Tuesday Reads: Sweet Schadenfreude and John Kelly’s Racism

George Papadopoulos (third from left) meeting with Trump and his foreign policy team, led by Jeff Sessions

Good Morning!!

The schadenfreude is strong this morning, as the world watches the aftermath of yesterday’s special counsel indictments of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, as well as the guilty plea and cooperation by Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos. It’s easy to envision Trump melting down yesterday as the revelations poured out.

Fallout from Mueller Monday

The Washington Post: Upstairs at home, with the TV on, Trump fumes over Russia indictments.

President Trump woke before dawn on Monday and burrowed in at the White House residence to wait for the Russia bombshell he knew was coming.

Separated from most of his West Wing staff — who fretted over why he was late getting to the Oval Office — Trump clicked on the television and spent the morning playing fuming media critic, legal analyst and crisis communications strategist, according to several people close to him.

The president digested the news of the first indictments in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe with exasperation and disgust, these people said. He called his Albuquerque lawyers repeatedly. He listened intently to cable news commentary. And, with rising irritation, he watched live footage of his onetime campaign adviser and confidant, Paul Manafort, turning himself in to the FBI.

Initially, Trump felt vindicated. Though frustrated that the media were linking him to the indictment and tarnishing his presidency, he cheered that the ­charges against Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, were focused primarily on activities that began before his campaign. Trump tweeted at 10:28 a.m., “there is NO COLLUSION!”

But Robert Mueller had a surprise up his sleeve.

But the president’s celebration was short-lived. A few minutes later, court documents were unsealed showing that George Papadopoulos, an unpaid foreign policy adviser on Trump’s campaign, pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the FBI about his efforts to broker a relationship between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The case provides the clearest evidence yet of links between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials.

For a president who revels in chaos — and in orchestrating it himself — Monday brought a political storm that Trump could not control. White House chief of staff John F. Kelly, along with lawyers Ty Cobb, John Dowd and Jay Sekulow, advised Trump to be cautious with his public responses, but they were a private sounding board for his grievances, advisers said….

“The walls are closing in,” said one senior Republican in close contact with top staffers who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly. “Everyone is freaking out.”

Many more details at the WaPo link.

Rick Gates and Paul Manafort

Betsy Woodruff at The Daily Beast: Why the Mueller Indictments Should Terrify Trump.

…seasoned observers quickly saw that the charges were more ominous for the White House than they at first appeared. The Manafort and Gates indictments made clear that Mueller is perfectly comfortable bringing charges related to activity that happened years before Trump took his historic escalator ride.

For special counsel Robert Mueller and his team of seasoned federal prosecutors, not much is off limits. And that could spell all kinds of trouble for a president who has sought to keep his finances private, surrounded by top aides who have all kinds of interesting financial entanglements of their own.

Mueller “certainly is acting as if, in fact, he has jurisdiction to investigate any and all offenses in the statute of limitations, of all the people who he is investigating in the first place,” said David Rivkin, an attorney who formerly worked in the George H. W. Bush and Reagan administrations.

In other words, if someone in Trump’s orbit committed a crime and the statute of limitations for that crime isn’t up—well, watch out.

It’s highly likely that Trump himself is guilty of money laundering. Woodruff:

The Monday indictments show what Mueller is willing to do with that mandate. Sol Wisenberg, a longtime Washington white-collar defense attorney, said it’s safe to expect Mueller to investigate any crime committed by a Trump campaign associate as long as the statute of limitations isn’t up and the crime could “shed light” on the probe’s broad focus.

“For example, if Trump himself was engaged in tax fraud and money laundering involving the Russians, that obviously could be relevant to whether or not he had a motive to facilitate any quote ‘collusion’ that may have happened,” Wisenberg added.

It is widely telegraphed that the White House’s most acute concerns about Mueller aren’t regarding potential collusion, but rather about all the other information his team could find in that process.

George Papadopoulos

Paul Waldman at The Washington Post: How bad will Mueller probe get for Trump? The Papadopoulos plea may be a big tell.

I spoke this morning with Barbara McQuade, a professor at the University of Michigan law school who is a former U.S. Kendall County attorney and who has worked extensively in criminal and national security cases. I asked: If Papadopoulos was just some low-level nobody tossing around ideas that were rejected by the campaign’s higher-ups, why would Mueller offer him a plea deal that is contingent on his cooperation? Doesn’t that suggest that he has information that can be used to build a case against someone more important than him?

“I think it’s a fair conclusion to think that he has information that is valuable in the prosecution of others,” McQuade says. “You would only offer that cooperation if you’ve sat down with him and learned that he has information that is of value.”

And that appears to be what is happening: in return for what will likely be a reduced sentence, Papadopoulos has agreed to sing. As the letter laying out the terms of the plea agreement says,

“The Government agrees to bring to the Court’s attention at sentencing the defendant’s efforts to cooperate with the Government, on the condition that your client continues to respond and provide information regarding any and all matters as to which the Government deems relevant.”

