Nel's New Day

October 9, 2019

DDT Kills Kurds, Fights Impeachment

This morning, Turkey invaded northeast Syria and attacked U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters who opposed ISIS, thanks to Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Turkish bombings put thousands of civilian lives at risk, and Kurds may have to release 10,000 imprisoned ISIS militants after DDT withdrew troops from the area. Russians are also mobilizing for invasion of the Kurdish area so that they can allow Iran to put its forces on Israel’s northern border. ISIS has already started bombing Kurdish military positions. DDT said that he wants to stop “endless, senseless wars,” but he just created another one. Syria, Iran, Iraq, Yemen and Saudi Arabia will pile on with Turkey, Russia, and the Kurds as DDT’s move gives Iran a chance to attack Israel and lose the evangelical vote for DDT.  

Instead of sending the 50 service members home, DDT moved them to another Middle East region. The U.S. launched the most airstrikes in Afghanistan during one month in about a decade, increased airstrikes in Libya, and continued its war in Somalia. 

Top officials in the Pentagon and the State Department recommended not removing the U.S. forces because the Kurds are the most reliable partners in fighting ISIS in that location. Last year, DDT’s threat to remove the forces caused his Defense Secretary James Mattis to resign. Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), a former Marine who served in Iraq, called DDT’s current decision to abandon the Kurds “one of the most destabilizing moves we can do in the Middle East.”

A member of the National Security Council with firsthand knowledge of telephone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that DDT gave in to another authoritarian’s ranting. Furious with DDT’s snub at the UN last month, Erdoğan got his permission to invade Syria and visit DDT at the White House in November. DDT got nothing except “a state of increased danger [in national security] for decades to come,” according to the national security official. DDT consulted neither EU allies nor congressional members before his decision.

After the call, DDT said that he would sanction Turkey if it attacked the Kurds but made no claims about this to Erdoğan. Instead he tweeted:

“As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!).”

This tweet was not the only strange one: he said Russia will be unhappy about his withdrawal of troops. They won’t. About the Kurds, DDT tweeted that they “fought with us” but “were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so.” About the Turkish attacks on Kurds, DDT mildly said it was a “bad idea.” Later he tweeted, “[The Kurds] didn’t help us in the Second World War, they didn’t help us with Normandy…” 

DDT made millions of dollars in profits from his Trump Towers in Istanbul, owned by Turkish conglomerate Dogan Holding, but four months ago, leaders of a major party in Turkey called for the government to seize the complex. The value of DDT’s name in Turkey has fallen in the past two years.  

The message across the world is that the U.S. will not meet their commitments and will not support its allies. In his regard for former allies, DDT wrote wasn’t worried about the escape of ISIS fighters because they’ll go to Europe. John Sipher, 28-year veteran in the CIA clandestine service including station chief in hot spots near Europe and Asia, said:

“Well, at least the Trump Administration is consistent. We are about screwing our allies, partners and friends. Don’t trust America, even if you shed blood on their behalf. If you want favors, build a Trump tower.”

Columnist Paul Krugman asked if DDT abandoned the Kurds because of (a) personal business interests in Turkey; (b) support of Erdoğan, another vicious autocrat; or (c) directions from his boss Vladimir Putin.

Even DDT’s GOP sycophants criticized DDT’s abandoning the Kurds to certain death. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called DDT’s actions “a disaster in the making.” He added, “ISIS is not defeated. This is the biggest lie being told by this administration.” Brian Kilmeade, co-host of Fox & Friends, echoed Graham’s term “disaster.” Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), in trouble for her strong support of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, stuck her neck out to declare DDT’s actions “a terribly unwise decision,” and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) called it a “grave mistake.” Even House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who has supported DDT through thin and thin, told the government to “keep its word” with its foreign allies.

Senators now demand a hearing about DDT’s decision to withdraw troops in Syria, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) indicated that leaving the Kurds to Turkish slaughter might be wrong. He called on DDT to reconsider the plan and said that a Senate supermajority disagreed with DDT and withdrawal “would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime.”

With one impulsive moment, DDT abandoned an ally, emboldened Iran, revived ISIS, offended Israel, and infuriated Republicans. While being blasé about DDT’s extortion attempts in Ukraine and China to get dirt on Joe Biden, GOP lawmakers are horrified by DDT’s refusal to protect the nation’s Kurdish allies. Israel, also shocked by DDT’s move, understand that he is not to be trusted.

Facing the danger of impeachment and the Kurdish disaster leading to war in the Middle East, DDT went on a demented rant today at the White House against California’ auto-emission guidelines and the shift from incandescent to LED light bulbs and their disposal—all lies:

“Of course, who cares about looks? But you do look better with incandescent, but they weren’t allowed, and you have the privilege of buying now a much more expensive bulb, under the passed rules, much more expensive bulb that doesn’t have a good looking light, but maybe very importantly when the bulb is out, and not good, it’s literally considered a hazardous waste site because of all the gasses. If it breaks, you’re supposed to bring it to a certain location, and I say who does that? Nobody. Nobody.”

The impeachment inquiry keeps plugs along with a 58 percent approval—over twice the 25 percent that DDT claims. His latest attempt to quash the process is an eight-page emotional letter filled with falsehoods from White House counsel Pat Cipollone to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and three committee chairs. In short, Cipollone states that DDT is banning everyone and everything from Congress, in opposition to his claim of transparency and no wrong-doing with the excuse that following the U.S. Constitution is unconstitutional. DDT’s demands for the rights to see all the evidence and question all the witnesses shows his ignorance of the law. The constitution does not require a vote by the House to open an inquiry. Like a grand jury, the House looks at the evidence in secret and votes to decide on impeachment which, if approved, moves on to the Senate for an open trial.  

Cipollone accused Democrats that they are using impeachment to overturn the 2016 election and kill DDT’s chances for reelection in 2020. The absolutist position in the letter demonstrates DDT’s belief that Article II of the constitution gives him unlimited powers, like a king. DDT defender and former U.S. attorney Joe diGenova supported DDT’s delusions by accusing Democrats of “regicide,” killing a king. Last summer, DDT said, “Article II allows me to do whatever I want.” Section Four of Article II gives Congress the power to remove a president for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” Because impeachment is a constitutional remedy, it cannot be “unconstitutional.”

DDT’s defense plan for impeachment is to stall, obfuscate, attack, and repeat. The letter combines all four of these strategies. Former Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), who slammed President Obama for not turning over materials about the tragic deaths of four U.S. employees at Benghazi, is part of the team to prevent Congress from obtaining evidence. The Fox network has dropped Gowdy as a contributor.  At this time, DDT’s actions constitute obstruction of justice if not crimes. DDT keeps bragging about how he can’t be impeached because he’s “doing a great job” as president. Even if that were true—which it isn’t—he lost a great deal of cred by allowing Turkey to slaughter Kurds. China has refused to follow DDT’s directive to investigate the Bidens, and Republicans have no logical way to defend DDT. A second whistleblower negates criticism of the first one. And 24 percent of Republicans want an alternative to DDT. That percentage could grow.

A bad sign for DDT is a federal judge’s refusal to keep DDT’s tax returns hidden. The judge said that he could not grant such a “categorical and limitless assertion of presidential immunity.” DDT plans to challenge the order to release his tax returns to Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance.

In a Fox poll 55 percent think that DDT does what’s best for himself and doesn’t put the country first. This week, The New Yorker follows that belief in its illustration of DDT and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani throwing away the country.

September 25, 2019

DDT Joins Netanyahu, Johnson under Fire

Dictator Donald Trump calls himself a dealmaker, but his offers look like a “mob shakedown,” to use the words of Sen. Chuck Schumer (R-NY). In his hatred for President Obama, he tore up U.S. deals with foreign governments on climate, denuclearization, trade, etc. DDT’s lackluster speech before the UN repeated in almost monotone his position of “America First,” rejecting any cooperation with slowing down the climate crisis or negotiating with any democratic countries throughout the world. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez lamented that the U.S. had put into question the positive “international agreement reached with the Iranian regime … for the peace and security of the world” and that DDT had declared his former EU allies as national security threats to put tariffs on their exports. DDT has succeeded in standing alone: Sánchez echoed German and French leaders to move away from the U.S. superpower, intensified by “the new position of this U.S. administration.”  

While DDT pushes his isolationist position, he wants the world to join him against Iran to stop countries from circumventing his harsh sanctions. By endorsing “patriotism over globalism,” he rejects any international law supporting the ideals of democracy and human rights, claiming that nationalism and sovereign rights are the best practice. While DDT presented himself as the leader of “religious freedom,” he rejects any religion except fundamentalist Christianity. He described only Iran and China as his enemies, but human rights are much worse in his personal allies of Saudi Arabia, Russia, North Korea, and Egypt. Even the State Department admits that Saudia Arabia has no freedom of religion, but DDT wants the Saudi money. Because the focus of the UN summit was Climate Action, he spent only 14 minutes sullenly viewing the proceedings (above)

Today, however, was largely focused on DDT’s telephone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and the whistleblower complaint about the possibility that DDT violated a number of laws. DDT told Zelensky that the U.S. had been “very, very good” to Ukraine before he asked Zelensky to work with AG Bill Barr and lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to “look into” Joe Biden, DDT’s political opponent. Following Zelensky’s comment about buying Javelins from the U.S., DDT asked Zelensky “to do us a favor though.” After Zelensky expressed willingness to make an investigation, DDT offered to invite him to the White House, something that he had refused to do since Zelensky’s election in May.  

