• Archive of "Democracy" Category

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

    Posted in Afghanistan, Biden, Democracy

    Is Stephanie Griner “Wrongfully Detained” in Russia?

    July 17, 2022 // 2 Comments »

    The U.S. State Department estimates more than 3,000 Americans are imprisoned abroad, on grounds ranging from small amounts of marijuana up to murder. For all but a handful, the U.S. government explicitly states they cannot get you out of jail, tell a foreign court or government you are innocent, provide legal advice or represent you in court. The president certainly is not in the habit of making calls to the Thai government telling them to please let you go, you didn’t mean to have that baggie of Ecstasy in your underwear at Customs.

    The key to getting the full force of the U.S. government on your side working for your release is to be “wrongfully detained,” a qualification which applies to fewer than 40 out of those 3,000 some Americans locked up. The U.S. recently declared Stephanie Griner wrongly detained. What does all that mean?

    Near the start of the Ukraine war American WNBA star Stephanie Griner was arrested trying to enter Russia carrying vape oil which contained some sort of cannabis product illegal in Russia, entangling the U.S. citizen’s fate in the confrontation between Russia and the West. The Russian Federal Customs Service said its officials detained the player after finding vape cartridges in her luggage at Sheremetyevo airport near Moscow, and it released a video of a Griner going through airport security.

    Normally Griner would be largely on her own. While the U.S. State Department visits Americans incarcerated abroad when that is possible (good luck to you if you’re popped in a country without U.S. diplomatic presence like Iran or North Korea, though the Swiss often will help out) to see to their welfare and try and maintain communications with home, the U.S. government will generally not get involved with your innocence or guilt, and will not make representations to the host government to free you. Most of us have seen Midnight Express and The Hangover. In the case of Russia, the U.S. specifically warns people like Stephanie Griner “do not travel to Russia due to the unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine by Russian military forces, the potential for harassment against U.S. citizens by Russian government security officials, the singling out of U.S. citizens in Russia by Russian government security officials including for detention, the arbitrary enforcement of local law, limited flights into and out of Russia, and the Embassy’s limited ability to assist U.S. citizens in Russia.”

    Worse yet, it looks like Griner did really have that illegal substance in her possession. She just pleaded guilty in front of a Russian court. In almost every such instance she’d be on her own, but for one exception: the recent declaration by the United States that Griner is somehow “wrongly detained.”

    The wrongfully detained category grew out of a realization that a small percentage of Americans arrested abroad were indeed political prisoners, arrested abroad under a country’s (unjust) laws, or were being held beyond the normal sentence or conditions for political reasons. In other words, hostages. If a person is declared “wrongfully detained” by the U.S., the rules do a 180 and the full powers of the U.S. government are used to free you.

    Congress passed the “Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act,” named after the American missing in Iran for over 15 years. The 2020 law establishes 11 criteria for a wrongful detention designation, any one of which can be a sufficient basis to secure the detainee’s release, including “credible information indicating innocence of the detained individual,” “credible reports the detention is a pretext for an illegitimate purpose,” “the individual is being detained solely or substantially to influence United States Government policy or to secure economic or political concessions from the United States Government,” or a conclusion that U.S. “diplomatic engagement is likely necessary.” Secretary of State Blinken must personally approve such a designation, and transfer responsibility for the case from the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs (disclosure: where I worked for 22 years) to the Office of the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs.

    What is next for Griner now that she has been declared wrongfully detained? Depending on the political goals of the Russians, her guilty plea may suffice. A Russian court will impose a fine or jail sentence to be waived, and Griner can be on her way home. This is most common when the American has harmed a host country national and some public “justice” needs to be seen being done. A similar outcome often arises out of humanitarian needs, where Griner is declared in need of medical care not available in Russia and the country sends her home as an act of good will.

    But given the politics of Griner’s arrest, a very likely outcome will be a prisoner exchange. The Russians are interested in the release of Viktor Bout, sentenced to 25 years in an American prison for trying to sell heavy weapons to Colombian terrorists. This would track with diplomacy just this April that lead to the exchange of Trevor Reed, a former Marine who had been held for more than two years over a bar fight, and Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot serving a 20-year federal prison sentence for drug smuggling. Reed’s health was cited as the motivator for the swap. One problem stands in the way of Griner’s release: it would be domestically politically difficult for the U.S. to again leave behind Paul Whelan, another former Marine, arrested in 2018 on espionage charges and sentenced to 16 years in prison, for Griner.

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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 Afghanistan, Biden, Democracy

    Feeling Bad for Cassidy Hutchinson

    July 12, 2022 // 8 Comments »

    I feel bad for Cassidy Hutchinson, the young woman who testified recently in front of the January 6 Committee. She seems unaware she violated the six basic rules of being a staff aide. She doesn’t even know her career is over at a time when she thinks her efforts will be kickstarting her into fame. Someone should put her in touch with Monica Lewinski.

    To understand Cassie’s failure requires one understands the Washington DC ecology. There are the top-level predators, like Trump, and Meadows, his chief of staff, and there are those funny little birds that live off the big guys’ droppings. That would be the staff aides like Cassie. Now there is honor in all work, even if it consists of picking seeds out of droppings — somebody has to do it for the system as a whole to thrive. So Rule 1 of being a staff aide is knowing your place, followed quickly by Rule 2, never forget you will not be staff aide forever.

    The little bird that sits above the rhino’s tail seems important and in a way, is. She keeps the rhino happy and in good humor. Often times other animals find it easier to approach the bird before the rhino, to check he’s in a good mood, has been eating well, stuff the bird knows not because she is important per se but because she sits near the rhino’s butt. Cultivating a good relationship with the bird means better access. Staff aides are like that; they sit in the front office and respond to important people asking things like “Boss in a good mood today?” or “What did he think of my memo?” The aide is a proxy for the big guy. But the aide is not the big guy. She should not forget that.

    A healthy does of “only when spoken to” helps a lot, too. Cassie never “spent time with President Trump.” She attended events as background filler, endless signing ceremonies, celebrations, and presidential announcements, and “frequently watched Marine One depart the South Lawn from my office window.” Just being places is a key staff aide task.

    When they are not serving as a benign, approachable proxy for the big guy, staff aides do a lot of “coordinating.” Spend an hour in any office in DC and you’ll hear that word a half dozen times. Big guys are too important for details, and staff aides are too young to know them. So, for example, Mark Meadows as chief of staff talks to the president, who says “I wanna go to Chili’s for lunch.” Meadows knows that means Secret Service and a motorcade, press, maybe rearranging the afternoon’s Boy Scout meet and greet (all together, a movement, we’re back to those birds) but has no interest in making lots of phone calls as the more calls he personally makes the less powerful he seems. So he asks his staff aide to “coordinate” the movement and she, invoking his name like a hacking cough in a four-pack a day smoker, calls the movement people and says the president wants to go to Chili’s. Actually, she says “Our office needs the president at Chili’s pronto.”

    If the aide is good at her job, she is composed when the boss is stressed, smooth when he is rough, sugar-coated when he is cursing. This is because of Rules 1 and 2: she is not the boss and soon enough won’t be the staff aide anymore and everyone below her (for now) on the food chain will remember whether she was rude, pushy, and power hungry.

    It can be hard to do; I was an ambassador’s staff aide for a year. Many times in a raised voice the ambassador would say “Why hasn’t Jones finished that memo [you told him to write on the ambassador’s behalf]?” followed by me after a deep breath phoning Jones to casually ask how it was going. If I said something like “You know, the ambassador is anxious about that memo” I better have said it nicely because Jones outranked me by three steps and in a few months I might be a wage slave in his shop and he Would Remember. Rule 2.

    Poor Cassie’s career to staff aide-date consisted of a couple of government internships out of her small Virginia public college, where she no doubt got ground down by someone’s staff aide. That aide forgot Rule 3, low levels you chew on when you’re staff aide can get promoted past you and they Will Remember you.

    I got fooled twice as staff aide. Once was to drop a contrarian memo on the ambassador’s desk without the writer’s boss having seen it, and the second to serve as a conduit of what I thought was staff intel but instead was just backstabbing gossip. In both instances I was on the wrong side of Rule 4, don’t get used by senior people. Always remember (Rules 1 and 2) you are disposable. That brings us to Cassie and January 6.

    Trump’s movement away from his January 6 speech venue went bad; Trump wanted to go to the Capitol but this Secret Service detail felt it was unsafe and in a rare gesture, overruled him. Trump was upset and took it out on the two guys in charge, Tony Ornato and Bobby Engel. Back at the office the guys dutifully recounted what happened, with Cassie all ears (Rule 5: as staff aide you’re not well-briefed enough to overhear things and make sense of them.) She heard what may in fact been a bit of macho exaggeration by the guys, Trump grabbing the steering wheel and all, perhaps a bit of bravado as everyone was cooling down. Cassie misunderstood what she heard (Rule 6, it happens), setting the story in The Beast, the massive armored stretch Cadillac limo that is the official presidential ride when whatever happened happened in a Secret Service SUV per video records. A Secret Service agent would never misremember an SUV for The Beast but a former intern would.

