Nel's New Day

July 19, 2017

DDT Dominates Media–Again

The interview of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) by a New York Time report sucked the energy out of any other news today, perhaps for good reason because of the outrageous–and false–statements he made:

  • If he had known that current AG Jeff Sessions would have accused himself from the Russia investigation, he would not have appointment Sessions for his position. [Is the U.S. now on resignation watch for Sessions?]
  • The investigation in Russia’s involvement in the United States—including DDT’s campaign—suffers from conflicts of interest because the lead investigator, Robert Mueller, interviewed for FBI director. DDT claims for have far more conflicts of interest about Mueller that he will reveal “at some point.”
  • Mueller would cross a “red line” if he looks into DDT’s family finances.
  • Rod Rosenstein was wrong for appointing Mueller as special prosecutor because he’s only a “deputy,” and DDT was irritated after he learned that Rosenstein was from Baltimore. “There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any.”
  • He complained that Mr. Rosenstein had in effect been on both sides when it came to Mr. Comey. The deputy attorney general recommended Mr. Comey be fired but then appointed Mr. Mueller, who may be investigating whether the dismissal was an obstruction of justice. “Well, that’s a conflict of interest,” Mr. Trump said. “Do you know how many conflicts of interests there are?”
  • Former FBI director James Comey lied in his Senate Intelligence Committee testimony—according to DDT. Also Comey told DDT about the salacious allegations against him to gain leverage with DDT.

Senate Democrats need to be careful about voting to confirm Christopher Wray, a lawyer with a past in supporting money laundering and torture, for the FBI director. Wray gave all the right answers in his confirmation hearings, but so did others such as Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts who reversed their opinions the instant that they were confirmed. During his interview with the NYT, DDT delivered revisionist history about the FBI when he stated that the director reported “out of courtesy” to the Department of Justice during Richard Nixon’s presidential term. DDT said that “the FBI person really reports directly to the President of the United States.” The FBI website states:

“Within the U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI is responsible to the attorney general, and it reports its findings to U.S. Attorneys across the country. The FBI’s intelligence activities are overseen by the Director of National Intelligence.”

The president can fire the FBI director, as DDT proved a few months ago, but he can’t tell him what to do. DDT followed his falsehood with the statement, “I think we’re going to have a great new FBI director.” That discussion was interrupted by the appearance of DDT’s daughter, Ivanka, and his granddaughter, Arabella, but the allusion was obvious.

The interview also delved into DDT’s lengthy discussion with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a G20 Summit dinner almost two weeks ago but was just revealed yesterday. That talk had only three people in attendance—DDT, Putin, and Putin’s translator. DDT had no translator, and no one from the United States was a witness. In the interview, DDT described the hour-long conversation as about 15 minutes in length and concentrating on “pleasantries.” He mentioned that it was about adoption, originally given as the focus of a meeting of eight people, including DDT’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and son Donald Jr., a year ago. Jr. later said the meeting was really about Russia offering dirt on Hillary Clinton. Putin also banned adoptions of Russian children in 2012 because the U.S. sanctioned Russians about human rights abuses.

DDT gave Putin a gift today when he ended the CIA’s covert program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels battling the government of Bashar al-Assad. President Obama started the program in 2013 to put pressure on Assad, so DDT accomplished two goals today—pleasing Putin and wiping out another program from the last administration. Putin and DDT had agreed to back the ceasefire in southwest Syria, but the plan did not require the elimination of the training program. Russia has been firing on the CIA-backed rebels fighting against ISIS, and a U.S. official said, “Putin won in Syria.” Charles Lister, senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, said the DDT’s actions “are making the moderate resistance more and more vulnerable…. We are really cutting them off at the neck.” The U.S. may no longer be able to stop other countries such as Turkey and Middle East allies from providing anti-Assad rebels and other more radical groups with sophisticated weapons. Officials have seen the program as a bargaining chip for Russian concessions about Syria’s future.

