“Pipeline dollars to Russia are not acceptable!”

Donald Trump tweeted this around the time of the NATO summit. The tweet was directed against Germany.  He said at the NATO leaders breakfast, “Germany, as far as I’m concerned, is captive to Russia, because it’s getting so much of its energy from Russia.” Wow!  Angela Merkel  knows well Soviet oppression as she lived in East Germany under Soviet control.  It was also pretty weird given the circumstances.  Most US presidents would try to get solidarity with EU countries at a NATO summit before sitting down with Putin.     Trump went to Russia, where the theme seemed to be that Obama had screwed up relations with that country through a lot of foolish decisions, and now Trump was there to repair the damage.

The US could have a friendly relation with Russia, but not Germany.  Trump has said he is guided by what is in the best interest of the US.  So, why was Trump badgering Angela Merkel for acting in the best interest of her own country?

 

Nord Stream 2 Pipeline is due to be completed next year, to double the supply of natural gas from Russia.   The 1200 km route, under the Baltic sea is nearly the same as the first Nord Stream gas pipeline.   It will make Germany more dependent on Russia for power generation needs.  Trump has repeated attacked Germany as a “captive state of Russia.”

Trump’s speech at the July 2018 NATO Summit meeting was laced with numerous false statements, particularly about NATO budgets and spending,  as documented by politifact.com (see comments/ links below).  The speech was filled with self-serving statements of how much the US is doing to keep the alliance going and how little the other  countries are doing.  I’m certain member states felt let down by Trump.

NATO is an alliance of 29 countries, with the US and Canada the only non-European countries.  NATO began as an alliance between 10  Western European countries and the US and Canada in 1949.   Western Germany became a member in 1955.  There has been a great expansion of NATO in both 1999 and 2004 as Eastern European countries left the Warsaw Pact with Russia and joined NATO.    The Warsaw Pact, formed to counterbalance NATO was disbanded in 1991.

NATO is both a political and military alliance.   The Baltic states of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, sitting on Putin’s doorstep, are keenly aware of potential annexation of their countries, after Crimea was annexed.  Ukraine is not a NATO member, but has close EU ties.

Natural gas production depends on an available market.  Unless there are pipelines or liquefied natural gas (LNG) processing plants,  the gas fields may not be economical to produce. This is the frustrating reality of natural gas fields.   Obviously,  Russia has no control over German power plants and their future use of fossil fuels,  but will be a large supplier of fuel for their power plants  for decades for the following reasons :  (1) The North Sea gas supply is in decline, because the area has been extensively explored and developed in the past 40 years and   (2) Other fuels are more expensive.

A recent report from the Energy Information Agency (EIA) indicates why Trump doesn’t like Russian gas going to Germany.   For decades, all the natural gas produced in the US was either flared (a common practice with offshore wells) or used for the domestic markets.   The supply of gas wasn’t sufficient to meet the demand, so 3 to 4 trillion cubic feet were imported from Canada.  But we also exported 1 to 3 tcf.   Now gas exports are likely to be higher than imports.   The next 10 years are expected to expected to increase LNG  exports by 14 tcf/yr, while imports decline to 2 to 3 tcf.

 


 

France and Spain are likely the big recipients of LNG coming from the US.   The Asian countries, including Japan and India, will be the recipients of  LNG from Iran-Qatar shared South Pars/ North Dome field.   Total will likely pull out of the joint development of the South Pars field in response to Trump’s re-imposing sanctions on Iran.  There’s speculation that Russia or China will take over Total’s contract.    India’s economy will be hurt as there is insufficient LNG, at least temporarily.    India is likely to burn more coal to generate power, hence generate more greenhouse gases.

The long term forecast by the EIA is contingent on many factors.  LNG requires enormous investments.  Cheniere Energy (LNG) is one of the largest companies in this area, and it has been a bumpy ride for investors.   Cheniere is down about 20% in the last 5 years compared to the S+P performance of up 45%.

The trend of lower gas imports and higher exports began around 2009, and has continued through the 8 years of Obama’s presidency.   But expect Trump to claim credit should the exports exceeds imports during his presidency.

Natural gas as a fuel source generates greenhouse gases.  It is better than coal, but what really helps slow global warming, is increasing alternative non-fossil fuel sources and reducing energy demand.

It’s definitely a mess.  Attacking member countries of NATO, re-imposing sanctions on Iran, and starting a trade war with China, all in the last few months, does not bode well for the global economy.   What goes around, comes around.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

The Helsinki Disaster

Trump’s responses to questions at Monday’s joint press conference may seem miles away by now.  But, I’ll repeat a few critical parts and add my comments given in italics. It was a disaster, on many fronts.  Unfortunately,  I don’t think Trump was “off his game”  on this one.  I think we’re going to see more excusing the actions of countries with not respect for human rights (Turkey, the Philippines and Egypt, come to mind)  and attacks on our friends.

