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Politics & Religion / Tucker
« on: January 14, 2023, 12:12:25 PM »
Giving Tucker his own thread:

Politics & Religion / What the other side believes
« on: November 03, 2022, 05:38:45 AM »
Starting this thread because no existing thread seemed suitable.

Haven't read the whole thing yet, but going in my starting point is that Trump hired Manafort because of his experience at the Republican convention of 1976 and fired him when his Russian connections became known and that despite this the Dems use Manafort to paint Trump as part of the RussiaRussia Hoax.

The Untold Story of ‘Russiagate’ and the Road to War in Ukraine
Russia’s meddling in Trump-era politics was more directly connected to the current war than previously understood.

Credit...Photo illustration by Anthony Gerace

Give this article

Jim Rutenberg
By Jim Rutenberg
Nov. 2, 2022

On the night of July 28, 2016, as Hillary Clinton was accepting the Democratic presidential nomination in Philadelphia, Donald J. Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, received an urgent email from Moscow. The sender was a friend and business associate named Konstantin Kilimnik. A Russian citizen born in Soviet Ukraine, Kilimnik ran the Kyiv office of Manafort’s international consulting firm, known for bringing cutting-edge American campaign techniques to clients seeking to have their way with fragile democracies around the world.

Kilimnik didn’t say much, only that he needed to talk, in person, as soon as possible. Exactly what he wanted to talk about was apparently too sensitive even for the tradecraft the men so fastidiously deployed — encrypted apps, the drafts folder of a shared email account and, when necessary, dedicated “bat phones.” But he had made coded reference — “caviar” — to an important former client, the deposed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, who had fled to Russia in 2014 after presiding over the massacre of scores of pro-democracy protesters. Manafort responded within minutes, and the plan was set for five days later.

Kilimnik cleared customs at Kennedy Airport at 7:43 p.m., only 77 minutes before the scheduled rendezvous at the Grand Havana Room, a Trump-world hangout atop 666 Fifth Avenue, the Manhattan office tower owned by the family of Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Shortly after the appointed hour, Kilimnik walked onto a perfectly put-up stage set for a caricature drama of furtive figures hatching covert schemes with questionable intent — a dark-lit cigar bar with mahogany-paneled walls and floor-to-ceiling windows columned in thick velvet drapes, its leather club chairs typically filled by large men with open collars sipping Scotch and drawing on parejos and figurados. Men, that is, like Paul Manafort, with his dyed-black pompadour and penchant for pinstripes. There, with the skyline shimmering though the cigar-smoke haze, Kilimnik shared a secret plan whose significance would only become clear six years later, as Vladimir V. Putin’s invading Russian Army pushed into Ukraine.

Known loosely as the Mariupol plan, after the strategically vital port city, it called for the creation of an autonomous republic in Ukraine’s east, giving Putin effective control of the country’s industrial heartland, where Kremlin-armed, -funded and -directed “separatists” were waging a two-year-old shadow war that had left nearly 10,000 dead. The new republic’s leader would be none other than Yanukovych. The trade-off: “peace” for a broken and subservient Ukraine.

The scheme cut against decades of American policy promoting a free and united Ukraine, and a President Clinton would no doubt maintain, or perhaps even harden, that stance. But Trump was already suggesting that he would upend the diplomatic status quo; if elected, Kilimnik believed, Trump could help make the Mariupol plan a reality. First, though, he would have to win, an unlikely proposition at best. Which brought the men to the second prong of their agenda that evening — internal campaign polling data tracing a path through battleground states to victory. Manafort’s sharing of that information — the “eyes only” code guiding Trump’s strategy — would have been unremarkable if not for one important piece of Kilimnik’s biography: He was not simply a colleague; he was, U.S. officials would later assert, a Russian agent.

Their business concluded, the men left by separate routes to avoid detection, though they continued to text deep into the night, according to federal investigators. In the weeks that followed, operatives in Moscow and St. Petersburg would intensify their hacking and disinformation campaign to damage Clinton and help turn the election toward Trump, which would form the core of the scandal known as Russiagate. The Mariupol plan would become a footnote, all but forgotten. But what the plan offered on paper is essentially what Putin — on the dangerous defensive after a raft of strategic miscalculations and mounting battlefield losses — is now trying to seize through sham referendums and illegal annexation. And Mariupol is shorthand for the horrors of his war, an occupied city in ruins after months of siege, its hulking steelworks spectral and silenced, countless citizens buried in mass graves.

Putin’s assault on Ukraine and his attack on American democracy have until now been treated largely as two distinct story lines. Across the intervening years, Russia’s election meddling has been viewed essentially as a closed chapter in America’s political history — a perilous moment in which a foreign leader sought to set the United States against itself by exploiting and exacerbating its political divides.

Yet those two narratives came together that summer night at the Grand Havana Room. And the lesson of that meeting is that Putin’s American adventure might be best understood as advance payment for a geopolitical grail closer to home: a vassal Ukrainian state. Thrumming beneath the whole election saga was another story — about Ukraine’s efforts to establish a modern democracy and, as a result, its position as a hot zone of the new Cold War between Russia and the West, autocracy and democracy. To a remarkable degree, the long struggle for Ukraine was a bass note to the upheavals and scandals of the Trump years, from the earliest days of the 2016 campaign and then the presidential transition, through Trump’s first impeachment and into the final days of the 2020 election. Even now, some influential voices in American politics, mostly but not entirely on the right, are suggesting that Ukraine make concessions of sovereignty similar to those contained in Kilimnik’s plan, which the nation’s leaders categorically reject.

This second draft of history emerges from a review of the hundreds of pages of documents produced by investigators for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and for the Republican-led Senate Select Committee on Intelligence; from impeachment-hearing transcripts and the recent crop of Russiagate memoirs; and from interviews with nearly 50 people in the United States and Ukraine, including four hourlong conversations with Manafort himself.

For Trump — who today is facing legal challenges involving the cache of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago resort, his finances and his role in efforts to overturn his 2020 election defeat — the Russia investigation was the original sin, the first of many politically motivated “witch hunts,” since repurposed into weapons in his expansive arsenal of grievance. The Russia investigation and its offshoots never did prove coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow, though they did document numerous connections. But to view the record left behind through the blood-filtered lens of Putin’s war, now in its ninth month, is to discover a trail of underappreciated signals telegraphing the depth of his Ukrainian obsession — and the life-or-death stakes that America’s domestic travails would have for some 45 million people nearly 5,000 miles away.

Among the episodes that emerge is the Grand Havana Room meeting, along with the persistent, surreptitious effort to bring the Mariupol plan to life. The plan was hardly the only effort to trade peace in Ukraine for concessions to Putin; many obstacles stood in its way. And its provenance remains unclear: Was it part of a Putin long game or an attempt by his ally, Yanukovych, to claw back power? Either way, the prosecutors who uncovered the plan would come to view it as potential payoff for the Russian president’s election meddling.

The examination also brings into sharper relief the tricks of Putin’s trade as he pressed his revanchist mission to cement his power by restoring the Russian empire and weakening democracy globally. He pursued that goal through the cunning co-optation of oligarchs and power brokers in the countries in his sights, while applying ever-evolving disinformation techniques to play to the fears and hatreds of their people.

No figure in the Trump era moved more adroitly through that world than Manafort, a political operative known for treating democracy as a tool as much as an idea. Though he insists that he was trying to stanch Russian influence in Ukraine, not enable it, he had achieved great riches by putting his political acumen to work for the country’s Kremlin-aligned oligarchs, helping install a government that would prove pliant in the face of Putin’s demands. Then he helped elect an American president whose open admiration of the Russian strongman muddied more than a half-century of policy promoting democracy.

In the end, Putin would not get out of a Trump presidency what he thought he had paid for, and democracy would bend but not yet break in both the United States and Ukraine. But that, as much as anything, would set the Russian leader on his march to war.

Long before the Trump-era investigations, Manafort had established himself in Washington and abroad as a grand master of the political dark arts. Together with Roger Stone, Manafort helped develop the slashing style of conservative politics, pushing “hot buttons” to rile up base voters and tar opponents. They served in Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaigns and started their own firm, taking on international clients seeking favor in Reagan’s Washington. The firm specialized in covering over the bloody records of dictators like Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire and Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines with copious coats of high-gloss spin, presenting them as freedom-loving democrats.

By 2005, Manafort had emerged as a central figure in Ukraine’s often-snakebit experiment in democracy. He was introduced to the country’s politics by one of Russia’s most powerful oligarchs, the aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska. Oligarchs don’t survive in Putin’s Russia without continually proving themselves useful to the motherland. And when Putin had an urgent problem in Ukraine, Deripaska, who had various holdings there, stepped in to help: He brought in Manafort’s firm, which he had hired earlier to assist in overcoming a block on his U.S. visa, based on allegations that he had gained his position through ties to organized crime (which he denies).

What had Putin in a lather was a pro-Western and youth-led democracy movement that had caught fire just as Ukraine’s second post-Soviet leader, the dictatorial and Kremlin-aligned Leonid Kuchma, prepared to step down. To succeed him, the reformists had lined up behind a politician named Viktor Yushchenko. Pro-American and married to a former State Department official, Yushchenko vowed to join NATO and the European Union. To the Kremlin, as one influential Russian defense analyst put it at the time, a Yushchenko victory would represent “a catastrophic loss of Russian influence throughout the former Soviet Union, leading ultimately to Russia’s geopolitical isolation.”

Putin had gone all in for Kuchma’s handpicked successor, Yanukovych, who had risen to power in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region and had the backing of the country’s leading oligarchs. But working with some of Putin’s top political operatives, the Yanukovych campaign had gone horribly awry. First, an assassination attempt had left Yushchenko permanently scarred but very much alive. (A culprit was never identified; Yushchenko suspected the Kremlin.) Then the Yanukovych team resorted to an election heist worthy of Trump’s 2020 voter-fraud fantasia, with reports of ballot stuffing, disappearing ink and bused-in voters. With thousands protesting in Kyiv’s central Maidan square, Ukraine’s high court declared Yanukovych’s “victory” marred by “systemic and massive” election violations. Yushchenko then won in a new vote, a triumph of democracy known as the Orange Revolution.

Now Deripaska asked Manafort if he could restore Yanukovych’s political organization, the Party of Regions, to power. Manafort’s prescription is contained in a June 2005 memo to Deripaska that was quoted in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report. Yanukovych and his party, he argued, should work to win elections legitimately by dressing up as democrats in a Western mold — using the tools of the West “in ways that the West believes is in concert with them,” even if they weren’t. By embracing the West, Yanukovych and his party would “restrict their options to ferment an atmosphere that gives hope to potential advocates of a different way.” In talking points that played to Putin, Manafort added, “We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin Government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success.”

Manafort insisted throughout our interviews that Putin would come to dislike him and his strategy, and that the memo was intended as a tutorial of sorts for Deripaska. “I was basically teaching him democracy,” he said. Deripaska’s office did not respond to an interview request. But in a failed libel suit against The Associated Press over a 2017 article that revealed their discussions about Ukraine, Deripaska said he hired Manafort solely for his own business interests and “never had any arrangement, whether contractual or otherwise, with Mr. Manafort to advance the interests of the Russian government.”

The State of the War

Turning the Tables: With powerful Western weapons and deadly homemade drones, Ukraine now has an artillery advantage in the Kherson region. The work of reconnaissance teams penetrating enemy lines has also proven key in breaking Russia’s hold in the territory.
Sea Drone Attack: The apparent use of remote-controlled boats to attack the Russian naval fleet off the Crimean port city of Sevastopol suggests an expansion in Ukraine’s battlefield capabilities after months of military aid from Western nations.

A Coalition Under Strain: President Biden is facing new challenges keeping together the bipartisan, multinational coalition supporting Ukraine. The alliance has shown signs of fraying with the approach of the U.S. midterm elections and a cold European winter.

Regardless, with financing from Deripaska’s oligarch allies in Ukraine, Manafort began to put the plan into action. He brought in international elections consultants and American strategists from both sides of the partisan aisle. For local knowledge, Manafort brought in Kilimnik, who even then was trailed by suspicions that he was a Russian mole. Five feet tall with a disarmingly boyish mien, Kilimnik had last worked at the International Republican Institute, a democracy-promotion outfit affiliated with Senator John McCain of Arizona, who was a client of Manafort’s longtime partner, Rick Davis. Kilimnik had studied at a Soviet military language academy known for minting future intelligence officers and had served as a Russian Army translator. His colleagues at I.R.I. came to suspect he was passing secrets to Russian intelligence, and he was fired when the institute learned he was working for Yanukovych’s backers.

