• Racist Titanic

    May 24, 2022 // 0 Comments

    Posted in: Democracy


    “People, people, the unthinkable has happened. Again. On our maiden voyage Titanic II is sinking,” said the Captain. “The navigator’s Covid mask fogged up his glasses and we hit an iceberg. But this time we have an adequate number life boats for everyone…” The Captain touched his earpiece. “Wait, wait, I’ve just been informed the super wealthy passengers have each taken a whole lifeboat for themselves, so we’re down to just half of what we need. We’ll need to make choices.”

    “No problem. Dr. Biden and I will just stay aboard rearranging the deck chairs.”

    “Thanks Mr. President, but that still leaves us as usual with the root problem unresolved by a feel-good gesture. You, in the back, with the purple hair, you have something to say?” said the Captain.

    “Yes,” said the woman, her voice rising in intonation as she tugged at her nose, nipple, and navel rings simultaneously. “We need to separate the lifeboats by race. I propose the first boat be just black people as reparations.”

    “No, Hispanics first,” yelled someone Hispanic.

    “Yeah, well any you light-colored folks got a whole movement of Caucasian millennials chanting your lives matter all freaking summer? No, I thought not. We all gonna go first.”

    “OK, OK, we’ll sort it out but everyone agrees white people should be last, right?” said the Captain.

    “Wait, I’m white but gay. I shouldn’t have to go last because I’m from a victimized minority community, too,” said a victimized white gay man. The harsh rain had plastered his ironic/not ironic Free Britany shirt to his chest.

    “Oh yeah? You been gay for what, twenty years? We’ve been people of color since Wakanda was founded. Back of the line!”

    “OK, we’re gonna need a ruling from the Bernie people smoking dope outside. Guys, hey guys, does gay trump white?”

    “You can’t say trump here, it’s offensive. Not my verb.”

    “I should go first because I’m here to honor my mother, a 17th generation immigrant who was never allowed to attend college after she failed all her classes. I think we need to represent for her before it all happens never again. I mean, also my cousin knew someone who knew a guy who like literally died near the Reichstag fire. Also, what’s the WiFi password I gotta Insta this.”

    “Excuse me, sorry to interrupt. I am from Spain. May I join the Europeans arguing over additional lifeboat taxes in the galley?”

    “You speak Spanish?” said the Captain.

    Si, por supuesto. Of course.”

    “Then no, over with everyone else on the planet who speaks Spanish, just like the name says, Hispanic,” said the Captain.

    “Um, we Japanese get the ‘Asian’ idea as Americans see us lumped together for the purpose of bringing more victims into the crowd, like your class action suits. Joke! Anyway, we do not agree of this thing you call Asian. We have nothing in common with Chinese or… the Koreans. May we join the white people please?” said the man from Tokyo.

    “You enslaved us during World War II, and Korea culture is older than Japanese, you racist loser –” said the woman from Seoul.

    “Hey, both of you stole the good stuff from us Chinese. We don’t want to ride with either of you. And unlike the Hispanics we ‘Asians’ don’t even speak the same language, so why do we have to be a group? That is racist, pretending we’ve all the same. And we’re certainly not ‘People of Color.’ We’re the normal shade, billions of us, it’s you whites who are really pink and browns that are ‘of color’ anyway. We want our own boat,” cried the person from Beijing.

    “So while we’re on the subject, for the people of India I object to throwing us in as ‘South Asia.’ Your American vice woman leader Kamala Harris claimed she was ‘Asian’ after the Atlanta shooting and had the same lived experiences as some of the victims, all because her mother was from India and lived in Canada. We in India had a highly developed culture with fine art and literature even before anyone had noticed people scratching pictures on the cave walls of southern Spain.”

    “See senor, I was right, as a Spaniard I belong with the Europeans. Por favor!” said the Spanish speaker.

    “I’m sorry to interrupt, excuse me, but I’m a white ally, social media influencer, with an invisible gluten disability who uses the pronoun ‘they’?” They pointed out their Hillary T-shirt under their BLM T-shirt with their rainbow flag Covid mask. “Just yesterday they became bi during lunch. Their hobby is dismantling the patriarchy. The are are so ashamed of their whiteness they refuse to tan in the sun.  I, damn, they mean they, would like to ask to be in a boat with only non-whites. They would use the time at sea to begin a serious conversation about race, and apologize for racism using only Facebook slogans. If we run out of food they’ll volunteer to be eaten first as a way of giving back. They’re vegan and only eat things which don’t cast a shadow so it’s cool.”

    “People, people, I need everyone’s attention,” said the exasperated Captain. “While we’ve been arguing the super wealthy have departed Titanic II in the majority of the lifeboats. With the weight of their Apple devices off the ship, her center of balance shifted and we will all soon violently sink. By refusing to see the real problems, including the immediate one of not having enough lifeboats on a sinking ship, we’ve accomplished nothing.”

    “I disagree. We have totally raised awareness of this issue,” said the purple haired woman. “I’ve picked up 50 new followers just while we’ve been dialoging.”

    “And we canceled that cisgender male First Mate. Bye bye,” said the they in their Hillary T-shirt.

    “Alas, he was the only one who knew how to operate the radio,” said the Captain. “We’ve wasted our last chance creating ever-more antagonistic ways to divide ourselves, and are doomed. It has been an honor to oppress you and sail with you. May God have mercy on your souls.”

    “Umm, excuse me, but by ‘God’ do you mean a Christian or Muslim god?”

    (Sound of colorless water flooding in.)

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • Answering Gov. Hochul on Buffalo: Free Speech Does Not Contribute to Mass Shootings

    May 22, 2022 // 0 Comments

    Tags: , , , , , ,
    Posted in: Democracy

    If classic horror resides in the banality of evil, modern horror resides in the banality of predictability: a deranged man, driven by hate, kills and the Left seizes the opportunity to try and restrict speech, claiming not metal music, not Alex Jones, but social media, spurred the shooter from basement to killing ground. This risks the loss of speech rights out of fear.

    Almost literally as the bodies cooled on the ground in Buffalo, New York’s Governor Kathy Hochul blamed social media and called for speech restrictions as the means of preventing another tragedy. Hochul, citing some of the shooter’s online postings, specifically claimed free speech had gone too far when it allowed someone to shout fire in a crowded theatre for the shooter to hear. The governor pledged to “silence the voices of hatred and racism and white supremacy all over the internet.” She went on to call for “national laws” against speech in the long run, and wants to hide behind the corporate veil in the meantime, demanding tech CEOs remove radicalizing content like the Buffalo shooter suspect’s “bone-chilling” manifesto.

    The answer to gun violence in Hochul’s mind is to censor to eliminate hate speech. The answer for a democracy clinging to its free speech rights in the face of such challenges lies in critical Supreme Court decisions.

    A democracy can’t lock up everyone who stirs up a crowd, even if they use the N-word or other hateful speech to do so. Speech which inspires or motivates cannot be illegal as it is the very stuff of democracy. While in no way supporting the racial thoughts of the Buffalo shooter, it is important to remember that at various times in our nation’s history people sought to silence those who wanted to stir a crowd to rise against slavery, oppose war, or demand voting rights for women. At the same time the 1A protects the words of a speaker, it also protects him from the actions of whatever people who heard him talk did later.
    The first try at restricting “dangerous speech” was Schenck v. United Stateswhich produced Hochul’s misunderstood line about not shouting fire in a crowded theatre. It would be for the later case of Brandenburg v. Ohio (Clarence Brandenburg was an KKK leader who used the N-word with malice) which Hochul does not appear to have read, to refine the modern standard for restricting speech. It tightened the criteria to 1) the speech explicitly or implicitly encouraged the use of violence or lawless action; 2) the speaker intends their speech will result in the use of violence or lawless action, and 3) the imminent use of violence or lawless action is the likely result of the speech. Brandenburg is the Supreme Court’s final statement to date on what government may do about speech that seeks to incite others to lawless action.

    The key to Brandenburg is intent. You have to prove, not just speculate, the speaker wanted to cause violence. A hostile reaction of a crowd does not automatically transform protected speech into incitement. Listeners’ reaction to speech is thus not alone a basis for regulation, or for taking action against a speaker. The speaker had to clearly want to cause some specific illegal act and set out to find the words to make that happen. Now whatever the Buffalo shooter wrote or read online may have indeed fit such standards, but you can be damn sure Governor Hochul had no idea of the details as she stood demanding censorship.

    What Hochul was instead selling was fear, herself seeking to encourage people to support censorship out of fear. Just guessing what the Buffalo shooter might have written (his “manifesto” was quickly pulled off line) would make it hard to disagree on the surface with Hochul. But we all know where censorship immediately leads Democrats — no free speech around vaccine questions, or Covid origins, or Hunter Biden’s laptop. Hypocrisy is the name of the game, and so protests at Supreme Court judges’ homes and Antifa violence against cops seems justified whereas people opposing abortion are silenced. It was Donald Trump and Alex Jones and the NY Post censored off Twitter after all, not Kathy Hochul and Chuck Todd and WaPo.

    Hochul fails to grasp there are no laws against “hate speech.” A speaker can insult by race, sexual orientation or religious beliefs. What many people think and say is carefully thought out to promote hate, to appeal to crude and base instincts. Indeed, that is their point. Even restrictions on “hate speech” meant to prevent violence (above) often cited as the justification to restrict such speech, are by design extremely narrow. The 1A is content-neutral, protecting the right to speech itself independent of the content or value of that speech.

    Sometime an example removed from the fire in the belly Hochul seeks to exploit better proves the case. Matal v. Tam focused on an all-Asian band called The Slants, who wanted to trademark their name. “Slant” of course is one of a dictionary full of racist terms used to offend Asians, and the group wanted to push the word into the world’s face to disarm it, as gay men have done with the slur queer. The Patent and Trademark Office said no, the group could not trademark the name because of the disparagement clause, which denies federal trademark protection to messages that may offend people, living or dead, along with “institutions, beliefs or national symbols.”

    The First Amendment protects offensive speech, such as the band’s racist name, Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the decision. “The proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express ‘the thought that we hate,’” he said, quoting Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. “The danger of viewpoint discrimination,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in The Slants’ case, “is that the government is attempting to remove certain ideas or perspectives from a broader debate. That danger is all the greater if the ideas or perspectives are ones a particular audience might think offensive, at least at first hearing. To permit viewpoint discrimination in this context is to permit government censorship.”

    The Buffalo massacre remains a horrific stain on America, and the shooter a mentally ill killer now awaiting punishment. What it does not represent is an excuse to promote censorship, or a chance to revisit “hate speech” as some sort of new category of bannable speech. The idea a killer sat content enough in his basement until absently running across some social media post and then being driven to travel hundreds of miles to take innocent lives is absurd. A terrible act should never double down on its inherent horror by serving as an excuse to reduce speech rights in America.

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • What Went Wrong During the Pandemic

    May 20, 2022 // 0 Comments

    Tags: , , , , , , , ,
    Posted in: Other Ideas

    We were swindled, fooled, bamboozled, and lied to during the pandemic about the value of masking, closures, and things like social distancing. It hurt us. Understanding how badly we failed ourselves is not only an inevitable part of the “told you so” process, but more importantly, a lesson for next time. Ask the Swedes.

    Sweden had zero excess deaths. The U.S. had the most excess deaths of all nations. New York had more than Florida. That’s the whole story right there in a handful of words if you understand it.

    The key element of misdirection in the American swindle was case counts, those running numbers on all the screens telling how many Americans had tested positive. If you really still wonder, it looks like some 60 percent of us had some flavor of Covid during the pandemic period, most of us with mild (i.e., like a head cold) or no symptoms. How high the numbers went in your neck of the woods depended a lot on how much testing was going on, as obviously more testing equaled more “cases.” For me, with a very mild set of symptoms all clearly in line with Covid, I never even bothered to test. My spouse, with no symptoms, never tested. Both of us fell outside the statistical scary race to ever larger numbers.

    Not that it mattered because case count told us nothing but to be scared. Very similar for hospitalizations; useful for work load management, but often just as indicative of changing medical protocols. The initial thoughts were Covid-positive people needed to be hospitalized and put on respirators, until soon enough it was realized the infections associated with long-term respirator use were killing more people than the virus. Protocols changed, hospitalization numbers went down. That stat, too, did not really matter. Since Covid proved fatal primarily to the elderly (below) many hospitalizations began with something else to end with Covid. My own father suffered a blinding, massive stroke, went into hospital, and caught Covid there, to officially die of respiratory failure. I’m not sure if he counted as a statistic or not.

    Now the bad news. Modern medicine cannot cure death. Everybody dies. Most in America who don’t die earlier in accidents typically die once past the age of 77. In 2019 and 2020, heart disease and cancer each killed about double what Covid did. Each year about three million Americans die of one thing or another. So the only statistic that really matters then when talking about the roughly two years of the pandemic is “excess deaths,” deaths beyond the usual couple of million. Given the broad spread of Covid and its potential to be fatal, it becomes a valid assumption the excess deaths will be Covid deaths. Death is the only real measure of Covid’s impact because it is the only thing we can’t fix.

    Sweden had zero excess deaths. The U.S. had the most excess deaths of all nations. New York had more than Florida. That’s the whole story right there in a handful of words if you understand it.

    Sweden did very little in terms of halting work and school, or forcing masking and social distancing. The U.S., quite a bit more. Within the U.S. states known for their Covid “efforts,” particularly New York, had excess deaths worse than or similar to do-little Florida. An awful lot of effort and angst and secondary and tertiary and other collateral damage (addiction, suicide, unemployment, social unrest, failing grades) did very little to change very little. The U.S. had the highest excess death rate among all 11 countries in a Kaiser-run study.

    And we were lied to. Writing in July 2020, the New York Times stated Sweden’s “decision to carry on in the face of the pandemic has yielded a surge of deaths without sparing its economy from damage. Sweden’s grim result — more death, and nearly equal economic damage — suggests that the supposed choice between lives and paychecks is a false one: failure to impose social distancing can cost lives and jobs at the same time.” Tsk, tsk, said the media. They’re still saying it. Despite Florida having only 148 excess deaths (per 100k) and New York showing 248, Politico’s May 1, 2022 headline read “Florida lost 70,000 people to Covid. It’s still not prepared for the next wave.”

    Much as in Florida, Sweden allowed restaurants, gyms, shops, and most schools to stay open. People went to work, some masked, some not. That stood in contrast to the U.S., where by April 2020 the CDC recommended draconian lockdowns, throwing millions out of work and school. There’s plenty apples and oranges arguments. But they do not explain the disparity inside a particular U.S. state. Nor do they account for how excess deaths compares a country to itself and ignores national differences. If all you want is a locale with statistically low Covid deaths, look to the developing world where numbers are low because most people die of something else well before they reach the Covid danger zone of age 77 and older.

    The U.S. is the only major western nation that still demands a negative Covid test for entry, including for its own citizens. The U.S. is the only nation where every Covid palliative, such as new anti-viral drugs to lessen the impact of a positive case, must be run through the gauntlet of Red-Blue politics via a social media-Late-Night-MSM feedback loop that for two years tried desperately to link anything remotely questionable to Candidate Trump, down to repeated death charms raised in the MSM against “Red” events like motorcycle gatherings and Repub rallies. Despite never delivering on the promised viral load, they retain the moniker super spreader event. You’d expect most everyone in Florida to be dead by now if all you listened to was CNN.

    Besides blowing the response broadly and leaving our economy in shambles, America’s Covid strategy steadfastly refused to acknowledge the age disparity in excess deaths. Globally the vast masses of deaths were in persons age 77 and older. Among Covid-exposed individuals, people in their 70s have twice the mortality of those in their 60s, and 3,000 times higher than for children (a study found no increased mortality in Sweden in those under 70. The U.S. actually had fewer than normal excess deaths in kids ages 0-5 then in non-Covid years.) But everyone was made to wear a mask, school kids in Hawaii still must, and in New York elderly Covid patients were returned to their nursing homes by a governor who once had a shot at being America’s next president.

    The data was known from early days of the pandemic, assembled out of pre-social distancing China. Death rates for Chinese elderly (not social distancing) and American elderly (social distancing) were very similar. Swedish intensive care admission rates showed sharp declines after early pandemic peaks despite a lack of shutdowns. Age-specific solutions were needed for a virus that was age-specific in taking lives, but we instead went for the broadest shut downs across the United States with no regard to collateral affect. We ignored or over-looked the data. We are paying for that mistake now. Savings lives or saving the economy? Both, please. Ask the Swedes.

    The what — America’s pandemic response was just wrong across the board — is clear by the numbers. The why, attributable to “politics,” it is an international shame. But the other reasons for failure are equally shameful. American’s underlying health is worse than most developed countries where some form of socialized medicine exists. This is all exacerbated by income inequality, high rates of poverty, and the maddening levels of obesity, diabetes, and “deaths of despair” which plague our underclass. Blacks were hit harder by Covid than whites. The poor were hit harder than the well-to-do. It is more evil Malthusian than Darwinian that the Haves had not Covid and the Have Nots had it. Whatever we did, masking or not, lockdowns or not, would have suffered because of this fundamental deficiency in our system.

    For next time, there are two elephants in the room. One would be to avoid politicizing the public healthcare response and truly rely on science to dictate societal actions. The joke that if Trump had recommended oxygen to breath MSNBC would have empaneled experts to demand carbon dioxide is so close to true I had to check for it on Wikipedia. The other elephant is to come to grips with the sad reality the pandemic impacted harder here than anywhere else in the developed world because we as a nation steadfastly refuse to chose from the menu of ways to provide broad-based healthcare, especially preventive care. Fixing the next pandemic means fixing America.

     

     

     

     

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • What I Missed on Twitter

    May 17, 2022 // 0 Comments

    Tags: , , ,
    Posted in: Democracy, Post-Constitution America, Trump

    After almost a four-year lifetime suspension, Elon Musk let me back on Twitter, with a new account @PeterMVanBuren, and the promise of once again being privy to the world’s opinion. I could again read the “takes” of people smart enough to have a Blue Check (I do not) including those whose points of view I usually don’t share. Here is what I learned.

    Progressives are insane. They have lost their minds. They are certain every event which they do not personally support is the End of Times.

    I started back on Twitter the week after Justice Alito’s draft opinion overthrowing Roe was leaked, and right away was blasted by Blue Anon stuff like “The Supreme Court is a Tool of Tyrants” or “Time for Canada to Offer Gender Asylum to American Women.” But at least those tweets started life in the actual media, where editors wiped some of the spittle away. Tip to Elon: never mind banning people on Twitter, shut down MSDNC, et al. We’ll be fine without their hemophilia of journalism.

    But when I write the collective “we” I must exclude the once-sentient Lawrence Tribe (@tribelaw) who could not be more sure of himself if he saw the code behind the Matrix. He tweeted: “Three-fifths of the Supreme Court justices who joined that Alito abomination were nominated by a serial abuser of women, Donald Trump, who lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by 2.9 million votes and were confirmed by Senators representing a minority of the U.S. population.” The Founders must have been drunk when they wrote Article I!

    Tribe speaks for his generation, which at least on Twitter has a longing for Hillary that would border further on the creepy only if they started posting Photoshopped images of her in a Princess Leia bikini. Many Twitter celebrities re-cycle memes along the lines of “What if she’d won?” with some clever image of Mrs. Clinton smirking that “I told you so” look that so endeared her to non-deplorable people. She is the behind-the-scenes smiter of Trump in one wrinkled body.

    There was no actual Tweet saying President Hillary would have raised Ruth Bader Ginsberg from the dead and reappointed her to the court, but it was implied. David Weissman (@davidmweissman) felt the need to write “Since the Clintons are trending, I will say that after learning the truth about Hillary Clinton and seeing how right she was about everything, I stood with her. Even a few years later, I continue standing with the Clinton family.” Mollie Katzen (@MollieKatzen) “Imagine where we’d be now had more people listened to Anita Hill, Hillary Clinton, and Christine Blasey Ford.”

    To be honest, I had to look up that last name. Ford was the woman who testified a clothed Brett Kavanaugh laid on top of her in 1982 and would then go all Handmaiden’s Tale on the Supreme Court because she could just tell. As you read these Tweets, patterns like that emerge. If a handy glossary existed for conservatives, it would include sketch bios of Ford, RGB, and that one woman artist with the unibrow, and entries for popular vote, electoral college (why sucks) and fan fiction about a 45 member Supreme Court to help understand what all the Tweets are about. some topics, like Michael Cohen, need their own glossary for terms like fixer, Fredo, and consigliere.

    But things only got worse, much worse, when I got deeper into the personal Twitter accounts of the Blue Checks (the term sounds like a Dr. Who villainous force,) the places where they usually slither about without an editor and say what they really think. What they really think is that America is almost cooked and done. They imagine we just barely survived the Trump years without putting Beelzebub on our coins, and face the likely prospect of Candidate Trump returning to the White House with the anticipation of a colonoscopy done by a doctor nicknamed “knuckles.” Look:

    Heidi Przybyla (@HeidiNBC) “Are we up to democracy? …I worry we are entering the darkest period.”

    Malcolm Nance (@MalcolmNance) “WARNING: 62 days before 1/6 I warned that Trump would start a political/paramilitary insurgency to seize American democracy. It has begun.”

    Rob Reiner (@robreiner) “The reason Republican lawmakers are refusing to cooperate with the Jan. 6 Committee couldn’t be more obvious. They were part of the Seditious Conspiracy to violently overthrow the Government. Period.”

    Progressives seem to have their own vocabulary, things like ending an emphatic Tweet with Period.  End of Matter. Full stop. They like to say they are standing with someone or something a lot. The only historical events they know are Munich, the Reichstag fire, and Weimer.

    Tweetmaster Reiner later managed to get three issues into one Tweet (economy of prose is prized on Twitter and when shouting on a street corner wearing only a shower curtain) saying “There is only one way to save a woman’s right to choose, our Democracy, and our Planet. Vote for Democrats.” He also wrote “You cannot reason with a Trump supporter. They believe a Lying Criminal who doesn’t give a flying f*** about them was sent to them by God. Don’t try to reason. Just Vote. Vote like our Democracy depends on it. Because it does. It couldn’t be more simple. A vote for Republicans is a vote to destroy Democracy.”

    But how will Trump pull this off? His last coup resulted in exactly nothing happening except him breaking up with Mike Pence right before prom. Twitter knows:

    Ruth Ben-Ghiat (@ruthbenghiat) “I’ve been warning Americans for months that the GOP is replenishing its political ranks with criminals who have the skill set and character to support autocratic rule. Fascists in Italy and Germany brought thugs and murderers into party and state bureaucracy.” Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) has the nuts and bolts figured out “Republicans in Michigan have replaced election officials who certified Joe Biden’s win.” Anyway, you heard it here first, says Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) “If (when?) Trump steals or tries to steal the 2024 election, don’t say we weren’t given plenty of advance warning that it was coming.”

    Spending time on Twitter convinces you journalism today is basically cramped somewhere between bad opinion making and simple propaganda. It mostly fails the most basic test of being interesting. That should finish it off as a profession in a couple of years, and we can all watch it slide into the sea on Twitter.

    And then out of nowhere came a moment of clarity from none other than CNN’s master journo Jim Acosta (@Acosta) who for no reason whatsoever felt the need to write “Ran into an Afghan refugee in the elevator today. He was delivering groceries. Didn’t know which buttons to push so I helped. Must have been new. As he got off the elevator, he thanked me and said ‘I am Afghan.’ I said good luck and welcome to America. He smiled. He’s on his way.” So there’s that. Bill Kristol tweeting for blood in what he hopes is the Google dialect of Ukrainian was a close second.

    Four years for me without Twitter was a long time. I am glad I am back, and feel smarter already because all of the Tweets above came in only one afternoon. Twitter is once again my guide, and I look forward to sniffing some old airplane glue and joining in.

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • Trump (and Georgia) On My Mind

    May 14, 2022 // 0 Comments

    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
    Posted in: Democracy, Trump

    One of my kids is studying law, and I’ve read a bit over her shoulder as she prepped for exams. Two critical things stand out: unlike in literature, words in the law have very specific meanings (lie, fraud, possess, assault), and intent matters quite a bit. The latter is very important, because people say things all the time they do not mean, such as “If Joe in Sales misses that deadline I’m gonna kill someone.” No one’s life is actually in danger, we all understand. Same for all those neighbors who were going to but never did move to Costa Rica if Trump was elected.

