Here’s the Actual White House Statement That Olivia Nuzzi Barbered So She Could Create Outrage For Clicks

Earlier, Olivia Nuzzi tweeted out a selectively edited statement from the White House. It was both deceptive in how she barbered it and the way she screen grabbed it, she made it look like it was an official White House release when it was actually the opening remarks from a press briefing by Jeff Zients and the rest of the COVID advisory team. In this case disinformation and agitprop wasn’t laundered through the news media. Rather, it was created by a reporter so she could stoke outrage in exchange for clicks.

Here’s the link where you can find it.

And here’s the actual statement, which was actually just the opening remarks of a press briefing from Jeff Zients (emphasis mine on what Nuzzi deliberately chose to leave out):

11:06 A.M. EST

MR. ZIENTS:  Good morning.  And thanks for joining us.

Today, Dr. Walensky will give an overview of the state of the pandemic and on new practices that will help keep schools open, and Dr. Fauci will provide an update on the latest science and the importance of boosters.

But before we start, I want to talk about how we should think about this moment.

As we’ve explained in prior briefings, the Omicron variant is more transmissible and our medical experts anticipate it will lead to a rise in cases.

But unlike last winter, we now have the power to protect ourselves.

Our vaccines work against Omicron, especially for people who get booster shots when they are eligible.  If you are vaccinated, you could test positive.  But if you do get COVID, your case will likely be asymptomatic or mild.

We are intent on not letting Omicron disrupt work and school for the vaccinated.  You’ve done the right thing, and we will get through this.

For the unvaccinated, you’re looking at a winter of severe illness and death for yourselves, your families, and the hospitals you may soon overwhelm.

So, our message to every American is clear: There is action you can take to protect yourself and your family.  Wear a mask in public indoor settings.  Get vaccinated, get your kids vaccinated, and get a booster shot when you’re eligible.

We are prepared to confront this new challenge.   We have plenty of vaccines and booster shots available at convenient locations and for no cost.  There is clear guidance on masking to help slow the spread.  And we have emergency medical teams to respond to surges as necessary.

So, this is not a moment to panic because we know how to protect people and we have the tools to do it.  But we need the American people to do their part to protect themselves, their children, and their communities.

The more people get vaccinated, the less severe this Omicron outbreak will be.  One hundred sixty thousand unvaccinated people have already needlessly lost their lives just since June, and this number will continue to go up until the unvaccinated take action.

So, I’ll say it once more: Get vaccinated.

With that, I’ll turn it over to Dr. Walensky.

What this statement is not, despite Nuzzi’s efforts, is a big Biden Fuck You to the unvaccinated. Rather, it is a tough, but accurate statement to the unvaccinated followed by information about what the unvaccinated can do to get themselves vaccinated and protected combined with a call to Americans to get their civic virtue in gear and do the right thing for themselves and their fellow Americans.

I have no idea why Nuzzi decided she needed to stir the shit this morning and frankly I don’t care. But that’s what she decided to do rather than accurately report that once again the Biden administration’s COVID team dispensed some tough love followed by effective and easily achievable suggestions to Americans who are unvaccinated as the Omicron variant drives a winter surge of COVID-19.

The only thing she got right in her tweet was the link to the actual transcript of the briefing. Which, of course, the people she was looking to agitate would never bother to click on and check the statement for themselves.

Update at 11:50 AM EST

I think we have found Nuzzi’s motive:

Publishing insiders say that Nuzzi and Politico’s Lizza have struggled to come up with the kind of scoops or access that make political blockbusters jump off the shelves — especially with the public appetite for Washington drama on the wane.

We’re told that while the pair are plenty well-sourced on the Trump side of the saga, senior figures on the Biden team “don’t trust” Nuzzi in particular, and the couple have struggled to tease out prime information because of it.

Hell hath no fury…

Open thread.

PS: Before anyone else bitches about typos, I have recently converted my MacBook workstation set up to standing. My back feels so much better, thanks for asking! But, after two weeks with the new setup, this necessitated getting a bluetooth keyboard that is positioned well below shoulder level, as trying to type at that level was causing shoulder issues. The keyboard arrived yesterday. I’m still getting used to it. So while I already know I can’t spell, but I appreciate everyone letting me know just in case I was unaware, until I get a handle on the new keyboard layout, there will likely be more typos than usual.

PPS: I saw Chetan’s excellent question in the comments of my post last night and I will try to answer it in a post tonight.

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A Sunday Night True Story

Once upon a time, between 2016 and 2018, I got it wrong. On the front page and in the comments. Over and over and over again. While I recognized that Trump had around a 30% chance of winning in 2016, I thought it unlikely to happen. Unfortunately, the antiquated relic know as the Electoral College went off as it is occasionally won’t to do.

What I really got wrong, however, is just how little resiliency our political systems and structures actually had to withstand what we all lived through. I made that mistake because I fell back on what I learned in my education and training as a political scientist, as well as my experience with career civil servants during my time serving on civilian mobilization orders with the Army and DOD. Specifically, that it is exceedingly difficult to overcome then inertia that is a career civil servant.

As a result, I convinced myself that our system was stronger than it was and would hold more firmly against Trump, his appointees, and their agenda. I overestimated what Robert Mueller would do, underestimated what Trump’s appointees, employees, family members, campaign officials, Republican elected and party officials, and surrogates would do to undermine Mueller’s investigation. And I told that to all of you in front page posts and in the comments. I was wrong. And a lot of you suffered as a result of my incorrect assurances.

I won’t make the same mistake twice.

I failed as a front pager between 20-6 and 2018. Instead of helping to make you all better informed and smarter, I made you dumber. I gave you false hope. I helped to make things worse.

