The Damning Evidence that the Russians Hacked the Brexit Vote

 

In the Times today:

“The Russian town of Gelendzhik, on the banks of the Black Sea, has a population of 55,000. According to Twitter, one of its inhabitants is Svetlana Lukyanchenko, a voracious user of the social platform who signed up in May 2016 — less than a month before Britain voted to leave the European Union.

Sveta1972, as she called herself online, did not fit the profile of someone interested in British politics. Yet in the four days before the vote on June 23 she posted or retweeted at least 97 messages mentioning “#Brexit”.

Her messages were mainly pro-Brexit and often repeated conspiracy theories. On June 21 she retweeted a story by the website Zero Hedge that said Britons were “appalled and disgusted” by a Brexit postal ballot “fraud”.

Later that day she tweeted that the EU was an “unelected assembly of corporatist agents” imposing debt and austerity “on all member states”.

After the vote she lost interest, confining her 12,000-plus tweets to subjects such as lighting design websites or free e-books on web traffic. Despite her Russian origins, most of her tweets were in English, Spanish or Italian.

According to researchers at Swansea University, working with the University of California, Berkeley, Sveta1972 was one of thousands of suspect Russian accounts tweeting copiously about Brexit in the run-up to the vote.

Tracking 156,000 accounts in Russia, the research found that their mentions of #Brexit spiked on the day of the vote and the day after, before dropping off almost entirely. The accounts include genuine commentators but many appeared to be either fully automated bots or semi-automated “cyborgs” — bots with some human involvement.

These included Stormbringer15, a virulently pro-Kremlin Twitter power-user with 241,000 posts mainly asserting Russia’s rights over Ukraine. On the day after the referendum he tweeted a fake picture of President Putin giving a medal to Nigel Farage.

Tweets posted by the Russian accounts were often sent at 4am UK time, or 7am in Russia. They were probably seen many millions of times………

Separate research from the Oxford Internet Institute and City University has revealed the scale of bot activity around Brexit. Oxford researchers found that 30 “highly automated” accounts posted 135,597 tweets from June 20-24. These were viewed about 11 billion times. While there is no direct connection between the bots and the Russian state, intelligence officials in Britain and the US are confident that many have been backed by Moscow.”

This is the ‘evidence’ supposedly that the Russians hacked the Brexit vote. It is absolutely risible in my opinion. So, 156,000 Russians suddenly got interested in Brexit around June 23rd and started posting ‘about’ Brexit, then lost interest almost immediately thereafter. Wow, I mean amazing, far out, that never happens on Twitter. Ever. There are bots on Twitter and some may be Russian. That too is a startling revelation. Nobody could have guessed that. Nobody. Most tweets were posted at 4am BST. Yep, that would definitely have swung the result; millions of undecided voters were glued to their computer screens in the wee small hours a week or two prior to Brexit, hoping, praying, for some sign from the Twitterworld how to vote for the best, then up pop the Ruskie bots, obligingly reassuring that all will be well if they cast their vote for Leave.

It’s a slam dunk. The evil Russians made Brexit happen in order to sow discord in the West and screw up the plans of those terribly nice people in Brussels who were relying upon Britain in their quest to advance world peace and Europe-wide cooperative harmony. Article 50 must be reversed pronto and the gullible proles must never be allowed to vote again on an issue of such vital constitutional and economic importance.

 

51 thoughts on “The Damning Evidence that the Russians Hacked the Brexit Vote

  1. Sen. Joe McCarthy’s mistske was clear:
    If he gad been aligned with the leftists of his day he would gave been a hero for all time.

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  2. Is that all there is! As far as I can tell, Twitter is a vast echo chamber where people tend to follow like – minded people. Its ability to change people’s minds must be very limited.

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  3. Your argument seems to be that because (in your judgment) the approach was unlikely to succeed (risible I think you called it) it didn’t happen, but this is not a logical conclusion. We do agree, however, that if it were tried it would have been largely ineffectual: not totally because before me I have the example of my teenage granddaughter who spends her waking hours attached to her I-phone ignoring the written word and television with a great deal of effort.

