The Power of Trump’s Positive Thinking – POLITICO Magazine

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The president always has believed he could will himself to success. But has he crossed the line between optimism and delusion?

Source: The Power of Trump’s Positive Thinking – POLITICO Magazine 

The Power of Trump’s Positive Thinking

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Donald Trump is a self-help apostle. He always has tried to create his own reality by saying what he wants to be true. Where many see failure, Trump sees only success, and expresses it out loud, again and again.

“We have the votes” to pass a new health care bill, he said last month even though he and Republicans didn’t then and still don’t.

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“We get an A-plus,” he said last week of his and his administration’s response to the devastating recent hurricanes as others doled out withering reviews.

“I’ve had just about the most legislation passed of any president, in a nine-month period, that’s ever served,” he said this week in an interview with Forbes, contradicting objective metrics and repeating his frequent and dubious assertion of unprecedented success throughout the first year of his first term as president.

The reality is that Trump is in a rut. His legislative agenda is floundering. His approval ratings are historically low. He’s raging privately while engaging in noisy, internecine squabbles. He’s increasingly isolated. And yet his fact-flouting declarations of positivity continue unabated. For Trump, though, these statements are not issues of right or wrong or true or false. They are something much more elemental. They are a direct result of the closest thing the stubborn, ideologically malleable celebrity businessman turned most powerful person on the planet has ever had to a devout religious faith. This is not his mother’s flinty Scottish Presbyterianism but Norman Vincent Peale’s “power of positive thinking,” the utterly American belief in self above all else and the conviction that thoughts can be causative, that basic assertion can lead to actual achievement.

Trump and his father were Peale acolytes—the minister married Trump at the first of his three weddings—and Peale’s overarching philosophy has been a lodestar for Trump over the course of his decades of triumphs as well as the crises and chaos. “Stamp indelibly on your mind a mental picture of yourself as succeeding,” Peale urged his millions of followers. “Hold this picture tenaciously. Never permit it to fade.” It was a mindset perfectly tailored for an ambitious builder determined to change the skyline of one of the globe’s great cities. Trump, who used this self-confidence to blow right past a series of seemingly fatal gaffes and controversies to win an election last fall that polls said he couldn’t and wouldn’t, in this respect has been a prize Peale pupil—arguably the most successful Peale disciple ever.

“I don’t even think it’s an argument,” his biographer Gwenda Blair told me recently. “It’s a fact.” The power of positive thinking? “He weaponized it.”

But now, in the political realm, where the space between spin and truth is parsed constantly—and with consequences—it is Trump’s very success that has opened him up to questions that simply didn’t matter as much when he was a television star, or opening golf courses, or licensing his last name to steaks, bottled water or far-flung condominium projects. Is Trump’s relentlessly optimistic insistence of his own version of reality an asset, a sign of admirable grit for a politician desperate to score some legislative victories? Or is it a sort of self-delusion that risks embarrassment, or worse, in the highest-stakes geopolitical arena?

Science, it turns out, has something to say about this.

Self-help is a multibillion-dollar business. Airport shelves groan under the weight of how-to and pick-me-up books churned out by writers who all are essentially Peale progeny. The industry is prevalent in American culture to the point that it has spawned its own sub-group of critics who dismiss it as silly at best and dangerous at worst. “If you are simple enough to buy a self-help book, you may be congenitally programmed to fail,” Tom Tiede wrote in 2001 in his own book, Self-Help Nation: The Long Overdue, Entirely Justified, Delightfully Hostile Guide to the Snake-Oil Peddlers Who Are Sapping Our Nation’s Soul. “Positive thinking” has garnered such social currency that it also has become a subject of academic inquiry. And though it certainly was not conceived with this in mind, the science of self-help—of happiness and well-being, of specific phenomena called “unrealistic optimism” and “positive illusions”—is now in some respects the study of the way Trump thinks and what it could mean for the country and beyond.

How can Trump say the things that he does?

Read the research.

In 1988, in a seminal paper within the subject area, psychologists from UCLA and Southern Methodist University wrote that “considerable research evidence suggests that overly positive self-evaluations, exaggerated perceptions of control or mastery, and unrealistic optimism are characteristic of normal human thought.” They added that “positive illusions may be especially useful when an individual receives negative feedback or is otherwise threatened.” They warned, though, of inherent risks and limitations: “For example, a falsely positive sense of accomplishment may lead people to pursue careers and interests for which they are ill-suited.”

Two years ago, English researchers published an update. People with “unrealistic optimism,” they wrote, “believe that they are more virtuous, more talented and more compassionate than others, and less prone to error.” They “believe that they can control events that are not under their control.” They “believe that they are less likely to experience future negative outcomes.” They “have overly flattering conceptions of themselves that are also resistant to negative feedback.” Sometimes, they said, all of that can help people like this perform well. “In conditions of uncertainty and risk,” the researchers explained, “some instances of optimism lead people to make better decisions by helping avoid more costly mistakes and contribute to survival and flourishing.” Even so, it’s true only to a point. “Excessive optimism,” they concluded, “can become problematic and lead to poor strategic planning, disillusionment and disappointment, and risky behaviors.”

Where precisely the benefits of “unrealistic optimism” and “positive illusions” end and the drawbacks and dangers begin is nearly impossible to identify, researchers told me. There are just too many variables. A person’s web of characteristics. That person’s wider environment. The complexity of a situation. There’s almost no way to know for sure when a line is crossed between helpful self-assurance and disastrous self-delusion.

“If there is, I don’t know it,” said retired professor Neil Weinstein, who wrote a paper in 1982 when he was at Rutgers University titled “Egocentrism as a Source of Unrealistic Optimism.”

“The world isn’t that predictable,” he said.

Donald Trump, after all, is the president.


He was born into a house that Norman Vincent Peale helped build.

Peale’s cheery, simple tips allowed Trump’s father to alleviate his anxieties and mitigate the effects of his innately awkward, dour disposition. Emboldened Fred Trump banked hundreds of millions of dollars building single-family houses and then immense apartment buildings in New York’s outer boroughs. Peale appealed to the elder Trump, too, because both men embraced conservative, right-wing, us-versus-them politics—an important but often forgotten portion of Peale’s M.O.

A generation down, Peale appealed to Donald Trump because Trump idolized his father, and because what Fred Trump drilled into his most eager, most ambitious, most like-minded son—be a killer; be a king; be a winner, not a loser—is what made that son so receptive to the teachings of Peale. Born in 1946, Donald Trump’s childhood was spent in a house with white columns and nine bathrooms and a live-in maid and chauffeur in Jamaica Estates, Queens. Sometimes, when it rained or snowed, he did his paper route from the back of his father’s limousine.

Peale, known as “God’s salesman,” reached the peak of his influence in the heart of Trump’s childhood, preaching in the 1950s to millions of people on Sundays at Marble Collegiate Church on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan as well as through a syndicated newspaper column, radio and television shows, his Guideposts magazine and a spate of books that were self-help trailblazers—first and foremost, of course, The Power of Positive Thinking, his defining work and wild bestseller that came out in 1952. It offered chapters such as “Believe in Yourself,” “Expect the Best and Get It” and “I Don’t Believe in Defeat.” “Whenever a negative thought concerning your personal powers comes to mind, deliberately voice a positive thought,” he wrote. “Actually,” Peale once said, “it is an affront to God when you have a low opinion of yourself.”

Peale was far from universally popular. One psychiatrist dubbed The Power of Positive Thinking“saccharine terrorism.” And during the 1952 presidential campaign, the Democratic nominee made his feelings plain. “Speaking as a Christian,” the brainy Adlai Stevenson said at a Baptist convention in Texas, “I would like to say that I find the Apostle Paul appealing and the Apostle Peale appalling.” But Peale permanently altered the way many Americans worship. His was a precursor to the prosperity gospel espoused today by, say, the toothy Joel Osteen. “By repeatedly equating business acumen with piety, uncertainty with religious doubt, and personal and cultural failure with godlessness, Peale and his admirers helped to redefine religious Americans as socially superior winners,” Northwestern University English professor Christopher Lane wrote in his 2016 book, Surge of Piety: Norman Vincent Peale and the Remaking of American Religious Life.

What Peale peddled was “a certain positive, feel-good religiosity that demands nothing of you and rewards you with worldly riches and success,” said Princeton University historian Kevin Kruse, the author of One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America. “It’s a self-help gospel … the name-it-and-claim-it gospel.”

And for Donald Trump, the attraction to Peale did not diminish with time. Even as more traditional theologians derided Peale as more huckster than holy man and intellectuals mocked him as a lightweight, Trump in his 30s remained a staunch Peale adherent.

Peale, then nearly 80 years old, officiated Trump’s wedding in 1977. In 1983, shortly after the opening of Trump Tower, Trump credited Peale for instilling in him a can-do ethos. “The mind can overcome any obstacle,” he told the New York Times. “I never think of the negative.” The feeling was mutual. In the Times, Peale called Trump “kindly and courteous” and commented on “a profound streak of honesty and humility” he thought Trump possessed. Trump at the time was newly ascendant, and the influence of Peale coursed through his aspirations and interactions. “If you’re going to be thinking anyway,” he wrote in 1987 in The Art of the Deal, “you might as well think big.”

That year, Jack O’Donnell saw it firsthand. He started work for Trump as a marketing executive at one of his casinos in Atlantic City.

“This is the best place in the world to work, and I’m the best guy in the world to work for,” Trump toldO’Donnell in their first meeting, according to O’Donnell’s 1991 book, Trumped! The onslaught of Peale-preached superlatives kept coming. “I’m America’s most successful businessman,” Trump said. “I’m a winner. I’ve always been a winner.”

O’Donnell, though, soon was worried about the pitfalls of such optimism. By 1988, a manic, temperamental Trump was overwhelmed, in O’Donnell’s estimation, by the world that he had created for himself. He had piled up accomplishments, acquisitions and debts. It was too much. “He was at the point where image superseded reality,” O’Donnell would write in his book. “In the same way that he believed a man could retain his hair by willing not to go bald, he thought he could redress the operational shortcoming of a multimillion-dollar company and make it successful by stating and restating that it was.”

It caught up with him.

The early 1990s were a low point in Trump’s life. As his casinos careened toward corporate bankruptcy and he suffocated under billions of dollars of debt—not to mention the hyper-public break-up of his marriage to the mother of his first three children—Trump’s credibility and viability as a businessman were in jeopardy. Drawing on Peale, Trump was unswayed, leaning extra-heavy on the principal tenet of the power of positive thinking—think it, say it, and say it and say it and say it, in an all-out effort to make it so. “It’s all going to work out,” he said to a reporter from the Wall Street Journal. Trump, all but dead? “Hotter than ever,” he told New York magazine.

“I would have been looking for the nearest building to jump off of, and he just remained upbeat all of the time,” Steve Bollenbach, the lender-mandated financial-fixer who helped Trump avoid personal bankruptcy and lasting business humiliation, once told biographer Tim O’Brien. “I never suspected that he lost a moment’s sleep.”

Trump tapped into Peale, he would say. “I refused to give in to the negative circumstances,” he said in a 2009 interview with Psychology Today that is littered with the particular language of Peale. “I never lost faith in myself. … Being tenacious is part of my personality. … Defeat is not in my vocabulary.” He mentioned Peale and his most famous book. He was, Trump said, “a firm believer in the power of being positive.”

“Someone asked me if I thought I was a genius,” he wrote in 2009 in Think Like a Champion. “I decided to say yes. Why not? Try it out. Tell yourself that you are a genius.” He practiced this tactic even as the scorecard of his business dealings recorded something other than genius. After three more corporate bankruptcies for his casinos, as well as a variety of other business failures, from Trump Mortgage to Trump University to name-branded condo projects stalled and killed by the Great Recession, Trump kept proclaiming success. “I’ve done an incredible job,” he said in 2013.

It was time to run for president.

“Norman Vincent Peale, the great Norman Vincent Peale, was my pastor,” Trump told the audience at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, in July of 2015, barely more than a month into his run. “The power of positive thinking,” he said. He said this in between having consultant and pollster Frank Luntz ask him the same question twice: “Have you ever asked God for forgiveness?” His answer: “I’m not sure I have.” For Trump, thanks to Peale, that’s not primarily what religion was for.

“Affirm it, visualize it, believe it, and it will actualize itself,” Peale had written—and last year around this time, in the roiling wake of the tape of Trump bragging about his ability to grope women with impunity, with pundits saying he would lose and lose badly, and with more and more women accusing him of sexual harassment and members of his own party and even the man who would become his chief of staff suggesting he should drop out, Trump did not do what almost anybody else would have done. Everybody else? There’s literally not another politician in history who was facing what he was facing and didn’t not only stop running the race in question but recede from public life altogether. But that’s not what Trump did. Trump did what he’s always done. He doubled down on Peale 101.

Polls said he was not going to win.

“We’re going to win,” he told Sean Hannity three weeks before the election.

“We’re going to win the great state of Michigan,” he said at a boisterous rally at 1 in the morning in Grand Rapids on Election Day, “and we are going to win back the White House.”


Trump does not often share the spotlight, but it seems likely, based on his decades of testimonials, that he might give Peale at least some credit for the astonishing, highly improbable arc of his life. Trump’s current job is in some ways a confirmation of Peale’s core principles. He visualized. It actualized.

