The Obama administration has ordered a full intelligence review into alleged efforts by Russian hackers to influence the outcome of the presidential election, with the president, according to media reports, requesting that a report on the matter to be completed before he leaves office on January 20.
Deputy White House Press Secretary Eric Schultz says he wants “to be clear” that this is not in any way an effort to undermine Trump’s legitimacy to hold office, only that there is a need to look at possible “malicious activity” carried out by the Russians.
“I think this is going to be a deep dive,” Schultz said, taking pains to clarify that the investigation will examine not only putative Russian manipulation of the most recent election, but also alleged tampering of the elections of 2012 and 2008.
I have a suggestion for Donald Trump. He probably won’t heed it, but I will offer it anyway: that immediately upon assuming office, he order the Office of Management and Budget to investigate how much tax money was squandered by the Obama administration in nearly six years of efforts to overthrow the government in Syria. Maybe Trump could order a ‘deep dive’ and ask the OMB to have the report completed within his first 60 days in office.
Many people, naturally, would see such a call as a retaliation for the investigation now being ordered by Obama–and certainly the media would report it that way–but the results of an investigation of this sort would be at least as beneficial, and probably a whole lot more interesting, than anything that might be turned up about Russians hacking into the computer systems of two thoroughly corrupt political parties.
We could find out, for instance, how much the US spent training and equipping Nour al-Din al-Zenki, the “moderate rebel” group which beheaded a 12-year-old Syrian child on video last July.
Yes, it would be nice if Trump were to order such an investigation… but I’m not going to hold my breath. In any event, we seem to be entering a new phase of anti-Russian propaganda in the media. The call for the intelligence review was made by an Obama administration official on Friday–the same day the Washington Post, in a report based almost solely on anonymous, unnamed “officials,” published allegations about a “secret CIA assessment” whose conclusion is that Russia sought to throw the election to Trump.
“The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter,” reports the Post.
Repeat: it wasn’t just a case of Russia trying to undermine faith in America’s wonderful, spectacular democracy where office is generally for sale to the highest bidder. No, it was Russia deliberately trying to put Trump into the White House, according to the Post–which is a short step away from accusing Trump of being a Russian agent.
There is also the claim that the Russians hacked into the files of both the Republican Party and the DNC, but that they (the Russians) deliberately sat on the material stolen from the Republicans, choosing instead only to release material embarrassing to the Democrats.
Could any of this be credible? Hard to say, but it seems the vote recount effort has fizzled out, and the new call for an investigation could be a “plan B” aimed either at getting Hillary in the White House or at least weakening Trump to the point where he will essentially be unable to govern or pursue his own independent foreign policy. That’s one way of looking at it anyway.
It also could be designed to create a schism within the Republican Party in the sense that many Republicans could end up finding themselves faced with the difficult choice of having to avow loyalty to their president or loyalty to America. As the Post puts it:
On the other hand, if Republicans downplay the issue, they risk giving a pass to an antagonistic foreign power whom significant majorities of Americans and members of Congress don’t trust and who, if the evidence is accurate, wields significant power to wage successful cyber warfare with the United States.
“I’m going after Russia in every way you can go after Russia,” said Graham. “I think they’re one of the most destabilizing influences on the world stage. I think they did interfere with our elections, and I want Putin personally to pay the price.”
It isn’t the US–a country that has been involved in one war or regime change after another for the last 25 years–that is “the most destabilizing influence on the world stage,” in Graham’s opinion; it is Russia.
Trump’s response has been to dismiss the allegations of Russian hacking, while also recalling lies of the past:
These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.
How all this will play out remains to be seen, but it looks like the political divisions in America are widening rather than narrowing…and it also looks like the propaganda war against Russia will continue to be used to the advantage of one side–beyond the November election and on into the new administration.
If the Russians thought sanity would prevail after the transition of power in January, they’re probably in for a disappointment.
There is no doubt that the 2016 Presidential election may ultimately be declared the most divisive and the most problematic election in American history, indeed the beginning of an unwelcome but perhaps necessary watershed event.
As the 2016 election approached, the importance of the Electoral College was never an unknown obscurity of American politics. Everyone knew the magic number of 270 electoral votes. Certainly that fact should have been of uppermost importance in the HRC and Trump campaigns. As should be completely obvious, a campaign based on reaching that Electoral College number is a very different campaign than one conducted simply to achieve the highest total of popular votes. That is Lesson #1 in Elementary Presidential Campaign Organizing 101 but HRC never grasped that she could not manipulate the final result, whatever the outcome.
My first indication that there would be an ultra-upset with the results was a very late election evening call from an east coast Dem-Lib friend who had supported Bernie – sobbing and wailing; at times it was difficult to understand her; Initially I thought she had tragically lost a member of her family, perhaps the family dog had been hit by a car. “What is happening to our country? I can’t believe it,” she cried. She was inconsolably distraught that the nation was about to be taken over by gangs of the indescribable ‘deplorable’ type running wild through the streets; setting cars on fire, blocking traffic, burning the American flag, breaking store windows and causing general mayhem while committing acts of civil unrest and even threatening Constitutional order.
Well, she was correct; some of that happened but it was not the deplorables who took to the streets, gloating in triumph or taunting the losers with defeat. To consider the anti Trump street protests as ‘resistance’ may be more about wishful thinking since they were clearly orchestrated by Soros-sponsored groups like MoveOn.org which will continue their ‘group think’ campaign to manipulate a public response to The Donald.
Like many of us during our voting years, there has been no candidate whom we truly believed would make a Great President. Many of us have spent a decade or two of disillusionment on election night and yet our inner Snowflakes never cried, spun off into hysterics nor did most of us ever have the luxury of having a tantrum or an emotional breakdown. Disappointment yes – like when Ralph lost the 2000 election and then again in 2004. What was wrong with the country? Why would anyone vote for a Democratic party that had dismantled welfare reform, throwing single moms and their kids off their monthly pittance and do nothing to initiate a modern day Reconstruction for the inner cities? Why would anyone vote for a Democrat who was, at best, an undercover Republicrat? Why couldn’t the rest of the country see through the partisan platitudes and lies?
