World

One Thousand Russian Trolls Helped Elect Trump

Buried at the bottom of this story about FBI Director James Comey's briefing to Senators yesterday is this amazing fact:

Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Intelligence committee, did not answer questions about the focus of the Comey briefing Friday. But he did talk about the extent of the investigation he is building with Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr. 

"What we are trying to do -- and I give Richard (Burr) a lot of credit -- is to not have this devolve into a partisan food fight that doesn't serve the public purpose. This is so important that we get it right," Warner said. "But the amount of manipulation, why there's not more outrage about the fact there were close to 1,000 Russian internet trolls, actual people, working trying to manipulate our news."

This is nothing new to Western leaders, by the way--it was on CNN in September of 2015:

An army of Internet trolls is using cyberspace to promote Russia and wage war against opposition groups and the West.

A former employee of the Internet Research Agency, Lyudmila Savchuk, has offered a rare glimpse inside the propaganda machine where young people were paid to praise President Vladimir Putin and his government. 

Savchuk, 34, who runs a Russian group that campaigns against propaganda, said she went undercover to "unveil the trolls and make them show themselves." 

The freelance journalist told CNN she accepted a job with the agency as a blogger, and then filed a lawsuit over its employment practices to shed light on the shadowy organization. 

The Russian government had denied all knowledge of the operation, and cast doubt on its existence. But a court last month awarded Savchuk symbolic damages of one ruble in recognition of the legal claims she made.

Why is this being briefed by the FBI Director now? Shouldn't we have known about this before the 2016 primaries even began? And since Trump was an announced candidate in the fall of 2015, why didn't anyone connect the dots on his campaign's Russian connections earlier? It would seem to me that this was a missed opportunity to provide some basic level of protection for American democracy. At the very least, it should have been the FBI's responsibility to warn people that the Russians were actively engaged in trying to throw the election while, at the same time, having multiple connections to the Trump campaign for months and months.

Russia had this massive online manipulation program up and running long before the 2016 election and no one in our government did anything to warn anyone. Amazing.

Nobody Has a Monopoly on Truth and Morals

Paul Manafort runs the Donald Trump campaign. He is the most ethically challenged member of Trump's team, and that's saying a whole hell of a lot:

It is far from certain that Mr. Manafort’s views have directly shaped Mr. Trump’s, since Mr. Trump spoke favorably of Mr. Putin’s leadership before Mr. Manafort joined the campaign. But it is clear that the two have a shared view of Russia and neighbors like Ukraine — an affection, even — that, in Mr. Manafort’s case, has been shaped by years of business dealings as much as by any policy or ideology.

“I wouldn’t put out any moral arguments about his work,” said Yevgeny E. Kopachko, a pollster with Mr. Yanukovych’s former party who cooperated with Mr. Manafort for years and called him a pragmatic and effective strategist. “Nobody has a monopoly on truth and morals.”

Mr. Manafort did not respond to requests for an interview. In television interviews on Sunday, though, he defended Mr. Trump’s views on Russia, saying that as president, Mr. Trump would be firm with Russia but would deal with it like any other country when doing so suited American interests.

“He views Russia as a foreign power that has its own interests at stake,” Mr. Manafort said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Until he joined Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign this year, Mr. Manafort’s work in Ukraine had been his most significant political campaign in recent years. He began his career in Republican politics in the 1970s and extended it overseas to advising authoritarian leaders, including Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire, Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines and Mr. Yanukovych.

Manafort has been in bed with the Russian-aligned Ukrainians for years. He owes much of his livelihood to taking money from a foreign government. Would any government agency give him access to classified information? My guess is that they would not dream of granting him a clearance. And yet, he's running the campaign for the Republican nominee for president.

Hillary Ruined Haiti? Give Me A Break

Come on, try harder:

Much of the blame for Haiti’s chaotic political scene can be pinned on Hillary Clinton’s State Department, whose handpicked president has only made things worse.

Last week Haiti’s Electoral Council postponed the nation’s current presidential election indefinitely. The present chaos is a fitting coda to the recent presidency of Michel Martelly, a novice politician who governed accordingly.

Amid the current upheaval, the name Mirlande Manigat is well worth recalling. As Haiti struggled to dig out from the disastrous 2010 earthquake, Manigat stood poised to become its first elected female president—until Hillary Clinton’s State Department intervened.

A former First Lady of Haiti and a respected university administrator, Manigat invoked Brazil’s Lula as she ran on a moderately left-wing platform championing universal public education. Manigat, who holds a Ph.D. from the Sorbonne, also campaigned in the U.S., detailing at length her vision for Haiti.

