They’re exactly who we thought they were

Remember how we were told that millions of Trump voters were driven to cast a ballot for a racist, sexist, xenophobic demagogue through sheer desperation? That they were fooled by Trump’s faux economic populism and only tolerated the racism, sexism and xenophobia reluctantly? That if only the Democrats would quit being neoliberal shills in the pocket of Big Bankster, these self-same Trump voters would flock to our banner? Yeah, not so much:

There’s no honeymoon for Donald Trump in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, but also no regrets: He approaches his 100th day in office with the lowest approval rating at this point of any president in polls since 1945 –- yet 96 percent of those who supported him in November say they’d do it again today.

Mind you, this was AFTER Trump filled his cabinet and adviser ranks with Goldman Sachs alums, predatory distressed asset swindlers and to-the-manor-born plutocratic loons bent on redirecting the flow of federal dollars to fellow billionaires. This was AFTER Trump appointed that unreconstructed Confederate shitbird Sessions to roll back civil rights, harass immigrants and restart the War on Drugs. This was AFTER Trump colluded with Paul “Granny Starver” Ryan to remove access to healthcare coverage for 24 million people.

Trump is historically unpopular with the American people. His administration has been a colossal failure in terms of legislative achievements, despite controlling congress. And even he knows it, which is why he is angrily tweeting about the “ridiculous standard” he himself set and desperately casting about for “accomplishments” to add to his pathetic list in a quest for the ultimate participation trophy.

But the rump that elected Trump is getting exactly what they wanted: an administration that gives force of law to their bigotry and cultural resentments. Look for Trump to double down on that as inklings that “presidenting is hard” continue to penetrate his combover and sink into his thick skull.

Like a rat in a Skinner box, Trump will continue to press the lever marked “DEMAGOGUERY.” That’s the only mechanism that delivers the adulation-pellets he craves.

As for those of us who are dedicated to opposing the demagogue and rescuing the country from his cabal of amoral, scheming, self-interested scumbags, let that poll be a wake-up call: We need to turn out Democrats and get the millions who will be harmed and further impoverished by this maladministration off the sidelines. Chasing Trump voters is folly — they’re getting exactly what they want.



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



Shows for Bros

You know who I wouldn’t want to trade jobs with right now? DNC chair Tom Perez. The first big test of his leadership is apparently gonna be how successfully he channels the Bern. Will he succeed? Does it make sense to pursue this strategy out of the gate? Fuckifino.

Perez and Sanders are doing a roadshow in red and purple states to gin up enthusiasm for rebuilding the party and taking on Trump. It’s officially called the “Come Together and Fight Back” tour. There’s an account of the first rally in Maine in the Portland Herald Press. A couple of quotes:

Perez: “The mission of the new DNC is not simply to elect the president of the United States. It is to elect Democrats from the school board to the Senate.”

Sanders: “Our job is to radically transform the Democratic Party . . . into a 50-state party and a party that does not continue to ignore half of the states in our country. Our job is to create a democratic party, a grassroots party where decisions are made up from the bottom on up, not from the top on down.”

As a neoliberal shill in the pocket of Big Democrat, I am immune to Sanders’ appeal. But I’m not the roadshow’s intended audience. The Democrats don’t have to coddle me to ensure I turn up to vote, but the Sandersites are more loosely affiliated. I’m trying to temper my reaction to the aspects of the roadshow I find irritating accordingly.

In that spirit, I will note that we’ve complained for years about the party’s too-narrow focus on federal offices (though we’ve quibbled over what the DNC’s proper role is in state party affairs). I agree with what Perez says above, and Sanders’ statement basically amounts to the same thing, with extra finger-wagging and pointing.

I’m going to trust that Perez knows what he’s doing and have faith that this roadshow is just the opening salvo, with different forms of outreach targeting women, minorities, etc., and robust voter suppression countermeasures to follow. Because dog knows, we can’t afford to fuck this up by fighting the last war.



