Links & Commentary – Jan. 17, 2017

The shark’s almost in the tank, WE MUST RESIST the shark. Breaking news: Shark being blackmailed by Orca! Russia! U.S. troops in Poland. Russia! Why ridiculous official propaganda still works. Russia!

TrumpFest Destiny

Trump Team May Move West Wing Briefings to Expand Capacity [Bloomberg]
Trump’s press secretary told Bloomberg that the incoming administration “is considering moving White House press briefings out of the West Wing to accommodate more than the ‘Washington media elite.’

Bloomberg was one of the few news organizations that didn’t get sucked into the group hysteria following a report Saturday in Esquire magazine, “citing unidentified officials from the transition team, that the new administration may move the press corps out of the main White House building altogether because of antagonism between Trump and the media.

Having a bigger room for press briefings means that more independent media will able to attend, whereas right now, it’s limited. Expanding media access to the briefings was proposed in a recent article in the Columbia Journalism Review by former White House press secretaries for Bush-41 and Clinton.

Comments in the Bloomberg article by the White House Correspondents’ Association indicate that the legacy media aren’t going to give up their exclusivity without a fight, but from what we know so far (always subject to change on a dime when we’re talking about Trump), the proposal represents an expansion of freedom of the press and not the crackdown that has the corporate media all bent out of shape.

Here’s an example of the distorted reporting, followed by the original article from Esquire:

Trump’s Rift With Press Will Grow If Reporters Are Kicked Out Of White House [HuffPo]
Journalists alarmed!
It’s been this way for decades!
Room for “potentially dozens” of reporters to stand in the aisles.

Sure, and fight to be called on over the elite press corps who get the 49 permanent seats right in front of the presidential podium.

Exclusive: The Trump Administration May Evict the Press from the White House [Esquire]
The story that triggered the media hysteria about Trump kicking the White House press corps to the curb. Whatever you think of Trump, the headlines give the wrong impression, which may or may not be intentional bias. Trump’s staff is considering moving the daily press briefings to a bigger room next door in the Executive Office Building. The EOB is connected by underground tunnel, so you don’t even need a coat or umbrella to go from one to the other. Moreover, reporters who have work stations within the White House are not being “evicted.”

The Young Trump [New York Magazine]
Jared Kushner is more like his father-in-law than anyone imagines. “During the campaign, Trump hired and fired many aides, but Kushner was frequently the last person he consulted before making major decisions. He so far has no official White House title, and he may never have one. But it will scarcely matter if Kushner has a formal job, so long as he maintains his position within the family. ‘There were three campaign managers,” says a political consultant who knows Kushner. ‘There was only one son-in-law.’ ”

Democrats Open Their Opposition Research Books On Trump’s Nominees To The Public [HuffPo]
“Typically, groups like American Bridge keep research books like these under tight wraps, and selectively provide information to other political groups or reporters when it’s politically advantageous to do so. But after Senate Republicans scheduled several of the most high-profile confirmation hearings for the same day, the group decided to take the unusual step of releasing all their research at once.”

And, of course, it has nothing to do with the sliminess of the group’s founder, David Brock, the unhinged Democratic political operative with Werewolf-in-London hair who admitted to paying pro-Hillary trolls. American Bridge is one of three organizations founded by Brock and dedicated to electing Clinton. Not to be deterred by the foiled coronation, Brock slithered into a new fundraising campaign exploiting the bitterness of Clinton Democrats.

It would be a shame to let perfectly good hysteria go to waste.

Propaganda Wars

After 2016 campaign, more Americans consider Russia a threat: Reuters/Ipsos poll [Reuters]
“Americans are more concerned than they were before the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign began about the potential threat Russia poses to the country, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Friday.

“The Jan. 9-12 survey found that 82 percent of American adults, including 84 percent of Democrats and 82 percent of Republicans, described Russia as a general “threat” to the United States. That’s up from 76 percent in March 2015 when the same questions were asked.”

Sigh. Propaganda works. One of the raisons d’être of this blog.

Why Ridiculous Official Propaganda Still Works [CounterPunch]
“The primary aim of official propaganda is to generate an ‘official narrative’ that can be mindlessly repeated by the ruling classes and those who support and identify with them. This official narrative does not have to make sense, or to stand up to any sort of serious scrutiny. … The current ‘Russian hacking” hysteria is a perfect example of how this works. No one aside from total morons actually believes this official narrative (the substance of which is beyond ridiculous), not even the stooges selling it to us. This, however, is not a problem, because it isn’t intended to be believed … it is intended to be accepted and repeated, more or less like religious dogma.”

In classical mythology, Mercury (the Greek Hermes) was the Messenger of the Gods. He also was the silver-tongued trickster who could tell a most-perfect lie. These two roles are not mutually exclusive.

In astrology, Mercury rules communications, while pressure to conform to the prevailing order falls within Saturn’s domain. According to Western tropical astrology, Mercury currently is in Capricorn, the planetary ruler of which is Saturn.

