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Monday, February 29, 2016

The Media Is Just Crazy

I can't stand listening to the media do their best to attack Donald Trump.  There are enough things that Trump says or does that merit examination, that the media ought to lay off making up lies about Trump.

Here's the latest example.  A guy who works for Time magazine as a photographer got knocked down at a Trump rally by a member of the Secret Service.  Trump has Secret Service protection as one of the leading candidates for president.  The Secret Service follows directions from their own agency and not from the Trump campaign.  So what happens?  A photographer moves out of the designated press area and gets asked to move back by a Secret Service agent.  The photographer tells the agent to "F" himself.  The Secret Service agent pushes the photographer back and knocks him down.  It's a stupid confrontation between the federal agent and the photographer which has nothing to do with Trump.

So how does the media portray it?  It's an attack by Trump on the media.  Really?  The media just can't bring itself to be honest.  If they attack the Secret Service, that could at most be an attack on Obama, although that would be ridiculous.  Instead, they attack Trump and make themselves look like the idiots and liars that they are.


Another Possible Change in the Middle East

The Turkish newspapers are reporting that the governments of Turkey and Israel are about to announce that they have reached agreement on a reconciliation.  That would renew ties between the two countries.  It would also give Turkey a bit more leverage in dealing with the threats coming from Syria.

The reality of this move is that Turkey is worried about Iran and the Shiite forces in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.  Not only is Turkey nearly all Sunni Moslem, but it also is not Arab.  That means that it has major ethnic and religious differences with the majority of its neighbors.  Given the increasing level of unrest in those neighboring countries, it only makes sense that the Turks now want stable relations with Israel, the only other regional power that finds itself in the same situation.

For the last few years, Turkey has flirted with Islamic extremism.  That phase, however, seems to have passed.  If so, it is good news for the world.


It's Beyond Disgusting

The presidential race is getting so nasty that it's now beyond disgusting.  The Trump crazies like Ann Coulter are busy attacking Rubio because his brother-in-law was convicted years ago of selling cocaine.  His BROTHER-IN-LAW!  That has nothing to do with Marco.

I have no problem with people focusing on things that Marco Rubio has said or done.  It's politics.  But looking at his brother-in-law with regard to things that do not involve Marco at all is absurd.  We could look at Hillary Clinton's brothers who got lucrative contracts because Hillary and Bill intervened on their behalf, because that involves the candidate.  But the fact that Hillary's brother in law went to prison on drug charges (Roger Clinton) has nothing to do with her.  Similarly, the fact that Donald Trump's sister is a judge who has strongly supported abortion rights and many other ultra-liberal positions is also irrelevant regarding Trump himself.  And the fact that Ted Cruz' sister died a drug addict is also irrelevant.

I hope the idiots like Ann Coulter will finally stop with the nonsense and focus on the candidates.  If not, I hope the various TV networks finally stop having Coulter on to spread her poison.

Last Night's Oscars

I thought I would give you my opinion of last night's Oscars.  I know that the media is covering last night's diversity/lack of diversity fest as if it were important.  The truth, however, is quite different.  It's basically all BS.  No one in his or her right mind would care about the racial make up of the winners of awards that Hollywood gives to itself. 

Beyond that, the Oscars are always so boring that it amazes me that anyone watches.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Is Trump Falling Apart?

In the last 24 hours, Donald Trump has retweeted a quote from Benito Mussolini, the fascist dictator of Italy during World War II.  He has also refused on national television to renounce the support of David Duke and the KKK.  After a few hours and a national frenzy on Twitter and TV, Trump walked back his comments on Duke.

These are unforced errors by Donald Trump which are quite different from the way his campaign operated in the past.  Sure, in the past Trump said some rather controversial things, but none of them came close to quoting fascists or accepting the support of white supremacists like Duke.  To be fair, Trump didn't say that he accepted Duke's support, but only that he had to investigate to find out more about it.  But also, to be fair, anyone who lived through the 1980's and 1990's and was even slightly politically aware knows full well just who David Duke is.  Further, Trump has talked about Duke in the past.  And are we really to believe that Trump forgot who the KKK really are and what their hateful views are?  No, this was just another attempt by Trump to take control of a news cycle.  He wants all the TV stories to be about him.  This time, however, the story will be his acceptance of support from the KKK.  That should really hurt him with a great many voters.

