Sunday, October 27, 2019

Last Call For Warren Terrah, Con't

The man running the resurgent ISIS from the chaos of Syria has killed himself rather than be taken by US special forces as Donald Trump's malignant narcissism manages to infect yet another historic American moment.

President Trump on Sunday announced that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the elusive Islamic State leader, died during a U.S. military operation in Syria, a major breakthrough more than five years after the militant launched a self-proclaimed caliphate that inspired violence worldwide.

“Last night the United States brought the world’s Number One terrorist leader to justice,” Trump said in a televised announcement from the White House. “He was a sick and depraved man, and now he’s gone.”

The president described what he called a “dangerous and daring” nighttime operation by U.S. Special Operations forces in northwestern Syria, which involved firefights and culminated in what he said was a retreat by Baghdadi into a tunnel. There, Baghdadi detonated an explosive vest, killing himself and three of the six children he was believed to have.

The high-risk operation brings a dramatic end to a years-long hunt for the man who spearheaded the Islamic State’s transformation from an underground insurgent band to a powerful quasi-state that straddled two countries and spawned copycat movements across several continents.

Trump said Baghdadi, a longtime militant who was once held in a U.S.-run prison in Iraq, had been tracked over the past two weeks to a compound in Syria’s Idlib province that was laid with tunnels. He said no U.S. personnel died during the operation but that other militants were killed.

The raid comes as the United States scrambles to adjust its posture in Syria in the wake of Trump’s decision to curtail the U.S. military mission there. Trump faced widespread criticism, including from members of his own party, when he declared earlier this month that he would pull out nearly all of the approximately 1,000 troops in Syria amid a Turkish offensive against Syrian Kurdish troops who have been the Pentagon’s main battlefield partner there. But evolving plans now call for a larger residual force that could mean a substantial ongoing campaign.

During his remarks, Trump thanked officials in other nations, including Russia and Turkey, and the Syrian Kurdish forces.


1) Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi was a monstrous killer and now he is dead, and I won't lose a wink of sleep.  Let's get that out of the way first.

2) Trump thanked Russia a lot during his speech Sunday.  An awful lot, actually, and gave them top billing over US forces and intelligence agencies that made this possible.  It was American military and intelligence that made this possible, right?  I mean, this couldn't possibly be that Putin's boys gave up al-Baghdadi in order for Trump to pull out of Syria, you know?

3) He was golfing when the raid went down Saturday afternoon, supposedly.  Trump lackey Dan Bongino tweeted out a "stern-faced generals in the War Room" picture with Trump and the Joint Chiefs and former Obama admin photographer Pete Souza called bullshit on it.

4) Not a single Democratic member of Congress was informed of the raid until hours after it happened.  Not Pelosi, not Schiff, not Schumer.  Petty, through and through, Trump told the Russians before Pelosi, and Mike Pence all but confirmed it on FOX News Sunday this morning that this is the new normal.

5) The reason al-Baghdadi had a resurgent ISIS to work with in Syria and Iraq and Afghanistan is because of Donald Trump.  Oh, and let's remember that Russia said they killed the guy two years ago.

6) Donald Trump is still going to be impeached, even though we're going to hear all this week that the impeachment process has now "failed" with the death of al-Baghdadi and that Democrats should just "move on".  Don't let him do that.

7) ISIS is still out there.

Trump Trades Blows, Con't

With the Kentucky governor's race just nine days away and both Donald Trump and Mike Pence headed here to shore up support for GOP Gov. Matt Bevin, it's important to note that nobody has done more damage to Kentucky's manufacturing sector than Trump himself, whose tariffs are now collapsing the commodities market and closing the state's last few steel mills.

Brenda Deborde cried throughout her 16-hour shift at the steel plant here when she received official notice this August that her job was being cut.

Deborde had hoped President Trump’s tariffs could revive this once-mighty mill on a bank of the Ohio River, which for much of the 20th century formed the center of economic life in this part of Eastern Kentucky.

She and her husband, Matt, had traveled to welcome the president as he went to a rally in nearby Huntington, W.Va., waving their Trump flag and “Make America Great Again” hat to the motorcade from the side of the road.

“We really thought the tariffs were going to turn us around — that things would go back to being the way it was. We thought it could be a kind of saving grace,” said Deborde, 58.

