Saturday, June 6, 2020

Zee Germans Are Nervous

Trump continues to do everything possible to make Vladimir Putin ecstatic, and it's coming at the cost of every other nation on earth, including the US. The latest obvious pro-Russian move: Trump is withdrawing a third of our troops in Germany to punish Chancellor Merkel and the EU.

President Donald Trump’s directive to pull 9,500 troops from Germany hits home hard for friends of America like Edgar Knobloch, whose Bavarian town has been home to U.S. service members for seven decades.

Like Chancellor Angela Merkel, the mayor of Grafenwoehr was caught off guard. It’s the latest sign of the U.S.’s deterioration of ties with a loyal ally, one that not only hosts most of its troops in Europe but also has seen them fuel the local economy.

This medieval town, with a tiny population dwarfed by the size of the American military presence, shows just what a shadow the U.S. has cast over Europe after World War II and what its retreat symbolizes in the eyes of locals and international observers. Another troop cut would signal a further break with a legacy of two generations.

Located near the former East German border, Grafenwoehr is a place where overseas U.S. military infrastructure and community bonds survived the end of the Cold War. Locals celebrate Thanksgiving and enjoy spare ribs. Every year, they turn out by the thousands for the German-American Folk Festival to share beer, bratwurst and country music with the roughly 11,000 U.S. troops based at NATO’s biggest training area in Europe.

“They’re completely integrated here,” Knobloch, 55, said in an interview. “Restaurants are bilingual. There are mixed marriages, mixed families. You often hear from the older members of the community: ‘The Americans liberated us.’”

There hasn’t been much nostalgia between Trump and Merkel, who have clashed repeatedly over trade and Germany’s slow timetable for meeting the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s defense spending target. Last month, Merkel snubbed Trump on his plan to hold an in-person Group of Seven summit in June which he’d like Russian President Vladimir Putin to attend.

While Trump has taken aim at Germany’s economic might, Merkel — the longest-serving G-7 leader after 15 years in power — has stared him down across a broad front, from defending the rules-based global economy to policy disputes such as defense spending. A physicist by training, Merkel also contrasted with Trump in her science-based approach to reopening Germany from its coronavirus lockdown.

Lawmakers and government officials in Berlin criticized Trump’s troop decision, which would cut U.S. forces in Germany by slightly more than a quarter, as a snub.

“These plans demonstrate once again that the Trump administration neglects a central element of leadership: the involvement of alliance partners in the decision-making process,” Johann Wadephul, deputy head of Merkel’s parliamentary caucus, said in an emailed statement.

Trump’s decision and the way it was communicated hint at how much Germany’s relations have cooled with a U.S. president who has publicly questioned NATO’s value. By mid-day Saturday, the German government had no official word from Washington on the drawdown plan.

There's no doubt that the withdrawal is 100% related to Merkel rejecting Trump's ask to give Putin what he wants more than anything: back into the G-7 as the eighth member with his dictatorship given all the legitimacy in the world. Merkel said no, and Putin had juuuuuust the perfect suggestion to Donald if she turned him down, which of course Putin knew she would.  Let's not forget that when Donny was hiding in his bunker earlier this week, the person he called for advice was Vlad himself.

That's where the G-8 idea came from, and this is where the withdrawal idea came from, an idea to remind Germany that Russia is a lousy neighbor with the largest army in Europe still.

Besides, Vlad definitely wants a disgruntled German youth to question why the US is there, and maybe ask why Russia shouldn't be closer.

German neo-Nazis have been getting military-style training at camps run by a far-right Russian terrorist organization, German media reported Friday, in the latest sign of deepening international cooperation between white supremacist networks.

Citing intelligence sources, German news magazine Focus reported that the extremists had attended a camp held near Saint Petersburg, where they were shown how to use weapons and explosives, and received close combat training.

The training camp, known as Partizan, is run by the Russian Imperial Movement (RIM), an ultranationalist, quasi-paramilitary organization which claims to be fighting for the “predominance of the white race.”

The U.S. government added RIM to its list of specially designated global terrorist groups in April — the first time it had taken such action against a white supremacist organization — saying it had “provided paramilitary-style training to white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Europe.”

The Russian government considers RIM to be extremist, but has not banned the group.

The German extremists who attended the camp belonged to the youth wings of two fringe German political parties widely considered to be neo-Nazi movements: the National Democratic Party and The Third Path. The Focus report did not provide further details of their attendance at the camp, but said that extremists from Sweden and Finland had previously attended the camps and gone on to fight in pro-separatist militias in eastern Ukraine.

Experts told VICE News that the German attendance at the camp highlighted the growing cooperation between white supremacist groups internationally, as they sought to build relationships with allies in other countries.

“It signals that RIM is a critical node in the transnational white supremacy extremist movement,” said Mollie Saltskog, intelligence analyst at The Soufan Group. “RIM is going beyond networking and ideology, and is actually providing paramilitary training to individuals who adhere to this violent ideology."

Vlad is playing a very long game here and he figures he'll be around for a long, long time in order to see it through. And at the end of that game?

Well, let's just say a reconstituted Soviet Union is the least of our worries.

Hickenlooper's Huge Hiccup

Colorado Democratic candidate and former governor John Hickenlooper has been nailed on ethics violations while in office as the state's chief executive in 2018, and that's not good news on the "retke the Senate" front for Team Blue.

Former Gov. John Hickenlooper violated state ethics laws when he allowed large corporations to cover the cost of a private jet trip to Connecticut, a Maserati limousine ride, and several ritzy dinners in 2018, the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission ruled Friday.

The commission considered six allegations against Hickenlooper. The Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate was found to have not violated Amendment 41, the state’s ban on gifts to public officials, in four instances.