    When the January 6 Committee came ’round, Cassie thought she had a tale to tell, Trump out of control in the vehicle and later, throwing his lunch during a tantrum, his ketchup dripping down the wallpaper. The thing is Cassie did not see either happen. She was repeating a Secret Service war story in the first instance and imaging the details in the second (she actually saw the ketchup dripping but not the throw.) Any first year law student will know those are examples of hearsay, second hand information, and immediately dismissible as evidence. It makes sense; why rely on someone’s second-hand remembrance when you can get the actual first-hand witness to testify? In this case, the Secret Service is apparently ready to call Cassie a liar; Trump already did.

    Cassie thought this was her big break, the intern made staff aide who was going to change history. Never mind that she must have come across the definition of hearsay somewhere in her education, never mind that steering wheel grabbing and plate throwing are neither criminal nor impeachable offenses. She was like the bird claiming from her perch on the rhino’s backside he ate too many berries for lunch, or at least she’d heard that from the insect who lives in the rhino’s mouth. She broke all the rules for her few minutes on TV, allowing herself to be used by a Committee who knew damn well she had not witnessed anything  and swearing “under oath” to the truth of something you don’t know first-hand is impossible.

    And that leaves Cassie in violation of another rule, one most people learn on the playground: nobody likes a snitch. Nobody likes one who thinks she is ratting out her boss’ boss, nobody like one who disgraces the Office of the President. Anyone check in on how Monica Lewinski’s career in Washington went? After a quick round on Late Night, Cassie will disappear from DC-land. You don’t violate the rules of being a staff aide without consequence, after all.

     

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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 Afghanistan, Biden, Democracy

    Abortion, Propaganda, and Cynicism

    July 11, 2022 // 3 Comments »

    A doctor in Ohio decided to become an abortion propagandist, assisted by journalists who decided to become abortion propagandists.

    You must have seen the horrific story, reported out of Ohio. A ten-year-old child became pregnant through sexual abuse. Under the new post-Roe abortion laws she is ineligible for a termination because she was found to be six weeks and three days pregnant. The unnamed doctor called a named abortionist in next-door Indiana where abortions can currently be performed past six weeks and began the process of arranging the abortion. Someone took the story to the press, where it quickly became a front-page Handmaidens Tale-level news item, the near-perfect example of everything wrong with overturning Roe v. Wade. Almost too good (too evil?) to be true.

    The victim was very young, below the average age of menses. She was pregnant via child abuse, the act itself horrific, with suggestions in the press the attacker was a relative. Ohio had just revised its laws following Dobbs (a month earlier and none of this would have been national news) and the kicker, the girl was six weeks and three days pregnant via abuse, just that 72 hours past Ohio’s deadline, all at obviously no fault of her own. Her only hope was an out-of-state abortion in next-door Indiana before it changed its own laws.

    No current technology can calculate pregnancy to the day. Instead a standard estimate is used, calculated from the first day of the person‘s last period. The key term here is estimate; only a tiny percentage of babies (about four percent) are born on the exact due date calculated off that last period, assuming a ten-year-old abuse victim would know the first day of her last period precisely. The articles about the child don’t mention it, but the period date is usually adjusted by an ultrasound scan, where another estimate is made, based on the size of the fetus, with practice being if the two “due dates” differ by a week or more, the scan is taken as the more accurate measure.

    The critical point is no one in the world could say that child was exactly three days past Ohio’s six week abortion deadline. The original doctor, sympathetic, could have easily consulted an ultrasound and come to the conclusion that she was instead five weeks and four days pregnant, for example, and eligible for an abortion. Ohio allows a complex exception for abortions even now when the mother’s life is in danger, clearly an option given the unlikelihood that a ten-year-old body would be able to successfully mature and birth a baby without injuring severely the child-mother.

    The broader point is none of this was discussed in the articles pointing out the horror Ohio was visiting on an abuse victim. None of the media asked the original doctor why he did not see the fetus as less than six weeks old, or why he did not seek to invoke the exception for a mother’s life at stake. Instead, he and the abortionist in Indiana worked hand-in-hand with the media to shape the narrative as ammunition pro-choice advocates would be able to use. It was all too perfect.

    Newly-restored to Twitter, I voiced some of these ideas. The story was obvious propaganda, albeit apparently true on its basic facts if not fudged on its presentation and omissions. As propaganda it seemed worth talking about. But in America we can’t talk about abortion it seems.

    The first wave of comments from anonymous women (I am unsure enough of  the mechanics of Twitter to not know how non-followers ended up seeing my Tweets) included some personal insults but were more in line with claiming I wanted to make the story about me (for having a questioning opinion as a man) and not about the “woman.” These were followed by many more anonymous women criticizing me as a male for not knowing much about women’s bodies because I asked some pointed questions about how much faith the doctor in question put in judging the pregnancy at six weeks and three days. Could someone really make a life-or-death decision for one of his patients based when a period had occurred? Someone whose bio says she is a doctor and activist seemed to lead the charges against me, calling me a whiner for wondering why this anger was directed at me and not maybe at some people in Ohio. And why was it impossible to find out anything about the attacker, such as if he was in jail?

    In the end I was told to “Just tweet, ‘I’m a twatwaffle who doesn’t know anything about women’ and save us all some time” and that seemingly ended the discussion.

    The Ohio case has become a test for politicians forced to show they are sensitive to the needs of women and girls in the face of growing restrictions on abortion. Republican governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota, mentioned as a potential running mate for Donald Trump, was pressed on the Ohio case on CNN, though no mention was made that South Dakota, like Ohio, allows abortions when a mother’s life is in danger. Instead the situation was visioned as “child rapist gets away with horror because abortion laws are too restrictive.” Noem replied: “I don’t believe a tragic situation should be perpetuated by another tragedy. There’s more that we have got to do to make sure that we really are living a life that says every life is precious, especially innocent lives that have been shattered, like that 10-year-old girl,” she said.

    It is a gross coincidence this playbook has been run before. In May 2019 as Ohio was considering its fetal heartbeat law, the press came up with an 11-year-old girl has been raped and impregnated by a 26-year-old man who had sex with her on multiple occasions as someone who might be forced to carry to term by the new law. The heartbeat law passed anyway.

    And by no small accident the Indiana General Assembly will convene in special session later in July to discuss what restrictions to abortion policy it will implement post-Roe as Indiana law did not immediately change when the Supreme Court issued its Dobbs decision. The state currently allows for abortions in the case of rape or incest. One wonder on the effect propaganda will have on all that, with the insertion of an already victimized 10-year-old into that process. Was the timing of the Ohio-referred-to-Indiana case really that cynical?

    Thinking to go on Twitter and call me cynical? Remember I’m not the one exploiting an already abused child for political purposes of getting my state to include a rape and incest exception, just writing about 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 Afghanistan, Biden, Democracy

    What If Biden Gave a War and Nobody Came?

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

    Posted in Afghanistan, Biden, Democracy

    Mercs on the Run, or, the GWOT Chickens Come Home to Roost

    July 5, 2022 // 1 Comment »

    Alex Drueke and Andy Huynh are two former American military members now in Russian custody, captured by the Russians in Ukraine, where they were fighting for the Ukrainian government. What is going to happen to them?

    The most likely thing is that both men will eventually be released, traded to the U.S. in return for captured Russians. Prisoners are very valuable, and rarely wasted in executions unless those carry much more value than the prisoners held by the other side. The deal may be public or secret, and the U.S. will expect to pay a premium. Israel usually releases 10 or more Palestinian prisoners in exchange for one of its captured troops. The problem for Drueke and Huynh is that the Russians will be in no hurry to make the exchange, knowing under the glare of American media the longer the “crisis” goes on the more desperate Biden will be to make a deal (much of the same can be said for Brittney Griner, the WNBA All-Star who clearly was in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong vape.)

    A caveat: all bets are off if either Drueke and Huynh have any connection to the U.S. government other than former military, say as members of a CIA paramilitary group. You can assume most of their interrogation is aimed at that question.

    Beyond that simple reality, what happens with Drueke and Huynh is extremely complicated. Much will be said about their status, whether they were volunteers (legal combatants) or mercenaries. A lot will be said about the rules of war, international law, the Geneva Conventions (treaties on the treatment of civilians and prisoners of war) and the like, without saying the obvious: there is no such thing as international law per se, a body of agreed upon rules subject to fair enforcement. Instead, much of what passes as “justice” in wartime is very much a victor’s justice, meted out for political purposes after one side wins enough to dictate what is a crime and what is a valid example of warfare.

    The wanton murder of civilians is generally a violation of rules of war, yet civilians are killed in every conflict. For example, in Ukraine at present of a 21-year-old Russian soldier Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin was recently sentenced to life in prison after he pleaded guilty to shooting a 62-year-old unarmed civilian four days into the invasion. Yet the issue scales poorly. The United States killed tens of thousands of innocent civilians in Hiroshima in a most horrible way, yet the action was seen as a brilliant strategy not a crime. What in fact constitutes a “crime against humanity” or “attempted genocide” very much depends on who won the war and what they have to say about things. Even when the victor is clear, as in the Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan wars, there are no host country trials if that victor lacks the ability to enforce his will. Fearful its soldiers might be convicted of “political” war crimes during the War on Terror, in 2002 the U.S. withdrew from the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court.