Under Manafort’s tutelage, Yanukovych took on a new look, swapping out his blocky, gray apparatchik apparel for custom suits, Manafort-style, and taming his Soviet-vintage bouffant with a tighter-cropped cut. Then, from a new office just off Maidan square, Manafort worked up a Party of Regions platform promising to make Ukraine a “bridge” between Russia and the West — by striking an economic partnership with the European Union (popular in the west) but rejecting NATO membership (popular with Russian speakers in Ukraine’s east). Skeptical American diplomats titled the Manafort project “Extreme Makeover.”

For all the talk of extending a bridge to the West, Manafort soon began plying his battle-tested and poll-driven politics of division — exploiting fissures over culture, democracy and the very notion of nationhood to excite the Party of Regions base, the Russian-speaking voters in the east and south. Speech drafts and talking points, unearthed in Manafort’s criminal cases, portrayed the Orange Revolution as a “coup” and the “orange illusion.” They attacked the Yushchenko government’s harder line toward Moscow and homed in on a simmering issue in Ukrainian politics — a regional split over whether to make Russian the second official language.

“In U.S. politics,” says Tetiana Shevchuk, a lawyer with the Anti-Corruption Action Center, a reform group based in Kyiv, “it’s called ‘culture wars,’ when they pick some issue which is not the high priority for society right now but can easily be made into something. He was pushing something like the idea that there are two types of Ukrainians — there are Ukrainian-speaking Ukrainians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians.”

Over the course of our interviews, Manafort maintained that the reformers had forced the issue by pushing the pre-eminence of Ukrainian in a country where many primarily spoke Russian. If anything, he argued, his strategy gave Yanukovych the credibility with “ethnic Russian” voters needed to unite the country while turning it westward. (He says he is “strongly” on Ukraine’s side in the war.) Still, Manafort’s line of attack coincided with a budding Russian intelligence operation that was engaging in “manipulation of issues like the status of the Russian language” to stoke a separatist rebellion in the Crimean Peninsula and “prevent Ukraine’s movement west into institutions like NATO and the E.U.,” according to a leaked U.S. Embassy cable from the time. Nearly two decades later, Putin would employ similar messaging over language and national identity as justifications for his war and illegal annexations in the east.

The Manafort strategy was a smashing success. The Party of Regions won the parliamentary elections in 2006, and four years later Yanukovych reclaimed the presidency in elections that passed international muster. The Orange revolutionaries, or at least their elected leadership, had done much of the work themselves — alienating voters through paralyzing infighting and a failure to deliver reform. But Manafort won the credit, becoming as well known in Ukrainian political circles as Karl Rove or James Carville in America. He was living the oligarch’s life, collecting jackets of python and ostrich skin, Alan Couture suits and properties in SoHo, the Hamptons, Trump Tower and brownstone Brooklyn. He was also growing closer to Yanukovych, playing grass-court tennis — always letting the client win — and soaking in the hot tub at the new president’s 350-acre Mezhyhirya Residence, with its petting zoo, golf course and grotesquerie of a mansion, whose shambolic mix of architectural influences was known locally as “Donetsk Rococo.”

It did not take long for Yanukovych to begin backsliding on his democracy pledges. He jailed his opponent, the former Orange leader Yulia Tymoshenko; ratcheted back press freedoms by criminalizing defamation and bringing trumped-up investigations of opposition media outlets; presided over the plundering of public funds; rigged the 2012 parliamentary elections; and reversed a plan to end Russia’s lease on the Crimean port of Sevastopol, where its naval fleet was viewed as a stalking horse for a Putin takeover.

Soon several of Manafort’s democracy consultants dropped out in disappointment. For his part, Manafort expanded his role with Yanukovych, becoming something of a shadow foreign-policy adviser and emissary to the West. He was also, prosecutors later charged, working as an unregistered foreign agent, running secret lobbying campaigns in Washington and Brussels to stave off sanctions over the Tymoshenko jailing while insisting that Yanukovych was still pursuing his economic deal with Europe.

But that tenuous bridge to the West could not hold. Under pressure from Putin, Yanukovych abruptly reversed course in late 2013, breaking off talks with Europe and deepening his economic commitment to Russia. By the tens of thousands, protesters again streamed into Maidan square. Weeks of standoff, punctuated by violence, came to a deadly denouement over three days in February 2014, when a government crackdown left dozens dead, mere yards from Manafort’s office.

In the backlash, with his political coalition in pieces, Yanukovych fled to Russia. Within weeks, claiming Yanukovych had been ousted not in a homegrown swell of democracy but in a Western-backed coup, Putin moved on Crimea and the east. To this day, Manafort, too, maintains that Maidan was essentially a coup against a duly elected president. It was also a personal financial disaster — he had lost his cash cow. Still, he managed to find work, helping former Party of Regions members start a new party called Opposition Bloc and consulting on mayoral races.

The last one came in late 2015, in Mariupol. The port city, in Ukraine’s southeast, was part of a potential land bridge for arms between occupied Crimea and the war-torn Donbas and would be a commercial hub for a Potemkin republic beholden to Moscow. It was also a fief of Ukraine’s richest citizen, the metals and mining magnate Rinat Akhmetov, for whom both Russia and Europe were important markets. An early political godfather to Yanukovych, Akhmetov was also an original financier of Manafort’s work for the Party of Regions.

With a concentration of industrial holdings in the Donbas, Akhmetov kept a tight hold over the region’s politics, governance and media. Even as Putin’s proxies advanced on Mariupol and held a sham independence referendum in 2014, Akhmetov struck a neutral-seeming posture that gave the “separatists” an opening to claim they had his support. “Rinat,” read graffiti in Kyiv’s Independence Square, “are you with Ukraine or the Kremlin?” Akhmetov ultimately came out harshly against the “separatist” violence, dispatching workers to patrol the streets and help repel Russia’s proxies. But even then, his mixed messages continued to feed suspicion that he was hedging his bets. After “separatists” shelled a civilian area in early 2015, killing 30 people — the attack, it later became clear, was directed by Russian military officials — his largest news outlet, Segodnya, stood out for articles that avoided ascribing blame. “The impression was, ‘It’s not man-made shelling but some kind of earthquake; it just happened,’” Eugenia Kuznetsova, a Ukrainian media analyst who studied the coverage of the attack, told me.

Jock Mendoza-Wilson, a spokesman for Akhmetov, said the oligarch had never been neutral and had always supported a united Ukraine. (Akhmetov is now suing Russia for destroying his largest steelworks in Mariupol, the site of Ukrainian soldiers’ desperate 80-day holdout this year.) But to hold the country together, he said, Akhmetov believed at the time that “it would not be constructive to come out guns blazing” against Russia.

With the 2015 mayoral and City Council elections approaching, several insurgent candidates stepped forward, pledging to turn Mariupol more decisively against Russia and its proxies. Akhmetov’s chosen mayoral candidate, a former executive with his steel company, Vadym Boychenko, was a clear advocate for the neutral status quo.

Manafort’s hand in the campaign, revealed in an email unearthed by Senate investigators, was largely hidden; in interviews, he described his role as minor. One reformist candidate, Oleksandr Yaroshenko, was surprised to learn that Manafort had been involved, though, in retrospect, he did see hints of his presence. “The Americans came with little counts,” he told me during a video interview in May that was occasionally interrupted by his efforts to coordinate evacuations from the besieged city. “They had technology: how many people we need to bring from each street, which percent.” He saw it as so much window-dressing, given that Akhmetov’s control of the city extended to the contract to print the ballots.

After Boychenko won, Yaroshenko organized a City Council campaign to force him to renew a proclamation declaring Russia an “aggressor country.” The mayor shelved the measure.

Manafort’s move to the Trump campaign, in March 2016, was a boon for the candidate, giving him one of the Republicans’ savviest intramural strategists just as Senator Ted Cruz was beginning to cut into his delegate lead, spurring talk of a contested convention.

It was also a boon for Manafort, who was poor in cash if rich in luxury goods. He had wired a large portion of his Ukraine earnings — a total take of some $60 million, investigators found — into his real estate, automobile and suit purchases from shell companies in Cyprus, part of what prosecutors said was a money-laundering scheme. A $2.4 million bill to Akhmetov and another client remained unpaid. Financial threats loomed. He was being sued by Deripaska, who claimed that Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, had lost nearly $20 million in a joint business venture gone bad.

Manafort went to great lengths to get the job with the Trump campaign, according to the Senate intelligence report. He lobbied Roger Stone and the fund-raiser Tom Barrack and clinched the deal, Barrack told prosecutors, by saying “the magic words” — he would work without pay. After all, Manafort reasoned, the job could be a way to get his back pay from Akhmetov and patch things up with Deripaska, who would no doubt see value in Manafort’s association with a potential president. “How do we use to get whole,” Manafort wrote to Kilimnik. Manafort told me he believed he would have greater influence with Trump as a supportive volunteer than as a member of his staff.

Manafort’s new job also held promise for Putin. The inner circle of the leading Republican candidate for the American presidency now included an adviser who was the mastermind behind Ukraine’s most successful Russia-friendly party and was close to a man, Kilimnik, whom American officials have identified as a Russian agent.

The day after the Trump campaign announced his appointment as chief convention strategist, Manafort worked with Gates and Kilimnik to send copies of the announcement to his main patrons in Ukraine, along with personal letters promising to keep them in the loop throughout the campaign. The recipients included Deripaska, Akhmetov and another wealthy Ukrainian, a former Yanukovych chief of staff named Sergiy Lyovochkin. A conduit for oligarchs’ money to Manafort during the Party of Regions years, Lyovochkin also had a close working relationship with Kilimnik, according to Senate investigators.

As Manafort rose to become Trump’s campaign chairman — and as Russian operatives were hacking Democratic Party servers — the candidate took stances on the region that were advantageous to Putin’s ambitions for Ukraine. Ahead of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July, Trump shocked the American foreign-policy establishment by voicing only tepid support for NATO. He also told aides that he didn’t believe it was worth risking “World War III” to defend Ukraine against Russia, according to the Senate intelligence report released in the summer of 2020.

That would be followed by the only platform fight of the convention. After a Texas delegate added a plank pledging “lethal defensive weapons” for Ukraine, a Trump national security adviser, J.D. Gordon, swept in to block it; it would be downgraded to a softer pledge of “appropriate assistance.” The Texas delegate would tell the Senate Intelligence Committee that Gordon had told her he was acting in consultation with “New York,” specifically with Trump. Gordon denied that, saying he acted on his own initiative because the “lethal aid” pledge appeared to contradict Trump’s position on Ukraine. Two other very invested players were on hand at the convention — the Ukrainian and Russian ambassadors to the United States; the Russian spoke with Gordon days after the plank was softened. In the end, investigators did not conclude that Russia was involved in the platform wrangling. Nor did they find any evidence to contradict Manafort’s insistence that he had been wholly removed from the process, though one campaign official later told investigators that Manafort had to “mollify” the “upset” Ukrainian ambassador.

The Ukrainians would have reason to be upset, and the Russians pleased, all over again a few days later, on July 27, when Trump, at a news conference, said he would consider recognizing Crimea as Russian territory, effectively ending Obama-administration sanctions and normalizing relations that had been strained since the illegal annexation. He also, famously, invited Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails.

The following day, Kilimnik flew to Moscow, travel records obtained by Mueller’s office show. In his email to Manafort that night, he wrote that he had met with “the guy who gave you your biggest black caviar jar several years ago” — the guy being Yanukovych, who once gave Manafort $30,000 worth of fine caviar. Kilimnik needed to meet in person. He had “a long caviar story to tell.”

At the Grand Havana Room, Kilimnik delivered Yanukovych’s urgent message: A “peace” plan for Ukraine was coming together that he hoped Manafort would help effect.

