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Doom Psychology & Philosophy / American Carnage
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February 16, 2018
American Carnage

by Jeffrey St. Clair

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Americans have a remarkable tolerance for child slaughter, especially the mass murders of the children of others. This emotional indifference manifested itself vividly after the disclosure of the My Lai Massacre, when dozens of Vietnamese infants and children were killed by the men of Charlie Company, their tiny, butchered corpses stacked in ditches. After the trial of Lt. William Calley, more than 70 percent of Americans believed his sentence was too severe. Most objected to any trial at all. In the end, Calley served less than 4 years under house arrest for his role in the execution of more than 500 Vietnamese villagers.

Twenty-five years later, American attitudes toward child deaths had coarsened even harder. When it was revealed that US sanctions on Iraq had caused the deaths of more than 500,000 Iraqi children, Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, icily argued that the deaths were “worth it” to advance US policy in the Middle East. Few Americans remonstrated against this official savagery done in their name.

Now the guns are being turned on America’s own children and the rivers of blood streaming out of US schools cause barely a ripple in our politics. If the Columbine shooting (1999) was a tragedy, what word do you use to describe the 436th school shooting since then?

Don’t look for an answer or even solace from any of our political leaders. All you’ll get is cant, hollow prayers and banal vituperations of the sort we’ve been hearing for two decades from the likes of Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi’s most restrictive gun control proposals wouldn’t have stopped any of the recent shootings. She plays politics with the blood of children as cynically as the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre. Both are adept at fundraising off the bodies of the dead.

Even the RussiaGaters seized the opportunity to turn Vladimir Putin into one of Nikolas Cruz’s co-conspirators. Democratic blowhard Eric Boehlert, formerly of Clinton defense team Media Matters, tweeted: “key Q: how much $$$$$ did @NRA accept from Russia in 2016?”

In these moments of national trauma, Donald Trump can be counted on to open his mouth only to extract one foot and insert the other. This week his creaky mandibles got quite the workout. First, he was goaded into mumbling his generic opposition to wife-beating. Then only a day later he had to summon the energy to sputter out scripted condolences for the victims and families of the mass shooting at Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

In the past, Trump has railed against what he—or Steve Bannon—called the “American carnage.” Of course, this week’s slaughter isn’t the kind of “carnage” that Trump was referring to, since it was committed by a MAGA-hat wearing teen from the suburbs, who was trained in the proper use of rifles by an NRA grant funded shooting program. From an operational perspective, the only thing missing was the silencer hawked by Trump’s idiotic son, Donald Jr. Trump’s urban villains, naturally, use knives, brass knuckles and switchblades.

One might be tempted to cut Trump some slack. After all, his political options were constricted. He couldn’t possibly be expected to talk about the fact that this is the 239th school shooting since Sandy Hook (2012). He couldn’t speak about the 438 people who have been shot in schools since Sandy Hook. Or the 138 people who have died in school shootings since Sandy Hook. Why? Because most of Trump’s hardcore base don’t believe the Sandy Hook massacre really happened. They believe it was a fake shooting staged by the gun cops of the Deep State. Next week, they will be saying the same thing about the Parkland slayings. The Trump presidency levitates on such dark fantasies. Better to keep the messaging simple.

So Trump could only say that the killings were the work of a teenager who was “mentally disturbed.” His bland, six minute homily deftly avoided the word “gun.” It couldn’t have slipped Trump’s mind that one of his first acts as president was to sign into a law a measure over-turning an Obama-era ban on the sale of guns to people with mental disabilities. Thus, instead of endorsing any measure to restrict the sale of guns to the insane, Trump called on his American subjects to become mental health snitches, to profile potential psychopaths and report suspicious “instances to authorities, again and again!” Can we start with the president? Do we dial 1-800-Deranged? Will Jeff Sessions pick up the line?

By most accounts, Nikolas Cruz was a troubled kid, who led a creepy life that was spiraling into acts of increasingly sadistic violence. Both of his adopted parents had died and Cruz was living a dead-end existence in a friend’s basement, while working a nothing job at the Dollar Tree store. He had apparently been treated for depression, but walked away from his therapy sessions. There’s no word yet on whether, like so many other shooters, he’d been fed anti-depressants. It’s when you come off the serotonin uplifters that the real trouble usually starts.

Society had turned its back on Cruz. He was one of the expendables, cut adrift by his school, which wasn’t equipped to deal with his deep psychological problems, to freefall without any safety net to catch him. But when he hit bottom, he returned with a vengeance to the very institution that had rejected him.  Now we’re told to keep watch for others just like him. How many are out there, one bad experience from snapping and going full-auto at a mall or a schoolyard?

I try to summon some empathy for Nikolas Cruz, but can’t.  Cruz tortured animals, threatened fellow students and openly bragged about his desire to kill people. This man should never have possessed even an pop gun, but on his minimum-wage job he was able to walk into a gun store and legally buy an AR-15 assault rifle and multiple magazines of ammunition. He made no effort to conceal his simmering animus or his arsenal of weapons. It’s all up on Youtube and Facebook. Cruz was even reported to the FBI, which, typically, didn’t pursue the lead. The FBI prefers to devote its resources to investigating crimes it orchestrates itself.

If you’re looking for the tragedy in all of this, it’s to be found in the fact that the same implements of mass death used at My Lai are entirely legal to buy, sell and own in the US fifty years later. In fact, these weapons are sanctified in American culture. AR-15 medallions hang like crucifixes from the necks of thousands of Americans. We have stepped in death so deep we’ve made a virtue of it.

The American moralists are always carping about personal responsibility. Well, Nikolas Cruz will be tried for his crimes and will likely spend the rest of his miserable life in one of Florida’s hellhole prisons. But who will be held accountable for allowing a monster like Cruz the means to commit them? Those are the people who should be reported to the authorities. The problem is: they are the authorities.

Roaming Charges

  While we’re (momentarily) speaking of gun violence, it’s 45 days into the new year and already 154 people have been killed by police.

  If 17 kids died in a school bus crash and the driver tested positive for marijuana, what do you think J. Beauregard Sessions would blame?

  In the live-action version of Kafka’s “The Trial,” the part of Joseph K. is being played today (as it has been for the last 2,067 consecutive days)  by Julian Assange…

  It looks like Operation Mockingbird never ended. The CIA is arguing that the agency has the authority to selectively declassify secret files and leak them to favored reporters, while denying access to the same documents to other journalists.

  Nearly every mile of US coastline is being opened for oil drilling…what could possibly go wrong?

  Trump’s EPA cited an industry-funded study to rationalize its rollback of diesel emissions. That study is now under investigation for academic fraud. But the rollback rolls on, for those who have $250,000 to exploit the loophole…

  This just in from Hamid Karzai on why the US continues to occupy and bomb Afghanistan:  “The United States is not here to go to a party. There is no need for them to build so many bases just to defeat a few Taliban. They are here because all the great American rivals are in the neighborhood, and we happen to be here, too. They are welcome to stay but not to deceive us…Too many Afghans are dying for an uncertain future,. We are too small and poor to ask the U.S. to stop, but we are a country, and our interests must be respected.” Of course, Karzai’s precise understanding of the metrics of US foreign policy is derided in the western press as a “dark theory.”

  Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats gleaned praise from Democrats this week for doubling down on his assertion that the Russians meddled in the 2016 elections. But lest anyone conclude from these endorsements that Coats is a “rational actor” consider the fact that he followed up those observations with a threat to bomb North Korea, warning that “decision time” is near at hand…

  The corporatization of weed is well underway in California, which means, among other things, that the state is moving to make sure Native Americans don’t get a cut of the action. Same as it ever, ever was…

  Meanwhile, Berkeley just became the nation’s first “marijuana sanctuary city.” As if J. Beauregard Sessions didn’t have enough crises on his plate…

  Blow up the deficit on tax cuts for billionaires and pork for the weapons lobby, then blame the old, the poor and the sick…

  Newsflash from the Karma Wire: election reforms enacted by Democrats in California may end up costing Democrats control of the US House of Representatives in 2018 elections.

  On January 27, hikers in Olympic National Park discovered more than 100 towering old growth trees mysteriously toppled. Sasquatch or climate change?

Photograph by Lara Vychuzhanina.

  Comrade Ken: Well, I’m off to hack into the Idaho voter rolls today, Barbie. Will you be trolling gullible and lonely lefties with your Alice Donovan persona again?

Comrade Barbie: No, I have an assignment tonight at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton. The memo says it may involve wetwork.

Comrade Ken: Gun, garrote or knife?

Comrade Barbie: Not that kind of wetwork, Ken.

  So Trump’s military parade may cost $30 million–that’s if the Abrams’ Tanks don’t crumple the pavement on Pennsylvania Avenue. Perhaps Trump consigliere Michael Cohen could write the check?

  Cohen admitted that he paid Stormy Daniels $130,000 out of his own pocket to keep the porn queen quiet about her assignations with Donald Trump, the alleged entanglements of flesh occurring shortly after Melania gave birth to Barron. Don’t know yet if that figure includes a lifetime subscription to Forbes magazine or the rights to Stormy’s shiny gold dress, but one hopes that Trump at least pitched in for the tip…

  The pentimento (literally: “I repent”) under that Obama portrait….

  Where we see drones, Sean Hannity sees something that he finds much more unnerving: sperm…

  Another dubious record for the Peace Prize Prez: Obama’s arms exports more than doubled Bush’s.

  The gap between black and white home ownership is wider now than at any time since the end of Jim Crow. This grim trend is not happening by accident…

  Newsflash from the Karma Wire: Elk in Utah downs helicopter.

  Meanwhile, back at Uday and Qusay’s gun club the neighbors are suffering from PTSD.

  Remember when Don Jr. became a pitchman for “silencers” so that “little kids can get into the game”?

  In the latest magical pronouncement from the Wizard of the Soundproof Booth, EPA director Scott Pruitt declares the burning of wood products to be “carbon neutral.”

  Pruitt the Snowflake insists on flying first class, because he’s been subjected to angry critiques of his previous magical pronouncements from the plebes back in coach, where the atmosphere is “politically toxic.” One passenger scolded, “Scott Pruitt, you’re fucking up the environment!” The truth hurts, doesn’t it Scott?

  Brave New Democrats! A Pew poll shows that Democrats now view both the CIA and the FBI more favorably than Republicans by wide margins. Only 12 percent of Democrats perceive any stains on the agency.

  Not the most appalling thing I’ve read this month, but close: “Cops Across America are Getting Thank You Plaques for Helping to Crush Standing Rock Protests.”

  The rather blasé Oregon congressional delegation, led by Ron “the Weenie” Wyden, has somewhat surprisingly amassed a huge following on Facebook and Twitter. Unfortunately, most of their fans are fake…

  Political Science is to Science, What Kenny G is to Jazz, which, of course, didn’t stop Trump from making 31-year-old Michael Kratsios his top science advisor….

  80 of Trump’s 87 judicial nominees for the federal bench are white. That’s 91.2 percent. Non-Hispanic whites account for 63 percent of the US population. In other words: Black Robes, White Justice.

  It is likely that there is less extant sea ice today than at any time since the dawn of human “civilization.”

  Yes, this woman’s husband is “running” the economy…

  Trump once called for a travel ban over an outbreak of Ebola virus which had killed no Americans. Now, as a vicious flu epidemic kills 4,000 a week, the president proposes slashing the CDC’s budget by 10 percent…

  Another case of eviction by execution, this time involving an 84-year old veteran…

  Did Melania’s parents benefit from “chain migration“?

  One of the most ridiculous paragraphs ever written. Of course, the author is David Brooks:

    In the first half of the 1990s, I worked in Europe for The Wall Street Journal. I covered nothing but good news: the reunification of Germany, the liberation of Central Europe, the fall of the Soviet Union, the end of apartheid in South Africa, the Oslo peace process in the Middle East. Then, toward the end of my stay, there was one seemingly anomalous episode — the breakup of Yugoslavia.

  The latest trendy fashion among the office-bound tribe of post-modern environmental historians is to postulate that species extinction is no big deal ecologically or morally. The great Carl Safina sets the record straight.

  Israeli leaders now openly proclaim their darkest intentions to suppress the rights of its Arab citizens in order to maintain a Jewish majority. Here are the defiant words of Ayelet Shaked, who serves as Israel’s Justice (yes, Justice) Minister: “There are places where the character of the State of Israel as a Jewish state must be maintained and this sometimes comes at the expense of equality.”

  From the “You Can’t Make This Shit Up” Dept.: Virgin Atlantic Airlines removed the word “Palestinian” from the couscous dish on its menu, after complaints from Jewish and Israeli passengers.

  Beauregard rides again…! Speaking at the National Sheriffs Association, Jefferson B. Sessions rhapsodized over the “Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement,” tracing the word “sheriff” back to the reeves of the English shires. But most British punks have a better sense of etymology than the Attorney General. They know that “sheriff” derives from the Arabic “sharif,” as in “Sharif, don’t like it…”

  Remember that the torturers at Abu Ghraib learned their sadistic craft as guards in US prisons. School’s still in session…

  California’s water use restrictions should have become permanent 40 years ago–especially for Oprah.

  Newsflash From the Karma Wire…Poacher eaten by lion pride he was hunting.

  The Duterte-Trump summit will be one for the ages, the Dark Ages…

  Being Hope Hicks: “When we landed, it was Hope’s job to steam him. ‘Get the machine!’ he’d yell. And Hope would take out the steamer and start steaming Mr. Trump’s suit, while he was wearing it! She’d steam the jacket first and then sit in a chair in front of him and steam his pants.” From Corey Lewandowski’s Let Trump be Trump.

  This one’s for you, Hunter: Pot sales in Aspen totaled more than $11 million in 2017, beating out liquor sales for the first time.

  The abstract expressionist movement was a men’s club, whose critical ascent was boosted by lavish grants from CIA-financed foundations. The painter Sonia Gechtoff, who died last week at the age of 91, didn’t play by those rules. She was as talented as Pollack or DeKooning, but never held her tongue or hid her politics, as her daughter recalled to the New York Times: “She was not an average mother in that we as her children learned to curse from her and to never hold back on our opinion. I remember her cursing at the TV whenever Lyndon Johnson was on talking about the Vietnam War.”

Over to You, Lou

Booked Up

What I’m reading this week…

Surveillance Valley: the Secret Military History of the Internet by Yasha Levine

Pandemic 1918: The Story of the Deadliest Influenza in History by Catharine Arnold

Palaeoart: Visions of the Prehistoric Past by Zoë Lescaze

Sound Grammar

What I’m listening to this week…

Black Panther (Soundtrack) by Kendrick Lamar, et al.

