Trump’s statement on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi (Corrected)

President Trump issued a statement on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi as provided at the end of this blog.   CNN had reported on the findings of the CIA as follows:

“The CIA has concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, despite the Saudi government’s denials that the de facto ruler was involved, according to a senior US official and a source familiar with the matter.”

It was also stated that the CIA came to this conclusion after a review of tape recordings of conversations and phone calls within the Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Turkey.    It was also evident that the team Saudi Arabia sent after the crime, including a chemist, were there to remove evidence of the crime, rather than investigate it.

Truump’s statement is provided below.  The murder of Jamal Khashoggi is not addressed until the fourth paragraph.    I would suggest the first three paragraphs be skipped on first reading.   The fact that Khashoggi is a permanent resident of the US and a well respected journalist living in the US  is never noted.  Nor does it seem important to Donald Trump, the reason why Khashoggi went to the Saudi Arabian consulate in the first place.  He was about to be married for a second time, and needed documents showing he was divorced from his first wife.    The planned assassination included a Saudi dressed as Khashoggi leave the consulate, but this failed as his shoes did not match.

Gina Haspel is the Director of the CIA since May 21, 2018.    She should be congratulated for providing an assessment based on the evidence without a political bias.   I have included her biography in the links. She rose through the ranks of the CIA from 1985, and it really feels like she was very qualified for the position of CIA Director.

Now, let’s go back to the first 3 paragraphs,  all of which are totally off the subject of the planned assassination of Jamal  Khashoggi and mostly false as well.  Iranian Foreign Minister mocked the statement in a tweet:
Mr. Trump bizarrely devotes the FIRST paragraph of his shameful statement on Saudi atrocities to accuse IRAN of every sort of malfeasance he can think of,He also wrote:
Perhaps we’re also responsible for the California fires, because we didn’t help rake the forests,” 

Iran has openly  opposed terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and the Taliban, as radical Sunni organizations.   Remember that Iran is a Shite country and  considers Hezbollah as a resistance group against aggressive  Israel military actions.  The US considers the entire Hezbollah organization as a terrorist organizations.  The European Union disagrees, and considers only the military wing of the organization to be involved in terrorist activities.    Hezbollah fought to defend the Hassad regime in Syria.

The civil war in Yemen is made worse by the involvement of all other countries, including Saudi Arabia and the US.   It is a huge humanitarian tragedy.   Iran denies involvement.  Certainly it is difficult to withdraw from Yemen, when they don’t have troops there.

Finally,  the 450 billion and 110 billion dollars of investment are a joke.  The 100 billion dollars are from memorandums of understanding or Intent, not actual orders.  Saudi Arabia has spent 4 billion dollars on US military equipment since 2017, and likely will continue to be a buyer, as their military needs to maintain their arsenal with US made parts.   These are not off the shelf items  they can quickly change vendors.  Their investment in US arms is very extensive.

This statement is rotten to the core.   Khashoggi was a journalist, reporting on the decline of basic freedoms throughout the Arab world. He could only do this outside of Saudi Arabia.   This is why he was an enemy of the Prince, but I think a hero to many within Saudi Arabia.  It also says that when critics of autocratic governments are murdered, we will look the other way, thinking more about financial benefits.

Bottom line:  It is not America First, but Trump’s political agenda.  It is Trump’s political agenda first and foremost, and American values are out the window.

Stay tuned,
David Lord

Donald Trump’s statement: 

The world is a very dangerous place!

The country of Iran, as an example, is responsible for a bloody proxy war against Saudi Arabia in Yemen, trying to destabilize Iraq’s fragile attempt at democracy, supporting the terror group Hezbollah in Lebanon, propping up dictator Bashar Assad in Syria (who has killed millions of his own citizens), and much more. Likewise, the Iranians have killed many Americans and other innocent people throughout the Middle East. Iran states openly, and with great force, “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!” Iran is considered “the world’s leading sponsor of terror.”

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia would gladly withdraw from Yemen if the Iranians would agree to leave. They would immediately provide desperately needed humanitarian assistance. Additionally, Saudi Arabia has agreed to spend billions of dollars in leading the fight against Radical Islamic Terrorism.

After my heavily negotiated trip to Saudi Arabia last year, the Kingdom agreed to spend and invest $450 billion in the United States. This is a record amount of money. It will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, tremendous economic development, and much additional wealth for the United States. Of the $450 billion, $110 billion will be spent on the purchase of military equipment from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and many other great U.S. defense contractors. If we foolishly cancel these contracts, Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries – and very happy to acquire all of this newfound business. It would be a wonderful gift to them directly from the United States!

Thee crime against Jamal Khashoggi was a terrible one, and one that our country does not condone. Indeed, we have taken strong action against those already known to have participated in the murder. After great independent research, we now know many details of this horrible crime. We have already sanctioned 17 Saudis known to have been involved in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi, and the disposal of his body.

Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an “enemy of the state” and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but my decision is in no way based on that — this is an unacceptable and horrible crime. King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!

That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran. The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region. It is our paramount goal to fully eliminate the threat of terrorism throughout the world!

I understand there are members of Congress who, for political or other reasons, would like to go in a different direction – and they are free to do so. I will consider whatever ideas are presented to me, but only if they are consistent with the absolute security and safety of America. After the United States, Saudi Arabia is the largest oil producing nation in the world. They have worked closely with us and have been very responsive to my requests to keeping oil prices at reasonable levels — so important for the world. As President of the United States I intend to ensure that, in a very dangerous world, America is pursuing its national interests and vigorously contesting countries that wish to do us harm. Very simply it is called America First!

