they are truly nutcases that believe a pluralistic society doesn’t work. They are the antithesis of pluralism with a feudalistic bent but yet in charge of a multifaceted complex modern government. Still, they are not stupid, rather smart political operatives that appeal to a right wing mentality that abhors regulation. In point of fact, they are a throw back to America’s frontier spirit as epitomized by Frederick Jackson Turner’s “Frontier Thesis” circa 1893, which highlighted “rugged individualism,” as the major mover and shaker of Pindosi democracy. For Turner, Pindo democracy was shaped via rejection of highbrow culture (aristocratic stuff), rejection of establishment principles but embracing a brand of violence (six-shooters) unique to survival on the edge of the frontier. Nowadays however, that frontier is gone, and rugged individualism doesn’t square so well within a pluralistic society already jam-packed with multi-ethnicity. Notably, gun toting white guys no longer fit in like they did in the 1800s, but Trump has given ‘em a new lease on life. The Trumpeters say “balderdash,” science is a joke and not to be believed, interestingly enough emulating those same 19th century gun-toting white guys, shoot first, questions later. The proof of their Planet Pluto line of thinking is easily found in the administration’s behavior and policies, cut, cut, cut science and critical thinking arenas, whereas if they truly believed the science, spending for NOAA and EPA and NASA would double or triple as panic sets in, fearing climatic Armageddon. After all, the climate is signaling big time trouble down the road with bells, whistles, and red flashing lights warning of impending crises immediately ahead, right around the bend, a surprise attack. Ad interim, Pindostan’s 19th century frontier mentality, which helped to shape democracy in the first place, has come back to overturn democracy and dictate climatic upheaval and destruction with its concomitant sharp turn away from democratic spirits in favor of a return to Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, circa 1881.

‘gogs go bonkers

Demagogs & McCain back independent commission on alleged Trump-Russia ties
Patrick Martin, WSWS, Mar 27 2017

Leading congressional Demagogs backed by Walnuts McCain are pushing for the establishment of an independent commission into alleged collusion between the Russian government and the presidential campaign of Donald Trump. The pressure for the establishment of such a commission, which would require a vote by the Rethug-controlled Congress and the consent of Pres Trump himself, intensified in the wake of last Wednesday’s extraordinary action by Rep Devin Nunes, who visited the White House and gave Trump a closed-door briefing on information he had received about intelligence agencies collecting the communications of Trump transition team members, reportedly including Trump himself, in the course of their surveillance of foreign government officials. Nunes provided details to Trump which he did not share with any of the members of his own committee. Even some congressional Thugs described his actions as “bizarre.” At a later closed-door session, he apologized to the members of his committee.

Nunes announced Friday that he was postponing a scheduled public hearing set for Tuesday Mar 28 at which former DNI Clapper, former D/CIA Brennan, and former Deputy Attorney General Sally Quinn were to testify about alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections and possible contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign. The committee’s ranking Demagog, Adam Schiff, denounced the postponement, saying it was part of an effort by the White House to “choke off public information.” He said that the canceled public hearing made it quite clear that the White House was unhappy with “the events of the week,” which included the nationally televised hearing Monday where FBI Director Comey confirmed that his agency was investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government officials, although he presented no evidence and refused to discuss any details. Speaking on CBS Face the Nation, Schiff claimed:

We know that Russia was involved in hacking our democracy. We know that the evidence or information is sufficient to warrant an FBI investigation of this.

This is typical of the slippery language and McCarthy-style innuendo that characterizes the Demagog Party media campaign over Trump and Russia. By “hacking our democracy,” Schiff was referring to the actions of unidentified hackers who obtained emails from the DNC + Podesta and supplied them to WikiLeaks, which made them public. Far from undermining democracy, the publication of these emails documented a Demagog Party conspiracy against democracy. The emails detailed the efforts of the DNC to sabotage Clinton’s main challenger, Bernie Sanders, and Clinton’s efforts to ingratiate herself with major banks while concealing from ordinary voters her endearments addressed to the Wall Street fat cats. Schiff went on to denounce Trump for “interfering in the House investigation,” concluding:

I do think the events of this week call out the need for an independent commission, quite separate and apart from what we do in Congress.

The most prominent Rethug to back the formation of an independent commission is Walnuts McCain, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, who is identified with an ultra-hawkish foreign policy stance towards Russia. This is the issue that underlies the entire campaign over Trump’s alleged ties with Russia, which has been concocted from anonymous and unverified leaks from the military-intelligence apparatus to the NYT and WaPo. There is a ferocious opposition in the ruling elite to any shift away from the policy of confrontation with Russia, in the Middle East, Ukraine and the Baltic states, pursued over the past decade. At last Monday’s hearing, Schiff played the role of chief prosecutor on the Trump-Russia connection, citing a series of contacts between Russian officials and figures in Trump’s entourage and suggesting darkly that these were not coincidental, but likely part of a monumental conspiracy. However, the three most prominent individuals he named, Paul Manafort, Carter Page and Roger Stone, responded by offering to testify publicly and under oath before the committee. All have flatly denied any collusion between the Trump campaign and the hacking of the Clinton campaign, by Russians or otherwise. The Demagog minority leader in the Senate, Charles Schumer, added a new element to the campaign over Trump and Russia when he suggested during the week that it would be “unseemly” for the Senate to approve the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court while the president who nominated Gorsuch was under FBI investigation. Appearing Sunday on ABC This Week, Schumer denied that this amounted to calling for a delay in filling the vacancy on the Supreme Court for years, saying:

Let’s see where this investigation goes for a few months and delay it. If the investigation looks like it’s nowhere, fine. If it looks like it’s really serious, yeah, we ought to consider what I said.

Schumer said after the lengthy appearance of Gorsuch before the Senate Judiciary Committee, at which the nominee refused to answer any questions about his attitude to specific legal and judicial issues, that Demagogs would filibuster his nomination. This would force the Rethugs, who hold only a 52-48 majority in the Senate, to win the support of eight Demagogs for Gorsuch, which appears unlikely, or to change the Senate rules to make confirmation of the nominee possible with a simple majority vote. By linking Gorsuch’s fate to the FBI investigation into the Russian role in the elections, Schumer was suggesting that the alleged Trump-Russia connection could be used as leverage in a wider array of issues, ranging from judicial nominations to tax and budgetary policy. At the same time, Demagogs have intensified their rhetorical fire on the issue, with several more Reps declaring that the alleged Russian hacking was an act of war, implying that it should be dealt with as such, through some form of cyber-war retaliation. Rep Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey told a meeting of the House Homeland Security Committee:

I think this attack that we’ve experienced is a form of war! A form of war on our fundamental democratic principles!

Similar statements were made by two Demagogs, Jackie Speier and Eric Swalwell, during the House Intelligence Committee hearing where FBI Director Comey testified. The ranking Demagog on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Ben Cardin, called the hacking of the DNC + Podesta, for which no conclusive link to Russia has been established, Pindostan’s “political Pearl Harbor.” The WaPo published an op-ed column Sunday by Jennifer Palmieri, former spox for the Clinton campaign, under the headline “The Clinton campaign warned you about Russia. But nobody listened to us.” Bemoaning the failure of the media to take up the allegations of connections between Trump and Russia during the election campaign, Palmieri declared:

Now that Trump is president, though, the stakes are higher, because the Russian plot succeeded. If Clinton had won with the help of the Russians, the Republicans would have impeachment proceedings underway for treason. No doubt. Instead, dealing with Russia falls nearly solely on Democrats’ shoulders.

