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The latest ODNI “hacking” report insults our intelligence

The ODNI reports offers zero evidence of Russian hacking, and instead focuses attention on Russian news outlets, accusing them of presenting an alternative view on world events.

Allen Baldanza

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One January 6th, 2017, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a report that claimed with “high confidence” that Russia hacked the U.S. elections. The problem? Not only was absolutely no evidence given, but the vast majority of the report was spent attacking Russian news network RT for influencing the U.S. election.

The report labels a legitimate news outlet as a propaganda piece, for merely being funded by the Russian government and being critical of U.S. policies and Secretary Clinton, while favoring Donald Trump.

Of course, these actions came from the highest levels of the Russian government. Clearly from Putin himself. But don’t take my word for it. Let’s look at their exact claims:

“We assess with high confidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election, the consistent goals of which were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.”

“We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. When it appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win the election, the Russian influence campaign then focused on undermining her expected presidency.”

Those are pretty bold claims. Their evidence of Russian motives?

“Putin most likely wanted to discredit Secretary Clinton because he has publicly blamed her since 2011 for inciting mass protests against his regime in late 2011 and early 2012, and because he holds a grudge for comments he almost certainly saw as disparaging him.”

Pretty sure this claim was straight out of the mouth of Hillary Clinton, and I’m certain that the intelligence community could do better than this. Why not look at the obvious legitimate motives for wanting Trump? Is it honestly shocking that Russia would prefer a candidate that wants to work with them, as Trump has stated he would? And is it a crime to be against a candidate that bragged about being “tough on Putin” and establishing a no-fly zone in Syria? If Clinton did establish the latter, it would have effectively meant war with Russia and potentially thousands of lives lost on both sides.

Is it wrong for Russia to have its own, legitimate interests? But having a preference for a candidate doesn’t mean that they actually hacked the election. The report even states that:

“Russian intelligence obtained and maintained access to elements of multiple US state or local electoral boards. DHS assesses that the types of systems Russian actors targeted or compromised were not involved in vote tallying.”

…So, in other words, they didn’t hack the voting machines. So what did the Russians do wrong? To start, the report claims:

“We assess with high confidence that Russian military intelligence (General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate or GRU) used the Guccifer 2.0 persona and DCLeaks.com to release US victim data obtained in cyber operations publicly and in exclusives to media outlets and relayed material to WikiLeaks.”

Let’s just go along with what the report claims: That the Russian government hacked the DNC to discredit American democracy. Does that not take away the fact that the DNC and Hillary Clinton were amongst the most corrupt individuals in American history?

The Russian government didn’t discredit American democracy. That was the work of Hillary Clinton and the DNC. But this “evidence” of Russian wrongdoing is but a small section of the report. The real target that took up over half the report was Russian news outlet RT.

And perhaps that’s the most worrying thing about this whole report. It’s not the actions of RT that worries me, but the statements and false claims made in the report. To quote from the report itself:

“Russia’s state-run propaganda machine comprised of its domestic media apparatus, outlets targeting global audiences such as RT and Sputnik, and a network of quasi-government trolls contributed to the influence campaign by serving as a platform for Kremlin messaging to Russian and international audiences. State-owned Russian media made increasingly favorable comments about President-elect Trump as the 2016 US general and primary election campaigns progressed while consistently offering negative coverage of Secretary Clinton.”

It continues,

“Starting in March 2016, Russian Government linked actors began openly supporting President-elect Trump’s candidacy in media aimed at English-speaking audiences. RT and Sputnik another government-funded outlet producing pro-Kremlin radio and online content in a variety of languages for international audiences consistently cast President-elect Trump as the target of unfair coverage from traditional US media outlets that they claimed were subservient to a corrupt political establishment.”

First, how does RT being state-run make it a “propaganda machine”? What does that make PBS and the BBC? Both are funded by the American and British governments, and yet they have never been accused of being either American or British propaganda.

But the worrying part is the mere fact that having an alternative opinion all of a sudden makes RT propaganda. First, there was certainly biased media coverage in favor of Clinton from mainstream media. Need I quote from the DNC leaks themselves that CNN host Donna Brazile gave Hillary Clinton some of the presidential debate questions? I think I speak for any American with a bit of common sense that those debates were heavily biased in favor of Clinton.

Second, what is wrong with a media outlet having a favorable view of Donald Trump? Is Russian media any less entitled to the freedom of speech that our constitution guarantees? Does that make American news outlets such as The Washington Times Russian propaganda as well? There is absolutely no coherent logic in making that claim.