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  4. No Alan, my argument is that there is nothing remarkable to see here. So 156,000 Russian accounts took to Twitter in the weeks before Brexit to tweet ‘about’ Brexit. Apart from Sveta1972, there is no suggestion or evidence provided that a majority of these accounts and tweets were strongly pro-Brexit. Russia is a very big country with a large population (144m). The EU ref vote was a big deal, trending especially strongly on Twitter. So we are told that 0.1% of Russians (some of them bots) started tweeting ‘about’ Brexit in the run up to the vote, then lost interest very soon after 23rd June and we are invited to believe that this is evidence of a Russian conspiracy to influence the vote in favour of Brexit!

    I wonder how many US accounts were tweeting about Brexit just before the vote? I saw quite a few tweets from Americans (hardly any from Russians) and not surprisingly perhaps, quite a few were indeed in favour of Britain exiting the EU. I’m pretty certain that hundreds of thousands of Americans probably tweeted ‘about’ Brexit prior to June 23rd, then quickly lost interest. So should we now accuse the Obama administration of trying to hack the Brexit vote? Er, probably not – ‘back of the queue’ and all that!

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  5. Yes Jaime. You’re looking and failing to find evidence of effectiveness, I’m just concerned with involvement.
    Do you believe the Russian tweets after the Westminster Bridge incident, where claims were made that an Islamic woman deliberately ignored an injured victim (with the intent of stirring up Islamophobia) were benign and totally ineffective?

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  6. Oxford researchers found that 30 “highly automated” accounts posted 135,597 tweets from June 20-24. These were viewed about 11 billion times

    That’s about a hundred thousand views per tweet, or 500 views per British voter.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Jaime just how do you expect to find evidence of an organised conspiracy? Do you think they will have left clues? The link that Paul gives that failed to find the identity of a single troll is enlightening, it suggests that any attempt you might make to identify Russian state involvement is doomed to fail.
    Oddly I am willing to trust my government (and a host of other governments) in this matter over protestations of innocence by Russia, until there is concrete evidence one way or the other. You (and many others here) obviously are not.

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  8. Lol. Quite a few people are adding ‘Russian bot’ or similar to their Twitter names now in order to make it easier for these dedicated people to identify them. I thought that was very considerate.

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  9. Alan, I’m inclined not to trust Mrs May or indeed many other of our politicians an inch more than I can throw them. Yesterday, May gave the distinct impression that she considered that Russians were interfering in Western politics – including ours, though she gave no specific examples. Cue the media feeding frenzy about how the Russians hacked the Brexit vote. Today, in the Commons, she makes it quite clear that she was only referring to examples of Russian interference which were “not in the United Kingdom”. That’s pretty pathetic from a British Prime Minister.

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  10. So Jaime, in this matter you have two alternatives: to accept the possibility that what our government and its intelligence apparatus tells us is “true” (a position matched by other Western sources) or that an increasingly hostile and repressive Russia’s innocence protestations are true. From what you are writing, you believe the Russian version. I find this extremely odd.

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  11. Swallowing camels while straining at gnats! I am delighted that Russians are permitted to tweet. Why does this surprise anyone that a few people in Russia (and doubtless every other nation on Earth) involve themselves in politics? Can you count the ways in which the United States over the years has meddled with Russia? VOA (Voice of America) comes to mind; a counter to Radio Moscow and the very smooth talking Vladimir Posner. Part of the game includes trying to persuade your opponent to cease playing the game. It is a “shame game” but presumes that your opponent can be shamed by your revelations rather than proud of it.

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  12. I believe no ‘version of events’ Alan. I trust no politician. I would trust in conclusive and convincing evidence – but it’s not there, at least it is not in the public domain. Therefore I remain unconvinced that the Russians tried to interfere in the EU referendum vote and I reject the hypothesis that the Russians actually swung the vote in favour of Brexit for the far more likely explanation that the British electorate voted to Leave based on a fair and balanced assessment of the actual issues involved. I don’t think that’s an extremely odd position to take.

