Representative Iihan Omar

I like her, but she would really do herself and the causes she supports, to resist getting into the limelight, at least for now.   What did she say that was so horrible?

It was that our support for Israel is “all about the Benjamins,” which is slang for 100 dollar bills namely money.   Of course, money and politics go hand-in-hand.   Trump wants good relations with the Saudis, in hopes of getting big military contracts.  Not for the US government, but for companies like Boeing and dozens of military equipment manufacturers.    I think the Vox website got it right:

” It was false — support for Israel is complex and related to many more factors than just lobbyist money — and it played into centuries of conspiracy theories about Jewish money corrupting Western politics.”

Her four words went viral and totally blown out of proportion.  There was another comment where she seem to give support of a dual loyalty theory, that implies Jewish politicians were conflicted between what was best for America and best for Israel.  She really has back tracked on her offensive comment.  However, Trump is really on the war path.  Again, it is not her statements per se, but the exaggerated impact which is  being tossed about the social media.  Social media can act as a distorted echo chamber.

I worked in Kuwait, and listen to some pretty anti-Israel comments.  It was, in my opinion, rooted on a biased history of how Israel was formed, and its intentions to its Arab leaders.  We had some lively debates at that time.  At the same time, Muslims and Jews were just fine working together.  It was never personal.

The US under the Trump administration will never present a practical plan to resolve the hostilities between Palestine and Israel, because it will simply agree with Israel.   We have given up our role as a neutral party, and gone way too far in aligning our interests with Israel.  That’s very bad for us.   For Arab extremists,  the anger and paranoia begins with hatred towards Israel, and then all countries associated with Israel, most obvious today is the US.

As I said in the beginning, I like Representative Omar.   I think she has a lot of “John Kennedy” type zeal in her and is strongly involved in the really big issues facing the world – such as hunger, environment  and climate change.  Getting it right on access to health care services and education for our country are critical to make this country great again (after Trump).

I hope she can weather this storm.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/2/12/18220241/ilhan-omars-twitter-tweet-anti-semitism

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It%27s_All_About_the_Benjamins

(I honestly didn’t know how popular this slang expression was, and I thought they were talking about Benjamin Netayahu.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilhan_Omar

 

 

 

Brumadinho Dam Collapse

Mariana denovo! Meu Deus!  In Portuguese, this means “Mariana again, my God.”

This is in reference to the dam that collapsed in Mariana, Minas Gerais, Brazil   in November 2015,  killing 19 people, spilling 60 million cubic meters of toxic mud  and completely destroying the town of Bento Rodrigues.     There were warning signs before the collapse.   The company had hired experts, who identified problems with the dam.  But the operation company Samarco, a consortium between Vale and BHP,  did too little, too late.   The investigation of the Mariana dam collapse lead to criminal charges, fines and lawsuits.   The environmental damage stretch all the way to the mouth of the Rio Doce river, to the Atlantic Ocean.  Toxic elements found in the tailings include mercury, arsenic and lead.  See link below.

The criminal charges and lawsuits provided Value strong motivation to insure their dams were safe.   But there’s an lot about Vales’s  Brumadinho dam collapse that seems similar to Mariana.  On January 25, 2019 an earthen dam,holding back 11.7 million cubic feet of tailings  from an iron ore mine  broke and  immediately created a huge mud flow for two miles.  From video shot at the time, it was a catastrophic failure with a breach in the lower sections of the dam, leading to a total caving in of the upper sections of the dam.  Heavy rainfall is likely a contributing factor.

As of Feb 23, 177 people are confirmed dead and 133 people are considered missing.  (see Wikipedia link) Many of the victims were Vale’s employees.  The force of the flood was tremendous, overturning buses, destroying homes and hotels, and drowning their occupants.  A section of a bridge collapsed.  The mud swept over approximately a square mile of land.  It definitely could have been worse.   The mud flow veered east of the village of Vale de Cachoreira (valley of the water fall),  taking some lives but sparing others.   An alarm system failed to go off.  Vale stated this failure was unimportant, as most of the destruction occurred in a matter of seconds.

As with the Mariana disaster,  there were warning signs.   Right now, all eyes are focused on a German firm TUV SUD who performed the last safety inspection in September 2018.   There is evidence that they were reluctant to sign off on the certificate of safety,  but management in Vale pressured them.    There is a serious conflict of interest in these inspections, as Vale hires the outside firm, and pays them for the inspection.   Obviously, more direct involvement is needed from the government.   The shut down of a tailing pit, I would think, could shut down operations at a mine, so there will always be some resistance.  But two accidents of this magnitude ought to be sufficient incentives for change.

