Libya’s current situation – additional comments

The current situation is fighting continues outside of Tripoli.   Haftar’s army is meeting with strong resistance by the Tripoli government.

Libya’s situation is complex.  You can read about it, or listen to it.

For the latter, I suggest spending just 24 minutes to listen to the  panel discussion on the Libya’s current situation, as moderated by Folly Bah Thibault,  is available in the link below:

Are foreign powers worsening the conflict in Libya?

The UN passed a resolution to block foreign powers from supplying weapons to one side or the other.  Haftar’s way around this, was to insist on military weapons to fight against Islamic extremists, including ISIS.  But of course he wanted military equipment to wage war against the Tripoli government.

The panelists seemed to agree that the foreign powers were worsening the conflict,  Oliver Miles tempered his remarks by saying this was a war among Libyan, not outsiders.  But, Anas El Gomati, I think, got it right, in that the effect of Saudi Arabia and UAE assistance to Haftar, increases his confidence that he can win easier on the battlefield (where he’s used to fighting) than at the negotiating table.   The panelists also firmly said France has been involved in backing Haftar,  not necessarily with military equipment, but with creating a legitimacy for his government.

The next question was great.  Suppose Haftar succeeds, what happens next?   The name Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi did not come up, but could someone reign in Hafter, to make him more “presidential” rather than a military leader.   Anas El Gomati got it 100% right, with his statement:

“He [Haftar} has a 50 year legacy of deception and defection.”

Haftar only has Haftar’s interests in mind.  Gomati characterization of Haftar starts  about 22:00 minutes into the panel discussion.  At the end, Gomati concludes that no one could “reign in” someone who is so dishonest.    He briefly mentions that Haftar “allegedly” worked for the CIA, but it might have been a lot shorter time than the two decades in my blog.   He obviously could boast of his high level Libyan contacts, in working for and against Gaddafi.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Presenter: Folly Bah Thibault

Guests:
Anas El Gomati – director of the Tripoli-based Sadeq Institute
Francesco Galietti – head of political risk consultancy Policy Sonar
Oliver Miles – a former British Ambassador to Libya

General Kalifa Haftar and his successor (Part 3)

 

General Kalifa Haftar, born in Libya  in  1943.  He is now at  center of attention in the Libyan conflict.  He is shown above with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz on his visit to Riyadh on March 27, 2019.

This is a short biographical summary of Haftar.    Wikipedia has provided an excellent biography, with extensive internet links as provided at the end of this blog.

Based on education and experience, Kalifa Haftar is a military expert.  He graduated from the Benghazi Military University, and received additional training in Russia and Egypt.  By age 26, he had the right military training to support Gaddafi in the overthrow of King Irdis.  As a commander in Libya’s military,  Haftar supported Gaddafi for 18 years before turning against him, including plotting his downfall.  With the help of the US, Haftar  join the CIA, living in Virginia for two decades.  He is a US citizen and speaks his native Arabic language, plus Russian, Italian, English  and is conversational in French.

I have broken down Haftar’s career into 4 phases:

(1)  1969 – 1987,  Military leader and close ally of Gaddafi,   (~18 years)
(2)  1987-1990,  Prisoner of war in Chad during the “Toyota wars”, where he formed an army to oppose Gaddafi,
(3)  1990 – 2011 Worked for the CIA in Virginia, USA (21 years!)
(4)  2011 – present:  Leader in the first civil war against Gaddafi, then broke with the General National Unity (GNU) agreement and united militia forces against the Tripoli government.

Haftar in 1969 help lead the rebellion that lead to Gaddafi’s overthrow of Libya’s King Irdis.  Libya had been a colony of Italy before the defeat of Benito Mussolini during World War II.  King Irdis had ruled Libya for 18 years from 1951 to 1969.  The country was divided into three provinces,  Cyrenaica,  Tripolitania and Fezzan.  The country was never fully united as Benghazi was the capital of Cyrenaica and Tripoli was the capital of Tripolitania.  As stated in Wikipedia:

This constitutional framework left Libya with a weak central government and strong provincial autonomy.[36] The governments of successive Prime Ministers tried to push through economic policies but found them hampered by the differing provinces.[37] There remained a persistent distrust between Cyrenaica and Tripolitania.[25] Benghazi and Tripoli were appointed as joint capital cities, with the country’s parliament moving between the two.[38] The city of Bayda also became a de facto summer capital as Idris moved there.[38]

