• Archive of "Biden" Category

    Leticia James’ Desperate Hail Mary Lawsuit Against Trump

    November 12, 2022 // 3 Comments »

    No one is above the law, but some actions are beneath it. Just ask Leticia James, the New York Attorney General who filed a $250 million civil suit against Donald Trump, what may turn out to be the last gasp of a multi-year effort to criminalize the electoral process in America. As she prepares for trial in early 2023, let’s see what she has to go on.

    During her 2018 campaign for attorney general, James declared: “Trump should be charged with obstructing justice (in connection with Russiagate.) I believe that the president of these United States can be indicted for criminal offenses and we would join with law enforcement and other attorneys general across the nation in removing this president from office.”

    James tweeted the campaign endorsement from Rep. Maxine Waters when that still mattered that James would be an attorney general who “who will investigate Trump” and promised that “the president of the United States has to worry about three things; Mueller, Cohen, and Tish James.” For the record, Robert Mueller has retired to the dark side of the moon after his investigation proved nothing (though there are still those who believe, as there are people who enjoy circus geeks, and the Venn diagram of the two groups is a circle), Michael Cohen is a convicted felon lucky to be called as a guest once a month on the Howard Stern Show, and of course Tish. In her 2018 election night victory speech, James boasted: “I will be shining a bright light into every dark corner of his real estate dealings….” and before taking office repeated her threat to target Trump world: “We will use every area of the law to investigate President Trump and his business transactions and that of his family as well.”

    She even pulled Trump into her victory speech, saying her win “was about that man in the White House who can’t go a day without threatening our fundamental rights.” All of that sounds like she had it in for Trump; had an attorney general ever said such things about a private citizen not named Trump it would be likely grounds all by itself for dismissal for bias. That said, Trump sued James last year seeking to halt her investigation, alleging it was “baseless” and motivated solely by her desire to harass a political opponent. A judge dismissed the suit in May.

    Tish does deserve a few points for being the last one standing. In an unprecedented sweep over the last five years, Congress tried to impeach Trump twice. The FBI tried to indict for espionage itself. The Southern District of New York (the Feds, DOJ) could not find anything to indict Trump on after he left office. Same for the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. Only Tish was able to drop paper on Trump’s desk out of all those smart lawyers and cops.

    Remember things started with Trump as a literal Russian intelligence officer, the actual Manchurian candidate, what would have been the most noteworthy political story of American history, had it been true. Tish as the last in line cannot be that choosey. Her law suit, a civil case which means there is no threat of jail time, alleges, inter alia, Trump overvalued some of his real estate to obtain loans and then undervalued the same real estate to pay lower property taxes on it. This is so common in the New York real estate world that these disputes are not even typically handled by a court, instead adjudicated through a tax commission grievance process. The result is typically a levy or a fine if the owner is found to have manipulated prices egregiously.

    To prove the same as a civil case and then demand significant penalties ($250 million and Trump can no longer do business in New York state) is a big ask. Even The New York Times had to admit James will have a hard time proving the case: “Property valuations are often subjective, and… all his loans are either current or were paid off, some before they were due.” Factors that can legitimately affect properties’ stated value include potential for future income, the view from their upper floors, zoning laws and proposed changes, and the like. If Deutsche thinks they got the deal right and is not suing, who is the attorney general protecting here?

    The presumed victims in James’ suit aren’t Mom and Pop customers Trump defrauded, big league contractors he stiffed, or shareholders he lied to. The victims are banks (primarily Deutsche Bank, one of the world’s largest) and insurance companies that supposedly undercharged Trump for loans and insurance policies, all because Trump told them his properties were more valuable than they actually were. Boo hoo.

    See the government doesn’t usually sue on behalf of big businesses that have their own well-staffed legal departments; it is a huge tell against James that Deutsche is not suing anyone. Financial firms rely to some extent on customers self-reported data. But they also do their own due diligence on what real estate collateral is worth for the explicit purpose of assuring they don’t commit money based on a deal they’ll lose out on. It works the same way with less zeros when you apply for a home mortgage. The bank does not write a check with no questions asked. Instead, it does a credit check, sends out an appraiser to value the property, gets insurance on everything, and prices the loan according to the risk it believes it is taking. Trump could make whatever claims he wanted to about his properties at Mar-a-Lago and 40 Wall, but no one was really listening. You know, trust but verify.

    Oh right, some of the deals were already verified, such as Trump’s sale of rights to the Old Post Office in Washington, DC., whose sale at its Trump-stated value was approved by Joe Biden’s General Services Administration, though Tish includes that sale in her lawsuit. None of Trump’s creditors lost money on any of his loans. Every one is paid off or current in being paid off. There were no allegations of an actual crime by anyone in law enforcement or the private sector. Instead, James started an investigation hoping to find a crime. By making this a civil suit she avoids the higher standards of proof and grand jury proceedings if this was a criminal case.

    It is no small surprise that Tish is up for reelection as Attorney General in November, and so that after waiting almost her entire term in office now files this lawsuit against Donald Trump, following through on her earlier campaign promises to “get him.” James is also fund raising off the lawsuit, writing to campaign supporters: “These men think they can rattle me and scare me off my path, but the truth is, they have only reaffirmed why I went into this work in the first place.”

    It is extremely likely if James loses in November (polls show she is currently in a dead solid tie with her Republican opponent) that her successor will drop the suit entirely, the way the Manhattan DA’s office gave up on Trump when the top job changed hands. Should she win again, Tish will spend the next few years of taxpayer money fending off motions from Trump to dismiss, to change venue, and most of all over seating an impartial jury. Trump could easily move the case out of liberal Manhattan to bright red upstate New York, where he beat Joe Biden in 2020, stalling until the 2024 election is over and one way or another none of this will ever matter again.

    And small world, Tish may even then have one more stop on her legal adventure tour — concerns over past prosecutorial abuse of power led to the creation in 2021 of the New York Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct, designed to hold prosecutors “to the highest ethical standards in the exercise of their duties.”

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

    Posted in Biden, Democracy, Trump

    Will Putin Nuke Ukraine?

    October 20, 2022 // 6 Comments »

    To understand why the conventional nuclear paradigm suggests Putin will not use nuclear (chemical, biological…) weapons in Ukraine, you need only ask why should he?

    The Biden arguments (“Don’t. Don’t. Don’t is Joey’s message to Moscow) are that Putin is irrational, a mad man of sorts, pressed into a corner facing imminent defeat in Ukraine and with that the likelihood of regime change. Except nothing could be further from the truth. Go ahead, name one irrational act, one mad man-level policy decision Putin has made. No, no, quite the opposite. He is not facing “defeat” in the Ukraine as territory trades hands, and can retreat to stable pre-invasion lines in the Donbas and elsewhere with little more than egg on his face, nothing close to defeat (if you’re interested in what defeat looks like, see Kabul 1989 or 2021.) As for regime change, Putin owes nothing to whatever Russian public opinion exists around him, and his pals in power, the so-called oligarchs, have, minus a yacht or two, plundered mightily off sanctions, which have driven up prices for Russian energy exports.

    The primary reason to avoid a nuclear escalation is that it would bring the U.S. or some subset of NATO into the Ukrainian war zone, and this is something Putin would fear, and indeed depending on how much force is applied, could lead to a full-on “defeat” in Ukraine. The U.S. and NATO have been preparing to fight the Soviet Union on the plains of Ukraine for some 70 years (the fall of the Soviet Union, terrorism, Iraq, etc., not withstanding) and the 19th artillery duels that characterize the current conflict would be replaced by endless U.S. precision air strikes. Imagine American A-10s, or even B-52s practically at the edge of space, tearing into those long Russian columns. About the last thing Putin wants is to fight NATO directly over chunks of the Ukraine instead of by (weaker) proxy.

    With those arguments dismissed, we look to the battlefield to see the role a nuclear escalation would play. Looking back at the historical use of nuclear weapons (solely by the United States of course) Putin has roughly four options.

    — One would be a demonstration nuke, say a sea-level low-yield blast outside Odessa designed to rattle the windows, shut off the lights, but otherwise do little harm. As the U.S. concluded in late WWII, demonstrations translate into proving you lack resolve, not that you are committed to nuclear war. Plus the mere use of the nuke pulls the U.S. into the conflict with nothing gained by Russia.

    — Second would be a nuclear attack against a large concentration of Ukrainian troops. Apart from irradiating the territory he hopes to conquer, Putin could achieve something similar, close enough for government work, with an extreme massing of artillery and airpower. A big boom to clear a path, but without the U.S. coming in as an aftereffect. Why go nuclear when the same outcome is available via conventional weapons?

    — Third would be a leadership decapitation strike based on good intelligence that would eliminate President Zelensky. This one a) presumes near-perfect intel (see the American’s failure trying the same gag at the start of two Gulf Wars, shock and awe, which missed Saddam despite all of the resources of the United States) b) that the same could not be accomplished with massed artillery and most importantly c) that Zelensky is really the one-man Washington-Churchill-Patton the western media portrays him as and his loss would have the impact the western media believes it would. If a Zelensky deputy rises from the literal ashes and demands revenge from the people, the gambit fails, maybe even backfires.

    — Last would be the destruction of a Ukrainian city, causing mass civilian casualties and creating nuclear terror to force a swift surrender, the same as with the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the other Japanese cities which would have fallen if surrender had not happened fast enough. Despite the firebombing of Tokyo (never mind Coventry and Dresden) WWII proved to America nothing raises terror like the use of nuclear weapons. Skin melted in Coventry same as at Hiroshima (which used to be known as Ground Zero until a one and only successful air strike hit America) but it is Hiroshima we remember most. In Ukraine this would be intended less as a Strangelovian exchange than a tactical escalation.

    The problem with option four, the nuclear destruction of Kiev, or of the western city of Lviv (to destroy the supply chain providing arms through Poland) is world opinion. By the time the U.S. destroyed two Japanese cities’ worth of women and children the world was weary, weary with war itself and weary of earlier atrocities. Compared with the Holocaust, Nanjing, and the firebombing, the nuclear end of WWII allowed the U.S. to get away with it by taking place within the context of horrific violence. Nothing such is a factor in 2022; Putin was after all the aggressor in this latest fight and there is no Auschwitz to distract. And as much as Putin is less dependent on world opinion than say the U.S., he is dependent. He needs India and most of all China to see him as a good enough guy to buy and resell his oil and gas. If anything would drive Germany to suck it up and endure a frigid winter without Russian energy it would be such an atomic attack on Ukrainian civilians.

    President Biden has made it clear any use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine would be “completely unacceptable” and “entail severe consequences.” But his administration has remained publicly ambiguous about what those consequences would be. The key element would be to press Putin to back down, not to force him to double down. For example, a nuclear demonstration explosion by Russia could see the U.S. sinking another Russian ship in the Black Sea and the tit-for-tat might be complete. But a more robust American response, say the carpet bombing of a Russian field division, might only press the Russians to try again.

    For risk of escalation, Biden should not respond to nukes with nukes. The risk is too great. Neither Putin nor Biden should be the one history books record as the man alongside Harry Truman neck deep in WWII to use nuclear weapons. Having come of political age during the Cold War, Biden should know better than to talk loosely of nuclear weapons, as should Putin. It is crudely reassuring the people who see the greatest possibility of nuclear combat are the MSM hoping to generate clicks and views off the increase in tensions, not the two men who know in their bellies nothing in the Ukraine is worth it.

    At some point in every war gamed scenario where one side does not just call STOP the lizard brains take over and one thing leads to another until someone starts wondering in Washington and Moscow if they’ll live to see their kids go off to school Monday morning. We are already playing a lower-level game of chicken with the Russians in Ukraine and should not look to opportunities to really see who swerves first should come that threatened nightfall.

     

     

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

    Posted in Biden, Democracy, Trump

    The Ashley Biden Problem

    October 7, 2022 // 1 Comment »

    It used to be called the “New York Times Problem.” It asks at what point does the First Amendment stop protecting journalists against the receipt of stolen property, particularly classified documents. It stems originally from the Pentagon Papers, a classified history of the Vietnam War stolen by Daniel Ellsberg and handed over to the Times and later others. The government sought prison time for reporters and editors but failed. What once threatened the New York Times has now been turned directly against Project Veritas, Ashley Biden’s diary, and perhaps Julian Assange.

    The goal out of the tangled case outlined below is to create two standards for applying the 1A, one for journalists and one for “journalists” ostensibly based on skill and reputation but in reality based on politics. It is a direct challenge to freedom of the press by Biden’s DOJ.

    In June 2020, a woman and a man moved into a Delray Beach, Florida house where Ashley Biden, President Joe Biden’s daughter, previously resided and where she’d left several items, including a diary. The diary mentioned, among other things, “inappropriate” showers taken together by daughter Ashley and Joe (whom Hunter Biden at one point appeared elsewhere to refer to as “Pedo Pete.”) Potentially important stuff, though the woman who found them failed to interest the Trump campaign. She then tried Project Veritas. Veritas paid for the diary holder to meet with their staffers in New York, inspected the diary and paid for it, only to ultimately decide not to publish it. Veritas turned the diary over to law enforcement as unverified (the diary was eventually published by a less-well known site.)

    Though Veritas never published the diary, the New York Times Problem came into play — does the 1A protect media outlets who receive or even pay for stolen property, i.e., the Pentagon Papers and Ashley Biden’s diary? Obviously taking in stolen goods, say a diamond watch or purloined car, is a crime. But with snatched or stolen documents of public interest, in steps the First Amendment, which has been held to protect journalists in these cases. This is also why the New York Times Problem has more recently been called the Julian Assange Problem in that Assange never stole any documents himself — that was Chelsea Manning — and only published what he was handed. Any prosecution of Assange would be as a publisher, a clear rub against the 1A and the key issue in any trial that someday may be held.

    That’s where the Veritas case should have ended, with the feds doing nothing. Plenty of stolen documents (there is also the open question about whether finding Biden’s diary left behind in an rental house constitutes theft at all) are published all the time by American media outlets, including Trump’s tax returns in the Times and Edward Snowden’s bombastic NSA source materials in the Washington Post. It is an essential part of a free press and protected by the 1A.

    But DOJ did not stop with Veritas, who after all did not even publish any of the allegedly stolen documents. The FBI instead conducted a predawn search in November 2021 against Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe’s home and similar raids on two associates to take possession of their cell phones and journalistic notes. The raid warrants cited concerns over the stolen Biden diary. In response, University of Minnesota law professor Jane Kirtley, a former executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said “I’m not a big fan of Project Veritas, but this is just over the top. I hope they [the FBI] get a serious reprimand from the court because I think this is just wrong.”

