Doing Advance Work

News that doesn't receive the necessary attention.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Millions in free taxpayer cash available to “researchers” selling outrage over alleged Russian "propaganda and disinformation," including inventing new slights such as that Russia has turned the pristine internet into a "sewer"-Robert Parry, Consortium News

10/18/17, "Blaming Russia for the Internet ‘Sewer’," Robert Parry, Consortium News

"Exclusive: As the Russia-gate hysteria spirals down from the implausible to the absurd, almost every bad thing is blamed on the Russians, even how they turned the previously pristine Internet into a "sewer," reports Robert Parry."

"With the U.S. government offering tens of millions of dollars to combat Russian "propaganda and disinformation" it’s perhaps not surprising that we see “researchers” such as Jonathan Albright of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University making the absurd accusation that the Russians have “basically turned [the Internet] into a sewer.” 

I’ve been operating on the Internet since 1995 and I can assure you that the Internet has always been “a sewer” — in that it has been home to crazy conspiracy theories, ugly personal insults, click-bait tabloid “news,” and pretty much every vile prejudice you can think of. Whatever some Russians may or may not have done in buying $100,000 in ads on Facebook (compared to its $27 billion in annual revenue) or opening 201 Twitter accounts (out of Twitter’s 328 million monthly users), the Russians are not responsible for the sewage coursing through the Internet.

Americans, Europeans, Asians, Africans and pretty much every other segment of the world’s population didn’t need Russian help to turn the Internet into an informational “sewer."

But, of course, fairness and proportionality have no place in today’s Russia-gate frenzy. 

After all, your “non-governmental organization” or your scholarly “think tank” is not likely to get a piece of the $160 million that the U.S. government authorized last December to counter primarily Russian “propaganda and disinformation” if you explain that the Russians are at most responsible for a tiny trickle of “sewage” compared to the vast rivers of “sewage” coming from many other sources.

If you put the Russia-gate controversy in context, you also are not likely to have your “research” cited by The Washington Post as Albright did on Thursday because he supposedly found some links at the home-décor/fashion site Pinterest to a few articles that derived from a few of the 470 Facebook accounts and pages that Facebook suspects of having a link to Russia and shut them down. (To put that 470 number into perspective, Facebook has about two billion monthly users.)

Albright’s full quote about the Russians allegedly exploiting various social media platforms on the Internet was: “They’ve gone to every possible medium and basically turned it into a sewer.”

But let’s look at the facts. According to Facebook, the suspected “Russian-linked” accounts purchased $100,000 in ads from 2015 to 2017 [June 2015 to May 2017, a two year period including 7 months AFTER the election was over] (compared to Facebook’s annual revenue of about $27 billion),

  


appearing before the 2016 election

and many having little or nothing to do with politics, which is curious if the Kremlin’s goal was to help elect Donald Trump and defeat Hillary Clinton.

Even former Clinton political strategist Mark Penn has acknowledged the absurdity of thinking that such piddling amounts could have any impact on a $2.4 billion presidential campaign, plus all the billions of dollars worth of free-media attention to the conventions, debates, etc. Based on what’s known about the Facebook ads, Penn calculated that “the actual electioneering [in battleground states] amounts to about $6,500.”

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed on Monday, Penn added, “I have 40 years of experience in politics, and this Russian ad buy mostly after the election anyway, simply does not add up to a carefully targeted campaign to move voters. It takes tens of millions of dollars to deliver meaningful messages to the contested portion of the electorate.

Puppies and Pokemon

And, then there is the curious content. According to The New York Times, one of these “Russian-linked” Facebook groups was dedicated to photos of “adorable puppies.” Of course, the Times tried hard to detect some sinister motive behind the “puppies” page.

Similarly, CNN went wild over its own “discovery” that one of the “Russian-linked” pages offered Amazon gift cards to people who found “Pokémon Go” sites near scenes where police shot unarmed black men — if you would name the Pokémon after the victims.

“It’s unclear what the people behind the contest hoped to accomplish, though it may have been to remind people living near places where these incidents had taken place of what had happened and to upset or anger them,” CNN mused, adding:

CNN has not found any evidence that any Pokémon Go users attempted to enter the contest, or whether any of the Amazon Gift Cards that were promised were ever awarded— or, indeed, whether the people who designed the contest ever had any intention of awarding the prizes.”

So, these dastardly Russians are exploiting “adorable puppies” and want to “remind people” about unarmed victims of police violence, clearly a masterful strategy to undermine American democracy or – according to the original Russia-gate narrative – to elect Donald Trump.

A New York Times article on Wednesday acknowledged another inconvenient truth that unintentionally added more perspective to the Russia-gate hysteria.

It turns out that some of the mainstream media’s favorite “fact-checking” organizations are home to Google ads that look like news items and lead readers to phony sites dressed up to resemble People, Vogue or other legitimate content providers.

“None of the stories were true,” the Times reported. “Yet as recently as late last week, they were being promoted with prominent ads served by Google on PolitiFact and Snopes, fact-checking sites created precisely to dispel such falsehoods.”

There is obvious irony in PolitiFact and Snopes profiting off “fake news” by taking money for these Google ads. But this reality also underscores the larger reality that fabricated news articles – whether peddling lies about Melania Trump or a hot new celebrity or outlandish Russian plots – are driven principally by the profit motive.

The Truth About Fake News

Occasionally, the U.S. mainstream media even acknowledges that fact. For instance, last November, The New York Times, which was then flogging the Russia-linked “fake news” theme, ran a relatively responsible article about a leading “fake news” Web site that the Times tracked down. It turned out to be an entrepreneurial effort by an unemployed Georgian student using a Web site in Tbilisi to make some money by promoting pro-Trump stories, whether true or not. 