Haftar  was part of Libya’s contingent in the 1973 attack against  Israel.  Beginning in 1978,  Gaddafi began supplying arms to Chad in support of their civil war (see link).  But he wanted to occupy the northern Chad, as a measure to defend against Libya’s “soft underbelly.”  Wikipedia states:

In 1987, he became a prisoner of war during the war against Chad after being lulled into a trap and captured, then a major embarrassment for Gaddafi and represented a major blow to Gaddafi’s ambitions in Chad. While held prisoner, he and his fellow officers formed a group hoping to overthrow Gaddafi. He was released around 1990 in a deal with the United States government and spent nearly two decades in Langley, Virginia, in the US, gaining U.S. citizenship.[4]

Wikipedia states, “Another possible reason given for Gaddafi’s abandonment of Haftar was the potential that Haftar might return to Libya as a hero and thus pose a threat to Gaddafi’s rule itself.[12]”

I could not find much information on the 21 years Haftar spent at the CIA (1990 to 2011).  This would be from age 47 to 67, around half of his working career.   According to Wikipedia,

“From there, and mostly through his close contacts within the American intelligence community, he consistently supported several attempts to topple and assassinate Gaddafi.[24]”

The arrangement to bring Haftar to the US was likely done under the Reagan administration.   There were plans to support the  300 members  of Haftar’s exiled army against Gaddafi under the refugee act, but that never was completed.   He worked for  the CIA or related intelligence agencies, during the H.W.  Bush, Clinton, W. Bush and Obama administration.

A major turning point in US policy towards Libya came in December 2003, when Gaddafi announced that Libya would destroy all weapons of mass destruction,  This included stockpiles of nuclear materials (yellow cake), biological and chemical  weapons.  I believe Western countries and the US began seeing Gaddafi as much less of a threat, because his autocratic rule brought some stability to the country and could help in the fight against al-Qaeda.  From the Independent:

 In 2004 the British Prime Minister emerged from the tent in Sirte to say how struck he was that Col Gaddafi wanted to make “common cause with us against al-Qaeda, extremists and terrorism.”

Certainly, from 2004 forward,  the US was looking to improve relations with Libya and at the same time, make sure he continue to be in compliance with WMD disarmament agreements.

However,  Haftar returned back to Libya to join the rebellion against Gaddafi.   Now, he is the leader in the second civil war, which is beginning to look more like the Cyreniaca v. Tripolitania during King Irdis’ era.  And Cyrenaica (Eastern Libya) is winning again, yet it is unlikely to really unite the country.  Per Wikipedia:

Haftar has been described as “Libya’s most potent warlord”, having fought “with and against nearly every significant faction” in Libya’s conflicts, and as having a “reputation for unrivaled military experience”

Haftar’s health has been questioned.  According to Wikipedia:  On 12 April 2018, it was reported that Haftar was in a coma after suffering a stroke and was hospitalized under intensive care in Paris.

So, under the scenario of Haftar succeeding, and taking over, who would take over from Haftar.  One  possibility is Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, who might see a necessity to re-arm Libya even if it is necessary to violate the WMD accord.

This would go far beyond a reversal of Arab Spring, but a return to conditions before December 2003, the date when Libya agreed to disarm.

What ever the outcome, the major outside players will be Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Russia – all autocracies.   I wish the EU and the US could play a more decisive role in uniting the country.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Note the NYT spells Haftar as Hifter.

Wikipedia:  Khalifa Haftar

Guardian:  Khalifia Haltar: Renagade General

The Unravelling,  In a failing state, an anti-Islamist general mounts a divisive campaign.

Disarmament of Libya 

Idris of Libya

Independent: Tony Blair and Colonel Gaddafi 

 

Libya’s Current Situation (Part 2)

The prior blog provides background, and explains in part why Russia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia would support General Hafter.  I also mention that had traveled to Libya.  I was there during a peaceful period, in mid 2013.  I was staying very near Martyr’s square, and I saw the coffins set up on one side.  Each has a picture of a person who died in the civil war.  They were empty coffins, but this display spoke volumes.  Liberty came at a steep price to Libya.  I am very afraid of what was gained in the short 9 months of 2011, will be lost.