Links:

Wikipedia  Gina Haspel,  CIA Director

Saudi Arabia top US weapons buyer – but does it buy that much?

CIA concludes Saudi crown prince ordered Jamal Khashoggi’s death, sources say

CNN:  Trump’s statement

85,000 children have starved to death during the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, says new report

Rod Rosenstein’s Letter of May 9, 2017

I don’t always comment on the most current news.  Many thought Trump was going to fire Rod Rosenstein, because he was protecting the Mueller investigation.  Instead,  Trump fired Jeff Sessions.  Sessions did submit a resignation letter, but it was at the request of Trump.

On May 9, 2017 Rod Rosenstein prepared a memo, indicating that FBI administrator, James Comey, had committed three serious errors in his public disclosure of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.  Note that each of these errors concerned Comey overreaching his authority as FBI director or breaking with protocol on public disclosures.   There has been no accusation by the Department of Justice that Comey has ever acted in any partisan manner in the Clinton  email investigation or any other investigation.     Trump stated that Comey was a  “nut-job”,  “loose cannon” and a “showboat.”    Really, this describes better Donald Trump than James Comey.

The Rosenstein letter  was provided to Trump, because he wanted to base the  firing of James Comey on a DOJ recommendation.   This fabricated excuse failed when Trump explained on national television, in an interview with Lester Holt, that he was going to fire Comey anyway over his handling of the “Russian thing.”    So,  Trump blew his own pretext.

I think Trump knew the Rosenstein letter wasn’t going to fool anyone.    It would make no sense to go all the way back to events of July 5, 2016 in firing someone in May 2017.    It was quickly pointed out, that two of the three errors committed by Comey, as claimed by Rosenstein,  actually helped Trump get elected (Error #2, the “extremely careless” comment about Clinton, and Error #3, letter to Congress on the eve of the election, re-opening the email case).

I believe Trump or someone within the White House did edits on Rosenstein’s initial draft.    A second author added that Comey had failed to repented for his sins.  I believe the second author came up with subject line: Restoring the Public Confidence in the FBI.     This sounds much more as a heavy handed political statement than a legal one, and I don’t think it came from Rosenstein.

It was a dumb argument, that Comey should have admitted his faults and kowtowed to either Trump or Obama, and immediately ask for forgiveness.   Admitting your wrong, is never an option in the Trump administration.   The proper thing, is to quietly resign, so you do not disgrace Trump.     It was so dumb, that it had to have come from the White House.

I believe three edits were made:  (1) the subject of the letter,  (2) the opening statement and (3) the final paragraph.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has long been regarded as our nation’s premier federal investigative agency. Over the past year, however, the FBI’s reputation and credibility have suffered substantial damage, and it has affected the entire Department of Justice. That is deeply troubling to many Department employees and veterans, legislators and citizens. 

Final paragraph:

Although the President has the power to remove an FBI director, the decision should not be taken lightly. I agree with the nearly unanimous opinions of former Department officials. The way the Director handled the conclusion of the email investigation was wrong. As a result, the FBI is unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a Director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them. Having refused to admit his errors, the Director cannot be expected to implement the necessary corrective actions.

Of course,  the extraordinary circumstances of the Clinton email scandal  –   unfounded claims by Trump at rallies and tweets,  together with highly partisan House and Senate oversight committees,  and political commentators on Fox News,  in a desperate attempt to diminish respect for the FBI and  influence the electorate – had zero chance of ever being repeated.  Rosenstein would not have written about the “necessary corrective steps”  –  far too vague.

If anyone had diminished confidence in the FBI,  it was Donald Trump.  And he’s still at it, but the scope has broaden to include the Department of Justice, the New York Times, the Washington Post and Amazon, which owns the Post.   Now, public enemy also includes CNN.

I begin with the part that came from Rosenstein.   His  memo claims Comey made two errors of judgement in his press conference of July 5, 2016, then a third error of judgement in his letter to Congress on October 28, 2016.   It is not cited that he broke any laws or rules, but went against tradition and policy norms.   Error #1 was to announce that the evidence against Hillary Clinton were not sufficient to warrant prosecution.   He had usurped the authority of the Attorney General.   This helped Hillary Clinton.   Then he said that Hillary Clinton was extremely sloppy in her handling of classified documents.  His hurt Hillary Clinton, but at least she could put the email scandal behind her in the critical last four months before the election.   Comey has defended his actions on July 5, 2016 saying that he took his unusual action, because of the extraordinary circumstances.

The extraordinary circumstances  were (1) The June 27, 2016 meeting between AG Lynch and Bill Clinton, at the Phoenix airport, for 20 minutes.  This meeting  has been portrayed repeatedly by Trump as backroom deal to get “Crooked Hillary” off the hook for a charge of criminal gross negligence and (2) Lynch had already stated that she would follow the recommendations of the FBI report on the email scandal.

Trump lost no time in the campaign to claim this meeting showed deep corruption in the FBI and the Department of Justice.    Trump tweeted immediately after the tarmac meeting:

Take a look at what happened w/ Bill Clinton. The system is totally rigged. Does anybody really believe that meeting was just a coincidence?

As Bernie Sanders said, Hillary Clinton has bad judgement. Bill’s meeting was probably initiated and demanded by Hillary!

So, the Trump absurd version of events, is that Hillary Clinton, although out of the Obama administration for 3 years, could still demand a meeting between Loretta Lynch and her husband.