If the response to Trump’s election had been spontaneous and independent uprisings as acts of defiance, the opposition would be validated as authentic and powerful glimmers of a true democratic movement. Unfortunately, they are more reminiscent of the coordinated Color campaigns that have taken place around the globe with one goal in mind – regime change.
It has been stunning to observe the outpouring of easily-led, well-meaning adolescents who continue to be betrayed by Bernie, the Senate’s new Outreach Chair as well as adult Dem-Libs convinced of their own superiority that they know best for every other American and who yet believe themselves to be tolerant and respectful of differences.
To understand that the street protests were coordinated, predetermined efforts rather than spontaneous, instinctive events is one thing (authentic taking-to-the-streets response are the backbone of democracy), but then to witness the emotional, cultural breakdown of a weeping, traumatized generation with an inability to cope with reality, their immediate environment or life’s vagaries is more than worrisome. The videos of students in need of play doh, arts and craft classes, group counseling, excused absence from class, coloring books and safe spaces are indicative of a coddled generation sheltered from the ‘real’ feelings of failure and pain and with little developed sense of self-reliance. Have we created a generation raised with an expectation that they earned a soccer trophy for losing and deserve the latest cd and the newest digital toy at their fingertips.
Will this be a generation with the fortitude, the intellect and the inner core of strength to some day take the reins of government or, in the meantime, to stand up in a powerful way against the established order or will they crumple when truly confronted with the brick-wall of opposition to their egalitarian ideals.
So far, from what we have seen, protest violence, albeit a minority, has been a response which begs the question of who is committing the violence? Is there an SDS off shoot on the horizon or is there an undercurrent of something more sinister?
To those who see Trump’s election as a dire misdirection for the country and that all he represents as objectionable (and yes, many of his Cabinet appointments are objectionable but then some of us elders felt the same about Obama’s cabinet), then man the barricades and dig in with some strategic thinking; preferably not at the knee of MoveOn or other oligarch funded ‘non-profits’ which have their own agenda to control a protest movement.
A Constitutional response is that this is what Election Day is all about and that, like it or not, Donald Trump is the democratically elected President and who can forget as HRC so eloquently put it that whoever does not accept election results is a “direct threat to our democracy.” Et tu, Hillary? As a refresher, we have an Electoral College process to protect the concept of “one person, one vote;” that is a vote in Los Angeles is no more important than a vote in Wood River, Illinois and the transparent efforts to delegitimize the Trump election with specious, frivolous claims of hacking represents a self-serving, inappropriate intrusion into our Constitutional democratic process. I don’t buy Stein’s assertions for a moment.
While ‘Deport Trump’ signs have been evident throughout the protests as a major objection to a Trump Presidency, my grasp of the President-elect’s immigration policy has been sketchy, encouraged some of my own research. Check this out:
“All Americans not only in the states most heavily affected by and in every place in this country are rightly disturbed by the large number of illegal aliens entering our country. The jobs they hold might otherwise be held by citizens or legal immigrants. The public services they use impose burdens on our taxpayers. That’s why our administration has moved aggressively to secure our borders more by hiring a record number of new border guards, by deporting twice as many criminal aliens as ever before, by cracking down on illegal hiring, by barring welfare benefit to illegal aliens. In the budget I will present to you, we will try to do more to speed the deportation of illegal aliens who are arrested for crimes, to better identify illegal aliens in the work place as recommended by the commission head by former Rep Barbara Jordan. We are a nation of immigrants but we are also a nation of laws. It is wrong and ultimately self-defeating for a nation of immigrants to permit the kind of abuse of our immigration laws we have seen in recent years and we must do more to stop it.”
Sounds like Trump right? Actually that was President Bill Clinton’s 1995 State of the Union Address to Congress for which he received a standing ovation. Needless to say, neither Obama who has deported two million illegals and Clinton were never accused of being racist but we now know that the Democrats have realized what a trove of potential registered Democrats the immigrant community represent.
And then there is the issue of Trump’s plan to register Muslims in a database from specific countries with a history of terrorism which has been criticized as further evidence of Trump’s racism. Trump’s proposal sounds similar to the Entry-Exit Registration System established by President GW Bush in 2001, the system later morphed into the Department of Homeland Security and was operational until 2011.
During the Iranian hostage crisis of 1980, President Jimmy Carter adopted a ban of Shiite Muslim immigrants from Iran entering into the US in an effort to ‘protect the country.” He ultimately deported 15,000 Iranian students. Carter’s ban “invalidated all visas issued to Iranian citizens for future entry into the United States.”
So if we accept that there is common ground amongst Presidents Clinton, GW Bush, Carter and President elect Trump that the impact of illegal immigration on our public school system and other social institutions is a legitimate concern for the nation, why the double standard? It is not just because Trump does not fit into the image of a sleek, urbane President; he is not a smooth, sugar coated talker like Obama while a rough-around-the-edges Trump may actually act on immigration reform.
On the campaign trail, the President-elect has been hyperbolic and straightforward, sometimes crude and discourteous and yet Trump has questioned the globalized economy and trade deals, the existence of NATO and the Fed Banks, a desire to get along with Russia and in his Cincinnati speech, establish a “new foreign policy that will stop looking to topple regimes and overthrow governments. Our goal is stability; not chaos” and more recently in North Carolina to “reestablish the Rule of Law and defend the Constitution of the US.”
When was the last time a Democrat talked like that or are those peace-niks among us being conned? Who does that kind of language threaten?
Renee Parsons has been a member of the ACLU’s Florida State Board of Directors and president of the ACLU Treasure Coast Chapter. She has been an elected public official in Colorado, an environmental lobbyist and staff member of the US House of Representatives in Washington DC. She can be found on Twitter @reneedove31
The United States military says it will deploy an armor brigade and an aviation brigade totaling about 2,300 soldiers to Afghanistan this winter.