On January 29, Mercury will align with Pluto, named for the Roman god of the underworld. Astrologers associate Pluto with the criminal underworld, spying, the surveillance state, and great wealth and power – the plutocracy. Toward the end of the month, watch for news from or about the intelligence community. Nothing that comes from them should be taken at face value, not after their recent antics. If news emerges about them, look for credible sources of alternative information. For example, independent cyber-security experts swiftly dispatched the deranged “Grizzly Steppe” report, while exposing “Cozy Bear” and “Fancy Bear” as fairytales. You didn’t find out about it from The Washington Post The Ministry of Truth.

The Spy Who Wrote the Trump-Russia Memos: It Was “Hair-Raising” Stuff [MoJo]
When I broke the story in October, I spoke with him. Here’s what he said. David Corn was the first reporter to take the bait on the Dodgy Dossier, although his story for Mother Jones didn’t create much of a stir at the time, because he maintained some semblance of professionalism by not divulging the contents. Whether he should have granted anonymity to the source is another matter, but now that Clapper has let the cat out of the bag, Corn describes his meeting with the ex-spy who wrote the report.

The Russian Dossier Reminds Me of the Row Over Saddam’s WMDs [CounterPunch]
Patrick Cockburn, brother of CounterPunch’s late editor, Alexander Cockburn, covers the Middle East for The Independent (UK) and is one of the few old-school journalists left on the planet. Although he’s not the first to suggest that the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment of Trump and Putin is Saddam and WMD déjà vu, his opinion of the Trump dossier carries a lot of weight. Not only was he a reporter in Moscow for several years, but he’s an outside observer and not part of the polarized U.S. electorate.

Cockburn hits the nail on the head in his observation that the U.S. media are so determined to damage Trump that they have been “happy to suspend disbelief in this dubious document,” written by an ex-British spy who didn’t travel to Russia but relied on unnamed “contacts” in Moscow. As the title of another CounterPunch article below suggests, that makes it a “dodgy dossier.”

‘We’re Seeing the Result of a 40-Year Assault on the Liberal Mainstream’ [Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting]
Ellen Schrecker talks about the New McCarthyism with host Janine Jackson on CounterSpin, FAIR’s weekly radio show.

It’s this kind of corporate ideological assault on reality, as it were, that is so dangerous. And that, you know, is not just Trump.

“I think the main thing is really to remember, above all, that what we’re seeing is the result of a 40-year assault on the sort of liberal mainstream. It’s not an assault on the left, like McCarthyism, but rather on the American mind, if I can put it that way. And so what we’re seeing is people in power now, probably sponsored in one way or another by corporate interests, certainly we know that climate denial has very strong ties to the oil and gas industry, and it’s this kind of corporate ideological assault on reality, as it were, that is so dangerous. And that, you know, is not just Trump.”

Mercury

Kleptomaniacs and kleptocrats [Columbia Journalism Review]
“‘Kleptocrat’ and ‘kleptocracy’ have been stealing more frequently into news reports, but both words should be used with caution when referring to nations or leaders who are not facing more formal accusations. Opinion columns can get away with using them, but ‘innocent until proven guilty’ applies to thieves big and small.”

Interesting that this comes up after Mercury turned retrograde in a near-conjunction with Pluto (see astrological notes above in “Why Ridiculous Official Propaganda Still Works”).

WikiLeaks threatens to sue CNN after ‘pedophile’ charge repeated on air [McClatchyDC]
CNN retracted the story, but the background is just bizarre. Definitely sounds like someone was trying to set him up. That said, this is yet another classic example of the errors that occur in publishing and broadcast while Mercury is retrograde.

Phobos & Deimos

Poland welcomes thousands of US troops in NATO show of force [CNN]
“While on a nine-month deployment, the US troops will carry out training and exercises in Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary, the [US Embassy in Poland] said.

Along with the troop increase, 2,400 pieces of military equipment including tanks, armored fighting vehicles, artillery, trucks and containers have been deployed.

‘”We’re here to deter any aggression that would threaten peace and security in this region,” said Col. Christopher R. Norrie, commander of the 3rd Armored Combat Brigade Team, 4th Infantry Division, in a statement.

“Along with the troop increase, 2,400 pieces of military equipment including tanks, armored fighting vehicles, artillery, trucks and containers have been deployed.”

Trump may or may not follow through with his stated intent to engage in negotiations with the Russians. But look at all these countries getting a jump on his administration, just in case. It appears that they are terrified of peace. Oh, wait:

Moscow is pushing populist movements to bring ‘real security threats to Europe,’ new report says [McClatchyDC]
It’s the little people they’re afraid of. Clever guy, that Putin, to turn their servants against them. Russia’s new style of war goes beyond battlefield and includes “politics, morale, economics and governance” a new NATO report indicates.

