Archive | April 2017

Bad at Maths

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I’m weird, I like math. Sometimes for fun I do math-related things. Today I took a spin through the FEC records. That’s Federal Election Campaign records. Specifically I was looking at April 2017 Quarterly reports.

My favorite was Donald Trump’s filings for the first quarter of 2017. It’s reported two different ways, one as a presidential candidate and one as the committee of the candidate. In theory, both records match. In theory.

In the quarterly report that was filed for Trump as a presidential candidate, the disbursements (payments to people or companies by the campaign) were $6,370,250.57 and the period over which they were paid out was between Jan 17 and March 31.

The problem is, the quarter started on Jan 1 , not the 3rd Tuesday of that month. So, that’s an issue. The other issue, the bigger one, is that when one looks at the actual list of payees, and totals up the amounts paid, the total comes to $98,392,468.12.

That’s $98,392,468.12 minus $6,370,250.57. That’s a $92 million difference between the summary and the reality. I grant you that may be peanuts to a billionaire, but still . . . it’s a legal document reporting the guy can’t account for $92 million bucks.

When I next looked the quarterly report that was filled as the campaign committee, the detailed summary information was identical to the presidential summary. Everything matched. The disbursements (payments to people or companies by the campaign) were $6,370,250.57.

Unfortunately, and kind of incredibly, this filing was mucked up too.  The dates were right this time, Jan 1 – Mar 31, 2017. However, upon running the totals for the listed payees, the sum amounted to $5,451,272.33.

That’s a $918,978.24 difference between the summary and the reality. So, about 90% less wrong this time, but still way, way wrong. I’m not sure who the accountant is for this guy, but geez, I’d fire him/her/them.

I’m sure they’ll get a letter from the FEC telling them about the discrepancies. I can see at least a bit of what went horribly wrong. The person who filed these documents, instead of doing their job, just cut and paste all the Post General Election (which covers Nov 9-30 of 2016) payees and amounts into the 2017 Q1 (Jan 1-Mar 31) report as Q1 payees and amounts.

I suppose being about a million dollars off in one’s accounts is way better than about 100 million dollars off. But it does make you wonder. How is this administration going to keep the economy on an even footing, or create a budget, or tinker with the fine inner workings of health care or tax reform, if it can’t even keep it’s own books properly?

Given Trump’s inability to tell the truth, I guess this should be considered par for the course. File a screwed up filing then just wait and see if the FEC catches you. If they do, you just file an amended filing and say “oops.”

So far the FEC has sent him a number of letters about discrepancies in previous filings, all of which required amended filings. It’s a bit of a pattern really.

I’m sure there’s a penalty for repeatedly lying to the FEC, but given the FEC is composed of six Commissioners who are nominated by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, I really have no expectation of change.

On the other hand, someone at the FEC keeps sending him letters, so … God bless that person.

 

 

Red Flag Warning

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Horror films tend to work because we in the audience can see the danger, and all the red flags leading up to it. We like to think that in real life, we’d see those red flags. We’d stop before it was too late. But in reality, that doesn’t always happen. We fail to listen to the warning signs.

With all of that in mind, it’s my hope that most senators today will decline to attend the White House hosted, private, National Security Council briefing on North Korea. There are so many red flags in this picture, it’s astonishing.

In case you don’t know what’s going on

Rare briefing at the White House this week  — published Monday, 24 Apr 2017 | 3:48 PM ET | 00:41

Top Trump administration officials will hold a rare briefing on Wednesday at the White House for the entire U.S. Senate on the situation in North Korea, senior Senate aides said on Monday.

All 100 senators have been asked to the White House for the briefing by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the aides said.

While top administration officials routinely travel to Capitol Hill to address members of Congress on foreign policy and national security matters, it is unusual for the entire 100-member Senate to go to such an event at the White House, and for those four top officials to be involved.

Congressional aides told Reuters that the meeting was originally scheduled to take place at a secured room at the Capitol, but President Trump asked to move the meeting to the White House.

Salon reported that the meeting will occur in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building auditorium. It will reportedly be made into a “sensitive compartmented information facility”—which means top secret information can be shared. The briefing will take place at 3 p.m. ET.

Some aides on the Hill have expressed confusion about the circumstances of the meeting. Salon wrote, “this could be a preparation for war—or just a forced attempt at a pre-100 days photo op.”

The first red flag is the request to move the meeting the White House. Who requested it be at the White House? Not the Senate. So, in other words, the POTUS wants it at the WH. There’s no reason for the request, that’s a huge red flag that something is going on.