DDT’s also asked Zelensky to look into the cybersecurity company CrowdStrike that investigated Russia’s cyberattacks on the DNC with DDT’s assumption that someone in the Ukraine has a non-existent “missing” server from the DNC that can exonerate Russia’s involvement. DDT also claimed that Hillary Clinton’s emails might be located in Ukraine.

Pretending that the call is about stopping corruption in Ukraine before DDT releases funding appropriated by Congress for Ukraine to fight Russian aggression, DDT ignored a letter sent to four congressional committees in May of this year. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy John Rood “certified that the Government of Ukraine has taken substantial actions to make defense institutional reforms for the purposes of decreasing corruption [and] increasing accountability.” Instead, DDT’s reference to “corruption” is only domestic, focused at a campaign opponent.

Today’s events after DDT released his version of the Zelensky telephone call:

  • Following yesterday’s unanimous Senate vote for DDT to release the whistleblower complaint, 421 House members voted in favor of the resolution. Two Republicans—Louis  Gohmert (TX) and Thomas Massie (KY)—voted present.
  • DDT released the complaint to both House and Senate Intelligence Committees. It includes not only concerns about DDT’s covert extortion on the telephone call but also the way that the White House mishandled records of the communications. According to the whistleblower, other witnesses exist.
  • Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) failed to pass a resolution denouncing an impeachment inquiry by a vote of 231 Democrats and one Independent opposed against the 193 GOP members in favor.
  • Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, called on Barr to recuse himself from DOJ involvement in the Ukraine scandal because DDT “dragged the Attorney General into this mess.”
  • The White House accidentally emailed talking points to defend DDT to Democratic members of Congress and their staff their talking points to defend DDT. Once the mistake was discovered, the White House asked Democrats to return the email.
  • DDT concluded his day with another rambling, largely monotone speech that repeated his “witch hunt” claim from the Mueller investigation.
  • At the end of DDT’s press conference with Zelensky, he said that Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), elected by the membership until January 2021, is no longer the Speaker of the House and claimed that she isn’t “interested in guns and gun protection and gun safety.” The House has passed three major gun safety bills that GOP Majority Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) refuses to allow on the Senate floor.
  • Zelensky didn’t know that his side of the conversation would be made public.
  • DDT called Zelensky last April to work with Giuliani on investigations.
  • The whistleblower complaint has been declassified and available for the public, probably tomorrow.
  • Tomorrow, Congressional members will see the complete report from the Inspector General with corroborating information.

Sources reported that Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, in the job for fewer than six weeks, threatened to quit if DDT forces him to stonewall Congress during tomorrow’s testimony regarding a whistleblower complaint about DDT. Maguire got the job after DDT refused to allow DNI’s deputy director, Sue Gordon, into the senior position. As a Michigan congressman, Maguire leaked sensitive information like a sieve. [Note: both Maguire and DDT denied that Maguire offered to resign.] Maguire is scheduled to appear before both House and Senate Intelligence Committees tomorrow.

With beauty in the eye of the beholder, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) followed DDT’s talking points and scoffed at the accusation that the released transcript of DDT’s conversation with Zelensky was extortion and called it a “nothing burger.” On the other hand, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) called the memo “very troubling.” Instead of being a verbatim transcript of the 30-minute telephone call from a recording, the selective five-page summary that DDT released supposedly comes from notes and memories of officials in the Situation Room, and a cautionary note explains that a number of factors “can affect the accuracy of the record.” Readers can look at the summary and make their own decisions about the content.

David Nakamura wrote that DDT went from “America First” to a “me first”:

“At a gathering of world leaders in New York this week, President Trump decamped to one of his own properties, complained that the Nobel Peace Prize is rigged against him, feuded with a 16-year-old Swedish climate activist—and, on Wednesday, defended himself against the disclosure that he had asked a foreign leader to investigate a political rival…

“Trump repeatedly trashed Biden, suggesting it was the former vice president who had inappropriately pressured Ukrainian officials to help his son’s business dealings—despite evidence to the contrary.

“Meeting with Zelensky on Wednesday, Trump also faulted former president Barack Obama for allowing Russian-backed forces to invade and occupy the Crimea region of Ukraine. A day earlier, in his 37-minute address to world leaders in the United Nations’ distinctive green-marbled chambers, Trump made no mention of Russia’s malign behavior, including Moscow’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.

“’What we’re seeing in the [Ukraine] transcript is that he is clearly putting his own interests over the interests of the United States,’ said John Bellinger III, who served as a lawyer on the National Security Council under President George W. Bush. ‘There are so many things he could have talked about, such as Russian interference in Ukraine, but all Trump wants to talk about is investigating a political rival.’

“As [Zelensky] pressed him to visit the country, Trump reflected on his time as the owner of the Miss Universe pageant. ‘We had a winner from Ukraine,’ Trump said, ‘and we got to know the country very well in a lot of different ways.’”

The House needs to investigate DDT’s behavior because Barr refuses to do so from the DOJ.

In other parts of the world:

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin gave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 28 days to form a governing coalition of 61 parliament members. Netanyahu has only 55 at this time, and the question is whether he can pick up six from the other 65 who may be dug in against him. Without a position as prime minister, Netanyahu can be prosecuted for bribery, fraud, and corruption.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was in New York City when the UK Supreme Court unanimously ruled that his suspension of Parliament until October 14 was illegal because his action frustrated its ability to “carry out its constitutional functions.” Parliament is back and furious because Johnson won’t follow the law to find a deal before the UK leaves the European Union. Johnson’s opposition immediately called on him to quit, but he promised that the UK will not be a part of the EU after Halloween. The court’s ruling shows that the executive does not have unfettered power. Last week, the EU rejected three proposals for alternative arrangements to Brexit, and it will consider a fourth this week.

Three world leaders: Israel’s Netanyahu is terrified, UK’s Johnson is bullying, and U.S.’s DDT is deflated.

September 23, 2019

Chaos from Israel, Iran

Last week, I was biting my fingernails until I heard the results of Tuesday’s Israeli election to see if the corrupt far-right, ultra-Orthodox prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu would lose his power over the country. If he does, that’s the third country moving from far-right positions.

Italy was the first to go in the past few months when it ousted far-right Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini with a coalition between the pro-European Democratic Party and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement. Salvini failed to take over for Giuseppe Conte, the independent prime minister who resigned. The interior ministry will be run by migration specialist Luciana Lamorgese who wants to solve the humanitarian crisis caused for the former government. The new coalition is fragile, but it’s a start.

The UK parliament turned against new far-right prime minister, Boris Johnson, who failed to get enough votes for his position to walk out on the European Union with no deal in place. A Supreme Court decision this week will help determine UK’s direction about Brexit. The background is here. 

Almost a week after Israel’s election, a leader still hasn’t been finalized, and Netanyahu failed to coalesce rival rightwing parties the second election within six months. Instead of voting for a person, Israel votes for parties that then select a prime minister. As of yesterday, Netanyahu was behind a coalition supporting Benny Gantz because most of the Arab Palestinians, one-fifth of Israel’s citizens and 13 votes in parliament, picked Gantz as the lesser of two evils. President Reuven Rivlin will select the new prime minister.

Rivlin attempted to unify the government by calling Gantz and Netanyahu to a meeting lasting almost two hours. The two opponents will meet again tomorrow. For Arabs, supporting Ganz has been difficult because he led Israeli forces to devastate large parts of the Palestinian enclave and kill 2,000 people, mostly civilians. Three Arab parliamentarians called him a “war criminal” and backed out of his support, but for the remainder Netanyahu is a worse choice. Rivlin’s choice at forming a government has 28 days plus a 14-day extension to get coalition agreements. Failure means another 28 days before the parliament members recommend a third potential candidate with a majority vote who has 14 days to form a government.

Arabs have good reason to reject Netanyahu. Last summer, he declared that they were to officially be second-class citizens when he said, “According to the basic nationality law we passed, Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people—and only it.” In his reelection campaign, Netanyahu promised to illegally annex parts of the West Bank belonging to Jordan before he presents a “peace plan.”. He also posted a huge gold “Trump Heights” sign in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights that belongs to Syria. On his official FB chatbot, suspended as a “violation of hate,” Netanyahu posted that Arab politicians “want to annihilate us all.”

Netanyahu is desperate for a win; otherwise he faces prosecution in three criminal cases involving fraud, bribery and breach of trust. He conspired to curb the circulation of a daily newspaper owned by supporter Sheldon Adelson for better coverage in Yediot Ahronot, a rival paper critical of Netanyahu. In another accusation, Netanyahu, fixed the regulation of huge telecom Bezeq to get favors from Walla, a news website owned by Bezeq’s then-majority shareholder, Shaul Elovitch, who also faces charges. Elovitch told Walla to go easy on Netanyahu and his wife Sara to get a merger that raised antitrust concerns. These are details of Netanyahu’s involvement in these issues.

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has provided the script for Netanyahu’s rhetoric. Corruption charges are a “witch hunt” in the “leftist media,” and Netanyahu calls himself “the most maligned person in the history of Israeli media.” On a billboard of critical journalists’ images, he posted, “They will not decide. You decide.” He has interviews only on one far-right outlet, and communicates through social media. He called for a boycott of a network and accused those involved in the network of “a terror attack against democracy.”

