Democracy Has Prevailed.

January 31, 2020

The Fix Is In (As If We Didn't Already Know This)

The US Senate (formerly known as "The World's Greatest Deliberative Body") did this a few minutes ago:
The Senate voted on Friday to block the consideration of additional witnesses and documents in President Trump’s impeachment trial, as Republicans shut down a push by Democrats to bring in new evidence and cleared the way for a swift acquittal in the coming days.
Every Republican but two (Romney and Collins) voted to block.

The "new evidence" was the first-hand, eye-witness account of former NSA John Bolton.

This is not a trial that will discern the truth. This "trial" was planned from the beginning to let Trump off for his crimes against The Constitution.

Found On Twitter A Few Minutes Ago (A Message To Senator Toomey)

Senator Toomey, can you follow this argument from Rick Wilson?
Every Republican senator needs to know some key, invariable facts:
The moment they vote to deny witnesses, they seal their own political fate.

The blow won’t just come from the Democrats or from outside groups.

It will come from Trump himself.

Because the moment you deny witnesses, Trump will know his exoneration is inevitable.

And he will start bragging about it.

He will start talking about it. He will tweet about it.

And then as the evidence emerges in dribs and drabs, and as the facts you covered up become public, [you] own them. You’re on the whole story. He’ll laugh and let you all burn to the ground.

He’ll let you take the political damage, absorb all the radiation, and to lose more seats.

More importantly, like any criminal who forces someone to become an accomplice, he’ll know that you’re morally weak and mentally unable to ever resist him.

He’s an abuser, the Ike Turner of presidents, and no matter how many times you beg [he's] still going to knock you around.

Finally, a favorite trope in advertising is — rightly — the “X cast the deciding vote.”

Y’all are looking at 3 votes for witnesses, tops.

You’re the deciding vote.
This is specifically about the "witness" vote.

But it's also about acquittal. 

January 30, 2020

The Trib's VERY Subtle Reporting Of The Poll Data

Let's take a break from the overt, slow-motion Senatorial coverup being perpetrated in DC and take a look, instead, at this piece by Deb Erdley over at the Tribune-Review.

Keep an eye out for the subtle skewing of the data.

The frame of the entire piece is found in the headline:

Trump support edges up in Pennsylvania poll as impeachment continues 

And the first paragraph:
President Trump has grown stronger with Pennsylvania voters despite ongoing impeachment proceedings, a poll finds.
The next few paragraphs answer the question of which poll:
A majority of the 628 registered Pennsylvania voters who responded to a Jan. 20-26 Franklin & Marshall Poll said it is time for a change in the White House. Still, 38% of them said President Trump is doing an “excellent” or “good” job as president. That’s a 3% increase from his 35% favorability rating three months earlier.

And 41% said he is doing well enough to be reelected, an increase of 4% from October.
So far all about Trump and how his support "edges up" and "grown stronger" despite impeachment, right?

Let's go take a look at the poll to see the numbers in context. What's the context of that first percentage (38%)?

The data is found in the "Job Performance" section of the poll (pg 7):
About two in five (38%) registered voters in Pennsylvania believes President Trump is doing an “excellent” or “good” job as president, which is slightly higher than his October Franklin & Marshall College Poll rating.
So far, so good. But what about the percentage who thought otherwise? Isn't that number just as important?

For that info we need to go to the "RatePres" table (pg 25) which breaks the 38% down to Excellent - 21% and Good - 17%. (21 + 17 = 38). On the other hand, that very same table tells us that 49% (which would be a full 11% more than 38%) of Pennsylvanians think that Trump is doing a poor job.

Where is that in Erdley's reporting?

If you add the "fair job" percentage (12%) to that you get a whopping 61% of polled Pennsylvanians who think Donald Trump is doing a fair to poor job.*

I realize the piece is about the change in approval ratings since the last poll. The last poll had Trump at 35% Good + Excellent rating against a 54% Poor rating. So while there is a shift up of 3% in the positive numbers and a shift down of 5% in the negative, it has to be seen in reference to the fact that half of Pennsylvania voters think that  Trump is doing a poor job.