    In the case of Drueke and Huynh it may be useful politically for the Russians to hold trials, as a counter to those underway or planned in Ukraine (Attorney General Merrick Garland visited Ukraine on Tuesday to meet with the country’s prosecutor general to discuss ways to “identify, apprehend and prosecute those individuals involved in war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine.”) Labeling Drueke and Huynh as mercenaries — soldiers of fortune who went into combat on behalf of a third party for the money — is as simple as Russia doing so. The men appear to have been paid something by Ukraine, and they were in fact in the country specifically to kill Russians. The U.S. will argue but is in no position to enforce the idea they are lawful combatants, soldiers, as the rules of war kind of expect soldiers to be there for killing and it is seen as less a crime than a job duty.

    We’ve already seen a likely preview of what’s ahead for Drueke and Huynh. Two British men were recently sentenced to death in a Russian proxy court for fighting for Ukraine. Shaun Pinner and Aiden Aslin were charged with “terrorism” in a court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. The British case suggests the likelihood of some sort of show trial for the two Americans is high. Putin maintains the Ukraine war is really about Russia being threatened by NATO. Western prisoners, especially American former military prisoners, plays into that narrative; Drueke and Huynh in his view are living examples Ukraine is a proxy war against Russia.

    But as with the tussle over nomenclature, soldier or merc, the real problem for Drueke and Huynh is essentially there is no law or even established practice governing mercenaries, guns for hire or “volunteers” and recent examples are all unfavorable to their speedy and safe release.

    There are few rules when dealing with mercs’ war crimes, as learned during the Nisour Square incident in Baghdad. On September 16, 2007, employees of the Blackwater Security Consulting private security firm opened fire on unarmed Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square in Baghdad under unclear conditions. The Iraqi government eventually found Blackwater killed 17 civilians. At the time, Blackwater had a $1 billion contract with the United States government to provide security services; there were 1,000 Blackwater security guards in Iraq on the day of the massacre. Four Blackwater staff were eventually charged and brought to a civilian trial inside the U.S. seven years after the killings and found guilty of offenses from first degree murder to firearms violations. No matter; in December of 2020, President Donald Trump pardoned the four Blackwater guards in a similar fashion to President Richard Nixon’s pardoning of Lieutenant William Calley, known for his role in the My Lai massacre.

    The other thing which bodes ill for Drueke and Huynh is America’s own example set during the years of the War on Terrorism. In one case, a western man caught fighting for the enemy in Afghanistan (John Walker Lindh, “The American Taliban”) was mistreated from his moment of capture, denied basic rights, taken off the battlefield, and eventually sentenced to 20 years in prison.

    The other example is America’s willingness to classify captured al Qaeda members as “noncombatants,” i.e., not soldiers in the War but terrorists, and use that made up category to allow everything from kidnappings and unlawful detentions (known then as extraordinary renditions) to the creation of an off-shore penal colony at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba where said noncombatants were to either given show trials or simply tortured into insanity and indefinite detention. It would be bitter, bitter fruit for the Russians to cite either example in their treatment of Drueke and Huynh.

     

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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 Afghanistan, Biden, Democracy

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

    Posted in Afghanistan, Biden, Democracy

    Was There a Coup Attempt on January 6?

    June 25, 2022 // 10 Comments »

    Was there a coup attempt on January 6? To answer yes, there had to have been some realistic path by which some action on that day could have resulted in Donald Trump remaining president of the United States.

    Watching the show trial on television and the saturation coverage of the same across all media, you could just believe it might have been possible. The TV show is dedicated to convincing a lay audience they came “that close” to tossing away their democracy as some mechanism almost clicked into place to leave Trump in power. It would be easier to take the Dems much more seriously if they would just coolly and in detail outline just how Trump could have stayed in office without the military, who were clearly not taking a partisan stance on January 6. Absent that, you had political theatre and a riot, not a coup attempt. Think back to the 1960s and imagine how occupying the administration building on campus was going to stop the Vietnam War in its tracks. This is politically much ado about not much except Democratic Party 2024 election engineering.

    So here it is in a sentence: Democrats, take two minutes from your hate telethon and tell us how it would have worked. How was Trump going to stay in power?

    The answer is there is no answer, and that should end the matter. Anything that has zero pathway to success is not a coup attempt. To stage a coup you need tanks on the White House lawn, and America again instead transitioned peacefully from one administration to another. That, that hard reality, is what is wholly missing from the Democratic January 6 Committee hearings and all the frou-frou that accompanies them.

    Could Trump have used the Capitol riot to declare martial law and stayed in power? No. The president cannot use the military domestically in a way Congress does not agree with. The “web of laws” Congress enacted to govern the domestic activ­it­ies of the armed forces — includ­ing the Posse Comit­atus Act, which prohib­its the use of federal troops to execute the law without express congres­sional author­iz­a­tion — would stop Trump cold. Accord­ing to well-settled prin­ciples of consti­tu­tional practice, the pres­id­ent cannot act in a way Congress has forbid­den unless the Consti­tu­tion gives the pres­id­ent “conclus­ive and preclus­ive” power over the disputed issue. Martial law has been declared nine times since World War II and, in five instances, was designed to counter resistance to Federal desegregation decrees in the South. Although an uneasy climate of mutual aid has always existed between the military and civilian law enforcement, Department of Defense personnel are limited in what they can do to enforce civil law. They can’t extend a presidential term. So that business about putting tanks on the White House lawn? Somebody has already thought it through.

    The Insurrection Act of 1807 is the one stat­utory excep­tion to the Posse Comit­atus Act that does allow the pres­id­ent to deploy the milit­ary domest­ic­ally, but by precedent they can be used to suppress armed insur­rec­tions or to execute the laws when local or state author­it­ies are unable or unwill­ing to do so. Their role is limited and in no way puts the milit­ary “in charge” or suspends the normal func­tions and author­it­ies of Congress, state legis­latures, or the courts. More importantly, troops in the streets have nothing to do with what votes are already in the ballot boxes. Same for seizing voting machines or ballots; they were already counted by January 6. The president has no authority to simply “suspend” the Constitution.

    Anything Trump might have tried to do required the military to play along, something there is no evidence to support. Just the opposite. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley took a number of steps in the final days to ensure any dramatic orders out of the White House would be confirmed, checked, and likely delayed indefinitely.  While some of Milley’s concerns raise Constitutional issues of their own, particularly his right-to-the-edge-of-the-line actions to interfere with the nuclear chain of command, clearly Milley was in no way priming his forces to participate in any sort of coup.

    Lastly, it is critical to point out how deeply the idea of legal civilian control of the military, and the separation of powers, is drummed into America’s officer corps. Unlike many developing world situations, America has a professional officer corps well-removed from politics, and which sits atop an organization built from the ground up to respond to legal, civilian orders. Like a religion. If Trump had ordered the 82nd Airborne into the streets of Pittsburgh their officers would have most likely said no.

    With martial options well off the board, Trump’s coup would have needed to rely on some sort of legalistic maneuver exploiting America’s complex electoral system. The biggest issue is the 20th Amend­ment, which states unambiguously the pres­id­ent’s term ends after four years. If Trump some­how succeeded in prevent­ing Joe Biden from being inaug­ur­ated, he would still have ceased to be pres­id­ent at noon on Janu­ary 20, and Nancy Pelosi, as Speaker of the House, would have become pres­id­ent. There is no mechanism to stop that succession, ironic as it would have been.

    That said, the most quoted Trump plan ran something like this: “Somehow” even though the Electoral College had met on December 14 and decided Biden was to be president, Republican-friendly legislatures in places such as Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania would “ignore” the popular vote in their states and appoint their own pro-Trump electors. The law (the 19th century “Electoral Count Act“) does allow legislatures to do this in some never-used extreme situation if states have failed to make a choice by the day the electoral college meets (no matter that date had passed by January 6.) Never mind the details; the idea was to introduce enough chaos into the system to force everyone in the whole of the United States to believe the only solution was to force the election two months after voting into the House where Vice President Pence himself would vote the tie and choose Trump for another term.

    In addition to every other problem with that scenario, Pence had no intention of doing any such thing. Trump maintained “The Vice President has the power to reject fraudulently chosen electors” when in fact Pence’s January 6 role was entirely ceremonial, presiding over the House and Senate as they receive and certify the electoral votes conveyed by the states, and then announcing the outcome. Location did not matter; although the riots delayed the final announcement, which still occurred at the Capitol, there is nothing in the Constitution which requires the receipt and certification to take place there. Pence could have met with Congress at a Starbucks in Philadelphia and wrapped up business. Pence, in a 2022 speech, said “I had no right to overturn the election. Frankly, there is almost no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president.”

    To imagine a dystopian fiction where one state legislature blows past the vote to chose pro-Trump electors is difficult. To imagine several doing so simultaneously to gin up enough Trump electors, and then to imagine the Electoral College changing its mind, is beyond possibility. There was no indication Republicans in these important states considered going along with this anyway. Pennsylvania’s top state Repub indicated his party would follow the law and award electors to the winner of the popular vote. He stated the state legislature “does not have and will not have a hand in choosing the state’s presidential electors or in deciding the outcome of the presidential election.” Besides, the borderline states all had Democratic governors who would have refused to approve after-the-fact Trump electors.

