Someone stole copies of a big bunch of internal communications among members of a political group that was at the time working to get its candidate elected as US President.
Did the theft compromise national defense security information?
Did it reveal grave criminal activity?
Did it promulgate false information or propaganda?
So what’s the big deal?
To have the internal communications become public was embarrassing to the political group.
If the group was concerned about being embarrassed, why didn’t it better protect its communications?
No one knows. (See Footnote #1.) It certainly wasn’t due to a shortage of money; this group had enormously greater resources available than did the opposing group. And it wasn’t due to ignorance; the FBI had repeatedly warned the group a whole year earlier that its internal communications were vulnerable to external penetration. (The opposing political party group heeded the same FBI warnings and immediately instituted very strong security measures in its internal communications system; this group did not.) Their main candidate had long been embroiled in very public controversy surrounding the vulnerability of a private e-mail account and server irresponsibly maintained and used for official business in violation of US government regulations while the candidate was filling very high government position. Furthermore, in 2010, while this same candidate was serving as Secretary of State, an unstable US Army private stole and leaked to a public web site 250,000 sensitive and classified State Department cables which had been sent to Washington by 274 of its consulates, embassies, and diplomatic missions around the world, a breach that caused great embarrassment and frayed international relationships for the US government. Given the history, especially past and on-going FBI investigations over this same subject, it seemed as if the group’s communications had simply been offered up to anyone in the world who wanted to pick them up, including any of a hundred other countries who would have a definite interest in exploiting them, then or in the future. Many of the group’s members have long been involved with government and media, and they know that in this age of “social media” and “monthly hacking” that no one can presume “privacy” anymore. They even know that such “lack of privacy” is used to excuse their own government and police agencies for also stealing private communications, tracking citizen movements, and photographing citizens as they wish and then creating immense databases of them all for future reference and consultation.
As anyone employed in the foreign affairs arena knows full well, collecting information about the candidates and politicians of other countries, by any means available, is a universally accepted and expected role of both government and news media. (See Footnote #1.) All countries do it, and some countries, like the US, have an extremely broad array of collection means available to them. The group’s failure to adequately protect its sensitive internal communications simply defies logic, and, at the least, indicates a truly gross error in judgment, some would say the height of stupidity that alone should have disqualified the group from any role in American government. (There’s an inherent arrogance here that implies, “I am special. I and my entourage have been levitating inexorably to the queen’s throne for years. Furthermore, since I can hide behind the world’s almighty military super-power, I don’t have to consider the consequences of my cavalier actions.”)
So why was the information embarrassing?
None of the stolen documents were classified national defense secrets; they were all unclassified communications among political party operatives conducting an open political campaign in the US, communications such as might be found on anyone’s home computer or Facebook page. The documents provided, in their own words, irrefutable evidence revealing group members’ disdain for the voting public, their conspiracy to sideline challenging candidates in their own political party, their efforts to pit voter interest groups against each other in order to gain votes, their calculations to simply write off certain groups such as Catholics as not worth the effort, intense internal disagreements about their own message and methods, their cavalier disregard of laws governing the protection of official government records, their securing debate questions in advance for the unfair benefit of their candidate, their using high government position to draw huge foreign contributions to a quasi-private foundation controlled by the candidate’s family while blurring the lines between the government and the foundation, their exceedingly arrogant assumption that voters are helpless morons, and their very cozy relationship with the nation’s establishment press and entertainment media. Overall, the stolen communications show a group believing and doing things directly counter of what it was saying to the public. The simple lesson is the same that has visited politicians since the inception of the United States of America 240 years ago: “If you don’t want to be embarrassed before the American people, don’t deceive the American people.” If you don’t want to be revealed as a hypocrite, don’t be a hypocrite. After all, these are political people who still revere messenger Daniel Ellsberg and his purloined secret “Pentagon Papers” (highly classified national defense information) which the New York Times was happy to publish in 1971, justifying its action because politicians had “systematically lied, not only to the public but also to Congress.” And now they were caught in unclassified communications doing the same thing.
That’s politics. So where’s the beef?
The group is very upset that such truths about itself were revealed before the public voted.
Would the group prefer that the information be revealed after the public voted and could not then change their votes?
Apparently they would prefer that such truths never be revealed, but if truth was to be revealed, then apparently it’s better if the voting public is not fully informed before casting its votes. Of course, this greatly depends on which side benefits from the revelations and which side is harmed. Four years earlier, during the 2012 presidential campaign, a secretly recorded video of the opposing candidate making an impromptu comment in private surfaced that appeared to show him writing off 47% of voters who believe they are entitled to dependency on government without even paying income taxes. That video, also appearing to provide evidence of hypocrisy, of disdain for voters, was used by the group working to win that election for this same political party to negatively tarnish the opposing candidate shortly before that election. And a partisan “news” organization lost no sleep over digging up an old surreptitiously recorded video containing embarrassing comments by the losing candidate’s political opponent and passing it to a second “news” organization for release to the public on the eve of this election with the deliberate intent of damaging the winning candidate’s chances. Such actions are undeniably attempts to “interfere in an American election.” So it isn’t as if this group and its partisan groups had no prior experience with revelations of “inconvenient truths” in the late days of an intense political campaign.
On the positive side, releasing the documents to the public all at once meant that it was a “one-and-done” act which precluded any future use of the information. If the communications, which were authentic, were stolen by a state player, that player could have held them for future use if the candidate had won the election, to use as a type of strategic blackmail leverage in order to extract concessions from the US government. If the communications were embarrassing before the election, they would have been even more embarrassing if their candidate had won the election, as almost universally expected, “under false pretenses.” (This would have been the probable choice if the hacking had been done by an enemy state.)
Why didn’t they make a big stink when the truths became public before the election?
Right up to election day evening, weeks after the truths were revealed, all the pre-election polling showed that there was still no way their candidate could possibly lose. Both the popular vote and the electoral college count were expected, by a dozen polling organizations and many newspapers and political groups, to be landslide wins. The expected winner’s entourage was even making tentative cabinet selections – well before the election – which would essentially ensure a continuation of the sitting administration’s policies. So, as long as their candidate’s victory was to “everyone” a foregone conclusion, there was no need to draw further unwanted attention to those embarrassing truths. When that candidate did lose, and in a very striking and unexpected manner, it came as a great shock to “everyone”. (See Footnote #2 for the best real explanation for the election results.) (Full disclosure: I was not a fan of either Trump or Clinton. I was sort of in favor of Rand Paul, who never made it to first base in a race that saw every one of twenty different embarrassing candidates for the presidency of the USA make really stupid comments, in public.)
Why did the pre-election polling get it so wrong?
For an entire year before the election, the two establishment political parties, the establishment press, our truly immense chattering class, and the entertainment media, operating in their own partisan echo chambers, threw enormous resources and effort into incessant vilification of one particular candidate and his supporters. That vilification became so intense, vicious and intimidating that millions of those supporters felt compelled to lie about their support – and such lies falsely skewed the polling. Many people were loath, afraid, to admit to anyone that they agreed with the candidate being so broadly attacked by so many organized group-think entities and herds. In the face of such relentless year-long insults and hatred, an incredible 63,000,000 people still actually voted directly against the overwhelming popular “wisdom”, and that number even included a majority of women voters.
Donald Trump won the votes of 63,000,000 Americans because he was not a politician, because he was not a professional liar. It was just that simple. All of those many millions of voters told “the damned politically correct establishment” – in both censored politics and the censored “press” in its own tightly closed echo chamber – to “go to hell.” Trump didn’t win as much as the establishment lost – the whole phony, corrupt, incestuous, self-serving, blame-shifting, hypocritical cabal systematically destroying America from the inside out. The establishment’s biggest problem was that all of its thinking had been done for its members by their Greatest Generation parents, for a world that ceased to exist a full quarter of a century earlier, and so comfortable had they become that they hadn’t even noticed this or even that they had never bothered to come up with a single original thought of their own. Those Trump voters, on the other hand, had spent the last 25 years learning that politicians’ campaign promises were nothing but empty lies used to buy their votes, and supported by a complacent big-city navel-contemplating press, that like so many others did nothing but sit on its ass and talk, that conspired to keep them in power by shaping the political landscape to construct the monstrous nanny state. Thanks to majority whining women, the center of BOTH major political parties had moved inexorably FAR left of where they began when Jack Kennedy was President in 1960, and that whining communist socialism had nearly bankrupt the nation by stealing the futures of our children and grandchildren and THEIR children and grandchildren. It seemed as if over half the world, as some sort of unearned birthright entitlement, was leisurely feeding on an American teat kept barely viable by an ever-dwindling few. They voted for an anti-politician to blow it ALL up, to do whatever was necessary to shake America back to its senses. Any twit on any street corner can talk; talk is the cheapest thing there is.
The losers are now VERY upset about losing and very frighteningly vocal about being “cheated” of their expected easy win. These people, who were making elaborate plans to crown their queen and reap the bountiful rewards of her majesty’s many royal proclamations, are now fervently dedicated to “delegitimizing” the winner – a winner who had to beat BOTH establishment political parties. Most of those who voted for the winning candidate, including members of the candidate’s own team, were just as surprised as everyone else that he actually won. Even though being compelled to lie resulted in the best possible revenge – their candidate’s surprise victory – many of his supporters still feel compelled to lie about their vote and sincerely thank the secrecy of the American ballot. So do I. We’ve had enough bogeyman witch hunts by sore losers in this country’s history.
Amazing. How was the information made public?
It was published on an internet web site dedicated to leaking embarrassing documents about government activities kept hidden from citizens around the world. Americans typically view this web site as “anti-American”, but judging by the large number of other countries whose leaders and institutions have also been caught deceiving their citizens, mainly through the publication of their own embarrassing documents, it’s probably more correct to say that the global site is more “anti-hypocrite” than anything else. This characterization coincidently meshes with the Russian president’s oft-stated objective of revealing the hypocrisy of the western liberal political establishment in general. So some western nitwits, usually those who failed to protect their own government’s sensitive information, see some sort of imagined conspiracy between the web site and the Russian intelligence services, primarily as a blame-shifting tactic.
If it was the truth, why was it not first published by the US establishment press?
Because that press supported the political group’s candidate, was not interested in truths that might embarrass that candidate, was actually dedicated to glossing over the candidate’s questionable record and failures of judgment, and was itself violating ethical Fourth Estate “freedom of press” standards with its blatant support of and cozy relationship with one political candidate over another. The establishment press’s coverage of the campaign was so one-sided, and remained so even a month after the election, that the leaked communications even seemed to somehow “balance” that coverage.
So the press was not doing its job?
