Tag Archives: Donald Trump


Lately there’s been a lot of talk about this New Yorker article about a new book called Cyberwar: How Russian Hackers and Trolls Helped Elect a President What We Don’t, Can’t, and Do Know by Kathleen Hall Jamieson. Unfortunately due to time constraints I wasn’t able to get around to reading it for a while and only now have I got the time to actually give my take on it. While I haven’t been able to examine the book’s arguments in detail, I have to say that this seems to be the first time I’ve seen anyone actually try to attempt to measure the influence of Russian propaganda on the 2016 election with some semblance of scientific rigor. Those of you who follow this blog know that I have often complained about how many of those pundits and politicians who express such confidence that Russia swung the election to Trump seem to avoid expending even minimal effort to try to substantiate their claims. Specifically, nobody seemed to be interested in going out to those key battleground states to survey voters who changed their votes to Trump, a third party, or who decided not to vote at all, and then try to determine the extent to which these people had been exposed to Russian propaganda, e.g. via Facebook.

To be fair, it doesn’t seem like Jamieson’s book does that specific thing, but it does present an interesting case. For one thing, it points out that in those key Midwestern states where Hillary lost unexpectedly, the deck was stacked against Hillary when it came to getting votes. Anyone trying to influence the election against her had an advantage because they didn’t need to push people to vote for her opponent or a third party but rather they could just as easily convince people not to vote at all. This is reminiscent of an old axiom about guerrilla warfare- the insurgent doesn’t need to win; they just need to not lose.

If you look at a lot of Russian propaganda surrounding the election, you’ll notice that a good deal of it is aimed at people who are either left wing or at least left enough to reject Trump. But the Russian propaganda on Facebook, for example, seems to be aimed at keeping those people from voting for Hillary. Some stuff could be construed as anti-GOP or even anti-Trump, but I’ve yet to see anything from that period which is pro-Hillary, or more accurately, anything that would support the idea that as bad a candidate as she is, she’s at least better than Trump.

Now before anyone suggests that this is setting up an excuse for the Hillary campaign, take note that if Russian influence played a decisive role, it could only do so because the election was so close, far closer than it should have been. Judging from the article, one of the main factors in swinging the election was the hacking of the DNC emails, which contained a lot of material relating to Hillary’s political baggage. In other words, a candidate without such baggage would have been harder to bring down. So there’s no letting the Democratic party off the hook even if this book is 100% correct in its hypothesis. If Russian influence swung the campaign it was almost certainly because the weakness of the party and its candidate made it vulnerable to such influence in the first place.

Like I’ve said about Kremlin propaganda dozens of times before- it is effective only where vulnerabilities exist. Corruption, lack of accountability, inequality, and a refusal by politicians to address any of those problems inevitably spreads the rot in which the bullshit of RT, Sputnik, and the Internet Research Agency take root and sprout. Address those aforementioned problems, and people will see the propaganda for what it is- nonsensical fringe crap from a corrupt, authoritarian, desperate regime that has nothing of value to offer the outside world.

And am I sold on the idea that Russia swung the 2016 election, after all this? Well I haven’t read the book so I can’t say for sure. In fact, I’m not sure we’ll ever know exactly what happened. Too much time has already passed and we have much bigger issues to deal with. What I will say is that the idea that it had an impact can no longer be discounted.

The Evidence is Piling Up


Last week it seemed like every morning I’d wake up to find that another member of the Trump administration or his campaign team has been linked to high-level officials in the Russian government. We’ve already had one resignation because of such connections. It’s hard to tell where the fire is, but there’s definitely smoke.

Readers will remember that when the topic of the so-called Trump-Putin “bromance” surfaced during the election, I urged caution. Talking about Trump and Putin is kind of like a spectrum where you don’t want to ignore the connections, but at the same time you don’t want to overstate them. On one hand, there are legitimate concerns about Russian meddling in the election (which nevertheless did not win it for Trump), but on the other if you go around connecting every possible “dot” you might end up going paranoid and inventing some kind of bizarre conspiracy where Trump became a Russian puppet long before the rise of Vladimir Putin. And that, of course, would be just plain nutty!

Oh. Uh…Okay then. Let’s move on.

As we tumble down Trump’s Russian rabbit hole it’s useful to listen to a voice of reason, which when it comes to Russia topics is typically Mark Galeotti. In a blog piece Mark points out the roots of this Russian influence:

“The steady drumbeat of Russian contacts with Trump’s team on one level should not surprise. The Russians – like most real and wannabe global powers – assiduously network, hoping to gather insights and make connections that can later be parlayed into access and impact. This is, however, a case study of the way that the dirty little vices of modern democracy, from the inter-connectivity of transnational and untransparent business interests to the use of money and flattery to buy a voice, all the ways in which democracy becomes distorted by money, serve as a force multiplier for predatory authoritarian kleptocracies.