As described by Kilimnik in messages and memos over the next several months, the envisioned autonomous republic in the east would nominally remain part of Ukraine; with Yanukovych as its leader, it would then negotiate a settlement. But what became known as the Mariupol plan was, as Manafort later acknowledged to prosecutors, a “backdoor” route to Russian control of eastern Ukraine — remarkably similar to what Putin has now declared accomplished through his gun-barrel annexations.

The plan was based on Putin’s maximalist interpretation of accords, signed in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, in late 2014 and early 2015, that tied a cease-fire in the east to a new Ukrainian constitutional provision granting “special status” to the two main territories there. Russia interpreted that fuzzy term as giving the territories autonomy — under its proxies — with veto power over Ukraine’s foreign policy. Ukraine viewed it as a more limited expansion of local governance. Even then, a majority of Ukrainians saw the provision as capitulation, polls showed, and it struggled to gain acceptance in Parliament.

For the United States, which was not a party to the Minsk talks, any plan that gave the east outsize autonomy and influence ran counter to longstanding support for what William Taylor, a former American ambassador to Ukraine, described as “an independent, sovereign Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.” “We’ve said that over and over and over,” he told me. Now, though, Trump’s rhetoric on Russia was suggesting a break from that policy.

In the Russia investigation, the meeting at the Grand Havana Room would become better known for the other piece of business conducted that night: the discussion of polling data that traced how Trump might achieve the position of power to make that momentous diplomatic break. Manafort and Gates had been passing that data to Kilimnik since the spring; produced by Manafort’s go-to pollster, Tony Fabrizio, it was among the campaign’s more closely held assets, according to the Senate intelligence report. Manafort and Gates have insisted that the data was only of the most basic sort, some of it publicly available. But it also showed exactly what the campaign was looking at as it formed its strategy and spread its message in new ways across social media. And as Manafort told Kilimnik at the club, according to testimony from Gates and another witness briefed on the meeting, the polling was picking up something that Clinton pollsters and mainstream prognosticators were not — a path to the White House through traditionally blue states like Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Of course, Manafort explained, that would require a relentless assault on Clinton’s public image.

By the end of summer, vicious anti-Clinton social-media operations were intensifying, not only by the Trump campaign and its American allies but also by Russian trolls posing as Americans, who spread a raft of conspiracy theories about Clinton’s health and alleged criminality. The operations included the states that Manafort had identified as key, investigators found.

The polling data would become a major focus of the Mueller team and Senate investigators. Neither could directly link the Russian operations to the data; they reported only that Gates believed that Kilimnik was sharing it with Deripaska and his Ukrainian counterparts — an apparent fulfillment of Manafort’s pledge to keep his patrons in the loop. But last year a Treasury Department communiqué concluded that Kilimnik had passed the data directly to Russian military intelligence, calling him a “known Russian agent.”

The document provided no underlying evidence, and Manafort and Gates have used that to question the assessment and all that flows from it. As Gates told me, “If Kilimnik is a G.R.U. agent, show us the proof, and I’ll be the first to say that’s accurate.” Kilimnik declined to speak with me, but in a text message, he dismissed his work on the Mariupol plan as “informal discussions” regarding “one of 10,000 various options of peace solution.” (It was “not the right time to discuss these matters,” he told me, given the “struggle of Ukrainians for their life and freedom.”) Last year, Kilimnik told an interviewer with RealClearInvestigations that the assessment was “senseless and false,” noting that he was a regular source of information for U.S. Embassy officials in Kyiv, which documents and former officials confirmed.

Of course, building trust inside a rival nation’s embassy is what spies are supposed to do. One very plugged-in Westerner, a fixer who interacted with Kilimnik regularly in Kyiv, told me that while he harbored doubts about the intelligence assessment, he considered the question academic: As a Russian citizen with family in Russia and a history with the military, Kilimnik would have been under pressure to do Putin’s bidding, and often seemed to. For that matter, emails obtained by Mueller showed Kilimnik referring to his interactions with high-level players in Moscow, including some with clear intelligence ties. Among them was a top Deripaska aide, Viktor Boyarkin, whom the U.S. Treasury Department has described as a former ranking official with the G.R.U., which took the lead in Putin’s meddling operation.

Kilimnik’s best connection to the Trump campaign would not be around as that operation came into full flower. Less than three weeks after the Grand Havana Room meeting, Manafort was out of a job. In mid-August, The New York Times had reported that a new Ukrainian anti-corruption agency had obtained a Party of Regions “black ledger,” listing earmarked, off-the-books payments to Ukrainian officials — and to Manafort. A few days later, at a news conference in Kyiv, a former journalist turned reformist parliamentarian, Serhiy Leshchenko, highlighted 22 handwritten ledger entries listing $12.7 million in payments designated for Manafort. With Clinton’s campaign calling the ledger evidence of ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, Manafort resigned.

The discovery of the ledger seemed to have been lifted straight from the plot of a hit sitcom, “Servant of the People.” A Ukrainian riff on “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” it starred the comedic actor Volodymyr Zelensky as a humble and idealistic history teacher who is unexpectedly thrust into the presidency, constantly fighting off a Manafort-esque agent of the oligarchs trying to package and manage him. In the 2015 season finale, he finds a black ledger of secret payments kept by his predecessor and vows to cleanse the “off-the-book company called ‘Ukraine’” of its endemic corruption.

Speaking with reporters, Leshchenko used similar rhetoric when discussing why he helped publicize the real-world ledger. He had another reason too. “The more exposure there is of Trump and Trump’s circle,” he told Tablet magazine several months later, “the more difficult it will be for Trump to conclude a separate deal with Putin, thereby selling out both Ukraine and the whole of Europe.”

From the start of his presidential transition, Trump did appear to give Russia every indication that its political bet had paid off. He nominated as national security adviser a retired lieutenant general, Michael J. Flynn, who had accepted $33,750 to speak at a 2015 Moscow celebration of Russia’s state-financed propaganda outlet, RT. Even before taking office, Flynn was speaking with Putin’s ambassador in Washington, in apparent violation of federal law, about lifting sanctions over election meddling. (Flynn twice pleaded guilty to charges of lying to the F.B.I. about those discussions but was pardoned by Trump.) The new secretary of state would be Rex W. Tillerson, who as Exxon Mobil’s chief executive had criticized the Obama administration’s decision to sanction Russia over Crimea and the shooting down of a Malaysia Airlines flight.

And in the days around the inauguration, promising signals came from across the Potomac in Virginia, where Manafort met with Kilimnik and Lyovochkin at the Westin Alexandria Old Town hotel. (The two men obtained inauguration tickets through a Manafort associate who would later plead guilty to failing to register as a foreign agent and illegally buying the tickets — a violation of rules against foreign political donations.) As most of their communications took place over encrypted messaging apps, investigators had little visibility into the agenda, but Manafort acknowledged one item to prosecutors: the Ukraine “peace” plan.

With no official position, Manafort continued to advise the Trump camp, according to the Senate report. At the same time, Kilimnik was shuttling between Moscow and Kyiv, working out the “peace” plan’s details. Communicating through a draft email in a shared account before the Virginia meeting, Kilimnik told Manafort that he and Yanukovych — code named BG for Big Guy — had met in Russia and discussed the plan. “Russians at the very top level are in principle not against this plan,” Kilimnik wrote, “and will work with the BG to start the process.” A public endorsement by Trump, he added, would overcome resistance in Kyiv. “All that is required to start the process is a very minor ‘wink’ (or slight push) from DT saying, ‘he wants peace in Ukraine and Donbass back in Ukraine’ and a decision to be a ‘special representative’ and manage this process,” Kilimnik wrote. Trump’s representative would apparently be Manafort, who, Yanukovych could guarantee, would have entree at “the very top level” in the Kremlin.

Manafort was hardly the only figure in the Trump orbit engaging with people who knew people in Moscow. The early months of the administration brought a head-spinning procession of disclosures. Flynn, the national security adviser, was fired over his back-channel conversations with the Russian ambassador. There was the revelation that a foreign-policy adviser to the campaign named George Papadopoulos, at a bar in London, had told an Australian diplomat that Russia had dirt on Clinton, weeks before Russia’s hacking of Clinton’s emails was publicly known. His loose talk sparked the first meddling investigation, which evolved into the Mueller inquiry. There was the news that Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Manafort met at Trump Tower in June 2016 with a well-connected Russian lawyer who, they were told, wanted to pass along incriminating information about Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” By all accounts, the lawyer, more interested in the lifting of sanctions, failed to deliver. And there was the Mueller team’s disclosure in court papers in the fall of 2017 that Kilimnik was “assessed to have ties to a Russian intelligence service.”

By then, though, Manafort had emerged as a primary target of the investigation, his interactions with Kilimnik, Deripaska and pro-Russian Ukrainians viewed as a potential link between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign. Yet even after his indictment in late October 2017, prosecutors reported, he and Kilimnik continued to seek the Trump administration’s “wink” for the Ukraine “peace” plan. To that end, as late as March 2018, he and Kilimnik were working on a survey of Ukrainians. A draft of the poll asked whether Donbas should stay under the governance of Kyiv in one of two alternative arrangements; break off as an autonomous region; or join Russia outright. Devised with input from the pollster Fabrizio, it also asked if Yanukovych could be accepted as a leader in the east.

But as Manafort and Kilimnik worked to refine the poll, prosecutors brought new criminal charges against Manafort. He was now facing two trials, one in Virginia and one in Washington. Then came news of a new star witness — Manafort’s deputy, Gates, who laid out in detail how Manafort used shell companies to hide millions of dollars in earnings from the tax collectors.

In August 2018, a Virginia jury found Manafort guilty of eight of 18 counts, including tax and bank fraud. With his second trial, for money laundering, looming in Washington, Manafort struck a deal to plead guilty and cooperate with the government, in hopes of receiving leniency at sentencing. (Manafort now says he did not believe his sworn admission of guilt, and entered it only because he did not think he would face a fair jury and wanted to protect family financial assets.) But at the last minute, the lead prosecutor, Andrew Weissmann, scuttled the deal. Manafort, he learned, had consistently lied “about one issue in particular: his interactions with Kilimnik, the Russian intelligence officer,” as the Senate report put it. Among those interactions: the maneuverings for the Mariupol plan.

Weissmann discovered the plan only after the Virginia trial, when the F.B.I. obtained a batch of Kilimnik’s emails. Confronted with that new information, Manafort told the prosecutors that he had dismissed the plan out of hand when it first came up, at the Grand Havana Room in August 2016. He stuck to that insistence even after Weissmann disclosed he was in possession of the December 2016 correspondence discussing “the BG” and the desired “wink” of support from Trump — and again when presented with the emails about the poll in March 2018.

In our interviews and in his book, “Political Prisoner,” published this August, Manafort calls the idea that he supported the plan “crazy” and maintains that the poll was designed to help a Ukrainian presidential candidate he would not name. Though he does not deny that Kilimnik pushed the plan — at the behest of Yanukovych, not Putin, he says — he accuses Weissmann of crafting a “made-up narrative” from unconnected facts.

For Weissmann, the revelations made for an aha! moment. The partition plan, he realized, was the “quo” Putin wanted for the “quid” of helping Trump’s campaign. “On August 2, if not earlier,” he wrote in his 2020 memoir, “Russia had clearly revealed to Manafort — and, by extension, to the Trump campaign — what it wanted out of the United States: ‘a wink,’ a nod of approval from a President Donald Trump, as it took over Ukraine’s richest region.”

Putin has sought to justify his war in Ukraine with a barrage of propaganda — that Ukraine, with a Jewish president, is ruled by Nazis; that Russian atrocities, amply captured in photographs, videos and witness accounts, are Ukrainian false-flag attacks, staged to smear Russia; that Ukraine is preparing to detonate a “dirty bomb,” even as Moscow stokes global fears of a Russian nuclear attack. Putin’s propaganda forces, in fact, had been employing such fictions for years to sow division and confusion in Crimea and Donbas, as he road-tested a new doctrine of hybrid warfare, a mix of weapons and words.

That through-the-looking-glass messaging echoes in the fashioning and evolution of a counternarrative to the Russia investigation that took root in Trump’s campaign and ultimately bled into his first impeachment: Ukraine, not Russia, had meddled in 2016.