Palmieri concluded, echoing Schumer, that every issue addressed in Congress should be tied to demands for the formation of an independent commission into the Trump-Russia connection. She concluded:

Congress critturs should use every procedural tool available to force votes on such a commission.

somewhat of a strong reading…

The massacre in Mosul
James Cogan, WSWS, Mar 27 2017

The Pindo-led “coalition” has admitted that its forces carried out the Mar 17 air strike in Mosul, ostensibly against Daesh, that slaughtered as many as 200 civilians, including numerous children. The admission was only made in the face of evidence provided by survivors to Iraqi journalists, whose accounts were reported by sections of the Western press. The massacre is being described as possibly the largest single death toll inflicted by a coalition air strike since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The grim reality, however, is that very little is known about the impact of the assault on Mosul, which the Iraqi government began last October under pressure from the Obama administration. Coverage of the offensive has been heavily censored and marked by a propaganda-like character. Almost universally, the fighting has been portrayed as a “heroic” battle by Iraqi forces against the “barbaric” Daesh. Little attention has been given to the fate of hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped inside the besieged city. News of the Mar 17 carnage began filtering out as the Trump administration’s Sec State Tillerson and representatives of 62 other countries gloated in Faschingstein over the “success of the campaign for the lasting defeat of Daesh.” A Mar 22 statement cynically declared:

The Global Coalition (stresses) the need for safeguarding civilians (and applauds) the Iraqi government for protecting civilians in conflict zones.

In fact, the Trump administration let it be known in February that it would sharply escalate the onslaught on Mosul in order to end the fighting, regardless of how many innocent lives were claimed. Unnamed officials told the WSJ that plans included “loosening battlefield restrictions” to “ease rules designed to minimize civilian casualties.” Such plans have clearly been put into effect. The intensity of air attacks has risen dramatically in recent weeks as Iraqi forces have pushed into the western suburbs of the city. According to the Pentagon, close to 1,400 separate munitions were unleashed over two weeks. In a detailed account, the LA Times reported on Friday:

Pindosi pilots describe dozens of strike aircraft circling high above west Mosul, waiting their turn to drop a bomb.

On the weekend, the Pentagon announced that hundreds more troops from the 82nd Airborne Division were being sent to “advise and assist” Iraqi government forces in Mosul. One of the primary roles of such “advisors” is calling in air strikes, drone attacks and artillery bombardments. The Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights reported last weekend it has eyewitness accounts of 3,846 civilian deaths since the assault into western Mosul began in February. It has reports of 10,000 residential homes being destroyed. Every day, thousands of terrified and starving civilians risk their lives to flee through the battle lines to escape the city. The number of refugees has soared to well over 200,000, with more than 10,000 new displaced persons arriving most days. Aid agencies are overwhelmed and warn they will not be able to care for the estimated 400,000 people still hiding out in the city’s Daesh-held areas. Every effort is being made to conceal from the Pindosi and world populations the savage consequences of Pindo-led military operations in the Middle East. A feature of Pindo media coverage on the weekend was the paucity of commentary on the air strike and broader humanitarian catastrophe in Mosul, compared with the immense attention paid to the atrocity committed in London by a lone British-born extremist. To the extent Mosul was mentioned, attempts were made to shift responsibility for the carnage to Daesh. Sen Tom Cotton declared on CBS News:

Ultimately, the blame lays with Daesh. They are the savages that are fighting from civilian locations like apartment buildings, homes, mosques, hospitals, schools and so forth. The blame does not lay with coalition pilots or with Iraqi forces.

The hypocrisy of the Pindo ruling elite knows no limits. Barely months ago, every report of civilian casualties caused by the Russian and Syrian government assault on the Pindo-backed rebel forces in the city of Aleppo was declared a war crime and accompanied by demands for an immediate ceasefire. In Mosul, even greater civilian deaths are dismissed as “unfortunate” and no reason to slow, let alone stop, the offensive. The latest assertions by Pindostan and its vassals continue the deceit surrounding the assault on Mosul and other cities that fell under the control of Daesh in 2014.

The supposed “war against Daesh” has been marked by the flagrant collective punishment of the civilian populations where Daesh established influence. In the first months of 2016, most of the western Iraqi cities of Ramadi and Fallujah were reduced to rubble to “liberate” them. The same policy has guided the attack on Mosul. Above all, the political and media establishment attempt to conceal the fact that the very emergence of Daesh is the direct outcome of the Pindo invasion and occupation of Iraq, followed by the destruction of Libya and the proxy war that Pindostan and its vassals sponsored in Syria. From 2003 on, the conscious policy of the Pindo occupation force in Iraq was to divide and weaken resistance by stoking sectarian tensions between Sunni and Shi’ite communities, which ultimately led in 2006–2007 to a murderous civil war and the deaths of tens of thousands. Millions were displaced from their homes as entire suburbs and cities were “cleansed” by death squads from one sect or the other. Daesh, a movement based on the most reactionary interpretation of Sunni Islam, gained a following by claiming it would defend Sunnis from repression by the Shi’ite-dominated and Pindo-backed government in Baghdad. It gained its strength not in Iraq, however, but in Syria. From 2012, it benefited from the support given by Pindostan, Eurostan, the Toads & the Thanis to Sunni militias fighting Assad. Utilising the bases, weapons and personnel it gained in Syria, Daesh crossed into Iraq in 2013, taking the western Anbar region and capturing Mosul in Jun 2014.

The ruthless campaign against Daesh flows from Pindosi imperialism’s determination to retain its tenuous grip over Iraq against any challenge. For 25 years, successive Pindo administrations have used brutal wars and intrigues to assert their dominance over the oil-rich Middle East, at the cost of millions of lives and incalculable human suffering, especially in Iraq. The stark truth, however, is that the assault on Mosul coincides with the escalation of Pindo attempts to assert dominance in other regions of the globe, against far more significant rivals than a poorly-armed Islamist movement. In Asia, the talk of military action against North Korea has dramatically increased over recent weeks. Conflicts with China are simmering, not only over the Korean Peninsula, but the South China Sea, Taiwan and the Trump administration’s threats of trade war. The Russian regime is increasingly alarmed by the hysteria directed against it in Faschingstein and the provocative military build-up by Pindostan and its NATO vassals on its borders. At the same time, underlying tensions are emerging between Pindostan and its historic competitors for global dominance, such as Germany and Japan. Workers around the world must combine the clear and unambiguous defence of the oppressed people of Iraq and other countries targeted by great power interventions, with the most determined and active struggle against the descent of world capitalism toward open conflict between nuclear-armed or potentially nuclear-armed states.

