An Answer to Adam Weinstein’s Question Regarding Mariia Butina

In Anne Laurie’s post earlier today, one of the embedded tweets is from Adam Weinstein. As is the case for those doubly blessed to be named Adam and from Florida, he asks an excellent question:

While Mig Greengard’s response below was good, I think there is, if not a better explanation/answer, a complementary one.

As some of you are aware, I have something of a hobby of staying current with the “armed intelligentsia”. This is a combination of two things. The first is they do really good gear reviews for outdoors equipment. The second is left over from my early, first career in academia where I did comparative research into domestic American extremists, contrasting them with those in other countries. These days I’m just largely interested in how Americans understand the history of and around the 2nd amendment and how it has changed over time. As I’ve indicated several times in comments, the best real history book on the topic is Saul Cornell’s A Well Regulated Militia. I also highly recommend his edited volume dealing with the history of modern American 2nd amendment jurisprudence. However, if you want to see what gun enthusiasts – from sport shooters to hardcore 2nd amendment absolutists – you need to read the comments. It may come as a surprise to some people reading this, but it is amazing what people will write and post as a comment when using a pseudonym. I know you’re all just shocked, shocked that such a thing could happen…

I’m not looking to pick a fight with anyone, but here are the links to the heaviest trafficked firearms website/blog on the Internet and how they covered Mariia Butina, her organization Right to Bear Arms, and gun rights/issues in Russia. Take a gander into the comments, do you notice anything? A lot of wishful thinking about how “the natural, civil, and constitutional” right to keep and bear arms might just be catching on and spreading to Russia. The truth is it isn’t. But what these comments tell provide us with an answer to Adam’s excellent question. It points us back to what Rick Perlstein wrote about several years ago in The Baffler (emphasis mine).

It would be interesting, that is, to ask Coulter about the reflex of lying that’s now sutured into the modern conservative movement’s DNA—and to get her candid assessment of why conservative leaders treat their constituents like suckers.

The history of that movement echoes with the sonorous names of long-dead Austrian economists, of indefatigable door-knocking cadres, of soaring perorations on a nation finally poised to realize its rendezvous with destiny. Search high and low, however, and there’s no mention of oilfields in the placenta. Nor anything about, say, the massive intersection between the culture of “network” or “multilevel” marketing—where ordinary folks try to get rich via pyramid schemes that leave their neighbors holding the bag—and the institutions of both evangelical Christianity and Mitt Romney’s Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

And yet this stuff is as important to understanding the conservative ascendancy as are the internecine organizational and ideological struggles that make up its official history—if not, indeed, more so. The strategic alliance of snake-oil vendors and conservative true believers points up evidence of another successful long march, of tactics designed to corral fleeceable multitudes all in one place—and the formation of a cast of mind that makes it hard for either them or us to discern where the ideological con ended and the money con began.

The conservative movement, and the political party that it is currently attached to, have so closed their informational system – from what sources are acceptable to what information is automatically deemed incorrect – that they are basically propagandizing themselves at this point. They only speak to each other, whether it is on Fox News, talk radio, social media, comments sections, what have you; they have imbued the language and terminology of American civic discourse with a special meaning that only really makes sense to themselves; and, as a result, they are susceptible to a variety of grifts. Once you’ve convinced yourself that the real reason for the 2nd amendment was to explicitly enumerate the natural and civil right for self defense – against both individuals and the state – in order to protect and safeguard all the other enumerated and unenumerated rights, you’ve also made yourself susceptible to believing that everyone else should be doing this too. And so when a somewhat attractive young woman shows up and tells you that a movement to establish the right that you think is the most important is taking root in Russia, you’ve already set yourself up to buy into the con. Because all of the resources that would quickly disabuse you of this notion are outside of the informational sources that you have been conditioned to find acceptable, all of the actual information that could be used for a reality check is going to be ignored, if it was even looked for at all. This is why Ben Carson thinks the 2nd Amendment has something to do with the Holocaust. It doesn’t. It is why the “armed intelligentsia” is convinced that Israeli teachers are armed. They’re not. The reason that conservatives in general, and the 2nd amendment absolutist community in specific, fell for this Russian active measure is that like with so much else, they’ve conned themselves.

Open thread.



Russiagate Open Thread: Maria Butina’s Handlers, Owning the GOP, One Dirty Old Man At A Time

It’d make a great movie farce, if not for the treason, not to mention all the ancillary dead people…


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Russiagate / NRA Open Thread: The Red Sparrow Gun Pin-Up Pleads

More posts to follow; “status conference set for Feb. 12”. Nice comprehensive article at Buzzfeed:

A federal grand jury indicted Butina in mid-July on two counts: acting as an agent of a foreign government without alerting the US government, and conspiring to do so. Prosecutors claimed Butina received guidance from a Russian official who tasked her with influencing US foreign policy toward the country; her lawyers from the start denied she was acting as an agent, saying she was just a graduate student. The first charge carried a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, while the conspiracy charge had a maximum sentence of five years.