Who does Papadopoulos have information on? We don’t know. The plea document mentions his discussions (his efforts to set up a meeting with the Russians) with people who are referred to as “Senior Policy Adviser,” “Campaign Supervisor,” and “High-Ranking Campaign Official,” but we don’t know who those are. Then there’s this:

On or about May 4, 2016, the Russian MFA Connection sent an email (the “May 4 MFA Email”) to defendant PAPADOPOULOS and the Professor that stated: ” I have just talked to my colleagues from the MFA. The[y] are open for cooperation. One of the options is to make a meeting for you at the North America Desk, if you are in Moscow.” Defendant PAPADOPOULOS responded that he was “[g]lad the MFA is interested.” Defendant PAPADOPOULOS forwarded the May 4 MFA Email to the High-Ranking Campaign Official, adding: “What do you think? Is this something we want to move forward with?” The next day, on or about May 5, 2016, defendant PAPADOPOULOS had a phone call with the Campaign Supervisor, and then forwarded the May 4 MFA Email to him, adding to the top of the email: “Russia updates.”

This exchange happened not long before Paul Manafort, Donald Trump Jr., and Jared Kushner had their infamous meeting with representatives of the Russian government who purportedly had damaging information on Clinton to offer.

 

Aaron Zelinsky

CNN: Special counsel’s office: Papadopoulos ‘small part’ of ‘large scale investigation.’

Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos‘ guilty plea Monday appears to hint toward even more threads of the ongoing Russia collusion investigation than what the court revealed.

Lawyers from the Justice Department’s special counsel office have repeatedly hinted at how Papadopoulos would contribute to a larger, sensitive investigation.
“The criminal justice interest being vindicated here is there’s a large-scale ongoing investigation of which this case is a small part,” Aaron Zelinsky of the special counsel’s office said during Papadopoulos’ October 5 plea agreement hearing, records of which were unsealed Monday.
Read the rest at CNN.

I wonder what new stories will break by tonight? I’m sure hundreds of journalists are eagerly looking for more scoops.

John Kelly’s Shameful Fox News Appearance

Last night White House Chief of Staff John Kelly outed himself as a Trump-style racist who is as ignorant of history as his boss.

NBC News: Trump Chief of Staff John Kelly Says ‘Lack of Compromise’ Led to Civil War.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly waded into the long-simmering dispute over the removal of memorials to Confederate leaders saying in a televised interview on Monday night that “the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War.”

In the interview on Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle,” host Laura Ingraham asked Kelly about the decision by Christ Church, an Episcopal congregation in the Washington suburb of Alexandria, Virginia, to remove plaques honoring President George Washington and Robert E. Lee, the commander of Confederate forces during the Civil War.

“Robert E. Lee was an honorable man” — John Kelly

“Well, history’s history,” said Kelly, whom President Donald Trump moved from secretary of homeland security to be his chief of staff in July. “You know, 500 years later, it’s inconceivable to me that you would take what we think now and apply it back then. I think it’s just very, very dangerous. I think it shows you just how much of a lack of appreciation of history and what history is.” [….]

Kelly on Monday night explained the Civil War’s genesis by saying “men and women of good faith on both sides” took a stand based on their conscience.

“Robert E. Lee was an honorable man,” Kelly said, adding: “The lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War.”

“Men and women of good faith on both sides?” So continuing and expanding slavery (the position of Confederate states) was an honorable point of view according to Kelly. According to Kelly the Civil War was not sparked by slavery, but by a failure to “compromise.”

On his lies about Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson:

Kelly during the interview was also asked about whether he would apologize to Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., for making inaccurate statements about her after she criticized Trump’s condolence call this month with a fallen soldier’s wife.

Kelly accused her of grandstanding during a 2015 ceremony to dedicate a new FBI field office in Miami and said she wrongly took credit for securing federal funding for the building. She did not take credit for it.

Still, Kelly held his ground Monday.

“Oh, no,” Kelly said. “No. Never. Well, I’ll apologize if I need to. But for something like that, absolutely not. I stand by my comments.”

Read the full transcript of Kelly’s remarks at the link. Kelly is not an honorable man. If he ever had a soul, he sold it to Trump.

So . . . what else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a great Tuesday!

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Mueller Monday: We have Frog Marches!!!

Good Morning from my mechanic’s waiting room were I am–naturally–waiting for the mighty mustang. It’s been collllldddd here–well for here–and she just didn’t turn over Thursday night. So, AAA put a new battery in on Friday. Still nothing. So, now we’re here.

Meanwhile,  those of you that had Manafort in Special Counsel Indictment have won!  But, wait! We have bonuses!

Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III on Monday revealed charges against three former Trump campaign officials — former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, his longtime business partner Rick Gates and former Trump foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos — marking the first criminal allegations to come from probes into possible Russian influence in U.S. political affairs.

Papadopoulos pleaded guilty earlier this month to making a false statement to FBI investigators who asked about his contacts with a foreigner connected to Russian officials, and the agreement was unsealed Monday. The foreigner was described as a London-based professor and Papadopoulos claimed the professor introduced him to Putin’s niece and the Russian ambassador in London, according to the indictment.

Manafort and Gates were charged in a 12-count indictment with conspiracy to launder money, making false statements and other charges stemming from probes into possible Russian influence in U.S. political affairs.

