Monday Reads: Sunshine on a Cloudy DayPosted: January 16, 2023 Filed under: just because | Tags: Biden, classified documents, George Santos, Santos and kidnapped asylum seekers, Trump, Trump and MBS, Trump and stolen classified Documents 12 Comments
Good Day, Sky Dancers!
There are some interesting articles and analyses today so let’s get started!
Jessica Levinson at MSNBC has this to say about the classified documents and the media’s false equivalencies between the last two presidents. ” Investigations into classified docs should leave Trump more worried than Biden. Don’t focus on the headlines in the investigations into classified documents held by Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Focus on the details.”
There’s a line in an old song that goes, “Lawyers dwell on small details.” It’s true. The law is all about details. From one perspective, two cases may appear similar, but depending on the details, they can be very different.”
Classified documents were found at the offices and homes of former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden from the time he was vice president. In November Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Jack Smith as special counsel to lead the investigation into the presence of classified documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence. Thursday, after reports that classified documents from his vice presidency had been found at Biden’s home and office, Garland appointed Robert Hur as special counsel to investigate that matter.
So far, the stories look similar. Neither Biden nor Trump should have been in possession of classified documents after they left office. These are the people’s documents, not theirs.
But because the law concerns itself with details, not headlines, the similarities mostly stop there.
As a former president, Trump might be indicted, but perhaps the most important reason Biden is unlikely to face indictment or criminal prosecution is he’s currently president. As we know all too well from the four years of the Trump administration, the Justice Department has a policy against indicting sitting presidents. An opinion issued by the Office of Legal Counsel, a division of the Justice Department, provides that charging the president with a crime would “unconstitutionally undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions.”
The GOP now controls the House of Representatives, and we know members of that party have been raring to go to investigate and possibly impeach Biden. But impeaching Biden for possessing classified documents would be improper for two reasons. First, there is a good argument to be made that people can only be impeached for misconduct committed while in office. Biden’s retention of classified documents occurred after he left the vice presidency and before he assumed the presidency. Second, impeachment is only available when the subject of the impeachment has engaged in “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
After a Trump attorney’s false assertion to the Justice Department that all the requested documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence had been returned, the Justice Department was ultimately forced to obtain and execute a search warrant.
For reasons discussed below, Biden’s conduct is unlikely to be characterized as criminal, even if he weren’t the sitting president. There is also plenty of reason to believe that Trump will or at least ought to be. Consider what each did after being alerted that he might be in possession of classified documents.
Trump reportedly ignored multiple requests from the National Archives for those documents, and after a Trump attorney’s false assertion to the Justice Department that all the requested documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence had been returned, the Justice Department was ultimately forced to obtain and execute a search warrant. Prosecutors have also argued that Trump’s team tried to hide the documents found at Mar-a-Lago before and after the subpoena was issued.
Reportedly, in Biden’s case, the White House counsel alerted the National Archives as soon as classified documents were found at Biden’s former office in November. The National Archives didn’t ask; Biden’s team offered.
Then that team searched for any additional documents that belonged to the government. It found additional files at Biden’s residence in December and more last week, before the White House announced Saturday that additional documents had been found Thursday. The Biden story is one of cooperation, not obstruction.
The contrast was muddied this weekend in the Sunday Shows. There’s an outline of what various Congressional Representatives said at Politico written by Eugene Daniels. “POLITICO Playbook: Three storylines to watch in Biden’s document drama.” Evidently, some Republicans still believe that someone that obviously obstructed the return of stolen documents deserves the same treatment as one that immediately notified the Archives of their existence and fully cooperated.
GOP investigations are inevitable, and they will be ferocious. Rep. JAMES COMER (R-Ky.), the newly minted chair of the House Oversight Committee, released a statement yesterday hammering Biden and promising an investigation.
“Many questions need to be answered but one thing is certain: oversight is coming,” Comer said. “The Biden White House’s secrecy in this matter is alarming. Equally alarming is the fact that Biden aides were combing through documents knowing there would be a Special Counsel appointed.”
Comer is now requesting additional documents and communications “related to the searches of President Joe Biden’s homes and other locations by Biden aides for classified documents, as well as the visitor log of the president’s Wilmington, Delaware, home from January 20, 2021 to present,” per CNN’s Daniella Diaz.
The exchange of the morning came as Comer appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” with Jake Tapper, which offered a preview of how Republicans will approach the issue, especially vis-a-vis Trump.
Tapper: “Do you only care about classified documents being mishandled when Democrats do the mishandling?”
Comer: “Absolutely not. … At the end of the day, my biggest concern isn’t the classified documents, to be honest with you. My concern is there’s such a discrepancy between how President Trump was treated … versus Joe Biden.” Watch the video
The Washington Post has an exclusive today. “New details link George Santos to cousin of sanctioned Russian oligarch. The New York congressman once claimed Andrew Intrater’s company was his “client,” while another Intrater company allegedly made a deposit with a firm where Santos worked. Isaac Stanley-Becker and Rosalind S. Helderman share the byline.
George Santos, the freshman Republican congressman from New York who lied about his biography, has deeper ties than previously known to a businessman who cultivated close links with a onetime Trump confidant and who is the cousin of a sanctioned Russian oligarch, according to video footage and court documents.
Andrew Intrater and his wife each gave the maximum $5,800 to Santos’ main campaign committee and tens of thousands more since 2020 to committees linked to him, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission. Intrater’s cousin is Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, who has been sanctioned by the U.S. government for his role in the Russian energy industry.
The relationship between Santos and Intrater goes beyond campaign contributions, according to a statement made privately by Santos in 2020 and a court filing the following year in a lawsuit brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission against a Florida-based investment firm, Harbor City Capital, where Santos worked for more than a year.
Taken together, the evidence suggests Santos may have had a business relationship with Intrater as Santos was first entering politics in 2020. It also shows, according to the SEC filing, that Intrater put hundreds of thousands of dollars into Santos’ onetime employer, Harbor City, which was accused by regulators of running a Ponzi scheme. Neither Santos nor Intrater responded to requests for comment. Attorneys who have represented Intrater also did not respond.
And speaking of “business dealings,” this is from DAWN. “U.S.: Investigate New Evidence of President Trump’s Business Dealings with MBS . Multimillion-dollar payments from LIV Golf, Reportedly 93% owned by MBS-Controlled Fund, to Trump Golf Resorts Raise Serious Questions about Conflict of Interest, Threats to National Security.”
The U.S. Department of Justice and Congress should investigate the disturbing facts and circumstances surrounding payments by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign Public Investment Fund (PIF), via its wholly-owned LIV Golf company, to businesses owned by former President Donald Trump, said Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN).
On January 13, 2023, Elliot Peters, a name partner at Keker, a prominent San Francisco law firm, who is lead counsel to the PGA in the players’ lawsuit, inadvertently revealed in a court proceeding that PIF owns 93% of LIV Golf, pays for all of its events, and holds all of the entity’s financial risk. PIF’s chairman is Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman (MBS), who has absolute and final decision-making control over the fund. LIV Golf is a newly established golf tournament franchise that has emerged as a rival to PGA Golf. It has paid Trump-owned golf resorts unknown millions of dollars to hold its events there, and former President Trump has publicly championed the new league, made prominent appearances at its events, and urged PGA players to sign on with LIV Golf.
