Kurt Eichenwald is not Sidney Blumenthal. Warren Buffett does pay federal income taxes. And Alex Jones…. (More)

“I am Sidney Blumenthal … I’m not Sidney Blumenthal”

It seems Kurt Eichenwald has an identity crisis:

I am Sidney Blumenthal.
I’m not Sidney Blumenthal.

So which is it? Are you or are you not Sidney Blumenthal, Mr. Eichenwald?

That’s called “selective editing,” and it’s exactly what the Russian-owned Sputnik news did to peddle yet another Hillary Caused Benghazi myth, as Eichenwald-not-Blumenthal explains:

I am Sidney Blumenthal. At least, that is what Vladimir Putin – and, somehow, Donald Trump – seem to believe. And that should raise concerns not only about Moscow’s attempts to manipulate this election, but also how Trump came to push Russian disinformation to American voters.

An email from Blumenthal – a confidant of Hillary Clinton and a man, second only to George Soros at the center of conservative conspiracy theories – turned up in the recent document dump by WikiLeaks. At a time when American intelligence believes Russian hackers are trying to interfere with the presidential election, records have been fed recently to WikiLeaks out of multiple organizations of the Democratic Party, raising concerns that the self-proclaimed whistleblowers group has become a tool of Putin’s government. But now that I have been brought into the whole mess – and transformed into Blumenthal – there is even more proof that this act of cyberwar is not only being orchestrated by the Russians, but that they are really, really dumb.

The evidence emerged thanks to the incompetence of Sputnik, the Russian online news and radio service established by the government controlled news agency, Rossiya Segodnya.

The gist: Blumenthal emailed Clinton campaign director John Podesta an article that Eichenwald wrote for Newsweek. The 10,000-word article explored the evidence from nine (!) Republican investigations and concluded:

The historical significance of this moment can hardly be overstated, and it seems many Republicans, Democrats and members of the media don’t fully understand the magnitude of what is taking place. The awesome power of government – one that allows officials to pore through almost anything they demand and compel anyone to talk or suffer the shame of taking the Fifth Amendment – has been unleashed for purely political purposes. It is impossible to review what the Benghazi committee has done as anything other than taxpayer-funded political research of the opposing party’s leading candidate for president. […] The consequences, however, are worse than the manipulation of the electoral process. By using Benghazi for political advantage, the Republicans have communicated to global militants that, through even limited attacks involving relatively few casualties, they can potentially influence the direction of American elections.

In the middle of that article, Eichenwald wrote:

One important point has been universally acknowledged by the nine previous reports about Benghazi: The attack was almost certainly preventable. Clinton was in charge of the State Department, and it failed to protect U.S. personnel at an American consulate in Libya. If the GOP wants to raise that as a talking point against her, it is legitimate.

Note: Eichenwald wrote that. And while it’s true that the Benghazi consulate was obviously not secure, you could make the same argument after any attack on a U.S. embassy or consulate. And as Eichenwald noted, there were many such attacks during the Bush administration.

But here’s how Sputnik presented the story:

In an email titled “The Truth” from Hillary’s top confidante Sidney Blumenthal, the adviser writing to undisclosed recipients said that “one important point that has been universally acknowledged by nine previous reports about Benghazi: The attack was almost certainly preventable” in what may turn out to be the big October surprise from the WikiLeaks released of emails hacked from the account of Clinton Campaign Chair John Podesta.

Then came the money quote: “Clinton was in charge of the State Department, and it failed to protect U.S. personnel at an American consulate in Libya. If the GOP wants to raise that as a talking point against her, it is legitimate,” said Blumenthal, putting to rest the Democratic Party talking point that the investigation into Clinton’s management of the State Department at the time of the attack was nothing more than a partisan witch hunt.

Again, Eichenwald – not Blumenthal – wrote the quoted passage. And in the same article from which that quote was sliced, Eichenwald said the endless Benghazi investigations were indeed a partisan witch hunt.

Who cares about a Russian propaganda piece? Well, apparently Donald Trump cared enough to quote it, as Eichenwald notes:

At a rally in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, Trump spoke while holding a document in his hand. He told the assembled crowd that it was an email from Blumenthal, whom he called “sleazy Sidney.”

“This just came out a little while ago,” Trump said. “I have to tell you this.” And then he read the words from my article.

“He’s now admitting they could have done something about Benghazi,” Trump said, dropping the document to the floor. “This just came out a little while ago.”

The crowd booed and chanted, “Lock her up!”

This is not funny. It is terrifying. The Russians engage in a sloppy disinformation effort and, before the day is out, the Republican nominee for president is standing on a stage reciting the manufactured story as truth. How did this happen? Who in the Trump campaign was feeding him falsehoods straight from the Kremlin? (The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment).

Thus, Eichenwald-not-Blumenthal concludes:

So no, Mr. Putin, I’m not Sidney Blumenthal. And now that you have been exposed once again, get the hell out of our election. And Mr. Trump – you have some explaining to do.

For those keeping score, that’s: Reality 1, Trump 0.


“I have paid federal income tax every year since 1944”

Also, Warren Buffett does indeed pay federal income taxes:

Answering a question last night about his $916 million income tax loss carryforward in 1995, Donald Trump stated that “Warren Buffett took a massive deduction.” Mr. Trump says he knows more about taxes than any other human. He has not seen my income tax returns. But I am happy to give him the facts.

