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Unprepared Donald Trump flounders against Hillary Clinton the Pro

The first television debate saw Donald Trump woefully underprepared against Hillary Clinton, one of the most experienced and ruthlessly prepared political professionals in Washington.

Joe Lauria

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A smug Hillary Clinton stood calmly at her podium smirking during most of the first U.S. presidential debate as she provoked emotional reactions from Donald Trump in what appeared to be a strategy to rattle him and keep him on the defensive most of the night.

Clinton needled Trump on his plan to fight the Islamic State, on him not paying his taxes, on his treatment of women, on his denial of climate change, on his denigration of Muslims and his position on nuclear weapons—all legitimate criticisms but delivered with an intent to do personal harm. As Trump grew angrier and angrier Clinton appeared to be laughing at him. At one point she told him he was saying “crazy things” and living “in his own reality.”

Clinton got under Trump’s skin by telling him he started life with a big inheritance, while she was the daughter of a humble small businessman; that he had four times filed for bankruptcy, did not pay his workers, called women “pigs” and had been sued by the government 40 years ago for racial discrimination in a housing development he owned (and which he settled out of court).

Trump seemed uncharacteristically nervous and restrained as the first debate of three got underway, displaying a grudging respect for Clinton by calling her “Secretary,” while labelling  her Crooked Hillary on Twitter. But a series of humiliating jabs by Clinton worked to get Trump’s back up leading to several gaffes, including an admission that he has paid no federal taxes.

After suggesting that Trump would not release his tax returns because he may be hiding this,  Trump lost his cool and appeared to admit he indeed hadn’t pay taxes, by interjecting that it “makes me smart” not to pay.

Ruthless

It was a vicious strategy on her part, cooked up by her team of ruthless campaign operatives and her own experience of 38 debates in her political career. This was Trump’s first one-on-one debate. And it showed.

She took a week off to prepare, while Trump did not hold one mock session. She depended on a team of highly experienced opposition researchers who have dug up every scrap of dirt they could find on Trump.

At one point when Clinton accused him of calling a contestant at one of his beauty pageant “Miss Piggy,” Trump feverishly responded “Where did you find this? Where did you find this?”

“He loves beauty contests,supporting them and hanging around them,” Clinton said, slowly inserting the needle and twisting it slightly. “Then he called her ‘Miss Housekeeping,’ because she was Latina. Donald, she has a name.”

“Where did you find this? Where did you find this?” Trump implored.

“Her name is Alicia Machado,” Clinton calmly said.

“Where did you find this?” he repeated.

“And she has become a U.S. citizen, and you can bet…

“Oh, really?” Trump interrupted.

“ … she’s going to vote this November,” said Clinton.

That he wouldn’t know Clinton opposition researchers would come up with something like this, and then would blurt out his astonishment that they did from the podium is itself astonishing.

It showed how little he understood this dirty game and how poorly prepared he was. His opposition research seemed to be based solely on the considerable Clinton negatives already in the public domain. He hit her hard on the emails, but she swatted it away, and Trump backed off.

Trump seemed to think he could wing it. But he ran into a political juggernaut, with master dirty tricksters like former rightwing operative David Brock conjuring up ways to rattle Trump, exposing his temper and his weak command of the facts. Meanwhile, a studied and scripted Clinton merely laughed at him, giving him the rope to hang himself with.

Of Course Russia Did It

Trump did score some points, though they have been largely ignored in a corporate media analysis that scored a decisive knockout for Clinton. In one exchange, she clearly said that Russia had hacked the Democratic National Committee and Trump called her on it.

CLINTON: “There’s no doubt now that Russia has used cyber attacks against all kinds of organizations in our country, and I am deeply concerned about this. I know Donald’s very praiseworthy of Vladimir Putin, but Putin is playing a really… tough, long game here. And one of the things he’s done is to let loose cyber attackers to hack into government files, to hack into personal files, hack into the Democratic National Committee.”

TRUMP: I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC. She’s saying Russia, Russia, Russia, but I don’t — maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?