The Pentagon made the announcement in a statement released on Thursday, saying 1,500 soldiers will be sent to Afghanistan this winter, in addition to another 800 troops that will be deployed in support of a training mission known as Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.
“This deployment is part of a regular rotation of forces in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel,” the press release stated, adding that the soldiers were “well-trained, well-led and fully prepared for the challenges this mission will bring.”
No exact date was given in the announcement for when the US troops will leave for the deployment to Afghanistan.
The United States — under Republican George W. Bush’s presidency — and its allies invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The offensive removed the Taliban regime from power, but after about one and-a-half-decade, the foreign troops are still deployed to the country.
After becoming the president in 2008, President Barack Obama, a Democrat, vowed to end the Afghan war — one of the longest conflicts in US history – but he failed to keep his promise.
US President-elect Donald Trump, who speaks against the Afghan war, has dubbed the 2001 invasion and following occupation of Afghanistan as “Obama’s war”.
Obama has ordered the military to take on the Taliban more directly and enable Afghan forces battling the militant group.
In October last year, Obama announced plans to keep 9,800 US troops in Afghanistan through 2016 and 5,500 in 2017, reneging on his promise to end the war there and bring home most American forces from the Asian country before he leaves office.
According to US officials, Washington would also maintain a large counter-terrorism capability of terror drones and Special Operations Forces to fight militants in Afghanistan.
There are now about 10,000 American troops in Afghanistan, as well as some 6,000 NATO service members, to “train and advise” Afghan security forces fighting Taliban.
Over the past several months, Taliban militants have intensified their pressure with numerous offensives on other key Afghan provinces, including Kunduz and Takhar.
The nature of international politics is often considered to be such that it continuously defies clear and absolute judgement; however, notwithstanding the complexity of inter-state relations, very often we come across such instances where understanding of the policy of a state, or of an alliance, does not defy understanding and judgement. From the very beginning of the crisis, it has been absolutely clear that the US and its allies are pursuing a regime-change policy in Syria—a policy that not only is still valid but also continues to define their strategy. Materialization of this objective pits the US against Syria and its allies and engages both parties in war—and in war soldiers are killed. Therefore, the US clarification about striking Syrian soldiers due to the so-called “human error” is only an attempt on its part to mystify the actual nature of its objectives in Syria. Nothing else can better explain the strike that killed around 80 soldiers than the fundamental reason for the US’ military engagement in Syria i.e., execution of regime change policy in Syria.
While one strike in itself was, and always is, far from sufficient to achieve this objective, a strike, however, does convey to its targets and to those who observe it the objective being pursued. In this case, the immediate objective was to inflict heavy damage on the Syrian army and render it vulnerable to attacks by other, western supported, militant groups. The objective was, to an extent, achieved. This is evident from the developments taking place immediately after the US-led strike. A weakened Syrian army unit enabled an ISIS advance on a hill overlooking the air base, which was specifically targeted by the US-led coalition. While the objective of this co-ordinated operation was to quickly capture the base, it was thwarted by timely action on the part of Russian warplanes that were called in to hit ISIS positions.
Had the attack been successful, it might have caused massive destruction. ISIS had, prior to the attack by the coalition, repeatedly attacked and failed to capture the government-held air base, which is an isolated enclave deep in extremist-held territory. The government controls the air base and parts of Dayr az Zawr city, while ISIS controls the entire province by the same name. An ISIS advance in Dayr az Zawr would have, and would still, endanger the lives of tens of thousands of civilians living in government-held areas and force the Syrian army out of the territory.
What would have such a scenario implied for the over-all situation of Syria is not so difficult to grasp. While the US has now stated it “regrets” the bombing, it has not, in any way, apologized to Syria for this wanton act of mayhem, thus confirming its unchanged position vis-à-vis Syria, which continues to remain a clear cut target of the regime-change conspiracy—a policy that has been applied by NATO in many countries since the end of the Second World War. The most recent cases of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria confirm that this policy has remained unchanged.
The latest confirmation to the unabated continuation of this policy has come from one of the most important NATO allies, Turkey. On November 29, Turkey’s self-styled “caliph” said, reiterating NATO’s long held objective, that the Turkish military had launched its operations in Syria to end the rule of (the cruel) Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
He further said, “Why did we enter? We do not have an eye on Syrian soil. The issue is to provide lands to their real owners. That is to say we are there for the establishment of justice. We entered there to end the rule of the tyrant al-Assad who terrorizes with state terror. [We didn’t enter] for any other reason.”
While this statement has come as a surprise to Russia, leading Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov to say that they were hoping “our Turkish partners will provide us with some kind of explanation about this”, the move itself not only largely reflects the dual game Turkey is playing in Syria but also shows how the former fundamentally continues to adhere to NATO’s central objective in Syria, thus debunking the myth of Turkey’ estrangement with the US or the EU or the NATO itself.
The tacit continuity of co-operation between Turkey and the US is not limited to the perusal of identical objectives. On the contrary, it is co-operation on the ground that speaks volumes about Turkey’s actual position and policy vis-à-vis Syria. For instance, Turkey’s operation Euphrates Shield, which begun in August and which is supposedly aimed at rolling back ISIS from the Syrian region bordering Turkey, had actually begun, succeeded and territorially spread under the protection, assistance and advice provided by the US military. The US advisers assisted the operation from inside Turkey, while US warplanes conducted airstrikes alongside Turkish ones in support of the offensive. Could we still say that Turkey and the US were, or are, on a collision course since the failed coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016?
This co-ordinated attack was followed, in September, by a welcome note by the NATO chief about Turkey’s enhanced role in Syria against “terrorism” and attacks of all kinds.
The continued co-operation between Turkey, which had initially officially sent troops to Syria to fight ISIS, and the US and Erdogan’s recent claim that they are in Syria to send Assad home unambiguously show the way this alliance is working in the region. With Turkey’s operation Euphrates Shield expanding into operation occupation, and with Turkey equally seeking to enlist US support to capture al-Bab, there remains hardly any room to doubt that the US and Turkey are seeking to achieve what the ISIS had earlier achieved, and then lost, in terms of capturing Syrian territory.
