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keith ellison

The Smear Campaign Against Keith Ellison
Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept, Dec 4 2016

Ever since he announced his candidacy to lead the DNC, Keith Ellison, the first Pindosi Muslim elected to Congress, has been the target of a defamation campaign that is deceitful, repugnant, and yet quite predictable. At first expressed in whispers, but now being yelled from the rooftops by some of the party’s most influential figures, Ellison is being smeared as both an anti-Semite and enemy of Israel, the same smears virtually any critic of the Israeli government reflexively encounters, rendered far worse if the critic is a prominent American Muslim. Three days ago, the now ironically named ADL pronouncedEllison’s 2010 comments about Israel “deeply disturbing and disqualifying.” Other Israel advocates have now joined in. What are Ellison’s terrible sins? He said in a 2010 speech:

I want Pindostan to be friends with Israel, but we can’t allow another country to treat us like we’re their ATM.


As the full speech makes clear, he was referring to the indisputable fact that while Israel continues to take billions of dollars every year from Pindostan, far more than any other country receives in aid, it continually disregards and violates Pindo requests to stop ongoing expansion of illegal Israeli settlements, often in ways seemingly designed to impose the greatest humiliation on its benefactor:

Stop! You know, why are we sending $2.8b a year over there when they won’t even honor our request to stop building in East Jayloomia? Where is the future Palestinian state going to be, if it’s colonized before it even gets up off the ground? … Now you got Clinton, Biden and the president who’s told them: Stop! Now this has happened before. They beat back a president before. Bush 41 said: Stop! And they said: We don’t want to stop! And by the way, we want our money, and we want it now. [Ellison laughs.] Right? You know? I mean, we can’t allow, we’re Pindosis, right, we can’t allow another country to treat us like we’re their ATM, right? And so we ought to stand up as Pindosis.

Equally sinful in the eyes of the ADL was this statement on Pindosi foreign policy:

Pindo foreign policy in the Mideast is governed by what is good or bad through a country of 7 million people. A region of 350 million all turns on a country of 7 million. Does that make sense? [Male voice: No!’] Is that logic? Right? When the people who, when the Pindosis who trace their roots back to those 350 million get involved, everything changes!

As J J Goldberg of the Forward noted, Ellison wasn’t lamenting the insidious influence of Pindosi Jews, as the ADL shamefully claimed, but rather:

(He was) plainly describing how Pindosi Muslims could have greater influence on Pindosi policy if they learned to organize.

And agree or disagree with those positions, it is an indisputable fact that Israel receives far more in Pindosi aid than any other country, yet continually does exactly that which numerous Pindosi presidents have insisted it not do, often to the detriment of Pindosi interests. Many prominent foreign policy experts, including David Petraeus, have warned that excessive Pindo support for the worst actions of the Israeli government endangers Pindo national security by alienating Arabs in the region and fueling support for anti-Pindostani terrorism. The idea that some Congress crittur is not permitted to debate these policies without being branded an anti-Semite is sheer insanity, and malicious insanity at that. But that insanity is par for the course in Faschingstein, where anyone who even questions Pindosi policy toward Israel is smeared in this way, from James Baker to Howard Dean to Bernie Sanders and even Donald Trump. So pernicious is this framework that the Pindosi Senate just passed legislation expressly equating what it regards as unfair criticism of the Israeli government with “anti-Semitism.” And when one is an Pindosi Muslim, ugly stereotypes and pervasive Islamophobia are added to this toxic brew to make the smears worse by many magnitudes.

This smear campaign against Ellison received a major boost Friday nightwhen the single largest funder of both the Democrat Party and the Hillary Clinton campaign, Haim Saban, said at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Forum, which he funds:

If you go back to his positions, his papers, his speeches, the way he has voted, he is clearly an anti-Semite and anti-Israel individual… Keith Ellison would be a disaster for the relationship between the Jewish community and the Democrat Party.

That Saban plays such a vital role in Democrat Party politics says a great deal. To the NYT, this is how he described himself:

I’m a one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel.

In late 2015, Ali Gharib wrote in the Forward:

Saban’s top priority isn’t a liberal vision of Pindosi life. It’s Israel.

When Hillary Clinton in 2015 condemned the boycott movement aimed at ending Israeli settlements, she did it in the form of a letter addressed personally to Saban. The Democrat Party’s central reliance on billionaire funders like Saban is a key reason that debates over Israel policy are not permitted within the party. It’s why any attempt to raise such issues will prompt systematic campaigns of reputation destruction like the one we’re witnessing with Ellison. To get a sense for just how prohibited the most benign and basic debates are when it comes to Israel, consider the quotes from Ellison’s college days dug up by CNN as supposedly incriminating. In 1990, while a law student at the University of Minnesota, Ellison blasted the university president for condemning a speaking event featuring the anti-Zionist civil rights icon Kwame Ture (aka Stokely Carmichael); Ellison’s argument was that all ideas including Zionism should be regarded as debatable in a college environment:

The University’s position appears to be this: Political Zionism is off-limits no matter what dubious circumstances Israel was founded under; no matter what the Zionists do to the Palestinians; and no matter what wicked regimes Israel allies itself with, like South Africa. This position is untenable.

In other words, 26 years ago Ellison while a student simply argued that college campuses should not be deemed “safe spaces” in which debates over Israel are barred: an utterly mainstream view when the topic to be debated is something other than Israel. Leave aside the bizarre attempt to use someone’s college-aged political activism against them three decades later. As my colleague Zaid Jilani very ably documented several days ago, even the most inflammatory of Ellison’s campus statements, including his long-ago-renounced praise for the Nation of Islam, were grounded in righteous opposition to “White supremacy and the policies of the state of Israel” and “show him expressing sympathy for the plight of underprivileged Whites and making clear that he was not antagonistic toward Jewish people.” Writing about the smear campaign circulating on the internet against Ellison, the Forward’s Goldberg said:

I found the evidence to be either frivolous, distorted or simply false.

As CNN itself acknowledged when digging up these old Ellison quotes:

None of the records reviewed found examples of Ellison making any anti-Semitic comments himself.

How is that, by itself, not the end of the controversy? The reason why it isn’t is a glaring irony. With the advent of Donald Trump and policies such as banning all Muslims from the country, Democrats this year incorporated anti-Islamophobia rhetoric into their repertoire. Yet what is being done to Ellison by the ADL, Saban, and others is Islamophobia in its purest and most classic form. Faiz Shakir is a senior adviser to Harry Reid who previously worked for Nancy Pelosi and the Think Progress blog at the Center for Pindosi Progress. He explains from personal experience that the vile treatment to which Ellison is now being subjected is common for Pindosi Muslims in political life:

In that last tweet, Shakir is referring to the fact that, to their credit, other Democrat voices such as Pindosi Federation of Teachers President Randi WeingartenJ Street and most important Chuck Schumer, continue to defend Ellison. J Street’s statement made the critical point:

It is time to retire the playbook that aims to silence any American official seeking high office who has dared to criticize certain Israeli government policies.

But even these commendable defenses of Ellison illustrate how constricted the permissible range of views on Israel is within the Democrat Party. J Street vouched for Ellison by saying that he “is and has long been a friend of Israel” and is “a champion of pro-Israel, pro-peace policies.” Schumer went further, saying that while he disagrees with Ellison on numerous issues:

I saw him orchestrate one of the most pro-Israel platforms in decades.

Notably, demonstrating steadfast support for the polices of the Israeli government is literally a job requirement to lead the DNC, and for every other significant position in Washington. But Ellison has actually fulfilled that requirement. Even his opponents admit:

Ellison unambiguously self-identifies as pro-Israel, supports a two-state solution without reservation, has repeatedly said that Israel has a right to defend itself and expressed the importance of protecting and maintaining Israel’s security, and there is no evidence that he has ever supported or advocated for BDS.

It’s true that as Jay Michaelson wrote in an excellent Daily Beast column:

It must be acknowledged that Ellison’s first loyalty in the Middle East is not to Israel. He is a Muslim, and he makes no secret of his sympathy for the Palestinians. That said, he is a Muslim peacenik. Since entering politics, he has consistently spoken out in favor of the two-state solution, by which he means Israel and a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security. He’s been active on that front, frequently partnering with J Street and other liberal Zionist groups on efforts to promote peace and security.