From a scientific perspective, though, Trump is an incomplete experiment. For decades, researchers have attempted to quantify the range of outcomes of positive thinking, looking for objective ways to correlate internal belief and external reality.

“There are really strong benefits in terms of undertaking activities that are difficult and for which the true odds would be daunting if you paid attention to them,” Jonathon Brown told me. He was the SMU psychologist who was one-half of the research team behind the 1988 paper on “illusion” and “well-being.” He’s now at the University of Washington. He gave examples of starting a business or getting married. Other researchers I talked to brought up health outcomes. In situations of, for instance, dire cancer diagnoses, the prospect of survivability can get a boost from optimism that’s statistically unjustified.

“Positive thinking can motivate an individual,” Wellesley College psychology professor Julie Norem said. Also: “Other people at least initially often respond positively to it. If I present myself to you as somebody who’s upbeat and really confident … chances are pretty good that initially you’re going to believe me. You’re going to say, ‘Wow, that person’s really got it together. That person’s really going to go someplace.’ And that’s a huge advantage in life.”

Then there’s the but.

“For most people,” said Norem, who specializes in optimism, pessimism and personality psychology, “there’s a point at which, if that’s all they bring to the table, it breaks down.”

The question is where that point is for Trump. He is so clearly not most people. In the words of Mitch Horowitz: “He is a kind of Frankenstein monster of the philosophy” of positive thought.

“Trump,” said Horowitz, a self-help expert and the author of One Simple Idea: How the Lessons of Positive Thinking Can Transform Your Life, “seems to be an example of at least the short-term, destructive gains that you can attain through self-help, through self-assertion, and people’s willingness to believe what they think that they see.”

Short-term. Trump’s version of his own reality, some insist, ultimately will crash against something more real. “In the end, I think reality is like gravity. It exerts its own force,” said Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a consistent conservative critic of Trump. “The power of positive thinking can only carry you so far.”

He offered an example. “I could use the power of positive thinking and convince myself that I’m going to be the starting center for the Golden State Warriors,” Wehner said, “but it’s not going to happen.”

To carry this metaphor a small step forward, though, Trump is actually currently the starting center for the Golden State Warriors. (He’s definitely not Stephen Curry.) Wehner granted that. “And his supporters,” he said, “probably think he’s scoring 25 points and a game and averaging 11 rebounds.”

This, though, is just it: Nobody, ever, has had more success convincing himself, and others, that he is a success even when he is not—and thus turning that stated sentiment into actual, tangible, considerable accomplishment. And if he could do that, it seems fair to ask whether gravity or accepted laws of politics apply to him at all. What, exactly, is “unrealistic” about Trump’s optimism? “It’s gotten him this far,” said Blair, the biographer. “He has a lot of reason to believe that something like the power of gravity doesn’t apply to him.”

The science here hits a ceiling. Researchers do their work in controlled settings to obtain empirical results. America under Trump, meanwhile, is far from a controlled setting. And if it’s difficult to determine the location of that line between self-assurance and self-delusion in the former, it’s impossible in the latter. Scientifically speaking, the Trump presidency is uncharted territory.

“The degree of positive thinking that we talk about in the paper bears no resemblance to what President Trump is exhibiting on a daily basis, which would be an extreme form of what we talked about,” said Brown from the University of Washington. “What we were really looking at was sort of … should you know what you are really like? Is a person best served by knowing what they are really like? And I think the answer to that is no. You’re better served believing you are a little bit better than you are—but not wildly …”

Brown citied the opening salvo of the Trump administration: the fight over the size of the turnout at the inauguration. He somehow saw a crowd that was larger than it factually was, and said so. That, Brown said, isn’t self-confidence or self-assertion. “That’s bizarre. That isn’t within the normal range of human behavior,” he said. “No psychologist would say that’s adaptive.”

“There is a lot to like in the idea of power of positive thinking,” Ed Diener, one of the country’s leading researchers of happiness, told me, “but of course it must be grounded in a degree of realism.”

And where’s that dividing line?

The dividing line, Diener said, “is when the delusions become dysfunctional.”

And where is that?

“Where the distortions become strong enough that they make one act irrationally, impulsively,” he said.

“The biggest problem with the Norman Vincent Peale version of positive thinking,” said Wellesley’s Norem, “is that you can’t know when you’ve crossed the line—because if you’re accepting that as a philosophy, you’re already defining out of the picture any negative thoughts. And one of the ways in which Trump is so extreme is the extent to which he does that for himself. So he’s at the center of this positive world, and anything negative that impinges on it is evil, bad and forbidden.”

He won’t see the line if and when it arrives.

As for the rest of us?

“I mean, if we’re all blown up, in a nuclear war,” Norem said, “then that’s going to be a pretty clear line.”

Michael Kruse is a senior staff writer for Politico.

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Trump Weathering Turbulent Times at Home and Abroad – Voice of America

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Trump Weathering Turbulent Times at Home and Abroad
Voice of America
“With 38 percent of the electorate, 80-plus percent of the Republican Party strongly behind him, it is unlikely that we are going to see a lot of Republicans break from him and really challenge him in meaningful ways,” George Washington University 

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Condoleezza Rice: Russia’s story of democracy is bigger than Putin | Commentary

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Condoleezza Rice’s latest book, Democracy: Stories from the Long Road to Freedom, explains the thrill of seeing democracies take shape and the hard work that goes into creating and sustaining them. The former secretary of state elaborates in a conversation with Catalyst Editor William McKenzie on both points, while commenting on the health of democracy at home and abroad.

You write that “there is no more thrilling moment than when people finally seize their rights and their liberty. That moment is necessary, right, and inevitable. It is also terrifying and disruptive and chaotic. And what follows is hard — really, really hard.” What makes the birth of a democracy so thrilling as well as so necessary and inevitable?

The excitement and thrill comes from seeing those moments in the streets when people are trying to express that they, too, want to say what they think and worship as they please and be free from the arbitrary power of the state. Most importantly, the thrill comes from seeing they are determined that those who are going to govern them have to ask for their consent. That’s what is thrilling: the confirmation of these universal values.

What makes the birthing of a democracy so terrifying, and why is the aftermath so hard?

It’s terrifying because you unleash all of these passions that have been pent up for such a long time, and sometimes it can go bad. We saw after the French Revolution that it was so violent, chaotic and out of control that it produces a counter-reaction.

That moment is terrifying because the institutions aren’t there yet to channel those passions. If you read the American Declaration of Independence, you think, “Who were these people?”

It starts with high-minded rhetoric, but pretty quickly deteriorates into name calling of King George and what we will do if he doesn’t give our rights.

When human beings are freed, it isn’t the moment when they are at their most rational necessarily about what lies ahead. The freeing of those passions is terrifying.

You write about institutions like political parties, the courts, parliaments, and the press being so key to stabilizing a democracy. Could you elaborate upon that?

If those passions just remain unleashed without something to channel them, you’re going to get a backlash and the revolution is going to fade. The task is to quickly channel those passions so that people begin to believe they can exercise their rights through these abstractions that we call institutions, such as the Constitution and the rule of law.

People then begin to trust the Constitution or the courts to carry out their desires and rights. If their rights are violated, they no longer rely on their clan, their family, their religious group, or violence in the streets. That’s the moment when democratic institutions start to take hold. People test the process and it works.

I read about an Afghan woman who was raped by a cleric, and she took her case to court. Imagine that in Afghanistan. And she won. He got 20 years in prison. The human rights advocates were saying, oh, only 20 years in prison. But I’m thinking, she took him to court and she won. Afghan women will now say, OK, maybe the courts work; I don’t have to go to my male family members and ask them to engage in an honor killing.

What is your assessment of Russia’s failed, or at least aborted, attempts at glasnost and perestroika? Are those concepts now merely ones that scholars will study in the future?

Russia had four revolutions, and only the third failed. The first one, the [Mikhail] Gorbachev revolution, was kind of a reform of the communist system. At least, that’s how we thought about it. But toward the end, it was starting to create some institutions that might have been the backbone for a democratic transition. But it was too much and was overrun.

The second revolution was when [Boris] Yeltsin comes to power and the democratic institutions get set up. They don’t last because they get set up amidst so much chaos in the economy and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The third revolution is when Yeltsin starts to rule out of decree, creates an extremely strong presidency, and the other institutions are sort of shoved to the side. A strong presidency in the hands of Gorbachev was one thing, a strong presidency in the hands of Vladimir Putin is quite another. Step by step, Putin subsequently destroys all of the independent institutions.

So, the Russian story is a longer story than just what happened with Gorbachev or what happened with Yeltsin. It’s important to say that because some of the seeds are possibly still there. In the clearly fraudulent election of 2016, for example, Putin didn’t win Moscow. In local elections, his party lost 11 or 12 seats.

Also, people are different in Russia today than they were in the Soviet Union. They travel more widely and they study abroad. The situation looks pretty bleak right now, but it doesn’t make sense to give up on the Russians. You have to isolate Putinism without isolating Russia.

China is growing a modern economy without true democratic institutions such as a free press and competing parties. What are we to make of this case study?

When you have the low cost of labor, the heavy export policy, their kind of government investment in the economy, all of that accords with a top-down political system. But being top-down doesn’t work so well when you start wanting a more innovative economy and free-market forces.

China is now neither fish nor fowl. Reforms keep getting rolled back because they’re afraid of the political implications of those reforms. I’ll give you one example: A couple of years ago, China had 186,000 riots, as reported by the Chinese. Most of them were because a peasant’s land was expropriated by a party leader and a developer.

What you need is a court that person can go to rather than rioting with his friends. But when you start to get independent courts, you start to get an independent judiciary. Before long, you’ve got one of the institutions that liberalizes a political system.

The jury is still out on where China will end up on this spectrum.

You write about two upheavals occurring simultaneously in the Mideast. What are those and how could they affect democracy taking hold there?

The whole state is under challenge. The map at the beginning of 2000 basically looked like it did when the Ottoman Empire collapsed and states like Iraq, Syria, and even many of the Gulf States were sort of drawn on the back of an envelope.

Those borders are now beginning to shift. Nobody knows whether there’s ever again going to be a single Syria. And the Kurds are pressing for independence from Iraq. The borders and the state system are under a lot of pressure.

There are two ways this could go. One is you continue to have revolutions like they did in Syria, or in Iraq, where we helped to set off a revolution. Or you could have reform.

You’re going to have a clash of cultures, so perhaps reform is still possible for the Middle East. No one is suggesting these places have to look like Jeffersonian democracy. I am suggesting they have to come to terms with basic rights, such as people want to say what they think. The form it takes will look different from place to place.

Democracy is only as good as its ability to deliver, as the saying goes. What does our own democracy need to deliver both for us as citizens and for our own democracy’s strengthening?

First, the good news. The institutions the Founders set up have weathered many storms well. Checks on executive power are still weathering the storm well. For example, courts are responding, and I don’t just mean to President Trump. They responded when they felt like there was an overreach from President Bush on the war on terror. And they responded to President Obama.

Federalism is continuing to work in the United States. States are getting far more done than the federal government could ever get done because states are closer to the people. That was always the design of federalism.

We are starting to have some challenges with the underlying societal strength that comes with the pursuit of happiness. People want to make their lives better and to make the lives of their children better. The failing K-12 education system for the poorest of our kids is right at the heart of that. The mismatch between job skills and available jobs are another big piece of this.

Unless we can find a way that people again believe that it doesn’t matter where you came from, that it matters where you’re going, then we’ll have a lot of unrest. The United States is unique in that we are not bound together by ethnicity, blood, nationality or religion. We are bound together by this aspiration that you can come from humble circumstances and you can do great things.

That’s mostly been true in America for a long time, and it’s been truer for group after group after group. If you were black, it wasn’t so true in segregated Birmingham in 1960. But, if you look at where we’ve come, it’s become truer. We’re going to lose that aspiration if large portions of the population are not able to access it.

This Q&A was conducted and condensed by William McKenzie, editor of The Catalyst. The full interview appears in the fall edition of The Catalyst: A Journal of Ideas from the Bush

Condoleezza Rice served as secretary of state and national security adviser under President George W. Bush. She now teaches at Stanford University and is a Hoover Institution senior fellow.

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Forum to plumb Trump’s stability, mental health and fitness for office

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Tennessee U.S. Sen. Bob Corker’s view that the Trump White House is effectively an “adult day care” is no laughing matter to a UNC-Chapel Hill psychiatrist who’s put together a Saturday forum focusing on the president’s mental state.

Edwin Fisher will speak at the 1 p.m. event in Chapel Hill along with two colleagues from Asheville, psychiatrist Steven Buser and psychologist Richard Smoot. All three are part of a group of mental-health professionals who believe President Donald Trump is dangerously unstable.

Coming at the issue from different perspectives, they’ve converged on the view that the president’s “judgment and his motives are putting us all at risk of catastrophic events,” Fisher said, alluding to a possible nuclear war with North Korea.

The situation, he added, should inspire Congress to place new limits on Trump’s war-making powers or Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to consider invoking the 25th Amendment’s fitness-for-office provisions to begin the process to remove him.

