More Trump’s attacks on the FBI

I’m calling them Trump lies.   As President, he can call up the Justice Department, and ask the Attorney General if this allegation is true.   Instead he prefers Fox News.

The New York Times calls this a “distortions of the truth.”    Here is Trump’s tweet on Friday:

“Reports are there was indeed at least one FBI representative implanted, for political purposes, into my campaign for president,” he tweeted Friday. “It took place very early on, and long before the phony Russia Hoax became a ‘hot’ Fake News story. If true — all time biggest political scandal!”

The big problem are “reports” and  “implanted”     Of course, Trump is saying, “I’m not making this up”  however these are not Justice Department nor FBI reports.  It is just something he heard,  on Fox News.   A commentator is not a news reporter, particularly true on Fox News.  Welcome to the echo chamber, from Hannity’s mouth, to  a flurry of tweets from Trump and then back to Fox News.  Ping pong garbage.

A marketing principle: “You can not turn a lie into the truth by telling it a thousand times.  But the lie will seem credible enough to the public, after they hear it a thousand times to be believed as the truth.”    A second rule is “Never concede you are wrong.”

The New York Times and the Washington Post has been very cautious in their reporting.   This is how the Washington Post presented the story:

In mid-July 2016, a retired American professor approached an adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign at a symposium about the White House race held at a British university.

The professor took the opportunity to strike up a conversation with Carter Page, whom Trump had named a few months earlier as a foreign policy adviser.

But the professor was more than an academic interested in American politics — he was a longtime U.S. intelligence source. And, at some point in 2016, he began working as a secret informant for the FBI as it investigated Russia’s interference in the campaign, according to people familiar with his activities.

There is no evidence that there was a paid FBI spy within the Trump campaign.   This is a lie, and very regrettable that President Trump finds it necessary to attack the FBI in this manner.  When Russia agents are making contacts either abroad or  in the US, with the objective of interfering with the US elections, then this is likely a crime.  The duty of the FBI is to find out who the Russian agents are working for, and their US counterparts.  If this requires striking up a conversation with campaign advisers, this is just good law investigation  tactics.

However, as pointed out on CNN, this reporting was based on leaked information to the New York Times and Washington Post.  They know who this individual is but have refused to disclose it.  I hope it stays this way, at least until Mueller’s investigation is finished.  As reported today in the New York Times,  Trump’s congressional allies are demanding full disclosure of the informant, in an attempt to “investigate the investigation” and disrupt or discredit the investigation.   And as collateral damage, weaken the public’s general confidence in the FBI.

According to the New York Times:

“Law enforcement officials have refused (hand over documents on the informant),   saying it would imperil both the source’s anonymity and safety. “

It would also open the door to more  unprecedented congressional inquiries, and interference of the judicial process  in the name of “oversight.”  The only basis for wrongdoing is Trump’s tweets based on Fox News – that’s how screwy things have become.

Robert Mueller is conducting a serious criminal investigation with the help of the FBI.  He runs a tight ship, with the only information surfacing in the media is from Trump’s personal lawyers or through court filings.

The FBI investigation had its first big break in May 2016 when George Papadopoulos, who  like Carter Page, was a foreign policy adviser,  talked to Australia’s ambassador in London, about obtaining political dirt on Hillary Clinton including Clinton’s hacked emails, to help influence our elections in favor of Trump.    Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and is cooperating with Mueller’s investigation.

The adage “the best defense is an offense” seems to be Trump’s strategy.    Trump and Mike Hannity (Fox News)  are trying their best to create an alternative reality, where conspiracy theories and deep state nonsense can thrive.   This is shameful.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Iran Nuclear Deal

It is likely that Donald Trump will pull out of the Iranian nuclear deal on May 12, just 5 days from today.  The deal was not perfect by any one’s standards, but the flaws were blown way out of proportions by Republicans in Congress.   Trump has used this, and almost everything else negotiated by Obama (and other presidents) as terrible.   The response from Iran is unknown to the US pullout.  Our allies, France, Germany and the UK, have all been trying to keep Trump in the agreement.

The deal is working and Iran is in compliance.    Only  Benjamin Netanyahu,  the president of Israel, is against the agreement.   It will impact our negotiations with North Korea, who will see the US as a country which can not be trusted.   One president makes deals and the next one breaks  the deal when the other side is in compliance.

I hope I’m wrong.  If not, I would list this as the worst decision of the Trump administration,  followed by the pull out of Paris Climate Accords.  The third on the list, is the very brazen efforts by  EPA Director, Scott Pruitt, and Interior Department Secretary, Ryan Zinke,  not to protect  the environment or the interior, but to let the fossil fuel companies to do what they want, in the guise of deregulation. I believe the EPA should be changed to EDA, or Environment Destruction Agency.   As long as I’m criticizing Trump’s appointees,  this last one, John Bolton, as National Security Adviser, would be best described as the person most capable of turning a small problem into a larger one, through inflammatory rhetoric.

