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The United States’ Next Ground War In The Middle East Might Erupt Without Warning

6 Trigger Points:
How the Conflict Between the United States and Iran Is Fast Escalating Toward War

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The long-simmering conflict between the United States and Iran is fast escalating toward war. The battlefield is the desert expanse of eastern Syria where civil war has raged for the last five years. Tehran wants to keep U.S. forces out of the area, while Washington wants to use the region to wage war against Iran’s ally, Syria.

After 15 years of unsuccessful war in Afghanistan and Iraq, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the Trump administration is pursuing a policy of “regime change“ in Iran that might lead to a third U.S. ground war in the Middle East since 2001.

Restraint is breaking down. While President Obama resisted U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war, Trump has approved it. While Obama pursued dialog with Iran, Trump has embraced the new Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who laid down his country’s new, harsher line in April. ‘We will not wait until the battle is in Saudi Arabia,“ he said, “but we will work so the battle is there in Iran.“

Secretary of Defense James Mattis, while resisting White House pressure for rapid escalation, has given battlefield commanders more leeway to attack Iranian-backed forces. The result is a series of unprecedented incidents that have Washington experts asking “Is Trump preparing for a conflict with Iran?“

  • On May 18, the United States attacked a convoy of Iranian-backed militiamen in southern Syria, reportedly killing eight fighters.
  • On June 07, ISIS struck inside Iran for the first time, with a pair of suicide attacks that killed 18 people. One top Iranian official said the United States, by supporting Saudi Arabia, effectively supports ISIS.
  • On June 18, Iran fired ballistic missiles at ISIS positions in eastern Syria, in retaliation for the two terror attacks. It was the first time Iran has used such heavy weaponry on the Syrian battlefield.
  • That same day U.S. forces shot down a Syrian fighter jet, the first time the U.S. has attacked the air force of Iran’s ally.

As the United States and Iran compete for battlefield advantages, here are six places their struggle might erupt into war.


1. Raqqa

After ISIS is defeated the Syrians, backed by Iran, want to reestablish the authority of the President Bashar Assad’s regime throughout the area. The U.S.-backed forces want to pivot from the fight against ISIS to take on the Syria government directlyRaqqa is  where these ambitions will collide.


2.
 Eastern Syria

As the sway of ISIS shrinks, Assad and his allies have launched an operation to “take control of the eastern desert in Syria,” which borders on Iraq. They want to drive out the Sunni extremists, but also prevent other rivals—namely the United States—from filling the void.

Iran fears that that U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters in the Syrian Democratic Forces will seize northern Syria while other U.S.-backed rebels take control of the rest of the Iraqi border.

Iran wants to deny the United States and its allies a sanctuary, while the U.S. military seeks freedom to operate in the area. Both sides hope to benefit from the changing status quo in eastern Syria to their advantage. Only one can prevail.


3. Unfriendly skies

American, Iranian, Syrian, Russian, and Turkish air forces are all active in the airspace over Syria—and all are becoming less tolerant of the others.

When the U.S. shot down a Syrian jet last week, Russia warned it would target all foreign aircraft west of the Euphrates River. When the Iranians sent drones over U.S.-controlled territory, the United States shot down two of them.

The conflict is escalating vertically, as well as horizontally.


4. Missiles

Iran compensates for its weak army and air force with a potent ballistic missile force that the United States regards as a threat to Israel and the region. The U.S. Congress just voted to increase sanctions on Iran for its ballistic missile program.

Iran’s decision to use the missiles in eastern Syria was more than a message to ISIS, said Iranian Gen. Ramazan Sharif in a television interview.

“The Saudis and Americans are especially receivers of this message,“ Sharif said. “Obviously and clearly, some reactionary countries of the region, especially Saudi Arabia, had announced that they are trying to bring insecurity into Iran.“

If the United States is threatening Iran with regime change, and Iran uses missiles when it feels most threatened, then missile warfare is more likely.


5. Hostages 

Americans of a certain age will never forget that the Iranians took 52 Americans hostages in 1979 and held them for more than a year. Another hostage situation would inflame American public opinion and be used to justify escalation.

When the Iranian navy detained 10 U.S. sailors whose patrol boats strayed into Iranian waters in January 2016, the sailors were released within 24 hours. Secretary of State John Kerry used his working relationship with Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to secure their freedom.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has no such communication channel with the Iranians, and no interest in having one. If such an incident occurred again, opened-ended escalation is much more likely than quick resolution.


6. Special Forces

Both Iran and the United States have deployed elite military forces to the Syrian battlefield.

More than 500 U.S. Special Operations forces are advising and training anti-Assad forces in Syria. An equally big contingent of Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces, under the command of legendary general Qasem Soleimani, are advising and fighting with pro-Assad forces.

In a crisis, military and civilian commanders on both sides are less likely to back down, compromise or negotiate if their most prestigious forces are fighting and dying. 

Ali Vaez, an analyst for the International Crisis Group, has noted, if the U.S. ends up going to war against Iran, it would “make the Afghan and Iraqi conflicts look like a walk in the park.”

~~  Jefferson Morley ~~

Roger Stone Admits To Communicating With Alleged DNC Hacker

Roger Stone, the Richard Nixon dirty trickster and a longtime confidant of Donald Trump, revealed in an interview Thursday with the conservative Washington Times that he had contact with Guccifer 2.0, the alleged persona involved with the campaign hacks targeting Democrats. The Smoking Gun first revealed on March 08 about the communications between Stone and the purported Democratic National Committee hacker.

It has also been widely reported that Guccifer 2.0 is a front for Russian intelligence, and top U.S. intelligence agencies expressed “high confidence that Russian military intelligence (General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate or GRU) used the Guccifer 2.0 persona” in their “cyber operations.“

Stone described his exchange with the Guccifer 2.0 persona as “completely innocuous and perfunctory” and insisted that he “had no contacts or communications with the Russian State, Russian Intelligence or anyone fronting for them or acting as intermediaries for them.“

He had already admitted to being in contact with Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, the group which published the hacked emails from Democratic officials fed by Russian intelligence, and predicted the leak of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails two months before they were released.

WikiLeaks published emails from Podesta’s Gmail account immediately after the Washington Post and other outlets posted video of Trump boasting about sexually assaulting women with Access Hollywood host Billy Bush. Just days before Podesta’s emails were released, Stone tweeted that Assange is set to release more hacked material:

Stone’s admission is just one more piece of evidence that figures in Trump’s network had ties with Russian operatives during the campaign.

Naturally, Stone just three weeks ago said he had “absolutely” no ties with anyone connected to Russia.

Principles for Progressives to Follow on Trump’s Ties to Russia

Putin’s an oligarch. So is Trump.

Putin runs a kleptocracy. So does Trump.

Both Donald Trump and Rex Tillerson have done business in Russia.

So why is money the one aspect of the Russia scandal people seem to talk about the least? Perhaps because it’s the one area the U.S. intelligence community avoided when it accused Russia of helping Trump win the election.