“The revelation that a fund controlled by Crown Prince MBS actually owns almost all of LIV Golf means that MBS has been paying Donald Trump unknown millions for the past two years, via their mutual corporate covers,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director of DAWN. “The national security implications of payments from a grotesquely abusive foreign dictator to a president of the United States who provided extraordinary favors to him are as dangerous as they are shocking.”
The information about LIV Golf was otherwise kept sealed in the secret shareholder agreement between PIF and LIV Golf, although LIV Golf had previously disclosed that the PIF was its majority shareholder. There has been no independent verification of the ownership percentages reportedly revealed in court. It is not known who owns the other seven percent of LIV Golf. LIV Golf Players and LIV Golf have sued PGA for suspending PGA players who have signed contracts with LIV Golf, and PGA has sued LIV Golf and the PIF for interfering with its players’ contracts. MBS is the chairman of PIF and has absolute decision-making power over its investments.
There is little doubt that MBS controls the PIF with as much absolute power as he controls the rest of the country, with final decision-making on all of PIF’s investments. When PIF’s advisory panel objected to PIF’s $2 billion investment in Trump’s son-in-law’s newly established fund, Affinity Partners, MBS reportedly vetoed the objections to proceed with the controversial investment as the only investor in a start-up fund that had no track record. Following DAWN’s demand for Congress to investigate this investment, as well as the $1 billion PIF investment in Trump’s former Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin’s newly established fund, Senator Warren announced she would commence an investigation into conflict of interest breaches and ethics law violations that bar solicitation of foreign government officials while in office.
“Former President Trump made no secret of the endless favors he granted MBS and Saudi Arabia during his term in office, from his first state visit to the country, to vetoing legislation that would have banned arms sales to the country, to protecting MBS by hiding the CIA’s report concluding MBS ordered Jamal Khashoggi’s murder,” said Whitson. “It now appears that like his son-in-law and treasury secretary, Trump is cashing in his chits with MBS for all these favors.”
DAWN stands for Democracy for the Arab World Now. It’s an advocacy group founded by Jamal Khashoggi, an American Journalist brutally murdered at the request of MBS in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018.
Further down the Republican food chain, we have this headline by Caleb Newton writing for Bipartisan Report:. “Legal Action Against Ron DeSantis For Migrant Trafficking Upheld By Judge.”
Florida Judge John C. Cooper has upheld a lawsuit filed in his personal capacity by a Democratic state Senator from the south of the state challenging the legal framework GOP Governor Ron DeSantis used for transports last year of migrants from Texas to a community in Massachusetts.
The trip, which was evidently facilitated without any prior notice to local leaders or members of the community where the migrants arrived, although residents quickly mobilized to help those involved, mirrored high-profile efforts by other Republican governors. That list includes Greg Abbott of Texas, whose administration was responsible for a trip that saw migrants arrive in temperatures below freezing outside the D.C. residence of the vice president on Christmas Eve. With the trip for which DeSantis was responsible and other ventures, concerns have also circulated about potential deception targeting those the organizers were trying to cajole into joining the voluntary trips, including about basic facts like the eventual destination.
In Florida, the case from Democrat Jason Pizzo challenges the process by which the state set aside $12 million for the transport of migrants. Also at issue in general has been that the transports designated for support by those funds originate in Florida, but the migrants the DeSantis team ferried to Massachusetts started their trek in Texas, although the venture made a brief stop of under an hour in Florida itself. Pizzo argues a new initiative of the substance seen in something like the funds for transports for migrants requires a separate legislative effort rather than mere inclusion in routine budgeting.
The Miami Herald noted the state team argued the budgetary provisions were actually just expanding on a law imposing restrictions on state partnerships with individuals transporting certain migrants into Florida unless detaining or removing those individuals from Florida or the United States. The thing is — that other law was signed after the budget, so no argument about the two building off each other would inherently solve the fact that such isn’t how time works.
Cooper scheduled the trial in Pizzo’s case to start at the end of this month, on January 30. The DeSantis team specifically — and unsuccessfully — sought the case’s dismissal. Separately, the Florida governor has already faced a raft of other scrutiny over the endeavor, including confirmation from the oversight official known as an inspector general at the federal Treasury Department that they would be looking at DeSantis’s usage of interest derived from federal relief funds connected to COVID-19 for the flights. That official spoke to the situation after an inquiry from members of the Congressional delegation from Massachusetts.
Nothing like a bit of sunshine on a cloudy day.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Monday Reads: The Boys from Brazil and FloridaPosted: January 9, 2023 Filed under: just because | Tags: Accountability Trump Georgia Election Interference, Brazil junta, Fulton County DA Fani Willis, Jair Bolsonaro, President Biden Immigration Policy, Republican insanity, Steve Bannon, Three Amigos at the Border, Trump 28 Comments
Good Day Sky Dancers!
The United States Policy in South and Central American countries haunts us again. Two distinct events point to the actions of the past. We’ve never really been held to account for “the Banana Wars” of the early 20th Century, US Imperialism in the 1890s to the 1930s, and the resulting territories we took after the Spanish-American War.
Don’t even get me started on states like Texas, California, etc., that were clearly not US entities until they were taken by war. Our failed drug policies and the egregious, illegal actions of the Reagan administration poisoned the well.
We were active in ‘regime’ change by continuing to back right-wing juntas against leftist regimes like those of the Bay of Pigs in Cuba and Niagara. The JFK and LBJ administrations backed actions that led to the 1964 Brazilian Coup. This weekend’s news resembles a lot of our activity in Brazil then. Vincent Bevins is a scholar on the US policy of toppling regimes. He considers the topping of João Goulart In Brazil to be a significant victory for the U.S. during the Cold War. It established a military dictatorship in Brazil. Brazil is the fifth most populous nation in the world. Bevins writes in his 2020 book The Jakarta Method that this action “played a crucial role in pushing the rest of South America into the pro-Washington, anticommunist group of nations.”
He also had an Op-Ed published in the New York Times in May 2020 expressing the opinion that “The ‘Liberal World Order’ Was Built With Blood. As the United States reckons with its decline, it should understand where its power came from in the first place.”
If you read the commentary coming out of New York and Washington, or speak with elites in Western Europe, it’s easy to find people panicking about the loss of “American leadership.” From Joe Biden’s campaign pledges to trans-Atlantic think tanks, exhortations to revive American supremacy and contain China are everywhere.
They have reason to be worried: This moment is shaking the foundations of America’s hegemony. It is painfully clear that the United States is ill-equipped to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, which does not play to American strengths (we can’t shoot it, after all). President Trump has for years been dismissing allies and antagonizing international institutions. And China is seemingly laying the groundwork for its arrival as a great power. American officials are now talking openly about a “new Cold War” to confront Beijing, and China now seems such a threat that Hal Brands of the American Enterprise Institute wonders whether the United States should get back in the business of covertly toppling unfriendly governments.