TRUMP: You don’t know who broke in to DNC.But what did we learn with the DNC? We learned that Bernie Sanders was taken advantage of by your people, by Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Look what happened to her. But Bernie Sanders was taken advantage of. That’s what we learned.”

Trump’s rhetoric on Russia (and with no political record, rhetoric is all we have) is clearly saner than Clinton’s, who has an alarming record. It is simple to understand why Russia would favor Trump. He is not threatening Russia while she is. And she’s left a trail of destruction behind her in Libya, Syria and Honduras making it more than mere words.

No one has come up with any evidence to back up the Clinton campaign’s charge of a Trump conflict of interest because he either owes money or has business in Russia. Frankly I hope he does have businesses there. It would make him even less likely to stir up a crisis with Moscow if he should win.

Nor has anyone come up with any evidence to prove Russia was behind the DNC hack. After the debate CNN either deviously or incompetently did a “fact-check” and said Trump was wrong about “the question that was posed, ‘Who is the leading suspect in the DNC hack?”

But Clinton didn’t talk about the “leading suspect.” She flat out said Russia did it.

Her continued hammering on these supposed business interests and that Russia did the  hacking is suspicious. Linking Trump to Russia has done little to hurt him in the polls. In fact he had risen to a virtual tie in the weeks since the hack. So why does she keep at it?  There could be something else at play, an admittedly sinister scenario, but entirely possible in the Clinton camp.

If she should lose a close election to Trump I would not be surprised if she contested the outcome charging that Russia had hacked the electoral databases and changed the result. If she could challenge enough electors to bring him below 270 electoral college votes needed to win, the result could be thrown to the House of Representatives (as it has three times in history) where a Republican majority, many who hate Trump, just may side with her.

With the way the American public has been relentlessly conditioned to fear and despise Russia, evidence of Moscow’s alleged tampering may not be needed. With the corporate media playing along, evidence wasn’t necessary for the tall tale of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Russia’s shooting down of Malaysian airliner MH-17 or Russia’s supposed attack on a humanitarian convoy in Syria last week.

No Mention of Syria

Curiously, there was absolutely no discussion of Syria in the debate, beyond an incidental mention by Clinton. The focus was on the Islamic State’s threat inside the U.S. and what to do about it. Trump accused Clinton, as secretary of state, of creating a vacuum by pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq, allowing ISIS to be established. Here Trump insisted again that he never backed the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which he correctly said caused immense instability creating the conditions for ISIS.

But Trump missed a tremendous opportunity to hit Clinton for being secretary of state when a precursor of the Islamic State was directly aided by the administration she served in. And this is the tragedy of Trump.

He’s wrong on so many things: torture, climate change, tax breaks for the rich, increased military spending, law and order, stop and frisk, and guns. And when he’s right, such as wanting good relations with Russia to avoid catastrophe, he doesn’t adequately explain his position, while being subject to a massive smear campaign.

Only on trade and rebuilding the country’s infrastructure has he been right for the good of American workers, and has also amply laid out this position (spending more time on that in the debate than anything else.) These positions result from the anger of workers and a declining middle class, who have fuelled Trump’s wholly unorthodox campaign, contrasted with the Clinton’s Wall Street, neocon and wealthy liberal coalition.

Last month Trump caused a firestorm when he said that Obama and Clinton had “created” ISIS. He later said Obama “founded” ISIS. While that is an exaggeration, there exists a document proving the Obama administration’s complicity in the rise of this group, a document Trump must be aware of, but has never made use of.  The debate would have been the perfect time.

The declassified Defense Intelligence Agency document of August 2012 said the U.S., some European countries, Turkey and the Gulf Arab states were facilitating the establishment of a Salafist principality in the east of Syria to put pressure on Damascus. The document warns that likeminded jihadists on the Iraq side of the border could join with them to create an “Islamic State.” The document actually uses that name a full two years before the Islamic State was declared.