The Russia story we’ve been hearing raised the intelligence community’s popularity among Democrats and offered a convenient distraction from other national security stories. While many people were fixated on it, for example, this New York Times story by Charlie Savage was largely overlooked:

In its final days, the Obama administration has expanded the power of the National Security Agency to share globally intercepted personal communications with the government’s 16 other intelligence agencies before applying privacy protections … far more officials will be searching through raw data.

Here are 11 principles progressives can follow when they hear about (or talk about) Trump and Russia.

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1. Don’t get ahead of the facts.

I don’t know yet whether Russia’s government interfered in the U.S. presidential election or not. Neither do you.

The recent report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) bears that organization’s impressive seal. The eagle represents American sovereignty, we’re told, while the arrows represent war and the olive branch represents peace. But the report itself is highly politicized and woefully short on evidence.

That’s why Americans should support a thorough and nonpartisan investigation into Russia’s possible role in the election. Reps. Reps. Elijah Cummings and Eric Swalwell have proposed an independent commission. It’s hard to imagine why anyone, regardless of their politics or preconceptions, wouldn’t support that idea.

In the meantime, Democrats may want to hit the pause button before getting too far ahead of the known facts. When people place partisanship above informed discourse, things can get very ugly very fast.

Case in point: Hillary Clinton’s former campaign manager, Robby Mook, wrote recently about what he called “the complex infrastructure that Russia built to infect public discourse with false or stolen information.” It “isn’t going anywhere,” Mook wrote, and “can be unleashed at any time, on any issue, domestic or international.”

But the link Mook provides doesn’t describe anything of the kind. It goes to a Buzzfeed article headlined How Teens in the Balkans Are Duping Trump Supporters With Fake News.”

Macedonia isn’t part of Russia. And the teens in question are private entrepreneurs, not government operatives.


2. Don’t Putin-bait.

Mook lauds “vigilance” from social media companies, then suggests that covert Russian interference could lead to a lack of military support for breakaway Baltic States.

Do Democrats really want to mislead readers, or suggest that reluctance to engage in armed conflict is the sign of a secret fifth column?

In the immediate aftermath of the election, MSNBC cable TV host and political commentator Joy Reid dismissed Green Party candidate Jill Stein as an untrustworthy “Putinite.

Stein’s offense? She once attended an RT social event.


3. Don’t spread inaccurate or poorly sourced news.

A Clinton campaign official incorrectly said that some of the WikiLeaks emails were forged. That claim was repeated by Reid and several other prominent figures. Another inaccurate story in the Washington Post claimed that Russians had hacked into the U.S. power grid through a Vermont utility’s computer system. (The Post later retracted the report.) And a post-election poll showed that 50 percent of Hillary Clinton voters wrongly believed that Russians had hacked American voting machines.

MTV News correspondent Jamil Smith tweeted that one of Trump’s compliments for Vladimir Putin was “borderline treasonous.” But Article 3, Section 3 of the Constitution defines treason quite clearly. It requires a state of war. Was Trump’s comment disturbing? Yes. Treasonous? No.

Do Democrats really want to start charging their political opponents with treason?

Meanwhile, the same commentators have overlooked stories that challenge the prevailing narrative. For example, few of them remarked on it when Trump-appointed UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said, “the dire situation in eastern Ukraine is one that demands clear and strong condemnation of Russian actions” and declared that sanctions against Russia would stay in place.


4. Don’t believe everything you’re told.

There are a number of unanswered questions, challenges and technical flaws regarding reports that Russians hacked the Democratic National Committee.

The DNI report says that 17 intelligence agencies agreed that Russians, acting under Putin’s direction, worked to help Trump win the election. But that claim is an “assessment” — which, in intelligence parlance, means it is an opinion. And some of those agencies  like Coast Guard Intelligence, the Energy Department’s intelligence branch, and the mapping experts at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency — probably rely on the CIA and NSA for information and analysis about Russia.

Furthermore, all 17 have a dotted-line relationship to the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), who manages their budgets and therefore wields considerable influence over them.

Masha Gessen, a Russian-American journalist who once described the young Putin as an “aspiring thug” and is no fan of Donald Trump, dismissed the report as unconvincing. And the official who signed it was James Clapper, who lied to Congress under oath on at least one occasion.

(Clapper said “No, sir” when asked if intelligence services gathered “any type of data at all” on millions of Americans, an answer he later said was “clearly erroneous.” A number of lawmakers think Clapper should face criminal prosecution.)


5. Be wary of labels slapped on media outlets.

That wouldn’t matter if the report itself was solid, but it isn’t. It’s a surprisingly slipshod piece of work that devolves in places into a thinly disguised attack on the American left, using Russia’s RT network as a springboard for condemning coverage of the Occupy movement, fracking, and “Wall Street greed.”

Those claims are undercut by the fact that RT has been heavily critical of the Republican Party for years. Its most visible political commentators are personalities like Ed Schultz and Thom Hartmann who have worked for progressive media outlets.

In a related story, The Washington Post recently promoted a badly executed attack piece from an anonymous group called “PropOrNot” that used shoddy methodology to condemn legitimate progressive websites like Counterpunch and Truthout as Russian propaganda outlets.


6. Don’t be hyperpartisan — or hypocritical — regarding national security.

Recently, Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was forced to resign after a series of well-timed leaks showed that he had apparently concealed a conversation with the Russian Ambassador from Vice President Mike Pence.

Flynn was a horrible person, and his bigotry toward Islam would have made us less safe. But unanswered questions remain: Did Flynn break the law? If so, shouldn’t he be prosecuted? Have the leakers held back any information that might have helped him? Why, as Bloomberg national security columnist Eli Lake notes, were so many national security precedents broken in Flynn’s case? You can’t celebrate the leaks that brought Flynn down without also supporting Edward Snowden, who also performed an important public service.

Flynn’s phone call was not the only story to be leaked by anonymous sources. As Amanda Taub and Max Fisher recently observed in The New York Times, a “wave of leaks from government officials” has “drawn comparisons to countries like Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan, where shadowy networks within government bureaucracies, often referred to as ‘deep states,’ undermine and coerce elected governments.”

Edward Snowden was a whistleblower. Taub and Fisher are describing something very different: the selective use of government power against individuals and political movements.


7. Whatever you call it, recognize that the “deep state” is not your friend.

The phrase “deep state” has now entered the national conversation. Taub and Fisher maintain that the federal government’s subterranean apparatus has “not quite” reached the levels of those in Egypt or Pakistan, adding:

“But the echoes are real — and disturbing.”

Like past intelligence moves against the leaders of those nations, the DNI report and the leaks look like political attacks on a president.

“Yes,” some people are probably thinking, “but the president is Trump and we need to stop him.”

Here’s the problem: The network of U.S. government relationships, which the Times considers “not quite” a deep state, is dangerous. Although it includes some good people, it has been trying to crush the American progressive movement for generations with secret surveillance and covert intervention.

That network also includes many of the national security officials and neoconservative thinkers who lied to the American people and led us into the disastrous Iraq War. And it includes the defense contractors who will get even richer if we remain in a state of permanent conflict with foreign nations like Russia.