I have included in the links that the transcript of the entire press conference as provided by National Public Radio.

Thank you. Mr. President, you tweeted this morning that it’s U.S. foolishness, stupidity, and the Mueller probe that is responsible for the decline in U.S. relations with Russia. Do you hold Russia at all accountable or anything in particular? And if so, what would you what would you consider them that they are responsible for?

TRUMP:  Yes I do. I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we’ve all been foolish. We should have had this dialogue a long time ago, a long time frankly before I got to office. And I think we’re all to blame.  I think that the United States now has stepped forward, along with Russia, and we’re getting together and we have a chance to do some great things, whether it’s nuclear proliferation in terms of stopping, have to do it, ultimately that’s probably the most important thing that we can be working on.  But I do feel that we have both made some mistakes.

I think that the probe is a disaster for our country. I think it’s kept us apart, it’s kept us separated.

There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it. People are being brought out to the fore. So far that I know virtually none of it related to the campaign. And they’re gonna have to try really hard to find somebody that did relate to the campaign. That was a clean campaign. I beat Hillary Clinton easily and frankly we beat her. And I’m not even saying from the standpoint…we won that race. And it’s a shame that there can even be a little bit of a cloud over it. People know that. People understand it. But the main thing and we discussed this also is zero collusion and it has had a negative impact upon the relationship of the two largest nuclear powers in the world. We have 90 percent of nuclear power between the two countries.

It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous what’s going on with the [Mueller]  probe.

Trump’s answer is pretty clear.   He standing there side by side with Putin, and is saying is he wishes that the Russian interference in our elections in 2016 would be just swept under the rug.  When he holds US partially responsible,  this is pointing the finger to Obama administration policies.  It is as if, the Obama administration just didn’t know how to conduct diplomacy.   Trump is not going into any details on the US foolishness, but were the sanctions imposed by Obama really so foolish?  Russia was propping up the regime in Syria with military support, even after they used chemical weapons on their own people.  Russia has been involved in the assassination of dissidents outside their borders.  Residents of England were likely horrified at Trump’s statement were, as they witnessed the Salisbury poisoning (Sergei and Yulia Skripal).   Trump was obviously, avoided past conflicts, including the takeover of Crimea, support of separatists in Ukraine, and human rights abuses, such as the likely Kremlin ordered murder of Sergei Magnitsky in 2005, when he discovered tax fraud corruption among Russia’s richest citizens on a wide scale.  Dissidents and whistle blowers seem to turn up dead. The hand of the Kremlin at going after enemies of the state is worldwide. (see link)

REPORTER: For President Putin, if I could follow up as well. Why should Americans and why should President Trump believe your statement that Russia did not intervene in the 2016 election, given the evidence that U.S. intelligence agencies have provided? And will you consider extraditing the 12 Russian officials that were indicted last week by a U.S. grand jury?

TRUMP: Well, I’m going to let the president answer the second part of that question. But, as you know, the whole concept of that came up perhaps a little bit before but it came out as a reason why the Democrats lost an election, which frankly, they should have been able to win because the electoral college is much more advantageous for Democrats, as you know, than it is to Republicans. We won the Electoral College by a lot. 306 to 223, I believe. And that was a well fought, that was a well fought battle. We did a great job. And frankly, I’m going to let the president speak to the second part of your question. But just to say it one time again and I say it all the time, there was no collusion. I didn’t know the president. There was nobody to collude with. There was no collusion with the campaign and every time you hear all of these you know 12 and 14 – stuff that has nothing to do and frankly they admit – these are not people involved in the campaign. But to the average reader out there, they’re saying well maybe that does. It doesn’t. And even the people involved, some perhaps told mis-stories or in one case the FBI said there was no lie. There was no lie. Somebody else said there was. We ran a brilliant campaign and that’s why I’m president. Thank you.

The question is actual about “election intervention.”   Trump steered the question to  collusion, and since he claims he had never personally met Putin before the election, he feels vindicated.  In Putin’s response, he says:  “We should be guided by facts. Could you name a single fact that would definitively prove the collusion? This is utter nonsense.”   So Trump and Putin see eye-to-eye on this.   Intervention  =  collusion = nonsense.   In Putin’s reply to extradition, he brings up the idea of swapping Mr. Browder for 12 indicted Russians.  Putin states: “They  [Browder business associates]  sent a huge amount of money – 400 million – as a contribution to the campaign of Hillary Clinton.”   The actual figure is $400,000.   I will cover the actions of Mr. Browder in a separate blog.  Putin is not saying no to extradition, but simply saying that it has to go through proper channels.

