News from the World of Stupid

Trump Maladministration

First item — right-wing news outlets are worked up into a tizzy over a link between Iran and the 9/11 attacks. The usual suspects — Breitbart, Gateway Pundit, Townhall, RedState, Washington Free Beacon, Jihad Watch, etc.  — are running screaming headlines about it with photos of the burning towers. I’m not linking to most of these bozos because it just encourages them.

What is this link between Iran and 9/11? If you carefully pick through the thickets of overheated verbiage, it turns out that some politician stated that Iranian authorities had allowed the 9/11 perps to change planes in an Iranian airport without stamping their passports. Whether these Iranian authorities had any idea of what the perps were planning, the articles do not say. I rather doubt it, though. A couple of the articles say that Iran often didn’t stamp Saudi passports in those days if people were just passing through, for complicated reasons that don’t involve the U.S.

This is from the Washington Free Beacon:

Mohammad-Javad Larijani, an international affairs assistant in the Iran’s judiciary, disclosed in Farsi-language remarks broadcast on Iran’s state-controlled television that Iranian intelligence officials secretly helped provide the al Qaeda attackers with passage and gave them refuge in the Islamic Republic, according to an English translation published by Al Arabiya.

“Our government agreed not to stamp the passports of some of them because they were on transit flights for two hours, and they were resuming their flights without having their passports stamped. However their movements were under the complete supervision of the Iranian intelligence,” Larijani was quoted as saying.

The remarks represent the first time senior Iranian officials have publicly admitted to aiding al Qaeda and playing a direct role in facilitating the 9/11 attacks.

Several of the articles tell us triumphantly that this detail confirms something in the 9/11 Commission report. And, indeed, it does. I looked it up. The 9/11 Commission expressed the opinion that al Qaeda operatives from Saudi Arabia, including the 9/11 perps, routinely traveled to and from Afghanistan through Iran to avoid getting their passports stamped. Mohammad-Javad Larijani was just saying “yeah, but we were keeping tabs on them.” This is hardly an admission that Iran played a direct role in the 9/11 attack.

The 9/11 Commission report also states, “We have found no evidence that Iran or Hezbollah was aware of the planning for what later became the 9/11 attack. At the time of their travel through Iran, the al Qaeda operatives themselves were probably not aware of the specific details of their future operation.” In other words, if Iran was guilty of “facilitating” the 9/11 attacks, so were the U.S. airlines who sold the perps their tickets. They “facilitated” the attack, but they weren’t in on it.

Try as I might, I can’t work myself into a state of alarm over this. Or even mild concern, at this point. It’s not even really news. Watch the Creatures from the Fever Swamps try to use it to whip the Right into a foaming-at-the-mouth determination to invade Iran, however.

Item #2: Donald at the G6 plus 1 meeting in Quebec. Where do I start? Reading between the lines of this Politico article, one gets the impression that the G6 leaders spent most of their time yesterday trying to explain to the plus 1, Trump, what a “trade deficit” is.

During the private gathering, Europe’s major economic powers pushed back hard against Trump’s repeated assertions that the U.S. is a victim of unfair trade practices.

“We should at least consider no tariffs, no barriers — scrapping all of it,” Trump said, according to officials who were listening and taking notes.

Trump floated the idea — which was received as somewhat rhetorical — as the meeting was breaking up and was quickly challenged by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who asked, “What about subsidies?”

The other G7 leaders — from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, as well as the presidents of the European Commission and European Council — have been trying to impress upon Trump the complexity of trade issues, insisting that his oft-repeated complaint about the trade imbalance between the U.S. and allies on many manufactured goods is only part of the picture. …

… The leaders came armed with an array of their own statistics aimed at demonstrating to Trump that he was not right to view the U.S. as a victim. Macron, in particular, implored Trump to understand that tariffs alone were not a cause of trade imbalances. He explained that France runs trade deficits with Germany and the United Kingdom on manufactured goods, even though all three countries are part of the EU single market and have zero tariffs between them.

