Category Archives: International

Trump: A uniquely unwelcome visitor

Immediately after the latest horrible terrorist attack in London President Trump impulsively burst through the headlines, in form of a twitter storm. Trump attacked London Mayor Sadiq Khan in a self-serving way, promoting his own proposed immigration ban, by twisting the Mayor’s statements out of context — and all this before offering any condolences to the victims and families.

This is the second time he picked a feud with the Mayor following a terror attack. Kahn, a Muslim and a forceful Trump critic (he warned: “[Trump’s] ignorant view of Islam could make both of our countries less safe”), was the target of an earlier tweet storm, raising questions that anti-Muslim sentiment may motivate Trump.trumptweets2

About Trump’s latest the Washington Post writes: Before British authorities detailed exactly what happened on the London Bridge, before they blamed Islamist extremism and even before they publicly concluded it was an act of terrorism, President Trump fired off a tweet to his 31 million followers: An unconfirmed bulletin from the Drudge Report.

This outburst may only serve to complicate beyond precedent a presidential state visit to the UK in October which was already drawing serious opposition. As of January, 1.8 million Britons had signed an online petition objecting to President Trump’s visit. Reportedly Trump wants to forego his armored limousine and has demanded a ride through London to Buckingham Palace in the royal golden carriage, an expensive security nightmare because its so much easier to tip over.

On Monday Mayor Khan suggested that the Trump trip should be canceled: “I don’t think we should roll out the red carpet to the president of the U.S.A. in the circumstances where his policies go against everything we stand for. When you have a special relationship it is no different from when you have got a close mate. You stand with them in times of adversity but you call them out when they are wrong. There are many things about which Donald Trump is wrong,”

Can’t say I disagree: no country needs an unwelcome guest who can’t control himself to meet the standards of common decency, much less those of diplomacy.

Here’s to our French allies!

In a sweeping rejection of her nationalist and xenophobic message, French voters have chosen Maria LePen’s rival and opposite, Emmanuel Macron as the next President of France.

Preliminary vote counts give Macron something like 65% of the vote, while LePen could only manage 34%.

This is a victory for progressive values that we can ALL celebrate, and it has been a while since we Americans have had much of anything to be glad about.

It seems that Donald Trump’s antics have provided just the cautionary tale that French voters needed in order to sober up and see the writing on the wall/.

Too bad the Brexit vote came too soon to benefit from the same dose of cruel perspective.

Tomorrow morning’s 3:00 AM tweets from King Donald will no doubt deliver angry rebukes to former President Obama for “interfering” in the French election.

Maybe the “coincidence” that Macron’s party headquarters was hacked will somewhat dampen his inclination to shoot off his twitter mouth, since it does simply add more credibility to the ever thickening tissue of evidence that his own inner circle may have colluded with Russia in undermining the 2016 U.S. election.

But never mind all of that for today. Let’s relish the moment with a toast:

“Liberte, égalité, fraternité!”

Donald wants a carriage ride to visit the Queen

President Trump will be going to the UK and Buckingham Palace this October.  And he wants to do it in style. However…tipping donaldIn typical TRUMP® fashion he’s causing others great expense. Only da biggest, best, and shiniest for Donald: The White House has made clear it regards the carriage procession down the Mall as an essential element of the itinerary for the visit currently planned for the second week of October, according to officials.

Security sources have warned, however, that the procession will require a “monster” security operation, far greater than for any recent state visit.

The UK was spared some of this expense when Obama visited Buckingham Palace because he chose to go by motorcade rather than golden carriage. Xi Jinping, in 2015 did ride in a carriage (closed rather than open) to see the Queen, but that cost is expected  to dwarf what it will be for TRUMP® to have his open carriage ride.

A British security official notes that the U.S. presidential limo is formidable and: designed to withstand a massive attack like a low-level rocket grenade. Unlike the Royal coach, although it can be protected with bullet proof glass:

[…] In particular it is very flimsy.

“It would not be able to put up much resistance in the face of a rocket propelled grenade or high-powered ammunition. Armour-piercing rounds would make a very bad show of things.”

