Obama picks a fight with Russians

Vladimir_Putin_and_Barack_Obama_(2015-09-29)_01President Obama has hit Russia with sanctions and the expulsion of diplomatic personnel in retaliation for Vladimir Putin’s alleged interference  with the U.S. election.  He has also threatened cyberattacks against Russia.

In return, Russia is promising retaliation of its own.

With only twenty or so days left in office, the president has stirred up a conflict with Russia that his successor is going to have to deal with.  Donald Trump, with his pro-Russian leanings, will probably reverse Obama’s actions, but this will just advance the narrative that the Russians put him in office, making his new administration and the nation as a whole look bad.

UPDATE:  Putin is now saying he will not retaliate, hoping for better relations with the Trump administration.

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Problems with the EXXON CEO as Secretary of State

Those ties themselves are problematic.  How can we have a Secretary of State with such known biases on behalf of a particular country, let alone one that has been our adversary?  But this looks especially bad since his nomination came just days after the CIA charges that Russia influenced our election in order to help Trump get elected.  True or not, Tillerman’s nomination contributes to the narrative that the Russians are taking over our government.
(3)  The appearance of plutocracy.  There are people on both the left and the right who say that our democracy is a sham because our country is really run by the big corporations.  Trump’s packing his cabinet with billionaires, Wall Street tycoons, and corporation CEOs plays right into that.
Trump hammered Hillary Clinton for giving speeches to Goldman-Sachs.  But he has appointed three Goldman-Sachs executives to his administration.  He owes his election to blue-collar workers the Democrats have ignored, but where is an advocate for that demographic in his administration?
Maybe the Trump phenomenon is just the return of the old pre-Reagan country club Republicans.  After all, Trump builds country clubs.  The Rockefeller Republicans were the party of big business, throwing in some socially liberal noblesse oblige.  
I had greater hopes than this.  Somebody, please, convince me that I’m wrong to worry.

CIA says Russia helped Trump 

41d3e943e7f3eb460e44 The CIA says that Russia deliberately interfered in the American election in order to help elect DonalTrump.  Russian hackers broke into e-mails of both the Democratic and the Republican national committees, but turned over only the Democratic batch to Wikileaks.  The correspondence between Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta and various Democratic operatives proved highly embarrassing to her campaign and likely cost her some votes.

Trump and his people are denying the Russian involvement–but how do they know?  The CIA report doesn’t accuse the Trump campaign of collusion with the Russians.  And there is nothing to deny the legitimacy of Trump’s election.  I suspect the CIA has tried to help one candidate or the other in various foreign elections.  But still. . . .

This casts a cloud on any attempts by the new administration to improve relations with Russia, which Trump has said he wants to do.  Which is why, of course, the Putin regime wanted him to win.  For other problems it creates, see this.  The biggest issue, though, is that if a hostile foreign power can manipulate America’s democracy, we have a national security problem that the military can’t protect us from.
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Trump’s diplomacy

Taiwan_2009_HuaLien_City_Roadside_Cemetery_FRD_8181The diplomatic establishment is all atwitter about Donald Trump’s alleged gaffes, such as taking phone calls from the president of Taiwan and from the president of the Philippines.

Talking to the president of Taiwan is deeply offensive to China.  The phone call is a violation of our “one China” policy and constitutes a tacit recognition of the free democratic nation that China claims for its own.  Never mind that the U.S. gives military aid to the island nation, which is also a major trading partner.  Diplomatically, it doesn’t exist.

But Trump, in refusing to tip-toe around Chinese sensitivities, is simply signaling that he is going to get tough with China, which is what he promised to do in his campaign.

As for Rodrigo Duterte, the foul-mouthed president of the Philippines who is using extra-judicial death squads against drug dealers, he is a pariah. After personally insulting President Barack Obama, Duterte announced that he is cutting back on the long-term military relationship with the U.S. and is going to start favoring China.  Some say that Duterte and Trump are kindred spirits.  We must hope not, at least about the death squads, but Trump may have won over Duterte–who is glowing with the attention from the American president–and thus retained an important military ally.  Which will also torment China.

Read Marc Thiesen’s analysis of Trump’s diplomacy after the jump.

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Russian propaganda and the election

Putin_with_flag_of_RussiaThe Washington Post reports that “fake news” circulated before the election–such as reports of Hillary Clinton’s bad health, that the Clinton campaign paid anti-Trump protesters, and accounts of impending international crises–originated in Russia.  Along with the hacked e-mails of the Democratic national committee, the disinformation campaign was designed to spread cynicism about the American system of government and to help in the election of Donald Trump.

Russia tried similar operations during the Cold War, but this time its propaganda agencies have developed a sophisticated presence on the internet, allowing them to manipulate social media.  So says researchers at the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

UPDATE:  But read this critique of the article.

 

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India, Africa, Indonesia, and other Lutheran enclaves

Most people associate Lutheranism with Germany, Scandinavia, and the United States.  Germany indeed is number one (11,787,811), but number two is Ethiopia (7,886,595) and number three is Tanzania (6,531,336).  Indonesia is fifth (6,046,321) and India is seven (4,042,543).

There are nine countries with more Lutherans than the United States (3,765,362).  Followed by more African countries and Papua New Guinea.

See the list after the jump.  The link discusses other significant Lutheran populations in other parts of the world, such as Australia and Brazil. [Read more…]