This is another ridiculous hit piece on Secretary Clinton's tenure at State. First of all, no one ruined Haiti - Haiti was already ruined. Second, she championed someone who let the NGOs come in and try to help. Third, she opposed a Sorbonne-educated candidate who, umm, went to New York City to campaign for the presidency of Haiti because that's where the money was. She made a judgement call based on what she was being told by the State Department's people in the region--the professionals who understand diplomacy.

So, in effect, you have someone criticizing Hillary because she rejected the candidate who was wallowing in outside money raised in another country. Tell me again how her ties to corrupt people are supposed to "disqualify" her from the presidency?

When it comes to Haiti, steel yourself for heartbreak. There have never been any great options for the place so blaming Hillary is really stretching it. Next up- an expose from Slate on how everything that went wrong everywhere in the world until modern times was also Hillary's fault.

None of These Clowns Are Worth the Attention


At some point, the trolling has to stop:
North Korea threatens to 'blow up' the White House after claiming to find 'clear evidence' that the GOVERNMENT was behind controversial Sony film The Interview
It now looks more like an inside job at Sony Pictures than it does anything else. And it looks to me like the extra attention granted to all three parties--Kim Jong Un, James Franco, and Seth Rogen--is about as shopworn as using a ticking time bomb as a plot device.

In a world...where things actually mattered...nobody would be talking about any of them. Ever.

This is Why We Can Invade Iraq Again


All someone needs to do is figure out how to blame the hacking of Sony on the Iraqis.

That's it.

Once we do that, we have the case for war. We can invade. We can go break shit. We can own that country all over again.

The problem is, these hacks probably come from the Chinese, who are receiving some hard currency or some other form of graft from North Korea and we can't invade those countries. But, anyone threatening another 9/11 falls under the new American doctrine which allows for tearing up old agreements.

Seriously, though. Threatening another 9/11 isn't cool. Someone is going to overreact to this and we may well end up with a sequel to this movie. Killing Vladimir Putin would make a great film, but he'd probably just kick Franco's ass.

The Russian Ruble is Collapsing


Couldn't have happened to a nicer kleptocracy:
The ruble tumbled the most since 1998, sliding past 60 for the first time, as traders tested Russia’s willingness to defend the currency amid an oil slump that’s pushing the economy toward recession.
The ruble weakened 9.1 percent to 64.0005 per dollar at 7:57 p.m. in Moscow, the steepest slide on a closing basis since the year Russia defaulted on local-currency debt. The 10-year government bond yield rose 23 basis points to 13.23 percent. Three-month implied volatility for the ruble climbed to a six-year high as the rout triggered the Bank of Russia to sell foreign exchange, according to BCS Financial Group and MDM Bank.
Traders are pressing the central bank to buy more rubles to limit a selloff that has wiped out 22 percent of the currency’s value this month. Oil’s slide toward $60 a barrel in London and sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine are undermining confidence in Russian assets as evidence mounts that the economy is entering a recession. Industrial output fell the most in more than a year in November, data showed today.

Everyone who bet on oil being expensive is losing money right now. And I think that this is largely driven by the fact that alternative forms of energy are making inroads and so there's a glut of oil on the world market. I don't want to be around (but I will be) when the major producers scale back--the price will shoot up, no doubt.

Is it time to get that electric car and invest in solar panels? It's always time to get the electric car and put solar panels everywhere.

The decision made by the Western nations (The U.S. and Europe) to put a shiv into the side of Russia's economy is paying off. The price for all of this has to be for Russia to give up two things: Eastern and Southern Ukraine and Edward Snowden.

Aviation in North Korea


Morbidly obese young men are unable to fly planes in almost every air force in the world, save North Korea. This is notwithstanding the fact that it is almost impossible to become morbidly obese in North Korea, period.

And while Kim Jong Un has been hobbled as of late, and even though this is a stationary plane that he has been sandwiched into for propaganda purposes, the reality is that North Korea's air force would be hopelessly outclassed in a modern air battle. The best thing for their enemies is the continued leadership of the lesser Un.

Benghazi, Bitch


Everyone knows that Paul Walker died because of Benghazi, and now Aaron Paul is being denied a successful film career because of Benghazi.

Thanks Obama. Thanks a lot.

Americans have turned on the souped-up racing care genre and the manliness of racing a fiberglass clown car because of the wussification of the population, courtesy of America's surrender and defeat in Benghazi.

Ty Burrell as a successful voice actor? Wouldn't have happened if we had secured our personnel in Benghazi, bitch.

