Nel's New Day

May 25, 2017

DDT Doesn’t Complete Embarrass U.S.

Filed under: Donald Trump — trp2011 @ 9:10 PM
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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.

May 21, 2017

Sunday Speeches: DDT Pandering; GOP Spin

The grand introduction to a nine-day tour by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) was today’s pandering speech to over 50 Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia, a speech written by Islamophobic Stephen Miller. Miller knew that DDT had to walk a fine line between not offending his racist U.S. base and the audience of 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide, including 3.3 million in the U.S. alone. Gone was the term “radical Islamic terrorism” which he used as a litmus test for conservatives, damning all people who refused to say this expression. Only once did he slip in “Islamic terrorism” among the 32 times that he referred to terrorism in the 34-minute speech. The teleprompter read “Islamist,” but DDT may be accustomed to his own term which refers to the religion rather than a political movement.

Saudi Arabia was the safest place to give the speech because DDT is in sync with the authoritarian regime there. In his desire to feel royal, DDT is comfortable with their ostentatious wealth, lack of concern for rule, and a disregard for democracy. He had also just favored them with the $110 billion arms sale that President Obama had delayed on the basis of human rights and how the weapons would be used as well as the proposed Qatar purchase by Qatar of “a lot of beautiful military equipment,” as DDT describes them. DDT brought them other multi-billion dollar deals such as $6 billion for Lockheed for 150 Black Hawk helicopters and $15 billion for General Electric.

The speech also avoided other such alien concepts to the Middle East as democracy, gender equality, and political reform—again matching DDT’s approach toward ruling. Even better for Saudi support, he blamed Iran instead of ISIS “fueling sectarian violence”; he spoke about the “despair” of the Iranians on the day after they freely elected a liberal reform president and demanded that the largest Shiite country in the Middle East be more isolated. According to DDT, Iran is to blame for “so much instability,” and Shiite Hezbolla and Yemienis were equally condemned.

DDT claimed his purpose was not to “lecture” before he launched into ponderous and repetitious demands of “drive them out” like an Old Testament prophet declaiming that the Muslims are totally responsible in this “battle between good and evil.” Nowhere did he mention that his hosts are responsible for the Wahhabi Salafit extremists who murder “innocent people.” DDT also praised Saudi Arabia for its “strong action against the Houthi militants in Yemen,” an action using U.S.-made cluster bombs in crowded cities indiscriminately killing people and exacerbating a massive humanitarian crisis.

“We are adopting a principled realism, rooted in common values and shared interests,” DDT told his audience, indicating that these “common values” can include misogyny, murder by beheading, and dictatorships in the name of oil and gas. He said, “Our friends will never question our support, and our enemies will never doubt our determination.” But the generality didn’t define “friends,” which could include Russia, Iran’s supporter, and the warring militias in the Middle East. DDT said:

“We will make decisions based on real-world outcomes – not inflexible ideology. We will be guided by the lessons of experience, not the confines of rigid thinking. And, wherever possible, we will seek gradual reforms – not sudden intervention.”

Translations for this statement could  include that the U.S. can reverse its positions at a minute’s notice based on a knee-jerk reaction to an occurrence but that the U.S. will not oppose crimes against humanity unless it will be of some financial benefit.

DDT’s speech is being declared “presidential,” the common description for words he didn’t prepare that were carefully read with no off-script comments.

Yet former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams pointed out a major flaw, “an understanding of what produces extremism”:

 “The president’s approach would work if terrorists were coming from outer space, and our task were solely to organize against them militarily. That is no doubt part of the task—but not all of it, because they are coming from within the societies whose leaders he was addressing. He offered no explanation of what was producing this phenomenon…. Trump had no theory and therefore could not suggest what might be done to prevent more extremists from rising.”

While DDT was in Saudi Arabia trying to overcome the ghastly scandals of May, his faithful were spinning his actions on the Sunday talk shows.  Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that DDT talked about firing former FBI director James Comey with the Russian officials to prove he wasn’t distracted by any problems in Washington. As usual, Tillerson pressed his talking point that U.S. and Russian relations were “at a low point.”

National security adviser H.R. McMaster explained DDT’s meetings with the Russians as a desire to “find areas of cooperation.” Asked about DDT’s statements about Comey, McMaster said:

“Well, I don’t remember exactly what the president said. And the notes that there apparently have I do not think are a direct transcript.”