Inching up to 38% from 35% doesn't mean much in comparison, does it?

Go back and read the headline and the first paragraph. It's all true but it hits you somewhat differently now, doesn't it?

Subtle skewing of the data.

Then there's this from the third paragraph:
And 41% said he is doing well enough to be reelected, an increase of 4% from October.
This is from the poll's REPRES table (pg 25). The very next line tells us the percentage of Pennsylvanians who think that "it's time for a change." And that's 57%.

Where is that in Erdley's reporting?

For that, you'll have to go way down in the ninth paragraph, nestled in right after a quotation from a fervid Trump supporter.

In the Franklin and Marshall report the info is in the same sentence:
Two in five (41%) registered voters believe President Trump has done a good enough job to deserve re-election, while three in five (57%) voters say it is time for a change.
In the Trib reporting of that report, those numbers are separated by 6 paragraphs.

In order to emphasize the notion that Trump's numbers are getting stronger in Pennsylvania, they de-emphasize the context of how unpopular he is in Pennsylvania.

Subtle skewing of the data.

See how it works?

* - I'm separating these out because I am not sure if Franklin and Marshal consider "Fair" to be a good thing or a neutral thing or a bad thing. I am thinking that as there are two "positive" ratings (Good and Excellent) there should be two "negative" ratings - but Fair as an adjective isn't really analogous to a "negative good", so I'm stumped.

January 27, 2020

Senator Pat Toomey, When Will He See The Need To Subpoena Bolton?

A few days ago, Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey discussed the criteria needed to call witnesses in the impeachment trial of Donald J Trump:
But his bar for allowing any outside testimony remains as high as his bar for removing a president from office. He doesn’t see an “automatic presumption” that there must be witnesses in the impeachment trial, arguing that hearing from those individuals should be used to resolve any key disputed facts.

“The criteria is not, does the witness have something interesting to say,” Toomey told Pennsylvania reporters during an interview Friday morning in his Capitol Hill office. “The criteria is, are they likely to be able to shed definitive light on a disputed issue that is so central to this case that the resolution of it could change my final conclusion?”
He also complained that the House managers, while praising their organization and discipline, were "highly repetitive."

This weekend, the New York Times published this:
President Trump told his national security adviser in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens, according to an unpublished manuscript by the former adviser, John R. Bolton.

The president’s statement as described by Mr. Bolton could undercut a key element of his impeachment defense: that the holdup in aid was separate from Mr. Trump’s requests that Ukraine announce investigations into his perceived enemies, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter Biden, who had worked for a Ukrainian energy firm while his father was in office.
The Washington Post also reported this weekend that:
Charles Cooper, a lawyer for Bolton, said he submitted the manuscript to the National Security Council’s records management division on Dec. 30 for a standard review process to examine potentially classified information. Cooper said they believed that the book manuscript did not include any classified material and that its contents would not be shared with officials outside that review process.
December 30 is twelve days after the House vote to impeach Trump. The night of that vote, Senator Mitch McConnell said this on Fox "News":
Everything I do during this, I’m coordinating with White House Counsel. There will be no difference between the President’s position and our position as to how to handle this[.]
Senator Toomey, is this enough for you?  Here's a witness (former National Security Advisor John Bolton, a first-hand, eye-witness) who can shed light on a key element of Trump's defense: that the decision to uphold the aid was separate from Mr. Trump’s requests that Ukraine announce investigations into the Bidens.

Don't you think he should be heard by the full Senate?

Since Majority Leader McConnell has stated that there's no difference between his position and the White House's position on dealing with the impeachment trial, does this mean that Trump's defense team has had access to the contents of Bolton's book, especially since Trump has already gloated that they "have all the material"? 

How can this possibly be the "impartial justice" you took an oath to uphold?

I'm asking as a constituent.

January 24, 2020

Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, Right-Wing Impeachment Distractor

This morning, Rep. Guy Reschenthaler tweeted this:
Wow. There's a lot to unpack.

Let's start in the middle and work our way out, shall we? Fox "News" talking head Trish Regan is appalled that some:
...liberal ex-CIA attorney is now accusing President Trump of HOMICIDE for killing Iranian terrorist general Solemani!
This part of the story is, in fact, true.