    Misunderstanding words as moving from the general to the very specific when you pull them out of a conversation and try to bring them to court, and determining intent based on what you “believe,” are really at the root of the ever-growing string of failed legal actions against Trump (there are some 19 still pending.) We have, and this is just hitting the highlights, all of Russiagate, the Mueller Report, Impeachment I, Impeachment II, Stormy Daniels, failed accusations of real estate valuation fraud in New York and most recently, a grand jury seated to look into election fraud in Georgia.

    For example, in Impeachment I, the Ukraine caper, the entire brouhaha hinged on Donald Trump’s own words in the transcript of his call with the Ukrainian president. But did they mean Trump was demanding foreign interference in the 2020 election? Or was he asking an ally to run down unethical actions by Joe Biden as a public service before he might become president? What was Trump’s intention when he said “A lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great.” Later in the call Trump suggested some aid to Ukraine might be withheld, though not in specific reference to any investigation into Biden.

    The people who brought the impeachment proceedings decided all that constituted an illegal solicitation of a foreign in-kind contribution to Trump’s re-election campaign, maybe even extortion. The allegation was referred to the Justice Department, which declined charges. Many Democrats though that unfair, failing to see the lack of anything coming of it (i.e., no investigation by Ukraine), the lack of anything withheld (the aid was eventually delivered) and overall the lack of intent to commit a crime by Trump. The legal definition tests for words like solicit and extort were not met and Justice correctly dumped the case and there was no conviction in the Senate.

    Same story in New York, where the facts seemed to support Trump valued real estate at a lower price for tax purposes and a higher price when used as loan collateral. It’s called valuation and is legally done all the time. But some decided saying one thing to one person and another to another person to gain something was “fraud,” and everyone pursuing the case forgot that they also had to prove intent, that Trump lied with the intention to commit a crime and gain by ill begotten methods. The case rightfully collapsed.

    Yep, same with the Stormy Daniels saga, where the facts seemed to be Trump, via Michael Cohen, paid money to Stormy to keep quiet about their affair. Sleazy enough, but paying someone as part of a non-disclosure agreement is not illegal. It would be a crime if the money was paid by Trump with the intent of influencing an election, which he suggested was not true, the cash-for-silence was maybe to protect his marriage. Campaign finance laws require proof a person was willfully violating the law. Prosecutors would have to demonstrate that willingness by Trump alongside showing his principal goal was to influence the election. If this kind of case would have ever reached court, Trump would have simply denied intent.

    Another example can be found in the incitement allegations surrounding the speech Trump made just before his supporters entered the Capitol building January 6. A democracy can’t lock up everyone who stirs up a crowd. Speech which inspires, motivates, or warms the blood cannot be illegal as it is the very stuff of democracy. Trump thought the election was unfair and had a right to say so. Brandenburg v. Ohio refined the modern standard to 1) the speech explicitly or implicitly encourages the use of violence or lawless action; 2) the speaker intends their speech will result in the use of violence or lawless action, and 3) imminent violence or lawless action is the likely result of the speech. Brandenburg is the Supreme Court’s gold standard on what government may do about speech that seeks to incite others to lawlessness.

    The key is always intent. You have to prove, not just speculate, the speaker wanted to cause violence. Listeners’ reaction to speech is not alone a basis for taking action against a speaker. You’d need to prove Trump wanted the crowd to attack the Capitol and set out to find the words to make that happen. It ain’t gonna fly for the January 6 Committee.

    Which brings us to Georgia, where the NYT asks “Will Trump Face a Legal Reckoning in Georgia?”  On January 2, 2020, facing an election loss, Trump called Georgia’s Secretary of State to demand he “find 11,780 votes,”  one more than Joe Biden’s tally. Did Trump encourage the secretary to commit election fraud? That prosecution will fail, as did all of the ones above, for the same two reasons: words are not solely what they seem, and intent is hard to prove.

    For example, to the Democratic lay person “find” means commit election fraud to come up with votes. But well before anything goes to court, it will be made clear that “find” in this context can also mean, in just one example, recount all legal ballots to see if a mistake can be found which legitimately sends more votes to Trump. The other issue is again intent; to prove solicitation of election fraud, Georgia law requires a person intentionally “solicits, requests, commands, importunes or otherwise attempts to cause” another person to engage in election fraud. Trump and his associates need only to maintain they meant “find” as in recount, not as in cheat. Case closed.

    In seeing the same mistakes made over and over, you’d start to think maybe the Democrats need some better lawyers. But don’t worry. Democratic lawyers know just as well as Republican lawyers none of these cases ever had a chance in a real court. Their purpose was purely political, to manufacture some headlines, to influence voters, to create the impression Trump has to be guilty of something if only he could be stopped from wriggling away. The goal is to convince voters to ignore the rule of law and take matters into their own hands in 2024 to stop Trump.

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • Who is to Blame if Roe is Overturned?

    May 13, 2022 // 0 Comments

    Tags: , , , , ,
    Posted in: Democracy, Trump

    With bad things accumulating like Ukrainian mud around Democrat midterm chances, nobody seems to be talking about the elephant in the room. Its name is Roe, and if national abortion rights are overturned, it could help destroy the Democratic party. A Supreme Court decision is expected soon.
    The signs of significant change are clear. Texas is already effectively restricting abortions after six weeks (Idaho passed similar legislation.) Florida restricts most abortions after 15 weeks. If Roe is gone, 26 states are expected to ban or limit abortion. Four states support the Mississippi law the Supreme Court is now reviewing in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The Mississippi law is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Court decision which made abortion a woman’s right through the second trimester. The Court will likely announce this spring a decision to overturn or significantly weaken Roe, clearing the way for each state to create its own restrictions. It will also signal the end of an era dominated by Democratic party social policy.
    Politically the loss could be part of a death spiral for Dems. “Protecting Roe” has been a central Democratic talking point for decades and if that protection fails, especially under a Democratic president and with Democratic House, it will not go down easy. The decision may have as much effect on the midterm elections, and possibly 2024, as any other factor. A lot of Democratic support from educated women is tied to abortion rights, as well as many progressive votes in general. With the party already losing/lost working class voters and many Hispanics, they cannot afford to jettison too many more blocs. And somebody is going to be blamed.
    The most likely gambit by the Dems will be self-destructive, to scold voters, saying if the dumb rednecks hadn’t elected Trump we would not have three new conservative judges on the Court. Scolding and mocking voters was a signature of Hillary’s campaign and look where it got her; “deplorables” is forever an American election meme now. And even if the Democrats were to 3-D print a viable candidate for 2024 out of soy-based beef substitute, it is unlikely he could bring enough new blood to the Court (only Justice Breyer was the obvious candidate to retire) to change the balance quick enough to rally Roe. So the most obvious Dem slogan, elect us and we’ll repack the Court with liberals, is at best a solution decades away even if everything goes well. There is no will to expand the Court outside of the NYT Op-Ed pages.
    Dems will not mention it, but the real blame lies in 50 years of Congress refusing to codify Roe’s judicial creative writing into actual law that could withstand a conservative court. Over the decades the Democrats when in the majority treated abortion, as they did same-sex marriage for many years, as a third rail. They supported it but would never risk the votes by actually touching it. It will beg the question in many Blue voters’ minds of why bother to elect Democrats at all. The Democrats of course don’t see it that way; “I think the country hasn’t seen the rage of women speaking out,” said Representative Jackie Speier. Representative Pramila Jayapal said “I think it’s going to mobilize people to go to the polls. You will see an outcry like you’ve never seen before.” Righteous anger? Maybe. But Democrats will have quite a battle convincing these angry voters that yes for sure this time promise they’ll actually do something to protect abortion rights other than talk about losing them and holding Handmaidens Tale watch parties.
    The other question Democrats will need to confront is what do Americans really want? In a nationwide survey, 56 percent said they would support restricting abortions after 15 weeks, what the Mississippi law at the center of Dobbs aims to do. Hispanic voters, who Democrats are already losing, are divided on the issue of abortion and vote Red in notable numbers. Same sex marriage finally became so widely supported that even Democratic candidates in purple areas could safely jump on the bandwagon. Not so with abortion.
    There are other players the Democrats might want to spread a little blame on as well. In the case of Dobbs now at the Court, their champion Justice Sotomayor failed to lay a legal glove on her opponents. While the conservative and swing justices walked their colleagues through case after important case where precedent was overturned, she whined like a 1L that precedents she supported were untouchable. She chided her colleagues if they overturned Roe the whole Court would lose credibility and take on a “stench.” She spoke like someone running for election in San Francisco, not a sober justice building a case her colleagues would sign on to. She seemed to forget at oral arguments the justices aren’t really talking to the attorneys before them; rather, they’re talking to each other through the lawyer at the lectern. But at least her no doubt snarky dissent will earn her comparisons to the Notorious RBG.
    Speaking of RBG, perhaps she deserves a dainty teaspoon of blame. Her hubris in a) thinking she would live forever and b) assuming Hillary would be anointed and choose her successor lead directly to Donald Trump’s signature political triumph, turning the Court right. The blood of the martyr Breyer waters RBG’s grave site.
    Which also suggests Barack Obama, who failed to fight for his Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, shares some blame. Claiming Obama could not effectively fight for his nominee because of Republican opposition again begs the question of why bother to elect a Democrat at all if they’re just going to fail and blame the other party for their failure. You’re just not a very good politician if you can only get things done with a super-majority.
    More broadly, blame should Roe fall lies in part with the feminist movement and the far-left of the Democratic party. They long ago insisted on including the contentious issue of abortion in with the basket of more broadly supported women’s issues, such as equal pay. They then turned away many middle-of-the-road voters and “purple” women by tying abortion rights into all sorts of issues which do not enjoy consensus dealing with LGB and incessantly, trans people. “America’s anti-abortion agenda is also anti-trans” announced one queer media outlet matter-of-factly. “Banning trans people from public life and banning abortion are all about installing a regime of gender roles.” For those whose idea of “a regime of gender roles” means basic biology not same-sex toilets the argument is as non-inclusionary as an NFL locker room.
    As if to double-down on the idea, many Democrats are ginning up scare tactic ploys, saying if Roe falls same sex marriage is next along with a slate of basic civil rights. This strategy, which insists on pairing the broad political spectrum among gay and lesbian voters with a radical feminist perspective, fails to account for the fact the Roe was a cobbled together compromise using the 14th Amendment to create a “right” to abortion, which really made no one feel things were settled. Cases like Obergefell v. Hodges, which made same-sex marriage legal, and Lawrence v. Texas, which overturned laws criminalizing same-sex relationships, rest on much different and sounder precedent.
    Any politician seeking to build support instead of acquire virtue points tries to make the tent bigger. Instead, Representative Ayanna Pressley, basically saying hold my beer to Hillary “Deplorable” Clinton, stated “Pro-life laws hurt our lowest income sisters, our queer, trans and nonbinary siblings, black, Latinx, AAPI, immigrants, disabled and indigenous folks. And none of this is happenstance… These bans are rooted in a patriarchy and white supremacy.” And no progressive commentary is complete without the now-obligatory Nazi reference. It was feminister has-been Gloria Steinem who added ahistorically “You know, Hitler’s first official act was banning abortion.” The basic line “all men are pigs and rapists” did not build support for feminist issues in the 1960s, it did not build support for the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s, and it is not helping today.
    In one article of so many on such themes, the writer begins by asking why more men don’t overtly support women in the abortion fight. She then calls any opposing views from hers “Taliban-adjacent,” claims the government is over-represented by men, and cites the need to destroy the patriarchy. She goes on to mock men who claim they understand women’s issues because they have daughters. Hmm, sister, if you don’t see why you’re not building up support among us dudes after that, I can’t mansplain it.
    The real problem for the Democrats is if the Republicans can claim victory in overturning Roe, they will empower their base in new degrees; a signature victory for many social conservative and evangelical voters was delivered. Those evangelicals who held their noses and supported Donald Trump will have new found reason to look past his gross person; he came through for them on an important issue. In response, “Vote for us, we lost Roe on our watch” is not a very inspiring Democratic campaign slogan.

     

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • Trump is Just Not Going to Jail

    May 9, 2022 // 0 Comments

    Tags: , , , , , ,
    Posted in: Biden, Trump

    If you had “Trump goes to jail” in the office pool, better double-down on “Trump Gets a Minor Civil Fine.”

    The end of any possible criminal prosecution out of New York over Trump’s finances has come as the grand jury seated to find them has sunseted. The possibility of a civil penalty, likely a fine, looks poor but anything is possible. This is all a long way from predictions when these cases were initiated through the Southern District of New York (SDNY) that the walls were supposedly closing in. Dems, dragging all their Biden baggage along, are going to have to beat Trump at the ballot box, assuming anyone can afford the gas to drive out to vote.

    We need not spend too much time on all the failures preceding those of the SDNY, though a list is educational: DNC server, Putin’s agent, all of Russiagate, Mueller Report, Impeachment I, Impeachment II, and Stormy Daniels. The January 6 campaign is floundering. The IRS has had Trump’s taxes in hands for decades without any criminal prosecutions, and the New Jersey Gaming Commission held Trump’s casino financials without incident. It is possible to conclude however much one might hate Trump, he just is not guilty of any crimes.

    Each prosecutorial dream began with the certainty Trump did something wrong, that the evidence was growing, that some stooge would flip (and the mindless Godfather references), followed by… nothing much. The true believers will always believe, but for most Americans the over-stimulus followed by the let down followed by mumblings it all wasn’t fair again have grown tiresome. Yet there are always teachable moments, even in such farce, and the most recent failure in Manhattan to bring down Trump is one of those.

    Like all of the capers, it begins with the premise Trump is sleazy and any success he enjoyed must be due to cheating. In the instant case, the DA claimed The Trump Organization had over-valued some properties to obtain loans from Deutsche Bank, and then under-valued those same properties to pay lower taxes to the city of New York. This is all that’s left in the civil action in New York against Trump. The investigation along these lines has been running since 2019, so far with no actionable results. The most recent legal move was a contempt citation against Trump over not turning over a couple of cell phones, that after Trump already complied with millions of pages of documents and 13 employees of the Trump Organization sent up for interview. The belief seems to be there must be something in there somewhere.

    For anyone who has owned property in New York, either directly like Trump or via the co-op system like millions of middle class New Yorkers, none of this is a headline. It literally happens all the time. For example, Building A sits on land the City has taxed for hundreds of years. The value of that land in that context is hardly in contention. But if someone wanted to use that land as collateral for a loan, they might instead explain how the ground floor of the building is now ready for flush post-Covid clients to return. They might cite a new luxury building across the street, which will raise local real estate prices. They might show how the average tenant stays longer in their building then elsewhere, assuring stability. What something is worth — a building, a Pokeman card, a drink of water in the desert — is very much a negotiation between two sides. This is known as valuation.” There are numerous methods of assessing the value of a property. In New York you have your assessed value, your transitional value (Tax Class 2, 3, and 4 only) and other variables such that there are lawyers who specialize in nothing else.

    Banks, which look to the future to make sure their loan will be profitable, understand well what the DA is trying to avoid, that property valuation is inherently subjective. It is important to note Trump loan seller Deutsche Bank has raised no objections, made no claims of fraud, and has not asked the DA to look into all this. Nope, the Manhattan DA’s office itself scanned the skies over Gotham and decided they saw a crime. Some say it was a political action, because in almost every other value dispute case in New York history the issue was sorted out by negotiation, and at last resort, by a special civil court that does nothing else. No one can say Trump is the only instance where the City has jumped from valuation to a criminal case with a grand jury, but it is damn hard to find another modern example.

    For the New York DA to “win” a political case like this, some written decision by a no-name magistrate judge’s tax court saying Trump should pay some more property tax is far from enough. So, they had to imagine the case as a criminal one, and that’s where everything falls apart (as with obstruction, as with incitement.) Though the law differs with obstruction and incitement to some extent, basically to win these as a criminal cases the DA has to prove criminal intent. So prosecutors would have had to prove not just that Trump inflated the value of his assets, but that he intended to break the law doing so. Even harder is to show the valuation was Trump’s personal decision, near impossible to do with massive, complex corporations where the actual decision maker is traditionally obscured exactly to avoid such liability.

    Prosecutors fell victim to their own prejudices. They had hoped to “flip” Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s longtime finance chief by drumming up equally weak criminal tax charges against him. Those charges have to do with Weisselberg accepting car service and apartment payments from Trump and allegedly not declaring them properly as income on his taxes. These cases are again typically settled with a fine (though Weisselberg maintains innocence) not jail. The infamous Al Capone tax case is infamous because it was so unique. Weisselberg, with his years of financial experience, has a pretty good idea he is not going to jail and thus has little incentive to rat out Trump if indeed he had anything to rat about.

    That pretty much left prosecutors with Michael Cohen, the guy who pleaded guilty to nine criminal offenses, including lying to Congress, tax fraud, and campaign finance violations. Cohen would have faced questions of personal bias, given his own multiple lawsuits against Trump. He would have faced questions about whether he received a benefit from prosecutors, early release from prison, for cooperating. If a liar like Cohen is your only witness on Trump’s intent, you really have no witnesses.

    There are still 19 cases pending against Trump, including a number of civil suits. Maybe one of them will land a blow. But none have the potential to be the knock-out punch Dems thought was an easy route to winning 2024.

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • Diplomatic Diversity Fails (Again and Again) at State Department

    May 8, 2022 // 0 Comments

    Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
    Posted in: Democracy, Embassy/State

    America’s diplomat corps is the latest victim of diversity uber alles. Choosing diplomats for the 21st century is now about the same process as choosing which gummy bear to eat next. But fear not, because the State Department assures us America will have “an inclusive workforce that… represents America’s rich diversity.” At issue is the rigorous entrance exam, which once established a color-blind base line of knowledge among all applicants and was originally instituted to create a merit-based entrance system.

    Until now, becoming an American diplomat started with passing a written test of geography, history, basic economics, and political science, the idea being it was probably good our diplomats knew something of all that. The problem was that racially things never quite added up; no matter what changes were made to the test or even if it was administered after an applicant had served two internships with State (below), blacks and other colors of persons could not pass in the right magic numbers. The answer? State has now simply done away with passing the test in favor of a “whole person” evaluation, similar to how many universities and the dead SAT gateway currently work.

    The irony is the test was instituted to avoid backroom decisions on color (and religion, education, and peerage.) When America first found itself in need of a real diplomatic corps in the 19th century, there were three qualifications: male, pale, and Yale. The Rogers Act of 1924 was the first attempt to even out the playing field, instituting a difficult written examination everyone had to pass. The Rogers Act also created the Board of the Foreign Service and the Board of Examiners to choose candidates in lieu of smoky back room conferences.

    But since the 1924 system never quite broke the hold of the Ivy League, a new law in 1946 Act closed down the Board of the Foreign Service Personnel and created the position of Director General to oversee a more fair system for recruitment and personnel. Yeah, you guessed it, that did not broaden diversity much either, so the present system of testing was rolled into place to fix everything via the Foreign Service Act of 1980. A tough written exam was to be followed by a tougher oral exam, all done blind — no one would know the background of the candidates or their race until the final steps. It did not work, at least in the sense people of color still seemed to lag statistically behind. So more interim steps were added, to include a series of personal essays (the “QEP”) to allow candidates to gain “life points” in addition to their performance on the tests. The written test was still retained as a threshold step. One had to pass it to move on to compete further for a coveted foreign service job.

    More help was on the way. Study guides were created, and flash cards sold online. Test prep courses were started. Outside psychologists were brought in, and test administration was turned over to a private company, all in the name of eliminating biases. None of it worked. Blacks sued the State Department. Women sued the State Department. Hispanics argued they were not treated fairly.  State created a Chief Diversity and Inclusion position. But still in 2013 the Senior Foreign Service, the top jobs at State, was 85 percent white. In 2021 it was 86 percent white. The broader diplomatic corps remained 80 percent white.  State stayed stubbornly undiverse.

    Where nothing else succeeded, State created two fellowships that have been used as vehicles to recruit people of “diverse backgrounds,” who worked out to be overwhelming black. In place are the Thomas Pickering Fellowship (run by HBCU Howard University) and the Charles B. Rangel Fellowship. Both claim entrants take the same entrance exams as anyone else, but omit that they do so after two summer internships with the State Department, plus assigned mentors. Fellows are also identified as such to those administering the oral exam required of all prospective diplomats. Having administered the oral exam myself, I knew I would have to justify to my boss’ boss any move to fail a Fellow before being overruled by her anyway. The programs increased the number of unwhite diplomats, as they were intended to do as a separate but equal pathway.

    The problems came down the road, when black diplomats encountered the same promotion and evaluation system their white, green, and blue colleagues did. Diversity in the senior ranks of the State Department actually regressed over time. In 2008, black diplomats made up about 8.6 percent of the top ranks of the diplomatic corps. By 2020 only 2.8 percent of the same top ranks are black. The answer? It must be more racism (characterized diplomatically as “institutional barriers.”) Suggestions focused on offering blacks more fellowships to create a bigger pool, and creating special opportunities for blacks to snag better assignments (described as “promote diverse officers’ career development.”) That of course simply repeats the original sin of pushing less-prepared people upward to their point of failure. FYI: the State Department classifies most of its gender and race promotion results and does not generally release them to the public. However, data leaked to the NYT shows that only 80 black diplomats and specialists were promoted in the 2019 fiscal year, about one percent.

    So under Joe Biden, the next step seemed obvious: do away with the threshold examination. Under new rules, everyone who takes the test goes on to the next stage, no matter if they do well, or poorly (formerly known as “failing.”) State has taken its hiring process full-circle, when again behind closed doors someone decides who moves forward based on race. State will thus absolutely ensure the right blend of flavors get through. So not the best of the best, but the best in each racial bucket, will pass. While a university has four years to try and educate or drop an unqualified candidate wrongly admitted, State will live with the mistakes these unqualified applicants make globally. As will America. Good luck everybody!

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  • Dear Elon Musk:

    May 7, 2022 // 0 Comments

    Tags: , , , , ,
    Posted in: Democracy, Other Ideas, Post-Constitution America

    Dear Elon:

    Big fan. I cheered to finally see an African-American like yourself rising to the top, owning one of America’s largest media companies, Twitter. I’m also a big fan of free speech, which is why I am writing to you to ask that my lifetime ban on Twitter be rescinded.

    See in August 2018, Twitter banned me for life for a tweet which “harasses, intimidates, or uses fear to silence someone else’s voice.” I was on Twitter telling some journalists they had allowed the government to lie to them about the Iraq war. I said I once worked for the U.S. State Department, and I was one of the ones who lied to them. It was actually part of my job to lie to them, to give them the false impression our reconstruction programs in Iraq were coming along just nicely. I could name several journalists I lied to directly but what’s the point in that? They all still have jobs and Twitter accounts and it’s not exactly a secret what they wrote about the reconstruction programs was false and wrong. I told the truth on Twitter and lost my account.

    The truth is one night on Twitter I was explaining about my lies, a kind of atonement, and several journalists ganged up on me to begin criticizing my writing and the work that I have done as a journalist since leaving the government. It was all kind of rude (one said I was a “garbage human being” and another claimed I was a Russian stooge) but within the schoolyard boundaries of the scrappier side of Twitter.

    It never occurred to me to report them for harassment or bullying. I happened to have the television on with the Walking Dead playing in the background and I cranked off a tweet, as many of us do, that I’m not particularly proud of. I said to one of the pack “I hope a MAGA zombie eats your face.” You can read all my offending tweets hereWithin about five minutes of posting I was given a lifetime ban on Twitter. It says on my Wikipedia page by someone who continually hacks it, that I was removed from Twitter for threatening someone or something along those lines.

    Anyway I can’t help but thinking my real lifetime ban had something to do with the fact that I had previously promoted free-speech without boundaries on Twitter and other social media. Yes, yes, I’m aware the First Amendment does not cover social media, that these are private companies, but like you I believe they play such an enormous role in the tapestry of our speech that they deserve the protections of the 1A. I understand Jefferson and Madison wrote the Bill of Rights long before the Internet, and think they would be on board with expanding the 1A to companies that have grown to be more powerful censors than the government ever could be. BTW, that’s U now, LOL.

    I hasten to add that there is no such thing as MAGA zombies and so my tweeted threat to have one of them eat someone’s face was actually a bit of a jest. You see since there are no zombies the threat was not real, sarcasm at worst, and so I’m hoping that you can forgive me where are your predecessor @jack was unable to do so. He never even answered my inquiries.