I won’t go into any more details on the Iran Deal, as there is a lot of commentary on the Internet.  I’ve included a link from Wikipedia below.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Link:

Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

 

 

 

Scooter Libby Pardon

Scooter who?  I’m certain this is how many people reacted.   His full name is I. Lewis Libby,  but he goes by the name of Scooter Libby.

Now a bit of background on pardons.  The US Constitution gives the president the authority to pardon or commute the sentence of anyone he wants.  A person does not necessarily have to be convicted of a crime to be pardoned.  A list of each president and the number of people whose sentences were reduced or pardon, is given in the links below.  People can be guilty as hell, and still get pardon.  Even before someone is charged with a crime, they can be pardoned.     President Madison pardoned Pierre LaFitte because he helped Andrew Jackson, during the war of 1812.   Andrew Johnson who succeeded Lincoln,  granted a full and unconditional pardon and amnesty to all former Confederates of the rebellion on Christmas Day 1868.   Johnson also commuted the sentence of 3 convicted conspirators in Lincoln’s assassination.

More recently,  President Nixon commuted the sentence of  Jimmy Hoffa, the famous corrupt union boss, who subsequently vanished (likely murdered by others in the mob)  in 1962.  President Ford pardoned Richard Nixon in 1974.  I believe President Ford was right.  Nixon would have been charged with obstruction of justice.  It wasn’t the Watergate break in but the cover up,  backed up by Oval office audio recordings  that helped seal Nixon’s fate.   Nixon was the only president to be pardon.   Ford also provided a full restoration of citizenship to General Robert E. Lee,  who lead the confederate forces during the civil war about 110 years after the fact.   President Carter  granted amnesty to Vietnam war draft resisters, so he clearly is the record holder for pardons.    Carter also commuted the sentence of G. Gordon Libby, involved in the Watergate break in.

— * —

Then there was the billionaire Marc Rich pardon on Clinton’s last day in office.  The pardon raise criticism from many, including the New York Times,  that rich people can buy their way out of trouble, through charitable or  political contributions.  In 1983,  Rich and partner Pincus Green were indicted on 65 criminal counts, including income tax evasion, wire fraud, racketeering, and trading with Iran during the oil embargo (at a time when Iranian revolutionaries were still holding American citizens hostage).  However, Rich’s activities during the oil embargo  benefited Israel, as he was able to supply them with oil, with the help of Mossad, Israel  intelligence unit. The indictment was filed by then-U.S. Federal Prosecutor (and future mayor of New York City) Rudy Giuliani. At the time it was the biggest tax evasion case in U.S. history. Rich fled to Switzerland which refused to extradite Rich for what the they considered were tax crimes.  Rich died in 2013 in  Lucerne, Switzerland.

I bring up Marc Rich’s case, because it would be used, many times, to support the idea of corruption through the use of pardons.  An original “Pay to Play” scheme.  Rich was an oil commodities broker,  and made a fortune buying  crude oil from Iraq and Iran, during the 1973 to 1974 Arab Oil Embargo.   Rich’s ex-wife, Denise had donated over a million dollars to the Democratic Party.  Hillary Clinton didn’t get quite as much, with a donation from Denise on the order of  $70,00 to  $100,000 (See Wikipedia link).    I won’t go into the long controversial Rich saga,  but other tax experts claimed that Rich’s company was in fact, a Swiss company, so the RICO Act  (racketeering law) was improperly applied in Rich’s violation of the embargo rules.   According to Wikipedia:

In a February 18, 2001 op-ed essay in The New York Times, Clinton (by then out of office) explained why he had pardoned Rich, noting that U.S. tax professors Bernard Wolfman of the Harvard Law School and Martin Ginsburg of Georgetown University Law Center had concluded that no crime had been committed, and that Rich’s companies’ tax-reporting position had been reasonable. In the same essay, Clinton listed Lewis “Scooter” Libby as one of three “distinguished Republican lawyers” who supported a pardon for Rich.

Scooter Libby was one of Marc Rich’s lawyers.    It was Eric Holder as Clinton’s Deputy Attorney General who signed off on the pardon.  James Comey was US Attorney for the Southern District of New York in January 2002, and was critical of the pardon (page 159 of his new book).   Comey inherited an investigation into the pardon, as it had the appearance of a corrupt bargain.  There wasn’t enough evidence to bring charges.  Comey suggests it’s possible that Hillary Clinton as a junior senator, might have been reluctant to meet with him in 2002, due to his involvement in this  investigation.   He also suggests that it’s likely simply a scheduling problem.   He states this more as an aside, in discussing Clinton email investigation, which began on July 6, 2015.

