How the Russiagate Investigation Is Sovietizing American Politics

“Collusion,” “contacts,” selective prosecutions, coup plotting, and media taboos recall repressive Soviet practices.

By Stephen F. Cohen

Tales of the New Cold War: 1 of 2: The Sovietization of American Institutions. Stephen F. Cohen

Tales of the New Cold War: 2 of 2:

February 22, 2019 “Information Clearing House” –  Having studied Soviet political history for decades and having lived off and on in that repressive political system before Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms—in Russia under Leonid Brezhnev in the late 1970s and early 1980s—I may be unduly concerned about similar repressive trends I see unfolding in democratic America during three years of mounting Russiagate allegations. Or I may exaggerate them. Even if I am right about Soviet-like practices in the United States, they are as yet only adumbrations, and certainly nothing as repressive as they once were in Russia.

And yet, ominous trends are not to be discounted and still less ignored. I have commented on them previously, on the official use of “informants” to infiltrate Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, for example, and such practices have now multiplied. Consider the following:

Soviet authorities, through the KGB, regularly charged and punished dissidents and other unacceptably independent citizens with linguistic versions of “collusion” and “contacts” with foreigners, particularly Americans. (Having inadvertently been the American in several cases, I can testify that the “contacts” were entirely casual, professional, or otherwise innocent.) Is something similar under way here? As the former prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy has pointed out, to make allegations of Trump associates’ “collusion” is to question “everyone who had interacted with Russia in the last quarter-century.” In my case and those of not a few scholarly colleagues, it would mean in the last half-century, or nearly. Nor is this practice merely hypothetical or abstract. The US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence recently sent a letter to an American professor and public intellectual demanding that this person turn over “all communications [since January 2015] with Russian media organizations, their employees, representatives, or associates,” with “Russian persons or business interests,” “with or about US political campaigns or entities relating to Russia,” and “related to travel to Russia, and/or meetings, or discussions, or interactions that occurred during such travel.” We do not know how many such letters the Committee has sent, but this is not the only one. If this is not an un-American political inquisition, it is hard to say what would be. (It was also a common Soviet practice, though such “documents” were usually obtained by sudden police raids, of which there have recently been at least two in our own country, both related to Russiagate.)

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In this connection, Soviet authorities also regularly practiced selective prosecution, which is persecution intended to send a chilling signal to other would-be offenders. For example, in 1965, Andrei Sinyavsky and Yuli Daniel were arrested for publishing their literary writings abroad under pseudonyms, an emerging practice the Kremlin wanted to stop. And in 1972, an important dissident figure, Pytor Yakir, was held in solitary confinement until he “broke” and signed a “confession,” even naming some of his associates, which greatly demoralized the dissident movement. Paul Manafort is no American dissident, literary or otherwise, and he well may be guilty of the financial misdeeds and tax evasion as charged. But he is facing, at nearly age 70, in effect a life sentence in prison and, through fines imposed, the bankruptcy of his family. We may reasonably ask: Is this selective prosecution/persecution? How many other hired US political operatives in foreign countries in recent years have been so audited and onerously prosecuted? Or has Manafort been singled out because he was once Trump’s campaign manager? We may also ask why a young Russian woman living in Washington, Maria Butina, was arrested and kept in solitary confinement until she confessed—that is, pleaded guilty. (She is still in prison.) Her offense? Publicly extolling the virtues of her native Russian government and advocating détente-like relations between Washington and Moscow without having registered as a foreign agent. Americans living in Russia frequently do the same on behalf of their country. Certainly, I have often done so. Are patriotism and promoting détente as an alternative to the new and more dangerous Cold War now a crime in the United States, or is the selective prosecution of Butina a response to Trump’s call for “cooperation with Russia”?

Now we have an even more alarming Soviet-like practice. Former acting head of the FBI  Andrew McCabe tells us that in 2017, he and other high officials discussed a way to remove President Trump from office. As Alan Dershowitz, a professor of constitutional law, remarked, they had in mind an “attempted coup d’état.” Which may remind students of Soviet history that two of its leaders were targets of a bureaucratic or administrative “coup”—Nikita Khrushchev twice, in 1957 and 1964, the latter being successful; and Gorbachev in August 1991, though perhaps several other plots against him may still be unknown. Khrushchev and Gorbachev were disruptors of the bureaucratic status quo and its entrenched interests—very much unlike President Trump, but disruptors nonetheless.

Finally, at least for now, there is the role media censorship played in Soviet repression. To a knowing reader who could read “between the lines,” the Soviet press actually provided a lot of usable information. Equally important, though, was what it excluded as taboo—particularly news and other information that undermined the official narrative of current and historical events. (All this ended with Gorbachev’s introduction of glasnost in the late 1980s.) In the era of Russiagate, American mainstream media are practicing at least partial censorship by systematically excluding voices and other sources that directly challenge their orthodox narrative. There are many such malpractices in leading newspapers and on influential television programs, but they are the subject of another commentary.

These examples remind us that we are also living in an age of blame—particularly blaming Russia for mishaps of our own making, for electoral outcomes and other unwelcome developments elsewhere in the world. Drawing attention to Soviet precedents is not to blame that long-gone nation state. Instead, we again need Walt Kelly’s cartoon philosopher Pogo, who told us decades ago, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

This commentary is based on the most recent weekly discussion between Cohen and the host of The John Batchelor Show. (The podcast is here. Now in their fifth year, previous installments are at TheNation.com.)

This article was originally published by The Nation” –

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 The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

Critical Flaw Uncovered In WordPress That Remained Unpatched for 6 Years

February 19, 2019

Exclusive — If you have not updated your website to the latest WordPress version 5.0.3, it’s a brilliant idea to upgrade the content management software of your site now. From now, I mean immediately.

