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Russia & Trump

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Trump “bought” the POTUS by 1) manipulating voters through big data (ie. The block chains and other manipulations of tracked data), and 2) getting help from Russian hackers who hacked into key states’ voting systems.  He needed both elements to be able to win because without them, there is a very good possibility that Hillary would have won. Trump’s history of dishonesty and bankruptcy should have eliminated him from the presidential election but it did not (the American legal system may need some adjustment and honing).  He settled his fraud case out of court right before Election Day 2016. He defrauded students with his fake online university.  He is also notorious for “robbing Peter to pay Paul”, and for his using his fake non-profit organization’s donation to pay his legal bills when he is sued, and for the fines he is ordered to pay by the US court system.

Trump is correct that the US should try to “make nice” with Russia.  Too many Americans (at least the ones who vote and understand and follow politics; mostly older Americans) still have the mindset from the Cold War Era that Russians are “Commies” and dishonest (A daily reading of American news shows Americans are not extremely honest either…..for example, the Panama Papers).  Russia has the largest amount of millionaires in the world, most living in Moscow.  They have had a free market system for 25 years now, and they are just now starting to feel the social impacts of this new system; the stresses that such a system causes over the quest/greed for money.

Of course, there is government corruption in Russia, but there is here in the US too. It is both interesting and ironic that many of the activities the US accused the Soviets and Russians of doing in the past are the exact same acts the US has been and is still doing to its own citizens. Julian Assange, Private Manning, and other whistleblowers have shown the world that this is true. They have suffered for their risks of exposing the truth.

The Russian free market economy was and still is an untapped income source for international businesses. In fact, Trump has many businesses in Russia, and these felt the financial crunch when the sanctions were levied against Russia in 2014 after the Ukraine Conflict.  So, Trump wasn’t making money either from his business investments he had already established on Russian soil before he became POTUS.  This further motivated him to ask the Russians to help him win the POTUS (because greed or money is a very effective motivating factor). The economic sanctions were levied collectively by the US and the European Union, but also unilaterally by the US. Russia also levied import bans that hurt many European and American businesses that were still allowed to do business in Russia under the economic sanctions.

There is a very good possibility that Trump made a deal with the Russians that if they got him into POTUS, he would lift the sanctions against Russia (specifically Putin’s inner circle of extremely wealthy friends who were most affected by the sanctions). The reasons Russia would have made this deal is that 1) Russia’s economy was shrinking because of the sanctions, and 2) Russia’s “bread and butter” is based on oil.  Russian social programs and the government function due to the proceeds of oil sales.  The sanctions against Russia included no sale of replacement parts for the oil drilling rigs, and most of these rigs were purchased from American companies. So, as the parts began to wear out, the Russian oil companies (especially Gazprom) could not easily extract oil, therefore, they could not sell much on the world market (but the Russians asked Chinese engineers to design similar replacement parts,  but this took a lot of time for development).

Unfortunately for the Russian oil market, in September 2016, the 5 years of oil embargo that mandated that Iran could not sell oil on the world market ended.  This flooded the global oil market since Iran started selling oil at a very low price so that they could raise hard currency (US Dollars) to improve their very hurt economy. This further hurt the Russian economy since oil customers could now choose a different supplier (the law of supply and demand).  Oil was selling at its lowest for about USD30/barrel, but on average around USD50/barrel for the last 2 years (and now up to about 70USD as for 25 Mar 2018).  Russia needs at least USD100 per barrel just to break even on its government and social program bills. Russia has drained most of its two big money reserve accounts. The long term drop in oil prices has certainly caused devastating effects on countries that rely on income from selling oil on the world market, including Venezuela, which has its own political problems and corruption.

Also, Russia’s currency devalued to the dollar.  At one time, it was at an amazingly high rate of 95 rubles per 1 US dollar (Each bank may have a different exchange rate. The USD/RUB exchange rate was 1:30 before the Ukraine situation).

Since most goods (and travel) are purchased using US dollars as the international purchase currency, the cost of consumer goods in Russia greatly increased while people bought appliances and electronics in bulk (to sell later; again, the law of supply & demand) and people were losing their jobs or taking pay cuts just to keep their jobs because the economy greatly slowed and shrank. Many Russians lost their jobs during this time, or they had to greatly tighten their financial belts. For some Russian banks, their supply of USD was greatly limited or cut off because these banks refused to give the names of their American clients to the US government, so the US Federal Reserve refused to sell USD to such banks (as a form of “blackmail” or “leverage”). Many small Russian banks actually closed during the worst of this economic situation in Russia.