The owner of the Web site, 22-year-old Beqa Latsabidse, said he had initially tried to push stories favorable to Hillary Clinton but that proved unprofitable so he switched to publishing anti-Clinton and pro-Trump articles, including made-up stories. In other words, the Times found no Russian connection.

The Times article on Wednesday revealed the additional problem of Google ads placed on mainstream Internet sites leading readers to bogus news sites to get clicks and thus advertising dollars. And, it turns out that PolitiFact and Snopes were at least unwittingly profiting off these entrepreneurial ventures by running their ads.

Again, there was no claim here of Russian “links.” It was all about good ole American greed.

But the even larger Internet problem is that many “reputable” news sites, such as AOL, lure readers into clicking on some sensationalistic or misleading headline, which takes readers to a story that is often tabloid trash or an extreme exaggeration of what the headline promised.

This reality about the Internet should be the larger context in which the Russia-gate story plays out, the miniscule nature of this Russian “meddling” even if these “suspected … links to Russia” – as the Times initially described the 470 Facebook pages – turn out to be true.

But there are no lucrative grants going to “researchers” who would put the trickle of alleged Russian “sewage” into the context of the vast flow of Internet “sewage” that is even flowing through the esteemed “fact-checking” sites of PolitiFact and Snopes.
 
There are also higher newspaper sales and better TV ratings if the mainstream media keeps turning up new angles on Russia-gate, even as some of the old ones fall away as inconsequential or meaningless (such as the Senate Intelligence Committee dismissing earlier controversies over Sen. Jeff Sessions’s brief meeting with the Russian ambassador at the Mayflower Hotel and minor changes in the Republican platform).
 
Saying ‘False’ Is ‘True’

And, there is the issue of who decides what’s true. PolitiFact continues to defend its false claim that Hillary Clinton was speaking the truth when – in referencing leaked Democratic emails last October – she claimed that the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies “have all concluded that these espionage attacks, these cyberattacks, come from the highest levels of the Kremlin, and they are designed to influence our election.” 

That claim was always untrue because a reference to a consensus of the 17 intelligence agencies suggests a National Intelligence Estimate or similar product that seeks the judgments of the entire intelligence community. No NIE or community-wide study was ever done on this topic.

Only later – in January 2017 – did a small subset of the intelligence community, what Director of National Intelligence James Clapper described as “hand-picked” analysts from three agencies – the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation – issue an “assessment” blaming the Russians while while acknowledging a lack of actual evidence.

In other words, the Jan. 6 “assessment” was comparable to the “stovepiped” intelligence that influenced many of the mistaken judgments of President George W. Bush’s administration. In “stovepiped” intelligence, a selected group of analysts is closeted away and develops judgments without the benefit of other experts who might offer contradictory evidence or question the groupthink.

So, in many ways, Clinton’s statement was the opposite of true both when she said it in 2016 and later in 2017 when she repeated it in direct reference to the Jan. 6 assessment. If PolitiFact really cared about facts, it would have corrected its earlier claim that Clinton was telling the truth, but the fact-checking organization wouldn’t budge — even after The New York Times and The Associated Press ran corrections.

In this context, PolitiFact showed its contempt even for conclusive evidence – testimony from former DNI Clapper (corroborated by former CIA Director John Brennan) that the 17-agency claim was false. Instead, PolitiFact was determined to protect Clinton’s false statement from being described for what it was: false.

Of course, maybe PolitiFact is suffering from the arrogance of its elite status as an arbiter of truth with its position on Google’s First Draft coalition, a collection of mainstream news outlets and fact-checkers which gets to decide what information is true and what is not true for algorithms that then will exclude or downplay what’s deemed “false.” 

So, if PolitiFact says something is true – even if it’s false – it becomes “true.” Thus, it’s perhaps not entirely ironic that PolitiFact would collect money from Google ads placed on its site by advertisers of fake news."

"Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com)."

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Among comments: No matter what form of government, the people have no say in whether their country goes to war:

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

McCain has it exactly backwards and perfectly exemplifies Establishment views. The US leads today only in being blamed for everything wrong in the world and the assumption that it must pay. It must demonize and impoverish itself for imagined global climate deficiencies stemming from the 1700s and open its borders to millions to take pressure off oppressors and tyrants-Rush Limbaugh

10/17/17, "McCain Spells Out the Swamp’s View of the World," Rush Limbaugh

"RUSH: John McCain has had it in for Donald Trump I don’t know for how long. I think McCain’s had it in for Trump even before Trump ran for president....

He delighted in thumbs down his vote killing the latest attempt to reform Obamacare in the Senate. And now he made a speech. He made a speech, he just blasted nationalism and by extension he blasted Trump, and he’s blasting everything about Trump that people like and support. It was in Philadelphia at the National Constitution Center. McCain was awarded the liberty medal. And here’s a portion of what he said.

MCCAIN: To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century — to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain the last, best hope of earth — for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems —

CROWD: (cheers)

MCCAIN: — is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.

RUSH: Okay. Now, let’s parse this, because there are a lot of people — and you heard the applause — a lot of people who agree with McCain on this. “To fear the world we have organized…” 

This is fascinating to me. McCain clearly is a member of the establishment. He’s a proud member of the establishment. He’s probably on the committee that determines who gets in and who gets thrown out.

He is demonstrating here a perfect illustration for anybody wondering what the establishment is and what they think. McCain has spelled it out for you. “To fear the world we have organized…” 

Now, this stems from the belief that America is great, that America’s the good guys, that America is the solution to the world’s problems, that America is the last best hope of earth.

And “that we have organized” means we, as the beacon of freedom. We, as the nation which fights for it and which defends it and seeks it for anybody who wants it. We have fought our own wars. We have helped other nations in wars where their freedom was at stake. We have rebuilt Europe, the Marshall Plan. All of these things constitute what McCain means when he says “the world we have organized.” This is a profound belief in the power of the United States.