Manafort and Gates are expected to make their first court appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson at 1:30 p.m. The special counsel revealed Papadopoulos’s plea shortly after the indictment was unsealed. He has been cooperating with investigators for months, according to a court filing.

 

Well, this is getting interesting.

Paul Manafort was in the room when Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer hoping for dirt on Hillary Clinton. One month later, he reportedly sent an email to a Russian billionaire offering private briefings on the campaign. Before he even signed on with Trump, the FBI was reportedly secretly monitoring his calls.

Why it matters: Now, he has surrendered to authorities and been charged with 12 counts in the first indictments of Robert Mueller’s Russia probe

So, he was in the room with the Trumplings.  I’d say we’ve got a few cooked gooses in the West Wing.  This is probably the most interesting thing from Matt Apuuzo at the NYT.

A professor with close ties to the Russian government told an adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in April 2016 that Moscow had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails,” according to court documents unsealed Monday.

The adviser, George Papadopoulos, has pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. about that conversation. The plea represents the most explicit evidence connecting the Trump campaign to the Russian government’s meddling in last year’s election.

Mr. Papadopoulos repeatedly tried to arrange a meeting between the Trump campaign and Russian government officials, court records show. Attempts to reach Mr. Papadopoulos were not successful.

The adviser, George Papadopoulos, has pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. about that conversation. The plea represents the most explicit evidence connecting the Trump campaign to the Russian government’s meddling in last year’s election.

Mr. Papadopoulos repeatedly tried to arrange a meeting between the Trump campaign and Russian government officials, court records show. Attempts to reach Mr. Papadopoulos were not successful.

Let’s watch this again and again and again (h/t to BB).

 

What’s next?

 

So, I have to make this short but post and celebrate away!!!


Sunday Afternoon Reads: Weather is Frightful?

Good Afternoon.

Here in Banjoville, the temps outside are cold enough for flakes and flurries of snow, and inside our house…the dust from drywall is creating its own flurries. I am writing this post on my new laptop, which is still not completely set up..while I sit in a room, which is still designated a disaster zone. At least there was some promising news this weekend, you know…that bit about charges in the Mueller Grand Jury, etc. (I want to be excited. Hell, I want to be ecstatic.) But after the last couple of years, I’ve learned to count my chickens…and right now? My chickens are being incubated in very delicate eggshells. Fragile enough for a orange fucker with a dictator complex to roll over and crush, by using his outrageous corruption strangleholds, a neutered checks and balances of the Congressional system, and an unbelievably gang of stupid ass supporters to destroy any chance of “justice” we may be able to reach.

So, with that being said, here are a few links for this afternoon:

 

Seriously?

 

 

Someone, kill me…if that happens.

Uh, we have been in a constitutional crisis since before day one of the tRump administration.

 

Let’s talk about the dead in Puerto Rico:

With all this Harvey Weinstein, remember Corey?

And our last link:

 

I know it is a short post, and the twitter links are lame, but at least things are moving along.

This is an open thread.


Lazy Saturday Reads: It’s Mueller Time!

Good Afternoon!!

The news hit last night on CNN: First charges filed in Mueller investigation.

A federal grand jury in Washington on Friday approved the first charges in the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller, according to sources briefed on the matter.

The charges are still sealed under orders from a federal judge. Plans were prepared Friday for anyone charged to be taken into custody as soon as Monday, the sources said. It is unclear what the charges are.

A spokesman for the special counsel’s office declined to comment. The White House also had no comment, a senior administration official said Saturday morning…..

On Friday, top lawyers who are helping to lead the Mueller probe, including veteran prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, were seen entering the court room at the DC federal court where the grand jury meets to hear testimony in the Russia investigation.

Reporters present saw a flurry of activity at the grand jury room, but officials made no announcements.

The story has now been confirmed by other news organizations, including Reuters and The Wall Street Journal. Now we know why the Trump administration has been trying to change the narrative using bogus attacks on Hillary Clinton.

Speculation will be rife in the media now, as we wait to learn who has been indicted. Most people think it could be Paul Manafort or Michael Flynn. I hope it will be someone big, but it could also be someone charged with lying to the FBI or Special Counsel. Either way, Mueller’s goal will likely be to get someone to talk in turn for reducing charges.

Mike Allen at Axios:

Why it matters, from MSNBC’s Ari Melber: “[W]e’re moving away from a political fight, where everyone can see it the way they want, and into … a legal process — where there are rules of evidence, facts are established. … Bob Mueller is known to be a pretty careful prosecutor.” [….]

Matt Miller — former Obama Justice Department official, and close Mueller watcher, emails me: “I think it means this will be a rolling investigation. Rather than conduct his entire investigation and then wrap things up with indictments and possibly a report at the end, he is doing it in stages, the way the Justice Department might attack a drug cartel or a mafia family.” [….]

Miller adds that this “is a watershed moment for the politics surrounding the investigation. In less than six months on the job, Mueller has already returned indictments.

The Hill: CNN legal analyst: Charges filed in Mueller probe means it will last ‘well into 2018.’

CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said Friday that news of the first charges reportedly being filed in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference means the probe will last “well into 2018.”