DDT reportedly called Comey “crazy” and “a real nut job” as well as firing Comey relieving “great pressure because of Russia.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) disagreed with DDT that Comey is a “nut job.” On Face the Nation, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee said:

“This is a horrible thing for a president to say. Former Director Comey is no way, shape, or form a ‘nut job.’”

Even Republican members of Congress didn’t defend DDT’s statements. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said that the investigating committees on Russia’s meddling need to have “the notes.” He added:

“The White House would benefit from some systems in place that perhaps avoids some of the unnecessary friction points that come up on a daily basis…. People got what they voted for.”

Asked about DDT’s speech, Rubio said that he differed with him on DDT’s approach to human rights issues:

“I think it’s in our national security interest to advocate for democracy and freedom and human rights. We just have a disagreement on the right way to approach it.”

“The White House would benefit from some systems in place that perhaps avoids some of the unnecessary friction points that come up on a daily basis,” Rubio said.

With the possibility of again running for president, Rubio may have felt the need to soft-pedal his response, but Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was not shackled by any such requirement when he told Fox’s Chris Wallace that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey “had no business in the Oval Office” and cited Russia’s invasion into Crimea:

“Mr. Lavrov is the stooge of a thug and a murderer, who used Russian precision weapons to strike hospitals in Aleppo, who has committed human rights issues all over the place.”

McCain called himself “almost speechless” about the report that DDT told Lavrov and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak that he fired Comey  to take “off” some of the pressure about Russia. Almost, but not completely. McCain said, “I don’t know why someone would say something like that,” he told Wallace.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said in his interview today that the House Intelligence Committee investigation is examining possibly Russian collusion with DDT and his campaign. House Oversight Committee Ranking Member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) said that the scandal surrounding Russia goes far beyond DDT.

DDT may be back on U.S. soil sooner than expected. His staffers say that he is “exhausted” after less than two days of travel into his nine-day trip and  is already canceling some of his performances. This from the man who said that Hillary Clinton “lacks stamina” after her constant travel around the world while she was Secretary of State. Maybe he’ll be too tired to tweet.

 

April 21, 2017

DDT: Week Thirteen on the Foreign Front

Right before Earth Day tomorrow, the planet won a victory when the Treasury Department refused to grant ExxonMobil a waiver for a joint drilling deal in the Black Sea with Russia’s state oil company. Current U.S. sanctions against Russia after its annexation of Crimea require waivers. President Obama opposed the same plan in 2015 after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson created it as Exxon’s CEO. In the words of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), “Are you crazy?” My cynic bone wonders what the current administration is planning that is worse that the waiver to the sanctions.

Thus far, DDT’s only victory in over 90 days was getting Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court although it required breaking Senate rules. Gorsuch made his first public decision—to kill a man. In its rush to kill eight inmates on death row for 24-26 years before state drugs expired, Arkansas decided to kill them in eleven days. Judicial stays kept these men alive for a few days, but Gorsuch joined the conservative block on the high court to kill at least one of them. Ledell Lee, the first man executed, had fetal alcohol syndrome disorder with significant brain damage and intellectual disability. He has always claimed that he is innocent and that one of his lawyers was drunk and another was mentally ill. The state refused to allow him to take a DNA test to compare evidence collected at the scene of the crime. The judge in the case was having an affair with the prosecutor and later married her. None of the blood at the crime scene belonged to Lee, and forensic evidence of hairs has been discredited. It’s not surprising for Gorsuch to kill the Arkansas inmate because he had ruled in Colorado that a man should lose his job if he chose to save his life.

In the Company of Tyrants: Even conservatives are outraged that DDT called to congratulate Turkish President ­Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his new, almost dictatorial powers by winning a referendum after possible election tampering. Erdogan’s authoritarian rule has destroyed any separation of church and state in an Islamic regime and arrested any critics as well as a roundup of journalists. After last summer’s attempted coup, Erdogan had already detained, suspended, or dismissed almost 200,000 people including state officials and teachers. The new referendum would replace the parliamentary system with a presidential one and abolish the prime minister. Erdogan, who could stay in power until 2029, could intervene in the judiciary, control the nominees for parliament’s nominees, directly appoint top government officials, and declare a state of emergency with no justification. DDT’s congratulatory statement not only contradicts the official message from the U.S. State Department but also was made before the vote is final. It is still being contested. Reasons given for DDT’s congratulations include ignorance, carelessness, or an agreement with Erdogan’s ideology. Or it could simply be because he has business interests in Turkey: in the past, he said that he had a “conflict of interest” in the country (tower on right). If the referendum wins the “yes” votes, Turkey will become a total dictatorship.