    O’Keefe’s lawyers complained the raid unfairly denied him the legal protections afforded to journalists. “The Department of Justice’s use of a search warrant to seize a reporter’s notes and work product violates decades of established Supreme Court precedent,” O’Keefe’s lawyer wrote. The search also appears to violate the Privacy Protection Act, prohibiting searches and seizures of “any work product materials possessed by a person [person is undefined which gets around the issue of who is a “journalist”] reasonably believed to have a purpose to disseminate to the public a newspaper, book, broadcast, or other similar form of public communication.”

    Court papers provided to the Project Veritas founder when his phones were seized indicate that his devices were taken as part of an investigation that prosecutors are conducting into potential conspiracy to traffic stolen goods across state lines — the Biden diary. This should send chills through First Amendment advocates because the Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that media outlets cannot be held liable for publishing information that may have been obtained illegally, as long as they themselves obtained the material legally.

    The Supreme Court case in question is 2001’s Bartnicki v. Vopper. A person intercepted and recorded a cell phone conversation between a union negotiator and the union president. Vopper, a radio commentator, played a tape of the intercepted conversation on his public affairs talk show. Petitioners filed a damages suit under wiretapping laws, alleging their conversation had been surreptitiously intercepted by an unknown person and the radio station repeatedly published the conversation even though they had reason to know that it had been illegally intercepted. The court ultimately held the First Amendment protected the disclosures and the radio station did not violate the law. “A stranger’s illegal conduct does not suffice to remove the First Amendment shield from speech about a matter of public concern,” concluded Justice John Paul Stevens in Bartnicki v. Vopper. So why not the same with Project Veritas?

    Loose in the Veritas case is a charging Department of Justice, who said the two people who tried to sell Veritas the diary were guilty of moving stolen property across state lines. More importantly the DOJ a) got the two to plead guilty to moving stolen property and b) contended Veritas paid them $40,000 and told them to go back into the house and look for more Ashley Biden materials (Veritas says they did not do this.) The latter point is key, because the protections of Bartnicki v. Vopper require the media to be passive. It cannot help “steal” things to later publish. FYI, the latter could form the bulk of any prosecution against Julian Assange, i.e., the claim he assisted Chelsea Manning by providing technical advice in stealing (“procurement”) all the classified documents she did. Such assistance, as alleged in the Veritas case, could eliminate the 1A protections (see Peavy v. WFAA-TV.)

    What does it all mean? Project Veritas is being punished for practicing journalism and its 1A rights are being violated. Veritas met with sources who had obtained Ashley Biden’s diary. It was irrelevant whether they did so legally. Veritas’ journalists’ homes were searched, its sources charged with an interstate federal crime, and Veritas itself is being set up for procuring “stolen” material. If DOJ is successful in its efforts, this would see a double-standard emerge for the New York Times Problem, one liberal standard that allows major new outlets like the Times and Post the freedom to publish stolen documents and one more conservative which restricts that type of publishing when the outlet is more amateur and less well know, like Veritas.

    As James O’Keefe’s lawyer stated a“ journalist’s lawful receipt of material later alleged to be stolen is routine, commonplace, and protected by the First Amendment.” This all has the makings of a clear First Amendment violation by the Biden Administration and in light of the pending case against Julian Assange, also has long-reaching consequences.

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

    Posted in Biden, Democracy, Trump

    I Can’t Sleep

    September 28, 2022 // 14 Comments »

    When I try to sleep at night, I can’t relax. I blearily turn on the TV. But I can’t change the channel. My TV is telling me I am going to die, maybe by Covid (they say there’s a new variant, you know, called Monkeypox), maybe by climate change because it is likely already too late. Before I drown I’ll be hungry because supply chains don’t work anymore, and inflation is stripping away my purchasing power, and some sort of fascist coup will happen and I’ll probably have to wear all gray clothes all the time like in the dystopian movies. Then there are the TV diseases, bowel disorders and skin problems that medicines I can’t afford might fix except side effects can include blindness, paralysis, saying thingstoofasttounderstandanditallisjustablur of fear. It doesn’t matter I can’t pick out the words, I know what it  means. If only I had that medicine maybe I’d be happy like the people in the commercials, going to farmer’s markets with my racially diverse group of great pals.

    The rhetoric of emergency, crisis, and imminent doom has always been part of American life. We have not been happy for some 75 years. We were happy for a short time after we defeated Hitler, but then we spent three generations certain we would die in a nuclear fireball because behind Hitler were Communists who wanted to invade us, right up the beaches of San Diego, even when for a while we were the apex predator on the planet with the world’s only atomic bomb. We beat the Communists but our happiness was short-lived because of the terrorists and right after we beat them there was Putin, hiding and waiting to ruin the Olympics again.
    I have always been afraid. But I also realized that the ever-increasing speed of fear has never so dominated American life since about 11 p.m. on November 8, 2016, when it became clear Donald Trump would win the presidency. The stakes grew daily; never mind Putin, a Russian agent was in the very Oval Office. There he was giving away secrets, there he was jeopardizing the security of Asia by holding peace talks and hands with Kim Jong Un, then the terrorists were almost back because he was going to pull out of Afghanistan too soon after 20 years. Covid. George Floyd. Elections. Democracy itself was to end on January 6. Barack Obama said at the 2020 Democratic Convention we must vote Democrat out of fear of losing our democracy. Everyday I had new things to be afraid of, Oathkeepers and Boogaloo Bois, not enough beds, and not enough ventilators. The tension of constant crisis defined the years, every day it seemed to reach a breaking point only to be topped again the next morning.
    Then I thought maybe we had a chance. Normalcy, in the person of perhaps the most established and, well, normal politician of the last few generations, seemed to have returned. I felt like I was almost given permission to exhale.
    But no, the crisis had only deepened. The seemingly impossible had happened: the brief occupation of the citadel of American democracy by a mob out of control was not over. It was in fact, I was told, the seminal event of our generation, perhaps the end of the American Experiment itself. The TV says this is mostly the fault of Trump, whom the TV people seem very certain is still in charge of everything. If only a Democrat could get into the White House and start fixing things so I might see my grandchildren again at my show trial after they turn me in for thought crimes. Donald Trump — the ghost of elections past and, perhaps, yet to come — still commands constant and breathless coverage, from cable news to late night. The fraternity of coronavirus variants — alpha, delta, omicron — is like the list of hurricane names: catchy but menacing, perfect for tweets and news scrolls. I am told the upcoming elections, if Republicans do well, will not be fair, and that decades of civil rights work and legislation are meaningless now because the Senate still has the filibuster and Joe Manchin. It seems every story is reported with a flashlight held under the announcer’s chin.
    I tried to figure out if I had gone insane. The arguments are so stupid, it was like arguing a horse is not an orange. I left the room for five minutes and returned to see the U.S. was semi-at war for war over another country’s problems which isn’t America. What, are there Kurds now in Ukraine we have to die for? I couldn’t find any debate, anybody asking why we were starting down the road to another war, only that I should get scared again of the Russian Bear taking over Europe. See, because Neville Chamberlain misread Hitler, forever after any attempts at peace are called appeasement. That’s why I’m told war between China and Taiwan is imminent and the U.S. has to be ready to water the rice paddies of Asia again with American blood. Meanwhile, in the face of lurking Covid, living in daily fear of terrorism seems almost nostalgic.
    Dammit, somebody said if we elected Anybody But Trump things would be OK. Instead it seems worse than ever. Fear as a policy has yielded a nuclear arms race which nearly destroyed the world, the lost decade of freedoms sacrificed to protection from terrorism, and the hundreds of thousands dead in pointless revenge wars. Now comes the wasted spring, summer, autumns, and winters of Covid overreaction, destroying the economy and breaking the spirit of people, followed by inflation and five buck gas. So forgive me when I am not sure I should fear for our democracy as much as I fear for our sanity.

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

    Posted in Biden, Democracy, Trump

    The DNI Two-Step and Trump

    September 17, 2022 // 4 Comments »

    If you play poker with a guy named Doc often enough you learn to watch his hands carefully when it’s his turn to hold the deck. Same when the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the Intelligence Community (IC), and the FBI sit down at the table with the American people.

    The game right now is will he or won’t he; will Attorney General Merrick Garland indict Donald Trump over something to do with classified information held at Mar-a-Lago? Everyone is holding their cards tight to the vest, but the deal just passed to the DNI and the game is about to get serious. Stakes are high; in the pot is the presidency of the United States.

    DNI Avril Haines said that DNI “will lead an Intelligence Community assessment of the potential risk to national security that would result from the disclosure of the relevant documents” including those seized. She said the DNI was aiming not to interfere with the ongoing criminal investigation, to which everyone at the table had better shout “bull.” A review of potential risk means the DNI can show a pair of twos and claim they are kings. The DNI’s whole point is to interfere with the investigation, same as they did with Hunter’s laptop, Russiagate, and the Clinton server before that. The IC is as much a part of our elections now as it ever was in any other banana republic.

    It works like this: using classified methods in secret to look at classified documents the DNI will come to conclusions about what might happen to the security of the United States if those documents were to fall into “the wrong hands,” i.e., the hands of their choosing and certainly a worst-case scenario.

    Without revealing the documents’ contents or why those contents are so important, the DNI gets to say how bad things would be and your role as the public is to believe them and vote accordingly. Since it is a worst-case scenario game, the DNI will no doubt — without any evidence anyone but Trump saw the docs — proclaim nearly the end of the world, that pair of kings. The goal of course would most certainly be to influence the investigation or, more precisely, influence the public opinion outcome. It’s a remake of the January 2017 intelligence community assessment (another form of make it say what you want it to say document) which claimed, without evidence, that Vladimir Putin wanted to put Trump in the Oval Office. Or the 2020 IC letter claiming the Hunter Biden laptop was Russian disinformation.

    Right now the DOJ has very little to prosecute on, basically that Trump held on to some (maybe) classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. Did anyone see them? Was there any chance a foreign adversary got a peek? DOJ needs more than simple possession (albeit a crime) to go after a once and perhaps future president and may not have it. The docs may never have left lock and key. Mar-a-Lago surveillance tapes may not show Boris Badenov walking in and out of frame; enter the IC.

    The DNI document review itself will of course not be made pubic. In discussing which sources and methods might have been damaged it will need to be more highly classified than the original  documents. We’ll never see the Review. But better than the entire document, we’ll all see the leaks, the little snippets meant to take down Trump that will inevitably leach into the New York Times and Washington Post. The IC will provide the ammunition, in carefully measured amounts, DOJ needs to make the unclassified case to the public the classified stuff they’ll never see is a big, big deal.

    Conspiracy theory? Ask yourself how crime scene-like photos have already leaked from the Mar-a-Lago investigation as compared to say, the Jeffery Epstein case. Imagine a crime scene-like photo of children’s underwear strewn across the floor, stuff investigators allegedly found in Epstein’s desk. DOJ and Trump have been bickering about these documents nearly since he left office; why was the spectacular raid held just weeks ahead of the midterms?

    This is by now a familiar song. Remember the role the IC played in the 2020 election in making sure Hunter Biden’s laptop and its contents would not influence Americans.  As the New York Post broke the story that a laptop full of Hunter Biden’s files contained potential evidence of a pay-for-play scenario involving then-candidate Joe Biden just ahead of the presidential election, almost in real time more than 50 former senior IC officials signed a letter dutifully published by Politico 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.” Small world — the U.S. spy chiefs who signed that infamously misleading letter, including John Brennan, Leon Panetta, Michael Hayden, and James Clapper, directed America’s IC while Biden was vice president.

    The letter was an act of evil brilliance, the weaponization of opinion. It played off cultivated prejudices from 2016 that the Russians manipulated American elections. In fact, most of the 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. Among the establishment, the meme quickly became into “the laptop is fake.”

    The major difference in this case was the establishment’s willingness to actively block information. With the letter as “proof” the laptop was disinformation, the 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 truthful reporting. Twitter even banned links to the story in direct messages. Facebook announced it would not allow discussion of the issue pending a “fact check,” which never came. Establishment media outlets labeled the laptop fake, social media blocked the news, and the public basically fell in line and voted for Joe without knowing squat about what he and his son Hunter had been up to. Many still do not.

    More recent information exposes the IC plan in greater detail, to include the FBI specifically approaching Facebook and Twitter to tell them not to allow the story. Claims of not interfering with the election were fully false, with a cover up until when it seems not to matter anymore, to boot. Like the whole of Russiagate, it was all made up, and the IC worked hand-in-glove with the Democratic media to hide information. Hunter Biden’s laptop had the potential to change the outcome of the 2020 election, and everyone knew it.

    So be careful when the inevitable DNI/IC leaks about how serious the whole Mar-a-Lago affair is show up. Now, after all that you wanna play another hand of poker with these guys? Sure, let old Doc here deal you in, sucker…

     

     

     

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

    Posted in Biden, Democracy, Trump

    Biden Foreign Policy Update: Ukraine, China, and More

    September 14, 2022 // 5 Comments »

    What is Joe Biden’s foreign policy? It’s a trick question, because he has no actual policy, no plan, no careful set of chess moves a step ahead of his adversary. America suffers for it.

    Biden’s foreign policy initially began and ended in Afghanistan, and the disastrous withdrawal that left refugees strew around the globe, problem children still being sorted out. There were years, then months, then weeks, then days to plan the NEO — the noncombatant evacuation order — and plenty of planning books for one sitting on desks in places like Seoul.

    Still the basic mistakes were made, including reducing the evacuation from several well-guarded sites (particularly American military bases being closed down) to a single semi-open civilian site at Kabul airport to allow the mobs and the enemy to concentrate, failing to negotiate an end strategy with the adversary (as was done in Vietnam and Iraq; basically let us evacuate peacefully and the place is yours a day later), having no system to prioritize boarding, and not pre-negotiating landing rights in neighbor countries that were to be used as staging areas. Instead, Biden simply sat on his hands while troops on the ground did their best to ad hoc a strategy of evacuating those who Darwin got over the fenceline. Add in breaking the cardinal rule of all NEOs, leave no American citizens behind. Biden’s follow-up to the evacuation has been to pretend it never really happened and not talk about it. America’s reputation, meh.

    That leaves the multidimensional foreign policy mess in Ukraine, Biden’s other big foreign policy move. What is the Biden policy, what is it intended to achieve for U.S. interests, and what is its end game? No one can really answer those questions, a sign of real problems, particularly the lack of an end game other than childish “the other side goes home before we do.”

