• Archive of "Biden" Category

    Who Else Is Wrongly Detained?

    August 8, 2022 // No 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

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

    Posted in Biden

    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

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

    Posted in Biden

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    Deterrence Works, Propaganda Fails in Ukraine (So Far)

    March 18, 2022 // 7 Comments »

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

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

    Posted in Biden

    Leading to War in Ukraine?

    March 11, 2022 // 19 Comments »

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Posted in Biden

    Arguing About Durham and Hillary Spying

    March 8, 2022 // 3 Comments »

    1) Special Counsel John Durham dropped a new filing in his Russiagate investigation. Fox says it means one thing, and CNN says something almost the opposite…

    The whole filing is only 13 pages; the juicy stuff about “spying” is only a few paragraphs. Just read it.

    2) I’m kinda busy, so could you just give me the gist?

    All the quotes below are from the filing text. The new filing is at its heart legal housekeeping, asking that a waiver be considered to allow indicted Clinton lawyer Michael Sussmann to retain his current law firm. A potential conflict of interest exists because Sussmann’s representative works for a law firm which also represents others Durham may be going after, and may have been involved in the larger events under investigation, perhaps as witnesses. Sussman is under indictment for lying to the FBI. He brought the Trump-Alfa bank accusations to the FBI pretending to be a patriotic citizen, when he was actually working on Clinton’s behalf trying to get the FBI to investigate Trump.

    While the conflict of interest issue is interesting in itself, what is news worthy in Durham’s latest filing are allegations tech company Neustar and its executive Rodney Joffe (who was also a law client of Michael Sussmann) accessed “dedicated servers for the Executive Office of the President of the United States (EOP).” Joffe then “exploited this arrangement by mining the EOP’s DNS traffic and other data for the purpose of gathering derogatory information about Donald Trump.”

    Joffe also “enlisted the assistance of researchers at a U.S.-based university” (likely Georgia Tech) who had access to “large amounts of Internet data in connection with a pending federal government cybersecurity research contract.” This would have been how Joffe got access to data from Trump’s private computers. “[Joffe] tasked these researchers to mine Internet data to establish ‘an inference’ and ‘narrative’ tying then-candidate Trump to Russia,” he added. “In doing so, [Joffe] indicated that he was seeking to please certain ‘VIPs,’ referring to individuals at Law Firm-1 and the Clinton campaign.”

    3) What’s all the DNS stuff mean?

    Remember metadata, the info about a communication Edward Snowden showed us the NSA gathers? This is like that. Metadata shows, among other things, when and where a communication started, and where it ended up. DNS data, a kind of metadata, comes from a Dynamic Name Server. When you use a smartphone or type www.theamericanconservative.com into your browser, it contacts a DNS server, which translates those English words into the numbers the Internet actually runs on. Same thing for email, Tik Tok, anything online. If you have access to DNS data, such as Joffe did, you know who the White House and Trump were communicating with. DNS data is a road map and if you have enough of it, patterns, such as perhaps regular communication with Russia, emerge. That’s why the NSA does the same thing against its enemies or competitors.

    4) So is that “spying?” Durham never uses the word in his filing.

    What word would you use to describe secretly and likely illegally collecting information about enemies or competitors to use against them? Durham is writing a legal document, and must use precise words, so of course he would not use a blunt term like spying. But it is pretty hard to call what actually happened anything else.

    5) How is what Joffe/Neustar did illegal? They did not hack into any servers. They had access to them.

    There were two sources of DNS information, let’s take them separately. The first was DNS servers actually inside the White House. Neustar provided these servers under a contract with the government. Contractors like Neustar and Joffe working on sensitive data systems do not own the data they see. Their scope of usage is very specific to the job they were hired to do. It does not include exploiting high-security government contracts for political purposes, personal gain or to help Hillary. Sort of like your doctor, who knows your medical information but cannot just share it with his brother-in-law who sells insurance.

    Joffe also monitored the DNS data from Trump Tower and other Trump properties. He got this data via Georgia Tech. They got it (along with a gazillion other DNS records) as part of an unrelated contract with the Pentagon. Georgia had no obvious right to share data with Joffe and he had no right to use the shared data for political purposes. There has got to be a crime in there somewhere.

    6) But Joffe and others never read any Trump email or listened in on calls. So it’s not spying.

    Time to update the definition of spying from 1945. In Joffe’s case, he was trying to establish a pattern of communications between Trump and Russia. Michael Sussman was then to take that pattern pulled from the DNS data to the FBI and CIA as a patriotic bystander, and those agencies would be able to go in deep reading individual emails with a flick of a switch. The NSA does this all the time, looking at who one terrorist contacts in order to target another. It is the core of modern spying and it looks like the Clinton campaign was doing it, and then using Michael Sussmann as a false front to peddle it to the FBI and CIA. We know the FBI took the bait.

    7) But I heard all this DNS monitoring of the White House started under Obama.

