The Status of Jerusalem

The Consulate General in Jerusalem is actually the US’s oldest diplomatic outpost. It was originally the US embassy, for lack of a better term, to the Sublime Porte as the Ottoman central government was known. It now functions as the US diplomatic mission to the Palestinians. So before anything else does or does not happen tomorrow, there already is, and has been for over 200 years, a US embassy in Jerusalem.

Before I lay out the various reporting, let me provide my bottom line up front”

It is absolutely silly to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and/or move the US Embassy to Israel to Jerusalem in exchange for nothing. It is poor strategy, it is bad policy, it is a pointless and ultimately self defeating tactic, and it is diplomatically backwards. The reason the US hasn’t moved it’s embassy to Israel to Jerusalem and/or recognized Israel as Jerusalem’s capital isn’t just the security concerns. It is because either of these potential changes in US policy are most effectively used as motivational carrots to cajole the Israelis into negotiating in, if not good faith, then better faith. Unilaterally giving these to the Israelis removes very valuable and effective leverage from the US’s diplomatic tool kit.

1) If the President does recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, I expect violence.

2) If he announces we’re moving the embassy to Jerusalem, I expect a new intifada, not just three days of rage. And how the Israelis respond, will determine just how bad the protests, three days of rage, and/or a new intifada are.

3) Regardless of 1 or 2 if the proposed peace plan that is being reported on is actually announced in 2018 and it is anywhere close to what is being reported on, which has been Netanyahu’s default preference since at least 2014, I expect a new intifada. But it won’t stop there. ISIS and al Qaeda will look to leverage this, as well as broad Arab and Muslim anger over it, to increase recruitment, justify, and expand operations. But not just in the Middle East. You’ll see an attempted expansion/expansion of ISIS and al Qaeda activities in Central and Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe, and the US. The US led Coalition against ISIS in Iraq and Syria will be at increased jeopardy as a result of this.

4) 1 will be bad, 2 will be worse. 3 is going to be a huge honking nightmare. Between what we think/is likely to happen tomorrow and the leaked details of the Saudi backed, US proposed peace plan Mahmoud Abbas has no room to maneuver. The potential/proposed peace plan will be dead on arrival. There will be an increase in violence within and across the region that will spread. And the US’s growing isolation as a diminished influence in the region and within the global system will be accelerated. And the friends of Bibi’s that are handling the US peace proposal efforts for the President are only going to accelerate Israel’s isolation from the allies it’s made in the Arab and Muslim world and from both the EU and the states that it represents.

Noga Tanorpolsky, who does a lot of reporting regarding Israel, has been covering the Schroedinger’s cat back and forth on what tomorrow’s announcement may or may not actually include. She starts with the practical reality that the President clearly indicated he was going to do recognize Jerusalem as Israelis capital and, most likely, also move the US Embassy to Israel.

Then accurately recognizing the reality TV angle that the President likes to take:

Before letting the snark flow freely:

We still don’t actually know exactly what the President is going to announce tomorrow. I’ve seen reporting that indicates he is going to announce that Jerusalem is Israel’s, and only Israel’s, capital. I’ve seen other reporting that he’s just going to announce that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and leave the only part out. And the reporting also seems to include that the President may announce that he is both going to move the embassy some time in the future (which is not news as he’s been saying this for two years) and that he’s also given instructions to figure out the details involved. So we will have to wait and see just what is announced tomorrow and how bad things may get.

The State Department, and, apparently the Department of Defense are trying to stay out of the line of fire on this whole issue.

And the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas are on the same page.

Ha’aretz reports that the President’s expected announcement is uniting not just the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, but all the other states in the region, as well as the EU and Russia in their opposition to his expected decision and announcement.

Abdullah also warned Trump of the decision’s repercussions on Middle East security and stability. Abdullah pledged he would thwart any American initiative to renew the peace process and would encourage resistance among Muslims and Christians alike.

