ICYMI Foreign Affairs Open Thread: Jared’s Middle East ‘Hot I.P.O.’ ‘Charm Offensive’

While we were otherwise occupied, Young Prince Jared’s ‘Give Me Your Funding, I Speak MBA’ piece of the action Prosperity to Peace initiative has come and gone. All Very Serious Persons agree: It would be a cakewalk, if only there was a completely different set of Facts On the Ground!

The ever-hopeful NYTimes:

MANAMA, Bahrain — Judged on its own terms, the White House-led conference on improving the lives of Palestinians, staged this week in Bahrain as the first step toward a long-promised American peace plan, was a smashing success.

It proved that the Israel-Palestinian conflict “actually is a solvable problem, economically,” Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, declared proudly — though that proposition was never actually in doubt.

It put the conflict back near the top of the international agenda, at least for a day and a half. And it may have also created a powerful new constituency for a resolution, by bringing together billionaire fund managers and the heads of banks and multinational corporations like AT&T, who seemed to be grappling with the subject for the first time.

Investors expressed such excitement about someday pouring money into projects on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, “it’s going to be like a hot I.P.O.”

But if the goal of the two-day conference was to persuade Palestinians to give the Trump administration’s approach to solving the conflict the benefit of the doubt, there were few signs of that.

For all the self-congratulation by Mr. Kushner, Mr. Mnuchin and their guests, the Palestinian Authority government, which deeply mistrusts the Trump administration, boycotted the event. Most Palestinian business leaders shunned it. Hamas, the militant organization that controls Gaza, was not even invited…

… [S]peaker after speaker in Manama — including ministers from several Arab countries of the Persian Gulf — made a point to argue that the Palestinians’ natural entrepreneurship, strong literacy and educational attainment levels could all be unleashed but for the poor “governance” and the absence of “transparency” and of the “rule of law” that they said afflict the West Bank and Gaza…

The ever-irreverent Bess Levin, at Vanity Fair:

Last week, Jared Kushner held his big Peace to Prosperity conference in Bahrain. And if we’re evaluating from a standpoint of actually helping to bring peace to the Middle East, i.e. the stated goal, things did not go well. For starters, Palestinian leadership boycotted the whole thing, saying that the notion of unveiling an economic plan prior to presenting a political one made no sense, as it did not address major points of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, such as control of the West Bank and Palestinian statehood. Kushner, who views this whole thing as just another real estate deal, reportedly gave a speech in which he “envisaged the impoverished Gaza Strip as a tourist destination, omitting mention of Israel and Egypt’s 12-year blockade of the Hamas-controlled territory, as well as Israel’s 52-year-long occupation of the West Bank, which restricts trade and labor movements.” When he did reference politics, it was to offer the sophisticated take that if “there’s not a fear of people doing terrorism”—emphasis ours—it’ll “allow for much faster flow of goods and people,” without offering, y’know, a proposal for how to stop terrorism in the region…

… On Wednesday [Kushner] held a conference call with Arab and Israeli reporters to announce that the White House would provide “new steps” next week regarding his big plan, and, in an apparent effort to convince Palestinian leaders to get on board, he really laid on the charm:

[Kushner] criticized the Palestinian leadership’s behavior around the Bahrain conference and called it “hysterical and stupid.” He stressed that Palestinian leadership has made “a strategic mistake” not participating in the conference and not discussing a plan that is focused on prosperity for the Palestinian people.

Then, trying a little one-man good-cop-bad-cop routine, Kushner insisted that Donald Trump likes Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and wants to work with him—provided Abbas pulls his head out of his ass. “The door is always open for the Palestinian leadership,” Kushner told reporters. “If they stop saying crazy things and engage, they will see there is an opportunity here. We respect President Abbas and we believe he wants to make peace, and we want to give him the opportunity to try and do it.” Answering a question from a Lebanese reporter, Kushner said the political portion of his peace plan would include “a pragmatic, fair, and workable solution to the refugees issue,” without providing any actual details…

Wall Street, we are told, likes predictability. And ya gotta give Kushner full credit — he’s very predictable.

Watching the Disinformation and Influence Operation Being Made In Real Time

A congressional delegation (CODEL) went to visit several Customs & Border Patrol (C&BP) facilities today. John just put up a post about it here at Balloon Juice Actual. But we weren’t the only ones tracking on it. Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks, as well as her just being part of the CODEL, set off the expected firestorm. The highly credulous, fabulist Anna Giaritelli, who poses as The Washington Examiner‘s Homeland Security reporter, and who was not on site covering the CODEL, decided to report, first by tweet and then in the Examiner, that Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez threw a pair of temper tantrums during the visits. This was picked up by Students for Trump* on twitter and put on blast. Townhall, Breitbart, The Daily Caller, and The Blaze all picked up Giaritelli’s disinformation and published their own stories around it. So while there are at least five articles about this in the conservative news media, four of them simply refer back to Giaritelli’s original reporting, which hasn’t been confirmed by any of the reporters actually in attendance with the CODEL.

Giaritelli, known for her greatest hit of barbering the written quotation of a video interview she conducted with a rancher to make it seem as if discarded Muslim pray rugs had been found in New Mexico by the Border Patrol and other ranchers, has already been called out by a reporter who was actually on site and who live streamed significant portions of the CODEL’s visits. It is unclear if Giaritelli was on site, as she didn’t indicate in her reporting where she was reporting from. Also, all of her sources for this reporting are, of course, anonymous.

Giaritelli, of course, has doubled down. She’s also accusing Congresswoman Escobar, in whose district the facility was located, of also throwing a temper tantrum.