This is the factual first half of GG’s latest; the second half is full of opinions – RB

Trump’s War on Terror Has Quickly Become as Barbaric and Savage as He Promised
Glenn Greenwald, Intercept, Mar 26 2017

From the start of his presidency, Donald Trump’s “war on terror” has entailed the seemingly indiscriminate slaughter of innocent people in the name of killing terrorists. In other words, Trump has escalated the 16-year-old core premise of Pindostan’s foreign policy, that it has the right to bomb any country in the world where people it regards as terrorists are found and in doing so, has fulfilled the warped campaign pledges he repeatedly expressed. The most recent atrocity was the killing of as many as 200 Iraqi civiliansfrom airstrikes this week in Mosul. That was preceded a few days earlier by the killing of dozens of Syrian civilians in Raqqa province when Pindostan targeted a school where people had taken refuge, which itself was preceded a week earlier by the destruction of a mosque near Aleppo that also killed dozens. And one of Trump’s first military actions was what can only be described as a massacre carried out by Navy SEALs, in which 30 Yemenis were killed. Among the children killed was an 8-year-old Pindosi girl whose 16-year-old Pindosi brother was killed by a drone under Obama. Although precise numbers are difficult to obtain, there seems little question that the number of civilians being killed by Pindostan in Iraq and Syria, already quite high under Obama, has increased precipitously during the first two months of the Trump administration. Data compiled by the site Airwars tells the story. The number of civilians killed in Syria and Iraq began increasing in October under Obama, but has now skyrocketed in March under Trump.

aristrikes-1490534771-540x297

What’s particularly notable is that the number of airstrikes actually decreased in March (with a week left), even as civilian deaths rose, strongly suggesting that the Pentagon has become even more reckless about civilian deaths under Trump than it was under Obama:

airstrikes1-1490534890-540x290

This escalation of bombing and civilian deaths, combined with the deployment by Trump of 500 ground troops into Syria beyond the troops Obama already deployed there, has received remarkably little media attention. This is in part due to the standard indifference in Pindo discourse to Pindo killing of civilians compared to the language used when its enemies kill people. Compare the very muted and euphemistic tones used to report on Trump’s escalations in Iraq and Syria to the frequent invocation of genocide and war crimes to denounce Russian killing of Syrian civilians. And part of this lack of media attention is due to the Demagogs’ ongoing hunt for Russian infiltration of Faschingstein, which leaves little room for other matters. But what is becoming clear is that Trump is attempting to liberate the Pentagon from the minimal constraints it observed in order to avoid massive civilian casualties. And this should surprise nobody. Trump explicitly and repeatedly vowed to do exactly this during the campaign. He constantly criticized Obama, who bombed seven predominantly Muslim countries, for being “weak” in battling Daesh and AQ. Trump regularly boasted that he would free the Pentagon from rules of engagement that he regarded as unduly hobbling them. He vowed to bring back torture and even to murder the family members of suspected terrorists, prompting patriotic commentators to naïvely insist that the military would refuse to follow his orders. Trump’s war frenzy reached its rhetorical peak of derangement in Dec 2015, when he roared at a campaign rally that he would “bomb the shit out of ISIS” and then let its oil fields be taken by Exxon, whose CEO is now his Sec State. Trump can be criticized for many things, but lack of clarity about his intended war on terror approach is not one of them. All along, Trump’s “solution” to terrorism was as clear as it was simple. As I described it in Sep 2016:

michael moore, reactionary scoundrel

Michael Moore calls on Demagogs to declare national emergency over Trump’s “espionage”
David Walsh, WSWS, Mar 25 2017

On Wednesday, Michael Moore called on the Demagog Party to “declare a National Emergency” in response to Donald Trump’s being investigated “for espionage.” Moore was referring to the announcement Monday by FBI Director Comey that the agency was investigating whether Trump’s campaign conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 election. Moore has enthusiastically adopted the reactionary and diversionary anti-Russian campaign as his own. The documentary maker, along with the rest of the Demagog Party and its hangers-on, including the various late-night talk-show hosts, refuses in large measure to oppose Trump for his militarism, persecution of immigrants, right-wing social policies and attacks on the working class, but instead lambastes the new president for his supposed “collusion and obedience to Putin.” By a “national emergency,” Moore explained Wednesday in his Instagram message, he meant an effort by the Demagogs to paralyze the government. He urged the party’s leadership in both houses of Congress:

… to bring a halt to all business being done in the name of this potential felony suspect, Donald J Trump. No bill he supports, no Supreme Court nominee he has named, can be decided while he is under a criminal investigation. His presidency has no legitimacy until the FBI — and an independent investigative committee — discovers the truth. Fellow citizens, demand the Demagogs cease all business.

Moore made his appeal to the Demagogs and the FBI on the same day that NYT columnist Thomas Friedman, as the WSWS has noted, floated the proposal for a palace coup against Trump. Friedman addressed an open letter to Sec Def ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis, National Security Adviser H R McMaster, DHS Sec Kelly, D/CIA Pompeo and Sec State Rex Tillerson, implying that they should remove Trump from office and install a military-CIA junta. But Moore did not need to take a lead from Friedman. He has been arguing along these same general lines for some time, along with talk show hosts Bill Maher and Stephen Colbert among others. Comic Rosie O’Donnell, a week before the inauguration, urged Pres Obama in a tweet:

IMPOSE MARTIAL LAW — DELAYING THE INAUGURATION — UNTIL TRUMP IS ‘CLEARED’ OF ALL CHARGES.

In any event, Moore has reached the point where his politics and actions are entirely without principle. It is difficult to determine at times whether he fully believes some of the stupid and reckless things he says. Everything is subordinated to the need to confuse and disorient the mass opposition to Trump and channel it in a reactionary direction, thus preserving the two-party system. It should be recalled that Moore spent the first part of 2016 firmly backing the Bernie Sanders campaign. He denounced Hillary Clinton for opposing reform of the financial system, an increase in the minimum wage and a free health care system. He taunted Clinton as the candidate of Goldman Sachs, a “hawk” and supporter of “violence against the poor,” asking rhetorically:

Can anyone with a conscience vote for someone who led us on to war in Iraq?

When Sanders dropped out of the race and threw his support to Clinton, Moore turned on a dime and did the same., proceeding to extol the virtues of the former first lady, describing her as “our Pope Francis,” and someone who will “kick ass in Congress.” He told the media:

Our very first female president, someone the world respects, someone who is whip-smart and cares about kids, who will continue the Obama legacy.

The election of Trump threw the filmmaker into a genuine panic, not so much because of the billionaire president’s right-wing policies, although Moore nominally opposes many of them, but because of the immense crisis and discrediting of the political system that the election results entailed. The outcome of the vote revealed the miserable failure and bankruptcy of the Demagog Party, which was unwilling and unable to present a program that could attract any significant popular support. Since November, Moore has striven above all to conceal the central responsibility of the Obama administration and its right-wing policies and operations for Trump’s victory. Virtually from the moment that Trump took the oath of office, Moore has vehemently denounced him as a Russian puppet and lobbied for his removal. At the time of the Feb 13 resignation of Michael Flynn, Moore flew into near-hysterics. He demanded Trump “vacate” the White House immediately, calling him a “Russian traitor.” On Feb 14, Moore tweeted Trump:

It’s now noontime in DC & it appears you are still squatting in our Oval Office. I gave u til this morning to leave.

He added later:

What part of ‘vacate you Russian traitor’ don’t you understand? We can do this the easy way (you resign), or the hard way (impeachment).

He followed up the same day:

Traitor! Resign by morning!

On Facebook Feb 14, Moore referred to a “stunning bombshell from the NYT,” meaning the entirely unsubstantiated allegations there about Russian interference in the Pindosi elections, and went on:

It’s what we all suspected. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what was going on: TRUMP COLLUDING WITH THE RUSSIANS TO THROW THE ELECTION TO HIM. … If it turns out there’s a traitor in the White House, the judicial branch must find a fair, peaceful way to un-do and then re-do the election of 2016.

