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Foreign Affairs

Did Russia play both sides for fools?

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Did Russia play both sides for fools

For a few weeks, I’ve been looking into a theory about Russia’s involvement in American politics that goes well beyond simply trying to sway elections. I don’t normally research stories for this long (I prefer writing easy commentary over difficult investigative reporting), but I had to be very sure before sharing my thoughts. The reason: it’s a conspiracy theory. The last thing we need is more conspiracy theories without evidence to support them.

As it turns out, my delay was fruitful. The last piece to the puzzle was released yesterday when it was revealed Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the DNC paid to have the infamous Trump-Russia Dossier compiled:

House Clinton: The sizzling series finale, featuring the Trump ‘dossier’

http://noqreport.com/2017/10/24/house-clinton-sizzling-series-finale-featuring-trump-dossier/After the election, in January, Buzzfeed, with zero evidence of the veracity of their “scoop” (which in fact had been shopped to all the major media), published it. FBI Director James Comey personally briefed Trump on the dossier and its contents–knowing that Christopher Steele, the British former intelligence officer who compiled it, was working for the FBI itself.

Fusion GPS, the shadowy oppo research firm that paid Steele, has been fighting Congress tooth-and-nail, invoking their Fifth Amendment rights, and battling Rep. Devin Nunes subpoena of its bank records to discover who paid what to whom.

Before I get into my theory, let me lay out a few disclaimers up front. I supported Ted Cruz for the GOP presidential nomination. I would have preferred his opponent had been Bernie Sanders, not because I would support or ever vote for him but because I wanted zero chance of Hillary Clinton being the President. Also, I’m co-founder of the Federalist Party, so if there’s a hint of bias against the Democrats and Republicans, it’s because I don’t trust either major party anymore. Both are opposed to limited government so I’m opposed to both of them.

With that out of the way, let’s get to the theory.

Russia played both sides

It’s for more diligent journalists, law enforcement officials, or Capitol Hill panels to determine what Russia’s involvement has been in both the elections and the state of American politics. I don’t know if they have dirt on President Trump or those close to him. I don’t know for certain what they’re holding over Hillary Clinton or those associated with her. This theory is based upon the fairly safe assumption that Russia has been making moves to gain leverage over people within the United States government.

The theory was born from a simple question: why Trump? Vladimir Putin is known to favor the status quo in nearly every situation. Clinton represented the epitome of the status quo, so if we’re to assume Russia was helping Trump, one would have to wonder why. It didn’t make sense for any of the three main reasons people were giving. Let’s look at those three reasons and why none made sense.

  1. “Putin didn’t like Clinton but did like Trump and through he could either trust him more or manipulate him more easily.” Don’t read into the alleged bromance between Trump and Putin. They are leaders of nations that aren’t direct enemies anymore but whose interests exist in contention with the other’s. Therefore, it comes down to politics. Putin not liking Clinton is irrelevant. Even if he actually likes Trump (he doesn’t), it would also be irrelevant. Superpowers do not make decisions about one another based upon personality compatibility.
  2. “Putin has dirt on Trump.” This may be true, but there’s almost no chance he doesn’t have dirt on Hillary as well. We’re seeing some of that with Uranium One. They may have more of her emails that haven’t been released. Then, there’s the Dossier which we’ll get to shortly.
  3. “Russia liked Trump’s ‘America First’ policy because they thought it would give them the advantage in foreign affairs.” There may be some truth to this, but it’s completely negated by Trump’s promises about the military. The last thing Russia wants is a President who bolsters the United States military.

If none of the solutions to a problem make sense, the next step is to reevaluate the assumed problem. What if the premise was flawed? Maybe Russia wasn’t really trying to support Trump. What if they were playing both sides? If their goal was not to put one or the other into the White House but to have leverage regardless of who won, then the premise is no longer the notion they were supporting Trump. The new premise would be that they already had enough dirt on Clinton and wanted to stir up dirt on Trump. What’s the easiest way to do that? To be his friend. To talk to his people. To offer assistance. To earn their trust.

To collect dirt.

