Business Insider reported that Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney is reneging on promises to even marginally address the perilous finances of the United States.
If you can’t take the heat, give the big-government filth everything they demand and crawl home without your testicles.
While Mulvaney had previously promised he would demand spending cuts in exchange for “raising the debt ceiling” (a near-annual occurrence in which the Feds stare down our unprecedented $20,000,000,000,000national debt, shrug, and pretend we’re solvent by simply increasing the amount of cheddar the Feds themselves may borrow–backed by taxpayers–without any significant reform in spending to even dent the $250billionwe pay in annual interest), he now advocates a “clean” increase. This just means we’ll keep spending beyond our means, but with a bipartisan consensus that our children should inherit at least one year of our GDP in financial obligations.
It’s all quite confusing, because:
The debt limit, the level of outstanding debt the federal government is allowed to carry, was technically hit in March. Since then, the Treasury Department has been using “extraordinary measures” to prevent a breach of the limit. The department has said Congress must pass a bill to increase the limit by the end of September to avoid a breach.
While Trump threw a transient bone to the fiscal conservative crowd shortly after his election by imposing a federal “hiring freeze,” that minuscule measure towards fiscal sanity was abandoned not even three months later. By…Mulvaney:
Even more willing to live beyond our means is Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin,who made news for all the wrong reasons on August 21 by reportedly using a government jet to travel to Kentucky for front row seats in viewing the SOLAR ECLIPSE.
Mnuchin was delivering a scheduled speech alongside Senate Majority Leader Sellout Mitch McConnell (who actually hails from Kentucky and might be able to justify billing his citizens for a ticket out of D.C.)
Mnuchin might have gotten away with the alleged waste of taxpayer dollars, too, except his wife, Louise Linton, got on the Instagram to brag about the brands she was wearing on the excursion. Her selfie captured the jet in the background:
Linton responded to the haters, who were justifiably wondering why a luxurious lap in a federal jet was necessary for a famous actress estimated to be worth $300 million to view a three-minute natural phenomenon, with:
“Pretty sure the amount we sacrifice per year is a lot more than you’d be willing to sacrifice if the choice was yours. You’re adorably out of touch.”
Although she later apologized for her behavior, Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (who for some reason acronymed themselves as “CREW”) have filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for any records of Mnuchin’s government-funded travel up to and including the eclipse excursion since he took office.
In related news, USA Today noted in February that fiscal year 2016 was a boon for taxpayer-funded government travel. Congressional records estimate they spent at least $14.7 million from the little people, which would be 27% more than in f.y. 2015.
Mnuchin’s own Treasury, however, estimated it was actually nearly $20 million. Treasury got their data from the State Department, and both outfits refused to explain the increase.
Using the $20 million figure, f.y. 2016 represents the highest government travel amount ever recorded, and includes 557 trips by Congress and their staffers that cost at least $10,000 per person.
Washington Post identified the full list of sailors lost in the crash. All remains have been recovered.
Nathan Findley, 31:
Abraham Lopez, 39:
Kevin Sayer Bushell, 26:
Jacob Daniel Drake, 21:
Timothy Thomas Eckels Jr., 23:
Corey George Ingram, 28;
Dustin Louis Doyon, 26:
John Henry Hoagland III, 20:
Logan Stephen Palmer, 23:
and Kenneth Aaron Smith, 22:
Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, commander of the 7th Fleet, was relieved of duties in the wake of the USS John S. McCain collision.
Aucoin speaks following the USS Fitzgerald collision in June.
Aucoin was scheduled to retire next month, and his slated replacement, Rear Admiral Phillip Sawyer, took command.
“Some remains” of the ten missing sailors have been recovered by Navy divers, but no identifications have been made.
Three sailors’ families were informed their sons were missing: Logan Palmer, Ken Smith and Jacob Drake.
CNN and Wall Street Journal had details on the third and fourth 2017 Naval accidents in the Asian area. According to WSJ:
Two other accidents within U.S. Seventh Fleet’s area of responsibility occurred earlier this year. In May, the guided missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain collided with a South Korean fishing vessel, and in January, another cruiser, the USS Antietam, ran aground near its port in Yokosuka.
Original post continues below.
America’s Navy reported the evening of August 20 that the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with a merchant ship in the South China Sea, specifically in Singapore‘s Strait of Malacca (6:24 AM on August 21 in Japan time.)
Five sailors are injured, with ten missing.
John S. McCain, pre-collision.
The other party was Alnic MC, an “oil and chemical tanker” out of Liberia.
The John S. McCain, damaged, made it to Changi Naval Base in Singapore.
Damaged John S. McCain pulling into Singapore.
CNN reported on the port side damage of the John S. McCain (above).
When reporters asked President Trump about the collision, he reportedly responded, “That’s too bad.” The remark will likely be lambasted for the next few days.
The John S. McCain is named for Senator John McCain’s father and grandfather, both Navy Admirals.
According to CNN, this is the fourth U.S. Navy accident in Asian waters for 2017.
CNN “military analyst” Rick Francona predicted the 7th Fleet of the U.S. Navy will undergo a leadership change.
“How does a state-of-the-art Navy destroyer — equipped with multiple radar systems and communications gear with a full bridge watch — not see, detect and evade a 30,000-ton slow-moving (10 knots) behemoth?” Francona asked.
The 7th Fleet is based in Yokosuka, Japan; its objectives include defense of the Korean peninsula, according to Wikipedia. According to America’s Navy, “At any given time there are 70-80 ships and submarines, 140 aircraft and approximately 40,000 Sailors and Marines in [the 48 million square mile area of operation].”