In her article at the Daily Beast, ex-CIA attorney Vicki Divoll writes as such:
In bragging that he ordered a successful hit on Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, President Trump has admitted to killing a senior government official of a sovereign state, Iran, while he was traveling in another sovereign state, Iraq. On its face, his conduct and intent satisfy the elements of premeditated murder under Section 1116 of Title 18 of the United States Criminal Code, "Murder or manslaughter of foreign officials, official guests, or internationally protected persons."
If you were curious, you can find Section 1116 of Title 18  here. Opens with this:
Whoever kills or attempts to kill a foreign official, official guest, or internationally protected person shall be punished as provided under sections 1111, 1112, and 1113 of this title.
In this case, Solemani was a "internationally protected person" and the law defines that term as:
...any other representative, officer, employee, or agent of the United States Government, a foreign government, or international organization who at the time and place concerned is entitled pursuant to international law to special protection against attack upon his person...
I'm not a lawyer, but if I am reading the law correctly and despite the obvious blood on his hands, Solemani certainly fit that definition of a protected person entitled to protection against attack.

It's the law. And I am sorry, Rep. Reschenthaler, it's not ridiculous.

On the other hand, you and your party defend a man for whom the term "rule of law" has utterly no meaning.

Now let's back out of that to Guy's opening:
Solemani was taking the pallets of cash that Obama had sent him as part of that bunk nuclear deal...
There it is. Those mythological Obama "pallets of cash" that the GOP likes to reference (but not explain) whenever it's cornered.

I'll let Reuters explain this, again:
The United States and Iran on Sunday settled a longstanding claim at the Hague, releasing to Tehran $400 million in funds frozen since 1981 plus $1.3 billion in interest, the State Department said.

The funds were part of a trust fund once used by Iran to purchase military equipment from the United States but which was tied up for decades in litigation at the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal.
Yes, Solemani was a beast among men, no question. But assassination is against the law.

The ends do not justify the means.

Nor should they justify lying to the American People (as you did with those "pallets of cash"), Rep. Reschenthaler.

January 23, 2020

From Stephen Colbert, Last Night

Last night, speaking of Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) Stephen Colbert said:
It was gratifying to see someone taking the constitutional responsibility of their office seriously.

He laid out the case against the president clearly, passionately, cogently, and I believe, courageously.

Because whether or not President Trump is removed from office, history will not forgive those who looked the other way at his abuses or forget those who stepped in the breach at this moment of crisis.
History will not forgive those who looked the other way.

January 22, 2020

Message To Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA)

Senator, CNN reported today:
The Senate early Wednesday morning approved rules for the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on a party-line vote that delays the question of whether the Senate should subpoena witnesses and documents until later in the trial.

The rules resolution from Senate Majority Mitch McConnell was approved 53-47 after Republicans defeated a series of amendments from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on the opening day of the bitterly fought impeachment trial. Schumer proposed 11 amendments seeking to subpoena a trove of documents from the Trump administration and witnesses like acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton, but the amendments were thwarted almost entirely by the same party-line vote, 53-47.
You voted with your party (the 53) each time.

You're participating in a cover-up, Senator. You know that, right?

You took an oath to "do impartial justice" and yet you're voting for rules designed to shield the president from Constitutional oversight.

You're participating in a cover-up.


Senator, have you seen the video of Trump bragging about withholding material from the impeachment trial?

Here it is:

You're participating in a cover-up, Senator.

January 21, 2020

Senator Pat Toomey On McConnell's NEW Impeachment Rules

Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey released the following statement regarding the upcoming Senate trial on the impeachment of Donald Trump:
The impeachment of any president is an extraordinary event and I take my role in the Senate process very seriously," said Senator Toomey. "The Senate should conduct a fair trial consistent with past precedent. We will allow House managers to make their case, the President's lawyers to make their defense, and senators to pose questions. At the conclusion of these presentations, the Senate can then decide what, if any, further steps are necessary." [Emphasis added.]
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has released legislation outlining the rules for that impeachment trial that the Senate will debate.