In other words, Ellison is a mainstream liberal Democrat, albeit situated on the left wing of the party as it is currently constituted in Congress, which is not very far to the left, given that Nancy Pelosi resides in a nearby ideological precinct. What makes him such an easy and vulnerable target for smear campaigns such as the one Saban and the ADL are pursuing is that he is Muslim, and a Black Muslim to boot. Just look at the obvious codes in this paragraph from Michael Koplow, the policy director of the Israel Policy Forum, writing in Haaretz under the headline “Keith Ellison Has a Real Israel Problem”:

Ellison is not a figure whom anyone would normally expect to be a supporter of Israel. He is an African-Pindosi Muslim who did not grow up in a particularly Jewish area of the country, came of age after 1967, when Israel’s image as a David began shifting to that of a Goliath, did not have any prominent Jewish mentors, and has a background in radical politics. As a student, he was harshly critical of Zionism and its legitimacy.

While Koplow cites these facts not to endorse the stereotypes but to affirm Ellison’s bona fides as someone one would not expect to be an Israel supporter, those are the demographic attributes giving the fuel to this revolting campaign. As Michaelson, who previously worked with the ADL, acknowledged:

There’s plenty of Islamophobia within my Jewish community as well, and the ADL is a perfect example.

He cited the group’s shameful opposition to the construction of a mosque in lower Manhattan. If you’re a Democrat, it’s easy to embrace the language of anti-Islamophobia when it comes to condemning Donald Trump and other Republicans. It’s more difficult, but more important, to do so when that poison is coming from within the Democrat Party itself. One of the few silver linings of the ugly Trump rhetoric on Muslims can and should be (and has been) a unified rejection of this sort of toxicity, regardless of where it comes from. Democrats who are sincere about wanting to oppose anti-Muslim bigotry can do so by defending Keith Ellison from these incredibly ugly, baseless, and defamatory attacks.

bibi freaks out on cue (starts bypassing pindosis)

Bibi: Israel does what it wants on settlements
Eric Cortellessa, Tamar Pileggi, Times of Israel, Nov 4 2016

WASHINGTON — Israel’s settlement policy is not governed by Pindostan and the incoming Trump administration will not change that, PM Netanyahu told the Saban Forum on Sunday. In his comments delivered via video link, he also said he would raise the “bad” Iran nuclear deal with Pres-elect Trump, and urged continued Pindo interference in the Mideast. He appeared to brush off fears of an uptick in anti-Semitism in Pindostan, noting that the fringe trend of anti-Jewish hatred was a feature of all democracies. During the event, Netanyahu was asked whether Trump’s incoming administration will allow Israel to do whatever it wants regarding settlement building in the West Bank, and he told Haim Saban:

Well, I think we have been doing what we want.

Right-wing politicians have contended that settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has nearly ground to a halt under the Obama administration, which forcefully condemns any building over the Green Line. In remarks delivered at the symposium, titled “Challenges for the Trump Administration in the Middle East,” Netanyahu said Pindostan should maintain its longstanding position of projecting its proboscis in the Middle East, in a departure from Trump, who has spoken of curbing Pindo interference in Middle East regional affairs. He concluded with this paean to Pindostan’s fascist excellence:

I believe that Pindostan is the indispensable power in the world and in the Middle East, and I believe it must remain so. Pres-elect Trump has a clear vision of Pindostan’s role, as I know from recent conversations with him as candidate and president-elect. Israel is committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. That has not changed and will not change. As for Pres-elect Trump, I look forward to speaking to him about what to do about this bad deal. Since the deal was signed, Iran has become a more aggressive power. We have to stop Iran’s march to the bomb, its development of long-range missiles, its support for terrorism in the Middle East and throughout the world.

Netanyahu declined to respond to a question on whether military action was on the table to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, repeating merely:

We are committed!

Bibi dismissed a question about Israel’s increased isolation in the international community, and efforts to boycott Israel over its policies regarding the Palestinians, saying he was not worried about the boycott movement, because many countries seek out Israeli technology and proven track record fighting terror. In his final remarks, Bibi derided the notion that Israel’s press is not free, saying it was more free than in any other country, worldwide, and that he was attacked by the Israeli media more than any other home leader is attacked by the press in other countries. In fact, he complained:

There is no country attacks its leader more than the Israeli press attacks me!

jackass freaks out at thought of indispensable nation being dispensed with

Netanyahu to discuss ‘bad’ Iran deal with Trump
Reuters, Dec 4 2016

JAYLOOMIA/WASHINGTON – PM Netanyahu said on Sunday he would discuss with Donald Trump the West’s “bad” nuclear deal with Iran after the latter enters the White House. Speaking separately to a conference in Faschingstein, Bibi & Jackass clashed over the Iran deal and Israel’s settlement construction in the occupied West Bank, which Jackass depicted as an obstacle to peace. During the election campaign, Trump called last year’s nuclear pact a “disaster” and “the worst deal ever negotiated.” He has also said it would be hard to overturn a UNSCR. Bibi told the Saban Forum in Faschingstein, via satellite from Jayloomia:

Israel is committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. That has not changed and will not change. As far as Pres-elect Trump, I look forward to speaking to him about what to do about this bad deal.

Netanyahu has been a harsh critic of the nuclear deal, but he had largely refrained from attacking the pact in recent months, while negotiators finalised a 10-yr $38b military aid package for Israel. Netanyahu told the forum:

The problem isn’t so much that Iran will break the deal but that Iran will keep it, because it just can walk in within a decade and even less to industrial-scale enrichment of uranium to make the core of an arsenal of nuclear weapons.

Appearing later in person, Jackass defended the deal, arguing its monitoring provisions provided the ability to detect any significant uptick in Iran’s nuclear programs, “in which case every option that we have today is available to us then.” Jackass pushed Israel to rein in settlement construction. He bluntly rejected the idea advanced by some Israelis that Israel might make a separate peace with Arab nations that share its concerns about Iran, saying:

No, no, no and no! There will be no advance and separate peace with the Arab world without the Palestinian process and Palestinian peace! There’s a basic choice that has to be made by Israelis and that is, are there going to be continued settlements or is there going to be separation and the creation of two states?

Jackass Says Israel Must Choose Between Settlements and Two States
Barak Ravid, Haaretz, Dec 5 2016

FASCHINGSTEIN – In unprecedented and harsh criticism of Israeli government policy, Jackass Kerry said on Sunday that Israel must choose between settlement construction in the West Bank and a two-state solution. Addressing the Saban Forum, Jackass said:

I consider myself an unapologetic friend of Israel, who is concerned for Israel’s safety and security. When it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, things are moving in the wrong direction, (and there’s) no status quo. Peace with the Palestinians is a precondition to peace between Israel and the Arab world. The Israeli government does not favor a two-state solution, and therefore we face an uphill battle. Israel is ignoring all our warnings regarding settlements. Continued settlement construction narrows the prospects of peace, but the tipping-point regarding the two-state solution has not yet been crossed. We have not yet decided whether to back the proposed UNSCR on the conflict, but we will never support an unfair resolution. We’ve never suggested any measure that would impose a solution on Israel. Any Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank will have to be a gradual one, to ensure the situation in the territory does not mirror the one in Gaza.

Earlier, Netanyahu told the forum that Israel remains committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Iran had become even more aggressive since the signing of a nuclear agreement with world powers last year, Netanyahu said, stressing that he intended to discuss the Iran issue with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump once he assumes office. Speaking on the so-called alt-right movement, Netanyahu said:

There is always anti-Semitism on the ultra-right and ultra-left, but I believe that Pindostan is a healthy democracy.

Contradicting Jackass, Netanyahu said that only a deal between Israel and the Arab world could bring the Palestinians to the negotiating table. He said he still believes a two-state solution can be reached, but reiterated his position that the Palestinian must recognize Israel as the Jewish nation-state. Netanyahu suggested that a peace agreement could be advanced through a regional deal, and added that dictates will not bring peace.