Precisely. The proper role of a free press in a democracy is to discover and report the objective truth about government and politics to its citizens – so that those citizens can make fully informed decisions before casting their votes. In American democracy, everyone in government and politics works for the people, and the first responsibility of the press in such a democracy is to keep the people objectively and fully informed about their government and politics. The US Constitution grants special freedoms to the press so that it can execute that very responsibility to the people – and ensure that democracy remains open and honest and functional. The establishment press fell considerably short of meeting this responsibility. America’s truly humongous chattering class consists of herds of people who spend their lives sitting on their asses in their own echo chambers, demanding to hear only the “truth” they want to hear, and luxuriating in the comfort and security of their very own delusional security blankets. For example, it seem disingenuous at best for the media chattering class to invest so very much childishly shrill passion into the possibility that Mr. Trump might profit from his presidency, when it remained totally disinterested in the topic when the Clintons were routinely profiting from their positions. Just what is it, exactly, that makes certain people “special” – in a nation that claims “all equal under the law” is so very fundamental?
Did the revealed truths have any effect on the election result?
No one knows. No one has provided any evidence at all that the voting public was the least bit surprised by the truths revealed. That American establishment politics and American establishment press are both corrupt and dysfunctional has apparently become an accepted aspect of “normal” American life. No one has presented any evidence at all that the revealed information had any effect at all on the election results. Once the truths were published on the web site, the press had no choice but to report on them, but their reporting was essentially cursory, contradictory, dismissive. It was presented as just another political “dirty trick” involving highly suspect, probably faked, documents.
So who stole the documents?
No one is really certain. It very well could have been a disgruntled member of the political group itself – say a supporter of another party candidate who had been systematically marginalized by some of the group’s members in favor of the preordained candidate who emerged on top. It could have been someone working on behalf of the other political party. It could have been someone just trying to make mischief in a year when politics seemed to have taken leave of all sense and decorum. It could have been some anarchist nut-job just trying to shine a big spotlight on American establishment political hypocrisy, i.e., “to throw a giant monkey wrench into the works” and then sit back and watch it all self-destruct.
There were two separate thefts, neither very sophisticated. One targeted a common server used by the group and employed slightly advanced methods to gain access. The other targeted the e-mail account of a highly placed member of the group and employed a very common trick to get that person to reveal his own keys to the account. The different methods of gaining access suggest different players. But there are thousands of teenagers in America alone who could have done both low-level hacking jobs.
So why all the fuss now?
Monday-morning quarterbacking. Like almost all American elections, this election was decided by a very small number of popular votes, mainly a plurality of young urban women in New York and California. But that plurality of popular votes was not able to overcome a rather large majority of electoral college votes secured among the other 48 states. There’s not much of an argument to be made by focusing on the popular vote, especially when the rules of the game were well-known to everyone for centuries before this election and the losing candidate had enormously more experience and financial resources available to ensure a winning strategy in both the popular vote and the electoral college.
In 2012 President Obama, in a typically very close American election, won by getting 62,611,250 votes (50.4%) out of 124,046,580 votes cast. As usual, and as expected, Democrats were very heavy winners in cities, especially on the east and left coasts, where people are much more government-dependent, while Republicans were heavy winners in suburban and rural areas, especially in the heartland, where people are much more self-reliant. It probably helped Obama that 100,000,000 (44%) of eligible American voters (225,000,000) did not vote; a large majority of these voters were men. But President Obama, with a very smart strategy, was able to garner 332 electoral votes (61.7%), while his opponent, Mitt Romney, got only 206 (38.3%) of the 538 electoral college votes, giving Obama a very clear victory. His campaign concentrated mainly on big urban states and metropolitan areas, and primarily on women voters in those areas – and won a very close popular vote but chalked up a “landslide” win in the electoral college. (The humongous ‘Obamacare’ entitlement program was specifically designed to buy the votes of such women.) With a woman candidate just four years later, this same strategy should have guaranteed another win – which is precisely what the very comfortable Clinton campaign, and the establishment news media, regarded as a foregone conclusion.
The electoral college mechanism, deriving from the fact that the United States is a federation of 50 semi-independent states, ensures that Americans in vast “middle-America”, in the small and “fly-over” states, who do a great deal of the hard stuff, get the ear of presidential candidates every four years at campaign time. It requires those candidates to at least show up and listen, to at least pretend to earn their votes, which doesn’t seem to be expecting too much. It’s certainly better than the alternative: being completely ignored as of zero consequence. During the campaign, the losing candidate essentially labeled all these Americans as “the deplorables”, an arrogant “elitist” insult which probably did more damage than the stolen communications. So the strategy now is to bring the whole election into question by casting suspicion on “the process”, and thus to “delegitimize” the winner.
What does that mean?
Well, it means you approach the matter emotionally, via public opinion, to make “someone else” appear to be responsible for the losing candidate’s own failure, so that the election result is overturned, reversed. One candidate lost the electoral college vote by a quite large number (74 electoral votes or 14% of a total 538), but did win the popular vote (by 2,848,000 votes or 2.0% of a total 136,910,000 votes cast). This number is a fourth of the size of the women’s huge total voter majority, which means that a majority of women voted for the winning candidate and disproves the notion that the election was won by “angry white men” – the only “safe” target in our society. (The women’s voter majority is so large that it has enabled women to decide all elections since 1980. Working-age “white heterosexual men” constitute less than 15% of the US population.) (Yes, it’s just forty years of incessant whining propaganda.) That number is also less than two-thirds of the number of votes won by the Libertarian party (which otherwise probably would have gone to the winning candidate). So, by casting significant suspicion on another aspect of “the process”, supporters of the losing candidate might be able to get some electoral college voters to switch. In this way, 136,910,000 votes gets boiled down to a small nobility of just 38 people. If 38 electoral college voters switch their votes, if they vote counter to what their own voters wanted, then theoretically the winner loses.
Many cite the idealistic notion of simple “majority rule” as justification for eliminating the electoral college mechanism in our Constitution altogether, but this would require a very lengthy process of amending the Constitution while ignoring the facts that the United States is a federation and that the Constitution also contains other mechanisms enabling “majority rule” to be set aside. Such an effort would also impact many other parts of the Constitution that address the establishment of a federal system of governance plus countless subsequent Supreme Court decisions that were based on a federal system. And, for example, the Judicial branch has the constitutional power to invoke civil rights law to order practices designed to counter discrimination against minority groups by a “tyranny of the majority”, i.e., to overrule the wishes of a self-interested majority. (See “Let’s Change The Rules!”.)
(For the record, a majority of the popular vote in US presidential elections actually means a plurality, not something greater than 50%. In 1992, for example, liberal Bill Clinton won the election with only 43% of the popular vote. In that election he had TWO formidable challengers: conservative George H.W. Bush (who won 37%) and conservative Ross Perot (who won 20%). But Clinton did win a “landslide” victory with 370 electoral college votes (69%) by concentrating on urban women to take a majority of big city votes. And he did that right after Bush, the most internationally qualified presidential candidate in American history, had won the quickest and most decisive US military victory in American history.)
Simple “majority rule” is NOT the final word in our democracy. So raising doubts about “the process” in this particular election offers a quicker path.
How is suspicion cast on “the process”?
By blaming an evil messenger. The tactic seems to be to viciously attack a player responsible for obtaining and leaking the truth to the public, which somehow got 63,000,000 Americans to vote for the winner. This tactic has been employed rather frequently in recent times by weak minds with little or no effective counter to inconvenient truths. If nothing else, the tactic diverts public attention away from the message, away from the truth of the message. It’s a form of ad hominem propaganda: If you don’t like the message, just blame the messenger. (See “Marketing And Propaganda – Techniques“.) If you can attack the right messenger you can even accomplish additional objectives.
Well, everyone seems to have settled on the Russians as the big bad bogeyman. So it’s, “The Russians did it! The Russians interfered in an American election!”
By revealing the truth about American politics?
Exactly. And, even worse, they revealed it BEFORE the people voted.
Isn’t it right that the people have the truth before they vote?
Apparently not. Apparently, according to this “thinking”, the people don’t have a right to the truth before deciding.
So how does a Russian bogeyman messenger help the case?
This is not clear at all. The objective is to cast doubt on “the process” that provided the election results. The election “process” involves eligible registered American voters going to designated sites to cast their individual votes in secret and then having their ballot votes aggregated and published in a secure and honest manner. In recent times, it has also become possible to use secure US Postal Service mail to deliver the ballot in lieu of actually traveling to the polling place. But there is zero evidence of any fraud with the actual voting mechanisms in any of our fifty states, and most especially in favor of the winning candidate. (On the contrary, a recount in one state demanded by the losers even resulted in 131 MORE votes going to the winner, and in another state revealed that the voting machines in a major city, which voted by an astounding 95% for the loser, had actually registered more votes than voters, indicating some type of fraud in favor of the loser who demanded the recount.)
So the attention is on WHY people voted the way they did, on how those leaked embarrassing truths were supposed to affect voter opinion to achieve the election results. And, here, maybe it’s more preferable politically to blame the Russians than blaming any other possible bogeyman messenger. If “the other American political party did it”, well, “that’s politics”. If “the US press did it”, well, “that’s its job”. The tactic is to color it as “an attack on American democracy by a foreign power” that used devious methods to “interfere in a presidential election”. This tactic effectively shifts public attention from the fact that the published e-mails clearly showed that officials of the political party had already “interfered in a presidential election” by conspiring to marginalize and discredit a candidate in the party who was pulling votes away from their favored candidate. The e-mails also show that almost all of the vast “news” media also already tried to “interfere in a presidential election” by throwing all of its support behind just one pre-selected political candidate, which clearly belied its professed political independence. This tactic of blaming the Russians has the added benefit of also tarring the election winner through “guilt by association” with that evil foreign power.
“If someone is able to show me that what I think or do is not right, I will happily change, for I seek the truth, by which no one was ever truly harmed. It is the person who continues in his self-deception and ignorance who is harmed.”
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
But a rational person would ask, “How come the voters in California were immune?” Clinton won a huge 62% of the votes in that state, a majority of 3,400,00 votes. In the nation’s leftist capital (Washington), Clinton actually won an incredible 92% of the vote, while Trump took a measly 4%, despite all the “Russian influence in the election.” Clinton also won 62% in Hawaii, 61% in Maryland, Massachusetts and Vermont, 59% in New York, 55% in New Jersey, Rhode Island and Washington, 52% in Oregon – all ten states the usual leftist suspects on the east and left coasts. Apparently the usual group-think socialist strongholds in America had been very well vaccinated against the Russian inFLUence, while the other 40 states were not. Screaming politicians, bureaucrats and “journalists” in far-left New York, California and Washington DC, of course, are now at the forefront of the conspiracy theories trying to “delegitimize” the election victor. (If nothing else, the phenomenon certainly demonstrates the power of big echo chambers, constantly reinforced by social media herds.)
The biggest problem is that the leaked information is the TRUTH, not something manufactured, and voters DID have a right to that truth BEFORE they voted. Still, a foreign bogeyman messenger seems the best option to cast doubt on the election results. Its premise is that there are an enormous number of really dumb American voters out there. After all, people now seeking to discredit the election results certainly were not interested in pursuing the messenger of the “47% video” directed against the other side during the previous election. Instead they just made maximum use of the message, the “inconvenient truth”, to win, and repeated that tactic with another surreptitious video showing their current opponent years ago making comments in private about his reprehensible treatment of women. Obviously the messenger is more important than the message only when it’s to your own advantage to bury the message by attacking the messenger.