The following is the question that has help cause an enormous backlash:

REPORTER, AP: President Trump, you first. Just now, President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did. My first question for you sir is, who do you believe? My second question is would you now, with the whole world watching, tell President Putin, would you denounce what happened in 2016 and would you warn him to never do it again?

TRUMP: So let me just say that we have two thoughts. You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server. Why haven’t they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee? I’ve been wondering that. I’ve been asking that for months and months and I’ve been tweeting it out and calling it out on social media. Where is the server? I want to know where is the server and what is the server saying?

With that being said, all I can do is ask the question. My people came to me, Dan Coates, came to me and some others they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be. But I really do want to see the server but I have, I have confidence in both parties.

I really believe that this will probably go on for a while but I don’t think it can go on without finding out what happened to the server. What happened to the servers of the Pakistani gentleman that worked on the DNC? Where are those servers? They’re missing. Where are they? What happened to Hillary Clinton’s emails? 33,000 emails gone, just gone. I think in Russia they wouldn’t be gone so easily.  I think it’s a disgrace that we can’t get Hillary Clinton’s thirty three thousand e-mails.

I have great confidence in my intelligence people but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today and what he did is an incredible offer. He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators, with respect to the 12 people. I think that’s an incredible offer. Ok? Thank you.

Trump could have answered this in two short sentences: (1) The conclusion of  election interference  by Russia in 2016 by US intelligence is right, and (2) Putin should not try this again.  He didn’t do either.   Even in the wake of the indictments of 12 Russian military officials, he wasn’t about to walk back on his hundreds of tweets stating that Mueller’s investigation was a witch hunt and the FBI under Comey was incompetent.   Mind you, Trump wasn’t asked if  there was  collusion or even involvement of the Trump’s campaign officials in this interference.   He was defending Putin more than the US government.   This “incredible offer”  was considered by the State Department as absurd.  

In one key phase,  Trump later said he misspoke, and meant to say wouldn’t instead of would.   Lawrence O’Donnell (MSNBC commentator) got it right, when he said the statement was beyond fixing.  To do so, was an insult to the intelligence of Americans.

I count a total of 23 sentences.  I count 19 of these sentences would fall under the category of FBI misconduct  in the areas of deliberately incomplete or improper investigation.  So, he is back on the witch hunt theme.      There’s only one statement (“My people came to me, Dan Coats, came to me and some others they said they think it’s Russia.”)   Yikes!    Dan Coats is the Director of National Intelligence, and it is his job to provide the president of all national security threats from multiple US agencies.   Of course, Dan Coats immediately issued a statement after the press conference, stating that it was absolutely true that Russia interfered with our election.  

Trump  is demeaning the FBI because in 2015 and 2016, it was under Director Comey’s command.   The missing emails  is a mess It confuses  a subpoena from the Benghazi Committee in 2015, with the FBI’s investigation of the Russian hacked  DNC server in 2016.   The first statement about the server of the Pakistani gentleman is false, and the second one refers to accidental deletions of email that were not at Clinton’s direction.   The Benghazi Committee was just trolling for dirt on Hillary Clinton prior to the election.  All Trump was trying to do, is to attack the integrity of the FBI in years before he was president.

Russia is taking the lead, where the US is shrinking back globally.  It supports the Iran nuclear deal and is party to the Paris Climate Agreement.  It even came to the rescue of the World Health Organization, as US pressured countries not to introduce the breastfeeding resolution.   It is looking for strengthening economic ties with China, as we look to punish them with tariffs.   There is nothing more desirable in Putin’s priorities than restoring their hold on the Eastern European countries.   That’s why Putin brings up the Minsk agreements.

The word change only shows how Trump believes he can easily fool the American people.  Helsinki was a disaster for the US and a victory for Vladimir Putin.  Dialogue with Russia is important, but standing firm with Eastern Europe and NATO is vital.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Transcripts of Press Conference

Trump sides with Putin over US intelligence

Donald Trump’s ‘missing’ server comments get all of the details wrong

Clinton’s 33000 emails – Politifact

(The conclusion was that the deletion was not done at the direction of Clinton.  These were old emails, and to the technician in charge of the server, was a routine cleanup effort and unaware of the subpoena.  When he learned of the subpoena, he describes this as the “Oh shit” moment.