Trump must know about it because Ret. General Mike Flynn, the DIA director at the time, told  Al Jazeera that the document shows the administration was not turning a blind eye to this but that it was a “willful decision” by Washington. Mike Flynn is a Trump foreign policy advisor. It’s inconceivable that Flynn did not tell Trump about the document. 

And yet Trump inexplicably has never mentioned it, even when he was under heavy fire from establishment Washington and the corporate media for his remark. 

Instead of bringing it up at the debate he merely attacked Clinton for revealing her plan to fight ISIS on her website. “I don’t think General Douglas MacArthur would like that too much,” Trump said, referring to the commanding U.S. general in the Pacific during World War II.

“Well, at least I have a plan to fight ISIS,” Clinton retorted. “No, no, you’re telling the enemy everything you want to do,” Trump shot back.

Instead of mentioning the document he repeated his numbskull idea that ISIS would not exist if his idea of “taking” Iraq’s oil had been followed. ‘Had we taken the oil — and we should have taken the oil — ISIS would not have been able to form either, because the oil was their primary source of income,” he said. “And now they have the oil all over the place, including the oil — a lot of the oil in Libya, which was another one of her disasters.”

Clinton cut his knees out from under him again, saying Trump “actually advocated for the actions we took in Libya and urged that Gadhafi be taken out, after actually doing some business with him one time.”

It looks like it may be a very long six weeks until Election Day for Donald Trump.  And if  avoiding a confrontation with Russia is the single most important issue of the day, more urgent even than climate change, the alternative, Clinton back in the White House, could be a very chilling four years for the rest of us.

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Photos of new Iskander base near Ukrainian border creates media hype

But research into the photos and cross-checking of news reports reveals only the standard anti-Russian narrative that has gone on for years.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Fox News obtained satellite photos that claim that Russia has recently installed new Iskander missile batteries, one of them “near” to the Ukrainian border. However, what the Fox article does not say is left for the reader to discover: that in regards to Ukraine, these missiles are probably not that significant, unless the missiles are much longer range than reported:

The intelligence report provided to Fox by Imagesat International showed the new deployment in Krasnodar, 270 miles from the Ukrainian border. In the images is visible what appears to be an Iskander compound, with a few bunkers and another compound of hangars. There is a second new installation that was discovered by satellite photos, but this one is much farther to the east, in the region relatively near to Ulan-Ude, a city relatively close to the Mongolian border.

Both Ukraine and Mongolia are nations that have good relations with the West, but Mongolia has good relations with both its immediate neighbors, Russia and China, and in fact participated with both countries in the massive Vostok-2018 military war-games earlier this year.

Fox News provided these photos of the Iskander emplacement near Krasnodar:

Imagesat International

Fox annotated this photo in this way:

Near the launcher, there is a transloader vehicle which enables quick reloading of the missiles into the launcher. One of the bunker’s door is open, and another reloading vehicle is seen exiting from it.

[Fox:] The Iskander ballistic missile has a range up to 310 miles, and can carry both unconventional as well as nuclear warheads, putting most of America’s NATO allies at risk. The second deployment is near the border with Mongolia, in Ulan-Ude in Sothern Russia, where there are four launchers and another reloading vehicle.

[Fox:] Earlier this week, Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia’s Security Council, said authorities of the former Soviet republic are being “controlled” by the West, warning it stands to lose its independence and identity as a consequence. “The continuation of such policy by the Kiev authorities can contribute to the loss of Ukraine’s statehood,” Mr Patrushev told Rossiyskaya Gazeta, according to Russian news agency TASS.

This situation was placed by Fox in context with the Kerch Strait incident, in which three Ukrainian vessels and twenty-four crew and soldiers were fired upon by Russian coast guard ships as they manuevered in the Kerch Strait without permission from Russian authorities based in Crimea. There are many indications that this incident was a deliberate attempt on the part of Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko, to create a sensational incident, possibly to bolster his flagging re-election campaign. After the incident, the President blustered and set ten provinces in Ukraine under martial law for 30 days, insisting to the world, and especially to the United States, that Russia was “preparing to invade” his country.

