Standing up for Trump

After criticizing Trump on a wide range of issues,  the New York Times came to Trump’s defense.      The incident began with the posting of  a video clip supposedly showing a 3 year old child in a wheelchair at the White House which alleged to show the child attempt to shake Trump’s hand, and Trump snubbed him.   It was all nonsense as  3 year olds move their hands around alot –   that’s what babies do!

This clip was pick up by a website called the washingtonjournal.com,  a highly biased website against Trump.  It had nothing to do with the CSPAN, Washington Journal broadcast.

It went viral quickly.  The well known author of Harry Potter books,  J.K. Rowlings tweeted how horrible Trump’s actions were, but later realized that she had been fooled.   Factcheck.org wrote,

Even ‘Harry Potter’ author J.K. Rowling, who criticized Trump on Twitter for the alleged snub, was misled by the video clip. Rowling later deleted her tweets and apologized to the family.

The NY Times ran a photo showing the president bending over, and in fact, shaking the hand of the child.   They also stated that J.K. Rowling apologized to the family for her error, but did not apologize to President Trump.

You can see New York Times professionalism in the article.

Link:  J.K. Rowlings apologizes for Anti-Trump Tweets (but not to Trump)

I always like the quote attributed to Mark Twain, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

While this would make a nice end to this blog, my curiosity got the better of me, and I wanted to know what  Twain really said.   Turns out,  the origins of  this  great quote may have come from Jonathan Swift in 1710, some 200 years before Twain’s death.

Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it

(See link at the end)

It is very interesting that printing presses were praised as spreading knowledge and creating a greater sense of an informed public essential for democracy and at the same time, spreading rumors and false stories.

Today,   the culprits for originating and disseminating falsehoods (I like this word) are websites, political radio stations, and news commentary television shows.  If you check out the “Pants on Fire” lies on Politifact, you will find they come mostly from bloggers, although some are attributed to comments made by Trump at events.

I admit to being a news snob.  What is nice about the mainstream print media is it can’t undone or updated, and it will be seen by experts on the particular topic.  So, journalists have to tread carefully on “breaking news.”  The New York Times and the Washington Post are not particularly good places for political hacks.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Pants on Fire

Quote investigator

Politifact.com

 

 

 

 

The Art of the Deal: Fixing Obamacare

Since the ACA was passed in 2010, the Republicans have predicted the eventual demise, either through court challenges or legislative repeal. President Trump nominated Tom Price as the Health and Human Services Department. He demonstrated a real knack of avoiding the question, and instead talking in general terms of what are the good intentions of the Department.  Spin all the positives possible.

The question Price would like to respond to, is: “Doesn’t the Department have the public’s best interest in mind when it comes to health care?” Or at least “Isn’t everything proposed by Republicans excellent, as compared to what we have.”

The link below is his interview on Meet the Press:

Youtube video: Meet the Press

He is correct that HHS administers five health plans.  He’d love to talk about the other 4 non-controversial plans.

Trump has tweeted repeatedly, is that he will never own Obamacare, just let it implode.   So Price as the plan’s administrator will be accused of neglecting the program for partisan purposes.

Now,  any fix of Obamacare will not happen with Tom Price as secretary.   What a fix would entail is increased subsidies for lower income families to encourage enrollment  massive advertising with reminders that people without insurance will face tax penalties.    It will take legislative action to fix Obamacare.

Trump could emerge on top, being the ultimate deal maker between feuding Democrats and Republicans.  To avoid alienating Republicans, he should never talk of a fix, but rather a merger of taking the best of both plans, and putting together one that will work for all Americans.    Call it a consolidated or reconciled bill or non-partisan bill.   Yes, that’s BS, but it’s the only BS that will work.   Price would be replaced by a real expert in healthcare systems.  Defunding of Planned Parenthood and abortion payments would not be part of the consolidated plan.

The Democrats have come up with a new slogan,  “A Better Deal” in which they will include a promise of a better health plan.   Trump would steal their thunder by endorsing what is basically their plan.

The Trump health plan would be despised by many Republicans, but now it would be the Republicans who would have to vote down something the Democrats support.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

 

South Sudan – Part 2: Relations to other countries

  • Climate Change and the US Withdrawal from the Paris Accords

Disease, famine and war have ravaged South Sudan.  Add the effects of climate change, for which the developed countries, including the US, EU, India and China bear responsibility for this.   The government revenues come from oil.  It is estimated that 95% of the population rely on subsistence farming.  Climate change is resulting in deforestation, destroying the timber industry.   The decline in timber resources is also due to illegal exports by other countries.