 

 

Haftar captured three key cities:  Gharyon, Surman and Aziziya approximately 20 to 50 miles outside of Tripoli.  He has stated that he intends to take the only functioning airport, Mitigi Airport,  in Tripoli.  He launch an air strike on Mitigi on April 4, 2019.    He has taken control of the principal oil fields.  He now has control of much of the country. See New York Times link. As I stated in the prior blog, he is funded by Saudi Arabia and other countries.

The UN condemned the airstrike as Mitigi airport is not a military base but a civilian airport.  Haftar responded that the intended targets were Russian Mig fighter parked at the airport.    For the immediate future, the war between Haftar and Tripoli will be waged in the air.

Tripoli is the big prize.  But if Haftar sends his forces into Tripoli, it will be extremely bloody.  The first civil war ended without serious fighting within the capital.  Gadaffi was not allow to use his air force to defend his country, as a result of the UN Resolution 1973.  This time is different.  General Haftar  is willing to reduce Tripoli to rubble so that he can rule Libya, which is the only option he has left now anyway, according to an expert on the Libyan conflict (see NYT article).

The UN has called for an immediate ceasefire.  The US has done the same, but this doesn’t seem likely.  The US has evacuated its embassy in Tripoli.  United Nations canceled a long-planned peace conference scheduled for later this month.

Neither General Haftar nor the Tripoli government have a single united military.  Both depend on small militia groups, which have banded together.  The New York Times article points out that the militias attract “thugs and extremists” to defend Tripoli.   According to the New York Times,

All four of the Tripoli militias have profited by extorting protection money from banks and government ministries, according to United Nations experts and an authoritative study by Wolfram Lacher of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.

It doesn’t seem there is any outcome to this second civil war that leads to a stable government.  What is amazing to me, is that the oil keeps flowing and being exported.  Apparently, according to the New York Times,  the Tripoli government is still in charge of the lifting of oil (actual pick up by tankers) at the port cities.  But there are payments back to the Tobruk government.  Tripoli is also continuing to pay the salaries of the military under Hafter’s command according to the NYT.

Once Haftar is in command of Tripoli, he will seek recognition from the other countries, as the legitimate government.  This will be necessary to continue the contracts for oil exports.

The best sources of information are the New York Times and Al Jazeera.   I note that the Times spells the General’s name as Kifter while Al Jazeera spells it as Kaftar.   The same spelling differences frequently occur in the spelling of names of cities.

I fear a complete reversal of the Arab Spring in Libya.  It is difficult to see any progress in democracy after the rebellion in Egypt, and I fear Libya is on course to reverse the gains made during Arab Spring.  In my next blog,  I will explore the background of General Kaftar, including his long stint working for the CIA and the fact that he is an American citizen.  It will be interesting.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Link:

Al Jazeera:  Saudi’s gave Libya Hafter military millions of dollars before the attack.

New York Times Tripoli’s Last Civilian Airport Reopens after Militias Mobilizes against Hifter 

New York Times, Thugs and Extremists join the battle for Tripoli 

Libya and the reversal of Arab Spring (Part 1)

kaftar 1

A lot of people think international relations is like a game of chess.”  But, it’s not a game of chess, where people sit quietly, thinking out their strategy, taking their time between moves.  It’s more like a game of billiards with a bunch of balls clustered together.”

Madeline Albright, former Secretary of State

The analogy to billiards applies very much to the current state of civil war in Libya.  The balance of power between the eastern faction, or “Tobruk government” and the western faction, or “Tripoli government” is one,  seems based more on military strength than popular support.  Military strength comes from external funding, so the civil war looks more like a proxy war.

Libya’s only international airport,  may be captured any moment by a military force lead by General Haftar,  representing the government established on the eastern side of Libya.  He has the support of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE and for the most part Russia.

In the years following the 2011 Arab Spring uprising, the sequence of events seemed to follow the unpredictability of billiards,  Yet, I believe in this case, one can argue that the table is larger than anyone could imagine, and there are many balls on the table that may not be as visible, but strongly influence the game.

I note that  Trump seems to believe international relations is a game of one on one poker and plays by a series of threats and  bluffs.   He couldn’t be further off the mark and the US has lost its role as a negotiator  in resolving crises.  He also seems intent on reversing as many Obama era policies, even ones that were working.     He is a strong believer in nationalism, but then feels he can bully around lesser countries, such as Guatemala and Honduras.

A bit of background to the first civil war (2011) and second civil war (2014- present)

The spark that set off Arab Spring was the death of Mohammed Bouazizi in Tunisia on January 4, 2011.