“If anybody thinks the Mueller investigation is going to be wrapping up in the next couple of months, this decision today pretty much guarantees the Mueller office will be up and running well into 2018,” Toobin said on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360.” [….]

Toobin called the news “a major landmark in the course of this investigation” and said the indictments will likely be aimed at garnering cooperation in the probe.

“In white-collar investigations, usually the first indictments are against individuals that you hope will plead guilty and cooperate against others,” Toobin said. “You don’t indict the big fish first, you indict smaller fish in hopes of getting the big fish.”

Vox: Why the Trump-Russia indictments are being kept secret — for now.

Because the indictments are sealed, we don’t yet know who is being charged or what they are being charged with.

Ken White, a libertarian-leaning lawyer and former assistant US attorney who tweets and blogs as “Popehat,” walked through a brief explainer on Saturday morning, after the news that the first criminal charges in Mueller’s investigation of possible Russian government collusion with the Trump presidential campaign had been approved by a federal grand jury.

The takeaway was: Sealing charges is pretty routine. It prevents the target of an indictment from knowing they’re about to be charged and arrested, which limits the risk of defendants destroying evidence or any shenanigans when they are eventually brought in.

Read Popehat’s twitter thread at Vox.

 

At Slate, Jeremy Stahl provides a rundown of possible candidates who might be in the Special Counsel’s crosshairs: Mueller Has Reportedly Issued His First Charges. Who Might Be Indicted?

On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort was under investigation by the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office for possible money laundering. In July, the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted a pre-dawn raid on his home.

Former Trump foreign policy advisor Carter Page spoke with Senate investigators for five hours on Friday, according to NBC News. Last summer, the FBI obtained a FISA warrant to monitor his communications as part of its investigation into Russia.

Longtime Trump lawyer Michael Cohen testified before both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees this week. According to NBC, “there was an extended focus on emails he received in 2015 from Felix Sater, a former Trump associate with a criminal past, about a potential deal to open a Trump Tower in the Russian capital.” At the time, Sater wrote to Cohen: “Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it. I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.”

Read more at the link.

Last night folks on twitter noted that while CNN and MSNBC were focusing on the Mueller news, Fox was still claiming that Hillary Clinton was the one who colluded with Russia. For example,

Someone also posted this hilarious video.

If only . . .

Trump’s lawyers are apparently less interesting in Clinton conspiracy theories than what Mueller might have in store for their client. Politico: Trump legal team scrambles to prepare for new stage of Russia probe.

President Donald Trump’s White House and personal lawyers scrambled Saturday to learn where the knife might fall in the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, triggering a guessing game among aides after days of trying to turn attention away from allegations of collusion with Russia during the election.

Attorneys involved in the case said their cellphones have been ringing nonstop as they connected with each other, and with reporters, trying to gather more concrete details after a CNN report Friday night that a federal grand jury had approved the first charges in the Russia investigation.

While the report did not cite names, attorneys close to the case said they were discussing whether the indictment was for two known Mueller targets: former campaign chairman Paul Manafort or former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Several attorneys who said they were in touch with the Manafort and Flynn lawyers said they had not been notified of any matter related to an indictment — which is customary in a white-collar criminal investigation — leading them to believe it wasn’t either of those two former high-ranking Trump aides. An attorney for Manafort did not respond to a request for comment. Michael Flynn’s attorney, Robert Kelner, declined to comment.

The attorneys close to the case also said they wouldn’t be surprised if the charges were targeting Flynn or Manafort family members, or a longtime accountant or lawyer.

Read more speculation at Politico.

Breaking on MSNBC as I write this:

I have to admit I’m excited.

Another important Russia story broke yesterday at The New York Times: Talking Points Brought to Trump Tower Meeting Were Shared With Kremlin.

Natalia V. Veselnitskaya arrived at a meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 hoping to interest top Trump campaign officials in the contents of a memo she believed contained information damaging to the Democratic Party and, by extension, Hillary Clinton. The material was the fruit of her research as a private lawyer, she has repeatedly said, and any suggestion that she was acting at the Kremlin’s behest that day is anti-Russia “hysteria.”

But interviews and records show that in the months before the meeting, Ms. Veselnitskaya had discussed the allegations with one of Russia’s most powerful officials, the prosecutor general, Yuri Y. Chaika. And the memo she brought with her closely followed a document that Mr. Chaika’s office had given to an American congressman two months earlier, incorporating some paragraphs verbatim.

The coordination between the Trump Tower visitor and the Russian prosecutor general undercuts Ms. Veselnitskaya’s account that she was a purely independent actor when she sat down with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, and Paul J. Manafort, then the Trump campaign chairman.

It also suggests that emails from an intermediary to the younger Mr. Trump promising that Ms. Veselnitskaya would arrive with information from Russian prosecutors were rooted at least partly in fact — not mere “puffery,” as the president’s son later said.

In the past week, Ms. Veselnitskaya’s allegations — that major Democratic donors were guilty of financial fraud and tax evasion — have been embraced at the highest levels of the Russian government. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia repeated her charges at length last week at an annual conference of Western academics. A state-run television network recently made them the subject of two special reports, featuring interviews with Ms. Veselnitskaya and Mr. Chaika.

