Thursday, November 9, 2017

Last Call For Mayday In November

Donald Trump's had a bad month or so, with indictments of his former campaign manager and his business partner and a foreign policy adviser cooperating with Mueller to turn states' evidence on his regime.  This week Trump's party got crushed in Virginia and New Jersey and Republicans are retiring in droves from Congress.

But across the pond UK Prime Minister Theresa May isn't exactly having a good November either, and suddenly her government has to be glad that Trump's failures are helping to take May and her massive bungles off the front page.

The saying goes that a week is a long time in politics. That’s all the time it took for May to lose Defence Secretary Michael Fallon in the sexual-harassment scandal rocking Westminster and her international development secretary, Priti Patel, over a stack of revelations about secret meetings with Israeli officials -- including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. To make matters worse, two other senior figures are in hot water. Officials are investigating harassment and pornography allegations against May’s deputy, Damian Green, which he strongly denies. Separately, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson faces calls to resign for a loose comment about a British woman currently in jail in Iran that may lengthen her sentence. 
By Monday afternoon, it was clear that Patel had been running a freelance foreign policy in one of the most sensitive, complex regions in the world. That on its own would under normal circumstances have been enough for her to be fired. On Tuesday morning, May learned from the BBC about a proposal Patel had made to give aid money to the Israeli military yet Patel was still allowed to get onto a plane to Kenya for a scheduled trip.
So when May finally took the plunge it didn’t come across as an act of strength. The question was whether she would fire Patel -- which could be humiliating -- or force a resignation that allowed her minister to leave with more dignity. She chose the latter though it looked a lot like a dismissal. 
Patel was summoned back early, arrived to 10 Downing Street via a back entrance and was kept waiting. Shortly after their 30-minute meeting, May’s office released two letters: Patel’s resignation and May’s acceptance of it as the right decision. 
“This situation demonstrates May’s weakness,” said Nick Anstead, a lecturer in political communication at the London School of Economics. “She is very vulnerable to political events that destabilize her government, because she only has very limited room for sacking and reshuffling ministers.” 
That Patel thought she could sit down with someone as high-profile as Netanyahu without first running the idea past her own prime minister feeds the impression that May has no control over her government. That is a marked change from her first year on the job, when ministers had to get permission from the premier’s office to say anything at all. Her authority, along with the ability to hold the reins, collapsed with June’s election drubbing.

“These type of events play into a broader narrative that the government is weak and the prime minister not in control,” Anstead said. 
Moreover, Patel’s letter contained a hint of menace. The pro-Brexit campaigner said she planned to “take an active role” representing local residents now she’s outside government and to “speak up for our country, our national interests and the great future that Britain has as a free, independent and sovereign nation.”

May is looking far less like the Iron Lady and more like a Monty Python sketch.  Cabinet members running around uncontrolled is something we're used to here stateside, but to see it in London is kind of frightening.  Trump gives us a valid excuse for the dysfunction at least.

What's May's excuse?

The Fulcrum Crumbles In Riyadh, Con't

The fallout from Jared Kushner's latest trip to Saudi Arabia continues to pile up and all indications are that the Saudis have been given a tacit green light to go after Iran's Shi'a Gulf State alliance in full.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman continues to roll up his opposition in Riyadh as he fully consolidates power.

Saudi Arabia's attorney general says at least $100bn (£76bn) has been misused through systemic corruption and embezzlement in recent decades. 
Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb said 199 people were being held for questioning as part of a sweeping anti-corruption drive that began on Saturday night. 
He did not name any of them, but they reportedly include senior princes, ministers and influential businessmen. 
"The evidence for this wrongdoing is very strong," Sheikh Mojeb said. 
He also stressed that normal commercial activity in the kingdom had not been affected by the crackdown, and that only personal bank accounts had been frozen. 
Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb said investigations by the supreme anti-corruption committee, which was formed by royal decree and is headed by 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, were "progressing very quickly". 
He announced that 208 individuals had been called in for questioning so far, and that seven of them had been released without charge. 
"The potential scale of corrupt practices which have been uncovered is very large," the attorney general said. 
"Based on our investigations over the past three years, we estimate that at least $100bn has been misused through systematic corruption and embezzlement over several decades."

Make no mistake, MBS wields the political power now.  What of the military power though?  Well, they're going to be a bit busy right now.

Saudi Arabia has ordered its citizens out of Lebanon amid skyrocketing tensions between their two governments.

A brief statement carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency called on all Saudis living in or visiting Lebanon to depart, and warned against travel to the country.

"Due to the circumstances in the Lebanese Republic, the kingdom asks its citizens who are visiting or residing" in the country to leave it as soon as possible, a Saudi Foreign Ministry source quoted by the agency said
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri shocked his country Saturday when he announced in a televised statement out of Saudi Arabia that he was resigning. He has not been seen in Lebanon since.