The environmental impact is still being assessed.   High mercury concentrations were found in the river below the spill after the collapse.   Metal contaminants do not decompose with time.   The will become more dilute as they flow downstream.  Unfortunately toxic elements can be concentrated in fish and other animals,  leading to real health risks.

Earth dam collapses due to mining operations have occurred in many countries, including the US, India, Italy and Japan.   The precipitating event is often heavy rainfall, but preceding this, are typically structural defects.   In the case of Brumadinho, the rain lead to a process called “liquidification” where solids in the tailings became mobile.   Clogged dam outlets may have contributed to the Brumadinho disasterer. With sifting weather patterns due to global warming,  the historical rainfall patterns may become less predictable, requiring extra measures to insure safety in all tailings pits.   Brazil has many tailing pits in worse condition than Brumadinho.   This latest disaster should be considered a wake up call to Brazil (as if Mariana wasn’t enough!).

The US has its own share of disasters.  In year 2000,  in Marin County, Kentucky,  a coal mining tailing pit failed. According to Wikipedia,  “The water supply for over 27,000 residents was contaminated. The spill was 30 times larger than the Exxon Valdez oil spill and one of the worst environmental disasters ever in the southeastern United States.”     Beyond permitting requirements, a vigilant monitoring and safety inspections, free of conflict of interest with mining operators seem essential.   Remember the saying, “What comes around, goes around.”   The next Mariana, or Brumadinho type disaster  might be in West Virginia, Michigan or Kentucky.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Mariana Dam Collapse

Wikipedia,  Brumadinho Dam Collapse

Wikipedia:  Dam failures 

Other similar dam disasters:

Mueller’s report delayed

Even the best Mueller investigation trackers don’t know what happened.  The Department of Justice had never officially said a final report would be issued.  I had thought this would be an interim report.  It would not include the ongoing investigation into the inaugural committee and  irregularities in the Trump Foundation, which are being handled by the Federal Attorney Office in the  Southern District of New York.   I’ve thought of these investigations as independent investigations- but maybe not.  A lot of money was flowing into the inauguration committee and there may still be a Russian connection.

Of course, Mueller can issue an interim report with large sections redacted – not a particularly satisfying conclusion to either Republicans or Democrats.  What Mueller abhors at this point is leaked information.  Like a good prosecutor, he’s going after indictments then convictions.  And contrary to what Trump has been saying, he’s been very successful with either guilty pleas or convictions.   Mueller knows that once the Department of Justice has the report, it will be subject to a subpoena by Congress, and the House will want to question Mueller making leaks more likely.   Trump’s lawyers will want to see the report without redacted sections and  that’s where leaks to the media can occur.  It will clue them into unresolved parts of the investigation.

I am hoping the investigation is winding down as the final pieces come together.  The wheels of justice grind slowly.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

Global Warming

Scientists like to refer this as “climate change” but whatever it is called, it is real, it is worldwide and the consequences of ignoring it or belittling it, are very serious.

I was blown away when I saw this graph on the front page of the New York Times, on February 7, 2019.  I mean the front page of the New York Times is precious territory,  but the editors decided to put this graph at the top left corner, because it tells a very compelling story.   It is from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric  Agency (NOAA) showing the 2018 global temperature is right on trend beginning around 1970.   Look at the last five points, 2014 to 2018, the temperatures are above all others on the chart,  meaning the last 5 years were the hottest ever on our planet.

This temperature increase coincides with increases in worldwide carbon emissions.   It is  distinctly different from the 1880 to 1930’s, random ups and downs.  Global warming is a factor in extreme weather events including the blistering cold snap in the Midwest, the extreme heat wave in Australia, hurricanes in Puerto Rico, Florida, and the gulf coast states,  prolong dry conditions in California promoting forest fires and expansion of deserts causing famine in Africa.

It is real,  It is bad,  And we lack leadership at the highest levels of our government.  Trump will pull out of Paris Accords, and did not say one word about climate change in the State of the Union address.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again.  Global warming doesn’t cause hurricanes to form.  Ok.  It is a contributing factor in turning a tropical storm into a hurricane.   I live in Miami, and I know the difference.  Hurricanes can totally destroy a house and are deadly.    I was in Miami when Hurricane Andrew hit in August 1992 and I saw the destruction.

I was very  glad to see climate change listed along with terrorism as one of the major threats to US security as reported by National Security Director, Dan Coats in the Foreward of the 2018 assessment (see links) as follows:

Challenges from urbanization and migration will persist, while the effects of air pollution,inadequate water, and climate change on human health and livelihood will become more noticeable. Domestic policy responses to such issues will become more difficult—especially for democracies—as public become less trusting of authoritative information sources.