Trump wasn’t too “street smart”. He allowed his hormones to cloud is otherwise substandard judgment. The Russians videoed him with various beautiful Russian women in his hotel room. This was released to Trump to show him that the Russians had secret videos of Trump, but he did not know what else the Russians had recorded about him and his activities. Since Trump certainly remembers the activities he did, he was probably concerned about which, if not all, of those activities were recorded.  This was done to make him “behave” and to do his part that he promised to do (lift the sanctions). Videoing Trump was the Russians’ insurance that Trump would do his part.  However, he was not able to deliver the promise of lifting sanctions because of the way the US “checks & balances” work (which work relatively well,  but still need to be honed, obviously since Trump’s past allowed him to become president).  Russia did their part but Trump didn’t deliver his part; a “breach of contract”.

This left Russia in a bind to stimulate their economy since the US and the world sanctions against it are still practiced.  What Trump didn’t realize is that Russia had other options, “Plan B or more” by forming economic trade with other countries such as Venezuela (that does not like the US, and they don’t try to hide that fact) and with Asia, especially the Far East. The Russians gained an edge over Trump because of his arrogance and narcissism.

There are similarities between Trump and Hitler.  Hitler outright killed those he did not like, or who opposed him, or who he felt had a low quality of life. Trump is doing this too by taking away healthcare in the US so that people die.  Trump has taken away healthcare for children of indigent families including a lot of immigrant families (a passive form of ethnic cleansing).  He has taken away educational assistance for children with disabilities. He has taken away the subsidies to help the elderly pay for heat, utilities and prescriptions.  Hitler did an “ethnic cleanse + quality of life cleanse” but Trump is doing an “ethnic cleanse + socioeconomic cleanse + quality of life cleanse” by use of his executive orders and other methods to “Make America Great Again”.

Hitler also consolidated his power into a dictatorship shortly after being elected. Trump tried this too as soon as he was sworn in. He signed many executive orders in his first few months as POTUS. He has limited communication from government offices.  He has also cut funding to government offices or organizations that he feels are not important such as climate change.  Now the world is considering replacing the US Dollar as the reserve currency which would cause many problems because international contracts are normally written in US Dollars, and the contracts may span future decades with predicted exchange rates. For example, Boeing and Airbus have contracts that may span decades). The US credit rating has been downgraded for the first time in US history, thanks to the Republicans, for which Trump is. The US may be headed towards yet another credit rating downgrade since Trump just signed the new US budget in March 2018.

My business experience includes a decade of job titles such internal fiscal and compliance auditor for various government and private sector entities, criminal analyst, and academic teacher in a men’s prison. My education achievements includes an MBA (in Leadership & International Business), a Master’s of Science in Psychology, a future Master’s of Education (in International Education; June 2018), a Bachelor’s of Arts in International Relations, and a 140-hour TEFL certificate. Email: Traci.Seltzer[at]gmail.com

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Americas

The mistakes of U.S. foreign policy

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A few days ago, in a conversation with one of the former protagonists of U.S. foreign policy, in response to my questions and considerations he replied that the second Iraq-U.S. war was an unnecessary disaster, partly balanced by improved relations with Israel and special attention paid to the petromonarchies of the Gulf. He admitted that he had not managed relations with Egypt in the best way, as the United States could have done after the so-called Arab springs, and that it was arguable that the United States never had a kind of relationship with Iran that was discreet enough to be sustainable.

In fact, the White House’s mistakes and desire to dominate, without regard to the other Parties is a traditional characteristic of U.S. foreign policy. Michael Mandelbaum, Professor at John Hopkins University, had already stated that the United States had lost in the world – a total failure since the end of the Cold War. The history of U.S. foreign policy can be roughly divided into four periods.

1) From the Presidency of George Washington (1789-1797) to the Spanish-American War (1898), U.S. foreign policy was still in its infancy, and the focus remained on the territory.

2) From 1898 to the end of World War II (1945), the United States began to move internationally, playing the role of a major power on the stage of World War I and World War II.

3) From 1945 to the end of the Soviet Union (1991), the United States became one of the two poles of the world, the helmsman of Western order and guardians of world scenario trends.

4) The fourth period started after the victory in the Cold War. In that phase, the United States stood at the height of international power, ignored its peers and subjects of international law, behaving as an apparent hegemonic power in the world, but its foreign policy at that time was rarely successful.

The biggest problem of U.S. foreign policy during the Cold War was national security. It was necessary, at all times, to protect itself from the USSR’s penetration and influence and to strive to improve its military strength in view of ensuring world leadership. This entailed large-scale war production and huge profits for military industries.

