Nel's New Day

February 19, 2022

What Happens with Putin’s Chess Game in Ukraine

For the past several weeks, the convoluted new about Ukraine-Russia conflict brings confusion. Sometimes Stephen Colbert’s comedy on The Late Show brings clarification, and his interview with Margaret Brennan, the CBS News Chief Foreign Affairs correspondent and Face the Nation host, gave an excellent overview of the situation as of Thursday. These are the perspectives from two different segments of the program, what’s happening and projected economic sanctions.

This week the 39th annual Munich Security Conference (MSC) topics included pandemic strategies, climate change, and cryptocurrency, but the crisis in Ukraine and possible war loomed large over the meeting. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the world has the greatest precarious security situation since the Cold War. Over 100 ministers and 30 heads of state and government are attending; Russia refused to send representatives.

One prediction was the start of the war on Wednesday, and naysayers tried to point out that the attacks had not begun. As Brennan stated, however, Russia’s movement toward war began with Tuesday’s cyber-attacks, specifically ones targeting Ukraine’s defense ministry and major banks, connected to Russian military intelligence officers. Described as the worst in the country’s history, these disruptions can be the beginning of Russia’s attacks.    

Russia’s reason for attacking Ukraine is that the U.S. will not agree to demands for binding security guarantees, including a permanent NATO ban for Ukraine and Georgia, according to Russia. The country “will be forced to respond, including through the implementation of military-technical measures,” the Kremlin said. The U.S. refuses this demand. Ukraine is not yet on a formal track to become a NATO member soon, but Russian President Vladimir Putin, with 150,000 troops surrounding Ukraine, wants a definitive denial of Ukraine’s NATO membership immediately. Experts maintain Putin’s position is based on his ambition to not only regain the Soviet Union but also go beyond in his control of European countries. Putin says he’s pulled troops, but satellite images show no withdrawal. Russian forces also seem to be building military hospitals near the Ukrainian border.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s latest aggression is his order for his military to begin nuclear drills with ballistic and cruise missile launches along with nuclear-capable bombers and warships from Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. These drills continue Putin’s extensive military exercises along Ukraine’s border, in the Black Sea, and in neighboring Belarus during the recent weeks. Earlier this month, Russia flew two Tu-22M3 nuclear-capable bombers over Belarus. Russia has over 6,000 nuclear warheads; it launched hypersonic missiles on Saturday to show its military strength.

Russian troops in Belarus may not leave after the exercise on Sunday, causing more danger from Putin got Ukraine from its separation from Belarus. Concerned of an imminent Ukrainian offensive, Russian-backed separatists controlling part of eastern Ukraine told 700,000 women and children to evacuate the region and called on all military-age men to register to fight. 

Ukrainians have been worried about false-flag incidents that can create a ruse for invading Ukraine. One may be an explosion on a gas pipeline in eastern Ukraine and explosions in the city of Luhansk. Sputnik News connected these to Ukrainian shelling, quoting someone who declared “sabotage.” These were reported on pro-Russian channels and circulated on separatist Telegram accounts. President Joe Biden has warned of Russians misinformation campaign with no evidence.

Pro-Russian forces shelled a kindergarten in eastern Ukraine, wounding three adults but no students. A howitzer shell blowing a hole through one wall scattered bricks, toys and soccer balls across the room, and an impact crater landed near a play area. The 32 artillery rounds landing in the village disrupted electricity for half the population. Two soldiers and a woman at a bus station were wounded.

Ukraine reported the killing of two of its soldiers and wounding of four others in eastern Ukraine by artillery shells fired by Russian-backed separatists. Reuters reported “the Ukrainian military … recorded 70 ceasefire violations by separatists since the start of the day compared with 66 cases over the previous 24 hours.” Since 2014, around 14,000 people have been killed in fighting between the separatists and Ukrainian government forces. According to an embedded Fox network foreign correspondent, Ukrainians did not return fire; other Ukrainian troops returned fire to other attacks only “within the confines of the [Minsk] Agreement,” which banned heavy weapons from the front.

Russian media claimed Ukrainians fired artillery over the border. Lt. General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the head of Ukraine’s armed forces, stated the alleged shelling exceeded the reach of its artillery in the region. He said the invaders “undermine infrastructure in the occupied territories, carry out chaotic shelling of settlements and deliberately produce false reports.”

In another pretext for invasion, Russia claims Ukraine is committing “crimes against humanity” in separatist regions of the country’s east, one of them Donbas. One of the accusations is genocide, but Russia fails to provide evidence or explanation.

If Russia invades Ukraine, it will “target prominent political opponents, anti-corruption activists, and Belarusian and Russian dissidents living in exile,” according to U.S. intelligence. Foreign Policy wrote:

“Russia has drafted lists of Ukrainian political figures and other prominent individuals to be targeted for either arrest or assassination in the event of a Russian assault on Ukraine. These acts, which in past Russian operations have included targeted killings, kidnappings/forced disappearances, detentions, and the use of torture, would likely target those who oppose Russian actions, including Russian and Belarusian dissidents in exile in Ukraine, journalists and anti-corruption activists, and vulnerable populations such as religious and ethnic minorities and LGBTQI+ persons.”

On Saturday, Germany and France on Saturday urged their nationals to immediately leave Ukraine and warned support for Germany nationals in Ukraine would be limited in case of invasion. France recommended people not travel to the north or east of the country and called on French citizens to leave Ukraine if they did not have a “compelling motive” to stay. The U.S., UK, and other countries had already told citizens to leave Ukraine, and Biden had said he could not get U.S. citizens out of the country if they didn’t leave at this time. At least five embassies, including the one for the U.S., have left the capital, Kyiv, for Lviv, the city farthest from Russia.

Lufthansa is the most recent airline to suspend flights to Odessa and Kyiv. Earlier ones were Austrian, owned by Lufthansa, the Dutch carrier KLM, and Norwegian. Of the 35 airlines flying into Ukraine, others have been stopped from flying by their insurers.

Economic instability is hitting the global stock markets as stocks plummet from fear of war. The Dow Jones has dropped by 1,600 points in ten days. The next few days will be the turning point between the West’s attempt at diplomacy and all-out war by a small man who wants to reinstate his Soviet regime.

Pundits still question whether Russia will actually attack Ukraine; Russia is much larger and more powerful than Ukraine, but Western allies will fund forces fighting Russia. Finland and Sweden, currently not NATO members, may change their position, and the sanctions on Putin’s oligarchs may make him unpopular with his current supporters. Other sanctions could deny Russia critical supplies such as semiconductors, causing severe economic pain.

Weather could deter Russian invasion as the 100,000 square miles of wetlands in the north thaw in March, making roads into bottlenecks. The 1,000-square-mile zone of Chernobyl, just 60 miles north of Kyiv and 240 miles south of the Belarus border is restricted because of radioactivity from the nuclear disaster. South of the Belarius border, invaders face crossing the Dnieper River, and Black Sea is the south border of Ukraine which Russia need for supplying military presence in Syria and moving ships to and from the Mediterranean. The Carpathian Mountains provide a natural barrier in Ukraine’s western region.

Putin may find himself cornered. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) pandered to him for four years and alienated U.S. allies, denigrating NATO and rewarding corruption. Since Biden’s election, Republicans have opposed his every move, and many of them even supported Russia against Ukraine. A decade ago, Russia employed DDT’s campaign manager Paul Manafort to guarantee Ukraine didn’t join NATO and suffer economic and political instability.

Pro-DDT congressional members oppose U.S. military involvement in Ukraine. Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) said, “The last thing you ever want to do is have troops at risk.” He wants to first shut down the Nord Stream pipeline scheduled to send natural gas to western Europe. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) doesn’t want U.S. involvement in new foreign military entanglements. Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN) said U.S. “escalation … is not good for anybody concerned.” Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) said, “I think we need to carefully weigh the strategic interests that the U.S. has with relation to Ukraine.”

Yet Biden’s work to unify NATO and play hardball in phone calls with Putin, including threats against Putin’s pipeline, have clearly shown his determination to protect Ukraine. According to Biden, the U.S. will maintain a united front with European allies opposed to Russia invading Ukraine. At the Munich conference, VP Kamala Harris called U.S. support for the NATO alliance “sacrosanct” with “unprecedented” economic penalties in the case of an invasion. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (R-CA) also told the conference that an attack on Ukraine would be “an attack on democracy.” Both the U.S. and EU are providing Ukraine with emergency medical equipment. Biden is making the U.S. a world leader. 


June 16, 2021

Biden Returns, World Changes Continue

President Joe Biden has returned from eight days in Europe—misnamed “vacation” by my conservative newspaper from Eugene (OR)—and ruffled few feathers. Compared to the ongoing disaster from any time Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) left the U.S., the trip appeared productive and short on viral media attention. Six of the G7 countries refused to hold a summit in 2019 because of DDT’s egregious behavior. The Republican National Committee (RNC), however, decided to create controversy.

Biden’s culminating activity of his three-country diplomatic tour was a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva. RNC Communications Director Danielle Alvarez accused Biden of giving Putin a “win,” just by the act of meeting with him, and damned Biden’s “foreign policy failures” that have “strengthened Russia at the expense of our country.” Republicans obviously forgot their support of their man in the White House owned by Putin while GOP legislatures refused to block Russian interference in the presidential elections when DDT was a candidate.

In Helsinki, DDT stood next to Putin, saying he believed the Russian president’s statement that he didn’t interfere and didn’t “see any reason why” Russia would have interfered in 2016, contradicting U.S. intelligence agencies.