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  13. Michael. I have no doubt that you are completely right. The UK is trying to influence the EU, Russia , the USA (and perhaps even Lesotho) by any means in its power. What I am objecting to is the denial by some, possibly for political reasons, that the activities of some countries (eg Russia) or individuals (eg Trump) do not occur or, if they do, can be (or should be) ignored because they are ineffectual.

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  14. Let me place my cards on the table.
    1. I do not believe that any Russian involvement had more than the tiniest influence on the EU referendum.
    2. If by some unimaginable happenstance it were to be proven that Russia had been instrumental in influencing that vote, I would not be arguing for another vote. My view is that if people were stupid enough to be influenced by tweets, then we deserve everything we are going to get. I am a regretter, not a remoaner.
    3. I have no doubt that the current Russian regime wishes us (and the West) harm and is weaponizing social media. (I suspect we are doing the same).
    4. I strongly suspect, but cannot prove, that Russia tried to influence the US elections (and may have been a contributory factor to the outcome) and may have tried to nudge the EU referendum.
    5. The current fuss in the MSM is rubbish, but the potential threat from Russian cyber influence is very real.
    How much do we agree or differ Jaime.

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  15. Just because there are bots sending political messages from computers in Russia doesn’t necessarily mean they were put in place by anyone connected to the Russian government. Setting up bot-nets is a world-wide free enterprise phenomena. All the is needed is the willingness to take up a extremist political stance an a modicum of hacking skills, or at least a willingness to pay someone to do the dirty work.

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  16. What would it take to convince people that Russia interfered successfully in recent elections? What would you consider strong enough evidence? I suspect that this will go unanswered, as it did last time I asked, because to accept the possibility is to accept that the election of Brexit or Trump was illegitimate; that is the driver behind the indignation about Russia-related stories. It is the same story as with climate change, the motivated reasoning that directs skeptics to find fault in evidence because not to do so challenges a core belief or desire.

    I’d still like to know, Jaime, what evidence of treason (and the other failures of the system you listed before) you have.

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  17. And for those of us who didnt follow twitter, I guess we just had too make our own minds up – clearly something these people can’t comprehend…

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  18. I tweet in a mixture of languages, mostly in Spanish and English. The use of tweeter bots is fairly common. For example the Maduro dictatorship had thousands of bot accounts. Now that they censor the Internet and there’s so much repression, those bots are quiet.

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  19. There were certainly a lot of dodgy commenters on news articles on the run up to Brexit and bot votes to match. There were many interested parties putting their time, effort and money into influencing the vote including a lot of business people from countries the World over. It’s debatable what effects those efforts had. It’s not even sure which way a particular type of comment will make people jump. I’m sure that Obama didn’t intend to strengthen resolve to Brexit.

    I’m less worried about Russians trying to influence our elections than that our political discourse is now so weak that Tweets might make a difference. I resent those who have easy access to maleable minds with no responsibility for the outcome, but I’m not sure that the Russians feature in the top 100, never mind the top spot of those who I’m worried about.

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  20. Len Martinez asks “What would it take to convince people that Russia interfered successfully in recent elections?”

    As you suspect, such a thing is impossible. All I have is words on a computer screen; those words can come from the hand of a fiction writer as easily as from an investigative journalist.

    What matters is the vote, and its tally. Democrats try to influence elections (duh) so do Republicans.

    “What would you consider strong enough evidence?”

    My brother voting for Donald Trump would come as a bit of a surprise, followed by, “Putin convinced me to do it!” and if the convincing was adequate, well, there you go. It is still my brother’s decision.

    “because to accept the possibility is to accept that the election of Brexit or Trump was illegitimate”

    Not possible. Elections are legitimate of votes are properly counted without fraud. That is all. That this person or group tried to influence an election, well wake up and smell the coffee! That is how politics is done.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Quite right, Alan Kendall. The human instinct is to accuse you of something, perhaps something like having two eyes, and your instinct is to deny it. It is a fun game I have played since childhood; put on a shocked face and announce to someone, “Look! There’s a nose on your face!” and the usual response is the other person goes crosseyed to confirm the truth of the accusation.