Hickenlooper testified for several hours Friday morning after the commission found him to be in contempt Thursday for refusing to comply with a subpoena. His attorney had argued that the subpoena was a violation of his due process rights, in part because the video conferencing program is glitchy, but Friday’s testimony occurred without technical difficulty.

The commission agreed unanimously that that Hickenlooper violated the gift ban in June 2018 when he attended secretive Bilderberg meetings in Italy. He paid a flat fee of $1,500 that he said he believed covered the cost of a hotel stay, limousine transportation, meals and more. The event’s sponsor, Fiat-Chrysler, has said the $1,500 fee did not include the limousine rides.

“At that time, I felt I was paying the full cost and complying in every way with Amendment 41,” Hickenlooper testified before the vote Friday.

The commission voted 4-1 to find Hickenlooper violated Amendment 41 when he accepted a flight and exclusive high-end dinners from MDC Holdings in March 2018.

“I’m concerned that if we allow this kind of special, privately financed treatment for elected officials, it just accentuates the cynicism that led to Amendment 41,” Commissioner Bill Leone said before that vote.

The commission will meet June 12 to consider what penalties to place on Hickenlooper for the two ethics violations, as well as his contempt citation.

Four of the six allegations were discarded due to exceptions to the ban for gifts from friends and gifts on special occasions. The commission voted 5-0 that Hickenlooper’s acceptance of a flight from billionaire friend Ken Tuchman was not a violation. It also unanimously determined flights on his chief of staff’s private jet on two occasions were not violations. 

Now, the good news for Democrats is that the Senate primary is at the end of the month on June 30. Hickenlooper has a massive poll lead in both the general election against Cory Gardner and in the primary against Democrat Andrew Romanoff, the former State Speaker of the House. Romanoff and Hicklooper face off on Tuesday in a debate.

How the ethics violations will affect Hickenlooper's chances in the primary and in the general, I don't know. I do know however that if this were a Republican, I'd be predicting their demise in this climate.

Having said that, the Democrats still have a number of paths to 51 seats (or 50 + Biden's VP) to take back the Senate, even without Gardner's seat. It just becomes a lot easier with a win here.

We'll see how he answers this week.

Black Lives Still Matter, Con't

As Saturday protests around the country get started, it's important to note that the Trump regime is doing everything it can to make the price of protesting too high to pay.

Federal agents on Friday morning released boxes of cloth masks that Black Lives Matter organizers mailed to cities across the county to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 during nationwide demonstrations against police brutality.

Four boxes of the masks were shipped to Washington, St. Louis, New York City and Minneapolis on Wednesday afternoon, and were supposed to arrive in each city by Thursday. But until Friday morning, the boxes of 500 masks apiece that read “stop killing Black people” and “defund police” never left Oakland, California, because they were seized by the government. Federal agents with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service were involved with the seizure.

“These packages were originally set aside for further investigation because there were indications that they contained non-mailable matter,” the U.S. Postal Inspection Service said in a statement to HuffPost on Friday afternoon. “Once Postal Inspectors confirmed the contents of the packages were in fact mailable, they were immediately placed back in the mail stream to be delivered at their intended destinations without further delay.”

The USPIS, responding to a follow-up question about what kind of non-mailable material they suspected the packages contained, said that “specific investigative methods used by Inspectors are sensitive and must remain confidential, but they are effective in helping to locate non-mailable matter of all kinds.”

Mark Jamison, a retired postmaster, told HuffPost that he suspects that an outside law enforcement organization was involved in the investigation, which the U.S. Postal Service Inspection Service denied. The U.S. Postal Service logs mail for law enforcement, and Jamison believes at least one of the organizers who was set to receive a package of masks was of interest to law enforcement.

A spokeswoman for the Movement for Black Lives, which paid for the masks, called the USPIS statement “insufficient and a cause for concern.”

“Cloth masks are mailable items. And they admit clearly that they received faulty intelligence about what was in the packages,” said Chelsea Fuller. “So the question remains: which agency moved to use the Postal Service as a domestic surveillance tool?”

Yes, the Trump regime is now acting like a regime in earnest, complete with secret police under Trump's direct control, exposed by leakers.

A leaked Trump administration document details the federal law enforcement and military personnel squaring off against protesters in Washington, D.C., including a 1,300-strong force currently deployed to the south side of the White House.
Thousands of federal law enforcement and military personnel have been called to Washington to respond to growing demonstrations sparked by the death of George Floyd, an African-American man who was killed by Minneapolis police on May 25, but the Trump administration has so far refused to disclose many of the details about who is policing the nation’s capital.

An internal report obtained by Yahoo News shows which agencies are involved.

The show of force outside the White House is a task force operation that includes U.S. Secret Service, National Guard, Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Park Police, according to the internal Department of Homeland Security report, dated June 4. They aren’t the only ones in town: Border Patrol, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Transportation Security Administration, National Guard, Coast Guard, Federal Protective Service and more have been called in, says the document, which details DHS component deployments to Washington and elsewhere around the country in response to protests over the death of Floyd.

Thousands more — from at least a dozen federal agencies or divisions — have been deployed across the capital region and to cities big and small across the U.S. where peaceful protests have been held or are expected.

Elite SWAT teams from the Border Patrol and sniper-trained units from ICE have also descended upon Washington. TSA’s air marshals arrived too, and three of the agency’s “VIPR teams,” which have previously faced criticism for not coordinating well with local law enforcement. Eight Coast Guard investigators were deputized by the Department of Justice upon arrival in Washington, though it remains unclear how they are being deployed.

You don't deploy snipers against protestors unless your goal is specifically to kill.

And will Mark Esper talk to Congress?  No.

It's a regime in reality now, not just a name I've been using for more then three years.

Actually, it was a regime in reality three years ago.
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