Environment and Climate Change: The impacts of the long-term trends toward a warming climate, more air pollution, biodiversity loss, and water scarcity are likely to fuel economic and social discontent—and possibly upheaval—through 2018.  The past 115 years have been the warmest period in the history of modern civilization … (page 16) ,   

The report does not go into detailed as this is a highly condensed summary of immediate threats to the US.  It is clear from the report that water and food shortages increase the risk of unrest in parts of the world.   I fear these trouble spots will end up like Syria and Libya,  prolong proxy wars.    President Obama was ridiculed on Fox News suggesting that climate change could be a worse peril than terrorism to our country.

Our increasing environment problems becomes more noticeable – that’s right, if we take the trouble to see what’s happening.   Of course, when a hurricane comes and demolishes your dream beachfront home,  it is pretty difficult to ignore.

Just as I was ready to hit the publish button,  I discovered another news story, in which scientists consider our warming gulf coast waters make it likely that hurricanes will intensify at a more rapid rate (see Miami Herald story).   This gives everyone less time to evacuate, and is particularly bad for the less mobile (poor people, elderly, hospitalized folks) to get out of harm’s way.

To reiterate, it was great to see the New York Times break out of the publishing norms,  and put the graph front and center.  Of course, they followed up with pictures of melting glaciers in China, wildfires in Paradise, California,  Hurricane Florence in Florida, and a dried up section of the Rhine in Germany.  All of these were from 2018. And they put it all online so anyone could read their story.  Great work.  But,  there is more needed than just public awareness.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

It’s official: 2018 was the fourth warmest year on record

2018 National Threat Assessment

Climate change could be making Atlantic hurricanes stronger faster, study finds

Global Temperature Record (Wikipedia)

10 signs of a warming planet

Why Is the Cold Weather So Extreme if the Earth Is Warming?

Trade Wars – No winners

March 2 is getting way too close for comfort.  The stock market crashed yesterday as hopes dimmed on any negotiated settlement.  The two hard core hawks in Trump’s administration (Lighthizer and Navarro) are likely in control, working on the premise that once we exert enough economic pressure, China will cave in.

Trade wars are unlike real wars.  In this case, we know exactly how China will react on March 2 when tariffs go to 25%.  They will try to match us dollar for dollar. It will simultaneously  hurt both countries.   The slowing Chinese economy coupled with a general slowdown in Europe, will make for less demand for US goods abroad.

China can withstand a lot more pain than we can.  They know this and we know this.   Trump talks about doing what is right for our country, while Chinese leaders talk about global cooperation.   Wow, it used to be the other way around.   It is a mess, because we need China’s help in convincing North Korea to end their nuclear plans.

Republicans used to be for free trade, but by embracing Trump’s policies, they are really for isolation and protectionism.

Stay tuned.

Dave

Good Bye El Chapo

Joaquin Guzman(“El Chapo”) headed the Sinoloa Cartel in Mexico until 2016, and was responsible for smuggling marijuana, cocaine, heroin, meth, and other drugs into the US through Mexico.   His trial consisted of 56 witnesses testifying against him and lasted 11 weeks.  It is now in the hands of the jury. I am hoping he’s found guilty on all counts and sentenced to life imprisonment.  He deserves to be locked up.   I wish they could lock up all his associates too.

El Chapo was a master of prison escapes.  He was arrested in Guatemala in 1993, and extradited to Colombia.  He escaped a maximum security prison in 2001. He was recaptured in 2014, and placed in a maximum security prison.  He managed to escape in 2015 through a mile long tunnel.  After he was arrested the third time, in 2016, his luck had run out.   He was extradited to the US to stand trial.

To arrest him, and build a solid case against hin, there was international cooperation with law enforcement agencies in many countries, but certain information could not be shared with Mexican officials, because corruption existed at high levels.  According to the NY Times:

The case required the cooperation of several American law enforcement agencies, but it also required keeping some Mexican authorities out of most discussions. Among the cooperators were the F.B.I., the Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations and the United States Coast Guard. Also involved were foreign law enforcement and military based in Ecuador, Colombia and the Dominican Republic, as well as local law enforcement in New York City, Chicago and Texas and federal prosecutors in New York, Chicago, El Paso, Miami, San Diego and Washington, D.C.

I suspect the heavy lifting was done by the Drug Enforcement Administration, whose agents  had the really dangerous job of working in Mexico, knowing that some local law enforcement officers might be working more to protect El Chapo instead of capturing  him.  What really did El Chapo in at the end was his paranoia,  as he had special encryption programs created for his cell phones.   The DEA located the IT expert responsible for the coding and could wiretap and decode his conversations.   The solution to one problem, really lead to a much bigger problem.

