Friday, June 30, 2017

A bad week to be a Russian conspiracy theorist

-- Or maybe just a member of the mainstream media.

(Ed note: A thoughtful reader pointed out that the 'toon previously appearing in this space was produced by a recently-defunct Houston neo-Nazi/alt-right/white supremacist/whatever they are calling themselves this week; not an endorsement I intended to make.  Hope everyone got their screenshot.  I've replaced it with this one.)

CNN was forced to apologize after retracting a story on its website that a Russian bank linked to a close ally of President Trump was under Senate investigation. Three high-ranking journalists at the network resigned.

Also the NYT themselves.

On (June 29), the Times appended a correction to a June 25 article that had repeated the false claim, which has been used by Democrats and the mainstream media for months to brush aside any doubts about the foundation of the Russia-gate scandal and portray President Trump as delusional for doubting what all 17 intelligence agencies supposedly knew to be true.

In the Times’ White House Memo of June 25, correspondent Maggie Haberman mocked Trump for “still refus[ing] to acknowledge a basic fact agreed upon by 17 American intelligence agencies that he now oversees: Russia orchestrated the attacks, and did it to help get him elected.”

However, (yesterday), the Times – while leaving most of Haberman’s ridicule of Trump in place – noted in a correction that the relevant intelligence “assessment was made by four intelligence agencies — the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency. The assessment was not approved by all 17 organizations in the American intelligence community.”

Four outta 17 ain't bad, some people say.

The Times’ grudging correction was vindication for some Russia-gate skeptics who had questioned the claim of a full-scale intelligence assessment, which would usually take the form of a National Intelligence Estimate (or NIE), a product that seeks out the views of the entire Intelligence Community and includes dissents.

Remarkably, some of us knew this already.  Like several weeks ago.  Of course, you have to be willing to believe the words of James Clapper under oath, which is a tenuous proposition on its best day, but then again ... what good does it do him to lie about a procedure that refutes his own premise?

The reality of a more narrowly based Russia-gate assessment was admitted in May by President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Obama’s CIA Director John Brennan in sworn congressional testimony.

Clapper testified before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on May 8 that the Russia-hacking claim came from a “special intelligence community assessment” (or ICA) produced by selected analysts from the CIA, NSA and FBI, “a coordinated product from three agencies – CIA, NSA, and the FBI – not all 17 components of the intelligence community,” the former DNI said.

Clapper further acknowledged that the analysts who produced the Jan. 6 assessment on alleged Russian hacking were “hand-picked” from the CIA, FBI and NSA.

Yet, as any intelligence expert will tell you, if you “hand-pick” the analysts, you are really hand-picking the conclusion. For instance, if the analysts were known to be hard-liners on Russia or supporters of Hillary Clinton, they could be expected to deliver the one-sided report that they did.

Maybe it's time to put down the Stolichnaya, Hillbots.

-- It's also been a bad week to be Nancy Pelosi.  Her detractors and her supporters raise reasonable doubts -- and defenses -- of her tenure as a party leader.  This commentary by Michael Tracey of The Young Turks, this piece by Matt Yglecias at Vox, and this one by Kathryn Pearson at MarketWatch all make both sides of the case.

I don't think Pelosi should go; maybe the voters in her district will make the decision for her in next year's primary.  She should come correct on single payer, as that is trending toward the defining issue for the 2018 cycle.  But no change in leadership of Congress seems imminent, and that's a good thing as she contrasts well with Trump's extreme chauvinism, coming into full, stinking bloom like a corpse flower (a development noted beyond his wildly inappropriate remarks about Mika Brzezinski).

But the early calls against the minority leader came mostly from Democrats in the wake of their most recent special Congressional election failure, so it's important to note that the GOP's generational demonization of Democrats -- Pelosi is only the latest foil -- is so effective at this point that even Democrats now buy into it pretty quickly.

-- It also wasn't such a grand week to be Sylvester Turner, in a post forthcoming shortly for more Independence Day reading.

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