The flaw to this theory was twofold. The first flaw resolved itself with the Dossier itself. I’ll cover that shortly. The second flaw resolved itself in the last two weeks. That flaw was really more of a question that needed to be answered: What dirt did they have on Clinton? Uranium One seemed to be an easy choice, but it wasn’t enough to make me feel secure that it was the real smoking gun, though some have been saying it was exactly that. The emails they hacked were also an easy choice, but it seemed as if most that were accessible had already been leaked. If they got to her emails before they were wiped, then perhaps that really was the ace they had up their sleeves. Still, there was something else pricking at my brain for a while.

When the news broke that she participated in funding the Dossier, I realized this was it. No, it’s not what was in the Dossier or her involvement in putting it together. Her fingerprints wouldn’t be directly on it. What they have is something we don’t know and likely will never know now that she lost. Put your tinfoil hat on before you read this because now is when I get into the very speculative portion of today’s broadcast…

From here out, it’s all speculation

Before I go into detail about the conspiracy theory itself, let’s consider the Dossier itself. This is an important clue. It reada like a fake documentary co-directed by David Fincher and Darren Aronofsky, written by Oliver Stone, and starring Rodney Dangerfield. It was intended to be so outrageous that only die-hard Trump haters could believe it. That’s not to say none of it was true. Because very little of it was verifiable by any stretch of the investigative imagination, it was completely ineffective.

As intended.

Why was it produced like this? Because Hillary and the DNC wanted dirt on Trump and were willing to make promises in order to get it. They paid to get the information, but then they were swindled. They were told there was damning information uncovered, but before they could get their hands on it the interested parties (the Russians) wanted assurances. They wanted to know where Clinton stood on certain topics. They wanted a deal.

Again, this is purely speculation, but if the deal to get the Dossier out there included a conversation directly with Hillary to make the right assurances, it’s possible she did so. That’s the leverage they wanted over her if she won. All they needed was to have some form of proof that Clinton paid for and made a deal to get the Dossier.

Once the deal was done, all that was left was to over-deliver on the goods. They handed them a Dossier that was so damaging to Trump he would never be President. The problem was that it was too damaging. It was too sensational. It was so damaging and so spectacular that they couldn’t use any of it. Sticking with the movie analogies, they were promised a script for the next Star Wars franchise and were handed Waterworld.

How Russia’s winning today

I’m not one to admit defeat easily, but with all the turmoil in DC today, Russia is getting what they wanted. Putin loves the status quo, but don’t underestimate his appreciation for disarray within the status quo. The polarization of today’s American political environment is based solely on feelings rather than function. Some people like Trump’s ideas until they find out their his. Others would follow Trump off the proverbial cliff if he said so. It doesn’t matter that the Republicans are putting out an insanely large budget or that the Democrats seem to be embracing certain precepts of federalism. The dichotomy in philosophies isn’t nearly as large as the dichotomy of allegiances.

We are a divided house. Russia doesn’t care whose responsible for division as long as it’s happening. It would have happened had Hillary won as well. Either would just be a leader in DC that Russia hoped to sway. That’s what they really wanted. That was their end game. It’s not that they wanted one over the other. They wanted sow discord and have leverage regardless of the winner.

Foreign Affairs

The United Nations only opposes terrorism if it’s not directed towards Israel

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The United Nations only opposes terrorism if its not directed towards Israel

The hypocrisy and lunacy of the United Nations was made crystal clear today. Despite receiving a majority of votes on a resolution to condemn Hamas for their terrorist and military attacks on Israel, the 2/3 threshold was not met. The resolution will not be adopted.

By doing this, the U.N. has officially accepted terrorism as an acceptable means of dealing with the nation of Israel. Most nations do not agree, but as a governing body they have made their choice. More importantly, we are now aware of which nations support Hamas despite their heinous acts against the Jewish state.

The U.S. Mission to the U.N. laid down the stakes just prior to the vote.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley gave a speech that resonated with enough nations to bring about the simple majority. This is an accomplishment even if the resolution ultimately failed.

My Take

This is a good thing for Israel. One can argue it’s even better than had the resolution passed. United Nations resolutions are about as worthless as a press release. But seeing the United Nations being unwilling as a group to condemn the undisputed terrorist and military activities perpetrated by Hamas against Israel helps take away the governing body’s waning credibility.