It’s unsurprising that establishment pundits, American policymakers and their allies would be alarmed about American decline. The United States and Western Europe have been the winners of the process that created this globalized world, the main beneficiaries of Washington’s triumph at the end of the Cold War. But a lot of people feel very differently.
I remember the Reagan years as a continuation of regime change policies, which meant installing right-wing and military dictatorships in places like Nicaragua as long as they weren’t communist and accepted American Economic expansion. The Reagan administration’s actions were against the law established to stop the Banana Wars. Once again, we have U.S. interests stoking a junta in Brazil. From the BBC: “How Trump’s allies stoked Brazil Congress attack.”
The scenes in Brasilia looked eerily similar to events at the US Capitol on 6 January two years ago – and there are deeper connections as well.
“The whole thing smells,” said a guest on Steve Bannon’s podcast, one day after the first round of voting in the Brazilian election in October last year.
The race was heading towards a run-off and the final result was not even close to being known. Yet Mr Bannon, as he had been doing for weeks, spread baseless rumours about election fraud.
Across several episodes of his podcast and in social media posts, he and his guests stoked up allegations of a “stolen election” and shadowy forces. He promoted the hashtag #BrazilianSpring, and continued to encourage opposition even after Mr Bolsonaro himself appeared to accept the results.
Mr Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, was just one of several key allies of Donald Trump who followed the same strategy used to cast doubt on the results of the 2020 US presidential election.
And like what happened in Washington on 6 January 2021, those false reports and unproven rumours helped fuel a mob that smashed windows and stormed government buildings in an attempt to further their cause.
The day before the Capitol riot, Mr Bannon told his podcast listeners: “All hell is going to break loose tomorrow.” He has been sentenced to four months in prison for refusing to comply with an order to testify in front of a Congressional committee that investigated the attack but is free pending an appeal.
Along with other prominent Trump advisers who spread fraud rumours, Mr Bannon was unrepentant on Sunday, even as footage emerged of widespread destruction in Brazil.
“Lula stole the Election… Brazilians know this,” he wrote repeatedly on the social media site Gettr. He called the people who stormed the buildings “Freedom Fighters”.
Ali Alexander, a fringe activist who emerged after the 2020 election as one of the leaders of the pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” movement, encouraged the crowds, writing “Do whatever is necessary!” and claiming to have contacts inside the country.
The hubris of Trump allies is unbelievable. Bolsanaro is sitting in Florida. Terrence McCoy writes this in today’s Washington Post. “How Bolsonaro’s rhetoric — then his silence — stoked Brazil assault”
For more than four years, the most fundamental of questions has loomed over Brazil: Would its young democracy survive the presidency of Jair Bolsonaro?
Latin America’s largest country embarked on what amounted to a test of its democratic strength in 2018 when it elected the former army captain who openly lamented the collapse of the country’s military dictatorship, once threatened to reinstall its rule on the first day of his presidency and sought at every turn to sow doubt in elections.
During his time in office, he did little to soften his bellicosity. He warned of a government “rupture” like the military coup of 1964. If he were to lose his reelection bid, he said, it could only be through fraud, and Brazil would “have worse problems” than the United States did on Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob of Trump supporters assaulted the U.S. Capitol.
His son Eduardo, a federal congressman, once warned that “there will arrive a moment when the situation will be the same as it was in the 1960s.”
For many Brazilians, Sunday afternoon was the arrival of such a moment, when Bolsonaro supporters laid siege to the three pillars of the federal government — the presidential palace, the supreme court and the congress — bringing democracy here to a sudden standstill. The scenes of smoke and violence were at once both shocking and predictable, the tragic realization of a prophecy Bolsonaro has repeatedly uttered to mobilize his base and terrify his adversaries.
If I’m removed from power, he often hinted, violence will follow.
The Guardian has this to say. “‘Trump of the tropics’ Bolsonaro and backers follow his friend Donald’s playbook once again. The links between Jair Bolsonaro and Donald Trump stretch back to well before the violence in Brasilia. Now, writes World Affairs Editor Kim Sengupta, the supporters of Brazil’s former leader are following their American counterparts with an attack on democracy.”
Bolsanaro remains out of the country having broken precedent by refusing to attend his successor’s inauguration. Some reports claimed that he had fled to escape possible criminal charges over a range of alleged offences while in power. The former president turned up in Florida where, according to reports, he is due to meet Donald Trump at his home, Mar-a-Lago.
There have been immediate and predictable comparisons between what happened in Brasilia and the attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters two years ago. The images from both assaults were similar: flag-draped intruders lounging on office chairs, ransacking and stealing property, assaulting guards.
Both sets of protesters were following authoritarian populist leaders who claimed they had been victims of electoral fraud. In Brazil, as in the US, the discontent has been fuelled by conspiracy theories in the social media.
As the Brasilia attack unfolded, well-known Trump supporters egged on the rioters, with Steve Bannon lauding them as “freedom fighters” who knew “criminal, atheistic, Marxist Lula stole the election”. Ali Alexander, a fringe activist who became prominent in Trump’s “ stop the steal” movement, exhorted: “Do whatever is necessary.”
The links between the camps of Trump and Bolsanaro, who revelled in his “Trump of the Tropics” moniker, began long before the Brazilian election and its aftermath, with Bannon one of the main conduits.
During the Brazilian election campaign, Trump wrote on his social platform: “President Jair Bolsonaro and I have become great friends over the past few years for the people of the United States… He is a wonderful man and has my complete and total endorsement
Members of the Democratic Party are asking President Biden to expel Bolsanaro from the US.
President Biden is headed to the border to signal his intention to ensure his immigration and asylum initiatives are fully implemented. Once again, Republicans are trying to equate the Asylum process with crossing the border illegally. Notice Caveman Kevin’s latest crusade. This is from Politico. “Migration issues cast long shadow over Biden’s visit to ‘3 Amigos’ summit. U.S.-Mexico border tension looms over trade, environment and other issues on the table for Biden, AMLO and Trudeau.”
Joe Biden has no shortage of topics to tackle in his first presidential trip to Mexico.
There’s the major shift in border policy that came just days before the trip. There’s the arrest of an alleged drug trafficker in Mexico long sought by U.S. authorities. And there’s the border itself, which Biden visited for the first time as president when he made a stop in El Paso, Texas, on Sunday evening.
All that casts a shadow over the president, who arrived in Mexico City hours after the El Paso swing. Biden’s Monday and Tuesday schedule at the North American Leaders’ Summit is packed: One-on-one discussions, trilateral meetings, working lunches, dinners and, of course, photo opportunities.
“We have a big agenda that ranges from the climate crisis to economic development and other issues. But one important part of that agenda is strengthening our border between our nations,” Biden said during a speech Thursday on border security at the White House.
Biden will be the first U.S. president to visit Mexico since Barack Obama in 2014. For decades, presidents traditionally made their first overseas trip to either Mexico or Canada as a sign of solidarity among the trio of leaders. Often, the “Three Amigos” would pledge to be a (mostly) unified North American front. But that informal tradition ended in 2017 when President Donald Trump opted to make Saudi Arabia his first international destination. And then, with the globe in the grasp of the Covid-19 pandemic, Biden delayed his first foreign trip for nearly five months before traveling to the United Kingdom to meet with G-7 leaders in June 2021.
