October 14, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 9:33 PM


Experts dismiss "garbage fire" Hunter Biden exposé in NY Post: "Seems like a complete fabrication": "It's a garbage fire story with obscene numbers of legal holes and flaws," one expert tells Salon (ROGER SOLLENBERGER, OCTOBER 15, 2020, Salon)

The Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post published a series of stories on Tuesday surrounding alleged emails between Hunter Biden and officials connected with the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, which the outlet obtained from a source who met multiple times over the last year with an individual whom the U.S. Treasury Department has sanctioned as an active agent of Russia.

The Post, which published the unverified emails on Wednesday, reported that the information came from Rudy Giuliani. The former LifeLock spokesperson attempted to distance himself from Andrii Derkach last month after the Treasury Department accused the Ukrainian lawmaker of being a Russian agent and running a "covert influence campaign" directed at the 2020 U.S. presidential election since late 2019.

Giuliani met with Derkach in late 2019. He interviewed the Ukrainian parliamentarian, in his role as President Donald Trump's personal attorney, on a trip aimed at digging up dirt on Joe Biden. The former vice president was then viewed as the Democratic frontrunner for the presidential nomination; he is now the party's official nominee.

On that trip, Derkach and Giuliani discussed the much-debunked allegations about Biden in a segment which later aired on One America News Network (OAN). Giuliani also broadcast an interview with Derkach on his personal podcast a few months later.

Derkach worked in the interests of the Russian government to inject "false and unsubstantiated narratives concerning U.S. officials in the upcoming 2020 presidential election" into the U.S. media through interviews, press conferences and other statements, according to the Treasury Department. 

His efforts include releasing edited audiotapes purporting to document improprieties by Joe Biden in his dealings as vice president with the Ukrainian government. Derkach's disinformation also played a key role in a roundly discredited report recently released by the Republican-led Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

This is what's left once you get rid of all adult supervision.

Man Who Reportedly Gave Hunter's Laptop to Rudy Speaks Out in Bizarre Interview (Jordan Howell & Erin Banco, Oct. 14, 2020, Daily Beast)

Mac Isaac appeared nervous throughout. Several times, he said he was scared for his life and for the lives of those he loved. He appeared not to have a grasp on the timeline of the laptop arriving at his shop and its disappearance from it. He also said the impeachment of President Trump was a "sham." Social media postings indicate that Mac Isaac is an avid Trump supporter and voted for him in the 2016 election.

Mac Isaac said he had a medical condition that prevented him from actually seeing who dropped off the laptop but that he believed it to be Hunter Biden's because of a sticker related to the Beau Biden Foundation that was on it. He said that Hunter Biden actually dropped off three laptops for repair, an abundance of hardware that he chalked up to the Biden son being "rich."

Throughout the interview, Mac Isaac switched back and forth from saying he reached out to law enforcement after viewing the files in the laptop to saying that it was actually the Federal Bureau of Investigation that contacted him. At one point, Mac Isaac claimed that he was emailing someone from the FBI about the laptop. At another point he claimed a special agent from the Baltimore office had contacted him after he alerted the FBI to the device's existence. At another point, he said the FBI reached out to him for "help accessing his drive."

Mac Isaac referenced the infamous Seth Rich conspiracy theory--which holds that a DNC staffer who police say was murdered in a botched robbery was actually killed off by Clinton allies because he leaked committee emails--as reason for his paranoia. He said he made a copy of the hard drive for the purposes of personal protection.

Posted by orrinj at 7:13 PM


Posted by orrinj at 7:08 PM


Anti-Biden Disinformation Decried by Disinfo Experts, Social-Media Giants: A Trump-tied newspaper floats dubious accusations. Will others bite? (Patrick Tucker, OCTOBER 14, 2020, Defense One)

Disinformation watchers on Wednesday were quick to point out the deeply problematic nature of the story and urge journalists and news outlets to be careful in how they covered it.

Peter Singer, a strategist at New America and the co-author of LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media, a book about disinformation, tweeted: "as I read stories like this, it makes me reflect on what some in media (especially on security beat) have learned from 1) the experience of being an unintentional player in info ops and 2) the perils of #bothsides equivalence."

Kyle Cheney, a congressional reporter for Politico, tweeted, "The 'smoking gun' email in the NY Post story -- even if it is authentic, given the massive red flags -- doesn't actually say what the story says it does."

Marc Ambinder, a security expert in residence with the University of Southern California Annenberg School, pointed out that that chain of events had all the hallmarks of a Russian disinformation operation.