Question of Chemical Attacks in Syria: DDT may hope that problems in North Korea keep people from wondering if his April 7 preemptive strikes on Syria—his first open act of war—was based on false information. Although the deaths of people on April 4 have not been contested, questions about the type of gas and the perpetrators remain because of no independent, international investigation. Two longtime experts in war studies and missile systems maintain that DDT’s intelligence report about Syria’s role is “false” and “fraudulent” as well as a “coverup.” They purport that the intelligence report about an air attack is not substantiated by evidence and that the official report did not use the methodologies that it claimed: the information released by the White House is political, not scientific. In 2013, President Obama was given incorrect information that Syria perpetrated an attack but did not retaliate because intelligence did not support that information. Instead, DDT, like George W. Bush, made preemptive strikes against a country that didn’t attack the United States, without accurate information. Support for the experts’ information is that there is no plan for an investigation—just a move forward to inflame North Korea into military action. The world has become a far more dangerous place in DDT’s less than 100 days.

Ships Far from North Korea: One piece of DDT’s saber-rattling in northeast Asia was to declare that he had ordered an “armada” (actually six ships) close to North Korea. Two weeks later the media discovered that the ships “steaming,” in Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s words, toward North Korea were headed in the opposite direction several thousand miles away after the Navy released photographs and the location of the Carl Vinson in the Sundra Strait, 3,500 miles away. The White House blamed the Defense Secretary Jim Mattis for the mistake although U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster mistakenly told Fox that the ships were rerouted from Singapore to the Korean peninsula as a “prudent” show of force. That’s DDT’s military’s second bad mistake this month: the earlier one referred to the biggest non-nuclear weapon that it used on Afghanistan as “the type of weapon for the type of target” and how it sent a message.

South Korea’s “Concern” with DDT: The egregious “mistake” about the ships’ location upset South Koreans who felt “bewildered, cheated and manipulated by the United States, their country’s most important ally,” according to the New York Times. AP went farther with words such as “unpredictable,” “unhinged,” and “dangerous.” DDT also angered South Koreans by his assertion that the Korean Peninsula “used to be a part of China.” Invaded by its neighbor and forced to pay tribute, Koreans state that the idea that they were once Chinese subjects is highly insulting. DDT is alienating one country almost every every week–South Korea, Great Britain, Mexico, Sweden, Germany, Australia, and China plus Canada after DDT scolded the nation for what the dairy industry did to our workers.” The addition of Colombia brings the total to nine.

Secret Meeting at Mar-a-Lago: Last weekend, DDT interrupted his golf games to meet undercover with former Columbian presidents Álvaro Uribe and Andrés Pastrana, former presidents of Colombia to undermine the current Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos’ peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia to end Latin America’s longest armed conflict. The White House also lied about the meeting: it claimed just a brief “hello” because the two men were at the resort, but Pastrana thanked DDT for the “cordial and very frank conversation” about Colombia’s challenges. DDT also ignored any diplomatic coordination with the State Department. Columbia reported that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), an opponent of the peace plans, set up the meeting with the three men.

State Department v. Tillerson: During his campaign, DDT called the Iran Deal “the worst deal ever negotiated” and promised to rip it up on day one. This week Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called the deal a failure, warned this week that Iran’s nuclear weapons could be as bad as North Korea, and accused the country of causing “alarming and ongoing provocations.” At the same time, he wrote House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) that Iran was upholding its commitments, and the State Department released the same positive information. In response to Tillerson’s criticism of Iran, its foreign minister, Mohammad-Javad Zarif, faulted the U.S. for trying to distract from its “abysmal” human rights record, which includes DDT’s Muslim ban, and the U.S. support of Israel, which Zarif claimed has an “illegal” nuclear arsenal. Tillerson made his comments about Iran as a disruptive force on the same day that he praised Saudi Arabia that is trying to reinstate Yemen’s ousted president by killing thousands of civilians in airstrikes.