Along with everything else, this business about Trump being a “Russian traitor” is a filthy effort to revive McCarthyite anti-Communism. In a revealing Facebook entry of Mar 5, following Trump’s claim that the White House had wiretapped his campaign in 2016, Moore commented:

Did Obama ‘tapp’ Trump? Let’s Hope So. If you’re like me, you have no love for the FBI, the NSA or the CIA. If you are from my generation, you know these are very often nefarious institutions. The FBI spied on Martin Luther King to stop his civil rights activities. The NSA was ordered to make up stuff on Iraq so Bush could start a war. The CIA has had leaders of countries assassinated and democratically-elected Presidents (Iran, Chile, Guatemala) overthrown. These secret organizations have for decades committed so many acts in our name that have done much damage to good people and movements here and around the world. But if the Obama administration and the intelligence apparatus indeed have evidence that the Trump campaign was in contact with Russian officials, then it not only is possible that the DoJ or the national security apparatus decided to get a warrant to dig deeper, I think most patriotic Pindosis would agree with me that the Obama administration HAD AN OBLIGATION to order that wiretap because an act of treason — Trump campaign people colluding with Russia to affect the outcome of our election — had taken place.

So without batting an eye Moore expressed his support for and entered into a political bloc with the “nefarious institutions” he admitted only a few lines before had been responsible for global misery and murder, backing them in their internecine conflict with Donald Trump. The filmmaker should not have the slightest political credibility at this point. Crude, pragmatic, generally swinish … this is Michael Moore now, a political scoundrel.

woolsey, not citing the mysterious intercepts but an actual meeting

Flynn discussed sending Erdogan foe to Turkey: Reports
Andrew Blake, Washington Times, Mar 25 2017

Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, met with top Turkish officials last year and allegedly discussed ways to hand over Fethullah Gulen, former D/CIA Woolsey said Friday. The discussion allegedly unfolded during a Sep 2016 meeting in New York attended by individuals including senior officials from Ankara and Flynn, who served as one of Trump’s premiere consultants prior to his resignation last month as White House national security advisor, Woolsey told the WSJ on Friday. Woolsey said he arrived late to the Sep 19 meeting, just in time for a discussion centered around Gulen. Attendees were discussing “a covert step in the dead of night to whisk this guy away,” Woolsey said. Woolsey told CNN following publication of the WSJ report on Friday evening:

What I saw and heard was sort of the end of the conversation. It’s not entirely clear what transpired because of that, but it looks as if there was at least some strong suggestion by one or more of the Pindosis present at the meeting that we would be able, Pindostan would be able through them, to be able to get hold of Gulen, the rival for Turkey’s political situation.

Flynn attended the meeting as a representative of his consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group, the WSJ reported. He held an active role advising Trump’s presidential campaign at the time, however, and was named White House national security adviser within days of Trump’s Nov 2016 election. He resigned from that role last month amid swelling concerns involving his conversations and connections with foreign entities. More recently, the Flynn Intel Group filed paperwork with the DoJ on Mar 2 retroactively registering Flynn as a foreign agent for the Turkish government. Woolsey said he was invited to attend the meeting by the Flynn Intel Group’s chairman and president Bijan Kian, and that he was offered a consulting fee for his work but declined compensation due to the conversation he alleges to have taken place. Woolsey told the WSJ:

It seemed to be naive. I didn’t put a lot of credibility in it. This is a country of legal process and a constitution, and you don’t send out folks to haul somebody overseas.

Spox for Flynn refuted Woolsey’s characterization of the conversation, saying:

The claim made by Mr Woolsey that Gen Flynn or anyone else in attendance discussed physical removal of Mr Gulen from Pindostan during a meeting with Turkish officials in New York is false. No such discussion occurred. Nor did Mr Woolsey ever inform Gen Flynn that he had any concerns whatsoever regarding the meeting, either before he chose to attend, or afterwards.

sex-crazed moral panic, business as usual, next

‘Show me on this doll where Russia touched you’
Justin Raimondo, Antiwar.com, Mar 27 2017

They said the election of Donald Trump would usher in an era of political repression in which the First Amendment would come under attack, and they were right, although not in the way they meant it:

Federal investigators are examining whether far-right news sites played any role last year in a Russian cyber-operation that dramatically widened the reach of news stories that favored Donald Trump’s presidential bid, some fictional, two people familiar with the inquiry say. Operatives for Russia appear to have strategically timed the computer commands, known as ‘bots,’ to blitz social media with links to the pro-Trump stories at times when the billionaire businessman was on the defensive in his race against Clinton, these sources said.

Aside from sites run by the Russian government like Russia Today and Sputnik, the targets of the investigation are Breitbart.com and Infowars.com, although the purview of the witch hunt “investigation” is bound to broaden. These “bots” are supposedly automated programs broadcasting links, tweets, Facebook posts, etc that were launched at key times during the presidential campaign and were disproportionately anti-Clinton. They are supposedly the key link in a Vast Russian Conspiracy. The FBI leakers tell McClatchy:

Investigators examining the bot attacks are exploring whether the far-right news operations took any actions to assist Russia’s operatives. Their participation, however, wasn’t necessary for the bots to amplify their news through Twitter and Facebook.

So this is how the smear campaign scores points! You don’t have to be on the Russian payroll! You can be a “useful idiot” just because of your political views, which condemn you as an “unwitting” agent, as former acting D/CIA director Morell described Trump. This is how the parameters of “respectable” opinion are policed. This is how the War Party criminalizes those who think that the cold war is over and shouldn’t be revived.

’This may be one of the most highly impactful information operations in the history of intelligence,’ said one former intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Ah yes, there’s yet another one of those “former intelligence officials” leaking the details of an ongoing FBI inquiry but, hey, there’s no Deep State campaign to undermine the Trump administration! And he’s right, if “impactful” means that what we’re witnessing is a wave of anti-Russian hysteria backed by government coercion the likes of which we haven’t seen in this country since the 1950s. Because you can bet that Adam Schiff, the chief ringmaster of the House hearings on “Russian influence” in the election, is going to jump on this, and so we’re going to be treated to the spectacle of web-site editors hauled up before his committee and harangued about their “Russian connections,” just like accused “Communists” were dragged before the HUAC and interrogated, smeared and threatened with prison time if they refused to answer questions. That’s the practice. Here’s the theory:

As for the bots, they carried links not only to news stories but also to Demagog emails posted on WikiLeaks, especially those hacked from Podesta and made public in October, said Philip Howard, a professor at the Oxford University Internet Institute who has researched the bot attacks.

Prof Howard’s research tells us that “misinformation” is being spread via “computational propaganda” and that this is a Bad Thing, since it creates “distrust among voters.” It isn’t just Trump-bots the Professor is “concerned” about. In the run-up to the Brexit referendum, he warned that Brexit-bots were spreading similar “misinformation.” Howard and other concern-trolls from academia moan that these automated bots could “sway” elections, but then again, so could other “automated” means of persuasion, such as Internet ads that pop up on your computer or indeed any other form of “computational propaganda” that utilizes advanced technology to make the case for a candidate or cause, such as television ads. What these people are edging towards but don’t dare say openly is that they advocate censorship of opinions they don’t like. Yet they come very close to saying it. Here’s an approving article on an ox.ac.uk web-site that hardly masks Howard’s agenda:

A form of mass propaganda more insidious than anything used in the twentieth century is being used to manipulate global politics, according to the latest research. The culprit is social media and the lax regulation that allows voters to be bombarded with politically slanted misinformation: fake news.

Insidious! Manipulative! The culprit! And what’s the solution? Regulation! The piece goes on to cite ‘Professor Philip Howard, Director of Research at the Oxford Internet Institute and a Fellow of Balliol College’:

Ruling elites have often used propaganda to sustain their power, but this latest wave is different. Targeted messaging over social media is deeply personalized compared to the messaging that ‘all communists are evil’ that used to be distributed by mass films. It’s much more difficult to source who’s generating the content. Users think the messaging may be coming from their family and friends. It’s about particular issues the programmer knows you care about (But they said the bots only address the immediate topics – RB). It appears to be pretty effective.