The NYT reported:

“The dinner discussion caught the attention of other leaders around the table, some of whom later remarked privately on the odd spectacle of an American president seeming to single out the Russian leader for special attention at a summit meeting that included some of the United States’ staunchest, oldest allies.”

No one has any notes from the meeting except for Putin, meaning that the U.S. has no record of discussions, disclosures, and promises. In his first meeting with Putin at G20, DD accepted Putin’s denials of Russian interference and claimed that the U.S. were “exaggerating” the affect of Russia on the presidential election.

Russia also gave DDT permission to name Jon Huntsman, former Utah governor and presidential candidate, as ambassador to Russia. His name was tossed out four months ago, but he wasn’t officially nominated until Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov met at the State Department with Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon.

Since DDT’s talk with Putin, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is considering the elimination of his cybersecurity office. The U.S. was the first country to have a high-level cyber diplomat role. This week, Tillerson fired Christopher Painter, the person in this job. Doing away with the position would make the U.S. the only major country without a leader whose job is to reduce cyberattacks, abdicating the role to Russia and China.

DDT’s interview was a distraction from the “no confidence” resolution that 25 Democratic representatives filed today. The resolution has no chance of passing in the GOP-dominated chamber, but it publicizes the 88 reasons for declaring DDT unsuitable to hold his current office. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) defined the resolution as “an attempt at political intervention.” He said that the resolution details “misdeeds and actions that give people lack of confidence in him and the direction he is taking our country.” Among them are DDT’s refusal to release his taxes, verbal attacks on women and the press, withdrawal from a vital climate agreement, payments from foreign powers, firing the FBI director during an investigation, and indiscriminate use of Twitter. Cohen said that DDT’s track record reveals “a president that you wouldn’t want your children to look up to.”

“The way he talks about women, the press, the language he uses, the use of Twitter — you don’t want him to be a role model. It’s injurious to our culture, and it’s injurious to … our foreign policy.”

Co-sponsor Judy Chu (D-CA) said:

“We have a president who actively undermines the very principles of our government, and a Republican Congress that makes excuses for him as though his behaviour were normal. It is not normal. Trump’s behavior is cruel, unethical and it is driving people’s faith in government to dangerously low levels.”

About DDT’s second, just revealed, meeting with Putin, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) said, “This is not the behavior of the leader of the free world.”

The Democrats also criticized GOP representative for defending DDT’s actions. A bill to appoint an outside prosecutor has only two Republican supporters, Reps. Walter Jones (R-NC) and Justin Amash (R-MI).  Capitol Hill Republicans for defending Trump’s actions and his unconventional approach to governing.

In today’s news, a major story was Sen. John McCain’s diagnosis of brain cancer. He is indeed fortunate to have excellent health care provided by the government.

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July 9, 2017

DDT’s European Trip Isolates U.S.

After embarrassing the United States for four days in Europe, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is home again. He had so many disasters that pundits referred  to the G-20 Summit as the “G-19 plus one.”

  • One major problem was DDT’s lack of hotel reservations for the grand event. He and Melania were forced to stay at the city of Hamburg’s Senate guest house.
  • Melania missed a photo session and a tour because protesters blocked their digs.
  • A brief talk with Russia’s Vladimir Putin lasted so long that White House staffers sent DDT’s wife in to end it; she failed, and the session lasted another hour.
  • Daughter Ivanka Trump took the place of real U.S. officials in replacing her father during a session called “Partnership with Africa, Migration and Health” so that DDT could meet with Putin. Former president of Mexico Vincente Fox Quesada tweeted that “a G20 summit isn’t a ‘bring your child to work and let her attend high level meetings’ day.”
  • Photos of DDT at the summit illustrate his goal to make America alone.  matches his own appearance at the event.
  • Another remarkable video shows Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel, host of the summit, rolling her eyes at a patronizing Putin.

This collection of photos demonstrates how the United States has lost any relationship with allies, including this image of President Obama at the 2015 G7 summit.

Two events stood out during DDT’s four-day offshore trip in Europe: his visit to Poland and his meeting with Russia’s president.  DDT began his trip in an environment where he felt most comfortable: Poles were bused into Warsaw with the sole purpose of cheering DDT for his speech much like the ones he gives to xenophobic audiences in the United States. DDT’s popularity in Poland is actually 23 percent.

