By Robert A. Vella

War clouds

The unholy trinity of U.S. president Donald Trump, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman, are apparently preparing for a coordinated war against archrival Iran.  What could possibly go wrong?  Meanwhile, China is retaliating against Trump’s trade war against them with more tariffs of their own in an escalating economic conflict which historically tends to trigger military conflict.  We all have good reason to worry about this.

From:  Could Gulf tensions lead to Iran-US war?

“The Trump administration has significantly increased tensions in the region and has therefore increased the odds of some sort of inadvertent or even deliberate military clash with Iran,” said International Crisis Group (ICG) Iran project director Ali Vaez.

“The odds of a clash occurring, even without provocation, are quite high.” he told AFP.

He said a belief on both sides that the other does not want a conflict “creates plenty of room for miscalculation” especially at a time when both sides have no direct communication channels.

The war in Yemen also intensifies the risk of an incident between Iran and Saudi Arabia — such as an attack by Tehran-backed Huthi rebels on Saudi interests — being magnified and then pulling in the United States.

Drone attacks on Tuesday, claimed by Iran-aligned Yemen rebels, shut down one of Saudi Arabia’s main oil pipelines, further ratcheting up Gulf tensions.

From:  China retaliates with tariff hikes on $60 billion worth of US imports

China said Monday it will impose higher tariffs on a range of U.S. goods, striking back in its trade war with Washington shortly after President Donald Trump warned it not to retaliate.

China’s finance ministry said it plans to set import tariffs ranging from 5 percent to 25 percent on 5,140 U.S. products on a target list worth about $60 billion. It said the tariffs will take effect on June 1.

The announcement came less than two hours after Trump warned Beijing not to retaliate after China said it “will never surrender to external pressure.”

SCOTUS rejects precedent

Legal precedent is a doctrine intended to support judicial integrity in three basic ways:  1) that court rulings should be respected as generally warranted and impartial, 2) that the respect for previous court rulings provides continuity and stability in the judicial system, and 3) that any previous court rulings which are overturned are done so with great care and deliberation to ensure that new legal precedents are not diminished as biased or overtly partisan.  However, the current U.S. Supreme Court has just rejected this important doctrine.

From:  Supreme Court’s conservatives overturn precedent as liberals ask ‘which cases the court will overrule next’

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority overturned a 41-year-old precedent Monday, prompting a pointed warning from liberal justices about “which cases the court will overrule next.”

The issue in Monday’s 5 to 4 ruling was one of limited impact: whether states have sovereign immunity from private lawsuits in the courts of other states. In 1979, the Supreme Court ruled that there is no constitutional right to such immunity, although states are free to extend it to one another and often do.

But the court’s conservative majority overruled that decision, saying there was an implied right in the Constitution that means states “could not be haled involuntarily before each other’s courts,” in the words of Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote Monday’s decision.

Thomas acknowledged the departure from the legal doctrine of stare decisis, in which courts are to abide by settled law without a compelling reason to overrule the decision.

Money trumps justice

In one of the most brazen court decisions in recent memory, which sends the strong message that social status supersedes the concept of equal application of the law (see: Equal Protection Clause), incriminating evidence against billionaire businessman and NFL team owner Robert Kraft has been tossed out in a criminal solicitation case.  Would defendants without the wealth, power, and fame of Mr. Kraft (who is a personal friend of Donald Trump) been afforded such leniency or favoritism?

From:  Judge suppresses video in Kraft solicitation case

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Prosecutors cannot use secretly recorded video allegedly showing New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft engaging in massage parlor sex, a judge ruled Monday, striking a serious blow to the case charging him with soliciting prostitutes.

In his 10-page ruling, Judge Leonard Hanser wrote that Jupiter police detectives and the judge who issued the search warrant allowing the secret installation of cameras at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter did not do enough to minimize the invasion of privacy of other customers, some of whom received only legal massages.

Kraft’s attorneys are expected to file a motion to dismiss the case based on lack of evidence as soon as Tuesday. Prosecutors have the options of appealing the decision, dismissing the charges or going ahead to trial without the only evidence they’ve presented.

Russian agent

From:  D.C. radio station is a Russian agent, judge rules

The Justice Department on Monday welcomed a federal judge’s ruling that a Washington, D.C., radio station must register as an agent of the Russian government, saying Americans “have a right to know if a foreign flag waves behind speech broadcast in the United States.”

Except for the five seconds every hour during which it identifies itself, WZHF-AM has broadcast Radio Sputnik around the clock since December 2017.


