The Prize: Why Trump’s Relationship with Russia is Dangerous

The Prize: Why Trump’s Relationship with Russia is Dangerous

The Prize: Why Trump’s Relationship with Russia is Dangerous

Turkish police picked up Abdel Malik Nabil Petitjean on his way to Syria, apparently to meet with his ISIS commanders June 10th. He was held for 15 days before being release. Petitjean was a French citizen, but Turkish authorities never informed France of the detention. Last week Petitjean and an accomplish took 6 hostages in a Normandy church, beheading the 85-year-old priest and wounding a parishioner. This at a time when Turkey faced a wave of terror attacks carried out by ISIS. Petitjean was released the same day ISIS affiliates were carrying out an attack on Istanbul’s international airport killing more than 40. Turkey has always held an uncomfortably and suspiciously close relationship with ISIS.

Last week there was an alleged coup against the growing Islamic extremism within the government of Prime Minister Recep Erdogan.  The supposed coup was put down leading to the arrest of tens of thousands of professors, critics, journalists and police. Following the failed coup, which many observers believe was staged by Erdogan to consolidate power, Erdogan suspended the constitution, appointed himself president and is moving to place direct control of the armed forces under the office of the president.  Against that bloody shadow comes rising tensions between NATO and NATO member nation Turkey, with some now openly calling for the expulsion of Turkey from NATO and perhaps even the European Union. Earlier this week officials suspected sabotage in a suspicious fire near a NATO base in Eastern Turkey that plays a part in the battle against ISIS.

On July 25th The Washington Free Beacon, in a piece by Molly McKew explored Russia’s apparent role in putting down the Turkish coup. Just days before the coup one Alexandr Dugin was in the Turkish capital Ankara, meeting with intellectuals and allies to Erdogan. McKew observed that “Dugin, as Georgia and Ukraine have learned, is rarely near a conflict by chance, often providing both the ideological foundations for modern Russian expansionism and a kind of advance team for local mobilization.” According to McKew, “President Putin has been using Dugin as an emissary to the Turkish elite since Dugin accompanied Putin on an official visit in 2004. His mission was to build Russia’s network of influence to pull Turkey away from the West. This was based on his core idea that a “new Eurasian empire will be constructed on the fundamental principle of the common enemy: the rejection of Atlanticism, strategic control [over] the USA, and the refusal to allow liberal values to dominate us.”

THE PRIZE

For more than a decade US and NATO officials have feared Russian interference aimed at driving a wedge between Turkey and NATO. A split would benefit the long term economic aspirations of a resurgent Russia. Now that the conflict in Ukraine has waned, at least for the time being, Russia is eager to consolidate the Black Sea and Crimea. The region maintains vast and mostly untapped oil and gas reserves, but critical to Russian military, economic and strategic interests is unrestricted, unencumbered access to the Bosphorus Straits, the only viable outlet from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean and beyond.

The effort to build that wedge has a typically Russian, even Soviet-style signature of Cold War era cloak and dagger, carrot but mostly stick efforts by Putin and Moscow. Russia pressured Turkey by supplying arms to their traditional Kurdish enemy. NATO and the US have also supported the Kurds in the fight against ISIS. Russian FSB agents are suspected in a number of high profile assassinations across Turkey of former Chechen fighters and dissidents.

On June 16 Russian warplanes bombed a secret US and British base in Syria serving as a buffer to protect neighboring Jordan from ISIS incursions. British Special Forces withdrew from the base only a day before a Russian warplane dropped a cluster bomb. U.S. central command air operations center in Qatar alerted Russian authorities in Latakia, Syria, but Russian warplanes attacked once more 90 minutes later killing 4 rebels working alongside Americans special forces.

For Erdogan, while not willing to give his country away to a Russian strongman like Putin, Russia’s growing, and sometimes threatening pressure on Turkey and the region also offers opportunities not possible within the EU or NATO. Unlike NATO and the EU, Putin would look the other way on Turkish civil rights and civil liberties abuses, as well as the virtual or even literal suspension of a democratic government in favor of Erdogan’s consolidation of power. The EU and NATO have already protested the suspension of civil liberties, and attacks and arrests against teachers and journalists in the wake of the coup. Russia has remained silent, cozying quietly alongside Turkey as the strategically critical nation and NATO slide further apart.