A major premise of the speech was the survival of the West against the Middle East (aka Christians against Muslims). DDT’s image of the terrorism conflict as a clash of civilizations has been avoided by both GOP and Democratic predecessors. The Trump manifesto seems to be the “dire threat” against Western civilization. The language comes directly from white supremacists Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller. DDT’s anti-Semitic audience were surely pleased when he was the first sitting president in decades to avoid a stop at Warsaw’s monument to the Jewish Ghetto uprising.

DDT is on the same page as Poland’s leading party, Law & Justice (PiS). The party has inundated civil service and diplomatic corps with their loyalists and weakened the judiciary’s independence. The national broadcaster is a mouthpiece of the state, and independent journalists are restricted. Together DDT and Polish president, Andrzej Duda, based the media with DDT repeating his mantra of “fake news.” The EU calls Polish reforms “a systemic risk to the rule of law.”

Conservative Jonathan Turley wrote about the exchange between DDT and Duda regarding their hatred for the media:

“To have such an exchange with a man like Putin about the free press is a truly low moment for our country.  The men and women in front of the two leaders represent a profession that has lost dozens of journalists who fought to publish the truth about the Putin regime. Thousands more have died around the world in the struggle for free speech and the free press.  I understand the need to deal with figures like Putin in diplomacy but commiserating with the likes of Vladimir Putin about the free press is a terrible image for any American president.  Putin is not a great man and the media is not the enemy.  We can (and should) criticize the media for their loss of objectivity but even casual moments like this one with Putin carry a chilling message both in Russia and the United States. There remain committed journalists in Russia who look to the United States as their ally in the fight for a free press.   For them, these comments must be chilling and demoralizing.”

As usual, DDT displayed his weak vocabulary during the speech—even when someone else wrote it—by describing the losses in Poland during World War II as “tough” and “trouble.” Almost six million Poles, about 20 percent of the country’s population, died during the war.

Possibly worse than DDT’s speech was his press conference before the speech. In opposition to U.S. intelligence reports, he continued to claim that “nobody really knows” who was responsible for the cyberattacks around the November 2016 election and refused to admit that Russia was responsible. “It could have been other people in other countries,” he said. Yet he kept laying the blame on President Obama for something that he wouldn’t admit had happened. His claim that only “three or four” agencies believed that Russia was responsible. These agencies are the FBI, CIA, and NSA; no others disagreed, and some weren’t involved. In the conference, Polish officials cut off NBC reporter Hallie Jackson’s mike to keep her from asking a follow-up question.

Once again, DDT’s staff disagrees with his perception. In an interview for State of the Union, the nation’s UN ambassador, Nikki Haley, said, “Everybody knows that Russia meddled in our elections.” Her comments followed DDT’s amicable meeting with Putin on Friday. Haley continued by explaining that Russia is meddling “across multiple continents … in a way that they’re trying to cause chaos within the countries.”

Still reeling from DDT’s denial that Russia meddled in the U.S. election, people of the U.S. watched him go into a long meeting with Putin. Only four people attended with the two leaders—Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and two translators. No one took notes, and only Russians reported much of what happened in the two and a half hours. Headlines have declared that DDT “confronted” Putin, but the end result did not seem like a confrontation. Supposedly DDT questioned Putin about the meddling. Putin said he didn’t have anything to do it and followed that with the statement that DDT agreed with him.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin didn’t attend the meeting but repeatedly said that DDT “handled it brilliantly.” Putin followed earlier statements by claiming that Russia and the United States agreed to work together to “prevent interference in the domestic affairs of foreign states, primarily in Russia and the U.S.” Tillerson said that the two leaders selected officials to collaborate on a resolution to the Ukraine conflict and reached a “de-escalation agreement” about part of Syria near Daraa and Quneitra.