Republicans are walking a very fine line, trying to look tough on Russia while kissing the ring of the man who supported Russia in everything it does.

A few of Biden’s accomplishments:

  • Reassurance that the U.S. will be a part of the democratic part of the world by being a more reliable diplomatic presence;
  • Meeting with NATO allies to promise a “rock solid and unshakable” military alliance;
  • A pledge of 500 million doses of COVID vaccine to the world to speed up vaccinations;
  • A joint communiqué from the G7 endorsing a global minimum tax for equity and financing infrastructure projects in the developing world to counter China’s influence;
  • Response to “China’s nonmarket conomic practices and the need to speak out against human rights abuses”;
  • The need for “supply chain resilience and technology standards so that democracies are aligned and supporting each other”;
  • An overhaul of international tax laws to ban large multinational companies from locating tax havens;
  • An investigation of COVID origins in china;
  • Alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, its overseas lending and investing push spread across Africa, Latin America, and into Europe;
  • Freeze on the huge 17-year-old trade dispute between Boeing and Airbus to focus on new competition, possibly from China.

Biden participated in the G7 Summit experiencing success in the world’s respect. When DDT left the White House, he asked Biden not to lose the mythical respect he thought he had gained for the United States. At the end of DDT’s four years, 83 percent of 16 countries lacked confidence in the U.S. president to do the right thing about world affairs whereas 17 percent did. Just a few months into his first term, Biden flipped that lack of confidence in the U.S.: 75 percent of these respondents have confidence in the president, and 22 percent don’t. DDT’s finish had a 63-percent unfavorable view of the U.S. with a 34 percent favorable perspective. The view under Biden is just the opposite—62 percent favorable and 36 percent not.  

A recent example of renewed favorability came after Biden’s conversation with the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson. “It’s a breath of fresh air,” Johnson said about his discussion with Biden regarding what they can accomplish together.

A few nuances keep the U.S. from more positive views, such as using the U.S. as a model of democracy. That, however, is the fault of the GOP and not the president. Republicans are fond of complaining about how Democratic presidents lose “the trust and confidence of our friends,” as Jeb Bush insisted about the Barack administration. Yet President Obama largely repaired the Bush/Cheney damage, and Biden is doing the same thing for the DDT devastation.

While Biden was away from the U.S., Israel’s parliament rejected Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel’s prime minister, but he’s playing the same game that people feared DDT would: he won’t leave the prime minister’s residence. Instead he’s staying there and entertaining foreign dignitaries. Netanyahu stayed at the official residence for six weeks after he was last voted out of office in 1999.

In the United States, Fox’s Tucker Carlson spread another baseless conspiracy theory about the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, that the attack was organized by FBI agents who were present at the riot. Thus far, over 500 of the 800 people in the Capitol have been charged, but Carlson focused on the others who he called FBI operatives. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL) are promoting the lies.

Last Friday, AG Merrick Garland called the expansion of voting rights “to all eligible citizens” a “central pillar” to democracy in the U.S. He promised the DOJ would protect this democracy and doubled the Civil Rights Division’s voting rights enforcement staff with an additional members within 30 days. In addition, he promised to scrutinize “post-election audits to ensure they abide by federal statutory requirements to protect election records and avoid the intimidation of voters.” Garland asked for Congressional help from Congress to pass two bills waiting for Senate action: the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. 

Garland also laid out his strategy to combat domestic terrorism, tying it to the violence of the January 6 insurrection. Citing a number of domestic violence in recent history, he addressed threats by White supremacists and right-wing militia to be stopped by shared information on all government levels, prevention of domestic terrorism recruitment and violent mobilization, blocking domestic terrorism activity, and confronting long-term contributors to domestic terrorism. The task will tackle racism, gun violence, and mass murders with attention to mental health and education promoting tolerance and respect.

At the request of the House Intelligence Committee Democrats, the DOJ’s inspector general is investigating DOJ’s past probes into DDT’s political enemies, including subpoenas collecting metadata from lawmakers, staff, and some family members. DDT even subpoenaed information about his own White House Counsel Don McGahn. Microsoft also received a subpoena in 2017 for a congressional staffer’s personal email account, also with a gag order. DDT’s former AGs Jeff Session and Bill Barr say they know nothing about the investigation. Democratic lawmakers want Barr and Sessions to testify under oath about the investigations. Republicans are determined to block any subpoenas for them. Barr may have lied during his confirmation hearings when he said he knew nothing about whether DDT had pressed the DOJ to open any investigations.

The Pulitzer Board gave Darnella Frazier, who was 17 when she recorded the police officer killing Floyd, a special citation for the video which went viral and led to protests around the world. It was likely an important factor in the policeman’s conviction. The board honored Frazier for “highlighting the crucial role of citizens in journalists’ quest for truth and justice.”

An Alaska indigenous corporation owning 44,000 acres of land near Bristol Bay voted to sell conservation easements to an environmental nonprofit, destroying plans to build a gold and copper mine eliminating the world’s most prolific sockeye salmon fishery. The mining industry has fought for 40 years to buy the easements, but the easements can protect the area from developments, including the mining operation’s plan for an 82-mile road and contamination from the proposed Pebble Mine.

Biden is moving to “repeal or replace” DDT’s rule permitting roads and other developments in over half Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, protected at the end of Bill Clinton’s second term. George W. Bush held timber sales in the national forest before a judge reinstated Clinton’s rule.

Reagan National University in Sioux Falls (SD) lost its accreditation—and federal funds—given by former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who resuscitated a questionable accrediting agency. The school has no students, no faculty, and no classrooms. The agency, which accredited other for-profit schools closing after stealing billions of dollars from students, is also gone.

Former Oregon legislator Mike Nearman made history when he was the first legislative member expelled from the House in its 162 years. He was the only person to vote for him to remain; 22 other Republicans voted against him. During a special session on December 21, Nearman had opened a door in the state capitol allowing violent armed protesters to enter after telling them to text him. He faces criminal misconduct charges. 

Update: A veteran who had his speech censored when the Hudson (OH) American Legion chapter leaders cut off his microphone will give that speech at the Legion’s Buckeye Boys State, teaching male youth about government. In a speech commemorating Memorial Day, Retired Army Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter gave the days history about freed Black slaves beginning the tradition when they honored fallen Union soldiers during the Civil War by burying them, decorating their graves, and holding a parade for them. The Legion chapter is temporarily suspended with a meeting to discuss its future schedule later this month.

May 21, 2021

U.S. Involvement in Israel/Palestine Combat

After 11 days of Hamas-fired rockets and Israeli shelling destroying much of Palestinian infrastructure and killing 232 Palestinians, an Egypt-brokered ceasefire stopped—at least briefly—firing on both sides. Israel’s security cabinet unanimously approved the ceasefire, and Hamas agreed “as long as the occupation is committed.” Twelve Israelis died from the rocketing in the 11 days, including two children; Israel killed at least 65 Palestinian children. 

Hamas said that Israel had granted concessions on several points, but Israel said it only agreed to stop military operations. Israel Defenses said that the 200 hours of bombardment had succeeded in degrading the Hamas’ capability in Gaza. Devastated electricity and water systems are producing a humanitarian crisis, and Israel blocked trucks carrying medical supplies and relief workers into Gaza to help injured Palestinians. (Israel blames Hamas attacks for blocking the trucks.) Shelling also damaged the health and sewage systems, closed schools for 600,000 students, and displaced almost 100,000 people from their homes. 

After defending Israel’s attacks, President Joe Biden told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday that he “expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a cease-fire.” The demand was a huge change from the previous administration giving Netanyahu anything he wanted. With a weak leadership in Israel’s parliament, Netanyahu is caught between needing the U.S. as an ally and the appearance of strength for his right-wing base. U.S. gives over $3 billion a year to Israel and is poised to sell Israel with $735 million of precision-guided weapons. Congress could block this sale, and members of Congress are pointing out that the U.S. knows its sale of billions of dollars of weapons to Israel will be used to displace and kill Palestinians.

Immediately after Biden asked Netanyahu for a “vital de-escalation,” Israel fired on a “variety of targets” in Lebanon. This past week Palestinian workers in Israel and occupied territories went on strike. Violence erupted in cities while stores were shuttered. Palestinians represent 20 percent of the Israeli population in a system of apartheid denying the same rights to Palestinians as to Jews.

Before the 11-day combat, unemployment in Gaza was about 50 percent, and everything going in and out of Gaza, including electricity and fuel, was controlled by Israeli and Egyptian governments. Israel also controls Gaza’s airspace, maritime access, and cellular data as well as restricts Palestinian access to farmland beside Gaza’s perimeter.

Journalists are targets for Israelis: an airstrike killed Palestinian Yusef Abu Hussein in his home and Reema Saad, four months pregnant, with her four-year-old son. Last weekend on the Jewish Sabbath, the military deliberately destroyed the building housing the Associated Press Gaza bureau and other news agencies. Israeli airstrikes damaged or destroyed the offices of at least 18 media outlets. For almost a week, Israel refused to process applications for journalists to cover the conflict, leaving them unsure of when news agencies not already on the ground of when they could be permitted entry. If the AP had not been in Gaza when its building was blown up, it could not get into the area. The AP can continue reporting, but its president described the effect of Israel’s destroying the building where the news agency had a bureau for 15 years:

“The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today.”

Israel’s autocratic behavior mimics the attitude of media-freedom abuse from the previous U.S. administration, and Biden’s administration must now address a principle of free expression and the anti-media sentiment developed during the past four years.