It’s especially concerning that the report took issue with RT in the following statement:

“RT America TV, a Kremlin-financed channel operated from within the United States, has substantially expanded its repertoire of programming that highlights criticism of alleged US shortcomings in democracy and civil liberties.”

You mean just like the Founding Fathers of the United States asked the American people to do, in order to better our nation? Should we not expose and address legitimate issues concerning our nation and our civil liberties? If Thomas Jefferson saw this report taking issue with such programming, he would be rolling over in his grave.

But the so-called evidence that the report gives is either false or a non-issue. In fact, it’s worrying to me that the report takes issue with RT’s reporting and take on current problems our nation faces. To start:

“RT introduced two new shows — “Breaking the Set” on 4 September and “Truthseeker” on 2 November — both overwhelmingly focused on criticism of US and Western governments as well as the promotion of radical discontent.”

Does it mean the shows that were ended over two years ago? It would have been impossible for those shows to have had any commentary on the 2016 presidential election. Let’s look at their next claim.

“From August to November 2012, RT ran numerous reports on alleged US election fraud and voting machine vulnerabilities, contending that US election results cannot be trusted and do not reflect the popular will.”

You mean just like Fox and The Federalist reported on? Evidence this is Russian propaganda please? Next one:

“In an effort to highlight the alleged “lack of democracy” in the United States, RT broadcast, hosted, and advertised third-party candidate debates and ran reporting supportive of the political agenda of these candidates. The RT hosts asserted that the US two-party system does not represent the views of at least one-third of the population and is a “sham.””

And how is any of this wrong or threatening American democracy? To the contrary, doesn’t it enhance it? Is it not true that millions of Americans are and were disenfranchised with both Republicans and Democrats? And how is supporting a third party candidates point of view or advertising their debates undermining or “hacking” our election? Is this not legitimate reporting? Next one:

“RT’s reports often characterize the United States as a “surveillance state” and allege widespread infringements of civil liberties, police brutality, and drone use (RT, 24, 28 October, 1-10 November).”

Have any of these reports been disproven? Rand Paul, a U.S. senator, has actively fought against American intelligence agencies conducting surveillance without a warrant. Furthermore, RT has given balanced views on police, showing countless examples of exemplary police officers and the bad. Just look here and here as well. It seems the ODNI report is a bit biased by not showing the whole story. Next one:

“RT has also focused on criticism of the US economic system, US currency policy, alleged Wall Street greed, and the US national debt. Some of RT’s hosts have compared the United States to Imperial Rome and have predicted that government corruption and “corporate greed” will lead to US financial collapse (RT, 31 October, 4 November).”

Are these not legitimate issues to report on? What’s the problem here? There is a problem with Wall Street greed, our debt stands at over $20 trillion, and is there any problem with making logical comparisons to previous historical nations? Should we not study history and learn from our mistakes? Let’s not forget, the Russians themselves often called themselves the Third Rome. I wouldn’t take that as an insult. Next one:

“RT runs anti-fracking programming, highlighting environmental issues and the impacts on public health. This is likely reflective of the Russian Government’s concern about the impact of fracking and US natural gas production on the global energy market and the potential challenges to Gazprom’s profitability (5 October).”

Except there has been serious environmental and health issues involved with fracking. Reporting on this issue should be taken as an opportunity to improve the situation, not complain that reporting on legitimate issues is “Russian propaganda.” I think this report is proving more and more that the Russians are right. Next one:

“RT is a leading media voice opposing Western intervention in the Syrian conflict and blaming the West for waging “information wars” against the Syrian Government (RT, 10 October-9 November).”

Except RT did an excellent job with investigative reporting regarding Western media claims on the Syrian conflict, exposing them for not providing sufficient evidence. RT was right to make these claims. Secondly, is it wrong to question our support for “rebels” in Syria, who are often times fighting for Al-Qaeda and ISIS? Should we not hold our government accountable to make good decisions, and not waste American lives and taxpayer money?

One of the last claims that the report makes is simply dumbfounding:

RT aggressively advertises its social media accounts and has a significant and fast-growing social media footprint. In line with its efforts to present itself as anti-mainstream and to provide viewers alternative news content, RT is making its social media operations a top priority, both to avoid broadcast TV regulations and to expand its overall audience.”

You mean like every single other news outlet, company, non-profit, and organization on the planet? Is using social media and wanting to expand your audience a crime? Does that mean that music artists spending advertising dollars on social media presence are secretly Russian spies? Give me a break.

Absolutely nothing in the ODNI report gives any evidence that the Russians did anything illegal or wrong, let alone hacking a presidential election.

But let’s just pretend that the ODNI report is making legitimate claims that the Russians are guilty of wrongdoing. Let’s just pretend that the DNC hack was Vladimir Putin’s fault, and that Russian media bias was designed to favor Trump and discredit Clinton. How does any of this make a difference?

