Trump’s Popularity

Since the start of his presidency, Trump has gotten fairly low approval ratings from Gallup Poll, generally between 33 to 45% approval ratings.  But this isn’t the worst ratings by far.   Harry Truman (22%) and George W. Bush (25%) still hold the record in lowest  approval ratings during their time in office.

There is a tendency to relate Trump’s popularity to the news of the day, and I think this is unwarranted from survey data.  Basically,  the distinguishing feature of Trump’s approval rating has been how little reaction there has been to any news, positive or negative.   The graph below comes from an excellent website, fivethirtyeight.com which combines polls from various organizations.   I also examined the Gallup poll on approval ratings which has very similar results.

I consider two periods,  a declining trend from around 45% to 38% approval in the first 6 months of his presidency, and then basically a flat period after that. The intersection of these two trendlines is shown as July 10, 2017  is a bit arbitrary, and one can easily make a case for the flat period beginning weeks before or after this date.

 

Survey results will vary because the polling uses a very small sample (usually less than 2,000) and organizations will conduct surveys in different ways.  In the graph above, the range of results is shown in the lightly colored red and green shading.   The surveys are estimates of how the larger population feels about the president, approve, disapprove or no opinion/unsure.    This larger population can be the entire adult population of the US,  or the registered voters or those residents who are likely to vote in an election.  Which population is targeted can make a difference.

The links below provide good summaries of approval rating polls of President Trump for the different organizations.   One of the more surprising aspects is the variation of  the “unsure” group, from 1% to 12%.    There may  be a number of reasons for this variation.  An automated telephone poll may only allow for people to respond as approve, disapprove or unsure, while a live pollster may attempt to coax out of a respondent, a disapproval or approval rating.

The “Doubling” Story from Breitbart – Fox – Trump

Breitbart news (an online news service, which is known to be highly supportive of Trump’s policies) recently declared, “Donald Trump’s Support Among Blacks Has Doubled Since 2016, Amid Racism Claims”   followed by “Two new polls show President Donald Trump’s rising support among black voters, highlighting his political gains from pushing employers to hire Americans instead of lower-wage migrants.”   This quickly went from Breitbart to Fox News to a White House tweet as follows:

Unemployment for Black Americans is the lowest ever recorded. Trump approval ratings with Black Americans has doubled. Thank you, and it will get even (much) better! @FoxNews

By any measure, approval ratings for Trump are very low among blacks.  The “doubling” result came from using an exit poll, which showed 8% of blacks voted for Trump as compared with a recent poll by Survey Monkey, showed a 17% approval rating from black respondents.  One survey was with actual voters, and the second was done by a different organization (Survey Monkey) picking people at random from the entire population, so the results are not comparable.   Gallup polls showed Trump’s approval rating among blacks was highest just after the election (about 15%) and in the range of 10 to 14% for the next four months.  In the last six months, the approval ratings are in the range of 6 to 11% without a discernible trend.   The average in the last six months (June to December) appears to be about 8%.  When consistent survey results are compared, there is no doubling of approval, as claimed by President Trump, who was quoting Fox News, who was quoting Breitbart.

The last polling data released from Gallup on black Americans a 6% approval for the time period of Dec 25 – 31, 2017.   There’s a lot of apparent random variation in the survey numbers so I wouldn’t read much into this number, as opposed to the six month trend of 8% approval.

We tend to vote by Party and stay loyal to this party

My main point, is that if you look at either polls focused on the population in general, registered voters or specific groups, such as black Americans, there hasn’t been much variation, except what one would expect from survey inaccuracies.

Based on Gallup data,  approximately 80% of Republicans approve of Trump, while only 8% of Democrats approve of Trump.   If the country is split 50:50 between Republicans and Democrats, this would give Trump an approval rating of 44%,  which is what he had at the beginning of his term.  The 2016 popular vote, would certainly support the idea of a nearly even split  between parties.   So, each party must some how win over the undecided vote, while still maintaining their base.

I tend to believe Trump supporters voted consistently for Republicans, while Clinton supporters voted consistently for Democrats.  So,  it’s more of a loyalty to the party’s agenda than the individual running the country,.