The 505-foot Alnic MC, which reported no injuries and denies any oil was spilled. (“Merchant maritime websites” tout the length at 600 feet, however, according to CNN. Because size matters.)
A Navy official told CNN the John S. McCain briefly lost steering before the collision, but it was regained.
Of the Asian accidents made possible this year by the world’s largest, most expensive and intrusive military of all time attempting to micromanage the affairs of all other countries, the USS Fitzgerald‘sdisastrous collision with Filipino merchant ship MVACX Crystal outside Tokyo, Japan on June 17 resulted in perhaps the most scathing indictment of leadership.
Seven U.S. sailors (below, thanks New York Times: Xavier Martin, 24; Shingo Douglass, 25; Dakota Rigsby, 19; Carlos Sibayan, 23; Ngoc T. Truong Huynh, 25; Noe Hernandez, 26; and Gary Rehm Jr., 37) perished, apparently drowning in a breached berthing compartment.
The Fitzgerald (two pictures below, thanks to Washington Post) is also a guided missile destroyer.
Three leaders of the Fitzgerald at the time were removed from duty on August 17. Unfortunately, they all have very similar names (from left to right, above, thanks to USNI News): Commander Bryce Benson, executive officer Commander Sean Babbitt and command master chief (CMC) Brice Baldwin.
None of the three were on the Fitzgerald‘s bridge at the time of collision. In fact, the crash crush[ed] and warp[ed] Benson’s stateroom […] leaving him hanging to the side of the hull in the open air for 15 minutes.
Several subordinate officers had to pop the stateroom door with a sledgehammer and their own bodies, then form a human chain to retrieve Benson, who was medically evacuated by Japanese helicopter.
[VCNO Admiral Bill] Moran singled out the actions of Gary Leo Rehm Jr., who was advanced to Chief Petty Officer posthumously this week. Rehm helped get several sailors out to the exits while Berthing 2 was flooding and was one of the seven who died.
Moran reportedly acknowledged “serious mistakes were made by members of the crew” and that sailors “lost situational awareness.”
New York Times wondered,
[W]hy did [lookouts] not see the 728-foot freighter, the ACX Crystal, stacked with more than 1,000 containers, bearing on the destroyer?
According to USNI News, repair costs “could easily rise above $500 million.”
New York Times reports the Fitzgerald cost $1.5 billion and, like the John S. McCain, is much smaller than its collision partner. [And sustained much more damage. And was supposed to be more maneuverable and able to avoid collisions.]
In fact, Heavy reported back in June that the Crystal was chartered by a Japanese company, and its crew–much smaller than that of the 300-plus Fitzgerald–sustained no injuries.
[T]he ACX Crystal is being investigated for possibly making a sharp turn before the collision. However, that turn might have come after the collision, and ACX Crystal could have been operating on autopilot, one expert said.
Several additional sailors, on duty the night of June 17, were also removed. The Navy, citing “inadequate leadership,” commented that about twelve sailors in all will be disciplined.
Benson, Babbitt and Baldwin’s Naval careers are likely finished.
America proceeded with ten days of joint military exercises with South Korea beginning today. North Korea (recently engaged in a verbal spat with Trump over who gets to actually trigger the destruction of all mankind) commented yesterday these drills signified “reckless behavior driving the situation into the uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war.”
However, BREAKING UPDATE 12:00 PM Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson on August 21ordered a one-day pause in operations “to ensure we are taking all appropriate immediate measures to enhance the Navy’s safe and effective operation around the world.”
The Hill learned that recently-dismissed FBI Director James Comeysprinkled some classified details into “private memos” he transcribed after meeting with his former boss, President Donald Trump. How many of these so-called “personal recollections” contained classified information? More than half, per unnamed sources.
That Comey’s office pursued a criminal investigation into Trump’s chief rival for the presidency last year, former Secretary of State HillaryClinton,for a similar practice–an angle many Democrats (and Hillary herself) continue to credit for the failure of her elitist campaign amidst a sordid history of political thuggery and personal enrichment–was not lost on The Hill.
As we have extensively covered, the eleventh-hour “reopening” of the Hillary email investigation in the campaign’s final weeks was widely cited by Hillary and her allies (along with Russian hacking, sexism, racism and “fake news”) as tipping the November 2016 election to President Trump.
Comey testified [in June] he considered the memos to be personal documents and that he shared at least one of them with a Columbia University lawyer friend. He asked that lawyer to leak information from one memo to the news media in hopes of increasing pressure to get a special prosecutor named in the Russia case after Comey was fired as FBI director.
The “Russia case” refers to the FBI probe into possible collusion between Trump and Russia, who reportedly attempted to hack the 2016 U.S. national elections. Comey’s leadership of the case coincided with highly-publicized testimony to Congress prior to his firing.
Justin Amash (R-MI), a member of the House Freedom Caucus, introduced a resolution to abolish the crown jewel of crony capitalism in the United States: the Export-Import Bank.
When President FDR shit out this thuggery in 1934, it was marketed on the premise of helping American small businesses thrive. Instead, big businesses and foreign companies get loans backed by the average taxpayer.
By 2013 data, the vast majority of loans went to ten large corporations who apparently need a little boost from the Federal Government to stay competitive; these include Boeing, Caterpillar, and General Electric.
According to Veronique de Rugy at Mercatus Center, George Mason University, companies may be propped up by both Ex-Im and the Department of Energy.
U.S. tax dollars: for funding French electricity!
For example, Abengoa, a Spanish company, [PUN ALERT] “banked” $2.8 billion in assistance from the Department of Energy, $203.9 million in help from the Export-Import Bank, and significant money from the Department of Treasury for its project in Minnesota and another project in Arizona.
