Solomon: Climb Down From The Summit Of Hostile Propaganda

Authored by Norman Solomon via TruthDig.com,

Throughout the day before the summit in Helsinki, the lead story on the New York Times home page stayed the same: “Just by Meeting With Trump, Putin Comes Out Ahead.” The Sunday headline was in harmony with the tone of U.S. news coverage overall. As for media commentary, the Washington Post was in the dominant groove as it editorialized that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is “an implacably hostile foreign adversary.”

Contempt for diplomacy with Russia is now extreme. Mainline U.S. journalists and top Democrats often bait President Donald Trump in zero-sum terms. No doubt Hillary Clinton thought she was sending out an applause line in her tweet Sunday night: “Question for President Trump as he meets Putin: Do you know which team you play for?”

A bellicose stance toward Russia has become so routine and widespread that we might not give it a second thought—and that makes it all the more hazardous. After President George W. Bush declared “You’re either with us or against us,” many Americans gradually realized what was wrong with a Manichean view of the world. Such an outlook is even more dangerous today.

Since early 2017, the U.S. mass media have laid it on thick with the rough political equivalent of a painting technique known as chiaroscuro—“the use of strong contrasts between light and dark, usually bold contrasts affecting a whole composition,” in the words of Wikipedia. The Russiagate frenzy is largely about punching up contrasts between the United States (angelic and victimized) and Russia (sinister and victimizer).

Countless stories with selective facts are being told that way. But other selectively fact-based stories could also be told to portray the United States as a sinister victimizer and Russia as an angelic victim. Those governments and their conformist media outlets are relentless in telling it either way. As the great journalist I.F. Stone observed long ago, “All governments lie, and nothing they say should be believed.” In other words: don’t trust, verify.

Often the biggest lies involve what remains unsaid. For instance, U.S. media rarely mention such key matters as the promise-breaking huge expansion of NATO to Russia’s borders since the fall of the Berlin Wall, or the brazen U.S. intervention in Russia’s pivotal 1996 presidential election, or the U.S. government’s 2002 withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, or the more than 800 U.S. military bases overseas—in contrast to Russia’s nine.

For human survival on this planet, an overarching truth appears in an open letter published last week by The Nation magazine:

“No political advantage, real or imagined, could possibly compensate for the consequences if even a fraction of U.S. and Russian arsenals were to be utilized in a thermonuclear exchange. The tacit pretense that the worsening of U.S.-Russian relations does not worsen the odds of survival for the next generations is profoundly false.”

The initial 26 signers of the open letter “Common Ground: For Secure Elections and True National Security” included Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, writer and feminist organizer Gloria Steinem, former UN ambassador Gov. Bill Richardson, political analyst Noam Chomsky, former covert CIA operations officer Valerie Plame, activist leader Rev. Dr. William Barber II, filmmaker Michael Moore, former Nixon White House counsel John Dean, Russia scholar Stephen F. Cohen, former U.S. ambassador to the USSR Jack F. Matlock Jr., Pulitzer Prize-winning writers Alice Walker and Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel, former senator Adlai Stevenson III, and former longtime House Armed Services Committee member Patricia Schroeder. (I was also one of the initial signers.)

Since its release five days ago, the open letter has gained support from petition already signed by 45,000 people. The petition campaign aims to amplify the call for protecting the digital infrastructure of the electoral process that is now “vulnerable to would-be hackers based anywhere”—and for taking “concrete steps… to ease tensions between the nuclear superpowers.”

We need a major shift in the U.S. approach toward Russia. Clearly the needed shift won’t be initiated by the Republican or Democratic leaders in Congress; it must come from Americans who make their voices heard. The lives—and even existence—of future generations are at stake in the relationship between Washington and Moscow.

Many of the petition’s grassroots signers have posted comments along with their names. Here are a few of my favorites:

*  From Nevada: “We all share the same planet! We better learn how to do it safely or face the consequences of blowing ourselves up!

