Monday Reads: Adult Day Care

Good Morning!!

Is this finally the beginning of the end? Trump has been attacking fellow Republicans for months, and this time one of them finally hit back hard. Yesterday Trump lashed out at Tennessee Senator Bob Corker on Twitter.

Of course none of that is true. Corker’s office said that Trump had repeatedly asked him to run for reelection, and offered to endorse him. As for the Secretary of State job, Corker withdrew his name from contention after his interview with Trump.

Corker’s Twitter response:

Then last night Corker gave a stunning interview to the New York Times: Bob Corker Says Trump’s Recklessness Threatens ‘World War III’

Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, charged in an interview on Sunday that President Trump was treating his office like “a reality show,” with reckless threats toward other countries that could set the nation “on the path to World War III.”

In an extraordinary rebuke of a president of his own party, Mr. Corker said he was alarmed about a president who acts “like he’s doing ‘The Apprentice’ or something.”

“He concerns me,” Mr. Corker added. “He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation.”

Mr. Corker’s comments capped a remarkable day of sulfurous insults between the president and the Tennessee senator — a powerful, if lame-duck, lawmaker, whose support will be critical to the president on tax reform and the fate of the Iran nuclear deal….

 

The senator views Mr. Trump as given to irresponsible outbursts — a political novice who has failed to make the transition from show business.

Mr. Trump poses such an acute risk, the senator said, that a coterie of senior administration officials must protect him from his own instincts. “I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him,” Mr. Corker said in a telephone interview.

There’s more:

…Mr. Corker, speaking carefully and purposefully, seemed to almost find cathartic satisfaction by portraying Mr. Trump in terms that most senior Republicans use only in private….

Without offering specifics, he said Mr. Trump had repeatedly undermined diplomacy with his Twitter fingers. “I know he has hurt, in several instances, he’s hurt us as it relates to negotiations that were underway by tweeting things out,” Mr. Corker said.

All but inviting his colleagues to join him in speaking out about the president, Mr. Corker said his concerns about Mr. Trump were shared by nearly every Senate Republican.

“Look, except for a few people, the vast majority of our caucus understands what we’re dealing with here,” he said, adding that “of course they understand the volatility that we’re dealing with and the tremendous amount of work that it takes by people around him to keep him in the middle of the road.”

Two Media reactions:

ABC News The Note: What’s dangerously serious about Trump’s feud with Corker

What happened to the calm part? The storms have begun, and just might spill over into real wars before they’re done. Sen. Bob Corker’s public feud with President Trump is no mere war of words, even in the Trumpian insult era. Corker is blowing the lid off of months of private frustrations and worries, harbored by erstwhile allies of the president, that the commander-in-chief is reckless, dishonest and could put the nation “on the path to World War III,” as Corker told The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin. “He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation,” Corker said. Combine that with the tensions between Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Trump and Chief of Staff John Kelly, and this has far bigger consequences than your typical Twitter feud. Just words? Perhaps. But they are words that are spurring confrontation with a nuclear-armed North Korea, and more words will come this week that could lead Iran to restart its own nuclear program. Corker’s reference to the White House as an “adult day care center” suggests that grown-ups are ultimately in charge. This may be the week that tests that proposition, and sorts out high-level presidential strategy from absolute and dangerous recklessness.

Greg Sargent at The Washington Post, referring to the NYT interview: Bob Corker just confirmed it: Republicans know Trump is unfit.

Corker declined to answer when asked if he believes Trump is unfit for the presidency. But the only reasonable way to read all these comments is as a declaration that Trump is indeed unfit — and that most Republicans know it. After all, Corker had previously said that Trump’s inner circle is helping to “separate our country from chaos.” Now he has added that Trump needs to be restrained by his inner circle from devolving into conduct that could end up unleashing untold global destruction — and that most Republicans know it.

Corker is getting a lot of press plaudits for his unvarnished appraisal. But as James Fallows writes, there is a good deal that Corker can actually do right nowif he wants to mitigate the threat that he himself says Trump poses. As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he has a range of powers that could help constrain Trump, including the power to hold public hearings to draw public attention to the ways in which Trump’s temperament threatens untold damage. At a minimum, Corker can be asked whether he intends to do these things, and if not, why not.

But whatever Corker says and does now, his new comments should precipitate a fundamental change in the way the press treats the ongoing GOP enabling of Trump. Corker has forced out into the open the fact that Republicans recognize the sheer abnormality and danger to the country of the situation we’re in, which opens the door for much tougher media questioning of them about their awareness of — and acquiescence to — this state of affairs.

This can start with a simple query: Do Republicans agree with Corker that Trump regularly needs to be constrained by his top advisers from engaging in conduct that threatens severe damage to the country and the world? If so, what are Republicans prepared to do about itrgent mentions.

People are still talking about Mike Pence’s ridiculous display at the Indianapolis Colts game yesterday on a day that was supposed to be dedicated to honoring long-time Colts quarterback Peyton Manning.

As I’m sure you’re aware, Trump and Pence cooked up a public relations stunt. Knowing that a number of players for the Colts’ opponent the SF 49ers would kneel during the national anthem, the two agreed that Pence would fly to Indy from Las Vegas and then abruptly walk out on the game after the anthem. The press knew this, because Pence told them to wait outside for him because he’d be leaving soon. Pence then flew back out to California for a fund-raiser for Putin’s favorite Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and other Republicans.

Pence is getting plenty of criticism for using taxpayer money to fly back and forth across the country for a political stunt.

CNN: The price tag for Pence’s trip to Indianapolis.

How much did Vice President Mike Pence’s trip to Indianapolis to watch — and then abruptly leave — a football game Sunday between the Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers cost?

Holier than thou

Here is an estimate of just the air costs (which does not include costs of advance personnel, Secret Service or support on the ground):According to the Air Force, flying a C-32, the model of plane used for Air Force 2, for one hour costs about $30,000. Pence’s flight from Las Vegas to Indianapolis Saturday took about three hours and 20 minutes, so it cost about $100,000.\

Pence then flew from Indianapolis to Los Angeles on Sunday, which took about four hours and 45 minutes, costing about $142,500.Some costs of the flight into Los Angeles will be reimbursed by the Republican National Committee because Pence is attending a political event there.

If he had flown just from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, a trip lasting about 90 minutes, the cost would have been about $45,000.

I don’t usually like Connor Friedersdorf, but he has a good reaction at The Atlantic: Mike Pence’s Flagrant Waste of Taxpayer Money.

On Sunday, Vice President Mike Pence made a big show of leaving an NFL game early. He declared himself upset that some players knelt during the singing of the Star Spangled Banner. “I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our flag, or our national anthem,” he declared, as if attacking those things was the intent of the athletes.

The NFL players knelt in protest because they believe that African Americans are being denied their self-evident rights to life and liberty by a prejudiced criminal-justice system.

“This is not about the military, this is not about the flag, this is not about the anthem,” 49ers Safety Eric Reid later told reporters. “My mother served in the armed forces. Three of my uncles served … I have the utmost respect for the military, for the anthem, for the flag … This is about systemic oppression that has been rampant in this country … I will keep doing what I feel is necessary, to use the platform that I have, to make changes. It’s really disheartening when everything you were raised on, everything I was raised on, was to be the best person I can be, to help people who need help, and the vice president of the United States is trying to confuse the message that we’re trying to put out there. I don’t know what to say about it.”

Pence is not compelled to agree with how players protest. But by fleeing the entire NFL game, he adopted the tactics of a childish, petulant snowflake who reacts to speech he dislikes by misrepresenting it, expressing umbrage, and retreating to a “safe space.”

The major difference?

When an immature teenager makes a show of fleeing from expression that he regards as politically incorrect, he’s typically evading ideas he ought to confront on his own dime. Whereas Pence spent taxpayer money to get to that NFL game. Lots of it.

There is so much more news, and so little time and space to discuss it. Most notably, Puerto Rico is still in agony, and the Trump administration seems determined not to help.

The Daily Beast: Without Power Until Next Year, Puerto Ricans Are Leaving—Maybe Forever

VIEQUES, Puerto Rico—Joe and Maria Bernard cook in the dark over a gas stove outside their small hotel, the Tropical Guest House. “The days feel shorter,” says Maria, “we just have 12 hours of daylight to get everything done.”

When it gets dark, the entire island of Vieques is dark.

Turnkey Hotel

This is life on the world-renowned tourist island. And it’s going to be life for at least the next six to eight months, if not longer, before electricity is restored here.

“We’re in denial,” says Maria, “we’re going to give it another two weeks maybe a month, then maybe we’ll have to go back to the States.”

In 2005, the couple traded in the bustle of New York and jobs in the television industry for a more rewarding future in Puerto Rico, which offered triple-tax exemption for resettling here. With their savings, they got a loan to buy their turnkey hotel.

Read more painful stories at the link.

Oh, and today is Columbus Day. From the New York Times: Why People Have Protested Columbus Day Almost From Its Start.

A reverend at Calvary Baptist Church in Manhattan appeared on the front page of The New York Times after he criticized Christopher Columbus, the Italian navigator who sailed to the Americas on behalf of Spain in 1492.

The reverend, R. S. MacArthur, said Columbus was “cruel, and guilty of many crimes.”

That complaint may sound familiar to those who condemn the explorer for opening a door to European colonialism, which brought disease, destruction and catastrophic wars to the people who already lived here.

But Mr. MacArthur said those words more than a century ago, in 1893. His comments suggested he was more affronted by Spain, which he called “the poorest and most ignorant country in Europe,” than concerned about Native Americans.

