TBR News September 6, 2018

Sep 06 2018

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Isaiah 40:3-8 

Washington, D.C. September 5, 2018:”We will be out of the country for four days. Ed.”




The Table of Contents

  • Donald Trump has said 2291 false things as U.S. president: No. 15
  • Top Trump aide: White House ‘resistance’ explored removing president from office
  • The madness is pouring out of the White House now, for all to see
  • Donald Trump calls for NYT to reveal identity of op-ed author
  • Donald Trump’s politics tops list of Germans’ greatest fears
  • Florida Has Been Stealing Votes From Black People Since the Civil War. That Could Change in November.
  • Israel will not allow other countries to obtain precision weapons: PM
  • Treat MbS as the War Criminal He Is
  • Power of Siberia: Russia’s mega gas pipeline to China almost complete
  • Despite Trump’s Threats, Nord Stream 2 Is Very Much Still On

 Donald Trump has said 2291 false things as U.S. president: No. 15

August 8, 2018

by Daniel Dale, Washington Bureau Chief

The Toronto Star, Canada

The Star is keeping track of every false claim U.S. President Donald Trump has made since his inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017. Why? Historians say there has never been such a constant liar in the Oval Office. We think dishonesty should be challenged. We think inaccurate information should be corrected

If Trump is a serial liar, why call this a list of “false claims,” not lies? You can read our detailed explanation here. The short answer is that we can’t be sure that each and every one was intentional. In some cases, he may have been confused or ignorant. What we know, objectively, is that he was not teling the truth.

Last updated: Aug 8, 2018



  • Jun 9, 2017

“That (the Russia controversy) was an excuse by the Democrats who lost an election that some people think they shouldn’t have lost, because it’s almost impossible for the Democrats to lose the Electoral College, as you know.”

Source: Joint press conference with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis

in fact: It is not “almost impossible” for Democrats to lose presidential elections. Six of the last nine presidents have been Republicans — and since the 1870s, every elected Republican president except for George W. Bush and Richard Nixon (in 1968) has won a bigger share of the Electoral College than Trump did.

Trump has repeated this claim 17 times


“When I approved the Keystone pipeline I said, where was the pipe made? Unfortunately, they had purchased a lot of it, but I put a little clause at the bottom — you want to build a pipeline in this country, buy American steel and let it be fabricated here. Very simple little clause written in hand, but it does the trick.”

Source: Speech on regulatory relief

in fact: This is misleading at best. Trump creates the impression that he added a clause requiring made-in-America steel to the bottom of his executive order approving the Keystone XL pipeline. In fact, he issued a separate executive order — and Keystone was quickly granted an exemption.

Trump has repeated this claim 5 times


  • Jun 12, 2017

“Many bills; I guess over 34 bills that Congress signed. A Supreme Court justice who’s going to be a great one…Many other things. We’ve achieved tremendous success…at a just-about-record-setting pace.”

Source: Remarks at Cabinet meeting

in fact: Even when you exclude Franklin D. Roosevelt, as Trump did in this speech, Trump’s pace is not “just-about-record-setting.” According to data compiled by the Washington Post, not only Roosevelt but Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton had all passed more bills by this point in their terms. If you subtract resolutions passed under the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress a short window to overturn new federal regulations, Trump’s pace is also behind Barack Obama’s.

Trump has repeated this claim 19 times


“I recently returned from a trip overseas that included deals for more than $350 billion worth of military and economic investment in the United States. These deals will bring many thousands of jobs to our country and, in fact, will bring millions of jobs ultimately…”

Source: Remarks at Cabinet meeting

in fact: The economic agreements Trump concluded on his nine-day trip to the Middle East and Europe will undoubtedly create some jobs, but there is no evidence that they might even possibly create hundreds of thousands, let alone millions. Most of the U.S. companies involved did not offer specific numbers; the Washington Post noted that “the only new jobs that have been announced will be in Saudi Arabia, where Lockheed Martin will employ 450 workers to manufacture Black Hawk helicopters.” And the “$350 billion” figure is also questionable; attempting to do the math, the New York Times could not figure out how the administration came up with this figure.

Trump has repeated this claim 2 times


“Great success, including MS-13. They’re being thrown out in record numbers and rapidly. And they’re being depleted. They’ll all be gone pretty soon.”

Source: Remarks at Cabinet meeting

in fact: It is not currently possible to figure out whether Trump is correct about “record numbers” of MS-13 gang members being deported, but one part of Trump’s claim is clearly incorrect: “They’ll all be gone pretty soon.” MS-13 was founded in Los Angeles, and many of its members are American citizens. Absent any other Trump comments on MS-13, we might give him the benefit of the doubt here — it could be argued that he was referring only to deporting immigrant members — but he has made a consistent effort to falsely depict the gang as a foreign entity rather than an American creation.


“That’s a very long process also (getting presidential appointees confirmed), including ethics committee, which has become very difficult to deal with.”

Source: Remarks at Cabinet meeting

in fact: The House ethics committee is not involved in the appointment process; Trump was actually referring to the Office of Government Ethics. The Associated Press reports that the office has been “moving faster on his nominations than it did under Obama,” vetting appointees “in an average of 26 days, compared with 32 days in Obama’s first year” even though Trump’s picks have more complicated finances to look into.


  • Jun 13, 2017

“2 million more people just dropped out of ObamaCare. It is in a death spiral.”