Financial Astrology

MMA Free Weekly Column For 2017-01-16 [MMA Cycles]
By Ray Merriman, founder and CEO of the Merriman Market Analyst
“The only major geocosmic signature arising this week is the war-like Mars/Saturn square of Thursday, January 19, just one day before Donald Trump is to be inaugurated as the next USA president. This is an important Mars/Saturn square because it occurs at 23° Pisces and Sagittarius, forming a grand square to the USA Mars/Neptune. It also falls in the same degrees as Iran’s Mars/Neptune square, and close to Donald Trump’s Sun/Moon opposition (lunar eclipse) at 21-22° of Gemini and Sagittarius. The concern is that protests against Mr. Trump may turn violent, as his opponents are still having a hard time accepting the fact that he won the electoral college, and hence the election, despite a deficit of 2.8 million popular votes to Hillary Clinton.”

Spirits

Madam Prescient [Baffler]
Jessa Crispin looks back at a time when a woman running for president was too radical to contemplate, but no one thought twice about her talking to the dead. (Separate blog post here.)

The Baffler, Issue No. 32 ~ Muzak of the Spheres
Baffler 32 coverlCrispin’s article appeared in the September 2016 issue of The Baffler, which was dedicated entirely to metaphysical topics. The editors position it as some sort of antidote to Trumpism, which they seem to think is going to kill all hope for an enlightened America (they might want to read up on planetary cycles). Whatever. There are some great articles in this issue, including Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Displaced Deities” and Astra Taylor’s “Who Speaks for the Trees?

Shadow Government

The British spy behind the Trump dossier helped the FBI bust FIFA [WaPo]
Former British spy Christopher Steele, the hired gun who wrote the 35-page “Golden Showers” dossier on Trump, has gone into hiding. He’s going to have to come out eventually, and he’s either going to have to tell us where he got the information for his report, or to admit that it was a deliberate hatchet job.

Exposing The Man Behind The Curtain [HuffPo]
Americans have a right to know the full truth about claims of Russian hacking. By Scott Ritter, a former UN weapons inspector and critic of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. He’s not what I’d call an unbiased source, and he clearly has a beef with the Clintons. That said, his analysis is well-supported with facts. He also makes some astute observations about the double standards of this investigation. For instance:

“[G]iven the role that the leaking of unsubstantiated classified information from anonymous government sources to the American media has played in underpinning the public arguments made by the Intelligence Community on the Russian role in the cyber attacks on the DNC, the irony behind the ICA findings about the role of Russian media in shaping American public opinion is palpable.”

The FBI Never Asked For Access To Hacked Computer Servers [BuzzFeed]
The Democratic National Committee tells BuzzFeed News that the bureau “never requested access” to the servers the White House and intelligence community say were hacked by Russia.

“Six months after the FBI first said it was investigating the hack of the Democratic National Committee’s computer network, the bureau has still not requested access to the hacked servers, a DNC spokesman said. No US government entity has run an independent forensic analysis on the system, one US intelligence official told BuzzFeed News. … The FBI has instead relied on computer forensics from a third-party tech security company, CrowdStrike, which first determined in March May of last year that the DNC’s servers had been infiltrated by Russia-linked hackers, the U.S. intelligence official told BuzzFeed News (the story was updated with the correction).

“CrowdStrike is pretty good. There’s no reason to believe that anything that they have concluded is not accurate,” the intelligence official said, adding they were confident Russia was behind the widespread hacks.”

Well, this certainly has the smell of Mercury retrograde conjunct Pluto (see comment above under, “Why Ridiculous Official Propaganda Still Works”). But then:

DNC: That Fight With FBI Over Hacked Servers Was All A Misunderstanding [BuzzFeed]
“The DNC said Wednesday that the FBI had never asked for access to the servers. On Thursday, in a stunning counterpunch, the FBI said it had not only asked, but had consistently and repeatedly been denied access by DNC officials, who the bureau said had “inhibited” the investigation.”

Now the DNC says it was all just a “miscommunication.” “Misunderstanding” and “miscommunication” are Mercury retrograde buzzwords. But there’s obviously more to this story. This is a top candidate for deep secrets that get revealed toward the end of January.

How Russia Became a Hacking Superpower [Moscow Times]
Moscow has finally got the geopolitical respect it demanded for years, but only after spooking Washington.

“Lost in the debate about Russian influence in the U.S. presidential election is the fact Russian hackers have been active for a long time. Littering the illicit pages of the dark web, Russian hacking programs today make possible most of the world’s financial-sector break-ins. Increasingly, Russian hackers have acted with political motivations, but their bread and butter is and has always been theft and corporate espionage.

As programmers, Russian-speaking hackers are pioneers in their fields.”

Planetary Cycles

Thursday Jan. 19, 2017 Mars square Saturn 4:16 AM EST, Sun enters Aquarius, 4:24 PM EST
Friday Jan. 20, 2017 Venus sextile Pluto 8:57 AM EST

One-Minute Meditation

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