The combat was triggered by Israel’s refusal to permit Palestinians into Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque and its eviction of Palestinian families from their area in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. Israeli law allows Jews to reclaim property they or families owned in Jerusalem before the division of the city into quarters before 1948 if they can prove their ownership, yet 750,000 displaced Palestinians cannot claim rights to property in Jerusalem or other parts of Israel, even if they prove ownership. Thus non-Jewish families are being evicted. Most countries do not recognize Israel’s sovereignty in East Jerusalem and claim that evictions violate international law.

Israeli security forces confronted Palestinian civilians on the most important night of their religious celebration of Ramadan, Laylat-al-Qadr, causing clashes at the Noble Sanctuary, the Temple Mount sacred to both Jews and Muslims. Surrounding countries—Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates—all made official statements of concern or condemnation. Yet the Arab countries all want continued diplomatic, commercial, and security cooperation with Israel.

U.S. presidents generally avoid the issue of Israeli settlements. President George H.W. Bush tried to stop loan guarantees to Israel if the country didn’t stop building settlements, and President Barack Obama pushed Netanyahu into a hiatus of settlement building. Yet, neither Bush nor Obama took action to bring Israel’s growing annexation, violating international law, to any end.

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) assigned his son-in-law Jared Kushner to make peace between Israel and Palestine. Six months before DDT left the White House, he announced peace in the Middle East with the Abraham Accords agreement between Israel and four Arab countries—but no input from Palestine. The announcement of the deal in August 2020 promised the end of Israel’s annexation of Palestine’s West Bank, but the arrangement was only a business transaction to give Netanyahu everything he wanted.

The United Arab Emirates would invest in Israeli hi-tech firms, manufacturing, healthcare, and agriculture while cooperating on military production. Bahrain and Sudan also benefit, and the agreement causes problems in violating international law and diplomacy by recognizing Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara in opposition by the people of that territory. The arrangement also complicates U.S. relationships with Algeria, which supports Western Sahara’s right to self-determination, and North Africa. Palestine, however, is left to the mercy of Israel’s systematic ethnic cleansing while Israel expels Palestinians from their homes and ignores the needs of the other countries in the agreement. Close connections between Kushner and his family with Jewish investments guaranteed favoritism for Israel.

U.S. citizens are large donors to the non-profit Central Fund of Israel funneling money to the Israel Land Fund, which purchases land in Palestinian neighborhoods throughout occupied East Jerusalem to sell to Jewish settlers. These donors receive tax deductions to promote apartheid in the West Bank, giving over $220 million from 2009 to 2013 to Israeli settler organizations. The movement of Jewish settlers into Palestinian land is part of the plan to create Jewish dominance over Palestinians and destroy any hope of a Palestinian state with a capital in part of Jerusalem.

While in the White House, DDT favored not only Netanyahu but also all efforts to destroy Palestine. He removed any financial aid from Palestinians while declaring Jerusalem, belonging to different countries, the “capital” of Israel by moving the U.S. embassy there. He supported Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land and provide aid to Israel. Over a year ago, DDT exhibited how much he was willing to give Netanyahu with his “deal of the century” between Israel and Palestine: Israel wins and Palestine loses in a deal with no Palestinian input.

A February decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) could cause problems for Israel with a ruling that ICC has jurisdiction over war crimes in Palestinian territories committed by Israel and Hamas. Netanyahu rejects the jurisdiction, but Palestinian officials welcome the news. Israel could face charges for the Gaza Strip blockade, settlement policies in which Jews occupy Palestinian land, and the number of Israel attacks against the Palestinians.

For the first time in a conflict between Palestine and Israel, the Democratic party is not acting in concert to support Israel. An authority in the continuing battle between Palestine and Israel, Sahar Aziz, explains that the change comes from the growing understanding in the U.S. of systemic racist oppression from the Black Lives Matter movement, particularly among the younger generation. Like Blacks, Native Americans, and Muslims, Palestinians have been demonized and dehumanized with impunity.

Between 2001 and 2011, over 50 percent of people in the U.S. had sympathies toward Israel compared with under 20 percent for Palestinians. The percentage began to equalize at 25 percent among Democrats in 2018 although Republican voters’ sympathy for Israel stayed at 79 percent. DDT’s xenophobic rhetoric along with the increasing videoed murders of unarmed Black men by police officers pushed a progressive, anti-racist movement among Democrats. By last March, 53 percent of Democrat wished the U.S. government to pressure Israel into compromising about Palestine.

On May 13, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), the first Palestinian elected to Congress, said, “We must with no hesitation demand that our country recognize the unconditional support of Israel has enabled the erasure of Palestinian life.” Twenty-one House members now co-sponsor the bill “Defending the Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Israeli Military Occupation.” It would create more oversight and restrictions on Israel’s use of U.S. foreign aid. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) succinctly explained the bill’s objective:

“Not one dollar more of US military aid can be used to demolish Palestinian homes, annex Palestinian lands, and torture or kill Palestinian children.”

Traditionally, such statements are associated with anti-Semitism, but an anti-racist movement is developing an understanding of Palestinian oppression in at least one U.S. political party.

April 28, 2021

DDT’s Foreign Legacy for Biden

Filed under: Foreign policy — trp2011 @ 12:05 AM

Three months after President Joe Biden replaced Deposed Donald Trump (DD) in the White House, Secretary of State Antony Blinken outlined Biden’s foreign policy, linking it to domestic policy. The focus will be supporting democracy both at home and abroad in opposition to rising authoritarianism. Biden’s strategy of reaching out to people emphasizes human rights and protection of democracy fighters.

Last week, Biden announced that the Ottomans’ massacre of 1.5 million ethnic Armenians was a “genocide.” With another 300,000 displaced, the Ottomans erased 90 percent of the two million Armenians living in the Empire. Because Turkey controls access to the Black Sea bordering Russia and Ukraine, no other president openly admitted this ethnic cleansing, and only 30 other countries have made a formal recognition of the genocide. The term “genocide,” coined in 1944, means destruction of a a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group.

DDT’s bullying of democratic nations and strong support for autocracy left Biden a mess around the world.

Turkey is just one example: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, allied with Russia and the Taliban, purchased a S-400 missile-defense system from the Kremlin. DDT protected Erdogan, for example in 2017 when DDT dropped charges after Erdogan’s security staff who beat up U.S. protesters in Washington, D.C. Even Mike Pompeo, DDT’s Secretary of State, expressed concern after Biden’s election about Turkey, referring to the country’s “recent actions” as “very aggressive.” He was alluding to Turkey’s support for Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Armenia and military moves in Libya and the Mediterranean. Turkey angrily tweeted a demand that Biden retract the claim of genocide.

Russia is putting tens of thousands of military members on its border along Ukraine in a threat to take its territory after illegally annexing the Crimean Peninsula in 2014. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has asked the U.S. for help, and Biden proposed a summit with Vladimir Putin to discuss this problem as well as others. Putin may use the pandemic to try to take over other countries.

Iran, to the southeast of Ukraine, has accelerated its nuclear program after DDT dropped out of the agreement to restrict its buildup. The U.S. and Iranian negotiators have met in Vienna to discuss the reinstatement of U.S. involvement in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Israel has attacked Iran, including the Iranian nuclear facility in Natanz to sabotage efforts between Iran and the U.S. by causing an armed conflict between the two countries. In the North Arabian Sea, a U.S. Navy ship fired warning shots because three vessels from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) came close within 200 feet of the U.S. ship and refused to back off. It is the second incident this month. During the nuclear talks, Iran is requesting a prisoner exchange with the U.S.

The U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been a problem for every 21st-century president since George W. Bush started the violence to please the hawks in his administration. DDT had already promised to withdraw the last troops. Biden announced he will follow through with the plan by September 11, 2021—the 20th anniversary of attacks on the U.S. by 19 Middle Easterners, three-fourths of them from Saudi Arabia. Some of Biden’s GOP opposition tries to use the decision against him, but Pakistan hides Taliban members taking action against Afghans. Last year, DDT signed a peace agreement with the Taliban, but they failed to keep the terms.

Israel has typically been popular with people in the United States, but DDT spent his four years reinforcing Israel’s attempts to destroy the Palestinians. DDT’s family profited by the Israeli developments on the Palestinian land, and evangelicals loved DDT because they want the Israelis to control all the property in preparation for the End Times when Christ returns. The racist legal system perpetrated by Israelis is now being described as apartheid, like that in 1990s South Africa, by an increasing number of Israel’s and global watchdogs.  

Mainland China and Taiwan, considered a breakaway province by China, have developed tense relationship. The U.S. considers Taiwan to have territorial integrity, but China is now started moving into Taipei’s airspace, and China sounds increasingly angry. After four years of DDT, the U.S. may no longer have a military edge over China.

Korea may regain visibility in Biden’s foreign policy after DDT tried to renew his love affair with North Korea President Kim Jong-Un:

“Kim Jong-un of North Korea, who I have gotten to know (and like) under the most trying of circumstances, never respected the current President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in. President Moon was weak as a leader and as a negotiator, except when it came to the continued, long term military ripoff of the USA… We were treated like fools for decades, however, I got them to pay billions of dollars more for the military protection and services we render.”

Moon has asked Biden to return to negotiations with North Korea after two years of DDT’s failure to complete an agreement regarding North Korea’s nuclearization. Kim has consistently tested intermediate-range ballistic missiles possibly targeting Hawaii and Alaska despite DDT’s claim that he had stopped. DDT declared “there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea” and canceled or downsized the annual joint military drills with South Korea. Biden insisted “some form of diplomacy [with North Korea] must be conditioned upon the end result of denuclearization.” The U.S. stations 28,500 military members in South Korea and never officially ended the Korean War because the South Korea president in 1953 refused to sign the armistice treaty.