Source: Twitter

in fact: The decisions of these two million people don’t show that Obamacare is in a death spiral. Here’s what happened. Trump was referring to a government report that showed that 1.9 million people hadn’t paid the initial premiums required to actually obtain the Obamacare health insurance plans they’d signed up for earlier in the year. But the numbers were similar in 2015 (1.5 million) and 2016 (1.6 million) — even though, as the Washington Post points out, this year’s report was calculated in a different way that makes the numbers look worse than usual. Further, surveys show that more than half of people who sign up and then don’t pay have changed their minds because they have obtained insurance through their employers, not because they are dissatisfied with Obamacare.


“I was also really thrilled, last week — and it had a lot to do with even their opening ceremony — where, in Pennsylvania, they’re opening a brand new coal mine. That’s the first coal mine that’s opened in this country in a long time. It’s brand new. Many of them are being reopened, but this is a brand new mine. And that hasn’t happened for many, many years.”

Source: Remarks at lunch with members of Congress

in fact: Coal mine openings are rare, but it is false that no mines have opened “for many, many years”; one opened just in December in West Virginia.

Trump has repeated this claim 4 times


“We passed and signed 38 pieces of legislation, which nobody likes to talk about. I think probably seldom has any president and administration done more or had more success so early on.”

Source: Remarks at lunch with members of Congress

in fact: Trump has not had the most accomplished early presidency of all time, nor is he achieving a rare level of early activity. While “had more success” is subjective, “done more” can be measured — and Trump appears about average. According to data compiled by the Washington Post, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton all passed more bills by this point in their terms. If you subtract resolutions passed under the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress a short window to overturn new federal regulations, Trump’s pace is also behind Barack Obama’s.

Trump has repeated this claim 19 times


“Their premiums went up to levels that nobody thought even possible.”

Source: Remarks at lunch with members of Congress

in fact: Health insurance premiums have continued to rise in the Obamacare era. But they have not gone up to levels thought impossible: premiums have actually increased less sharply under Obamacare than they did before Obamacare. In addition, the Washington Post notes that premium increases under Obamacare have occurred at about the rate the Congressional Budget Office predicted when it forecast the impact of the law.


“It’s been exactly — so in three days it’s exactly three years. So we’re very happy about that.”

Source: Remarks at lunch with members of Congress

in fact: Trump announced his candidacy two years prior, not three years.



Top Trump aide: White House ‘resistance’ explored removing president from office

Anonymous Trump official claims staffers are working to frustrate parts of the president’s agenda and ‘his worst inclinations’

September 5, 2018

by Ben Jacobs in Washington

The Guardian

An internal White House resistance is working against Donald Trump to “frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations” until he leaves – or can be removed from – office, according to an anonymous account written by a current Trump administration official.

The op-ed, published in the New York Times on Wednesday, represents a shocking critique of Trump and is without precedent in modern American history. The anonymous author describes Trump as amoral, “anti-trade and anti-democratic” and prone to making “half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions”.

The writer claims aides had explored the possibility of removing Trump from office via the 25th amendment, a complex constitutional mechanism to allow for the replacement of a president who is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office”, but had decided against it.

“So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until – one way or another – it’s over,” the author writes.

In contrast to Trump’s Democratic critics, the author makes clear that “ours is not the popular ‘resistance’ of the left”, but a coalition that wants to administration to flourish.

“We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous,” the author writes. However, they describe a cabal of “Trump appointees [who] have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office”.

The author praises their efforts as “heroic” as they attempt to “keep bad decisions contained to the West Wing” and thwart Trump’s “erratic behavior”. They also claimed the administration’s achievements had included some “bright spots” such as “effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more”.

Trump responded to the article at the White House late on Wednesday, deriding it as “anonymous, meaning gutless” and describing the author as “some anonymous source within the administration probably who is failing and probably here for all the wrong reasons”. He went on to call the New York Times “failing” and insisted “they don’t like Donald Trump and I don’t like them because they’re very dishonest people.”

In a tweet on Wednesday evening, Trump went further and simply asked “TREASON?”

An official statement from the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, said: “Nearly 62 million people voted for President Donald J Trump in 2016, earning him 306 Electoral College votes – versus 232 for his opponent. None of them voted for a gutless, anonymous source to the failing New York Times. We are disappointed, but not surprised, that the paper chose to publish this pathetic, reckless, and selfish op-ed … This is just another example of the liberal media’s concerted effort to discredit the president.”

Sanders went on to add: “The individual behind this piece has chosen to deceive, rather than support, the duly elected president of the United States. He is not putting country first, but putting himself and his ego ahead of the will of the American people. This coward should do the right thing and resign.”

One former White House official said they were flabbergasted by the op-ed. “I used to laugh when certain Trump supporters would fret about anti-Trump ‘sleeper cells’ within the government,” said the former White House aide. “But I can’t come up with a better term than that to describe the author of the NYT op-ed.”

Sebastian Gorka, the controversial former White House aide, told the Guardian: “If this were 1917 or 1944 this would count as treason of the highest order.”

The op-ed comes only a day after excerpts from the veteran journalist Bob Woodward’s book ‘Fear’ were published in the Washington Post, detailing stinging criticisms from a number of current and former senior administration officials against Trump.

However, in contrast to Woodward, whose books peeling back the curtain into White House decisions have been a fixture of American politics for decades, the op-ed represents a direct challenge to Trump from within his own administration.

The op-ed was unusually published as an anonymous submission by the New York Times, which described the author as “a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardized by its disclosure”.

A spokesperson for the New York Times referred the Guardian to the editor’s note published with the piece and declined to comment further.