Raising Prices: DDT signed his “Buy American, Hire American” executive order while in Wisconsin. Part of it changes rules for the H-1B visa program which keeps some highly skilled workers from coming to the U.S. and may send companies that employ them out of the country. At the same time, he saved the visa program for lower-paid workers, like his own because, as he said in the past, “it’s very, very hard to get people.” DDT wants to do away with the waivers in these mandates—except ones that let him buy all the products for his business more cheaply from foreign countries. DDT’s order has no weight unless Congress passes a law to support it or changes past laws, for example the Trade Agreements Act of 1979 that treats products made in foreign countries as domestic if the countries, almost 60 at this time, have a trade agreement with the United States. There are no plans to carry out his order, which would cause prices to skyrocket. China steel, for example, is 70 percent cheaper than what is made in the U.S., and a DDT order from last month raised steel prices 19 percent.

Obsession of Gold: Known for wasting taxpayer money in the United States, DDT is moving the selfishness to Britain on his upcoming visit in October. Despite the cost and the lack of security, he demands that he ride to a meeting with Queen Elizabeth II in a golden coach—just like Mexican President Peña Nieto, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Chinese President Xi Jinping. It’s the “ugly American” made more hideous than ever.

Tomorrow covers DDT’s damage in domestic issues.

March 24, 2017

DDT: Week Nine – Big Failure

Filed under: Donald Trump — trp2011 @ 7:46 PM
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When Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) signed S. 442 with $19.5 billion, the NASA Transition Authorization Act, I thought, “Finally! He did something positive!” Ha! Nope. With a $200 million increase (one percent), the bill is the first time the mission does not include earth science, including climate research, diverging from six GOP administrations and five Democratic ones. DDT’s budget from last week cuts out several NASA initiatives, including the Office of Education, and terminates the Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem (PACE), Orbital Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3), Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR), and CLARREO Pathfinder missions. Through monitoring and predicting weather, climates, and ecosystems, these four satellites help save lives and prepare the nation for long-term changes.

DDT did have a sort-of win this week when Anthony Trenga, a George W. Bush-appointed judge, ruled in favor of DDT’s Muslim ban, but the injunctions against it hold because the 4th Circuit Court will not hear DDT’s appeal until May. http://www.dailykos.com/stories/2017/3/17/1644630/-Nine-states-and-D-C-intervene-in-lawsuit-challenging-Obama-s-enhanced-fuel-efficiency-standards  DDT faces more litigation from his announcement of changes in fuel economy standards. In defense of the existing standards, nine states and the District of Columbia are suing the administration to preserve the requirement for auto manufacturers to achieve 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, saving both the environment and costs to car owners.

All things considered, DDT had a horrible week.

The biggest failure for both DDT and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) was Trumpcare’s failure, after Ryan postponed the bill on Thursday and completely pulled the bill today because it was short on votes. Ryan thought he could push it through in three weeks, passing it almost exactly one year after the Affordable Care Act passed Congress. DDT thought he could get the votes by threatening House Republicans with losing the 2018 election if they didn’t vote for it. He had already lied about convincing people to vote for the bill, and his threat picked up ten more “no” votes from representatives who wanted to completely destroy the Affordable Care Act.

Ryan decided that he could win over the scorched-earth naysayers by taking away ten Essential Health Benefits mandated for insurance coverage: outpatient care, ER visits, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, mental health and addiction treatment, prescription drugs, rehabilitative services, lab services, preventive care, and pediatric services. Far beyond “health care light,” the bill ended up being “health care no.” That change lost less far-right voters, and it failed even after DDT sent white supremacist Steve Bannon and congenital liar Kellyanne Conway to Capitol Hill on a mission of gathering votes and passing along DDT’s threat that he would drop support for health reform if they didn’t vote on Friday.

Another huge failure for DDT came Monday when FBI Director James Comey announced that President Obama didn’t wiretap DDT’s phones in Trump Tower, as DDT claimed, but that intelligence is continuing its investigation into the possible collusion between his campaign and Russia. DDT’s source for his false contention that Britain helped the former president in wiretapping, frequent Fox guest Andrew Napolitano, has disappeared, at least temporarily, from the network, and DDT looked like a fool during his press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel when he talked about it. Fox eventually said that the network “cannot confirm Judge Napolitano’s commentary.”

In an attempt to spare DDT more embarrassment, the Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), past member of DDT’s transition team and chair of the committee investigating DDT and Russia, has called off hearings to block testimonies from former DNI director James Clapper, former CIA Director John Brennan, and former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates. Nunes also backed down from his assertion that U.S. intelligence was “monitoring” DDT and his aides.

On Wednesday, the third day of hearings for DDT’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, the normally split Supreme Court overturned one of Gorsuch’s decisions in which he ruled that schools were not required to provide education for disabled students.