How can it be determined that the messenger was Russia?
The proper authority would be the nation’s foreign intelligence apparatus, but this apparatus is part of the government’s executive branch currently run by the losing candidate’s political party, and it usually deals in classified national defense information limited to select officials inside government. So this whole route is risky indeed, easily subject to accusations of one political party using the nation’s intelligence agencies to further its own self-serving political objectives – when the other political party will pick up the reins of the government’s executive branch in just one more month. The main “benefit” seems to be to “delegitimize” the incoming president’s administration, to make his job much more difficult for the next four years than it otherwise would be. Having already invested eight years of intense vilification of Russia, the task now will be to cast the new administration as “nothing more than a lackey tool of the evil Russians.” Having intelligence agencies get involved with domestic politics is anathema to the whole purpose of intelligence – by moving objective “intelligence” into the realm of political “propaganda” and removing ever-critical trust in the process.
Never-ending “leaks” from unnamed bureaucrats in the FBI, in the CIA, in the Department of Justice and in other government agencies, including even the White House National Security office – bureaucrat leakers who apparently are members of the losing political party – have indicated that the FBI has at least three separate investigations underway which are trying to determine the fact and purpose of any contacts between members of the winning candidate’s campaign team and Russian officials. The implication is that any such Americans arranged to have Russian intelligence conduct the hackings so as to benefit the winning candidate in the election. Of course, no one has shown that there is some law that makes such contacts between Americans and Russians illegal, any more than contacts between Americans and citizens of any other country would be illegal. Even if there was any hint of truth to such nefarious scheming, the notion is simply absurd. The difficulty of the hackings was so low-level that a very wide range of shadowy players inside the US could easily have conducted them, some just for the fun of it, so there was no logical reason for any such schemers to go outside the US to employ someone else. (We are not talking here, after all, about breaking into and stealing defense secrets from the national military intelligence center.) In fact, it is known that computer servers located in Arizona were used to route the hackers’ activities. Furthermore, having a foreign entity conduct the hackings significantly increases the problems before, during and after the acts and eliminates any degree of control over them, plus leaves the American schemers open to future blackmail by foreign interests beyond the reach of the Americans. The absence of any semblance of logic in these conspiracy theories is an indication of the degree to which many bureaucrats have taken leave of their senses – something that would surprise very few other Americans. Any Americans arranging to have the Russians, or any other foreign entity, hack an opposing political party in the US would have to be brain-dead stupid. The same can be said, of course, of those who believe that’s what happened.
What do the intelligence agencies say?
Nothing very specific. The Director of National Intelligence publicly stated before the election that “all 17” US intelligence agencies were in agreement that the Russians probably did it, but the statement didn’t gain legs, even when repeated after the election. This particular DNI (Clapper, the guy who lied to Congress about NSA spying on Americans) has never inspired confidence and usually appears as an unthinking puppet spokesman reciting “the party line”. His charge was patently absurd since, for example, some of those agencies have no way of making such a determination, dealing as they do in such intelligence platforms as satellite photography, and other agencies, including the FBI, were already on record as being not so sure. If the FBI, using NSA capabilities, fingers Russian players based inside the US, that revelation would reveal the ability of the government to track internal domestic communications, including those of US citizens. No individual intelligence agency, including DIA, has made an official public comment on the matter. It seems more accurate, based on “leaks” cited in the press, that the CIA alone was and is the driving force behind the accusations against Russia, but that agency has presented no evidence to any objective arbitrator, including members of Congress, to support that contention. A former temporary CIA director, Michael Morell, who fully expected to be named CIA Director when the losing candidate became President, and is now on the outside looking in, is a driving force behind that accusation in the establishment public press.
Across the federal government, about 90 percent of all spending on cyber programs is dedicated to offensive efforts, including penetrating the computer systems of “adversaries”, intercepting the communications of other people, and developing the means to disable or degrade infrastructure in other countries. Given that level of offensive interest in invading the privacy of others, a rational person would assume that others would be similarly interested in doing the same to the US. If others are so threatening to the US as to warrant such really huge actions on our part, then a prudent America would be wise to defend against such efforts by others with equal fervor.
But documents leaked by NSA contractor Edward Snowden show that the secret part of the US intelligence budget alone totaled about $50 billion annually as of 2013. Just 8 percent of that figure went toward “enhanced cyber security,” while 72 percent was dedicated to collecting strategic intelligence and fighting violent extremism. That’s $4 Billion on defense versus $46 Billion on offense. More recent leaks of intelligence community documents show that even when the US intelligence community develops covert ways to circumvent security measures in equipment produced by American companies, those companies are not informed of such weaknesses even when the largest and most important customer of their equipment is the US government. So the obvious conclusion is that American politicians are just as irresponsible as the bureaucrats in the intelligence community. While we are spending stupendous taxpayer dollars hacking everyone everywhere, we are also inviting everyone else to do the same to us with open arms. Just how irresponsible is it possible for “intelligence” people to get? How did we ever get so arrogant as to think that no one else could or would ever be as devious as we are? The inmates are running the asylum.
Is the CIA to be believed?
Based on that agency’s public record over the past twenty years, I personally would not attribute a probability above 50% to a CIA charge about the Russians. That agency has simply not earned unquestioned trust. The CIA is believed to have been the driving force behind the Russia academic and co-founder of the Moscow Carnegie Center, American Michael McFaul, along with US State Department allies like the International Monetary Fund, heavily interfering in the 1996 Russian presidential election in order to keep the unpopular Boris Yeltsin in power against the wishes of the Russian people. The same is true of Secretary of State Clinton’s strong condemnation efforts to discredit the 2011 Russian parliamentary elections when McFaul was US Ambassador to Russia in 2012. And such recurring US interference in Russian elections doesn’t include the CIA’s long list of failures to predict the break-up of the Soviet Union; the 9/11 (2001) attacks; the totally inept Keystone Kops circus abduction of the Imam of Milan Italy (2003); the lack of WMD in Iraq (2003); the Iraqi insurgency (2003); the Arab Spring (2010); the rise of ISIS (2013); the post-Gadhafi dissolution of Libya (2012); the Ukrainian civil war (2014), the continuing chaotic bloodbath in Syria (2015), etc.. In 2014 CIA Director John Brennan had to retract his previous assertion that the CIA had not illegally hacked into the US Senate Intelligence Committee’s computer network. In 2015 Brennan made the totally absurd statement for the head of an intelligence agency that “no one could have predicted” the confused hell that became of Syria. (It’s his JOB to predict such things.) Then there is all that stuff about “renditions”, “enhanced interrogations”, proxy prisons, drone assassinations, “regime changes”, loose “cyber-weapons”, etc.. The CIA obviously has drifted very far from the main reason for its existence – clandestine intelligence collection operations and intelligence analysis – and too far into covert para-military activities to rearrange the world, according to “very special me”, best left to the overt and accountable US military. These days I view the CIA as “the gang that can’t shoot straight”.
Furthermore, the agency seems to have taken on an unhealthy animosity specifically about the Russians that often defies logic, especially when viewed in the context of overarching global strategy. Russia today is a mere shadow of its former self, but is still, deservedly, a key player in numerous venues. There seems to be other motives at play here, motives which are working against best US interests and objectives in the broader world. It’s also been quite obvious for a long time that the CIA has become far too politicized for any American intelligence agency to ever become, even issuing carefully worded “talking points” for politicians, frequent “leaks” to select “journalists” in the establishment “news” media, etc.. (Maybe the CIA folks are just upset that the Russians keep showing them up as inept at what they’re supposed to be doing – thinking.) All this can be VERY dangerous in a democracy like ours. If you can’t trust your politicized press, and you can’t trust your politicized main intelligence agency, then all Americans are vulnerable to any nonsense anyone wants to toss out there, especially when our schools now do such a poor job of teaching our kids how to think. It’s getting so that today the CIA’s chief talent seems to be in giving everyone every reason why NOT to trust it. And they keep jumping up on stage as if there was no shameful history behind them to overcome. Are they just angry that the Russians keep beating them at their own game, that the Russians think things through much better, and even in advance? But the real mystery is why establishment journalists and establishment politicians are lending so much credence to such blatantly questionable sources. Normally, given the pathetic record, these entities would be roasting the CIA. The “left-wing” people now attributing infallibility to politically-motivated CIA “leaks” are the same people who have been the most viscerally vocal critics of the “right-wing” CIA for the past forty years. (Maybe it just depends on which political party occupies the White House.)
Morell, who envisioned himself as Director CIA or National Security Advisor under a President Hillary Clinton and fancies himself a military genius, has faulted the new National Security Advisor (former DIA Director General Flynn) for being an excellent tactical thinker who falls short in his strategic thinking. (He uses General Flynn’s service as General McChrystal’s CENTCOM intelligence officer, primarily in Afghanistan, to support his claim, disregarding the fact that Afghanistan was a tactical, rather than a strategic, environment.) Flynn is a life-long intelligence officer who steadily rose to the pinnacle of his field and knows that it’s his job to provide decision-makers with accurate information THEY need to make the decisions. He doesn’t decide anything, tactically or strategically. Morell has also faulted the new Secretary of Defense (General Mattis) for a predilection to over-respond to provocation. (To support his claim, he uses Mattis’ service in CENTCOM when Mattis wished to meet a provocation from Iran with a stronger response, whereas Morell would have argued for a response in kind.) I suppose he sees Mattis bringing out the nukes. Both Flynn and Mattis are military men, and they would automatically view Morell’s view as two girly boys stupidly standing there trading slaps in the face for the next ten years while accomplishing absolutely nothing. A military man responds to a slap in the face with a punch in the face, which forces the other guy to think harder next time and be prepared for an opponent who will up the ante. Such measured behavior tends to stop further nonsense from the other side. The CIA, of course, riding on their “success” in Libya, made this same stupid mistake in Ukraine. Girly boys in the CIA thought that they could help State engineer a coup right under the noses of the Russian FSB, believing that the Russians would have no way to respond in kind. But the Russians saw far more than a coup in Kiev. They saw the Americans pushing NATO right up to the Kremlin gates and cutting Russia off from access to the Med, and, after Libya, probably even a “regime change” in Moscow, too. As was always 100% predictable, a Russian military thinker HAD to up the ante and seize Crimea before it was gone forever, while also doubling down elsewhere. And that’s exactly what Russia did. The CIA has been whining ever since. The CIA, and the United States, and the world, would have been far better off if the CIA had listened and heeded military thinkers like generals Flynn and Mattis BEFORE arrogantly slapping Russia in the face … and having their lights punched out in response.
My own personal view as a professional intelligence officer and career soldier: Considering the long list of CIA failures over the past twenty years which the CIA was not eager to discuss, the more CIA people (and their few friendly “Cold” War ideologues in Congress) beat the public drums on this one matter involving hacking, the less I believe them and the more I suspect ulterior political motives specifically designed to tie the President-elect’s hands in finally making some critical changes to US foreign policy, including that “foreign policy” conducted in the shadows by the CIA. That “shadow foreign policy” includes doing the same things against Russia that we are now accusing Russia of doing against the US (and much more). Some people just can’t get their pointy heads around the simple fact that the “Cold” War is OVER. Been there; done that. There’s now a deadlier adversary out there, and we need Russia’s help in combatting it, much more than we need another half century of useless talk and tokenism from Europe. If CIA people are too “special” to face that adversary, then it’s time for them to find another career path, or move the CIA back into the military. One enemy at a time is more than enough.