According to the Mueller report, Kilimnik and Manafort began spinning the theory after news broke in June 2016 that a private cybersecurity firm called CrowdStrike had determined that Russian hackers had been responsible for breaching the Democratic National Committee’s computer systems. Gates later told investigators that Manafort had told people inside the campaign that Ukraine was actually behind the hack. In doing so, Gates reported, Manafort had “parroted a narrative Kilimnik often supported,” according to F.B.I. notes quoted in the Senate report. Manafort denies Gates’s account.

After the disclosure of Manafort’s name in the black ledger, Kilimnik mounted a reputational defense of his boss by surfacing a new iteration of the counternarrative — that Clinton’s Ukrainian allies had fabricated the ledger to tar Manafort and undermine Trump. Like all effective disinformation, it had some thread-thin ties to reality — the view within the Ukrainian government that a Trump presidency would be potentially ruinous, and the admission that the ledger had not been fully authenticated and did not prove actual payments made to Manafort. An F.B.I. agent who viewed the ledger told me that its hundreds of pages of handwritten entries would have been prohibitively difficult to forge and were a worthwhile investigative tool if not court-ready evidence. (Manafort has denied receiving off-the-books payments and was never a subject of criminal inquiry by Ukrainian prosecutors, who were focused on investigating whether payments to Manafort and others had been improperly drawn from public funds.)

Kilimnik’s initial foray was subtle, involving an August 2016 Financial Times article about prominent Ukrainians’ picking sides in the American election, breaking with traditional neutrality to oppose the “pro-Putin Trump.” Kilimnik had exchanged several emails with the reporter before publication, prosecutors learned, and the article included a quote from a “former Yanukovych loyalist” suggesting not only that the ledger had been leaked to harm Trump but also that journalists covering the leak had been “working in the interests of Hillary Clinton.” Kilimnik sent the article to Gates with the hope that “DT sees it.” Then, after three phone calls with Manafort, Roger Stone posted a link to the piece on Twitter. “The only interference in the US election is from Hillary’s friends in Ukraine,” he added as punctuation.

Several months later, Kilimnik helped make the case more plainly in an op-ed in U.S. News & World Report that he helped ghostwrite for his old associate, the Manafort patron Lyovochkin, now serving in Ukraine’s Parliament as a member of the Party of Regions’ successor, Opposition Bloc. Accusing anti-corruption officials of “manufacturing a case” against Manafort, the op-ed defended those proposing “painful concessions” in return for peace with Russia.

The counternarrative found a prominent amplifier at the Kremlin, which wasted no time using it to stoke Trump’s ire against its foe. Noting how vital American sponsorship was to Ukraine’s future, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, told reporters in Moscow during the transition, “It appears that keeping this sponsorship is a big challenge for the Kyiv authorities,” who had been “uncivilized and rude towards President-elect Donald Trump” and had planted information about Manafort. Putin joined the chorus in February, asserting that the Ukrainian government had “adopted a unilateral position in favor of one candidate” — Clinton. “More than that,” he added, without evidence, “certain oligarchs, certainly with the approval of the political leadership, funded this candidate, or female candidate, to be more precise.”

Russia’s online assets in Ukraine and America joined in. That July, CyberBerkut, a hacker group associated with Russian military intelligence — and active in Russia’s earlier Ukraine propaganda efforts — elaborated on Putin’s theory that Ukrainian oligarchs had secretly financed Clinton. The next day, a pro-Trump Twitter account based in St. Petersburg that was later identified as an asset in the 2016 meddling, @USA_Gunslinger, posted, “Where’s the outrage over Clinton and her campaign team’s collusion with Ukraine to interfere in the US election?”

In the months that followed, Trump’s view of the Ukrainians seemed to grow only darker, as a more outlandish version of the theory flourished in the pro-Trump corners of the internet. Its proponents claimed that the cybersecurity company CrowdStrike was owned by a Ukrainian (it wasn’t), and that the physical servers were hidden somewhere in the country (they weren’t). In other words, much like the Russia investigation “hoax,” it was all a Ukrainian campaign to frame Trump and Russia. Trump nodded at the idea in his news conference with Putin in Helsinki in July 2018, when he said he accepted Putin’s word that Russia had not been involved in the hacking. “Where are those servers?” he asked. “They’re missing.”

Trump’s distrust was threatening to have deadly consequences for the Ukrainians. According to the memoir of his former national security adviser, John R. Bolton, when Russian sailors seized three Ukrainian naval vessels that November in a potentially escalatory move, Trump’s first instinct was to suspect that Ukraine had provoked Russia.

That same month, prosecutors reported to a federal judge that Manafort had breached his plea deal by lying. The judge later sentenced him to a prison term of seven and a half years, to be served at the Federal Correctional Institution Loretto, in Pennsylvania, as Inmate No. 35207-016. What might have been Putin’s best hope for a Trump-approved plan for a weakened and divided Ukraine seemed to have gone away with him. But in ways that played to the Russian leader’s designs, Trump’s festering grievance toward Ukraine would shape the next major scandal of his presidency.

Manafort might have been in prison, but, in search of a pardon, he still had something of value for the transactional president — his unparalleled knowledge of Ukrainian politics and government. He would effectively pass the baton to Trump’s personal lawyer, the former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who in the fall of 2018 was preparing an offensive to definitively cast the special-counsel investigation as a political hit job after its final report failed to prove “collusion.”

Central to Giuliani’s mission was an effort to build out the “Ukraine did it” counternarrative. Giuliani and Manafort did not speak directly but through Manafort’s lawyers. When I asked Manafort exactly what he had passed along, he was vague, but he noted that Giuliani was “talking to some of the people in Ukraine who were my friends” and said his lawyers would have briefed Giuliani on the details of what he calls a plot to frame him. Giuliani declined to speak with me about their discussions, but he told The Washington Post in 2019 that his question for Manafort was, “Was there really a black book?” and the answer came back, “There wasn’t a black book.”

What happened from there is already exhaustively litigated Trump history, as Giuliani adventured across Europe spinning that original counternarrative into an ornate conspiracy theory that roped in the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, its ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, and Joe and Hunter Biden. In its simplest version, the impeachment case that followed was about presidential abuse of power — a scheme to condition essential military aid on a Ukrainian investigation into CrowdStrike, the “hidden servers” and the Bidens’ purportedly corrupt dealings with the Ukrainian energy company Burisma. What was lost on the American audience, though, was the way Trump’s pressure campaign and Giuliani’s freelance diplomacy were buffeting a country that, whether it knew it or not, was careening toward war. Their machinations were playing directly into a soft-power contest over whether Ukraine would lay the true foundations of an independent Western-style democracy or remain in thrall to Moscow and its proxies.

That contest was hard to see through the fog of Ukrainian politics. Everyone I spoke with who had any experience in Kyiv — no matter their political persuasion — warned against seeing anything in black and white, good guys and bad. There was no telling how many seemingly contradictory agendas a major player in Ukraine might be juggling — the only reliable through-lines being the pursuit of money and power. It is in that spirit that the oligarchs most often characterized in the Western press as being “pro-Russian” reject the label. “I was never pro-Russian,” the billionaire energy broker Dmitry Firtash told NBC News this year, “but you have to understand that I’m a businessman.” In prewar Kyiv, pursuing money and power and serving Putin’s interests could often mean the same thing.

“Americans were playing a basic game — ‘Trump wants dirt on Biden,’” says Suriya Jayanti, chief of energy policy at the American Embassy in Kyiv at the time. “What was actually going on in Ukraine was this crazy web of shifting alliances and oligarch pockets and horse trading and back-stabbing, and in our American myopia we had limited understanding that if a tree falls in the forest and America is not there to hear it, it still falls.”

If any place provided a relatively clear view of this seething panorama, it was the embassy, through the events that led to the firing of the ambassador, Yovanovitch. Something of a supporting character in Trump’s first impeachment, Yovanovitch was central to the geopolitical competition playing out in Kyiv. In bottom-line terms, she represented American diplomatic resistance to everything Putin and his Ukrainian proxies wanted from Trump.

A strait-laced and driven career diplomat dispatched to Kyiv by Obama just months before Election Day, Yovanovitch was the daughter of émigrés whose families had fled the Soviets and the Nazis. She arrived in Ukraine at a precarious time. In the wake of the 2014 Maidan uprising, the popular will for democracy was proving irrepressible yet again. Billions of dollars flooded in from the West. But the efforts to nurture Ukraine’s democracy were foundering as the new administration, like the post-Orange Revolution government, was failing to keep its promises of reform. The new president, Petro O. Poroshenko, left little doubt about the seriousness of his anti-Russian rhetoric as he pressed the Obama administration, unsuccessfully, for defensive weapons. But as an oligarch politician in the classic Ukrainian mold — he had made his fortune in the chocolate trade — he was also part of the system he was being asked to blow up.

Yovanovitch immediately set out to shore up the two pillars of the American democracy agenda: freeing Ukraine’s economy from the grip of the oligarchs and its justice system from the corrupting imperatives of politics. That inexorably brought her into conflict with two powerful men.

One was the energy broker Firtash, the embodiment of the oligarchic system that had proved so beneficial to Putin. He had built extraordinary wealth through a partnership with Gazprom, Russia’s leading energy concern: Gazprom sold deeply discounted gas to a middleman company that it owned with Firtash, which then resold it, at a considerable profit, to Ukraine and throughout Europe. Firtash, in turn, used some of those profits to support Russia-aligned politicians. He had been a major sponsor of the Party of Regions and, prosecutors believed, an important paymaster for Manafort. The men were also would-be business partners; a decade earlier, they discussed a deal to buy a hotel in Manhattan. (Firtash did not respond to questions sent to a representative.)

By the time Trump took office, Ukraine had cut Firtash’s middleman out of the gas deal. Firtash himself was in Austria, fighting extradition to the United States on unrelated bribery charges that he denies. But he maintained lucrative ties to Ukraine’s energy industry through ownership of regional distribution companies associated with the national gas concern, Naftogaz. Now, despite what she suspected was pressure from Firtash, Yovanovitch persuaded Poroshenko to hold to his vow to enact new rules that would disrupt “the Firtash business model,” as the ambassador put it in her memoir.

Yovanovitch at first had hopes for Ukraine’s chief law-enforcement official, the prosecutor general, Yuriy Lutsenko. But she almost immediately got crosswise with him as well. Lutsenko had been appointed in the spring of 2016, after Western allies pressed for the ouster of his predecessor, Viktor Shokin, for failing to prosecute corruption cases. One of the more egregious examples, cited frequently by the Americans, involved the energy company Burisma. It had escaped prosecution despite allegations, which it denied, that it embezzled public funds. As State Department officials called for an investigation into the handling of the case by the prosecutor general’s office, Joe Biden, as vice president, delivered a forceful ultimatum: $1 billion in loan guarantees would be contingent on the prosecutor general’s firing. Biden was an imperfect messenger. The year before, Burisma had given a lucrative board seat to his son Hunter, who had a famous last name but no energy-industry experience. Even State Department officials worried, presciently, that his board position would pose the appearance of a conflict.

On paper, Lutsenko seemed the man to professionalize the justice system. Though he had no formal legal training, he had been a leader of the Orange Revolution, was then imprisoned by Yanukovych and emerged to join the 2014 Maidan protests. The black ledger would be one test of whether he would succeed where Shokin had failed, and he promised to support the investigations into its contents, which extended beyond Manafort to apparent bribes to judges and elections officials. Within months, though, reformers were complaining that Lutsenko’s office appeared to be slow-walking the ledger-related investigations. One lead lawyer in the office publicly complained that the prosecutor general was prohibiting him from interviewing witnesses or issuing subpoenas in four cases relating to Manafort’s work.

At the embassy, Yovanovitch was clashing with Lutsenko over his apparent lack of zeal for a range of corruption cases. She was furious, too, that he was working to undercut, if not disempower, a corps of independent anti-corruption prosecutors and investigators that the West had pushed Ukraine to create. As she lectured him about the need for a depoliticized justice system, they soon ceased regular communication. “We thought he would be different,” she told me. “He wasn’t.”

When Trump won the presidency in 2016, the Ukrainians and the Russians believed that the American-led push for change in Kyiv would subside. But Trump, convinced that Ukraine was behind the Russia “hoax,” showed little interest in the country, leaving Yovanovitch free to stay the course.