Abengoa and other “green energy, renewable energy and sustainability” companies got fed real nice during the Obama years, as de Rugy’s full article details.
Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (who was forced to withdraw as Obama’s Secretary of Commerce nominee amidst a federal investigation of his shady financial rewards to campaign donors using New Mexico state contracts) recently sat on Abengoa’s International Advisory Boardand the 2013 Advisory Committee for Ex-Im, which decides who gets the goodies. Conflict of interest?
Richardson was President Clinton‘s Secretary of Energy from 1998 to 2001. Everyone wins, as long as you’re in the club.
Former Vice President Al Gore, who continues to lecture us on the dangers of air conditioning, reportedly bought up 7% of Abengoa back in 2007.
Bill the taxpayers. When the Bank’s charter temporarily lapsed in 2015, GOP Senators Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and others called for its immediate liquidation.
Guess what didn’t get liquidated, but instead reauthorized through 2019 as part of the $305,000,000,000–Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act easily passed and signed by Obama in December 2015?
[This was an interesting decision for a man who previously (rightfully) characterized the outfit as “little more than a fund for corporate welfare.”]
Rubio and Paul voted against the bill.
President Trump, a longtime populist critic of the Bank, nominated Scott Garrett as its next president. The confirmation is still before the Republican-majority Senate, who reportedly refused to confirm bank heads previously nominated by Obama, curtailing the Bank’s ability to make issue loans of $10 million or more (see our link above). Lawmakers were stressing out that certain favored small businesses in their districts wouldn’t get dribbles of pork without the massive government subsidies to Boeing and others.
Mr. Garrett was born in New Jersey.
It will be interesting to see how Rubio and Paul handle this vote.
Amash introduced H.R. 3114, the Export-Import Bank Termination Act of 2017, with support of several co-sponsors (mostly fellow members of the House Freedom Caucus).
He also broke with his party on June 29 to join most of the House Democrats against “Kate’s Law” (passed 257-167), which reportedly raises the sentences of multiple-occasion deportees who return and commit felonies. According to The Hill, the law is named after Kate Steinle, who was fatally shot in 2015 in San Francisco by a man who had had seven previous felony convictions and was deported to Mexico on five previous occasions.
Amash was one of seven GOP representatives to vote against pulling some federal grants from so-called “sanctuary cities” that refuse to hold suspected illegal immigrants for ICE officials when they are picked up for non-immigration crimes. The others were Carlos Curbelo (FL), Mario Diaz-Balart (FL), Dan Donovan (NY), Peter King (NY), Dave Reichert (WA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL).
[Ros-Lehtinen, the first Cuban-American member of Congress, recently announced her retirement for the end of 2018.]
Because American raids, bombs and special operations have not hurt the world enough this year, the big-military warmongers went to bat for Pentagon budget increases beyond those Trump proposed by redistributing from domestic programs such as EPA.
Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, eviscerated the budget as [our emphasis]: “inadequate to the challenges we face, illegal under current law and part of an overall budget proposal that is dead on arrival in Congress.”
The irony of the phrase “dead on arrival” to characterize the Trump budget by a Republican reputed to have a hard-on for making things hard on the people crawling out of the smoldering wreckage we create in the name of freedom was, sadly, overlooked.
House Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) also declared the Trump proposal “basically dead on arrival.”
McCain and other “defense hawks” are reportedly determined to seize a full $640 billion from the American people this year to destroy non-American people.
The Pentagon has said this budget proposal is about fixing the readiness of the force it currently has and that Congress can expect the buildup to start in fiscal year 2019. But defense hawks say that’s an unnecessary and potentially harmful delay.
Todd Harrison, a defense budget analyst at Center for Strategic and International Studies, opined the Armed Services committee would look foolish if spending were authorized and not subsequently appropriated.
“It undermines some of the authority of the authorizers when they authorize things that don’t ultimately get appropriated,” he said. “You can’t spend an authorization.”
Harrison also noted the 2011 Budget Control Act capped defense spending at $549 billion per year (as we will see soon, that don’t mean shit):
“You might have to reprioritize, maybe delay a few weapons systems. But Congress is always good at sweeping up money that hasn’t been spent. You know, shake couch cushions and a few dollars fall out.”
Jumping to non-military spending momentarily, while addressing her alma mater Wellesley College on May 26, Hillary Clintonhad strong words on Trump’s proposal to marginally secure the crumbling financial future of the day’s graduates by cutting a paltry $3.6 billion in Federal Government bloat over the next ten years.
“Look at the budget that was just proposed in Washington. It is an attack of unimaginable cruelty on the most vulnerable among us.
“It grossly underfunds public education, mental health and even efforts to combat the opioid epidemic.”
Above: academic people always wear special costumes so we take them seriously. Photo from Quartz, who kindly compiled Hillary’s entire speech.
“You are graduating a time when there is a full-fledged assault on truth and reason. Just log on to social media for 10 seconds, it will hit you right in the face,” she said, citing hoax online reports that her campaign was tied to a Washington pizzeria that operated a child sex ring.
Interestingly, Hillary seemed to address the all-female institution’s track record of suppressing disagreeable speech, which we have previously noted:
[Clinton] urged graduates of the liberal-leaning school […] not to retreat into their own partisan echo chambers, saying, “your learning, listening and serving should include people who don’t agree with you politically.”
Back to the defense budget. As we have previously reported, concealing waste at the Pentagon is a way of life for paper-pushers whose livelihood hinges on destroying strangers on the other side of the world:
Forbes reported on July 14 that the House had overwhelmingly passed a $696,500,000,000 defense bill, which, for those keeping score, was even larger than the monstrous amount McCain & Company insisted was necessary for the military’s survival:
Trump unexpectedly dismissed of FBI Director James Comey.