He was one of many to have questioned the legacy of the explorer, whose arrival in the Americas has been celebrated in the United States for hundreds of years.

Read the rest at the NYT.

What’s left of Hurricane Nate has arrived in New England this morning giving us lots of rain and 40mph winds. I’m glad because it has been hot here for the past few days.

What’s happening where you are? What stories are you following today?

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Draining the Swamp: I don’t think that metaphor means what you think it means …

Good Morning Sky Dancers

It’s funny how metaphors that society assigns to rhetoric often turn out to mean one that metaphorically, but, in actuality and in practice, exist as something completely different. I watched bits and pieces of last night’s Trumpvian political rally for Alabama Senator Luther Strange. It was the usual bigotry and big lies in Shout-out-Vision.  Just take a moment of thinking about the parents who let their child grow up in Alabama with a name worthy of a Marvel cartoon villain then imagine the Borough-Born Bully-in-Chief and you’ve got a perfect picture and event designed to pander to Southern White Supremacist Christo-Fascists. It was as bad as you’d think.

And of course, there were calls to ‘Lock her up’, the usual unsubtle racism with an attack on NFL players that ‘disrespect’ our national anthem (woof woof, whistle whistle) coupled with the now over used and abused idea of “draining the swamp”. Dotard Don rambled on angrily feeding his ego and convincing most of us of his need for a brain MRI and a lot of meds.

Prominent Republican  leaders aggressively lobbied the president to travel to Alabama to campaign with Strange, something that Trump himself said was a great risk. He was greeted by a full house of supporters, many of whom stayed on their feet during the entire rally, laughing at his jokes and cheering his attacks on political and foreign adversaries.

The president’s rambling speech lasted nearly 90 minutes. He repeatedly cursed, mocked the leader 0f North Korea, jokingly threatened to fire a Cabinet member w ho endorsed Moore, called on professional football team owners  to fire players who kneel during  the national anthem, promised to build a new “see-through wall” on the southern border, called allegations of Russian interference in the election a “hoax,” accused unions of protecting “sadists” who abuse elderly veterans, and repeatedly relived the 2016 election.

Other stories of the day were the Federal Government finally got around to telling 21 states there were Russian attempts to hack their election systems, the head of HHS Tim Price’s excessive use of private jets, and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos basically imposing a federal policy of “she obviously asked for it” stance on campus rape.  Today I woke up to Common Sense Hillary speaking to Wonder Woman Journo Joy Reid both at it again: Trump has ‘been even worse than I thought he would be’.

Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton slammed President Trump on Saturday, saying his presidency is worse than she expected it would be.

“I really had such deep doubts about his preparation, his temperament, his character, his experience, but he’s been even worse than I thought he would be,” Clinton told MSNBC’s Joy Reid on “AM Joy.” 

“I tried in my concession speech to make clear that we should all give him the space to be president for every American. That’s what we want from our presidents, regardless of our partisan differences, we want to feel like the person in the oval office really cares about and is looking after everybody,” she continued. 

“And that just hasn’t turned out to be the case, starting with our inauguration, which is how I opened the book talking about how excruciating it was to go and what a missed opportunity for him because all he did was reinforce the dark, divisive image of America that he’d been feeding to his supporters.”

Madam Secretary must’ve been watching the provocative North Korea performance as well as the I love Alabama and Alabama loves me HateFest. This all got me thinking about that metaphor of draining swamps.  Well that and this item from Rachel Maddow on a part of severely flooded Puerto Rico called Levittown.  Levittown–yeah one of those Levittowns–was built on a drained swamp. Earthquake inundated Mexico City was built on a drained lake.

The one thing I’ve learned down here in Swampland in a literal drained swamp is that draining swamps is, in actuality, not a particularly smart thing to do. Swamps are very useful and they are chock full of critters that are pretty neat and useful. But, the metaphor draining the swamp was based on just getting rid of the mosquitoes that were causing yellow fever in the 1820s in New Orleans. Then, draining the swamp  referred to getting rid of mosquitoes carrying malaria. The entire idea was supposed to be a good thing based on that one thing.

“Drain the swamp” originally means to get rid of the malaria-carrying mosquitoes by draining the swamp. Figuratively, “drain the swamp” means “to exterminate something that is harmful” or anything that most of the people hate such as corruption or government waste. This term is especially attractive for politicians during campaign.

vow to drain the swamp in Washington DC
vow to drain the swamp of big government

#drain#swamp#politician#malaria#government

The problem was the mosquitoes.  It wasn’t the swamp.  Swamps are wonderful things.  So why, label the entire swamp as a problem and drain it when we really just need to deal with the lowly mosquito?  Well, developers–like the ones of Levittown, PR and up there on the North Shore, LA–just love draining swamps so they can build on places that really shouldn’t be built upon and nature wills out eventually. It’s in our lexicon as a good thing. It’s not.

Swamps are among the most valuable ecosystems on Earth. They act like giant sponges or reservoirs. When heavy rains cause flooding, swamps and other wetlands absorb excess water, moderating the effects of flooding. Swamps also protect coastal areas from storm surges that can wash away fragile coastline. Saltwater swamps and tidal salt marshes help anchor coastal soil and sand.

The swamp ecosystem also acts as a water treatment plant, filtering wastes and purifying water naturally. When excess nitrogen and other chemicals wash into swamps, plants there absorb and use the chemicals. Many of these chemicals come from human activities such as agriculture, where fertilizers use nitrogen and phosphorus. Factories, water treatment plants, and homes also contribute to runoff. Chemicals not absorbed by plants slowly sink to the bottom and are buried in sand and sediment.

For most of history, wetlands were looked upon as wastelands, and as homes for insect pests such as mosquitoes. (Swamps are home to a wide variety of insects, which feed on the wide variety of plants.) People thought swamps were sinister and forbidding.

In the United States, filling or draining swamps was an accepted practice. Almost half of U.S. wetlands were destroyed before environmental protections were enacted during the 1970s. Most of the Everglades have been reclaimed as agricultural land, mostly sugar plantations. Draining swampland also created valuable real estate in the San Francisco Bay Area in California.

Federal and state authorities drained much of the wetlands at the delta of the Mississippi River in Louisiana as part of a massive system of river management. When Hurricane Katrina blew in from the Gulf of Mexico in 2005, the spongy swamp that traditionally protected the city of New Orleans from destructive weather patterns was diminished. The city was hit full force with a Category 3 hurricane.

Eradicating swampland also threatens economic activity. Two-thirds of the fish and shellfish that are commercially harvested worldwide are linked with wetlands. From Brazils varzeas, or freshwater swamps surrounding the Amazon River, to saltwater swamps near the Florida Keys, commercially valuable fish species that depend on wetlands are threatened with extinction.

In the early 1970s, governments began enacting laws recognizing the enormous value of swamps and other wetlands. In some parts of the United States, it is now against the law to alter or destroy swamps. Through management plans and stricter laws, people are trying to protect remaining swamps and to re-create them in areas where they have been destroyed.

Swamps do not need to be drained. It’s a few Swamp Denizens and pests that need eradicating. Most Government functions are useful and necessary. Most public servants are just that. The problem is when the political system gives us a plague of mosquitoes. We need some fish to gobble them up!

So, this metaphor really is a bigger metaphor for fucking things up and making them worse over time by completely misdiagnosing the problem because greed over science. We don’t need to drain the swamp in DC.  It’s already technically a drained swamp. We need to quit sending evasive species there.

Is the  TRUMP ADMINISTRATION THE MOST CORRUPT AND UNETHICAL IN AMERICAN HISTORY?

Given Trump’s goofy fixation on private jets as a symbol of luxury, it should come as no surprise that an astonishing number of his cabinet members are ensnared in scandals involving air travel, whether on private or civilian planes: Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is in the mix, too, though for slightly different reasons.

What we have is a private jet presidency, a low-class orgy of first-class kleptocrats. Remember when people thought Trump would usher in an era of American totalitarianism? Remember when credible, serious people compared Trump to some of the 20th century’s worst dictators? They, like the people who voted for Trump, believed what he said. How foolish. Even if Trump does yearn to become our Dear Leader, realizing that vision would take immense dedication, something neither Trump nor his minions have. The president obsesses over ratings, while his underlings grab what they can before Bobby Three Sticks (Robert S. Mueller III to you and me) starts handing out indictments like parking tickets.

This administration includes some obviously decent, highly capable people, foremost among them Secretary of Defense General James Mattis, Chief of Staff General John Kelly and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. Hope Hicks, the new communications director, is also well regarded by the journalists who work with her. But they are the exception.

Too many of Trump’s cabinet members have taken to behaving like middle managers let loose in the supply closet for the first time, stuffing their pockets with notepads and pens, hoping the stern secretary doesn’t notice. Oh, but she has. Inspector generals for federal agencies seem to be especially busy these days. Ethics lawyers, too.

Kevin Drum asks “Is There Anyone In the Trump Administration Who Isn’t Corrupt?”

I’m on vacation and in a different time zone, so it’s hard to stay caught up with everything. Let me see if I have this straight:

  • EPA chief Scott Pruitt is sucking up ennvironmental investigation resources by demanding a 24/7 security detail This requires 18 agents instead of the usual six.
  • HHS Secretary Tom Price uses government chartered planes to fly from DC to Philadelphia.
  • Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin requested a government plane for his honeymoon. This is in addition to his government-funded excursion to view the eclipse from the roof of Fort Knox.
  • Paul Manafort, former campaign manager for Donald Trump, has been under investigation on Russia-related charges since 2014. The charges are serious enough that the FBI got warrants to tap his phone both before and after Trump’s election.
  • And according to the New York Times, Robert Mueller’s document requests from the White House indicate that “several aspects of his inquiry are focused squarely on Mr. Trump’s behavior in the White House.”

