Quote of the Day: Trump Going To North Korea Compared To Nixon Going To China

“It’s like Richard Nixon going to China, but if Nixon were a moron.” –Jeffrey Lewis, writing in Foreign Affairs about Trump going to North Korea. (Hat tip to Political Wire for link. Picture is of Kim and Trump impersonators from Foreign Affairs.

Bush Said Bolton Not Credible By 2008; Jimmy Carter Calls His Appointment The Worst Mistake Trump Has Made

While George W. Bush initially promoted the career of John Bolton, over time his opinion became closer to Jimmy Carter’s view of him. Max Boot points out that by 2008, George Bush no longer trusted Bolton, pointing to this article from 2008 after Bolton criticized Bush for lifting some of the sanctions on North Korea:

“Let me just say from the outset that I don’t consider Bolton credible,” the president said bitterly. Bush had brought Bolton into the top ranks of his administration, fought for Senate confirmation and, when lawmakers balked, defied critics to give the hawkish aide a recess appointment. “I spent political capital for him,” Bush said, and look what he got in return.

Jimmy Carter calls the appointment of Bolton as National Security Adviser as “the worst mistake” Trump has made:

“I have been concerned at some of the things he’s decided. I think his last choice for national security adviser was very ill-advised. I think John Bolton has been the worst mistake he’s made,” Carter told “CBS This Morning” co-host Norah O’Donnell Monday. Bolton will be Mr. Trump’s third national security adviser since taking office.

Considering all the mistakes Trump has made, that says a lot.

I recently cited Reason magazine’s 5 Reasons Not to Feed the Russian Troll Hysteria. They have another good five entry list this week too, 5 Things About John Bolton That Are Worse Than His Mustache:

  1. Bolton supported the 2002 invasion of Iraq and still thinks it was a dandy idea
  2. Bolton supported the U.S. intervention in the Libyan civil war.
  3. Bolton thinks the U.S. should have intervened in the Syrian civil war sooner and more aggressively.
  4. Bolton agitated for war with Iran.
  5. Bolton favors attacking North Korea

The irony is that these positions differ from many of the statements Donald Trump made on foreign policy during the campaign, although contradictions from Trump occur frequently. Bolton’s record is also more similar to that of Hillary Clinton, who supported the invasion of Iraq, orchestrated the intervention in Libya as Secretary of State, has criticized Obama for not intervening in the Syrian war as she advised, and has threatened to obliterate Iran. While I’m not aware of her outright promoting an attack on North Korea, her actions as Secretary of State have exacerbated the crisis in North Korea.

Trump Brings Ultra-Warmonger Into Administration. How Much Should We Worry?

Donald Trump’s choice of John Bolton to be National Security Adviser greatly diminishes any hopes that Donald Trump actually meant it when he (sometimes) spoke out against war as a candidate. Perhaps it is possible that Trump just likes to bring in people from Fox and does not realize that Bolton’s views differ sharply from some of the views he has promoted. Considering how inconsistent and incoherent he was on foreign policy, it is also possible that his opposition to the Iraq war was primarily an attack on Jeb Bush via his family, and his criticism of regime change in Libya was also based more on a desire to attack Hillary Clinton than any real understanding of the situation.

With the range of views on Bolton ranging as to how much to panic, Andrew Sullivan predicts the worst case scenario:

This is the second phase of tyranny, after the more benign settling-in: the purge. Any constraints that had been in place to moderate the tyrant’s whims are set aside; no advice that counters his own gut impulses can be tolerated. And so, over the last couple of weeks, we have seen the president fire Rex Tillerson and Andrew McCabe, two individuals who simply couldn’t capitulate to the demand that they obey only Trump, rather than the country as well…

No one with these instincts for total domination over others is likely to moderate the longer he is in power. Au contraire. It always gets worse. And so Tillerson has been replaced by a fawning toady, Mike Pompeo, a man whose hatred of Islam is only matched by his sympathy for waterboarders. Pompeo has been replaced in turn by a war criminal, who authorized brutal torture and illegally destroyed the evidence, Gina Haspel. Whatever else we know about Haspel, we know she follows orders.

Gary Cohn has been replaced by Larry Kudlow — a sane person followed by a delusional maniac Trump sees on Fox, who instantly thought up ways for the president to cut taxes further without congressional approval. And the State Department, indeed the entire diplomatic apparatus, has, it seems, been replaced by Jared Kushner, a corrupt enthusiast for West Bank settlements who no longer has a security clearance.