Since then, Biden has crisscrossed the globe to several world summits. But he had yet to make the trip south of the border. And while Biden has met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau repeatedly, he’s spent far less time with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, which has only added to the feeling in Latin America of being snubbed by the United States.
That has added another layer of pressure to this week’s long-awaited gathering, as the three leaders prepare to discuss key issues including border security, trade and economic development, and climate and energy.
The Biden administration rolled out several new policies to curb illegal migration last week, some of which rely on Mexico’s cooperation. Immigration will be atop the president’s agenda, but stopping the flow of fentanyl from Mexico will also be a priority as the drug and other lab-produced synthetic opioids now drive an overdose crisis deadlier than any the U.S. has ever seen. It’s a pressure point that Biden may be forced to address even as drug control advocates and experts say an anti-drug policy that relies on tighter border security is far from certain to work.
It’s easier for Republicans to scream lies and conspiracy theories than actually engage in policy. This is why they cannot govern. Zachary B. Wolf writes this for CNN. “The speaker fight is over but the chaos is just beginning.”
This week Republicans must try to coalesce around the concessions McCarthy made and pass a package of rules to govern the House for the next two years. It’s an open question whether the party’s moderates, such as they are, will all buy in to the cut, cut, cut mentality McCarthy has agreed to.
Unlike the Senate, which has standing rules that carry over from year to year, the House adopts a new rules package for each Congress. This year, in particular, as they take over from Democratic control, Republicans want to make their mark in the rules package. The Rules Committee has posted a text and summary of the proposed rule changes.
Some of the new elements include things that amount to framing – replacing “pay as you go” language for budget matters with “cut as you go.”
Other elements could have more concrete consequences, like forcing specific votes to raise the debt ceiling and enacting spending cuts before the debt ceiling is raised. That debate will come to a head in the coming months as the government runs out of authority to add to the $31 trillion national debt.
On Sunday, Republicans all said they would try to avoid cutting defense and Medicare spending, which leaves a relatively small portion of the federal budget – think the Environmental Protection Agency and other regulatory arms of the government – from which to carve out spending.
The other way, besides spending cuts, for the government to cut down on deficit spending, is to raise taxes. The proposed rules reinstate a requirement that a House supermajority of 3/5, rather than a simple majority, sign off on any tax increases.
Read more at the link. The last read I offer today is news from Georgia. This is reported by Holly Bailey at the Washington Post. “Georgia grand jury investigating Trump election interference completes probe.”
An Atlanta-area grand jury investigating efforts by former president Donald Trump and his allies to overturn Trump’s 2020 election loss in Georgia has concluded its investigation, according to the judge overseeing the panel.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney issued a court order Monday morning saying the special grand jury had completed a final report on its investigation. He said the report was accepted by a majority of the county’s judicial bench and that the 26-member panel was being officially dissolved.
The grand jury’s recommendations were not made public, including whether criminal charges should be filed. McBurney scheduled a Jan. 24 hearing to determine whether to release the report. His order noted the grand jury had “voted to recommend that its report be published” and appeared to make its release “mandatory” — though the judge said he would hear “argument” on the issue.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Finally Friday Reads: Press feeds Megalomaniacs!Posted: December 16, 2022 Filed under: just because | Tags: Musk, narcissistic personality disorder, Trump 15 Comments
Good Day Sky Dancers!
This is one of those days that makes me want to go back to bed and pull the covers over my head. Just about every headline is about some narcissist that should be in a padded cell somewhere. I will go down that road, but I am not about to obsess about the details or the people. I’m really sick of Elon Musk and Donald Trump.
Elon Musk is maniacally destroying himself, Tesla, and Twitter. He’s holed up in the Twitter building 24-7, drawing attention to himself, banning anyone that bothers him, and selling off Tesla stock to keep the lights on in his hidey-hole even if Tesla crashes and burns. Trump is holed up in Mar-a-Lago 24-7, drawing attention to himself, using his Truth Social to draw attention to himself, and watching the Trump Family Crime Syndicate crash and burn.
Let me make this as painless as possible. This is from the Washington Post, as reported by Paul Farhi. “Musk suspends journalists from Twitter, claims ‘assassination’ danger. Company executives alleged that more than half a dozen reporters endangered Twitter’s owner by sharing his location. But a review of their tweets shows no evidence of it.”
Twitter suspended the accounts of more than half a dozen journalists from CNN, the New York Times, The Washington Post and other outlets Thursday evening, as company owner Elon Musk accused the reporters of posting “basically assassination coordinates” for him and his family.
The Post has seen no evidence that any of the reporters did so.
The suspensions came without warning or initial explanation from Twitter. They took place a day after Twitter changed its policy on sharing “live location information” and suspended an account, @ElonJet, that had been using public flight data to share the location of Musk’s private plane.
Many of the journalists suspended Thursday, including Washington Post technology reporter Drew Harwell, had been covering that rule change, as well as Musk’s claims that he and his family had been endangered by location sharing.
Twitter did not directly respond to questions about the suspensions. But Musk suggested on Twitter, without evidence, that the journalists had revealed private information about his family, known as doxing. “Criticizing me all day long is totally fine, but doxxing my real-time location and endangering my family is not,” he tweeted late Thursday.
Harwell, whose most recent stories covered the ban of @ElonJet and the rise of baseless claims on Twitter, discovered he was unable to log into his account or tweet around 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
“Harwell was banished from Twitter without warning, process or explanation, following the publications of his accurate reporting about Musk,” The Post’s executive editor Sally Buzbee said in a statement. “Our journalist should be reinstated immediately.”
At least eight other journalists were suspended the same evening, including New York Times technology reporter Ryan Mac.
CNN reporter Donie O’Sullivan was suspended shortly after posting a tweet about Musk’s claim that a “crazy stalker” had chased his young son in Los Angeles, according to screenshots.
However, according to NBC News, the reporters actively report on Twitter or Musk.
O’Sullivan said Thursday that all those journalists who were suspended with him were people who cover Musk.
“As we saw with the jet tracker last night, Musk seems to be just stamping out accounts that he doesn’t like,” O’Sullivan said on CNN.
A spokesperson for the network said the suspensions were “impulsive and unjustified” — but not surprising.
“Twitter’s increasing instability and volatility should be of incredible concern for everyone who uses Twitter,” the network said in a statement. “We have asked Twitter for an explanation, and we will reevaluate our relationship based on that response.”
Sally Buzbee, the executive editor of The Washington Post, said Harwell’s suspension “directly undermines Elon Musk’s claim that he intends to run Twitter as a platform dedicated to free speech.”
Harwell was “banished from Twitter without warning, process or explanation, following the publication of his accurate reporting about Musk” and should be reinstated immediately, Buzbee said in a statement Thursday night.
A spokesperson for The New York Times, who called the suspensions questionable and unfortunate, said no explanation was provided to Mac or the newspaper about the ban.
Musk sold 22 million shares of his Tesla Stock this week. They were worth around 3.6 billion dollars. The stock has been falling due to concerns over Musk’s time spent on and with Twitter. This is from CNBC. “Elon Musk sells another huge chunk of Tesla shares.”