Maybe we’ll get really, really lucky and everything will break just right and we’ll thread the needle again in November 2022 and November 2024 the way we did in November 2020. But right n0w Republican controlled state legislatures are doing everything they can to ensure that does not happen. That it doesn’t matter how many voters are registered or mobilized through changing the law to suppress the votes or make them irrelevant by allowing state legislatures to substitute their preferences for the actual will of the voters. That through even more extreme gerrymanders, these elected officials will even more precisely pick their voters rather than allowing the voters to pick their elected representatives. We are quickly regressing to how the US functioned at the state level prior to the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act passed and the Supreme Court took the Reconstruction amendments seriously.

I was not sufficiently skeptical and paranoid in 2016, 2017, and into 2018. I won’t make that mistake again.

I have no idea how this story ends, though as you all know, I’m not particularly bullish about the potential outcomes, so to be continued…

Open thread!

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On Behalf Of Balloon Juice and My Fellow Front Pagers, I Extend Our Most Sincere Apologies

On behalf of all of us, I just want to express to you, our dear readers and commenters, that it is a shame that we don’t have a front pager at Balloon Juice with the foresight to have accurately assessed that what happened today was what was going to happen today. And enough respect for you, our dear readers and commenters, to treat you like adults and tell you in no uncertain terms that it was going to happen and there was not a damn thing any of us could do about it.

I am very sorry that we let you down.

Now that that is out of the way, and I’m sure we all feel better, everyone should return to their normal pollyanish, obtusely naive view that everything is going to just work out and be just fine. Because Balloon Juice, like Dr Paingloss, exists in the best of all possible worlds.

Open thread!

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A Couple of Things To Keep In Mind as Mark Meadows Just Desserts Are Being Considered and, Perhaps, Prepared For Him

As Mark Meadows travails continue, I want to focus on a couple of related things. They both deal directly with the memo he was pushing, and which has become a focus of his contempt of Congress hearing, but in different ways.

The memo raises a number of overlapping issues that we need greater clarity on:

  1. Trump and several members of his White House senior staff like Meadows were clearly in on this.
  2. Meadows read an unknown number of GOP members of the House and the Senate on to the strategy delineated in the memo. The only one we know explicitly from the news reporting is Mike Lee. We don’t know, but can guess at some of the rest. We also don’t know if Meadows read in Trump’s lickspittle acting appointees at DOD: Miller, Patel, MacGregor, Cohen-Watnick. I’ve now seen reporting that Meadows or someone else sent the memo to Ratcliffe at ODNI, but he denies ever seeing it. And We don’t know if that Assistant AG Clark got it, but given his behavior we have to assume he did.
  3. NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THEM – Republican members of the House and Senate and/or their staffers, members of the administration, outside surrogates and allies – bothered to actually alert the authorities. Or even leak it it the news media as a way to try to prevent it and cover their own asses. Not that I think the news media would have covered it. They’d have held it for a book to be published later.
  4. The referenced in the reporting as partially responsible for creating the memo, COL (ret) Waldron is a 37A MOS. For the non-military/not veterans that’s a Psychological Operations officer. Allegedly his role in all of this is he’s Mike Flynn’s PSYOPer in whatever it is Flynn is actually doing.
  5. The news media, especially the political reporters that cover the White House, Congress, and what Trump is doing don’t seem too interested in actually reporting this. They comment about it on Twitter. In the case of Costa he refers, via Twitter, to his book. But it hasn’t been on the nightly network broadcasts until tonight’s contempt hearing. It’s certainly not been on FOX. CNN has covered it a bit. MSNBC has and will continue to cover it. It hasn’t on the front page of the NY Times or WaPo and it certainly isn’t in the Wall Street Journal. We now have as close to a smoking gun as possible that senior members of the Trump administration, in coordination with his personal attorneys and people working with them, developed an actual plan to overthrow the Constitution and they read in an unknown number of Republican senators and representatives. And the news media has decided to instead focus on whatever it is they’re focusing on.

Here’s a copy of the memo as a pdf:

6_JAN_Memo

I do want to make one point before getting to the other related item. This contempt hearing is not just intended to hold Meadows in contempt, it is intended to disturb the network around Trump and see what happens without disrupting or taking down that network. Basically, the House Select Committee on the events of 6 January is running an influence operation on Trump and Trump world. How do I know? This is how I know:

Fox News’s Brian Kilmeade, Laura Ingraham, and Sean Hannity have now all been exposed as not being fully supportive of Trump and his attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results and overthrow the constitutional order. Donald Trump, Jr. has as well. And Meadows agreed with each of them. Reading those tweets during a live broadcast of the committee hearing is intended to incense Trump setting him up to lash out at Kilmeade, Ingraham, Hannity, Meadows, and Jr for insufficient fealty and commitment to him. It is also designed to see what Kilmeade, Ingraham, Hannity, Meadows, Jr, and others do as a result. Panic will be setting in right now about just what, exactly, Meadows turned over to the committee and just who else he implicated before he stopped cooperating. And the results of this will be observable. I don’t know if it will work, but it is an excellent and most unexpected strategy.

The final item I want to discuss as a result of what we’re learning not just about Meadows role in the run up to and on 6 January, but the actual plan itself as delineated in the memo he was circulating is the attempt to create or instigate enough violence to seemingly justify the declaration of a National Security Emergency to stop the electoral vote certification in Congress. I specifically want to focus on this part from Barton Gellman’s excellent long form piece in The Atlantic that was published last week (emphasis mine):

Robert a. pape, a well-credentialed connoisseur of political violence, watched the mob attack the Capitol on a television at home on January 6.

Watching how the Great Replacement message was resonating with Trump supporters, Pape and his colleagues suspected that the bloodshed on January 6 might augur something more than an aberrant moment in American politics. The prevailing framework for analyzing extremist violence in the U.S., they thought, might not be adequate to explain what was happening.

