Saturday, September 29, 2018

US Supreme Court: Partisanship in the extreme

Back in 1793, the Founding Fathers of the US figured 26 Senators had more resources (all were white, landed gentry, plantation owners from the South and industrialists from the North) than the president, just one man, and they could more thoroughly vet his nominees for high Federal positions, checking qualifications and skeletons in their closets. The Senate followed Roberts' Rules, so any Senator could delay any bill (or confirmation) for as long as he could keep talking, and 2/3 of the Senate was needed to vote for cloture, so, if more than 1/3 of all the Senators vehemently objected to a nominee, they could prevent confirmation, hence, all nominees had to be acceptable to more than 2/3. When one or more Senators delayed a bill by taking the floor and keeping it, so the bill could not come up to a vote without cloture, that acquired the name 'filibuster'.

Presidents always nominated men their assistants had assured them were very well qualified and had no past history that would be vehemently opposed. The Senate usually spent a few weeks checking that the president hadn't missed any scandal or lies on the nominee's CV, then generally confirmed him.

Then a very well qualified candidate with no scandals in his past was Borked by the Democrats, and that started the ball rolling down the snow-covered mountain. When Obama was elected, the Republicans tried to block every bill and appointment. The first two years, Obama had a filibuster-proof majority of 60, and got the ACA and 2 Supreme Court appointments: 2 Democrats replacing 2 Democrats, so the court remained 4 - 4 -1 (the 1 being Kennedy, a nominal Republican, but one who would join either the Democrats or the Republicans unpredictably). In 2010, the Democrats lost their filibuster-proof majority, and the Republicans began blocking all laws and appointments, with a few exceptions (they eventually agreed to keep the government running, after letting it 'shut down' once).

In response, the Democrats abolished the filibuster for all appointments except the Supreme Court, and managed to fill many of Obama's appointments until 2015, when the Republicans had a majority in the Senate. When a Republican justice on the Supreme Court died, the Republicans said they would never confirm anyone nominated by Obama, so his nominee, Garland, was never confirmed.

After Trump took office, he nominated a Republican justice to fill the place of the deceased Republican justice the Senate refused to let Obama replace. The Republicans abolished the last filibuster, that for Supreme Court justices, and quickly confirmed Trump's nominee.

Then Kennedy announced his retirement, and Trump appointed Kavanaugh, giving the Republicans a reliable 5 - 4 majority they had not had, and the Democrats went crazy. A minority without a filibuster, they began trying everything they could think of to block the confirmation. Nothing worked. On 13 Sept 2018, the Judiciary Committee, who first check the nominee, voted 11 - 10 to confirm as quickly as possible. The Democrats used their right to demand a one week delay, so the Committee was ready to vote to recommend confirmation on 20 Sept 2018, again, 11 - 10, after which the Senate was expected to vote the next day or the next week 51 - 49 to confirm.

Then the Democrats released a letter Prof Ford had sent months before that said the nominee had sexually abused her! That 11 - 10 vote to recommend confirmation became 12 - 9 to say no recommendation was possible before an investigation into Prof Ford's charges. The chair of the Judiciary committee wanted the investigation to take place on Monday, 24 Sept, but Prof Ford objected. The Democrat's goal (and Prof Ford is a Democrat) is to delay the confirmation vote until January, when the Democrats might have a majority in the Senate. The Committee gave her until 27 September, when she appeared and tearfully recounted the abuse. She had no idea of the day, date, time, or year, only early to mid '80s, most likely 1982, but not absolutely certain. Then the nominee Kavanaugh defended himself, showing that he kept detailed calendars of when and where he was since the '70s. No meeting with a young Prof Ford. But there are blank spaces on his calendars, and he needs an alibi for every hour of every day from 1980 until 1986, since Ford has absolutely no idea when the abuse happened, but she is sure that it must have been when Kavanaugh has no alibi.

Every Democrat 'knows' Prof Ford is telling the truth and Kavanaugh is lying. Most Republicans 'know' Ford is lying and Judge Kavanaugh is telling the truth. Every Democrat 'knows' that, even if there's no proof, one cannot appoint someone to the US Supreme Court with an allegation of sexual abuse hanging over him. Most Republicans 'know' that, if there's no proof, one cannot deny someone an appointment to the US Supreme Court based on an unproven allegation.