— * —

I digress.  Now, back to the Trump pardon.   In the Bush administration,  Scooter Libby held three positions from 2001 to 2005:   Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs and Chief of Staff to the Vice President and Assistant to the President.   He  was Vice President  Dick Cheney’s right hand man, by all accounts, interacting with Departments of State, Justice and Defense.

The Trump  pardon changed nothing  for Scooter Libby.  It seemed directed at conservative Republicans, particularly those who felt Libby had been a victim of an overzealous special prosecutor, some 15 years ago.   Does this sound familiar?

A jury convicted Libby of obstruction of justice and perjury in his grand jury testimony and making false statements to federal investigators about when and how he learned that Plame was a CIA agent.The crime occurred in 2003, and the appeals were exhausted by 2007 at which point  he received a partial pardon from President Bush.   Bush stated:

“Mr. Libby was sentenced to thirty months of prison, two years of probation, and a $250,000 fine. In making the sentencing decision, the district court rejected the advice of the probation office, which recommended a lesser sentence and the consideration of factors that could have led to a sentence of home confinement or probation.I respect the jury’s verdict. But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby’s sentence that required him to spend thirty months in prison. My decision to commute his prison sentence leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby. The reputation he gained through his years of public service and professional work in the legal community is forever damaged. His wife and young children have also suffered immensely. He will remain on probation. The significant fines imposed by the judge will remain in effect. The consequences of his felony conviction on his former life as a lawyer, public servant, and private citizen will be long-lasting.”

Many in government including Vice President Cheney, wanted a full pardon.  More over, I’m certain others wanted to lay blame for Libby’s problems to an over zealous Special Prosecutor, named Patrick Fitzpatrick and to blame the justice system.  Bush broke with Cheney on this one.

Fifteen years later, as it seemed everything was back to normal.  As consequence of his conviction, Libby’s license to practice law was suspended until being reinstated in 2016.   The judge had wide leeway in sentencing Libby, but he could have been given up to 25 years and fined one million dollars.  He was sentenced to 30 months in jail, but President Bush commuted Scooter Libby’s jail sentence, resulting in 2 years on probation and a $250,000 file.

All this occurred as a result of the “Valerie Plame affair”  in which a columnist, Robert Novak, revealed that she was a CIA agent.   I won’t go into the detail on the Scooter Libby’s case, however it is part of James Comey’s new book,  “A Higher Loyalty” as he was assigned to the case, as a US Attorney.  Comey’s book came out about 4 days after Trump’s pardon, so Comey had no clue that Libby would be pardoned.  This was a case of at least 3 leakers, within the Bush administration:  Karl Rove,  Richard Armitage and Scooter Libby.   However,  Libby compounded his problems by lying to the FBI.  Libby told investigators it was Tim Russert, the NBC Washington bureau chief which informed him that Valerie Plame was a CIA agent.   They knew Libby had committed a crime which the Justice Department could prove to a jury.

Comey explains that the case against Rove and Armitage was weak, as disclosure of a covert intelligence agent requires proof of specific and evil intent,  not just idle gossip.  To avoid an apparent conflict of interest, Comey appointed a special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.   Right now, Patrick Fitzgerald  is part of James Comey’s  legal advisers and saw Comey’s note on a White House meeting after he was fired.

— * —

Donald Trump pardoned Scooter Libby on April 13, 2018 based on a Department of Justice recommendation.  As I said at the outset,  it change little for Scooter Libby.  However, what I find particularly offensive,  was Trump’s call to Libby’s lawyer, where Trump told her that Libby had been “screwed by the courts.”   Libby’s victim, Valerie Plame,  got it right, as she responded:

“This is definitely not about me. It’s absolutely not about Scooter Libby. This is about Donald Trump and his future,” Plame said before the formal announcement hit. “It’s very clear that this is a message he’s sending that you can commit crimes against national security and you will be pardoned, so I think he’s got an audience of three right now. That would be Manafort, Flynn and Kushner, and perhaps others.”

“The message being sent is you can commit perjury and I will pardon you if it protects me and I deem that you are loyal to me,” she added.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Trump: Scooter Libby “got screwed”

Presidential Pardons

Carter’s pardon stopped further court cases against draft dodgers during the Vietnam war, but excluded anyone who had previously been convicted.  Exactly how many draft dodgers might have been caught and brought to justice, and what punishment would have been given,  is really anyone’s guess.