    Biden’s failure in Ukraine is based on several fallacies. Primarily was his belief “allies” in Western Europe would band together behind the leadership of the U.S. to, well, do something against Russia. Nobody wanted actual war between say Germany and Russia, so the idea was western European allies would send weapons and participate in sanctions and this would cause Russia to withdraw. In the early days, more than six month ago now, the goal was whispered to be the fall of Putin, regime change with possibly even a new pro-western leader in Moscow, another “end of history” moment since the west squandered the first one trying to make Russia into a capitalist franchise. How’s that McD’s in Red Square we worked so hard for doing anyway?

    Euro-enthusiasm was damp to begin with, perhaps for having seen a dozen American foreign policy adventures that required their urgent support turn to mud (Afghanistan was the freshest international effort to fail, preceeded by the famous Coalition of the Willing in Iraq War III of 2003) and so predictably within weeks the arms flow became mostly All-America after some token gifts of aircraft and armor from the Danes, et al. U.S. Special Forces were on the ground in Ukraine soon enough, the CIA active alongside them, and the escalation in both amount of material and sophistication of weaponry running full steam. Ukraine on the ground very quickly devolved from a NATO effort into an American one. Again.

    But the biggest failure of Biden foreign policy in Ukraine was with sanctions, those economic pressure points that were to make the price of continued war too high for Putin to bear. Fears Putin would “cut off” western Europe’s gas turned out to be a joke. European gas and oil were instead simply rerouted to Paris and Berlin via Chinese and Indian resellers, and at higher prices than prewar to boot. U.S. sanctions have actually aided Russia. Though Russia’s energy exports fell by volume, Russia’s export prices have been on average around 60 percent higher than last year. About the only people actually sanctioned so far were American consumers, who paid $5.00 a gallon for gas in the spring and early summer, some dumb enough to even believe they were helping Ukraine via their small sacrifice. Europe may get their chance to help defeat Putin as energy prices may rise by 400 percent mid-winter.

    France and Germany evolved the ability to talk tough and do little of substance, making quite an event out of the end of Russian energy exports via ship while quietly lapping at the pipelines like drunkards. And what demand does not fix supply steps in for. The EU reduced direct imports of Russian crude oil by 18 percent but thanks to Russian re-exporters  India and others, that has little-to-no net change in Russia’s overall oil export volumes. China, too, has helped make up for the EU shortfall, re-exporting into the global market as the largest single buyer of Russian energy. Japan holds that title for as yet unsanctioned Russia coal exports. Even the U.S. itself helps out, buying unsanctioned highly refined oil products from the Netherlands and India that most certainly were made at least in part from Russia crude. It turns out Biden was unaware how hard it is to simply turn off Russian energy exports.

    China imported more Russian gas in 2022 then any previous year. In the first six months of 2022, according to Chinese customs data, China bought a total of 2.35 million tons of liquefied natural gas (LNG), valued at $2.16 billion, from Russia, an increase of 28 percent year-on-year, with the value surging by 182 percent. This meant Russia surpassed Indonesia and the United States to become China’s fourth-largest supplier of LNG. Bad enough news if China was using the LNG itself to grow its economy but the LNG is being resold to Europe as a sanctions buster. As reported by the Financial Times, “Europe’s fears of gas shortages heading into winter may have been circumvented, thanks to an unexpected white knight: China.” They further note “the world’s largest buyer of liquefied natural gas is reselling some of its surplus LNG cargoes due to weak energy demand at home. This has provided the spot market with an ample supply that Europe has tapped, despite the higher prices.” Maybe no one has told Joe the bad news.

    So where are Biden’s allies? The EU (…China, India, Africa, and Japan) may at times talk a great game but are hamstrung by its own energy needs. Joe Biden’s foreign policy response? To travel to Saudi Arabia to bargain away any remaining American self-respect for oil. The UN meantime saw 35 key abstentions, including much of Africa, on a symbolic get-out-of-Ukraine resolution. The head of the African Union explicitly called for the lifting of sanctions on Russia. Brazil and Mexico refuse to condemn Russia. Biden stands nearly alone claiming the liberal world order is at risk. And, um, the G-7 announced they agreed on a plan to impose a set price on Russian oil, literally not that that matters since the resell market is where the action is.

    Meanwhile, as Biden makes plans to send additional sticks and stones to Ukraine, Beijing recently announced plans to waive debt owed by 17 African countries. China plans to invest a further $300 billion in the continent. China’s continues to make inroads into the “Lithium Triangle,” Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile, which account for 56 percent of the world’s lithium supply. Over the years, China has acquired a number of mines in the three countries. In the space of two years, between 2018 and 2020, China invested $16 billion on mining projects there. In an effort to further capture a monopoly in the lithium market, China is also investing in Zimbabwe, home to Africa’s largest lithium reserves, injecting $300 million into its Arcadia Lithium Mine. Elsewhere, the Solomon Islands’ new security pact with Beijing could lead to a Chinese naval base being constructed off Australia.

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

    Posted in Biden, Democracy, Trump

    Nancy Pelosi Sends You Mixed Messages From WWIII

    August 20, 2022 // 1 Comment »

    As most of America forgets Nancy Pelosi’s stirring up of tensions in East Asia last week, it is important to double-back to review what messages where actually sent by each entity involved in the spat.

    Japan, who welcomed Pelosi as a conqueror following her visit to Taipei, found about half of the Chinese missiles fired over and around Taiwan as “punishment” actually landed in Japanese-claimed waters around small islands in the Pacific Ocean east of Taiwan. Japan, which sent a message of undiluted support for Pelosi’s Taiwan Adventure, found itself the recipient of a message of its own. Left undiscussed were that those islands themselves are a point of ownership contention among Taiwan, Japan, and the Philippines. But the main message is clear enough: Japan no longer has a foreign policy of its own, and is de facto an American military protectorate alongside Guam and Saipan, a model for the Philippines of the future past.

    Taiwan reassured itself it is a beloved American vassal state with a visit from mom, much like a child of divorced parents who blames himself for the breakup. Minor politician and likely lame duck Nancy Pelosi went for the low hanging fruit by seeking to anger China greatly at little cost. With a constituency about one-third Chinese American back home, Pelosi has made a career out of appearing on the scene to criticize China, after Tiananmen, at various Olympiads, over Hong Kong, and hey, why do we need a specific reason 2022 edition. Knowing the way the Chinese often over-value symbolic acts, she committed one at the expense of Joe Biden and the United States, forcing Biden to get off his couch and dispatch an aircraft carrier to demonstrate he still held the majority of testosterones in the relationship. Taiwan, of course, ate up all the attention and President Tsai the chance to play at center stage for a day or two. Imagine daddy competing with mommy to give the best unnecessary present in that post-divorce race for affection — a personal visit versus your own carrier strike group for a few days. Who loves you more?

    South Korea alone sent a message of strength among the nations involved in Nancy Pelosi’s magical mystery tour. Little covered in the U.S. media, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol skipped an in-person meeting with Pelosi in lieu of a phone call due to his being on “summer vacation” in his nation’s capital, Seoul, minutes from Pelosi’s hotel. Never mind Pelosi was the first sitting speaker to visit South Korea since Dennis Hastert stopped by Seoul in 2002. All she got was a meet with her counterpart, Kim Jin Pyo, the speaker of the National Assembly, and an agreement to support both governments’ efforts to achieve denuclearization and blah blah blah blah on the peninsula. Pelosi got the message and did not mention Taiwan once in her remarks.

    Korea’s actions also drive home a big unspoken story, that all of East Asia and beyond has to figure out a dual foreign policy, one toward the U.S.-China-Taiwan scruffle, and one toward China proper, the most populous nation on earth, with a massive military, and a contender for most economically powerful country of the next decade. South Korea alone seems to understand this, snubbing Pelosi as a way of reminding the United States long after its showboating politicians go home and forget, it still has to make its way alone in a scary neighborhood. Seoul, well aware North Korea’s only substantive diplomatic relationship is with Beijing, held to the clearest and most on-point messaging of last week. It was thus no surprise that only days after Pelosi returned home top South Korean and Chinese diplomats, Foreign Ministers Park Jin and Wang Yi, pledged to develop closer relations and maintain stable industrial supply chains at a time of deepening rivalry between Beijing and Washington.

    Though nowhere near as forceful in their presentation as South Korea, both Singapore and Malaysia asked Pelosi not to go to Taiwan, saying that it would force them to choose between the U.S. and China.

    Despite some skillful diplomacy, China still sent a mixed message of weakness in its over-reaction and strength in its ability to throw together a coordinated response that managed to suggest it could blockade Taiwan, attack U.S. assets at sea with missiles from the Mainland, and tweak Japan, all at the same time. Extra points for its domestic propaganda campaign that, with exciting video, looked like a joint Tom Cruise-Tom Clancy production. The situation is a far cry from the 1995-1996 crisis in the Taiwan Strait, when a visit by Lee Teng Hui, who would become Taiwan’s first democratically-elected president, to his alma mater Cornell University, sparked real tensions between the US and China.

    The Pelosi affair was also a chance for China to practice large scale drills which under normal circumstances would likely be seen as too provacative, a nice bonus. It may even result in a new normal, more aggressive military actions in the gray zones as hardliners in Beijing are able to point to what they got away with as signs they might have gotten away with even more militarily. As one laughing nationalist in Beijing put it when he was interviewed last week, “Thanks Comrade Pelosi”!

    The U.S. message came off as uncoordinated and too confused to be called weak. Joe Biden made some remarks from his Covid sick bed, and Antony Blinken did the same rumbling around Asia himself. For all his gaffes in the past (three times making the same mistake is nearly a new policy in some minds) claiming the U.S. had some sort of obligation to defend Taiwan, Biden and his spokespeople stuck right to the script, John Kirby of the National Security Council even making headlines for his non-news reassurance to Beijing the U.S. does not support Taiwan independence. Biden for his part sent the message to China loud and clear that U.S. domestic politics mattered to him (and Nancy) a lot more than whatever China thought. Shock and awe this was not.

    The American media’s message was it cannot understand world events past a second grade level, and has the attention span of a two-year-old. All the complexities of East Asia get compressed into a Super Bowl scenario, Big Blue versus Big Red, Eagle versus Dragon, in a caged death match in the Taiwan Strait. China’s carefully moderated military sparring is exaggerated into headlines worrying about a new world war, and her thrusts around Taiwan morph into “attacks surrounding the island nation” and a drill which can become a blockade at any moment. Left out of the discussion is how many military lives were put at risk due to accidents and mistakes by Pelosi’s stunting.

    Also left out is what a lousy blockade surrounding the island makes for; Taiwan has no ports on its cliff face east coast and sees the majority of its commerce come from China itself. Beijing might best mine Hong Kong harbor if it wanted to hurt Taiwan economically. Meanwhile, the massive cottage industry in American think tanks and academia which regularly rises to predict imminent war over Taiwan settled back down, waiting no doubt for the rough and ready speech about reunification coming this November with the 20th Party Conference in Beijing. Will they go to war!?!?! Does Xi have a timetable in mind????

    As for that short attention span, Pelosi hadn’t unpacked and done a wash at home when the media pivoted away, leaving the last of Chinese military tantrum last week to finish in a kind of void. Until next time…

     

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    Posted in Biden, Democracy, Trump

    They Need the Indictment to Beat Trump 2024

    August 14, 2022 // 8 Comments »

    Get it yet? The point of the raid on Mar-a-Lago and the J6 hearings is aimed at one man. Nope, not Donald Trump, Merrick Garland. It is aimed at one end: get Garland to indict Trump for something and failing that, to indict the highest ranking person near Trump in hopes it will rub off on the near-certain-to-be Candidate.

    The reason for this is that nothing else worked. Democrats pointed the full national security apparatus at Trump, with the FBI doing yeoman-like duty, and turned Robert Mueller loose with unlimited resources for a full year to find something Russian to indict Trump on, going as far as to suggest he obstructed an investigation which found him innocent. Alice in Wonderland stuff, that. After wading through reams of FBI investigative malfeasance to include but not limited to lying to get FISA warrants and accepting an obviously wholly-fictitious dossier as fact for months, Mueller could not find a single issue worthy of bringing to an actual court. So Democrats impeached Trump, twice, one of which was little more than a policy difference over a Ukraine few outside the DC Bubble cared about then but sure as hell do now. The aggressive Southern District of New York (SDNY) was unleashed on Trump’s finances and real estate work, given a grand jury to take testimony, and still came up with nothing indictable. And that is leaving aside the reality the IRS has had Trump’s full tax records for decades of audits and again came up with nothing indictable.

    Dems’ whole remaining strategy for 2024 is to make people believe Trump does not support America’s democracy. Propaganda/journalism/TV hearings failed to sway many minds. To succeed it’s going to require something real, an actual court finding Trump actually guilty of an actual crime that meets the expectations set after flinging around words like treason and sedition like angry monkeys. Some goofy tax problem in a state court or empty process crime will not be enough. It is hard to imagine Trump taking with him some classified documents will be enough, despite the high-profile raid on Mar-a-Lago.

    With the Democratic midterm massacre scheduled for November, Dems know they now have about 12 weeks left to indict Trump or someone near him. Republicans are already drooling over the prospect of shutting down the FBI and the J6 Headline Committee Machine and opening their own investigation into Hunter and Joe Biden’s financial tomfoolery in Ukraine and China. So it is now or never for the Last Man Who Can Trump Trump, Merrick Garland.

    Garland seems a rare person in 21st century Washington, a man with a moral compass. Appointed Attorney General by Joe Biden, many Dems expected Garland to be an angry beast of a prosecutor. After all, the only reason he does not now sit on the Supreme Court (he might have saved Roe!) after being nominated at the end of the Obama administration was Republicans refused to allow him a Senate hearing. The unfairness of it all is supposed to be eating at him, and he should be out of blood to take down the Republicans once and for all by slashing Trump at the knees.

    Garland instead seems lost in a kind of Jeffersonian Zen state, promising to follow the law and respect the civil liberties of all. In an interview’s worth of softball questions on NBC Nightly News, Garland sounded more like Mr. Rogers than a prosecutor atop his fiery pulpit. Yes, the DOJ is investigating Trump, et al, alongside the J6 Committee. Yes, it’s a criminal investigation, that’s what DOJ does. No, he has not decided to prosecute because all the information is not in. No, it doesn’t matter Trump is a former and maybe future president, the law is blind to that. Listeners were left waiting for him to say “And now anything else troubling you, young fella?”

