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Topics - Crafty_Dog

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Politics & Religion / Woke Capital
« on: August 13, 2021, 11:15:26 AM »
Very promising show this Sunday night on FOX on this.   I saw the host of this show on Tucker.  He is very bright.

Politics & Religion / Hungary
« on: August 07, 2021, 05:01:49 AM »
Tucker has done his show for the last couple of nights from Hungary, including interviewing President Orban.

I'm intrigued and open this thread for assessing what is going on there and why it seems to piss off so many people we like pissing off.

Politics & Religion / Larry Elder
« on: August 05, 2021, 04:49:55 PM »
Here's to the next governor of California!

Politics & Religion / Anti-trust law and related issues
« on: July 05, 2021, 02:15:45 PM »
Obviously this thread will interact heavily with the Goolag thread, but I'm thinking it deserves a thread of its own.

Kicking it off with and editorial from the WSJ-- for the record I'm not sure whether I agree or disagree:

Lina Khan’s Power Grab at the FTC
The new Chair snatches unilateral authority and rescinds bipartisan Obama-era standards.
By The Editorial Board
July 5, 2021 4:43 pm ET

Independent federal agencies have power over American life that the Founders never imagined, and that reign is about to expand with a vengeance in the Biden era. Witness the unprecedented power grab engineered last week at the Federal Trade Commission by the new chair, Lina Khan.

The events didn’t get much attention because the press cares more about politics than governance. But on a series of 3-2 votes, the Democratic commissioners turned agency tradition upside down and gave themselves vast new powers to harass business.

The agency eliminated the long-standing role of the agency’s chief administrative law judge in presiding over fact-finding and rule-making. Now Ms. Khan, or someone of her choosing, will preside. The Democrats also killed the requirement that the FTC staff get a majority vote of the commission to start an investigation. Now only a single commissioner can sign off. Subpoenas can also fly at Ms. Khan’s discretion.

The commissioners rescinded the bipartisan Obama-era FTC statement, adopted in 2015, that the agency follow antitrust law as it has evolved in the courts. This is a sure signal that the three Democrats are planning to dump the consumer-welfare standard for antitrust that has prevailed for decades. Instead the agency will replace it with some new standard it hasn’t specified. Also on the chopping block is the “rule of reason” the Supreme Court has applied to antitrust law for more than a century.

This is the handiwork of Ms. Khan and Rohit Chopra, who is still a commissioner but has been nominated by Mr. Biden to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Ms. Khan is a 32-year-old academic who has no experience running anything. She helped write the October 2020 House Antitrust Subcommittee report on Big Tech and has called for breaking up large firms. Now she’s teeing up the FTC to stretch its powers in a way it hasn’t done since the 1970s and 1980s before it was rebuked by Congress and the courts.

Ms. Khan and her academic ally Tim Wu, who now works in the White House, claim they are merely restoring proper antitrust law from the intellectual detour pioneered by the late, great Robert Bork. But they ignore that modern antitrust law, with its focus on economic analysis and consumer benefit, has also been nurtured by many others. They include scholars Phillip Areeda and Herbert Hovenkamp and Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

Ms. Khan appears to reject all of that. She writes fondly of railroad regulation, of all things, which was repudiated by Congress after demonstrable failure. She wants to apply the Robinson-Patman Act of 1936 to Amazon and other giants. That price discrimination law was long ago diminished by the courts with hardly a word of objection from Congress.

Ms. Khan may feel she has the political wind behind her given the anti-Big Tech mood on Capitol Hill. Twenty-one GOP Senators voted to confirm her, including some upset with Big Tech for censoring conservative speech. But they voted to make her a commissioner before President Biden made her Chair—a decision he announced only after her confirmation. That was a clear break with tradition that a nominee for Chair be identified before a Senate vote.

These Republicans may be under the illusion that Ms. Khan has only Big Tech in her sights. But the new powers she is claiming will give her authority to shoot at business in all directions. The FTC is supposed to be mainly an enforcement agency that polices bad practices, but Ms. Khan and her fellow Democratic commissioners want to expand its regulatory powers as well. Watch out for rules on privacy and data-collection for starters that will affect hundreds if not thousands of companies.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce awoke to criticize the FTC votes last week. But Republicans in Congress are still asleep.

Wide awake is Amazon, which last week filed a petition with the FTC seeking Ms. Khan’s recusal from actions concerning the giant retailer. The petition includes a declaration from Thomas Morgan, one of the country’s foremost experts on legal ethics who was retained by a firm working for Amazon. Mr. Morgan recounts Ms. Khan’s extensive record of hostility to Amazon and thus her inability to fairly judge the facts of an antitrust case.

“The Majority Staff Report in which Chair Khan played a large part in effect asserts that Amazon is guilty of violating the law,” Mr. Morgan writes. “In my opinion, in any future matter tried before the FTC, Amazon is entitled to decision makers who have a more open mind about those issues than Chair Khan would appear to a reasonable observer to have.”

We have no special brief for Amazon and have criticized its dominance in the e-books market. But the point here is about Ms. Khan’s blinkered zealotry. Don’t expect her to take Mr. Morgan’s recusal advice, but the courts may come to a different conclusion. Meanwhile, American business should get ready. The Khan FTC is coming after you.

Science, Culture, & Humanities / 'Murica!
« on: April 16, 2021, 07:59:51 AM »
Texas on My Mind
Thoughts in and around geopolitics.
By: George Friedman
Last weekend, my wife and I went to the town of Bandera, in the western part of the Texas Hill Country. (We live in the eastern part.) We went there to celebrate the maturation of our COVID-19 vaccinations, as bizarre an idea as anything very real might be. We went to Bandera to ride horses. More precisely, my wife rode horses. My few experiences with horses all ended in pain and embarrassment. On the other hand, I do know how to ride the subway, and how to wedge myself in during rush hour, which she hasn’t mastered.

Bandera calls itself the “Cowboy Capital of the World,” and there is a plaque from a former Texas governor affirming that, so it’s obviously true. We stayed at a dude ranch that had no horses and no room service. My wife secured the deadly beasts elsewhere, while I contemplated a surprising discovery.

Bandera had not been founded by John Wayne’s ancestors. Rather, it had been founded in the mid-19th century by a Polish immigrant, who was followed by 16 Polish families. They landed in Galveston, which had been a major destination for immigrants through that century. How they got to Bandera and why they chose to settle there is unknown to me. What is known is that they made shingles from cypress trees and sold them to buyers in San Antonio. The Polish presence can still be glimpsed, blended into the complexity of the World’s Cowboy Capital.

We went hiking one day and paused at a lookout called Comanche Bluff. The Comanche were a powerful force from the Rocky Mountains to Kansas, and they raided deep into Texas, as far as San Antonio. The bluff was not named after them arbitrarily. The Comanche used the bluff to observe the area below. I have seen the movie “Hondo,” in which John Wayne plays John Wayne to the Comanche Nation. That is a comfortable notion for me. But now I have to face the fact that it was a group of Poles who had to fight and make treaties with the Comanche. I can’t quite deal with the fact that a band of Polish carpenters, and not an Anglo called Hondo, created the Cowboy Capital of the World, and fought the Comanche and lived to tell about it. “Bandera” means “flag” in Spanish, and a white flag near Comanche Bluff marked the border between the Comanche and the settlers. It stood for a while, until violated by both sides.

There is a tendency to see Texas as Anglo country, settled by migrants from Appalachia and the like. They were certainly there and were critical in settling and defining the country. (It was a country before it was a state and, frankly, isn’t sure it made the right move.) In the conventional model of Texas there were Anglos, Mexicans and raiding Indians.

But Texas was much more complex than that. The Polish band was accompanied by a Czech settlement just north of the Hill Country, and Fredericksburg, north of Bandera and west of where I live, was settled by Germans. German flags still fly there, German food is sold and tribute is paid to its famous son, Chester Nimitz, commander of Pacific forces in World War II. Indeed, I am told that until about Nimitz’s time, the schools taught students in the German language. There is a town to the east of where I live called Buda. The only Buda I’ve known in the world is the one attached to Pest on the Danube, in Budapest. There were Hungarian settlers here in Texas, and there is a book written about them, but alas, I am but the sad remnant of a once noble people. There must have been many more settlements that I don’t know of from many more small countries that I am unaware of.

