Thursday, October 18, 2018

Last Call For Meat The Press, Con't

You know things have gotten bad when the NY Times fully admits in the headline that the Saudis are trial ballooning the naming of a Saudi intelligence official to take the fall for the state-sanctioned murder of Washington Post journalist and Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi.

The rulers of Saudi Arabia are considering blaming a top intelligence official close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, three people with knowledge of the Saudi plans said Thursday.

The plan to assign blame to Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, a high-ranking adviser to the crown prince, would be an extraordinary recognition of the magnitude of international backlash to hit the kingdom since the death of Mr. Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi dissident. A resident of Virginia and contributor to The Washington Post, Mr. Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

Blaming General Assiri could also provide a plausible explanation for the killing and help deflect blame from the crown prince, who American intelligence agencies are increasingly convinced was behind Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Turkish officials have said they possess evidence showing that 15 Saudi agents assassinated and dismembered Mr. Khashoggi in the consulate.

After two weeks of blanket denials and mounting pressure from Turkey and Washington, Saudi Arabia said it would conduct its own investigation to determine who was responsible. 
But even with the investigation still ostensibly underway, the Saudis are already pointing to General Assiri as the culprit, according to the three people familiar with the Saudi plans. People close to the White House have already been briefed and given General Assiri’s name.

Whether that move will be enough to calm the international crisis and what it may mean for Prince Mohammed, the kingdom’s day-to-day ruler, remain to be seen.

It's not going to be, not with coverage like this in full view.  And let's not forget that four of the members of the team that allegedly killed Khashoggi are part of the Crown Prince's security detail.  Of course, the real issue is why Trump is helping cover up the murder, and the answer is that his son-in-law Jared Kushner is neck deep in the mess.

Jared Kushner reportedly told President Donald Trump to stand by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — despite mounting evidence that the royal was involved in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi two weeks ago.

Kushner’s reasoning? International outrage over other incidents, like Saudi Arabia’s bombing of innocent children in Yemen and kidnapping of Lebanon’s prime minister, decreased with time. The scandal over the disappearance of Khashoggi, a US resident and Washington Post writer, would similarly go away, he argued.

Nice guy, huh.  Again, Kushner is convinced that Trump can make this blow over.  Why does he want that so badly?

To a certain extent, Kushner is correct — public attention did shift from the recent Yemen tragedy and Saad Hariri’s kidnapping, although they have since informed the realization that Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS, is a reckless autocrat. But what’s notable here is that Kushner doesn’t want the US to respond to Khashoggi’s alleged murder in any way. He simply wants America to forget the incident ever happened.

That’s perhaps not so surprising. Kushner has cultivated a personal relationship with MBS while serving as senior White House adviser for Middle East affairs. He and the crown prince even text on WhatsApp, an encrypted messaging app. Because of his close ties to the Saudi royal, Kushner has purposely stayed out of the spotlight during the scandal.

But for MBS, the news is another reason to stay in close contact with Trump’s son-in-law. The royal once bragged that Kushner was “in his pocket,” and the New York Times story will likely only add to that perception.

Not a good look for either one of them.  The other person who has a lot of exposure here to the Crown Prince is another this case, our old merc friend, Erik, whose plans to privatize the Afghanistan permawar were sunk by the Afghans themselves right after Khashoggi's disappearance.

It's almost like they knew a man best known for running one of the biggest private merc outfits on earth had done something wrong that ended any hope of negotiations, when we later find out a team of Saudi mercs magically appeared in Turkey to mulch a journalist.

So no, Trump was never going to lay a finger on the Saudis over this, and they'll get the green light to murder more dissidents, because America is ruled by an autocrat.

The Swift-Planing Of Amy McGrath

Whenever a Democratic military veteran runs for federal public office, odds are very good their service record is going to be attacked by Republican liars, especially if the GOP candidate hasn't even done so much as to own a Swiss Army knife.  

It cost John Kerry the White House, and Republicans know it works, so it should come as no surprise that here in Kentucky, retired Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath, trying to unseat Republican Rep. Andy Barr, is running into attacks that outright lie about her time in the military

Democratic congressional candidate Amy McGrath’s military background has been one of her greatest assets in her campaign to represent Kentucky’s Sixth Congressional District.

It was a major feature in her campaign announcement video, which went viral and caught the attention of national donors. It has helped her connect with conservative Democrats in the district. And it’s an attribute she frequently highlights to hammer home her pledge to put country over political party.

But as Election Day nears in her nationally-watched race against U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, some veterans in the 19-county district are accusing McGrath of misrepresenting her role in combat missions as she speaks to voters.