But if the phrase “deep state” makes you uncomfortable, you can use the one Dwight D. Eisenhower coined at the close of his presidency: the military-industrial complex.


8. Don’t trade long-term harm for short-term political gain.

That’s why it’s shortsighted for Democratic commentators to make comments like this one, from Talking Points Memo founder and blogger Josh Marshall: “Let’s hope there’s a deep state, and if there is that they have their #### together.”

That’s why it was misguided (in a likable sort of way) when a famous Buddhist teacher told me recently, “I’ve been reading the news and I think I love the intelligence agencies.”

Don’t. They have their own agenda, and it ain’t peace and love. If you’re glad Michael Flynn is gone, push for meaningful whistleblower protections so that the Flynn leakers — or the next Snowden — can’t be targeted by the government for exposing unlawful behavior.

Democrats should also note that the prevailing Russia narrative targets Trump, and Trump alone, while ignoring his party. That, too, may not be an accident. Republicans has been rigging American elections for years, more blatantly than Russia’s ever done. Dems should be wary of a tactic that wounds Trump while elevating the rest of the militarily hawkish GOP — a party that shares Trump and Putin’s ideology of unfettered predatory capitalism and the “deep state’s” predilection for war.


9. Remember, you could be next.

The current leak campaign against Trump offers a glimpse into the playbook that might be used against a future progressive president, if she or he dares to move against the military-industrial complex.

Recent Democratic presidents, including Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, supported many of the national security state’s ambitious military and budgetary ventures. But a new wave of progressives lacks that enthusiasm.

In a famous debate exchange during last year’s Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton mentioned her close relationship with Republican Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who she had earlier called “a friend.”

“I’m proud to say Henry Kissinger is not my friend,” Sanders said in response.

What if progressives someday help elect a president who agrees with Sanders? Kissinger, although reprehensible, is venerated by the military-industrial crowd. By cheering on “deep state” Trump attacks, Democrats may be summoning a demon that will one day turn on them.


10. Keep in mind that we need to work with Russia.

Nobody benefits from escalating tensions with Russia (except the aforementioned financial interests). Russia continues to wield considerable influence in the Middle East, and it still commands the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons outside the United States. We will need to keep talking to Russia, come what may.

We can condemn Putin’s tactics and still understand that we need to negotiate with him.

But negotiation becomes tougher politically when liberal commentators on MSNBC characterize Russia as “an adversarial, aggressive power” and suggest conspiratorially that it might start a war to throw the 2016 election. (It didn’t.)


11. Fight oligarchy, not each other.

These Russia claims may turn out to be true or they may turn on the ones who are peddling them. It’s like the saying goes: sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you.

Here’s a better way to fight Trump: No less an authority than Simon Johnson, former chief economist for the International Monetary Fund (IMF), wrote a Project Syndicate essay headlined “Trump’s Extreme Oligarchy.”

Johnson concluded that Trump’s “American oligarchs” will “offer various strange justifications that deflect attention from the essentials of their policy: lower taxes for…people like them, and higher taxes — not to mention significant losses of high-paying jobs — for almost everyone else.”

We have no hard evidence of a secret conspiracy between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. But we know there’s a common thread that binds them: greed.

It’s greed that we know we must fight: the greed of plutocrats like Trump and his cabinet, and the greed of national security contractors who would heighten international tensions for their own gain.

But progressives and Democrats shouldn’t fight each other. That may be what the “almost deep state” wants, but it’s not what the country needs. We can build a unified movement around the corruption that’s already been uncovered in Trump’s “swamp cabinet” and the money-crazed GOP.

Impanel that commission, because we deserve the truth. But until we have the truth about Russia’s ties to Trump — from reputable, public and trustworthy sources — let’s fight President Trump with the weapons we already have at hand: the weapons of truth, accountability and justice.

Those weapons will never hurt the hands that hold them.

~~  Richard Eskow ~~

Do You Remeber?

Remember When Trump Said He Would Have A ‘Plan To Defeat ISIS Within 30 Days’?
Time’s Up, No Plan.

One of the many things Trump promised during his campaign was that he would have the best and quickest plan to defeat ISIS.

In mid-September he told NBC during the “Commander-in-Chief forum” the following:

“When I do come up with a plan that I like and that perhaps agrees with mine, or maybe doesn’t, I may love what the generals come back with. I have a plan, but I don’t want to ― look, I have a very substantial chance of winning, make America great again. We’re going to make America great again. I have a substantial chance of winning. If I win, I don’t want to broadcast to the enemy exactly what my plan is. Let me tell you, if I like maybe a combination of my plan or the generals’ plan, if I like their plan, I’m not going to call you up and say, we have a great plan.“

Just the day before this interview he announced that he would give the military’s top generals 30 days to submit a plan for soundly defeating ISIS.

Guess what? 30 days just ended. No plan.

Authoritarian Presidency

Donald Trump’s Authoritarian Presidency is Emboldening the Israeli Far Right

Trump’s travel ban has only re-enforced Benjamin Netanyahu’s antagonistic world view
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The Trump administration recently gave Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a tepid slap on the wrist regarding the burst of new illegal settlement building on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, saying this “may not be helpful” in achieving peace.  The ascendancy of the president and his ideologically rightwing team is emboldening the Israeli extreme right as well as our own homegrown white nationalists. Trump’s chaotic distrust and fury towards Muslims entering the US and his promise to move the US embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem both feed this frenzy of racism and demonization. This all lends support to an “us” versus “them” version of the world where toughness and military might supercede diplomacy. The Israeli right couldn’t be happier.

I have just returned from the region where I saw the rising power of the right wing led by leaders such as Defense Minister Avigdor Leiberman, a settler whose political stands are best described as fascist and racist, and Education Secretary Naftali Bennett, who shares similar views. Bennett is pushing for the annexation of the huge Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim and 60 percent of the West Bank, where the massive settlement expansion is occurring. Ma’ale Adumim is located just outside of occupied East Jerusalem and annexing it would effectively cut the West Bank in two. In addition, the Israeli parliament has just passed a bill that retroactively “legalizes” Jewish settlements located on Palestinian privately owned land.

Meanwhile Palestinians are facing increasing loss of land, the inexorable construction of new settlements, and the separation wall, 85 percent of which may be located within the occupied Palestinian Territories once it’s finished. Palestinians in the West Bank face permitting and mobility issues daily, waiting in hours-long lines at checkpoints, and the two million residents of the Gaza Strip are effectively imprisoned there. Palestinians suffer from restrictions on Israeli-controlled water availability, often only receiving water delivery every few weeks for some six hours during which they fill their rooftop water tanks, hoping it will last until the next time the spigot is opened. I saw rising numbers of home demolitions and extrajudicial shootings by trigger happy Israeli military; every Palestinian guilty until proven otherwise, which was often too late.

