Quick Updates

Few really quick comments:

US Tax Cuts:   Headlines in the NYT on Tuesday, sums it up pretty nicely, “Rosy Forecast for Economy Defies Evidence.”   with the lead line, “When President Trump adds his distinctive signature to the tax bill, he will be making a huge bet that the Republican strategy of deep cuts for businesses and wealthy individuals will fuel extraordinary growth across the board.”    He’s termed the tax cuts as “rocket fuel.”   It’s a bet, and there are many doubters including Goldman Sachs, which forecasts a meager 2.5% GDP growth rate,  which will mean big deficits for 2018.    A few House Republicans voted against the  tax bill,  as Republicans are supposed to be conservative minded, and want to reduce not increase the national debt.   The reductions in corporate tax rates are permanent, but all benefits to individuals expire in 2025.

Hezbollah:  Just as my Hezbollah story was posted,  a story published by Politico  slammed the Obama administration for not investigating Hezbollah criminal activities, to push forward with the Iran nuclear deal.   There were many immediate strong denials from officials close to the investigation at the time.  It really got out of control, not about Obama administration, but the fact that a number of newspapers did not immediately make this their lead story with 2″ headlines.   Republicans immediately attacked the press for lack of coverage.      See links at bottom of page.

Backlash on Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem:  VP Mike Pence “2017 Christmas Pilgrimage”  was being planned in October, but it’s not going to happen.   It would have been a nice TV show, made to order for the Republican conservative base.   NYT reports,  “When he first floated the idea of a trip in October, Mr. Pence, an evangelical Christian, vowed to highlight the persecution of Christians at the hands of Islamic State extremists, and he scheduled meeting with several Christian leaders, which was sure to play well with his conservative American base. ‘Christianity now faces an exodus in the Middle East unrivaled since the days of Moses,’ he said in a speech sprinkled with biblical references. ‘Help is on the way.’   NYT reports many leaders both Christian and Arab have cancelled, as they can see this simply as a political stunt.  There are real humanitarian crises in the area, but they relate to the Palestinian refuge camp in Lebanon, and Syrian refugee camp in Jordan.  Not likely stops for Mike Pence – too many Muslims there. See NYT link below.

Mike Pence went to Afghanistan to visit troops over Christmas – which was very successful.

The UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to condemn the US for recognizing Jerusalem.    Seven countries sided with the US (Guatemala, Honduras, Togo, Nauru and Palau, Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia).

Fact Check Whoppers of 2017 (Fact Check) and Liar of the Year  (Politifact)

And the winner is,  (drum roll)  President Dald J. Trump    He has not wasted a minute, from inauguration day (crowd size largest in history) to just last week, on the tax bill (tax bill will raise taxes for the rich, my taxes will go up).   And how can we forget, “Obama had the Trump tower bugged.”    Bob Corker wonderful quote, “Donald Trump has difficulty dealing with the truth.”


Politifact.com:  Trump is now a 3 time winner of “Lie of the Year”  (2015, 2015 and 2017) for the lie of the year.  He takes the honors for (drum roll) “Russian election interference is a ‘made-up story.'”    He’s called the media’s reporting of Russian interference as “Fake News.”   His attacks are way out of the ballpark as he calls reporters both disgusting and dishonest.

In 2016,  Donald Trump was the winner as one who would promoter of false news stories.   Politifact stated: “Fake news found a willing enabler in Donald Trump, who at times repeated and legitimized made-up reports.”

Candidate Donald Trump did not disappoint in 2015, taking first place again, and this time not for any one single lie, but for a constant stream of false statements as he hit the campaign trail.  “Trump’s 2015 inaccurate statements exhibited range, boldness and a disregard for the truth. By December 2015, we had rated 76 percent of Trump’s claims Mostly False, False or Pants on Fire. No other politician had clocked more falsehoods on our Truth-O-Meter, and our only real contenders for Lie of the Year were Trump’s. We rolled all them into one big trophy in 2015.”

See links below.

Well, have a Merry Christmas.   I’m giving this blog a rest until next year.

Stay tuned,



Fact Check – Whoppers of 2017

VP Mike Pence Trip to the Middle East is Canceled

Politico:  The secret backstory of how Obama let Hezbollah off the hook

Washington Post: Former Obama officials criticize Politico story alleging weakness against Hezbollah

Sessions orders review of abandoned Hezbollah-linked drug prosecutions

AG Sessions chose his words carefully.   He’s simply is saying  Department of Justice will review this matter, without addressing whether the Politico story is correct.     This is not the first attempt by Josh Meyers to allege something terribly wrong with Obama’s nuclear deal negotiations.