John Scott-Railton with the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab project highlighted a thread on the subject by cybersecurity researcher Thomas Rid, author of Active Measures: The Secret History of Disinformation And Political Warfare.  "Every journalist should read this thread: Critical advice on vetting of questionable stories that involve emails," said Railton. 

Rid's thread picks apart the story and urges "journalists considering writing about this toxic story: don't--unless you can independently verify more details. And even if you can verify something, acknowledge the possibility of disinformation up-front, especially against the backdrop of 2016. Not doing so is bad practice."

The rapid, uniform and strict reactions of social media companies suggest the intelligence agencies must have warned them this is a hoax.

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 PM


US Jews mostly back Biden as Trump's support slips among Christians: Poll (Sheren Khalel,14 October 2020, Middle East Eye)

About 70 percent of US Jews plan to support Biden, according to Tuesday's poll, compared with the 27 percent that plan to vote for Trump. 

The poll, which surveyed more than 10,000 US voters of different faiths, shows that American Jews have largely kept to the historic pattern of backing Democrats despite Trump's moves in support of Israel, which he has made a focus of his presidency. 

"Trump has proven himself to be a hateful authoritarian leader who has directly and intentionally emboldened white nationalists and antisemites across the US," Beth Miller, government affairs manager at the political and advocacy arm of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP Action), told Middle East Eye. 

"It's unsurprising that the overwhelming majority of American Jews will be voting him out of office this coming November." [...]

Pew's poll indicated that the only groups with less support for Trump than Jews were Hispanic Catholics, atheists, Black Protestants, and the religiously unaffiliated.

Posted by orrinj at 6:08 PM


DOJ Admits to Federal Court That Trump Lied to His Supporters on Twitter About Declassifying All Russia Docs (JERRY LAMBE, Oct 14th, 2020, Law & Crime)

The Department of Justice was placed in the awkward position of having to argue that President Donald Trump was not telling the truth when he told his supporters and the world that he had declassified "any and all" documents related to the federal government's investigation of the "Russian Hoax"--which would have applied to the investigatory records from Robert Mueller's team and even the full Mueller Report.

In response to an emergency motion filed by BuzzFeed News journalist Jason Leopold seeking unredacted portions of the Mueller Report and FBI witness interview materials (302s), attorneys from the DOJ insisted that it was simply not so that the president had given any such declassification order.

Posted by orrinj at 4:57 PM


Trump's Great "Unmasking" Hoax Is Finally Dead: Another "Deep State" non-scandal goes down the memory hole. (TIM MILLER  OCTOBER 14, 2020, The Bulwark)

[T]he president's lawyer daddy struck out. Again. Thus bringing to a close a matter that--in a saner world--would have been the stupidest fake scandal in decade. But in our timeline, turned out to not even be the stupidest fake scandal of the day.

It was eclipsed in the crazy-rankings by President Trump twice suggesting that President Obama may have killed Osama Bin Laden's body double and worked with secret Muslim John Brennan to pay the Iranians to murder Seal Team Six. Which, for those of you obsessing about "media bias," is the most insane conspiracy ever publicly suggested by a sitting president and yet will not even make page A-16 in today's newspapers.

As for The Great Unmasking fake scandal: It brings to an end a fantasy in which Obama administration officials--including Joe Biden!--had wrongfully requested the "unmasking" of Trump campaign officials who showed up in intelligence memos because of their communications with Russia.

In this conspiracy theory the unmasking was part of a broader Deep State effort by the U.S. government to spy on the 2016 Trump campaign staffers, frame them for the "Russia Hoax," and smear them in the media. If you would like to become further steeped in the various related subnontroversies, the very fine people at the Federalist have an entire page dedicated to "unmasking" that you can peruse.

Though--spoiler--you probably shouldn't bother looking for updates or corrections.

16 years of scandal-free presidencies spoiled us.

