Sunday, June 18, 2017

Catching up on even more links

Russian operations. This article states the case that there is some evidence, a bit of evidence, of collusion. So the claim that there's nothing, that this is all a witch hunt, that's not true. As for what Russia has been doing, and the worrisome things Trump has said regarding Russia, here's a round-up.

American political shooter. Here's some background on the man who shot at the Republicans from Congress as they practiced baseball. He fell for propaganda that Trump is destroying the country. Luckily, I haven't seen anyone proclaiming that the shooting was a good thing.

GOP talking points. It's been clear from the political threads I follow that there is a new set of talking points. Comey is a leaker and maybe the leaker. Mueller is no longer a good, honest, decent guy well-respected by both Dems and Repubs. Now he's a chum of the disgraced Comey, a partisan, and shouldn't be allowed to investigate anything. We didn't hear this a month ago when he was appointed, but now it's imperative to bash him. The funniest thing--you can read the talking points!


Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Great Kansas Experiment ended

The great experiment in cutting taxes to spur growth has ended. Kansas governor Sam Brownback massively cut taxes in 2012. The state legislature just raised them back up over his veto.

Many GOP elected officials realized what Brownback refused to acknowledge--the experiment failed. Even though Republicans are still the majority in Kansas (and Kansas is by tradition is a Republican state through the decades), they overrode the governor to raise taxes to pay for services and stop piling up debt.

Cutting taxes isn't like cutting wheat.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Spin cycle

There is lots of spin in news. Any impeachment speculation that doesn't include a huge dose of "it's not going to happen with the GOP in charge of the House" is spin and completely unrealistic.

This example of spin I normally wouldn't have seen, but I was reading an article with an interesting headline, but that ended up with almost zero content. (Arrggghhh, the horribly low standards for news writing and reporting.) Here is what caught my eye:


So I'll deconstruct this.

10A - A very important issue of diplomacy going south among the Gulf states. Real news.

2P - Reasonable to cover and analyze Comey's testimony.

8P - Fake news flogging of the trumped up Fast + Furious scandal.

9P - Spin to make conservatives feel superior.

Notice what makes the prime time. Thank you Fox News!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

More links - even more interesting

Unmasking unmasking. Republicans are trying to shift the attention on Russian election interference to the unmasking of names in intelligence documents. It turns out that the House Intelligence Committee asked for some unmasking itself. Perhaps unmasking names isn't as bad as they're pretending it is.

Clinton Emails. I had an argument with another Bloomberg commenter on whether we should assume Hillary's server was hacked, even in the absence of leaks of her emails. The commenter provided a link to a video clip of a former intelligence officials saying that he'd have no respect for foreign intelligence agencies if they hadn't hacked her emails. (Sorry, I can't find the link. It was a respectable news channel.) I don't think this is compelling enough evidence to say the realistic people must assume her emails were hacked. Fox News (not a respectable organization) claimed that it received info about known hacks. But I guess they backed down on that. This New York Times article discusses some reasons to strongly suspect it happened.

But a final bit of speculation: it was a very close election. If foreign intelligence agencies has hacked her server and had emails, and didn't want to see Clinton as president, isn't it likely that they would have leaked the emails before the election? Consider whether some not-so-Clinton-friendly countries like Russia, Israel, or Saudi Arabia had those emails. Would they not have tried to tip the election? If indeed she'd been hacked, I'm rather surprised that information hasn't clearly surfaced.

Trump is trying to hire... but will people serve? That's a good question tackled by this must-read article. There's a telling anecdote of an interview for a high position.

Unwarranted suspicion. The investigation of contacts between Trump advisers and Russians was started because of malice on the part of John Brennan, the former CIA director. The investigation was totally fake. Don't you believe me????? (I often don't believe the Washington Times.)

Trump war room. With Trump's return from his first foreign visits, he may be setting up a war room to fight back against the mounting Russia news blizzard. How they might fight back: Deny Russian contacts happened. Then claim what did happen is perfectly fine. Or get the supposedly recused chairman of the House Intelligence Committee to jump back in and run interference again. Or coordinate/non-coordinate with a group to run commercials attacking former FBI directory Comey.

Unfortunately, I doubt that they'll decide to be transparent on all Russia contacts. Cover-up and obfuscation seem to be the go-to strategies of politicians -- see Hillary and her email server. Also, a very readable speculation on Trump's mood and how it permeates everything.