Generic Balloting

The polling organizations are attempting to assess the outcome of  the  2018 Congressional Elections by asking respondents,  whether they would be likely to vote for candidates from the Republican or Democratic party.   The question posed to respondents may also be which party they would like to see control Congress.  This is referred to as Generic  Ballot.   So far, polling has shown Democrats lead Republicans (46% to 39%),  but a lot can change before November.   In the last few weeks, Republicans seem to be edging higher, but there is a lot of variation in the data, so it would be very premature to consider this a trend.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Links:

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

http://news.gallup.com/interactives/185273/r.aspx?g_source=WWWV7HP&g_medium=topic&g_campaign=tiles

http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2018/01/14/donald-trump-support-from-blacks-spikes-amid-racism-claims/

https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/congress-generic-ballot-polls/?ex_cid=rrpromo

amzn hq2?

Just in case, you haven’t a clue of what I’m talking about,  it’s the second headquarters for Amazon.  Right now, Amazon headquarters is in Seattle.  The second headquarters is going to be big.   The New York Times reports:

The winner could get up to 50,000 high-paying jobs and $5 billion in investment, figures that Amazon has dangled in front of local officials, setting off an unprecedented competition to be the second home for one of the internet’s mightiest companies.

The top 20 cities have been announced.   See list at the end of the blog.

When Amazon finally decides, all the mayors will be seated in a room, and Tyra Banks will call out each of them, flash a couple pictures of their city, and tell them why they just didn’t have the right stuff to be the next  HQ2  (i.e.  well, your  airport was ok, but there was just a bit too much crime and your air smells a bit funny, so Pittsburgh you’re out).  I’m joking of course.

Amazon will make each city  beg to be HQ2, so it won’t be Washington, DC.    If they want smart people, they will go for Austin or Boston.  I’m guessing it will be an east coast city, with large international airports.   Toronto would be good in almost every respect, except the weather.  So, the winner in my opinion is:  Atlanta, GA.  A runner up choice is  Raleigh, NC.  Amazon also lists Northern Virginia in the top 20 cities, which is possible.   Yeah, I know there is no city called Northern Virginia, but with Bezo’s billions, Virginia would build one.   These are the compromise choices, half way between New York and Miami.   The sleeper would be Newark, where of course, nobody in their right mind would pick, unless all they cared about is tax breaks and being top dog in the area.  Amazon audiobook division, Audible, is in Newark.

I’m figuring Atlanta is best for executives, who are hoping on flights to Europe, Africa and Asia.  The future is about distribution.    But, just for the record, I think Toronto, Northern Virginia, Raleigh and (oh no) Newark are still in the running.  Newark would kind of being like Tyra Banks picking the ugliest model to be the next Top Model.   It really could happen, but it would be obvious to everyone they were paid off (in tax breaks)  for this choice.

— Update,  just as I posted my choice,  Yahoo – Finance posted their predictions, which were so similar to mine, I think they must have read my blog.   They predicted Washington, DC (not going to happen),  but also Montgomery County, MD which makes a lot of sense as a Miami to Boston compromise and close enough to Washington.

— Update #2,  the paddypower website for gamblers  has Boston, Austin and Atlanta as front runners.  Washington, DC is #4.  My other hunches,  Toronto, North Virginia, Raleigh and Newark are all at the back of the bus.  For Amazon employees, scared to death they could be transferred to Newark, you can rest easy for now.  Pittsburgh and Montgomery County are also in paddypower top 6 bets.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Top cities:  Atlanta,  Austin, Boston, Chicago, Columbus, OH, Dallas, Denver, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Miami, Montgomery County, MD, Nashville, Newark (oh no), New York, Northern Virginia (not a city), Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Raleigh, NC, Toronto (yes, we know it’s in Canada, Amazon can change this!), and Washington.

Trump’s Fake News Awards

Stephen Colbert refers to them as the Fakies.  He was hoping his comedy show would win one of these awards.

Fact checkers have been working overtime, as the White House produces one false statement after another.   It is wonderful to have politifact.com,  factcheck.org and other fact checking websites, drill down on the many statements made by politicians.  Trump now has a historical low rating of 4% true and 12% mostly true statements, so 84% of his statements are Mostly False, False, or Pants on Fire according to Politifact.