The madness is pouring out of the White House now, for all to see

An anonymous New York Times op-ed by a senior Trump administration official and an explosive new book reveal just how bad things are around the US president

September 6, 2018

by Richard Wolffe

The Guardian

That scratching sound you can hear are the rats snatching their bags – and what’s left of their reputation – before scampering off their pirate president’s ship. It’s only slightly surprising the panic has set in before they even reached the half-way point on their voyage towards his promised treasure.

Perhaps it was the sight of the captain’s personal lawyer admitting to several five-year felonies that got them worried. Or perhaps it was the thought of a Democratic House firing subpoenas at them from the Cannon office building.

Either way, the sad excuses on public display this week are more self-incriminating than self-glorifying.

Let’s start with the bombshell anonymous op-ed in the New York Times, where a senior administration official claims to be part of a secret cabal trying to protect the nation – if not the world – from the worst impulses of the sociopathic man-child purporting to be the commander-in-chief.

Tell us something we don’t know. Actually, first tell us how long you’ve been experiencing these messiah delusions.

“We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous,” Mr or Ms Anonymous wrote. “But we believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.”

No doubt there were functionaries around Mussolini who believed the Italian trains had never been so punctual. But Il Duce was also – how best to put it? – detrimental to the health of the republic.

If you really believe your boss is a threat to the constitution which you’ve taken an oath to protect, perhaps you should consider quitting or going public. As in: going on Capitol Hill to hold a press conference to urge impeachment.

In this regard, and only in this regard, our anonymous whistleblower has handed the crazy boss a degree of righteousness indignation.

“If the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist,” tweeted the madman in the attic, “the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!”

Donald, we feel your pain, albeit briefly. Your internal enemies are indeed gutless, and if you feel better putting that in ALL CAPS, that’s fine. Let it out.

But that bit about turning people over to you for national security reasons is kind of the point here. If you’ll allow us to summarize the GUTLESS person’s arguments: you are fundamentally a threat to democracy and national security yourself. You are indeed, as your lawyers have pointed out repeatedly, your own worst witness.

This much we know from this week’s other bombshell in the shape of Bob Woodward’s latest book. Woodward has cornered the panicked Trump rats into screeching about all the ways they prevented World War Three, or a massive trade war, by ignoring the ranting boss or snatching papers off his desk.

Frankly this telenovela is too far-fetched for primetime. Surely our very stable genius is faintly aware that his own officials have not yet declared war on our allies or assassinated the Syrian dictator. Then again, he does watch Fox News all day – or sometimes the Masters – so perhaps he isn’t up to speed on current affairs.

All of this might be funny if it weren’t so serious. Gary Cohn, the president’s first chief economic adviser, was one of those paper-stealers trying to save the republic. Right up to the point where his boss said all those nice things about neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, and Cohn threatened to quit. He was reportedly shaken that his own daughter found a swastika on the door of her college dorm room.

You know what’s as scary as a swastika on your daughter’s door? Being forcibly separated from your infant children as you legally seek asylum. This happened thousands of times, Mr Cohn, creating hundreds of orphans because your co-workers can’t even trace the deported parents. You know how that happens? Because your neo-Nazi sympathizing boss has hired actual white supremacists to work on immigration policy.

There is a consistency to the awfulness of this week’s gut-spilling revelations from the the Trump White House.

First, Donald Trump is a crazy loon who is endangering the entire world. Don’t take my word for it. This is according to the Republican political appointees who know him best and work with him every day: in other words, not “the deep state” or any other of Sean Hannity’s imaginary freaks.

Mr or Ms GUTLESS describes Trump’s decisions as “half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless,” while chief of staff John Kelly says Trump is “an idiot” living in a place called “Crazytown”. This revelation led to the priceless statement from Kelly where he had to deny calling the president an idiot.

Somewhere in Texas, former secretary of state Rex Tillerson is swirling a glass of bourbon muttering that he lost his job for calling Trump a moron.

Second, Trump’s staffers are enabling the very horrors they claim to hate, while grandiosely pretending to be doing the opposite.

Mr or Ms GUTLESS says there were “early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th amendment” in what he imagines is a clear sign they can distinguish reality from reality TV.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Trump Cabinet: please know that you will not be accepted into the next edition of Profiles in Courage for your early whispers. If you truly believe the president is incapacitated, you should perhaps consider raising your voice to at least conversational level, if you’re not inclined to bellow from the mountaintops. Library rules are inoperative at this point.

Given the weight of evidence, even the most diehard Trump defenders are now conceding the obvious, by signing up to the GUTLESS gang’s self-promotion. Brit Hume, a Fox News veteran, let the cat out of the bag when he tweeted that it was a “good thing” they were restraining Trump “from his most reckless impulses”.

This is how the pirate ship Trump eventually sinks to the ocean’s floor. You can fool some of Fox News’s viewers all of the time, and you can fool all of them some of the time.

But no fool wants to drown with the captain we all know is plain crazy.


Donald Trump calls for NYT to reveal identity of op-ed author

September 6, 2018

Al Jazeera

An op-ed in the New York Times claims members of the Trump administration are working to undermine his ‘worst’ policies.

US President Donald Trump has slammed an opinion piece in The New York Times in a series of tweets, and demanded the publication to reveal the author’s identity for national security purposes.

The op-ed was written by an anonymous senior administration official who claimed to be part of a “resistance” working “from within” to thwart Trump’s “worst inclinations”.

The president tweeted out the word “TREASON?” followed by: “I’m draining the Swamp, and the Swamp is trying to fight back. Don’t worry, we will win!”