It wasn’t. By the end of this year, she and Matt will lose their jobs at the plant after almost two decades. They aren’t sure what they will do next.

Last year, Trump imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports to try to boost domestic production. It appeared to work, briefly, sending company stock prices higher and leading to more hiring and production.

But that boost now appears short-lived. The industry faces strong head winds threatening to undermine one of the president’s central economic promises ahead of his 2020 reelection campaign.

The stocks of the biggest steel companies — which also rose dramatically when the tariffs first came on — have similarly tumbled over the past year, in some cases by more than 50 percent.

They have been hurt by tepid domestic demand for steel production amid a U.S. manufacturing recession and a global slowdown in economic growth, among other things.

And there are Democrats out here in rural Kentucky who voted for Clinton and prayed the tariffs would save them.

They didn't.

“Everybody here was so excited. I don’t like Trump, but I really thought they would help,” said Kilgore, 48, a union leader who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. “Now, I see they didn’t.”

The steelworkers in Ashland, including several who voted for Clinton, do not blame Trump for the closure of the plant. Most said they were grateful that the White House imposed the tariffs, which they considered long overdue, to stem the oversupply of steel in the market from foreign producers. Several believe Trump should have gone further and issued even stricter levies on steel imports.

But many also said that their experience gave them insight into the limits of tariffs for the average worker. Jack Young, a Trump supporter who has worked for 20 years as a pipe fitter at the plant, will lose his job next month. Young requires medication for several heart conditions that costs $6,000 a month and does not know how he will afford it once his health insurance is terminated.

“The tariffs — we thought they’d bring some life back,” Young said. “But they just raised the price of steel.”

Now the price of steel has collapsed to pre-tariff levels, and is continuing to collapse as the global economy is tipping into recession.  Nucor's new steel plant is now being delayed. AK Steel is going under after decades, finished off by Donald Trump's greed and an economic downturn made possible by a tax cut package last year that gave trillions to the rich and left devastation in its wake for the other 90% of us.

This is what Trump did to Kentucky.

We can help change that in nine days.


Sunday Long Read: The Lost City

Jakarta, Indonesia's capital city, one of the most densely populated places on earth, will soon be a memory.  The seas are rising and in this week's Sunday Long Read Wired's Peter Guest tells us that the city is essentially all but doomed by climate change.

Heading north from the city centre to the coastline, Jakarta seems to be collapsing in slow motion. The Indonesian capital sprawls, its black-glass business district giving way to a low-rise hinterland where the bones of the city jut out; long spines of pale concrete pillars bearing kilometres of knotted overpasses and raised highways. In their shadows are industrial estates in various states of abandonment, stalled construction sites already succumbing to the creep of tropical foliage, sluggish waterways clotted with litter, and thousands upon thousands of houses, from clusters of bare-iron shacks to landed three-storey homes, none the same as its neighbour. 
The chaos runs all the way to the seafront, where waterparks, glossy malls and luxury condos jostle for space with container ports and fishing docks crammed so tight with small boats that from above they look like tangles of rusted wire snagged on the shore.
Some of these docks are now hemmed in by giant walls. At Cilincing – a northeastern suburb of the city made up of scattered fishing communities and industrial ports – five-metre-high concrete pillars have been dropped into the shoreline, supporting a sloping buttress that blocks all view of the sea from the land. Less than 50 metres behind it on the landward side is another wall, constructed less than a decade ago, that is now redundant; between them, fishermen use a placid inlet to tie up and maintain their boats.Twenty kilometres of sea walls have been thrown up around Jakarta Bay in the past three years, along with many more reinforcements along river banks, the first phase of a desperate attempt to fortify the city’s waterlogged northern districts. 
Jakarta, a megacity of 30 million people, is sinking. In places along the coastline the ground has subsided by four metres over the last few decades, meaning that the concrete barricades are the only thing preventing whole communities from being engulfed by the sea. 
Although many coastal cities, from New York to Shanghai, have been forced by the threat of climate change to build high walls to protect themselves, there are few places in the world as vulnerable as Jakarta, where a decades-old problem of land subsidence has intersected with sea level rise caused by global warming, creating an existential threat to the city. 
Such is the concern about Jakarta’s future that the national government is considering bailing out. In April, president Joko Widodo – himself a former governor of the city – announced a public search for a new capital for Indonesia, in no small part because of its environmental problems. 
The city’s new walls have bought it some time, but not much, and possibly not enough. Behind them is an alarming case study in how politicking, greed and vested economic interests can lead to a dangerous inertia – a microcosm of the global failure to address climate change. Whether the city saves itself, or whether it becomes the first megacity lost to environmental catastrophe, will depend on a combination of ground-level social change and engineering works of unprecedented scale to hold back the tide. 
“If we don’t do something, we’re doomed,” says Oswar Mungkasa, the city’s deputy governor. “We will be leaving Jakarta.