The media is not 100% accurate.  Mistakes are made.  What really differentiates a mistake from a lie, is whether the news organization corrects itself, in a timely and public manner.    The awards were given out for 9 mistakes which were quickly corrected.  Even Paul Kruger’s  opinion on the future of the economy was rescinded a couple of days later when he changed his mind.  No facts were in dispute, so it is hardly reason for a fake news award.

The White House does push back, as it should, when incorrect information is released.  For example, the tweet from Times reporter Zeke Miller stated  that a bust of Martin Luther King was no longer in the Oval Office, was corrected within an hour.  A picture of the statue was tweeted the same day by the White House.  Another pretty silly mistake was made by Dave Weigel who posted a picture of a Pensacola rally, showing the room to be only partially filled, however the picture was taken before the rally began.  Weigel works for the Washington Post, but this tweet came from his personal account, and was never published in the Washington Post.  But, it qualified for a fakie award – go figure!

Then there is the silly  fish food dumping incident.  CNN broadcast a clip showing Trump shamelessly dumping an entire box of food for the ritual feeding of Koi fish during his visit in Japan.  It was Politifact, which caught the error, after examining the entire video, which shows Trump was only following the lead of the Japanese Prime Minister.   The video clip went viral, but so did a host of retractions very soon afterwards with a clip of the Prime Minister also doing the same thing –  dumping the entire small box.   This clearly demonstrated that Politifact will back the president when the reporting is unfair as occurred in this case.  Koigate and the subsequent retraction all occurred on Nov 6, 2017 with the initial mistake occurring two minutes after midnight from a tweet by a CNN reporter, Veronica Rocha.  Glad to see she survived Koigate and is still tweeting (up to 9600 tweets!) for CNN.

I particularly enjoy Gizmodo’s comment, “In the wide world of media mistakes, Koigate is probably somewhere between a spelling error and posting the wrong hyperlink. But you can be sure that we’ll be talking about Koigate for some time as an example of what’s wrong with the media.” It does qualify as a mistake because they quickly admitted the error.     If Koigate can qualify as one of the top ten mistakes made by CNN in 2017, then you really have to give CNN credit for some pretty accurate reporting.

What the awards actually show, is the mainstream media is very concern about accuracy, and has no problem admitting their occasional mistakes.  In fact, when CNN really screwed up by incorrectly stating Antony  Scaramucci,  had  links to a Russian investment fund supposedly being investigated by the United States Senate.  CNN quickly issued a retraction and forced the resignation of three reporters. CNN  suspended Brian Ross for four weeks, without pay, after the Scaramucci mistake.

CNN also reported that according to their sources,  Comey’s testimony would contradict Trump’s on the critical issue of whether he was under investigation.   He did not contradict Trump’s statements on this issue, and CNN reported their original expectation was wrong.   Their sources were wrong on what Comey was going to say.  So what? Stock analysts make hundreds of wrong predictions every day.

The last Fake Award (#11) is really just a Trump’s attack on the Russian investigation in general.  It reads as follows:

And last, but not least: “RUSSIA COLLUSION!” Russian collusion is perhaps the greatest hoax perpetrated on the American people. THERE IS NO COLLUSION!

The GOP.com website, adds this tweet by Donald Trump:

Well, now that collusion with Russia is proving to be a total hoax and the only collusion is with Hillary Clinton and the FBI/Russia, the Fake News Media (Mainstream) and this phony new book are hitting out at every new front imaginable. They should try winning an election. Sad!

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, appointed by the Trump administration, continues his investigation, as do congressional committees led by Republicans.

The fakies awards missed  their target 11 to 0.   In fact,  if that is the best the White House has,  CNN and the others should feel pretty good.  (“hit me with your best shot, fire away”, Pat Benetar, still a classic).  On petty, silly and absolutely non consequential mistakes, I still find Koigate as # 1,  followed quickly by the Martin Luther King bust as # 2, and the Polish first lady non-handshake mistake  (see link from GOP.com) as # 3 and the Pensacola half empty stadium as #4.   See links.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Politifact: Fact-checking Donald Trump’s ‘results’ from his fake news awards

Washington Post Fact-checking President Trump’s ‘Fake News Awards’

GOP.com The Highly-Anticipated 2017 Fake News Awards

Donald Trump and the fish food dump: How early reports got it wrong

Steve Colbert: Fake News Awards (Youtube)

Friends of America

US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, held a reception for the “Friends of America” to thank the countries who voted against the UN resolution, condemning President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem.    It was a bit bizarre, as of the 193 members representing almost all of the 7.6 billion inhabitants of our planet, only 9 countries voted against the resolution.   Of these 9 countries,  only 5 have populations over 1 million residents: US,  Israel, Guatemala, Honduras, and Togo (See list  at end of this blog).  Some reception!