Russia expressed no such sentiment in any way, but they are holding the soldiers until the end of January. However, on January 17th, a Moscow court extended the detention of eight of these captured Ukrainian sailors despite protests from Kyiv and Washington.

In addition to the tensions in Ukraine, the other significant point of disagreement between the Russian Federation and the US is the US’ plan to withdraw from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). Russia sees this treaty as extremely important, but the US point of view expressed by John Bolton, National Security Adviser, is that the treaty is useless because it does not include any other parties that have intermediate range nukes or the capability for them, such as Iran, North Korea, and China. This is an unsolved problem, and it is possible that the moves of the Iskander batteries is a subtle warning from the Russians that they really would rather the US stay in the treaty.

Discussions on this matter at public levels between the Russian government and the US have been very difficult because of the fierce anti-Russia and anti-Trump campaigns in the media and political establishments of the United States. President Putin and President Trump have both expressed the desire to meet, but complications like the Kerch Strait Incident conveniently arise, and have repeatedly disrupted the attempts for these two leaders to meet.

Where Fox News appears to get it wrong shows in a few places:

First, the known range for Iskander missiles maxes at about 310 miles. The placement of the battery near Krasnodar is 270 miles from the eastern Ukrainian border, but the eastern part of Ukraine is Russian-friendly and two provinces, Donetsk and Lugansk, are breakaway provinces acting as independent republics. The battery appears to be no threat to Kyiv or to that part of Ukraine which is aligned with the West. Although the missiles could reach into US ally Georgia, Krasnodar is 376 miles from Tbilisi, and so again it seems that there is no significant target for these missiles. (This is assuming the location given is accurate.)

Second, the location shown in the photo is (44,47,29.440N at 39,13,04.754E). The date on the “Krasnodar” photo is January 17, 2019. However, a photo of the region taken July 24, 2018 reveals a different layout. It takes a moment or two to study this, but there is not much of an exact match here:

Third, Fox News reported of “further Russian troops deployment and S-400 Surface to air missile days after the escalation started, hinting Russia might have orchestrated the naval incident.”

It may be true that Russia deployed weapons to this base area in Crimea, but this is now Russian territory. S-400s can be used offensively, but their primary purpose is defensive. Troops on the Crimean Peninsula, especially at this location far to the north of the area, are not in a position strategically to invade Kherson Oblast (a pushback would probably corner such forces on the Crimean peninsula with nowhere to go except the Black Sea). However, this does look like a possible defense installation should Ukraine’s forces try to invade or bomb Crimea.

Fox has this wrong, but it is no great surprise, because the American stance about Ukraine and Russia is similar – Russia can do no right, and Ukraine can do no wrong. Fox News is not monolithic on this point of view, of course, with anchors and journalists such as Tucker Carlson, who seem willing to acknowledge the US propaganda about the region. However, there are a lot of hawks as well. While photos in the articles about the S-400s and the Russian troops are accurately located, it does appear that the one about Iskanders is not, and that the folks behind this original article are guessing that the photos will not be questioned. After all, no one in the US knows where anything is in Russia and Ukraine, anyway, right?

That there is an issue here is likely. But is it appears that there is strong evidence that it is opposite what Fox reported here, it leaves much to be questioned.

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US Christians move to protect Christians in the Middle East

It is very good to stand up for Christians in places where they are persecuted in the world. We ought to start with the US and Europe.

Seraphim Hanisch

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ISIS represents the single most prominent national or pseudo national entity that makes the persecution of Christians a central part of its activity. The would-be Islamic Caliphate is widely understood to be on its last legs, having been destroyed or driven out of most of the Syrian territory and Iraq, which it had gained in surprisingly swift conquests during the administration of US President Barack Obama. However, ISIS is not the only persecutor of followers of Jesus Christ. In fact, Christianity is by far the most widely persecuted religion on earth, with the last 100 years seeing more martyrdoms than in the entire history of Christianity before.

