A Little Reminder That Good Things Still Happen and Make the World a Better Place

So this happened earlier tonight (h/t: Josh Marshall’s twitter feed):

(FYI: This is Noni crashing in the apartment building hallway)

Enter good people (in addition to everyone offering to help out in all the replies to the tweets)!

Little things, small actions, make all the difference in the world. Sleep well Noni! And well done Sara Morrison, Carmen Rita, and Chandler for stepping up and making things just a little bit better!



Annals of Strategic Communication: The Carl Vinson Task Force Miscommunication

Joint Publication 5-0/Joint Operation Planning defines strategic communication as:

Focused United States Government efforts to understand and engage key audiences to create, strengthen, or preserve conditions favorable for the advancement of United States Government interests, policies, and objectives through the use of coordinated programs, plans, themes, messages, and products synchronized with the actions of all instruments of national power.

The misstatements and miscommunications regarding where the USS Carl Vinson Task Force is and what it is doing have made US strategic communication, both in general and in regard to the DPRK, much, much harder and much more problematic.

I think, however, that the Occam’s Razor explanation for what happened is the most likely one. Here’s what I think happened:

  1. Admiral Harris, Commander US Pacific Command (USPACOM), informed Secretary of Defense Mattis that he had issued a Fragmentary Order cancelling the Carl Vinson Task Force’s port call in Australia and redirecting the strike group to the Sea of Japan to show the colors.
  2. The DOD notified the White House – most likely either through the Liaison Officer or through the National Security Staff.
  3. A copy of the Fragmentary Order was filed.
  4. Secretary Mattis misspoke on 11 April, because he hadn’t actually seen the FRAGORD, that the Carl Vinson Task Force was headed immediately to the Sea of Japan.
  5. The President was briefed, without any specific details, because no one on the National Security Staff had them, that the Carl Vinson Task Force was headed to the Sea of Japan.
  6. The President stated the Carl Vinson Task Force was headed to the Sea of Japan in his Fox Business News interview.
  7. The Carl Vinson Task Force steamed south from Singapore, as ordered, to take part in a scheduled exercise with the Australian Navy.
  8. As is often the case, the US Navy, through the Public Affairs Office, released pictures of the Carl Vinson Task Force passing through the Sunda Strait – 3,500 miles from the Sea of Japan off of the Korean peninsula.

Talking Points Memo has a full timeline at this link.

How did all this miscommunication happen? Simply put – there are almost no political appointees at the Pentagon (or anywhere else in the US government) right now. Secretary of Defense is, essentially, working without a team. He has no deputy, under, assistant deputy, and deputy assistant secretaries, nor does he have any directors, deputy directors, and/or special assistants at the Department of Defense – though several designees have been named for some of these positions. He also does not have any Service Secretaries in place  – though we have have three designated nominees. And none of the deputy, under, assistant deputy, and deputy assistant secretaries, nor does he have any directors, deputy directors, and/or special assistants at each of the Services. All the Secretary of Defense has is whichever Trump campaign and transition personnel are on the DOD and Service Beachhead Teams – none of whom have been chosen by Secretary Mattis. Right now you have a DOD Secretary, the DOD and Service Beachhead Teams from the transition, and then the career civil servants (both Senior Executives and General Schedule) and uniformed military personnel. Basically the entire layer of politically appointed managers, senior to junior, are completely missing. As a result, things are going to fall between the cracks, such as the exact nature of Admiral Harris’s FRAGORD to reposition the Carl Vinson Task Force.

Aside from the bog standard embarrassment of having the President, the Secretary of Defense (a retired USMC 4 Star), and the White House Press Secretary (a US Navy Reserve Commander) not knowing where a carrier strike group is, this is also a significant strategic communication problem. This morning the Associated Press reported (h/t and via: Talking Points Memo) that both our Asian-Pacific partners and competitors are disconcerted and wary given the President and the Administration’s seeming inability to communicate accurate information.

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Unpredictable. Unhinged. Dangerous.

Many South Koreans are using those words to describe the president of their most important ally, rather than the leader of their archrival to the North. They worry that President Donald Trump’s tough, unorthodox talk about North Korea’s nuclear program is boosting already-high animosity between the rival Koreas.

The Kyunghyang Shinmun newspaper said recently that Trump is playing a “dangerous card” with his verbal threats, risking a miscalculation by Pyongyang and a war on the peninsula.

What the US is currently strategically communicating in regard to the ongoing DPRK nuclear weapon and missile development programs is not exactly inspiring confidence on the Korean Peninsula.