    To be fair, such goofy schemes were also in the wind in 2016, when Trump was elected and many progressives were looking to little-known Electoral law for some sort of fail-safe. They failed, too. Despite the many claims about how close we came to democracy failing, in reality the complex system proved at least twice in recent years to be made of stiffer stuff.

    There were a few left-overs that were far-removed from January 6, specifically a very unclear plan to weaponize the Department of Justice to declare something, nearly anything, about the election invalid enough to provoke a Supreme Court fight. The details matter and did not really exist, plus the Constitution is very clear the election of the president is primarily a state matter and absent a good reason (as in 2000 where  the problem was one state and urgency begged) needs to be decided at that level. There was also the matter of Attorney General Bill Barr refusing to cooperate with Trump and resigning, followed by his successor refusing to cooperate, followed by threats by a whole raft of senior Justice Department officials threatening to resign. And for the record, there was no incitement by Trump. For all the talk of sedition and coup no charges will ever be filed.

    What is missing most of all from the Great January 6 Democratic Telethon is a statement the system worked. The Constitution held. Officials from Vice President Pence on down did their jobs and stood up for the democratic system. All the fear mongering, all the what-ifs Dems now hope will distract Americans from their own party’s failings at governing — war, inflation, gas prices, gun and crime violence, a growing despair — miss the most important point of all. In the end, no legal mech­an­ism was ever going to allow Trump to continue being pres­id­ent. There was no attempted coup.

    The real problem is the Dems can’t win in 2024 on what they have to offer. Most of their domestic agenda is shot. They have no clear plan for the economy. With all the efforts to prosecute Donald Trump for something (including January 6) having failed, their sole strategy is to make people believe Trump tried to overturn the last election, and having not succeeded, chose the odd path of re-embracing the electoral process. There is room to judge Trump’s actions. But that judgment must not come from a kangaroo court, if you want to talk about preserving the rule of law. We were never even close to losing our democracy. The system worked is the real message echoing from January 6.

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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 Afghanistan, Biden, Democracy

    Justice, Albeit Late, at Oberlin College and Gibson’s Bakery

    June 19, 2022 // 2 Comments »

    An African-American college student was arrested for shoplifting and a culture war erupted at Oberlin College, Ohio. He’s black now, the term African-American itself becoming offensive to some in the interim, and the war is mostly over. Ultra-liberal Oberlin lost after six years of legal wrangling. Oh, and the college owes $33 million in defamation damages to the surviving white people (two of the plaintiffs died of old age while the trial dragged on) who own a bakery it defamed over racial issues.

    It was 2016 and Donald Trump had just been elected president, defeating candidate Clinton. Everyone was certain Trump’s victory was the End of Democracy and was anxious to claim their victimhood in the New Order.

    Enter Oberlin College, arguably the most socially liberal school in America. Students protested the inauthenticity of food at the school’s Afrikan (sic) Heritage House and complained the cafeteria sushi and bánh mì were prepared with the wrong ingredients, making a mockery of cultures. There was scrutiny of the curriculum, and a student wanted trigger warnings on Antigone. African-American students wrote a letter to the school’s president with 50 non-negotiable demands for change in Oberlin’s admissions and personnel policies. And all that was seen — in 2016 — as a good thing. Such were the times.

    Then on November 9, 2016 (just the day after Donald Trump was elected), three black students from Oberlin College were arrested for attempting to steal wine from nearby Gibson’s Bakery. The shop was as much a part of the traditional Oberlin scene as the statues and college green. The white owner confronted one student, who ran from the store. Outside, the owner detained him, and while waiting for the police was attacked by two other black students. The students eventually entered guilty pleas, and were convicted. They read statements recanting allegations of racism against Gibson’s. Nothing connected the theft with Trump or racism except… racism.

    Upon hearing of the arrest Oberlin’s Student Senate immediately declared the incident a case of racial profiling, and without investigating passed a resolution calling for a boycott of the bakery. The college’s administration sent an email to students implying Gibson’s discriminated on the basis of race. Then-Oberlin Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo (she’s now vice president for student affairs at Oglethorpe University) handed out flyers supporting the boycott. As protests kicked into higher gear, Oberlin College provided a break room stocked with coffee and pizza in a nearby school building. Dean Raimondo also agreed to reimburse a student for money spent on gloves given to protesters to combat the cold weather. Raimondo had the college’s food distributer cut off food from the bakery. Gibson’s business suffered.

    The problem was the bakery did not racially profile anyone. The students had been shoplifting. The college acted against the bakery (“tortious interference with the business relationship” said the court) based on nothing but its underlying anger at Trump’s election. After some weak efforts to claim protection under the First Amendment (the legality of the protests was not in question), demand a mistrial, and blame everything on the students alone, the College dragged the case out for so long two of the Gibson’s owners died while waiting for the verdict.

    The case eventually ended up at the Ohio Court of Appeals, who knew a textbook defamation case when it saw one, and quickly fined Oberlin College $33 million in damages. Oberlin can but has not yet appealed the decision further. It was left to Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost to tweet the ruling represented “The cost of woke.” He was mocked on Twitter, of course.

    As knee-jerk reactions driven by an anti-Trump political agenda were a mark of the Trump Administration years themselves, so will defamation lawsuits, like the one with Oberlin, be a symbol of the post-Trump era. Defamation is a statement that injures a third party’s reputation, either as libel (written statements) or slander (spoken statements). Proving defamation requires showing four things: 1) a false statement purporting to be fact (Gibson Bakery is racist); 2) publication or communication of that statement to a third person (the flyers and protests); 3) fault (e.g., intent) amounting to at least negligence (Oberlin ignored the shoplifters’ guilty pleas and other facts regarding the underlying crime); and 4) damages (Gibson lost business.)

    The Gibson case aside, the most likely source of defamation today is the media, given their reach via “publication.” So why aren’t there more defamation suits? First, the courts in the U.S. traditionally set the bar high to preserve the 1A’s duty to constitutionally-protected opinion. Historically the courts have also granted leeway to anyone, journalist or not, who appears to defame public figures. The idea is that if you put yourself out there, you’re expected to take a few slings and arrows. This is what allows tabloids like the National Enquirer to get away with making up stories about celebrities as their mission statement. But defamation as a business practice was once upon a time what bottom feeders did, not regular practice for the media of record and college deans.

    Things may be changing given the free-for-all media environment which relies on defamation to generate clicks. In addition to the big money Oberlin case, two years ago Covington Kid Nick Sandmann successfully sued CNN for defamation to the alleged tune of $25 million. The media falsely accused Sandmann of racism on the National Mall when he and some fellow high school students were confronted by actual racists. Sandmann’s suit charged CNN journalists “maintained a well-known and easily documented biased agenda against President Donald Trump and established a history of impugning individuals perceived to be supporters of the president.” They asserted CNN and the others would have “known the statements to be untrue had they undertaken any reasonable efforts to verify their accuracy before publication.” In other words, they should have committed journalism, the finding of facts, in lieu of packaging what was actually nothing at all into a steamy piece that fit an existing agenda.

    In another example, John Paul Mac Isaac came to own Biden’s laptop after the president’s son abandoned it in his repair shop, the Mac Shop, in April 2019. The repair shop owner recently filed a defamation suit against the Daily Beast, CNN, and Politico seeking at least one million dollars in compensatory and an unspecified amount in punitive damages. Those media outlets claimed that Isaac was a liar who stole Biden’s laptop.

    The mind set of 2016 seems so long ago. People like AOC and her Squad, Michael Avenatti, and Andrew Cuomo were thought of as likely presidential candidates. Yet justice grinds on. Just check with the people who have to pay for it at Oberlin College.

     

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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 Afghanistan, Biden, Democracy

    Five Unanswered Questions for the January 6 Hearings

    June 18, 2022 // 9 Comments »

    Imagine a BLM member’s trial in which the prosecution simply played videos of acts of violence over and over, even acts not related to the defendant in question. Sound fair, a quest for truth, a process to establish facts? No? Well, welcome to the Third Trump Impeachment, aka the January 6 televised hearings.

    Having watched a lot of PBS back in the day, I kept waiting for hearing chair Bennie Thompson to appear on my screen asking for a donation to “stop the violence” and promising me a Democratic tote bag if I phoned in my pledge of $50 or more. That was the tone from, as they say, gavel to gavel. But there are so many important things being left out in the Dems desire to showcase violence. Here are just five of the hearings’ unanswered issues.

    1) Dems and groupie Liz Cheney constantly use words like coup, insurrection, incitement, sedition, and treason. Most of them are lawyers and are well aware those words have specific legal definitions. They’re real fighting words, not to be thrown around like casual slurs against a man who once was president and has a very good chance of being president again. So let’s add one more: indict. It is easy to be the bully, ganging up unopposed on TV to say nasty words. But they only count if the Department of Justice indicts Trump for one of them and seeks to bring him to trial. That’s why we have a judicial system, to prevent organs of government from simply making accusations against citizens without due process. Indict him or drop it. If there are not grounds to indict, drop it. Democrats, put up or shut up.

