Thursday, June 22, 2017

Today's Links

"Washington is pushing the confrontation with Russia as part of its strategy of removing Moscow as an impediment to its drive for supremacy over the oil-rich Middle East and Central Asia and dominance over the Eurasian continent, which it considers essential to taking on its biggest rival for global domination, China."

Barry Grey, WSWS

1--Russia-gate Flops as Democrats’ Golden Ticket

Clinton’s popular-vote plurality and the #Resistance, which manifested itself in massive protests against Trump’s presidency, gave hope to the Democrats that they didn’t need to undertake a serious self-examination into why the party is in decline across the nation’s heartland. Instead, they decided to stoke the hysteria over alleged Russian “meddling” in the election as the short-cut to bring down Trump and his populist movement.

A Party of Snobs?

From conversations that I’ve had with some Trump voters in recent weeks, I was struck by how they viewed the Democratic Party as snobbish, elitist and looking down its nose at “average Americans.” And in conversations with some Clinton voters, I found confirmation for that view in the open disdain that the Clinton backers expressed toward the stupidity of anyone who voted for Trump. In other words, the Trump voters were not wrong to feel “dissed.”...

By insisting that Hillary Clinton be the Democratic nominee – after leftist populist Bernie Sanders was pushed aside – the party also ignored the fact that many Americans, including many Democrats, viewed Clinton as the perfectly imperfect candidate for an anti-Establishment year with many Americans still fuming over the Wall Street bailouts and amid the growing sense that the system was rigged for the well-connected and against the average guy or gal.

In the face of those sentiments, the Democrats nominated a candidate who personified how a relatively small number of lucky Americans can play the system and make tons of money while the masses have seen their dreams crushed and their bank accounts drained. And Clinton apparently still hasn’t learned that lesson....

Her excuse captured much of what has gone wrong with the Democratic Party as it moved from its working-class roots and New Deal traditions to becoming a party that places “identity politics” ahead of a duty to fight for the common men and women of America.
Demonstrating her political cluelessness, Clinton used the serious issue of women not getting fair treatment in the workplace to justify taking her turn at the Wall Street money trough, gobbling up in one half-hour speech what it would take many American families a decade to earn.

While it’s a bit unfair to personalize the Democratic Party’s problems, Hillary and Bill Clinton have come to represent how the party is viewed by many Americans. Instead of the FDR Democrats, we have the Davos Democrats, the Wall Street Democrats, the Hollywood Democrats, the Silicon Valley Democrats, and now increasingly the Military-Industrial Complex Democrats...

Earlier this year, a Washington Post/ABC News poll found only 28 percent of Americans saying that the Democrats were “in touch with the concerns of most people” – an astounding result given the Democrats’ long tradition as the party of the American working class and the party’s post-Vietnam War reputation as favoring butter over guns.
Yet rather than rethink the recent policies, the Democrats prefer to fantasize about impeaching President Trump and continuing a blame-game about who – other than Hillary Clinton, her campaign and the Democratic National Committee – is responsible for Trump’s election. Of course, it’s the Russians, Russians, Russians!...

Mixed in was a commitment to the rights of various identity groups, a worthy goal although this tolerance paradoxically contributed to a new form of prejudice among some liberals who came to view many white working-class people as fat, stupid and bigoted, society’s “losers.”...

Rather than face these facts, the national Democrats – led by President Obama and his intelligence chiefs – decided on a different approach, to seek to reverse the election by blaming the result on the Russians. Obama, his intelligence chiefs and a collaborative mainstream media insisted without presenting any real evidence that the Russians had hacked into Democratic emails and released them to the devastating advantage of Trump, as if the minor controversies from leaked emails of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta explained Trump’s surprising victory

2--Amazon octopus gobbles up whole foods

Lina Khah wrote in a 2017 Yale Law Journal in regard to Amazon’s growing monopoly, that “in addition to being a retailer, Amazon is a marketing platform, a delivery and logistics network, a payment service, a credit lender, an auction house, a major book publisher, a producer of television and films, a fashion designer, a hardware manufacturer, and a leading provider of cloud server space and computing power. For the most part, Amazon has expanded into these areas by acquiring existing firms.”

Amazon’s cloud data storage service, for example, controls 33 percent of total market share, more than Microsoft, IBM and Google combined. Its clients include leading corporations and the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency and Department of Defense.
The company controls a significant portion of the logistical veins of international distribution, linking together roughly 400,000 warehouse workers at hundreds of fulfillment centers spread across five continents. Amazon commands a fleet of trucks, freighters, drones and airplanes, plus a small army of Uber-like flex delivery drivers who transport goods to over 100 countries.