And DDT had other failures.

DDT, who said he would pick the “very best people,” selected Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State. During his recent Asian trip, Tillerson told the only reporter on board that he didn’t want the job but took it because “my wife told me I’m supposed to do this.” Not everyone agrees. Tillerson has dodged the press, refused to answer question, failed to defend his department from a one-third budget cut, threatened to attack North Korea without further diplomacy, bailed on some responsibilities in Asia because of “fatigue,” and then planned to visit Russia instead of attending a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels. About rejecting the press, Tillerson said, “I’m not a big media press access person. I personally don’t need it.” He also failed to hold a press conference for the release of the annual human rights report. It was the first time in the report’s 40-year history that this has happened. His inaction has also led to several vacant leadership positions in the State Department. And that was just the last week.

To Tillerson, diplomacy doesn’t work so the nation is vastly increasing its military budget. According to Tillerson’s version of diplomacy while ExxonMobil CEO,  he kept quiet and let governments manage their own domestic politics. This narrow definition of “diplomacy” strikes bargains on the basis of private interests. Missing are interviews, press conferences, social media, and speeches to simultaneously address and shape public and legislative opinion simultaneously in multiple countries. Without credibility from Tillerson and DDT, past allies won’t be supporting the U.S. in its hawkish moves.

DDT’s honeymoon with Wall Street may be over, gone from starry eyes to bloodshot realism. Tuesday was the biggest Dow Jones drop of seven consecutive days of decreases. On the same day, the nine biggest Wall Street firms lost $81.6 billion in value, and the wider banking industry fell about 4 percent—again the worst single day for banks since the Brexit vote in June. Last week, the Dow dropped 1.5 percent, the largest since last September. An uncertain future for Ryan’s health care plan has made Wall Street wonder if tax reform will follow the same pattern. Without the giant tax cuts for the wealthy, vast sums of money won’t be funneled back to the rich (aka investors). Tax cuts are bad for the economy but good for the bloated financial markets. With today’s 60-point drop in the Dow, Goldman Sachs stock was the worst of the 21 losing blue chips, down 1.5 percent.

DDT’s interview with the conservative Time came out with this striking cover (right). Some of his unbalanced (insane?) comments:

Evidence for President Obama’s wiretapping conspiracy: “I have articles saying it happened.”

Credibility in him: “The country believes me. Hey. I went to Kentucky two nights ago, we had 25,000 people in a massive basketball arena. There wasn’t a seat, they had to send away people.”

Belief in conspiracy theory that linked Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) father Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald: “That was in a newspaper [that] had a picture of Ted Cruz, his father, and Lee Harvey Oswald, having breakfast.”

Insistence on forming a committee to find the three million “illegal” voters costing him the popular vote victory against Hillary Clinton: “If you take a look at the votes, when I say that, I mean mostly they register wrong, in other words, for the votes, they register incorrectly, and/or illegally.”

A Gallup poll released Monday morning showed that DDT continues to break records across all age groups with his historic unpopularity. The Huffington Post reports that his job approval has fallen to an abysmal 37 percent, “lower than any other president at this point in his first term since Gallup started tracking the numbers 72 years ago in 1945.”  Among millennials, DDT’s approval rating is 22 percent.

 

How empty is the man inaugurated last January 20? The White House posted this “official” photo of the Oval Office in the White House 1600 Daily.

March 18, 2017

A Few Snippets about DDT

It’s been a hard week for Dictator Donald Trump–nothing is worse for him than ridicule. Here are a few pieces that emerged from the past.

Only Yesterday: To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a visit from Ireland’s Prime Minister Enda Kenney, DDT mispronounced Fionnuala Kenny, the Prime Minister’s wife, and read “Remember to Forget” that he called an “Irish proverb.” It happens to be written by Nigerian poet, Albashir Adam Alhassan. During the same day, he insulted German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The man inaugurated on January 20 managed to offend two world leaders in one day.

How do past Trump supporters feel about their vote? This man tells it all. As James Walker, 31, said: “This is the first step: showing up and being honest.”

Working Is Hard! Rex Tillerson cut his trip short to South Korea due to fatigue after he said that the U.S. might go to war with North Korea: “The policy of strategic patience has ended.” It is only his second trip as Secretary of State. When Hillary Clinton held that position, she traveled Total miles traveled 956,733 miles and 401 days to 112 countries. We know about Tilleron’s actions only from the Korean press because he took only one reporter from an obscure conservative outlet with him and that person is not sending back any reports. Tillerson is 64 years old; Clinton was 66 in the last year of that position and 68 when she ran for president. Perhaps DDT should have selected a younger man—or a woman—for the job.