He also appeared at an unrelated event on Wednesday at the White House, and lashed out at the Times for publishing the op-ed.

“They don’t like Donald Trump and I don’t like them,” he said of the newspaper.

Trump has been frustrated by the incessant leaking of information to the press within his own administration by anonymous White House aides.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called on the “coward” who wrote the piece to “do the right thing and resign”.

In a statement, Sanders called the op-ed “pathetic, reckless, and selfish” and called on the Times to “issue an apology” for publishing the piece.

“This is just another example of the liberal media’s concerted effort to discredit the president,” she said.

‘Work of a steady state’

The writer of the Times op-ed said Trump aides are aware of the president’s faults and “many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations. I would know. I am one of them.”

“Many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office,” the author wrote.

“It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room. We fully recognise what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t.”

The assertions in the column were largely in line with complaints about Trump’s behaviour that have repeatedly been raised by various administration officials, often speaking on condition of anonymity.

They were published a day after the release of details from an explosive new book by longtime journalist Bob Woodward that laid bare concerns among the highest echelon of Trump aides about the president’s judgment.

The writer also alleged “there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment” because of the “instability” witnessed in the president. The 25th Amendment allows the vice president to take over if the commander in chief is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” It requires that the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet back relieving the president.

The writer added: “This isn’t the work of the so-called deep state. It’s the work of the steady state.”

The anonymous author wrote in the Times that where Trump has had successes, they have come “despite – not because of – the president’s leadership style, which is impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective”.

Rush to uncover the writer

A “House of Cards”-style plot twist in an already over-the-top administration, Trump allies and political insiders scrambled to unmask the writer.

Hotly debated on Twitter was the author’s use of the word “lodestar,” which pops up frequently in speeches by Vice President Mike Pence. Could the anonymous figure be someone in Pence’s orbit? Others argued that the word “lodestar” could have been included to throw people off.

The text of the op-ed was pulled apart for clues: The writer is identified as an “administration official”; does that mean a person who works outside the White House? The references to Russia and the late Senator John McCain – do they suggest someone working in national security? Does the writing style sound like someone who worked at a think-tank? In a tweet, the Times used the pronoun “he” to refer to the writer; does that rule out all women?

The newspaper later said the tweet referring to “he” had been “drafted by someone who is not aware of the author’s identity, including the gender, so the use of ‘he’ was an error”.


Donald Trump’s politics tops list of Germans’ greatest fears

Nothing scares Germans more than the US president’s policies and their global impact, according to a new survey. Concerns about refugees and integration came in second and third place.

Deptember 6, 2018

by Nicole Goebel


More than two-thirds of Germans — or 69 percent — are extremely concerned that US President Donald Trump’s policies are having a dangerous impact worldwide, according to the annual survey “The fears of Germans” by the R+V Infocenter.

“Trump’s ruthless ‘America First’ politics, his aggression with regards to international arrangements and his equally aggressive trade and security politics, even towards allied countries, scare the majority of the population,” said Manfred G. Schmidt, a professor at the Ruprecht-Karls-University in Heidelberg and a consultant for R+V Infocenter.

It was one of the highest ever percentages recorded in the survey, which has cataloged German fears since 1992.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

A whopping 63 percent believe that German authorities and institutions are unable to cope with refugees and asylum-seekers, 63 percent also fear that increased migration will spark further tension between Germans and asylum-seekers and refugees. Both figures are higher than in the survey released in 2017.

Lack of trust in politicians

More than 60 percent of those polled put little store in politicians, fearing that they are not up to the job. Nearly half mark their performance as a ‘fail’ or a mere one grade above that. Both percentages show a significant increase from last year’s survey. Just 6 percent marked their work as “good” or “very good.”

Terrorism, the debt crisis and the environment

Around 58 percent of Germans are still concerned about terrorist attacks in Germany, although the number has dropped in recent years.

The same number applies to fear over the impact of the eurozone’s debt crisis. Germany’s taxpayers, Schmidt pointed out, are still at risk of paying the lion’s share in case of an EU country defaulting on payments.

The survey also shows 48 percent of Germans are worried about climate change and believe it will have a dramatic impact on the environment. More than half think there will be more natural disasters in future.

The researchers point out that none of the categories showed significant regional differences.

The annual survey is commissioned by insurance firm R+V Versicherungen. Around 2,400 Germans across the country were polled between June 8 and July 18, 2018.


Florida Has Been Stealing Votes From Black People Since the Civil War. That Could Change in November.

September 6 2018

by Rachel M. Cohen

The Intercept

One in 10 eligible voters in Florida are effectively disenfranchised, thanks to a draconian law that bars former felons from voting and a broken clemency system. When it comes to black voters, the numbers are even more grim: More than 20 percent of otherwise eligible black voters from Florida cannot cast a ballot. In total, more than a quarter of all disenfranchised felons in the entire country are in the Sunshine State.

But this November, Florida voters will have a chance to reverse that by weighing in on Amendment 4, a constitutional ballot measure to restore voting rights to an estimated 1.5 million Floridians who have fully completed their felony sentences. Florida is just one of three states in the U.S. that indefinitely bans citizens with felony convictions from voting.

Amendment 4 is the results of years of grassroots work by Florida organizers, but it’s also part of recent nationwide push on this front. In 2016, the Democratic Party put in its party platform for the first time a commitment to restore voting rights to formerly incarcerated individuals. Earlier that same year, the Democratic-controlled Maryland legislature overrode the veto of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and restored the right to vote to more than 40,000 former prisoners still on probation or parole. Also over the course of 2016 and 2017, Virginia’s Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe granted clemency to more than 168,000 former felons.