Even Republicans are disgusted with DDT’s plan to team with Putin in creating a “cyber security unit.” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said, “I am sure that Vladimir Putin could be of enormous assistance in that effort since he’s doing the hacking.” Once again, bad press may have forced DDT to back down on his idea. Today he tweeted, “The fact that President Putin and I discussed a Cyber Security unit doesn’t mean I think it can happen.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said the partnership isn’t “the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard, but it’s pretty close.” On the other hand, Mnuchin called the idea “a very significant accomplishment for President Trump.” He wants to “coordinate with Russia.”

Putin picked up popularity in the United States with DDT’s election, but it’s receding again, perhaps because of the hacking reports. Meanwhile, the number of Russian spies gathering intelligence in the United States has gone up to at least 150 from temporary duty visas issued by the DDT administration. Law enforcement officials have reported that some Russian diplomats are violating protocol by leaving the Washington, D.C. area with notifying the State Department. President Obama had shut down Russian compounds in December that were allegedly outfitted with high-power surveillance equipment and evicted 35 spies. Officials say that countering the threat is difficult because DDT doesn’t accept intelligence information about Russian meddling.

DDT completed his embarrassing four days by referring to his “wonderful relationship” with Xi Jinping. The White House used the wrong title for Xi, however. Instead of his correct title, president of the People’s Republic of China, he was identified as president of the Republic of China, the official name for Taiwan. The elected leader of Taiwan is Tsai Ing-wen, the most powerful woman in the Chinese-speaking world and one of Xi Jinpin’s greatest rivals. DDT is currently trying to persuade China to pressure North Korea for the U.S. benefit.

As always, Melania Trump looked lovely in her expensive fashion designs, but she shouldn’t try to wear them on Capitol Hill. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) is reinforcing a patriarchal ban on sleeveless clothes for women—at least female reporters—in the speaker’s lobby. Although many conservatives have poo-pooed the story, report, Independent Journal Review‘s Haley Byrd was refused entrance. She was offered a cardigan but also told that open-toed shoes are also a no-no.

January 10, 2017

Trump: ‘You’re Fired’—Except for Putin

“You’re fired.” Donald Trump’s (DT) favorite sentence on The Apprentice has circled the world. In a break with decades of precedent, he has ordered all politically appointed ambassadors, 39 in all, to return to the United States by Inauguration Day. The order was given two days before Christmas, about the time that DT was offering ambassadorships to booking agents who could find performers for his inauguration. New ambassadors to all these countries have to be individually confirmed by the Senate. Forget any continuity; DT is king.

DT’s ten-year-old son gets to stay in his New York school after his inauguration, but ambassadors’ children will be left in limbo. For example, Stafford Fitzgerald Haney, U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica, has four school age children, and his wife is fighting breast cancer. A question for DT’s Secretary of State nominee, Rex Tillerson, is whether he thinks that diplomats should be treated in this manner.

“You’re fired” is also what DT said to the head of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and his deputy. This $12 billion-a-year agency “maintains and enhances the safety, security, and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.” That includes responding to nuclear emergencies throughout the world, keeping the Navy in its guarding against terrorists acquiring nuclear material, and caring for the nation’s 7,000 weapons. For the first time since its creation in 2000 that the agency has no one in charge of this responsibility or its 2,300 employees. Never fear, however, because one of these days Rick Perry may be in charge as Secretary of Energy.

There are denials that the people in the top two NNSA positions were “fired,” but Gizmodo reported that “the Trump transition team has not asked the top two NNSA officials to stay on until they can be replaced.” Still sounds like being fired on the first day. And no replacements have been named.

No one knows how many more government officials will received the message of “You’re fired!” The executive branch has between 3,000 and 4,000 positions requiring a presidential appointment, and over 1,200 of these need to be confirmed by the Senate. In a recent petty DT act by DT,  he fired Charles Brotman, 89, by email and replaced him with a DT campaign volunteer. Brotman has served as official announcer for every inauguration parade since the second one for Dwight Eisenhower in 1957. That’s 11 inaugurations and 60 years.