In this video, released by Fox Entertainment, Dede Laugesen discusses the activity of Christians in the US moving to help those abroad. The video is well worth watching, but with additional considerations.

Persecution of Christians has many forces, and although this piece largely concerns itself with causing the physical death of Christian believers, it also makes a point of “exclusion from civil society, loss of property, and many other things.”

This may or may not be code for the other type of persecution that has taken place against Christians, that being in what we might call “First World” countries, like the United States itself, England and others in Europe.

During President Obama’s terms, for example, Christians were actively persecuted through the Affordable Care Act’s provisions of (at first) trying to get one dollar of  everyone’s health insurance policy premiums to go towards providing abortifacients or contraceptives to anyone who needed them. This was a violation of American First Amendment rights (Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…) and the Roman Catholic Conference of Bishops in the US spoke out against it strongly. The answer from the Administration was basically a shell game – insurance companies were thus mandated to provide such services for no charge at all.

Of course, the insurance companies are not about to lose money, so the original idea of a dollar per premium payment essentially survived; it was just slightly more hidden.

In 2015 and 2016, American Christians began to notice in very widespread fashion that they and those believing in a traditional understanding of family life and marriage, were now considered “hateful, bigoted, homophobic” and other pejorative labels. Some were driven out of business, like the cake backers in Oregon and Colorado. Homosexuality, a lifestyle that has been condemned by all Abrahamic faith traditions since recorded history began, was made legal by Supreme Court fiat in the United States. Now parents have to deal with the reality of lesbian or gay hero characters being portrayed by the likes of Marvel and DC productions on TV at home, and some public schools are insistent upon teaching children about “my two dads” or “my two moms” and so forth.

As Tucker Carlson noted in his own video presentation about two weeks ago, the attack against traditional family values for the sake of economic gain has caused unbelievable destruction in American society. The legalization of cannabis has accelerated this.

With all this is probably the most powerful attack yet devised against Christian believers. That attack says something like this:

Christianity? Sure, it’s okay if you want to be Christian. We do not mind. But keep your faith in Church. Be nice to the rest of us who do not believe like you do. Your faith is yours to keep but it offends us. Jesus said to love everyone, but when you talk about your beliefs (that we disagree with) you are being a bad Christian because you are being hateful to people who are different than you.

Many Christians have silently buckled to this argument. And why?

It is in our nature as Christians to strive for compassion and kindness to others. In America, a large part of our church upbringing talked about being nice to others whether they deserved it or not.

But being “nice” is not the same as being honest. There are still a lot of great parents that know that being too nice to their children will kill them. Being honest, strong, disciplined… these are also measures of what Christian love is.

Christian love is rooted in reality. The reality of God, of who we are, our ability to do either good or evil to ourselves and those around us, and far more than being nice to others, facing the Lord at the last moment in life or at the Last Judgement. To survive and make it through that session means that we have to make decisions that may not look nice. They may look harsh, unkind, or hateful. But every sane adult probably remembers times his or her parents put their foot down and did not let them do something. At the time it seemed wrong. But later it proved lifesaving.

We are under an attack as severe as ISIS’ attacks on Christians in those other parts of the world. If the seculars of our culture can render our faith as irrelevant, then they have won, and we all suffer.

 

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The Pences: defenders of Christian values in the White House

Article about Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen views Christian life as weird, showing nature of Christian persecution in the US.

Seraphim Hanisch

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A companion article noted that Christian believers in the US are seeking to help stand for those Christians in far off lands who are being martyred and persecuted for their faith at the hands of ISIS and other cruel religious and secular forces. But we also noted that this problem is extremely fierce in the Western “Christian” world, but the attacks try to bring Christian life to irrelevance and “shame it out of existence.”