If Donald Trump is dividing the world into proper civilized countries, and shithole ones, Guatemala probably would fall in the latter.  The State Department’s Travel Advisory states:

Reconsider travel to Guatemala due to crime. Violent crime, such as sexual assault, carjacking, armed robbery, and murder, is common. Gang activity, such as extortion, violent street crime, and narcotics trafficking, is widespread, particularly in the border regions. Local police may lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents.

This is Level 3 advisory.   The top warning  is Level  4 which advises travelers not to visit the countries and if  intrepid travelers ignore this advice,  the State Department suggests having a will prepared prior to travel.  The only other South American countries with a Level 3 advisory (Reconsider Travel) are Honduras and El Salvador.

Personally,  I have nothing against Honduras and Guatemala. I have been several times to Guatemala, and each visit was fantastic.  The other country, Togo, is in Africa, and has been struggling for years due to low prices for its agricultural exports.  It has an astounding dense population of approximately 8 million residents. I was actually surprised at Togo’s vote, with a 20% Muslim population.

So, Nikki’s party invitees of “No Voters” had one wealthy country (Israel), three countries in economic dire straits (Guatemala, Honduras, and Togo) and 4 tiny island states in the Pacific.  Nauru is one of them, which has a population of 13,000 residents,  whose best asset is it’s seat in the UN and a vote that comes cheap.  See link below on Nauru’s recognition of Russia’s breakaway republics in exchange for aid.

It is our President which is dividing up the world, through his travel bans, cuts in aid and policy decisions, to make the US disliked around the world as never before.  He’s been able to sour relations with our close neighbors, Mexico and Canada.

The invitees to the Haley’s reception included all those who  didn’t vote at all or abstained so the total number of invitees was 64.   I can see why – as the resolution was going to pass anyway, and it really had no effect except to embarrass the US.  So, to be a friend of the US doesn’t take much, just sit at home on the day of the vote.   Still, it was a landslide vote against the US.

Usually, when you tell nation leaders that they must support US policies or else, “We’re taking names” comment by Nikki Haley, it is counter productive.  The recent violence in Pakistan, is directed at Trump’s cut off of military aid.  It’s regrettable as we need them as an ally against terrorism.

We seem to be antagonizing both friends and enemies.  We lost the chance to broker some peace settlement between Palestine and Israel,  with our decision to recognize Jerusalem.  South Korea seems to be making inroads to reducing hostilities with North Korea, after we  exchanged increasingly higher threats with North Korea.  The humanitarian crisis in Yemen seems of little importance to Trump.  It is a Iran-Saudi proxy war, and we’ve sided with the Saudi’s.

The Middle East countries are now more divided into the Sunni and Shi’a factions, and doing less to curb real terrorism.  We may eventually undermine the moderates control in Iran,  by President Rouhani, by imposing new sanctions, and threatening to abandon the nuclear agreement.  In doing so, we discourage any deal with North Korea over their nuclear program.  Meanwhile, the State Department continues to shrink under Secretary  Rex Tillerson, with many of the diplomatic posts unfilled.  Yet I consider him one of the best of the cabinet leaders.  I would include Gen.  Mattis at Defense as well.

I would like to have seen a “Friends of the US” reception with leaders from all the continents of the world.   This would require a major re-think of the America First agenda.  We are “Stronger Together”  the slogan of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

CNN:  How each country voted at the UN

Yes votes: 128 No votes: 9 Abstaining: 38 votes Not voting: 21

Tiny Nauru struts world stage by recognising breakaway republics

I’ve often thought about a service on the internet, similar to “Letgo.com” where countries could bid on the UN representatives’ vote. Maybe “Cash4votes.com” would work.  Of course, the country would first have to let the world know it’s vote is up for sale.