We know who is more fair than others towards Israel. The European Union, for example, has been outspoken in their condemnation of many of Israel’s actions. But they voted as a unified block to condemn Hamas. This is a sign of hope that alerts Israel and the United States that the anti-Israel bias at the U.N. isn’t absolute. Some are willing to be at least a little more fair than usual.

Hamas is a terrorist organization. Its nature, stated goals, and actions have proven this beyond a shadow of a doubt. The fact the U.N. will not condemn them after condemning everything Israel does is a clear indicator the organization is corrupt.

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Foreign Affairs

China demands Canada release Huawei executive

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China demands Canada release Huawei executive

BEIJING (AP) — China on Thursday demanded Canada release a Huawei Technologies executive who was arrested in a case that adds to technology tensions with Washington and threatens to complicate trade talks.

Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, faces possible extradition to the United States, according to Canadian authorities. The Globe and Mail newspaper, citing law enforcement sources, said she is suspected of trying to evade U.S. trade curbs on Iran.

The timing is awkward following the announcement of a U.S.-Chinese cease-fire in a tariff war over Beijing’s technology policy. Meng was detained in Vancouver on Saturday, the day Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping met in Argentina and announced their deal.

Stock markets tumbled on the news, fearing renewed U.S.-Chinese tensions that threaten global economic growth. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 2.5 percent and the DAX in Germany sank 1.8 percent.

A Chinese government statement said Meng broke no U.S. or Canadian laws and demanded Canada “immediately correct the mistake” and release her.

Beijing asked Washington and Ottawa to explain the reason for Meng’s arrest, said a foreign ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang. He said arresting her without that violated her human rights.

But the Ministry of Commerce signaled Beijing wants to avoid disrupting progress toward settling a dispute with Washington over technology policy that has led them to raise tariffs on billions of dollars of each other’s goods.

China is confident they can reach a trade deal during the 90 days that Trump agreed to suspend U.S. tariff hikes, said a ministry spokesman, Gao Feng.

Huawei Technologies Ltd., the biggest global supplier of network gear used by phone and internet companies, has been the target of deepening U.S. security concerns. Under Trump and his predecessor, Barack Obama, Washington has pressured European countries and other allies to limit use of its technology.

The United States sees Huawei and smaller Chinese tech suppliers as possible fronts for spying and as commercial competitors. The Trump administration says they benefit from improper subsidies and market barriers.

Trump’s tariff hikes on Chinese imports stemmed from complaints Beijing steals or pressures foreign companies to hand over technology. But American officials also worry more broadly that Chinese plans for state-led creation of Chinese champions in robotics, artificial intelligence and other fields might erode U.S. industrial leadership.

“The United States is stepping up containment of China in all respects,” said Zhu Feng, an international relations expert at Nanjing University. He said targeting Huawei, one of its most successful companies, “will trigger anti-U.S. sentiment.”

“The incident could turn out to be a breaking point,” Zhu said.

Last month, New Zealand blocked a mobile phone company from using Huawei equipment, saying it posed a “significant network security risk.” The company was banned in August from working on Australia’s fifth-generation network.

On Wednesday, British phone carrier BT said it was removing Huawei equipment from the core of its mobile phone networks. It said Huawei still is a supplier of other equipment and a “valued innovation partner.”

The Wall Street Journal reported this year U.S. authorities are investigating whether Huawei violated sanctions on Iran. The Chinese government appealed to Washington to avoid any steps that might damage business confidence.

Huawei’s biggest Chinese rival, ZTE Corp., was nearly driven out of business this year when Washington barred it from buying U.S. technology over exports to North Korea and Iran. Trump restored access after ZTE agreed to pay a $1 billion fine, replace its executive team and embed a U.S.-chosen compliance team in the company.

Huawei is regarded as far stronger commercially than ZTE. Based in Shenzhen, near Hong Kong, Huawei has the biggest research and development budget of any Chinese company and a vast portfolio of patents, making it less dependent on American suppliers.

Its growing smartphone brand is among the top three global suppliers behind Samsung Electronics and Apple Inc. by number of handsets sold.

Meng was changing flights in Canada when she was detained “on behalf of the United States of America” to face unspecified charges in New York, according to a Huawei statement.

“The company has been provided very little information regarding the charges and is not aware of any wrongdoing by Ms. Meng,” the statement said.

A U.S. Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.