After the Cold War, the United States used multiple means such as foreign policy, economic policy and armed intervention as a deterrent (see the Balkan War of 1999) to coerce and attract the attention of China and Russia (its traditional competitors) and later intervene in Afghanistan and Iraq.

For example, in the 1992 Presidential election, Bill Clinton proposed linking the treatment of the most favoured nation to China with the human rights situation. After being elected, he subsequently added Tibet, hoping to improve local human rights and promote change in China (obtusely seen as bound to end up like the USSR), when in fact the destabilisation of that region would have caused a global nuclear upheaval.

The success of the Cold War against a country and a system of production that by then had been reduced to aflicker, to support a defence that was at least a deterrent but never superior to the White House, gave the United States the illusion that Western systems and the free market were superior and universal and could be transposed into foreign countries where any idea/ideology not conforming to the American Way of Life was considered barbaric, backward and uncivilised (European welfare, healthcare, Communism, Socialism, Islam, traditional cultures, the Catholic religion, etc.).

In its own ‘manifest destiny’, the United States supported and provided for missionaries and needed to proactively spread the seeds of civilisation and promote reform in the so-called ‘backward’ and non-allied societies.

The United States overestimated the feasibility of replicating in other countries, such as Afghanistan and Iraq, what it had done by means of nuclear and non-nuclear bombs in Hitler’s Germany and in Imperial Japan, which are currently ‘Western’ models of liberalism.

Although they try successfully and not (see the coloured revolutions), through intelligence, to overthrow the dictator of the day – until yesterday a friend – the U.S. foreign policy think tanks lack knowledge of the social conditions persisting in a given country, not understanding that their own views are insufficient to impose a modern Western-style system, such as the social structure and the concept of the rule of law. When political wisdom is not mature, and ignorance prevails, obviously you go towards failure and peoples’ hatred.

Although the United States is among the best countries in terms of national strength, with its military and soft power, it is inevitably unable to fight multilaterally and at the same time transform a society- it deems backward – thousands of kilometres away.

In a place where the U.S. concepts of democracy and free market have never been known, let alone accepted, wanting to establish a system in their own image is virtually impossible.

And while U.S. military missions are successful (not forgetting, however, the bitter defeats in Korea and Vietnam), at the same time, in political terms, they have reassessed the strength of China and Russia in expanding their presence in certain geopolitical areas.

For example, the war in Syria – fomented to sabotage the Chinese “Silk Road” and damage Russian oil supplies to Europe – has strengthened Russia’s presence in the Mediterranean, and raised before Peoples the China’s traditional principles of anti-colonialism and political non-interference, which are gaining support from South America to Africa, from Europe to Asia.

Not for nothing, Prof. Mandelbaum himself said that rather than adopting violent means to promote the construction of a “Western-style” system in a distant country, it would be better for the United States to adopt cultural systems, values and further soft power to influence, provide assistance and create conditions for the transformation and attraction of Western models into other places for economic, practical and peaceful purposes aiming at peoples’ welfare, and not at establishing a “democratic” dictatorship disliked and hated by ordinary people.

According to the distinguished academic, the United States should act as guardians of international peace and ensure world order, by also ultimately resorting to the international courts of justice, rather than subverting the internal structure of individual countries it wants to change for its own interest relating to the last resources of the planet.

As long as there are advantages and not destruction for the peoples, they will not hesitate to be involved in the phases of change. The game of politics is that of great power, which regains hegemony through consensus and not through the imposition of bombers, the massacres of civilians, and Hollywood-style postcards.

Hence, with a view to avoiding further fiascos, U.S. foreign policy must shift to another phase. It must finally launch a fifth phase, but a peaceful one.

The U.S. website of “Foreign Policy” has recently published the article The United States Needs a New Strategic Mindset. The article criticises the United States for having formulated strategies based only on short-term interests in recent decades. This has resulted in many U.S. mistakes, including the post-9/11 war on terrorism.

According to its author, because the United States lacked a coherent and comprehensive strategic vision for a generation, it took countless short-sighted actions and faced many challenges to its national security and economic prosperity.

The author thinks that, since the end of the Cold War, the United States has paid dearly for its wrong strategy. After the implosion of the USSR, the United States desperately squandered enormous wealth and the lives of a large numbers of soldiers, using paranoia as the response to the terrorist threat.

The article reads as follows: “More recently, it has spent exorbitant sums on what it construes as “great-power competition”, but is really just the defense industrial complex’s same old graft with a different guise – all while its public institutions rot”.