Most of these Germans, Poles, Czechs and Hungarians arrived in the mid-19th century. A wave of revolutions, nationalist and liberal, gripped Europe in 1848. European nations were trapped inside of empires, free to speak their language but not to determine their fate. The revolution intended to free nations like Poland, Germany, Czechoslovakia and Hungary from these tottering entities, allowing them to form their own nations. It was a liberal revolution in the sense that they demanded not only the right to self-determination but also the right to representative governments and the end of the power of the aristocracy. The revolutions failed catastrophically amid a wave of executions, and hence a wave of immigration. The immigrants left their homes not for high moral principles, as some of those on the Mayflower did, but rather to go somewhere where life wasn’t so bitter and a living could be made. In other words, they came for the same reason others came.

It is interesting that they came to Texas. Texas was in its way part of the European revolutions of 1848. Having arrived first in Mexico, the newcomers rebelled against being part of it, and fought a revolution freeing it from Mexican rule. Having lived in Texas for a quarter-century, I will never be seen as a Texan, as I have no ancestors who died at the Alamo. Few states in the union revere the memory of their birth as much as Texas. But then, Texas won the revolution and became an independent nation. It entered the union through a treaty between two nations, the only state created in this way. The independence of Texas’ electrical grid stands as a monument to its rugged independence.

My wife and I chose to live in Texas at a time when we were free to settle anywhere. She wanted to live in a place that was hot and dry and had horses, like her native Australia. I wanted to live with her. I came to love Texas for a sense of freedom I never really felt anywhere else. The state is vast, and outside of the cities, the land is designed for privacy and idiosyncrasy. It has a silence to it that invites thought.

My discovery in Bandera of the original Polish settlers reminded me of the other Central Europeans who came here when the cities beckoned. But they were at one with Texas. They wanted their own life to be lived on its own terms, dealing with droughts and Comanches as needed. When I was raised I was told of Sandor Petofi, a Hungarian revolutionary and poet who died in the 1848 revolution. The land my house rests on was part of a land grant to William Travis, who died at the Alamo. The go-to-hell courage of these two men mingle here, I would like to think.

The insistence on living on your terms must be accompanied by the willingness to die for that right, the fundamental paradox of humans. The Comanche lived that paradox. So did the Poles, Hungarians and the rest. The famed cowboys – immortalized in the writings of Karl May, a German who had never seen America but who would inspire the cowboy movie – could not grasp the meaning of cowboys, many of whom were Black or Mexican, and the rest were the strange confluence of Texans, living their lives as they would.

Politics & Religion / Gov. Ron DeSantis
« on: March 01, 2021, 07:19:25 AM »
Gov. DeSantis had a whole hour on Mark Levine last night.  Added quite a bit to the already strong impression I had of him.

Apparently he came in second to Trump in the CPAC straw poll.

So, starting this thread on him.

Politics & Religion / Economic Espionage (China and others)
« on: February 23, 2021, 05:23:28 AM »
Understanding Economic Espionage: The Present

undefined and Global Security Analyst
Ben West
Global Security Analyst, Stratfor
11 MIN READFeb 23, 2021 | 11:00 GMT

Deputy Attorney General Jeffery A. Rosen on Sept. 16, 2020, at the Department of Justice in Washington talks about charges and arrests related to computer intrusion campaign tied to Chinese government the group called 'APT 41.'
Deputy Attorney General Jeffery A. Rosen on Sept. 16, 2020, at the Department of Justice in Washington talks about charges and arrests related to computer intrusion campaign tied to Chinese government the group called 'APT 41.'

(TASOS KATOPODIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Editor's Note: The following is part two in a three-part series on economic espionage; part one may be accessed here.

Following World War II, the United States firmly established itself as a global political and industrial power. With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, it became the world's sole superpower. This ascent has made the United States the preeminent target for industrial espionage in the early 21st century by the main countries that seek to undermine its relative power, Russia and China.

The Soviet Union/Russia
At the midway point of the 20th century, the Soviet Union presented the clearest espionage threat to the United States. It had just detonated its own atomic bomb in 1949 that ended the four-year U.S. monopoly on nuclear weapons, largely thanks to comprehensive Soviet spying on the Manhattan Project. But Soviet espionage was not limited to strategic and military intelligence; the Soviets were also immensely interested in U.S. industrial secrets.

Russia's push to acquire intellectual property started long before the Cold War. Following the formation of the Soviet Union in 1922, it was a political imperative for its leaders to accelerate and expand industrialization in order to catch up with the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and France, all of which had begun industrialization before Imperial Russia. An important part of that strategy was the establishment of the Amtorg Trading Corp., a Soviet office in New York that promoted commercial relationships and investment, but was widely suspected of serving as a base for Soviet economic espionage since its founding in the 1920s.

The Soviets soon realized that possession of trade secrets was not enough to replicate the technology. For example, Amtorg employees appear to have gotten their hands on the blueprints for a Ford tractor design, but efforts to replicate the tractor in the Soviet Union failed. So Soviet leaders hired a leading Detroit industrial designer, Albert Kahn, to design factories that could efficiently build tractors. Eager for revenue in the early 1930s following the stock market collapse, Kahn took the contract, but the Soviets ended it early. Having obtained the designs for a factory, they replicated it themselves rather than continuing to pay Kahn to build factories for them. Russian architectural historian Sonia Melnikova-Raich argued that the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin extrapolated from Kahn's designs far more than just tractor production, also establishing more efficient means of production passenger vehicles, trucks and even tanks. This allowed the Soviet Union to develop its entire defense industry. Ultimately, Kahn's tractor factory blueprints helped the Soviets in their fight against Nazi Germany and to maintain parity with the United States in the Cold War that followed.

The Soviet Union continued to rely on imitation of American and European technology and trade secret theft during the Cold War, with mixed results. For example, the Soviet Tupolev TU-144 was a clear imitation of the Anglo-French Concorde supersonic passenger aircraft. While the Soviets were able to match (and even exceed) the Concorde in speed, the project suffered from a lack of demand and safety concerns. The North Atlantic economic zone created a demand for quick travel between Europe and North America for wealthy commercial elites. The Soviet Union's expansive geography also could have benefited from supersonic passenger travel, but demand for flights between Moscow and the rest of the Soviet Union was nowhere nearly as large as demand was for trans-Atlantic travel. Following several crashes, the TU-144 ultimately only flew 55 times carrying passengers. Ultimately, the Soviet TU-144 program was more motivated by a political desire to maintain technological parity than sustainable commercial demand.

Russia continues to pose an elevated espionage threat to countries and companies around the world. While the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s led to a decade of political turmoil, there was a great deal of continuity in espionage activities in the new Russian Federation. Testaments to that continuity are the arrests of CIA officer Aldrich Ames in 1994 and FBI agent Robert Hanssen in 2001, both of whom provided political and strategic intelligence to Soviet handlers and their successors within the Russian Federation. Further arrests and dismantling of spy rings associated with Russian agents like Anna Chapman (2010) and Maria Butina (2018) continued throughout the 2010s. Today, the Russian Federation continues to pose an economic espionage threat to companies, too. At least three cases of Russian economic espionage targeting user information and technological trade secrets at major companies like Yahoo, GE and Boeing resulted in federal charges in the United States between 2016-2019. In 2020, a Tesla employee alerted authorities after a suspicious approach from a Russian national who wanted the employee to install malicious code on Tesla's networks in order to extort money from the company. While charges against this Russian national did not specifically mention espionage, the cyberespionage attacks on Yahoo illustrated an overlap between Russian criminal groups and the state's intelligence apparatus.

A list of priority sectors for business espionage by Russia and China
Modern Russian economic espionage campaigns also appear to replicate the model of establishing a commercial presence in a market to gain access to trade secrets. In 2015, FBI agents arrested Evgeny Buryakov and charged him with spying for Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR). Buryakov was working under nonofficial cover for the Russian state-owned development bank Vnesheconombank to recruit sources in the energy and finance sectors in New York. Additionally, the FBI issued public warnings in 2014 about the potential intelligence threat state-backed venture capital investment firms like Rusnano pose to the U.S. tech sector.