    To be fully honest, what bothers me is not the scolding per se, or (most of the time) the inability to tweet. Yeah, I know, it can be a big time sink. I think the thing that bugs me is I feel I was rounded up and sent off because I wrote true things, albeit critical things, about the media on what they consider their turf, your new acquisition, Twitter. I obviously meant no one harm with the silly zombie remark, but it was used as a very thin excuse to send me down the Memory Hole (you remember, from Orwell’s 1984, a place where facts and ideas could be disappeared in service to the powers that be.)

    My cancellation took place late on a Friday night, which leads me to wonder how the journalist I was engaging got through to Twitter’s censoring staff so quickly. I certainly don’t have that access. It felt kind of more like a set up than a gatekeeper protecting someone against whatever hate speech is (and you know there is no such crime as hate speech, and whatever people insist on calling “hate speech,” including things like the N-word, is fully protected by the First Amendment.) So what’s up with the lifetime ban for one tweet? It seems pretty heavy. That’s the kind of thing I have in mind when I say it did not feel fair.

    I don’t think anyone needs protecting from my ideas, but I guess I can figure out why they’d be frightening to charlatans, pols, and grifters. That’s why I guess a journalist whose livelihood depends on the 1A wrote to you “for democracy to survive, we need more content moderation, not less.”  Robert Reich, veteran of the Clinton and Obama administrations, argued you’re putting us on a fast track to fascism. He thinks an uncontrolled Internet is “​​the dream of every dictator, strongman, demagogue and modern-day robber baron.” On of your other critics nearly exceeded Twitter’s character limit writing “Today on Twitter feels like the last evening in a Berlin nightclub at the twilight of Weimar Germany.”  While I am not fully comfortable with billionaires deciding the fate of free speech, they’re downright terrified of you, Elon. If you want to scare them more, reinstating me (and yeah, Trump, too) would be excellent for that purpose.

    It’s funny/not funny because I have experienced their version of the Internet. When I was in Iran, the government there blocked Twitter and many other sites, effectively deciding for an entire nation what they cannot read. In America, Twitter decides for an entire nation what they cannot read. It matters little whose hand is on the switch: government or corporate, the end result is the same. This is the America I always feared I’d see, where Americans not just tolerate, but demand censorship.

    Now if you really want to shake things up (you’re that kinda guy, right?) just flat-out acknowledge the interplay between the First Amendment and corporations like your Twitter is the most significant challenge to free speech in our lifetimes. Pretending a corporation with the reach to influence elections is just another place that sells stuff is to pretend the role of debate in a free society is outdated. The arrival of global technology controlled by mega-corporations brought first the ability the control speech and soon after the willingness. The rules are their, er, your rules, and so we see the permanent banning of a president for whom some 70 million Americans voted from tweeting to his 88 million followers (ironically the courts earlier claimed it was unconstitutional for the president to block those who wanted to follow him.) Then there was that game-changing ban on news about Hunter Biden just ahead of the election. Let someone take Twitter to the Supreme Court and see if they’ll extend the 1A in some form to the new public square. The ability of a handful of people nobody voted for to control the mass of public discourse has never been clearer. It represents a stunning centralization of power.

    Speech in America is an inalienable right, and runs as deep into our free society as any idea can. Thomas Jefferson wrote it flowed directly from his idea of a Creator, which we understand today as less that free speech is heaven-sent so much as it is something that exists above government. And so the argument the First Amendment applies only to the government and not to private platforms like Twitter is both true and irrelevant—and the latter is more important.

    So Elon, thank you very much for your consideration. I realize as a billionaire super villain you have many things on your mind but I hope you find time to at least delegate this to someone in hopes that they could reinstate me to Twitter to prove a point. The old Twitter sold censorship as a product, a dissent-free zone for libs. You can do something important freeing ideas, and I’d like to be a part of that.

    Love, Peter

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • Deterrence Failed in Ukraine: Is Strategic Ambiguity Over Taiwan Better than a Treaty?

    April 30, 2022 // 0 Comments

    Tags: , , , , ,
    Posted in: Biden, Military

    The answer is one failed in Ukraine, one has kept the peace. The question, going forward, is the model the strategic clarity of NATO’s Article 5 or the strategic ambiguity of the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act?

    The principle of collective defense is at the very heart of NATO, created by a 1949 Treaty. Its history is embedded in WWII, when the Nazis gained a massive advantage in the earliest days of the war by playing the various European nations against each other, picking off territory while London and Paris bickered over what to do. NATO was be the solution. Article 5 of the NATO treaty says “An armed attack against one or more of the [signers] shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them… will assist the Party or Parties so attacked.” The critical points are that the treaty is inclusionary — all NATO members, large or small — and exclusionary in that it only applies to NATO members. An attack on NATO member Poland triggers Article 5. An attack on Ukraine or Taiwan, not NATO members, does not.

    The 1979 Taiwan Relations Act (TRA; also the U.S.-PRC Joint Communique) grew out of Mainland China dictator Mao’s threat to “liberate” Taiwan and Nationalist dictator Chiang Kai-shek’s demand for U.S. support to reclaim the Mainland. With the Korean War sopping up American blood, Washington had no desire to join what would have been a land war to rival WWII. Instead, it established diplomatic relations with Taiwan, and signed a mutual defense treaty in 1954. That lasted until 1979, when the U.S. switched its diplomatic recognition from the people of Taiwan to the people of the Mainland (China; but note the diplomatic wording) and Congress enacted the Taiwan Relations Act. The TRA listed two obligations to Taiwan: to sell it arms and to maintain the U.S.’ capacity “to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion” against Taiwan.

    The actual wording in the TRA is instructive: “Peace and stability in the area are matters of international concern… any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means, including by boycotts or embargoes is considered a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area and of grave concern to the United States.” This represents diplomatic brilliance, and came to be known as “strategic ambiguity,” a policy understood to mean the U.S. doesn’t have to defend Taiwan, but it can. The circumstances and means of defense are left unspoken. China matched this with a policy of “strategic patience.”

    The most important thing about the TRA is it works. The Mainland has not invaded Taiwan. Despite changes in leadership as dramatic as Mao (albeit in 1976) to Deng to Xi the Mainland has not invaded. Despite Taiwan changing from military dictatorship to democracy, the Mainland has not invaded. Despite global changes including the Korean and Vietnam wars where China and the U.S. fought each other directly, development of nuclear weapons by China, fall of the Soviet Union, the Mainland has not invaded. The Chinese military has gone from peasants with rifles to a blue water navy and the Mainland has not invaded. China has gone from agrarian isolation to an essential part of the industrialized global economy, and the Mainland has not invaded. Ukraine happened, and the Mainland has not invaded.

    The irony is deterrence worked in Ukraine, at least from Putin’s point of view. It prevented the U.S. from getting involved in the shooting war between Russia and Ukraine. The NATO treaty was written to compel its signatories to act once someone moved against them (the treaty was obviously written with the Soviet Union in mind though Article 5 has only been invoked once, following 9/11, and then mostly for show.) As Putin readied to invade Ukraine, Biden threw away any trace elements of strategic ambiguity by declaring early and often NATO would not intervene and the U.S. would not unilaterally enter the fighting. It was as green a light as could be for Putin. ‘Round the other side of the world, Sino-Asia sleeps at peace knowing everything is on the table should the Mainland invade but nothing is at risk should it not. What better example of deterrence working?

    The concern now is moves in both hemispheres to formalize redlines. Much talk will be devoted post-invasion as to whether Ukraine should join NATO, feign at joining NATO, or promise never to join NATO. Joining or something akin will be the wrong answer. It was in fact the rigidity of NATO’s promise that saw it fail, again, in Ukraine as in Crimea. Putin understands this and uses it — judo master that he is — against his adversary. NATO prescribes war whether the broader circumstances (of say energy dependence on Russian gas) make that seem wise. It is an exploitable flaw. The good news is Europe is again at a stasis point for the time being, Ukraine seemingly headed toward a resolution that provides Russia its buffer zone no matter what it is all spun as in the western media.

    The risk lies in Asia, where bullish elements are tempted to disturb an equally functional power status quo, and jeez, it’s Joe “Regime Change” Biden and his gaffes again. At a CNN town hall in October 2021, the host asked Biden if the U.S. would defend Taiwan. He said “Yes, we have a commitment to do that,” another gaffe-erino which the White House quickly walked back into the realm of strategic ambiguity. But post-Ukraine, some hawks want that clarity and are pushing for a formal, Article 5-like declaration. In their perfect world, that Asian Article 5 would include not only Taiwan and the U.S., but also Japan, Korea, Australia, the Philippines, and maybe others (the U.S. has various types of self-defense treaties already with many Asian nations.)

    The justifications for such moves often make no sense in the face of the current TRA strategy’s multi-decade success. Some say because Beijing ramped up its rhetoric and shipbuilding (a test of resolve!) we need to do something to match that. But wouldn’t a guarantee to go to war for Taiwan make those on Taiwan who want to declare independence that much more reckless? There are those in Congress who want a more formal agreement (if you think the Israel lobby is powerful, check how Taiwan’s punches above its weight.) The ever-pugilistic Council on Foreign Relations wants strategic unambiguity as a show of force.

    Joe Biden will come under some pressure to “do something” (the scariest words in Washington) following the clusterflutz in Ukraine. This would be a very, very risky move. Remember, for deterrence to be credible, it does not need to depend on a willingness to commit anything like suicide in the face of a challenge, but rather must carry the risk that the deterrer is likely to do something that is “fraught with the danger of war.” Strategic ambiguity is enough. Article 5 and anything like it to come in the Pacific purposefully ties its signatories’ hands. The Taiwan Relations Act purposefully leaves all options open to deal with the complex realities of the Sino-Pacific. History shows which one works and which one does not. A more aggressive posture does not resolve the root issues across the Taiwan Strait, it only risks exacerbating them.

     

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • Write Your Own Ukraine Article (MSM Version)

    April 29, 2022 // 0 Comments

    Tags: , , , , ,
    Posted in: Biden, Democracy, Military

    Are you the kind of guy (or gal!) who likes to do things for yourself? You know, like not leave the fighting to soldiers but doing your part for Ukraine by paying higher gas prices? You and your president are already working hand-in-hand, making empty gestures that do nothing to affect things in real life. Why not step it up and give America’s war-weary journalists a break, too? Not all of us can travel to the Ukraine to be photographed in front of a burning tank (Russia Losses Grow) or children playing with matches (Young Ukrainians Make Molotovs for Freedom.) So why not write your own Ukrainian news article? We will show you how.

    Rule One is truth is irrelevant. You’re taking a side. And don’t worry if the Ukraine story has jumped the shark by the time you read this. The basics of modern journalism — false basis, exhausting duration, and an inscrutable villian, anything from one man (Putin) to a thing (the virus) to an idea (terrorism) — never change. Teach a man to fish, amiright?

    You start with what our “journo” community calls a lede. It is just an opening paragraph, the more dramatic the better. Try “Democracy is at stake, but Ukrainians have its back.” You can go the other way, something in the generic Russia is bad category like “Pure evil Russian conscripts destroy puppies for fun.” If you’re a history buff, try “New fascist Nazis roll across eastern Europe.” It does not matter that it was the Russians rolling west in 1945 that actually destroyed fascism, it just has to evoke all the feels. Ledes used to summarize the story. Now, they just deliver a shock and food pellet. Think of it as Insta in b&w words.

    Next, you have your Putin paragraph. Americans are pretty stupid, and certainly cannot understand that as with their own country, other nations have strategic objectives. Americans like to either believe wars are fought for moral reasons (the ones we start) or are the result of some evil madman (the ones they start.) This is called storyfication. So don’t write boring things about NATO expansion or buffer zones — yawn much? Instead, reduce the geo-political calculations of the world’s largest country to the egotistic whims of one man. For the most part you can just call him by the one name, like Bono, Madonna or Elvis.

    The important thing is to describe Putin as insane, unpredictable, bonkers, out of control, psychopathic, sociopathic, an enigma, a madman or unhinged. If you run out of ideas, Google old articles about Saddam, Assad, Qaddafi, any Iranian mullah or Kim Jung Un for ideas. Say no one understands him or his motives then go on to psychoanalyze him as if you do as a friendless, desperate loner intent on cosplaying the former Soviet Czarist glory empire. Make death threats, and go for it invoking Qaddafi’s still-celebrated, pointed demise. You can also make homophobic jokes to your heart’s content, the kind of stuff woke culture places off limits everywhere. If you have the stomach for it, Google “trump putin porn” to get started. Tell your shocked IT guy it is for work, thank you. If he say he has to report you to HR, scream “1A, witch!”

    Next, do exactly the same thing but in the opposite way for the Ukrainian president. Picture him shirtless astride an aroused unicorn. Use pseudo-Shakespearean words like honor, bravery, and generosity. In the same way you could go full homophobe on Putin, you must suggest everyone in America wants to make warm love with Zelensky, maybe astride a unicorn. But do not for the love of all things holy Google “Zelensky porn” for inspiration. Even the 1A can’t save you there.

    Include a line saying Donald Trump started the war. Check your contract; most editors require this, but even if not, it is a best practice to include it. You should at this point have four or five solid paragraphs of emotion-eliciting journalism, all without any context or actual information on what is going on in Ukraine. If you’re writing for television or VICE, you’re done. Good work. However, if you are writing long form you’ll need some more.

    You can branch off in two ways. One is a dramatic ode to democracy. The other is where you take all those analytic skills you developed as an on-line virologist these past two years and apply them to being an on-line military expert.

    The first branch is the easiest, because no one believes in talking dramatically about democracy more than Americans. Tall about redlines, say this is a 1939 moment, invoke the Founders to characterize Zelensky, call everything a turning point or existential threat or a test of resolve, it doesn’t matter. It can get hard to tell from photos who is who as both sides use the same rusty Soviet hardware, so apply this guide: if the tank is moving it is Russian enroute to shell an orphanage; if the tank is stopped it is Russian bogged down due to lack of fuel, Chinese tires, incompetent leadership, or conscript moral. Remember Russians showing photos of captured Ukrainians is a Geneva Convention war crime while Ukrainians kneecapping bound Russian prisoners is a morale booster, albeit unconfirmed. Be sure to use alternative spellings like Kyiv not Kiev to virtue signal. Every little step counts towards victory!

    A few miscellaneous points: Russians earning more than minimum wage are oligarchs. People who disagree with you are Putin lovers and you should ask them online if they’re paid in rubles (never gets old.) Every article must mention social media but don’t bother with sentences, just write social media social media social media. Underage Ukrainians holding rifles bigger than themselves are not child soldiers. A movie star with a political opinion on Twitter is just as quotable as an expert as anyone else on Twitter.

    The same cosplaying rednecks in camo body armor you called white supremacists at a MAGA rally are now heroes if they say they’re headed to Ukraine. Putin censors, YouTube removes misinformation. The EU not joining the US in oil sanctions is a “united front.” Your not being able to log on to Facebook is a Russian cyberattack. The official name for the Russian currency is “yacht.” And remember cluster bombing civilians is not always bad — can’t you tell the difference between ousting an evil dictator and invading a neighbor?

     

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • New Durham Finding Reveals CIA Info on Michael Sussman, Alfa Bank/Yota Phone

    April 23, 2022 // 0 Comments

    Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
    Posted in: Democracy, NSA, Post-Constitution America, Trump

     

    If you still dismiss “Russiagate,” the Dossier, Alfa Bank, and the Yota Russian smartphone events surrounding Donald Trump, the 2016 campaign, and the Mueller investigation, you may want a second cup of coffee. The latest filing by Special Consul Robert Durham suggests the rabbit hole goes a bit deeper. I hate to sound like Rachel Maddow, but it is just that much more likely the walls are closing in.

    Durham filed a new, 34-page motion on April 15, 2022, in answer to defendant Michael Sussman’s request to dismiss the case against him. Durham accused Sussmann of lying to the FBI about his working for the Clinton Campaign while he was trying to sell the Bureau on opening an investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia, focusing on alleged Internet pings between a Trump server and the Russian Alfa Bank. Sussmann’s claims included a number of pings against Trump Tower WiFi and later White House WiFi by a Russian-made Yota cellphone. Sussmann’s motion basically called Durham case garbage, which pressed Durham to explain to the court why the case needed to proceed, hence the new motion (the court subsequently ruled against Sussmann and the trial will commence soon.)

    But as he has done in the past, Durham used the required motion filing as a chance to tip over a few of the cards he is holding. It looks like aces.

    Durham previously established CIA knew about what we’ll call “Russiagate” as of at least July 2016 and briefed President Obama on the same only five days before the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane full-spectrum investigation into Trump/Russia began. The new filing adds the next chapter. Sussmann met with unknown persons at CIA to tell them a Russian Yota cellphone seemed to be following Trump around, attempting to log into the WiFi network wherever he was. This included Trump Tower and later the White House. At January and February 2017 CIA meetings Sussmann claimed the phone “appeared” in April 2016 (coincidentally right around the time the DNC hack supposedly took place) and even “appeared with Trump in Michigan” when he was interviewing a future Cabinet secretary. Sussmann went on to disingenuously claim to CIA the Yota smartphone model used is often gifted to Russian officials. He also claimed his client was a Republican.

    The problem was the information Sussmann passed to the FBI was fake. Phony. Made -up. Fabricated, much like the Dossier. CIA “concluded in early 2017 Russian Bank-1 data [Alfa] and Russian Phone Provider-1 [Yota] data was not “‘technically plausible,’ did not ‘withstand technical scrutiny,’ ‘contained gaps,’ ‘conflicted with [itself]’ and was ‘user created and not machine/tool generated.’” Reuters‘ own tech people also said they could not authenticate the data and passed on the story. While CIA declined to open an investigation based on such data, the FBI did, leaving open additional questions on whether or not the FBI was technically unschooled, or in on the greater conspiracy.

    This new information also begs the question of why Robert Mueller or DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz did not ask why the FBI was so easily fooled when their cousins across the river (and some journalists) saw through the grift. The FBI were warned — on September 7, 2016 the CIA sent FBI Director James Comey and Peter Strzok a warning Hillary Clinton approved a plan to tie Trump to Russia to distract from her email scandal. Then only 12 days later Sussmann approached the FBI, who despite the heads-up, took the hook. About a month later the courts issued the first FISA warrant. Hillary Clinton tweeted “Computer scientists have apparently uncovered a covert server linking the Trump Organization to a Russian-based bank.”

    This would also raise questions about Michael Sussmann and his role representing the Democratic National Committee and the DNC server hack. Careful research by retired NSA persons suggested the server was accessed from inside the U.S., not hacked from Russia as widely alleged. If there is truth to that, would the same people who fabricated complex DNS and WiFi log data (i.e., good enough to fool the FBI) have been capable of making a local hack look international? One hates to go down the conspiracy road, but is Julian Assange, whose Wikileaks released some of the DNC emails, imprisoned in part because he could prove his source for the hacked emails was not Russian, as he has claimed?

    Who knows, right? Maybe Researcher-2 (identified elsewhere as David Dagon of Georgia Tech, whose research focus is Botnets.) Dagon previously bragged of using a “bag of tricks” to prove Trump-Russia collusion.) Durham granted Researcher-2 immunity to “uncover otherwise-unavailable facts underlying the opposition research project.” Durham also granted immunity to someone at Fusion GPS, the front organization that moved money from the DNC/Clinton Campaign to both Dossier author Christopher Steele and Alfa/Yota pitchman Michael Sussmann. The Fusion person is likely Laura Seago. Seago helped sell the fake Alfa data to Slate.

    Earlier articles established the Alfa/Yota conspiracy mirrored the Dossier conspiracy in style, funding, and execution. This new information from Durham adds now as with the Dossier, the Alfa/Yota data was faked. The commonalities between the two as yet legally unlinked conspiracies strongly suggests a common backstage element. We spoke with a former U.S. intelligence officer about what would be involved in managing an operation this size, Alfa, Yota, Dossier, etc., liaison with the FBI, all the media planted bells and whistles, but just the admin side, not the actual spy work. She said it would be a very large job, likely bigger than many overseas stations would take on, something that would need its own working group in Washington. She said keeping the finances clean but covert alone would be a near full-time job.

    So what does it all mean? Special Counsel Durham is revealing a relentless effort by Democrats to sell the Russia collusion narrative across the U.S. government from CIA to the FBI, to the point where in the absence of derogatory information they created it. The Democrats then enlisted (to date…) Christopher Steele and Michael Sussman to peddle the false information across Washington in hopes of stirring someone in the intelligence community to turn their vast resources on Trump to find actual dirt. The whole venture failed in the initial sense — Trump was elected and completed his term — but large numbers of Americans still believe in whole or in part Trump is somehow allied with the Russians, a hangover likely to last into the next election.

     

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • Lessons Learned: Dead Bodies in Ukraine

    April 22, 2022 // 0 Comments

    Tags: , , , , , , , ,
    Posted in: Biden, Democracy, Economy, Other Ideas, Syria, Yemen

     

    It is hard escape the images from the Ukraine but easy not to think about them.

    The bodies themselves are the only truth; for there but for the grace of them goes us. Were they Russian separatists, Ukrainian heroes, people on the way home from work, people far from home or abandoned by even loved ones in their own backyards, strangers in the north to blue water, patriots or fish mongers in the south? How little it matters when they are placed next to each other on the ground but politics, politics always makes for stranger bedfellows now and forever.

    As we make some deal over their deaths, war crimes accusations levied by a nation (it is America) who quit the International Criminal Court in 2002 ahead of the Iraq War and as CYA for Israel being charged for war crimes in the ‘Strip, what say the shadows, the 460,000 dead in that Iraq, never freed, or those 1,353,000 in Vietnam (say that one again, Vietnam, because yes it echoes behind each muddy footprint, down the halls of State and Defense, Vietnam, where the most senior generals learned their craft.) There is truth to the phrase “never again” but it is this truth not that one: we will never (admit to) lose another war which is why more are gonna have to die, because Putin’s win could be seen as again our loss.

    But… but… these in Ukraine are not American deaths, not really dead because of America, so we can point and declare right from wrong, right? Same as we decry those who judge us we shall judge trespasses against them. I saw a little of war, my year in Iraq, a civilian witness, saw more than a lot, saw a lot less than some, but even a little is enough. Because after the first one you can remember bodies become repetitive until all that matters is how many of them their are. The GOAT is six million, anything else something… less, made to matter by evoking the six million, or the 500 from My Lai, or 35,000 from Dresden, or the 800,000 from Stalingrad. Stalingrad taught us to think of “civilians and soldiers” was a joke left from the 19th century when armies walked to a nearby field, war a ritual, that “he who sheds his blood today with me shall be my brother” bullshit that has killed people forever.

    Karl Doenitz, the head of Germany’s U-Boat fleet during World War II stood trial at Nuremberg for war crimes, specifically unrestricted warfare against civilian shipping. Doenitz, in his defense, raised the fact that the Allies practiced much the same style of was at sea, and even sought testimony from U.S. naval personnel. Doenitz raised broad, almost philosophical questions about commerce warfare, including belligerent conduct by armed merchant ships, contraband hidden aboard “civilian” ships, war at sea as a required evil for a nation under blockade, war zones, commerce control, and unneutral service.

    But it was the non-rescue policy for enemy survivors which brought Doenitz to Nuremberg. Doenitz in 1940 issued Standing Order 154 to his U-boats, “Do not pick up survivors and take them with you… The enemy began the war in order to destroy us, so nothing else matters.” and at his trial raised the question of why it was allowable to seek to kill people literally one moment, before their ship sank, but not one moment afterwards. He pointed out weapons were designed not to win wars per se but to destroy people efficiently, as we now know with modern cluster bombs and so-called hyperbaric vacuum bombs in Ukraine. Doenitz was found guilty but his testimony resonated with other combatants. Over 100 senior Allied officers sent letters conveying their disappointment over the verdict. They understood killing was killing and that rules were for the victors to use, later, as politics required, and never wanted to find themselves so entrapped..

    We look at those horrible photos again from Ukraine. Who are the dead? Some are collaborators shot by Ukrainians, some are innocents shot by Russians, some are civilian combatants who nonetheless took up arms for one side or another. Some may even be ethnically cleansed people, or just fake images, or old photos. None of that matters. The media is telling us to react. All that’s left is for someone to find a way to have our computers deliver a little food pellet along with the ultraviolence. It’s just about stim, little jolts to the brain, isn’t it? None of us have any idea who the dead bodies are in Ukraine, and who shot them, and why. We just enjoy the thrill, and the flexibility of creating our own righteous story. But we don’t grieve, we politicize.