Imagine if the entire populations of Texas and Louisiana lived in New Orleans or Houston proper, and trying to come up with a defense plan to save the city and the people from increasingly awful hurricanes and flooding and pollution, requiring a reclamation, defense wall and drainage project that would cost tens of billions.

That's kind of the starting place of where Jakarta was ten years ago, only the first project failed miserably.

Now imagine having to try to salvage it.

Good luck.

Ukraine In The Membrane, Con't

We've known for some time now that the White House knows full well who the whistleblower is in the Ukraine/Giuliani affair and has known for months.  All the Trump and GOP posturing to "unmask" the whistleblower is just that, posturing.  We know this because that's all Republicans in the depositions over the last several weeks have been asking about, in an effort to discredit them.

Republican lawmakers have used the congressional impeachment inquiry to gather information on a CIA employee who filed a whistleblower complaint, press witnesses on their loyalty to President Trump and advance conspiratorial claims that Ukraine was involved in the 2016 election, according to current and former officials involved in the proceedings.

GOP members and staffers have repeatedly raised the name of a person suspected of filing the whistleblower complaint that exposed Trump’s effort to pressure Ukraine to conduct investigations into his political adversaries, officials said.

The Republicans have refrained during hearings from explicitly accusing the individual of filing the explosive complaint with the U.S. intelligence community’s inspector general two months ago, officials said.

But the questions have been interpreted as an attempt “to unmask the whistleblower,” whose identity is shielded under federal law, said several officials with direct knowledge of the depositions. Republicans appear to be seeking ways to discredit the whistleblower as well as other witnesses “by trying to dredge up any information they can,” one official said.

Admitting they know they person's identity is illegal, hence the word games and ridiculous gymnastics, but they know full well who the person is and have for some time.  What they are doing is making it clear to Democrats that the person's identity is compromised, and that it will be revealed sooner or later.  It's witness intimidation.

A Republican staffer disputed assertions that Trump allies are seeking to unmask the whistleblower, arguing that those involved in the impeachment inquiry do not know the person’s identity but have suspicions. A separate senior GOP aide argued that exploring the political leanings of the whistleblower and others testifying before impeachment investigators is a legitimate line of questioning, as their political preferences could taint testimony and findings.

“This is an utterly unfair characterization of how Republicans are using their time in the depositions and advances erroneous facts to benefit Adam Schiff’s partisan effort,” the senior GOP official said in a statement, referring to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.). “Our questions have resulted in the unearthing of material that Democrats want to ignore because they run counter to their impeachment quest.”

The first Republican official also argued that Democrats have been asking leading questions and that GOP members feel it is important to highlight facts they believe will be exculpatory for Trump — particularly regarding suggestions that Trump used U.S. aid to Ukraine as an enticement to obtain a political favor. 
As a result, Democrats contend that Republicans are not using the inquiry to uncover facts about the administration’s interactions with Ukraine. “There’s been zero interest [among the GOP] in actually getting to the conduct of the president,” a Democratic lawmaker said. “It’s not the subject of their questioning at all.”

The GOP laying the groundwork now for the screw-job later is important when the hearings move to the televised stage, perhaps as early as next month.  It's why Democrats are moving away from the whistleblower's testimony being vital in the wake of the recent depositions.  After all, if the dumbest Republican Congressman knows who the person is, it's definitely the worst-kept secret in DC.

But trashing the whistleblower as part of the "Deep State conspiracy" against Dear Leader was always going to be the plan and still is.
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