Open Thread: Trump’s Other Putin-Sponsored Adviser

Another Friday news dump. Michael Isikoff, at Yahoo News, “U.S. intel officials probe ties between Trump adviser and Kremlin”:

U.S. intelligence officials are seeking to determine whether an American businessman identified by Donald Trump as one of his foreign policy advisers has opened up private communications with senior Russian officials — including talks about the possible lifting of economic sanctions if the Republican nominee becomes president, according to multiple sources who have been briefed on the issue.

The activities of Trump adviser Carter Page, who has extensive business interests in Russia, have been discussed with senior members of Congress during recent briefings about suspected efforts by Moscow to influence the presidential election, the sources said. After one of those briefings, Senate minority leader Harry Reid wrote FBI Director James Comey, citing reports of meetings between a Trump adviser (a reference to Page) and “high ranking sanctioned individuals” in Moscow over the summer as evidence of “significant and disturbing ties” between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin that needed to be investigated by the bureau…

Page is a former Merrill Lynch investment banker in Moscow who now runs a New York consulting firm, Global Energy Capital, located around the corner from Trump Tower, that specializes in oil and gas deals in Russia and other Central Asian countries. He declined repeated requests to comment for this story…
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Friday Morning Open Thread: Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor…

Apart from being reassured that some Americans still understand the ideals upon which our commonwealth was founded, what’s on the agenda as we wrap up another week?



Updated Information and Some Thoughts on the Chelsea Bombing

Now that we’re 27 hours on from the bombing in Chelsea last night we both have more information and still don’t know a lot. Law enforcement has now confirmed that both devices were improvised explosive devices (IEDs) using pressure cookers packed with shrapnel and wired with Christmas lights and cellphones. No one has claimed responsibility and local, state, and Federal law enforcement are working on trying to determine who was responsible, the motivation behind the attack, and if there is any linkage to the near miss and malfunctioning pipe bombs at a charity race in New Jersey earlier yesterday. An online posting claiming credit earlier today has been debunked as a hoax.

Myles Millar, a reporter for NY1, has reported out via twitter that:

And Corey Johnson, the NY City Councilman for the district that includes Chelsea has just tweeted out the following information:

State Senator Golden has confirmed Councilman Johnson’s information:

CNN has now reported (12:02 AM EDT) that the FBI has questioned several people at a traffic stop near the Verrazano Bridge, but that no arrests have been made. Also, based on surveillance video they have identified a person of interest, but are still pursuing numerous leads. And the NY Daily News has now reported that the FBI has arrested several people in possible connection with the Chelsea bombing. Specifically five people arrested who were traveling in an SUV and who are tied to a bomb cache of “three pipe bombs and two smaller devices” at a train station in Elizabeth, NJ.

All of this current/breaking information is still provisional and it remains to be seen how it plays out as the investigation proceeds.

There are some interesting things about what occurred last night. The first is that no one has come out and claimed credit. If this was tied to any of the big international players we would have had some confirmation by now. As a result it is likely that this was done by someone who has self radicalized and that increases the possible reasons for doing this. It could be, given the placement of the first pressure cooker device, that it was someone that had a personal grievance and motivation rather than an ideological/doctrinal (political, religious, ethno-national, etc) one. In this way it would have been like the Con-Ed bomber* that plagued metropolitan NY off and on for decades. This would make the bombing a solely criminal act, so it wouldn’t be terrorism, though with the recent arrests and the discovery of the cache of IEDs – pipe bombs and other devices – this now seems less likely. Or it could be a small group of people who have self radicalized and are acting out their subjective attachment to any number of possible ideological/doctrinal affiliations.

These days the news media has taken to calling these types of actors one of two things: lone wolves or terrorists. The differentiation seems to be whether they are (terrorist) Muslims or not Muslims (lone wolf). As I’ve mentioned here several times: words matter and ideas matter. This false dichotomy obscures that the process of radicalization is the same regardless of what ideology or doctrine one has internalized, identified with – subjectively or objectively, and is acting in support of. Moreover, it paints two exclusionary categories with very broad brushes that make all Muslims potential terrorists, while all non-Muslims can only be lone wolves. This is wrong. The reality of this type of behavior was for years referred to in the literature as leaderless resistance. Leaderless resistance, was first conceptualized by Louis Beam a white supremacist and member of the Christian Identity group Aryan Nations. Beam, linking the concept back to a Colonel Ulius Amoss, conceptualized leaderless resistance as:

An alternative to the pyramid type of organization is the cell system. In the past, many political groups (both right and left) have used the cell system to further their objectives. Two examples will suffice. During the American Revolution “committees of correspondence” were formed throughout the Thirteen colonies.