In this case, the request not only weird, your responding to it sends a bad message — about YOU. The WH goes to the Senate, the executive goes to the representatives of the people. By forcing the senate to the WH, it’s saying the WH is the most powerful branch; a single man is more powerful than the people. That’s a message all senators should want to stop in its tracks. That’s your second red flag.

The WH says it’s just “hosting”. It’s a totally unnecessary action to have the meeting at the WH. Hosting? Is that like a party? Or a screening? Or are you on the menu? If the creepy old man says he can only show you and your friends his Hank Aaron bat if you step into his basement, are your really going into his basement? That’s your third red flag.

In point of fact, it cost the taxpayers a lot of money to have the meeting in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building—originally called the State, War, and Navy Building because it housed the Departments of State, War, and the Navy — auditorium, because it had to be made into a “sensitive compartmented information facility”or SCIF. So that’s a huge fourth red flag.

And need I say, infrastructure change is proof of intent to keep doing something. China isn’t building islands in the ocean for the hell of it. It does it with an intention. You don’t remodel your house because your bored, you do it for a reason. To accommodate a kid, or study, parent, hobby, etc. Your weird neighbor puts in a big room with a lock in the basement and installs a freezer, unless they’re Mormons stocking up, you should be worried.

Trump remodeling offices into an auditorium that holds the entire senate? That’s intention. I guess the intention is to keep “hosting” the senate in the Executive Branch. Super inappropriate and super creepy. But I suppose this is what impotent men do, they try to show they have power by making people dance to their tune. Yet another red flag.

So with everyone at the auditorium turned SCIF, at the WH, what do you think will happen? Well, it’s an auditorium, so expect there to be some speeches, and then probably some grainy, unsubstantiated movies to “prove” North Korea is a problem. That’s the least bad thing that might happen.

The worst would be a showing — in real time — an unprovoked, unauthorized by Congress military strike on North Korea. After which the senators will be served chocolate cake and asked to vote on authorizing the POTUS more powers for going to war, while Ivanka’s nanny trots out the grandkids to sing songs in Korean.

There’s just no good reason to go the White House for this briefing. All the red flags are there. The WH is trying to undercut legislative branch power and start a war to prove it did something in 100 days.

Really, senators, just walk away while there’s still time. No, run. Run fast.

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W-20, the women’s summit

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Over in Germany there’s a Women-20 Summit going ahead of the G-20 Summit. If you want to read the guest list, and all the stellar accomplishments of those sent, you can check out the summit agenda.

The best and brightest are there: CEOs who built massive companies, scholars with doctorates, founders of hard-working charities, women whose work and intelligence created a new world.

Who represented the US? Ivanka.

She sat in on a panel called “Inspiring women: Scaling Up Women’s Entrepreneurship“ Moderated by Miriam Meckel

Who was on the panel?

  1. Her Majesty Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, UN Secretary General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development and Honorary Chair of the G20 Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion 
  2. Dr. Angela Merkel, Federal Chancellor of Germany 
  3. Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund 
  4. Chrystia Freeland, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Canada 
  5. Juliana Rotich, BRCK 
  6. Anne Finucane, Vice Chairwoman, Bank of America 
  7. Dr. Nicola Leibinger-Kammüller, President and Chairwoman Trumpf GmbH + Co. KG

Among all those super hardworking, intelligent, dedicated women who fought and strove, Ivanka, who was listed as:

Ivanka Trump, First Daughter and Advisor to the President of the United States of America 

I have nothing against Ivanka. If she and Jared were living in NYC, and she were going about running her very minor fashion brand, that’d be fine. But she didn’t make that choice.

I can think of no better was for a US president to show how little thinks of women and their abilities then to send, not a powerful, empowered, self-made American woman, but  a child, a “daughter” — as if that’s even her accomplishment — who thinks she has advice to offer a president.

Apparently the audience hissed at her. I feel sorry for her. I really do. She just doesn’t seem to have clue. But being raised by a man like her father, it’s understandable. Truth, reality, education, work, law are all words with little meaning.

Equal Opportunity Stupid.

Just to confirm, I’m against stuff that separates people. Unequal education, unequal income, unequal opportunities … it’s all stuff we the people should be working on.

I think there’s enough stupid on both sides, on both sides, so stupid is something we should address first. Because, to be honest, stupid is how we got here.

First up, Right-wing Stupid.

JWJY

This still is from an episode of Democracy Now! on the Berkeley mobs on Holy Saturday.  Honestly, I really can’t understand why protesters on both sides don’t just hold a silent sit in and carry signs, but …

What I want to point out here is the Guy in Yellow. Note the “Jesus will Judge You!” sweatshirt. What is he doing, he is literally boot-stomping as hard as he can on another person.