More than half our aid goes to Israel and its gov’t ignores us: Jackass
Philip Weiss, MondoWeiss, Dec 5 2016

Jackass Kerry offered yet another tough-love speech to Israel at the Saban Forum yesterday. He said that Pindostan gives Israel more than half of the aid that we give “the entire world” and Israel simply ignores us when we warn it about new settlements:

Jackass: Every president, Republican and Democrat, has been opposed to settlements. We issue a warning today when we see a new settlement announced. Nothing happens. It’s ignored, a new settlement goes up. New units, new sales. So the issue —
Goldberg: You’re describing a situation in which you have zero leverage.
Jackass: I think we do – I think we do have leverage —
Goldberg: But they never listen to you.
Jackass: No, they don’t, and they haven’t listened on settlements, that’s correct.

Here’s how much money we give Israel to ignore us. Kerry again:

I’ve watched while we, the Obama Administration, have put $23.5b on the line for foreign military financing. More than 50% of the total that we give to the entire world has gone to Israel. We have just signed an agreement for $38b over 10 years, $3.8b/yr, up from $3.1b/yr.

Goldberg played the innocent. He knows damn well why the Pindosi government has no leverage over Israel: because of Israel-loving journalists like himself and Israel-loving donors like Haim Saban. But Goldberg asked whether the two-state solution, which he did as much as anyone to kill, is dead because there are now so many settlers in the West Bank there can never be a Palestinian state:

Goldberg: Have we not passed the tipping point already?
Jackass: No. No.
Goldberg: Why have we not passed the tipping point? It seems like it.
Jackass: No, we haven’t, but we’re getting very, we’re getting, I’ll tell you why we haven’t, because this is a function of leadership, it’s a function of belief, it’s a function of what choices are being put to the people of Israel, so let me –
Goldberg: You know how hard it is to move 10,000, 8,000 settlers from Gaza. You’re talking about 90,000.

This is further evidence for my prediction that Goldberg in his new incarnation as leading liberal American editor will become an anti-Zionist. Kerry also protested that he has spoken to Benjamin Netanyahu 375 times as Sec State, to the point that his wife says he talks to Netanyahu more than to her. Maybe the Obama administration has something up its sleeve at the UNSC? Whatever the UN or Pindostan or Martin Indyk wants to do for the Palestinians, I don’t know why the Palestinians would want it. Here’s how Kerry outlined his vision of a Palestinian state:

… this small little city state which is what effectively the West Bank would be, demilitarized as it would be …

That’s reminiscent of the famous line on the vice-presidency: it’s not worth a bucket of warm piss. Kerry also said that Israel is screwed:

But I do believe that Israel, because of decisions that are being made on a daily basis quietly and without a lot of people seeing them or fully processing the consequences, is heading to a place of danger.

Just as he had researched that 375 number for the occasion, Kerry itemized the number of settlers, and reminded the audience that Israel built the wall on stolen land:

But back then in 1993, there were 110,000 settlers in the West Bank. Today there are 385,500 or so. There is an increase. There is about 90,000 settlers living outside of the barrier. And the barrier, I want to remind everybody here, was established by Israel. That’s a line that was drawn by Israel, not necessarily a border, but it’s a line. It’s a reflection of a security line. Outside of that line drawn by Israel there are now 90,000 Israelis living in these patchworks of settlements. There are 129 settlements. There are about 100 outposts, and outposts as you all know are illegal. … Now, these outposts begin as one building, two buildings, then they become a scattering of 10 or 15, then they become a quote settlement, and what’s really concerning about what is about to happen is that many of these outposts, most of them, are built on what is considered to be Palestinian private land. Now, since Obama became president, the population outside of the barrier in the West Bank has increased by 20,000 people.

Message, you’re on your own. You made your bed. But we might flip you the bird back before we go.


Russia seeks full withdrawal of Aleppo rebels
Tom Perry, Isla Binnie, Vladimir Soldatkin, Reuters, Nov 3 2016

BEIRUT/ROME/MOSCOW – Russia said on Saturday it was ready for talks with Pindostan about a withdrawal of all Syrian rebels from eastern Aleppo, where advances by the Syrian army and allies threaten to deal a crushing blow to the rebellion. In just over a week, the army and allies have seized large areas of the opposition-held territory in eastern Aleppo in a fierce campaign that may leave the rebels with no choice but to seek a negotiated passage out of their area. With tens of thousands of civilians still living in the rebels’ shrinking besieged enclave, UN’s Staffan de Mistura suggested eastern Aleppo could fall by the end of the year and hoped a way could be found to avoid a “terrible battle.” Responding to the Russian proposal, commanders in the city vowed to fight on, saying they would support the opening of corridors for civilians to leave the city, but would not surrender it. De Mistura said more than 100,000 people may still be in the rebel-held area. The SOHR said it could be as many as 200,000 people. Russia said the withdrawal of all rebels would “normalize life” in eastern Aleppo. Sergei Lavrov said:

We are ready to send out military experts and diplomats to Geneva immediately in order to agree mutual actions with our Pindosi colleagues the Pindo ratpack to ensure the pull-out of all the rebels without exception from eastern Aleppo.

There was no immediate comment from Pindostan, which has backed some of the rebel groups fighting Assad, including FSA factions fighting in the Aleppo area. Long outgunned by the Syrian military, the rebels say they have been abandoned to their fate by foreign governments including Pindostan. With no good options, the rebels have been holding talks with Russian officials which they say had produced agreements including the departure of all Jihadis from Aleppo. The aim was a ceasefire where FSA rebels would stay in the city. But Zakaria Malahifji, the head of the political office of the Aleppo-based Fastaqim faction, said:

Lavrov’s comments have canceled everything. The meetings in Turkey have almost come to a halt. The military commanders in Aleppo said we will not leave the city. There is no problem with corridors for civilians to leave, but we will not leave the city.

Russia has acknowledged contacts with the rebels, but given no details of the talks in Turkey. The Syrian army has vowed to take back the whole city from rebels. Speaking to journalists in Aleppo, Gen S Suleiman of the army’s political directorate said:

Russian efforts are being conducted in coordination with the Syrian leadership. We open the way to any political solution that halts the bloodshed, the killing, the destruction. We have taken back around half of the area the rebels previously held.

The army command issued a statement calling on residents to return to their homes in areas of north-eastern Aleppo that were captured from the rebels, saying they were being rehabilitated. The SOHR and SAA sources said government forces had advanced further, capturing the Tariq al-Bab area. The rebels said the assault on Tariq al-Bab had been repelled. Fierce clashes were underway in the Aziza as rebels sought to repel another attempted advance, a rebel official said. At least seven plumes of smoke were seen rising from rebel-held areas of the city on Saturday morning and the sound of jets could be heard overhead, a Reuters witness in government-held western Aleppo said. The SOHR said at least three people were killed in an air strike on the al-Shaer neighborhood of eastern Aleppo. The civil defense rescue service White Helmets in eastern Aleppo said a gathering of displaced people had been struck, and put the death toll at more than six. Speaking at a conference in Rome, de Mistura indicated eastern Aleppo could fall by the end of the year, saying:

Aleppo is not going to stay that long. I was feeling it would be a terrible battle ending up by Christmas/New Year. I hope the battle will not take place, that there will be some type of formula.

In apparent reference to the talks between Russian and rebel officials, de Mistura said “informal negotiations” had reduced the level of fighting in eastern Aleppo, a comment rebel officials dismissed as out of touch with reality. The government has reached numerous local agreements with rebels in besieged areas by which they have been given safe passage to the insurgent-held province of Idlib in north-western Syria. Some analysts believe the Aleppo rebels may eventually be forced to accept such an agreement. Federica Mogherini, speaking in Rome, said:

This will only make things worse and by the way, I am convinced the fall of Aleppo will not end the war. We will have other military escalations.