With ISIS being itself unable to withhold the Syrian offensive being backed the Russian forces and Iran backed militias, Turkey and the US, as also their Arab and Western allies, were left with no other choice but to directly intervene in Syria to deny the Syrian army the opportunity to have the whole of Syria under its control.
This being the case-scenario of Syria, the Pentagon’s clarification about the September strike being a result of “human error” is erroneous. What, on the contrary, perfectly corresponds with the US policy and objectives it is pursuing in Syria is not this clarification but the strike itself—something that, had it been successful, might have allowed IS to bring an entire province under its sole control and considerably damage the Syrian army.
What this scenario reveals is that the earlier policy of bringing regime change in Syria through proxy groups is now being replaced by a policy of direct intervention and gradual insertion of NATO in the conflict via Turkey. Conflict in Syria is therefore not ending, only its dynamics are changing from in-direct to direct intervention.
President Barack Obama has ordered a waiver of restrictions on military aid for foreign forces in Syria, deeming it “essential to the national security interests” of the US to allow exceptions from provisions in the four-decades-old Arms Export Control Act.
A White House press release Thursday announced that foreign fighters in Syria supporting US special operations “to combat terrorism in Syria” would be excused from restrictions on military assistance.
“I hereby determine that the transaction, encompassing the provision of defense articles and services to foreign forces, irregular forces, groups, or individuals engaged in supporting or facilitating ongoing U.S. military operations to counter terrorism in Syria, is essential to the national security interests of the United States,” President Obama affirmed in the presidential determination and waiver.
The order delegates responsibility to the US secretary of state to work with and report to Congress on weapons export proposals, requiring 15 days of notice before they are authorized.
Obama announced a similar waiver of the Arms Export Control Act in September 2013, following the Ghouta chemical attack in August of that year. That order facilitated the transfer of US military weaponry to “select vetted members” of opposition forces battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Thursday’s order appears less narrow in scope.
The challenge of differentiating between terrorist forces, such as Al-Nusra, and more moderate forces in Syria has been acknowledged by press secretaries in recent State Department briefings.
A White House report on efforts to target so-called extremists abroad shows a broadening use of war powers in the fight against Al-Qaeda, beyond military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
The 60-page report shows deployments in over half a dozen new areas – including Somalia, Yemen, Jordan, Niger, Cameroon, Central Africa, the Red Sea, Somalia and South Sudan – with troops on the ground, regular air strikes, and surveillance efforts, all in the name of counterterrorism.
In a presidential memorandum released on Monday, the White House said US military operations are grounded in the October 7, 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), by which Congress approved military operations and counterterrorism combat operations against Al-Qaeda. Since August 2014, those have expanded to include operations against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), which was “formerly known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq.”
The Obama administration’s broad use of the 2001 resolution has raised concerns about how President-elect Donald Trump might use the authority.
The memo includes some new details about how the Obama administration determines which regions are “areas of active hostilities” or war zones, taking into account not only whether a war has been declared there but also the size and scope of the threat, the scope of US involvement, and threats posed to US forces in the area.
President Barack Obama has called for the report to be updated and released publicly on an annual basis.
“The United States has deployed combat-equipped forces to a number of locations in the US Central, Pacifica, European, Southern and African Command areas of operation,” said the White House. “Such operations and deployments … consistent with Public Law and the War Powers Resolution, and operations and deployments remain ongoing.”
“It is not possible to know at this time the precise scope or the duration of the deployments of the US Armed Force necessary to counter terrorist threats to the United States,” the memo added.
Among its broadening efforts, the US identified Al-Shabaab in Somalia as Al-Qaeda for the first time, but provides no justification for the change. The administration believes it can target Al-Shabaab because it “seeks to establish a strict Islamic emirate.”
“United States advises, assists, and occasionally accompany regional forces … during counterterrorism operations … conducted airstrikes [in Somalia] on June 21, July 20, July 31, August 31, September 25 and September 28, 2016,” said the memo.
The US has deployed “a small number of military personnel in Yemen to support operations against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)” and carried out 18 airstrikes since June 13, 2016.
In Africa, the US has a base of operations in Djibouti and has conducted airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Libya. The US is also conducting military operations in Niger, where it has deployed approximately 575 personnel, and is sharing intelligence with French forces. There are another 285 US troops in Cameroon, conducting intelligence and surveillance operations. Washington has also deployed troops in Central Africa, conducted military operations in the Red Sea, and assigned 700 military personnel to Egypt.
Further in the memorandum, the White House said it had deployed over 2,300 military personnel to Jordan “to support counter-ISIL operations,” and to provide security to the country.
The prison camp inside the naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is still holding 59 detainees.
The Obama administration said it had tried to apply “rules, practices and policies long used in traditional warfare” to a new type of conflict embodied by extremist groups who often “do not wear uniforms ore respect geographic boundaries” and show little regard for the rules of war.
“To say that a military tactic is legal, or effective, is not to say that is wise or moral in every instance,” the White House said, according to AP, which obtained a copy of the memo and report.
A few weeks prior to the November 8 Presidential vote, I began the draft of an essay expecting a future attack by the government on the First Amendment citing President Obama’s most recent mellifluous verbal assault on free speech as HRC’s campaign speeches indicated that protecting a diversity of opinion would not be a top priority in her Administration.
Now in retrospect, it appears that Obama and HRC were both, most likely in the loop and knew what was coming as they prepared the way with subtle (and not so subtle) references to taming that messy, wild, wild west otherwise known as the world wide web.
As a reminder, during the 2008 Presidential campaign, Barack Obama was touted as a Constitutional scholar explaining that “I taught the Constitution for ten years. I believe in the Constitution and I will obey the Constitution of the United States.” During that campaign, he pledged to end warrantless surveillance (Fourth Amendment), detention without habeas corpus or trial (Fifth Amendment), torture (Eighth Amendment), and excessive executive branch secrecy and not engage in an offensive war without Congressional approval (both Article 1, Section 8).