Impeachment. A conservative gets that impeachment would be a fiasco. For the record, I don't see impeachment happening, due to the prez being a Republican and Republican control of the House. Duh! How the hell would it happen?

Don't cry for Robert E. Lee. The Atlantic has an illuminating article on the myth of Lee versus the reality. He wasn't exactly the reluctant defender of slavery. A good read as statues are being removed.

Paris climate accords. Trump, true to his rhetoric, pulled the US out of the non-binding accords. The effect is to make the US look greedy and rather irresponsible, and everyone else look more like grown-ups. Go, team, go!

Signs of more instability in the Mideast? Several major Mideast countries, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, cut diplomatic ties with Qatar. What's going on? Even more infighting in that region, it appears. There are Muslims fighting the West, Sunnis and Shia fighting, Kurds being suppressed, and maybe now Sunnis fighting other Sunnis. What a mess. Here's a reflection: perhaps Obama was partly successfully in controlling the chaos. But he's gone now, and Trump's policies will give rein to more chaos.Update 6/12/17. An article explaining the Qatar situation. Another good article.

Former libertarian turns supporter of welfare state. I guess he stopped fighting the wave and started communing and learning how the wave thinks. The wave wants the welfare state that
is embodied by Social Security and Medicare. However, most GOP lawmakers haven't read between the lines, or won't be saying out loud that entitlements have won, even in the GOP. Because of this, legislative paralysis wins.

How to get caught leaking. Interesting background on the first leaker arrested in the very leaky start of the Trump administration. Possibly memorable trivia, but maybe throw-away trivia.

Rhetoric games. A National Review columnist notices one of the most common rhetorical tricks: 'Hey, what about this [outrage/blunder/hypocrisy]?'

The Swamp
Image: tulane,edu

Sunday, May 21, 2017

So many links

I have too many links to do justice to each of them, so I'll just blast out a post and save them for posterity.

The obligation to listen. Great story by Andrew Sullivan reminding us that we need to consider all opinions. Each opinion tells us something important. I firmly believe it's wrong to summarily dismiss the heartfelt beliefs of other people.

Not repealed yet. In March it looked like the GOP wouldn't figure out how to compromise and pass a replacement for Obamacare. This article reminds us that the Senate still has to work on it. I think they will get it done, and I suspect it will follow the House model.

Fired by Trump. Lawfare is an excellent resource. One article on Sally Yates testimony about warning about Michael Flynn. Two companion articles about the relationship of Trump and the fired FBI director James Comey. One from the New York Times, the other from Lawfare. The Times article is the easier read.

Oh, the irony of Trump calling anyone else a 'nutjob.' Even more irony that he's saying it to visiting Russian ministers. It's amazing that Trump believed he could make the Russia investigation go away. What a fool he is.

Report on Russian hacking. I'll be reading the unclassified version of the report about the Russians hacking the DNC. It's on my list and pinned to my browser tab. I'll get to it, I promise.

Questionable intelligence. I'm not sure I believe this claim: "We just got a huge sign that the US intelligence community believes the Trump dossier." Saving it just in case it's true. I'm still very dubious.

Russian Good Times. Finally, I just have to laugh about the Russian Times complaining about the journalism of anyone else. I'm saving a closer read for later, but I just had to check if there is a comments section. Yes, there is, and what a window into hell it is. I'm sharing it below.


Friday, May 5, 2017

Horrendous media transgressions--not

I've read so many people claim that it was just terrible how the MSM favored Clinton, and flagrantly colluded with her campaign.

I'm not naive enough to claim that the MSM is fair and unbiased. I frequently see a liberal bias there. But I wondered about charges of collusion, with journalists breaking ethical rules to help Clinton. The only example I heard about before the election was Donna Brazile providing Hillary with a heads-up on one question at one campaign event. Yes, it was unethical, but there's no way it was a huge deal and a huge advantage.

So how bad was all the other collusion? Did it amount to an unfair advantage?

Finally, I found a list. From Breitbart:


It lists nine incidents, including the leak of the question. It includes of couple of instances when a reporter emailed ad ideas to the campaign or its advertising agency.

Really, all of NINE instances.

This is pigeon feed next to the bias of the MSM, and next to the bias of the conservative media. It's so incredibly ironic that Breitbart thinks this is horrible, while their lack of critique of Trump's numerous insults, ludicrous boasts, history of cons and bankruptcy is not an issue of ethics.