Nameless by Dominique Fils-Aimé

Raw by Typh Barrow

Live at Club 47 by Doc Watson

A Crow Looked at Me by Mount Eerie

Would You Mind?

Terry Pratchett: “I get it,” said the prisoner. “Good Cop, Bad Cop, eh?”

“If you like,” said Vimes. “But we’re a bit short staffed here, so if I give you a cigarette would you mind kicking yourself in the teeth?” (Nightwatch.)
Geopolitics / Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
« Last post by RE on Today at 12:01:39 AM »

February 16, 2018
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don

by Paul Street

Photo by Financial Times | CC BY 2.0

Donald Trump’s dysfunctional, dangerous, and deeply unpopular presidency is one of the most bizarre chapters in United States history.  Imagine that a seasoned and clever journalist was given access to the inner workings of this wacky White House and permitted to observe its activities like “a fly on the wall,” with “something like a semi-permanent seat on a couch in the West Wing.” Imagine further that this journalist was permitted to be “a constant interloper” who “accepted no rules nor…made any promises about what [he] might or might not write” (Michael Wolff, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House [New York: Henry Holt and Company, January 5, 2018] p. xii).

As we found out when Michael Wolff’s instant bestseller Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House came out six weeks ago, all that happened last year. Wolff held down that spot for at least the first eight months of Trump’s insane presidency. Along the way, he interviewed hundreds of individuals familiar with Trump within and beyond the White House, including many senior administration staffers.

The result was a book that quickly became an historical event in and of itself – a volume that will certainly make its way into future American history textbooks.

Grounds for Impeachment

Packed with soul-numbing revelations on nearly every page, Fire and Fury is something of a Rorschach Test indicating what presidential (and not-so presidential) facts matter most (and least) to readers of different persuasions. Liberals and others hoping to find cause for impeachment have found much to their liking. Late in the book, for example, Wolff quotes Trump’s initial Chief Political Strategist, the wily white nationalist Steve Bannon, on how it was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic” for Trump’s son, Donald Trump, Jr, and the presidential son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to take their infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russian emissaries promising dirt on Hillary Clinton.  “The chance that Don, Jr. did not walk these [Russian] jumos up to his father’s office on the twenty-sixth floor,” Bannon says, “is zero” (Fire and Fury, p.255).

Daddy Trump knew about the meeting, contrary to White House denials. “The certainty among the White House staff that Trump himself would not only have been apprised of the meeting, but have met the principals,” Wolff writes, “meant that the president was caught out as a liar to those whose trust he most needed” (p. 256).

Wolff has Trump dead-to-rights on obstruction of justice. Fire and Fury reports that the president was directly responsible for the preposterous White Hose story claiming that the Trump Tower meeting had only been about U.S. adoption policy (pp. 258-259).

By Wolff’s account, Trump’s rash and idiotic May 2017 decision (“made by the president with almost no consultation except of his inner family circle”) to fire Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Director James Comey was “arguably a plan to obstruct justice.  The president made it perfectly clear,” writes Wolff, “that he hadn’t fired the FBI Director because he had done Hillary wrong; he fired the FBI director because the FBI was too aggressively investigating him and his administration” (p. 220).

Also enticing for those who would like to see Trump impeached (in connection with Russia and/or obstruction and/or the Constitution’s emoluments clause), Wolff depicts the president’s hostility to the Robert-Mueller-headed federal investigation as arising from Trump’s fear that his slimy Russian and German business dealings and those of son-in-law’s family will be exposed. Here, as in much of Fire and Fury, the dodgy but perceptive Steve Bannon bears special witness:

    ‘You realize where this is going,’ Bannon [told a gathering of friends and associates in July of 2017] … ‘This is all about money laundering. Mueller chose [accomplished financial investigator Andrew] Weissmann [to join Mueller’s team] first and he is a money laundering guy. Their path to fucking Trump goes right through [former Trump campaign director] Paul Manafort, Don Jr., and Jared Kushner…It goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner shit. The Kushner shit is greasy. They’re going to go right through that. They’re going to roll those two guys up and say play me or trade me’ (p. 278, emphasis added).

Fire and Fury reports that this – concern over “greasy” foreign business deals tied to Trump and Kushner – and NOT the charge of Trump-Kremlin collusion was the real factor behind the administration’s early attacks on the Russia investigation:

    … the worry in the White House was not about collusion – which seemed implausible if not farcical – but what, if the unraveling began, would likely lead to the messy Trump (and Kushner) business dealings…This was the peculiar and haunting consensus – not that that Trump was guilty of all that he was accused of, but that he was guilty of so much else. It was all too possible that the hardly plausible would lead to the totally credible (p. 102).

“Twenty-Fifth Amendment Bad”

Impeachment aside, there’s actually more material in Fire and Fury to please those who dream of seeing Trump removed via the Constitution’s 25th Amendment, on grounds of incompetence and unfitness. The book is laden with evidence that Trump is too stupid, ignorant, boorish, narcissistic, and absurdly prideful for the position he incredibly holds.  Here are some of the more remarkable passages on that score (feel free to skim – there’s a lot here):

From October of 2017:

    In early October, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s fate was sealed – if his obvious ambivalence toward the president had not already sealed it – by the revelation that he had called the president ‘a fucking moron’…Everyone, in his or her own way, struggled to express the baldly obvious fact that the president did not know enough, did not know what he didn’t know, did not particularly care, and, to boot, was confident if not serene in his unquestioned certitudes. There was now a fair amount of back-of-the classroom giggling about whom had called Trump what. For Steve Mnuchin and Reince Priebus, he was an ‘idiot.’ For Gary Cohn, he was ‘dumb as shit.’ For H. R. McMaster he was a ‘dope.’ The list went on (p.304, emphasis added).

From the campaign period:

    To say that he knew nothing – nothing at all – about the basic intellectual foundations of the job was a comic understatement.  Early in the campaign… [Trump operative] Sam Nunberg was sent to explain the Constitution to the candidate: ‘I got as far as the Fourth Amendment before his finger is pulling down on his lip and his eyes are rolling back in his head’ (p. 16, emphasis added).

    ‘No one in the country, or on earth, has given less thought to health insurance than Donald,’ said [former Fox News chief] Roger Ailes (p.164).

From right after the 2016 election:

    What was, to many people who knew Trump well, much more confounding was that he had managed to win this election, and arrive at the ultimate accomplishment, wholly lacking what in some obvious sense must be the main requirement of the job, what neuroscientists call executive function.  He had somehow won the race, but his brain seemed incapable of performing what would be essential tasks in his new job.  He had no ability to plan and organize and pay attention and switch focus; he had never been able to tailor his behavior to what the goals at hand reasonably required.  On the most basic level, he simply could not link cause and effect (p. 24, emphasis added)

    ‘You need a son of a bitch as your chief of staff…a son of a bitch who knows Washington,’ [Roger] Ailes told Trump not long after the election…Ailes had a suggestion: ‘Speaker Boehner’ (John Boehner had been Speaker of the House until he was forced out in a Tea Patty putsch in 2011).

    ‘Who’s that?’ asked Trump (p. 26).

    [Rupert] Murdoch suggested that taking a liberal approach to H-1B visas might be hard to square with his immigration promises.  But Trump seemed unconcerned, assuring Murdoch, ‘We’ll figure it out’ ‘What a fucking idiot,’ said Murdoch, shrugging as he got off the phone”(p. 36, emphasis added).