 

 

Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton, made this assessment after a recent visit to the Capitol City.

  1. Washington is more divided, angry, bewildered, and fearful — than I’ve ever seen it.
  1. The angry divisions aren’t just Democrats versus Republicans. Rancor is also exploding inside the Republican Party.
  1. Republicans (and their patrons in big business) no longer believe Trump will give them cover to do what they want to do. They’re becoming afraid Trump is genuinely nuts, and he’ll pull the party down with him.
  1. Many Republicans are also angry at Paul Ryan, whose replacement bill for Obamacare is considered by almost everyone on Capitol Hill to be incredibly dumb.
  1. I didn’t talk with anyone inside the White House, but several who have had dealings with it called it a cesspool of intrigue and fear. Apparently everyone working there hates and distrusts everyone else.
  1. The Washington foreign policy establishment — both Republican and Democrat — is deeply worried about what’s happening to American foreign policy, and the worldwide perception of America being loony and rudderless. They think Trump is legitimizing far-right movements around the world.
  1. Long-time civil servants are getting ready to bail. If they’re close to retirement they’re already halfway out the door. Many in their 30s and 40s are in panic mode.
  1. Republican pundits think Bannon is even more unhinged than Trump, seeking to destroy democracy as we’ve known it.
  1. Despite all this, no one I talked with thought a Trump impeachment likely, at least not any time soon — unless there’s a smoking gun showing Trump’s involvement in Russia’s intrusion into the election.
  1. Many people asked, bewilderedly, “How did this [Trump] happen?” When I suggest it had a lot to do with the 35-year-long decline of incomes of the bottom 60 percent; the growing sense, ever since the Wall Street bailout, that the game is rigged; and the utter failure of both Republicans and Democrats to reverse these trends — they give me blank stares.

Kevin Drum at Mother Jones asks if DDT is trying to fail so that he can blame everyone else:

  • A health care bill so gratuitously brutal it seems almost intended to fail.
  • A budget that’s very plainly just a piece of performance art designed to outrage liberals.
  • A new immigration order so similar to the first one that Trump must have known it would be blocked in court.
  • A funding request for a border wall that’s basically a demand for a blank check that Congress will never pass.
  • A string of conspiracy theories (illegal voting, Trump Tower wiretaps, Obama is masterminding leaks) seemingly designed to waste congressional time.
  • And, of course, an endless series of hollow executive orders, bombastic tweets, and sob stories about the media mistreating poor Donald.

DDT’s employees excuse for what they do is right out of childhood. Democrats complained that Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly didn’t answer questions about deportation policies, the Muslim ban, and the White House response to Rep. Steve King’s (R-IA) white supremacist remarks. Democrats were frustrated because of his false claims when they had photos as proof—that he wasn’t going after Dreamers or that ICE agents were taking immigrants out of churches and hospitals of that he wasn’t separating children from mothers. His comment to reporters:

“I don’t deport anyone. ICE doesn’t deport anyone. The law deports people.”

Sounds like children who say, “I didn’t hit Johnny—the stick hit Johnny.” Now we have the same response from the head of Homeland Security. It sounds as if he might be getting ashamed.

Now we know that DDT’s staff is totally incompetent. On White House’s 1600 Daily, they posted a piece from Washington Post entitled “Trump’s budget makes perfect sense and will fix America, and I will tell you why.” Reasons:

  1. They can’t read.
  2. They didn’t read it.
  3. They don’t understand satire.

The first two paragraphs:

“Some people are complaining that the budget proffered by the Trump administration, despite its wonderful macho-sounding name, is too vague and makes all sorts of cuts to needed programs in favor of increasing military spending by leaps and bounds. These people are wimps. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney has called it a ‘hard power budget’ which is, I think, the name of an exercise program where you eat only what you can catch, pump up your guns and then punch the impoverished in the face. This, conveniently, is also what the budget does.

“This budget will make America a lean, mean fighting machine with bulging, rippling muscles and not an ounce of fat. America has been weak and soft for too long. BUT HOW WILL I SURVIVE ON THIS BUDGET? you may be wondering. I AM A HUMAN CHILD, NOT A COSTLY FIGHTER JET. You may not survive, but that is because you are SOFT and WEAK, something this budget is designed to eliminate.”