That changed drastically as Giuliani entered the picture in late 2018. Firtash would provide a vital building block of Giuliani’s case against the Bidens — a sworn affidavit from Shokin in September 2019 asserting that Biden had forced his firing as part of a corrupt scheme to protect Burisma, with his son on the board, from scrutiny. Despite ample evidence that the case against Burisma lay dormant under his watch, Shokin maintained that he had, in fact, been pursuing a “wide-ranging” inquiry. Firtash had secured the affidavit as part of his own legal fight — in it, Shokin suggested that Firtash’s bribery case was politically motivated — and it apparently found its way to Giuliani through mutual associates. Firtash has said he never met Giuliani and did not authorize the affidavit’s use in his operation.

But that operation would not have been possible without Lutsenko, who carried it forward with an added twist implicating Yovanovitch in the supposed plot to help Clinton and hurt Trump.

Though Lutsenko had his own political ambitions, he owed his current position to Poroshenko, who wanted one thing above all else from Trump: more antitank missiles. People inside and outside Kyiv already suspected that was at play as the ledger investigations remained stalled and the United States delivered a first batch of missiles. As one Ukrainian official told The Times in 2018, the Poroshenko government had put the ledger inquiries in a “long-term box,” because “we shouldn’t spoil relations with the administration.” And in March 2019, after meeting with Giuliani at his Park Avenue office, Lutsenko appeared to give Trump at least some of what he wanted. He told the political publication The Hill that he was opening a new ledger investigation — into the allegations that anti-corruption activists and investigators had released it to help Clinton. He would then indicate that he had evidence of possible wrongdoing by the Bidens.

Yet for all that intrigue, there was one force that even the most cynical Kyiv hands never doubt — the sincerity of Ukrainian protesters’ calls for democracy, independent and uncorrupted. And on April 21, Poroshenko was voted out of office in favor of Zelensky, a political neophyte who fashioned himself in the reformist mold of the character he had played on television.

Suddenly Lutsenko was reversing course, announcing that he saw no evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens. (He did not respond to attempts to reach him for comment.) The scheme was at a dead end. As Trump and Giuliani worked to get it back on track under the new administration in Kyiv, Trump finally forced out Yovanovitch, casting her as a central actor in the fantasy plot to defeat him in 2016. Now the president and his lawyer were trying to force a result that embodied everything the fallen ambassador had sought to vanquish in Ukraine: the rank politicization of the justice system, openly articulated in Trump’s “perfect phone call” asking Zelensky to trade a sham investigation for arms, which led to impeachment, only the third in American history.

In March 2021, U.S. intelligence services declassified a report detailing their consensus view that Kilimnik and others associated with Russian intelligence had used various Americans — among them, it strongly suggested, Giuliani — to promote the idea of the Bidens’ corruption in Ukraine to influence the 2020 campaign. The report assessed that Russian leaders viewed Biden’s potential election as “disadvantageous to Russian interests” — especially as it pertained to Ukraine.

Early in his presidency, Zelensky showed a willingness to compromise with Russia on autonomy in the east — the question at the center of the Mariupol plan. But after thousands of protesters streamed back into Maidan in late 2019, he refused Putin’s demands for concessions on Ukrainian sovereignty. Zelensky was already prioritizing efforts to join NATO and would sign legislation constraining the oligarchs.

Trump pardoned Manafort before leaving the White House. Had he remained in office, the former president said in a statement earlier this year, “the Ukraine desecration would not be happening.” But with Biden’s inauguration in January 2021, Putin was now facing a new American president who promised a tough line against his imperial designs on Ukraine — and with no obvious back channels through which to manipulate him or his policy.

Thirteen months later, Russian tanks crossed the Ukrainian frontier.

First illustration, source photographs: Ira L. Black/Corbis, via Getty Images (Trump); Eric Thayer for The New York Times (Manafort); Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images (Putin).

Second illustration, source photographs: Mikhail Metzel/Getty Images (Putin); Brandon Bell/Getty Images (Trump); Damon Winter/The New York Times (Manafort); Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Inc., via Getty Images (Giuliani); Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times (Yanukovych).<br

Politics & Religion / Congressman Dan Crenshaw
« on: October 27, 2022, 05:03:11 PM »
Midterms Are a Time for Choosing for Republicans
Nearly six decades later, the GOP is divided and Ronald Reagan’s famous speech still resonates.
By Dan Crenshaw
Oct. 27, 2022 1:05 pm ET




Ronald Reagan gives his A Time for Choosing speech, Oct. 27, 1964.

Ronald Reagan gave his famous speech “A Time For Choosing” a week before Election Day 1964. Nearly six decades later, the speech remains relevant, and the parallels to the circumstances we face today are striking. The battles against big government and Marxist do-gooders have changed only in the sense that they have intensified. Americans are still debating our role in the world—even as war rages in Europe. We are uncertain of our future, as we were then.

WSJ Opinion Potomac Watch
Nine Million Votes, With Candidates Still Debating

Reagan decried a bloated welfare state, a militant tax-and-spending regime in Washington, and the blatant bribing of Americans with their own tax dollars for their votes. Full Democratic control of Washington over the past two years has produced the kind of government Reagan could have imagined only in a fever dream. The inflationary Inflation Reduction Act and the unconstitutional forgiveness of student loans via executive fiat were shameless attempts to buy votes before a midterm election.

The choice before Americans next month is simple. Will we sell our votes to politicians promising us prosperity if only we give them more of our money? Will we choose to be free—acknowledging the risks and challenges that inevitably accompany freedom—or will we choose to be dependent? Will we, as Reagan said, “believe in our capacity for self-government, or abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves”?

As Republicans, we believe in the challenge of freedom and individual responsibility. We affirm, as the Founders did, that prosperity and innovation and greatness are born from free enterprise, and that the government exists to protect that freedom, not diminish it. The good news is that polling indicates most Americans agree. This election may well be a referendum on the kind of governance Reagan warned us about decades ago.

But it is also a time for choosing for conservatives. We have to choose how we will fight for the great vision that Reagan articulated.

The right is divided these days, which is odd, considering that by any measure there are fewer ideological and policy differences within the Republican Party than ever. Yet factions persist. The divisions are becoming more severe and more toxic. Some in our movement insist on sorting themselves into labels: populists, nationalists, MAGA, mainstream—but without any real clue as to what ideas separate these groups. These groupings function more like grade-school cliques than serious political divisions. They are about style over substance.

These divisions are manufactured by opportunists—mostly online and on television—who can’t string a sentence together about serious public policy but are quick to label anyone and everyone a “RINO” or “establishment sell-out.”

These are the people who say they fight for the conservative movement but in reality only fight for attention, fundraising dollars, clicks and views. They know that Americans have been conditioned to be attentive to Kardashian-like drama, and so they serve it up in our political arena. It’s unhealthy, and we have to stop rewarding it. It makes us seem bitter, unserious and unlikable.

To beat the increasingly radical left, we have to unite, and we have to fight to win. In politics, you win only when you’re persuading those who disagree with you.

This is the choice before conservatives: Will we be happy warriors or furious flame throwers? When we communicate, will we persuade? Or will we serve up a limited menu of red meat? Will we succumb to our grievances and bitterness as the left advances, take the bait they’ve set for us, and become the caricatures they want us to be? Will we do the hard work, play the long game, win majorities and sustain them, in order to implement policy?

I would rather we follow the electoral success of President Reagan, achieved not through grievance but through inspiration. We may win this one election off the coattails of the other side’s seemingly endless incompetence. But we will win the next 10 elections with inspiration, with vision and with the time-tested principles that Reagan defended so well.

That is the choice before us. Let us choose wisely.

Mr. Crenshaw, a Republican, represents Texas’ Second Congressional District

As Tucker has been pointing out, the average American testosterone level has declined over 40% over the last 40 years.

Something deep and powerful is going on, not only for testosterone but for other hormones and our endocrine systems.

This thread is for such matters:



Popular Athletic Clothing Brands Have High Levels of Hormone Disrupting Chemical BPA: Watchdog Group
By Naveen Athrappully October 14, 2022 Updated: October 14, 2022biggersmaller Print

Sports bras and athletic shirts made by some of the major global sports brands were found to contain dangerous levels of the estrogen-mimicking chemical bisphenol A, commonly known as BPA, posing a considerable risk to people’s health, according to legal notices sent by the Center for Environmental Health (CEH).

BPA—an endocrine disrupting chemical that upsets the body’s functioning through blocking or mimicking hormones—is linked to developmental and health problems mostly for young children. For adults, studies have found that high levels of the chemical results in heart problems, while experts have connected BPA to obesity, diabetes, ADHD, and other ailments, with more research pending for definitive conclusions.

The CEH has sent legal notices to Athleta, PINK, Asics, The North Face, Brooks, All in Motion, Nike, and FILA regarding sports bras, and The North Face, Brooks, Mizuno, Athleta, New Balance, and Reebok for its activewear shirt collection. Testing conducted on branded clothing showed that individual wearers were exposed to 22 times the safe limit as permitted under California law.

“Studies have shown that BPA can be absorbed through skin and end up in the bloodstream after handling receipt paper for seconds or a few minutes at a time. Sports bras and athletic shirts are worn for hours at a time, and you are meant to sweat in them, so it is concerning to be finding such high levels of BPA in our clothing,” said Kaya Allan Sugerman, director of the Illegal Toxic Threats Program at CEH.

Investigations by the agency have discovered BPA in polyester-based clothing with spandex, including socks made for infants.

“Even low levels of exposure during pregnancy have been associated with a variety of health problems in offspring,” said Dr. Jimena Diaz Leiva, science director at CEH, in the press release. The resultant abnormal developmental growth can increase the likelihood of “developing breast or ovarian cancer later in life.”

The Epoch Times reached out to Nike, Fila, New Balance, Reebok, The North Face, Mizuno, and Asics for comment. Athleta, Pink, Brooks, and All in Motion could not be reached.

California’s Proposition 65
Proposition 65, enacted as a ballot initiative in California in November 1986, requires the state to maintain a list of chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. It requires businesses operating within the state to provide warnings on products containing such chemicals.

The list now includes about 900 naturally-occurring and synthetic chemicals, including additives or ingredients in pesticides, common household products, foods, drugs, dyes, and solvents. Penalties for violating Proposition 65 can reach up to $2,500 per incident per day.

“The proposed maximum allowable dose level for BPA (dermal exposure from solid materials) is 3 micrograms per day,” according to a report (pdf) by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. This could mean that some of the branded clothing exposes its wearers to about 66 micrograms daily, based on the CEH assessment.

However, detractors of the legislation have said Proposition 65 warnings inspire terror, apathy, or confusion among people residing in California.

They say that the state has designated benign plants, such as aloe vera, in the toxic list that includes the deadly chemical benzene, raising questions about the validity of such warnings for the average consumer. Critics say that the warnings have become so ubiquitous that they’ve lost their meaning and consumers tend to simply ignore them.

The CEH has called for the athletic clothing brands to reformulate their offerings without the BPA, giving them 60 days to remedy the violation before the agency files a complaint.
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Politics & Religion / Making the Case that there is electoral fraud
« on: September 24, 2022, 12:39:35 PM »
GM and I were talking earlier today. 

I want to make the case for the existence of electoral fraud in a way that will communicate to a large, generic audience that has been breathing in the noxious fumes of the Goolag and the Pravdas and does not know any better.

At first this thread is to serve as a dumping ground for the raw material for making the case.

Specifically, I am looking for:

a) the numerous clips/quotes from Dem luminaries (circa 2006?) such as Pelosi, Schumer, Nadler, Jimmy Carter and others that mail-in ballots are the path to vote fraud.  (Bonus points for examples of this being done (e.g. 2008 the Senate race that gave Dems the margin for Obamacare by giving the victory to the SNL comedian)

b) clips/quotes from MSM showing how easy it is to hack Dominion and other vote machines;   

c) clips/quotes from various Dems in support thereof;

d) history of vote fraud:  For example, working from memory, decades ago a Philadelphia mayoral election was overturned, a Miami FL mayoral election was overturned (this was prior to 2000);

e) Peter Navarro's piece making the case for fraud in 2020

f) The Time Magazine article by Progs bragging on how they manipulated the coverage

g) We here all know the story of Hunter's laptop being stuffed in 2020.  We need serious SCHOLARLY citation of the facts how who/when/where/how this was done.

h) Serious scholarly citation of the facts of Zuckerberg's $400M and the precise details of how it was spent

i) Serious, scholarly citation of Dem/Deep State comms with FB et al to manipulate the news

j) not central to our case here, but a precisely written of the LEGAL issues and shenanigans by the FBI with regard to Hillary in 2016

When we make contributions here, please begin with a brief statement of to which of these it is directed.