King Salman told Trump that transferring the embasy is a dangerous step that will inflame feelings of Muslims.

Following their conversatisons with Trump, Abdullah and Abbas reportedly spoke and decided to act in complete coordination following Trump’s decision.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that if Trump goes ahead with the decision, Turkey will cut diplomatic ties with Israel. He added that Jerusalem is “a red line for Muslims.” Israel responded that “Jerusalem has been the Jewish capital for 3,000 years.”

Egypt has warned of “possible dangerous repercussions” if U.S. President Donald Trump follows through on plans to recognize contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Arab League Chief Ahmed Abdoul Gheit said Tuesday that any step changing Jerusalem’s status quo would be a “dangerous measure that would have repercussions” throughout the Middle East. He encouraged Trump to reconsider his decision.

EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini said that any action would undermine a two-state solution, and must be avoided.

German and French leaders also expressed concern at Trump’s potential decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. French President Emmanuel Macron said the Jerusalem issue must be dealt with “in the framework of peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.”

Now we wait and see just how badly the US is going to shoot itself in the foot.



What Does Penetration at All Levels Actually Mean

This morning Cheryl wrote about a newly reported on email about another conservative activist attempting to set up a meeting between the President, when he was a candidate, and Russian President Vladimir Putin. According to The NY Times reporting, the email’s author, Paul Erickson, specifically recommended establishing an early “first” contact at the NRA’s annual meeting.

I just wanted to take a little time and explain why this is part of the penetration at all levels portion of the Russian active measures and cyberwarfare campaign that we’ve been tracking since June 2016 and what I mean by the term penetration at all levels.

Working in reverse order, penetration at all levels refers to establishing connections and building a network through a wide variety of elites, notables, organizations, and institutions across as many societal sectors as possible. By doing so one has the ability to both influence and leverage the political, social, economic, religious, educational, entertainment, and military realms. Not all of this is nefarious. Not all of it is done to be detrimental to the US. And the US, as well as American organizations, do this in other countries too. A lot of it is not nefarious or intended to be, but some, like what we’ve been observing of the Russian active measures campaign against the US, definitely are.

Until Putin’s active measures campaign against the US, the EU, and NATO became clear, perhaps the best example of penetration at all levels in the US was by the Israelis. The Israelis are able to leverage both the Jewish American and Christian (specifically the evangelical Christian Zionists) religious communities, politicians from both political parties, the entertainment industry, other business sectors, think tanks, and the military (there is a US Army Military Education Level 1 Senior Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy aka WINEP aka The Washington Institute). This isn’t intended as a screed about Israelis, rather it is simply a quick recounting of how the Israeli government pursues its interests in the US. What Putin and his proxies have done is similar, though nowhere near as thoroughly as the Israelis. That we know of…

In the Russian case a lot of the penetration that is being reported on and made public appears to have been focused solely on more politically, socially, economically, and religiously conservative sectors, groups, and organizations in the US. The Daily Beast first reported on Russia’s connections to the NRA back in February 2017. This was the first of three articles that delineated the creation of a Russian firearms sporting organization partially led by Marina Butina. Specifically:

Two of Butina’s friendships in particular have raised eyebrows. She started a business with Paul Erickson, a decades-long Republican Party activist. And she served as a special assistant to the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank, Alexander Torshin, a former Russian senator belonging to Vladimir Putin’s political party with alleged ties to the Russian mob world.

 As chilled vodka flowed through an ice sculpture—a bottle imprinted with the Soviet hammer and sickle—she took some time to brag. She brazenly claimed that she had been part of the Trump campaign’s communications with Russia, two individuals who were present said. On other occasions, in one of her graduate classes, she repeated this claim.