    The problem is despite all the cries about democracy under attack, there seems little to indict Trump over, and Garland seems to sense that. The original Great Dem Hope, incitement (often expressed as treason or sedition by pundits) is not mentioned much anymore. Among other problems, incitement requires a showing of intent — that the speaker wanted the crowd in this case to attack the Capitol not just protest there — and no witness has come up with anything remotely applicable and Trump’s own words fall far short. The idea that Trump spoke and the mob rioted seems attractive on TV (one thing followed another so they must be related, right?) but does not meet any legal test worthy of actual indictment. Merrick Garland knows that, even if Liz Cheney pretends she does not. The J6 people can pitch a criminal referral but that changes nothing for the man who has to actually decide if there is anything legally actionable he can take to court. It’s the gap on display between no standards and very high ones. It is very unclear anything Trump took with him to Mar-a-Lago would rise to the level of indictment after he blames staff and the movers for inadvertently packing the wrong stuff.

    What will be left for Garland is some sort of charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States. This would have to take the form of persons planning to set in motion some sort of process which would have negated or at least scrambled the results of the 2020 election sufficiently that Trump could have claimed a victory and see what happens next. Garland is under huge pressure from the Democratic left, who know their time in power is numbered in weeks, to squish and squeeze the goofy rhetoric Trump’s lawyers were spouting into an indictment along those lines.

    This indictment, if it comes at all, will probably not include Trump who, like any client, is not responsible for what his lawyers (or the movers) said or did. Instead, Trump lawyers John Eastman and Jeffrey Clark will likely bear the brunt of any legal opinions rendered, while the press and Dems try to drag the stain off them on to Trump. Both men recently were aggressively served with search warrants. Both men came up with complex schemes to negate the 2020 election, with no chance of success, just to placate their client, Trump. Eastman mumbled about old election law to “spin a yarn” the vice president might be able to exclude state-certified electoral votes based on speculative vote-fraud suspicions. Clark said even though the Justice Department found no evidence of voter fraud the fact that it was still investigating while Trump’s campaign claimed other election irregularities could be used to nudge contested states into auditing their elections.

    If Garland is pressed to indict Eastman and Clark, he’ll face accusations that his jurisprudence is politically motivated. He’ll also face practical problems such as seating an unbiased jury. But if he thinks the cases will lead him to Trump, he’ll hit a stone wall. Trump’s conversations and interactions with his lawyers — the stuff that can reveal intent and state of mind — are protected by both attorney-client privilege and by executive privilege. The latter will also cover nearly every official who directly interacted with Trump. Garland could easily find himself facing a Supreme Court fight over the limits of such privilege which would run past 2024.

    As for the work of the lawyer’s themselves and their possible indictment, Orwell would call what they might be accused of thought crimes. The legal advice was frivolous. It had no connection to the riots. It was never acted on. It is unclear what impact the opinions made anywhere, even their impact on Trump himself. In any normal world drafting a legal memo is hardly a crime. Yet they may yet prove just barely enough to bring an indictment against Trump’s lawyers and minimally satisfy the Democrats’ blood lust. The last hope is their indictment will stick to Trump and that — that — will dog him into defeat where everything short of shooting someone on Fifth Avenue has not. Call it a long shot.

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    Posted in Biden, Democracy, Trump

    Much Ado About Nancy Pelosi and China

    August 12, 2022 // 5 Comments »

    China policy seems to be made by, and written about by, adults who were often beaten up on the school playground. They retain the language of bullying, and weaknesses, and standing up, and the fantasy that something would sweep in and save them from losing another days’ lunch money (maybe an aircraft carrier group?) That these people are now in control of the media, if not the House, does nothing good for anyone, especially anyone located on either side of the Taiwan Strait. American seems dumb enough to play at this game; is Beijing also?

    By now we all know Nancy Pelosi, likely with only a couple of months left as Speaker of the House, decided to spend her summer vacation stirring up the entire Pacific theater for what appears to be largely her own ego. Just days after RIMPAC 2022 concluded (China sure knew the U.S. just wrapped up the largest live fire exercise of the year in the Pacific, involved a dozen nations and hundreds of ships and planes all aimed at the “Blue” team defeating the “Red” team across thousands of miles of Pacific Ocean. While the NYT editorial team was putting ice on their fat lips over in the Ron Burgundy Lounge, Beijing sure saw RIMPAC and Pelosi as part of the same) bully Pelosi shoved Joe Biden into a mud puddle and said she was going to Taipei. For those worried about “showing weakness,” mark this: Biden was too weak to tell a member of his own party to stay out of trouble when he was sick with Covid, sick with inflation, and digging an ever deeper hole in Ukraine, another war with no endgame but wait for the other side to win.

    There was no great need for anyone to visit Taiwan this week. There was no crisis brewing, no event requiring anyone to stand with Taipei, support its democracy, or start wearing colored masks, not that the arrival of a lame duck Speaker would accomplish that or anything else in an quick show and tell. Nope, this mess was created by a Nancy Pelosi who wanted to show off, made worse by Joe Biden being too weak to stop her, and then exacerbated all to heck by China infusing much meaning into something that could have been shrugged off as having very little to say for itself.

    Remember the advice your mom gave you on bullies? Ignore them and they’d go away? Imagine China listening to their mom on this one and announcing “We heard Nancy was going to Taipei. Neither Nancy nor Taipei are particularly important to the soon-to-be greatest economy in the world, so we’ll ignore them both.” If pressed for comment Beijing could add “But we hope Nancy chokes on her dinner” and leave it at that.

    But while Nancy the Bully imagined she was standing up to Beijing the Bully, pretty soon everyone had to stand with, show up, not back down. So you have the New York Times, no stranger to losing its lunch money while being pantsed on the playground, saying “Bullies often seek tests of strengths to probe for signs of weakness. And they always read efforts at conciliation as evidence of capitulation.” The Times even quotes Sun Tzu (note to China watchers: if a pundit who does not read Chinese quotes Sun Tzu, duck, some b.s. is coming your way.) “If Beijing,” the Times continued, “had gotten its way over something as seemingly minor as Pelosi’s visit, it would not have been merely a symbolic victory in a diplomatic sideshow. It would have changed the rules of the game. Rather than avert a diplomatic crisis, it would have hastened a strategic disaster: the further isolation of a democratic U.S. ally and key economic partner as a prelude to surrender, war or both.”

    So there you have it. We just barely avoided a strategic disaster, a game changer, a mere preclude to surrender or war… or both! Good golly, lucky for us Nancy landed the plane safely in Taipei.

    It is time for some seriousness. China is not going to war with Taiwan. After all the smoke clears and overflights are tallied, China did only one substantive thing to punish Taiwan: China halted Taiwanese snack imports (including biscuits and pastries ahead of moon cake season) just before Pelosi’s arrival. That seems, Sun Tzu’s admonishment to try small steps before large ones aside, not something akin to war or surrender, and something unlikely to lead to violence. It actually really does not matter. Like Nancy.

    Need we walk through the other 99 percent of what is going on between Taiwan and China? 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 Nancy Pelosi protested.

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

    Caution is not appeasement. Every diplomatic move is not a full-spectrum weighing out of strength. Tiananmen was 33 years and a major change or two of governments ago (you still talking about that Kent State thing, bro?) Hong Kong was taken from China and colonized and exploited by the British before being returned to much the same status under Beijing. Same for Macao and the Portuguese. The U.S. fought China directly in Vietnam and Korea and that did not bleed over into Taiwan. China went nuclear and did not invade Taiwan.

    Strength and weakness do not rest on a single visit by someone as close to the end of her tenure as Nancy Pelosi. Bullies are gonna bully but China and Taiwan are not in that sort of relationship; they exist in a complex diplomatic dance overshadowed by massive amounts of cross-straits commerce, investment, and travel. In every sphere outside the political and martial they grow closer together, not further apart, and much of the differences are promoted by the U.S. and an industry of “China experts” who thrive like dung beetles off the potential for conflict.

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    Posted in Biden, Democracy, Trump

    Who Else Is Wrongly Detained?

    August 8, 2022 // 4 Comments »

    The rule is simple: abroad, Americans are subject to the host country’s laws and legal system, whether that be Great Britain or Russia. The Bill of Rights does not follow Americans to foreign countries, nor will the U.S. government intervene with the host country on their behalf. Try and bring some weed into Japan and if you’re caught, you’re looking at years behind bars. No matter what you were carrying would clearly be seen as a small amount for personal use back home, in Japan anything over about an ounce means you intended to sell it, and the punishment is lengthy accordingly. I should know; I spent seven years in Japan visiting American prisoners as part of my State Department job there. The top three reasons for their arrest were drugs, drugs, and drugs. Just like Stephanie Griner. I was not allowed to help you get out, or advocate for a shorter sentence.

    The only exception was if you were “wrongly detained,” a new category that allows the U.S. government to actively help free those designated. It is up to the Secretary of State to make the call, as there are no set criteria. Even the total number of American so designated is murky, somewhere around 40 out of those 4,000 some Americans locked up. One of the wrongfully detained is Stephanie Griner, held in Russia after admitting she tried to smuggle in to the country a couple of vials of cannabis oil. The U.S. announced just this week it is ready to trade a real bad guy, a Russian arms dealer nicknamed the “merchant of death” for Griner (and another American, Paul Whelan, accused of having a USB drive that contained classified information.) In April, retired U.S. Marine Trevor Reed, who had been sentenced to nine years in prison, was exchanged for a Russian pilot who had been in a U.S. jail since 2010.

    The problem is in looking at Griner’s case, it is very hard to see what makes her so “wrongfully” detained (as she admitted the smuggling attempt) and is being given a trial under Russian standards. Her case seems a long way from both other wrongful detentions (some we know about involve what would more readily be described as hostage situations involving terrorist elements) and other needful instances of Americans locked up abroad. Looking at just a handful of those cases it sure seems Griner benefited more from being a black, lesbian, woman athlete married to another woman in a tough midterm year than anything approaching right or wrong, never mind geopolitics that would see an arms dealer who sought harm to innocent Americans walk free.

    Consider the case in Japan of U.S. Navy lieutenant and Mormon missionary Lt. Ridge Alkonis, currently locked up on a three year sentence after two people were killed in a traffic accident doctors said may have been caused by a medical episode. The U.S. has not offered to help free him. Alkonis and his family hiked Japan’s famed Mount Fuji when on the way home Alkonis blacked out at the wheel and crashed his car, with his own family inside, in a restaurant parking lot and killed two Japanese citizens. Neurologists diagnosed Alkonis with Acute Mountain Sickness, which can cause sudden fainting up to 24 hours after rapid altitudinal change.

    Alkonis’ family offered an appropriate $1.65 million in compensation to the Japanese family for the loss of their two relatives, along with an apology. The Japanese family, however, uncharacteristically refused the settlement and instead demanded jail time for Alkonis. Senator Mike Lee of Utah claims Alkonis is being targeted as a proxy for American forces stationed in Japan, which remain unpopular among many Japanese who feel they receive special treatment under the law due to the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces agreement. Alkonis, for example, will serve his term in a barracks-like prison alongside other Americans, instead of the more medieval prison conditions and isolation Japanese criminals face in their own system. On the face the case certainly looks like one unfair, with an American singled out for extraordinary punishment and wrongfully detained. Why not help Lt. Alkonis, President Biden?

    Or what about Marc Fogel? Fogel is “the other American” imprisoned in Russia on minor drug charges. Fogel previously taught history at the international Anglo-American School in Moscow, and was well-known and well-thought of by diplomats not only from the U.S. but also from Great Britain, Canada, and elsewhere. For the past 11 months, Fogel has languished in Russian detention centers following his August 2021 arrest for trying to enter the country with about half an ounce of medical marijuana he’d been prescribed in the United States for chronic pain after numerous injuries and surgeries. He is facing down a 14-year sentence. Like Griner, he has admitted his guilt, seeking to smuggle vape cartridges of marijuana into Russia. His trial included accusations of close connections to the American Embassy, was confused by a visa issue and his personal friendship with the ambassador, and false claims he aimed to sell marijuana to his students. It all lead to a tougher than usual sentence. The State Department has denied Fogel “wrongfully detained” status. Why not help Marc Fogel, President Biden?

    If neither of those cases catch your interest, President Biden, the State Department has some 4,000 more to choose from. The point is not to see Stephanie Griner suffer, the point is to ask what makes her case special enough to warrant the designation “wrongfully detained” and the offer of a lop-sided prison swap to be made. During my State Department career I visited hundreds of American prisoners abroad, from celebrities and white collar criminals dealing with multi-millions of dollars at issue to near-homeless Americans trying to make a quick drug score. Not a single one of them felt he was “rightfully detained” in every sense; most felt their sentences were too long given the minor offense they committed. But I was under strict and standing orders not to advocate for any of them, to allow the host country process to play out as it would. What makes Stephanie Griner more special than Lt. Alkonis or Marc Fogel, Mr. Biden? Will they have to wait for some future election cycle when it is their peer group a future president seeks to impress?

     

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

    Posted in Biden, Democracy, Trump

    Marbury v. Madison v. Joe Biden v. Abortion

    August 6, 2022 // 1 Comment »

    Joe Biden doesn’t have the the guts to do what people are suggesting he do, be the first president to stare down a Supreme Court ruling and refuse to abide by it. It wouldn’t matter anyway.

    Abortion in American should never have been allowed to turn into the judicial and moral circus that it is here and nowhere else on earth. Women even under Roe faced 50 different sets of rules and laws, abortion clinics tried to hide what they did, religious child help centers tried to pretend abortion was an option they offered, and the scene was full of protesters and clinic escorts and dozens of other things which separated a woman from her doctor and possibly her clergy in a regulated environment in which to make a very difficult decision. But that was the world we created out of professed concern for women and for the unborn. It was a system which said the fight would never really end, just change as the Supreme Court changed and saw things differently from 1972 to Roe and Doe in 1973 to Dobbs in 2022 to…

    The clarity of Dobbs is unfair to the mess which followed: the Court was very clear, abortion regulation was to be decided on the state level, not the quasi-federal level of Roe and Doe. You know how that works; New York allows third trimester abortions when necessary and Ohio prohibits any abortion past fetal heartbeat, even in cases of rape or incest, and so forth. Dobbs was not intentioned to set off a round of how can we detour around what the Court really said and give abortions in National Parks.

    The biggest change since Roe is chemical abortions. Already pre-Dobbs over 50 percent of all abortions were done chemically, with the mother taking one or two medicines to provoke a miscarriage. While typically done under professional supervision (miscarriages can result in dangerous bleeding, and incomplete miscarriages can be fatal to the mother) a single pill taken by a woman on her own will in most cases provoke a safe miscarriage. This is what will replace the horrible “coat hanger” abortions of the pre-Roe days according to many advocates.

