Friday, September 20, 2019

Last Call For Wag The Dog, Con't

The effort to get Donald Trump's pressuring of Ukraine's government to go after Joe Biden off the front page of the news happened with a quickness, didn't it?

Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced Friday that U.S. air defense forces will be sent to Saudi Arabia. 
“The president has approved the deployment of U.S. forces, which will be defensive in nature,” Esper said at the Pentagon. 
The announcement is a response to last Saturday’s attack on two major oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, which has been blamed on Iran. Saudi officials have said the strike was conducted with explosive drones and cruise missiles, and U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo described it as an “act of war.” 
Esper said the weapons were “Iranian produced and were not launched from Yemen,” where Iranian-backed militants had originally taken responsibility for it. “All indications are, Iran was responsible for the attack.”

Iran has denied launching the attack. 
President Trump was presented with military options earlier Friday. He has been under pressure from some hawkish Republicans to aggressively respond to Iran, but he has been reluctant to pursue military action. 
“The easiest thing I can do, like I could do it right in here, would say: Go ahead, folks, go do it,” Trump said in the Oval Office on Friday. “And that would be a very bad day for Iran.” 
He added, “It’s all set to go, but I’m not looking to do that if I can.” 
Friday’s announcement comes days before Trump attends the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

If this all seems like 2003 again, that's because it is.  We'll be in a shooting war with Iran well before the elections.

Another Day In Gunmerica, Con't

Gun manufacturer Colt has been around for centuries, the iconic Connecticut-based maker of the AR-15 rifle says it will suspend, at least for now, civilian sales of its rifles because Americans have too many of the damn things, and sales are off.

Gun-maker Colt is suspending its production of rifles for the civilian market including the popular AR-15, the company said Thursday in a shift it attributed to changes in consumer demand and a market already saturated with similar weapons.

The company said it will focus instead on fulfilling contracts with military and police customers for rifles.

“The fact of the matter is that over the last few years, the market for modern sporting rifles has experienced significant excess manufacturing capacity,” Colt’s chief executive officer, Dennis Veilleux, said in a written statement. “Given this level of manufacturing capacity, we believe there is adequate supply for modern sporting rifles for the foreseeable future.”

Veilleux said the company, which emerged from bankruptcy in 2016, remains committed to the Second Amendment. He said the company is expanding its lines of pistols and revolvers.
Despite a national debate on gun control, Colt’s decision seems driven by business considerations rather than politics, said Adam Winkler, a gun policy expert at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law.

FBI statistics show more than 2.3 million people applied for background checks to purchase guns in August, up from just over 1.8 million in July. Those applications, the best available statistic from tracking gun sales, has have been rising steadily, with a slight decline after Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, something call the “Trump slump.”

Gun sales usually go up when guy buyers feel their access to such weapons are being threatened, Winkler said.

“Given these sales and the history of Colt being a completely disorganized, dysfunctional company that goes into bankruptcy and can’t keep anything going properly, my assumption is that this is a business decision that is being driven by their own business problems,” he said.

Still, Winkler said the company’s decision risks alienating and angering its remaining customer base.

“We’ve seen in the past that when gun manufacturers are viewed to have given in to gun-safety advocates, gun owners will boycott them and really hurt their business,” he said. “If they think a company like Colt is disrespecting their identity or giving in to the other side, Colt’s likely going to see serious damage to its other firearms brands too.”

Colt is getting out of the rifle business because there's too much competition, and also hey, these things are expensive when the economy is getting worse.  Whether anyone will believe the problem is the "law-abiding firearms owner" who needs that seventh AR-15 in pink for their 12-year-old daughter, well, that's a different story.

On the other hand, imagine being one of the oldest, most legendary gunsmiths in America in the 2010's when tens of millions of firearms were bought because of a scary black man as president and being so bad at it that you still go bankrupt once and possibly now twice.

Spies Like Us, Con't

Yesterday I offered up five possible foreign leaders that could have been the subject of Donald Trump's whistleblower-triggering "promise" that's dominated the news for the last cycle or so.  Now the Washington Post is confirming that it was indeed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky who was the winning contestant, and yes, this all goes back to Trump threatening to cut off military aid to the country unless they offered up "evidence" on Joe Biden's son Hunter.

A whistleblower complaint about President Trump made by an intelligence official centers on Ukraine, according to two people familiar with the matter, which has set off a struggle between Congress and the executive branch.

The complaint involved communications with a foreign leader and a “promise” that Trump made, which was so alarming that a U.S. intelligence official who had worked at the White House went to the inspector general of the intelligence community, two former U.S. officials said.

Two and a half weeks before the complaint was filed, Trump spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, a comedian and political newcomer who was elected in a landslide in May.

That call is already under investigation by House Democrats who are examining whether Trump and his attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani sought to manipulate the Ukrainian government into helping Trump’s reelection campaign. Lawmakers have demanded a full transcript and a list of participants on the call.

A White House spokesperson declined to comment.

The Democrats’ investigation was launched earlier this month, before revelations that an intelligence official had lodged a complaint with the inspector general. The Washington Post first reported on Wednesday that the complaint had to do with a “promise” that Trump made when communicating with a foreign leader. 
On Thursday, the inspector general testified behind closed doors to members of the House Intelligence Committee about the whistleblower’s complaint.

Over the course of three hours, Michael Atkinson repeatedly declined to discuss with members the content of the complaint, saying he was not authorized to do so.

He and the members spent much of their time discussing the process Atkinson followed, the statute governing his investigation of the complaint and the nature of an “urgent concern” that he believed it represented, according to a person familiar with the briefing, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Now we don't know for sure this all involves Rudy's adventures in Kiev, but the timeframe is certainly right, and well, this is Trump we're talking about here. We go back a couple weeks to when the Ukraine pressure story broke.

The strong-arming of Mr. Zelensky was openly reported to the New York Times last month by Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, who said he had met in Madrid with a close associate of the Ukrainian leader and urged that the new government restart an investigation of Mr. Biden and his son. Hunter Biden served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company, while Joe Biden, as vice president, urged the dismissal of Ukraine’s top prosecutor, who investigated the firm.

Mr. Giuliani also wants a probe of claims that revelations of payments by a Ukrainian political party to Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, were part of a plot to wreck Mr. Trump’s candidacy. In other words, Trump associates want the Ukrainian government to prove that Ukraine improperly acted against Mr. Trump in the 2016 election; but they also want it to meddle in his favor for 2020.

Mr. Zelensky is incapable of delivering on either demand. The revelations about Mr. Manafort came from a Ukrainian legislator who was fighting for domestic reform, not Hillary Clinton. And the Biden case, which has already been investigated by Ukrainian authorities, is bogus on its face. The former vice president was one of a host of senior Western officials who pressed for the dismissal of the prosecutor, who was accused of blocking anti-corruption measures.

So again, the "Biden scandal" is nothing, completely made up, and Trump sent Rudy to lean on Ukraine's newbie president in order to get him to come up with "the goods".  Whatever Trump said to Zelensky was so shocking that again, somebody filed a whistleblower complaint knowing full well the House Judiciary would see it.

Something like "If you help me bury Joe Biden, I'll give you X, if you don't I promise you'll regret it."  Hell, who knows what Trump promised.  Probably super illegal though. Probably involving Putin, who you know, illegally annexed the Crimea region of Ukraine a few years back.

Stay tuned, this one's not going away anytime soon.


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