Saturday’s forum will take place at the Chapel Hill Public Library, an off-campus forum chosen because UNC-CH’s football team has a home game against the University of Virginia later in the afternoon.

The timing’s not the best for an event in Chapel Hill, but Fisher said it was out of his hands because the Baltimore-based group he’s part of asked him to schedule it to coincide with similar events across the country the same day.

High-office hazard

Fisher contributed a chapter to a controversial new book, “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” that argues the president is so “mentally compromised” that his presence in high office is a hazard.

The controversy comes because the American Psychiatric Association has twice this year urged practitioners to avoid offering public opinions about the mental health of someone they haven’t personally examined.

Its invocation of the so-called “Goldwater Rule” – named for Barry Goldwater, the late Arizona U.S. senator who ran unsuccessfully for president in 1964 – has drawn return fire from leaders of the “Duty to Warn” group Fisher’s involved with.

One, Yale University psychiatrist Bandy Lee, argued in the book that the association had issued a “radical expansion” of the doctrine “barely two months into the very presidency that has made it controversial.”

Lee and Harvard-affiliated psychiatrist Judith Lewis Herman also argued that the group’s move shows even a prestigious professional organization “is not immune to … politically pressured acquiescence.”

Fisher, a professor in UNC-CH’s Gillings School of Global Public Health since 2005, said the book essentially argues there are signs Trump suffers both from narcissism and sociopathy. He said the the combination’s a volatile one in high-stakes situations, particularly if supporters and aides begin to abandon the president.

Legally, “if the president decides to launch a nuclear war, there’s nobody who can stop him,” Fisher said, adding that he believes what the group is doing is “educating the public about what those behavior patterns can mean.”

Fisher stressed that in speaking up on the issue, he’s speaking for himself, not for UNC-CH.

Fitness for office

Trump’s fundamental fitness for office, regardless of his views on the political issues of the day, has been questioned since he first sought the presidency, and not just by Democrats.

Locally, Duke political science professor Peter Feaver, in the mid-2000s a national security aide to former President George W. Bush, signed a statement last year that labeled Trump “a distinct threat to civil liberty the United States.”

Feaver at the time said that danger came from the possibility of putting “the power of the presidency in the hands of someone so focused on attacking his critics.”

Corker, a Republican, former mayor of Chattanooga and chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, told the New York Times on Oct. 8 that Trump’s threats to other countries may “put the nation on the path to World War III.”

He saw the major check on that as being aides “around him who are able to talk him down when he gets spun up, you know, calm him down and continue to work with him before a decision gets made.”

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10 Things to Know for Today

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Explained: Alt-right, alt-light and militias in the US | USA

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With the rising prominence of groups such as the alt-right throughout US President Donald Trump‘s campaign and election, differentiating between the various currents that comprise the American far right has become challenging.

Media outlets and political commentators have struggled to define the parameters, often inaccurately labelling high-profile far-right figures as part of the alt-right.

Al Jazeera has broken down some of the factions of the American far right, explaining their similarities and differences.


The alt-right is a loosely knit coalition of far-right groups that includes populists, white supremacists, white nationalists, neo-Confederates and neo-Nazis. Many alt-rightists promote various forms of white supremacy, white nationalism, anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.

The term “alt-right” was first coined by US white supremacist Richard Spencer in 2008 to provide an alternative to the neoconservative politics that dominated the Republican Party establishment in recent decades.

Shortly after Trump’s November 2016 victory in the presidential elections, the movement became a household name in the US when Spencer led an audience in chants as they performed Nazi-like salutes. Spencer roared: “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!”

The movement promotes what it calls “white identitarianism”, a worldview that advocates European racial and cultural hegemony. Alt-rightists often cite racial science as vindication for their views.

Researchers and experts note that sexism is as integral to the alt-right as racism, pointing out that there are few females among the cadres of the movement. One exception is Brittany Pettibone, a contributor at <a href=”” rel=”nofollow”></a> and Red Ice, a Sweden-based white nationalist video and podcast platform.

Among the groups involved in the movement are: Spencer’s think tank, the National Policy Institute; the National Socialist Movement; the neo-Confederate League of the South; Identity Evropa, the white supremacist group and, among others, the neo-Nazi organisation Vanguard America.

READ MORE: What is the alt-right and what does it stand for?

Online organising made the alt-right’s success possible.

The key websites are:; the Occidental Dissent blog; the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website; Radix Journal; the Counter-Currents website and the Right Stuff blog, among others.

The alt-right has many connections to groups in Europe, many of which predate the movement.

Some prominent figures within the alt-right are: Daily Stormer’s Andrew Anglin; the Right Stuff’s Mike Peinovich; Identity Evropa’s Nathan Damigo; former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke; Traditional Worker Party’s Matthew Heimbach and Swedish businessman Daniel Friberg.


The alt-light is a term used to describe a comparably moderate group of far-right figures, organisations and websites.

Unlike the alt-right’s call for a white ethnostate, the alt-light promotes a hardline version of American nationalism and often eschews the openly racist and white supremacist politics advocated by the alt-right. Much of the alt-light’s positions are predicated on support for President Trump.

The most prominent website on the alt-light is Breitbart News, a far-right blog headed by Steve Bannon, who briefly served as Trump’s top strategist. Another increasingly important alt-light publication is Rebel Media, a Canada-based website founded by right-wing media figure Ezra Levant.

Some of the most important personalities within the alt-light include: provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos; media personality Gavin McInnes; journalist and activist Lauren Southern; social media figure Mike Cernovich; media personality Alex Jones and conspiracy theorist Jack Prosobiec.

Yiannopoulous used to be the technology editor at Breitbart News, but he was fired after public uproar over comments he made defending pedophilia. Recently, he has hosted anti-Muslim rallies and “free speech” events. He often verbally attacks immigrants, trans people and feminists.

McInnes co-founded Vice Media and later left the company in 2008. Most recently, he hosted a Rebel Media online programme. He also founded the Proud Boys, a far-right group that describes itself as “Western chauvinist” and opposes feminism. The Proud Boys often brag about seeking out physical confrontations with anti-fascists, known as Antifa.

READ MORE: How the US anti-Muslim marches were defeated

There are also several conspiracy theory websites that fall within the sphere of the alt-light. The most well-known is InfoWars, hosted by Alex Jones. In 2015, Trump, who was a presidential candidate at the time, appeared on InfoWars and was interviewed by Jones.

Many alt-light groups argue against the alt-right, while others have participated in the same rallies and events as alt-rightists.

Militia groups

Most militia organisations describe themselves as “patriot” groups. The largest and most active of the militia groups are the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters. Member of these groups often attend rallies armed with assault rifles and wearing bullet proof vests.

While it is difficult to know the exact number of people involved in these organisations, the Oath Keepers claims to have tens of thousands of members nationwide.

Historically, the militias were considered anti-government. They claimed that they were defending the US Constitution from politicians who were seeking to impose unconstitutional and authoritarian rule on the country. However, most of them have been vocal supporters of the Trump administration.

READ MORE: Threats and attacks as white supremacists target campuses

Militia organisations often show up to protests held by groups they view as political opponents – Black Lives Matter and anti-fascists, among others – where they claim to be maintaining order by carrying weapons.

Common among groups such as the Oath Keepers are former and current law enforcement officers and military members.

Although these groups claim to reject racism and white supremacy, they have been present at many rallies and events alongside alt-rightists. On April 15, militia members came to Berkeley, California, where they rallied with alt-right groups and participated in street brawls against Antifa and other counter-protesters.

Conflicts between alt-right and alt-light

The alt-right and the alt-light have always shared several political positions and had common opponents. Both camps oppose the Democratic Party, Black Lives Matter, Antifa, undocumented immigrants and their advocates, and others.

Some alt-light leaders used to be open supporters of the alt-right, and others have migrated from the alt-light to the more hardline alt-right.

Recent months have seen increasing tensions between the alt-right and the alt-light, and their divisions have grown more defined.

In Houston, Texas, these divisions spilled over into a physical confrontation.

On June 10, Oath Keepers demanded that William Fears, a 30-year-old construction worker and alt-right activist, leave the rally. Angered by the Fears’ racist posters and refusal to leave, one Oath Keeper member put Fears in a chokehold. The incident was filmed and widely publicised online.

READ MORE: US anti-fascists – ‘We can make racists afraid again’

Later that month, on June 25, the divide played out again when the two groups held competing “free speech” rallies on the same day in Washington, DC.

During this event, the alt-right’s Richard Spencer openly criticised his more moderate counterparts. “They’re liars, they’re con artists, they’re freaks,” he told reporters of the alt-light. “The alt-right will be better when we just cut away these people who are going to weigh us down.”

Charlottesville as pivotal moment

On August 12, alt-rightists attended “Unite the Right”, a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia to protest against the removal of a statue of Confederate icon General Robert E Lee.

During the event, 20-year-old James Alex Fields rammed his car into a counter-protest, killing 32-year-old anti-racist Heather Heyer.

The alt-light joined the chorus of public condemnation as Fields was charged with second-degree murder.

However, critics have noted that Jason Kessler, a former journalist who had recently joined the alt-light Proud Boys group, organised the rally.

The Proud Boys condemned the rally.

Several other alt-light figures denounced the events in Charlottesville, while alt-rightists celebrated them.

Speaking to Vice News, alt-right member Chris Cantwell said that Heyer’s killing was justified. The day after the rally, the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer described Heyer as a “fat, childless 32-year-old slut”.

READ MORE: How neo-Nazis ‘burn crosses’ from behind keyboards

On the other hand, Gavin McInnes, then at Rebel Media, denounced James Alex Fields, who was charged with Heyer’s murder, as a “domestic terrorist”.

In response to the Charlottesville violence, alt-light Twitter personality Mike Cernovich decried the alt-right.

“That’s all the alt-right stands for, is white nationalism,” he told The Atlantic at the time. “They are now indistinguishable. Worse than that, they are now associated with domestic terrorism.”

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Twitter deleted data potentially crucial to Russia probes

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Twitter has deleted tweets and other user data of potentially irreplaceable value to investigators probing Russia’s suspected manipulation of the social media platform during the 2016 election, according to current and former government cybersecurity officials.

Federal investigators now believe Twitter was one of Russia’s most potent weapons in its efforts to promote Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, the officials say, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

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By creating and deploying armies of automated bots, fake users, catchy hashtags and bogus ad campaigns, unidentified operatives launched recurring waves of pro-Trump and anti-Clinton story lines via Twitter that were either false or greatly exaggerated, the officials said. Many U.S. investigators believe that their best hope for identifying who was behind these operations, how they collaborated with each other and their suspected links to the Kremlin lies buried within the mountains of data accumulated in recent years by Twitter.

By analyzing Twitter data over time, investigators could establish what one U.S. government cybersecurity consultant described as “pattern of life behavior,” determining when Russian influence operations began, and how they “were trying to nudge the narrative in a certain direction.”

“So if you have access to all this, you can basically see when botnets appeared and disappeared, and how they shaped narrative around certain events,” said the analyst, who could not speak for attribution given company policy.

But a substantial amount of valuable information held by Twitter is lost for good, according to the cybersecurity analysts and other current and former U.S. officials.

One reason is Twitter’s aggressively pro-consumer privacy policies, which generally dictate that once any user revises or deletes their tweets, paid promotions or entire accounts, the company itself must do so as well. Twitter policy requires similar actions by private companies that pay for access to its real-time global data stream and repository of saved data for use in marketing and other commercial analysis.

The other reason is that Russian cyber tradecraft dictates that operatives immediately erase all of their digital breadcrumbs, according to former FBI Executive Assistant Director Robert Anderson and others familiar with Russian influence operations.

Thomas Rid, a Strategic Studies professor at Johns Hopkins University, blamed Twitter for making it easy for Russia and other bad actors to hijack its platform by failing to crack down on suspicious activity, and by then allowing them to cover their tracks simply by hitting the delete key.

“Should bot operators and people who spread hate and abuse have the right to remove content from the public domain? Twitter says yes, and I think it’s a scandal,” said Rid, an expert witness on Russian disinformation campaigns for the Senate intelligence committee’s Russia investigation. “It removes forensic evidence from the public domain, and makes the work of investigators more difficult and maybe impossible.”

“Were Twitter a contractor for the FSB,” the Russian intelligence agency involved in the 2016 campaign to meddle in the U.S. election, Rid said, “they could not have built a more effective disinformation platform.”

Twitter declined to comment on how much relevant data was deleted, whether any of it is potentially retrievable and other questions sent by POLITICO. Instead, spokespeople referred to the fine print of the company’s data retention and privacy policies, which say that, “Once an account has been deactivated, there is a very brief period in which we may be able to access account information, including Tweets.”

“Content deleted by account holders (e.g., Tweets) is generally not available,” the Twitter policy also says.

Several people familiar with Twitter’s ongoing review of Russian activity on its platform said its engineers are trying to ascertain what is available and what is recoverable, in part by trying to find ways of recreating some pockets of particular data that have been permanently deleted.

They also noted that the company has had to walk a tightrope in balancing the interests of privacy activists who are “very concerned about any suggestions that a tech company would hold their data for any period after its deleted,” and law enforcement agencies that want access to potential evidence of wrongdoing. As such, “it’s a little more complicated than giving an X is gone forever by Y date” answer, one Twitter official cautioned.