    If America is good at anything, it is smuggling drugs across state lines, and so certainly “abortion pills” will be readily available to many woman in non-abortion states, albeit illegally the same way other drugs smuggled across borders are illegal and occasionally even prosecuted. In the crudest of practical terms, it is unclear how many women will not have access to an abortion post-Dobbs. However, Biden is being pushed to do something more. He is being pressed to refuse to abide by the Supreme Court.

    Joe Biden’s White House is considering executive action to make abortion pills accessible nationwide despite state laws restricting the drug. The administration may seek to use executive power granted under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act to declare a public health emergency to allow abortion providers and pharmacists to distribute chemical abortion pills, even in states where abortion is heavily restricted.

    Senators Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren, along with 16 of their colleagues, urged Biden to take such action in a July 13 letter. “While it is impossible to immediately undo the damage inflicted by the Supreme Court’s repeal of Roe v. Wade, the Biden-Harris Administration must use every tool within its power to fight back,” the letter said. “We urge you to declare national and public health emergencies over Americans’ access to reproductive care.” Technically, powers available under the PREP Act would shield doctors, pharmacies and others from liability for providing abortion pills to people across the country. The exact same law was just used with broad popular support to shield manufacturers of Covid drugs and treatments from legal liability in order to get vaccines deployed expeditiously. The use of such law to expand presidential power past a decision by the Supreme Court to the exact contrary, however, would be devastatingly controversial.

    If Biden were to take such a decision, it would put him in immediate legal conflict with those states that choose to regulate chemical abortions and more importantly, the Supreme Court itself, which just ruled this was a states’ right to do, not a Federal one. No president has ever previously directly denied the Supreme Court. Nixon resigned rather than follow or resist the Court’s order to hand over incriminating evidence during Watergate. While many worried Trump would refuse to obey the Court in this situation or that, in the end the Cassandras were wrong, again, and the fight never happened.

    The first draft of America circa 1789 or so did not grant the Supreme Court this power of review. Marbury v. Madison, arguably the most important case in Supreme Court history, was the first U.S. Supreme Court challenge to apply the principle of “judicial review” — the power of federal courts to void acts of Congress in conflict with the Constitution and declare other government actions “unconstitutional.” Written in 1803 by Chief Justice John Marshall, the decision played a key role in making the Supreme Court a separate branch of government on par with Congress and the executive.

    The actual facts surrounding Marbury are irrelevant to the abortion discussion. Relevant, however, is even though the instant case found Secretary of State James Madison had acted unconstitutionally, the underlying matter was resolved without a head-to-head conflict between the executive and judicial and the doctrine stood. With Marbury a new tool in governance, there exist only three ways to fight back against a Supreme Court decision: Congress can pass a new law (in this case legalizing abortion across the states), the Constitution itself can be amended or the Court can overturn itself, as it just did with Dobbs.

    That means should Biden try for option four, executive action, his quest will be Quixotic. Sitting in some Texas government official’s outbox is no doubt a completed challenge to any such action ready to file, meaning a lower court would almost immediately stay Biden as things got sorted out (that is what happened to some of Trump’s early immigration legislation, the so-called Muslim Ban, giving the false impression of early victory to progressives angrily hanging around airports in that instance.) The challenge to Biden would quickly find its way back to the Supreme Court, which would correctly uphold itself. The same result is likely should Biden try some sort of clever end-around, such as abortion clinics on Federal land. The use of PREP would also invite a legal challenge over the point of public health emergencies, and post-Covid utterly politicize what’s left of public faith in public health.

    As an aside, despite the noise, there is no likely path toward prohibiting interstate travel for abortions, say a pregnant woman driving from Texas to New Jersey and thus nothing there for Biden to worry over. Crossing a state border for abortion services is not likely to become illegal. Apart from the Constitution’s unambiguous support for interstate commerce, the House recently passed legislation affirming interstate travel for abortion, and no state has any opposing law on its books. And of course no one from Ohio is arrested for gambling coming home from Vegas, either.

    Criminalizing activities done out of state, or preventing interstate travel, is basically prevented by the Constitution’s Privileges and Immunities Clause, which holds a citizen of one state is entitled to the privileges in another state, from which a right to travel to that other state is inferred. There’s also Bigelow v. Virginia which dealt directly with the issue of out-of-state abortion. The Supreme Court concluded “a state does not acquire power or supervision over the affairs of another state merely because the welfare and health of its own citizens may be affected when they travel to that state… It may not, under the guise of exercising internal police powers, bar a citizen of another state from disseminating information about an activity that is legal in that state.”

    That a gesture like declaring a PREP emergency accomplishes nothing practical does not mean it would not appear politically attractive to Democrats as they head into what promises to be a very rough midterm election. Biden, however, does not seem like the kind of guy who wants to go down in history as the only president to thumb his nose at the nation’s highest court, and all that for no actual gain. Biden knows any action he could take would simply be struck down by the very court that put him in this place. It is called “checks and balances,” Joe, look it up, and it works well in these cases.

     

     

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    Posted in Biden, Democracy, Trump

    Pelosi and China and Taiwan; Is the Domestic Political Juice Worth the Foreign Policy Squeeze?

    August 3, 2022 // 1 Comment »

    The Biden administration is increasingly concerned about a trip  to Taiwan next month by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. They should be. The visit is pointlessly provocative for little gain. Pelosi would do well to remember the the Chinese proverb: “Always know if the juice is worth the squeeze.”

    The domestic political juice is points for Pelosi from her large, pro-Taiwan, constituency back home as she runs for reelection. A third of Pelosi’s congressional district is Asian American and taking on Big China has long been a major part of her political identity. She, for example, made a public show out of meeting with pro-democracy protestors out of Hong Kong and urging a boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

    The foreign policy squeeze — the negative political fall out and possible repercussions from such a visit — is extensive. When Pelosi proposed a visit in April, the Chinese responded “If the U.S. House speaker, a political leader of the United States, deliberately visits Taiwan, it would be a malicious provocation against China’s sovereignty and gross interference in China’s internal affairs, and would send an extremely dangerous political signal to the outside world.” China often fails to understand the impact of domestic politics on U.S. actions abroad, and no doubt imagines Pelosi as some sort of messager heralding a new strategic thinking out of Washington. They would likely make much of the Pelosi visit, envisioning it as a follow-on to Mike Pompeo’s March travel to the island.

    Almost unique globally, the China-Taiwan-U.S. relationship exists in a kind of strategic stasis. Each side of the triangle (the U.S. side tends to speak for interested third parties like Australia, Japan, and Korea at present) talks the talk of reunification and independence, but officially the line is based on the 1979 U.S.-Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) and follow on diplomacy which states there is only one China and Taiwan is a part of it. That line, one of the cleverest phrasings in modern diplomacy, has kept the peace for 73 years through things as varied as the Vietnam War, multiple changes of power in all three entities (part of the deal is not to call Taiwan a “country”) the fall of the Soviet Union and multiple incidents and kerfuffles. It is a sturdy but not unbreakable basis for the relationship. It all speaks to the origins of the diplomatic base here, the TRA, which grew out of Mao’s threat to “liberate” Taiwan and Chiang Kai-shek’s demand for U.S. support to reclaim the Mainland by force. With the Korean War sopping up American blood in the initial phase of the three-side relationship, Washington had no desire to join what would have been a land war to rival World War II. The U.S. Cold War policy was to assure Taipei’s survival, all formalized in 1979 as the inevitable forced a change of plans and the diplomatic recognition of Beijing alongside Taiwan.

    This all came to be known colloquially as “strategic ambiguity,” a policy understood by all parties (Biden gaffes to the contrary aside) to mean the U.S. doesn’t have to defend Taiwan, but it can, and probably will. The circumstances and means of defense are left unspoken. China matched this with a policy of “strategic patience”: China will not wait forever, but China also understands the time between now and forever is long. The TRA works. The Mainland has not invaded Taiwan. Despite changes in leadership from Mao to Deng to Xi, the Mainland has not invaded. Taiwan changed from a military dictatorship to a democracy, and the Mainland has not invaded. Beijing and Taipei are more politically and economically integrated than any point in modern history.

    One part of the unspoken deal is that official visits between Taiwan authorities and U.S. officials (note the accepted nouns) should generally occur on a mid-to-lower level. The idea is the higher the rank of those involved, especially on the U.S. side, the more “legitimacy” is conferred on to Taiwan’s status. So today the standard is some diplomatic grumpiness out of Beijing over visits to Taiwan by U.S. Congress persons but a tacit agreement the U.S. will confine higher level visits, such as from Taiwan’s president, to American soil and only then under some pretense, such as the president refueling enroute to somewhere else, or visiting the American mainland as part of a UN trip. These things shift, grow, and recede over time, but Pelosi as Speaker is clearly tweaking China by her planned visit.

    Another part of the unspoken deal is the timing of visits, and here again Pelosi is coming close to the edge of understood propriety. Not by coincidence the most sensitive period marks a holiday in both entities, October 11 (celebrated in Taiwan on October 10) the 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 in Beijing and the most fervent Nationalists in Taipei 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. Pelosi’s trip would come in the lead up to this date and the follow-on 20th national Congress of the Communist Party. During these no-go periods, Beijing is likely to respond more aggressively to perceived provocations. In particular, President Xi Jinping, who is expected to achieve an unprecedented third term as leader, second only to Mao historically, is keen not to suffer any slights in the lead-up to the conference.

    In other words, the bigger the perceived political and ideological slur, the bigger the required response, and then the bigger the required counter-response and so on until someone calls it quits. Or a war starts.

    That said, Pelosi is more likely to start a war in Washington as Speaker of the House than by visiting Taiwan. 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, no reason for hostilities with or without Nancy Pelosi visiting.

    It is likely Pelosi will be talked out of her planned visit, as she was once before using a case of Covid in April as the excuse then. President Biden himself on Wednesday told reporters “the military thinks it’s not a good idea right now” Pelosi travel to Taiwan, a very weak response from the lame duck president now further removed from his own foreign policy by Covid. Nonetheless, given the seriousness of the matter, among those briefing Pelosi were General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Defense, military and intelligence officials have “tried to explain the risks associated with the timing of her proposed trip,” said one administration official.

    Pelosi is a smart woman; she gets nearly 100 percent of the political gain in her home constituency just by proposing the trip, and tallies an owed favor from Biden for not going. She can again “postpone” the trip, keeping the door open to placate Taiwan while keeping the door open so Beijing can feel the heat. There is no urgency, no need to be seen “standing with Taiwan” at the present moment, no chance this could be seen as “weakness” especially if U.S. diplomats explained quietly to Beijing the domestic political side they likely do not understand. In other words, Pelosi gets most of the domestic political juice for none of the foreign policy squeeze.

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

    Posted in Biden, Democracy, Trump

    America is Full of Snot

    July 31, 2022 // 3 Comments »

    I’m angry. I want to write that parts of American life are increasingly full of s**t, but I can’t write that word here so I’ll have to describe it. You’ll figure it out.

    Dr. Jill Biden is full of s**t because she thinks she can make Hispanic people think she cares about them, you know, diversity stuff For ‘da Votes. At a Latinx IncluXion (if she can use the X, I can use the **) luncheon in San Antonio, she began by mispronouncing bodega as “bogida” (don’t check the altered White House transcript because transcripts now are full of s**t, better to see the video) and then compared members of the Hispanic community to the breakfast tacos only white people eat at Taco Bell. She even giggled a bit when laughed at, thinking she was hitting it with an audience of dumb mules.

    Speaking of bodegas, in New York City a Hispanic bodega worker was charged with murder and spent six days on Riker’s Island for defending himself against an attack. A black guy and his girlfriend refused to pay for their purchase and the guy attacked the worker. The worker had a knife hidden because this wasn’t his first rodeo (emphasis on the “e” because that’s Spanish I guess) and he’d been robbed before. The video starts with the bodega clerk, Jose Alba, selling two patrons loosies, individual cigarettes’ from a pack because the patron cannot afford to buy a whole pack at once, a sign of a classy joint. The girlfriend at the window says she can’t pay after her EBT card is declined, and when Alba says something like “You have to pay” the boyfriend comes around the counter and shoves Alba, age 61, to the ground. The boyfriend knows about fighting; he’s an ex-con out on parole for assault on a cop. The boyfriend has a gang symbol, a white do-rag, hanging out of his back left pocket, something Alba being of the neighborhood, would recognize as bad news. A fight ensues and Alba stabs his assailant. Oh yeah, the girlfriend also had a knife of her own and joined in, two-on-one.

    The full of s**t outcome? Manhattan’s recently-installed District Attorney Alvin Bragg helped usher in more cases being continued without bail, stating that bail was unfair to people of color which usually includes Hispanic people like Alba. Instead, Alba was charged with murder for defending himself and pounded with a $250,000 bond because the DA is full of s**t. Alba couldn’t pay it, so went to Riker’s until the district attorney’s office lowered the racist bail to $50,000 amid the growing outrage.

    While NYC’s mayor vaguely stood behind his DA, one Republican gubernatorial nominee slammed Bragg’s decision to charge Alba, tweeting: “My first Day 1 action as Governor next January will be to fire Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg” because not everyone is full of s**t all the time.

    But DA Alvin Bragg is. He got his job in part as part of the Black Lives Matter aftermath, pledging to cut back on cops harming young black men like the guy who assaulted Jose Alba. The problem is violence toward blacks has not decreased. Bragg’s boss, Mayor Eric Adams, slammed Black Lives Matter and anti-police activists after a recent night of bloodshed across the city that left more than a dozen people shot. “Where are all those who stated ‘black lives matter’?” Adams asked. “The victims were all black.” Three people killed and 13 others wounded in a series of shootings. Zero were shot by police officers. “The lives of these black children that are dying every night matter,” Adams said. “We can’t be hypocrites” he intoned while hypocritically full of s**t.

    While Alba appears to be Hispanic, most of New York’s bodegas are operated by Yemeni’s, most recent immigrants and/or refugees from the Saudi-Yemen-U.S.-Iran war because American foreign policy is often full of s**t. Joe Biden, who as a candidate promised to make Saudi Arabia an “international pariah” over the murder of WaPo journalist Jamal Khashoggi, just finished begging the Saudis to produce more oil and thus perhaps lower gas prices in America, which Biden claims are high because of Vladimir Putin, a statement completely full of s**t like Bruce Springsteen in the “Dancing in the Dark” video level full of s**t.