In fact, my view is that for the West today, the greatest security threat is not Russian tanks or Russian disinformation, it is our own corruption – and the ways Russia seeks to use it.”

I for one am just thrilled to see Mark drawing ever nearer to the conclusion that we must overthrow the capitalist system, and welcome him as a comrade in the glorious struggle! Seriously though, Mark’s pointing out the thing a lot of these status-quo think tank liberals don’t want to admit. For them it would be lovely if this is all a sinister plot cooked up by former KGB officer Putin driven by his proto-fascist Ivan Ilyin-inspired ideology. Because if that were the case, there’d be no need to indict the “Free-market-uber-alles,” managed democratic capitalist system we live in for being so wonderfully accommodating to kleptocrats, dictators, and war criminals (or in Putin’s case, all three!). In that case, it would be only a matter of bad people with bad ideas, people who could theoretically by displaced by good capitalists and good liberals who play by the rules and maintain the status quo.

But if Trump’s Russia connections aren’t necessarily some sinister plot, and he’s not a puppet of Putin being held in check due to fear of blackmail (which I highly doubt- see previous post), does it make sense to keep digging deeper into the case? Will anything be found that warrants such scrutiny, will it be worth it? My answer is…Wait for it…Yes.

Yes, there are good reasons to get to the bottom of this case, and I will enumerate them below:

First, Trump has, perhaps mostly unwittingly, helped Putin advance his foreign policy goals with his refusal to seriously criticize Putin at almost every conceivable opportunity. He has helped Putin by being an incompetent moron, thus paralyzing the US government and public and keeping them too occupied cleaning up the domestic mess he has made to worry about what Putin is doing abroad. You know how the administration suddenly reverted to supporting the status quo on sanctions over Ukraine, and specifically the Crimea? I don’t think for second that this had anything to do with the administration finally recognizing the need to get tough on Putin. They simply reverted to the status quo because they’re too occupied with the grease fire they’ve started at home and that status quo was never that tough to begin with. Putin has engaged in several aggressive actions in the Donbas recently, no doubt feeling secure in the knowledge that Trump is unlikely to make any move against him for the foreseeable future.

Second, even if Trump never intended to make conciliatory deals with Russia, the way he talked no doubt told certain Russian officials that there would be a possibility of concessions. This would have emboldened them. Had Trump been as bellicose about Russia as he was about Mexico during the campaign, the Kremlin might have preferred a much more cautious approach.The fact that they haven’t been cautious at all suggests confidence.

Third, let us imagine for the moment that all of these connections we see, while unethical, never led to anything seriously illegal or compromising to national security. If that turns out to be the case, who’s to say the next administration doesn’t do the same thing with a foreign government, only that time they go further and cross the boundary from highly questionable to straight up illegal or even treasonous? If Trump’s Russia connections are nothing but smoke with no fire, the only way we’re going to know is after a thorough investigation. If that investigation never happens, it basically opens up such relations to both parties, and from there it’s only a matter of time before someone pushes the limit further. Coming down hard on the Trump administration is how we hopefully nip this kind of thing in the bud. We already have enough problems with our government carrying on friendly relations with unsavory regimes.

So yeah, this is definitely worth looking at. It is an investigation best left to professionals, both in and out of law enforcement. That means no journalists or “game theorists” connecting dots on Twitter, and yes, it rules out a serial shitposter such as myself.

You and I can do two things in this fight- push representatives, investigative journalists, etc. to keep digging, and then sit back with a big bowl of popcorn and watch the Trump administration go down in flames. If we’re really lucky, Trump’s clothes may one day match the color of his face. But if not, at least every American politician will be afraid to walk within ten meters of any Russian government official.*


*Except Dana Rohrabacher, because he’s an utter imbecile.

Dignity. Get some.

We all love those stories about America’s impending collapse, which has been “just around the corner” for the past three decades or more, depending on who you talk to. But quite frankly, dear readers, there are times when I’m not sure how the country keeps chugging along. This is one of those times. Watch the video below. Do not turn away. Look at it


“Oh but I don’t have audio right now,” you say, making up excuses to avoid watching this political train wreck, one in which a train full of kittens and puppies slammed into another train carrying human babies and shock-sensitive explosives which were inexplicably packed in razor blades and nails. Not a problem! Go on and read the transcript here.

So now you don’t have time to do all that reading? Gotcha covered again! Here are a few choice extracts!

