Nel's New Day

February 27, 2021

Biden, Democratic Congress Moving Rapidly Forward

The year 2021 marks the 20th year of the U.S. preemptive war in the Middle East, starting with George W. Bush’s attack on Afghanistan. President Joe Biden delivered the latest bombings, seven against two Iran-backed militias smuggling weapons in Syria. The airstrikes hit buildings on a border crossing with Iraq. Iranian state television reported 17 fatalities, but Biden had no exact number. Biden said he intended to “send a message” about the militias’ aggressive actions in Iraq against the U.S. including last week’s rocket attack. Experts have differed on the appropriateness of Biden’s actions, but Biden hopes to keep the path open for renewing an anti-nuclear agreement in Iran.

Years after U.S. intelligence prepared a report on the 2018 torturing and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and journalist, in the Saudi Arabian embassy in Turkey, the new Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines has declassified and released the document. According to the report, available here:

“Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi… The Crown Prince has absolute control of the Kingdom’s security and intelligence organizations, making it highly unlikely that Saudi officials would have carried out an operation of this nature without the Crown Prince’s authorization.”

Although Congress mandated the information be made public, former Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) had covered up for MBS because of his friendship with Saudi Arabia and took no action about the vicious assault.

On the day before the report’s release, Biden called the 85-year-old Saudi king, instead of his son MBS, the crown prince and heir apparent, who has been giving orders. Biden may have had trouble reaching the king: sources say, “MBS has controlled his father’s switchboard.” The conversation skipped the report, but Biden “affirmed the importance the United States places on universal human rights and the rule of law” and discussed working on “mutual issues of concern.” Biden has eliminated U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

The U.S. does not plan to charge MBS of any crimes, but Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the “Khashoggi Ban,” restricting visas for people acting on behalf of foreign governments directly engaged in “serious, extraterritorial counter-dissident activities, including those that suppress, harass, surveil, threaten, or harm journalists, activists, or other persons perceived to be dissidents for their work.” The ban can also cover family members and will be applied immediately to 76 Saudis “believed to have been engaged in threatening dissidents overseas, including but not limited to the Khashoggi killing.” The Treasury Department also sanctioned a former Saudi intelligence official, Ahmed Hassan Mohammed al Asiri, and the crown prince’s personal protective detail, the Rapid Intervention Force (aka the “Tiger Squad”). Blinken echoed Biden’s earlier statement that the U.S. wishes to “recalibrate” the relationship with Saudi Arabia “to be more in line with our interests and our values.”

The Treasury Department also replaced sanctions on Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler for corruption in Africa after DDT rolled them with no explanation or announcement during his last few days in the White House. Gertler is a close friend of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Biden also plans sanctions and other punishments for Russia for the SolarWinds cyber-espionage campaign, interfering in elections, and the Kremlin’s use of a banned chemical weapon against anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny before jailing him.

On Thursday, three Republicans supported the Democratic representatives in a 224-206 vote to expand federal protections for LGBTQ people by prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. The Equality Act amends the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1968 Fair Housing Act to include specific protections for LGBTQ people. The Republicans voting for the bill are John Katko (NY), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA), and Tom Reed (NY); the other Republican support discrimination in the name of religious freedom. The legislation passed the House almost two years ago, but then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) ignored it. McConnell has become the minority leader, and the Democrats will likely address the House bill.

Early Saturday morning, the House passed Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan by 219-212 with opposition from all Republicans and two Democrats, Kurt Schrader (OR) and Jared Golden (ME).  Although the Senate parliamentarian refuses to allow the hourly $15 minimum wage in the reconciliation bill permitting a 50-50 vote in the chamber without a filibuster, the House included it in their bill.

As usual with a Democratic president, Republicans are arguing for austerity after driving up the national debt with massive tax cuts for the wealthy and big business. Another false argument is that only a small portion of the $1.9 trillion goes to combating the virus, “actually used to put shots in people’s arms,” according to Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO). He ignores the funding for stimulus checks, school openings, unemployment payments, assistance for small businesses, and other types of expenditures the GOP legislators willingly passed while DDT was in the White House.

Biden insisted on changes in the bill’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans after they went to big businesses in the first bill instead of the mandated small business. He wants to guarantee loans to businesses with under 20 employees and restricts applications from these businesses for 14 days so that lenders can prioritize those businesses. Other changes open up loans to people with non-fraud felony convictions and to non-citizen business owners. In the last round, a large number of loans were flagged for potential fraud. A new mandate tackling “waste, fraud, and abuse across all federal programs” requires approval of PPP loans “contingent on passing [Small Business Association] fraud checks, Treasury’s Do Not Pay database, and public records.”