Thank you.

Politics & Religion / Russia-China
« on: September 16, 2022, 05:41:11 AM »

Drilling in the Pacific. Russia and China launched joint naval drills in the Pacific on Thursday, their second such exercises in the past year. Russia’s Ministry of Defense said the drills were aimed at strengthening naval cooperation, maintaining peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific, and protecting both countries’ maritime activities. Moscow has been stepping up its ties with China as it faces severe economic pressure from Europe.

Tucker has been clearly articulating that puberty blocking is chemical castration and surgeries removing breasts and penises of minors are , , , well child abuse seems too minor a term.

So, I am giving all this its own thread.

Kicking it off with a doctor who does these things getting into the aftermath of "a top end job".

Politics & Religion / Tucker Carlson
« on: August 29, 2022, 07:58:44 PM »
Wish I had started this thread long ago.

Kicking it off with tonight's show.

For the record, I do find him quite glib on the subject of ending support for Ukraine at this point:

Also, his argument at 12:45 was seriously challenged by a post here which I cannot find at the moment-- the gist of it being Russia faces serious problems if it cuts off the oil/gas.

Science, Culture, & Humanities / Natural Law and the Ninth Amendment
« on: August 29, 2022, 02:59:20 AM »
Though there is the Substantive Due Process Doctrine of the Fourteenth Amendment, (opposed by Justice Thomas) I've been thinking about "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" (Dec. of Ind.) and our Ninth Amendment.

"The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

The first Natural Law is "Eat, Survive, and Reproduce".

Our children are our reproduction.

Are they your kids, or are they the state’s?

Your children are ‘owned’ by Big Brother and his reeducation camps

By Everett Piper

The news this week coming out of Maryland is that the state owns your children; you don’t. Your sons and daughters are Uncle Sam’s, not yours. Or perhaps more accurately, your children belong to Father Mao and Brother Stalin.

They don’t belong to you.

Writing for The Washington Post, Jasmine Hilton reports the following: “A judge on Thursday dismissed a complaint against the Montgomery County school board by parents who alleged that the system’s student gender-identity guidelines violated their state and constitutional rights.”

“Three parents, who filed anonymously in 2020 against the Montgomery County Board of Education, argued that the guidelines curtailed their ability ‘to direct the care, custody, education, and control of their minor children,’ under the Fourteenth Amendment, according to a memorandum opinion.”

“The parents said that the Montgomery County Public School ‘2020-2021 Guidelines for Student Gender Identity’ were designed to work

around parental involvement ‘in a pivotal decision’ in their children’s lives and that the guidelines ‘enable school personnel to allow children to transition socially to a different gender identity at school’ without parents’ notice or consent.”

“In the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Judge Paul W. Grimm sided with the MCBE’s argument that the guidelines advance the state’s goal of protecting students’ safety and privacy. According to [his] memo, the ‘MCBE certainly has a legitimate interest in providing a safe and supportive environment for all MCPS students, including those who are transgender and gender nonconforming,’ Grimm then [concluded], ’And the Guidelines are certainly rationally related to achieving that result.’” So, there you have it. Today’s schools are teaching your sons and daughters that a female isn’t a biological fact and that it’s perfectly healthy for a boy to pretend to be a girl, and when you object, you’re told to stand down because, after all, your children belong to the government, not you. Your children are literally “owned” by Big Brother and his reeducation camps, otherwise known as your local public schools. The message you’re hearing is loud and clear: “These children are ours, not yours.”

And lest you think this is just about the left’s strange fixation on sex; it’s not.

These are the same schools that are teaching your kids to judge people by the color of their skin rather than the content of their character. These are the same teachers who claim that 2+2=4 is the product of white privilege and that the use of Socratic logic is racist. These are the smart folks who are telling your sons and daughters that our Constitution is xenophobic, America is systemically evil, and that capitalism is bad while communism is good.

And while all this is going on, your local school board is telling you that you have no right to know about or object to anything they are teaching your progeny. These people think that their moral authority supersedes yours if they truck your 12-year-old daughter off to some crackpot gender transition clinic to get puberty blockers injected into her body. These ideologues think it’s none of your business if your son who is too young to get a driver’s license wants to surgically remove a fully functional organ from his body. They are delusional demagogues who are aiding and abetting minors to live a lie rather than pursue the truth. While they’re brainwashing your children into parroting the nonsense about America being exceptionally bad rather than exceptionally good, they are literally butchering them in their grisly game of social engineering and sexual nihilism. And when you object, they tell you to butt out and be quiet and stop acting like you have any say in the matter in the first place.

Rod Dreher summarizes this grand deception well in his book, “Live Not by Lies”: “We have been ’harmonized,’ which is China’s term for neutralizing citizens as a threat to the social and political order. People born in the 1980s and afterward are hopelessly lost. The brainwashing starts in nursery school. The state’s information-control apparatus has demolished the ability of the young to learn facts that contradict the narrative. They live in a completely different world. They’ve been perfectly manipulated by their education and the Party’s propaganda. They ignore reality. It’s been made easy for them.”

If you listen carefully, you can almost hear John Dewey chuckling in the background: “You can’t make socialists out of individualists. Children who know how to think for themselves spoil the harmony of the collective society.”

We are at a tipping point. Are your children yours, or do they belong to the state? Are you responsible for “training them up in the way they should go,” or will you simply cede this obligation over to your local government schools?

Think carefully about these questions before you answer. Your response may well determine if your daughter grows up in the land of the free and whether or not your son grows up thinking he has the freedom to steal every ontological right that belongs to your daughter

Politics & Religion / The Indo-Pacific
« on: June 13, 2022, 08:10:32 AM »

June 13, 2022
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Open as PDF

A New Trade Pact in the Indo-Pacific
The IPEF is an economic structure with security overtones.
By: Victoria Herczegh
The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, the U.S.-led effort to counter China and foster economic engagement in the region, has officially launched. India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Brunei and the Philippines have joined Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia to participate in the framework negotiations, which will aim to divert trade away from China to the United States. For the new pact to succeed, it will need to leverage existing security alliances as new economic components and opportunities arise.

Economic Allies

Crucially, it will also need the participation of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) states, which are strategically essential for anyone hoping to control the Indo-Pacific. Washington has some catching up to do in this regard. Over the past few decades, U.S. priorities were in the Middle East and North Atlantic. The countries of Asia-Pacific took note, understanding that they could not expect much in the way of economic support from the U.S. This gave Beijing a chance to strengthen ties with ASEAN. For China, the bloc may be an important economic ally, but its true value is the maritime access it provides China’s export-oriented economy. It’s no coincidence, then, that Washington is homing in on ASEAN.

ASEAN and the IPEF
(click to enlarge)

The current economic climate favors the U.S. Put simply, the only way ASEAN members can develop their economies is to ally with a stronger economic power. China's economic trouble has put its reliability in question as investment projects stall, as trade flows grow more erratic, and as environmental and social problems imperil the Belt and Road Initiative. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine war, ASEAN needs a stable partner more than ever. The U.S. economy is comparatively stable, and Washington is already trying to pivot to Asia in part to contain China.

As important, the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) means to spur economic activity among its members, albeit in a way that aligns ASEAN countries with U.S. rules and standards. So far, IPEF participants have pledged only to continue negotiations, which cover digital trade and trade facilitation, clean energy and decarbonization, supply chain resilience, and anti-corruption and taxes. Signatories will determine what will be negotiated in each area, and they can opt in or out of any area. (Flexibility is key in these early phases – ASEAN members want to make sure they don’t anger or jeopardize their ties with China – and while this may risk diluting any agreement IPEF makes, opting in and out could mitigate the problem.)

China-ASEAN Trade & Investment
(click to enlarge)


But there is an undeniable security component to the IPEF. In fact, Washington’s strategy for securing the participation of its members revolves around shared security interests and consists of three efforts: shoring up existing security allies, improving ties with India and improving ties with South China Sea claimant countries.

Existing security allies are a natural cornerstone of the IPEF. These include Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, all of which want to see a stronger and more resilient Indo-Pacific with diversified trade and increased commercial political and military action.

Japan’s and South Korea’s geographic positions are particularly important. Located along the Yellow and East China seas, they help restrict China’s direct access to the Pacific Ocean. Japan and South Korea have their differences, especially with regard to historical grievances and their latitude in countering China, but they support the U.S. military presence in the region, have extremely developed economies and have an interest in preventing China from becoming a regional hegemon. Through the IPEF framework, trade routes can be pushed in Japan and South Korea’s favor, anchoring regional states that previously were dependent on China firmly into Japan and South Korea’s economic orbit.

Australia and New Zealand are even more closely integrated into the U.S. security apparatus. Along with the U.K. and Canada, they are members of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance and share historical roots, aligned cultures and shared security interests. The U.S. and Australia cooperate closely on maritime Pacific issues; Australia provides strategic locations for U.S. naval assets, and the U.S. provides additional military support to protect Australian commercial interests, which are highly dependent on maritime trade. Canberra is especially enthusiastic about the IPEF as an alternative to Beijing. Notably, New Zealand is a little more skeptical of the IPEF because of its trade relations with China. New Zealand wants its options within IPEF formulated in a clear and detailed way in order to dive into further negotiations, which allow it to more easily judge potential consequences. The agreement can likely still offer a feasible alternative to China by providing trade links and new supply chains with ASEAN countries. Still, for New Zealand, like South Korea, relations with China need to be managed carefully.

The second effort, shoring up ties with India, is similarly vital. India’s geographic location makes it critical to the U.S. strategy to contain China westward by land. India may participate in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue with the U.S., Japan and Australia, but it has long been the most reserved member of the group. Washington hopes the IPEF could be the economic incentive it needs to foster more security cooperation. For its part, India sees the IPEF as an opportunity to extend its influence farther east and southeast than it otherwise could, specifically by moving transportation and supply lines there that currently run elsewhere. Moreover, IPEF initiatives align with many of India’s national economic development initiatives such as transitioning to a net-zero economy, converting India into a global hub for making electric vehicles and transitioning to a pattern of energy consumption that relies more on clean renewables.

As important, India’s participation in the IPEF will draw in the participation of Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Singapore, countries for which Indian trade is increasingly important. Inflation in these countries is soaring, and they need steady imports of food and fuel, which India can provide. If India can provide that through the IPEF, it will have greatly lessened these four countries’ reliance on China.

The remaining IPEF participants – the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia – are countries that are disillusioned with failed Chinese promises and are thus ripe for the U.S. to peel away. These countries need a steady inflow of foreign direct investment to modernize their infrastructure with well-timed and structured projects. Belt and Road projects have been stalled in the Philippines and Malaysia, while Brunei has not received its promised amount of investment. The U.S., Japan and South Korea have already pursued ad hoc efforts to counter China’s Belt and Road efforts in these countries through the frameworks of the Free and Open Indo-Pacific, a promising but not well-structured set of mechanisms meant to improve the well-being of the region’s states. The IPEF supports improved economic activity for these countries as well as greater ties and access to developed economies capable of meeting their infrastructure needs.

But as with other countries in the IPEF, there are security dimensions to improved economic ties. All these countries are claimants of some maritime territories in the protracted South China Sea dispute. This, of course, makes their relations with China strained, especially now that China has once again become more assertive in the region. Individually, there is little these three countries can do to confront or sway China. Support from the U.S. and its stronger security allies in the region such as Japan and South Korea could induce them to veer from China and pull closer to the U.S.

Of course, there are ASEAN members that are not included in the IPEF: Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos. These countries are the least developed in the bloc and the most dependent on China, particularly in terms of foreign direct investment, and as such were not invited to join the group. They are simply too close to China, and their domestic affairs would present too many obstacles for Washington to overcome.