See links:  http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/war-torn-south-sudan-grave-risk-climate-change-48695857

(video is about Somalia, while the article is on South Sudan)

UN Report: http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/blog/2017/6/29/Confronting-climate-change-in-South-Sudan.html

According to the ABC news report:

At its climate change conference last month, South Sudan reaffirmed its commitment to the Paris climate agreement and criticized the U.S. withdrawal under President Donald Trump.  “Trump thinks climate change isn’t a reality,” says Lutana, South Sudan’s climate change director. “He should know that his pulling out won’t stop people from continuing to work on it.”

  • US and South Sudan 

The human rights violations by the South Sudanese government, as they terrorize the Nuer ethnic group are staggering and include the torture and  killing of children and women.   South Sudan has also purchased weapons from North Korea according to the UN.  For this reason, the US maintains trade sanctions against South Sudan.

Links: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnic_violence_in_South_Sudan  (this is pretty horrific)

Also:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Sudan

In January 2017,  in a goodwill gesture,  President Obama partially lifted some trade sanctions.  The partial lifting ended on July 12, 2017,  and was conditioned on South Sudan government showed progress in certain areas, including maintaining regional ceasefires, enhancing counter-terrorism cooperation, and improving humanitarian access.   If there wasn’t significant progress, President Trump would be able to re-instate the sanctions.   However,  the White House simply delayed a decision on sanctions for another 3 months.

The Special Envoy to South Sudan resigned in January 2017, and the Trump administration has yet to nominate a replacement.  Also the Trump adminstration has yet to nominate an Assistant to the Secretary of State for African Affairs.  The Secretary of State stated his intent to cut US foreign assistance programs (USAID) by 40%.

Links:  https://www.voanews.com/a/white-house-stance-on-south-sudan-unclear/3936540.html

The US is providing 199 million dollars in famine relief to South Sudan and neighboring counties.   Given that South Sudan is surrounded by six countries,  I am not sure how much will be spent on South Sudan.

Meanwhile other countries seem more interested in dealing with the government in making oil deals, than helping with the problems of disease and famine.   To export the oil, the oil flows through a pipeline to Port Sudan in the country of Sudan.  Sudan receives a cut of any South Sudanese oil which is exported.  Since Sudan is considered a state sponsor of terrorism, US oil companies are prohibited from participating in the oil development deals of South Sudan.

Links: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_South_Sudan

  • Recent Events

The President of South Sudan has threaten to kill journalists who write stories, that he considers “against the country.”  Thus the press is limited by intimidation and in some cases imprisonment.   Access to certain websites has been shut down.

Links: http://www.dw.com/en/south-sudan-blocks-access-to-independent-websites/a-39786961

I wish I could be more positive about South Sudan.  The crisis in the country should be a great concern to the developed world.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Qatar Stalemate

After the deadline ended, there was not  sufficient agreement among the Saudi coalition  to ratchet up the sanctions against Qatar. Food is being supplied by Turkey.   Military conflict appears off the table.   Tough talk comes mainly from the Saudi’s and foreign minister of the UAE.   Thus,  the softer partners in this conflict might be Egypt and Bahrain.    A settlement to restore relations with these countries might be a first step.   There has to be some concession from Qatar.  Germany is trying to be work with Qatar and other countries in finding a diplomatic solution.  I’m certain they do not want Russia to become involved, perhaps any more than they are already.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Happy Fourth of July

When the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, the American revolution had been ongoing for over a year.   It is really a masterpiece of brevity, clarity and restraint.  Although legislative and judicial branches of government existed in England, through various means, the King had usurped their authorities.  There is restraint in the document- the King is never mentioned by name (it was King George) nor is anyone else named.  It is the actions  of the King, rather than the person under attack.

The Preamble is famous for the single sentence:

 We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

This sentence does not require faith in a God or Creator, but a faith in equality of mankind.  If there is a single word that stand out,  it is “self-evident.”   It just says, that this is something we know to be true.     The liberties are not  particular benefits given to the people. Rather they are  something government can not take away from people.  They are “inalienable rights.”    Liberty as a fundamental right would extend from the emancipation of slaves to our participation in  World Wars I and II.

