Tag Archives: russia

If Other Nations Mourned Like the U.S.

What if other countries mourned their national tragedies the way we do? The United States reads off the names of the dead during annual commemoration ceremonies and builds walls with names. Other countries have far bigger death counts, often due to us, but the scale of the carnage makes it impossible for them to wallow in such niceties.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Russia-Trump Conspiracy Theory is a Dead Letter. Here’s Why.

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The Democrat-led anti-Trump “Resistance” and its numerous media mouthpieces have been promoting their “Russia hacked the election” narrative for two years. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi fired the biggest recent salvo in this campaign after Trump invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit Washington.

“The notion that President Trump would invite a tyrant to Washington is beyond belief,” Pelosi said in a statement on Friday, calling Putin a “thug.” (The recurring use of “thug” to describe Russians has become so consistent as to have become a de facto ethnic slur.) “Putin’s ongoing attacks on our elections and on Western democracies and his illegal actions in Crimea and the rest of Ukraine deserve the fierce, unanimous condemnation of the international community, not a VIP ticket to our nation’s capital.”

Despite liberals’ uncharacteristically focused and sustained efforts — imagine if Obama and company had pushed as hard for a public option on healthcare! — their #RussophobiaMatters campaign is doing poorly. Fewer than one percent of voters think Russia is a major issue.

Democratic leaders are confused. They’ve got the newspapers and NPR and a passel of cable news stations all over their “Trump colluded with Russia” story. Why don’t people care? Christ, even Democratic voters don’t care!

Aside from famine and war few things are sadder than the sight of a hopelessly perplexed House and Senate Democratic leadership. So rather than let them spend a third year wondering why Russiagate keeps being greeted by a great national yawn, I’m here to explain it to them.

Everyone else can stop reading now.

Dear Mr. Schumer and Ms. Pelosi:

First: even if the story were true, it wouldn’t make sense. You’re asking us to believe that Trump’s people met with Putin’s people, not to discuss Trump’s sleazy real estate developments in the former Soviet Union, but to encourage Russian hackers to break into the DNC, steal Hillary’s emails and funnel them to WikiLeaks with a view toward angering enough voters to change the outcome of the election in Trump’s favor.

Trump doesn’t even read one-page memos. Yet we’re being asked to believe that he supervised a ridiculously complex Machiavellian conspiracy?

WikiLeaks didn’t get the DNC documents from Russia or any other state actor. They got them from a disgruntled pro-Bernie Sanders staffer at the DNC.

Anyway, the intelligence community — you know, the friendly folks at the CIA, FBI and NSA whom Democrats worship the way Republicans revered firefighters after 9/11 — says whatever Russian hacking occurred did not affect the outcome of the election.

Then there’s this: Trump didn’t actually want to win. Why would he go to such lengths to steal something he didn’t want?

Second: everything you accuse Russia and/or Putin of doing is something the U.S. has done or is doing bigger and worse. Russia undermined Ukraine and forcibly annexed Crimea. By current international standards Russia committed a misdemeanor; as The Washington Post noted at the time: “Most people in Crimea wanted to break away from Ukraine and join Russia.” Meanwhile, the U.S. was occupying both Afghanistan and Iraq. Those are felonies: neither the Afghans nor the Iraqis want us around.

Third: I’m going to use small words here — where’s the evidence of Russian “meddling”?

In 1962 President John F. Kennedy went on TV to discuss the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba. Because he needed Americans to trust and believe that the threat he described was real, he displayed aerial surveillance photos of the missiles in his speech to the nation. This meant revealing the existence of spy technology the Soviets weren’t aware of, so it was a difficult decision for him. But providing credible evidence was more important.

At this writing, the Democrats’ Russia arguments boil down to:

  • Media outlet quotes anonymous congressional official or anonymous intelligence agency employee.
  • Said anonymous source says the intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia meddled in the election.
  • Details of how Russia accomplished said meddling are absent.
  • Details of how effective said meddling was are absent.

