US AID TO PAKISTAN

The recent statements by President Trump regarding U.S. Aid to Pakistan have raised the level of uncertainty within this crucial relationship. A major issue are the Afghan refugees totaling approximately 1.4 million living in Pakistan.

The government of Pakistan is currently offering aid to these refugees and if there is a cut in U.S. support this may be the first cut by Pakistan to make up the difference. The result may be a flood of refugees to neighboring countries or back in to Afghanistan. The untended consequences of this potential U.S. cut will be a request for more aid to Afghanistan.

Furthermore, any actions by the U.S. military in Pakistan to target suspected terrorist will not be ignored by Pakistan and this could result in a military encounter. Such a encounter could strain relations to the breaking point thus making it likely that U.S. troop level in would need to be bolstered in Afghanistan.

The remarks by Trump are dangerous and unnecessary at a time when we need to maintain alliances not destroy them. Although not a perfect partner, Pakistan is the only one we have in a dangerous neighborhood.

Posted in AFGHANISTAN, PAKISTAN | Leave a comment

THIS IS NOT THE WAY TO ACHIEVE PEACE

On Tuesday the House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to sharply reduce the annual $300 million in U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority unless it take steps to stop making what lawmakers described as payments that reward violent crime.

Yesterday Trump announced Wednesday that the United States is recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and will move the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv.

Neither of these moves by the Republican will help the peace process and save lives. By doing the bidding of a few extremist they are jeopardizing the very lives of Israelis that they claim to care about. Furthermore, they are giving fuel to any effort to radicalize young Palestinians.

These are terrible policies that will lead to violence. Trump does not care, nor does he understand consequences of this actions. If he wants to legally hang himself with his tweets he can do so. But these policy changes are putting a noose around innocent people and that is where we must draw the line and say no.

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WHEN POLITICS KILL THE ENVIRONMENT

The opportunity to lower the global carbon footprint off the coast of Massachusetts was dealt a blow with the death of the Cape Wind Project.

Unrelenting political pressure from powerful families plus a current anti-environmental administration in Washington have resulted in the project being cancelled.

Cape Wind, would have utilized 130 turbines in Nantucket Sound, providing clean energy. Although similar projects are working well off the Rhode Island Coast and are planned for other east Coast locations, the politics of this killed it in the end.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Tuesday recommended President Donald Trump reduce the size and change the management of more national monuments in the western United States, and lashed out at critics of cuts already announced to protected areas in Utah.

The effort by the Trump administration to roll back monument designations by past presidents covering millions of acres of wilderness and tribal sites has rekindled the national debate over how best to manage America’s vast public lands – pitting conservationists against development advocates.

There is a serious political risk to the environment when a hand full of people no matter their political stripe can stop a project that will lower the risk of climate change. It is a disgrace to attack national monuments that preserve the environment for all. You don’t need power to visit a national monument but you do need power to destroy one.

The ability to shape policy from a living room with one phone call is just another way politics is killing the environment. Our environment can be saved if we elect people who want to protect the environment and are responsive to science and not beholden to campaign donations.

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PREDICTION FOR 2018

A few more hurdles must be overcome before a final tax package can become law. The Senate bill and a version passed earlier by the House of Representatives must now be reconciled. The reconciled measure must then be approved by both chambers of Congress before it is submitted to Trump for him to sign into law.

The rush to pass this flawed bill will be the mistake that gives the Democrats control of the House in 2018. By removing deductions this legislation increases taxes. It is that simple. Yes, the deductions would have to be removed in order to expand the tax base to support the cuts, however the deductions chosen hurt the middle class.

Negotiations over the tax measures will take place as Congress simultaneously tries to meet a December 8 deadline for government funding to expire, putting additional pressure on Republicans to get a new tax law on the books before Christmas as requested by Trump.

Tax cuts that only help the wealthy and imperial the housing market coupled with either a government shut down or no action on DACA will be the end of Republican control of congress.

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LOBBYISTS SHAPED TAX BILL

More than half of the registered lobbyists in Washington have worked on tax issues in 2017, a report showed on Friday, as lawmakers in the U.S. capital scramble to conclude a year-long effort to pass a tax reform bill before Christmas.

About 6,200 lobbyists, or 57 percent of those who reported activity in 2017, have been listed on disclosure forms as working on issues involving “tax” this year, the advocacy group Public Citizen said in the report.

Twenty companies and trade groups each hired 50 lobbyists to work on tax issues, the report said, with U.S. Chamber of Commerce hiring 100 and the Business Roundtable, an association of chief executives at big U.S. companies, employing 51 lobbyists.

The Republican bill would be the biggest overhaul of the U.S. tax system since the 1980s and its ultimate shape and success are crucial to U.S. corporate profits over the next 10 years.

As drafted, the Senate bill would cut the U.S. corporate tax rate to 20 percent from 35 percent after a one-year delay and reduce taxes for some businesses and individuals, while ending many tax breaks.

Democrats have been united in their opposition to the bill, calling it a giveaway to the wealthy and corporations.

U.S. companies have a vested interest in nearly every aspect of the Republican tax plan, saying they would use a tax reform windfall to buy back shares, retire debt or invest back into their business.

Five large U.S. companies have hired at least 15 lobbying firms for tax issues in 2017, the report said. Comcast hired 23 firms, Anheuser-Busch brought on 19 companies, Verizon Communications hired 17, Microsoft hired 16 and Altria Group has engaged 15 lobbying firms.

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HOUSTON WE HAVE A SETTLEMENT

Texas Congressman Blake Farenthold used $84,000 in taxpayer funds to settle a sexual harassment claim against him, Politico reported Friday. He is the first lawmaker to be revealed as having used Capitol Hill’s “hush” fund.