“The thing that got our attention first was the age,” Pape said. He had been studying violent political extremists in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East for decades. Consistently, around the world, they tended to be in their 20s and early 30s. Among the January 6 insurgents, the median age was 41.8. That was wildly atypical.

Then there were economic anomalies. Over the previous decade, one in four violent extremists arrested by the FBI had been unemployed. But only 7 percent of the January 6 insurgents were jobless, and more than half of the group had a white-collar job or owned their own business. There were doctors, architects, a Google field-operations specialist, the CEO of a marketing firm, a State Department official. “The last time America saw middle-class whites involved in violence was the expansion of the second KKK in the 1920s,” Pape told me.

Yet these insurgents were not, by and large, affiliated with known extremist groups. Several dozen did have connections with the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, or the Three Percenters militia, but a larger number—six out of every seven who were charged with crimes—had no ties like that at all.

Pape’s team mapped the insurgents by home county and ran statistical analyses looking for patterns that might help explain their behavior. The findings were counterintuitive. Counties won by Trump in the 2020 election were less likely than counties won by Biden to send an insurrectionist to the Capitol. The higher Trump’s share of votes in a county, in fact, the lower the probability that insurgents lived there. Why would that be? Likewise, the more rural the county, the fewer the insurgents. The researchers tried a hypothesis: Insurgents might be more likely to come from counties where white household income was dropping. Not so. Household income made no difference at all.

Only one meaningful correlation emerged. Other things being equal, insurgents were much more likely to come from a county where the white share of the population was in decline. For every one-point drop in a county’s percentage of non-Hispanic whites from 2015 to 2019, the likelihood of an insurgent hailing from that county increased by 25 percent. This was a strong link, and it held up in every state.

Trump and some of his most vocal allies, Tucker Carlson of Fox News notably among them, had taught supporters to fear that Black and brown people were coming to replace them. According to the latest census projections, white Americans will become a minority, nationally, in 2045. The insurgents could see their majority status slipping before their eyes.

The CPOST team decided to run a national opinion survey in March, based on themes it had gleaned from the social-media posts of insurgents and the statements they’d made to the FBI under questioning. The researchers first looked to identify people who said they “don’t trust the election results” and were prepared to join a protest “even if I thought the protest might turn violent.” The survey found that 4 percent of Americans agreed with both statements, a relatively small fraction that nonetheless corresponds to 10 million American adults.

In June, the researchers sharpened the questions. This brought another surprise. In the new poll, they looked for people who not only distrusted the election results but agreed with the stark assertion that “the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump and Joe Biden is an illegitimate president.” And instead of asking whether survey subjects would join a protest that “might” turn violent, they looked for people who affirmed that “the use of force is justified to restore Donald Trump to the presidency.”

Pollsters ordinarily expect survey respondents to give less support to more transgressive language. “The more you asked pointed questions about violence, the more you should be getting ‘social-desirability bias,’ where people are just more reluctant,” Pape told me.

Here, the opposite happened: the more extreme the sentiments, the greater the number of respondents who endorsed them. In the June results, just over 8 percent agreed that Biden was illegitimate and that violence was justified to restore Trump to the White House. That corresponds to 21 million American adults. Pape called them “committed insurrectionists.” (An unrelated Public Religion Research Institute survey on November 1 found that an even larger proportion of Americans, 12 percent, believed both that the election had been stolen from Trump and that “true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.”)

Let’s take Pape’s numbers as the starting point. Based on his survey data that I’ve copied and pasted above from Gellman’s reporting last week, the results indicate 21 million Americans who are thoroughly bought into and locked into Trumpism, MAGA, what Bannon calls the America First agenda, and all the conspiracy theories that go along with them. They’re overwhelmingly white and either evangelical Christian or traditionalist Catholic. When they’re not, they’re orthodox/ultra-orthodox Jews, white hispanics, or not white hispanics who identify as white (think proud boys leader Enrique Tario, who is afro-Cuban and, as such, at the bottom of the highly racialized Cuban-American pecking order in Miami).

So that’s 21 million Americans who are radicalized. The question we need to answer is how many of these folks are really willing to use violence? 10%? 20%? I’ve spent a good chunk of the past week looking through the low intensity warfare literature to see what the estimate is for figuring that out as I didn’t recall their being one off the top of my head. Or, rather, I recall being taught it was 10%, but I’d never actually seen that figure in any of our doctrinal publications. Or anyone else’s for that matter. And I was right. Our doctrine doesn’t have one. Just a formula to estimate how many counterinsurgents you need. So I emailed a former boss who is a retired Green Beret colonel, because I was sure I’d seen or been taught that the estimate was 10% of a radicalized population. He replied that he recalls being taught in his Special Forces officers course in the late 1970s that 10% is the estimator. He cautioned, however, that it is a rough one and will depend on what type of low intensity conflict is going on or possible. So revolutions and rebellions and insurgencies and terror campaigns may not all be estimatable the same way. It also explains where I learned it as I was trained and mentored by retired Green Berets who served in Vietnam.

Regardless, let’s take the 10% estimator. What this means, using Pape’s survey data numbers, is 2,100,000. Which is still a substantial number and problem. Our active duty military, across all branches, is currently 1,489,567. If you throw in the Guard and Reserve, you’ve got about another 600,000 or so. And some of that manpower will be useless. You can’t really use submariners to fight off a domestic rebellion and insurgency.