Then the president’s legal team was shaken up — in order to purge those few who retain some appreciation for the rule of law in a constitutional republic and to replace them with conspiracy theorists, thugs, and the kind of combative, asshole lawyers Trump has always employed in his private capacity. Trump is self-evidently — obviously— preparing to fire Mueller, and the GOP’s complete acquiescence to the firing of McCabe is just a taste of the surrender to come. “Now I’m fucking doing it my own way!” was how he allegedly expressed his satisfaction at the purge, as his approval ratings from Republicans increase, and as the GOP’s evolution into a full-fledged cult gathers pace.

And then last night, we saw McMaster fall on his sword, replaced by John Bolton, an unrepentant architect of the most disastrous war since Vietnam, a fanatical advocate for regime change in Iran, an anti-Muslim extremist, and a believer in the use of military force as if it were a religion. And this, of course, is also part of the second phase for Plato’s tyrant: war. “As his first step, he is always setting some war in motion, so that people will be in need of a leader,” Plato explains. In fact, “it’s necessary for a tyrant always to be stirring up war.”

…I worry that the more Trump is opposed and even cornered — especially if he loses the House this fall — the more dangerous he will become. If Mueller really does have the goods, and if the Democrats storm back into congressional power, then Trump may well lash out to protect himself at all costs. We know he has no concern for the collateral damage his self-advancement has long caused in his private and public life. We know he has contempt for and boundless ignorance of liberal democracy. We know he is capable of anything — of immense cruelty and callousness, of petty revenge and reckless rhetoric, of sudden impulses and a quick temper. We also know he is commander-in-chief, who may soon need the greatest distraction of all.

War is coming. And there will be nothing and no one to stop him.

With establishment Democrats having also adopted neoconservativeism and abandoned standing up to warmongers (having even nominated one of the worst in 2016) I’ll turn to another conservative critic of Trump, and someone I rarely quote or agree with. Jennifer Rubin described the horrors of having Bolton in this position, but left more room for hope than Sullivan:

Bolton frequently advocates use of military power, specifically against Iran and North Korea. With regard to North Korea, he believes diplomacy is useless and the only “solution” is reunification of the Korean Peninsula — as a free and democratic country. If that is a short-term goal rather than a long-term aspiration, a massive war almost certainly would be necessary. On Iran, he has declared the deal unfixable and advocated for military strikes on Iran.

The question of the moment is whether the John Bolton we read in print and see on TV will be the same John Bolton who is charged with coordinating foreign policy. Advocating in print a position a Democratic president will never undertake is one thing; presenting to your boss a viable plan for military action that may result in mass casualties is quite another. In other words, we’re about to find out if Bolton is really serious about all his views or has simply enjoyed the role of gadfly…

Where Sullivan sees nobody who could stop him, Rubin has a suggestion which is more grounded in the Constitution than recent precedent:

The Bolton pick should be a wake-up call to Republicans who always assumed wise, calm advisers would be there to constrain Trump. It should motivate both Republicans and Democrats to start reclaiming Congress’s power, for example, by declaring that congressional authorization is required for a first strike on either Iran or North Korea. They cannot prevent Bolton from assuming his job, but together with Republican colleagues can begin to exercise more restraint on the use of force and, as Menendez suggested, to conduct robust oversight.

As for outside foreign policy gurus who have advocated high-stakes strategies (e.g., threatening to pull out of the JCPOA and use military force against Iran), they would do well to realize this is no academic exercise. In Bolton, the president has someone who may well encourage his most outlandish ideas.

It could be a favorable “legacy” of Donald Trump, even if not what he desires, if the outcome of his presidency is greater constraint on presidential power, as well as corruption.

Meanwhile Guardian editor David Shariatmadari, after writing of the risk of war, concluded with, “Help us Mad Dog Mattis, you’re our only hope.” It is scary that the most sane foreign policy voice left is someone called Mad Dog.

Lindsey Graham’s Insane Belief That War With North Korea Would Be “Worth It”

Donald Trump very well might be the worst president in our history, but that doesn’t mean that there are other policians who are also very dangerous. For example,  Lindsey Graham said in an interview on CNN that war with Korea would be worth it: “All the damage that would come from a war would be worth it in terms of long-term stability and national security.”

In reality such a war would probably lead to considerable instabilty for years to come, on top of the immediate damage such a war would cause.