Much Ado About Nothing: Politico’s Iran Deal Investigation Debunked



There are many organizations doing terrific work around the world helping people in need.  I’ve listed a few of the agencies involved in disaster relief and assistance to refugees.  The many conflicts around the world have left many without food or shelter.     My list:



One American Appeal

Doctors without Borders

International Rescue Committee

Global Giving

UN Refugee Agency (UNHRC)

American Red Cross



This blog follows my prior blog on terrorism.   Hezbollah has been considered a terrorist group by some countries, and a political  group by others.  In no way should it be lumped together with Al-Qaeda and ISIS.

It was  unnecessary to explain why  Al-Qaeda and ISIS are classified as  terrorists organizations as their actions make this abundantly clear.     Same goes for Boko Haram. and Al-Shabaab,  equally evil and destructive.  No country supports any of these groups.  Individuals within some countries find ways to support terrorist activities.   ISIS found many ways to support its organization,  from taking over oil fields and selling oil, to looting antiquities and selling them.   Boko Haram and ISIS sold captured women as “brides.”    These groups are truly defiling the religion of Islam.

Now, Hezbollah is different in its origin.  It originated in defense of Lebanon, at least from the Muslim’s perspective.   From the Israel’s perspective, this invasion was the only alternative to ending the attacks  by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).     The PLO originated as a group to liberate the country of Palestine from Israel through armed struggle.  It was founded in 1964.  After being attacked in Jordan,   the PLO sought refuge in south Lebanon.  The PLO  continued to attack Israel which retaliated with air strikes into southern Lebanon.  The Israel and the US in 1982 considered the PLO a terrorist organization.  The  PLO as Yasser Arafat as its leader relocated in 1982  to  Tripoli,  located in the more  northern area of Lebanon.

I watched an Israeli commentator on television explain, “Hezbollah is something we created.”  I would never go this far,  but Hezbollah certainly arose as a resistance militant group , after Israel occupied southern Lebanon. After the Israel invasion of Lebanon,  Iran saw an opportunity to strengthen its hand in Lebanon, by consolidating the Shi’a militants into united party.

40 Years of Peace gone in four months

There is no question that Israel through it’s military force, was determined to join with the Christian (Maronite)  militants  in south Lebanon (“Lebanon Free State”),  and create an “Israeli friendly” country to its north.  From the Muslim perspective, they installed a puppet government controlling Beirut. According to Wikipedia:

By expelling the PLO, removing Syrian influence over Lebanon, and installing a pro-Israeli Christian government led by President Bachir Gemayel, Israel hoped to sign a treaty which Menachem Begin promised would give Israel “forty years of peace.”

The Maronites Christian population has been estimated to be nearly 22% of the Lebanon’s population.   Begin’s plan began to fail with the assassination of Gemayel in September 1982 and begun the Lebanese civil war.

Lebanon Civil War (1982 to 1990) and Hezbolla emerges to an organization to defend Shi’a Muslims against Occupation by Israel

The civil war starting in 1982 in  Lebanon was a proxy fight on a large scale, very similar to the conflict today in Syria.  Iran funded Hezbollah, to fight on behalf of Shi’a Muslims.  Israel supported the Lebanon Free Army formed by the Maronite Christians.  Outside countries were picking their proxies to fight in the Lebanon war.

According to Wikipedia:

Hezbollah was founded in the early 1980s as part of an Iranian effort to aggregate a variety of militant Lebanese Shi’a groups under one roof…

Hezbollah was conceived by Muslim clerics and funded by Iran primarily to harass the Israeli occupation. Its leaders were followers of Ayatollah Khomeini, and its forces were trained and organized by a contingent of 1,500 Revolutionary Guards that arrived from Iran with permission from the Syrian government,[30] which was in occupation of Lebanon at the time. Hezbollah’s 1985 manifesto listed its objectives as the expulsion of “the Americans, the French and their allies definitely from Lebanon, putting an end to any colonialist entity on our land”, submission of the Phalangists to “just power” and bringing them to justice “for the crimes they have perpetrated against Muslims and Christians”, and permitting “all the sons of our people” to choose the form of government they want, while calling on them to “pick the option of Islamic government”.[31]  Hezbollah waged a guerrilla campaign in South Lebanon and as a result, Israel withdrew from Lebanon on 24 May 2000, and SLA collapsed and surrendered.