    The truth is much more restrained than reality as we understand it at this point in the war. Human Rights Watch documented Russian military forces committing law-of-war violations against civilians in occupied areas of the Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and Kyiv regions of Ukraine. These include one case of rape, and two cases of summary execution, one of six men, the other of one man. There were other non-specific instances of unlawful violence and threats against civilians. Soldiers were also implicated in looting civilian property, including food, clothing, and firewood.

    Yes, that’s the sum of it. One rape, seven executed. No death is to be celebrated or dismissed but a handful of war crimes does not equal a holocaust, a genocide, or what Zelensky is claiming today. Over-stating the actual situation will only serve to make the public numb. The Ukrainians are approaching the jump the shark moment, and since we’re talking about propaganda here not deaths, the phrase is appropriate. Oh my God, HRW says the Russians looted firewood! What horrors will follow?!?

    But in the end there is always the small story, and the big story, often so big it runs over the edges of our monitors so because of its size we don’t see it. We talk about peace, but the only place we all seem to live in some sort of harmony is in the land described by the Panama Papers, countries and statelets that pimp out their economies and legal systems to the global rich (oligarchs and entrepreneurs, it’s just the difference in word choice and how many feet of waterline their yachts have) so that sanctions become  a poor man’s punishment.

    The cover story never really changed. Our parents were told the raison d’etre since at least WWII was to destroy Communism. We were promised once we achieved nuclear parity with the Russians it would all be over, then told once we won the next proxy war (Cuba, Greece, Laos, Vietnam, Dominican Republic, Lebanon, Panama, Haiti, Iran, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Syria, Yemen…) things would be right. The bodies, you see, don’t matter. They never really matter in the biggest picture.

       

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • Some New Still Shots

    April 21, 2022 // 0 Comments

    Posted in: Uncategorized

    Courtesy of the Reason Foundation, and the Soho Debate Forum in New York.

     

     

     

     

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • Revisiting Hunter’s Laptop

    April 14, 2022 // 0 Comments

    Tags: , , , , , , ,
    Posted in: 2020, Biden, Democracy

    You hear? The emails on Hunter Biden’s laptop are real. No less than the New York Times, the official MSM newspaper of the MSM, agrees. Actually, the FBI agreed first, as they’re in the middle of an ongoing criminal investigation into Hunter’s business and tax activities based on the contents of the laptop. Despite massive coverage of the emails in the non-MSM, it was only the FBI’s use of the laptop which finally forced the Times to admit to this year what it said was bull last year. Politico, based on a book by one of its own writers, now, too, admits the emails are real, not Russian disinformation.

    Now that we all agree the emails are real, and we can talk about them in polite company, what’s the big deal? Is this just another case of “buh buh her emails!!!”

    Well, yes, sort of. As the media went full-spectrum to hide, diminish, downplay, and muddle the story about Hillary Clinton’s emails, so did they do the same with Hunter’s. In Clinton’s case, knowledgeable people, experts in government classification, were forced to endure months of “news” speculating on whether the Secretary of State’s official correspondence might contain something classified, or about whether running one’s own unsecured email server for official business was some sort of legal violation, and then questions about whether deleting 30,000 pieces of potential evidence was “okay.” Despite failing to kill the story (Hillary’s shifting excuses gave it new life at each turn) the media softened its edges enough that when then-FBI Director James Comey disingenuously proclaimed Hillary innocent the public was ready to move on.

    In Hunter’s case the emails were buried, not merely diminished, as the MSM came to better understand its super powers. The hallmark was the interplay among the American intelligence services and the MSM, working for the Democratic Party. That interplay, awkward in 2016 with Comey at center stage, matured in 2020. As the NY Post and others broke the story that a laptop full of Hunter Biden’s files indicated a potential pay-for-play scenario involving then-candidate Joe Biden just ahead of the presidential election, almost in real time more than 50 former senior intelligence officials signed a letter claiming the emails “have all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.” With absolutely no evidence, the signers said their national security experience made them “deeply suspicious that the Russian government played a significant role in this case.” “If we are right,” they added, “this is Russia trying to influence how Americans vote in this election, and we believe strongly that Americans need to be aware of this.”

    The letter was evil brilliance in that it played off earlier prejudices, from 2016, that the Russians sought to manipulate American elections. In fact, most of the key signatories — James Clapper and John Brennan among them — had played key roles in misdirecting public opinion around the DNC server hack and later the whole of Russiagate. In the hands of the MSM the meme quickly morphed into “the laptop is fake,” a parallel to “but her emails!!!”

    Something new was introduced, however, the active blocking of information from a large number of Americans. With the letter as “proof” the laptop was disinformation, social media took the handoff. Twitter locked The New York Post‘s  account after the Post refused to obey Twitter’s orders to delete its own reporting. Twitter also blocked all references to the laptop story by all users, even banning links to the story in DMs. Facebook announced no discussion of the issue would be allowed pending a “fact check” which never came. MSM labeled the laptop fake, social media blocked the news, and pretty much the public fell in line and voted for Joe Biden without knowing squat about what he and his son Hunter had been up to.

     

    TAC readers were not included in this seething heap of ignorance. TAC, alongside the NY Post and many other non-MSM outlets, understood the emails were worthy of the public’s attention. In the case of TAC, we published a deep dive into the laptop’s contents online in December 2020, and a deeper dive in our print edition. NY Post readers got much of the same information even before the election. As the contents of the laptop become more widely known, it appears the intelligence community-media-Democratic Party was right to hide them before the presidential election: almost half of Americans believe Trump would have won a second term if the media had fully reported on the laptop’s revelations. Another poll showed enough people in battleground states would have changed their minds had they known about the emails to give Trump the electoral votes needed for reelection. If you’re keeping score, hiding the emails marks the second election controlled by the intelligence community-media-Democratic Party.

    Given that for better or worse Joe Biden was elected, and is very unlikely to run for a second term, do Hunter’s emails still matter in 2022? Yes. The laptop still has a lot to tell us.

    — The emails matter because their handling exposed (again) the way the intelligence community-media-Democratic Party manipulated your vote. You need to understand their techniques ahead of 2024.

    — The emails matter because they are just the tip of the iceberg. We already know Hunter did not report much of the income revealed by the emails, and recently paid one million dollars in back taxes with Federal fraud charges pending. There is more to come which may affect who you vote for in 2024.

    — The emails matter because they show Hunter did or was planning to kick in money to his father (“10 percent for the big guy,” read one email.) There was co-mingling of their finances, shared bank accounts, and covering each other’s bills, which need to be investigated. In one message, Hunter revealed he was locked out of a bank account because his father was using it. In a text, Hunter complained that he was required to give his father half of his money for some unspecified task.

    — The emails matter because they are primary evidence of possibly criminal actions by Hunter that bump into Joe’s official work first as Obama’s VP and now as president. Hunter Biden had extensive deals working in Ukraine and China that conflict-of-interest laws demand to be investigated. Hunter took large sums of money from businesses in Ukraine that were part of his father’s official portfolio as vice president, and took large sums of money from Chinese shell companies with ties to the Chinese oligarchy. Hunter performed no work in return for the money. In the case of China, he appeared to launder money, taking in six figures, skimming off a percentage, then handing the remainder over to a U.S. corporate entity of the Chinese organization. That got around Chinese government currency export regulations. Only an FBI investigation will show if Joe was involved in any of the same.

    — The emails matter because they were blackmail fodder, and the FBI must find out if Hunter was tapped by any foreign intelligence service when his father was VP. On the laptop was evidence of Hunter’s filthy life, actions simply screaming to a foreign intelligence service “Blackmail me!” Hunter’s laptop was chocked with video showing him smoking crack. Hunter spent money on escorts, some $21,000 on cam sites, big plays on all sorts of depravities.  There was correspondence referencing Hunter’s affair with his dead brother Beau’s widow.

    — The emails matter because if Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife’s politics may rise to the level of his impeachment, then Joe Biden’s son’s action may do so also.

    — The emails matter, if you keep score this way, because they show Hunter was doing what so many can only imagine they’ll one day have proof Jared, Don, Jr., Ivanka, and Eric did.

    — The emails matter because the President of the United States says they do not matter. Joe Biden’s defense is a sweeping: “My son did nothing wrong.” That makes Joe either too ignorant to hold high office, or an accomplice in a cover-up, both 25th Amendment territory. This is especially important because Joe ran on an anti-corruption platform following the Trump family escapades.

    — The emails matter because they are not a smoking gun, but a multi-pronged series of leads and pointers which deserve investigation to see if there is a smoking gun. To dismiss them because they are “incomplete” is to fail to understand the difference between evidence and conclusion. And that makes you look sorta dumb shouting about it on Late Night.

    Editor’s Note: Though the full text of the emails are not yet available in full online, you can read TAC’s summary, with specific examples, here.

     

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • Tradecraft: Why Spies Knew the Hunter Biden Emails Were Not Russia Disinfo

    April 12, 2022 // 0 Comments

    Tags: , , , , , , , ,
    Posted in: 2020, Biden, Democracy, Post-Constitution America

    Hunter Biden just paid over a million dollars in back taxes for income he never claimed, but which was found in his emails, the ones from his laptop that had been dismissed by the MSM as Russian disinformation.

    The FBI is conducting an ongoing criminal investigation into Hunter’s business activities based on the contents of the laptop. It was only the FBI’s use of the laptop as evidence which finally forced the New York Times this month to admit what it said was bull last year.

    See, as the NY Post broke the story that a laptop full of Hunter Biden’s files indicated a potential pay-for-play scenario involving then-candidate Joe Biden just ahead of the 2020 presidential election, almost in real time more than 50 former senior intelligence officials signed a letter claiming the emails “have all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.” The signers said their national security experience made them “deeply suspicious the Russian government played a significant role in this case. If we are right this is Russia trying to influence how Americans vote in this election, and we believe strongly that Americans need to be aware of this.”

    The letter played off prejudices from 2016 that the Russians manipulated an American election. In fact, most of the letter’s signatories — James Clapper and John Brennan among them — had played key roles in misdirecting public opinion around the DNC server hack and later the whole of Russiagate. In the hands of the MSM the meme quickly morphed into “the laptop is fake, ignore it.” Twitter and Facebook quickly banned all mentions of the laptop, and the story disappeared in the MSM. Until now.

    In my 24-year State Department career I was exposed to foreign disinformation and as a journalist today I read the Hunter Biden emails. There is no way experienced intelligence officers could have mistaken the contents of the Biden laptop for fake, produced, material.

    The most glaring reason is most of the important emails could be verified by simply contacting the recipient and asking him if the message was real. Disinfo at this level of sophistication would never be so simple to disprove.

    In addition, the laptop contents were about 80 percent garbage and maybe 20 percent useful (dirty) information, a huge waste of time if you are trying to move your adversary to act in a certain way. Such an overbearing amount of non-actionable material also risks burying the good stuff, and if this is disinfo you want your adversary to find the good stuff. It is also expensive to produce information that has no take attached to it, and fake info of any kind is at risk of discovery, blowing the whole operation. Lastly, nothing on the laptop was a smoking gun. You need the disinfo to lead fairly directly to some sort of actionable conclusion, a smoking gun, or your cleverness will be wasted.

    Compare the alleged Russian disinfo of the Biden laptop to the real disinfo of the Christopher Steele “Russiagate” Dossier. To begin, Steele pastes fake classified markings on his document. That signals amateur work to the pros but causes the media to salivate, Steele’s goal (always remember who your target is, who you are trying to fool.) Steele never names his sources to prevent verification by the media (a major tell.) Steele also finds a way to push the important info up front, in his case a Summary. If Biden’s laptop was disinfo, the makers could have included an Index, or Note to Self where “Hunter” called out the good stuff. Or maybe even a fake email doing the same. Steele’s dossier is also concise, 35 typed pages. Hunter’s laptop is a pack rat’s nightmare of jumbled stuff, thousands of pages, receipts, info on cam girls, and the like.

    But the real give away is who was out there peddling the info/disinfo. Ideally you want the stuff to come from the most reliable source you can find to give it credibility. Steele, as a professional intelligence officer, used multiple, overlapping sources, including himself. The list included leaks to a selected patsy journalists, the State Department, John McCain, and even the Department of Justice (FBI and DOJ officials.) Steele not only planted the disinfo, he figured out a way to create “buzz” around it. Textbook work.

    For the Biden laptop, it is understood the whole messy thing was shopped all across the MSM by Rudy Giuliani, about the most mistrusted man available for the purpose. The source must be reputable for the gag to work and there is no way a full-spectrum Russian disinformation operation would use Rudy. That alone should have ended the discussion among those 50 letter signing intelligence officials.

    Lastly, everything on the laptop was verifiable in an hour or two by an organization like the NSA. They could have had an intern verify the emails, bank statements, wire transfers, etc. using about half of the capabilities Edward Snowden revealed they have. James Clapper and John Brennan knew this, and knew equally well the media, if they picked up the story at all, would not ask any such questions, and the NSA, et al, would never weigh in. It would be our little secret.

    So we’ll call that letter claiming the Biden emails were potential Russian disinfo a lie, a fabrication, made-up, fake stuff designed to influence an election. That’s disinformation by any definition, and evidence the only disinformation op run in 2020 was run against the American voters by their own intelligence community working with the media and on behalf of the Democrats. Almost half of Americans now believe Trump would have won a second term if the media had fully reported on the laptop’s revelations, so it worked. You know some of its hallmarks now, so keep a sharp eye out in 2024.

     

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • Deterrence, China, and the U.S.

    April 10, 2022 // 0 Comments

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    Posted in: Democracy, Embassy/State, Military

    The U.S. should not use its military power to deter China from invading Taiwan. It is unnecessary, and anything more than what is already being done is more likely to help provoke a war than stop one. It might even be better to turn down U.S. enthusiasm a notch or two.

    The current status of strategic ambiguity serves two important American goals – it keeps the peace and allows for a productive trilateral++ relationship among China, Taiwan, U.S. and the rest of Asia. Those two goals work in lockstep, not in conflict of one another, a key point. Peace serves all masters here. What we have is useful stasis, not some sort of historical fantasy of unfulfilled frustration. And we’ll still keep the focus on U.S. strategic interests, not those of Taiwan or other allies. You can’t expect more than that.

    Unnecessary

    During the entire 73 year existence of Taiwan, the Mainland has not invaded. Despite changes in leadership as dramatic as Mao to Deng to Xi the Mainland has not invaded. Despite Taiwan changing from a military dictatorship to a democracy, the Mainland has not invaded. Despite global changes including the Korean and Vietnam wars, development of nuclear weapons by China, the fall of the Soviet Union (and Donald Trump) the Mainland has not invaded. US posture has varied from garrisoning the island to strategic ambiguity and the Mainland has not invaded.

    The Chinese military has gone from peasants with rifles to a blue water navy backed by ICBMs and the Mainland has not invaded. China has gone from the agrarian isolation of the Cultural Revolution to a fully-integrated if not essential part of the industrialized global economy, and the Mainland has not invaded. Putin got away with Ukraine and the Mainland has not invaded. That is not going to change in our lifetimes, so there is not much more to say. The ball keeps bouncing, history remains. I’ll be at the bar. Thank you.

    OK, OK, a little more detail. Taiwan has not invaded China, either. You laugh but that was indeed Chiang Kai Skek’s plan, with U.S. help of course, in the early years. Though we don’t think of it much, the current policy of strategic ambiguity keeps Taiwan in line as well. Nobody expects the ambiguity to stretch as far as Taiwan launching military force. Or proclaiming independence. You would hate to have some sort of strategic clarity embolden independence “trouble makers” on Taiwan, one of those unintended consequences.

    A couple of points to establish. I threw away my Mao (and Che) T-shirt sophomore year. I don’t have a grey pony tail. I know Beijing is not a democratic regime, much like America’s allies across the Middle East and Africa are not. I’ve worked in Taiwan when it was under military rule, and China under autocratic rule. The food was great, but I do not want to live that way. So none of this is about defending that.

    Focus is important; this is about preventing war. It is not about China being mean to democracy in Hong Kong; why act surprised, the government does not like democracy in Shanghai, never mind in Riyadh or other allied places. And often left out of the discussion is the United States worked closely with the Nationalists on Taiwan to make it a very undemocratic place until about 1989.

    For the lawyers here tonight, everything I say represents merely my own views and not those of my past or present employers. Nothing in my talk tonight is even remotely classified. If that disappoints, you might still be able to get your money back. A version of my talk is already posted on my website at wemeantwell.com with all the links to data cited, so you can fact check me in real time, or for those with babysitters on the clock at home, read ahead.

    Provocation: Deterrence is Dangerous

    Deterrence is a funny word. What looks like deterrence from one side — forward deploying an aircraft carrier — might look like provocation from the other. What looks like deterrence against American hegemony in Asia — overflights — might look like provocation from the other. The concept of deterrence itself is not without its uses, and in the end likely kept the Cold War a lot cooler, but military deterrence as argued for here holds the risk of accidents and misinterpretations.

    More importantly, there is little need for the military deterrence many advocate for, such as Professor Galston this evening. The Chinese on both sides of the strait understand well there is much to be gained from economic ties amid political ambiguity and much greater risk in anything like an invasion that would accomplish little besides tidying up the leftovers from the creation of the PRC in 1949.

    About that deterrence versus provocation thing. China has four overseas military bases, to include a small logistics operation in Djibouti, a listening post on Great Coco Island (not near the Bahamas, it’s off Myanmar), navy outpost in Gwadar (it’s in Pakistan) and of course a military post in Gorno-Badakhshan, Tajikistan. I’m going to guess a lot of people who consider themselves informed on this topic could not have named more than one of those.

    In contrast, the U.S. maintains 750 bases across the globe, a few less now that the Afghan adventure is over. That includes formal facilities in eight Asian nations, with some 53,000 troops in Japan and 24,000 in South Korea alone. The U.S. maintained troops on Taiwan until 1979 and recently began sending Special Forces there again on training missions. That many of those American bases predate the founding of the People’s Republic, and all have survived the fall of the Soviet adversary they were built to, um, deter, tells the real story.

    Let’s look at the boilerplate articles about Chinese “incursions” into Taiwan’s air space. Chinese aircraft are not overflying Taiwan. They are flying within Taiwan’s self-declared Air Defense Identification Zone. Look at a map of that zone, and other zones declared by Japan and China. Taiwan’s zone, the one Beijing is flying in, actually is large enough to cover thousands of miles of the Chinese mainland itself; PLA planes are in violation when sitting on their own runways.

    Taiwan’s zone also overlaps Beijing’s Air Defense Zone which overlaps Japan’s and Korea’s. Japan’s Air Defense zone also overlap’s Taiwan’s to take in a small island which is disputed between Tokyo and Taipei, a diplomatic fist fight the U.S. ignores. Criss-crossing everyone’s zones are American aircraft conducting “freedom of navigation” exercises (known in Beijing as “incursions.”) Chinese air flights are provocative only to the uninformed, or those who want them to be seen as provocative. Left unsaid: as China was supposedly provoking a fight in the air this October, the U.S. was simultaneously conducting some of the largest multi-national naval exercises in the Pacific since WWII.

    At various points in history some American bases stored nuclear weapons, and may do so today. Forward-deployed U.S. warships are believed to also contain nuclear weapons; the Ohio-class submarines off China’s coasts, each with 20 Trident ballistic missiles, certainly do. No matter; nuclear-armed aircraft are available direct from the U.S. mainland within hours. Pretend you’re from Mars and just visiting earth and tell me who seems to be provoking. Deterrence as practiced by the U.S. is a dangerous thing.

    For deterrent threats to be credible, they ‘do not need to depend on a willingness to commit anything like suicide in the face of a challenge’ but rather must carry the risk that the deterrer ‘is likely to do something that is fraught with the danger of war’

    The key element of the strategic ambiguity of the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act over Professor Galston’s “strategic clarity” is a conditional response, call if flexibility if you like. The more specific your response is ahead of time – say in writing like Article 5 – the more your hands are tied. Remember deterrence worked in Ukraine, for Russia; it stopped the U.S. from more actively intervening.

     

    MORE REASONS IT’LL NEVER HAPPEN

    What Do They Want?

    When I was a diplomat we were taught that trust was always a nice thing, but what was better was to understand the other side’s goals and intentions. If you knew those, or could make a decent guess, you could predict their actions and poke effectively at their asks a lot better than hoping they would just do what they promised. The number of affairs inside marriages where monogamy was the opening promise supports my argument.

    So what do China and Taiwan want? There may be someone who is listening into bedrooms, boardrooms, and tea shops and hearing the answer from the principle players, but absent that simply looking at the last 70 some years of history is pretty good.

    China and Taiwan do not want war. Absent some scraps back in the 1950s, nobody has invaded or attacked anyone. The US and China only sent shots at each other when the US approached China’s border through its ally North Korea in that war, and on a lesser scale when the US approached China’s border through its ally North Vietnam in that war. There’s kind of a pattern. Both of these events are celebrated in the People’s Army Museum in Beijing as examples of defending the homeland’s borders. The Museum, in addition, features an American U-2 spyplane shot down over the mainland. The Museum also has exhibits showing the U.S. purposely bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 1999, killing three and destroying the diplomatic sanctuary. How many American embassies has China bombed?

    The fact that through all of the massive changes of the last 70 years — the end of Mao, those two wars with the US, the handover of Hong Kong, the entire Cold War itself, and the list is long, there has been no invasion. Scientists call that a steady state, and something bigger than Mao, the Cold War, etc. would have to appear and change it. I’m not sure what that could be. Does anyone seriously believe some rogue statement in the Taiwan legislature would qualify, or some five-way disputed rock outcropping in the South China Sea? And by the way, speaking of the historical record, there’s the same track record for Macau and Hong Kong, where China did not invade or attack over 200 some years of very non-democratic colonial rule even after they had the military means to make it a cakewalk.

    My own first brush with a “why now” event was in the 1980s, when I went to Taiwan as an American diplomat. Taiwan was crawling out from under four decades of authoritarian rule, and taking its first difficult democratic steps. After decades of speech suppression, a lot of people were testing their legs, saying all sorts of crazy stuff about independence. Among ourselves we called it “the D word,” as independence in Mandarin is romanized duli. One emerging political party was even called the Taiwan Independence party, and was likely to grab a few seats in the legislature. The U.S. mission was fearful this could serve as a trigger to Beijing. “Big China” had made clear a declaration of independence was a red line.

    Beijing’s reaction was soon apparent: Taiwan’s stores started to feature mainland goods; the end of the hated Kuomintang opened up a new market. Even before this thaw you could sort of fly from Taipei to China, something that many people on both sides of the strait were desperate to do to visit relatives. The catch was the flight had to touch down in then-British Hong Kong. In 2008 these flights were made direct, with no need for the Hong Kong stopover. Today six China-based airlines and five from Taiwan operate direct flights. The line of progress has been in one direction, far at odds with war.

     

    Follow the Money

    China and Taiwan do want economic benefits. Between 1991 and March 2020 Taiwan’s investment in China totaled $188.5 billion, more than China’s investment in the United States. In 2019, the value of cross-strait trade was $149.2 billion. China applied in September to join the new Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. A week later, with no opposition voiced by Beijing, Taiwan applied to join as well. China is Taiwan’s largest trading partner. “One country, two systems” has not only kept the peace for decades, it has proven darn profitable for both sides. As Deng Xiao Ping said of this type of modus vivendi, “who cares what color a cat is as long as it catches mice.” China might one day seek to buy Taiwan, but until then what incentive would it have to drop bombs on one of its best customers? Heck, they even invited Taiwan to the Beijing Olympics.

    There’s also the U.S. to consider, as any cross-strait violence would affect US-China relations. Not counting Hunter Biden (I kid) the total Chinese investment in the U.S. economy is over $145 billion. U.S. investment in China passed $1 trillion. When Covid shut down world logistics, everyone learned the American economy is voluntarily dependent on Chinese manufacturing and vice-versa. China is the second largest foreign holder of U.S. government debt. If something interfered with all that commerce, China would have to find a way to use unfinished iPhones as a food source. The Chinese are literally betting the house on America’s success and continued economic engagement.

     

    Ignore (Most of) the Rhetoric

    Oh, the rhetoric, all that stuff about reunification that tumbles out of Beijing. History is again our guide, as Chinese President Xi’s rhetoric about reunification is essentially the same as Mao’s. But if you want to cite Chinese propaganda as evidence of actual intent, it is best to pay attention to the details.