Wikipedia:  Bill Browder 

Wikipedia: Magnisky Act

Trump: Populism, Nationalism with overriding Pro-business focus

Populism and nationalism are not policies, but ideologies, which when rigidly applied or taken to extremes, have terrible consequences.   Populism concentrates on the problem, rather than the solution.   Nothing is every built on existing solutions.   It is more of a tear down and rebuild philosophy,  Underlying populism is a focus not on problems of society, but on government itself.   An excellent example was Trump’s campaign slogan, “Let’s drain the swamp.”   The message was that policies in the Obama administration were only what lobbyists wanted, and he was truly independent of their efforts.   The more Hillary Clinton spoke of her background in government, the more she became part of the “elite” class who were causing all the problems.

Populists exaggerate the problem and are vague on the solutions.  Trump frequently goes from an exaggeration to an outright lie.   Populists  are constantly at war with opponents who they claim will only make matters worse by continuing government policies.   Case in point was Scott Pruitt, Administrator of the EPA, taking an axe to hundreds of environmental rules, on the basis of deregulation.   He had no interest in protecting the environment.  He allowed  and in fact appointed “elitists” or fossil fuel lobbyists guide federal policies.  I guess Pruitt would defend his policies as doing what is best for the nation in helping companies explore for oil, ultimately lowering the cost of gasoline.

Nationalism says that a country does only what is in its best interest.   With Trump, it seems anytime we are part of an international organization, we have this tremendous clout to determine outcomes.   Case in point, is Trump’s verbal attack of Germany at the NATO summit.

Trump renewed the long-standing U.S. criticism of the project on Wednesday, and doubled down by tying it to the future of NATO. “Germany, as far as I’m concerned, is captive to Russia because it’s getting so much of its energy from Russia,” Trump told NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, speaking on camera. “We have to talk about the billions and billions of dollars that’s being paid to the country we’re supposed to be protecting you against.”

Trump was referring to the Nord Stream 2.  It will take another blog to Here is the irony of nationalism – other countries can’t tell us what to do, but we can tell them how to run their countries. I will explain the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in a later blog.

The third element is a pro-business agenda.  The tax cut is a very much part of this.  It seems not much of the tax cut is being put to use to expand manufacturing.  It likely will drive up our deficits.   With trade tariffs, this will in the short term help some businesses, particularly steel and aluminium manufacturers.  It is likely to hurt US car makers, and drive up the price of cars.  In Florida,  the orange and grapefruit growers are worried about being priced out of Asian markets due to reciprocal tariffs.

So, if populism focuses only on the problem, and nationalism guides policy decisions, the end result as in the coming trade war, likely will hurt Trump’s pro-business agenda.  International cooperation will be dwindling under Trump, as he pushes America first, and above everything else.

The travel ban is an excellent example of populism and nationalism, accomplishing very little.   Certainly,  the Muslim world thinks very little of our president.

Getting tough on immigration, was rooted in populism and nationalism.   It was founded on exaggeration and frequent lies. The resulting family separation and horrific outcomes were predictable.  It was a bet that executive authority would triumph over judicial restraint.  It didn’t.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

The counter attack Michael Cohen, Stormy Daniels and Mueller’s investigation.

Wow.  What a mess!  What was going on in the last couple of weeks of the elections – if people knew, Trump would have lost for sure.

It started with the Russian influence in the US elections was a “made up story”  by the “fake news media” or the Democrats,  to explain why they lost.  Then 13 Russians were indicted by the Grand Jury and big names in the Trump campaign are either headed for trial (Paul Manafort) or have pleaded guilty (Michael Flynn,  Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos).    A lot more is coming in the Russian probe.

No country should ever be allowed to influence the US elections.    The best chance for criminal justice and truth is with the Mueller investigation.

The Stormy Daniels story changes depending on how much hard evidence the prosecutors have, and how much Trump feels that Cohen might flip.   Another words, this saga has evolved from some rogue attorney, who felt so honor bond to Donald Trump, to pay $130,000 out of his own funds, to shut up Stormy Daniels, to part of a legal agreement (note attorney-client privilege) to fix problems for Donald Trump as part of retainer fees.

Calm and precise Jeff Toobin, legal commentator for CNN, summed it up nicely, “How stupid does he think we are?”  meaning of course Trump.

It isn’t the FBI or the Department of Justice that has caused a problem for Trump, but the president.

As his associates get caught,  they’re flipping.  The indictments and convictions will depend on a massive amount of information, not available to the public, including financial records, bank statements,  emails, and other documents.