Other than his well documented attraction to shiny golden baubles is it any wonder why Trump may be insisting on the carriage? VladPutin

Well, his BFF Vladimir Putin (a.k.a. Vlad the Elector) had an open carriage ride when he went to visit the Queen. So, of course it’s an “essential” element for Donald too. Here’s his game in musical parody, insecurity and all.

Donald “wags the dog”: rates low in historical context…sad

After President Trump abruptly changed his policy against intervention and  fired 59 Tomahawk missiles (roughly $1 million each) at Syria, there was speculation that he was interested not so much in red lines that Assad may have crossed but more with lines his own waning popularity crossed. Many observers figured Donald was “wagging the dog” – distracting attention and changing the subject away from his intensely troubled first few weeks in office.  Politico.com wondered, as many other publications did: It is hard to avoid wondering whether the purpose of the strikes was less to defend a red line that Trump had never supported than yet another effort by the president to distract the media’s attention and change the subject from his problems at home.

TrumpedDiversion may or may not have been Trump’s motive but if it was, it seems to have failed in one regard. A new Gallup poll shows : US Support for Syria Strikes Rates Low in Historical Context – Americans’ opinion of U.S. missile strikes in Syria: 41% disapprove and 50% approve.

  • Ten other military actions assessed since 1983 had majority support
  • Only action with lower approval was Libya in 2011, at 47%

The GOP loved it though: 82% of Republicans approve, compared with 33% of Democrats. A divide such as this along partisan lines is new. Intervention by President Obama in Libya 2011 and Syria 2014 showed no such partisan divide at the time they were polled.

Gallup summarized the current finding:

Americans’ initial reaction to the missile airstrikes the U.S. launched against Syria last week is among the least positive of the 12 military actions Gallup has measured since 1983. Support does exceed opposition, which has been the case for each of the military actions tested, but the 50% approval is lower than all but one of the other interventions.

The strikes do not appear to have affected Americans’ views of Trump — at least in the short term. His job approval averaged 40% Tuesday through Thursday before the strikes, and has averaged 40% Friday through Sunday after the strikes.

If the Trump administration had hoped to change the subject and rally support, well Donald’s dog wouldn’t be wagged… this time.

Is California’s new EB-5 scandal more scandalous than ours?

Vermont’s massive EB-5 scandal at Jay Peak broke about a year ago, and it isn’t the only federal investments-for-visas program that may be riddled with fraud. But the latest EB-5 scandal involves international politics, foreign fugitives and even a Trump cameo.fraudawards

The FBI in California raided offices, a townhouse and home associated with The California Investment Immigration Fund alleged to be involved in a substantial EB-5 investment company fraud. The company solicits EB-5 funds mostly from Chinese investors. And the majority of all U.S. EB-5 funds come from Chinese citizens.

Interestingly the FBI raids took place on Saturday while president Trump and Chinese president Xi Jinping were meeting in Florida at Donald’s ersatz palace.

The FBI raids, […] were focused on California Investment Immigration Fund (CIIF), a business allegedly connected to abuses of the controversial EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program that has in recent years fueled a high-end US residential boom and has been widely used by developers including the president’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner.

Since 2008 attorney Victoria Chan, her father Tat Chan, and Fang Zeng harvested $50 million from more than 100 Chinese investors for CIIF and related companies.

[…] instead of legitimately investing the funds into US businesses, the trio either refunded the funds to the EB-5 investors while their petitions were pending in a way to solicit investors, or stole millions of dollars to use for personal expenditures, including buying million-dollar houses

That list of allegations should sound familiar to anyone who followed the exploits of Jay Peak partners Stenger and Quiros. But as often happens California goes one better because this fraud may involve three fugitives from China – on their most-wanted list – illegally obtaining U.S. green cards.

According to China Daily, among CIIF’s investment green card clients found on the fugitive list are Xu Jin (No. 13) and his wife Liu Fang (No.66). In China they are both accused of embezzlement, accepting bribes, and abuse of power, for which the maximum penalty is death. A third is identified only by the initials “K.L.,” and no crimes the mysterious unnamed fugitive may have committed in China are included.