Do I have this right? Is there anyone in the Trump administration who’s not prima facie corrupt? Maybe Rex Tillerson, but only because he’s already rich and doesn’t seem to actually give a shit about his job anyway.

I’ve spent hours walking around swamps. It’s one of my favorite places to be these days.  I’ve spent many hours trekking around the Barataria Preserve. The girls and I respectfully enjoyed each gator sighting.  But, frankly, there are geckos, fish, birds, and all kinds of kewl things that eat the mosquitoes if you let them live and thrive. There are probably fewer mosquitoes there than the French Quarter with its puddles of yuck.

Robert Mueller is a creature of the DC Swamp and he knows how to go after invasive species. The great thing about a functioning ecosystem is that it knows how to cleanse itself. Only the worst of mankind interferes with the process of nature balancing itself.

Earlier this week, the Washington Post reported that Paul Manafort, when he was running Donald Trump’s campaign last year, sought to use his position to curry favor with Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch close to the Kremlin. Manafort also, it appears, considered the campaign an opportune time to try to convince unnamed people who owed him money to finally pay him back. In response to this news, Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer in charge of representing President Trump in matters related to the Russia investigation, told Bloomberg’s Margaret Talev, “It would be truly shocking” if Manafort “tried to monetize his relationship with the President.”

Cobb’s shock is, surely, of the “Casablanca” variety. Manafort’s personal profit-seeking is, if anything, a rather tepid example of the kind of activity that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, might find as he continues to investigate those in Trump’s orbit. I have been reporting on the Trump Organization for the past year, and, the more work I’ve done, the more it has become clear that allowing hangers-on to monetize their relationship with him was, essentially, Trump’s business model.

The Trump Organization, as it has been described to me by more than a dozen people who have worked for it, was nothing like a typical, hierarchical corporation. The company’s central office was tiny and comprised a few dozen people, including Trump, his children, and some close associates, whose collective experience was largely limited to New York, Miami, and a few other American cities. When the company began aggressively pursuing international deals, over the past decade, it relied on a loose grouping of people who were authorized—formally or not—to travel around the world seeking deals in Trump’s name. Pocketing a little for themselves on the side was part of the arrangement.

According to the sources I’ve spoken with, the Trump Organization was shockingly lax in its due-diligence procedures. It seemed willing to do business with pretty much anybody, no matter his background. (Several Trump officials told me the key criterion was insuring that the potential partner could pay.) This was how Trump ended up doing business with the Mammadov family, in Azerbaijan, for example, whose members were publicly suspected by U.S. officials of partnering with a likely front company for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. A Trump project in Georgia was undertaken with a company that had become entangled in one of the greatest bank frauds in history. A Trump partner in Indonesia, Hary Tanoesoedibjo, has been investigated for corruption and for ties to violent and anti-American Islamists. The list could go on.

That is one great list of our current invasive pests. Don’t drain the swamp. Trap the invasive species–like the Trumpnutria–who the greedy put in a place where they do not belong and release into the wild when they no longer find them useful. The Trump Family Crime Syndicate is as Alabaman as kudzu. Trap invasive species!  Save our swamps!

What is on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Friday Reads whilst my bed turns into the Family Ark

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

I’m a little late going at this because it’s rained 3 times since about 3 in the morning and the ceiling in my bedroom came down with a thud on my bed yesterday afternoon.  We had a deluge Thursday Morning and water basically poured out of one of the late drywall seams that’s now in a bundle with its drywall in a big black trash sack ready for internment in the Crescent City Dump.  It poured for like 15 minutes filling up three separate bowls and two turkey roasters with water while sitting on my bed.

It’s almost continually raining here and it’s Friday so you can imagine how much luck I’m having getting any one to do anything.  My back wall is now the “weeping wall” and my turkey roaster has a semi-permanent place atop a thick black trash bag on my bed.  I’m sleeping on the other side because I don’t want to not be there if it overtops or leaks someplace other than its current choice.  It’s a mess. I’m a mess.  Actually, the water is backing up the streets and it’s not looking like it’s going to stop.  The animals aren’t very happy with the chime sound the emptied turkey roaster makes when it meet the first drip of a drop either.

So, the news would be comical if it wasn’t related to this disaster of an administration. I’m just going to start link dumping and leave the heavy sighs to you.  The clank of drops against a thick aluminum turkey roaster is just the right accompaniment to the cacophony of US news today.

First something about John Oliver and King Coal’s Bob Murray. You want a good laugh reading an amicus brief?  Try this one from the West Virginia ACLU on the lawsuit Murray has filed against mean John Oliver.  Here’s the ACLU Brief on behalf of John Oliver. Total Spew alert!!!

This case is about Plaintiff Robert E. (“Bob”) Murray not liking a television program and somehow believing that is a legally actionable offense. On June 18, 2017, Defendant Home Box Office, Inc. aired an episode of “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” a satirical news program about current events. The main topic discussed in the episode was coal. Apparently because Plaintiffs’ delicate sensibilities were offended, they clutched their pearls and filed this suit. Although this brief pokes fun at the absurdity of this case, the legal issues raised by it are anything but comical. This lawsuit, and Plaintiffs’ frequent attempts to use our legal system to chill speech, threaten the fundamental right of the media to criticize public figures and speak candidly on matters of public concern. Speech on a matter of public concern “occupies the highest 2 rung of the hierarchy of First Amendment values, and is entitled to speech protection.”

The next section lists the various media outlets that have been sued by Bob and it’s pretty extensive. Then here’s Bob list of all the ways the bad Brit hury his whiddle fee fees.  Tell us where HBO touched you Bob?

Defendants attempted “to advance their biases against the coal industry and their disdain for the coal-related policies of the Trump Administration.”

Defendants “employed techniques designed solely to . . . embarrass Plaintiffs[.]”

“Defendants childishly demeaned and disparaged Bob Murray and his companies, made jokes about Bob Murray’s age, health, and appearance, [and] made light of a tragic mining accident[.]”

“Defendants are persons and organizations fundamentally opposed to any revitalization of the coal industry, having described coal as ‘environmentally catastrophic.”

Defendant Time Warner “is widely reported as a top ten donor of Hillary Clinton[.]”

“As a presidential candidate, Mrs. Clinton’s agenda was to ‘put a lotta [sic] coal miners and coal companies outta [sic] business.’”

“Defendants’ broadcasts have vigorously supported and advanced Mrs. Clinton’s agenda.”

Instead of focusing on what Plaintiffs wanted him to talk about, Defendants “ignored them and ‘doubled-down’ . . . , ending their recorded broadcast with the phrases ‘Eat Shit, Bob’ and ‘Kiss my ass, Bob.’”

In the words of George Takei “Oh Myyyyyy”.  Every body is enjoying the brief and even The New York Post supports Oliver.  This is from the Vanity Fair Link.

When John Oliver tore into coal baron Bob Murray back in June, he knew a lawsuit was likely; he even prepared for the possibility by bringing out someone in a squirrel costume, who pre-emptively told Murray to “eat shit.” And like Oliver predicted, the mogul did sue HBO, Time Warner, Oliver, and his writers—but he might live to regret his decision. The West Virginia A.C.L.U. has filed an amicus brief in Oliver’s defense—and it might actually be a harsher takedown than Oliver’s original segment.

The brief, filed on Monday, is well worth reading in full, as it features some truly colorful writing. Consider, for example, the section headings, which include “Anyone Can Legally Say, ‘Eat Shit, Bob!’” and “All of John Oliver’s Speech Was Protected by the First Amendment. You Can’t Sue People for Being Mean to You, Bob.”

“It is a basic concept of free speech that you do not get to sue media organizations because you don’t like their coverage,” Jamie Lynn Crofts writes in the brief. “However, this is apparently a difficult concept for Plaintiffs to grasp. It appears that Bob Murray’s favorite hobby is suing and/or threatening to sue people for making political statements he disagrees with.”

Another perfectly brilliant and funny read is in Newsweek where the headline declares “Trump is Lazy!!!”.  There’s a lecture the lede too!  “TRUMP, AMERICA’S BOY KING: GOLF AND TELEVISION WON’T MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN”

Were he to reach the White House, Trump said, he wouldn’t make the same mistake for which he’d been lambasting Obama since 2011. “I’m going to be working for you,” he told supporters in August 2016. “I’m not going to have time to go play golf.”

Now that he’s president, Trump frequently departs the White House and spends the weekend golfing at either his South Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, or his country club in the New Jersey suburb of Bedminster. The promise he’d made a year before was discarded so quickly, you have to wonder if he even remembers making it. Politico did the legwork: George W. Bush didn’t golf for the first five months of his presidency, while Obama stayed away from his beloved links for four months following his inauguration. Trump held out for all of two weeks. He has visited a golf club 40 times since taking office in January, according to the self-explanatory site Trump Golf Count, which estimates the forays have cost American taxpayers $55 million. Another Trump tracker, this one by The New York Times, finds that his visits to Trump-branded properties total 56 days, nearly a third of his time in office.

Trump’s friends say golf is important to his well-being, just as cycling and rock climbing are de rigueur for the younger titans of Silicon Valley. “He is always working,” longtime confidant Roger J. Stone Jr. tells me, “even while socializing, playing golf or traveling. He is constantly asking questions, taking notes and placing phone calls.