“How about the rest of us? Right-winging, bitter-clinging, proud clingers of our guns, our God, and our religion, and our Constitution.”

Confused? Not quite clear enough? Here’s a clip of just that part, looped over and over so it can sink in. Whatever you do, whether you read the transcript or watch the nightmarish abomination, keep in mind this was aimed at people who are fond of saying “Speak English or GET OUT!”


I think what you need to realize at this point, dear reader, is that you will not escape from this. You will experience it. We cannot move on and discuss the ramifications of this until you have. So conquer your fear, let it pass through you, and when you turn around you will see that it has faded and you remain, mentally scarred but tougher for having lived through this moment.

Why am I going on about this so much? Well on Sunday I was at this benefit concert and I was discussing the topic of vatniks and their closest American equivalents with some Russians. I had seen this video late, maybe a couple days prior, and as my wife was still up when I got home, I came to a certain realization while we were discussing these topics.

When I watch that video, when I read that eldritch horror of a “speech,” I come to a dark epiphany of sorts, whereby I realize that in some ways, America’s answer to the vatnik is actually quite inferior to the Russian variety in a very crucial way, and the difference is quite sad for America.

To explain let us make an analogy based on the Palin speech above. Suppose we have some political figure in Russia, not a candidate but some celebrity drumming up support for the Dear Leader Vladimir Putin. We’ll call this hypothetical celebrity Boris. In spite of being considerably wealthy thanks to his service to the state, Boris makes public appearances dressed like a stereotypical Russian gopnik, right down to his knock-off “Abbibas” track pants. He comes up on stage, squats, and begins to speak in between sips of Jaguar alco-energy cocktail and spitting out sunflower seed shells. He tells his audience he’s a real Russian, as Russian as Russian can be, and real Russians, who love cheap vodka and carpets on their walls, support Putin. Then he puts on some Russian pop music and starts dancing like this:


I’m telling you right now that I have faith in the vatniy-est of vatniks to say that I don’t think they’d buy it. I mean they might not start throwing things at the stage but probably everyone in that audience is going to suspect that this is some liberal oppositionist who is mocking them. Acting in this way and then saying that he’s like them would be seen as insulting to their intelligence, and make no mistake, being a vatnik and being highly intelligent are not mutually exclusive. Vatnost is about lack of critical thinking, sound reasoning, or moral issues, but it does not exclude education or higher than average intelligence.

Our hypothetical Boris the “real Russian” would be rejected because he represents a part of Russian society that vatniks would rather not pay attention to. The Russian society that the vatnik aspires to is one in which people are religious and virtuous. Their heroes are romanticized portraits of cossacks, tsarist officers, or heroic Red Army soldiers. They believe that their literary classics are far more important than foreign literature. I’m sure your average vatnik could easily recite Pushkin and probably a few lines from other works of Russian literature. And while they lack any ability to come up with a coherent interpretation of history, they do display a marked ability to rattle off isolated yet more or less correct historical factoids, something that few Americans conservative or otherwise could be asked to do.

Now let us contrast that with the key Trump/Palin demographic, which I’m sure shares considerable overlap with the target audience of Larry the Cable Guy, truck nuts, and TapouT t-shirts. The idealized “real American” to these people is a white, gun-toting, Gawd-fearin’, salt of the earth”redneck.” I put that in quotes because the fact is that many of these people aren’t rednecks by definition. They’ll talk about “small town America” even though they’re from massive cities and live in suburban McMansions with SUVs or minivans. And take a look at the gun-toting ones. Guns aren’t cheap, and neither are the bells and whistles that a lot of these guys purchase for their precious firearms. Granted, these types also like to make fun of rednecks, but they also see them as a key part of “real America.” If you want an entertaining take on the weird relationship between conservatism and “rednecks” I suggest watching this two-part video some time.

This seems weird to me because with the way the right idolizes the “self-made” businessman, in reality the super rich, one wonder why they don’t promote that aesthetic and image among their target demographic. It would seem that rather than glorifying the image of BBQs, guns, and country music, they should be convincing America’s working poor whites to spend what little money they have on cheap suits and encouraging them to emulate hedge fund managers, bankers, and other so-called “job creators.” Instead of a guy who was born and raised in the suburbs of a major city pretending he’s into fishing, they ought to be smoking cigars and saying things like “Yeah you’ve gotta buy low and sell high to make it in this market!”