Huawei said it complies with all laws and rules where it operates, including export controls and sanctions of the United Nations, the United States and European Union.

Meng’s arrest also threatened to inflame disagreements over Iran and Trump’s decision to break with other governments and re-impose sanctions over the country’s nuclear development.

Geng, the foreign ministry spokesman, said China objects to unilateral sanctions outside the United Nations. China has said it will continue to do business with Iran despite the possible threat of U.S. penalties.

Meng is a prominent member of China’s business world as deputy chairman of Huawei’s board and the daughter of its founder Ren Zhengfei, a former Chinese military engineer.

Despite that, her arrest is unlikely to derail trade talks, said Willy Lam, a politics specialist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

“I think too much is at stake for Xi Jinping. He desperately wants a settlement,” said Lam.

Longer term, however, the case will reinforce official Chinese urgency about developing domestic technology suppliers to reduce reliance on the United States, said Lam.

Trump has “pulled out all the stops” to hamper Chinese ambitions to challenge the United States as a technology leader, Lam said. That includes imposing limits on visas for Chinese students to study science and technology.

“If the Chinese need further convincing, this case would show them beyond doubt Trump’s commitment,” said Lam.

David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to China, said U.S. and Canadian business executives could face reprisals in China.

“That’s something we should be watching out for. It’s a possibility. China plays rough,” Mulroney said. “It’s a prominent member of their society and it’s a company that really embodies China’s quest for global recognition as a technology power.”

___

Gillies reported from Toronto. AP researcher Yu Bing in Beijing contributed.

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Economy

Conservatives opposed Sanders, Schumer on tariffs for a reason

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Conservatives opposed Sanders Schumer on tariffs for a reason

Now that President Trump has made tariffs a good thing in the eyes of most Republicans, many conservatives seem to have forgotten why we adamantly opposed them for years. Many have selective memory regarding their opposition to Senators Chuck Schumer and Bernie Sanders as they pushed for tariffs on China. The reason fiscal conservatives do not support tariffs is because it’s American consumers and businesses who pay for them, not China.

This is a fact. It’s not contested, though it’s conveniently ignored by those who so desperately want President Trump to win they’re unwilling to speak out when his victories align with fiscally irresponsible Democrats.

In June, Schumer said, “I thought what he did on China is right.” Just before that, Sanders said, “I strongly support imposing stiff penalties on countries like China.” It seems the Republican Party has aligned with the backwards economic policies of the left that increase costs to American businesses and consumers simply because Tariff Man said it was going to work. It won’t.

When Chinese companies are forced to pay a tariff to export to the United States, they don’t just take the hit and roll with it. They raise prices to compensate. That means American companies and their consumers are forced to pay more. This isn’t complicated economic math. Conservatives have always opposed tariffs because we realize the benefits are greatly outweighed by the detriments.

Tariffs are a way for the federal government to essentially tax Americans through the increased money they pay to foreign countries for their imports. They sometimes have the benefit of forcing companies to turn away from imports and pay higher prices to domestic sources, which is one of the goals the President has highlighted. But whether these companies are paying higher prices because of the tariffs or higher prices to domestic sources, the end result is American consumers invariably pay more for their products.

Free trade works in this global economy because it minimizes the costs passed through to consumers. We are a consumer-driven nation. Our economy does not thrive through “fair trade” because we are no longer reliant on exports to drive us fiscally. That’s not to say exports are bad. Generally speaking, they’re no longer our forte. Tariffs worked in the first half of the 20th century because the global economy allowed for it. Today, the global economy has producers and consumers. We fall in the latter category, and that’s not a bad thing. It means we need to produce through innovation and expansion, not reliance on exports to keep our economy afloat.

Democrats have perpetuated the false pretense that tariffs still benefit Americans today because it’s an additional source of revenue drawn from American businesses and consumers that does not need to be classified as a tax. However, tariffs act like a tax that’s filtered through other countries. We charge China. China charges American businesses. American businesses charge consumers. In the end, it’s Americans paying more of their hard-earned money that ends up in the federal government’s coffers.

Conservatives need to remember why a majority of Republicans opposed tariffs until three years ago. We need to remember why Schumer and Sanders so adamantly support them. Just because they’re being pushed by Republicans doesn’t mean they’re right.

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