“A better question would be, Does he ever really relax?”

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The Boston Globe has a hilarious bit up about the Orange one’s plan to vacation in the land of Spray Tans.  It’s to hot for Tacky Largo so why not just vacation in the state that pretty much exists to represent tacky?

President Trump, who delights in thumbing his nose at the country’s cosmopolitan class, is using his first presidential break, starting Friday, to send a fresh version of that message: He’s spending his 17-day summer holiday in New Jersey.

You heard that right: New Jersey.

It’s no Martha’s Vineyard or Kennebunkport. It can’t compare to Hyannis Port, to name the prominent New England playgrounds where modern presidents have gone to unwind. The closest competition for unlikeliest vacation spot is Crawford, Texas, a dusty, brush-generating ranchland where George W. Bush at least evoked the romance and rigor of the American West.

In selecting New Jersey, Trump, a billionaire homebody despite his jet-setting reputation, will settle for the thwack of golf balls and the chirping of birds on his own golf course in a state that conjures spray tans, Snooki, muscle shirts, “The Sopranos,” traffic slowdowns, and toll plazas.

Oh, and those eponymous concrete barriers on the interstate.

Trump will even be able to hear the tractor-trailers from his chosen venue: the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. The seventh hole on one of the club’s two courses is a pitching wedge shot from I-78, a.k.a. the Phillipsburg-Newark Expressway

Remember, all those visits to Trump properties cost the American Taxpayers millions of dollars.

“A trip to Mar-a-Lago costs taxpayers approximately $3.6 million, according to a Government Accountability Office report,” the website says.

The NJ getaway won’t be cheap either.  Lucky for the Dumpster, it’s all income to the Kremlin Caligula Family Crime Syndicate.

According to The New York TimesTrump’s New Jersey getaway will technically be “his first extended vacation from Washington” as president, and Trump’s White House spokesperson claimed that the president was only leaving due to HVAC system repairs at the West Wing, and that Trump will be continuing to work while he’s away. It certainly won’t be the first time, though, that the president has taken time away from the White House: according to The Washington PostTrump has made 11 visits to his properties in Palm Beach, Florida and New Jersey since taking office, as well as a weekend at Camp David in June. And of the 28 weekends he’s spent in office, Trump has spent 13 of them away from the White House, according to The New York Times.

Earlier this year, former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that Trump’s visits to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach are “where he goes to see his family,” and that they should be considered “part of being president,” according to NBC News. But they also come at a high cost to taxpayers: according to Fortunethe Air Force One flight alone costs roughly $200,000 an hour, and when he arrives, the city is required to cover the cost involved with providing adequate security. In Bedminister, that totals approximately $12,000 per day, while in Palm Beach, the amount is closer to $60,000 per day. Yet the fact that the president chooses to stay at his own private resorts may have created an additional financial benefit for the Trump family: according to NBC News, the membership rates at Trump-owned Mar-a-Lago doubled after Trump took office, and now costs new members $200,000.

Feel adequately milked yet?

Well, here’s some more interesting things about deals and cheating the American Taxpayer via the Kremlin Caligula Family Crime Syndicate. “This Trump real estate deal looks awfully like criminal tax fraud” via WAPO and some very good accountants/tax lawyers.

According to a recent story by ProPublica and the Real Deal, in April 2016 a limited liability company managed by Trump sold two condominium apartments to a limited liability company managed by Eric Trump. They were on the 13th and 14th floors of a 14-story, full-service, doorman building at 100 Central Park South in Manhattan. This is a prime Midtown neighborhood, yet the sale price for each condo was just $350,000. Although the condition and square footage of apartments 13G and 14G are not readily known, a popular real estate website shows that G-line apartments on both the fifth and eighth floors are one-bedroom, one-bath units of just over 500 square feet. Two years before the Trump transaction, apartment 5G sold for $690,000. Maybe the two units in question were in terrible shape, but two months before the sale to Eric Trump’s LLC, they were advertisedfor $790,000 (on the 13th floor) and $800,000 (on the 14th floor), according to ProPublica.

If a sale between a parent and child is for fair market value, it does not trigger a gift tax. But if a parent sells two expensive condominiums to his son at a highly discounted price, for example, then the parent makes a taxable gift in part. In that case, the seller must pay a gift tax of up to 40 percent. (In this case, that might have run the president somewhere in the neighborhood of $350,000.)

Each taxpayer has a $5.49 million lifetime exemption (a married couple has a combined $10.98 million exemption), meaning you can give away that much money without incurring the tax. To claim that a transaction is covered by the exemption, though, you must file a gift tax return. Well-advised wealthy individuals typically fully use their $5.49 million exemption by making gifts to family members as soon as they have the assets to do so.

So if Donald Trump sold the apartments to his son’s company for less than fair market value, he needed to file a gift tax return, even if he wanted to claim that the sale was not taxable because of the exemption. The government wants to know what gifts people make, because gifts are taken into account when determining the value of a person’s taxable estate at death. If Trump had already used his exemption, he would owe gift tax on the difference between the fair market value of the apartments and the amount paid by Eric Trump.

Yeah, no wonder he doesn’t want to show us the taxes. But something tells me the Special Council and a few lucky grand jurors have seen them. The original story is deep behind a WSJ pay wall but here’s The Guardian’s analysis.  Wonder if Bob went to the rally?

Donald Trump has sought to rally thousands of diehard supporters against the investigation into his campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia – on the same day news emerged that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, has convened a grand jury in the case.

“They’re trying to cheat you out of the leadership that you want with a fake story,” Trump told a rally in Huntington, West Virginia.

The concerted effort could be a sign that the White House is realising the full gravity of the situation. Mueller, appointed special counsel in May following the dismissal of the former FBI director James Comey, has recruited more than a dozen investigators, including current and former justice department prosecutors with experience in international bribery, organised crime and financial fraud.

On Thursday, it was reported – first by the Wall Street Journal, but later by other outlets including the Associated Press – that Mueller is using a grand jury in Washington, meaning he could subpoena witnesses and records in the coming weeks and months.

The use of a grand jury, a standard prosecution tool in criminal investigations, suggests that Mueller and his team of investigators are likely to hear from witnesses and demand documents in the coming weeks and months.

In what might be seen as a bid to weaponise his populist base, Trump told the crowd in Huntington, a coal country stronghold where he beat Hillary Clinton by 42 percentage points: “Most people know there were no Russians in our campaign; there never were. We didn’t win because of Russia. We won because of you.”

The crowd, many with “Make America great again” hats or signs, erupted in vociferous cheers. Trump continued: “We won because we totally outworked the other side. We won because of millions of patriotic Americans voted to take back their country.”

The president asked mockingly: “Have you seen any Russians in West Virginia or Ohio or Pennsylvania? Are there any Russians here tonight, any Russians? They can’t beat us at the voting booths so they’re trying to cheat you out of the future and the future that you want. They’re trying to cheat you out of the leadership that you want with a fake story that is demeaning to all of us and most importantly demeaning to our country and demeaning to our constitution.”

Well, something demeans all that and that something is talking out its ass.  I personally recommending this as your go to Cliff Notes.

The Oldest Living Confederate Widow who currently serves as the country’s AG is also cracking down on free speech.  Bet he could get some hints on how to win against the ACLU from Bob.  Feeling a bit like you’re living in Vichy France yet?

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday announced a government-wide crackdown on leakers, which will include a review of the Justice Department’s policies on subpoenas for media outlets that publish sensitive information.

At a press conference with Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Sessions announced that the Justice Department, FBI and government intelligence agencies will direct more resources into the investigations of government leaks and would prioritize prosecuting those that pass sensitive information along to the press or foreign officials

Sessions said he had empowered his deputy director Rod Rosenstein and incoming FBI director Christopher Wray to oversee the classified leaks investigations and to monitor the progress of each case.

The national security division of the Justice Department will prioritize cases involving unauthorized disclosures, Sessions said, and the departments “will not hesitate to bring lawful and appropriate criminal charges against those who abuse the public trust.

Look out News Hounds!  Granny is coming for newspaper near you!

The Justice Department is considering making changes to its policies on subpoenaing news organizations as part of its crackdown on government leaks, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Friday.

At a news conference, Sessions said the Justice Department is cracking down on leaks coming out of the government. The department “has more than tripled the number of active leak investigations” since the end of the Obama administration in January, he said.

Much of the effort involves investigating and prosecuting leak suspects, he said, but another aspect is “reviewing policies affecting media subpoenas.” That review, he said, came at the suggestion of FBI agents, career investigators and prosecutors who have weighed in on the leak problem.

“We respect the important role that the press plays, and we’ll give them respect, but it is not unlimited,” Sessions said. “They cannot place lives at risk with impunity. We must balance the press’s role with protecting our national security and the lives of those who serve in the intelligence community, the armed forces and all law-abiding Americans.”

At the news conference, Sessions described the nation as having a problematic “culture of leaks” that must be stamped out. And he issued a blunt warning to “would-be leakers” of classified information: “Don’t do it,” or risk prosecution.

Most of the leaks kinda look like they are coming from Jared and Ivanka who should consider skedaddling back to NYC.  It would be a nice break for the kids before the jail terms start, and children still love to roller blade so they could spend time doing that.  This is actually Joe Scarborough.  Don’t faint. Nobody attacks Joe’s squeeze and gets away with it!  Damn it!

