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President Donald Trump has signed the sanctions bill against Russia, North Korea, and Iran. With the near-unanimous, veto-proof margin by which the so-called «Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act» was passed by both the House and the Senate, Trump was in a lose-lose position.
In the signing statement issued by the White House, Trump and his advisers tried to put a brave face on what can only be seen as a humiliating defeat. Despite some cosmetic changes –
«– the bill remains seriously flawed – particularly because it encroaches on the executive branch’s authority to negotiate. Congress could not even negotiate a healthcare bill after seven years of talking. By limiting the Executive’s flexibility, this bill makes it harder for the United States to strike good deals for the American people, and will drive China, Russia, and North Korea much closer together. The Framers of our Constitution put foreign affairs in the hands of the President. This bill will prove the wisdom of that choice.
«Yet despite its problems, I am signing this bill for the sake of national unity. It represents the will of the American people to see Russia take steps to improve relations with the United States. We hope there will be cooperation between our two countries on major global issues so that these sanctions will no longer be necessary». [Emphasis added]
To suggest this absurd, dangerous, and unconstitutional law can be characterized as representing a desire «to see Russia take steps to improve relations» with the US is the opposite of the truth.
The conscious purpose of this law is to make sure that no steps to improve ties can be taken for decades to come. In that, it will be a success. The US Deep State has boxed Trump in, there’s nothing he or anyone else can do about it. Cold War 2 will almost certainly be a fact of life – for many, many years.
Unless we stumble into a Hot War between the US and Russia, which could be of considerably shorter duration…
Trump’s ubiquitous critics slammed his disparagement of the bill even as he signed it. «I built a truly great company worth many billions of dollars», Trump jabbed. «That is a big part of the reason I was elected. As President, I can make far better deals with foreign countries than Congress». True of course. But this is less defiance than helpless flailing at the air. Trump is alone. He knows it, and so does everyone else.
Not only is Congress almost totally united against his foreign policy campaign positions, almost everyone in his own administration is too. Personnel selections in foreign and national security policy are overwhelmingly from the neoconservative and Republican «Never Trump» camp informally led by former losing GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Trump loyalists and people who might actually agree with his campaign positions are systematically blackballed. Those getting jobs in the administration are sometimes, to the extent humanly possible, even worse than the Obama appointees they are slowly supplanting. On Russia, anyway, it seems about the only Trumper in his administration is the president himself. Even his cutoff of CIA weapons to al-Qaeda linked jihadists cannot be secure as the «al-Assad has no role in the future governing of Syria» meme returns.
In the end, Moscow has accepted the reality that «US politics have been captured by the Russophobic forces that have been pushing Washington toward the path of confrontation». While pro forma Russia continues to hold out the principle that it still «stands ready to normalize bilateral relations with the United States and cooperate on major international issues… on the basis of equality, mutual respect and a balance of interests», they know the real score. The new law signed by Trump is tantamount to a «full-scale trade war», conceded Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. «The hope that our relations with the new American administration would improve is finished». Finished.
No one can take seriously the spin from Vice President Mike Pence that the US continues «to believe that if Russia will change its behavior, our relationship can change for the good and improve for the interests in both of our countries and the interest of peace and stability in this region and around the world». Putting aside the air of lecturing an unruly child, «behavior» has nothing to do with it. Moscow could hand Crimea back to Ukraine, escort Kiev’s troops into the Donbass on a red carpet, and hang Bashar al-Assad from a Damascus lamp post, but the sanctions would remain and be progressively tightened. Look how long it took to get rid of Jackson-Vanik far after its ostensible purpose was long since moot.
Note that the Vice President’s comments took place on a tour of Estonia, Montenegro, and Georgia, three countries (one really can’t call Montenegro a «nation») that are totally useless for defending America against Russia or anyone else but constitute part of a «C»-shaped loop around Russia’s western perimeter. Also note that Macedonia may soon also get pulled in, stepping up the pressure for Serbia’s and Bosnia-and-Herzegovina’s absorption. Even the mafia-ruled, terror-rife pseudo-state of Kosovo it getting come-hither looks.
The more the merrier! Tighten that noose! When all’s said and done, the Russophobic impulse controlling US policy is not about what the Russians have done but who they are: Russia delenda est. Hostility toward Russia is not a means to an end – it is the end.