    Neustar got the contract and installed the DNS servers in the White House during the Obama administration. This may have been for some legitimate cybersecurity task and/or to establish a baseline of “normal” White House-Russia communications. Joffe continued his DNS monitoring of the White House into February 2017, after Trump took office. Having failed to stop his campaign, the data was lined up to aid in driving him out of office. The other monitoring, of Trump’s personal and business DNS data, took place during the campaign, which of course meant it was while Obama was in the White House.

    8) This guy Joffe seems right out of Better Call Saul.

    In quid pro quo, Joffe was offered a top cybersecurity job in the future Hillary Clinton administration. But his background goes deep. Among other things, Joffe’s other company, Packet Forensics, sells wiretapping equipment that allows federals to spy on private web-browsing through fake Internet security certificates. This lets agents see an individual’s online transactions without obtaining a warrant. This is not to imply, at least not yet, that Joffe could have easily used his access to the White House servers to install his product and then monitor everything. Joffe’s company has done $40 million in federal contracts, including with the FBI (in 2013, FBI Director James Comey gave Joffe an award recognizing his work on a case) and the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA.) Joffe’s firm also monitors the computers of other government officials for threats, including in the office of Justice Department watchdog Michael Horowitz, who investigated the FBI for Russiagate wrongdoing. He is one guy in position to know a lot.

    Joffe started out as a direct mail marketing scammer in the 1980s. In the 90s he sat on the board of PlasmaNet, which then operated FreeLotto.com, an scammy online sweepstakes game. And small world– Joffe’s company Packet Forensics landed a recent Pentagon contract to manage Internet domains. The bid was awarded the day Joe Biden was inaugurated president.

    9) What’s next?

    Indictments by Durham against Joffe are almost certain. Durham may also get curious why the FBI and CIA did not question where Sussmann got his data, given that it could have only come from White House servers. In addition, if researchers at Georgia Tech who were being paid by the U.S. government via a DARPA grant were freelancing the data they collected to help the Clinton campaign smear Trump, that would be another area Durham will be looking into. Durham might also seize the Neustar-provided DNS servers if they haven’t been wiped and see if any data reading software was ever installed.

    One of Durham’s earlier indictments, former FBI lawyer, Kevin Clinesmith, has already been found guilty of falsifying data on a FISA application to enable wiretapping Trump staffer Carter Page. The case against Clinton lawyer Michael Sussmann is ongoing, as is the third publicly-known indictment, against Igor Danchenko, a Russian émigré living in the United States. Danchenko made up most of what he told Christopher Steele for his dossier.

    Keep your eye on Charles Dolan, a long-time Clinton hack. Dolan has close ties not only to the Clintons but to the Russians as well; he and the public relations firm where he worked represented the Russian government and were registered as foreign agents for Russia. Dolan is credited with, among other things, making up the pee tape and otherwise using cut-outs to feed false info about Trump into the dossier.

    10) Anyone going to jail?

    Durham’s filings are lightening flashes, briefly and unpredictably illuminating part of the whole. One thing seems clear, however. The statute of limitations on many of the process crimes Durham is pursuing, like perjury, is short. Any strategy of using little fish to catch bigger fish is likely to time out, at least as far as actual prosecutions. Instead, Durham seems intent more on exposing the larger conspiracy, to include the Russia dossier and now electronic, well, spying, by the Clinton campaign. He may also expose more fully the intelligence community’s role in all this, turning a blind eye on the sources and methods (which effect credibility) and accepting anything peddled to them about Trump. One can imagine future hearings in a Republican-controlled House showing what Hillary knew, never mind potentially Obama and Biden.

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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

    Taiwan is Not Ukraine is Not Taiwan

    March 5, 2022 // 6 Comments »

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

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

    Nope. Taiwan is not Ukraine is not Taiwan. The two states only exist next to each other in articles like this because both are the results of American policy. Each exists alongside its nemesis only because the rules the U.S. created after WWII are not subscribed to anymore by most of the world, if they ever really were. But that does not mean Taiwan is in imminent danger.

    While Putin‘s instant invasion timing may or may not have had something to do with Joe Biden (if Trump were really his puppet that would have seemed an easier time to do this) the reality is what is unfolding in the Ukraine reaches back much further than Biden or Trump, to the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was then the policy of the United States to empower the former Soviet satellite states and grow American influence by expanding NATO eastward (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, and Romania formally joined the alliance, East Germany as well by default) and to do this while taking the nuclear weapons away from those states so that none of them would become a threat or rival in Europe. We took their people, too. As a young State Department officer in London in the early 1990s I was told to issue visa after visa to former nuclear scientists from the Ukraine, as well as all sorts of rogues headed to the United States to get them out of the ‘Stans. We created a brain drain to ensure none of the new nation states could rise above the nuclear threshold the United States established unilaterally for them. It was American policy to have weak but not too weak border states between Russia and the “good” part of Europe.