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The 4 groups of Senate Republicans that will decide Trump’s impeachment trial

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With Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pushing back the Trump impeachment trial to mid-February to make sure things cool down, Senate Republicans’ positions on the vote are far from crystallized yet. Here are the four groups of Senate Republicans, according to views and likely vote. The numbers and composition of these four groups will decide Trump’s future political faith. Which group Mitch McConnell chooses to position himself in will also be a deciding factor in the unusual and curious impeachment trial of a former US president no longer sitting in office.

Group 1: The Willing Executioners

There surely are those in the Republican Party such as Senator Mitt Romney and Senator Ben Sasse who cannot wait to give that Yea and the final boot to disgraced former President Trump, and will do that with joy and relief. Both the Utah Senator and the Nebraska Senator may be vying for the leadership spot in the Republican Party themselves but that is not the whole story. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska openly said “I want him out.” This group is unlikely to reach as many as 17 Senators, however, needed for the two thirds Senate majority to convict Trump.

Group 2: The Never Give up on Trumpers

There are also those Republican Senators who will stick with Trump through thick and thin until the end – some out of conviction, but most as someone who cannot afford to alienate the Trump supporter base in their state – a supporter base which is still as strong. 

At least 21 Republican Senators are strongly opposed to voting to convict former President Trump, as reported by Newsweek. They realize that doing so would be a political suicide. Republican voters, on the whole, are unified in their belief that the presidential elections were not fair and Joe Biden did not win legitimately, with 68% of Republican voters holding the belief that the elections were “rigged”. The majority of the Republican Party constituents are Never Give up on Trumpers themselves.

Among them are Senators Cruz and Hawley. Both will fight at all cost a vote which certifies as incitement to violence and insurrection the same rhetoric they both themselves used to incite the Trump crowd. Cruz and Hawley will try to avoid at all cost the legal certification of the same rhetoric as criminal in order to avoid their own removal under the 14th Amendment, as argued already by Senator Manchin and many others.

Senator Ron Johnson even called upon Biden and Pelosi to choose between the Trump impeachment trial and the Biden new cabinet confirmation. Group 2 will fight fierce over the next weeks and you will recognize them by the public rhetoric.

Group 3: I’d really like to but I can’t be on the record for convincing a President of my own party

Then there is a large group of Republican Senators – maybe the largest – who would really like to give that Yea vote and leave Trump behind but they do not wish to go on the record as having voted to convict a US President from their own party. Some of these Senators will share their intention to vote Yea in private or off the record with the media, but when push comes to shove and the final vote, they will be hesitant and in the end will vote Nay. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida falls under Group 3.

Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania is also the illustration of the average Republican Senator right now – someone who said that Trump committed “impeachable offenses” but who is not sure about convicting him through trial, so that probably means a Nay. 

The BBC quoted a New York Time’s estimate from mid-January that as many as 20 Republican Senators are open to voting to convict Trump, but it should be recalled that in the first Trump impeachment trial in 2020, several Republican Senators also shared in private and off the record that they would be willing to convict. After so much discussion, calculations and prognosis, in the end, it was only Senator Mitt Romney who broke ranks on only one of the two impeachment articles, and voted to convict.

The Capitol events, of course, are incomparable to the Ukraine impeachment saga, but it should be accounted for that the trial vote will likely take place sometime in March 2021, or two months after the Capitol events, when most of the tension and high emotion would have subsided and much of American society will be oriented towards “moving forward”. Group 3 will host the majority of Senate Republicans who in the end will decide to let it go. Most of the 21 Republican Senators who already expressed their opposition to convicting Trump actually belong to Group 3 and not Group 2 Never Give up on Trumpers.

Group 4: I am a Never Give up on Trumper but I really want to look like Group 3

And finally, there is the most interesting group of Republican Senators who are secretly a Never Give up on Trumpers but would like to be perceived as belonging to the hesitant and deliberative Group 3 – willing and outraged but unwilling to go all the way on the record to eliminate a former Republican President.

Senator Ted Cruz might move into Group 4 in terms of rhetoric. Never Give up on Trumpers will vote Nay willingly but will try to present themselves as conflicted Group 3 politicians doing it for different reasons.

Which group Mitch McConnel chooses will be the decisive factor in aligning the Senate Republican votes. McConnel himself seems to be a Group 3 Senator who, in the end, is unlikely to rally the rest of the Senators to convict Trump even though McConnel would really like Trump out of the Republican Party, once and for all. The very fact that McConnel is not in a hurry and is in fact extending the cool-off period places him in Group 3. 

