Tag Archive | Trump

Connecting Dots

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Given all that’s going on, not much attention has been paid to Jeff Sessions resuming the “already proven irrational and financially ruinous” war on drugs. I’ve seen a couple of news programs mention it. But I haven’t heard anyone connect the dots, so, here are the dots.

There are such things as private prison companies. They are for-profit businesses that makes money by housing and caring for prisoners, adults and juveniles, rather than having the state/federal govt perform these services.

Previous administrations experimented with privatizing prisons but found that it was more expensive and prisoners got worse care than under the usual state/federal system. As a result, Obama put in motion the ending of the use of private prisons.

Then Trump got elected and put Session in charge of the DOJ.

The war on drugs is a Regan-era concept on how to address crime involving drugs. It involved mandatory sentencing that was often way over the top for the crime committed. For example, 15 yrs to life for a first time offence involving a non-violent crime such as taking an envelop with a small amount of cocaine to another person.

Over time, prisons became overcrowded and people realized this was not a good approach. It didn’t proportionally address the crime or stop drugs being sold or help people get off drugs. You can read about Portugal’s highly successful approach here as an example of really tackling the problem of drugs.

As a result of decades of experience and information in the US, Obama gave out guidance to prosecutors that they could ignore what had formerly been mandatory sentencing guidelines and many states began releasing non-violent drug offenders, reducing overcrowding in prisons by something like 14%.

Enter Donald Trump. GEO Prisons is a private company that donated a lot of money to Trump’s campaign. Trump upon entering office said private prisons were great and killed the legislation ending the use of private prisons. So, that was a reward to GEO prisons for supporting him.

But not enough, so then Trump began to fill up prisons and detention centers with undocumented immigrants, so he could funnel taxpayer dollars to these for-profit corporations — that are not financially responsible and give detainees very poor care.

That was the short game. The long game is where Jeff Sessions comes in.

The long game was finding a way to put more Americans in the prisons, so the US would need more private prisons and Trump could funnel more money to these pro-Trump donor corporations. But which Americans to lock up?

Keeping in mind that the “war on drugs” is a basically a war on people of color, it’s pretty clear that the current administration plans to incarcerate, long-term, a lot of people of color.

This is where most people stop connecting the dots. And that’s unfortunate, because even locking up people of color long-term as a pay off private prison corporations isn’t the end goal of this administration. And now you know why Jeff Sessions is head of the DOJ.

The war on drugs today is about keeping people of color from voting for decades at a time, or even permanently.

Most democracies give convicted criminals the same voting rights as other citizens. Many countries allow inmates to vote, including Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Israel, Japan, Kenya, Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Sweden, and Zimbabwe.

In the US, 10 states have felony voting laws that can keep a citizen from ever voting again, including Session’s home state of Alabama. In 20 states after prison, and parole, and probation, you can vote again. In 4 states, it’s after prison and parole. In 14 states + DC, it’s after prison alone. In 2 states, prisoners can vote.

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In most cases, the process of restoring voting rights is so daunting, it doesn’t happen.

Basically, by renewing the “war on drugs” Sessions is talking about a plan to keep millions of citizens of color from voting for long periods of time, decades, if not forever. It’s not really a war on drugs so much as a great method by which to get away with racism and voter suppression.

Western Democracy creates Eastern Dictatorships?

I try to be open minded. In fact, I read newspapers, from all political viewpoints, from around the globe. Every once in a while, I stumble on something strangely fascinating. I saw it last month, but it’s taking on more relevance this week.

The German news outlet DW.com ran a number of stories about Turks living abroad who were voting on the referendum in Turkey. If you don’t recall, it’s the one that basically would allow the President Erdogan to become a dictator and do away with democracy.

Infografik Karte Wahlberechtigte Türken in der EU Englisch

People living in the West assumed that Turks living in the West, would be pro Democracy. Interestingly, that wasn’t the case. In fact, if the vote on the referendum had been confined to voters actually living in Turkey, democracy would have prevailed.