Constitutional amendments in Florida require least 60 percent approval to pass — no easy objective. In 2012, for example, there were 11 constitutional amendments on the ballot, and Florida voters rejected eight of them.

But a slew of early polling bodes well for supporters of Amendment 4: In February, a Quinnipiac University poll found 67 percent of Florida voters supported the idea of restoring voting rights to individuals who have committed a felony and completed their sentences, while 27 percent opposed it. Another poll released in May found that 74 percent of voters say they’d back Amendment 4. However, a poll released in June by the Florida Chamber of Commerce found that just 40 percent of voters approved of Amendment 4, with 17 percent opposed and 43 percent undecided.

The passage of Amendment 4 would be monumental to the vast majority of former felons in the state, but some would still get left behind; it does not provide restoration for those convicted of murder or sexual offenses. There’s a pragmatic rationale behind that: A measure that allows someone who, say, committed a robbery to vote again is much easier to sell politically than one that re-enfranchises someone convicted of rape. The amendment also has the full-throated support of Andrew Gillum, the Democratic candidate for governor who won an insurgent victory in last week’s primary. (Floridians energized by Gillum’s nomination are likely to vote in favor of the amendment.) His Republican opponent, Rep. Ron DeSantis, stands in opposition.

Disenfranchising criminals has a legal history that dates back well before the existence of the United States. Sean Morales-Doyle, a counsel in the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, said the practice was prevalent in English common law and can likely be traced back to ancient Rome.

“It comes from an outmoded concept of government and criminal justice, that if you commit a crime you become an outlaw, and in addition to potentially being subject to the actual death penalty, it is appropriate for you to suffer a ‘civil death’ and no longer be allowed to participate in society in any way,” he said.

While some states adopted criminal disenfranchisement in their early years, Morales-Doyle said many did not, and there was a lot of variation during the United States’s formative years. However, in the period immediately following the Civil War, interest in felon disenfranchisement grew far more pronounced, especially in the South. Following the ratification of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, African-Americans received a wave of new rights, freedoms, and — importantly — political power, which were wholly opposed by many whites. States began to push for ways to undermine these new protections, like restrictions on voting for people convicted of crimes that black people were more likely to be found guilty of, thanks to a criminal justice system that was rife with racial prejudice. For example, South Carolina lawmakers barred those convicted of “thievery, adultery, arson, wife beating, housebreaking, and attempted rape” from voting, but not those convicted of murder or fighting. By 1869, 29 states had enacted such policies.

This included Florida, which enacted a constitutional provision to indefinitely ban former felons from voting. It’s remained on the books ever since. “It was passed in 1868, after an unsuccessful attempt by Florida and other states to reject the 15th Amendment,” says Morales-Doyle. “So Florida passed a constitution with universal male suffrage — as required by the 15th Amendment — but then included some other provisions to undermine it, and one was the felon disenfranchisement provision.”

In the last half-century, many states have moved in the opposite direction. Though Maine and Vermont are the only two states that allow currently incarcerated individuals to vote, it’s just Florida, Iowa, and Kentucky that still permanently bar all citizens with felony convictions from voting. But many states still have other sorts of restrictions: Nationwide, more than 6 million Americans are barred from voting due to a felony conviction. According to the Sentencing Project, more than half have fully completed their sentences, another quarter are under probation or parole, and another quarter are still in prison. While 1 out of every 40 U.S. adults is barred from voting due to a former or current felony conviction, one in 13 African-American adults is disenfranchised.

Florida’s system for clemency has been mostly unchanged since the 1880s, but it grew even stricter in 2011, when newly elected Republican Gov. Rick Scott issued new rules requiring citizens with a felony conviction to wait at least five years before filing for clemency, including the restoration of voting rights — a process that often takes a decade or more.

Nearly five years after taking office, Scott had issued clemency to fewer than 2,000 Florida citizens, while over 20,000 applications remained pending. The number of disenfranchised Floridians has meanwhile continued to grow. Between 2010 and 2016, nearly 150,000 more were disenfranchised, bringing the total to about 1.7 million, according to the Sentencing Project. (This figure includes people who are still serving out their sentences, who would not be covered by Amendment 4.)

There have been some unsuccessful legal attempts in the past to strike down Florida’s voting ban on citizens with felony convictions. In 2000, the Brennan Center filed a class-action suit on behalf of more than 600,000 Florida citizens, arguing that the constitutional provision was discriminatory, and a violation of the 14th and 15th Amendments, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The federal district court for the Southern District of Florida agreed, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in 2005 rejected it on appeal, saying the plaintiffs had failed to prove clear discriminatory intent.

A couple years later, the state started to make progress on its own. Former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, who was in office from 2007 to 2011, granted automatic clemency for people completing sentences for certain felony convictions. More than 115,000 Florida citizens had their voting rights restored between 2007 and 2008, and by the end of his four-year term, more than 150,000 people with felony convictions regained their right to vote. (Crist is now a Democratic member of Congress.)

But within three months of taking office, Scott repealed the Crist-era reforms and issued even stricter barriers for voter restoration. He has earned a notorious record for voter suppression even beyond felon disenfranchisement, including signing a law in 2011 that reduced the window for early voting in Florida. (Facing immense public outrage, Scott and the legislature reversed course on this in 2013.)