Wikipedia:  Marc Rich

Wikipedia:  United States  v. Libby 

Wikipedia: Scooter Libby

Politico:  Trump issues pardon for Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby

Patrick Fitzgerald – Special Counsel for Plame Affair

Scooter Libby – Marc Rich Connection

Trump’s fixer man, Michael Cohen, and his secret business dealings

Michael Cohen is both a lawyer and a business man.    Search warrants  were served on Mr. Cohen because he is  being investigated for possible campaign finance violations, bank fraud and wire fraud.   It is part of a federal grand jury investigation which was empaneled months ago.  On Monday,  Mr. Cohen lost in his request to have all items seized in the raid returned to him.     It was established in court, that in the last year and a half,  Cohen provided legal advice to only three clients,  Donald Trump,  Elliott Broidy and Sean Hannity.   Sean Hannity denied he was Mr. Cohen’s client.

In their search, investigators also sought to obtain records relating to Cohen’s ownership of taxi medallions — high-value assets that are often used as collateral for loans, according to people familiar with the matter.  The value of the medallions was sharply dropping in value, as a result of Uber and Lyft.   Between April and June 2017, the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance filed seven tax warrants against Cohen and his wife for $37,434 in unpaid taxi taxes due to the MTA.[13]

Prosecutors are following the money on this one.   The  $130,000 payoff to Stormy Daniels, might be the most visible sign of shady business, but I suspect there are far bigger targets.   Elliott Broidy  needed Cohen’s help to hide the fact that his affair with Playboy model, Shera Bachard, who he made pregnant, and Cohen arranged a 1.3 million dollar payment to hush up the affair.    The child was aborted.

According to the New York Times, Mr. Broidy was a national deputy chairman of the R.N.C.’s finance committee, a title he shared with Mr. Cohen.  Mr. Broidy is the second member of that committee to resign this year amid questions involving their behavior with women and deals to silence them.

So,  how big is this swamp?   Here is more from the New York Times article:

During the wide-ranging October meeting, Mr. Broidy raised numerous topics high on the agenda of the United Arab Emirates, a country that has given his security company a contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars. He pitched the president on a paramilitary force his company was developing for the U.A.E. and urged Mr. Trump to fire Rex W. Tillerson, then the secretary of state, who the U.A.E. believed was insufficiently tough on its rival Qatar.

The documents show that Mr. Broidy has worked closely with George Nader, an adviser to the U.A.E. and a witness in the special counsel’s investigation, to help steer Trump administration policy on numerous issues in the Middle East. Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, is examining Mr. Nader’s possible role in funneling Emirati money to finance Mr. Trump’s political efforts. There is no indication that Mr. Mueller’s team is looking into Mr. Broidy.

In 2009, Mr. Broidy pleaded guilty to charges that he made nearly $1 million worth of illegal gifts to New York State officials in order to win an investment of $250 million from the state’s public pension fund. Among the gifts were trips to Israel and Italy, payouts to officials’ relatives and girlfriends and an investment in one relative’s production of a low-budget movie called “Chooch.”

It is also reported that there are no emails between Donald Trump and Michael Cohen.   Trump apparently doesn’t use email.

If true, can you imagine the gall of Broidy, wanting to get rid of the secretary of state,  because of his business dealings in the UAE.    Our environmental policies, have been sold out to the fossil fuel companies,  but was  Trump also trading in our relations with other Middle East countries to help support his donors?    Broidy was also on Trump’s inaugural ceremony committee, where millions  were unaccounted for according to MSNBC’s Rachel Madlow and others (see link).

I’m honestly not that interested in Stormy Daniel’s hush money contract, or  Elliot Broidy’s affair,  but the Middle East connections, by way of George Nader.  This might help Mueller’s team.

At this point, it is a legal battle between the president’s lawyers who want to do anything possible to impede the review by the “taint team”  verses the Department of Justice who want to know to get the team’s  review done as soon as possible.   Judge Kimba Woods has stated that case law on confidentiality, applies equally, be it the president of the United States, or the man on the street.   This has also been the opinion of the Supreme Court,  dating back to claims of Executive Privilege in the days of Nixon and Watergate.   Judge Woods  will likely decide soon whether a Special Master should be appointed.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Whatever happened to the money from Trump’s inaugural committee?

 

EPA in self destruct mode

I’ve commented on this before.  Readers can click on “EPA” to read prior blogs.