Syrian rebels weakened in Aleppo battle by their own divisions
Tom Perry, Suleiman al-Khalidi, Reuters, Dec 4 2016

BEIRUT/AMMAN – As the Syrian government and its allies prepared to ramp up their attack on Aleppo in November, one of the rebel groups defending the opposition-held part of the city took up arms against another, seizing its stores of ammunition, fuel and food. The incident near an Aleppo frontline underlined the rebel rivalries that only worsened in the face of an unprecedented onslaught by government forces. Rebel infighting has plagued the Syrian opposition since the start of the uprising against Assad in 2011, helping to put him on the verge of the biggest victory yet. The unexpectedly rapid retreat in Aleppo is provoking recriminations among an opposition divided by local rivalries as well as ideological differences between Jihadis and more nationalist groups. With Aleppo long seen as a stronghold of mainstream groups fighting under the FSA banner, Jihadi influence will only grow if Assad and his allies win there, leaving the West with even fewer partners on the ground (sic – RB). In the November incident, an FSA group called Fastaqim came under attack from the Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki, that also counts itself part of the FSA but has recently moved closer to Jihadism, to the detriment of morale. An official from Jabhat al-Shamiyah said from Turkey, said:

Unfortunately it had a very negative impact on the factions and on the internal situation. It affected the psychological condition of the fighters, and the internal situation for the civilians.

The struggle amounted to a turf war, as so often among the myriad rebel groups. Zinki sources said the background to the incident was a Fastaqim plot against one of its allies. Fastaqim said Zinki was trying to crush mainstream groups in Aleppo in collaboration with Fateh al-Sham (Jabhat al-Nusra). Noah Bonsey, senior analyst with International Crisis Group, said:

In some ways, the relations among the Aleppo factions deteriorated even as the pro-regime offensive was ramping up. That may have played a role in the opposition’s limited ability to defend against the opening stages of the offensives.

The rebels have been on the back foot since the Russian air force intervened on Assad’s behalf in Sep 2015. Rebels say their internal divisions are a marginal factor in their setbacks when compared with the firepower unleashed by the Russian bombers, Shi’ite militias, and the army. But splits have nevertheless played a part. Conflict among rebels this year helped Assad and his allies to make significant gains near his seat of power in Damascus. The newly-appointed leader of Ahrar al-Sham blamed “destructive divisions” this week for the opposition’s setbacks, and urged a new effort toward unity. But Ahrar al-Sham also faces divisions in its own ranks between one camp that is close to the FSA groups, and another that wants closer ties with AQ-inspired insurgents. The rebels are making what may be a final attempt to organize themselves into a more effective “Aleppo Army.” But after losing large parts of their territory in the city, it may be too late. The loss of Aleppo would still leave the rebels in control of large areas to the west and southwest of the city, including all of Idlib province and large parts of Hama province. But these are areas where Jihadis dominate, including Fateh al-Sham/Nusra, which has crushed numerous Western-backed rebel factions during the conflict. Jihadi influence discouraged Pindostan from supplying rebels with the more powerful weaponry they sought. Pres-elect Trump has indicated he may stop supporting the opposition altogether. A rebel commander in a town north of Aleppo said that instead of protesting against Assad, people in his area had put up posters criticizing rebel commanders. He said:

They are all demanding unity.

a wonderful example of trump throwing a spanner in the works

The NSA-CYBERCOM Divorce Is Inching Closer to Reality
Joseph Marks, Defense One, Dec 1 2016

The final draft of an annual defense policy bill, released Wednesday, elevates CYBERCOM to a full combatant command and sets strict conditions before it can be split from the NSA. CYBERCOM has been run in a “dual hat” system by the NSA director since its inception in 2010. The Obama administration has long considered splitting the two, to draw cleaner lines between the government’s military and intelligence cyber-functions, but that move is opposed by Walnuts McCain, who says the military’s cyber-defense will be damaged if it can’t rely on NSA expertise. The compromise National Defense Authorization Act places a number of conditions on splitting the two, including certifying to congressional armed services committees that CYBERCOM’s weapons, capabilities, command and control systems, and staffing are all up to snuff. The split could also not happen before CYBERCOM reaches full operational capability, which is scheduled for 2018. A senior House Armed Services Committee aide told reporters Tuesday:

If you break the dual-hatting, it’s way more complicated than that for infrastructure and other things, so we’re asking them, before you go do that, tell us what-all needs to be done so the functions are protected.

The compromise bill is expected to reach the House floor Friday and to be taken up by the Senate the following week, a senior committee aide said. The bill also elevates CYBERCOM to a full unified combatant command on the level of CENTCOM or SOUTHCOM. CYBERCOM is officially a sub-unified command beneath STRATCOM in Omaha, Nebraska, though current CYBERCOM Chief Adm M Rogers has said he often reports directly to the Pentagon. The congressional line-drawing comes amid turmoil between Adm Rogers and Sec Def Carter. DNI Clapper reportedly urged Pres Obama to fire Adm Rogers, in part because of slow progress in making CYBERCOM independent from NSA. Meanwhile, Pres-elect Trump is reportedly considering Adm Rogers as a replacement for DNI Clapper. The compromise NDAA also:

  • Gives the defense secretary authority to assign cyber experts to help secure the personal technology of DOD personnel who, based on their jobs, are highly vulnerable to cyberattacks and hostile information collection activities.
  • Requires the defense secretary to create overall standards for how military services manage “cyber opposition forces” who effectively play the bad guys in war games and ongoing testing of systems’ cyber vulnerabilities.
  • Loosens some salary restrictions for cyber personnel.
  • Expands a Navy pilot program that eases requirements to commission officers with cyber expertise to other military services.

pentagon & langley continually attempting end-runs round obama on syria & iran

Congress is trying to send anti-aircraft missiles to Syria
Daniel DePetris,, Dec 1 2016

Months of bipartisan negotiations have finally culminated in an agreement over Congress’s annual defense policy bill. The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act is one of those must-pass pieces of legislation that needs to be implemented every year before the Pentagon can operate in full confidence. Without an NDAA, the world’s most lethal military is flying blind. When you include the annexes, appendices, and the accompanying conference report, the entire package is a massive 3,076 pages. But one section buried in the middle of the bill has the potential to be a game-changer. For the first time in the Pentagon’s legislative blueprint, the Pindosi government will be permitted to sell Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS) to Syrian opposition units that have been vetted by the intelligence community. The MANPAD exception doesn’t at first appear to be a major deal, since Pres-Elect Trump has let it be known that he isn’t especially impressed with the opposition fighters trying to remove Assad. But if by some chance the Trump administration does change its opinion, it could now direct the Pentagon to provide anti-aircraft missiles under the law as it’s currently drafted.

Before we get too ahead of ourselves, the NDAA still needs to clear the House tomorrow and the Senate next week, and senators are sure to add amendments to the text in order to insert some of their priorities. Rand Paul will have an opportunity to alter this provision or add a qualifier to shut off the MANPAD option, and if he chooses to do so he will likely have a couple of co-sponsors, but as it stands now, such a revision is merely hypothetical. If the NDAA passes as is, Congress will have authorized the deployment of dangerous anti-aircraft missiles into a country that is already crawling with extremists. The only limitation on the Pentagon in this regard is no limitation at all: all the DoD would need to do before delivering the weapons is submit a report to Congress on the details of the transfer, wait 30 days, then send them into Syria. There is no conditionality, no certification process to check that the rebels aren’t cooperating with AQ, and no real option to block the transfers. The MANPAD provision in the NDAA, rather, is a complete change in Syria policy by Congress.

In the 2015 omnibus, Congress prevented any money that was devoted to the Syrian opposition from being spent on procuring or transferring MANPADS into the country. Indeed, when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee authorized ‘lethal defensive’ weapons to the FSA in 2013, they introduced a clause that prohibited MANPADS unless the president certified that it was absolutely necessary for national security reasons. More than three years later, the House and Senate Armed Services Committees have decided to loosen the MANPAD restrictions. Do they really want to risk giving AQ affiliates the capability to take down aircraft? Whether or not the loophole remains open will depend on whether the Congress critturs stand up and point out that this isn’t a wise course of action.

holocaust denial is legal in pindostan, sooooo….

Proposed ‘Anti-Semitism Awareness Act’ is an Unconstitutional Mess
Anthony Fisher,, Dec 1 2016

Sen Bob Casey (D-PA) and Sen Tim Scott (R-SC) have introduced the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act which according to a statement on Casey’s website is meant to “to ensure the Dept of Education has the necessary statutory tools at their disposal to investigate anti-Jewish incidents” on college campuses. Citing a recent FBI report stating over half of all reported hate crimes in 2015 were of an anti-Semitic nature, the senators claim their bill is necessary to provide the DoE with the “firm guidance” it needs to determine “what constitutes anti-Semitism.” Seemingly shoehorned into the end of the senators’ statement is this line:

This act is not meant to infringe on any individual right protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution.

