Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) is having none of President Trump’s false moral equivalence. On ABC’s This Week Sunday, Sasse expressed his distaste at the comparison of the United States and Vladimir Putin’s regime.
“Let’s be clear: Has the U.S. ever made any mistakes? Of course. Is the U.S. at all like Putin’s regime? Not at all. The U.S. affirms freedom of speech; Putin is no friend of freedom of speech. Putin is an enemy of freedom of religion, the U.S. celebrates freedom of religion. Putin is an enemy of free press; the U.S. celebrates free press. Putin is an enemy of political dissent; the U.S. celebrates political dissent and the right for people to argue free from violence about places where ideas are in conflict. There is no moral equivalency between the United States of America, the greatest freedom-loving nation in the history of the world, and the murderous thugs that are in Putin’s defense of his cronyism. There’s no moral equivalency there.”
David French writes:
…Trump said, “There are a lot of killers. We have a lot of killers. Well, you think our country is so innocent?” I’d like to focus on the follow-up, when O’Reilly gave him an opportunity to amend his statement:
O’REILLY: I don’t know of any government leaders that are killers.
TRUMP: Well — take a look at what we’ve done, too. We made a lot of mistakes. I’ve been against the war in Iraq from the beginning.
O’REILLY: Yes, mistakes are different than –
TRUMP: We made a lot of mistakes, OK, but a lot of people were killed. So, a lot of killers around, believe me.
In response, I’m reminded of a quote from our founder, William F. Buckley, Jr.:
[T]o say that the CIA and the KGB engage in similar practices is the equivalent of saying that the man who pushes an old lady into the path of a hurtling bus is not to be distinguished from the man who pushes an old lady out of the path of a hurtling bus: on the grounds that, after all, in both cases someone is pushing old ladies around. Read the rest of this entry »
“Perhaps one day the source or sources will step forward and that might be an interesting moment some people may have egg on their faces. But to exclude certain actors is to make it easier to find out who our sources are.”
Assange was speaking in a CNN interview following the release of nearly 20,000 emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee by suspected Russian hackers.
However, Assange refused to confirm or deny a Russian origin for the mass email leak, saying Wikileaks tries to create ambiguity to protect all its sources.
“It raises questions about the natural instincts of Clinton that when confronted with a serious domestic political scandal, she tries to blame the Russians, blame the Chinese, et cetera.”
“Perhaps one day the source or sources will step forward and that might be an interesting moment some people may have egg on their faces. But to exclude certain actors is to make it easier to find out who our sources are,” Assange told CNN. Read the rest of this entry »
But hopes they ‘will never need’ them
“With regard to strikes from a submarine. We certainly need to analyse everything that is happening on the battlefield, how the weapons work. Both the [Kalibr] missiles and the Kh-101 rockets are generally showing very good results. We now see that these are new, modern and highly effective high-precision weapons that can be equipped either with conventional or special nuclear warheads.”
— Vladimir Putin
During a meeting in the Kremlin, Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told the President that Kalibr cruise missiles had been fired by the submerged Rostov-on-Don submarine from the Mediterranean Sea for the first time.
He said TU-22 bombers also took part in the latest raids and that “significant damage” had been done to a munitions depot, a factory manufacturing mortar rounds and oil facilities. Two major targets in Raqqa, the defacto capital of Isis, had been hit, said Mr Shoigu.
President Putin said the new cruise missiles could also be equipped with nuclear warheads – but that he hoped they would never need them.
He said: “With regard to strikes from a submarine. We certainly need to analyse everything that is happening on the battlefield, how the weapons work. Both the [Kalibr] missiles and the Kh-101 rockets are generally showing very good results. We now see that these are new, modern and highly effective high-precision weapons that can be equipped either with conventional or special nuclear warheads.”
President Putin said the new cruise missiles could also be equipped with nuclear warheads – but that he hoped they would never need them. Read the rest of this entry »
WASHINGTON — Rosie Gray reports: A Russian media mogul who helped found the Kremlin-run news channel RT was found dead in his hotel in Washington, D.C., according to reports.