Here are some responses from around the blogosphere, and across the ideological spectrum. Daniel Larison at The American Conervative wrote:

There is no way that a war with a nuclear-armed North Korea could be “worth it,” and saying that it would be shows a monstrous disregard for the lives and well-being of tens of millions of people on the Korean Peninsula. A war with North Korea would be an unmitigated disaster for everyone on the Korean Peninsula, and it would be extremely costly for the U.S. and the surrounding region. In the worst-case scenario, a U.S. attack could precipitate the very nuclear attack on American soil that it is supposed to “prevent.” If the U.S. gives the North Korean government reason to think that they have nothing to lose, that scenario is not so far-fetched.

Beyond the immediate massive loss of life and property, the damage to the global economy would be extensive. The region would be dangerously unstable for many years and probably decades afterwards. Even if we assume that China stayed neutral in a major war on its doorstep, tensions with China would be very high for a long time to come. If China chose to intervene on North Korea’s side as they probably would, the U.S. might even lose the war or be forced into another stalemate at great cost. Victory in a war with North Korea would be Pyrrhic, and could not possibly be “worth” the price that it would cost.

Doug Mataconis wrote at  Outside the Beltway:

The sheer arrogance and idiocy behind this comment from Graham cannot possibly be understated. As I’ve noted here several times in the past, a war on the Korean Peninsula would be unlike anything this nation or any of our allies have seen since young American men were being killed by the hundreds every day in Vietnam, or since the first Korean War itself which resulted in an estimated 2.7 million civilian casualties, just over 300,000 allied war dead (most of which were South Korean), more than 600,000 military deaths on the North Korean/Chinese side, plus roughly 800,000 wounded among the allied nations (again with the majority being South Korean) and a similar number wounded on the Communist side. (Sources here and here) This is a far cry from the wars that Americans have become used to since the post-Vietnam War such as the Persian Gulf War (341 Allied Killed In Action), the Afghan War (3,405 Allied KIA),  and even the Iraq War (4,809 Allied KIA). It’s also worth noting that a new war on the Korean Peninsula would play out in real time in the United States and around the world in a way that the first war, or indeed Vietnam or any of the other recent wars, have been thanks not only to cable news but also social media and the Internet. It would be difficult if not impossible for Americans to avoid seeing the consequences of such a war and how they would react to that is hard to predict at this point

In addition to being utterly illegal, a new war in Korea would most likely not last nearly as long as the first one did, that doesn’t mean that the toll it would inflict would not be horrible. As just one example of this, there’s the fact that the current population of Seoul and its immediate metropolitan area is roughly 9.86 million people, making it more populated than cities such as Tokyo and New York City. The nearby city of Inchon, the city of General Douglas MacArthur’s famous amphibious invasion that is credited with turning the tide of the Korean War when it helped to relieve a beleaguered South Korea, has a population of just under 2.9 million people. Both of these areas are well within the range of the tens of thousands of artillery pieces and rockets that North Korea has placed on its side of the Demilitarized Zone, as are a number of American military bases. Additionally, Japanese cities such as Toyko and Kyoto, and of course American bases in Japan, are well within the range of North Korean missiles that are most assuredly operational albeit likely to “only” carry conventional military casualties. In North Korea, the capital Pyongyang, which would be a prime target of American air power, is estimated to have a civilian population of just under 2.6 million people. Even in a short conflict, the potential for massive civilian casualties is something that can’t simply be swept aside.

For Graham to simply brush aside the potential losses that would likely unfold from a war on the Korean Peninsula is irresponsible, callous, and stupid. While it is true that the likely outcome of a war in Korea would be the downfall of the Kim regime, the price that would have to be paid to get there, particularly by civilians in the Republic of Korea or Japan, is hardly something that can be dismissed in the cavalier manner that Graham does is outrageous and stupid. It’s the same kind of attitude that led the United States to go to war in Iraq in 2003, which led to civilian casualties that are estimated to be well over 100,000 people and to continue to fight in Afghanistan despite the lack of a clear and coherent objective, leading to estimated civilian casualties numbering at least something more than 31,000 people. Graham’s apparent lack of concern for a similar bloodbath in Korea is a sign of just how insane his position actually is.

David Atkins wrote at Washington Monthly:

This is patently insane, and a far more crazy and irresponsible statement than Donald Trump has ever tweeted in his life. A military strike on North Korea has the very high probability of resulting in cataclysmic death and destruction the likes of which we have not seen at least since World War II–and that’s assuming that the conflict doesn’t spiral into a world war dragging in Russia and China. North Korea isn’t just prepared to potentially launch a nuclear missile against the United States. That may or may not work, and the U.S. may or may not be able to defend against such a threat.