The Declaration is not a working document to define liberties.  Instead it  identifies the various actions  taken by the King in abusing his powers and usurping the power of the legislature and judiciary.  The document simply states the King, by his actions, did not respect the rights of the people.  The Bill of Rights as enacted 15 years after the Declaration, would specify the rights of Americans.  The Constitution has been amended many times in the 200 year history, to extend the rights of citizens.

The First Amendment states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Further rights as given in the amendments to the constitution are the right to a fair trial, right to be compensated when government confiscates personal properties, right against unreasonable searches and the right of all Americans to vote.   These are citizens’ civil rights.

As decided by the Supreme Court, each of these rights is binding on every law and regulation  at every level of government.   The powers of  the executive branch are kept in check by  the independence of the judiciary branch and the freedom of the press. The Supreme Court hears cases today regarding First Amendment rights- see post script at the end of this blog.

A well informed public is the best way basic liberties can be maintained.  I want to end this Fourth of July blog on a very positive note.   Freedom of the speech,  the independence of the courts and legislature,  and the concept of equality of mankind, irregardless of race, color or religion, are still our core values.    Democratic process is not the easiest way to get things done, nor are some of the results to everyone’s satisfaction, but the overall  system  is working quite well.

Enjoy the day!

Stay tuned,

Dave

PS: I will forgo adding links, but you may check out the latest Supreme Court ruling involving First Amendment Rights in the Trinity Lutheran Church case.   I hope to add more on religious freedom in future blogs.

You can find the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence at Wikipedia- happy searching.

Qatar – Criticism of the “Demand List” Grows

The demand list is short.   Clearly missing from this list, is any basis for the demands.

But, it is clear underlying these demands is  a general accusation  that Qatar supports terrorism.  It is accused of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood through commentary from the Al Jazeera news network.    The Muslim Brotherhood is recognized only by certain countries as a terrorist organization.

Further, it is accused of harboring terrorists within its country.   In this respect, we can welcome Qatar to the club as we too harbor “terrorists.”  Surprised!  They are only labeled terrorists by leaders outside of our country.

One US harbored terrorist is Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish national, who according to Wikipedia:

He is currently on Turkey’s most-wanted-terrorist list and is accused of leading what the current Turkish officials call the Gülenist Terror Organisation (Fethullahçı Terör Örgütü, FETÖ). A Turkish criminal court issued an arrest warrant for Gülen.  Turkey is demanding the extradition of Gülen from the United States.

Mr. Gulen is 76 years old, and came to the US in 1999 for medical reasons.  He was an ally of President Erdogan until the anti-corruption protests in 2013.  The US has refused to turn over Mr. Gulen, until it receives evidence of terrorist activities.   Why make a fuss over just one elderly man which has been convicted of crimes against Turkey?   Because of our values and national sovereignty.  Gulen has a US permanent visa.  Also, he has never advocated violence.   In fact he is very much against Islamic violence as follows:

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

President Erdogan’s definition of a terrorist is likely the same as Syrian President Assad, as anyone whose ideas might threaten the continuation of his regime.

President Obama did not hand over our “terrorists” without sufficient evidence of terrorist activities.  President Trump will do the same.  Qatar will do the same.

The demand to shut down Al Jazeera will fail.  Saudi Arabia can not tell a news network in another country what it can and cannot broadcast.

It is hoped that this list of demands will highlight the fact that the blockade led by Saudi Arabia  is political power grab  and has no role in the fight against Islamic jihadists.  It also shows how the Saudi’s “played” President Trump’s visit to their maximum advantage.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Republican Posturing on the Mueller Investigation

You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history – led by some very bad and conflicted people! #MAGA,” Trump tweeted last Thursday.

I don’t subscribe to Twitter.   I hope this is the last time I have to refer to anyone’s tweets.

Republican’s are posturing on questions about  Robert Mueller’s investigation.  Is it going to be impartial?  Is Trump going to be vindicated?

I believe the responses from Republicans follow  these approaches:  (1) Duck the question entirely,  (2) Call it a witch hunt or rigged investigation,  as if Democrats had wormed their way into Jeff Session’s Justice Department  or (3) State that the process must continue, it will be thorough and fair, and will vindicate  Trump.

First, how to duck the question. It is easy to  state,   “I’m not going there”, or “It’s far too early.”  Then add how special counsel in the past, such as Ken Starr’s investigation of Bill Clinton, seemed to never end.