This is the historical context of Hezbollah. Hezbollah can claim they liberated south Lebanon from Israeli control.   As ironic as it might seem to non-Arab countries,  it is Israel which is portrayed as the terrorist state, and not Hezbollah.    Iran, according to Wikipedia, was responsible for creating unity among groups resisting the South Lebanon Army. Much of this support was for weapons and trained military forces.

The civil war in Lebanon  was brutal and left the capital devastated.  There were approximately 120,000 fatalities.   I have seen it first hand, as one of the bullet ridden buildings was left standing in Beirut after the reconstruction.  There are Shi’a and Sunni Muslims in Lebanon, in addition to the Christian population.   The list of belligerent groups is listed in Wikipedia.

It was easy for Syria’s military to enter the war  given the chaos and violence in Beirut.   They certainly had an interest of not having a flood of refugees come into their country and have country aligned with the Christians and Israel on their border.   They could claim they were simply helping Lebanon defend itself from Israeli aggression.   An peace agreement was finally reached in 1990, which mandated the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon.   Since the Taif agreement, Lebanon has several more conflicts, but nothing in comparison to the civil war.  See links on Lebanon and the civil war for more information.   At present, there is a delicate balance between the various secular groups.   The government is basically a power sharing arrangement with a Muslim  Prime Minister (Hariri) and a Christian President (Aoun).

Hezbollah Today 

You do not hear of Hezbollah  being accused of or claiming responsibility for terror attacks in the US, Europe,  Africa and the Middle East.    Yet, right wing groups have vehemently attacked Hezbollah as a highly dangerous terrorist organization, controlled by Iran.   This is politics.  Conservative Republicans routinely criticized the Obama administration for the Nuclear Deal which they considered would greatly increase Iran’s support of terrorist activities, primarily Hezbollah.

Hezbollah is considered a terrorist organization by the governments of the United States, Israel, Canada, the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council, along with its military/security wing by the United Kingdom, Australia and the European Union (Wikipedia).

Israel is the most vocal on their hate of Hezbollah.   They correctly state the Hezbollah is responsible for the deaths of many Israel citizens.  However,  Israel has been responsible for many civilian deaths.  In the conflicts between Israel and southern Lebanon,  it is sometimes difficult to say who is most responsible,  but civilian deaths result on both sides.

Hezbollah’s allies according to Wikipedia are Iran, Syria, Iraq, Russia, Cuba, North Korea, and Venezuela.   Not a particularly nice group of friends!  The only country willing to support Hezbollah is Iran.  The headquarters of Hezbollah are in Beirut, Lebanon.

Any armed group outside government control would be considered a threat to an established government.  There is no question that Hezbollah has weapons, and is organized as a Shi’a militia.    Thus, the “military wing” of Hezbollah is condemned by many countries.   However,  the origins and intent of Hezbollah is very different from the terrorist organizations which we are currently battling.   Those who feel that Hezbollah is not a terrorist organization,  would label it a “resistance force”  against Israel aggression.

Hezbollah is an anti-Zionism organization, but denies they are anti-Semitic.     The anti-Zionism ideology typically begins with the idea that Israel was created by the United Nations in 1948, and resulted in the displacement of many Palestinians from their homeland.   Muslims and Jews have lived in peace for centuries.  The anti-Zionist ideology blames the arrival of European Jews after World War II as the origins between the conflicts.  They consider Zionism an expansionary philosophy, giving the country of Israel the control of the West Bank and the Gaza strip based on biblical references.    As stated in the 2011 BBC article (see links below)

Hezbollah is committed to the destruction of Israel but it has also made statements indicating it would accept a two-state solution if the Palestinians agreed to it.

This is an obvious contradiction.   But, having lived in the Middle East, I’m pretty used to this being acceptable.

The condemnation by the Gulf Cooperative Council  of Hezbollah occurred in March 2016, even though Hezbollah had existed since 1984.  This likely had more to do with Saudi Arabia’s conflicts with Iran, which also has strong  secular basis (Saudi Arabia is mainly Sunni, Iran is mainly Shi’a).   Interestingly,  Iraq’s foreign minister came to the defense of Hezbollah in 2016, as follows:

Hezbollah “have preserved Arab dignity” and those who accuse them of being terrorists are terrorists themselves.

The Arab Spring uprisings have ended terribly in so many countries.  Hezbollah’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood (remember this is a Sunni organization) is another reason the GCC member states, like Saudi Arabia and Egypt condemn Hezbollah.