Voting rights activists are pushing back on multiple fronts against Scott, who is now running for Senate. In addition to Amendment 4, there’s a class-action lawsuit winding through the courts — Hand v. Scott — that is trying to change the Florida voter restoration process while avoiding making the same legal argument about discrimination that failed in 2005. The Fair Elections Legal Network is representing former Florida felons who completed their sentences. The plaintiffs argue that the process used by the Florida clemency board to determine who should get their right to vote back is arbitrary and violates the equal protection clause of the 14th and 1st Amendments. In February, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker agreed. “Disenfranchised citizens must kowtow before a panel of high-level government officials over which Florida’s Governor has absolute veto authority,” Walker wrote in his opinion that struck down the state’s clemency system. “No standards guide the panel. Its members alone must be satisfied that these citizens deserve restoration.” In March, he ordered Scott to revamp Florida’s system by the end of April.

The state appealed to the 11th Circuit, putting a hold on Walker’s order. The case remains pending.

Amendment 4 is a chance to try something new — a grassroots, citizen-led effort in which the power for change is in front of voters, not judges and elected officials.

Activists started collecting petition signatures in 2015, under the banner of Floridians for Fair Democracy. Led by Desmond Meade, who was convicted of several drug charges and later completed a 15-year prison sentence for possession of a firearm as a felon. Organizers collected more than 799,000 certified signatures from registered voters in all 27 congressional districts, surpassing the minimum 766,000 signatures needed to get on the November 6 ballot.

Neil Volz, a former chief of staff to Republican Rep. Bob Ney — the congressman sentenced to jail in 2007 for corruption charges — pleaded guilty in 2006 to conspiring to corrupt public officials. Volz paid a fine and did community service, and never served time in prison, but when he moved to Florida in 2008, he realized he was unable to participate fully in his community. When he met Meade in 2015, Volz said, he quickly decided to get involved in the voter restoration effort. Today, he serves as political director for the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, a grassroots organization led by returning citizens. “While collecting signatures I met people from all walks of life, from all over the state, from all political backgrounds, who were close to the pain of this policy,” Volz told The Intercept. “This is just about second chances.”

The campaign’s messaging around second chances, however powerful, has its limits. Under Amendment 4, that redemptive message is not being extended to those who have been convicted of felony sex offenses or murder.

Gail Colletta, president of the Florida Action Committee, a state affiliate of the National Association for Rational Sexual Offense Laws, said that she supports Amendment 4, but her group opposes the exclusion of the over 70,000 citizens currently on Florida’s sex offender registry.

“The bottom line is that they leave this population out of anything that’s positive because they have a distorted view as to who people who are,” she told The Intercept. “They look at every sex offender like they’re a Ted Bundy.”

Colletta notes that while the criminal justice system looks at drug offenders and even murderers on a graded scale, society paints sex offenders with a broad brush. “It doesn’t matter what you did, they treat you all the same with a lifetime of punishment,” she said.

Critics note that by excluding sex offenders and murderers from the November amendment, these populations will become even further stigmatized than they already are.

“This country was built on Christian-Judeo values and in my understanding, that means people deserve a second chance,” Collette said, “but here we’re willing to throw [sex offenders] under the bus for politics.”

Darryl Rouson, a Democratic member of the Florida Senate, has long been a proponent of voter rights restoration. Prior to Amendment 4 making it to the ballot, Rouson himself introduced a now-withdrawn amendment to the state constitution. It would have excluded not only sex offenders and murderers from automatic rights restoration, but 12 additional categories, including kidnappers and armed robbers.

“It would have still covered about 70 percent of the people currently disenfranchised,” Rouson told The Intercept. “I felt mine was a reasonable compromise in a state that has not indicated sensitivity to the issue of voting rights.” Passing Amendment 4 a “critical, moral issue,” he added.

When asked why the drafters of Amendment 4 opted to exclude those who committed sex offenses or murders, Volz told The Intercept that that’s “what the people wanted” and that their campaign has “been listening to people at every step along the way so we knew [those exemptions] needed to be included in the initiative.” But the petition language has remained the same since organizers began collecting signatures, and it could not have been changed based on public feedback after the drive began in 2015. “We’re focused on moving this forward, in the healthiest, broadest way that we can,” Volz said, declining to answer more specific questions. (Meade did not return multiple requests for comment on this issue.)

It’s not clear when the 11th Circuit will rule on the Hand v. Scott case, but if Amendment 4 passes, Jon Sherman, senior counsel at the Fair Elections Legal Network, said the lawsuit would be rendered moot, because all the plaintiffs would regain their right to vote.

Morales-Doyle of the Brennan Center said creating exemptions for specific convictions is an exception to the larger trend of how voting rights restoration is playing out elsewhere across the country, in part because of the unique political circumstances in Florida.

“The discussion around felon disenfranchisement is more typically around ‘when does the restoration come?,’” he said. “Is it after you’ve paid off all your legal obligations, as soon as you’re released from prison, or whether you’ve completed probation and parole?” Morales-Doyle pointed to New York, which is one of the few states left in the country where citizens still lose their right to vote while on probation. (In April, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he intends to restore voting rights to the more than 35,000 felons on parole.)

“The sense of fairness is central to the question of rights restoration, the idea that if you’ve served your sentence, you should be allowed to vote,” he says. “I think what’s happening in Florida, making it contingent on the crime, is unique.” He pointed out that Florida faces some unusual political circumstances, with its anomalous rate of felon disenfranchisement, and the tough 60 percent threshold needed for an amendment to pass.

“Without passing judgment on whether that was the best place to come down, my point is just that there has to be a really broad base of support for this amendment, so the question of who will be won over by what policy is what led to the current moment,” he said.