Could any other agency make a more credible statement?
Based on capabilities, the NSA would be the premier agency in this particular area of internet communications. Unfortunately, NSA has its own problems, including, incredibly, with continuing and recent “breaches” against itself. The most sophisticated hacking tools in the world today were developed by NSA – and NSA allowed a set of ten of those tools to be stolen right out from under its nose just a few months before the election. The most sophisticated aspect of those tools is their ability to totally mask the identity and origin of the hacker. (It’s a little like the CIA and NSA developing Stuxnet as an extremely sophisticated secret weapon of war, deploying that weapon against Iran, and then allowing that weapon to fall into the hands of tens of thousands of anyone else around the world who wanted it, even those who might use it against the US – after your government has declared that such a cyber attack against the US would be regarded as an “act of war”. Did the US Congress declare war on Iran when no one was looking? Like on Libya? The lunatics are running the asylum.) Since those NSA hacking tools went on sale in the “dark web” before the election, they could have been used by whoever hacked the American political group – and made it look like the Russians, or anyone else, even the CIA, did it. It was later revealed that the hacking tools were developed by NSA for CIA use (and probably also for FBI use), and contained the internet protocols (“fingerprints”) of scores of entities which, when used, enabled the hacker to appear to be someone else, including a Russian entity, and that the tools were lost by the CIA. If such tools were used to hack the DNC, then it would be impossible for anyone to determine the true identity of the hacker by cyber means, or even the fact that such tools were used. To further cloud the matter, a former director of both CIA and NSA, Michael Hayden, has recklessly joined Michael Morell with his own aggressive accusations, specifically against the President of Russia, both seemingly unconcerned about the potential consequences of such accusations to the next administration, much less to world peace.
Is the President-elect concerned about all this Russia stuff?
This isn’t clear. He has stated that he would prefer a better working relationship with Russia and that he does not completely believe the CIA assertions, that some room for reasonable doubt exists. He knows that influential forces are very hard at work inside the US to discredit his election victory, a far graver concern which will undoubtedly plague him and his administration throughout his term in office, and therefore he must be very wary of motives and ulterior motives. He and his advisors also know that the aggressive efforts to blame Russia for “interfering in a US election” may very well so muddy the waters between the two countries than any future rapprochement, any future mutually beneficial working relationship, may be rendered impossible, which inevitably will dramatically impact other important areas in a negative manner. This, too, may be an ulterior motive for the fuss. Some conservative members of Congress (“Cold” War ideologues) are easy patsies for this tactic, for their own ulterior motives, including using taxpayer money to build even more military toys. Then there’s the hypocrisy. Why are incidental contacts between members of one candidate’s team and Russian citizens any more unsavory than the presumptive future President selling access and influence via huge donations to her family’s foundation or the son of a sitting Vice President being deeply involved with oil and gas interests in war-torn areas of eastern Ukraine seeking self-determination? Etc.. On the other hand, the President-elect has selected a former director of DIA as his national security advisor, and this retired Army general, career intelligence officer, and experienced case officer, is definitely no one’s fool when it comes to intelligence and intelligence agency capabilities and motives. That Irish-American general will at least come into the job with much better credentials than the real estate lawyer credentials of the national security advisor from 2010-13. And he won’t have the record of a national security advisor (2013-17) who as US Ambassador to the UN lied to the Russians about true US intentions in Libya and repeatedly lied about events in Benghazi on national television on the eve of the previous election.
Still, it’s easy to see why he would view the motives of others as very suspect. The other party did not just lose the Executive Branch; it lost the Legislative Branch (the House and Senate), the Governors, and the opportunity to appoint new judges to the Judicial Branch (Supreme Court) – a “clean sweep” of American government. Despite the fact that the losers took an extremely rare near total beating in the 2016 elections, they seem totally incapable of looking within themselves for their monumental disconnect with such vast swaths of the American population. They have just suffered the biggest upset in US presidential election history. So they must look for “someone else” to take the blame, and the only things they have left are dirty politics, obstructionism, affixing all the usual “hate” labels for the intellectually challenged, and a campaign to undermine the Presidency by innuendo and suspicion that “his presidency is not valid, not legitimate, because the Russians gave it to him.” This is bound to cause the Trump Administration very severe problems, everywhere, problems not seen since the Civil War. Overseas these problems will be especially severe in Europe, where the establishment was counting on the loser to win the election just as much as the loser’s own political party was. (See “Is “NATO” Worth It?”) But, any way you look at it, it’s just incredibly stupid to deliberately move the whole world backwards forty years to the “Cold” War that ended a quarter of a century ago, especially when other more intelligent and creative approaches are still available despite what anyone may think of Russia’s current president. No parties are more responsible for deliberately alienating Russia, and forcing Russian reactions, than five privileged American women appointed to very high “diplomatic” positions: Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, Samantha Power, Victoria Nuland and Madeline Albright. These women seem to be so infatuated with simple-minded US military might that they have zero regard for any greater or unintended consequences of their immediate-gratification and self-serving actions.
The most fascinating political aspect of all this is not the losing party, but the party that thinks it “won”. Due to America’s stifling two-party hegemony, no outsider presidential candidate can win an election in America running outside the two major political parties. So Mr. Trump had to run as a member of one of those two parties, and he ran as a Republican. But, in order to advance, he first had to beat all 16 of the top candidates that party put up, a line-up that was mostly, by normal political standards, impressive indeed. And he did just that. Once he accomplished that unlikely victory, he went on to beat the top candidate of the second party, a candidate who could not possibly be more politically “establishment”. So the winner here beat BOTH political parties. Mr. Trump is an independent, beholden to neither party – which is precisely what the vast middle of American was hoping. Just like Democrats, Republicans fought this man tooth and nail every step of the way, and lost. Even the party’s leader, and House Speaker, waited over a week after Trump had secured enough delegates to ensure his nomination to give him a lukewarm endorsement and then repeatedly hedged or threatened to withdraw that endorsement right up to the election. Republicans in Congress, none of whom helped Trump win, who think they can ram their agenda through a “compliant member of their own party in the White House” are due for a very major lesson in politics, from a man with a long memory who has never before wallowed in politics, much less the same old politics of yesteryear that has so hobbled the United States for the past quarter of a century. (Republican Senators McCain and Graham, for example, would be right at home in the Congress of 1975, but now when they talk it’s like watching a very old news video.) It has been glaringly obvious for over a year that Mr. Trump holds very strong views that are fundamentally at variance to views held by both parties, including the party that now claims him as its own. THIS President will NOT play according to the conventional rules, according to the usual sclerotic “thinking” – which is actually that done for them by the Greatest Generation for a world that ceased to exist a whole quarter of a century ago. After all, playing by that “thinking” has resulted in nothing but negatives for the past forty years. It’s just incredibly stupid to keep using that same “thinking”.
What does Russia think?
Russian officials have denied any involvement and view the accusations as both absurd and hypocritical. While many millions of Russian citizens would be very happy to have their government pull off such a public revelation of American political hypocrisy, the Russian media over the first months of the controversy has barely mentioned the accusations. Where the subject has been mentioned in Russian media, it’s with the explanation that the losing candidate is trying to shift blame for the election loss to some other party, which, of course, has a loud ring of inherent truth to it. Like everyone else, Russian officials fully expected the main woman establishment candidate to win the election, and by a huge majority, and that there was nothing anyone could do to alter that inevitability. Furthermore, the other main candidate, a complete unknown on the world stage, was not an especially welcome choice from the Russian perspective primarily because of his complete unpredictability, frequent irrationality, and occasional naïve “saber-rattling” in areas beyond his expertise.
If Russia was involved it would have been primarily as pay-back to a US Secretary of State who made such aggressive public attempts to discredit the 2011 Russian parliamentary elections, for lying in the UN about true US intentions in Libya, and for her role in achieving the coup d’état in Ukraine in 2014 and then stacking that new government with US stooges. And, until the Russian legislature passed laws requiring them to register as agents of foreign governments, assorted “NGOs” and “human rights” groups funded and directed by the US State Department and USAID (AmEmbassy Moscow) were heavily involved in shaping Russian politics and public opinion, i.e., deliberately “interfering in the internal affairs of a sovereign state.” So, if Russia did do the hacking and then passed the take to Wikileaks, it would have been for the same objective that Russia has been pursuing for the past ten years – revealing rampant American political hypocrisy to the world. (This blog is full of examples of that hypocrisy, but it doesn’t enjoy a huge global stage.) Other than that, there seems to be no real gain for Russian interests. On the contrary; in international relations, after eight years, it’s often easier to continue dealing with the American administration you know rather than start all over with a new one you don’t.
Of course, as any Secretary of State knows so well, no country interferes in the internal political affairs of other countries nearly to the extent that the US does, in a wide variety of ways, including via hacking, loud public statements, massive “surveillance”, and proxy State/USAID contractor “NGO” groups, even support of coups and military-enforced “regime change” (war). According to data assembled in 2016 by political scientist Dov Levin of Carnegie Mellon University, the US has a long history of attempting to influence presidential elections in other countries, as many as 81 times between 1946 and 2000. (That number doesn’t include military coups and “regime change” efforts following the election of candidates the US didn’t like, notably those in Iran, Guatemala and Chile. Nor does it include general assistance with the electoral process, such as election monitoring.) According to the Los Angeles Times (21 December 2016), Levin defines intervention as “a costly act which is designed to determine the election results [in favor of] one of the two sides.” These acts, carried out in secret two-thirds of the time, include funding the election campaigns of specific parties, disseminating misinformation or propaganda, training locals of only one side in various campaigning or get-out-the-vote techniques, helping one side to design their campaign materials, making public statements or threats in favor of or against a candidate, and providing or withdrawing foreign aid. Most such efforts are engineered in the shadows by the CIA, often using State or USAID fronts.
Note that the money for such projects is not “foreign aid”. Most of the funding for such contractors is funneled to the State Department and USAID from secret “black box” funding Congress provides to the CIA for covert activities, so there’s no way for the taxpayer to make judgments about such huge and very wide-spread foreign doles of their money deep into the inner governmental and political machinery of many other countries. Among recent target countries for such programs have been Nigeria, Cuba, Ukraine and Russia. The US engages in such programs on a global scale in places that have zero relationship to US national defense. A few countries like Russia, with much smaller economies, can only afford to sensibly dabble in a few defensive such efforts along their immediate peripheries. It’s also worth noting that the United States, and its laws, would never tolerate such foreign activities and influence inside the United States, and would view them, in fact, as “undermining American democracy”. An actually rational person might wonder why actions that are acceptable for the US to conduct are not acceptable for others to conduct.