Radio Sputnik is part of Rossíya Segódnya, the government news agency created in 2013 by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

NRA leak

From:  NRA infighting spills into public view with anonymous leak of documents

A trove of what appear to be internal NRA documents were anonymously posted online over the weekend, raising more questions about longtime CEO Wayne LaPierre’s leadership amid mounting allegations of financial mismanagement within the powerful gun lobby.

The leaked documents, the authenticity of which ABC News has not been able to verify, included letters that appear to show former NRA president Lt. Col. Oliver North raised serious concerns with the organization’s audit committee about $24 million in legal fees paid to the firm of outside counsel William Brewer over the last year. North was recently ousted as president amid a dispute with LaPierre.


These latest revelations have arrived during a period of rising internal tensions at the organization, as media scrutiny of the NRA and its finances has prompted action by law enforcement and lawmakers.

Another mosque burned

From:  A Connecticut mosque fire was intentionally set, authorities say

A blaze that engulfed a New Haven mosque Sunday was intentionally set, the city’s supervisor of fire investigations, Ray Saracco, told CNN.

The fire at the Diyanet Mosque in Connecticut broke out Sunday, during the holy month of Ramadan.

Monsanto in trouble

From:  Bayer Roundup Loss Raises Pressure on Monsanto Owner to Settle

(Bloomberg) — Bayer AG was ordered to pay more than $2 billion in damages to a California couple that claimed they got cancer as a result of using its Roundup weedkiller for about three decades, raising pressure on the company to settle thousands of similar lawsuits. The stock plunged to the lowest level in almost seven years.

It’s the largest jury award in the U.S. so far this year and the eighth-largest ever in a product-defect claim, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Bayer has now lost three trials in a row over claims Roundup causes cancer and it’s scheduled to face similar claims this summer in St. Louis.

Chief Executive Officer Werner Baumann faces increased shareholder pressure over the litigation it inherited from Monsanto Co., acquired for about $63 billion last June. Bayer has lost more than 40 percent of its value since the transaction. On Tuesday, its shares fell as much as 5 percent in German trading.

A progressive champion

From:  Why Washington Is the Best State in America

SEATTLE — That Washington state boasts a booming economy is hardly a shock. The state is home to Amazon.com, after all, and a mature tech sector led by Microsoft. Washington apples, wheat, hops and grapes feed and inebriate the world. Boeing Co. aircraft circle it.

But Washington has a supercharger: power.

Cheap, climate-friendly electricity drives Washington’s economy, the nation’s fastest growing, according to the U.S. News’ Best States ranking of economic growth. The tech-heavy state’s expectedly strong broadband network sits atop one of the nation’s best electrical systems, one well-positioned as the country shifts away from coal- and natural gas-generated electricity. The state expects to be coal-free by 2025, while still charging rates among the nation’s lowest.

Aging hydroelectric dams provide most of the electricity Washington uses or exports, but windmills and solar arrays are increasingly common sights on the arid rolling hills east of the Cascade Mountains. Gov. Jay Inslee, the state’s leading clean energy evangelist-turned-presidential hopeful, describes those projects as doubly fruitful: Customers get clean energy, and rural residents get economic opportunity.

“Washington state is an example of how climate action and a strong economy go hand in hand,” Inslee told U.S. News & World Report.

28 thoughts on “War clouds, SCOTUS rejects precedent, Money trumps justice, Russian agent, NRA leak, and more

  1. Off-topic but this was the leading sentence in an AP news article: Nearly every country in the world has agreed upon a legally binding framework to reduce the pollution from plastic waste except for the United States, U.N. environmental officials say. (Emphasis mine)

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Trump has no clue what the ramifications are re: Iran. And the ones that know better don’t care. It’s truly frightening.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Can’t really add much more that hasn’t already been stated by others here Robert. I’m in agreement with you and all commenters.

    I assume you are watching PBS’s Frontline tonight: The Mueller Investigation, yes? 🤩

    Liked by 1 person

      • It was “live” on Tuesday night. I recorded it and watched it last night. Pretty much a rehash of all that’s been discussed on the various news media. Recognized a lot of the commentators from other shows.

        From all indications, it seems pretty clear to me that tRumpsky DID obstruct justice by his actions and his “instructions” to others. But for whatever reason, he’ll probably get away with this just like he’s gotten away with tons of other stuff he’s done. As I’ve said before … he has a team of lawyers that are quite talented at finding any loophole that exists … no matter how vague or flimsy.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I’m confused. Why would it air in Oregon and not in Washington state? And, why does the FRONTLINE website show its last documentary as “Trump’s Trade War” aired on May 7th?