A particularly egregious incident occurred on January 18, when two Palestinians – one of whom was a beloved teacher and father of twelve—were killed during a home demolition in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev. In addition, Ayman Odeh, a member of the Israeli Knesset or parliament representing Palestinian Citizens of Israel, was shot in the head by Israeli security forces with a sponge-tipped bullet during the attack. The residents of Umm al-Hiran, who are Palestinian citizens of Israel, were transferred to this village in 1956 by the Israeli government, but it remains an “unrecognized village” due to the byzantine and racist policies that characterized Israel’s approach to its non-Jewish populations. The military was destroying the Bedouin village to make way for a Jewish Israeli village on the same land. On January 24 the headline in Haaretz, read: “Umm al-Hiran: A Cautionary Tale of an Israeli Government Emboldened by Trump.”

Enter our new president who has no political expertise, even less knowledge of the history of this complicated region of the world, a set of far-right advisors, and a temper that takes offense and is easily triggered to make irresponsible decisions without regard for their consequences.

Add to this dangerous concoction the Breitbart News/Steven Bannon version of reality which is simultaneously anti-Semitic and “pro-Israel.” Jews in the US threaten the Aryan nation-style Christian purity that is the goal of white nationalists, thus the sooner “they” leave to “go home,” the sooner the Jewish question will be resolved, striking another blow against multi-culturalism. At the same time, the State of Israel is useful as the US bulwark in the Middle East, a partner in a vast military industrial complex, fighting the savagery of the Muslim Arab world, defending American “values,” and hastening the coming of the apocalypse, if you are an ardent Christian Zionist. Israel has become a shining example of a successful state, supported by the US, where ethnic purity and institutional racism are embedded in the social consciousness and legal system beneath a veneer of a “Jewish democracy.” Trump’s unfettered and extremist arrogance will dangerously embolden the Israeli right in its quest to control historic Palestine and complete the displacement of its indigenous population that began long before 1948.

Alice Rothchild - A Boston-based physician, author, and filmmaker who is active in the US Jewish peace movement.

How Trump’s Billion Dollar Border Wall Will Be Financed?

Matt Lauer Pins Down Squirming Kellyanne Conway on How Trump’s Billion Dollar Border Wall Will Be Financed

“I’ve got time,“ Lauer told Conway. “Explain the ‘complicated form’ to me.“


President Trump’s counselor Kellyanne Conway defends Trump’s executive orders on immigration on TODAY, saying it’s “high time” the U.S. spend money protecting its own borders. She also defends Trump’s call for an investigation into voter fraud and pushes back about allegations that Trump’s daughter Tiffany is registered to vote in two states. “Why not have an investigation?” she tells Matt Lauer.

ETC.

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  • The fight over criminalizing flag-burning goes back 125 years, to another time when white Americans felt threatened. Politico


  • FAKE NEWS HAS REAL-LIFE CONSEQUENCES: “A North Carolina man was arrested Sunday after he walked into a popular pizza restaurant in Northwest Washington carrying an assault rifle and fired one or more shots, D.C. police said. The man told police he had come to the restaurant to ‘self-investigate’ a false election-related conspiracy theory involving Hillary Clinton that spread online during her presidential campaign,” Washington Post

  • The fake story, which went viral online in the weeks before the election, claimed that HRC and John Podesta were running a child sex ring from the backrooms of the popular family restaurant, near Connecticut and Nebraska avenues NW in the Chevy Chase neighborhood. The restaurant’s owner and employees were threatened on social media and received death threats. BuzzFeed


  • Ivanka Trump’s presence at her dad’s meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe struck some as odd. It turns out that the soon-to-be first daughter is nearing a licensing deal with the Japanese apparel giant Sanei Internationa. “The largest shareholder of Sanei’s parent company is the Development Bank of Japan, which is wholly owned by the Japanese government. ... Discussions for the deal have been active for about two years, Ms. Trump’s company said. In that time, she has become something of a local fascination. ‘At the moment,‘ said Sayumi Gunji, a lifestyle-magazine editor who attended the viewing, ‘Ivanka is even more popular here than Mr. Trump.’ ... Ms. Trump, the only sibling to match her father’s instinct for self-commodification, has used the Trump Organization’s payroll, information technology and human resources for her separate brand. Her website’s domain was registered by Trump Organization lawyers.“ New York Times

  • Meanwhile, Charlene Chen, claiming to be a representative of Trump’s businesses, arrived September 08 in Taiwan to explore investing in a redevelopment project south of Taiwan’s biggest airport.  “‘I told them: Isn’t Mr. Trump campaigning for president? Isn’t he very busy?‘ the mayor, Cheng Wen-tsan, said ... ‘They said she is a company representative. His company is still continuing to look for the world’s best real estate projects, and they very much understand Taiwan’ ... On Friday, Amanda Miller, a spokeswoman for the Trump Organization, said that there were ‘no plans for expansion into Taiwan’ and that there had been no ‘authorized visits’ to Taiwan to push for a development project.‘“ This was directly contradicted by a Facebook post from an executive at the company, who shared pictures from what she described as a work trip. New York Times


  • Remember last November, when Carson came under fire for his claim to have tried to stab a friend as a troubled youth in Detroit, only to have the friend’s belt buckle act as a shield for the knife’s blade? Trump didn’t buy it, and he had a belt buckle to prove it:

  • The Free Press WV

  • And remember that time Trump compared Carson to a “child molester,“ for some of Carson’s admissions in a 1996 autobiography he had tried to attack his mother with a hammer?

Key Dates in Fidel Castro’s Government in Cuba

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Key events in Cuba under Fidel Castro:


January 01, 1959 — Castro’s rebels take power as dictator Fulgencio Batista flees Cuba.


June 1960 — Cuba nationalizes U.S.-owned oil refineries after they refuse to process Soviet oil. Nearly all other U.S. businesses expropriated by October.


October 1960 — Washington bans exports to Cuba, other than food and medicine.


April 16, 1961 — Castro declares Cuba socialist state.


April 17, 1961 — Bay of Pigs: CIA-backed Cuban exiles stage failed invasion.


February 07, 1962 — Washington bans all Cuban imports.


October 1962 — U.S. blockade forces removal of Soviet nuclear missiles from Cuba. U.S. President John F. Kennedy agrees privately not to invade Cuba.


March 1968 — Castro’s government takes over almost all private businesses.


April 1980 — Mariel boatlift: Cuba says anyone can leave; some 125,000 Cubans flee.


December 1991 — Collapse of Soviet Union devastates Cuban economy.


August 1994 — Castro declares he will not stop Cubans trying to leave; some 40,000 take to sea heading for United States.


March 18, 2003 — 75 Cuban dissidents sentenced to prison.


July 31, 2006 — Castro announces has had operation, temporarily cedes power to brother Raul.


February 19, 2008 — Castro resigns as president.


July 2010 — Castro re-emerges after years in seclusion, visiting a scientific institute, giving a TV interview, talking to academics and even taking in a dolphin show at the aquarium.


April 19, 2011 — Castro is replaced by his brother Raul as first secretary of the Communist Party, the last official post he held. The elder Castro made a brief appearance at the Congress, looking frail as a young aide guided him to his seat.