(Another example is Sri Lanka, off the southern tip of India. A reporter, Lasanda Kurukulasuriya, for the Daily Mirror in Sri Lanka has been writing a series of published articles attempting to delve into these myriad projects in her own country. Such projects include imbedding contract people and funding in Sri Lankan governance, stabilization, legal system, law enforcement, finance, even parliament. She’s been building a case that concludes “the CIA subverts governments under the pretext of promoting democracy” and asks: “Is USAID just a front for the CIA?” and “Are we to become just another US puppet?” A key player in these projects is an employee-owned US company named Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI), one of many similar companies now based in and around Washington DC and employing people who routinely rotate among the company, US government agencies, and as staffers for the US Congress. DAI Global is a private development company based in Bethesda, Maryland, with additional corporate offices in London, and, as is customary for such companies, headed by people formerly employed by the State Department, USAID or CIA. In 2015 DAI received $275 million of contract funding from USAID to deliver “development” services; in 2014 it received another $75 million from the UK Department for International Development for such services. According to Wikipedia, “DAI operates worldwide, in 160 developing and transition countries, with a particularly strong presence in Central and South America, Africa, the Middle East, Central and South Asia, and the Asia-Pacific region.” The US government-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and its grantees like the National Democratic Institute (NDI) also disburse funds with strings attached to a number of “NGOs” in Sri Lanka “in support of democracy.” Since the 1980’s when organizations like NED were set up to filter CIA funds to a myriad of foundations, think-tanks, institutes and “NGOs” both in the US and abroad, the style of US intelligence operations has undergone significant transformation from the days when the purpose of all this was to counter the advancement of global Soviet communist domination. Now it’s difficult to find a purpose more worthy or altruistic than simple American global domination unknowingly funded by the American taxpayer in the name of “democracy”. This Sri Lankan reporter has published information about her own country considerably more extensive than anything on the American global program that has ever appeared in the US press. American citizens have never even had a discussion about these massive foreign programs, but just because most Americans don’t know about this stuff does not mean that the rest of the world, including Russia, is equally ignorant.)
(None of this includes the many programs funded by such gigantic private American entities as the Clinton Foundation, the many foundations funded by George Soros, etc..)
There was some logical justification for such efforts from 1946 to 1990, but the Cold War ended 27 years ago. Soviet communism’s intent of global domination failed. Now it seems to be just another case of American politicians running on brainless auto-pilot with thinking done for them by the Greatest Generation – for a world that ceased to exist over a quarter of a century ago. What was once done covertly by the CIA is now done overtly by State/USAID, primarily by doling out billions of taxpayer dollars every year to a wide range of contractor companies and “non-governmental organizations” (NGOs). The main problem today seems to be that no one understands WHY they are perverting, making a mockery of, the very “democracy” they are supposed to be advocating. It all smacks of insufferable American Nanny State women and their clones using other people’s money to dictate “the rules according to very special me” to the whole world, and enriching themselves in the process. These marginal jerks are just buying their way in, knowing full well that it’s very difficult for poor countries to refuse “free money”, even if it comes with a lot of compromising strings attached. They even require the money and those using it to be subject to US law, not to the laws of the receiving country, so they get a get-out-of-jail-free card going in.
It’s difficult to find a better example of an intellectually bankrupt American generation than this. Furthermore, it IS incredibly hypocritical to whine when others do to you what you routinely do to others, especially when the current hacking could have been far worse. Either don’t do it, or make absolutely certain that you do not become victim of your own methods. (It’s called “logic”, or, in some quarters, “intelligence”, “brains”, “common sense”.) Of course, there is nothing so unattractive, if not just arrogantly hypocritical, than condemning in others actions which you condone in yourself. A thinking man cannot escape the fact that such practices represent the very epitome of the hypocrisy of altruistic global leadership. “Do as I say, not as I do!” Such methods shame me as an American.
Footnote #2 below discusses some gross disparities “under the radar” inside the US that pulled many votes to Mr. Trump. One could easily postulate that such disparities resulted from a government systematically using other people’s money to buy votes in locations where the greatest number of voters resided, at the expense of all other locations whose smaller number of votes could be easily overwhelmed in elections. Did the government unfairly pour huge funds into big city industries like government, finance, insurance and health care employing huge numbers of women and programs specifically benefiting those women? Or were these locations favored simply because they make the most noise or wield the most influence Inside The Beltway? There is nothing illegal about such political practices under the US Constitution, but, really, how are they any less corrupt than unfair practices we routinely accuse others of using to maintain power in their countries?
In the area of foreign affairs, the thing that disgusts me most about American politicians of all political stripe is their refusal to ever consider just what our own actions project to others. It’s as if they are so pumped up on their superior power that they don’t have to even think about how others see us. (How is Russian action in Crimea any worse than US action in Libya? How are US missiles in Europe any less threatening to Russia than Soviet missiles in Cuba were to the US? Etc.) Anyone who can always find fault in others without ever bothering to consider their own reflection in the mirror will one day find themselves rudely standing alone, defenseless and finished.
Addendum. Shortly after the inauguration of Mr. Trump in January 2017, several members associated with the cyber-security department of the (civilian) Russian FSB were arrested in Moscow and charged with treason, a charge usually reserved for espionage. The US “intelligence community” had previously fingered elements of the (military) Russian GRU, not the FSB, and with “high confidence”. It is possible that the American “high confidence” claim sent the Russians looking for a rogue element inside Russia or even inside the Russian government, and this effort discovered one or more moles working on behalf of the CIA (or the British MI6). (In view of the fact that NSA had lost highly sophisticated hacking tools that were most remarkable for their ability to mask both the hacker and his location, a claim of “high confidence” probably could be made only by an inside human source.) It is unusual for such matters to be reported in the Russian press, but, so far, no direct link between these arrests and the American election hackings have been revealed. The Russian government continues to strenuously deny any involvement with the American hacking events. These matters are always very murky, so speculation and wild conspiracy theories are rampant.
What is the potential blow-back in the US?
The fact that the US government (not just some political group) WAS hacked, repeatedly, and going back for many years, including by some still unknown player who, incredibly, stole personal data on everyone with a national security clearance, clearly shows that the “intelligence community” has been criminally negligent in its responsibility to protect the US government, its internal computer systems, and national defense secrets. And THAT is probably the most damning result of all this fuss. If this latest accusation is true, after all this time, after twenty years of public screaming, after a very long string of devastating breaches of American government and commercial computer systems, how is something like a foreign hacking of an American political group on the eve of an American election even POSSIBLE? What has the US government been doing all these years to protect itself and its institutions against attacks, threats and hacks that the US government, including both the CIA and NSA, routinely inflicts on others? The arrogance of that equation is simply breathtaking. Furthermore, it is inconceivable that all these failures of the nation’s intelligence and security apparatus – handed more funding and people than many nations – to protect the nation has gone completely unanswered with no bureaucrat or political appointee anywhere going to prison for their negligent failure to do their job. Maybe the President-elect will properly task that new “Cyber Command” at NSA to actually PROTECT America’s computer systems, from everyone, and then charge the FBI, which now makes so much use of “hacked” information to pursue American citizens, to aggressively pursue, and the Justice Department to aggressively prosecute, those anywhere in government who fail in that protection responsibility, including an appointed US Secretary of State and her personal entourage. All that this fuss really accomplishes is to shine a spotlight on one more gross failure of American government.
After setting an extremely partisan precedent in his first days in office (See Footnote #3.) that carried through the Obama administration for the next eight years, including an astounding 1,200 executive orders circumventing the legislative function of Congress, the other party pulled off the biggest upset clean-sweep election victory in American history and now in 2017 has control of both houses of Congress, the White House, most state governments, and at least one critically deciding appointment to the Supreme Court. The partisan shoe is now on the other foot, and President Obama’s party is NOT happy at having been rendered so politically impotent. All they have left are aging leaders still stuck in the 1960s and childish emotionalism, spite, and vicious efforts to “delegitimatize” the new President by innuendo, smear and “fake news” any way they can, i.e., to make his job as difficult as possible, if not literally impossible. With such herds of grown-up pouting children throwing their spoiled temper tantrum, the road ahead for both the nation and the world is fraught with very grave dangers indeed. (In January 2017, around 70 of these infantile congressional twits announced that they will boycott the inauguration of the newly elected President as an insulting protest of their own party’s election loss. More Baby Boomer Brilliance? Anyone might think we’ve turned the clock backwards 156 years to Lincoln’s inauguration in 1861, and southern Democrat states had declared their secession from the Union. These useless humans expect me to run off to some remote corner of the globe to risk my life for one of their emotional causes, but can’t even suck it up enough to attend a traditional ceremony down the street?)
How will this electoral college stuff end?
In the weird world of propaganda and politics, it’s impossible to say. But the most likely scenario has the whole electoral college thing ending up, as it always does, in the US House of Representatives – where the President-elect’s political party enjoys a clear majority, and which will undoubtedly decide things exactly as they were decided on the night of 8 November 2016. End of story.
So what is all this fuss really about?
A flawed woman candidate, an “impossible” loss that wasn’t, routine blame-shifting, and sour grapes. Bouncing baubles. Americans making a mockery of their own democracy. In short, Baby Boomer Brilliance.
Addendum: As it turned out when it formally voted, the losing candidate LOST 5 electoral college votes, the most anyone has lost since 1872 – 144 years ago. (Those five votes were instead cast for people not even running for election.) The electoral college vote reaffirmed the winning candidate’s election victory.
Electoral college total votes: 538 (based on number of senators and representatives)
Needed to win (simple majority): 270 (50.2%)
Trump: 304 (56.5%) (similar to winners Harry Truman, John Kennedy)
Clinton: 227 (42.2%) (similar to losers Gerald Ford, Mitt Romney)
other: 7 ( 1.3%)
Note: The 2016 US election showed just how far the big city urban “elitists” on the east and left coasts have drifted apart from the vast middle of America. These people are loath to admit that the winning candidate was elected by a really huge number of Americans who voted against BOTH establishment political parties, gambling that almost anything would be better than more of the same stupid political nonsense that has accomplished almost nothing positive for the past forty years. Together those self-anointed “elitists”, trapped in their own partisan echo chambers, thoroughly convinced of their own superiority and infallibility, are making the same grave mistake about Mother Russia and her citizens, too. “I only want MY truth!”