    It is a big distraction and I would not be a bit surprised that Donald Trump did not engineer all this because of the beautiful distraction it provides. What is he doing that hardly anyone notices while they investigate Russian influence, a thing that can be counted on to exist just because Russia…

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  22. The evidence for the success of the Russians on Twitter in influencing the Brexit result needs to be viewed in the wider context. There are close parallels with the new evidence for the CAGW hypothesis.

    First is to check the data in support of the argument. As Geoff Chambers pointed out @ 15 Nov 17 at 1:51 pm, the 11 billion estimated views of the 135,597 automated tweets from June 20-24 seems somewhat high. 500 views per person in the UK, is likely far more than the average Twitter account holder in a five day period.

    Second is to look at the other tweets. The bot accounts were not the only source of tweets supporting Brexit. Further, there were quite a lot of tweets in the support of Remain.

    Third, is that there are other sources of news/information/propaganda in support of both sides in the campaign. What about the official campaigns? Or the support of international political leaders or International Organisations (e.g. IMF, EU) or businesses? Would a majority of the British public really prefer the opinions of a Twitter Bot over those of President Barak Obama, Chancellor Angela Merkel, Prime Minister David Cameron, the British Treasury, celebrities like St. Bob Geldof, the majority of British MP’s or most British businesses?

    Fourth is the actual evidence of the vote. I believe that Twitter use is inversely related to age. Therefore, one would expect that if there had been undue influence, the young would have voted more for Brexit than the older folks. Lord Ashcroft’s Polls surveyed 12,369 on EU Referendum day and published on 24th June under “How the United Kingdom voted on Thursday… and why“.  73% of 18-24 year olds and 62% of 25-34 year olds voted to remain in the EU. It would suggest that the Leave campaign as a whole failed to reach the Twitterati. Further, whilst 25% of Remain voters decided in the last week, just 22% of Leave voters did so. Remember that Nigel Farage effectively conceded defeat as the polls closed, as the polls seemed to be swinging in the Remain direction.

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  23. Further evidence that runs counter to a Russian influence through Twitter on the Brexit vote is in the geographical distribution of the Brexit vote. In England and Wales the constituencies that voted most strongly for Remain were in inner cities, particularly London, Manchester and Liverpool. The strongest pro-Leave votes were widely spread. But the many of the extreme pro-Leave constituencies in the traditional Labour heartlands in the North of England and South Wales.

    I live in Manchester. This encapsulates the divide. The City of Manchester has some of the most pro-Remain constituencies in the country, whilst much of the rest of Greater Manchester was pro-Leave. But as the City of Manchester folks has the most vocal people in the region, along with the most vocal twitterati, it would seem that Greater Manchester is full of Remainers. The estimated vote by constituency gives a quite different picture.

    A parallel with climate alarmism is that both the extreme alarmists and the extreme Remainers cannot accept opinions that run contrary to their own as coming from a valid perspective. This could be why in climate alarmism they fall for Lewandowsky’s false conspiracist ideation hypothesis and the importance of scientific consensus, whilst with Brexit they fall for people being unduly influenced by the Russians and the £350 million a week extra to the NHS claim. In both, they do not recognize that extreme and non-credible alarmism, along with denigration of opponents as being ignorant or gullible, may actually cause people to vote in the opposite direction.

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  24. Alan, I agree with you on 1. and 2. Our main point of disagreement is that you strongly suspect Russia tried to influence the EU referendum, whereas I am sceptical of that claim.

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  25. Michael, you or I can’t know, but our intelligence agencies certainly can. There are many ways they can tell where attacks or other stuff is coming from, an obvious example being if they’ve already owned the box or infrastructure being used by the attacker. They’re not going to tell you and me about how they know, but rejecting what they say in favour of, say, the assurances of Putin requires shit for brains.

    As for elections being legitimate as long as the votes are “properly counted without fraud”, well that is untrue as a general statement, as should be obvious. Think of the many ways systems, governments and others can and do disenfranchise voters. Gerrymandering and voter suppression are only two of the ways in which US elections are not legitimate. Similarly “safe seats”, where the sitting MP can’t be dislodged, and first past the post are the British system’s ways of stealing peoples’ votes. Any system that can deliver victory to the contestant who commands only minority support within a constituency (or country) has to be questioned.