If evidence of said meddling actually exists, Democrats should follow the JFK example and cough it up. In detail. And explain what it means ­— also in detail.

Until then, Russia as a political issue will continue to be a dead letter.

Kisses,

Ted

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s independent political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

81 Wrongs

The United States tried to overthrow or directly interfere in the elections of at least 80 countries throughout the Cold War alone. How exactly is it in a position to complain if it turns out to be true that Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election?

How the Press Leads “The Resistance”

The Trump Administration is guilty of countless wrongdoing, including monstrous acts that no one cares about, at least not in the press. In the meantime, the media is obsessing over a meeting between a 2016 Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer, Donald Trump, Jr. and a number of other attendees.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Military Spending is the Biggest Scam in American Politics

Image result for etching spanish american war           Military spending is the biggest waste of federal taxdollars ever. Both political parties are equally complicit.

The militarism scam is the best-kept secret in American politics.

When you think about it — but no one in the halls of Congress ever does — it’s hard to think of a country that has less to fear than the United States. Two vast oceans eliminate our vulnerability to attack, except by countries with sophisticated long-range ballistic missiles (5 out of 206 nations). We share long borders with two nations that we count as close allies and trading partners.

Historically, the U.S. has only faced an invasion once, by the British during the War of 1812. (There have been other minor incursions, by Mexico during the 19th century and the Japanese occupation of two remote islands in the Aleutian chain during World War II. The Pearl Harbor attack was a raid, not an invasion.)

Objectively, we have little to worry about beside terrorism — and that’s a job for domestic police and intelligence agencies, not the military. Yet a whopping 54% of discretionary federal spending goes to the Pentagon. The Bush Administration put the Afghanistan and Iraq wars “off the books” of the Pentagon budget. And that’s not counting interest on debt or benefits paid out for old wars. We’re still paying $5 billion a year for World War II. We’re still paying off beneficiaries for the Civil and Spanish-American Wars!

The U.S. accounts for less than 5% of the world’s population. We account for 37% of military spending worldwide, equal to the next seven countries (China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, the United Kingdom, India, France, Japan) combined. (And the U.S. sells a lot of hardware to most of those countries.)

Russia spends roughly a tenth as much on defense as the U.S. And they have a lot more (and twice as much territory) to defend against: NATO/American missiles to their west in Europe, a southern border full of radical Islamists in unstable countries like Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, Afghanistan a stone’s throw away, historical regional superpower rival China next door. Despite its relatively small defense budget, Russia somehow manages to soldier on.

No matter how you look at it, America’s military budget is due for a haircut. If it were up to me, I’d scale quickly down to the Russian level, pro rata for square mileage — lob 95% of this bloated $600 billion a year monstrosity right off the top. But even a less radical budget cutter could do some good. A 10% cut — $60 billion a year — would buy universal pre-school or allow half of America’s four-year college and university students to have free tuition.

Insanely, we’re going the opposite direction.

President Trump wants to increase military spending by $54 billion — roughly 10% — per year.

Republican hypocrisy is brazen and obvious. Most are channeling Dick Cheney’s “deficits don’t matter” to justify huge tax cuts to rich individuals and big business. “I’m not the first to observe that a Republican Congress only cares about the deficit when a Democrat is in the White House,” the economist Alan Krueger says. But even the most strident deficit hawks, though uncomfortable with the tax cuts, have no problem whatsoever with Trump’s proposed hike in military spending.

“Any time we spend more money — even if it’s for something that we need — we need to cut spending in a corresponding aspect to the budget,” says Rand Paul. Slashing other, more needed programs — which is pretty much anything other than the military — is what passes for sanity in the Republican Party.

No one is proposing zero increase, much less a cut.

If anything, the Democrats are even worse. Democrats have promised a fierce Resistance to Trump and his works. But their oft-stated resolve is noticeably absent when it comes to He-Who-Must-Be-Impeached’s lust to jack up a crazy-ass defense budget that doesn’t have much of a justification to exist at all.

