Fiercely’s Friday Musings

The phrase “drinking from the firehose” means someone is overwhelmed with new information or responsibilities. Changing jobs at age 64 I now have an intimate  understanding of that idiom! I’m still paying attention to social and political issues but don’t have much time to write about them.

Here are a few observations.

  • At age 71 Mitt Romney is running for the opportunity to represent Utah in the U.S. Senate. Ok. Me starting over at 64 doesn’t seem so odd.
  • If you have read my posts over time you know I have trouble understanding or accepting President Donald J. Trump, but lately I have really wondered why he consistently attacks our allies while supporting tyrants such as Russian Vladimir Putin and  Turkish President Recep Erdogan and North Korean bloody tyrant Kim Jong Un. I’ve also wondered why folks continue to accept his numerous excuses for refusing to release his tax returns (yes, he is hiding something).
  • How can we as a society tolerate the policy allowing the separation of children from their parents? If you’ve missed this story, Attorney General Jeff Sessions used the Bible to justify taking children of immigrants from their parents and housing them in deserted Walmarts and tent camps in Texas. I think he might want to read the entire Bible. Maybe Mark 9:42, for example, which states “And whosoever shall offend one of [these] little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea”. Read this story about a Brazilian grandmother and her handicapped 16 year-old grandson who asked for asylum at the American border ten months ago and have since been separated. She is being detained in Texas and he is in Connecticut. The grandson has severe epilepsy and autism. Where in the Bible is such treatment justified?
  • A Justice Department report found that James Comey had actually used a private Gmail account to conduct FBI business, the same thing for which he was investigating Hillary Clinton. Geez. And, by the way, don’t believe the White House’s spin on that DOJ report. The truth is that President Trump should appreciate Comey because the letter he sent Congress eleven days before the presidential election announcing he was reopening the Clinton email investigation probably provided the final push Trump needed to win.
  • One of President Trump’s campaign promises was to “drain the swamp”, yet his EPA administrator Scott Pruitt has been constantly embroiled in self-serving scandals. Most of the scandals involved using taxpayer money for personal use. Even conservative commentators are beginning to go after Pruitt yet he remains in office.
  • Arctic ice is melting at near record levels.
  • Uber has started investing in research to develop “flying taxis”. Um…no.
  • Some colleges have started offering video game scholarship. Too bad pinball scholarships weren’t available years ago because I was pretty good!
  • In addition to five guilty pleas, according to Fox News Robert Mueller’s “witch hunt” has thus far resulted in the indictment of thirteen Russians and four former associates of President Trump (Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, Richard Gates, and George Papadopoulos). 
  • I’m really hopeful that President Trump has reduced the possibility of war with North Korea. Kim Jong Un’s reliability is still in doubt, however, and he is certainly no nice guy. A 2014 United Nations report concluded that atrocities in North Korea entail extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation”. 
  • You might want to pay attention to the growing trade wars with our major trading partners. In the end it is very likely American workers, consumers, and corporations will suffer.
  • Thanks to conservation efforts the number of Mexican Jaguars has increased by 20% in eight years. Jaguars were once on the “endangered” species list but have now been moved to “near threatened”.
  • Deforestation in Brazil was reduced by 90% after the Brazilian government began aggressively creating protected forests and parklands. Even better, “reforestation” in Brazil is catching on with one private group planning to plant 73 million trees during the next seven years.

I have had one post written for more than a year but could not publish it. I hope to be able to do so next week. Yes…that is a teaser!

Thank you for reading!

Did Russia Interfere?

I’ve been writing this blog about a year and if you’ve been following along you know that I moderate all comments to be certain they are civil in nature. So far I’ve not rejected a single uncivil comment!

In recent months another good reason to moderate the comments has emerged; I get about ten spam comments each day generated by some computer program, and I’m really glad those don’t get posted automatically. Here is what’s interesting: In my unofficial estimate about 30% of these comments from non-subscribers are written in Russian, so somebody (or some bot) in Russia is trying to post comments to my blog.