    …as Bannon emphasized, [Trump] was never going to get the facts right, nor was he ever going to acknowledge that he got them wrong… (p. 47).

From after the Inauguration:

    …within twenty-four hours of the inauguration, the president had invented a million or so [inauguration rally attendees] that did not exist.  He sent his new press secretary – whose personal mantra would shortly become ‘You can’t make this shit up’ – to argue his case in a media moment that turned Spicer…into a political joke….It was the first presidential instance of what the campaign regulars had learned over many months: on the most basic level, Trump just did not, as Spicer later put it, give a fuck.  You could tell him whatever you wanted, but he knew what he knew, and if what you said contradicted what he knew, he simply didn’t believe you (pp. 47-48, emphasis added).

    Trump himself you could see as …an energetic child, and whomever could placate or distract him became his favorite… His inspiration existed in the moment…From phone call to phone call – and his day, beyond organized meetings, was almost entirely phone calls – you could lose him…While he was often most influenced by the last person he spoke to, he did not actually listen to anyone.  So it was not so much the force of an individual argument or petition that moved him, but rather more just someone’s presence… (pp. 70-71, emphasis added).

    …the president, while proposing the most radical departure from governing and policy norms in several generations, had few specific ideas about how to turn his themes and vitriol into policy…. It was, said [Deputy Chief of Staff Karen] Walsh, ‘like trying to figure out what a child wants…’…And making suggestions to him was deeply complicated. Here, arguably, was the central issue of the Trump presidency, informing every aspect of Trumpian policy and leadership: He didn’t process information in any conventional sense. He didn’t read. He didn’t really even skim. Some believed that for all practical purposes he was no more than semi-­literate…He was post-literate – total television…But not only didn’t he read, he didn’t listen…he trusted his own expertise ­— no matter how paltry or irrelevant — more than anyone else’s. What’s more, he had an extremely short attention span, even when he thought you were worthy of attention.”  He was often confident, but he was just as often paralyzed, less a savant than a figure of sputtering and dangerous insecurities, whose instinctive response was to lash out and behave as if his gut, however confused, was in fact in some clear and forceful way telling him what to do  (pp. 113-114, emphasis added)

    …he seemed to lack the ability to take in third-party information…’He’s a guy who really hated school,’ said Bannon. ‘And he’s not going to start liking it now’ (p. 115)

From May of 2017, after Trump fired Comey, predictably sparking widespread disgust and outrage (as Bannon predicted) and leading to the appointment of Mueller as special counsel to investigate Trump:

    Trump believed that firing Comey would make him a hero.  Over the next 48 hours he spun his side to various friends. It was simple: he had stood up to the FBI (p. 219).

    ‘He’s not only crazy,’ declared [longstanding close Trump associate and fellow real estate tycoon] Tim Barrack to a friend, ‘he’s stupid’ (p.233, emphasis added).

From June of 2017:

    “His was a zero-sum ecosystem.  In the world of Trump, anything that he deemed of value either accrued to him or had been robbed of him…His wounded feelings and incomprehension at the failure of people whose embrace he sought to, in return, embrace was ‘deep, crazy deep,’ said his former aide Sam Nunberg, who had run afoul of his need for 100 percent approbation and his bitter suspicion of being profited from” (p. 248, emphasis added).

From July of 2017:

    “That evening the president traveled to West Virginia to deliver a speech before the Boy Scouts of America.  Once more, his speech was tonally at odds with time, place, and good sense.  It prompted an immediate apology from the Boy Scouts to it members, their parents, and the country at large.  The quick trip did not improve Trump’s mood: the next morning, seething, the president again publicly attacked his attorney general and – for good measure and no evident reason – tweeted his [idiotic] ban of transgender people in the military” (p.284, emphasis added).

From August of 2017:

    “[Trump Chief of Staff John] Kelly’s success…depended on his rising to the central challenge…. how to manage Trump [, who] … was like a recalcitrant two-year-old.  If you tried to control him, it would only have the opposite effect” (pp. 289-290, emphasis added).

    “Sam Nunberg, the former Trump loyalist turned Bannon loyalist, believed that Bannon would stay in the White House for two years and then leave to run Trump’s reelection campaign. ‘If you can get this idiot elected twice,’ Nunberg marveled, ‘you would achieve something like immortality in politics’” (p. 291, emphasis added).

    “virtually the entire senior staff and cabinet of the Trump presidency had …to confront the very real likelihood that the president they worked for…didn’t have the wherewithal to adequately function in his job…The debate, as Bannon put it, was not about whether the president’s situation was bad. But whether it was Twenty-Fifth Amendment bad” (297).

On pages 49 through 51 of Fire and Fury, Wolff pastes in the mind-bogglingly moronic, delusional, and disjointed “speech” Trump gave at the CIA’s headquarters on the first day of his presidency – the one where one where the new president blustered that “we should have kept [Iraq’s] oil” and that “maybe you’ll have another chance” (to get “the oil”).  Reading this weird rant in its entirety is a disturbing experience.  It’s enough to make you cringe (as did most of the CIA agents and managers who heard it) again at the “holy shit!” realization that a man stupid enough to say such things sits in the world’s most powerful position. “In the seconds after [Trump’s CIA monologue] finished,” Wolff notes, “you could hear a pin drop” (p.51).

Incapable of Conspiracy

It isn’t just Trump himself that Fire and Fury portrays as hopelessly vile and incompetent.  The whole Trump White House is exposed as miserably dysfunctional, internally vicious, and absurdly leak-prone. Jared Kushner and the presidential daughter Ivanka are shown pushing Trump to foolishly fire Comey and to just-as-stupidly hire the malicious whack-job Anthony Scaramucci as White House Communications Director – an appointment that lasted 10 days when “the Mooch” predictably imploded in late July.

Along the way, “Jarvanka” (Bannon’s term for the Jared and Ivanka team) run their own media and public relations network to influence the president and counter the media machinations of their arch-enemy Bannon. Trump got regular flattering media updates from his obsequiously deferential staffer Hope Hicks, his de facto daughter (Ivanka being de facto First Lady in the curious absence of Melania Trump). The laughably loyal lapdog Hicks succeeded “the Mooch” in the communications job at the age of 28.  (Hicks’s absurdity was recently exposed with news of her efforts to run cover for her boyfriend, wife-beater Rob Porter, who was forced to resign as Trump’s Staff Secretary when reports of his nasty penchant for domestic violence emerged last week).

By the late summer of 2017, Wolff notes, Bannon had “moved into a heightened state that allowed him to see just how ridiculous the White House had become” (p. 291) under the reign of “Jarvanka” (Jared and Ivanka), Hicks, and Trump himself.  Earlier in the year, Wolff reports, Bannon had “dismissed the Russia story” by observing that “the Trump wasn’t capable of conspiring about anything” (p. 97, emphasis added).

Here it is worth nothing that the Trump White House’s epic incompetence and disorganization is no small part why Wolff got to hide in plain sight in the West Wing in the first place.