An example of this in action came from Yahoo.com, carrying a news piece from AFP. Here is that piece; we have added emphases to focus on our point:

On page 11 of an application to work at a private Christian school in Virginia, teachers are bluntly asked to pledge to “maintain a lifestyle based on biblical standards of moral conduct.” It goes on to say banned conduct includes, but is not limited, to: “heterosexual activity outside of marriage (e.g. premarital sex, cohabitation, extramarital sex), homosexual or lesbian sexual activity, polygamy, transgender identity” or “any other violation of the unique roles of male and female.”

Students at the Immanuel Christian School — who range in age from five to 14 — are also banned from engaging in “homosexual or bi-sexual activity,” according to an agreement parents must sign before enrollment. Vice President Mike Pence’s wife Karen is once again teaching art at the school in Washington’s suburbs — sparking anger from gay rights advocates who say it sends the wrong message from the inner circles of US power. “We’ll let the critics roll off our backs,” Pence said in an interview with Catholic television network EWTN. But he added: “The criticism of Christian education in America should stop.”

Of course, the Pence family’s brand of religious conservatism is exactly why Donald Trump chose him as a running mate in July 2016.

– Pro-prayer, anti-abortion –

At that time, Pence was the governor of Indiana and a former congressman with a low national profile. He had a few crowning achievements to boast of — a state anti-abortion law and a “religious freedom law” that said individuals and companies wishing not to serve gay and lesbian customers could cite a “substantial burden” on their religious beliefs as a reason.

An amendment was eventually passed to provide protections for LGBT citizens.

The anti-abortion law added limits to access, banning those motivated by the fetus’s race, gender or disability. But it was eventually blocked in the courts. Nevertheless, the two initiatives had burnished Pence’s reputation as a champion of the religious right. Since taking office as vice president, the 59-year-old Pence — who seems to make it his business not to make waves — regularly appears alongside the 45th president of the United States.

In meetings, he often takes a back seat, his lips sealed and his head nodding in approval. When he speaks in public, he never misses a chance to voice his admiration for the man who brought him back to Washington.

On the face of it, they could not be more different — Trump is brash, twice divorced, vocal about his sexual conquests and doesn’t seem to have a tight grasp on biblical passages. Pence meanwhile said last year: “I do try and start every day reading the Bible. My wife and I try to have a prayer together before I leave the house every morning.” On Thursday, the vice president was set to host a roundtable for pro-abortion rights activists on the eve of the March for Life, a major annual anti-abortion rally in Washington. Pence was the first vice president to speak at the march in 2017.

“We will not rest, until we restore a culture of life in America for ourselves and our posterity,” Pence told the crowd.

– The fight continues –

Mike and Karen Pence met at church — an evangelical Protestant congregation. One in four Americans associates with the movement. Today, they are often seen holding hands when they are together in public. Pence often begins his tweets by saying, “Karen and I are praying for…”

They are reportedly inseparable — a fact that sometimes sparks mockery. In 2002, Mike Pence, then a lawmaker, infamously told The Hill that he never ate alone with a woman other than Karen, and that he would not accept an invitation to an event where alcohol was being served if she were not there. “If there’s alcohol being served and people are being loose, I want to have the best-looking brunette in the room standing next to me,” Pence told the Washington paper.

While he has often joked about his traditional views of coupledom, he has never denied them. Karen Pence, 62, shares her husband’s conservative beliefs. In 1991, she wrote to The Indianapolis Star newspaper to complain about an article that, she claimed, encouraged children to think they were gay or lesbian, according to a copy of the letter released by The Washington Post. Since that time, gay marriage has become the law of the land — legal across the country. But there is no explicit federal ban on discriminating against someone for their sexual orientation, which allows employers like the Immanual Christian School to maintain its rules against “sexual immorality.”

For the Pences, as for other evangelicals, the battle continues.

The thing that is stunning about this news piece is that it casts what are traditionally Christian values and a traditionally good Christian family in a negative light. For AFP and Yahoo, the Pences are an anomaly, a throwback that needs to be thrown back. The contemporary reader is more likely to mock the “backwardness” of Family Pence rather than see their lifestyles as honorable.

This is the nature of the attack against Christianity in our country.

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