The catalyst for the escalation of protests was the self-immolation of Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi. Unable to find work and selling fruit at a roadside stand, Bouazizi had his wares confiscated by a municipal inspector on 17 December 2010. An hour later he doused himself with gasoline and set himself afire. His death on 4 January 2011[78] brought together various groups dissatisfied with the existing system, including many unemployed, political and human rights activists, labor, trade unionists, students, professors, lawyers, and others to begin the Tunisian Revolution.[70]

The rapid spread of  rebellions during Arab Spring was really incredible.  It seemed in early 2011,  a new spirit of change toward honest and open government  had swept through the Middle East.  The common people were in the streets, directly confronting their leaders first in Tunisia, then in Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen.  The list of grievances were hardly new – lack of democratic process,  government officials who were stealing from the people and anyone who protested would be thrown in prison.  Fear was the driving force.   All these countries were run by a single strong dictator, but no one could match the erratic, flamboyant and egotistical  Muamar Ghadaffi, leader of Libya.  He compared protesters to cockroaches, and proudly waved the “green book” during speeches, saying that the protesters were traitors, punishable by death.  Arab Spring was a battle of the people against autocracy, which is defined as follows:

An autocracy is a system of government in which supreme power is concentrated in the hands of one person, whose decisions are subject to neither external legal restraints nor regularized mechanisms of popular control (except perhaps for the implicit threat of a coup d’état or mass insurrection).[1] Absolute monarchies (such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Brunei and Swaziland) and dictatorships (such as Turkmenistan and North Korea) are the main modern-day forms of autocracy.

We have for decades simultaneously rallied against autocracies, and maintain friendly relations with their leaders.  This includes both Republican and Democrat administrations.   When the US has intervened, such as in Libya Afghanistan,  and Iraq, they were based on national security issues, principally that these countries would be a danger to other countries or support radical groups in the future.   We intervened in Libya, through NATO bombings to opponents of Gadaffi   However,  we never sent troops to Libya.   Our Libyan intervention was supported by the UN Resolution 1973 passed 10-0 in March 2011.

This is somewhat personal, as I was in Libya in the early part of the Arab Spring in 2011 and ultimately had to be evacuated along with a large number of expats by a British frigate.    I went back in 2013, at a period of relative calm.  There was a lot of optimism for a  new Libya.

It was clear to me by  June 2017 that the long road to re-unify Libya might end in disaster, because key players, including Russia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, were quietly backing their man (General Haftar)  to the east of Libya.  I wrote the following in my blog of June 26, 2017:

“The only path forward is re-unification through UN Negotiations.   On the Tobruk side, Chief of the Army, Haftar must not be allowed to purchase arms and escalate the war.    The conflict in Libya will only become worse if the US turns a blind eye towards the arming of the Tobruk government by the Saudi supporters.  Washington and the EU need to work jointly on the  the massive refugee problem.  This is a rapidly developing story.   To follow it, it is best to do a Google search on the news.   The latest story to appear, is the release of Saif al-Islam Gadaffi and   some discussion that he could play a some leadership role.  I have very serious doubts.   The areas under control by the various rival groups seems to change regularly.  The New York Times, The Guardian and Al Jazeera seem to be the best sources of information.”

I post a  three part blog, posted on June 25 to 26, 2017.  To explain recent events, it was really necessary to give some recent historical facts on the situation.  I began with a simple statement, “Nothing is normal in Libya. At least, in the last 3 years, what happens doesn’t seem normal or logical to outsiders.”   The three  key outside players in Libya are  Saudi Arabia, Egypt and UAE.  There is a major rift between the public policy (UN negotiated re-unification)  and their actions – namely military and financial support to the Tobruk side.    The players back the strong man, not because his policies will lead to a more stable country, but because they perceive him as the likely winner in the conflict.

I began the series with an observation, that the Tobruk administration had announced it was cutting off diplomatic relations with Qatar  This was very weird because there was never the normal recognition of the eastern government as being the legitimate government of Libya.  But, it made sense in terms of regional politics, as Haftar was just aligning himself on the side of the new Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia (Mohammed bin Salman) and other members of the Gulf Cooperative Council (GCC), in particular the UAE,

To gain control of Libya,  military success is more  important than diplomatic success 

The civil war in Libya is not about ideology.  It is all about getting outside support to buy military equipment.  Simply put, Money rules.

