Monday, December 5, 2016

Economic Improvement Under Mr. Obama Since 2010: Now 81 Straight Months

Job Numbers Can Be Crunched Differently to Make Political Points
(We now have 81 straight months of job growth with 4.6% unemployment)

Employed, Unemployed, Under-employed, and Missing Workers: Real Facts

A look back:

FYI:  From the NY Times, January 9, 2009, and remember that Mr. Obama took office at Noon on January 20, 2009. Economic news ending for the year 2008:

1.     New York State lost 2.6 million jobs in 2008: The worst year since 1945.
2.     Nation-wide, the unemployment rate jumped to 7.2 percent for the year.
3.     That year end rate was the highest since January 1993.
4.     That rate was also up 6.8 percent from November 2008.
5.     A total of 524,000 jobs were lost alone in December 2008.
Related from CBPP here.
Introduction: The United States went through its longest, and by most measures worst economic recession since the Great Depression between December 2007 and June 2009. (Note: And, the GOP still blames Mr. Obama, was in office less than 6 months when we stated to run things around. – Wow what memories, um, GOP)?

The impact since 2010 highlights: The pace of monthly job losses slowed dramatically soon after President Obama and Congress enacted the Recovery Act in February 2009.

The total trend in job growth in 2010 was obscured by the rapid ramp-up and subsequent decline in government hiring, but private employers have added 15.6 
million jobs to their payrolls in the 81 months of sustained growth since February 2010 (averages about 193,000 jobs per month). Total employment, that is private and public jobs, has averaged 190,000 a month over that same period as Federal, state, and local governments maintained fewer jobs.

In November 2016, private employers added 156,000 jobs.

Federal government employment increased by 3,000, state employment by 5,000, and local government by 41,000, contributing to overall gain or non-farm jobs of 178,000 jobs. 

Key parts that GOP talking heads and Obama bashers focus on without offering much detail or clarity: Even with low unemployment number, and in the third quarter of 2016, the demand for goods and services (the actual GDP) was roughly $278 billion (about 1.5 percent) and that was less than what the economy was capable of supplying (the potential GDP). That caused uncertainty with the underemployed.

The unemployed and underemployed numbers were caused primarily as stated: supply could not keep up with the demand for goods and services – a real “catch-22” scenario.

That resulted in an overall idle productive capacity among many businesses, thus they didn’t need people to keep up the production demand – which has lingered due to the Great Recession (businesses never caught up in short as demand increased – simply, they did not have the workers).

Then many moved production off-shore for cheaper labor and other less production costs, and hampered growth even more here at home as unemployment numbers were way off – that not seeking work; those underemployed out of work people.

Yeah, and now you know why.

Updated (October 7, 2016): This month is the 72nd consecutive month of job gains, which compares to the previous record of 48 months of gains, plus, 10.6 million jobs have been created under the Obama administration (but try to find a GOPer who believes or trusts those numbers – good luck with that [smile].

Before going further research here to get a bearing with this excellent rundown with official numbers and explanations from the EPI is one of the best I have seen. See for yourself [click here].

The following is what I am talking about: compiled from here re: my main post follows.

Donald Trump falsely claimed that the unemployment rate could be as high as 42% during his victory speech in NH – remember? That talking point number still floats about in GOP and Right Wing circles when citing official numbers as “phony.”

Some media figures (namely right wing talk radio and FOX) have allowed Trump and other to push that faulty claim, despite the proven and hard facts that most reliable fact-checkers have called “ridiculous” with maximum “Pants on Fire and Pinocchio” ratings.

More examples here which I am sure we have all heard:

1.  Rush Limbaugh has said: The “Actual Unemployment Rate” is 42.9 Percent (running with the Trump number). Limbaugh ranted against the official unemployment rate provided by the BOL statistics while citing a blog former Reagan OMB Director David Stockman, who claimed that “the actual unemployment rate in the United States of America is not 5.5% - it’s 42.9 percent.”
[Rush Limbaugh Radio Show, 6/30/15].

2. Fox’s Maria Bartiromo (The Fox Business Report) pushed that same debunked statistic, saying “almost 40 percent of Americans” are out of work and not looking, while asking candidate JEB Bush about job creation. [GOP Presidential Debate, 11/10/15].

3. Fox’s Bill O'Reilly (The O’Reilly Factor) also let Trump claim that the official unemployment rate as a “phony number” and that the actual rate is “25% or probably higher.” [The O'Reilly Factor, 2/5/16].

Two Reliable Fact Checkers Weighed to Counter Those Statements:

1. Politi Fact: They rated Trump's 42 percent unemployment claim “Pants on Fire.” That rating is their lowest rating.

2. Washington Post:  Their fact checker, Glenn Kessler, ruled “Trump’s assertion a ridiculous estimate.” He then gave Trump's claim his most extreme rating for untruthfulness: “Four Pinocchios.”