Donald Trump praised Erdogan’s handling of the coup attempt, which evidence purports to show may have been staged to terrify the people of Istanbul and Ankara. His comments shocked NATO officials and human rights advocates. Trump’s comments encouraged Erdogan and mirrored Moscow’s strategic intentions in the region. This from a New York Times interview dated July 22nd:

“The coup never took place — the coup was not successful, and based on the fact, and I give great credit to him for being able to turn that around. .. I don’t know that we have a right to lecture. Just look about what’s happening with our country. How are we going to lecture when people are shooting our policemen in cold blood? How are we going to lecture when you see the riots and the horror going on in our own country? We have so many difficulties in our country right now that I don’t think we should be, and there may be a time when we can get much more aggressive on that subject, and it will be a wonderful thing to be more aggressive. We’re not in a position to be more aggressive. We have to fix our own mess. “

As for Trump’s accusation of paying far more than other NATO member countries, the US does indeed pay a higher portion in terms of raw dollars into NATO, but it also reaps a great many benefits from that expenditure, including extending its power through surrogate allies and in economic benefits. Proportionally, however, nations like France, Norway, Poland, Germany Greece and even Turkey provide greater per capita contributions to the NATO cause. The US, by that standard, isn’t even in the top ten.

And there are additional benefits to Turkey remaining part of NATO, though that ship might already have sailed. Losing Turkey would further isolate Israel in the region. American warplanes and ships would find themselves limited or shut out altogether from strategically sensitive regions, such as the Persian Gulf, the eastern Mediterranean, and the Red Sea to name a few. Influence, whether military, economic, human rights or political would almost certainly be extinguished throughout much of the Mideast. The effects even at home here could be catastrophic for labor and US companies doing business in the region? Further, could that precipitate a domino effect across Africa and Southern Asia and the Indian subcontinent, leading to a possible collapse of the US economy for a generation or longer?

The destabilizing effects for NATO and the European Union would be potentially devastating, playing directly into Russia’s strategic interests to the detriment of the US and her allies. Trump has already expressed a desire for closer ties with Russia, despite very different strategic desires. That means something has to give? By all indications, and given Trump’s very vocal praise for Putin, and nearly three decades of personal and business dealings between Trump and Russia the man who is on the cover of “The Art of the Deal,” may well make a deal by selling out the United States.

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Trump not a Traitor, Lefties, but…(The Assange Link)

Trump not a Traitor, Lefties, but…(The Assange Link)

…not so fast, Righties. You’re both wrong. Let me explain. I know that everyone on either side would prefer not to have an election, and have this all decided in various courts of law, with the next president decided by default, but it doesn’t work that easy. Democracy is hard, which is why Americans apparently hate it so much. Before I get to exactly what Donald Trump may or may not be guilty of it is critical to set the stage. This is a complex issue, but I have boiled it down. Here you go.

First, it is important to establish exactly what we are talking about here. Despite the attempted diversion by the Trump camp and especially by its advocacy media in FOX, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and others, this is not about Hillary’s missing emails. A crime was committed. The private emails of  the democratic national committee, DNC, were stolen. They were stolen by a foreign individual or group or government. If this was a car theft it would be like the thief telling the cops “but I’m not guilty because there are unpaid parking tickets in the glove box.” That is what Trump and allies have attempted to do in misleading the public. They are diverting the discussion from the actual issue. Don’t be fooled.

There are levels to all of this. The top, thinnest layer of all this is a vengeful and willing dupe, WikiLeaks’ own Julian Assange. For the record, I am a general supporter and adherent to much of what Julian Assange has done. This one is out of character for Assange. It wasn’t an act of transparency to governments, the powerful and hypocrites run amok. If it was he would be going  at Donald Trump’s organization just as hard, or at the very least the Republican Party and Tea Party. Assange is acting purely out of vengeance, understandably, lashing out on the eve of Hillary’s anointing after being essentially imprisoned in place by the Obama/Clinton administration for releasing hacked video and emails regarding atrocities committed by US troops as well as embarrassing diplomatic cables. This one, however, makes Assange look like a petty jerk, rather than a crusader for truth and transparency.