“Today, President Donald J. Trump informed FBI Director James Comey that he has been terminated and removed from office [.] President Trump acted based on the clear recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney GeneralJeff Sessions.”
–White House statement
The announcement reportedly shocked the intelligence community. Comey’s termination was read to him en route to Los Angeles for a recruitment event [as] part of the FBI’s efforts to boost diversity.
According to Good Morning America, Rosenstein allege[d] that Comey was wrong to later “hold press conferences to release derogatory information about the subject of a declined criminal investigation.”
Typically when the FBI decides not to bring charges against someone, it normally does not discuss its decision-making. When Comey held a July 5 news conference explaining why [Hillary] Clinton would not be facing charges but at the same time criticizing her email practices, he cited “intense public interest” as the reason for the exception.
As we are all now thoroughly aware, Hillary’s 2016 loss was completely attributed to Comey’s actions,
Both Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein recommended Comey’s dismissal, citing “substantial damage” to the FBI’s reputation and credibility under his leadership.
At issue, according to a May 9 memo from Rosenstein to Sessions, were Comey’s remarkable public disclosures about Clinton’s conduct. In July, he took the rostrum — without authorization from the Justice Department — to announce that he would not be recommending charges against the former secretary of State.
“I cannot defend the Director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken,” Rosenstein wrote in the memo.
The director “was wrong to usurp the Attorney General’s authority on July 5 and announce his conclusion that the case should be closed without prosecution,” Rosenstein wrote, because “it is not the function of the director to make such an announcement.”
Rosenstein (above) was nominated by Trump and confirmed by the Senate to replace Sally Yates, who had been Acting Attorney General (AAG) before her high-profile firing by Trump after 10 days on the job. Rosenstein is now Deputy Attorney General (next in line to lead Justice if Sessions dies). The 52-year-old former U.S. Attorney for Maryland, appointed by the George W. Bush administration, was one of a pair of U.S. Attorneys Trump specifically kept on board. The other was Obama appointee Dana Boente (below), 63, who served as AAG from Yates’ dismissal until Sessions’ confirmation. He has now returned to his former post of U.S. Attorney for Eastern District of Virginia.
Per USA Today, Trump recently changed the Justice Department order of succession with a subtle executive order [pun alert] in order to undo the executive order of Obama issued just before Trump took over the White House:
Seven days before he left office, President Obama changed the order of succession without explanation to remove Boente from the list. Obama’s order had listed U.S. attorneys in the District of Columbia, the Northern District of Illinois and the Central District of California.
U.S. Attorneys for Connecticut Deirdre Daly and Northern District of New York Richard Hartunian were granted “short term reprieves” from the mass exodus of Obama-era Justice appointees in order to “complete 20 years of service” at the Justice Department, according to Politico. This milestone determines how fat a pension check they can suck from the nation’s sapped finances until the end of their days. Both major political parties win when they can share in the spoils confiscated from the little people: it’s a bipartisan thing.
Burlington Free Press sued the Feds using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for the resignation letters of the 44 other Obama-appointed attorneys general Trump asked to leave (according to the frantic mainstream press, he is the first president to ever do this for a transition change, or something).
USA Today noted Justice found the parting platitudes so “inherently personal” that they should be exempt from release.
Comey’s recent numbers to Congress on Hillary hack Huma Abedin‘s harried handling of the most qualified presidential candidate ever‘s Secret Server also had to be adjusted.
Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee last week that longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin forwarded “hundreds and thousands” of Clinton’s emails to her then-husband, former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), to print out for Clinton while she was secretary of State.
In fact, the bureau said in a letter sent to the Senate panel Tuesday that only a handful of the 49,000 relevant emails it uncovered on Weiner’s laptop had been forwarded manually. Most of the emails got onto the computer as a result of backups of her Blackberry.
Abedin, the FBI director testified last week, “appears to have had a regular practice of forwarding emails to [Weiner], for him I think to print out for her so she could then deliver them to the secretary of State.”
Speaking of the November election, much like Hillary refusing to face her supporters when her defeat by Trump became clear, White House press secretary Sean Spicer bumbled his “face the media” duties following the Comey termination. According to Washington Post, it did not go well:
Was Sessions involved? “That’s something you should ask the Department of Justice,” Spicer said.
Was Rosenstein’s probe part of a larger review of the FBI? “That’s, again, a question that you should ask the Department of Justice,” he said.
Did the president discuss Rosenstein’s findings with Rosenstein? “No, I don’t believe, I don’t know how that sequence went — I don’t know,” he said.
What was the president’s role? “Again, I have to get back to you [stupid phrase alert] on thetick-tock,” he said.
When’s the last time Trump and Comey spoke? “Uh, I don’t know. I don’t know. There’s some — I don’t know. I don’t know,” he said.
What were the three occasions on which the president says Comey assured him that he was not under investigation? “I don’t — we can follow — I can try, yeah,” he said.
How long did the president deliberate? “I don’t, I don’t … I can look at [what is this guy smoking?] the tick-tock. I know that he was presented with that today. I’m not sure what time,” he said.
Why wasn’t Comey given the news in a personal phone call? “I think we delivered it by hand and by email and that was — and I get it, but you asked me a question and that’s the answer,” he said.
Did Comey’s testimony last week — which contained inaccuracies — influence the decision? “You’d have to ask the Department of Justice. They’re the ones that made the recommendation,” he said.
Why didn’t the president do this months ago? “Again, I would refer you to the Department of Justice,” he said.