All this is how the right runs with B.S. numbers and sound bites all across media la-la land, and the worst part: their base eats it up and then in turn the run around citing the same references with their bogus B.S. numbers as facts.

So, what are the facts?

Official numbers come from the BOL Statistics and several independent think tanks (left and right leaning) and academic economic experts all say the same thing: Whom and what should we trust and believe?

As for me, I read them all, everything, and then I try to measure for myself to find reasons and causes and effects, and then seek possible solutions. Problem solving is more than merely ID a problem… fixing is the key. I cannot rely on a problem like those who rely on things from say, a “Fox instant or dynamic poll,” or some Talk Radio chatter that is almost always negative.

I mean those who blast Mr. Obama at every turn no matter what and who are not about to give him one ounce of credit for the great and yes, it is, great economic improvement since 2008.

One part of the overall problem is that average Americans can’t, won’t, or don’t have the time to deal in such detailed research so they rely on snippets and bogus coverage passing as facts. That is totally understandable since they quite frankly don’t have time in their daily lives, and more so, when they are told not to “listen or watch to MSNBC, CBS, ABC, and PBS – just listen to us since we know what is real or not.” Were that true.

As I said, for me, I like the EPI numbers or those from experts who work the numbers daily, and even though some are “left-leaning, and some are right leaning” hopefully their numbers are hard data from creditable sources (i.e., the BOL Statistics).

From that EPI article (linked above here again) – updated June 3, 2016: call it the basics, like this short introduction: In a complex economy, conventional measures sometimes fall short. In today’s labor market, the unemployment rate drastically understates the weakness of job opportunities. This is due to the existence of the category of “missing workers or potential workers.

Those people are those who, because of weak job opportunities, or other factors, are: (1) neither employed, nor (2) actively seeking a job. These people would be either working or looking for work if were the job market were stronger.

But, there is always but, right? But, because jobless workers are only counted as unemployed if they are actively seeking work (which is the fairest way to count these them), then the “missing workers” are not reflected in the unemployment rates we read and hear about as described by the novices bent on whipping everyone into a frenzy, usually for political gain, but not offering solutions or if any, the simplest fact (pick and choose what to yap about).

Then the spin doctors focus on that and run with in their bad news and political angles blasting Mr. Obama, every DEM in sight, but ironically never any fault on their side, right? Yet they selectively forget or don’t remember anything in the 2007-2008 time frame when we had a near total economic meltdown. That too is clever PR stunts and political grandstanding. 

All I say is don’t fall for it for the B.S. and political stunts… Do the research for yourself and rely on facts, not the hype, and certainly not the fear tactics. 

As I have said many times fear sells, that is until we stop buying it. 

I hope this post is helpful in that regard. So, come again and as always, thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Jan. 20, 2017: Season 16 “The Apprentice” From White House With Host Donald Trump

His Electoral College Views in 2012 When He Thought Mitt Romney Had Won
[click image for larger view]

NSA (and other views) on Hacking
(Prime Suspect: Russia Which Trump Doesn't Believe)

Some reports [here], [here], and [here] indicate that Mr. Trump is not attending regular intelligence briefings... 

One could conclude that he doesn't trust those briefings unless they are cleared by Fox, or Bannon, or Breitbart, or even Alex Jones. Then and only then will they be included in future “President’s Daily Brief (PDB),” sometimes referred to as the President's Daily Bulletin, which is a Top Secret document produced and given each morning at 07:45 to the President of the United States to highlight key domestic and world events.

The Apprentice” – TV reality show that premiered in 2004 and hosted by Donald J. Trump will now take center stage at Noon on Friday, January 20, 2017, on a platform in front of Capital Dome to deliver, I am sure, an historical inauguration speech as he prepares to enter his new office inside the White House.

Sponsors for that event have yet to be identified yet as it seems Wall Street backers are still in closed door negotiations on that “art of the deal.”

So, don’t miss that premiere show, or as they used to say: “Be there or be square...!”

BTW: This is not my feeble attempt to copy “The Onion” or their format (which I love to read) – mine is not even close (smile).

As the nation gets ready to travel this uncertain and uncharted road, let’s hope we all don’t hear those two fearful words: “You’re fired…!” 