The Republican congressman’s former communications director, Lauren Greene, sued her boss in 2014 over allegations of gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and creating a hostile work environment, Politico said.

In a closed-door meeting Friday, House Administration Committee chairman Gregg Harper told lawmakers that an Office of Compliance account had been used to settle the accusation, and that the settlement had totaled $84,000.

Neither Farenthold nor Greene has commented on the Politico report, which cites a copy of a statement written but never released following the agreement.

Posted in Blake Farenthold, SEXUAL HARRASMENT | Leave a comment

PELOSI SHOWED LEADERSHIP

Politicians seldom call for their friends to resign. Particularly when there is a joke process that gives members of Congress a pass by wearing down victims of sexual harassment. Even though this process could take months and drag the victims through the pain of repeating the allegations to the friends of the accused, sometimes someone gets it right and tries to spare the victim the pain.

U.S. House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called on her colleague John Conyers, the longest-serving member of Congress, to resign over allegations of sexual harassment.

“Congressman Conyers should resign,” Pelosi said of her colleague, adding the women who spoke out against him were “brave” and deserved justice.

“As deemed, Congressman Conyers has served our Congress for more than five decades and shaped some of the most consequential legislation of the last half century. However, zero tolerance means consequences for everyone, no matter how great the legacy, it’s not license to harass or discriminate,” she said.

A former aide of Conyers’ publicly accused him of sexual harassment, telling NBC’s today show that she was fired for rejecting her boss’s sexual advances.

Marion Brown, 61, said her former boss propositioned her for sex multiple times over more than a decade. Brown is one of multiple women who has accused the 88-year-old Congressman of harassment, while revealing a “Hush Fund” on Capitol Hill that uses taxpayer funds to pay settlements.

Pelosi’s condemnation is not lip service. If you have ever worked in a State Capital or in Washington, you will know that to come out publicly on the side of a staffer over a colleague is not easy. In fact, it is un heard of. The usual way this goes is to shame and black ball the staffer. In this case leadership lived up to its name by calling out the abuser.

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REPUBLICAN ROULETTE

Republicans are so fond of gun and war analogies that we have coined one for them. Republican Roulette refers to the loaded tax bill that is in the house and senate chambers soon to be on Trump’s desk.

Stealing away homeowner deductions, increasing the wealth of the 1% and limiting the ability of the government to restore our infrastructure will be the result of this disastrous tax plan. Ignoring the opioid crisis, Veterans benefits and all the other things revenue pays for this bill is an excuse to inflict more pain ion the already vulnerable.

The Republicans are gambling with the future of this nation. Home owners will be the biggest losers as property values drop, taxes increase, and home sales decrease. If you want to buy a home, then that dream will be placed out of reach.

Yes, it makes sense that the tax bill cuts deductions and in the process, widens the base of available funds. Yes, this is how the 1986 tax bill was passed. But the difference is that this is not 1986. We have a different set of problems, chief among them an infrastructure that is crumbling and it will require massive federal investments.

Opposition has grown among Americans to a Republican tax plan before the U.S. Congress, with 49 percent of people who were aware of the measure saying they opposed it, up from 41 percent in October, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday.

In addition to the 49 percent who said they opposed the Republican tax bill, 29 percent said they supported it and 22 percent said they “don’t know,” according to the Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll of 1,257 adults conducted from Thursday to Monday.

This is a game of chance that the Republicans are playing and the victims are the American people. Unfortunately for the Republicans the American people know it.

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US MILITARY PRESENCE IN BALKANS

The Washington-based Atlantic Council is calling for a permanent American military presence in the Balkans to stabilize southeastern Europe amid increased Russian efforts to exert political influence across the region.

In a report published Tuesday, the nonprofit international affairs group said that announcing the arrival of U.S. troops, ideally at Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, “would demonstrate an enduring U.S. commitment to security in the region and anchor the United States’ long-term ability to influence developments.”

The Atlantic Council, which functions independently of the U.S. government, will host Balkan officials for a November 29 conference to discuss policy proposals aimed keeping the region “firmly embedded within the trans-Atlantic community.”

Tuesday’s report also called for improved economic prospects for the region’s predominantly Muslim youth — specifically via large-scale infrastructure projects designed to interlink Balkan nations and improve access to the European mainland — and a historic U.S.-Serbian rapprochement.

The upcoming Balkans conference will be followed by meetings between high-level Balkan and U.S. officials in the State Department and White House.

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TRUMP’S WEAK ISIS POLICY

It’s not that Donald Trump never held office before that is his biggest problem. Many smart people have only worked in government at the lowest levels and would not have made the same errors as Trump. Proof of this is the latest policy change that will result in the cut of arms to Kurdish militias that played a key role in defeating Islamic State militants in Syria.

If Trump goes through with this it will undermine the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units or YPG, a U.S. ally which bore the brunt of the fighting to clear ISIS forces from their self-proclaimed capital in Raqqa, Syria.

No matter how tense things may be between the U.S. and Turkey, we cannot be bullied or intimidated into this policy change. Although we must remain sensitive to the Turkish concerns over armed Kurdish forces, we must stand firm when the end game is defeating ISIS. The arming of the YPG has been and will continue to be vital to that goal.

Any thinking person could see that when you have success you do not tamper with it. Trump has no clue how to deal with tough characters such as Turkish President Erdogan. If he did and if he had negotiating skills as he claimed, then there would have been a discussion behind closed doors where the YPG still received arms and the Turks received something else.

Political experience would not have prepared Trump for this moment, but common sense and the ability to listen to experienced diplomats in both parties would have. Trump lacks the life skills to be President and that is the real problem that has created yet another foreign policy blunder.

Posted in Islamic State, KURDS, SYRIA, YPG | Leave a comment