Assange is simply the vehicle. He is the convenient vehicle as a bridge from a cyber underground to the cyber mainstream, which is what makes him so important. He has the street and media creds to get noticed. If you wish to make a splash and you’ve got dirt, you’re going to WikiLeaks, not an anonymous or unknown message board. There are levels again here and WikiLeaks provides an extra level of anonymity, to an extent. It isn’t fool proof, and at the end of the day the internet is the domain of nerds, geeks and geniuses and a fair number of troublemakers who simply like to mess with stuff, To them the internet is a toy and a puzzle, and their private world where they have power and the ability to dismantle and rearrange at will. There are no secrets on the web. There are only those with secrets and those chasing those secrets.

At the end of the day, apart from his role in revealing the DNC emails and documents, Assange is inconsequential to this whole affair. Yes, he received a hated neighbor’s embarrassing stolen goods essentially, but they were dumped on his doorstep anonymously and all he did was throw the goods into the street and shouted look at so and so’s underwear! That is not a crime, just an act of petty revenge.

I’m getting to the treason stuff, but you’ll have to bear with me here. This is a fast moving curve ball with lots of other balls zooming around. There is just one ball to keep your eye on, but first we need to understand a bit about all the others so they can be properly dealt with. We don’t want to swing at the wrong pitch. Julian Assange and WikiLeaks is the wrong pitch.

You’ll recall in a previous post that Donald Trump has a long and deep relationship with Russia and the Russian government that goes all the way to the top of Russia’s echelons of power, including its defense and intelligence community. Unless he suffers from a possible memory breakdown his denial of a very deep and decades long relationship with Russia is a complete fabrication. In the next post we will build upon that by tracing the evidence of who hacked the emails and their possible connection to the Russian government and possibly to the Trump campaign.

 

A Bernie Guy’s Defense of Hillary. CAUTION: Adult Language

A Bernie Guy’s Defense of Hillary. CAUTION: Adult Language

A Bernie Guy’s Defense of Hillary. CAUTION: Adult Language

For the record, I am not decided on whether or not I’ll vote for Hillary in the general election. I might write in Bernie Sanders, I might vote for the Green Party Candidate, Jill Stein,” as I did in 2012. In part, that is because my vote is sovereign. I decide what happens with it, and while I’m on the topic, Hillary people should lay off. Don’t try and shove Hillary down our throat. Enough of the guilt and the fearmongering about Trump and the supreme court. We get it, but we already knew all of that during the primaries. We feel burned and abused and betrayed by a really corrupt system, and backing us in a corner and demanding to know how we’ll vote just makes that system seem all the more corrupt and undemocratic.

There, now that all that is out of the way let me also throw a few more things on the table. You can call it the start of a rapprochement if you like, but don’t push it, Hillary people. I hold a great many criticisms of  Mrs. Clinton but there is one case I’ll make for Hillary. Shades of my militant feminist past. A funny story. One year my wife, who holds a Bachelors in psychology with a minor in Gender and Women’s studies, as well as a Masters in Education, was getting hammered with a full and overwhelming schedule of really heavy classes, including two hefty math classes, along with a full time work schedule. One of them was a Classical Roman studies class with a preeminent Roman scholar. Classical Roman history is a hobby of mine, so I offered to be a resource for my wife. Instead she asked if I could back her up just once with a single paper for a women’s studies class. I helped with a piece about women walking through a dark alley, equating that with a combat soldier’s thousand yard stair and PTSD. More editing that writing, but I threw in a few choice lines. The professor gave my wife an “A” for the paper, commenting that she knew my wife was an ardent feminist, she just didn’t realize she was so militant!