Cybersecurity analysts, however, said Twitter has aggressively enforced a “permanent deletion” policy across the board, including publicly shaming at least two companies not adhering to it via cease and desist orders.

As a result, “The limitations created by the hostile actors deleting their actions is potentially high impact” for those U.S. investigators on the various Russia investigations, according to a former senior Senate staff official familiar with how Twitter operates. “They may get lucky and Twitter may have some record of it, but in terms of their stated policy, if accounts or tweets were deleted, they’re gone.”

A second person familiar with Twitter policy agreed with that assessment.

Clint Watts, a former FBI agent who closely monitors Russian manipulation of social media, said Twitter was especially vulnerable because, “The truth is they don’t know who is on their platform, or how bad people are doing bad things.”

Compounding that, Watts said, “When the Russians hit on a big story or get a big falsehood going, they collapse their accounts. They are very good at plausible deniability and covering their tracks.”

Twitter has said it is taking a broad look at Russia’s suspected use of its platform, including how many people might have been affected by disinformation, and whether there are any potential connections between Russian accounts and the Trump campaign and the many high-profile “influencers” associated with it.

But company executives have been far less forthcoming than their counterparts at Facebook in disclosing details of what they have found in internal investigations into suspected Russian activity on their platforms.

Twitter’s briefing to the Senate intelligence committee Sept. 28 infuriated its ranking Democrat, Sen. Mark Warner, who said the company failed to grasp the seriousness of the congressional investigation. Warner also accused Twitter of providing “inadequate” details about what misinformation was spread on its platform by Russian sources during the election.

Warner said Twitter only did the bare minimum of investigation, searching its records for information about accounts with Russian ties that had already been disclosed by Facebook after its own probe.

Based on that information, Twitter said, it shut down 201 accounts associated with the Internet Research Agency, a Russia-linked “troll farm” in which multitudes of workers help spin false narratives for social media. It also said the Russian news site RT, which Twitter linked to the Kremlin, spent nearly $275,000 on its platform last year.

The Senate committee, one of at least three investigating Russian meddling and possible collusion by Trump associates, has summoned Twitter to appear at a Nov. 1 public hearing, along with Facebook and Google.

Former House intelligence committee staffer Mieke Eoyang said she was skeptical that Twitter can completely delete its data, and that at least some of it exists somewhere in the network while other pockets of it could be recoverable.

Recently, Google said it found evidence of Russian manipulation on its platforms by using data it downloaded from Twitter. It used that information to link Russian Twitter accounts to other accounts that used Google’s own services to buy ads, according to a Washington Post report. The Post said that activity occurred without the explicit cooperation of Twitter.

Twitter also would not answer questions about the reported Google findings, including whether they suggest some of the relevant Twitter data still exists, even if only recent information.

Anderson, who spent 15 years chasing and arresting Russian spies for the FBI, cautioned that if any Russian accounts exist because they were not deleted by the Russians themselves, it is likely because President Vladimir Putin, a former spymaster, left them on purpose to misdirect U.S. investigators.

“The KGB was by far one of the most ruthless counter-intelligence organizations the United States has encountered, and Putin was an officer in it for a long time,” Anderson said. “And now put him in charge of all of these high-speed intelligence, cyber capabilities and operations, as Russia’s President, and you have a very formidable adversary.”

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Contributors Articles | The Interpreter

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Stephen Blank is a Senior Fellow for Russia at the American Foreign Policy Council. He came to AFPC from the US Army War College where he spent 24 years as a Professor of National Security Studies at the Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army War College in Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. Dr Blank’s expertise covers the entire Russian and post-Soviet region. He has also written extensively on defense strategy, arms control, information warfare, energy issues, US foreign and defense policy, and European and Asian security.

What drives Russia’s Korea policy?

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To discuss what’s driving Russia’s Korea policy, we need a framework within which we can begin to understand Moscow’s motives regarding North Korea’s nuclearisation and the ensuing international crisis.

First, peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and more broadly in Northeast Asia are vital Russian interests. Russia fought four wars over Korea in the 20th century, including its pilots’ participation in the Korean War, so the issue of peace on the Peninsula is hardly a minor one for Russia. Moreover, any new war might quickly go nuclear and could even involve a clash between Washington and Beijing. Those contingencies – and the proximity of North Korea to Russia – could destroy any hope for Russia to regenerate its Asian provinces or, worse, force it to enter into a war on behalf of China over an issue where it has no control or leverage over the protagonists. That would not be in its best interests – indeed, for any state it would be a nightmare.

Second, Moscow’s other vital interest, and one that flows from the imperative of preserving peace, is that Russia must not be excluded from any political process that takes place regarding Korea. Putin and his team remember all too well that Russia would have been excluded from the Six-Party process if he had not previously forged a working relationship with Kim II-sung and the DPRK. Thus Russia’s activities surrounding North Korea revolve around ensuring that Russia is a full participant in any resolution of North Korea’s nuclear issues. Acquiescing in Russia’s marginalisation over Korea would destroy any hope of realising another vital interest, namely that of becoming acknowledged as a major, independent great power in Northeast and Southeast Asia. To avoid any prospect of marginalisation, solid relations with North Korea are vital; if Moscow did not have such relations it would certainly fall prey to the danger of being dragged into a major crisis or conflagration over which it has no control and no influence, let alone leverage, on key actors.

Third (though this is a minority opinion among experts), this author fully believes that a Sino-Russian alliance where China plays the leading role (especially in East Asia and most particularly regarding North Korea) has taken shape over the last two decades, mainly driven by hostility to US power and values and the identification of these two authoritarian states as antipodes to this power and values. As the present crisis shows, while Russia is angling for increased economic and political influence in Pyongyang, it has clearly associated itself with China’s initiatives for resolving the crisis that centre on freezing the DPRK’s nuclear program in return for stopping US-ROK manoeuvres. It has also joined China’s efforts to provide a lifeline to North Korea through various activities including ferry services, hosting North Korean guest workers who remit money home, and opening up internet services.

These factors explain Moscow’s motives, actions and statements in the present crisis. The desire to preserve peace, to ensure Russia’s full participation in any future political process dealing with North Korea, and to strike at US power and values in Northeast Asia in tandem with China are all driving Moscow’s policies. Readers will note that nonproliferation is not a vital Russian interest and never really has been. Russia judges proliferation threats by the criterion of whether the state in question is hostile to its interests and it does not find North Korea to be such a state though it fully understands the nature of Kim Jong-un’s regime. In Russia’s view, while Kim Jong-un’s behavior merits criticism, the real responsibility for the crisis lies with the US. This was the case under President Obama and, if anything, Donald Trump has willfully aggravated an already tense situation.

Both Moscow and Beijing deplore and oppose North Korea’s nuclearisation, but they see it as a response to unceasing US threats. They want North Korea to denuclearise in order to reduce the threat of war on the Peninsula, to stop giving Japan and South Korea a pretext either for their own defence buildup or potential nuclearisation, and to stop those two states and the US from deploying missile-defence systems in and around South Korea and Japan, which represent a threat to their nuclear weapons and countries. But while North Korea may act in a brazen provocative manner, ultimately it is Washington’s fault because it keeps threatening the DPRK.

Together these four factors – ensuring peace on its frontiers with Korea to obtain time and capital for developing Russian Asia; ensuring that Russia participates completely in any Northeast Asian and Korean peace process as a full partner; anti-Americanism and the alliance with China; and defence against US military threats – constitute the framework that encompasses and shapes Russia’s policy initiatives towards North Korea. The perspective that emerges from this framework has driven the various gambits that Russia, usually in tandem with China, has taken during the current iteration of the Korean crisis and even under Barrack Obama’s earlier administration. Once one has grasped the nature of this framework and its perceptual underpinnings, it becomes much easier to understand Moscow’s actions.

As stated earlier, nonproliferation is not the issue for Russia here. War, peace, and its identity as a great, sovereign, independent and anti-American power in Asia count for more than non-proliferation. Indeed, Russia sees US invocations of non-proliferation as pretexts for threats and intervention against its interests. Given this Russian perception of the crisis, it is clear that the basis for a US-Russia accommodation or coordination on North Korea is quite slender. President Trump’s rhetoric and actions narrow it still further.

Stephen Blank

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Donald Trump just sealed his own fate

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Although it may not seem like it to worried outside observers, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Donald Trump’s Russia scandal is aggressively moving forward at a historically swift pace. The investigation just happens to be historically complicated as well, and the scandal at the center of it is buried beneath a surreal series of trap doors. Yet for reasons known only to him, Trump just decided to hand Mueller the master key.

Trump has apparently managed to trick himself into believing he’s innocent in a traitorous scandal he masterminded. That’s yet another sign of his declining mental faculties. But it also may prove to be a lucky break, because it’s led Trump to recently conclude that the best way to get the Russia scandal behind him is to give Mueller everything he wants. Not only is Trump turning over the kind of evidence that Mueller has long been trying to get his hands on from the outside, Trump is also now talking about voluntarily testifying for Mueller.

There’s almost no way to quantify how bad of a move this would be for Trump. Yet sure enough, Politico is reporting that it’s precisely what Trump and his attorneys are preparing to do (link). It would be virtually malpractice for Trump’s attorneys to allow him to do this. Yet if they put their foot down, he’ll just find some new attorneys who won’t try to stand in his way.

So unless Donald Trump turns into yet another kind of pumpkin as his mind continues to collapse, and randomly changes his strategy yet again, he’s preparing to pretty much throw his life away by testifying for Robert Mueller. Trump will end up bragging about every crime he and his henchmen have ever committed, because he can’t help himself. He’ll lie under oath, because he has no relationship with the truth. Trump will do Mueller’s job for him during that testimony. Bring it on.

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Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report

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What Trump’s move on Iran means for the US and the world

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But when he declares that it has not been in US interests, he will consign the proudest legacy achievement of President Barack Obama’s second term to a deeply uncertain future — and could even set off a train of consequences that could eventually lead to its collapse.

Should that be the case, Trump, or one of his successors in the Oval Office, may one day face the fateful choice that the deal was supposed to circumvent — whether to use military force to stop the Islamic Republic racing toward the bomb.

The President has fumed against what he has called a “very bad deal” and an “embarrassment” to the country despite all available evidence that Iran is complying with terms which imposed limits on its nuclear program in return for a lifting of sanctions that had crippled its economy.

“I think it was one of the most incompetently drawn deals I’ve ever seen,” Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Wednesday.

close dialog

Trump’s move, which had been previewed to CNN by government sources and foreign diplomats, will give Congress 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions lifted under the terms of the agreement.

While the administration is not expected to push Congress to go that far, since it would likely cause Iran to immediately walk away, proponents of the nuclear deal fear that Trump’s decision will strike a severe blow at the deal’s legitimacy.

A significant stiffened US policy toward Iran designed to tackle what the White House says are Tehran’s destabilizing activities and support for terrorism could return the enemies to the cycle of confrontation and proxy wars of most of the last four decades, that could in itself cause the deal to slowly begin to unravel.

“If the President chooses to not certify, that already will be a negative step — for one thing it will start a process of isolating us from our allies,” Ernest Moniz, Obama’s former energy secretary who helped negotiate the agreement, said on CNN’s “New Day.”

“If we went all the way and reimposed sanctions while Iran is in compliance … this would be a slippery slope towards a bad outcome, something very much not in our national security interest,” Moniz said.

Explaining the Iran nuclear deal
Explaining the Iran nuclear deal


Explaining the Iran nuclear deal


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What are Trump’s motivations?

The potentially grave consequences of Trump’s decision, and the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency, US allies and even the US government have said that Iran is in compliance with the agreement, have focused attention on Trump’s motivations.

Critics say Trump is recklessly risking the deal, and thereby endangering US national security, simply to satisfy his fierce antipathy toward the agreement and to showcase a rare political win to his supporters.

Trump has twice previously been forced certify Iran’s compliance, against his inclination and made clear he doesn’t intend to do so again, even though Tehran is still honoring the pact.

The President is not alone in opposing certification of the deal. Some Republicans in Congress, including Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, and members of the conservative foreign policy establishment believe that his move on Friday will force America’s European allies, China and Russia and eventually Iran back to the table to improve the deal.

The President has also complained that the 2015 deal does not allow UN inspectors access to military sites, an argument one foreign diplomat dismissed while wondering whether Trump understands what is in the pact.

“I’m not sure he’s privy to all the details,” the diplomat said.

Trump’s supporters however argue that the deal puts the Iranians on a North Korea-style glide path to a nuclear weapon when it expires in 2025 — a claim that proponents of the deal dispute. Those who back Obama’s approach also slam the idea that there is a “better deal” to be had, as Trump has often said, as a myth or that other partners will agree to renegotiate.

“I don’t know there is any guarantee that ever happens, there are just so many stakeholders here,” said Brian Fleming, an official in the Obama Justice Department who worked extensively on the Iran deal and is now at the Miller & Chevalier law firm.

Murphy: Renegotiating Iran deal a 'fantasy'
Murphy: Renegotiating Iran deal a 'fantasy'


Murphy: Renegotiating Iran deal a ‘fantasy’


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Punting to Congress

The decertification by the President is only one aspect of the new Iran policy he will roll out on Friday.