Erickson and Butina have been seen in public frequently, at the invitation-only Freedom Ball after Trump’s inauguration; and holding court at Russia House, a Russian-themed bar in Washington, D.C.’s Dupont Circle. At one such gathering in the fall of 2016 Erickson bragged that he was advising the Trump transition team, according to two sources who were present; he is also said to have told a story about introducing Mikhail Kalashnikov, inventor of the AK-47, to former NRA president David Keene. (Kalashnikov allegedly inspired the creation of “The Right to Bear Arms,” Butina’s gun rights group.)

The two appear to have gotten close: Erickson formed a limited liability corporation with Butina in February 2016, according to the South Dakota secretary of state. It is unclear what this organization, Bridges, LLC, actually does. (Despite living in Washington, D.C., Butina has a cellphone number with a South Dakota area code.)

In The Daily Beast‘s second report, Tim Mak expands on his reporting from February 2017 by digging into the meeting between members of the NRA and Dmitry Rogozin, one of Putin’s hard line deputies and the head of the Russian Shooting Federation, which would make him either Butina’s partner or boss. The Daily Beast‘s third article on this topic delves even deeper to who was at the meeting with Rogozin. Specifically former Milwaukee County Sheriff, Fox News analyst, extremist anti-US government Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officer Association Sheriff of the Year, campaign proxy and Republican National Convention prime time speaker, and withdrawn nominee for political appointment at the Department of Homeland Security David Clarke. And former NRA President and current board member David Keene.

Here’s Rogozin’s tweet about the event. You’ll notice Clarke’s in the second photo. Keene is in the first standing next to Rogozin.

Putin, via his proxies, hasn’t just established connections to the NRA and through NRA officials like Clarke to anti-US government groups like the pro-militia and pro-Bundy Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association. They’ve also worked very hard to establish connections to conservative Christian groups in the US.

Growing up in the 1980s, Brian Brown was taught to think of the communist Soviet Union as a dark and evil place.

But Brown, a leading opponent of same-sex marriage, said that in the past few years he has started meeting Russians at conferences on family issues and finding many kindred spirits.

Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, has visited Moscow four times in four years, including a 2013 trip during which he testified before the Duma as Russia adopted a series of anti-gay laws.

“What I realized was that there was a great change happening in the former Soviet Union,” he said. “There was a real push to re-instill Christian values in the public square.”

On issues including gun rights, terrorism and same-sex marriage, many leading advocates on the right who grew frustrated with their country’s leftward tilt under President Barack Obama have forged ties with well-connected Russians and come to see that country’s authoritarian leader, Vladimir Putin, as a potential ally.

The attitude adjustment among many conservative activists helps explain one of the most curious aspects of the 2016 presidential race: a softening among many conservatives of their historically hard-line views of Russia. To the alarm of some in the GOP’s national security establishment, support in the party base for then-candidate Donald Trump did not wane even after he rejected the tough tone of 2012 nominee Mitt Romney, who called Russia America’s No. 1 foe, and repeatedly praised Putin.

Why here’s Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley at the National Prayer Breakfast. This picture was originally posted to his Instagram account:

Makarov is a member of the United Russia Party and is the head of the Duma’s Budget Committee. Why, exactly, is Russia sending a sixteen member delegation of senior officials to the US National Prayer Breakfast, an event largely promoted and attended by elected, appointed, and otherwise well connected American social and religious conservatives? Penetration at all levels in pursuit of influence. It is also important to remember that the National Prayer Breakfast is the premier annual event of The Family, the secretive, ultra-Christian conservative and neo-fascist organization that runs a boarding house for Christian conservative members of Congress.

Vice President Pence gave a keynote address at Franklin Graham’s summit on religious violence against Christians. He also met with Russian Orthodox Church Metropolitan Alfeyev. Alfeyev runs the Russian Orthodox Church’s external relations department.

Even the sponsor of the President’s foreign policy address in April 2016, The Center for the National Interest, appears to have ties to Russia.

That Trump would choose the Center for the National Interest as the place to premier his new seriousness on foreign policy has Manafort’s fingerprints all over it. For Manafort and the Center have something very important in common: both have ties to the Russian regime of President Vladimir Putin, (whose ambassador to the United States sat in the front row for Trump’s address).