Ultimately, it was the American people that saw Hillary Clinton and the DNC for what they truly are: corrupted, lying criminals. And it was the American people that saw wrongdoing in American policy under the Obama administration, to include our support of Syrian rebels. And finally, it was the American people that went to the voting machines and decided for themselves who they wanted as President of the United States: Donald J. Trump.

Why? Because propaganda or not, it was the American people that were tired of our corrupt government and Hillary Clinton ruining our country. And we decided to take a stand, with or without the support of the Russians.

If there was any hack of the American election, it wasn’t the fault of the Russians. Hillary Clinton and the DNC managed to fail the American people themselves.

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Social media purge continues, as platforms operate as publishers (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 80.

Alex Christoforou

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Following the suspension of Alex Jones, Twitter has also moved to restrict Jones’ Infowars account.

BuzzFeed News is reporting that the Infowars account will be restricted from tweeting, but will still be able to browse Twitter and send direct messages to other users, while users will still be able to view the account.

The move, which essentially puts the account in read-only mode, comes less than a day after Twitter temporarily limited Infowars proprietor Alex Jones for a week after he tweeted a link to a video in which he called on his supporters to get their “battle rifles” ready. That video, which was shared on Twitter-owned live streaming service Periscope, was also shared by Infowars earlier on Wednesday.

A Twitter spokesperson confirmed that Infowars’ account, which has more than 430,000 followers, will be prevented from tweeting, retweeting, liking or following other users during a seven-day window. The account will stay online, allowing users to view it during that period.

Via Zerohedge

On Tuesday, Twitter suspended the conspiracy theorist and blogger for violating the social media company’s policies, in a stark reversal for Jack Dorsey who previously bucked the trend by other tech giants to muzzle the Infowars creator.

As CNET first reported, Jones’ account was put in “read only” mode and will be blocked from posting on Twitter for seven days because of an offending tweet, the company said. While Twitter declined to comment on the content that violated its policies, a Twitter spokesperson told CNN the content which prompted the suspension was a video published Tuesday in which he said, “now is time to act on the enemy before they do a false flag.”

A Twitter spokesperson wouldn’t say what would get Jones or Infowars permanently suspended, however they noted “We look at [the] volume and nature of violations before suspending an account,” according to Buzzfeed.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the latest twists and turns in the vicious social media purge of conservative right and libertarian accounts. Platforms are acting like publishers and this may mean the end of monopoly social media services.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Meanwhile, in a censorship move against Libertarian commentary, Ron Paul Institute director Daniel McAdams and Antiwar editor Scott Horton were suspended by Twitter for simply retweeting. Justin Raimondo informs…

Target Liberty reports

Update from Justin:

Neither @scotthortonshow nor @DanielLMcAdams have been reinstated. You can see their tweets: they can’t tweet.

RW

Daniel McAdams explain what happened…

Robert I can give you an update from my perspective regarding what happened:

Yesterday on Twitter, former US diplomat Peter Van Buren (@WeMeantWell) took members of the mainstream media to task for swallowing and printing government lies without even bothering to check them out. He said as a former US government official (turned whistleblower) he also lied to the press on behalf of the government and was astonished that the press swallowed each one, hook, line and sinker.

Several corporate media hacks and in particular one employee of an NGO funded by George Soros — a fellow called Jonathan Katz — piled on Peter, accusing him of all manner of treachery. When Peter ended one response with a sarcastic reference to zombie attacks – “I hope a MAGA guy eats your face” — which is obviously a joke, Katz replied that he is reporting Peter for promoting violence.

So he and his buddies ganged up on Peter and got him banned. Scott Horton and I were incensed over the ban, which seemed to us totally arbitrary. There was no threat of violence and it was no different than millions of Tweets all the time. So Scott and I both joined in and criticized Katz for running off to the authorities in attempt to get someone banned rather than just walk away from the debate.

Katz then did his usual routine and ran to the authorities and had Scott and me banned. Mine was for, as Twitter informed me, because “you may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease.” There is no way at all that my Tweet violated the above rule. In no way did I harass or threaten based on those criteria. I merely strongly criticized Katz for running to the authorities to get Peter banned.

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“I’m Not A Racist, But I’m A Nationalist”: Why Sweden Faces A Historic Election Upset

Sweden is set to have a political earthquake in September.

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Via Zerohedge


“Trains and hospitals don’t work, but immigration continues,” Roger Mathson, a retired vegetable oil factory worker in Sweden, told Bloomberg on the same day as the violent, coordinated rampage by masked gangs of youths across five Swedish cities.

