A visitor observes the sculpture "Kneeling Woman" by Australian artist Sam Jinks, at the Hyperrealist Sculpture 1973-2016 exhibition in the Museum of Bellas Artes in Bilbao, northern Spain:
A visitor observes the sculpture "Kneeling Woman" by Australian artist Sam Jinks, at the Hyperrealist Sculpture 1973-2016 exhibition in the Museum of Bellas Artes in Bilbao, northern Spain:
Well, this is encouraging:
Hillary Clinton will order a "full review" of the United States' strategy on Syria as a "first key task" of her presidency, resetting the policy to emphasise the "murderous" nature of the Assad regime, foreign policy adviser with her campaign has said.
Jeremy Bash, who served as chief of staff for the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency, said Mrs Clinton would both escalate the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and work to get Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, "out of there".
"A Clinton administration will not shrink from making clear to the world exactly what the Assad regime is," he said in an exclusive interview with The Telegraph. "It is a murderous regime that violates human rights; that has violated international law; used chemical weapons against his own people; has killed hundreds of thousands of people, including tens of thousands of children."
It would certainly mark a dramatic change from the Obama years of inaction. Will she also be rethinking the Iran deal? That would sort of come with the territory, you'd think, if she's serious about Assad.
It would be remiss, meanwhile, as we contemplate the glorious years ahead, not to reference Paul Berman's rather extraordinary piece in the Tablet: The Grandeur of Hillary Clinton.
It has been made known that a general escaped from North Korea and is seeking political asylum in a country other than South Korea.
A source in China, who works in collaboration with Seoul government officials, on Thursday revealed the recent defection of the general, a diplomat and two others.
The source said that the North Korean military officer was in charge of managing Kim Jong-un’s slush funds in Southeast Asia.
The general was in China on a business trip when he was joined by the three other North Koreans on July 12th.
The diplomat is known to have parted ways with the group and is seeking political asylum in a country other than South Korea, while the other three are staying in China, making their own plans to defect to another country.
The latest escape marks the first known case of a North Korean general's defection from the reclusive regime. Last year, a North Korean colonel defected to the South.
The source said the four didn't choose to defect to South Korea partly because of a petition by the Lawyers for a Democratic Society filed last month for habeas corpus relief of 12 North Korean restaurant workers in China who defected to Seoul in April.
The source said that the four North Koreans decided to leave their country due to their dissatisfaction with the Kim Jong-un regime and pessimistic views about the future of the country.
If confirmed, that's big news: not only a high-ranking official, but also someone in a great position to pass on some very useful information about Kim's slush funds, and where to find them. And someone at a top level, with inside knowledge, who has "pessimistic views about the future of the country". Excellent.
There's also the maths whiz who just defected to the South Korean consulate while taking part in an international maths contest in Hong Kong.
And the border guard who escaped across the Tumen river to China last week.
It's not going well for the Fat Controller. Not at all well.
The forgotten man of American music....Mr. Excitement....Jackie Wilson. From 1967:
An electric performer, and a key influence on both Michael Jackson and James Brown - so indisputably one of the most significant figures in the birth of soul music and the mainstreaming of black popular culture. His tragic end may have helped his sad and inexplicable eclipse: he suffered a heart attack on stage in 1975 - at the age of only 41 - and spent the next eight years in a semi-comatose state. He died, largely forgotten, in January 1984.
In contrast to a later generation of black performers who converted to Islam, Wilson was a convert to Judaism.
The photographs of Peter Mitchell:
[All photos © Peter Mitchell/RRB Publishing/Neutral Grey]
Peter Mitchell previously.
Martin Robbins, in the New Statesman,on the paranoid style of Corbyn's Labour:
Corbyn’s time as Labour leader has been marked by an extraordinary surge of paranoia and conspiracy theory on the left. The sheer intensity of it, combined with some of his supporters’ glassy-eyed denial of reality and desire to “purge” the party unfaithful, has led some to compare Corbynism to a cult or a religious movement. Unfortunately, the problem goes much deeper. Corbyn didn’t create or lead a movement; he followed one.
In the last few years, a new breed of hyperbolic pundits has emerged on left-wing social media who embody what Richard Hofstadter called “The Paranoid Style” in politics, “a sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy”.