The Sinaloa Cartel  is still in the business of smuggling drugs into the US.   It operates in the same manner as a corporation, with a board of directors, and executives, with offices in cities worldwide including the US, Mexico, Colombia and Thailand.    According to Wikipedia,  “With the arrest of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, Ismael Zambada will most likely assume leadership of the Sinaloa Cartel.”

One take away from all this, is there was tremendous ingenuity and effort put into what I can only describe the most economical  “end to end” narcotics distribution.  According to the NYT:  “the Sinaloa Cartel globalized, stretching far beyond the Mexican-United States border to Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Belize, Honduras, Canada, Thailand and China.” The cocaine or heroin might come from Colombia or Thailand, and the objective of the cartels is getting large quantities into the US under their control.

Secret compartments in trucks were routinely used, and entered through legal ports of entry.   Other times, they were hidden inside of legitimate products, such as plastic fruit.    It was pretty incredible operation. According to the NYT drugs were transported by “Trains, helicopters and planes, semi-submersible and tanker ships, shoe boxes and chili cans. Although many more drugs crossed over than were seized, a few notable successes for authorities included a 16-ton seizure from a merchant vessel in Panama and a 6-ton seizure out of Ecuador. Although it never happened, the cartel also discussed trying to move 100 tons of cocaine on an oil tanker ship.”

If the 11 week trial proved anything beyond Joaquin Guzman’s crimes,  it proved that Donald Trump’s wall will have no direct effect on the influx of drugs in the US.   The cartels are looking to move large quantities, so large trucks or tractor-trailer semi’s which routinely pass through the legal ports of entry proved to be the most economical way to more drugs.    The illegal border crossings were not part of the Sinaloa Cartel operation, with the exception of some tunnels near San Diego.   The 5 billion dollars for 100 miles of wall, that has become so contentious,  will have no effect on the Sinaloa smuggling operation.

Finally,  the trial did not show that El Chapo and his cartel were involved in the current Fentanyl  epidemic.  I’m not saying that they are not involved because they have huge control over the distribution of drugs in the US.  Fentanyl is very addicting and resulting in over 70,000 overdoses.  It is made in labs in the US, but the constituents and pre-cursors come from China, courtesy of the US Postal Service.   If we are able to crack down on China, then the source chemical suppliers will likely shift to India.  It’s been reported that the Mexican drug cartels, namely the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) are involved, as they can cut their heroin with fentanyl.  The Jalisco Cartel is a very violent gang and at times, fight to enlarge their areas of distribution,  waging deadly battles with the Sinaloa Cartel.

The chance of a Fentanyl overdose can be reduced by taking naloxone, which apparently is widely available.  See Wikipedia link on Fentanyl.

I’m stopping here, as I’ve wandered a bit off the tracks.  I am very glad when El Chapo gets locked up for the rest of his life.  The DEA and FBI have done well.

Tomorrow, as part of the State of the Union Address Donald Trump will be telling us the drug problem can be solved by pouring concrete.   It can’t.   And going after the “bad actors” needs incredible international cooperation.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

NYT: The El Chapo Trial

Wikipedia:  Fentanyl  (I learned a lot from this link)

Mexico cartels now fuel deadly Chicago opioid epidemic

Wikipedia: Joaquin Guzman (El Chapo)

Jalisco New Generation Cartel 

 

Stone’s arrest and the electronic trail

I figured this one out soon after Roger Stone was arrested.  Stone’s value to the Mueller investigation was what was on his cellphones, computers, tablets, etc. That’s why 29 FBI agents stormed his house.  They didn’t want him, they wanted his electronic gear.  They didn’t want a single thumb drive or hard disk to get destroyed.   Roger Stone says he would have turned himself if asked, but not before scrubbing clean his residences.

Being 100% clean is tough for Roger Stone, given his long history of deceit and trickery.    Mueller will likely have a treasure trove of bits and pieces.  Big question is how does this all fit into the investigation.

When cellphones first came out, criminals had the upper hand.  No one could tap a cellphone like a landline phone.  But things really have changed,  as the hard drive within a cellphone is loaded with potential incriminating information.  It will take time for FBI digital forensic experts to know exactly what the search warrant of electronic gear will yield.   Julian Sanchez nailed it on this one.   Stone can’t flip on Trump because he’s got zero credibility.

Mueller is going after the Russian hack,  Wikileaks and Republican campaign officials connections.    I don’t know if Mueller will be able to connect all the dots, but I suspect both Trump and Steve Bannon are feeling the heat turned up.   I don’t believe anyone  directly involved in  Trump’s 2016 campaign has been charged with conspiracy with Russian agents,   Well not yet.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Julian Sanchez Opinion as published in the New York Times, Jan 26, 2019.