For the majority of the 21st century, George W. Bush and DDT tried to destroy the International Criminal Court, climate control, and the UN’s attempt to prevent armed conflict. DDT followed Bush’s destructive nature by cheering on Brexit, alienating NATO allies, and pulling the U.S. out of every agreement that helped protect the United States. Their goals were to create chaos and block order and stability. On top of that, U.S. conservatives are determined to erase democracy and move on to autocracy.

Last September, U.S. standing in the world dropped to unbelievable lows. Two months before the 2020 presidential election, 13 surveyed countries gave these favorable impressions of the U.S.: Germans, 26 percent; Dutch, 30 percent; French, 31 percent; Australians and Swedes, 33 percent; Canadians, 35 percent; and Japanese and British, 41 percent. Only South Koreans were over 50 percent. Before DDT’s election, favorability of these countries ranged between 57 percent (Germany) and 72 percent (Japan). Only 15 percent of respondents gave favorable responses to DDT’s “handling” of the coronavirus, half the approval for China. Of U.S. allies, 83 percent had no confidence in DDT, but only 16 percent trusted him to do the right thing in world affairs.

In the U.S., 62 percent of people in the U.S. rejected DDT’s isolationist policies, saying COVID’s lesson is the need to “coordinate and collaborate with other countries to solve global issues.” Most people wanting to take an active part in world affairs (68 percent) and looking at globalization as “mostly good” for the U.S. (65 percent) self-identify as Democrats and unaffiliated. Republicans supporting globalization dropped from 62 percent in 2014 to 55 percent last September.

Biden’s strategies to deal with DDT’s mess, some accomplished in his first 100 days:

  • Selecting centrists in foreign policy officials who tackle corruption and review using armed drones outside active battlefields to satisfy progressives;
  • Returning the U.S. to agreements such as the Paris climate agreement and the Iran denuclearization deal;
  • Reversing DDT’s Muslim ban;
  • Lifting sanctions against International Criminal Court officials;
  • Deliberating through consultation on important issues for collaboration instead making unilateral tweets;
  • Convening groups to deepen ties such as his work with the Quad—Australia, India, and Japan—and the recent summit with 40 nations for climate discussions;
  • Holding countries such as China and Russia to account without becoming disengaged;
  • Remaining calm, the attitude called “boring” by DDT supporters, in messaging and purpose;
  • Reentering global leadership.

DDT’s foreign policy “style,” full of bombast and “me-ism,” focused on isolationism, white supremacy, blackmail, and general disinterest. Biden wants a return to world cooperation, peace, and democracy. Some far-right and far-left groups give Biden low grades for his first 100 days of foreign policy. Nothing happens instantly, however, and the Philadelphia Inquirer has been more positive about Biden’s actions and plans in the foreign arena. Biden’s work in building distrust after DDT’s insults to European and Asian leaders is important to fight unfair trade policies and authoritarian control. With China, Biden has more of a waiting game while he repairs the infrastructure, necessary to develop improved technologies. Perhaps his best move thus far came from straight talk with Russia.

One-hundred days isn’t long—less than seven percent of Biden’s term—and he’s been saving lives by handling the pandemic so badly botched by his predecessor. Yet Biden has created a sense of optimism and hope for the future throughout a large part of the world while DDT leads his followers into more violent insurrection against the U.S. government.

December 30, 2020

UK Secedes from EU with ‘Brexit’

Filed under: Foreign policy — trp2011 @ 11:54 PM
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The holiday week between Christmas and New Year’s Day continued the U.S. angst. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is still looking for scams to stay in the Oval Office, he’s growing more and more angry spouting more and more lies, and his attempts to get the courts to rule in his favor still fail. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is still declaring people in the U.S. don’t need any money when more and more of them are dropping below the poverty line, and he’s still blocking Democratic bills.

Across the pond, however, the United Kingdom is settling its divorce with the European Union after 47 years. That separation is relevant to people in the U.S., however, because it affects world trade—and southern states occasionally threaten to secede from the Union.

The UK’s problem started a few months before the U.S. problems started with the 2016 election of DDT. The cause was the same—dissatisfied conservatives, largely white and many rural, who just wanted a change and wanted to make the nation white. Some people voted for “Brexit,” the British exit from the EU, as a joke. Others didn’t bother to vote because they figured it wouldn’t pass. While the U.S. has spent the past four years suffering agonies DDT inflicted on the nation, the UK lost world status, and political careers tanked, including two prime ministers.

In 1,317 days, the UK failed two exit deadlines through dozens of Parliament votes until a flat finish line forced by the EU at midnight, December 31, 2020, pushed the Brits into a negotiation to avoid a complete and disastrous “no-deal” break with the 27 EU country coalition. As with the minority U.S. support of DDT, only the UK minority supported Brexit In both countries, the more vocal minority disagrees that opening borders and greater global relationships strengthen countries and give a better path to peace and prosperity.

A 14-hour parliamentary process culminated in an approval vote by MPs of 521 to 73 for the agreement, and the House of Lords was unopposed. The Queen also signed an approval, putting the UK-EU agreement into British law. The deal has one more hurdle, passing the EU parliament, but the EU already removed all evidence—chairs, post office boxes, etc.—of any UK presence. 

Most people may not feel the impact of the agreement during the transition period for the next year. The EU wouldn’t negotiate new arrangements with the UK while it was still a member; the year-long transition allows for working out details. Problems still exist with lack of access to security databases, broken promises over fishing rights in UK water, and unanswered border questions for Gibraltar and Northern Ireland, both having no land access to the UK. Trade will be a problem for the UK because it has a goods deficit with EU despite a surplus in service industries such as finance.

The UK remains part of the EU’s economic institutions and security co-operation arrangements until the end of the transition period. The EU will treat the UK as a member of the single market and customs union and asked its trade partners to do the same. People from the UK can move freely among the 27 EU countries during the transition, and the UK will be subject to EU law and rulings of the European Court of Justice. Although the UK has access to EU databases such as Europol, some EU countries such as Germany cannot extradite citizens with the European Arrest Warrant to non-members.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson made his reputation by putting together an agreement. A summary of the deal. A few highlights of the 1,000+ page deal:

Fishing: The value of fish caught by the EU in UK waters will be cut by 25 percent, less than the UK wanted. At the end of five and a half years, the UK will control access to its waters and might make deeper cuts, possibly even excluding EU fishing boats. This area was the hardest to negotiate, and people in the industry aren’t satisfied

Trade: With no tariffs between the EU and UK, the UK has to meet EU standards, a positive result for labor rights activists because the EU is traditionally more worker-friendly than the UK. “Leavers” are the losers because they wanted to move EU companies to the UK with promises of fewer worker protections.

“Level playing field’: Measures commit both the UK and the EU to common standards on workers’ rights and many social and environmental regulations, an EU demand. UK doesn’t have to follow EU law but must protect fair competition.

Dispute resolution: If either UK or EU moves from current standards with a negative impact on the other side, a dispute mechanism could trigger tariffs. These can be targeted in one sector from a dispute in another. Binding arbitration involves both sides. Tariffs may be an ongoing threat.

European Court of Justice (ECJ): EU remains arbiter of European law, but the ECI doesn’t play a role in policing the agreement except in Northern Ireland which has a special status. Northern Ireland, part of the UK separated by land from both UK and EU, remains subject to EU single market and customs union rules, making ECI the highest legal authority there.

Travel: UK nationals will need a visa to stay in the EU more than 90 days in a 180-day period. They can use their health cards (EHICs) until they expire when they will be replaced a new UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). EU pet passports will no longer be valid although people can travel with pets under a more complicated process. The International mobile roaming remains, but UK travelers could be charged for using phones in EU and vice versa. UK citizens can use their licenses to drive in EU but need a Green Card as proof for vehicle insurance.

Financial services: The UK hopes for “equivalence” decisions, but the EU needs “further clarifications.”

Data: A concern about protection rules for UK companies dealing with EU data wants easy communication as well as protection of personal data and privacy. EU agrees to four months, extendable by two more months, to exchange data, the same as current rules if the UK doesn’t change its data protection rules.

Product standards: The “mutual recognition of conformity assessment” means less intrusive checks than otherwise. Thus far, there is no agreement on conformity assessment that UK wanted. New barriers to trade, however, may require checking products twice to seek them in both UK and EU. Exporting food of animal origin may be very intrusive and costly going into EU.

Professional qualifications: UK citizens from doctors to chefs lose the ease of being licensed throughout the EU if licensed in the UK, creating greater difficulties for them to seek employment in the EU. They may need to apply in each of EU’s 27 countries.

Education: UK students can no longer participate in the Erasmus education-exchange program where they could study in any EU university.

Security: The UK loses automatic and immediate access to some EU databases used by police for criminal records, wanted persons, etc. Gone is “real time” access, and others, such as access of names of people taking flights, will be much more restrictive than currently. It keeps access to other databases such as the system which cross-checks fingerprints across the continent. The UK can sit in on Europol meetings but have no direct say in decisions. A new committee will settle disagreements over data instead of the European Court of Justice.

Current advantages of the agreement:

  • Zero tariffs and quotas on goods.
  • No hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
  • A shared commitment to protecting the environment, to fight against climate change and carbon pricing.
  • A shared commitment to protecting social and labor rights.
  • Keeping standards on tax transparency.
  • The UK’s continued participation in a number of EU programs until 2027 such as Horizon Europe, subject to a UK financial contribution.