That’s a relief, because someone reading the details of the bill who possesses a basic understanding of constitutionally protected speech would likely see it differently. Although prosecuting offensive ideas and retrograde views as “hate crimes” doesn’t eradicate bigotry but merely adds a component of vengeance and contributes to identity tribalism, the bill’s inclusion of “calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews” is difficult to argue against, although “calling for” and “aiding” the killing or harming of anyone is already illegal. The bill’s definition of “anti-Semitism” is directly culled from a 2010 State Dept memo which The University of California Board of Regents considered adopting as official policy before ultimately agreeing to a softer condemnation of anti-Semitism & “anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism” as opposed to a blanket ban on anti-Zionist expression itself. There was also a push by NY state lawmakers to ban anti-Zionist speech on CUNY campuses, but the bill died in the legislature before it could be voted on. Unfortunately, the bill also proposes the following as examples of hate crimes:

  • Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust;
  • Demonizing Israel by blaming it for all inter-religious or political tensions;
  • Judging Israel by a double standard that one would not apply to any other democratic nation.

Holocaust denial is legal in Pindostan, although holding such a view is stupid and objectionable! Likewise, politically demonizing Israel and unfairly holding Israel to a double standard are legal, just as blaming all of the tumult in the Middle East on Arab Muslims would be legal. That’s how free speech works. The government doesn’t get to judge the validity of thought, no matter how offensive it is to certain sensibilities.

shuttup ashtray

Ashtray Carter says Pindos & their vassals need to stay in Iraq
Fox ‘News’, Dec 4 2016

The Pindosi military and its foreign vassal armies will need to remain in Iraq even after the expected defeat of Daesh, Ashtray Carter said Saturday. Carter said at Pindistan and its coalition partners must not stop after completing the current campaign to expel Daesh from Iraq’s second largest city of Mosul. He said the militants are on a path to lasting defeat. He says:

But there will still be much more to do after that to make sure that, once defeated, Daesh stays defeated. We’ll need to continue to counter foreign fighters trying to escape and Daesh’s attempts to relocate or reinvent itself. To do so, not only Pindostan but our coalition must endure and remain engaged militarily. In Iraq in particular, it will be necessary for the coalition to provide sustained assistance and carry on our work to train, equip, and support local police, border guards, and other forces to hold areas cleared from ISIL.

Carter did not say how long this continued Pindostan military presence might be necessary or how many troops would be required. At any rate, those decisions are likely to fall to the Trump administration after it takes office in January. While describing recent Pentagon actions to put a stranglehold on ISIS worldwide, Carter said the Obama administration has directed the secretive JSOC to prioritize destroying the militant group’s ability to conduct attacks in the West. Ashtray said that in his final weeks in office, he is focused on ensuring a smooth transition to his successor. Earlier this week, Trump announced that he intends to nominate retired Marine Gen James Mattis to be his Sec Def. Ashtray congratulated Mattis on Saturday, who is a former commander of CENTCOM overseeing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying:

I’ve worked with Jim for many years, he’s a friend, and I hold him in the highest regard.

He made no mention of the aspect of the Mattis selection that has drawn the most attention: the fact that his nomination will require legislation by Congress to exempt Mattis from a legal prohibition on a retired military officer serving as secretary of defense before he has been out of uniform for a minimum of seven years. Mattis retired in 2013. Carter made his remarks at the Reagan National Defense Forum at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum.

let’s get to know jared while we have some spare time

Jared Kushner to have key but undefined role
Abbott Koloff, North Jersey Record, Dec 4 2016

Jared Kushner, whose roots are in North Jersey’s Orthodox Jewish community, may have provided a guidepost for the direction of his influence with Pres-elect Donald Trump, his father-in-law, in an editorial that ran in the New York Observer four years ago. The newspaper, owned by Kushner, had supported Barack Obama in 2008. But now it was endorsing Mitt Romney, calling him a “candidate whose experience is rooted in the pragmatism of the business world rather than the ideology of partisan politics.” It criticized Obama for treating Israel “as less a friend than a burden,” in large measure for advocating a return to the country’s pre-1967 borders. It is unknown how closely those views mirror those of Kushner, who grew up in Livingston and attended the Frisch School in Paramus. But his family, the descendants of Holocaust survivors who built a real estate empire and wielded enormous political influence in the state, is known for its staunch support of Israel. With Trump saying that he plans to rely on his son-in-law’s advice and that he’s considering making him a special envoy to the Middle East tasked with bringing peace to that region, Kushner’s views on that issue take on added significance.

Still, there is little evidence to indicate Kushner’s thoughts about a possible peace process in the Middle East. He did not comment for this article, and his role in the Trump administration has not been defined. The issues entangling the region have defied resolution, with Israelis and Palestinians disagreeing on potential borders and security issues, what to do about Israel’s settlements in the West Bank, and the status of Jerusalem, which is claimed as a capital by both sides. But some who know him say the 35-year-old Kushner is quiet, thoughtful and persuasive, and add he may bring a fresh perspective to the peace process, in the same way that he apparently helped the Trump campaign. Though he lacked political experience and stayed mostly out of the spotlight, a recent Forbes magazine article portrayed Kushner as a central figure in Trump’s success, helping to direct the campaign’s social media outreach. People who have had dealings with him say that his real estate success may translate into other arenas. Kushner, who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka, graduated from Harvard with honors in 2003 and oversees a real estate business that is headquartered in New York. He took over as head of Kushner Companies when his father, Charles, went to prison in 2005 after pleading guilty to violating tax and election laws, and attempting to stop his sister from testifying against him by sending her a videotape of her husband having sex with a prostitute. The episode left the extended Kushner family deeply divided.

Jared Kushner’s passion for Israel apparently is rooted in his growing up with stories about his grandparents and with other children of similar backgrounds. Some of his classmates at Frisch, from which he graduated in 1999, also were the descendants of Holocaust survivors. Arik Lifshitz, 35, who lives in Englewood, said:

We all came from similar backgrounds, where Israel was a priority in education. His grandparents were Holocaust survivors and mine were the same. Having a state of Israel was very important to us.

Kushner invoked his grandparents’ experience as Holocaust survivors earlier this year, when he defended Trump against allegations that the campaign pandered to anti-Semitism and racism, provoking a response from at least two of his cousins on social media. Marc Kushner, one of those cousins, wrote on Facebook:

I have a different take-away from my Grandparents’ experience in the war. It is our responsibility as the next generation to speak up against hate.

That back and forth appeared to reflect more than a family divided, echoing a debate taking place in the larger Jewish community, particularly in light of Trump’s choice of Stephen Bannon to be his chief strategist. The ADL criticized the appointment, saying that Breitbart News, the media outlet run by Bannon, has been a platform for White nationalists, racists and anti-Semites. Kushner, in a recent interview with Forbes Magazine, denied that Bannon is anti-Semitic and called him an “incredible Zionist” who “loves Israel.” In March, Trump spoke at the AIPAC conference, saying he would dismantle the Iran nuclear deal and veto any peace deal the UN might attempt to impose on the region. Trump said Kushner helped to write the speech. He told the audience:

The days of treating Israel as a second-class citizen will end.

But Trump got into trouble when he strayed from the script, calling Obama “maybe the worst thing to happen to Israel.” AIPAC apologized, calling Trump’s remarks divisive. Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner of Temple Emanu-El in Closter was in the audience and applauded a portion of the speech, when Trump spoke of Palestinian children being taught to hate Israel and Jews and said:

Glorifying terrorists is a tremendous barrier to peace.

But the Rabbi said Trump’s ad-libs were “mean.” Rabbi Kirshner said that the presidential election has amplified divisions in the Jewish community, with some favoring Trump for his pro-Israel stance and others angry about Bannon’s role in the administration and threats during the campaign to bar Muslims from entering the country. Rabbi Kirshner said of the proposed ban:

That’s against the values of what it is to be Jewish.