“Elitists” like the throne-sniffing propagandists at the New York Times and the Washington Post have labeled the Trump election victory as one of “populism“, of “nationalism“, of “anti-intellectualism” – as if democracy is NOT inherently “populism”, as if one should be ASHAMED of their patriotism, as if the “elitists” have cornered the market on intelligence and everyone else is part of the great unwashed, stupid and helpless masses. Such idiotic notions come straight out of globalist Marxist socialist communism, but these people are so wrapped up in their own little “progressive” world that they fail to recognize their nonsense for what it is, that they continue to push a dictatorial philosophy that has already proven itself a colossal failure. The presumptuous use of such terms arises when the people have so lost faith in their leaders that would-be “leaders” automatically resort to an ideology that holds the people in contempt, as “the great unwashed and ignorant masses”, who need an “elitist” cadre to tell them what to do, to “show them the way”, to do their thinking for them, to take care of them (after, of course, they take care of themselves). These are supremely arrogant people who are so enthralled with themselves that they regard those who hold different views to be “uneducated hick dirt farmers” far beneath the “elitist’s” superior station in life. Such communist ideology fully justifies the devious manipulation of democracy to achieve its ends. What is now so disquieting in America is the derisive regard for “populism” held by most of those in the “mainstream news” media – indicating a firm grounding of these “journalists”, too, in Marxist-Leninist ideology. (See Labeling and Re-labeling at “Marketing And Propaganda – Techniques“.) These ideologues, having invested nothing of value in it themselves, hold that the United States belongs to everyone, free for the taking – as long as they are running the socialist communist show doling it out and benefitting from their “superior” position. Is it really any wonder that Mr. Trump beat BOTH political herds? (This whole “argument”, of course, is just asinine. Those Americans hating “populism”, deriding “nationalism”, etc., are the first to wrap themselves in the American flag and demand all the free goodies their “great nation” and its constitution has to offer them. They just don’t want the responsibility of providing those goodies themselves, and especially defending that nation in war. Such “anti-nationalism” views are very popular among the European Establishment, where everyone expects the dumb Americans to do all the hard stuff at their bidding on their behalf as the just and proper and permanent role of the American nation for THEM. They fear that American “nationalism” (or “populism”) will one day scream, “Enough!” and finally kick the Europeans off American welfare and force them to get their act together as one adult continent.)
There is also something very strange about the US establishment’s relentless vilification of the current president of Russia, a “group think” so strange that it takes on an air of schoolgirl jealousy of the head cheerleader. Any thinking person has to wonder why such continuous criticism, which often seems quite personal, visceral, childish, is not directed against even more deserving others such as the leader of Turkey, or North Korea, or Venezuela, or Iran, or Philippines, or Cuba, or Pakistan, or China, or Saudi Arabia, or any of a half dozen African countries, etc., etc.. Why are these other leaders not treated at least as viciously as is the leader of Russia? It all seems to defy rational explanation. Just what is it that makes the President of Russia such a “safe” target that does not also apply to any other leader even far more worthy of such criticism? Is it his “right-wing” politics? Is it the Europeans playing puppeteer of the dumb American establishment marching in mindless lock-step? Is it that they would greatly prefer to have Russia led by a communist rather than a conservative? (With really huge portions of the US and European establishment, the biggest “problem with Russia” is the simple fact that it is not currently led by a devout left-wing communist. Economic depressions are prime environments for the growth of socialist communism, which is the main reason why that establishment keeps pushing “economic sanctions” on Russia.) Is it just juvenile jealousy that the guy, especially by bloated US and European standards, is in damned good shape, and is even 65 years old? Or is it his skin color? His race? His gender? His sexual orientation? After all, his group – white heterosexual male – is also the only “safe” target in America, too. Is THIS what now rules our establishment chattering class, our foreign affairs, our “intelligence” agencies, our political “thinking”? Herd-sanctioned bigotry?
(See “Let’s Change The Rules!”, posted separately.)
Footnote #1. How The US Collects Information About Foreign Elections. It is definitely not just opposing political parties that have a great interest in what’s going on inside political parties, especially before major elections. The document described below appeared on Wikileaks in February 2017. It purports to be a CIA document, 7 pages long, and lists areas of intelligence collection interest which CIA personnel in France are tasked by Washington to acquire and forward, if possible. Most of its contents seems to be boiler-plate, i.e., a re-issue of previous collection requirements (which WikiLeaks calls an “espionage order”). It also appears to be a hard-copy document (without letterhead) rather than an electronic transmission, i.e., an enclosure to a memo (not released). The CIA document, which seems to be authentic, cites specific collection requirement numbers for each listed area of interest. Below is the Wikileaks over-blown description of the document. The time period involved is shortly after the US Secretary of State and France’s President Sarkozy had cooperated to use a UN humanitarian resolution to effect a “NATO” eight month “regime change” bombing war against Libya.
(I can attest that the general process shown here is very long-standing practice for the CIA, the DIA, the State Department, and many other US government agencies with foreign interests and capabilities; there is nothing unusual about the process shown. The central government sends out to subordinate agencies a request for information that it would like to have available if needed; the subordinate agencies try to provide that information via their own subordinate elements using all means available to them by the specified date. Most other countries have similar processes; the information enables their own governments to be prepared for any changes rendered as a result of elections in other countries. Most answers to the requirements, which are habitually over-classified, can be readily obtained by routine overt HUMINT means – such as gleaning local print, television and radio news media, simply asking local politicians or political operatives, eliciting information at diplomatic social functions, chatting with inter-governmental contacts, or subscribing to the products of local political organizations, “think tanks” or opinion polling groups. Just like press reporters, such officials must constantly insure that their responses are free of their own political prejudices; they are providing their government objective intelligence, not emotional propaganda. Almost anyone in any country’s foreign agencies would know that a prime clandestine HUMINT or SIGINT source of irrefutable answers to such collection requirements would be a political party’s own internal communications – but only if Washington had deemed the information critical enough to warrant such extreme means of collection, which in open societies is very rarely the case. Any US Secretary of State would be very well aware of such matters. In fact, she would have been asked many times by the President or his staff to obtain such information about foreign politicians and elections herself if possible. And she would also know that no elections are more important to more countries, more people, and more interests than those presidential elections that take place every four years in the United States – and that internal political party communications should therefore be very well protected.)
Wikileaks Press Release (English), 16 February 2017
CIA espionage orders for the last French presidential election
All major French political parties were targeted for infiltration by the CIA’s human (“HUMINT”) and electronic (“SIGINT”) spies in the seven months leading up to France’s 2012 presidential election. The revelations are contained within three CIA tasking orders published today by WikiLeaks as context for its forthcoming CIA Vault 7 series. Named specifically as targets are the French Socialist Party (PS), the National Front (FN) and Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) together with current President Francois Hollande, then President Nicolas Sarkozy, current round one presidential front runner Marine Le Pen, and former presidential candidates Martine Aubry and Dominique Strauss-Khan.
The CIA assessed that President Sarkozy’s party was not assured re-election. Specific tasking concerning his party included obtaining the “Strategic Election Plans” of the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP); schisms or alliances developing in the UMP elite; private UMP reactions to Sarkozy’s campaign strategies; discussions within the UMP on any “perceived vulnerabilities to maintaining power” after the election; efforts to change the party’s ideological mission; and discussions about Sarkozy’s support for the UMP and “the value he places on the continuation of the party’s dominance”. Specific instructions tasked CIA officers to discover Sarkozy’s private deliberations “on the other candidates” as well as how he interacted with his advisors. Sarkozy’s earlier self-identification as “Sarkozy the American” did not protect him from US espionage in the 2012 election or during his presidency.
The espionage order for “Non Ruling Political Parties and Candidates Strategic Election Plans” which targeted Francois Holland, Marine Le Pen and other opposition figures requires obtaining opposition parties’ strategies for the election; information on internal party dynamics and rising leaders; efforts to influence and implement political decisions; support from local government officials, government elites or business elites; views of the United States; efforts to reach out to other countries, including Germany, U.K., Libya, Israel, Palestine, Syria & Cote d’Ivoire; as well as information about party and candidate funding.
Significantly, two CIA opposition espionage tasks, “What policies do they promote to help boost France’s economic growth prospects?” and “What are their opinions on the German model of export-led growth?” resonate with a U.S. economic espionage order from the same year. That order requires obtaining details of every prospective French export contract or deal valued at $200m or more.
The opposition espionage order also places weight on obtaining the candidates’ attitudes to the E.U’s economic crisis, centering around their position on the Greek debt crisis; the role of France and Germany in the management of the Greek debt crisis; the vulnerability of French government and French banks to a Greek default; and “specific proposals and recommendations” to deal with “the euro-zone crisis”.
The CIA espionage orders published today are classified and restricted to U.S. eyes only (“NOFORN”) due to “Friends-on-Friends sensitivities”. The orders state that the collected information is to “support” the activities of the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)’s E.U. section, and the U.S. State Department’s Intelligence and Research Branch.
The CIA operation ran for ten months from 21 Nov 2011 to 29 Sep 2012, crossing the April-May 2012 French presidential election and several months into the formation of the new government.
(The Wikileaks hyperbole is probably due to Hollywood fiction and the Wikileaks people naturally not fully understanding what they are reading. Members of US government agencies serving as diplomats at the US embassy in Paris, if they are doing their jobs, can probably answer 75% of the requirements while sitting at their desks using information that’s already in their heads. Another 15% can probably be answered by polling knowledge in the heads of other members of the embassy team as suggested by the designated State political officer. The last 10% would probably require a little extra effort and may or may not be firmly answerable within the time constraints. Even so, the Americans, like their sources, could still be wrong in some of their assessments, so it’s best to assign an objective measure of probability to each of their responses. Every once in a while an election has completely unexpected results; that’s one of the beauties of democracy. For this reason it’s always a very good idea for such US government employees serving abroad to frequently leave their little echo chamber diplomatic bubbles and try to put a very perceptive finger on the pulse of the people, in their own language and environment well beyond the seat of French government. The contents of this paragraph have universal application in all but the most extreme of foreign environments, such as in North Korea, extremely impoverished countries, and in war zones. You don’t need espionage to determine routine stuff that’s right there in the local newspapers or common knowledge in the office. All you have to do is bring Washington up to the same level of knowledge. Vigorous internal discussions among embassy team members will hone that knowledge, which is the main job of all embassies everywhere.)
Footnote #2. The Phony Jobs Story. After reaching peaks in 2007, the Great Recession began in 2008, and thereafter the nation as a whole slowly recovered with humongous government bail-outs and targeted spending over the next eight years.
During the last six months of the 2016 election cycle, both the Obama Administration and the Clinton campaign repeatedly touted the drop in the unemployment rate, the “creation” of “15 million new jobs”, and the rise of a “robust economy” as a success story for liberal governing policies. But that line works only if you don’t look too closely at the fact that the nation now has the lowest participation rate in the workforce since the Great Depression, and those “millions of new jobs” aren’t quite what most people might think. On the other hand, Trump’s campaign – and the American “press” – erred by also not questioning the government figures and delving deeper to build a far more meaningful message. If Trump’s advisors had taken a closer look, odds are that his victory would have been even far more sweeping. After all, it was Alaska’s Sarah Palin eight years earlier (followed by Scott Brown taking Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat) who had opened the door wide for Donald Trump – by revealing both parties to have grown too far out of touch with deeply-in-trouble middle class Middle America, a Middle America that, after all the Trillion-dollar Wall Street bail-outs, was now even in deeper trouble.