Does he know about grand-jury subpoenas that have reportedly been issued in an investigation involving Michael Flynn, Trump’s previous national security adviser? “I’m not — I’m not aware of any,” he said.
Is it true that the president will meet on Wednesday with Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov? “We’ll see what the schedule says. I don’t — I just — I’ve been a little tied up.”
The chronology of the Spicer charade is unclear. It sounds like he wasn’t going to make a statement, then made a statement, then [other media outlets were quite clear on this part] literally “hid in the bushes,” before agreeing to a brief interview only in the cover of darkness:
White House press secretary Sean Spicer wrapped up his brief interview with Fox Business from the White House grounds late Tuesday night and then disappeared into the shadows, huddling with his staff near a clump of bushes and then behind a tall hedge.
After Spicer spent several minutes hidden in the darkness and among the bushes near these sets, Janet Montesi, an executive assistant in the press office, emerged and told reporters that Spicer would answer some questions, as long as he was not filmed doing so. Spicer then emerged.
“Just turn the lights off. Turn the lights off,” he ordered. “We’ll take care of this. … Can you just turn that light off?”
President Trump allowed the check to clear, according to Business Insider. Multiple sources reported earlier this year that Trump recognized the Congressional “holds” on the highly controversial payment, would review it and was poised to overturn the deal.
The money was reported to go to hospitals and West Bank “infrastructure,” not the Palestinian Authority.
So it’s not really clear if the money went to Palestinian citizens, the Palestinian Authority, or if Palestine is even actually a country. The United Nations recognizes it as a non-member UN observer state, whatever that means.
[According to Wikipedia, that means:
Observer status is a privilege granted by some organizations to non-members to give them an ability to participate in the organization’s activities. Observer status is often granted by intergovernmental organizations (IGO) to non-member parties and international nongovernmental organizations (INGO) that have an interest in the IGO’s activities. Observers generally have a limited ability to participate in the IGO, lacking the ability to vote or propose resolutions.]
[F]ar from being a slight to Israel, experts say the funds released by Obama, and later approved by Trump, actually promote stability in the region.
“The Israeli Defense Forces and the Israeli government are the biggest lobbyists of Congress in favor of continuing Palestinian aid,” Michael Koplow, a Middle East analyst at the Israel Policy Forum, told Business Insider in January.
Koplow credits the US and Israel’s aid to the West Bank for keeping it from becoming “a haven for terrorism and a launching ground for rocket attacks,” as is the case with Gaza, another territory occupied by Palestinians.
As we reported in our previous post, Israel (and America) fund Palestinian authority because it is the most stable alternative, or something. Fortunately, America has no debt and plenty of cash to throw at foreigners.
According to Washington Post on May 2:
The Palestinians are saying they think Trump might be the one — with the right mix of bombast and unpredictability — to restart peace negotiations with Israel with the aim of securing Palestinian borders, a capital and a state.
In an interview with Reuters on [April 27], Trump said: “I want to see peace with Israel and the Palestinians. There is no reason there’s not peace between Israel and the Palestinians — none whatsoever.”
[Israeli prime minister Benjamin] Netanyahu often says he is prepared to meet [Palestinian President Mahmoud] Abbas anywhere, anytime, without preconditions — before listing his preconditions: that Abbas must recognize not only Israel, which Abbas has done, but Israel as “the Jewish state.” Abbas has been reluctant to do so, in part because more than 20 percent of the Israeli population consists of Palestinian Muslims and Christians.
Today, Israel and its congressional supporters are urging Trump to push Abbas to stop social welfare payments that the Palestinian Authority makes to the families of Palestinian prisoners and assailants either wounded or killed by Israeli forces during terrorist attacks.
After assuming office on promises to rein in entitled agency fat cats and their bureaucracies, President Trump signed an executive order in January imposing a “freeze” on all hiring of civilian Federal “workers.”
But less than three months later (in which Trump also released a big-spending, unsustainable spending proposal for fiscal year 2018 that will raise deficits beyond the $9.4 trillion in new national debt that will accumulate in the next ten years even without spending increases), the hordes of paper pushers and their armies of union officials, lobbyists and big-government zealots from both major parties persuaded the president a malignant, bloated, stifling Federal “work”force must continue to grow. Like cancer.
As Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney–championed as a conservative cost-cutter in his confirmation hearing–cautioned [STUPID PHRASE ALERT]: “It does not mean the agencies will be free to hire willy-nilly…What we’re doing tomorrow is replacing the across-the-board hiring freeze that was put in place on day one and replacing it with a smarter plan, a more strategic plan, a more surgical plan.”
The Hill had more:
[T]he freeze resulted in an increased backlog of benefits claims at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Department, which Trump pledged to strengthen during the campaign.
It also created delays in the processing of Social Security checks, staff shortages at federal prisons, the closure of childcare facilities at military bases and fewer workers at the Food and Drug Administration to work on drug approvals.
But not to worry! For the 2019 fiscal year budget, agencies are required by memorandum to “begin taking immediate actions” to cut their employee numbers (to achieve the Trump budget’s lauded “savings” from cutting domestic programs like EPA–which will reportedly all be funneled to the military) and to “maximize employee performance” in plans due June 30.
The Hill also reported Mulvaney’s insistence that Trump will not be cutting anything from Social Security or Medicare, keeping his campaign promise to ensure financial ruin for the “millennial” generation and their descendants.
The Feds confiscated a record $3,270,000,000,000 in taxes during fiscal year 2016, and spent that plus an additional $587,000,000,000. The latter amount was our deficit just for 2016.
The total national debt will soon hit $20,000,000,000,000.
This post has been updated 5/7/17 at 8:00 AM, including its title. The previous title, “Fighting Death with More Death,” was inaccurate because there were reportedly no casualties at the airfield from some sources; Syrian officials reported 15 dead.
