Monday, April 17, 2017

4.17.17: Why some national-security experts say Kremlin-gate will lead to Donald Trump's impeachment | Racism motivated Trump voters more than authoritarianism or income inequality | M.N.: Dugin is most likely the convenient ideological puppet of the Russian Intelligence Services, and probably the conservative faction of the GRU." - Alexander Dugin and Steve Bannon’s Ideological Ties to Vladimir Putin’s Russia | The Honeymoon is over for Trump and Putin | Sheneman cartoon Monday April 17th, 2017 at 9:08 AM

Photo published for The Honeymoon is over for Trump and Putin | Sheneman cartoon

Federal Bureau of Investigation wiretapped Trump campaign advisor

Photo published for Analysis | Racism motivated Trump voters more than authoritarianism or income inequality

Racism motivated Trump voters more than authoritarianism or income inequality

Photo published for After exit from campaign, Paul Manafort borrowed from businesses with Trump ties 

After campaign exit, Manafort borrowed from businesses with Trump ties

How Trump Borrows From Putin’s Dirty Tricks Playbook - Newsweek

"This use of contradictions, nastiness and dissonance is not helpful to democracies or economies. But they work.
For years, the Russians have seized control of conversations around the world, and their bespoke agents have infiltrated the world’s powerful. And America is no exception."

Photo published for How Trump borrows from Putin’s dirty tricks playbook | Opinion

Alexander Dugin and Steve Bannon’s Ideological Ties to Vladimir Putin’s Russia

"Bannon, a former banker turned film producer and right-wing polemicist, has praised not only Putin but also a brand of Russian mystical conservative nationalism known as Eurasianism, which is the closest the Kremlin has to a state ideology. Eurasianism proclaims that Russia’s destiny is to lead all Slavic and Turkic people in a grand empire to resist corrupt Western values. Its main proponent is Alexander Dugin. With his long beard and burning blue eyes, Dugin looks like a firebrand prophet. His philosophy glorifies the Russian Empire—while Bannon and the conservative website that he founded, Breitbart News, revived the slogan of “America first,” which Trump later adopted in his campaign." 

M.N.: Dugin is most likely the convenient ideological puppet of the Russian Intelligence Services, and probably the conservative faction of the GRU. It is inconcievable that they would neglect him, Dugin, this pretentious fake, with their undivided attention. 
So, this connection might be potentially, hypothetically more than just "purely mental", or abstractly "ideological"... 

"Bannon and the alt-right’s admiration for Putin has come into direct conflict with the White House’s new policies. In mid-April, in the aftermath of the Syria attack, Trump described U.S. relations with Russia as at “an all-time low” and reversed his earlier position on NATO, saying the alliance was “no longer obsolete.” At a G-7 meeting in Italy, where Britain called for more sanctions against Russia over its support for Assad, Tillerson spoke out emphatically against the Kremlin. And when he reached Moscow to meet Putin, his reception was chilly. “The level of trust at the working level, especially at the military level, has...degraded,” Putin told Russian TV.

The ideological honeymoon is over. The only question now is whether Bannon can survive the divorce.

The Honeymoon is over for Trump and Putin | Sheneman cartoon

1 Share
Gossip alert! The budding romance between Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and the hapless billionaire he hand picked to be President of the United States apparently hit a bump this week over the matter of Syria.
Seems Putin has been involved with Syria off and on for years now. In exchange for some lucrative business arrangements the burly Russian bear has been aiding Syria's violent dictator Bashar Al-Assad in the wholesale slaughter of his people.
Trump and Putin: A Bromance for the ages | Sheneman cartoon
Sources say things got complicated when President Trump bombed a Syrian airfield in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack that systematically murdered innocent Syrian men, women and children. People close to the Russia despot, like Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Carter Page, Jared Kushner, Jeff Sessions and rage fueled hate golum Steve Bannon, have said that Trump's missile attack really bothered the shirtless Soviet, so much so that he kept Secretary of State Rex "Tilly" Tillerson waiting when they were scheduled to meet earlier this week. 
"Vlad just doesn't get it..." said any number of weasley white guys with access to the president. "He thought everything between them was going so great and then he goes and drops bombs on Bashar's airplanes. Vlad thinks maybe they should slow things down and give each other some space."
Bookmark Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find Opinion on Facebook.
Read the whole story

· ·

Racism motivated Trump voters more than authoritarianism or income inequality

1 Share
By Thomas Wood By Thomas Wood
Monkey Cage

Analysis is interpretation of the news based on evidence, including data, as well as anticipating how events might unfold based on past events
April 17 at 6:00 AM
During the 2016 presidential campaign, many observers wondered exactly what motivated voters most: Was it income? Authoritarianism? Racial attitudes?
Let the analyses begin. Last week, the widely respected 2016 American National Election Study was released, sending political scientists into a flurry of data modeling and chart making.
The ANES has been conducted since 1948, at first through in-person surveys, and now also online, with about 1,200 nationally representative respondents answering some questions for about 80 minutes. This incredibly rich, publicly funded data source allows us to put elections into historical perspective, examining how much each factor affected the vote in 2016 compared with other recent elections.
Below, I’ll examine three narratives that became widely accepted about the 2016 election and see how they stack up against the ANES data.

The rich, the poor, and the in-between

The first narrative was about how income affected vote choice. Trump was said to be unusually appealing to low-income voters, especially in the Midwest, compared with recent Republican presidential nominees. True or false?
The ANES provides us data on income and presidential vote choice going back to 1948. To remove the effects of inflation and rising prosperity, I plot the percentage voting for the Republican presidential candidate relative to the overall sample, by where they rank in U.S. income, from the top to the bottom fifth. The dashed horizontal line shows the average likelihood of voting for the GOP presidential candidate that year; a point above that means an income cohort was more likely than the other groups to vote for the Republican. To most directly test the Donald Trump income hypothesis, I’ve restricted this analysis to white voters.
2016 was plainly an anomaly. While the wealthy are usually most likely to vote for the Republican, they didn’t this time; and while the poor are usually less likely to vote for the Republican, they were unusually supportive of Trump. And the degree to which the wealthy disdained the 2016 Republican candidate was without recent historical precedent.