After Netanyahu appeared to lose the election, Israel’s stock markets rose in celebration. Netanyahu canceled his meeting with DDT and his speech at the UN this week, not appearing at its main debate for only the second time in ten years. DDT is also distancing himself from his former BFF saying, “Our relationship is with the state of Israel.”

Israel is privy to U.S. classified information through cellphone surveillance devices placed by the country’s agents near White House “sensitive locations” to spy on DDT, his top aides, and his closest associates. DDT, who called for a congressional investigation into President Obama’s non-existent surveillance of him, didn’t indicate any distress about Israel’s real surveillance.

Another country is causing ulcers as the world waits to see what will happen with Iran. Since drones from an unspecified location by an unspecified group hit Saudi Arabian oil fields on September 13, the U.S. has consistently said that Iran is responsible for the attack claimed by the Yemeni Houthis. Countries such as Japan disagree, and even Saudi Arabia has not identified the location where the attacking drones was launched. DDT claims he waits for direction from the Saudi, following orders from the country that tortured and dismembered a U.S. journalist instead of the constitutional requirement that Congress is in control of declaring war. DDT says that the U.S. doesn’t need Saudi oil but wants to “help our allies,” a turnaround from five years ago when he said that the Saudis “should fight their own wars.”

Whether DDT will talk to Iran or bomb them depends on the hour, but he increased sanctions twice since the attack, including on Iran’s central bank.  His attitude reflects how much money he can get from them for his personal business.

A basis for DDT’s decision about attacks on Iran is most likely the price of crude oil. When he made war noises, the price per barrel went up almost 40 percent, only to come back down when he calmed down. Global markets set oil prices, and an invasion in the Middle East could double prices as it did when the U.S. dived into the Iraq-Kuwait conflict. In 1973, prices quadrupled after OPEC declared an oil embargo because of U.S. support for Israel in the Yom Kippur War. DDT’s 2020 campaign could be damaged by increases in oil prices, a war that no one wants, and the fear of a recession, already on the horizon. Six of the last eight recessions came after a spike in oil prices, including the most recent one in 2007.  High oil prices cause inflation and hurt economic growth, directly affect prices for goods made with oil and indirectly affecting costs from transportation and heating for consumers. Other goods are sold because people have a finite amount of money.

Whether DDT will talk to Iran or bomb them depends on the hour, but he increased sanctions twice since the attack, including on Iran’s central bank. His attitude reflects how much money he can get from them for his personal business. He claims that the U.S. needs the Saudis to bring them job, and every time he talks about the opportunities he adds thousands to his mythical number. What he really wants, however, is money in his own pocket from the Saudis pouring cash into DDT’s U.S. hotels and Scottish resort. His big problem is that hawks and hardliners want war, and he’s already bombed Yemen to please Saudi Arabia, contributing to a horrific humanitarian crisis with 3.3 million of Yemenis displaced and another 14 million desperately needing food, medicine, etc.

DDT may find little foreign support for a war against Iran. The United Arab Emirates has already backed off the Saudis’ war in Yemen, the Egyptian president faces new protests against his faltering economy and repression, and Israel has no leader. Even the Saudis are lukewarm about a fight with the Iranians. DDT has proved himself to be an on-again-off-again follower of the last person he talks to, well demonstrated when he called off a strike against Iran last June just ten minutes—according to him—before the final order without talking to his advisers.

Iran wants new talks on the nuclear agreement, and DDT refuses to negotiate. Talks also can’t resume while the U.S. has crippling sanctions on Iran, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani wants to block DDT from sending more U.S. troops into the Gulf. DDT has isolated the U.S., and other countries such as China are moving in to take advantage of Iranian resources. Tomorrow, he plans to give a speech at the UN to get support against Iran, and leaders of three EU countries—France, Germany, and UK—now say that Iran was responsible for the attack. Yet DDT’s disregard for global involvement does not bode well in an organization where people are more interested in diplomacy and denuclearization instead of buffoonery.

August 17, 2019

U.S. Trouble around the World

Anyone questioning whether Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is an autocrat, should consider his directive to Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu blocking Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) from visiting Israel because they support the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement to sanction Israelis over human rights abuses of Palestinians and Israeli’s occupation of the West Bank. DDT tweeted that the two women “hate all Jewish people”—a lie—and added that “it would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib to visit!”

Israeli’s foreign aid from the U.S. is dependent on congressional approval; Omar is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee with oversight over U.S. foreign aid. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said that if Israel doesn’t want U.S. congressional members in the country, they could return the annual $3 billion that Congress allots them for military aid. Even prominent Republicans opposed Israel’s ban on two congressional members taking part in a congressional delegation to the country, a first for the U.S. The day after the ban, Israel said Tlaib could visit her 90-year-old grandmother for the first time in 12 years if Tlaib promised to say nothing about laws punishing public contractors who boycotted Israel for its treatment of Palestinians. When Tlaib refused to go if she were muzzled, DDT accused her of “grandstanding.” Israel’s mandate, like U.S. Republicans who support Tlaib’s suppression, proves Israel as a repressive regime without free speech.

DDT renewed his attacks on Iran by issuing a warrant for the seizure of an Iranian oil tanker detained in Gibraltar, hours after a Gibraltar court ordered the ship released after the British navy intercepted it. The U.S. wants the ship, 2.1 million barrels of oil, and $999,500. The warrant is dated November 16, 2019—not August 19, and Iran is fighting it.   

U.S. officials remain silent about an explosion off the northern coast of Russia on August 8 that spread radioactivity for miles and killed seven people, including scientists. Apparently a test for a cruise missile propelled by nuclear power, the explosion occurred just five days after DDT officially dropped out of a treaty with Russia controlling nuclear weapons. Analysts think that the missile is a prototype of one spreading radioactivity that cannot be stopped because it has an unpredictable path at low altitudes.

Spreading misinformation, Russian officials first denied the radiation leak before confirming it. Three naked injured men wrapped in translucent plastic bags were taken to a regional hospital, but no one notified the hospital staff that the patients were radioactive. Two of the three patients died on the way to the airport on their way to Moscow. Five hospital staff workers, including senior doctors, were required to sign non-disclosure agreements. The staff’s questions were not answered, but the offer to fly them to Moscow for tests was rescinded when one was found with a radioactive isotype, a byproduct of the nuclear fission of uranium-235, in his muscle tissue. Tests were moved to the regional hospital.

Russia also stated that it flew nuclear-capable TU-160 bombers to a far eastern Russian region opposite Alaska to show the country’s long-range ability to launch nuclear weapons into the U.S.

DDT is siding with North Korea’s opposition to U.S./South Korea military exercises against his own military advice after Kim Jong Un wrote him a “really beautiful letter.” Kim wrote that he wants to save the U.S. money by stopping the exercises. North Korea has tested four different new weapons since July, with the most recent yesterday, and threatened continued testing if DDT doesn’t stop the long-planned exercises and lift sanctions. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/aug/17/north-koreas-kim-jong-un-expresses-great-satisfaction-after-test-of-new-weapon   Kim expressed “great satisfaction” about the tests’ “mysterious and amazing success rates” and vowed to build up “invincible military capabilities no one dare provoke.”

At a fundraiser, DDT said Kim “only smiles when he sees me” and “if I hadn’t been elected president, we would be in a big, fat, juicy war with North Korea.” In the same speech, DDT used a fake Japanese accent when he told about a conversation with Shinzo Abe about Abe’s kamikaze pilot father when he asked if kamikaze pilots were drunk or on drugs. Abe said they loved their country; DDT said, “Imagine they get in a plane with a half a tank of gas and fly into steel ships just for the love of their country!” About South Korea, DDT talked about getting rents from tenants:

“It was easier to get a billion dollars from South Korea than to get $114.13 from a rent-controlled apartment in Brooklyn, and believe me, those 13 cents were very important.”

DDT mocked the accent of South Korean leader Moon Jae-In, ridiculing him for “caving in” to negotiations and praised his son Don Jr. as a gun expert—seemingly over the FBI, CIA, military generals, U.S. army soldiers, reservists, national guardsmen, and Secret Service.

Thus far, DDT has clearly shown no support for Hong Kong protesters trying to protect themselves from China’s Communists. He explained that China’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen showed that China’s behavior “shows you the power for strength.” DDT’s avoidance of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement has isolated him from Congress, the State Department, European allies, and his hawkish White House advisers. Instead, DDT supports President Xi Jinping.Even Russia-supporter Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) tweeted that a violent crackdown on the Hong Kong protesters “would be completely unacceptable.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), usually DDT’s lapdog, tweeted that “30 years after Tiananmen Square all Americans stand with the peaceful protesters in Hong Kong.’’ Britain’s prime minister Boris Johnson, co-founder of the Brexit movement, argued that China must respect Hong Kong’s autonomy. In his avoidance of supporting human rights, DDT said nothing about the Moscow mass protests challenging President Vladimir Putin and supports repressive governments of autocracies such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, and Poland.