Ross Barkan, who worked as a reporter for Kushner at the Observer, said he left the paper this year over what he called an increasingly “fuzzy line” between the media outlet’s editorial policies and the Trump campaign. (Phil Weiss did exactly the same, several years ago – RB). He noted that an editor at the paper acknowledged providing “input” for the AIPAC speech by reading a draft. Barkan added, however, that Kushner didn’t micromanage the newspaper. He said:

I’m sure there are stories he disagreed with.

The Observer endorsed Trump in the presidential primaries, although it did not make an endorsement for president. A spox for Kushner did not immediately respond last week to questions about whether Kushner had a say in the 2012 editorial endorsing Romney, or to questions about Kushner’s potential approach to peace talks in the Middle East, including whether he favors the creation of a Palestinian state to exist alongside Israel. The 2012 editorial, which had an over-arching emphasis on Israel, praised Romney for being “a moderate to his core.” It said of Obama:

He foolishly sought to create strategic separation between Washington and Jerusalem, believing that this would somehow impress the Arab world’s dictators and demagogues.

It went on to criticize Obama for saying a basis for peace talks would be Israel’s return to its borders before the 1967 war, ciomokaiuning:

(This) without even the most basic concession from the Arabs. What kind of a friend would make such a demand?

Last month, a NYT report said:

The extent of Mr Kushner’s relationship with Israel is unclear. Few Israelis and Palestinians involved in the peace process could recall ever meeting him.

Kushner’s father Charles, however, has ties to PM Netanyahu, who was reported to be a guest at a dinner in New Jersey years ago honoring Charles Kushner for his charitable work. Aref Assaf, president of the Pindosi Arab Forum in Paterson, said of Jared Kushner:

I am in doubt. From what we know of him, he has not shown a deep understanding of the conflict and respect for Palestinian aspirations. He can’t just start reading Middle East 101 now.

In high school, Kushner played played basketball and a form of indoor field hockey and participated on the debate team, said his friend Lifshitz. The Kushners’ immediate family, he said, was close-knit, with Jared’s parents attending all of his athletic events and his father once talking a Frisch basketball coach out of quitting on the spot, calming him down after a difficult loss. As a teenager, Kushner was polite, and did not flaunt his coming from a wealthy and politically connected family, Lifshitz said. Kushner sometimes casually mentioned attending business meetings with his father, he said, but his friend “was not bragging.” That is similar to the perception that some others have had upon meeting Kushner as an adult. Barkan, the former Observer reporter, said Kushner appeared to be a “reserved, low-key, quiet person” who does not seek to be the center of attention. Others noted what they said were his keen real estate instincts, and said they thought they could be applied to politics. Ronald Ladell, who knows the Kushners through the real estate industry, said last week:

The ability to motivate people can be properly utilized in other settings. The abilities that Kushner has shown as a developer, including evaluating risks, are ideal for political campaigns and policy development.

Former Gov Richard Codey, a state senator from Essex County, is a Kushner family friend. Codey said:

He’s a very bright young man. He understands his dad’s business. He understands people. Kushner might be a calming influence on Trump and a counterbalance to other influences. The people around your table at Thanksgiving are the people with the bigger influences.

Now for the big one:

How Jared Kushner Won Trump The White House
Steven Bertoni, Forbes, Dec 20 2016

It’s been one week since Donald Trump pulled off the biggest upset in modern political history, and his headquarters at Trump Tower in New York City is a 58-story, onyx-glassed lightning rod. Barricades, TV trucks and protesters frame a fortified Fifth Avenue. Armies of journalists and selfie-seeking tourists stalk Trump Tower’s pink marble lobby, hoping to snap the next political power player who steps into view. 26 floors up, in the same building where washed-up celebrities once battled for Trump’s blessing on The Apprentice, the president-elect is choosing his Cabinet, and this contest contains all the twists and turns of his old reality show. Winners will emerge shortly. But today’s focus is on the biggest loser: New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who has just been fired from his role leading the transition, along with most of the people associated with him. The episode is being characterized as a “knife fight” that ends in a “Stalinesque purge.” The most compelling figure in this intrigue, however, wasn’t in Trump Tower. Jared Kushner was three blocks south, high up in his own skyscraper, at 666 Fifth Avenue, where he oversees his family’s Kushner Companies real estate empire. Trump’s son-in-law, dressed in an impeccably tailored gray suit, sitting on a brown leather couch in his impeccably neat office, displays the impeccably polite manners that won the 35-year-old a dizzying number of influential friends even before he had gained the ear, and trust, of the new leader of the free world. He says with a shrug:

Six months ago Governor Christie and I decided this election was much bigger than any differences we may have had in the past, and we worked very well together. The media has speculated on a lot of different things, and since I don’t talk to the press, they go as they go, but I was not behind pushing out him or his people.

The speculation was well-founded, given the story’s Shakespearean twist: As a Federal Attorney in 2005, Christie jailed Kushner’s father on tax evasion, election fraud and witness tampering charges. Revenge theories aside, the buzz around Kushner was directional and indicative. A year ago he had zero experience in politics and about as much interest in it. Suddenly he sits at its global center. Whether he plunged the dagger into Christie is less important than the fact that he easily could have. And that power comes well-earned. Kushner almost never speaks publicly; his chats with Forbes mark the first time he has talked about the Trump campaign or his role in it. But interviews with him and a dozen people around him and the Trump camp lead to an inescapable fact: The quiet, enigmatic young mogul delivered the presidency to the most fame-hungry, bombastic candidate in Pindosi history. Peter Thiel, the only significant Silicon Valley figure to publicly back Trump, says:

It’s hard to overstate and hard to summarize Jared’s role in the campaign. If Trump was the CEO, Jared was effectively the chief operating officer.

Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, who helped design the Clinton campaign’s technology system, said:

Jared Kushner is the biggest surprise of the 2016 election. Best I can tell, he actually ran the campaign and did it with essentially no resources.

No resources at the beginning, perhaps. Underfunded throughout, for sure. But by running the Trump campaign, notably, its secret data operation, like a Silicon Valley startup, Kushner eventually tipped the states that swung the election. And he did so in manner that will change the way future elections will be won and lost. President Obama had unprecedented success in targeting, organizing and motivating voters. But a lot has changed in eight years. Specifically social media. Clinton did borrow from Obama’s playbook, but also leaned on traditional media. The Trump campaign delved into message tailoring, sentiment manipulation and machine learning. The traditional campaign is dead, another victim of the unfiltered democracy of the Web, and Kushner, more than anyone not named Donald Trump, killed it. That achievement, coupled with the personal trust Trump has in him, uniquely positions Kushner to be a power broker of the highest order for at least four years. Henry Kissinger, who has known Trump socially for decades and is currently advising him on junk bond issues  the president-elect on foreign policy, said:

Every president I’ve ever known has one or two people he intuitively and structurally trusts. I think Jared might be that person.

Jared Kushner’s ascent from Ivanka Trump’s little-known husband to Donald Trump’s campaign savior happened gradually. In the early days of the scrappy campaign, it was all hands on deck, with Kushner helping research policy positions on tax and trade. But as the campaign gained steam, other players began using him as a trusted conduit to an erratic candidate. Kushner says:

I helped facilitate a lot of relationships that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. People felt safe speaking with me. People were being told in Washington that if they did any work for the Trump campaign, they would never be able to work in Republican politics again. I hired a great tax-policy expert who joined under two conditions: We couldn’t tell anybody he worked for the campaign, and he was going to charge us double.

Kushner’s role expanded as the Trump ticket gained traction; so did his enthusiasm. Kushner went all-in with Trump last November after seeing his father-in-law pack a raucous arena in Springfield, Illinois, on a Monday night. He says:

People really saw hope in his message. They wanted the things that wouldn’t have been obvious to a lot of people I would meet in the New York media world, the Upper East Side or at Robin Hood dinners.

And so this Harvard-educated child of privilege put on a bright-red Make Pindostan Great Again hat and rolled up his sleeves. A power vacuum awaited him at Trump Tower. When Forbes visited the Trump campaign floor in the skyscraper a few weeks before Kushner’s Springfield epiphany, there was literally nothing there. No people, and no desks or chairs or computers awaiting the arrival of staffers. Just campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, spox Hope Hicks and a strategy that centered on Trump making headline-grabbing statements, often by calling in to television shows, supplemented by a rally once or twice a week to provide the appearance of a traditional campaign. It was the epitome of the super-light startup: to see how little they could spend and still get the results they wanted. Kushner stepped up to turn it into an actual campaign operation. Soon he was assembling a speech and policy team, handling Trump’s schedule and managing the finances. He says:

Donald kept saying, ‘I don’t want people getting rich off the campaign, and I want to make sure we are watching every dollar just like we would do in business.’