Authoritarians or not?

Many commentators and social scientists wrote about how much about authoritarianism influenced voters. Authoritarianism, as used by political scientists, isn’t the same as fascism; it’s a psychological disposition in which voters have an aversion to social change and threats to social order. Since respondents might not want to say they fear chaos or are drawn to strong leadership, this disposition is measured by asking voters about the right way to rear children.
The idea is that voters anxious about change and disorder will say it’s best to encourage children to follow rules. For instance, respondents are asked whether it’s better when children are considerate (likely more liberal) or well-behaved (likely more authoritarian), or whether they should be self-reliant (likely more liberal) or obedient (likely more authoritarian).
The next chart shows how white GOP presidential voters have answered these questions since 2000. As we can see, Trump’s voters appear a little less authoritarian than recent white Republican voters.

Did racism affect the voting?

Many observers debated how important Trump’s racial appeals were to his voters. During the campaign, Trump made overt racial comments, with seemingly little electoral penalty. Could the unusual 2016 race have further affected Americans’ racial attitudes?
To test this, I use what is called the “symbolic racism scale” to compare whites who voted for the Democratic presidential candidate with those who voted for the Republican. This scale measures racial attitudes among respondents who know that it’s socially unacceptable to say things perceived as racially prejudiced. Rather than asking overtly prejudiced questions — “do you believe blacks are lazy” — we ask whether racial inequalities today are a result of social bias or personal lack of effort and irresponsibility.
In the chart below, you can see the scores for white voters who supported the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates between 1988 and 2016. For clarity, the second and fourth items have been reversed so that the larger values always indicate higher animosity.
Orlando Shooting Updates
News and analysis on the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
Monkey Cage newsletter
Commentary on political science and political issues.
Since 1988, we’ve never seen such a clear correspondence between vote choice and racial perceptions. The biggest movement was among those who voted for the Democrat, who were far less likely to agree with attitudes coded as more racially biased.

So which of these had the biggest influence?

Finally, the statistical tool of regression can tease apart which had more influence on the 2016 vote: authoritarianism or symbolic racism, after controlling for education, race, ideology, and age. Moving from the 50th to the 75th percentile in the authoritarian scale made someone about 3 percent more likely to vote for Trump. The same jump on the SRS scale made someone 20 percent more likely to vote for Trump.
Racial attitudes made a bigger difference in electing Trump than authoritarianism.
Thomas Wood is an assistant professor of political science at Ohio State University. He studies public opinion and elections. Follow him on Twitter @thomasjwood.
Read the whole story