A proposed bill for a special commission probing the January 6 attack on the Capitol, such as the one which investigated the 9/11 attacks, is struggling because of GOP opposition. Objections started when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) wanted a majority of Democrats on the commission. If Republicans approached the situation with a lack of bias, the equality might have worked. Yet Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) believes not only that DDT had nothing to do with the insurrection but also that it was a friendly group of people who were coming into the Capitol until the Capitol Police provoked them. Earlier, he had falsely asserted the seditionists were all on the left side, that all of them were not DDT’s supporters. Some GOP legislators, such as Steve Scalise (LA), second in House minority command, still maintain Biden is in the White House illegally and should be removed.

In addition, almost 150 GOP legislators of the 261 Republicans in Congress voted to overturn the legal votes from the electoral college after the far-right attack on the Capitol to stop the vote—almost 40 percent of the number of Republicans in Congress. All those Republicans have a conflict of interest to be on a commission to investigate the insurrection and would likely sabotage its investigation and reporting.

On the Senate side, Republican Mitch McConnell insists the commission also investigate all Black Lives Matter protests. If not that, then it should concentrate only on Capitol security failures, avoiding any white supremacy terrorism issues. The approaches would be like telling the 9/11 Commission to focus only on planes hitting the World Trade towers without reviewing radical Islamist terrorism or focus on all international violence. The mandate of the 9/11 Commission was to examine “the facts and circumstances relating to the 9/11 terrorist attack . . . including those relating to intelligence agencies; law enforcement agencies; diplomacy; immigration, nonimmigrant visas, and border control; the flow of assets to terrorist organizations; commercial aviation; the role of congressional oversight and resource allocation; and other areas determined relevant by the Commission for its inquiry.”

After DDT’s administration ignored reunification of families who they separated at the southern border, Biden appointed a task force to find the parents of 611 children. In less than a month, 105 children have been returned to their families, and the group is working to reunify the others.

Biden revoked the following presidential orders and memoranda signed by DDT:

  • Cutting funding from cities DDT declared as “anarchist” havens.
  • Mandating all new federal buildings be designed in classical aesthetic.
  • Limiting the ability of federal agency employees to make regulatory decisions.
  • Calling for agency heads to review welfare programs and strengthen work requirements for some recipients.

After a month in the White House, Biden has an overall job approval rating of 56 percent with 54 percent for his handling the economy and 56 percent for foreign affairs. His best rating is 67 percent approval in handling the coronavirus. That rating might go up with the FDA approval of a third vaccine, the one-shot vaccination from Johnson & Johnson. In DDT’s last six weeks, people received 12 million vaccinations. Biden promised 100 million in the first 100 days: in his first five weeks, people have gotten 58 million, 1.6 million a day and rising.

On February 26, 2021, the number of daily U.S. infections is down (80,625), but the daily number of deaths is averaging above 2,000—the most recent number 2,216. Total U.S. infections – 29,136,912; deaths – 523,082.      

January 8, 2020

Iran – The Bully Backs Down

Within the last few days, Iraqi strikes killed one U.S. military contractor, the U.S. killed 24 Iraqis and injured another 50, the Iraqis fired in protest at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) assassinated the Iranian leader Qassem Soleimani at the Baghdad airport. DDT warned Iran not to retaliate before Iranians launched over a dozen ballistic missiles at two U.S. air bases housing U.S. military members in Iraq, an act that Iran called “hard revenge” for Soleimani’s death. Iran stated that they would not fire again if DDT didn’t retaliate. Most countries, including Israel, won’t support DDT, and DDT caved—after people held their breath to see if he would move toward World War III. Last night, DDT tweeted, “All is well! Missiles launched from Iran at two military bases located in Iraq.” 

Today DDT gave a brief speech filled with lies, mispronunciations, snuffling, repetitions, incompetent spins, blame for President Obama. DDT equated backing down with proof that Iran’s “campaign of terror, murder, mayhem will not be tolerated any longer.” He miserably failed to make Iran less aggressive with “maximum pressure” by withdrawing from a successful deal controlling Iran’s nuclear program and issuing failing sanctions.

Iran threatened strikes against Dubai and Haifa, but DDT claimed that Iran was “standing down.”

DDT said he would “never let” Iran acquire a nuclear weapon with no strategy or leverage to block Iran’s nuclearization, just as he failed in North Korea.

DDT said the U.S. was “ready to embrace peace” and then promised to intensify the massive sanctions on Iran.

DDT took credit for “destroying 100% of ISIS” although ISIS hasn’t been destroyed.

