The ups and downs of Mr. Trump

Donald Trump denounced the chemical attack in Syria as an “affront to humanity”, declaring that it crossed “many, many lines” and cannot be tolerated. While Trump declared no retaliation initially, the US launched some 60 Tomahawk missiles at a base in northern Syria [let alone not far from Lebanon and Israel] to damage the base that was probably where the chemical came from. Trump had previously responded said disclosing military action ahead of time was a mistake the Obama administration had repeatedly made.

While some of the base was damaged, some of the Syrian fighters are housed under thick concrete barns [for a lack of better words] and may have suffered little damage.

The Russians were notified in advance of the attack. Unsure if they warned the Syrian government of the attack [which could allow them to move equipment away].

Senator Marco Rubio defended Trumps action saying it was legal as Syria used chemical weapons against international law as well as against previous agreements. He claims that trump did not have to notify congress of the attack because of what Syria did [and Americans are in the region] and it is up to Trump decide if he wants to do it again. A full scale attack would require Congress’ approval.

Russian President Vladimir Putin regards the US attacks on Syria as “an aggression against a sovereign state in violation of the norms of international law, and under a trumped-up pretext at that,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. As if they never went into Ukraine, Georgia, Afghanistan, … for any real reasons.

Seems only those with “interests” in Syria [Russia, Iran and China] were against the airstrike. Even the UN Secretary General was not opposed but also not in favor of the airstrike. Instead he said basically Syria deserves what they got for using chemical weapons.

“President Obama said in 2012 that he would establish a ‘red line’ against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing,” Press Secretary Sean “Garlic” Spicer said. Obama’s “red line” at the time was a threat of U.S. military action if Syria continued to use chemical weapons. Such consequences never came to pass, in part because the Republican-led Congress declined to hold a vote approving Obama’s proposed military action.

Trump himself had tweeted as recent as September 2013 that he agreed with Obama on not attacking unless crossing that “red line” and wanted no military in Syria. This included “President Obama, do not attack Syria. There is no upside and tremendous downside. Save your “powder” for another (and more important) day!”

So the line crossed with him in charge and he has done nothing. Shortly after Trump’s last tweets on the subject until now, Syria didn’t fire any chemical weapons until Trump was in charge. Does this mean that Trump is weak? Pushing buttons [dare] like North Korea does?

“Garlic” said in a Trump press release that a gas attack in a rebel-controlled area of Syria was perpetrated by the forces tied to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and are a “consequence of the past administration’s weakness and irresolution.” And yet US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, has said “Our priority is no longer to sit and focus on getting Assad out.” So nothing changes. As well, Trump tweeted during Obama’s presidency for saying it is “not our problem” and advocated restraint.

In fact, there seems to be more bombings done by US warplanes in Syria since Trump took charge – some causing civilian casualties including one a week ago that had 100+ deaths.

The US Senate is heading towards a showdown.

On January 31, Trump announced Neil Gorsuch as his pick for the next Supreme Court justice, filling a seat vacated when Antonin Scalia passed away in early 2016.

President Barack Obama named Merrick Garland after Scalia’s death. But in the midst of a heated presidential election, Republicans refused to consider Garland’s nomination and kept the seat empty until the next president was sworn in.

Democrats also took issue with Gorsuch’s performance at his hearings, saying he was evasive in his answers, and they zeroed in on his decisions in a few cases, painting him as far-right and out-of-the-mainstream.

The GOP do not have enough votes to elect Gorsuch as a Supreme Court justice [52-48]. 60 votes are needed. Four Democrats have said they’d vote for Gorsuch – but still not enough.

Since the GOP don’t have enough votes, the Democrats can sustain ae filibuster. Republicans can still get around the obstacle, but it would require using the unprecedented “nuclear option,” a change in Senate rules that would lower that 60-vote threshold for Supreme Court nominees down to a simple majority of 51.

No one wants a change in the rules because it could lead to even more partisan animosity down the road, forever changing a historic element of the Senate.

The Democrats can’t prevent a vote on Gorsuch, however. After more voting and debating, a vote would be expected late Friday [April 7th].

Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky raised a point of order, suggesting that Supreme Court nominees should not be subjected to a 60-vote threshold but instead a simple majority in the 100-member Senate. So basically McConnell wants to rewrite rules and laws to suit what favors the GOP fter how many years?

Trump will be able to claim the biggest victory of his presidency to date if Gorsuch is confirmed as expected. But at what cost?

Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, has been removed from his permanent seat at the National Security Council. He supposedly only attended one meeting since he was invited to join the council in January. Tom Bossert, the assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, also had his role downgraded as part of the changes.

House intelligence chairman Devin Nunes announced that he was temporarily stepping aside from leading the investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 elections. Nunes cited a series of ethics complaints filed against him alleging that he violated terms of discussing classified material following his clandestine meeting at the White House just over two weeks ago.