And then he adds, “The world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century.” Believe me, he’s talking about the period of time basically post-depression, World War I, all wait to the end of the twentieth century. “To refuse the obligations of international leadership,” meaning we have shaped the world. We have organized it. We have determined the good and the bad. We lead the fight against bad and evil. We define the good.

But now Trump and his nationalism want to refuse the obligations to continue the leadership role that we gave ourselves in the past 75 years. And to refuse these obligations of international leadership and to refuse our duty (as a result of this leadership) to remain the last, best hope of earth, for the sake of some stupid nationalism like getting rid of NAFTA and putting America first, making America great again? That’s junk stuff to McCain!

There is no making America great. America already is great. What do you mean?...We organized the world. The world is ours, and it bends to our will, and why do we want to abrogate? That’s what McCain thinks, and that’s what the establishment thinks. And then he goes on to say this is “unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans…”

What’s wrong with all this? Theoretically, it’s right on the money. 

But what’s wrong with it all? I mean, the answers kind of leap out at you, don’t they? It’s not any great mystery. The world we have organized? Well, maybe we did, but it’s falling apart, and we haven’t been leading the world in I don’t know what area for however long. We have been led by people who want to diminish the role of the United States in the world, Senator McCain.

This is the problem. What you’re missing, sir, about this nationalism that you despise is its real intention is to once again assert this leadership of the world, to assert this guiding light and beacon of freedom. Because for way too many recent years people in your club have been buying into the notion that whatever the United States has been doing the last 75 years has been hurting people. The United States is the problem.

The United States is blamed for climate change. What is that? Destroying the planet, no less! United States is blamed for this, it’s blamed for that. We have to sit here and listen to how socialist and communists worlds and nations are much preferable to ours. What world do we lead? The United Nations exists to fleece the United States, to blame the United States. Barack Obama openly admitted that his purpose was to transform the United States, which means cut it down to size.

It was Barack Obama who started this process of taking America out of the leadership role, and you couldn’t say enough good things about him, Senator McCain. It was Barack Obama and his two terms — and everybody he hired to work with him — who set about to make Iran a nuclear power. How in the world would a United States-led world permit that to happen, for the good of humanity? Senator McCain, with all due respect, you’ve got this totally backwards.
 
Your club or members in your club were actively presiding over the decline of the United States as a leader in the world, as a beacon of freedom.

Your definition of open and leading the world is to open our borders and let the disadvantaged race in! Sorry. That’s not what leadership of the world means. But too many people think leadership of the world meant we need to act on our guilt. We have guilt that we are so wealthier, so richer, so more advanced than most nations on earth, it isn’t fair, and so we must let the downtrodden in because we’ve made them downtrodden.

That’s what your club has started turning this country into, and that’s why people are standing up against it....

Certainly, in the last 20 years, this is not at all at all what the United States’ role in the world has been, and especially the last eight years, the United States, the purpose was to cut us down to size and make us pay our price....

The United States needs to be reconstituted and rebuilt. We just had too many years of too many people believing that the United States is the problem in the world, that the United States has guilt or should have guilt over the great disparities in the world between ourselves and other nations: economics, wealth, these kinds of things. You look at most of the world’s problems and you’ll find the popular thing to do is blame the United States for it.

Climate change is the first thing on the list. We, our advanced lifestyle, just happens to be doing what? Destroying the planet. That is a serious, serious charge, destroying the planet, and they got all kinds of young people believing it. What’s the fix? The United States must downsize, the United States must admit its guilt, the United States must agree with whatever the United Nations claims and alleges and accuses us of doing.

And we must understand that they’re right and we must admit that they’ve got a grievance and we must do what we can to apologize for the way we have structured the world and the way we have led the world, because we have imposed freedom in too many places. We have imposed and stood up for liberty in too many places, where liberty and freedom are not the choice of tyrants and dictators and other oppressors who lead most other nations on earth....

Senator McCain, the United States is not the last, best hope of earth when, for example, we are forced to open our borders and let specifically the downtrodden into our country without any limit and without any concern. All of that is based on guilt, that somehow we have made them downtrodden, that we have enforced their poverty, that we are the reason they can’t get ahead in life because we have shaped the world in this ill-gotten way.

And so we owe it to the people we have deprived to come to our country and get what’s theirs because we have made sure that they can’t get it. This is what’s guiding immigration policy. Well, that and voter registration, of course. But the last, best hope of the world was being destroyed, was being chipped away. It was being torn down to size where it couldn’t lead anything because Barack Obama was doing everything he could to cement the idea that the problems in the world originated with the United States from the days of our founding.

And all that’s happening today, Senator McCain, is an attempt to bring this country back to these ideals you spoke so lovingly about, what we all want. We all believe the United States is a force or good. We all believe the United States is the beacon of hope and liberty for people in the world. We all believe the United States is the last, best hope. But it was being torn apart, it was being torn down, it was being blamed. And it had help from people inside our own country. And finally enough people have said, “Stop, we’re not the problem in the world. We are the solution.” 

And that’s all that’s happening here. I just think Senator McCain has lost track of what’s been going on the last 30 years and certainly the last eight years....

This nationalism, this populism that’s coming under assault, its real purpose is to once again reassert the United States as the leader of the world and the organizer of liberty and freedom in the world and the defender of liberty and freedom in the world, not to have the United States be seen as responsible for the world’s problems, which is what the swamp currently is constituted as, which is what the American elites, the United Nations, the Ivy League schools are all teaching! That the problems in the world are born of the United States’ dominance and that’s what justifies cutting us down in size."...

