Trump left isolated as Republican allies revolt over US withdrawal from Syria   


Trump left isolated as Republican allies revolt over US withdrawal from SyriaMitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham lead condemnation of foreign policy move that could prove ‘disaster in the making’Donald Trump with Mark Milley, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, in the Cabinet Room on Monday. Lindsey Graham said abandoning the Kurds would be ‘a stain on America’s honour’. Photograph: Carolyn Kaster/APDonald Trump was dangerously isolated on Monday as, in a rare rebuke, some of his most loyal allies revolted against his decision to withdraw US troops from north-eastern Syria.Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell led a chorus of Republicans who, having defended the president on almost every other issue – including over impeachment – decided to draw a line in the sand.“A precipitous withdrawal of US forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime,” McConnell said. “And it would increase the risk that Isis and other terrorist groups regroup.”He added: “As we learned the hard way during the Obama administration, American interests are best served by American leadership, not by retreat or withdrawal.”The criticism was significant because McConnell is usually at pains not to cross Trump even at his most capricious. Last week the Kentucky senator released a Facebook video promising to stop Democratic-led impeachment in its tracks.Article 1 of the United States constitution gives the House of Representatives the sole power to initiate impeachment and the Senate the sole power to try impeachments of the president. A president can be impeached if they are judged to have committed "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors" – although the constitution does not specify what “high crimes and misdemeanors” are.The process starts with the House of Representatives passing articles of impeachment. A simple majority of members need to vote in favour of impeachment for it to pass to the next stage. Democrats currently control the house, with 235 representatives.The chief justice of the US supreme court then presides over the proceedings in the Senate, where the president is tried, with senators acting as the jury. For the president to be found guilty two-thirds of senators must vote to convict. Republicans currently control the Senate, with 53 of the 100 senators.Two presidents have previously been impeached, Bill Clinton in 1998, and Andrew Johnson in 1868, though neither was removed from office as a result. Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 before there was a formal vote to impeach him.Martin BelamThe unusual fracture emerged on Sunday night when, shortly after a phone conversation between Trump and Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the White House announced removal of US troops from the Syria-Turkey border area. “Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria,” it added.Critics of all political stripes have long feared that the move could open the way for a Turkish strike on Kurdish-led fighters in the area. Kurdish groups have fought alongside a small US presence in Syria to drive Islamic State militants from the region.The Republican backlash was rapid and potentially unnerving for a president whose fate is tethered to the party and the assumption that it will acquit him in the Senate if, as widely expected, the Democratic-led House of Representatives votes for impeachment.Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, who has become an outspoken defender (and frequent golf partner) of Trump, did not acquiesce this time. Abandonment of the Kurds would be “a disaster in the making”, he said, and “a stain on America’s honour”.Graham told Fox News: “I hope I’m making myself clear how short-sighted and irresponsible this decision is. I like President Trump. I’ve tried to help him. This, to me, is just unnerving to its core.”Graham wrote on Twitter that if the plan goes ahead, he will introduce a Senate resolution opposing it and seeking reversal of the decision. He added: “We will introduce bipartisan sanctions against Turkey if they invade Syria and will call for their suspension from NATO if they attack Kurdish forces who assisted the US in the destruction of the ISIS Caliphate.”Kevin McCarthy, the top Republican in the House, whose attempts to defend Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s president have provoked mockery, said: “If you make a commitment and somebody is fighting with you, America should keep their word.”Michael McCaul of Texas, the lead Republican on the House foreign affairs committee, also urged the president to reconsider. “The United States should not step aside and allow a Turkish military operation in north-east Syria,” he said. “This move will undermine our ongoing campaign to prevent an Isis resurgence and will ultimately threaten our homeland.“Additionally, the United States needs to stay engaged to prevent further destructive involvement in the region from our adversaries like the Assad regime, Putin and Iran.”Notably, senator Marco Rubio of Florida, reluctant to criticise Trump even when the president suggested that China investigate former vice president and 2020 election rival Joe Biden, was clear , describing the retreat as “a grave mistake that will have implications far beyond Syria”And Nikki Haley, Trump’s former UN ambassador, admonished Trump without mentioning his name. “We must always have the backs of our allies, if we expect them to have our back,” she tweeted. “The Kurds were instrumental in our successful fight against ISIS in Syria. Leaving them to die is a big mistake. TurkeyIsNotOurFriend”Ominously for Trump, even conservative Fox News aired dissent. Host Brian Kilmeade described the pullout as “a disaster”, telling viewers of Fox & Friends: “Abandon our allies? That’s a campaign promise? Abandon the people that got the caliphate destroyed?”Republicans who have contradicted Trump before did so forcefully again. Utah senator Mitt Romney described Trump’s announcement as “a betrayal”, adding: “It says that America is an unreliable ally; it facilitates ISIS resurgence; and it presages another humanitarian disaster.”Romney and Democratic senator Chris Murphy issued a joint statement insisting Trump’s administration “explain to the American people how betraying an ally and ceding influence to terrorists and adversaries is not disastrous for our national security interests”.Democrats also piled in but there was a lone voice of support for the president on Capitol Hill. Republican senator Rand Paul, long a critic of foreign intervention, said: “So many neocons want us to stay in wars all over the Middle East forever. [Trump] is absolutely right to end those wars and bring the troops home.”Trump himself was undeterred by the blowback. Speaking at the White House on Monday, he said he has “great respect” for the prominent Republican critics. And added: “People are extremely thrilled because they say it’s time to bring our people back home. We’re not a police force. They’re policing the area. We’re not a police force. The UK was very thrilled at this decision … many people agree with it very strongly.”