O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive!
Walter Scott

I’m leaving off the usual links, except for the Wikipedia, which is the best factual summary I could find.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Link:

Wikipedia – Special Counsel

 

Changes in the Administration

I did not  comment on the firing of Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State or Andrew McCabe,  Deputy Director of the FBI.  In both cases, I was really hoping that Trump would not fire them.   Rex Tillerson seemed to be working in the same mode as John Kerry and Hillary Clinton,  with a lot of travel and face to face meetings.   I think this was particularly important. He did not take sides in the Saudi Arabia – Qatar crisis, as Trump had done, but stated we would help facilitate an eventual end to the blockade of Qatar.  He understood the priority should be in Middle East unity in fighting terrorism, and Qatar with a US military base has helped this effort.   Trump on the other hand,  seems to want to intensify the Sunni-Shia rift, siding with the Saudi’s and against Iran.

There are hot spots all over the world, Yemen,  Somalia, Libya and northern Syria.   It is the United States “soft power”  that  helps keep the peace.    Proxy wars intensify as outsiders supply the equipment, making any negotiations more difficult.  Syria, Libya and Yemen are classic proxy wars.  There should be widespread condemnation of massive human rights violations,  the most recent on in the ethnic cleaning in Myanmar of the Rohingya,  the 600,000 survivors of this genocide are now living in Bangladesh.  I don’t think Mike Pompeo is ready to look beyond partisan politics.

There is no question that Andrew McCabe was fired from the FBI, as was Director James Comey, because he was doing his job, and would not be influenced by politics.   Russian meddling in the US elections to help Trump win the elections did happen.   The manner of the firing of Tillerson,  Comey and McCabe,  through Twitter or the media,  showed Trump could a very mean and disrespectful.

Now,  I am very fearful of Trump’s  new administration selections, Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State and John Bolton, National Security Adviser.

The most urgent decision is on Iran, and the likely US pull out of the Iran nuclear accord in May 2018.  In the House,  Mike Pompeo led the charge against the Iran Nuclear Deal.  The New Times editorial on John Bolton, was scathing:

Yes, John Bolton is really that bad

The good thing about John Bolton, President Trump’s new national security adviser, is that he says what he thinks.

The bad thing is what he thinks.

There are few people more likely than Mr. Bolton is to lead the country into war. His selection is a decision that is as alarming as any Mr. Trump has made. His selection, along with the nomination of the hard-line C.I.A. director, Mike Pompeo, as secretary of state, shows the degree to which Mr. Trump is indulging his worst nationalistic instincts.

Mr. Bolton, in particular, believes the United States can do what it wants without regard to international law, treaties or the political commitments of previous administrations.

He has argued for attacking North Korea to neutralize the threat of its nuclear weapons, which could set off a horrific war costing tens of thousands of lives. At the same time, he has disparaged diplomatic efforts, including the talks planned in late May between Mr. Trump and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. He not only wants to abrogate the six-party deal that, since 2015, has significantly limited Iran’s nuclear program; he has called for bombing Iran instead. He has also maligned the United Nations and other multilateral conventions, as Mr. Trump has done, favoring unilateral solutions.

Over a 30-year career in which he served three Republican presidents, including as United Nations ambassador and the State Department’s top arms control official, Mr. Bolton has largely disdained diplomacy and arms control in favor of military solutions; no one worked harder to blow up the 1994 agreement under which North Korea’s plutonium  program was frozen for nearly eight years in exchange for heavy fuel oil and other assistance. The collapse of that agreement helped bring us to the crisis today, where North Korea is believed to have 20 or more nuclear weapons.

The editorial goes on to show how often Bolton dismissed diplomacy and US soft power to create a more peaceful world.  Instead,  the one well woven thread, was that we should use military action to support our objectives, no matter what the consequences were, including international condemnation.  As National Security Adviser, Bolton does not need congressional approval.

One last entry into the White House staff,  is  combative lawyer Joseph diGenova, replacing John Dowd.  As Trump explained, “I’m fucking do it my way”  which is never be defensive,  never apologize, but to launch an aggressive attack on those he considers in his way.   It is more of “do them harm before they can get going at you.”   DiGenova claimed the Russian investigation was all a big conspiracy,  and Donald Trump was being framed.  So, it’s fine to trash the Justice Department, FBI and CIA, as an acceptable defense.  And of course, the mainstream media.

So, we have a case of out with the good or not so bad,  Gen McMasters,  Rex Tillerson, Andrew McCabe, and I guess John Dowd,  and in with the bad to terrible,  John Bolton,  Mike Pompeo and Joseph DiGenova.

I have not added links to this story, as there are many editorials on the White House changes available on the Internet.  The month of May is looking to be particularly  bad, with both the North Korea summit and the Iran Nuclear Deal on the table.

Stay tuned,

Dave