Did the Russians leak DNC emails to help Trump?


Politico reports: Hillary Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook suggested Sunday that internal DNC emails leaked this week were an effort from the Russians to help Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

“What’s disturbing to us is that experts are telling us Russian state actors broke into the DNC, stole these emails, and other experts are now saying that the Russians are releasing these emails for the purpose of actually of helping Donald Trump,” Mook said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“I don’t think it’s coincidental that these emails were released on the eve of our convention.” [Continue reading…]

Indeed. It was on June 14 that the Washington Post reported on the Russian hacking of the computer network of the Democratic National Committee, so Wikileaks appears to have opted for what they regarded, or were advised, to be the most strategic moment to go public.

The only plausible rationale for leaking right now is to undermine the Clinton campaign and thereby boost the Trump campaign, as Mook claims.

But why would Russia want to hack the DNC? Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, who has reported in detail on the hacking breadcrumbs that lead back to Putin, wrote in June:

First of all, it would make sense just from an intelligence collection standpoint. That’s what spies do. But in this election cycle, there’s another reason: the Russian government would like to have Donald Trump as president.

“Look, the coming elections is of high priority for Russia as many people close to the Kremlin believe that Trump could help to lift the sanctions and ease the tensions between Russia and the US,” Andrei Soldatov, an independent journalist who has written extensively about Russia’s surveillance powers, told Motherboard in an email.

And hacking the DNC and embarrassing Hillary Clinton would help with that.

In coverage of the presidential campaign by Putin’s English-language propaganda outlet, RT, Russia’s preference for Trump has been evident for months. Back in May, Michael Crowley wrote:

In its early days, RT mostly offered a Kremlin-friendly diet of international coverage, feeding the Obama-bashing, America-in-decline narrative with C-list commentators who couldn’t get an airing elsewhere on cable TV. But that was before Donald Trump — whose unlikely mutual admiration for Russia’s strongman president has been one of the stranger subplots of this American political season.

The blustery billionaire has praised Putin as a strong leader, spoken of closer ties with Moscow and mused about whether NATO is obsolete. At the foreign policy speech Trump delivered in Washington on April 27, the Russian ambassador to the United States was sitting in the front row. As Trump has risen, RT has gotten much more interested in the U.S. presidential campaign. Tune in to Ed Schultz and his colleagues these days and you’ll find a presidential race featuring Hillary Clinton as a malevolent warmonger, Bernie Sanders as an insurgent hero — and Donald Trump as a foreign policy savant.

A network that up until now has found little to celebrate about America has finally settled on a candidate it can believe in. Vladimir Putin’s TV channel isn’t just covering the 2016 campaign: Increasingly, it’s choosing sides.

In early June in an ITV interview, Julian Assange was asked bluntly: “Would you prefer Trump to be president?” He didn’t respond directly, but instead innumerated the many reasons he fears a Clinton presidency.


Bernie Sanders: DNC emails ‘outrageous’ but ‘not a shock’


NPR reports: Amid furor over an email leak that revealed a bias against Bernie Sanders inside the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz is out as chair of the convention.

In an email to NPR, the office of Rep. Marcia Fudge said she “has been named permanent chair of the Democratic National Convention.”

The emails, which were released by WikiLeaks just days before the party’s convention launches in Philadelphia, appear to show top DNC officials trading ideas on how to hurt Sanders at the polls.

In one email out of the 200,000 leaked, the committee’s Chief Financial Officer Brad Marshall appears to float an idea to question Sanders’ Jewish faith.

In an interview with CNN, Sanders, once again, called on Schultz to resign.

“It goes without saying the function of the DNC,” Sanders said, “is to represent all of the candidates to be fair and even-minded.”

Sanders also called the emails an “outrage” and “sad” but also that they “do not come as “a great shock.” He believes that the DNC was “at opposition to our campaign” all along, he said Sunday morning. [Continue reading…]


Donald Trump reminds me of Vladimir Putin — and that is terrifying

Garry Kasparov writes: Donald Trump’s dark and frightening speech at the Republican National Convention on Thursday had pundits and historians making comparisons ranging from George Wallace in the 1960s to Benito Mussolini in the 1930s. As suitable as those comparisons may be, the chill that ran down my spine was not because of Trump’s echoes of old newsreel footage. Instead, I saw an Americanized version of the brutally effective propaganda of fear and hatred that Vladimir Putin blankets Russia with today.

This isn’t to say Trump plagiarized Putin verbatim. The language and tone were comparable the way that the Russian and American flags make different designs with the same red, white and blue. Nor was it merely the character of the text; Trump’s mannerisms and body language — toned down from his usual histrionics — were startlingly similar to the sneering and boastful delivery Russians know all too well after Putin’s 16 years in power.