Two things become clear from the above discussion. First, that the pyramid type of organization can be penetrated quite easily and it thus is not a sound method of organization in situations where the government has the resources and desire to penetrate the structure; which is the situation in this country. Secondly, that the normal qualifications for the cell structure based upon the Red model does not exist in the U.S. for patriots. This understood, the question arises “What method is left for those resisting state tyranny?” The answer comes from Col. Amoss who proposed the “Phantom Cell” mode of organization. Which he described as Leaderless Resistance. A system of organization that is based upon the cell organization, but does not have any central control or direction, that is in fact almost identical to the methods used by the Committees of Correspondence during the American Revolution. Utilizing the Leaderless Resistance concept, all individuals and groups operate independently of each other, and never report to a central headquarters or single leader for direction or instruction, as would those who belong to a typical pyramid organization.

At first glance, such a type of organization seems unrealistic, primarily because there appears to be no organization. The natural question thus arises as to how are the “Phantom cells” and individuals to cooperate with each other when there is no intercommunication or central direction? The answer to this question is that participants in a program of Leaderless Resistance through phantom cell or individual action must know exactly what they are doing, and how to do it. It becomes the responsibility of the individual to acquire the necessary skills and information as to what is to be done. This is by no means as impractical as it appears, because it is certainly true that in any movement, all persons involved have the same general outlook, are acquainted with the same philosophy, and generally react to given situations in similar ways. The pervious history of the committees of correspondence during the American Revolution show this to be true.

Since the entire purpose of Leaderless Resistance is to defeat state tyranny (at least insofar as this essay is concerned), all members of phantom cells or individuals will tend to react to objective events in the same way through usual tactics of resistance. Organs of information distribution such as newspapers, leaflets, computers, etc., which are widely available to all, keep each person informed of events, allowing for a planned response that will take many variations. No one need issue an order to anyone. Those idealist truly committed to the cause of freedom will act when they feel the time is ripe, or will take their cue from others who precede them. While it is true that much could be said against this type of structure as a method of resistance, it must be kept in mind that Leaderless Resistance is a child of necessity. The alternatives to it have been show to be unworkable or impractical. Leaderless Resistance has worked before in the American Revolution, and if the truly committed put it to use for themselves, it will work now.

Again, words matter and ideas matter. What Beam described in 1992 is how a number of terrorist and insurrectionist groups have tried to mobilize its supporters. This includes everyone from the Aryan Nations’ own Order 1 and 2 to ISIL to a host of other ethno-national, ethno-religious, and political-ideological groups around the globe. And make no mistake leaderless resistance is a tactic of low intensity warfare: rebellion, insurrection, and/or terrorism. The failure of the news media to not fall back on this false dichotomy, as well as those who appear on TV and radio as subject matter experts that go along with the division of terrorists = Muslims and lone wolves = non-Muslims are not doing anyone any favors. Aside from misinforming the public as to the actual dynamics of what has happened it also plays right into the hands of ISIL in attacking and attempting to destroy the Grey Zone.

While we wait for further information, and hopefully clarity, as the FBI’s investigation proceeds, it is important to remember that anyone from any ethnicity, religion, and political ideology can be a terrorist. It is not just simply Muslim = terrorist, non-Muslim = lone wolves. Every extremist and terrorist group today tries to leverage leaderless resistance to achieve their strategic objectives and all of them are trying to destroy the Grey Zone – the civic space that all of us live in when we are not in private. The sooner we start keeping that in mind when dealing with these issues the better informed and off we will be in doing so.