· · · · · · · ·

After campaign exit, Manafort borrowed from businesses with Trump ties

1 Share
 August 19 was an eventful day for Paul Manafort.  
That morning, he stepped down from guiding Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, after a brief tenure during which Trump won the Republican nomination, Democrats’ emails were hacked and the campaign’s contacts with Russia came under scrutiny. Dogged by revelations about past financial dealings in Ukraine, Manafort retreated from public view.  
But behind the scenes, he was busy with other matters. Papers were recorded that same day creating a shell company controlled by Manafort that soon received $13 million in loans from two businesses with ties to Trump, including one that partners with a Ukrainian-born billionaire and another led by a Trump economic adviser. They were among $20 million in loans secured by properties belonging to Manafort and his wife.  
The purpose of the loans is unstated in public records, although at least some of them appear to be part of an effort by Manafort to stave off a personal financial crisis stemming from failed investments with his son-in-law.  
Connections impart a deep portfolio
The transactions raise a number of questions, including whether Manafort’s decision to turn to Trump-connected lenders was related to his role in the campaign, where he had agreed to serve for free. 
 They also shine a light on the rich real estate portfolio that Manafort acquired during and after the years he worked in Ukraine. Manafort, often using shell companies, invested millions of dollars in various properties, including apartments and condos in New York, homes in Florida and Virginia, and luxury houses in Los Angeles. 
 Manafort’s ties to Ukraine and Russia have come under scrutiny as federal officials investigate Russian meddling in the American presidential election. Investigators are known to have examined aspects of his finances, including bank accounts he had in the secretive tax haven of Cyprus; there is no indication his recent loans are part of the inquiry. 
Following the money
The source of the money for the real estate purchases is not clear, and Manafort never filed lobbying registrations for his work in Ukraine that would have disclosed his compensation. Such registrations are necessary for activities that involve influencing policy and public opinion in the United States, and some of Manafort’s Ukraine work appeared to fall into that category. Anti-corruption officials in Ukraine say $12.7 million in “off the books” cash payments were earmarked for him in a handwritten ledger kept by the political party of deposed strongman Viktor F. Yanukovych. 
Last month, a Ukrainian lawmaker released documents that appeared to corroborate one of the ledger entries, and last Wednesday The Associated Press reported confirmation of another payment. The two payments in 2007 and 2009, totaling $1.2 million, were routed through shell companies in Belize to a bank account in Virginia belonging to Manafort’s consulting firm.  
Manafort says everything done in the open
Manafort has previously claimed the ledger is a fake. On Wednesday, he issued a statement that did not dispute the ledger entries, but suggested that any payments he received were legal because they were not made in cash.  
“Mr. Manafort has always denied that he ever received any cash payments for his work and has consistently maintained that he received all of his payments, for services rendered, through wire transfers conducted through the international banking system,” the statement said. 
Separately, a spokesman for Manafort said he had “received formal guidance recently from the authorities” on the need to register, retroactively, for lobbying work in Ukraine, and was “taking appropriate steps in response.” Manafort was advised last week that he should file the belated registration within 30 days to come into compliance with the law, according to a person with direct knowledge of conversations between Manafort’s lawyers and the Justice Department. 
Big money
One of Manafort’s recent loans, previously unreported, was for $3.5 million in September from the private lending unit of Spruce Capital, a small New York investment firm that has a Ukrainian connection through billionaire Alexander Rovt. A U.S. citizen who made his fortune in the privatization of the fertilizer industry in post-Soviet Ukraine and has long done business in that part of the world, Rovt is a financial backer of Spruce, whose co-founder, Joshua Crane, has been a developer of Trump hotel projects. 
 Crane did not respond to requests for comment. Rovt, who donated $10,000 to Trump’s campaign on Election Day — the campaign refunded most of it because it was over the legal maximum of $2,700 — said he had never met Manafort and was not involved in the loan to him. “I did not recommend him or put the parties together,” Rovt said in an email provided by his lawyer. 
 Manafort declined to answer specific questions about any of his loans, other than to say that they “are personal and all reflect arm’s-length transactions at or above market rates.” He derided the interest that his finances had generated in the news media and among do-it-yourself researchers, some of whom have even set up a website that dissects his loans.  
“There is nothing out of the ordinary about them,” Manafort said, “and I am confident anyone who isn’t afflicted with scandal fever will come to the same conclusion.”  
A trail of scandal 
Scandal has trailed Manafort since his earliest work as an international lobbyist and consultant in the 1980s, when he testified before Congress about influence peddling to win federal housing contracts and was linked to $10 million in cash that a confidant of Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos claimed was delivered to Manafort in a suitcase. In the 1990s, Manafort’s work for clients such as Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi was cited in a human rights watchdog report, “The Torturers’ Lobby,” which examined Washington consultants who catered to brutal regimes. 
 Manafort went to work for Yanukovych and his Russian-backed Party of Regions in the mid-2000s, and during that time also entered into business deals with two oligarchs, Oleg Deripaska of Russia and Dmytro Firtash of Ukraine. Both deals, which were ultimately unsuccessful, involved the use of murky offshore companies and were tainted by allegations that cronies of Yanukovych’s schemed to funnel assets out of Ukraine. 
 $18.9 million and a handwritten ledger
The transaction with Deripaska, a billionaire industrialist close to President Vladimir Putin of Russia, involved the attempted purchase of a Ukrainian cable telecommunications business using $18.9 million that Deripaska invested in a Cayman Islands partnership managed by Manafort. The cable business was controlled by offshore shell companies that Ukrainian anti-corruption investigators said were used by Yanukovych’s inner circle to loot public assets. 
 And last summer, the Ukrainian investigators announced the discovery of the handwritten ledger, said to have been kept in the offices of Yanukovych’s political party before he was ousted in 2014, which showed the $12.7 million in payments designated for Manafort. 
‘That money we have is blood money’ 
 The nature of Manafort’s work in Ukraine appeared to concern his family, according to text messages belonging to one of his adult daughters, Andrea, which were hacked last year and posted on a website used by Ukrainian hackers. The thousands of messages span from 2012 to 2016 and include references to millions of dollars Manafort apparently transferred to his two daughters. 
 In one text written in 2015, Andrea Manafort, a lawyer, called her father’s activities in Ukraine “legally questionable,” and in a separate exchange with her sister, Jessica, she worried that cash he gave them was tainted by the violent response to the uprising that ultimately led to the downfall of Manafort’s client, Yanukovych. 
 “Don’t fool yourself,” Andrea Manafort wrote. “That money we have is blood money.” 
 In addition to the money he gave his daughters, Paul Manafort also began acquiring a number of real estate assets during the years he worked in Ukraine, several of them costing millions of dollars and bought with cash. Among them is an apartment in Trump Tower in Manhattan, bought in 2006 for $3.7 million, and a Brooklyn brownstone bought in 2012 for $3 million. 
Told Trump he’d work for free 
Being able to cite his Trump Tower address came in handy when he pitched his services to Trump’s campaign early in 2016. By then, Manafort had been out of U.S. politics for many years, but he expressed a desire to get back in the game and offered to work free, suggesting that he did not need the money. 
 Soon, however, he was embarking on a borrowing spree, using his many properties as collateral, including a summer home in the Hamptons valued at more than $11 million. The transactions began with the filing of papers that created the shell company, Summerbreeze LLC, on Aug. 19 as Manafort’s resignation as campaign chairman was being announced. Shortly thereafter, Summerbreeze obtained the $3.5 million loan from the Spruce Capital unit. 
In November, after Trump won the presidential election, Summerbreeze received a second loan, for $9.5 million, from Federal Savings Bank of Chicago, which focuses on affordable mortgages for military veterans and is headed by Stephen M. Calk, a senior economic adviser to Trump at the time. The collateral for the loan included Manafort’s Hamptons home and other assets. 
 In addition to the loans taken out on the Hamptons house, Manafort has recently obtained mortgages on another property. Those loans, totaling $6.6 million, were obtained in January on a brownstone in Brooklyn and also came from Federal Savings Bank in Chicago.  
Soured investments 
Manafort declined to explain the purpose of his loans. But a review of public records suggests at least some of them are connected to efforts to salvage investments he made with Jessica Manafort’s husband, Jeffrey Yohai, whose real estate business filed for bankruptcy in December. Yohai faces a lawsuit by another co-investor who claims he exploited his connections to Manafort “to meet numerous public figures and celebrities” and solicit investments from them; Yohai denies the accusations. 
 In an affidavit filed in the bankruptcy case, Manafort said he had decided to “assist with additional funding to protect my existing investments,” totaling more than $4 million, in several luxury properties in California owned by limited liability companies controlled by Yohai. 
Loans account for 5.4 percent of bank’s assets 
Why Manafort opted to go to Spruce Capital and the Chicago bank for the loans is unclear. 
For Federal Savings, Manafort’s loans amount to about 5.4 percent of the bank’s total assets. Calk did not respond to messages seeking comment, and a spokeswoman for Federal Savings said it would not discuss its customers’ business. 
 At Spruce Capital, the loan secured by the Hamptons house appeared to be somewhat unusual. Of the 40 transactions listed under “recent activities” on the investment group’s lending unit website, it was the only one outside of New York City and the sole loan involving a single-family house. Crane, the co-founder of Spruce Capital, had previously been involved in two Trump projects, including a Trump International Hotel & Tower in Waikiki. 
The Ukranian connection
The billionaire Alexander Rovt, who has partnered with Crane’s firm on several major real estate investments in New York and is an investor in its lending business, is active in the Ukrainian-American community. 
 Last year, he took part in a small panel discussion on Ukrainian relations at Manor College in Pennsylvania, where he shared the stage with Andrii V. Artemenko, a member of the Ukrainian parliament. 
 The New York Times reported in February that Artemenko worked behind the scenes with Michael D. Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer, and Felix H. Sater, a former business associate of Trump’s, to relay a proposed Ukrainian-Russian peace plan to the White House. Rovt, through his lawyer, said he knew Artemenko, but that he was “not involved in any peace proposal.” 
 As for his excessive last-minute donation to Trump in November, it stands out, given that Rovt had previously donated almost exclusively to Democrats during the election — including $2,700 to Hillary Clinton in February 2016. Rovt said the reason was simple: friends had been encouraging him to support the Trump campaign. 
 “So,” he said, “I finally did.”
Read the whole story