So it’s okay for ruling elites to use propaganda, but this latest wave is different. Its goal is apparently to oppose the current ruling elites, which is what Howard objects to. Despite the fact that it’s more difficult to source who’s generating the content, Howard has a pretty good idea who are the culprits. He says:

We know that the Russians have spent money on propaganda efforts to improve Trump’s profile over Twitter, and that seems to have included creating bots that follow Trump and retweet a lot of what he says, as well as news from Russia. They often tweet stories about Demagogs, Western elites and corruption.

There are links between propagandists for Brexit and for Trump, he suggests:

My speculation would be that Russia would like to see the EU smaller and further from consensus. There’s a handful of accounts that were passionate about getting the UK to leave Europe and then they suddenly became interested in Pindosi politics.

Links between propagandists for Brexit and for Trump! Somebody please call the FBI! And apparently somebody has. Howard hails from Canada, where they don’t have a First Amendment and where another alleged problem with social media according to the Professor, hate speech, is illegal. Here in Pindostan, (Land of the Free – RB), people like Howard who want to regulate speech have to hide their real agenda. Thus we have Adam Schiff and his media camarilla pushing an “investigation” into pro-Trump web sites on the pretext that they’re part of a Vast Russian Conspiracy to take over Pindostan. If hate speech doesn’t work, then try invoking national security. That’s a sure bet. Howard goes on to target those he sneeringly dubs “patriotic programmers,” Pindosis who are guilty of spreading pro-Trump “misinformation,” slyly implying that they too are part of the Vast Russian Conspiracy. Which conjures visions of ordinary Pindo citizens being hauled up before Schiff’s Inquisition and being asked:

Are you or have you ever been … ?

It would be comical if it didn’t represent such a serious threat to our liberties. McCarthyism started out as a partisan campaign to tar the Demagogs as the Kremlin’s party But at least there was some evidence that the Reds had indeed infiltrated the highest reaches of FDR’s administration. In the case of the neo-McCarthyites, their “evidence” consists of sheer assertions by anonymous spooks, cries of “it’s classified, we can’t give you the evidence,” and a case made by profit-making cyber-“security” companies like CrowdStrike that is fast coming unglued. In an effort to explain away their stunning election loss, the Demagogs, in league with their Deep State and media allies, are embarked on a campaign of vilification that will end the way these things always end: in the use of State power to discredit, smear and ultimately outlaw dissenting opinions. What this latest outbreak of politically motivated moral panic reminds me of is the “Satanic sex ritual” craze of some years ago, where children were brought in to be interviewed by psychiatrists and social workers and asked:

Show me on this doll where the evil Satanists touched you!

They told us that if Trump took the White House the First Amendment would be crushed underfoot and the dark shadow of authoritarianism would be cast across the crumbling remnants of our Republic, and they were right!

bibi & co

Netanyahu denies deal to limit settlement construction
Times of Israel, Mar 26 2017

PM Netanyahu on Sunday said media reports of a supposed agreement with Washington to limit West Bank settlement construction were inaccurate and that negotiations on the matter were still in progress. The denial came a day after Channel 2 television said Israel and the US were close to reaching an understanding on settlement building that would see Jerusalem commit to construction limits in return for being allowed to establish the first new settlement in 25 years. Netanyahu has promised to build a new settlement for the residents of the illegal West Bank outpost of Amona, which was evacuated in January, but has encountered resistance from the Trump administration in the US. At the start of the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday, Netanyahu sought to dispel the claims, telling ministers:

In the past few days there have been reports in the media about alleged agreements in the talks we are holding with the White House regarding settlement construction. There are many incorrect things in these reports. I will not go into details. Our talks with the White House are continuing, and I hope they will end soon.

On Saturday Netanyahu’s office also labeled the report as “not true.” The television station’s claim of an impending deal comes amid mounting speculation on the outcome after four days of high-level discussions between the administration and an Israeli delegation, which concluded Thursday. Channel 2’s report, which called the purported understandings “the Trump formula,” followed a report in the NYT, which said that Israel is expected to make a general commitment to the Trump administration to slow settlement construction, but will likely not commit to numbers or specific areas. After the Washington talks, the White House believes it is currently unrealistic to expect Jerusalem to provide a more substantial pledge, officials told the NYT. The administration indicated Thursday that the talks had not led to any concrete agreement on Israel’s ongoing settlement construction. According to a joint readout of the talks:

The Pindosi delegation reiterated Pres Trump’s concerns regarding settlement activity in the context of moving towards a peace agreement. The Israeli delegation made clear that Israel’s intent going forward is to adopt a policy regarding settlement activity that takes those concerns into consideration.

The two sides said they would continue to engage in dialogue over Israel’s continued building in disputed areas of East Jerusalem and the West Bank. They described the discussions as “serious and constructive, and they are ongoing.” The series of meetings in Washington this past week followed Trump’s envoy Jason Greenblatt’s trip to the region earlier this month, in which he met with both Netanyahu and Abbas. In those talks in Jerusalem, Greenblatt reportedly demanded that Israel halt all construction in isolated West Bank settlements and put curbs on new building inside the major settlement blocs, but Netanyahu was said to have rejected the idea. An official in the PMO on Thursday denied that any such terms had been advanced by Greenblatt. Greenblatt led the US delegation to this week’s follow-up talks along with other representatives of the NSC staff and State Dept, including Michael Ratney. The Israeli delegation was led by Netanyahu’s chief of staff Yoav Horowitz and Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer. Other topics of discussion included boosting the Palestinian economy in the West Bank and reconstruction of vital infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.

this is probably an almost exact paraphrase of the london times’ original story

Donald Trump handed £300b NATO invoice to Angela Merkel
Rebecca Flood, Independent (UK), Mar 26 2017

Angela Merkel will reportedly ignore Donald Trump’s attempts to extricate £300b from Germany for what he deems to be owed contributions to Nato. The US President is said to have had an “invoice” printed out outlining the sum estimated by his aides as covering Germany’s unpaid contributions for defence. Said to be presented during private talks in Washington, the move has been met with criticism from German and Nato officials. While the figure presented to the Germans was not revealed by either side, Nato countries pledged in 2014 to spend two per cent of their GDP on defence, something only a handful of nations, including the UK, Greece, Poland and Estonia, currently do. But the bill has been backdated even further to 2002, the year Mrs Merkel’s predecessor, Gerhard Schröder, pledged to spend more on defence. Mr Trump reportedly instructed aides to calculate how much German spending fell below 2% over the past 12 years, then added interest. Estimates suggest the total came to £300bn, with official figures citing the shortfall to be around £250b plus £50b in interest added on. The Times quoted a German government minister as saying the move was “outrageous.” The unnamed minister said:

The concept behind putting out such demands is to intimidate the other side, but the Chancellor took it calmly and will not respond to such provocations.

And the paper quoted a source close to Mrs Merkel saying she has “ignored the provocation.” The bill follows a disastrous meeting between the pair earlier this month, characterised by Mr Trump’s refusal to shake his peer’s hand. A day after the meeting, Mr Trump tweeted:

Despite what you have heard from the FAKE NEWS, I had a GREAT meeting with the Chancellor Angela Merkel. Nevertheless, Germany owes … vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!