Hofstadter’s 1964 essay was inspired by McCarthyism, but the Paranoid Style as a political and psychological phenomena has been with us for as long as modern politics. Of course conspiracies and misdeeds can happen, but the Paranoid Style builds up an apocalyptic vision of a future driven entirely by dark conspiracies. The NHS won’t just be a bit worse; it will be destroyed in 24 hours. Opponents aren’t simply wrong, but evil incarnate; near-omnipotent super-villains control the media, the banks, even history itself. Through most of history, movements like this have remained at the fringes of politics; and when they move into the mainstream bad things tend to happen....
Taken at face value, Corbyn’s summer has been appalling. It began with the poor local election results, continued with Labour’s official position being defeated in the EU Referendum, and then saw the party’s leader lose a vote of no confidence, after which he was forced to watch the resignation of most of his shadow cabinet and then face a leadership challenge. Labour are polling terribly against Theresa May (who, admittedly, is in her honeymoon period), and the press are either hostile or find Corbyn impossible to work with.
If Corbyn were a conventional Leader of the Opposition these facts would be catastrophic, but he’s not and they’re not. To understand why, let’s look at some head-scratching quotes from leading Corbynistas. Jon Lansman, Chair of Momentum, was heavily mocked on Twitter recently for saying, “Democracy gives power to people, ‘Winning’ is the small bit that matters to political elites who want to keep power themselves.” The former BBC and Channel 4 journalist Paul Mason released a video clip suggesting Labour should be transformed into a “social movement”, along the lines of Occupy....
Labour has 232 seats, considerably more than David Cameron inherited in 2005. Their opponent is an “unelected” Prime Minister commanding a majority of just twelve, who was a senior figure in the government that just caused Britain’s biggest crisis since the war, and is now forced to negotiate a deal that either cripples the economy or enrages millions of voters who were conned by her colleagues into believing they had won a referendum on immigration. Just before leaving office, George Osborne abandoned his budget surplus target – effectively conceding it was a political gambit all along.
A competent Labour leader, working with other parties and disaffected Remainian Tories, could be – should be - tearing lumps out of the government on a weekly basis. Majority government may be a distant prospect, but forcing the Tories into a coalition or removing them from government altogether by the next election is entirely achievable. Yet it’s fair to say that many Corbynistas have little interest in seeing this scenario play out.
Which makes sense, because to these people Labour – real Labour – doesn’t have 232 seats, it has about 40. The others seats are occupied by “Red Tories” or, worse, “Blairites”. Since these groups are as much the enemy as the Tories are, exchanging one for the other is meaningless. The Corbynites could start their own party of course, but why do that when they can seize control of Labour’s infrastructure, short money and institutional donors. The only long-term strategy that makes sense is to “purify” Labour, and rebuild from the foundations up. That may mean another 10 or 20 years of Tory rule, but the achingly middle-class Corbynistas won’t be the ones to suffer from that.
Not to worry. From the Times (£):
Extremist Islamist books promoting antisemitism and preaching hatred toward non-Muslims were distributed by imams in prisons for months despite jail authorities having been alerted to their discovery, The Times has learnt.
Among the prohibited titles are a tract described as the Mein Kampfof Islamist terrorism, a pamphlet extolling the virtues of violent jihad and a book urging Muslims to fight and subjugate unbelievers.
One of the books, by the jihadist ideologue Sayyid Qutb, blames Jews for “materialism, animal sexuality, the destruction of the family and the dissolution of society”.
Another focuses on “the sexual deviation known as homosexuality”. It states: “The spread of this depraved practice in a society disrupts its natural life pattern and makes those who practise it slaves to their lusts, depriving them of decent taste, decent morals and a decent manner of living.”
A third states that jihad is an obligation from Allah on every Muslim.
Copies of one or more of the publications were found in chaplaincy rooms at nine of 11 prisons that were inspected during a review of radicalisation behind bars. Among them were high-security category A establishments.
Terry Glavin is always worth a read. Here's his latest, in Canada's National Post:
If you’ve recently come to conclude that American democracy has degenerated into a hopelessly dystopian reality-TV spectacle and it seems as though we’re all teetering at the abyss of a broken America that is no longer a force for good in the world, you are wrong. It’s worse than you think.