· · · · · · · · ·

Dangerous days lie ahead after...

1 Share

Dangerous days lie ahead after US-Russian rift

WTOP - ‎3 hours ago‎
Three senior White House officials called Russian President Vladimir Putin a liar regarding the Syrian regime's devastating chemical weapons attack on April 4 in Khan Shaykhun, Syria. (AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko). WASHINGTON — The Trump ...

Trump's Syrian strike comes as a welcome change in America's tone towards Middle East

The Hill (blog) - ‎2 hours ago‎
Developments in the wake of Syrian President Bashar Assad's April 4 chemical attack, and the United States' subsequent missile attack, raise many questions. Why did Assad launch this chemical attack? Was he unaware of the probable consequences?

Mixed reactions greet Trump's new attitudes on Russia, China

The Daily Progress - ‎5 hours ago‎
FILE - In this April 7, 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping walk together after their meetings at Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, Fla. China says President Xi has stressed the need for an end to North Korea's ...

[Noah Feldman] On China, Trump realizes trade and security mix

The Korea Herald - ‎3 hours ago‎
The news media have been quick to note US President Donald Trump's embrace of bombing in Syria and the need for NATO as reversals of the foreign policy he advocated on the stump. But he's made another flip in the past week that's just as consequential, ...

McMaster Talks to Civilian, Military Leaders in Pakistan

1 Share
U.S. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster is in Pakistan where he is holding meetings with both civilian and military officials on bilateral security matters and efforts to stabilize neighboring Afghanistan.
McMaster arrived in Islamabad Monday, a day after holding talks with Afghan leaders in Kabul to review and assess the situation with regard to the U.S. military’s counterinsurgency and counterterrorism missions in the country.
After McMaster’s meeting with Pakistan's foreign policy advisor, Sartaj Aziz, an official statement said Islamabad conveyed its concerns about the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan.
It added that Aziz "reaffirmed” Pakistan’s commitment to work with the international community to support efforts for Afghan peace and reconciliation. The statement noted McMaster acknowledged Pakistan’s sacrifices in combating extremism and terrorism.
“He renewed the commitment of the new administration to work closely with Pakistan in strengthening mutually beneficial relations and towards the shared objectives of peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region,” it said.
This is McMaster's first trip to the region since becoming U.S. President Donald Trump's national security advisor, and it comes in the wake of calls by military commanders for adding “several thousand” troops to 8,400 U.S. forces already in Afghanistan to help break the "stalemate" in the battle with the Taliban.
No comment on more US troops
Speaking to a local Afghan television station after concluding his meetings in Kabul, McMaster withheld comments on whether a new strategy the Trump administration is putting together will include a boost to American troop strength in Afghanistan.
"Well, part of the new strategy will be what the president decides it is. What we are doing here is to…President Trump to decide, really, what is the best course of action to begin to accelerate progress in the war and to help bring lasting peace and security to the Afghan people," the American advisor told TOLOnews.
He also had a message for leaders in Pakistan where Afghan officials allege Taliban insurgents have established sanctuaries and conduct attacks inside Afghanistan with the help of intelligence agency of the neighboring country.
Strained relationship
“As all of us have hoped for many many years, we have hoped that Pakistani leaders will understand that it is in their interest to go after these groups less selectively than they have in the past and the best way to pursue their interests in Afghanistan and elsewhere is through diplomacy not through the use of proxies that engage in violence,” McMaster said.
Pakistani officials reject allegations of harboring the Taliban and maintain recent counterterrorism operations have dismantled terrorism infrastructure, particularly in border areas. Islamabad insists the insurgents have fled to dozens of Afghan districts currently under controlled by the Taliban.
Allegations and counter allegations with regard to sheltering anti-state militants and sponsoring terrorist attacks against each other have in recent years deteriorated relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Read the whole story