This latest stunt is perhaps the worst that Trump has ever pulled.  He called some of the Mexican illegals rapists and murderers.  That is true even if Trump tended to overstate the case.  He made remarks that called into question whether John McCain is a hero.  That was more political than anything.  Trump denounced Megyn Kelly and it was just entertainment.  He called Carly Fiorina ugly and he got slapped around for it.  He called Cruz a liar and he mostly got away with it.  Now he's on to calling Rubio "little", "sweaty" and a liar.  That one is going nowhere.  Most people saw Rubio demolish Trump at the debate the other night; they know that Trump's attacks are garbage designed to deflect attention from his own failures.  Nevertheless, all of these feuds and insults have never amounted to anything like accepting support from the Ku Klux Klan.  That is even worse than having supported the Great Satan (also known as Hillary Clinton.)

I don't know how far this story will spread before Tuesday.  It is going to hurt Trump, however, and there's nothing he can do about it now.


Just How Much We Don't Understand

Imagine a skit on some late night TV show in which a woman playing Hillary Clinton announces that she is not controlled by Wall Street and will protect the American people from the excesses of Wall Street financiers which is then followed by the Hillary character turning to her left to ask someone from Wall Street if that sounded right to them.  It's not very funny, but it's hardly more than the story line from a Bernie Sanders rally.  Would anyone care about the skit?  The answer is clearly NO.

Now let's move the location.  In Lebanon, a Saudi owned TV network aired a skit in which the head of Hezbollah, Nasrallah, said that he was not controlled by Iran and that his aim was to protect the Lebanese people etc.  The Nasrallah character then kissed the hand of "Iran" and asked if what he said sounded right to them.  The reaction in Lebanon was rioting, road blockades that had to be removed by the army and many calls for revenge for the insult.

The point here is not that the Hezbollah people are nuts.  They are, but we already knew that.  No, the point is that this episode shows how the terrorists at Hezbollah will not accept any criticism of what they are doing or their organization.  Hezbollah, like ISIS, demands total loyalty or else.

Most Americans do not understand the fanaticism of these groups.  That's why we hear nonsense about how a better local economy would end terrorism and the like.  It's not the economy or living conditions.  It's an entirely different mind set from any with which Americans are familiar.


Saturday, February 27, 2016

How's that Trump / Christie event Going?

Chris Christie is out again on the campaign trail, this time to support his new "best bud" Donald Trump.  Last summer Christie said that Trump did not have temperament to be president.  Now Christie says Trump would be great.  It's the huge announcing the great.

In any event, I checked in on the latest Trump Christie rally.  The big news is that, at Christie's urging, the Donald is now promising to defund Weight Watchers.


The Truth About Audits by the IRS

Donald Trump says that he gets audited every year, and that has been the case for at least the last 12 years.  Trump uses the audits as an excuse for not releasing his tax returns.  Meanwhile, the media is filled with reports that essentially no one gets audited 12 years in a row.  So what's the truth?

First of all, there is no reason why a tax return under audit cannot be released to the public.  It is the tax return that Trump signed and sent to the government.  The fact that it is being checked by the IRS doesn't mean that it has to be kept secret.  That's like a candidate refusing to release his medical records because he is under treatment for a disease and he hasn't been cured yet.  Either way, the records are complete and ought to be released.

Second, is it possible that Trump has been audited for 12 straight years?  The simple answer is YES.  Why would that be?  Again, there is a simple answer.  If the IRS audits someone and finds problems with the returns, the agency frequently audits the following years to make sure that those new returns are now correct.  In other words, if Trump was audited and the IRS found that he had deductions disallowed or income missing, the IRS would likely check the next year to make sure that the questionable practices had ended.  If the IRS found problems year after year, it could easily continue to audit the following returns.  A 12 year string of audits of Trump returns likely means that there were problems with the returns for many of the early years.

Third, there is always the possibility that some of the Trump audits were the results of his involvement with the "birthers" who questioned Obama.  The supposedly non-political IRS has been extremely political during the Obama years.  That would not explain the first six years of audits, however, since they predate Obama's time in office.

Put all this together and it seems likely that Trump is being audited because his returns were either extremely "aggressive" or possibly fraudulent.  There's no way to tell for sure without seeing the returns.  Even so, Trump needs to release his returns.  Being audited is just not an excuse.