If we're going to talk about unethical and biased behavior by the media, let's talk about what really happens on practically a daily basis. Let's not pretend a list that doesn't even reach a couple dozen cases makes an ant's worth of difference compared to the daily skewed news of hundreds of media outlets.

Free from bias, free from ethics

Extras. Here's a list of damaging info about the DNC related to Bernie Sanders. It may be a partial list because document dumps were ongoing. Again, mostly small stuff, nothing like stuffing the ballot box, buying votes, or violently assaulting opponents.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Short: Is a shutdown looming?

The US federal government runs out of borrowing authority on April 29. The GOP, now that they have the House, Senate, and presidency should be able to avoid a shutdown, and they probably will. However, it's a possibility that a shutdown will still happen because of doctrinaire GOPers who refuse to compromise, and the Dems and main GOP group not reaching a compromise either.

The GOP was almost always terrible at extracting concessions from the Dems in these shutdown showdowns. They didn't know what to ask for, bumbled, fumbled, and waited to the last minute, with predictable results (bad--from their viewpoint).

It seems that the Dems are doing better. They want something specific--the continued funding of an important part of ACA. We'll see how it works out. Here's a fairly short readable article about the issues.


Friday, April 7, 2017

Short: Drop dead date for ACA?

In all the reporting on the failed attempt to repeal and replace ACA, I didn't hear that an important vote will need to happen by the end of April.

ACA has always had a lot of moving pieces, so many ways that it could fail either quickly or slowly. If this article is right, there is a complicated interplay between a court case, subsidies to insurance companies, appropriations, and possible backlash. I would rehash all the details here--who knows if we even know all the details? The upshot is that there may be an important development concerning ACA within the next month, so be alert for news.

Bandage removal: fast or slow? Now or later?

Friday, March 17, 2017

Following the wild goose of fake news

Trump had done a relatively decent job of handling the blowback from his epically stupid accusation that Obama ordered wiretaps on him during the campaign. He hadn't repeated the accusation, his surrogates weren't repeating the accusations. A few, like Kellyanne Conway, were going out on a limb and trying to explain what he might have meant. But generally, Trump and his camp were saying 'Let Congress investigate this and report on it.' Yawn, another long, boring Congressional investigation signifying nothing and concluding nothing. That was a pretty good strategy for containing the issue--letting it dry up and die since it was only words.

That lasted over a week (a long term strategy by the standards of the Trump administration). Then on 3/16/17, Sean Spicer, the press secretary, repeated some fake news (verbatim) from Fox contributor Judge Andrew Napolitano who claimed that three intelligence sources told him that Obama got the British intelligence services to do the dirty work. I suppose that means that no paperwork exists in the US, and no Americans can be called in front of Congress who could admit to it or lie and commit perjury. So this story is now impossible to disprove!

Well, it was always impossible to disprove. Who would be naive enough to believe those liars from the FBI, CIA, NSA, etc. who might swear that Obama didn't order such a thing? No red-blooded American would fall for those weasly denials, that's for sure!

The big question: when will the Trump administration learn not to repeat what they hear on Fox News, Breitbart, etc.?

Sean Spicer air quotes

Extras. The top national security adviser General McMaster supposedly apologized to the British privately. Supposedly Sean Spicer did too. And more fun--I found new sources that are hybrids of news and infotainment: news with snark, and news with misleading captions. No, Trump and the British prime minister didn't have a joint news conference this Friday 3/17/17, but on 1/27/17. The bonus here is a longer report from estimable judge and fake news innovator Napolitano.

Update 4/7/17. "Even if it turns out not to be true..." Will anyone be surprised?

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Trump swallows fake news, barfs it back up.


This is what happens when an undiscerning person watches conservative media. The newbie, twit, or whatever term you want to use hears/sees something, and stupidly thinks it's true. Maybe it's reporting that a pizza restaurant in DC is a front for a child sex ring. Maybe it's about a secret planet behind the sun. Maybe it's that Obama ordered wiretaps on Trump during the campaign.

So Trump hears this story from a fake news source that he doesn't realize is fake news. Why doesn't he realize? I don't know. Maybe he's actually incredibly stupid. Maybe he forgot how to question authority decades ago, and had enough money so that he didn't get his ass kicked. Maybe most people are that stupid, and it's just a matter of what propaganda captures them first. Whatever.