    Biden is by no means the first American president to struggle with the fact that American Saudi policy is full of s**t. George W. Bush enlisted Saudi Arabia as an ally in the War on Terror even though 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, ground zero for the Wahhabism which also helped create the conditions for the attacks. Barack Obama gleefully supported the Saudi-led war in Yemen to avoid a rupture in the relationship, a decision no one publicly regretted even as the war devolved into a humanitarian catastrophe. Donald Trump also embraced the kingdom in ways Biden would recognize. They’re all full of s**t.

    Of course Biden’s policy of making war by proxy in Ukraine is based in large part on sanctions on Russia which are full of s**t. Sanctions were going to win the battle, forcing Russia to withdraw at the risk of her economy’s collapse, perhaps along with Putin’s own regime. The problem is that not only has that not happened, but sanctions have actually aided Russia. Though Russia’s energy exports fell by volume in reaction to American sanctions, surging prices driven by supply shortages have more than canceled out the sanctions’ effects. Russia’s export prices have been on average around 60 percent higher than last year, driven by simple supply and demand. The E.U. reduced its direct imports of Russian crude oil by 18 percent, but thanks to Russian re-exporters India and the United Arab Emirates, that has led to no net change in Russia’s overall oil-export volumes.

    China, too, has helped make up for the E.U. shortfall as the largest single buyer of Russian energy. Japan holds that title for unsanctioned Russian coal imports. Even the U.S. has helped out, buying unsanctioned, highly refined oil products from the Netherlands and India that were at least in part made from Russia crude. Maybe it’s time to seize another mega yacht to show Putin who is boss, because that gambit isn’t full of s**t is it? And it is not a sign the policy is full of s**t when Biden bargains away any remaining American self-respect in exchange for oil from the MidEast.

    A lot of Biden’s gas problems would go away if he allowed the U.S. to extract domestically the oil it needs, but Biden is steadfastly committed to going green. Except in Alaska, where he has shown his policy statements on energy to be full of s**t. Biden signaled in early July his new support for a controversial Alaska oil drill, issuing an environmental review that represents a key step toward starting the Willow project. Opponents say drilling would violate Biden’s pledge to rein in fossil fuels but that promise was always full of s**t anyway.

    Like I said, it would be easy to explain all this if I could just write America is full of s**t but bad words are off limits. Like anyone gives a damn about the potential harm coming from using words like snot when it is seemingly OK the world is full of it. And people who give birth are known as w*men.

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    Posted in Biden, Democracy, Trump

    Democracy is Doing OK

    July 25, 2022 // 1 Comment »

    It was the July 4 holiday which brought out the worst of it, those claiming our democracy is in danger, failing, or in some cases, failed. But the holiday was just an excuse for our daily dose of doom. The blight of articles followed a familiar path, starting with some event (January 6 was the clear leader) and explaining how it was the start of fascism, comparing it one of the few historical examples allowed quotable by progressives, usually something to do with the Reichstag, and then growing that image to say, Trump standing over Lady Liberty, that kinda grin on his face.

    Actually, our democracy is doing just fine. Things are working more or less exactly as they are supposed to.

    The runner up to January 6 as the last gasp of democracy is the recent set of Supreme Court decisions. Centerpiece is the overturning of Roe v. Wade, a sign of democratic failing because it fully strips women of their rights and shows the Court has no respect of precedent and could overturn anything. Usually this means the end of same-sex marriage as another Democratic emote-o-point, but in some screeds reaches as far as banning inter-racial marriages and contraception. Any day now!

    Slow down, kids. If you go too fast you’ll miss the scenery, in this case things working about normal. Perhaps it is necessary to remind our “democracy” is sort of like sharing crayons in kindergarten, sometimes you have to use the yucky brown one and let the other kids use the preferred red and orange. Progressives, with a lock hold on the Supreme Court for many decades, never mind the media, advertising, entertainment, and academia, grew too used to getting their way, too used to defining democracy as “expansion of rights that I favor and shrinking of those you favor.” So expanding the Bill of Rights automatically meant ignoring the Second Amendment and dilating the 14th to loop in abortions. It was easy to see it all as progress when for the most part it was just you always getting more of what you wanted.

    But a real democracy shares nicely, and as voting patterns (remember when Ohio used to be a well-contested purple state? Florida always up for grabs? John King zooming the CNN Magic Map practically into voters’ backyards?) and national moods change so does the makeup and decisions of the Court. Remember back in 1896 when the Court decided in Plessy v. Ferguson separate rail cars for whites and blacks were equal enough as required by the 14th Amendment, that race was constitutionally a way to judge people? The upshot was constitutional sanction to laws known as Jim Crow (the name comes from a popular minstrel character of the time) designed to maintain racial segregation by means of separate public facilities and services.

    Then in 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education the Court ignored a whopper of stare decisis and ended separate but equal as an unjust albeit long-held societal standard. Race was not constitutionally a way to judge people. Nobody is keeping score but it was 59 years of separate but equal, and 49 of Roe. People said a lot of things in 1954 when the Brown decision was handed down, but it is hard to find a genre of “end of democracy.” Indeed, enforcing Brown, even to the point of deploying Federal troops to do so under the Insurrection Act everyone was afraid of on January 6, is often cited as a high point of democracy. WHen tested, the system worked.

    January 6 should be a semi-holiday, like 9/11, something worth noting every year as an example of democracy working exactly as intended. Let’s look for the undemocratic element: 1) American holds an election and not everyone agrees who won (nothing new, where do you think all those complex presidential election rules came from but past instances of disagreement?) 2) Lawful protests take place at the Capitol; 3) When a minority of protestors start trespassing, law enforcement steps in and after one terrible fatality on the ground in Ashli Babbitt, the crowd disassembles. 4) Delayed a bit, the Vice President ignores any background noise and simply carries out his Constitutional duty in the ceremonial certification of electors selected earlier. With the possible exception of the cops gunning down the unarmed Babbit, everyone did their duty, and another peaceful transfer of power took place. No tanks on the White House lawn.

    To create the same climate of fear progressives more or less successful maintained during the four years of the Trump administration without blaming Joe Biden for some of the highest inflation and gas prices, and lowest stock vitality in years takes some clever word play. It exists in abundance. The Supreme Court judges (the bad ones!) become right wing extremists, not jurists. Their decision on Dobbs is based somehow on only rights that existed in 1868, and so forth. Taking away the EPA’s unilateral power to make climate change rules without full and open debate and returning that authority to Congress is somehow twisted to be both undemocratic and a sign of the apocalypse. Even Left Wing Extremist Sotomayor (exaggeration is fun!) wrote of Dobbs that the majority decision “undermines the court’s legitimacy” as if such a thing happening in a democracy — the majority carrying the day — was something extraordinary and particularly rare in its evil. But just saying things are true does not make them so.

    Of course George Soros had to weigh in since we’re talking about the threat to our democracy. “There is only one way to rein in the Supreme Court: throw the Republican Party out of office in a landslide. That would allow Congress to protect through legislation the rights that had been entrusted to the protection of the Supreme Court. It is now clear that doing so was a big mistake. Congress must act.”

    Now we’ll leave aside the part about Congress not acting on abortion, same sex marriage, inter-racial marriage, contraception, the EPA, and a lot of other supposed threats to democracy for decades, including when Democrats held majority power in both houses, the Court, and the Executive.

    But Soros still sees a problem: “When it comes to organizing a landslide victory against the radicalized Republicans, opponents face almost insuperable obstacles. Republicans have not only stacked the Supreme Court and many lower courts with extremist judges. In states such as Florida, Georgia, and Texas, they have enacted a raft of laws that make voting very difficult.”

    We’ll take Texas as an example. You can register to vote there online, which does not seem too hard given anyone who can borrow a cell phone and do it from a parking lot. You do have to present one of seven forms of ID to register and to vote, including a drivers license, a handgun permit, military ID, or others. You can’t have a decent adult night out without one of those, and several are issued by the Federal government well outside the hands of racist old Texas. In certain circumstances a utility bill or a cashed check can suffice. Not clear what’s so hard; 17 million people in Texas are registered so far, which sounds like alotta democracy is working just fine. Now, showing the same photo ID (and a vax card) just to sit down and eat a burger, that has some undemocratic overtones to it…

    Soros aside, no one clings to the “democracy is dying” meme like a convert named Max Boot. Covering the gloom beat for WaPo, Boot warns “we’re in danger of losing our democracy.” He is stirred by Americans coming together to support Ukraine’s “fight for freedom” (better there then on the beaches of Santa Monica, eh Max?) “But it is dismaying,” he writes, “to see that there is no similar consensus on defending democracy at home.” The solution is simple, vote for Democratic candidates only, even if you don’t agree with them, because what could be more democratic then being told who to vote for and asked to not think about your choice. “Panic,” Max writes, “…is sometimes warranted.”

    Boot supports one of the most undemocratic things possible, to demand the end of democratic institutions when their call has not gone your way. Don’t like Dobbs? Support packing the Supreme Court (what happens when Republicans regain power and re-pack it?) Don’t care for the electoral system? Demand the Constitution be damned and the popular vote given precedence. Max Boot, again, declares with the straight face of someone who must have failed eight grade civics class “There is no justice in a political system that gives Republicans six of nine Supreme Court seats even though a Republican has won the popular vote for president only once in the past 30 years. So, too, there is something deeply amiss with a Senate that gives California (population 39.3 million) the same number of seats as Wyoming (population 581,348).” “The Founders never envisioned such an imbalance between power and population,” wrote Boot in a multi-Pulitzer-winning newspaper.

    Um, they actually did. It was the Founders who created our proportional representation system precisely to balance the power of big states and small ones.

    Keep in mind there is a reason progressives are trying to keep people in a state of fear. Fearful people are easy to manipulate; you need only scare them to the point where they demand relief, and then provide them the way out as the final solution. A standard trick of any demagogue. “Democrats need to lean into the politics of fear,” says the NYT. So it is a natural extension of “Trump is Putin’s boy” to “let’s have a war against Putin.” Or from “some states ban abortion” to “next is a national abortion ban enacted by a Republican Congress.” Historically fear has driven any number of crusades and Crusades. The solution of course is not to be drawn in, to stop and ask yourself if something is true (“it’s hard to vote in Texas”) and react out of intellect and not emotion. Heck, if half of Germany would have thought through the Reichstag fire and not bought into fear mongering, George Soros, et al, would need a whole new go-to bad guy as they try and pre-defeat Trump in 2024.

     

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    Posted in Biden, Democracy, Trump

    Bidin’ His Time

    July 18, 2022 // 11 Comments »

    The New York Times and Washington Post sent up flares last weekend on behalf of the Deep State: one way or another they said, Biden is on borrowed time. The last man standing who ended up the answer to Anyone But Trump turned out so inadequate for the job Deep State parliamentarians gave him a vote of no confidence and say he should go.

    The Times wrote a scathing summary of What Everyone Knows, that Biden at 79 is a wreck; in their words the man “is testing the boundaries of age and the presidency.” He can barely walk unassisted. He has his zombie moments on stage. He is fully dependent on wife Jill to nudge him onward in public events, redirect him, get him back on the TelePrompTer and even then he will read anything there, including stage directions, Ron Burgundy-like. Not a pretty picture. It is also not a new picture, given the pass on campaigning Biden was granted by the MSM which helped hide all this during the campaign. That’s why the MSM articles are so noteworthy, they denote a change. From here on to 2024 it is OK to (finally) talk about how old and 25th Amendment-ready Biden is.

    The 25th Amendment got a bad name during the Trump years, being invoked as the handy-dandy alternative to multiple failed impeachments and prosecutions, a kind of last chance to dump a seated president when all else fails politically. In fact the amendment, written after the Kennedy assassination exposed the problems of no clear line of deep succession in the Constitution in the nuclear age, provides precisely the mechanism needed in Joe Biden’s case. Biden’s wacky gaffes have strayed over the line. His clumsy and chaotic policy killed innocents in Afghanistan and embarrassed the U.S. globally. His claim “Putin cannot remain in power” in response to the Ukraine War, and that the U.S. would absolutely defend Taiwan, threatened relations with two superpowers. Aides rushed to blurt out no policy had changed and gently correct the president. Falling off a standing bike is a problem for Joe; falling off nuclear policy is a problem for America.  On the face of it all Biden either needs to resign for “personal reasons” (the timing set so it does not appear tied to the latest Hunter revelations) or face the judgement of the 25th and reality, that he is medically no longer fit to carry out his role as Anyone But Trump.

    There’s no need for a specific trigger; the outstanding defeat expected for Democrats in the midterms could readily serve however, or the latest polls which show Joe’s approval ratings at a Nixonian 33 percent, with 64 percent of Democratic voters saying they would prefer a new presidential candidate for the 2024 presidential campaign. Only 13 percent of American voters said the nation was on the right track — the lowest point in NYT polling since the depths of the financial crisis more than a decade ago. The Deep State does not need a reason to invoke the 25th Amendment, Joe is the reason. Biden is a good egg and a loyalist, he’ll go as quietly in 2022 as he did in 2016 when he was likely told by Barack Obama he was going to have to sit out the election to pay off the party’s blood chit and allow Hillary to run unprimaried.

    Biden leaving is the easy part. What happens next?

    The obvious follow-on is not much better than Biden staying in the White House until 2024 (nobody expects him to run then under any circumstances.) If Biden resigns or is moved from office under the 25th Amendment, Kamala Harris as vice president automatically takes over. Her poll ratings are as dismal as Joe’s and after 18 months in office has nothing, literally nothing, to show for it. Despite being a black woman, Harris brings little to the table; she couldn’t even beat Biden in the Democratic primaries and the identity politics she is a living symbol of have lost some of their luster. She is far too quiet on what could be her signature issue, abortion rights, tagging along with the slow motion efforts to look busy out of the White House.

    The tricky thing about Joe leaving power is thus what to do with Kamala. She hasn’t done much to make her a strong candidate going forward, and she hasn’t made enough mistakes to justify nudging her, too, aside. It’s a real conundrum. Her approval rating is 15 points below where Biden stood at this stage in Obama’s first term and 11 below Mike Pence under Trump.

    Right behind the Kamala problem is the, um, well, somebody problem. There is no likely Biden successor. The left-overs from the 2020 campaign, guys like Beto and Buttigieg, are just that, leftovers. Buttigieg as Transportation Secretary faces a conundrum of his own. Should he appear too competent in the role he risks being forever labeled the technocrat he is at heart, handy with tools around the office but uninspiring for the big stuff. Stumbling as Transportation Secretary, he’ll lose even the points he has for basic competence and appear more a glory seeker. Guy can’t win.