The Republicans had a 51 - 49 majority to confirm. On 28 September, the Judiciary Committee voted 11 - 10 to recommend confirmation as quickly as possible, but Senator Flake, who was one of the 11, said he did not want to vote to confirm before an FBI investigation (even though he voted to recommend confirmation as quickly as possible).

So now no one knows what will happen if the Senate majority leader calls for a vote. Do the Republicans still have 51 votes? They only need 50 to confirm. Do they even have 50? No one knows.

The Democrats have played a very weak hand brilliantly. Kavanaugh would be a confirmed member of the Supreme Court by now had it not been for Ford's unprovable accusation, to which two more Democrat women quickly joined with more allegations of sexual abuse (but the Judiciary Committee only agreed to hear Ford). The Democrats desperately want an investigation that drags out until January. The Republican leadership desperately want to confirm before January, but may or may not have the votes, and if they have a vote and confirmation is rejected, they can't have an investigation and a re-vote, one shot is all Kavanaugh gets. And time is running out to get a justice confirmed before January.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Russia's Next Move???

Putin claims that Russia supported Israel in the UN Security Council, helping Israel; however, the Israeli Air Force hid in the shadow of a Russian plane and fired missiles at Syria. Syrian forces saw the missiles coming and launched S-200 anti-missiles that hit the Russian plane, killing all 15 on board. Israel says it was entirely the fault of the incompetent Syrians. Putin says it was a tragic accident. The Russian propaganda channel says it was all Israel's fault: it was a deliberate move to use the Russian plane to shield the Israeli planes from the missiles, and maybe the destruction of the Russian plane was seen as an added bonus.

Years ago, Russia sold a few S-300 SAMs to Syria, but never delivered any of them after Israel and the US said, 'NO!'. Russia says the S-200 has no IFF (Identify Friend or Foe) that would have prevented it from hitting a Russian plane, but the S-300 does have, so it cannot hit a Russian plane, even if the Syrians shoot in the direction of a Russian plane by mistake. And Russia says it will deliver 3 S-300 systems to Syria next week. Israel and the United States say this will be an act of war by Russia that will be very harshly dealt with if a single Israeli plane gets shot down and the pilot killed. So will Russia deliver the 3 S-300 missiles? Not clear, after Russia meekly agreed that Northern Syria is the property of the Ottoman Empire, and Eastern Syria (with all Syria's petroleum products) is a US neo-colony.

Israel bombs Syria hundreds of times every year. The S-200s took down a single Israeli aeroplane (the pilot ejected safely), but, for the most part, Syria does not dare to even shoot at an Israeli plane. Back in '13, when Obama would have forced regime change in Syria had the UK Parliament not voted 'NO!' the US establishment press reported that Syria has one of the world's best air defences, so Obama's victory would have been heralded as military genius. But this 'best air defence' has only been used once against one Israel plane, because Israel has threatened that, if Syria shoots down one Israeli plane, Israel will carpet bomb Damascus, and the S-200s can't stop the entire Israeli Air Force from destroying Damascus (they might take out a plane or two, but most would complete their missions).

If the 3 S-300s are delivered, will they make a difference? Will they survive an Israeli strike? Will they even be delivered, or is the threat of delivery a tiny bargaining chip Russia is trying to use?

We'll have a pretty good idea by one week from next Monday, since that's when Russia promised delivery, so it must either deliver by Monday week or renege.

Back in '15, when Russia moved more troops into Syria to defend Russia's only Mediterranean base, the pundits said Russia had nothing. If Obama ordered Putin to step down, Putin had no choice but to meekly comply. The US could easily transform Syria from an impoverished, brutal dictatorship into a peaceful and prosperous democracy (as it had done for Iraq and Libya) and return those military bases on which Russia was squatting to their rightful owners: NATO. But Obama left finishing the job he'd started in Syria for St Hillary, whose supporters said she'd get rid of the evil Syrian dictator and put in a good democratic leader from the peaceful, pro-democracy activists in Syria (i.e., al-Qaeda and the ISL, but her supporters refuse to admit that), and do the same for Russia.

