Trump Jabs Pen Into Mideast Hornet’s Nest

Initiates Relocation Of U.S. Embassy In Israel To Jerusalem

Just about a week ago, President Trump Retweeted 3 rabidly anti-Muslim videos originally posted by a Right-wing hate group. Now he’s taking a more hands-on approach toward advancing his off-kilter world vision. Trump’s power move interpreted as incendiary by America’s friends and foes, both in the Middle East, and around the world. Their arguments, varying in degree of fervor, mostly boil down to this: in taking a hard-line stance, Trump is slamming the door on moderates on all sides, and re-energizing extremists. The Washington Post reports Defense Secretary James Mattis was also very much against it.

Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan warned the move will play right into the hands of terrorist groups and “lead to public outrage in the entire Islamic world, dynamite the ground for peace and ignite new tensions and clashes in our region”. The Islamic militant group Hamas said Trump had opened “the gates of hell”. British Prime Minister Theresa May called Trump’s action “unhelpful”.

Trump nevertheless insists “it’s the right thing do to” and “has to be done”. You can see in the clip below.

But even if you agree it’s “the right thing to do”, it is most certainly does not have to be done. Check that. “It has to be done” only if you want to get innocent people killed.

We are not so cynical to believe that this is Trump’s true endgame. But we predict anyone who steps up to challenge Trump on his Mideast policy will have to do it on the grounds that we need a saner approach. Trump will then attack that person as “weak”, “a loser”, “all talk, not action”, scream “America First” and “Make America Great Again”, and a lot of people will love him for that. Maybe enough to carry him to another victory.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves: Trump said he still wants to do “great deals” with both Israelis and Palestinians, and he’s not choosing sides.

Except his very action consists of totally just choosing a side.


Israeli border forces on patrol in Jerusalem’s Old City


Trump said his new Embassy will be a “magnificent vision of peace,” and stressed he wasn’t making any kind of comment on what future borders might look like. At the same time, he gave no hint of how Palestinians might fit into his vision. We also happen to believe Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of Israel. And another part of Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of Palestine. To us, that would be a vision of peace. Just as an example. (Maybe you disagree with us, that’s fine). But at least give us some idea of what you’re thinking about when you say something like that.

And in case we didn’t understand how deeply Trump despises diplomacy, (we’re convinced he sees “doing deals” as a completely separate thing), he starts the speech and insists several times throughout that “we cannot solve our problems by making the same failed assumptions and repeating the same failed strategies of the past”. That’s fine: we’re all in favor of doing something different. That doesn’t mean you have to show up with a blowtorch. Check that. Unless you want to hasten Armageddon.


A priority for VP Mike Pence too…


One thing Trump’s action and speech accomplishes is it puts the President’s doctrine (or at least what we see as the President’s doctrine) sharply into focus. And it’s this: Punishing the people you hate and who oppose you is more important than rewarding the people you like and  who support you.  (And witnessing that punishment is often reward enough in itself for your supporters).

Trump often refers to his “enemies” and has repeatedly talked about the importance of “screwing” them. In one of his books, he said “you need to get even with people who screw you. You need to screw them back 15 times harder. You do it not only to get the person who messed with you but also to show the others who are watching what will happen to them if they mess with you“.



And That Trump Virus Is Contagious!

Just as Trump’s bullying made it OK in American society to be a bully (or a racist), he’s rubbed off on Congress as well, paving the way for Republicans to launch a stunningly baldfaced and targeted attack on Americans who don’t support their policies.

The $1.5-trillion tax bill will by design will make blue state taxpayers squirm if not suffer, with full approval of the President.

The bill is in the home stretch: the Senate just voted to bring it to conference. The House had done so earlier this week. This means they’ll now get together (Trump calls it “the mixer”) to work out their differences and produce a final version.

One thing that’s on the agenda (although not at the top of the agenda): restoring some State And Local Tax deductions (also known as “SALT”) for people living in high tax (mostly blue) states, who will be slammed hard by the bill. Part of the reason is to make it a little less of a suicide mission for Republicans from California, New Jersey and New York (among others) to hang on to their seats next year. Right now 14 out of 50 of California’s Representatives are Republicans, 5 out of 12 from New Jersey, 9 out of 27 from New York.

Recent analyses by Bloomberg and the New York Times show just how astonishingly the Trump/Republican tax bill slams blue state residents.