DDT claimed, “We are now the number one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world,” a status achieved under President Obama in 2012. which is true, though it’s a status the United States reached in 2012.

DDT wants to involve NATO in the Middle East after putting down the organization’s value; NATO is pulling its military after Soleimani’s killing.

DDT’s lied that President Obama’s administration paid for the Iranian missiles and that the Iran agreement “expires shortly.” The referenced funding was either money owed Iran through a court decision or their own money. 

DDT falsely said, “Iran’s hostilities substantially increased after the foolish Iran nuclear deal was signed in 2013.” The deal was signed in 2015, and hostilities with Iran increased after DDT voided the agreement despite Iran’s complying with the terms.

DDT claimed Iran is “the leading sponsor of terrorism,” but in 2011, he said Saudi Arabia was “the world’s biggest funder of terrorism. Saudi Arabia funnels our petrodollars, our very own money, to fund the terrorists that seek to destroy our people.” In the 9/11 attack, 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis, and the 9/11 Commission found that al-Qaeda raised money for terrorism in Saudi Arabia.

The Pentagon spent less than $500,000 million on military equipment since DDT was inaugurated, less than 25 percent of DDT’s claim.

DDT bragged about how “our missiles are big, powerful, accurate, lethal, and fast.”

Andrea Mitchell, a political correspondent for over 50 years, called DDT’s national security team the “worst” that she’s ever seen—“least experienced, the least effective, and the smallest” in recent memory. The “team” doesn’t even have a Senate-confirmed director of National Intelligence or a deputy director of National Intelligence. DHS lacks a Senate-confirmed Homeland Security secretary and deputy secretary, and there is no Senate-confirmed undersecretary for arms control and international security affairs or assistant secretary for arms control, verification, and compliance. The Pentagon has seen the resignation of six top officials in less than six weeks.

On the conservative website The Bulwark, Shay Khatiri wrote:

“President Trump didn’t hire the “A Team,” or even the “B Team,” of experienced Republican former national security officials. He skipped past them because most of them had, during the 2016 campaign, signed public letters and statements denouncing him. So the Trump administration began with the C Team. And as time passed and the members of the C Team resigned or were fired, the administration moved on to D and E.

  • DDT: a reality-show personality who never had a government position before election, knows nothing about international affairs, doesn’t listen to intelligence briefings, and is ignorant about current events..
  • VP Mike Pence: former state governor and U.S. representative.
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: former Army captain, U.S. representative, and warhawk.
  • Robert O’Brien (national security advisor): held low-level positions in George W. Bush’s administration.
  • Defense Secretary Mark Esper: lobbyist who rose to this position from six levels down.
  • Secretary of Army Ryan McCarthy: crisis-management experience, former Army Ranger, and Afghanistan war veteran.
  • Secretary of Air Force Barbara Barrett: former non-Foreign Service Officer ambassador with no experience in national security crisis management.
  • Secretary of Navy: none.

Senate Democrats reported that the administration’s briefing on Soleimani’s killing failed to show an “imminent threat” to U.S. troops and diplomats. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) commented on “the lack of information” and described the administration’s “strike of choice” as “one that likely would’ve required congressional authorization beforehand.” The 75-minute briefing left senators with “multiple questions unanswered,” and only 15 of 97 senators in attendance could ask questions. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said:

“We did not see a plan, a satisfying plan for the future. As the questions began to get tough, they walked out.”

Utah’s GOP senator Mike Lee was even more harsh in his response to the briefing, calling it “probably the worst briefing I’ve seen at least on a military issue in the nine years I’ve served in the United States Senate.” He described the message as telling lawmakers to be “good little boys and girls and run along and not debate this in public” and “insane.” The briefing, according to Lee, persuaded him to support Sen. Tim Kaine’s (D-VA) war powers resolution that reinforces resuming the constitutionally congressional power over the president for determining military actions. Fox network stopped Lee from talking about the briefing.

Congress abdicated its responsibilities after the 9/11 attacks with the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists (AUMF), which permitted the president to use all “necessary and appropriate force” against any countries whom he determined “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the 9/11 attacks or harbored involved persons or groups. During the past 18+ years, U.S. officials have used AUMF to justify actions 37 times in 14 countries. VP Mike Pence supports DDT in using the AUMF for attacks on Iran with his falsehood about Soleimani’s connection to 9/11.

Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that Iranian attacks were meant to kill U.S. military members, but facts refute his statement. The U.S. knew about the attacks hours in advance, and base personnel went to the bunkers. The highly accurate missiles avoided killing and great destruction by hitting lesser targets. 