Sasha Abramsky writes:

“Brits have, as a culmination of a nearly five-year fit of national orneriness, finally traded away the right to live and work and study in 27 other countries in exchange for a series of platitudes about ‘reclaiming sovereignty’ and ‘controlling our destiny’ and protecting from greedy continental fishermen a fishing catch that makes up a smaller percentage of the national economy than does the single department store of Harrods.”

In November, 51 percent of people thought Brexit is wrong compared with 38 percent who approve. Of the respondents to the poll, 59 percent of respondents believe Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government handled the exit badly with only 28 percent believing the process went well.

Meanwhile, back in the U.S., daily COVID-19 statistics on December 30, 2020: 234,550 new cases and 3,880 deaths.

July 2, 2020

Could Russia Be DDT’s Waterloo?

When the world learned that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) ignored information about Russians putting bounties on the heads of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, he hoped the firestorm would disappear in a few days. Instead, it has been on the media as much as the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. for the past five days and seems to be getting worse. Each one of those days has brought out more information.

Tonight, the New York Times reported about Rahmatullah Azizi, the chief go-between who took money from the Russians to give it to Taliban-connected fighters. About six months ago, security agencies arrested dozens of his relatives and associates, but Azizi had sneaked back to Russia, leaving about a half million dollars in one of his homes in Kabul. The dead body of a U.S. military member is worth $100,000.

Azizi’s role has been confirmed in a dozen interviews with U.S. and Afghan officials, neighbors and friends, and business associates of the other middlemen. He began as a drug smuggler in his 20s, moving his product into Iran. When he returned to Afghanistan, U.S.-led coalition forces gave him contracts to build roads in Kunduz before he moved on to a connection with Russia. One of his friends said he went from “not even having a blanket” to having security escorts and owning several expensive houses and cars. Other evidence against Azizi came from large financial transfers from Russia’s GRU to Taliban-connected militants.

For years, both U.S. and Afghan officials have believed that Russia was undermining the U.S. in Afghanistan and aiding the Taliban through covert operations. Only recently, however, did the U.S. confirm that the Russians were paying bounties on members of U.S. military out of its overseas assassination arm of the Russian military intelligence, Unit 29155 called GRU that helped DDT get elected.  A couple of their activities since DDT moved into the White House are the hacking of Democratic Party email accounts in 2016 and the nerve agent attack in Salisbury (England) in 2018.

Intelligence reports that the Russia has tired of prolonged U.S. presence and switched allegiance to the Taliban but tried to look as if it supported the U.S. until Afghanistan picked its power source. U.S. discovery of the bounty money in 2019 was at the same time as negotiations with the Taliban to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

Today’s reporting also reveals that the bounty information was in the written February 27, 2020, President’s Daily Brief (PDB), much to the frustration of White House officials who insisted that DDT was never told. The officials shifted to insistence that the information was uncertain, but intelligence agencies don’t put anything into daily briefings until it has been thoroughly vetted. DDT has changed his own story almost daily in the past five days, perhaps settling on never having heard of it while going back to his favorite word, “hoax.”  

The day before DDT ignored the PDB about Russia paying the Taliban to kill U.S. troops, he had a press briefing to assure the people of the United States that COVID-19 would disappear within the week. [Four months and four days later, the U.S. has 2,779,953 confirmed cases and 130,798 deaths from the disease. The number of new cases hit a high of 51,097 yesterday.] VP Mike Pence, assigned at the virus press briefing to solve the problem, spent February 27, 2020 at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and met with Trumper media, including Sean Hannity and Eric Bollins (Sinclair TV host).

DDT’s schedule for February 27, 2020, lists a 45-minute meeting with lead actors of a low-budget conservative play about what he calls the Deep State. Phelim McAleer, the playwright of FBI Lovebirds: Undercovers slamming fired FBI agent Peter Strzok and fired FBI lawyer Lisa Page who had discussed DDT’s campaign in 2016, said that the meeting last three times as long as scheduled. “He loves it, he loves the play,” McAleer said about the play’s concept. A video of the play was presented to CPAC the next day.

The other responsibility on DDT’s schedule for February 27, 2020, was meeting with his vlogger fans Diamond & Silk (left) along with about 20 other Black supporter including Candace Owens, Isaiah Washington, and Alveda King. They all gave him lavish praise and huddled around him for a prayer. He bragged about his criminal reform which benefits white-collar criminals and called the 25 confirmed COVID-19 cases a “miracle” from the U.S. “incredible achievement” in defeating the disease. He wanted credit for his handling and said, “If we were doing a bad job, we should also be criticized. But we have done an incredible job.” [FYI: He’s doing a bad job and keeps lying about his accomplishments or ignores the pandemic.]

Otherwise, he was rattled by the plummeting of the stock market from the COVID-19 crisis and the slow movement of the peace agreement with the Taliban. An intelligence briefing was scheduled for 2:30 pm, his preferred time so he can tweet in the morning, and a reception for African American History Month was at the White House that evening. He added a few people to his new coronavirus task force throughout the day and muddied up the leadership. Two days after DDT’s PDB included info on Russia’s paying the Taliban to kill U.S. troops, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signed an agreement with the Taliban to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan.  

Six months ago, former Republican Max Boot wrote a piece explaining how DDT acts as a Russian asset:

  • His long financial history with Russia.
  • Russian interference to help elect DDT president.
  • DDT’s encouragement for Russians to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails on July 27, 2016.
  • His attempt to cover up the 101 contacts between his campaign and Russia-connected operatives.
  • The number of DDT’s campaigners—Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, and Michael Flynn—close to Russia.
  • Manafort’s admission he offered his Russian-connected business partner with polling data, useful for Russians using social media to interfere in the presidential campaign on DDT’s part.
  • Roger Stone’s advance knowledge about Russians hacking Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails.
  • DDT’s firing FBI Director James Comey to stop the investigation of the “Russia thing” and bragged about it to the Russian ambassador and foreign minister in the Oval Office while revealing top-secret information to them.
  • DDT’s firing AG Jeff Sessions because he did end the special counsel investigation after Comey was fired.
  • DDT’s constant refusal to acknowledge Russia interfered in the U.S. election or mobilize an effort to stop future interference because he accepts Vladimir Putin’s denial in doing it.
  • DDT’s attacks on and undermining of the DOJ, the FBI, the European, and NATO to support Russia.
  • His support of populist, pro-Russian leaders in Europe; i.e., Viktor Orban (Hungary) and Marine Le Pen (France).
  • DDT’s praise and worship of Putin, “a strong leader,” while denigrating almost everyone else from celebrities to leaders of allied nations.
  • DDT’s hiding his conversation with Putin, even taking notes from his interpreter and telling her not to tell anyone about the meeting.
  • DDT’s defense of Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan.
  • His repetition of pro-Russian talking points.
  • His pulling U.S. troops out of Syria, presenting the country to Russia and Putin’s ally Iran.
  • DDT’s refusal to respond to the Russian attack on Ukrainian ships in international waters to encourage greater Russian aggression.
  • DDT’s sowing chaos in the U.S. government with a partial government shutdown and multiple “acting” appointments in key posts to meet the Russian goal of undermining the United States.

Former national security adviser Susan Rice added to the ways DDT supports Russia and Vladimir Putin.

Russia has escalated its aggression toward the U.S. in the past few weeks—new cyberattacks on U.S. employees working from home, Russian jets testing U.S. air defenses off the Alaska coast, etc. Yet DDT’s administration has no strategy for deterring Russia behavior. Pompeo is still claiming Crimea will never be Russian territory although Russia annexed that part of Ukraine six years ago. In his new book, however, John Bolton wrote DDT “repeatedly objected to criticizing Russia and pressed us not to be so critical of Russia publicly.” DDT’s only strategy with Russia is to be “friends.”

For once, Republican lawmakers have not come out en masse to support DDT’s denial. Maybe some of them found a sale on spines. But Republicans still refuse to support a bill requiring presidential campaigns to report offers of foreign election help. One excuse—not reason—might be the ignorance of Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee: GOP members refuse to attend.

Military veterans have been loyal to DDT for almost four years despite his selling them out, over and over. Allowing Russians to pay the Taliban to kill U.S. troops may be a bridge too far for them. The fractures started with DDT’s threats to militarize states in the midst of protests become wide fissures after the public learned that DDT’s administration has ignored widespread assassinations of their comrades in active duty under the leadership of their commander in chief. The loss of their votes in November will hurt him as much as his loss of white suburban women.

March 16, 2020

Congress, Russia, Saudi, Corruption

Last Friday night, the House passed a covid-19 bill by a large bipartisan majority. Unfortunately, it needed a “technical fix,” which requires a unanimous vote if the House isn’t called back into session. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) delayed the vote because he didn’t want a “rushed process,” according to Bloomberg reporter Laura Litvan. He also said that he didn’t know if it can be solved soon. The fix addressed virus-related sick leave for small firms. Gohmert finally withdrew his opposition after Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin gave DDT’s stamp of approval. Because of virus concerns, the House has postponed a return to Washington for an indefinite time.

The Senate recessed for the weekend and is stalling before considering the emergency bill until after it considers the surveillance bill that the House passed last week. (That one’s a doozy: it includes the provision that AG Bill Barr must approve in writing any investigation of an elected official and/or a candidate.) Even after the Senate addresses the covid-19 bill, there will be vitriolic discussions. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) told Fox & Friends that the bill may not pass the Senate because senators don’t want sick leave for people home with the virus. He wants tax rebates which could take far more time to be reimbursed than paid sick leave.