For starters, I would imagine Jesus will not be judging the victim being stomped here. As  a Christian, this is really offensive. But as a Christian, I can also say the guy wearing the sweat shirt, is probably not one.

John 3:17 “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”

Jesus didn’t come to judge. He came to save.  Christians know this.

Okay, on to Left-wing Stupid.

Flagdown

This a still from The Rachel Maddow Show on Monday night on the DNC tour of Tom Perez, the DNC chairman,, and Bernie Sanders.

What I want to point out is the object on the floor behind Tom’s left shoulder. That thing, is the American flag. Lying on the floor. The flag my ancestors have been in this country fighting for since 1776.

If you watch the entire clip, it gets worse. They get the flag up, cockeyed and walk away.

crooked

After a minute or two of stagehands walking by, bouncing the floor, the flag finally falls to the ground with a crash. A really loud crash that you can hear in the interview.

crash

Does Mr Perez even turn around to see if anyone is hurt? Nope. Does he stop and ask the stage hands if they are ok? Nope. Does he check on the flag and see that it’s ok? Nope. He just keeps talking.

dragged

Finally, a stage hand comes up and sees it on the floor. What does he do? He grabs it up by the poll and drags it off stage. Drags the American flag across the floor, off stage, like it’s a dirty bed sheet.

Real Americans care about how their flag is treated because that flag represents the American people. Also, real people hear a loud crash and ask if all the other people are okay.

I think of myself as being equal opportunity when it comes to pointing out stupid. If you ask me which thing I’m more appalled by, it’s the Jesus sweatshirt on a guy stomping on another human being — along with 5 other people, doing the same thing at the same time —  and on Holy Saturday no less, as Jesus lay in the tomb having just been crucified for our sins.

Not knowing how to properly treat your own country’s flag is a really stupid mistake. Willfully trying to kill another human being in a frenzy of rage is a crime.

 

Let them eat cake

cake

I don’t think Trump, Putin, or Assad are good leaders. That doesn’t mean I don’t think Americans, Russians, and Syrians aren’t great people.

At the normal, “everyday people” level, we all want the same things: peace and prosperity. It’s the mentally ill people that want money for sake of money, or power just so they can kill other people they don’t like for the sake of killing them.

I don’t want to lump Trump, Putin and Assad together. But lately, it’s become apparent they are all the same type of leader. Neither Putin nor Assad mind killing civilians or indeed their own peaceful civilian population who want democracy. Sadly, for America, Trump has already exceeded the Russians and Assad in killing civilians.

There used to be a collateral damage equation for actions the US military took. No more than 20-25 civilian casualties were acceptable. No one wanted these people to die, but in the course of war, people die. If you plan to keep the death of civilians to a minimum, so you don’t create backlash or needless deaths, you have a plan. Ttump’s only plan is killing, he doesn’t care about civilians.

Hopefully you remember ISIS, the reason we’re still fighting in Iraq, and in Syria, and Al-Qaeda, which is the reason we’re fighting in Yemen. You might remember Yemen as Trump’s first failed mission, which he then blamed on Obama.

On Jan 29, in Yemen, a Navy SEAL team — along with commandos from the United Arab Emirates — dropped in on an AQAP compound,  the inhabitants, who may or may not have even been AQ and had no intelligence, fought back, leaving one SEAL dead, several injured, and 25 civilians (9 of whom were children) dead. All for “intelligence” that was anything but.

Then in early March, which you may not recall, there was a week of airstrikes in Yemen. That week saw 40 raids. In total in March the U.S. reportedly launched more than 49 strikes across the country—more strikes than the U.S. has ever carried out in a single year in Yemen.  There was no information released on civilian casualties. None.

The U.S. also resumed some weapons sales to the Saudis, last month, after the transfers were frozen by President Obama amid concerns about mounting civilian casualties in Yemen.

In March alone, in Syria, 1,134 civilians were killed in March – 417 by gov, 260 by U.S., 224 by Russia, 119 by ISIS, 14 by rebels. That’s a pretty harsh fact. The US killed more innocent civilians in Syrian than Russia, or ISIS, in its efforts to beat back ISIS.

In March, In Iraq,  a US airstrike city killed 300 civilians in a single bombing event Mosul,, including many children. The US had dropped leaflets telling people not to leave the apartment building and they would be safe. Then the US bombed the apartment building.

The Los Angeles Times has described the March 17th strike as among the deadliest incidents in decades of modern warfare. And that wasn’t the only event, just the worst of the month. People were still talking about it in April, till the Syrian chemical attack happened.