The other countries may well be more promising candidates, but they are not without their doubts. Their participation will depend on the rules and structures of the pact, and the extent to which those rules and structures indeed help them steer clear of China, which is still a wealthy, eager and geographically convenient partner. As far as the U.S. goes, the timing couldn’t be better.

Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Geopolitics of The Pacific Ocean
« on: June 02, 2022, 08:36:48 AM »
The Pacific Islands Emerge as the Next Theater for Great Power Competition
7 MIN READJun 1, 2022 | 19:21 GMT

Visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (left) and Fiji's prime minister Frank Bainimarama attend a joint press conference in Fiji's capital of Suva on May 30, 2022.
Visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (left) and Fiji's prime minister Frank Bainimarama attend a joint press conference in Fiji's capital of Suva on May 30, 2022.

(LEON LORD/AFP via Getty Images)

China's troubled agreement with Pacific Island nations highlights the growing competition with the United States and Australia for regional influence, which will grant bargaining power to the often-overlooked island countries. On May 30, China failed to reach an agreement with Fiji and nine other Pacific Island nations on a joint communique that laid out a five-year plan for trade and security cooperation with the region.

Despite Foreign Minister Wang Yi's assurances of the deal's mutually beneficial nature, the prime minister of Fiji — where the deal was supposed to be announced — claimed that the region could not yet agree to a deal as it prized consensus. Other leaders pushed to delay or amend the deal, though few details are available on their specific concerns. This comes after the president of Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) urged his fellow Pacific Island nations on May 25 not to subject the region to great power competition by signing the deal. China's failed pitch also follows U.S. President Joe Biden's May 20-24 visit to South Korea and Japan, where he launched the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework with 13 founding member countries (though Fiji became the 14th on May 28). Biden attended a meeting of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue on May 24 as well, which saw the United States, Australia, India and Japan launch a regional initiative to combat illegal fishing — a practice for which China is the primary culprit.

The Pacific Islands is a critical strategic space for all three powers. China is interested in projecting power beyond the Second Island Chain and thus buffering U.S. efforts to project military power and surveillance capabilities from the Pacific Islands into China's near seas and provide strategic depth for U.S. troops in Guam and Hawaii. Australia, for its part, sees the Pacific Islands as its strategic ''backyard'' and thus is highly motivated to maximize its own military access to the region while minimizing the ability of rival countries like China to project naval and economic power in the region.

The United States and China have high political stakes in 2022. President Biden is heading into the November midterm elections at a time of bipartisan hawkishness on China, while Chinese President Xi Jinping is aiming to secure an unprecedented third term in late 2022. Both leaders are also navigating the domestic economic hangover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Australia is also deeply invested in the region, with newly elected Prime Minister Anthony Albanese attempting to quell domestic concerns that he may ease up on his predecessor Scott Morrison's efforts to protect the Pacific Islands — or what Morrison referred to as Australia's strategic ''backyard'' — from Chinese threats.

All three regional heavyweights have deep interests in the Pacific Islands, a region that has historically been a quieter theater for U.S.-China and Australia-China competition but is now receiving greater political attention amid recent developments in the Solomon Islands. In late March, China signed a security agreement with the Solomon Islands that permitted Chinese naval vessels to replenish in the country and Chinese police to deploy there at the request of Honiara, the country's capital. This follows the November 2021 protests in the Solomon Islands, which targeted the Chinatown on the island of Malaita and saw Australia deploy police to restore order at the request of the Solomon Islands. Amid these developments, along with rising tensions between China and both Australia and the United States, all three governments are more intentionally engaging with the region to avoid losing influence in the strategic middle ground of the Pacific.

Besides the Solomon Islands agreement, Beijing has signed wide-ranging deals with the 10 Pacific Island countries that have diplomatic relations with China, including memoranda of understanding related to China's Belt and Road Initiative focused on trade, investment and infrastructure development. These countries also hope to access China's massive tourism market, jointly develop maritime mineral and fuel resources, and counterbalance relations with Australia and the United States.

U.S. interaction with the region has been focused on nations in Micronesia — namely, the Freely Associated States (FAS) of Palau, the Marshall Islands and the FSM, which provide Washington exclusive naval access to the region in return for aid and the right of local citizens to live and work in the United States. However, Washington's attention to the region has lapsed in recent years. President Biden only appointed a new lead negotiator in March 2022 to renew the Compacts of Free Association with the Marshall Islands and FSM (set to expire in 2023), over a year after the last meeting in December 2020.

Australia's relations with the Pacific Islands are region-wide and heavily focused on investment. But Canberra's closest ties are concentrated in Melanesia in the form of agreements with Fiji, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea that give the island nations access to Australia for foreign workers in exchange for providing the Australian navy regional maritime access. In September, Australia also signed onto AUKUS, a weapons access deal with the United States and the United Kingdom that secures Canberra long-term access to nuclear submarines. This technology will allow Australia to boost maritime deterrence and surveillance in the broader Indo-Pacific, but especially in the Pacific Islands.

These developments will test the United States, Australia and China's regional engagement strategies and give Pacific Island nations unique leverage to maximize foreign assistance from these major global powers. Though most Pacific Island nations have minuscule populations and economies, this new attention from Beijing, Canberra and Washington will enable the Pacific Islands to rebalance external involvement toward domestic development and regionally salient issues like climate change. It will also require them to deftly balance strategic issues like foreign military access without ceding territorial or resource sovereignty, a consideration evidenced in the delayed Chinese joint communique. Though the Pacific Islands may face some risk of retaliation (i.e. Chinese trade coercion) if they push back too strongly on such deals, the deep-seated fear in China of losing regional influence to the United States or Australia — and vice versa — puts these small nations in a strong bargaining position.

Amid an election year in which hawkishness against China is a widely accepted measuring stick for governing effectiveness, Washington will be under pressure to up its trade and investment game in the Pacific Island region and bolster ties with nations outside the FAS to counter China's influence. The United States may also seek to expand the IPEF to more Pacific Island nations. To avoid losing influence in Micronesia, the United States will push to make meaningful progress on FAS negotiations as well — lest it risks ceding its strong military footing in the region to China, which has long looked for ways to boost its influence in the traditionally pro-U.S. states of Palau, the Marshall Islands and the FSM.

The recent setback with the regional development deal will test China's ability to tailor its engagement to the needs of Pacific Island nations, which are currently more concerned with climate change and local economic issues than they are with the region's security. Addressing such local needs, however, is not usually Beijing's strong suit in matters of development assistance. Should China be able to salvage the deal, this would serve as a much-needed diplomatic win as Beijing fends off global opprobrium for its tacit support of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

In Australia, heightened competition for influence in the Pacific Islands will test new Prime Minister Albanese's ability to maintain (and perhaps improve) trade ties with China, while also rebuffing Beijing's regional military advances — partly through continued elevated security engagement with the United States. Likewise, in New Zealand, the administration of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will be under pressure to boost both its trade and security engagement in the Pacific Islands region. This will challenge Ardern's preferred approach toward China of prioritizing trade relations and reserving ''competition'' mainly for issues of human rights and less for the military realm.

Politics & Religion / Taiwan
« on: April 21, 2022, 02:29:12 PM »

Politics & Religion / Convoy!
« on: February 20, 2022, 08:37:29 PM »

Feel free to duplicate post here and on the CW2 thread or other related threads.

Politics & Religion / Microchips, semiconductors
« on: December 22, 2021, 03:49:24 AM »
Microchips are macro important and seem to keep coming up so herewith I begin this thread:

What on earth can be holding up the House (the Dems) from passing the bill in question?!?

Too little, too late for American-made microchips

Supply interruptions in Asia to delay manufacturing well into next year


Thousands of new cars are piling up at manufacturers’ lots, the price of electric toothbrushes has surged, coffee machines have disappeared from store shelves, and Apple has drastically cut its iPhone production.

The global computer chip shortage is showing no signs of abating heading into 2022, and the Biden administration’s proposed solution remains years away.

President Biden and his Cabinet have urged Congress to pass legislation that would invest $52 billion to increase U.S. semiconductor chip production.

Supply interruptions have depleted consumer product inventory, and offi cials say domestic chip production is critical.

The bill, known as the CHIPS for America Act, passed the Senate in July with bipartisan support but stalled in the House.

At a speech last month in Detroit, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo implored Congress to pass the bill so the U.S. can “immediately” begin ramping up chip production.

Even if Congress does act urgently, the legislation is no quick fix, analysts say. By the time U.S. semiconductor chip manufacturing can get up to speed, the crisis will have long passed.

“The chip shortage is going to get resolved in the second half of 2022. It takes three years for a new chip [factory] to come to production,” said Gaurav Gupta, vice president of semiconductors and electronics for Gartner, a technology research and consulting company.

Even if the U.S. increases production significantly, he said, it can’t completely remove itself from the global supply chain. The testing and packaging are

completed in Southeast Asia, where costs are much lower.

It costs 30% more to make a chip in the U.S. than in Asia, according to a 2020 report by the Semiconductor Industry Association. That could add $10 billion to $40 billion to production expenses.

“You’ll still send the chips back to Southeast Asia unless you are bringing the complete ecosystem here, and you won’t because it’s impractical to do that,” Mr. Gupta said.

It is not clear whether the federal dollars allocated under the CHIPS Act would be enough to support domestic production. The U.S. share of the global semiconductor manufacturing market dropped from 37% in 1990 to 12% in 2020, according to the industry association. Europe’s share dropped from 44% to 9% in the same time frame. Asia now holds 75% of the world’s semiconductor manufacturing capacity.

“There’s no special sauce down there except money,” said Paul Gratz, who teaches computer engineering at Texas A& M University.

In China, where it costs nearly 50% less to produce a semiconductor than it does in the U.S., the government is spending $150 billion to increase chip production. That is nearly triple the investment under the CHIPS Act.

Some fear the U.S. bid to increase domestic manufacturing will lead to a glut of chips in the market, resulting in falling prices and negative or zero revenue growth.

The revenue of the top 10 semiconductor firms, including Intel and Samsung, declined by 12% in 2019 because of oversupply, according to Gartner’s research.

The potential for overcapacity is on the horizon as automobile and smartphone makers slash inventory because of sluggish sales.

“You have to solve this problem in a systematic manner,” Mr. Gupta said. “You don’t have to go with political sentiment.”

U.S.-based Intel Corp. announced Thursday that it will spend $7.1 billion to build a massive packaging and testing facility in Malaysia, bucking the administration’s call for more domestic manufacturing.

The $7.1 billion is part of Intel’s overall $30 billion investment in Malaysia, which will include a sprawling complex to build chips for cars, computers and other industries.

Mr. Gratz said the U.S. needs to stop relying on Asian countries for semiconductor chips.

South Korea and Taiwan are the world’s two chipmaking powerhouses, combining for roughly 43% of the global market, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association. Both nations, however, are under global threats that could lead to instability. South Korea has repeated conflict with North Korea, and fears of a full Chinese invasion of Taiwan persist.

“In the long term, [the CHIPS Act] is probably beneficial for us because two countries that have the lion’s shares of the market are Taiwan and South Korea,” Mr. Gratz said. “By investing domestically, it is going to give us more of a cushion if there is a geopolitical shake-up.”

Instead of ramping up domestic production, Mr. Gratz said, companies should invest in technologies to use alternate chips.

That strategy would pay off for the auto industry, which has been devastated by the chip shortage.

Automaker Tesla has survived by developing its own semiconductors and changing its software to use fewer chips.

The chip shortage is expected to cost the global automotive industry $210 billion in revenue this year, but Tesla has shown a string of profitable quarters and a growing business.

“What Tesla did was very impressive,” Mr. Gratz said. “They were very flexible with respect to retooling and spent a lot more on software so they can use different processors into their cars.”

Tesla’s technology investment enabled it to increase production while other automakers slowed or shut down production because of the chip shortage.

Toyota cut production targets in the U.S. and overseas by 15% last month. Ford announced this summer that it has 70,000 partially built cars awaiting semiconductor chips. Ford did not respond to repeated requests for comment about the number of vehicles that have been completed.

Other manufacturers are looking into technological investments. General Motors said it will work with chip manufacturers to develop devices that combine several functions previously controlled by chips.

Ford and other automakers are seeking partnerships with semiconductor companies to give them more control over the supply and design of chips.