So Trump blasts out some tweets about how terrible it is that he was wiretapped. Trump doesn't wait for evidence, an investigation with various findings of facts. No, out it goes on Twitter. Trump has now accused the prior president of extreme malfeasance.

Is Trump going to walk this back? Is he going to explain, like he did with the 'attacks in Sweden,' that he misunderstood, but it still was important and real? Frankly, it's going to be fun seeing how this plays out. Supposedly James Comey, head of the FBI, has already said it's not true, but he has to wait for someone high enough in the Justice Department to approve and receive a statement to that effect.

So where did this fake news come from? Mark Levin. A name I already know because he's blatantly lied before. The guy is such scum.

Now Mark Levin will be partially responsible for millions of people believing until their dying day that Obama tapped Trump during the election. (Only partially responsible because the idiots deserve part of the blame too.) This is going to be birtherism all over again. MARK MY WORDS. Well, I hope not, but it certainly could turn out that way.

Extra. Maybe this is the real story behind the wild exaggerations and lies of Mark Levin. Strange activity by a server in Trump Tower--yes, I had heard of that.

Update 3/6/17. Trey Gowdy, a House Republican, doesn't believe Obama ordered such wiretaps and asks Trump to have the Department of Justice to release evidence of it.
3/7/17. Devin Nunes doesn't believe it either. Allahpundit tries to explain it to HotAir readers, to no avail.
3/14/17. Two more reports on surveillance on and round Trump and his advisers. Nothing that is both big and new, and nothing that corroborates Trump's claims. He hasn't repeated his claims, and is uncharacteristically quiet as he waits for the investigation to drag out and people to stop caring about that particular blather of his.
3/31/17. Fox News seems to be repeating what Devin Nunes claims and labels it as news. So stilted. A never-Trump conservative tries to explain all the threads of the investigation. I find Devin Nunes comical. It's amazing the lengths he's going to in order to shore up Trump's tantrum tweet. This opinion writer agrees.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Various Trump links

Trump is dominating the news even more now than when he was campaigning. There was a spot of good news today. His pick for top national security adviser is praised in this article, with the caveat that honesty may mean he stays on the job only two months. Well, let's be optimistic and hope for much longer than that.

Corey Lewandowski, Trump's former campaign manager (with similar lack of tact with women), doesn't seem to agree with Trump's statement that his administration is a well-oiled machine. He says that Trump is trying to get a lot done, but his subordinates are a disappointment. Um, who hired them? Did he not choose well? I guess the blame has to land on Trump one way or another.

One hope I have for the new national security adviser is that he'll have a healthy distrust of the Russians. The Russian connection to many things Trump has me very worried. Pence might be visiting Europe and trying to reassure our NATO allies, but he's the VP, not Trump. Who really knows what deals Trump might be inclined to make? I take this article with a pinch of skepticism, but it does discuss the patterns that are so very worrisome.

And, as always, Trump attacks the mainstream media. The press isn't reporting on terrorist attacks. They are enemies of the American people. So far, his attacks are words only. If they turn to deeds, such as banning news outlets, launching trumped-up investigations, or inciting violence, then he will have gone into dictator-mode.

Oh, the irony! A huge purveyor of fake news...

Extras. Bob Corker, who sounds like a reasonable person, on his hopes that Trump will 'evolve.' Will Trump provoke a constitutional crisis by refusing to abide by judicial decisions? So far, he has obeyed while complaining very loudly. A more detailed article about the new pick for top national security adviser. How and why the CIA should cozy up to Trump, and the dangers if it doesn't work. The Anne Frank Center blasts Trump for not standing up to anti-semitism. The twitter responses are quite the window to accusations and counter-accusations.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Last output of crazy: Daddy, they're being mean

How can I describe the thin-skinned egotistical asshole that we currently have as president? Maybe the best thing is just to let him out himself with the bizarre things he does.

Now, an adult knows that there are ups and downs in business. An intelligent, honest, non-corrupt president knows not to interfere to help the business dealings of friends, families, donors, and supporters. But Trump isn't intelligent, honest, or free from corruption. So he tweets this when his daughter's fashion line is dropped by a major retailer:


The idiocy and corruption doesn't stop with Trump, however. Kellyanne Conway told viewers to go out and buy Ivanka Trump merchandise. But it turns out (reasonably) that federal employees aren't supposed to plug commercial enterprises while on the job. That applies when the commercial enterprise is owned by the prez's dear daughter. Imagine that: you aren't even supposed to use all that power to enrich yourself and your family. Who designs these rules?