As for the Center, both it and its journal, the National Interest, are two of the most Kremlin-sympathetic institutions in the nation’s capital, even more so that the Carnegie Moscow Center, which has evolved from a hub of Russian liberalism into an accomodationist, intellectually-compromised think tank.

Center director Dmitri Simes worked as an aide to Nixon and for decades has used his connections to the Kremlin — real or perceived — to cultivate a reputation in Washington as one of the few Russia hands who intimately knows that country’s politics. For years, the Center for the National Interest partnered with the Russian government-funded Institute for Democracy and Cooperation, a New York-based institution whose head, Adranik Migranyan, was personally appointed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, according to a State Department cable released by Wikileaks. In May 2014, the two think tanks held a press conference defending Russia’s position in Ukraine.

Another association connecting Trump to the Center is Richard Burt, chairman of the National Interest’s advisory council, and a former ambassador to Germany and State Department official during the Reagan administration. According to a knowledgeable source, Burt, who had previously worked as an unpaid advisor to former Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul, has been enlisted by Manafort to join Trump’s campaign and helped draft his speech (neither Burt nor Manafort responded to inquiries). Burt sits on the senior advisory board of the Russian Alfa Bank.

Burt is the lobbyist and former diplomat who contradicted AG Sessions testimony that he hadn’t been at dinners hosted by the AG when he was a senator. He also helped to draft the President’s April 2016 speech on foreign policy, while he was lobbying on behalf of Russia.

It is important to note that the editor of The Center for the National Interest’s publication, The National Interest, has publicly disputed Politico‘s reporting in Politico. His refutation in Politico was also one of the items used to impeach AG Sessions memory over one of his meetings with Ambassador Kislyak:

Speaking for myself, after briefly meeting Trump at a reception in the Senate Room of the Mayflower, where a number of politicians and Trump advisers, such as Senator Jeff Sessions and ambassadors, congregated before the event, I can’t claim any kind of conversion experience.

The reason for all of this outreach, networking, and connection making is to both allow for influence operations to proceed and to facilitate contacts and create opportunities for even more leverage and influence. The reason the NRA annual meeting was proposed for a meeting is that Rogozin was already scheduled to be there under cover of his Russian shooting sports organization. And because most media outlets aren’t going to cover the event. And those that do, which tend to focus on the firearms industry or shooting sports, aren’t going to be paying a lot of attention to Rogozin and his organization other than to note how great it is that Russians are looking to the US in pursuing the natural and civil rights to self defense.

And the reason these Russian contacts want meetings and want to take selfies is it gives them access, influence, and leverage. Do I actually think that Senator Grassley is compromised because he was seated with Member of Duma Makarov? No. But that selfie can be used to provide the impression that maybe he can’t be trusted, beyond just simple partisanship and his noted cantankerousness, to run an objective, above board Senate Judiciary Committee investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Do I think Clarke or the other NRA board members that went to Russia to meet with Rogozin are compromised by the Russians? Doubtful, but hopefully they didn’t do anything strange in their hotel rooms because I’m sure they were under a variety of electronic and signals intelligence throughout their trip.

This is penetration at all levels. Though in this case it is selective, for the time being, on the center right to right in American political, religious, economic, and social spheres. It is intended to provide access, influence, and leverage. Combined with the other portions of the Russian active measures, specifically the cyber warfare campaign, it has been very effective while it has also been very clumsy. Only time will tell just how effective and how much actual damage it has done.



Own personal Jesus

Stu Rothenberg is one political commentator that I’ve grown to appreciate on twitter, partly because he is such an asshole for no reason and partly because he doesn’t pull his punches with Trump and Trumpism. The standard media line about the voting habits of evangelicals is “must respect their faith which informs their politics derp derp”. Rothenberg comes out and says the truth, that it’s the other way around:

I’ve been watching evangelical voting behavior since I worked for Paul Weyrich’s Free Congress Foundation in the 1980s, and I’ve come to believe that, in most cases (though certainly not all), white evangelicals get their religion from their politics, not their politics from their religion.