Trump is also expected to unveil a toughened approach to respond to Iran’s ballistic missile development, political maneuverings throughout the region and what the administration says is its support for terrorism, including for groups like Hezbollah and Houthi rebels in Yemen, officials have said.

By punting a decision on the ultimate destiny of the Iran deal to Congress, Trump can also try to personally avoid blame for the consequences that would follow if he formally killed the deal.

Once Trump has engineered the new policy direction, the deal’s fate will be in limbo. Should Congress go ahead and decide to reimpose sanctions, it is all but certain that Iran would walk away. It could then likely reinstall centrifuges disengaged under deal and could race toward development of a nuclear device, a process that experts believe could take only a year or so.

Diplomats and sources who have spoken to CNN say they don’t believe that even Republican hawks opposed to the deal want to destabilize it, and end up paying the political price for a potential march to war by the US.

Alternatively, lawmakers could decide to do nothing, effectively leaving the deal untouched.

In that case, Iran could decide that it is in its interest to remain in the agreement since it will still be reaping the economic benefits it gained via the lifting of sanctions.

Even so, it is uncertain whether this option would preserve the deal in the long term. Should European firms for instance reconsider investments in Iran under the shadow of potential future US sanctions, they could decide not to invest in Iran, and thereby lower the dividend that Tehran won by supporting the deal.

That could bolster hardline opponents of the deal inside Iran, as could the administration’s desire to sanction individuals and entities in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, which controls vast business interests in the country a state sponsor of terrorism.

“Longer term, this will be very humiliating and embarrassing for the Rouhani government,” said Trita Parsi, author of the book “Losing an Enemy,” Obama, Iran and the Triumph of Diplomacy.” “They may be committed to the deal and they may not want to start messing with us, but their political strength will weaken and lead to a scenario in which they may lose power.”

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Trump’s Iran plans driving EU toward Russia and China –

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US President Donald Trump’s expected move to “de-certify” the international nuclear deal with Iran is driving a wedge between Europe and the United States and bringing Europeans closer to Russia and China, Germany said on Thursday (12 October).

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has spoken out repeatedly against Trump’s likely step, but his latest comments aimed to spell out the impact it would have in starker terms.

“It’s imperative that Europe sticks together on this issue,” Gabriel, a Social Democrat, told the RND German newspaper group. “We also have to tell the Americans that their behaviour on the Iran issue will drive us Europeans into a common position with Russia and China against the USA.”

Trump is seen unveiling a broad strategy on confronting Iran this week, likely on Friday, including a move to de-certify Iran’s compliance with the 2015 accord, which he has called an “embarrassment” and the “worst deal ever negotiated”.

Trump expected to decertify Iran nuclear deal, official says

President Donald Trump is expected to announce soon that he will decertify the landmark international deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program, a senior administration official said yesterday (5 October), in a step that potentially could cause the 2015 accord to unravel.

Senior US officials, European allies and prominent US lawmakers have told Trump that refusing to certify the deal would leave the US isolated, concede the diplomatic high ground to Tehran, and ultimately risk the unravelling of the agreement.

Mogherini: No need to renegotiate Iran nuclear deal

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Wednesday (20 September) that there was no need to renegotiate the Iranian nuclear deal, insisting it was “delivering” despite US demands to re-open the agreement.

The UN nuclear watchdog has repeatedly certified that Iran is adhering to restrictions on its nuclear energy programme mandated by the deal to help ensure it cannot be put to developing atomic bombs.

Signed by the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, the European Union and Iran, the deal lifted sanctions on Tehran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear work.

Germany has close economic and business ties with Russia, although relations have soured since Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region. Berlin is also working to expand ties with China.

Gabriel is expected to leave his post in coming months since his Social Democrats have vowed to go into opposition after slumping badly in the 24 September election, opting not to reprise an awkward “grand coalition” with Merkel’s conservatives.

Merkel and allies reach common ground on migration, coalition talks loom

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) reached a deal on migrant policy with her conservative Bavarian allies on Sunday (8 November), removing a major obstacle to pursuing talks on a coalition with other parties.

In an apparent concession, Merkel agreed to put a number on how many people Germany would accept per year on humanitarian …

Gabriel on Monday urged the White House not to jeopardise the nuclear agreement, saying such a move would worsen instability in the Middle East and could make it more difficult to halt nuclear arms programmes in other countries.

In the interview released on Thursday, he said the nuclear agreement was being treated “like a football” in US domestic politics, but the issue could have serious consequences.

He said Russia was watching developments closely, including the divisions between Europe and the United States. “That doesn’t exactly strengthen our position in Europe.”

Ultimately, Gabriel told the newspaper group, there were only three countries – the United States, Russia and China – that could avert a new nuclear arms race.

“But those countries mistrust each other so much at the moment that they are not working together sufficiently. It must be in our interest to press for more trust.”

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Silicon Valley Is Not Your Friend

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Burmese soldiers round up Rohingya in Rakhine State. Footage acquired by The New York Times

Burmese soldiers round up Rohingya in Rakhine State. Footage acquired by The New York Times

Burmese soldiers round up Rohingya in Rakhine State. Footage acquired by The New York Times

By Noam Cohen@noamcohen is the author of “The Know-It-Alls: The Rise of Silicon Valley as a Political Powerhouse and Social Wrecking Ball,” from which this essay is adapted.

LATE last month, Mark Zuckerberg wrote a brief post on Facebook at the conclusion of Yom Kippur, asking his friends for forgiveness not just for his personal failures but also for his professional ones, especially “the ways my work was used to divide people rather than bring us together.” He was heeding the call of the Jewish Day of Atonement to take stock of the year just passed as he pledged that he would “work to do better.”

Such a somber, self-critical statement hasn’t been typical for the usually sunny Mr. Zuckerberg, who once exhorted his employees at Facebook to “move fast and break things.” In the past, why would Mr. Zuckerberg, or any of his peers, have felt the need to atone for what they did at the office? For making incredibly cool sites that seamlessly connect billions of people to their friends as well as to a global storehouse of knowledge?

Lately, however, the sins of Silicon Valley-led disruption have become impossible to ignore.

Facebook has endured a drip, drip of revelations concerning Russian operatives who used its platform to influence the 2016 presidential election by stirring up racist anger. Google had a similar role in carrying targeted, inflammatory messages during the election, and this summer, it appeared to play the heavy when an important liberal think tank, New America, cut ties with a prominent scholar who is critical of the power of digital monopolies. Some within the organization questioned whether he was dismissed to appease Google and its executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, both longstanding donors, though New America’s executive president and a Google representative denied a connection.

Meanwhile, Amazon, with its purchase of the Whole Foods supermarket chain and the construction of brick-and-mortar stores, pursues the breathtakingly lucrative strategy of parlaying a monopoly position online into an offline one, too.

Now that Google, Facebook, Amazon have become world dominators, the questions of the hour are, can the public be convinced to see Silicon Valley as the wrecking ball that it is?

These menacing turns of events have been quite bewildering to the public, running counter to everything Silicon Valley had preached about itself. Google, for example, says its purpose is “to organize the world’s information, making it universally accessible and useful,” a quest that could describe your local library as much as a Fortune 500 company. Similarly, Facebook aims to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” Even Amazon looked outside itself for fulfillment by seeking to become, in the words of its founder, Jeff Bezos, “the most customer-obsessed company to ever occupy planet Earth.”

Almost from its inception, the World Wide Web produced public anxiety — your computer was joined to a network that was beyond your ken and could send worms, viruses and trackers your way — but we nonetheless were inclined to give these earnest innovators the benefit of the doubt. They were on our side in making the web safe and useful, and thus it became easy to interpret each misstep as an unfortunate accident on the path to digital utopia rather than as subterfuge meant to ensure world domination.

Now that Google, Facebook, Amazon have become world dominators, the questions of the hour are, can the public be convinced to see Silicon Valley as the wrecking ball that it is? And do we still have the regulatory tools and social cohesion to restrain the monopolists before they smash the foundations of our society?

By all accounts, these programmers turned entrepreneurs believed their lofty words and were at first indifferent to getting rich from their ideas. A 1998 paper by Sergey Brin and Larry Page, then computer-science graduate students at Stanford, stressed the social benefits of their new search engine, Google, which would be open to the scrutiny of other researchers and wouldn’t be advertising-driven. The public needed to be assured that searches were uncorrupted, that no one had put his finger on the scale for business reasons.

To illustrate their point, Mr. Brin and Mr. Page boasted of the purity of their search engine’s results for the query “cellular phone”; near the top was a study explaining the danger of driving while on the phone. The Google prototype was still ad-free, but what about the others, which took ads? Mr. Brin and Mr. Page had their doubts: “We expect that advertising-funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of the consumers.”

There was a crucial need for “a competitive search engine that is transparent and in the academic realm,” and Google was set to be that ivory tower internet tool. Until, that is, Mr. Brin and Mr. Page were swept up by the entrepreneurism pervasive to Stanford — a meeting with a professor led to a meeting with an investor, who wrote a $100,000 check before Google was even a company. In 1999, Google announced a $25 million investment of venture capital while insisting nothing had changed. When Mr. Brin was asked by reporters how Google planned to make money, he replied, “Our goal is to maximize the search experience, not maximize the revenues from search.”

Mark Zuckerberg took a similar tack back in the early days of Facebook. A social network was too important to sully with commerce, he told The Harvard Crimson in 2004. “I mean, yeah, we can make a bunch of money — that’s not the goal,” he said of his social network, then still called <a href=”” rel=”nofollow”></a>. “Anyone from Harvard can get a job and make a bunch of money. Not everyone at Harvard can have a social network. I value that more as a resource more than, like, any money.” Mr. Zuckerberg insisted he wouldn’t give in to the profit seekers; Facebook would stay true to its mission of connecting the world.

Seven years later, Mr. Zuckerberg, too, had succumbed to Silicon Valley venture capital, but he seemed to regret it. “If I were starting now,” he told an interviewer in 2011, “I just would have stayed in Boston, I think,” before adding: “There are aspects of the culture out here where I think it still is a little bit short-term focused in a way that bothers me. You know, whether it’s like people who want to start companies to start a company, not knowing what they like, I don’t know, to, like, flip it.”

Ultimately, however, the founders of Google and Facebook faced a day of reckoning. Investors hadn’t signed on for a charity, and they demanded accountability. In the end, Mr. Brin and Mr. Page agreed under pressure to display advertising alongside search results and eventually to allow an outside chief executive, Mr. Schmidt. Mr. Zuckerberg agreed to include ads within the news feed and transferred a favorite programmer to the mobile-advertising business, telling him, “Wouldn’t it be fun to build a billion-dollar business in six months?”

Turns out that there were billion-dollar fortunes to be made by exploiting the foggy relationship between the public and tech companies. We all knew there was no such thing as a free lunch, an insight memorably encapsulated in 2010 by a commenter to the website MetaFilter, as, “If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.” But, really, how can you tell? So much of what is happening between the public and Silicon Valley is out of view — algorithms written and controlled by wizards who are able to extract value from your identity in ways you could never do for yourself.

Once Mr. Brin, Mr. Page and Mr. Zuckerberg reversed course on pursuing profits, they reported an odd thing — the public didn’t seem to care. “Do you know the most common feedback, honestly?” Mr. Brin said in 2002 when asked about the reaction to Google’s embrace of advertising. “It’s ‘What ads?’ People either haven’t done searches that bring them up or haven’t noticed them. Or the third possibility is that they brought up the ads and they did notice them and they forgot about them, which I think is the most likely scenario.”

Growth becomes the overriding motivation — something treasured for its own sake, not for anything it brings to the world.

Interactions between people and their computers were always going to be confusing, and that confusion would be easy for programmers to exploit. John McCarthy, the computer-science pioneer who nurtured the first hackers at M.I.T. and later ran Stanford’s artificial intelligence lab, worried that programmers didn’t understand their responsibilities. “Computers will end up with the psychology that is convenient to their designers (and they’ll be fascist bastards if those designers don’t think twice),” he wrote in 1983. “Program designers have a tendency to think of the users as idiots who need to be controlled. They should rather think of their program as a servant, whose master, the user, should be able to control it.”

Call it the Eliza problem. In 1966, Joseph Weizenbaum, a professor at M.I.T., unveiled a computer program, Eliza, which imitated a psychotherapist. It would, by rote, inquire about your feelings toward your parents or try to get you talking by rephrasing what you said in the form of a question. The program immediately touched a nerve, becoming a national phenomenon, to the surprise of Mr. Weizenbaum. For example, The New York Times swooned: “Computer Is Being Taught to Understand English.”

Eliza understood nothing, in truth, and could never reach any shared insight with a “patient.” Eliza mechanically responded to whatever appeared on the screen. A typical therapy session quickly devolved into a Monty Python sketch. (Patient: You are not very aggressive, but I think you don’t want me to notice that. Eliza: What makes you think I am not very aggressive? Patient: You don’t argue with me. Eliza: Why do you think I don’t argue with you? Patient: You are afraid of me. Eliza: Does it please you to believe I am afraid of you?)