The clear frontrunner in 21st-century economic espionage is the People's Republic of China and its Ministry of State Security, which has been implicated in scores of trade secret theft accusations in the United States and around the world. Between 1996 and 2019, China stood to benefit from 66 (32%) of the 206 U.S. federal cases involving charges related to the Economic Espionage Act of 1996. China was second only to other U.S. companies, which accounted for 76 of the 2016 cases (37%) over that same period. Over a more recent timeframe, from 2016-2019 China accounted for half of all charges related to economic espionage (18 of 36 cases). FBI Director Christopher Wray has made clear that the U.S. government views Chinese espionage as a serious and growing threat. During public remarks in 2020, Wray noted that the FBI opens a new China-related counterintelligence case on average every 10 hours and that of the nearly 5,000 active FBI counterintelligence cases underway as of 2020, half were connected to China. Wray noted that this marked a caseload increase of 1,300% over the past decade. The economic impact is sizable, too: Researcher Nicholas Eftimiades estimated that Chinese economic espionage activities accounted for $320 billion in losses per year as of 2018, or 80% of the total cost of intellectual property theft to the United States estimated at $400 billion per year by the director of national intelligence.

The United States has introduced a variety of policies, ranging from sanctions to restrictions on Chinese students and programs, designed to identify and prevent economic espionage. History, however, suggests that preventative measures will at best slow down the transfer of technology. China and the United Kingdom had draconian measures in place to deter the illicit transfer of technology: China threatened death for violators and the United Kingdom forbade craftsmen in certain trades from traveling. But even then, secrets made their way out. The current wave of Chinese-led economic espionage targeting the United States is even more difficult to stop because the strategically important trade ties between the two countries facilitate the flow of information and make counterintelligence policies extremely expensive. The United States traded $558 billion in goods with China in 2019; any policy to counter economic espionage is going to have to accommodate the economic realities of the need to continue to do business with China.

a bar graph showing charges under the economic espionage act of 1996
China's strategic interest in conducting economic espionage has been made clear through initiatives such as Made in China 2025 and the Thousand Talents Plan. An industrial plan released in 2015, Made in China 2025 aims to transition China's labor-intensive manufacturing economy to a leader in more value-added technology production. The plan also includes achieving 70% self-sufficiency in high tech industries by 2025 and dominating global tech markets by 2049 — the 100th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. The Thousand Talent Plan is another familiar strategy that seeks to recruit scientists, researchers and industry professionals to work in China, thereby bringing in the know-how to help China achieve its ambitious goals. In recent years, U.S. investigators have alleged that the Thousand Talents Plan has offered targeted employees cash bonuses for bringing sensitive documents and trade secrets with them when they relocated to China. A U.S. federal investigation accused Chinese recruiters of offering an engineer at a U.S. energy company in excess of $170,000 in 2018 to bring secrets related to battery technology that his company was working on. Even before the Thousands Talents Plan, China in 2011 offered a disgruntled engineer at energy technology company AMSC $1.7 million to provide trade secrets that would save the partially Chinese-government-owned company Sinovel $800 million in contracts it had with AMSC.

Financial incentives also come in the form of investment and promises of lucrative entrepreneurial endeavors. A Texas-based materials science researcher used several million dollars in Chinese funding to adapt syntactic foam technology — which allows greater buoyancy control in modern maritime vessels — from his previous employer and start his own company in 2014 that provided China with the secrets it sought. Similar incentives are applicable in the pharmaceutical industry, in which China is also heavily interested. In 2016, Chinese investors (likely with state backing) lured a biochemist working on monoclonal antibodies to take sensitive materials from her employer, GlaxoSmithKline, and attempt to start up her own rival business in China. Chinese and Russian interest in pharmaceutical trade secrets only increased in 2020 with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and global race to find treatments and ultimately, a vaccine.

While the United States is a primary target, it is by no means the only target. German industrial chemical company BASF was targeted by Chinese economic espionage attempts in Taiwan, as was the industrial engineering and steel production conglomerate ThyssenKrupp. One of the most successful counterintelligence operations in recent years targeting Chinese espionage efforts took place in Belgium, where authorities arrested Ministry of State Security officer Yanjun Xu for his efforts to recruit intelligence sources within companies.

One major difference between China's current espionage campaign and previous ones is the pace and scope at which the transfer of technology is occurring. Modern technology has facilitated espionage in many ways. The digital storage of information and electronic means of collection allows intelligence operators to collect and transfer terabytes of information on an easily concealable hard drive or anonymous server. The source code and software that is so often the target of modern espionage campaigns can also be exploited much more quickly than technologies of the past, which took years (if not decades) to recreate. Cyberespionage techniques allow collectors access to sensitive information without the logistical complications of sending officers or informants on long, expensive missions through hostile territory. Storing contraband digitally makes it easier to maintain the integrity of the documents and share them as widely as needed. These all contribute to espionage on a scale that far surpasses the slow drip of information during previous campaigns.

It is clear that China has the interest, intent and capability to conduct economic espionage — that has been proved through dozens of arrests, charges and convictions over the past decade. China also appears well-placed to exploit the trade secrets acquired through espionage given its large manufacturing base, capital to support new start-ups, and political support for technological innovation through the Made in China 2025 and Thousand Talents program. China's primary target, the United States, has ramped up counterespionage efforts in response. But whether it's Chinese silk production, British textile mills or American factory production processes, history has demonstrated that it is very difficult to stop the spread of successful technology. History also has demonstrated that economic espionage alone isn't enough to translate stolen trade secrets to economic success, as was the case in French efforts to learn Chinese porcelain production secrets or Soviet efforts to replicate the Ford tractor. While Beijing has many forces working in its favor, its ambitious goal to attain global domination in technology by midcentury is by no means guaranteed. What is clear, though, is that economic espionage will continue to pose a threat to companies and the countries that benefit from their work for years to come.

Next in the series, we will explore the future of economic espionage. China is not the first and will not be the last to rely on economic espionage to achieve politically motivated industrial goals. What other countries stand to benefit from economic espionage, and who might they target?

Politics & Religion / Citizen Trump
« on: February 01, 2021, 11:25:37 AM »

By Chad Day and Rebecca Ballhaus
Feb. 1, 2021 12:25 am ET

Former President Donald Trump started the year with at least $31 million in cash to wield through his new political-action committee as he seeks to remain the leader of the Republican Party.

The money is in the coffers of Mr. Trump’s newly formed leadership PAC called Save America, which in the weeks after the Nov. 3 election began receiving donations in response to fundraising messages asking for money to overturn his election loss.

The PAC has raised $31.5 million since its formation on Nov. 9, according to filings made Sunday with the Federal Election Commission that cover the period through the end of last year. The PAC’s only expenditures since the election have been a little more than $340,000 in fundraising costs.

The Save America funds will be key to Mr. Trump’s efforts to retain his grip on the Republican Party as he considers running for president again in 2024.

Mr. Trump could use the money to support his preferred candidates or back primary rivals to Republicans he is unhappy with. He has privately expressed interest in unseating the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach him alleging he incited the mob to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6 and prevent Congress from certifying President Biden’s victory.

One of the 10, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R., Ill.) on Sunday launched his own initiative, called Country First, that seeks to rally Republicans who are opposed to Mr. Trump’s brand of politics.

A representative for Mr. Trump didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Trump’s PAC, which has wide legal latitude in its spending, could also finance travel for Mr. Trump and his allies, pay for advertising and be used to keep certain advisers on payroll. Since his presidency ended, he kept a handful of former White House and campaign aides, including press aide Margo Martin and adviser Jason Miller.

Save America is emerging as the former president winds down the various arms of his 2020 reelection effort, which include his campaign and two committees that jointly raise funds with the Republican National Committee.

Separately, the campaign and joint-fundraising committees combined had about $74 million in cash on hand, filings show. About $60 million of that is sitting in an account for one of the joint-fundraising committees that could transfer money to Save America.

The remaining campaign funds have more restricted uses under FEC rules and could be used in the event that Mr. Trump runs for president again or to pay down the 2020 campaign’s $2.7 million in outstanding debts.

After his defeat, Mr. Trump remained a formidable fundraiser, bolstered by dozens of text and email appeals to raise money for his efforts to overturn the election. All told, Mr. Trump and the RNC raised more than $255 million online between Election Day and the end of the year, according to an FEC filing from Republican online donation platform WinRed.

Trump Victory, one of the joint-fundraising committees with the RNC, raked in some major donations in that period. Fresno developer Richard Spencer gave $11,200 on Dec. 2; Utah attorney Douglas Nielson gave $25,000 on Dec. 16; and investor Lee Beaman gave $28,800 on Dec. 2.

The committee also received $25,000 from the National Fraternal Order of Police PAC on Dec. 2.