“Why is this happening?” Macron asked, according to an official. “Because French like German cars.”

To everyone’s relief, Trump is leaving early. There are indications that the participants will skip the traditional joint statement at the end of the meeting rather than ask Trump to sign anything. See also Trump hits the world stage, Day 1: Come late, leave early, offend host, alienate allies.

Trump’s next stop is, of course, Singapore, where he is to meet with Kim Jong Un. Since Trump is totally unprepared for such a meeting and too stupid to realize it, the Singapore Summit promises to be a Cavalcade of Derp.

Related to all of this, I urge you to read “We’ve Got a Problem. A Big Problem.” by Josh Marshall at TPM. A snip:

Over the course of 16+ months, President Trump has acted consistently and with some success to destabilize and break up the western alliance (both its formal manifestation in NATO) but also its less formal dimensions in trade and other partnerships. He has also worked consistently on really every front to advance the interests of Russia.

Less obviously to many Americans, he’s been doing something similar in East Asia. The U.S. alliance with Japan and South Korea, which in recent years we’ve taken steps to extend to other states on the periphery of the East Asian landmass (which is basically to say, China) is not simply to protect against North Korea. It is to build a series of security relationships with countries on that periphery to act as a counterweight to the regional (perhaps world) great power, China. Allies in the region are closely watching President Trump’s apparent desire to remove U.S. troops from South Korea for that reason, among others.

The last twenty four hours of attacks on our closest allies capped by President Trump’s seemingly out of the blue demand to bring Russia back into the G-7 (making it again the G-8 which it was for most of the post-Cold War era until Russia was expelled over the annexation of Crimea) simply brings the matter into a newly sharp relief. If candidate Trump and President Putin had made a corrupt bargain which obligated President Trump to destabilize all U.S. security and trade alliances (especially NATO, which has been Russia’s primary strategic goal for 70 years) and advance the strategic interests of Russia, there’s really nothing more remotely realistic he could have done to accomplish that than what he has in fact done.

As Josh Marshall says, let that sink in.

Update:

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16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. moonbat  •  Jun 9, 2018 @2:16 pm

    "Let that sink in" – it's so obvious that Putin is playing Trump like a fiddle. Trump is so childish, he could do it in his sleep.

  2. doug  •  Jun 9, 2018 @2:24 pm

    Regarding Item 1 – Thirteen of the 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, which has always been exempted from blame under Bush, Obama and Trump. WTF??? The power of the oil industry means oil-rich countries can't be criticized. I don't think the Saudi family endorsed the plot, nor did they stop it by cracking down on the extremist religious factions that hate the US. But where is the right on this obvious fact?

    Regarding Item 2 – I listened to the quote from Trump this morning about everyone lowering all tariffs, The MSM is reporting the quote with the same simple-mindedness that Trump delivered the line.

    Trump proposed the elimination of all tariffs and subsidies. The full quote and implications the media thinks Krugman has to report. It's too difficult for MSNBC to explain. Hell, even I get it!

    Suppose England and France cooperate to develop a new Concorde as they did the first (with subsidies). Suppose the new version is cost-effective to make and run transatlantic. Trump slaps a 25% tariff on the plane, making it too expensive for American airlines. Air France has routes to NYC and Miami and US travelers buy from the foreign airlines. US airlines drop transatlantic flights as traffic shifts away and the foreign airlines add flights. Who wins?

    Ahhh, the libertarian points out that Boeing can produce a plane to compete. Ignoring how long it takes to develop a new plane, the French and English got patents on what they developed. To compete, Boeing has to pay the governments of England and France for the patents they own. Again, who wins?

    Isn't it just as likely that Boeing will be first to develop the technology? Not without subsidies. R & D is expensive. Europe, not the US has shown the most willingness to pay the cost to develop new ideas. That's why the biggest particle accelerator in the world is near Geneva.