Watching our Liberties Exit Stage Left   


I am concerned over video justice whether it is red-light cameras, speed enforcement cameras, or video taping public areas for viewing by law enforcement. The idea of using technology to keep an ever watchful eye on American citizens wrong. Don't misunderstand my intentions, I am not against using technology to help a law enforcement officer do his duty, I am against technology in place of law enforcement officers. I am all for getting a warrant to legally do surveillance of a criminal suspect. I am all for police officers having video camera's in their police cars. I am against the continuous recording of public places on the off-chance it might catch a citizen doing something illegal.

I wrote two columns for the Daily News. Both columns are limited in the number of words allowed. I am posting both columns here in their original unabridged format. As it turns out both columns were written in March. The first in 2009 and the second in 2011.

In my second column I included several quotations from the OPC Guidelines for the Use of Video Surveillance of Public Places by Police and Law Enforcement Authorities. I like a lot of what it says.
Other links:
Washington State Constitution
Protests Against Surveillance Cameras
Ineffectiveness of Surveillance Cameras
Photo Radar Scam

Column #1: Daily News, March 2009.

In October of 2008 the Daily News reported about placing video surveillance cameras in several locations around Pullman. If the cameras are installed we will watch our civil liberties exit stage left.

The proposal seems benign; however, it is anything but. We are told the video would only be recorded and saved for three to four days. The cameras, we are told, would not be monitored. This proposal brings to mind a quotation from in an article titled “Washington State Citizens Against National ID”.
Under the guise of safety and security you are asked to give up your most personal information to the government’s safekeeping. Using the governments favorite phrase ‘…the need to know’, we don’t feel the government has - the need to know - such personal information. The fundamental right to privacy is asked to give way in order to achieve the illusion of security.

Don’t mistake this proposal to be on the same level as video cameras in banks, convenience stores, and various other private businesses. The difference between the cameras the city wants to install and those in the above locations are great. The cameras would be on public streets. They would be controlled by the government.

I should be able to drive down the road, in a free country, without being monitored by my government. Our government was set up with the consent of those governed not the other way around.

Many people I have talked to believe that there is nothing wrong with putting surveillance cameras on Greek Row. But that is just the start. Mayor Johnson was even quoted as saying “this would just be the start”. As more funds are available more cameras can be installed. Soon they will be put into my neighborhood and your neighborhood.

Can we really believe that once the cameras are installed that they will never be monitored? According to an article in the Daily Evergreen, Mayor Johnson said the cameras would not be monitored, but only reviewed when a crime happened to try to identify those who committed the crime. But in the Daily News article it was pointed out the cameras could be viewed live the police in their patrol cars.

How long before the city decided that on major weekends the cameras should have someone watching them and dispatching police to suspicious activities? It probably would not be very long after that point of time that we have someone to monitor the cameras on all weekends. At some point, no doubt, there would be a call to expand the coverage of live monitoring of the cameras to include the whole week. We would need to hire some people to watch the cameras to report suspicious activities to the police. Your privacy would soon be in question.

