A Crisis in the Debt Ceiling Limit Approval – Again!

I know this isn’t headline news, yet.  But in two weeks, it will be.

I knew if Hillary Clinton was elected, this crisis would happen.  With Clinton as President,  I knew the House Republicans would use this opportunity to threaten  to wreck the economy unless a “dirty” approval was signed into law.  A dirty approval contains additional riders outside of increasing the debt ceiling which the President and the Democrats oppose and would under normal circumstances never pass.   The threat of sovereign default is used as leverage.   This makes most economists cringe.

But I thought it would be completely different with Trump in the White House and Republicans in control of both the House and the Senate.  Boy was I wrong!

Obama and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew went through sheer hell in getting the debt ceiling approved in 2011.   There was another crisis in 2013.    Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin asked Congress to approve a simple and clean bill to increase the debt ceiling limit.  He is 100% right.

As this issue got politicized,  somehow what the debt ceiling really was got twisted out of shape.  It absolutely is not analogous to the limits on credit cards, which we all know stops someone from racking up huge debts. The debt ceiling is not a mechanism to control spending.   This is done through the budget and appropriation requests.   This is stated on numerous website including Wikipedia as follows:

Because expenditures are authorized by separate legislation, the debt ceiling does not directly limit government deficits. In effect, it can only restrain the Treasury from paying for expenditures and other financial obligations after the limit has been reached, but which have already been approved (in the budget) and appropriated.

The difficulty in approving this increase, is that it says to conservative Republicans, that they somehow approved huge government deficits.

If not approved by late September, the US will be  in default.   The US stock market crashed in 2011, when it looked like there would be no approval. According to Wikipedia:

The GAO estimated that the delay in raising the debt ceiling during the debt ceiling crisis of 2011 raised borrowing costs for the government by $1.3 billion in fiscal year 2011 and noted that the delay would also raise costs in later years.[39] The Bipartisan Policy Center extended the GAO’s estimates and found that the delay raised borrowing costs by $18.9 billion over ten years.

We are back in the same situation, and this time it could be far worse because of the White House in-fighting.    Mike Mulvaney of the Office of Budget and Management undercut the Treasury Secretary’s position by suggesting something truly frightening-  using the crisis to force changes to Medicaid.

I like the way the LA Times presented the crisis:

The debt ceiling fight: This time it’s different–and much more dangerous

It is a time bomb.  There are  ways to kick it down the road, but that’s a horrible idea, as it starts discussion of all sorts of ways to frustrate a simple approval.  Democrats and moderate Republicans should unite and pass what Mnuchin asked for, ASAP.  Mulvaney should just keep quiet if he can.

Most economists believe the debt ceiling shouldn’t exist.  I agree, as explained in the link.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Link:  Wikipedia Debt Ceiling

 

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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

 

 

 

 

Trump’s Malicious Lies

He has attacked FBI Director Comey as a leaker of classified information, the acting Director as  Andrew McCabe as corrupt,  the head of the Justice Department, Jeff Sessions and Rob Rosenstein of using poor judgment in the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.   His latest attacks have been against Robert Mueller,  accusing him of a unwarranted  investigation of the Russian meddling in the 2016 and ignoring the crimes of Hillary Clinton in dealing with the Russians.

Although the harshest attacks come from Trump himself on the actions of the Justice Department,  in other areas, Trump is touting the accomplishments of the Justice Department, particularly the war on drugs, and crack down on human trafficking and illegal immigration, without any mention of Jeff Sessions.

The head of the Justice Department and FBI can be fired at a moments notice without cause.  Director Jim Comey learned he had been fired from CNN news broadcast.  Andrew McCabe is no longer in the direct line of fire.   The new FBI Director, Christopher Wray began his job yesterday.   If he feels that Hillary Clinton broke the law during 2016, he is free to investigate this activity.  Investigations can be closed, then re-opened.

I did not include attacks on the Washington Post and the New York Times from their reporting.  I previously posted my reasons why the New York Times reporting should be trusted, and that the newspaper is thriving, not failing.

The most serious accusations are against Robert Mueller, because Trump will use this as a pretext to remove him.  Jeff Sessions is far from being weak. Here’s the headline from the front page of the New York Times, “Under Attack, Justice Dept. Pushes Ahead, Quietly Carrying Out Trump’s Agenda.”  It goes on how Jeff Sessions is at work by 6:15 am, and starts his day on a treadmill, and a bowl of instant oatmeal in the microwave.  He hand-washes the bowl.