The real question here is how many of these 2.1 million would actually fight? And that I can’t answer. And I’m not sure anyone else can either. But what we’ve got, to paraphrase Mao, is a 21 million American sea for the actual violent fish to swim in. And that threat environment is more affluent and older that what we’d normally see. And it has deep pocketed, well healed backers. And the bulk of them are not nutbags like Mike Lindell or Patrick Byrne, but very bounded rational actors like the Koch’s, the Mercers, the DeVos/Prince family, the Uhliens, the Murdochs, the Bradleys, etc. And in the case of Bannon, his well heeled benefactor Miles Guo. Guo is alleged to actually be controlled opposition of the Peoples’ Republic of China meaning he is being run by the PRC’s Ministry of State Security to do exactly what he’s doing: infiltrate the Trump movement and help Trump and Bannon further cement control over the GOP and movement conservatism pushing it farther and farther into reactionary authoritarianism.

Open thread!

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A Quick PSA About Amazon

So that everyone doesn’t go through what I just did, also because most of you are NOT laboring under my standard operating procedure of “the question is not whether I’m paranoid, the question is whether I’m paranoid enough”, Amazon is having internal system issues effecting the ability to log in. This includes resetting one’s password.

I just spoke with a customer service rep to confirm this because I tried to log into my Amazon account, it wouldn’t take my password, it wouldn’t take the temp passwords that Amazon was sending me, and because I’m professionally paranoid, I immediately called AmEx and cancelled the card I had on file with Amazon when I couldn’t get in or reset my password. I hadn’t gotten any charge notification popups on my iPhone or iPad, but better safe than sorry. Especially as getting an AmEx rep on the phone is easier than getting an Amazon one!

So if you can’t access your Amazon account, you’re not locked out because someone managed to steal your log in and password, you’re locked out because Amazon is having issues with its systems. You know, the same systems the DOD is using…

But at least your Amazon account hasn’t been hacked and your personally identifying information hasn’t been stolen.

Open thread!

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My Take On The D.C. National Guard Colonel’s 6 January Memo To Congress

Earlier John noted the reporting about COL Matthews’ memo to Congress alleging that the Department of the Army is attempting to cover its six (for the non veterans reading this, read six as tuchas) regarding decision making made by LTG Piatt, the Army’s then Director of the Army Staff, and (now) GEN Charles Flynn, then the Army’s Director of Operation and currently the Commanding General of US Army Pacific (USARPAC), in regard to deploying the DC National Guard to relieve the Capitol.

I’ve read the reporting of COL Matthews’ allegations, much of which was previously reported about LTG Piatt’s, GEN Flynn’s, then Army Secretary McCarthy’s, and then Acting Secretary of Defense Miller’s actions and decision making on 6 JAN, and here’s my take. COL Matthews would not have written and submitted this memo without at least the tacit blessing of his former 2 star boss from that day in order to get this information out to rebut the Army IG’s report. The 2 star, MG William Walker, who on 6 JAN was the Commanding General of the DC National Guard, cannot come out and make these allegations himself because of general officer politics and because of his current position as the House Sergeant at Arms. As a result, COL Matthews, who was his Staff Judge Advocate (SJA), has made the allegations to defend both the DC National Guard’s and MG Walker’s reputations. To prevent both from becoming the Army’s official scapegoats.

I can’t prove this. But I’ve served as the senior advisor to a several 2 and 3 star generals and that’s my professional read on the situation. Given that the Staff Judge Advocate is, of course, an attorney and attorney’s memorialize everything of importance, I would expect that COL Matthews has contemporaneous notes. I can’t prove that either, but it would not surprise me.

Beyond that I do not know MG Walker, COL Matthews, LTG Piatt, GEN Flynn, or, as far as I know, anyone at the Headquarters Department of the Army (HQDA) Inspector General’s office. I know nothing of them other than what has been reported. But this has all the hallmarks of a general officer to general officer dispute over responsibility for actions or lack thereof taken on 6 JAN.

It will now be up to the House Special Select Committee for 6 JAN to determine who is telling the truth and who is not.

Open thread!

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We Are Already Right of Boom! Russian Irredentism Towards Ukraine, the US’s & NATO’s Response, & Ukraine’s Sovereignty and Territorial Integrity

Probe with bayonets. If you encounter mush, proceed; if you encounter steel, withdraw. — attributed to VI Lenin

As I type this, the Russian military is continuing a mobilization, movement of forces, and military building along its border with Ukraine. Analysts are all over the map on whether this means an invasion is imminent or whether it is all a ploy by Putin to rattle everyone. According to the reporting US intelligence seems to be convinced that Putin is planning to invade sometime in January 2022.

As tensions mount between Washington and Moscow over a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine, U.S. intelligence has found the Kremlin is planning a multi-front offensive as soon as early next year involving up to 175,000 troops, according to U.S. officials and an intelligence document obtained by The Washington Post.

The Kremlin has been moving troops toward the border with Ukraine while demanding Washington guarantee that Ukraine will not join NATO and that the alliance will refrain from certain military activities in and around Ukrainian territory. The crisis has provoked fears of a renewed war on European soil and comes ahead of a planned virtual meeting next week between President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“The Russian plans call for a military offensive against Ukraine as soon as early 2022 with a scale of forces twice what we saw this past spring during Russia’s snap exercise near Ukraine’s borders,” said an administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information. “The plans involve extensive movement of 100 battalion tactical groups with an estimated 175,000 personnel, along with armor, artillery and equipment.”

The unclassified U.S. intelligence document obtained by The Post, which includes satellite photos, shows Russian forces massing in four locations. Currently, 50 battlefield tactical groups are deployed, along with “newly arrived” tanks and artillery, according to the document.

Go back and reread the first sentence in that last paragraph again: “The unclassified U.S. intelligence document obtained by The Post, which includes satellite photos, shows Russian forces massing in four locations.”

Really, WaPo, you obtained an unclassified US intelligence document with all that and you didn’t think: “why was this unclassified?” I have questions here about what The Washington Post is basing their reporting on, however, we do know that Russia is massing forces because it is both visible and because everyone is reporting on it. Also, just as a quick aside, I have found that open source intelligence is often as good and sometimes better than the stuff that is highly compartmented and classified, so please don’t take this as me crapping on unclassified material. Rather, I just find it hard to believe that this wouldn’t be classified if it was coming from the US Intel Community.