Senator Toomey, these rules are not consistent with past precedent. In fact, they openly stack the deck in favor of the impeached Donald Trump. McConnell's rules are, however, consistent with his promise of "total coordination" with the White House during the trial

An aside, Senator Toomey: how is this in any way the "impartial justice" that you took an oath to uphold?

The NYTimes is reporting how these new rules differ from the Clinton rules your majority leader promised:
Like in the Clinton trial, the Democratic House impeachment managers and Mr. Trump’s defense lawyers will have up to 24 hours to argue their respective cases for and against conviction on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. But in 1999, the Senate imposed no additional limit on how the time was used. Mr. McConnell’s proposal states that each side much complete its work within two days, beginning as early as Wednesday.
When the Clinton trial opened, the Senate “admitted into evidence,” printed and shared with senators all records generated by the House impeachment inquiry into Mr. Clinton. Not so this time.

Though the House’s evidence from the Trump impeachment inquiry would still be printed and shared with senators, it would only be formally considered by the Senate as part of its official record if a majority of senators voted to do so. That vote could only take place after the Senate decided whether to call witnesses and seek additional documents — that is, as the trial moves toward conclusion.
As expected, the draft resolution does not incorporate Democratic demands that the trial guarantee witness testimony or requests for new documents. This was also the case in the Clinton trial, but Mr. McConnell’s proposal still differs slightly.

It says that after senators conclude their questioning, they will not immediately entertain motions to call individual witnesses or documents. Instead, they will decide first whether they want to consider new evidence at all. Only if a majority of senators agree to do so will the managers and prosecutors be allowed to propose and argue for specific witnesses or documents, each of which would then be subject to an additional vote.
The Times opened its piece on McConnell's rule changes with this:
For weeks, Senator Mitch McConnell sought to deflect charges that he was trying to stack the deck in favor of President Trump in his impeachment trial by repeating that he was merely replicating the Senate’s only modern precedent: the 1999 trial of President Bill Clinton.

“What was good enough for President Clinton in an impeachment trial should have been good enough for President Trump,” he told reporters this month, as Democrats pressed him to include a new guarantee for witnesses and documents. “And all we are doing here is saying we are going to get started in exactly the same way that 100 senators agreed to 20 years ago.”
Senator, Mitch McConnell promised what you're calling for, "a fair trial consistent with past precedent" but what he delivered was not.

I'll state it outright, Senator Toomey, if you go along with McConnell's cover-up, you'll be forever tainted by Trump's impeachment.

January 19, 2020

Meanwhile, Outside...

From the scientists at NOAA:
The year 2019 was the second warmest year in the 140-year record, with a global land and ocean surface temperature departure from average of +0.95°C (+1.71°F). This value is only 0.04°C (0.07°F) less than the record high value of +0.99°C (+1.78°F) set in 2016 and 0.02°C (0.04°F) higher than the now third highest value set in 2015 (+0.93°C / +1.67°F). The five warmest years in the 1880–2019 record have all occurred since 2015, while nine of the 10 warmest years have occurred since 2005. The year 1998 currently ranks as the 10 warmest year on record. The year 2019 marks the 43rd consecutive year (since 1977) with global land and ocean temperatures, at least nominally, above the 20th century average.
The global annual temperature has increased at an average rate of 0.07°C (0.13°F) per decade since 1880 and over twice that rate (+0.18°C / +0.32°F) since 1981.
But here in Pennsylvania, the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee is chaired by a prominent climate science denier, Daryl Metcalfe.

Longtime fans of this blog will know of darling Daryl by his many appearances here.

As recently as last month, Metcalfe described climate science as, "the same unsettled Chicken Little fear-mongering regarding ‘man-made’ climate change."

Did you know that there's a petition to Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai calling on Metcalfe's removal as chair of that committee?

Well, there is.

No matter what Daryl Metcalfe says, it's still getting warmer out there.

January 16, 2020

This Is The Oath Senator Pat Toomey Took

This happened a few minutes ago:
In a ceremony that has happened only twice before in the nation’s history, Chief Justice Roberts took an oath that dates to 1798.