The election in Guatemala, DDT’s new pawn, is over, and 58 percent of the electorate didn’t show up—the biggest absentee rate in 20 years. Their choice between a right-wing candidate and an extremist right-wing candidate came after the top two contenders were banned from participation. The extremist candidate won. DDT may lose an agreement with Guatemala to block Central Americans from seeking asylum in the United States. The agreement, which needs to be ratified by the Guatemalan congress, would require the country to extend asylum to migrants coming through the country and make some asylum-seekers who pass through Guatemala ineligible for protection in the U.S. President-elect Alejandro Giammattei wants to change the highly unpopular deal, especially after a U.S. judge suspended a separate safe third country accord. The current president signed the agreement after DDT blackmailed him with threats of tariffs and charges on remittances sent to Guatemalans.

Declaring Guatemala a “safe country” has raised deep concerns. In 2016, its murder rate was five times that of the U.S., and people who live in Guatemala fear the high level of crime. Guatemala also has the world’s third-highest rate of femicide, the sixth-highest rate of chronic malnutrition, and an infant mortality rate four times higher than in the United States. DDT and Morales signed the agreement amid a time of violence in Guatemala on the day after two Indigenous community leaders were killed, one of them hacked to death with a machete outside his home and the other hit by a mining company vehicle. The president-elect promises to prohibit marriage equality, criminalize “sodomy” and all education on questions of sexual diversity, and ban abortions under all circumstances.

The coup by U.S. trained and equipped Guatemalan soldiers in 1954 led to 36 years of military rule, still U.S. supported, with genocide razing 600 villages and killing 200,000 people, 83 percent of them ethnic Mayan. Currently, two percent of the Guatemalan population controls 70 percent of arable land. The United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), expected to shut down next month, has worked with Guatemalan prosecutors to destroy systemic corruption. Asylum-seekers in Guatemala already face threats of murder and physical attacks.

DDT’s sanctions against Venezuela may not have the impact he wants because Panama is still permitting ships through the Canal.

Danish authorities ridiculed DDT’s idea of buying Greenland and its 50,000 citizens. Unfortunately, there is a precedent: in 1917, Denmark sold what is now the Virgin Islands to the U.S. for $25 million. In response to DDT’s suggestion, the huge headline on the cover of New York’s Daily News read: “Fjord to Trump: Drop Dead.” Gerald Ford said a similar headline protesting his lack of assistance for New York City, “Ford to City: Drop Dead,” cost him the 1976 election. The newspaper also echoed a headline after DDT dumped the Paris climate agreement with “Trump to World: Drop Dead.”

Update on DDT’s speech at the Pennsylvania Shell construction site on August 13: Workers were paid overtime to attend the speech and ordered “no yelling, shouting, protesting or anything viewed as resistance.” Those who skipped the speech forfeited all pay for the day and lost all overtime for the week. The new operation may harm the area’s air quality and increase carbon emissions and plastic pollution.

DDT finished his vacation at his Bedminster (NJ) resort during a week of telling lies and facing stalled approval ratings, increased polarization, escalating trade wars in Europe and Asia, war-like tension with North Korea and Iran, an unstable stock market, and a contentious aftermath of two mass shootings last weekend.

 

June 9, 2019

Some World Elections Pointing to Nationalism

In talking about the rise of fascism across the world during the early 20th century, Noam Chomsky cited an article that he wrote soon after the fall of Barcelona in February 1939, ending the Spanish Republic. The year before, Nazi Germany annexed Austria and then gained Czechoslovakia at the Munich Conference. Revolution against fascist control had lost since 1936. At that time, many in the United States, including parts of the government, supported the Nazi rise before deciding that its spread might be unstoppable. The State Department and Council on Foreign Relations decided that the world be divided into Nazis controlling most of Eurasia and the U.S. controlling the Western Hemisphere, the former British Empire, and the Far East. At least until Russia drove back Nazis in 1942, the world was on the brink of being totally fascist.

The 21st century sees the spread of ultranationalists, early represented by Steve Bannon who has moved on to push his movement in Europe. The U.S. under the guidance of State Department Secretary Mike Pompeo, national security adviser John Bolton, and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is helping Israel, now led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, solidify the reactionary nationalist movement. Threats of right-wing ultranationalists in Latin America are led by Brazil’s election of Jair Bolsonaro.

With the U.S. media largely focused on DDT, watching the rest of the world has been difficult. Yet after the re-election of far-right Netanyahu, other huge countries have moved to right-wing anti-immigration control. After Narendra Modi’s re-election for another five years, citizenship in India will be redefined with the publication of an updated National Registry of Citizens, a 1951 census to search for migrants from the neighboring, Muslim-majority East Pakistan and now Bangladesh. Conducted only in the northeastern state of Assam, the census requires proof that people were residents of India before 3/24/71, the day before Bangladesh declared its independence, to be considered citizens. Without documentation of lineage, people are declared illegal. Yet obtaining these documents is difficult because of poor record-keeping, illiteracy, or insufficient funds for the $750 to file a legal claim. Four million people believing themselves to be Indian are missing from the Registry. Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) makes the Registry a priority and will deport all illegal immigrants.

Modi’s first five years was notable for lynchings and other violence, and 1,000 Muslims were killed in anti-Islam riots under his leadership. In his victory speech, he announced that his 2019 election marked the official death of secularism in India. He claims to support the poor, but nine people in India have the combined assets of 500 million Indian residents. Like DDT, Modi is not only highly conservative but also has deep business interests and demonstrates hostility to journalistic media while embracing social media.

India’s re-election was disturbing but not the surprise about conservatives keeping control in Australia. Preventing climate change cost liberals votes from those dependent on mining and forestry. The liberal Labor Party also proposed income tax increase on households making more than $180,000 Australian ($124,000 in the U.S.) and hikes in capital gains tax while eliminating writing off investment property losses. Like the United States, Christian conservatives exploited liberal positions on secularism, anti-abortion, and homosexuality. https://www.devex.com/news/australia-s-election-and-its-impact-on-the-pacific-views-from-the-us-94970  It’s expected that the new leader, Scott Morrison, will likely take a hard line against China, affecting its relationship with Australia. Because of Morrison’s hard-line approach toward immigration, some asylum seekers are attempting suicide.

Although he was elected Israeli prime minister in April, Benjamin Netanyahu has been unable to form a governing right-wing coalition in the parliament, and his conservative Likud party succeeded in passing a bill that dissolves parliament and calls for a new election on September 17. A prime minister-designate has never before been able to get selected by the parliament. Netanyahu stays in power until the election while facing accusations of fraud, bribery, and breach of trust charges for taking gifts and giving favors for better press coverage. He wants a coalition of right-wing, ultranationalist and religious parties to change laws to override the Supreme Court and protect him from prosecution.  A demonstration of approximately 80,000 people protested his changing the law to grant himself immunity.

Elections for European Union representatives from 28 countries resulted in a more ambiguous conclusion than either India or Australia. Both conservatives and liberals are claiming some victory. One obvious outcome is that the center, losing over 80 seats, moved to either the left or the right. Liberal Democrats are up 40, Greens 20, and Nationalists 30. Marine Le Pen, who tried to take over France, is working with nationalist parties with Italy’s Matteo Salvini to get a majority from Germany, Austria, Denmark, and Finland. Far-right reps from Poland and Sweden are avoiding Salvini because of his support for Vladimir Putin; free-marketers from Germany and Denmark disagree with Le Pen’s opposition to “uncontrolled globalization.” Country by country results.

Instead of taking over Europe, hard right parties won where they already had support and kept their minority positions in other countries. Their numbers are still too small to be spoilers or kingmakers. France helped achieve the coalition of pro-EU, pro-market liberals—the parliament’s third-largest force. Social democrats and allies still thrive in Spain and Portugal where they lead the country’s governments. DDT and Brexit may have created enough fear to keep nationalists from taking over with the biggest turnout for the vote since 1994.

Some EU election results are positive. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and his ministers before he could call an election to strengthen his party, after the scandal in which a minister offered election favors to a Russian investor. The center right Austrian People’s party won over one-third of the EU representatives; Social Democrats got 23.6 percent, and the neo-Nazi Freedom Party took 18.1 percent.

The Green Party placed second in Germany with almost 21 percent of the vote and gained in Finland, France, and Ireland, possibly because of the youth activists trying to slow climate change. The 71 seats in the EU Parliament are up almost 40 percent from the 52 Green seats five years ago.

The Scottish National party, with its position of staying in the EU, wiped out the progressive Labour Party and has three seats, half Scotland’s representatives.   

UK followed the polarization pattern in the EU elections: Conservatives moved to the Brexit party looking for a no-deal separation from the EU while Labour voters picked the Liberal Democrats. Most of the Brexit gains were in rural areas but made some progress in a few cities where Tories left for the Lib Dems. Brexit gained 28 seats with 15 more for the Lib Dems. Labour lost seven, Greens won seven (a gain of four), and Tories had only three seats.

Prime Minister Theresa May is due to leave her position on June 7 with her replacement determined in late July. With the EU elections finished, the British parliament will return to the torment of a Brexit approach.

With many other countries, except for Israel, settled in for at least a short while, the campaign for the 2020 presidential election continues with DDT ramping up his dishonest and vicious approach. His ruthless comments make the lying ads about John Kerry and Michael Dukakis look like a walk in the park. DDT came back from Japan where he tweeted negative agreements about former vice-president Joe Biden with dictator Kim Jong-Un of North Korea, and the first Democratic debate is in four weeks on June 26. For a sample of what’s ahead, check out Corey Lewandowski’s threatening strategy on the Fox network. As former GOP presidential candidate Evan McMullin, tweeted:

“This is truly a dangerous abuse of power. [AG Bill] Barr will selectively release sensitive information, as he did with Mueller’s report, to shape a favorable narrative for Trump and impede the intelligence community’s ability to collect intel on foreign threats that assist the president.”