The Senate couldn’t meet over the weekend because Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had to go home with Justice Brett Kavanaugh to celebrate the new 37-year-old federal judge, considered the most unqualified judge that McConnell has ever pushed through confirmation. It’s called campaigning for the fall election.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) [right] also complained about the paid sick leave because it might hurt businesses although the bill covers the cost with a tax credit. Without sick leave, most of these people with covid-19 will go to work and spread the disease. Johnson said it might be better for the Senate to “pass nothing at all.”

Last week, Johnson pulled a vote on a subpoena from the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that he hoped would find damaging information about Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son, in Ukraine. A bipartisan group persuaded him about the Ukrainian’s unreliability as a source for the committee’s investigation. The vote, however, is only postponed. Johnson said he will issue a subpoena to a lobbying firm for the Ukrainian energy company paying Hunter Biden as a board member. Committee staff members have worked on investigations helping DDT in his reelection campaign. U.S. intelligence agencies maintain that Andrii Telizhenko, Johnson’s source, has spread disinformation about Ukraine’s involvement in the 2016 election to minimize actual Russian interference. Telizhenko, a friend of Rudy Giuliani, has appeared on the ultra-conservative One America News Network.

While DDT struggles with rapidly increasing numbers of covid-19 cases and deaths in the U.S., Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman continues his path to keep power in his country. He detained four senior princes, possible heirs to the throne, in Riyadh, including MBS’s uncle Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz and cousin Mohammed bin Nayef. They were charged with treason which carries the death penalty. MBS had replaced Nayef as crown prince in 2017 and has run the kingdom since then. Prince Ahmed returned to Saudi from Britain after assurances that he would be safe. MBS consolidated his power in 2017 by arresting hundreds of princes, government ministers, and business people and detaining them in Riyadh.

Saudi is struggling with dropping oil prices and MBS’ decision to block pilgrims from Mecca because of the virus outbreak. Aramco’s profits dropped 21 percent last year to $88.2 billion, and it is lowering capital spending for 2020. The world has also not forgotten MBS’ murder of U.S. resident and journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. MBS is now repeating his 2017 actions by arresting hundreds more government officials, including military and security officers, for bribery and exploiting public office. The purge also added 16 more princes, two members of the council which decides the throne’s succession, and two judges.

In late February, MSP Patrick Harvie of the Scottish Parliament asked his colleagues to investigate DDT’s deals in which he acquired his Scotland properties, including the two multi-million dollar golf courses. Harvie said that DDT or people he’s tied with could be connected to serious crime and is seeking an “unexplained wealth order” from a Scottish court. The order is for “suspected foreign officials who have potentially laundered stolen money through the UK.” If the subject “cannot show a legitimate source for their riches,” the government can seize properties.

History will remember that Utah’s Mitt Romney was the only GOP senator who voted to impeach DDT. Payoffs for other GOP senators who claimed they voted against impeachment because DDT had “learned his lesson”:

  • Lamar Alexander (TN) – $9 million for high-speed broadband infrastructure projects;
  • Susan Collins (ME) – $9.5 million for affordable housing units;
  • Cory Gardner (CO) – $20 million for airport upgrades;
  • Lisa Murkowski (AK) – $20 million Port Infrastructure Development Program grant for Phase One costs at the Port of Alaska.

Collins, up for a difficult reelection this year, voted to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh despite his anti-abortion stand and for the tax cut benefiting the wealthy and big business even if she said she didn’t like it. She’s at the bottom of the Senate popularity contest and may lower her rating with the latest find. In 2009, she refused to include pandemic flu funding in an economic stimulus bill during the Great Recession. Democrats warned that the $870 million from the $787 billion would keep them from fighting an infectious disease outbreak, but she promised to withdraw her vote for the bill if that money was included. She said the funds “do not boost our economy” and persuaded two other Republicans to follow her example.

Eric Prince, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ brother and heir to $1 billion, advises DDT and almost persuaded him to let Prince set up a private military service for the U.S.. Congress accused Prince of lying under oath and referred criminal charges to the DOJ, a useless action since Bill Barr became AG. In the past, Prince moved to the UAE to keep from federal prosecution and claims that he is untouchable. Now the FBI is investigating Prince for trying to modify two U.S. crop-dusting planes into attack aircraft, a violation of arms trafficking regulations. He used the planes as part of the private services he suggested selling or using in Africa and Azerbaijan. The FBI investigation includes his lying to Congress and an armed aviation proposal to the UAE along with heightened scrutiny of Barr.

Prince has recruited U.S. and British spies to work with the right-wing group Project Veritas, known for doctored videos in false stings, to infiltrate at least one Democratic congressional campaign for Abigail Spanberger and organizations “considered hostile” to DDT. Ex MI6 officer Richard Seddon ran a 2017 operation to copy files and record conversations in an office of the teachers’ union AFT. In late 2015 or early 2016, Prince arranged for James O’Keefe and his Project Veritas to receive training in intelligence and elicitation techniques from a retired military intelligence operative named Euripides Rubio Jr. Rubio soon quit, saying that the Veritas group couldn’t learn.

DDT’s defense against Russian interference to elect him is to repeat that he’s tough on Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin. Here are some of DDT’s favors for Russia:

  • DDT appointed his own loyalists to head up the intelligence agencies who ordered employees not to release information and who say that there’s no evidence of Russian interference.
  • DDT sent anti-tank missiles to Ukraine under conditions that make them useless against Russia.
  • DDT spread a disinformation campaign that Ukraine was responsible for the election interference, not Russia.
  • DDT protected Russia by withholding aid to Ukraine until publicity made him uncomfortable.
  • DDT still refuses to invite Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to the White House to help Zelensky negotiate with Putin.
  • DDT’s sanctions on Iran helps Russia by boosting the price of oil.
  • DDT strengthened Russia’s longtime ally, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and ended support for moderate Syrian rebels which Russia wants.
  • DDT removed U.S. forces out of northern Syria, abandoned the Kurdish U.S. allies, and allowed Russians to move into abandoned U.S. bases.
  • DDT helped Russia in Libya by giving Khalifa Hifter information for overthrowing a UN-backed government in Tripoli.
  • Sanctions on Russia were done over DDT’ objections, and DDT persuaded the GOP Senate to lift them on Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.
  • DDT weakened NATO through incessant criticism and portrayal of the members as deadbeats.
  • DDT always believes Putin and never criticizes him.
  • DDT’s biggest help for Russia is his spreading chaos in the U.S. and its government through polarization of the U.S. people and denigrating U.S. intelligence officers and diplomats.

As the commentator on a popular Russian TV show said:

“I look at Trump and think: ‘May God grant him good health — and another term.’ This is a great situation for Russia.”

And the Republican Party blindly backs DDT and pro-Russia policies against U.S. benefits.

March 1, 2020

DDT Goes to India, Woos Taliban

Last week before Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) came home to the worst decline in the stock market since 2008 and the possibility of an epidemic in the U.S., he spent two happy days with another authoritarian. Jealous of the 50,000 audience for India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Houston, DDT was promised a much bigger crowd during his stay on a trip to India. At a rally, 100,000 attendees cheered DDT before over one-third of them walked out of the cricket stadium during his speech. Another third left during Modi’s speech. In Ahmedabad, a city of six million, Modi failed to come up with the 10 million along the motorcade path, but he did provide costumed musicians, dancers, and a marching band on camels. [Visual Trump India]

During press conferences, DDT avoided Modi’s international condemnation for revoking the statehood of Muslims and establishing a religious test for new migrants to make India a Hindu nation and drive out the 200 million Muslims. DDT was supposed to talk “about our shared tradition of democracy and religious freedom” but instead skipped the subject. While police used tear gas and smoke grenades to disperse crowds in New Delhi, DDT spoke of India as a place where different faiths “worship side by side in harmony.” He ignored both the violence and the anti-Islam law. 

DDT may have hoped that his visit to the state of Gujarat would help him get donations and votes from influential Indian-Americans, It’s also the place where Modi tacitly supported the killing of over 1,000 people in 2002 in sectarian violence, almost 80 percent of them Muslims killed by Hindu mobs. George W. Bush banned Modi from visiting the U.S. because of his actions until he became prime minister in 2014. Like today’s sectarian violence, police didn’t intervene and sometimes joined in that attacks. Last week, over 30 people were killed in protests. George W. Bush banned Modi from visiting the U.S. because of his actions until he became prime minister in 2014. Both DDT and Modi achieved political power through inciting hatred of Muslims. The Delhi riots bear a strong resemblance to the ethnic pogrom in Gujarat almost two decades ago.

Modi, hurt by a steep economic downturn, can’t fulfill campaign promises on job creation. DDT imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum from India that raised penalties on agricultural goods and restrictions on U.S. medical devices. DDT retaliated by removing India from a decades-old preferential trade program.

Michael Fuchs wrote:

“The leaders of the world’s two biggest democracies are pursuing dangerous, nationalist visions at odds with their countries’ founding values.”

Both DDT and Modi achieved political power through inciting hatred of Muslims. The Delhi riots bear a strong resemblance to the ethnic pogrom in Gujarat almost two decades ago.

Yasmeen Serhan echoed Fuchs’ statement about democracies moving to autocracies

“As the leaders of the world’s two largest democracies, their shared disregard for norms, disdain for dissent (from the media and elsewhere), and dedication to strengthening their own executive power at the expense of state institutions designed to curb it have made them emblematic of the democratic deterioration that has been taking place in recent years.