April 19, 2016 — Castro delivers a valedictory speech at the Communist Party’s seventh Congress, declaring that “soon I’ll be like all the others. The time will come for all of us, but the ideas of the Cuban Communists will remain.“


November 25, 2016 — Fidel Castro dies.

Presidential Elections: Myths and Deceits

Every aspect of this year’s U.S. Presidential election has been fraught with myths, distortions, fabrications, wishful thinking and invented fears. 

We will proceed to discuss facts and fictions.

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Electoral Participation

The mass media, parties and candidates emphasized the ‘unprecedented voter turnout’ in the elections.  In fact, 48% of the eligible voters abstained. 

In other words, nearly half of the electorate did not vote.  There were many reasons, including widespread disgust at both major party candidates and the weakness of ‘third parties’.  This includes disappointed Bernie Sanders supporters angry over the Democratic Party’s cynical manipulation of the primary nomination process.  Others were unable to vote in their neighborhoods because US elections are held on a regular workday, unlike in other countries. Others cast protest votes against economic programs or candidates reflecting their distrust and sense of impotence over policy.  Eligible voters generally expressed reservations over the gap between campaign promises and post campaign policies.  These political attitudes toward elections and candidates are deep-seated among those who ‘stayed home’.

In contrast among registered voters (53% of the electorate) over 90% cast their ballot.  Ultimately, the presidential elections were decided by just half of the eligible voters with the winning candidate receiving about 25% eligible votes.  This is not a robust mandate.  Furthermore, Clinton may have ‘lost’ with the plurality of popular votes, since the US Presidency is ultimately decided by the ‘Electoral College’.  In this case, Trump secured more states earning substantially more Electoral College votes, while the losing candidate’s votes were more concentrated in big cities and large coastal states.


The Myth of the Trump Revolution

Trump’s campaign displayed the typical demagogy of US politicians.  In previous campaigns Barak Obama’s promised to work for peace, domestic prosperity, social justice and immigration reform.  Once elected, Obama reneged on his pledge and continued to wage the old wars and launched new ones (seven altogether for the ‘peace candidate’).  He approved a $2 trillion dollars Wall Street and bank ‘bailout’, while leaving over 3 million family home mortgages in foreclosure.  He rounded up and deported two million immigrant workers.  Meanwhile wage inequality between black and white workers actually widened; and overt police violence against black youth increased.  We can expect Trump to follow Obama’s pattern of double speak and reverse his campaign promises.

So far, Trump seems to have appointed conventional Republicans to his Cabinet posts.  Treasury and Commerce Secretaries will remain in the hands of Wall Street insiders.  Prominent Republican warmongers will manage foreign policy.

Meanwhile, Trump has been on a post-election charm offensive to woo traditional conservative Republican Congressional leaders who had opposed his candidacy during the primaries.  They will work with Trump in lowering taxes while eliminating government regulations and environmental controls – policies that have long been on their agenda.  On the other hand, Trump’s populist pledge to ‘reindustrialize’ America will be opposed by Congressional Republicans with ties to Wall Street and financial speculators.  Trump’s promise to persuade US multi-nationals to repatriate their billions and headquarters to the US will be opposed by the majority Republican Congressional leadership.  Even a Trump Republican majority on the Supreme Court, will veto any Trump initiative to ‘force’ big business to sacrifice its tax-free overseas profits to come home and ‘Make America Great Again’.

In other words, Trump will implement only policies that coincide with the traditional Republican agenda and will continue some version of Obama’s pro-Wall Street policy.  Instead of Obama’s executive tax loopholes benefiting big business, Trump will do it through legislation.   Where Obama made pronouncement about supporting Civil rights and justice for African-Americans but actually ended up increasing police power and impunity, Trump will simply make modifications directly favoring the police state via Congressional legislation or Presidential decree.  Whereas Obama rounded up and expelled 2 million immigrant workers, Trump will go after an additional 2 million Latinos on the basis of ‘criminality’.  Obama relied on border police; Trump will beef up border patrols and concoct some agreement with Mexico’s conservative counterpart – short of erecting ‘the Great Wall’.

Obama and his Democratic predecessor, President ‘Bill’ Clinton cut the proportion of unionized workers in the private sector to 8%, through economic and labor policies backed by millionaire trade union bureaucrats. Trump, on the other hand, will crudely dismiss these impotent ‘union’ functionaries and hacks while slashing whatever remains of worker rights.

Presidents Obama and Clinton linked ‘identity groups’ with the interests of bankers, billionaires and militarists, but Trump will toss out ‘identity politics’ in favor of populist appeals to construction workers and infrastructure contractors while attracting the same Wall Street executives, billionaires and militarists that had worked closely with previous administrations.

Trump’s Wall Street appeal was clear after his victory when the stock market broke new highs, jumping 1,000 points between November 4 and 10th.

The pro-Clinton Wall Streeter boosters were smartly outflanked by the ‘silent majority’ of financial CEO’s who applauded Trump’s promises of deregulation and corporate tax cuts.

Despite the certainty of President Trump’s reneging on all his promises to American workers, he will still retain the support of small and medium businesses and professionals, who outnumber and outvote the so-called ‘white worker vote’.


Trump Complies with Rightwing Republican Agenda

To unify the Republican Party and gratify the rightwing electoral base Trump will offer up some symbolic gratification, such as:

1.      Increase frontier security -  He will triple the number of border patrol officers and extend the Obama-Clinton’s search and expel formula. His PR machines will crank out timely reports of mass deportations of Latino workers to titillate the Anglo voters – while reassuring agribusiness and other industries that their access to cheap imported labor will continue.

2.      He will appoint a rightwing WASP (first in a long time) to the Supreme Court after decades of ‘identity appointments’.  His court will try to reverse Roe versus Wade on access to abortion– satisfying Catholics, fundamentalists, orthodox Jews and Protestants – sending the issue back to the reactionary states.  Women in the urban centers and large population coastal states will retain reproductive health rights while poor and rural women will see significant regression.

3.      Trump will ‘renegotiate NAFTA’ without reversing current free trade provisions, offering tax incentives and tax penalties to discourage future flight but with little effect.

4.       Trump will force a repeal of the multi-party nuclear agreement with Iran, but he will not re-impose international sanctions because of Russian and Chinese vetoes in the UN Security Council and the lucrative billion- dollar trade deals signed between Iran and Germany and France.  Trump’s Iran caper may pleasure Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israeli lobby, but this would force him to violate his own stated pledge to avoid more Middle East entanglements.

5.      Trump’s anti-Muslim policy will be reduced to writing tighter immigration rules for Muslims from the Middle East and South Asia, but not include total exclusion.  These watered-down policies will quell opposition and satisfy Islamo-phobes.

6.      President Trump’s deregulation of environmental protections will alienate ecologists and the science community but will appeal to big energy corporations and their employees, workers and gas property leasers.  However, the rest of the world will continue to treat climate change as real and Trump will end up isolated in a climate-denial corner with the reactionary presidents of Poland and kleptocratic-Ukraine.