Nikki Haley’s New Best Friends at the UN

Hundreds of Pakistani protesters burn US flags after Trump says he is cutting aid to the country because it ‘does not take terrorism seriously enough’

 

Lawsuits against Buzzfeed and Fusion GPS

There is going to be a lot of media coverage on Trump dossier / Buzzfeed / Fusion GPS / Congressional Investigation.  It is way more than this subject deserves.  So why would I want to add to it?  I’ve already posted one blog, with the conclusion that the media in general, has shown incredible restraint in not making the dossier public because the sources of the information were not revealed in the dossier and salacious information on Donald Trump could not be confirmed.

Trump Dossier – Nov 2017

The Trump Dossier could not have affected the elections because the details had not been made public until January 11, 2017 when  Buzzfeed decided to post it on the internet as they have the legal right to under the First Amendment of free speech.   As I reported earlier, they were sued one month later, as follows:

Aleksej Gubarev, chief of technology company XBT and a figure mentioned in the dossier, sued BuzzFeed for defamation on February 3, 2017.

Today,  Michael Cohen,  who is one of Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, filed  lawsuits against Buzzfeed and Fusion GPS for defaming him.   Why now and not a year ago when the Trump dossier was first posted on the internet.  The lawsuits are frivolous and will go nowhere.  There is just a one year limit on filing lawsuits after material has been published.    Michael Cohen has strongly denied a visit to Prague in the summer of 2016 and offered a copy of his passport as proof.  However if is possible his passport would not be stamped if he entered by way of other EU countries.   However,  for those who like to  believe the whole Russian scandal is one big witch hunt, and the Democrats did stuff far worse, these lawsuits give Michael Cohen free air time, particularly on Fox News, which is something his boss (Donald Trump) will appreciate.

Stay tuned,

Dave

— There are way too many links on this topic to list here.    One is a bit misleading, from the New York Times, entitled “I’m Proud We Published the Russian-Trump Dossier”  however if you click on the link,  the “We” refers to Buzzfeed, and not the New York Times. It is written by Ben Smith, CEO of Buzzfeed, and is offered an independent opinion piece.   All the mainstream media (CNN, Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and many others) and conservative focused media outlets, including Fox News refused to publish the dossier in either print or electronic form.    I believe it is to their credit, that they refuse publication because several of the allegations have no corroboration.

US Jobs and Economic Growth – Cutting through the Trump BS

The US economy was strong in 2017.  Trump’s claim that two million new jobs were added, is right.   Of course,  job growth was good leading up to his inauguration, so he shouldn’t be taking credit for the entire year.

What’s not right, is that the economy was terrible under Obama, and he somehow turned things around.  It was a terrible economy in the last year of Bush’s administration, and aggressive action by both Bush and Obama helped the recovery.  I just go by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, to make my point.

Trump’s monthly average gain of 171,250 new jobs doesn’t look too good, nor does the 2 million new jobs stand out against Obama’s administration’s numbers.   The housing bubble (2004 – 2006) produced some high gains, but it all came crashing down in 2008 to 2009.  The stock market made an all time low in March 2009.

It took time for our economy to recover, as there was only a 1 million job gain in 2010.   But,  our economy has proven to be much more resilient than economists were predicting in 2007 to 2009.   The December 2017 labor statistics just came out with 148,000 new jobs, well below the 190,000 estimate.  The stock market continued its rally, based on the concept of a slowing economy  discourages the Fed’s program of gradual rate hikes.  Or another words, some bad news is actually good news to the stock market, just so long as it isn’t terrible news.

I’ve included one link as posted in Yahoo – Finance, entitled “Challenge for Trump: Job Growth is Slowing”  which adds a bit of reality to the whole story.  We likely attributed too much to actions of an administration, as the factors influencing growth (good or bad) may take years to develop.  The housing bubble was at least seven years in the making (includes both the Clinton and Bush administrations).  Also, an unemployment of 4.1% is considered a good number, and attempts to stimulate the economy further puts pressure on wage growth.

So, the chief concern is that inflation will increase more rapidly than wages, so many workers will feel  their spending power reduced.  Not good for retail, and ultimately this could lead to a recession.   In this case, the reduced corporate tax rate will help in reducing debt, not expanding businesses.   So, Wall Street may prosper at least in the short term, as Main Street suffers.

