Daily Archives: April 5th, 2017

Noam Chomsky: With U.S. History of Overthrowing Govts, Outrage over Russian Hacking Claims is Laughable

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speak with world-renowned linguist, author and political dissident Noam Chomsky about the outrage over Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. election. (Democracy Now!)

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Robert David English: Moscow Sees Hypocrisy in Allegations After U.S. Interfered in Russian Elections in 1990s

Amy Goodman speaks with Robert David English, professor of international relations at the University of Southern California, about allegations Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections to help Trump win. English recently wrote a piece for Foreign Affairs titled ‘Russia, Trump, and a New Détente‘, and is the author of Russia and the Idea of the West. English says: “If we want to understand Russia’s point of view, President Putin and those around him—and of course we do—whether or not we agree with it, we need to understand how our adversaries see us, how all other nations see us, through their eyes. If we do that, we realize very quickly that their frame of reference has a lot to do with the mistakes and, yes, the U.S. interference in Russian politics in the ’90s, when we directly intervened in a presidential election to boost a losing candidate into a winning position—that was Boris Yeltsin.” (Democracy Now!)

The Hottest Story About Trump and Russia You Never Heard

David Talbot, author of The Devil’s Chessboard, writes for the San Francisco Chronicle:

In this March 31, 2017, photo, President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with the National Association of Manufacturers in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. Slim majorities of Americans favor independent investigations into Trump’s relationship with the Russian government and possible attempts by Russia to influence last year’s election according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) Photo: Evan Vucci, Associated Press[…] The media has a short attention span. In November, Newsweek called for Comey to be not just fired, but run out of Washington on a rail as “unfit for public service.” But last week, the magazine ran an article praising his honesty and “transparency” and claiming that he had tried to blow the whistle on Russia’s interference in the U.S. election back in July — only to be blocked by the timid Obama administration. Comey’s PR offensive is clearly producing impressive results — from Washington scoundrel to hero in just months!

But not all the media has jumped on the Comey bandwagon. If you want to read the most fascinating new angle about the Trump-Russia-FBI drama, you should check out WhoWhatWhy.org. Last week, the spunky investigative publication broke a major story about the Russia shadow play, reporting that Comey chose not to tell all about the Trump-Moscow connection during the U.S. presidential race “because doing so would jeopardize a long-running, ultra-sensitive operation targeting mobsters tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin — and to Trump.”

But if the FBI can’t reveal the sordid details, WhoWhatWhy does, with a reporting team that included publication founder Russ Baker, a respected investigative journalist, and former Village Voice Executive Editor Jonathan Z. Larsen. The article reveals a fascinating world where mobsters and financial hustlers conducted business out of Trump Tower suites, brokering deals that often led back to Semion Mogilevich, a Russian crime kingpin closely connected to Putin whom one FBI official described as “the boss of bosses.” Some of these deals, reports the WhoWhatWhy team, clearly benefited Trump, whose shaky empire was rescued by a pipeline of Russian credit and investment in the early 2000s.

The shady activity at Trump Tower was closely monitored by the FBI’s New York office, according to Baker and Larsen. But the bureau doesn’t emerge as exactly heroic in the reporters’ article. Two of the FBI agents who investigated the corrupt business operations centered in Trump Tower later went to work as private security contractors for the Trump presidential campaign.

And then there’s the million-dollar question of why Comey chose to sit on this explosive investigation into Trump’s financial dependence on Russian mobsters and oligarchs. Once again, the FBI director — an official who is supposed to be scrupulously above partisan politics — chose to play his shadowy Washington game rather than informing the American people.

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Why More Highly Educated People Are Less Into Conspiracy Theories

Christian Jarrett writes for The BPS Digest:

Moon Landing Conspiracy Concept[…] Van Prooijen said the results suggest that “the relationship between education and belief in conspiracy theories cannot be reduced to a single psychological mechanism but is the product of the complex interplay of multiple psychological processes.”

The nature of his study means we can’t infer that education or the related factors he measured actually cause less belief in conspiracies. But it makes theoretical sense that they might be involved: for example, more education usually increases people’s sense of control over their lives (though there are exceptions, for instance among people from marginalized groups), while it is feelings of powerlessness that is one of the things that often attracts people to conspiracy theories.

Importantly, Van Prooijen said his findings help make sense of why education can contribute to “a less paranoid society” even when conspiracy theories are not explicitly challenged. “By teaching children analytic thinking skills along with the insight that societal problems often have no simple solutions, by stimulating a sense of control, and by promoting a sense that one is a valued member of society, education is likely to install the mental tools that are needed to approach far-fetched conspiracy theories with a healthy dose of skepticism.”

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James Baldwin on Freedom and How We Imprison Ourselves

Maria Popova writes for Brain Pickings:

jamesbaldwin“Everything can be taken from a man,” Viktor Frankl wrote in his timeless treatise on the human search for meaning, “but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” And yet, as Adrienne Rich observed in her sublime meditation on writing, capitalism, and freedom, “in the vocabulary kidnapped from liberatory politics, no word has been so pimped as freedom.” How, then, are we to choose our own way amid a capitalist society that continually commodifies our liberty?

The peculiar manner in which personal and political freedom magnetize each other is what James Baldwin (August 2, 1924–December 1, 1987) explores in a piece titled “Notes for a Hypothetical Novel,” originally delivered as an address at the 1960 Esquire symposium on the writer’s role in society and later included in his altogether spectacular essay collection Nobody Knows My Name.

Baldwin writes:

Freedom is not something that anybody can be given; freedom is something people take and people are as free as they want to be. One hasn’t got to have an enormous military machine in order to be un-free when it’s simpler to be asleep, when it’s simpler to be apathetic, when it’s simpler, in fact, not to want to be free, to think that something else is more important.

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Rebecca Solnit on Breaking Silence as Our Mightiest Weapon Against Oppression

Maria Popova writes for Brain Pickings:

Rebecca Solnit (Photograph: Sallie Dean Shatz)“To sin by silence, when we should protest, makes cowards out of men,” the poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox wrote in her 1914 anthem against silence — an incantation which fomented biologist and writer Rachel Carson’s courage to speak inconvenient truth to power as she catalyzed the environmental movement. “My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you,” Audre Lorde admonished on the cusp of another cultural revolution in her influential 1984 treatise on transforming silence into redemptive action. “Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented,” Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel wrote in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech shortly after Lorde’s landmark essay was published.

No silence is larger, both in age and in scope, nor more demanding of breaking, than the silencing of women’s voices — a millennia-old assault on the integrity of more than half of humankind.

Let me make one thing clear here: We — all of us, of any gender — may have different answers to the questions feminism raises. But if we refuse to engage with the questions themselves, we are culpable not only of cowardice but of complicity in humanity’s oldest cultural crime.

How to dismantle that complicity and transmute it into courage is what Rebecca Solnit explores in an extraordinary essay titled “Silence Is Broken,” found in The Mother of All Questions — a sweeping collection of essays Solnit describes as “a tour through carnage, a celebration of liberation and solidarity, insight and empathy, and an investigation of the terms and tools with which we might explore all these things.”

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