Time to play war! U.S. President Donald Trump, after what had to be at least 15 minutes of careful consideration, reacted to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad reportedly gassing citizens in Khan Shaykhun with sarin (this is poisonous) on April 4 by hitting the al-Shayrat airfield in Khan Shaykhun that we think was used to launch the sarin gas. Well, sort of hitting it. ABC of Australia reported at the time:
The base was where US officials say the Syrian military planes that dropped the chemicals had taken off.
The Russian Defence Ministry said the attack destroyed six planes in repair hangers, but said only 23 of the rockets hit the target and it was not clear where the other 36 landed, according to Russian news agencies.
Sometimes we have to get shown up by Russia on an international stage because they will call out American failures to score political points. See later in this article.
In a statement, the office of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad called the attack “reckless” and “irresponsible”, saying it showed Washington was “naively pulled behind a false propaganda campaign”.
According to CNN, Assad’s original sarin spray on a rebel-held town killed more than 80 people and injured more than 500, according to a Syrian Civil Defense report on the attacks.
[Of note, the August 2013 sarin gas attack on Ghouta, Syria civilians, believed to be perpetrated by Assad, killed 1,429 people […] including at least 426 children according to a preliminary U.S. intelligence report. That attack led to America and Russia removing Syria’s chemical weapons. Or did it? See later in this article.]
Regarding the U.S. actions this time around, Russia was pissed:
Russian President Vladimir Putin [said] the US strike broke international law and seriously hurt US-Russia relations.
News agencies citing Mr Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he regarded the US action as “aggression against a sovereign nation” on a “made-up pretext” and as a cynical attempt to distract the world from civilian deaths in Iraq.
Mr Peskov was quoted as saying Russia did not believe that Syria possessed chemical weapons and the US move would inevitably create a serious obstacle to creating an international coalition to fight terrorism, an idea Mr Putin has repeatedly pushed.
Russia said it would now suspend a deal with the US to help prevent mid-air collisions over Syria.
The deal meant Russia and the US would exchange information about their flights to avoid incidents in the crowded skies over Syria.
[Next time, we should just blindfold all our pilots voluntarily. Same danger, but Russia–our ally???–won’t be unnecessarily antagonized.]
Trump supporters were pissed:
In France, National Front leader [and presidential candidate] Marine Le Pen […] appeared to distance herself from Trump, saying on Twitter that she “strongly condemned” the “horrible” strike on the Syrian airbase.
Right-wing commentator Ann Coulter, who campaigned for Trump, wrote on Twitter: “Those who wanted us meddling in the Middle East voted for other candidates.” […] “Trump campaigned on not getting involved in Mideast,” she wrote. “Said it always helps our enemies & creates more refugees. Then he saw a picture on TV.”
And Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) called on Trump to consult on Congress. “While we all condemn the atrocities in Syria, the United States was not attacked,” Paul said. “The President needs congressional authorization for military action as required by the Constitution, and I call on him to come to Congress for a proper debate.”
Fortunately, some of our allies with nukes appeared to take America’s side:
[Current] French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel — with whom Trump has had particularly chilly relations — said that Syrian President Bashar al “Assad is entirely responsible for the development of the situation.”
Stateside, conservative leaders were split. Hugh Hewitt and Mark Levin, conservative radio hosts, applauded Trump’s decision, according to New York Times.
But Richard Spencer, a “far-right activist and white nationalist…who coined the term ‘alt-right'” condemned the attack.
In fact, the Times noted the most vocal in their outrage were leaders from the small but vocal white nationalist movement.
Brian Williams Babbles
Disgraced “journalist” Brian Williams, who endured a six-month suspension as lead anchor for NBC Nightly News in 2015 after making multiple on-air references to his daring jaunt in 2003 Iraq that turned out to be fabricated, called the American weapons launch “beautiful“:
“We see these beautiful pictures at night from the decks of these two U.S. Navy vessels in the eastern Mediterranean,” said Williams Thursday night. “I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen: ‘I am guided by the beauty of our weapons.’”
CNN had some great excerpts of Hillary Clinton urging Trump from a New York City “Women in the World” summit in the hours before the strike to pursue that particular violent option.
“Assad has an air force, and that air force is the cause of most of these civilian deaths as we have seen over the years and as we saw again in the last few days. And I really believe that we should have and still should take out his air fields and prevent him from being able to use them to bomb innocent people and drop sarin gas on them.”
“I wish, obviously I wish that the international community writ large had been able to rein this in.”
[“writ large” is a fancy term for “I’m more rich and powerful than you little people, so I will make up a phrase.”]
She then talked about “the Comey letter,” “Wikileaks,” and “misogyny.” The full transcript was not available, but we assume she was reflecting on her election loss to Donald Trump.
Hillary also mentioned the Republicans had talked about “repeal and replace[ment]” of Obamacare for seven years, but “I don’t know that any of them had ever read the bill!”
On Friday April 7, as the legal community began to examine Trump’s unilateral decision to assault Syria, Hillary doubled down on her support of the strikes, this time with a more “it’s the world’s responsibility” tone and less of a “that’s somewhere I could have bombed as Secretary of State but I had to resign and run for president” admission.
“Look, Syria’s been a wicked problem for a very long time. And the images of innocent people, of parents and especially of children suffering in the aftermath of that most recent deadly gas attack were more appalling than I certainly can put into words. As I said yesterday afternoon, it is essential that the world does more to deter Assad from committing future murderous atrocities. But the action taken last night needs to be followed by a broader strategy to end Syria’s civil war and to eliminate ISIS strongholds on both sides of the border. So I hope this administration will move forward in a way that is both strategic and consistent with our values. And I also hope that they will recognize that we cannot in one breath speak of protecting Syrian babies and in the next close America’s doors to them.”