    Like the members of the Warren Commission before them, the people claiming the accepted narrative about January 6 is beyond reproach are the same ones blocking any court challenge that might challenge it. Potential game-changers are wish-washed away as conspiracy theories, not to be spoken of. You will not hear the word indictment raised this week in the hearings.

    2) Are we finally going to hear who Ray Epps is and what the role of the FBI was on January 6? It would take a simple series of questions from the committee: Mr. Attorney General, how many undercover people did you have on the ground on January 6? How many of them traveled to D.C. with groups they had elsewhere previously infiltrated? What was their purpose on January 6? What were their rules of engagement—in other words, what were they allowed to say or do? Could they scream, “Yeah, let’s go!” and lead people forward? Could they give statements to the media misrepresenting the aims and mood of the crowd without revealing their identity? Did any of the agents stray from being after-the-fact accessories and instead become provocateurs?

    You would think, at least, that the raw number of undercover officers on the ground on January 6 would be an easy question to answer. Yet when Representative Thomas Massie asked Attorney General Merrick Garland at an earlier hearing in October 2021 if any federal agents or assets entered the Capitol or incited others to riot, Garland refused to answer. Massie played a video of a man on January 5 saying “we have to go into the Capitol,” and asked Garland if that man was a fed. No comment, said Garland. That man was Ray Epps, president of the Arizona Oath Keepers, who is also seen on video organizing the first group to breach the Capitol. That is just one minute after a pipe bomb had been found, as if the acts were themselves a conspiracy. This all appears to have happened even before Trump finished his “incitement” speech.

    Epps refuses to answer journalists’ questions about whether or not he is a federal agent and is still a free man. Why? Under oath and before the January 6 committee, someone should ask FBI Director Wray, Attorney General Garland, and Ray Epps to give a yes or no answer to this question: Did Ray Epps work for or with the federal government? Why won’t they ask that question? You will not hear Epps’ name on the televised hearings this week.

    3) While the Justice Department has called the inquiry into January 6 one of the largest in its history, why has no information come to light on the pipe bomber? Two bombs were planted near the Capitol. Official Washington is one of the most heavily surveilled spots on earth. Why haven’t the Capitol Police allowed the release of more than a few minutes of the 14,000 hours of the pre-riot security-camera footage? Social media only shows the riot in process. The surveillance video would show what happened before. Who planted the pipe bombs?

    4) Why, and on whose order, did Capitol police allow 300 people to simply walk into the building without resistance on the afternoon of January 6? And who was the man in a bicycle helmet whom video shows initiating the window-smashing that ended in the shooting of Ashli Babbitt? Why was he welcomed behind police lines once things got out of hand?

    5) We’ve heard over and over people died on January 6, and indeed they did. At what point will Ashli Babbit’s killer, who was never punished and never faced a trial (simply an inquiry; because Congress exempts the Capitol Police from the Freedom of Information Act, the family is forced to sue “for notes and summaries of what the officer said regarding the shooting and the reasons he discharged his weapon.”) testify? When will the Committee start showing the video of her being shot by Capitol Police? Babbitt, wearing a Trump flag like a cape, was one of the rioters who smashed the glass on the door leading to the Speaker’s Lobby of the Capitol. A plain clothes Capitol Police officer, without warning, fired a shot and Babbitt fell into the crowd and died. It was the only shot fired in the riot. A SWAT team just behind Babbitt saw the situation differently and never fired on her or those with her. Babbitt was unarmed and was not resisting arrest because the cop never got that far. He just shot her.

    Though these issues will be missing from the hearings, what is missing most of all from the Great January 6 Democratic Telethon is a statement the system worked. The Constitution held. Officials from Vice President Pence on down did their jobs and stood up for the democratic system. Trump was never going to retain office. The whole thing is flim-flam, the truth another victim to Democratic desperateness to frame Trump for something, anything, ahead of 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 Afghanistan, Biden, Democracy

    Viewpoint Discrimination May Bring 1A to Social Media

    June 17, 2022 // 2 Comments »

    Later this year it is possible — not likely, but just possible — the Supreme Court might vote to take away social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook’s right to censor content. This would have the effect of granting some level of First Amendment protection, now unavailable, to conservative users of those platforms.

    The potential for change hinges on a law struck down by lower courts, Netchoice v. Paxton, which challenges Texas law HB 20. That law addresses social media companies with more than 50 million active users in the U.S., like Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. It prohibits these companies from engaging in content moderation by declaring that they may not censor posts on the basis of viewpoint. If a platform does remove any content, it must notify the user and let them appeal the decision. These users can sue the company for imposing “viewpoint discrimination.” HB 20 also bars platforms from placing warning labels on users’ posts to inform viewers that they contain objectionable content. It imposes disclosure requirements, including a biannual transparency report.

    The law was shut down by lower courts, reinstated, then handed off to the Supreme Court as a shadow docket case (an informal term for the use of summary decisions by the Supreme Court without full oral argument) to decide. The Court refused to reinstate the law at this time, but with significant dissent. The case will likely be heard in full by the Court in the fall. The conservatives will get another try.

    Twitter, et al, acting collectively through trade associations, chose an interesting defense, claiming not simply that the 1A applies only to government censors (the standard defense to prevent 1A rights from applying to social media) but claiming their content moderation constitutes First Amendment–protected speech in and of itself. In other words, censoring stuff that passes through their platforms constitutes a 1A protected act by Twitter, and thus HB 20 violates Twitter’s 1A rights. The platforms argued laws like HB 20 constitute the government blocking Twitter’s free speech right to prevent its users from exercising their free speech rights, as censorship is an act of free speech.

    Twitter and its allies went on to argue to the Supreme Court “Social media platforms are internet websites that exercise editorial discretion over what content they disseminate and how such content is displayed to users.” That seems to rub right against Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act which protected social media platforms from the 1A by claiming they aren’t really “publishers” after all, just something akin to a conduit through which stuff (your tweets) flows.

    As such, the Communications Decency Act argues, they are closer to common carriers, like the phone company, who could care less what you talk about in your call to Aunt Josie. But with the common carrier argument coming closer and closer to implying social media has no right to censor (in other words, they can’t have it both ways. They can’t not be responsible for defamatory material on their sites and they can’t claim immunity from the First Amendment stopping them more censoring certain viewpoints. Imagine the phone company saying they are not responsible for you calling Aunt Josie a hag but they also want to censor your conversation for using the “hate speech” term “hag.” In other other words, Twitter is either a publisher and like the New York Times and can exercise editorial discretion/censor but is responsible for what it publishes or it is not and like the phone company it cannot censor but it is not responsible for its own content.

    In his dissent to the Court’s decision to stay HB 20, Justice Alito (joined by Justices Thomas and Gorsuch; Justice Kagan also dissented but did not join Alito’s opinion or write her own), notes the indecision by Twitter, et al, on whether they are publishers, but says their desire to censor (i.e., to have 1A rights of their own) means they must be publishers. But if they want to insist they are not publishers, they are common carriers and do not have a right to censor. Pick one.

    Alito is well aware of the recent history of social media censorship, which has egregiously sought to block and cancel nearly-exclusively right-of-center persons. Facebook and others like it have become the censors the Founding Fathers especially feared, as one political party benefits disproportionately. Donald Trump was driven off social media as a sitting president. What should have been one of the biggest stories of the 2020 election, the Hunter Biden laptop tale, was disappeared to favor Democratic candidate Joe Biden. Social commentators like Alex Jones and Scott Horton were banned. Marjorie Taylor Greene was suspended. Of all the Members of the House banned from social media, every single one is a Republican. Size matters; banning the head of the Republican party, Donald Trump, and banning a local Democratic councilman in Iowa are not 1:1. What is being censored is not content per se (a photo, a news story) but whole points of view, in this case conservative thought itself.

    Viewpoint discrimination is particularly disfavored by the courts. When a censor engages in content discrimination, he is restricting speech on a given subject matter. When he engages in viewpoint discrimination, he is singling out a particular opinion or perspective on that subject matter for treatment unlike that given to other viewpoints. For example, if the government banned all speech on abortion, it would be a content-based regulation. But if the the government banned only speech that criticized abortion, it would be a viewpoint-based. Because the government is essentially taking sides in a debate when it engages in viewpoint discrimination and shutting down the marketplace of ideas which is the whole dang point of free speech, the Supreme Court has held viewpoint-based restrictions to be especially offensive to the First Amendment. Such restrictions are treated as presumptively unconstitutional.

    So when HB 20 comes before the Court as a full case with oral arguments in the fall, the lines are drawn. Twitter, must et al, appear ready to admit they are “publishers” (and likely shed the protections of Section 230) to retain a publisher’s right under the First Amendment to decide what to publish (and conversely what to censor.) Alito seems to be suggesting if that is the argument, then yes, let the First Amendment apply but it must apply to Twitter, et al, in its entirety. Social media cannot claim a constitutional right to censor as a publisher and then abuse that right by engaging in viewpoint discrimination. Social media may have boxed themselves into a corner where they are constitutionally required to present both sides of an issue to preserve their right to censor one side more than the other.

    So what are you, Twitter? You can no longer operate behind the illusion of democracy. Careful what you choose… are you a dumb pipe down which information flows and therefore cannot censor? Or are you a publisher with 1A rights which you use to stomp out one particular viewpoint?

