Posts Tagged ‘White House’

Back in June, President Trump used Twitter to officially announce America’s urban crisis.

He hit the ground running calling out the death and destruction in Chicago.

Trump made it clear that he was “sending in Federal help” to contain the dying city.

Since then, Trump’s focus has transitioned on to an international stage with North Korea’s ‘rocket man’ in a war of words battle.

The geopolitical tensions on the Korean Peninsula and elsewhere have distracted this administration from conquering the real out of control war on city streets.

According to The Daily Caller, Baltimore‘s homicide rate is now doubled Chicago’s in 2017.

Essentially, residents in Baltimore are twice as likely to be shot than Chicagoans. As the battlefield continues to expand, President Trump has yet to mention the chaos in Baltimore just 38 miles North of the White House.

As The Daily Caller points out, the soaring violence in Baltimore is occurring in a much smaller city of 621,000, when compared to Chicago of 2,700,000.

Chicago has suffered 503 gun homicides so far in 2017. With a population of over 2.7 million, the gun homicide rate is at just over 18 people per 100,000 residents.

Baltimore, however, has suffered 275 gun homicides with a population of just over 621,000, putting the homicide rate at more than 44 per 100,000.

The city is on track to break its all-time murder record originally set in 1992, when Baltimore had 100,000 more residents.

The author made a very interesting point, both cities are “long-standing Democratic strongholds”. Not surprising, Baltimore hasn’t had a republican mayor since 1947 and or voted Republican in a presidential election since 1956. On top of failed liberal policies, de-industrialization has stripped the cities of productivity and forced an alarming inequality gap in education, jobs, health, and wealth of residents.

For example, Baltimore has a population of 621,000 and out of that 63% are African American. In highlights below, 1/3 of the African American population has a net worth of zero, which equates to 130,000 residents. Opportunity for most citizens in the city are limited giving way to violent crime and an explosion in homicides.

Ever since the increased scrutiny of police following the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri has led to an increased crime rate in both Baltimore and Chicago. In particular, Baltimore’s police department is under heavy scrutiny for planting drugs at crime scenes.

As the social contract between residents and police crack, this gives way to the ‘Ferguson effect’ of increased turmoil in inner cities.

Shown by The Economist, the Ferguson effect demonstrates how homicides in Baltimore have surged…

Perhaps President Trump was on to something in June when he called out Chicago’s urban war zone. Unfortunately, geopolitical tensions on the Korean Peninsula is of a much higher priority to this administration, as the real battlefield on America’s city streets goes unnoticed.

Advertisements

 

For the better part of a year now Americans have speculated over precisely what pressing national security issue may have prompted the Obama administration to take the extreme measure of unmasking the names of Trump officials captured in foreign intelligence reports…you know, because bypassing the typical warrant process and violating an American citizen’s fourth amendment protections is kind of a big deal.

So what was it…intelligence concerning an imminent terrorist attack…concrete evidence that Putin stole Hillary’s emails? No, according to CNN, National Security Advisor Susan Rice ultimately made the call to unmask Trump officials because Obama was offended that the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates traveled to New York last December, after the election mind you, without giving him a heads up first.

 

Former national security adviser Susan Rice privately told House investigators that she unmasked the identities of senior Trump officials to understand why the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates was in New York late last year, multiple sources told CNN.

The New York meeting preceded a separate effort by the UAE to facilitate a back-channel communication between Russia and the incoming Trump White House.

The crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, arrived in New York last December in the transition period before Trump was sworn into office for a meeting with several top Trump officials, including Michael Flynn, the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his top strategist Steve Bannon, sources said.

The Obama administration felt misled by the United Arab Emirates, which had failed to mention that Zayed was coming to the United States even though it’s customary for foreign dignitaries to notify the US government about their travels, according to several sources familiar with the matter. Rice, who served as then-President Obama’s national security adviser in his second term, told the House Intelligence Committee last week that she requested the names of the Americans mentioned in the classified report be revealed internally, a practice officials in both parties say is common.