Mueller’s Real Target in the Roger Stone Indictment

 

 

 

 

The wall

With so much out there,  I’m not too interested to add commentary,   Same goes for the government shutdown, now into the fifth week.   But, I’d like to add a few facts and one comment at the end.   A lot of  shutdowns were solved, at least temporally by the passing of “continuing resolutions” which basically says take last approved budget and just extend it out for as long as possible.    It’s a “kick the can down the road” approach.    Obama had to beg Congress for a clean CR,  as Republicans sought to defund  the ACA (aka Obamacare) through dirty CR’s. or budget proposals.

Now the wall.   The border with Mexico is 1954 miles long.    Ask any member of Congress if they support border security, and you will be sure they will all say yes.   It’s better not to use the W word (wall) or the F word (no not that F word, I mean fences),  but  use the generic “border barriers.”  There is 1.375 billion dollars for new and replacement barriers already in the approved US budget, which has only partially been spent.

The 5.7 billion dollars is slated for 234 miles of border barriers.   As CNN reported, this will cover 100 miles of new barriers, and 134 miles of improved replacements.

Now my comment.   I live in Miami, which has a huge number of illegal immigrants.   I believe most immigrants make the trip, to help their families, and are good people.   Fewer will make the trip, because the coyotes will be charging a lot more, in excess of 10,000 USD, given the added security provisions.    There are some who have returned to their country which Trump never talks about.

Stay tuned,

Dave

CNN link

Trump’s Approval Rating

There a lot of nonsense out there.   Here’s the honest truth – Trump’s approval ratings have hardly changed since about six months after he became president.   His approval rating based on Gallup polling is 40% for the last week in December.   The wall, the shutdown, Secretary Mattis resignation,  the sudden pull out from Syria, more Mueller news and a dozen other stories did not make a dent in Trump’s approval rating.  The fluctuations are small and just polling errors as would be expected.

In another words – there is no trend.  It has  been flat for the last 18 months.  The American people have spoken with a yawn.

You will hear from commentators how the country is deeply divided.  This is true.  Republicans will tell you that Trump is doing his level best to deliver on his promises to the electorate, and he understands the country much better than the Democrats (aka,  liberal fanatics).   They listen to Fox News.   Democrats will tell you that Trump is out of control.  They listen to MSNBC.

Finally, there is a third group, which is completely turned off by government and politics.    Remember only 43% of eligible voters actually voted in the last election.  The overload of news programs mixed with commentaries doesn’t help much.   In light of constant “breaking news”  this group just turns to the latest offerings from Netflix.

Another site I like is “538”  which puts Trump’s approval rating at 41.2%.   They aggregate various polls to provide a weighted average.

This is in sharp contrast to other presidents who had much more fluctuations in their polling numbers.  It looks like what really gets the apathetic group to turn off Netflix and other distractions is a major war – like the Korean war or Vietnam.  George H.W. Bush had one of the highest ratings when he defended Kuwait against the Iraqi invasions.   Truman has a record low rating (22%) when the Korean war dragged on.

For Trump,  polls consistently show very high approval ratings from Republicans and low ones from Democrats.  So, are Americans outraged by Trump’s shutdown the government or  the Democrats refusal to provide funds for the wall.   Likely it’s both plus a lot of who cares.  I am much more concerned with the “who cares” group, as democracies need an informed populace.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Supreme Court ruling on Asylum

Trump and the DOJ decided it could make it much harder for immigrants to apply for asylum,  by refusing to approve applications by illegal immigrants from within the country.   I’ve commented on this before.  The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals barred the Trump administration from enforcing the policy.   Trump attacked the court as biased against the Trump administration.  Those opposed to this policy seemed to be on pretty solid ground, as the applicable immigration law stated that both immigrants within the country illegally and those outside the country have the right to apply for asylum.

The government’s case seems to hing on the right to apply does not mean the government must approve applications.   But this seems absurd, as who would ever apply, knowing the application would go straight into the garbage without any consideration.  The applicant likely would face deportation.    It is also contended that the government needed a tougher policy, as there was a crisis at the border with the terribly exaggerated  caravan story.

The circuit court barred the asylum policy to be implemented and the Trump administration appealed, asking the Supreme Court to lift the bar, so they could continue the new policy as the case was being appealed.    They lost in a 5 to 4 ruling, where all liberal judges (Brennan, Ginsburg, Kagan, Sotomayor) were joined by Chief Justice Roberts in denying the government’s motion.  The case will be heard next year in the Supreme Court.  By the time this gets to the Supreme Court, the caravan invasion saga will be history, weakening the argument that Trump needs extraordinary powers to protect our country.   I predict Trump will lose on the principle that the Executive branch can’t overrule Congress.