7.      Trump will face stiff opposition when he tries to break the newly restored diplomatic and economic relations with Cuba to please his rightwing Cuban exile supporters.  But the deals will go thru:  On December 1, 2016 Delta Airlines will begin three daily flights, joining a dozen other airlines to the delight of thousands of travel agency owners and employees as well as tens of thousands of tourists and visitors.  US business and agro exporters will object to any re-imposition of trade sanctions.  Trump will probably end up tossing some bones to the rightwing exile community in the way of rhetoric while maintaining diplomatic ties and Obama’s embargo.  He may expand the US base in Guantanamo.

8.      Trump will continue to support the right-wing ‘golpistas’ in Venezuela but will not commit US troops for an invasion.  He will make deals with right wing and center-left regimes in the Latin America without pushing for coups or exclusionary regional trade pacts.

9.       Trump will end economic sanctions against Russia and then negotiate some cooperation agreement with Putin to bomb Syria’s Islamist terrorists  ‘into the stone age’ and withdraw US commitments to the Saudis, Gulf Monarchies and its jihadi mercenaries on regional ‘regime change’.  He will renegotiate trade relations with China to encourage greater reciprocity, investments and exchange rates (if necessary).


Conclusion

On vital economic policies, Trump will pursue traditional Republican business policies – the linchpin being lower taxes and fewer regulations.

On identity politics (as well as human rights), Trump will tighten restrictions on access to abortion and immigration to satisfy the right-wing moralists and religious fundamentalists.

Trump will not confront Wall Street, the multi-nationals, the military industrial complex or the pro-Israel billionaires and lobbies.

US workers will find very few new well- paying jobs except in select infrastructure projects.

The industrial rust belt will continue to rust.

The tens of thousands of public sector workers and professional slashed by Trump’s pledge to cut government will not find decent jobs in the private sector.

Over time, Trump supporters who flocked to his promises for economic change will be replaced by a motley collection of Bible thumpers of all colors and faiths.  There will emerge a new groundswell of frustrated workers, employees and professionals — but where will they turn?  Certainly they must not return to the increasingly discredited ‘progressive’ Bernie Sanders, who perfected his role as political ‘Judas Goat’ herding his reluctant supporters into the blood-stained Wall Street Corral of the War Goddess Hillary Clinton – known as the Democratic Party.

~~  Professor James Petras ~~

Does Collection for Military Services Violate Teachings of Jesus?

West Virginia Catholic leaders argue that the Veteran Day collection undermines the message of non-violence as taught by Christ and the Church

“Put your sword back in its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword”
(Mt. 26:52).


The Free Press WV


This weekend, several Catholic dioceses across the country will participate in the second triennial collection for the Archdiocese for the Military Services (AMS). This non-territorial diocese, founded in the 1985 by Pope John Paul II, provides pastoral services to members of the United States military stationed across the world. The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston in West Virginia is one of several dioceses participating in this collection.

The West Virginia Chapter of the Catholic Committee of Appalachia has serious reservations about our diocese’s formal support of this collection.

Like all Catholics, Catholic soldiers have a variety of pastoral needs. The AMS is one way the church attempts to meet these needs. While some among our membership question the validity of military chaplaincy itself, all of us share a concern about the deeper messages communicated, intentionally or not, by the church’s support of the AMS collection. Namely, we believe that militarism in the United States is a problem that is getting worse, not better. Indeed, in our 2015 “People’s Pastoral” we identified a number of pervasive idolatries in the United States, including “the unquestioning, violent patriotism that works like a powerful religion to sanction and bless an economy of endless war.” In that same letter, we noted that “Even our churches fall for these idolatries again and again,” and that “[w]hen this occurs, religion cooperates with injustice and loses its prophetic impulse.” One way our churches do this is by succumbing to our culture’s unquestioning support of the wars of the United States. At best, this takes the form of sentimental slogans of “support the troops.” At worst, Catholics even join the nation’s chorus of “my country right or wrong.”

Timed as it is the weekend before Veterans’ Day, we believe this collection intentionally seeks to capitalize on the emotions of the faithful and silences our church’s teachings on nonviolence and the dignity of all human life. The collection effectively provides material support for the military-industrial complex, and indeed our own church’s part in that system. And finally, the collection gives the impression that the church takes no issue with the recent military activity of the United States, most of which has been condemned by Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis. As followers of Jesus, we are deeply troubled by such visible cooperation with U.S. militarism on the part of our church.

Secondly, as Catholics in West Virginia, our Diocese’s support of this collection is troubling as we have seen for decades the way that poor and marginalized people in Appalachian communities are targeted for military service due to a lack of employment and educational opportunities. Our diocese’s support for this collection normalizes these recruitment patterns which prey upon the poor and ensure what Pope Francis has called an ongoing “world war in installments.”

We agree with the view of a recent Vatican conference sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and Pax Christi International, which boldly stated,

We believe that there is no “just war.” Too often the “just war theory” has been used to endorse rather than prevent or limit war. Suggesting that a “just war” is possible also undermines the moral imperative to develop tools and capacities for nonviolent transformation of conflict. […] We propose that the Catholic Church develop and consider shifting to a Just Peace approach based on Gospel nonviolence.

We believe the Diocese’s support of this collection undermines this commitment to Gospel nonviolence. Therefore, we ask:

  1. That Bishop Michael Bransfield withdraw the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston’s support for the collection for the AMS;

  2. That pastors, priests, and other pastoral leaders throughout the Diocese refuse to implement this second collection in our churches; and

  3. That the faithful refuse to contribute to the collection and instead redirect their resources to church groups or secular organizations working for justice and peace. In particular, we encourage supporting groups who a) provide direct service to economically vulnerable, such as Catholic Charities, soup kitchens, and Catholic Worker houses; b) work for economic justice, especially in the Appalachian region; and c) raise a voice for peace, such as Catholic Peace Fellowship and Pax Christi USA. (You might consider placing this form in the collection basket to peacefully offer your dissent.)

Catholics would do well to remember that November 11 is not only Veterans’ Day, but also the feast of St. Martin of Tours, a patron saint of conscientious objectors, who told his superiors in the Roman army, “I am a soldier of Christ, and it is not lawful for me to fight.” We pray for all those affected by the wars of the United States, including U.S. soldiers, and we pray that in word and action we may become more and more a church of peacemakers, following the Lord Jesus who told his disciples to put their swords away.

Spencer, WV - © 2016, CCA. Michael Iafrate and Jeannie Kirkhope are co-coordinators of the West Virginia chapter of the Catholic Committee of Appalachia.

How The U.S. Media Fails To Defend Itself Against Foreign Propaganda

The Free Press WV

Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy has posed many challenges to U.S. media. In at least one frightening respect, it has failed: News outlets are actively abetting an authoritarian and imperialist foreign power’s attempt to manipulate a U.S. presidential election to aid its favored candidate, Trump, and sanctioning an assault on the individual and civil liberties of all American citizens.