* Interestingly enough James Brussel, the father of pyschological/behavioral profiling, claimed that he had successfully profiled the Con-Ed bomber and, as a result, solved the case. The truth was that his profile was completely off base other than the Con-Ed bomber was, indeed, a man. The actual hero of the case was Alice Kelly who had been assigned to go through Con-Ed’s files and had found letter after letter from a very angry and upset man named George Metesky. Metesky was the Con-Ed bomber, but Brussel claimed and because he did so, got the credit despite actually sending the police down numerous rabbit holes, while Alice Kelly is known only to a few as the person that broke the case open. Dr. Brussel was a great salesman, but a terrible profiler because, as the empirical criminological research shows, psychological/behavioral profiling doesn’t work.



Long Read: “Edward Snowden makes ‘moral’ case for presidential pardon “

The Guardian‘s Ewen MacAskill, valiantly soldiering on:

Edward Snowden has set out the case for Barack Obama granting him a pardon before the US president leaves office in January, arguing that the disclosure of the scale of surveillance by US and British intelligence agencies was not only morally right but had left citizens better off.

The US whistleblower’s comments, made in an interview with the Guardian, came as supporters, including his US lawyer, stepped up a campaign for a presidential pardon. Snowden is wanted in the US, where he is accused of violating the Espionage Act and faces at least 30 years in jail.

Speaking on Monday via a video link from Moscow, where he is in exile, Snowden said any evaluation of the consequences of his leak of tens of thousands of National Security Agency and GCHQ documents in 2013 would show clearly that people had benefited…

“I think when people look at the calculations of benefit, it is clear that in the wake of 2013 the laws of our nation changed. The [US] Congress, the courts and the president all changed their policies as a result of these disclosures. At the same time there has never been any public evidence that any individual came to harm as a result.”
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A President Trump’s Foreign Policy Preview: For Sale, To the Highest Bidder

This is just a quick pointer to the essential read of the day.  If Kurt Eichenwald’s brutal, beautiful story on the Trump Organization’s seemingly limitless overseas conflicts of interest with US policy doesn’t become the dominant campaign story for the day and much longer, then, again, we’ll know who and what our media are.

One of the best minor pleasures of this deeply important piece is the way Eichenwald brutally dismisses the false equivalence crap that so many in the press promise us doesn’t exist.  A sample:

The Trump Organization is not like the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, the charitable enterprise that has been the subject of intense scrutiny about possible conflicts for the Democratic presidential nominee. There are allegations that Hillary Clinton bestowed benefits on contributors to the foundation in some sort of “pay to play” scandal when she was secretary of state, but that makes no sense because there was no “pay.” Money contributed to the foundation was publicly disclosed and went to charitable efforts, such as fighting neglected tropical diseases that infect as many as a billion people. The financials audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the global independent accounting company, and the foundation’s tax filings show that about 90 percent of the money it raised went to its charitable programs. (Trump surrogates have falsely claimed that it was only 10 percent and that the rest was used as a Clinton “slush fund.”) No member of the Clinton family received any cash from the foundation, nor did it finance any political campaigns. In fact, like the Clintons, almost the entire board of directors works for free.

On the other hand, the Trump family rakes in untold millions of dollars from the Trump Organization every year.

A_Peasant_Girl_buying_an_Indulgence

Much of that comes from deals with international financiers and developers, many of whom have been tied to controversial and even illegal activities. None of Trump’s overseas contractual business relationships examined by Newsweek were revealed in his campaign’s financial filings with the Federal Election Commission, nor was the amount paid to him by his foreign partners.

That should (but probably won’t) leave a mark in a certain building on 8th Ave between 40th and 41st st.

One more sample, just to get a sense of how utterly at odds with US national interest a Trump presidency would be:

With Middle Eastern business partners and American allies turning on him, Trump lashed out. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal—the billionaire who aided Trump during his corporate bankruptcies in the 1990s by purchasing his yacht, which provided him with desperately needed cash—sent out a tweet amid the outcry in Dubai, calling the Republican candidate a “disgrace.” (Alwaleed is a prodigious tweeter and Twitter’s second largest shareholder.) Trump responded with an attack on the prince—a member of the ruling Saudi royal family—with a childish tweet, saying, “Dopey Prince @Alwaleed_Talal wants to control our U.S. politicians with daddy’s money. Can’t do it when I get elected. #Trump2016.”