More urgently and inevitably, North Korea has thousands of conventional missiles aimed directly at the entirety of South Korea and Japan. Even without nuclear missiles, the bombardment of Seoul and Tokyo would cause the deaths of millions, and send the entire world into an economic catastrophe lasting decades. For the jingoistic moral cretins in the room who only care about American lives, these millions would also include thousands of U.S. soldiers and ex pats.

It’s worth noting in this context that most of Trump’s crimes are against the norms of democracy, equality and basic moral decency–but nothing he has yet done comes even close on the scale of crimes against humanity that the Bush Administration did in deliberately misleading the world into a war in Iraq that has cost tens of thousands of lives–even excluding all the deaths indirectly attributable to it in Syria and elsewhere today–and trillions of dollars in treasure. The Trump Administration has done horrible things, but it hasn’t yet intentionally outed a CIA agent who tried to blow the whistle on the hastily manufactured rationale for a war of choice on a sovereign nation.

There is no question that Donald Trump is a terrible menace. But let’s not pretend there’s a safe alternative to him in the GOP.  Better the crazy man tweeting inanities while watching Fox and Friends and straitjacketed by his own chaotic incompetence, than the banal evil of a man like Lindsey Graham who would calmly, slowly and quite deliberately obey all the norms of American governance in sending millions to their deaths.

Trump’s First Year Was Terrible, But Things Could Have Been Worse

It is fitting that Donald Trump, who claimed that “I alone can fix it,” couldn’t make it through his entire first year without breaking the government. Donald Trump has been among the worst presidents ever. However, while the past year under Trump might have been the worst of times, it was not the worst of all possible times. Trump’s first year has been terrible, but we must also be appreciative all those spared from dying in Hillary’s wars over the past year.

Donald Trump and the Republicans have been terrible on many issues, including health care, race, and immigration. As I had previously predicted, Trump has been totally incoherent on foreign policy. He has escalated a potential nuclear crisis in North Korea, but we also must not forget that Hillary Clinton was largely responsible for the situation and peace would have probably have been impossible if she was in the White House. Clinton’s push to overthrow Muammar Qaddafi based upon lies after he surrendered his nuclear weapons, along with her joining with her neocon allies in lying us into the  Iraq war, have been cited by both Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin as reasons for their nuclear buildup and other foreign policy actions.

Donald Trump’s relations with Russia have been mixed, and evidence has grown of both a history of financial crimes and an attempt at a cover-up over the past year. At least Trump’s financial crimes are under investigation, while Democrats regularly make excuses for the influence peddling of Bill and Hillary Clinton.

The irony is that, after the risk of deterioration of relations with Russia and a return to a Cold War atmosphere was feared by many should Clinton become president, Clinton has managed to create hysteria over Russia without even being elected. While Trump is probably guilty of money laundering and a obstruction of justice, the evidence to date has contradicted conspiracy theories which appear to have been fabricated Clinton and the DNC to blame Clinton’s loss on Russia. With Clinton continuing to promote belligerence towards Russia even out of office, using conspiracy theories to get Democrats to embrace her neoconservative interventionism, it is of considerable concern as to how much greater harm Clinton could be doing in the White House.

Donald Trump has been terrible for civil liberties as president, including his attacks on the press. It must not be forgotten that even before the election Clinton had far right wing views on civil liberties which were not all that different from Trump’s.  Donald Trump has ignored the norms of a democratic society, but since the election Clinton has also continued her attack on civil liberties and has attacked the fundamental principles of democracy, including the legitimacy of election results. Both Clinton and Trump have cited fake news, which often means information critical of them, as justification to call for censorship.

While many Republicans have little respect for civil liberties, in the past year we have seen Democrats engage in McCarthyism as part of their anti-Russia hysteria.  The Democratic Party as a whole turned out to be worthless when faced with a vote to renew and expand warrantless surveillance as many joined with Republicans. If many Democrats were unwilling to stand up to Donald Trump on a fundamental civil liberties issue, I would expect even fewer to resist calls for increased powers by an authoritarian like Hillary Clinton.

Donald Trump has been a terrible president, but at least his faults are widely recognized, and his falsehoods are regularly exposed. Donald Trump might have authoritarian tendencies, but if so he is a very weak authoritarian. He has brought about serious damage to the entire Republican and conservative brands, likely doing far less damage than Hillary Clinton would have been capable of.