The Massachusetts city of Cambridge is weighing whether to call for an impeachment investigation into U.S. President Donald Trump. The proposed order calls on the U.S. House to back a resolution directing the Judiciary Committee to investigate whether there are grounds to impeach Trump. The city believes Trump has violated the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution that prohibits government officials from profiting from foreign businesses.

The White house continues to deflect three investigations into the Kremlin’s interference in last year’s election and possible Russian ties to President Donald Trump or his associates. They are claiming how Obama administration officials allegedly leaked and mishandled classified material about Americans. Trump aides also contend that Hillary Clinton had more extensive ties to Moscow than Trump. They used the excuse that The truth is buried somewhere in classified material that is illegal to disclose.

Interesting to note that the Trump administration is whining about the “leaks” prior to Trump forming his government and further “leaks” with the new government. So nothing has changed. So either the “leaker” is part of both administrations or there is no “leaker”. I’m betting on the latter.

White House officials say some Obama holdovers are part of a so-called deep state out to tear Trump down. The White House latched onto a month-old television interview from an Obama administration official who said she encouraged congressional aides to gather as much information on Russia as possible before the inauguration. That official left the Pentagon in 2015. So they are wring again.

Some of the White House’s allegations against Hillary Clinton stem from her four years as secretary of state, a role that gave her ample reasons to have frequent contacts with Russia. That would be true, but unlike Trump’s dealings with Russia, there is no information out there that states that Clinton had any business dealings with them. No one [except trump] knows what kind of business dealings he has with Russia because he didn’t reveal his taxes. Meanwhile, Rex Tillerson, Trump’s secretary of state, has deep ties to Russia from his time running ExxonMobil.

Again with the laying unproven blame, the Trump administration says the Clinton-led State Department was among nine U.S. government agencies that had to approve the purchase of Uranium One. Some investors in the company had relationships with former President Bill Clinton and donated to the Clinton Foundation. Most of those donations occurred well before Clinton became secretary of state and was in position to have a say in the agreement. As well, 9 agencies had to approve of the sale.

Interesting. In a November 2012, tweet Trump said “The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy.” But 4 years later, a week after he won the election he said ” The Electoral College is actually genius in that it brings all states, including the smaller ones, into play. Campaigning is much different!”

In July 2012, Trump tweeted “Why is @BarackObama constantly issuing executive orders that are major power grabs of authority?” Meanwhile how many executive orders has he issued?

Quinnipiac approval rating for Trump is at 35%. Approval rate for “millennials” is at 21%.

Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has made a few attempts already to sell his baseball team. There was a “handshake agreement” worth $1.6 billion but the Kushner family backed out after it was revealed Loria was up for ambassadorship under Trump.

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, while as governor of Texas, vetoed a bill that would make it illegal to text or use the Internet while driving even though the state politicians approved the measure. The number of road deaths [some attributed to texting] has increased by about 7% since he left office. Just this past week, 13 died when a driver, texting at night, was at least partially responsible for the cause. A new bill to try the bill again is in the works but not voted on yet. About 5 states allow texting while driving.

Trump dumped his first three months of his salary to the to the National Park Service with a check. Previously, Trump has clashed with the Park Service. A budget blueprint submitted by the Trump administration last month proposed an 11.7% funding cut for the Department of the Interior. He called the acting director in January to complain about a department re-tweet that compared crowd size at his inauguration to Barack Obama’s in 2009.

A federal judge has rejected President Donald Trump’s free speech defense against a lawsuit accusing him of inciting violence against protesters at a campaign rally. Trump’s lawyers sought to dismiss the lawsuit by three protesters who say they were roughed up by his supporters at a March 1, 2016 rally in Louisville, Kentucky. They argued that Trump didn’t intend for his supporters to use force. Much of it was captured on video and widely broadcast during the campaign, showing Trump pointing at the protesters and repeating “get them out.”

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Time for the Republicans to help govern, not block

Recently Senator Elizabeth Warren wrote an opinion for CNN was complaining that the Republicans continue to block Obama from governing the country.

I wonder what took her so long to come out with this as it has been like this for almost 8 years [and bad the last couple of years].

Even before Obama step one foot in the Oval Office as President, the Republicans have been using delay tactics for everything. Publically, they said they would work with the new government. They figure if they can’t govern effectively, they won’t be re-elected. But in 2012, Obama was re-elected. Ooops.

Particularly in the last couple of years, the Republicans have blocked nominations to fill the head agencies, fill judicial vacancies and staff other key government posts. Effectively many areas of the government have gone without heads or key positions for months. This in turn leads to confusion that runs a department.

Let’s say you were in a department, you had no boss. Who exactly approves purchases, vacation time, fires people, etc.? Maybe a more senior person or even from another department has to fill in.