· ·

How Trump Borrows From Putin’s Dirty Tricks Playbook

1 Share
The same dirty tricks deployed by the KGB for decades are used in today’s Cold War 2.0 and have permeated geopolitics from Syria to Ukraine and the world’s capitals.
But spies in trench coats have been supplanted by Russians in tuxedos with huge bank accounts who use financial, social and political weaponry to build tentacles that reach into the highest echelons of targeted jurisdictions.
This geopolitical architecture is the brainchild of former KGB agent Vladimir Putin, and his operatives are Russians who owe him everything because he has, by edict, made each one a fabulously wealthy owner of Russia’s assets and vast resource endowment.
Their tools are no longer listening devices or fast Aston Martins but transactions, partnerships, investments, banks, loans, lobbyists, public relations specialists and social access at the highest levels to fatten their wallets and advance Russia’s influence and geopolitical agenda.
They lurk in the shadows of offshore banks, tax havens, anonymous corporations, private clubs and influencers who are secretly on their payrolls.
They “bribe,” but through sophisticated transactions such as overpaying for assets or services; selling assets or services or lending money at rock-bottom prices to enrich a targeted influencer; or inviting politicians, tycoons and officials to yachts, estates, sporting team events, sponsored arts galas, ribbon-cutting ceremonies at libraries, think tanks, universities or other charities that they lavish money on strategically.
Donald Trump at a campaign event in Palm Beach, Florida, on March 11. Diane Francis writes that Trump denies involvement with the Russians but shared an interesting transaction with a Russian oligarch in West Palm Beach. Was the windfall profit he made on the deal a result of his real estate smarts or was it a Russian buyer who wanted to curry favor? Carlo Allegri/reuters
President Donald Trump denies involvement with Russians but strangely shared an interesting transaction that’s led to an ongoing association with a Russian oligarch.
“You know the closest I came to Russia? I bought a house [in 2006] in Palm Beach...for $40 million, and I sold it [in 2008] to a Russian for $100 million,” Trump said.
Could such a windfall be a result of his astute real estate smarts or was it a buyer who wanted to curry his favor?
What’s interesting to note, however, is that the Trump media-management style borrows heavily from propaganda techniques honed by the Russians. These include negativity and disdain toward institutions and the traditional media to demoralize the “enemy” and the widespread use of disinformation (false assertions or allegations), such as Trump’s unproven accusation that President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower illegally.
Another technique is called “whataboutism.” This is the use of false moral equivalencies to reduce the truth to just one of many possibilities. It litters the conversation and gives equal play to ludicrous assertions.
For instance, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly questioned Trump’s admiration for Putin and called him a “killer.” The president responded by saying, “We’ve got a lot of killers.”
Propaganda techniques include hacking to embarrass or impair rivals, as happened during the election, but also to perpetuate “fake news” or hoaxes on social media sites. The most odious example involved Hillary Clinton and a Washington, D.C., pizzeria and pedophilia.
Also of concern is the promotion of search rankings by Russian trolls and chatbots. For instance, type in “Putin...” on Google in the United States or Canada and the drop-down menu offered by its artificial intelligence (based on site rankings and number of clicks) is “awesome” or “a hero.”
The cumulative danger of these shenanigans is serious, writes Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny: “Paid trolls have made it impossible for the normal Internet user to separate truth from fiction.”
He said such efforts are paid for by Russian officials and oligarchs to gain control over media outlets they don’t own, with the added benefit of spreading lies internationally.
Another gambit is known as “gaslighting,” named after an American suspense film about a man who drives his wife mad by accusing her of doing things that she didn’t do—but that he had done.
An example was when Trump began labeling critics who prove his allegations to be inaccurate as “fake news” purveyors. Such memorable lines are repeated in order to become a hashtag on social media or a colloquialism.
Another maneuver is known as “chaff,” the code name for a top secret weapon in World War II that enabled allies to drop bombs in broad daylight. Chaffing was when planes dropped tens of thousands of strips of aluminum foil to confuse radar systems by creating thousands of decoys in the sky.
The Trump media strategy is all about “chaff,” or throwing up all kinds of noise, confusion and distractions to shift attention. For example, the Obama wiretapping allegation was followed by a bombardment of tweets that sent the press on wild goose chases. Likewise, Trump’s pronouncements against NATO or Europe are contradicted in statements by his vice president and others.
Related Stories
This use of contradictions, nastiness and dissonance is not helpful to democracies or economies. But they work.
For years, the Russians have seized control of conversations around the world, and their bespoke agents have infiltrated the world’s powerful. And America is no exception.
Diane Francis is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center, editor at large with the National Post in Canada and a distinguished professor at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management.
Read the whole story

· · · ·
Next Page of Stories
Page 2

International NATO Drills to Kick Off in Latvia on Monday

1 Share
Get short URL
TALLINN (Sputnik) — Over 200 Estonian troops will take part in international NATO exercise that will begin on Monday in Latvia, the Headquarters of the Estonian Defense Forces said in a statement.
"Over 200 Estonian troops will participate in NATO Summer Shield drills that will take place in Latvian Adazi training area on April 17-30," the statement said.
According to the statement, over 1,200 troops from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Luxembourg, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Germany and Sweden will take part in the exercise.
The drills will help troops practice artillery support, anti-mechanized defense, operations involving military engineers and countering mass destruction weapons.

Vladimir Putin says military is stronger than any potential aggressor

1 Share
Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an annual meeting on Thursday that the country's military is stronger now than any potential aggressor. However, he added that it must strengthen its nuclear forces. 
“We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defence systems,” Putin said in a statement.
Putin thanked the defence ministry for its work. However, he said that they should be cautioned as the situation may change very quickly if they let themselves relax even for a moment. He spoke after the annual report was presented by Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu. 
In his report, Shoigu lauded the Russian military achievements in Syria for its ongoing efforts in modernising its Army. He said that the country's military has fully covered the Russian border with early warning systems for the first time. 
Shoigu announced that there were plans to send more troops to Russia's west, southwest and the Arctic after complaining about the increased North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) troops in its border areas. He said that NATO has proclaimed that Russia is its main threat instead of uniting efforts with its military forces against terrorism. 
Military drills were conducted near Russia's border in 2016 by Russia and NATO members. 
Although Putin thinks that his army is stronger now, senior research fellow at London's Royal United Services Institute Igor Sutyagin told the Associated Press that the Russian military was not the world's strongest but it was improving. He noted that it was due to Putin's control over his military. 
Sutyagin said that the military is stronger because if Putin wants to use them, he does not need to seek for advice. He does not need to ask the parliament for the Capitol Hill. Because of the lack of restrictions, it makes the military equipped for combat.