 
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Clinton Foundation was free to accept foreign government donations while Hillary was Sec. of State per agreement with Obama-NY Times 4/30/2015 correction to 4/23/2015 article, "Cash Flowed to Clinton Foundaiton Amid Russian Uranium Deal"...(To Rod Rosenstein: No conversation, just resign immediately. At minimum, forfeit your US taxpayer funded pension)

 
"An article on Friday [April 23, 2015] about contributions to the Clinton Foundation from people associated with a Canadian uranium-mining company described incorrectly the foundation’s agreement with the Obama administration regarding foreign-government donations while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. Under the agreement, the foundation would not accept new donations from foreign governments, though it could seek State Department waivers in specific cases. The foundation was not barred from accepting all foreign-government donations.


Image: 2010, "Bill Clinton met with Vladimir V. Putin in Moscow in 2010. Credit Mikhail Metzel/Associated Press," via NY Times

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Added: "The investigation was ultimately supervised by then-U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein, an Obama appointee who now serves as President Trump’s deputy attorney general."

10/17/17, "FBI uncovered Russian bribery plot before Obama administration approved controversial nuclear deal with Moscow," The Hill, John Solomon and Alison Spann

"Before the Obama administration approved a controversial deal in 2010 giving Moscow control of a large swath of American uranium, the FBI had gathered substantial evidence that Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to grow Vladimir Putin’s atomic energy business inside the United States, according to government documents and interviews....

Rather than bring immediate charges in 2010, however, the Department of Justice (DOJ) continued investigating the matter for nearly four more years, essentially leaving the American public and Congress in the dark about Russian nuclear corruption on U.S. soil during a period when the Obama administration made two major decisions benefiting Putin’s commercial nuclear ambitions.

The first decision occurred in October 2010, when the State Department and government agencies on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States unanimously approved the partial sale of Canadian mining company Uranium One to the Russian nuclear giant Rosatom, giving Moscow control of more than 20 percent of America’s uranium supply....

The investigation was ultimately supervised by then-U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein, an Obama appointee who now serves as President Trump’s deputy attorney general, and then-Assistant FBI Director Andrew McCabe, now the deputy FBI director under Trump, Justice Department documents show.

Both men now play a key role in the current investigation into possible, but still unproven, collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s campaign during the 2016 election cycle. McCabe is under congressional and Justice Department inspector general investigation in connection with money his wife’s Virginia state Senate campaign accepted in 2015 from now-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe at a time when McAuliffe was reportedly under investigation by the FBI.

The connections to the current Russia case are many. The Mikerin probe began in 2009 when Robert Mueller, now the special counsel in charge of the Trump case, was still FBI director. And it ended in late 2015 under the direction of then-FBI Director James Comey, whom Trump fired earlier this year....

Bringing down a major Russian nuclear corruption scheme that had both compromised a sensitive uranium transportation asset inside the U.S. and facilitated international money laundering would seem a major feather in any law enforcement agency’s cap.

But the Justice Department and FBI took little credit in 2014 when Mikerin, the Russian financier and the trucking firm executives were arrested and charged.

The only public statement occurred a year later when the Justice Department put out a little-noticed press release in August 2015, just days before Labor Day. The release noted that the various defendants had reached plea deals.

By that time, the criminal cases against Mikerin had been narrowed to a single charge of money laundering for a scheme that officials admitted stretched from 2004 to 2014. And though agents had evidence of criminal wrongdoing they collected since at least 2009, federal prosecutors only cited in the plea agreement a handful of transactions that occurred in 2011 and 2012, well after the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States’s approval.

The final court case also made no mention of any connection to the influence peddling conversations the FBI undercover informant witnessed about the Russian nuclear officials trying to ingratiate themselves with the Clintons even though agents had gathered documents showing the transmission of millions of dollars from Russia’s nuclear industry to an American entity that had provided assistance to Bill Clinton’s foundation, sources confirmed to The Hill.

The lack of fanfare left many key players in Washington with no inkling that a major Russian nuclear corruption scheme with national security implications had been uncovered.
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On Dec. 15, 2015, the Justice Department put out a release stating that Mikerin, “a former Russian official residing in Maryland was sentenced today to 48 months in prison” and ordered to forfeit more than $2.1 million.

Ronald Hosko, who served as the assistant FBI director in charge of criminal cases when the investigation was underway, told The Hill he did not recall ever being briefed about Mikerin’s case by the counterintelligence side of the bureau despite the criminal charges that were being lodged.

“I had no idea this case was being conducted,” a surprised Hosko said in an interview."...








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Monday, October 16, 2017

Neocons are joined by Russia-hating liberals as together they fuel more bloodshed in Ukraine-Consortium News, James W. Carden...(Where are the peaceniks?)

"Then, as the blood flowed and the suffering worsened, the neocons just sought out someone else to blame."...7/13/2015
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10/14/17, "Fueling More Bloodshed in Ukraine," Consortium News, James W. Carden

"Exclusive: In the U.S., Russia-hating liberals are joining the neocons in seeking more war in Ukraine, as the prospects for a rational and peaceful resolution to the crisis continue to fade, explains James W. Carden."

"Last January, Sen. John McCain led a delegation along with his longtime sidekick, Sen. Lindsey Graham, to a contingent of Ukrainian troops not far from the front line in eastern Ukraine. In the presence of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Graham told the soldiers: “Your fight is our fight … 2017 will be the year of offense. All of us will go back to Washington and we will push the case against Russia.”

Jan. 2, 2017, McCain, Graham in Ukraine

McCain promised the assembled troops, “we will do everything we can to provide you with what you need to win.”