Read more



GA 6th District Jungle Primary Open Thread #2: Fulton County is Experiencing Technical Difficulties, Please Do Not Adjust Your Electronic Voting Machine…

Updated at 11:45 PM EDT:

Now back to Peggy at tech support!

Open Thread!



Cleveland Murder Suspect Update

Pennsylvania State Police are reporting that Steve Stephens, wanted by the Cleveland Police Department for the murder, streamed live via Facebook, of 74 year old Robert Godwin, has killed himself after being spotted by law enforcement near Erie, Pennsylvania.

Here is the latest statement from Cleveland Police Chief Williams regarding the case.



The Turkish Referendum: The US is Now on the Wrong Side of History

Turkey held a referendum yesterday in regard to the structure of the Turkish government. On its face it was intended to modernize the 1980 constitution, which was drafted after the last military takeover to preserve the Kemalist system. The referendum involved constitutional reform that increases the power of the President of Turkey.

The plan turns Turkey from a parliamentary to a presidential republic. Among the numerous changes:

  • The role of prime minister will be scrapped. The new post of vice president, possibly two or three, will be created.
  • The president becomes the head of the executive, as well as the head of state, and retains ties to a political party.
  • He or she will be given sweeping new powers to appoint ministers, prepare the budget, choose the majority of senior judges and enact certain laws by decree.
  • The president alone will be able to announce a state of emergency and dismiss parliament.
  • Parliament will lose its right to scrutinise ministers or propose an enquiry. However, it will be able to begin impeachment proceedings or investigate the president with a majority vote by MPs. Putting the president on trial would require a two-thirds majority.
  • The number of MPs will increase from 550 to 600.
  • Presidential and parliamentary elections will be held on the same day every five years. The president will be limited to two terms.

There appear to be a number of observed and reported irregularities in the voting and the tallying of the votes regarding the referendum.

As Arab News reports:

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s two main opposition parties on Sunday said they would challenge the results putting the ‘Yes’ camp ahead in the referendum on expanding the powers of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after alleged violations.
The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) said that whatever the final result, it would challenge two-thirds of the vote, saying: “There is an indication of a 3-4 percentage point manipulation of the vote.”
The deputy head of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Bulent Tezcan, denounced “violations” by the election authorities in allowing ballot papers without an official stamp to be used.
Another CHP deputy head, Erdal Aksunger, said it could appeal up to 60 percent of the vote.
“Believe me, this election is not over,” he told CNN Turk, quoted by the Dogan news agency. “This is totally invalid. We are declaring this here.”
He said that the CHP was appealing 37 percent of the ballot box results, and this figure could eventually rise to 60 percent. “Since the morning, we have detected violations,” he said.
Turkish media said that CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu was convening a special meeting of its executive board.

The EU had its monitors on site because Turkey still has an open application to join the European Union. Both the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) sent monitors.

… observers from the OSCE and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) said on April 17 that the legal framework for the referendum “remained inadequate for the holding of a genuinely democratic referendum.”

The monitors also said the referendum campaign was conducted on an “unlevel playing field” and that the counting of ballots in the April 16 referendum had been marred by “late procedural changes.”

President Erdogan responded by calling out the EU and its monitors:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan treated a crowd of supporters gathered outside his presidential palace on Monday evening to a speech laced with invective against Europe, saying his victory in a referendum on Sunday took place under conditions that were democratic beyond compare.

“We don’t care about the opinions of ‘Hans’ or ‘George,’” Erdogan said, using the names as stand-ins for his European critics. “All debates about the constitutional referendum are now over.”

This, unfortunately, fits with President Erdogan’s ongoing attempts to reorient Turkey away from an EU he perceives as perpetually dragging its feet regarding Turkish membership (he is not wrong) and from the EU’s attempts to restrict his power and his remaking of Turkish politics and society. Even more unfortunate was the President’s response to the outcome of the referendum.

I think that it is highly likely that despite what the EU monitors have observed and reported, and the challenges by Turkish opposition parties, that the outcome of the referendum will stand. This will significantly increase President Erdogan’s power, which he is eligible to wield all the way through the 2029 Turkish elections if repeatedly reelected. In many ways this referendum put the democratic process to work to achieve a very anti-democratic and authoritarian outcome, or at least an anti-democratic outcome that will allow Erdogan to become more authoritarian. In many ways it is the logical follow on from last summer’s abortive coup. Regardless, it is neither a positive outcome for Turkey, nor was the President’s response to this in his call to Erdogan a good thing.