So, what were the malicious lie told by Trump?  It is the uranium story.  All fact checkers I know (Snopes.com, Politifact.com and factcheck.org find the essential details in  Trump’s narrative are false.    Here it is (snopes.com):

Allegations of a “quid pro quo” deal giving Russia ownership of one-fifth of U.S. uranium deposits in exchange for $145 million in donations to the Clinton Foundation are unsubstantiated.

No US uranium can be exported to Russia, not before the deal and not afterwards.  Russia may have an interest in US uranium mines, but Russia doesn’t get any uranium from the US.   The “quid pro quo” is simply a polite way of saying that Russia bought Hillary’s support, by slipping 145 million to the Clinton Foundation.    The whole story falls apart because the bulk of the  contributions were made in 2007, long before the buyout of Uranium One.

The whole uranium story should have fallen apart long ago because the timeline is all wrong.  The Snopes article states:

Of the $145 million allegedly contributed to the Clinton Foundation by Uranium One investors, the lion’s share — $131.3 million — came from a single donor, Frank Giustra, the company’s founder. But Giustra sold off his entire stake in the company in 2007, three years before the Russia deal and at least 18 months before Clinton became secretary of state.

Nobody is above the law.  Hillary Clinton, her staff and the Clinton Foundation must play by the rules.   I particularly like the way Snopes concluded the piece:

An enormous volume of interest and speculation surrounds the workings of the Clinton Foundation, which is to be expected. Given the enormous sums of money it controls and the fact that it is run by a former U.S. president who is married to a possible future U.S. president, the foundation deserves all the scrutiny it gets, and more.

At the same time, for the sake of accuracy it’s crucial to differentiate between partisan accusations and what we actually know about it — however little that may be.

This was published in October 2016, as Trump was storming the country with “Crooked Hillary” narratives.  Now the attacks have turned to Robert Mueller, as enemy number one.   He is directed to investigate Russian interference into the 2016 election, so he really can’t extend his investigation to a contribution received in 2007 by  Guistra  to the Clinton Foundation as payoff for a decision after he no longer had a stake in the company.   Whole narrative is really flaky.

I was very glad that no pardon was given to Hillary Clinton nor anyone in the White House or Clinton’s foundation before Obama’s departure.

Trump is trashing everyone who isn’t in the White House.  At least, isn’t currently in the White House. The heat is definitely on as Robert Mueller has convened a grand jury to examine criminal activities associated with Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

The latest Quinnipiac Polls show that most Americans do not trust Trump.  I wonder why?

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Fact check:  West Virginia Rally  (much more fiction than fact

Snopes.com  Russian to Judgment

(note the Brietbart connection, with Clinton Cash book in 2015)

West Virginia Rally- Trump: Politifact.com West Virginia Rally

The special counsel “should be looking at the … uranium (Hillary Clinton) sold that’s now in the hands of very angry Russians.”

Politifact on Uranium story

New York Times, 2015 article on the buyout transaction. 

 

 

 

The New York Times, is a Trump stock

In Hollywood, they say there is no such thing as negative publicity.  The “failing New York Times” with it’s fake news is a constant theme of Donald Trump. The New York Times has won 122 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other newspaper. The prize is awarded for excellence in journalism in a range of categories.  The list of awards is extensive- see link at the end.

But is it failing?   Before I answer that question, there is an extensive decline in newspaper’s circulation in the US.    The average news junkie can get his morning fix by listening to CNN and BBC, then hit the internet to get the latest in areas of interest, Hollywood, sports, or in my case business.   But, internationally, circulation is rising- due to increase literacy,  higher incomes, and global awareness.   That’s great!

Now, Jim Cramer reviewed the finances of the New York Times, and found the company is not failing, but is thriving.  Instead of going through the slew of financial data, I’ll simply provide the CNBC link:

CNBC – Jim Cramer on the New York Times

Ironically,  all Trump’s tweets may have increased interest in the New York Times.    A lot of the content is now on the Internet and distributed free.   Where the increased revenues are coming from, is the increase in online advertising. The Times is by no way perfect- see links for past controversies.

