Category Archives: news

Living the Heroic Story of Agent 40 in Mosul

It started like this

Agent 40 … worked as a taxi driver (in Mosul) during the Islamic State occupation … . Beginning in 2015, he wrote detailed reports that helped the coalition destroy 14 major targets, including a meeting of Islamic State leaders, a militant court, and several car bomb assembly plants.

Agent 40 was very brave and very clever. In his own words

If I saw many nice cars in some position, I would park nearby, walk around, and see,” he said. “Sometimes I’d pick up some passengers who would tell me what was going on.”

Occasionally he drove militants and overheard their conversations.

The information that he provided led to the deaths of perhaps 87 ISIS fighters and high officials.  But …

Islamic State fighters conducted a surprise inspection of Agent 40’s house and found his wife using a forbidden phone. They waited for him to return and then promptly arrested him, beat him, and shoved him in a cell with seven other men. After they went through the phone and saw the videos he took, they sentenced him to execution.

Things were looking very grim

As he sat there waiting to die, the building quaked, and one of the walls exploded into pieces from an airstrike on an adjacent building. Through the smoke, Agent 40 saw four Islamic State bodies sprawled on the ground. He and six fellow prisoners made their escape through the hole caused by the airstrike — he believes the eighth prisoner was killed.

This is just one of the brave men and women in Mosul fighting as volunteers against ISIS.

They deserve our respect.

So Why did Trump Invite those Russian Dudes into the Oval Office?

The truth is that we do not know.

It did not play well in the press, nor would anyone have expected it to play well in the press. Indeed, if anything, it strengthened the impression that Trump is in Putin’s pocket. Even Trump probably understood that would happen. So he tried to do the meeting without US press coverage. And he screwed that up by allowing a Russian cameraman into the room.

But why do it at all? And why did he do it at this particular moment? There must have been a reason. Here is my best guess.

Trump knows that he is in political trouble. He fired Jim Comey — a desperate move — on May 9. The Russians invaded the oval office just a few hours later on May 10.

I think there is a connection. I do not think that Trump would have agreed to the meeting if he didn’t believe he could get something useful out of it. Some sort of good news. A deal on Syria? Ukraine? Announcing a deal just now would have helped shift the story and justify Trump’s argument that the Russians are not such bad guys. You just have to know how to deal with them. He may also have reasoned that Putin would try to help him by offering something.

Errr … things did not work out that way. Certainly, Putin sent Lavrov into the meeting. Indeed, according to Trump, the meeting was Putin’s idea. Why?  Whatever the reason, it was not to do a deal at that moment. And that is bad news for Trump – if Putin had wanted to help Trump he would have offered some sort of deal. He did not. Not only that, the Russians prominently leaked photos of the meeting that made Trump look stupid.  It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Putin thumbed his nose at Trump.

So why would Putin do that? Putin may have come to the conclusion that his intervention into the US election has backfired. It got Trump elected but this has not significantly changed US policy. Moreover, Putin is caught out as a menace.  When he tried the same tactic in the French presidential election, he was humiliated. Putin may have concluded that he can not destroy NATO by hacking elections. At least not in the current political climate. So Trump, especially now that he is politically weakened,  is not all that useful.

Or Putin might be thinking that he can squeeze Trump further before doing a deal. I think that this would be a strategic mistake. A lopsided deal proposed by a president sinking in the political mire would not likely pass the senate. And it would harden attitudes against Russia even more than they are hardened now.

Any other possibilities? Putin might just want to enjoy seeing Trump squirm. He may also be calculating that humiliating Trump helps to further diminish American prestige around the world.

And of course, we now know that Trump leaked highly classified information that the US got from its partner Israel to the Russians in that meeting. This story appeared in the Washington Post from anonymous sources. Did the Russians leak this too? Who knows. The fact is that it was leaked from someone in the room. And the fact is that leaking the story further damaged Trump politically. Again, Trump is caught out as foolish and perhaps even buffoonish.

Errr … and one more thing. So much for Trump’s self-advertised brilliant negotiating skills. From a negotiator’s perspective, this episode was a disaster. It is one more bit of evidence that Trump the brilliant deal maker is a myth.

Keep this in mind. Trump is desperate for something to distract the press from the various investigations. But he is dealing from weakness.   And so, we should be wary of any “blockbuster” news coming out of the White House just now.