The piece continues by delineating all the outrageously unreasonable cuts in DDT’s budget and then finishes:

“Feed children just to feed them? What are we, SOFT? No. No we are not.

“AMERICA WILL BE STRONGER THAN IT HAS EVER BEEN! Anyone who survives will be a gun covered in the fur of a rare mammal, capable of fighting disease with a single muscular flex. RAW POWER! HARD RAW POWER GRRRRRR HISSS POW!

“It will be great.”

This excerpt from the author, Alexandra Petri, is about the White House posting:

“The White House believes in me, and the White House is not full of careless people who skim headlines looking for the ones that sound sort of positive and then send them out in their daily briefing newsletter hoping for the best haaa ha ha nope ha ha these are the minds who control war and peace and the budget and things ha ha ha it’s fine ha ha oh god help.”

Unfortunately, postings on the White House 1600 Daily missed this delightful piece of satire regarding the bigly crowds at the inauguration.

Two months after DDT’s inauguration: 497 positions are awaiting nomination, 36 are awaiting confirmation, and 20 nominations have been confirmed. Maybe DDT is just waiting for a recess so that he can put everyone into these positions without bothering without confirmations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 19, 2016

Rex Tillerson: Oil in Trump’s Swamp

Kakistocracy: a fine English term going back to 1829 that means government by the worst element of a society, a government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens. Forbes writer Michael Lewitt explains its usage: “Corrupt, dishonest and incompetent politicians, regulators and bureaucrats were put in charge by self-absorbed, selfish and ignorant citizens.” Trump cabinet nominees collectively have more wealth than a combined one-third of American households. They are the most conservative, very white, and very male with almost no experience. In addition, they resemble DT—egotistical, megalomaniacal, bumbling liars. The nation’s future government will be a blend of “nepotism, oligarchy, plutocracy, kleptocracy, demagoguery, alt-right values and a disturbing tendency toward fascist white nationalism.” (Quote from Sophia A. McClennen, professor of international affairs and comparative literature at Pennsylvania State University.)

The Electoral College has voted, and Donald Trump (DT) is now the formal president-elect of the United States. In building his kakistocracy, DT has appointed a number of inexperienced oligarchs for his cabinet. A series of postings on this blog will begin with Rex Tillerson, nominee for the Secretary of State.

rex-tillerson

AP Photo / Manuel Balce

tillerson-putinThe outrage against Tillerson from both Democrats and Republicans began with the nominee’s extremely close relationship with Vladimir Putin. Exxon missed the U.S. fracking boom and moved to the Russian and Arctic oil fields, perhaps 20 percent of the world’s untapped resource. Toward that end, the company signed deals between 2011 and 2013 with the Russian state-owned oil company, Rosneft, for exploration in the Black Sea, development of shale resources in western Siberia, and drilling in the Arctic. According to Rosneft, these areas could contain more oil than the Gulf of Mexico. The year after Tillerson and Exxon signed the deal with Rosneft, Russian president, Vladimir Putin gave the country’s Order of Friendship medal to Tillerson. (Above: Russia President Vladimir Putin (R) and ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson (L) attend the signing of an agreement between Rosneft and ExxonMobil in the Black Sea port of Tuapse on June 15, 2012. MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images)

Exxon is so wealthy and powerful that it’s like a country of its own with its own foreign policy. Its pockets are deep, and it employs such Tillerson advocates as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Defense Secretary and CIA Director Robert Gates. President Obama’s sanctions on Russia’s oil industry for its 2014 “participation” in the Ukraine and annexation of Crimea smashed Exxon’s dreams—until DT was elected last November. Russia needs Western expertise to drill in places such as the Arctic, and DT can give it to them.

Tillerson’s connection with Rosneft also connects him with oligarch Igor Ivanovich Sechin, head of the oil company. A close relationship with oligarchs from major world powers puts Tillerson into a position to set up his own U.S. oligarchy and what better place to do it than the White House. He has been open about his goals. Asked in March 2013 what he would do if he worked in the White House, he laughed and said, “My philosophy is to make money. If I can drill and make money, then that’s what I want to do.” His idea of international diplomacy—the Secretary of State’s job—is that it “is an enormous amount of interference with that process of discovery and perfection and improvement.”

