Category Archives: Politics

Gabbard won’t say who funded her controversial Syria trip

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard won’t be at Donald Trump’s inauguration tomorrow.

No, she’s not one of those planning to stay away as a protest.

Foreign Policy reported yesterday:

Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii has just departed war-torn Damascus following what her aides described as a “fact-finding” mission to work toward ending the nearly six-year conflict in Syria.

Congressional travel to the devastated country is exceedingly rare, especially as fighting continues in direct violation of a recent cease-fire agreement brokered by Turkey and Russia. This week, Syrian government forces backed by Lebanese militants attempted to recapture a rebel-controlled area near Damascus that includes a pumping station that supplies most of the city’s water.

In its reporting on the trip, The Atlantic called Gabbard “the GOP’s favorite Democrat.”

It also notes:

…her visit to Syria, in theory, may constitute a violation of the Logan Act, which prohibits unauthorized individuals from contacting a foreign government that’s engaged in a dispute with the U.S. It’s worth pointing out, however, that no one has ever been prosecuted for alleged violations of the act.

Meanwhile, Politico reported that Gabbard’s office has refused to disclose who is paying for the trip.

Congressional leaders were blindsided by Gabbard’s trip to war-ravaged Syria with staffers saying she didn’t give the customary advanced warning to Democratic or Republican leadership offices.

Latimer wouldn’t say whether Gabbard met with Syrian President Bashar Assad. Lebanese officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the trip.

Hill insiders say they believe the trip was paid for by a non-governmental organization (NGO) but aren’t sure which one or if it has ties to the Assad regime. The trip, which Latimer called a “fact-finding” mission, was first reported by Foreign Policy.

Series of search warrants in Kealoha probe

Hawaii News Now reporter Lynn Kawano got quite a scoop yesterday with its report that another search warrant had been served in the ongoing public corruption investigation involving the outgoing Honolulu Police Chief and his wife (“FBI raids second city building in police chief investigation“).

According to HNN, the FBI accessed a backup computer server that mirrors the Honolulu Police Department’s computer system. The server, located in the Frank F. Fasi Municipal Building, maintains copies of the HPD electronic files and images.

The search of the backup server came during the same week that the FBI served a similar warrant on the office Honolulu Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro, where Katherine Kealoha is a senior deputy, and a federal judge took possession of laptop computers used by Kealoha.

HNN quotes defense attorney Victor Bakke, who called the “unprecedented.”

Bakke also speculated that the series of search warrants indicates additional witnesses are now cooperating with authorities, describing additional details that are now being pursued.

The unusual investigation into the chief and his wife, a top city prosecutor, is finally starting to draw national attention. An Associated Press story by Jennifer Kelleher was picked up by ABC News and broke into broadcast and print news across the country (“FBI Serves Warrant at Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney’s Office“).

By the way, this morning’s online edition of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the state’s largest newspaper, does not yet have a story on this latest search warrant executed at the city’s main municipal office building.

“Landslide” claim = “Big lie”

A big lie (German: große Lüge) is a propaganda technique. The expression was coined by Adolf Hitler, when he dictated his 1925 book Mein Kampf, about the use of a lie so “colossal” that no one would believe that someone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.”
Big lie – Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_lie

That’s the thought that immediately came to mind after VP-elect Mike Pence made several appearances yesterday repeating the mantra that Donald Trump won in a “landslide.”

On Face the Nation: ” As I’ve said, Donald Trump won a landslide American. The American people spoke decisively.”

He repeated the statement in another interview:

“I joined this campaign in the summer, and I can tell you that all the contact by the Trump campaign and associates was with the American people,” Pence said. “We were fully engaged with taking his message to make America great again all across this country. That’s why he won in a landslide election.”

This “landslide” claim is disturbing because it is factually, demonstrably untrue. Since that has been pointed out repeatedly, it has to be considered a lie. An intentional lie. And a blatant lie told as part of the incoming administration’s policy.

First, there’s the little problem that Trump lost the popular vote. More Americans voted for Hillary Clinton. There’s no dispute about that.

As CNN reported earlier:

The Democrat outpaced President-elect Donald Trump by almost 2.9 million votes, with 65,844,954 (48.2%) to his 62,979,879 (46.1%), according to revised and certified final election results from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

And, second, is electoral college margin was far from a landslide.

From FactCheck.org:

But it turns out that the percentage of electoral votes won by Trump, 56.9 percent, is hardly a landslide by historic comparison.

John Pitney, a professor of American Politics at Claremont McKenna College, put together a chart showing the Electoral College share won by every president since George Washington and found that Trump’s margin of victory ranked 46th out of 58 U.S. presidential elections.

“It’s just not true,” Pitney said of Trump’s “landslide” boast.

From the New York Times: “Trump’s Electoral College Victory Ranks 46th in 58 Elections”

From PBS:

Trump repeated the landslide claim on Monday after the Electoral College voted to put him over the 270-vote threshold needed to secure the White House.

Even Abraham Lincoln won a greater percentage of electoral votes (with 59.4 percent) than Trump in the 1860 election, when the country was on the brink of the Civil War.

In fact, Trump ranks 46th out of 58 in terms of winning the electoral vote — a spot far down on the list, sandwiched between Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy’s narrow 1960 win.

And the same point made by NPR:

Comparing Trump’s 306 electoral votes to recent history, he falls between the 2000 and 2004 razor-thin margins of George W. Bush, and Barack Obama’s victories in 2008 and 2012.

2000 — Bush 271, Gore 266
2004 — Bush 286, Kerry 251
2008 — Obama 365, McCain 173
2012 — Obama 332, Romney 206
2016 — Trump 306, Clinton 232

So on the historic score, Trump’s margin is pretty average for recent elections, and way down the list if you go all the way back to the beginning of the nation.

So what’s the point of continually repeating a blatant lie that has already been discredited many times over? That’s a question for another day, I think.

Just when you thought this couldn’t get any weirder

[Links in the 5th paragraph have hopefully been corrected]

Back home after another evening in Kaaawa, and finally getting around to posting for the day.

Comics have been having a heyday with this week’s unverified Trump report, whatever we’re calling it. The Russia Tapes? Pee Gate? Whatever.

Alec Baldwin outdid himself on Saturday Night Live, and Stephen Colbert was no slouch, either.

In all seriousness, these tidbits collected by a “former” British spy have to be seen as deeply troubling.

Newsweek has a good story about the spy, Christopher Steele (“What we know about Christopher Steele, the ex-spy behind Trump-Russia dossier“). Reuters, The Telegraph (UK), Haaretz, (“Christopher Steele, British Ex-spy Behind Trump Dossier: ‘Competent, Professional Operator‘”) and others have profiled Steele, and its quite sobering. He’s got quite a track record and, it seems, a solid reputation for gathering intelligence.

BBC added more background on the report that’s worth reading (“Trump ‘compromising’ claims: How and why did we get here?“).

All this can be used to provide laughs. But it’s no laughing matter. Not good news for Mr. Trump nor for any of us U.S. citizens, I think.