Two Feminists, Israeli And...

1 Share

Russia recognizes western Jerusalem as Israel's capital, eastern Jerusalem for Palestinian state

The Jewish Standard - ‎Apr 6, 2017‎
Russia said that just as it believes eastern Jerusalem is the capital of a future Palestinian state, it views the western half of the city as the capital of Israel. Get The Jewish Standard's Daily Edition by email and never miss our top stories Free ...

Israeli soldier killed in 'car attack' near Ramallah

<a href="" rel="nofollow"></a> - ‎Apr 6, 2017‎
Palestinian man from Silwad shot and detained after he allegedly ran over two soldiers outside the Ofra settlement. 06 Apr 2017 14:28 GMT. Listen to this page using ReadSpeaker. All Social. The alleged attack took place near the Jewish-only settlement ...

Did Russia Just Recognize Jerusalem as Israel's Capital?

<a href="" rel="nofollow"></a> - ‎Apr 6, 2017‎
Russia on Thursday said it considers Israel's capital to be western Jerusalem, making it the first country in the world to recognize Israeli sovereignty over any part of the city. Moscow's unexpected announcement reflects “a sharp shift in Russian ...

Президент России

1 Share
Рабочая встреча с Председателем Правительства Дмитрием Медведевым

Stocks, dollar under pressure after...

1 Share

Mixed reactions greet Trump's new attitudes on Russia, China

WTOP - ‎4 hours ago‎
FILE - In this Thursday, April 6, 2017, file photo, President Donald Trump shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping as he arrives before dinner at Mar-a-Lago resort, in Palm Beach, Fla. In recent weeks, Trump has moved... WASHINGTON (AP) — Once ...

This Day in Trump, Day 87: Trump cites North Korea to explain flip-flop on Chinese currency

Dallas News (blog) - ‎12 hours ago‎
WASHINGTON -- A day after North Korea again upped the ante with a new, albeit failed, missile launch, President Donald Trump on Sunday used the rising tensions in East Asia to justify why he's no longer blasting China as a "currency manipulator.".

Donald Trump says China is working with the US over North Korea - ‎10 hours ago‎
US President Donald Trump has said China is working with Washington to solve “the North Korea problem”, as tensions continue to mount over Pyongyang's weapon's program. Mr Trump also defended his decision not to label China a currency manipulator ...

News Reviews and Opinions: 7:12 AM 4/17/2017: Iraqi Officials Say Islamic State Fighters Use Chemical Weapons In Mosul