Hezbollah has been accused of being involved in many violent attacks including the assassination of  PM Rafic Hariri.   See link on Hezbollah from Wikipedia.

Hezbollah’s Social Services

As per Wikipedia:

Hezbollah organizes an extensive social development program and runs hospitals, news services, educational facilities, and encouragement of Nikah mut‘ah.[126][141] One of its established institutions, Jihad Al Binna’s Reconstruction Campaign, is responsible for numerous economic and infrastructure development projects in Lebanon.[142] Hezbollah has set up a Martyr’s Institute (Al-Shahid Social Association), which guarantees to provide living and education expenses “for the families of fighters who die” in battle.[128] An IRIN news report of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs noted:

Hezbollah not only has armed and political wings – it also boasts an extensive social development program. Hezbollah currently operates at least four hospitals, twelve clinics, twelve schools and two agricultural centres that provide farmers with technical assistance and training. It also has an environmental department and an extensive social assistance program. Medical care is also cheaper than in most of the country’s private hospitals and free for Hezbollah members.[126]

According to CNN, “Hezbollah did everything that a government should do, from collecting the garbage to running hospitals and repairing schools.”[143] In July 2006, during the war with Israel, when there was no running water in Beirut, Hezbollah was arranging supplies around the city. Lebanese Shiites “see Hezbollah as a political movement and a social service provider as much as it is a militia.”[143] Hezbollah also rewards its guerilla members who have been wounded in battle by taking them to Hezbollah-run amusement parks.[144]

Hezbollah is, therefore, deeply embedded in the Lebanese society.[30]

Recent Events –  Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salam and Trump’s actions

The ascent of Mohamed bin Salam as Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, has greatly increase the rift between the Sunni gulf coast countries and Iran, which is predominately Shi’a.   Hezbollah and Hamas will be lumped together with all well known terrorist groups, including ISIS and Al-Qaeda in their united fight against terrorism.   President Donald Trump was played by the Saudi hosts in his trip to Saudi Arabia, bu a secular attack on Iran.

The most bizarre event recently was the resignation of Lebanon PM Hariri in Saudi Arabia,  then his “unresignation”  a few weeks later.  Technically, he’s putting his resignation on hold.  He is not denouncing Hezbollah.

It is my prediction that Iraq will in the future, distance themselves from Saudi Arabia’s efforts,  and seek improving relations with Lebanon, including Hezbollah.

Whether Hezbollah militias can someday be abandoned,  and a political party based on social services, is anyone’s guess.   Trump’s recent action to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, was a major setback to finding a peace agreement between Palestine and Israel,  It  may further  push Hezbollah to continue to be a militant force of resistance to  what they perceive as  Zionism and Israel expansionary policies.

Just as I was ready to post this,  Saudi Arabia claim they shot down a missile fired by Houthi militants aimed at  Riyadh, capital of Saudi Arabia.  There have been other recent missile launches against Saudi Arabia.  The air strikes on Houthi rebels by Saudi Arabia have resulted in many civilian fatalities, so this is why they are retaliating.

The increased violence  is extremely unfortunate, as there is a severe humanitarian crisis in Yemen with famine and disease, despite efforts by international aid agencies.   Numerous obstacles including the Saudi Arabia’s blockade has limited assistance.    Saudi’s contend they are not just at war with the Houthi rebels, but with Hezbollah and their number one supporter, Iran, as part of an overall campaign against terrorism.

Unfortunately,  these conflicts  just seem to get bigger and more polarized. And the civilian fatalities continue to rise.

It is very difficult to write a short blog on Hezbollah.   My next blog will be shorter, just on the aid agencies which help the victims of conflict around the world.

Stay tuned,



NYT: Lebanon’s Vanishing Prime Minister Is Back at Work. Now What?

Wikipedia: Hezbollah  

Wikipedia: Lebanon Civil War

Wikipedia:  Palestine Liberation Organization

Wikipedia: Lebanon

Wikipedia:  Oslo 1 Accord

Wikipedia: Mohammed bin Salman

Very good commentary from the NYT, but you have to understand the players,  secular nature of these conflicts, and their history.

NYT:  The enemy of my enemy is still my enemy

Note:  I’ve made extensive use of Wikipedia.   I find their information concise and factual.

There are many other sources of information, and it would be impossible to list all of them.