Prosecutors agreed to drop the more serious count when she’s sentenced. The lawyers estimated that she faced a sentencing range of between zero to six months. As part of the deal, prosecutors could ask the judge for a low sentence, or even no prison time, if they’re satisfied with her cooperation. Assistant US Attorney Erik Kenerson did not offer any details about what sort of information they wanted from Butina. Butina acknowledged that as a Russian national, she could face deportation once she finishes serving any prison time she may face…


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David Clarke, Useless Idiot for Putin’s Active Measures Campaign and Flair Aficionado Extraordinaire, Once Again Decides to Promote American Sedition

Everyone’s favorite flair aficionado, plagiarist, former Milwaukee County Sheriff, and useless idiot in Vladimir Putin’s active measures campaign against the United States, has once again decided to share his deep and profound thoughts promoting American sedition.

You all may remember Sheriff Clarke from his paid for by Russia visit to Russia to meet with a number of Russian government officials as part of an NRA junket that was cover for Russia’s penetration of the NRA as part of its active measures campaign against the US. Here’s some pics to jog the memory:

(David Clarke arm in arm with Mariia Butina. Also pictured on the left former NRA President David Keene and Russian oligarch and organized crime leader Alexander Torshin)

(David Clarke sitting with Mariia Butina)

(David Clarke, Mariia Butina, and David Keene)

And exactly who was it that David Clarke and that NRA delegation was meeting with in addition to Torshin and Butina?

(David Clarke and NRA officials meeting with Russian officials)

December 8th is not the first time that Clarke called for armed rebellion to achieve the political objectives he supports.

As I wrote at the time:

You remember Sheriff Clark, the (sheriffs aren’t actualyl mentioned in the) Constitutional Sheriff and Peace Officers Association Law Enforcer of the Year Award Winner? You know, the tough guy that tried to call in the Wisconsin National Guard about six weeks ago even though he was not the law enforcement officer in charge of what was happening in Milwaukee with demonstrations, protests, and riots? The actual officer in charge would be Milwaukee Chief of Police Edward A Flynn. And he had this to say about Sheriff Clarke:

“Nobody has got more to say about law enforcement and less to do with it,” Flynn said of Clarke, calling him a self-serving man who seeks “celebrity.”

Sheriff Clarke would be the tough guy that had an inmate die of thirst in the jail*, the oversight of which is one of his few actual primary responsibilities, because his subordinates specifically and purposely cut off water to the inmate’s cell – an inmate who was mentally ill.

So what is it that Sheriff Clarke actually does/is actually supposed to be doing? His actual jurisdictionis running the jail, providing security at municipal facilities, and patrolling a part of the interstate as it runs through Milwaukee County.

“By statute and by practice, the sheriff plays only a limited role as a traditional law enforcement agency,” Abele said in his budget remarks to the County Board on Sept. 29, 2011.

“For example, in 2009 the sheriff reported only 12 crimes to the FBI, compared to 41,000 for the City of Milwaukee and 3,200 for West Allis, and even 242 for the UWM Police Department.”

There are no unincorporated areas in Milwaukee County and each of these incorporated municipalities have their own police departments.

Last year, the administration of Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele released some eyebrow-raising statistics on the Sheriff’s Department, noting that:

  • Milwaukee is the state’s only county with no unincorporated area, meaning there are municipal police patrolling every part of the county. Besides Milwaukee, there are 18 suburban police forces in action.
  • In 2009, the sheriff reported only 19 crimes to the FBI, compared to 41,375 for the Milwaukee police, 3,288 for West Allis police, 1,908 for Wauwatosa and even 242 for the UW-Milwaukee police. That’s right, the UWM campus police handled 12 times more criminals than the Sheriff’s Department.
  • Just 10 percent of Sheriff David Clarke’s requested property tax levy was for police services. As Abele put it, “the sheriff plays only a limited role as a traditional law enforcement agency.”

The deputy sheriffs staff the Milwaukee County Jail and County Correctional Facility South (formerly House of Correction), handle the courthouse’s system of bailiffs, and patrol the freeways.

Earlier in the day he was complaining about how long it took his NICS check to go through so he could buy a new AR pattern rifle. Insinuating that this is not how law enforcement should be treated (because, you know, they’re not just citizens too or something).

In case anyone was wondering, NICS checks for gun purchases are done by the FBI – law enforcement genius!

It remains to be seen whether Butina’s plea agreement to fully cooperate will ensnare Clarke, but one can hope.

The documents describe Butina’s efforts to build ties with a “gun rights organization,” which has been identified as the NRA, and “Political Party 1,” which the document makes clear is the Republicans.

The documents confirms previous reporting that Butina helped orchestrate a trip by NRA members to Moscow in December 2015.

During the Moscow trip, she helped set up a meeting between prominent NRA members and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

After that meeting, the agreement said, Butina sent Torshin a message, which was translated as saying, “We should let them express their gratitude now, we will put pressure on them quietly later.”

Clarke may want to spend a little less time spouting off on twitter and a little more time consulting with a high calibre attorney who specializes in national security matters.

Open thread!



