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Trump’s presidency: From ‘The Apprentice’ to ‘Survivor’

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An administration is more than one person. There are cabinet members and staff, who’s job is to execute the policies the President decides upon. There is no doubt that for a Presidency to be successful, a President must “hire the best people.” And so, Donald Trump made the argument that he “hires the best people.”

If only that were true.

Just six months into the Trump Administration, and there has already been some major changes. Reince Priebus is gone as White House Chief of Staff. Anthony Scaramucci was hired as Communications Director and fired less than 2 weeks later. Sean Spicer left as Press Secretary in protest to Scaramucci’s hiring. John Kelly has replaced Priebus as Chief of Staff, leaving a vacancy at the top of Homeland Security.

James Comey was fired as FBI Director in the most unprofessional manner. Justified or not, the President should have fired him in-person. Instead, a public announcement was made, which is how Comey himself learned that he had been sacked.

Should Comey have been fired? Absolutely. His testimony in front of Congress prior to the election, which thoroughly detailed the most-recent criminal acts of Hillary Clinton, yet arguing she should not be charged as “she had no intent,” was downright ridiculous.
The problem is, Trump fired Comey while in the middle of an investigation into Trump and his staff. Comey should have been fired on January 21st. The President fired Comey in the worst way possible and with the worst timing.

Attorney General Sessions has been under the gun. The President, with his typical lack of professionalism, took to social media to chastise Sessions, instead of speaking with him privately. True Conservative and Libertarian-leaning Americans were wary of Sessions from the beginning, due in no small part to his career-long love of the unconstitutional practice known as civil asset forfeiture. Now, that same abuse of government power has been adopted as policy and is being carried-out at the Federal level. Very few liberty-minded people would be sorry to see Sessions go, but that is hardly the point. Apparently, Kelly has since told Sessions that his job is safe… at least for now.

The reverse-side of this hiring trend has also been made manifest. John Koskinen, the Commissioner of the IRS, is still in place. Koskinen gained infamy under the Obama Administration for his alleged role in the targeting of conservative groups by his agency leading-up to and persisting after the 2012 election; as well as his subsequent, highly-questionable responses given to Congress on the same subject. He, like Comey, should have been fired on Jan 21.

H.R. McMaster, another Obama appointee, is now serving as National Security Advisor. McMaster has taken some heat in recent days for the firing of Trump loyalists from the National Security Council, but largely only from those who see serving Trump, not the constitution, as serving the country. If there was going to be a problem, why was he ever hired by Trump in the first place?

Waiters, cable TV salesman at Walmart, and retail employees are jobs where you might expect a high turnover rate. Top-level advisors and Cabinet Members are not. These are people you typically expect to serve the entire first term, and sometimes even into the second, should there be one.

What has taken place thus far is NOT “hiring the best people.” This is a direct result of a President who hasn’t the first clue what he’s doing. Trump, along with his most ardent sycophants, argue that Trump’s problems stem from the so-called “Deep State.” Well, if the Deep State is still in power, doesn’t the blame then lie with Trump for not getting rid of it in the first place?

Sadly, none of this should be surprising. The Trump campaign gave Americans a glimpse into how a future Trump Administration would look. Trump went through a host of campaign managers and advisors, each more disreputable than the last, before settling on Kellyanne Conway to take him through to the end.

It is ridiculous for the President to ever claim he hires the best people. Maybe he does, but it doesn’t count when the best people are hired because they’re then only ones left after everyone else has been hired and fired. It only counts if they are hired as the best person for the position in the first place.

Perhaps Trump will hire the best people, eventually, but America can’t wait forever for him to get there. Six months into this Administration, and very little has been accomplished in a nation that is still reeling from the years of corruption and abuse by the Obama Administration. So far there is no wall, no repeal of Obamacare, and no tax reform. Trump’s cult wants to blame Congress, but they should be blaming Trump.

He’s given no clear direction, and hasn’t focused on any one issue long enough to accomplish any of them. He’s done a good job of repealing some of the Obama-era executive orders, but an EO can change as soon as the next President is in power. And, with the way things are going, that will likely be no later than January 20, 2020. Trump needs to get meaningful legislation passed, but it appears he doesn’t even know how to go about doing that.

Hiring the right staff could help him accomplish such goals, but it seems unlikely that’ll actually happen. Trump’s hiring criteria seems to be centered around who kissed his ring during the election, and the staunch conservatives (not to be confused with the RINO Never Trumpers like Bill Kristol and Jeb Bush) didn’t do that. Trump simply puts his sycophants in place. He seems willing to forgive past critics, like Scaramucci, but only so long as they swear allegiance to Trump himself, and not the Constitution. That isn’t going to make things better.