But St Hillary lost (and every Clintonbot knows Trump tweeted Putin passwords to pilfer the election, since St Hillary would have had more than 175% of the vote in any honest election), and Candidate Trump said he wanted peace with Syria and Russia. President Trump announced to the UN Security Council that he intends to liberate Iran. His cabinet say regime change in Iran is necessary, but he must not forget Syria and Russia. Does Russia have anything? Will Putin be gone and replaced with a 'good democrat' like Yeltsin who will dismantle the Russian military Putin started to rebuild?

Or will Russia stick to its promise and actually deliver those 3 S-300 systems it sold to Syria more than 5 years ago? We will know in less than a fortnight!

And then, we're promised, the Israeli bombing raids on Israel will finally stop.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Syria loses Idlib to the Ottoman Empire

I read many Obamabots and Clintonbots (including the New York Times) say that Russia is not the USSR, but is a very minor power, on the level of Panamá, that all Russia's weapons are just Photoshop. A Frenchman and an Austrian figured that was true, and the Frenchman tried to force regime change in Russia, and the Austrian tried to force regime change in the USSR. Now, however, Turkey sent its army into Idlib, and said it would fight against any attempt to reattach Idlib to Syria. The rest of NATO said they'd support Turkey if Russia tried to take Idlib. After a couple of days (one in Tehran and one in Sochi) Putin agreed: Turkey can keep Idlib.

Then Israel sent four aircraft behind a Russian aircraft, and began firing missiles at Syria. Syria shot back, and shot down the Russian plane. Israel says it was obviously the fault of the incompetent Syrians. Putin says he'll do nothing about it (the Russian propaganda channel keeps saying it was obviously Israel's fault, but Putin has not said that, and that's not the official Russian position).

Is Russia just a paper tiger? Is it quite unable to stand up to the US, knows it, and will always back down? If so, WWIII is off the table, and the US will keep expanding its influence, and will continue killing anyone who objects to US hegemony. After all, the US is the Greatest Force for Good in the World (just read US history books), so US hegemony over the entire world is all for the best.

(Of course, there's a nation with a bigger GDP than the US, a stronger military than the US, and they've made Venezuela part of their Belt and Road, so they're vehemently opposed to regime change, which the US is threatening, so even if Russia will always back down, there's a much bigger player than Russia that might not. At least Venezuela must hope so.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

What's really happening in Syria???

The western establishment media (who are seldom foolish enough to actually go into Syria) say the Russians have started a massive bombing campaign, bombing schools and hospitals in Idlib and killing lots of children, while the Syrian Arab Army is massing all around Idlib for a brutal assault. They get this information from tweets sent out by al-Qaeda (under whatever name they're using now). One western reporter, Robert Fisk, who was foolish enough to go to Syria and drive the ring road around Idlib said he heard no bombing, so, while Russia admits it's bombing places sending missiles and drones to bomb Russian bases, the bombing must be very sporadic, or he'd have seen and heard it. The 'Syrian Arab Army' massing around Idlib' he did not see, just a few Syrian soldiers exchanging small arms fire with the peaceful, pro-democracy protesters (and some of their sniper fire came near him). Of course, during this month (which lasts until about 8 October), war is prohibited by Islam, so the Syrian assault to liberate Idlib might be planned for then.

The Russians say they have evidence that NATO (US/UK/France/Turkey) are planning to force regime change in Syria in the very near future. Their intelligence said that a US film crew went into Idlib and filmed a 'chemical attack' by the evil Syrian and Russian regimes, and this was done so the US/UK/France can say they have no choice but to force regime change since the evil Syrians and Russians are using chemical weapons. The film is now being edited, and will be sent to the UN and the OPCW, while out-takes will be posted on social media, whereupon the US/UK/France are already getting ready to start a Libyan-style regime change in Syria. Only it's not 2011 (a fact of which NATO do not seem to be aware, perhaps their calendars stopped because they forgot to wind them?). In 2011, Putin felt that Russia could not stand up to NATO, and Russia did not veto the UN resolution to attack Libya (the resolution did not mention regime change, but even if it had been explicit, Russia and China considered themselves too weak to challenge NATO for Libya). In 2018, Putin says Russia absolutely will not allow NATO to force regime change in Syria. Is Putin bluffing? NATO says he is, they say Yeltsin dismantled the Soviet military, and all Putin's 'weapons' are just Photoshop. When NATO starts bombing, Putin has no choice but to withdraw whatever is left of the Russian military and let NATO remove the evil Syrian regime, put a member of the peaceful, pro-democracy al-Qaeda in charge, and NATO will return to those NATO bases on which the USSR and then Russia have been squatting since the days of the current Syrian president's father. All the NATO 'experts' that I've read say Russia will be about as difficult an opponent as Grenada or Panamá were. Somehow, I don't have quite as much confidence in the NATO 'experts' as they have in themselves. Likewise, I have no idea if Russian intelligence is any good.