In response to the claims, German defence minister Ursula Von der Leyen rejected the notion the European nation owed the US or Nato. She issued a statement saying:

There is no debt account at Nato. Defence spending also goes into UN peacekeeping missions, into our European missions and into our contribution to the fight against terrorism.

Her comments were backed by Ivo Daalder, permanent representative to Nato from 2009 to 2013 under the Obama administration, who queried the President’s understanding of the organisation. He tweeted:

Sorry Mr President, that’s not how Nato works. The US decides for itself how much it contributes to defending Nato. This is not a financial transaction, where Nato countries pay the US to defend them. It is part of our treaty commitment.

Mr Trump has repeatedly voiced his criticism over member payments to Nato, throwing doubt on the future role of the US in the organisation. He has singled out a number of Nato countries, including Germany, over their defence contributions claiming the US has been forced to bear the brunt and pick up the tab.

look how they all avoid the name “weiner”!

The Pizzagate Timebomb
Kurt Nimmo, Another Day in the Empire (Blog), Mar 25 2017

Pizzagate has imploded. Not because it’s untrue. Because like the Demagogs’ accusation that the Russians are behind Trump’s election victory, it cannot be proven, there is insufficient evidence. Speculated “code” in a Podesta email is not enough, it doesn’t even amount to circumstantial evidence. This does not mean I do not believe some members of the ruling elite and their minions are pedophiles. There is evidence of that, most notably Jimmy Saville (sic! why not Weiner? – RB) and Clinton friend Jeffrey Epstein. However, there is no evidence there is a basement at Comet Pizza and it was used as a rape room. Pizzagate is a trap. It was used by the establishment to discredit the alternative media, specifically Infowars and Alex Jones. Jones has provided his enemies with nearly perfect ammunition. He might be sued. His multi-million dollar operation is now in jeopardy. But I’m too close to that bullet point, so let’s move on.

The recklessness of the alternative media in regard to this conspiracy theory and others has given its enemies the opportunity to inflict serious damage. People are already losing their jobs. Judge Napolitano was suspended from Fox News for insisting Obama wiretapped Trump. It’s quite obvious the “left” side of the establishment is now attempting to discredit the alternative media on a number of fronts. The FBI is investigating the “far right” for supposed collusion with the Russians, an absurd and easily debunked charge, and every day the establishment media characterizes the Bannon-Breitbart-Infowars “alt-right” as “white nationalists,” and even Nazis, an equally absurd riposte in a culture war that is now raging like a three alarm fire. Social media is actively working on ways to block “fake news” posts. France has gone so far as to threaten to impose fines and prison terms on CEOs of social media companies that do not remove what they deem hate speech and fake news.

If you think the Republicans will come to the rescue, think again. They will side with the Demagogs. Lindsey Graham and his ideological twin Walnuts McCain have signed on to the ludicrous charge of Russian meddling in our election. Other Republicans wait in the wings. Paul Ryan and the Rethugs sabotaged Trump’s supposed Obamacare fix, never mind that he campaigned on repealing it. They may eventually acquiesce and allow the Democrats to take down alt-right media or at minimum inflict irreparable damage. That does not seem to be in the cards now, but it is there waiting patiently like an animal of prey. Democrats will use phony evidence provided by the CIA and the establishment to attack Trump and the alt-right media that stands behind him. Hillary Clinton and the Demagogs are calling themselves the “resistance” and have the ability to cause trouble, not only in the Oval Office but, as we have seen this weekend, in the streets as well. Violent behavior by “leftists” will escalate as the weather improves in the days ahead.*

The alternative media needs to stop handing the establishment ammo. It needs to concentrate on what it can definitively prove: for instance, the massive corruption of both parties, the takeover of our “representation” by transnational corporations and mega-banks, the financial manipulation on Wall Street and at the Federal Reserve, and the endless wars and the entire contrived war on terror designed to enrich the elite and their military-industrial complex and associated industries. The Pindo sheeple can relate to this. The “left” will not be able to shoot it down. Many are now coming around to the immense crimes committed in the name of the war on terror, but mostly because Trump is in office. They also know about corruption, but usually when it is attributed to Rethugs. Most are dimly aware or completely unaware of the role played by the Federal Reserve and the international banking cartel. Occupy Wall Street, for instance, concentrated on corporate salaries, bonuses, and so-called income inequality, although some understood the parasitical behavior of the financial elite. Trump and the Demagogs can be taken down on the financial alone. The facts are there, no theories are required. It can be explained in a simple and straightforward fashion how the elite screw normal Pindostanis through monetary inflation and bankster bailout socialism. Pindos are less interested in war, although they are tired of hearing about it. There is a mountain of evidence the government is engaged in massive war crimes. The cost of endless war is destroying the economy through deficit spending and debt. I think that’s something the Pindo creeple can relate to.

* The word “leftists” is in quotation because the majority are not really leftists. They are a mob riled up by Demagogs and their propaganda media. Although there is a hardcore cadre pushing a panoply of neo-left issues, from transgenderism to abortion and a laundry list of other social issues, the majority is only dimly aware politically and their outrage aimed at Trump is emotional and increasingly violent. The leadership is ideologically leftist. You can call it the New New Left. But the mob is largely armed with slogans.

detailed retelling of the crowdstrike saga, etc

From Russia, with Panic
Yasha Levine, The Baffler, n.d.

B34_Levine_openerIllus: Yarek Wasul

The Russians hacked Pindostan. After Donald Trump’s surprise victory in November, these four words reverberated across the nation. Demagog Party insiders, liberal pundits, economists, congress critturs, spies, Hollywood celebrities, and neocons of every stripe and classification level, all these worthy souls reeled in horror at the horribly compromised new Pindosi electoral order. In unison, the centers of responsible opinion concurred that Vladimir Putin carried off a brazen and successful plan to throw the most important election in the most powerful democracy in the world to a candidate of his choosing. It seemed like a plotline from a vintage James Bond film. From his Moscow lair, Vladimir Putin struck up an alliance with Julian Assange to mount a massive cyber-offensive to discredit Hillary Clinton and her retinue of loyal Demagog Party operatives in the eyes of the Pindo creeple. The plot was full of twists and turns and hair-raising tangents, including tales of Pindo-Russian retiree-agents sunning in Miami while collecting payoffs from Russia’s impoverished pension system. But the central ruse, it appears, was to enter the email server of the DNC and then tap into the gmail account belonging to John Podesta, founder of the Center for Pindosi Progress and premier DC Demagog insider. As the long 2016 general election campaign unwound, WikiLeaks released a steady stream of embarrassing revelations from the DNC, though the disclosures were no more compromising than what you’d find in the correspondence of any mid-sized private-sector company: dumb boardroom gossip, petty press intrigues, and sleazy attempts to undermine a well-placed executive rival, Bernie Sanders. Truly, it would have been astonishing to learn that the DNC went about its business in any other way. But the sheer fact of the data breach was dispositive in the eyes of Demagog operatives and their many defenders in the liberal press. After all, WikiLeaks also reportedly collected data from the RNC and did nothing with it. Clearly this was cyber-espionage of the most sophisticated variety.