There is consensus among U.S. intelligence and law-enforcement agencies that the WikiLeaks “dump” of emails from the Democratic National Committee, former secretary of state Colin Powell and John Podesta, chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, is the result of illegal, targeted hacking directed by Russian intelligence services. The aim of WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange in publishing the emails is openly stated: to harm Clinton’s candidacy. The slow daily release of Podesta’s emails is obviously calculated to have continuing negative impact on news coverage of Clinton in the campaign’s final weeks. The Russian government’s aim in releasing the emails through WikiLeaks is also clear: to distance the emails’ provenance from Russian intelligence services to give them greater legitimacy and propaganda value.

The mainstream media has accepted this ruse. Its members treat the emails as a legitimate basis for news stories despite a general lack of corroboration of their content, the illegal nature of their seizure and their clear origin from a foreign state intelligence agency with known capacity for falsifying documents.

News editors are quick to respond: The information is out there; we have a duty to report it; if the Clinton campaign could show that the email has been manipulated, it would. But let us be clear about what has happened. Would any self-respecting news editor take a call from the head of the GRU or the FSB (Russian military and state intelligence) and accept an offer to publish a cache of emails from the staff of a U.S. presidential candidate? This is essentially what every outlet covering this story has done, in the process placing all of our private means of communication at risk of exposure from illegal invasion by any foreign power or domestic agency. The media’s freedom to publish such information may be protected, but its willingness to treat this information as news means that it has abandoned the basic ethics of journalism and its essential purpose to mediate such information for the public.

The media has generally ignored signs strongly suggesting the release of Podesta’s emails was likely coordinated with the Trump campaign. In mid-July, Trump adviser Carter Page reportedly met with the Russian intelligence official believed to be directing the illegal hacking (Page denies the meeting took place) and later that month Trump publicly encouraged Russia to hack Clinton’s email. In mid-August, Trump henchman Roger Stone bragged of his relationship with Assange and then warned Podesta on Twitter that he was the target of the next WikiLeaks release.

The full fruits of this effort can be seen daily on Fox News and Breitbart, the leading propaganda organs of the Trump campaign. Every offhand remark is turned into an offense by the DNC, Clinton, her husband or her aides. Nothing needs to be proven. It is sufficient for the emails to be published and accepted by other media.

What we are being introduced to — and what the free media is not defending itself against — is the confabulation of state propaganda and intelligence organs of the Russian government. Russian state television and other state-directed media frequently report actual and fake information all blended together with the intent of promoting fear of the West and of the civilizational collapse that Western democracy supposedly brings. As Post columnist Anne Applebaum has warned, such propaganda is being channeled even through Trump himself (for example, doubting that a Russian missile took down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and asserting that the election of Clinton would mean the start of World War III).

What is terrifying is that it has become abundantly clear that U.S. media could not protect itself from a directed manipulation through use of fabricated documents right before the election. The precedent is set: The media will accept without verification and without regard to illegal or unethical provenance any documents, records or communications published by a foreign state power through WikiLeaks.

Clinton’s warning in the third debate about the “unprecedented” challenge posed by Russia’s interference in U.S. elections has been ignored as self-serving. Her refusal to respond to any questions based on WikiLeaks is seen as further stonewalling over questions of unethical behavior. But her warning is a clarion call and her refusal is a principled stand that the media — and the American electorate — ignore at their peril.

~~  Eric Chenoweth - Co-director of the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe ~~

Clinton Should Tell Obama To Withdraw TPP To Save Her Presidency

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton says she opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) but is having trouble convincing people to believe her. Imagine the trouble Hillary Clinton will have trying to build support for her effort to govern the country if TPP is ratified before her inauguration.

According to Politico’s Wednesday Morning Trade, the Obama administration is launching a “TPP blitz” push to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP),

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker last week said the administration is planning at least 30 trade events by the end of the month. That effort, similar to last year’s “all of Cabinet” push for trade promotion authority, is expected to shift to Capitol Hill in September when lawmakers return from their summer break.

In spite of the opposition of much of the public, both presidential candidates, all of labor, almost all Democrats, all progressive-aligned consumer, human rights, environmental and other organizations and even the Tea Party right, what is happening here is that Wall Street, the multinational corporations, most Republicans and unfortunately President Obama are preparing to insult democracy by pushing to ratify TPP. This undermine’s Clinton’s credibility while campaigning for election, and if it passes it harms her ability to govern if she is elected.

There is something Clinton can do to bolster her credibility on the TPP. Clinton on Thursday is giving an economic speech near Detroit. This speech is an opportunity for Clinton to put this behind her for good. She should loudly call on President Obama to withdraw TPP now, and call on Democrats to vote against the TPP if he does not do that.

Progressive groups are asking her to do just that, calling people to sign a petition telling Clinton: “Lead against lame-duck vote on TPP.”

Clinton Opposes TPP, But …

Clinton has stated her opposition to TPP, but has not asked Democrats to join her in opposition, particularly during the “lame-duck” session of Congress that follows the election. This is one reason that Clinton continues to have a credibility problem on TPP.

Donald Trump repeatedly tells audiences that Clinton isn’t really against TPP; she is just saying it for votes. He says she will “betray” us. This is Trump in his Monday “economy” speech in Detroit:

The next betrayal will be the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Hillary Clinton’s closest friend, Terry McAuliffe, confirmed what I have said on this from the beginning: If sent to the Oval Office, Hillary Clinton will enact the TPP. Guaranteed. Her donors will make sure of it.

Along with McAuliffe, who is the governor of Virginia, Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue has said she will reverse herself. And it was Clinton delegates who blocked putting specific TPP opposition in the Democratic platform. So yes, there is a credibility problem.

Dan Balz, writes about her problem at The Washington Post, in “Clinton has yet to respond to Trump’s attack on globalism“:

Clinton came out against the agreement last year to put herself in alignment with Sen. Bernie Sanders … But in doing so, she put herself at odds with the views enunciated by her husband, Bill Clinton, when he was president, and raised questions about whether her change of heart was mere political expedience.

Which is why her position on trade and global economics has remained suspect to those on the left…

Balz asks:

What does Clinton really think about this aspect of economic policy? How do her views today square with what she has thought and advocated during her public career? …

Those are issues about which she has so far been relatively silent. … Trump has presented her with a challenge; is she is prepared to take it up?

… In her responses to Trump’s Detroit speech, Clinton did not address what the GOP nominee said about trade. It’s difficult to believe that was an oversight.

… Does Clinton not owe the public a fuller explanation of her views on a topic that her rival has made central to his candidacy?

Passing TPP Would Destroy Clinton Presidency Before It Starts

Polling shows that Clinton continues to have a problem with “unfavorables” and credibility with the electorate. As of now it appears Clinton will almost certainly win the election – maybe even in a blowout. But this will not necessarily be due to overwhelming support of Clinton. Instead it will be at least partly because of the ugly words and actions of her reprehensible opponent. After the election, much of the public will likely remain divided, looking for signs that things will be OK after all under a Clinton presidency.