    It was the United States itself that most clearly asserted the shared tripartite goal was reunification, declaring as part of the diplomatic break with Taiwan “there is only one China and Taiwan is a part of it.” Chinese President Xi regularly reiterates reunification as a goal, but always stresses the process is historical (as in, it is inevitable and we just need to be patient, don’t wait up for it to happen) and must be peaceful. Sorry, if you’re going to quote Chinese propaganda statements as proof of intent, you can’t cherry pick out only the scary parts. It makes no sense to trust Xi on the plan but claim he’s lying about the (peaceful) execution in the same breath.

    Not by coincidence most of these reunification proclamations occur around important political holidays. One of Xi’s most recent invocations was in a speech marking the 110th anniversary of the Xinhai 1911 Revolution, aimed at the foreign Manchu Qing dynasty. The chosen occasion is important, because Xinhai, ideologically midwifed by Dr. Sun Yat Sen, is acknowledged by both the most hardcore Communists and the most fervent Nationalists as the common origin point for modern China. This is drilled into every schoolkid on both sides of the Strait and forms a common vocabulary among their diplomats. The point is to understand Xi’s remarks in the same context as the Chinese, not John Wayne, likely do.

    In Sun’s spirit Xi reiterated a vow to peaceful reunification with Taiwan. He urged the Chinese people “stand on the right side of history and join hands to achieve China’s complete reunification,” invoking the way the people who would form the Communist and Nationalist parties worked together against a common enemies — the Manchus, then warlordism and feudalism, then the Japanese, and perhaps someday the Americans. Xi, talking to his own people and those on Taiwan, sketched a shared vision a long way from the PLA amphibious assault the West fears.

    Taiwan is a “wanderer” that will eventually come home and not a chess piece to be played with, the Chinese government’s top diplomat said recently.

    Philosophically Chinese leaders have for thousands of years believed in historical cycles. They waited close to 300 years to end the foreign Qing dynasty. They waited out Britain for hundreds of years for the peaceful return of Hong Kong. Such things come up in conversation with Chinese diplomats as casually as talk about the weather. Chinese diplomacy is patient, not short-term optimistic or spasmodically reactive. There is no fierce urgency to reunification. Sun Tzu: One waits to win.

    China matched this with a policy of “strategic patience” (antagonists argue China will not wait forever, but also understands the time between now and forever is long.)

     

    Some Housekeeping

    As for the funny arguments in favor of deterrence, one of the most hilarious is that the U.S. has to maintain its posture over Taiwan as a signal to the rest of the world about commitment or we’ll lose our global credibility. Of course the neo-neocons are saying the same thing about Crimea, um, sorry, Ukraine. I’m still waiting for those who make that argument to explain away our abandoning Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Arab Spring.

    And yes, China is building its military. They now have one real aircraft carrier (same number as India; China also sort of float an old Soviet model) and three high-end Type 075 amphibious landing ships with Type 071s coming soon online. In comparison, the U.S. has 11 carriers and eight high-end amphibious landing ships. There’s a long way to go before we talk invasion or steeled threat, never mind parity.

    As for the idea China is building out its fleet and therefore must somehow ignore all the other points I made here tonight and thus must attack someone, I can only point to the Cold War where the Russians despite in about 1972 having at least parity with NATO and with the US tied down in Vietnam never attacked in Europe. Now if you wanna simply credit deterrence go ahead, but there’s also the idea that other things I’ve tried to touch on tonight plays a role in all of this. We act sometimes like our adversaries are all suicidal hegemonic Bond villains instead of calculating nation-states with complex goals. Any connections to Putin-mania and the Ukraine are purely coincidental.

    But don’t believe me, believe the Pentagon’s annual China Military Power report. It stated “China’s significant investment in its amphibious fleet does not necessarily portend an invasion of Taiwan. An attempt to invade Taiwan would likely strain China’s armed forces and invite international intervention. These stresses, combined with China’s combat force attrition and the complexity of urban warfare and counterinsurgency, even assuming a successful landing and breakout, make an amphibious invasion of Taiwan a significant political and military risk.”

    Never spoken of is what would happen to President Xi and the Chinese system if his invasion failed, with or without US involvement. Where are the Marines tonight? I know Professor Galston was in the Corps, thank you for your service. Aren’t massive amphibious landings considered the hardest of military moves to execute, especially for the untested PLA? And this isn’t Normandy, Chinese ships would be under Taiwan’s indigenous missile defenses almost as they left their harbors (known as area denial.) If Xi fails, he is done for and perhaps with him the current political system. Needless to say a Chinese military which felt it had been misused and blooded unnecessarily would not be a healthy thing for the Beijing government to have around. I think the word for coup in Mandarin is Jūnshì zhèngbiàn.

    Win or lose, an attack on Taiwan would likely see a frightened Japan and South Korea step over the nuclear threshold and China would thus face more powerful enemies. In addition, an attack on Taiwan would severely damage the economy there Xi would no doubt see as part of the prize. Lastly, an attack on Taiwan would see Chinese killing Chinese, people who speak the same language and share several thousand years of culture. Pre-Covid, travelers from China made 2.68 million visits a year to Taiwan, many of which were to visit relatives. Student exchanges between Taiwan and China began in 2011, with some 25,000 Mainland kids studying on Taiwan pre-Covid. Even a “successful” attack would be near-political suicide for Xi.

     

    Conclusion

    An invasion of Taiwan would leave the China politically isolated, economically damaged, and reputationally crippled. And ironically, a failed attack could lead to a Taiwanese declaration of independence China would be incapable of stopping.

    There is no rational, risk vs. gain, reason for hostilities and thus no need for deterrence. My fear is the United States has already decided a bench clearing, superpower showdown is needed, eagle vs. dragon, for control of the Pacific, or at least a new and profitable arms race. You can lie about Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction long enough to get a war started, but an actual Chinese invasion is a bridge too far for straight-up fabrication. I worry deeply we are looking for a reason, given that China is unlikely to be a sport and invade Taiwan for us, using the cloak of deterrence to prepare for war. America’s current China policy is unnecessarily adversarial. It is impractical and dangerous.

    America is still a big, mean dog, but our ability to influence events around the world is limited to barking and biting and only works when barking and biting is the solution. When anything beyond threats is needed, say when dealing with near-peers like China, we have few if any tools but to reimagine legitimate competitors into enemies. It plays out as if U.S. foreign policy is run by WWII reenactors.

    And with that settled, the Professor will now go on to resolve the situation in Ukraine and fix the NY subway system. What, no more time? Sorry friends, next time.

     

    Bīng dòng sān chǐ, fēi yīrì zhī hán — It takes more than one cold day for a river to freeze a meter deep.

    Nándé hútu — Ignorance is bliss.

     

    BONUS I: Taiwan is not Ukraine

    I have a medal for winning the Cold War. It was for any member of the military, or federal civilian employee, who served during the Cold War. That included me, at the tail end, with the State Department. Ironically my so-called Cold War service was on Taiwan. I probably should return the thing; the Cold War is far from over.

    Part of the Cold War’s real conclusion is playing out in Ukraine in real time. Is Taiwan, another hanging chad from the Cold War, next? Is President Xi watching a weakened America giving in to the Russians and seeing his chance to seize Taiwan?

    Nope. Taiwan is not Ukraine is not Taiwan. The two places only exist next to each other in articles like this because both are the results of American policy. Each exists alongside its nemesis only because the rules the U.S. created (the “liberal world order” as long as the U.S. is in first place) are not subscribed to anymore by most of the world, if they ever really were. But that does not mean Taiwan is in imminent danger.

    While Putin‘s invasion timing may or may not have had something to do with Joe Biden (if Trump were really his puppet that would have seemed an easier time to do this) the reality is what is unfolding in the Ukraine reaches back much further than Biden or Trump, to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

    It was then the policy of the United States to empower the former Soviet satellite states and grow American influence by expanding NATO eastward (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, and Romania formally joined the alliance, East Germany as well by default) and to do this while taking the nuclear weapons away from those states so that none of them would become a threat or rival in Europe.

    We took their people, too. As a young State Department officer in London in the early 1990s I was told to issue visa after visa to former nuclear scientists from the Ukraine, as well as all sorts of rogues headed to the United States to get them out of the ‘Stans. We created a brain drain to ensure none of the newly independent states could rise above the nuclear threshold the United States established unilaterally for them. It was American policy to have weak but not too weak states between Russia and the “good” part of Europe, dependent on America for defense.

    Understanding why an adversary does something is not the same as supporting him. As the Soviet Union collapsed, borders were redrawn with more attention to the West’s needs than any natural flow of those borders (the same mistake was made earlier by the British post-WWI in the Middle East.) The reality of 2022 is Putin is seeking to redraw borders, something now doable because Russia has been allowed to re-grow its fangs. Ukraine as a possible NATO member is a threat to Putin and he is now taking care of that. Americans live in a country that has no border threats and fail to understand the mindset time after time. We believe instead when we invade countries (Vietnam, Cambodia, Grenada, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan) it’s part of international law.

    Geo-politically, it was easy. A pro-Russian faction exists inside Ukraine, and Ukraine exists outside the NATO umbrella. Putin’s 2014 proof-of-concept in Crimea assured him NATO would not intervene. About the only real obstacle was the likely pleas of President Xi to hold off and not spoil the Olympics.

    Taiwan is another Cold War relic. While the U.S. propped up Taiwan’s very undemocratic military government for decades as an ironic bulkhead against communism, the island grew into an economic powerhouse. In that lies the fundamental difference between the relationships of Russia and Ukraine, and China and Taiwan.

    China and Taiwan are economic partners. Between 1991 and March 2020 Taiwan’s investment in China totaled $188.5 billion, more than China’s investment in the United States. In 2019, the value of cross-strait trade was $149.2 billion. China is Taiwan’s largest trading partner. China and Taiwan are ethnically the same people, enjoying an enormous bounty of cross strait commerce, culture, student exchanges, and other ties signifying a growing relationship not an adversarial one. What incentive would China have to drop bombs on one of its best customers?

    Any cross-strait violence would affect US-China relations; Ukraine has little effect on the already poor state of US-Russia relations. Chinese investment in the U.S. economy is over $145 billion. U.S. investment in China passed $1 trillion. China is the second largest foreign holder of U.S. government debt. If something interfered with all that commerce, China would have to find a way to use unfinished iPhones as food.

    One of the problems with the sanctions Biden is claiming he’s going to use to punish Russia is how unintegrated Russia is into the world economy after so many years of sanctions. What’s left that will sting? Biden promises “economic consequences like none [Putin]’s ever seen.” But the Panama Papers show much of the so-called oligarch money, including Putin’s, is not in the U.S. or its allies’ banking systems anyway. The oft-discussed SWIFT international banking system is run as a neutral entity out of Belgium, and Russia cannot be blocked from it by any U.S. “sanction.”

    Germany is temporarily halting certification of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, but no one is talking about tearing it down. And if U.S. sanctions drive up gas prices without affecting the situation on the ground in Ukraine, who is sanctioning whom?

    China on the other hand is deeply vulnerable to sanctions and disruptions of commerce following an attack on Taiwan. The risk in calculable dollars is beyond any gain owning Taiwan would bring; imagine the impact of closing U.S. ports to Chinese cargo vessels.

    On the military side, Russia was able to literally drive into Ukraine, something the mighty Red Army has been perfecting since 1945. Taiwan famously is an island, and a Chinese amphibious invasion would scale beyond the Normandy landings. Taiwan fields Harpoon missiles with the range to put Chinese forces under fire almost as they leave port. Tactically there is no comparison between the flat plains of the Ukraine and the rocky coast of Taiwan. Nobody undertakes an invasion they are likely to lose.

    An invasion of Taiwan would leave China isolated and economically crippled. Not so for Russia and Ukraine where the benefits to Russia clearly outweighed the risk. Taiwan is not Ukraine is not Taiwan.

     

    BONUS II: Deterrence in Ukraine and Taiwan

    The answer is one failed in Ukraine, one has kept the peace. The question is, going forward, is the model the strategic clarity of NATO’s Article 5 or the strategic ambiguity of the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act.

    The principle of collective defense is at the very heart of NATO, created by a 1949 Treaty. Its history is embedded in WWII, when the Nazis gained a massive advantage in the earliest days of the war by playing the various European nations against each other, picking off territory while London and Paris bickered over what to do. NATO was be the solution. Article 5 of the NATO treaty says “An armed attack against one or more of the [signers] shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them… will assist the Party or Parties so attacked.” The critical points are that the treaty is inclusionary — all NATO members, large or small — and exclusionary in that it only applies to NATO members. An attack on NATO member Poland triggers Article 5. An attack on Ukraine or Taiwan, not NATO members, does not.

    The 1979 Taiwan Relations Act (TRA; also the U.S.-PRC Joint Communique) grew out of Mainland China dictator Mao’s threat to “liberate” Taiwan and Nationalist dictator Chiang Kai-shek’s demand for U.S. support to reclaim the Mainland. With the Korean War sopping up American blood, Washington had no desire to join what would have been a land war to rival WWII. Instead, it established diplomatic relations with Taiwan, and signed a mutual defense treaty in 1954. That lasted until 1979, when the U.S. switched its diplomatic recognition from the people of Taiwan to the people of the Mainland (China; but note the diplomatic wording) and Congress enacted the Taiwan Relations Act. The TRA listed two obligations to Taiwan: to sell it arms and to maintain the U.S.’ capacity “to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion” against Taiwan.

    The actual wording in the TRA is instructive: “Peace and stability in the area are matters of international concern… any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means, including by boycotts or embargoes is considered a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area and of grave concern to the United States.” This represents diplomatic brilliance, and came to be known as “strategic ambiguity,” a policy understood to mean the U.S. doesn’t have to defend Taiwan, but it can. The circumstances and means of defense are left unspoken. China matched this with a policy of “strategic patience” (antagonists argue China will not wait forever, but China also understands the time between now and forever is long.)
    The most important thing about the TRA is it works. The Mainland has not invaded Taiwan. Despite changes in leadership as dramatic as Mao (albeit in 1976) to Deng to Xi the Mainland has not invaded. Despite Taiwan changing from military dictatorship to democracy, the Mainland has not invaded. Despite global changes including the Korean and Vietnam wars where China and the U.S. fought each other directly, development of nuclear weapons by China, fall of the Soviet Union, the Mainland has not invaded. The Chinese military has gone from peasants with rifles to a blue water navy and the Mainland has not invaded. China has gone from agrarian isolation to an essential part of the industrialized global economy, and the Mainland has not invaded. Ukraine happened, and the Mainland has not invaded.

    The irony is deterrence worked in Ukraine, at least from Putin’s point of view. It prevented the U.S. from getting involved in the shooting war between Russia and Ukraine. The NATO treaty was written to compel its signatories to act once someone moved against them (the treaty was obviously written with the Soviet Union in mind though Article 5 has only been invoked once, following 9/11, and then mostly for show.) As Putin readied to invade Ukraine, Biden threw away any trace elements of strategic ambiguity by declaring early and often NATO would not intervene and the U.S. would not unilaterally enter the fighting. It was as green a light as could be for Putin. ‘Round the other side of the world, Sino-Asia sleeps at peace knowing everything is on the table should the Mainland invade but nothing is at risk should it not. What better example of deterrence working?

    The concern now is moves in both hemispheres to formalize redlines. Much talk will be devoted post-invasion as to whether Ukraine should join NATO, feign at joining NATO, or promise never to join NATO. Joining or something akin will be the wrong answer. It was in fact the rigidity of NATO’s promise that saw it fail, again, in Ukraine as in Crimea. Putin understands this and uses it — judo master that he is — against his adversary. NATO prescribes war whether the broader circumstances (of say energy dependence on Russian gas) make that seem wise. It is an exploitable flaw. The good news is Europe is again at a stasis point for the time being, Ukraine seemingly headed toward a resolution that provides Russia its buffer zone no matter what it is all spun as in the western media.

    The risk lies in Asia, where bullish elements are tempted to disturb an equally functional power status quo, and jeez, it’s Joe “Regime Change” Biden and his gaffes again. At a CNN town hall in October 2021, the host asked Biden if the U.S. would defend Taiwan. He said “Yes, we have a commitment to do that,” another gaffe-erino which the White House quickly walked back into the realm of strategic ambiguity. But post-Ukraine, some hawks want that clarity and are pushing for a formal, Article 5-like declaration. In their perfect world, that Asian Article 5 would include not only Taiwan and the U.S., but also Japan, Korea, Australia, the Philippines, and maybe others (the U.S. has various types of self-defense treaties already with many Asian nations.)

    The justifications for such moves often make no sense in the face of the current TRA strategy’s multi-decade success. Some say because Beijing ramped up its rhetoric and shipbuilding (a test of resolve!) we need to do something to match that. But wouldn’t a guarantee to go to war for Taiwan make those on Taiwan who want to declare independence that much more reckless? There are those in Congress who want a more formal agreement (if you think the Israel lobby is powerful, check how Taiwan’s punches above its weight.) The ever-pugilistic Council on Foreign Relations wants strategic unambiguity as a show of force.

    Joe Biden will come under some pressure to “do something” (the scariest words in Washington) following the clusterflutz in Ukraine. This would be a very, very risky move. Remember, for deterrence to be credible, it does not need to depend on a willingness to commit anything like suicide in the face of a challenge, but rather must carry the risk that the deterrer is likely to do something that is “fraught with the danger of war.” Strategic ambiguity is enough. Article 5 and anything like it to come in the Pacific purposefully ties its signatories’ hands. The Taiwan Relations Act purposefully leaves all options open to deal with the complex realities of the Sino-Pacific. History shows which one works and which one does not. A more aggressive posture does not resolve the root issues across the Taiwan Strait, it only risks exacerbating them.

     

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • Ginnie Thomas and the January 6 Committee

    April 9, 2022 // 0 Comments

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    Posted in: Biden, Democracy

    In one of the most desperate moves since January 6, 2021, the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol is considering subpoenaing Ginni Thomas, wife of Clarence Thomas, to review a handful of texts she sent which the Committee feels may amount to treason. The connection is weak, along the lines of evidence that Trump was the one who actually slapped Chris Rock, but the need to come up with a new crisis to revive attention to the events of January 6 post-Ukraine is real.

    The genesis of this “crisis” begins in the Hail Mary plans to use the January 6 Committee to rescue Democrats from near-certain electoral defeat. Though Ginni Thomas’ conservative roots go back to the Heritage Foundation and the Tea Party, it was left to Democratic journo-operative Bob Woodward late last month to highlight a series of texts Ginni sent on January 6 to Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. The texts had been voluntarily turned over to the January 6 Committee by Meadows (who has since ceased cooperating.) Someone on the Committee leaked the texts and a not so spontaneous chorus of Dems, lead in part by straining-for-relevance AOC, erupted calling for Clarence to recuse himself from all cases dealing with the 2020 and 2024 elections, or resign, or face impeachment.

    The texts are online. Read them if you like, but they come no closer to treason than this article, even though one progressive magazine calls Ginni a threat to the Court itself. Ginni has long been the target of conspiracy theorists, who falsely accused her of busing in protesters on January 6 to bolster the Capitol assault force.

    In case you are unfamiliar with the events of January 6, a bunch of disgruntled Trump supporters turned a legal rally into illegal entry. MSM and Dems reimagined the entire day into some sort of attempted coup. Absolutely nothing could have happened on January 6 that would have resulted in some new form of government on January 7 and that is what a coup is and why what happened was not one and never will be no matter how many times the January 6 Committee tries to claim it was.

    So how did all this end up in Clarence Thomas’ lap? Dems claim almost two years after Ginni sent those texts and after Thomas has sat on the bench for 30 years and after the pair has also been married for three decades, that this month Mrs. Thomas’ politics may influence her husband’s decisions. The solution is for Mr. Thomas to resign, or recuse, or be impeached while his wife is dragged before the Committee as an example of the vast conspiracy behind what did not happen on January 6.

    Thomas and Ginni are far from unique; often modern women have jobs outside the home. And we’ll leave aside the many Washington journalists married to policy makers (Alan Greenspan and Andrea Mitchell) people on different sides of the aisle cohabitating (James Carville and Mary Matalin) and others (Mitch McConnell and Elaine Chao.) There are also those other political wives with agendas of their own, including Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Dole, and Hillary. If you work inside the DC bubble you are going to meet others who also do, and navigating the idea that politics makes strange bedfellows is part of life in the capital.

    Nonetheless, looking to stock the witness list for the January 6 Committee, this seems to be all the Dems have to work with, so 1950 it is! Of course it makes no sense, this idea that a wife cannot be in the same general business as her hubby, especially to a Democratic constituency  built around the idea of empowering women, pink hats, and all that. But the flexibility of Democratic supporters on such matters is exemplary — look at how a group who otherwise stands for LGBT rights can’t seem to get its fill of Trump-Putin homophobia.

    Nonetheless, in the interest of showing as completely as possible how shallow the Dems are on Ginni-gate, let’s look at the law and precedent. Supreme Court justices enjoy uniquely protected status, and are not subject to disqualification from decisions over their own activities that bear directly on cases, never mind those of their spouse. Justice Kagan, for example, voted in favor of Obamacare despite having helped create the legal strategy to defend it as solicitor general. Justice Breyer ruled on constitutionality of sentencing guidelines he helped write as a Congressional staffer. Justices Louis Brandeis, Thurgood Marshall, Abe Fortas, and Hugo Black had politically active wives. Ruth Bader Ginsburg did not recuse herself from cases involving her husband’s law firm.

    Outside of the Supreme Court, DC Circuit Judge Nina Pillard is married to the ACLU’s litigation director. Ninth Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt’s wife leads an ACLU chapter. Even those instances did not violate 28 USC Section 455, the law which covers judicial recusals. You get the picture — there is no marriage penalty. Yet a prominent New York University law professor still writes with a straight face “Ginni Thomas alone among the husbands and wives of the justices has shown utter disregard for the harm she inflicts on the court and the administration of justice in the service of her political goals.”

    I know how Clarence Thomas must feel. I joined the State Department not long after it had phased out including diplomats’ wives on performance evaluations. The generations before me spoke in a funny/not funny way about how their bosses kept track of how many teas their wives attended, who did the “right” kinds of charity work, and who was too “ethnic” to fit in. Either your wife tried played nicely or she sat on the sidelines and your own evaluation mentioned she was a none participant. That was generally thought of as better than a bad evaluation of her finger sandwiches.

    That all seems so long ago. To watch the Democrats try and drag Ginni Thomas back into the 1950s for their own partisan purposes is as funny as it is sad. One wonders what scoop Bob Woodward might uncover next — are Ginni Thomas’ cucumber sandwiches really served with the crust still on?!?

     

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • What the Hell is Joe Biden Doing in Ukraine?

    April 8, 2022 // 0 Comments

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    Posted in: Biden, Military

    Does anyone know what the hell Joe Biden is doing in Ukraine? Americans must feel like a high school substitute teacher. America turns its back for five minutes after having won the Cold War, and Joe Biden has restarted it in the back row. No address to the nation, no white papers, just “Putin attacked Ukraine and it is an existential threat we must respond to.” Didn’t we used to vote on this kind of thing?

    Engagement is a given. But what is the end point for Joe, the moment we announce we won? In Ukraine, no one knows. By starting this intervention with the promise not to send NATO into actual combat, Biden sent a clear signal to Putin — if you are willing with your overwhelming military advantage over Ukraine to spend the blood and treasure, you win. Putin’s goal is the creation of some sort of buffer state between him and NATO, so Putin can win whether Kiev physically stands or tumbles. A “win” for the US side requires Putin to retreat in shame. Breaking things is always easier than getting someone to admit they were wrong.

    Biden has two weapons to deploy: guns and sanctions. Can either create a win?

    While Ukraine has antitank weapons and rifles, Putin has hypersonic missiles and lots of tanks. If a win for him includes a scenario where Kiev is reduced to looking like Detroit, how will any of the weapons the US sends matter? Infantry-based proxy ground warfare can delay a mechanized army but not defeat it, forestall a Ukrainian defeat but not prevent it, when its only goal is greater destruction. Notice when Zelensky showcases photos of kids with guns and old women making Molotovs and then the Russians target “civilians” an apartment complex at a time?

    Those are poor odds in a war of attrition. Ukraine boasts it destroyed 509 Russian tanks, almost all using shoulder fired missiles. Maybe; one of the techniques of modern propaganda is to throw out some outrageous number, challenge people to disprove it, and then shout “you can’t disprove it so I’m right.” So no proof. But history suggests 509 man-on-tank kills is ridiculous. During Gulf War 1.0, one of the largest tank battles of modern times at 73 Easting saw Coalition forces destroy only 160 Iraqi tanks, and that was using the M-1 tank with its sophisticated aiming tech and night vision. Even at the famed Battle of the Bulge only 700 tanks from both sides were destroyed.