Economic metrics are equal to the sum of their parts. Strong job growth and wage gains in major city centers, for example, have been offset by dwindling opportunities in rural America (where “rural” is anything not in a mega-city ant hill – such as in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Missouri, Indiana.) The vast majority of new jobs created over the course of the last decade weren’t necessarily stable or traditional positions offering a 40-hour work week, good pay and benefits, and solid job security, nor were they in vast Middle America. Most such new traditional jobs were actually on the taxpayer’s dole in utopian government (including “education”) or in service industries like health care very heavily subsidized by government – all offering the best pay and work conditions, platinum health care and pension programs, best extra employment benefits and nearly impossible-to-lose job security. (Such gross disparities help explain why there’s such a large and growing gulf between the vast majority of Americans and the privileged bureaucrat class they employ to serve them. Bureaucrats don’t seem to have a clue about the real world they rule in the name of “serve”.)
A study conducted by Princeton and Harvard economists (Lawrence Katz and Alan Krueger, both formerly with liberal administrations and seeking an explanation for Clinton’s loss) found that the vast majority of new jobs created over the course of the last decade were not traditional positions. In fact, 94 percent of the net employment growth seen between 2005 and 2015 occurred within “alternative work arrangements”– meaning those employed as temporary help agency workers, on-call workers, contract company workers, and independent contractors or freelancers – with contractors the fastest growing segment. (94% of 15,000,000 “new jobs” is 14,100,000, so only 900,000 of them were traditional positions, which due to population growth is actually negative real job growth.) And these “new jobs” were expected to help pay for all the new bureaucrat jobs and government welfare programs doled out by politicians buying dependency votes.
Such non-traditional labor arrangements, taken largely because workers simply had no other options, result in less hours worked, which means lower pay, greater uncertainty about future earnings, and they shift the responsibility for paying taxes and insurance premiums to the worker. Many of these people are also trying to supplement their low incomes with other forms of part-time work such as that offered by Uber and TaskRabbit, and are far less likely to make major investments in the future like buying a house with a hefty mortgage. All of this raises important questions about worker pay, job security, faith in the future, and whether these types of jobs are now “the new normal” for American employment. It’s nearly impossible to “get ahead” with such unpredictable work arrangements, which makes a drift into criminal activity and drug use more likely.
So even people who are employed have anxiety about their work life and anxiety about how they can provide for their families. The Clinton campaign was convinced that the huge women’s voter majority alone, especially those women in urban centers, would easily carry her onto the queen’s throne, so there was no need to look further. And there certainly was very little effort to connect with Middle America. But those affected most by major shifts in the real job market – young healthy male laborers – are less and less able to pay the huge chunk of women’s health care and other assistance costs (including for those countless millions of willful “single mothers”) that everyone expects them to pay, and are far more concerned about just feeding their own kids from week to week any way they can.
The Trump campaign, on the other hand, spent a LOT of time talking and listening to Real People, and he noticed that married men and their families are affected by the major shifts in the real job market FAR more than are whiny young urban women, and that impact has enormous ripple effects throughout the nation’s entire economy.
Here’s one example: A few years earlier a lot of Americans were concerned that they might no longer be able to buy a favorite snack – Twinkies – with which they had grown up. Well, you can still buy Twinkies, which apparently is “a good sign for the economy.” Its maker, Hostess Brands, headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, where it was founded as Nafziger Bakeries in a church basement in 1905 and grew by the 1970s into a major company, was going out of business due to struggling profit margins. In 2012 Hostess Brands filed for bankruptcy, stating that it “is not competitive, primarily due to legacy pension and medical benefit obligations and restrictive work rules“. Hostess then employed 19,000 people making a wide range of bakery brand products, but was more than $860 million in debt. The bankruptcy proceedings sold off big chunks of the company’s subsidiaries, including 11,000 employees, and in 2013 a group of private equity investors bought what was left of Hostess for $186 million, and made some more changes. Just three years later they sold Hostess Brands for $2.3 Billion – over 12 times (1230%) their purchase price. What made the value difference? Another 6,800 less workers. As had happened in the company’s sold-off holdings, they dropped the traditional workforce 85%, from 8,000 to 1,200. Rich investors made a huge profit, the Hostess stock market price went up, and the economy retained a popular “made-in-America” product. But what happened to those 6,800 workers who lost their jobs? What happened to those small communities that lost a huge chunk of their corporate tax base? How many police, fire and rescue services had to be “down-sized”? Of the eleven bakeries previously operated by 19,000 Hostess workers, today only three (in Georgia, Kansas and Indiana) are still operational with 1,200 workers. Job losses like these go unnoticed in mega-cities, but even the loss of a business with 500 traditional jobs in a small town can have devastating and far-reaching effects. But office workers in Manhattan can still get a Twinkie out of the vending machine; nearly 95% of them are produced on an automated production line staffed by just 10 employees in Kansas. Maybe all that piled-up dead weight will eventually cause the east and left coasts to sink beneath the waves…
(One major cause of all this is a deplorably effeminate school system that spends far too much time teaching kids what to think and similar such navel-contemplation nonsense, and not nearly enough time teaching them how to think and become gainfully employed in the Real World tomorrow, while taking greater responsibility for their own future growth and security. There’s a very good reason why all six of America’s Nobel Prize winners last year were immigrants – to a nation of 320,000,000 dazed duds all spouting the programmed herd nonsense.)
Such stories now take place with scary frequency in America, and BOTH political parties have done nothing to help the nation and its working citizens adjust to such seismic realities.* If they don’t come up with some brilliant approaches soon, solutions that actually work over the long run, the nation will be less and less able to pay for all those lucrative domestic socialist welfare programs, massive Third World immigration babies, foreign welfare plans like “NATO”, and stupid foreign military adventures which those safely and comfortably ensconced on their rear ends in east and left coast mega-cities want them to.
Then there is the matter of truly gross geographic inequality. There are more than 3,000 counties among the 50 US states. But just 20 of them – less than 1% – accounted for HALF of the net increase in new businesses from 2010 to 2014. (That means that those 20 counties got 76 times the new businesses that all of the other 2,980 counties got.) Most of those 20 counties are in and around just three mega-cities – New York, Los Angeles and Miami, plus government bureaucrat city Washington DC. Other counties include those in and around Chicago, which keeps demanding even MORE federal government dollars to address a decades-long inner-city murder rate higher than the casualty rates of many wars. The Great Recession began in 2008, and thereafter the nation as a whole slowly recovered with humongous government bail-outs and targeted spending over the next eight years. By 2016 the employment rate in such major metropolitan areas was almost 5% higher than in 2007, but nearly 3% LOWER in the rest of the country. Obviously gross disparities were applied by the government to those locations with the most potential voters, resulting in a “tyranny of the majority” nation greatly out of balance in a wide range of indices. It’s impossible for the thousands of small towns across America to compete with the noise and power and whine that a single New York or Los Angeles or Chicago can generate, especially when the nation’s Fourth Estate also hunkers down in these same few mega-city echo chambers.
And, even worse, due to both political parties’ decades-long addiction to buying votes with other people’s money, and now owing a staggering $20 TRILLION to others, Americans no longer even own their own country. The highly partisan Obama administration and its Nancy Pelosi liberal cohorts in Congress were doling out all those programs, including the gigantic new “affordable” health care system, for all of those eight years.
Any way you look at it, this is NOT “America”.
There is nothing like an arrogant American woman who has never worked a day in her life, who is where she is due to her husband’s accomplishments plus a trainload of extra help, “special” deference and double standards from both her government and society, that will ingratiate herself to the other half of this nation’s citizens than telling those who actually work for a living, support families, who do the hard stuff, police cities and fight wars, pay down home mortgages, that they belong to a “basket of deplorables.”
*One obvious place to start is the impact of the average life expectancy of Americans. Today about 69% of men and 57% of women are in the US workforce; the percentage of men has been slowly declining for decades while that for women has been slowly rising. The life expectancy for American men in 1930 was 60 years, so Social Security was set at age 65 to assist those very few who lived so long and could no longer earn a living to support their families. The life expectancy for American males thirty years later in 1960 was 66.6 and for females 73.1. This meant that in 1960 half of American men still died on the job, never beginning retirement at age 65, and the remaining men lived only a few short years in retirement. Today the life expectancy for males is 76.4 and for females is 81.2 – which means that men can expect to enjoy retirement on average for over 11 years and females for over 16 years, and medical costs today are many times greater than in 1960 (and people seek medical attention at a much higher frequency). Furthermore, it is not “we” who support us in retirement; it is our children who have that tax burden. In 1960 the native Greatest Generation birthrate was over 3 children per woman of child-bearing age – which made it very easy for their Baby Boomer children to support their parents in their rather brief retirement; today it’s about 1 child, or less than half of what is needed just to maintain the 1960 status quo. This will soon be an impossible burden, even with all the Third World babies we now have to import to keep us viable. The business model that worked well in 1960 simply can’t work in 2016 – when everyone has rights while the responsibilities are for “someone else” – without some very major adjustments to the way our entire society operates – for both men and women. And there is no “special” in equal. Due to the abject failure of Baby Boomer political “leadership”, the United States is over 40 years late in coming to terms with such simple realities.
P.S. This same dynamic is taking place in Mother Russia, which is why its hinterland citizens grow ever more conservative in their political outlook and keep the popularity of their current conservative leadership very high.
Footnote #3. “I Won” In January 2009, just three days after being sworn in as the 44th American President, President Obama met in the White House with Democrat and Republican congressional leaders to discuss his immediate plans to nudge the economy, a matter of considerable urgency at that time. During that meeting, House Republican Whip Eric Cantor provided for consideration a list of modest proposals for an evolving economic stimulus bill which he and members of his party in Congress had been working on for weeks. Cantor and his fellow Republicans were then given a brief lecture by a man who had completed only half of his very first term in Congress – just three years of a six year term in the US Senate. In no uncertain terms, President Obama told senior members of the other political party that, “elections have consequences” and “I won.” After his party had secured the largest congressional majorities in decades, President Obama, who had spent his adult life in “us-versus-them” political activism, was not interested in giving his defeated opponents a say in the nation’s future business. Within a month, the $831 billion economic stimulus bill passed the House (244-188) without a single vote from the other party and in the Senate (61-37) with only three Republican votes – while 5,100,000 middle class jobs vanished. (Whether all that money accomplished anything is still highly debatable.)
In one of the most striking one-party-rule acts in American history, the President and his party then forced through a massive health care bill, affecting an incredible one-sixth of the US economy, without one single vote from the other party. The bill passed in the Senate (60-39) and House (219-212), and was sold to the public with lies and propaganda. It later was revealed that none of the Democrats in Congress who voted for it had even read the mammoth 2,700-page bill (heavily tilted in favor of key constituency groups), and that the main assumption of the bill’s chief architect was that the American people are stupid and can’t do simple math. (He was betting that, before everyone figured out the math, for example, so many women would be covered by the new plan that they would overrule the “someone else”, mainly healthy young men, forced to pay for them.) Premium costs since then, of course, have risen dramatically, and more and more insurance companies are leaving the market, reducing or eliminating both competition and options for consumers. The math is coming home to roost.
It perhaps is fortunate that Mr. Trump was not one of those opposing leaders present at that first White House meeting back in 2009 who were so humiliated by a very inexperienced President in front of the other party’s leaders. Arrogantly setting precedent is very risky business; precedents have a way of always coming back to bite you in the ass.