We noted earlier that Swedish politicians were quick to react with anti-immigrant party ‘Sweden Democrats’ seeing a surge in the polls ahead of the September 9th election.

“I’m not a racist, but I’m a nationalist,” Mathson said. “I don’t like seeing the town square full of Niqab-clad ladies and people fighting with each other.”

Is Sweden set to have its own political earthquake in September, where general elections could end a century of Social Democratic dominance and bring to power a little known (on the world stage), but the now hugely popular nationalist party often dubbed far-right and right-wing populist, called Sweden Democrats?

Sweden, a historically largely homogeneous population of 10 million, took in an astounding 600,000 refugees over the past five years, and after Swedes across various cities looked out their windows Tuesday to see cars exploding, smoke filling the skies, and possibly armed masked men hurling explosives around busy parking lots, it appears they’ve had enough.

Over the past years of their rise as a political force in Swedish politics, the country’s media have routinely labelled the Sweden Democrats as “racists” and “Nazis” due to their seemingly single issue focus of anti-immigration and strong Euroscepticism.

A poll at the start of this week indicated the Sweden Democrats slid back to third place after topping three previous polls as the September election nears; however, Tuesday’s national crisis and what could legitimately be dubbed a serious domestic terror threat is likely to boost their popularity.

Bloomberg’s profile of their leader, Jimmie Akesson, echoes the tone of establishment Swedish media in the way they commonly cast the movement, beginning as follows:

Viking rock music and whole pigs roasting on spits drew thousands of Swedes to a festival hosted by nationalists poised to deliver their country’s biggest political upheaval in a century.

The Sweden Democrats have been led since 2005 by a clean-cut and bespectacled man, Jimmie Akesson. He’s gentrified a party that traces its roots back to the country’s neo-Nazi, white supremacist fringe. Some polls now show the group may become the biggest in Sweden’s parliament after general elections on Sept. 9. Such an outcome would end 100 years of Social Democratic dominance.

The group’s popularity began surging after the 2015 immigration crisis began, which first hit Europe’s southern Mediterranean shores and quickly moved northward as shocking wave after wave of migrants came.

Jimmie Akesson (right). Image source: Getty via Daily Express

Akesson emphasizes something akin to a “Sweden-first” platform which European media often compares to Trump’s “America First”; and the party has long been accused of preaching forced assimilation into Swedish culture to be become a citizen.

Bloomberg’s report surveys opinions at a large political rally held in Akkeson’s hometown of Solvesborg, and some of the statements are sure to be increasingly common sentiment after this week’s coordinated multi-city attack:

At his party’s festival, Akesson revved up the crowd by slamming the establishment’s failures, calling the last two governments the worst in Swedish history. T-shirts calling for a Swexit, or an exit from the EU, were exchanged as bands played nationalist tunes.

Ted Lorentsson, a retiree from the island of Tjorn, said he’s an enthusiastic backer of the Sweden Democrats. “I think they want to improve elderly care, health care, child care,” he said. “Bring back the old Sweden.” But he also acknowledges his view has led to disagreement within his family as his daughter recoils at what she feels is the “Hitler”-like rhetoric.

No doubt, the media and Eurocrats in Brussels will take simple, innocent statements from elderly retirees like “bring back the old Sweden” as nothing short of declaration of a race war, but such views will only solidify after this week.

Another Sweden Democrat supporter, a 60-year old woman who works at a distillery, told Bloomberg, “I think you need to start seeing the whole picture in Sweden and save the original Swedish population,” she said. “I’m not racist, because I’m a realist.”

Sweden’s two biggest parties, the Social Democrats and Moderates, are now feeling the pressure as Swedes increasingly worry about key issues preached by Akesson like immigration, law and order, and health care – seen as under threat by a mass influx of immigrants that the system can’t handle.

Bloomberg explains further:

But even young voters are turning their backs on the establishment. One potential SD supporter is law student Oscar Persson. Though he hasn’t yet decided how he’ll vote, he says it’s time for the mainstream parties to stop treating the Sweden Democrats like a pariah. “This game they are playing now, where the other parties don’t want to talk to them but still want their support, is something I don’t really understand,” he said.

Akesson has managed to entice voters from both sides of the political spectrum with a message of more welfare, lower taxes and savings based on immigration cuts.

With many Swedes now saying immigration has “gone too far” and as this week’s events have once again thrust the issue before both a national and global audience, the next round of polling will mostly like put Sweden’s conservative-right movements on top

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The Turkish Emerging Market Timebomb

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s populist economic policies have finally caught up to him.