All I can say is hold on tight and find a seat where it is safe and stay tuned.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Trump Tactics Towards Anyone: Bash; Belittle; Befuddle; Bribe; Befriend; Boast

“The End Justifies the Means”

Introduction: Am I a fan of Donald Trump, no I am not, but I am willing to see what he accomplishes and how he accomplishes it, or how he tries. However, thus far, and he is not even in office yet, but based on his appointments and nominees to date, things do not look that great. He gives the distinct impression that he intends to operate government like a giant business consortium he just acquires. He will deal in the standard P&L and annual bonus stuff based on past practices around globe as he hangs his trademark name on each deal as the sole deal maker as it were.  But, that is not my focus today; this is:

Background: It's not possible to be an offshore manufacturing profiteer and to simultaneously champion keeping jobs here at home without being a hypocrite. No one can prove that point better than Donald Trump; hypocrite par excellence…!!!

He loves to insult China and Mexico saying they want our people to starve, or they're taking our business away. We have seen millions of jobs move off-shore, but have the “taken our jobs?” 

I say: How about we have given them away, say for cheaper (less-expensive goods that flow back to Walmart or wherever including the Trump stores?). 

On top of that, Mr. Trump also has pledged to start a trade war with Beijing – that ought to prove interesting based on these few facts:

David Letterman awhile back decimated Trump and his swaggering bluster about restoring jobs that have been moved to China and other off-shore locations as he brought up Trump's “exclusive signature line of clothing.”

Trump was ready for the chance to market his eponymous men's fashion apparel as he started bragging: “It is ties, shirts, and cuff links, sold at Macy's, and they're doing great. It's the number-one tie sold anywhere in the world.”

Note: Trump had earlier claimed that he didn't know where his clothing line was manufactured and it was obvious Trump was not ready for Letterman's follow-up when he displayed a couple of Trump shirts, noting that they were made in Bangladesh. Then Letterman pulled out a few ties from Trump's commercial line and asking him where they were made. Trump didn't respond. Then Letterman pointed out clearly saying: “The ties are made in China.”

All Trump could do was shrug and roll his eyes. There's an entire billion dollar industry of corporate mass media asking Trump frivolous questions in 2015, and often failing to pin down his demagogic bluster. However, Letterman exposed him as a profiteering hypocrite in 2012 with two shirts and a few ties.

Now it seems that Trump threatened Carrier with loss of Federal contracts, higher tariffs when their Mexican-made products come back across the border, or whatever else we don’t know what he and IN Gov. Pence promised. But, brag Trump is doing with relish, which is his style… 

So, I simply ask: Is this what we can expect from a President Trump? It is rational and logical question to ask isn’t it?

Tied to this question, consider this article from Forbes, posted here in part:

Donald Trump’s appeal is said to be his straight talk. But when it comes to international trade, he sounds like a hypocrite, the classic “Do what I say, not what I do” politician. While bashing companies for investing in foreign countries, Donald Trump’s own company has shown no inclination to invest and build only in America. In fact, a significant percentage of his company’s hotels and major real estate properties are located abroad.

“Mr. Trump is either inexcusably hypocritical or inexcusably ignorant of economics. There is zero economic difference between, say, a U.S. car company’s investments abroad in factories and Mr. Trump’s own investments abroad in hotels: both are meant to improve the bottom line of companies headquartered in the U.S. by taking advantage of profitable economic opportunities outside of the U.S.” (According to Donald J. Boudreaux, a professor of economics at George Mason University).

Yet a staple of Trump the candidate’s speeches has been to bash Ford Motor for building a plant in Mexico. “Trump has repeatedly said that if elected, he would not allow Ford to open a new plant in Mexico,” reported the Detroit News

“At his campaign announcement speech in New York in June, Trump said he would call [Ford CEO Mark] Fields “to explain the bad news” this way: “Let me give you the bad news: Every car, every truck and every part manufactured in this plant that comes across the border, we’re going to charge you a 35% tax. They are going to take away thousands of jobs.” (Trump’s own campaign words, not mine).
Again, is this our future way to deal: use harsh business tactics in foreign relations or international fellowship?

Overall related articles here, here, and here (and from various other media sources).

Thanks for stopping by… My hunch: the worst is yet to befall us. Stay tuned.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Trump the Taxman Cometh: Flim-Flam Man or Con-Artist — Take Your Pick

Ready or Not Here I Come

Trump’s Tax Policy: An Analysis from the Tax Policy Center

Introduction (and three main points):  “Trump's campaign rhetoric may have been populist, but his tax plan isn't.” (Say most tax experts). 

1.  Trump's campaign rhetoric promoted tax benefits for middle-income Americans with him saying: “There will be the largest tax reductions are for the middle class (Cited in his 4-page: “Contract with the American Voter”) released just last month.

2.  Middle-income Americans pay a relatively modest share of federal income taxes compared with the wealthy. The Trump plan further limits the scope of what tax cuts could do for the middle-class while greatly helping the top 1-2%.

3.  We have seen big tax cut proposals and tax cuts ever since Ronald Reagan, but things have been getting worse for the middle-class since.