DDT’s personal television network, Fox, will control the message for its watchers, and congressional Republicans are terrified of DDT. There will be no accountability for DDT. He has already accused a large number of people of “treason” for investigating a presidential campaign, a charge punishable by death. With DDT, anything goes.

April 22, 2019

Judaism v. Zionism

One of the most sensitive topics in politics these days—other than Dictator Donald Trump (DDT)—is Zionism. Despite his anti-Semitic ideology during his campaign, DDT now loves Israel, probably because the newly elected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is perhaps farther right that DDT is. Republicans grab at any issue that they can use to criticize Democrats. Evangelicals want Israelis to control large swaths of land so that Jesus will have a big place to land during the rapture to save fundamentalist Christians. Some Democrats support Israel’s taking over Palestinian land in violation of international law.

Carolyn Karcher, author of Reclaiming Judaism from Zionism: Stories of Personal Transformation, tries to unravel the difference between a religion and a political interest group. She points out that “ethical precepts lie at the heart of Judaism: pursue justice, love the stranger, love your neighbor and repair the world.” Zionist policy violates all these teachings. The new Basic Law, passed by Israel, calls for the nation-state of only Jewish people in the country and gives the indigenous Palestinians no rights.

Zionism’s main founder Theodor Herzl, an Austrian Jew, created a version of a settler colonial movement in the 19th century not as a religious group, but a separatist political society that excluded all non-Jews. Zionism has developed into a nationalist organization with the same approach as white nationalism, comparable to persecuted Puritans seeking a place where they could rule. Having left England for America in the 17th century, they dispossessed and killed the indigenous peoples with no ethical concerns. In both cases, one group of people elevated themselves over another and then tried to eradicate considered a sub-group.

Younger Jews are protesting this Israeli position of domination. Members of one group, “If Not Now,” were thrown out of Israel because of their difficult questions about birthrights in the Israeli-Palestinian region. Others in Jewish Voice for Peace started the “Return the Birthright” campaign with the claim that Palestinians as indigenous people have a birthright to the land.

Karcher states that questioning birthright and Israel can lead to “revitalizing Judaism and redefining Jewish identity that does not depend on identifying with a Jewish state, and that does not depend on claiming a right to a land that you were not born in and have no real connection to.” Like the philosophy of democracy, she espouses all people having the same rights and the same access to economic and political rights.

From another writer and Jewish voice, Michelle Goldberg, comes this column, “Zionists Deserve Free Speech”:

The Palestinian activist Omar Barghouti, one of the founders of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, was supposed to be on a speaking tour of the United States this week, with stops at N.Y.U.’s Washington campus and at Harvard. He was going to attend his daughter’s wedding in Texas. I had plans to interview him for “The Argument,” the debate podcast that I co-host, about B.D.S., the controversial campaign to make Israel pay an economic and cultural price for its treatment of the Palestinians.

Yet when Barghouti, a permanent resident of Israel, showed up for his flight from Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport last week, he was informed that the United States was denying him entry. When I spoke to him on Sunday, he still didn’t know exactly why the country where he went to college and lived for many years wasn’t letting him in, but he assumed it was because of his political views. If that’s the case, Barghouti said, it was the first time someone has been barred from America for B.D.S. advocacy. He has proceeded with his public events, but he’s been appearing at them via Skype.

In recent years, the American right has presented itself as a champion of free expression. Conservatives are constantly bemoaning a censorious campus climate that stigmatizes their ideas; last month, Donald Trump signed an executive order on campus free speech, decrying those who would keep Americans from “challenging rigid far-left ideology.” The president said, “People who are confident in their beliefs do not censor others.”

If that last line is true — and, uncharacteristically for Trump, I think it is — it says something about the insecurity of Israel’s defenders. There have indeed been illiberal attempts to silence conservative voices on college campuses, but they pale beside the assault on pro-Palestinian speech, particularly speech calling for an economic boycott of Israel. Around two dozen states have laws and regulations denouncing, and in many cases penalizing, B.D.S. activities, and the Senate recently passed a bill supporting such measures. According to the American Association of University Professors, some public universities in states with such laws require speakers and other contractors to “sign a statement pledging that they do not now, nor will they in the future, endorse B.D.S.” It’s hard to think of comparable speech restrictions on any other subject.

What are pro-Israel forces afraid of? The B.D.S. movement doesn’t engage in or promote violence. Its leaders make an effort to separate anti-Zionism from anti-Semitism; the Palestinian B.D.S. National Committee recently demanded that a Moroccan group stop using the term “B.D.S.” in its name because it featured anti-Semitic cartoons on its Facebook page.

Barghouti couches his opposition to Zionism in the language of humanist universalism. The official position of the B.D.S. movement, he says, is that “any supremacist, exclusionary state in historic Palestine — be it a ‘Jewish state,’ an ‘Islamic state,’ or a ‘Christian state’ — would by definition conflict with international law and basic human rights principles.”

The movement is agnostic on a final dispensation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But it calls for the right of Palestinian refugees — both those displaced by the creation of Israel and their descendants — to return to their familial homes, which would likely end Israel’s Jewish majority. Barghouti told me he personally believes in the creation of a single state in which Israeli Jews, as individuals, would have civil rights, but Jews as a people would not have national rights.

I’d planned to argue with him about this view, which is largely dismissive of Jewish claims on Israel, and would likely lead to oppression or worse for Israeli Jews. My guess is that many if not most Jews find such a position offensive, even frightening.

But for years now, the right has been lecturing us all about the need to listen to and debate ideas we might consider dangerous. Barghouti wants this sort of dialogue. “We’ve been dying to debate anyone on the other side,” he told me. “We would debate anyone except Israeli government officials and professional lobbyists.” A government that tries to prevent Americans from engaging with his views cannot claim a commitment to free speech.

You could argue, I suppose, that Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state should not be up for discussion. If you do, realize it’s the exact same sort of argument that certain campus leftists make when they refuse to debate people they see as racist, sexist or otherwise bigoted. Sometimes this refusal is justified, because certain ideas shouldn’t be dignified with discussion. But sometimes it just makes the people unwilling to test their ideas in public look scared.

Ultimately, Barghouti threatens Israel’s American defenders not because he’s hateful, but because he isn’t. Israel has aligned itself with the global far right. Recently re-elected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to unilaterally annex the West Bank, which would create a single state where Jews rule over Arabs. That prospect makes it ever more difficult for Israel’s American defenders to make coherent arguments against the sort of one-state solution that Barghouti espouses. “Israel is winning the far right around the world,” Barghouti said at an N.Y.U. event last week, where the journalist Peter Beinart interviewed him remotely. But, he added, “it is losing its moral stature around the world.” American authorities may be able to quash this message on some college campuses, but it won’t stop being true.

The United States has freely sanctioned countries that violate human rights to pressure them for change. Boycott has long been an individual practice from people on both the right and left to express displeasure about positions. Yet Ilhan Omar, a U.S. representative, black woman, Muslim, and Somali refugee, has been pilloried, not only by Republicans but by her own party of Democrats, because she was brave enough to speak out against the Israeli control over the U.S. federal government.

Pressure from Israeli is causing even Democrats to punish corporations that use their constitutional right to use a boycott as a form of free speech. A bipartisan House bill opposes the boycott, divestment and sanctions, or “BDS,” movement and gives states the legal right to punish companies choosing not to do business with Israel or Israeli-owned enterprises. In the 26 states already passing anti-BDS laws, courts in two of them, Kansas and Arizona, have declared the legislation unconstitutional. To take free speech from companies, Congress would have to remove their classification as “persons” or take away the right of real people to free speech. Meanwhile Republicans have another wedge device by equating Palestinian support and human rights with anti-Semitism.

March 25, 2019

World Condemns DDT’s Golan Heights Proclamation

Filed under: Religion — trp2011 @ 10:22 PM
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Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) turned the Middle East upside down in his efforts to get Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu re-elected by his order that the U.S. recognizes Israeli sovereignty over the Syrian Golan Heights. Netanyahu faces a difficult re-election early April especially because he could be indicted on criminal charges, in his case for corruption, and DDT decided to shore him up.

Israel seized the Golan Heights in southwestern Syria during the 1967 when a six-day war also took over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. After deliberating for six months, the UN determined that Israel would return the territories in exchange for permanent peace. Israel declared that the West Bank and Gaza would be described as “disputed” instead of “occupied,” claiming that Palestine was not a sovereign nation. Israel decided to keep a legal presence through leaving military authority in the Palestinian territory and continually encroached on the Palestinian land.

Because Egypt and Syria were not questioned as sovereigns, only Israel disputed the disposition of the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights. Egypt and Syria attacked Israel to regain its territories in 1973. Although Israel won the war, the UN passed a ceasefire and a U.S.-led Middle East Peace Process to return Arab territories in exchange for peace. Palestine was not recognized as a legitimate representative to regain the West Bank and Gaza until 1991, and Syria continue to object legitimizing Israel’s claims. The Camp David Accords in 1979, with the agreement of Israel and Egypt, returned the Sinai to Egypt and established permanent peace in which Syria would not go to war alone. Two years later Israel unilaterally annexed the Golan Heights despite Ronald Reagan’s rejection because of its violation of international principle blocking taking territory by force. Israel refuses to return to the 1967 lines since then because it would lose access to the Sea of Galilee which provides one-third of Israel’s fresh water.