Trump took the collusion/conspiracy theory one step further, claiming there was proof that the elite media was part of a broader cover up in Aug 2017:

E-mails show that the Amazon Washington Post and the Failing New York Times were reluctant to cover the Clinton/Lynch secret meeting in plane

The emails that Trump refers to,  are requests for information from the Washington Post and New York Times to the DOJ.   Of course, the DOJ doesn’t respond.   To get information, it’s important to downplay its importance, as “just want to clear up a few loose ends.”   These tricks, I don’t think work.

Error #3, the letter to Congress on October 28, 2016 certainly  helped Trump win the election.   Emails from Clinton’s private server were found on Anthony Weiner’s laptop.   Now, for those that enjoy conspiracy theories (like Trump) this was solid gold.   From Wikipedia:

Law enforcement officials stated while investigating allegedly illicit text messages from Anthony Weiner husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin, to a 15-year-old girl in North Carolina, they discovered emails related to Clinton’s private server on a laptop computer belonging to Weiner. On November 6, Comey notified Congress that the FBI had not changed its conclusion reached in July. The notification was later cited by Clinton as a factor in her loss in the 2016 presidential election.

Comey defended his actions, stating he had promised Congress that he would advise them if they found any new evidence, that warranted the re-opening of the case.

Rosenstein correctly states that other past Attorney Generals had similar criticisms of Comey, including Eric Holder, AG under Obama.   Holder begins his criticism with Error #3, and not to announce an investigation of a candidate to congress  just prior to an election.

I have a lot of respect for legal professionals.  They usually craft their arguments well.  This is why I believe the letter was edited to support the case of firing Comey.

Comey likely made it easier for Trump to win.   Trump, not Comey,  is diminishing respect for the DOJ,  FBI and other institutions, such as the free press.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

The Atlantic:  Rosenstein’s Case Against Comey, Annotated

Newsweek: Trump’s comments on the tarmac meeting

TRUMP: Hillary ‘probably’ demanded controversial meeting between Bill Clinton and Loretta Lynch

Wikipedia:  Hillary Clinton’s email scandal

 

Trump’s disastrous trip to France

This is the Aisne-Marne Cemetery, which Trump did not visit on his trip to France due to rain.   John Kelly, Trump’s Chief of Staff, and  Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joe Dunford attended in his place.

The cemetery lies 55 miles from Paris.   President Macron and Chancellor Merkel were there in the rain.   US forces suffered 9,700 casualties there in World War I.   The occasion was the 100th year anniversary of the end of World War I.   Neither Pence nor Trump visited Arlington Cemetery on  Veteran’s Day on November 11.   Other cabinet officials attended the ceremonies there.

In sum, a horrible Veteran’s day all around, for a President who talks like he is the greatest defender of our military forces.   The day following the cancelled cemetery visit,  Trump visited the American cemetery in Paris, but complained about the lack of reporting.   Wow!   What was he expecting?  A Trump rally in Paris.

Trump’s trips are becoming a national embarrassment.   The only times he seems to excel is at Trump rallies.  The  desk plaque with the words “just let it go”  or at least “back off” might be appropriate.   He seems rather to intensify and expand his attacks to include Macron’s approval rating and French wine.  It all seemed a familiar tactic to change the subject.

His tweet storm against Macron are quite silly and petty.   Macron was elected by 66% of the voters in France, while Trump lost the popular vote.  In September 2018, polls showed Macron’s popularity has plummeted, so Trump’s tweet is correct, with Macron’s popularity far below Trump’s, in the range of 19 to 25%.  However, approximately 20% were undecided.   A recently proposed  program to help the poor in France will likely help Macron’s popularity.

Well, Macron started it!

What set Trump off on his first attack Tweet, as an interview that Macron gave, when he tweeted:

Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the US, China and Russia. But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two – How did that work out for France?”

Nope.  Macron said that they have to defend themselves against cyber attacks,  from other countries.  However, in later speeches, Macron did discuss a  European military force,  an obvious push back to Trump’s threats to pull out of NATO, because the other countries are not paying their fair share.   Merkel has been supportive of a European military force.

Bottom line

This was supposed to be a commemoration of heroic events as lead by American forces making the ultimate sacrifice.  Trump complains about the reporting (television coverage) and cancels his cemetery visit.

I asked a close German friend if anyone in Germany likes Trump, and his response was a simple, “No.” Winston Churchill’s grandson, I think really nailed it, with one word, “pathetic.”

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Wikipedia: The Battle for Belleau Woods

It takes enormous bravery to fight and die as these Americans did on French soil.

Trump Trip to Pay Tribute to U.S. Fallen Canceled in French Rain

The French Local: Trump trolls Macron over approval ratings, unemployment, the Nazi occupation and wine

Macron Fails to Convince Four-Fifths of French, Poll Shows (Sept 2018 poll)

 

 

Bolsonaro: International cooperative agreements (Part 1)

I will provide both English and Portuguese versions of these two  blogs.    The translations were done by Google and likely contain errors.   I would strongly recommend the two links listed below.

In about 10 days,  Brazilians will go to the poll and elect either Jair Bolsonaro or  Fernando Haddad.   I fear Bolsonaro will follow down the same path of Donald Trump,  as a destroyer of international cooperative agreements.    I fear Brazilians do not fully understand the vital role their country plays in global warming and the absolute necessity for aggressive governmental policies to protect  the Amazon.

Because of Donald Trump’s terrible record on environmental protection, I hope my country can find a new leader in year 2020.   Donald Trump never apologizes for his misguided policies.  He lies constantly, and exaggerates their success.