I tell you that to tell you this, the reason that Hillary Clinton drives the Right crazy is that she’s not a pawn. She’s not another weak willed woman.  She might be in the pocket of the wealthy and powerful, but she isn’t subservient to men and their interests. She isn’t looking for male validation, nor is she about to  kowtow to male hegemony, and that drives the misogynist Right crazy. Token candidates, like Carly Fiorina, who never really had a chance, require male validation and plugged into a male-dominated system, pandering to the male-powered, Handmaid’s Tale anti-choice crowd to the detriment of women’s bodily sovereignty. In other words, had she become President, she would essentially be a puppet to men; male directed and dictated. Hillary, on the other hand is, well, a bitch, but she is a bitch with a purpose all her own.

And I mean bitch in the most respectful sort of way. We routinely describe men in politics and business with the qualities of a bitch as go-getters, shrewd or aggressive. Rarely if ever are powerful women in such “Alpha-Male” adjectives. Women with those qualities are called something else, meant to degrade and devalue them yo something overly emotional and unserious, so I say own it, Hillary! That’s the sort of bitch, with a capital “B”  I’m talking about. A strong woman who thinks as a sovereign person, resisting fully the long held stereotypes and archetypes of a patriarchal hierarchy. That sort of woman has always scared and intimidated and pissed off weak men. The Right is replete with men hiding their little boy fears and phallic anxieties  about strong and, yes, bitchy women behind guns and war and power politics.

For better or worse, like her or hate her, Hillary has carved out a substantial amount of power that allows her unprecedented autonomy and near full separation from the structures that still bind women in 21st century America. The Right is centered fully on patriarchy. I have my own misgivings about Hillary, but respect for her as an independent and powerful woman is hardly one of those misgivings.

Where is the fear at the DNC?

Where is the fear at the DNC?

I agree with the Right! Yeah, I said it. Two days and the dems haven’t mentioned that we are under siege by ISIS! They have failed to remind Americans that our streets are drenched in blood from Black and Mexican rapists and murderers, and that our police cower in fear, no longer acting with the hubris of an occupying power, but instead are now entrenched behind walls against the ruthless savages teeming like Injuns in a bad 1950s Western Movie. Not one word on the survivalist necessity of being locked and loaded while going for a latte at Starbucks or while buying another 20 pound bag of cool ranch Doritos at Walmart. And what about the unborn Black babies killed by genocidal liberal doctors, to say nothing of the aborted white babies needed to offset the Muslim and Mexican hordes breeding like rabbits? TAKE BACK OUR COUNTRY! TAKE BACK…! And lastly, not even a breath from the dems about the immigrant flood

Missing are the sweeping generalizations about Muslims, Mexicans, and why can’t we use the N-word freely and loudly wherever and whenever we are? How else is everyone going to know that this is a white country, built by whites who fear god? Like the RNC, we need more depictions of inner city violence as something genetically predisposed to Blacks, rather than pointing out that long held racism, abandonment of communities, financial corruption in favor of the wealthy draining resources from schools or profit orgies sending jobs overseas. That sort of talk just divides America!

The dems insist on focusing on domestic and economic issues. They want to blather on about strategies for the long term viability of our families, our education, our health and our environment, when the real focus should be on instilling optimal amounts of fear about a terrorist in France or a crackpot wife beater in Florida who could only too easily obtain combat weaponry.

Your jobs are being  stolen by immigrants! That should be the refrain. All of those lucrative busboy, dishwashing and those lawn cleaning jobs that made America great and which built our middle class. They are all going to immigrants instead of well educated Americans. Your jobs haven’t been relocated overseas by the same people who are guests regularly on FOX, or who seed the Republican party with cash, or who want your social security as fuel for their stock market, for people like David Koch or Dick Armey who created the Tea Party and then constructed a grassroots myth about its origin. Such talk divides America! FOCUS PEOPLE!

So I demand that the dems abandon their divisive rhetoric about a more equitable and inclusive America. Terrorism is the longer term threat rather than your healthcare, mortgage or retirement. Immigrants. Immigrants. IMMIGRANTS! CRIME! GUNS! WALLS! That’ll fix the country!

(NOTE: The preceding sarcasm was written by slave labor in Asia, where the rest of American jobs have been shipped, amid the highest corporate profits in history. Much thanks to the Indonesian children for seeing through the bull that Americans apparently can’t see through. Maybe its the distance.)