Of course, CNN attempts to downplay the gravity of these new revelations but somehow we suspect that Obama getting his feelings hurt over a breach in travel protocol of a foreign dignitary is not a valid reason to spy on American citizens…though we’re not lawyers.

CNN noted that it’s unclear precisely which Trump officials Rice discussed at the House meeting, and thus which officials were ultimately unmasked, but multiple sources apparently confirmed to them that Zayed met at the time with Flynn, Kushner and Bannon. The three-hour discussion focused on a range of issues, including Iran, Yemen and the Mideast peace process, according to two of CNN’s sources who insisted that opening up a back-channel with Russia was not a topic of discussion.

 

A senior Middle East official told CNN that the UAE did not “mislead” the Obama administration about the crown prince’s visit, but acknowledged not telling the US government about it in advance. The meeting, which took place December 15, 2016, the official said, was simply an effort to build a relationship with senior members of the Trump team who would be working in the administration to share assessments of the region.

“The meeting was about ascertaining the Trump team’s view of the region and sharing the UAE’s view of the region and what the US role should be,” the official said. “No one was coming in to sell anything or arrange anything.”

Meanwhile, Republican responses on the hearing have been mixed with Trey Gowdy saying it appears as if Rice did nothing illegal while White House press secretary Sarah Sanders simply deferred on the legality of her actions.

 

Rep. Trey Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican who is helping lead the House investigation, told the Daily Caller “nothing that came up in her interview that led me to conclude” that she improperly unmasked the names of Trump associates or leaked it to the press.

Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, did not say explicitly whether Trump still believes Rice committed a crime but added the issue of leaking and unmasking needs to be investigated.

“We’ve seen illegal leaking of classified materials, including the identities of American citizens unmasked in intelligence reports,” Sanders told CNN. “That’s why the President called for Congress to investigate this matter and why the Department of Justice and Intelligence Community are doing all they can to stamp out this dangerous trend that undermines our national security.”

Just to summarize, Susan Rice unmasked the names of American citizens, which effectively means she spied on them without a warrant, because President Obama was offended that the crown prince of the UAE met with the newly elected administration without first giving him a heads up? Does that sound reasonable to everyone?

Then again, maybe this entire story from Rice/CNN is complete bullshit and was only concocted as a way to avoid admitting that the Obama White House was pissed they lost an election and basically turned the entire U.S. intelligence apparatus into a political weapon to dig up any dirt they could find on an adversary.

So, what say you?

 

In the days following the September 2012 terrorist attack on the Benghazi embassy in Libya, the Clinton State Department and Obama White House launched an all-out media propaganda blitz designed to convince Americans that the whole thing had been sparked by an ‘insensitive’ YouTube video that Muslims in Libya apparently found offensive. As you’ll undoubtedly recall, Susan Rice became the face of that propaganda blitz after appearing on every major TV network to blatantly lie to the American public.

As punishment for her lies, Rice was promptly promoted to National Security Advisor by the Obama administration.

Of course, for anyone capable of rational thought, the lies concocted by the State Department and White House were obvious attempts to coverup an inconvenient terrorist attack which occurred just weeks before the 2012 Presidential election as voters were considering whether the Obama administration had been too soft on terrorism. Apparently it worked.

That said, just in case you need more evidence that Hillary’s State Department lied about Benghazi from the start, Brad Owens and Jerry Torres, owners of the security contracting firm Torres Advanced Enterprise Solutions, told Fox News earlier that they were instructed by a State Department official to “stay silent and get on the same page” with regard to the security lapses that led to the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi.

But as the Obama administration and Clinton’s team struggled to answer questions about the attacks, Visintainer apparently took it one step further — summoning Jerry Torres from overseas to attend a meeting at her government office in Rosslyn, Va., in early 2013.

Torres took Fox News back to the Virginia office building where he recalled that day’s events.

“[Visintainer] said that I and people from Torres should not speak to the media, should not speak to any officials with respect to the Benghazi program,” he said.

Torres said he was afraid for his company – and hasn’t spoken publicly until now.