Specific Highlights:

1.  Most married couples with three or more children would pay higher taxes.
2.  Middle-class families as a whole would receive tax cuts of only about 2%.
3.  Those middle-class taxpayers and their measly 2% tax cut would be dwarfed by a windfall tax cut for the top 1% of some 13.5%.
4.  Reduce the number of tax brackets from seven to three, with rates of 12 percent, 25 percent and 33 percent.
5.  Slash the top rate from the current 39.6 percent to 33 percent.
6.  Repeal the estate tax, which affects only about 0.2 percent of estates — that is those worth above $5.45 million.
7.  Middle-income earners as a whole would have a small tax cut: taking into account the increases on single-parent families, those earning nearly $50,000 to about $83,000 — the middle one-fifth — would receive an average cut of $1,010, according to the Tax Policy Center lifting their after-tax incomes by a mere 1.8 percent.
8.  By contrast, the wealthiest 1 percent — those earning over $700,000 — would enjoy a tax cut averaging nearly $215,000, boosting their after-tax incomes a whopping 13.5 percent.
9.  The very rich: 0.1 percent of the population — that is earning above $3.7 million — would receive a bonanza: A tax cut exceeding $1 million.
10.  For low-to-moderate income single parents (i.e., a working Mom or Dad), they are going to get hurt and hurt badly.

The tax hikes that would hit single parents and large families would result from his plan to eliminate the personal exemption and the head-of-household filing status – two features of the tax code that have enabled millions of Americans to reduce their taxable income. 

His other tax changes would benefit middle- and lower-income Americans for sure, but they wouldn't be enough to offset those modifications going to the top 1%.

Unlike Trump's other proposals like for immigration and building the wall, or cancelling trade deals for new ones, his tax plan is in line with traditional Republican policy that steep tax cuts for the top closely resemble those put forth by Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush and all Republican-run Congresses and here we are again – same dynamics with Trump’s tax proposal. 

So, I say at this point: “They’re baaack…!!!”

During the campaign, Trump said his tax cuts — for individuals and companies — would energize the economy by boosting business investment in factories and equipment, while leaving consumers with more cash to spend and create 25 million jobs over the next decade.

Further, estimates show that roughly 7.9 million families with children would pay higher taxes. Some 5.8 million of those families are led by a single parent. An additional 2.1 million are married couples. Analysts from the conservative Tax Foundation and American Enterprise Institute both agree with these conclusions.

For all Trump voters (vast majority in the low-to-middle class brackets discussed in the Trump tax plan): You have been had…!!!

So, from here on out, HANG ON TIGHT…!!!

Nevertheless, thanks and stopping by. Oh, yeah and for those who did, thanks for voting to Make America Suffer Again.”

Friday, November 25, 2016

Rational Reasons for the Popular Vote: “ One-person/One-vote” Not the Electoral College

A Joke Vis-à-Vis the Electoral College or Popular Vote

This is the Only Real, True Government Oversight

When a Vote Does Not Count — Whew Boy 

I will carefully analyze this article and highlight what I consider the critically-important parts of the contents and why the popular vote should matter and not the outdated and quite frankly ineffective EC system we see even today after all these years and 5 piss-poor outcomes. The entire article is from here and tact (Washington Post).

MY INTRO AND I HAVE NUMBERED THE 15 KEY POINTS (my emphasis also highlighted thus):  

Conventional wisdom tells us that the Electoral College (EC) requires that the person who lost the popular vote this year must nonetheless become our president. That view is an insult to our framers.