 

What Russians Does Trump Know and When Did He Know Them?

What Russians Does Trump Know and When Did He Know Them?

What Russians Does Trump Know and When Did He Know Them?

“…we’re doing a lot of projects there where we’re bringing money back. So in a certain way, it’s kind of a natural hedge when you go global.” That was Eric Trump, son of republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, on CNBC back in February. He was speaking about real estate investment in New York, and how foreign investment in American real estate was a good for the Trump bottom line. That investment was slowing following the collapse of oil prices, which hit the Russian economy hard. The sweet spot in crude oil prices for the Russian economy is between $75 and $100 per barrel. The Russian economy relies almost exclusively on oil and gas  production, opposite America’s  largely consumer-based economy.

Nothing special in that, except an illustration that Trump is always playing both sides against the middle. It also reveals a very special and intimate relationship between Trump and Russia. There are growing indications that the relationship goes all the way to ex-KGB leader and strongman Vladimir Putin. Whether that relationship crosses the line to something damaging to the United States and in particular its electoral process remains to be seen. It is, however, time to start asking some very serious questions of Trump and his people about the nature of that relationship and whether it has already interfered with the current election. More importantly, the nation needs to know how that relationship will affect US jobs, security and the economy under a President Trump

It is no secret that in the Press, at the very least, that Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are very cozy, trading compliments, while Putin has openly discredited Clinton. Trump called Putin a genius. But how does that translate to potential policies by Trump? Recent comments on withdrawing from NATO, which sent a chill through US allies in Europe, and which could also potentially threaten Israel’s security, mirrors anti-NATO rhetoric by Putin and affiliates in Russia.

One of those affiliates is Aras Agalarov, a real estate billionaire, dubbed the Trump of Russia. Trump has had an interest in Russia and Moscow since the late 1980s, where he and his family have made frequent trips and are well known there. Trump maintains an interest in building apartments and luxury condos in Moscow, tapping into a class of extraordinarily wealthy Russians. His ultimate goal is to build a Trump tower there.

Aras Agalarov was born in 1955 in Baku, Azerbaijan in the former Soviet Union. He was decorated as an outstanding Russian citizen by Putin in 2013. That same year Trump’s Miss Universe Pageant was held in Agalarov’s Crocus City Hall in Moscow. It was there that Trump met with a close Putin advisor, Vladimir Kozhin, Putin’s adviser on military and technical cooperation. Initially Putin was to attend, but sent a gift with Kozhin at the last minute. This was at a time when tensions between Russia and the US were growing over Ukraine.

The same month Trump was hosting his pageant, the now ousted Ukrainian leader Victor Yanukovych  was pursuing closer ties with Russia, much to the chagrin of US and her NATO allies. That tension boiled over to massive protests and violence in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev and ultimately to civil war. Russia aided and supplied the Yanukovych backed rebels, including, according to all the available evidence, the BUK Missile system that downed a civilian airliner in July 2014, killing all 298 aboard. That conflict was ultimately about Western and Russian competition over Ukrainian and Crimean gas and oil reserves.

The mostly state-owned Russian firm Gazprom figured prominently in that struggle. Gazprom’s CEO, Alexey Borisovich Miller  served directly under Putin for many years. His appointment to the top spot in the company was engineered specifically by Putin. Carter Page, Trump’s foreign policy adviser, worked in Moscow for three years for Gazprom, a Russian oil giant that is largely state owned. Last month Page spoke in Moscow at a Russian business school. Trump’s main campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was an adviser to Victor Yanukovych. The ties between Russia and candidate Trump run deep.

It is clear there is a relationship here, and in the context of a presidential election, it should raise concerns over potential influence. Evidence for that influence appears to be growing. Trump’s foreign policy statements appear to parallel or are very sympathetic to Russian strategic interests, and come very close to undermining US strategic interests and security. In a letter dated April 1796, Thomas Jefferson in his First Inaugural address in 1801, spoke of “Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations–entangling alliances with none, I deem  the essential principles of our government, and consequently  those which ought to shape its administration.”