DT will most likely not fire Vladimir Putin because of DT’s heavy financial involvement with Russia. Human rights lawyer Scott Horton has been investigating Financial Times studies that show how Russian crime lords bailed DT out of his seventh bankruptcy in the past decade and the cancellation of all his bank lines of credit.

 

One of DT’s many lies is that he’s a good businessman, but the above graph shows his failure during a decade from 1995 to 2005. That sham of a successful enterprise came from millions of dollars from Russian businesses fronting for mobsters and the GRU, the military intelligence service of the Russian Federation which was formerly the Red Army of the Soviet Union. One of the actors in DT’s pretend success is Sergei Millian, head of the Russian American Chamber of Commerce (RACC) in the U.S. when Donald Trump, Jr. explained the Trump solvency as coming from “money pouring in from Russia.”

Millian denied that the RACC has any relationship to the Russian government, but former Russian MP Konstantin Borovoi cited the chamber as a front for intelligence operations dating back to Soviet times. Millian called himself the Trump “exclusive broker,” and “in 2007-2008, dozens of Russians bought apartments in Trump properties in the US.” He told ABC television that the Trump Organization had received “hundreds of millions of dollars” through deals with Russian businessmen. DT denied any association with Millian despite documents and photos.

Another Financial Times article shows DT at the center of a money-laundering scheme when he used his real estate deals to hide both his infusion of Russian capital and launder hundreds of millions of dollars looted by Russian oligarchs through selling his apartments at highly inflated costs. The companies created for the laundering network were created in April 2013, a week before one LLC paid another LLC hundreds of millions of dollars in cash to buy apartments in Trump Soho—all transactions with companies having undisclosed ownership. DT’s only obligation was to ignore the background for the deal and deny any knowledge of ownership, as in the case of the Fort Lauderdale project, Bayrock.

Jody Kriss, a former Bayrock finance director, claimed the backers included “hidden interests in Russia and Kazakhstan.” Both Bayrock and DT were based in Trump Tower and collaborated in deals around the world. DT said that he had no idea who owned Bayrock, yet he was a partner who represented and took money from this corporation totaling hundreds of millions of dollars throughout the world.

DT’s involvement with Russian money came from his multiple corporate bankruptcies removing his ability to heavily borrow in the U.S. In the 2000s, he had become an entertainer who licensed his name to businesses wanting a brand. He was bankrupt but appeared to be a “successful businessman,” allowing him to carry out massive criminal activities. His only value was his image. DT still had some degree of ownership in apartments and buildings, and foreign crime bosses needs a place to hide their money.

Reports emerged today that both President Obama and DT have been briefed on compromising personal and financial information that Russian have about DT. The two-page synopsis was attached to a report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. It shows that Russia had material harmful to both political parties but chose to release only what damaged Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. The sources were credible enough to inform President Obama and DT.

The FBI was aware last August about the content of the memos that include contact between DT aides and Russian operatives as well as graphic sexual acts documented by the Russians. Whether this information is accurate has not been made public, but the United States has serious problems with just an indication that Russia can blackmail the president of the United States. Kellyanne Conway, DT’s counselor, said he is “not aware” about any briefing, but she also said that people shouldn’t believe anything he says.

Without DT’s tax returns, no one may never find out the extent of DT’s involvement  with the Russians. Yet he got money, oligarchs hid their money, and Russia got the U.S. president. And DT can’t afford to say to Russia, “You’re fired.” The real losers are the DT supporters who believed his lies about getting them jobs and a better future.

DT’s overriding motivation is revenge. His hatred for Barack Obama came with the president’s jokes at a White House Correspondent’s Dinner and throughout the years as he expressed his loathing for the “elites.” Right now he may be planning action against Meryl Streep and the Golden Globes because of Streep’s anti-bullying speech last Sunday. DT has evidenced no human decency, and now he’s in charge of millions of people who will be trampled by his fragile ego.

DT’s first press conference in six months is scheduled for tomorrow at 11:00 EST. The topic is supposedly how he plans to “divest” himself to avoid conflicts of interest. Will he show up? Will he spin? Will he lie? Last question is a no-brainer.