Footnote #4. Burying The Truth. Three months after his election, four weeks after his inauguration, his political opponents have still not stopped their complaining, still have not confirmed the President’s full cabinet – the longest such US Senate obstructionist delay in American history. Establishment press like the New York Times and the Washington Post still fill their pages with all sorts of negative “news” about the sitting administration – before it has even had a chance to do anything. A rational person would think that three whole months would be long enough for people to finally get a grip on reality and deal with it like grown-up adults. Yes, somehow the Queen did NOT exercise her birthright quota and levitate onto the throne as had been prophesized by the Goddess of Socialist Rights to the Queen’s legions of entitled worshipers – all the more shocking since she had accomplished such smashing Real World successes like, for example, returning our female-dominated Third World K-12 “education” industry to its former position of top global excellence, for both girls AND boys. (Well, no, she didn’t.) Still, it might be helpful to turn off all the childish whining and remember that Mr. Trump beat BOTH political parties and won the votes of 63,000,000 Americans – half of those who voted, and very many of whom do not live in either the east or left coast mega-cities of America.
Mr. Trump is not the leader of some small clique of plotters who engineered a coup d’état in the shadows – as the schizophrenic media, bureaucrats and lobbyists, ensconced in their own tiny echo chambers, would have everyone believe. The most important thing that Mr. Trump’s extremely public campaign victory showed was that America’s self-proclaimed “elitists” failed to understand some enormously important things about the America about which they incessantly claim unrivaled “expertise”. All they really understand is their own tightly confined and self-serving little worlds, i.e., that it’s all about “very special me in my own special universe.” That having been settled, then who really are the “ignorant” and “stupid” among us?
The writer below gets it. The problem with America, and the reason so many champion Mr. Trump and his team, is Baby Boomer Incompetence – in politics, governance, academia and media. The lunatics are running the asylum – and blaming it on Donald Trump. I am certainly no big fan of Mr. Trump as a person, but I do support many of his broader objectives. The most important thing that Mr. Trump and his team bring to the status quo equation is a wrecking ball, and the more the “elitists” scream, the stronger become his supporters. The screamers now run the risk of pushing the supporters too far.
Trump is no fascist. He is a champion for the forgotten millions
Obama promised solutions but let the people down. Is it any surprise that they voted for real change?
The Guardian, Saturday, 4 February 2017
by John Daniel Davidson (Davidson is a senior correspondent for the Federalist who lives in Austin, Texas.)
Amid the ongoing protests against President Trump, calls for “resistance” among Democratic politicians and activists, and the overheated rhetoric casting Trump and his supporters as fascists and xenophobes, an outsider might be forgiven for thinking that America has been taken over by a small faction of rightwing nationalists.
America is deeply divided, but it’s not divided between fascists and Democrats. It’s more accurate to say that America is divided between the elites and everybody else, and Trump’s election was a rejection of the elites.
That’s not to say plenty of Democrats and progressives don’t vehemently oppose Trump. But the crowds of demonstrators share something in common with our political and media elites: they still don’t understand how Trump got elected, or why millions of Americans continue to support him. Even now, recent polls show that more Americans support Trump’s executive order on immigration than oppose it, but you wouldn’t know it based on the media coverage.
Support for Trump’s travel ban, indeed his entire agenda for immigration reform, is precisely the sort of thing mainstream media, concentrated in urban enclaves along our coasts, has trouble comprehending. The fact is, many Americans who voted for Trump, especially those in suburban and rural areas across the heartland and the south, have long felt disconnected from the institutions that govern them. On immigration and trade, the issues that propelled Trump to the White House, they want the status quo to change.
During his first two weeks in office, whenever Trump has done something that leaves political and media elites aghast, his supporters cheer. They like that he told Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto he might have to send troops across the border to stop “bad hombres down there”. They like that he threatened to pull out of an Obama-era deal to accept thousands of refugees Australia refuses to admit. They want him to dismantle Dodd-Frank financial regulations for Wall Street and rethink US trade deals. This is why they voted for him.
The failure to understand why these measures are popular with millions of Americans stems from a deep sense of disconnection in American society that didn’t begin with Trump or the 2016 election. For years, millions of voters have felt left behind by an economic recovery that largely excluded them, a culture that scoffed at their beliefs, and a government that promised change but failed to deliver.
Nowhere is this disconnection more palpable than in the American Midwest, in places such as Akron, a small city in northeast Ohio nestled along a bend in the Little Cuyahoga river. Its downtown boasts clean and pleasant streets, a minor league baseball park, bustling cafes and a lively university. The people are friendly and open, as Midwesterners tend to be. In many ways, it’s an idyllic American town.
Except for the heroin. Like many suburban and rural communities across the country, Akron is in the grip of a deadly heroin epidemic. Last summer, a batch of heroin cut with a synthetic painkiller called carfentanil, an elephant tranquillizer, turned up in the city. Twenty-one people overdosed in a single day. Over the ensuing weeks, 300 more would overdose. Dozens would die.
The heroin epidemic is playing out against a backdrop of industrial decline. At one time, Akron was a manufacturing hub, home to four major tire companies and a rising middle class. Today, most of that is gone. The tire factories have long since moved overseas and the city’s population has been steadily shrinking since the 1960s. This is what Trump was talking about when he spoke of “American carnage” in his inaugural address. ((None of this happened overnight, came as a great surprise to anyone. This is an abject failure of American political “leadership” – of BOTH parties. I t’s “the world beyond the pampered echo chambers” full of people who sit on their asses talking to themselves. These and a dozen other major societal changes began becoming glaringly evident forty years ago – and nothing ever changed in Washington OR New York. Everyone kept running on thinking done for them by their Greatest Generation parents – for a world that was vanishing fast. “That’s a problem for “someone else”! No, it wasn’t.))
Akron is not unique. Cities and towns across America’s rust belt, Appalachia and the deep south are in a state of gradual decline. Many of these places have long been Democratic strongholds, undergirded by once-robust unions.
On election day, millions of Democrats who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 cast their votes for Trump. In those earlier elections, these blue-collar Democrats were voting for change, hoping Obama would prioritize the needs of working Americans over the elites and special interests concentrated in Washington DC and Wall Street.
For many Americans, Hillary Clinton personified the corruption and self-dealing of the elites. But Trump’s election wasn’t just a rejection of Clinton, it was a rejection of politics as usual. If the media and political establishment see Trump’s first couple of weeks in office as a whirlwind of chaos and incompetence, his supporters see an outsider taking on a sclerotic system that needs to be dismantled. That’s precisely what many Americans thought they were doing eight years ago, when they put a freshman senator from Illinois in the White House. Obama promised a new way of governing – he would be a “post-partisan” president, he would “fundamentally transform” the country, he would look out for the middle class. In the throes of the great recession, that resonated. Something was clearly wrong with our political system and the American people wanted someone to fix it.
After all, the Tea Party didn’t begin as a reaction against Obama’s presidency but that of George W Bush. ((Remember Sarah Palin? Despite all her flaws as a politician in 2008, she was more popular as a candidate for Vice President than her seasoned Senator running mate John McCain was for President – despite, or because of, incessant and intense establishment media and entertainment vilification.)) As far as most Americans were concerned, the financial crisis was brought on by the excesses of Wall Street bankers and the incompetency of our political leaders. Before the Tea Party coalesced into a political movement, the protesters weren’t just traditional conservatives who cared about limited government and the constitution. They were, for the most part, ordinary Americans who felt the system was rigged against them and they wanted change.
But change didn’t come. What they got was more of the same. Obama offered a series of massive government programs, from an $830bn financial stimulus, to the Affordable Care Act, to Dodd-Frank ((banking)), none of which did much to assuage the economic anxieties of the middle class. Americans watched as the federal government bailed out the banks, then the auto industry and then passed healthcare reform that transferred billions of taxpayer dollars to major health insurance companies. Meanwhile, premiums went up, economic recovery remained sluggish and millions dropped out of the workforce and turned to food stamps and welfare programs just to get by. Americans asked themselves: “Where’s my bailout?”
At the same time, they saw the world becoming more unstable. Part of Obama’s appeal was that he promised to end the unpopular wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, restore America’s standing in the international community and pursue multilateral agreements that would bring stability. Instead, Americans watched ISIS step into the vacuum created by the US withdrawal from Iraq in 2011. They watched the Syrian civil war trigger a migrant crisis in Europe that many Americans now view as a cautionary tale. At home, ISIS-inspired terrorist attacks took their toll, as they did in Europe. And all the while Obama’s White House insisted that everything was going well.
Amid all this, along came Trump. Here was a rough character, a boisterous celebrity billionaire with an axe to grind. He had palpable disdain for both political parties, which he said had failed the American people. He showed contempt for political correctness that was strangling public debate over contentious issues such as terrorism. ((It’s just tragic that their super-majority vote makes it impossible for him to show contempt for the self-involved “thinking” of privileged American women – thanks to the dictate of political correctness the most protected, the most pampered, the most promoted, the most privileged and the most powerful group on the planet – for incessantly doing almost nothing except childishly making demands of everyone else.)) He struck many of the same populist notes, both in his campaign and in his recent inaugural address, that Senator Bernie Sanders did among his young socialist acolytes, sometimes word for word.
In many ways, Trump’s agenda isn’t partisan in a recognizable way – especially on trade. Almost immediately after taking office, Trump made good on a promise that Sanders also made, pulling the US out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and proclaiming an end to multilateral trade deals. He also threatened US companies with a “border tax” if they move jobs overseas. These are not traditional Republican positions but they do appeal to American workers who have watched employers pull out of their communities and ship jobs overseas.
Many traditional Republicans have always been uncomfortable with Trump. They fundamentally disagree with his positions on trade and immigration. Even now, congressional Republicans are revolting over Trump’s proposed border wall, promising to block any new expenditures for it. They’re also uncomfortable with Trump personally. For some Republicans, it was only Trump’s promise to nominate a conservative supreme court justice to replace Justice Antonin Scalia that won their votes in the end – a promise Trump honored last week by nominating Judge Neil Gorsuch, a judge very much in Scalia’s mold.
Once Trump won the nomination at the Republican national convention, most Republican voters got on board, reasoning that whatever uncertainty they had about Trump, the alternative – Clinton – was worse.
In many ways, the 2016 election wasn’t just a referendum on Obama’s eight years in the White House. It was a rejection of the entire political system that gave us Iraq, the financial crisis, a botched healthcare law and shocking income inequality during a slow economic recovery. From Akron to Alaska, millions of Americans had simply lost confidence in their leaders and the institutions that were supposed to serve them. In their desperation, they turned to a man who had no regard for the elites – and no use for them.
In his inaugural address, Trump said: “Today, we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, DC, and giving it back to you, the people.” To be sure, populism of this kind can be dangerous and unpredictable, but it doesn’t arise from nowhere. Only a corrupt political establishment could have provoked a political revolt of this scale. Instead of blaming Trump’s rise on racism or xenophobia, blame it on those who never saw this coming and still don’t understand why so many Americans would rather have Donald Trump in the White House than suffer the rule of their elites.