Sunday, October 20, 2019

Last Call For A Syria's Fold

And GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham has now completely reversed his position on Syria in order to bend the knee to Dear Leader, because he was told to do so.

In an interview with Fox News Channel, Graham said a conversation he had with Trump over the weekend had fueled his optimism that a solution could be reached where the security of Turkey and the Kurds was guaranteed and fighters from Islamic State contained.

“I am increasingly optimistic that we can have some historic solutions in Syria that have eluded us for years if we play our cards right,” Graham said.

Graham said Trump was prepared to use U.S. air power over a demilitarized zone occupied by international forces, adding that the use of air power could help ensure Islamic State fighters who had been held in the area did not “break out.”

Senator Jim Inhofe, a Republican who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on Saturday that Trump understood the need for the United States to maintain air power in the region.

“The U.S. must retain air power to keep the pressure on ISIS, prevent our adversaries Russia and Iran from exploiting this situation and protect our partners on the ground,” he said in a statement. ISIS is an acronym for Islamic State.

Graham also said he believed the United States and Kurdish forces long allied with Washington could establish a venture to modernize Syrian oil fields, with the revenue flowing to the Kurds. “President Trump is thinking outside the box,” Graham said of Trump’s thinking on oil.

The president appreciates what the Kurds have done,” Graham added. “He wants to make sure ISIS does not come back. I expect we will continue to partner with the Kurds in Eastern Syria to make sure ISIS does not re-emerge.”

So now the reality is "We helped the Syrian Kurds by abandoning them to the tender mercies of Assad and Erdogan" because it's "outside the box".  And we'll "continue to partner with them" because I guess we figure they have no choice or something.

Lovely arrangement, yes?

And the Republican opposition to Trump's Syria debacle vanishes like a fart in a tornado.

Trump's Tech Tall Tale Tornado

Donald Trump is drowning right now in his own criminality, under a quadrillion tons of pigeons coming home to roost and facing impeachment, but the reality is he most likely won't be removed from office, will remain the GOP's candidate for 2020, and he already is burying 2020 Democrats with the same digital ad dirty tricks that won the election in 2016, and Dems have done absolutely nothing to counter him.

On any given day, the Trump campaign is plastering ads all over Facebook, YouTube and the millions of sites served by Google, hitting the kind of incendiary themes — immigrant invaders, the corrupt media — that play best on platforms where algorithms favor outrage and political campaigns are free to disregard facts.

Even seemingly ominous developments for Mr. Trump become fodder for his campaign. When news broke last month that congressional Democrats were opening an impeachment inquiry, the campaign responded with an advertising blitz aimed at firing up the president’s base. 
The campaign slapped together an “Impeachment Poll” (sample question: “Do you agree that President Trump has done nothing wrong?”). It invited supporters to join the Official Impeachment Defense Task Force (“All you need to do is DONATE NOW!”). It produced a slick video laying out the debunked conspiracy theory about former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Ukraine that is now at the center of the impeachment battle (“Learn the truth. Watch Now!”). 
The onslaught overwhelmed the limited Democratic response. Mr. Biden’s campaign put up the stiffest resistance: It demanded Facebook take down the ad, only to be rebuffed. It then proceeded with plans to slash its online advertising budget in favor of more television ads. 
That campaigns are now being fought largely online is hardly a revelation, yet only one political party seems to have gotten the message. While the Trump campaign has put its digital operation firmly at the center of the president’s re-election effort, Democrats are struggling to internalize the lessons of the 2016 race and adapt to a political landscape shaped by social media
Mr. Trump’s first campaign took far better advantage of Facebook and other platforms that reward narrowly targeted — and, arguably, nastier — messages. And while the president is now embattled on multiple fronts and disfavored by a majority of Americans in most polls, he has one big advantage: His 2020 campaign, flush with cash, is poised to dominate online again, according to experts on both ends of the political spectrum, independent researchers and tech executives. The difference between the parties’ digital efforts, they said, runs far deeper than the distinction between an incumbent’s general-election operation and challengers’ primary campaigns
The Trump team has spent the past three years building out its web operation. As a sign of its priorities, the 2016 digital director, Brad Parscale, is now leading the entire campaign. He is at the helm of what experts described as a sophisticated digital marketing effort, one that befits a relentlessly self-promoting candidate who honed his image, and broadcast it into national consciousness, on reality television.

The campaign under Mr. Parscale is focused on pushing its product — Mr. Trump — by churning out targeted ads, aggressively testing the content and collecting data to further refine its messages. It is selling hats, shirts and other gear, a strategy that yields yet more data, along with cash and, of course, walking campaign billboards.

“We see much less of that kind of experimentation with the Democratic candidates,” said Laura Edelson, a researcher at New York University who tracks political advertising on Facebook. “They’re running fewer ads. We don’t see the wide array of targeting.”
The Trump campaign, she said, “is like a supercar racing a little Volkswagen Bug

The Dems are betting impeachment will break Trump.  Trump is betting their digital bullshit flood and Russian manipulation ops will win for them again.

There's zero reason to believe Dems will prevail.  None.  Democrats are losing this fight completely and they're only now starting to vaguely realize that no matter who the 2020 candidate is, Trump will have a year-plus head start on them.

If this keeps up, a second Trump term is all but assured and America is through.