    Spokesmodels like Beto have no chance in a national campaign. They look good on home ground but don’t have the intellectual meat on the bone needed to campaign effectively across 50 states, especially in a primary where they really do need to answer questions on complex farm subsidies in Iowa and drooping Social Security in Wisconsin and failed solar jobs in Ohio and critical race theory in Virginia. You can only stand there and smile so long before someone (such as Democratic primary voters in 2020) notice there’s nothing more behind the smile.

    Several of the Democratic governors-in-waiting face tough re-election contests before they even think about 2024. The bottom-feeding criteria of “Anyone But Trump” is now “Anyone a bit better than Biden.”

    Somewhere there are Deep State Democrats in a room wondering how they got there, especially after winning the last election. Trump has defied them multiple times, the Dracula candidate they cannot put down and must resign themselves to facing off against in 2024 without the aid of the pandemic. Biden the caretaker president was just re-elected by the MSM as a punchline, and Harris has not risen to the challenge. Their bench is thin, the issues facing the country — it’s the economy again, stupid — mostly of their own fumbling design. There are people in that room rolling their eyes and saying they have little to gain replacing Biden, and arguing that he be allowed to serve out his term. They may be right.

     

     

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    Posted in Biden, Democracy, Trump

    What If Biden Gave a War and Nobody Came?

    July 11, 2022 // 3 Comments »

    What if Joe Biden gave a war and no one came? Such is the case in Ukraine where slogging Russian progress is unmatched by Biden’s and Biden’s alone belief a struggle for global hegemony is at stake, and that he is fighting his war at little cost. Here’s the war at about four months in, as Joe announces a new aid package of $1.2 billion atop his previous $40 billion “lend-lease.”

    Given that core NATO raises a quiet glass every night that it does not have to be militarily involved in the fight for the Donbas and Crimea (the latter invoking 19th century memories of the disastrous Charge of the Light Brigade, as the area was last seriously contested between east and west when the British fought the Russians there, the Charge over the disposal of abandoned Turkish cannon) Joe Biden stands nearly alone thinking he is leading the west in some sort of epic struggle. In that the west does not have troops in the field, the western war is being fought with arms supplies and sanctions, both of which are failing and leave Biden exposed, one day to awake to find himself the Emperor of Donbas without any clothes.

    Rumors of the death of the Russian military have been greatly exaggerated, literally: Ukraine has claimed kill rates for men and machines in weeks what are produced over months and years (two decades in the case of U.S.-Afghanistan) elsewhere. Despite the sexy time women snipers and Ghost of the Ukraine, it has been massive arms shipments primarily from the U.S. which have limited Russian gains largely to the eastern part of the country.

    The biggest problem with trying to win simply via outspending the other guy is artillery and anti-tank missiles do not hold ground, infantry does. A brave Ukrainian taking on a T-72 may stop the tank (until another comes along) but he cannot retake a village or hold ground against a combined arms offensive. In short the flow of U.S. defensive-style weapons has done its job, doing exactly what it was intended to, blunt an offensive. The problem is there seems little plan for after that and so in areas like Donbas where Russia enjoys local support, or areas like around Mariupol where is it willing to employ a scorched earth policy, the Ukrainians are predictably losing and will continue to do so.

    There are other problems with trying to win simply with arms sales. One is finding a way to train Ukrainians not familiar with modern weaponry in a way that is fast and effective enough to make a difference on the battlefield while not escalating the fighting overall. The usual method, either bringing foreign personnel to the U.S. or using American Special Forces trainers on the ground, both would dramatically escalate the war and give Russia the excuse to begin killing Americans. The American “volunteers” on the ground now are only going to fool some people for some time before it is obvious the U.S. has had to become deeply involved in the actual fight.

    A secondary problem with dropping so many arms higgledy-piggledy into a fluid situation like Ukraine is blowback, always a great fear during the CIA-Russian war in Afghanistan. What would terrorists in the Middle East pay for a shoulder fired anti-anticraft missile? How many sophisticated anti-tank weapons (the pop-up capability that allows the missiles to strike down on a tank’s weaker top armor is highly classified) are the Chinese interested in? “While the response to provide more weapons to Ukraine is understandable, it would be prudent to consider the immediate and long-term security implications,” said one think tank. “We’ve seen time and time again how arms aimed at aiding an ally in one conflict have found their way to the frontlines of unforeseen battlefields, often in the hands of groups at odds with U.S. interests or those of civilians.” Ukraine has a very poor record in this regards; in the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union the country lost track of $32 billion in weapons and sold China its first aircraft carrier.

    Supply is also an issue. America has currently sent about one third of its entire Javelin anti-tank missile inventory to Ukraine along with 50 million rounds of conventional ammunition, extraordinary quantities which strain production capability. Lastly, there remains concern over Russian reaction should American-made artillery rounds begin falling inside the Russian border. The recently shipped 155mm howitzers are seen by many as the first truly offensive weapon the U.S. introduced into the conflict. For Joe Biden what seems like a risk-free no brainer — send more weapons — actually carries with it considerable risk no one seems to be thinking about.

    But it was sanctions which were to have won the battle, forcing Russia to withdraw at the risk of her economy collapsing, perhaps along with Putin’s own regime. The problem is that not only has that not happened, U.S. sanctions have actually aided Russia. Though Russia’s energy exports fell by volume in reaction to American sanctions, surging prices driven by supply shortages have more than canceled out the effects. Russia’s export prices have been on average around 60 percent higher than last year. Simple supply and demand.

    Demand remains the thing thwarting Biden’s charge into the guns. France and Germany in particular have evolved the ability to talk tough and do little of substance, making quite an event out of the end of Russian energy exports via ship while quietly lapping at the pipelines like drunkards. And what demand does not fix supply steps in for. The EU reduced natural gas imports from Russia 23 percent in the first  days of the invasion. Meanwhile Russia’s Gazprom has seen its income levels double year-over-year, thanks to higher prices. The EU also reduced its direct imports of Russian crude oil by 18 percent but thanks to Russian re-exporters  India and the United Arab Emirates, that has lead to no net change in Russia’s overall oil export volumes. China, too, has helped make up for the EU shortfall, albeit more for domestic use and not re-export into the global market, as the largest single buyer of Russian energy. Japan holds that title for unsanctioned Russia coal exports. Even the U.S. itself helps out, buying unsanctioned highly refined oil products from the Netherlands and India that most certainly were made at least in part from Russia crude.

    Russia has shown it can also play offense, cutting natural gas flow to western Europe by 60 percent blaming technical difficulties. Germany correctly understood the latest curtailment in its gas supply as a political move. “Russia’s reason for reducing gas supplies is just a pretext,” the German Vice-Chancellor said. “Their strategy is obviously to drive up prices.” Poor Joe can’t catch a break it seems. May be it is time to seize another megayacht to show Putin who is boss?

    So where are Biden’s allies? The EU and Japan talk a great game but are hamstrung by their own energy needs. Next month Joe Biden travels to Saudi Arabia to bargain away any remaining American self-respect for oil. The UN, such as it is, saw 35 key abstentions, including much of Africa, on a symbolic get-out-of-Ukraine resolution.  The head of the African Union explicitly called for the lifting of sanctions on Russia. India re-exports Russian oil. Brazil and Mexico refuse to condemn Russia. China won’t step in. Biden stands nearly alone claiming the liberal world order is at risk. Or could it be those other nations have seen so little benefit from that order they are not sorry if they see it pass?

    Bottom line: Russian energy exports, which make up some 45 percent of the country’s budget, are stronger than ever. Russia has more money than ever to finance its war in Ukraine, and Putin is as secure in his post as ever before. The irony is with gas hitting $5.00 a gallon across the U.S., the sanctions driving that may indeed bring about regime change, albeit in Biden’s next Congress.

     

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    Posted in Biden, Democracy, Trump

    Biden at 500 Days

    July 1, 2022 // 2 Comments »

    The Joe Biden administration at about 500 days in office tests the limits of those who claimed 501 days ago “anybody” would be better than Trump. With the threat of nuclear war now well alive, Biden presides over the highest gas prices, the worst inflation, and the saddest stock market in lifetimes. It is not morning in American as much as late Sunday afternoon and raining.

    Start with the record breaking vacation time. It became a meme during the Trump years to criticize him for weekends at Mar-a-Lago, and to point out how much the Secret Service paid him for their accommodations. Yet as he marks Day 500, Biden is preparing for another weekend scram, on track to take more vacation than any other of his predecessors. So far since taking office Biden spent 191 days away from the White House vacationing in either of his two Delaware properties, at Camp David or on Nantucket. Trump spent 381 days on vacay but over four years. Go Joe!

    And as for those Secret Service room bills, they pay them for every president, as the Service is prohibited from accepting “gifts,” even the free accommodations necessary to protect the president. At Biden’s home in Delaware he charges the Secret Service $2,200 a month rent for a cottage on his property. He made $66,000 in total off the Service in 2013; contemporary figures are not available but they tally up, just like Trump and the others. Hillary bought a second house in upstate New York just for the Secret Service anticipating her victory in 2016.

    But what of the time Joe Biden has spent in the office, how have the 500 days gone so far? Biden succeeded primarily in engineering a new form of war in Ukraine, not quite Cold and not quite Hot. Not Cold as in 1945-1989, because American Special Forces may soon be on the ground in Kiev and American ships in the Black Sea, and Ukrainians have boasted how American intelligence and targeting information have killed Russian ships, tanks, and generals. With no regard to what leakage into the global black arms market might mean, Biden is sending billions of top-notch weapons into the nation with the avowed aim of bleeding out Russia. When something like this was tried in Afghanistan in the 1980s, the U.S. had the common courtesy to do it through the CIA and keep at least some of it secret. No more. Vladimir Putin, in return, has reminded the world several times he has nuclear weapons he is not all that opposed to using. Joe Biden has succeeded where presidents since 1989 have failed — he sends Americans to bed at night worrying about nuclear holocaust. And that is his greatest foreign policy accomplishment absent the clusterfutz evacuation from Afghanistan and a soon-to-really-happen trip to forgive the Saudis for their sins and become the first president since the 1970s to overtly beg for more oil.

    (For the record Trump was the only president in some 20 years who did not start a new war during his term, and the only one in that same rough time period who made an effort to seek peace with North Korea, a country Joe Biden continues to ignore as official policy. When asked in Seoul if he had a message for Kim Jong Un, Diplomat-in-Chief Biden said “Hello. Period.”)

    In other Leader of the Free World accomplishments, Biden’s actual leadership was shown when Mexico snubbed him, refusing to attend the Summit of the Americas because Biden would not also invite Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, all Cold War hissy fits Joe is keeping alive for a new millennium. “There cannot be a summit if all countries are not invited,” Mexico’s president said at a press conference. “Or there can be one but that is to continue with all politics of interventionism.” It really is 1980 again! Additional leadership has been shown in Europe, where Germany and France agreed to U.S. demands to stop buying Russian energy but just not for a couple more months, okay? To make it look like something is being leadered around they have stopped buying energy delivered by ship as a face saving gesture, just as they keep lapping up the massive pipeline delivered materials. But Biden did travel twice to Europe and declared “America is back,” so there’s that.

    As for domestic achievements, everyone in America knows about Joe’s gas pains, which he disingenuously claims like a hubby caught with lipstick on his collar are not his fault. Biden apparently sees no connection between his sanctions against Russian energy (which seek to remove significant amounts of oil from the world markets) cutting supply at a time when demand is rising, and inflationary prices. The good news is the sanctions on Russia, well, no, it is not good news, Russia is still fighting away in the Ukraine which means the sanctions have so far failed in their primary function. Biden will give them more time apparently, as the U.S. is not seeking negotiations to otherwise curtail or end the fight.

    Biden further sees no connection between his failure to anticipate a baby formula crisis and hungry children. A smarter Biden would have one of his interns sit down with The Google today and make a list of everything that is affected by supply and demand, and of those things, jot down which are only made in a single factory. That accomplishment alone would eclipse the rest of Biden’s domestic agenda, which consists today entirely of pretending historic inflation is Putin’s fault.

    Of course that last line is not fair, as Joe did finally pass a $1.2 trillion infrastructure spending bill which in no way could have helped contribute to inflation by dumping all that money into an economy still chasing goods scarce from those naughty supply chain issues. Then there was that $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill (less than half of American approve of Biden’s Covid handling) now that everyone feels better which in no way could have helped contribute to inflation by dumping all that money into an economy still chasing goods scarce from those naughty supply chain issues. Plus wages are up, pouring more money into an already inflationary economy.

    The media actually listed Joe’s Biggest Achievements for us in case they were hard to pick out, to include appointing a boatload of judges, 80 percent of whom are women and 53 percent are people of color (“judges that reflect our nation”) which in no way reflect our nation and in no way is racist because you obviously fight back against racism and gender inequality by promoting people based on race and gender. Biden also strategically secured America by overturning the Trump ban on transgender people in the military. In fact, the White House brags it has the first majority non-white Cabinet in history, with most women in the Cabinet, including first woman Treasury Secretary, first LGBTQ and Native American Cabinet officials, and first woman Director of National Intelligence as if someone was giving out prizes for those things.

    But it is always best to go to the source, the White House itself with its own list of “record firsts” in Joe’s presidency. You can read them yourself, but you’ll run into the same problem everyone else does — it is all boasting with no links, sources or details attached. So we hear Joe was “most significant by economic impact of any first-year president” but with nothing more. Um, okay. A lot of the rest of the stuff, unemployment and child poverty, got better by the numbers but there is not a word about how anything Joe did caused those things. It is kinda like taking credit for a comet on your watch, especially given how much “not our fault” garbage is being tossed around when someone brings up inflation or fuel prices.

    As for Democratic issues of importance like gun control, abortion rights, and climate change, the home town stuff, Biden rates a zero. The EPA continues to recommend Flint, Michigan residents use filters in their homes to remove lead. Joe has driven home the idea that unless a president has a super majority in both houses and now, the Supreme Court, you better not expect much from him. Indeed in Biden’s case he can’t even wrangle his own party, with two key Democratic senators, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, stymieing Joe. Biden for his part predicted Republicans would have an “epiphany” after Trump left office, but that has not yet materialized. The expected Democratic midterm loss currently scheduled for November 2022 will not help. And we haven’t even talked about Biden’s Dead Man Walking lifestyle and walk-it-back gaffes.

    So it has only been 500 days, plenty of time left. But to date the Biden administration has strained those statements about how anyone but Trump would be a better president.