    If the latter, Texas HB 20 may be the needed relief to protect the modern town square and the Supreme Court may approve its constitutionality this autumn.

     

     

     

     

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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 Afghanistan, Biden, Democracy

    What Will It Take to Come Home to the Democratic Party?

    // 1 Comment »

    Raised in 1970s Ohio meant I was raised Democrat. In my area of industrial northern Ohio, Republicans were old people, or those younger, good natured guys from the Jaycees who always joked about “next year” at the get-out-the-vote rallies. It’s true. I used to write for The Nation, even a couple of articles for The New York Times. I didn’t change much, but my party did and one day a few years ago I woke up being yelled at by women in pink hats clamoring I was a racist if not an outright Nazi for supporting free expression they ignorantly called “hate speech.”

    I didn’t leave the Democratic party as much as I was abandoned. With the midterm crushing of the party coming as sure as the good guy wins in professional wrestling (big in Ohio) I can’t say I’m ready to go home. But if the Dems want to lure people like me back, here are some things they’ll need to do.

    Abortion. I am a practical person, and one in favor of people making decisions not government, and support some level of access to abortion. It is obvious in cases of the horrors of rape and incest. What beast wants a woman already victimized to be forced to give birth to her attacker’s child — hey, look, he has his father’s glowing red eyes! I understand religious objections, but remember the 1A protects all religion, even that which isn’t really religion. I understand Roe as an imperfect mess of judicial creative writing, but representing a distasteful flavor of compromise I could live alongside. But Dems, third trimester abortions? And because I support limited abortion rights you say I also have to buy into a whole full-meal deal of unrelated-to-everyone-but-you LGBETC rights and trans stuff? Didn’t you get the memo that trying to bundle all these things with the Equal Rights Amendment and with various abortion measures cost you support, not earned it? Stick with the basics post-Roe.

    Jettisoning the Blue-Anon rhetoric is a natural follow-on. I barely made it through four years under Trump hearing daily the sky was falling, the walls were closing in, and that damn clock would not stop tick-tocking. Every tweet by Trump was not the end of democracy, fall of the Republic, wrap party for the rule of law, etc. When the Supreme Court moves against your wishes, I don’t need to wake up to a headline like “The Supreme Court is a Tool of Tyrants” or worse, “Time for Canada to Offer Gender Asylum to American Women.” Same for when the Electoral College or the Senate does not bounce your way. These institutions were crafted by the Founders to achieve a balance of power, and they do it fairly well. Accept that “balance” means occasionally things will go the other way. The same court that rewrote society implementing Roe can do it again taking down Roe without you losing our mind.

    I just can’t support a party where people like Elizabeth Warren go on national TV and act like they just mainlined a warm syringe full of Tourette’s every time something goes wrong. So no more Op-Eds demanding a packed Court, or a change to equal representation in the Senate, or the end of the EC, or more weight on the popular vote, or any of all that. Instead shut down MSDNC and its hemophilia of fake news. I’m tired of the media taping a transcript the chosen candidate’s debate performance on the national refrigerator door.

    The Founders, speaking of them, still matter as examples of the more perfect Americans despite their flaws. As a group they were only in the 20s, kids, who for the first time in history created a nation based on a synthesis of ideas; they wrote the code running underneath the United States matrix. They risked “Our Lives, Our Fortunes And Our Sacred Honor” to do that, a dandy example for pols today not willing to stand up and offer an opinion without polling advice. Yes, yes, most of them participated in the ugly slave trade of their day. They weren’t perfect but they are deserving of those school names. Find something more important to fritter away political capital on. What we see in modern wokeness is the difference between a small mind and a great mind, between people who ignore their own flaws to pick at others’ out of time and out of context. Men like Jefferson were prime movers, the thing that lead to the next thing. That is worthy of a statue.

    The party should be a Big Tent, but that does not mean we all have to give up our seats for the meme-o-the-day. The Democratic party’s pandering to one racial group (black lives do not matter any more than any other lives, such as my own) or gay folks until they got boring and the party switched to the All Trans Network. Don’t leave more people out, leave more in. Stop elevating shallow clowns like AOC and her Squad. They are hypocrites, demanding we not judge by color or gender while demanding white men to the back of the bus. Look back to the 1950s and 60s Civil Rights movements, which stressed the inclusivity of human rights, not special treatment for every high school kid wanting to annoy his parents by wearing dresses junior year.

    Many of us currently outside the tent care as much about the First Amendment as any of the above issues. The 1a — speech in all its forms — is the fundamental right, the one that supports and drives forward all the others. That beautiful haiku of the 1A embraces everything from Jefferson’s eloquence to rotten pornography. It certainly protects what you call hate speech, something that if it started with good intentions has gone on to suck dirt in hell and mean anything that offends anyone anytime. The Supreme Court has found over and again nasty stuff is protected by the 1A, rightfully so, as in the past simply using words like “gay” has been prohibited. Let them sing, the rude and radical, and get back to fighting bad speech with better speech. And leave Elon alone. Twitter before him sold censorship, the promise your pretty little flower people would never encounter challenging ideas in that social media stream, an anathema to a democracy that must thrive on the marketplace of ideas. Right now social media isn’t a barometer, it’s a mirror.

    No more wars, okay? Nobody, after two decades of failures and lies and body bags in the Middle East, voted for Joe Biden to restart the Cold War. The United States, I thought, had learned some sort of lesson in the pathetic finale in Kabul, until Old Joe reminded us it was 1980 again by his watch. How in the hell did I end up worrying about nuclear war again? Trump (say what you will, I’ll wait) did not restart the Cold War. He did not go to war as you said he would with China, Venezuela, or Iran. He even tried to make peace with North Korea. I want more of that, not this.

    And please, Dems, if you want some of us back, really retire Hillary. She represents little beyond corruption, from the sleazy Arab “contributions” to the Clinton Foundation (which dried up alongside her political chances, funny thing) to a near-endless appetite that lead her to make terrible decisions on things as mundane as running her own email server to avoid FOIA requests. In 2016 we asked for change and we instead watched the party drive Bernie out to the marshes (leave the gun, take the lox.) In 2020 we asked for change and we got the sad skeleton of Joe Biden. So no more rigged primaries. No more Hillary and her “debates” with Martin O’Malley playing the role of the Washington Generals. Learn the lesson before 2024. Take a second look at some of the bright minds on your back bench to see if they might be part of the party’s future if you would like people like me to be part of the party’s future. Otherwise we’re going to vote Trump, or sit it out.

    That’s a lot of ask. And spare us “but the other party does…” because that line of argument sounds like “did to, did not” and that failed even fourth grade logic. People understand nobody is perfect, as is no party. Give it all some thought as you’re licking your wounds over the loss of Roe, and the very likely thumping of the midterms. You still have two years to find a real candidate and avoid the easy outs of clones like Harris, Beto or Buttigieg. It’s a hint when someone does not have what it takes when they’re available to run for the White House because they lost locally and were given a patronage job for four years.

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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 Afghanistan, Biden, Democracy

    Canceled by Medium

    June 7, 2022 // 5 Comments »

    I’ve been canceled by the web site Medium. I’ve been posting reprints of my articles there after they had been printed elsewhere as a kind of repository, a handy one-stop place for my work.

    Well it turns out Medium does not support free speech. They write “Due to elevated risk of potential harm to persons or public health, Medium’s Trust & Safety team has removed the following content under its rules https://wemeantwell.medium.com/covid-lies-claimed-lives-d7c442c5008d” The article was about zero excess Covid deaths in Sweden.

    Medium also did not like something I wrote about Black Lives Matter. They said “We do not allow content that constitutes or promotes violence, harassment, or hatred against people based on characteristics like race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, caste, disability, disease, age, sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity” and dumped https://medium.com/p/what-lives-matter-on-george-floyd-day-239c68712fff

    Please take a moment to read the articles (if you still can) and let Medium, and me, know what you think of them in the comments. I doubt that will change any woke-sick minds over there, but it is always good to get these things on the record.

    Until free speech is acknowledged by Medium, I will not be posting there. Follow me at www.wemeantwell.com instead.

     

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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 Afghanistan, Biden, Democracy

    The Specific “Why” Behind Russiagate

    June 4, 2022 // 5 Comments »

    Show of hands? How many still believe Trump and Russia colluded? That Trump is somehow beholden to Russia? That Hillary Clinton had nothing to do with “Russiagate?” Anyone? In the back, Bueller? And we’ll get to the large group chanting “it doesn’t matter” and “but Trump did, too…” in a moment, so stick around.

    Hillary Clinton lied about Russiagate. The latest information shows Hillary paid experts to create two data sets, one purportedly showing Russian cellphones accessing Trump WiFi networks, and another allegedly showing a Trump computer pinging an Alfa Bank server in Russia. The latter was supposedly how Trump communicated incognito with his handlers in Moscow Center. We’ve seen the lipstick on the collar before but how do we know for certain this time?