*  From New Mexico: “The earth will not survive a nuclear war. The weapons we have today are able to cause much more destruction than those of previous eras. We must find a way to common ground.”

*  From Massachusetts: “It is imperative that we take steps to protect the sanctity of our elections and to prevent nuclear war anywhere on the earth.”

*  From Kentucky: “Secure elections are a fundamental part of a democratic system. But this could become meaningless in the event of thermonuclear war.”

*  From California: “There is only madness and hubris in talk of belligerence toward others, especially when we have such dangerous weapons and human error has almost led to our annihilation already more than once in the past half-century.”

Yet a wide array of media outlets, notably the “Russiagate”-obsessed network MSNBC, keeps egging on progressives to climb toward peaks of anti-Russian jingoism. The line of march is often in virtual lockstep with GOP hyper-hawks like Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. The incessant drumbeat is in sync with what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the madness of militarism.”

Meanwhile, as Dr. King said, “We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation.”

Michael Cohen Secretly Taped Trump Discussing Playboy Model Payoff

Update: The Wall Street Journal adds some interesting color to the story – reporting that Cohen taped the conversation in person, that they discussed acquiring the rights to McDougal’s story which was previously sold to the National Enquirer’s parent company, and that the recording, which was under two minutes long, cuts out before the conversation ended

*****

President Trump’s former longtime attorney, Michael Cohen, secretly recorded Trump two months before the 2016 US election discussing payments to a former Playboy model who said she and Trump had an affair, according to the New York Times, citing lawyers and others familiar with the recording which was seized during an FBI raid on Cohen’s office.

The F.B.I. seized the recording this year during a raid on Mr. Cohen’s office. The Justice Department is investigating Mr. Cohen’s involvement in paying women to tamp down embarrassing news stories about Mr. Trump ahead of the 2016 election. Prosecutors want to know whether that violated federal campaign finance laws, and any conversation with Mr. Trump about those payments would be of keen interest to them. –NYT

The existence of the recording will undoubtedly kick open the door to tactics Trump and his associates have used to keep aspects of his business dealings and personal life secret, posits the Times, while it also highlights the potential legal and political danger that Cohen poses to Trump. 

Cast outside of Trump’s inner circle, Cohen recently lawyered up with longtime Clinton pal Lanny Davis, who suggested two weeks ago that Cohen cooperating with prosecutors might not work out so well for Trump.

“We have nothing to say on this matter,” said Davis when asked about the tape. 

Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, told the Times that the recording existed, however the payment to McDougal was never made.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, confirmed in a telephone conversation on Friday that Mr. Trump had discussed the payments with Mr. Cohen on the tape but said the payment was ultimately never made. He said the recording was less than two minutes and demonstrated that the president had done nothing wrong. –NYT

Nothing in that conversation suggests that he had any knowledge of it in advance,” said Giuliani, adding that Trump had previously told Cohen that if he were to make a payment related to the woman, to write a check instead of sending cash so that the transaction could be properly documented. “In the big scheme of things, it’s powerful exculpatory evidence,” Giuliani added.

The former model, Karen McDougal, claims to have had a nearly yearlong affair with Trump in 2006, right before Melania Trump gave birth to their son Barron. McDougal sold her story to the National Enquirer for $150,000 as the 2016 presidential campaign was in its final months, however the tabloid sat on the story which kept it from becoming public in a practice known as “catch and kill.” 

The Enquirer’s chairman, David J. Pecker, is a personal friend of Trump’s, and McDougal has accused Cohen of taking part in the deal. 

Cohen made a similar payment of $130,000 to porn star and stripper Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. Cohen said at the time “In a private transaction in 2016, I used my own personal funds to facilitate a payment of $130,000 to Ms. Stephanie Clifford.”

Clifford is suing Trump over a nondisclosure agreement so that she can “tell her story” (in the form of a book, we imagine), while she is also suing both Trump and Cohen for libel after Trump called her statements “fraud” over Twitter, while claiming that Clifford fabricated a story that she was threatened by a man after she went to journalists with the story of her affair.