That is, many evangelicals are first and foremost political conservatives drawn to a church (or a pastor) that confirms their worldviews and, in turn, their political views.

I’d forgotten all about this story:

Remember physician Scott DesJarlais (R-TN 4), the pro-life, tea party conservative first elected to Congress in 2010?

DesJarlais admitted pressuring his mistress to have an abortion and acknowledged he had multiple sexual relationships with patients and co-workers. His wife had two abortions. And yet, the Family Research Council, which promotes “traditional marriage and family and advocates for policies that uphold Judeo-Christian values” (according to the Almanac of American Politics, 2016), gave the congressman a 100% rating for 2014. Even more amazing, voters re-elected the Republican in 2012, 2014 and 2016.

Politically conservative evangelicals are assholes who use religion to justify their barbarism. The wrathful dudebro God they pretend to worship doesn’t exist, so they had to invent him.








Open Thread: What Kayla Moore “Knew”

It is not, so I’ve read, uncommon for men with socially-unsanctioned sexual urges, once they approach forty, to “settle down” with a wife… who may, or may not, be aware of her spouse’s proclivities. Of course the hormones are less urgent as one ages, but just as importantly, an older man has much more to lose if his undercover activities are exposed; his credentials, his career, his network of social contacts become more valuable than the young man’s fantasy of escaping to a fresh start and a new identity. Frequently such men — such couples — become dependent, even to a cult-like degree, upon a rigid religious or ethical text that will “protect” them from the vile temptations of our sinful world. Roy Moore seems to have been a “social Christian” before his marriage; his determination to drag the rest of us into his interpretation of “Bible-based law” came with his… maturity.

Did Kayla Kisor know about her prospective husband’s dubious habits, back in 1985? She was in the same class as the woman who Roy called out of trig class to ask on a date. And she was sufficiently aware of possible embarrassment that she claimed they met at Bible study — when in reality, Roy would say that he first noticed her when she was 17 and performing at a junior college dance recital.

But what she knows now, for certain sure, is that she’s put 32 years into a fruitful working relationship, and suddenly it’s all coming undone, because Godless liberals:

“He has never one time lifted a finger to me. He is the most gentle, most kind man that I have ever known in my life. He’s godly. He’s loving — and everybody in this community knows it,” Kayla Moore, 56, said, looking around at the people gathered that night. “These are our church members, these are our family, these are our friends, these are people that know him just like I do.”

Over the past week, as several women have come forward to publicly accuse Roy Moore, 70, of pursuing them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s, Kayla Moore has become her husband’s most visible and aggressive defender. In addition to her defense on Monday night, she has used Facebook to question the credibility of her husband’s accusers, threaten lawsuits and spread information that sometimes turns out to be false…

Friends describe Kayla Moore as a deeply religious wife, mother and grandmother who has devoted her life to her family and gushes lovingly about her four children and five grandchildren. She served on the board of her husband’s Foundation for Moral Law, which he founded to promote Christian values, and then took over the nonprofit as president in January 2013, when Roy Moore was elected to a second term on the state Supreme Court.

For years, Moore has helped coordinate her husband’s political campaigns. In his race for the Senate this year, the two have traveled nearly everywhere together — with him often at the wheel as she navigates…

The FML also paid Kayla Moore a total of $195,000 over three years through 2015″, on top of Roy’s “salary of $180,000 a year for part-time work.” (And of course when she’s right by his side, it’s that much easier to be sure ol’ Roy doesn’t let his eyes or his hands wander.)
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Open Thread: Suite “Home” Alabama

That “unsure” 11% seems important. CNN:

Democrat Doug Jones — once thought to be a longshot in the Deep South — has tied Republican nominee and former judge Roy Moore in Alabama’s US Senate race, a new poll shows…

Moore and Jones will face off in a special election to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ former seat December 12.