The campaign’s primary expenses between Nov. 24 and the end of last year, the period covered by the latest FEC filings, were $11.1 million in contribution refunds; $6.5 million in online and text message advertising; another $5.1 million in advertising specifically related to election recounts and $3.4 million in legal fees related to those efforts, according to the records. Among the legal payments was $1 million to Kasowitz, Benson, Torres, the law firm founded by Mr. Trump’s former longtime lawyer, Marc Kasowitz.

The campaign also paid $63,000 to a firm owned by Rudy Giuliani, who spearheaded Mr. Trump’s efforts to overturn the election. Representatives of Mr. Giuliani at one point sought for the campaign to pay him up to $20,000 a day. The campaign shows no other payments to Mr. Giuliani.

Trump Victory gave refunds to some major donors, the records show, including $210,000 to longtime donor and real-estate developer Geoff Palmer; $180,000 to venture capitalist Walter Buckley; and $94,000 to former Facebook executive and virtual-reality pioneer Palmer Luckey.

Politics & Religion / Promises kept: Biden vs. America
« on: January 18, 2021, 11:59:08 AM »
Condition of this thread:  Anything posted here must also be posted on other relevant thread(s) as well and discussed there.

Politics & Religion / China Chinese penetration of America
« on: December 11, 2020, 08:26:30 AM »
We now have US-China (South China Sea) and China vs. the World, and with this thread we now have China in America:

Politics & Religion / Biden Transition and Administration
« on: November 18, 2020, 09:18:58 PM »
Looks like we are going to need this one.

Politics & Religion / Eastern Mediterranean
« on: July 20, 2020, 05:40:43 AM »
I've been seeing more and more pieces organized around this concept and so start this thread.

Off the top of my head, I would say that President Trump is looking rather prescient in having played things so that we are not part of this fustercluck.  Imagine if we were still in Syria, defending Turkey's border.

July 20, 2020   View On Website
Open as PDF

    Is the Eastern Mediterranean the New Manchuria and Abyssinia?

Regional tensions are calling into question international institutions’ ability to execute their mandates.
By: Caroline D. Rose

A financial crisis has swept the globe, creating socio-economic tensions and political divisions that divert governments’ attention from important global issues. In the preceding years of chaos, flashpoints emerged in Africa and Asia that pitted revisionists, allies and institutions against one another. Japan installed a puppet government in Manchuria in 1931 before fully invading the mainland six years later. Meanwhile, Italy attacked and annexed Abyssinia (present-day Ethiopia) in 1935 and 1936. These actions bent international law to its breaking point and tested the limits of allies. Despite its design for collective security, the paralyzed League of Nations – undermined by entangled allegiances and conflicts among its own members – was effectively dead.

2020 isn’t 1938, but the parallels are difficult to ignore. The world is bracing itself for the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, one that, without a COVID-19 vaccine, may only get worse. Indeed, the 2008 financial crisis may have started the turn toward nationalism and isolationism, but the current pandemic has accelerated it, creating a climate that prioritizes state imperatives over all else and calls into question the reliability of international institutions.

This time, the flashpoint is the Eastern Mediterranean. The ongoing hostility between Greece and Turkey is shaping the contours of energy competition, military alliances, trade partnerships and the Libyan civil war. Caught in the crossfire are NATO and the European Union. Many southern EU members – including Greece, France and Cyprus, all of which directly border the Mediterranean Sea – have called on Brussels to punish Turkey for its behavior there, either through economic measures or collective military action. Turkey isn’t an EU member, though it is an important trade and security partner. It is, however, a member of NATO. So is Greece. A direct military confrontation between them could tear the alliance apart. Notably, NATO weathered similar storms in the 1950s and 1970s, maintaining neutrality on Greece-Turkey disputes, but this time, the rift has pitted a number of NATO allies, outside actors and regional threats against each other in entangled Eastern Mediterranean conflicts, placing institutional credibility in jeopardy.

Time Isn’t On Turkey’s Side

Cultural, religious and ideological differences have no doubt played a central role in the Turkey-Greece rift, but ultimately, it all comes down to maritime interests: Both want unobstructed access to sea lanes and offshore resources. Turkey has been unable to discover hydrocarbons in the continental shelves off its own shores and so remains dependent on gas exports from its rival, Russia, and eastern and southern peripheral neighbors. Volatile relations with Moscow and unstable conditions in the Middle East and the Caucasus have jeopardized shipments, sometimes disrupting pipeline flows, while rising gas prices have caused increased political friction with the ruling government – never a good sign for a country that’s experienced more than 10 coup attempts in the past 60 years. Uncomfortable with the state of affairs, Turkey is trying to tap the proven oil and gas reserves in the Mediterranean, thereby reducing its dependence on others and earning some much-needed cash in the process. It has thus parlayed its relationships with the Government of National Accord in Libya (home to Africa’s largest proven oil reserves and around 1 percent of the world’s gas reserves) and Northern Cyprus to push west.

Yet mounting financial problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a recession in 2018 have forced President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s hand. Turkey has therefore upped offshore exploration and drilling activities and enhanced its military presence in a race to secure sought-out resources. This may work in the short-term, but operationally, Turkey doesn’t have the equipment, the resources, the logistics or, most importantly, the money to sustain this campaign. Time is not on Turkey’s side. Greece understands Turkey’s economic urgency and has adjusted its strategy accordingly. Athens has therefore led the charge for an anti-Turkey alliance of European, Israeli and Arab governments, has advanced military partnerships and exercises, and has sought out the promises of EU and NATO collective security to prevent Ankara from securing game-changing revenue sources.
(click to enlarge)
Old Friends, New Aggressors

Though the conflict has been largely confined to gunboat diplomacy, a proxy war in Cyprus, occasional airspace violations, and a rather spicy war of words, Greece’s coalition has increased the likelihood of a messy – potentially conventional – military conflict against its fellow NATO ally. This is no ordinary problem for the EU and NATO, which have made the Mediterranean a top agenda item in recent meetings despite the ongoing pandemic and financial crisis. The EU even held its first face-to-face meeting for EU foreign ministers since the pandemic began to assess EU-Turkey relations. And the EU and NATO have sent scores of foreign ministers and advisers between Turkish and European capitals to keep communication lines open and promote negotiation.

These attempts, however, have been undermined by hard-line elements in Greece and Turkey. Leaders are simply constrained by political pressure at home and a fear of an imminent attack. (There was hope for a breakthrough earlier this summer, but Greek and Turkish moves in Libya, religious tensions over the status of the Hagia Sophia, delimited maritime zone agreements, and continued maritime provocations of Greek fishing vessels and Turkish drilling ships have started to turn both Turkish and Greek public opinion against dialogue, period.) Greek Foreign Minister Mikos Dendias has asked the EU to produce a list of sanctions against Turkey’s banks, tourism industry, and exports and imports, and to reconsider Article 42 of the Lisbon Treaty, Europe’s mutual defense clause that asserts EU members’ “obligation of aid and assistance by all means in their power” in the event of an armed aggression on a member state.
(click to enlarge)

The EU is walking a tightrope, balancing its need to cater to one of its members and its need to de-escalate tensions. Brussels has drafted a list of harsher sanctions to smooth Athens’ ruffled feathers, but ultimately the EU and its northern members want to keep this list hypothetical and steer clear from harsher sanctions on Turkey. Only seven countries opposed sanctions: Austria, Cyprus, France, Greece, Slovakia, Luxembourg and Estonia. Yet the EU’s remaining members – many of them Balkan and northern members that are popular destinations for migrant groups traveling from Turkey – indicated they have no appetite for raising stakes with Turkey, a country with a record of encouraging mass refugee migration in Europe when it seeks leverage with Brussels.

With two of its members threatening military action, NATO has likewise sought to balance between southern European and Turkish demands to avoid a fight. After all, NATO has no formal, legal mechanism for expelling a member outside of Article 8, which vaguely bars members from engagements “in conflict with the provisions of this Treaty” without any other enforcement mechanism. The result is a cocktail of appeasement, punitive measures and endless attempts at diplomacy to prevent intra-NATO conflict. For example, after a June 10 incident in which Turkish ships allegedly harassed a French ship under NATO command, a NATO probe sided with Turkey, saying there wasn’t enough evidence to proceed with punitive action. Clearly, NATO is coordinating its strategy with the EU, placating Turkey when the EU concedes to Greece in an effort to offset tensions. Giving Ankara and Athens an inch here and there is a way to keep its members happy, retain relative confidence in its credibility, and compensate for the lack of formal enforcement mechanisms.