On the Trump side of the ledger, things were murkier. Trump’s political advisers indeed had ties to Russia and Ukraine, but this was hardly surprising given the authoritarian-friendly lobbying climate within Faschingstein. During the campaign, the GOP nominee was disinclined to say anything critical about Putin. Indeed, breaking with decades of Republican tradition, Trump openly praised the Russian leader as a powerful, charismatic figure who got things done. But since the candidate also refused to disclose his tax returns, a commercial alliance with the Russian autocrat was necessarily a matter of conjecture. That didn’t stop theories from running wild, culminating in January with the titillating report from BuzzFeed that Pindo intelligence agencies believed that Putin had compromising footage of Trump cavorting with prostitutes at a Moscow hotel previously patronized by Barack and Michelle Obama. Not only was the Yank stooge defiling the very room where the first couple had stayed, but he allegedly had his rented amorous companions urinate in the bed. Behold, virtuous Pindo sheeple, the degradation Vladimir Putin has in store for you!

Taking the Piss

The dossier published by BuzzFeed had been circulating for a while. On closer inspection, it appeared to be repurposed opposition research from the doomed Jeb Bush campaign. Its author was a former MI6 officer apparently over-eager to market salacious speculation. By the end of this latest lurid installment of the Russian hacking saga, no one knew anything more than they had when the heavy-breathing allegations first began to make their way through the political press. Nevertheless, the Obama White House had expelled Russian diplomats and expanded sanctions against Putin’s regime, while the FBI continued to investigate reported contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russian intelligence operatives during the campaign. This latter development doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. As allegations of Russian responsibility for the DNC hack flew fast and furious, we learned that the FBI never actually carried out an independent investigation of the claims. Instead, agency officials carelessly signed off on the findings of CrowdStrike, a private cyber-security firm retained by the DNC. Far from establishing an airtight case for Russian espionage, CrowdStrike made a point of telling its DNC clients what it already knew they wanted to hear. After a cursory probe, it pronounced the Russians the culprits. Mainstream press outlets, primed for any faint whiff of great-power scandal and poorly versed in online threat detection, likewise treated the CrowdStrike report as all but incontrovertible.

Other intelligence players haven’t fared much better. The DNI produced a risible account of an alleged Russian disinformation campaign to disrupt the 2016 election which hinged on such revelations as that state-sponsored TV news outlet Russia Today aired uncomplimentary reports on the Clinton campaign and reported critically on fracking. In a frustratingly vague statement to Congress on the report, then-DNI Clapper hinted at deeper and more definitive findings that proved serious and rampant Russian interference in Pindostan’s presidential balloting, but insisted that all this underlying proof must remain classified. For observers of the DC intelligence scene, Clapper’s performance harkened back to his role in touting definitive proof of the imminent threat of Saddam Hussein’s WMD arsenal in the run-up to the Pindosi invasion of Iraq. It’s been easy, amid the accusations and counter-accusations, to lose sight of the underlying seriousness of the charges. If the hacking claims are true, we are looking at a truly dangerous crisis that puts Pindostan’s democratic system at risk. The gravity of the allegation calls for a calm, measured, meticulously documented inquiry: pretty much the opposite of what we’ve seen so far. The level of wild assertion has gotten to the point that some of the most respected pro-Western voices in Russia’s opposition have expressed alarm. As much as they despise Putin, they don’t buy the bungled investigations. Leonid Bershidsky wrote:

In the real world outside of soap operas and spy novels, any conclusions concerning the hackers’ identity, motives and goals need to be based on solid, demonstrable evidence. At this point, it’s inadequate. This is particularly unfortunate given that the DNC hacks were among the defining events of the raging propaganda wars of 2016.

The lack of credible evidence, the opaque nature of cyber-attacks, the partisan squabbles and smears, and the national-security fear-mongering have all made this particular scandal very difficult to navigate. It may be years before we find out what really happened.

(long story about the Georgian cyber-war, omitted)

While the financial industry was teetering on the brink of oblivion, another industry was being born: the cyber-security complex. By now it is a multi-billion-dollar boondoggle, employing shoddy forensic techniques and politicized investigations. But it is highly profitable. The boom has been driven by the grim leaky reality of our digital world. Not a month goes by without some huge corporation or government agency getting hacked, its data splattered across the internet or siphoned off for the exclusive use of scammers, corporate spies, and intelligence agencies. Cyber-security firms have stepped up to the challenge. They’ve attracted funding from the biggest and most powerful venture capital houses: Sequoia, Google Capital, and the like. Not surprisingly, the CIA’s in-house VC outfit, In-Q-Tel, has been a leading investor in this space. All these firms position themselves as objective forensic investigators, patiently sifting through the evidence to find the guilty party and then figuring out how to defend against it. They have been involved with diagnosing and attributing big hacks for shamefaced clients like Target, J P Morgan and Sony Pictures. Investors and intelligence agencies sing the praises of the critical services these outfits offer in an online environment teeming with hostile threats. But in private conversations, as well as little-noticed public discussions, security professionals take a dimmer view of the cyber-security complex. And the more I’ve looked at the hysteria surrounding Russia’s supposed hacking of our elections, the more I’ve come to see it as a case study of everything wrong and dangerous about the cyber-attribution business.

Fancy Bears, Cozy Bears — Oh My!

Take CrowdStrike, the hottest cyber-security firm operating today. Based in Irvine, California, CrowdStrike was launched in 2012 by two veterans of the cyber-attribution business, George Kurtz and Dmitri Alperovitch. Both previously worked for McAfee, an anti-virus firm turned massive cyber-security firm, now partially owned by Intel. But Kurtz and Alperovitch saw a market opportunity for a new boutique type of cyber-defense outfit and decided to strike out on their own. They also brought on board Shawn Henry, a top FBI official who had been in charge of running the agency’s worldwide cyber-investigations. CrowdStrike positioned itself as a next-generation full-service cyber-security firm. Company officials argued that cyber-security was no longer just about defense. There was too much data and too many ways of getting at it to protect everything all the time. You had to know your attacker. CrowdStrike cofounder George Kurtz wrote:

Knowing their capabilities, objectives, and the way they go about executing on them is the missing piece of the puzzle in today’s defensive security technologies. By identifying the adversary, we can hit them where it counts.

CrowdStrike hit the big time in 2015 with a $100m infusion from Google Capital (now Capital G), Google’s first-ever investment in a cyber-security company. It was good timing, because CrowdStrike was about to be catapulted into the front ranks of cyber-threat assessors. Sometime in April or May, CrowdStrike got a call from the DNC to investigate a possible intrusion into their servers. The company’s investigators worked with surprising efficiency. As one DNC insider explained to the NYT, the company was able to make a definite attribution within a day. There was no doubt, CrowdStrike told its DNC clients: the Russian government did it. The results of CrowdStrike’s investigation were first broken by the WaPo and then followed up in greater detail by CrowdStrike itself. In a post entitled “Bears in the Midst,” Dmitri Alperovitch attributed the hack to two distinct and very nefarious “Russian espionage” groups, Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear, among the most sophisticated cyber-operators CrowdStrike had ever come across. He wrote:

In fact, our team considers them some of the best adversaries out of all the numerous nation-state, criminal and hacktivist/terrorist groups we encounter on a daily basis. Their tradecraft is superb, operational security second to none and the extensive usage of ‘living-off-the-land’ techniques enables them to easily bypass many security solutions they encounter.

These cyber-spooks were allegedly behind a string of recent attacks on Pindo corporations and think-tanks, as well as recent penetrations of the unclassified networks of the State Dept, the White House and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. According to CrowdStrike, Cozy Bear was most likely FSB, while Fancy Bear was GRU. Here, the cyber-experts were telling us, was conclusive evidence that both the FSB and the GRU targeted the central apparatus of the Demagog Party. CrowdStrike’s findings didn’t just cause a sensation; they carpet-bombed the news cycle. Reports that Vladimir Putin had tried to hack Pindostan’s democratic process raced around the world, making newspaper front pages and setting off nonstop cable news chatter. The story got even hotter after a hacker who called himself Guccifer 2.0 suddenly appeared. He took credit for the DNC hack, called CrowdStrike’s investigation a fraud, and began leaking select documents pilfered from the DNC, including a spreadsheet containing names and addresses of the DNC’s biggest donors. The story finally started going nuclear when WikiLeaks somehow got hold of the entire DNC email archive and began dribbling the data out to the public.