The big issue with the government monitoring the cameras and possessing the cameras and recordings is that, unlike a convenience store, the government has the ability to impose sanctions on people. Those sanctions can be anything ranging from fines to jail time.

What happens when someone uses the freedom of information act to request copies of recordings? What if those recordings show something that you did, which was not criminal in nature, but one that was personal and embarrassing in nature? Could that cause damage to ones reputation?

During the arson fire it was pointed out we might have seen a car pass through the cameras and we could have had a possible suspect. What if you were the suspect? You will have to prove yourself innocent or risk being arrested. No alibi? That’s a problem. The police grill you as to why you were driving at three o’clock in the morning? This is a free country and you should be able to move around as you wish, no suspicion raised and no alibi’s needed.

The loss of personal liberties in the name of safety is not a fair trade off.

Scott McDonald, in the article “Uncle Sam Has All your Numbers“ poses a great point. The focus of the debate must be on liberty and freedom. The question must be: Does the government have any right, whatsoever, to maintain cameras focused on free citizens? The answer is “NO!”

Column #2: Daily News, March 2011.
Imagine, if you will, this utopia. It is a place where there are no guns. Everyone has free food, health care, and a place to live. No one is forced to hold down a job. Everyone is safe from crime and there are cameras to watch every move that someone makes. Those cameras are monitored 24/7. Want to live there? We have such a place right here in Whitman County. It is called jail. Sure you are secure, but you surely don’t have any personal liberties.

Unfortunately, the idea of placing government-run video cameras around the city of Pullman has resurfaced. Mayor Glenn Johnson and Police Chief Jenkins both support this issue. I disagree with the government running broad reaching video surveillance against its free citizens.

A number of people who don't see a problem with video cameras bring up two points over and over. One point being that stores and banks use video how is this any different. I argue the difference between the bank and the government is the government has a direct ability to abridge freedom. Point number two revolves around the idea that if you are not doing anything wrong then you have nothing to hide.

Government monitoring its citizens via video cameras is not about hiding things; it is about our rights explicitly spelled out in the state Constitution. Article 1 Section 7 says in part "No person shall be disturbed in his private affairs... without authority of law". Just because someone enters a public space doesn't mean he forfeits his expectation of privacy. One cannot be searched just because he is in public.

An article discussing guidelines for the use of video surveillance by law enforcement in public places exists on the Website for the Office of Privacy Commissioner (OPC) of Canada.
"Video surveillance of public places subjects everyone to scrutiny, regardless of whether they have done anything to arouse suspicion. At the very least it circumscribes, if it does not eradicate outright, the expectation of privacy and anonymity that we have as we go about our daily business.

The medium’s very nature allows law enforcement to observe and monitor the movements of a large number of persons, the vast number of whom are law-abiding citizens, where there are no reasonable grounds to be capturing a record of their activities."

Human's change their behavior when they are being watched. Whether it is seeing a police car and letting off the accelerator when driving down the street or stifling one's own speech when someone approaches. These changes, as noted by the Website, started a business where people can buy faux cameras to make people change their behavior. The OPC's Website continues "For these reasons, there is good reason to believe that video surveillance of public places by the police or other law enforcement authorities has a chilling effect on behaviour—and by extension on rights and freedoms."

My last column came out in March of 2009. In those two years Pullman has neither become more dangerous nor crime ridden. Pullman still has issues with crime, as does every city, but we are not anywhere to the point where the movements of the citizens should be captured on video. "The problem to be addressed by video surveillance must be pressing and substantial, of sufficient importance to warrant overriding the right of innocent individuals to be free from surveillance in a public place." (OPA Website)

One person posed a question to me asking how it is different when a police officer is in public watching people and a video camera is in a public place watching people. The police officer is looking for a criminal activity taking place when he sees none he moves along. At some point in the future he will check back upon the area. A video camera on the other hand is constantly recording all citizens no matter what they are doing.

I would like to close with a final concept as written by the OPC. "Video surveillance of public places nonetheless presents a challenge to privacy, to freedom of movement and freedom of association, all rights we take for granted in Canada [and America]. This is especially true when the surveillance is conducted by police or other law enforcement authorities."

Please stop by where you can read my previous column and this column both unabridged due to the limitation of space.
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