1.  It is compelled by nothing in our Constitution. It should be rejected by anyone with any understanding of our democratic traditions — most important, the electors themselves.
2.  The framers believed, as Alexander Hamilton put it, that “the sense of the people should operate in the choice of the [president].” But no nation had ever tried that idea before.
3.  So the framers created a safety valve on the people’s choice. Like a judge reviewing a jury verdict, where the people voted, the electoral college was intended to confirm — or not — the people’s choice. Electors were to apply, in Hamilton’s words, “a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice” — and then decide.
4.  The Constitution says nothing about “winner take all.” It says nothing to suggest that electors’ freedom should be constrained in any way.
5.  Instead, their wisdom — about whether to overrule “the people” or not — was to be free of political control yet guided by democratic values. They were to be citizens exercising judgment, not cogs turning a wheel.
6.  Many think we should abolish the EC. I’m not convinced that we should. Properly understood, the electors can serve an important function. What if the people elect a Manchurian candidate? Or a child rapist? What if evidence of massive fraud pervades a close election? It is a useful thing to have a body confirm the results of a democratic election — so long as that body exercises its power reflectively and conservatively. Rarely — if ever — should it veto the people’s choice. And if it does, it needs a very good reason.
4.  So, do the electors in 2016 have such a reason? Only twice in our past has the EC selected a president against the will of the people.
5.  Once in the 19th century and once on the cusp of the 21st. In 1824, it was Congress that decided the election for John Quincy Adams. And in 1876, it was Congress that gave disputed EC votes to Rutherford B. Hayes.
6.  In 1888, Benjamin Harrison lost the popular vote to Grover Cleveland but won in the EC, only because Boss Tweed’s Tammany Hall turned New York away from the reformer Cleveland (by fewer than 15,000 vote.
7.  And in 2000, George W. Bush lost the popular vote by a tiny fraction — half a percent — and beat Al Gore in the EC by an equally small margin — less than 1 percent. (USSC decided that outcome re: the recount system in FL – Bush won 5-4).
8.  In both cases, the result violated what has become one of the most important principles governing our democracy — one person, one vote. In both cases, the votes of some weighed much more heavily than the votes of others.
Today, for example under the EC, the vote of a citizen in Wyoming is four times as powerful as the vote of a citizen in Michigan. The vote of a citizen in Vermont is three times as powerful as a vote in Missouri. This denies Americans the fundamental value of a representative democracy — equal citizenship. Yet nothing in our Constitution compels this result.
9.  Instead, if the EC is to control who becomes our president, we should take it seriously by understanding its purpose precisely. It is not meant to deny a reasonable judgment by the people. It is meant to be a circuit breaker — just in case the people go crazy.
10.  In this election, the people did not go crazy. The winner, by far, of the popular vote is the most qualified candidate for president in more than a generation. Like her or not, no elector could have a good-faith reason to vote against her because of her qualifications. Choosing her is thus plainly within the bounds of a reasonable judgment by the people.
11.  Yet that is not the question the electors must weigh as they decide how to cast their ballots. Instead, the question they must ask themselves is whether there is any good reason to veto the people’s choice.  There is not. And indeed, there is an especially good reason for them not to nullify what the people have said — the fundamental principle of one person, one vote.
12.  We are all citizens equally. Our votes should count equally. And since nothing in our Constitution compels a decision otherwise, the electors should respect the equal vote by the people by ratifying it on December 19.
13.  They sure did not in 1888, when Tammany Hall ruled New York and segregation was the law of the land. They didn’t in 2000, when in the minds of most, the election was essentially a tie. Those are plainly precedents against Hillary Clinton.
14.  But the question today is which precedent should govern today — Tammany Hall and Bush v. Gore, or one person, one vote? The framers left the electors free to choose.
15.  They should exercise that choice by leaving the election as the people decided it: in Clinton’s favor.

Thanks for stopping by and keep your fingers crossed that the Jill Stein re-count uncovers something historically important. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

President Trump Can't Have Conflicts of Interest: But, What About Donald Trump, Jr.

Don't Look So Surprised. It Was Just Routine Family Business
(No biggie)

How to “de-tail” an Elephant
(No, not the GOP one)

Introduction to a very disturbing story from the Daily Beast:

Donald Trump’s eldest son held a private meeting with pro-Russian diplomats, businessmen, and politicians in Paris last month, the Wall Street Journal reports,

According to people who took part in the October 11 meetings, the cabal focused on finding a way to cooperate with the Russian government to end the ongoing war in Syria. The event was held at the Ritz Paris, included 30 attendees, and was hosted by a French think tank whose founder’s wife is a Syrian-born leader of a Syrian opposition group endorsed by the Kremlin.

The WSJ raised this critical point and folks, this is serious stuff despite your political view and party loyalties:

The disclosure of a meeting between the younger Mr. Trump and pro-Russia figures — even if not Russian government officials — poses new questions about contacts between the president-elect, his family and foreign powers. It is also likely to heighten focus on the elder Mr. Trump’s stated desire to cooperate with the Kremlin once in office.”

The whole article is here.

WASHINGTON (The AP via the WSJ): Donald Trump’s eldest son, emerging as a potential envoy for the president-elect, held private discussions with diplomats, businessmen and politicians in Paris last month that focused in part on finding a way to cooperate with Russia to end the war in Syria, according to people who took part in the meetings.

Thirty people, including Donald Trump Jr., attended the Oct. 11 event at the Ritz Paris, which was hosted by a French think tank. The founder of the think tank, Fabien Baussart, and his wife, Randa Kassis, have worked closely with Russia to try to end the conflict. Ms. Kassis, who was born in Syria, is a leader of a Syrian opposition group endorsed by the Kremlin. The group wants a political transition in Syria — but in cooperation with President Bashar al-Assad, Moscow’s close ally.

The disclosure of a meeting between the younger Mr. Trump and pro-Russia figures — even if not Russian government officials — poses new questions about contacts between the president-elect, his family and foreign powers. It is also likely to heighten focus on the elder Mr. Trump’s stated desire to cooperate with the Kremlin once in office.