Sunday Long Read: Extremely Rural Broadband

Our Sunday Long Read this week recalls that Kentucky's experiment with a statewide program to expand rural broadband turned into a multi-billion dollar disaster after Matt Bevin got through with it.  But as Austin Carr at Bloomberg recounts for us, probably the only state where rural broadband has been a worse deal for taxpayers has been Alaska, whose rural broadband scam by convicted fraudster Elizabeth Pierce was so ridiculous it made Kentucky look brilliant.

When he discovered that the ship’s underwater plow was stuck at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean, 50 miles off Alaska’s coast, Frank Cuccio thought of Ernest Shackleton. In October 1915, the British explorer was forced to make a desperate escape from the Antarctic after pack ice and floes crushed his ship, the Endurance. The vessel Cuccio was aboard, the Ile de Batz, had been laying fiber-optic cable along the inhospitable route known as the Northwest Passage. But the Ile de Batz’s 55-ton excavator, which had been cutting a trench for the cable, had dug too deep in the hard-clay seabed. If they didn’t unclench it fast, the ocean surrounding them would soon freeze. “I realized we don’t have time to fool around, or we’re going to get trapped in a Shackleton situation,” Cuccio recalls. “The weather was getting uglier, and other ships had been gone for weeks.”

Cuccio worked for Quintillion Subsea Holdings LLC, a telecommunications startup in Anchorage that was trying to build a trans-Arctic data cable it said would improve web speeds for much of the planet. This idea captivated the public, but by the time the Ile de Batz’s plow got stuck, in September 2017, the company was struggling. Co-founder Elizabeth Pierce had resigned as chief executive officer a couple months earlier amid allegations of fraud. 
Pierce had raised more than $270 million from investors, who had been impressed by her ability to rack up major telecom-services contracts. The problem was that the other people whose names were on those deals didn’t remember agreeing to pay so much—or, in some cases, agreeing to anything at all. An internal investigation and subsequent federal court case would eventually reveal forged signatures on contracts worth more than $1 billion. In a statement about the controversy, a Quintillion spokesman says, “The alleged actions of Ms. Pierce are not aligned with how Quintillion conducts business. Quintillion has been cooperating fully with the authorities.” Pierce, through her lawyer, declined to comment.

The company resolved the Ile de Batz crisis, coordinating with Cuccio and dozens of partner engineers and divers to hoist the plow from the depths. But it’s unclear whether Quintillion’s business will find momentum again. Last week, Pierce began serving a five-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to one count of wire fraud and eight counts of aggravated identity theft. The U.S. Department of Justice has said it believes nearly all the investment capital she secured was acquired fraudulently. The company is trying to repair its reputation while planning the extension of its internet pipeline from Asia to Europe. “I don’t care what Elizabeth’s original plan was,” says George Tronsrue, the company’s interim CEO. “Short of the headlines she grabbed with her bad behavior, she’s irrelevant to Quintillion’s future.”

Much of Pierce’s behavior, though, wasn’t so different from that of other tech founders and CEOs promising financiers vast rewards right over the horizon. A Bloomberg Businessweek review of hundreds of pages of court documents, as well as interviews with three dozen people familiar with Pierce’s Quintillion fraud, suggest that her ability to conjure up a Shackleton-esque vision of achieving the impossible proved as captivating as her forged signatures. “Elizabeth was so committed to making Quintillion successful that she just dreamt all this shit up,” says a former company executive, who, like many sources, spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. “The question is not why Elizabeth did it, but rather, how did she think she’d get away with it?” 
Arctic fiber has been an entrepreneurial fantasy for decades. Soaring demand for broadband helped drive companies, including Google, Facebook, and, to spend tons on high-speed underwater cables that keep customers watching Netflix and YouTube with minimal delay. But many of those lines run in parallel in the Atlantic and Pacific along well-established ocean routes, leaving the world’s internet vulnerable to earthquakes, sabotage, and other disasters both natural and human-made. A trans-Arctic route would help protect against that while offering a more direct path, potentially making internet speeds much faster. 
From Quintillion’s inception in 2012, Pierce focused her ambitions on her home state of Alaska. The state’s satellite internet was slow and expensive. In the lower 48, connections approaching 1 gigabit per second hover around $70 a month. Rural Alaska customers could pay double that for dial-up speeds. “If you wanted to watch Game of Thrones, you’d be better off getting a friend to record it on a CD and mail it,” says Quintillion engineer Daniel Kerschbaum. 
In theory, this meant a big opportunity, particularly as climate change warmed open more paths for construction in the Arctic. Pierce and her co-founders, who all had experience working at Alaskan telecom companies, figured they could develop faster, fiber-based broadband and then sell it wholesale to local internet service providers. The team spent most of 2013 conducting research, assessing environmental concerns, and negotiating cable routes with indigenous tribes. Even without completing any intercontinental routes, wiring Alaska for fiber would end up requiring 14 ships and 275 government permits and rights-of-way authorizations. “The dream of a Northwest Passage makes sense on paper,” says Tim Stronge, vice president of research at the consulting company TeleGeography. “But it’s so hard to get funding.” 

Not so hard to get funding when you sign billions in fraudulent contracts and create a massive Ponzi scheme using them to pay off other players.  Kentucky's failure was just mismanagement, although a massive mess that Dinosaur Staeve started and Matt Bevin made worse every day of his term.  But Liz Pierce defrauded everyone, everywhere, and it's amazing how she only got five years instead of the fifty she deserved.
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