Bishop: The Russians are Coming

Thursday, March 01, 2018


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Not good natured cold warriors in a submarine stranded off the coast this time, but Russian agents driving right down main street on a four wheeler pulling a jury-rigged cage occupied by a pant suited ‘prisoner’ -- a makeshift parade float meant to epitomize the widely circulated: “Hilary for Prison” meme.  I’m shocked, shocked to see such gamboling going on about here. Thank god the FBI ferreted this out in Count 77 of Mueller’s indictment:

“On or about August 18, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators sent money via interstate wire to another real U.S. person recruited by the ORGANIZATION, using one of their false U.S. personas, to build a cage large enough to hold an actress depicting Clinton in a prison uniform.”

Focusing on the most comical elements of the indictment isn’t necessarily fair to some honest detective work that does appear to have meticulously traced a Russian operation that in total over 3 years may have spent on the order of perhaps $10 million dollars aimed mostly, it seems, at accentuating extant political divisions in the United States around the 2016 presidential election. As Everett Dirksen is reputed to have said, a million here, a million there, pretty soon you are talking about real money. . . oops Dirksen said a billion.  Mueller is looking a bit more like Austin Powers casting Vladimir Putin in the role of Dr. Evil who clearly didn’t have any grasp on what would have to be spent to actually influence the American election.

To put this in context, the Washington Post reports that $2.4 billion was spent on the presidential election. So this indictment puts the value of Russian interference at less than 1/2 of 1% of spending. Well Trump did win, but was it really those parade floats or facebook ads that reinforced what people already thought? What is really stunning about the indictment is that the Russian operatives, essentially the equivalent of twenty something nerds living in their parents basements, had to be told by Americans they engaged to focus on the swing states.

“starting in or around June 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators, posing online as U.S. persons, communicated with a real U.S. person affiliated with a Texas-based grassroots organization. During the exchange, Defendants and their co-conspirators learned from the real U.S. person that they should focus their activities on "purple states like Colorado, Virginia & Florida."

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Who knew that the American political process has been so will guarded that it took this kind of sophisticated espionage to ferret out its weaknesses. If only the Ukrainians were playing, they might have learned enough to spread the word amongst Hillary supporters to focus on states like Wisconsin and Michigan.

It is hard not to make light of what has been painstakingly recited about Russian interference, but that doesn’t mean the exercise was not needed. Although the Washington Post suggests that much of the road map for these indictments was laid out by Russian journalists covering their “troll factory” in Russian papers between March and October of last year. And the Russians told the Post what people in Russia thought about the affair:

“A lot of Russian conservatives were proud. They said: ‘Look at what Russians can do! Only 90 people with $2 million made America scared! We are strong!’ And for conservative people here, they see that Americans have CNN, Radio Free Europe, etc., that cover Russia. They say, ‘Why can’t we establish groups in America and have our own influence?’ That's how conservative people think here. They think this was normal.

Well it’s as American as apple pie to tell someone “what goes around comes around”, but that doesn’t mean we like to hear it. Still, someone better order a truckload of Xanax for the Resistance, because there is only so much there there. But that hasn’t stopped the intemperate depiction of this whole affair as “an act of war”. Glenn Greenwald shows that purportedly intelligent Congressman Jerry Nadler has lost all sense of proportion in comparing this election trolling to Pearl Harbor. 

But the Resistance has an answer for is own silliness. If you align yourself with any cause stained by Russian interest you are a Russophile and can be dismissed out of hand – and perhaps prosecuted. The most famous and influential politician to have previously advanced this line of reasoning was a fellow from Wisconsin by the name of Joe McCarthy.

By the time McCarthy was through pounding his drum, everyone understood that you could favor peace without being a communist. Yet the Russian ‘active measures’ employing ‘useful idiots’ were really only just getting underway. Defector Stanislav Lunev reported that the Soviet Union gave a billion dollars (that’s the one with the “b”) to American anti-war activism during the Vietnam War – more than it gave to the Viet Cong! And this spending continued at high levels funding the “peace movement” both in America and Europe that tried to halt Reagan’s plans for deploying medium range missles with our continental allies. 

While some on the left took care to distance themselves from overtly Soviet efforts, there hardly was a rallying cry that our democracy was under siege. .If spending $10 million in a haphazard effort to exploit differences between Americans in this past election is said to be equivalent to Pearl Harbor, what does the billions sunk into undermining American resolve in foreign policy in the past constitute, Armageddon?  

But those opposing American interventions and nuclear weapons were having none of it. The fact that their agenda happened to align with Soviet interests didn’t make these causes wrong.  Although, in hindsight, Reagan’s refusal to back down from strong deterrence proved the better strategy and ultimately lead to less nukes, those who opposed him on missiles in Europe were no more Russophiles than Glenn Greenwald.  But there is a far higher chance they were influenced by Russian spending than American voters in the past election.

One thing is for sure, if the Russian intent was to sow dissent in America, they succeeded beyond their wildest expectations. Facebook ads: $2 million to accomplish zilch. Buthe orgy of Russophiobia undermining the American presidency: Priceless. That doesn’t mean everyone is supposed to grow up and love Trump or Putin. They simply ought to look in the mirror and ask, since when does the left love the FBI so much.  Didn’t Arlo Guthrie get it precisely right? The great thing about the FBI isn’t that they can track a few Russian trolls, its that they would spend the time for those nerds. Everyone else would say “screw em, they’re just trolls” but at the FBI, there is no hypocrisy, there is no discrimination, they’ll get anybody.”