The US in the last century endured starvation in the 1930’s during an economic depression  and then a horrific world war,  where 60 million people around the world died.   This was my parent’s world.  From the ashes of  war, came a new cooperative international spirit,   which is best exemplified by the creation of the United Nations.   Trump has weaken the UN.  Bolsonaro will follow Trump.

The UN was designed to settle disputes among nations.   One of the greatest achievements of the UN was the ratification of the Iran Nuclear Pact,  which subjected the country of Iran to thorough inspections of its facilities in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.    The US will soon be in direct violation of this agreement.

The UN Paris Climate Accord was a major breakthrough in international recognition on global warming as a threat to our planet.    Brazil is a vital partner in halting the deforestation of the Amazon.   It shares this responsibility with Peru,  Columbia, Venezuela and Ecuador.

Jair Bolsonaro has little interest in building the bonds of cooperation, and working through the UN in this effort.  Per the New York  Times:

In the Amazon, illegal loggers, miners, land-grabbers, as well as large land owners have rallied to his banner. Here, they don’t expect Bolsonaro to enforce the law. On the contrary, the hope is that he fulfils his promise to obliterate nearly all environment and pro-indigenous legislation. He won massive support in rural central western states and all but one Amazonian state.

In August, Bolsonaro raised  concerns internationally when he pledged to join Trump’s US and withdraw Brazil from the Paris agreement. That means the country would no longer be committed to curb its emissions from the deforestation of the Amazon, which is here a bigger source of greenhouse gas than the burning of fossil fuels.

Brazil can of course still insist that the US auto emissions are to blame, or India’s burning of coal.  In the end,  global warming is disastrous for the entire planet, just as World War 2 was.    We are one planet.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/09/brazils-bolsonaro-would-unleash-a-war-on-the-environment

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

Carla

No I am not talking about the next hurricane. It really wouldn’t make sense because they go in alphabetical order.  I an talking about the avocado named Carla.  Oh gee, that Carla.  And it hasn’t got a thing to do about the movie, “Fish called Wanda”, starring John Cleese (wrote the screenplay), Jaime Lee Curtis, and Kevin Kline.   I’ll  add, as a completely unnecessary politically charged aside,  Cleese described Donald Trump in 2016 as, “a narcissist, with no attention span, who doesn’t have clear ideas about anything and makes it all up as he goes along” for the sole purpose of gaining some attention to the topic of avocados.  I suspect this sums up just about everything said about Trump in a slew of books including Woodward’s Fear,  Omarosa’s Unhinged, and Johnston’s It’s worse than you think, none of which I’ve read.

Now, after that bizarre tangent,  I return to the topic,  avocado named Carla.  Big,  light green smooth skin avocado are grown in Florida.  They are sold in the US and around the world.   Carla is one variety.   The avocados grown in California, are Hass varieties,  and are smaller, bumpy  dark green skinned ones.   Rudolf Hass patented this variety and the original tree that produced the Hass variety still stands in La Habra Heights, California.

Now, Carla is a patented variety, and the allegation is another grower is illegally making copies of this variety:

Agroindustria Ocoeña, the Dominican company that holds a U.S. patent for the Carla, is suing a Miami produce distributor, Fresh Directions International, claiming that it is illegally selling Carlas in South Florida from another grower. They aren’t knock-off avocados either, the lawsuit argues. DNA tests show they are virtual Carla clones, which the suit suggests can mean only a grifted graft — somebody pruned and pilfered Carla tree branches to recreate their own orchard.

Growers routinely graft. It means growing one variety to provide the roots and initial trunk of the tree (rootstock) and then taking a cutting from another variety (scion wood) and attaching (grafting) it on to create a nearly identical plant.   It is both a science and art, which has been in practice for at least 4,000 years in China.  See last link.    Avocados can be easily grown from seed, but to obtain consistent trees, with high yields, and disease resistance,  only grafted plants are sold from nurseries, at least in Florida.

The single tree that produced the first Carla avocados was discovered by Carlos Antonio Castillo Pimentel in 1994 in his orchard in the Ocoa River Valley. The Miami Herald article then goes on to say that they don’t know why it is called “Carla”  yet I think if it was pure marketing,  as a tasty Carla is better than a tasty Carlos.  Is this sexist?

Now, just looking at a tree, it would be really tough to know what variety was used as the scion wood.   But the crux of the Miami case against Fresh Directions, will be that DNA testing of the fruit can prove that they are growing the Carla variety.    Of course, the lawyers in Miami had to go into the supermarkets and buy a lot of avocados for testing.   And afterwards I guess you don’t have to preserve the evidence except a small sample, as the Miami Herald article quotes one of them as saying, “We ended up eating a lot of guacamole.”

I think the Carla’s will continued to be sold, whether they are legal or illegal from the perspective of the patent owner.  I think it’s all about collecting royalties, which the courts will decide.  It may be tough to collect if the company is headquartered in the Dominican Republic.  The patent was filed in 2006 and is for 15 years.   For everyone’s benefit, an out of court agreement might be best.