He needs to privately beg the help of truly effective leaders, men like Scott Walker and Mike Lee. But Trump will never do that, as ‘humility’ isn’t a word this President can spell (as evidenced by his typo-laden tweets), much less embody as a personality trait.
It seems clear that Americans can look forward to at least three and-a-half years of this non-stop reality show in the White House, in lieu of a competent staff and cabinet comprised of truly-effective leaders to run the country. Meaning the longer this drama continues and meaningful legislation continues to fail in Congress, it becomes more and more likely there will ONLY be three and-a-half years, as the odds of Trump winning reelection against any half-decent, non-lifelong criminal nominee, become ever more unlikely.

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Argentina: Submarine missing a year found deep in Atlantic

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Argentina Submarine missing a year found deep in Atlantic

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentina’s navy announced early Saturday that searchers found the missing submarine ARA San Juan deep in the Atlantic a year after it disappeared with 44 crewmen aboard.

The vessel was detected 800 meters (2,625 feet) deep in waters off the Valdes Peninsula in Argentine Patagonia, the statement said.

The navy said a “positive identification” had been made by a remote-operated submersible from the American ship Ocean Infinity, which was hired for the latest search for the missing vessel.

The discovery was announced just two days after families of the missing sailors held a commemoration one year after the sub disappeared on Nov. 15, 2017.

On Thursday, on the anniversary of the disappearance, President Mauricio Macri said the families of the submariners should not feel alone and delivered an “absolute and non-negotiable commitment” to find “the truth.”

Macri promised a full investigation after the submarine was lost. Federal police raided naval bases and other buildings last January as part of the probe, soon after the government dismissed the head of the navy.

The San Juan was returning to its base in the coastal city of Mar del Plata when contact was lost.

Argentina gave up hope of finding survivors after an intense search aided by 18 countries, but the navy has continued searching for the vessel.

The German-built diesel-electric TR-1700 class submarine was commissioned in the mid-1980s and was most recently refitted between 2008 and 2014. During the $12 million retrofitting, the vessel was cut in half and had its engines and batteries replaced. Experts said refits can be difficult because they involve integrating systems produced by different manufacturers, and even the tiniest mistake during the cutting phase can put the safety of the ship and crew at risk.

The navy said previously the captain reported on Nov. 15 that water entered the snorkel and caused one of the sub’s batteries to short-circuit. The captain later communicated that it had been contained.

Some hours later, an explosion was detected near the time and place where the San Juan was last heard from. The navy said the blast could have been caused by a “concentration of hydrogen” triggered by the battery problem reported by the captain.

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News

Fire deaths rise to 71 ahead of Trump’s California visit

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Fire deaths rise to 71 ahead of Trumps California visit

CHICO, Calif. (AP) — With the confirmed death toll at 71 and the list of unaccounted for people more than 1,000, authorities in Northern California on Friday searched for those who perished and those who survived the fiercest of wildfires ahead of a planned visit by President Donald Trump.

The president on Saturday is expected to get a look at the grief and damage caused by the deadliest U.S. wildfire in a century, and he could face resentment from locals for blaming the inferno on poor forest management in California.

In an interview taped Friday and scheduled for broadcast on “Fox News Sunday,” Trump said he was surprised to see images of firefighters removing dried brush near a fire, adding, “This should have been all raked out.”

Deputies found eight more bodies Friday, bringing the death toll to 71.

The number of people unaccounted for grew from 631 on Thursday night to more than 1,000 on Friday, but Sheriff Kory Honea said the list was dynamic and could easily contain duplicate names and unreliable spellings of names.

He said the roster probably includes some who fled the blaze and do not realize they’ve been reported missing.

“We are still receiving calls, we’re still reviewing emails,” Honea said Friday.

Some on the list have been confirmed as dead by family and friends on social media. Others have been located and are safe, but authorities haven’t gotten around to marking them as found.

Tamara Conry said she should never have been on the list.

“My husband and I are not missing and never were!” Conry wrote Thursday night on Facebook. “We have no family looking for us. … I called and left a message to take our names off.”

Authorities compiled the list by going back to listen to all the dispatch calls they received since the fire started, to make sure they didn’t miss anyone.

In last year’s catastrophic wildfires in California wine country, Sonoma County authorities at one point listed more than 2,000 people as missing. But they slowly whittled down the number. In the end, 44 people died in several counties.

The wildfire this time all but razed the town of Paradise, population 27,000, and heavily damaged the outlying communities of Magalia and Concow on Nov. 8, destroying 9,700 houses and 144 apartment buildings, authorities said.

Firefighters were gaining ground against the blaze, which blackened 222 square miles (575 square kilometers). It was 45 percent contained and posed no immediate threat to populated areas. Crews managed to stop it from spreading toward Oroville, population 19,000.

A search and rescue dog searches for human remains at the Camp Fire, Friday, Nov. 16, 2018, in Paradise, Calif. (AP Photo/John Locher)

This patch of California, a former Gold Rush region in the Sierra Nevada foothills, is to some extent Trump country, with Trump beating Hillary Clinton in Butte County by 4 percentage points in 2016.

But some survivors resent that Trump took to Twitter two days after the disaster to blame the wildfires on poor forest mismanagement. He threatened to withhold federal payments from California.

“If you insult people, then you go visit them, how do you think you’re going to be accepted? You’re not going to have a parade,” Maggie Crowder of Magalia said Thursday outside an informal shelter at a Walmart parking lot in Chico.

But Stacy Lazzarino, who voted for Trump, said it would be good for the president to see the devastation up close: “I think by maybe seeing it he’s going to be like ‘Oh, my goodness,’ and it might start opening people’s eyes.”

In his Fox News interview on the eve of his visit, the president repeated his criticism. Asked if he thought climate change contributed to the fires, he said, “Maybe it contributes a little bit. The big problem we have is management.”

Nick Shawkey, a captain with the state fire agency, said the president’s tweet blaming poor forest management was based on a “misunderstanding.” The federal government manages 46 percent of land in California.

“The thing he’s tweeting about is his property,” Shawkey said.

California’s outgoing and incoming governors said they would join Trump on Saturday.

Democrats Gov. Jerry Brown and governor-elect Gavin Newsom said they welcomed the president’s visit and “now is a time to pull together for the people of California.” Brown and Newsom have been vocal critics of Trump.

There were also worries the presidential visit would be disruptive.

“It’s already a zoo here and I don’t care who the president is. He needs to wait because the traffic’s already horrendous,” said Charlotte Harkness, whose home in Paradise burned down. “He could just tweet something nice — three words: ‘I am sorry,’ and that’s fine.”

More than 450 searchers continued looking for human remains in the ashes.

Around 52,000 people have been driven out and have gone to shelters, motels and the homes of friends and relatives. With winter coming on, many are seeking answers on what assistance will be provided.

At the Chico Mall where the Federal Emergency Management Agency and others set up an assistance center, 68-year-old Richard Wilson sought information about lodging. His wife is nearly bedridden from lupus and fibromyalgia.

“We’re having to stay at a Marriott, which is like $100 a night, and we’re running out of money,” Wilson said as he stood outside in rubber sandals and no socks — the only footwear he had when he fled the flames that destroyed his home.

In Southern California , meanwhile, more residents were being allowed back in their homes near Los Angeles after a blaze torched an area the size of Denver and destroyed more than 600 homes and other structures. The blaze was 69 percent contained, authorities said.

At least three deaths were reported.

Schools across a large swath of the state were closed because of smoke, and San Francisco’s world-famous open-air cable cars were pulled off the streets.

___

Associated Press reporters Janie Har and Olga Rodriguez in San Francisco contributed to this report.

___

This story has been corrected to show that Crowder spoke by Walmart and that Wilson spoke at an assistance center.

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Foreign Affairs

The Saudi predicament requires radical changes in our foreign affairs positions

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Saudi predicament requires radical changes in our foreign affairs positions

The United States is at a foreign affairs crossroads. One of our most important allies in the most important region in the world is being led by a man that U.S. intelligence (and pretty much everybody else) believes ordered the murder of a journalist living in our nation and writing for one of its biggest news outlets. How can we reconcile between what’s right and what’s smart?

Further evidence was leaked today that Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince and de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, ordered the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last month. The CIA concluded this based on multiple pieces of circumstantial evidence, including phone calls intercepted between Khashoggi and Mohammed’s brother assuring Khashoggi’s safety if he went to the Saudi consulate where was murdered.

CIA concludes Saudi crown prince ordered Jamal Khashoggi’s assassination

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/cia-concludes-saudi-crown-prince-ordered-jamal-khashoggis-assassination/2018/11/16/98c89fe6-e9b2-11e8-a939-9469f1166f9d_story.html?utm_term=.718b2d26599cThe CIA’s conclusion about Mohammed’s role was also based on the agency’s assessment of the prince as the country’s de facto ruler who oversees even minor affairs in the kingdom. “The accepted position is that there is no way this happened without him being aware or involved,” said a U.S. official familiar with the CIA’s conclusions.

Among the intelligence assembled by the CIA is an audio recording from a listening device that the Turks placed inside the Saudi consulate, according to the people familiar with the matter. The Turks gave the CIA a copy of that audio, and the agency’s director, Gina Haspel, has listened to it.

This is much more complicated than deciding whether or not to punish Mohammed. The stakes are unfathomably high, including balance of power in the Middle East, a potential oil crisis that could cripple the world economy, and the future of a peace plan between Israel and the Palestinians.

Unfortunately, what’s right and what’s smart are diametrically opposed in this situation.

What’s right?

Every ounce of evidence points to the near-certainty that Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. He was a permanent residence of the United States who lived in Virginia and worked at the Washington Post. While not a citizen, he lawfully earned the right to fall under our nation’s protections.

The right thing to do is to condemn the Crown Prince, even if that will irreversibly damage our relationship with Saudi Arabia.

What’s smart?

Based on the current geopolitical status quo, Saudi Arabia is our best proxy to keep Iran in check in the Middle East. They are also the reason the dollar is still the world’s reserve currency despite efforts by Russia, China, and other nations to change that. This status allows the dollar to maintain artificial stability. There are many factors in play that could cripple the dollar if Saudi Arabia and OPEC started dealing in other currencies, bur national debt alone would be enough to catastrophically collapse our entire economy if the world had the means to turn its collective back on us.

Saudi Arabia and the so-called “petrodollar” is the force that maintains the illusion of stability.

The arms we sell Saudi Arabia account for a substantial chunk of revenue and jobs in the United States, but more importantly it gives them the technological edge they need over Iran. If the Saudis turn to Russia or China, our influence over the region would diminish greatly.

The smart thing to do is to sweep this under the rug. Throw symbolic punishment at some sacrificial Saudi lambs and move on.

Time for change

There is no way to do what’s right and still do what’s smart, so it would seem the White House has to pick between the two.

Perhaps they don’t. Perhaps there’s a third option.

Even if we do the “right” thing by condemning Saudi Arabia Mohammed, ties will not deteriorate immediately. There will be a wind down during which time the Saudis will be looking for other partners and the Americans will be trying to salvage the relationship.

What if we didn’t? What if we acknowledged for the first time that Saudi Arabia is more than just the country that murdered Khashoggi. Their human rights record is atrocious. They have directly or indirectly harmed the United States for years, including a significant role in terrorist attacks. They spread Wahhabism across the world. If you haven’t heard much about Wahhabism, it’s because the radical Islamic sect that drives the House of Saud is protected from media scrutiny. See Network, which only partially satirizes the influence the Saudis have on U.S. media.

Saudi Arabia is a horrible ally. They’re necessary because we’ve made them necessary, but if we drastically cut budgets and spending, the economic ramifications of a break with them would be mitigated. It’s time to make deals with nations that do not smile at us in public and subvert us in private. Nations that do not like us, including Brazil and Venezuela, could be brought under our wing to replace Saudi Arabia on the oil front. It’s unimaginable now, but we live in fast-moving times.

Also, build the Keystone XL pipeline.

As for stability in the Middle East, it’s time we go all-in with Israel. They are the only true democracy and the one nation in the Middle East we can count on to not stab us in the back. They are capable of being the check against Iran. Abandon all talks of a two-state solution, work with Israel as our primary proxy in the Middle East, and make Saudi Arabia turn to others for support.

All of this sounds dangerous because, well, it is. The dominoes that will fall when we take drastic measures against Saudi Arabia will be painful. But there’s one thing to consider before balking at this. We may be heading in this direction already. The difference is it wouldn’t be us initiating (and therefore prepared for) these changes. Saudi Arabia has been quietly seeking a better deal for decades. They haven’t found it yet, but someday they will. When that happens, they’ll pull the rug out from under us.

We should be the ones pulling the rug. If we’re not, the permanent repercussions will be devastating.

Radical change in our foreign affairs stance is long overdue. Saudi Arabia is the worst kind of ally to rely upon, not just because of Khashoggi but because of everything else they’ve done. None of this seems feasible now, but it may be the only path forward.

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