Indivisible 49 and its coalition partners are continuing their weekly rallies outside the Vista offices of Congressman Darrell Issa. The North County Republican may be laying low for now –it’s expected he’ll jump into the race for District 50 if and when Rep. Duncan Hunter takes a fall– but the issues surrounding Congress and the administration continue.
As has been true throughout their campaign, the Issa office protests have a theme each week. This week’s theme seems especially appropriate: a “Love America” rally on the day before Valentine’s Day focus on the values of democracy, freedom, truth, justice, equality, the Constitution, rule of law.
Given that Russian interference in domestic politics is in the news today, this theme seems especially appropriate.
This is the day for the annual parade of intelligence chiefs appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee to give their assessment of what the threats to the United States are in the coming year(s).
It’s the kind of ritual where one needs to look for hidden meaning between the lines of what’s actually said, namely that there are bads guys everywhere doing bad stuff and Congress had better keep the money flowing to [insert name of agency] or something bad will happen.
Sadly, there is no magic spell to undo the paradigms of policy, especially the part about threats to national security. With the Trump administration determined to dismantle the diplomatic options, a two-dimensional approach is all we have left.
Nations unwilling to buy into the notion of market supremacy will suffer the consequences. Those willing to play along will reap the rewards. Hammer, meet nail.
All of this brings us to the Russia Question.
Every single agency head testifying before the Senate agreed there is no evidence that Russian cyber efforts have decreased since 2016/2017. They were also unanimous in saying they expect Russia to continue their activities, including interventions in the 2018 elections.
We assess that the Russian intelligence services will continue their efforts to disseminate false information via Russian state-controlled media and covert online personas about US activities to encourage anti-US political views. Moscow seeks to create wedges that reduce trust and confidence in democratic processes, degrade democratization efforts, weaken US partnerships with European allies, undermine Western sanctions, encourage anti-US political views, and counter efforts to bring Ukraine and other former Soviet states into European institutions.
Foreign elections are critical inflection points that offer opportunities for Russia to advance its interests both overtly and covertly. The 2018 US mid-term elections are a potential target for Russian influence operations.
At a minimum, we expect Russia to continue using propaganda, social media, false-flag personas, sympathetic spokespeople, and other means of influence to try to exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States.
I’d say it’s the (bolded) last part of the above statement we need to worry about the most. The Russians ultimately don’t care who wins or loses any particular election. What they want is the kind of chaos and cynicism that renders political opponents (and concerned citizens) impotent.
The really scary part of the testimony came when Senators asked what the US was doing to combat Russian efforts. The answer: nobody’s in charge and there is no program.
When asked by Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) if Trump directed any of the intelligence heads present at the hearing to stop Russia from meddling, FBI Director Christopher Wray said he was “not specifically directed by the president.”
The Trump administration won’t admit there is a problem. The President’s claim that Russian interference is a made up story or fake news earned him the Politifact Lie of the Year Award for 2017.
Congress overwhelmingly asked for more sanctions. The deadline for implementing them has come and gone. A list of oligarchs acting on behalf the Putin government was cribbed from a Who’s Who published in Forbes. Investigations into what happened in the 2016 elections are a “witch hunt.”
The bill Congress overwhelmingly enacted and Trump signed in 2017 didn’t just give POTUS “authority”to punish Russian oligarchs for violating our sovereignty in 2016 and threatening to continue. It DIRECTED Trump to do so. Congress needs to do more than say “pretty please.”
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) February 13, 2018
Here’s Mark Sumner at Daily Kos:
The primary narrative that Russia created in 2016 was one that drove a wedge into the nation along lines of race and nation of origin. This continues to be enabled not just because Trump is denying the importance of Russia’s actions, but because even in an instance were intelligence is reporting on Russian actions, Republicans are working to drive up the idea of an immigrant threat.
The biggest weapon of Russia’s interference in US elections is US racism, and Republicans continue to arm that weapon for them.
Republican efforts to interfere in the 2018 election are already underway. Just as during 2016 there were dozens of tests of fake news stories pushed out to determine both themes and technologies most effective in capturing US voters, Russia is right now testing the systems and content it will use to warp the results of the elections in the fall. And if there’s one united message that the intelligence community brought on Tuesday, it’s that there is absolutely no directive from the White House to do one thing about stopping Russia.
So what have the Russians (and their allies on the far right) been up to?
From US News & World Report:
More broadly, the Russians have been pushing associated “deep state” memes in recent weeks, a way of ginning up partisan paranoia and anger about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. “Between January 14 and January 31, we examined 159 unique articles that were among the top URLs shared by Kremlin-oriented accounts on Twitter,” the website reported Wednesday afternoon. “‘Deep state’ narratives and attacks against the FBI, DOJ, and Mueller investigation accounted for 31% of the top URLs linked-to by the network.” That’s up from around 5 percent in September, according to Politico. And they’re looking for the next #ReleaseTheMemo, testing things like #fisagate and #obamadeepstate to see if anything gets traction. Remember that when some Trump family member starts tweeting it…
…And all of these revelations about new Russian activities came as further details emerged about their 2016 successes. NBC News reported Wednesday that Russian hackers successfully penetrated some of the 21 states whose voting systems they targeted during the presidential election. Did they do anything to those systems? To date we have no evidence that they did, but the honest answer is that, publicly anyway, we really don’t know. But assuming that absence of evidence is indeed evidence of absence, the mere fact that state voting systems were penetrated two years ago should be deeply disturbing. That may have simply been Russian snooping to see if they could get in; having found out they could they may have something more disruptive in mind this time or next time.
To borrow the old Reagan analogy, the bear’s no longer in the woods; it’s got the run of the house.
As if on cue, a smear campaign has appeared in recent days aimed at Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters, the firebrand from Los Angeles who has been one of the administration’s loudest critics.
A forged document, purported to be a letter on Congressional stationary, is making the rounds claiming she is conspiring with a donor to bring 41,000 Somali refugees into Los Angeles. As has happened in the past, the trail of breadcrumbs leads back to a legit whacko (who can’t spell) whose post was amplified thousands of times by automated twitter accounts.
Maxine Waters tells United Bank that she needs their money to get elected but doesn’t want anyone to mention the 41,000 Somalian Refugees being re-located in LA until after the November elections bc it may hurt her chances of re-election. pic.twitter.com/nd6GOSy9nJ
— Saving America (@SavingAmerica4U) January 29, 2018
So what are we going to do about this misinformation making the rounds on social media?
- Count to 10 before sharing stories you see. Misinformation works two ways, (happy or angry) playing into whatever biases you may have. If a story evokes an emotional response in you, this should be a warning that further examination may be needed.
- Check the source. Is that terrible story about Darrell Issa eating babies coming from a site you’ve never heard of? Maybe you should check Snopes or do a quick search on your own. That story you might have seen this week about a Texas teacher dying from the flu because she couldn’t afford a co-pay: Mostly False.
- Check the date of publication. Many ‘shocking stories’ making the rounds are recycled and/or repackaged.
- Call out the crap. If you see something that’s bs, take the time to say so and prove it if you can. Politely. You’ll catch a lot more flies with honey than with vinegar.
- Talk to your fellow humans face-to-face on a regular basis. The internet is a creepy place.
- Don’t forget to register and vote. The propaganda game is NOT about getting you to vote FOR somebody. It’s about getting you to stay home on election day.
Looking for some action? Check out the Weekly Progressive Calendar, published every Friday in this space, featuring Demonstrations, Rallies, Teach-ins, Meet Ups and other opportunities to get your activism on.
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