A variation on the first approach is to bring in a boat load of accusations made against Hillary Clinton,  and state that if an investigation is needed, it is of all the wrong doing by her.    Of course, Jeff Sessions can investigate Hillary Clinton or anyone he wants to.

The second way, the full frontal assault (Newt Gingrich approach) and  slam Mueller for hiring biased staff.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich believes special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation is a “rigged game” because most of Mueller’s lawyers have donated to Democrats. On Tuesday, Gingrich criticized Mueller for not having pro-Trump attorneys on his team and addressed reports that three members of Mueller’s team have donated to Democrats. One lawyer even defended the Clinton Foundation. “He apparently couldn’t find a single pro-Trump attorney to hire, and I just think that’s a rigged game, and I think that it’s a mistake to pretend this is going to be some neutral investigation,” Gingrich said on CBS This Morning. “I don’t give the benefit of the doubt to somebody who could only hire Democrats but claims we ought to trust him.”

This claim of bias is obviously weak as observers say that Mueller is staffing up with an all star group of lawyers.     He knows Washington, and this is a super high stakes investigation.

The final approach is championed by Marco Rubio,  who I believe still has presidential aspirations.   Marco stated the following,  just after the Trump Cuban-American love fest for Fidel haters:

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Sunday defended special counsel Robert Mueller’s “stellar” reputation and ability to “conduct a full and fair and thorough investigation” on possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

“I believe he is going to conduct a full and fair and thorough investigation that we should have confidence in,” Rubio told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“I’ll continue to believe that based on his reputation and years of service to our country unless there’s any evidence to the contrary,” Rubio said.

Rubio’s comments contradict recent efforts by President Trump’s legal team to attack Mueller’s integrity as special counsel. The team is raising concerns that Mueller’s prior relationship with former FBI Director James Comey is a conflict in his ability to lead the investigation.

Trump’s legal team has left open the possibility Trump will fire Mueller as well.

Rubio also stated that he felt in the end, Trump would be cleared of any wrong doing.

Republicans can decide whether to go with Newt’s attack on Robert Mueller’s staff, or Rubio’s faith in the system.

During all this, the Democrats are probably best to say as little as possible.  They wanted an independent investigation, and they got one.  Beyond this, they should just keep their mouth shut about the ultimate outcome.  They should not respond to Trump’s persistent tweets.   If you are winning, don’t gloat.

It is exactly in line with Rubio, to just let the facts speak for themselves.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Marawi and a bullet in the throat

What gets on the front pages of most newspapers are events which are the most bloody and closest to home.   A third element, at least for the US newspapers, is some American must be involved.

For this reason, Mosul and Raqqa may get some notice, but the conflicts in Tora Bora and Marawi are no where to be found.  By the way,  in case you are totally lost, this is about active fighting against ISIL involving the  US military in Iraq,  Syria,  Afghanistan, and the Philippines.  Yes, the US is involved in the ISIS attack in the Philippines.

Marawi City in the Philippines was a vibrant city of 200,000 residents, but now it is a ghost town, according to the New York Times.    The fighting has been going on since May 23, 2017.  The US Special Forces are providing “security assistance and training”  and not involved in combat.  They are stationed within Camp Ranao, near Marawi.   The brave Philippine  military is doing the fighting.

I suspect the bullet lodged in throat of the Adam Harvey, reporter from ABC, Australia, will spark a bit of attention to this fight.

One would think that the President Duterte would be  very appreciative that the US is using its technology, particularly the P3 Orion spy planes, to help pinpoint air strikes and minimize civilian casualties.   Instead, he said on Sunday, that he never approached America for help and was unaware of American military assistance in Marawi.

Marawi is a long distance from Manila, but Duterte seems even further away,  oblivious to anything but radical action against drug traffickers.  Donald Trump could help the situation by sending the Philippine president a copy of the New York Times.  Not likely.

ISIS, I’m afraid, is on the prowl for the next city to seize.  Everyone expects a major advance in Indonesia,  but towns in  Malaysia are also a hot spot for attacks.