We do not have the most stellar record for slaughtering Syrians.
America dropped thousands of bombs in seven countries last year. Our executive branch has operated behind a 2001 Authorization of Military Force instead of declaring war on any country for the past 16 years.
The vast majority of the 26,171 American bombs detonated in 2016 were dropped in Iraq and Syria. Syria received 12,192. It’s okay because the candidates pandered to taxpayers during the campaign about our responsibility to shelter the refugees we helped create.
On September 17, 2016, America led 37 airstrikes in Deir al-Zour, Syria. While they were reportedly trying to hit ISIS, about 100 friendly Syrian army troops were killed instead. Oops. New York Times got this intelligence from Russia because the American military likes to sweep its utterly unconstitutional destruction sessions under the rug whenever possible.
New York Times:
The United States acknowledged on Saturday that its warplanes had carried out an airstrike in Syria that resulted in the deaths of Syrian government troops. American military officials said the pilots in the attack, in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour, believed they were targeting the Islamic State.
A partial cease-fire that started on Monday continues to steadily unravel after it was declared with much fanfare by the United States and Russia.
We’re like that guy no one invited to the party who ends up accidentally burning down the bar.
At least we didn’t get put in our place by Russia, our global rival, right?
A statement by United States Central Command said that the planes stopped the attack after a warning from Russia that the strikes could be hitting Syrian troops.
A senior Obama administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the strike was still being investigated, said the United States had relayed its regrets to the Syrian government through the Russians for the “unintentional loss of life of Syrian forces” fighting the Islamic State.
Syria’s government labeled the disaster “a very serious and flagrant aggression” that aided the Islamic State and proved its long-held assertion that the United States supports the jihadist group as part of an effort to oust President Bashar al-Assad.
“These attacks confirmed that the U.S. clearly supports the terrorism of Daesh,” SAMA television, a state-run news outlet, said, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. The channel quoted a statement issued by the Syrian military’s general command, which said the attack exposed “false claims of fighting terrorism” by the United States.
[U.S.] Central Command, known as Centcom, denied it would carry out such an airstrike on purpose.
New York Times spoke with “a Centcom [U.S. Central Command] official who requested anonymity because the episode was still being investigated”:
The attack went on for about 20 minutes, with the planes destroying the vehicles and gunning down dozens of people in the open desert, the official said. Shortly after this, an urgent call came into the American military command center in Qatar, the outpost in the Persian Gulf that coordinates the aerial campaign in Syria and Iraq.
The call was from a Russian official who said that the American planes were bombing Syrian troops and that the strike should immediately be called off. The Centcom official said the attack was halted within minutes, but not until dozens had been killed.
NYT confirmed with the perpetrators:
“Coalition forces believed they were striking a Daesh fighting position that they had been tracking for a significant amount of time before the strike,” the Centcom statement said. “The coalition airstrike was halted immediately when coalition officials were informed by Russian officials that it was possible the personnel and vehicles targeted were part of the Syrian military.”
Our bumbling UN ambassador at the time:
Samantha Power, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, accused Russia of pulling a “stunt” by calling for an emergency Security Council meeting over the episode.
But wait. So we killed some innocent people. The enemy [ISIS, we think] were not otherwise helped by hundreds of millions of dollars of unconstitutional American bombing accidentally hitting the wrong target. Were they?
The Syrian Army Command said that American warplanes had bombed an army base on Al-Tharda mountain at 5 p.m., allowing “a wide terrorist offensive” by the Islamic State that allowed it to seize the base.
Interestingly, hawk Hillary may have missed her chance to bomb Syria as she did Libya (total success, that operation) as she prepared to resign the Secretary position.
According to CNN:
The Obama administration asked Congress in August 2013 for authorization to launch a military strike on Syria [six months after Hillary resigned as Secretary of State]. That vote never happened after a preliminary agreement was struck to remove chemical weapons from Syria.
Of the chemical weapons removal America supervised at that time because we are the world’s security force, Hillary said,
“Who knows whether they hid some or they bought more. We don’t know. We just know the impact.”
All emphasis is ours.
It is unclear how many casualties resulted from Trump’s strike on the airfield. According to Wikipedia: zero. But just as only some of the missiles actually hit the airfield, the Syrian capabilities to launch sarin gas were reportedly only weakened. Guardian:
Observers had reported the base had been badly destroyed by the 1,000lb warheads and that several planes and a runway had been put out of service. However it is thought that an advance warning given by the US to Russia allowed Syria enough time to remove many of its aircraft before the raid.
“Although the strike will further weaken the overall air defense and ground attack capabilities of the (Syrian air force), it will not significantly diminish the ability of the Assad regime to conduct further chemical weapons attacks,” wrote analyst Reed Foster of the defense and intelligence publication Jane’s.
In addition to Assad’s possession of 20 additional airbases,
Syrian government officials said the [al-Shayrat] base has played an instrumental role in the fight against the Islamic State group, which until recently controlled the historic town of Palmyra in Homs province.
“This very airport that was attacked by the United States has been fighting against terrorists for the last six years,” Buthaina Shaaban, an adviser to Mr Assad, said.
Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian prime minister, said the attacks had fatally undermined Moscow’s initial trust in the new US administration and brought the countries to the “the verge of a military clash.”