Saudi Arabia supports DDT because he sells them weapons and doesn’t make them responsible for the torture and dismemberment of U.S. journalist and citizen, Jamal Khashoggi. On Monday, DDT tried to hide his meeting with Saudi Vice Minister of Defense Khalid bin Salman, the younger brother of the murdering crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. The Vice Minister publicized the meeting, however, tweeting that it was to discuss cooperation for “regional challenges” (aka Iran).

During his campaign, DDT warned that voting for Hillary Clinton would mean going to war. In 2016, about 66 million people voted for Clinton, and the U.S. may go to war.

Even without airstrikes, Iran can retaliate against the U.S. Iraq is on the verge of eliminating U.S. military presence in the country, one of Soleimani’s goals. Iran controls the Persian Gulf oil shipping lanes, supplies weapons to Yemen’s Houthis, and supports Bashar Assad’s war on his Syrian people. Most dangerous for the United States is the possibility of cyberattacks. Revenge is a dish best served cold, according to a centuries-old proverb, and Iran may be preparing and cooling its vengeance for the future.   

Some Republicans, like Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), think that they can’t win without lying when he tweeted a faked photo of President Obama with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. The photo was debunked over four years ago after it was used to promote incumbent Republican Sen. Ron Johnson (WI) in his opposition to the Iran nuclear agreement. Rouhani was photoshopped over former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (left) in this 2011 photo, and the color of the flag was changed. President Obama never met Rouhani. 

In the global community, 64 percent believe that DDT cannot be trusted to do the “right thing” in world affairs. European allies such as Spain, France, and Germany are as low as 25 percent in confidence, and the percentage drops to 8 percent in Mexico.

April 13, 2018

Can DDT’s Airstrikes Cover Up His Problems?

After a very bad week for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT)—a fire in Trump Tower, search warrants taking a large number of documents from his lawyer Michael Cohen, the release of information about his attempt to cover up his affairs through lawsuits, former FBI director James Comey’s anti-DDT book hitting the airwaves—DDT ordered military attacks against Syria’s president in opposition to advice from his own generals. His reason in a short speech late Friday was the killing of civilians through chemical attacks.

DDT cited the horrifying ways that people died this month in an attack, but three-fourths of 6,047 civilians killed by the U.S. in the Middle East, mostly Iraq and Syria, during the past four years were under his “watch.” Until John Bolton came into the White House this week, DDT said he gave military generals “total authorization” to decide the military operations. The U.S. Constitution does not authorize the president to begin an armed conflict without congressional authorization; a 1973 law reinforced this constitutional position. Yet Congress passed a law, the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, allowing the U.S. president to take action against the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks. In the past 17 years, presidents have used this law to attack Afghanistan, Cuba, the Philippines, Georgia, Yemen, Djibouti, Kenya, Libya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, and Turkey, and Congress refuses to curb an elected president the right to attack countries whenever they want.

The question about DDT’s air strikes, which could cause World War III if Russia carries through with its threats of retaliation, came from DDT’s weeks of temper tantrums. They started with the FBI raid on the office, home, and hotel room of Michael Cohen, DDT’s longtime attorney “fixer,” and the seizure of records about his clients and personal finances, including tax returns, as well as his computer and phone.  Cohen is being investigated for bank fraud, wire fraud, and campaign finance violations. DDT, who led the birther conspiracy of President Obama for at least five years while he was in office and as recently as last November, continues to call the investigation of the Russian scandal as a “witch hunt.”

DDT raged for hours after the raid, attacking AG Jeff Sessions and special investigator Robert Mueller, yet Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein turned the raid over to FBI agents and prosecutors in New York. Several other high-level DOJ people had to sign off on the search warrants with no advance notice to Cohen, indicating strong evidence because these warrants were used instead of a subpoena.

Cohen also helped out DDT’s associates, arranging a $1.6 million deal late last year for a former pregnant Playboy model on behalf of Elliott Broidy, a major financial supporter for DDT and a married man. Cohen and Broidy are both deputy national finance chairmen for the RNC, and last month Broidy hosted a fundraiser for DDT’s 2020 presidential campaign. He also worked with George Nadar who is cooperating with the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Cohen had a tendency to tape conversations with his associates, and the FBI may now have these recordings.

Another object of DDT’s fury this week was Comey’s new book, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership, is overwhelming the media, and DDT called Comey a “slime ball, also writing, “It was my great honor to fire James Comey!” The memoir is available to the public on Tuesday.

Mueller has asked a Virginia judge for 35 blank subpoenas for Paul Manafort’s trial that begins July 10—witnesses to be filled in later. Manafort’s lawyers are trying to block business and finance papers from a storage area that a former Manafort employee showed the FBI last May. Both Manafort and his associate Rick Gates are listed as contacts for the lease.