Not to downplay  Stenger and Qurios’ alleged EB-5 fraud at Jay Peak, but strictly in terms of staging and dramatic casting, California’s EB-5 scandal may outclass ours – Vermont just can’t match the international intrigue or top cameo performances by the Trump family.

Kushner hires horror film PR man for White House job

It was only three days ago that Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, made his first hire, PR man Josh Raffel, for the White House’s new Office of American Innovation. The OAI is being described as “a SWAT team of strategic consultants” which will, the White House says, be given “sweeping authority to overhaul the federal bureaucracy.” PR man Josh Raffel once did PR work for the Kushner family and Glenn Beck. Prior to joining the Kushner’s ‘SWAT” team Raffel was an executive managing the publicity for Blumhouse Productions — a horror movie producer. One recent horror film — The Purge: Election Year — featured posters with the tagline Keep America Great.purgekushnerGMD

Kushner’s long list of high-level jobs he performs for his father-in-law president include foreign-policy trouble-shooting: US/Mexican border issues (the WALL); Chinese relations; and Mid-East peace negotiating. Domestically he is tasked with addressing opioid addiction and veterans affairs, just to name two areas of responsibility.

Last week Kushner, along with Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made a quickie visit to troops in Iraq. Security protocols were violated when officials at the White House confirmed the trip before Jared and his entourage had landed in the war-torn country.kushneratwar 2

Once he was  in Iraq, images made available of Kushner wearing stylish Ray-bans, a nicely cut blue blazer, pressed button-down shirt, and a personalized bullet-proof vest began to draw widespread derision. Twitter online comments include From Here to Fraternity and The Funds of Navarone, and the one which gets my vote for being both funny and truthful: Saving Private Equity.

The newly hired PR wizard may want to start on his new boss Kushner’s image. After all, Raffel has experience in selling cheap horror shows to the public ; the difference now is he’ll have a virtually unlimited budget: think of the potential for special effects!

Fukushima: Six Years and Counting

March 11, 2017

On this, the sixth anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men” have come no closer to locating molten fuel slugs and securing the environment from further contamination.

Secondary impacts from the disaster including economic strain, scandal; and social stresses, like bullying and prejudice directed at evacuees, have begun to reshape Japan’s legendary culture of unflappable civility. Evacuees feel they are being ‘forced’ to return to an unsafe environment. The underlying social contract that once saw Japan rise to a peak of prosperity in the world, has come undone.

Over the island nation, the specter of nuclear contamination hangs like a caul, lending an ominous tinge even to anticipation of the prestigious 2020 Olympics.

Meanwhile, more or less oblivious to the memory of the biggest industrial disaster in history and its ongoing legacy of deadly contamination still unfolding in Japan, the rest of the world has grown politically more perilous. Saber rattling has escalated to the point that represents the greatest threat of nuclear war since the 1960’s.

Hate-filled outlaw groups of every stripe exploit the recruiting potential of the world-wide web, plotting and planning to seize any opportunity that should present itself to rain terror on a hapless population.

A compulsive liar occupies the most powerful position on earth, as president of the United States.  He is juxtaposed by a xenophobic madman on the other side of the globe in North Korea.

Even without a resolution to the crisis at Fukushima, and having found no practical solution to the strategic and environmental threat of nuclear waste, the nuclear industry attempts to justify continued operation of nuclear reactors, making ill-supported promises that safer nuclear options are “just around the corner”…a corner that grows decades further away with each attempt.

With or without leadership from the U.S., the world will inevitably continue to evolve toward truly clean, truly safe energy production, just as surely as technology in other areas has leapfrogged forward across the globe.

The sooner that we leave the ill-conceived “Nuclear Age” behind us, the better it will be for the entire planet.

Just ask the survivors of Fukushima.

ACLU to Donald Trump: “I hope he enjoys losing…” (Updated)

[Update: Congressional Democrats’ reaction below, at end of diary.]

That’s the ACLU’s national political director Faiz Shakir speaking about his organization’s success at temporarily halting Trump’s immigration ban.