“We had about 8,000 employees at the time. You know, we just didn’t need that level of damage because these guys, their livelihood relies on the company,” he said. “I trust that our U.S. government is going to follow chain of command, follow procedures, follow protocols and do the right thing.”

Another part of that conversation stuck out to Torres. He said Visintainer told him “in her opinion, that guards should not be armed at U.S. embassies. She just made that blanket statement. … And she said that they weren’t required in Benghazi. So I was kind of confused about that. And she said that she would like my support in saying that if that came up. And I looked at her. I just didn’t respond.”

Meanwhile, and perhaps even more disturbing, Owens and Torres say they know for a fact the State Department knew the Benghazi attack wasn’t a spontaneous event because their firm was contacted on 8/31/12, 11 days before the attack, with regards to providing additional staffing in response to a “deteriorating” environment at the embassy.

Problems soon arose. One month before the attack — in August 2012, with The Blue Mountain Group still in charge of compound security — Ambassador Stevens and his team alerted the State Department via diplomatic cable that radical Islamic groups were everywhere and that the temporary mission compound could not withstand a “coordinated attack.” The classified cable was first reported by Fox News.

By Aug. 31, 2012, the situation had deteriorated to the point that Owens and Torres said the State Department asked them to intervene – as Owens put it, an “admission of the mistake of choosing the wrong company.”

“They came back to us and said, ‘Can you guys come in and take over security?’ Owens said. “So we were ready.”

But Torres emphasized that time was against them, saying it would have taken two-to-three weeks to get set up.

Twelve days later, the ambassador was killed. Torres learned of the attacks by watching television. He called the circumstances leading up to the tragedy “bad decision-making from top to bottom.”

“There was nothing we could’ve done about it. If we’d had one month warning … who knows what might’ve happened,” Owens said.

And, worst yet, Torres notes that all of the Obama lackeys responsible for the bad security decisions leading up to the Benghazi attack are still performing their duties under the Trump administration today.

Jerry Torres remains haunted by the fact that specific bureaucrats and policies remain in the State Department after the Benghazi attack despite tAsked if there was a specific effort by a senior State Department contracting officer to silence them, Torres said, “Absolutely, absolutely.”he change in administrations. “A U.S. ambassador is dead and nobody is held accountable for it. And three guys … all died trying to defend him,” said Torres, the company’s CEO and a former Green Beret.

Asked if there was a specific effort by a senior State Department contracting officer to silence them, Torres said, “Absolutely, absolutely.”

Owens, a former Army intelligence officer, echoed his colleague, saying those “who made the poor choices that actually, I would say, were more responsible for the Benghazi attacks than anyone else, they’re still in the same positions, making security choices for our embassies overseas now.”

Here are Owens and Torres confirming that Obama led a “scandal-free” administration:

Authored by Simon Black

 

Late yesterday afternoon the federal government of the United States announced that the national debt had finally breached the inevitable $20 trillion mark.

This was a long time coming. It should have happened back in March, except that a new debt ceiling was put in place, freezing the national debt.

For the last six months it was essentially illegal for the government to increase the debt.

This is pretty brutal for Uncle Sam. The US government hasn’t run a budget surplus in two decades; they depend on debt in order to keep everything running.

And without the ability to ‘officially’ borrow money, they’ve basically spent the last six months ‘unofficially’ borrowing money by plundering federal pension funds and resorting to what the Treasury Department itself calls “extraordinary measures” to keep the government running.

Late last week the debt ceiling crisis came to a temporary armistice as the government agreed once again to temporarily suspend the debt limit.

Overnight, the national debt soared hundreds of billions of dollars as months of ‘unofficial’ borrowing made its way on to the official books.

The national debt is now $20.1 trillion. That’s larger than the size of the entire US economy.

You’d think this would be front page news with warnings being shouted from the rooftops of America.

Yet curiously the story has scarcely been covered.

Today’s front page of the New York Times tells us about Hurricane Irma, North Korea, and alcoholism in Iran.

Even the Wall Street Journal’s front page has zero mention of this story.