Wealth and Power Elite Games

Power elite theorists and chroniclers (I am one) attuned to the dominance of business and military chieftains in the making of U.S. policy can also find grist for their mills in Fire and Fury. Somewhat inadvertently, the book portrays a first-year White House torn between establishment globalist Wall Street centrists on one hand and revanchist, hard-right renegade capitalists like the hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer and the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson on the other hand.  The Wall Street masters are represented by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, top economic advisor Gary Cohn, and National Security Council appointee Dina Powell, Goldman Sachs veterans all, along with Kushner (an acolyte of the blood-soaked globalist Henry Kissinger, curiously enough) and Ivanka.  The renegade capitalists provided backing for the China-hating Bannon and his team of proto-fascistic staffers including Stephen Miller, a 32-year old PR hack who became Trump’s “political strategist” after Bannon engineered his own removal (by leaking to the crusty liberal commentator and former Obama-worshipper Bob Kuttner) in August.

Trump is himself a billionaire. By Wolff’s account, he spends hours each day seeking advice from, and complaining to, a small “club” of other right-wing moguls. The president holds the opinions of the super-rich in special high regard, consistent with his belief that the possession of a fortune marks a man as “really smart.”

“And Yet OMG!!!”

Ultimately, though, the main thing portrayed in Fire and Fury is an off-the-rails Crazy Train administration driven by the image-, media,- and attention-addicted narcissism and relentless prideful stupidity of a man-child president whose sole allegiance is to himself and to the defeat of those who fail to understand how great he is. Wolff sounds concerned about the constant media spectacle that is the Insane Trump Clown Show:

    …contravening all cultural and media logic, Donald Trump produced on a daily basis and astonishing, can’t-stop-following it narrative. And this was not because he was changing or upsetting the fundamentals of American life.  In six months as president, failing to master almost any aspect of the bureaucratic process, he had, beyond placing his nominee on the Supreme Court, accomplished, practically speaking, nothing. And yet OMG!!!. There almost was no other story in America- and in much of the world.  That was the radical and transformational nature of the Trump presidency: it held everybody’s attention (251).

Ironically enough, however, Fire and Fury itself quickly became a major chapter in the seemingly interminable Trump freak-show.

“A Colorful Diversion”: Behind the Clown Show

Looking back on the period covered in Fire and Fury (mainly November 2016-October 2017) now seven weeks after Trump and the Republican Congress pleased his billionaire friends by passing an arch-regressive Christmas-season tax cut for the wealthy corporate and financial Few in a country where the top tenth of the upper 1 Percent already possessed as much net worth as the bottom 90 percent, it strikes me that Wolff missed the key point about the Trump circus. As the left commentator  Chris Hedges recently argued on Truthdig::

    The problem with Donald Trump is not that he is imbecilic and inept – it is that he has surrendered total power to the oligarchic and military elites. They get what they want. They do what they want…Trump, who has no inclination or ability to govern, has handed the machinery of government over to the bankers, corporate executives, right-wing think tanks, intelligence chiefs and generals. They are eradicating the few regulations and laws that inhibited a naked kleptocracy. They are dynamiting the institutions, including the State Department, that served interests other than corporate profit and are stacking the courts with right-wing, corporate-controlled ideologues. Trump provides the daily entertainment; the elites handle the business of looting, exploiting and destroying… He is useful to those who hold real power in the corporate state, however much they would like to domesticate him.

    Trump’s bizarre ramblings and behavior…serve a useful purpose. They are a colorful diversion from the razing of democratic institutions. As cable news networks feed us stories of his trysts with a porn actress and outlandish tweets, the real work of the elites is being carried out largely away from public view. The courts are stacked with Federalist Society judges, the fossil fuel industry is plundering public lands and the coastlines and ripping up regulations that protected us from its poisons, and the Pentagon, given carte blanche, is engaged in an orgy of militarism with a trillion-dollar-a-year budget and about 800 military bases in scores of countries around the world.

Yes, the “OMG Trump!” media (including Wolff’s publisher) has been consumed with its fixation on the orange-tinted beast in the White House.  But Wolff fails to note the ideological selectivity in its obsession.  The “liberal” corporate media – itself a key part of the nation’s business and military establishment – has focused especially on the president’s weird behavior and transgressions, and on the oversold and deeply conservative, diversionary, and imperialist Russiagate narrative. Lost in all this are the far more important problems that Hedges mentions: the accelerated plundering and spoliation of the common good, including above all livable ecology, the ramped-up plutocratic ruination of what’s left of democracy and popular sovereignty by the nation’s unelected and interrelated dictatorships of wealth and money.

(Speaking of environmental ruin, Wolff omits Trump’s supremely flawed, dysfunctional, and insultingly racist response to the climate change-driven hurricanes that ravaged Texas, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Island and Florida in August of 2017.  How those epic storms and Trump’s predictably botched reaction to them escaped attention in Fire and Fury is a bit of a mystery.)

“To Rationalize Why Someone Would be a Member of the KKK”

Let us not forget the revolting undercurrents of virulent sexism and racism that Trump embodies and channels. Wolff says far too little about the gender question, but here, on race, is a chilling passage from Wolff’s depressing account of how Trump was finally compelled to reluctantly denounce the vicious white-supremacist Nazi and Ku Klux Klan thugs who wreaked murderous havoc in Charlottesville, Virginia in early August of 2017:

    It was a reluctant mini-grovel…he looked like a kid called on the carpet. Resentful and petulant, he was clearly reading forced lines…As he got back on Marine One to head to Andrews Air Force base…his mood was dark and I-told-you-so.  Privately, he kept trying to rationalize why someone would be a member of the KKK – that is, they might not actually believe what the KKK believed, and the KKK probably does not believe what it used to believe, and, anyway, who really knows what the KKK believes now?  In fact, he said, his own father was accused of being involved with the KKK – not true (In fact, yes, true) (p. 295, emphasis added)

That is a remarkable paragraph.  I had to read it three times to believe it.

Mainstream media liberals and others seized with passion on every and any Wolff passage and finding that could be poured into the obsessive Russiagate frame but on the two hundred and ninety-fifth page of Fire and Fury you can read that a sitting President of the United States “kept trying to rationalize why someone would be a member of the KKK.”

I don’t recall anyone in the dominant corporate media jumping on that horrifying revelation when the book was pre-released.

The Danger of Despair

Besides the endless Trumpian distraction and diversion that Wolff seems almost to bemoan even as he advances it (Fire and Fury is the ultimate monument to the nauseating culture of “OMG Trump really did/said/Tweeted that?!), there is something else that Wolff doesn’t mention: the related danger of despair. Beyond the nonstop infantile titillation of the Brave New Trump World, the dreadfulness of the orange-tinted Awful One may also help foster and deepen public cynicism and apathy and a related forlorn sense that government and the nation’s political life are simply beyond redemption.  This promises to dangerously reduce citizen engagement by telling Americans that politics are hopelessly stupid and pointless.  Authoritarians love it when We the People turn away from public and political life.

Next Time We May Not Be So Lucky

Another danger with Fire and Fury is that the book’s shocking depiction of just how truly terrible Trump is tends to fuel the same lazy, Lesser-Evilist “Anyone but Trump” approach that helped Boss Tweet defeat the noxious neoliberal Hillary Clinton – and that encourages the dismal, dollar-drenched Democrats to run yet another depressing Wall Street- and Pentagon-captive presidential candidate whose underlying loyalty to the nation’s economic and military rulers yields yet another terrible Republican presidency in, say, 2021 or 2025.