U.S.-led coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria are reported to have killed 1,484 civilians in just Iraq and Syria, in just March alone. That’s more than three times the number killed in President Barack Obama’s final full month in office. And we don’t even know how many civilians are believed to have died as a result of the 49 airstrikes across Yemen.

The US, at the behest if its Nero-like leader, is killing civilians with abandoned. And I understand that’s his policy.  As a candidate and as a president, he has said it would be his policy to kill the families of terrorists. This is what he’s doing, authorizing airstrikes that kill as many civilians as possible. Then saying “it was an accident.” Or better “ISIS mined the building and the shock of our bomb set off their bomb” (Russia said that too).

In spite of the Geneva Convention: Article 51.2, which states, “The civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, shall not be the object of attack. Acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population are prohibited,” he is, as a policy, murdering civilians. So yea, exactly like Putin and Assad.

Update: And now Trump has dropped the world’s largest bomb, with a kill radius of a mile, on the Afghans. I wonder how many of 95K civilian people who live in that area, along with their animals and crops, migratory birds, wild plants, will die.

It does seem that he takes too much pleasure in killing people. He really does. President Trump was enjoying the “most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen” when he ordered the air strike on a Syrian airfield last week. Moments later, he told Chinese president Xi Jinping — who was digging into some cake of his own — about the strike, he told Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo.

That’s what he remembers about the night he killed a bunch of people and started a war on Syria’s govt? The chocolate cake? This is a despot, gleefully killing others to show off to another despot. How nice that chemical weapons went off in Syria, just so that he could tell China’s pro-killing even its own pro-democracy citizens about bombing Syria over desert.

I don’t want to lump an American president in with the likes of Putin, Assad, and Xi, but that’s where his policies place him. Also, it is kind of weird that he’s always bombing people over dinner. I can only imagine that he has low blood sugar. They say that if you blood sugar is dangerously low you can suffer from hallucinations, aggression, anxiety, confusion, delusions and disorientation. Guess that’s why his memory of that night is cake, and not casualties.

 

 

 

 

Coal miner’s lament

coal

In news today from Reuters, US and Russian coal exports are way, way up because China has decided to sanction North Korean coal.

China banned all imports of North Korean coal on Feb. 26, cutting off the country’s most important export product. To curb coal traffic between the two countries, which continued despite the ban apparently, China’s customs department issued an official order on April 7 telling trading companies to return their North Korean coal cargoes.

Trump’s been talking about North Korea since before he was elected. I’ve always wondered why. Consensus states the North Korea is in pretty bad shape and that most of what they say is a lie. It’s doubtful they have anything like a functioning weapon. North Korea, which is hardly worth bothering about. That the POTUS was bothered, always made me wonder. I kind of get it now.

By casting North Korea as a problem, and getting China to agree and ban buying coal from NK, China then has to buy coal elsewhere, which potentially means US coal jobs. Is this what the POTUS meant when he said he would bring back coal jobs? Not so fast. It may sound good on the surface for American workers, but dig a little deeper.

China needs coking coal to make steel, China can’t stop buying this type of coal or its economy will suffer. So …. the US is one place they might buy it from. However, another place, that’s much closer geographically and less costly to buy from, is Russia.  Yes, you read that correctly Russia.

Russia’s coal exports are expected to rise by up to 3.3 pct in 2017 according to a UK Reuters report. Coal is a $10B industry in Russia, increasing it over 3% would be a major economic boost to the economy there. Why does such a boost matter? Because it helps Putin get around US sanctions and helps Putin make more money so he and his oligarchy can stay in office longer.

So, the upshot of Trump being tough on North Korea is Trump is helping Putin avoid the pain of sanctions. By the way, coaking coal prices were at an all time high since a hurricane hit Australia, blanking North Korea from the game … yeah, really good, for Russia.

In case anyone forgot, the sanctions were supposed to weaken the Russian economy and make the Russians rethink the Ukraine situation. In case anyone forgot, Russia invaded Ukraine. Russia is in an ongoing war against pro-West, pro-democracy Ukraine. Why? Because Ukrainians cast out their Pro-Putin, national wealth-stealing, puppet president a few years back.

Incredibly, our Mr Tillerson, at the G7 meeting, right before he flew to Moscow, seems uninformed about the whole Russia-Ukraine matter.  “U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asked his European counterparts on Tuesday why American voters should care about the conflict in Ukraine, France’s foreign minister said.” Really? You have to ask why? Ugh.