The oath was administered by Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa: “Do you solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, president of the United States, now pending, you will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws: So help me God.”

Chief Justice Roberts said: “I do.”

He then delivered it to the senators themselves, asking them to stand while they made their vow.

The senators were then called in groups of four to sign the oath book.
And here is Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey signing the book after taking the oath:

We already know, by their previous assertions, that Senators McConnell and Graham have already broken the oath.

We'll see if Toomey keeps his oath to do "impartial justice" or not.

January 14, 2020

Um, Senator Toomey? It's WRONG To Mislead Your Constituents Like This

On January 13 at about 1:30 PM I received a blast email from Senator Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania's junior Senator, a republican.

In it, I found this curious passage:
Last month alone, Soleimani oversaw attacks that injured several American soldiers and killed an American contractor. He also worked with a terrorist group in Iraq to attack our embassy in Baghdad. Coupling these events with intelligence that another attack against Americans was imminent, President Trump was right to take decisive action. [Emphasis added.]
The important word here is "imminent" and it means "happening very soon."

In International Law, it's my understanding that, the prevailing criteria for self-defense in the face of an imminent threat is an attack that is:
instant, overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation.
I was sent the above from Senator Toomey on a Monday, the previous Friday, Politico reported that:
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted Friday that Qassem Soleimani posed an "imminent threat" to U.S. interests in the Middle East, sparring with reporters who questioned him on the nature of the intelligence that prompted the killing of Tehran's chief military commander.

"We had specific information on an imminent threat, and those threats from him included attacks on U.S. embassies. Period. Full stop," Pompeo told reporters at a morning White House briefing.

The secretary's certainty before the press corps appeared to run counter to his remarks in a Fox News interview Thursday night, when he told host Laura Ingraham that Soleimani was plotting a "series of imminent attacks," but added, "We don't know precisely when and we don't know precisely where, but it was real." [Emphasis added.]
Let's say outright that not knowing precisely when and not knowing precisely where are, in fact, precisely not the definition of "imminent."

Senator, if an attack is not imminent, then the response is not self-defense and in your lockstep loyalty to Donald Trump in this regard, you're misleading your constituents.

January 10, 2020

Fact-Checking Trump's White House Page

I thought I'd try my hand at fact-checking (or, in the event of a lie of omission by Trump's PR team,  "reality framing") parts of

When reading through his bio page, I found this interesting paragraph:
On November 8, 2016, Mr. Trump was elected President in the largest Electoral College landslide for a Republican in 28 years. Mr. Trump won more than 2,600 counties nationwide, the most since President Ronald Reagan in 1984. And he received the votes of more than 62 million Americans, the most ever for a Republican candidate. These voters, in delivering a truly national victory and historic moment, rallied behind Mr. Trump’s commitment to rebuilding our country and disrupting the political status quo that had failed to deliver results.
The last sentence is more or less nonsense (how do they know the motivations for all those voters?) so I'll ignore it. It's the next couple that require some serious "reality framing."

On November 8, 2016, Mr. Trump was elected President in the largest Electoral College landslide for a Republican in 28 years.
You'll notice the word "landslide" used to describe the Electoral College win. How many electoral votes did Trump get?

The didn't say, so I will - Trump won 304 to Clinton's 227. This out of 538 electoral votes.

To reality frame this, in 2012 Obama won 332 electoral votes to Romney's 206 and in 2008 he won 365 to McCain's 173. If Trump's 304 electoral votes constitute a "landslide" to the Donnie and his Trumpers, what does Obama's 332 or 365 constitute? Gotta be a bigger landslide, right?

Then there's the curious addition of the phrase "for a Republican in 28 years" tacked on to the end.

What does that mean exactly?

It means they have to go all the way back to 1988 to find a bigger "landslide" in electoral votes to better Trump's flaccid 304 (conveniently hopping over both of W Bush's electoral college numbers).  By the way, in 1988 George W Bush beat Mike Dukakis with what could be safely defined as a "landslide" - 426 electoral votes to Dukakis' 111.