Posted by orrinj at 4:47 PM


Posted by orrinj at 1:25 PM

NOT COINCIDENTALLY... (self-reference alert):

Defining Deviancy Down: The president retweets a story suggesting that Barack Obama had Seal Team 6 murdered. And the world barely notices. (WILLIAM KRISTOL  OCTOBER 14, 2020, The Bulwark)

In fact, as a respite from Trump's tweets, but also from the often disingenuous and uninspiring sparring before the Senate Judiciary Committee, here's the whole text of Judge Hand's brief remarks. Read the whole thing:

We have gathered here to affirm a faith, a faith in a common purpose, a common conviction, a common devotion. Some of us have chosen America as the land of our adoption; the rest have come from those who did the same. For this reason we have some right to consider ourselves a picked group, a group of those who had the courage to break from the past and brave the dangers and the loneliness of a strange land. What was the object that nerved us, or those who went before us, to this choice? We sought liberty; freedoms from oppression, freedom from want, freedom to be ourselves. This we then sought; this we now believe that we are by way of winning. What do we mean when we say that first of all we seek liberty? I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws and upon courts. These are false hopes; believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it. While it lies there it needs no constitution, no law, no court to save it. And what is this liberty which must lie in the hearts of men and women? It is not the ruthless, the unbridled will; it is not freedom to do as one likes. That is the denial of liberty, and leads straight to its overthrow. A society in which men recognize no check upon their freedom soon becomes a society where freedom is the possession of only a savage few; as we have learned to our sorrow.

What then is the spirit of liberty? I cannot define it; I can only tell you my own faith. The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the mind of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias; the spirit of liberty remembers that not even a sparrow falls to earth unheeded; the spirit of liberty is the spirit of Him who, near two thousand years ago, taught mankind that lesson it has never learned but never quite forgotten; that there may be a kingdom where the least shall be heard and considered side by side with the greatest. And now in that spirit, that spirit of an America which has never been, and which may never be; nay, which never will be except as the conscience and courage of Americans create it; yet in the spirit of that America which lies hidden in some form in the aspirations of us all; in the spirit of that America for which our young men are at this moment fighting and dying; in that spirit of liberty and of America I ask you to rise and with me pledge our faith in the glorious destiny of our beloved country.

Learned Hand was a representative of an older conservatism, long-gone and presumably never to return. Or could it return? 

The Grandfather Judd was one of his clerks.
Posted by orrinj at 1:16 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:46 PM


The Town That Went Feral: When a group of libertarians set about scrapping their local government, chaos descended. And then the bears moved in. (Patrick Blanchfield, October 13, 2020, New Republic)

"In a country known for fussy states with streaks of independence," Hongoltz-Hetling observes, "New Hampshire is among the fussiest and the streakiest." New Hampshire is, after all, the Live Free or Die state, imposing neither an income nor a sales tax, and boasting, among other things, the highest per capita rate of machine gun ownership. In the case of Grafton, the history of Living Free--so to speak--has deep roots. The town's Colonial-era settlers started out by ignoring "centuries of traditional Abenaki law by purchasing land from founding father John Hancock and other speculators." Next, they ran off Royalist law enforcement, come to collect lumber for the king, and soon discovered their most enduring pursuit: the avoidance of taxes. As early as 1777, Grafton's citizens were asking their government to be spared taxes and, when they were not, just stopped paying them.

Nearly two and a half centuries later, Grafton has become something of a magnet for seekers and quirky types, from adherents of the Unification Church of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon to hippie burnouts and more. Particularly important for the story is one John Babiarz, a software designer with a Krusty the Klown laugh, who decamped from Big-Government-Friendly Connecticut in the 1990s to homestead in New Hampshire with his equally freedom-loving wife, Rosalie. Entering a sylvan world that was, Hongoltz-Hetling writes, "almost as if they had driven through a time warp and into New England's revolutionary days, when freedom outweighed fealty and trees outnumbered taxes," the two built a new life for themselves, with John eventually coming to head Grafton's volunteer fire department (which he describes as a "mutual aid" venture) and running for governor on the libertarian ticket.

Although John's bids for high office failed, his ambitions remained undimmed, and in 2004 he and Rosalie connected with a small group of libertarian activists. Might not Grafton, with its lack of zoning laws and low levels of civic participation, be the perfect place to create an intentional community based on Logic and Free Market Principles? After all, in a town with fewer than 800 registered voters, and plenty of property for sale, it would not take much for a committed group of transplants to establish a foothold, and then win dominance of municipal governance. And so the Free Town Project began. The libertarians expected to be greeted as liberators, but from the first town meeting, they faced the inconvenient reality that many of Grafton's presumably freedom-loving citizens saw them as outsiders first, and compatriots second--if at all. Tensions flared further when a little Googling revealed what "freedom" entailed for some of the new colonists. One of the original masterminds of the plan, a certain Larry Pendarvis, had written of his intention to create a space honoring the freedom to "traffic organs, the right to hold duels, and the God-given, underappreciated right to organize so-called bum fights." He had also bemoaned the persecution of the "victimless crime" that is "consensual cannibalism." ("Logic is a strange thing," observes Hongoltz-Hetling.)