Much has changed in the five years since Trump delivered that self-aware confession. The Manhattan developer is now the least popular first-year president in the history of presidential polling. His oldest son is caught up in a federal investigation involving attempts by Russia to undermine American democracy. Federal prosecutors are also reportedly investigating the finance and business dealings of Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who has repeatedly been forced to amend federal disclosure forms to add omitted information on his financial assets and contacts with foreign nationals, including from Russia. Even Trump’s daughter Ivanka, despite her concerted efforts to keep a low profile during the campaign and to round off her father’s roughest edges inside the White House, has become the subject of controversy.

Her decision to sit alongside foreign leaders at the recent Group of 20 summit in Hamburg was slammed as “grotesque” and “banana-republicky.” In a recent tweet, she declared that she would be “serving alongside John Kelly,” just as the retired four-star Marine general let it be known that all access to the Oval Office would go through him. The real estate heiress not only appeared to be claiming the West Wing as her territory, but she also betrayed a troubling sense of entitlement that one might expect from other billionaires’ daughters but not this one. Kelly and White House insiders know that Ivanka Trump is as ill-prepared to face the brutish realities of Washington as her father. And tragically, neither seems to know what they do not know.

Which brings us back to Kushner.

Though Donald Trump might be loath to admit it, Kushner did much to elect his father-in-law. By quietly building a successful online fundraising and targeting operation far beyond his candidate’s comprehension, Kushner gave Trump a fighting chance to keep the 2016 presidential race close, in the hope that lightning would strike at the right time. It did. And that’s when Kushner’s problems began.

The quiet diplomacy Kushner employed so effectively during the campaign gave way to the sort of stubborn arrogance that often infects the winning side of presidential campaigns. Trump’s shocking victory led his son-in-law to believe he could reinvent government like Al Gore, micromanage the White House like James Baker and restructure the Middle East like Moses. Kushner’s confidence seemed to reach its apex whenever the subject turned to Middle East peace. His bizarre belief that the world began anew the day Trump was inaugurated was exposed again this week when a leaked audiotape caught Kushner telling White House interns: “We don’t want a history lesson. We’ve read enough books.”

Americans have seen enough headlines over the past six months to better understand why nepotism does not work in the White House.

Well, the sound of rain pouring into a turkey roaster is less annoying than listening to anything coming from the (it’s a dump!) White House these days.  Would you like some ketchup on that overcooked cut of expensive meat?

Have a great weekend. Pray the rain goes where it’s needed.  That’s definitely not in my bedroom on my bed.

 


Friday Reads: Living under a Mean Spirit

Good Afternoon!

We live in a country where Mean Spiritedness is now rewarded, held up, elected, and on display.  We’ve all known coarse, crude, uncouth people. Never have so many of them held public office. They are full of pride about what they consider their Christianity, their whiteness. their lack of manners, and their obvious failure to learn anything about the world, culture, and science around them.

One of our major parties is now not only one of greed but of meanness and stupidity. Kremlin Caligula represents that ethos in spades. I’ve always voted independently no matter which party had its name on my voter registration. I cannot imagine ever voting for another Republican in my lifetime because any cog in that wheel is a cog in a wheel that rolls over our humanity.

I’ve chosen to decorate my post today with Hopi Kachina Clowns or Koshare . The Koshare depict unacceptable behavior and teach values in the lore of Pueblo culture.  We could use a few good Koshare wandering around the halls of Congress and the grounds of the White House.

A rich white man who body slammed a Jewish Journalist for asking him a question is now head to the House of Representatives and was placed there by the mean spirits of Montana. He won a mostly narrow victory given the unbearable redness of Montana, but it was a victory nonetheless. This is horrifying. The usual suspects in the right wing press and in congress are blaming the victim and presenting the bully as some kind of hero.  I am appalled. The following words are from from Brian Beutler writing for The Republic.

Republican Greg Gianforte defeated Democrat Rob Quist in a special election Thursday for Montana’s lone congressional seat, a six-point victory that should horrify you because he won with the full support of the GOP after body-slamming and punching an American reporter—and many of our political institutions, especially the media, are too paralyzed to impose a meaningful consequence on him or his enablers.

Gianforte, a true coward, didn’t admit any wrongdoing until his victory speech, at which point the risks of playacting decency pertained to his criminal case—the police have charged him with assault—rather than the election. “When you make a mistake, you have to own up to it,” Gianforte said. “That’s the Montana way.” I suspect some Montanans would object to the notion that you only apologize once it’s politically safe to do so.

For it was already beyond dispute on Wednesday night, thanks to audio of the attackand a witness account from a Fox News reporter, that Gianforte had attacked the Guardian’s Ben Jacobs. That’s when the process of public accountability began. In a healthier political culture, the condemnation would have been nearly unanimous, and the context of the incident would not have been a matter of controversy. What we witnessed instead was a political media—confronted with a one-sided assault on its most basic freedom—rendered by its own constructs largely incapable of identifying the threat with any precision.

Before he became president of the United States, Donald Trump toured the country encouraging violence against protesters and whipping up animosity toward the press. Earlier this month, Trump’s Health and Human Services secretary, Tom Price, sicced police on a reporter who was trying to ask him a question in the West Virginia state capitol on account of the fact that he didn’t recognize the reporter as an attendee of a press conference, then praised the police for their diligence. Last week, the FCC’s security detail manhandled a tech reporter at the National Press Club.

Republicans know in theory how to get their hackles up over political violence directed at reporters, because in January 2010, when an aide to Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley pushed a conservative reporter (then helped him up, and apologized for his behavior) Republicans tried to end his career in public service.

Their tacit acceptance of a culture of antagonism and violence directed at the press suggests at least that the party’s values have changed.

The win wasn’t as imposing as it could’ve been.  This is the one bit of goodness.  It also may have been mostly locked in by early and mail in voting.  However, the state of Montana is sending a man who just was charged with assault and the assault was on a reporter doing his job. This is not how it’s supposed to work in a democracy.  This is from Matt Yglesias writing for Vox.

Greg Gianforte’s 7 percentage point win in the Montana special election keeps a seat in Republican hands but fundamentally represents bad news for the GOP. The basic issue, as David Wasserman breaks down for the Cook Political Report, is that for prognostication purposes you don’t only want to know who wins or loses a special election — you want to know the margin.

 Montana is considerably redder than the average congressional district. According to Wasserman’s calculations, in an election where Democrats got 50 percent of the two-party vote nationwide, you’d expect them to get just 39 percent in Montana. Quist scored 44 percent, and with the Libertarian pulling in 6 percent, his share of the two-party vote is more like 46.

Things aren’t as simple as saying that Rob Quist outperformed the 39 percent benchmark and therefore Democrats are on track to win — geography means Republicans can hold their majority with less than 50 percent of the vote. But the GOP underperformed badly in Montana, after a similar underperformance in the special election for Kansas’s Fourth Congressional District.

There are 120 Republican-held House seats that are more GOP-friendly than Montana’s at-large district. If Republicans are winning in places like Montana by just 7 percentage points, then they are in extreme peril of losing their House majority in November 2018.

Republican leaders have taken their party on a risky course, and they ought to strongly consider turning the ship around.

b1342f80e689b237b2b1077e22c72da3The Guardian–home of the assaulted Reporter Ben Jacobs–calls the new Congressman a ‘fresh liability’ for the equally mean spirited Paul Ryan.  I can’t imagine them doing anything given what kids of crooks they’ve got wandering the White House. They only care about delivering tax cuts and ending everything but the military.

As it is, the party will now have to decide whether to embrace, accommodate or ostracise a man who made himself the personification of Trump’s media-baiting, violence-inciting campaign rhetoric. The legal saga will put a dark cloud over him and his movements on Capitol Hill are likely to receive outsized and negative coverage. In short, he is a liability adding to Ryan’s already considerable burden.

“This is going to be another of those moral tests for the Republican party,” said Charlie Sykes, a conservative author and commentator. “It should be an easy one for them to say there is no place for violence against reporters.”

In normal politics, Skyes added, the incident would have been universally condemned. But, since the ascent of Trump, the compass has moved. “It’s hard to overstate the cynicism we’ve seen from Republicans in Washington who will stop at nothing when votes are involved. How far down the road are Republicanswilling to go?”

On Thursday, Ryan said that what occurred was “wrong and should not happen”and Gianforte should apologise. But he stopped short of calling for Gianforte to quit the race. The questions will keep coming, however, when Gianforte takes his seat in the House.

Meanwhile, Kremlin Caligula displayed bad form when pushing his way to the front of the NATO summit. He shoved the Prime Minister of Montenegro to get to the head of the pack like a grade school bully.

Video of the incident spread on social networks in multiple languages.

“It seems Donald Trump did not want that anyone overshadows his presence at the summit,” said the Montenegro newspaper Vijesti.

Other Balkan websites ran headlines such as “America First” and “Where do you think you are going?”

Markovic himself, however, shrugged off the slight.

“It didn’t really register. I just saw reactions about it on social networks. It is simply a harmless situation,” he told reporters after the summit.

Instead of being insulted, he took the opportunity to thank Trump for supporting Montenegro’s membership in NATO. The small former Yugoslav republic is slated to become NATO’s 29th member next month.

His speech elicited laughs, eyerolls, and mumbles.  WAPO labels Trump’s behavior a national embarrassment.  The uncouth idiot from Queens has done us no favors with our friends while spilling beyond top secret information to international Thugs and Bullies.