Reading Wolff’s book, I was left with the strange sense that America and the world may have dodged a bullet of sorts with the oafish and venal Trump. An oafish plutocrat desperate to be liked, Trump lacks the moral and intellectual rigor, self-control, and fierce ideological conviction required to be the charismatic and iron-willed fascist that the sinister Steve Bannon would like to have installed at the head of a New American Reich. Trump is too venal, cloddish, and childishly egoistic to play that role.

However terrible and right-wing the Trump presidency may have been so far, we can at least be thankful for that.  We may not be so lucky the next time the deplorable corporate and imperial Democrats – the nation’s Inauthentic Opposition Party – hands the White House over yet again to the ever more apocalyptic, eco-cidal, and openly racist white-nationalist Republican Party.

Never Forget How Deplorable the Democrats Are

Which reminds me of another juicy Fire and Fury passage that escaped mainstream “liberal” journalists’ and commentators’ attention after the historic volume was released and the meticulously examined by reporters and pundits looking for impeachable offenses:

    All things considered, [Trump] probably preferred the notion of more people having health insurance than fewer people having it…he probably favored government-funded health care more than any other Republican, ‘’Why can’t Medicare simply cover everybody?’ he had impatiently wondered aloud during one discussion with aides, all of whom were careful not to react to this heresy’” (p. 165, emphasis added).

    ‘Why can’t Medicare simply cover everybody?” A good question! Apparently, even the “fucking moron” Donald Trump could at least momentarily grasp the elementary obviousness of Single Payer as the basic health insurance solution.

    The Clintons and Obama, with their Ivy League law degrees, knew better. “David, tell me something interesting.” That was then First Lady Hillary Clinton’s weary and exasperated response – as head of the White House’s health reform initiative – to Harvard medical professor David Himmelstein in 1993. Himmelstein was head of Physicians for a National Health Program. He had just told her about the remarkable possibilities of a comprehensive, single-payer “Canadian style” health plan, supported by more than two-thirds of the U.S. public. Beyond backing by a citizen super-majority, Himmelstein noted, single-payer would provide comprehensive coverage to the nation’s 40 million uninsured while retaining free choice in doctor selection and being certified by the Congressional Budget Office as “the most cost-effective plan on offer.”

    There was no dishonesty in Hillary’s dismissive remark. Consistent with her elitist and arch-corporatist neoliberal world view, she really was bored and irritated by Himmelstein’s pitch. Along with the big insurance companies they deceptively railed against, the Clintons decided from the start to exclude the popular, social-democratic health insurance alternative (Single Payer) from the national health care “discussion.” Obama would do the same exact same thing in 2009, passing a complicated program that only the big insurance and drug companies could embrace.

What the First Lady advanced instead of the Canadian system that bored her was a hopelessly complex, secretly developed and corporatist system called “managed competition.” It was just another day at the class rule office with the Inauthentic Opposition Party, which always prefers to lose to the right than to lose to the left – even to the milquetoast left in its own party.  And it was no small indication of why she would lose to the “crazy” and “stupid” Trump – much to the gob-smacked amazement of Trump and most of this campaign staff (see Fire and Fury, pp. 11-18) – in 2016.

How and why Trump won, or perhaps more to the point, how Hillary and Democrats lost, is an absent topic in Fire and Fury – this, even though Wolff was on the Trump beat during the 2016 campaign.  Wolff’s book could (for reasons suggested above) ironically be part of how Trump or some other terrible and potentially worse Republican will win again – and the Democrats lose once more – in 2020 or 2024.

Never underestimate the right-wing evil and idiocy of the dismal and deplorable, dollar-drenched Democrats. Since Trump’s triumph, the Intercept  reports,  the party’s big money establishment has been systematically undercutting progressive Single-Payer Sanders-style office-seekers who would be likely to prevail by running (imagine) in accord with majority-progressive public opinion in 2018 and 2020. Along the way, Congressional Democrats can’t seem to stop voting to give more military and spying dollars and power to a president they criticize as corrupt, crazy, and incompetent, some citing Fire and Fury in their denunciations.

Postscript: Hey, Hey, NRA, How Many Kids Did You Kill Today?

As I finished this essay, the U.S. experienced yet another tragic mass shooting committed by a deranged psychotic in possession of military-style assault weaponry – this one at a Florida high school. Please see my October 4, 2017 Counterpunch essay, “The NRA’s Latest Terrorist Attack on U.S. Soil.” It is a (still relevant, I think) reflection on how the National Rifle Association (the powerful gun lobby that is responsible for the United States’ saturation with high-kill assault weapons) is a terrorist organization – and on the neoliberal agenda that lurks behind the NRA’s project of arming everyone to the teeth. I guess we all know the standard drill by now: (1) some moderately sane liberal media and politics figures meekly bring up gun control; (2) vicious NRA-captive Republican authorities dodge the gun question and talk about mental health; (3) nothing happens to curb the gun madness and the clock is already ticking until the next mass shooting.  It’s just a matter of time. It’s formulaic at this stage; you can write the script in advance. It’s just another day at the mass-homicidal office in the “Armed Madhouse” (Greg Palast) that US Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) once described – in a speech joining her with then Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) in authorizing George W. Bush to criminally invade Iraq under false pretenses if he wanted to (he did) – as “the beacon the world of how life should be.”  A useful slogan, perhaps: “Hey, Hey, NRA, How Many Kids Did You Kill Today?”
« Last post by RE on February 17, 2018, 11:04:53 PM »
The deal with Trumpofsky and the Ruskies is not really the election, it's his years in the real estate bizness where both his father and himself HAD to be in bizness with organized crime.  You don't build Casinos in New Jersey without rubbing shoulders with the mob.

The Ruskies are no different, they are an organized crime mafia also, just on the international scale.  Ruskie Pigmen have had a lot of money to launder over the years, and Donalditry was happy to sell them mansions they didn't even live in at inflated prices to keep his Real Estate Empire floating.  Besides that, he took his Miss Universe Pageant to Mother Russia and hobknobbed with the gangsters over there as well.

Lord only know what kind of dirt they have on him given his penchant for pussy grabbing.  ::)

Where there's smoke 🚬, there's fire. 🔥

« Last post by RE on February 17, 2018, 10:49:07 PM »
I come here to LEARN something, and DISCUSS things - not to keep on posting serious stuff while everybody else raves about their BBQ equipment.

I put up at least 3 new Doom stories from around the web every night.  Knarf puts up a dozen or more every day too.  Surly posts his Newz stories every morning.  There is plenty there for you to learn from and discuss too if you write your opinions and other Diners find the topic interesting enough to discuss.

Far as the Food thread goes, that IS doom related.  I am reminding people of the current cornucopia of food we have available which is NOT going to be available when SHTF Day arrives.  This week also for the Dinner meals, I put up all alternative foods including frogs and insects.  Besides that, it goes with the Theme of the Diner as a place to eat and discuss the news of the day.  Also, nobody is FORCING you to click the links to the Diner Pantry.  If the food pics don't interest you, don't go to that thread!  ::)

You are just being cranky.

« Last post by Palloy2 on February 17, 2018, 08:47:24 PM »
RE: But you'll eat canned tuna from Thailand!  ::)  Your loss, I make a mean Python Stew. :P  Oh, and GO put up the Tony Bennet post.

Hilariously funny.  :D

If you want more Doomy material, post it up.