    Understanding why an adversary does something is not the same as supporting him. As the Soviet Union collapsed, borders were redrawn with more attention to the West’s needs than any natural flow of those borders (the same mistake was made earlier by the British post-WWI in the Middle East.) Historically at some point in time all those borders were just glaciers, so it is always possible to argue some slip of history means somewhere used to be owned by someone going all the way back to mastodons. The reality of 2022 is Putin is seeking to redraw borders created by his adversaries, something now possible as Russia has been allowed by the West to re-grow its fangs. Ukraine as a possible NATO member was a threat to Putin and he this week is taking care of that. Americans live in a country that essentially has no border threats and fail to understand this time after time. We believe when we invade countries (Vietnam, Cambodia, Grenada, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan) it’s part of international law.

    Geopolitically, it was easy. A pro-Russian faction exists inside Ukraine, and Ukraine exists outside the NATO umbrella. Putin’s proof-of-concept, his 2014 takeover of Crimea, assured him NATO would not militarily intervene. About the only real obstacle he faced was the likely pleas of President Xi to hold off a couple of weeks and not spoil the Olympics.

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

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

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

    One of the problems with the sanctions Biden is claiming he’s going to use to punish Russia is how unintegrated Russia is in the world economy after so many years of sanctions. Really, what’s left that will sting? Biden promises “economic consequences like none [Putin]’s ever seen.” But the Panama Papers already showed much of the so-called oligarch money, including Putin’s, is not in the U.S. or its allies’ banking systems anyway. Germany is temporarily halting certification of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, but no one is talking about tearing it down. if U.S. sanction drive up gas prices without affecting the situation on the ground in Ukraine, who is sanctioning whom?

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

    On the military side, Russia was able to literally drive into Ukraine, something the mighty Red Army has been perfecting since 1945. Taiwan famously is an island, and a Chinese amphibious invasion would represent something larger than the Normandy D-Day landings. Whereas the Ukrainians have limited ability to respond to a blitzkrieg land invasion, Taiwan fields Harpoon missiles with the range to put Chinese forces under fire almost as they leave port. Militarily there is no comparison between the flat plains of the Ukraine and the rocky coast of Taiwan. Nobody undertakes an invasion they are very likely to lose.

    An invasion of Taiwan would leave China politically isolated, economically damaged, and reputationally crippled. Not so for Russia and Ukraine where the benefits to Russia outweigh the risk. Taiwan is not Ukraine is not Taiwan.

     

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    Posted in Biden

    Why the Trump Toilet Story is Full of Crap

    February 19, 2022 // 2 Comments »

    While President Trump was in office, White House staff periodically discovered wads of printed paper clogging a toilet and believed the president had flushed documents. So reports the NYT’s Maggie Haberman, based on anonymous sources. How does a literate media consumer know the story is garbage? Read it like an intelligence officer.

    Start by applying some of the same tests intelligence officers do to help them evaluate their own sources. Thinking backwards from the information to who could be the source is a good start on evaluating credibility.

    For example, is a source in a position to know what they say they know, what intelligence officers call spotting? The “position to know” idea scales up sharply when a source says they are privy to important conversations; how would they know the contents of a call the president-elect made to a foreign leader? Only a very few people would be in the room for something like that. Would any be likely leakers?

    In Haberman’s toiletgate, the circle of real sources is very small, the same as those who have access to the president’s personal crapper. Notice Haberman does not characterize her source, as in “one who has direct access to the pooper,” another red flag. If there is any source at all, it is likely cafeteria gossip. Remember in the case of journalism’s most famous anonymous source, Watergate’s Deep Throat, his information was used to guide the reporting, not as a scoop by itself, because it could not always be verified.

    As for verification, watch out for what intel officers call loops, where multiple reports come in to different people/journalists, with the fact that they came from the same source disguised. This is often how reporters erroneously confirm each other’s fake news, not realizing they are all talking to the same “anonymous” source. Now Google “Christopher Steele.”

    Any article that cites a source who claims to know the “why” behind some action, what was in the head of a decision maker, should be subject to special skepticism. Key officials are generally not in the habit of explaining their true motivations out loud. In Haberman’s submission notice how she avoids addressing the “why” directly. She claims her sources “believed” the president flushed pieces of paper, with the implication Trump was destroying records instead of over-wiping.

    Haberman also suspiciously released her scoop along side stories some White House records had been sent to Mar-a-Lago, not the National Archives. She manipulates her readers by telling them something in line with what they already believe. This is one way double-agents try to fool intel officers. A careful reader has to honestly ask himself whether he wants to believe such a thing bad enough to overlook its improbability.

    Legitimate sources risk something by talking, such as job loss, maybe even jail. Is what they will get out of the leak worth the risk? In this case the actual source would have to be an intimate staffer, or at least a White House plumber. Why would such as person risk his job to feed free gossip to Haberman? Did Trump anger them by leaving the seat up one too many times?

    If the answer to the question of “what’s in it for them?” is not obvious, the source is suspect. Intel officers always work to understand their source’s motivation, usually a combination of money, sex, revenge, personal advancement, and nationalism. Any of that apply to the White House plumbing staff, most of whom have worked at the place for years?