After Trump called NATO obsolete (then proceeded to walk that back), Europe was looking for public support of Article 5, which affirms that NATO members will come to the mutual defense of any member that is under attack. But alas, Trump could not even bring himself to utter explicitly that the U.S. supports Article 5 in his remarks at Brussels, which every single U.S. president has done since Harry Truman in 1949. If NATO allies were nervous about the United States’ commitment to Europe’s security before, they must be fuming now. The NATO summit comes as reports surface that British police are withholding intelligence from the United States after leaks to U.S. media about the Manchester bombing investigation, and weeks after Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russiansabout operations against the Islamic State. For all of Trump’s fire and fury about the United States getting the raw end of the deal from NATO, from an optics standpoint, it is the United States that is looking like the irresponsible partner.

Perhaps in Trump’s eyes, the Saudis threw a much better shindig — spending $68 million to host Trump. Well, really, it was a $110 billion dollar fete, considering the price tag for the historic weapons deal that the United States signed with Saudi Arabia. Trump appeared to be much more friendly and relaxed among Saudi Arabian and other Gulf leaders than with our European allies. Obviously, Trump was bedazzled by the kingdom’s hospitality, but none of the Saudi opulence and money can whitewash Saudi Arabia’s terrible record of fueling Wahhabi terrorism, carrying out record numbers of public beheadings, contributing to famine in Yemen, and withholding many basic rights for Saudi women and girls. Days after one of the worst terrorist attacks in British history,  Trump is visibly more comfortable praising autocrats and extremist governments who help to fuel violence and conflict. That should be a slap in the face to our liberal allies in Europe.

The US Ambassador to the UN under George W Bush–as were many former ambassadors–were horrified by the speech and behavior.

President Donald Trump‘s first trip to a NATO summit Thursday did not sit well with former ambassadors to the alliance.

“I do think Trump’s visit to NATO was the least effective of any American president since 1949,” Nicholas Burns, who served as ambassador to the 28-member defense alliance under President George W. Bush, tweeted Friday. NATO came into existence in 1949.

In Brussels, Trump admonished members of the alliance for not paying their “fair share” for defense. The president failed to publicly endorse “Article 5,” the NATO mutual assistance clause that he was widely expected to back publicly for the first time.

Donald Rumsfeld thought the entire speech was just terrific which speaks volumes to any one with extensive knowledge of his history and your basic war criminal.  Former Speaker John Boehner called him a “disaster”. But it was today’s  Hillary Clinton who gave good shade to President Swiss Cheese for Brains in ways that only she could do.  She gave her Alma Mater Wellesley’s commencement Address.  You may watch the full address below.

She was talking to the graduates about their future. But she was focused just as much on her own past, and the hardest, fullest case against Trump she’s made since last November.

“In the years to come, there will be trolls galore, online and in person,” she said, urging the graduates not to let themselves get beaten down. “They may even call you ‘a nasty woman.'”

Back when she was getting her diploma in 1969, Clinton said, “we were furious about the past presidential election of a man whose presidency would eventually end in disgrace with his impeachment for obstruction of justice,” pausing to soak up the cheers and applause from a crowd who knew exactly what she was talking about, and approved.

Just in case anyone missed the point, she leaned in a little further, reminding students and attendees of the private women’s liberal arts school in Massachusetts that Richard Nixon had gone down “after firing the person running the investigation into him at the Department of Justice.”

“But here’s what I want you to know. We got through that tumultuous time, and once again we began to thrive as our society changed laws and opened the circle of opportunity and rights wider and wider for more Americans,” Clinton said.

Clinton has been struggling non-stop over the last six months with her loss, but she’s also been struggling with her public role. People close to her, many of whom share her insistence that a race she ran well was stolen out from under her by Russian involvement and by a surprise October letter from that same now-fired FBI director, are frustrated that she hasn’t been more in demand for a central role in the Trump resistance.

 

My most favorite headline today comes from The Dallas News:  ‘Trump’s budget shows his top priority is refusing to deal with reality’ written by Kevin Williamson.

President Donald Trump has produced a very silly budget proposal. Thankfully, presidential budget proposals have all the effect of a mouse passing gas in a hurricane — Congress, not the president, actually appropriates funds and writes the tax code.Presidential budget proposals are not received as actual fiscal blueprints but as statements of priorities, and so we must conclude that Trump’s top priority is refusing to deal with reality.

Here’s the situation: About 80 percent of federal spending is consumed by five things: 1. National defense; 2. Social Security; 3. Medicare; 4. Medicaid and other related health-care benefits; 5. Interest on the debt. Trump wants to increase spending on defense by about 10 percent while shielding Social Security and Medicare from cuts. Short of a default, he doesn’t have any choice but to pay the interest on the debt. So that leaves things pretty tight.

On top of that, he wants to pass what he boasts is one of the largest tax cuts in history. And balance the budget. Naturally, the White House budget monkeys are messing with the numbers a little bit. It’s the return of the Naïve Supply-Sider.

Williamson does a great job explaining what us economists have found out and think about that. This is good because I get very tired of having to give and write that explanation many times a year.  Let me also tell you that this guy writes for The National Review so Republicans don’t have to get their prunes from me or any other person that generally votes democratic.

The problem with this simplistic analysis is that it credits 100 percent of economic growth to tax cuts, when in fact economic growth is the result of many factors. The U.S. economy has experienced periods of strong growth with much higher tax rates, as it did in the 1950s and 1960s. The meaningful comparison is not between what tax revenue was before the tax cuts and what it was after the tax cuts, but between what it was after the tax cuts and what it would have been without the cuts. Which, unfortunately, is a counterfactual.

Economists who have looked at the issue have found evidence of growth effects and sometimes evidence of very strong growth effects. What they have not found is evidence of growth effects amounting to 100 percent of forgone revenue, i.e. the holy grail of “self-financing tax cuts.” The Trump budget proposal includes tax cuts that not only are self-financing but doubly self-financing. These tax cuts would, if we are to take him at his word (and that is impossible to do) not only pay for themselves but generate enough new revenue to balance the budget 10 years down the road.

You can bet that free lunch will turn out to be expensive.

Koshare_kachina_19th_centMy big problem is the use of that word ‘free lunch’.  The folks that really need food won’t get it.  The ‘free lunch’ will go to the rest of the Caligulas resident in our country.  So, there’s the greed and the stupidity and the mean rolled up in one huge gesture.  Meanwhile, the FBI is now very out front that it’s going after Jared Kushner.  I’ll give this last bit to Charles Pierce of Esquire infamy.

In their infinite wisdom, enough of the American people got together and decided to put a manifestly unqualified and manifestly unfit New York real estate sub-tycoon in charge of the executive branch of the national government. He has proceeded to do business there in the same shadowy fashion in which he’s done business everywhere else. He’s kept everything within the family, even if the family members are no more qualified to do the work than he is. Either he never knew that you can’t run a democratic republic that way, or he didn’t care. Either everything is a surprise to this crowd, or they think that the institutions of government are just another great, fertile field of grift to be plundered.

In any case, at the end of the day, it’s all going to be about money. Jared Kushner is just the most recent clue in a completely bogus treasure map.

So, follow the money and send in the clowns. The oldies are still the goodies.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Lazy Saturday Reads: Positively Nixonian

Happy Mother’s Day Weekend Sky Dancers!

As usual, we have no respite from the news and it looks like we get to kick Dick Nixon’s dead body some.  Every where you turn you hear the word “Nixonian”.  BB managed to find a lot of Trump/Nixon mash ups in political cartoons.  I thought it completely symbolic to see a picture of Kremlin Caligula with Kissinger in the White House this week.  I was just wondering if Kissinger was asked once more to pray.  I actually bought and read Woodward and Bernstein’s ‘The Final Days’ just to read that entire scene.  It still sits on my book shelf like a monument to the death of my belief in American Exceptionalism.

I probably could imagine a similar conversation taking place between Bannon and President Swiss Cheese for Brains. (My apologies for the ‘k” word,)  The cut away would probably be to discuss the escalation in Syria/Afghanistan instead.

APRIL 22, 1973: THE PRESIDENT, H.R. “BOB” HALDEMAN, AND HENRY KISSINGER, 9:50–10:50 A.M., OVAL OFFICE.
PRESIDENT NIXON: Where is…where is that kike, Kissinger?

KISSINGER: I’m right here, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT NIXON: Oh…uh, Henry, good, I’m glad you’re here…I want you to get down on your knees, Henry, and pray for me…I’m up shit creek without a paddle. I’ve got the damn Jew press on me like a “kick me” sign taped to my ass.

KISSINGER: Of course, Mr. President.

HALDEMAN: You can kneel over here, Henry.

PRESIDENT NIXON: Never mind that…just get me some support from those sons-of-bitches in the cabinet. Tell them I’ve got stuff on them…pictures.

KISSINGER: But, Mr. President, you have these things?

PRESIDENT NIXON: We’ve got tons of stuff…tons…

KISSINGER: All right, Mr. President, but it would help me if I could…see the pictures.

HALDEMAN: We’ll get some for you, Henry.

KISSINGER: Good. Now, sir, I want to discuss the latest operation in Camb—(cuts off)

Well, some folks just have a lot of nerve and they think we’re such fools. They just want to be on the side that’s winning.

So, it will get worse if the Ryan/Trump economic plan gets passed.  We know this.  It’s nice to hear it from an esteemed Nobel prize winning economist though.  Can we stop pretending the people that voted him found him the source of relief for economic distress? They’re about to get a shitload of it.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s economic policies risk creating growth that mostly benefits the rich and aggravates income inequality in the United States, Nobel Prize-winning economist Angus Deaton said.