Once again, the Trump administration is showing it’s Pro-Putin, anti-democracy stance. Russia wants Ukraine, Trump is okay with Russians annexing it — from the Ukrainians! This has been a core bargaining chip from the beginning. Trump for president, Ukraine for Russia. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. And yet ….

This is a bit more than removing the anti-Russian, pro-Ukraine plank from the GOP’s platform. This is actively undermining sanctions, actively helping Russia get around US sanctions on Ukraine by pushing China to reject North Korea and buy Russian coal. So, collusion with Russia? You bet, still, ongoing.

Finally, talking about Syria for a moment, Russia’s other abiding interest, if you were wondering about sudden visits from Jordan’s king, Egypt’s general president, and China’s president, to the US, consider Syria’s major import and export partners.

Syria exports primarily to Egypt (25%), Jordan (16%), Saudi Arabia (13%).  Syria imports primarily Turkey (30%) and China (22% — over 1 Billion dollars worth). If you’re interested in what Syria imports from Russia: Propellant Powders, Prepared Explosives, Explosive Ammunition (25.6%) & Postage Stamps (20%) . (This info is all from MIT). Russia’s main interest in Syria is being able to use it for military bases.

Remember Mike Flynn, who was helping both Russia and Turkey? Two countries with pretty warm ties. People were wondering about that. Wonder no more. He was representing two countries with major shared interests in Syria. And that was Trump’s first pick? So Syria was always on the table.

And now, Trump has met with all the principles likely to experience flux if there is a US intervention or regime change in Syria. Right before a low-level Sarin attack fortuitously happens on April 6, exactly while China’s Xi is visiting, and Trump can low-level bomb something.  And the very next day China’s customs department issued an official order on April 7 telling trading companies to return their North Korean coal cargoes.

Interesting.

Eric Trump said to a British newspaper “If there was anything that [the strike on] Syria did, it was to validate the fact that there is no Russia tie.” I’m not sure how Eric got there. Logically, because nothing he’s done has helped the US, it would appear that the POTUS had been planning on using Syria and using  North Korea from the start of his presidency for all sorts of reasons that principally benefit Putin.

The SCIF Sandwich

SCIFMAL

Your seat at the feast always tells the story.

This is quote from the White House Press Sec website.

SECRETARY ROSS:  To me, the most dramatic thing about being in the Situation Room as he [Trump] was making the decision was the thoroughness of the support and information that went into it, the consultation he did with a wide range of military and diplomatic and economic advisors, and the utter seriousness and thoughtfulness with which he made this very grave decision.

In terms of the strikes themselves, it’s my understanding that they took out something like 20 percent of the entire Syrian air force.  So it was huge not just in terms of number of planes but relative to the scale of their air force.

Wilbur Ross, US Commerce Sec, was in the room with the POTUS when the air strikes on Syria went down. Supposedly he had first-hand information. He was a witness. He was seated right next to the POTUS.

Why should his comments give us pause?  Because only a couple Syrian planes were hit, that’s it. He thought 20% of the entire Syrian air force was eliminated? He did not even understand what happened, even though it happened in front of him. And this is the man is in charge the US Commerce Dept.

The organization’s main purpose is to create jobs, promote economic growth, encourage sustainable development and improve standards of living for all Americans. Does Mr Ross seem capable of that? If he doesn’t understand what goes on right in front of him.

So if he clearly doesn’t understand things that well, and his math seems way off, why is he Sec of US Commerce at all? Well, in his previous job, which was VP at the Bank of Cyprus, his duties were not to understand things too well and launder Russian money. The Bank of Cyprus, is basically the money laundering center for Russian govt officials and oligarchs.

Mr Ross’s job was to find ways to launder Russian money. Now he’s in the Sec of US Commerce he can find ways to launder Russian money for US govt officials and oligarchs I guess, because he certainly is qualified to do that.

If you’re asking, why, during the bombing of the a Syrian govt air base, is the Russian friend and Bank of Cyprus VP money launder seated next to a US President (who claimed we should not interfere in Syria’s government) and his “friend of Russia” Putin awardee, former Exxon exec, Sec of State, Mr Tillerson (on the president’s other side), who 2 days earlier said the US had no interest in deposing the Syrian president, the answer is pretty simple.

Facing seriously bad polling numbers, a series of political defeats, and the ongoing investigation into his collusion with Russia to gain the presidency, Trump needed a political win that would stop the hemorrhaging and convince people he wasn’t a collaborator. Since Russia is his friend, Russia came to his aid.