The Duran

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Authored by Jim O’Neill, originally on Project Syndicate:


As the Turkish lira continues to depreciate against the dollar, fears of a classic emerging-market crisis have come to the fore. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s populist economic policies have finally caught up to him, and sooner or later, he will have to make nice with his country’s traditional Western allies.

Turkey’s falling currency and deteriorating financial conditions lend credence, at least for some people, to the notion that “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” I suspect that many Western policymakers, in particular, are not entirely unhappy about Turkey’s plight.

To veteran economic observers, Turkey’s troubles are almost a textbook case of an emerging-market flop. It is August, after all, and back in the 1990s, one could barely go a single year without some kind of financial crisis striking in the dog days of summer.

But more to the point, Turkey has a large, persistent current-account deficit, and a belligerent leader who does not realize – or refuses to acknowledge – that his populist economic policies are unsustainable. Moreover, Turkey has become increasingly dependent on overseas investors (and probably some wealthy domestic investors, too).

Given these slowly gestating factors, markets have long assumed that Turkey was headed for a currency crisis. In fact, such worries were widespread as far back as the fall of 2013, when I was in Istanbul interviewing business and financial leaders for a BBC Radio series on emerging economies. At that time, markets were beginning to fear that monetary-policy normalization and an end to quantitative easing in the United States would have dire consequences globally. The Turkish lira has been flirting with disaster ever since.

Now that the crisis has finally come to pass, it is Turkey’s population that will bear the brunt of it. The country must drastically tighten its domestic monetary policy, curtail foreign borrowing, and prepare for the likelihood of a full-blown economic recession, during which time domestic saving will slowly have to be rebuilt.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s leadership will both complicate matters and give Turkey some leverage. Erdoğan has  constitutional powers, reducing those of the parliament, and undercutting the independence of monetary and fiscal policymaking. And to top it off, he seems to be reveling in an escalating feud with US President Donald Trump’s administration over Turkey’s imprisonment of an American pastor and purchase of a Russian S-400 missile-defense system.

This is a dangerous brew for the leader of an emerging economy to imbibe, particularly when the United States itself has embarked on a Ronald Reagan-style fiscal expansion that has pushed the US Federal Reserve to raise interest rates faster than it would have otherwise. Given the unlikelihood of some external source of funding emerging, Erdoğan will eventually have to back down on some of his unorthodox policies. My guess is that we’ll see a return to a more conventional monetary policy, and possibly a new fiscal-policy framework.

As for Turkey’s leverage in the current crisis, it is worth remembering that the country has a large and youthful population, and thus the potential to grow into a much larger economy in the future. It also enjoys a privileged geographic position at the crossroads of Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia, which means that many major players have a stake in ensuring its stability. Indeed, many Europeans still hold out hope that Turkey will embrace Western-style capitalism, despite the damage that Erdoğan has done to the country’s European Union accession bid.

Among the regional powers, Russia is sometimes mentioned as a potential savior for Turkey. There is no doubt that Russian President Vladimir Putin would love to use Turkey’s crisis to pull it even further away from its NATO allies. But Erdoğan and his advisers would be deeply mistaken to think that Russia can fill Turkey’s financial void. A Kremlin intervention would do little for Turkey, and would likely exacerbate Russia’s own .

The other two potential patrons are Qatar and, of course, China. But while Qatar, one of Turkey’s closest Gulf allies, could provide financial aid, it does not ultimately have the wherewithal to pull Turkey out of its crisis singlehandedly.

As for China, though it will not want to waste the opportunity to increase its influence vis-à-vis Turkey, it is not the country’s style to step into such a volatile situation, much less assume responsibility for solving the problem. The more likely outcome – as we are seeing in Greece – is that China will unleash its companies to pursue investment opportunities after the dust settles.

That means that Turkey’s economic salvation lies with its conventional Western allies: the US and the EU (particularly France and Germany). On August 13, a White House spokesperson confirmed that the Trump administration is watching the financial-market response to Turkey’s crisis “very closely.” The last thing that Trump wants is a crumbling world economy and a massive dollar rally, which could derail his domestic economic ambitions. So a classic Trump “trade” is probably there for Erdoğan, if he is willing to come to the negotiating table.

Likewise, some of Europe’s biggest and most fragile banks have significant exposure to Turkey. Combine that with the ongoing political crisis over migration, and you have a recipe for deeper destabilization within the EU. I, for one, cannot imagine that European leaders will sit by and do nothing while Turkey implodes on their border.

Despite his escalating rhetoric, Erdoğan may soon find that he has little choice but to abandon his isolationist and antagonistic policies of the last few years. If he does, many investors may look back next year and wish that they had snapped up a few lira when they had the chance.

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