Demented DC fixture Senator John McCain (R-AZ) had some hateful speech for the Senate majority as he joined his colleagues in changing the body rules to confirm U.S. Tenth Circuit appellate judge Neil Gorsuch (below) to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Democrats had filibustered the nomination of Gorsuch, 49. Republicans, who hold 52 Senate seats, were unable to muster a supermajority of 60 votes to break the filibuster. Instead, they held a 52-48 party-line vote to implement a “nuclear” option: the Senate will now require just 51 votes to allow a vote on Supreme Court justice appointments.
Yahoo! had more:
“It’s a bad day for democracy,” McCain said before entering the Senate chamber, where he later voted with fellow Republicans to change the rules. “I think it’s a terrible mistake that we will regret for many, many years to come.
“There’s not a single senator in the majority who thinks we ought to change the legislative filibuster, not one,” he told reporters Tuesday. “We all understand that’s what makes the Senate the Senate.”
[McCain (above) was re-elected in November with 53.7% of the vote.]
“I find myself torn between protecting the traditions and practices of the Senate and the importance of having a full complement of justices on the Supreme Court,” he said. “I’m left with no choice. I will vote to change the rules an [sic] allow Judge Gorsuch to be confirmed by a simple majority.”
According to Yahoo!, McCain’s April 4 statement on the matter was even more patronizing to the American people who are apparently supposed to stomach the notion that the six-term senator, 80, has any integrity at all:
“I would like to meet that idiot, I’d like to meet the numskull that would say [changing the rule for Gorsuch is a good thing]. Whoever says that is a stupid idiot, who has not been here and seen what I’ve been through and how we were able to avoid that on several occasions. And they are stupid and they’ve deceived their voters because they are so stupid.”
Democrats, led by then-Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV), similarly changed filibuster rules in 2013, requiring only a 51-vote majority in the Senate to break filibusters on all presidential nominees except Supreme Court justices (i.e., executive branch and all other judicial appointments). Once the filibuster is broken, these nominees can be confirmed by a similar, simple majority vote.
USA Today notes Reid and the Democrats felt unrelenting Republican filibusters of Obama nominees for necessitated the rule change:
The turning point in the decades-long debate over Senate filibuster rules was Republicans’ decision to block all three of Obama’s latest nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the nation’s second-most-powerful court with vast jurisdiction over federal agencies and regulations.
April’s was therefore the second “nuclear” rule change for the U.S. Senate in four years.
“The American people believe Congress is broken. The American people believe the Senate is broken. And I believe they are right. The need for change is so very, very obvious.”–then-Senator Harry Reid (D-NV)
Reid (above; thanks, galleryhip.com) retired in 2016.
Then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)famously warned the Democrats: “You will no doubt come to regret this, and you may regret it a lot sooner than you think.”
Fifty-two of the fifty-five Democrats and their common-caucusing Independents voted for the 2013 rule change. Of the three Democrats in opposition, only Joe Manchin (WV) remains in the Senate today.
At the time, Dianne Feinstein noted: “I’ve sat on the Judiciary (Committee) for 20 years and it has never, ever been like this. You reach a point where your frustration just overwhelms and things have to change. I think the level of frustration on the Democratic side has just reached the point where it’s worth the risk.”
McCain, per USA Today, called the decision “foolish” and squarely blamed junior Democratic senators. “There are members that have never been in the minority who have been here a short time who basically drove this,” he said.
And Obama praised Reid’s maneuver: “A deliberate and determined effort to obstruct everything, no matter what the merits, just to re-fight the result of an election is not normal, and for the sake of future generations, we can’t let it become normal[.]”
For Mr. Gorsuch’s confirmation, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer shamelessly misled the public by attempting to goad the Republicans into “changing the nominee” to allow Democrats to contribute at least eight votes to reach a 60-vote threshold. This is the number needed to end the filibuster Schumer orchestrated. Washington Post:
“If this nominee cannot earn 60 votes — a bar met by each of President Obama’s nominees and George Bush’s last two nominees — the answer isn’t to change the rules. It’s to change the nominee.”
Also according to Post, Schumer decided to lead a filibuster because “[Gorsuch] was unable to sufficiently convince me that he’d be an independent check” on Trump, and Mr. Gorsuch was “not a neutral legal mind but someone with a deep-seated conservative ideology[.]”
Washington Post was complicit in Schumer’s fantasy that all Senate proceedings require 60 “yes” votes to break a filibuster (a sort of holdover from the Obama administration when Republicans filibustered ruthlessly and lead Dirty Harry to change the rules, as above) and not a simple majority of 51:
Among recent Supreme Court nominees, the 60-vote threshold has not caused a problem. President Barack Obama’s choices of Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan each received more than 60 confirmation votes. Samuel A. Alito Jr., chosen by President George W. Bush, was confirmed 58 to 42 in 2006, but 72 senators voted to defeat a possible filibuster and allow his confirmation vote to go forward. Indeed, only Alito — among the last 16 Supreme Court nominees — was forced to clear the supermajority hurdle to break a filibuster.
President Obama had nominated chief justice of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. circuit Merrick Garland in March 2016 following the unexpected death of conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Republicans, who held the Senate majority, refused to hold a confirmation vote for Garland, leaving an eight-member court for about one year and prompting allegations they “stole” an additional Obama-appointed Supreme Court seat. The issue became more of a sore spot for liberals with Trump’s unexpected capture of the presidency, ensuring Hillary would not make the next nomination.
After the rule change, Gorsuch was confirmed 54-45 with 51 Republicans (led by now-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell) joined in the affirmative by three Democrats: Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Manchin, and Joe Donnelly (IN). All three are up for re-election in 2018. Republican Johnny Isakson (GA) did not vote.
We were unable to find a quote from Obama reacting to the rule change and ensuing Gorsuch confirmation.