DDT ignored this history, international law, and U.S. policy. He claimed that the Golan Heights is a security buffer against Syria, but Israel has settled 20,000 civilians and 167 businesses, including a ski resort, on this land. Jordan established permanent peace with Israel in 1994, and Syria has not waged war since 1973. Libya and Iraq no longer threaten Israel, and Hezbollah has not initiated war from Lebanon. Israel has no credible military threat from Syria’s southern border.

DDT spent his first two years trying to destroy the Palestinians. He “took Jerusalem off the table,” closed the Palestinians’ mission in Washington and America’s mission to the Palestinians in Jerusalem, and cut off aid to Palestinian civil society and humanitarian needs. His unilateral actions, however, oppose the support for both the U.S. people and the Israeli desire for peace with Palestine. For the first time since 2012, at least half of people in the U.S. favor the establishment of an independent Palestinian state “on the West Bank and the Gaza strip,” up almost 20 percent in the past four years.  In Israel, 71 percent of the Jewish public believe that Israel’s control over the Palestinians is a moral problem, and 78 percent of Israeli Jews think that control of Palestinians in Judea and Samaria is bad for Israel. The poll also showed that 78 percent of the Jewish public and 93 percent of the Arab public in Israel agree that peace with people of other faiths is an important value in their religion, and 51 percent of the Jews and 72 percent of the Arabs agree that religious leaders representing different religions in the region should take part in making decisions related to peace.

Before State Department Secretary Mike Pompeo left for a recent trip to the Middle East, he had a teleconference press briefing to discuss “international religious freedom”—with only “faith-based media.” He refused to submit either a transcript of what was said or a list of who was included. According to one invited news outlet, all those asking questions of Pompeo were Christian or Jewish. An invitation to a secular outlet was rescinded with the explanation that they were not “faith-based.” The House Foreign Affairs Committee, chaired by Eliot Engel (D-NY), has demanded “more information” about Pompeo’s decision to exclude all non-Judeo-Christian media and what was said.

To Pompeo, U.S. military battles in the Middle East are part of a greater war of good against evil, including the elimination of both Israel and Islam. Regarding DDT’s meeting with evangelicals about his Middle East plan, Pompeo reported that this administration will achieve peace in the Middle East and that “persons of faith [i.e., only Christians] will have something to say about the plan.” DDT’s strong support of Israel comes from his evangelical base which needs the country to start Armageddon for the return of Jesus. A greater advantage for DDT in Israel’s takeover of Palestinian land, is that Jared Kushner’s family makes money from building developments on the West Bank.

On the Christian Broadcasting Network, Pompeo compared DDT to Queen Esther, celebrated on Purim last Thursday, saying that DDT was chosen by God to save Israel from Iran. Historian Jon Meacham called Pompeo’s position “idolatry,” a hypocritical approach toward the man who “never felt the need to ask God for forgiveness …, to ask Jesus to forgive him of his sins,” according to Joe Scarborough. Pompeo was caught off guard with DDT’s tweet about Israel’s authority over the Golan Heights after Pompeo’s statement that the U.S. policy had not changed.

The position to help Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be re-elected likely destroys any hope for peace in the Middle East as shown by the anger reverberating throughout its countries:

Syria stated that DDT’s “blatant attack” on its sovereignty and territorial integrity will isolate the U.S.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas released this statement: “There is no legitimacy that can override UN Security Council resolutions, the UN General Assembly or the Arab Peace Initiative.”

Lebanon said the US recognition of Israeli sovereignty “violates all the rules of international law” and “undermines any effort to reach a just peace.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is “clear that the status of Golan has not changed,” according to his spokesman. The UN spokesman is holding to the unanimous resolution by the 15-member Security Council resolution in 1981 that Israel’s “decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect.”

Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejected the U.S. move and said that the Golan Heights are occupied Arab land.

Saudi Arabia denounced DDT’s actions with the statement that “attempts to impose fait accompli do not change the facts” and that the Golan Heights was an “occupied Syrian Arab land in accordance with the relevant international resolutions. It will have significant negative effects on the peace process in the Middle East and the security and stability of the region.”

Turkey called the U.N. recognition unacceptable and said it would take action against it.

The Arab League condemned the move, saying that “Trump’s recognition does not change the area’s status.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif called DDT’s “persistently violating international law … displays panic of an empire in decline.”

Other criticism directed at DDT’s land grab for Israel came from the EU, UK, Germany, France, Egypt, Russia, and Venezuela.

Pleased with himself, DDT and Netanyahu smugly grin at each other, but DDT’s decision to break international law leaves the U.S. even more isolated with only Israel as support. In the UN, 130 member countries have already voted against DDT’s decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem. DDT’s actions will exacerbate war in the Middle East. Israel no longer has leverage for peace agreements with Syria, and Syria’s President Bashar al Assad can argue that the U.S. no longer has a right in his country’s future governance. Iran and Hezbollah have justification for terrorism and military operations against Israel. Arab nations will be reluctant to oppose Islam countries to protect Israel. Russia may no longer tolerate Israeli strikes to prevent Iran’s adversarial movements, perhaps blocking Israeli’s freedom in Syria’s skies. DDT’s approval of Israeli’s takeover of Golan Heights supports not only Russia’s annexation of Crimea but also its destruction of “independence” of Abkhazia and South Ossetia from the Republic of Georgia. With the disregard for international law, Saudi Arabia may take over Qatar.

Will DDT declare war on the world to continue his protection of Israel?

May 11, 2018

DDT: Weeks 67-68 – Iran, North Korea Plus Religion, Giuliani

Catching up on the last two weeks of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) roller-coaster events:

Will the United States go to war to support Israel? That question may be front and center now that DDT has withdrawn from the Iran agreement for that nation’s denuclearization. Israel fired on targets in Syria that were believed to be Iranian soon after DDT’s withdrawal. Claims that Iran fired 20 rockets at the Golan Heights the most extensive Israeli bombing on Syria since the countries signed a disengagement agreement after the October war of 1973. Israel has illegally occupied Golan Heights since the Six-Day War in 1967. DDT’s daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner, are scheduled to arrive in Israel soon for the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem on May 14. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has assured Israel that the U.S. will stand at its side in a fight.

DDT’s officials are circulating a report from Securities Studies Group, an organization with ties to DDT’s national security adviser John Bolton, that provides strategy for a regime change in Iran is being circulated among DDT’s officials. The plan is to stir unrest and help the Iran public to drive a wedge between the people and the nation’s rulers. The plan sounds identical to Russia’s approach to control the 2018 presidential election.

Israel’s military escalation came after DDT decided to please some of his constituents—including Vladimir Putin and Israel—by withdrawing from the Iranian deal. Russia’s economy desperately needs the rubles from the increase in oil prices if Iranian resources aren’t available. At the same time, Russia is concerned about Israel’s attacks on Iran, but DDT may side with Israel, again separating him from Putin. Perhaps DDT figures that a world war would allow him to declare military law, like in Turkey, so that he can remain dictator forever. Bernard Avishai discusses Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s motivations and the dangers of his country in pushing a war in the Middle East.

DDT announced his withdrawal several days before the deadline at the same time the media jumped on the millions of dollars in “pay to play” paid to his personal lawyer Michael Cohen for access to DDT. Since payments made to DDT’s personal lawyer were first announced, the amount has vastly grown, for example AT&T’s $600,000 to Cohen for access to DDT instead of $200,000. CEO Randall Stephenson called Cohen’s hiring “a big mistake,” and top lobbyist for the company, Bob Quinn, has retired. Quinn was a leader in opposing net neutrality. AT&T also paid Cohen to get approval for its $85 billion merger with Time Warner. Drugmaker Novartis agreed that its $1.2 million contract with Cohen was “a mistake.” Reports as of now show that Cohen was paid $2.95 million through Essential Consultants, the shell company Cohen set up to funnel hush money to Stormy Daniels and perhaps others. The involved companies learned about Essential Consultants because Cohen reached out to them.

In his work to guarantee never-ending war for the U.S., former VP Dick Cheney, who mythologized weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, went on Fox Business directing DDT to believe the falsehood that Iran has these weapons. He also encouraged the continuation of “enhanced interrogation techniques” (aka torture).

DDT is also hoping that people will ignore all the Russia and Cohen scandals because three U.S. prisoners have been released from North Korea. He also hopes that his talks with North Korea will result in his receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, even encouraging his rally crows to chant, “No-bel, No-bel. When the prisoners arrived at 3:00 am, he said, “I think you probably broke the all time in history television rating for three o’clock in the morning.” DDT also thanked North Korean president Kim Jong-Un “ who really was excellent to these three incredible people.” They had been imprisoned for at least a year, and one of them had been sentenced to ten years’ hard labor in one of the world’s most brutal prisons. DDT plans to meet with Kim Jong-Un in Singapore on June 12.

While people become excited about the release of prisoners in North Korea, they forget the four U.S. citizens still held in Iran for longer than the newly released NK ones. DDT’s withdrawal spells disaster for these people, one of them 81 years old. Another two U.S. men are still illegally imprisoned in Turkey. 