And what does the pro-Trump, fake news purveyor Breitbart do? A huge article about how the retailer is going to suffer, but how Ivanka Trump is a trooper and will just be stronger. It reads like a bad People magazine article. Barf!

So far Nordstrom's stock took a brief loss and then bounced back. A more important question is whether the asshole president will take a well-deserved hit for this. He truly doesn't seem to understand what his job is now. It sure as hell isn't promoting his businesses or his friends' businesses. A mountain of shame on him and his idiotic supporters.

Links about 'Repeal and Replace'

For seven years the GOP bragged that they could make a better health insurance program than Obamacare. For seven years, they waved their hands, gave us bullets points sprinkled with pixie dust, and didn't deliver.

After winning the presidency, and already having majorities in the House and Senate, the GOP was supposed to be poised to repeal Obamacare on the first day of President Trump's term. Somehow, that didn't happen. BECAUSE REALITY IS A BITCH!

The GOP can't wave their hands anymore and fling pixie dust. They have to seriously crunch numbers, and it hasn't been going well for them. They can drop coverage for millions of people, they can zap the mandate and see cost rise even higher, they can repeal the taxes and blow up the deficit. What they can't do is figure out how to make a program cover more people and cost less. I wonder why not. Maybe not enough pixie dust.


Extras. Problems with repeal and replace (with less snark). True believers among Congress just don't understand the delay. Trump makes another promise about the replacement, sprinkled with prodigious amounts of manure-scented pixie dust.

One economist tries to show stimulus didn't work

I've written about the 2009 stimulus for as long as I've had this blog. The conservative talking point is that the stimulus was a giant waste of money that added at least $800B to the national debt with little or no benefit. I believe that the stimulus helped lessen and shorten the recession. I have just a tiny bit of evidence, but the con forces have never provided even a scrap of evidence... until commenter John Riggins pointed to this study by economist John Taylor. (All graphs from this study.)

Taylor's conclusions are that that the stimulus was ineffective because the money went to spending that didn't help the economy:
The federal government only increased purchases by a small amount. State and local governments saved their stimulus grants and shifted spending away from purchases to transfers. Counterfactual simulations show that the stimulus-induced decrease in state and local government purchases was larger than the increase in federal purchases. Simulations also show that a larger stimulus package with the same design as the 2009 stimulus would not have increased government purchases or consumption by a larger amount. These results raise doubts about the efficacy of such packages adding weight to similar assessments reached more than thirty years ago.
Now, I suppose I try to look at the evidence without his conclusion in mind. When I do this, I see the evidence painting a somewhat different picture. Here is the most significant graph:

Actual data from that time (green dashed line) shows that spending by states went down, even with the stimulus support. Taylor runs some sort of model that shows without the stimulus (red/dashed blue line), states actually would have increased spending. He writes that they would have done this through borrowing.

This sounds like a load of bullshit to me. When I look at this graph, focusing on the area in the red square, I see state spending dropping significantly. After Obama's election, the drop in spending mediated somewhat, but didn't reverse until the stimulus was passed. My interpretation is that states were tightening their spending significantly as revenues dropped. Then, when help seemed imminent, they moderated that policy and started spending somewhat more due to the promise of federal funds. Without the federal funds, the drop would have continued and many more workers would have ended up unemployed, worsening the recession.

Taylor posits that, for some unknown reason, states would suddenly substantially increase their borrowing, and spend the borrowed money immediately:

Is that what most states were going to do when revenue plummeted? Somehow I don't think so. I think they'd make some cuts, and maybe try to borrow more. The results that Taylor gets from his model are counterintuitive, and probably dubious when you think of how most states deal with revenue shortfalls.

I've expressed my opinion that payments to states were "very effective at reducing massive public job losses," and thus probably the most effective part of the stimulus. I see support for this opinion in the historical data presented by Taylor. A major drop in state spending was slowed and reversed due to stimulus funds.

Of course, I'm not an economist. Much of the verbiage in Taylor's report is meaningless to me. But it is clear that Taylor's model and his rosy conclusion depend on a huge and anomalous increase in states' borrowing.

Taylor's other conclusions, that tax rebates and other direct grants probably didn't help--I find that much more believable, though even then it's hard to know.