Jim Cramer in January was touting a lot of stocks to be “Trump stocks”  based on deregulation,  overseas repatriation, and tax cuts for businesses. You would not think of First Solar, a maker of solar panels, to outperform Peabody Coal,Chesapeake Gas  or Sanchez Oil (involved in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracking) but you would be so wrong.   This will have to wait for another blog.  My New York  Times is on the table.

Stay tuned,

Dave

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

Trump and Sessions

Most of this has already been said in the press and on news commentary shows.  The Attorney General is nominated by the president, serves at the pleasure of the president and may be fired by president at any time.  The Department of Justice must at the same time conduct investigations independently of the president.   AG Jeff Sessions, whether you like him or hate him, has focused on areas which  are of high concern to President Trump- illegal immigrants in the US and drug trafficking.   He is likely will prosecute anyone who  illegally  discloses  information, when investigations yield compelling evidence.

Sessions has been attacked in tweets by Trump, who said he is very disappointed at the AG.   Commentators believe he is trying to have Sessions resign rather than fire him.

The attorney general  must be loyal to the Constitution and the rule of law.  What Sessions won’t do, is make unwarranted accusations and use the Department for partisan purposes.    He was involved in the election campaign of Donald Trump, so it is likely he had close contact with Paul Manafort and others under investigation.   To his credit, he recused himself from the Russian  investigation, so his activities could be investigated without any suggestion of impropriety.   This strengthens the public perception of the integrity of the investigation.

Trump seems obsessed about leaks and the reporting of these leaks in the media.  He wasn’t at all concerned about this when leaks were coming out on a daily basis on Hillary Clinton.  Eric Holder had an active investigation on Julian Assange, who runs Wikileaks.  If he ever steps in the US, hopefully he will be arrested.   Charges against  Edward Snowden have already been filed under the Obama administration.   Should Snowden or Julian Assange ever step foot in the US,  you can be sure that they will be prosecuted under the  full force of the Justice Department..  It makes no difference if this occurs under a Democratic or Republican administration.

But, what Trump has in mind, is the chatter that goes on between White House insiders and the media.  Also, as his popularity is sinking, he has revived the campaign promise to go after violations of the law of Hillary Clinton for disclosure of classified information.   Similar attacks have been launch against FBI Director Comey.  The Department of Justice has access to all the information gathered by the FBI,  and if they feel there is a compelling case, with a reasonable chance of prevailing in their charges,  I am sure Jeff Sessions will not hesitate for one minute to bring charges against Clinton or Comey.   However,  he will not use his office to make frivolous accusations against them.   He will not turn the Department of Justice into a bully pulpit.

I can only surmise that the only reason the Department of Justice had not pressed charges, is because there is insufficient evidence of violation of the law.    I have provided a link below on some myths about what is considered  confidential information.   One  popular myth is  that confidential information should be easily recognized by its subject matter alone and need not be so designated .

Trump was at the Boy Scout Jamboree, and treated it like some kind of campaign rally.   The first two qualities in the Boy Scout oath are Trustworthy and Loyal.   I believe both Jeff Sessions and  FBI Director Comey  through their decades of government service are exemplary  of these qualities.   They are loyal to the people’s representatives who through the ages, created and expanded the Justice Department and the FBI.  No one made the government exempt in administrating their duties as this would undermine our democratic process.  They were not going to allow the integrity be diminished by the political desires of the president of the United States.

Link:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/five-myths-about-classified-information/2015/09/18/a164c1a4-5d72-11e5-b38e-06883aacba64_story.html?utm_term=.e610934bea2e

Link on Jeff Sessions:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Sessions

Stay tuned,

Dave

PS:  Trump’s approval rating is 37% according to the latest Gallup poll.

The leaked DOE Report

The Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry, issued a memorandum on April 14, 2017 directing  preparation of a study that examines whether recent problems associated with baseload power plants may be putting the nations’s energy security and reliability at risk.

It was to be a 3 month study.   A June 26, 2017 draft was leaked and posted to the internet.  The leaked draft report is provided below. It is long detailed technical analysis.

353980477-DOE-Reliability-and-Baseload-Report-Draft-June-26

Many fear that the report would try to blame the government subsidies for alternative energy sources, including wind and solar,  for the decline in the coal use.  The study clearly points out that fossil fuel and nuclear plants also benefit from government subsidies.