“The Embassy does not have any further comment on the demise of Mr. Lesin out of respect to his privacy. Please refer to the family members or the law enforcement officials.”
— Russian Embassy spokesperson Yury Melnik told BuzzFeed News.
“Our consular officials had an opportunity to confirm that the Russian national who passed away in DC is indeed Mikhail Lesin. Out of respect to the privacy and sensitivity of the matter we are not at liberty to disclose any other information, and would ask you to refer all further requests to his family and the law enforcement officials.”
— Russian embassy spokesperson, to Sputnik, a Russian state media outlet.
Metropolitan Police Department spokesperson Officer Sean Hickman told BuzzFeed News that there had been a death Thursday on the 1500 block of New Hampshire Avenue, where the Dupont Circle Hotel is located. An ABC News article on Lesin’s death reported that the location had been the “Hotel Dupont,” though a hotel by that exact name doesn’t exist in Washington. Read the rest of this entry »
Yet within hours of Mr Nemtsov’s death, Ms Savchuk and her colleagues were going online to pour bile on the former deputy prime minister and claim he was killed by his own friends rather than by government hitmen, as many suspect.
“I was so upset that I almost gave myself away,” she said. “But I was 007. I fulfilled my task.”
The “007” role that Ms Savchuk refers to is her own extroardinary one-woman spying mission, which appears to shed intriguing light on the propaganda machine that props up the rule of Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president.
Video by Dmitri Beliakov, edited by Juliet Turner
Ms Savchuk says that for two months, she worked as one of scores of “internet operators” in a secretive “troll factory” called Internet Research, an anonymous four-storey building on a back street in St Petersburg, Russia’s former tsarist capital and Mr Putin’s hometown.
Ms Savchuk’s job was to spend 12 hours a day praising the Kremlin and lambasting its perceived enemies on social networks, blogs and the comment sections of online media.
The trolls’ task, reminiscent of the black arts of Soviet disinformation, was to attack any opponent of the Russian authorities, be it dissenting politicians, pro-European Ukrainians or even Barack Obama – who was branded a “monkey” because of his black skin.
“We had to say Putin was a fine fellow and a great figure, that Russia’s opponents were bad and Obama was an idiot,” she recalled.
All along, however, Ms Savchuk was copying documents and making clandestine video footage about the “factory”, gathering evidence in the manner of a Cold War spy. Or, as she prefers to see it, a Victorian sleuth. “I was really inspired by detective novels and Sherlock Holmes played by Benedict Cumberbatch,” she told the Sunday Telegraph in an interview last week.
Ms Savchuk says she was sacked in March after leaking her information about Internet Research to a local newspaper. Now she is out in the open and leading a campaign against the firm, which is allegedly run by a Kremlin-connected businessman.
“I want to get it closed down,” she explained. “These people are using propaganda to destroy objectivity and make people doubt the motives of any civil protest. Worst of all, they’re doing it by pretending to be us, the citizens of Russia.
In an attempt to expose the practices of Internet Research, Ms Savchuk is suing the company for breaches of labour law because she never received a contract and was paid in cash.
The story of her time as a troll is a rare and piercing insight into Russia’s attempts to skew the truth and flood the internet with political innuendo.
She worked from January 2 to March 11 at the building of Internet Research at 55 Savushkina Street in St Petersburg, which insiders say is still operating as a “troll factory”.
Working two days-on, two-days off, its army of bloggers – who are thought to number several hundred – spew out thousands of posts a week.
At her interview, Mrs Savchuk says, she pretended to be “a housewife with no real views” when she was asked if she sympathised with Russia’s opposition. She “cleaned” her pages on Facebook and Vkontakte (a Russian equivalent) in advance – the interviewers asked to see them – and replaced posts about her campaigns as an eco-activist with recipes.