 

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.

September 8, 2016

‘Special Treatment’ for Hillary Clinton

Last night’s precursor of the presidential debates shows the importance of a good moderator. Matt Lauer isn’t one. He started by grilling Hillary Clinton on her emails—taking up a full one-third of her time—that he could have used for issues such as military strategy, leadership goals, policy positions, etc. When he finally got around to the subject of the townhall—national security and veterans issues—he hurried her through her answers by interrupting her, something he didn’t do once to Trump. She was limited in discussing policy while Trump was permitted to lie without confrontation and then spend much of his time in generalities such as defining his qualifications to be commander-in-chief as having “good judgment” and “common sense.” MSNBC should be embarrassed about this debacle; it felt much like a performance on the Fox network.

Trump’s major position in protecting the country is that it has bad generals, “reduced to rubble” to be specific. Trump’s plan to defeat ISIS: he already has a plan. But then he said he’ll tell his top generals to create a plan. Which is it? And he’ll do it in 30 days. George W. Bush said “Mission Accomplished” 40 days after he invaded Iraq, and the U.S. is still in a quagmire there. Trump is also under the misguided impression that he can change all the generals to those who agree with him, but he doesn’t appoint them. He may nominate them, but the Senate has to approve his appointments.

Russian president, Vladimir Putin, is better than Obama, Trump said, because Putin’s approval ratings are higher. Throughout the townhall Trump had nothing bad to say about Putin and nothing good to say about the U.S. president. Lauer also failed to point out that dictators typically have high approval ratings.

Trump claims that he’s studying policy but excuses himself from knowing anything by saying, “I’m campaigning, I’m running a business, I’ve got a lot of hats right now.” Trump doesn’t want to remove women from the military, but he blames the high number of sexual assaults in the military on the fact that men and women are serving again. Trump is unaware that 53 percent of these assaults in 2012 were of men and almost entirely by men. Over half the assaults in 2015 were still of men. Lauer appeared totally unaware of this information.

Lauer’s introductory question to Trump was what he had done to be commander-in-chief. He answered, “Well, I’ve built a great company. I’ve been all over the world.” Then he proceeded to lie about opposing the Iraq War from the beginning and the U.S. intervention in Libya that overturned late dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Lauer failed to point out that Trump initially supported the Iraq War and called on the U.S. to intervene—leaving the audience with the idea that Trump was being truthful. By the finish, Lauer had failed to ask Trump about his dodging the draft, ridiculing POW Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), smearing a Gold Star family, comparing experience in prep school to serving in the military, calling on Russia to hack Clinton’s email server, and bragging about getting a Purple Heart because a soldier gave Trump his medal. Nor did Lauer ask about the affect that a Muslim ban would have on potential ISIS terrorism in the U.S. This in a discussion about national security and veterans affairs in front of an audience of veterans.

In the past, journalists believed that the truth had value. Now their position is that political candidates lie however they want with no questioning. Chris Wallace, moderator of the October 19 presidential debate, said, “I do not believe it is my job to be a truth squad.” Lauer also showed his inability to handle Trump. Although he told the candidates to not be negative, Trump spent over half his time attacking Clinton and President Obama—perhaps because he doesn’t know anything about being a commander-in-chief. Lauer also failed to gather any specifics from Trump.

Trump has spent several months saying that he can’t release his tax returns because he’s being audited, despite his statement that the years 2002-2008 are no longer being audited. (Of course, no one knows for sure that any of his tax returns are being audited.) Then he switched to saying that it would be “irresponsible” to do that. The most recent statement before last night was that “I think people don’t care. I don’t think anybody cares, except some members of the press.” Actually, the man who follows polls so closely should know that 74 percent of the people think he should release them—including 62 percent of the Republicans. Even his running mate, Mike Pence wants him to make the returns public.

Last night, Trump tried a different tack. He’ll release them “immediately” if Clinton makes public personal emails that were deleted years ago. He also said that no one in business would delete emails although that’s exactly what his business did several years ago when he brought a lawsuit ten years ago.