Although DDT’s new lawyer Rudy Giuliani appeared on Sean Hannity only nine days ago, so much has happened that it could have been last year. Giuliani, DDT’s lawyer for one day, said that DDT had paid Cohen $35,000 a week to clean up hush money to Stormy Daniels about her affair with DDT as well as “things that might come up.” DDT first agreed that he paid off Daniels and then tried to deny that he did, going so far as to say that Giuliani “will get his fact straight.” Giuliani lacks the skill to stay quiet, a serious problem in court. (Transcript for the program.)  Giuliani went on another talk show to say that he knew the payment didn’t look good immediately before the election but changed his story to say that the settlement was made solely “to protect the President’s family.” He also might be waiving attorney-client privilege by saying that he had conferred with DDT before he talked about DDT paying Cohen. About the payoff, Giuliani said:

“I don’t think the president realized he paid him back for that specific thing until we made him aware of the paperwork.”

Despite being released from his law firm and claiming “sole concentration” as DDT’s lawyer, Giuliani appeared in a Florida court today to represent a woman accused of purchasing car insurance ten minutes after her car crash. He isn’t licensed to practice law in Florida but said the woman was her personal assistant.

DDT’s staff tried to prep him in advance of any interview with Robert Mueller, but he could answer only two questions in four hours. The argument might be that an interview could cut into time for his important work in the Oval Office, but evidence indicates that he “works” less than two hours a day. DDT is still falsely accusing that the investigators are Democrats as he continues his rant against the investigation. DDT is back to saying that he wants an interview with Mueller, but most people no longer believe him.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) issued DOJ with a subpoena after he was refused extensive information about a longtime intelligence source for the CIA and FBI with the concern that the source could be jeopardized if Nunes discovers the person’s identity. Common knowledge indicates that Nunes wants the information to take to the White House. DOJ officials offered a classified briefing about his demand, but Nunes threatened a contempt charge against AG Jeff Sessions. He also has not bothered to read earlier classified information that he demanded. Nunes is under investigation for three potential campaign law violations.

Giuliani’s bombshell about DDT’s paying off Stormy Daniels intersected with DDT’s appearance for the day of prayer, causing CNBC to tweet, “Trump leads National Prayer Day event after saying he repaid lawyer for hush money to porn star.” DDT signed the “White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative” that permits religious organizations to use taxpayer money to discriminate on the basis of gender and sexual orientation, allow religious organizations to be “experts” for public policy, remove requirements that religious groups refer anyone objecting to their teachings to other programs, and use his new “faith-based office” to guarantee no blocking of “liberty of conscience” of believers. (Sounds like Sharia law for evangelicals.) The major groups wanting to deny services to LGBTQ people are Mormons and white evangelicals, 20 percent of the population. Among that 20 percent, 47 percent think that it’s wrong to refuse business based on religious convictions.

States such as Kansas and Oklahoma are already passing laws permitting adoption agencies to prevent same-gender couples from adopting children. A lesbian couple in Mississippi was denied an adoption by the state the day before they were scheduled to take their daughter home despite a court ruling that the Mississippi’s ban on same-gender adoptions was struck down by a federal judge in 2016. In another case, the state Supreme Court ruled that a lesbian couple could divorce; a dissenting justice, Jess Dickinson, is now head of the agency denying the couple their legally adopted child. Bryan Fischer, former spokesman for the American Family Association (AFA), announced on his show that only Christians have First Amendment rights and protections.

Anti-LGBTQ preacher Kevin Swanson will hold the Bible Family Conference in Washington, D.C. on August 10-11. He wants to execute all LGBTQ people and all Girls Scout leaders because they support LGBTQ and women’s rights. He also wants Boy Scouts, now called Scouts BSA because it recruits girls as well as boys, to have a “sodomy merit badge” because openly gay scouts can join the organization. The name of Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) has disappeared as keynote speaker.

The six worst states for LGBTQ support are Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, West Virginia, Louisiana, and North Carolina.

More later!

June 8, 2017

50th Anniversary of Israeli Preemptive Strike against U.S.

Today, June 8, is USS Liberty Remembrance Day to commemorate a little-known event—the first and only time that a Middle East country attacked the United States. On that day, 50 years ago, Israel attacked the USS Liberty in international waters about 25 miles off the coast of the Sinai Peninsula. Flying the U.S. flag, the largely unarmed intelligence ship was monitoring communications between the USSR and Egypt to anticipate intervention in Israel’s Six Day War with Egypt, Jordan, and Syria.

Israeli planes and torpedo boats attacked this US Navy research ship, the USS Liberty in the Mediterranean Sea near the Sinai Peninsula 6/8. 

After observing the ship with radar tracking and hourly aircraft-over flights for more than nine hours, unmarked Israeli warplanes led an air attack followed by three Israeli torpedo boats. Of the 821 holes in the USS Liberty, a 40-foot one was in the hull. The hour-long attack included napalm munitions dropped on the decks and machine gun fire on stretcher-bearers and life rafts. Ultimately, Israelis killed 34 U.S. sailors and injured another 17. With transmission equipment destroyed and all but one of the six U.S. radio frequencies jammed, the ship sent one “mayday.” Although defensive aircraft was launched from a nearby carrier group, the White House recalled them. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara stated, “President Johnson is not going to go to war or embarrass an American ally over a few sailors.” Dean Rusk, U.S. Secretary of State, disagreed:

“I was never satisfied with the Israeli explanation. Their sustained attack to disable and sink Liberty precluded an assault by accident or some trigger-happy local commander. Through diplomatic channels we refused to accept their explanations. I didn’t believe them then, and I don’t believe them to this day. The attack was outrageous.”

Despite Israelis’ claim that they misidentified the vessel, the jamming of U.S. frequencies, testimony from survivors about low surveillance flyovers, and intercepted radio transmissions between the Israelis and Tel Aviv proved differently. One Israeli pilot who refused to attack was later court-martialed. According to CIA sources, Gen. Moshe Dayan, commander of Israeli forces during the Six Day War, had ordered the Liberty attacked and sunk.

Liberty survivors were threatened with court-martial if they told the truth, yet at least four of them have written books about the event. The U.S. government told the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, Adm. Thomas Moorer, not to investigate. After he retired, Moorer led a blue-ribbon, independent commission that included testimony from Capt. Ward Boston, the Navy’s chief military attorney in the original hearing. He confirmed that the original hearing into the attack had whitewashed the entire event.

Before Moorer died in 2004, he said, “I’ve never seen a President … stand up to Israel. … If the American people understood what a grip these people have on our government, they would rise up in arms.” Former U.S. Ambassador Edward Peck echoed Moorer when he described the federal government’s attitude toward Israel as “obsequious, unctuous subservience … at the cost of the lives and morale of our own service members and their families.”

Moorer’s commission concluded that “Israel’s attack was a deliberate attempt to destroy an American ship and kill her entire crew” and that “Israel committed acts of murder against American servicemen and an act of war against the United States.” It recommended the annual remembrance day to “commemorate the Liberty’s heroic crew; and to educate the American people of the danger to our national security inherent in any passionate attachment of our elected officials for any foreign nation.”

Many people in the U.S. think that Israelis fought the Six Day War to protect themselves from Egypt. Largely ignored is a statement from former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1982 that described Israel’s preemptive Six Day War in 1967, a war leading to the displacement of over one million Palestinians:

“In June 1967, we had a choice. The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that [Egyptian President] Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.”

Lieutenant Commander David Lewis, the Liberty’s senior Naval Security Group officer stated:

“They took out all of our transmitting antennas, and shortly thereafter deposited napalm there on the deck. It appeared to me that it was the intent of the attacker to take out all communications and keep all people off deck so they couldn’t re-establish any sort of antennas or communication system. If it was an accident, it was the best planned accident I ever heard of. The only reason we got the SOS out was because my crazy troops were climbing the antenna string and long wire while they were being shot at.”

A BBC film, USS Liberty Dead in the Water, details the attack and argues that the attack was to keep the U.S. from knowing about the forthcoming attack in the Golan Heights, which would violate a cease-fire agreement. The 68-minute video is available here. More information is in an article by Ray McGovern, a CIA analyst in 1967,and a Wikipedia piece. Also interesting are an Intercept about the coverup and photographs from the USS Liberty.

The USS Liberty was attacked 50 years ago. Today, the man inaugurated on January 20, 2017, is instigating war with around the world. In the past week, he alienated Qatar by siding with Saudi Arabia and goaded Iran with the tweet to about the attack in Tehran by Iranians recruited by ISIS causing at least 17 dead and 52 wounded:

 “We underscore that states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote.”

The Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, called the message “repugnant … as Iranians counter terror backed by US clients.” Weapons killing people in the Middle East come from the U.S., both those sold to Middle East countries and those the U.S. lost in Iraq,  including more than $1 billion worth of arms and other military equipment” channeled to Iraq under the Iraq Train and Equip Fund (ITEF).

Last month DDT worked on attacking North Korea, and the conflict has again reared its ugly head. North Korea keeps firing missiles, and the U.S. has two aircraft carriers within attacking distance of the country. Right now DDT likes China because they gave him copyrights and he thinks he needs them as protection against North Korea after he dumped NATO. But what happens if he loses his temper and goes after China?