Oil is generally not used as a fuel for power plants.  The main fuels are natural gas, coal, nuclear, hydroelectric, solar and wind power, with the latter 3 considered renewables.

What will be interesting, is whether the Secretary will accept the findings of his Department, or attempt to reformulate the report.  It is due to be released next week, so we will know for sure, if the official study is much different from this draft.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

How much of what Trump says is true?

All politicians lie.
All politicians lie.
All politicians lie.

Ok, I said it 3 times, just so you remember.    Other officials lie too.   The White House Press Secretary, the leaders in Congress,  news commentators, of which there way too many these days, candidates running for office, both Republicans and Democrats – they are all  liars.

So why should I single out Donald Trump?   I really didn’t.  The fact checking sites, factcheck.org and politifact.com find nearly every weak, that he has lied to the American people, on very important issues.

The most recent example is his speech yesterday, on the health care bill to be voted on in the Senate, where he stated:

“Obamacare has broken our health care system. It’s broken. It’s collapsing.”

Politifact responds, “As for the individual insurance market, the part of Obamacare that Trump has said before is in a death spiral, we have rated statements like that False.”

Link:  http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2017/jul/24/fact-checking-donald-trumps-health-care-speech/

Trump also was caught in a huge lie that his plan about allowing insurers to sell across state lines, would bring insurance premiums by 60 to 70%.  He made up this stuff!

Link: http://www.factcheck.org/2017/07/selling-insurance-across-state-lines/

It is true that both Democrats and Republicans have told huge lies during the health care debate.   House leader Nancy Pelosi stated that hundreds of thousands of people will die under Trump’s health care bill.  Politifact concludes that the relationship between health care policies and mortality rates is really difficult to determine,  and Pelosi (and Bernie Sanders)  distorted the research in this area by saying many people will  die as a result of Trump Care.

Link:  http://www.factcheck.org/2017/07/deaths-health-care-bill/

The Russian investigation has produced all sorts of terrible lies from Trump, including allegations of criminal activity by FBI Director Comey, as follows from factcheck.org.

President Donald Trump made the unfounded accusation that former FBI Director James Comey illegally “leaked CLASSIFIED INFORMATION to the media.” His claim appears to have been based on a news story that makes no such determination.

Link: http://www.factcheck.org/2017/07/trumps-unfounded-leak-claim/

And likely confirmed by Jay Sekulow, a frequent guest on Fox News and part of Trump’s legal defense team.   Way too much poop for me.

Now, perhaps I digress.  Back to the main question-  How much of what Trump says is true?   Politifact checked 427 statements of “fact” made by Trump, and determined 5% or 20 of these statements were true.  Yikes!  Of the other 95%,  12% were mostly true, and 15% were half true.   This leaves  an astonishing 68% on the side of mostly false, false and pants on fire.

Link: http://www.politifact.com/personalities/donald-trump/

I always liked Patrick Moynihan’s quote: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

Do Republicans lie more than Democrats?   From a quick sampling of July’s reviews, it seems so, at least as of July 24, 2017:

Link: http://www.politifact.com/punditfact/

The worse of the bunch is not Trump or any other politician within Washington.   It’s  bloggers, specifically websites which broadcast, via email and twitter, a load of fictional stories.   These are lumped into the category of bloggers.

If a news story came from the Organization dedicated to the  Responsible and Truthful Analysis of the New (just for example, don’t Google this name),  and it can’t be collaborated with the mainstream media news, it is probably made up.   The fact checkers will help you filter out the nonsense.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

The New York Times and their sick agenda

In Trump’s world, the new axis of evil, are the Washington Post and the New York Times.   I considered Trump’s tweet on Qatar as a supporter of terrorism  the worse of all tweets.  He has outdone himself again.   On July 22, 2017, Donald Trump tweeted:

The Failing New York Times foiled U.S. attempt to kill the single most wanted terrorist,Al-Baghdadi. Their sick agenda over National Security

Trump was reacting to a report on a Fox News program about 25 minutes ago.  They mentioned the New York Times.

Al-Baghdadi is the single most wanted terrorist, as the leader of ISIL.  Nobody is sure if he is alive or dead.   The Russians stated that he may possibly have been killed during the May 16, 2015 raid.  The Defense Department says they have no evidence to show he has been killed  or is  now still alive.  General Mattis has stated they assume he is alive until they have proof he is not.