With The Outcry Over Trump’s Racist Comment On Shithole Countries Don’t Forget Hillary Clinton’s Role In Creating Shitholes Around The World

Donald Trump verified what we already knew about him with his comment about immigration shithole countries. He showed once again that he is racist, xenophobic, and has a shithole for a brain. Having Hillary Clinton speak out against this remark also served as a reminder of how often the United States is responsible for turning other countries into shitholes.

The long history of destruction in other countries by the United States is obviously too broad a topic for a single blog post, so for today I will just look at a couple of countries which Hillary Clinton helped turn into shitholes–Haiti (as it was mentioned by Trump), and Libya.

Current Affairs had one look at what the Clintons did to Haiti in a 2016 article. This includes suppressing the minimum wage in Haiti, as Wikileaks first revealed, with more at the Columbia Journalism Review.

When Haiti had problems recovering from a 2010 earthquake, the Clinton Foundation was happy to provide assistance, especially if “Friends of Bill” could get a piece of “the lucrative recovery effort.” ABC News reported:

In a series of candid email exchanges with top Clinton Foundation officials during the hours after the massive 2010 Haiti earthquake, a senior aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeatedly gave special attention to those identified by the abbreviations “FOB” (friends of Bill Clinton) or “WJC VIPs” (William Jefferson Clinton VIPs).

“Need you to flag when people are friends of WJC,” wrote Caitlin Klevorick, then a senior State Department official who was juggling incoming offers of assistance being funneled to the State Department by the Clinton Foundation. “Most I can probably ID but not all.”

The Washington Post notes that, “the Clintons’ image in Haiti has slipped in recent months as Haitians increasingly complain that Clinton-backed projects have often helped the country’s elite and international business investors more than they have helped poor Haitians.” Among those helped was Hillary’s brother, Tony Rodham, thanks to connections he made at a meeting of at a meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative. The Washington Post describes the Clinton Global Initiative as “an offshoot of the Clinton Foundation that critics have long alleged invites a blurring of its charitable mission with the business interests of Bill and Hillary Clinton and their corporate donors.”

The country which was probably harmed the most by Hillary Clinton was Libya. Years after she voted for the war in Iraq, turning that country into a shithole, Clinton showed that the lesson she learned was how easy it is to lie the country into further wars. Clinton turned Libya into such a shithole that CNN found that Africans are being sold into slavery. Barack Obama has called the regime change in Libya, orchestrated by Hillary Clinton, the biggest mistake of his administration, and has called it a “shit show.” Last year Huffington Post had a story about how Hillary Clinton Turned a Stable, Developed Nation Into an ISIS Safe Haven:

As a brave crusader for all women – especially for women living in countries that she desperately wants to bomb – then-Secretary Clinton argued that the United States had a moral duty to intervene in Libya, stating that she was “deeply concerned” that Muammar Gaddafi’s troops were using rape as a weapon. (She was parroting a rumor started by Al-Jazeera which claimed that Gaddafi was handing out free Viagra to his soldiers so that they could rape 24/7.)

After Libya was flattened by NATO’s “no fly zone”, Amnesty International published a report which thoroughly debunked Hillary’s passionate plea for war:

Not only have we not met any [rape] victims, but we have not even met any persons who have met victims. As for the boxes of Viagra that Gaddafi is supposed to have had distributed, they were found intact near tanks that were completely burnt out.

The boxes of pristine Viagra found next to burnt-out tanks weren’t the only things planted in Libya. According to its report, Amnesty “failed to find evidence for these human rights violations [used to justify intervention] and in many cases has discredited or cast doubt on them. It also found indications that on several occasions the rebels in Benghazi appeared to have knowingly made false claims or manufactured evidence.”

The icing on the illegal war cake is that before Hillary started spreading rape rumors, Libya was considered a “high human development” country by the United Nations:

In 2010, Libya ranked 53rd in the UN’s Human Development Index among 163 countries. With life expectancy at birth at 74.5 years, an 88.4% adult literacy rate and a gross enrolment ratio of 94.1%, Libya was classified as a high human development country among the Middle East and North Africa region.

Libyans once enjoyed a higher standard of living than two-thirds of the planet. Now their country is terrorist stronghold ruled by competing warlords.

And as ISIS continues to lose territory in Syria and Iraq, Libya is increasingly seen as a fertile ground for jihadists. According to The Atlantic:

American intelligence officials estimate that the group’s ranks in Libya have grown to 6,500 fighters, more than doubling since the fall. ISIS first declared its intentions to establish a presence in Libya in 2014 and has been launching attacks ever since. The group is now thought to control 150 miles of Libyan coastline.

