Thursday, April 20, 2017

The 500 Billion Dollar Answer

Even before the general election Putin pandered to Trump. The reason for this symbiotic relationship has long been the million dollar question.  There is a 500 billion dollar answer.  The answer also covers a flock of related questions, about Carter Page, Michael Flynn, Rex Tillerson, and the state of the State Department.

Put an Exxon the spot.   Exxon is now seeking a waiver from sanctions against Russia so that it can implement the deal Rex Tillerson,  as Exxon CEO,  made with Rosnoft, the Putin controlled Russian oil and energy monopoly.  The deal has been estimated to have a value of as much as 500 billion dollars.  As Senator John McCain said, "Russia is a gas station masquerading as a country."   Remove oil related sanctions and all that remains is window dressing.

The pieces all come together.  Under someone's influence, Trump lends an ear to an energy guy, Carter Page, for foreign policy advice.  The same energy guy who was  recruited by Russian agents in 2013.   Trump's choice for National Security Advisor likewise had ties to Russia, and met with Russian interests on the subject of sanctions.   Although Flynn was fired,  the firing came not when Trump learned of Flynn's lies about sanction discussions, but rather, when they became public.  The lynchpin is Rex Tillerson.  The Secretary of State has deep ties with Putin, and obviously, with Exxon.  The proposed waiver is the love letter than fueled the Trump/Putin bromance.

The waiver decision will be made by the Secretary of the Treasury, but as protocol dictates, with heavy reliance on the State Department.  Tillerson has recused himself, theoretically allowing input from State Department professionals.  But early in their tenure, Tillerson and Trump conveniently fired the senior State Department professionals without notice, or replacement.

Public scrutiny may yet block the waiver, but we can wave goodbye to good governance, and say hello to crony capitalism and cynical corruption.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Bad Lessons

Our on the job trainee, has learned two bad lessons.  During the campaign Trump ate crowd noise, and sucked on polls.  As president he has learned that bombs are shiny objects that distract the media, and give him a poll bounce.  He has also learned, much to no one's surprise, but his own, that diplomacy is hard.

Expect more bombs, and muddled diplomacy.  After nearly 100 days in office, his State Department is staffed at the same level as Albania, and less than 1/10th the level of China.  As Rachel Maddow pointed out, this lead to a remarkable display of ineptitude in Trump's crucial meeting with Chinese premier Xi Jinping.  The Chinese prepared the typical multi-page meeting report, detailing all items discussed, and areas of agreement.  The US report was one paragraph, essentially saying it was a productive meeting.  Any future disputes will, of necessity, rely on the Chinese report. Sad!

Trump's attempt to pole vault into history, will land on shrapnel and missed opportunities.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A Pointed Lugar

Republican Richard Lugar represented Indiana in the Senate from 1976 until his defeat in 2012.  During his long tenure he was the dean of foreign policy, tutoring both Democrats and Republicans.  Even during the partisan turbulence of his first term, President Obama sought his counsel.   Senator Lugar was old school, following the doctrine that partisanship ends at the nation's shore.

So to paraphrase the old E.F. Hutton commercial, when Senator Lugar speaks, foreign policy professionals listen.  As a Republican his axe would not naturally cleve against a Republican president.  Having no further political ambitions, Lugar can speak point blank.

Here are some snippets excerpted by 'PoliticalWire' from remarks sponsored by the Foreign Policy Association.  "Lugar called Trump’s foreign policy goals “simplistic, prosaic and reactive,” according to prepared remarks. They are characteristic of “a selfish, inward-looking nation that is being motivated by fear, not a great superpower with capacity to shape global affairs.”"

Trump foreign policy is a circular firing squad, shooting blanks.

For the full text see:

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Trump All Puffed Up

President Trump paraded on to the world stage, puffed up his chest, and farted.  Lyndsey Graham compared him to Reagan.   He got boffo reviews from the press.  Trump was judged superior to Obama, who wimped out by requesting Congressional authority before bombing a sovereign state.  Obama negotiated to have most, but obviously, not all, of Assad's chemical weapons destroyed.  Trump destroyed a building and up to 20 aircraft, leaving the runways smudged, but functional.  Hail the conquering hero!

Trump's motives and policy can only be seen through a glass darkly.  Since at least 2013 he has ridiculed regime change.  He will bomb to protest attacks on children, but will not protect them through immigration.  What does the tomahawk chop mean?

Lawrence O'Donnell, sadly, but with a small smirk, cautions that we cannot rule out the 'Wag the Dog' scenario.  Putin could be desperate to distract from the collusion scenario, and to boost his buddies poll numbers.  Less scandalous, perhaps Trump, on his own, sought the distraction of unilateral action.

The better movie analogy may be  'Being There.'  Like Chauncey Gardiner, Trump learns everything he knows from TV.  The graphic pictures evoked his response.  Unfortunately, to quote Gil Scott-Heron, "The Revolution Will not be Televised."

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

China Green

Black China is a character on the Kardashians, China White is heroin, China Green is the highest level of corruption in our nation's history.  Jared Kushner is being given 400 million dollars by the Chinese.

A Chinese firm with close ties to the Chinese government is grotesquely over paying for a New York building, bailing out the Kushner family business, netting them a profit of 400 million dollars. Coincidentally, Jared, as has been widely reported, is the direct line of communication between China and the president, bypassing the Secretary of State.

The only thing standing between Jared, and serious jail time, is Rex Tillerson acting as a beard.  If you compare Kushner's portfolio to that of the reclusive Tillerson it is clear who is assuming the duties of Secretary of State.  But if Kushner had been named Secretary of State he would have required Senate approval and close legal scrutiny.  Is it to early to chant, "Lock him up."

Red Meat

Rice may be a starch, but for Republicans the name is red meat.  The story that Susan Rice was unmasking incidentally gathered names of Trump associates was first pushed by Mike Cernovich, recently profiled by '60 Minutes' as a major player in the fake news industry.  One of the listed sources for the story is Joe Digenova, who Rachel Maddow exposed as a long time GOP  provocateur.

Eli Lake, a conservative Bloomberg reporter, adds credence to the story that  Susan Rice unmasked the names of some Trump associates.  Allow me to stifle a yawn.  Requesting unmasking the names of Americans inadvertently gathered when legally surveilling foreign targets was Rice's job as National Security Advisor.  If two Russian diplomats say, "We think we can leverage, 'blank' to lift sanctions," it was her job to unmask the name to get the context.  The suggestion that she systematically requested unmasking of Trump associates is nonsensical.  You don't know who is masked until you unmask.  That precludes Trump centric searches.  Nor is there any allegation that she leaked the material.  She did not use intelligence sources for political purposes.

That dubious distinction falls to the Trump White House.  We now know that heavy intelligence resources have been used to attempt to backup a ridiculous tweet.   No doubt hundreds of hours were spent to find the tidbits leaked to Nunes.

Nor does the Rice distraction in any way vindicate Trump's tweet.  If I say, with no proof, that my neighbor killed a cat, finding out that a mouse died two blocks away is of no moment.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Trump Outdoes Obama

With his immigrant ban held up in the courts, and his healthcare bill voted down in the House, Trump is desperate for a success.  But in a few short weeks Trump did what Obama failed to do in his two terms as president--make Obamacare popular.