In an interview, Ms. Kassis said she pressed the younger Mr. Trump during the meeting on the importance of cooperating with the Russians in the Middle East. “We have to be realistic. Who’s on the ground in Syria? Not the U.S., not France,” Ms. Kassis said from Moscow. “Without Russia, we can’t have any solution in Syria.” Of the president-elect’s son, she said: “I think he’s very pragmatic and is flexible.”  Ms. Kassis later posted comments on her Facebook page about the meeting:

“[Syria’s] opposition got hope that [the] political process will move forward and Russia and the United States will reach accord on the issue of the Syrian crisis, because of Trump’s victory,” she wrote. “Such hope and belief is the result of my personal meeting with Donald Trump junior in Paris in October.”

She added on Facebook that, through the talks with Donald Trump Jr., she believed she succeeded in conveying to the elder Mr. Trump “the idea of how we can cooperate together.”


Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser to the president-elect, confirmed the younger Mr. Trump’s attendance at the event in Paris. But she played down his direct contact with Ms. Kassis saying in an email: 

Don was addressing a roundtable in Paris, and she was present for that talk and at a group dinner for 30 people. This event featured a number of opinion leaders from all over the world who were interested in the U.S. elections.”

Trump repeatedly has stressed his desire to work closely with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Syria and to coordinate in fighting the Islamic State terrorist group. His position on Russia emerged as a campaign issue, and Mrs. Clinton called the Republican a “puppet” of Mr. Putin which Trump denied that accusation.

The Obama administration said it believed the Russian government hacked the emails of the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee in a bid to aid Trump, which Moscow denied, and despite a formal U.S. intelligence assessment accusing the Russians, Trump maintained that the U.S. didn’t know who the hackers were. Additionally, Trump spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, denied a Russian official’s claim that there had been contact between the campaign and the Russian government.
The Obama administration terminated talks with Russia over Syria last month due to a Russian-backed bombing campaign in Aleppo, the country’s largest city.

The younger Mr. Trump, the executive vice president of The Trump Organization, was a top official in his father’s campaign. Transition officials say none of the Trump children will have formal positions in the new administration, but haven’t ruled out informal roles for them.

Ivanka Trump has sat in on her father’s meetings and phone calls with several world leaders since his election, including one with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The elder Mr. Trump has criticized the Obama administration for seeking to topple Mr. Assad, arguing that doing so could further strengthen Islamic State and other terrorist groups. The president-elect has argued that allying with Russia, which has deployed its air force to bolster Mr. Assad, was the best option for reducing the terrorist threat emanating from the Middle East country.

Mikhail Bogdanov, deputy head of Russia’s foreign ministry, said last week that Moscow had been reaching out to the elder Mr. Trump’s team to discuss Syria, according to Russian news agency Interfax.

Ms. Kassis, in the interview, said at the October meeting she discussed with the younger Mr. Trump the importance of promoting a secular government in Damascus. She echoed an argument made both by the Assad regime and the Russian government, saying Syria’s armed opposition — even those backed by U.S. forces — are radical Islamists.

Interfax reported that a meeting between Ms. Kassis and Mr. Bogdanov took place on Nov. 8, but the report didn’t mention the younger Mr. Trump. “Randa Kassis has played a key role in Russian efforts to bring together Assad regime elements and opposition members acceptable to Moscow,” said Andrew Tabler of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which has been critical of Mr. Obama’s Syria policy. 

Mr. Tabler has regularly talked to Russian officials about the conflict. “Such efforts have been key to Moscow’s approach to making Assad the basis for a transition in Syria.”

President Assad, in an interview last week with Portuguese television, said the elder Mr. Trump was potentially a “natural ally” in the Damascus regime’s fight against the rebel armies.

As I said, very serious stuff ... I'm sure more will fall out as we go down this line.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Torture Back on the National Policy Agenda — Maybe, Says CINC-in-Waiting Trump

Waterboarding =Torture: Illegal, Unlawful, and War Crime for Decades

A Bright Red Line Trump is Willing to Cross
(Not so for Sen. John McCain)

Update: Awe damn. Here We Go Again: Trump Wants to Bring Back Torture and Waterboarding (and yes, waterboarding is torture):

BACKGROUND (references linked in the below post): At a rally last November in Columbus, Ohio, Trump promised to reinstate waterboarding and perhaps other methods of torture beyond it. He said: “Would I approve waterboarding? You bet your ass I would — in a heartbeat” (Trump said as the crowd cheered). “And I would approve more than that. Don't kid yourself, folks. It works, okay? It works. Only a stupid person would say it doesn't work.” He went on to repeat “It works” multiple times, then concluded: “Believe me, it works. And you know what? If it doesn't work, they deserve it anyway, for what they're doing. It works.”