Justice Ginsburg cast her vote with the majority, then went to the hospital to remove two cancerous growths in her lungs.  By all reports, the operation went successfully.  The recent fall in her office, resulting in fracture ribs, prove to be a very fortuitous event as follows (CNN reporting):

If the justice hadn’t fractured her ribs, Liu said, it’s possible that doctors wouldn’t have found the nodules and that they might have gotten larger. It is unclear from the court’s statement how long the nodules were there or how quickly they had grown.

The court is adjourned for the rest of the year, and I wish Justice Ginsburg a speedy recovery.   She is incredibly resilient!

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links

http://www.scotusblog.com/2018/12/justices-rebuff-government-on-asylum-ban/#more-278070

http://www.scotusblog.com/2018/12/ginsburg-has-cancerous-growths-removed-from-lung/

 

Mueller’s final report

Boy, there has been a ton of speculation.  Trump foes would like to see Mueller show how all these indictments and guilty pleas are connected into one grand conspiracy, making impeachment inevitable.   Trump supports are looking for exoneration of Trump.   I have opined that it seems unlikely that the investigation will end anytime soon.   I particularly like the view presented by Renato Mariotti,  a former federal prosecutor and the host of On Topic podcast, as published in Time Magazine this week (Dec 17 issue):

“As America anxiously awaits special counsel Robert Mueller’s so-called final report and proof of “collusion”, it should be very wary of two truths: Mueller may never write a full “final report”, and any bombshells he reveals are unlikely to outline  a grand conspiracy.  This will not be a failure of the investigation but rather of our own expectations.” 

He goes on to state that federal prosecutors aren’t historians or journalists.   He also points out there can not be a charge of “collusion” with Russian agents by the Trump campaign, because the word has no legal meaning.  He also states, “it is hard to imagine any federal prosecutor would ever charge the extensive conspiracy imagined by Trump’s critics.”   Mariotti’s view is Mueller’s team has already been successful, with a careful, targeted approach.  The American electorate has become become either apathetic or numb (neither words used by Mariotti) as he writes:

At any other time in American history, the President’s lawyer telling a federal judge under oath that the President directed him to commit a crime might have ended that presidency.  Yet that detail has been forgotten amid the daily avalanche of Trump-related news. 

The overload of news, mixed with commentary and outright misinformation, principally from Trump and his legal team,  is the way it will be until the end.   It is getting hard to swallow the idea that Cohen, Manafort, Flynn and now Maria Butina are all lying to get lighter sentences.

The more Trump lashes out at the Mueller investigation, the more certain  there were serious crimes committed by Russian agents, campaign officials,  and others, which may include the Trump Foundation and Trump’s Inaugural Committee.  Most knowledgeable attorneys, like Mariotti,  state that under Department of Justice written opinion, a sitting President can not be charged with crimes.   So, any final report would not contain crimes that Trump could be charged with.

The essay by Mariotti ends with a warning similar to his opening statement:  “… if Mueller finds evidence of narrower crimes and is considered a failure, the failure won’t be on him.  It will be on us, for our own outsize expectations, which just might save Trump’s presidency.”

I believe the report will be simply a summary of concluded successful prosecutions.   It is not coming anytime soon.   If it doesn’t make a strong case for obstruction of justice by Trump, then it would be best for Democrats not to waste their time on this.

In this case,  Trump’s way out of the White House would be through the same way he came in, through the election process.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Wanzhou Meng’s Arrest

Wanzhou Meng is the Chief Financial Officer of Huawei Technologies, Inc, a rapidly growing technology company in China.  (See links)  She has been arrested in Canada and is awaiting deportation to the US.  I believe the Canadian court will rule in favor of deportation.

How big an impact can the arrest of one person have a major impact on trade relations and the world economy?   It can be huge.  I believe there is an analogous situation.  The small country of Tunisia likely understands why her arrest is such a big deal.

Almost exactly eight years ago, one simple street peddler named Mohamed Bouazizi  provided the spark to ignite Arab Spring.  After being shaken down for a bribe by local police, and having his cart confiscated, he returned to the plaza and lit himself on fire.   In 2012, the leaders of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen were all forced out through civil war.  Civil uprisings occurred in Bahrain and Syria.   Other protests occurred through the Arab world, including Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, and Sudan.  The rebellion in Tunisia lit the way, showing that repressive regimes could be overthrown.  What happened in Tunisia was aired throughout the Arab world in real time.