Russia’s goal has been to keep the Syrian govt power at any cost. Russia has military bases in Syria, and economically strategic oil operations. Russia has been fighting ISIS in Syria, in coordination with the US, but it’s also been bombing the hell out of the Syrian rebels/opposition/Syrian Free Army, whatever we want to call those who oppose Assad. During the last chemical attack, in 2013, by Syria on it’s own people, a UN investigation concluded sarin was delivered by a Soviet-era 140mm surface-to-surface artillery rocket, known as the M-14.

There was outcry in 2013. So, Russia, wanting to protect the Assad regime, said they would guarantee Syria disposed of all chemical weapons. So, the only group with chemical weapons, willing to use them on civilians living in Syrian opposition-controlled towns, was Russia. Therefore, it’s logical to assume that Russia used chemical weapons on a Syrian opposition-controlled town in 2017.

But why? Because this act by Russia allowed Trump, after warning all the Russians to get out, to bomb a Syrian govt air base in apparent revenge for “Assad’s” actions. Trump did this in a complete contradiction of his stated policies on Syria, and without any proof that air base or the Syrian govt had anything to do with the chemical attack.

Trump now looks anti-Russian and pro humanitarian to liberals and media people, who might actually buy this political theater. This is all to raise his poll numbers and keep people from pursuing investigations into how deep in Putin’s pocket he is.  The fact the US president is literally flanked by pro-Putin, friends of Russia, criminals, suggests that Trump is all the way at the bottom of that pocket.

If Assad is ever removed, it will only be because Russia is replacing him with a slightly  more liberal, but solidly pro-Russian, friend of Putin. Expect nothing to change in Syrian-Russian relations. If it appears as though Trump, by a show of force, is the reason Assad has to resign and seek sanctuary in Doha or Iran or elsewhere, just remember, Assad is replaceable to Russia, but Trump isn’t, yet.

If replacing Assad helps Trump in the polls, makes him appear anti-Russian, and keeps him in power, that’s a win-win for Putin. And all it cost him was some Syrians rebels he never gave a fig about anyway and a replaceable Syrian dictator.

Look for a sudden about face by the Trump administration on removing Assad, and look for their reason, and blame for the chemical attack, to be put on entirely on Assad. Why? Because neither Trump nor Putin wants it discovered that Russia perpetrated the chemical attack for purpose of trying to salvage the Trump presidency. To do this, this thing’s got to be shut down quick, before real questions can be asked.

Let’s face it, if Trump cared about gassed people, he’d have said something in 2013. All he said in 2013, upon seeing those images August 21, 2013 was

Aug. 28, 2013

By the way, the “them” he wants to catch by surprise is the Anti-Assad, Anti-Russia, Pro-democracy Syrian opposition. Note the explicit pro Russia going into Syria to kill the Syrian opposition tweet below.

Aug. 29, 2013

Sept. 5, 2013

Sept. 6, 2013

Sept. 7, 2013

Sept. 9, 2013

Sept. 11, 2013

Sept. 13, 2013

Sept. 12, 2014

Sept. 17, 2014

Sept. 20, 2014

All these tweets are Pro-Russia, anti-Democracy. Trump hasn’t changed, nothing has changed. He’s still pro-Russia, pro-Assad, and anti-Opposition, anti-democracy. Trump wants the Opposition destroyed. He wants a pro-Putin dictator in Syria. This all theater, and the Syrian people, on both sides of the conflict, are the ones that suffer. The only people not suffering, ISIS fighters in Syria. And the only reason we went to Syria? Was to stop ISIS.

Fore! POTUS plays, Syria gets bombed

 

 

Image result for mar a lago interior

Just bomb the Syrian air base and talk to Jared.  I can’t bother thinking about politics right now, I’m going golfing with the President of China

Most people, normal people, when they come up against a problem, try to work out what the problem is first, then they try to come up with a range of solutions, and finally, they act. Our current POTUS apparently sees a horrible picture and sends bombs. No thought involved at all. Or maybe it’s just hard to think rationally in super tacky surroundings such as Mar-a-Lago.

I confess to being less than surprised by the POTUS choosing to bomb the Syrian’s govt air base. He’s not a deal maker, as he tells himself. He’s never tried to deal with Syria. He’s gutted the State Dept, so it’s not like Tillerson is allowed to do it. I guess our POTUS had to bomb the Syrian army because Jared wasn’t around to fix things or if he was, he was just about to go on vacation, and being the big infant our POTUS is, he felt he had to do something, now.

Frankly, it was important to first find out if there was a chemical attack and if so what chemicals were used and who used them on them whom. I’m not denying the images, I just can’t verify them. Neither can you. Nor can anyone. I’m not denying the report by the Turkish hospital that said “it’s chemical weapons involved,” but them saying that doesn’t give a POTUS the information they need.