Hillary Clinton won 9 or the top 10 states that would be most affected by cutting or ending SALT deductions. (Wisconsin, which Trump barely won, is 10th). At the other end, Trump won 7 of the 10 states that would be least affected. If you look at a chart prepared by the Times, across all states, those who stand to lose the most are all blue.

Whoa! Wait a second! We’ve spent the past few months railing against tax breaks for the rich, and now all of a sudden we’re arguing for them just because we’re talking about rich Democrats? (In fact, Democrats might’ve gone after some of these deductions themselves if they’d been trying to raise money for free college tuition or Medicare for all). And why shouldn’t the fat cats on the coasts pay more in taxes? That would make things fairer, right?

As we’ve pointed out before: it doesn’t. Even with all their fancy deductions, blue state taxpayers pay far more into the federal government than they get back in spending and aid, subsidizing red states to an astonishing degree. But the money’s got to come from somewhere, and these folks are the easiest pickin’s.

Then there’s the other side to it: right now blue states have some flexibility in combating the effects of cuts in federal government programs they don’t agree with: they can raise local taxes to continue those programs anyway, with the impact of that mitigated by the fact that residents can write off the cost on their federal tax returns. No more: forcing blue states to become more red if not in philosophy, in practice, because they’ll no longer have an easy option to raise money to do otherwise.

There are even more extreme cases in smaller measures in the tax bill, that seem almost purely designed to punish: like the new tax on University endowment investments, and tuition credits for grad students. While at the same time attempting to expand tax benefits for students in religious schools, and home schooling. None of those things may make it into the final bill; even if they do, Universities might be able to find workarounds by reclassifying gains and waivers as something else. So why bother putting it in at all? To send a message to those “bastions of liberalism”: we’re coming for you…

Republicans don’t even deny this: Stephen Moore, who’s been a top economic adviser to President Trump telling Bloomberg: “They go after state and local taxes, which weakens public employee unions. They go after university endowments, and universities have become play pens of the left. And getting rid of the mandate is to eventually dismantle Obamacare”. Senator Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee calls it “just one big set of ideological trophies”.

Others blame the one-sidedness on Democrats for not being part of the process, when as we know, Democrats were shut out of the process. We refer you again to this magnificent Tweet/video clip from Montana Democrat John Tester:


Franken Schedules News Conference For This Morning, As Republican National Committee Injects Cash Into Roy Moore’s Campaign

Senator Al Franken’s office pushed back at rumors the Minnesota Democrat would resign today. But they didn’t make it clear whether it’s just that the Senator wants to make the announcement himself, or it’s completely not true.

Meantime, according to a Tweet from Nebraska Republican Senator Ben Sasse, the RNC released $170,000 to help out Roy Moore.

So what’s the difference? Other than the fact that Franken’s a Democrat and isn’t accused of molesting teenage girls? Photos. That’s what got the ball rolling on Franken’s demise, and that’s what would do Moore in too, if there are any floating around out there. None so far, but there are a few days left before the special election next Tuesday.



Lebanon’s President Isn’t Quitting; Foiling Saudi Power Move

We told you about the very strange story of Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri who suddenly resigned while in Saudi Arabia, then remained in that country for weeks, sparking rumors he was being held against his will. Now back in Lebanon, Hariri says he’s staying on. Reuters says Lebanese officials tell them Hariri’s resignation was indeed forced, and he was then effectively put under house arrest until France’s President Macron intervened. Saudi Arabia and Hariri deny this.


France’s President Macron with Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hariri



Gun Law We’ve Been Telling You About Passes In House, But There’s Some Reason For Encouragement

The margin of victory for the “Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act” was fairly slim: 231-198, with 6 Democrats voting for, and 13 Republicans voting against it. That means it could be tough going in the Senate for the NRA’s top priority, where it would need to pick up 8 Democratic votes.

The bill would allow anybody who legal buys a handgun in one state to carry it into any other state, even if the other state has much more restrictive gun laws.




Wildfires Rip Through California Again; This Time Threatening L.A.

The fires caused the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people, threatened tens of thousands of buildings, and closed major highways. And The L.A. Times Reports, buffeted by the Santa Ana winds, the worst may not be over.

Trump, who took weeks to Tweet about Northern California fires earlier this year, was very quick this time in Tweet support for residents and first responders.