However, now I have one other data point that supports my contention that the stimulus helped. Thank you, John Taylor.

Extras. Summaries of nine studies. I got bored and didn't read the whole thing. A critique with some of the same complaints I had, but from a real economist. A more readable critique explaining how hard it is to figure out a model.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Left-leaning fake news: Found one. Sort of.

I see lots of fake news from the right, less from the left. The MSM media employs a different approach to its bias. It will not report on issues (bias by omission), downplay the importance, not follow up, or latch onto a convenient explanation when they should be digging deeper. They rarely do the outright lie. When they do and they're caught, they have standard procedures: correction, apology, and if the lie was bad enough, someone gets fired. So outright lies are much more the province of the conservative media.

This is one rare article where a lazy reader could be left believing a clear lie. Start with the headline:

Did Yiannopoulos secretly send more than 100 thugs to Berkeley to break up his own speech?

(By the way, if you don't know who Milo Yiannopoulos is, it's my displeasure to tell you he enjoys being a provocateur at Breitbart who somewhat admires the alt-right and 4chan types. So, well paid scum. Also gay.)

The headline is nice use of a question to imply the incorrect info, but still allow the author to deny lying. "I am only asking a question" -- I think that was a standard line of Glenn Beck as he drew his infamous charts showing the evil machinations of whomever.

Then I had to scroll down through the equivalent of about five screens before the author casts doubt on this speculation. Up till that point, it's a description of what's known about the event that supports this conspiratorial speculation.

However, this article is generally better than the conservative media because the impression is corrected if you read far enough down. So, it's not like the rest of the fake news I complain about, like Clinton going to Pedophile Island and lies like that.

So even when I see something that looks like fake news in the MSM, it isn't. Conservative media still has a near monopoly of this particularly form of despicable behavior.


Extra. More reporting on the campus police's weak response to the rioting. Compare these two responses to the riots.

Real massacres versus fake news

Fake massacres should be news for just a short time--as long as it takes to refute, debunk, and search for the origins of the false story. Right now in the news is the story of Kellyanne Conway and her statements (plural) about the 'Bowling Green massacre.' There was no such massacre. She mistook some talking points (spoon-fed to her, most likely) about the arrest of two terrorist/refugees from Iraq in the town of Bowling Green, and erroneously conflated it with some other massacre that did occur. Everyone is fallible, but Conway seems to be quite careless about facts. This was a talking point for her on at least three occasions. I wonder whether she or someone on her staff will fact-check her talking points more carefully from now on. It would be a good idea, but I don't expect it to happen.

In the meantime, fake news entrepreneur Alex Jones (and friend of Trump) has peddled a story that the Sandy Hook school massacre of children and teachers didn't really happen, but was an anti-gun hoax perpetrated by unethical gun control proponents. This is one of the fake news stories I often reference when I make points about fake news not being a new phenomenon. (I also mention birtherism, Jade Helm, and Pizzagate.)

This lowlife purposely peddles lies that anyone with a conscience wouldn't touch. It takes no time at all to find strong evidence of the Sandy Hook massacre, but none of that stops that worm Jones. Nor does it stop his legions of gullible, stupid zipperheads. They regularly make life hell for the families of the victims.

A thread that connects these two massacres, one real and one fake, is the eagerness of right-wingers to embrace false information (that is, LIES) in their pursuit of a narrative supporting their opinions. Truth be damned and run over by a freight train. God, how I hate these liars. I wish I could think of an appropriate punishment severe enough for Alex Jones.


Extras. Florida prof to be fired for being a stupid lowlife zipperhead. Fake news for liberals, since the right wing nut jobs shouldn't have a monopoly. NYT opinion piece that maybe the Bowling Green massacre will mark the beginning of the end for fake news. I doubt it.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Links to important topics

