Monday, March 25, 2019

The Barr Letter and Useful Idiots of the Jaded Left

As everyone knows by now, President Trump has been totally "exonerated" for everything, ever, by a four-page letter from William Barr, the Attorney General whom he appointed expressly to "exonerate" him. With regard to potential obstruction-of-justice, on page three of his letter, Barr cited Special Counsel Mueller's statement that "while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."

Understandably, Trump's allies and surrogates are ecstatic that Trump has been so unequivocally and unconditionally exonerated by a letter about a report that "does not exonerate him." But the gloating does not stop there. A contingent of "left" journalists and self-styled pundits are jumping in the self-congratulatory bandwagon.

The "leftist" critique of the Russia collusion story follows a certain "dialectical" logic: first, the lesser of two evils is the greater danger and therefore my foe and second, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Alleged journalist Glenn Greenwald presents an inarticulate version of this critique when he sputters hyperbole on Democracy Now. Greenwald magically transforms not establishing an actionable criminal case into not a shred of evidence.

Matt Taibbi gives a more nuanced performance in comparing Russiagate to the Bush administration's lies about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. Taibbi qualifies his hyperbole by noting the hundreds of thousands of deaths and trillions of dollars wasted as a result of the latter. "Unless Russiagate leads to a nuclear conflict, we’re unlikely to ever see that level of consequence." But in terms of journalism?
As a purely journalistic failure, however, WMD was a pimple compared to Russiagate. The sheer scale of the errors and exaggerations this time around dwarfs the last mess. Worse, it’s led to most journalists accepting a radical change in mission. We’ve become sides-choosers, obliterating the concept of the press as an independent institution whose primary role is sorting fact and fiction.
What a load of bollocks. Are we now supposed to believe that up until the time of the Steele dossier, the corporate news media was "an independent institution whose primary role is sorting fact and fiction"? Fox? Breitbart? Daily Caller? Not to mention non-stop CNN and NYT coverage of Trump rallies, diners in rural Pennsylvania, personable neo-Nazis, Clinton emails and climate change...

In his comprehensive critique of journalistic failure, Taibbi mentioned Fox once and the Daily Caller twice -- to note their coverage of Michael Cohen's denial of having ever been in Prague. Throughout the whole affair, the vast right-wing propaganda Wurlitzer was presumably acting as "an independent institution whose primary role is sorting fact and fiction." Thank you, Matt Taibbi for your bold refusal to choose sides!

Not that it matters, but the mainstream media framing of the Russia collusion story was orchestrated by the "victim" of the "witch hunt." The Mueller investigation was initiated by the Trump-appointed Deputy Attorney General who wrote the memo to give Trump cover for firing James Comey. The soi-disant "left" critics of Russiagate have bought that framing and are now gloating that "their side" has won.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Alleged journalist Glenn Greenwald..."

This is a sickening smear, how shameful.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

The Taibibi piece has some serious problems you have not noted, S-man, and others seem not to have picked up on. A crucial one is his claim that the origin of "Russiagate" was the Steele dossier, a line spouted almost every evening by Trump's favorite mouthpiece, Sean Hannity. For Hannity it has always been the "discredited Steele dossier, bought and paid for by Clinton and the DNC." This line, Taibibi spouts, is seriously flawed on several counts.

The first is that it was not the origin of the FBI investigation. It was presented to FISA, but along with the material on Papadapoulous, who spouted about Russians having damaging emails to an Australian diplomat while drunk, with that nation passing that on to the FBI well before the Steele dossier showed up. Also, they had been watching Carter Page off and on for several years, who had long had questionable dealings with the Russians.

In terms of its role in setting off the Mueller investigation, it played very little role. The immediate predecessor to that was Trump firing James Comey for not laying off Michael Flynn, who was under investigation for talking to Russians questionably and then lying about it, a bit worse than the mere "process crimes" the Trump defenders have been whining about. And then Trump bragged to Russian diplomats about having fired Comey to shut down any investigation of the Russian connection, pretty obvious evidence of trying to obstruct justice in the case of Flynn, with this having nothing to do with the Steele dossier, although, indeed, Mueller has offered no exoneration for Trump on the matter of obstructing justice.