When contemplating the long careers of the two Republican senators, it is hard to escape the conclusion that McGeorge Bundy’s quip about the famed Cold War columnist Joe Alsop – that he had never known him to go to any area where blood could be spilled that he didn’t come back and say more blood – applies equally to McCain and Graham.

Indeed, last month’s National Defense Authorization Act shows that – if nothing else – McCain and Graham are as good as their word: the recently passed defense appropriations bill provides for $500 million, including “defensive lethal assistance” to Kiev, as part of a $640 billion overall spending package.

The aid comes at a good time for the embattled Ukrainian President Poroshenko, whose approval rating hovers around 16 percent. In a bid to stave off the possibility of a far-right coup d’etat, Poroshenko is back to banging the war drums, promising, well, more blood.

In a little covered speech at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point on Sept. 19, Poroshenko promised that “American weapons will help us liberate the Donbas and return Ukrainian territories.” He also noted that Ukraine spends roughly 6 percent of its GDP on defense, “a figure,” he observed, “much bigger than the obligation for the NATO members.”

Clearly Washington’s condemnation of governments that wage war “against their own people” remains selective, contingent upon who is doing the killing and who is doing the dying. In this case, it would seem that Russian-speaking Ukrainians simply don’t rate.

In addition to promising a wider war in the Donbas, Poroshenko has repeatedly promised that he will seek NATO membership. In August, during a visit by U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, Poroshenko declared: “Our Ukrainian caravan is on a roll and we have one road to travel upon — a wide Euro-Atlantic highway, leading to membership in the European Union and NATO.”

Ukraine’s Human Rights Abuses

There are a number of objections to yet another round of NATO expansion. As I reported in February 2015: “The current [Ukrainian] government has, according to organizations that could hardly be described as Kremlin friendly (Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), committed war crimes in its attempt to defeat the Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas. … 
NATO’s principal consideration should not be whether NATO will make Ukraine more secure, but whether Ukraine will make NATO more secure. The answer is self-evident.”


Nazi symbols on helmets worn by members of Ukraine’s Azov battalion. (As filmed by a Norwegian film crew and shown on German TV)

It is true that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, as recently as this month, insisted to Russian state media that NATO is not contemplating Ukrainian membership, telling Sputnik that “There is no MAP [membership action plan] on the agenda.” Yet Stoltenberg has also said, as he did in a speech to the Ukrainian parliament in July, that he believes Ukraine “has the right to choose its own security arrangements” further noting that “last month, NATO welcomed Montenegro as the 29th member of our Alliance. This shows that NATO’s door remains open.”

So the issue doesn’t seem to be going away.

Poroshenko’s push to join NATO, which is being made against the backdrop of ever-worsening relations between the U.S. and Russia, ignores, perhaps purposefully, one of the principal causes of the morass in which Kiev and Moscow find themselves. It was Moscow’s not unfounded fear that Ukraine might join NATO that helped spark the Ukrainian crisis in early 2014.

In the weeks prior to Russia’s annexation of Crimea (and just over a month before the outbreak of full hostilities in the Donbas), three former presidents of Ukraine (Leonid Kravchuk, Leonid Kuchma and Viktor Yushchenko) called on the post-Maidan regime to renounce the 2010 Kharkiv agreement which allowed for Russia to base its Black Sea naval fleet in Crimea (in return for discounted prices on Russian natural gas).

It is perhaps not unreasonable that this last move, in addition to the foreign policy and security protocols embedded within the European Union Association agreement (which Poroshenko signed in June 2014), would cause the Russian government to at the very least suspect that NATO was setting the stage for Ukraine’s eventual absorption into the alliance.


Indeed, Kiev’s launch of its violent and indiscriminate “Anti-Terrorist Operation” against the Donbas – with the effect of intimidating and alienating otherwise loyal Russian-speaking citizens in the eastern part of the country – surely played a role in the Kremlin’s decision to come to the aid of the rebels later in the summer of 2014 and again at Debaltseve early the following year. 

Less Dangerous Options

One reasonable alternative to NATO membership would be a treaty along the lines of the 1955 Austrian State Treaty, which was an agreement reached between the four post-World War II occupying powers (U.S., USSR, Great Britain and France) that granted Austria its independence “with the understanding,” according to the U.S. State Department, “that the newly independent state of Austria would declare its neutrality, creating a buffer zone between the East and the West,” meaning it would join neither NATO nor the Soviet-run Warsaw Pact....

The situation in postwar Austria – occupied by East and West is not perfectly analogous to the situation that obtains in Ukraine today, but there seem to be lessons...that might be drawn upon to inform Western diplomacy.

But instead of trying to implement the Minsk peace agreement (which calls for the Donbas to remain as part of Ukraine but with more autonomy from Kiev) or search for a reasonable alternative to what are indeed perplexing and pressing matters of national security, Poroshenko has continued to ring the alarm over the another, this time illusory, Russian invasion.

In a recent speech before the Ukrainian parliament, Poroshenko claimed “there is more and more evidence for [Russia’s] preparations for an offensive war of continental proportions.”

Yet perhaps the danger isn’t as clear and present as Poroshenko portrayed it. As Mary Dejevesky of the U.K.’s Independent has observed: “Nato itself had held exercises in the Black Sea and before that in and around the western borderlands of Ukraine. Who, it has to be asked here, is threatening whom?

Indeed, if Russia was on the precipice of launching a land war in Eastern Europe, would it have cut its defense budget by 25 percent to $48 billion a year, as was recently announced by the Kremlin? 

As difficult as it might be for our hearty band on new cold warriors to believe (some of whom have scant knowledge about the topic of U.S.-Russia relations on which they so frequently choose to declaim), the push for a peaceable settlement in Ukraine is coming not from Washington, but from Moscow and Berlin.