Ukrainian officials, including President Zelensky, have insinuated that Putin is both planning military action against Ukraine and that he has also been trying to orchestrate a coup to bring down Ukraine’s government and replace it with one more to Putin’s liking. Specifically, one that Putin can control and that brings Ukraine back within Russia’s orbit.

Ukraine has uncovered a plot for an attempted coup with the involvement of Russians, due to have taken place next week, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday at a press conference.

Zelensky did not give full details of the coup plot and did not accuse the Russian state of involvement, though he also spoke at length at the press conference of a threat of Russian military escalation, and said Ukraine would be ready for it.

The Kremlin swiftly denied any role in any coup plot, saying it had no plans to take part in such acts.

Russia has been building up forces near its border with Ukraine. Kyiv, the United States and NATO have voiced concerns in recent days about a possible Russian attack — a suggestion the Kremlin has dismissed as false and alarmist.

“We have challenges not only from the Russian Federation and possible escalation – we have big internal challenges. I received information that a coup d’etat will take place in our country on Dec. 1-2,” Zelensky said.

Here’s what we know. First, the Russian military is involved in a significant mobilization of their forces and is moving them into position along their border with Ukraine. Most, but not all, analysts are interpreting this as a prelude to an invasion into eastern Ukraine. And the Ukrainians are obviously concerned about not only that possibility, but also a coup attempt similar to what Putin tried to orchestrate in Montenegro.

This Twitter thread by a Marine who is now doing a PhD in the War Studies Department at King’s College London lays out the interesting argument why this buildup is all for demonstration purposes. I highly suggest you give it a read. This analysis by a senior fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations largely takes the other option and grapples with what happens should Russia indeed invade Ukraine and why it would do choose to do so.

However, the issue here is how Ukraine should respond. As well as how the US is how it and its allies and partners in NATO should respond. There have been a couple of high profile analysts arguing that Ukraine should just give Putin what he wants, which is to accede to his interpretation of the Minsk Accords. This is the argument of a senior political scientist at RAND who specializes in Russia and eastern Europe. He’s both written an op-ed for Politico and a long Twitter thread under the theory that when digging a deep hole for oneself, one should keep going rather than stop, arguing that since no one wants a war with Russia, Ukraine should just give Putin at least some of what he wants as that is the only thing that might avert a major war in Europe. A professor of international security at Northwestern has made a similar argument, also on Twitter.

The problem with these suggestions is, as John Sipher, the former CIA chief at Moscow Station, reminds us, is that Ukraine already made a deal with Russia. Ukraine gives up the nuclear weapons that the Soviet Union had placed in Ukraine and Russia would respect Ukraine’s sovereignty forever. Something that Putin has already violated, repeatedly. Believing that if you give Putin what he wants, again, that he’ll then live up to his promises and Russia’s obligations is just naive. Actually doing it would also be strategic malpractice.

Where does that leave us? It leaves us already right of boom. We simply do not have the forces, specifically the ground forces, on the continent to deter Putin’s from invading Ukraine provided this is not simply a diversion of sorts. And we certainly don’t have enough to dig him out and liberate Ukraine if he chooses to actually do so. V Corps has been reestablished. It is headquartered at Ft. Knox.  While the Army has recently reestablished the 56th Artillery Command – full disclosure: I’ve served with its commanding general – US Army Europe does not have the capabilities to respond. It’s subordinate elements in Europe are focused on training and sustainment. This means that forces would have to be brought from the US. And in order to be in place to deter an invasion, the sea lift of troops and equipment would have needed to start about three to four weeks ago. So if we have to mount a military response, we’re way behind the curve.

And this brings us to the strategic problem of what to do and when to do it. In order to deter Putin, the time to begin doing something militarily – the movement of personnel and material – is a month behind us. So if we’re going to do something, now would be a good time to start! Like right now. Because the strategic problem is that Putin looks for weakness, he probes for mush. When he detects it he continues to advance his interests. I was at US Army Europe headquarters in January 2014 when Putin was clearly building up to do something to Ukraine. The timelines then were different because he had to wait for the winter olympics in Sochi to finish and then for everyone to stop paying attention to him and Russia as the host. And also because his plans were to take action in case the Maidan movement toppled his puppet Yanukovych. Once the Maidan movement pushed Yanukovych out, Putin executed his strategy. He scarfed up Crimea, destabilized and then effectively seized the Donbas in eastern Ukraine using his little green men –  a combination of Russian special forces and Wagner mercenaries.

In 2014 President Obama decided that it was not worth risking a war with another state with a major stockpile of nuclear weapons. Especially as Russia’s military doctrine asserts that it will use nuclear weapons tactically in a conventional war if its conventional forces are overmatched and losing to its adversaries. This Russian doctrinal assertion has long frozen American and NATO decision making about how to respond to Putin’s aggression. This is exactly what Russia, Putin, and his senior military advisors want. It leaves them free to maneuver and everyone else constrained because of a doctrinal assertion. Obama’s considered and measured decision, which to mark one’s beliefs to market, I agreed with in 2014, were then followed by four years of Trump’s sucking up to and siding with Putin whenever he thought he could get away with it. Which was both the objective of Putin’s low intensity war targeting the US during and since the 2016 election – to insure that America would not have a president (Hilary Clinton) who would push back against him – and only further encouraged Putin.