At this time, DDT is at war with the press and the Department of Justice. He wants tens of billions more for the military and has turned all decisions over to the Pentagon that will “protect” the country with munitions. He no longer protects people in the U.S. from domestic terrorism if it is perpetrated by white supremacists. The U.S. is at the mercy of a twitch of his finger on a button that he may confuse with the button to order more Diet Coke. Our nation has developed a great fondness for preemptive attacks—like Israel. Congress is supposed to be able to stop the president from starting wars. But the U.S. has not had any wars since World War II; it merely has “conflicts,” that might be started without any congressional authorization. With Jared Kushner in trouble, white supremacist Steve Bannon is back in charge of the White House. In March 2016, he stated, “We’re going to war in the South China Sea in five to 10 years.” The question is how long it will take for Republicans to understand how close the nation is to a nuclear war—if they ever do.

Or maybe DDT is just all fake news. The $110 billion arms deal to Saudi Arabia doesn’t exist, his order to privatize the air traffic controllers is just an order to develop “principles.” There is no tax bill, and GOP congressional members hate his budget. A parliamentarian shot down the senate version of Trumpcare at a time when GOP senators are at each other’s throats. And Congress will be in session only 36 days during the next four months when the deadline comes for raising the debt ceiling—always an exciting process—and passing a budget to avoid a government shutdown. Maybe, like the past six years, the GOP won’t be able to do anything, and DDT will be tweeting about James Comey.

The world may be turning around. Today in Great Britain, people may have voted against the conservatives, Prime Minister Teresa May, and the large support for Brexit—leaving the European Union. May had called for a “snap” election seven weeks ago with the hopes of reinforcing her position. Now it appears that the Conservatives won’t have a majority in Parliament, and she may even lose her position. Here’s an early analysis. For more detail, The Guardian is running frequent updates.

[Thanks to Jack Dresser, national vice-chairman of the Veterans for Peace working group on Palestine and the Middle East and co-director of Al-Nakba Awareness Project in Eugene, for educating me about the USS Liberty Remembrance Day and its background.]

May 25, 2017

DDT Doesn’t Complete Embarrass U.S.

Filed under: Donald Trump — trp2011 @ 9:10 PM
Tags: , , , , , ,

At the half-way mark of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT’s) whirlwind trip to the Middle East, NATO in Brussels, the Vatican, and G-7 in Sicily, he got back to Europe but marked the trip with hypocrisy, rejection of human rights, gaffes, and lots of meetings that have left DDT exhausted.

The people who voted for anti-Muslim, anti-global DDT were unhappy to see him with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi holding a creepy glowing orb in a darkened room for a ceremony opening a global organization. At the same event, he touted the similarities between the United States and the Muslim countries represented by 50 leaders in his audience and reversed all his former positions. No mention of “America First.”

President Donald Trump’s one time campaign adviser and longtime confidante Roger Stone said the royal reception Trump received in Riyadh, including the country’s highest civilian honor, made him want to puke. Both George W. Bush and President Obama received the same award, and both bowed. DDT criticized President Obama for this. Stone said that DDT should insist that Saudi Arabia pay for the 9/11 attacks which they financed. Instead DDT lavished praise on the Saudis. The opulence in Saudi Arabia made DDT comfortable, so comfortable that he made this comment when he was talking to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi: “Love your shoes. Boy, those shoes. Man!” (Note that the speaker is the president of the United States.) He gave a speech reversing all his former positions, but he made a lot of money for his friends with their multi-billion-dollar deals in the Middle East plus $360 billion in arms deals. In return, Saudi Arabia wants the repeal of a 2016 law permitting relatives of 9/11 victims to sue the kingdom for their deaths. After George W. Bush declared war on Afghanistan and Iraq, many people forgot that 15 of the 19 attackers came from Saudi Arabia.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also gave a news conference with Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir, to which only foreign media were invited—not any U.S. media. The UK Daily Mail provided a transcript to U.S. media.

DDT’s hosts were a bit concerned about his visit too. Speeches had to be cut down to a couple of minutes for the man who has a shorter attention span than a five-year-old, and everyone needs to be careful about what they tell him as he’ll tell anybody anything. DDT needs to be complimented and feel that he’s winning.

When DDT landed in Israel, his next stop after Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had ordered his cabinet members to be present. Some of them had planned to skip the event. DDT said to a group of Israeli officials, “We just got back from the Middle East.” The men tried to control their laughs at the man who failed to realize that Israel is also in the Middle East.

Gaffes before the trip to Israel also riled his host there. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hoped that the U.S. embassy would be moved to Jerusalem, giving Israel ownership over the city occupied by four distinctly separate groups. DDT decided against the move, however, because Jordan’s King Abdullah told him not to do it. DDT refused to go to the ancient mountain fortress of Masada because he would have to take a cable car instead a helicopter. The White House had told Netanyahu that he couldn’t go to the holy Western wall because it was in the West Bank although part of it is in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem. The map used for the trip showed Israel’s pre-1967 borders, excluding East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Golan Heights, and the Gaza strip. In his appearance at the Jewish Western Wall where he seemed to be either doing exercises or maintaining his balance. DDT was afraid to speak to Israel’s Parliament because he might be interrupted. He limited his visit to the famous Holocaust museum, Yad Vashem, to 30 minutes, and much has been made of the difference between his statement at the site compared to the one that President Obama wrote.

Truly embarrassing was DDT’s giving highly classified Israeli intelligence to the Russians while DDT chatted with two high officials in the White House Oval Office. Israel’s bitter enemy Iran is one of Russia’s closest allies. In child-like manner, DDT blurted out at a press conference that he never told the Russians that the information had come from Israel—something no one had been accused of doing. “Never mentioned the word Israel.” This response was to a question directed toward Netanyahu about any concerns regarding intelligence cooperation with the United States.

As for the Palestine visit, DDT had reported that his meetings with leaders in their territory were in Israel— another map issue. He skipped Islam’s Holy Sanctuary, where the prophet Mohammed is said to have ascended to the heavens, and his brief remarks to the Palestinians during his one-hour visit made no reference to a “two-state solution” between the two rival countries. As Hanan Ashrawi, senior official of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said, “He’s still on a learning curve, and peacemaking is not a business deal.” Palestinians in Bethlehem joked that the greatest achievement was that the streets had been cleaned for the visit.

Iran commented on DDT’s constant criticism of the country. PressTV in Iran quoted Americans who wonder, “Why is the Saudi monarchy our friend but not democratic Iran?” Mehdi Hassan, based in the U.S., criticized Trump for speaking to a room full of “autocrats, dictators and despots.”

From Israel and the Middle East, DDT moved on to the Vatican; this photo shows the beginning of the meeting although Pope Francis did relax a bit by the end of the hour. DDT left the 30-minute private meeting, saying that he’ll remember what the Pope had said.

DDT took an extensive entourage with him although Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon were returned to the U.S. after just two days. DDT claimed that this was planned, but rumors included that they’re out of favor, anti-Semitic Bannon was dropped off the tour before Israel, they need to work with the budget, and—my favorite—they need to do something about the steady drip of Russia involvement with DDT.

Wilbur Ross returned with Priebus and Bannon, glowing about the lack of protests in Saudi Arabia. The Commerce Secretary raved, “There was not a single hint of a protester anywhere there during the whole time we were there.” Becky Quick, the CNBC anchor interviewing him, pointed out that the country is a police state and bans protesting. But he  knew better: “The mood was a genuinely good mood.” Saudi state security personnel had given him “two gigantic bushels of dates” which was “a from-the-heart, genuine gesture,” Ross said.

In 2015, more than a dozen activists, members of the Shia minority, were in prison, convicted for peaceful activities. Waleed Abu al-Khair has a 15-year sentence from his peaceful criticism in media interviews and on social media. The writer Zuhair Kutbi was jailed for discussing peaceful reform on television. Others are sentenced to death. In November 2016, the Saudis executed a partially blind and deaf man for protesting. His family said he was tortured into confessing. He was accused of “sending texts,” but he was too poor to own a cell phone. Earlier in January, 47 protesters were executed in one day, and the total number of beheadings by July was 108. In addition, people break the law if they “distort the reputation of the kingdom” or “break allegiance with the ruler.”  A 2014 anti-terrorism law treats virtually all free expression as acts of terrorism, including “calling for atheist thought,” “contacting groups or individuals opposed to the Kingdom,” and “seeking to disrupt national unity” by calling for protests. Dissenters are tortured in prison as well as publicly flogged and sometimes beheaded.

Those praising DDT on his trip have used the low bar that he hasn’t embarrassed the United States. He did support all the actions that found wrong with the Obama: his wife didn’t wear a head covering in Saudi Arabia, and DDT bowed to the Saudi Arabia king. He also supported a global organization and praised the Islam faith. He violated all his promises to his base. Now he has four more days in Europe.

One more thing. From videos of the couple, DDT and his wife, Melania, may not have a close relationship. She preferred to stay in New York when he moved into the White House, and he largely ignores her, never returning to his Trump Tower home. She rarely travels with him although she is on this trip with him. There was one moment that some have called “the slap heard ‘round the world.” As the couple deplaned onto the red carpet in Tel Aviv, he reached out for her hand, and she swatted it away—in front of the dignitaries and news cameras while they walked to a photo op with Netanyahu and his wife. It’s not the first time, but it was the least subtle. this time it was less subtle.

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