In fairness, the number itself is irrelevant. $20 trillion is merely a big, round, psychologically significant number… but in reality no more important than $19.999 trillion.

The real story isn’t the number or the size of the debt itself. It’s the trend. And it’s not good.

Year after year after year, the US government spends far more money than it collects in tax revenue.

According to the Treasury Department’s own figures, the government’s budget deficit for the first 10 months of this fiscal year (i.e. October 2016 through July 2017) was $566 billion.

That’s larger than the entire GDP of Argentina.

Since the government has to borrow the difference, all of this overspending ultimately translates into a higher national debt.

Make no mistake, debt is an absolute killer.

History is full of examples of once-dominant civilizations crumbling under the weight of their rapidly-expanding debt, from the Ottoman Empire to the French monarchy in the 1700s.

Or as former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers used to quip, “How long can the world’s biggest borrower remain the world’s biggest power?”

It’s hard to project strength around the world when you constantly have to borrow money from the Chinese… or have your central bank conjure paper money out of thin air.

And yet tackling the debt has become nearly an impossibility.

Just look at the top four line items in the US government’s budget: Social Security, Medicare, Military, and, sadly, interest on the debt.

Those four line items alone account for nearly NINETY PERCENT of all US government spending.

Cutting Social Security or Medicare entitlements is political suicide.

Not top mention, both of those programs are actually EXPANDING as 10,000 Baby Boomers join the ranks of Social Security recipients every single day.

Then there’s military spending, which hardly seems likely to fall significantly in an age of constant threats and warfare.

The current White House proposal, in fact, is a 10% increase in military spending for the next fiscal year.

And last there’s interest on the debt, which absolutely cannot be cut without risking the most severe global financial meltdown ever seen in modern history.

So that’s basically 90% of the federal budget that’s here to stay… meaning there’s almost no chance they’re going to be able to reduce the debt by cutting spending.

But perhaps it’s possible they can slash the national debt by growing tax revenue?

Possible. But unlikely.

Since the end of World War II, the US governments’ overall tax revenue has been VERY steady at roughly 17% of GDP.

You could think of this as the federal government’s ‘slice’ of the economic pie.

Tax rates go up and down. Presidents come and go. But the government’s slice of the pie almost always remains the same 17% of GDP, with very small variations.

With data this strong, it seems rather obvious that the solution is to allow the economy to grow unrestrained.

If the economy grows rapidly, tax revenue will increase. And the national debt, at least as a percentage of GDP, will start to fall.

Here’s the problem: the national debt is growing MUCH faster than the US economy. In Fiscal Year 2016, for example, the debt grew by 7.84%.

Yet even when including the ‘benefits’ of inflation, the US economy only grew by 2.4% over the same period.

In other words, the debt is growing over THREE TIMES FASTER than the economy. This is the opposite of what needs to be happening.

What’s even more disturbing is that this pedestrian economic growth is happening at a time of record low interest rates.

Economists tell us that low interest rates are supposed to jumpstart GDP growth. But that’s not happening.

If GDP growth is this low now, what will happen if they continue to raise rates?

(And by the way, raising interest rates also has the side effect of increasing the government’s interest expense, essentially accelerating the debt problem.)

Look– It’s great to be optimistic and hope for the best. But this problem isn’t going away, and it would be ludicrous to continue believing this massive debt is consequence-free.

There’s no reason to panic or be alarmist.

But it’s clearly time for rational people to consider this obvious data… and start thinking about a Plan B.

Do you have a Plan B?

After a White House official used the term ‘alternative facts’ to refute accusations of White House falsehoods, sales of the 1949 dystopian science fiction novel 1984 spiked to the top of Amazon.com’s best-seller list.

The exchange quickly became infamous: on NBC’s Sunday show “Meet the Press,” host Chuck Todd interviewed Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway about her colleague, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who offered “provable falsehoods” during his very first meeting with the press: namely, the size of the crowd that watched President Trump’s inauguration.

After some arguing, Conway said: “You’re saying it’s a falsehood… Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that.”