Avocados are super foods.   They make terrific smoothies,  particularly with bananas and mango juice.   See recipe at end.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Is your avocado an illegal clone? Grower sues Miami competitor over trendy hot-seller

M&S launches the giant ‘Carla’ avocado that is FIVE times bigger and weighs 1kg

Hass or Haas Avocados 

Grafting and Budding Nursery Crop Plants

https://food52.com/recipes/22704-green-smoothie-with-avocado

 

Secret diplomacy

Donald Trump and Vladmir Putin met in private in Helsinki on Monday for little over two hours.   There are those in the media and in Congress who think they have a right to know what was discussed.   Perhaps the translator took notes?  I find this absurd.   There is an absolute need to keep  sensitive diplomatic discussions private.   Congress leaks information, and they seem immune to prosecution.   Congress wanted all kinds of information after the Iran deal was completed.   I remember one Republican congressman asking John Kerry if he used his cell phone to send text messages.  Republicans  went totally nuts on Benghazi,  and deleted personal emails   They hold closed door sessions to protect confidentiality, then immediately following the interview, publicly  smear the person who testified.   Last victim was Lisa Page.

Private is private.  Democrats need to act like adults in the room.

I am working on a bit longer piece on the Helsinki disaster.   Just thought I’d get this one out first.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Peter Strzok – You’re it

I notice that when people have some trash to get rid of, they tend to dump it somewhere where there is already a lot of trash.  I think Mr. Jeffries got it right:

“There is a criminal investigation into the Trump campaign and possible crimes related to the 2016 presidential election involving collusion with Russian spies to sell out our democracy and hijack the presidency,” said Representative Hakeem Jeffries, Democrat of New York. “My colleagues in the cover-up caucus don’t like that criminal investigation, and therefore, they need to identify a villain. Mr. Strzok, tag, you’re it.”

There about 1,000 summaries of the hearing on the internet, but I still like Mr. Jeffries the best.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

oops

The prior post wasn’t done – and it went out by mistake.  An updated version of Bluster, Brag and Diplomacy is available on my website.   Thanks and I’ll be more careful in the future.

World Cup Soccer

If you’ve been missing your loved one for the past week or so, because he/she said they were going to a friend’s house to watch the game, I have written this blog for you.

Futbol, football, soccer – it is the world’s sport.   The word goal is pronounced G O O O O O O L. There are millions of fanatic fans of this sport.  They paint their faces, carry all kinds of annoying “musical” instruments, and scream at television sets across the globe.  It’s great.

The World Cup began with teams from 32 countries, at least one representative from each continent (well except Antarctica).   The first series of games (round of 16)  eliminated half the countries using a point system.   Out of the game are a slew of countries which were underdogs:  Australia, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Senegal  and Nigeria. If Nigeria had won, all 51 countries in Africa would celebrate for weeks.  Africa will celebrate anyway.   I thought Mexico would enter the semi-finals.

Now we are in the quarter finals. with games as follows:  July 6,  Uruguay x France  (morning) ,  Brazil x Belgium (afternoon),  July 7: Sweden x England (morning),  Russia v. Croatia (afternoon).   The morning and afternoon stuff is just for those in my time zone (Eastern US).  Others likely will have to tape the first game.

So, after Friday, we will know the 4 teams headed for the semi-finals.  Who does the world want to win?  I think Brazil and Uruguay.   And Croatia, because they seem to be happy and nobody knows where this country is  (except its in Eastern Europe) or their language. And Sweden because nobody expects them to win.  What country does the world not want to win?   I think Russia.  It’s because of mean spirited Putin.  But the Russians definitely know how to  party and they are very friendly.  Just, they aren’t a third world country.  My guess is Belgium v. Brazil for the finals.  Personally, I’m rooting for Brazil.   I can always update this post after the cup is over, to show how brilliant I was at picking the winner.

On July 15, 2018,  the final match takes place starting at 11:00 am.  The FIFA website http://www.fifa.com is excellent on details.

Your loved ones may re-appear sometime after this.  If not, then maybe they left for other reasons or are still hung over.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

The Luna – all’s fair in love and war

And in divorce.   Particularly if your name is Farhad Akhmedov,  a Russian billionaire, who married Tatiana Akmedova in 1993.   The Luna is a yacht, but as today’s New York Times describes it, “With a spa, a swimming pool, two heliports, and room for 18 guests, the Luna is more like a floating villa than a yacht.”  It is worth about 500 million dollars. It has been awarded to Farhad’s ex-wife in 2016, but she’s been unable to gain possession of the yacht.

The divorce war began in 2013, when Tatiana filed for divorce in the UK.  All seemed to be settled in December 2016, when the High Court ordered poor Fakhad to pay his ex-wife, the equivalent of $646 million dollars.   When he refused, and the judge could not force payment,  he ordered him to turn over the yacht to his ex-wife.

It’s not like burying the family jewels in a coffee can somewhere on a farm.  This thing is huge – 380 feet long.    Just in case of any attack, it has an anti-missile detection system, an anti-drone system and bulletproof windows and bombproof doors.    Almost forgot the mini-submarine, and the 8 relatively smaller boats that it carries.

Fakhad’s assets are incredible, with houses in France and England, a private plane and a couple of helicopter.  His net worth is pegged at 1.4 billion dollars.

The Luna went from  Germany, to Norway and finally Dubai.   In Germany, it underwent a 50 million dollar refit.  Once it got to Dubai, it was impounded by authorities.

Farhad had challenged the divorce in a number of ways.  He claimed he was already divorced in Russian court, but the UK court found the documents were forged.  He transferred ownership to a handful of companies controlled by Farhad and his allies, in the Isle of Man, Panama, and Liechtenstein.  Finally the yacht ended up in a family trust with the name Straight.  UK Judge Haddon-Cave stated the trust was “the antithesis   of its name.”  Cute.  On April 19, 2018, he ordered the yacht to be given to Tatiana, so Farhad handed her the keys and wished her well.