Nevertheless, the stalemate continues: a resolution to the Ukrainian conflict – through the implementation of the Minsk agreements, as well as a settlement of the outstanding security concerns of all parties to the conflict – seems to remain tragically out of reach."

"James W. Carden served as an adviser on Russia policy at the US State Department. Currently a contributing writer at The Nation magazine, his work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Quartz, The American Conservative and The National Interest."

Above McCain Ukraine image: "Jan. 2, 2017, In Ukraine, video published Jan.2, 2017, "President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko time s amerikanskimi senators pid Shirokіno," google translation

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Added: More on McCain in Ukraine inciting bloody overthrow of the Russian government funded by US taxpayers:

2/2/17, "Interfering in Ukraine - A Breach of U.S. law?"
viableopposition.blogspot.ca

"Recent news that John McCain and Lindsey Graham made a trip to Ukraine in early January 2017 was rather surprising. What is even more surprising is this commentary from Lindsey Graham and John McCain, made in the presence of Ukraine's President Poroshenko on the front lines of the Ukraine civil war, comments which seems to fly directly in the face of Donald Trump's approach to Russia: 

Urging a restart of the stalled Ukrainian civil war, here's what Lindsey Graham had to say: 

[At 1:20 in video, following remarks by a Ukraine official, possibly Pres. Poroshenko,  dressed in military garb]: 

Your fight is our fight, 2017 will be the year of offenseAll of us will go back to Washington and we will push the case against RussiaEnough of a Russian aggression. It is time for them to pay a heavier price. 

Our fight is not with the Russian people but with Putin. Our promise to you is to take your cause to Washington, inform the American people of your bravery and make the case against Putin to the world." [In the video, Lindsey Graham rubs his hands together as he speaks] 

John McCain had this to say: 

"I believe you will win. I am convinced you will win and we will do everything we can to provide you with what you need to win. We have succeeded not because of equipment but because of your courage. 

So I thank you and the world is watching and the world is watching because we cannot allow Vladimir Putin to succeed here because if he succeeds here, he will succeed in other countries." 

Given that some theorize that actions taken by former Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, Victoria Nuland, may have engineered the regime change in Ukraine, the comments by both Graham and McCain seem particularly malevolent since they obviously are not making any kind of personal sacrifice in restarting this conflict. 

What is even more interesting is a little-known federal law called the Logan Act, dating back to 1799, which reads as follows: 

"Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both." 

In addition, a very influential Supreme Court decision from December 1936, United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corporation looked at the sale of unauthorized/illegal munitions of war and the delicate balance between the powers wielded by the Executive Branch when it acts without congressional authorization in foreign affairs.

Here are the key paragraphs in the decision: 

"Not only, as we have shown, is the federal power over external affairs in origin and essential character different from that over internal affairs, but participation in the exercise of the power is significantly limited. In this vast external realm, with its important, complicated, delicate and manifold problems, the President alone has the power to speak or listen as a representative of the nation. He makes treaties with the advice and consent of the Senate; but he alone negotiates. Into the field of negotiation the Senate cannot intrude; and Congress itself is powerless to invade it. As Marshall said in his great argument of March 7, 1800, in the House of Representatives, 'The President is the sole organ of the nation in its external relations, and its sole representative with foreign nations...

The President is the constitutional representative of the United States with regard to foreign nations. He manages our concerns with foreign nations and must necessarily be most competent to determine when, how, and upon what subjects negotiation may be urged with the greatest prospect of success. For his conduct he is responsible to the Constitution. The committee considers this responsibility the surest pledge for the faithful discharge of his duty. They think the interference of the Senate in the direction of foreign negotiations calculated to diminish that responsibility and thereby to impair the best security for the national safety. The nature of transactions with foreign nations, moreover, requires caution and unity of design, and their success frequently depends on secrecy and dispatch." (my bold) 

With Donald Trump still being President-elect while the warmongering John McCain and Lindsey Graham were pontificating in Ukraine, it certainly appears that they were not representing the future president and it is highly unlikely that they were representing the last days of the outgoing Obama Administration given that they are both Republicans.

At the very least, it looks like both men were meddling with Trump's moves to soften America's approach to Russia and their interference certainly has the appearance of breaching U.S. laws." Image above is screen shot from video 




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The U.S. has an estimated 800 foreign military bases in well over 100 countries while Russia has three in two countries. Who is the aggressor? Cold War is a US cover story to mask US aggression posing as defensive-Consortium News, David P. Hamilton

"The U.S. has an estimated 800 foreign military bases in well over 100 countries while Russia has three in two countriesU.S. military budget is at least ten times that of Russia’s and was just increased by 10 percent while the Russians just reduced theirs by 7 percent. Who is the aggressor?...This Cold War creation myth of Soviet aggressive intent is essentially a U.S. cover story to mask U.S. aggression disguised as defensive."

10/16/17, "Understanding the ‘Fake News’ Hysteria," Consortium News, David P. Hamilton

"The mainstream media’s hysteria over “fake news” is aimed less at the few instances of intentionally fabricated stories than at well-reported articles that challenge the U.S. government’s dubious official narratives, says David P. Hamilton."

"For the most part, “fake news” is a fake concept designed by the corporate news media to discredit those who challenge the official U.S. hegemonic narrative. The typical MSM fake news accusation starts with some egregious fictionalization and then morphs over to the real targets: the subversives, those who would dispute foundational elements of the official history or its recent approved updates.

These subversive elements are likely to question important myths, such as the necessity of the nuclear incineration of Hiroshima or – before the Iraq War – Saddam Hussein possessing WMD, and hence must be silenced.

There are people in this world who write what they know to be fiction and try to pass it off as fact. Many of them work for the CIA and related institutions. Then, there are satirists like The Onion who write fictionalized truth. These professional prevaricators are not what draws the ire of the corporate “news.”