I’ve been working on a blog on Hezbollah.   It’s a very hot button issue.  Israel  consider Hezbollah as one of the worst terrorist groups.  The US also condemns Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.  Other countries do not and in particular Lebanon has been trying to co-exist with the presence of Hezbollah.   The US accuses Iran of supporting Hezbollah.  Hezbollah militia fought against ISIS in Syria in the destruction of Raqqa.   But,  I’m really jumping ahead in this blog.

It is tempting to lump all groups with an extensive cache of arms as terrorist organizations.  I would more likely term such organizations as collectives of angry people who are contemplating acts of violence.   Even in the US, there are organizations which purchase and store arms as they believe they are part of a larger resistance movement their rights as citizens.  It is in fact, their constitutional right to store arms in defense of their home.

On the Wikipedia site,  it is stated no single accepted definition of terrorism.  I’ve provided two links on this subject.  However, Wikipedia provides one “broad” definition as follows:

Terrorism is, in the broadest sense, the use of intentionally indiscriminate violence as a means to create terror, or fear, to achieve a political, religious or ideological aim.  It is used in this regard primarily to refer to violence against peacetime targets or in war against non-combatants.  The terms “terrorist” and “terrorism” originated during the French Revolution of the late 18th century but gained mainstream popularity during the U.S. Presidency of Ronald Reagan (1981–89) after the 1983 Beirut barracks bombings and again after the attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. in September 2001 and on Bali in October 2002.

The September 2001 is obviously the “9/11” attack on the US by Al-Qaeda, and it was indiscriminate as the action targeted anyone who was in the buildings at the time.  I would include in the definition that terrorist organizations plan violent acts  intended to cause large scale loss of human life.  The broad definition would include both non-state and state organized terrorists.

Further, Wikipedia states their definition is hardly rigorous or universally accepted as follows:

There is no commonly accepted definition of “terrorism”.[7][8] Being a charged term, with the connotation of something “morally wrong”, it is often used, both by governments and non-state groups, to abuse or denounce opposing groups.[9][10][4][11][8] Broad categories of political organisations have been claimed to have been involved in terrorism to further their objectives, including right-wing and left-wing political organisations, nationalist groups, religious groups, revolutionaries and ruling governments.[12] Terrorism-related legislation has been adopted in various states, regarding “terrorism” as a crime.[13][14] There is no universal agreement as to whether or not “terrorism”, in some definition, should be regarded as a war crime.[14][15]

Regardless of how one wishes to define terrorism, the horrific actions of ISIS, Boko Haram and  Al-Shabaab, clearly make them the worst terrorist groups.   All countries repudiate the actions of these organizations.   Similarly, the actions of Al-Qaeda and affiliated groups are repudiated by all countries.  For these groups, the “I know it when I see it” (Potter, 1964, US Supreme Court)  test works well for these groups, but it doesn’t help in many other cases.  This is exactly the point made in the Wikipedia’s summary.

Political groups and individuals within many Arab countries and Iran, may be extremely anti-American, but this can be simply rhetoric and  does not mean they support terrorism.  Further complications come into play when there are groups of extremist groups within a country, and governments for political reasons, are not making a priority to arrest or otherwise destroy extremist groups.  Wealthy individuals may support ISIS or al-Qaeda groups within many countries.  Should the governments be held responsible?  They may allow individuals accused of terrorist activities to live within their country.  Is that mean the country is complicit in terrorism?

Fethullah Gulen has been accused of acts of  terrorism by the Turkish government.   He lives in Pennsylvania and the Turkish government wants him deported to stand trial.  The US has demanded the evidence against Gulen before extraditing him.   He is 76 years old and in fact has denounced terrorism as a violation of his faith as follows:

Gülen has condemned terrorism.[135] He warns against the phenomenon of arbitrary violence and aggression against civilians and said that it “has no place in Islam”. He wrote a condemnation article in the Washington Post on September 12, 2001, one day after the September 11 attacks, and stated that “A Muslim can not be a terrorist, nor can a terrorist be a true Muslim.”[136][137] Gülen lamented the “hijacking of Islam” by terrorists.[78]

The extradition of Fethullah  Gulen for terrorism is weak, and the US so far has taken no action, except to request more evidence.

As I was completing this blog,  President Erdogan invoked the terrorist label, on condemning Israel, in response to Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as its capital, as follows:

“Israel is a state of occupation and a terror state,” Erdoğan said in a speech in the Central Anatolian province of Sivas on Dec. 10, vowing that Turkey “will not leave Jerusalem to the consciousness of a child-killer state.”