LIKE WATCHING GRASS GROW: With new cars idle, U.S. automakers can’t wait for President Biden’s CHIPS for America Act to get factories running. Meanwhile, Tesla has found its own solution to the shortage. ASSOCIATED PRESS

Southeast Asian nations will continue testing and packaging semiconductors even if the U.S. increases domestic production significantly. It costs 30% more to make a chip in the U.S. than in Asia, adding $10 billion to $40 billion to production expenses. ASSOCIATED PRESS

Politics & Religion / Crime and punishment
« on: December 09, 2021, 01:43:35 PM »
The thread for this is now on a different forum so starting it afresh here:

Politics & Religion / The Kyle Rittenhouse Trial
« on: November 04, 2021, 02:37:57 PM »

Who Is Kyle Rittenhouse and Why Is He on Trial for the Kenosha Shootings?

Rittenhouse faces homicide charges over killings of two protesters and injuries to a third in Kenosha, Wis., last year
By Akane Otani
Updated Oct. 28, 2021 5:49 pm ET

Prosecutors have accused Kyle Rittenhouse of fatally shooting two men and wounding another as they were protesting the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis.

He is currently on trial facing six criminal counts regarding the incident, including first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, recklessly endangering safety and possession of a dangerous weapon.

Who is Kyle Rittenhouse?

Kyle Rittenhouse, who is from Antioch, Ill., first came to public attention after videos posted on social media from Aug. 25, 2020, showed him armed with a gun and running at the site of the shooting. At one point, he can be heard in a video saying, “I just killed somebody,” according to a complaint filed by the Kenosha County District Attorney.

The teenager was charged two days later and could face life in prison if convicted of first-degree intentional homicide.

Antiracism protests took place in Kenosha, Wis., and other U.S. cities Wednesday amid anger over the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Authorities identified the officer who shot Blake in Kenosha on Sunday as police arrested a 17-year-old in connection with a deadly shooting during protests there on Tuesday. Photo: Alex Wroblewski for The Wall Street Journal

Lawyers for Mr. Rittenhouse have said that his actions were self-defense against angry protesters. Laster year, attorney John Pierce said on Twitter that the teen was “a Minuteman protecting his community when the government would not.”

“More American men should fulfill their duty,” said Mr. Pierce. “He is a shining example of the American fighting spirit.”

What can we expect from the trial?

Prosecutors will have to overcome a longstanding law in Wisconsin that makes it more difficult than in many other states to convict someone who claims self-defense.

In Wisconsin, a defendant needs only to present some evidence of self-defense in order to impose the burden of proof on the prosecution to negate that claim beyond a reasonable doubt, said Daniel Blinka, a former prosecutor and professor at Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee.

About 17 other states have similar laws, according to research by the National Conference of State Legislatures. In most states, the defendant has to prove their actions were reasonable.

“The self-defense provisions in Wisconsin clearly favor the defense,” said Joshua Dressler, a professor emeritus at Ohio State University’s law school and author of a widely used textbook on criminal law.

Why was Mr. Rittenhouse in Kenosha, and what happened on the night of Aug. 25, 2020?

In a video taken by Richard McGinniss, a journalist with the Daily Caller, Mr. Rittenhouse is seen with a rifle and a medic kit, saying he is out to protect local businesses. At that point, Kenosha had experienced violent unrest for two nights that left businesses burned, looted and damaged in response to a video that showed police shooting Mr. Blake in the back seven times.

“People are getting injured, and our job is to protect this business, and part of my job is to also help people,” Mr. Rittenhouse said in the video. “If there’s somebody hurt, I’m running into harm’s way. That’s why I have my rifle, because I need to protect myself, but I also have my med kit.” Mr. McGinniss later witnessed Mr. Rittenhouse shooting and killing Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, according to a complaint filed by the Kenosha County District Attorney last year. Mr. McGinniss didn’t respond to requests for comment.

In another video posted to social media, a young man who appears to be Mr. Rittenhouse is seen with a group of men who the videographer says are part of a local militia out to protect businesses from looters. Some of the men stand on a roof with guns.

The complaint filed by prosecutors against Mr. Rittenhouse details what can be seen in video footage along with eyewitness accounts. It alleges that Mr. Rosenbaum tried to engage the teen, who ran away. Mr. Rosenbaum followed. According to the complaint, at some point, Mr. Rosenbaum threw a plastic bag at Mr. Rittenhouse but didn’t hit him. The complaint cites a witness who said he saw Mr. Rittenhouse fire three rounds at Mr. Rosenbaum before he was killed.

At that point, the complaint, citing video, alleges that Mr. Rittenhouse made a phone call in which he said, “I just killed somebody.”

Prosecutors cite another video showing Mr. Rittenhouse running, as people yell about the shooting and chase him. Mr. Rittenhouse trips and falls to the ground, firing at Anthony Huber, who is holding a skateboard and is trying to grab Mr. Rittenhouse’s gun, the complaint alleges. The complaint said Mr. Huber was killed.

Mr. Rittenhouse also fired upon an approaching Gaige Grosskreutz, who was hit in the right arm, the complaint alleges. Mr. Grosskreutz appeared to be holding a handgun as he was shot. A lawyer for Mr. Grosskreutz didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

How did the police respond?

In the video of the shooting, after Mr. Rittenhouse allegedly shot Mr. Huber, the teenager can be seen holding a long gun with his arms raised walking toward a police car. Police didn’t appear to stop him, although people in the background can be heard shouting that he just shot someone.

He was later arrested in his hometown by Antioch police.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin and the national ACLU called for the immediate resignation of Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis and Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth over their response to the shooting.

In response to reporters asking why police didn’t stop Mr. Rittenhouse at the scene, Mr. Beth said: “There’s screaming, there’s hollering, there’s chanting, there’s a squad car running…and there are people running all over the place, so that absolutely…I can picture all kinds of reasons I wouldn’t be focusing on someone doing that,” Mr. Beth said, adding that he wasn’t personally there at the time of the shooting.

Mr. Miskinis has been criticized by protesters and civil-rights groups over comments he has made, including a remark that armed civilians were out to “exercise their constitutional right and to potentially protect property,” and that he wouldn’t comment on the video of Mr. Blake’s shooting because it was just a “snippet of a very large situation.”

Activists have also condemned the police department over videos released on social media that showed Kenosha police officers offering water to a group of men, some of whom were armed, and thanking them. “We appreciate you guys, we really do,” one of the officers can be heard saying. A young man who appears to be Mr. Rittenhouse is with that group.

In response to the criticism, Mr. Miskinis said at a news conference that his officers “would toss a water to anybody.”


Kyle Rittenhouse Shooting Trial to Focus on Reasonableness, Self-Defense

Jury selection to begin Monday over killings of two protesters and injury of a third in Kenosha, Wis., last year
Kyle Rittenhouse, now 18 years old, has pleaded not guilty to charges of homicide.

By Joe Barrett
Updated Oct. 28, 2021 10:34 am ET

Prosecutors in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager who killed two people and injured a third during unrest in Kenosha, Wis., last year, will have to overcome a longstanding law in Wisconsin that makes it more difficult than in many other states to convict someone who claims self-defense.

Jury selection is set to begin Monday in Mr. Rittenhouse’s trial on charges including first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide and attempted first-degree intentional homicide. Mr. Rittenhouse, now 18, has pleaded not guilty and is free on $2 million bail.

The killings, which took place in August 2020 during protests and violent unrest following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, who is Black, by a white police officer, became politically polarizing. Mr. Rittenhouse, who is from nearby Antioch, Ill., gained a substantial following of right-wing supporters, with many rushing to donate money to his legal defense and hailing him as a patriot for trying to defend businesses. Many on the left condemned his decision to carry an AR-15-style firearm into the chaotic situation two days after Mr. Blake was shot multiple times, calling it a provocation that led to the shootings.

Legal scholars say Wisconsin laws that tilt the burden of proof in self-defense cases from the accused to the prosecution could be critical in the outcome of the case.

“What is really terribly difficult for the state is that under Wisconsin law the prosecutor will have the burden of negating self-defense, beyond a reasonable doubt. And to negate anything is difficult, to negate it beyond a reasonable doubt is extraordinary,” said Daniel Blinka, a former prosecutor and professor at Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee.

In Wisconsin, a defendant needs only to present some evidence of self-defense in order to impose the burden of proof on the prosecution to negate that claim beyond a reasonable doubt, Mr. Blinka said. About 17 other states have similar laws, according to research by the National Conference of State Legislatures. In most states, the defendant has to prove their actions were reasonable.

“The self-defense provisions in Wisconsin clearly favor the defense,” said Joshua Dressler, a professor emeritus at Ohio State University’s law school and author of a widely used textbook on criminal law.

Mr. Blake’s shooting, coming at the end of a summer of tension between police and protesters that began with the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, sparked two nights of protest that devolved into looting and arson. Mr. Rittenhouse, then 17, joined a number of armed individuals who came to defend businesses the following night.

In widely seen videos of the shootings and according to the criminal complaint, Mr. Rittenhouse shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum late on the night of Aug. 25 in a parking lot. The shooting occurred as Mr. Rosenbaum appeared to reach for Mr. Rittenhouse’s gun after Mr. Rittenhouse stopped to face him, according to a witness quoted in the criminal complaint.

Mr. Rittenhouse later was seen in video running down a street pursued by several people. After stumbling and falling to the pavement, he shot and killed Anthony Huber moments after Mr. Huber had struck Mr. Rittenhouse with a skateboard and reached for Mr. Rittenhouse’s gun, according to the video and the criminal complaint.

Mr. Rittenhouse also shot and injured Gaige Grosskreutz, who approached Mr. Rittenhouse with what appeared in the video to be a handgun. Mr. Grosskreutz initially raised his hands, but is shown in the video lowering them and taking steps toward or slightly to the side of Mr. Rittenhouse when he was shot.

Mr. Rittenhouse then got up and approached several emergency response vehicles and a police car heading toward the scene, with his arms raised. The officers allowed Mr. Rittenhouse to pass and he proceeded home to Illinois, where he eventually turned himself in.

Mr. Blinka said that prosecutors would likely aim to have the jury focus on each encounter separately to assess the reasonableness each time Mr. Rittenhouse pulled the trigger, while the defense will try to explain the entire incident as a sequence of events that are all connected.

Other elements that could come into play are a video of Mr. Rittenhouse taken shortly before the killings, in which he discusses shooting shoplifters, and the question of whether as a minor he could legally own or openly carry what the criminal complaint identifies as a “Smith & Wesson AR-15 style .223 rifle.”

Kenosha County Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder said in September that he would rule later on whether the video would be allowed, but noted that he was disinclined to do so since the two scenarios are different. Judge Schroeder earlier this month denied a defense motion to drop the weapons charge against Mr. Rittenhouse on grounds that he was entitled to carry the weapon under state hunting laws, but said he would consider it further at a later time.

In a hearing Tuesday, Judge Schroeder said that the defense could refer to men killed by Mr. Rittenhouse as rioters or looters if that is proved during the course of the trial, while the prosecution isn’t to use the term victim for either man because the word is loaded.

Ultimately, the case will be decided by the jury based on their assessment of the reasonableness of Mr. Rittenhouse’s actions, said Cecelia Klingele, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School.

“Our assessments of what is reasonable are very much intertwined with the way we all look at the world. And that is, in many ways, intertwined with some of the larger politics of this moment,” she said. “This is why we have juries. They’re supposed to reflect community norms around reasonable behavior.”




Interview with Kyle's lawyer from several months ago:



WI Self Defense Statute:


11 minute clip assembled by Kyle's team




Shocked! Absolutely shocked that this is coming out only now!


Basis for challenging the firearms charge:


According to Jack Posobiec:

The mayor who let Kenosha burn, the DA, and the lead detective in the Kyle Rittenhouse case are all members of the same family (Antaramian).


27 minutes of quality analysis here from attorney Branca:

Politics & Religion / Cognitive Warfare
« on: October 24, 2021, 03:30:32 AM »

When I am teaching martial arts sometimes I say "Advantage is temporary. The search for it is eternal."

The Maginot Line is what happens when we don't realize that.

We have a lot of Maginot Line in our current mental orientation.

I offer this thread , , ,

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!

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