The approved rendition of U.S. history is a composite of lies, euphemisms and dubious rationales taught in schools, public and private, since the nation’s founding. It is continuously updated by the corporate news media. There is an army of PR types and psy-op warriors working constantly on this project; some private sector, some public, who often switch roles and sectors, but work hand-in-glove regardless.

The real fake news is the fake narrative that flows perpetually forth from these functionaries of the MSM to dominate the discourse which the billionaire owners allow voiced via their facilities. In this manner, we are all being played, all the time, and have been since birth.

For the record, the official narrative follows certain principles.  Among them are:

  1. The U.S. is never wrong in any conflict with other nations.
  2. If the U.S. ever happens to be wrong, it was a reasonable mistake.
  3. U.S. intentions are always benign and honorable.
  4. U.S. judgment is always objective and fair.
  5. The U.S. is a democracy and always supports democracy.
  6. Americans are a peaceful people.
  7. Americans are a superior people, so American lives matter more.
  8. Americans are always on the high moral ground because God is on our side.
  9. The word of our leaders is sufficient proof of any assertion.
  10. The U.S. is the greatest nation in history.
  11. Private is always better than public.
  12. Individualism is always better than collectivism.
One-Sided ‘News’...

Are the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, et al, lying knowingly? Not exactly. The news media doesn’t have to invent the lies, only repeat them. They are mainly the stenographers of governmental agencies that provide the raw material to be quoted, invariably substantiating the validity of the official position. The owners of those news outlets likely believe that narrative, but mainly they want you to believe it.

The pundits and talking heads of those news media, the on-camera personalities, must think within the parameters the official narrative or they wouldn’t have been hired to the position of highly paid spokesperson for it. Wolf Blitzer is a Zionist true believer who used to do P.R. for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).  Anderson Cooper is a Vanderbilt heir worth $100 million.

How objective can you be about issues of income inequality when you’ve been the top .0001% for six or seven generations? And if one dare to go off the reservation, the next thing you know you’ll be working for RT for a lot less money like Ed Schultz.

This process of narrative creation is principally a matter of focus, parameters and interpretation. On major U.S. cable news channels, the great bulk of coverage involves domestic politics, mass murders and “natural” disasters. In Europe, the focus is far more on international relationships.

The spectrum of opinion allowed in the U.S. is limited to the point that Hillary Clinton is considered “the left” and the anti-capitalist left might as well not exist. The range of permissible opinion typically stretches from pro-capitalist social liberals to pro-capitalist social conservatives. This is hardly surprising if one considers that billionaire investors own the controlling interest in all major U.S. news media. One outcome is that the U.S. is the only major industrial nation without a significant socialist political party. 

The private interests that own the news media don’t have to get together and compare notes because they all have a high level of ruling-class consciousness that includes shared economic fundamentals, e.g., socialize debts and privatize profits. Their message control is described far more clearly by Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman in Manufacturing Consent, chapter 1 on “the propaganda model”.

Dubious Conformity

It is generally accurate to assume that there is an entirely reasonable interpretation of news events that contradicts what you are being told to believe by the corporate news media. Cases of official duplicity are notorious and legion: the Gulf of Tonkin, WMD in Iraq, the black kid killed by the police had a gun, etc. 

Central among the American myths is that the myth surrounding the origins of the Cold War. This myth would have you believe that the Soviet Union in 1945, despite having lost over 30 million of its citizens during two German invasions in less than 30 years and with a devastated infrastructure, would suddenly decide to invade Western Europe, into the teeth of the world’s sole nuclear armed military power, the USA, and its various formidable allies. 

Furthermore, that the Soviets would do this despite having achieved their major war aims, a divided and demilitarized Germany and a “sphere of influence” between themselves and Germany, an arrangement agreed upon by Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt at Yalta. This Cold War creation myth of Soviet aggressive intent is essentially a U.S. cover story to mask U.S. aggression disguised as defensive.

Like Germans in 1939 believing the Polish horse cavalry was about to attack their tanks, Americans bought this spurious interpretation. These steady U.S. “defensive” efforts have now brought NATO, essentially an agency of U.S. foreign policy, to Russia’s very doorstep in the Baltic states, with Ukraine up next for NATO membership. Who is the aggressor?

Every other late Twentieth Century storyline of official U.S. history had to conform to the basic foundational concept of the U.S. defending freedom against an expansionist Soviet Union/Russia bent on destroying us. And so, today, we have thousands of NATO troops, innumerable missile batteries and nuclear-armed aircraft carrier-led naval battle groups patrolling Russia’s borders and shorelines, including the Black Sea, because “THEY are the aggressor.”

Try to imagine the U.S. reaction to a Russian fleet cruising the Gulf of Mexico, although that might be difficult given that 11 of the world’s 17 aircraft carriers, a uniquely aggressive weapon, belong to the U.S., all with unlimited range, and Russia’s only puny little single carrier rarely leaves Russian territorial waters and doesn’t have enough range to get to the U.S. and back.

The U.S. has an estimated 800 foreign military bases in well over 100 countries while Russia has three in two countries. U.S. military budget is at least ten times that of Russia’s and was just increased by 10 percent while the Russians just reduced theirs by 7 percent. Who is the aggressor?"

"David P. Hamilton is a long-time Austin activist and writer. An archive of his other articles can be found at http://www.theragblog.com/tag/david-p-hamilton/. His Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/david.hamilton.71066700."


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Facebook grossly inflates ad reach claims in all 50 US states, citing more people than actually exist. Analyst on Facebook miscalculations: "There appears to be a systematic misrepresentation of data across the board, at a scale unlike anything we’ve ever seen." Facebook claims to reach 25 million more adults 25-34 than exist-Adweek, 10/2/17

10/2/17, "Facebook Ad Reach is More than U.S. Census Bureau Data in All 50 States (Report)," adweek.com, David Cohen

"Facebook’s ad reach figures outpace U.S. Census estimates for every single state by anywhere from 3 percent to 42 percent."