    Because former Clinton campaign lawyer Marc Elias on May 18, 2022 during the trial of his former partner, Michael Sussman, swore to it under oath. Special Counsel John Durham brought Sussman to trial for allegedly lying to the FBI, perjury, claiming he was not working for a client when he was actually surreptiously representing the Clinton campaign. Elias admitted he briefed Clinton campaign officials about the fake information, including Hillary herself, Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, spokesperson Jennifer Palmieri, and policy director Jake Sullivan, now Joe Biden’s national security adviser. Elias also personally briefed campaign manager Robby Mook.

    In a bombshell during the Sussman trial, Mook testified Hillary Clinton signed off on the plan to push out the information about the link between Trump and Alfa Bank despite concerns the connection was dubious at best. Mook’s testimony is the first confirmation Clinton was directly involved in the decision to feed the Trump-Alfa story to journalists. It explains some of her later actions.

     

    Here’s the timeline which reveals the specific “why” behind Russiagate:

    — On July 5, 2016, FBI Director James Comey issues a statement clearing Hillary Clinton of any wrong doing in connection with her private email server. This removes what was thought to be her last major hurdle to nomination.

    — Wikileaks releases information taken from the DNC servers which showed, inter alia, the Clinton campaign’s efforts to disparage Bernie Sanders. The leaks break during the Democratic Convention (July 25-28) and threaten to split the party, with the Sanders wing considering walking away from Hillary. This development means crisis time for the Democrats.

    — Clinton’s sign off to begin the Russiagate dirty tricks campaign (as Mook testified to, Smoking Gun One) had to have been in late-July (likely concurrent with the Wikileaks disclosure and the Democratic National Convention 2016, which would have created a sense of panic inside the campaign) because on or about July 28, 2016 CIA Director John Brennan briefed President Obama on Hillary Clinton’s plan to tie Candidate Trump to Russia as a means of distracting the public from her use of a private email server. A highly-redacted document states “We’re getting additional insight into Russian activities from [REDACTED]. Cite alleged approved by Hillary Clinton on July 26 a proposal from one of her foreign policy advisers to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by the Russian security service.”

    — The FBI then opened its omnibus investigation into all things Trump-Russia, Crossfire Hurricane, on July 31, 2016, a Sunday, coincidentally only four days after Clinton initially approved the dirty tricks campaign and as the DNC ended with Clinton’s nomination. Crossfire was ostensibly opened based on information on Trump campaign member George Papadopoulos relayed by an Australian diplomat. Many believe the timing of the investigation suggests it was based on disclosures to the FBI of the Steele Dossier from inside the Clinton campaign, not diplo gossip about Papadopoulos. Many believe a cut out like Sussman, or Steele himself, ran the dossier data to the FBI the same way Sussman ran the Alfa Bank data to the FBI.

    — Brennan may have been personally tipped off by Jake Sullivan, now Joe Biden’s national security advisor and then the most likely “foreign policy adviser” inside the Clinton Campaign running the Russiagate caper, as Brennan as CIA Director briefed Obama on Clinton’s July 26 sign-off (Smoking Gun Two) on the dirty tricks campaign while his own agency would not come to the same conclusions until September 2016, when it forwarded to the FBI an investigative referral about Hillary Clinton approving “a plan concerning U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump and Russian hackers hampering U.S. elections in order to distract the public from her email scandal.” If not a tip off, then how did Brennan, always a public Hillary supporter, know before his agency did?

    — Aiming for an October Surprise (i.e., a major, game-changing political event breaking in late October, early enough to influence the election but too late for the opposition to effectively rebut), Sussman then meets with the FBI to lay out the Alfa-Bank and smartphone story on September 18, 2016.

    — The FBI (via fraud) on October 21 obtains the first FISA warrant against a Trump team member.

    — Following a press release by Jake Sullivan, Hillary tweeted on October 31, 2016 Trump had a secret server and it was communicating with Russia (Smoking Gun Three.) She knew her campaign paid to create that information and push it into the public eye via Sussman (to the FBI) and a woman named Laura Seago.

    Seago was an analyst at Fusion GPS, the people who commissioned the infamous Steele dossier on behalf of Clinton. Seago testified at the Sussman trial she, Fusion co-founder Peter Fritsch and another Fusion staffer went to journalist Franklin Foer’s house to pitch the story, telling him it had been vetted by “highly credible computer scientists” who “seemed to think these allegations were credible.” Foer ran the story on October 31, 2016 strongly suggesting the server connecting Trump with Alfa Bank was used as a clandestine communications tool, a smoking gun in the world of espionage. The story stated “the knee was hit in Moscow, the leg kicked in New York.”

    Need it even clearer? Comey cleared Clinton of legal trouble over her emails. The last barrier to nomination was breached. Then Wikileaks disclosures threatened to derail the convention. A distraction was needed. Mid-convention Hillary signed off on the Russiagate dirty tricks campaign per Mook and Brennan and then just days later the FBI opened Crossfire Hurricane based on either flimsy foreign gossip and/or the Clinton paid-for Steele Dossier.

     

    “The trial is the vehicle that Durham is using to help bring out the truth, to tell a story of a political campaign that in two instances pursued information that was totally fabricated or at least misinterpreted with the Alfa Bank connection to Trump and use that disinformation to mislead the American voter,” Kevin Brock, the FBI’s former assistant director for intelligence, said. The Sussman trial shows if nothing else Hillary Clinton herself was personally the start and the end of Russiagate’s false story. As dirty tricks go, this was a helluva tale she sold to a gullible public and ready media.

    But so what? Politicians approve dirt being spread on their opponents all the time. But not outright, fabricated lies, which is fraud/defamation, that’s the short answer. And Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security advisor, played a still-hidden role in all of it. And what kind of president would Hillary have made if she was willing to lie like this to get elected? She is all appetite, still active in her party, still a dangerous animal. The spiteful Clinton still maintains Trump has ties to Russia and through surrogates like Brennan kept Russigate alive to defang the Trump administration even after she lost, the real insurrection.

    Twitter has still not removed the Clinton/Sullivan Russiagate tweets from 2016 as “disinformation.” That silence allows the lie a second life, important because of course Trump is running again for president and polls show almost half of Americans still think he colluded with Russia.

    It is easy enough to still say “so what?” at this point. Most people who did not support her concluded long ago 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, right?

    Wrong. What matters in the end is less the details of Hillary’s lie than that as someone close to being elected as her 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. This week’s revelations and the way they fill in “motive” in the timeline are bombshells if you blow the smoke away.

    No doubt in many minds Clinton and the intel community’s manipulations are being measured alongside whatever transgressions are attributable to Trump himself. Those who think that way may have missed the day in kindergarten when everyone else was taught how two wrongs don’t make a right, and in high school where good and bad were shown not to be a zero sum game. Trump did not win to absolve Hillary of her sins. And those who worry about the 2024 election being stolen over simple vote miscounts are thinking way too small.

     

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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 Afghanistan, Biden, Democracy

    School Shootings: It’s Not the Guns, It’s Kids Killing Kids

    June 3, 2022 // 4 Comments »

    Americans ages 18 to 20 account for only four percent of the population but 17 percent of murders. School shootings and their equivalent at Walmarts get the most attention. The problem is not just the guns. It is the young men who wield them. That means any possible solution rests with the shooter, not the firearm.

    There’s a pattern inside those sordid statistics, with some 70% of school shootings since 1999 have been carried out by people under 18. The median age of school shooters is 16. It’s kids shooting kids, whether because they are left out, bullied, teased, or angry at some slight or teacher’s offense, it is kids killing kids. Since these killings tend to be “local,” typically shooter and the dead share a racial and/or social-economic background, leaving “white supremacy” as a cause in the dustbin alongside the 1990s blaming “heavy metal” and Satanism. There have been at least 554 school shooting victims, with at least 311,000 children exposed to gun violence at school in the U.S. since the Y-in-the-road game changing Columbine High School massacre, spread across 331 schools. The frequency of shootings has increased, with a surge of 34 incidents in 2021, the highest in any year since 1999.

    Since it’s not the guns per se but young men who are to blame, more traditional gun control is unlikely to make much of a difference. Already under the Federal Gun Control Act (GCA), shotguns and rifles, and ammunition for shotguns or rifles may be sold only to individuals 18 years of age or older. All other firearms can be sold only to individuals 21 years of age or older. Licensed sellers are bound by the minimum age requirements established by the GCA regardless of state or local law. However, if state law or local ordinances establish a higher minimum age, the licensee must observe the higher age requirement.