[I guess if there was a positive side it’s the fact that less salaries is paid.]

It is close to three months since Obama nominated a Supreme Court justice to replace the late Antonin Scalia. Yet the Republicans are dragging their feet complaining that Obama doesn’t have the right to nominate a new justice in his final year – and yet Reagan did the same.

Meanwhile the Supreme Court could be deadlocked in a vote of 4 to 4 because the 9th justice hasn’t joined them. [And the Republics said a left leaning justice will start the equivalent of an American apocalypse with all hell breaking lose such as the loss of various amendments that would set back the country for 100 years. Maybe that’s when they think they’ll have another Republican as president.]

The Republicans claim they want the “people” to have a voice and yet wasn’t Obama and other members of Congress voted by the people [to be their proxy]? This isn’t democratic.

With the open seat they figure they will have Donald Trump to become president and choose a right leaning justice.

But aren’t judges supposed to be unbiased? They shouldn’t be judging by their party or their faith but by what is right according to the law.

Republican Party leader McConnell recently wrote that “on issues of great national significance, one party should never simply force its will on everybody else.” Oh ya?

Since taking control of the Senate in 2015, the number of appointments by the Obama administration is at the lowest amount for decades. Not because of the lack of nominees but because of delay tactics by the Republicans in the Senate.

The opposition’s job is not to halt the government’s work but add a voice. If there is no reason to [for example] block Obama’s Supreme Court justice nominee other than he is left leaning, then they are not doing their job.

The Democratic Party did their job when Clarence Thomas was investigated after the allegations made against him [whether true or not]. That is a proper opposition.

But for the Republican Party to block just about any nominee for numerous positions is just plainly bad. This may end up biting them in November. [Bad enough that they have a fairly unpopular candidate.]

If you want some light reading from Elizabeth Warren [complete with tables]….
http://www.warren.senate.gov/files/documents/2016-6-6_Warren_SCOTUS_Report.pdf

Messy US politics hit the Supreme Court

For those who aren’t too familiar with US politics, it has become even messier today.

Antonin Scalia, the influential conservative and most provocative member of the Supreme Court, has died at the age of 79.

Not surprising, President Obama wants to choose his successor as soon as possible. But it could be an issue as the Republicans hold the balance of power in the Senate. They would most likely block any choice by Obama – probably unless the chosen is a right wing one and that is probably unlikely.

Not surprising, the Republicans have already started with their rhetoric says things such as:

  • Don’t nominate anyone until the next President [11 months away]. If the court is deadlocked at 4-4, the lower court prevails. Right wing justice Kennedy has sometimes sided with the left wing though.
  • Some Republican nominees have already said that a left leaning justice would mean [for example] the end of the constitution.
  • Others say a possible conspiracy with someone hired from the left wing killing the justice so Obama can bring in a left wing justice before he leaves the White House.

There are some of the most divisive issues in the nation such abortion, affirmative action, immigration policy and more. A left wing justice could shape legal issues such as these and others possibly for a decade or more.

Scalia himself was in favor of capital punishment, ban abortion, against affirmative action, etc. He was outspoken and author of firey descents as well as made harsh comments such as whether rights applied to all including thoughs not heterosexual.

Freedom of speech or illegal

A man from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania has his case going to the US Supreme Court because whether it is free-speech rights of people who use violent or threatening language on Facebook and other social media.

The man was sentenced to nearly four years in prison for posting graphically violent rap lyrics on Facebook about killing his estranged wife, shooting up a kindergarten class and attacking an FBI agent.

His wife feared for her life after seeing the comments on Facebook. A female FBI agent went to his home to investigate and after she left he posted violent comments about the agent.

Some may say comments on Facebook, Twitter and other social media can be hasty, impulsive and easily misinterpreted. They point out that a message on Facebook intended for a small group could be taken out of context when viewed by a wider audience. But to do so on multiple occasions?

The man said he was just venting his anger over a broken marriage and never meant to threaten anyone. Lawyers for the man argue that the government must prove he actually intended his comments to threaten others. The man also claims that rapper Eminem also used similar language in his songs.

A jury convicted the man of violating a federal law that makes it a crime to threaten another person. A federal appeals court rejected his claim that his comments were protected by the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court has said that “true threats” to harm another person are not protected speech under the First Amendment – but distinguished between this type of speech and protected speech.

If I am corrected about US law, if you utter a death threat to someone directly, what would be the difference between that or saying the same thing on Facebook or twitter – where way more people could see the threat.

Interesting to note that in Quebec, a politician threw his hat into the ring recently. Shortly after he received what was considered by some as a death threat from a man on Facebook and Twitter. Provincial police are investigating. Canadian laws do differ from the US. We’ll see what the outcome of this one is.

But clearly the man from Bethlehem is not “playing with a full deck” [i.e. missing a few screws].