The reason Turkey is now a dictatorship is because over 3 million Turks abroad overwhelmingly voted for dictatorship in their home country. Think about that for a second. Turks, educated in democracy, wanted their homeland to become a dictatorship.

Turks in Belgium voted for the referendum by the highest percentage in Europe, at almost 80 percent.  Austria was next, with more than 72 percent in favor, and the result in the Netherlands, where the government clashed with Erdogan last month to block pro-government rallies, was not far behind with almost 70% for “yes.”

There have been various reactions to this news. One viewpoint is that support in Europe for Erdogan is a result of failed integration and a low level of education. That’s probably partially true. But, that overlooks the component that caused Brexit and Trump, abuse of personal data.

If you read the Facebook stuff the other day, this is in that vein. In the case of Turks abroad, they received a letter asking them to vote yes on the referendum. The problem with that was a law, which was passed in Turkey in 2008, prohibits political parties from propagandizing outside the country.

Furthermore, for people with dual citizenship, the country in which they reside has priority. Thus, such a letter is a violation of German law. “This means that the personal data of people with German as well as Turkish citizenship has been given to a political party in Turkey,” says Kilic.

So once again, this is a targeted, and illegal, campaign.

In the run-up to Turkey’s 2015 parliamentary elections.Turkish voters living in Germany and the Netherlands received a similar letter bearing the signature of then-Prime Minister Davutoglu. Daniel Strunk, a spokesperson for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia’s Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information (LDI-NRW), reports that as a result, many Turkish voters in Germany filed complaints with German authorities stating that their personal data, such as name and address, had been collected without their consent.

“Three voters claiming to have received AKP propaganda contacted us. It was unknown just how the party had gotten their personal data,” Strunk said. He also pointed out that foreign representatives do not fall under the LDI’s jurisdiction. Hence, authorities were unable to initiate an investigation into how the AKP attained the information and if any laws had been broken in the process.

If all this sounds familiar, that’s probably because you’re paying attention. It seems a common thread among dictators these days to target people through data scrapes and data collection tools. While not all such tools are illegal, given the cozy Russia-Turkey relationship, it’s not hard to imagine how personal data had been collected.

Which brings us to this week. Being a dictator now, Mr Erdogan has decided he wants to bring back the death penalty. Germans fundamentally oppose this. Turkey has been angling for EU status for a while, but its values fail to align with the EU stance on things like democracy, women’s rights, religious freedom, etc, etc. There is no death penalty in the EU.

Today Angela Merkel said there will be no vote on the return of the death penalty in Turkey by Turks living in Germany Bringing back the death penalty in Turkey would effectively end any pretense over Turkey’s troubled EU bid. But maybe that’s the point. Turkey is turning to Russia and away from the EU. What that means for Syrian refugees, Anti-Assad refugees that Russia bombs with abandon, is anyone’s guess.

Turkey banned the death penalty in peace time in 2002 under reforms aimed at starting EU membership talks. It was completely abolished in 2004, two years after Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party came to power.

At the time, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan, was on death row following his 1999 capture. Europe had urged Turkey not to go forward with the execution, which would have triggered massive and potentially violent Kurdish protests in Europe and Turkey.

Erdogan first broached bringing back the death penalty in 2012 during an uptick in fighting between the PKK and Turkish military. Which of course brings us back to Syria, and the Kurds, and the YPG-PYD, whom the US are relying on to fight ISIS in Syria. As of today, according to Reuters:

Despite fierce opposition from NATO ally Turkey, U.S. President Donald Trump has approved supplying arms to Kurdish YPG fighters to support an operation to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa from Islamic State, U.S. officials said on Tuesday.

Ankara views the Kurdish YPG militia, fighting within a larger U.S.-backed coalition, as the Syrian extension of the Kurdish PKK militant group, which has fought an insurgency in southeastern Turkey since 1984.