While Pendarvis eventually had to take his mail-order Filipina bride business and dreams of municipal takeovers elsewhere (read: Texas), his comrades in the Free Town Project remained undeterred. Soon, they convinced themselves that, evidence and reactions to Pendarvis notwithstanding, the Project must actually enjoy the support of a silent majority of freedom-loving Graftonites. How could it not? This was Freedom, after all. And so the libertarians keep coming, even as Babiarz himself soon came to rue the fact that "the libertarians were operating under vampire rules--the invitation to enter, once offered, could not be rescinded." The precise numbers are hard to pin down, but ultimately the town's population of a little more than 1,100 swelled with 200 new residents, overwhelmingly men, with very strong opinions and plenty of guns.

The town's population swelled with 200 new residents, overwhelmingly men, with very strong opinions and plenty of guns.
Hongoltz-Hetling profiles many newcomers, all of them larger-than-life, yet quite real. The people who joined the Free Town Project in its first five years were, as he describes, "free radicals"--men with "either too much money or not enough," with either capital to burn or nothing to lose. There's John Connell of Massachusetts, who arrived on a mission from God, liquidated his savings, and bought the historic Grafton Center Meetinghouse, transforming it into the "Peaceful Assembly Church," an endeavor that mixed garish folk art, strange rants from its new pastor (Connell himself), and a quixotic quest to secure tax exemption while refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of the IRS to grant it. There's Adam Franz, a self-described anti-capitalist who set up a tent city to serve as "a planned community of survivalists," even though no one who joined it had any real bushcraft skills. There's Richard Angell, an anti-circumcision activist known as "Dick Angel." And so on. As Hongoltz-Hetling makes clear, libertarianism can indeed have a certain big-tent character, especially when the scene is a new landscape of freedom-lovers making "homes out of yurts and RVs, trailers and tents, geodesic domes and shipping containers."

If the Libertarian vision of Freedom can take many shapes and sizes, one thing is bedrock: "Busybodies" and "statists" need to stay out of the way. And so the Free Towners spent years pursuing an aggressive program of governmental takeover and delegitimation, their appetite for litigation matched only by their enthusiasm for cutting public services. They slashed the town's already tiny yearly budget of $1 million by 30 percent, obliged the town to fight legal test case after test case, and staged absurd, standoffish encounters with the sheriff to rack up YouTube hits. Grafton was a poor town to begin with, but with tax revenue dropping even as its population expanded, things got steadily worse. Potholes multiplied, domestic disputes proliferated, violent crime spiked, and town workers started going without heat. "Despite several promising efforts," Hongoltz-Hetling dryly notes, "a robust Randian private sector failed to emerge to replace public services." Instead, Grafton, "a haven for miserable people," became a town gone "feral." Enter the bears, stage right.

Hampshiremen rooted for the bears.

Posted by orrinj at 12:44 PM


'Something is happening with the seniors' (LAURA BARRÓN-LÓPEZ. 10/14/2020, Politico)

As Betsy Chandler delivered and installed Joe Biden yard signs at a house in Mesa recently, a senior couple approached her eagerly asking for "Republicans for Biden" signs. Chandler had to apologize -- as a Democrat, she doesn't usually carry any of those.

She gave them a standard Biden-Harris sign instead. When Chandler, a local Democratic Party vice-chair, asked why, as Republicans, they were voting for Biden, the woman said: "[Donald Trump] wouldn't wear a mask."

That was four days before the president tested positive for coronavirus and an outbreak ensued among Trump allies and staff.

In Arizona as elsewhere, Trump's handling of the pandemic -- even prior to his diagnosis -- is proving costly, leaving him struggling to match his 2016 performance among those over the age of 65. October polling shows Biden is chipping away at Trump's support among older white voters, especially among the once reliably Republican senior population in populous Maricopa County.

"Something is happening with the seniors in [Arizona]," said Chandler. "They are livid about the whole COVID thing."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Right-wing protester pepper-sprays anti-Netanyahu demonstrators in Holon (Times of Israel, 10/14/20)

Police on Tuesday arrested four far-right activists for harassing protesters demonstrating against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the central city of Holon, as video footage showed one of them attacking the demonstrators with pepper spray.