Just after the attack happened, US investigators were sent material from the scene to find out what was used, by whom. It takes a bit of time to do the that of scientific analysis, the kind needed before you can make a political decision. This isn’t another Saturday night party that got out of hand and your cousin’s boyfriend stabbed someone while drunk and so you and your boyfriend go to his house and shoot his mother and brother. This is international politics, which have international impacts.

And by the way, the AP is reporting that two different Opposition observer groups (The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Homs Media Center) have said that while planes took off from the Shayrat air base the POTUS bombed, none of those planes attacked the town where the chemical attack is said to have taken place. So it may be that there was no chemical attack, by the Syrian Govt, and hence, no reason to bomb Syria’s airbase. It could well be the Russians committed the chemical attack, just to get the POTUS to attack Syrian and destroy US-Syrian relations. Mission accomplished.

If analysis said the Syrian Govt used chemical weapons on the Syrian Opposition, then yes, there’s a Syrian problem. At that point, a POTUS has to decide to how to deal with it. Usually you start with diplomatic pressure. In the POTUS’s case, how about asking his buddy-buddies in Russia to lean on the Syrian president. Or making one of those famous “deals.” Or sending your Sec of State, Rex the napper.

How about maybe asking nations in the region, that have interests there to protect, to build a coalition with the US to support the removal of the Syrian president, either through sanctions or arms. Or asking the UN to form a coalition and send UN Peace keepers? Or accusing Pres Assad as a war criminal before the World Court? Or maybe, just maybe, the POTUS can ask Congress to authorize military action, either on behalf of the country, as part of a regional coalition or a UN coalition?

The thing you surely don’t want to do as POTUS is wing off half-cocked and bomb a Syrian govt air base. The other thing you surely don’t want to do, as a POTUS who ran on “American First”, is endanger US troops by your own reckless actions. US soldiers, which you sent there, who are in Syria with the cooperation of the Syrian govt, to weed out ISIS, not to get involved in Syria’s civil war.

Launching an unprovoked attack on a military base in a country where your soldiers are able to operate as guests to help you take down terrorists, and killing that nation’s soldiers is just astronomically stupid. The US just Pearl Harbored Syria. The US has declared war on the Syrian Govt, while our soldiers are there as guests. The only people that helped was ISIS.

The POTUS has now given the Syrian govt a reason to tell its soldiers to kill US soldiers, as well as Opposition forces and ISIS. Basically they’re all the enemy now. Way to think it through and put America First. Bet the GOP base is just thrilled with that. But then, that’s what Republicans do. They don’t think, they just start wars because it’s good for them the their arms manufacturing buddies.

I’m horrified by Syria’s civil war. I’m horrified by the use of chemical weapons. But I’m just as horrified that the POTUS is acting like a dictator himself, sitting at Mar-a-lago, surrounded by millionaires, stuffing his face with caviar, and choosing war as his first resort instead of his last resort.

Proportional response is only justified when you’ve been attacked. And by the way, Russia says on 23 of the 59 Tomahawks reached that air base, other news sources have already shown that the runway is still intact. So, apparently the only things the POTUS did was put a target on the backs of US soldiers, harm the Syrian Opposition, and help ISIS expand. Brilliant.

 

 

 

Irony

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A president who has continually whined about being “unmasked” behind closed doors, by intelligence officials, strictly for purposes of national security  — as a result of his own treasonous actions, has stripped all Americans of internet privacy and allowed the buying and selling of their data on the free market. That’s got to be the definition of irony.

The elephant in the room

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I’m just resting my face. And my arms. And my liver.

No one else will say it but, Putin targeted the GOP because it was the easiest one to take over and GOP voters were the easiest to dup. I’m not being insulting or flippant here, or denying that Dems got duped a bit as well. I’m just observing that the Putin govt had to pick a US party to take over, the one that was most vulnerable to manipulation and take over, and they chose the GOP.

My guess is that Putin felt that the GOP was easy because it’s the most like his own party. It’s controlled by men who wanted to use the government to enhance their wealth and power. In dealing with the GOP, the Russians only had to insure the nomination went to someone who would promise to make those GOP leaders wealthier and more powerful, so pretty simple.

I know there are some who think that wealthy,  powerful people don’t need more wealth or power. For instance, Larry Kudlow, an advisor to Donald Trump’s team for months, wrote

“Why shouldn’t the president surround himself with successful people? Wealthy folks have no need to steal or engage in corruption.”