Amazon’s growing dominance is part of a broader concentration of power across all industries. The share of GDP produced by America’s largest 100 corporations rose from 33 percent in 1994 to 46 percent in 2013. The five largest American banks now account for 45 percent of total banking assets, nearly double from 25 percent in 2000.

3--UAE has secret torture prisons in Yemen, US involved in interrogations – AP

4--Putin to watch joining of Turkish Stream gas pipeline sections

5--U.S. Torture, A Saudi Coup And ISIS Crimes - "By, With And Through Allies"

6--Former secretary of homeland security Jeh Johnson says points the finger at Putin

(Johnson says vote tallies were not impacted)

Around mid-August, Mr. Johnson said, federal officials began hearing reports of “scanning and probing” of some state voter database registries. In the weeks after, intelligence officials became convinced the Russians were behind those efforts, though he said it was not until January that they were “in a position to say” that.

The administration formally accused the Russian government on Oct. 7, when Mr. Johnson and James R. Clapper Jr., then the director of national intelligence, released a statement saying the Russians had leaked information “intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.”...

Noting that the hacking happened “at the direction of

Vladimir Putin himself,” Mr. Johnson said he was moved to try to shield the nation’s election system by the “unprecedented” nature of Russian interference in the last election.

“What I mean is that we not only saw infiltrations, but we saw efforts to dump information into the public space for the purpose of influencing the ongoing campaign,” he said, referring to the disclosure of hacked emails.

Republicans also seized on the statement in January by James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, that the D.N.C. refused to turn over its servers to investigators after it was discovered that the servers had been hacked.

Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, a Republican who is helping to lead the committee’s investigation into Russian interference, asked Mr. Johnson why a victim — in this case, the D.N.C. — would not turn over evidence of a crime.

“If they had turned the server over to you or Director Comey, maybe we would have known more,” Mr. Gowdy said.

7--Johnson said, “To my current knowledge, the Russian government did not through any cyber intrusion alter ballots,

Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Wednesday that the Russian government did not alter ballots, ballots counts, or the reporting of votes in last November's U.S. presidential election.

In his written testimony Johnson said, “To my current knowledge, the Russian government did not through any cyber intrusion alter ballots, ballot counts or reporting of election results. I am not in a position to know whether the successful Russian government-directed hacks of the DNC and elsewhere did in fact alter public opinion and thereby alter the outcome of the presidential election."

During questioning by Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), Johnson confirmed that the Russians in no way altered any votes.
“You said in your opening statement, or in your prepared remarks, that to your knowledge, there was no vote-tallying changes--that no one’s vote was, they voted one way and it was recorded some other way. Is that still your opinion with respect to the ‘16 election that the intrusions or attempted whatever it is the Russians or others did not affect the actual voting itself?” Conaway asked.

“Based on everything I know, that is correct. I know of no evidence that through cyber intrusions votes were altered or suppressed in some way,” Johnson said.

8--Comey says, 'No collusion'

West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin reiterates, after two hearings with former FBI Director James Comey, that there is no evidence "whatsoever" to prove the Trump campaign "colluded" with Russia during the 2016 campaign.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Now joined by a member of the Senate intelligence committee, Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Senator Manchin, thank you for joining us this morning.

You were in that room on Thursday for all three hours. You questioned James Comey. Was he a credible witness?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN, (D) WEST VIRGINIA: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. He did a good job and I think everyone there, Democrats and Republicans alike, thought he did a good job. And he was forthcoming. He offered to come to the committee not only in an open session, he came to a closed session also, George, and that was pretty special because when you heard him say I'm sorry I can't answer that and speak about that in this setting, that was of a higher classified and we went into a classified hearing afterwards, he answered everybody's questions. So we were very appreciative of that.

STEPHANOPOULOS; Do you agree with this conclusion that the president has reached that there was no evidence of collusion?

MANCHIN: You know, we haven't seen any of that whatsoever, George. We've been looking and showing everything they possibly have. That has not led to that. We have ultimate -- all of us have the utmost respect for Bob Mueller, both on the Democrat and Republican side. I believe he's going to do his job thoroughly. We will accept his recommendation and pathway forward and I think that's extremely important that we all agree this is the right person, the right time to do this type of work.