Meanwhile, American prestige media post literally irrational headlines like «Russia's Military Drills Near NATO Border Raise Fears of Aggression». This refers to circumstances where (1) we pull in «allies» that are useless in defending us but are ideal forward offensive platforms, (2) we string our military bases around Russia, and (3) make a big show of provocative troop, air, and naval movements right on the Russians’ borders and on the edge of their territorial waters, but (4) they’re the provocative and «aggressive» ones for moving troops around on their own territory.
With this bill now signed into law, we presumably will see some Russian response, without the delay of the ill-founded delusion that restraint will be rewarded. But the fact is, when it comes to sanctions ping-pong, Russia is in an inherently weaker position. While western observers often overestimate the damage sanctions do to the Russian economy, there’s very little Russia can do to the US economy. The volume of bilateral trade is too low, the disparity in economic and financial power is just too great, the US role in the world financial system is too pervasive, as is our hold over our subservient satellites, who will likely suffer more damage than Russia.
Perhaps the Europeans will begin to see that the people making policy in Washington are not really their friends, though that would require both courage and wisdom from the likes of Merkel, Macron, and May – not a good bet. So far, it’s just noise:
«European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker warned of potential collateral damage to Europe’s energy market, as the sanctions could inadvertently hit European companies involved with Russia’s energy-export pipelines. One such pipeline, the Nord Stream 2 [JGJ: The EU Commission didn’t worry about their policies’ «collateral damage» to South Stream, when the beneficiaries would have been southern Europe and the Balkans], which aims to carry natural gas from Russia to Germany through the Baltic Sea, involves several European companies. ‘«America First» cannot mean that Europe’s interests come last,’ Juncker said, adding that the Commission would be ready to act ‘within a matter of days’ if their concerns were not addressed».
The irony of course is that it’s not Trump’s «America First» that is responsible but exactly the opposite: the efforts of the US establishment – which the EU loves, and vice versa – to torpedo Trump! But if Trump’s unpopularity in Europe can be used as a means to rally opposition to the US sanctions, it may have some value. Hypocrisy has its uses.
As we move forward into an increasingly dangerous world perhaps Moscow will focus less on striking back against the US than on self-protection: breaking off reliance on the US dollar, refocusing their energy and other vital sectors toward Asia and Eurasian economic integration. If the Europeans are smart (big «if») they will think in that direction themselves.
If so, that would lead to another, supreme irony. An article of faith of western Russophobes is that Moscow’s top goal is to «decouple» the US from Europe. If that ends up happening, to whatever extent, Trump’s enemies may end up accomplishing it for them. Perhaps Trump isn’t the Russian plant – perhaps his domestic opponents are.
One of the most anticipated records of the year, Vic Mensa’s ‘The Autobiography’ delivers on the hype, establishing Mensa as one of rap’s next superstars.
Could you see yourself in a Sales career? Here are ten reasons you might want to think about it!
Last night the Washington Post dumped it’s latest ‘bombshell’ White House leaks in the form of full transcripts of Trump’s calls with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull from back in January…which, in Trump years, feels like it was about 20 years ago (we covered it here: Trump Phone Call Transcripts Leaked: “New Hampshire Is A Drug Infested Den”).
Among other things, the full transcripts revealed Trump describing the border wall as a politically important issue but otherwise the “least important thing that we are talking about,” an admission that will come as a surprise to a lot of folks who voted for him. Meanwhile, he also attempted to hedge his insistence that Mexico pay for border wall by proposing a “formula” that would allow the two countries to split the costs, a compromise, and likely the goal of his grandstanding all along, that would seemingly allow both candidates to declare victory politically.
Here are some of the relevant exchanges from the January call:
“Believe it or not, this is the least important thing that we are talking about, but politically this might be the most important. But in terms of dollars — or pesos — it is the least important thing.”
“On the wall, you and I both have a political problem. My people stand up and say, ‘Mexico will pay for the wall,’ and your people probably say something in a similar but slightly different language. But the fact is we are both in a little bit of a political bind because I have to have Mexico pay for the wall. I have to. I have been talking about it for a two-year period.”
“We should both say, ‘We will work it out.’ It will work out in a formula somehow. As opposed to you saying, ‘We will not pay,’ and me saying, ‘We will not pay.'”
“We cannot say that anymore because if you are going to say that Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, then I do not want to meet with you guys anymore because I cannot live with that.”
“This is what I suggest, Mr. President — let us stop talking about the wall. I have recognized the right of any government to protect its borders as it deems necessary and convenient. But my position has been and will continue to be very firm saying that Mexico cannot pay for that wall.”