        • Sadly Nan, and shamefully for the public image (and DOJ) of the U.S. Congress and its Executive Office (or all Branches and Offices?) to the rest of the world and our allies, from President Andrew Johnson to Bill Clinton and threats to Richard Nixon, John Tyler, Herbert Hoover, George W. Bush, and even Barack Obama… we Americans and our Party First Forever to the Death mentalities and blind loyalties have proven time and time again…

          …we have no spines to backup or pursue the letter of our own Laws beyond impeachment or impeachment threats. All and/or any of our past Presidents and our current lobotomized cadaver in the Oval Office know and have always known, Americans don’t punish their tyrannical leaders. They eventually retire in luxury and receive a libraries, museums, and interstate highways named and honored after them. Sad, very sad to say the least. 😡

          Liked by 2 people

        • we have no spines to backup or pursue the letter of our own Laws — and to me, this is not confined to impeachment. It seems “exceptions” are made all the time … depending on who’s in control and what they want to promote/defend/quash.

          For all intents and purposes, America has a quality governing system. It’s just that the people “in control” bend and twist it to their particular needs … and the general public is forced to go along with it. Of course, VOTING is the key, but … *frustrated sigh*

          Liked by 2 people

        • Yes Nan, agreed. By comparison to other very notable, factual histories and events — e.g. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad — for basic standards of governing and human rights, the U.S. is definitely a top quality system.

          That said, our public education system, which for far too many centuries/decades essentially stops after high school, is not sufficient anymore. It has not done well enough for TRUE Constitutional democracy to not only thrive, but teach its own citizens (who sometimes/often take it for granted) that with freedom comes a huge responsibility to protect it and HOW to protect it, annually! And this is not to address our serious problem of charter and private schooling growing by leaps and bounds. Ugh. 😔

          Yes, voting is indeed a vital method, for sure. But additionally who and why to vote for and not vote for takes a LOT more sharp wisdom, cunning sometimes, and acute sensitivity to those who are not egalitarian and demonstrate it via their words, behavior, and historical track-record.

          This is why I am a big proponent of Agnotology being offered to students in at least 11th and 12th grade. Most DEFINITELY a core curriculum in our 4-year universities! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        • I understand your concerns re: education … and for the most part, I agree. It’s severely lacking in the areas that affect not only democracy, but sustaining our planet, history of our nation, appreciation of the arts, etc., etc.

          The problem as I see it isn’t that these subjects aren’t part of the curriculum, it’s that teachers are so overworked, underpaid, and unappreciated that they most likely gloss over the subjects just to get through the day and collect their meager paycheck at the end of the month. Of course there are exceptions, but they are drastically on the lower end of the statistics.

          Liked by 2 people

        • You are absolutely right Nan. You might remember that I was a middle school General Ed and Special Ed teacher at a charter school and resident campus for K – 12 kids who were wards of the state. Over half of them came from horrible homes/parents destroyed by drug abuse/dealing and mental-illness. Everything you listed there is absolutely correct — public & charter school teachers certainly do not do the work 6-7 days a week for 12-16 hours for great money. Grrrrr, don’t get me started on that part of my life and utter frustration and anger at former Governor Rick Perry cutting our education budgets for public schools and most Special Needs charter schools (like ours) by over $4-billion. This caused a mass exodus of quality excellent educators in 2011 and beyond. And in the long run, who suffers? Ugh, I get nauseated every time I remember those years. 🤮😠

          Did you know that over in Finland and several other Nordic and north European countries they pay their primary and secondary teachers like our American doctors and corporate CEO’s are paid here?

          Liked by 2 people

      • Yeah, sometimes various PBS affiliates schedule different shows, different times or days, etc. Nevertheless, I found it to be very informative on, if anything, just how we Americans have given way, WAY too much power and leverage to one office, or one man in what’s supposed to be a Constitutional democracy with THREE EQUAL Branches. I’ve always been disturbed by our obsession with a Monistic(?), perhaps pseudo-monotheistic obsession with a single all-powerful individual, entity or demi-god. 😉 😛

        Liked by 1 person

        • I just realized that the Trailblazers-Warriors NBA playoff game was on at the same time on Tuesday night, and I live within the Portland, Oregon broadcast area even though I’m in another state. They’re playing again tonight, so the documentary might not air here until next week (hopefully).

          Liked by 1 person

        • Hahahahaha!!! Well, now THAT is so very, VERY American! 🤣

          Of course our American (three) sports leagues, teams and multi-billion dollar players get top billing over learning and being informed about our laws, government, and the function/dynamics of a healthy democracy. HAH! 🙄

          Liked by 1 person

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