The west bank and Gaza strip are areas that Israel took by force during the Six Day war in 1967.

During the Syrian civil war,  President Bashir Assad would claim that the US and other European countries were assisting terrorist, as we were training and providing arms to groups against the Assad regime.  However, the US was also fighting against ISIS in Syria,  with the support of Syrian government.    So what were we to Assad – enemy or friend?

When there is a rebellion within a country,  immediately the leader of the country will denounce the rebel groups as traitors, or agents of foreign governments.  This is exactly what the President Gaddafi did in 2011 during the Libyan civil war.  The US  and NATO supported the rebel group with air support.

The Yemen civil war is a clash between the Houthi rebels and the Yemen government.   By their rhetoric and slogans, the Houthi would seem just as radical as Al-Qaeda or ISIS. Written in Arabic on their flag:

“The God is Great, Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse on the Jews, Victory to Islam”

However, the Houthi appear to simply want to take over Yemen, not wreck havoc in the western world.    The Houthi’s gained control in 2014 to 2015, through a coup d’etat.  What sparked the uprising in 2014, was an end to government subsidies on fuel.

The Houthi have committed acts of indiscriminate violence, hence it would be easy to call them terrorists by the broad definition.  Yet the coalition of countries fighting against the Houthi, with air strikes conducted by Saudi Arabia, has acted equally brutal bombing a Doctors without Frontiers hospital (October 13, 2016) and other civilian targets.

Since the Saudi-led coalition began military operations against Ansar Allah on 26 March 2015, Saudi-led coalition airstrikes unlawfully struck hospitals and other facilities run by aid organizations, according to Human Rights Watch.[352] Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) medical facilities in Yemen were attacked four times in three months.[353] On 26 October 2015, HRW documented six Saudi-led airstrikes which bombed a MSF hospital in Haydan district (Sa’dah Governorate), wounding two patients.[352][353][354] An Saudi-led coalition airstrike then hit a MSF mobile clinic on 2 December 2015, in Al Houban district (Taizz). Eight people were wounded, including two MSF staff members, and one other civilian nearby was killed. On 10 January 2016, six people were killed and seven wounded when a hospital in Sa’ada was hit by a projectile.[352][353] MSF said it could not confirm whether the hospital was hit in an air strike by warplanes of the Saudi-led coalition, or by a rocket fired from the ground, and at least one other landed nearby.[352][355] On 21 January 2016, an MSF ambulance was hit by an airstrike. Seven people were killed and dozens were wounded.[352][353]
MSF’s director of operations Raquel Ayora said: “The way war is being waged in Yemen is causing enormous suffering and shows that the warring parties do not recognise or respect the protected status of hospitals and medical facilities. We witness the devastating consequences of this on people trapped in conflict zones on a daily basis. Nothing has been spared – not even hospitals, even though medical facilities are explicitly protected by international humanitarian law.”[353]

Iran is accused of supporting the Houthi,  which  Iran denies.   Iran was instrumental in the formation of Hezbollah, which they consider is a group defending the borders of Lebanon and Syria from Israeli aggression.   Yet Iran joined with others in the  war against ISIS.    Both Hezbollah and the Houthi’s are Shi’a organization, so they would never align themselves with ISIS or Al-Qaeda.

Just yesterday,  UN Ambassador Nikki Haley stood in front of parts of a recovered missile from Yemen,  claiming this was hard evidence that Iran had supported Houthi rebels in direct violation of an UN resolutions.  While it was great for the media,  the problem was that it could have been supplied to the Houthi’s before the UN Resolution.   Further, it was apparent to experts, that the missile could not carry a nuclear warhead (a violation of another UN resolution).   There are various links on the internet, and I just posted the one from the NYT.

You see how complicated the label “terrorist organization” has become when it is extended beyond ISIS and Al-Qaeda.   I will explore more the Hezbollah group in a future blog.

Stay tuned,




Definition of Terrorism

NYT: U.S. Accuses Iran of U.N. Violation, but Evidence Falls Short

Six Day War










Coal industry subsidies based on a pretext

I could hardly believe this story when I first read it in the New York Times.  It just seemed too bizarre to be true.  A  DOE proposal which subsidizes  coal usage  in power plants, whose extra cost  will be passed on to consumers in electric bills.  Bob Murray of Murray Coal must be very happy with this one, as his investment in Trump is paying off big time.