It is now 2021. In the past seven years Putin has been waging a low intensity war against the US, the EU, NATO, and several other countries. He continually probes and finds mush. As a result he keeps advancing his strategy to achieve his objectives. In the case of Ukraine, as well as the Baltics, it is to bring them back within Russia’s orbit and influence, which is where he believes they belong and need to be in order for Russia to be whole. I suggest that this time, the US and NATO need to meet his probing with steel. We know what happens when we fail to do so. I was wrong in 2014. Putin needed to be given a bloody nose and knocked on his ass to deter future aggression. Our failure to risk going to war over Crimea only emboldened him. It would be strategic malpractice to make the same mistake again. Especially as Putin isn’t the only one probing for mush!

Open thread!

The post We Are Already Right of Boom! Russian Irredentism Towards Ukraine, the US’s & NATO’s Response, & Ukraine’s Sovereignty and Territorial Integrity appeared first on Balloon Juice.

A Bit of Personal Thanksgiving Tradition To Pass the Time: The Story Behind the Cornbread Stuffing

Now that my workout is done and while I drip dry a bit before showering the grime off and then getting the turkey I spatchcocked and wet rubbed last night in the oven, and since we could use a new open thread, I figured I’d regale you all with the story behind the cornbread stuffing I’ve previously mentioned my family makes for Thanksgiving. So here goes:

When my parents got engaged they were living in Columbus, OH. Mom had just finished her SLP masters and was starting to practice and dad was finishing his doctorate. Both at THE Ohio State University. That year – 1966 I think –  they decided they were going to invite a bunch of people over for Thanksgiving dinner. Mom figured that roasting a turkey was basically roasting a really big chicken, so all that was needed was to scale the cooking time up for the larger weight and size. But stuffing, well that was a huge mystery. So she decided to ask the nurses at the hospital where she was working. One of the social workers, Bessie King Jackson, came through without blinking an eye. Up until I decided to do this post, I never really knew much of Mrs Jackson’s history. All mom has ever related, largely because I’m sure it is all mom ever knew, is that Bessie was Black, a social worked, and from West Virginia. To help out my mom, Bessie Jackson wrote out a cornbread stuffing recipe on a 3X5 index card and gave it to a 26 year old Jewish woman from Queens and Silverman family Thanksgiving dinners have fortunately never been the same!

We still have that faded, slightly tattered and stained note card in a plastic sleeve stuck to the fridge at my mom’s house with a magnet. It travelled with her from Columbus to Tampa. From an apartment to now five different houses over her life in Tampa and one in Denver when my dad took sabbatical and went home for a year. Copies of the recipe, typed out, then emailed, and now saved as word, pages, and pdf documents, have travelled to Scotland with me when I was in grad school, then Philadelphia, Little Rock, NY, and Carlisle. My brother has it too, but he’s basically never left Florida, so his copy doesn’t travel far.

When I lived in Scotland, I used the recipe when my flat mates asked me if I’d roast them a turkey one year for Christmas as goose was too expensive. So off I went to the Saint Andrews Safeway and had a chat with the butcher who had to special order me a fresh turkey as it would have to be brought in from Edinburgh or Glasgow. We got to chatting and he asked how I was going to do it, trying to steer me to something more traditional like a roast so he wouldn’t have to do the paperwork for the special order. I explained what I was going to do with it, what I was going to serve with it, and then his eyes lit up. His wife was assembling a cook book of recipes that people had collected in their families over the years and the minute I finished telling the cornbread stuffing story he said: “I’ll get you that turkey, how many pounds do you want it, if you’ll give me the cornbread stuffing recipe and the story for my wife’s cookbook.” I made that deal! The butcher was thrilled, his wife was thrilled, and my flat mates and their guests were thrilled.

When I was deployed in Iraq, one of the last things I did before redeploying at the end of my tour was help the 2nd Brigade Combat Team/1st Armored Division plan a Thanksgiving dinner that would invite and include a variety of local Iraqis we’d been dealing with. I made sure the officer overseeing the kitchen prep got a copy of Beasie Jackson’s cornbread stuffing recipe. Since I redeployed home the week before Thanksgiving – I’d promised my mom when I left for pre-deployment training in August 2007 I’d be home for Thanksgiving 2008 – I’m not sure if they were able to make it scale for an entire BCT plus invited guests as I was back home eating my mom’s cornbread stuffing.

I’ve made Bessie Jackson’s cornbread stuffing in multiple countries. Every year at USAWC, I’d invite my international students, any others – American officers or internationals – that didn’t have invites or plans from their sponsors/advisors, and anyone else in the resident course who was stuck in town with nowhere to go to my house for Thanksgiving. Mom would fly up for the holiday – I made her walk the entirety of Pickett’s charge one year when we went to Gettysburg the day after Thanksgiving, she was prepared to surrender to the Union before we even got to the halfway mark! – and of course make Bessie Jackson’s cornbread stuffing. Lieutenant colonels to major generals from Nepal, Kenya, Algeria, Turkey, Kuwait, and all over the US have had it.

I have no idea how old Bessie Jackson was when she passed the recipe on to my mom. Since I had no idea if she’s still alive, I decided I’d put my keyword-fu to the test and I found her obituary, which I’ll copy and paste below. I have no idea if she had kids or anyone in their families used her cornbread stuffing recipe. But I do know there would be no Thanksgiving in a Silverman home without it. Whether we’re all in the same place or we’re in different states or countries, my mom, my brother and his family, and I all make this every Thanksgiving. My nephews know how to make it, so when we all go, there will still be Silverman’s making and eating Bessie Jackson’s cornbread stuffing on Thanksgiving.

And here’s the woman who without knowing it has made 50 plus years of Thanksgiving dinners special for my family. I’ll help mom try to track down any of her kids or grandkids and let them know. She had an amazing life and did a lot of good in addition to helping my mom make a successful Thanksgiving dinner.