    Sources may push out info intended to influence public opinion. If you the reader can’t suss out the mystery source’s likely agenda — what they want — then you’re the guy at the poker table who can’t tell who the rube is, and needs a mirror to find out. Remember what happened when journalists failed to see what leakers of false info about Iraq’s WMDs were up to, and helped start a war? Always ask, cui bono, who benefits?

    Similarly, is what you are reading consistent with other information on the subject? Does the new info track known things, what intelligence officers call expectability? Overall, the further away from expectability a story stretches, the more obligation to be skeptical. Falling back on “it might be true” or “you can’t prove it’s not true” are typical signs of fake news. Same for “news” which can by definition never be proven false, such as proving the negative Trump did not flush documents. It’s like claiming Putin kills fluffy kittens for sport; how can you disprove such a statement?

    So there is the expectability question of why would Trump flush documents when shredders and burn bags are literally everywhere in the White House? And why would he do it “periodically,” as Haberman asserts, after finding out it is not a good way of getting ride of something because it only ends up in the wet hands of some plumber? It literally makes no sense.

    The closer information gets to something you want to believe is true the more skeptical you should be. The best example of this is the infamous dossier and especially the “pee tape” (shown to be disinformation created by an actual intelligence officer to discredit Trump.) The tape was the magic bullet which would end Trump. About half the country wanted it to be true. In addition, the supposed tape too easily hit all the Trump tropes: hatred for Obama, sexual piggishness (notice how like a fetish the media loves to connect Trump with scatological themes?) and of course the Russians. If it seems too “good” to be true, it probably is.

    In addition to considering the source of the information, consider the source of the reporting — what do they have to gain? In this instance, Haberman released her toilet blockbuster to directly promote her new tell-all book on Trump. It is obvious her story is advertising, not journalism. Let’s ask Haberman why she squatted on “reportable” poopy information, flushing it into the MSM public sewer only when she needed to pimp her book.

    In the end, an intelligence officer rarely knows what is 100 percent true, so he assigns a rating, such as high, medium or low confidence, and acts on the information (or not) in line with that. A reader can similarly never know with certainty the truth about an anonymously-sourced story. But while anything is possible, only some things are probable, and that’s usually the way to read 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

    Student Loan Relief, No. Education Costs Reform, Yes, Please.

    January 8, 2022 // 9 Comments »


    Joe “Vote Panderer” Biden dropped a little Christmas present in the punchbowl late December. He extended the “pause” on student loan payments until May 1. Biden remains under pressure to cancel the debt. The debt has been a Democratic White Whale forever, and what happens next in May will not be the last of this, especially heading into the midterms later this year.

    Despite Democrats’ acid-soaked dreams, student loan forgiveness will accomplish little. But major changes in how education is paid for, and what it costs, can lift America into the 21st century if only we had the guts to do it.

    Start with trying to figure out the benefits of student loan forgiveness/debt relief in the Joe Biden and Democratic vision. You come up with a) it’s free money for the recipients and b) it may be worth more votes for Democrats in the younger demographics than it causes them to lose in the older ones (polls show the divide near dead-even, with 46 percent supporting free money.) That’s kind of it. It’s just a pay off for votes.

    Tag along arguments are dismissible, stuff like the comparatively small amounts of money on a per-person basis involved with loan forgiveness will help balance economic and/or racial inequality, or that people will spend the money set aside for loans on flat screens and game credits to boast the economy more than spending the money on tuition, and this will all somehow end “privilege.” The Trump administration already deferred student-loan payments because of Covid so canceling payments outright would not lead to much more of a short-term boost in consumer spending (and help drive inflation as well.) And unless forgiveness also includes tax reform, most of the “forgiven” money will suddenly be taxable as income. Forgiveness won’t help America be smarter and more 21st century because the people with the debt already have their degrees.

    About here in most articles about student debt things get emotional. So meet Maria, a bright 22-year-old who always dreamt of giving back to her community via a degree in BIPOC Gender Studies. But upon graduation she discovered she owed a gazillion dollars in student loans plus whatever “interest” was, and that Craigslist had no jobs listed for her major! Her job at Target only pays enough to cover her Spotify bill. She says she is a victim of an unfair system.

    You’d think that was fiction, yet The Atlantic goes as far as calling student loan debt “immoral,” because in the writer’s words it is “a high debt burden proportional to my income. The burden is so heavy that it has delayed major milestones. My partner and I are soon-to-be newlyweds in our 30s with stable, full-time jobs… Thanks largely to our student-loan debt, we don’t know how we’ll be able to afford kids.” She also has to rent. OMG.

    And politically, debt relief may hurt as much as it sort of helps. Many voters would be very uncomfortable with the idea of saying to people who paid their debt off through sacrifice and hard work, ha ha, joke’s on you suckers, if you’d only waited another year it would have been free. Why is college debt more special than debt for medical care, a car you need to have a job, etc. What about people who joined the military for the college money (75 percent of those who enlisted said they did so.) Thanks for your service sucker, and hey sorry about the arm, you could have stayed home and smoked herb and got the same financial deal.