I haven't posted much, but I have been saving some links to read and share.
  • The Economist on how worried foreign leaders are about Trump. Yes, and some of it is already coming true. 
  • Evidence (largely anecdotal) that FBI Director Comey's announcement of further investigation of Clinton's emails wasn't an important factor in her loss of the presidential election. 
  • A New York Times article from 2015 about international uranium deals and donations to the Clinton Foundation. Optics are bad, but here is some corrective context. Still looks like the Clintons collected a lot for money from people involved in the deals.
  • A political science explainer about the power play between White House advisers and cabinet secretaries. The prediction is for chaos, but the best part is the view based on historical observation. 
  • More reports of incompetence/chaos.
  • A news article about dissenters inside the new administration and their twitter feed. However, no group has vetted them. It could be a complete fake.  
  • A call to the media to broil Trump for his lies or the lies of his staff. Another article explains how the lies, the abrupt announcements, etc., could all be a plan to tire out the opposition so they can't react when worse comes down the road. Speculative but plausible. 
  • The root of one of the lies--Trump's childish response to reporting about the size of the crowd for his inauguration.
  • A right-wing talking point that is such a lie. George Soros didn't bankroll the millions who marched the day after Trump's inauguration. Yet I here so many making this bogus claim. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Russia infiltrates American blog

I find stories of Russian hackers believable, but it's even scarier that Russian have targeted my favorite political blog. (It's my favorite not because I highly agree with it, but because it is more frequently readable and interesting.)

The number of pro-Russian commenters on this post is terrifying. Furthermore, they are well armed with talking points: we have to avoid a confrontation that would lead to WWIII, NATO wastes so much money on unneeded defense, Russian isn't threatening or expansionist, it's the governments in ex-Warsaw Pact nations that pushed to join NATO, not the people, etc.

I'm not going to list and debunk all their arguments because that takes a hell of a lot of effort, as you'll see if you read the comments. Suffice to say, the Russian shills are persistent.

What does it mean that there are so many Russian shills on this one thread? How many are commenting here and elsewhere, often pretending not to be Russian, and trying to influence US opinion? To me, it's very worrying indeed. Back in 2012 I detected what I thought were anti-Obama commenters, particularly people pretending to have voted for him in 2008 but deciding against him in 2012.

These Russians are more numerous than those anti-Obama fakers, and the stakes are higher. I'm seriously worried that US policy against Russian could weaken, and leave Russia emboldened to retake lost territory. I wasn't horrified by them taking the Crimea because it was traditionally Russian, and ended up in Ukraine when maps were redrawn (if the capsule history I read was accurate).

But if Russia has its eye on territory in the Baltic regions, that will be very nasty. An invasion there would have been unthinkable a few years ago, but no longer with a Putin-worshipping idiot president (Trump) in the White House. Or Russia might do something else somewhere else. I don't know what to predict, but they must be held in check for the good of the rest of the world. A muscular Russia has rarely been a boon to the world, and I'm not betting it will be better now.

Also very scary is how many on the right are repeating Russian talking points. The right wing media has turned people into parrots. They are such dutiful parrots that they don't even recognize or remember that Russia and its totalitarianism is an enemy. I wonder whether the leaders of the right-wing media have forgotten that too. Maybe they've been bought off, blackmailed, and have gotten so stupid that they don't remember either. Twits... or worse.


Extras. Here are the names of the Russian shills commenting or upvoting on the discussion thread connected to this article. I'll be watching for their activity elsewhere, and adding to the list as warranted.

Likely Russian shills without Russian names. Many don't write, but upvote and therefore may be shills-in-waiting.
  • R.W. Emerson II
  • EmilyEnso
  • aprecoup
  • Styx
  • Aldous Huxley
  • Southern Cross
  • michaelbarningham
  • Kapricorn4
  • John
  • Bob Belz
  • Juan Pablo
  • fafniro
  • helena violet
  • Theodora Angelina
  • NATOcracy
  • Popcorn
  • Che Guevara
  • KissMyAss88?
  • Tokaro?
  • tweets 21 (maybe not--seems more logic-based)
  • Power Girl (probably not--pattern of comments is ad hoc, like a real person)
Russian shills with Russian names:
  • Putler Polak (weird name, but uses Russian)
  • Kalinin Yuri
  • Gazpikae (with a Romulan avatar)
  • Jozsef Volgyi
Weirdos spouting pro-Russian talking points:
  • anonaccount - comments on lots of topics, usually with an alt-right spin. Wrote that whites are superior.
  • Pseudo Turtle - sounds reasonable sometimes, but hates libs and wants his country back.
And, here I am, burying the bombshell, except that it isn't a bombshell for most of us thinking people on the center or left. I worry that Putin is hoping to split the Europe into two camps, and maybe he thinks he has found the partners who'll make that deal--Trump and the stupid American right-wingers. It's a scary reminder of the Hitler-Stalin deal, and I sure hope that it doesn't happen. But I worried and I'm going to be vigilant and outspoken.