Jim Lucas, an Army veteran from Berea, said he and a group of about six veterans plan to petition the Kentucky Aviation Hall of Fame to have her removed for allegedly misrepresenting her military record in campaign commercials. In particular, Lucas accused McGrath of “stolen valor” for creating the false impression that she piloted F-18 fighter jets into combat.

“We’re not doing this as a political thing,” said Lucas, a registered Republican. “We’re going to continue whether she gets elected or not.”

McGrath, though, has been consistent about her role in the military and careful to say she was the first woman Marine to fly in an F-18 into combat. She served as the back-seat weapons system operator during her 89 combat missions, not as the front-seat pilot. She did later become a front-seat pilot, but never steered an F-18 during a combat mission.

A Herald-Leader review of McGrath’s commercials and many of her public comments found no evidence that she has ever claimed to have piloted an F-18 during combat, though some political groups supporting her and some media reports have gotten it wrong.

“I just think it’s part of this climate where you have to try to tear somebody down and make them seem like someone you can’t trust,” McGrath said Thursday when asked about Lucas’ claims. “I’ve never tried to embellish my record, ever.”

Michael Estorer, who served with McGrath and now lives in Lexington, said everything the McGrath campaign has said about her military service is accurate.

“It is a little bit of a smear campaign,” Estorer said. “People are taking little facts and attacking them to misrepresent her service.”

Perhaps it's because McGrath and Barr are running a dead heat here in the Bluegrass State that would explain this sudden "stolen valor" idiocy, while Barr can claim plausible deniability and say he has nothing to do with the false attacks.

And let's remember, these assholes don't just want to McGrath to lose next month, they want to drive her out of politics for good, they want her erased from the Kentucky Aviation Hall of Fame, and they want to charge her and imprison her under stolen valor laws.

They want her gone, permanently, for daring to challenge Andy Barr.  They want to use her as a warning shot against Democratic military veterans in 2020: if we can do this to the first female Marine fighter pilot, we can do this to anyone.

The Revenge Of The Son Of Austerity Hysteria, Con't

As I predicted time and again, after it became clear that the 2017 GOP tax cut scam was going to skyrocket the deficit and add trillions of the national debt over ten years to give tax breaks to corporations and the wealthiest one percent, Republicans were going to insist Democrats had to cut Social Security and Medicare, and Medicaid and make them take 100% of the blame for it.

We've reached that stage of the con now.

Republicans have removed all doubt: When it comes to the federal deficit, the problem is Medicare and Social Security — not their own tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.

Fresh off the news that the deficit is increasing under President Donald Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Bloomberg News that Congress should target Social Security and Medicare for cuts to address the growing federal debt.

The federal deficit grew by nearly $800 billion over the first fiscal year of Trump’s presidency, during which the Republican Congress passed a tax cut targeted mostly to corporations and the wealthy, which is projected to add more than $1 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years.

The White House and GOP leaders promised that despite all projections to the contrary, the tax cuts would pay for themselves. That hasn’t materialized so far.

But, of course, a growing federal deficit hasn’t caused Republican leaders to reconsider their tax policy. Instead, they argue that entitlement reform — Republican-speak for cuts to popular social safety net programs — is what’s really needed to address the federal deficit.

From McConnell’s interview with Bloomberg this week:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blamed rising federal deficits and debt on a bipartisan unwillingness to contain spending on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and said he sees little chance of a major deficit reduction deal while Republicans control Congress and the White House.

It’s disappointing, but it’s not a Republican problem,” McConnell said Tuesday in an interview with Bloomberg News when asked about the rising deficits and debt. “It’s a bipartisan problem: unwillingness to address the real drivers of the debt by doing anything to adjust those programs to the demographics of America in the future.”

Republicans were actually signaling during the tax debate, before the bill ever passed, that this was their strategy: pass a deficit-exploding tax cut and then argue that the real problem is federal spending on health and retirement benefits.

Massive, massive cuts are coming, and Republicans are going to blame Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and the Democrats when they come. The fact that the GOP tax scam bill exploded the deficit?  Irrelevant, it only serves as proof that Democrats aren't serious about budgets when they refuse to cut spending, and our media will play dumb like they always do.

Even worse, Republicans will simply say "Democrats will raise taxes on tens of millions of middle-class Americans" unless they go along, setting up Trump for his key issue in 2020.  And should the Dems be dumb enough to capitulate, they'll take 100% of the blame, and the Myth of the Fiscally Responsible GOP will continue to be the truth for the majority of voters and pundits.

We've seen this game before, we saw it coming for over a year, and Dems still don't know how to counter it.

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