The matching messages point to a synchronized information campaign. Like some other Russian experts, Stephen Blank, a senior fellow with the nonprofit American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, said they indicate that Ms. Veselnitskaya’s actions “were coordinated from the very top.”

Read the rest at the NYT.

I also want to call attention to this NYT story from late Thursday: U.S. Soldiers Were Separated From Unit in Niger Ambush, Officials Say.

In the chaotic moments after an Army Special Forces team and 30 Nigerien troops were ambushed by militants in a remote corner of West Africa three weeks ago, four of the Americans were separated from the larger group.

Their squad mates immediately alerted commanders that they were under attack — then called for help nearly an hour later, as a top Pentagon official said this week — and ground forces from Niger’s army and French Mirage jets were both dispatched.

About two hours later, the firefight tapering off, French helicopters from nearby Mali swooped in to the rescue on the rolling wooded terrain. But they retrieved only seven of the 11 Americans. The four others were inexplicably left behind, no longer in radio contact and initially considered missing in action by the Pentagon, a status that officials say raises the possibility they were still alive when the helicopters took off without them.

United States officials insisted that other American, French and Nigerien forces were in the area when the helicopters lifted off. When Americans suffer casualties in an operation, the wounded are typically evacuated before the dead, officials said.

The bodies of three dead Americans and the team’s interpreter were found hours later. But American military officials still cannot explain why it took two more days and an exhaustive search by troops from all three countries to find the body of the fourth soldier, Sgt. La David T. Johnson, discovered by Nigerien troops in the woods near the ambush site.

 

This morning The Wall Street Journal reports that a request that an armed drone accompany the mission was denied. The story is behind a paywall, but here’s the report from The Hill: Forces in Niger denied use of armed drone: report.

A request by U.S. military officials to send an armed drone near a patrol of Green Berets in Niger before a deadly ambush earlier this month was denied, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

That the request was blocked in the approval process – which goes through the Pentagon, State Department and the Nigerien government – throws into further question whether the Green Berets had adequate cover on the Oct. 4 mission that ended in the deaths of four U.S. soldiers.

Since the ambush, the troops’ mission has been revealed to have been potentially more dangerous than U.S. officials initially let on….

According to the Journal, that assignment was considered relatively low-risk, and there hadn’t been any attacks on U.S. forces in the area in the past year.

But that the U.S. sought to send an armed drone to the area suggests that military officials were aware of a change in the security situation in the country, the Journal reported.

What else is happening? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a great weekend. On Monday it will be Mueller time!


Friday Late—Really Late–Reads

KinseyGood Afternoon!

Well, I think I officially joined Team Crazy Cat Lady.  I saved this little girl from death row this morning after being bribed and cajoled by a friend.  She’s a total peach too.  Kinsey’s doing her own introductions and doesn’t appear to need any help from me. I’m not sure how any one has a cat for ten years and then just unceremoniously dumps them–hyperthyroidism and all–with out any second thoughts but she’s home with the rest of the kathouse tribe now.

I was going to spend today doing economics wonk things because I’m seriously worried about some underlying conditions in this economy. I’m also quite worried about the shitty law giving the Wall Street Gambling Palaces a break from oversight and being held accountable.  The Senate killed a rule on class actions suits against Financial Institutions.

The Senate has voted to get rid of a banking rule that allows consumers to bring class-action lawsuits against banks and credit card companies t’t o resolve financial disputes, they also recommend people to only use reliable agencies like Rhinosure when it comes to finances. Critics say Republicans and the Trump administration are siding with Wall Street over Main Street and that the shift will block consumers from joining together against the likes of Wells Fargo and Equifax.

“This bill is a giant wet kiss to Wall Street,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said on the Senate floor. “Bank lobbyists are crawling all over this place begging Congress to vote and make it easier for them to cheat their customers.”

With Vice President Pence casting the tie-breaking vote, the rollback of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau rule banning restrictive mandatory arbitration clauses found in the fine print of credit card and checking account agreements passed 51-50, with Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and John Kennedy, R-La., voting against repeal.

The Republican-controlled House had already voted to rescind the rule and President Trump is expected to quickly sign the measure, which also bars similar rules in the future.

The consumer agency’s rule, released in July, was aimed at giving consumers more power. Prior to the rule, the bureau said companies could “sidestep the court system” by “forcing consumers to give up or go it alone.”

This allowed companies to “avoid big refunds, and continue harmful practices,” the bureau wrote in July in announcing the changes.

House Republicans on Thursday narrowly adopted the Senate’s version of the 2018 budget resolution, overcoming a key hurdle for the party’s tax-reform plan.

The budget will allow Republicans to pass a tax overhaul that adds up to $1.5 trillion to the deficit through a process known as reconciliation, which only requires 51 votes to pass in the Senate.

Twenty Republicans voted against the budget in the 216-212 vote, more than the 18 who voted against the original House version earlier this month.

Most of the 20 defectors were centrists hailing from populous states that could stand to lose from eliminating the state and local tax deduction.

Those lawmakers included Reps. Dan Donovan (N.Y.), John Faso (N.Y.), Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), John Katko (N.Y.), Pete King (N.Y.), Leonard Lance (N.J.), Frank LoBiondo (N.J.), Tom MacArthur (N.J.), Chris Smith (N.J.), Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), Claudia Tenney (N.Y.) and Lee Zeldin (N.Y.).