Director of research for VerityData, Ben Silverman, wrote in an email to CNBC on Wednesday, “Musk’s prior sales going back to November 2021 were expertly timed, so Tesla shareholders need to pay attention to Musk’s actions and not his words – or lack thereof when it comes to his recent selling.”
However, he continued to sell portions of his sizable holdings in Tesla after agreeing to buy Twitter in a deal worth $44 billion. The acquisition closed in late October. Musk, who is also CEO of SpaceX, a major defense contractor, immediately appointed himself chief executive of the social media company.
After Musk’s Twitter takeover, he told employees there that he sold Tesla shares to “save” their business.
Musk didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Tesla shares have been declining this year, and sliding even further since he took on that new responsibility.
Shares of Tesla closed down 2.6% on Wednesday at $156.80, dropping the company’s market capitalization to $495 billion. Tesla shares were down 55% year to date as of Wednesday’s close.
One last thing on this madman from the Washington Post. “Elon Musk’s role at Tesla questioned as Twitter occupies his attention. Some Tesla investors are concerned that Musk is focusing too much on the social media company and becoming more polarizing.”
Now, some Tesla investors are calling for Musk to hand over the reins at one of his companies as the electric vehicle company’s stock plummets — raising concerns that the billionaire is stretched too thin. Tesla closed Wednesday at $156.80 per share, with an overall valuation of less than $500 billion, sharply down from when Musk signaled his interest in Twitter over the spring and Tesla was valued at over $1 trillion.
Contributing to the losses, Musk sold about $3.5 billion worth of Tesla stock in recent days, according to a financial filing Wednesday night. That added to another more than $3.9 billion in Tesla shares sold by Musk in early November, according to the filings.
Shares of Tesla rose less than 1 percent during trading Thursday as the broader markets fell.
“Wake up tesla [board] — what is the plan? Who is running tesla and when is Elon coming back?” tweeted Ross Gerber, a Tesla investor who supported Musk’s Twitter bid.
He added in a tweet late Wednesday that Tesla needed to buy back shares “to take advantage [of] the low share price Elon has created,” as investors anticipated a potential further blow to the company’s value on Thursday.
Musk did not respond to a request for comment. Tesla and Twitter did not respond to requests for comment.
It appears Musk can shut up when it’s an inconvenient question.
Trump, however, cannot stop himself in his quest for constant attention. Sources today say that his crazy NFT superhero cards are sold out. This while, two New York Post headlines seem out to get him. The first one is “Don’t give any money to con artist Trump and the second reads, “Steve Bannon fed up with Trump’s latest stunts: ‘I can’t do this anymore’.
Kirk Eichenwald elucidates Trump’s latest scam on his substack, The Threats Within. “Trump’s Trading Card Grift is Worse than You Think. Shell companies, rubbing elbows with international criminals, and worse in his scam of scams.”
Funny, yes. But it is far, far worse than you think. And to understand why, we have to begin tracing the web of corporations involved in producing these worthless digital cards. They lead to some sleazy places.
Before we start down the rabbit hole of partnerships, corporations and other entities that lead to criminals and fraudsters, I need to address one question up front: What exactly are buyers of the Trump Trading Cards purchasing? Yes, they are NFTs, but unlike others of these digital art pieces, the people foolish enough to purchase a Trump Trading Card don’t actually own the things they paid for, at least not in the traditional sense. If any buyer decides to sell their Trump card in a secondary market, they don’t get all the proceeds. The fine print reveals that 10% of every secondary market sales goes right back to Trump and his fellow grifters. For more details, buyers are told to click the link to terms and conditions. Buyers have to confirm they read the terms and conditions but…the terms and conditions are nowhere to be found.
Makes me wonder what rubes bought these. Maybe Russians are having Trump do money laundering for them again?
Trump himself is not producing the cards, any more than he has developed any real estate projects since 2010. Instead, he has reached a licensing agreement with a company called NFT International LLC. All his licensing agreements, dating back decades (Real estate, Trump Steaks, Trump University etc.) have all had the same terms: The licensor pays Trump a bunch of cash up front, then he gets a share of the revenue produced by whatever the grifty product is. That number has ranged from 10% to 50%, and there is no reason to expect that this time it is any less – in fact, it is almost certainly more.
You may follow the link to go down the dark rabbit hole of NFT International LLC. Be sure to bring a flashlight.
Try these on for size if you want more fun with internecine fighting! “Inside the ugly fight to become the next Republican chair” or “McCarthy’s ongoing speaker battle paralyzes House” from Politico. Here’s a taste of the Politico article.
Kevin McCarthy’s imperiled speakership bid is threatening to incapacitate Republicans during a crucial planning period, virtually guaranteeing a sluggish start for the new House majority.
The GOP leader on Thursday took the unusual step of punting conferencewide races for committee leadership slots until after his speaker election on Jan. 3, a maneuver that could help insulate him from disgruntled members who fall short in those contests and their allies.
But that delay will also mean days, if not weeks, of uncertainty for GOP committees as they begin their stint in the majority. Some of the most important panels, including those charged with tax-writing and border security, won’t be able to prepare bills, tee up hearings, or even hire staff. While some House committees already have uncontested leaders in place, those chairs won’t be able to choose their member lineup or potentially pay staff. The GOP’s subpoena power, too, will be frozen.
“Without question, delays in selecting chairmen and committee members put a lot of pressure on the agenda,” said retiring Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), who led the influential House Ways and Means Committee the last time the GOP had the majority.
The decision to formally punt comes as little surprise to many lawmakers, who had speculated that McCarthy might delay contested fights as a point of leverage as he works to lock down support. Still, many Republicans say they’re concerned that limbo could have lingering effects — particularly if the speaker’s election gets ugly and drags on past Jan. 3.
You can get a Trump v. Twitter twofer at the Washington Post: “Trump reinvents ‘rigged’ election myth around Twitter allegations. Republicans are now following Trump in claiming foul play in the 2020 election took the form of social media censorship, replacing debunked claims of fraudulent ballots.”
Instead, Trump was now advancing a new theory of how the election was “stolen” from him: a supposed scheme among social media companies, the FBI and the Democrats to suppress information that might have helped Trump’s campaign.The claim is fueled in part by new Twitter owner Elon Musk’s decision to release internal documents about the platform’s brief suppression of a 2020 news story about then-candidate Joe Biden’s son amid concerns it might be the result of disinformation efforts.
Well, alright then. It doesn’t get any more discombobulated than that!
So here I am, looking at 2057 words up there and thinking, I better wrap up the part on the crazy guys. I’ll use a Twitter post here with the HBO documentary about Nancy Pelosi by her daughter Alexandra (interview with Lawrence O’Donnell at link). She sums my thoughts about Trump things up pretty nicely here.
Oh, and What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Finally Friday Reads: Tweet Musk, Ye, Trump then DeletePosted: December 2, 2022 Filed under: just because | Tags: 11th Circuit appeals court, degenerate art, hate speech, Musk, Trump, Ye 14 Comments
Good Day Sky Dancers!