ISIL is not a Middle East problem, at least not now.   The land grabs and control of cities have occurred in the Middle East, Asian and Africa.   The terrorist attacks are obviously worldwide.  I am in strong support of an increased role for the US, and as we step up our assistance, the leaders of these countries need to recognize and appreciate our assistance.  We used to think that the US could at least dominate the air war, in any conflict.  Recent reports from Raqqa indicate ISIL are using drone attacks against its attackers.  So, it is critical to step up the conflict with anti drone weapons.

Adam Harvey tweeted that he was lucky and will recover.  I hope his luck continues.   I hope Felipe Villamor and other NYT reporters such as Richard Paddock continue their invaluable services in Marawi.   Wikipedia is also to be commended for keeping a chronology of events (see links).

Stay tuned,

Dave

Adam Harvey shot in the neck

Wikipedia on Marawi 

NYT, In Indonesia and the Philippines, militants find a common bond, ISIS

NYT,   Destroying a city to save it from ISIS

 

Comey is a leaker and a liar, NOT!

Comey was a private citizen when he provided information to a friend on a memo prepared  as a personal record of a discussion he had with President Trump.   This does not mean the memo itself was classified information.  He did not commit any crime.  If he did,  Attorney General Jeff Sessions would have thrown the book at him in an instant. Comey’s  version of events of his discussions in the oval office differs with President Trump’s version.   I believe Comey.  Both Republicans and Democrats have given James Comey high marks as honest and a straight shooter.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Fora Temer

If you are not Brazilian, the title of this blog likely means nothing. It literally means “Oust Temer.”  Brazilians hope that  their president will either be impeached or resign.  Currently, resignation does not appear to be likely.

My latest information is that in about six months time, Temer will be impeached on the grounds of corruption.  He never was elected, but took over after President Dilma Rousseff was impeached.

Dilma was sent packing in August 2016.   She became very unpopular in 2015 after Brazil’s economy went into recession due to falling commodity prices, most importantly oil and iron.  It was suspected that she had some involvement in the Car Wash (Lavo Jato) scandal, which involved kickbacks on contracts from Petrobras, but there was never any proof of this.  She was impeached due to “creative accounting” as follows:

Brazilian governments are required to meet budget surplus targets set in Congress. Ms Rousseff is accused of allowing creative accounting techniques involving loans from public banks to the treasury that artificially enhanced the budget surplus.

This gave the appearance that government accounts were in better shape than they actually were. The surplus is one of the measures taken into account by investors of how sound an economy is.

Ms Rousseff has always maintained she did not act criminally in budgetary affairs.
She says many other presidents, mayors and state governors always used the same creative accounting techniques and were never punished for them.

The president says this is merely being used as a legal excuse – that her impeachment is nothing but an attempted coup by the opposition.

The Lavo Jato scandal was enormous with investigations of 232 persons, including former Brazilian  President Lula.

Rousseff has claimed that her Vice President Temer at the time, was disloyal, and plotted with the opposition party to get rid of her.

President Temer is not being impeached for the Car Wash scandal, although many believe he had some involvement.   He is being impeached  for a meat inspection bribery scandal, called the “JBS meat scandal.” See link to the New York Times:

New York Times: JBS Meat Scandal

JBS is described as a global meat packing empire, and its CEO, Joesley Batista, has a tape recording between Temer and himself, implicating Temer in bribery corruption scandal. Temer claims the tape has been doctored, so technical experts will be need to authenticate the recording.

Impeachment proceedings may take at least  six months, so the legislature could send Temer packing before Christmas.  The next President would be a stand in, as elections will be held in 2018.

The economy of Brazil is likely not change much, with an enormous differences between the very wealthy upper class, and the large, poorly educated lower class.  Unemployment is likely to be above 10% but this  does not tell the full story, with high unemployment in the lower paying jobs.

Perhaps, what is missed is that through these impeachments, the concept of three branches of government, is working as it is designed. Companies can’t just slip bribes to legislators or the executive branch for favors.  At least sometimes they get caught by the courts and the penalties can be severe.

Democracies collapse as in Venezuela, when the executive branch colludes with the legislature to limit the power of the courts.  Or the president simply ignores the power of the courts.  What should emerge finally from Brazil, is the three branches of government are still sufficiently independent to keep the democratic process working.   A corrupt free Brazil is not around the corner, but neither is the situation in Venezuela or a number of African counties (Burundi and Zimbabwe come to mind) where democracy has vanished.

And it is further hoped that more  honest Brazilians will enter politics, in an effort to improve the government ruled by the people of Brazil.

Stay tuned,

Dave