We'll all know very soon if Russian intelligence is right. If they're wrong about the NATO regime change in Syria being imminent, it might be awhile before we're sure they were wrong.

And if Russian Intelligence is correct, no one has a clue what will happen. I guess we'll find out.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018


Islam prohibits war this month and next month; however, that means aggressive war, not defensive war. Syria says foreign jihadis invaded Idlib, so war against them is defensive. The fact that they've been shelling Latakia is one more reason the Syrians and Russians are saying this is a strictly defensive action, which is allowed, even in the four months when war is prohibited in Islam.

The problem is that NATO (i.e. the US, UK, France, and Turkey) have said they will not allow the Syrians and Russians to take Idlib, they will fight to defend the innocent, peaceful, pro-democracy activists (al-Qaeda and the ISL). Russia has said it will see that the abscess of jihadis in Idlib is removed. The Syrian Army is gathering around Idlib. The Russian and American fleets are sailing toward Syria. US, UK, and French planes are getting ready to bomb Syria. The Turkish Army is getting ready to defend Idlib.

I have read many columnists, reporters, and Internet commentators write that Putin is bluffing, his hand is nothing, not even a pair, while NATO holds a straight flush. He's been pretending Russia is still the USSR (with strictly Orthodox Marxism-Leninism, unlike the old, unOrthodox kind they had before), but as soon as NATO starts bombing Syria, he'll pull whatever is left of the Russian military out of Syria, NATO will finish regime change and all those military bases where the Russians have been squatting will return to their rightful owners, NATO.

Pity those columnists, reporters, and Internet commentators don't understand any of the new, clear fizzics. Some of us remember the Cuban missile crisis. It looked like the end of the world, but Kennedy called Khrushchev and said, 'I have to run for re-election, and you don't. If you'll say you gave me everything I asked for, I'll give you everything you're asking for.' And so, without letting anyone know, Kennedy removed all the US nukes from Turkey (we found out about 40 years later), Khrushchev said he'd capitulated completely because the US led by Kennedy was too strong and he knew he'd lose, and everyone lived (happily ever after, just because they were still alive, against every expectation).

Putin promised to shoot down any and all NATO planes attacking Syria, which would have escalated as NATO would have had to shoot back. So Trump called, and Putin gave NATO 3 abandoned, empty building they could bomb and no Russian anti-aircraft fire would be used. Trump claimed a great victory, three major weapons plants destroyed (but actually, nothing lost and no one got hurt). Putin officially fumed about the attack, but did nothing. And the phone call (which must have happened) is still Top Secret.

The establishment media said, 'Trump's no Obama. He only hit three buildings, when he should have carpet bombed Damascus the way Obama carpet bombed all the Libyan presidential residences and army until he achieved regime change. The evil Syrian and Russia regimes are still running Syria and Russia, so Trump is one of the worst presidents we've ever had for not forcing the regime change St Hillary promised, putting the good, democratic rebels in charge of Syria.' (Note that those 'democratic rebels' are al-Qaeda and the ISL.) And there it's sat for a year. But now Trump's cabinet and Trump (and the UK and France) have said they will not allow Russia to attack Idlib. After Trump said he would send the US military if Russia bombed Idlib, the jihadis immediately tweeted to Western reporters that Russia started bombing yesterday. Russia neither confirmed nor denied the bombing.

Yesterday was, of course, Labor Day, so the US was off, including most newspaper reporters. But today, everyone is back at work, the Russian bombing is starting to make the news as a fact (after all, al-Qaeda and the ISL cannot tell a lie, since their religion prohibits lying, plus the US and UK are paying them, and US and UK employees never lie), and all the establishment media are starting to scream. And so ...