Even so, escalating tensions between Greece, Turkey and an emerging East Mediterranean coalition is not going anywhere and will serve as both institutions’ greatest litmus test as the EU and NATO struggle to reconcile old friends with new aggressors.   

Politics & Religion / Lloyd De Jongh's thread.
« on: June 02, 2020, 12:07:03 AM »
Woof All:

Opening this thread for my friend Lloyd de Jongh to use as he sees fit.

Lloyd is from South Africa, but he married a Polish woman and now lives in Warsaw.  In South African nomenclature he is "Colored" meaning he is not "pure" black. 

He has deep knowledge of South African prison/criminal knife methods known as "Piper".  Together he and I have founded "Rapid Transients Weaponcraft"-- which is our knife system for good people facing bad problems.   The name is a reference to the theories of John Boyd of OODA loop fame.

He worked throughout the Mideast for years for FLIR installing its detection systems.

Stay tuned!

Politics & Religion / The Great American Reopening , , , or not?
« on: May 13, 2020, 11:01:29 AM »
We've been using the Political Economics thread for this subject, but upon reflection I'm thinking it deserves its own thread.

Elon Musk Isn’t Taking It Anymore
The mercurial Tesla CEO has a point about disparate lockdown treatment.
By The WSJ Editorial Board
May 12, 2020 7:26 pm ET

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is no Paul Revere. But his defiance of Alameda County’s shutdown order captures the frustration among businesses like Howard Beale’s primal scream in the movie “Network.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom last week allowed some non-essential businesses to begin to reopen, but six Bay Area counties including Alameda, where Tesla assembles most of its electric cars in the U.S., doubled down on their lockdowns.

“Frankly, this is the final straw. Tesla will now move its HQ and future programs to Texas/Nevada immediately,” Mr. Musk tweeted Saturday. “If we even retain Fremont manufacturing activity at all, it will be dependen [sic] on how Tesla is treated in the future. Tesla is the last carmaker left in CA.”

A decade ago Mr. Musk rescued and retrofitted an auto-manufacturing plant in Fremont that Toyota had abandoned. The plant now employs 10,000 middle-class workers, many of whom live in rural San Joaquin County where another Tesla factory has been allowed to operate amid California’s shutdown because it is classified as essential.

“This disparate [government] treatment is arbitrary and without a rational basis,” Tesla states in a lawsuit against Alameda County, pointing out that the infection and fatality rates in Alameda and San Joaquin counties are similar. Mr. Musk also argues that Tesla is an essential business because it makes electric motors and battery systems that are “critical infrastructure.”

“The County’s order violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because it fails to give reasonable notice to persons of ordinary intelligence of what is forbidden under the law,” the lawsuit argues. He has a point, and arbitrary government distinctions about which businesses can stay open often seem to be based on politics rather than public health or science.

You can understand Mr. Musk’s frustration when Alameda County officials have allowed pot shops to stay open while shuttering his Tesla plant though the company has developed protocols to protect workers. Other governors including Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer have given the green light to auto plants run by Tesla’s competitors.

Mr. Musk dared Alameda officials to arrest him when he reopened Tesla’s plant Monday, and he may get his wish. We don’t encourage lawbreaking, but a legal test of disparate lockdown treatment might rein in the inner dictators who are appearing in many places in America in these pandemic days.

Politics & Religion / Decoupling from China
« on: April 28, 2020, 06:05:17 PM »
Relying on Foreign Drugs Is Dangerous
Generics are often made in India, with ingredients from China. Time to diversify the supply chain..
By Scott W. Atlas and H.R. McMaster
April 28, 2020 1:07 pm ET

Pills move through a sorting machine at a pharmaceutical plant in Andhra Pradesh, India.
Health security is critical to national security. The Covid-19 pandemic is a moment to re-evaluate U.S. dependence on China for pharmaceutical ingredients and to solidify the pharmaceutical supply chain in advance of proliferating threats.

Americans filled the equivalent of 5.8 billion 30-day prescriptions in 2018. That doesn’t count the hundreds of millions of vaccinations administered annually. In 2019 the Food and Drug Administration estimated that 40% of finished medications and 80% of active pharmaceutical ingredients were manufactured overseas, mainly in China and India.

While U.S. pharmaceutical companies may preserve redundancy in their sources for patented drugs, the generic drug business, which accounts for more than 90% of all U.S. prescriptions, prioritizes low cost over supply-chain resiliency. Most generics, including antibiotics, are imported from India—and India imports some 70% of its active ingredients from China. America needs to understand and diversify sources of supply, as well as maintain a strategic reserve of antibiotics and the key drugs for the most prevalent serious diseases.

Beyond scale and complexity, details on drug manufacturing are opaque and complex. The Food and Drug Administration requires country-of-origin markings, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled in February that processing ingredients into tablets in the U.S. is enough to constitute “manufacturing.” A drug made into tablets in the U.S. with active ingredients from India may list only the U.S. as “principal place of business” for FDA purposes. Labeling should be straightforward, but not at the sacrifice of security.

Protecting the drug supply also requires guarding against poor-quality and counterfeit medications, a repeated problem of medications from China in particular. Although the FDA conducts 3,500 inspections of generic plants a year, additional measures are necessary. More than half of FDA inspections are conducted on foreign manufacturers, but only a small minority are done unannounced in China and India. The U.S. government should require far greater on-site access and increase the funding and staff to implement that policy. It is also time to stop viewing the reimportation of drugs as a potential solution without serious downsides.

A strategy to diminish supply-chain risk must also take account of China’s dependence on U.S. drugs. The U.S. is the world’s predominant source of pharmaceutical innovation, including new cancer drugs, next-generation biopharmaceuticals and tests that determine which patients will benefit from those drugs. China is highly reliant on foreign sources of more-expensive brand-name drugs, which make up 90% of overall drug revenues, exporting only 1.2% of all medications in total value; the U.S. is among the top five exporters.

China is deeply dependent on U.S. cancer drugs in particular. Of those launched world-wide from 2013 to 2017, 51 of 54 were available within two years in the U.S. Only two were available in China. Cancer survival in China is only half that in the U.S. The Communist Party recognizes this problem. Its Healthy China 2030 Plan exempts most drugs from taxes and omits U.S. cancer drugs from tariffs placed on other medications in 2019.

China has emphasized generating new pharma patents. China now exceeds the U.S. in published applications, even though the U.S. still leads by a wide margin in patents that are ultimately granted. Mutual dependence on uninterrupted access to critical drugs, among both allies and adversaries, is a vital part of risk mitigation. Leaders should make clear that the U.S. will never withhold pharmaceuticals from other nations for coercive or punitive purposes, except when faced with hostile actions, such as acts of war.

Perhaps most important, policies must encourage pharma innovation and production. Reducing vulnerability to health threats such as Covid-19 rests on American discovery and competitiveness. While the U.S. leads the world in health-care innovation, this is no reason to be complacent. Congress should strengthen tax incentives for high-risk investments in early stage medtech and life-science companies, including drug development, and target additional incentives to domestic drug manufacturing.

Developing a new drug typically costs more than $2.5 billion and takes more than a decade. Safety standards shouldn’t be compromised, but lengthy clinical trials can be streamlined. The FDA should continue the impressive work it began in 2016 to expedite drug approvals. During 2017 and 2018, yearly new drug approvals increased by around 70% relative to the eight years under the Obama administration. Finally, legislators must avoid the temptation to impose price regulation and limit patent protections. These measures delay drug launches, reduce access and crush research and development.

A secure drug supply chain couldn’t have made up for the Chinese Communist Party’s decision to conceal the threat of Covid-19. But it is essential for mobilizing resources to mitigate the crisis. And the stakes are high, even in normal times. More than 15 million American seniors, or 1 in 3, take five or more medications daily. As the U.S. population ages, society will become even more dependent on drugs indispensable to treating the biggest killers—heart disease, cancer and stroke. Preventing an interruption of the supply of vital medications that save lives and treat diseases, whether during pandemics or in routine care, is a matter of national security.