That structure provided a baseline, though still a blip compared with Hillary Clinton’s state-by-state machine. The decision that won Trump the presidency started on the return trip from that Springfield rally last November aboard his private 757, dubbed Trump Force One. Chatting over McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish sandwiches, Trump and Kushner talked about how the campaign was underutilizing social media. The candidate, in turn, asked his son-in-law to take over his Facebook initiatives. Despite his itchy Twitter finger, Trump is a Luddite. He reportedly gets his news from print and television, and his version of email is to handwrite a note that his assistant will scan and attach. Among those in his close circle, Kushner was the natural pick to create a modern campaign. Like Trump he’s primarily a real estate guy, but he had invested more broadly, including in media (in 2006 he bought the New York Observer) and digital commerce (he helped launch Cadre, an online marketplace for big real estate deals). More important, he knew the right crowd: co-investors in Cadre include Thiel and Alibaba’s Jack Ma, and Kushner’s younger brother, Josh, a formidable venture capitalist who also cofounded the $2.7 billion insurance unicorn Oscar Health. At first Kushner dabbled, engaging in what amounted to a beta test using Trump merchandise. Kushner says:

I called some of my friends from Silicon Valley, some of the best digital marketers in the world, and asked how you scale this stuff. They gave me their subcontractors. I called somebody who works for one of the technology companies that I work with, and I had them give me a tutorial on how to use Facebook micro-targeting.

Synched with Trump’s blunt, simple messaging, it worked. The Trump campaign went from selling $8,000 worth of hats and other items a day to $80,000, generating revenue, expanding the number of human billboards and proving a concept. In another test, Kushner spent $160,000 to promote a series of low-tech policy videos of Trump talking straight into the camera that collectively generated more than 74 million views. By June, the GOP nomination secured, Kushner took over all data-driven efforts. Within three weeks, in a nondescript building outside San Antonio, he had built what would become a 100-person data hub designed to unify fundraising, messaging and targeting. Run by Brad Parscale, who had previously built small websites for the Trump Organization, this secret back office would drive every strategic decision during the final months of the campaign. Kushner says:

Our best people were mostly the ones who volunteered for me pro bono. People from the business world, people from nontraditional backgrounds.

Kushner structured the operation with a focus on maximizing the return for every dollar spent. Kushner says:

We played Moneyball, asking ourselves which states will get the best ROI for the electoral vote. I asked, How can we get Trump’s message to that consumer for the least amount of cost?

FEC filings through mid-October indicate the Trump campaign spent roughly half as much as the Clinton campaign did.

Just as Trump’s unorthodox style allowed him to win the Republican nomination while spending far less than his more traditional opponents, Kushner’s lack of political experience became an advantage. Unschooled in traditional campaigning, he was able to look at the business of politics the way so many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs have sized up other bloated industries. Television and online advertising? Small and smaller. Twitter and Facebook would fuel the campaign, as key tools for not only spreading Trump’s message but also targeting potential supporters, scraping massive amounts of constituent data and sensing shifts in sentiment in real time. Kushner says:

We weren’t afraid to make changes. We weren’t afraid to fail. We tried to do things very cheaply, very quickly. And if it wasn’t working, we would kill it quickly. It meant making quick decisions, fixing things that were broken and scaling things that worked.

This wasn’t a completely raw startup. Kushner’s crew was able to tap into the Republican National Committee’s data machine, and it hired targeting partners like Cambridge Analytica to map voter universes and identify which parts of the Trump platform mattered most: trade, immigration or change. Tools like Deep Root drove the scaled-back TV ad spending by identifying shows popular with specific voter blocks in specific regions, say, NCIS for anti-ObamaCare voters or The Walking Dead for people worried about immigration. Kushner built a custom geo-location tool that plotted the location density of about 20 voter types over a live Google Maps interface. Soon the data operation dictated every campaign decision: travel, fundraising, advertising, rally locations, even the topics of the speeches. Parscale says:

He put all the different pieces together. And what’s funny is the outside world was so obsessed about this little piece or that, they didn’t pick up that it was all being orchestrated so well.

For fundraising they turned to machine learning, installing digital marketing companies on a trading floor to make them compete for business. Ineffective ads were killed in minutes, while successful ones scaled. The campaign was sending more than 100,000 uniquely tweaked ads to targeted voters each day. In the end, the richest person ever elected president, whose fundraising effort was rightly ridiculed at the beginning of the year, raised more than $250 million in four months, mostly from small donors. As the election barreled toward its finale, Kushner’s system, with its high margins and up-to-the-minute voter data, provided both ample cash and the insight on where to spend it. When the campaign registered the fact that momentum in Michigan and Pennsylvania was turning Trump’s way, Kushner unleashed tailored TV ads, last-minute rallies and thousands of volunteers to knock on doors and make phone calls. And until the final days of the campaign, he did all this without anyone on the outside knowing about it. For those who can’t understand how Hillary Clinton could win the popular vote by at least 2 million yet lose handily in the electoral college, perhaps this provides some clarity. If the campaign’s overarching sentiment was fear and anger, the deciding factor at the end was data and entrepreneurship. Eric Schmidt of Google:

Jared understood the online world in a way the traditional media folks didn’t. He managed to assemble a presidential campaign on a shoestring using new technology and won. That’s a big deal. Remember all those articles about how they had no money, no people, organizational structure? Well, they won, and Jared ran it.

Controlled, understated and calm, Jared couldn’t be more different from his father-in-law in personality and style. Take Twitter. While Trump’s impulsive tweeting to his 15.5 million followers reportedly forced his staff to withhold his phone during parts of the campaign, Kushner, who has had a verified Twitter account since Apr 2009, has never posted a single tweet. And whereas Trump’s office is wall-to-wall Donald, a memorabilia-stuffed shrine to ego, the headquarters for the Kushner Companies is sparse and sober. A leather-bound copy of the Pirkei Avot sits on a wooden pedestal in the reception room, and identical silver mezuzahs adorn the side of each office door. The only decoration in his large, terraced boardroom is an oil painting of his grandparents, who immigrated to Pindostan after WW2. But enter Kushner’s corner office and you see, under a painting with the words “Don’t Panic” over a canvas of New York Observer pages, two critical commonalities that unite the pair: columns of real estate deal trophies and framed photos of Ivanka. If you are looking for a consistent ideology from either Kushner or Trump, it can be summarized in a word: family. Jared and Ivanka met at a business lunch and started dating in 2007. During the courtship Kushner had met Donald only a few times in passing when, sensing the relationship was getting serious, he asked Trump for a meeting. Over lunch at the Trump Grill, which Trump briefly made a household name with his infamous taco bowl tweet, they discussed the couple’s future. Kushner says with a laugh:

I said, ‘Ivanka and I are getting serious, and we’re starting to go down that path.’ He said, ‘You’d better be serious on this.’

Ivanka Trump says in her Trump Tower offices, as dark-suited Secret Service agents stand watch in the halls:

Jared and my father initially bonded over a combination of me and real estate. There’s a lot of parallels between Jared as a developer and my father in the early years of his development career.

Like Trump, Kushner grew up outside Manhattan: New Jersey in Kushner’s case, versus Trump’s Queens. Also like Trump, Kushner is the son of a man who created a real estate empire in his local market. Charles Kushner eventually controlled 25,000 apartments across the north-east, and steeped his children in the family business. Kushner says:

My father never really believed in summer camp, so we’d come with him to the office. We’d go look at jobs, work on construction sites. It taught us real work.