    Despite the horror stories about 22-year old kids with six-figure debt, only six percent of student borrowers owe more than $100,000. This small percentage of super-borrowers accounts for about one third of all student loan debt. The government limits federal borrowing by undergrads to $31,000 (for dependent students) and $57,500 (for those no longer dependent on their parents.) Those who owe more than that almost always have borrowed for the discretionary decision to go to graduate school. About 30 percent of undergraduates finish school with no debt, 25 percentage with less than $20,000.

    Student loan debt isn’t even the critical part of our economic problems. Some 71 percent of the $14 trillion in ballooning consumer debt is mortgages or home equity loans. Student loan debt is 11 percent, with car loans at nine percent.  Formal income-based repayment plans have existed for some time now for student loans with no equivalent for other debt. Nobody seems concerned about mortgage debt relief, not in 2008 when Obama and Biden bailed out Wall Street over Main Street and not in 2021 when Biden is back, and that’s after the American mortgage crisis almost took down the entire global economy.

    Student debt is relatively small on a per person basis, and a fraction of overall debt. This is much more of a political pandering for votes issue than an economic one. But AOC wants you want to do something. So time to reform education costs.

    Unlike nearly every other developed country, which offer free or low cost higher education (Germany, Sweden and others are completely free; Korea’s flagship Seoul National University runs about $12,000 a year, around the same as Oxford), in America you need money to go to college. Harvard charges $63,000 a year, a quarter of a million dollars for a degree. Even a state school will charge $22,000 a year. There are only a handful of paths to higher education in America: parents; be poor and smart to qualify for financial aid (there is no financial aid crisis current university endowments can’t lick,) the military, or take on debt.

    No matter which path you take, the problem is the price of education. Like many of the old, crumbling things in America built a long time ago in an industrial nation which no longer exists outside of the Springsteen songbook, our paying for education needs a serious fix. Forgiving debt is a Band Aid on a throbbing wet tumor. The next crop of freshman will just start accumulating new debt in the fall. After we forgive all that and do nothing to change how much colleges charge, we’ll just have to do it all again in a few years.

    The cost of college increased by more than 25 percent in the last 10 years. In Louisiana tuition doubled since 2008. In Alabama and Arizona, tuition at public colleges and universities is up more than 60 percent. The price continues to rise eight times faster than wages. For example, in 1978 when I attended Ohio State, tuition was $1056 a year. Minimum wage was $2.65, so working year-long only about eight hours a week one could pay tuition. In 2021 tuition is $10,744 and the minimum wage $8.80. It takes about 23 hours a week, a more than half-time job, to pay, though most businesses cap part-time workers at less than 20 hours to avoid triggering Obamacare payments. It is no surprise 40 percent of kids don’t graduate within six years, a vicious cycle of more years, more costs.

    That rise in costs was hand-in-hand with 41 states spending less per public university student. Higher education funding cuts on the state level are responsible for 79 percent of tuition increases. State funding cuts are driven by decreasing tax revenues, political decisions to spend money elsewhere, and increases in the number of students going to college as a higher education moves from a prized possession to a near-necessity in the job market.

    Any one-timey debt relief will change nothing in the underlying factors driving students into debt. Something has to change the calculus among the minimum wage, tuition costs, and declining state funding.

    One solution would be to tie Federal funding to a state’s willingness to lower public tuition to match a reasonable work expectation from a full-time student. So tuition would go up or down based on what someone could earn at minimum wage with say 15 hours of after school work a week. It would be possible once again to work your way through school.

    There’s also another way, sadly far beyond the intellectual reach of a once-great nation like the United States. Security is defined by much more than a large military. The United States, still struggling to transition from a soot and steel industrial base to something that can compete in the 21st century, can only do so through education. More smart people is an investment in one of the most critical forms of infrastructure out there – brains.

    A single F-35 fighter plane costs $178 million. Dropping just one plane from inventory generates 3,358 years of college money at today’s average costs. We could pass on buying a handful of the planes and still defend ourselves well. Give the money saved to states directly for education. Or use the money to create some type of civilian service alongside the military; there’s got to be something that needs doing enough that the government will pay for college other than humping a ruck across the next Afghanistan.

    For a nation that can clearly afford to pay for a broader base of accessible higher education if it wants to, it seems very wrong to simply leave the nation’s future to a Darwinian system of financial survival overlaid with a Dickensian debt plan. But new priorities and serious reforms, not free money, are the solution.

     

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    Posted in Biden

    Seeing the Future: The 2024 Presidential Campaign

    December 13, 2021 // 3 Comments »


     
    I punched Elon Musk in the nose. I figured, why not, he’s a jerk. Little did I know my punch would dislodge a chunk of artisanal tofu he was in the process of choking on and save his life. To say thanks, he offered to pay for a private Spice Girls reunion (minus Posh) for me on the next Space X flight. I hesitated, and he smiled wickedly and said “Or you could be the first man to test my time machine…”

    I landed right in the middle of the 2024 presidential campaign.