Then there is the matter that while Clinton and the DNC did fund the Steele dossier for a period of time, it was initially funded by the Bush campaign, yes, opponents of Trump, but Republicans. Steele indeed had a good rep with the FBI and CIA based on previous relations.

Finally, while we constantly hear, and Taibibi repeated, that the dossier has been "discredited," that is an exaggeration. Yes, some items in it have been discredited, notably the claim that Michael Cohen was meeting Russians (or anybody) in Prague. It also seems that exaggerated claims were made about money involved in some of Carter Page's interractions with Russians. However, many itemsm in the dossier, probably a majority of it, has been verified, but this has been conveniently forgotten.

And regarding the most notorious part of the report, about the prostitutes supposedly doing golden showers in a hotel, that remains neither vrified nor unverified. But while much has been made of it, in the end it is no big deal. After all, we now know Trump paid off several prostitutes and lied about it, with very little happening as a result of it. So, no big deal one way or the other.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

Furthermore, regarding whining about costs of the investigation, it should be noted that under Obama the GOP in the House ran 8 different investigations of Hillary Clinton's actions in Benghazi. The seventh of those had been seriously definitive that there was nothing there aside from the GOP cutting the State Dept's security budget, but they still had to have one more expensive extravaganza out of the Trey Gowdy committee, which resulted in the GOP on that committee making complete public fools of themselves.

Taibibi has no legs to stand on regarding that point, especially now that apparently Trump wants to have a Special Counsel to investigate those who initiated the investigation of him.

Sandwichman said...

Thanks, Barkley. I didn't want to get into point-by-point rebuttal of Taibbi myself because, frankly, I am not an avid student of all things Russiagate. What deeply offends me as a bystander, though, is Taibbi's and Greenwald's cavalier adoption of the Trump framing right down to the Trump narrative about what the other side's narrative is.

And anonymous, "alleged journalist" was me being kind. Greenwald has procured hostages for both the Russian and the US secret police. He is scum. He may not have set out to become scum but he has been turned. Get it? HE HAS BEEN TURNED.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

Obviously based on my new post, I have a view not exprressed by practically anybody, although I think it is right.

I will grant Taibibi one thing. Some commentators in various places, including perhaps especially MSNBC, have been just too certain that the Mueller report was going to just guarantee Trump getting impeached. I have kept track, as I have also of Hannity and crew, and over and over these folks would declare that "this is it!" about this or that revelation, with it now clear impeachment completely off the table. Some of these folks do However, offhand, these folks have done a lot less lying than what Trump and Hannity have repeatedly done.

Sandwichman said...

I have watched Rachel Maddow exactly twice. Once she was very good and the other time she was horrid. Hannity is a vile creature. He is made of the same "stuff" as Hitler.

Anonymous said...

"HE HAS BEEN TURNED."

I realize that the writer is not just mean, but a foul-mouthed nutter. Or is it NUTTER?

Watch me turning. I have also been turned. (Must be careful not to turn too fast. Dizzy.)

Still turning....

Anonymous said...

"HE HAS BEEN TURNED."

Nutty as the hatter, and much creepier.

john c. halasz said...

"Greenwald has procured hostages for both the Russian and the US secret police."

What is the basis for this claim?

And have you gone plumb crazy, S-man?

Yes, Trump is a thoroughly sleazy socio-pathic con man and prima facie is likely guilty of real crimes during his prior business "career", other than the "normal" crimes of his presidency. (But basically all big league politicians are socio-paths, Obama, both Clintons, both Bushes, Blair, etc. Their truth quotient is exceedingly low and their hollow manipulativeness rampant. Trump has just ripped the mask off and exposed the pure id. The level of intentionality in the act of voting is about the same as that pf playing the lottery, except that the lottery involves pure random numbers, whereas the choices in voting are highly constricted. I just tell people don't identify with our fearless leaders, because such identifications are just an index of self-importance. The spectacle of soi-disant liberals treating the rise of Trump as a matter of personal narcissistic injury is a case in point).