Republicans and Democrats drink the same water and breath the same air.  Contaminants in air come from many sources, including car emissions and chemical plants.  Pollutants  discharged into water bodies or the air can travel long distances and  do not know geographic boundaries.  This is the physical reality, requiring  the  federal environmentalists to be involved in preserving the environment beyond our borders.    We are one planet, and environmentalists in Kansas recognize they are affected by decisions in Beijing.     The rising water temperature, aided by increased Chinese carbon emissions and deforestation in Brazil, is a factor in the extreme weather variations as occurring in the northeast of the US now, and the hurricanes in Puerto Rico,  Florida and Texas last year.

I read a recent letter from a former EPA scientist, who made me so sad.  He had lung disease, and needed to live where the air quality was excellent.  Yet, the high standards which he was involved in, were likely not being  enforced by the EPA.

I’ve commented on Scott Pruitt before as the worst EPA Administrator it was created in 1970.   Both Republicans and Democrats have contributed to building the EPA before Pruitt began to destroy it.   One of the best Administrators, was William Rucklehaus,  the first and fifth administrators of the EPA.   He was a Republican, and first nominated to the post by Richard Nixon, and later became the Deputy Attorney General. He was fired by Nixon, for refusing to  firing the Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, but rehired by Reagan to head the EPA again.  Rucklehaus was able to transfer the approval of all regulations of pesticides to the EPA.   Doug Costle ran the EPA under President Carter, and followed a similar path as Rucklehaus.    President Reagan  campaigned against the EPA as an unnecessary government. He brought in Anne Gorsuch Buford to downsize the EPA.    Buford was  held in contempt of Congress when she refused to turn over documents on Superfund expenditures.

Environmental problems are big in the US because every industry has waste that they want to dispose of,  at the lowest cost, and still be within the law.  Only regulatory groups can evaluate the risk potential, using worse case scenarios.    Love Canal disaster should be taught in schools, as a modern lesson of how dumping of chemicals in the 1950’s underground,  can resurface decades later, and be contributing factors to leukemia.  The chemicals were dump in 1953, and Hooker Chemical thought by donating the land to a school, they could get rid of the mess.  Homes were built close to the school.  Parents noticed their children were betting burns  on their feet when playing barefoot. The impenetrable clay layer  seal was likely fractured by the filtration of water, which expanded as it froze in the winter.  Making American great again, is a fantasy,  because when it comes to environmental action, we are not great.  Not in the 1950’s,  not 1970’s and not today.

I’ll leave out most of this history, but you can check the links below, on Love Canal, and Superfund sites.

The number one threat to our environment is at present is  climate change.   The US should be the leader in curbing carbon emissions, but this was before Trump and Pruitt.  Pulling out of the Paris Accords on Climate Change Mitigation was a giant step backwards.   Transportation accounts for 27% of the greenhouse gases emitted (EPA estimate, 2015)  of which 90% are petroleum based.    We emit around 6,800 million metric tons (mtn) of CO2 equivalent of greenhouse gases, down from a peak of 7,300 mtn in 2007.    According to the EPA (current website, not the Obama archived one)

This decrease was largely driven by a decrease in emissions from fossil fuel combustion, which was a result of multiple factors including substitution from coal to natural gas consumption in the electric power sector; warmer winter conditions that reduced demand for heating fuel in the residential and commercial sectors; and a slight decrease in electricity demand.

The progress, however slight, is an unmistakable downward trend in greenhouse gases, which perhaps will not last much longer.   The lead story in the New York Times on March 30, 2018, reads:

The Trump administration is expected to kick off an effort in coming days to weaken greenhouse gases and fuel economy standards for automobiles, handing a victory to car manufacturers and giving them ammunition potentially to rollback industry standards worldwide.

Car manufacturers and oil companies will be pleased.  It is putting American first only in terms of corporate profits, not its citizens.  California is likely to fight these changes,  with 12 other states expected to follow.  It might end up with 2 sets of standards, one for most of the country, and the second for the California and the allied states.

Regulatory freedom, the right of Americans to choose the gas-guzzlers of their choice, unimpeded by big government will be EPA’s selling points.   Pruitt is expected to make the announcement at a Virginia dealership on Tuesday.   Obama had made auto emissions as strict as California, so auto manufacturers did not have to have two sets of standards for car emissions.

The states allied with California include New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, and together account for a third of all car sales, according to the New York Times.  California can legally require high fuel efficiency and lower emission standards based on a waiver granted by the federal government.   Trump can take California to court, to attempt to void the waiver.   He will likely let the car industry know there will be no renewal for the waivers in 2015.

To some extent,  fuel efficiency is likely to improve as gas prices go up because of consumer demand.   Despite all the talk from Washington,  finding new oil is still increasingly more expensive and the rig count has been increasing.   However,  the consumer is not likely to care about tailpipe emissions, well until they have respiratory problems.   Then they are very interested in everyone’s emission.  So,  a newly converted Democrat, is one with breathing problems.