9--'Not true': James Comey denounces NYT report on Trump campaign collusion with Russia during testimony

The New York Times got it wrong when it reported this year that the Trump campaign colluded with Russian intelligence officials during the 2016 election, former FBI Director James Comey testified Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The New York Times story, "Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence," was published on Feb. 14.

The story, which was anonymously sourced, alleged that members of Trump's campaign team communicated with Russian agents at around the same time that hackers published personal emails stolen from Democratic National Committee staffers and Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta.

However, Comey flatly disputed all of that.

"That report by the New York Times was not true. Is that a fair statement?" Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, asked.

"In the main, it was not true," Comey replied. "The challenge, and I'm not picking on reporters, about writing on classified information is: The people talking about it often don't really know what's going on, and those of us who actually know what's going on are not talking about it."

He added, "And we don't call the press to say, ‘Hey, you got that thing wrong about this sensitive topic.' We just have to leave it there."

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., later asked Comey if the story was "almost entirely wrong," and Comey said yes.

The paper, for its part, disputed these accounts. It maintained this week that its reporting is accurate, and also said its reporters are "looking into" Comey's remarks.

The apparently bogus New York Times report created a big splash when it was first published, practically kicking off a news cycle of its own. However, it was apparent even then that the story had serious problems.

One immediately noticeable flaw involved buried information presented to the reader only after the story had introduced the idea of Russian collusion.

The report opened with these two paragraphs:

Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.

American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee, three of the officials said. The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election.

It doesn't look good for Trump. The headline alone leads readers to suspect a disturbing partnership between Trump's campaign and the Russians.

However, buried in the third paragraph in the New York Times report is a crucial detail: "The officials interviewed in recent weeks said that, so far, they had seen no evidence of such cooperation."


That's an important piece of information, and it should have been included in the story's first paragraph. It doesn't really matter now. The whole thing is apparently nonsense, according to Comey.

10--NATO warplane buzzes jet carrying Russian defense minister over Baltic Sea

Washington is pushing the confrontation with Russia as part of its strategy of removing Moscow as an impediment to its drive for supremacy over the oil-rich Middle East and Central Asia and dominance over the Eurasian continent, which it considers essential to taking on its biggest rival for global domination, China....

On Wednesday, a NATO F-16 buzzed a Russian jet carrying the country’s defense minister in international air space over the Baltic Sea. Just three days previously, a US jet brought down a government plane in Syria, the first such attack since the beginning of the US war for regime-change in 2011. The US action prompted Moscow, whose military forces are backing the Syrian regime, to announce that it will henceforth target US aircraft flying over the western part of that country. Russia also said it would cut off the “deconfliction” hot line that has been used to prevent clashes between US and Russian planes operating in Syria.

In yesterday’s incident, a warplane of the US-dominated military alliance approached the Russian aircraft as it flew to Kaliningrad, a western Russian enclave between Lithuania and Poland on the Baltic Sea, where Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu was scheduled to meet with Russian military officials. An Su-27 escort fighter got in way of the NATO plane and tilted its wings to show its weapons, whereupon the intruding NATO plane flew off.

11--The Democrats’ fraudulent opposition to Trumpcare

12--The New York Times steps up its anti-Russia campaign

Under the headline “Mr. Trump’s Dangerous Indifference to Russia,” the Times uses the language of war to assert: “A rival foreign power launched an aggressive cyberattack on the United States, interfering with the 2016 presidential election… The unprecedented nature of Russia’s attack is getting lost in the swirling chaos of recent weeks, but it shouldn’t be.”

The Times presents zero evidence to back up a wild reference to “the sheer scope and audacity of the Russian efforts.” The editorial simply declares, “American intelligence agencies have concluded,” followed by a long list of allegations:

“Under direct orders from President Vladimir Putin, hackers connected to Russian military intelligence broke into the email accounts of senior officials at the Democratic National Committee and of Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta. They passed tens of thousands of emails to the website WikiLeaks, which posted them throughout the last months of the campaign in an attempt to damage the Clinton campaign.

“Even more disturbing, hackers sought access to voter databases in at least 39 states, and in some cases tried to alter or delete voter data. They also appear to have tried to take over the computers of more than 100 local election officials in the days before the November 8 vote.”

Editorial page editor James Bennet presents not a single fact that supports the Times ’ assertions. What is the evidence that there were “direct orders” from Putin, or that hackers linked to Russian intelligence raided Democratic email accounts and supplied material to WikiLeaks, or that (other?) hackers tried to access voter databases and the computers of local election officials? The entire mountain of accusations is suspended in air.

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