I expect that by the evening the disinformation will have fully spread throughout the Republican, conservative, alt-right, and white supremacist information ecosystems. It’ll finish making the rounds of Twitter and Facebook, jump to Gab, the Chans, and the sub-reddits. From there it will be amplified. Most likely by the President’s caddy, Dan Scavino, who runs the President’s social media feeds, Jr, and other of the President’s social media surrogates, as well as the Russian troll and bot networks will pick it up and kick it into high gear. And, if we were able to actually monitor the direct messages of Scavino, Jr, Giaritelli, whomever is running the Students for Trump twitter account, as well as a variety of other Presidential surrogates, including those in the conservative news media, I would be very surprised to find that there isn’t widespread coordination going on between the players on these disinformation and influence operations.

There are two purposes to this disinformation campaign. The first is to dirty up Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, Congresswoman Escobar, and any of the other Democratic members of Congress on today’s congressional delegation. The second is to use this information to influence those who ingest it. To change the story from the President, on the advise of his senior policy advisor Stephen Miller, and with the avid support of his evangelical Christian base, Republican members of the House and Senate, and the Border Patrol Union, establishing an immoral, evil policy of closing ports of entry to meter claims of asylum, thereby slowing them down; separating families when they do make it to the US and attempt to claim asylum; and ongoing, egregious violations of the Flores agreement under which the US government cannot detain undocumented minors, nor treat them in the manner it currently is to Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez is a hot headed train wreck who abuses the Federal law enforcement officers of the Border Patrol and who now seeks to exact revenge by having the officers at the sites she visited today investigated for no good reason.

We got to watch this disinformation and influence operation in real time today. Out in the open where everyone could see. Imagine what is being done in private?

Updated at 12:15 AM EDT

We now have information regarding what Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez actually did from a reliable source who was with the CODEL.

Open thread.

* Obligatory:


“If you’ve ever wondered what you would have done…”

ProPublica published an exposé today on a secret Border Patrol Facebook group that allegedly comprises more than 9,000 agents and former agents. On the page, they giggle over anti-immigrant memes, including one using the image of the Salvadoran father and his two-year-old daughter who recently drowned in the Rio Grande.

I’m not even going to try to describe what ProPublica found, except to say there’s a shitload of cruelty, racism and sexism, and it’s no surprise people with such a mindset would be complicit in running camps where desperate men, women and children are hideously abused. If Facebook had been around in the 1930s/1940s, this is exactly the kind of shit Nazi concentration camp guards would post.

These agencies need to be burned to the ground, the earth where they stood salted over, and curses placed at the sites to keep the evil contained. Yes, we need to be able to control our borders, but surely non-psychopaths can be found to handle the fucking job.

I saw a photo of a guy at a protest recently holding a sign that said, “If you’ve ever wondered what you would have done in Nazi Germany, you’re doing it now.” Truth.

Open Thread: Crown Princess Dunning-Kruger

From the smirk on her face, absolutely. Eighteen months watching Daddy Dearest in the Oval Office, and she’s convinced she can finish off the important bits of the job — yelling at aides about their inadequate PowerPoint presentations, putting the arm on foreign dignitaries and potential celebrity donors — in an hour or two a day. So if she mindfully curates her twitter feed, she’ll be able to accomplish her “real” work (rigorous self-care, supervising the kids’ and Jared’s nannies) and still have plenty of time for celebrity tuft-hunting!

The Washington Post, “‘Surreal’: Ivanka Trump plays a prominent role in her father’s historic Korea trip”:

The first daughter’s prominence in Japan and South Korea appeared to be by design — a sign of her influence with President Trump and the current absence of influential opponents within the administration.

It’s not clear, however, to what end.

Ivanka Trump shuttered her clothing business after joining the administration, although not right away, and has largely stepped away from her old life as an entrepreneur and social mainstay in New York. She and her husband, senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, let it be known last year that they would remain in Washington and in the White House indefinitely.

Her ambitions are unknown — she demurs on any desire for public office…

Mostly, her prominence on a major foreign trip sends a message about who other countries should listen to or court, said Christopher R. Hill, a former U.S. ambassador to South Korea and other nations.

“It looks to the rest of the world like we have a kind of a constitutional monarchy,” said Hill, who oversaw nuclear talks with North Korea at the close of the George W. Bush administration.

“It’s increasingly problematic in terms of our credibility,” Hill said. “It says to our allies, to everyone we do business with, that the only people who matter are Trump and his family members.”…
Read more

Excellent Read: “FAMILY Values!… “

(Jack Ohman via GoComics.com)

Alexandra Petri is a national treasure:

Let me make one thing clear: The treatment that children are receiving at the border, reported with horror by those lawyers — this is not against my values. Do not misunderstand! I still have more values than anyone. I am a values voter, with values for days, values that go all the way to the floor, values that wave amberly as far as the eye can see!…

We can clearly see that these are just children by themselves, not families, and they are merely covered in filth and tear stains, not exposed to comprehensive sex education, Darwinism or a textbook implying the reality of climate change. So, yes, what’s going on there is in no way an attack on the family. The family is something to be cherished, as luminous as it is theoretical.

It is important to have these values. But I have lots! All the most important, decorative values are the ones I have…

We must have values because people are flawed and fallen. As the Good Book teaches us (it is no “The Art of the Deal,” but it has some points, if you skim it correctly), if you see someone who is suffering, ask yourself, is it possible that this person did something wrong? Not only is it possible, it is probable. Well, then! Probably what they are getting is a just desert. Cross to the side of the road, and let a Samaritan handle it, or some other foreign entity….