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    Posted in Biden, Democracy, Trump

    Moments of Russiagate Truth

    May 30, 2022 // 6 Comments »

    It’s sometime a very sad moment when truth is all that’s left. Suspicions of infidelity become credit card receipts from the no-tell motel. A Facebook post tells of a meal shared when a business trip was scheduled. It is ugly, especially the now certainty that you were lied to by someone you once trusted. Two such instances passed through the MSM this week with barely a notice that deserve notice.

    The first is Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee, through the MSM, lied Russiagate. Hillary, et al, paid experts to create two data sets, one showing Russian cellphones accessing Trump WiFi networks, and another showing a Trump computer in contact with a mystery Alfa Bank server in Russia. The latter was supposedly how Trump communicated incognito with his handlers in Moscow Center. Neither happened, both were lies, and both were made up for and paid for by Hillary. How do we know this with certainty?

    Former Clinton campaign lawyer Marc Elias on the stand May 18, 2022 in the trial of his former partner, Michael Sussmann swore to it under oath. Special Counsel John Durham brought Sussmann to trial for allegedly lying to the FBI, denying he was working for a client when he was representing the Clinton campaign. Elias testified he and Sussmann worked for the Clinton campaign, and had engaged Fusion GPS to acquire dirt on candidate Donald Trump. He also admitted that he had briefed Clinton campaign officials about the fake information, including contacts with Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook, campaign chair John Podesta, spokesperson Jennifer Palmieri, and policy director Jake Sullivan, now Joe Biden’s national security adviser and who aggressively pushed the Alfa Bank server story in the media. Elias said he also spoke with Hillary Clinton and was involved in meetings where she was present.

    Does this have to really be so ugly? Do we have to hear it in her own words? Somethings it takes that harsh splash of cold water. Yes. Hillary tweeted on October 31, 2016 Trump had a secret server and it was communicating with Russia. She knew it was false at that moment because her campaign paid to create that information. The only thing left for the trial to prove or disprove is whether Sussmann lied about working for the campaign when he met with the FBI. He pleaded innocent but is a very bad liar; Sussmann billed the Clinton campaign for his meeting with the FBI. The material facts otherwise have been demonstrated — she lied. Cold and simple. No one colluded with Russia (as the Mueller Report later concluded.)

    The next splash of water require you to wallow so deep in hypocrisy and lies if it was all water you’d drown. After refusing to cover the Hunter Biden laptop story except to label it Russian disinformation in autumn 2020, the same NBC news headlined a story May 18, 2022, almost two years after the laptop story first broke, reporting “analysis of Hunter Biden’s hard drive shows he took in about $11 million from 2013 to 2018” from Ukrainian and Chinese companies for dubious consulting work. NBC reports this as breaking news, and made no mention whatsoever that they sat on the story.

    To understand why NBC spiked the story for almost two years, one needs to go back to 2020 as the laptop tale was breaking elsewhere. 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 created by Hillary Clinton in 2016, that the Russians sought to manipulate American elections. In fact, most of the key signatories — James Clapper and John Brennan among them — had misdirected public opinion around 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!!!”

    NBC News wrote in 2020 U.S. intelligence agencies suspected Trump associate Rudy Giuliani, who had been shopping the laptop contents to various media organizations, had been in contact with alleged Russian intelligence agents. The FBI was “looking into whether the Russians played any role, and no official has ruled that out,” said NBC. Twitter also blocked the Hunter laptop story after intelligence officials shared Russian hack rumors.

    NBC also claimed in 2020 the laptop was not “newsworthy” as it contained no smoking gun, and because despite any ethical lapses by Hunter “Trump… is ethically challenged when it comes to appearing to use the power of his office to enrich himself and his family.” NBC in 2022 offers no explanation why the same laptop contents which it deemed not newsworthy days before Joe Biden’s election to the presidency are suddenly newsworthy in the middle of his second year in office.

    The takeaway is NBC News did not pursue the Hunter laptop story in 2020, when it mattered most, because it acted in collusion with the U.S. intelligence community to make the story go away during the election. As Hunter has publicly paid millions in back taxes and the New York Times among others validated the laptop contents, there’s no need to pretend the story is not newsworthy or Russian trickery.

    It is easy enough to say “so what?” at this point. Most people who did not support her long ago concluded Hillary Clinton was a liar and untrustworthy. Her supporters know she’ll never run for public office again, hence the claims that none of this matters. As for NBC, the last days before the election were confusing times, and the Hunter laptop story after all was out there for anyone who wanted to read it at the NY Post or Fox. So that doesn’t really matter either, right?

    Wrong. What matters is less the details of Hillary’s lie but that as someone very close to being elected she would lie about such a thing, claiming her opponent was working for Russia against the interests of the United States he would soon swear an oath to. As for NBC (and Twitter) its journalistic slovenliness laid bare news organizations work with the intelligence community to manipulate elections. Both of this week’s revelations are bombshells if you blow the smoke away, and both threaten to make a second run at our democracy in 2024.

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    Posted in Biden, Democracy, Trump

    Doomsday Clock Tells Us Maybe It’s Time

    May 28, 2022 // Comments Off on Doomsday Clock Tells Us Maybe It’s Time

    Looking back just a handful of years the world seemed, to many Democrats and the MSM at least, a powder keg. Trump’s ignoramous remarks about Taiwan coupled with aggressive sanctions threatened war with China. The only question seemed to be whether it would erupt in the Taiwan Strait first or over some lousy lump of rock in the South China Sea, the WWI Archduke’s assassination for the modern age.

    Elsewhere in Asia, Trump’s clumsy mano-a-mano with North Korea set the world on edge as rumors had it he was ready to evacuate American dependents from South Korea ahead of imminent hostilities. Then there were the Tweet Wars, with insults such as “Little Rocket Man” and Kim’s “dotard” retort hurled across the Pacific presaging a nuclear exchange, followed by those clumsy diplo efforts that looked like the worst Grindr first date ever. There would be no war; Trump would simply give it all away, canceling vital military exercises in South Korea and considering withdrawing U.S. forces from the peninsula.

    War in the Middle East was one tick from inevitable, with Trump having dumped the Obama-era nuclear accord with Iran, done something or not enough in Syria, no one was sure, and fanned the flames of Islamic butt aching by moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. No one remembers why anymore, but the U.S. was supposedly also at the brink of war in Venezuela, and with Trump failing to Lead the Free World and NATO weakening, the dogs of war sat on the front stoop begging Scooby Treats in Europe. At the end things got really hairy, with both Pelosi and members of the Joint Chiefs terrified what a desperate Trump might do with nuclear weapons.

    So it is no surprise the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists described things as “a global race toward catastrophe” and set its famous Doomsday Clock in 2019 at 100 seconds to midnight and kept it there, the closest it had ever been to apocalypse, what they called “the new abnormal.” Something was literally going to blow if the pressure were not let off, and the Bulletin offered along with about half of America that the 2020 “leadership change in the United States provided hope that what seemed like a global race toward catastrophe might be halted and — with renewed U.S. engagement — even reversed.” Biden would lead the way.

    The Bulletin is no small potatoes. Founded in 1945 by Albert Einstein and University of Chicago scientists who helped develop the Manhattan Project, the Bulletin created the Doomsday Clock, using the imagery of apocalypse (midnight) and the idiom of nuclear explosion (countdown to zero) to convey the threat to humanity. The Doomsday Clock is reset every year by the Bulletin’s Board in consultation with 11 Nobel laureates.

    So with the warmongering Trump safely stowed away in his villain’s lair of Mar-a-Lago, what of the peacemaker, Joseph Biden? Biden took office with no immediate crisis at hand. Yet all he has done is blunder poorly through a growing threat board of nuclear-tinged incidents.

    Holy malarkey have things gotten more tense with China. Biden envisions China as an autocratic foe for democracy to wage a global struggle against. “On my watch,” Joe said, “China will not achieve its goal to become the leading country in the world, the wealthiest country in the world, and the most powerful country in the world.” Biden went on to claim the world was at an inflection point to determine “whether or not democracy can function in the 21st century.” In Biden’s neo-Churchillian view, the U.S. and what the hell, the whole free world he believes he is president of, are in an ultimately nuclear death match with China.

    Biden puts his diplomatic gaffes where his oral ones are. Joe recently broke code and blurted out the U.S. will indeed defend Taiwan, which, if true, ultimately would involve for nukes. Some saber rattling? Sure. Even as Chinese president Xi spoke of peaceful reunification during the October political holidays, the U.S., U.K., and Japan conducted joint operations in the China Sea. Meanwhile, on Biden’s watch Australia ditched a $66 billion contract for French diesel-electric submarines to instead buy U.S. nuclear-powered submarines, a move which enraged China and NATO-ally France. Calling Biden’s actions Trumpian (aïe-aïe-aïe!) France withdrew its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra. France had never before withdrawn its ambassador to the U.S., dating back to the initial alliance in 1778, two years after the U.S. Declaration of Independence. So never mind the likelihood that Biden will ever recruit France into any coalition against Chinese power, or China vis-à-vis North Korea. And la-di-da to Candidate Biden’s promises to repair U.S. alliances post-Trump.

    That alongside a new Pacific parley which will see Australia, the U.S., and the United Kingdom share advanced technologies. The genesis was the U.S. military’s muscular diplomacy, ramping up for a war with China they hope will power budgets for decades. A side deal with Britain to station its two newest aircraft carriers in Asia was certainly part of the package. This brings both the British and the Australians, nuclearized, into the South China Sea in force as if an arms salesman wrote Biden’s policy. In the background looms research by all sides into hypersonic weapons capable of delivering nuclear bombs under existing missile shields.

    In the greater MidEast, the less said about the signal sent by America’s crude cut-and-run exit after 20 years in Afghanistan, many of those alongside NATO allies like Germany and Canada cajoled into participation, the better. The U.S. Embassy, which remains in Jerusalem, remains a sore thumb to many Islamic nations. Unwilling to cut a new Iran deal alongside the Russians and unable to do so without them, Biden changed nothing in the nuclear calculus among the U.S., Israel, and Iran. Two of the three remain nuclear powers and the other sits on the threshold either to suffer another nuclear-trigger happy Israeli brush back pitch or slide into the abyss with a mushroom cloud heralding a new club member.

    As Russia invaded Ukraine, Biden had several options. A) Biden could have taken the Obama route, declaring Ukraine unimportant strategically to the U.S. and lumping it alongside Donbas, Georgia, and Crimea. Kick in some new sanctions, maybe some arms sales, a lot of “standing with” proclamations. Or B) Biden could have demanded NATO take its role as defender of a free Europe seriously, and support militarily a NATO-led effort of sanctions and military assistance to Ukraine. Or C) Waive NATO aside as the generally useless organization it is and implement largely U.S.-led sanctions and military assistance to Ukraine. Or chose D) Tie some sort of ambiguous victory in Ukraine to U.S. prestige, pretend NATO was standing tough, and devote U.S. military resources to everything short of direct combat with Russia. Any one of these would have left Biden in good stead domestically as a strong leader and avoided further entanglement and distraction.

    Instead, Biden went for E) All of the above plus a stated policy of watering the fields of Ukraine with the blood of Russian martyrs as if this was Afghanistan 1980 all over again. The goal is not just to have Russia leave, it is to attrite them to the last possible man.

    Among the so-many problems of this bleed ’em dry strategy is that it set the U.S. and Russia on a direct course to collision (the U.S. providing targeting data to sink flagships and kill generals in the field is only short of war because a Ukrainian finger was presumably on the trigger not an American one) and provoked the first serious mention of the use of nuclear weapons of the 21st century. Suddenly what could have faded off as a semi-failed land incursion into Ukraine became the first struggle of the New Cold War (Nancy Pelosi said the struggle is about defending “democracy writ large for the world”) Eagle versus the Bear, Top Gun III, with everything from Russian pride to Putin’s own regime survival now on the line. And when everything is on the line, you invoke the “everything” weapon, nukes. Putin is a cautious man, but accidents happen and miscalculations with nukes (chemicals, biologicals, heavy cyber, etc…) sting.

    While Joe is talking up the bleeding strategy as a common-sense response to Russian aggression (while we’re there with all these U.S. weapons for the Ukrainians we might as well get a piece of the Bear for ourselves, seems only fair), the shift amounts to a significant escalation. By canning diplomatic efforts in favor of a more violent war, the United States greatly increased the danger of an even larger conflict — the atomic threats out of Moscow. This is risk way out of line with any realistic gain. Earlier U.S. rattling, about the Russian blitzkrieg threatening Poland and beyond, seems near-comical as the Russian offensive bogs down in the mud of eastern Ukraine. What kind of nuclear gamesmanship is it when Biden risks all for nothing much? What kind of nuclear gamesmanship is it to tell your opponent humiliation is his only way out?

    As for the Doomsday Clock, the hopes the Bulletin showed on Biden’s election in 2020 were stomped on by Russia, with a major assist from Biden himself. The clock stays set at 100 seconds to midnight, same place Trump left it.

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

    Posted in Biden, Democracy, Trump

    Trump is Just Not Going to Jail

    May 9, 2022 // 7 Comments »

    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.

    Posted in Biden, Democracy, Trump

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

    April 30, 2022 // 5 Comments »

    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.

    Posted in Biden, Democracy, Trump

    Write Your Own Ukraine Article (MSM Version)

    April 29, 2022 // 2 Comments »

    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.

    Posted in Biden, Democracy, Trump

    Lessons Learned: Dead Bodies in Ukraine

    April 22, 2022 // 2 Comments »

     

    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.

    Posted in Biden, Democracy, Trump

    Revisiting Hunter’s Laptop

    April 14, 2022 // 11 Comments »

    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.

    Posted in Biden, Democracy, Trump

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

    April 12, 2022 // Comments Off on Tradecraft: Why Spies Knew the Hunter Biden Emails Were Not Russia Disinfo

    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.

    Posted in Biden, Democracy, Trump

    Ginnie Thomas and the January 6 Committee

    April 9, 2022 // 1 Comment »

    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.

    Posted in Biden, Democracy, Trump

    What the Hell is Joe Biden Doing in Ukraine?

    April 8, 2022 // 4 Comments »

    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.

    Posted in Biden, Democracy, Trump

    Has Joe Biden Gone Loco Over Ukraine?

    April 6, 2022 // 3 Comments »

    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.

    Posted in Biden, Democracy, Trump

    Hunter Biden’s Laptop Stole the Last Election

    March 23, 2022 // 3 Comments »

    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.

    Posted in Biden, Democracy, Trump

    Tell Me How This Ends in Ukraine

    March 21, 2022 // 5 Comments »

    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.

    Posted in Biden, Democracy, Trump