“The first thing we would do each day would be to turn on the proxy server to hide our IP addresses,” said Ms Savchuk. Then the operators would start to receive “technical assignments” – written descriptions of themes they should raise in their blogs and comments, with key words to be included.
The bloggers are kept under tight control – their email is subject to checks and their workplace monitored by CCTV. Failure to reach quotas invokes a fine, as does a poorly scripted post. Ms Savchuk said she and others were asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Read the rest of this entry »
Whispers in Moscow about a leader’s health are nothing new
Moscow (AFP) – Where is President Vladimir Putin? The Kremlin was forced Thursday to insist the Russian leader was in good health as rumours swirled online over his week-long absence from the public eye.
“There’s no need to worry, he’s absolutely healthy.”
— Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov
Putin was last seen in public on March 5 when he met with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and, ever since he postponed a trip to Kazakhstan this week, Russians have grown increasingly curious about what their usually omnipresent leader is up to.
The 62-year-old nurtures a fit, tough-guy image and rarely takes time off.
“There’s no need to worry, he’s absolutely healthy,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Echo of Moscow radio station on Thursday.
“As soon as the sun comes out… and it starts smelling of spring, people start getting delusions.”
— Dmitry Peskov, to Echo of Moscow radio station
Putin also postponed a meeting to sign an alliance agreement with the leader of the Georgian breakaway region of South Ossetia, and did not show up at a meeting of the FSB security agency.
Peskov said the agreement with the rebel region may be signed next week and that Putin’s attendance at the FSB meeting was not planned.
He said Putin was busy with Russia’s economic crisis and has “meetings constantly, but not all meetings are public.”
Asked if Putin’s handshake remains firm, Peskov laughed and said: “It breaks your hand.” However he evaded a question on when Putin would next be seen on television. Read the rest of this entry »
STICKIN’ IT TO THE MAN: ‘I refuse to comply with the requirements of my illegal detention under house arrest. The bracelet with some effort has been cut off with kitchen scissors’Posted: January 5, 2015
Putin Critic Alexei Navalny Defies House Arrest
Navalny received suspended sentence on 30 December for embezzling money but was not released from house arrest
Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said on Monday he would no longer comply with the terms of his house arrest and had cut off his monitoring tag.
Navalny, who led mass protests against Vladimir Putin three years ago, was handed a suspended sentence on 30 December after being found guilty of embezzling money in a trial that led to his brother being jailed on similar charges.
“It is stupid to brag, but I am the first person in the history of Russian courts to be sitting under house arrest after the verdict.”
He was placed under house arrest almost a year ago during the investigation but said in a blog that he was perhaps the only person in Russian legal history to be kept under house arrest after being sentenced.
He said he should have been released after sentencing in late December but instead was being held pending the publication of the verdict on 15 January – a situation that even the police did not know how to deal with. Read the rest of this entry »
The Navalny brothers were found guilty of embezzling 26.7 million rubles ($470,000) from cosmetics company Yves Rocher Vostok and stealing more than 4.4 million rubles ($80,000) from a processing company between 2008 and 2013.
Critics have called the charges politically motivated. Alexei, an anti-corruption blogger and critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has maintained his innocence.
The judge on Tuesday gave Alexei a suspended sentence of three years and six months while Oleg was sentenced to prison for the same amount of time.
Alexei yelled angrily as the sentence against his brother was read in the courtroom.
The brothers were also ordered to pay a fine of more than 4 million rubles ($70,000) to the Multi-Profile Processing Company. Read the rest of this entry »
George Dvorsky writes: As Russian troops advance into Ukraine, and as ISIS forces ravage parts of the Middle East, the world is being forced to confront an uncomfortable fact: these belligerents aren’t just winning battles on the ground, they’re also winning over minds. Here’s what propaganda looks like in the 21st century — and how the West has failed to adapt.
Propaganda may seem like an archaic concept, but it’s very much alive and well. The world has changed significantly in the past few decades, as has our means of consuming information. Many state and non-state actors have taken notice, developing new strategies to sway public opinion both at home and abroad, and as a means to further their foreign policy agendas.