“Wait a minute,” said Todd with an incredulous chuckle. “Alternative facts? Alternative facts?… Alternative facts are not facts. They’re falsehoods.”

Conway’s comment was widely derided by Trump opponents, and many claimed that the phrase “alternative facts” sounded like a comment from the oppressive police state known as Big Brother in Orwell’s famous novel.

That novel contains the line, “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” Many compared this to Spicer”s comments about the inauguration, despite photographs clearly demonstrating fewer attendees to Trump’s inauguration than to Obama’s eight years prior.

In 1984, society is controlled by a totalitarian government that watches nearly every aspect of human life. The main character, Winston Smith, is a minor bureaucrat with the Ministry of Truth whose job is to rewrite historical events to fit Big Brother’s version of events, including erasing all evidence that certain people ever existed.

A major theme of the novel is Big Brother’s manipulation of the truth to better suit the policies of the authoritarian state. Facts and reality are irrelevant, and only what Big Brother says is true matters. The novel coins many terms to describe this behavior, including “goodthink” (thought approved by Big Brother), and its opposite, “thoughtcrime.”

Orwell, a democratic socialist, was distressed by atrocities committed by both Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union, and believed the western world was beginning to move down a similar path. Orwell died shortly after the book’s publication. 1984 is frequently read in the west by high school students, making it one of the most popular novels of the 20th century.

Spikes in 1984’s popularity often follow moments of distrust in the government. Sales increased significantly following the 2013 leak of NSA documents from Edward Snowden and others.

In the west, it has become common to compare governments the author dislikes to Orwell’s worst-case-scenario. A 2014 Forbes story had the headline, “Obama’s Corruption of the English Language Comes Right From Orwell’s ‘1984.’” A 2002 article from SFGate was entitled “Learning to love Big Brother / George W. Bush channels George Orwell.”

The U.S. Army is ranked “weak” and the other branches of services “marginal” when it comes to military power, according a new think tank report. Military.com reports that overall, American military power is just “marginal” and trending toward “weak,” according to the 2017 Index of U.S. Military Power, released Wednesday by the Heritage Foundation.

The scores are based on the military’s “capability or modernity, capacity for operations, and readiness to handle assigned missions successfully,” the document states.

The group’s Army assessment is the same from last year (the index began in 2015) and stems from the service’s decision to decrease the size of the force and delay equipment upgrades to improve readiness — yet only a third of its units are prepared for war, according to the document.

“Even for units deployed abroad, the Army has had to increase its reliance on contracted support to meet maintenance requirements,” the report states. “In summary, the Army is smaller, older, and weaker, a condition that is unlikely to change in the near future.”

Military Boost

Based on the U.S. military fulfilling the strategic goal of waging two major wars at the same time, Heritage argues the size of the military must be increased to include 50 brigade combat teams in the Army, 346 surface combatants and 624 strike aircraft in the Navy, 1,200 fighter and ground-attack aircraft in the Air Force and 36 battalions in the Marine Corps.

Similarly, President-elect Donald Trump has called for increasing the size of the Army to about 540,000 active-duty soldiers, the Marine Corps to 36 battalions, the Navy to 350 surface ships and submarines, and the Air Force to at least 1,200 fighter aircraft.

The Obama administration in 2012 argued for changing the force-structure model based on the two-war scenario. The proposal came after Congress and the White House approved decade-long spending caps known as sequestration.

The Pentagon’s $583 billion budget proposal for fiscal 2017, which began Oct. 1, requests funding for 460,000 active soldiers, 24 Marine infantry battalions, 287 naval ships and roughly 1,170 fighter aircraft (excluding A-10 ground attack aircraft) — all for the active component. The figures don’t take into account additional troops and equipment for the Guard and Reserve.

The United States spends more on defense than the next several nations combined, with annual outlays of more than $600 billion — three times more than China and seven times more than Russia, according to figures compiled earlier this year by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Other Service Rankings

The sea service is sacrificing long-term readiness to meet short-term needs, according to the Heritage report. “While the Navy is maintaining a moderate global presence, it has little ability to surge to meet wartime demands,” it states. “Deferred maintenance has kept ships at sea but is also beginning to affect the Navy’s ability to deploy.”