    The current steel and aluminum tariffs will be counterproductive, delivering exactly the opposite effect that Trump promised. Steel and aluminum will become MORE expensive- cut supply and price goes up. The retailer of refrigerators notes US refrigerators are more expensive, but foreign-made refers are the same price. The tariff apples to raw aluminum, not finished goods. So the retailer stocks up on foreign-made refrigerators which will sell better after Trump tariffs. Who wins?

    US manufacturers cut production and jobs and eye foreign sites where raw materials and labor are cheaper. Considering the pattern of tariffs, they open up the new plant in a country with a Trump golf course, knowing it will be exempt in the trade war. Who wins?

    The trade policy will hold a world record for a short time for diplomatic stupidity. The N. Korea summit is next week.

     

  3. freetofu  •  Jun 9, 2018 @7:31 pm

    I keep seeing the claim that our trade deficit is the result of our budget deficit somehow but I don't claim to really understand it.

  4. Tom_b  •  Jun 9, 2018 @8:14 pm

    Speaking about stupid:

    https://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/us_5b1c0c07e4b0bbb7a0dd66d4

    Folding his arms pouting, Mr. “Wing it” with his play buddy at his side not comprehending a darn thing any of the actual world leaders is attempting to explain to him for the 10th time.

  5. Billikin  •  Jun 9, 2018 @9:07 pm

    @freetofu

    Dean Baker ( http://cepr.net/blogs/beat-the-press/budget-deficits-and-trade-deficits-nyt-reporters-do-not-understand-national-income-accounting ):

    "Usually economists believe that a large budget deficit will increase the value of the dollar. The logic is that higher budget deficits are believed to cause higher interest rates, which makes holding bonds and other dollar denominated assets more attractive. This is how a budget deficit can cause a trade deficit.

    "The mechanics of this process are somewhat dubious in that there is very little relationship between budget deficits and trade deficits. (In 2000, when the country was running a huge budget surplus, we also had a large and rapidly growing trade deficit.) "

    The missing part of that argument is that a strong dollar means that imports are cheap, so we buy imports; and exports are expensive, so foreigners do not buy our exports. Result: trade deficit.

  6. freetofu  •  Jun 9, 2018 @9:32 pm

    Baker's great, and that was interesting, although the person I saw making the claim definitely knows that interest rates aren't high.

  7. badda book badda boom  •  Jun 9, 2018 @9:38 pm

    Its time to release the pee-pee tape already.

  8. freetofu  •  Jun 9, 2018 @9:41 pm

    Anyway, here's a long thread on the subject from the guy I'm mainly thinking of… even though I can't really follow everything he says, for some reason I tend to get the sense he knows what he's talking about on this subject, despite his being a Republican…

    https://twitter.com/prchovanec/status/961735845546987521

  9. freetofu  •  Jun 9, 2018 @10:04 pm

    I keep seeing explainers about this stuff here and there, and it annoys me that I don't get it.

  10. grannyeagle  •  Jun 9, 2018 @10:25 pm

    OT:  We have another Triple Crown winner.  Love them horses.  Lucky horse, only 3 yo and now he gets to retire, go to stud service and be pampered the rest of his life.  I think I said this the last time.  Honestly, he can run more races but why?  His owners can make more money with stud service.  By the way, the owner is also the owner of the last winner 3 yrs. ago.

  11. uncledad  •  Jun 9, 2018 @10:43 pm

    Obama ordered the invasion of Crimea! I missed it, what year was that?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShCSuFSauzU

  12. maha  •  Jun 10, 2018 @10:03 am

    uncledad, not sure of the year of Obama’s invasion of Crimea. But I found a picture. Obama's invasion of Crimea

  13. aj  •  Jun 10, 2018 @9:37 am

    Trump cozies up to Putin  and Kim Jong un  while Kudlow, the TV commentator who was fired from Goldman sachs over a coca inexpensive habit says Trudeau stabbed us in the back. What does it take?