Hillary Clinton turned a stable, developed nation into an ISIS safe haven using tactics that would have made even William Randolph Hearst a bit queasy. To whip up support for the Spanish-American War (you’re probably too young to remember it), America’s favorite yellow journalist only managed to invent tame, PG -13 fairytales about Spanish soldiers fondling young Cuban damsels. If Hearst had reported that the Spaniards were having Havana Viagra parties, we could have marched all the way to Madrid. Hopefully President Clinton will remedy this missed opportunity. Pack your bags, ISIS. Next stop: Spain.

Forget Benghazi. Clinton is culpable in a far greater crime.

Besides turning Libya into a shithole country, Clinton’s decision to overthrow Qaddafi after he got rid of his nuclear weapons has been cited as a major reason for the current nuclear standoff with North Korea. If things go bad there, the entire planet could be turned into a shithole, with both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to blame.

New Book Provides Further Information On Donald Trump And Casts Further Doubt On Democratic Conspiracy Theories About 2016 Election

 

Information from Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, provides further insight into Trump and cast further doubt on the conspiracy theories being spread by Democrats that Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election due to a conspiracy involving Donald Trump and Russia. An excerpt appearing in New York Magazine shows, as many suspected while he was running, that Donald Trump neither thought he could win nor wanted to win the 2016 presidential election:

Most presidential candidates spend their entire careers, if not their lives from adolescence, preparing for the role. They rise up the ladder of elected offices, perfect a public face, and prepare themselves to win and to govern. The Trump calculation, quite a conscious one, was different. The candidate and his top lieutenants believed they could get all the benefits of almost becoming president without having to change their behavior or their worldview one whit. Almost everybody on the Trump team, in fact, came with the kind of messy conflicts bound to bite a president once he was in office. Michael Flynn, the retired general who served as Trump’s opening act at campaign rallies, had been told by his friends that it had not been a good idea to take $45,000 from the Russians for a speech. “Well, it would only be a problem if we won,” ­Flynn assured them.

Not only did Trump disregard the potential conflicts of his own business deals and real-estate holdings, he audaciously refused to release his tax returns. Why should he? Once he lost, Trump would be both insanely famous and a martyr to Crooked Hillary. His daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared would be international celebrities. Steve Bannon would become the de facto head of the tea-party movement. Kellyanne Conway would be a cable-news star. Melania Trump, who had been assured by her husband that he wouldn’t become president, could return to inconspicuously lunching. Losing would work out for everybody. Losing was winning.

Shortly after 8 p.m. on Election Night, when the unexpected trend — Trump might actually win — seemed confirmed, Don Jr. told a friend that his father, or DJT, as he calls him, looked as if he had seen a ghost. Melania was in tears—and not of joy.

It looks even worse for Hillary Clinton to have lost to a candidate who didn’t even want to win. Part of Clinton’s problem is that she wanted too much to be president, and for the wrong reasons, using her political career for personal financial gain, not even caring about how this looked–as Matt Taibbi discussed in this excerpt from his book on the election.

In theory, having a president who did not want to be president might sound like a good thing in contrast to the corruption of Bill and Hillary Clinton, but in this case Donald Trump was not the right answer. Like the Clintons, Trump’s motives were based upon personal greed. Unlike the Clintons, Trump lacked even rudimentary understanding of the position, and has showed no desire to learn. One consequence was yesterday’s tweet in which, rather than try to diffuse hostilities with North Korea as any rational political leader would, he bragged about the size of his nuclear button.

There is already considerable reason to doubt the conspiracy theory started by Hillary Clinton that collusion between Donald Trump and Russia were responsible for her loss. Such a conspiracy between Trump and Putin appears even less likely if Trump was not interested in being president. Wolff’s book also revealed that Putin had no interest in meeting Trump when he came to Russia, quoting Steve Bannon as saying that,”Putin couldn’t give a shit about him.” That hardly makes Trump and Putin sound like the co-conspirators which the Democrats make them out to be.

More significant information came from Steve Bannon’s interview on the Trump Tower meeting, in which Russians teased Donald, Jr with claims of information on Clinton, but actually had nothing to deliver. While not of any significance in terms of altering the election result, it does show the lack of principles of Donald, Jr, with Bannon calling this “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.”