Cybersecurity researchers at RIPS Technologies GmbH today shared their latest research with The Hacker News, revealing the existence of a critical remote code execution vulnerability that affects all previous versions of WordPress content management software released in the past 6 years.

The remote code execution attack, discovered and reported to the WordPress security team late last year, can be exploited by a low privileged attacker with at least an “author” account using a combination of two separate vulnerabilities—Path Traversal and Local File Inclusion—that reside in the WordPress core.

The requirement of at least an author account reduces the severity of this vulnerability to some extent, which could be exploited by a rogue content contributor or an attacker who somehow manages to gain author’s credential using phishing, password reuse or other attacks.

“An attacker who gains access to an account with at least author privileges on a target WordPress site can execute arbitrary PHP code on the underlying server, leading to a full remote takeover,” Scannell says.

 

Video Demonstration — Here’s How the Attack Works

According to Simon Scannell, a researcher at RIPS Technologies GmbH, the attack takes advantage of the way WordPress image management system handles Post Meta entries used to store description, size, creator, and other meta information of uploaded images.

Scannell found that a rogue or compromised author account can modify any entries associated with an image and set them to arbitrary values, leading to the Path Traversal vulnerability.

The Path Traversal flaw in combination with a local file inclusion flaw in theme directory could then allow the attacker to execute arbitrary code on the targeted server.

The attack, as shown in the proof-of-concept video shared by the researcher, can be executed within seconds to gain complete control over a vulnerable WordPress blog.

According to Scannell, the code execution attack became non-exploitable in WordPress versions 5.0.1 and 4.9.9 after patch for another vulnerability was introduced which prevented unauthorized users from setting arbitrary Post Meta entries.

However, the Path Traversal flaw is still unpatched even in the latest WordPress version and can be exploited if any installed 3rd-party plugin incorrectly handles Post Meta entries.

Scannell confirmed that the next release of WordPress would include a fix to completely address the issue demonstrated by the researcher.

 

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Guess how much Britain’s richest man saves on taxes by moving to Monaco?

Bill Gates and I don’t agree on taxes.

He says that he should pay more. And I consider it my moral duty to pay as little tax as possible. I don’t want to fund the government’s destruction, corruption and waste.

But in an interview with Fareed Zakaria, Bill Gates did echo my Universal Law of Prosperity: produce more than you consume.

Bill noted that the government “only collect[s] about 20% of GDP and we spend like 24% of GDP, so you can’t let that deficit grow faster than the economy.”

The US has over $22 trillion in debt, and is adding $1+ trillion of red ink every year. And this is in good times.

Then Bill Gates checked off another Sovereign Man theme: “the promises the government has made like taking care of healthcare and pensions, those will become more expensive, a higher percentage of GDP.”

He’s putting it lightly… Worldwide, pensions are short $70 TRILLION. State, federal and local pensions in the US are $7 trillion short, not counting $50 trillion of unfunded Social Security liabilities. And so far the only solution politicians can think of is more debt.

But as much as Bill would love to see the rich taxed more, he recognizes that you have to be careful.

He understands the rich are the most adept at avoiding taxes. Even when taxes in the US were 70%, the actual collection was only around 40% thanks to deferrals and other maneuvers.

Just look at what’s happening in France right now…

The taxes are so bad, Gates’ wife Melinda says people there tell her they actually wish they had billionaires. I know, it’s a shocking sentiment…

But high taxes, including a progressive wealth tax of up to 1.5% on assets above €1.3 million euros, have chased the rich out of town (in 2016 alone, 12,000 millionaires left France).

It’s really easy for rich people to move.

New York City found that out the hard way. We recently explained how it lost billions in tax revenue because rich folks moved.

And we can count Amazon in that category too, thanks to AOC and her band of merry Socialists.

So the government is coming after the richest people… the most mobile people in the history of earth.

Billionaires like Bezos, Musk, and Branson are all competing to get to Mars… And people think they can’t skip town to save a billion in taxes?

This isn’t conjecture or theory. Billions and billions of dollars have exited New York City. Tens of thousands of millionaires have left France.

New Jersey lost hundreds of millions in tax revenue last year when ONE GUY, hedge fund billionaire David Tepper, moved to Florida.

But this populist, eat-the-rich behavior is a global phenomenon. It forced the richest man in the UK, industrialist Jim Ratcliffe, to flee…

Ratcliffe is moving to Monaco, an international tax haven. And when he gets there, he and two other executives at his chemical company plan to take a £10 billion distribution.

That could save them up to £4 billion in taxes they would owe if the distributions were taken in the UK.

Another Brit, Sir James Dyson, recently moved his vacuum cleaner business to Singapore. As we pointed out just the other day, Singapore is busy attracting wealth, instead of chasing it away.

While Gates correctly identifies that the rich can – and will – leave, his analysis of the situation is still lacking.

Gates thinks the answer is raising more revenue… if they could just design a tax that effectively collects from the rich.

He favors a progressive tax that would tax the top 20% “much higher” than everybody else.

But it only takes a $60,000 income to be in the top 20% of earners in America,according to the Social Security Administration.

It’s not just billionaires who will need to pay higher taxes to fund the current debt, and new programs. Hell, it’s not even just the 1% of earners making over $250,000 a year.

Your average, working-class suburbanite is going to have to chip in too.

But you’re in luck… because on the flipside, it’s not just billionaires who can simply move to avoid higher taxes.

It doesn’t take that much income before you start benefiting from Puerto Rico’s Act 20 4% tax rate.

And then there’s the foreign earned income exclusion. Living abroad, Americans don’t owe taxes on their first $104,100 of income, plus an extra housing exemption.

But the Socialists are so disgusted by other people’s wealth, that they will cut off their nose to spite their face.