If that were true, Larry, Putin and his entire government wouldn’t exist. Think about ultra rich Trump donor Carl Icahn, having Trump keep a tiny piece of legislation through which he will make a billions of dollars. Carl Ichan doesn’t need the money, he’s worth $20 billion. He’s 81; he’ll probably die in a year. And yet, all Carl can think about is squeezing a few billion more out via corrupting the government.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) also made the same argument to The Atlantic‘s McKay Coppins,

On a recent afternoon in his Capitol Hill office, I read through a litany of headlines detailing potential entanglements between President Trump’s business and his administration with the congressman. …. I asked Chaffetz if he was concerned about Trump reaping financial rewards from his presidency, but he just shrugged.

“He’s already rich,” Chaffetz said. “He’s very rich. I don’t think that he ran for this office to line his pockets even more. I just don’t see it like that.”

Sadly, the exact opposite is true and Chaffetz, like many, suffers from circular thinking.

People driven by greed and power become more corrupt over time in their continuous quest for more wealth or power. They get to point where they literally can’t understand the wrong they are doing in the quest to fulfill their need for wealth and power.

Study after study shows that the poor give way more to charity than the rich. In fact, the richer you are, the less you give. Trump set up a foundation that only ever gave other people’s money to Trump. He actually spent $20,000 of money earmarked for charitable purposes to buy a six-foot-tall painting of himself.  How’s that for the perfect example?

Tom Price is another great example. Already a Congressman, he feels the need to do insider trading to make more money through corrupting legislation that’s supposed to benefit the American people. Apparently Tom works for Tom, and his Georgia state constituents were just an afterthought, or a cover.

Remember Enron? Kenneth Lay was known as “Kenny boy” to President Geo. Bush, because he was the single largest contributor to Bush for many years. Kenneth Lay’s energy company, Enron, created false energy shortages, to drive up prices, which then cities and states were forced to pay. The executives and shareholders at Enron were already well off, energy was already costly. Why’d they do it? They didn’t need the money or… no pun intended … power.

Still not convinced? Look back at 2007, when for years Congress had chipped away at the 1933 protective regulations in the banking and investment industry, saying we don’t need them. Low-income borrowers were set up to take home loans they couldn’t afford — by the banks. Those borrowers lost their homes but the mortgage brokers and bank executives got bonuses and banks made billions.

Want a smaller scale, personal example? I know a moderately rich guy. He’s a super nice person who loves his family, works very hard, and votes GOP. One day, while I was talking with some friends about the drought in California and ways to conserve water, he walked up to us with a big smile and said,

“Oh, we’re conserving water at the club [his golf club, with a $100K per year membership fee]. We paid $30,000 to drill down in to an aquifer so we have all the water we need for free and we aren’t using the water supplied by the city, so the city has saved water.”

This kind, intelligent man truly thought by drilling into a 10 million year old aquifer, an aquifer that belongs to all the people of California, and using that water to to keep golf greens, green so that only rich members of this private club could swat a ball around, was helping conserve water and doing California a favor.

Just like some people can’t stop drinking, some people can’t stop trying to get more money or more power. The very things that drive people to desire wealth and power don’t go away when they get some.  And just like a drunk’s thinking is warped by his addiction, so too is the thinking of a person consumed by greed and power.

Here’s a good example warped thinking. Trump in October put on an FEC filing that his New York golf course was worth $50 million. He was sent a property tax bill in January based on the property being worth only $15 million. A substantially reduced tax bill. You’d think that was a great deal right? Nope, Trump right away sued the county saying his property was only worth $1.5 million and that’s all he should be taxed on.

Even though he got a discount price, it wasn’t enough. Even though he should have been happy, he (as president) started a lawsuit to try to exert his power and drive the tax bill down. That’s bad citizenship, bad business-government relations, and just psychologically nutso.

Trump is a drunk, and his drink of choice is money with a straight up shot of power. There will never be enough of either and he has no problem working hand in glove with Putin, or anyone else, if it feeds his addiction. Trump doesn’t see Russia’s requests as bad or wrong. He only sees he wants to be president, and if Russia can help him in return for some “minor” stuff that’s okay.

Handing the State Dept to “friend of Russia” Rex Tillerson to dismantle because that’s what Russia wants, minor stuff to Trump. Removing censure of Russian activity in Ukraine from the GOP platform, sure minor stuff. Keeping quite as Russia goes about murdering Democracy advocates in the streets, minor stuff.

Of course, the problem with drunks is that they’re really just painfully slow suicides. If watching the antics of Trump’s administration reminds you of a painfully slow political suicide, that’s because it is.  And that’s an appropriately Russian way to end the story.