That Great Syrian Cease Fire That Kerry Negotiated

The word from regional news sources is that the fighting goes on in Syria despite the supposed cease fire negotiated by John Kerry with the Russians.  The Assad forces continue to attack the non-ISIS rebels, even though those attacks were supposed to stop yesterday.  For its part, ISIS is still launching terror attacks, which were not covered.  In other words, it was a pretty "normal" day in Syria.  That means that about 200 people were killed in the fighting.

It never fails to amaze me that the Obama administration still thinks that their meaningless and nonsensical "breakthrough" agreements matter.

Friday, February 26, 2016

the Fat Man Sings -- II

Enough said:


The Fat Man Sings

There's an old saying that the opera isn't over until the fat lady sings.  In Republican politics, it isn't a fat lady but a fat man, New Jersey governor Chris Christie.  In 2012, in the week before the election, Christie hugged president Obama when he came to view the damage from hurricane Sandy.  Then Christie lauded Obama for his efforts.  It broke all momentum for Mitt Romney and was a big cause of Romney's loss and Obama's victory.  (To be fair, it was far from the only cause, but it was major nevertheless.)  Now Christie has once again stepped into the mix to hurt the Republicans.  Today, Christie endorsed Donald Trump for president.  Think about that.  For endless months, when Christie was running for president, he had nothing nice to say about Trump.  (Okay, to be fair, Christie was more walking for president since he is too big to actually run.)  It is true that Christie concentrated his efforts on passing Rubio and Cruz and, to a lesser extent Kasich.  That effort failed miserably in New Hampshire and Christie dropped out two weeks ago.  In what looks like an attempt to get even with Rubio and Cruz for beating him, Christie has now endorsed their rival. 

It's interesting that Christie came forward with the endorsement just as Trump was reeling after his big defeat in last night's debate.  Christie was there to try to change the subject.

To be honest, I've never much liked Christie.  Even so, this latest move seems like nothing more than an attempt to be attorney general should Trump win.  If Christie had never said anything about Trump in the past, one might understand his current position, but we all heard Christie talk about how Trump (and others) were unqualified to be president.  Amazing what two weeks and the possibility of being attorney general can do for a politician's point of view.


Thursday, February 25, 2016

The GOP Debate in Texas

Tonight's Republican debate was an amazing bit of TV and campaigning.  For the first time, Donald Trump really looked foolish.  Unlike previous debates in which Marco Rubio generally stayed away from attacking Trump, he went after the Donald with full force.  Rubio used Trump's own tactic of just breaking into Trump's answers in much the same way that Trump has done that in many previous debates.  Ted Cruz recognized that Trump was looking foolish and joined in the effort too.  Perhaps the low point for Trump came when he accused Rubio of repeating himself five times at a debate two weeks ago and Rubio pointed out that Trump had just repeated himself five times in the previous minute. 

The big issue of the debate is how the audience felt about all the fighting.  If the audience was not turned off by the verbal sparring, then the big winner tonight was clearly Marco Rubio.  He was strong, assertive, presidential and cheerful all at the same time.  He seemed reasonable and was never hurt by any of the attacks made on him.  Governor Kasich also had a very good night.  He performed much better than he has in most of the previous debates.  His answer that emphasized jobs, jobs, jobs was probably the most effective of the night.

Ted Cruz did quite well tonight also, although he hurt himself a bit with his closing.  His laundry list of the things he would do on his first day came across as the ever more strident ravings of someone with a screw loose.

Dr. Carson was on the stage.  One has to wonder why.  He had little to say, although, to be fair, his answer on replacing Obamacare was very good.

The clear loser tonight was Trump.  When Rubio and Cruz called for Trump to outline his plan for replacing Obamacare, it was an amazing moment.  Oh, Trump was not at a loss for words, but he clearly was at a loss for ideas.  He spoke about removing "the lines around the states" and then went off into double talk.  Both Rubio and Cruz called him on it and their attacks hit the mark.  It remains to be seen if the viewers understood just how paltry Trump's response was, but for anyone who understands the healthcare issue, Trump's answer clearly was a disaster.  Trump also looked foolish in discussing the Israel issue.  When Rubio pointed out that Trump was treating the Arab-Israeli conflict like he was building condos in the West Bank, it was a really telling blow.  To be fair, Trump was his usual debate self.  He kept lobbing nasty jabs, but for the very first time at these debates, he got called out for it over and over.