General Haftar need Russia on his side.  Russia seemed to be hedging its position, but I think at this point, it is firmly supporting General Haftar, because his success at capturing the oil fields held by the Tripoli government.  I said in 2017, that Qaddafi’s son,  Saif al-Islam would play some role on the side of General Haftar.   He has been busy lining up Russian support for the General’s plan to take over the country by force, since it can’t be won in the UN negotiations.

In early April, 2019, a window of opportunity opened for General Haftar.  The Tripoli government lost one of its  key supporters.  The 82 year old president of Algeria, Abdelaziz Bouteflika,  stepped down amid widespread protests in the streets of Algiers.   Protesters are now attacking  his replacement either, so Algeria is in chaos right now.

While losing one key supporter,  General Haftar’s efforts were paying off  gaining another, much more important ally – Saudi Arabia.   To understand this relation, it is necessary to understand Hafter shares with Saudi Arabia a a deep animosity towards the Muslim Brotherhood, because this has become an international political organization.  It was instrumental in electing Mohammed Morsi to replace Hosni Mubarek in Egypt after his fall in 2011.

So these are some of the factors which lead to General Haftar’s success.  Next blog, I will focus more on the current situation.

Links:

Could Libya be Russia’s new Syria

Saudis gave Libya Haftar millions of dollars before the offensive

Fighting echoes through Tripoli as thousands continue to flee
WHO says it fears the outbreak of infectious diseases among the thousands of families fleeing their homes in Tripoli.

As events have unfolded in the past week, the Al Jazeera news reporting has been excellent.  See https://www.aljazeera.com

Wikipedia: Muslim Brotherhood

Wikipedia: Second Civil War (2014 – 

Arab Spring

A bit more on Facebook

My blog on HUD and Facebook went a bit long but there were a few things missing.   I’ve included the lawsuit filing and the original HUD complaint.   Guess where I found the HUD filing – on HUD’s Facebook page!

In response, Facebook stated the following:

We’re surprised by HUD’s decision, as we’ve been working with them to address their concerns and have taken significant steps to prevent ads discrimination. Last year we eliminated thousands of targeting options that could potentially be misused, and just last week we reached historic agreements with the National Fair Housing Alliance, ACLU, and others that change the way housing, credit, and employment ads can be run on Facebook. While we were eager to find a solution, HUD insisted on access to sensitive information — like user data — without adequate safeguards. We’re disappointed by today’s developments, but we’ll continue working with civil rights experts on these issues.”

I’m curious exactly  this sensitive user information that HUD was seeking.

One final point.  What really stops “redlining” practices these day (beyond the fact that it is illegal) is Zillow and other competitors who provide maps showing available homes and rentals in a general area  with listed prices and extensive information which can be screened by the buyer.   Interestingly,  this is an area which Facebook is likely to enter.   It is a strike against discriminatory practices, at least on the information concerning availability.   See link:

Facebook sets its sights on housing. Should Zillow be worried?

As I said in the prior post, Facebook stock has actually risen after being sued.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Why HUD’s lawsuit against Facebook came as a surprise

HUD_v_Facebook

HUD_01-18-0323_Complaint

Facebook v. HUD

When I first read about this, I felt like it belonged in the “What in the world category.”    Facebook  has 2 billion active users worldwide and generates 16.6 billion dollars from targeted advertisements. (see link below).

Facebook is being sued by the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for discriminatory practices in real estate.  Specifically, they are being accused of violating the Fair Housing Act of 1968.   It is fairly an indirect connection as Facebook helps advertisers narrow their audience based on their demographic data.  The initial complaint, filed in 2018 states:

“[Facebook] has provided a toggle button that enables advertisers to exclude men or women from seeing an ad, a search-box to exclude people who do not speak a specific language from seeing an ad, and a map tool to exclude people who live in a specified area from seeing an ad by drawing a red line around that area,” the complaint reads.

The problem is that some  targeting of ads is beneficial to both advertisers and Facebook users.  A Facebook user does not want to be deluged with advertisements when they use Facebook.  I’m not a great Facebook user, but I did video tape a chicken that was loose in our front yard and post it.  Catching a chicken can be difficult and timing is everything. (pretty much topic, sorry).  Over time, users likely add data such as where they went to school, languages they speak, their interests and other bits of information which helps connect them to connect with others with similar interests.  All seeming pretty harmless.