Stay tuned.

quick follow up More recent reporting confirms that Trump held the Russia meeting to attempt some sort of negotiation.

Another government official who spoke to the Times said Trump was using a “negotiating tactic” with Lavrov when he explained the “pressure” he faced (from Jim Comey).

The Times wrote: “The idea, the official suggested, was to create a sense of obligation with Russian officials and to coax concessions out of Mr. Lavrov — on Syria, Ukraine and other issues — by saying that Russian meddling in last year’s election had created enormous political problems for Mr. Trump.”

This might be called the “beached whale” tactic and it is pretty pathetic. Trump would be the beached whale here. Why beached whale? If you are close by, you need to get the whale back to sea before it starts to stink.

James Comey Got Sloppy at a Critical Moment

This boggles the mind.

James Comey has an important job as director of the FBI. He was involved in highly controversial stuff before the last presidential election and after.  The decisions that he made and the comments he made about those decisions are HUGELY important.

In light of this, you would think that the dude would remember what happened. And you would be dead wrong.

Comey just testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee where he was asked lots of questions about what happened. It was his second chance to explain stuff.

AND COMEY TOTALLY SCREWED UP WHEN HE EXPLAINED HOW CLINTON EMAILS GOT INTO ANTHONY WEINGER’S LAPTOP.

We are not talking about making a mistake over an obscure detail. Here is what Comey said

Perhaps Comey’s most surprising revelation was that Huma Abedin — Weiner’s wife and a top Clinton deputy — had made “a regular practice” of forwarding “hundreds and thousands” of Clinton messages to her husband, “some of which contain classified information.” Comey testified that Abedin had done this so that the disgraced former congressman could print them out for her boss.

Problem number one

According to two sources familiar with the matter — including one in law enforcement — Abedin forwarded only a handful of Clinton emails to her husband for printing — not the “hundreds and thousands” cited by Comey. It does not appear Abedin made “a regular practice” of doing so.

Problem number 2

It was not clear how many, if any, of the forwarded emails were among the 12 “classified” emails Comey said had been found on Weiner’s laptop. None of the messages carried classified markings at the time they were sent.

In other words, in his testimony, Comey gave a totally false impression that Abedin was engaged in a regular practice of doing something that — had she intended it — would have violated the law. So what next?

FBI officials have privately acknowledged that Comey misstated what Abedin did and what the FBI investigators found. On Monday, the FBI was said to be preparing to correct the record by sending a letter to Congress later this week. But that plan now appears on hold, with the bureau undecided about what to do.

Given the importance of the matter as a political question — not to mention the importance to Comey regaining his own credibility — one would have thought that the man would have been prepared to testify. Apparently, he was not.  WTF!

Life in Checnya: Demonstrating is Dangerous for Your Health

I have not heard a lot of news coming out of Chechnya for a long time. That is because it is too dangerous to report from there. But Vox just came out with this story

LGBTQ people wanted to have a pride march in Chechnya. Then 100 gay men were abducted by police.

And this was not just a temporary detention. According to the story,  a number of the men were tortured and 3 were killed.

Yikes!

Putin’s fingerprints

The latest in this story from NBC via uHffPo

Two senior officials with direct access to the information say new intelligence shows that Putin personally directed how hacked material from Democrats was leaked and otherwise used. The intelligence came from diplomatic sources and spies working for U.S. allies, the officials said.

Putin’s objectives were multifaceted, a high-level intelligence source told NBC News. What began as a “vendetta” against Hillary Clinton morphed into an effort to show corruption in American politics and to “split off key American allies by creating the image that [other countries] couldn’t depend on the U.S. to be a credible global leader anymore,” the official said.

A wake up call?

Election Bombshell: Clinton My Have Florida in the Bag

Reported from MSNBC yesterday –

Keep in mind that Donald Trump has no path to victory in the presidential race unless he wins Florida’s electoral votes. He must win Florida or the race is essentially over.

Here is the news

An early voter survey shows a massive defection of republican voters from Trump to Clinton – 28% is the number. This is unprecedented and if it holds up, could mean a big win for Clinton in that state. The polling firm is predicting that Clinton will win 48% to 40%.

Who are defecting? Remember the “never Trump” movement? It looks like it is those folks — and especially women.

So far, this has not translated into a “down ticket” switch to the democratic candidate.

That is a big story in Florida worth following. Equally interesting is whether we will see republican defections in other states.