Trump’s tweet  is a very serious accusation.  If it were true, it makes the NYT complicit in terrorist activities.   Fortunately,  it  is 100% untrue-   there is not a grain of truth to this tweet.  But there was a grain of false information which Fox News spun  into a totally false “news report.”

Fox News-  All the news, all the time, and a pile of stuff made up, to boot.   Breaking news on terrorism,  leaks and the New York Times.  Oh my, what could be better!

Here’s the timetable:

May 16, 2015: US Delta commando  forces raid on the home of Abu Sayyaf in Syria,  chief financial officer for ISIL, killing Abu and capturing his wife, Umm.  She was questioned outside of the country.  The raid provides a treasure trove of information on ISIL and its operation, through seized laptops, cell phones and other materials.

May 17, 2015:  Pentagon discloses details of the raid to the public, and is extensively covered by the Western media, including the New York Times.   The Pentagon reveals they captured Umm and she is being interrogated outside of Syria.

 June 7, 2015:  (3 weeks after the raid) New York Times publishes more extensive details on the raid and the information.

July 21, 2017:  More than 2 years after the raid,  General Tony Thomas, at the Aspen Security Conference was asked if we had ever come close to killing Al-Baghdadi.  He responded yes, there were instances in which we were closing in on Al-Baghdadi.  He goes on to state that the capture and questioning of Umm Sayyaf  yielded very useful information.   He then states that after the information was leaked by a national news organization,  Al-Baghdadi likely took new precautions. He did not identify the New York Times.

July 22, 2017:  Fox News broadcasts a news story of how Al-Baghdadi might have been captured, if the NYT had not leaked information.

_____

The New York Times responded to Fox News, asking for an apology.  They stated, “No senior American official complained publicly about the story until now, more than two years later.”   They also do not dismiss General Thomas statements that  Al-Baghdadi became more cautious after the raid.   The problem is the disclosures came either from Secretary of Defense or the military spokespersons, not leaks.   What was inaccurately stated at a conference during a Q+A session would likely not get much publicity, if  Fox News had spent any time trying to find any collaboration of their story.  They have received the standard “no comment” from the Department of Defense.  No one in the Trump administration, except Trump, has charged the New York Times with disclosing  sensitive military information.

With Trump’s tweet,  this accusation  became worldwide news.  His hostility towards media reporting from CNN,  the Washington Post and the New York Times is very sad.   These institutions  will survive much longer than he will, as people want to hear the story  from reporters on the ground, not Trump’s tweet.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

South Sudan’s Tragic Civil War – Part 1

I’ve discussed Qatar, the world’s richest country if gauged by GDP per capita.   By those same measures, South Sudan is one of the world’s poorest countries.  It is also the world’s newest country, gaining its independence from Sudan in 2011, following a referendum on independence.  South Sudan is totally dependent on oil for it’s income, accounting for  98% of the government revenue.   It has many natural resources and  productive agricultural land.

The creation of South Sudan was likely considered to create some stability in the region.  It hasn’t happened.   Sudan was once home to Osama bin Laden’s training camp, and the US under President Clinton bombed bin Laden’s  camp and the Al Shifa pharmaceutical plant in 1986, believing it was producing VX gas.  There is considerable evidence to the contrary, see link below.

Sudan has a violent history, with two civil wars, the first from 1955 to 1972 and the second from 1983  to 2005.    The  war was a result of  the Sudanese government, a strict Islamic regime and adherents to Sharia rule, extending their control to other populations, many to the south of Sudan.   It is described  an ethno-religious clash as the northern part of Sudan, was primarily Arab speaking and adherent to Islamic rule, while the south (now South Sudan) was more like it’s neighbors, Kenya and Uganda, where 82% of its population are non-Muslim.   It was also a clash between the Dinka and Nuer tribes.

The human toll of the civil war in the Sudan  is staggering.  According to Wikipedia:

Roughly two million people died as a result of war, famine and disease caused by the conflict. Four million people in southern Sudan were displaced at least once (and normally repeatedly) during the war. The civilian death toll is one of the highest of any war since World War II and was marked by a large number of human rights violations. These include slavery and mass killings.

Sudan was one of the countries in President Trump’s travel ban.    Interestingly, South Sudan were there is an active civil war, was not included in the ban.