    There are similar reasons to be skeptical of Ukrainian claims of 15,000 dead Russians in three weeks. That would be double the number killed on Iwo Jima in five weeks of fighting, or at Gettysburg on both sides in the whole battle. It is about four times the total US losses in Iraq over 17 years. Ukraine also claims to have killed five Russian generals, five more general officers that have been killed in all the wars the United States have fought since WW II. Same for the claims Russia is running out of food, gas, and tires. Same for the social media war; how many divisions does Facebook control?

     

    The theory of sanctions is that they will place such as squeeze on Russian oligarchs Putin will be forced to withdraw from Ukraine. Putin, otherwise portrayed as a dictator who answers to no one, will supposedly listen to these men complain someone seized their yacht and cause Putin to reverse a foreign policy that he otherwise believes benefits Russia in the long run. The US has been piling sanctions on these same oligarchs for decades, with a new, tougher, round each time Putin made his moves against Georgia, Grozny, and Crimea. None of those sanctions compelled a withdrawal and none have stopped Putin from making his subsequent move against Ukraine. Effective, no, but points for creativity: there’s a plan to strip Putin’s “Eva Braun” (you can’t make this up) of her old Olympic medals in hopes she’ll withhold nooky Lysistrata-like until Putin, sorry, withdraws.

    Another problem with sanctions is they are nowhere near strong enough to actually hurt. Goofy yacht warfare aside, Biden’s ban on Russian petroproducts accounts for only some one percent of Russia’s output. NATO allies are not able to participate fully without crippling their own economies. But loopholes amid half-measures are only part of the problem. Having grown used to slapping sanctions casually against lesser countries like Cuba and North Korea, Biden has limited understanding of their effects against a globally-connected economy. Such sanctions have the potential to cause grave fallout because unlike say Cuba, Russia can fight back.

    Though the goal of sanctions is to punish very specific Russians, known by name, in a position to influence Putin, concern on world markets drove up prices of crude oil, natural gas, wheat, copper, nickel, aluminum, fertilizers, and gold. A grain and metals shortage now looms, even in early days of this spillover effect. While the cost to oligarchs is unknown, the affect on economies the US should be courting, not hurting, is clear. Central Asia’s economies are now caught up in the sanctions shock. These former Soviet states are strongly connected to the Russian economy through trade and outward labor migration. They will be as likely to blame the US as Russia for their problems, converting potential US allies into adversaries. We have also yet to see what counter-moves Russia will make toward the West, to include nationalization of Western capital. Russian fertilizer export restrictions are putting pressure on global food production. Russia could also restrict exports of nickel, palladium, and industrial sapphires, the building blocks for batteries, catalytic converters, and microchips. Unlike supposedly targeted sanctions, these would spank global markets broadly.

    Biden is in the process of discovering sanctions are a blunt instrument. It will be a diplomatic challenge he is not likely up to to keep economic fallout from spilling over into political dissention across a Europe already not sure where it stands on “tough” sanctions.

    Bad as all that sounds, some of the worst blowback from Biden’s Ukraine policy is happening with China. During the only Cold War years Biden remembers, China was mostly a sideshow and certainly not vying to be the world’s largest economy. Without seemingly understanding the world is no longer bipolar, the West versus the Soviet bloc, Joe Biden actually may do even more harm than he understands right now.

    Russia is a big country that has committed only a small portion of its military to Ukraine. It absolutely does not need Chinese help to prosecute the war, as Biden claims. Biden is unnecessarily antagonizing China, who should be more or less neutral in this but instead now is being positioned by Biden as an enemy of the United States and an ally of Russia. China buys oil from Russia but that does not translate into some sort of across-the-board support for Russian foreign policy a la 1975. Biden, by threatening China with sanctions of its own, by likening Ukraine to Taiwan, and by essentially demanding of Beijing that they are with us or against us threatens to turn China just the wrong way. Economic spillover from Russia is one thing; disturbing one of the world’s largest trading relationships is another.

    As the Wall Street Journal points out, China’s basic approach of not endorsing Moscow’s aggression but resisting Western efforts to punish Russia has garnered global support. The South African president blames the war on NATO. Brazil’s president refused to condemn Russia. India and Vietnam, essential partners for any China strategy, are closer to China than the US in their approach to the war. Biden seems oblivious to the opportunities this gap creates for China.

    In my own years as a diplomat I heard often from smaller countries’ representatives about the “America Tax,” the idea America’s foreign policy dalliances end up costing everyone something. Whether it is a small military contribution to the Iraq War effort, or a disruption in shipping, nobody gets away free when America is on a crusade. This cost is built in to those smaller nations’ foreign policy. But when the Big Dog starts in on sanctions which will impact globally against a target like Russia, the calculus changes from a knowing sigh (“The Americans are at it again…”) to real fear. Many nations the US needs as part of its alliances don’t trust its ability to manage economic consequences to protect them, even if America is even aware of those consequences. US moves against Russia’s central bank become a weapon they fear could one day be directed against them as America seeks to weaponize the global economic system. Russia can weather a nasty storm; a smaller economy cannot. Chinese propaganda about the need for alternative economic arrangements that limit Western power are significantly more influential now than a month ago.

    So in the end were left with the question of what fundamental US interest is being served by Biden‘s intervention in Ukraine at what cost. There’s always the sort of silliness that fuels Washington, things like “send a message” or “stand up for what’s right,” ambiguous goals that tend to get people killed without accomplishing anything — strategic hubris. Biden has fallen deep into the Cold War trap, and cannot accept there is little that can be done, and back away from the Ukraine to spare further bloodshed. Every world problem is not America’s to resolve and every world problem cannot be resolved by America.

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • Has Joe Biden Gone Loco Over Ukraine?

    April 6, 2022 // 0 Comments

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    Posted in: Biden, Military

    Has Joe Biden gone loco over Ukraine? In a speech in Warsaw, Biden proclaimed of Russian President Vladimir Putin “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.” Biden also called Putin a butcher.

    Then in a meeting with the Polish president, Biden said the U.S. regards NATO’s Article 5 as a “sacred commitment.” Biden called Warsaw a “sacred place” in the history of Europe and in “humankind’s unending search for freedom.” Biden went on to describe the conflict in Ukraine as “a battle between democracy and autocracy, between liberty and repression, between a rules-based order and one governed by brute force.” Biden’s choice of historical antidotes was a bit disingenuous, as he cited the Nazi siege of Leningrad as equivalent to the evil in Ukraine but left out the equally brutal Soviet siege of Berlin. He also slipped in a sophomoric ruble and rubble joke which was less Churchillian then churlish. Biden’s talk about unity begged the question of why he was standing alone on that podium. Where were the French, British, and German leaders? And who promotes democracy by calling for a coup anyway?

    That the White House later downplayed Biden’s remarks about regime change only underlined how out of touch Joe really is. Biden also made a multiple-part gaffe when addressing U.S. troops on the Ukrainian border, saying “And you’re going to see when you’re there, I don’t know if you’ve been there, you’re going to see women, young people, standing in the middle of the damn tank.”

    For all his rhetoric in Warsaw, pretty much since Russia invaded Ukraine Biden has not said more than a word about inflation, the economy, unemployment, gas prices other than they are a price for all Americans to pay for a free Ukraine, Covid people, transpeople, black lives people, Hunter’s laptop, Ketanji Brown Jackson and her nomination hearings, Afghanistan, China except in the Ukrainian context, the Iran nuclear negotiations, unfulfilled promises about canceling student loans, January 6, or much of anything else.

    The dog was been wagged. Again. From a cold start a month ago when few American spent a moment on “whither Ukraine” we as a nation are buying into the notion that nothing more important could exist. Invoking the term “sacred” twice in one speech, more than the Pope on a typical day, and claiming this all is a battle “between liberty and repression,” Biden is rallying Americans to a new Crusade. And once again, as it was in failures strewn across the Middle East, the goal is “regime change.” In other speeches Biden, with the Kennedy School chorus behind him, has threatened retaliation if Russia uses nuclear or chemical weapons, even in non-NATO Ukraine.

    Our new bestest friend in this Crusade is being transformed into one of the goodest, a “sacred place” in “humankind’s unending search for freedom.” The real Poland does not exactly have a spotless record searching for freedom. Many Poles enthusiastically supported the Holocaust. Poland is currently ruled by a right-wing government people were calling Trumpian just a few weeks ago. Poland is buddies with Hungary, which opposes further sanctions and boasts a proudly illiberal prime minister hated by progressives. The European Court of Justice recently cleared the way to cut billions in aid to Poland on the grounds it failed to uphold the rule of law. Only a month before the invasion, Poland attended a Defend Europe conference seeking to shift attention from Putin to the pan-European issues of immigration and demographic decline. Poland maintains what it calls “LGBT-Free Zones.” So sacred space or not, Poland is no angel. What it is is the latest in a long line of paid vassals for American foreign policy, the new Pakistan, all faults over-looked, the recipient of billions, and depot for the new war.

    Biden is claiming the benefits of a war-time president without most of the war, saber-rattling in a very dangerous way, as if no lessons had been learned over the last two decades. He is promoting once again regime change at America’s whim. But this time not with some scabby little state in the Middle East, but with the world’s largest nation, one armed with nuclear weapons, a still powerful economy, a massive conventional army, and diplomatic power from the UN to India to China to Iran to wield.

    In laying out the evidence Biden has truly lost his mind, let’s examine the case for regime change in Russia. Certainly a month ago no one spoke of this, a clue Russia’s fundamentals are solid enough. Whatever happens in Ukraine is far below the threshold of overturning an otherwise stable government. Putin has been in power for 22 years, ironically installed in a coup that threw out the more or less pro-western Boris Yeltsin. Putin has had plenty of time to stock the ranks of the architects of any overthrow, the military and intelligence services, with plenty of loyalists. Reports of arrests in the army or in the intel services come exclusively from non-credible sources, anti-Soviet think tanks and propagandists. As for the oligarchs, how many divisions do they control?

    Further to the madness there is also the threat of nuclear war. Biden just drew a new red line, not just at NATO’s border but by claiming he will retaliate if Russia uses nuclear or chemical weapons in Ukraine. It seems almost nostalgic to remember when we feared imminent nuclear war just because Trump sent a Tweet about Rocket Man. Had Trump demanded regime change in Russia they’d be talking 25th Amendment on Late Night with some justification.

    The clearest evidence Biden has absolutely no idea what he is doing is how certain he is to fail. If regime change is the new U.S. foreign policy goal, and it does not happen, then Biden is the loser. Why would a sane man take the short term gain of looking like a wartime president with the certainty by the November midterms he will look like a failed president? Dude is loco.

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • Biden Wants All the Points Due a Wartime President without Actually Going to War

    April 4, 2022 // 0 Comments

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    Posted in: Military

    The view that war is politics by other means, the realist idea nations pursue strategic goals with some sort of calculation behind them, is not for us. Americans must reduce everything to good versus evil, democracy versus autocracy, light versus dark. Leaders throughout history have sold wars with this b.s.; America’s problem is we seem to actually believe it’s true. Let’s see how it plays out in the real world.

    Imagine facing an enemy who refuses to surrender despite overwhelming odds, leaving the other side the choice between a protracted urban war or an air attack to resolve the situation. In the case of Putin and Kiev, our nightly news is flooded with images of the targeting of civilians and screams from Washington of war crimes. The American answer in an earlier war, however, was the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, two targets at the end of a long and ugly war where women and children were casually incinerated to save we were told additional casualties on the ground. It was OK because America is basically good. If you twist that logic hard enough it comes out we did the Japs a favor by nuking their cities. The cries of “but it’s different!” because of whatever, Pearl Harbor, are left unanswered by the blackened ghosts of the Japanese who died not knowing what a favor the US did them.

    And that action in 1945 (amplified by the destruction by policy of whole villages in Korea and Vietnam, never mind the scorched earth of Fallujah) leaves the United States in a unique position it pretends not to know about. As Putin and others may talk about nuclear threats, history records that we alone actually used nuclear weapons, against civilian targets. Little bitches like Putin or Kim may issue threats but only the United States has carried through with it. It’s a helluva basis for morality.

     

    America’s simplistic morality means it cannot ascribe a legitimate strategic goal to an adversary; he must instead be crazy, insane, new Hitler, bonkers, thug, bully, war criminal, driven to restore Imperial Russia, a danger to his own people, bent on world domination, Saddam, Assad, Qaddafi, anything out of the Bond villian community. Local or regional problems thus self-inflate into existential threats to democracy. We can’t just beat Putin in Ukraine, we have to destroy his economy, regime change him, murder him outright to even the moral score since he dared challenge our world view. This causes us to make serious mistakes.

    In Putin’s case, few allow that maybe he really is scared of NATO forces walking right to his border and seeks a buffer zone in the Ukraine. That is certainly what he has said (we don’t believe him.) At the end of the Cold War the west denuclearized new nation states like Ukraine, redrew their borders in line with western aims, and added Poland and the Balkan states to NATO. Most of all, with the fall of the Soviet Union, the west did not dismantle NATO. The alliance, formed for the collective defense of western Europe against the Soviets, was left not only to stand after the Soviet Union was gone, but thrust eastward, claiming territory that would have been among NATO’s first targets had the Cold War gone hot.

    Imagine the reaction inside Moscow to its worst fears being shoved at it at its weakest moment, and if you can, you may understand Putin’s not-crazy goals. As the west turned up the heat instead of bringing Russia in from the cold, NATO went from a defensive alliance to a political cudgel. From Putin’s point of view, he faces an adversary which actually believes it has the moral responsibility to dictate global political arrangements, even in regions that are more important to him than they are to the Washington.

    Putin tried to make his needs known, that Ukraine should stay neutral. His proffer was met by a coup (likely abetted by the US) which brought pro-US nationalists to power. The response was, almost had to have been, Putin’s invasion of Crimea. These are not wars of choice in the way say Putin invading Iraq might be, but wars of strategic necessity to him. Had the US had the philosophical ability to understand this, it might have found a reasonable negotiating strategy instead of poking the bear in one of his most sensitive areas until he reacted.

    That is the background, but why attack Ukraine now? In its arrogance America has decided it all has to do with America, actually the least important factor here. So we hear about Trump and Putin’s bromance, wonder if Biden is weak, speculate the horrible ending in Afghanistan is at fault. But if you think like Putin, your focus is elsewhere. He looks at the warpigs in charge today, the same Obama team from the 2014 overthrow, Blinken, Sullivan, Nuland, and Susan Rice. And it was then-VP Biden who personally ran Obama’s Ukraine policy. He knows CIA paramilitaries are on the ground in Ukraine. Then in November 2021 the US and Ukraine signed the Charter on Strategic Partnership, asserting Kiev’s right to NATO membership. The Charter was a policy statement by the Biden administration, and an intolerable prospect for Russia. By imagining Putin as nothing but a megalomaniac, America unknowingly drew a red line for him. It is easy to imagine a future historian uncovering documents showing the planning for the current invasion began at that same time.

    Convinced NATO will never reject Ukraine, Putin took his own steps to block it. By invading, he created a “frozen conflict” knowing NATO cannot realistically admit countries that don’t control their borders (how to apply Article Five when a country is already at war as it joins NATO?) Such frozen conflicts already cripple Georgia, Crimea, and Moldova, as well as the semi-independent areas of Donbas and Luhansk. Add now Ukraine to that list. If you understand this, you also know what happens next in Ukraine: not much apart from better defining borders and the new lines of control. No need to drive much further west, Putin has already got most of what he wanted. And no need to worry about nukes, they are not needed for Putin’s strategic purpose.

    This is why sanctions won’t accomplish much besides raising the price of gas for Americans. Putin is chasing a goal which has eluded Russia for three decades. Sanctions will not cause him to give that up, any more than previous sanctions caused him to hesitate striking. Russia and America are talking past one another, identifying different motivations and different end games.

    The sad news is Ukraine does not realize it is a pawn in a larger struggle. The Ukrainians bought the big lie in the 90s that if they denuclearized America would protect them. They now join the long list of countries goaded by the US into fighting to the last man in support of American foreign policy goals (ask the Iraqi Kurds, and later the Sunnis, how that worked out.) Ukrainians are very brave, but it was Americans that put them in harm’s way by using their country as a crush zone, with little consideration for the people now paying the price.

    Biden wants all the points due a wartime president without actually going to war; he is practicing political opportunism not statecraft. That will collapse mightily on old Joe if Putin declares victory first. So soon enough Zelensky will get the call from the White House letting him know time is up, he’ll have to take a deal with Russia to reset the status quo for a faux “win.” Biden needs the war to end before it starts to look like he lost. Zelensky can reject this and go down hard, like Diem in Vietnam in the 1960s who didn’t realize his time in America’s lap was up, or he can leave Ukraine a “hero,” beaten but never broken, book and biopic movie deal, presidential medal ceremony in the White House, yada yada.

    Biden at some point (it took decades in Afghanistan) will realize he misunderstood his adversary and seek to cut and run. It seems we are close. Zelensky’s propaganda campaign, the atrocity of the day/hero of the day scheme, has failed to bring NATO into the war. Americans get bored easily. He’s just about jumped the shark. If Russians bombing a children’s hospital isn’t enough, there is no enough.

    International affairs researcher Matthew Waldman wrote, “‘strategic empathy’ isn’t about agreeing with an adversary’s position. It is about understanding it so you can fashion an appropriate response.” That is the key to some sort of resolution in Ukraine, and the key to a more effective foreign policy for the US going forward. This is all uncomfortable for most Americans, raised on a steady diet of if we do it is right and moral, if they do it it is evil. But given the dubious success record of this policy across US-supported dictatorships of the Middle East, and Central and South America, and failures in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen and likely soon, Ukraine, maybe a new way forward is worth a look.

     

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • Russiagate: The Smoking Gun, Part II

    April 1, 2022 // 0 Comments

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Democracy, Post-Constitution America

    Part I of this article showed a conspiracy to smear Donald Trump with false allegations of collusion with Russia took place, with Hillary Clinton at its head. Part II today will show the FBI was an active participant in the conspiracy to destroy Trump. The facts are not in dispute. We are left only to decide if the FBI acted incompetently and unprofessionally, or as part of a conspiracy.

    The first part of the smoking gun may have been hiding in plain sight for some time now. In June 2018 Inspector General for the Department of Justice Michael Horowitz released his report on the FBI’s Clinton email investigation, including FBI Director Comey’s drafting of a press release announcing no prosecution for Clinton, written before the full investigation was even complete. In a damning passage, Horowitz found it was “extraordinary and insubordinate for Comey to conceal his intentions from his superiors… for the admitted purpose of preventing them from telling him not to make the statement, and to instruct his subordinates in the FBI to do the same.”

    Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Comey’s boss, is criticized for meeting privately with Bill Clinton as the FBI investigation into Hillary unfolded. “Lynch’s failure to recognize the appearance problem… and to take action to cut the visit short was an error in judgment.” Lynch then doubled-down, refusing to recuse herself from the Clinton case, creating “public confusion.”

    The report also criticizes FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who exchanged texts disparaging Trump before moving from the Clinton email to the Russiagate investigation. Those texts sowed public doubt about the investigation, including one exchange that read, “Page: “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Strzok: “No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it.” Another Strzok document stated “we know foreign actors obtained access to some Clinton emails, including at least one secret message,” thought that was never prosecuted.

    Page and Strzok also discussed cutting back the number of investigators present for Clinton’s in-person interview in light of the fact she might soon be president, and thus their new boss. Someone identified only as Agent One went on to refer to Clinton as “the President” and in a message told a friend “I’m with her.” The FBI also allowed Clinton’s lawyers to attend her interview, even though they were also witnesses to  possible crimes committed by Clinton.

    If that does not add up to a smoking gun that the FBI conspired pre-dossier to help Hillary Clinton, how about this?

    Following Hillary’s exoneration over her emails and mishandling of classified information, the FBI launched its Crossfire Hurricane investigation into Trump-Russia, based in whole or large part on the infamous Christopher Steele dossier. The public now knows the dossier was paid for and stocked with falsehoods by the Clinton campaign. The unanswered questions from that investigation themselves comprise a second smoking gun of FBI conspiracy. For example:

    — Why did the FBI not inquire into Steele’s sources and methods, which would have quickly revealed the information was wholly false? Why was the FBI unable to discover Steele (and later, Clinton lawyer Michael Sussmann, who gave false info to the FBI about Trump and Alfa Bank) were double agents working for and paid by the Clinton campaign?

    — When the FBI found the target of its first FISA warrant out of the dossier, Carter Page, was actually a paid CIA asset, why did they hide this information from the FISA court instead of dropping Page? Why did this not cause them to question the credibility of Steele, a master spy who couldn’t even identify his source was actually a CIA asset? Steele claimed the Russians offered Page an insanely huge bribe, billions of dollars, to end U.S. sanctions if Trump became president. Page clearly could never have played a significant role in ending sanctions. Why did the FBI find those statements credible enough to pursue the warrant?

    — Why did the FBI cite an open-source press article by Michael Isikoff claiming Trump had Russian ties as part of its FISA warrant application against Page without finding out who Isikoff’s source was? The source of course was Christopher Steele, who was interviewed in a hotel room booked by Fusion GPS who was paid by Clinton. The FBI nonetheless claimed an article from Yahoo! corroborated the dossier, a cite unlikely to pass muster on an undergrad term paper. Were they really fooled?

    — Why did the FBI not discover the dossier’s false claim Trump lawyer Michael Cohen visited Prague to meet with Russians? Robert Mueller was able to conclusively dismiss the report. Confirming Cohen in Prague would have been a cornerstone of the FBI’s larger case, but the matter was left open until Mueller.

    — Why did the FBI not question Sussmann about the source of his DNS data, some of which came directly from inside the White House? Why would a private citizen have such information?

    — When Sussmann, claiming to be a concerned citizen with White House DNS data, first approached the FBI, why was he assigned to meet with the FBI’s General Counsel, its lawyer, and not a case agent? Was something other than his information, such possibly FBI collusion with fraud, being validated?

    — Why was the CIA investigation referral saying Hillary was behind Russiagate ignored by the FBI? The memo was addressed to Director James Comey, who claims he has no knowledge of it, and Peter Strzok, who should have been the action officer but did nothing?

    — Why did Kevin Brock, the FBI’s former intelligence chief, say “The fact pattern that John Durham is methodically establishing shows what James Comey and Andrew McCabe likely knew from day one, that the Steele dossier was politically-driven nonsense created at the behest of the Clinton campaign. And yet they knowingly ran with its false information.”

    — Despite the investigation being run by the FBI, why was it CIA Director John Brennan who briefed (LINK) Obama on the Hillary connection in July 2016 and not Comey?

    If any of those questions seem kind of obvious, that is the point. The cover stories only had to hold for a short time, enough to infect the media, enough to make things seem plausible for the FBI. Team Clinton and its co-conspirators were so certain they would win the election they felt none of their tricks needed to stay hidden much past victory. The story is waist-deep rotten.

    At this point you can believe the multiple ops paid for and run by Clinton people were uncoordinated events, or that they were part of the broad campaign Hillary was an active participant in, and about which John Brennan warned Barack Obama, and which the CIA warned the FBI, not knowing they were in on it. You can believe the FBI acted incompetently and unprofessionally (yet consistently, no breaks went Trump’s way), or as part of a conspiracy.

    What you cannot do any more is pretend this did not happen, and that the person most involved came close to being elected president because of it. If you worry about democracy, worry about that.


    In preparing this article, it was fascinating to review the many shameful articles written in 2016 and 2017, the crazy days when every hinted rumor was worth a Breaking! designator. But one piece stood out, from Forbes in 2017. Hillary denied paying for the dossier, and the truth — the campaign paid the law firm Perkins and Coie who paid Fusion GPS who paid Orbis who paid Steele — was not known. The Forbes journalist wrote “If ordered and paid for by Hillary Clinton associates, Russia Gate is turned on its head as collusion between Clinton operatives (not Trump’s) and Russian intelligence. Russia Gate becomes Hillary Gate.” The article went on to say how James Comey refused to comment on Fusion GPS and the dossier in May 2017. Comey by then knew the real story and remained silent, even as the press was still running with the idea the dossier had been paid for by anonymous Democratic donors. If only we’d known.