“If we would have taken the oil, you wouldn’t have ISIS,” Trump said last night. He suggested that the way to defeat ISIS is to “take the oil.” Asked how to do that, he said:

“Well, you—you just, you would leave a certain group behind. And you would take various sections where they have the oil. People don’t know this about Iraq, but they have among the largest oil reserves in the world.”

So Trump’s plan is to pillage a country of all resources after the U.S. idea has invaded it.

Trump has long valued Russia and Putin over the United States and President Obama, but he went over the edge in a townhall meeting on national security when he talked about his experiences at the his first classified briefing—after he talked about the dangers of Clinton’s emails. He said he was shocked by the way that the briefers disdained his political opponent and the current president and finished by saying, “Our leaders did not follow what they were recommending.” With this massive breach of ethics, concerns about giving Trump classified information were accurate. This is the first time that a presidential candidate has politicized these briefings.

Members of the Trump campaign staff also leaked information about the briefing. For example, it was reported that retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn interrupted the proceedings so much that Chris Christie, also invited by Trump, told him to shut up.

clinton-smileRNC Chair Reince Priebus couldn’t fault Clinton for her statements in last night’s townhall so he complained about—yes!—her not smiling. She answered, “Actually, that’s just what taking the office of President seriously looks like.” Priebus was also wrong: she did smile as this photo shows.

The male moderator at a townhall doesn’t allow the female candidate to address the issues and constantly interrupts her while telling her to hurry up. Then he gives the male candidate easy questions and fails to correct most of the candidate’s lies. The moderator also orders the female not to attack her opponent while asking the male candidate to “keep his attacks to a minimum.” The moderator didn’t limit the male candidate’s constant attacks in any way. And finally the leader of the Republican party complains because she won’t “smile” while talking about serious issues. Might this be called sexism?

Trump may have had a pitiful performance last night in the townhalls, but Gary Johnson, the Libertarian who disaffected Republicans consider as an alternative had a worse morning. When he was asked on Morning Joe about Aleppo, Johnson answered, “What is Aleppo”? The U.S. public may not need to know about Aleppo, but the President of the United States needs to know that Aleppo is the “epicenter” of the Syrian refugee crisis, as Mike Barnicle explained to Johnson. All of Hillary Clinton’s opponents are pathetic, and almost all the “journalists” focus on how she is perceived as not “likable.”

The bar is so low for Donald Trump that he’s admired if he doesn’t drool on his shoes—to quote Democrat Eugene Robinson and Republican Nicole Wallace. That means that Hillary Clinton definitely gets special treatment the way people claim—it’s just that she cannot achieve their high standards no matter the extent of her knowledge and preparation. Trump would have disappeared a year ago, if expectations for him were only one-fourth what they are for Hillary Clinton.

September 13, 2013

U.S. Exceptionalism All Negative

Many in the U.S. have taken exception to Russia’s president Vladimir Putin taking exception at President Obama’s statement “I believe in American exceptionalism.” So how is the United States exceptional?

The health care in this country is exceptional because it’s costly with poorer outcomes than other countries. People in the U.S. spend almost 18 percent of the country’s GDP on health care, one and half as much as any other OECD country and twice as much as the average. 

health care expenditure

At the same time, about 50 million people in the U.S., almost 15 percent of the population. In other developed nations, 100 percent of the people have health care. In addition, many other people in the U.S. who have health insurance put off getting healthcare because of high deductibles and copayments. Obamacare  won’t solve the problem, but it attempts to remediate it. Personally I take exception to GOP members of the House who waste my taxpayer money by continually voting against helping people as they did again yesterday afternoon.

The U.S. is 33rd in life expectancy and 34th in infant mortality. This nation has the highest first-day infant death rate out of all the industrialized countries in the world—68 other countries. It is estimated that 45,000 people died each year because lack of access to medical care. People in the U.S. pay twice as much for medications as people in Canada or Europe, and 30 percent of every healthcare dollar is spent on administrative costs. In comparison, Taiwan spends a little over 6 percent of GDP on healthcare with better outcomes in some key indicators. Medicare in the U.S., a single-payer system similar to that in most other developed countries, has administrative costs of about 3 percent.