    It had been a hard run for the Democrats. After a harrowing primary season with several hundred candidates confused voters, the Party simply started listing them on the ballots as the black one, the gender-ambiguous one, Beto, the guy who looked like Beto but was from Ohio, and no-chance Governors I, II, and III. Even this proved too much, and in the end Democrats nominated a visibly intubated Joe Biden for a second term. There was no attempt to hide the fact that Joe might be technically dead, with various medical devices animating him. Dr. Jill would always be at his side and catching her lips moving while Joe “talked” was a popular Tik-Tok meme. Kamala was listed for legal purposes as the VP but made no public appearances. It was unclear she still lived in North America.

    Biden’s problems had accumulated over the last three years like a bad Sunday night snowfall. The Biden infrastructure plan, once called Build Back Better and priced at $3.5 trillion, had been ground down after years of debate to just offering free parking at some sporting events. A Dem plan to turn chanting of “F**k Joe Biden” into a joke fake Tindr profile proved embarrassing, as did suggesting America’s next aircraft carrier be named the USS George Floyd. Finally, after the Great 2022 Midterm Massacre, the Democrats gave up on actual legislation and stuck entirely to renaming Civil War memorials after modern day trans heroes. The final blow to Democratic power came when the Republican majority beat up the last Democratic senators in the cafeteria and stole their lunch money (“an attempted coup,” reported Maddow.) Colbert is still talking about it, threatening to tell a teacher on them all.

    Foreign policy-wise, Biden was further embarrassed when the Taliban legalized casino gambling and turned Afghanistan into a global celebrity mecca. The last Americans were finally evacuated on George Clooney’s private jet. Desperate, the Biden administration tried to pick a fight with China. Things got hot after a Chinese warship supposedly rammed an American one in the Gulf of Tonkin, but the nascent war was stopped by Jeff Bezos. Bezos, through quiet acquisitions, had secretly become the world’s largest arms dealer, and ended the fight before it really began by cutting off supplies to both countries. By summer 2024, the only thing left for Democrats to run on was the slogan “Red, White, Blue, Not Orange” and rumors Trump had plans for a new hotel-casino in Kabul.

    Candidate Trump had not yet chosen his running mate. Instead of the usual nominating convention setting, Trump planned an Apprentice: VP Edition live TV special. After vetting multiple candidates by blood type (“The 25th Amendment may require him to donate organs to me,” Trump tweeted. Yeah, that’s back, too) the candidate planned what the MSM dubbed “political-style Squid Games” to make the final decision. Behind his new signature slogan, I Won’t Tell Your Wife You Voted for Me, Trump filled stadiums. By the end of summer he had mostly abandoned actual speeches in favor of simply scowling from the podium and spitting. MSNBC claimed Trump was secretly messaging voters that his saliva contained magic powers, while CNN focused increasingly on videos of its reporters punching random Trump voters in the stomach under its new ownership by the Bill, Hillary, Chelsea, and Jeffrey Epstein Foundation.

    The real news from 2024 is that the actual voting process had changed so much no one was sure how a winner would be chosen. Championed by California, actual “mail-in” voting began a year before election day and allowed anyone to vote via Twitter RT for Democrats, while requiring Republican voters to solve a series of increasingly complex puzzles to reveal the one polling place open to them in-state. Texas on the other hand passed new legislation stating all voters would be assumed to vote Republican unless otherwise noted, and allowing citizens to sue anyone who voted Democrat outside of Austin. As the country approached November 2024, there were 51 distinct and radically different systems. Afghanistan, which had applied for U.S. statehood, was being allowed to vote in 2024 after Jeff Bezos’ personal intervention following his acquisition of 98 percent of its arable land. Bezos’ earlier suggestion, that all voting be done via Prime Points, was pushed forward to 2028.

    The future is grim. The once robust rumble-tumble political system had reached the point where the only viable candidates were two geriatric lab experiments. For the first time in history the sum of both candidates’ disapproval rating was over 100 percent. The voting process itself had devolved into something so crooked and complex the only thing left for the final fall from democracy would be to replace it with actual gladiatorial combat among Red and Blue voters. The absolute only thing American agreed on other than making AOC the permanent host of SNL was a bad idea was that no one believed any election results. The other thing generally understood was in the end who was elected president did not really matter much. No matter who was being kept alive in the Oval Office-ICU, nothing substantive was going to change. The real decisions were being made for sport and profit by the hyper-wealthy. Or it may be that we are just ungovernable. Seeing the future made the future looks hazier than ever before.

    As for the rest, I need to be careful about what I disclose but the new iPhone costs more than the last one. Mick Jagger’s pact with Satan for eternal life seems intact. The most popular movie of 2024 is Casablanca II with Lady Gaga playing the Bogart role, and the most popular job for recent grads is borrowing money from the patriarchy (your dad.) And don’t throw away those Covid masks, you’ll still be wearing them 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

    Wishing Trump Away from 2024

    December 8, 2021 // 10 Comments »

     
    The Democrats only possible path forward is to ensure Trump does not run in 2024. They want to lock him in jail.

    With only three years left to go, the 2024 race is narrowing quickly to Trump versus Some Democrat. By election day President Biden will be a vaguely sentient 82, VP Harris likely will have left the country, and the Dem’s rainbow coalition of identity claimants will quickly winnow itself down to nobody as their collective lack of experience devalues their various claims of victimhood. What to do about Trump?