I did read the Taibbi piece and thought it exactly on target. *He cut is journalistc teeth reporting from Yeltsin's Russia so his NS detector is unusually strong). It is a matter of public record that the senior staff of the Clinton campaign decided on the day after the election to blame Russia for their own failure, after having campaigned on the vilification of Russia from the get-go, because HRC was and is a horrible neo-liberal imperialist war-monger. The whole #Russiagate business promoted by the corporate media and their comedian side-kicks was a typically fraudulent instance of government by scandal. (And in the meantime the Dembots can vote to gut financial regulation, raise "defence" spending, block off real health care reform, etc. all the while lionizing the CIA and the FBI as sacrosanct guardians of our precious "democratic" republic. It was a crock of BS to begin with and obviously so. And now you want to smear those who didn't buy into such a transparent ruse as "useful idiots" in classic McCarthyite fashion, because the whole affair exposes both wings of the corporate media as propaganda apparatuses, rather than genuine journalistic enterprises. (Of course, since there is such a monopolistic consolidation of media nowadays, scarcely anything like investigative journalism scarcely exists anymore and personnel are selected and promoted based on their conformist pliability to corporate dictates). So do your really want to claim that there is a simple binary choice between just 2 alternatives, corresponding to the assured legitimacy of "our" binary electoral system?

Shame on you, for such an unwarranted sacrifice of intelligence.

Sandwichman said...

John, I have spent the last year and a half telling Mueller groupies that they are going to sorely disappointed with the outcome. So I suppose I should be gloating. But wait. There has been no out come. The report is not out. It is in the hands of the great Iran-Contra cover-up artist, William Barr.

I haven't written about the Mueller investigation or Russiagate on EconoSpeak with the exception of some parsing of the coverage of the rebuttal from the SCO to a Buzzfeed story. Frankly, I don't fucking care whether Trump conspired with Russia. I care that he is empowering white supremacists and worse. I have no political sympathy for Bill or Hillary Clinton, George Bush, Barack Obama and only the deepest contempt for the corporate news media.

What galls me is people jumping on the Trump gloat bandwagon in the wake of an obvious bait and switch by the Attorney General and pretending, yes pretending, that they (you) haven't been fooled. You stupid suckers.

Do you really believe that CNN and the NYT are Trump's adversaries? You and Greenwald and Taibbi buy the whole kayfabe framing, which -- by the way -- includes the part about you being smarter than everybody else.

Greenwald sent Edward Snowden into exile in Russia. Do you know who the capo di tutti capi in Russia is? A man named Putin. Do you know what happens to journalists and dissidents who step out of line there? Putin has kompromat on Greenwald -- a hostage.

But Putin has no kompromat on John C. Halasz. Presumably John C. Halasz knows who Oliver North is and who John Bolton and Elliot Abrams are. But John C. Halasz has no shame jumping on the Trump bandwagon with war criminals because, after all they all are war criminals.

Shame on me? For not jumping on the Trump "complete exoneration" celebratory bandwagon?

Calgacus said...

Indeed, John Halasz, on most of your points. That Greenwald "procured hostages" ?? - "sent Snowden into exile in Russia" ?? - what?! Snowden made his own decision to do a good deed and is being punished for it. That's all there is to that. Putin thus having "kompromat" on Greenwald makes no sense. Calling Greenwald "scum" & "turned" on the basis of such fallacious logic is "plumb crazy".

As you say Russiagate "was a crock of BS to begin with and obviously so." It was a show trial, some of the convictions imho fraudulent. The "investigator" Mueller was a typical fraud himself, who worked hard to accept preposterous assumptions (that there was Russian hacking) and avoid investigating anything about the emails that started it all.

People who said such things aren't jumping on the Trump bandwagon. If Adolph Hitler told you 2 + 2 = 4, would agreeing make one a Nazi? Trump and Hitler are and would be jumping on the bandwagon of "saying things that make sense". Should that be a reason to jump off and join the Russiagaters or Mueller or the Dems or the Repubs or concoct one's own conspiracy theory & Alice-in-Wonderland logic?

Though I haven't detected much of it - that people who have been rare voices of reason might go a bit too far when the tide turns their way is to be expected, not made a basis of accusations if anything sillier than Russiagate.

Sandwichman said...

"People who said such things aren't jumping on the Trump bandwagon. If Adolph Hitler told you 2 + 2 = 4, would agreeing make one a Nazi?"

If Hitler told you that 2+2=4, 2+4=2 and arithmetic is a lie propagated by the Jews to enslave Aryans, would agreeing with him make you a Nazi? Not necessarily. You could just be a fucking idiot and a dupe.