Here is ACLU’s Shakir comment in full“I hope Trump enjoys losing. He’s going to lose so much we’re going to get sick and tired of his losing,”

On his seventh full day in office (a Friday, also Holocaust remembrance day) Donald Trump signed an executive order targeting refugees and migrants entering the United States from seven mostly Muslim nations. Notably, none of these seven countries have business ties to Trump’s private businesses.trumpshortfinger

Quickly, it became clear how sweeping Trump’s directive was: […] administration officials confirmed that the sweeping order also targeted U.S. legal residents from the named countries — green-card holders — who were abroad when it was signed. Also subject to being barred entry into the United States are dual nationals, or people born in one of the seven countries who hold passports even from U.S. allies, such as the United Kingdom.

Spontaneous demonstrations against Trump’s Muslim ban at many U.S.International airports quickly started and grew in size over the day Saturday as confusion and fear mounted among immigrant travelers. At JFK more than a thousand people turned out to protest and Taxi drivers joined in, protesting the ban by refusing to take fares from the airport.

And finally, following a complaint filed by the ACLU in New York Federal Court against enforcement, a judge in Brooklyn granted a stay, temporarily halting the DHS from enforcing Trump’s immigration ban.

It was a first step, and more battles with the new administration will follow. But seven days in and it looks like the good guys gained a little — won one — against Trumpism.

UPDATE: Democrats react to Trump’s order-

By Sunday afternoon, nearly every congressional Democrat had condemned the executive order, including Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), who faces a 2018 reelection campaign in a state Trump carried by 35 points. None defended it, but several remained silent. Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, cautioned that Democrats can only do so much to try to stop Trump, given their diminished powers on Capitol Hill.

Donald Trump: Yes, to Beans, No to Don’s Johns

The Office of Governmental Ethics issued a general reminder to the incoming administration that government officials should refrain from endorsing any product, company or service days after Donald Trump tweeted we should go out and buy LL Bean products. Is it possible they have taken it to heart? Or is Team Donald simply picking winners and losers: ‘Yes’ to Beans and ‘No’ to Don’s Johns ?donaldsjohns

 

In an “unpresidented” move, the logo reading “Don’s Johns” (Motto: We’re #1 in #2 ) on almost three thousand portable toilets rented by the government for use along the National Maul during the inauguration are having their logos hidden from view with tape.

Don’s Johns has provided portable toilets for many large events in Washington, including the 2009 and 2013 inauguration ceremonies for President Barack Obama, Weghorst said. No logos were taped over during those events, he said. And here is Don’s Johns homepage  — he has testimonies and a blog … really!

The Washington Post reports the Architect of Capitol has come clean and is taking responsibility for ordering the cover-up, which, they say, will bring the toilets into compliance with previously ignored restrictions on Don’s Johns logo “advertizing”.

It could be sensitivity to the Ethics Office warning. Or perhaps someone in the Trump camp is hyper-sensitive after his rumored Russian hotel exploits to the possibility of  the logo Don’s Johns  being shown around the world and permanently associated with Donald’s Presidential inauguration ceremony. Always protect the TRUMP™ brand — keeping him #1.

Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and a popular idiom

The newspaper editor decided to devote more space to photographs of the disaster than to text, since a picture is worth a thousand words.

trumpboris

In the aftermath of the UK Brexit vote to leave the EU, Donald Trump promoted his Golf course in Scotland; he seemed stunningly unaware the Scots had voted against it and were furious with the result. “They took their country back …” he happily tweeted and later said it would be good for his businesses.

And Boris Johnson … well how about Boris Johnson? Well,that’s Johnson stuck,hanging on a zipline in 2012 when he was Mayor of London. He was celebrating Great Britain’s Olympic victories. The Guardian described the event:

But after a promising start gliding along happily waving his flags, he lost momentum and came to a halt, dangling over a crowd of people, for a long and somewhat awkward moment.

Trump’s blather sounds a little like the way Boris’ Brexit victory may be remembered: a long awkward moment until he falls.