Ok, the last bit about handing over the yacht never happened.  Instead, Farhad is going to the Dubai courts, hoping for  a judgment that says the British order to transfer the yacht is unenforceable in Dubai.   His trump card:  he claims to be Muslim.  His wife is Christian.  Yet his wife claims he’s not a practicing Muslim, however he has given generously to restoration of mosques.     Farhad want this to be considered a matrimonial issue to be decided by local Shariah law in Dubai, which could go bad for Tatiana.

All eyes are on the Dubai courts. The Court of Appeal of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) said that the country’s lower court had no power to seize the ship – and agreed with lawyers acting for the family trust which owns the yacht on May 10, 2018.   The yacht isn’t going anywhere right now as a further court hearing will be held in July 2018 in Dubai.   I’m certain what Farhad wants is for the courts to accept his line, that the marriage was dissolved in Russia back in 2000.  It’s pretty crazy as they were together for 13 years following the divorce.

Tatiana is ready  to settle out of court while  Farhad wants to win at all costs.  His lawyer stated, “He (Farhad) would rather see the Luna rot in the Dubai heat than see it handed over to Tatiana.”

Dubai is hot in July – and even hotter inside the courthouse, where the Luna could end up (a) Sold by Tatiana,  (b) Back to Farhad, or (c) A rusted old yacht at the bottom of the sea.

Links:

https://www.superyachtfan.com/superyacht/superyacht_luna.html

Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5713091/Billionaire-oligarch-centre-UKs-costliest-divorce-wins-latest-battle-ex-wife-yacht.html

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

https://www.irishtimes.com/business/financial-services/russian-billionaire-s-400m-superyacht-given-to-former-wife-in-divorce-case-1.3467568

 

Trump’s Approval Rating

The Gallup poll has surveyed the president’s approval rating for 13 presidents from Truman to Trump.   Arbitrarily,  I’ve decided that a 75% approval means that there is strong support for the president’s recent decisions.  Getting above 75% is tough, and it doesn’t last long.      I drew a 25% approval line, which shows only three presidents hit this line or were really close:   Truman, Nixon and George W. Bush.    These were presidents during the Korean, Vietnam and Iraq wars.   But,  Nixon’s sharp drop in popularity was tied to Watergate.

So,  let’s make this real easy.  Over 75%, the country loves their president (more or less) and under 25%, we hate our president.   In between these two extremes,  a well liked president is able to be above the 50% line, and a not so liked president will be under 50% approval.    Many presidents start at high approvals  and go into a slump towards  the end of the term.   This is true for all presidents,  except Clinton, who started low and ended high.

Three presidents (Truman, Nixon, and George W.  Bush) all went above the 75% “we love you” line and managed to end their term very close to the 25% “we hate you” line.   Truman still holds the record of low approval rating, at 22%, with a slight uptick towards the end of his term, which ended in Jan 1953.     Eisenhower ended the Korean conflict, and enjoyed a number of  pops over the “we love you” line.

All this makes sense, as a president has a certain “honeymoon period” where people are cutting him a lot of slack because he’s new on the job.  After some time, and finding out that everything the candidate promised, is not what the president elect can deliver, there should be disappointment in the president.

So, let’s get to Obama’s line,  going into a slump about two years into his first term, crossing below 50%, but crossing back above 50% towards the end.   Of course, Obama got very  high ratings from Democrats and very  low ratings from Republicans.

What really distinguishes Trump’s approval rating, is the lack of variation, as compared to all the other presidents.  He started at 45% approval rating in his first 9 days in office, which dropped to 35% in August 2017, and the most recent surveys show a 42% rating (as of May 6, 2018).

There has certainly been a lot of misinformation out there, coming  particularly from Donald Trump.  His approval ratings do not seem to be impacted at all by the Michael Cohen/ Stormy Daniels scandal.   One reason,  is the Republicans  still love him at an 87% approval rating, and Democrats still hate him, with a 9% approval rating.   These numbers change only a few percent with each new survey.  If the country can be assumed divided 50/50 between Republicans and Democrats, then Trump would have a 48% approval.  Independents drag down his approval,  they have only 33% approval rating of Trump.

I’m getting pretty tired of hearing about how Trump’s approval ratings have soared with minorities, particularly blacks.   There was a 15% approval rating when he was elected president, and it’s 13% now.   Basically, since election day,  they have hated him.   Obama had a 91% approval rating and it stayed pretty much that way throughout his term.   Hispanics also hate Trump with a 22% approval rating, that is basically a flat line, never once crossing above 25% line.   Obama’s approval rating with Hispanics varied,  from 85% to 44%,  so he wasn’t consistently above the “we love you” line.

So, all this stuff about Trump being more popular with blacks or Hispanics  is nonsense.   When approval ratings are very low, there is more statistical variation of the results, particularly when only one small subset is examined.   Also, some polls use only people who were registered to vote in the last election.    Or they survey people who say they intend to vote in the next election.   These factors can make a difference.

Obama never got a “we love you” or “we hate you”  approval rating, and I suspect this will never happen with Trump.   Obama followed a Democratic agenda, had extremely strong support from Democrats,  and very little support from Republicans.  Vice versa with Trump, but the outcome is similar, a lack of variation in poll numbers, as compared to prior presidents.    Perhaps in the past, we focused more on the president himself and now it is more the party’s policy he represents.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Politifact.com: Trump’s False claim that his presidential approval rating is ‘not bad’

Politifact.com:  Donald Trump’s misleading claim that Kanye West’s praise doubled his African-American support

Gallup Poll on Presidential Approval Ratings

The 538 website compares Trump’s popularity (green line) with the 12 prior presidents.

https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/trump-approval-ratings/

NYT: Trump Falsely Claims His Approval Among Black Americans Has Doubled

Is Donald Trump’s Approval Rating the Lowest in Recent History Before an Inauguration?