China Owns the Moon


I don't know if the Jade Rabbit is going to paint a red star on the visible face of the moon large enough for everyone to see, but I do know this--America needs to send a rover-eating machine five times bigger than this thing and crush it to pieces. American exceptionalism cannot tolerate a world where the Chinese take possession of the moon and begin extracting moon rocks.

America is home to the most valuable moon rocks. Ours are going to be worthless if the Chinese begin sending them back to Earth by the bucket load. If you think Bitcoins are the wave of the future, think again. Our new currency should be moon rocks. American moon rocks and nothing more, platinum be damned.

Manfred Rommel 1928-2013


Manfred Rommel has died at the age of 84. He was the son of the famous German general, and he made a life and a name for himself by leading the city of Stuttgart out of the darkness of the postwar era.

His father, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, has a reputation for being a great general. In point of fact, he was successful enough in the 1940 invasion of France but lost North Africa in 1943 and most of France in 1944. He was not as successful as his reputation would have you think. That reputation was largely based on being able to explain tactics and strategies that he had learned during World War I.

I had occasion to see a hopeful, affirming, peace-loving plaque that he had dedicated long ago. This plaque was situated in the middle of a playground area on Robinson Barracks, which is an Army housing base in the Stuttgart area. Rommel defended the rights of the Turkish workers who were invited to come to Germany and help rebuild its cities and industries after the war. For that, he deserves a great deal of praise. There are few, if any, politicians who defend immigrants anymore.

The Useless Drunks of Mother Russia


America has a lot of drunks, too. The difference is, our drunks get better welfare benefits. I would not know. I do not imbibe.

All of this fear of a resurgence of Russian hegemony is misplaced. We should fear a Russia teeming with stumblebums who set themselves on fire because they don't know how to work the stove when they are blind drunk.

The Endless Debate


You can count on one hand the number of people who have made a reasonable defense of maintaining Native American names for sports teams. Rick Reilly is not one of them.

Reilly is an inherently dumb analyst who doesn't do nuance or reasonable. He spouts off things like this in the middle of and endless stream of self-serving bullshit:
[...] even though an Annenberg Public Policy Center poll found that 90 percent of Native Americans were not offended by the Redskins name, and even though linguists say the "redskins" word was first used by Native Americans themselves, and even though nobody on the Blackfeet side of my wife's family has ever had someone insult them with the word "redskin," it doesn't matter. There's no stopping a wave of PC-ness when it gets rolling.
Polls can be skewed to demonstrate whatever the people paying for that poll want it to say. Reilly's attempt to personalize the debate is ridiculous because Native Americans are distributed throughout different regions. What might be acceptable for a tribe in Montana is vastly different from something know to a tribe that originated in a different part of the country. Cultural differences and linguistic differences are vast when it comes to Native Americans so the etymology of the term doesn't apply. It is not politically correct to object to the use of Native American terms for sports teams. It is, in point of fact, a demeaning act of cultural insensitivity. This is precisely because the Native Americans were not celebrated, elevated or triumphant, ever. They were removed, subjugated, and allowed to die off in massive numbers. When you adopt their names and images and use them to celebrate sports teams, all you are doing is relegating them to the status of mascot.

In the case of the Redskins, they use a racial term, not a tribal name or term, as their mascot. That's why the Seminoles in Florida have no problem with Florida State's use of the name and why the debate is far more nuanced than people realize.

I'm not able to add anything new here but I will say this--it's about money. Culture and other considerations need not apply. Money talks. The Redskins are too valuable for the franchise to survive a name change. There is too much wrapped up in merchandising and marketing to even consider a change. The Redskins franchise is worth over a billion dollars, depending on who you believe, and that is why you won't see a change until if affects the bottom line. No one cares about right or wrong when you're talking about a billionaire's plaything.

No amount of arguing or logic will change the monetary considerations that are driving this debate. Rick Reilly has made an attempt to subvert the racism in this case and he has failed to make a dent in the logic of changing the name. If it wasn't for the money, the name would have changed long ago.

Yes, You Did


Americans could learn from this man:
Moments after being dragged from the wreckage, the driver of the train that derailed in northwest Spain on Wednesday, killing 78,told his rescuers "I have fucked it up. I want to die." 
Francisco José Garzón Amo, pictured above, was taken into custody at the hospital yesterday and will be questioned by a judge today. He and the train's other driver could potentially be charged in the 78 deaths.
That is what we call a moment of clarity and a breath of refreshing honesty. Someone needs to hand this man a revolver with one round and walk away.