1 Share
Next Page of Stories
Page 3

In Putin’s Moscow, a Pliant Press That Trump So Craves

1 Share
As soon as I turned on a television here I wondered if I had arrived through an alt-right wormhole.
Back in the States, the prevailing notion in the news was that Mr. Assad had indeed been responsible for the chemical strike. There was some “reportage” from sources like the conspiracy theorist and radio host Alex Jones — best known for suggesting that the Sandy Hook school massacre was staged — that the chemical attack was a “false flag” operation by terrorist rebel groups to goad the United States into attacking Mr. Assad. But that was a view from the fringe.
Here in Russia, it was the dominant theme throughout the overwhelmingly state-controlled mainstream media.
On the popular Russian television program “Vesti Nedeli,” the host, Dmitry Kiselyov, questioned how Syria could have been responsible for the attack. After all, he said, the Assad government had destroyed all of its chemical weapons. It was the terrorists who possessed them, said Mr. Kiselyov, who also heads Russia’s main state-run international media arm.
One of Mr. Kiselyov’s correspondents on the scene mocked “Western propagandists” for believing the Trump line, saying munitions at the air base had “as much to do with chemical weapons as the test tube in the hands of Colin Powell had to do with weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.”
That teed up Mr. Putin to suggest in nationally televised comments a couple of days later that perhaps the attack was an intentional “provocation” by the rebels to goad the United States into attacking Mr. Assad. RT, the Russian-financed English-language news service, initially translated Mr. Putin as calling it a “false flag.” The full Alex Jones was complete.
When Trump administration officials tried to counter Russia’s “false narratives” by releasing to reporters a declassified report detailing Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles — and suggesting to The Associated Press without proof that Russia knew of Mr. Assad’s plans to use chemical weapons in advance — the Russians had a ready answer borrowed from Mr. Trump himself.
As the pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia put it, “Apparently it was for good reason Donald Trump called unverified information in the mass media one of the main problems in the U.S.”
It was the best evidence I’ve seen of the folly of Mr. Trump’s anti-press approach. You can’t spend more than a year attacking the credibility of the “dishonest media” and then expect to use its journalism as support for your position during an international crisis — at least not with any success.
While Mr. Trump and his supporters may think that undermining the news media serves their larger interests, in this great information war it serves Mr. Putin’s interests more. It means playing on his turf, where he excels.
Integral to Mr. Putin’s governing style has been a pliant press that makes his government the main arbiter of truth.
While talking to the beaten but unbowed members of the real journalism community here, I heard eerie hints of Trumpian proclamations in their war stories.
Take Mr. Trump’s implicit threat to the owner of The Washington Post, Jeff Bezos, during the election campaign. In case you’ve forgotten, while calling The Post’s coverage of him “horrible and false,” Mr. Trump warned that if he won the presidency Mr. Bezos’s other business, Amazon, would have “such problems.” (The Post was undaunted, and the issue hasn’t come up again.)
The government here doesn’t make threats like that. Things just happen. That was the case last year at the independent media company RBC after its flagship newspaper reported on sensitive financial arrangements of members of Mr. Putin’s family and his associates. The Russian authorities raided the offices of its oligarch owner, Mikhail Prokhorov. Within a few weeks its top three editors had left.
The Kremlin denied involvement. But it must have liked the new editor’s message to the RBC staff: Journalism is like driving, and “if you drive over the solid double line they take away your license.”
Mr. Porokhov is considering selling RBC to another oligarch who is closer to the government, the Russian business journal Vedomosti reported on Tuesday.
That same day, I met with one of the former RBC editors, Roman Badanin. We chatted at his new place of employment, TV Rain, in the Flacon warehouse complex here, populated by young people with beards, tattoos, piercings and colored hair. (Brooklyn hipster imperialism knows no bounds.)
TV Rain has its own hard-luck tale. It was Russia’s only independent television station. Carried mainly on cable, it regularly covered anti-Putin protests and aired voices excluded from the rest of television.
But after it ran an online poll asking whether Russia should have abandoned Leningrad to the Nazis to save lives — deeply offending Russian national pride, and receiving a public rebuke from Mr. Putin’s top spokesman — its landlord evicted it and its cable carriers dropped it.
It now lives primarily as a subscription service on the internet, which remains fairly free given Mr. Putin’s primary focus on television as the most powerful medium in the country. (Mr. Badanin and others worry that’s going to change, too.)
When I asked Mr. Badanin what would be different if Russia had full press freedoms, he looked at me wearily and said: “Everything. Sorry for that common answer, but everything.”
Despite steep challenges, people like Mr. Badanin are still battling on. Their journalistic spirit couldn’t be killed, even after some of their friends and colleagues had been.
One newspaper here, Novaya Gazeta, has lost five reporters to violence or suspicious circumstances since the turn of the century. Toward the end of the week, I went to its spartan offices in central Moscow to visit its longtime editor, Dmitri Muratov, who has fiercely guarded the paper’s independence through all of the killings and the crackdowns.
With the gallows humor of a seasoned journalist, Mr. Muratov was in a jovial mood and told me that he was getting a great kick out of state media’s hard turn against Mr. Trump.
Initially, Mr. Muratov said of the president, “he was treated as warmly as McDonald’s; he entered every home like he was our national Santa Claus.” Mr. Muratov had no doubt the sentiment toward Mr. Trump would reverse again, perhaps soon. (To borrow from “1984”: “Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia.”)
Novaya Gazeta had the toughest coverage on the chemical weapons attack that I saw here, challenging the government narrative with reporting from the ground indicating the chemical weapons were dropped from the air. (The anti-Assad forces do not have airplanes.)
There’s a lot of speculation in Russian media circles about why the Kremlin allows Novaya Gazeta to continue to operate.
Mr. Muratov says he believes it’s because the newspaper is not owned by a single businessman subject to pressure. The newspaper’s staff owns a majority of the shares, and the rest of them are owned by the former Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev and the Russian businessman Alexander Lebedev. (Mr. Lebedev told The Guardian last year that he was no longer financing newsroom operations because of “the strain.”)
That, and a loyal subscriber base of more than 240,000, help insulate it from outside pressure, if not the violence.
The very day of my visit, Mr. Muratov received a threat against his entire staff from religious leaders in Chechnya, angry over articles about anti-gay violence in the region.
The Novaya Gazeta offices are scattered with reminders to take such threats seriously, like the case that holds the dusty desktop computer of Anna Politkovskaya. She was shot dead in her apartment building in 2006 after exposing human rights abuses in Chechnya and writing unflinchingly about Mr. Putin.
I wondered aloud whether it scared any of Mr. Muratov’s reporters away from certain stories. He turned serious, looked straight at me and said, “I really wish it could.”
Mr. Muratov follows the American news media closely. I asked him what he thought about the American press corps’ quandary when it comes to covering a president, like Mr. Trump, who trades in falsehoods and demonizes journalists.
He seemed put off by the question; the answer, to him, was so obvious.
“Information from the Kremlin or from the White House, it’s not for us verified information,” he said. “We don’t place our trust just on their word.”
It’s a lesson American reporters should have learned long before Mr. Trump came along, especially after Iraq.
Journalists in Russia like Mr. Muratov haven’t lost sight of that lesson because they can’t afford to. Neither can we.
Continue reading the main story
Read the whole story

· · · · · ·

Trump asks why people are still talking about his taxes a day after protesters asked for his returns

1 Share
The inside track on Washington politics.
Be the first to know about new stories from PowerPost. Sign up to follow, and we’ll e-mail you free updates as they’re published.
You’ll receive free e-mail news updates each time a new story is published.
You’re all set!

