Saturday, December 31, 2016

Weasels Entering Office & the Russians Are Coming: Duck!!! What Duck???

No, not a new movie comedy, either

As a way or introduction, this short 2-minute clip from NBC News back in September (Richard Engel reporting) (Note: http and https could cause disruption in viewing):

The subject of this post: “The Impact and Influence of Direct or Indirect Hacking and Mis- or Disinformation in Our Democratic Election and Overall System of Government.”

BTW: This post is not intended to a satire or The Onion kind of article. Hopefully it will not considered as “fake” news, either. And, it is not the marketing of any remake of that very funny 1966 movie by Norm Jewison starring Carl Reiner and Alan Arkin, either.

I hope this comes across as a serious post on a serious topic not only about the Russian hacking, but hacking in general, which is a serious cyber-crime. Both undermine our entire democratic system and structure (e.g., potentially our electoral process and technology in general across the nation).

So, how seriously must we take the Russian hacking (of the DNC, Podesta personal email, and a few named other places) – I mean serious issue or just the same-old, same-old political BS that hear mostly from Donald Trump and his camp, or use our own judgement based on, you know hard facts?

Did Russia influence or try to influence the election and if so, how precisely, exactly, factually? To be sure there are many ways, direct and indirect.

Directly: Tamper or toy with voting machines, the actual ballots before, during, and after being counted, and such cyber attacking (thanks goodness there is apparent proof of that and that is a good outcome).

Directly: False of “fake” news say like from RT media (which is Russian-backed and funded and state-run) – whatever that “news” were to influence public opinion one way or the other.

Indirectly (which I think is just as critically important a lot like “fake” news): The influence public opinion towards or against one candidate, or both, or one favorite over the other sort of fingers in the pudding as it were.

The best example I can come up with, which I believe is 100% creditable and still prevails today. Charges have been made that Putin wanted Trump to win out of his hatred for Hillary Clinton, a fact, even Putin stated his disdain for her. 

Did Putin and Russia directly help Trump win – no solid proof of that, but that is how this post and my angle come into play: Indirectly works on the public’s mind, by hampering or try to hamper and influence views by a back and forth praise of Trump for Trump and a Trump back and forth praise of Putin. What does that mean, even of some people say it does not matter? I believe it matter a lot. All that back and forth praise I’m sure has some effect on the public/voter opinions.

Some might conclude and say: “I’m voting for Trump since he will be better for us in dealing with Putin to ease East-West tensions than Hillary Clinton, who would only sustain that tension.” That thinking comes out in debates or in 30-second Ads and such. Ergo: That may have a direct influence on furthering indirect attacks. That is my point.

Is it valid or not. I believe its human nature to think in those terms and let’s be honest, many voters don’t follow issues closely at all, or more so when issues are not even discussed, and this past election proves that point: Tough and critical issues were not even a center topic hardly at all – a lot personal attacks and innuendo dominated mostly by and from Donald Trump – a proven fact. Plus, he has been rated #1 in the false statement department by many reputable trackers.

All this is not some wild or hyped conspiracy statement either… I don’t deal in conspiracies and such nonsense. My thinking on this aspect of indirect influence is important and many people probably, I suspect, don’t even think about that in these terms.

Now part of what I mean is in following story and it shows how some points are sustained by Donald Trump himself or and/or by his team spokespersons. It in many ways reinforces what I just said, and that is: Elections can be thrown either way: directly by tampering with the voting machines, ballots and processes, or indirectly by influencing public/voter opinion. And, keep in mind, the Russkies are experts at disinformation – it was a trademark of the now defunct KGB (which Putin was a Colonel operative and chief in). Putin tries to come across as a nice guy – he is not.

The story is from the Washington Post with a few highlights verbatim from the article (not in any order per se) used to reinforce my points and reasoning along with my emphasis (shown in RED): 

1.  To be clear, we should show appropriate skepticism towards the charges of Russian interference — they are not proven — and we should cast a critical eye on the intelligence community’s findings once they are made public. But Trump isn’t showing natural skepticism. He’s being snidely dismissive, a stance that is made worse by the fact that Russia’s efforts may have been intended to help him in a campaign that featured him repeatedly praising Putin.

2.  Putin responded to President Obama’s administration’s announcement that the United States will undertake sweeping retaliation against Russia for its alleged interference in our election by booting out some 35 diplomats. But, in a surprise, Putin said he would not be expelling U.S. diplomats as part of the escalating tensions, and Trump praised Putin (in infamous tweet naturally) saying:
“Great move on delay (by V. Putin) - I always knew he was very smart!” @ Real Donald Trump, and later Trump said: We need to move on.”
The Post article asks (and I totally agree): But how much longer can Trump really sustain his dismissive, nonchalant posture towards Russia’s alleged assault on our democracy?

3. Senior Trump transition adviser Kellyanne Conway went on CNN and argued that Obama’s (expulsion) measures were designed to “box in” the Trump administration by forcing them to make a tough choice later on whether to continue those retaliatory measures (which Putin seems to be betting against happening). Conway added that Obama might be playing “politics” and argued that he was imperiling the peaceful transfer of presidential power. (GOP sustained pre-election message was: Clinton (ergo: Obama clone) is weak/and Putin is strong and decisive: vote Trump).

4.  In arguing that Obama is playing politics and might be imperiling a smooth transition, Conway implicitly admitted that the Trump camp does not see the possibility of Russian interference in our election as something the two parties should be united against. Makes Trump’s position look more absurdly nonchalant.

Finally, this last part of the story really makes the point of what I wrote about above vis-à-vis playing the public/voter mind game in favor of Trump (indirect influence in the election and hopefully the outcome Putin wanted?)

5.  Meanwhile, incoming White House spokesman Sean Spicer haplessly tried to argue that the real story here is that Democrats allowed Russian hackers to breach their emails:
Nobody by any way or shape is suggesting that that’s acceptable behavior,” Spicer said. “But I don’t believe once I’ve ever seen an interview where anyone at the DNC was ever asked a question about whether they take any responsibility for what clearly appears to be a lax effort on them to protect their own networks.”
Translation (which I think the Post nailed it precisely):Sure, I’ll pay lip service to the idea that what Russia may have done is bad, but it’s really the fault of Democrats for allowing it to happen.”
The way the Donald himself and his minions prop up Putin and tear down Mr. Obama now and the way they did with Hillary Clinton in the run up to November 8 was skilled influence to win the ugliest way.
Yes, is was pure, raw politics – but was it honest, fair, and democratic – well, I’ll leave that final say so up to history and those more expert than me and to you the readers of this post.
Thanks for stopping by…

UPDATED BY WASHINGTON POST correction now saying: “The headline changed to read: “Russian operation hacked a Vermont utility, showing risk to U.S. electrical grid security, officials say. This update now reads: “The code entered the Vermont utility’s computers.” But utility spokesman says the code was found only on one laptop and it was not connected to the grid. The grid is safe.”

Original Post Was This: This all is not over yet (Russia is now suspected of tampering around the edges of the electrical grid reported on in Vermont).

So, I wonder if Bernie is listening – no doubt he is. And, ironically this other take on that Vermont grid story… call it one opposing view – whether it is “fake news” or not I can’t tell (see correction above) which taken together makes the precise point of this entire post today.
So, stay tuned… this all might get a lot rougher ahead.

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