That’s the good news. Because there is quite a bit of terrain to traverse between now and the November 8 presidential election, and the odds are at least even that by then, the penny will have dropped and American voters will have awoken to the realization that shrieking vulgarities and unceasing assaults on both reason and common decency have dragged the United States to the point of no return. If this keeps up, it’s banana republic time. That’s looking on the bright side, which at the moment is a difficult thing to do. The past few days will not have induced feelings of sunny optimism in any reasonable person.
The Republican Party is gone. Its national convention in Cleveland was a four-day carnival of shrieking vulgarity, a meticulously stage-managed incitement of the lowest and ugliest impulses in the American political character. Its climax was something almost unimaginable only a year or so ago: the Republican nominee for the office of the president of the United States of America is the loudmouth caudillo Donald Trump.
With the nomination of Hillary Clinton, this week’s Democratic Party convention in Philadelphia is concluding with the party’s least-popular Democratic presidential contender since Jimmy Carter ran in 1980. It remains to be seen whether her close rival Bernie Sanders, a genuine democratic socialist, will be capable of mustering his impressive talent for oratory with a vigour sufficient to persuade his legions of hardcore supporters to stop burning Israeli flags and parading around with giant, bus-sized spliffs long enough to actually expend some effort in the attempt to get Clinton elected....
The penny has got to drop at some point, even among the self-aggrandizing galaxy of A-list celebrities, Democracy Now pundits and Daily Show guests that constitute what is derisively known as America’s liberal elite. What we’re seeing is the fruit of all their years of cultivating contempt and mockery of the hillbillies and the hayseeds that are too stupid to be in thrall of the genius U.S. President Barack Obama. That abandoned mass of Americans is now Trump’s base, and the worst and most cunning of the racists and xenophobes among them are now exacting their revenge.
All those years of championing the vandalism of Wikileaks and Julian Assange, of dismissing the Kremlin’s aggression in Ukraine as an understandable response to NATO’s warmongering encirclement, of justifying their indifference to genocide in Syria and Iraq with plaintive claims of upstanding anti-war virtue, and it’s all come full circle. To Michael Moore, Medea Benjamin, John Pilger, Susan Sarandon, Seymour Hersh, Robert Fisk, George Galloway and all their acolytes and admirers: look at what you’ve done. I hope you’re proud of yourselves....
The Pope speaks out:
Pope Francis has warned that a recent wave of jihadist attacks in Europe is proof that "the world is at war".
Except he doesn't actually talk of "jihadist attacks", because - of course - none of this has anything to do with religion:
However, he stressed he did not mean a war of religions, but rather a conflict over "interests, money, resources"....
"The word we hear a lot is insecurity, but the real word is war," the pontiff said.
"We must not be afraid to say the truth, the world is at war because it has lost peace.
Can't argue with that.
"When I speak of war I speak of wars over interests, money, resources, not religion. All religions want peace, it's the others who want war," Pope Francis added.
We can add the Pope's helpful comments to those of the BBC's security correspondent Frank Gardner, who asks, What drives individuals to commit mass killings?
With four attacks in southern Germany coming shortly after the mass murder of 84 people in Nice, counter-terrorism officials are struggling to detect a common thread. Is there a single, defining feature to these attacks that could offer clues on how to prevent more of them from happening?
What on earth could it be? Luckily there's a psychoanalyst at hand, to help us out. And not just an ordinary psychoanalyst - this one's a forensic psychoanalyst.
Peter Aylward, who spent much of his career as a detective in the Metropolitan Police, then later as a forensic psychoanalyst at Broadmoor Psychiatric Hospital, says it is possible to find a common thread in the past history of murderers. He believes the clues are all in their dysfunctional backgrounds.
"It is a psychiatric problem," he says, "and such planning [as the Nice or Munich attacks] indicates a disordered personality. With such premeditation there is a desire to enact a form of revenge, and with such intent on causing major terror."
So why do we only see such a relatively small number of killing sprees, compared with the large number of people who suffer from psychiatric disorders and never go on to harm anyone?