The Revival Of State Controlled Media
One area in which Western leaders have most certainly lagged behind is the effective use of media to promote its perspective. Much of this has to do with the independent nature of media in democratic countries; freedom of the press is a much-vaunted institution of free thinking and critical societies who look to the media for unbiased accounts of world events and as a way to hold their governments to account.
But these values aren’t shared at the global scale, particularly in authoritarian states such as China and Russia. Inspired by the state-controlled media of the Soviet regime, President Vladimir Putin is making a concerted effort to “break the monopoly of the Anglo-Saxon mass media” and to “illuminate abroad the state policies” of the Kremlin. To that end, he’s pouring incredible amounts of money into Russian media. The country now invests around $136 million each year just to influence public opinion abroad.
Russia is currently expanding its foreign broadcaster RT (formerly known as Russia Today) and the Ruptly News Agency. Launched back in 2005, RT is currently available in English, Spanish, and Arabic, and is being positioned as an alternative to Western international media, such as CNN and the BBC. Ruptly is currently working to establish itself as an alternative to Reuters and the Associated Press in providing video coverage.
As noted by Anton Troianovski, “While viewership is relatively small, observers say that by airing increasingly shrill criticism of the West and comments from anti-American conspiracy theorists as well as far-right and far-left Western politicians, RT has sought to undermine the authority of Western media.”
According to Andrew Weiss, the Vice President of studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, “We’re in the middle of a relentless propaganda war.” He describes RT as a crucial tool used by Russia to conduct its foreign policy. By using the Internet, newspapers and television — along with the deployment of allegedly neutral journalists and pundits dispatched around the world — the Kremlin is effectively propagating its position.
Currently, RT reaches out to more than 644 million people worldwide, and as a state-influenced organization, it can slip messages about Russian policy into its programming (a good example can be found here). Looking ahead, Russia plans on expanding its Berlin office from two staff members to 30. It has also adopted a $39 million budget for expansion into French.
By using the media and other information channels, the Russian Federation has relentlessly and effectively conveyed it’s own narrative on unfolding events. Its startling ability to control information has become a critical tactic in its current efforts to annex portions of Ukraine and to influence events in the Middle East. Read the rest of this entry »
Kremlin gets DDoS’d by Anonymous Caucasus
For Ars Technica, Sean Gallagher reports: In the latest round of a wave of cyberattacks on Russian targets, the official websites of the Russian Federation’s president and central bank were taken offline this morning in what the Kremlin’s press office called a “serious DDoS attack.” The attack also targeted “a number of other Web portals,” according to the Kremlin statement. The sites are back online for most users, but the attack is still ongoing.
Geneva (AFP) – Former Russian oil tycoon and Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who spent a decade in prison in Russia, has applied to become a resident of Switzerland, his spokesman told AFP on Monday.
“His application for residency was filed a while ago,” said spokesman Boris Durande, without specifying which part of Switzerland Khodorkovsky intends to settle in.
The 50-year-old foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin has been living at a Zurich hotel since shortly after he was pardoned and released from jail on December 20.
He was once Russia’s richest man and an influential politician with presidential ambitions who openly opposed Putin when the former KGB spy first entered the Kremlin in 2000.
Khodorkovsky’s arrest in 2003 and subsequent convictions on fraud and embezzlement charges have been widely condemned by Kremlin critics as an effort by Putin to silence his most potent rival.
John O’Sullivan reports: At least nine people have been killed today in renewed clashes between the police and protesters in Kiev. That number will probably increase over the course of the night since the police are currently overturning barriers and clearing demonstrators from Kiev’s central square, the Maidan, where they have been encamped for the last three months.
The battle, broadcast live on numerous television and Internet outlets, is like a scene from the apocalypse, with fires spreading, laser beams searching the landscape, fireworks thrown, smoke from grenades, and a constant deafening sound from loudspeakers.