The votes may have shown the country is trying to be normal again, but the headlines also show how deep the crazy runs in today’s Republican Party. One of the House committee takeovers that I’m most anxiety-ridden about is the House Judiciary Committee. Some of the deepest crazy reside there, and it will be a spectacle once their sham hearings start. This is from NBC’s Amanda Terkel and Garrett Haake. “House Judiciary Republicans delete ‘Kanye. Elon. Trump.’ tweet as rapper praises Hitler. Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee had tweeted in apparent support of Ye on Oct. 6. The tweet was removed Thursday.” It seems Godwin’s Law and Reductio ad Hitlerum may need a revisit. You don’t have to infer it’s NAZIish anymore when the policy and speech include casual praise of Hitler.
Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee deleted their Oct. 6 tweet that appeared to support Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, after months of controversy over his antisemitic remarks.
“Kanye. Elon. Trump,” read the tweet, which held up Ye alongside Elon Musk, the new owner of Twitter, who has been bringing back right-wing figures who were once banned, and former President Donald Trump.
The tweet was deleted Thursday as Ye was launching a lengthy antisemitic tirade on the show hosted on Infowars by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who is known for promoting falsehoods around events like the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012.
“I love Jewish people, but I also love Nazis,” Ye said on the show Thursday. He also repeatedly expressed his admiration for Adolf Hitler.
House Judiciary Committee Republicans did not immediately reply to a request for comment about the deleted tweet. The GOP, currently in the minority, won control of the House in November’s midterm elections.
Even Alex Jones denounced Hitler on the InforWars broadcast as he filed for bankruptcy for his Sandy Hook fines. Musk’s Twitter responded to as reported by NPR. Every time I hear this shit, all I can think is my Dad bombed NAZIs to get them out of France and Belgium and to ensure the Allies could defeat the regime and ensure the allied armies on the ground could safely set free those held in concentration camps.
In an appearance on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ show, Ye – the rapper formerly known as Kanye West – doubled down on a series of antisemitic comments he’s made in recent months. Ye appeared on the show alongside Nick Fuentes, the white-nationalist internet personality. The pair had dinner with former President Donald Trump last week.
Hours later, Twitter CEO Elon Musk announced that Ye’s Twitter account was suspended. The move came after the rapper reportedly posted on Twitter an image of a swastika depicted inside a Star of David.
On Jones’ show Thursday, Ye’s statements were among his most brazen. “I see good things about Hitler,” Ye said during the nearly 3-hour interview. Later, he veered into Holocaust denialism.
“This was a mask-off moment, to hear Ye just outright say that he admires Hitler,” said Megan Squire, deputy director of data analytics at the Southern Poverty Law Center. Often extremists talk around the subject of Nazism, she said, couching true beliefs in cloaked language in order to avoid being banned from mainstream platforms. Pushing the boundaries, said Squire, provides a permission structure to other far right voices.
The recent string of antisemitic comments began in October, when Ye posted “I’m going death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE.” The tweet has since been deleted. Ye then spoke out on a number of podcasts and interview shows, repeating his talking points and promoting his run for president in 2024.
Before decamping to fringe channels that specialize in extremist rhetoric, Ye made an appearance in an interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson. He used the occasion to air his anti-abortion stance and grievances with the fashion industry. But soon after, Vice News revealed that show producers cut Ye’s references to his beliefs that align with the Black Hebrew Israelites.
Sorry, Republicans, you own this Troika of hate. Musk. Ye. Trump.
Trump’s legal problems worsened as the 11th circuit shut down Judge Loose Cannon and her Special Master concession to Trump. This is from the New York Times. “Appeals Court Scraps Special Master Review in Trump Documents Case. The panel’s decision removed a major obstacle to the Justice Department’s investigation into Mr. Trump’s handling of sensitive government documents.”
A federal appeals court on Thursday removed a major obstacle to the criminal investigation into former President Donald J. Trump’s hoarding of government documents, ending an outside review of thousands of records the F.B.I. seized from his home and freeing the Justice Department to use them in its inquiry.
In a unanimous but unsigned 21-page ruling, a three-member panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta shut down a lawsuit brought by Mr. Trump that has, for nearly three months, slowed the inquiry into whether he illegally kept national security records at his Mar-a-Lago residence and obstructed the government’s efforts to retrieve them.
The appeals court was sharply critical of the decision in September by Judge Aileen M. Cannon, a Trump appointee who sits in the Southern District of Florida, to intervene in the case. The court said Judge Cannon never had legitimate jurisdiction to order the review or bar investigators from using the files, and that there was no justification for treating Mr. Trump differently from any other target of a search warrant.
“It is indeed extraordinary for a warrant to be executed at the home of a former president — but not in a way that affects our legal analysis or otherwise gives the judiciary license to interfere in an ongoing investigation,” the court wrote.
The judges’ findings are consistent with what legal experts have been saying since the Trump lawyers went Judge-shopping and came up with an eager interloper. Here’s the kicker.
Limits on when courts can interfere with a criminal investigation “apply no matter who the government is investigating,” it added. “To create a special exception here would defy our nation’s foundational principle that our law applies ‘to all, without regard to numbers, wealth or rank.’”
The panel included two judges appointed by Trump.
Well, there’s Ye. There’s Trump. And now, let’s do Musk. “Hate Speech’s Rise on Twitter Is Unprecedented, Researchers Find. Problematic content and formerly barred accounts have increased sharply in the short time since Elon Musk took over, researchers said.” This is also from The New York Times.
Before Elon Musk bought Twitter, slurs against Black Americans showed up on the social media service an average of 1,282 times a day. After the billionaire became Twitter’s owner, they jumped to 3,876 times a day.
Slurs against gay men appeared on Twitter 2,506 times a day on average before Mr. Musk took over. Afterward, their use rose to 3,964 times a day.
And antisemitic posts referring to Jews or Judaism soared more than 61 percent in the two weeks after Mr. Musk acquired the site.
These findings — from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, the Anti-Defamation League and other groups that study online platforms — provide the most comprehensive picture to date of how conversations on Twitter have changed since Mr. Musk completed his $44 billion deal for the company in late October. While the numbers are relatively small, researchers said the increases were atypically high.
The shift in speech is just the tip of a set of changes on the service under Mr. Musk. Accounts that Twitter used to regularly remove — such as those that identify as part of the Islamic State, which were banned after the U.S. government classified ISIS as a terror group — have come roaring back. Accounts associated with QAnon, a vast far-right conspiracy theory, have paid for and received verified status on Twitter, giving them a sheen of legitimacy.
These changes are alarming, researchers said, adding that they had never seen such a sharp increase in hate speech, problematic content and formerly banned accounts in such a short period on a mainstream social media platform.
“Elon Musk sent up the Bat Signal to every kind of racist, misogynist and homophobe that Twitter was open for business,” said Imran Ahmed, the chief executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate. “They have reacted accordingly.”
CNN Prognosticators are getting some encouraging Poll results in the Warnock/Walker race. “CNN Poll: Warnock holds a narrow edge over Walker in final undecided Senate contest.” Walker is not fit for the Senate, but his treatment of women makes him an unacceptable choice. Our Georgia Sky Dancers are voting in even the most desperate situations, like long lines and illness.