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Brian Bishop is on the board of OSTPA and has spent 20 years of activism protecting property rights, fighting over regulation and perverse incentives in tax policy.






Related Slideshow: GoLocal: Benchmark Poll, October 2017

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Sponsor: GoLocalProv

Sample: N=403

Rhode Island General Election Voters Margin of Error: +/- 4.9% at 95% Confidence Level

Interviewing Period: October 9-11, 2017

Mode: Landline (61%) and Mobile (39%)

Telephone Directed by: John Della Volpe, SocialSphere, Inc.

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Are you registered to vote at this address?

Yes: 100%

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When it comes to voting, do you consider yourself to be affiliated with the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, Moderate, or Unaffiliated with a major party?

Unaffiliated: 49%

Democrat: 32%

Republican: 15%

Moderate: .4%

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Next year, in November of 2018, there will be a statewide general election for Governor and many other state offices. How likely is it that you will vote in this election?

Will you definitely be voting, will you probably be voting, are you 50-50...

Definitely be voting: 78%

Probably be voting: 13%

50-50: 9%

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In general, would you say things in Rhode Island are headed in the right direction or are they off on the wrong track?

Right track: 39%

Wrong track: 45%

Mixed: 10%

Don't know/Refused: .6%

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What would you say is the number one problem facing Rhode Island that you would like the Governor to address?

Jobs and economy:  21%

Education: 12%

Taxes: 12%

Roads: 12%

State budget: 9%

Corruption/Public integrity: .8%

Healthcare: 3%

Governor: 3%

Homelessness: 2%

Immigration: 2%

Other: 7%

Don’t know: .9%

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Over the past three years or so, would you say the economy in Rhode Island has improved, gotten worse, or not changed at all?

Changed for the better: 35%

Changed for the worse: 16%

Not changed at all: 43%

Don't know/Refused: 5%

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Over the same time, has your family's financial situation improved, gotten worse, or not changed at all?

Changed for the better: 26%

Changed for the worse: 19%

Not changed at all: 54%

Don't know/Refused: 1%

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Recently, a proposal has been made to permit the issuance of $81 million in bonds by the State to build a new stadium for the Pawtucket Red Sox. If there was an election today on this issue, would you vote to approve or reject issuing $81 million in financing supported moral obligation bonds to build the stadium?

Net: Approve: 28%

Definitely approve: 15%

Probably approve: 14%

Net: Reject: 67%

Probably reject: 19%

Definitely reject: 48%

Don't know: 4%

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Could you please tell me your age?

18-24: 7%

25-34: 15%

35-44: 15%

45-54: 20%

55-64: 17%

65+: 25%

Don't know/refused: 1%

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What was the last grade you completed in school?

0-11: 2%

High school grad: 16%

Technical/Vocational school: 1%

Some college: 23%

College grad: 34%

Graduate degree: 24%

Don't know/refused: 1%

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The next question is about the total income of YOUR HOUSEHOLD for the PAST 12 MONTHS. Please include your income PLUS the income of all members living in your household (including cohabiting partners and armed forces members living at home).

$50,000 or less: 27%

More $50,000 but less than $75,000: 13%

More $75,000 but less than $100,000: 13%

More $100,000 but less than $150,000: 17%

$150,000 or more: 13%

Don't know/refused: 17%

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What particular ethnic group or nationality - such as English, French, Italian, Irish, Latino, Jewish, African American, and so forth - do you consider yourself a part of or feel closest to?

American/None: 21%

English: 13%

Italian: 13%

Irish: 12%

Black or African American: 6%

Latino/Hispanic: 6%

French: 6%

Portuguese: 3%

Jewish: 3%

German: 1%

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Would you say that Donald Trump has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as President?

Excellent: 13%
Good: 12%
Fair: 14%
Poor: 57%
Never heard of:  0%
Cannot rate: 3%

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Would you say that Jack Reed has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a United States Senator?

Excellent: 22%
Good: 29%
Fair: 23%
Poor: 15%
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate: 6%

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Would you say that Sheldon Whitehouse has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a United States Senator?

Excellent: 17%
Good: 22%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 28%
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate: 7%

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Would you say that David Cicilline has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a Member of Congress?

Excellent: 9%
Good: 29%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 27%
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate:  8%

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Would you say that James Langevin has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a Member of Congress?

Excellent: 7%
Good: 30%
Fair: 20%
Poor: 18%
Never heard of: 13%
Cannot rate: 11%

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Would you say that Gina Raimondo has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Governor?

Excellent: 6%
Good: 28%
Fair: 30%
Poor: 31%
Never heard of: 1%
Cannot rate: 3%

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Would you say that Daniel McKee has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Lieutenant Governor?

Excellent: 3%
Good: 16%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 8%
Never heard of: 26%
Cannot rate: 25%

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Would you say that Peter Kilmartin has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Attorney General?

Excellent: 3%
Good: 20%
Fair: 28%
Poor: 17%
Never heard of: 13%
Cannot rate: 19%

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Would you say that Seth Magaziner has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as General Treasurer?

Excellent: 4%
Good: 18%
Fair: 24%
Poor: 13%
Never heard of: 21%
Cannot rate: 21%

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Would you say that Nellie Gorbea has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Secretary of State?

Excellent: 5%
Good: 21%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 10%
Never heard of: 20%
Cannot rate: 23%

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Would you say that Jorge Elorza has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Mayor of Providence?

Excellent: 4%
Good: 24%
Fair: 24%
Poor: 22%
Never heard of: 9%
Cannot rate: 15%


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