Dr. Atlas is a physician. Lt. Gen. McMaster, a retired Army officer, served as White House national security adviser, 2017-18. Both are senior fellows at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

Getting to be too many of these that don't fit in existing threads:

Politics & Religion / NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo
« on: April 13, 2020, 07:23:19 PM »
Starting a thread on him for obvious reasons:

Politics & Religion / Nikki Haley
« on: February 25, 2020, 12:56:58 PM »
It occurs to me that we should have a thread for likely 2024 contender Nikki Haley: 

Politics & Religion / Soft Coup 3.0: Impeachment
« on: October 06, 2019, 02:04:50 PM »
Per CCP's suggestion, starting this thread.  Let's make sure to be precise with regard to on which thread we post!

Politics & Religion / Big Guy Biden & Son (Hunter)
« on: September 24, 2019, 04:16:51 PM »
Looks like this brouhaha is going to need its own thread:

Kicking it off with this:

Feel free to repaste relevant articles from other threads.

Politics & Religion / Eric Holder
« on: October 10, 2018, 04:53:25 PM »
We may need to keep our eye on this man.  Feel free to  paste Obama era content here too-- including Fast & Furious.

Science, Culture, & Humanities / Civics and Civic Duty
« on: October 08, 2018, 10:49:19 PM »

Science, Culture, & Humanities / Virtual Reality
« on: September 30, 2018, 06:08:26 AM »
I know nothing about "Virtual Reality" but have reason to want to rectify that so I begin this thread:

Politics & Religion / Chinese hacking and other penetrations of the US
« on: August 31, 2018, 07:36:48 AM »

Also, let's use this thread for the apparent Chinese hack of Hillary as well as the Hillbillary thread.

Please feel free to back fill content from their hack of millions of US security clearance applications; the reliance of our military upon Chinese electronic chips, penetrations of our universities, Joe Biden's son, Sen. McConnell's wife's family, Sen. Diane Feinstein, etc.

Politics & Religion / Kavanaugh
« on: July 11, 2018, 02:33:06 PM »
Let's give Kavanaugh his own thread:

This from an attorney friend

We know that Toobin is a hack.  He’s also wrong about this:

“Under the Constitution,” Kavanaugh wrote, “the President may decline to enforce a statute that regulates private individuals when the President deems the statute unconstitutional, even if a court has held or would hold the statute constitutional.” This is an extraordinary view. It is courts—not Presidents—who “deem” laws unconstitutional, but not, apparently, in Kavanaugh’s view. President Trump’s sabotage of the A.C.A. comes right from Kavanagh’s approach to the law.

My friend comments:

"Every branch has an obligation to uphold the Constitution.  Toobin almost certainly knows better, but loves Marbury v. Madison a little bit too much.  Like most liberals who view the courts as super-legislatures."

This is an interesting point and good on Kavanaugh for making it.

Politics & Religion / Paddock and the Vegas Mass Kill
« on: October 11, 2017, 05:56:25 AM »
Though we come late to the party with the beginning of this thread  (do see prior posts on the Conspiracy and the Mass Killing threads) , it is beginning to look like this story is going to last a while.

We begin with something more than a bit conspiratorial, but clicking on the embedded URLs reveals e.g. that Paddock and girlfriend went on cruises that included the Middle East.

see e.g.

With the arrest of her Pakistani IT man as he tried to fllee the country back to Pakistan, I'm thinking it is time to give this its own thread.

Though not the most , , , of sources, here's this to get the ball rolling:

Now check out this!

At 19:10 Tucker Carlson w Mark Steyn:

Do I have this right? The Pakistani, funded in part by IRAQI money (!?) had DWS's password?!?  And therefore leverage over her?  Is this why the DNC refused to let the FBI have its server?  Does this dissolve the assertions of certainty that the Russians were behind the hack of the DNC?!?  Could Trump be right that it may not have been the Russians?

PS: We need a good summary article of the story prior to this.

Let's start keeping a list.

1) The anti-lobbyist EO
2) Rejecting TPP
3) Rollback of Obama's Cuba EO
4) Price reduction on F-35

I'm thinking this needs its own thread:

30 minute video

Scholar Victor Davis Hanson says there’s a “big lie” surrounding the “boogeyman of Russian collusion” that Democrats and the media rally around, according to an exclusive interview with The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Hanson’s analysis begins by reminding us of the recent massive Democratic losses, which he places at the feet of President Barack Obama’s policies and identity politics gone awry. “The blue wall crumbled,” he says, turning working people against the Democrats in droves. The party then scrambled for any alternative to explain the electoral defeats.

He mentions the financial entanglements with President Vladimir Putin’s Russia by Former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton that betray the sudden growing Russiaphobia of most Democrats.

When “the big lie” of Russian collusion is repeated by influential Democrats, doubt is cast and suspicions are raised against President Donald Trump, even without actual evidence. Then, Trump’s approval ratings are expected to fall, ensuring greater erosion of Republican support for the president’s agenda — an agenda that threatens the progressive project that was designed to ensure continued Democratic dominance.

Hanson predicts there will be new surprising evidence of Obama malfeasance against Trump over the next six months.

The scholar then discusses the causes and ramifications of the “Trump Derangement Syndrome” unfolding politically and culturally. He gives Trump high marks for using his unpredictability to restore vital deterrence on the world stage.

Yet, for many Republican elites, he says, they focus on Trump’s appearance — his Queen’s accent, and his gaudiness. A class-driven hostility to this president is revealed, Hanson says, when he hears such charges as, “he hangs out with wrestling people; he likes Mike Tyson; he’s just uncouth.”

In a “weird way” the polarization Obama’s identity politics brought to America will largely evaporate if Trump is able to bring about economic growth, which will unify us again, Hanson says.

As for Democratic leaders, he calls them simply “geriatric.”  He sees the younger ones as “unhinged and in search of an identity.” Rather than find policies to bring working class voters back to the Democratic Party, Hanson predicts they will rally around race, class, and gender, as well as climate change and other fads thought up by Hollywood and radical elites.

This compelling video features Hanson discussing the intolerance and infantilization on display on American campuses, as well as tips for ordinary Americans living with growing intolerance and incivility.

Politics & Religion / Jordan:
« on: May 14, 2017, 07:46:24 AM »
With the impending collapse of DAESH (I'm preferring DAESH over ISIS now) and its metastasizing throughout the region, particularly eastern Jordan the Great Fustercluck of the Middle East enters a new phase.  

Jordan, the Royal Hashemite Kingdom, seems to be a unique Arab country see e.g. led by a unique man, King Abdullah facing unique complexities. Jordan has long and strong ties with the US.  It does not fight Israel and King A. speaks openly of Christians and Muslims getting along.  His wife the Queen, goes uncovered, and speaks of it being a woman's choice.  

I'm opening this thread because I think King Abdullah is in a unique position to explain the Arab world to the West, and the West to the Arab world and it behooves us to develop understanding of Jordan's situation in all this.

I kick it off with this:

Is Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood Still the Loyal Opposition?

by Nur Köprülü
Middle East Quarterly
Spring 2017 (view PDF)

Until the 1990s, the Jordanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood had been a tacit ally of the Hashemite monarchy. That close relationship has deteriorated, triggered in large degree by King Hussein's (R) decision to recognize and make peace with Israel in 1994. He is seen here with Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.

The Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, the key Islamist movement in the country, has had a long-standing symbiotic relationship with the monarchy and, until recently, was not considered a threat to the survival of the Hashemite Kingdom.[1] But the rise and fall of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the growth of militant Islamist groups such as the Islamic State (ISIS) have alarmed the monarchy and led to a drastic shift in the nature of its relations with the Brotherhood from coexistence to persecution. Will the Jordanian regime be able to contain the Islamists and, in turn, will the Brotherhood choose to challenge the throne rather than to acquiesce in its continued suppression?
The Brotherhood and the Monarchy

Probably the foremost Islamist movement in the Middle East, the Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928 in Egypt. From there, it spread to other parts of the region including Jordan (1946) where it was incorporated into the kingdom's social and political fabric with some of its members even serving in cabinet. The group reciprocated by refraining from challenging the regime as had its founding organization in Egypt. Bilateral relations warmed substantially during King Hussein's long reign (1952-99) when the Brotherhood often functioned as a bulwark against anti-Hashemite forces. This was particularly evident during the heyday of pan-Arabism when Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser—who politically opposed the Egyptian Brotherhood—repeatedly sought to subvert the Hashemite monarchy.

The Muslim Brotherhood provided support to the Jordanian monarchy during the 1970 Black September uprising when the regime's existence was threatened by Palestinian guerrillas like these seen here near Amman.