(Full disclosure: One of my former students, from my first year assigned to USAWC, has been accused by the Erdogan government of participation in the failed coup. I was his front line supervisor/academic advisor and his research advisor/supervisor. I have been unable to reach him or his wife since the night the coup began. The last time I heard from him was in 2015 when I wrote a letter of reference for his application to a Belgian graduate program while he was assigned at NATO headquarters. He is an excellent officer, a true gentleman, and a loyal Turk.)



Breaking News For Those in Cleveland, Ohio: Murder Suspect Armed and Dangerous

The Cleveland Police Department has issued a warning regarding Steve Stephens who earlier today streamed his murdering of an elderly man live via Facebook.

Cleveland Police are currently investigating a homicide at 635 E. 93.

No additional victims have been found. Officers continue to search multiple areas.

Suspect did broadcast the killing on Facebook Live and has claimed to have committed multiple other homicides which are yet to be verified.

Suspect in this case is a bm Steve Stephens 6’1 244 bald with a full beard. Wearing dark blue and grey or black striped polo shirt. White or cream colored SUV. Armed and dangerous. If seen call 9-1-1. Do not approach.

The Jester’s Internet AWACS social media tracker (signals intelligence for social media) is currently offline, but if he gets it back up, I’ll post the link.

As a general warning, please be careful on social media if you decide you want to investigate this on your own. Many tweets include the video of Stephens committing murder.

For those in the Cleveland, OH area: stay alert and stay safe!

I’ll update as further information becomes available.

Update at 5:50 PM EDT

Update at 6:00 PM EDT

Some good, and tragically unfortunate, advice in this tweet:

Also Cleveland 19 News’ Shanice Dunning has an interview with the victim’s family:

Update at 6:27 PM EDT

Here’s the link to the live feed of Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson and Chief Calvin D. Williams media briefing:

Live Stream Two

Update at 6:45 PM EDT

Cleveland PD livestreaming the press briefing:

Update at 8:40 PM EDT



Today’s Berkeley Beat Down: Planned Action by the Alt-Right

Earlier today in Berkeley things got violent. A dedicated group of folks on social media, with a significant amount being done by Caroline O.,  have been doing yeoman’s and yeowoman’s work to pull all the social media evidence together indicating who was really responsible: the alt-right. The violence was planned, orchestrated, and telegraphed on social media by a dedicated group of alt-righters. And it was done in such as way as to make it look like black bloc or antifa demonstrators, who are often associated with the extreme left even if they have nothing to really do with left of center politics in reality, were responsible. This allows the alt-right to have its cake (beat the daylights out of people it disagrees with) and eat it too (have it blamed on these same people).

Here’s some video of what went down:

Here’s just a smattering of the evidence that has been accumulated to demonstrate that the folks dressed all in black were alt-righters and were looking to instigate violence:

Based Stickman, real name Kyle Chapman, is this lovely fellow:

Historian Rick Perlstein wrote a bit about Chapman yesterday:

Behold Stick Man

I’ve seen the Berkeley footage Morgoth is referring to. That’s how I made the acquaintance of Stick Man.

Berkeley’s March 4 Trump was organized by a man named Richard Black, who announced that members of the alt-right, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists were banned. Among those who did not get the memo were Moshe Daniel, who goes by the nickname “Kilt Man.” Daniel depicts himself on Facebook with a giant serrated knife and a T-shirt featuring the face of the late Chilean fascist dictator Augusto Pinochet, the legend “PHYSICAL REMOVAL,” and another of those silhouettes of people being dropped from helicopters—a Pinochet-favored method for dealing with dissenters.

The march turned into a “small riot,” as gun-rights blogger Bob Owens, one of the most widely read on the web, and a cool and clear-thinking moderate, described it after reviewing the available documentation. “Both sides came to this incident prepared for a fight,” he wrote, concluding it was impossible to see “who threw the first punch.” In my mind, however, there were at least two moments where the person who threw the first punch was starkly evident. In both cases it was an individual who wore all black, from boots to baseball cap, and carried a distinctive black shield emblazoned with a “V” for victory, and an American flag. The man in black also wore a gas mask, surely in response to a widely disseminated urban legend that antifas are routinely attacking protesters with pepper spray. In one video he whacks a downed anti-Trump protester with the long wooden stick he carries (with two tiny American flags attached, thus he can call it a flagpole). In another, he can be seen smashing his stick down so hard on an unarmed protester’s head that the stick breaks in half.

He’s since become a right-wing folk hero, and, after Berkeley police arrested him on several felony charges, naturally, a right-wing martyr.

(much more at the link)

This is a serious problem. Dedicated, hard core alt-righters who push both Russian derived propaganda and are organizing themselves to conduct violence in a way as to lay the blame on left of center Americans who look to peacefully protest.