“A mainstay of autocratic rule is the consolidation of executive power…. Trump’s bid to extend his presidential authority in the U.S. has steadily increased over time, from his attempts to defy Congress and the Constitution over his hardline immigration policies to his impeachment-spurring efforts to withhold congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine. In both cases, Trump’s rationale was largely the same: to invoke presidential privilege or, in autocratic speak, to declare himself constitutionally above the law. White House withholding press briefings and attacking news outlets and journalists perceived as critical.

“But perhaps the most common trait among burgeoning autocrats in recent years is the growing appeal to populist and nationalist sentiment. This has been most pronounced in India through Modi’s efforts to transform the country from a secular democracy into a theocratic, nationalist one that dominates its minorities. In the U.S., Trump has made his nativist rhetoric about immigration a hallmark of his administration.”

In praising Modi, DDT may have thought he was criticizing China, but he described his own approach to ruling the U.S.:

“There is all the difference in the world between a country that seeks to claim power through coercion, intimidation and aggression, and a country that seeks to grow by setting its people free, and unleashing them to chase their dreams, and that is India.”

Protests have come from the Indian 2019 Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) which grants amnesty to non-Muslim immigrants from three nearby Muslim-majority countries—Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh—who came to India before 2015 in an expansion of the 1951 National Register of Citizens. Assam, which borders Bangladesh, has been registering “Indian” citizens since the 1951 census but now works to expel Muslims as “foreigners.” To stay in the country, Muslims, unlike those of any other religion, must provide proof that their families migrated to India before 1971, the year that Bangladesh declared independence from Pakistan and created a refugee crisis. Generations of Indian Muslims born and raised in India must produce their grandparents’ legal documents, which in many cases no longer exist, or leave.

Under DDT, the U.S. stripped Latinx of citizenship even if they were born in the U.S. and have birth certificates. Officials demand documents such as baptismal records and ask questions such as “Do you remember when you were born?” Some had passports revoked, put in deportation proceedings, and barred from returning to the U.S. if they visited Mexico. The project began on the southern border but moved north to central states. DDT’s Muslim bans also draw parallels to Modi’s driving Muslims out of India.

AG Bill Barr created a new office to denaturalize citizens who committed any crimes. The new section replaces the one investigating cases about revoking citizenship for those convicted of terrorism, war crimes, human rights violations, and sex offenses. Under President Obama, the office focused on people who falsified applications and committed major crimes. Since 2008, 228 denaturalization cases have been filed, 40 percent of them since 2017. In three years, case referrals have increased 600 percent. Under DDT, the process may be used against people who make misstatements on the application.

Human rights lawyer Arjun Sethi called DDT and Modi the “worst kind of fascists.”

“Both Modi and Trump have criminalized minority communities, championed fake news and persecuted dissent, promoted supremacist ideologies, and played on the racism and anxiety of dominant communities.”

DDT’s visit to India also brought up his business ventures, the most in any country except the U.S. His India ventures include four luxury residential projects and an office tower branded with the Trump name under licensing deals. Since DDT’s last visit to India in 2014, one of DDT’s business has been accused of massive fraud, and the other faces a funding crunch. Both of them have close ties to Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. 

The week concluded by the U.S. and the Taliban signing an agreement that would begin the complete withdrawal of U.S. and other foreign troops from Afghanistan over 14 months after over 18 years, the longest war on foreign soil. The text is here. Estimates of that war cost for the U.S. is almost $8 trillion by 2050. Secretary of State Pompeo said that the Afghans need to determine the future of their country, but no Afghans were at the table for the negotiation. It was entirely one-sided by the Taliban with the U.S. running the show.

According to the agreement, the Taliban will break off ties to terror groups, but nothing was said about human rights—oppression of females and harsh punishments exacted against anyone for petty offenses. The Taliban agreed that Afghan soil will not be used by terrorists to attack the United States or its allies, but it does not have control over areas outside Afghan hands. Several factions, including ISIS, control areas and could grow stronger without U.S. troops. Former national security adviser John Bolton wrote:

“Legitimizing Taliban sends the wrong signal to ISIS and al-Qaeda terrorists, and to America’s enemies generally.”

The deal stipulates that the badly-split Afghan government must organize a negotiating team to begin talks with the Taliban by March 10. On the same day, before any talks, thousands of Taliban prisoners held by Afghans must be released in exchange for 1,000 Taliban-held members of the Afghan security forces. Twenty-two GOP lawmakers have issued a warning letter to Pompeo and DOD Secretary Mark Esper that the Taliban has “a history of extracting concessions in exchange for false assurances.” 

Under DDT, the U.S. signed an agreement with an officially listed terrorist group, the Haqqani Network, which has a campaign of suicide bombings. The Network’s leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is the Taliban’s deputy leader and military commander. A day before the signing ceremony, the Taliban’s multimedia chief described it as a historic landmark for proclaiming “the defeat of the arrogance of the White House in the face of the white turban.” Pompeo indicated that he doesn’t trust the Taliban to live up to the agreement; DDT said he wants to meet with them.

We have ten days to see any success. 

January 29, 2020

Israeli, DDT ‘Peace Plan’ Lose-Lose

In an attempt to avoid bad publicity from his impeachment trial, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has announced his “deal of the century” between Israel and Palestine that he claims will create peace between the long-time adversaries. The “deal,” supposedly written by DDT’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner but covered with Israeli fingerprints, has these provisions:

Israel would annex 30 percent of the Palestinian West Bank occupied by Israel with illegal Jewish-only settlements since 1967, Arab East Jerusalem, and the Jordan Valley.

Palestinians would have limited autonomy in primarily urban enclaves surrounded by Israel acquisitions.

Israel would control Palestinian borders, immigration, security, airspace, and aquifers.

Jerusalem would be Israel’s “undivided” capital with a possible Palestinian capital to the northeast of Jerusalem.

Palestine would be compensated with desert land near Gaza that would be linked with the West Bank by high speed rail.

Palestine might receive a sort of statehood with no army and Israel control in some areas.

Hamas, which governs Gaza, would be dismantled before Palestinian independence.

Israeli citizenship may be stripped from tens of thousands of Arab Israelis who live in 10 border towns.

Palestinian refugees would have no “right of return” to homes lost to Israel in previous conflicts.

Resembling South Africa during its apartheid when it created “reserves” for blacks, the “deal” had no Palestinian input and violates UN resolutions forbidding nations from using military force to expand their territories. The Fourth Geneva Convention also bans occupying powers from moving civilian populations onto these territories taken by military force, and the UN has applied the Geneva ruling onto Israeli-occupied territories. The International Court of Justice does the same in a 2004 decision.

DDT’s plan also requires that Palestinians “dismiss all pending actions” in the International Criminal Court, meaning that the Israeli government cannot be held to account for anything. Jared Kushner’s solution for Palestinians who disagree is to “take a cold shower” so that they don’t “screw up” like with “every other opportunity that they’ve ever had in their existence.” The plan states that Palestinians must take “no action, and shall dismiss all pending actions, against the State of Israel, the United States, and any of their citizens before the International Criminal Court” and other tribunals.

Over a century ago, Palestinians were not consulted when Britain adopted the 1917 Balfour Declaration that gave geographical Palestine to the Jewish people for their “homeland.” DDT is following that pattern in drawing other nations’ borders and dictating political lives of people in foreign countries. He follows his pattern of subordinating “browns” to “whites,” as Israelis are largely regarding to people in the United States.

Ben Silverstein wrote:

“About 5 million stateless Palestinians live under Israeli military occupation (the Palestinian West Bank) or under Israeli military siege (the Gaza Strip). Some 400,000 stateless Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are from families that were expelled from the British Mandate of Palestine by militant Zionist militias. Another 400,000 stateless Palestinians in Syria are from families expelled from the British Mandate of Palestine by Zionist militias. About 40,000 stateless Palestinians in Jordan are from families . . . That is, About 6 million stateless Palestinians are being kept without basic human rights by Israel’s refusal to allow them to return to their homes and by Israel’s refusal to allow the Palestinians to establish a genuine state to which the refugees could return.”

War crimes in the plan:

A flood of 400,000 of Israeli citizens who have stolen Palestinian land on the West Bank attack Palestinian villages and sabotage Palestinian orchards and other agriculture in opposition to the Fourth Geneva Accord of 1949 to present war crimes like those by Nazi Germans.

The annexation of 30 percent of the West Bank is an act of aggression by Israel that is taking the land by calling these lands “annexed.”

Depriving Israeli citizens of Palestinian heritage is denaturalization into statelessness by giving them “citizenship” in an unrecognized “state” (aka a “reserve”) where they have no rights over their property.

The disarmed Palestinians will have no right of self-defense in opposition to Chapter 7, Article 51, of the UN that requires “the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.”

Palestinians in Israeli-mandated enclaves will have no right to self-determination and be dependent on Israel’s goodwill for every part of their lives, including politics and building development.

With a third election looming and three criminal indictments, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised DDT’s “deal.” With no ratification of the “plan,” he announced that he will ask his cabinet for approval of the annexation this Sunday. He may lose a few votes, however, because the “peace plan” brought criticism from both the left and right wings in Israel. Although Palestinians lose 30 percent of their land, leaders of Israeli settler groups stated that they cannot support a plan that allows Palestinians 70 percent of the area. The settlers called the creation of a Palestinian state “an existential threat to the State of Israel.”

Emily Meyer, co-founder of the Jewish group If Not Now issued this statement:

“This is a political ploy by both leaders to distract from their abuse of power, designed to help Netanyahu win the election in less than six weeks. The plan itself is a plan for permanent Israeli military occupation and control, not a plan for peace. It is simply a continuation of Trump’s strategy since entering office: to disenfranchise Palestinians and deny their rights, their agency, and even their identity.”