That the President failed in those pledges is not surprising just as he promised the most open and transparent Administration ever in American history luring the Dem-Libs into eight years of somnolent rapture. Instead, the President used the Espionage Act for his Administration’s aggressive prosecution of more whistleblowers than all other Presidents combined and its pursuit of longer jail sentences than any other President. There is also the President’s disregard for the Rule of Law with his publicly declared, predetermined guilt of Chelsea Manning in 2011.
During a visit to the White House Frontiers Conference in Pittsburgh on October 13th, the President, known for his smooth, glib reassurances so successful at placating the public, suggested that “we are going to have to rebuild within this wild-wild-west-of-information flow some sort of curating function that people agree to” and that “democracy requires citizens to be able to sift through lies and distortions” and further that “those that we have to discard, because they just don’t have any basis in anything that’s actually happening in the world.” The President continued that “there has to be some sort of way in which we can sort through information that passes some basic truthiness tests.”
The President’s statement does not adequately capture what democracy requires of its citizens and reads more like what George Orwell epitomized as ‘political speech’ deliberately meant to confuse and demean citizen awareness. What Obama failed to acknowledge is that every American has a right, an obligation as an engaged citizen to determine for themselves what is a lie, distortion or truth; that ‘fake news’ is in the eye of the beholder and what a citizen believes and what they do not believe is their business and requires no justification to the government or anyone else. Most importantly, it was the President’s obligation to say that with a tremendous divergence of opinion on the www, some of it wacky, some of it conspiratorial, some of it incredibly incisive and intelligent and important – all of it is protected by the First Amendment.
To briefly parse the President’s words, most of which are painfully obvious, suggestions of a “curating function” as in some official government entity assigned for the purpose of “protecting” (“ added) the public interest and “some sort of way… sort through information that passes some truthiness test” are presented in the President’s usual folksy, innocuous dialectic used to serve the public pablum while a further shredding of their Constitutional rights slips by under their nose.
Fast forward to Thanksgiving Day, when most Americans were still slicing the turkey, the Washington Post found it the right time to publish a partisan-related article entitled “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say” written by Craig Timberg.
What is especially curious about the timing is that Timberg’s article and the Propornot report were released within weeks of the imminent inauguration of a new President and that new President-elect’s name is included as one of the ‘bad guys’ according to Propornot’s YYYcampaignYYY. (see below)
One of the many problems with this article, besides the problematic First Amendment issues and journalistic standards of objectivity that Timberg’s reportage entails, is the weirdly anonymous nature of unnamed, non partisan ‘independent researchers’ (aka ‘concerned American citizens”). Timberg cited two tiers of ‘researchers’ who claimed that a “sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign” disseminating ‘fake news’ had found solace within the ranks of two hundred on line websites including “botnets” and “paid trolls” are “undermining faith in US democracy” and “embarrassed” Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton (HRC).
With a faux solemnity of protecting the nation at a time of great peril, the Post article assumes the validity of the ‘flood of fake news this election season’ as a given, with no critical analysis identifying what flood of fake news? How did that tsunami of ‘fake news’ get by me? Immediately, Mr. Timberg embraced the ‘fake news’ concept with no question as to its ‘truthiness” and accepted the fallacious notion that the Russians were required to provide necessary background information with which to create ‘fake news.’ Apparently the Post, Timberg and his secret grifters believe that none of the contributing writers of those two hundred websites, labeled by Timberg as “routine peddlers of Russian propaganda,” have the brains or initiative to create and research their own commentaries without being directed by some surreptitious foreign power.
Obviously, the issue is that any online article that dares question Obama or HRC’s proclivity for disastrous foreign policy entanglements or any disagreement with the established order’s agenda has been designated as a purveyor of ‘fake news’ generated by Russia.
The ‘researchers,’ according to Timberg, claimed to use “internet analytics tools to trace the origins of particular tweets and mapped the connections among social media accounts that consistently delivered synchronized messages” and that “exact phrases or sentences were echoed by sites and social-media accounts in rapid succession, signaling membership in connected networks controlled by a single entity.”
Citing RT News and Sputnik as sources, what Timberg is suggesting is that a US online website specifically used verbatim language from RT or Sputnik in the text of an article – yet no examples, not one illustration of such journalistic defilement was provided.
Timberg and the Post had a journalistic duty to specifically identify the “origin of particular tweets” and follow that tweet to show exactly how that tweet ‘consistently delivered synchronized messages.” Further, the Post had an obligation to specifically demonstrate how ‘exact phrases or sentences were echoed .. in rapid succession” and ended up “signaling members in connected networks controlled by a single entity.”
Instead Timberg failed to conduct his own examination of what the “researchers” had claimed and did exactly what he was claiming the websites did which was to mindlessly publish someone else’s allegations without verification.
The fact that Timberg recited what he was told by the ‘researchers’ indicates he is willing to accept ‘fake news’ without checking his informant’s information – which proves the point that ‘fake news’ begins with those pointing the finger at others.
A closer reading of Timberg’s article however informs that, according to unnamed ‘researchers’, RT, Sputnik and other Russian sites used social media to ‘amplify’ stories already circulating on line and were able to identify ‘trending’ topics that “sometimes prompted coverage from mainstream American news organizations.” Sounds like the Russian media committed the grievous error of getting the jump on the asleep-at-the-wheel MSM.
Also the ‘researchers’ complained that “The speed and coordination of these efforts allowed Russian-backed phony news to outcompete traditional news organizations for audience.” Got that? “Outcompete traditional news organizations”. Again, MSM with egg on their face.
Of special interest was Timberg’s mention of “Propornot,” a group which, according to the Post, is a ‘nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds” whose report would show the ‘startling reach and effectiveness of Russian propaganda campaigns.”
So while Propornot website has a list of two hundred websites and a list of nineteen chosen for special attention, no identifying evidence or proof is presented other than wild accusations and unsubstantiated fact-free assertions that any of these websites are ‘peddlers’ for Russian propaganda.