The Brotherhood also provided support to the monarchy during the 1970 Black September events when the regime's existence was threatened by the Palestinian guerrillas encamped on its territory. And although political parties were banned between 1957 and 1992, the Brotherhood was able to function and attract new recruits since it was registered under the law of charitable clubs and associations. With the legalization of political parties in 1992, the organization established its political wing, the Islamic Action Front (IAF).

This close relationship between the Brotherhood and the monarchy prevented secular and leftist parties from challenging the kingdom's policies. The lack of any other previously organized mass party and the weakness of the secular ideological platforms helped the IAF function as the key ideological and political actor in Jordanian politics. This position was reinforced by the Brotherhood's strategic bond with the monarchy, which contributed to its reputation as a moderate, nonviolent group, distinct from its Islamist counterparts throughout the Middle East. In the words of German scholar Gudrun Krämer, Jordan

    provides one of the few cases of an Arab government and Islamic movement pursuing a non-confrontational political strategy over an extended period. Traditionally, the Muslim Brotherhood has played not so much the role of opposition, but of virtual ally and, at times, of client to the king.[2]

This symbiotic relationship prevailed into the 2000s regardless of occasional frictions emanating from domestic and regional vicissitudes. The 1994 Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty, for example, triggered a heated debate between the "hawks" opting to confront the regime over the issue and "doves" urging conciliation yet failed to fracture the Brotherhood's overall relationship with the monarchy.[3] Likewise, the organization remained aloof vis-à-vis the post-9/11 measures taken by King Abdullah II—who had succeeded his father two years earlier—against the kingdom's militant Salafist movement urging the overthrew of the "infidel" monarchy. Unlike the Salafists, the Jordanian Brotherhood and its political arm, the IAF, have never had an overtly militant wing despite its organic link with and support for Hamas, the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood branch.

This restraint notwithstanding, relations began to sour following the November 2005 hotel bombings in the Jordanian capital of Amman, which left sixty people dead and 115 wounded. Organized by Abu Musab Zarqawi, a native Jordanian from the Salafist stronghold of Zarqa and leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) from which the Islamic State would spring, the bombings provoked a storm of anti-Salafism on the streets of Amman but could not hide the fact that increasing numbers of Jordanians had some jihadist sympathies. Though the Brotherhood had nothing to do with the attack, the Hashemites, always nervous about the stability of their throne, grew ever more suspicious of anything smacking of Islamism.

These concerns increased with the 2006 election of the hawkish Zaki Bani Irshid as the Brotherhood's deputy general-secretary and Hammam Said as the IAF's new leader, signaling to King Abdullah II an unwelcome shift. The king looked across the Jordan to see Hamas win the Palestinian parliamentary elections and taking full control of the Gaza Strip and did not like what he saw. This was especially troubling as there was a growing apprehension that the broader Muslim Brotherhood now "look[ed] to Jordan as an avenue for expanding its regional influence."[4]

In the next round of Jordanian elections in 2007, the Brotherhood's influence diminished further with the IAF capturing only six seats out of 110 in the lower chamber. The poor result was also linked to deepening divisions within the Brotherhood between hawks and doves, leading to the IAF's decision three years later to boycott the parliamentary elections and to adopt a more confrontational
approach toward the regime, thus further widening the rift between the Brotherhood and the monarchy.
Jordanian Identity and the Brotherhood

When considering Jordanian identity it is important to keep in mind the role of Islam and religion in the state/nation-building project that is the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. What sets its case apart from that of most modern Middle Eastern states is that Islam was in a very real sense the main source of regime legitimacy in Jordan:

    The king's claim to religious legitimacy [has traditionally been] based on his descent from the Prophet, distinguishing his rule from that of Tunisian and Egyptian counterparts ... Jordan offers a more complex set-up, in which Islamic activism and communal loyalties [referring to the Palestinians in particular] are to a certain extent connected or interrelated.[5]

The monarchy's distinguished origin also enabled it to use Islam as an integral part of its foreign policy, notably its demand for managing the al-Haram al-Sharif holy site (and by extension—to rule East Jerusalem and the West Bank). Consequently, not only did the Brotherhood pose no existential threat to the Hashemite throne, but the regime has actually used the organization as a crutch at critical moments.

But Jordanian society also consists of two main ethnic groups: the indigenous East Bank (Transjordanian) Bedouin tribesmen and the Palestinian-Jordanians, incorporated into the kingdom in the aftermath of the 1948 war, who came to form the majority of the kingdom's population and its economic bedrock.

Notwithstanding their importance for securing the demographic and economic viability of the nascent Hashemite kingdom, Palestinian-Jordanians have been systematically marginalized and discriminated against, with their Bedouin compatriots constituting the mainstay of the regime and controlling the kingdom's political institutions and security organs.[6] Tensions between the two communities intensified after the 1967 war as the kingdom was flooded by fresh waves of West Bank Palestinian refugees, shooting to new heights in the wake of the 1970 Black September events when Jordanians of Palestinian descent came to be increasingly perceived as a potential threat to the survival of the monarchy. Relations worsened with the signing of the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty in 1994, a weakening which, simply put, represents more of a Palestinian sentiment than an East Banker Transjordanian one.

The Muslim Brotherhood has been increasingly reliant on the votes of Palestinian-Jordanians.

However, a closer look at the composition of the Jordanian Brotherhood demonstrates that both the Brotherhood and the IAF were increasingly reliant on the votes of Palestinian-Jordanians. Thus, for instance, while in the 1989 elections, 16 of the Brotherhood's 22 deputies were elected from districts with a Transjordanian majority, in the 2003 elections, only 5 of its 17 deputies came from such districts.[7] Indeed, the prevailing tension between the old and new Brotherhood is largely an offshoot of the internal split over the movement's "priorities and identities," namely perceived Palestinian needs versus those of the Hashemite-allied Transjordanians.[8]

The recent public anger at the lack of sufficient political reform has exacerbated domestic instability in Jordan over the past few years. But a new twist came to light with the appearance of opposition from the East Bank-based, largely tribal Hirak movement, which led street protests in Jordan. This may represent the most immediate challenge to the kingdom, considering that it was coordinated through East Bankers whose loyalty was long considered set in stone. Palestinians and even radical Islamists, by contrast, represent more of a potential threat than a present one. On one hand, it was East Bank activism that gave rise to a strong opposition during the heyday of the Arab uprisings, as it previously was during the 1989 and 2002 riots in Jordan; on the other, it is the radical/jihadi Islamist groups that pose a real threat to the survival of the monarchy. In this regard, the alienation or weakening of the Muslim Brotherhood—with its long history of "loyal opposition" in the kingdom[9]—and other moderate Islamist groups might have detrimental effects on the monarchy given the rise in radical Islamist activism across Jordan's borders.
The Arab Upheavals

The upheavals that have engulfed the Middle East from late 2010 found resonance in Jordan although public protests were never allowed to disrupt the country's functioning. In January 2011, thousands of Jordanians followed the example of protesters in Tunisia and Egypt and staged massive demonstrations in Amman, protesting high prices for staples, soaring unemployment, perceived government corruption, and a general lack of democracy. With the crowds directing much of their anger against Prime Minister Samir Rifai rather than King Abdullah, the crown was able to placate the protesters somewhat, first by announcing subsidies for basic goods and then by dismissing Rifai.[10]

Following the Arab upheavals, the Brotherhood never came close to demanding a complete regime change.

Despite their late participation in public rallies, the Brotherhood's demands for political change were relatively moderate. They insisted on structural changes to the constitution, including constraining the monarchy's power, removing the king's ability to dissolve parliament, and preventing him from appointing a prime minister without parliamentary consent.[11]

Yet they refrained from going beyond previous acts of protest such as boycotting the parliamentary elections of 1997, 2010, and 2013 to test the boundaries of the regime's tolerance; neither did they ever come close to demanding a complete regime change as in other regional hotspots at the time.[12]

Ballot sorting during the 2016 Jordanian elections. Tensions with the Hashemite monarchy came to a head when the Muslim Brotherhood and its political wing boycotted the 2013 parliamentary elections. They also boycotted elections in 1997 and 2010 but agreed to participate in September 2016.