Imagine Mr. Weizenbaum’s surprise when his secretary looked up from her computer and interrupted her exchanges with Eliza to say to him, “Would you mind leaving the room, please?” She wanted privacy for a conversation with a machine! Mr. Weizenbaum, appalled, suddenly saw the potential for mischief by programmers who could manipulate computers and potentially the rest of us. He soon switched gears and devoted his remaining years to protesting what he considered the amorality of his computer science peers, frequently referring to his experiences as a young refugee from Nazi Germany.

In his epic anti-A.I. work from the mid-1970s, “Computer Power and Human Reason,” Mr. Weizenbaum described the scene at computer labs. “Bright young men of disheveled appearance, often with sunken glowing eyes, can be seen sitting at computer consoles, their arms tensed and waiting to fire their fingers, already poised to strike, at the buttons and keys on which their attention seems to be as riveted as a gambler’s on the rolling dice,” he wrote. “They exist, at least when so engaged, only through and for the computers. These are computer bums, compulsive programmers.”

He was concerned about them as young students lacking perspective about life and was worried that these troubled souls could be our new leaders. Neither Mr. Weizenbaum nor Mr. McCarthy mentioned, though it was hard to miss, that this ascendant generation were nearly all white men with a strong preference for people just like themselves. In a word, they were incorrigible, accustomed to total control of what appeared on their screens. “No playwright, no stage director, no emperor, however powerful,” Mr. Weizenbaum wrote, “has ever exercised such absolute authority to arrange a stage or a field of battle and to command such unswervingly dutiful actors or troops.”

Welcome to Silicon Valley, 2017.

As Mr. Weizenbaum feared, the current tech leaders have discovered that people trust computers and have licked their lips at the possibilities. The examples of Silicon Valley manipulation are too legion to list: push notifications, surge pricing, recommended friends, suggested films, people who bought this also bought that. Early on, Facebook realized there was a hurdle to getting people to stay logged on. “We came upon this magic number that you needed to find 10 friends,” Mr. Zuckerberg recalled in 2011. “And once you had 10 friends, you had enough content in your newsfeed that there would just be stuff on a good enough interval where it would be worth coming back to the site.” Facebook would design its site for new arrivals so that it was all about finding people to “friend.”

The 10 friends rule is an example of a favored manipulation of tech companies, the network effect. People will use your service — as lame as it may be — if others use your service. This was tautological reasoning that nonetheless proved true: If everyone is on Facebook, then everyone is on Facebook. You need to do whatever it takes to keep people logging in, and if rivals emerge, they must be crushed or, if stubbornly resilient, acquired.

We need to break up these online monopolies because if a few people make the decisions about how we communicate, shop, learn the news, again, do we control our own society?

Growth becomes the overriding motivation — something treasured for its own sake, not for anything it brings to the world. Facebook and Google can point to a greater utility that comes from being the central repository of all people, all information, but such market dominance has obvious drawbacks, and not just the lack of competition. As we’ve seen, the extreme concentration of wealth and power is a threat to our democracy by making some people and companies unaccountable.

In addition to their power, tech companies have a tool that other powerful industries don’t: the generally benign feelings of the public. To oppose Silicon Valley can appear to be opposing progress, even if progress has been defined as online monopolies; propaganda that distorts elections; driverless cars and trucks that threaten to erase the jobs of millions of people; the Uberization of work life, where each of us must fend for ourselves in a pitiless market.

As is becoming obvious, these companies do not deserve the benefit of the doubt. We need greater regulation, even if it impedes the introduction of new services. If we can’t stop their proposals — if we can’t say that driverless cars may not be a worthy goal, to give just one example — then are we in control of our society? We need to break up these online monopolies because if a few people make the decisions about how we communicate, shop, learn the news, again, do we control our own society?

Out of curiosity, the other day I searched “cellphones” on Google. Before finding even a mildly questioning article about cellphones, I paged down through ads for phones and lists of phones for sale, guides to buying phones and maps with directions to stores that sell phones, some 20 results in total. Somewhere, a pair of idealistic former graduate students must be saying: “See! I told you so!”

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The return of Russian nationalism

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Wearing button-down Oxford shirts and carrying tiki torches, about 50 white supremacists led by alt-right figurehead Richard Spencer marched into Charlottesville, Virginia, again last weekend, chanting “Russia is our friend” and “You will not replace us”. It was the latest display of an unlikely kinship that has unsettled politics in many democracies over the past year, from the streets of the Old South to European capitals where neo-fascist parties have found a new friend in the Kremlin.

For most western observers, the problem posed by Russia’s relationship with the far right only became truly pressing when it showed up on their doorstep. But the Kremlin’s turn towards nationalism was nothing new for Russians: it had come storming back into political discourse in 2012, when Vladimir Putin returned to the executive branch of power for a third term.

The journalist Masha Gessen sees the rise of official nationalism as an intensely worrying sign for Russia’s future, raising the question of whether Putin’s regime now ticks the boxes of a “totalitarian” regime. Political violence? Check. Militarisation of the economy and political sphere? Check. Fusion of state and party? Check.

In The Future is History, Gessen argues that nationalism and reactionary ideology arrived through the backdoor of a Soviet system that had never really collapsed. “Maybe this was how it worked when a totalitarian society was reconstituting itself rather than being shaped by a totalitarian regime: the ideology congealed last,” she writes.

Gessen chronicles the political crackdown that began after Putin’s return for a third term as president through the lives of four people who were among the first victims, their lives drastically changed for the worse. One is the daughter of Boris Nemtsov, the liberal opposition leader assassinated just steps away from the Kremlin in 2015; another a gay academic who was forced to emigrate. Also profiled are the depression-afflicted grandson of the liberal politician Alexander Yakovlev, and an opposition activist and journalist caught in a legal vice following a protest crackdown.

All children of the 1980s, these are people who grew up not knowing the Soviet system and spent their entire adult lives with Putin as president. Gessen says choosing her subjects in this way allowed her “to tell what it was to grow up in a country that was opening up and to come of age in a society shutting down”, and the book flits vertiginously, almost manically, between their stories. This nevertheless works, the way a Russian novel weaves history through the lives of its characters.

Her cast are not an altogether representative sample of Russians, skewed towards privileged, intelligentsia backgrounds and carriers of liberal views. Even before 2012, they were either members of anti-Putin political movements or profoundly disaffected with Putin, and it is perhaps not too surprising they were the first ones to suffer the consequences of his return to the presidency. But their stories are nonetheless compelling: they are canaries in the coal mine of what Gessen presents as an inexorable march back to totalitarianism.

The use of this word in reference to Putin’s Kremlin — which is Gessen’s central argument — is bound to be controversial. As the author of many a journalistic sentence using the word “authoritarian” to describe today’s regime, I am a little resistant to the idea that Putin can be classed with Mao, Stalin and Hitler. In terms of the scale of the project and the pervasiveness of political control, not to mention the body count, the Russian president seems to belong in the milder “authoritarian” category alongside Marcos, Mubarak, Pinochet and other tin-pot dictators of the postwar world. But Gessen makes a powerful case, arguing that Putin reconstituted the political and terror apparatus of the Soviet state and that ideology was the last block to fall into place.

The new conservative climate was propagated in part by one of Gessen’s supporting actors, Alexander Dugin — a writer and activist who throughout the 1980s and 1990s had mixed conspiracy theories, postmodernism and Russian nationalism into a cocktail eagerly drunk in official circles. His views were seen as lunacy in the 1990s but invaded mainstream politics under Putin.

Given Russia’s 20th century history, it might seem odd that ultranationalism would find adherents in the country — particularly as Putin has often accused opponents of fascism, all the while draping himself in the flag and speaking in vaguely imperial terms of Russia’s destiny. But Gessen argues that the contradiction in official ideology doesn’t matter; and, indeed, that the content of the ideology is unimportant. Whether Dugin, Putin or any Russians actually believe it is secondary: “The ideology served simply as the key to unity, as the collective’s shared language . . . Soviet citizens lived inside the ideology — it was their home, and it felt ordinary.”

Facing a concerted protest movement of urban liberals in 2011 and 2012, Putin sought to paint himself as the scourge of liberal values that were sapping Russia’s native vitality. Laws against “gay propaganda” were among the first blows to land in a crackdown that eventually forced Gessen herself to leave Russia. The persecution of sexual minorities has been largely forgotten as other tragedies have unfolded in Ukraine. But it is worth remembering, and Gessen reminds us, that a witch hunt against “paedophilia”, directed against gay Russians, was part of the resurgence of virulent nationalism that accompanied Putin’s return to the Kremlin. What began as repression of LGBT activists spread and later spilled into Crimea and Donbass.

In Gessen’s view, history is the future — an oxymoron that means both that Russia is doomed to return to its Soviet past and that “history” is subject to manipulation by those in power. Much of the book focuses on the decline of social sciences and the corruption of higher learning amid political projects such as the effort to normalise Stalin or Dugin’s own writings, which see Russia as the seed of a “Eurasian” empire. History is something, in other words, that radiates out of the present.

Serhii Plokhy, a professor of Ukrainian studies at Harvard University, sees history through the more conventional end of the telescope. His latest book, Lost Kingdom, tells the story of how the history of Russia was being written when that history was being made. What emerges is a singularly fascinating account of Russian nationalism through the ages. Beginning in 1472, Plokhy’s account of “the invention of Russia” encompasses debates among 17th-century Kievan monks about the idea of a common “Slavo-Rossian” nationhood, the fraught salons of Slavophile writers in the 19th century, Soviet debates over ethnography and contemporary scholarly arguments over civic versus ethnic nationalism.

Plokhy focuses on Russia’s western frontier as both a psychological and geographical boundary that has always been a critical determinant of Russian national identity. “The question of where Russia begins and ends, and who constitutes the Russian people”, as Plokhy puts it, is the central theme of the book.

The Kremlin’s present-day covert war in Ukraine is just the latest stage in centuries of conflict along this all-important western boundary line. But Plokhy also shows that the intellectual outcomes of the way nationalism was discussed mattered as much or more than the physical events on the ground. For the Kremlin, the simple fact of Ukrainian independence represents an existential challenge that it is yet to come to terms with. “Ukraine today is at the very centre of the new ‘Russian question’,” writes Plokhy.

Currently, the Kremlin appears to be trying to resolve this vexing question of identity by shifting the physical boundaries of Russia westwards. “It remains to be seen whether the annexation of the Crimea and the war in the Donbass are the final episodes in the disintegration of the USSR or a new and terrible stage in the reshaping of European borders and populations,” he concludes.

Meanwhile, as demonstrated by Putin’s numerous photo-opportunities with the likes of France’s Marine Le Pen and Matteo Salvini of the Italian Northern League, Russia has not been content to stir up nationalism at home. Its support for the European and American far right is a very deep rabbit hole indeed.

Anton Shekhovtsov, a Ukrainian political scientist currently based at the Austrian Institute for Human Sciences, tackles this subject in his impressive Russia and the Western Far Right: Tango Noir. He argues that overtures by Russia to far-right parties, and the eagerness of the latter to be co-opted, has been driven by — of all things — a mutual search for recognition and legitimacy.

The far right in Europe, fervently anticommunist during the cold war, came to regard US domination as the greater of two evils and now seek recognition by Russia as a counterweight to political isolation. Putin’s anti-gay policies, anti-multiculturalist rhetoric and conspiracy theories endear him to continental conservatives.

Meanwhile, Shekhovtsov argues, Russia’s seeking out of support from foreign far-right groups stems not from ideological sympathy or some inherently fascistic or imperial tendencies in Moscow, but rather the desire to buttress the legitimacy of a regime that he describes as an “authoritarian kleptocracy” trapped in a downward spiral of repression and international isolation, which has forced it to cast an ever wider net in search of allies. “Since Putin’s second term, Moscow increasingly positioned itself as a power whose legitimacy derived from alternative, illiberal political ideas, some of which clearly originate from the far right,” he writes.

For Shekhovtsov, this has deep roots. Ignoring ideological contradictions, Soviet intelligence services did have contacts with European fascists before the fall of the USSR. But it was the collapse of communism that created new opportunities for the European right, which eagerly sought contacts in Russia. The opening up of the 1990s begat what the German scholar Andreas Umland playfully calls the era of “uncivil society”, in which intellectual entrepreneurs such as Dugin, Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Sergei Glazyev began to import European fascism to Russia and set about creating like-minded movements.

But it was only after the 2003-05 “colour revolutions”, and the 2008 war in Georgia, that the Russian government began to wake up to the power of anti-establishment movements in Europe. The war in Georgia “became a trigger for the launch of the first far-right pro-Russian activities in Austria and France”, Shekhovtsov argues — with several pages devoted to France’s Front National and Austria’s Freedom party.

Shekhovtsov’s command of the detail is stunning, and he paints a troubling picture of a number of political structures in each country acting as fronts and conduits for Russian influence. He cautions against the temptation to see Russia through the lens of the Soviet Union, manipulating politics via a new far-right version of the Comintern; in his telling, the Kremlin is a partner rather than a puppeteer. Nonetheless, one thing is clear: Putin’s flirtation with a new ideology is not confined to Russia any more.