     

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  • Russiagate: The Smoking Gun, Part I

    March 30, 2022 // 0 Comments

    Tags: , , , , , , ,
    Posted in: Democracy, NSA

    We are looking for two smoking guns now in connection with Russiagate. Today’s Part I will show Hillary Clinton herself sat atop a large-scale conspiracy to use the tools of modern espionage to create and disseminate false information about Trump. Part II to follow will show the FBI was an active participant in that conspiracy.

    In summer 2016 Hillary Clinton’s private email server and her improper handling of classified information was the political story. Consensus was the election was Hillary’s to lose, that her opponents in general and especially the Trump clown show, could not stop her. Despite the MSM’s heroic attempts to downplay the importance of the emails, the issue lingered in the public mind, often aided by Hillary’s own contradictory statements. The emails nagged at the Clinton campaign — her unsecured server lay exposed during her SecState trips to Russia and China, and the deepest fear was that her internal communications might appear one day on Wikileaks, ending her career.

    Clinton fought back. The initial shot was fired on July 24, 2016 by campaign manager Robby Mook, who was the first to claim there was a quid pro quo between Trump and Russia. “It was very concerning last week that Donald Trump changed the Republican platform to become what some experts would regard as pro-Russian,” Mook said, referring to a false story from the GOP convention just a few days earlier. The New York Times sent up a warning flare to all MSM media the next day announcing Clinton was making the Trump-Russia allegation a “theme” of the campaign.  As if she knew just what was coming next, Hillary took that as her cue to claim the Russians were trying to destroy her campaign, a theme which soon morphed into the Russians were trying to help Trump. That soon became Trump and Putin were working in collusion to elect Trump as a Manchurian candidate.

    A prime driver behind all this was a mysterious “dossier.” The jewel in the crown was a “pee tape,” blackmail, kompromat, Moscow held to control Trump. Word was a former MI-6 intelligence officer named Christopher Steele compiled the dossier, giving the whole thing credibility. America media openly speculated on Trump’s imminent arrest for treason, with Twitter aflutter with phrases like tik-tok, walls closing in, and the like. The FBI’s James Comey and CIA’s John Brennan briefed the newly-elected Trump on the dossier simultaneously with the full contents spilling into the media. Talk shifted to impeachment, alongside claims Hillary might still deserve to be president.

    We know now the dossier was fiction. Steele’s raw information was provided by the Clinton campaign, with his chief source working for the Brookings Institute. Steele worked as a double-agent, feeding Clinton-paid for fake info to the FBI pretending he was an FBI informant with sources deep inside Mother Russia. The dossier was a product of the Clinton campaign.

    We also now know the Clinton campaign, via one of its lawyers, Michael Sussmann, gathered Internet DNS data on Trump and used that to create a fully fictional story about Trump using a secret server connected to the Alfa Bank to communicate with his Russian “handlers.” Sussmann also peddled a false story about Russian smartphones connecting into the Trump White House. We know Sussmann hid his relationship to Clinton from the FBI, pretending to be a “concerned citizen.” Sussmann is under indictment by Special Counsel John Durham, and in his own defense filing does not dispute the basic facts. He only claims his lying was immaterial.

    Both the dossier op and the DNS op were funded by Clinton campaign money laundered through its lawyers at Perkins Coie and then contractors Fusion GPS and Orbis. In both instances the false information created was peddled to the FBI (and CIA) by a Clinton-paid stooge pretending not to be affiliated with the campaign, Steele as an FBI informant and Sussmann as a “concerned citizen.” Both ops used a sophisticated information sub-op, feeding the media as if Steele and Sussmann were not the source and then having Steel and Sussmann step in to serve as anonymous confirmers, an inside loop. In both instances the FBI took the bait and opened unprecedented full-spectrum investigations into first Candidate Trump, and then President of the United States Trump.

    Four years after all that, on October 6, 2020, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe declassified documents revealing then-CIA Director John Brennan briefed then-President Obama on or about July 28, 2016 on Hillary Clinton’s plan to tie Candidate Trump to Russia as a means of distracting the public from her use of a private email server.

    The highly-redacted document says “We’re getting additional insight into Russian activities from [REDACTED]. Cite alleged approved by Hillary Clinton on July 26 a proposal from one of her foreign policy advisers to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by the Russian security service.”

    Ratcliffe in 2020 also revealed in September 2016 the CIA forwarded to the FBI an investigative referral on Hillary Clinton approving “a plan concerning U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump and Russian hackers hampering U.S. elections in order to distract the public from her email scandal.”

    The MSM at the time dismissed these two important disclosures as unverified disinformation. The problem with simply waving away these documents is the very high threshold for information to actually reach the president. Every day a near-infinate amount of information is collected by the CIA. A tiny percentage of that is culled for the standing Agency briefings the president receives. An even tinier subset is seen as important and credible enough to be personally briefed by the CIA Director face-to-face with the president.

    Rarely is there near-time “verification” with intelligence. There is however “confidence,” how sure the CIA is the information is true, and the Director would not waste his boss’ time with that of low or medium confidence (and neither would the Agency do the same in sending its referral on to the FBI.) Knowing what we know now about Clinton campaign funding of the ops and Clinton personnel involvement, Brennan’s confidence is better understood. And it is important to remember Brennan openly supported Hillary; he was not the guy to dish dirt on her. He was making sure his boss, Barack Obama, had a heads up if the whole thing was ever exposed.

    There is also the matter of Ratcliffe, who hand-selected the documents to declassify, lending them more credibility. Why play high stakes with information Radcliffe knew to be false?

    One last concern has been that the CIA source appears to be foreign, and therefore suspect. The CIA is legally prohibited from spying on Americans in America, particularly something as sensitive as a presidential campaign. Even if tipped off by an American, the CIA would need to go overseas and recreate the info with a foreign source. That the information was available through a foreign source also suggests strongly Moscow had eyes on inside the Hillary campaign. Perhaps through her email?

    Both ops ran on Clinton’s money and Clinton’s people. The smoking gun of Brennan’s notes ties it all to Hillary herself.

     

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • Biden Unconstitutionally Ends the Dream

    March 27, 2022 // 0 Comments

    Posted in: Democracy

    What’s the word that means color matters more than anything else? It’s important, because Joe Biden forever ended the dream of a nation where race does not determine success, something all the committed cracker racists and others failed at.

    In choosing Ketanji Brown Jackson as his Supreme Court pick, President Joe Biden has made it the stated policy of the United States government to select people for important positions based on race, most prominently in his proclamation that it was not character or skill, but race and gender which would be the starting point for his replacement for Justice Breyer. It is a stunning denunciation of the ideals Americans have been told they were striving for since the end of the Civil War. There are plenty of people alive today who grew up with segregated toilets and white-only waiting rooms. Imagine those people today realizing the signs are back, albeit turned on their heads to make it clear it is the policy of the U.S. government to ensure all male, never mind say Chinese and Hispanic jurists, should in 2022 atone for the original sins of the South. Worse yet is the admission, that all are not created equal. To insist the nominee be a certain race is to admit they are not all equal once and forever.

    Here’s why discrimination disserves the United States. Of the 1,395 sitting federal judges only 56 are black women. Only 13 have served at the appellate court level, courts one step below the Supreme Court. Assume a couple are too moderate for Biden, and you are left with a tiny handful of people who even met Joe’s minimum qualifications. One judge reportedly in the top three was Leondra Kruger, who would have been the first person in more than 40 years to move from a state-level court to the Supreme Court. The question of whether someone like her would have even reached the final stages if she were not a black woman are obvious, as are the consequences.

    The thing is Joe Biden is no crusader. He is a spineless politician cynically pandering for votes. It was exactly two years ago to the day that he announced Ketanji Brown Jackson as his Supreme Court pick that  Biden, on the debate stage in South Carolina before a primary that he could not afford to lose, first made his pledge to nominate the first black woman to the Supreme Court. Biden just announced his pick in the midst of the invasion of Ukraine so it could happen during the last hours of Black History month. As a panderer, 2022 Joe Biden lies about being arrested during the civil rights movement while 1960s Joe would not have been not been within miles of a demonstration. Biden of course follows others down this cynical path. That’s why Hillary Clinton can help pass a crime bill directed at black youth and then turn around and get away with an Amos ‘n Andy accent when she was pimping for the black vote in Selma itself. Biden has a long history of racism, including referring to Barack Obama as “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean.” He is no friend of the Negro even as he still uses that term. And anyone remember Biden’s disgusting racist and sexist treatment of Anita Hill? Or maybe Kamala Harris’ campaign for president, when she blasted Joe’s racism as having personally impacted her as a young girl? Democratic political flexibility is outshone only by hypocrisy.

    Biden’s hypocrisy runs deep into the American fabric via the Orwellian wordplay of affirmative action. Affirmative action was massaged into constitutionality, allowing a nation which pretended to strive toward all are created equal to instead acknowledge just the opposite, by having separate standards based on skin color. The hypocrisy began with Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, a 1978 Supreme Court case which held that a university’s admissions criteria which used race as a definite and exclusive basis for an admission decision violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But the fine print was that bit about definite and exclusive basis; race could in fact be a criteria, but just not the only one. The Court ruled a university’s use of racial “quotas” in its admissions process was unconstitutional, but a school’s use of “affirmative action” to accept more minority applicants was constitutional. The offense was being too clear — UC held 16 out of 100 admission spots exclusively for blacks instead of just putting its thumb on the scale and presto! filling 16 out of 100 slots with blacks.

    In 2003’s Grutter v. Bollinger the Supreme Court upheld the admissions policy of the University of Michigan Law School to use of racial preference to promote diversity. Black applicants would be admitted under different standards than everyone else. The fudge was to again say affirmative action is constitutional as long as it treats race as one factor among many, and it does not substitute for individualized review of applicant. The Court used creative wordsmithing to declare decisions based on race constitutional as long as the goal was (good) diversity and not (bad) whitewashing. It went as far as hypocritically saying at the same time racial quota systems, whether applied against whites or blacks, are always “odious to a free people whose institutions are founded upon the doctrine of equality.” But Grutter in 2003 came with an interesting addendum; affirmative action was supposed to be a short-term, temporary thing while society worked out the larger issues. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor stated that “We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest in student body diversity approved today.” How’d that work out?

    There have been challenges to affirmative action in both schools and the workplace, and two cases are now before the Supreme Court (Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard College and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina.) The current, more conservative court, may see things differently but to date the answer has always been the same: discrimination by race that favors blacks is constitutional as long as you use the nice, pretty words like “race is a factor” and not the nasty ones like “No Irish Need Apply.”

    The irony here is Joe Biden’s decision to implement cosmetic diversity by only considering a black woman for the next Supreme Court seat would be unlikely to meet the Supreme Court’s own tests for affirmative action in academia. Biden bypasses the basic tenant — race can only be a factor, not the decider — in favor of a straight-outta-Selma announcement he would only consider one race for the job. Biden’s decision flat out violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits making employment decisions because of an individual’s skin color, national origin, sex, religion, or race. It is illegal to give an applicant an advantage solely because of race. Except, apparently, if you’re Joe Biden.

    No one will challenge Biden. One Georgetown law professor who even raised the issue of why limit the nominee to a pool of only 13 judges found himself suspended, the object of student protests. Barack Obama, who previously said “affirmative action becomes a diminishing tool for us to achieve racial equality in this society” has been quiet as a shadow about Biden’s decision criteria.

    Race was once a criteria to exclude people from schools and jobs. America now selects people for the same by race in the cause of eliminating racism. We ignore John Roberts dictum “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” This is only be possible because of the groundwork laid during the Trump years that makes it impossible for progressives to anymore understand the term hypocrisy. So now choosing by skin color is celebrated as long as it’s enough shade. The hope is the inherent hypocrisy of such as stance will ultimately bring the movement to its knees when at some point people accidentally stumble into rationality and realize that none of this means anything. Simply spinning the color wheel does not create freedom or diversity. If Biden truly wanted a diverse Supreme Court he might try to pull a few more judges out of non-Ivy League law schools, for example.

    But let’s not go too hard on Joe Biden. He just said the quiet part too loud. Separate but equal when it harms blacks is bad and unconstitutional. Separate but equal when it helps blacks, in academia, job searches, and ascension to the Supreme Court, is just fine. Biden is simply acknowledging as true the worst sins of Jim Crow, that color indeed matters. That’s racism, there’s no other word for it.

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  • What Did We Learn from Iraq War 2.0?

    March 25, 2022 // 0 Comments

    Tags: , , , , ,
    Posted in: Democracy

    March 19 passed without a mention of its ghosts. The day was the 19th anniversary of Iraq War 2.0, the one about Saddam Hussein’s weapons’ of mass destruction. What have we learned over the almost two decades since?

    While the actual Gotterdammerung for the new order took place just six months ago in Afghanistan, as the last American troops clambered aboard their transports, abandoning American citizens and a multi-million dollar embassy to the same fate as Saigon, Iraq is so much more the better example. The Afghan War did not begin under false pretenses as much as it began under no pretenses. Americans in 2001 would have supported carpet bombing Santa’s Workshop. Never mind we had been attacked by mostly Saudi operators, the blood letting would start in rural Afghanistan and the goal was some gumbo of revenge, stress relief, hunting down bin Laden in the wrong country, and maybe nation building, it didn’t matter.

    But if Afghanistan was a pubescent teenager’s coming to the scene too quickly, Iraq was a seduction. There was no reason to invade it, so one had to be created. The Bush administration tried the generic “Saddam is pure evil” approach, a fixture of every recent American conflict. He gasses his own people (also tried later in Syria with Assad.) Saddam is looking to move on NATO ally Turkey (substitute Poland in 2022.) But none of these stuck with the American public, so a narrative was cut from whole cloth: Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, WMDs, chemical and biological, soon enough nuclear. He was a madman who Had. To. Be. Stopped.

    That this was completely untrue mattered not at all. The American MSM took up the story with great energy, first as stenographers for the Bush Administration fed by public statements, and then as amplifiers of the message fed by leaks from senior officials. At the same time, dissenting voices were stifled, including a number of whistleblowers who had been working inside Iraq and knew the weapons claims were a hoax. In an age before social media, the clampdown on other ideas was near total. When their true editor-in-chief George W. Bush stood up, a mix of Ben Bradley and Lou Grant, to proclaim “you were either with us or with the terrorists,” the media stifled dissent in its ranks nearly completely.

    It became obvious from the initial days of the invasion there were no WMDs, but that mattered little. The WMDs were only the excuse to start the war. Once underway, the justification changed to regime change, democratization, nation building, and then as America’s own actions spawned an indigenous terrorist movement, fighting the indigenous terrorist movement. When all that devolved into open Sunni-Shia civil was in Iraq, the justification switched to stopping the civil war we had started. It was all a farce, with the media fanning the flames, rewriting its “takes” and creating new heroes (Petraeus) to replace the old heroes they had created who had failed (all the general before Petraeus.) The NYT issued a quiet mea culpa along the way and then like a couple caught having affairs who decided to stay married anyway, vowed never to speak of this again.

    That mea culpa is worth a second look in light of Ukraine 2022. The Times wrote its reporting “depended at least in part on information from a circle of Iraqi informants, defectors and exiles bent on regime change in Iraq, people whose credibility has come under increasing public debate.” In other words, sources with a goal of their own are not reliable. The Times noted that information from all sources was “insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged. Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged — or failed to emerge.” In other words, stenography is not good journalism. A reporter should ask questions, challenge veracity, and especially should do so as new information comes to light. The NYT also said “Articles based on dire claims tended to get prominent display, while follow-up articles that called the original ones into question were sometimes buried. In some cases, there was no follow-up at all.” The memory hole.

    Those are of course Journalism 101-level errors admitted to by arguably the most prestigious newspaper in the world. It would be easier to be more generous to the NYT (and of course they are just a placeholder for all MSM who committed the same sins) if they had not gone on to purposefully repeat many of the same crimes reporting on Libya and Syria, Russiagate, the Covid crisis (“two weeks to flatten the curve”) and now, the war in Ukraine.

    The big change is that while in its previous abetting of propaganda the Times, et al, took the side of the US government in supporting war, in Ukraine they are working for the Ukrainian government. Almost all of the video and imagery out of Ukraine comes from the government and those anonymous sources of 2003 have been replaced by no real sourcing at all, simply scary pictures and nameless English-speaking peasants somehow conversant in Zelensky’s own talking points.

    Here’s eight seconds of a tank blowing up. Where was it shot? When? Was the explosion caused by a mine, a missile, or something internal to the tank? In most cases the media has no idea of the answers. Even if they tumble on to the basic who-what-where, the exploding tank video is devoid of context. Was that the lead tank hit, blunting the Russian advance toward a village? Or was it a Russian tank that lingered in an open field and got picked off in a lucky shot, strategically without much consequence? It is just a little jolt for the viewer. Such videos were immensely popular among terrorists in Iraq; nearly every one captured had inspirational video on his phone of a US vehicle being blown apart by a roadside IED. Now the same thing is on MSNBC for us.

    Remember that stalled Russian convoy? The media stumbled on online photos of a Russian convoy some 40 miles long. Within hours those images became a story — the Russians had run out of gas just miles from Kiev, stalling their offensive. That soon led to think pieces claiming this was evidence of Russian military incompetency, corruption, and proof Ukraine would soon win. It all fit with the narrative of plucky, brave Ukrainians standing up to Putin the madman, the deranged psychopath threatening NATO and indeed democracy itself. If only the U.S. would step in an help! The whole of the American media has laid itself available to funnel the Zelensky message westward — go to war with Russia. We’re shown a photo of a destroyed building, maybe from 2016 maybe from yesterday. It soon becomes a hospital bombing by the Russians. A photo of a stationary vehicle is narrativized as the Ukrainians are capturing Russian gear. The media is once again taking whole information provided by sources with an agenda, drawing the US into this war, and reporting it uncritically and unchallenged.

    Any information from the Russian side is instantly misinformation, and the pseudo-media of Twitter and Facebook not only call it fake, they make efforts to block it entirely so Americans cannot even view it long enough to make up their own minds. Pro-war journalists in America demand dissenters be investigated as foreign agents. You can’t see Facebook in Moscow and you can’t see RT in America. That’s not the equivalency a democracy should ascribe to.

    As with Iraq, the goal is to present a one-sided, coordinated narrative of a complex event with the goal of dragging America into a new war. Will it work again this time?

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  • Understanding Things: That Stalled Russian Convoy in Ukraine

    March 24, 2022 // 0 Comments

    Tags: , , ,
    Posted in: Democracy, Military, Trump

    The amount of disinformation coming out of the Ukraine war is unsurpassed in modern history. Unlike the glory days when outlets like CNN sent knowledgeable reporters into combat zones looking for actual information, today most MSM coverage is based on borrowed social media video, or just. made. up.

    The problem with the former, video from social media, is it lacks context. Here’s eight seconds of a tank blowing up. Where was it shot? When? Was the explosion caused by a mine, a missile, or something internal to the tank? Is the tank Russian or Ukrainian? In most cases the media outlet has no real idea of the answers to those questions, never mind who shot the video towards what end. Even if they tumble on to the basic who-what-where, the exploding tank video is devoid of context. Was that the lead tank hit, stopping the Russian advance toward a village? Or was it a Russian tank that lingered in an open field and got picked off in a lucky shot, strategically without much consequence. At that point it is just war porn, a little jolt for the viewer. Such videos were immensely popular among the terrorists in Iraq; nearly every one captured had some random video on his phone of a US vehicle being blown apart by a roadside IED. Now the same thing is on MSNBC.

    The bigger problem is the media’s willingness to make things up, and then reinforce each other’s “reporting” by agreeing on what they have made up. Let’s disassemble one such episode.

    The media found online photos of a Russian convoy some 40 miles long. Within hours those images had become a story — the Russians had run out of gas just miles from Kiev, stalling their offensive. That soon led to think pieces claiming this was evidence of Russian military incompetency, corruption, and proof Ukraine would soon win. Soon enough Reuters was agreeing with CNN who agreed with NYT: stalled, no gas.

    Leaving aside the idea that perhaps no one on earth absent some Russian generals actually knew why the convoy was not moving, the media created a reason and confirmed each other. If you follow the right people on Twitter you can sometimes watch them form these consensuses on issues, journalist all thousands of miles away from the scene with no information on hand nudging one another into the narrative. It’s kind of like watching a time-lapse film of water freezing into ice. So are the Russians out of gas?

    Consider the lack of supporting evidence. Fuel travels through the same logistics chain that beans and  bullets do, and the Russians do not seem to lack for ammunition. Artillery shells are big heavy things, and there seem to be plenty of those making it to the troops on the ground. The Russians have over a million men in the field and absent one blurry TikTok purportedly showing some shoplifting, seem to be feeding them. If a million men needed to shoplift three meals a day it would not be hard to discover. We have also seen no evidence Russians are looting fuel dumps as they make their way across Ukraine. Russians are flying some 200 air sorties a day, many of which are helicopter flights from inside Ukraine. Each can use hundreds of gallons of fuel a day, never mind ammunition and spare parts, all of which must be hauled in. And look past that single stalled convoy; Russian armored thrusts are moving across vast swaths of land to the south without any concern for fuel. The empirical evidence suggests if anything there is plenty of gas. If not, that “stalled” convoy on the outskirts of Kiev is only about 100 miles from the Belarus border, a very short transit for fuel trucks on paved roads Russia controls.

    On the other side, if the Ukrainian forces had any information the Russians were low on gas their strategy would look different. You might see a full-on effort to attack fuel dumps, using Ukrainian air or drone forces, or even ground troops. You’d see Ukrainians blowing up gas stations and fuel handling facilities as they retreated. Instead of the exciting video of Javelins hitting tanks, you’d see everything from hand grenades to Molotovs blowing up fuel trucks. A tank without gas is already dead, what they military calls a soft kill, at much lower expense than destroying a modern tank. You might also see the Ukrainians trying for a much more mobile defense, ceding territory and making the Russians chase them until they run out of gas. There have been no signs of any of this, mostly the opposite actually as the Ukrainians set up static defensive lines on the outskirts of cities. There is literally nothing to support the MSM’s contention that the convoy ran out of gas.

    There were also MSM reports the Ukrainians had made significant attacks against the parked vehicles. While no doubt some skirmishes must have taken place along the 40 mile stretch, the fact that the convoy remained bunched up nose-to-bumper and not dispersed suggests no one was very worried about being attacked. The soldiers openly slept on the ground, it is not clear from the photos that air defenses were aggressively deployed, and overall it looks more like soldiers killing time than soldiers preparing to repel attackers. Though the MSM was in no position to know anything about the soldiers’ morale, they commented on it endlessly.

    Of course the convoy did start to move, and in a very predictable way. The textbook approach to using armor against an urban area is to surround it, besiege it, cut off food, water, power, and communications, and then if the defenders will not surrender, use artillery to either force them out or destroy them. Such an attack has to be coordinated 360 degrees so if some troops arrive early they must wait for the others to show up. This is what is happening now in the city of Mariupol. What is not done is to drive straight into town, where the narrow streets grant cover to defenders. The “stalled” convoy appears to have waited until Russian forces advancing from the south had made sufficient progress toward Kiev before spreading out west of the city and beginning bombardment.

    One convoy and one falsely reported story matter little in the middle of a vast war. But they serve as a clear example of how far the media has fallen, to the point where outlets like the BBC have become little more than propaganda mouthpieces, creating a fake narrative out of whole cloth and peddling it to an increasingly non-critical western media consumer.

     

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • Hunter Biden’s Laptop Stole the Last Election

    March 23, 2022 // 0 Comments

    Tags: , , , , , , ,
    Posted in: Biden

    With the November midterms coming, the media will soon pivot to who will be trying to steal the next election. Democrats are obsessed with the idea that when they lose elections it must be because of outside forces, usually some sort of Russian lifeform at work. But what we know now is that if anyone has been manipulating our once dear democracy, it has been the Democrats.

    The latest findings by the Durham investigation make it clear the 2016 Clinton campaign paid for and implemented a massive disinformation strategy to falsely link Trump to Russia, and then worked the intelligence services of the United States and the MSM to shove that narrative deep into the American psyche. When Trump won, Democrats immediately used that same strategy to try and drive him from office. That that too failed is not the point; the playbook was being worked out for manipulating an election within the boundaries of the American system. The Dems/Intel services/MSM proved to be fast learners; when it came to 2020, the basic plan did work, deep sixing the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop to glide Joe into the White House.

    I can say with great conviction had the laptop been front paged it would have affected the election, perhaps seeing Trump reelected. How can I say that? Unlike almost everyone else in America, I read the contents of the laptop in 2020. Here is why you didn’t.