“This budget shifts the burden off of the wealthy and special interests and puts it squarely on the backs of the middle class and those struggling to get there … Democrats in Congress will emphatically oppose these cuts and urge our Republican colleagues to reject them as well,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said.

Notice what’s missing? Like other Democratic leaders, Schumer’s beef is with Trump’s proposed cuts to the arts, EPA and other domestic spending, and the tax cuts. He doesn’t say boo about the defense increase.

As usual, Bernie Sanders was better than other Democrats. But even he didn’t explicitly reject the idea of a military increase on its face.

As we move past Memorial Day — the holiday when we remember the war dead, the vast majority who died not to defend America but to oppress people in other countries who never posed a threat to the United States — we should reconsider the assumption that all military spending is good spending.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall) is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

Loyal Opposition

Donald Trump has appointed Rex Tillerson, the sitting CEO of ExxonMobil, as Secretary of State. Which is really weird. Why are Democrats focused on something relatively minor: his relationship with Russia?

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Russian Hacking: Where’s the Evidence?

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At the smallest, crappiest newspaper in the world – even at a high school paper – no sane editor would publish a story that wasn’t backed by solid evidence. As the 20th century print journalism cliché goes, if your mother says she loves you check it out. So why are the nation’s most prestigious multi-Pulitzer-winning newsgathering organizations repeatedly claiming that hackers working for the Russian government stole emails belonging to the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign manager John Podesta, and gave them to WikiLeaks?

Because the CIA says so.

Well, not the actual CIA. Some unidentified people who claim to have seen some report say so.

The charge against Russia is explosive. “In a ‘closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill last week,’ intelligence officials told senators that it was now “quite clear’ that electing Trump was Russia’s goal,” according to Vox. Hothead Sarah Palin enabler and senior Arizona Senator John McCain called it “an act of war.”

Even Times op-ed columnist Paul Krugman — historically a voice of reason and prescience — dove into the neo-Red-baiting morass of this weird month, writing that “bad guys hacked the election” thanks to “useful idiots” (a Cold War slur used against lefties like, um, Krugman, pinned here to Trump and his advisors).

(Hypocrisy alert! I’ll save my catalog of covert U.S. attacks against other nations’ democratic elections — Obama’s role in the recent coup in Honduras comes to mind — for some future book, a format where word counts aren’t as constricting.)

explainersmallAnyway, newspapers and magazines and radio and television and Internet news sites say that Russia was behind the hacks. So, as my editor at the Columbia Daily Spectator would surely have asked, what is the basis of this contention?

“The CIA.’s conclusion does not appear to be the product of specific new intelligence obtained since the election, several American officials, including some who had read the agency’s briefing, said on Sunday,” wrote the Times’ Mark Mazzetti and Eric Lichtblau. “Rather, it was an analysis of what many believe is overwhelming circumstantial evidence — evidence that others feel does not support firm judgments — that the Russians put a thumb on the scale for Mr. Trump, and got their desired outcome.”

The primary basis of this “overwhelming circumstantial evidence” appears to be that whoever hacked the DNC also hacked the RNC but only released the DNC stuff to WikiLeaks. “If the Russians were going to interfere, why on earth would they do it to the detriment of the candidate that was pro-Russian?” asked Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

My editor at the Spec would not have been impressed.

As Sam Biddle writes at The Intercept, “you can’t help but notice all of the qualifying words: Possibly, appears, connects, indicates.”

This is one of those awkward times when you have to admit that Donald Trump has a point: why should we take the CIA, whose BS Iraqi WMD intel led to the deaths of over a million people, at its word?

Why would the very same journalists who let themselves get duped 13 years ago dutifully transcribe what amounts to nothing more than unsubstantiated allegations?

I don’t know if Russia is innocent of hacking those emails — any more than the New York Times and the Washington Post and CBS News and so on know that they’re guilty.

No one knows.