I have noted that, while there is no evidence available that Donald Trump knew of the meeting, it is hard to believe he did not know about it. Bannon’s comments on the meeting further confirm this suspicion.

I have also been writing since the start of this scandal that the real crimes appear to involve financial crimes such as money laundering, followed by Trump’s cover-up of contacts with Russia, as opposed to anything related to altering the election result. Bannon further confirmed that this scandal is really about money laundering:

Bannon, speaking to author Michael Wolff, warned that the investigation into alleged collusion with the Kremlin will focus on money laundering and predicted: “They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.”

This view that the investigation will focus on money laundering is consistent with the first indictment from Robert Mueller.

There was another interesting admission from Bannon:

Bannon went on, Wolff writes, to say that if any such meeting had to take place, it should have been set up “in a Holiday Inn in Manchester, New Hampshire, with your lawyers who meet with these people”. Any information, he said, could then be “dump[ed] … down to Breitbart or something like that, or maybe some other more legitimate publication”.

Bannon added: “You never see it, you never know it, because you don’t need to … But that’s the brain trust that they had.”

So we see that Steve Bannon realizes that Breitbart is not a “legitimate publication.”

Other revelations from the book include that Ivanka wanted to ultimately become the first woman president instead of Hillary Clinton.

Donald Trump responded to the quotes from Steve Bannon by saying that  Bannon has “lost his mind.”

(more…)

Record Number Of Imprisoned Journalists At Historical High With Actions Against Journalists Encouraged By Donald Trump

The Committee To Protect Journalists reports that, for the second year in a row, the number of journalists in prison around the world is at a historical high. They also argue that Donald Trump’s attacks on the free press contribute to the problem. From their report:

The number of journalists imprisoned worldwide hit another new record in 2017, and for the second consecutive year more than half of those jailed for their work are behind bars in Turkey, China, and Egypt. The pattern reflects a dismal failure by the international community to address a global crisis in freedom of the press.

Far from isolating repressive countries for their authoritarian behavior, the United States, in particular, has cozied up to strongmen such as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Chinese President Xi Jinping. At the same time, President Donald Trump’s nationalistic rhetoricfixation on Islamic extremism, and insistence on labeling critical media “fake news” serves to reinforce the framework of accusations and legal charges that allow such leaders to preside over the jailing of journalists. Globally, nearly three-quarters of journalists are jailed on anti-state charges, many under broad and vague terror laws, while the number imprisoned on a charge of “false news,” though modest, rose to a record 21…

In China, the number of journalists behind bars rose to 41 from 38 a year earlier. On a visit to Beijing in November, Trump made no public reference to human rights, despite an ongoing crackdown that has led to the arrests of Chinese journalists, activists, and lawyers. With tensions high between the U.S. and China’s neighbor North Korea, and Trump keen to renegotiate the trade balance with Beijing, “Trump seemed to signal a reversal of roles: the United States may now need China’s help more than the other way around,” The New York Times wrote.

The visit came shortly after Xi tightened his grip on power at the Communist Party Congress, where his name was written into the Constitution and no successor was identified. According to news reports, analysts don’t expect improvement in human rights.

PolitiFact Awards Trump Lie of The Year Award Regarding Russia But Unfortunately Ignores Lies Which Promote Anti-Russia Hysteria

PolitiFact has awarded Donald Trump the lie of the year for calling interference in the Russian election a “made-up story.” They are correct that Trump has been lying in saying Russia is a “made-up story.” What they miss is that Clinton and many Democrats have also been lying in going far beyond the evidence to use this to excuse Clinton’s loss and to spread anti-Russia hysteria. Their summary of the issue does make many good points, but also leaves out important additional information to place this in context. As a result, while there is no question that Russia attempted to interfere, and they do note that the interference was unlikely to have changed the result of the election, readers of their article do not get the full picture.

There is no question that Russia interfered in the election. Both Russia and the United States have intervened in foreign elections for decades, so it was absurd for Trump to deny any interference. According to a paper on election meddling reviewed by Slate:

Using declassified documents, statements by officials, and journalistic accounts, Levin has found evidence of interference by either the United States or the Soviet Union/Russia in 117 elections around the world between 1946 and 2000, or 11.3 percent of the 937 competitive national-level elections held during this period. Eighty-one of those interventions were by the U.S. while 36 were by the USSR/Russia. They happened in every region of the world, though most commonly in Europe and Latin America. The two powers tended to focus on different countries, though Italy was a favorite of both, receiving eight interventions by the U.S. and four by the Soviets.