But even then that pales in comparison to Reagan's definite landslide in 1984 when he won 525 to Walter Mondale's 13 or Nixon's just as definite landslide in 1972 when he won by a similar count of 520 to McGovern's 17.

Those last two, my friends, were landslides. The fact that Trump is trying to pass off 304 as a "landslide" is an insult to your intelligence.

The next sentence:
Mr. Trump won more than 2,600 counties nationwide, the most since President Ronald Reagan in 1984.
Is more PR nonsense as "counties" don't actually vote.  Voters vote.

Which brings us to our next sentence:
And he received the votes of more than 62 million Americans, the most ever for a Republican candidate.
Ah, but not the most ever for a Democratic candidate, is it?  That would be Trump's opponent, Hillary Clinton who received almost 3 million more votes than our current (and forever impeached) resident of the White House.

But let's dig deeper into the Trump's deflection here. Trump's PR team wants you to forget that the size of the US population is growing. So in raw numbers, the latest winner will probably always get more votes than the last winner. That's not really much of an accomplishment.

But what about as a percentage of voters? Or of the total population?

Much different story.

Trump's 62 million was only about 46% of the total number of votes cast (Clinton's 65 million constituted about 48%).

As a percentage of the US population in 2016, however, it's only about 19.25% of the whole. As a percentage of the total population Clinton's 65 million is about 20.38 % of the whole - something to think about, I suppose.

By contrast, Romney's nearly 61 million votes in 2012 constitute about 47% of the total number cast (a slightly higher percentage than Trump's) and also about 19.41 % of the US population (also a slightly higher percentage than Trump's).

In fact, as a percentage of the entire US population, more people voted for John McCain than voted for Donald Trump (about 19.71%).

So Trump's claim of "most ever [votes] for a Republican candidate" is, when adjusted for population growth, a complete and utter lie.

And this is just one paragraph from the entire White House website.

January 9, 2020

Whenever Donald Trump Speaks, He's Lying.

From his January 8 remarks:
Iran’s hostilities substantially increased after the foolish Iran nuclear deal was signed in 2013, and they were given $150 billion, not to mention $1.8 billion in cash.
So how much of this was actually, um, true?

Let's take a look.

The "foolish Iran nuclear deal" that Trump usually mentions is the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (or JCPOA) which was signed on July 14, 2015  - not 2013.

What was signed in 2013 was actually just an interim agreement put in place while the JCPOA was being negotiated. It was called the Joint Plan of Action or the Geneva Interim Agreement and it contained this:
The first step would be time-bound, with a duration of 6 months, and renewable by mutual consent, during which all parties will work to maintain a constructive atmosphere for negotiations in good faith.
Hmm. That would be negotiations for the JCPOA - a subsequent agreement. So it's a different thing, isn't it?

A small point, perhaps, but shouldn't we expect the President of the United States of America to at least get the date right??

Then there's the money.

This is a lie Trump often repeats. Here's the truth about the "$150 billion" Trump mentioned:
It was Iran’s money, frozen in international financial institutions around the world because of sanctions intended to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions. For instance, many of the funds were held in banks in Asia, including China and India, as well as Turkey. Many of the countries received waivers to buy Iranian oil and gas during the sanctions but placed the payments in escrow-style accounts that remained off-limits to Iran. The Islamic Republic also transferred assets to Asian banks from Europe in anticipation of financial sanctions.

On top of that, Trump’s repeated use of the $150 billion figure is off-base. That was an upper-range estimate, but the Treasury Department said much of it was not liquid. Once Iran fulfills other obligations, it would have about $55 billion left, Treasury said.
And then what about that $1.7 billion?

That was a settlement for the return of Iranian money plus interest. From Reuters:
The United States and Iran on Sunday settled a longstanding claim at the Hague, releasing to Tehran $400 million in funds frozen since 1981 plus $1.3 billion in interest, the State Department said.