Adolescents die at higher rates from car crashes and homicides, and they have the highest rates of sexually transmitted infections. People in the U.S. have the highest incidence of AIDS, the highest obesity rates, the highest diabetes rates among adults 20 and older, the highest rates of chronic lung disease and heart disease and drug-related deaths.

The U.S. is the only industrialized nation in which workers are not legally entitled to paid leave—even vacation time. European nations typically provide five weeks; Germany gives almost seven weeks. Almost one-fourth of the U.S. workers get no time at all. Germany’s decreasing unemployment rate is 5.4 percent, and the average hourly wage has gone up more than 4 percent in the last three years. Wages in the U.S. have barely gone up, and the 7.4 percent unemployment rate is unhealthy for the economy. U.S. workers put in 1,800 a year while German workers work an average of 1,400 hours per year.

U.S. productivity rose by 80 percent from 1973 to 2011 while compensation went up barely 12 percent with no increase since 2000, despite a 23-percent productivity increase in that time.

The United States provides no maternity leave, compared to most of the other countries in the world.

paid-maternal-leave-by-country With a child poverty rate of 20-25 percent, the United States rates 34th out of 35 countries. (Romania is below the U.S.) Map

 child-poverty-rates

The United States is exceptional in having the most millionaires and billionaires who have collected more of the planets assets than any other country. Yet the U.S. is #27 in middle-class wealth. Adding all assets such as homes and bank accounts before subtracting liabilities such as loans and other debts gives the best indicator of individual and family prosperity. As the following chart shows, 26 other countries have a higher media wealth than the U.S.

Middle Class wealth

Incarceration is higher in the United States than in other countries such as Russia, Cuba, Iran, or China. The lock-up rate is ten times what it is in Norway and more than that in Japan and Iceland. Several states in this nation lock up people for debt, and private corporations count on “growth” models to increase their profits. In Arizona, for example, the state guaranteed full prisons when private companies built them.

 The U.S. has the highest gun ownership rates in the world and the second highest rate of gun deaths among industrialized nations. These two things are related, looking at developed nations shows that the higher the rate of gun ownership, the more people die from gun wounds.

The U.S. ranks 23rd in wage distribution, 22nd in gender equality, and 29th in intellectual property protection. The U.S. ranks 10th in purchasing power of minimum wage and 11th in minimum wage. The nation also ranks 125th in GDP growth per capita. Out of 24 nations, the U.S. ranked between 19th and 23rd in critical areas of health, education, and material well-being.

The United States is now 9th in the world in Internet speed, down one place from last year. South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Netherlands, Latvia, Czech Republic, and Sweden are above the U.S. Yet this country charges more for Internet use that these other countries.

The United States does rank first in the world in death by violence. The U.S. is also exceptional among the industrialized world for having the only president who claims the right to execute citizens without due process in the U.S. post-constitutional philosophy. For other ratings, check out the Global Competitiveness Report for 2012-2013.

In lashing out at Putin’s response to President Obama’s threatened attack on Syria, Putin wrote that claiming the exceptionalism of America is “dangerous”:

“We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”

Because of Russia’s vicious anti-LGBT laws that cause physical harm and death to those perceived to be LGBT, Rep. Nancy Pelosi used Putin’s words to attack him when she said:

“He says that we are all God’s children. I think that’s great. I hope it applies to gays and lesbians in Russia as well.”

In the nationalistic craving for U.S. exceptionalism, Pelosi and many others forget that LGBT people can be fired for their sexual orientation or gender identity in over 30 states, they cannot be married in 37 states, and the federal government is denying Social Security benefits to all married same-sex couples who do not live in one of the jurisdictions that have not yet legalized marriage equality. By comparison 14 countries in the world have legalized same-sex marriage.

Before getting into a contest about whether the United States is “exceptional,” people might work toward making it so—in a good way and not just in high rates of mortality, bad health, hunger, poverty, income inequality, and incarceration.

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