Trump was swept to power on promises of help for poorer Americans but Deaton said his proposals to roll back regulations on finance and industry and cut healthcare benefits would mostly help corporate groups with political influence.

Trump’s plans to cut taxes and raise trade barriers, if enacted, might give a short-term income boost to some workers but would not deliver the long-term growth that is essential for mitigating the effects of inequality, he said in an interview.

“I don’t think any of it is good” for addressing income inequality, said Deaton, a Princeton University professor, who won the Nobel Prize for economics in 2015 for his work on poverty, welfare and consumption.

He was speaking on Friday after addressing a meeting in Italy of finance ministers and central bankers from rich nations at which inequality topped the official agenda.

The political shocks in 2016 of Trump’s U.S. presidential election victory and Britain’s Brexit vote have been linked to widespread dissatisfaction with stagnant living standards for many workers, forcing policymakers in many countries to grapple with ways to narrow the gap between the rich and poor.

Income inequality has grown sharply in the United States over recent decades and the World Bank says that at a global level the gap has widened too since the 1990s, despite progress recently in some countries.

The Trump administration says it will lift U.S. economic growth to more than 3 percent a year and bring more manufacturing jobs back to U.S. shores, helping workers.

But many economists say growth like that will be hard to achieve with employment already high and the baby boom generation retiring in large numbers too.

Deaton said restoring stronger economic growth, preferably through encouraging more innovation, would help reduce the anger among many people who feel they have been left behind.

“A rising inequality that probably wouldn’t have bothered people before does become really salient and troublesome to them (during periods of low growth). It poisons politics too because when there are no spoils to hand out it becomes a very sharp conflict,” he said.

Deaton said he did not think inequality was inherently bad as long as everyone felt some benefit from growth.

“But I do care about people getting rich at public expense,” he said, referring to political lobbying by business groups.

So onto the the criminal and traitorous group known as the Trump family syndicate and friends connected to all things Russian. The Senate is starting to follow the money and the bodies.

This robust compliance was not happening at the Taj Mahal. The Treasury Department found that the casino didn’t monitor or report suspicious activity. About half the time that Treasury investigators identified suspect behavior, the Taj Mahal had not reported it to authorities. “Like all casinos in this country, Trump Taj Mahal has a duty to help protect our financial system from being exploited by criminals, terrorists, and other bad actors,” Jennifer Shasky Calvery, the FinCEN director, said in a statement at the time of the settlement. “Far from meeting these expectations, poor compliance practices, over many years, left the casino and our financial system unacceptably exposed.”

The Trump Organization is not known for its careful due diligence. As I wrote in the magazine earlier this year, Ivanka Trump oversaw a residence and hotel project in Azerbaijan. The project was run in partnership with the family of one of that country’s leading oligarchs, and while there is no proof that the Trumps were themselves involved in money laundering, the project had many of the hallmarks of such an operation. There was no public accounting of the hundreds of millions of dollars that flowed through the project to countries around the world, millions of dollars were paid in cash, and the Azerbaijani developers were believed to be partners, at the same time, with a company that appears to be a front for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which is known as one of the world’s leading practitioners of money laundering. Trump’s Azerbaijani partners are known to have close ties to Russia, as do his partners in other projects in Georgia, Canada, Panama, and other nations.

A former high-ranking official at the Treasury Department explained to me that FinCEN could have collected what are known as Suspicious Activity Reports from banks, casinos, and other places, about transactions involving any Trump projects. These reports could be used to create a detailed map of relationships and money flows involving the Trump Organization.

The Senate committee headed by Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina, and Warner has been ratcheting up the pressure on Trump’s associates in the course of investigating Russian meddling in the Presidential campaign. On Thursday, the committee sent a subpoena to Michael Flynn, the short-lived national-security adviser, demanding documents that he didn’t turn over voluntarily. By asking the Treasury Department for more details about Trump and his associates, the Senate Intelligence Committee seems to be signalling a widening of its interest from the narrow question of collusion between Russia and members of Trump’s campaign staff. (My calls to Warner’s office about this weren’t answered.) If the committee does begin to seriously consider the Trump Organization’s business practices and any connections those show to figures in Russia and other sensitive countries, it would suggest what prosecutors call a “target rich” environment. Rather than focussing on a handful of recent arrivals to Trump’s inner circle—Mike Flynn and Carter Page, a Trump campaign adviser—it could open up his core circle of children and longtime associates.

The WSJ is on the forefront of this story and the Manafort probe.   It’s nice to know that even papers known to be ‘captured’ by an agenda can still do straight up news.

The Justice Department last month requested banking records of Paul Manafort as part of a widening of probes related to President Donald Trump’s former campaign associates and whether they colluded with Russia in interfering with the 2016 election, according to people familiar with the matter.

In mid-April, federal investigators requested Mr. Manafort’s banking records from Citizens Financial Group Inc., the people said.

It isn’t clear whether Citizens is the only bank that received such a request or whether it came in the form of a subpoena. Federal law generally requires that a bank receive a subpoena to turn over customer records, lawyers not connected to the investigation said.

Citizens gave Mr. Manafort a $2.7 million loan last year to refinance debt on a Manhattan condominium and borrow additional cash, New York City real-estate records show. The Wall Street Journal couldn’t ascertain if the Justice Department request is related to that transaction or whether the bank has turned over Mr. Manafort’s records.

I think the WSJ is getting less strict on its paywall practices for these items because you can go read the rest of it.

Comey to Trump:

Go ‘way from my window
Leave at your own chosen speed
I’m not the one you want, babe
I’m not the one you need
You say you’re lookin’ for someone
Who’s never weak but always strong
To protect you an’ defend you
Whether you are right or wrong
Someone to open each and every door
But it ain’t me, babe
No, no, no, it ain’t me babe
It ain’t me you’re lookin’ for, babe

The FBI is not happy with the President and what he did to Director Comey. They’ve evidently not signed on to participate in some twisted version of The Apprentice.  Trump has made quite a few institutional enemies from Park Rangers to the scientists in the EPA and HHS. The weirdish thing about all this is that he’s just made an enemy of the one institution he could ill afford to put off and was most likely to support his thuggish brand of justice.

Clearly, Comey underestimated Trump’s impatience—as well as the president’s pathological inability to allow anyone to question the legitimacy of his election, let alone keep pressing the investigations into the Trump campaign’s possible ties with Russia. Comey is now puttering in his yard in Northern Virginia. But the political and legal whirlwind that his firing has set in motion is just beginning to spin, with the White House and the F.B.I. subject to the greatest damage. Even pro-Trump agents are horrified and furious at how Comey was treated. “It shows us, the career people who care only about justice, that there is no justice at the top,” one agent says.

There were agents who found Comey priggish; within the bureau’s New York office, there was a faction that thought he’d soft-peddled the investigation of the Clinton Foundation. But those complaints have now been dwarfed by shock and revulsion at how Comey was fired—and how it reflects on them. “The statements from the White House that he’d lost the faith of the rank and file—they’re making that up,” says Jeff Ringel, a 21-year F.B.I. veteran who retired in May 2016 and is now director of the Soufan Group. “Agents may not have agreed with everything he did. I was one of the people who thought the director shouldn’t have stepped up and made those public statements about Hillary Clinton. But Director Comey was one of the last honest brokers in D.C. Agents are pissed off at the way he was fired, the total disrespect with which it was handled. It was a slap in the face to the F.B.I., to everybody in the F.B.I. The director being treated terribly, being called incompetent, is a signal that Trump has disdain for the bureau.”

Oops. Yet we still have slutty Republicans bending over backwards for the mad king.

Elected Republican officials are publicly defending Trump but privately are dumbfounded, disgusted and demoralized by this turn of events.

We haven’t had a single conversation with a top Republican that doesn’t reflect this. The worries are manifold

  • This kills momentum on legislating, and unifies Democrats in opposition to everything they want to do.
  • This makes it easier for Democrats to recruit quality candidates and raise money for the off-year elections.
  • It sours swing voters.
  • It puts them on the defensive at home. They want to talk tax reform and deregulation — not secret tapes and Russian intrigue.
  • But mainly it reinforces their greatest fear: Trump will never change. They keep praying he’ll discipline himself enough to get some big things done. Yet they brace for more of this.

And of course, Trump voters could care less. The most immoral of them is the Evangelical base.  At least the NAZIs are upfront about being deplorable.

But just like with the “Access Hollywood” tape, the vast majority of Republicans — and especially the Trump base — seem unfazed. For all the media/Democrat/Twitter histrionics, consider:

  • The Gallup daily tracking poll shows Trump’s approval has held steady (40% the day of the firing, 41% two days later).
  • Polls show two countries: In NBC News/Survey Monkey, 79% of Rs thought Trump acted appropriately, and 13% of Dems.
  • Most elected Republicans are backing Trump or staying silent. AP reports that at the Republican National Committee’s spring meeting out in Coronado, Calif., party leaders defended the president’s actions and insisted that they would have little political impact.
  • The Comey topic is hot in traditional media, but cold on Facebook: Seven other events of the Trump presidency trended harder.

Be smart: Don’t underestimate how much wiggle room Trump bought himself with his voters and conservatives by putting Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, enforcing the red line in Syria, and muscling a partial repeal of Obamacare through the House. He has a long leash with Trump Country.

So, like many folks my age, my head is spinning because we’ve seen this before. The only difference is that Nixon never basically admitted to a journalist that he obstructed justice. But then, Nixon did not have Swiss Cheese for brains.

One of my favorites quotes today comes from Watergate’s John Dean. “President Trump is an ‘authoritarian klutz’ — just like Nixon.”