  • South Sudan Political Situation:

South Sudan gain independence in two steps, first as an autonomous region (2005 to 2011) then as a fully independent country in 2011.  The government main support came from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/movement (SPLA/M).  It was likely that the “two country” solution with a democratic government in the south would end the hostilities.   The SPLA/M was supposedly multi-ethnic party, but the ethnic divisions were very strong and soon surfaced.    John Garang was a Dinka leader and part of SPLA/M who died in a helicopter crash in 2005. He was succeeded by Salva Kirr, now president of South Sudan.   The opposing leader is Riek Machar, representing the Nuer ethnic group.  The civil war between Dinka and Nuer tribes continues to this day.

It is clear that the President Kirr objective is to unite the country by force, and frequently using starvation of civilian population as one of the weapons of war.  Under Kirr, the country is a Kleptocracy,  paid for by the oil revenues.   Wikipedia describes the horrendous violations of human rights as follows:

Campaigns of atrocities against civilians have been attributed to the SPLA.  In the SPLA/M’s attempt to disarm rebellions among the Shilluk and Murle, they burned scores of villages, raped hundreds of women and girls and killed an untold number of civilians.  Civilians alleging torture claim fingernails being torn out, burning plastic bags dripped on children to make their parents hand over weapons and villagers burned alive in their huts if rebels were suspected of spending the night there. In May 2011, the SPLA allegedly set fire to over 7,000 homes in Unity State.

Further in the Wikipedia article, it is stated:

The United Nations rights office has described the situation in the country as “one of the most horrendous human rights situations in the world.” It accused the army and allied militias as allowing fighters to rape women as form of payment, as well as raid cattle in an agreement of “do what you can, take what you can.” Amnesty International claimed the army suffocated to death in a shipping container more than 60 people accused of supporting the opposition.

More on the horrific actions by the military against women has been reported by the Boston Globe, as provided in the links at the end of this blog.

This brief blog simply highlights some parts of the  conflict. More information on the ethnic groups involved and the support given by outside countries is provided in the links.   A recent article posted on July 9, 2017 in the Washington Post, by Sophia Dawkins,  provides excellent summary of the most essential details on the current conflict.   Sadly,  based on research as cited in her article, the prospects of reconciliation appear poor as neither Kirr (Dinka)  or Machar (Nuer)  factions appear willing to compromise.

  • Oil Economy:

I particular like the statement in Dawkins article, “South Sudan was born rich” as it clearly defines a petrostate.  However, it is an oil curse rather than a blessing, as the oil revenues go to fuel the civil war, and make any hope of reconciliation less likely.   It did not make the Sudanese people any wealthier.  The oil revenue has gone  to pay the military and various militias, who committed the atrocities against the people of  opposition tribes, such as the Nuer tribe.

The 2005 agreement allowing South Sudan to become an autonomous region.

While famine and disease  persists in much of the country,  the government party leaders bathe in the wealth created by  oil revenues.

The other sectors of the economy, particularly agriculture, are ignored as all investment goes to oil development.  According to Wikipedia:

The economy of South Sudan is one of the world’s weakest and most underdeveloped, with South Sudan having little existing infrastructure and the highest maternal mortality and female illiteracy rates in the world as of 2011.[2]

South Sudan is one of the poorest countries in the world. Most villages in the country have no electricity or running water, and the country’s overall infrastructure is lacking, with few paved roads. South Sudan exports timber to the international market. Some of the states with the best known teaks and natural trees for timber are Western Equatoria and Central Equatoria.

One of the major natural features of South Sudan is the River Nile whose many tributaries have sources in the country. The region also contains many natural resources such as petroleum, iron ore, copper, chromium ore, zinc, tungsten, mica, silver, gold, and hydropower.[3] The country’s economy, as in many other developing countries, is heavily dependent on agriculture. Some of the agricultural produce include cotton, groundnuts (peanuts), sorghum, millet, wheat, gum arabic, sugarcane, cassava (tapioca), mangos, papaya, bananas, sweet potatoes, and sesame.

Part 2 will examine the role of the US and other countries in South Sudan.

Stay tuned

Dave

Links:

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

Boston Globe: Sexual violence reaches ‘epic proportions’ in South Sudan’s civil war

Wikipedia:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnic_violence_in_South_Sudan

US Sanctions: http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2017/07/08/534465639/for-sudan-a-looming-deadline-on-possible-lifting-of-u-s-sanctions