The poll confirms Republicans’ fears that Moore — who campaigns on a theocratic, anti-LGBT message and has twice been ousted as state Supreme Court chief justice, once for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument and once for refusing to follow the Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage — would be a uniquely vulnerable candidate in a state President Donald Trump won last year by 28 percentage points…

Jones, a former prosecutor who convicted two former Klansmen in the bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church, has sought to portray Moore as someone who would embarrass Alabama on the national stage…

Moore has a history of under performing compared to national Republican leaders in Alabama. In the 2012 race for state Supreme Court chief justice, he won by just 2 points over little-known circuit court judge Bob Vance in a year Mitt Romney won the state by 22 points…

Roy Moore’s Senate run is turning into the roadshow version of Trump’s campaign, and that was a farcical imitation of a real campaign…


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Thursday Morning Open Thread: Thoughts & Prayers?


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The news stays this bad, people are gonna revive the old superstition about the health of a nation depending on the health of its king. Given the season, Trump’s handlers should probably be suspicious of any invitations for him to visit an oak grove, Bohemian or not…


***********

Apart from doing what we can to help those most in need, what’s on the agenda for the day?
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Late Night Horrorshow Open Thread: The Repub “Base” Remains A Threat

Even to other Republicans / conservatives, because theirs is a clan of cannibals serving a zombie ideology:

In remarks at a Republican National Committee event at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington on Tuesday morning, Nick Ayers also warned that Republicans are “on track to get shellacked” in next year’s midterm elections if GOP lawmakers don’t pass Trump’s legislative priorities.

But Ayers reserved his harshest criticism for congressional leaders and members who have not offered full-throated support for the president….

One attendee later asked how the donors could “rally the congressional delegation that does support the president and vice president, and rally them and push them to change the current leadership in both the Senate and the House.”

“I’m not speaking on behalf of the president or vice president when I say this,” Ayers responded. “But if I were you, I would not only stop donating, I would form a coalition of all the other major donors, and just say two things. We’re definitely not giving to you, No. 1. And No. 2, if you don’t have this done by Dec. 31, we’re going out, we’re recruiting opponents, we’re maxing out to their campaigns, and we’re funding super PACs to defeat all of you.”

He continued, “Because, look, if we’re going to be in the minority again, we might as well have a minority who are with us as opposed to the minority who helped us become a minority.”

The crowd laughed and burst into applause.

The remarks are some of the most extensive to emerge from Ayers, who joined the White House over the summer after initially opting to remain on the outside. A longtime adviser to Pence and a top aide on the 2016 campaign, he’s widely respected in Republican circles as a sharp-elbowed and strategic operative…

And in the Washington Post, news of another would-be cannibal king “Roy Moore’s disruption of Washington has already begun, and more is on the way”:

Moore didn’t meet with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) or stop by the White House to make nice with the forces­ that tried to defeat him. Instead, he huddled with Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist and one of Moore’s most outspoken advocates, and spent time in the office of a House Republican from Alabama.

The latest skirmish in the escalating war for the soul of the GOP was more than awkward: It was a window into what might be coming for Republicans next year, when hard-right conservatives emboldened by Moore’s runoff victory last week against Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.) are likely to target still more establishment incumbents.

It also has immediate and potentially dire implications for the GOP’s slim working majority in the Senate. Although Moore still faces a general election on Dec. 12, he is widely seen as the front-runner in that race, given Alabama’s heavy conservative tilt.

The growing hostilities threaten the effort by Senate GOP leaders to foster enough unity in their ranks to pass a sweeping rewrite of the nation’s tax laws — which they are wagering is the only thing left that can reverse the political damage the party has sustained this year. Moore is seen as a wild card who could complicate, if not derail, that task.
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