Wanzhou Meng is the new Mohamed Bouazizi.  She is a symbol to both Xi  government and his vision of China’s role in technology.  She is a symbol also to the  people of China and the idea that Donald Trump (and the US) are bullies, getting their way through threats.  This creates a new unity within China against any trade agreement.   It isn’t something our Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer is prepared to deal.  That said, I don’t really know how one deals with the psychological impact of Meng’s arrest.

From his biographical statement, it seems the last time he was a trade representative of the US was in 1983-1985.   He knows the legal aspects of trade and commerce, and that China frequently violates international agreements.  Wikipedia stated his background as follows:

In 1983, during the administration of President Ronald Reagan, Lighthizer was nominated and confirmed to serve as Deputy U.S. Trade Representative under William Brock.  During his tenure, Lighthizer negotiated over two dozen bilateral international agreements, including agreements on steel, automobiles, and agricultural products.  As Deputy USTR, Lighthizer also served as Vice Chairman of the Board of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.  In 1985, Lighthizer joined the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP (Skadden) as a partner.[6] He practiced international trade law at Skadden for over 30 years, representing American workers and businesses ranging from manufacturing to financial services, agriculture, and technology. While at Skadden, Lighthizer worked to expand markets to U.S. exports and defended U.S. industries from unfair trading practices.

He has correctly stated that the extradition and prosecution of Wanzou Meng are a matter for the Department of Justice, separate from the US Trade Administration.

When tensions run high, as they are now,  the best thing to do is to lay low.  Lighthizer  seemed to go on the attack.  His public statement that Meng’s arrest and trade negotiations are two completely separated, while true, will never be accepted by the Chinese.   He also stated that the deadline of March 1, 2019 is a hard deadline for tariffs to go to 25%.  It’s obvious that China will retaliate in kind.

It just seemed he was more ready to prepare for battle than the bargaining table.  I suspect it’s the way Trump likes it.   The hawks on trade policy are Peter Navarro and John Bolton.  For every Make American Great Again hawk, there is an equal Make China Great Again hawk on the other side fighting against US aggressive tactics.   Tariffs wars are like military arms race,  Only the sides can retaliate extremely rapidly.

Details of the charges against Meng have recently been revealed.  The US claims that a spinoff company, Skycom, was used to sell electronic products to Iran in violation of the Iran trade embargo, as established by the Obama administration and their allies, including Russia and China.   Huawei misrepresented the relationship between Skycom and Huawei as two separate companies.   International law apparently allows the Department of Justice to issue warrants of arrest against Corporate officers if they have proof of their involvement in fraud resulting in harm to US companies.   In Meng’s case,  DOJ’s  proof is likely her signature on financial documents.

This story is just beginning.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Note:   Meng Wanzhou also goes by Sabrina Meng or Cathy Meng.   Her last name is Meng.  Her father  Ren Zhengfei is the founder and president of Huawei.  It is a real rags to riches story.  Meng is the surname of  Wanzhou mother.

US Trade rep warns 90 day pause in US-China trade war is a ‘hard deadline’

South China Post:  Huawei and trade negotiations are completely separate

Office of Trade Representative and Robert Lighthizer

Wikipedia Arab Spring

Bloomberg:  Wanzou Meng arrest

Huawei (Wikipedia)

Ren Zhengfei

2018 myth of the year

Politifact selects a lie of the year.    They don’t have a similar award for myths.  They should.

A political myth is perpetrated usually with great concoction of bits of truths mixed in with a lot of lies or exaggerations.  John Kennedy got it right in 1962 when he said:

“The greatest enemy of truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth – persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.  Too often we hold fast to the cliches of our forebears.  We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations.  We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”

I am concerned with the mix of news and opinions presented primarily on cable news.  Fox News is a clear example of this.

“You’re entitled to your own opinions. You’re not entitled to your own facts.”

Let’s consider a few examples:   Trump sent the military to halt the impending invasion of a caravan of immigrants, filled with would be criminals.

Basically,  this was just a mid-term election stunt.   Unfortunately, a very unnecessary one.  But it was done to because immigration was a hot button issue, and Trump wanted to stand out, as the toughest guy on halting illegal immigration.

But the myth of the year, I believe is Trump’s  simple statement:

“Trade wars are good, and easy to win”

Trade wars makes every economist who understands the mechanisms of capitalism cringe.   Tariffs imposed on China result almost immediately in China imposing tariffs on the US.   No one is ahead in negotiations.  The government gains because they receive the tariff income, but industries which import from China must pay higher costs.   Higher steel prices strongly impacts the oil industry and their capital investments.  I believe Trump has  killed any chance of the  Keystone XL pipeline, Phase 4 of every being constructed given the sharp drop in oil prices and the increase in steel prices.   Trump bragged at his ability to talk down oil prices, by getting Saudi Arabia to increase production.   The Saudi’s increase production as Trump pushed through new sanctions against Iran, and importers of Iranian oil.   Of course, Trump then reversed course and granted waivers to many countries, so Iranian oil could keep flowing to the world market, creating a temporary oil glut.