Breaking News: Maria Butina Has Reached a Plea Agreement with Federal Prosecutors

Ms. Butina has agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy and cooperate with Federal, state, and local investigations. ABC News has the details (emphasis mine):

Maria Butina, a 30-year-old Russian gun rights activist who stands accused developing a covert influence operation in the United States, has agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy and cooperate with federal, state and local authorities in any ongoing investigations.

She admits, as part of the deal, according to a copy obtained by ABC News that is expected to be filed to the court, that she and an unnamed “U.S. Person 1,” which sources have identified as longtime Republican operative Paul Erickson, with whom she had a multiyear romantic relationship, “agreed and conspired, with a Russian government official (“Russian Official”) and at least one other person, for Butina to act in the United States under the direction of Russian Official without prior notification to the Attorney General.”

Based on the description, the “Russian Official” appears to be Alexander Torshin, deputy governor of the Russian Central Bank and a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Under his direction, the agreement said, she “sought to establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over U.S. politics.”

The agreement, which Butina signed on Saturday, Dec. 8, also notes that the conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison, but the deal could see Butina receive a lesser sentence, depending on the level of her cooperation, before likely being deported back to Russia.

It is unclear what Butina’s cooperation might entail, but federal prosecutors have reportedly notified Erickson that he is a target of an ongoing investigation. The target letter sent to Erickson is from federal prosecutors in Washington, sources familiar with the case told ABC News, and separate from any South Dakota-based federal fraud investigation into his business dealings that has been the subject of earlier media reports.

But now, according to the agreement, Butina has acknowledged that with U.S. Person 1’s assistance, she drafted a proposal called “Description of the Diplomacy Project” in March of 2015 which was later sent to the Russian Official, in which she said that she had already “laid the groundwork for an unofficial channel of communication with the next U.S. administration” and requested $125,000 from a Russian billionaire to attend conferences and meetings to further develop those ties. The Russian Official, the agreement said, confirmed that her proposal would be at least partially supported.

The government has alleged that U.S. Person 1 “worked with Butina to arrange introductions to U.S. persons having influence in American politics,” including high-ranking members of the National Rifle Association and organizers of the National Prayer Breakfast, that would ultimately give her a surprising level of access to conservative politicians, including — in one memorable interaction captured on video— to then-candidate Donald Trump.

Most notably, Butina’s Russian gun rights group “Right to Bear Arms” hosted a delegation of former NRA presidents, board members and major donors in Moscow in 2015, where she appears to have succeeded in arranging a meeting between NRA insiders and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, raising the prospect of a discussion between conservative political operatives and a powerful member of Russian President Putin’s inner circle in the midst of a presidential campaign.

After that now infamous meeting, the agreement said, Butina sent the Russian Official a message, which was translated as saying “We should let them express their gratitude now, we will put pressure on them quietly later.”

Much more at the link!

While we’ve covered Ms. Butina’s endeavors here before, one of the most interesting items in ABC’s report is that the plea deal was reached this past Saturday. There are also some non-surprises here. That US Individual is Paul Erickson who, apparently, is not very bright! And given the attempts to run a petroleum sale using funding partial raised by former NRA President David Keene’s wife, as well as her ability to get access to Governor Scott Walker, former Senator Rick Santorum, Donald Trump Jr, former sheriff and flair aficionado David Clarke, and a number of other high level Republican elected and appointed officials, as well as conservative activists, there could be multiple Federal, state, and local targets of this investigation.

And, of course, that the Russian official is Alexander Torshin and oligarch and leader within Russian organized crime circles who is close to Putin. Depending on how this proceeds, keep an eye out to see if Torshin suffers an accidental death that will clearly be anything but accidental.

What we don’t know right now is exactly what Butina is going to provide to the Federal prosecutors, as well as state and local investigators. Some of it will likely deal with Russian attempts to penetrate the NRA, the National Prayer Breakfast, and related groups and organizations in an attempt to influence the Republican Party, Republican elected officials, and the outcome of the 2016 election.

Just to be thorough, I did a quick search of the top firearms/guns/2nd Amendment sites and there’s no mention of this at all.

Always make sure to identify your target and know what’s beyond it!

Open thread!



Sing, Little Songbird, Sing

Oh:

Maria Butina, a Russian gun rights activist, is poised to plead guilty in a case involving accusations that she was working as an agent for the Kremlin in the United States, according to a new court filing.

Attorneys for Butina and federal prosecutors jointly requested in court documents Monday that U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan set a time for Butina to withdraw her previous plea of not guilty. They said they could be available for her to enter her plea as early as Tuesday.

“The parties have resolved this matter,” Butina’s lawyers and D.C.-based prosecutors wrote in their joint filing.

A plea is not final until it is entered in court and accepted by a judge. Monday’s filing did not indicate to what charge she will plead.

Butina was accused of working to push the Kremlin’s agenda by forming bonds with National Rifle Association officials and other conservative leaders and making outreach to 2016 presidential candidates.

I wonder how most gun owners feel about their NRA dollars being spent to please the KGB?








Saturday Morning Open Thread: Words Have Weight

In case you haven’t already seen this mini-epic from Joshua McKerrow, “Photojournalist. Capital Gazette. Chesapeake News Guild.”