Since the search warrant was executed on Cohen, DDT has decided he won’t be interviewed by Mueller which could move up Mueller’s release of an obstruction of justice report regarding DDT’s intent on firing former FBI Director James Comey, DDT’s role in writing the public statement that lied about a June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr and Russians, and DDT’s suggestion of his pardoning grand jury witnesses before they testified against him, and DDT’s pressuring AG Jeff Sessions to not recuse himself from the Russian investigation. Mueller would probably send a confidential report to Rosenstein, who could decide whether to make the report public and send the findings to Congress.

The biggest question about Mueller is whether DDT can fire him. DDT thinks he can, but according to law he can fire only the person in the DOJ who refuses to fire Mueller. That and DDT’s going to war around the world are the two greatest concerns today in the United States.

DDT’s pick for Secretary of State, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, struggled during today’s confirmation hearings.  His hawkish attitude for regime change in North Korea and opposition to diplomacy with Iran disappeared in his responses advocating diplomacy over military action and independence from president despite their close relationship. He faked answers and avoided questions, claiming a bad memory, and failed to recognize that the agreement with Iran involves the UK, France, and Germany. Pompeo also refused to say that he disagreed with DDT’s constant attacks on Mueller. Called out about his associations with anti-Muslim conspiracy theorists, Pompeo said that he couldn’t remember everything he had said during his 54 years. He opposed marriage equality but said that he has “respect for every individual.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) could give Pompeo a floor vote even if he can’t pass the Senate Foreign Relations Committee because member Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is opposed to Pompeo. Some vulnerable Democrats from red states may feel pressured to vote to confirm, but Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), up for re-election this year, said:

“I am voting NO on Pompeo for Secretary of State because our top diplomat should believe in diplomacy. He has an alarming tendency towards military provocation and brinkmanship.”

To tell associates such as Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort, and Michael Flynn that he will save them, DDT pardoned Scooter Libby yesterday. on Thursday. A jury convicted Libby of four felonies, including obstruction of justice and perjury before a grand jury, in connection to his revealing the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame when he was VP Dick Cheney’s chief of staff. Former FBI director James Comey, fired by DDT, helped convict Libby of lying under oath to the FBI about leaking classified information when Comey was Deputy Attorney General. George W. Bush had commuted Libby’s sentence of 30 months in prison and $250,000 fine but twice refused to pardon him. Richard Painter, chief ethics lawyer for George W. Bush from 2005 to 2007, tweeted:

“So what’s the message here? Lie to a grand jury to protect political superiors and you will get a full pardon?”

Scott Pruitt just stays in the news, making DDT look bad. This article, repeated on John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, describes how Pruitt’s condo renters changed the locks to get rid of him.

Information came out about how the Trump Organization threatened Panama’s president, Juan Carlos Varela, with violating an investment treaty between Panama and the U.S. if he supports a court-order eviction notice for DDT’s management of Trump International Hotel Panama. The majority owner claims he won his case in firing the Trump Organization, and the name was removed. The Trump Organization refuses to admit defeat. The letter insinuates that the U.S. government will force Panama to protect DDT’s business.

DDT tweeted about his “well built hotel,” but one man died and six firefighters were injured in a fire on the 50th floor. There was no sprinkler system because DDT said they were too expensive, and residents were not told to evacuate.

DDT’s other business is going downhill in putting his name on other people’s products. Within three years, he has lost 17 of 19 companies that pay him to produce or distribute his branded consumer items. The only ones left are a Panamanian company selling bed linens and home goods and a Turkish company selling furniture. And the name isn’t even on the outside of the product. Even the DDT-branded urine test is gone, and the last items are being sold off at discount prices—for example, cologne down to $9.99 per ounce from $42.

DDT is losing a major constituency—older, white, educated voters. They now support Democrats over Republicans by two points after going for Republicans by ten points in 2016. That 12-point change is frightening Republicans, especially after House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) decision to not run for re-election in 2018, especially because this demographic tends to be reliable voters.

Another demographic is moving away from DDT—Southerners. Fifty-one percent of voters in the South disapprove while 48 percent approves of his performance. The poll also shows a 55-percent support from Southerners for same-gender marriage, and 69 percent think that undocumented immigrants should be able to get legal status in the U.S. Mississippi is sticking with DDT at 57 percent approval rating.

After a really hard week, DDT may hope that a big media explosion of air strikes in Syria might help his ratings. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis called the action a “one time shot”—at least until DDT gets more bad news and looks for a way to cover it up.

 

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