In both cases, the intent of the speaker is to elicit the visceral emotions of fear and disgust before relieving them with a cleansing anger that overwhelms everything else. Only the leader can make the fear and disgust go away. The leader will channel your hatred and frustration and make everything better. How, exactly? Well, that’s not important right now. [Continue reading…]


Russian airstrikes leave ‘thousands facing starvation’ in rebel-held Aleppo

The Observer reports: The most senior civic leader in the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo has condemned the west for failing to stop Russian airstrikes cutting off the city and warned of a disastrous humanitarian crisis within weeks.

A fortnight after President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, with Russian air support, cut the only road into rebel-held Aleppo, it is claimed a water shortage is affecting hospitals. Brita Haji Hasan, leader of the Aleppo city council, said that the situation was deteriorating rapidly and that he believed the rebel-held areas could only hold out for “two to three months” before people started to die in their thousands.

“We have reserves, stores, but Aleppo is home to 326,000 people who are besieged,” Haji Hasan said. “It is not a small city, it is an industrial city. We can keep going for two to three months, but then people will starve in large numbers. We are facing a major humanitarian crisis and nobody is helping us. Everyone is just watching. Most of the civilians already dying now are women and children.”

The head of delegation for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Syria, Marianne Gasser, told the Observer that the effects of the siege were already beginning to show in Aleppo’s remaining hospitals. [Continue reading…]


The folly of Obama’s disengagement doctrine

Thanassis Cambanis writes: A generational war has engulfed the Levant. The ruination of Iraq and Syria is akin to a core meltdown within the Arab state system, with consequences that already have rocked the world: new wars flaring across the Middle East, political ferment in Turkey, a global refugee crisis, and the rise of the Islamic State group, to name just a few.

Today we can begin the sad work of taking inventory of an American presidency that aspired to a humane and humble foreign policy. President Barack Obama didn’t start the Levantine conflagration — that ignoble credit belongs to his predecessor — but he has kept America fighting in Iraq and deployed forces in Syria to support a vast, billion-dollar covert proxy effort. All to little effect.

The long, horrific war that President George W. Bush launched in March 2003, with his illegal invasion of Iraq under false pretenses, has shattered the cradle of civilization beyond all recognition. During the subsequent occupation, U.S. officials dismantled the pillars of the Iraqi state, including its military and bureaucracy, and then stood by as newly empowered sectarian warlords and mob bosses tore apart the country. Many wars flared simultaneously in Iraq, some of which spread to neighboring Syria after the popular uprising sparked there in 2011.

President Obama’s signal intellectual and policy contribution was his minimalist response towards the chaos left behind by Bush. American policy at turns sought to contain the implosion of Syria and the ongoing fighting in Iraq, and at others accelerated or tried to steer the conflict, often by trying to balance ethnic or sectarian militias in a manner that, perhaps inadvertently, deepened the hold of sectarian warlords.

The president’s lackluster attitude has poisoned much of the serious policy conversation in Washington. His policies have spread the spurious conviction that whatever happens in the Middle East is not a core U.S. or international interest, but rather a sad and regional affair. [Continue reading…]


Donald Trump: EU was formed ‘to beat the U.S. at making money’

The Guardian reports: Donald Trump has claimed that the European Union was created to “beat the United States when it comes to making money” in an interview with NBC News.

Speaking to Chuck Todd, whom the Republican nominee has repeatedly berated as “sleepy-eyed”, Trump also said of the EU “the reason that it got together was like a consortium so that it could compete with the United States”.

The European Union was founded as the European Coal and Steel Community in 1952 in an effort to promote strong cross-border ties in Europe and avoid future wars. It has since evolved to a customs union and eventually to the transnational entity devoted to removing internal trade barriers, building a common market and a fiscal union. Its development and growth has been repeatedly supported by the United States under presidents of both parties. [Continue reading…]


How did the media cover the Munich attack?



Munich killer was troubled, but had no terrorist ties, Germany says

The New York Times reports: He had been bullied at more than one school. He played violent video games, and developed a fascination with mass shootings. He kept a copy of the German edition of “Why Kids Kill: Inside the Minds of School Shooters,” a study by an American academic psychologist, and he was treated for psychiatric problems.

Somewhere along the way, Ali Sonboly got his hands on a 9-millimeter Glock handgun, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition for it. And at 5:52 p.m. on Friday, at a McDonald’s in Munich a few miles from where he lived with his mother, father and brother, he started shooting.

Mr. Sonboly, 18, moved on to a shopping mall across the street, then to the top level of an adjacent parking garage. By the time his rampage was done, he had killed eight other young people and one middle-aged person. Then, in front of two police officers, he killed himself with his own gun, the police said. [Continue reading…]

The Guardian reports: A copy of a German translation of the 2009 work, by the American academic Peter Langman, was found by police in the bedroom of the gunman, identified as Ali Sonbaly.

The book examines the factors that combine to turn young people into mass murderers. It classifies 10 school killers into three groups: psychopathic, psychotic, and traumatised.

The 10 include the Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who shot dead 12 students and one teacher in Littleton, Colorado in April 1999; and the Virginia Tech gunman, Cho Seung-hui, who killed 32 people at the university in April 2007.