    The EU referendum didn’t suffer some of these problems but one could reasonably claim that the 16/17 year-old population was disenfranchised, as were some expats. So yes, I’d question the legitimacy of the result.

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  26. Len Martinez wrote “Michael, you or I can’t know, but our intelligence agencies certainly can.”

    Maybe; but that merely moves the goalposts — how do you know that our intelligence agencies are telling the truth (to us or even the President)? There’s little reason to do so and plenty of reason NOT to do so.

    “There are many ways they can tell where attacks or other stuff is coming from, an obvious example being if they’ve already owned the box or infrastructure being used by the attacker.”

    Maybe. From time to time I evaluate malware and viruses for my employer; it is easy enough to discover the most recent “hop” from which the attack seems to have originated but it can be very uncertain that it is the actual originator especially if TTL and TCP sequence numbers have been regenerated to seem to have originated from the box you are supposed to think it came from.

    “They’re not going to tell you and me about how they know, but rejecting what they say in favour of, say, the assurances of Putin requires shit for brains.”

    You mistake that I *care* about it; for much of my adult life the Soviet Union was the enemy, a reasonably intelligent enemy but one that because of its predictability was less dangerous than, say, modern terrorists. Of course the Russians meddle, either by government edict or just the nature of many Russians to seek advantage and they are pretty good at it.

    “As for elections being legitimate as long as the votes are ‘properly counted without fraud’, well that is untrue as a general statement, as should be obvious.”

    It is not obvious to me; I accept your declaration speaking for yourself. I have spoken as well.

    “Think of the many ways systems, governments and others can and do disenfranchise voters.”

    It is those voters, or their predecessors, that created “franchise” in the first place, with advantage to whatever group created the franchise by wresting political power from kings and princes.

    “Any system that can deliver victory to the contestant who commands only minority support within a constituency (or country) has to be questioned.”

    So get started. Questioning is easy; we are doing it right here for what it’s worth. All systems have weaknesses. Strict majority rule produces tyranny. Too many candidates allows the person that more people find less detestable to become elected; not on his strength but on his relative lack of weaknesses. It helps to keep the game itself in mind. There’s pretty much only one rule that matters in any game: Win. Parliamentary systems give more people a “voice” for what that’s worth; then those voices are mangled and wrangled trying to form a coalition that can pass legislation; once that’s done your voice is probably eliminated same as in USA’s two-party system.

    “The EU referendum didn’t suffer some of these problems but one could reasonably claim that the 16/17 year-old population was disenfranchised”

    Or not franchised in the first place. I am happy that 16 year old people are not deciding national economic policy. Perhaps no one under 40 should be voting.

    “So yes, I’d question the legitimacy of the result.”

    That happens when the outcome is not to your liking.

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  27. Manic. Interesting, but what you have convincingly demonstrated is that, if there were to have been any attempt to influence the referendum by Russia to enhance the Leave vote, it was ineffectual (I’m even prepared to countenance it being counterproductive). It, however, provides absolutely no evidence as to whether Russia tried or not. The only evidence for that are claims from intelligence agencies. My guess is that the evidence is not definitive but is of the “balance of probability” variety.

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  28. What the tweet discussion has in common with the climate question is the lack of a sense of proportion. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the British Communist Party and Enoch Powell M.P. were united in their belief that NATO could be abolished. Instead of which, the Polish Army invaded Babylon, the Danish Air Force recently murdered 60 Syrian soldiers, and British troops are in Estonia. And some Russians sent some tweets.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Come off it Geoff. What about Eastern Ukraine, Georgia and the indiscriminate bombing in Syria? Are you not in danger of being put into the Полезный идиот box.

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  30. Thanks everybody for an interesting discussion.

    I’m in the camp that suspects the Russians of trying to influence the EU referendum, but failing to chieve their aims. The only difference between them and the massive effort put in by the establishment to influence the vote is that the establishment efforts were overt while the Russian efforts (assuming they existed, which, like Alan, I accept on a balance of probabilities basis) were covert. Democracy is indeed a fragile flower.