I come here to LEARN something, and DISCUSS things - not to keep on posting serious stuff while everybody else raves about their BBQ equipment.
« Last post by Palloy2 on February 17, 2018, 08:35:56 PM »
Surly: Just keep counting the indictments, Putinbot. You have to be in full-bore denial to call indictments unbalanced reporting.
Hillary Clinton Outspent Russians 53-1... And Lost
Tyler Durden
Sat, 02/17/2018

The mixed messages from yesterday's "shocking" indictments of some Russian trolls (while The FBI was busily ignoring potential mass murderers in Florida) need some context to calm the chaotic "told you so" narrative spewing from every orifice of every side in this debacle.

Hillary Clinton spent 53 times more money per month than Russians seeking to influence the 2016 presidential election.

As The Daily Caller's Amber Athey details, according to reports, the monthly Russian budget for the operation to meddle in the election was $1.2 million. As Peter Hamby pointed out on Twitter, Clinton and supporting PAC Priorities USA spent approximately $800 million in 2016.

That means Clinton and her PAC spent about $66 million a month in 2016, a whopping 53 times more money than Russia’s $1.25 million monthly budget.

It’s also worth nothing that not all of the money spent by the Russian operation was used to campaign for President Donald Trump. According to the Mueller indictment released Friday, Russian trolls also supported Jill Stein and Bernie Sanders and even planted seeds for leftist groups like “Blacktivist” and “Woke Blacks.”

After the election, Russians continued to sow division in the United States by riling up “#Resist” groups involved in anti-Trump protests.

But none of that matters... Russians 'meddled' - end of story, Adam Schiff will no doubt be popping corks this weekend.
« Last post by Palloy2 on February 17, 2018, 08:29:11 PM »
Surly: Just keep counting the indictments, Putinbot. You have to be in full-bore denial to call indictments unbalanced reporting.
Mueller Indictment - The "Russian Influence" Is A Commercial Marketing Scheme
February 17, 2018

Yesterday the Justice Department indicted the Russian Internet Research Agency on some dubious legal grounds. It covers thirteen Russian people and three Russian legal entities. The main count of the indictment is an alleged "Conspiracy to Defraud the United States".

The published indictment gives support to our long held believe that there was no "Russian influence" campaign during the U.S. election. What is described and denounced as such was instead a commercial marketing scheme which ran click-bait websites to generate advertisement revenue and created online crowds around virtual persona to promote whatever its commercial customers wanted to promote.

The indictment is fodder for the public to prove that the Mueller investigation is "doing something". It is full of unproven assertions and assumptions. It is a sham in that none of the Russian persons or companies indicted will ever come in front of a U.S. court. That is bad because the indictment is build on the theory of a new crime which, unless a court throws it out, can be used to incriminate other people in other cases and might even apply to this blog. The later part of this post will refer to that.

In the early 1990s some dude in St.Petersburg made a good business selling hot dogs. He then opened a colorful restaurant. He invited local celebrities and politicians to gain notoriety while serving cheap food for too high prices. It was a good business. A few years later he moved to Moscow and gained contracts to cater to schools and to the military. The food he served was still substandard.

But catering bad food as school lunches gave him, by chance, the idea for a new business:

    Parents were soon up in arms. Their children wouldn’t eat the food, saying it smelled rotten.

    As the bad publicity mounted, Mr. Prigozhin’s company, Concord Catering, launched a counterattack, a former colleague said. He hired young men and women to overwhelm the internet with comments and blog posts praising the food and dismissing the parents’ protests.

    “In five minutes, pages were drowning in comments,” said Andrei Ilin, whose website serves as a discussion board about public schools. “And all the trolls were supporting Concord.”

The trick worked beyond expectations. Prigozhin had found a new business. He hired some IT staff and low paid temps to populate various message boards, social networks and the general internet with whatever his customers asked him for.

You have a bad online reputation? Prigozhin can help. His internet company will fill the net with positive stories and remarks about you. Your old and bad reputation will be drowned by the new and good one. Want to promote a product or service? Prigozhin's online marketeers can address the right crowds.

To achieve those results the few temps who worked on such projects needed to multiply their online personalities. It is better to have fifty people vouch for you online than just five. No one cares if these are real people or just virtual ones. The internet makes it easy to create such sock-puppets. The virtual crowd can then be used to push personalities, products or political opinions. Such schemes are nothing new or special. Every decent "western" public relations and marketing company will offer a similar service and has done so for years.

While it is relatively easy to have sock-puppets swamp the comment threads of such sites as this blog, it is more difficult to have a real effect on social networks. These depend on multiplier effects. To gain many real "likes", "re-tweets" or "followers" an online persona needs a certain history and reputation. Real people need to feel attached to it. It takes some time and effort to build such a multiplier personality, be it real or virtual.

At some point Prigozhin, or whoever by then owned the internet marketing company, decided to expand into the lucrative English speaking market. This would require to build many English language online persona and to give those some history and time to gain crowds of followers and a credible reputation. The company sent a few of its staff to the U.S. to gain some impressions, pictures and experience of the surroundings. They would later use these to impersonate as U.S. locals. It was a medium size, long-term investment of maybe a hundred-thousand bucks over two or three years.

The U.S. election provided an excellent environment to build reputable online persona with large followings of people with discriminable mindsets. The political affinity was not important. The personalities only had to be very engaged and stick to their issue - be it left or right or whatever. The sole point was to gain as many followers as possible who could be segmented along social-political lines and marketed to the companies customers.

Again - there is nothing new to this. It is something hundreds, if not thousands of companies are doing as their daily business. The Russian company hoped to enter the business with a cost advantage. Even its mid-ranking managers were paid as little as $1,200 per month. The students and other temporary workers who would 'work' the virtual personas as puppeteers would earn even less. Any U.S. company in a similar business would have higher costs.

In parallel to building virtual online persona the company also built some click-bait websites and groups and promoted these through mini Facebook advertisements. These were the "Russian influence ads" on Facebook the U.S. media were so enraged about. They included the promotion of a Facebook page about cute puppies. Back in October we described how those "Russian influence" ads (most of which were shown after the election or were not seen at all) were simply part of a commercial scheme:

    The pages described and the ads leading to them are typical click-bait, not part of a political influence op.
    One builds pages with "hot" stuff that hopefully attracts lots of viewers. One creates ad-space on these pages and fills it with Google ads. One attracts viewers and promotes the spiked pages by buying $3 Facebook mini-ads for them. The mini-ads are targeted at the most susceptible groups.

    A few thousand users will come and look at such pages. Some will 'like' the puppy pictures or the rant for or against LGBT and further spread them. Some will click the Google ads. Money then flows into the pockets of the page creator. One can rinse and repeat this scheme forever. Each such page is a small effort for a small revenue. But the scheme is highly scaleable and parts of it can be automatized.

Because of the myriad of U.S. sanctions against Russia the monetization of these business schemes required some creativity. One can easily find the name of a real U.S. person together with the assigned social security number and its date of birth. Those data are enough to open, for example, a Paypal account under a U.S. name. A U.S. customer of the cloaked Russian Internet company could then pay to the Paypal account and the money could be transferred from there to Moscow. These accounts could also be used to buy advertisement on Facebook. The person who's data was used to create the account would never learn of it and would have no loss or other damage. Another scheme is to simply pay some U.S. person to open a U.S. bank account and to then hand over the 'keys' to that account.

The Justice Department indictment is quite long and detailed. It must have been expensive. If you read it do so with the above in mind. Skip over the assumptions and claims of political interference and digest only the facts. All that is left is, as explained, a commercial marketing scheme.