Needless to say, no matter how you slice world politics, the US is a part of the world. It can’t just hide it’s head and pretend otherwise. The problem for the US though is totally incompetent people at the State and in the WH. They literally don’t know what do do.

Luckily, Trump’s Russian friends/handlers, Foreign Minister Lavrov and Ambassador Kislyak, agreed to meet with him today at the White House. Not really a cold call, I mean Jared, Mike Flynn, and Jeff Sessions all had previous backdoor meetings — they failed to disclose — with them.

Be interesting to see what happens with regards to US policy on Syria, Turkey and the Kurds as a result. Probably nothing. They probably just wanted an update on the FBI investigation.

Facebook as Psy Op?

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This is not a horse

If you love Facebook and use it a lot, you might want to check out the following articles from The Guardian.

You will definitely want to read the May 7 article Carole Cadwalladr, entitled The great British Brexit robbery: how our democracy was hijacked. It’s as much about the US as it is about the UK because the two are very much linked.

Infographic on how the Brexit campaigns were linked

You can follow that up with Facebook employs ex-political aides to help campaigns target voters. This was published Monday, May 8, by Robert Booth. It’s pretty clear Facebook is a huge political problem and super creepy as an organization.

If you read these articles and think, “What can I do beside leave Facebook?” check out Who Targets Me?  Some spunky Brits have developed an extension people can install on their chrome browser to find out who is using Facebook to basically stalk you and launch an targeted psy-op / advertising campaign designed to persuade you to vote (or note vote) for a candidate or issue.

I’m not suggesting anyone has to cut Facebook, or any other social media, out of their life, but everyone should be aware of who is trying to manipulate them, how, and why.

Consider the case of Sinclair Broadcast Group which is set to acquire Tribune Media. Under a normal administration, with a normal FCC head, this merger would never happen. The FCC rules forbid it. No one group is allowed to be in more than 39% of markets.

But under Trump’s FCC guy, who has decided to pretend a station is not a station, the merger can happen. And the reach of that one group will now be 72% of markets. If you’re saying to yourself, that’s unsettling, you’re right.

SBG will be taking over local news stations. TV news is where 60 percent of adults get their news, and of those, almost 50 percent rely on local stations, according to Pew Research. So why would SBG want to control a lot of local news stations? To feed those people all the same news.

What kind of news? Turn out, SBG is super conservative and actively uses its stations to promote that outlook while actively denigrating other viewpoints. They love Trump. It’s not going to provide local news or balanced coverage of issues; it’s just pure propaganda.

Basically SBG supported Trump, so Trump now supports this illegal merger to acquire stations, to build out a conservative propaganda platform, to support Trump. Nice circularity to it. I’m pretty sure it’s illegal simply based on the quid pro quo, but Jeff Sessions is hardly going to say anything.

If you’re thinking you should look at the SBG stations and Tribune Media stations and delete them from your viewing line up. Yeah, you probably should if you want local news that’s actually local news.

Much like Facebook, certain media providers are no longer the thinking person’s friend. With the end of internet privacy laws, that’s likely to be true of more companies, such as Google and Twitter and basically anyone you give your data.

Hopefully more people will start looking in media gift horses in the mouth. Seems like the Europeans have begun to push back against radical populist nationalism.  I suspect British people will find a way to avoid Brexit, despite article 50 having been triggered.

I’m actually surprised Trump is still president, but I expect eventually he’ll be caught in a snare of his own making.  It will be interesting the number of people that go down with him though, and who will be charged to clean up the mess.

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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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.

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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.

 

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

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

The Court of public opinion

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I’ll start by saying, I find the whole Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), nomination / confirmation process a bit whacked.

I really don’t understand the point of a Democratic filibuster. Why not just vote No if you don’t like him? A nominee needs 60 votes. Gorsuch won’t get 60 votes because no one on the Dem side will vote for him. At that point, the Republican senators will have to change the Senate rules to lower the standard or withdraw the nomination and nominate someone new.