Improvement to Tillerson doesn’t mean controlling global warming. Exploitation of the Russian and Arctic resources would vastly increase warming above four degrees, but he doesn’t worry about climate change. He has said, “To say that you’re addicted to oil and natural gas seems to me to say you’re addicted to economic growth.”

For almost the entire four decades of Tillerson’s tenure at Exxon, the company has lied about their awareness of catastrophic effects from climate change and spent millions of dollars to block any bills that address the problem. Forty years ago, the company took the problem of climate change seriously and developed programs to explore the issue. Within a few years, however, Exxon started dismantling its own climate change programs and moved on to suppress evidence, spread doubt about science, and block any action to control greenhouse gases. It also created the misnamed Global Climate Coalition to stop any government action to curb fossil fuel emissions.

By the beginning of the 21st century, Exxon used the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group of corporations that writes measures for U.S. legislators, to block emissions control. Tillerson was CEO for 12 of those 17 years. In addition, Tillerson’s block of Exxon shareholders successfully opposed a measure from the Rockefeller family to expand the company’s investment in alternative energy sources.

Tillerson’s current position on climate change is that it’s merely an “engineering” issue because, he claims, people can adapt to anything. Asked about models of greenhouse gas concentrations, he replies that “models simply are not that good.” He has no answer for what to do if the sea levels surge and freshwater pulses into the ocean from a collapse in the West Antarctica.

Yet Tillerson’s egregious business dealings go much farther than just his pandering to the Russian government which recently arranged for the release of hacked emails in order to get Tillerson’s possible new boss elected to his leadership position of what people like to call the most powerful country in the world.

Many people are unaware that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is investigating Tillerson and Exxon. Under his leadership, the company failed to accurately value its oil reserves in order to keep stocks high. A correct disclosure of its lower valuations would cost Exxon billions of dollars if the initiation of drilling is more costly from the “price of carbon” or regulations that force reductions to greenhouse gas emissions. With this high cost, Exxon might have to drop projects, and that shrinks its profitability. Even if Tillerson manages to get DT to leave the Paris climate accord, Exxon’s worldwide business may lose money because it does business with other countries that remain in the pact.

The SEC is also investigating the reason that Exxon does not record its reserves values when oil prices drop. The price of a barrel of oil dropped from $115 in 2014 to under $28 by last February, but that the company didn’t include that loss in future calculations. Fabricating future profits not based on fact is an act of securities fraud against investors.

DT as president would greatly benefit Exxon because the investigation could get stymied with Tillerson as Secretary of State. The SEC could also be remade with DT as president. Seven top officials, including chair Mary Jo White, have already resigned, and DT can appoint three new commissioners on the five-member panel. Whether Tillerson becomes Secretary or stays Exxon CEO, the oil company benefits. Last week DT referred to the free market as the “dumb market,” indicating that government should be in control, a total reversal of past GOP philosophy.

Another lawsuit plaguing Tillerson and Exxon accuses the company of discrimination against LGBTQ people in its hiring practices. ExxonMobil is the only corporation in history to get negative ratings on the Human Rights Campaign’s Equality Index for lacking any protections for LGBTQ employees in 2012 and 2013. President Obama’s executive order barring federal contractors from anti-LGBT employment discrimination—probably to be soon revoked by DT—caused the company to adopt an LGBT non-discrimination policy, but the lawsuit is still pending. Exxon has received over $1 billion in federal contracts during the past decade.

Tillerson’s conflicts of interest are overwhelming. He personally owns at least $218 million in Exxon stock and holds a pension worth $70 million. At least he wouldn’t have to pay any taxes if he has to sell them for a Cabinet position because divesting stocks based on a potential conflict interest for this position is tax-free.

In another connection with Russia 20 years ago, Tillerson became a director  and then president of Exxon Neftegas, a US-Russian oil firm based in the tax haven of the Bahamas, a country with zero corporate taxes where Exxon has registered at least 67 companies. Exxon reported that Tillerson was no longer a director after he became Exxon’s CEO in 2006, but the secrecy of the nation may cause difficulty in determining Tillerson’s investments. Conflict of interest may be somewhat legal for the president and vice president but definitely not for Cabinet members or other government officials.

Oh yes, and Tillerson has literally no background in diplomacy or public service—just like DT.  With pushing from oil oligarchs like Dick Cheney and deep-pocketed campaign donor Robert McNair as well as Gates and Rice, skeptical GOP senators like Marco Rubio are showing signs of falling into DT’s swamp—the one filled with oil.

AGR Daily News Service

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