Targeting audiences is nothing new. Amazon does this all the time based on my prior purchases and I’m sure, they have a pretty good idea of my interests.  They know  I am not interested in books written in Spanish, although I live in Miami.   Any time you visit a website, be it this blog, or any other, your browser passes along considerable data including age, where you live (usually city and state), your primary language and  general interests.  Facebook can tap into a lot of information on their users for marketing purposes.

Generally, it is not in the commercial interests of real estate agents to exclude potentially interested buyers,  but they also have a mental profile of who might be the a likely buyer of a home.

Comments by HUD go further as they add Facebook’s platform causes discrimination (from NPR website):

HUD says Facebook does so by “encouraging, enabling and causing housing discrimination” when it allows companies that use their platform to improperly shield who can see certain housing ads.

Why is the US government involved? 

In real estate, a company which targets audiences of their ads for potential buyers, is likely to be more successful in selling and renting homes.  The accusation against Facebook is they are an “enabler” of real estate agents involved in “redlining.”  It can be a tricky line, because sales agents may work with customers with religious or racial bias.  It can be particularly tricky in short term rentals.   It is not illegal to refuse to rent to someone with pets or who smokes.

The Fair Housing Act was passed to prevent discriminatory practices by real estate agents and lenders.     It was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on April 12, 1968 just 8 days after the assassination of Martin Luther King.  The legislation had been opposed  by southern conservative Democrats.  All real estate sales agents and brokers are licensed by their respective states, and have to demonstrate their knowledge of the Fair Housing Act as part of their certification exam.

I know personally discrimination was a big problem.  My father told me the real estate agents would never show houses in our area to eligible black buyers because they felt it black owners would depress housing values.  Today, this would be a blatant violation of the Fair Housing Act.   Owners of apartments in Houston, Texas where I lived in the early 1980’s, would routinely refuse to rent to blacks.  It was sad, unethical and now illegal.

The southern conservative Democrats in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s were openly racists defended by a state’s rights agenda.  They viewed the federal government as meddling in their self governance.    When George Wallace, a democrat  ran for governor of Alabama in 1962, the Republicans did not nominate any candidate.  His inaugural speech included this infamous line:

“In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”

Certainly, the Civil Rights bill of 1964 was a great turning point for the progressive faction of the Democratic party, and the beginning of the conservative  southern states turning more to the Republican Party.  Another great stalwart against equality was Congressman Howard W. Smith from Virginia, who as Committee Chairman of the House Rules Committee, did everything he could to stall of vote on the 1964 Civil Rights bill.

Will HUD win their case?  

Facebook said they were surprised at the filing of a lawsuit.  They were in the process of working to remedy the complaint.    Usually, if there is a complaint, the Department works out some settlement for damages rather than have a court battle.   At least that seems the way the Department handles discrimination suits against banks.     The case against Facebook is a civil suit,  so no one goes to jail.  It is against the Facebook corporation, which includes Instagram.

Discrimination is part of consumer rights and never  a priority under Trump

There is zero appetite in Trump’s administration for defending victims of  violation of the law in consumer rights.   This is why Ben Carson is in charge of HUD.  He has long

Similarly, Donald Trump appointed as director of CFPB, Mike Mulvaney,  an agency.  he detests and introduced legislation in Congress to abolish it.   It is an agency aimed at protecting consumers in financial areas, such as payday loans and home loans.  Mick Mulvaney effectively fired the CFPB Advisory Council, a 25 member group in June 2018.  There is little doubt that one reason for the financial collapse in 2008, was consumers were way over their heads in debt, some due to predatory practices of lenders.  Mulvaney’s appointment was temporary.   Democrats were appalled at his replacement, Kathy Kraninger, who has nearly no experience nor experience in consumer finance and protection.  She got the job based on loyalty to Mulvaney and will likely continue to continue the strategy of slowly weakening the Bureau’s activities until it makes no sense to fund it.  An enormous loss for consumers.  It’s called death by 1,000 cuts.

Ben Carson – Champion of the Obama era rollback

I believe the Verge website nailed it, with their headline,  “When did Ben Carson start to care about the Fair Housing Act?” .    Their posts demonstrates Carson’s extreme conservative positions:

We are not used to seeing robust regulation of tech companies here in this country, particularly not from HUD, which is currently run by a man who once said that the Affordable Care Act was “the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.” A year ago, the New York Times found that HUD was scaling back Obama-era enforcement of fair housing laws.