Per the NYT EdOp:

 Mr. Perry’s proposal could add around $11 billion a year to the cost of electricity, depending on how the rule is interpreted, according to four separate research reports. Yet it would do little to improve the electrical grid. That’s because less than one-hundredth of 1 percent of power failures between 2012 and 2016 were caused by fuel supply emergencies, according to the Rhodium Group, a research firm.

Aren’t the Republicans known for opposing bailouts of any kind?  This one is based on a pretext, that we have fuel supply emergencies causing power failure outages.  Or we will have in the future.   As stated in the New York Times:

During Hurricane Harvey in Texas, where Mr. Perry was once governor, coal-fired power plants had to switch to natural gas because their fuel became too wet to be moved.

Here are the facts.    About 66% of our electricity comes from the burning of two fossil fuels, natural gas and coal.   The rest comes from nuclear (~19%), hydroelectric (~6%)  and alternative sources (solar and wind).    What has hurt the coal industry is competition from natural gas.  Employment in coal mining jobs has dropped due to automation of the mines.   Environmental air quality regulations have made coal fueled plants more expensive, encouraging a switch to natural gas.

Here is why it is so bizarre.  Opposition comes from environmental groups which would be normal, as the proposal will increase coal consumption.  But, allied with the environmental groups are the big oil and gas companies,  who would be hurt by reduced natural gas demand.   So,  the new regulations are bad for the consumer, the environment and big oil and gas companies (which support Trump on many issues).

The DOE has fast tracked the proposal through the FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) with 5 members.   Hopefully, they will not approve the DOE proposal.

Please read the New York Times article.

Stay tuned,



The Trump Administration’s Coal Bailout

Electricity Customers in 31 States Could Foot the Bill for Perry’s Coal Bailout

Rick Perry’s plan to subsidize coal and nuclear plants is bonkers

Destroying the Consumer Financial Protection Agency – Piece by Piece

Note- this blog was updated on December 8, 2017,  with a few corrections, and additional links. Still it’s all pretty damning evidence that Mulvaney has no interest in protecting consumers in real estate related transactions.  Obviously, neither does Trump.

Mike Mulvaney does not believe in the bureau he has been appointed to run.   In public statements, he clearly does not feel the government should be protecting the consumer in complicated financial transactions, typically mortgages.    He has declared it a “sad, sick” example of bureaucracy gone amok.  (see New York Times article)   Judging by the number of successful prosecutions in support of consumers,  it appears Mulvaney is wrong.

Nationwide Biweekly Administration (NBA)  was accused by CFPB of widespread fraud, involving more than 100,000 mortgage customers.  NBA has nothing to do with Nationwide Insurance, and its sole business is convincing mortgage holders that it is in their best interest to pay off their mortgages on a biweekly basis, resulting in 13 payments instead of 12,  which the company would pocket.

The scam involved false advertising, promising customers that Nationwide would reduce their  interest payments.  It involved mass mailings as as many as 33 million mailers were sent out.   Through billing the customers for  26 biweekly payments, the company would collect one extra monthly payment.   Nationwide retains the first mortgage payment as a setup fee which can be up to $995 according to the CFPB.   Plus they would add other service fees,  increasing their  mortgage payments to consumers.

It is an egregious ripoff and was found in violation of the laws and regulations protecting consumers. The CFPB alleges these practices violate the Telemarketing Sales Rule and the Consumer Financial Protection Act’s prohibition against unfair, deceptive or abusive acts or practices.  See the government’s lawsuit against Nationwide.

Daniel Lipsky is the founder, president, and sole owner of Nationwide.  He reportedly made 33 million dollars from the biweekly payment program.  Nationwide Biweekly website link is provided in the links.

CFPB sued Nationwide and had a partial victory in the lawsuit.   After lengthy litigation, a judge in September 2017 ordered Nationwide to pay nearly 8 million dollars in penalties.    This was far less the 77 million dollars that the CFPB had sued for, which included restitution to its customers.  See link at the end of this blog.

CFPB asked for a 8 million dollars in bond, while Nationwide appealed the verdict.  This is completely routine to help insure the payment to fraud victims.  The case was inches away from the finished line.

Mike Mulvaney  arrived last week, determined to make the agency less effective for now and whoever comes after him.  He ordered  bond request withdrawn destroying .  Victims may never get anything from the government’s lawsuit, after three years in the making.     According to the Quartz link:

The decision could allow Lipsky to re-open Nationwide, which still has more than 100,000 customers. If the new-look CFPB takes the same approach to his appeals, he may face no penalty at all.