Then a few months later, Trump doubled down on that pledge at another rally in SC, as well as in several interviews throughout the campaign, saying in essence the very same things. Then in an interview on ABC's This Week show earlier this year, when asked if he would authorize torture, Trump said: “I would absolutely authorize (it) and something beyond waterboarding.”

Now, recently and in response to the Trump pledge, John McCain said: “I don't give a damn what the president of the United States wants to do or anybody else wants to do. We will not water board. We will not do it.” (Those remarks were made to applause during a panel discussion at the Halifax International Security Conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia). 

Recall that McCain was subjected to torture as a POW in Vietnam for 5 years.  McCain went on to say that waterboarding, sanctioned under the administration of President George W. Bush as an “enhanced interrogation technique,” doesn't work and is banned under U.S. law and the Geneva Conventions. Then McCain added in in conclusion to his statement:  “My God, what does it say about America if we're going to inflict torture on people?”

Now we have loyal dog, VP-elect Mike Pence, saying on CBS Sunday Face the Nation just recently: “A Trump administration would not rule out a return to waterboarding.” Then he added: “A President Donald Trump is going to focus on confronting and defeating radical Islamic terrorism as a threat to this country. We're going to have a president again who will never say what we'll never do.”

More up to date facts: Trump will be hard pressed to find military support for a blatant return to torture and I say again and again, “Waterboarding is torture and has been illegal, unlawful, and a war crime for decades.” Trump takes a hard-nose stance against the current CIA Director (John Brennan).

Do you want firsthand experience about torture, specifically, waterboarding: … Here is a great resume from a man who knows – and believe me, you will want to read this.

Related: Any move to return to waterboarding would likely face opposition from the uniformed military leadership. Methods defined as enhanced interrogation techniques could subject service members to prosecution under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, for example:

Last March, in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Joint Chiefs Chairman Marine General Joseph Dunford indirectly but strongly rejected Trump's “torture works campaign statements.

Dunford said he could not comment on politics but gave a general answer to questions in which he suggested that torture and waterboarding went against the “values cherished by the American military,” adding: “One of the things that makes me proud to represent this uniform is that we represent the values of the American people. When our young men and women go to war, they go with our values. And, when we find exceptions, and see U.S. troops abuse prisoners, you can see how aggressively we address those exceptions under the UCMJ. We should never apologize for going to war with the values of the American people. That's what we have done historically; that's what we expect to do in the future. And again, that's what makes me proud to wear this uniform.”

Now Trump’s leading candidate for Secretary of Defense, retired Marine general, James Mattis, whom Trump calls the “real deal” is at odds with Trump about bringing back waterboarding and Trump said he was surprised to hear the general say that. Wow – Trump is surprised to hear the general say that? Ha…  Give me a break, Mr. Trump. 

You are the one who should be surprised at anyone and especially while looking at yourself in a mirror, who would advocate torture as national policy.

My view as an old Interrogator on this subject: I do not believe that Donald J. Trump should not be allowed to take office on January 20, 2017. For him to advocate breaking U.S. and International law in the support of torture and in advance like this is unheard of in my lifetime. Therefore, I strongly believe that he is not suited for nor fit to be president of anything except maybe his newest golf resort.  

This is a big issue with major impact. I am amazed to see anyone cheer Trump when he suggests using torture as national policy. I am astonished about Trump saying that, and saddened to hear anyone support him. I am in accord with John McCain who said above: “My God, what does it say about America…”

(1)  “Torture” means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control, 
(2)  “Severe mental pain or suffering” means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from —
(A)  The intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;
(B)  The administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality;
(C)  The threat of imminent death; or
(D)  The threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality.

Some 92 video tapes were destroyed by the CIA in November 2005 after a report by CIA IG John L. Helgerson’s office, had determined that they depicted “… cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, as defined by the International Convention Against Torture.”

So, you decide: is Donald J. Trump wrong or not? And, if so, is he on the verge of advocating a serious war crime in advance? Is he worthy to be our President?

Pretty sad, either way, isn’t it. Thanks for stopping by and as I outline in my main detainee/torture site here, this is an ugly issue that just will not go away.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Award for Biggest Lie “Build the wall and have Mexico pay for it” — The envelope, please

Yeah, green light. Go ahead. I'll take care of the bill with Mexico
(Money pending in Congress

Here, my final design – go with this
(Bigger, nicer than China. Much bigger, better, prettier, dynamic)



SHORT INTRODUCTION: Note this headlines analysis on November 7, 2016: “6 Questions We'll Be Asking As Presidential Election Results Roll In.” And, FROM NPR no less.