Alexander Dugin and Steve Bannon’s Ideological Ties to Vladimir Putin’s Russia

1 Share
These days, having any sort of ties to Moscow is politically toxic in Washington. Recent reports indicate Donald Trump may have borrowed Russian money to keep his property empire afloat—while a congressional investigation looms into alleged Kremlin interference in the U.S. presidential election and a host of murky connections between Trump campaign officials and Russian hackers and spies.
Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, hasn't been implicated in any of the ongoing probes. And unlike former Trump campaign officials Paul Manafort and Carter Page, he isn’t under investigation by the FBI for possible collusion with the Kremlin. But Bannon’s ties to Russia are ideological—and therefore, arguably, they’ve had a more profound impact on White House policy with Moscow.
At least until now. In early April, Bannon was booted off Trump’s National Security Council in a White House coup that was—among other factors—also a scuffle about whether to appease a resurgent Kremlin or confront it. Days later, he lost a heated debate inside the White House with Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, over whether to strike Syria after the Moscow-protected regime of Bashar al-Assad killed civilians in a chemical attack.
Bannon, a former banker turned film producer and right-wing polemicist, has praised not only Putin but also a brand of Russian mystical conservative nationalism known as Eurasianism, which is the closest the Kremlin has to a state ideology. Eurasianism proclaims that Russia’s destiny is to lead all Slavic and Turkic people in a grand empire to resist corrupt Western values. Its main proponent is Alexander Dugin. With his long beard and burning blue eyes, Dugin looks like a firebrand prophet. His philosophy glorifies the Russian Empire—while Bannon and the conservative website that he founded, Breitbart News, revived the slogan of “America first,” which Trump later adopted in his campaign.
Yet Bannon and Dugin have common cause in the idea that global elites have conspired against ordinary people—and the old order must be overthrown. “We have arrived at a moment where the world is discovering a new model of ideologies. The election of Trump shows that clearly,” Dugin tells Newsweek.
Bannon, in turn, seems to admire Dugin—as well as Putin’s Russia—for putting traditional values at the heart of a revival of national greatness. “We, the Judeo-Christian West, really have to look at what [Putin] is talking about as far as traditionalism goes, particularly the sense of where it supports the underpinnings of nationalism,” Bannon said at a Vatican-organized conference in 2014. “When you really look at some of the underpinnings of some of [Putin’s] beliefs today, a lot of those come from what I call Eurasianism.” Bannon declined to respond to Newsweek’s questions about his position on Russia and Dugin.
Bannon and Dugin’s speeches and writings indicate that their common enemies are secularism, multiculturalism, egalitarianism—and what Dugin calls the “globalized and internationalist capitalist liberal elite.” In both Bannon’s and Dugin’s worldview, the true global ideological struggle is between culturally homogenous groups founded on Judeo-Christian values practicing humane capitalism on one side and, on the other, an international crony-capitalist network of bankers and big business.
Donald Trump's chief strategist, Steve Bannon, speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, on February 23. Joshua Roberts/Reuters
Bannon’s fix for the world is to revive the nation-state—precisely what Putin’s Kremlin is promoting as it backs anti–European Union candidates from Hungary to France. “I happen to think that the individual sovereignty of a country is a good thing and a strong thing,” Bannon told an audience of Catholic thinkers at the Vatican by video-link from the U.S. in 2014. “Putin is standing up for traditional institutions, and he’s trying to do it in a form of nationalism. [People] want to see the sovereignty for their country; they want to see nationalism for their country. They don’t believe in this kind of pan–European Union, or they don’t believe in the centralized government in the United States. They’d rather see more of a states-based entity that the founders originally set up, where freedoms were controlled at the local level.”
Dugin agrees. “We are unfairly described as nationalists—but this is not old-fashioned nationalism in the sense of ethnic chauvinism, but reflects the idea that we believe in many civilizations that are all equal and have the right to their own identity and decide their own course.”
Both men are also self-styled revolutionaries. Bannon—though he once worked at Goldman Sachs—reportedly described himself as a “Leninist” who wanted to “destroy the state.” And Dugin was the founder of the radical nationalist National Bolshevik Party, many of whose members have been imprisoned for attempting to foment armed uprisings among Russian minorities in former Soviet republics such as Kazakhstan.
Trump’s election was greeted with delight in Russia, encouraged by state television, which lionized the New York real estate mogul as a man who would finally give Russia the respect it was due. A group of St. Petersburg Cossacks even gave Trump the honorary title of “captain” (which they quickly withdrew after the Syria bombing). In the early days of the Trump administration, the Kremlin had high hopes of a grand bargain with Washington based on Trump’s promise that he would be able to make a deal with Putin and work with him to destroy the Islamic State group in Syria. Trump’s starting team gave the Kremlin even more hope. Bannon was head of strategy. Michael Flynn—who had accepted a $40,000 fee to appear at the Moscow anniversary party of the Kremlin-sponsored RT channel, where he sat next to Putin—was named national security adviser. Rex Tillerson, the former Exxon-Mobil CEO, who negotiated a $7 billion oil exploration deal in the Russian Arctic with close Putin ally Igor Sechin, was appointed secretary of state.
The love-in between Trump and the Kremlin proved brief. Bannon apparently made no move to lift U.S. sanctions on Russia imposed after the annexation of Crimea in 2014—or to lift a U.S. travel ban on Dugin, imposed after his vocal support for Moscow taking over not just Crimea but all of Ukraine. At the same time, damaging Russia allegations—from an unverified dossier alleging the Russian security services had compromising material on Trump to reports of contacts between Trump advisers and Russian spies—swarmed around the White House. In the wake of the resignation of Flynn in March after being untruthful about discussions with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kisylak about the possible lifting of sanctions, Trump quickly took the opposite tack, tweeting that he would be “tough on Russia”—and the White House announced it would not lift sanctions against the Kremlin until Crimea was returned to Ukraine. At the same time, Flynn’s replacement, General H.R. McMaster, along with Secretary of Defense General James Mattis, seemed to gain power within the administration and take a harder, more mainstream Republican line against Russia. 
Related Stories
Many factors contributed to Bannon’s ouster from the National Security Council: He was instrumental in two travel bans on Muslim countries that the courts struck down, he was one of the key architects of a failed health care bill, and he was embroiled in a high-profile row with Kushner. But it was also clear in the aftermath of Flynn’s fall that admiration for Putin—or any kind of appeasement of Moscow—has become politically impossible for fear of giving congressional and FBI investigations evidence of collusion.
Bannon and the alt-right’s admiration for Putin has come into direct conflict with the White House’s new policies. In mid-April, in the aftermath of the Syria attack, Trump described U.S. relations with Russia as at “an all-time low” and reversed his earlier position on NATO, saying the alliance was “no longer obsolete.” At a G-7 meeting in Italy, where Britain called for more sanctions against Russia over its support for Assad, Tillerson spoke out emphatically against the Kremlin. And when he reached Moscow to meet Putin, his reception was chilly. “The level of trust at the working level, especially at the military level, has...degraded,” Putin told Russian TV.
The ideological honeymoon is over. The only question now is whether Bannon can survive the divorce.
Read the whole story

· · · · ·

The U.S. and Global Security Review: Trump News Review | THE SNAKE PIT: Trump News and Investigations Review - The Contents: Current - 3.31.17