Thus,  a very chaotic situation is about to unfold.    California may win, at least in the short term, as auto manufacturers are not about to produce two sets of cars.   A court battle is inevitable.

It is all about the Trump administration being weak, and caving in to the big auto manufacturers.

“Environmental preservation is our test.  If we pass it, we get to save the planet.”  (ok, I’ve taken a line from Marjory Stoneman Douglas on preserving the Everglades) We can’t expect China, India and the EU to regulate their emissions when we can’t.   It will take a long time to repair Trump’s damage to our standing in the world.

I wanted write more on Pruitt’s new rules on scientific evidence, which rely solely on public information as a way of further weakening the agency.   I’ll leave this for a separate blog.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

NYT:  US Readies a Plan to Blunt Fuel and Emission Rules for Automakers

EPA:  The Love Canal Tragedy

Wikipedia: Love Canal

EPA: Sources of Greenhouse Emissions

Wikipedia:  US Withdraws from the Paris Agreement

Sheriff Joe and the violation of constitutional rights of Hispanic residents

Sheriff  Joe Arpiao put himself above the law once too many times.    The liberties secured by “We, the People” do not exclude the Hispanic community of Maricopa County.   The courts concluded racial profiling was a violation of the Constitution and ordered Sheriff Joe to stop.  He refused  and was found in criminal contempt of the court orders.    The court based its decision of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution which reads:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Today, Presidential Trump pardoned Sheriff Arpaio.   I would like to say more, but the New York Times in today’s opinion section got it so right in the link below.

New York Times Opinion

Or you can do a Google search on “Just say no to Sheriff Joe, Mr. Trump”  NYT

Also see, The rap sheet against Sheriff Arpiao

He treated Hispanics terribly  and it was good he lost re-election.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Qatar Export Problems and What’s Next

Qatar has enormous gas reserves.    Gas requires a market.  When the local market is limited,   producers often have to invest heavily to make their gas marketable worldwide.  Qatar, along with many other countries, have invested in conversion of their gas to liquified natural gas (LNG) for the purpose of export.  These liquification plants (usually called “trains”),, shipment ports and the carriers usually are require billions of dollars to construct.   There has to be ports constructed to safely  receive the LNG.   For safety purposes, the carriers’ offloading buoys are located a long distance from shore.   Qatar is the world’s largest LNG exporter.   This opens up the world to their gas.

Qatar has contracts with Japan to supply LNG.  The shipping is now more costly  and likey causing delivery delays because these tankers can not refuel in the Persian Gulf.  However, shipments will continue.  Japanese buyers of LNG are hoping to renegotiate the LNG delivery contracts on better terms, to take advantage of Qatar’s situation.

Qatar also supplies the UK.  There was concern last week when two tankers delivering Qatari gas turn around as they entered the Gulf of Aden, but later reports indicate the  Qatari tankers can pass through the Suez canal and supply Europe.

Oil export is a bit tricky.  The very large crude carriers (VLCC) carry nearly a billion barrels of oil.  They generally make multiple loading  (“liftings”) at ports of other  countries to fill their tanker.  However, the rules of the blockade prohibit this-  if a tanker  has a partial load from Qatar, it can not top off its load by lifting at a Saudi port.  Qatar is scrambling to find smaller tankers to lift their crude.

Food is being supplied by an emergency airlift from Turkey.   The US could be doing much more as we have an airbase in Qatar, but I suspect the 100 billion dollars in potential new contracts with the Saudi’s is keeping Trump from taking any action.  Doha is not Berlin.  The stock market in Qatar dropped around 10%, which does not include Qatargas, as it is not a publicly traded  company.   The credit rating of Qatar dropped a notch due to an S+P downgrade.

I have combed the internet, looking for possible ways each side could de-escalate the crisis.   I found nothing that was likely.  The most obvious way to keep the diplomatic/ economic crisis from turning into a humanitarian one, is to stop the deportations,  or at least push back the deadlines.   Qataris were given 2 weeks to leave Bahrain, UAE and Saudi Arabia.    I believe some measures are being done to ensure the families are not broken up.  Amnesty International has come out strongly against these deportation as it makes people on both sides of the conflict, the  real victims of the conflict.  I am certain the Arab countries are now sourcing the labor market, and will be bring in many laborers from Pakistan and the Philippines.   I have not confirmation on this- it’s really just my hunch.   Once deportation begin, it will be difficult to undo through negotiations.