Boy did they and everyone else in between get this election outcome 180° dead wrong… how and why are two imperatives that will be asked for years to come, and especially regarding this post’s subject for today: 

THE TRUMP WALL (and get Mexico to pay for it)…

Mexico seems to be on the losing side of the US presidential election, since incoming President Donald Trump has threatened to wall off America’s southern neighbor and demand concessions in order to continue as a favored trading partner.

Whoa, wait a minute, wait a frickin' minute:

Trump’s policies could have unanticipated upsides for Mexico as well.

If Trump builds his beloved wall, for instance, it will require around 7 million cubic meters of concrete and 2.4 million tons of cement (Investment firm Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. estimates).

Guess who produces just those materials, and all in the vicinity of the Rio Grande?

BINGO #1: Most cement producers in North America are Mexican, thus as an infrastructure program, Trump’s wall could boost the Mexican economy and thereby benefit Mexican companies.

KICKER #1:  In the world of cement producers, Mexico’s CEMEX ranks 7th largest and BTW, there are no American companies among the top 20 ranked at all.

NEGATIVE PLUS: Trump has protectionist ambitions and could decree that all cement poured for his Wall has to be American.

BINGO #2: Yep, CEMEX has extensive U.S. operations, with dozens of plans throughout the country that employs more than 10,000. So, with a Trump Wall huge economic opportunities exist for cement producers.

TRUMP DOOR #1 He could find a way to exclude Mexico’s CEMEX and other suppliers who are outside the U.S. from any contracting of The Wall, but that would be depriving their American employees of work. Or, not.

TRUMP DOOR #2:  If all the contracting went to firms with an American operations only, then those companies might be unable to fill orders for other clients, thus ending up giving companies like CEMEX to fill the gap and yep, you got it, more jobs for Mexico. Keep in mind that when global demand for anything goes up, it almost always benefits the sellers because firms hate to add costs when any bump in demand is temporary and building the wall would be that case: build it and move on and demand for cement/concrete drops tremendously. So those firms could ramp up production as much as possible at facilities already online, even if it allows competitors (i.e., CEMEX to snatch part of the pie).

Most analysts estimate that the Trump Wall enhancement portion to those that already exist for the nearly 2,000-mile border with Mexico could cost as much as $25 BILLION (yes, with a capital “B”).

Concrete, made of cement, would by far be the cheapest and most likely material.
That massive project could boost cement demand currently growing around 4% per year by one full percentage point once construction started. That’s a big jump for a mature industry in a slow-growing global economy.

KICKER #2: Since cement is costly to ship, it would make sense to source it as close to the border as possible. Ego: CEMEX has many facilities in the region that fit that profile — on both sides of the border – as do smaller American producers such as Cal Portland and Alamo Cement Company.

IRONY #1:  “As ludicrous as the Trump Wall project sounds to millions of Americans,” Bernstein wrote in their July report, “it does represent a huge opportunity for those American companies.” (I add: See, we created jobs, too, will say the Trumpettes).

Mexico could benefit from Trump’s punitive impulses in at least one other way.
The country’s currency, the peso hit record lows after Trump’s win, on the expectation that money could flow out of Mexico if Trump’s new policies harm its ability to export.

Yet a falling peso could actually boost Mexico’s economy, since it makes Mexican exports to other countries cheaper. The dollar strengthened after Trump’s win, by contrast, which makes American exports more expensive.

When a currency plunges because of some external shock, as just happened in Mexico, that’s not necessarily a net gain, since the shock itself could harm the economy more than a cheaper peso helps.

But if the peso were to stabilize at a lower level, Mexico would benefit. “The gradual depreciation doesn’t have to be problematic,” says Behravesh. “A longer-run depreciation of the peso would be good for exports.”

That may not help, of course, if Mexico finds the United States — its biggest trading partner, by far — closed for business.

That would harm many U.S. companies as well, and throw supply chains for the auto sector and other industries into turmoil. Trade is complicated, and Trump seems bound to discover that the old adage about the devilish details is truer than ever.
Stay tuned… it will get very, very ugly.

MEMO to Speaker Ryan and Sen. Leader McConnell: “The wall bill is in mail to you. I guess we have to call it, what, um… IOU from Mexico until they fork over the Pesos now that the work has started. Anyway, you guys work out the details. And, give Bannon and Ivanka a heads up, okay.” — /s/ D.T.

My campaign promise for a wall to the public:

Thanks for stopping by (one heluva story isn’t it) – oh BTW: why didn’t Trump put all this into perspective before the election? Oh, yeah right: “He did say he would surprise us later.”

F/N: Trump has worldwide licenses for others to build and use his name. How many Trump Towers are there around the Globe? Figure it out and count them here.