    You can convince a group of Americans for awhile Trump is a Russian agent, or violated an Emoluments Clause thingie they never heard of, just by saying it over and over. The problem is once the accusation reaches the judicial system, the Maddow-Goebbels Gambit withers. Once in the courts, words like “fraud” have very specific meanings. Treason, and anything that brushes against free speech such as incitement, have long trails of precedence. Even for something as basic as the Kyle Rittenhouse self-defense case, any first year law student will tell you there are five elements that need to be met. If the jury agrees they were met, the defendant walks, whether BL really M or not. The rule of law means those tests apply no matter how certain the public is that Rittenhouse is a murdering white supremacist. Or Trump an immoral misogynist. Of course what the Dems really want is a law making “being Trump” illegal. But in America those things are still weighed by elections.

    Everyone is familiar with the litany of such failures to turn belief into crime over the last four years — Emoluments Clause, Russiagate, impeachments I and II, Stormy Daniels, obstruction of justice, and incitement. On the sidelines were extra-judicial attempts connected with the 25th Amendment, having doctors who never examined the man declaring Trump mentally ill, and even accusations of incest. The Southern District of New York previously failed to indict Trump’s children and failed to prosecute Paul Manafort. E. Jean Carroll’s rape-cum-defamation case was so egregiously lousy even the Biden DOJ took Trump’s side.

    One of the latest rumored prosecutions-to-come involves Trump under-valuing properties for tax reasons, then over-valuing them to get loans, which despite the banks involved being happy enough with the terms after their own due diligence, Dems think maybe could be some kind of fraud. This kind of property valuation switch is practically New York City’s official sport, and is often and well-played by many property owners a few billion dollars short of Trump. The regulations governing how one values a NY property are thick. Built into the law is an automatic fudge allowing the same property to have both a high market value and a lower asset value. Problems are sorted out as civil matters and usually settled with the city sending out a bill, especially if the bank is not claiming fraud, only the DA, as in Trump’s case. “New York’s property tax system,” wrote Bloomberg, “is demonstrably inaccurate and unfair.” Michael Cohen, recently in prison for being a liar, is trying for another round in the spotlight claiming he has the evidence. To think the Dems will ignite righteous anger among voters with something this dense is quite funny.

    All the smoking guns fired blanks. Behind every attempt to overturn the election was a certainty by the zealots that Trump must be guilty of something. Yet it all failed. Trump served out his term. He is not in jail. But “just you wait!” remains an ever-weaker rallying cry heard by ever-fewer diehards.

    Like bad poker players, the Dems have all too obviously tipped their hand on their 2024 strategy. The full-court press will, sadly, focus on January 6, an out-of-hand riot wished into a second life as a coup, an insurrection, or an overthrow attempt. The characterization is silly; among other things, a coup must have some path towards success, in this case, preventing Joe Biden from becoming president. The rioters at best might have delayed the largely ceremonial counting of the Electoral College votes until the next day. They didn’t even get that done.

    As before, the truth is of little importance. The Daily Beast is one of many outlets claiming “If Merrick Garland Doesn’t Charge Trump and His Coup Plotters, Our Democracy Is Toast.” The article does not mention any specific, chargeable crime Trump is to be charged with, though it mentions the words coup and abuse of power a lot. Like all of its lot, it does not address the gaping question of why the actual Capitol rioters have only been charged with things like trespassing, and not treason or sedition. Surely as what one journalist called the armed wing of the Republican Party (comparing them to the IRA and Sinn Fein) some of the January 6 cosplayers should by now be charged with something serious enough to warrant fears the Republic itself hangs by a thread.

    Since the Democrats have no viable 2024 candidate, and since Trump’s support remains high, the only way to defeat him is by some non-electoral process just short of Dealey Plaza. Political prosecutions are not new in America. Political pogroms are. There has never in our history been a more sustained yet unsuccessful judicial effort to oust or destroy one man.

    The Democrats, so used to failing at this, are also not looking at the secondary effects of their dirty work, specifically wearing out the public they seek to influence against Trump. After four years of faux scandals being spiked into the public’s veins, how many more times can they try the same game before voters simply stop listening? Meanwhile, every shot at Trump that misses only increases support among his own followers as the candidate brags about beating the charges again. When non-supporters begin to ask themselves if indeed Trump is right when he claims persecution, the Dems have already lost.

       

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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

    Want War with China? You Can Help!

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    In one of the great scenes in the movie Citizen Kane, newspaper publisher Charles Kane, in desperate need of headlines to boost circulation, decides a patriotic war would be just the thing. When his reporters fail to find evidence of imminent hostilities, Kane famously bellows “I’ll supply the war, you supply the pictures!”