Katherine Newman, a professor of sociology at Princeton University and senior author of the book Rampage: the Social Roots of School Shootings, described Why Kids Kill as a dispassionate but clinically powerful analysis.

“It provides an interior view of the mind of rampage school-shooters that helps us understand the origins of the narcissism, paranoia, sadism, and thwarted rage that appears to motivate them … We come to understand the differences between shooters who are psychopaths and those who are schizophrenics, and why these distinctions matter,” she said. [Continue reading…]


The self-reliant individual is a myth that needs updating

Kimberley Brownlee writes: Great loners are fascinating. Henry David Thoreau at Walden Pond, Buddhist monks in their hermitage, and fictional heroes such as Robinson Crusoe are all romantic figures of successful solitary survival. Their setting is the wilderness. Their apparent triumph is the outcome of grit, ingenuity and self-reliance.

One reason that such characters seem appealing is that, ironically, they are reassuring. They give the comforting impression that anyone could thrive in isolation as they do. This reassurance can be summed up in the declaration made by Henrik Ibsen’s Dr Stockmann at the end of An Enemy of the People (1882), after the locals have persecuted him for revealing that the town’s tourist baths are contaminated. Stockmann declares: ‘The strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone.’

The great loners embody an idea of freedom from the vagaries and stresses of social life. As human beings, we are vulnerable to each other’s moods, proclivities, ideologies, perceptions, knowledge and ignorance. We are vulnerable to our society’s conventions, policies and hierarchies. We need other people’s blessing and often their help in order to get resources. When we’re young and when we’re old, we are vulnerable enough that our lives are happy only if other people choose to care about us.

No wonder then that Robinson Crusoe is one of the best-known novels in history; there is solace in the hermit’s self-governing independence. But this romantic image of the eremitic life rests on a mistaken idea of both the great loners’ circumstances and the nature of social isolation. [Continue reading…]


Music: Grover Washington, Jr. — ‘A Secret Place’



Why is Trump so popular with governments that claim to despise America?

Patrick Hilsman writes: Donald Trump is everything the Russian, Syrian and Iranian governments claim to despise about America. More than any US presidential candidate in modern history, he resembles a Soviet propaganda poster. Trump is a greedy, vain, Islamophobic, sexually amoral capitalist. He received a standing ovation at the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC, he believes in mass violence against America’s perceived opponents, especially Muslims.

So why is Trump so popular with governments that claim to despise America?

Trump has a proven record of praising or at the very least making excuses for authoritarians, from Russian President Vladimir Putin to deposed Libyan leader Gaddafi and most recently Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. Trump’s wave of authoritarian populism comes at a perfect time for strongmen like Putin, Assad, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who are circling the wagons, not against invading armies or perceived threats from abroad, but rather against creeping modernity that threatens the closed belief systems their regimes are built on.

Trump has come to embody 21st century authoritarian principals and the rejection of long standing multiculturalism, and the message is resonating with governments and organizations that ostensibly hate one another. [Continue reading…]


NATO allies respond to Trump’s suggestion that the U.S. might not protect them from Russia

The Washington Post reports: Donald Trump has long suggested that he takes a skeptical view of the United States’ alliances. However, in an interview with the New York Times on Wednesday evening, the Republican presidential nominee went further than before, appearing to suggest that the United States should not be required to automatically defend NATO allies if they are attacked.

Trump specifically pointed to the Baltic states that sit near Russia’s borders and often complain of belligerence from Moscow. He said they would be helped only if they had “fulfilled their obligations to us.” For some in those in the Baltic states — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — the American businessman’s comments provoked confusion and surprise.

“Estonia is of 5 NATO allies in Europe to meet its 2% def expenditures commitment,” Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves wrote on Twitter, referring to the percentage of gross domestic product that NATO members are expected to spend on defense.

The Estonian president also pointed to his country’s role in the war in Afghanistan as proof of the country’s commitment, retweeting a message that said Estonia had one of the highest casualty rates per capita in that conflict. “Estonia’s commitment to our NATO obligations is beyond doubt and so should be the commitments by others,” the Estonian Foreign Ministry added in an emailed statement.

“We take our commitments seriously,” Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said in Washington, where he was attending meetings to coordinate military action against the Islamic State. “We hope and expect that all our allies, big and small, take their commitments the same.”

“There is no reason to doubt NATO’s commitment to the core function of the Alliance — collective defense,” Latvian Defense Minister Raimonds Bergmanis wrote on Twitter.

A more pointed tone was taken by Ojars Eriks Kalnins, chairman of the foreign affairs committee in Latvia’s Parliament, who called Trump’s remarks “dangerous” in comments also reported by Diena newspaper. Kalnins noted that it was unclear whether Trump was talking about the spending commitments or about generally being helpful to the United States.

“Too bad the NY Times didn’t ask Trump if he would defend NATO member Slovenia if attacked,” the U.S.-raised Latvian politician wrote on Twitter, referring to the Eastern European state where the Republican nominee’s wife, Melania Trump, was born and has family. [Continue reading…]