Despite an inventory of nearly 1,600 combat aircraft — including fifth-generation fighters such as the F-22A Raptor and the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter made by Lockheed Martin Corp., the Air Force is facing a shortage of 700 pilots and 4,000 maintainers, affecting its ability to generate combat power, according to the report.

“The lack of ability to fly and maintain [aircraft], especially in a high-tempo/threat combat environment, means that its usable inventory of such aircraft is actually much smaller,” it states.

The Marine Corps also faces a partially utilized aviation fleet, with less than a third of its F/A-18 Hornets made by Boeing Co. about a quarter of its CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters made by Lockheed’s Sikorsky unit available to fly operational missions, according to the report.

While its modernization programs are relatively on track, the Corps “has only two-thirds of the combat units that it actually needs, especially when accounting for expanded requirements that include cyber units and more crisis-response forces,” it states.

Strategic Threats

Even the nation’s nuclear forces only received a score of “marginal,” according to the document.

While the delivery platforms such as the B-2 Spirit bomber “are good, the force depends on a very limited set of weapons (in number of designs) and models that are quite old, in stark contrast to the aggressive programs of competitor states,” it states.

“Russia has rattled its nuclear saber in a number of recent provocative exercises; China has been more aggressive in militarily pressing its claims to the South and East China Seas; North Korea is heavily investing in a submarine-launched ballistic missile capability; and Iran has achieved a nuclear deal with the West that effectively preserves its nuclear capabilities development program for the foreseeable future,” the document states.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has made the case for a down payment of $108 billion over the next five years in the long-term effort to modernize the nation’s nuclear triad that will eventually cost hundreds of billions.

Notably, while Trump has taken a softer approach toward Russia — he recently talked to Russian President Vladimir Putin on the telephone about possible ways to combat terrorism and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS — the Heritage report states “Russia and China continue to be the most worrisome, both because of the investments they are making in the modernization and expansion of their offensive military capabilities and because of the more enduring effect they are having within their respective regions”

Following Friday’s accusation by US “intelligence services” that Russia was behind the hacking of US political organizations – which took place just minutes before the first Wikileaks data dump of John Podesta emails – even though the US government did not directly accuse Putin of being the party responsible, today curious journalists demanded more information from White House spokesman Josh Earnest after Monday’s holiday.

What he told them is that, according to Reuters, Barack Obama will consider a variety of responses to Russia’s hacking of political party organizations and it is possible that any action may not be announced publicly, the White House said on Tuesday.

“There are a range of responses that are available to the president and he will consider a response that is proportional,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters on Air Force One. “It is certainly possible that the president can choose response options that we never announce,” he said.

In other words, the US very well could – and will – do nothing, especially if as the lack of public evidence indicates, the Russian government, which has laughed the whole thing off,  was not in any way responsible.

Meanwhile, over in the UK, ministers have been banned from wearing Apple Watches during Cabinet meetings amid concerns they could be used by Russian spies as listening devices. According to the Telegraph, Theresa May’s government has barred the watch over concerns its microphone could be hacked by spies who would be able to listen in to high-level policy discussions.

“The Russians are trying to hack everything,” one source told the newspaper.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova took a humorous approach to the latest McCarthyian witch hunt.

“Apple Watch, easy. It is strange that the Daily Telegraph do not know that ‘Russian secret agents’ can hack Breguet even better,” she wrote on Facebook according to RT, referring to a Swiss manufacturer of luxury watches.

Under former Prime Minister David Cameron, several cabinet ministers wore the watches, including Justice Secretary Michael Gove. Gove reportedly interrupted one meeting by inadvertently playing a Beyonce song. Sarah Vine, his wife, said he had been “surreptitiously checking his emails,” but pressed the wrong button when a message came through.

“So the cabinet was treated to the first few bars of a song from Beyonce,” she said. Mobile phones have previously been barred from the Cabinet because of similar concerns.

The Apple Watch has also been banned from Australian cabinet meetings.