Glenn Greenwald and other Russia Deniers

What’s up with Glenn Greenwald and others on the left who generally deny the possibility that Russia successfully interfered in US domestic politics, tipping the election?

I think part of it is the desire to avoid facing an unpleasant fact; namely, the fact that the preponderance of evidence indicates that Russia acted in a hostile way that merits serious consequences in return. Note that this does not mean war; it does however mean an end to any sort of normal, routine relationship that one would have with a non-hostile nation.

If you emotionally invest a great deal into a political theory which paints the US military/industrial complex as nothing but a conspiracy to inflate foreign threats in the name of sucking down tax dollars, then it might be awkward to have to admit that some threats from abroad actually do exist. It can be even harder if you remember a time when bloated military spending (and thoroughly evil imperialistic interventionism) were being justified on the basis of a military confrontation with the (largely ethnic Russian) USSR. It can be harder yet if your name is Glenn Greenwald and when you were a reporter for the Guardian, you helped Edward Snowden expose some crimes of the US national security establishment.

Of course, a more nuanced view that allows room for there to both be actual threats from abroad and for there to be mostly fake ones hyped up by a self-serving national security state is also possible. But it tends to be emotionally very easy and seductive to operate in a world where actors get reduced to simplistic good or evil characters, even if on an intellectual level one knows better (Greenwald is not stupid).

It’s not the first time that many on the left have fallen into such a trap. In the 1930s, many pacifist leftists found it impossible to admit that Nazi Germany was a military threat. For many of those leftists, opposing World War I was a defining experience, and there was much merit in the claim that WWI was largely a result of the foibles of an imperialist ruling elite first squabbling over how to best steal land and oppress Africans then siding with the side their bankers had lent a lot of money to. One of the reasons Neville Chamberlain found it so easy to appease Hitler is that appeasement had broad support from across the political spectrum in the UK.

None of this is to say that the US ruling class is blameless in all this. As I’ve written before, the US and its allies basically laid the foundations for the current state of affairs, by encouraging and supporting Boris Yeltsin when he staged a coup against parliament and proceeded to create a strong presidency in Russia. Putin simply inherited that presidency and started putting it to uses other than the originally intended (by the West) one of ramming through a transition to a fully capitalist economy.

Likewise, Britain was not blameless in the rise of Hitler. Together with the rest of the European Triple Entente countries, the UK ended the war on terms extremely humiliating for Germany. This undermined the German economy and created a fertile environment for demagogues like Hitler to arise. Such humiliating peace terms (and their paving of the way to a later, more brutal war) were in fact correctly predicted by socialist Rosa Luxemburg in 1915.

But that no more proved that Hitler wasn’t a threat than the US history of intervention in post-Cold War eastern Europe proves Putin isn’t a threat.

Not Oprah, Please

I mean, sure, she’d almost certainly be better than the current occupant of the White House, but “better than Trump” is an extremely low standard to set.

Plus, judging by the speech she gave, her candidacy would represent a doubling-down on identity politics (and a continued de-emphasis of class politics) on the part of the Democrats, which is just about the last thing we need.

On Facebook and Bicycle Head Lamps

Washington Monthly has a new article out detailing how harmful Facebook is and some ideas for liberal, big-government fixes for that. (Personally, color me skeptical about it; I’m not sure I want to give a government selected by populace stupid enough to select Trump more power to manage the information I see.) That’s after Facebook’s former chief technologist came out and said the platform is designed to promote addiction, and another Facebook techie boldly told his audience they were being programmed.

None of this is much surprise to me after having tried Facebook under an assumed name. My initial hopes of being able to follow what friends were doing via that platform were quickly dashed when I realized how fundamentally useless it is for such a purpose. Well, useless if one’s desire is to quickly keep tabs on what friends are doing; it buries that signal under a huge amount of noise.

It was pretty easy to tell the “noise” was there in an attempt to maximize the time I spent on the platform. In fact, I fell for the clickbait more than once. The overall impression it created was one of frustration at being suckered into wasting my time instead of accomplishing my initial goals for being there. Overall it lends a stench of sleaze to the whole site.

I occasionally check in, maybe once or twice a week, but that’s it. I can’t really imagine Facebook ever doing much to create significant improvement in my life.

Contrast that to the bicycle headlight I bought when I first moved to the Island. I knew I needed a different sort of light for my bicycles, one that lights up the road so I can see as opposed to one that mainly exists so I can be seen by others. I didn’t want it to depend on changing or charging batteries; I really liked my generator lights and how they were just always there, ready to be used when it got dark, much like the headlights and taillights on an automobile.

The obvious solution involved LED’s, because light-emitting diodes turn approximately 90% of the energy fed into them into light, instead of 90% into heat like for incandescent lamps. And sure enough, some research showed that such things had become available since I last researched the issue (and found to my disappointment such things didn’t exist).

They weren’t easily available in the USA, but I found a dealer for them that very conveniently was closing out the previous generation of such headlights, which lessened the cost (somewhat; they were still not inexpensive). And they worked as well as expected.

One piece of new technology has little or nothing to offer me, so I eschew it. The other fit nicely into my existing life, so I embraced it. I don’t have much use for religious superstition in my life, but I do have a great deal of respect for how the Amish have decided to deal with technology, by evaluating it and deciding if it offers a net improvement instead of mindlessly embracing it.

Fire and Fury, The Gorilla Channel, Fake News

First, Fire and Fury should not be taken as a serious information source. It’s written by an individual who might rightly be called the Donald Trump of journalism, given his lack of adherence to norms and past record of playing fast and loose with factual accuracy. He’s already been caught getting into the White House on false pretenses.

Second, it’s not as if Trump or anyone in his regime has much ground to stand on when it comes to complaining about such things.

Third, there is no Gorilla Channel. That’s a hoax. It wasn’t believable to start with:

I had never heard of any such thing, yet Trump is supposed to have had access to it in Trump Tower (but not the White House?). If it were a cable channel, you’d expect it to be available pretty much everywhere there is cable. If Washington, DC has an inferior cable system that doesn’t carry it, it wouldn’t be that hard to install an earth station at the White House to receive it.

They set up “a hastily-constructed transmission tower on the South Lawn” to broadcast it? Really? That tower would have attracted the attention of photographers; surely someone would have noticed it. And why erect a transmission tower for cable TV? Far simpler and easier to just modulate a signal and inject it into the coax. If over-the-air transmission is for some reason desired, a tower isn’t needed for a low-power signal, anyhow. This wouldn’t need to reach farther than a few rooms in the White House; it would be a simple matter to put an ultra low-power transmitter in a closet somewhere.

Fourth, the book’s general premise, that Trump is totally unfit for the job he finds himself in, is no big surprise and was obvious already.