Comey’ Book: A Higher Loyalty

It is number 1 on Amazon’s best seller list.  Amazon was accepting pre-orders, and my copy arrived yesterday as promised.   The White House has made James Comey out to be public enemy #1, but he was well liked under both Republican and Democrats alike.   He was confirmed as FBI Director by the Senate 93 to 1.  I’m not bothering listening to Comey’s interviews, nor the White House or Fox’s  hourly attacks on Comey.  I’m too busy reading his book.   I used to subscribe to a stock advisory newsletter, whose motto was jokingly, “Frequently wrong but never in doubt.”  I think this applies to Trump.    Comey was the exception,  “Frequently right, but usually in doubt.”

The strongest asset of a democracy is an informed public. This is Comey’s memoir from the vantage point of  the highest level of  law investigation and enforcement.  It should be read from cover to cover, ignoring  the noise coming from Washington and the media.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

Search warrant for Michael Cohen, Trump’s Personal Lawyer

It appears to me nothing illegal or unethical or disgraceful has occurred. Prosecutors know about white collar crime, and they are just following the money. Attorney-client privileges are not absolute, meaning what is a lawyer’s computer or cellphone can never be seen by law enforcement officers. But it has to be done through the courts based on probable cause. Court decisions acknowledge the need for confidentiality in the defense of clients and this has resulted in more rules in law office searches, designed to protect privileged information.  There are exceptions.   President Trump has stated repeatedly he had no knowledge of hush money being paid to Stormy Daniels or the contract, so the client-attorney privilege is gone in this particular matter.

The potential criminal charges against Trump’s personal lawyer are bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations. This is serious stuff. The search warrant was executed on part by a referral from Robert Mueller’s office. The decision to seek a warrant was in the office of the Southern District of New York. The lead US Attorney for the Southern District is Geoffrey Berman, who is a recent Trump appointee. Only the courts can approve a warrant based on probable cause. All the specifics on the rationale for the search warrant are confidential by law. The American people do not have the right to know everything – and that’s how our justice system has always operated for the good.

Before anything is given to prosecutors, there must be an initial neutral examination of the seized material as explained below, and more completely in the second link:

The critically important interests protected by the attorney-client and work product privileges can be preserved only if the seized materials are examined by a neutral judicial officer, or by a Special Master appointed for this purpose, to determine which materials are or are not encompassed within the privileges. Such a safeguard is essential, as a number of courts have recognized.

 

This means what was seized by the FBI, is in the control of a court appointed neutral judicial officer. The person would have no connection to Michael Cohen, the Justice Department or the Southern District of NY.
Will Michael Cohen sue for irreparable harm to his practice? Absolutely. Will he get the blessings from the legal establishment to push back? Maybe. Will he be indicted? I haven’t a clue. Will this help Mueller’s investigation? Ditto.

There’s a whole pile of other questions, which no one on the outside can answer. For the time being, it appears to me nothing illegal or unethical or disgraceful has occurred.

Stay tuned,
Dave

Links:

National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers,  Challenging the Law Office Search,  Weinberg and Homan, 1996.

The above link in from 1996.   The Fourth Amendment provides all Americans the right against unreasonable searches.  The sixth amendment provides the right to legal counsel.   Many of the rules governing legal search warrants have been the result of various court cases.   The protections available through the Fourth Amendment were strengthened by the Mapp v. Ohio court decision, which made excluded all evidence obtained illegally to be used in any court proceeding  in the US (exclusionary rule).  If the FBI breaks into an office, without first obtaining a legal search warrant, then none of the information from the search is admissible.

Privilege (evidence)

Privilege belongs to the client.  If Trump had stated that Cohen acted on his behalf, then he could use attorney-client privilege to shield Cohen.  Instead, he denied knowing anything about the payoff, so the claim of privilege evidence is gone.  It also appears that more liberal judges, tend to be give more weight to client’s rights in attorney-client privileges, than to the law enforcement’s needs.  The Andresen v. Maryland case upheld the legitimacy of the search warrant over the dissent of Brennan and Marshall.

Trump lashes out as Cohen raid fuses Russia probe and Stormy case

I’m really don’t think “fuses” is the right word.   Robert Mueller really separated his probe from Michael Cohen case, when he handed it off the the Southern District office.  It seems Trump wants to lump them together as one grand conspiracy.

Trump’s economic advisors

“It is a horrible deal, really horrible, but we’re going to fix that”

This is any particular quote from Trump but applicable to many accords – from NAFTA, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and to many bilateral accords, most recently his attack on he  South Korean Trade Agreement.   The same quote can be said of the Iran Nuclear deal and the Paris Accords on Climate Change Mitigation.   Everything is blamed on prior administrations, but most of the blame still goes to President Obama.

A minor case in point –  on January 12, 2018,  Trump cancelled a trip to the US embassy in London, citing Obama poor decision in moving the Embassy at a cost of 1.2 billion dollars.   It was decided upon by President Bush and not Obama.   Trump rarely lets facts get in his way.