The outsiders, including Russia, France and the US,  plus the non-aligned Arab countries of Kuwait and Oman, all want to help in negotiating a lifting of sanctions.  But, it remains confused at what would satisfy the main actors (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE and Bahrain) in this blockade.   Qatar is not about to “rein in”  Al Jazeera,  in essence, make it less effective a news network.   It is in daily competition with all other news outlets, and given the widespread use of satellite television,  their major competitors are the BBC, CNN and Euronews, at least for the English speaking world.  And they are doing very well. Qatar denies they have any connection with Hamas or any terrorist organizations.

This type of sanctions usually don’t work.  All they will accomplish is to cause hardships for Qatar and the companies and investors doing business with Qatar.   Those who financed Qatar’s rise in the world, were likely rich Persian Gulf investors, buying Qatari bonds, which would be “safe” investments.  They are likely taking a big hit.  The blockade can be lifted easily, but it seems things are at a stalemate.   On the other hand, there are opportunities to escalate the situation.   Qatar could cut the gas supplies to UAE through their pipeline, but this would likely backfire, and Qatar would be the bigger loser.   Other Arab countries would step up their gas supplies to the UAE and the Saudi blockage would gain more unity.   The Arab countries can through controlling the airspace,  effectively ground Qatar Air without much repercussions.  They seem to want to put Qatar Air out of business.   Stopping Qatari  LNG carriers passing through the Suez canal,  would violate international laws,  but  it is still a potential step.  Yemen controls the Gulf of Aden, so this would be the place to extract more economic harm to Qatar.

I have no idea of how this mess can end.    The most recent series of terrorist attacks, in the Philippines and Iran, suggest the Sunni based ISIS is still the number one instigator of secular violence in the world, not tied in anyway to Qatar.   Trump is still going nuts pushing his travel ban, but it is equally likely that the next outside terrorists to land on our shores (there has been very few of them) is equally likely to come from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, France, Belgium, UK or  the Philippines, rather than Libya, Sudan or Syria (countries named in the travel ban).     Actually,  the next terrorists to cause bloodshed in  the US, are more likely to  be US permanent residents or citizens, than agents from any other country.   It is all politics, and getting uglier by the day.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Week 1: Trump found in violation of Constitution

It’s all over the news, so I won’t go into the details.

The heroes are the attorneys for the ACLU.   So, I’m sending them a contribution right now.

ACLU

One Syrian women was reportedly about to be sent back to her home country when the ruling came down—and was promptly taken off the flight by Customs and Border Protection agents.

The stay is temporary.    There will be a court hearing to determine if the Executive Order is legal.   The Judge ordered the government to turn over all names of people facing deportation under the Order.

Will the Department comply with furnishing these documents?

GO ACLU!

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Obama Legacy – Economics, Part 1

Worst economic conditions since 1973.  Labor participation has never been this low.  Percent of home ownership now at a 10 year low.  Deficits are sky rocketing.  Thank God we got rid of Obama and his screwed up economic plan.

Ok- this is from Fox news,  Sean Hannity, right after Obama’s farewell address.  I’ve embellished on a bit.  This kind of bashing of the economy used to come from financial advisors with doomsday prediction, and then either “Buy my book … ” or “Call me now at 800- ….”  so you will be protected.   Now, it’s all about ratings.

When things are bleak for large companies, the stock market crashes.  The stock market crashed in 2008 at the end of Bush’s term as the banking/financial crisis got red hot.

djia

Now, the first big infusion of government money came during Bush’s term.  Conservative Republicans hated this, and stated it was like throwing gasoline on a fire.  But no recovery goes straight up. I count 9 dips in the Dow.

As the economy recovered,  unemployment dropped from 10% to 4.6%.

unemployment

 

And the housing market recovered as well beginning in late 2009.

housing

Unemployment and housing starts are two of the most closely watched barometers of the US economy.

Average home prices have also increased, and bank requirements for new loans are more difficult than in the period of 2000 to 2008.   This is why, the percentage of home ownership  declined  during Obama’s administration.    Also labor participation declined as baby boomers retired.  Increase enrollment in colleges may also be a factor.

Has the election of Trump made a difference in the economy?  Certainly, the stock market has rallied since November, but it is far too early to tell.

I haven’t mentions the US debt and other important aspects of the economy. To be continued.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

 

Don’t you worry ’bout a thing

Stevie Wonder,  released 1973.

I talked to someone about Trump, and he tells me we are in good hands.  He listens to Fox News and plays golf 3 times a week.   Not a bad life.

There are some real tough questioning coming up on Trump’s cabinet positions.   I guess the most troublesome is our future relations with China.  We can not have a trade war with China, and expect their help in stopping North Korea’s nuclear plans.

I would think there is nothing more urgent than a united front against North Korea.  Trump would be wise to remember that a majority of Americans voted for Hillary Clinton, whose campaign slogan was “stronger together.”