“We must provide middle-class tax relief and lower the burdens on job-creating small businesses. I could not, however, vote in support of a budget resolution that singled out for elimination the ability of New York families to deduct state and local taxes,” Faso said in a statement.

DNFcWusUEAASa_oMore Economic News and analysis from Dr Joseph Stiglitz–writing for The Nation –that’s really on point and scary.

There is a widespread sense of powerlessness, both in our economic and political life. We seem no longer to control our own destinies. If we don’t like our Internet company or our cable TV, we either have no place to turn, or the alternative is no better. Monopoly corporations are the primary reason that drug prices in the United States are higher than anywhere else in the world. Whether we like it or not, a company like Equifax can gather data about us, and then blithely take insufficient cybersecurity measures, exposing half the country to the risk of identity fraud, and then charge us for but a partial restoration of the security that we had before a major breach.

athomeKinseyHarvard Economist Manuel Maniz shows us that just economic growth alone is no longer producing the results we need. This is a scary break down about all know about labor economics where increases in labor productivity are supposed to lead to increases in wages.

Macroeconomic data from the world’s advanced economies can be mystifying when viewed in isolation. But when analyzed collectively, the data reveal a troubling truth: without changes to how wealth is generated and distributed, the political convulsions that have swept the world in recent years will only intensify.

Consider, for example, wages and employment. In the United States and many European countries, average salaries have stagnated, despite most economies having recovered from the 2008 financial crisis in terms of GDP and job growth.

Moreover, increases in employment have not led to a slowdown or a reversal of the decline in the wage share of total national income. On the contrary, most of the wealth created since the 2008 crisis has gone to the rich. This might explain the low levels of consumption that characterize most advanced economies, and the failure of extremely lax monetary policy to produce an uptick in inflation.

Employment, too, seems to be performing in anomalous ways. Job creation, where it has taken place, has followed a different path than history suggests it should. For example, most employment growth has been in high-skill or low-skill occupations, hollowing out the middle. Many of the people who once comprised the Western middle class are now part of the middle-lower and lower classes, and live more economically precarious lives than ever before.

Productivity growth has also become polarized. According to the OECD, in the last decade, productivity within “frontier firms” – defined as the top 5% of firms in terms of productivity growth – increased by more than a third, whereas the rest of the private sector experienced almost no productivity growth at all. In other words, a smaller number of companies have made greater efficiency gains, but there has been relatively no diffusion of these benefits into the broader economy.

It is unclear why these trends are occurring, although the impact of new technologies and related network effects is certainly part of the reason.

At the macro level, aggregate US productivity has increased by more than 250% since the early 1970s, while hourly wages have remained stagnant. This means that productivity growth has not only been concentrated within a narrow set of firms, but also that productivity and market labor income have decoupled. The fundamental consequence of this is that wages are no longer performing the central redistributive role they have played for decades. Simply put, gains in capital productivity are not being translated into higher median incomes, a breach of the social contract on which liberal economies rest.

It should be evident by now that many of the world’s economies are undergoing some form of structural change, and in the wake of that change, the “jobs-productivity-income” distribution triangle has gone askew. This paradigm shift has led to the erosion of the Western middle class and the rise of the precariat, a new socioeconomic class comprising not just those who cannot find a job, but also those who are informally, casually, or otherwise insecurely employed.

kinsey on bedSo the bad news in the bond market continues. Please read “WILL TRUMP OVERSEE THE FINANCIAL APOCALYPSE?” by William D. Cohan.

Jeffrey Gundlach is known around Wall Street as the Bond King. His Los Angeles-based firm, DoubleLine Capital, manages $116 billion, most of which is invested in bonds. He is also a bit of a Renaissance man, peppering his insights about the credit markets with astute references to Nietzsche, Mondrian, Escher, and Mad magazine covers. That’s why his answer to a simple question—“Why would anyone invest in bonds?”—from someone in the audience at Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit, held earlier this month in Los Angeles, was at once both startling and perceptive.

You would think that Gundlach would be a big fan of bonds, given that he’s the Bond King and all. But he isn’t, for reasons that go to the heart of why the financial markets are far more dangerous than the daily highs in the stock market and record-low interest rates would suggest. “I’m not a big fan of bonds right now,” he told my V.F. colleague Bethany McLean at the summit, “and I haven’t been really for the past four years, even though I manage them, and institutions have to own them for various reasons.”

Let’s face it: people’s eyes tend to glaze over when someone starts talking about bonds and interest rates. Which is why much of the audience inside the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, and those watching the livestream, probably missed the import of Gundlach’s answer. But the bond market is hugely important. The stock markets get most of the attention from the media, but the bond market, four times the size of the stock market, helps set the price of money. The bond market determines how much you pay to borrow money to buy a home, a car, or when you use your credit cards.