Bessie King Jackson, child welfare advocate for more than 47 years, departed this life Sunday, February 6, 2005, after a brief hospitalization. Born July 11, 1930 in Hot Coal, WV to Simon Peter and Mary Bell Pannell King, she was the youngest of nine children. Received a BA from West Virginia State College and a Masters in Social Work from The Ohio State University. Her compassion for bringing about change was evident in every aspect of her life. Founder and director of the Bethune Center for Teenage Families, president of the Evening Star Missionary Society at Hosack Street Baptist Church, a past president and Executive Committee member of Ohio’s AARP, member of the Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging Advisory Council, a committed member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority for more than 50 years, appointed by Governor Taft to the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Task Force, a former Court Appointed Special Advocate for the Court of Domestic Relations, Juvenile Division, and in 2004 was inducted into Ohio’s Senior Citizen Hall of Fame. Preceded in death by husband, Garland. Survived by daughters, Garlena Jackson, Jerri (Lawrence) Jackson-Fowlkes, and Patty Jackson; grandchildren, Leighton, Candice, Cedric, Jhamerra, John, Kayelin, Vivica, Jasmine, and one great-granddaughter, Laniyah; sister-in-law, Juanita King; cousins, Richard and Sara Johnson; a host of other relatives and friends. Service of Memory 9:30 a.m. Saturday, February 12, 2005 at Hosack Street Baptist Church, 1160 Watkins Road. Pastor Daryl Hairston, officiating. Mrs. Jackson will lie in state Friday 12 – 4 p.m. at DIEHL-WHITTAKER FUNERAL & CREMATION SERVICE, 720 E. Long Street and after 6 p.m. at the church, where the family will receive friends from 7-9 p.m. Interment Glen Rest Memorial Estate. In lieu of flowers, friends may contribute to the Bessie King Jackson Memorial Fund, c/o Huntington National Bank, 17 South High Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215.
Published by The Columbus Dispatch on Feb. 10, 2005.

A happy and healthy Thanksgiving to all of you! And if any of our readers in the Columbus, OH area know any of Mrs Jackson’s children or grandchildren, feel free to share this with them. And let them know that every year at Thanksgiving we honor their mother’s/grandmother’s memory and give thanks that she helped my mother out with her generosity.

Open thread!

And the recipe is in the comments.

The post A Bit of Personal Thanksgiving Tradition To Pass the Time: The Story Behind the Cornbread Stuffing appeared first on Balloon Juice.

The Durham Investigation, the Steele Dossier, & Misusing the Department of Justice For Partisan Political Purposes

Cole asked me to do a post on the Durham investigation and how the usual suspects – Greenwald, Taibbi, the Fox News/OAN/NewsMax/Breitbart/Shapiro/other conservative news and digital news sites, and other Trump world axis of shitbirds – and now CNN with their coverage of it yesterday, are using Durham’s indictments to scream and yell that 1) Putin was meddling in US politics in the 2016 election, 2) that the initial meddling eventually became focused on harming HRC and helping Trump, and 3) that Trump, his family members, his senior employees (I know family members and employees are the same category), and his campaign people – senior and junior – were all trying to figure out how to leverage Russia’s ops for Trump’s gain was all completely made up oppo. And that it demonstrates a real conspiracy between the law firm HRC’s campaign and the DNC used – which is now being used to further try to discredit Marc Elias, the FBI, the Obama administration, especially his DCI and DNI, John McCain, and the mainstream news media to try to prevent a Trump presidency and then destroy it once Trump was elected.

The reality is really much simpler. What Durham is doing is exactly what Barr intended him to do when he appointed Durham as a special counsel in addition to his regular duties as a US Attorney. Specifically:

  1. Use the investigation to continue to launder the disinformation, misinformation, and agitprop that the entire investigation into and that all the allegations of Trump’s business and financial connections to Russia, Russian oligarchs, and other post-Soviet oligarchs aligned with Russia
  2. Putin’s operation to interfere in the 2016 elections and American politics beyond 2016 first to hurt the chances of anyone who might take a hard line against him as president, then to damage Clinton’s chances, and finally to boost Trump’s
  3. Trump’s, his family member’s, his campaigns, and a number of outside supporters attempts to actually get help from Putin’s assets – both inside and outside of the Russian government
  4. To promote the idea that the real conspiracy against American in the 2016 election – to falsely allege and implicate the Trump-Putin connection – was that of the Democratic Party, the large white shoe law firms that work for them, MI6 via Steele, the Clinton campaign, the Obama administration, and senior appointed and career officials at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the CIA, the DOJ, the FBI, select Republican senators like John McCain, and the Ukrainian government

To do this, Durham has produced three indictments. The first is sort of a throw away. He caught a junior attorney at the FBI who prepared one of the FISA warrants for one of the lower level Trump campaign stooges having embellished some of the information including to get the warrant. The attorney pled out. Everyone reasonably thought that this was a face saver for Durham because he didn’t have anything because there was no way to actually accomplish what he was tasked with doing because what he was tased with doing was in direct opposition to well documented facts and events. Durham, however, has other ideas.

He has now indicted a very senior attorney – Michael Sussman – who brought the Steele dossier to the attention of senior FBI and DOJ officials. The indictment is for lying to the FBI for not explicitly tell them that the large white shoe law firm he works for was also, through other attorneys, representing the Clinton campaign with the implication that he concealed who else his firm represented -Clinton – in an attempt to induce the FBI to investigate Trump. The indictment is considered to be weak. It is clear from the interview notes that the senior FBI official, James Baker, did not ask him where he worked because he knew where he worked. Here’s Ken White’s, better known as Popehat, take:

/8 However, there are distinctly odd things about this indictment that take it outside the norm. First: it’s based on a face-to-face oral statement with one government witness, Baker. I don’t recall seeing another 1001 case like that.

/9 FBI agents travel in pairs, like Jedi or geese. Baker wasn’t an agent, but it’s super-unusual in my experience for an executive-level law enforcement like this to have a meeting like this with no witnesses for their support and protection. Weirder to hang a charge on it.