Imagine if TPP does come up for a vote in the lame-duck session and passes. The public, particularly progressives, will certainly feel betrayed. It will also bolster the opposition, who will say, “I told you so” because of Trump’s predictions of a betrayal on TPP. If that happens, it won’t matter that Clinton has said she opposes TPP. People will feel she just said it to get votes, and now that the election is over…

This is a terrible recipe for beginning a presidency of a divided country.

Progressive Groups Asking Clinton To Lead Opposition To Lame Duck TPP Vote

The Hill has the story on how progressives intend to “pressure Clinton on TPP ahead of economic speech“:

Progressive groups are urging Hillary Clinton to publicly announce that she opposes a lame-duck session vote on the Obama administration’s Pacific Rim trade deal.

After initially supporting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Clinton reversed after Bernie Sanders made his opposition to the deal one of the cornerstones of his insurgent campaign for the presidency.

On Wednesday, the grassroots liberal groups Democracy for America and CREDO will begin circulating petitions urging Clinton to go further by making a public statement “urging the White House and Democratic congressional leadership to oppose any vote on the TPP, especially during the post-election lame duck session of Congress.”
The groups would like Clinton to make that declaration in her policy address on the economy this Thursday outside of Detroit.

Buzzfeed rounded up some statements from progressive leaders, beginning with Democracy for America’s Robert Cruickshank:

“Right now, Donald Trump is running around the country using the specter of a lame-duck vote on the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership to divide Secretary Clinton from the millions of voters who agree with her that this disastrous trade deal has to be stopped,” Robert Cruickshank, a senior campaign manger at Democracy for America, told BuzzFeed News in a statement.

CREDO’s Murshed Zahee also weighs in:

“Now we need her help to stop it from being jammed through Congress in a lame duck session. A personal and public statement from Secretary Clinton in opposition to a lame duck vote would provide huge momentum in the fight to stop the TPP once and for all,” CREDO’s political director Murshed Zaheed said in a statement to BuzzFeed News.

Sign The Petition

You can add your own voice to this effort to get Clinton’s help stamping out TPP by adding your name to this CREDO petition:” Tell Sec. Clinton: Lead against lame-duck vote on TPP“: “Make a public statement urging the White House and Democratic congressional leadership to oppose any vote on the TPP, especially during the post-election lame-duck session of Congress.”

~~  Dave Johnson ~~

G-LtE™: “The Donald and the Pope”

The Free Press WV

We seldom comment on religion and religious beliefs, as those are private and sensitive topics. However, it seems that many of our current crop of politicians are eager to make religion, especially their own Christian piousness, a campaign issue. Generally they want to tout themselves as being the “Christian” candidate, the “Values” candidate, the “Family Values” candidate, or some similar title, indicating that they possess some moral superiority over their competitors.

We all are aware of Donald Trump’s little spat with Pope Francis, who had the audacity to suggest that some positions held by Donald and other self-proclaimed Christian candidates may not actually be in accordance with Christian beliefs, Christian Church policies, or the teachings of Jesus.  The Pope was right to question our politicians and their beliefs, values, and position. If one decides to make their own religiosity an issue in the campaign, they should be prepared to take questions, explain themselves and justify their positions in terms of their claimed core beliefs and values.

Indeed, one has to wonder if any of the many candidates for public office, from Sheriff to President, can really walk their positions back and show how their positions are derived from and are consistent with their claimed core beliefs and values. One would expect anybody claiming some religious belief system (or any belief system) as the basis for their world view, their values and morals, and their actions to be able to clearly articulate and explain their beliefs, their values, and their moral codes, and explain how their positions, policies, and actions on important issues can be derived from them.

Exactly how does one start with the teachings of Jesus and come to an adamant opposition and rejection of health care as a basic right for all, regardless of income or circumstance? How does one turn the teachings of Jesus into a rejection of and slamming the door on our poor and less fortunate neighbors? When was Jesus an advocate for denying food and shelter to hungry children? How do Jesus’ lessons lead to opposition to clean air and water? When did Jesus preach on the virtues of policies that favor the wealthy and punish the poor and working classes? For that matter, how does one derive an amoral economic system, based on rampant materialism, greed, and self-interest from Jesus’ teachings and life? These are all valid questions for those who want to proclaim themselves to be, first and foremost, Christians in the political arena.

As citizens, we all have a right and an obligation to hold our candidates and elected officials responsible for explaining their core belief systems, core values, and showing how their policy positions and actions stem from those belief systems and values. This holds for all candidates and officials, whether or not they claim to represent some particular religious group. If they cannot do that, if they cannot walk their political positions and actions back to their claimed core beliefs and values, perhaps they are not who they claim to be. Perhaps they are using their supposed religious beliefs as just another marketing ploy. Or perhaps they have no beliefs and are for sale to the highest bidder.

Sincerely,

Tom and Becky Berlin

Pope Francis v Donald Trump

The Free Press WV

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump fired back today at Pope Francis for suggesting that anyone who wants to build a border wall “is not Christian.“

Trump said it is “disgraceful” for a religious leader to question a person’s faith. Trump had kicked off the back-and-forth before the pope set off for Mexico by calling Francis  “a very political person.“

Here’s how the exchanges played out:


DONALD TRUMP:
On Fox Business Network last week, Trump said: 

“I don’t think he understands the danger of the open border we have with Mexico. And I think Mexico got him to do it because Mexico wants to keep the border just the way it is, because they’re making a fortune and we’re losing.”

The Vatican responded by arguing that the pontiff wasn’t jumping into the U.S. presidential race but that his concern for migrants is a global issue.


VATICAN: 
Responding late Tuesday, the Rev. Federico Lombardi said:

“The pope always talks about migration problems all around the world,“ the Associated Press reported.

Lombardi added that Pope Francis also focuses on “the duties we have to solve these problems in a humane manner, of hosting those who come from other countries in search of a life of dignity and peace.“


POPE FRANCIS:
After finishing his trip to the Mexican border, Francis told journalists: 

“A person who thinks only about building walls — wherever they may be — and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel.“

“As far as what you said about whether I would advise to vote or not to vote, I am not going to get involved in that. I say only that this man is not Christian if he said things like that. We must see if he said things in that way and in this I give the benefit of the doubt.“


DONALD TRUMP:
Responding to the pope’s comments, Trump released a statement saying: 

“For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful. I am proud to be a Christian and as President I will not allow Christianity to be consistently attacked and weakened, unlike what is happening now, with our current President.”


Trump has said that he will force Mexico to build a wall to keep illegal immigrants from traveling to the United States.

Immigration and migrants are hot-topic issues in the Republican presidential race. Both Trump and his Republican rival, Sen. Ted Cruz, have promised to deport all of the millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States. Trump has vowed to block Muslims from entering the country, build a wall across the border with Mexico, revoke birthright citizenship and other measures.

Pope Francis arrived in Ciudad Juarez, a Mexican border town across from El Paso, Tex., on Wednesday. It was the last stop on his six-day tour of Mexico, where he highlighted corruption, violence and drug-trafficking. His stop in Juarez included a call for compassion for the thousands of migrants crossing the border into the United States.

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