From the New York Times article:

The Trump administration is attempting to scale back federal efforts to enforce fair housing laws, freezing enforcement actions against local governments and businesses, including Facebook, while sidelining officials who have aggressively pursued civil rights cases.

The policy shift, detailed in interviews with 20 current and former Department of Housing and Urban Development officials and in internal agency emails, is meant to roll back the Obama administration’s attempts to reverse decades of racial, ethnic and income segregation in federally subsidized housing and development projects. The move coincides with the decision this month by Ben Carson, the secretary of housing and urban development, to strike the words “inclusive” and “free from discrimination” from HUD’s mission statement.

Wow!    I’ve included the Verge article and the New York Times.

The federal government spends billions of dollars on a program to fund 12,000 communities to improve their services in education, transportation and other areas  But in return, these communities had to show progress they were desegregating community services such as transportation and schools using a tool developed by HUD.   It sounds like a great program.   Carson eliminated this requirement and was sued.  The courts upheld Carson’s decision, “Federal judge dismisses …”.   He claims that he eliminated this rule, so the Department can come up with a better one.  Yeah,  like no funding at all.

Trump’s dislike for the Fair Housing Act

Donald Trump (President of Trump Management Co) and his father, Fred Trump  (CEO) were found in violation of the Fair Housing Act in 1972 by the US Department of Justice, – Civil Rights Division.   The division sent both black and white applicants to the New York apartments and found blacks or people on welfare were routinely rejected.     It took time to build a case against them.  They were coding application forms so they knew whether applicants were black.  They told rental agents not to rent to blacks.   They signed a “consent decree”with the Department of Justice to end the legal action.  See Wikipedia link.

Effect of HUD lawsuit on Facebook and others

The stock price of Facebook actually has increased a bit since the announced lawsuit.  It is likely investors feel that Facebook has a good chance to prevail or settle the case without much financial impact.  It is ironic that if the case is decided by a conservative judge, which narrowly interprets the Fair Housing Act, the whole lawsuit might be thrown out.   Many other companies, such as Google will want a quick settlement.  A settlement always allows both sides to claim victory.

In sum, I think this lawsuit is just an election campaign ploy.   Facebook has weathered some pretty enormous scandals on leaked information, and so it is tainted goods at this point.  But this hardly effected investors interest in the company as it is up around 30% for the year, verses 14% for the overall market (S+P index).

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Links:

NYT, Mar 28, 2018, Under Ben Carson, HUD Scales Back Fair Housing Enforcement

Ben Carson, the secretary of housing and urban development, on a housing tour last year in Columbus, Ohio. This month, he struck the words “inclusive” and “free from discrimination” from his department’s mission statement.

The Verge: Why HUD’s lawsuit against Facebook came as a surprise: When did Ben Carson start to care about the Fair Housing Act?

Kudos to Casey Newton, for a well researched post with relevant links.

Federal judge dismisses lawsuit accusing HUD Secretary Ben Carson of dismantling Obama-era fair housing law

Federal aid will continue to 12,000 urban communities to improve their neighborhoods without any checks on efforts to desegregate schools,  transportation and other community services.

Washington Post: HUD is reviewing Twitter’s and Google’s ad practices as part of housing discrimination probe

May 17, 2018, Washington Post, HUD Secretary Ben Carson to be sued for suspending Obama-era fair-housing rule

Mick Mulvaney isn’t blowing up the CFPB, It’s more like death by a thousand cuts, critics say.

Mick Mulvaney Effectively Fires CFPB Advisory Council

Wikipedia:  Fred Trump

 

Can there be obstruction if no underlying crime was committed?

Yes.  See the link below.

https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2019/mar/25/martha-stewart-donald-trump-can-there-be-obstructi/

Per Fact Checking sites.   They really are very good.  I can see why recently Trump attacked Fact Checking websites.  Many of the worst lies (fake news) are disseminated on Facebook by bloggers.  But on occasion,  statements by Donald Trump join the “Pants on Fire” group.  So, do not trust anything posted anonymously by a blogger.  Same goes for Trump’s tweets.   Secondly, there are a ton of commentators particularly on Fox News, who live by selling books and videos, on grand conspiracy theories and deep state nonsense.  I will not vote for anyone with a track record as bad as Trump’s in the 2020 election.