This made me start paying closer attention to the accusation that Russia manipulated social media, especially Facebook and Twitter, in an attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election. As with many news stories these days I assumed this one was exaggerated by the media.

I don’t think it was.

Twitter has now admitted that upwards of 50,000 fake accounts were created by Russians to post automated content, and about 3,800 of those accounts were traced back directly to Russian state operatives. Tweets would, for example, attack Hillary Clinton’s performance during the debates. Some of these fake tweets were then re-tweeted by Trump campaign folks such as Kellyanne Conway and Donald Trump, Jr. who assumed they were legitimate.

Russians also created fake Facebook accounts that spread political propaganda, and they did so in such a way it appeared the post was being shared by real voters, especially in swing states that would determine the final outcome of the election. This political activity was verified by cybersecurity experts at George Washington University.

Here is one example:

 

Phttps://democrats-intelligence.house.gov/uploadedfiles/6053177352305.pdf

Pretty subtle, huh?

Here is another post that received 13,000 Facebook “likes”:

https://democrats-intelligence.house.gov/uploadedfiles/stop_ai_burqa.pdf

Other fake Facebook posts did not specifically support a candidate but apparently were intended to further divide the American public.

https://democrats-intelligence.house.gov/uploadedfiles/blacktivist_oc_343308009345635.pdf

And yes, a few even attacked Donald Trump, again presumably attempting to divide the country.

https://democrats-intelligence.house.gov/uploadedfiles/6056284937087.pdf

Click here to see a few other examples of fake posts traced to Russia.

In prepared testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last fall Facebook executives said that approximately 126 million American Facebook subscribers viewed Russian-generated content. Elliot Schrage, one of Facebook’s vice presidents, said “Most of the ads appear to focus on divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum, touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights,”

It appears that the Russian accounts were primarily supportive of Donald Trump’s bid for the Whitehouse but were also aimed at ultimately harming America’s already fractured society.

And using social media was not the only strategy employed by the Russians. As far back as October of 2016 the United States Intelligence Community accepted the conclusion that Russian operatives had hacked email accounts and stolen emails, later released by WikiLeaks and others, and that the theft was intended to influence and disrupt the American election. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence concluded that it had “high confidence” that the hacked emails were shared with WikiLeaks and other organizations by Russia and that “Moscow will apply lessons learned from its campaign aimed at the US presidential election to future influence efforts in the United States and worldwide, including against US allies and their election processes”.

On Monday of this week Mike Pompeo, President Trump’s CIA Director, said he believes Russia will again try to meddle in the 2018 midterm elections.

There is no way to determine whether Russia’s activities actually influenced the outcome of the 2016 election. As I’ve said before both presidential candidates in that election were deeply flawed. But likelihood of success should not matter. What should matter is that another nation is doing everything it can to influence our democratic processes.

Russia is America’s most dangerous enemy and our number one adversary on the world stage. It is possibly the number one threat to our security, so why is this issue seemingly on the back burner? Well, there is another Russian probe under way (I’ll write about it in another post) that has sort of diverted America’s attention, and I can also think of countless other issues that have led us to focus elsewhere. Examples: North Korea, accusations that President Trump paid a porn star to keep quiet about an affair, constant diversionary Tweets by our President, Charlottesville, moving the American embassy in Israel, DACA, the tax overhaul bill, hurricane damage to Puerto Rico, reports of the President’s disparaging comments regarding poor countries, the Paris climate accords, firing James Comey, firing Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Anthony Scaramucci, repealing Obamacare, Roy Moore, stalled infrastructure legislation, our President attacking his own appointees, the wall (not to be confused with Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”), attacks on the free press, the stock market, attacks on football players, controversy over President Trump’s frequent vacations and golf games (at his own resorts), attacks on our own intelligence community, repealing environmental policies, and much more.

It’s just hard to focus on our enemy’s attempt to control elections, but we should.