"Facebook’s issues with reporting ad reaches larger than the actual population base appear to be even more prevalent, according to a new report from the Video Advertising Bureau.

Early last month, Pivotal Research analyst Brian Wieser pointed out discrepancies between Facebook’s ad reach and U.S. Census Bureau data, including:
A Facebook spokesperson said in an email to Adweek at the time, “Reach estimations are based on a number of factors, including Facebook user behaviors, user demographics, location data from devices and other factors. They are designed to estimate how many people in a given area are eligible to see an ad that a business might run. They are not designed to match population or census estimates. We are always working to improve our estimates.”

The VAB took a closer look in the report it released Monday, and its findings included:
















*While Facebook cited visitors from different areas as one of the reasons for its reach topping U.S. Census figures, the same reach figures are generated when advertisers select “everyone” in the U.S. or users who “live” in the U.S.

*The gap between Facebook’s ad reach figures and U.S. Census date for users 18 through 34 is much more pronounced within the 10 most populous cities.”










  • When preparing a demographic-targeted, one-day, $5,000 ad buy on Facebook, there is a gap of more than 10 million adults between 18 and 34—1.9 million to 12 million—between the low and high ranges. 
  •  
  • The VAB said in the conclusion of its report,Whether this is truly another metrics glitch remains to be seen. However, with questions of trust regarding ad-tech platforms at an all-time high among many marketers, our analysis provides another instance where first-party data should at least be questioned, or even challenged, particularly when the numbers don’t align with universally accepted metrics such as U.S. Census Bureau population data and basic media math.

  • And VAB president and CEO Sean Cunningham said in a statement emailed to Social Pro Daily: “It’s difficult to understand how a precision platform, such as Facebook, could continue to miscalculate these numbers time and time again. Rather, there appears to be a systematic misrepresentation of data across the board, at a scale unlike anything we’ve ever seen. Advertisers need to know that the data and metrics they’re viewing are valid, and third-party verification, rather than simply accepting data at face value, is the only way to ensure that advertisers get what they pay for.”

    Facebook had not yet responded to a request for comment at the time of this post."
     
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    Added: 

    "Facebook has promulgated a number of "trust-me metrics...There is a pattern. All of them are about giving the appearance of being bigger.""...

    10/4/17, "Facebook accused of inflating its reach among young adults," Poynter.org, Rick Edmonds 

    "Analyst Brian Wieser of Pivotal Research raised that and other questions about Facebook's claims to advertisers in a report in early September.

    Now the Video Advertising Bureau, a trade group for cable and broadcast networks and their sites, has a follow-up study saying that the internet giant is over-counting non-existent 18- to 24-year-olds in all 50 states. 

    Collectively, Wieiser and the VAB say, the company's claimed reach exceeds census estimates by a third in the 18-24 demographic and 80 percent among 25-to-34-year-olds.


    This is not Facebook's first misadventure with ad metrics. A year ago September, the company conceded that over a period of two years it had miscalculated and thus overstated the typical time that users were spending engaged with its videos.

    I chatted with a Facebook spokesman, who explicated the company's cryptic rejoinder to Wieser that its estimated reach numbers "are based on a number of factors" and do not necessarily correspond to census data, itself an estimate.

    Those young users Facebook counted could include people from other countries registering in the United States and some who misreport or don't update their age, he said. Also the reach figure would pick up tourists and other visitors.

    I'll buy that there are plenty of people in New York City (and a few other destinations) at a given time who do not live there. But I am highly dubious that addition would cover the gap the critics have identified.

    Sean Cunningham, president and CEO of the Video Advertising Bureau, told me that Facebook has promulgated a number of "trust-me metrics ...There is a pattern. All of them are about giving the appearance of being bigger ... pushing the idea that they are ubiquitous."

    The accusation is not that Facebook is overcharging. Its ads are generally placed by electronic auction, and the price is based on the numbers (views and a watch-to-completion factor) for a given ad. 

    But Cunningham said that the inflated claims for desired demographic groups are meant to influence ad buyers who are considering the scale of Facebook purchases compared to their broadcast and cable budgets.

    His members would like to see Facebook using the same exacting third-party verification that is expected in the TV industry, Cunningham said. "Data innovation is a big part of what's going to be good about the future of advertising," he added, "but we need an equal view where everyone is looking at the same set of data." 

    The Facebook spokesman said that the company is partnering with both Nielsen and comScore to develop new and more exact measures of digital audience reach. More is on the way, he said, as well as a more detailed explanation of the reach claims.

    I had the impression that the current controversy is focused on national advertisers and big brands. But Cunningham said his membership includes Comcast and other cable system owners who see the same dynamic at work in local market competition for ad share.

    As I and others have been reporting for some time, Facebook and Google's growing dominance in local advertising is the biggest factor in ad revenue declines at newspapers and magazines. Those placements make publications less competitive in selling ads to their digital sites and often are financed by reducing print schedules.

    The questions about Facebook's claimed reach take place against a broader background of concerns about ad fraud in digital buying and pricing. 

    Just last week, the Financial Times said an internal study had found bogus listings for ft.com ads on a number of ad exchanges. It urged clients to step up verification to insure against fraudulent placements....

    The worse case for Facebook is that hits to its credibility will slow the astronomic rates of ad revenue growth that have kept the company a darling among investors even as it has grown from big to huge."

    "Rick Edmonds is Poynter's media business analyst, co-author of 10 State of the News Media reports, former Tampa Bay Times and Philadelphia Inquirer editor."



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