I will not go into all its detail of the indictment but here are some points that support the above description.

Point 4:

    Defendants, posing as US. persons and creating false U.S. personas, operated social media pages and groups designed to attract U.S. audiences. These groups and pages, which addressed divisive US. political and social issues, falsely claimed to be controlled by US. activists when, in fact, they were controlled by Defendants. Defendants also used the stolen identities of real U.S. persons to post on social media accounts. Over time, these social media accounts became Defendants' means to reach significant numbers of Americans ...

Point 10d:

    By in or around April 2014, the ORGANIZATION formed a department that went by various names but was at times referred to as the "translator project." This project focused on the US. population and conducted operations on social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. By approximately July 2016, more than eighty ORGANIZATION employees were assigned to the translator project.

(Some U.S. media today made the false claim that $1.25 million per month were spend by the company for its U.S. campaign. But Point 11 of the indictment says that the company ran a number of such projects with some directed at a Russian audience while only the one described in 10d above is aimed at an U.S. audience. All these projects together had a monthly budget of $1.25 million.)

(Point 17, 18 and 19 indict individual persons who have worked for the "translator" project" "to at least in and around [some month] 2014". It is completely unclear how these persons, who seem to have left the company two years before the U.S. election, are supposed to have anything to do with the claimed "Russian influence" on the U.S. election.)

Point 32:

    Defendants and their co-conspirators, through fraud and deceit, created hundreds of social media accounts and used them to develop certain fictitious U.S. personas into "leaders of public opinion" in the United States.

The indictment then goes on and on describing the "political activities" of the sock-puppet personas. Some posted pro-Hillary slogans, some anti-Hillary stuff, some were pro-Trump, some anti-all, some urged not to vote, others to vote for third party candidates. Some of the persona called for going to anti-Islam rallies while others promoted pro-Islam rallies. There was in fact no overall political trend in all of this. The sock-puppets did not post fake news. They posted mainstream media stories. The sole point was to create a large total following by having multiple personas which together covered all potential strata.

At Point 86 the indictment turns to Count Two - "Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud and Bank Fraud". The puppeteers opened, as explained above, various Paypal accounts using 'borrowed' data.

Then comes the point which confirms the commercial marketing story as laid out above:

Point 95:

    Defendants and their co-conspirators also used the accounts to receive money from real U.S. persons in exchange for posting promotions and advertisements on the ORGANIZATION-controlled social media pages. Defendants and their co-conspirators typically charged certain U.S. merchants and U.S. social media sites between 25 and 50 U.S. dollars per post for promotional content on their popular false U.S. persona accounts, including Being Patriotic, Defend the 2nd, and Blacktivist.

There you have it. There was no political point to what the Russian company did. Whatever political slogans one of the company's sock-puppets posted had only one aim: to increase the number of followers for that sock-puppet. The sole point of creating a diverse army of sock-puppets with large following crowds was to sell the 'eyeballs' of the followers to the paying customers of the marketing company.

There were, according to the indictment, eighty people working on the "translator project". These controlled "hundreds" of sock-puppets online accounts each with a distinct "political" personality. Each of these sock-puppets had a large number of followers - in total several hundred-thousands. Now let's assume that one promotional post can be sold per day on each of the sock-puppets content stream. The scheme generates several thousand dollars per day ($25 per promo, hundreds of sock-puppets, 1-5 promos per day per sock-puppet). The costs for this were limited to the wages of up to eighty persons in Moscow, many of them temps, of which the highest paid received some $1,000 per month. While the upfront multiyear investment to create and establish the virtual personas was probably significant, this was, over all, a highly profitable business.

Again - this had nothing to do with political influence on the election. The sole point of political posts was to create 'engagement' and a larger number of followers in each potential social-political segment. People who buy promotional posts want these to be targeted at a specific audience. The Russian company could offer whatever audience was needed. It had sock-puppets with pro-LGBT view and a large following and sock-puppets with anti-LGBT views and a large following. It could provide pro-2nd amendment crowds as well as Jill Stein followers. Each of the sock-puppets had over time generated a group of followers that were like minded. The entity buying the promotion simply had to choose which group it preferred to address.

The panic of the U.S. establishment over the loss of their preferred candidate created an artificial storm over "Russian influence" and assumed "collusion" with the Trump campaign. (Certain Democrats though, like Adam Schiff, profit from creating a new Cold War through their sponsoring armament companies.)

The Mueller investigation found no "collusion" between anything Russia and the Trump campaign. The indictment does not mentions any. The whole "Russian influence" storm is based on a misunderstanding of commercial activities of a Russian marketing company in U.S. social networks.

There is a danger in this. The indictment sets up a new theory of nefarious foreign influence that could be applied to even this blog. As U.S. lawyer Robert Barns explains:

    The only thing frightening about this indictment is the dangerous and dumb precedent it could set: foreign nationals criminally prohibited from public expression in the US during elections unless registered as foreign agents and reporting their expenditures to the FEC.
    Mueller's new crime only requires 3 elements: 1) a foreign national; 2) outspoken on US social media during US election; and 3) failed to register as a foreign agent or failed to report receipts/expenditures of speech activity. Could indict millions under that theory.
    The legal theory of the indictment for most of the defendants and most of the charges alleges that the "fraud" was simply not registering as a foreign agent or not reporting expenses to the FEC because they were a foreign national expressing views in a US election.

Author Leonid Bershidsky, who prominently writes for Bloomberg, remarks:

    I'm actually surprised I haven't been indicted. I'm Russian, I was in the U.S. in 2016 and I published columns critical of both Clinton and Trump w/o registering as a foreign agent.

As most of you will know your author writing this is German. I write pseudo-anonymously for a mostly U.S. audience. My postings are political and during the U.S. election campaign expressed an anti-Hillary view. The blog is hosted on U.S, infrastructure paid for by me. I am not registered as Foreign Agent or with the Federal Election Commission.

Under the theory on which the indictment is based I could also be indicted for a similar "Conspiracy to Defraud the United States".

(Are those of you who kindly donate for this blog co-conspiractors?)

When Yevgeni Prigozhin, the hot dog caterer who allegedly owns the internet promotion business, was asked about the indictment he responded:

    "The Americans are really impressionable people, they see what they want to see. [...] If they want to see the devil, let them see him."
« Last post by RE on February 17, 2018, 07:21:28 PM »
As you can probably guess, I'm somewhat frustrated that DD has become a website for photographs of meals, art, and bikini babes, songs by Tony Bennett, ridiculous nonsense about boats, stupid votes about things that don't matter, and endless tripe about Trump - nothing to do with Doom any more. Its almost as if you are trying to make the site collapse.

That's fine if you are enjoying yourselves, I'll leave the five of you to it.

If you want more Doomy material, post it up.  I responded to your Syria post, and so did Surly.  Stop complaining and post up what you think is worthwhile.

« Last post by Palloy2 on February 17, 2018, 07:16:07 PM »
As you can probably guess, I'm somewhat frustrated that DD has become a website for photographs of meals, art, and bikini babes, songs by Tony Bennett, ridiculous nonsense about boats, stupid votes about things that don't matter, and endless tripe about Trump - nothing to do with Doom any more. Its almost as if you are trying to make the site collapse.

That's fine if you are enjoying yourselves, I'll leave the five of you to it.
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