The Bond King said the returns on bonds have been anemic at best for the past seven years or so. While the Dow Jones Industrial Average has nearly quadrupled since March 2009, returns on bonds have averaged something like 2.5 percent for treasuries and something like 8.5 percent for riskier “junk” bonds. Gundlach urged investors to be “light” on bonds. Of course, that makes the irony especially rich for the Bond King. “I’m stuck in it,” he said of his massive bond portfolio. He said interest rates have bottomed out and been rising gradually for the past six years. (Rising interest rates hurt the value of the bonds you own, as bonds trade in inverse proportion to their yield. Snore . . .) Gundlach said his job now, on behalf of his clients, “is to get them to the other side of the valley.” When the bigger, seemingly inevitable hikes in interest rates come, “I’ll feel like I’ve done a service by getting people through,” he said. “That’s why I’m still at the game. I want to see how the movie ends.”

But it can’t end well.

me and dinah and miles

Okay, so the other complication in my life is my poor mustang isn’t charging and it’s either the starter or the alternator so tomorrow I start out getting it towed and finding out what I can’t afford to have done to it.  (sigh)

Have a good evening!


Thursday Reads: Sexual Harassment In The News

Good Morning!!

As usual, there is no way I can address all of the ghastly news that is happening today in Trump’s America, so I’m not going to try. There is an unbelievable amount of horrible stuff happening. Let’s just stipulate that Trump has successfully instituted the “American Carnage” he talked about in his Inauguration speech.

So I’m just going to focus on one topic today, and leave it to you to add more in the comment thread.

Recently sexual harassment has become big news because of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Then, as victims became empowered, accusations were leveled against other powerful men. The latest to stand accused are “journalist” Mark Halperin and former POTUS George H.W. Bush.

CNN Money: Five women accuse journalist and ‘Game Change’ co-author Mark Halperin of sexual harassment.

Veteran journalist Mark Halperin sexually harassed women while he was in a powerful position at ABC News, according to five women who shared their previously undisclosed accounts with CNN and others who did not experience the alleged harassment personally, but were aware of it.

“During this period, I did pursue relationships with women that I worked with, including some junior to me,” Halperin said in a statement to CNN Wednesday night. “I now understand from these accounts that my behavior was inappropriate and caused others pain. For that, I am deeply sorry and I apologize. Under the circumstances, I’m going to take a step back from my day-to-day work while I properly deal with this situation.”

MSNBC announced that Halperin would no longer be an analyst on NBC or MSNBC, where he regularly appeared on Morning Joe. More from the CNN story:

Widely considered to be one of the preeminent political journalists, Halperin, 52, has, among other career highlights, been political director at ABC News; co-authored the bestselling book “Game Change,” which was made into an HBO movie starring Julianne Moore as Sarah Palin; and anchored a television show on Bloomberg TV. He is featured in Showtime’s “The Circus,” a show that chronicled the 2016 campaign cycle and the early days of the Trump presidency, and has a project in development with HBO, which, like CNN, is owned by Time Warner.

The stories of harassment shared with CNN range in nature from propositioning employees for sex to kissing and grabbing one’s breasts against her will. Three of the women who spoke to CNN described Halperin as, without consent, pressing an erection against their bodies while he was clothed. Halperin denies grabbing a woman’s breasts and pressing his genitals against the three women.

One specific example from the article:

The first woman told CNN she was invited to visit his office in the early 2000s, when he was political director at ABC News, to have a soda, and said that while she was there with him he forcibly kissed her and pressed his genitals against her body.

“I went up to have a soda and talk and — he just kissed me and grabbed my boobs,” the woman said. “I just froze. I didn’t know what to do.”

When she did make her way out of his office, the woman told a friend at ABC News what had happened. That friend told CNN she remembered the woman telling her about the incident and seeing her visibly shaken.

Much more at the CNN link.

Heather Lind (R) claims George HW Bush (C) ‘touched me from behind from his wheelchair’

George H.W. Bush was accused by actress Heather Lind of sexually assaulting her. CNN:

“…when I got the chance to meet George H. W. Bush four years ago to promote a historical television show I was working on, he sexually assaulted me while I was posing for a similar photo,” the post went on to say. “He didn’t shake my hand. He touched me from behind from his wheelchair with his wife Barbara Bush by his side. He told me a dirty joke. And then, all the while being photographed, touched me again.”

A Bush spokesman responded in part:

“At age 93, President Bush has been confined to a wheelchair for roughly five years, so his arm falls on the lower waist of people with whom he takes pictures,” McGrath said. “To try to put people at ease, the president routinely tells the same joke — and on occasion, he has patted women’s rears in what he intended to be a good-natured manner. Some have seen it as innocent; others clearly view it as inappropriate. To anyone he has offended, President Bush apologizes most sincerely.”

Last night Deadspin reported: Second Woman: George H.W. Bush Groped Me.

Jordana Grolnick, a New York actress, has a story to tell that doesn’t sound very different at all [from what Lind described]. “I got sent the Heather Lind story by many people this morning,” Grolnick says. “And I’m afraid that mine is entirely similar.”

Rumors about Bush groping actresses in this manner have been circulating for a while. More than a year ago, a tipster passed word about the Heather Lind incident to Deadspin. We were told that Bush had, during a photo opp, groped her and told her that his favorite magician was “David Cop-a-Feel” while fondling her.