The Department of Energy will let oil companies drill almost anywhere they want, but the economics of many projects are gone.  This includes the decades of controversy of drilling in northern Alaska and extensive oil shale developments.

Mr. Tariff man, you’ve made a mess of things!

Stay tuned

Dave

 

 

 

 

 

Never let a good crisis go to waste

“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. … This crisis provides the opportunity for us to do things that you could not before.”

This quote comes from Mayor  Rahm Emmanuel.  It has been used completely out of context since he said it in an interview in 2008. What he meant was a crisis gets the public attention to a problem, and puts pressure on government to come up with solutions.

The raging forest fires in California should have been the crisis to tell us that the impacts of climate change are real and resulting in deaths around the world.    Trump’s comments on Californian’s forgot to rake their leaves was laughable.  It’s also sad, because human lives are at stake.  I am not saying that climate change caused the forest fires, but that global warming results in hotter and longer summers in California, resulting in very dry brush.  This makes many large and populated areas more vulnerable to rapidly spreading fires,

So let us add:  “Never let a crisis be pointed to you or your organization.”   With the second important proviso,   “Be creative.”    Trump meant to say that the state of California was responsible.   They didn’t maintain their forests well.   This became laughable again, when Trump insisted that Finland rakes their leaves.   The President of Finland was confused.    Learn to pivot and deflect, at the same time as appearing to answer questions.  Avoid like the plague the follow up question.  The buck stops somewhere else.

As news of Trump’s involvement in a potential Trump Tower in Moscow has leaked out,  an additional proviso comes to mind.  “If creativity fails, try lying.”     Trump claims that the Trump Tower project in Moscow was public knowledge in 2016, which I am hoping that this qualifies as the “Lie of the Year”  for Politifact annual contest.  Another tactic, is to change the subject to a completely different crisis that is not your fault.    Trump has tweeted that the FBI is wasting their time investigating the Russian interference (aka, “Witch hunt” and “hoax”)  when they should go after Hillary Clinton,  James Comey,  Loretta Lynch, Clinton Foundation,  Uranium One, etc,  or really anything connected to  Democratic campaign.      Like science fiction,  the public can never get enough of big  scandal stories, even the manufactured narratives.

So, while Emmanuel just wanted to say how a crisis helps in solving real problems,  he had not envision the new era of creating scandals out of  practically nothing, for purely political reasons.  The best defense is a good offense.   Be inventive and retaliate with another scandal, blown out of proportion.     Example: Hillary’s email scandal was real and 10X worse than the Russian collusion, which we know is a hoax.    Another example — the caravan story  and the imminent  invasion of half of Guatemala’s  criminal population,  along with Middle East terrorists.  This was only good up to the mid-term election.

Remember there is strength in numbers.  You can lie without statistics, but it just sounds more impressive with statistics.   Even false statistics.

So,  to re-iterate:

  1.  You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. … This crisis provides the opportunity for us to do things that you could not before.
  2.  Never let a crisis be pointed to you or your organization.   Learn to deflect and pivot.  The buck stops somewhere else.
  3.  Be creative.  If creativity fails, try lying.
  4.  The best defense is a good offense.  Be inventive and retaliate with another scandal, blown out of proportion.
  5.  There is strength in numbers.  You can lie without statistics, but it just sounds more impressive with statistics.  Even false ones.

Poor Mayor Emmanuel who looked on the positive side of a crisis.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_best_defense_is_a_good_offense

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Rahm_Emanuel

 

 

Asylum case

I just wanted to add that this case is far from settled.   The Judge issued a temporary restraining order, and there will be more hearings to determine if a permanent restraining order should be issued.   There is a legal question of “standing” in which the ACLU and others representing the “immigrant organization groups” must defended their right to sue  based on damages done by the Proclamation   There really has been no real application of the Proclamation, so attorneys claim a potential  damage based on a decline in activity to the non-profit organizations seeking to assist immigrants with their asylum claims.

If the Ninth Circuit Court rules that the plaintiffs lack standing, then the merits of their case can not be adjudicated, and the temporary restraining order would be lifted.

The case East Bay Sanctuary v Trump, Case 18-cv-6810.

The standing question will likely rely on the applicability of “Havens Realty Corp. v. Coleman, 455 U.S. 363 (1982).”   I will be following this case closely.

Stay tuned,

Dave