    We have asked this for three years. 40 percent are in denial. Something has to give. Will I ever hear anyone refute the jobs numbers? Will anyone admit having 3 low paying no benefits jobs is not paradise  that the country has sold out for?

  14. uncledad  •  Jun 10, 2018 @10:15 am

    "Try as I might, I can’t work myself into a state of alarm over this "

    It's an outrage that Iran didn't stamp passports of the Saudi terrorists. It's obvious that Iran is to blame for the Saudi terror attack of 9-11. It's as if they directed the Saudi terrorists to fly the planes into our towers. We should push for Iranian regime change, maybe we can get the Saudi's to be part of the coalition of the willing!

  15. doug  •  Jun 10, 2018 @12:43 pm

    Partially OT there's a question that's a big part of the evolving trade dynamic and tariff war underway. IMO, big business has a strangle hold on Congress through both parties. That cartel has little influence on Trump whose not a businessman in terms of producing anything. Trump is a thug whose major source of income is branding, selling his name in various hustles globally. 

    How are the major players on Wall Street going to react to Trump policies when they cost international corporations hundreds of billions of dollars? In order for Congress, especially the Senate, to assert their Constitutional power as the arbiters of treaties, they will have to rescind some legislation and pass other legislation. Congress must have a supermajority in the Senate, which we are used to, and a supermajority in the House to overcome the inevitable veto.

    This is the proverbial unstoppable force (Wall Street) against the immovable object (Trump voters). Congress is in the middle. I'm not sure Wall Street will wait to see how Trump trade policies work out when their money is on the table. This is going to be a major factor in this election with major money before November moving to whichever candidates shift the balance in Congress to a coalition will curb Trump and protect Wall Street. 

    That translates into roughly 60 Republicans in the House who would have to vote to override a Trump veto in 2019 if Democrats take a bare majority and 17 Republican Senators if the balance there stays constant. A corrupt Wall Street could be the prime mover in curbing presidential power and reminding Congress of their proper role.

    I'm not sure this will happen, but Wall Street isn't going to be passive when the cost to them is potentially catastrophic. Watch the Dow next week and movement on K street in the weeks to follow.

  16. csm  •  Jun 10, 2018 @1:25 pm

    Here's an analogy that will hopefully illuminate my point.  Let's say you are at home, just you and the grandchild, and you have a jar with four cookies.  You say, "don't eat the cookies until after dinner."  Later, you get ready to prepare dinner and the cookies are gone.  Grandchild insists, "you didn't see me eat the cookies!"  Common sense says they did.

    Linking Iran to 911 is like that.  They did it to justify going into Iraq.

    Trump and now Kudlow loudly claiming Trudeau "betrayed" the US is like that.  We know what Trump said, we know what Trudeau said.  

    And Trump's demand to bring Russia back into the G-7 is like that.  Trump screams and stamps his feet, that he is not a puppet of Russia.  When the net effect of his actions, comments and demands are essentially Russia's agenda against the west.

    Our media and institutions are the parent of that grandchild that says, "well, little knucklehead says he didn't eat it and that's his opinion and we gotta respect that.

    The world sees we are not a responsible "parent" and its not all Trump's fault.  He's the spoiled child allowed to run rampant in the department store, tearing up stuff as he goes, knowing his parent will at worst, defend him and at best, enable him without repercussions, which is what "we" do.  

    Somehow, Trump's obvious lies cannot continue to be treated as "his opinion," worthy of consideration as a truth.  The media, political opposition (for what its worth) and other leaders and institutions have to be pushed to call out lies as lies as the first step towards accountability. And I get the journalistic concern over calling something a lie, however a lie is news, per se, and should be reported as such.

    I stopped watching MTP during the Russert days years ago. I gave CNN a break, and I’m putting the kibosh on MSNBC as well. They’re not getting the benefit of my viewership anymore until they start doing that.

    "We" will have a chance to do our part come November.  Hopefully "we" show up.