The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, by Masha Gessen, Granta, RRP£20/Riverhead, RRP$28, 528 pages

Lost Kingdom: A History of Russian Nationalism from Ivan the Great to Vladimir Putin, by Serhii Plokhy, Allen Lane, RRP£20/Basic Books, RRP$32, 432 pages

Russia and the Western Far Right: Tango Noir, by Anton Shekhovtsov, Routledge, RRP£21.99/$35.99, 294 pages

Charles Clover is a former FT Moscow bureau chief, now based in China. He is author of ‘Black Wind, White Snow: The Rise of Russia’s New Nationalism’ (Yale)

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Photographs: EPA; Getty Images

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Reasons to stay calm about those Russia Facebook ads

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The latest excitement in the Trump-Russia investigation is a set of Facebook ads linked to Russia, about 3,000 in all, that some of the president’s adversaries hope will prove the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in the 2016 election.

“A number of Russian-linked Facebook ads specifically targeted Michigan and Wisconsin, two states crucial to Donald Trump’s victory last November,” CNN reported recently. Some of the ads, the network continued, appeared “highly sophisticated in their targeting of key demographic groups in areas of the states that turned out to be pivotal” to Trump’s victory.

In addition, the report noted, the ads seemed tailor-made for the Trump campaign. “The ads employed a series of divisive messages aimed at breaking through the clutter of campaign ads online, including promoting anti-Muslim messages, sources said,” CNN reported, suggesting that anti-Muslim content could have been designed to complement candidate Trump’s message.

Put aside whether Michigan and Wisconsin were in fact “crucial” to Trump’s victory. (He would still have won the presidency even if he had lost both.) The theory is that Russians could not have pulled off such “highly sophisticated” targeting by themselves and therefore may have had help from the Trump campaign or its associates.

But is that the whole story? Not according to a government official familiar with the Facebook ads, who offers a strikingly different assessment. What follows is from the official and from public statements by Facebook itself:

1) Of the group of 3,000 ads turned over to Congress by Facebook, a majority of the impressions came after the election, not before. In a news release, Facebook said 56 percent of the ads’ impressions came after the 2016 vote.

2) Twenty-five percent of the ads were never seen by anybody. (Facebook also revealed that in the news release.)

3) Most of the ads, which Facebook estimates were seen by 10 million people in the U.S., never mentioned the election or any candidate.

4) A relatively small number of the ads — again, about 25 percent — were geographically targeted. (Facebook also revealed that on Sept. 6.)

5) The ads that were geographically targeted were all over the map.

6) Very few ads specifically targeted Wisconsin or Michigan.

7) By and large, the ads targeting Michigan and Wisconsin did not run in the general election. “Nearly all of these Michigan and Wisconsin ads ran in 2015 and also ran in other states,” the official said.

8) The Michigan and Wisconsin ads were not widely seen. “The majority of these Wisconsin and Michigan ads had less than 1,000 impressions,” the official said.

9) The ads were low-budget. “The buy for the majority of these Michigan and Wisconsin ads (paid in rubles) was equivalent to approximately $10,” the official said.

10) The ads weren’t very good. The language used in some of the ads “clearly shows the ad writer was not a native English speaker,” the official said. In addition, the set of ads turned over by Facebook also contained “clickbait-type ads that had nothing to do with politics.”

None of this proves anything about the Facebook part of the Trump-Russia affair. It doesn’t prove there was no collusion, and it certainly doesn’t prove there was. But it does suggest this particular set of ads might not be a very big deal.

In an Oct. 4 news conference, the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, Republican Sen. Richard Burr, did not play up the Facebook angle. Burr said: “If we used solely the social media that we have seen, there’s no way that you can look at that and say that that was to help the right side of the ideological chart and not the left. Or vice versa. They were indiscriminate.”

Burr noted he has no objection to Facebook releasing the ads publicly. Certainly doing so would go a long way toward clearing up the public’s understanding of the issue. Like everything else in the Trump-Russia affair, people need to know what happened.

Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner. His syndicated column appears each Friday.

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Trump’s Iran plans driving EU toward Russia and China: Germany

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BERLIN (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s expected move to “de-certify” the international nuclear deal with Iran is driving a wedge between Europe and the United States and bringing Europeans closer to Russia and China, Germany said on Thursday.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has spoken out repeatedly against Trump’s likely step, but his latest comments aimed to spell out the impact it would have in starker terms.

“It’s imperative that Europe sticks together on this issue,” Gabriel, a Social Democrat, told the RND German newspaper group. “We also have to tell the Americans that their behavior on the Iran issue will drive us Europeans into a common position with Russia and China against the USA.”

Trump is seen unveiling a broad strategy on confronting Iran this week, likely on Friday, including a move to de-certify Iran’s compliance with the 2015 accord, which he has called an “embarrassment” and the “worst deal ever negotiated.”

Senior U.S. officials, European allies and prominent U.S. lawmakers have told Trump that refusing to certify the deal would leave the U.S. isolated, concede the diplomatic high ground to Tehran, and ultimately risk the unraveling of the agreement.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog has repeatedly certified that Iran is adhering to restrictions on its nuclear energy program mandated by the deal to help ensure it cannot be put to developing atomic bombs.

Signed by the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, the European Union and Iran, the deal lifted sanctions on Tehran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear work.

Germany has close economic and business ties with Russia, although relations have soured since Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region. Berlin is also working to expand ties with China.

Gabriel is expected to leave his post in coming months since his Social Democrats have vowed to go into opposition after slumping badly in the Sept. 24 election, opting not to reprise an awkward “grand coalition” with Merkel’s conservatives.

Gabriel on Monday urged the White House not to jeopardize the nuclear agreement, saying such a move would worsen instability in the Middle East and could make it more difficult to halt nuclear arms programs in other countries.

In the interview released on Thursday, he said the nuclear agreement was being treated “like a football” in U.S. domestic politics, but the issue could have serious consequences.

He said Russia was watching developments closely, including the divisions between Europe and the United States. “That doesn’t exactly strengthen our position in Europe.”

Ultimately, Gabriel told the newspaper group, there were only three countries – the United States, Russia and China – that could avert a new nuclear arms race.

“But those countries mistrust each other so much at the moment that they are not working together sufficiently. It must be in our interest to press for more trust.”

Reporting by Andrea Shalal

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Facebook scrubs Russia data from fake accounts

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Mark ZuckerbergFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Getty

  • Facebook scrubbed thousands of posts shared during the 2016 campaign by accounts linked to Russia.
  • The removals came as a Columbia University researcher was examining their reach.
  • Facebook says the posts were removed to fix a glitch.

Facebook removed thousands of posts shared during the 2016 election by accounts linked to Russia after a Columbia University social-media researcher, Jonathan Albright, used the company’s data-analytics tool to examine the reach of the Russian accounts.

Albright, who discovered the content had reached a far broader audience than Facebook had initially acknowledged, told The Washington Post on Wednesday that the data had allowed him “to at least reconstruct some of the pieces of the puzzle” of Russia’s election interference.

“Not everything, but it allowed us to make sense of some of this thing,” he said.

Facebook confirmed that the posts had been removed, but said it was because the company had fixed a glitch in the analytics tool — called CrowdTangle — that Albright had used.

“We identified and fixed a bug in CrowdTangle that allowed users to see cached information from inactive Facebook Pages,” said Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesman.

Facebook’s decision to remove the posts from public view raised questions about whether the company could be held liable for suppressing potential evidence, given its role in the wide-ranging investigation of Russia’s election interference.

Albright told Business Insider that “because this is clearly a legal and imminent justice-related matter, I can’t provide much critical insight at this stage.

“I feel like my 10 rounds with the $500 billion dollar tech juggernaut are over,” he said.

Trump computer typing laptopPresident Donald Trump. Facebook

Legal experts and scholars on the subject say scrubbing the data Albright used for his research is Facebook’s prerogative as long as it isn’t knowingly removing content sought under a court order or by government request.

“If Facebook has no reason to think that it should retain the data (subpoena, court order), then it can make choices about what appears on its platform,” said Danielle Citron, a professor of law at the University of Maryland, where she teaches and writes about information privacy.

Citron said Facebook and other private tech companies have in the past argued, successfully, that they have free-speech interests and enjoy immunity from liability for the content posted by their users — immunity that extends to their ability to remove it if it violates their terms of service.

Albert Gidari, the director of privacy at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, said it’s likely that Facebook has kept copies of “anything at issue as part of its preservation obligation” in light of special counsel Robert Mueller’s search warrant and the House and Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenas.

Gidari said that because there hasn’t been any allegation against Facebook itself, the company has no obligation, absent a court order, to maintain information “that later may be evidence.”

But the question becomes more complicated when considering the ethical obligations of a company whose tools were exploited by a foreign adversary to try to influence a US election.

Gidari, for his part, said he doesn’t think “any platform has an independent or ethical obligation to run a research playground for third-party data analysts.”

But Tom Rubin, a lecturer at Stanford Law School, said that Facebook’s “credibility as a global social platform and its responsibility as an internet giant require it to fully embrace an independent, urgent and public review of the facts.”

“Facebook’s Russia predicament is of its own doing — it controls the platform, runs the ads, and profits mightily,” said Rubin, who previously served as the assistant US Attorney in New York heading investigations and prosecutions of computer crimes.

“The investigation here is as serious as it gets: illegal and hostile foreign influence on the US presidential election,” Rubin said. “The issue confronting Facebook is the extent to which it should commit to complete transparency, and the answer to that is straightforward.”

Citron agreed.

“For transparency’s sake and for our broader interest in our democracy, people should know the extent to which they have been played by the Russians and how a hostile state actor has interfered with, manipulated, and generally hacked our political process,” she said.

That is what Albright said was his mission when he downloaded the last 500 posts shared by six accounts that Facebook has confirmed were operating out of Russia. Those accounts — Blacktivists, Being Patriotic, Secured Borders, Heart of Texas, LGBT United, and Muslims of America — were among the 470 pages Facebook shut down in September as part of its purge of “inauthentic accounts” linked to Russia’s Internet Research Agency.

The data Albright obtained using CrowdTangle showed that the Russians’ reach far exceeded the number of Facebook users they were able to access with advertisements alone — content including memes, links, and other miscellaneous postings was shared over 340 million times between the six accounts.

The other 464 accounts closed by Facebook have not yet been made public. If they are, an analysis of their combined posts would likely reveal that their content was shared an estimated billions of times during the election.

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Germany′s Sigmar Gabriel warns Donald Trump: revoking Iran deal could push EU to Russia and China | News | DW

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German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel on Thursday said that any move by US President Donald Trump’s administration to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal would drive a wedge between Europe and the US.

“It’s imperative that Europe sticks together on this issue,” Gabriel told Germany’s RND newspaper group. “We also have to tell the Americans that their behavior on the Iran issue will drive us Europeans into a common position with Russia and China against the USA.”

Read more: What is the Iran nuclear deal?

Despite countless warnings from global leaders and even from within his own administration, Trump is expected on Friday to unveil a new strategy on confronting Iran, which would include “de-certifying” Iran’s compliance to the nuclear accord.  The deal, which was reached in 2015 between Iran and international powers, saw international sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program lifted in exchange for Tehran dismantling its nuclear program.

The United Nations nuclear watchdog has repeatedly certified that Iran has been adhering to the restrictions imposed by the accord. Trump, however, has decried Iran for violating “the spirit” of the deal, first by backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and then by test firing its newly-developed non-nuclear ballistic missiles.

“The big drama is that the Iran agreement could turn out to be a pawn in American domestic politics,” Gabriel said. Washington wants the agreement to ensure that Iran ceases to fuel conflicts such as in Syria, Iraq, or Yemen. But Gabriel said this could not be a condition for Iran to remain free of nuclear weapons.

Trump has until Sunday to inform Congress whether he believes Iran is complying with the nuclear agreement. Should Trump de-certify Tehran’s compliance, Congress will have to decide within 60 days what new sanctions to impose on Iran.

A ‘hot crisis’ region

Several EU and US officials have warned that Trump’s refusal to certify the deal could leave the US diplomatically isolated. Germany has historically close economic and business ties with Russia, although those have soured in recent years following Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Berlin, and Gabriel in particular, have also been working to boost relations with China.

Read more: Berlin sees opportunity to strengthen trade ties with China

“A denunciation of the Iran agreement would turn the Middle East into a hot crisis region,” Gabriel warned, adding that if Iran were to resume developing nuclear weapons, then “the immediate danger of a new war” would return, with Israel potentially involved.

“It would be a devastating signal for nuclear disarmament,” Gabriel said. “Some states might see the failure of the Iran agreement as a signal to arm themselves with nuclear weapons as soon as possible.”

Gabriel’s potential successor weighs in

Gabriel is expected to stand down from his post in the coming months, after his Social Democratic Party (SPD) announced that it would go into opposition after finishing second behind Chancellor Angela Merkel Christian Democrats in last month’s federal election.

One of the candidates widely tipped to succeed him as top diplomat, Green party leader Cem Özdemir, also warned on Twitter against a nuclear arms race and said that Saudi Arabia could even become a new nuclear power in the region.

dm/bk (Reuters, dpa, AFP)

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Russian hackers ‘used Pokemon Go as part of attempts to meddle in US election’

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Russian cyber experts created a Pokemon Go game as part of their attempts to meddle with the US election, according to an investigation by CNN.