There was a great discussion on Fareed Zakaria show (GPS)  with James Baker, saying that what previous republican presidents (Reagan & HW Bush) have favored was free trade agreements, and Trump’s new cabinet tends more towards protectionism.   Baker said Trump as candidate, or now president-elect is not the same as when he actually moves into the White House with the staff making recommendations.

Baker may be right.  He’s not yet our president.  However, the more Trump goes after Mexico stealing our jobs  and their citizens pouring over the border, the more I worry that it’s the same old Trump,  always playing politics with an incoherent foreign policy strategy.

 

US and Russia

Putin wanted Trump over Clinton.  It should have been Clinton’s greatest non-endorsement.  Putin feels the breakup of the Soviet Union was a mistake, and some of the  Baltic states should be part of Russia.  Putin has expansionary ambitions.

Sanctioning Russia for the hacking efforts was a tough call for Obama.   It was an executive order, but this time Republicans did not fight him.   Trump has the authority to reverse these orders- and I think he will.    Trump’s response was weird at best, praising Putin for not responding in kind, with expulsion of US diplomats.

Trump is very used to project management.  In fact, he is a master at it.  His team will come up with a 100 day plan, mainly dealing with domestic issues, including the repatriation of overseas funds.   He has repeated attacked the NATO alliance and the UN.  Now, he will need these organizations more than ever,  and a lot of diplomacy to curb the ambitious Putin.

With the transition underway, and resistance from Democrats on every level,  I believe this will be the opportune time for Putin to make his move.  I’m not certain where, but the western side of the Ukraine or one of the Baltic states would be obvious targets.

The Trump test is coming.  I wish he makes the right decisions as what happens in Europe affects everyone.  Lesson to Trump – globalization is not a choice, it is a reality.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who’s ahead in the election?

Hillary Clinton, as of Aug 5, has about an 80% change of winning this election.   This is strictly based state polls, and who will win the most electoral votes.   To figure out who will win, you have to follow the toss up states.   In fact, there are just 3 solid ones left- Florida, Ohio and North Carolina.

So what is toss up status?    It is generally when either Clinton or Trump have less than 65% and more than 35% chance of winning.  It is generally when the outcome of statewide polls show the difference in the candidates is less than the margin of error.  If several statewide polls show conflicting results,  it is a toss up.

Florida, Ohio and North Carolina have shown slim differences in polls, and conflicting results- so they are solid toss ups.   Some like the New York Times, believe Georgia is in the toss up camp.   Others think Georgia could lean Republican.  Arizona is considered toss up by some, or lean Republican.   Right now,  Nevada,  New Hampshire, Virginia, Colorado, Wisconsin and Iowa are generally considered to lean Democratic.  Clinton could win the presidency without winning either the popular vote or the most states.

My guess is Hillary Clinton will surpass the 270 electoral votes needed by 50 to 70 electoral votes.  I’m going to run a few simulations on this, and I’ll come up with the most accurate (or at least the most precise) number possible.

Frequently wrong but never in doubt.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

Election Predictions

The best way to figure who will win, is to keep a close eye on state-wide polls of the swing states.  Since the beginning of this current madness,  there have been hundreds of polls, most of which at this point,  only confirm what we already know.    New York votes Democrat. Similarly,  Texas votes Republican.   These are the solid blue and red states.

National polls show the candidates to be close.  Trump is likely to win more states than Hillary.  But,  winning the most states doesn’t win the election.

The only way any candidate can win an election, is to win some of the swing states.  Hillary Clinton is in Florida right now.   Donald Trump, of course, is getting ready to make a grand entrance in Cleveland, OH.   These are the two really key swing states.   The other really big one is North Carolina.

So,  while a ton of predictions are being churned out,   few understand the prediction process.  Each state is assigned a probability that the Republican or Democrat will win in November.  Texas, for example has a 99% chance of going to Trump.   The reason for this is simple.  All the polls show Trump beating either Sanders or Clinton.  Similarly, Trump has nearly no chance to win New York. This leaves about 10 to 13 swing states, with probabilities much closer to toss up status (50%).   North Carolina is closer to a solid “anyone’s guess” or 50% than any other state.

Overall, using  probabilities by state, Clinton has a 70-75% chance of winning.  It is noted that the effect of third party candidates has not been taken into account in most polls.

These predictions are remarkably close to the odds given by the bookies from across the pond.

New York Times – Who will be the next president?

The predictions change as poll numbers change.    Each candidate will focus on states where they are lagging.  If more states move closer to the 50% probability value, the net result may be a decrease in election predictability.

Stay tuned,

Dave