See link:

Challenge for Trump: Job growth is slowing

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Defaming the President of the United States

You have certain rights that President Trump does not, because he is a public figure.   You have the right to sue for character defamation in civil court.   Someone suing must prove the information published  was false and as a result, there was monetary loss.   Further,   the information can’t be in the form of a joke or cartoon, as this is not considered factual information.  This issue arose yesterday, when a new book was published about President Trump, entitled:  “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.”   President Trump has threatened the publisher with a lawsuit based on libelous statements.

I ordered by copy today from Amazon:

Michael Wolff:  Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House  from Amazon 

Wikipedia:  Fire and Fury book on Trump

New York Times vs Sullivan (1964)

***  Update:

Did Michael Wolff have access to the White House?

Donald Trump has responded in a tweet saying he had no access to the WH.  Politifact concludes that Trump’s denial is False.

See link below:

Politifact – Access to WH by Wolff

They can’t verify that Wolff had as much contact as he claims,  but he was often inside  the White House.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Quick Updates

Few really quick comments:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

See links below.

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

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Fact Check – Whoppers of 2017

VP Mike Pence Trip to the Middle East is Canceled

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

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

Sessions orders review of abandoned Hezbollah-linked drug prosecutions

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

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

 

Giving

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

Foundationhalo.org

Oxfam

One American Appeal

Doctors without Borders

International Rescue Committee

Global Giving

UN Refugee Agency (UNHRC)

American Red Cross

Dave

Hezbolla

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

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

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

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

40 Years of Peace gone in four months

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

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

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

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

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

According to Wikipedia:

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

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

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

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

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

Hezbollah Today 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hezbollah’s Social Services

As per Wikipedia:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

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

Wikipedia: Hezbollah  

Wikipedia: Lebanon Civil War

Wikipedia:  Palestine Liberation Organization

Wikipedia: Lebanon

Wikipedia:  Oslo 1 Accord

Wikipedia: Mohammed bin Salman

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

NYT:  The enemy of my enemy is still my enemy

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

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

 

Terrorism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links

Terrorism

Definition of Terrorism

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

Six Day War

Hezbollah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coal industry subsidies based on a pretext

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

Per the NYT EdOp:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please read the New York Times article.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

The Trump Administration’s Coal Bailout

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

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

Destroying the Consumer Financial Protection Agency – Piece by Piece

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not exactly making America great again!

Stay tuned,

Davc

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

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

Original complaint as filed by CFPB

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

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

 

https://www.consumerfinance.gov/

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

Nationwide Biweekly Administration

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

Mortgage-Payment Company Escapes Doom in Trial Against CFPB

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

http://freebeacon.com/issues/leandra-english-day/

Zimbabwe – What comes next?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

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

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

Wikipedia:  Zimbabwe

 

 

Uranium One Story – Other Opinions/ Links

Salon.com: How Steve Bannon and Sean Hannity ginned up the Hillary Clinton uranium story

Clinton Cash Author Peter Schweizer’s Long History Of Errors, Retractions, And Questionable Sourcing

(Media Matters was reporting just prior to the release of the Clinton Cash book)

The Clinton-Uranium “Scandal” Is Right-Wing Nonsense. Here’s Everything You Need to Know.

Reporters React To Trump’s Clinton Cash Citations By Noting “Widely Discredited” Book’s Factual Problems

(Reacti0n of book about 2 months after publication)

Factcheck.org: http://www.factcheck.org/2017/10/facts-uranium-one/

New York Times: What Is the Uranium One Deal and Why Does the Trump Administration Care So Much?

Politifact.com: What you need to know about Hillary Clinton, Russia, and uranium

https://oilprice.com/Alternative-Energy/Nuclear-Power/Does-Russia-Really-Own-20-Of-The-US-Uranium-Reserves.html

Wikipedia: Clinton Cash

Their should be a book entitled “Breitbart Cash”  and the connections between the Breitbart organization

Wikipedia:  General Accountability Institute 

Sounds like the General Accountability Office, but of course it’s not!

Wynton Hall (very interesting resume)

Any negative campaign really depends on knowledgeable experts in social media

Breitbart staff list reveals additional ties to Bannon and Mercer

Steve Bannon

Rebekah Mercer

There are more links of Uranium One executives in my prior blog.

Stay tuned,

Dave