Activist groups such as the Islamic Action Front called for a “mass protest” at the U.S. Embassy in Amman. Jordan, home to a large Palestinian population, stated its commitment to a two-state solution based on pre-1967 borders and rejects any Israeli unilateral move such as immediate annexation. Both Egypt and the EU cautioned Israelis and Palestinians to carefully study the plan. Saudi Arabia’s King Salman called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to promise Saudi commitment to Palestinian rights.  Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that DDT’s plan “will not serve peace and resolution” in the region and that it will “ignore the rights of the Palestinians and legitimize Israel’s occupation.”

Other Arab countries were disturbed that none of their representatives could see the final version of the plan before its unveiling. They will be even more upset if Netanyahu carries through with a plan for annexation this weekend before both parties support.

The UN supports pre-1967 borders. Most of the international community view the West Bank as the future Palestinian independent state and east Jerusalem as its capital while DDT sides only with Israel by moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, closing Palestinian diplomatic offices in Washington, and cutting funding to Palestinian aid programs.  

Benny Gantz, Netanyahu’s competition for prime minister, said he will propose the plan for approval next week in the Knesset (Israeli parliament). Abbas dismissed the plan as “nonsense” and vowed to resist it through “peaceful, popular means.” Abbas added:

“We say 1,000 no’s to the Deal of the Century. We will not kneel and we will not surrender.”

Israeli settlers in the West Bank may be worse off with the proposed annexation. According to Ghaith al-Omari, senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad were present at a meeting that Abbas convened, and both groups will push for violence in the West Bank, creating destabilization from terror and giving Hamas more power. Al-Omari surmises that DDT’s plan strengthens hardliners and weakens diplomats.

The plan that DDT hoped would bail him out of his impeachment problems is now seen as a “lose-lose” situation.

December 22, 2019

Week 152 – World, Domestic Affairs

World and domestic affairs beyond impeachment affect the United States through decisions that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) makes.

DDT stayed silent during violent protests from India’s attempt to eliminate secularization. Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a conservative re-elected in May, the parliament permits citizenship for undocumented migrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh who moved to India before 2014 and belong to one of six religious minorities, excluding Islam. Modi claims that the law protects persecuted religious groups, much like DDT said about his executive order protecting only Jewish people. India is now trying to control protests by shutting down phone and internet access in parts of the country.

Shortly before DDT was elected, Russian interference helped an anti-immigrant movement in Britain pass Brexit, a separation from the European Union. After agonizing over the process for over three years, the Brits elected Boris Johnson as prime minister to finish the process, much to the possible detriment of almost everyone in the country. Like DDT, Johnson is connected to corruption and sexual misconduct. The UK will leave the EU by the last day of 2020 no matter how disastrous, and the UK may have to pay the EU up to £39 billion. Northern Ireland stayed with the EU and will have a customs and regulatory border with Great Britain; Scotland voted to stay with the EU and may separate from the UK.

DDT, close friends with the autocratic Turkish president Recip Tayyip Erdogan, rejected the congressional votes to recognize that the Ottoman’s killing of Armenians in 1915-16 to support Germany in World War I was genocide. In retribution for the congressional resolution, Erdogan threatens to shut down Incirlik air base where the U.S. stores nuclear warheads. DDT called resolution criticizing the killing of 1.5 million Armenians “worthless” and the “biggest insult” to Turkish people. Erdogan also tried to prevent sanctions against Turkey after its military offensive in Syria by threatening to close the Kurecik radar base. Following DDT’s wishes, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) tried to block the resolution. On December 12, the Senate unanimously passed the resolution after the House did so with only one no vote. Because resolutions do not have the weight of law, they do not require a president’s signature. 

Israel is headed for its third election in less than a year after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to put together a winning coalition but plans to stay prime minister. The national election to determine the Israeli prime minister is next March, but on December 26, 100,000 Likud party members, Netanyahu’s party, vote for their leaders. Gideon Sa’ar is challenging Netanyahu to represent Likud; the winner is in line to become prime minister.Christians in the Gaza Strip are banned from visiting holy cities such as Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and Nazareth for Christmas. Last year, almost 700 Gazan Christians received permits to travel the holy cities.

The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor is investigating Israeli war crimes allegedly committed in the Palestinian territories. Netanyahu claims that the ICC has jurisdiction only for sovereign states and denies any Palestinian state. He plans to illegally take over the Jordan Valley, composing one-fourth of the West Bank. In the ICC, Palestine is suing the U.S. for DDT’s moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Two courts, one in the EU and the other in Canada, have also decided that Israel “an occupying power” and “not … a sovereign entity” in determining labeling of products from Jewish settlements in the West Bank.   

The end of the year means tax preparation. Last year the 2017 tax cuts hurt a large percentage of people in the U.S., but large corporations are making out like bandits from their 40-percent tax rate cut. Approximately 400 of the largest corporations in the U.S. paid an average federal tax rate of about 11 percent on their profits last year, roughly half the official rate set by the tax law and half the rate that they averaged between 2008 and 2015. In 2018, corporations averaged 11.3 percent in taxes, the lowest level in over 30 years, while the deficit hit $984 billion, unusual in a supposedly strong economy. There is no evidence of the GOP claim of lower taxes’ cut causing economic growth and boosting business investment. The unemployment rate has stayed low in some areas, but higher wages are largely caused by blue states increasing the minimum wage rate.

In the Fortune 500, 91 corporations earning $101 billion paid no federal taxes last year. Amazon paid no taxes on $10.8 billion in profits and got a $129 million rebate. Firing 800 people, Activision Blizzard made $447 million and received a tax rebate of $243 million, giving them a -54.4 percent.

Overturning the Affordable Care Act would give the wealthy and pharmaceutical companies a huge tax break. The top 1,400 highest-earning taxpayers would receive $3.8 billion, and pharmaceutical companies would pay $2.8 billion less in taxes. People on Medicare would pay more for prescription drugs, and U.S. drug costs are already the highest in the developed world. Twenty million people would lose health insurance, and the poverty rate would increase. Causing a crack in the ACA, a state judge overturned the individual mandate in the ACA despite a Supreme Court ruling that accepted it.

DDT plans to reduce aid to the 39.7 million people in the United States living in poverty by allowing sports stadiums and arenas to use opportunities designed to meet the needs of middle- and low-income people. The 1977 Community Reinvestment Act requires financial institutions to meet the credit needs of all communities where they do business so that they can’t refuse to serve people based on income level and demographics rather than credit worthiness. Under DDT’s plan, investors can delay taxes or reduce tax payments on their capital gains while building stadiums that displace people of color. 

Eating pork may be dangerous under DDT’s new rules, according to Food Safety and Inspection Service inspectors Jill Mauer and Anthony Vallone, who filed whistleblower disclosure forms. A pilot program for over 92 percent of U.S. pork plants will provide fewer inspectors who must stand at a distance while untrained plants’ employees check carcasses and still try to maintain line speeds. Defects can include feces, sex organs, toenails, bladders, and unwanted hair—think Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. Beef processing may suffer from the same MO.  

The U.S. Forest Service is permitting Canada’s Midas Gold to write the environmental report necessary to obtain approval for mining in Idaho after a “collaborative” meeting that included Midas. In that way, Midas can avoid habitat restoration work to protect the surrounding area.

In a software failure, Boeing’s Starliner, intended to fly NASA astronauts to space, didn’t get to the right orbit. A few days earlier, Boeing announced it was stopping the production of the 737 Max that killed 346 people in two crashes and demonstrated multiple other problems. The planes have been grounded since March 11, pending approval for planes being built. Almost 400 737 Max jets at the Renton (WA) facility are costing the company about $4.4 billion every three months for production, storage, and maintenance. Although Boeing may not have any work stoppage, hundreds of other U.S. manufacturers in its supply chain may be forced to lay off workers. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that Boeing’s problems had taken 0.4 percent off the GDP for the year.

For years, the FAA allowed Boeing to perform its own inspections. High level Boeing officials knew about the planes’ problems and lied to the FAA. Earlier this month, the FAA fined Boeing $3.9 million for “knowingly submitted aircraft” to the agency for safety certification even after learning that crucial wing components “could not be used due to a failed strength test.”

State Department Secretary Mike Pompeo not only fired Bill Taylor, acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, but also told him to get out of the country early because he didn’t want to be photographed with the highly respected career diplomat. Pompeo urged Taylor to take the job, and Taylor then testified to the House Intelligence Committee about DDT’s attempts to extort Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky. Taylor believes his obligation is to the country, not DDT, and Pompeo wants to be the senator from Kansas.

Another of DDT’s circle of associates is now heading for prison, but Rick Gates, associate of DDT’s campaign manager Paul Manafort, gets only 45 days after evading taxes and concealing millions of dollars representing pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine after Gates’ cooperation. Manafort, DDT’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen, and DDT’s first national security adviser are in the slammer. George Papadopoulos, DDT’s former campaign adviser on foreign policy, and Alex van der Zwaan, a lawyer who worked with Manafort and Gates, have finished their prison sentences. Roger Stone, longtime DDT adviser and confidant, awaits sentencing. DDT’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani faces a criminal investigation. Others connected to DDT include Richard Pinedo, who has a prison sentence for fraudulently trying to hurt Clinton’s campaign; Sam Patten and Maria Butina, who were charged with being unregistered foreign agents; and those on this long list of indicted Russian individuals and entities. 

New Jersey’s Rep. Jeff Van Drew switched from Republican to Democrat and swore “undying support” to DDT—until someone asked him about it. He said he didn’t say “undying.” Republicans don’t want him.

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