In the final undecided Senate contest of 2022, Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia holds a narrow lead over Republican challenger Herschel Walker among those likely to vote in a runoff election Tuesday, according to a new CNN Poll conducted by SSRS.
The survey shows that Walker faces widespread questions about his honesty and suffers from a negative favorability rating, while nearly half of those who back him say their vote is more about opposition to Warnock than support for Walker. Voters’ modestly more positive views of Warnock and a firmly committed base of supporters appear to boost the incumbent in the new poll.
Overall, 52% of likely voters say they plan to support Warnock in Tuesday’s runoff and 48% pick Walker. Partisans on both sides are deeply entrenched, with nearly all Democrats (99%) behind Warnock and 95% of Republicans backing Walker. Independents break in Warnock’s favor, 61% to 36%, but make up a relatively small slice of likely voters, 17%, compared with 24% in a CNN exit poll of voters in the first round of this contest last month. (Warnock finished narrowly ahead of Walker in November but without the majority of the vote needed to avoid a runoff.)
This is also from CNN. “Woman alleges to Daily Beast that Herschel Walker was violent with her in 2005.”
An ex-girlfriend of Herschel Walker, the Republican Senate nominee in Georgia, has come forward in The Daily Beast to allege that the former football star was violent and threatening toward her during an incident that took place in 2005.
Cheryl Parsa, a Dallas resident, told the news outlet she had a five-year relationship with Walker from 2004 to 2009. She alleges that in 2005, after she found Walker with another woman, he got angry, and, according to her account, placed his hands on her chest and neck and also swung his fist at her. She told The Daily Beast that she thought he was “going to beat me” and that she fled.
This endless Republican parade of wife-beaters, child sex traffickers, racists, mass shooters, anti-semites, and just crazy people is emotional torture. They light their torches, set fires, then ignore the resulting damage. I have decreased my daily exposure to the news, which isn’t good in a democracy.
I have one last read to share from the Washington Post. “THE ABORTION DIARIES: Pregnant and desperate in post-Roe America. Three women face unexpected pregnancies in states with abortion bans.” It’s written and compiled by Caroline Kitchener.
It’s a moment of panic that has played out again and again for people in more than a dozen states since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.
Once they find out they’re pregnant, there isn’t much time to act. The closest open abortion clinics that once offered next-day appointments are now often fully booked three, four, even five weeks in advance. Pills purchased online can take up to a month to arrive.
Every day, the fetus gets a little bigger — and the anxiety builds.
Inpolarized, post-Roe America, the experiences that draw widespread attention are often the most harrowing: a 10-year-old rape victim forced to leave her state to end her pregnancy, or a woman denied an abortion for a fetus without a skull.
Often lost in the discussion are the more routine stories. The mother of two who can’t afford a third child. The teenager who can’t tell her parents she’s pregnant. The 25-year-old who isn’t ready to be a mom.
Over the next decade, if recent trends hold, more than a million people with unwanted pregnancies are likely to run up against an abortion ban. Some will find a way, traveling hundreds of miles or securing illegal pills through the mail. Others will resign themselves to parenthood.
The Washington Post made contact with three pregnant women who were seeking abortions while living in states with strict abortion bans. These women, reached early in their pregnancies, communicated regularly with The Post, sharing their experiences through calls, text messages and other documentation that supported their accounts. They participated on the condition that only their first names be used to protect their privacy.
Here are their stories, from the minute the two pink lines appeared.
The stories are compelling. It’s not hard to think about how voting and women’s rights were the first to fall in the Republican-packed Supreme Court. I feel so exhausted. Being under attack by a radical minority, White Christian Nationalism bloc eats everything out of one’s psyche and soul. It’s all just out there, isn’t it? At least we can’t be accused of playing race cards, jumping to Reductio ad Hitlerum, or being hysterical anymore. All you have to do is point to what they are saying out loud and doing daily. The Republican-run committees are just going to be amplifying it all. We’ll still be here even if making sense of it isn’t possible anymore. The key is still to follow truth with action.
And, yes, what would a conversation about NAZIs be without ‘degenerate’ art from the period by German painters.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Monday Reads: Playing Hot Potato with a Costly WarPosted: August 23, 2021 Filed under: just because | Tags: and Pompeo, Morning reads, Taliban, Trump 23 Comments
Good Day Sky Dancers!
It’s hard to explain how much of what’s going on in Kabul today should rest directly and squarely on the bad faith negotiations of Trump’s Secretary of State–steal all the government booze–Pompeo. Please watch this smug, smarmy, man laugh while under questioning by Representative Allred who asks what we’re doing to ensure that our conditions will be good as we leave Kabul. It amazes me that more isn’t being made about Pompeo’s role in the chaos we experience now. It’s worth remembering that all this was negotiated about a year ago. Oh, wait, it was supposed to be negotiated at Camp David with Trump on the anniversary of 9/11 last year. President Tin Ear was stopped on that one however.
Here’s Chris Wallace on Fox News dumping on the man who created this mess as he lies his way to a nonanswer.
Jennifer Ruben’s opinion piece today at WaPo discusses “Why so many people find Biden an easy target.”
The vehemence with which many politicians and media pundits on the left and right have attacked President Biden should not be surprising. Given the chaotic and heart-wrenching scenes in Afghanistan, the commander in chief becomes an obvious target, especially for a press corps desperate to show they do not have a liberal bias.
But “chaotic” does not equal “failed,” and just because our intelligence community blew it big time — again — does not mean the United States has abandoned its Afghan partners. Since Aug. 14, we have evacuated over 37,000 people. The United States has enlisted a slew of allies to help receive refugees. And our allies remain united that they will not recognize nor extend aid to the Taliban until we are satisfied they have not hindered our evacuation and are respecting human rights.
Despite the torrent of angry media coverage, a recent CBS News poll found that 63 percent of Americans still want out of Afghanistan. And while Biden’s approval ratings have dipped (largely due to the covid-19 surge), the decline is less than one might expect. In NBC News’s poll, for example, he has dropped only one point among registered voters — from 51 to 50 percent — since April. So why is the media so determined to convey that Biden’s effort has “failed”?
Too many reporters adopt the talking points of critics of an administration, even when those critics have an interest to make Biden the fall guy. The media, for example, have parroted the right wing’s deliberate effort to impugn the Biden administration’s motives about “abandoning Afghans” (as it airlifts tens of thousands of them out the country) while ignoring the Trump team’s destruction of the visa system. With a straight face, reporters ask for the judgment of politicians and those in the military who lied for two decades about progress in Afghanistan — as if they and the reporters themselves hadn’t contributed to the rosy, false narrative about the Afghan army’s viability. And the media have run with the notion that the Biden administration broke Afghans’ “morale” rather than focusing on our utter failure to forge a national army, the endemic corruption in their government and Afghan leaders’ selling out to the Taliban for money.