/10 On the one hand, Baker has expressed uncertainty about the details of the conversation, on the other hand, there is some corroboration about the conversation. But just the fact of a 1001 based on that scenario isn’t anything I recall seeing before.

/11 Next: the 27-page indictment is, to my reading, performative and seemingly focused on delivering a narrative of Trump-as-victim rather than a necessary exposition about Sussman’s alleged crime. It’s a one-count 1001; that usually doesn’t require so much verbiage.

/12 In evaluating whether my take is reasonable or partisan or a mixture, you could compare it to the indictment of Trump ally and indie cartoon character Roger Stone, 24 pages for obstruction and 5 1001 counts. justice.gov/file/1124706/d

/13 To my read Stone’s is more focused on providing context for his statements and Sussman’s seems more political narrative driven, but that’s why you should read primary documents — to decide for yourself.

/14 If Sussman did what he’s accused of, I think it’s a clear 1001 violation. Whether it would “normally” be charged, whether it’s charged in a way designed to promote a political narrative, and whether it’s politically motived are vastly more complicated questions.

His third indictment is of the researcher – Igor Danchenko – that Steele hired to act as his investigator with a variety of Russian, post Soviet, and Russian aligned actors to get the opposition research for him. Here, again, is Ken White’s take:

A few comments on the Danchenko indictment. /1 storage.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.usco

/2 First, it’s on firmer footing than Durham’s Sussman indictment, which relies on a single person-to-person conversation. It lacks the questionable evidentiary issues of that charge.

/3 second, to an even greater extent than the Sussman indictment, it reads like a justification for Durham’s investigation. 39 pages of exposition for five simple 1001 counts is not normal. It reads like a vehicle for a narrative.

4 Third, like the Sussman indictment, this indictment is about distorting or withholding information that might have helped the FBI assess the credibility of the claims being made. But that’s enough to meet the materiality standard, which is extremely lax.

The key take aways are point 11 in the first set of tweets and point 3 in the second. Durham is using these indictments to launder the Black PSYOP that we covered from October 2019 through the spring of 2020. It is entirely possible that Durham will be able to make his cases against Sussman, Danchenko, or both. Marcy Wheeler has a full breakdown and deep textual dives of exactly what Durham is doing and how it is being laundered in both the conservative news, digital, and social media and what is called the mainstream media like CNN did yesterday.

The question is whether reality will intrude on what Durham is doing regardless of whether he can get convictions or plea agreements from Sussman and/or Danchenko. We know from both the Mueller investigative report sent to Congress, as well as the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s (SSCI) report on the 2016 campaign, election, and allegations of Putin interfering on behalf of Trump that the reason Mueller never brought charges of a direct conspiracy between Trump, his family members, his employees, his campaign officials, select outside campaign advisors and actors like Roger Stone and the Russian governmental and non-governmental actors carrying out Putin’s operation is because Trump, his family members, his employees, his campaign officials, select outside campaign advisors and actors were obstructing the Mueller investigation. The section on obstruction in the Mueller Report starts on p. 191 of the linked pdf and on p. 14 of the fifth volume of the linked SSCI report. In some cases in more than one way. For instance, Rudy Giuliani who was an outside advisor and surrogate for Trump during the campaign who then ensured he’d be Trump’s pro-bono outside legal advisor and counsel during the Mueller investigation.

What the Durham investigation and indictments are doing is what former AG Barr intended them to do: use the DOJ to launder misinformation, disinformation, and agitprop about how Christopher Steele collected his opposition information, the actual information he collected, and how that information was used once it got brought to the attention of elected officials like the late Senator McCain and counterintelligence and law enforcement officials at the DOJ and FBI. Barr started trying to discredit Mueller and his investigation before he was ever appointed attorney general. In fact the lengthy memo he sent Trump delineating why Mueller’s investigation wasn’t properly predicated served as his application for becoming attorney general. Durham is the last part, that we know of, of Barr’s attempts to cover up what happened in 2016.

The usual suspects, such as Greenwald, who are now using what Durham is producing to push their own agendas are largely covering their own asses. Wikileaks has now been fully exposed as what we always knew it to be. Not a truth telling, stalwart, information must be free group seeking to hold governments and the powerful accountable, but an asset of the Russian intelligence services run by a paranoid, megalomaniacal authoritarian with delusions of grandeur. What Greenwald, and Greenwald’s partners in these endeavors – Taibbi, Tracey, Mate, and others – are hoping t0o obscure is just how tightly connected to Assange and Wikileaks Greenwald is. Promoting what Durham is alleging as the real, actual truth is necessary for Greenwald to cover his own ass. Not for being involve in Wikileaks 2016 operations against the US, but in regard to his work with Wikileaks prior to that.

This is different than what the Breitbrats, Ben Shapiro, dim Jim Hoft, OANN, NewsMax, the evening talking heads at Fox, and others on the pro-Trump/MAGA right are promoting it because it is part of their grift.

Bannon and Stone are sort of in the middle. They have connections to Wikileaks from the 2016 campaign, but they also want to promote their grifts.

CNN just wants people to tune in so they have better ratings and can sell more advertising.

Durham’s investigation is using the Department of Justice to provide them with the disinformation, misinformation, and agitprop to provide all of them with what they need.

Open thread!

The post The Durham Investigation, the Steele Dossier, & Misusing the Department of Justice For Partisan Political Purposes appeared first on Balloon Juice.

9 PM CST Waukesha PD & Emergency Services Update Press Conference

In just a couple of minutes, the Waukesha PD will be holding a 9 PM CST update regarding the vehicular incident this afternoon at the Waukesha Christmas Parade. Here’s KARE 11 live feed:

Update at 10:10 PM EST

Well that was largely uninformative and anticlimactic.

Open thread!

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