The funds were part of a trust fund once used by Iran to purchase military equipment from the United States but which was tied up for decades in litigation at the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal.
And some bullet points from AP News:
  • The $1.8 (actually $1.7 billion) was a debt owed to Iran, which bought military equipment from the U.S. that it never received because relations ruptured when the shah was overthrown in 1979.
  • The debt was in international arbitration for years. As part of that, Iran paid settlements of more than $2.5 billion to U.S. citizens and businesses.
  • $400 million, representing the principal and held in a U.S. government trust fund, was paid in cash and flown to Tehran on a cargo plane, which gave rise to Trump’s dramatic accounts of money stuffed in barrels or boxes and delivered in the dead of night.
And then there's this from The Congressional Research Service:
On January 17, 2016(the day after the JCPOA took effect), the United States announced it had settled with Iran for FMS cases involving weaponry the Shah’s government was paying for but that was not completed and delivered to Iran when the Shah fell. Iran deposited its payments into a DoD-managed “Iran FMS Trust Fund,” and, after 1990, the Fund had a balance of about $400 million. In 1990, $200 million was paid from the Fund to Iran to settle some FMS cases. Under the 2016 settlement, the United States sent Iran the $400 million balance in the Fund, plus $1.3 billion in accrued interest, paid from the Department of the Treasury’s “Judgment Fund.” In order not to violate U.S. regulations barring direct U.S. dollar transfers to Iranian banks, the funds were remitted to Iran in late January and early February 2016 in foreign hard currency from the central banks of the Netherlands and of Switzerland.
Considering all these stubborn facts, the answer to my opening question would be:


January 4, 2020

And We're Being Lied To. Again (Trump's "Evidence" Supporting His Attack)

Take a look at this tweet from Rukmini Callimachi, NYTimes ISIS and al-Qaeda Correspondent:
1. I’ve had a chance to check in with sources, including two US officials who had intelligence briefings after the strike on Suleimani. Here is what I’ve learned. According to them, the evidence suggesting there was to be an imminent attack on American targets is “razor thin”.

2. In fact the evidence pointing to that came as three discrete facts: a) A pattern of travel showing Suleimani was in Syria, Lebanon & Iraq to meet with Shia proxies known to have an offensive position to the US. (As one source said that’s just “business as usual” for Suleimani)

3. More intriguing was b) information indicating Suleimani sought the Supreme Leader’s approval for an operation. He was told to come to Tehran for consultation and further guidance, suggesting the operation was a big deal - but again this could be anything.

4. And finally, a) and b) were read in the context of c) Iran’s increasingly bellicose position towards American interests in Iraq, including the attack that killed a U.S. contractor and the recent protest outside the American embassy. 5. But as one source put it a) + b) + c) is hardly evidence of an imminent attack on American interests that could kill hundreds, as the White House has since claimed. The official describes the reading of the intelligence as an illogical leap.

6. One official described the planning for the strike as chaotic. The official says that following the attack on an Iraqi base which killed an American contractor circa Dec. 27, Trump was presented a menu of options for how to retaliate. Killing Suleimani was the “far out option”

7. Trump chose a more moderate option which involved the Dec. 29 strikes on the positions of an Iranian-backed militia. Then came the protest at the gates of the US embassy in Baghdad:
Trump Aides Call U.S. Strikes on Iraq and Syria 'Successful,' Warn of Potential Further Action U.S. officials said on Sunday that air strikes in Iraq and Syria against an Iran-backed militia group were successful, but warned that "additional actions" may still be taken in the region to defend …
8. It was after the embassy protests that the president, according to one US official, chose the Suleimani option, but the problem at that point in time is that American intelligence did not know his precise whereabouts. They scrambled to locate him, says the official.

9. According to the official, the strike on Suleimani was pulled together so quickly that initially the US was not sure PMF leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis was in the convoy. He was also killed and is also viewed as an Iranian proxy:
10. Since the strike, Iran has convened its national security chiefs. Chatter intercepted by American intelligence indicates they’re considering a range of options. Cyberattacks, attacks on oil facilities and American personnel and diplomatic outposts have all been cited so far.