Meanwhile, and not surprisingly, former Mexican President Vicente Fox appeared yet again on CNN this morning to blast Trump for the transcripts which he used as evidence that Trump’s continued interest in the border wall is nothing more than an attempt to “save face” with voters.
Former Mexican president Vincente Fox: In leaked call with Peña Nieto, Trump is “trying to save face” with voters https://t.co/h3VXA6l3Ft
— New Day (@NewDay) August 4, 2017
And what border wall discussion with Vicente Fox would be complete without another twitter effort to get “#FuckingWall” trending again?
— Vicente Fox Quesada (@VicenteFoxQue) August 3, 2017
Are you not entertained?
This week’s Apple Loop includes the new leaked colors of the iPhone 8, Apple’s latest facial recognition system, iPhone 7S release dates, the iPhone 8’s limited launch, a review of the new iPad Pro, the laptop that defeated the MacBook Pro, Apple Watch numbers, and the Victoria’s Secret case recall.
A lot happened this morning, so I compiled all the interesting stuff in one place.
As cannabis grows increasingly acceptable in society and more states legalize it, everything from cannabis churches and resorts to yoga and restaurants are cropping up. And now, there will be an entire cannabis-inspired town.
American Green is a cannabis company based in Arizona, but they just bought the small California town of Nipton, located in San Bernardino County, and plan to convert into a municipality with a cannabis theme.
The company has a “state of the art” cultivation facility in Arizona and also sells hemp-based CBD (cannabidiol) products online and works to develop cannabis apps. They just spent five million dollars to obtain Nipton and plan to spend another $2.5 million creating their cannabis tourist attraction over the next 18 months.
“We thought that showing that there was a viable means of having a cannabis-friendly municipality and further making it energy independent could be a way of really inspiring folks to say, ‘Why can’t we do that here?’” says the company’s consultant and project manager for Nipton, Stephen Shearin.
“American Green plans to include a new facility to manufacture water infused with CBD, the cannabis component that is typically associated with reducing pain and inflammation. The new Nipton will also have a production site for edible marijuana products, retail stores, and artist-in-residence programs.”
In doing so, the company hopes to develop Nipton into a tourist attraction and make cannabis approachable and acceptable to a wider audience.They plan to manufacture products with smaller doses and provide a vending machine that ensures customers are of age using a biometric scanner.
American Green wants to make Nipton, which features natural mineral springs, a tourist destination. Shearin told Marijuana Business Daily that they plan to “open cannabis-themed bed and breakfasts, host culinary events, start artists-in-residence programs and more.”
They are in negotiations with edible and extract companies to set up shop in Nipton, as well as ship and distribute their products to other parts of the state.
Though they plan to be up and running by mid-October of this year, they still have to wait for the necessary state and local licenses to be able to cultivate and sell cannabis on the property.
“If we have to wait until January and prepare for that and get that in place, and then build out the infrastructure to support it, we can still have a cannabis-friendly destination,” Shearin said.
“It’s a master-planned community,” he told Marijuana Business Daily. “It’s designed to be very specific in terms of being legal, being a town and running it correctly. It’s designed to be open-ended in terms of what it can evolve into by partnering with the right company.”
They also want to build out the town’s mineral springs and create several CBD-infused water pools, expand an existing solar farm, and ensure there is enough lodging for future tourists.
And it’s not just Nipton they want to transform. They hope to change the entire region and make cannabis-based towns more acceptable and popular. “We want to revitalize the region, not the town,” Shearin said, “and we want to do it in a way that other towns can say, ‘Look at that, they have this regulatory system that allows them to embrace cannabis while not offending people who may not be of that mindset.’”
For now, they are moving forward within California’s legal framework. Though President Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions has threatened to crack down on legal cannabis, his future in the administration is uncertain, and it’s difficult to imagine a state like California giving up its recent voter decision to legalize the plant.
Fittingly, Nipton used to be a gold rush town. As Shearin said, “The Gold Rush built this city. The Green Rush can keep it moving the way people envisioned it years ago.” And he hopes to do it elsewhere:
“The plan is absolutely to duplicate this model in new cities.”
This week’s Android Circuit includes a massive leak of Samsung Galaxy Note 8 specifications, four new camera features from Samsung, why the iPhone should be wary of the Note, Google Pixel 2 design leaks, the boring Nokia 8, Microsoft improves Android’s UI, and the unfulfilled promise of the Moto X.