Can you imagine how let down the victims of fraud and CFPB investigators must feel?  This action will embolden loan originators and con artists (like Nationwide Biweekly) to once again look for prey.

Not exactly making America great again!

Stay tuned,


Quartz: FALSE & MISLEADING,  The abrupt reversal that shows Donald Trump’s approach to consumer protection

NYT:  Consumer Bureau’s New Leader Steers a Sudden Reversal

Original complaint as filed by CFPB

We’re the CFPB. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a U.S. government agency that makes sure banks, lenders, and other financial companies treat you fairly.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives. For more information, visit:



Perhaps the future website will change verbs to the past tense.

Nationwide Biweekly Administration

I could not find the actual judge’s order, but this link provided the 77 million dollar value in the original lawsuit by CFPB.   It is written by an attorney who advises real estate professionals, so it has some bias.  CFPB makes allegations, and the courts then look at the evidence to decide appropriate penalties. Also note the opinion was as of September 17, 2017 before Mike Mulvaney took charge of the CFPB.

Mortgage-Payment Company Escapes Doom in Trial Against CFPB

Leandra English is still contesting Mike Mulvaney’s takeover of the CFPB:


Zimbabwe – What comes next?

Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe  resigned on November 21, 2017.  The military gave him a 24 hour ultimatum – resign or be impeached.  Although the clear path was resignation, he  refused to resign, thus the process of impeachment was initiated.   Certainly,  Mugabe saw the ultimatum as an affront to his authority, having been re-elected in 2013.  He was the semi-legitimate president as  many have reported it was a rigged election.   Key to his reign was the support of the military, but of course that changed.

Robert Mugabe came into office with a jubilant crowd cheering his victory in 1980 and went out the same way, with the crowd cheering his departure.   Anyone watching the news, could see the pure joy in Zimbabweans as their “beloved” president was shown the exit.

We are in the first round of a familiar  situation.  I’ve seen a similar situation first hand in Libya.    With the tyrant gone, there is celebration, a great feel of national unity, a hope for democracy, freedom of expression  and more equality.   With the oppressive leadership gone, there is an overly optimistic view that prosperity with more jobs is just around the corner.  Unfortunately,  it isn’t, because those who benefited from the regime are very active in re-establishing themselves.

Zimbabwe’s new president is Emmerson Mnangagwa  was appointed as  vice president from December 2014 to November 27, 2017.   But, is he really running the show, or is it the military?  The military forced  Robert Mugabe to resign, because he was setting up his wife, Grace Mugabe, to succeed him.   Mnangagwa promised  change and a new era of democracy.  He dismissed his cabinet, and in two key positions, installed military leaders, as explained in the BBC news story (see links).   According to the BBC:

Just two weeks ago many Zimbabweans were celebrating the so-called people’s commander – Gen Constantino Chiwenga – for leading the military takeover which led to the change in leadership. Now they wait to see whether he will be rewarded with a vice-presidency.

Next year, the scary part begins – elections.    As Mugabe reign ended, there are a lot of players on the sidelines,  looking to their next move.   I’m not just talking of political parties inside Zimbabwe,  but countries, including China, looking for new leaders who are foreign investment friendly.  All Zimbabweans know that just before the military coup,  Gen. Chiwenga was in China.  Was he informing them of the coup?  Or was he asking them for support, once the coup took place?  The real important question, is whether he will be rewarded for his efforts by being appointed Vice President.   Zimbabweans may be thinking there wasn’t really a change in government,  since the same military that backed Mugabe is now behind Mnangagwa.

China’s aggressive world trade strategy (“the new maritime  silk road”) is really about securing key seaports in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and then using these as hubs for commerce.   Where the Chinese government really plays a role is in the financing of this network, be it new ports, trains, or roads.   East Africa will be connected to West Africa  from Kenya to Angola by seaports, rail and roads.

The political dynamics of Africa used to be mostly  about what was going on inside the countries.  This hasn’t been true for decades, however there are likely to be many players trying to take advantage of the new regime.  I believe China’s economic might will have considerable sway in determining Zimbabwe’s future, and the long awaited freedoms, may have to wait longer.  President Mnangagwa knows what the people of Zimbabwe want, the big question is, can he deliver?

Stay tuned,



BBC Report:  Zimbabwe’s Mnangagwa gives key cabinet jobs to military figures

There are many excellent reports on the internet on Robert Mugabe and the military takeover in November 2017.   For those unfamiliar with Zimbabwe and it’s history, this is an excellent summary:

Wikipedia:  Zimbabwe