    Kane is directly modeled after the real-life William Randolph Hearst, who generously fanned the flames of the Spanish-American war, making the sinking of the Maine, a U.S. warship, by the Spanish, into a casus belli. It was all a lie; the Maine exploded internally, on it’s own. No matter, a war was needed and so that decision made, a cause was created. The real reasons for the war included a U.S. desire to take control of Cuba and to become a Pacific power by seizing the Spanish colony in the Philippines. Theodore Roosevelt, who was the Assistant Secretary of the Navy at this time, advocated for the war as a rally-round-the-flag event to heal the lingering wounds of the American Civil War and as an excuse to increase the U.S. Navy’s budget. After all, they sank our ship! The press would wait until WMDs were created to ever be that compliant again.

    Very much the same story in Vietnam. The U.S., imagining a global communist conspiracy rising from the ashes of WWII, began its war in Vietnam by proxy in 1945, soon funding the French struggle for years. By 1950 the first American military personnel were stationed in Saigon. When America advisors, and casualties, began to come to the public’s attention, and successes by the other side began to pile up, the real American war got underway. But with a more overt war, a more overt reason had to be found. That took the form of the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, a claim two American warships came under unprovoked attack by the North. What really happened was far from that, but does not matter. Congress passed an enabling resolution and the war escalated as needed. They hurt our ships!

    There are even historic breadcrumbs suggesting the U.S. purposely ignored warnings about an impending attack on Pearl Harbor, knowing it was soon enough going to war with Japan. Allowing the attack to happen was a good excuse to escalate America’s growing role supplying war material to Britain to outright combat, given the public’s reluctance to go to war absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event. They sank our ships!

    In the late 1990s, The Project for the New American Century think tank developed its “compelling vision for American foreign policy” based on a “benevolent global hegemony.” They had nothing less in mind than a global war of conquest, occupation, and regime change, focused on the Middle East. The war was set, but the problem lay in convincing the American people to support it. “The process of transformation,” the neocons wrote, “even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.” Somebody better sink some damn ships!

    The new Pearl Harbor fell into their laps from the sky on 9/11. Even then, though, another made-up reason was needed to justify the invasion of Iraq, the jewel in the neocon planning. The Bush administration made a few attempts to link Saddam to 9/11 directly, then to terrorism generically, even threw in some tall tales about his cruelty to his own people and gassing the Kurds, but none of it stuck with the public, correctly confused about why an attack largely planned, funded, and executed by Saudis required a war in Iraq. In the end the decision to stress the threat posed by Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction above all others was taken for “bureaucratic” reasons to justify the war, then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said. “It was the one reason everyone could agree on.” It really did not matter that it wasn’t true.

    This was followed by two decades of conflict under four presidents. Along the way mini-versions of the same scam — war decided on first, reasons ginned up later — were run to justify invasions in Libya, Yemen, and Syria, mostly a creation of a mini-Pearl Harbor events in the guise of “he’s gassing his own people.” Genocide is especially handy as the rhetoric can be recycled — never again, America has to believe in something, we can’t stand silently by. It does not matter what is true because the incidents, real or imaginary, are just like buses; miss one and another will along soon enough.

    Which brings us to China, which appears to be the next war now searching for a reason.

    “The Fight for Taiwan Could Come Soon,” warns the Wall Street Journal, alongside nearly every other publication of note. President Biden has begun the propaganda spadework, declaring “On my watch 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.” Is war imminent? One report shows China just surpassed the U.S. in global wealth, one of Biden’s three tripwires.

    The reasons China has no reason to invade Taiwan are lengthy and cover economic, military, and political fields. There is no rational, risk vs. gain, reason for hostilities. But that is not what the historical playbook says matters. It may be the United States has already decided a good, old fashioned, bench clearing, global superpower showdown is needed, muscle tussling eagle vs. dragon for control of the Pacific. We just need to find a reason, given that China is unlikely to be a sport and invade Taiwan for us. You can lie about Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction long enough to get a war started, but an actual Chinese invasion is a bridge too far for straight-up fabrication.

    Now it is possible the war fever over China is just a con inside a con. It is possible the Deep State really knows it will never fight an actual war, but is simply using the threat as a way to run up the defense budget. They remember how the lies about the “missile gap” and all the other “gaps” with Russia exploded the military industrial complex budget following WWII. A Chinese threat requires endless spending on the good stuff, big carriers and space forces, not the muddy ground troops we squandered losing to goat farmers in Afghanistan.

    That would be the best case scenario and if that’s all this is, it is well underway. But what if the U.S. has its mind set on a real war, as in Vietnam and after 9/11, and needs a palatable reason to be found?

    So, a challenge to all readers. On a post card addressed to the White House, what would be the declared justification for the U.S. going to war with China? You can have fun with this (Beijing kidnaps Taylor Swift and a rescue mission escalates into full-on war. Or China is caught releasing a virus that disables global trade) or geopolitical serious stuff about struggles for rare earth minerals or disputed islands. No cheating with statements pretending to reasons, things like China is an “imminent threat” or declarations like “clear and present danger.” Pretend you’re a modern day Paul Wolfowitz, handed the fait accompli of war and tasked with ginning up a reason Americans will buy. But no “they sunk our ship” scenarios. Been there, done that.

     

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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