What PolitiFact gets wrong is in their interpretation of the information released in the Congressional testimony, leading to them exaggerating the importance of Russia’s interference in 2016 compared to previous years.  PolitiFact notes that, “Facebook estimated that 126 million people were served Russia-influenced content during the two-year period before the election.” This number means far less when put in perspective, with this representing a minuscule portion of Facebook traffic despite sounding like a large number.

When looking at a number like 126 million it is also important to note that Russian-purchased Facebook ads accounted for “less than 0.004 percent of all content — or about 1 in 23,000 news feed items” on Facebook. While PolitiFact is correct that, “Some ads were overtly anti-Clinton,” it leaves out the fact that many of the ads were not anti-Clinton, and many had nothing to do with the election. Many seemed more designed to receive hits than to affect the election result.  Over half the ads were not even seen until after the election. The biggest success attributed to Russia on Facebook has been to get 5000 to 10,000 people to turn out for a rally–a rally protesting against Donald Trump after the election. The impact on Twitter was not any more significant. The largest of the alleged Russian troll pages had 25,045 followers at its peak, and the others had far fewer.

Similarly there has been a tremendous amount of false or misleading news reports, which were later retracted regarding Russia, which could have influenced readers of PolitFact to rank this lie from Trump as more important than it actually was. It is notable that this was chosen as lie of the year based upon the votes of readers, not any objective measure.

It is significant that Russia did have reason to oppose Clinton in the election. They noted, but played down, how Clinton has also meddled in the Russian election in opposing Putin. With Clinton having a long history of belligerency towards Russia, and with her aligned with neocons who have promoted regime change in Russia, Putin had additional reason to take a side. A recent story in The Atlantic notes:

Putin had always been suspicious of democracy promotion, but two moments convinced him that America was coming for him under its guise. The first was the 2011 nato intervention in Libya, which led, ultimately, to the ousting and gruesome lynching of the Libyan dictator, Muammar Qaddafi. Afterward, many people who interacted with Putin noticed how deeply Qaddafi’s death troubled him. He is said to have watched the video of the killing over and over. “The way Qaddafi died made a profound impact on him,” says Jake Sullivan, a former senior State Department official who met repeatedly with senior Russian officials around that time. Another former senior Obama-administration official describes Putin as “obsessed” with Qaddafi’s death. (The official concedes, “I think we did overreach” in Libya.)

Of course the regime change in Libya was orchestrated by Hillary Clinton, based upon lies. Many of our current problems stem from the irresponsible actions of neocons like Clinton and Bush. Besides affecting US relations with Russia, Clinton’s actions in Libya are directly responsible for the problems we now face in North Korea.

Clinton and many Democrats have been spreading their own lies about Russia to shift the blame for Clinton losing an election against an opponent as terrible as Donald Trump. As was revealed in Shattered, Hillary Clinton devised a strategy of blaming others, including Russia, for her loss within twenty-four hours of losing. The claim that Russia affected the election result was largely based upon the Steele Dossier. Clinton and the DNC had covered up their role in paying for this report for months, casting doubt on its reliability.

While Trump has been lying about Russia, the more important aspects of this story involve financial crimes such as money laundering, and obstruction of justice. Trump has certainly lied in denying that Russia has meddled in our election, but the Democrats have also been lying about the situation, which can lead to catastrophic consequences when applied to a nuclear power, along with encouraging McCarthyism at home by many Democrats.

Tillerson May Have Called Trump A Moron But Is Not Likely To Be Fired

By most accounts, Rex Tillerson is doing a terrible job as Secretary of State, and has alienated many potential allies, but we do have to give him some points for if he really called Donald Trump a moron after a July 20 meeting. With all his faults he is still more rational than Trump (who is a moron, after all). For example, Tillerson has wanted to negotiate with North Korea, while Trump said he is wasting his time doing so.

While there has been speculation Tillerson might be leaving the State Department, I’ve seen good arguments as to why he is not likely to either be fired or quit. Buzzfeed explained why he will most likely be staying around longer:

One US official expressed confidence in Tillerson’s status due to a so-called “suicide pact” forged between Defense Secretary James Mattis, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Tillerson whereby all three cabinet secretaries vow to leave in the event that the president makes moves against one of them.

Other Trump insiders point to the potentially hefty tax bill Tillerson would have to pay if he resigns before serving a year in government.

Of course I write this realizing that Trump has often done things which others thought was  unlikely, so I will have to hedge a bit on this prediction.