"With a detailed look at the history of those perpetrators," says Mr Aylward, "what we see is a sort of combination-lock of numbers that if arranged in the right sequence then the lock snaps open and a murderous attack takes place."
He says far more work needs to be done to identify the signs leading up to such events before they happen.
All of this poses a major problem for US and European governments and intelligence agencies trying to stop the next mass killing. Mental health is not usually in their remit....
What we need, clearly, are more forensic psychoanalysts.
From the Times (£):
A Welsh schoolgirl has been kept prisoner in a cage by her father for more than four years after being accused of un-Islamic behaviour, a court was told yesterday.
Amina Al-Jeffery was born in Swansea but was taken to Saudi Arabia aged 16 because her academic father objected to her western lifestyle. She has since been held captive in her father’s home in Jeddah, the family division of the High Court was told yesterday.
The forced marriage unit of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said that the Saudi authorities refused to recognise the daughter’s British citizenship and “steps need to be taken to ensure Miss Al-Jeffery is returned to the UK where her safety can be guaranteed”....
Mr Al-Jeffery, a father of nine, moved to Wales before his daughter’s birth. The family received benefits and his children were educated at British schools and universities. Henry Setright, QC, representing Mr Al-Jeffery, said that her father had taken her to Saudi Arabia because he disapproved of her “relationships and conduct”.
Miss Al-Jeffery, now 21, is kept in a cage when her father leaves the home, is physically abused, deprived of food and water and not allowed to marry the man of her choice, the court was told....
Mr Justice Holman said that the jurisdiction of the British courts was not clear because Miss Al-Jeffery was now an adult with dual Saudi and UK citizenship. He said: “We have to be careful about asserting the supremacy of our cultural standards.”
How true. Our cultural standards include not keeping a 21-year-old woman locked up in a cage. But, if other cultures think otherwise, well, who are we to argue?
Close your eyes and imagine that a hacking group backed by Russian President Vladimir Putin broke into the email system of a major U.S. political party. The group stole thousands of sensitive messages and then published them through an obliging third party in a way that was strategically timed to influence the United States presidential election. Now open your eyes, because that’s what just happened.
On Friday, Wikileaks published 20,000 emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee. They reveal, among other things, thuggish infighting, a push by a top DNC official to use Bernie Sanders’ religious convictions against him in the South, and attempts to strong-arm media outlets. In other words, they reveal the Washington campaign monster for what it is.
But leave aside the purported content of the Wikileaks data dump (to which numerous other outlets have devoted considerable attention) and consider the source. Considerable evidence shows that the Wikileaks dump was an orchestrated act by the Russian government, working through proxies, to undermine Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign.
That's astonishing - and the evidence is growing:
The hacker who claims to have stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee and provided them to WikiLeaks is actually an agent of the Russian government and part of an orchestrated attempt to influence U.S. media coverage surrounding the presidential election, a security research group concluded on Tuesday.
Even the President has waded in:
“What we do know is that the Russians hack our systems, not just government systems but private systems,” Obama told NBC. “What the motives were in terms of the leaks, all that — I can’t say directly. What I do know is that Donald Trump has repeatedly expressed admiration for Vladimir Putin.”
A foreign government has hacked a political party’s computers—and possibly an election. It has stolen documents and timed their release to explode with maximum damage. It is a strike against our civic infrastructure. And though nobody died—and there was no economic toll exacted—the Russians were aiming for a tender spot, a central node of our democracy.
It was hard to see the perniciousness of this attack at first, especially given how news media initially covered the story. The Russians, after all, didn’t knock out a power grid. And when the stolen information arrived, it was dressed in the ideology of WikiLeaks, which presents its exploits as possessing a kind of journalistic bravery the traditional media lacks....
The DNC dump may not have revealed a conspiracy that could end a candidacy, but it succeeded in casting a pall of anxiety over this election. We know that the Russians have a further stash of documents from the DNC and another set of document purloined from the Clinton Foundation. In other words, Vladimir Putin is now treating American democracy with the same respect he accords his own.