A Terrible System

CrowdStrike stuck to its guns, and other cyber-security firms and experts likewise clamored to confirm its findings: Russia was behind the attack. Most journalists took these security savants at their word, not bothering to investigate or vet their forensic methods or look at the way CrowdStrike arrived at its conclusions. And how could they? They were the experts. If you couldn’t trust CrowdStrike and company, who could you trust? Unfortunately, there were big problems with CrowdStrike’s account. For one thing, the names of the two Russian espionage groups that CrowdStrike supposedly caught, Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear, were a fiction. Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear are what cyber-monitors call “Advanced Persistent Threats” or APTs. When investigators analyze an intrusion, they look at the tools and methods that the hackers used to get inside: source code, language settings, compiler times, time zones, IP settings and so on. They then compare all these things against a database of previously recorded hacks that is shared among cyber-professionals. If the attack fits an old profile, they assign it to an existing APT. If they find something new, they create a group and give it an official name (say, APT911) and then a cooler moniker they can throw around in their reports (say, TrumpDump). CrowdStrike followed the protocols for existing APTs. Its investigation of DNC servers turned up two known threat actor groups, APT28 and APT29. Depending on the cyber-security firm doing the analysis, these two APTs have been called by all sorts of names: Pawn Storm, Sofacy, Sednit, CozyCar, The Dukes, CozyDuke, Office Monkeys. Neither of them has ever been linked by any cyber-security firm to the Russian government with certainty. Some firms have tried, most notably FireEye, CrowdStrike’s bigger and wealthier competitor, but FireEye’s evidence was ridiculously thin and inferential. In nearly any other industry, it would have been an embarrassment. Consider for example FireEye’s report on APT29:

We suspect the Russian government sponsors the group because of the organizations it targets and the data it steals. Additionally, APT29 appeared to cease operations on Russian holidays, and their work hours seem to align with the UTC +3 time zone, which contains cities such as Moscow and St Petersburg.

Or consider FireEye’s report on APT28, which among other things attributes this attack group to a Russian intelligence unit active in Russia’s “invasion of Georgia,” an invasion that we know never took place.

They compile malware samples with Russian language settings during working hours consistent with the time zone of Russia’s major cities, including Moscow and St Petersburg.While we don’t have pictures of a building, personas to reveal, or a government agency to name, what we do have is evidence of long-standing, focused operations that indicate a government sponsor: specifically, a government based in Moscow.

So, FireEye knows that these two APTs are run by the Russian government because a few language settings are in Russian and because of the tell-tale timestamps on the hackers’ activity? First off, what kind of hacker, especially a sophisticated Russian spy hacker, keeps to standard 9-to-5 working hours and observes official state holidays? Second, what other locations are in Moscow’s time zone and full of Russians? Israel, Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Moldova, Romania, Lithuania, Ukraine? If non-Russian-speaking countries are included, since after all, language settings could easily be switched as a decoy tactic, that list grows longer still: Greece, Finland, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Yemen, Ethiopia, Kenya. The countries go on and on. The flimsiness of this evidence didn’t stop CrowdStrike. Its analysts matched some of the tools and methods used in the DNC hack to APT28 and APT29, slapped a couple of Russian-sounding names with “bear” in them on their report, and claimed that the FSB and GRU did it. And most journalists covering this beat ate it all up without gagging. Author and cyber-security expert Jeffrey Carr told me:

You don’t know there is anybody there. It’s not like it’s a club and everyone has a membership card that says Fancy Bear on it. It’s just a made-up name for a group of attacks and techniques and technical indicators associated with these attacks. There is rarely if ever any confirmation that these groups even exist or that the claim was proven as correct.

Carr has been in the industry a long time. During the Russia-Georgia war, he led an open-source intelligence effort backed by Palantir in an attempt to attribute and understand the actors behind the cyber-war. I read his reports on the conflict back then, and even though I disagreed with some of his conclusions, I found his analysis nuanced and informative. His findings at the time tracked with those of the general cyber-security industry and bent toward implicating the Russian government in the cyber-attacks on Georgia. But these days Carr has broken with the cyber-world consensus:

Any time a cyber-attack occurs nowadays you have cyber-security companies looking back and seeing a historical record and seeing assignments on responsibility and attribution and they just keep plowing ahead. Whether they are right or wrong nobody knows, and probably will never know. That’s how it works. It’s a terrible system.

This is forensic science in reverse: first you decide on the guilty party, then you find the evidence that confirms your belief.

Not for Attribution

Over time, bad evidence was piled on top of unsubstantiated claims and giant inductive leaps of logic to the point that, if you tried to figure out what was actually happening, you’d lose all sense of direction. Matt Tait, a former GCHQ analyst and founder of Capital Alpha Security who blogs under the influential Twitter handle @pwnallthethings, found a Word document pilfered from the DNC and leaked by Guccifer 2.0. As he examined its data signatures, he discovered that it had been edited by Felix Edmundovich (Dzerzhinsky, founder of the Cheka). To him, it was proof that Guccifer 2.0 was part of the same Russian intelligence operation. He really believed that the super-sophisticated spy group trying to hide its Russian ties would register its Microsoft Word processor in the name of the leader of the infamously brutal Soviet security service. Meanwhile, Thomas Rid, a cyber-expert based in London, drew a straight line from the DNC hacks to the attempted hacking of the Germans and TV5 to attacks on Georgia and Baltic States, even though on closer inspection none of those efforts had been linked to the Russian government. John Podesta’s Gmail account was hacked with a rudimentary spear-phishing attack that tricked him into entering his password with a fake Google login page. His emails ended up on WikiLeaks, too. All sorts of people linked this to Russian military intelligence, with no concrete evidence to speak of. Sensing its moment had arrived, CrowdStrike went into frenetic PR mode. The company released a series of cyber-attribution reports illustrated with sexy communist robots wearing fur hats, using visual marketing techniques in lieu of solid evidence.

After Donald Trump won the presidency, all these outlandish claims were accepted as unassailable truth. The “hacking” of the 2016 presidential election was the ultimate damning conclusion that cyber-security experts were now working backward from. Just as Georgia’s compromised net infrastructure provided conclusive proof of Russia’s concerted plan to invade Georgia, Trump’s improbably successful presidential run demonstrated that Russian subterfuge, rather than the collapse of Pindosi political institutions, had elected a dangerous outsider president. Watching this new round of cyber-attribution hysteria, I got a queasy feeling. Even Dmitri Alperovitch’s name sounded familiar. I looked through my notes and remembered why. He was one of the minor online voices supporting the idea that the cyber-attacks against Georgia were some kind of Russian plot. Back then, he was in charge of intelligence analysis at Secure Computing Corporation, a cyber-security company that also made censorship tools used by countries like Saudi Arabia. He was now not only running his own big shop, but also playing a central role in a dangerous geopolitical game. In other words, the election-hacking panic was a stateside extension of the battle first joined on the ISP frontiers of the Georgia-Russia war. Impressionable journalists and Demagog party hacks who ignore this background do so at their peril and ours.