Learn to separate out serious news reporting from late night “news show.”    If you ever watched a Lou Dobbs broadcast, you know what I mean.  Lou makes it very easy for his guests to respond, as there’s hardly a question embedded inside of a question, except,  “Don’t you agree with me?”.

As per the Mueller report,  I support the Attorney General’s approach.  The amount of speculation of what is contained in the report, is really incredible.  His letter cited just two conclusions contained in the report.  Redacting sensitive information from a report, particularly one related to counter-intelligence, requires considerable time.  I reject the call from impatient Democrats, saying they want everything right now.  For our justice system to work, not everything should be disclosed, including FISA subpoenas.

Barr released his letter two days after he got the report because to do otherwise would have politicians claiming he was concealing information.   It is difficult to tamp down or narrow the scope of speculation on what the report concludes.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Solid Information on Mueller’s Investigation

Any discussion on the Mueller probe which begins with a half dozen assertions made by President Trump, or highly biased commentators on both liberal and conservative leaning cable stations, has immediately veered off course.  There have been so many claims by commentators that getting to the facts at times seems hard.  The truth is always a bit more complicated and considerably longer.

There are numerous unbiased sources of information on the internet.  I am not about to launch into a discussion of “intellectual honesty”  but this is severely lacking in many of the broadcast networks.

The probe is officially over so Robert Mueller can go home.  Well sort of.  He will be called to testified in the House Judiciary Oversight Committee as to his findings.  The Justice Department has stated there will be no more indictments.  At present, the Justice Department is reviewing the Mueller’s Final Report, to identify what may be provided to Congress.  Under the law, the AG is not obligated to provide any part of the report, but only a summary of the important findings.  The Attorney General William Barr and Deputy AG Rob Rosenstein worked over the weekend to produce the summary and it was posted in the previous blog.

The probe began as a counter-intelligence investigation by the FBI, when they received information that Russia was attempting to meddle in US elections in 2016.  I believe the report will provide very similar details as given in Wikipedia, that the “triggering event” into the investigation was comments made by George Papadopoulos in a London bar to an Austrian diplomat about the Russians had damaging information on Hillary Clinton.

The Mueller investigation is now history.  His investigation was limited to Russian involvement in the 2016 election.  As the investigation proceeded, evidence of other criminal activities were discovered and Mueller referred these to other federal jurisdictions.   The remaining criminal cases will be handled by federal prosecutors.

I believe the best unbiased source on the internet is from Wikipedia.  It is constantly added to keep up with events.  There are over 450 references provided on the Mueller probe and most of them are available just by clicking on the links.

President Trump has attacked the Special Counsel’s investigation over 1000 times, according to Wikipedia.   Many of these attacks are unprecedented by a president, as he has the authority to appoint his cabinet officials and the Director of the FBI.  I feel particularly bad on his attack and firing of AG Jeff Sessions and FBI Director James Comey.  His attacks now seem aimed at the House Oversight Committees’ investigations.   Note, as far as honesty, Trump’s track record is dismal, as only 4% of his statements are judged to be true, by Politifact.com .   Many of them are on immigration, but I think more will come on the Russian Probe.

I can understand that there is information within Mueller’s report which must be redacted because it deals with national security or future prosecutions.  I believe a redacted version of the report will be released.

Russia seems committed to meddling in elections where it can have an influence.   The US will continue to be a target of meddling going forward, because our country is now very evenly divided between Republican and Democratic states.  The 7 to 12 “toss up” states will determine the winner in the 2020 election.

It takes a bit of effort to search for the facts, instead of what comes via Facebook, Twitter (never use it) or other sources.   There are some very good honest information on the internet, if one is selective of the source.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Wikipedia:  Mueller Investigation

Wikipedia: Robert Mueller Biography 

Jeff Sessions

Politifact.com

(see his latest comments,  none of them are true.  The last truthful statement dates back to November 18, 2018).

Factcheck.org

Another excellent fact checker.

AG Barr’s summary of Mueller’s Report

“It was a total and complete exoneration” 

Donald Trump

No it wasn’t.

AG Barr’s memo:

The Special Counsel’s report states that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

However, consistent with the President Trump’s statement:

“the Special Counsel did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in these efforts, despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.”

No clean bill of health.  Not for Trump nor his campaign officials.

I guess it’s best just to read AG Barr’s memo.  It’s only 4 pages.

AG March 24 2019 Letter to House and Senate Judiciary Committees

Normally, I would include links, but there is just so much out there, you can take your choice.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

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