However, the growing splits within the Brotherhood, as well as the regime's changing perception of the movement, fostered an attitude of mutual suspicion that gradually replaced the longstanding non-confrontational relations between the group and the monarchy.[13]

Tensions came to a head when the Brotherhood and the IAF decided to boycott the January 2013 parliamentary elections, the first after the outbreak of the Arab uprisings. The groups' subsequent withdrawal from the National Dialogue Committee, set up for political reform after public rallies, furthered the strains.[14]

Then came the rise and fall of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood government under President Muhammad Morsi and the movement's subsequent labeling as a terrorist organization by Saudi Arabia in December 2013 and the United Arab Emirates in November 2014. When the Brotherhood's Bani Irshid attacked the Emirates' decision in a Facebook post, he was excoriated for "endanger[ing] 225,000 Jordanians living in the Emirates" and peremptorily put on trial in February 2015 under the anti-terrorism law for "disrupting relations with a foreign state."[15]

In February 2016, the Jordanian government declared the Muslim Brotherhood an illegal organization and licensed a new Brotherhood under the leadership of Abdul Majid Thunaibat (2nd from left).

A year later, in February 2016, the Jordanian government declared the Brotherhood an illegal organization and licensed a new Brotherhood under the leadership of Abdul Majid Thunaibat, a senior movement member of Trans-Jordanian origin (i.e., non-Palestinian). The following month the IAF's Aqaba office was ransacked, and, in April, the Brotherhood's offices in Amman and Jerash were closed, followed by those in the towns of Madaba, Karak, and Mafraq. The closures were linked to the implementation of a court decision "to transfer properties of the 'unlicensed' Muslim Brotherhood to the rival splinter group."[16]

The formation of the "new" Brotherhood, which attempted to re-register as the real Brotherhood and disassociate itself from its Egyptian parent organization, led to a questioning of the movement's status in the kingdom with the old Brotherhood insisting on its right to continue to operate and Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour disputing this right, arguing that the "Brotherhood in Jordan is illegal. It does not have a license of community statute and missed the right of legitimacy."[17] Clearly, the nature of the longstanding relationship between the throne and the Brotherhood had been transformed.
The Syrian Civil War and Jordan

With the onset of the Arab uprisings, the kingdom found itself in a delicate situation coping not only with growing internal opposition but also fighting the ascendancy of Islamist militancy and the escalation of radical jihadist movements such as ISIS and Jabhat an-Nusra on the other side of its borders with Syria and Iraq.

Among the effects of the Syrian civil war on Jordan, the foremost challenge has been the mass influx of Syrian refugees and their integration into Jordanian society. The presence of refugees has exacerbated the kingdom's existing economic problems. The thousands of Jordanians who attended public rallies in the wake of the Arab upheavals were not only complaining about lack of progress in democratic reform but were protesting a worsening economic environment that had accompanied the influx of Syrian refugees.

The war in Syria has increased internal instabilities and doubled the challenges the kingdom faces at the regional level.

Moreover, deepening political divisions within the country have been reflected in popular and vocal disagreement regarding the future of Syria. While Jordanian Salafi jihadists support the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad, nationalists and leftists want the kingdom to refrain from any involvement in Syrian internal affairs. Still, others favor a peaceful transition that sees the gradual removal of the Assad regime. In such a divided society, the kingdom must pursue a cautious course of action, one that reduces the likelihood of military intervention.[18]

In addition, Jordan has been frustrated by Islamist activism and the rising influence of Salafists, including some who fought in Syria. According to Muhammad Shalabi (Abu Sayyaf), a prominent Jordanian jihadist, between 700-800 Jordanians have joined the fighting in Syria, many of whom had fought previously in Afghanistan and Iraq.[19] By most estimates, Jordanian Salafists number around five thousand[20] though some believe the actual number to be as high as 15,000. Thus, the war in Syria has not only increased internal instabilities but has doubled the challenges the kingdom faces at the regional level as well.

The Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood has historically been considered a "loyal opposition" that can play a useful role within the kingdom's political system even when its relations with the regime soured following the conclusion of the Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty. But the Arab upheavals, especially the Syrian civil war, have forced the regime to strike a delicate balancing act between the need to clamp down on the rising tide of Islamist militancy and the desire to preserve the continued acquiescence of the more moderate Islamist elements in the rules and values of the political system.

Thus far the kingdom has managed to co-opt radical Islamist groups, including the Salafists, thanks to its relationship with the Brotherhood and its divide-and-conquer policies. It is, therefore, likely to do all that it can to keep the organization in its fold and to refrain from declaring it a terrorist group despite pressures from its Persian Gulf allies to do so. The IAF's decision to participate in the September 2016 elections and its reported severance of relations with the Egyptian Brotherhood suggest that they, too, seem to recognize the need to continue to operate within the confines of the Jordanian political system.[21]

    Nur Köprülü received her PhD degree at the Middle East Technical University (METU), Ankara, in the field of international relations with a focus on Jordan, and heads the Department of Political Science at the Near East University, Nicosia.

[1] Jillian Schwedler, "The Quiescent Opposition," The Wilson Center, Washington, D.C., Aug. 27, 2015.

[2] Gudrun Krämer, "The Integration of the Integrists: A Comparative Study of Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia," in Democracy without Democrats? The Renewal of Politics in the Muslim World, ed. Ghassan Salamé (London: I.B. Tauris, 1994), p. 219; see, also, Curtis C. Ryan, "Islamist Political Activism in Jordan: Moderation, Militancy, and Democracy," Scholars for Peace in the Middle East Reports, June 2008, p. 3.

[3] Author interview with Zaki Bani Irshid, Jordanian Brotherhood's deputy general-secretary, IAF Headquarters, Amman, Nov. 9, 2010; author interview with Orab Rantawi, director of the Amman-based al-Quds Center for Political Studies, Amman, Nov. 8, 2010.

[4] Robert Satloff and David Schenker, "Political Instability in Jordan: Contingency Planning Memorandum No. 19," Council on Foreign Relations, New York, May 2013, §6.

[5] Krämer, "The Integration of the Integrists," p. 219.

[6] Mudar Zahran, "Jordan Is Palestine," Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2012, pp. 3-12.

[7] David Siddharta Patel, "The more things change, the more they stay the same: Jordanian Islamist responses in spring and fall," Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, Rethinking Political Islam Series, Brookings Institute, Washington, D.C., Aug. 2015, p. 6.

[8] Al-Monitor (Washington, D.C.), May 12, 2015; David Schenker, "Amman's Showdown with the Muslim Brotherhood." The Washington Institute, Washington, D.C., Apr. 6, 2016.

[9] Shmuel Bar, The Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan (Tel Aviv: The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, 1998), p. 19.

[10] The New York Times, Feb. 1, 2011.

[11] Tareq al-Naimat, "The Jordanian Regime and the Muslim Brotherhood: A Tug of War," Viewpoints, July 2014.

[12] Ibid; Patel, "The more things change," p. 3.

[13] Hasan Abu Haniyeh, "Jordan's strategy to fragment the Muslim Brotherhood," Middle East Eye (London), Apr. 19, 2016.

[14] Naimat, "The Jordanian Regime."

[15] Al-Monitor, Feb. 2, 2015.

[16] The Jordan Times (Amman), Apr. 14, 2016.

[17] TRT Haber TV (Istanbul), July 6, 2015; al-Monitor, Mar. 3, 2015, May 12, 2015.

[18] Khaled Waleed Mahmoud, "Where Does Jordan Stand on the Syrian Crisis?" Middle East Monitor, Sept. 16, 2013.

[19] Mona Alami, "Jordanian jihadists are on the rise," The Daily Star (Beirut), Mar. 4, 2014.

[20] The Jerusalem Post, Oct. 21, 2012; Al-Monitor, Apr. 23, 2013.

[21] The Jordan Times, June 11, 2016.

Politics & Religion / Michael Yon
« on: March 27, 2017, 09:46:44 PM »
Woof All:

We already have a "Michael Yon in Afghanistan" thread and a "Micheal Yon in Syria" thread.  I have been in touch with him, inviting him to join our forum and so create this thread for him to use as he sees fit.

Here is what he just sent me of what he is up to now:
===================== (Most of the daily action is here.) (Feeds from Facebook.) (Japanese and Chinese translations of my Facebook) (Main website.)


Would love to have you here with us Michael-- look around and see if you like what you see.  Of particular interest to you may be posts by YA, probably on the Afpakia thread or the India thread.

Marc Denny (a.k.a. Crafty Dog)

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