     

    On October 14, 2020, three weeks before the Trump-Biden election, the nation’s oldest newspaper, founded by Alexander Hamilton himself, The New York Post, published reports about the business dealings of Hunter Biden in Ukraine and China. Hunter took large sums of money from businesses in Ukraine that were part of his father’s official portfolio as vice president, and took large sums of money from Chinese shell companies with ties to the Chinese oligarchy. Hunter performed no work in return for the money. In the case of China, he appeared to launder money, taking in six figures, skimming off a percentage, then handing the remainder over to a US corporate entity of the Chinese organization. That got around Chinese government currency export regulations.

    The funds sent to Hunter were obscured in a number of ways. They passed through paper companies Hunter set up. They traversed numbered Cypriot bank accounts, came in the form of prepaid VISA cards, and as gifts including diamonds and Apple products. Some money was routed through Joe Biden’s brother’s law office, Hunter’s uncle. Hunter illegally did not report much of the income, and recently paid one million dollars in back taxes (fraud charges may be pending.)

    In return for all this money, Hunter introduced a Ukrainian energy businessman to his daddy, the VP, and promised other global characters similar access. He met with oligarchs in Beijing alongside his father’s official meetings, having flown to China aboard the same Air Force plane. In correspondence with his clients, Hunter regularly referenced his access to the “Big Man,” Papa Joe.

    Aside all this financial filth on the laptop was evidence of Hunter’s own filthy life, actions simply screaming to a foreign intelligence service “Blackmail me!” Hunter’s laptop was chocked with video showing him smoking crack. Hunter spent money on escorts, some $21,000 on cam sites, big plays on all sorts of depravities.  Correspondence referencing Hunter’s affair with his dead brother Beau’s widow for goodness sakes. The blackmail fodder is so clear Chinese intelligence would probably assign the case to an intern to run.

     

    But the public never saw any of this, thanks to the collaborative efforts of the American intelligence services and the MSM working, for the Democratic Party.

    Soon after the New York Post broke the laptop story, the disinformation campaign began with a Politico piece headlined “Hunter Biden story is Russian disinfo, dozens of former intel officials say.” Lacking proof, they wrote “our experience makes us deeply suspicious that the Russian government played a significant role in this case. [It] has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.” And that was good enough for the MSM to take the handoff.

    The emails were a “hoax” said fact-check site NewsGuard, discredited by “many, many red flags” according to NPR. Twitter locked The New York Post‘s  account after the Post refused to obey Twitter’s orders to delete its own reporting. Twitter also blocked all references to the laptop story by all users, even banning links to the story in DMs. Facebook announced it would suppress discussion of the reporting pending a “fact check” which never came. Compare this Orwellian treatment of the laptop story with the way the same organizations handled the Russiagate dossier, slathering it across the media. The irony is any fact checking would have proved the laptop story true, and the dossier completely false. The ultimate irony is while you can read the full dossier online, the laptop emails are still not available to the general public.

    So how do we know now the laptop story was always true?  Hunter’s former business partner Tony Bobulinski confirmed his emails were legitimate months ago. Last week the New York Times agreed, reporting on an ongoing FBI criminal investigation into Hunter’s business and tax activities based in part on the contents of the laptop. The FBI’s use of the laptop finally forced the Times so send out its own reporters so it could claim this year what it said was bunk last year, that the emails “were authenticated by people familiar with them and with the investigation.” Politico now, too, admits the emails are real, not Russian disinformation, based on a book by one of its own writers. The President of the United States for his part claims to have known nothing about his own son’s and brother’s business dealing and name dropping, and is sticking, loosely, to the Russian disinformation version of things. Biden’s defense has always been sweeping: “My son did nothing wrong.” The most charitable reading of that is Joe Biden, one of the most powerful men in the world, is an idiot.

    Surveys suggest the information could have swung the election if voters had known about it. One showed enough people in battleground states would have changed their votes to give Trump the electoral votes needed for reelection. Russiagate. Alfa Bank. The laptop. All coordinated disinformation campaigns run by the Democrats involving the MSM and intelligence communities, all aimed at defeating Donald Trump. You see how it works now. Watch for the same pattern as we approach the midterms, and in 2024.

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • Tell Me How This Ends in Ukraine

    March 21, 2022 // 0 Comments

    Tags: , , ,
    Posted in: Afghanistan, Biden, Democracy, Military

    In the opening days of Iraq War 2.0, a wiser but not yet-General David Petraeus famously asked “Tell me how this ends.” Petraeus understood how wars end is more important than why they started or how they were carried out. So how does the current war in Ukraine end?

    Petraeus, for his part, said with a straight face “Russia doesn’t have the numbers and beyond that everyone in the entire country hates them and most of the adults are willing to take action against them, whether it’s to take up weapons or to be human shields.” While accurately describing the roots of his own failure in Iraq, Petraeus misses the point. America’s goal was to create a neocon version of democracy in the Middle East. Putin seeks something much simpler: a classic buffer territory between him and NATO. He does not care about hearts and minds. He only has to break things.

    The early days of the Ukraine war have been dominated by propaganda riven with sympathy for the plucky defenders. This purposefully created a false sense Russian setbacks and a misunderstanding of Russian strategy. The Russians are executing a standard mechanized warfare maneuver in line with their goals, attacking south from Belarus to link up with forces attacking northward from Crimea. When they link up south of Kiev, Ukraine will be split into two. Kiev may be bypassed, or it may be destroyed, but that is secondary to the larger strategic maneuver. Another Russian thrust from east to west seeks to cut the nation into quarters so Ukrainian forces cannot reinforce one another. Forget all the silliness about the Russians running out of gas; their supply lines are short (many Russian forces are within 70 miles of their own border), protected, and over decent roads. This is what is happening on the ground and Ukrainian forces are in no position to do anything but delay it. Watching war through a smartphone from a peaceful country may help you believe the Russian assault is going poorly but that is at odds with the facts. So here’s how that all ends.

    The Best Case for Everyone is the Russians, perhaps under the guise of some humanitarian gesture, withdraw to the Russian-speaking areas of Ukraine and some strategic points, things like bridges and airports. Ukraine is essentially divided into two semi-states, the western half nominally under NATO control and the eastern half a Russian buffer zone with a new Iron Curtain in place. Putin settles back into his easy chair. His brush back pitch to Ukraine dealt out a serious spanking, he holds some new territory as a prize, he can announce victory at home, and his troops are better positioned if he needs to push west ever again. NATO meanwhile can also claim some measure of victory, validating all the propaganda about the valiant Ukrainian people. The status quo of Europe resets and after a decent interval the oil and gas restart flowing westward.

    Putin made this strategy clear in his asks for a cease fire, that Ukraine accept demilitarization, declare itself neutral, and drop its bid to join NATO. He does not really want the cities, and he does not want to occupy a hostile population. That is why he agreed to safe corridors westward for refugees and why he has held back sustained shelling and rocketing of Kiev, for now. Depopulation aids Putin in neutering eastern Ukraine, and avoids later ethnic conflict between Ukrainian nationalists and the local Russian population.

    The Next Best Case is NATO makes a secret agreement to keep Ukraine out of the alliance in return for Putin withdrawing in whole or in part (see above.) This is very tricky diplomacy, as it cannot appear NATO appeased Putin and it cannot seem in the eyes of the world that Putin “lost.” The Russians would be very tempted to leak the secret agreement to show they had achieved their goal, and the resulting denials from NATO and the US would seem shallow. The rest of eastern Europe would take note on who they could trust. This scenario is also unlikely, as it requires Russia to trade land for a promise from the West. Putin knows nothing short of a NATO strike can dislodge him from eastern Ukraine and thus has no incentive to leave.

    A Very Bad Case would be a decision by Putin to occupy or destroy Ukraine, install a puppet government, and roll his army right to the Polish border as if it was 1975 all over again. Putin certainly is holding this out as a threat if Zelensky ignores western pleas to cut a deal. Russian troops are positioning to assault the cities. Ask people of Aleppo and Grozny if they think Putin would turn them loose.

    The idea may prove tempting to Putin. He can claim full victory, be done forever with the Ukrainian problem, leave NATO looking emasculated, strike fear into the other former satellites, and leave Joe Biden out of a job in his self-proclaimed role as leader of the free world. Biden has overplayed his hand, not recognizing there is almost nothing he can do to affect the situation on the ground. Sanctions did not stop Putin from invading (Georgia, Crimea, Ukraine…) and sanctions will not cause Putin to retreat. Biden, like Putin, knows most Russian oil and gas exports are untouchable if he wants to keep the Europeans on the team.

    But the biggest problem for Biden is history (and voters) remembering him as the president who watched the Iron Curtain rebuilt. Unlike Obama’s cool reaction to Putin invading Crimea in 2014, Biden has vowed to “save” Ukraine as if he was fighting Corn Pop again. By claiming in his State of the Union address that Putin had “shaken the very foundations of the free world,” Biden has created the impression he is going to put a stop to something of that scale. Such predictions carry an incredible political risk, especially for a commander in chief who also promised a weary America it is not going to war. As NBC’s Chuck Todd put it “I fear this is going to feel like a speech that didn’t age well.” Following the sad, embarrassing finale in Afghanistan, any ending in Ukraine that looks like a Putin win after all this saber rattling pretty much ends the effective portion of the Biden presidency.

    That leaves only to consider The Horrible Case, where someone in NATO tries for a no-fly zone, or sets up a refugee protected zone, as was done in the former Yugoslavia. Ukrainian propaganda is aimed at making this happen; Zelensky knows partisans with rifles are only going to get him so far. He needs direct Western military intervention to survive. And a non-partisan 74 percent of Americans say NATO should impose a no-fly zone in Ukraine.

    Consider the tinder in place. If you believe the CIA and US special forces are not on the ground already in Ukraine, parsing intel and advising, well… We know US spy planes and drones are overhead. Imagine an incident where an American is taken prisoner by the Russians. Imagine the US providing a weapons system that requires “trainers,” in the way Russian trainers manned ground-to-air facilities in past Cold War wars in South East Asia and the Middle East. Or maybe a border incident, real or imagined, with NATO member Poland to try and force NATO into the fight. Or a UN demand for some peacekeeping force stop Putin’s war crimes. Maybe a “one time surgical strike” for humanitarian reasons on a Russian column threatening a hospital?

    Not on a menu is another Afghanistan (US or Soviet version) or some sort of open-ended Ukrainian insurgency. What Putin is doing is an old school war to grab territory, not changing allegiance among the Taliban. His supply routes are short, his troops fighting the modern battle they trained for, albeit outside Kiev and not in the Fulda Gap. Unlike Afghanistan, Ukraine has cities dependent on modern infrastructure, and cities are easily encircled, besieged and starved out, or just leveled.

    Equally not going to happen is some sort of regime change inside Russia. Putin has been in charge for 22 years and controls the media, the military, and the intelligence services. Those were the people who brought Putin to power in Russia’s last coup. There is no means to the end the West wishes for, and no clear evidence the people of Russia want such as outcome in the first place. After all, a million pink hats in Washington accomplished… very little. A few protests scattered across the vastness of Russia are exaggerated for a Western audience. Western sanctions will not drive ordinary Russians to demand change. Remember how well US sanctions to bring about regime change have gone in Cuba, Venezuela, Iraq, Iran, and North Korea? Decades of sanctions have not changed Putin, and the new ones have no beef on them to change that. And as for the West’s dream of a coup, what could make life more interesting than the world’s second largest stockpile of nuclear weapons having no one firmly in charge?

    Anything can happen, but Putin “losing” in Ukraine seems among the most unlikely of scenarios.

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • Deterrence Works, Propaganda Fails in Ukraine (So Far)

    March 18, 2022 // 0 Comments

    Tags: , , ,
    Posted in: Afghanistan, Biden, Embassy/State, Military, Syria

    Deterrence works. Russia’s nukes are the only thing keeping the US from full-out war in Ukraine only six months after retreating from Afghanistan. So far, the unprecedented propaganda effort by the Ukraine and its helpers in the American mass media to drag the US and NATO directly into the fight has failed. But this struggle — for your mind space — is not over.
    To understand what follows, you have to wipe away a lot of bullshit being slung your way. Putin is not insane, not a madman. He is carrying out a rational political-military strategy in Ukraine, seizing Russian-speaking territory such as Donbas, demilitarizing by force the eastern Ukraine, and most of all creating a physical buffer zone between himself and NATO. That zone may end at the Dnieper River with a loop around Odessa, or it may end at the Polish border, depending on how smoothly things go on the ground and on what level of “stay away” message Putin wishes to send to NATO. Putin is not making the first moves toward some greater conquest. All the bad takes saying “if we don’t stop Putin now, he’ll invade Moldova/Estonia/Poland/all Europe just like Hitler” ignores the part about the German military in WWII having some 18 million men under arms. The Russian army today has 1.3 million, the best of which are going to be in Ukraine for awhile.
    Every war has its “is the juice worth the squeeze” question. In other words, is what you can realistically hope to achieve worth the cost of getting it? For Putin, that means solving his border problem at the cost of maybe a few thousand men killed and wounded and another dollop of weak sanctions. He understood the needs of Europe meant sanctions would never harm sales of the fossil fuels which make up most Russian exports. But no Paypal for you, comrade! Putin could also look to history and see how decades of sanctions have not changed much in Cuba, Venezuela, Iraq, Iran, and North Korea.
    Putin most importantly also knew US/NATO would not fight him on the ground for fear of starting a nuclear war. That is exactly what nukes are for, and is the history of the Cold War in a sentence. I have nukes and that allows me to do certain things any way I want because they stay below the threshold of risking atomic war. This is why the US could destroy Quaddafi and Saddam (no nukes to deter) and why the US will never attack North Korea (nukes.) Being a nuclear superpower makes things easier; the US can fight all over Central America and the Middle East, and Russia in the ‘Stans, and none of that is important enough to consider using nukes to stop.
    Putin knows that. Biden knows that, as does NATO. Ukraine, however, is still thinking it can change the game.
    Ukraine knew on Day One no one was coming to its rescue, and its leaders know they don’t have enough men or weapons to defeat the Russians on their own. Their only hope to remain a unified nation (it is easy to imagine a divided Ukraine, Western Zone and Eastern (Russian) Zone as the end game) is outside help. A no-fly zone, some air strikes to blunt Russian advances. Something, anything.
    That’s why every knucklehead in America right now is being blitzed with Ukrainian propaganda, and your brother-in-law is ready to head to Europe with his never-cleaned hunting rifle. The goal is to change public opinion such that a weak guy like Joe Biden starts to doubt himself. Ukrainian lobbyists from K Street take influential Senators to lunch, knowing they’ll return to their offices to find thousands of constituent emails demanding the US “do something.” The goal of Ukrainian propaganda is get Biden to take that Pentagon meeting laying out options for some limited bombing, or to listen to those analysts saying the US could set up a small no-fly zone on Ukraine’s western edge to show the Russians we mean business. Drop in some Special Forces. Something, anything. The goal of the propaganda is to get Biden to sign off on something (hopefully) small enough that it falls below the threshold of provoking a nuclear response. Is it necessary to say that is a very risky and delicate tasking?
    The bad news is Ukrainian propaganda is working. A non-partisan 74 percent of Americans say NATO should impose a no-fly zone in Ukraine. And we are just getting started. We’ve had the hero phase with the non-existent Ghost of Kiev and the not surrendering but they surrendered brave Ukrainians, alongside the grandmas and supermodels with guns. We’ve had the Russians are going to kill us all phase, with the faux threat of invasion to the west and the faux scare the Russians were going to create a Chernobyl-like nuclear accident by shelling a power plant. We are currently moving into the not verifiable atrocities phase, where “reports” will claim the Russians are killing children, or using rape as a weapon, or targeting hospitals. Alongside it all is beef cake talk about Zelensky, the likes we haven’t seen since before the cancelations of Andrew Cuomo and Michael Avenatti. The fact-checking mania of Covid is history as America media removes all the filters on pro-Ukrainian content.
    The quality of the propaganda is not important (any pile of scrap metal on snowy ground is breaking news of another Russian helo shot down, even if the metal has “Acme Junk Pile” written on it.) The quantity is important, the attempt to overwhelm American mindspace to the point where logic is shoved into the back corner. There is a growing cottage industry of “experts” explaining how to can go to war without going to THAT kind of war. Dissenting voices are few, and are often labeled as “Putin lovers,” with progressives and Late Night hurling homophobic slurs at them like high school kids.
    It is not like America does not know how to step away from a fight which isn’t ours when we want to. Crimea, Chechnya, Rwanda, Hungary ’56, Czechoslovakia ’68, Afghanistan ’79, even to a certain extent in Syria 2016.
    There are two battles now playing out over Ukraine. The one on the ground, and the one on your social media seeking to drag America into the mud. Only six months after the sad ending in Afghanistan, it is stunning to watch America again contemplate going to war for some abstract purpose far removed from our own core interests. And this time, with the risk of a nuclear exchange to remind us of our mistake, not just an inglorious departure from Kabul.

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • Leading to War in Ukraine?

    March 11, 2022 // 0 Comments

    Tags: , , , , , ,
    Posted in: Afghanistan, Biden, Democracy

    The whole idea of boycotting Russian vodka reminds too much of “freedom fries” from Gulf War II. It seems stupid and silly until you realize we are stupid and silly and this is how we are led to war.

    The tsunami of pro-Ukrainian propaganda is only matched by its transparency. The Ghost of Kiev was crafted out of an aircraft computer game. The Ukrainians on that island who would rather die than surrender surrendered. The supermodels joining the army are holding toy rifles. Zelensky is Where’s Waldo, popping up in undated video with unidentifiable backgrounds, dressed in military cosplay reminiscent of George W. Bush in his flight suit. The simplistic narrative is the same simplistic narrative: plucky freedom fighters against some evil dictator. It’s the same story of the resistance fighters in Syria against Assad, the Kurds against ISIS, the Northern Resistance, the Sunnis who joined our side, the Taliban who Ronald Reagan called the equivalent of our Founding Fathers for their fight against the Red Army.

    Putin now is the most evil man on earth, unhinged, mentally unwell. Saddam once was, Assad used to be, and Quaddafi was to the point where America cheered as he was sodomized with a knife on TV.  Putin is so unstable we don’t know what he’ll do. Familiar voices are raised: The Brookings Institution’s Ben Wittes demands: “Regime change: Russia.” The Council on Foreign Relations’ Richard Haass roared that “the conversation has shifted to include the possibility of desired regime change in Russia.” One headline wishfully notes “knocking Putin’s teams off the sports stage leaves him exposed to his own people.” No one seems to recall, however, our last attempt at regime change in Russia is what put Putin into power in the first place.

    Putin’s goals have gone in a matter of days from sorting out Cold War borders to “the restoration of a triumphalist, imperialistic Russian identity, or another bloodstained nationalistic surge to cover for the criminality of his regime, or whether he just has come egotistically unmoored.” One former Iraqi War cheerleader tells us Ukraine, the “front line between democracy and autocracy, is a core interest of the United States… Ukraine is where the battle for democracy’s survival is most urgent. ”

    Others are more direct. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, Senator Roger Wicker, and Zelensky demand a no-fly zone. They have friends; a poll as the invasion began found “52 percent of Americans see the conflict between Russia and Ukraine as a critical threat to US vital interests” with almost no partisan division. No polling on what those vital interests might be. Rep. Eric Swalwell and Rep. Ruben Gallego want all Russians deported from the US. As if preparing for war, the U.S. has already closed its embassies in Ukraine and Belarus, and placed Embassy Moscow on “Authorized Departure” status for non-emergency staff and family members. On the other end of the government, the CIA is training Ukrainians for an insurgency. You know, like with the mujahedeen in Afghanistan years ago. Lawmakers at a congressional hearing discussed having American intelligence provide more direct assistance to Ukraine, including ground operatives.

    No dissent is allowed. You are either “with us or against us.” The homogeneity of our social and MSM is terrifying. Censorship is in full fury; the fact checkers are hands off even the most outrageous claims (the Ukrainians have trained cats to spot Russian laser sights) and Twitter calls out Russian sources but not pro-Ukrainian ones. Facebook and YouTube post Ukrainian propaganda made in violation of the Geneva Convention. Google News will not include anything from Russian state media. The NYT is running anonymously-sourced tales claiming the Russians are deserting or sabotaging their own vehicles. Rolling Stone is naming “the American right-wingers covering for Putin as Russia invades Ukraine,” currently Tucker Carlson, Alex Jones, J.D. Vance, and Tulsi Gabbard. The worst of all of course is Trump, whom Liz Cheney claims “aids our enemies” and whose “interests don’t seem to align with the interests of the United States.” When he proposed Congress vote on military escalations by the US in Ukraine, Senator Mike Lee was quickly called “Moscow Mike.”

    If all that isn’t laying the ground work for a fight, it has been an awful lot of work for nothing.

    We’ve been here before when everything was the same but not the same. Following Putin’s 2014 seizure of Crimea, and feints toward Ukraine, then-President Barack Obama said Ukraine is a core Russian interest but not an American one, so Russia will always be able to maintain escalatory dominance there. “The fact is that Ukraine, which is a non-NATO country, is going to be vulnerable to military domination by Russia no matter what we do.” Obama showed the same realism in 2013 when in the face of war-mongering over Assad “gassing his own people in Syria” he backed away from widening the war (if only Obama had been equally pragmatic over Libya.)

    But Biden is not Obama. Biden, due to age and background, is not a strong man. Unlike Obama, he does not see himself awash in the stream of history, but more as a caretaker until the Democratic Party can regroup, the Gerald Ford of his era. Biden is a weak man who will come under increasing pressure to “do something” as it becomes apparent the newest layer of sanctions against Russia accomplishes as little as the last layer of sanctions. The previous sanctions, among other things, did not stop Putin from invading Ukraine.

    But more than anything else, Joe Biden is a Cold Warrior, burdened fully with a world view Obama was not. That world view says the role of the United States is to create a global system and enforce its rules. We can invade nations that did not attack us and demand regime change but you cannot. We decide which nations have nuclear weapons and which can not. We can walk our NATO-alliance right to your border but you cannot do the same with yours. We decide what systems control international commerce and who can participate in them. It is right and just for us to talk about crippling an economy, but not you. It was all best expressed by Condoleezza Rice, who commented with a straight face on Putin’s invasion of Ukraine “When you invade a sovereign nation, that is a war crime.”

    This world view says the United States can empower former Soviet satellites and grow American influence by expanding NATO eastward (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, and Romania formally joined the alliance, East Germany by default) and to do this while taking the nuclear weapons away from those states so that none of them would become a threat or rival in Europe. It was American policy to have weak but not too weak states between Russia and the “good” part of Europe, dependent on America for defense.

    As the Soviet Union collapsed, borders were redrawn to match the West’s needs (the same mistake was made earlier by the British post-WWI in the Middle East.) The reality of 2022 is Putin is seeking to redraw borders. Ukraine as a possible NATO member is a threat to Putin and he is now taking care of that. Americans live in a country that has no border threats and fails to understand the mindset time after time; imagine Mexico joining the Warsaw Pact in 1970.

    We were warned. After the Senate ratified NATO expansion in 1998 despite the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ambassador George Kennan stated “I think it is the beginning of a new cold war. I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely. I think it is a tragic mistake. No one was threatening anybody else. We have signed up to protect a whole series of countries, even though we have neither the resources nor the intention to do so in any serious way.”

    That’s the circa-1998 trap Joe Biden is being lured back into. Only months after the America collapse and retreat from Afghanistan, Biden learned nothing. Our defeat did not teach us humility and restraint. It did not school us that America can no longer dictate global rules, sitting as judge while an ally invades a neighbor and then turning to hurl lightening bolts when an enemy invades one. It did not budge us a hair away from the destructive moral certainty that fuels our foreign policy. All that’s missing now is for someone to claim Russia and China are a new Axis of Evil.

    Putin invaded Ukraine because, unlike Biden, he understands the new, new world order has different rules. Joe Biden, not always a quick study, has two choices. He can give in to the voices for war and try and prop up the myth of World’s Policemen for another round, or he can understand the consistent failures of American crusades and the global Pax Americana since WWII, especially those in the Middle East of the past two decades, plus the rise of multipolar economic powers to include China, have changed the rules. Negotiation is no longer appeasement. We aren’t in control anymore, and despite Iraq and Afghanistan, Biden may seek another bloody confirmation of that. Or he can understand America’s core interests are not in Ukraine and keep the peace.

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.