He said his country had been taken hostage by the militant group Hezbollah, a partner in his coalition government and a major foe of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia says it considers Hezbollah's participation in the Lebanese government an "act of war" against the kingdom.

Bahrain and Kuwait are issuing similar warning to their citizens: get out of Lebanon now.  The storm is coming and it's going to be a bad one.

Saudi military action against Lebanon to fight Hezbollah will certainly draw in Iran, which is what the Saudis, the Israelis, and the Trump regime want.  That's the point.  Of course, other players in the region will have to be dealt with too.  Syria will need to be resolved, but an upcoming meeting between Trump and Putin in Vietnam will work out those details, the most likely will be the end of the Assad regime with Syria under nominal Russian control.  Yemen too will have to dealt with, but the Saudi vice grip on all entrance to the country by land, sea, and air is not going to be a long-term solution, but it is a short-term one.

The Turks are more than happy to look the other way as long as they get to beat up on the Kurds on their border.  Israel gets the go ahead to flatten what's left of the Palestinian Authority.  Everybody gets what they want out of the deal, including Trump.

It's a race at this point to see who Trump ends up with at war with first, Tehran or Pyongyang.  The truth of what went on in Jared Kushner's meeting with MBS, when it comes out, is going to be shocking.  But make no mistake, an illegitimate American president is now hurtling towards global conflict in order to wash away his domestic problems with blood.

We're very close now to a point of no return.

Cranley Comes Through

Several mayoral contests were settled Tuesday, including Cincinnati, where John Cranley was able to win re-election defeating Yvette Simpson.  The Enquirer's Jason Williams has Cranley's keys:

1. He humbled himself and did something he's never done before. 
Actually, Simpson humbled him in that woeful-turnout primary. That woke the bear, and the next day Cranley began overhauling his campaign. The two weeks afterward were rough. He had to make the tough decision to remove long-time friend and right-hand man Jay Kincaid as campaign manager. Kincaid is a masterful political strategist, the brains behind Cranley's decisive win over Roxanne Qualls in 2013. 
But Kincaid's strength is media messaging, and Cranley needed someone to run a robust door-knocking operation after spending nearly $1 million on TV and radio ads in the primary. The ground game and connecting directly with voters became chic again after Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders did it in the presidential race.

And he did.  Cranley's not a bad guy, even for a moderate Dem, but he understood the issue was turnout, and he turned out the voters.

2. Cranley used one issue to expose Simpson's flaws and define the race. 
Simpson's momentum came to a screeching halt on Aug. 7, the day she surprisingly introduced a motion demanding Children's Hospital hand over millions of dollars to Avondale in exchange for her support of a zoning change on a mega-expansion project.

The skilled politician, Cranley went to work doing what he does best – exploiting his political foes' mistakes. He repeatedly hammered Simpson on the Children's issue all the way until Election Day. Simpson's campaign spiraled downward. She allowed Cranley to define her and the race with the Children's issue.

Cincinnati is pretty proud of Children's Hospital, it's a world-class facility.  But Simpson got smoked on this.  Yes, she was fighting for much-needed neighborhood improvement in Avondale, but it came at the expense of grabbing onto a third rail, voltage be damned.  This is where she really lost the race.

3. Real people had their say.

Cincinnati doesn't live in the Over-the-Rhine bubble. This election proved the so-called progressives remain in the political minority in this town, despite all the hubbub about the streetcar and noise they make in the Facebook echo chamber. 
That vocal minority would have you believe that Simpson was loved and Cranley loathed across the city. Turns out, Simpson's support is probably an inch wide and a mile deep. Meanwhile, Cranley's is a mile wide and an inch deep. 
Overall, Cranley has done more for the everyday citizen. Politics Extra believes this is where his focus on basic government services, keeping the streets safe and giving city union workers raises paid off. More people care about having their streets paved and garbage picked up on time than whether the city has a spiffy Downtown streetcar.

I think Williams is far less correct here.  Cranley did do a lot to piss people off over four years.  He ran specifically on trashing the streetcar project four years ago and won, then ran into Simpson and City Council and the "real people" of Cincinnati, who have made the project a success so far. He picked a lot of stupid fights with City Council and lost them, and was at best neutral in the Ray Tensing trial that saw Sam DuBose's killer go free earlier this year, and he was way in over his head with the mess over Cincy's new police chief.  There was a reason he lost the primary to Simpson in the spring.

Cranley frankly should have lost yesterday too, but Simpson buried herself with the Children's Hospital issue.  That was a fatal mistake, and it gave Cranley the win.

So we'll have a decent mayor instead of a great one.  Cincinnati's seen worse.


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