What about admiration and promotion of classic American literature? Forget it. “Hemingway can go back to England! Anyway all you really need to read is the Holy Bible, but that’s really thick so you need a pastor or Bible group leader to read it to you a little bit at a time so you can understand it good!” And recite lines of poetry? You’re basically asking to be labeled a “faggot.” Historical facts? “Son all you need to know is that George Washington and Robert E. Lee whupped those tea-suckin’ British asses when they tried to to take our guns in World War II. The only historical facts that matter are sports stats!”


Source: A great way to troll your conservative family members.


Once again we see a divide where Russian vatniks come out on top, because nobody can accuse them of being anti-intellectual as so many American conservatives are. Russian vatniks will reject academic research that contradicts their views, but they don’t tend to criticize intellectualism or academia in general.

Hell, Russian vatniks…pardon the pun…trump their American counterparts even in the realm of music. Remember this old gem?

The thing about this song is that it’s really only bad if you know Russian. To untrained ears and eyes this just looks like some kind of traditional folk song.

Now compare that to…whatever the fuck this is supposed to be:


I think the best reaction to this video when it first came out was that of Ed from Gin & Tacos, who said “Prussian Blue added a third kid, I guess.” It’s also worth noting that the Russian song is, to the best of my knowledge, original, whereas this horror show butchers a historic American song. That and social services didn’t whisk these poor girls away to a foster home as soon as this performance is over, because something tells me that these girls have at least a 50% chance of getting fatally shot when daddy has a “gun cleaning accident” in his living room.

I guess what I’m trying to say here, or rather what I want to ask so many of these working class conservatives, is simply: “Are you really buying this? Don’t you see that they are mocking you, that these people have nothing in common with you and don’t really understand you? Have you no dignity?” Just look at this excerpt from Palin’s “speech” and tell me this isn’t ridiculously condescending if not incredibly dishonest, both in its description of Trump and its implication that Palin and her family are working class.

“He’s not an elitist. And yes, as a multi-billionaire, we still root him on, because he roots us on. And he has, he’s spent his life with the workin’ man. And he tells us Joe six packs, he said, “You know, I’ve worked very, very hard. And I’ve succeeded. Hugely I’ve succeeded,” he says. And he says, “I want you to succeed too.”

She actually uses the term “Joe six packs,” a term which is often used by elitists to describe the unwashed masses. This is hardly the first time they’ve done something like this either. Remember “Joe the Plumber?” Reader, I was raised in a conservative family and had very conservative views for a good part of my life, yet for some reason I never wanted to be seen as a “Joe Six Pack.” I’ve never accepted the idea that poverty and and a working class background must be synonymous with stupidity and ignorance. That was, and still is insulting to me and it’s insulting to millions of other people regardless of their political beliefs. When I see things like that speech it just looks like some kind of bizarre minstrel show lampooning class rather than race, and I wonder what comes next. Maybe one day Palin or the next huckster will be even more condescending, throwing their elbows back and forth while pronouncing the following:

“Hey y’all rednecks, hillbillies, country bumpkins, and blue collar Joe Six Pack slobs! If y’all believe in the Good Book, guns, and making America great again, y’all best vote for Donald Trump! He won’t let them Mexicans replace your football with that pansy-ass soccer! He’ll cut yer taxes to zero so you’ll never run out of cheap beer while you watch the game! So whaddaya say, all you Gawd-loving, gun clinging, Moozlim-hatin’, Bahble-thumpin’, stump jumpin, cousin-banging, wife-punchin’, meth-makin’, teenager impregnatin’ hicks?! Has Trump got y’all’s vote? YEEEEE HAWWWW! HYUCK YUCK!!! THE SOUTH SHALL RISE AGAIN!”    

And now I wonder if the same audience that cheers Palin and Trump heard such a speech, would they react any differently to that which Palin actually gave at that event? Would they, like a Russian vatnik, suspect that someone is trying to mock them and patronize them? Or would they continue to clap and pledge their undying support?

For truly the vatniks of Russia pledge their support to Putin, but Putin and his crew, at least overtly, tell their constituency that they are a great nation- cultured, advanced, morally superior. There are many other factors which explain vatniks’ apparent though passive support for the system, but if we ignore those for a moment it isn’t hard to imagine why people would rally around a leader who strokes their ego. In reality the Russian elite has nothing but contempt for their people, but they at least make some effort to hide this in their public statements.

By contrast America’s conservative elite give us these caricatures who tell working people that real hard-working Americans are obsessed with guns, religion, and BBQs.  Then they use those votes to enact ever more policies that worsen the lives of those same people they mock, right to their faces no less. So sure, the vatnik is submissive and puts up with a lot of humiliation while the American equivalent will be out in the streets protesting things that aren’t even happening (e.g. “death panels”), but on the other hand they will basically endure the most cynical mockery from their own “heroes” without batting an eye.