Well, the CIA (and the hackers, if there indeed were hacks) might know. But if the spooks have any evidence, much less proof, they aren’t showing it to us or those idiotic media outlets. Which makes this an unsourced story — and one whose geopolitical implications, involving the world’s most heavily-armed nuclear states makes it incomprehensibly, irredeemably irresponsible to spread around.

If the government wants to warn us that a Russian puppet is about to move into the White House, they ought to take a cue from JFK, who went on television to show secret US spy photos of Soviet missiles in Cuba.

Show us the evidence or shut up.

As if this “Russia hacked the election” episode wasn’t enough to showcase the intellectual bankruptcy of America’s state-controlled news media, the stenographers are ignoring a far more credible explanation for how WikiLeaks got the Podesta/DNC emails: they were leaked, not hacked.

Craig Murray, a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan and WikiLeaks associate, told The Daily Mail that a DNC insider motivated by “disgust at the corruption of the Clinton Foundation and the tilting of the primary election playing field against Bernie Sanders” personally gave it to him in Washington. “Neither of [the leaks] came from the Russians,” Murray says. “The source had legal access to the information. The documents came from inside leaks, not hacks.”

Murray is a paragon of integrity, having sacrificed his diplomatic career in order to call out Islam Karimov, the sadistic tyrant of Uzbekistan known for boiling political dissidents to death and his cozy ties to the U.S. (His account “Murder in Samarkand” is highly recommended for its brutal honesty.)

Regardless of your politics, Murray is infinitely more believable than the CIA.

WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange confirms that “the Russian government is not the source.” Assange too has an impeccable reputation.

As far as I can tell, only one U.S. outlet, the right-wing Washington Times, has covered the Murray angle.

Everyone “knows” that Russia hacked the election. But it may or may not be true. To the contrary! The facts point to a leak.

There is “overwhelming circumstantial evidence” that the moral midgets of American corporate media don’t have the slightest interest in uncovering the truth. How perfect as we enter the Age of Trump.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. Please consider supporting Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Democratic Party’s Last Chance: Fight Trump or Die

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Democrats need to stop grasping at straws.

Shocked by Trump’s win and dismayed at his half billionaire, half military junta cabinet, liberals are thrashing about in the stinking waters of dying American democracy, hoping against hope for something — anything — to stop Trump from becoming president on January 20th. That, or to send him packing as soon as possible afterward.

Some Dems point to the CIA allegation that the president-elect received an assist, via WikiLeaks, from Russian government hackers. If this could proved, they ask, especially if Trump knowingly colluded with Vladimir Putin’s tech-savvy underlings to deny Hillary Clinton her God-intended victory, wouldn’t that force him to step aside?

Sorry, my liberal friends: that deus won’t ex machina.

explainersmallFirst, the intelligence community hasn’t presented a shred of evidence, much less proof, that the Russians hacked the DNC or John Podesta’s emails. (Even Americans know that “overwhelming circumstantial evidence” doesn’t mean anything.) When Trump scoffed that the wise men of U.S. intelligence were the same geniuses who gave us the Iraq War, he had a point. The spooks are discredited. No proof, no scandal. Even if there were proof, who would force Trump back to his Tower? Not the Republican congressmen and senators wallowing in the surprise win they handed him. No GOP leaders behind it, no impeachment.

Then there’s the mother of all Hail Mary passes: trying to convince roughly 40 members of the Electoral College pledged to Trump to vote for Hillary instead. This, courtesy of Michael Moore et al., is much discussed in liberal circles. It is a Thing. But it is a Dumb Thing, one doomed to failure. Electors are hacks slavishly devoted to their parties. It’s much too much to ask them to turn “faithless” in support of a coup, to undermine democracy in support of a candidate whose approval ratings never climbed above (tied for) “most unpopular ever.”

There are only two realistic ways to get rid of President Trump: street protests and Democratic intransigence.