Of course, the biggest loser of the night was the CNN team of moderators.  They totally lost control of the event.  There were at least three times when multiple candidates just kept talking for 30 or even sixty seconds without being stopped.  It was impossible to understand what was being said, and it was a disgraceful performance by Blitzer and the other CNN people.  It also, however, was a tactic that was used effectively by Rubio and Cruz.  Rather than letting Trump jump in and control the conversation, they kept talking and denied him that weapon.

It will be interesting to see if this shakes up the primaries in the next few days.  If it does anything, it should shake some people loose from Trump and move Rubio way up in the polls.


The Lynch Mob or a Picnic?

Yesterday, attorney general Lynch testified on Capitol Hill and the subjects discussed included the investigation of Hillary Clinton's handling of top secret information on her private and unsecured email server.  Lynch stayed as far away from the topic as possible, but she did say a few things that are worth repeating.  First of all, Lynch said that the investigation was being handled by FBI agents and DOJ career attorneys.  That's new.  Previously, we just hear about the FBI.  It's been reported in the media that the involvement of the Justice Department attorneys means that the FBI investigation has now advanced to the stage in which the full bag of tricks of the Justice Department is now being used.  DOJ can get subpoenas for witnesses regarding both testimony and documents.  DOJ is needed to present evidence to a grand jury in order to obtain an indictment.  DOJ is needed if low ranking witnesses are being offered a deal in exchange for testimony regarding targets higher up the chain.

No one knows if the DOJ attorneys are being told to advance the investigation or to thwart it, and Lynch certainly did not indicate that either instruction has been given.  All that we know is that the process continues to advance.  The most bizarre aspect of it all is that the timing is such that we could get to the indictment phase after Hillary has clinched the Democrat nomination.  That would leave a majority of the Democrat delegates free to pick whomever they like were Hillary to exit the race and release her delegates.  The "trap" of being forced to pick Bernie Sanders would be avoided for the Democrats; they could put up Biden or Kerry or even Warren if they chose to do so.

The reality, however, remains this:  Hillary Clinton knowingly set up a system that violated clear federal law regarding the handling of classified materials.  A great many people have been prosecuted for things much less serious than she did.  She is not above the law and ought not be allowed to use her influence to get away with what certainly appears to be criminal conduct.


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Fantasy Cease Fire In Syria - or - Obama Accepts Defeat

In one of the weirdest stories of recent days, John Kerry and his Russian counterpart announced that there would be a ceasefire in Syria starting on Friday of this week.  It's a weird story because this will be a ceasefire but the firing will not  cease and is not intended to cease.  There is to be no cessation of hostilities with ISIS or the al-Nusra Front or any organization designated as terrorist by the UN.  That means that nearly all the fighting in Syria will continue as before even if the truce actually goes into effect.

So what really happened here?  The answer is simple:  president Obama accepted defeat and formalized that decision.  Obama has long said that his Syrian policy was that president Assad "must go".  Assad, after all, is a butcher who has killed nearly a quarter of million of his own people, many times more than the number killed by ISIS.  Under the deal negotiated by Kerry, however, Assad stays in office and the 'moderate" rebels that were backed by the USA stop their opposition to him.  Obama's principal goal has been abandoned.

And what of ISIS or the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra front?  Who will fight them now?  Most likely, it won't be the remnants of the US backed rebels.  Those people know that there is now no one to support their efforts.  The US never gave them much support, and it has now abandoned them at the negotiating table.  There is no reason for them to go on fighting.  Assad and his allies, Iran, Hezbollah and Russia may confront ISIS, but that too is far from certain.  Assad and his allies may be content with holding the Shiite areas of Syria while leaving much of the Sunni heartland to the ISIS crazies.  The Kurds will, no doubt, continue to resist ISIS, but the Kurds have already ousted ISIS from nearly all Kurdish areas and they will not fight beyond those regions.  So ISIS too wins in this ceasefire because it loses enemies without actually having to defeat them.

In the world of Obama and Kerry, an agreement is always better than no agreement.  With an idiotic deal like the latest one in Syria, one would think that even someone as obtuse as Obama could understand just how bad a deal this is.  Sadly, however, Obama seems not to understand.