With the election just two months away, Volz said campaign organizers will continue to hold events, educating the public about the importance Amendment 4 and rights restoration.

Rouson, the state senator, said it’s been hard for activists to sustain focus on the initiative while the primaries loomed. “We legislators could all do more to raise awareness around this issue, and there are grassroots champions across the state doing the work, but I also think the attention of the voters was divided because of the primary,” he said.

There are 13 constitutional amendments on the Florida ballot this cycle. “The worry is that voters will get ballot fatigue, under-vote, or not vote on everything,” Rousen said. “We need to educate voters early and often.”


Israel will not allow other countries to obtain precision weapons: PM

September 6, 2018


JERUSALEM, Sept. 5 (Xinhua) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that Israel will act harshly against attempts by other Middle Eastern countries to obtain precision weapons.

“We are determined to prevent Iran and its proxies from establishing a military presence in Syria,” he said at the start of Israel’s weekly cabinet meeting, according to a statement released on his behalf.

“We are taking strong actions against these attempts and against the attempts to produce precision weaponry in all sectors, near and far,” he added without elaborating.

Israel has been increasingly concerned by Iran’s efforts to establish a permanent military presence in Syria. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other officials have been urging Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump to force Iran to completely withdraw its forces from Syria.

Last month, amidst talks of a possible peace agreement in Syria, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announced that Israel will not be obliged to any possible international peace agreement in Syria and might continue to carry out airstrikes in its war-torn northern neighbor.

Israel, which shares a disputed border with Syria, officially claims it is not part of the war in Syria. However, Israel’s air force has carried out dozens of fatal airstrikes in Syria, usually targeting allegedly Iranian sites or weapons convoys to the Lebanese-based military of Hezbollah.


Treat MbS as the War Criminal He Is

September 5, 2018

by Daniel Larison

The American Conservative

Almost ten months after he wrote his gushing love letter to Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), Tom Friedman has this to say about the crown prince:

And then there’s Saudi Arabia. I have little doubt that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was the only one in his family who would have initiated the vital social, religious and economic reforms that he’s dared to do all at once — and that he is also the only one in that family who’d have undertaken the bullying foreign policy initiatives, domestic power plays and excessive personal buying sprees he’s dared to do all at once. These are two halves of the same M.B.S. package, and, as I’ve argued, our job is to help curb his bad impulses and nurture his good ones. But Trump — who still doesn’t even have an ambassador in Saudi Arabia — is AWOL.

It doesn’t seem to occur to Friedman that one half of the “package” he describes undermines and destroys the other. Suppose for the sake of argument that the de facto Saudi ruler truly wants to pursue these “vital social, religious, and economic reforms.” Even if that’s true, his intensifying repression, incompetent diplomacy, and reckless belligerence are wrecking or discrediting the few modest changes he has made so far. He has scared off foreign investors and his shakedown purge has contributed to massive capital flight, and everything he does confirms that he doesn’t know what he’s doing or how to go about achieving the grandiose goals he has set for his country. The same overweening ambition that inspires the “reform” agenda can’t be divorced from the power grabs, crackdowns, and pointless wars. Friedman has spent the last year and a half gasping in excitement about all the things Mohammed bin Salman might do in the future while studiously ignoring the horrific and stupid things he is doing in the present, and even now he is still offering only the mildest criticism.

Friedman says that the U.S. should “curb” the crown prince’s “bad impulses,” but he never says what that would mean in practice or why disciplining the reckless despot should continue to be our responsibility. U.S. indulgence has encouraged and fed Mohammed bin Salman’s worst impulses for the last several years, and yet I have never once heard or read Friedman demanding that the U.S. end military support or arms sales to the kingdom. Friedman says that Trump is “AWOL,” but that ignores that Trump has closely embraced the Saudi royals and gives them whatever they want. He also mentions the war on Yemen in passing, but all he can manage to say is that “the Saudi-U.A.E. war in Yemen has been so badly botched by incompetents in the Saudi Air Force that they are now being accused of possible war crimes.” That criticism is as weak as it is belated.

There may be incompetent Saudi and Emirati pilots, but to say that they are the ones that “botched” the war presupposes that there was a way for the Saudis and their allies to attack Yemen successfully that didn’t lead to the current disaster. Friedman can’t acknowledge that the main problem with the war is that it has always been pursuing unrealistic goals with inadequate means in the prosecution of an unjust military intervention in another country’s conflict, and his golden boy has been the one running the Saudi side of the war from the start. Saudi coalition forces have been committing war crimes on Mohammed bin Salman’s orders for more than three years, and the crown prince is one of the biggest war criminals currently in power. Saudi war crimes in Yemen haven’t just happened because some pilots “botched” their assignments, but have been part of a deliberate campaign to devastate the country’s economy and infrastructure. Coalition planes systematically target Yemen’s domestic food production and distribution by bombing farms and fishing boats. Coalition pilots aren’t just “botching” things–they’re carrying out the criminal orders of their superiors.

According to one recent report, the crown prince is quoted as saying this:

“Do not care about international criticism,” Bin Salman is alleged to have told his officers, a reference to the international condemnation of military operations against civilians in Yemen, particularly raids that kill women and children. “We want to leave a big impact on the consciousness of Yemeni generations. We want their children, women and even their men to shiver whenever the name of Saudi Arabia is mentioned.”

Mohammed bin Salman is an unabashed war criminal, and an honest assessment of his real record requires acknowledging that. We should all refuse to give him a pass because he might one day carry out the “reforms” he keeps promising but almost never delivers. Instead he should be treated with the same contempt that we show to other war criminals.