Gary Cohen,  was the head of the National Economic Council,  and chief economic advisor to Trump.   He is generally accredited for Trump’s tax cut and jobs program, signed into law on December 22, 2017.   On March 6, 2018,  Gary Cohen resigned in March, just before the imposition of tariffs on aluminum and steel.  It was widely reported that he was against the tariffs.  Larry Kudlow has been appointed to this position.   Kudlow is a strong believer in  supply-side economics, which means that a cut in federal taxes, will stimulate the economy sufficiently to make up for the loss in tax revenue.  He been dead wrong a number of times, beginning with the opinion that tax increases would dampen the economy during the Clinton administration.  Just the reverse happened, and the economy boomed after this.

Kudlow was a strong advocate of George W. Bush’s substantial tax cuts, and argued that the tax cuts would lead to an economic boom of equal magnitude. After the implementation of the Bush tax cuts, Kudlow insisted year after year that the economy was in the middle of a “Bush boom”, and chastised other commentators for failing to realize it. Kudlow firmly denied that the United States would enter a recession in 2007, or that it was in the midst of a recession in early to mid-2008. In December 2007, he wrote: “The recession debate is over. It’s not gonna happen. Time to move on. At a bare minimum, we are looking at Goldilocks 2.0. (And that’s a minimum). The Bush boom is alive and well. It’s finishing up its sixth splendid year with many more years to come”. In a May 2008 column entitled “‘R’ is for ‘Right,'” Kudlow wrote: “President George W. Bush may turn out to be the top economic forecaster in the country”. By July 2008, Kudlow continued to deny that the economy was looking poor, insisting that “We are in a mental recession, not an actual recession.” Lehman Brothers collapsed in September 2008, creating a full-blown international banking crisis.

Larry Kudlow is well educated, articulate and  very straight forward.  He has been a regular commentator on MSNBC.  His comments is generally appreciated, as he is well informed.  However,  he has been frequently wrong on the basic moves of the economy, I believe because of his philosophical perspective of less government intervention.   This has been chronicled in a book entitled Superforecasting (2015).   The book explains how experts in various fields, do no better than amateurs.

Two key advisers right now, are Peter Navarro, Director of the National Trade Council  and Wilbur Ross,  Secretary of the Commerce Department.   In many administrations, these organizations and individuals might not receive much attention, as they engage in behind the scenes negotiations on trade and commerce.   However,  as fears of a trade war with China,  intensify and concerns of the impact on our economy is debated,  these two individuals are increasingly in the media, particularly in the business news reporting.

Peter Navarro is a very controversial figure at present.  Wikipedia labels him as a heterodox economist, with opinions  outside of the mainstream economistss.   He is also considered a protectionist and isolationist by Wikipedia.   According to the Guardian:

Navarro was a key architect of Trump’s “America First” policy of economic nationalism and a tireless critic of China’s economic policies – one of his books is decorated with a map of America being stabbed in the heart with a knife marked Made in China. Although he has agitated for aggressively protectionist trade policy since joining the Trump campaign in 2016, the tariffs are his first key victory. During the campaign, Navarro, the only economics PhD in the Trump team, described his role as merely a facilitator. “The president – he’s the man who leads,” he told the Wall Street Journal. “He says, ‘I want to do this. How do we do it?’ The way I help is figuring out how you might do it.”

Protectionism, or economic nationalism?  Perhaps the choice of words doesn’t matter; it is the outcomes in the long run that are important.   I’ve included links on Peter Navarro at the end of this blog.

Finally,  a key adviser to Donald Trump is  Wilbur Ross.   His view on trade, as per Wikipedia:

On the subject of foreign trade, Ross has said: “I am not anti-trade. I am pro-trade, but I’m pro-sensible trade. [Being anti-trade] is a disadvantage of the American worker and the American manufacturing community.” Ross has also said that the government “should provide access to our markets to those countries who play fair, play by the rules and give everybody a fair chance to compete. Those who do not should not get away with it – they should be punished.” Initially in favor of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Ross has said that after examining the agreement, he found it was “not consistent with what was advertised.”[34]

In 2004, The Economist described Ross’s views as protectionist. Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel has also voiced concerns during 2018 World Economic Forum in Davos over Ross and the Trump administration views as “not the proper answer”.  Ross, at the 2018 World Economic Forum, responded to concerns by noting that “There have always been trade wars. The difference now is U.S. troops are now coming to the ramparts.”

Wilbur Ross has appeared on a number of business news stations, including MSNBC, and I happen to like his straight forward answers to questions.  He always seems to be well prepared, informed and polite.   He chooses his words well.    However, he seems to underplay the affect of the proposed tariffs  might have on the stock market.

How the Trump trade wars will finally be resolved, is difficult to say.   Republican biased news stations say that in the end,   the hard position taken  by Trump will result in China yielding, particularly on intellectual property rights.  Other commentators see only an escalation of tariffs, as China would rather fight than be seen as having given in to the US.   Economic nationalism works on both continents, sometimes escalation is easier than compromise.  Certainly, the sell off in the stock market is based on the potential for a protracted battle.

As I publish this blog, the Dow is poised to drop around 500 points.

I have included a number of links on Cohen, Kudlow, Navarro and Ross.   All individuals  have extensive biographies available on the Internet.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Wikipedia:Wilbur Ross

Wikipedia:  Peter Navarro 

Peter Navarro, the economist shaping Trump’s economic thinking

Wikipedia:  Larry Kudlow

New York Times:  Larry Kudlow is the new favorite to replace Gary Cohen

Wikipedia:  Gary Cohen