    MBC’s posts I found particularly interesting – thank you for articulating clearly what I suspected – namely, that any attempt to use Twitter and social media to influence UK voters into supporting Brexit seems to have failed, given that the people probably most exposed to those media (the young) are the demographic who voted most strongly to remain.

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  31. “That’s about a hundred thousand views per tweet, or 500 views per British voter.”

    I don’t twitter, I want to know who viewed my share…

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  32. ALAN KENDALL (16 Nov 17 at 8:50 am)
    Better a useful idiot than a useless one. I’ve no illusions about Putin’s niceness, which is why I find the discussion about Russian tweets so pointless. We expect our secret services to interfere in other people’s elections. If they didn’t, the wrong side might win, and then we’d have to invade or go to the bother of assassinating their leaders. And is Russian bombing more indiscriminate than ours?

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  33. Michael: <i"… if TTL and TCP sequence numbers have been regenerated to seem to have originated from the box you are supposed to think it came from."

    Bullshit.

    “It is those voters, or their predecessors, that created “franchise” in the first place, with advantage to whatever group created the franchise by wresting political power from kings and princes.”

    Double bullshit.

    “Perhaps no one under 40 should be voting. “

    You managed a bullshit hat-trick. Well done!

    As expected, nobody can identify what would convince them of Russian malfeasance. And neither Jaime nor anyone else can provide any evidence of treason that so upsets them.

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  34. LOL at Len. So desperate to prevent evidence impinging on his senses that he starts making up history as well as refusing to read what people write in reply to his infantile outcries.

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  35. Not so much frustrated, Jaime, as disappointed to find that all your outrage was just regurgitated propaganda from the pages of Breitbart or Zero Hedge or even the Mail without even getting the rough edges knocked off it by your brain.

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  36. Len, would it be a better course of action for you to say that, just because there are signs of action that seem to be useless and pointless , there might still have been effective action from Martians with ray guns? I suppose Occam’s Razor is a banned concept in your circles

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  37. I’m still not coming out to play Len. Your baiting is soooo obvious.

    I just know you will have to respond, condescendingly and mockingly, as is your wont, but don’t expect more from me.

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  38. Agree with Len; the very concept of “wrong side of history” is amusing BUT it speaks to George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” and it is the winners of conflicts who write the history books, thus giving history a “side”.

    You managed a bullshit hat-trick. Well done!

    I try harder. You should see what I wrote over on WUWT; burgers at Mickey D’s absorb infrared from the heat lamps because the wavelength of the infrared has been tuned to match the thickness of the burgers creating a cavity resonator effect.

    Life is conflict. When the United States came into existence; was it universally celebrated? No. I’m not even sure a simple majority of people wanted it. But that doesn’t matter; they are on the “wrong side of history”.

    Those persons with the power and the desire to make a new nation did so and that’s pretty much the substance of that story. Pennsylvania didn’t automatically make everyone into American citizens either; each person was required to take an oath of citizenship to become a citizen, or you could remain a citizen of GB or France or whatever.

    Consequently, those persons with a dog in the race, skin in the game, paying TAXES, ought to be the ones that vote on how those taxes are used. It’s EASY for impoverished people to vote to spend my money on themselves (big double DUH). My answer to that was to take a huge pay cut, drop down below the 10 percent tax bracket, and my *take home pay* is nearly unchanged!

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  39. Jaime, “Quite a few people are adding ‘Russian bot’ or similar to their Twitter names now in order to make it easier for these dedicated people to identify them. ”

    Ben Pile on twitter is now Бенски Пилески (Benski Pileski)

    Liked by 1 person

  40. More bullshit, Michael. You are consistent. Where did you get that from? You probably share Jaime’s taste in brainless media. What was it, Fox News perhaps?

    The idea (that only those who pay taxes can vote) has the simplicity that only a simpleton would embrace. Maybe what you’re really after is a return to only white male property-owners having the right to vote and damn the last 200 years of progress.

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