(Reached for comment, Bush spokesperson Jim McGrath provided the following statement: “At age 93, President Bush has been confined to a wheelchair for roughly five years, so his arm falls on the lower waist of people with whom he takes pictures. To try to put people at ease, the president routinely tells the same joke — and on occasion, he has patted women’s rears in what he intended to be a good-natured manner. Some have seen it as innocent; others clearly view it as inappropriate. To anyone he has offended, President Bush apologizes most sincerely.”)

Jordana Grolnik with George H.W. Bush

More detail from Grolnick:

In August 2016, Grolnick was working at a Maine production of Hunchback of Notre Dame. The former president, who summers in nearby Kennebunkport and frequents this theater, caught a performance. He came backstage during an intermission, she says, and she and the rest of the cast gathered for a photo with him.

Grolnick now says that other actors had told her before the photo that Bush had a reputation for fondling during photo ops, but she didn’t take it seriously.

“I guess I was thinking,” she says, “‘He’s in a wheelchair, what harm could he do?’”

Then her question got answered.

“We all circled around him and Barbara for a photo, and I was right next to him,” she says. “He reached his right hand around to my behind, and as we smiled for the photo he asked the group, ‘Do you want to know who my favorite magician is?’ As I felt his hand dig into my flesh, he said, ‘David Cop-a-Feel!’”

Bush is a very old man. Perhaps he has frontal lobe damage or dementia. It might be time for him to stop appearing in public.

Good old Scott Brown has already gotten into trouble after Trump appointed him Ambassador to New Zealand. Yesterday Stuff.com reported: US ambassador to New Zealand Scott Brown faced complaints over ‘cultural misunderstanding.’

Speaking to Stuff with wife Gail Huff at his side, Brown confirmed there had been an official “administrative inquiry” into his conduct at a Peace Corps event in Samoa in July.

It related to an official complaint about comments he made when arriving at the event, when he told some of the guests they looked “beautiful”. There had also been a complaint about a comment he made to a woman serving food and drink that she could make hundreds of dollars in the hospitality industry in the US, Brown said.

That was the extent of the complaints, and the inquiry had concluded with a warning that he should be more culturally aware, Brown said….

“When we walked into the Peace Corps event we walked in and there was a receiving line and prior to walking they were all like dirty and grungy … We walked in and everyone was dressed to the nines. They all looked great, Gail looked great, you know I was dressed up and Gail and I both walked in and said ‘you guys are beautiful, you look really handsome sir, you guys are great’.  And apparently somebody took offence to that.

“Fine…I did say it. Gail and I did say it absolutely.”

The Guardian this morning: Scott Brown: more complaints surface over behaviour of US ambassador to New Zealand.

Over the past two months,…the Guardian has spoken to various witnesses who attended the party and who claim the behaviour of the ambassador – the first appointed by the US president, Donald Trump – was worse than he has admitted.

It is understood that two complaints under investigation by the US state department against Brown originally came from two female peace corps volunteers who were at the event, and who served food and drink to the guests as a way to flip the cultural norm of Samoans serving westerners.

There are also other complaints that the ambassador’s behaviour was “shocking”, “culturally insensitive”, “rude” and “undiplomatic”. The Guardian contacted more than a dozen people who attended the party and spoke to a number who said he had made them feel uncomfortable.

One woman told the Guardian that Brown allegedly stared at her body when she was introduced to him. She did not want to be identified, but said: “The first time I met him, he looked at my chest immediately.” She alleged that another female colleague had a similar experience.

“I felt immediately uncomfortable and it didn’t feel right,” she said.

A bit more:

A male former peace corps volunteer described a strained atmosphere developing at the party as the ambassador shouted at guests to be quiet and listen to him. “It was very culturally insensitive,” he said. “He just did multiple things in 15 seconds that really put me off, and looking around [I] saw it put off a lot of other people as well.

“At least twice, maybe three times, he was telling everybody: ‘Stop talking, be quiet, listen to me.’”

Another former peace corps volunteer called Brown’s speech “really pompous and sort of shocking”. The man, who again did not want to be named, said he approached Brown after his speech, hoping to gauge the man representing his country.

He described their exchange as candid, and claimed Brown became aggressive when he mentioned he was disappointed by Trump’s actions following his inauguration. Brown angrily told him to get over it, he said.

“A lot of people were really upset by the tone of his speech that night,” said another attendee. “He was rudely shouting everyone down. After the speech I was so put off I didn’t approach him. I wanted no personal contact with him.”

Another former peace corps volunteer who attended the party told the Guardian: “I know someone who works at the US embassy … and he said Scott went totally off the book [in the speech].

“He said something like: ‘When Kennedy started the peace corps 100 years ago’, so it seemed he didn’t really know what he was talking about.”

And yet the pussy-grabber-in-chief is still POTUS and no one is investigating him for sexual misconduct.

What else is happening? What stories are you following today?


Wednesday Reads: Diary of a Madman

Thank the gawds above, this crappy motel has TCM…and it is the best time of the year for classic movies. Halloween.

It’s been almost two months without my old movies. I’ve missed them.

But back to the, de Loco….

No, not that madman…this one:

Oof, that is a big mouth.

More cartoons:

The Buffalo News

This is an open thread.