Let’s face it, the POTUS could do worse than withdraw Gorsuch’s nomination and nominate Garland instead. They’re both older white male lawyers with a surname starting with G. He said he wanted to reach out to the Democrats, and punish the GOP for failing to back him. Withdrawing Gorsuch’s nomination and nominating Garland instead might be just the thing to prove to Dem’s he wants to “deal.”

 

I have nothing against Gorsuch personally. His mother was the one that was thrown out of her Republican cabinet post at the EPA for corruption when he was 15. Notoriously, when asked to release records that proved her wrong doing, she said she couldn’t, claiming Executive Privilege covered those records.

Pres. Reagan responded by saying he would “never use executive privilege to cover up wrong doing” and let her fall. I wonder what kind of impact that humiliation had on Gorsuch? It wasn’t his wrong doing, but he did suffer for it. It probably gave him a few negative thoughts about presidents and Executive Privilege.

I question whether Gorsuch (age 49, but not likely to live long, his mother died at 62, his father at 64. That gives Gorsuch about 12 years on the bench) is a good fit for the Supreme Court though. In a decision last week, on one of Gorsuch’s rulings, the SCOTUS knocked down his decision 8-0. That means everyone on the court, liberals, moderates, and conservatives, thought his decision was dead wrong.

If a minority of judges had agreed with him, then he would have had a leg to stand on. But as it is, if every Supreme Court jurist could see his decision was wrong, dead wrong, if it was that obvious his decision was wrong, he doesn’t belong on the Supreme Court. He’s an okay lower bench judge, given his 10 years of Federal court experience, but he’s clearly not qualified to exercise final judgement.

This is true of several other cases that appeared before him as well. A large group of judges decide one way, correctly, and he makes an obviously wrong opinion. Worse, he then goes on to write his minority opinion, and it’s so obviously wrong but not for legal reasons so much as his personal political beliefs.

Having a person like this adjudicate at a lower level is frustrating, but you can almost guarantee his opinion will be reversed on appeal so it’s safe enough. Such a reversal can’t happen if he’s a justice at the SCOTUS. So, to me, it’s just wrong to nominate such a judge for the SCOTUS. He brings nothing to the Court other than his Protestantism (the current court is composed of Catholic and Jewish justices), which I guess is something toward diversity, but little else.

Other problems he has, which are totally not of his making, are the taint on the situation of his nomination, as a result of Republican failure to do their job and advise and consent to Garland, the last legitimate American POTUS’s nominee; and the taint of being nominated by the current POTUS who has as-yet unfinished investigations into his Russian alliances, making Gorsuch a questionable choice.

There’s not anything Gorsuch can do about either of the situations.  He really is sort of an innocent bystander caught in the crossfire. Congress really should have declined to consider a nominee, any nominee, by a president under investigation. It clearly doesn’t bother the Republicans to have 8 justices rather than 9, nor does it hamper the Court’s functioning.

At this point, the current POTUS has gutted the State Department, disgraced the office of POTUS, put unqualified people in charge of federal agencies, attempted to destroy the national security branches, subverted the investigation into his administration, and is not making our country safer, stronger, or better in anyway. I see no reason to consider his nominee for SCOTUS.

What happened to Garland (age 64, with a parent still alive, and 19 years of Federal court experience) was unconstitutional. Congress was required to advise and consent, they didn’t even attempt to advise about the nominee. But at this point, Garland was selected by a legitimately elected American POTUS who was in full possession of his mind and had no debt or connection to the Russian government.

I’d go ahead with hearings to confirm Garland instead. It’s really the only way to preserve the integrity of the nomination process and the Supreme Court. As for the POTUS, withdrawing Gorsuch’s nomination and renominating Garland is a way to reward the “disloyal” Republicans who tanked Trump”care” and let them know he means business about dealing with Democrats. Kind of a win-win really.