It's no secret that Putin is backing Trump. Nor is it a secret that Trump has expressed some admiration for Putin's autocratic strong-man style of government. What's interesting, though, is that making this particular connection will get you branded a McCarthyite from those sections of the regressive left who still hold a certain unshakeable affection for mother Russia. Jonathan Chait:
The cultivation of friendly candidates in elections in other countries, and efforts to intervene on their behalf, is a staple of Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy. Putin’s Russia has been proven or credibly alleged to have boosted friendly candidates in France, Germany, Austria, and, most successfully, in the election of a pro-Russian government in Ukraine. Something like this seems to be happening in the American presidential election now. Several weeks ago, Franklin Foer wrote in Slate about the web of suspicious financial ties connecting Trump and his leading Russia adviser to the Kremlin. The story attracted little attention — maybe it was too far-fetched, or maybe the daily stream of cable-news ticker-friendly public outrages spewed out by Trump, which required no inference, blotted out a much deeper one that lay half-buried. But recent events have propelled the story into the presidential campaign.
First, in Cleveland, Trump’s campaign, which had generally steered clear of platform disputes, threw around its weight to block a plank endorsing defensive military aide to Ukraine. Next, Trump shocked the foreign-policy Establishment by telling reporters that, contrary to decades of American policy, he might renege on America’s commitment to defend NATO allies in the event of a Russian invasion. And then, last weekend, emails from the Democratic National Committee that had been hacked by Russia appeared on WikiLeaks. The emails, which showed staffers pulling for Hillary Clinton despite the organization’s professed neutrality, created a rift between bitter supporters of Bernie Sanders and the party Establishment at a time when it was trying to tamp down discord in the service of concord. Clinton’s campaign manager is now stating openly that Russia is trying to help Trump.
And oddly enough, the drama is having a second-order effect that is more profound than the direct hit from the email story. It is prying open a deep, decades-old ideological wedge between liberals and the left at just the moment when the two wings were seeking to form a united front against Trump....
But the accusation that Trump’s relationship with Russia reeks of impropriety, in the media now by Clinton, has provoked a furious counterattack on the left. Even the indisputable notion that Russia is trying to help Trump (far from the more explosive charge that Trump is trying to help Russia) has been assailed on the left as “McCarthyism” by figures like Katrina vandenHeuvel, Glenn Greenwald, and many others.
The split runs along the same lines as the fissure between liberals and leftists dating from the origins of the Cold War. The Cold War began under the presidency of Harry Truman, a figure who was regarded by progressives of his era with emotions ranging from disappointment to outright disgust. That dismay propelled the third-party candidacy of Henry Wallace, who attracted a small but wildly enthusiastic following among idealists and the far left. Wallace lambasted Truman as a warmonger, a tool of Wall Street and big business, and a traitor to the legacy of Franklin Roosevelt (which, to the frustration of liberals, had stalled). Wallace depicted the Marshall Plan, the Berlin Airlift, and other Cold War policies as a plot to instigate World War III.
The hostility between Truman and the left of his era, I argued a couple of months ago, parallels the current dynamic between Clinton and the Bernie Sanders movement today. The Trump-Russia scandal has activated that same left-wing impulse. The American far left during Truman’s era, just like today, was not pro-Russia so much as it was anti-anti-Russia, and follows identical themes: Criticism of Russia’s domestic repression or aggressive foreign policy is merely a ploy to distract from and excuse America’s own failings, and provides dangerous support for American aggression, which could lead to war. So, just as the left of the '40s and '50s saw anti-Stalinism as an excuse for Jim Crow, a Glenn Greenwald today casts Russia’s human-rights record in an implausibly favorable light, and reflexively dismisses any contrary view as simple hypocrisy. When Russia menaces Ukraine, The Nation informs its audience that this is perfectly justifiable because Ukraine is not really a country at all.
Trump’s pro-Russia tilt has reenergized these Cold War tropes....
For whatever reason, Trump is the candidate who has given the most forthright expression to anti-anti-Russian beliefs of any candidate since circa 1948 Henry Wallace (just as he has given the most open expression of racist beliefs of any candidate since circa 1968 George Wallace). As the acrimony between Clinton-supporting liberals and their foes on the left spills out on the streets of Philadelphia, this historical irony is playing a minor role. The far left’s willingness to play into the opposing party’s hands displays not only its continued disgust with the Democratic Party’s nominee and Establishment, but a certain convergence of thought with the Republican nominee.