 

 

 

Sucks to be You!

Sucks to be You!

So, after confirmation-not just revelations-that Hillary, the DNC and Debbie Wasserman Schultz colluded to disenfranchise millions of voters, which it appears could have swung the nomination to Bernie Sanders, Donna Brazile, vice-chair of the DNC says “sorry, our bad.”  I used to know actual mob guys with more class and more remorse than that.

Essentially the DNC told sanders and millions of supporters the Hillary mafia believes will follow any train that “we burned down your house on purpose. Hey, we’re ‘sorry’ so get over it now.”

And that is the problem these people don’t understand, on the Left and the Right. They keep burning down our house (or shooting us in the street) without accountability or prosecution.

Hillary should recuse herself and step down. She is morally and temperamentally unfit for office. Further. disband the DNC. Like the Republican party, they are essentially criminal enterprises, that is if ignoring and violating the will of the people of the United States of America was  crime.

THE CALL IS COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE!

THE CALL IS COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE!

Well, now even Hillary supporters can’t deny that the fix was in to knock out Bernie Sanders, not through votes and strength of ideas, or even the ability to outspend, but by cheating and a conspiratorial stab in the back. This week Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the DNC, which was supposed to be impartial in the primaries, resigned over revelations and leaked emails showing that top echelons of the DNC conspired to undermine Sanders in favor of Clinton. Flipping a giant bird to Sanders supporters, Clinton then turned around and announced that Schultz would be campaigning with Clinton nationally.

I’m really not buying the Clinton supporters panic and guilt cry that its all about the supreme court. Clinton has never been honest about anything, and just keeps digging that hole. I doubt that her appointments will be any better then Trump’s, especially in view of the parade of pro-corporate lawyers Obama keeps promoting. Different is automatically better. That either means that she is as obnoxious, albeit with a refined political and diplomatic acumen, as Donald Trump, or she is so thoroughly insulated from reality and the views of her constituency as to make her worthless as a leader. Am I making a case for Trump? I’m making a case for someone other than Clinton.

Clinton is making, it would seem, some huge strategic blunders. But upon closer examination, it is obvious she is as arrogant, power thirsty and duplicitous as Donald Trump. Six of one, half dozen of another, as the saying goes. The leaked emails only provide evidence to my cynicism, distrust and disdain for Clinton. Let’s go through some of that for a moment.

  1. The choice of Virginia Senator Tim Kaine for her vice presidential running mate. Amid the leaked emails was a list of ways of “getting” the Hispanic vote. Filled with condescension and racial stereotyping the email called outreach to Hispanics the “Taco Bowl Engagement.” Kaine pandered by giving his acceptance speech in Spanish. Two very WASPy and wealthy candidates. Hmm. Here is more from the leaked emails: 
  2. The fix was in from the beginning, as we all suspected, but as the emails now confirm. and this is the poster child for democracy, or at the very least an alternative to Trump? Hillary controls speech, message and is duplicitous in policy to the same extent. How will she be any different? Stabbed in the face or stabbed in the back.
  3. Clinton’s excitement that the one person , Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who presided over months of cheating and bullying and conspiracy against a fellow democratic candidate will join her campaign, means that she has already abandoned Bernie supporters.
  4. Hillary’s failure to acknowledge the scandal benefitted her by any sort of rapprochement with legions of Bernie supporters who could swing the election one way of another. The failure to bridge that confidence with Elizabeth Warren turned instead to a reaffirmation of the condescension Hillary is known for, as in her lecturing of Black Lives Matter people about the reality of the world

This is not Progressive or change. This week at the convention Clinton and her surrogates will banter and blather about Trump outrages and the darker world he presents. I believe he does, but I am not seeing the sort of real moral and ethical leadership this nation needs in the White House. I am seeing more of the power-centralization, rule by edict, people as pawns leadership dragging this nation over the abyss(guns, crime and economic stratification or symptoms of our lack of moral leadership). The convention this week is as much a coronation to a monarch as the DNC was last week, and not a reaffirmation of the power of the people. In other words, the killer isn’t lurking outside in the shadows. THE CALL IS COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE!