US retaliates against Russian hacking

After weeks of accusations that Russia was involved in political hacking and interfering in last month’s US election last month President Obama has now launched retaliatory actions.

Washington Post: Obama administration announces measures to punish Russia for 2016 election interference

The Obama administration announced sweeping new measures on Thursday in retaliation for what U.S. officials characterized as Russian interference in this fall’s presidential election, ordering the removal of 35 Russian government officials and sanctioning state agencies and individuals tied to the hacks.

The FBI and CIA have concluded that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in part to help Donald Trump win the White House. Thursday’s announcement comes several weeks after President Obama promised to respond to Russian hacking with both public and covert actions,“at a time and place of our own choosing.”

The president said the new actions followed repeated warnings to the Russian government and were “a necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm U.S. interests” contrary to international norms.

Obama said Americans should be “alarmed” by Russian actions, which he said included the interference in the election and harassment of U.S. diplomats overseas. “Such activities have consequences,” he said in a statement.

The new measures include sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies, three companies that are believed to have provided support for government cyber operations, and four Russian cyber officials. The administration will also shut down Russian-owned facilities in Maryland and New York that Obama said where used for intelligence activities and would declare 35 Russian operatives “persona non grata,” meaning they would be required to leave the United States.

The State Department said it is taking action against these 35 individuals in response to Russia’s interference in the U.S. election and to the harassment of U.S. diplomats overseas over the last four years.

“The harassment has involved arbitrary police stops, physical assault, and the broadcast on State TV of personal details about our personnel that put them at risk,” according to a statement from State Department spokesperson Mark C. Toner.

The executive order released by the White House

The Russians dismiss these actions.

“Any anti-Russian sanctions are fruitless and counterproductive,” said Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian foreign ministry official in charge of democracy and human rights, according to Interfax. “Such one-sided steps have the goal of damaging relations and complicating their restoration in the future.”

I think that one sided steps such as hacking foreign political parties and leaking hacked information to political activists intent on influencing an election also risks damaging relations and complicating the restoration of good relations (if the US claims are true).

Trump versus China

Obama and Trump on Castro’s death

Two contrasting responses to the news of the death of Fidel Castro are getting some attention.

President Barack Obama with a carefully worded official statement:


President-elect Donald Trump:


Looking ahead, this is pointed out at New York Times during the election campaign in Business or Politics? What Trump Means for Cuba:

On the campaign trail, President-elect Donald J. Trump threatened to roll back the sweeping détente with Cuba, lambasting the “concessions” made to its Communist government and raising the possibility that one of Mr. Obama’s signature foreign policy initiatives could be stripped away.

…the critical question remains whether Mr. Trump, a real estate mogul and hotel developer, will be a businessman at heart and allow Mr. Obama’s measures to continue — or if he will instead keep a vow he made and scale back everything from diplomatic relations to the unlimited rum and cigars Mr. Obama recently allowed from Cuba.

Such a move by Mr. Trump would underscore the shifting relations between the United States and Cuba, which have long depended on who occupied the Oval Office.

“Several large European investment groups have asked me to take the ‘Trump Magic’ to Cuba,” Mr. Trump once wrote in a 1999 editorial in The Miami Herald supporting the trade embargo against Cuba.

“My investment in Cuba would directly subsidize the oppression of the Cuban people,” he said at the time. “But I’d rather lose those millions than lose my self-respect.”

Mr. Trump has, at other times, been vague on the issue. During the primary contest, he repeatedly said he thought restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba was “fine,” but added that the United States and the Cuban people did not get enough in return.

Asked by a reporter if his comments meant he would break off diplomatic relations with Cuba, Mr. Trump suggested that he might, and said he probably would not appoint an ambassador to Cuba.

“The agreement President Obama signed is a very weak agreement,” he said. “We get nothing. The people of Cuba get nothing, and I would do whatever is necessary to get a good agreement.”

In March, he told CNN that he would “probably” continue having diplomatic relations with Cuba, but he said he would want “much better deals than we’re making.”

Then, Mr. Trump took a harder line in Miami this fall.

“All of the concessions Barack Obama has granted the Castro regime were done through executive order, which means the next president can reverse them, and that I will do unless the Castro regime meets our demands,” Mr. Trump said at a campaign event in September. “Not my demands. Our demands.”

I think that given Trump’s record of changing his stance on many issues and these varying indicators it’s impossible to predict how he will handle the USA-Cuba issue.

It’s also difficult to predict how Cuba will approach their relationship with the US now Fidel Castro is dead.

Trump versus media, continued

It hasn’t taken long for tensions to surface between president-elect Donald Trump and the media. Trump has just visited the White House to have a chat with Obama and a look around.

Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!

His relationship with the White House Correspondents’ Association hasn’t started well.

White House Correspondents Association: Trump decision to leave DC without informing press could leave Americans “blind” during crisis


Trump may not know how things are expected to work yet. Or this could be the beginning of an uneasy and possibly contentious relationship between Trump and the media.

Trump owes his success to the attention given him by the media, but he indicated during the campaign a large amount of friction as well, when the media didn’t perform how he liked.

Trump’s apparently conciliatory conversion regarding Obama and Clinton does not seem to apply to media.

UPDATE: An NBC News reporter got a response from Trump on registration of Muslims and got a chilling response: Donald Trump Says He’d ‘Absolutely’ Require Muslims to Register

Donald J. Trump, who earlier in the week said he was open to requiring Muslims in the United States to register in a database, said on Thursday night that he “would certainly implement that — absolutely.”

Mr. Trump was asked about the issue by an NBC News reporter and pressed on whether all Muslims in the country would be forced to register. “They have to be,” he said. “They have to be.’’

When asked how a system of registering Muslims would be carried out — whether, for instance, mosques would be where people could register — Mr. Trump said: “Different places. You sign up at different places. But it’s all about management. Our country has no management.’’

Asked later, as he signed autographs, how such a database would be different from Jews having to register in Nazi Germany, Mr. Trump repeatedly said, “You tell me,” until he stopped responding to the question.

 More than a bit ominous.

Key claims TPP is 50:50

Yeah, right.

John Key said yesterday that he thinks there is a 50:50 chance of the Trans-Pacific Partnership getting passed by the US congress in the lame duck period (after next week’s election and before President Obama’s term expires on 20th January 2017).

Audrey Young: John Key says TPP has a 50:50 chance of being passed in Congress lame-duck period

Prime Minister John Key believes the TPP still has a 50-50 chance of being passed in the lame-duck Congressional period after the November 8 presidential election.

He says a lot would depend on the direction given by Congress’ top ranking Republican, Speaker Paul Ryan, and whether Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton won the election.

“I think if Donald Trump wins it’s got no chance But if Hillary Clinton won there is a possibility and a window.”

But there was definitely a view out of Washington from some people that it would go ahead.

“I think it’s a bit 50-50 myself.”

I think that’s a bit optimistic. There is a possibility it will pass through Congress in the next three months. There is also a possibility sanity will prevail in the presidential election. Both seem like extreme long shots.

Trump and Clinton both oppose the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal among 12 countries and signed in New Zealand in February.

It could pass in the lame duck period. Ryan said in August that the numbers weren’t there although “Inside US Trade” reports that the Obama Administration is close to a solution on the biologics part of the TPP deal that has upset Republicans.

If Clinton wins but there would be an uproar from Sanders supporters and Trump supporters, and probably extreme pressure on both Republican and Democrat representatives.


Trumped by his own lies?

Will Donald Trump end up being trumped by his own lies? There’s plenty of scope for it if voters thinks honesty matters.

Paul Krugman at New York Times: A Lie Too Far?

I suspect Donald Trump is feeling a bit sandbagged right now, or will be when he wakes up. All along he has treated the news media with contempt, and been rewarded with obsequious deference — his lies sugar-coated, described as “disputed” or “stretching the truth,” while every aspect of his opponent’s life is described as “raising questions” and “casting shadows”, despite lack of evidence that she did anything wrong.

A large irony is that some people bought that line that Trump tells the unvarnished truth, whereas he has frequently blatantly lied.

But the print media appear to have finally found their voice . The Times and the AP, in particular, have put out hard-hitting stories that present the essence in the lede, not in paragraph 25.

What’s so good about these stories? The fact that they are simple straightforward reporting.

First, confronted with obvious lies, they don’t pretend that the candidate said something less blatant, or do views differ on shape of planet — they simply say that what Trump said is untrue, and that his repetition of these falsehoods makes it clear that he was deliberately lying.

Second, the stories for today’s paper are notable for the absence of what I call second-order political reporting: they’re about what Trump said and did, not speculations about how it will play with voters.

You could say that the lies were so blatant that doing the right thing became unavoidable. But there were plenty of earlier lies — Trump lying about his opposition to the Iraq War, about his donations to charity, and much more. There was already the unprecedented contempt for the press he showed by refusing to release his tax returns.

The Matt Lauer debacle may have helped bring things into focus.

There are now two questions: will this last, and if it does, has the turn come soon enough? In both cases, nobody knows. But just imagine how different this election would look if we’d had this kind of simple, factual, truly balanced (as opposed to both-sides-do-it) reporting all along.

The Times’ editorial Donald Trump’s Latest Birther Lie addresses Trump’s deliberate dishonesty, saying that he has even lied when admitting he had been lying about where Obama was born.

The midday bulletin arrived as another bizarre moment in the absurdist presidential campaign of Donald Trump: News Alert: Trump admits Obama was born in the United States.

What? It read like some variation on “Trump Finds the Earth No Longer Flat.” But no, Mr. Trump, the ultimate mountebank, was at it again, altering but not abandoning the Big Lie campaign that first made him the darling of wing nuts and racists five years ago: his vicious insistence that President Obama was not born a legitimate American citizen.

Did he apologize to Mr. Obama and the American people for the political poison he spread for so long? Of course not. Being Mr. Trump, he instead substituted a lie for a lie. He falsely accused Hillary Clinton of starting the birther myth, then further claimed he had nobly “finished” it off by badgering the White House for proof that Mr. Obama was born in Hawaii, not Africa.

The facts — because facts still matter — are that Mr. Trump continued toheap doubt on President Obama’s birth certificate even after it was released, slyly retweeting others’ contentions that it was a fake and a “computer generated forgery.”

After he tried to pin the birther smear on her, Mrs. Clinton called it what it is: an “outrageous lie” intended to “delegitimize our first black president.” Mr. Trump delegitimized his own candidacy instead.

Also at New York Times:

Fox News: Trump plays the press… again

That sound you hear are thousands of plaintive sighs from thousands of political reporters around the country as they realize they have yet again been snookered by Donald Trump.

After building anticipation for a day over a big revelation to be made about Trump’s former efforts to prove that President Obama was actually born in Kenya, the Republican nominee managed to not only get wall-to-wall coverage of an otherwise unremarkable endorsement from retired military leaders, but also even a lavish plug for his new hotel in Washington.

As Trump did with generating wild speculation about whether he would endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan, or whether he would back down on his call for mass deportations of illegal immigrants, Trump did the conventional thing, but used his reputation for unconventionality to blow up press coverage and dominate the news cycle.

And like he did in the times before, Trump eventually came out with the conventional position – in this case that the president was born where he said he was born – but did it in such a way to distract from his shift.  

The tricky part about this dismount was that Trump probably wouldn’t be the Republican nominee if it wasn’t for his birtherism, but birtherism continued to weigh down his White House ambitions.

He couldn’t very well take on the subject of his quest to prove Obama an African in America rather than an African American during the first debate 10 days from now. The birther business needed to be offloaded pronto.

Except this time the offloading doesn’t seem to have happened pronto. Media have decided to hold him to account for his trademark lie, and his follow up lies.

Also from Fox: Clinton campaign, Blumenthal fight back against accusations of spreading ‘birth rumor’

Trump, a leader in the call for Obama to finally make public a copy of his Hawaii birth certificate, said on Friday the issue is over and called for the campaigns to move on with substantive issues.

Still, he blamed Clinton for starting the controversy.


On Saturday, 2016 Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon told Fox News: “As multiple, independent fact checkers have affirmed in the years since, neither the 2008 campaign nor the candidate ever questioned the president’s citizenship or birth certificate.”

“This is false. Never happened,” he said. “Period. Donald Trump cannot distract from the inescapable fact that he is the one who embraced and promoted the racist birther lie and bears the responsibility for it.”

Time will tell whether this exposure of lies laid upon lies will have any effect on trump’s campaign and on his electability.

Bur serious questions have been raised – again – about Trump’s lack of honesty and his deliberate use of lies throughout his campaign.

There’s areas of concern around Hillary Clinton, but Trump’s level of lying must be of concern, given the position of responsibility and power he is seeking.

The US needs to be able to trust what their president says, the world needs to trust what the US president says.


Trump concedes on birther bull

Donald Trump has publically conceded that Barack Obama was born in the USA. Until now Trump has been one of the most prominent ‘birther’ promoters, but with typical chutzpah has even blamed Hillary Clinton of starting the birther bull.

Newshub: Trump concedes Obama was born in US

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has acknowledged for the first time that President Barack Obama was born in the United States.

At a campaign event at his new hotel in downtown Washington Mr Trump said: “President Barack Obama was born in the United States. Period,”

The presidential hopeful has questioned Mr Obama’s citizenship for years but has now reversed his opinions on a controversy that he helped launch but that has become a distraction to his White House bid.

“Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.”

‘Birther’ votes are unlikely to make the difference in the election, and ‘birthers’ will probably ignore this concession and go on believing anyway.

The New York businessman led the birther movement aimed at Mr Obama, who was born in Hawaii to an American mother and a Kenyan father.

The issue has not been a factor in the campaign for the presidential election, but it resurfaced again in recent days, taking the focus of Mr Trump’s campaign away from topics such as immigration, trade and the economy, which he has been using to hit Ms Clinton.

Mr Trump accused Democratic rival Hillary Clinton of starting the so-called “birther” controversy during the 2008 primary campaign against Mr Obama, an accusation that independent fact-checking sites have rated as false.

I think he has accused Clinton of many ridiculous things, one of the reasons for his popularity. Honesty hasn’t been prominent in Trumps campaign but many seem to love being told what they want to hear rather than the truth.

From Wikipedia: Barack Obama citizenship conspiracy theories

During Barack Obama‘s campaign for president in 2008 and in the years following his election, many conspiracy theorieswere circulated, falsely asserting that he was not a natural-born citizen of the United States and consequently, underArticle Two of the U.S. Constitution, that he was ineligible to be President of the United States.

Such claims were promoted by fringe theorists (“birthers“), some of whom sought court rulings either declaring Obama ineligible to take office, or granting access to various documents which they claimed would evidence such ineligibility; none of these efforts were successful. Some political opponents, especially in the Republican Party, have expressed skepticism about Obama’s citizenship or been unwilling to acknowledge it; some have proposed legislation which would require presidential candidates to provide proof of eligibility.

On Trump’s involvement:

In March 2011, during an interview on Good Morning America, Donald Trump said he was seriously considering running for president, that he was a “little” skeptical of Obama’s citizenship, and that someone who shares this view shouldn’t be so quickly dismissed as an “idiot” (as Trump considers the term “birther” to be “derogatory”).

It’s ironic that he considered the term ‘birther’ to be derogatory but had no problem promoting bull about the President of ther USA.

Trump added, “Growing up no one knew him”, a claim ranked Pants-on-Fire by Politifact. Later, Trump appeared on The View repeating several times that “I want him (Obama) to show his birth certificate.” He speculated that “there’s something on that birth certificate that he doesn’t like”, a comment which host Whoopi Goldberg described as “the biggest pile of dog mess I’ve heard in ages.”

On the March 30, 2011, edition of CNN Newsroom, anchor Suzanne Malveaux commented on Trump’s statements, pointing out that she had made a documentary for which she had gone to Hawaii and spoken with people who knew Obama as a child.

In an NBC TV interview broadcast on April 7, 2011, Trump said he would not let go of the issue, because he was not satisfied that Obama had proved his citizenship.

After Trump began making his views public, he was contacted by Joseph Farah of WorldNetDaily, who was reportedly on the phone with Trump every day for a week, providing Trump with a “birther primer”, answers to questions, and advice.

After Obama released his long-form birth certificate on April 27, 2011, Trump said “I am really honored and I am really proud, that I was able to do something that nobody else could do.”

On October 24, 2012, Trump offered to donate five million dollars to the charity of Obama’s choice in return for the publication of his college and passport applications before October 31, 2012.


Obama’s pessimistic convention speech

There has been some raving about the greatness of Barack Obama’s speech at the Democrat’s convention.

Like “That was incredible.”

I haven’t seen or heard any of it but haven’t been a fan of much of his speaking in the past.

I’ll watch some of it when I get a chance:

CNN: Barack Obama slams Trump, makes appeal for Hillary Clinton

President Barack Obama made a fervent plea for Hillary Clinton on Wednesday, casting the Democratic nominee as a custodian of his legacy while rejecting Republicans’ message as fostering anger and hate.

In remarks that demonstrated Obama’s lasting appeal to wide swaths of the Democratic Party, the President sought to describe country headed firmly in the right direction, despite the loud protestations otherwise by Donald Trump.

Obama said his former secretary of state is a better qualified candidate than even he or her husband, former President Bill Clinton, had been when they sought office.

“I can say with confidence there has never been a man or a woman — not me, not Bill, nobody — more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States of America,” Obama said to a roaring crowd — and a belly-laughing Bill Clinton — at the Democratic National Convention.

Even as a pessimistic attitude pervades the presidential campaign, Obama attempted to harness the optimism that propelled him into office eight years ago.

“America is already great,” Obama insisted, rejecting Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.” “America is already strong. And I promise you, our strength, our greatness, does not depend on Donald Trump.”

In remarks that defended his own record as a progressive leader as much as they boosted the candidate who could maintain them, Obama argued that two terms of a Democrat weren’t enough to finish the work he started.

“I have confidence, as I leave this stage tonight, that the Democratic Party is in good hands,” Obama said to scattered sighs among the delegates. “My time in this office hasn’t fixed everything; as much as we’ve done, there’s still so much I want to do.”

An army of writers should at least make to content passable.

But Vox: Comparing Obama’s 2004 convention speech and his 2016 convention speech is depressing

 In 2004, a much-younger Barack Obama stepped onto the stage at the Democratic National Convention and gave a speech that literally changed the course of American history.

“There are those who are preparing to divide us,” he said, “the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America; there’s the United States of America.”


That was the Obama who thrilled an unsuspecting nation. He didn’t have a plan to heal the country. He had an argument that it wasn’t really sick. The impression of division, he said, was the work of “spin masters.” It was “the pundits” who liked “to slice and dice our country into red states and blue states.”

Then there was the Obama of 2008. In four short years, he had shot from state senator to presidential nominee. He had served in Washington. He knew the divisions were real. He had stopped blaming the pundits and spin masters.

Now he sought to convince both sides that the gaps, though real, could be bridged with new thinking, with a spirit of compromise. He warned that “Democrats, as well as Republicans, will need to cast off the worn-out ideas and politics of the past.” He said that what is “lost is our sense of common purpose, and that’s what we have to restore.”

The Obama of 2016 wrapped his speech in the language of hope. “While this nation has been tested by war and recession and all manner of challenge,” he said, “I stand before you again tonight, after almost two terms as your president, to tell you I am even more optimistic about the future of America.”

But it was not a hopeful speech. Obama no longer suggests our divisions are illusory; he no longer proposes new thinking as a salve for old battles. Tonight, the choice wasn’t merely between red and blue, but between democracy and authoritarianism, between a public servant and a would-be autocrat.

The Obama of 2004 did not think it necessary to say Americans don’t look to be ruled. The Obama of 2008 was happy to say, “I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain.” The Obama of 2016 was reduced to warning of “homegrown demagogues” and a “self-declared savior.”

“This year, in this election, I’m asking you to join me,” Obama said tonight, “to reject cynicism, reject fear, to summon what’s best in us.” Implicit in that cry was that 12 years after Obama gave his inspiring speech in Boston, our politics courses with more cynicism and more fear than ever. Donald Trump is campaigning for president — as of this moment, he is even leading in the polls — by summoning the worst in us.

Obama says he is more optimistic than ever about America’s future, and he may well be. But this was a speech that revealed a deep pessimism about America’s present, and correctly so.

Pessimistic about the present, and pessimistic about future possibilities.

Democrats softening on TPPA?

Some predicted that US presidential campaign rhetoric in opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership may not match post election realities.

There’s a sign that the Democrats may be not as staunchly against it as Hillary Clinton has previously appeared as they get closer to having to put together a policy package.

As usual money often speaks the loudest in the US.

New York Times:  Bernie Sanders Allies Lose a Fight Over Democrats’ Stance on Trade

Allies of Hillary Clinton and President Obama on Saturday beat back an effort by the Bernie Sanders campaign to have the Democratic Party officially oppose a congressional vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

At a sometimes-raucous meeting in Orlando, Fla., of the party’s platform committee, which is drawing up policy goals for the Democratic National Convention this month, lieutenants of Mr. Sanders argued that the trade deal would lead to a loss of jobs and competitive wages and that it would ultimately harm American workers and labor unions.

Given that Mrs. Clinton, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, has said she opposes the trade deal, the Sanders allies argued that her supporters on the committee should agree to try to block any congressional vote to ratify the agreement.

But opposing a vote on the partnership would line up the party against Mr. Obama, who is championing the deal and who endorsed Mrs. Clinton last month. Her allies on the platform committee regarded the Sanders effort as a rebuke to the president and merely a symbolic move because the committee cannot dictate to Congress.

Politics can be complicated in the US.


It bears repeating that Sanders didn’t win all of the platform battles. Indeed, a cynical way to interpret the Clinton campaign’s stance is that it has given Sanders the language he demanded on some issues while maintaining the flexibility that it wants, and that its big donors want, in other key areas, such as trade and energy.

Over the weekend, the platform committee rejected language that would have condemned the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership and opposed its being put to a vote in Congress.

The committee approved milder language that doesn’t single out the T.P.P. but, rather, simply says that all free-trade deals should include standards that protect U.S. workers.

“Maintaining the flexibility that it wants, and that its big donors want, in other key areas, such as trade and energy.”

The overwhelming influence of money in the US may rule on the TPPA outcome.

Trump versus Clinton

Donald Trump has as good as secured the Republican nomination for presidential candidate but continues to upset people, including Republicans.

In the meantime Hillary Clinton has as good as secured the Democrat nomination, potential legal issues aside.

And Barack Obama has now come out with a strong endorsement of Clinton, as he would.

Obama endorses Clinton after Sanders signals support

Barack Obama has officially endorsed Hillary Clinton to succeed him as president, after Bernie Sanders signalled that he would soon bow out of the Democratic nomination contest and back his rival’s campaign against Donald Trump.

“I don’t think there’s ever been someone so qualified to hold this office,” Mr Obama said in a video distributed on the Clinton campaign’s website: “I know some say these primaries have somehow left the Democratic party more divided. Well, you know, they said that eight years ago as well.” Mr Obama will begin campaigning with Mrs Clinton next week.

His endorsement was released less than an hour after a meeting with Mr Sanders at the White House, after which the Vermont senator said he would continue to campaign until the Washington DC Democratic caucus next Tuesday, but suggested that he would then throw his weight behind Mrs Clinton.

“I look forward to meeting with her in the very near future to see how we can work together to defeat Donald Trump and to create a government which represents all of us and not just the 1 per cent,” Mr Sanders told reporters.

So while Sanders is going to continue campaigning he has indicated he will work with Clinton. As will Obama.

Only five months to go until the election!

Yeah, well, in sport they have best of seven quarter finals, then semi finals, then finals so they know how to draw things out. Money’s the game.