Once again, Trump’s personal and financial interests are in conflict with critical national security issues for the United States. During the Bush administration, Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s capital, and Washington reached a bilateral agreement to improve international standards for nuclear nonproliferation. Cooperation is particularly important for the United States because Iran—whose potential development of nuclear weapons has been a significant security issue, leading to an international agreement designed to place controls on its nuclear energy efforts—is one of the UAE’s largest trading partners, and Dubai has been a transit point for sensitive technology bound for Iran.

Given Trump’s name-calling when faced with a critical tweet from a member of the royal family in Saudi Arabia, an important ally, how would he react as president if his company’s business in the UAE collapsed? Would his decisions in the White House be based on what is best for America or on what would keep the cash from Dubai flowing to him and his family?

There’s tons more at the link — and yet Eichenwald says, correctly, that this article only scratches the surface. This is (truly) disqualifying stuff, folks. That it almost surely won’t drive Trump from the race is an indictment of him, his party, and a political process, shaped in part by a flawed media culture.  That just leaves us as a last line of defense.

You know, voters.

The common clay…

[Had to leave that hanging curve out for the Balloon Juice Jackals, right?]

Seriously. Eichenwald has done really important work here.  Go read what he’s found, then get it out to everyone you can.

Image: Marius Granet, A Peasant Girl Buying an Indulgence 1825



Late Night Schadenfreude Open Thread: Hugh Hewitt Gets Trumpened

“Ambulatory cream cheese sculpture” (thanks, Betty!) Hugh Hewitt has been a shameless mouthpiece for the Wingnut Wurlitzer since he first rose above the bottom ranks by comparing his Manhattan talk-radio job to reporting from the front lines of Iraq. Years of tireless service to the RWNJ meme-of-the-moment got him as far as a moderating gig during the presidential primaries. But nobody who attempts to work with Donald Trump comes through without being dinged, if not destroyed… and today Hugh Hewitt got Trumpened:

It was inevitable some Donald Trump supporter would try to rationalize Trump’s view of Vladimir Putin. People just didn’t think that person would be Hugh Hewitt.

The popular conservative radio host got thoroughly clobbered on Twitter Friday morning after he made the argument that Putin is a more effective leader than President Obama because he has “served his country’s national interest better.” Counterarguments came from the left, right and center, and they’re still coming…


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Syrian Ceasefire

The US and Russia have agreed to a ceasefire to go into effect on Monday, the first day of Eid. The Syrian Governmental Forces will cease operations in certain opposition areas and the US and Russia will stand up a joint multinational center to combat the Islamic State and the Nusra Front. The joint center will be for deconfliction – of targets and of US led coalition and Russian backed efforts.

It is important that diplomatic efforts are being made, partially because you can’t only use military power. You have to be able to bring all elements of National power – Diplomatic, Information(al), Military, and Economic (DIME) power – into play blending and balancing them to achieve one’s goals. That said I’m not exactly sanguine that this will be effective. There are a lot of moving parts to the agreement, including the Syrian government’s cooperation, as well as Syria’s other allies such as Iran and its proxies. And, of course, the enemy gets a vote. If the Islamic State, the Nusra Front, or both of them together decide to step up attacks because of the ceasefire and in an attempt to exploit it, it will increase the pressure on this fragile diplomatic effort. My view of the Syrian Civil War since I first started working on the problem set in 2013 is that it was very similar to the Thirty Years War, even as that conflict was not a perfect historical analogue.

Given what has been going on in the presidential campaign, especially during the past week, there may be some other things going on with this agreement. While Secretary Kerry has a lot of control over US diplomacy and diplomatic policy, he wouldn’t be pursuing this without President Obama signing off on it. If the Russians are unable to maintain discipline over their coalition – the Syrian government and its Iranian allies and proxies, much hay will be made over how you can’t trust or rely on the Russians (and by extension Vladimir Putin) because they can’t deliver on their promises. If the US’s local proxies – the Syrian Defense Forces (SDY) and/or the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Forces (YPG) don’t observe the ceasefire, then it will raise questions about the US and its Coalition allies ability to control their local proxies. Because of how the US presidential campaign has gone the Syrian Civil War is no longer about who will run and control Syria, be considered to be Syrian or not Syrian, and a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. It is now also a proxy part of the US presidential election.