Yea voters don’t need time to think about it and look at things. It took House Democrats exactly three days to get it over and done with. McConnel is quoted as willing to give time to “both sides to properly prepare”, allowing former president Trump enjoy due process. But Trump’s legal team will notice quickly that there is not much to prepare for, as they won’t find plenty of legal precedent in the jurisprudence on American Presidents’ incitement to violent insurrection for stopping the democratic certification process on an opponent who is the democratically elected President.

McConnel himself has said that he is “undecided” and that speaks volumes. He is a Group 3 Senate Republican, and with that, Group 3 will describe the mainstream Senate Republicans’ position in the impeachment trial. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer set 8 February as the start of the impeachment trial, pushing earlier McConnel’s time frame. This is when it all starts.

It is my prediction that when all is said and done, there won’t be as many as 17 Senate Republicans to vote to convict former President Trump. Trump will walk away, but not without the political damage he has incurred himself and has also left in American political life.

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Two Ways that Trump Spread Covid-19 in U.S.

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Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour

1. Encouraging infected workers to continue working even if it infects others:

On 12 May 2020, two hundred and twenty five labor organizations signed a letter to Antonin Scalia’s son Eugene Scalia who was Donald Trump’s appointed Secretary of Labor, and it urged his Department to change its policies “that address the standards that apply under the federal U[nemployment] I[insurance] law to determine when workers remain eligible for regular state UI or P[andemic] U[nemployment] A[ssistance] if they leave work or refuse to work due to COVID-19 health and safety concerns.” In more-common language, an economist Jared Bernstein headlined in the Washington Post six days later on May 18th, “The Labor Department is forcing workers back to jobs that could make them sick” and he explained that Scalia’s Department “has issued guidance that virtually ignores health risks and encourages employers to report workers who refuse job offers [while unemployed] so their unemployment payments can be taken away. The agency is busy urging employers to snitch on ‘claimants that have turned down suitable work.’” Trump’s Labor Department ignored the labor-organizations’ letter. Then, a barista headlined at Huffpost on 22 January 2021, “I Work In A Coffee Shop In Montana. Anti-Maskers Have Made My Job Hell.” She complained that the many customers who refused to wear masks were causing her to fear working there — she was blaming those customers, but not Trump. However, Trump and his Labor Secretary were responsible and simply didn’t care about the safety of workers, such as her, and were instead encouraging employers to force these workers to stay on the job, though doing so endangered themselves and their co-workers. Millions of infected workers were infecting others because not to would cause them to become fired and could ultimately force them into homelessness. Maybe the billionaires who funded Trump’s political career profited from such exploitation of their employees, but nationally this policy helped to increase the spreading of Covid-19. Also: since so many of those bottom-of-the-totem-pole employees are Blacks and Hispanics, etc., this Trump policy helped to cause the drastically higher infection-rates that have been reported among such groups.

2. Refusing to deal with the pandemic on a national basis:

On 15 July 2020, the Washington Post headlined “As the coronavirus crisis spins out of control, Trump issues directives — but still no clear plan” and reported that, “health professionals have urged the White House to offer a disciplined and unified national message to help people who are fatigued more than five months into the crisis and resistant to changing social behaviors, such as wearing masks and keeping a distance from others. Trump, for instance, refused to be seen publicly wearing a mask until last weekend, when he sported one during a trip to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. ‘You can get a really strong and eloquent governor who can help at the state level, but it does seem like we need some more national messaging around the fact that for many people, this is the most adversity they’ve faced in their life,’ said Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer with the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.” Every country (such as China, Vietnam, Venezuela, South Korea, Thailand, New Zealand, and Finland) that has been far more successful than America is at having a low number of Covid-19 cases (and deaths) per million residents has dealt with the pandemic on a national and not merely local basis, but all of the worst-performing countries (such as America, which now is at 76,407 “Tot Cases/1M pop”) have not.

It therefore also stands to reason that 

which ranks all 50 states according to how high is the number of Covid-19 infections per million inhabitants, shows (and links to the data proving) that “In 2016, the top 17 [most Covid-infected states] voted for Trump, and the bottom 5 voted for Clinton. All but 3 of the top 24 voted for Trump.” The correlation of high Covid-infection-rate with Trump-voting was astoundingly high. Trump, it seems, gave the high-infection-rate states what they had wanted. But what he gave to America is the highest Covid-19 infection-rate of any nation that has at least 11 million population. It is the 7th-highest Covid-19 infection-rate among all 219 reporting nations. Trump’s policies produced the type of results that had been expected by well-informed people around the world.

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