All this agitation might stir some real concern and downright intimidation if it were anything but sheer hogwash. None of Timberg’s assertions pan out as the nineteen websites selected by Propornot were not vetted as described above in this essay; that is connecting website text with text submitted by Russian spooks.
Upon visiting the Propornot website, the public is greeted with an eerily sparse home page reminiscent of something from post-WWII Russian KGB and a very bizarre introduction to “Your Friendly Neighborhood Propaganda Identification Service, Since 2016!” and no identified participants except comedian and satirist Samantha Bee, hostess for TBS’s late night news comedy program Full Front. Bee, who apparently agreed to be the face of Propornot is accompanied by two fully masked men who claim to be Russian hackers. Now right away, Bee’s presence confirms this is all a spoof, Timberg was tricked and this is all a Samantha Bee publicity stunt.
Except it is not. The Propornot Team calls on a disreputable Congress and a lame duck Obama Administration to investigate Russian manipulation of the US political process and whether the American public was deprived of information to vote in an ‘informed manner’. In other words, another attempt to scapegoat HRC’s rejection at the polls.
Perhaps the most malevolent element of Propornot is the YYYcampaignYYY where the general public is encouraged to cross the Rubicon to a fully totalitarian state by not only identifying Russian propaganda outlets but also those known ‘sympathizers.’
In addition, YYYcampaignYYY makes the point that no matter whether a citizen is knowingly directed or not but continues to ‘echo Russian propaganda,” their “willingness to uncritically echo Russian propaganda makes them a tool of the Russian state.” The threat here is that with Russia declared an ‘enemy” of the US, a citizen may be committing treason.
If there is any doubt whether the Timberg article and Propornot itself is a partisan effort, the YYY implication is that anyone “echoing a Russian propaganda line” such as those who speak “how wonderful, powerful, innocent and righteous Russia and Russia’s friends are: Putin, Donald Trump, al-Bashar Assad, Syria, Iran, China, radical political parties” will be considered tools of Russia as compared with those who speak “how terrible, weak, aggressive, and corrupt the opponents of Russia are: the US, Obama, HRC, the EU, Angela Merkel, NATO, Ukraine, Jewish people, US allies, MSM and Democrats” will be considered enemies of the State. Anyone with such information is encouraged to ‘come tell us at Propornot about it.’
Consider that Propornot’s YYYcampaignYYY identified President Elect Trump as one of the ‘bad guys’ who is, in certain circles, considered to be entirely too amenable to Putin while HRC and the Democrats who created the unprovoked attacks on Putin are the “good guys.’
Exactly what is the Deep State telling us?
Renee Parsons has been a member of the ACLU’s Florida State Board of Directors and president of the ACLU Treasure Coast Chapter. She has been an elected public official in Colorado, an environmental lobbyist and staff member of the US House of Representatives in Washington DC. She can be found on Twitter @reneedove31
Do European lives matter? Not to Obama. But does anything or did anything matter to him? His America is down the toilet. And his Europe too. For different reasons of course. He didn’t mean to divide America. It just kinda happened. Wall Street was the priority and the Mexican Wall kinda built itself. The new Berlin Wall however is his baby. That was intentional. He built it with malice. And last week he came to Europe to kiss it goodbye. It felt like the kiss of death.
Trump wants to keep the Mexicans out of America. And he is ridiculed. Obama on the other hand wants to keep the Russians out of Europe. And he is applauded. Especially in Europe! Trump is all mouth. While Obama is all war. Yet the Europeans fear Trump. Maybe Europe’s Obama fetish is a peculiar death wish. Or more likely its a super colony obeying the orders of the super power. Even if the order is death. Whatever it is Obama’s departing gift to Europe is a time bomb. And Europe says thanks!
Divide and rule is the oldest trick in the book. And Europe fell for it. Not once but twice. The first time as they say was a tragedy. This time around (the second coming) is just a farce. The first Cold War was believable (even if it was a hoax). The New Cold War though is a joke. But no one is laughing. Except Obama. He’s smirking. While his European pawns are deadly serious. And for that reason – if they – the Europeans -don’t stop – they’ll soon be dead. And Obama will still be smirking.
Obama’s time bomb comes in two parts. One is called the Ukraine. And the other is called the Baltic states. And the spare part is called Poland. Under Obama they all became highly irrational overnight. Obama activated them. And now they’re ready to trigger World War III at any moment. It’ll probably be the shortest War in history. For Europe that is, because it’ll be dust within seconds. But does Obama care? No. Does Europe even care? No. It loves Obama’s shit. The more he gives – the more it smokes it. The subsequent hallucinations and paranoia are weird.
Nothing Trump says or does comes close. Trump wants to arrest, deport and hate the Mexicans. In contrast Obama and his European clowns want to exterminate the Russians. And Trump is supposed to be the mad one! In Europe, Obama’s hate makes Trump’s hate look cute. Obama’s version is structural (its policy), whereas Trump’s version is emotional (its nonsense). No wonder Obama’s candidate (Clinton) got the full support of the US warmongering establishment. The weird thing is that Europe – the target of Obama’s hate – also supported his candidate.
The Europe that obeys Obama however is a dead man walking. Its the lie called the European Union – a racket that financially bleeds ordinary “deplorable” Europeans. Like Obama’s candidate, the EU has lost touch with reality. And no longer is credible – if it ever was. As the EU loses the support of Europe’s “deplorables” it shamelessly clings onto Obama. Merkel, Hollande, Renzi and Tsipras kowtowed last week and didn’t complain about the bomb on their backs. Like true fundamentalists they believe in Obama’s hate. And are ready to be his suicide bombers. It’s a case of après moi, rien!
Europe is expendable – that’s the Obama doctrine. And one of Obama’s key representatives in Europe, Victoria Nuland, said it best in February 2014 when the time bomb was being planted in Ukraine: “Fuck [Europe].” The fact that the EU elite itself obeys this doctrine doesn’t justify it. On the contrary, it justifies the opposite: resistance. In any shape or form. The only thing that can defuse Obama’s time bomb is the rejection not only of Obama but also of the EU. The US electorate has just given us the first part of this double rejection. Now it is up to the EU electorate. And the signs are good.
In the coming year France, Germany, Holland and maybe even Italy get to vote. And in each country “the deplorables” are the majority. European lives may not matter to the North Atlantic elite, but they do matter to ordinary Europeans. And despite what the elites say – it isn’t a case of “racism”. Its common sense. The point is that Lives Matter – Everywhere. Especially the lives of the weak. The ones that are sacrificed in war. The ones that Obama has been sacrificing in his wars. Europe doesn’t want to be another statistic. Neither does Russia. Adios Obama! And take the EU and your time bomb with you.
An Ansar al-Islam terrorist tests a shoulder-fired and low-altitude 9K32 Strela-2 surface-to-air missile system in an unknown location in southwestern Syria
A report says members of a foreign-sponsored militant group in Syria have received a considerable amount of shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles, a possible indication that the US has eased restrictions on the supply of weapons to the anti-Damascus militants.
In a video published by the a pro-militant television network on Sunday, terrorists from the so-called Ansar al-Islam group can be seen testing low-altitude 9K32 Strela-2 missile systems in the southwestern Syrian provinces of Dara’a and Quneitra.
“We, in Ansar al-Islam Front, have distributed several points of air defense to counter any attempt by the Syrian warplanes or helicopters, which bomb points in Quneitra Province. We have a good number of these missiles,” a militant can be heard saying in the video.
A second militant says his group and the so-called Free Syrian Army are deploying munitions and forces to the towns of al-Harra, Masharah, Sandaniya and Jabata for attack against Syrian government forces within the next few days.
The report comes amid indications that the US administration has given the green light to its allies in the Middle East to send missiles to terrorist groups inside Syria through Jordan and Turkey.
A militant source said in late September that the US has agreed to the start of arms shipments from Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
A Reuters report has also hinted at the possibility that President Barack Obama would overturn the ban on the supply of missiles to extremist militants in Syria in the wake of Russian and Syrian forces’ offensives to retake the militant-held eastern part of the city of Aleppo.
Turkish airstrike kills Syrians
Meanwhile, Turkish aerial bombardment against the purported positions of Daesh terrorists near the northwestern Syrian city of al-Bab has killed seven people.
Syria’s official news agency SANA reported that ten people also sustained injuries in the Monday attack.
On August 24, the Turkish air force and special ground forces kicked off Operation Euphrates Shield inside Syria in a bid to support the so-called Free Syrian Army militants and rid the border area of Daesh terrorists and fighters from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Democratic Union Party (PYD).
The incursion drew strong condemnation from the Damascus government for violating Syrian sovereignty.
Also on Monday, ten civilians were killed when fighter jets from a US-led military coalition hit an area in the al-Salehiyah Village of the northern Syrian province of al-Raqqah.
Since September 2014, the US and some of its Arab allies have been carrying out airstrikes against what they say are Daesh positions inside Syria without any authorization from Damascus or a United Nations (UN) mandate.
The US-led coalition has done little to stop Daesh’s advances in Syria and Iraq. Some analysts have criticized the US-led military campaign, saying the strikes are only meant to benefit US weapons manufacturers.
Recently, John Kirby lost his rag when challenged to name the sources which gave him ‘information’ implying that Russia had helped the Syrian Arab Army bomb civilian targets such as hospitals. His reaction was typical of Shakespeare’s dictum, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks”.
As it turns out, Kirby was not quoting any government sources, he admitted as much. He claimed that the United States, her allies, Russia or Syria did not provide the information upon which he relied. Instead he stated that the claims he was making were based on findings from ‘aid organisations’. Such a phrase, whilst linguistically innocuous, implies something very different in the context of the Syrian conflict. Many groups calling themselves ‘aid organisations’ are actually either terrorist sympathisers or terrorist organisations in all but name.
One such organisation is the western funded White Helmets, an organisation whose crimes against humanity The Duran was among the first to expose.
It is this organisation who filmed the savage, medieval beheadings of prisoners before disposing of the mutilated bodies. It is this organisation whose bearded members jump for joy, holding guns, whilst chanting for the death of legitimate political leaders like President Assad, it is this organisation which acts on behalf of Al-Qaeda’s surrogate in Syria, al-Nusra. It is this organisation that provided the United States with false information about Russia which John Kirby was all too happy to parrot as though it was fact.
Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashekov spoke of Kirby’s insincerity in the following way:
After three days it is absolutely clear for everyone that the allegedly bombed “hospitals” and “mobile clinics” in Aleppo exist only in US State Department spokesman John Kirby’s imagination. This ‘information blooper’ will certainly remain a stain on Admiral Kirby’s biography.
We have repeatedly asked representatives of the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, other countries and international organisations to provide any information on the location of medical aid posts (hospitals) or schools in Syrian areas controlled by terrorists… The answer is always the same—no one has such information. There are only reports by the ‘White Helmets’ or anonymous local “journalists’.
Kirby’s outburst and the false report which he based his previous statements on, demonstrates not just a lack of transparency on behalf of the United Sates, but a totally dishonest position. To think that the most powerful country in the world has to rely on off-shoots of terrorist organisations in order to obtain false information with which to slander Russia, is beyond absurd and beyond pathetic, it is disgraceful.
If the United States is as powerful as the world knows it is, the fact that it is relying on terrorist groups like the White Helmets for information, is demonstrative of a wanton act of deception. US intelligence could find the facts if it was the facts which they were interested in. Clearly, this is not the situation. They are interested in parroting terrorist propaganda which conforms to President Obama’s wicked agenda.
What’s even more disgraceful is that many western mainstream media outlets take people like Kirby at face value when they speak of amorphous ‘aid organisations’. They do not bother to investigate the fact that such ‘aid organisations’ are actually parts of terrorist syndicates working with a stated mission to wage war against the legitimate government of Syria.
We now know the real reason John Kirby went insane when asked some sensible questions by RT’s Gayane Chichakyan. He was caught relying on false information by terrorist sources.
The sooner he and his ilk are gone forever, the better. Although it is still early days, I find it personally hard to believe that Donald Trump, who appears to be genuinely interested in fighting terrorism, would allow his inferiors to spout such lies.
Time will tell, but nothing could be as bad as this.
Facebook may entrust a third party with verifying content to stop so-called ‘fake news’ from spreading, its head said in a post. The social network, which is many people’s primary source of news, has recently been criticized for spreading misinformation.
Outgoing US President Barack Obama launched the war on ‘fake news’ last week, complaining that it may have had an adverse effect on the presidential election. He claimed that social media hosts “much active misinformation” that “looks the same when you see it on a Facebook page or you turn on your television.”
There is speculation that fake news about presidential candidates may have played a considerable role in swaying the minds of voters who ultimately elected Republican Donald Trump. Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg initially dismissed the notion as “pretty crazy,” but this week Facebook and Google both said they would change their ad policies to prevent fake news websites from using their systems.
In a Friday post, Zuckerberg gave an update on how his network is planning to fight misinformation.
“Historically, we have relied on our community to help us understand what is fake and what is not,” he said, explaining that the reporting mechanism already in place on the site fights fake news along with clickbait, spam, and scams.
This may be not enough to combat inaccurate news content, however, so Facebook is considering engaging “trusted third parties” to filter out fake news.
Another possible approach would be to have Facebook police itself, which would mean installing “better technical systems to detect what people will flag as false before they do it themselves,” the FB head said.
Links to news stories classified by the network as untruthful would be flagged as fake for people trying to share or read them, according to Zuckerberg.
False stories circulating on Facebook during America’s presidential election campaign included one claiming that anchor Megyn Kelly had been fired from Fox News, another alleging an FBI agent involved in the Clinton investigation had been murdered, and even an announcement that the Pope had endorsed Trump.
The first definitive signals are appearing that the American foreign policies are destined to undergo a historic shift under the Donald Trump presidency. RT confirmed on Friday citing a ‘close source’ (without mentioning the nationality) the media reports speculating that Trump has named retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as the National Security Advisor in the incoming Administration. Interestingly, the first authoritative report originated from Moscow.
The RT report gave a rather friendly account of Flynn, noting his strong advocacy of détente with Russia. (Interestingly, those who called on Trump yesterday at his transition hqs included Henry Kissinger.)
Why is Flynn’s nomination so important? First of all, Trump trusts him and Flynn in his new position will be overseeing the entire US intelligence establishment and Pentagon and coordinating national security and foreign policies. It is an immensely influential position, beyond Congressional scrutiny.
Importantly, therefore, Flynn’s past contacts with Kremlin officials – there is a photograph of him at the dinner table seated next to President Vladimir Putin – and his connections with Gazprom, Russia’s gas leviathan, and his belief that US and Russia should collaborate instead of rival each other, etc. assume great significance.
Trump unnerves the US foreign and security policy establishment. Conceivably, Trump will use the tough Pentagon general to whip the establishment folks into submission to the new foreign policy trajectory. If anyone can do that, it is Flynn.
The growing disquiet is apparent even at the level of President Barack Obama. On Thursday, in an audacious act, Obama rendered some public advice to Trump from a foreign podium, Germany, with Angela Merkel approvingly listening, on the advisability of the president-elect following his footfalls. Some excerpts are in order, if only to highlight the epic battle shaping up over US foreign policies. Obama said:
- With respect to Russia, my principal approach to Russia has been constant since I first came into office. Russia is an important country. It is a military superpower. It has influence in the region and it has influence around the world. And in order for us to solve many big problems around the world, it is in our interest to work with Russia and obtain their cooperation… So I’ve sought a constructive relationship with Russia, but what I have also been is realistic in recognising that there are some significant differences in how Russia views the world and how we (West) view the world.
- And so on issues like Ukraine, on issues like Syria, we’ve had very significant differences. And my hope is that the President-elect coming in takes a similarly constructive approach, finding areas where we can cooperate with Russia where our values and interests align, but that the President-elect also is willing to stand up to Russia where they are deviating from our values and international norms.
- I don’t expect that the President-elect will follow exactly our blueprint or our approach, but my hope is that he does not simply take a realpolitik approach and suggest that if we just cut some deals with Russia, even if it hurts people, or even if it violates international norms, or even if it leaves smaller countries vulnerable or creates long-term problems in regions like Syria — that we just do whatever is convenient at the time. And that will be something that I think we’ll learn more about as the President-elect puts his team together.
Obama then proceeded to have a tirade against Putin, saying “there have been very clear proof that they have engaged in cyberttacks” on the US and that he personally “delivered a very clear and forceful message” to the Russian leader to the effect that “we’re monitoring it carefully and we will respond appropriately if and when we see this happening.”
Back in Washington, ironically, Obama’s strongest ally in opposing détente with Russia is none other than Republican Senator John McCain. The visceral dislike toward Russia – and Putin, in particular – within the Washington establishment is apparent from McCain’s own statement earlier in the week.
Why such morbid fear? McCain, of course, is the chief spokesman of the military-industrial complex in America. Many top arms manufacturing companies are based in Arizona, the state which Mccain represents in the senate. ‘Saker’, the US-based military analyst, gives a satisfactory explanation as to why there’s such panic in Washington:
- He (Flynn) has connections to Gazprom, is well-liked in Moscow, and will be a link for American energy companies and perhaps some joint ventures in the gas field development and pipeline industry. Several friends of Trump are from the gas and oil industry… The Arctic, the eastern Mediterranean, the South China Sea and other large development zones have enormous new fields to be tapped and exploited.
- The primary interest of the Trump foreign policy will be to make America wealthy again. The Eurasian development has already attracted Trump to the OBOR of China and the AIIB infrastructure bank. Probably the entire New Silk Road of China and EAEU of Russia is not going to be without major US participation.
Read ‘Saker’ on Flynn’s appointment. (here)