Shortly before the 2016 election, former Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks said that McDougal’s allegations were “totally untrue.”

Watch: Drone Flies Dangerously “Feet Away” From An Airbus A380

Fresh off the internet, an incredible video shows the moment an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flies into the path of the world’s largest passenger airliner.

Video of the incident was first reported by HelicoMicro, which has since circulated many drone and photography forums. The video shows just how stupid someone can be while operating a recreational drone near an airport.

According to Oliver Kmia, a photo analyst for Fstoppers, he confirms the A380 airliner belongs to the Dubai-based company Emirates, which took off from runway 14 at Plaine Magnien Airport located on the Mauritius Island in the Indian Ocean. As the jumbo jet gains altitude, “the pre-positioned drone films the plane passing dangerously close at about 200 feet from the tip of the left wing,” Kmia said.

The A380 is a double-deck, wide-body, four-engine jet airliner manufactured by Airbus. It is the world’s largest passenger airliner, and can carry more than 500 passengers in a typical three-class seat configuration and up to 850 passengers in a densified all-economy cabin version.

Kmia mentions that there is no information about the identity of the pilot. However, he did indicate the video was initially posted on Facebook by Thierry Paris who describes himself as an A380 captain for Air France.

Paris wrote in the video caption: “That’s what a little crazy guy managed to do with a drone in Mauritius. Hello flight safety!!!”

The Airbus A380 of Emirates flight EK702 gaining altitude after takeoff from runway 14 in Mauritius Island. (Source: Facebook video)

The Airbus A380 of Emirates flight EK702 comes “feet away” from the drone. (Source: Facebook video)

The Airbus A380 of Emirates flight EK702 passing the drone as it was on route to Dubai airport. (Source: Facebook video)

While the drone pilot and drone manufacture of the craft is unknown, Kmia speculates the pilot used a Parrot Anafi.

“Unlike DJI, the Parrot drones are not equipped with geofencing capabilities. However, the DJI no-fly zone in the area is very small (see the map below) and the drone was flying just outside this perimeter anyway. Finally, flight restrictions can easily be hacked on consumer drones,” he said.

Note the approximate position of the drone (X) and the trajectory of the A380 taking off from runway 14 and heading to the south-east. The red circle indicates the no-fly zone as seen on the DJI system but we don’t know what drone was used to film this video. (Source: Oliver Kmia/Fstoppers)

And, of course, law-abiding drone pilots erupted in anger over the video on social media: 

It seems like the unknown drone operator could have severely violated the Government Gazette of Mauritius’s Civil Aviation Act.

Earlier this year, we covered another drone incident, where someone dive-bombed a US passenger jet landing in Vegas.

Kmia concludes by offering an opinion on the drone industry and warns that new “regulations and restrictions won’t stop stupid people from” flying recreational drones into the flight paths of commercial airlines. So we ask the question: How long until a major incident occurs between a drone and jumbo jet?

“As usual, this type of story will surely fuel the fire of the anti-drone crowd. However, adding new regulations and restrictions won’t stop stupid people from doing this kind of things. Likes car and guns, drone are just objects that can be diverted by irresponsible people. All the homicide and DUI regulations don’t prevent certain people to commit murders and drive over the limits. Drones are here to stay and any attempt to ground them will fail. The main point is to work on the drone detection capabilities and the integration of these unmanned aircrafts in the national airspace. The business of drone detection is tricky but several companies are already offering solutions like the DJI AeroScope. Beyond that, drones will have to be properly identified and equipped with position reporting equipment such as miniature ADS-B and TCAS system (or based on GPS and cellular network). In the USA, the FAA is working on the issue but the federal government is not known for its decision speed. Hopefully, the official remote ID requirement system won’t be plagued by bureaucratic and technical non-sense otherwise, some drone pilots will continue to fly illegally. Let’s hope that the decision makers find the right balance between liberty and security.”