11. But among the “menu options” that I had not heard before were: (1) kidnapping and execution of American citizens. (This might explain why the State Department has ordered the evacuation of all US citizens in Iraq, not just government and embassy employees).
12. Another is attacks on American diplomatic and military outposts not just in Iraq, Lebanon and Syria, but as far afield as UAE and Bahrain. The official I spoke to was particularly concerned for American troops stationed in Iraq, some of whom are co-located with Shia militias

13. How does this impact the war against ISIS? I turned to @Mikeknightsiraq for insight. He’s studied Iraq since the 1990s. What he told me is that months before the strike that killed Suleimani, the tensions with Iran had already degraded America’s ability to fight ISIS in Iraq:

14. In 2019, America has been denied airspace and access to operations in Iraq to go after ISIS at the behest of Iran-backed groups. The US has also been told to stop communicating with Sunni tribes. These are important setbacks that have already weakened the US’ posture in Iraq

15. “It’s all been downhill,” @Mikeknightsiraq told me, in terms of America’s access to the ISIS battlespace in recent months due to Iranian pressure on Iraqi officials. One upshot? US special operations forces have been on the offensive in Diyala, Nineveh and Kirkuk provinces

16. A likely outcome of the recent strike is that small, out-of-the-way outposts for special operations forces will be deemed too vulnerable and will be eliminated. Fighting ISIS is no longer the priority if the outer wall of the US embassy is being attacked.

17. Before I go back to the pool let me just say the obvious: No one’s trying to downplay Suleimani’s crimes. The question is why now? His whereabouts have been known before. His resume of killing-by-proxy is not a secret. Hard to decouple his killing from the impeachment saga.

Trump is lying. Again.

My First Post of 2020

And it's an unrolled tweet from Mikel Jollett:
For those of you who didn’t live through the invasion of Iraq, here is what is about to happen:

1. There will be a MASSIVE propaganda push (by Republicans) to frame this act of war as a moral necessity and to act like anyone who opposes it is working for “the enemy.”

2. The propaganda push will include enormous appeals to American militarism disguised as patriotism: flag pins, flyovers, reverent cries to “support the troops,” as if the greatest support you can offer the troops isn’t to keep them from dying for no good reason.

3. Over time, this vague appeal to patriotism and militarism will start to have a specific aim, an invasion, bombings, the takeover of oil fields, the support of proxy wars. These aims will magically align with the financial interests of multi-national corporations.

4. The people in harm's way -- innocent civilians in Iran, mostly -- will be framed and/or dehumanized as "the enemy." This will include everything from racial slurs to endless talking points about their "blood thirst" their "hatred of freedom and Americans." It's utter bullshit.

5. When the bombs start to drop, all of the reporting will be about the small number of US troop casualties.
For example, most Americans know roughly 4,000 US troops died in Iraq.

What most Americans don't know is over 200,000 Iraqi CIVILIANS were killed.
6. This horror too, this murder of children, of families, the bombing of weddings & birthdays, this destruction of entire regions, will be swept up under the guise of American militarism (disguised as patriotism), of "supporting our troops," who are "fighting for our freedom."

7. In the end, and there will be an end -- this isn't the beginning of World War III, this is asymmetrical slaughter -- the vast number of dead will be people who don't even know why the war was waged, they will be mostly young, innocent and brown-skinned. That is the ugly truth.

8. And even the US troops -- most of whom signed up out of a genuine desire to protect their country -- they will be abandoned too as the people who waged the war, who made such big promises of "support for the troops" will CUT veterans medical care, forget the dead and move on.

9. And the only people who will have benefitted will be those massive multi-national corporations -- oil and weapons manufacturers mostly -- who rushed in to profit off the death of all those innocent brown-skinned children lying in the rubble.

10. A couple more things:
The media (especially cable news) LOVES a war. They love the spectacle, the drama. It means big profits. It means eyeballs on screens. It makes stars of their anchors.

They will ask the wrong questions, they will follow militaristic talking points.
11. Cable news will try to EMPOWER the warmongers, by accepting rumors of impending harm to Americans as real news, by making stars of the "brutal enemies" handed to them by the Republican propaganda machine. You can practically see them salivate over the possibility for profit.

12. What will get lost in all this bickering and drama and tragedy and spectacle is the fact that all of this was AVOIDABLE.

That Trump inherited a reigned-in Iran, that he set in motion an escalation to war because he thought it would benefit HIM