Parasites Fasten onto Fat Host

This AP article doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know about the corrupt, trashy grift-maven family that is making fat stacks by peddling executive office influence, but it’s infuriating nonetheless:

SHANGHAI (AP) — On April 6, Ivanka Trump’s company won provisional approval from the Chinese government for three new trademarks, giving it monopoly rights to sell Ivanka brand jewelry, bags and spa services in the world’s second-largest economy. That night, the first daughter and her husband, Jared Kushner, sat next to the president of China and his wife for a steak and Dover sole dinner at Mar-a-Lago.

The scenario underscores how difficult it is for Trump, who has tried to distance herself from the brand that bears her name, to separate business from politics in her new position at the White House.

Difficult? Nope — impossible. If Ivanka Trump were able to overcome what must be a massive genetic predisposition to commit fraud, she’d shut down her “brand” and stay far away from the levers of power. But she’s done the opposite because she’s a crook, just like her scam artist father.

To address ethical concerns, Trump has shifted the brand’s assets to a family-run trust valued at more than $50 million and pledged to recuse herself from issues that present conflicts.

“Ivanka will not weigh in on business strategy, marketing issues, or the commercial terms of agreements,” her attorney, Jamie Gorelick, said in a statement. “She has retained authority to direct the trustees to terminate agreements that she determines create a conflict of interest or the appearance of one.”

Similar arrangements are in place for Mr. Ivanka and the elder Trump — who was elected by gibbering idiots supposedly fed up with corruption and getting shafted by “the man,” so we’re told. And we’re supposed to take the word of a family famous for perpetrating frauds that they are behaving ethically? It is to laugh.

China, however, remains a nagging concern. “Ivanka has so many China ties and conflicts, yet she and Jared appear deeply involved in China contacts and policy. I would never have allowed it,” said Norman Eisen, who served as chief White House ethics lawyer under Barack Obama. “For their own sake, and the country’s, Ivanka and Jared should consider stepping away from China matters.”

Instead, the first daughter and her husband have emerged as prominent interlocutors with China, where they have both had significant business ties. Last year, Kushner pursued hundreds of millions of dollars in real estate investments from Anbang Insurance Group, a financial conglomerate with close ties to the Chinese state. After media reports about the deal, talks were called off.

Mr. Eisen’s observations about how the Obama White House handled ethical snags seem quaint in the context of the Trumps’ global grift operation. And not to worry about Mr. Ivanka’s hundreds of millions of dollars in investments; I’m sure once the media dogs are off the scent, he’ll direct his brother to resume negotiations on the QT.

“You can’t separate Ivanka from her role in life and from her business,” said Allen Adamson, founder of BrandSimpleConsulting. “Her celebrity status is now not only being fueled by her wealth and her family connection, but by her huge role in the White House. All that buzz is hardwired to her products.” That, he added, is a competitive advantage other brands just can’t match — though it does come with risk.

The risk is negligible when you consider that it was perfectly obvious to anyone with the sentient capacity of a mollusk that this corrupt and trashy bunch would abuse the office for their own gain if elected. Scamming is what they do. We either let them get away with it or not, and so far, the Trumps have every reason to believe the scam is unfolding gloriously.



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.)



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.

 



DPRK Failed Missile Launch/Test Open Thread

While we wait to see what, if anything happens next, here’s a nice shiny open thread for you all to speculate and/or talk about whatever.

From that Business Insider article:

A recent New York Times reportuncovered a secret operation to derail North Korea’s nuclear-missile program that has been raging for three years.

Essentially, the report attributes North Korea’s high rate of failure with Russian-designed missiles to US meddling in the country’s missile software and networks.

Though North Korea’s missile infrastructure lacks the competence of Russia’s, Russians using the same type of missiles achieved a 13% failure rate, while North Korean attempts failed a whopping 88% of the time, according to the report.

But to those in the know, the campaign against North Korea came as no surprise. Dr. Ken Geers, a cybersecurity expert for Comodo with experience in the NSA, told Business Insider that cyberoperations like the one against North Korea were actually the norm.

While the fact that the US hacked another country’s missile program may be shocking to some, “within military intelligence spaces this is what they do,” Geers said. “If you think that war is possible with a given state, you’re going to be trying to prepare the battle space for conflict. In the internet age, that means hacking.”

And to make it a musical open thread:

Have at it!