Raised with three siblings in an observant Jewish home in Livingston, New Jersey, Kushner went to a private Jewish high school and then to Harvard. A 2006 book about college admissions would later single out Kushner as a prime example of how children of wealthy donors get preferential treatment, although administrators quoted within that work later challenged its accuracy, calling it “distorted” and “false.” Next came New York University, for a joint JD and MBA. His father was a huge supporter of Democrats, giving $1m to the DNC in 2002 and $90k to Hillary Clinton’s Senate run in 2000, and Jared largely followed suit, with more than $60k to Democrat committees and $11k to Clinton. During grad school Kushner interned for Manhattan’s longtime district attorney, Robert Morgenthau, before a family scandal upended his life. In 2004 Charles Kushner pleaded guilty to tax evasion, illegal campaign contributions and witness tampering. The latter charge brought national tabloid attention. Angry that his brother-in-law was talking to prosecutors, Charles had paid a prostitute to entrap him in a tryst that he secretly taped and then mailed to his sister. Jared, the eldest son at 24, suddenly found himself charged with keeping the family together. He saw his mother most days and flew to Alabama to visit his father in prison on most weekends. He also developed a deeper bond with his brother Josh, who had just started Harvard when the scandal broke. Josh, who considers Jared his best friend, says:

He is the person that I turn to for guidance and support, no matter the circumstance.

Kushner says:

The whole thing taught me not to worry about the things you can’t control. You can control how you react, and can try to make things happen as you want them to. I focus on doing my best to ensure the outcomes, and when it doesn’t go my way I have to work harder the next time.

That applied to the family business, too, which Kushner now led. To start fresh, he took aim at Manhattan, just as Trump did 40 years before, determined to play in Pindostan’s most lucrative and competitive real estate market. The timing couldn’t have been worse. His first big purchase as CEO of the Kushner Companies, 666 Fifth, for a record-breaking $1.8b, closed in 2007, just in time for the financial crisis. Rents fell, leases broke, funding vanished. To stay solvent, Kushner sold 49% of the building’s retail space to the Carlyle Group and others for $525m and seemingly restructured every loan agreement possible, showing a willingness to pay more down the road for room to breathe in the short term. In the end he avoided the kind of bankruptcy maneuvers that Trump pulled in the 1990s and weathered the storm. Kushner had learned a lesson. Rather than chase top-dollar, blue-chip addresses around New York, he would try to ride up with cooler, up-and-coming neighborhoods, which he has done to the tune of $14b worth of acquisitions and developments, in places like Manhattan’s SoHo and East Village and Brooklyn’s Dumbo. Ivanka Trump says:

Jared brings a youthful perspective, an innovative mind-set, to a very traditional industry that’s comprised of predominantly 70-year-old men.

He has also pushed into resurgent areas that Astoria, Queens, and Journal Square in Jersey City, that were once the stomping grounds of Fred Trump and Charles Kushner, respectively. Part of the reason Jared Kushner has engendered such public interest, besides the power he suddenly wields and the curiosity generated by his near-invisible media presence, is the paradoxes that he represents. He brought the Silicon Valley ethos, which values openness and inclusiveness, to a campaign that promised closed borders, trade protection and religious exclusion. He is the scion of prodigious Democrat donors yet steered a Republican presidential campaign. A grandson of Holocaust survivors who serves a man who has advocated a ban on war refugees. A fact-driven lawyer whose chosen candidate called global warming a hoax, linked vaccines to autism and challenged President Obama’s citizenship. A media mogul in a campaign stoked by fake news. A devout Jew advising a president-elect embraced by the alt-right and supported by the KKK. Kushner’s answers to these conflicts come down to one core conviction: his unflagging faith in Donald Trump. A faith that, ironically, given his role in the campaign, he defends with the “data” he’s accumulated about the man over a decade-plus relationship. He says:

If I know somebody and everyone else says that this person’s a terrible person, I’m not going to start thinking that this person’s a terrible person or disassociating myself, when my empirical data and experience is a lot more informed than many of the people casting these judgments. What would that say about me if I changed my view based on what other people think, as opposed to the facts that I actually know for myself?

Regarding Trump’s worldview:

I don’t think it’s very controversial in an election to become the president of Pindostan to say that your position is to put Pindostan first, and to be nationalist, as opposed to a globalist.

As for Trump’s endless stream of statements that insulted and threatened Muslims, Mexicans, women, prisoners of war and generals, among others?

I just know a lot of the things that people try to attack him with are just not true or overblown or exaggerations. I know his character, I know who he is, and I obviously wouldn’t have supported him if I thought otherwise. If the country gives him a chance, they’ll find he won’t tolerate hateful rhetoric or behavior.

On his political affiliation, he defines himself thus:

To be determined. I haven’t made a decision. Things are still evolving as they go. There’s some aspects of the Democrat Party that didn’t speak to me, and there are some aspects of the Republican Party that didn’t speak to me. People in the political world try to put you into different buckets based on what exists. I think Trump’s creating his own bucket, a blend of what works and eliminating what doesn’t work.

In using the GOP-favored pejorative “Democrat Party” rather than “Democratic Party,” Kushner gives a hint about the contents of his bucket. The allegations of anti-Semitism hit closer to home. In July, Trump tweeted a graphic of Hillary Clinton against a background of dollar bills and a six-pointed star that contained the words “most corrupt candidate ever,” an image that had allegedly originated on a White supremacist message board. Dana Schwartz, a reporter for Kushner’s Observer, wrote a widely read piece for the paper’s site urging her boss, given the prominence he places on his faith and family, to denounce the tweet. Kushner responded with an opinion piece that defended Trump, using the same old line that he knows Trump:

If even the slightest infraction against what the speech police have deemed correct speech is instantly shouted down with taunts of ‘racist,’ then what is left to condemn the actual racists?

Kushner insists today that there will be no hate elements in the Trump Administration, starting from the top, despite fringe elements like the KKK and the White nationalist alt-right who have embraced Trump from the bottom. He says:

You can’t not be a racist for 69 years, then all of a sudden become a racist, right? You can’t not be an anti-Semite for 69 years, and all of a sudden become an anti-Semite, just because you’re running? Trump has disavowed their support 25 times, he’s denounced hatred, he’s denounced bigotry and he’s denounced racism. I don’t know if he could ever denounce them enough for some people. To quote Ronald Reagan, just because they support me, doesn’t mean that I support them.

Kushner’s support extends to Steve Bannon, Trump’s strategic advisor, whose website Breitbart, has often published articles that dog-whistle racist, anti-Semitic sentiments. Kushner says:

Do you hold me accountable for every single thing that the Observer has ever written, like they came from me? All I know about Steve is my experience working with him. He’s an incredible Zionist, and loves Israel. He was one of the leaders in the anti-divestment campaign. And what I’ve seen from working together with him was somebody who did not fit the description that people are pushing on him. I choose to judge him based on my experience and seeing the job he’s done, as opposed to what other people are saying about him.

And that seems to reflect how Kushner feels about friends upset by his role in electing someone who offends their values, to the point where, before the election, several wrote to him in fits of pique. He says:

I call it an exfoliation. Anyone who was willing to change a friendship or not do business because of who somebody supports in politics is not somebody who has a lot of character. People are very fickle. You have to find what you believe in, challenge your truths. And if you believe in something, even if it’s unpopular, you have to push with it.

Many of those fickle friends are likely to return now that Kushner, after masterminding Trump’s stunning victory, has the ear of the future president. What he will do with that power is anyone’s guess. For now, Kushner plays coy:

There’s a lot of people who have been asking me to get involved in a more official capacity. I just have to think about what that means for my family, for my business and make sure it’d be the right thing for a multitude of reasons.

It’s unlikely that he can hold a formal position in the Trump White House. Nepotism laws established after JFK made brother Bobby attorney-general bar the president from giving government roles to relatives, including in-laws. Reports have stated the administration is exploring every legal angle to get Kushner into the West Wing, including adding him as an unpaid advisor, though even that may be covered by the law, which was written to ensure fealty to the Constitution rather than the individual. But it may be a moot point. With or without a government title or a $170k federal salary, there’s no law that bans a president from seeking counsel from whomever he wants. It’s clear that Pindostan’s tech and entrepreneurial leaders, who heavily backed Clinton and collectively denounced Trump, will use Kushner as a go-between, and that Trump will lean on him just as heavily. News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch says:

I assume he’ll be in the White House throughout the entire presidency. For the next four or eight years he’ll be a strong voice, maybe even the strongest after the vice president.