A sustained campaign of national street protests might make it so impossible for him to govern that he might lose support among influential Republican leaders, especially those from blue states. Pro tip: “sustained” means 24-7, 365 days a year. Not 20 or 200 people here and there, but thousands and tens of thousands, in every city — a great constellation of Tahrir Squares that brings traffic, consumerism, news, the economy, to a grinding halt.

Of course, Trump might order his cops and soldiers to shoot the protesters. That’s what China did to the students at Tiananmen Square, a crackdown of which Trump approved: “Then [the Chinese authorities] were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength.”

Or, like Obama did to Occupy Wall Street, have his Homeland Security department coordinate systematic beatdowns, or “sweeps” as corporate media dutifully calls such things. Resistance is not a tea party.

Things may and probably will change. However, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for a mass uprising à la Paris May 1968. There’s no party or group capable of mass organizing in the United States, much less a radical leftist front — which is what such a militant mobilization would require.

Protests are boring. It rains and snows. Cops are scary.

This is why the anti-Trump protests following Election Day petered out in less than a week, and why January 21st‘s Million Women March is likely to impress for a day, then be forgotten January 22nd. (Example: men are welcome but don’t know it. Because: stupid title. Was the URL for Million Women Plus One March taken? Also: didn’t we learn from the election that Democrats get in trouble when they snub guys?)

Our best chance to stop or slow down Trump lies with Democratic legislators in the House and Senate.

Recent history doesn’t give reason to believe that Congressional Democrats will turn into a left-wing “party of no,” working as hard as Tea Party Republicans did to block President Obama’s judicial appointments and legislative initiatives. These are the same Democrats whose votes gave George W. Bush the fascist USA-Patriot Act and two aggressive wars of choice with no end in sight.

But what if the party of Pelosi and Reid were to grow a pair? There’s a lot they could do to take the wind out of The Donald’s authoritarian sails.

To a man, Trump’s cabinet picks are morally objectionable, ideologically unacceptable and objectively unqualified: a climate denialist to run the EPA, an idiot at HUD, a general (one of several) for the DOD who wants Congress to change a law mandating civilian rule, the CEO of ExxonMobil as Secretary of State.

Democrats should say “you’re fired!” to every last one of these turkeys.

And they can. Thanks to Harry Reid, the filibuster rule is no more, so Republicans can approve these guys with a simple majority. But any Democratic Senator — just one — may put a secret personal hold on a presidential appointee. That’s exactly what Democrats should do. And that’s what we ought to demand. Let Trump go back to LinkedIn to find better-qualified nominees.

Democrats should demand special prosecutors to look into Trump’s tax returns and the brazen conflicts of interest between his real estate business and his duties as president. Tie the bastard up with endless hearings, just like the GOP did with the Monica Lewinsky scandal and Benghazi.

Since payback is a bitch and Trumpism presents a grave and present danger to the republic, no Democratic legislator ought to negotiate with Republicans or vote for any Republican-sponsored bills. Yes, that counts the stuff Democrats might actually like, such as building new infrastructure. If the GOP wants it, the answer is no. Always. No matter what.

You don’t “find common ground with” or “cooperate with” or “reach out to” a tyrant-in-waiting. Which, after the next terrorist attack or other security threat, is exactly what Trump will expose himself as. Faced with incipient evil you stand firm, united in your conviction that everything that tyrant-in-waiting stands for is evil and un-American.

You block everything they want. You become the biggest Party of No parliamentary democracy has ever known. Because, even if you’re not sure it’s the right thing to do, it’s smart.

Disgusted and now dominant, the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party is ten seconds from bolting. Democrats have one last chance to act like Democrats — something they haven’t done in 50 years — or watch their party come apart at the seams.

Nonresistance is futile.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

2003 All Over Again

Remember the run up to the Iraq war? The Bush Administration made the case to invade based on a bunch of what ifs. Now the Democratic Party and its standardbearer Hillary Clinton is theorizing that Russia may have been behind hacks of the Democratic National Committee and seems willing to provoke a possible new cold war with our former rival. The logic seems very familiar.