Power of Siberia: Russia’s mega gas pipeline to China almost complete

September 6, 2018


One of the world’s longest gas pipelines – the Power of Siberia – which is being created to deliver natural gas from Russia to China, is now 93 percent complete.

According to Russian energy major Gazprom, 119 operational gas wells have been completed at the Chayandinskoye field in Yakutia. At the moment, the main technological equipment is being installed there. More than 2,000km of pipelines have been welded and laid from Yakutia to the Russian-Chinese border.

The construction of the two-thread underwater crossing of the pipeline across the Amur River is 78 percent complete, Gazprom said.

The Power of Siberia pipeline, which is also called the ‘Eastern Route,’ is one of the major projects between Russia and China. The pipeline could help Russia become one of China’s main providers of natural gas as demand in the country increases.

The 3,000km pipeline will be longer than the distance between Moscow and London. Deliveries should begin in late 2019. The deal on the ‘Eastern Route’ took more than a decade to negotiate. Last July, Gazprom and the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) inked an agreement to start gas deliveries via the route.

In May 2014, the two companies signed a $400 billion, 30-year framework to deliver 38 billion cubic meters of Russian gas to China annually. In 2017, Gazprom invested 158.8 billion rubles ($2.3 billion) in the project. This year it plans to invest another 218 billion rubles ($3.2 billion).

Moscow and Beijing plan to build another pipeline – Power of Siberia 2 or the ‘Western Route’ – that will deliver another 30 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Russia to China. According to the head of Gazprom, Aleksey Miller, China’s growing gas consumption, which was more than 200 billion cubic meters in 2016, will soon reach 300 billion cubic meters.


Despite Trump’s Threats, Nord Stream 2 Is Very Much Still On

August 21, 2018

by Dave Keating


Ahead of a hastily-arranged summit in Germany this weekend between Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the calls to cancel the controversial planned pipeline Nord Stream 2 were deafening.

The two were scheduled to discuss a list of pressing issues, including the war in Syria and the Russian-backed insurrection in Ukraine. But the most pressing issue to be discussed was the future of Nord Stream 2. Investors needed a strong signal that the project is still on despite U.S. President Donald Trump’s attention-grabbing attack on the pipeline at last month’s NATO summit in Brussels.

The Trump has administration has threatened to sanction European companies investing in the pipeline, possibly as early as October. Washington says it threatens European energy security, but Moscow says it is a cynical ploy to force European countries to buy American liquified natural gas instead.

Ahead of this weekend’s meeting in Meseberg, near Berlin, Merkel came under significant pressure to tell Putin once and for all that the pipeline is off – or at least demand concessions in exchange for its continued construction.

The criticism came even from leading members of her conservative bloc. Manfred Weber, head of her center-right EPP group in the European Parliament, and Norbert Röttgen, chairman of the German parliament’s foreign affairs committee, signed a joint letter to the chancellor with politicians from other parties demanding that she call off the project. “European energy supply and solidarity with our neighbors speak against Nord Stream 2,” they wrote.

This, of course, comes in addition to the intense pressure from Germany’s Eastern European neighbors and Washington, who say the pipeline is a threat to Europe’s energy security because it will make the continent even more dependent on Russian gas.

But the ‘iron chancellor’ would not be moved. She stressed at her joint appearance with Putin that the project is still on, and Putin agreed. “Germany is one of our country’s leading economic partners,” he said.

But Merkel repeated her insistence, first made in April, that the new pipeline cannot be an excuse to bypass the existing gas route through Ukraine. Washington and Warsaw have said the purpose of Nord Stream is to punish Ukraine. “If Nord Stream 2 comes about, Ukraine must play a role in gas transit to Europe,” Merkel said.

But Putin insisted that such gas transit should only be based on economic rather than political considerations, cleverly repeating phrasing used about Nord Stream 2 by Merkel herself a year ago. “I would like to stress, the main thing is that Ukrainian transit — which is traditional — meets economic demands,” he said.

Does Germany have a Russian Gas Addiction?

Russia delivered 53.4 billion cubic meters of gas to Germany last year, a figure Putin pointed out during the press conference with Merkel. This is up 13 percent from the year before, and makes Russia Germany’s largest gas provider.

While this might seem at first glance to make Germany “dependent” on Russian gas, as Trump said at the NATO summit, the details are more nuanced. While Russia is Germany’s biggest gas supplier, it provides only marginally more than the other two main providers – Norway and the Netherlands. Until 2015, each contributed roughly one-third to German gas supply. Now Russia has pulled slightly ahead, but is not yet dominant.

More to the point, gas only accounts for 23% of Germany’s primary energy use – and only 13.5% of the electricity generated at power plants. That means Russian gas accounts for just 4.3% of German power generation.

But while Trump was wrong to say Germany “is dependent” on Russian gas, he would not have been wrong to say the country is “becoming dependent”.

Germany is phasing out both nuclear and coal power. Renewables are developing rapidly because of the country’s Energiewende policy, but not fast enough to fill the gap this decommissioning will cause. Many expect gas to quickly fill the gap. And if more Russian gas suddenly comes flowing in, the country could very quickly find itself dependent on Moscow for energy.

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which would follow the route of an existing pipeline under the Baltic Sea, would more than double Germany’s Russian gas imports, from 53 billion to a maximum of 110 billion cubic metres. Much of that gas would likely then be sold on to the rest of Europe, increasing the whole continent’s dependence on Russian gas.

Despite these concerns, following this weekend’s Merkel-Putin summit investors seem confident the project is going ahead.


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