You seem (or claim) to believe three things that are cognitively dissonant: the Barr letter faithfully transmits the Mueller report's conclusions and underlying evidence, the Mueller report completely exonerates Trump and thereby totally discredits allegations against him, Mueller was a fraud who worked tirelessly to prove the allegations that have been discredited by his report. I can't refute such nonsense because if you can't see that it refutes itself you're not going to be able to follow a rebuttal.

In the 1970s, I had the "pleasure" of working politically with people I subsequently learned were FBI informants. One thing you need to understand about informants -- they don't think they are doing the bidding of their handlers. They imagine they are using the secret police to further their own ends, which are somehow cleverer and often nobler than those of the dumb fucks they are nominally working in political coalition with.

So, in your view, Trump and Hitler have jumped on YOUR bandwagon of "saying things that make sense" and "rare voices of reason" rather than the other way around. That's what YOU think.

Calgacus said...

I said nothing about the Barr letter and the Mueller report, so the first two claims about my beliefs are wrong. I could have written what I did above - and I did write it on several blogs - before the Mueller report and Barr letter.

As for Mueller being a fraud, this is provable. (I said nothing about the more complicated idea that he "worked tirelessly to prove the allegations that have been discredited by his report") In a bit more detail than above: He asserted the Russian hacking conspiracy theory. But he never tried to investigate anything concerning it- he never looked at the DNC servers nor tried to talk to Assange or Murray. A real investigator would have done all three things. QED

I try to be dumb and guided by 2 + 2 = 4 logic and ignore all the 11th dimensional chess conspiracy stuff. I may not aways succeed. But for example, if an "investigator" refuses to investigate, I think it is dumb 2+2=4 logic to call him a fraud. And the idea that the burden of proof is on the accuser, the person who claims that "Russiagate is [NOT] a crock of BS" is pretty simple too.

So are you sure that it is I or Halasz who are jumping on a bandwagon or supposing that we are smarter than everyone else or thinking we are manipulating manipulators? For instance, the logic of your accusations against Greenwald and other logical leaps above are over my head, to put it mildly.

Sandwichman said...

Calgacus,

Sorry, I can't argue with word salad. I admit that Mueller MAY be a fraud. Your opinion that convictions in Mueller-instigated trials were fraudulent requires more than assertion. As does your assertion that Mueller "never tried to investigate anything" concerning Russian hacking. These are pretty bold claims to just sprinkle around like bird seed. Or maybe they are not actually "claims." Maybe they are just ejaculations. Have a Kleenex.

Anonymous said...

"Putin has kompromat on Greenwald -- a hostage...."

What pernicious writing.

Calgacus said...

Sandwichman - No, what I wrote is not at all word salad. It is mostly tightly reasoned, especially by the standards of the interwebs. I could explain anything that is not clear; and I accept some of your criticism.

But I have to say what you've been writing on this topic is far below your standards and seems rather disorganized. It is strangely reasoned and makes unfounded claims about other people, though it is not word salad.

Again, there is no way for you to know my beliefs on the Barr letter or the Mueller report from what I wrote, for I said nothing about them. It would only be slightly sillier if I imputed knowledge of your beliefs on the filioque, the crimes of Stalin or the true authorship of Shakespeares's plays from your comments.

I didn't assert or claim as a "fact", that some of Mueller's convictions were fraudulent. I said "some of the convictions imho fraudulent." imho = in my humble opinion. I was particularly opining on Flynn there.

You are right - my "he never tried to investigate anything concerning it" was exaggeration. What Mueller did was carefully ignore the most obvious and important and usual things to investigate concerning the Podesta emails. Things that are invariably done in real investigations.

Did Mueller talk to Wikileaks or Assange, or Murray, who said I personally went to DC and received the emails from a DNC insider? No. Did Mueller or any government agency examine the email servers? No. Nobody disputes any of these facts. They alone, with nothing else, prove that the Mueller investigation was a fraud.

Pardon me if I've said this before here, but - In Casablanca, Rick shoots Major Strasser in front of Captain Renault. Then Captain Renault tells his men to "round up the usual suspects." That's basically what Mueller did. And on the basis of only these facts and that scene, neither Renault's nor Mueller's actions were "investigations".

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