My 2015 return shows adjusted gross income of $11,563,931. My deductions totaled $5,477,694, of which allowable charitable contributions were $3,469,179. All but $36,037 of the remainder was for state income taxes.

The total charitable contributions I made during the year were $2,858,057,970, of which more than $2.85 billion were not taken as deductions and never will be. Tax law properly limits charitable deductions.

My federal income tax for the year was $1,845,557. Returns for previous years are of a similar nature in respect to contributions, deductions and tax rates.
I have paid federal income tax every year since 1944, when I was 13. (Though, being a slow starter, I owed only $7 in tax that year.) I have copies of all 72 of my returns and none uses a carryforward.

Finally, I have been audited by the IRS multiple times and am currently being audited. I have no problem in releasing my tax information while under audit. Neither would Mr. Trump – at least he would have no legal problem.

For those keeping score, it’s now: Reality 2, Trump 0.


“Sulfur. They smell like Hell.”

It hardly seems fair to include professional conspiracy monger Alex Jones in an article that’s keeping score with Reality, but he has grabbed Trump’s ear. Or maybe Jones grabbed Trump by the genitals. Apparently that’s acceptable behavior now, according to Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and televangelist Pat Robertson.

But back to Jones, per the New Yorker’s Charley Lanyon:

Apparently confounded that calling people secret Muslims doesn’t terrify Americans as much as it used to, conspiracy theorist, right-wing crackpot radio host, and it goes without saying close Donald Trump ally Alex Jones decided to change tack yesterday. He reported on his radio show that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama aren’t Kenyan, Muslim, criminal, ISIS-leaders – or at least aren’t only Kenyan, Muslim, Criminal ISIS-leaders – but are in fact honest-to-God demons from hell.

How could he tell? Well it was the flies, you see. And also, they stink.
“People around her say she’s so dark now, and so evil, and so possessed that they are having nightmares, they’re freaking out,” he said. And if second-hand rumors about bad dreams aren’t enough to convince you, Jones has proof: “There are dozens of videos and photos of Obama having flies land on him, indoors, at all times of year, and he’ll be next to a hundred people and no one has flies on them.”

Remember that house fly that made a brief appearance at Sunday’s debate and a big splash on Twitter? Well, boy do we feel like shoddy journalists now for not recognizing that fly for what it was: a demonic portent from the very depths of hell.
Speaking of shoddy journalists, Jones is not one, because he has sources okay?
“I mean, I was told by people around her that they think she’s demon-possessed, okay? I’m just going to go ahead and say it, okay? … They said that they’re scared.”

“Imagine how bad she smells, man? I’m told her and Obama, just stink, stink, stink, stink. You can’t wash that evil off, man. Told there’s a rotten smell around Hillary. I’m not kidding, people say, they say – folks, I’ve been told this by high up folks. They say listen, Obama and Hillary both smell like sulfur … I’ve talked to people that are in protective details, they’re scared of her. And they say listen, she’s a frickin’ demon and she stinks and so does Obama. I go, like what? Sulfur. They smell like hell.”

In fairness, CHARLEY LANYON is an anagram for BEELZEBUB, if you change the N’s and H’s to B’s, change the A’s and O’s to E’s, change the R to a Z, and change the C to a U. And take out two letters, somewhere.

Anyway, I normally wouldn’t waste a brain cell on Jones, but Trump called Clinton “the devil” in Sunday night’s debate. More’s the point, this is an Overton Window play, as Vox’s Ezra Klein explains:

When you read this – when you read a radio host Trump likes arguing that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are literally devils from hell who attract flies and smell of sulfur – think about what it means for what kinds of ideas about Clinton might seem reasonable to someone marinating in this kind of rhetoric and vitriol. If one end of the spectrum you’re on is “she’s demon possessed,” then “Hillary Clinton is a criminal who rigs elections and deserves to be in jail” isn’t a particularly extreme position.
For the record, I have interviewed both Clinton and Obama, and I didn’t notice any unusual smells.

All this would be hilarious if Jones wasn’t, in some way, an actual player in Donald Trump’s informational ecosystem. But among the scariest things about Donald Trump is the sources he chooses to trust. Polls are only legitimate if they show him ahead. Conspiracy theories are valid so long as they flatter his view of the world. Barack Obama was born in Kenya. Muslims in New Jersey cheered the fall of the Twin Towers. Climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese. Vaccines cause autism. The FBI hasn’t jailed Hillary Clinton because the system is corrupt. The Clintons perhaps murdered Vince Foster. Obama is a secret Muslim. Antonin Scalia was assassinated. And on, and on, and on.

Jones is nuts, but he’s the kind of nuts Trump listens to, at least when convenient. And Trump takes these ideas and bases his approach off them. If this is the milieu you start from, merely throwing Clinton in jail is a compromise proposal.

Now, perhaps Klein didn’t notice the smell of sulfur during those interviews because EZRA KLEIN is an anagram for SATAN, if you change the Z to an S, change the I to an A, and change the R to a T. And take out four letters, somewhere.

Those anagrams make as much sense as anything Jones says. They also make as much sense as Trump quoting Russian propaganda, and accusing Buffett of dodging taxes.

For those keeping score, that’s: Reality 3, Trump 0.


Photo Credits – Kurt Eichenwald: Charlie Rose Show; Alex Jones: Esquire; Warren Buffett: @WarrenBuffett (Twitter); Composite: Crissie Brown (BPI Campus)


Good day and good nuts