Putin Phishing for Trump?

Someone tried to blow up the Democratic Party as it gathered in Philadelphia this week to unify around presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Prime suspect? Jacob Zuma’s best friend forever, Vladimir Putin. These are extraordinary times.

The device was an information bomb: 20 000 emails heisted from the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) servers between January 2015 and the end of May this year. CrowdStrike and other private cybersecurity experts have fingered the FSB, successor to the KGB, and the GRU, Moscow’s military intelligence directorate. US intelligence agencies are said to have “high confidence” the Russian government was involved.

Full article: LETTER FROM WASHINGTON: Was Democratic hack a Russian Trump card? | Columnists | BDlive


Dying with Mr Jimmy 

Traditionally, the acceptance speech of an American presidential nominee is followed by a cascade of balloons from the convention hall ceiling and snappy, upbeat music blasting from the speakers. For a long time the preferred tune was Happy Days Are Here Again.

The Donald Trump convention in Cleveland, Ohio, ended on a different note last week: Mick Jagger (without his permission) wailing: “You can’t always get what you want … but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need”.

It’s a macabre song, featuring a girl with blood-stained hands, a bleeding man in a glass, and someone called Mr Jimmy at a Chelsea drugstore looking “pretty ill” and muttering the word “dead”. Whoever picked the number — one of the Trump “children” perhaps — chose well.

Full article: NEWS ANALYSIS: Trump makes Clinton’s life easier by unifying Democrats | Americas | BDlive

Night of the Nut Job

Night one of the cartoonish Donald Trump convention in Cleveland, Ohio, was devoted to the proposition that under President Barack Obama America has become Gotham City and that the mayhem will only deepen if Hillary Clinton is elected in November.

Republican Batman-in-waiting Donald Trump made his first appearance — to introduce his wife Melania — as a silhouette on a dazzling white screen to the unauthorised strains of Queen’s “We are the Champions”.

It was as if the previous speaker, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, having warned that the upcoming election might be America’s last if Clinton won, had left the stage to flick on the Bat Signal.

Except that the shadow smacked less of the Caped Crusader than of the Penguin, the portly villain played by Danny De Vito in the second of the Michael Keaton Batman movies.

Full article: NEWS ANALYSIS: As the Joker once asked: enough madness? | Opinion & Analysis | BDlive

The great American demagogue filter

In 415 BCE, Alcibiades, a made-for-reality-TV Athenian with a lot of Donald Trump and Boris Johnson in him, revved up his countrymen (the women had no say) to add Sicily to their empire. There being no checks or balances to blunt the passions of the voting demos, off they sent thousands of their finest over the objections of Nicias, a seasoned general who knew better. Few came back. Athens was never great again.

The story, as narrated by the historian Thucydides, was seared into my memory at school, the same school attended by Britain’s lame duck prime minister, David Cameron, and his bloated nemesis, Johnson. Had Cameron learnt a little Greek, he might have been slower to submit a question of no less consequence to a similarly unfiltered national plebiscite.

What moved 52% of British voters to opt for Brexit would appear to be much the same disgruntlement that has led to Trump becoming the Republican party’s de facto presidential nominee.

Happily, America does not choose its CE by referendum.

Full article: LETTER FROM WASHINGTON: Electoral system makes it hard for Trump to win | Columnists | BDlive

Brave New World

Between 1999 and 2014, more than 165,000 Americans died from overdoses of OxyContin and other opioid painkillers. One in four people prescribed this class of drug on a long-term basis becomes an addict. Emergency rooms treat 1,000 opioid abuse cases a day. Se we are told by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s dangerous stuff. The opioid fentanyl killed the musician Prince.

Thanks in no small part to OxyContin, the heirs of Arthur Sackler were in 2015 named the 16th-richest family in America, ahead of the Rockefellers. Forbes put the clan’s net worth at $14bn. Its closely held company, Purdue Pharma, patented the drug — synthetic heroin in a time-release pill — and has been pushing it very aggressively since the mid-90s.

Full article: LETTER FROM WASHINGTON: How to sell drugs and hobnob with the US elite | Columnists | BDlive