Under the banner of Don’t Shoot Us, a collective that seemed to share the aims of Black Lives Matter but which is now believed to be run by Russians, the game was created to inspire online participants.

Users could visit sites where police brutality had been recorded, and were encouraged to give their Pokemon characters names of real-life victims, such as Eric Garner, who died on Staten Island.

The winner of the Pokemon contest would receive an Amazon gift card, the Don’t Shoot Us site said.

CNN said it had no evidence of anyone actually claiming the prize.

“It’s clear from the images shared with us by CNN that our game assets were appropriated and misused in promotions by third parties without our permission,” Niantic, the makers of Pokémon Go, said in a statement provided to CNN.

“It is important to note that Pokémon Go, as a platform, was not and cannot be used to share information between users in the app so our platform was in no way being used. This ‘contest’ required people to take screen shots from their phone and share over other social networks, not within our game. Niantic will consider our response as we learn more.”

5:40 PM 10/12/2017 – The Brookings Institution says in a report that firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller would strengthen the evidence of improper conduct. Source: Top Washington Think Tank: Trump ‘Likely Obstructed Justice’ 

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» Top Washington Think Tank: Trump ‘Likely Obstructed Justice’ 12/10/17 16:45 from Saved Stories – None The Brookings Institution says in a report that firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller would strengthen the evidence of improper conduct. Source: Top Washington Think Tank: Trump ‘Likely Obstructed Justice’ » Who bombed USS Cole?- The New Indian Express 12/10/17 16:45 from Saved Stories … Continue reading “5:40 PM 10/12/2017 – The Brookings Institution says in a report that firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller would strengthen the evidence of improper conduct. Source: Top Washington Think Tank: Trump ‘Likely Obstructed Justice’”

Russian hackers ‘used Pokemon Go as part of attempts to meddle in US election’ –

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Russian hackers ‘used Pokemon Go as part of attempts to meddle in US election’
Russian cyber experts created a Pokemon Go game as part of their attempts to meddle with the US election, according to an investigation by CNN. Under the banner of Don’t Shoot Us, a collective that seemed to share the aims of Black Lives Matter but 

Public should be asking FBI Las Vegas Division Director Aaron Rouse WHAT HAPPENED?

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The tragic victims, families, friends and indeed the American citizenry deserve the truth rather than its apparent blockage.

Blame that nagging ‘hinky’ feeling that something’s not right about the information to date on the Las Vegas massacre that cost 58 country and western fans their lives , leaving more than 500 injured on FBI Las Vegas Division Director Aaron Rouse.

It was on Rouse’s watch that the worst mass murder in America’s history went down.  It is on Ruse’s watch that authorities have found no motive some 10 days later.

Blame Rouse , too for the shooter’s Nevada house having been left open for burglary over the weekend.  Blame Rouse because he is the highest ranking FBI agent in charge of Las Vegas.

“The Las Vegas shooter’s Reno home was broken into over the weekend, causing another round of police activity in the normally quiet Del Webb neighborhood, police confirmed Tuesday. (Reno Gazette-Journal, Oct.10, 2017)

“Reno’s Somersett neighborhood has been in the spotlight since Stephen Paddock opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay resort onto the crowd of concertgoers below, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds before killing himself. Paddock, 64, purchased the small tan and brown home on Del Webb Parkway in 2013 and lived there with his girlfriend, Marilou Danley.

“Officer Tim Broadway with the Reno Police Department said the suspect or suspects broke into the home through the front door over the weekend, noting he was not sure how exactly the suspects gained entry.”

The Del Webb Parkway home was in the spotlight, yet had no police presence against invaders?

When is the last time a house at the center of a horrific crime, now key evidence,  has been left open for intrusion?

They jimmied the lock or kicked in the door, but the prime question should be did the suspect or suspects carry anything away?

Aaron Rouse was named special agent in charge of the Las Vegas Division by FBI Director James B. Comey on July 28, 2016:

“FBI Director James B. Comey has named Aaron Rouse as the special agent in charge of the Las Vegas Division. Mr. Rouse most recently served as section chief in the Counterintelligence Division at FBI Headquarters (FBIHQ).

“Mr. Rouse entered on duty with the FBI in 1996 and was first assigned to the Washington Field Office, where he worked violent crime and was on the Joint Fugitive Task Force.

“Throughout his career, Mr. Rouse has held leadership positions in the Tampa Division, the San Antonio Division, and the Counterintelligence Division at FBIHQ.
Mr. Rouse will assume this new role in September.”

“In July 2002, Mr. Rouse was chosen to join the expanding National Security Branch at WFO and worked the asymmetric threat posed by a top tier threat country. (SALT Conference)

Continued below…

“In January 2005, Mr. Rouse became a Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) in the Counterintelligence Division at FBIHQ and worked as a Program Manager for Counterespionage matters.
“In April 2007, Mr. Rouse was selected as the senior liaison to the newly established Community HUMINT Coordination Center at CIA Headquarters. In this position he de-conflicted HUMINT enabled operations worldwide for not only the FBI, but for all federal agencies regarding Counterintelligence, Counterterrorism and Criminal matters.
“In April 2009, Mr. Rouse was promoted and served as an SSA and Program Coordinator for Counterintelligence in the Tampa Division.
“In January 2013, Mr. Rouse received a promotion and served as the National Security Branch Assistant Special Agent in Charge for the San Antonio Division.
“In October 2014, Mr. Rouse was appointed as the Section Chief for the Clandestine Operations Section in the Counterintelligence Division at FBI Headquarters.
“Prior to entering the FBI, Mr. Rouse was a state trooper in the New York State Police.”

Comey was fired by President Donald Trump on May 9, 2017.

“In firing FBI Director James B. Comey, the Trump administration cited Comey’s public statements about the FBI  investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was Secretary of State. (Los Angeles Times, May 9, 2017)

“In a letter recommending Comey’s removal, Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein focused on remarks Comey made at a July 5 news conference.

“Rosenstein wrote that the comments were inappropriate, “derogatory” and unfair to the Democratic presidential candidate—  “a textbook example of what federal prosecutors and agents are taught not to do.” He said Comey should have left it to the Justice Department to decide what to make public about the investigation.

“Here are highlights of what Comey said:

  • “Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”
  • Clinton’s emails included seven message chains with information classified as top secret.
  • “None of these emails should have been on any kind of unclassified system.”
  • “The security culture of the State Department …was generally lacking in the kind of care for classified information found elsewhere in the government.”
  • Comey acknowledged that the FBI did not normally make public its recommendations to prosecutors as to whether to bring criminal charges. He added:  “In this case, given the importance of the matter, I think unusual transparency is in order.”
  • “Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.”
  • “I know there will be intense public debate in the wake of this recommendation, as there was throughout this investigation.”
Continued below…

In fact the title of Clinton’s book, would be a better one for Las Vegas in the aftermath of the massacre: ‘WHAT HAPPENED’

Like Hillary Clinton, set free rather than being investigated by him,  Comey is said to now be devoting his time to book writing.

The fateful words Comey used when he let Clinton skate on the email scandal: “they (Clinton and colleagues)  were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information” can be reapplied to the brick wall the truth is hitting in Las Vegas where Comey’s handpicked FBI Las Vegas Division Director Aaron Rouse is in charge.

The tragic victims, families, friends and indeed the American citizenry deserve the truth rather than its apparent blockage.

In fact the title of Clinton’s book, would be a better one for Las Vegas in the aftermath of the massacre: ‘WHAT HAPPENED’.

Judi McLeod — Bio and Archives


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Judi McLeod is an award-winning journalist with 30 years’ experience in the print media. A former Toronto Sun columnist, she also worked for the Kingston Whig Standard. Her work has appeared on Rush Limbaugh, <a href=”” rel=”nofollow”></a>, Drudge Report, <a href=”” rel=”nofollow”></a>.

Older articles by Judi McLeod

Jerry Brown’s California: Devastation, Plunder, Economic Failure

I came to California in 1970, I was 23 years old, single and from red neck Seattle area. Los Angeles and Orange County was full of citrus farms and wonderful freeways, yes the 405 still was backed up in the evenings, but not anywhere like it is today. Wiltshire Blvd. off the 405 was a very beautiful street, full of high class fashion boutiques, financial institutions, just a beautiful downtown neighborhood. South was manhattan beach, the beach communities were a great place for the young and old, living on the beach in the 70s was just really a paradise. We have been run over for years by illegals, they use to hide behind telephone poles in the 70s, and 80s, nobody said anything nor have they ever done anything about this situation. So, when mob man Jerry brownbecame governor in the 70s it was flower power in ca., everybody was high and celebrating free love, it was pretty disgusting, long haired boys and young women with flower headbands. Jerry brown was dating Linda ronstad, he was one of them too, old liberal Jerry brown, then years later, about 30years later after liberal schwartniger, here came old commie Jerry brown out of the woodwork? He has completely taken this whole state over with his mob in Sacramento and San Francisco, it is just terrible and such a damn change we have to live our lives like a prisoner and watch others do nothing but spew against the hard working American slaves and suck from the government trough. I feel better now.

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Report: FBI to investigate Harvey Weinstein – WJLA

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Report: FBI to investigate Harvey Weinstein
Report: FBI to investigate Harvey Weinstein. by Sinclair Broadcast Group. &nbsp;FILE Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein is taking a leave of absence from The Weinstein Company following the publication of a New York Times article depicting the film producer …

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FBI Reviews Allegations Of Puerto Rican Officials Withholding Hurricane Relief – The Daily Caller

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FBI Reviews Allegations Of Puerto Rican Officials Withholding Hurricane Relief
The Daily Caller
“People call us and tell us some misappropriation of some goods and supplies by supposedly politicians, not necessarily mayors, but people that work for the mayors in certain towns,” FBISpecial Agent Carlos Osorio told The Daily Caller Wednesday.

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FBI in Puerto Rico investigating if corrupt local officials are ‘withholding’ or ‘mishandling’ crucial supplies – Fox News

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Fox News
FBI in Puerto Rico investigating if corrupt local officials are ‘withholding’ or ‘mishandling’ crucial supplies
Fox News
FBI agents in Puerto Rico have been receiving calls from “across the island” with residents complaining local officials are “withholding” or “mishandling” critical FEMA supplies — with one island official even accused of stuffing his own car full of 
FBI Reviews Allegations Of Puerto Rican Officials Withholding Hurricane ReliefThe Daily Caller

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Public should be asking FBI Las Vegas Division Director Aaron Rouse WHAT HAPPENED? – Canada Free Press

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Canada Free Press
Public should be asking FBI Las Vegas Division Director Aaron Rouse WHAT HAPPENED?
Canada Free Press
Aaron Rouse was named special agent in charge of the Las Vegas Division by FBI DirectorJames BComey on July 28, 2016: “FBI Director James BComey has named Aaron Rouse as the special agent in charge of the Las Vegas Division. Mr. Rouse most …

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» Facebook still won’t say whether Russia and Donald Trump were targeting the same users – Recode 12/10/17 12:59 from Saved Stories 

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» Facebook still won’t say whether Russia and Donald Trump were targeting the same users – Recode 12/10/17 12:59 from Saved Stories – None Recode Facebook still won’t say whether Russia and Donald Trump were targeting the same users Recode “As the government, the intelligence community , will find more bad actors, that communication to us is … Continue reading “» Facebook still won’t say whether Russia and Donald Trump were targeting the same users – Recode 12/10/17 12:59 from Saved Stories”

2:17 PM 10/12/2017 – FBI is the bureau of “we don’t know yet” – Google News 

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San Francisco Chronicle FBI director: Motive in Las Vegas shooting still unclear San Francisco Chronicle Wray added: “We don’t know yet what the motive is, but that’s not for lack of trying, and if you know anything about the bureau we don’t give up easy.” Authorities have said Stephen Paddock targeted the country music festival the night of Oct. … Continue reading “2:17 PM 10/12/2017 – FBI is the bureau of “we don’t know yet” – Google News”

Trump’s Iran plans driving EU toward Russia and China: Germany – Reuters

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Trump’s Iran plans driving EU toward Russia and China: Germany
Signed by the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, the European Union and Iran, the deal lifted sanctions on Tehran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear work. Germany has close economic and business ties with Russia, although 
Press review: Iran to toughen up on Trump and Russia eyes big energy deals on Arab marketsTASS
Europe battles to save commercial ties with IranFinancial Times

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Here comes the FBI raid on Donald Trump adviser Carter Page’s house 

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Here comes the FBI raid on Donald Trump adviser Carter Page’s house

Here comes the FBI raid on Donald Trump adviser Carter Page’s house

Robert Mueller is always three steps ahead of the rest of us

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Forum to plumb Trump’s stability, mental health and fitness for office | News & Observer

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UNC-Chapel Hill psychiatrist Edwin Fisher will speak at the 1 p.m. event in Chapel Hill along with two colleagues from Asheville, psychiatrist Steven Buser and psychologist Richard Smoot. All three believe President Donald Trump is dangerously unstable.

Source: Forum to plumb Trump’s stability, mental health and fitness for office | News & Observer

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