The media almost by definition operates on anecdotes. They see European back-benchers criticizing Biden and squawk about a crisis among our allies. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Fox News’s Chris Wallace on Sunday:
From the get-go, I’ve spent more time with our NATO partners in Brussels, virtually, from before the president made his decision, to when he made his decision, to every time since. We’ve been working very, very closely together. We’ve gotten the G7 together, NATO together, the U.N. Security Council together. We had 113 countries, thanks to our diplomacy, put out a clear understanding of the Taliban’s requirements to let people leave the country. … I’ve heard, across the board, deep appreciation and thanks from allies and partners for everything that we’ve done to bring our allies and partners out of harm’s way. This has been a remarkable part of the effort. I’ve seen them stand up, step up to help out, including, as I said, agreements with more than two dozen countries now to help out on transit. And beyond that, we’re very focused together on the way forward, including the way forward in Afghanistan, and setting very clear expectations for the Taliban in the days, weeks and months ahead.
Which is the better indicator of our allies’ sentiments: stray comments to the media, or all of the actions Blinken outlined?
Listening to the people who served there is a good way to get out of the damn media’s obsessions with creating tempests in teapots and seeing what was going to be a difficult process–even if perfectly planned–as the problem of the guy who’s only had 7ish months of holding a 20-year-old hot potato. This is from the Kansas City Star and was written by Veteran Lucas Kince who served in that theatre: “I served in Afghanistan as a US Marine, twice. Here’s the truth in two sentences.”
What we are seeing in Afghanistan right now shouldn’t shock you. It only seems that way because our institutions are steeped in systematic dishonesty. It doesn’t require a dissertation to explain what you’re seeing. Just two sentences.
One: For 20 years, politicians, elites and D.C. military leaders lied to us about Afghanistan.
Two: What happened last week was inevitable, and anyone saying differently is still lying to you.
I know because I was there. Twice. On special operations task forces. I learned Pashto as a U.S. Marine captain and spoke to everyone I could there: everyday people, elites, allies and yes, even the Taliban.
The truth is that the Afghan National Security Forces was a jobs program for Afghans, propped up by U.S. taxpayer dollars — a military jobs program populated by nonmilitary people or “paper” forces (that didn’t really exist) and a bevy of elites grabbing what they could when they could.
You probably didn’t know that. That’s the point.
And it wasn’t just in Afghanistan. They also lied about Iraq.
I led a team of Marines training Iraqi security forces to defend their country. When I arrived I received a “stoplight” chart on their supposed capabilities in dozens of missions and responsibilities. Green meant they were good. Yellow was needed improvement; red said they couldn’t do it at all.
I was delighted to see how far along they were on paper — until I actually began working with them. I attempted to adjust the charts to reflect reality and was quickly shut down. The ratings could not go down. That was the deal. It was the kind of lie that kept the war going.
So when people ask me if we made the right call getting out of Afghanistan in 2021, I answer truthfully: Absolutely not. The right call was getting out in 2002. 2003. Every year we didn’t get out was another year the Taliban used to refine their skills and tactics against us — the best fighting force in the world. After two decades, $2 trillion and nearly 2,500 American lives lost, 2021 was way too late to make the right call.
What I have read repeatedly from folks on the ground is that the only people that try won the 20 year-long war were military contractors and corrupt government officials in Afghanistan. You can read my Friday reads for more on that from former NPR reporter Sarah Chayes.
The reality of Biden’s follow through with the result of the Trump/Pompeo man-crushes on the Taliban is explained by CNN’s John Harwood. “Why Biden’s Afghanistan exit wasn’t about good politics”. We always knew what Biden wanted because he stated his opposition to the failed Obama Surge while he was VEEP.
In ending America’s longest war, President Joe Biden did something popular. It was never going to help him politically.
That was true before damaging images of chaos and desperation filled American television screens last week. The reason is that public opinion about the Afghanistan conflict, as with most overseas events and issues, remains ill-defined and loosely held.
Even after 20 years, the conflict that ended with the lightning Taliban takeover represents a distant blur for most Americans. Only a small sliver of the US population has a personal connection to the war through service in the all-volunteer military. Its duration through years of diminishing troop levels and casualties led much of the public to tune the story out.
Pollsters who have tracked the subject describe opinions no firmer than jello. Asked whether the American military should stay or leave, majorities say leave. Asked whether the military should leave or stay to continue counterterrorism operations, majorities say stay.
Either way, voters have not counted Afghanistan among their top-priority concerns. Survey research on foreign policy, observed Republican pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson, “is always very fluid.”
That reality means that neither side of the long-running debate on the war can unambiguously claim the upper hand in public sentiment.
From the initial push for war by the Bush administration to the idea of a surge by the Obama administration to the total dump it on the Taliban and let Biden deal with it by the Trump administration there has been one bad commitment to bad ideas after another. You all know I’ve never been a big Biden fan. I have to say he’s the only President that just decided to get it done and be done with it. The collapse of Kabul was always inevitable since the Afghanistan people and their regionalism vs federalism approach to things has seriously been misunderstood by many “experts”. It still seems this was another nation-building opportunity that only enriched the military-industrial complex. That’s my thoughts.
In other news, the FDA has given the Pfizer vaccine full approval.
Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine has been known as the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, and will now be marketed as Comirnaty (koe-mir’-na-tee), for the prevention of COVID-19 disease in individuals 16 years of age and older. The vaccine also continues to be available under emergency use authorization (EUA), including for individuals 12 through 15 years of age and for the administration of a third dose in certain immunocompromised individuals.
“The FDA’s approval of this vaccine is a milestone as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. While this and other vaccines have met the FDA’s rigorous, scientific standards for emergency use authorization, as the first FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine, the public can be very confident that this vaccine meets the high standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality the FDA requires of an approved product,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D. “While millions of people have already safely received COVID-19 vaccines, we recognize that for some, the FDA approval of a vaccine may now instill additional confidence to get vaccinated. Today’s milestone puts us one step closer to altering the course of this pandemic in the U.S.”
Since Dec. 11, 2020, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine has been available under EUA in individuals 16 years of age and older, and the authorization was expanded to include those 12 through 15 years of age on May 10, 2021. EUAs can be used by the FDA during public health emergencies to provide access to medical products that may be effective in preventing, diagnosing, or treating a disease, provided that the FDA determines that the known and potential benefits of a product, when used to prevent, diagnose, or treat the disease, outweigh the known and potential risks of the product.
FDA-approved vaccines undergo the agency’s standard process for reviewing the quality, safety and effectiveness of medical products. For all vaccines, the FDA evaluates data and information included in the manufacturer’s submission of a biologics license application (BLA). A BLA is a comprehensive document that is submitted to the agency providing very specific requirements. For Comirnaty, the BLA builds on the extensive data and information previously submitted that supported the EUA, such as preclinical and clinical data and information, as well as details of the manufacturing process, vaccine testing results to ensure vaccine quality, and inspections of the sites where the vaccine is made. The agency conducts its own analyses of the information in the BLA to make sure the vaccine is safe and effective and meets the FDA’s standards for approval.
I am without patience for anyone not getting the vaccine. I’m still ready to tell them to go to their crazy places–churches, Republican Party National Headquarter, Mara Lago, etc.– to get treatment and stay away from our children and healthcare workers. More and more employers are mandating vaccines and I’m really down with that.
So, what’s on your blogging list today? This war and pandemic stuff is wearing me out!