    Background checks vary in quality from state to state but generally seek to prohibit sales for reasons such as a history of domestic abuse or violent felony convictions, crimes unlikely to snare the shooters just out of high school. No background check is going to catch someone seething with rage over race or his grandmother. Checks also are at the time of purchase and gun ownership can be forever. There is the private transfer loophole that bypasses most background checks, but no evidence that young mass killers seek out this method of gun purchase.
    There is also the Columbine divide that somehow factors in to kids killing kids. Pre-Columbine America saw school shootings number only approximately 300 instances in 150 years. Post-Columbine shootings number 331 in only 23 years. Something big is very wrong in America and our kids are not alright. Add in drug use and overdose deaths, and teen suicides (many involving guns; suicide is the third greatest cause of teen death, with homicide in the number two position), and you have more than a crisis, you have a nightmare.
    Though the Columbine killers had few friends, it is doubtful no one (including parents and siblings) had no idea about the thoughts running through their heads. Later this would all be blamed on the then-new shooting games like DOOM (a “murder” simulator) and heavy metal music. But it seems much less a surface problem and more something deeper and thus ironically more visible. In other words, in Columbine and likely in many of the other 331 modern-era school shooting, somebody should have seen it coming.
    Therein lies several potential solutions. Lessening gun access in specific, targeted ways may help, such as raising the Federal age for long guns to age 21 or older. Provide tougher penalties for anyone who illegally sells guns to those under age, and for adults/parents who do not secure their guns. Such measures are statistically supported, do not affect most current gun owners, and simply require the sacrifice by legitimate young hunters of safely using dad’s old rifle another year.
    But real change will require enhanced red flag laws, laws which enlist parents, gun sales people, teachers, and peers in spotting students who should not have ready access to firearms. A red flag law allows people to petition a state court for the temporary removal of firearms from a person who may present a danger themselves or others. A judge makes the final determination. Such laws exist in 19 states and D.C. at present (14 states of those states adopted red flag gun laws after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida) with considerable variation. One of the most significant variations is who may petition a court to take someone’s guns away. Every state currently allows law enforcement to do so, but California is the only one which includes family members. None of the laws in place allow teachers, clergy, doctors, coworkers, or school peers, people who may well know a young man’s intent best, to petition. A Federal law which standardizes such criteria is badly needed.
    Opposition to red flag laws tends to fall on standard grounds, specifically that not all states allow the gun holder full due process at his hearing (easily remedied by a Federal law that does) and the generic concern about the government having the ability to take a gun anyway from anyone. Yet gun confiscation via a hearing, though likely needing a Supreme Court decision of its own for clarity, appears to be an example of presumptively lawful regulatory measures (such as regulating concealed weapons, prohibiting possession of firearms by felons, etc.) already permissible under Heller v. District of Columbia. Basic red flag laws are judicially sound, and have, for example, been used in Florida nearly 6,000 times since 2018 and survived a state Supreme Court challenge there. And Florida has had no school shootings since the law went into effect. New York’s current red flag law, had it been properly implemented, could have stopped the grocery store shooter.
    School shootings almost always involve a delineable type of shooter: 16-18, male, loner. Red flag laws are designed to take guns away from people before they commit crimes, and have been legally tested. As a potential national-level solution they do not restrict gun ownership among most adults, and barely open the Pandora’s Box of the Second Amendment. They are as apolitical as anything to do with guns in America can be (and are supported by 72 percent of Americans. Donald Trump has backed red flag laws.) In the search for answers following the latest school shooting, a Federal red flag law is worth a… shot.

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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 Afghanistan, Biden, Democracy

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

    Posted in Afghanistan, Biden, Democracy

    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 Afghanistan, Biden, Democracy

    Do Black Lives Really Matter… to Blacks?

    May 27, 2022 // 3 Comments »

    Do black lives really matter… to blacks? May 25 marked the second anniversary of George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer in 2020, sparking a wave of protests first under a banner of “All Lives Matter,” quickly changed to the “less” racist anthemic “Black Lives Matter.” The narrative of young black men being killed across the nation by white cops was strong, and inspired a Covid-summer’s full of protests and promises of change.

    Happy anniversary, and a fast forward to 2022, when New York City Mayor Eric Adams finally said the quiet part out loud. Adams slammed Black Lives Matter and anti-police activists after a recent spring night of bloodshed across the city that left more than a dozen people shot. “Where are all those who stated ‘Black lives matter’?” Adams said. “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.”

    Well, well, there’s a change from the rhetoric which in 2020 New York lead to defunding the police, disbanding special gun control units (now being reinstated by Mayor Adams) reducing or eliminating bail for most common crimes, and, a few years earlier, bringing to an end “stop and frisk” broken window policing tactics. Once upon a time, taken together, whether by blind luck, racist intent, or practical policing, all of those things lowered the crime rate in New York. Then, baby, meet bathwater.

    The spate of killings this spring (coming just days after a mentally ill black man injured over 10 people in the subway by firing 33 shots and setting off smoke bombs) match the spate that set records last April; spring brings out the shooters it seems. New York City saw its bloodiest week since around the first anniversary of Floyd’s death, with 46 separate shooting incidents, a 300 percent surge from the same week in 2020. These shootings were part of a 205 percent overall increase in shootings in NYC in 2020, the bloodiest toll since 1996.

    Who is dying? Some 65 percent of homicide victims are black, though they make up less than a quarter of the city’s population. In the unsuccessful homicides, e.g., just “shootings,” black Americans are over 70 percent of the victims. The dead include more and more young people. This is because gang-related activity drives much of the shooting in the city. Over 90 percent of black homicide victims were killed by another black person, not by the white supremacists or those cops the media warns us about. In 2020, 290 black people were murdered and over 1,000 were shot, almost all by other black people. By comparison, only five of the 20 years of the Afghan war killed more Americans of all races. In further comparison, in 2020 only five of all the people killed by New York City police were black.

    You have to wonder which pile of bodies is really the distraction from systemic racism and which is really the more serious problem.

    Though the subway gets the most attention given its everyone-is-equal reach, a disproportionate number of the killings and shootings take place inside the vast public housing world of New York City, the 2,602 buildings controlled by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA; “the projects”) Because there are so many people living “off-lease,” no one knows the actual NYCHA population, but it is believed to be over 600,000. If NYCHA were its own city, it would have about the same population as Boston. While much of the public housing is in “bad” parts of town, not all of it is. The housing was built largely on city-owned and available land, and was championed by liberals in the 1950s and 60s. Some of NYCHA’s worst residences sit across the street from million-dollar condos on the Upper East Side.

    New York, and NYCHA, are simultaneously among the most diverse places in America and the most segregated. About 27 percent of the city’s households in poverty are white, but less than five percent of NYCHA households are white. In contrast, about a fourth of the city’s households in poverty are black but black households occupy 45 percent of NYCHA units. But even that does not tell the real tale. NYCHA is segregated building-by-building. Rutland Towers in East Flatbush is 94.9 percent black. Though Asians make up less than five percent of the overall NYCHA population, the La Guardia Addition at Two Bridges is 70 percent Asian.

    NYCHA is also very dangerous. The NYPD counted 59 homicides on NYCHA property in 2020, up 41 percent from 2019. The murder rate is far worse in the projects than elsewhere. As of late 2020, the projects saw 15.5 homicides per 100,000 people, compared to only four per 100,000 elsewhere in the city. Police counted 257 shooting incidents in NYCHA projects in 2020, a 92 percent increase over 2019. Some 67 shootings were reported per 100,000 NYCHA residents, compared to 12 per 100,000 in the rest of the city. A lot of numbers that all add up one way.

    The vast majority of these shootings are gang related, the gangs involved in some of the worst locations are black, and the beef is over control of turf to sell drugs inside the city’s vast gulag archipelago of public housing. The previous mayor’s office both acknowledged and sidestepped this uncomfortable truth by blaming the shootings on “interpersonal beefs.” Worried about the Thin Blue Line, when cops won’t testify against other cops? Try finding a witness inside the projects for a black-on-black gang killing. This is what a systemic problem actually looks like.

    So according to the MSM, what is New York’s problem? Guns, not people. Seems fair; Americans bought more guns in 2020-21 than they did in previous years. But when you take the next step, not to see who bought guns but who fired them in New York at other human beings, the answer is as clear as it is uncomfortable. The roughly 75 percent of the City who are not black are also not shooters. The sad thing is that black lives, like white one and yellow ones and brown ones, do matter, just not in the same way. What, on the second anniversary of his death, would George Floyd say when asked if a black life seems worth more as a political token than a living human.

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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 Afghanistan, Biden, Democracy

    Racist Titanic

    May 24, 2022 // 3 Comments »


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

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

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

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

    “No, Hispanics first,” yelled someone Hispanic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “You speak Spanish?” said the Captain.

    Si, por supuesto. Of course.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    (Sound of colorless water flooding in.)

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

    Posted in Afghanistan, Biden, Democracy

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

    May 22, 2022 // 3 Comments »

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Posted in Afghanistan, Biden, Democracy

    What I Missed on Twitter

    May 17, 2022 // 5 Comments »

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Posted in Afghanistan, Biden, Democracy

    Trump (and Georgia) On My Mind

    May 14, 2022 // 2 Comments »

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Posted in Afghanistan, Biden, Democracy

    Who is to Blame if Roe is Overturned?

    May 13, 2022 // 2 Comments »

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

     

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

    Posted in Afghanistan, Biden, Democracy

    Diplomatic Diversity Fails (Again and Again) at State Department

    May 8, 2022 // 5 Comments »

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Posted in Afghanistan, Biden, Democracy

    Dear Elon Musk:

    May 7, 2022 // Comments Off on Dear Elon Musk:

    Dear Elon:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Love, Peter

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

    Posted in Afghanistan, Biden, Democracy

    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 Afghanistan, Biden, Democracy

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

    April 23, 2022 // 5 Comments »

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

    Posted in Afghanistan, Biden, Democracy

    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 Afghanistan, Biden, Democracy

    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 Afghanistan, Biden, Democracy

    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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    Posted in Afghanistan, Biden, Democracy