In an interview with New York Magazine‘s The Daily Intelligencer, John Dean, the former advisor to President Richard Nixon whose call-recording testimony made the Watergate case, told reporter Olivia Nuzzi that both Nixon and President Donald Trump share alarming tendencies.

“I think they’re both authoritarian personalities,” Dean told The Daily Intelligencer. “We only know of Nixon’s full personality because of his taping system. But Trump just doesn’t try to hide anything, he’s just out there.”

Dean also said that both Trump and Nixon are “klutzy” when it comes to electronics, and that Trump’s apparently Luddite approach to technology may have made any recordings he’d made as apparent as Nixon’s were to Dean.

“I’m told he’s not very mechanical. He’s kind of like Nixon in that regard,” Dean said. “In other words, he’d have trouble surreptitiously recording somebody, you know, starting the machine, if it wasn’t going and what have you.”

On comparisons between Trump’s surprise firing of former FBI Director James Comey and Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre”, Dean told Nuzzi that there are some parallels, but they aren’t exact.

“There were some echoes, but not much more. Echoes being the brutal way it was handled, and so unnecessary,” Dean said. “But not quite the same stage, where Comey wasn’t defying Trump, whereas Archibald Cox clearly was, and both of them had the power to do what they did, but it wasn’t very wise to do.”

In the fallout from firing former FBI James Comey, Trump may have implicated himself in his own conversation-recording scheme. Trump also allegedly has a history of recording phone calls.

So, we’re once again about to see how well the checks and balances work. We seem reliant on the Senate and is there a Sam Ervin out there? It’s hard to see that Ervin’s neighboring state of South Carolina’s Lady Lindsey will go for the truth the way Ervin did. I remember coming home from high school with my hippy jeans, my books overflowing in my boy scout back pack, and undoing the tie backs that kept those jeans from getting caught in my 12 speed’s derailleur to my mother with the TV blaring. She never watched daytime TV because it was banal game shows and soaps. But there she was–frequently with our cleaning lady of like 15+ years–watching from the door way. Mildred–the big German woman who my mother called a good ol’ gal–was usually shaking her head like she’d seen the Third Reich all over again. She was really good at her job, so we knew that in the case we didn’t need her anymore she can get another job, Maid Zone is hiring or maybe any other house cleaning company.  The networks had interrupted everything once again to show case Sam Ervin and his Watergate hearings. It seems like a galaxy far far away to me but yet every time I turn on the TV news, it comes back to me.

More extraordinary than Ervin’s sense of humor is his uncompromising belief in the Constitution as a basis of government. A “strict constructionist,” presumably after Mr. Nixon’s heart, he has phrased his passionate Constitutionalism in resounding measures that owe much to Shakespeare and the Bible, but surely as much to the great jurists of Anglo-American common law.

“I don’t think we have any such thing as royalty or nobility that exempts them,” says Ervin of the White House, and one realizes how much the issues of the American Revolution are living ones to him and not eighth-grade clichés. He has been a consistent and eloquent enemy of such ominous inspirations as no-knock laws and military surveillance of civilians.

Ervin is a States’ Rights man on Constitutional grounds. Ironically, he is vilified by rightists who just a year ago were complacent “strict constructionists”: Jim Fuller of the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer reports his newspaper gets calls at all hours of the day and night, some from as far away as Houston, demanding that “that fat, senile old man” lay off the President. “The most common threat,” Fuller says, “is castration.” Ervin doesn’t look worried.

Maybe you’ll remember reading or hearing these words in that ol’ Southern Good Ol’ boy drawl.

We are beginning these hearings today in an atmosphere of utmost gravity. The questions, that have been raised in the wake of the June 17th break-in, strike at the very undergirding of our democracy. If the many allegations made to this date are true, then the burglars who broke into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate were in effect breaking into the home of every citizen of the United States.

If these allegations prove to be true, what they were seeking to steal was not the jewels, money or other property of American citizens, but something much more valuable—their most precious heritage, the right to vote in a free election. Since that day, a mood of incredulity has prevailed among our populace, and it is the constitutional duty of this committee to allay the fears being expressed by the citizenry, and to establish the factual bases upon which these fears have been founded.

The Founding Fathers, having participated in the struggle against arbitrary power, comprehended some eternal truths respecting men and government. They knew that those who are entrusted with power are susceptible to the disease of tyrants, which George Washington rightly described as “love of power and the proneness to abuse it.” For that reason, they realized that the power of public officers should be defined by laws which they, as well as the people, are obligated to obey.

The Constitution, later adopted amendments and, more specifically, statutory law provide that the electoral processes shall be conducted by the people, outside the confines of the formal branches of government, and through a political process that must operate under the strictures of law and ethical guidelines, but independent of the overwhelming power of the government itself. Only then can we be sure that each electoral process cannot be made to serve as the mere handmaiden of a particular Administration in power.

The accusations that have been leveled and the evidence of wrongdoing that has surfaced has cast a black cloud of distrust over our entire society. Our citizens do not know whom to believe, and many of them have concluded that all the processes of government have become so compromised that honest governance has been rendered impossible. We believe that the health, if not the survival, of our social structure and of our form of government requires the most candid and public investigation of all the evidence…. As the elected representatives of the people, we would be derelict in our duty to them if we failed to pursue our mission expeditiously, fully, and with the utmost fairness. The nation and history itself are watching us. We cannot fail our mission.

Preach it sir!  Here’s to a system that values truth, justice and the rule of law.  May it totally crush this Administration under the heels of history.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?c


Friday: All the News that’s $hit to print about all the SWAMP things in the West Wing

Well, these posts take longer to compile every day because we live in a 30 second news cycle brought on by a bunch of bigoted white yahoos that had to vote for one very sick mind. This is what bedlam looks like

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

It’s really difficult to know exactly where to start.  There are so many scandals at the moment that it’s mind boggling.  But, I have to start some where and I’m going to emphasize what I’ve known since the tender age of about 25.  You don’t get to be a CEO by any real standard of normal achievement. You’re generally not smart. You pay people like me to be your brains. You’re not all that comfortable with people outside of your own little circle of influence–read CULT–which generally means you drag family and seriously out-of-their depth frat brothers or high school friends with you to high paid places. You expect to be treated like a god and you self-deal like a Persian brothel owner. What you excel at is velvet schmoozing other idiots like you and sending money to the right people.

With that, we move to the topic of Rex Tillerson.  Our Secretary of State is so out of his depth, league, expertise, etc. that he’s cowering in his office and demanding no one give him eye contact.  Whoever said people that are just in it for a buck can aspire to anything else is just plan full of shit.  A rare CEO actually has some kind of conscience.  They are few and far between.  They can’t have them or they couldn’t do what they do which is basically rape, pillage, and steal for money and make sure they get more than a fair share of it.  But ask me how I really feel some day.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson takes a private elevator to his palatial office on the seventh floor of the State Department building, where sightings of him are rare on the floors below.

On many days, he blocks out several hours on his schedule as “reading time,” when he is cloistered in his office poring over the memos he prefers ahead of in-person meetings.

Most of his interactions are with an insular circle of political aides who are new to the State Department. Many career diplomats say they still have not met him, and some have been instructed not to speak to him directly — or even make eye contact.

On his first three foreign trips, Tillerson skipped visits with State Department employees and their families, embassy stops that were standard morale-boosters under other secretaries of state.

Eight weeks into his tenure as President Trump’s top diplomat, the former ExxonMobil chief executive is isolated, walled off from the State Department’s corps of bureaucrats in Washington and around the world. His distant management style has created growing bewilderment among foreign officials who are struggling to understand where the United States stands on key issues. It has sown mistrust among career employees at State, who swap paranoid stories about Tillerson that often turn out to be untrue. And it threatens to undermine the power and reach of the State Department, which has been targeted for a 30 percent funding cut in Trump’s budget.

Many have expressed alarm that Tillerson has not fought harder for the agency he now leads.

Rep. Eliot L. Engel (N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Tillerson called him after the proposed cuts were announced. Engel said Tillerson seemed to share Engel’s concern that the cuts are “draconian” and counterproductive. But Engel said Tillerson seemed to signal his acquiescence when he called them “a glide path to what was about to happen.”

“I’m chagrined by what’s happening, or not happening,” Engel said.

“When you put it all together, it certainly seems they’re trying to downsize the State Department and make it irrelevant. I’m at a loss for words. Why would Tillerson take the job if he was not going to defend his agency?”

It’s easy.  The  CEOS are where ever they are to strip everything down to the bare bones and take the plunders. They can do so–like murderous socipaths–with no thought to all the people whose lives they ruin.  That’s why they do not deserve the pubic trust, welfare, and assets.  This Hill piece finds the most shocking bit in the WAPO piece I cited above.  Yes. it’s repeated THREE times for effect.  Let it settle in.  Do not look Rex Tillerson in the Eye. Th next question begs to be asked “Or WHAT?”.

 Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has remained relatively removed from President Trump’s administration and his own department, a new report by The Washington Post says, adding that many diplomats have yet to meet him and some have been told to avoid eye contact.
The Post report reads:
Most of his interactions are with an insular circle of political aides who are new to the State Department. Many career diplomats say they still have not met him, and some have been instructed not to speak to him directly — or even make eye contact.
Tillerson has kept a low profile since the inauguration. He has made very few remarks to the press and opted not to travel with a press pool.
Earlier this month, Tillerson stood by his decision not to allow reporters to travel with him on his trip to Asia, calling himself “not a big media press access person.”
Erin McPike of the right-leaning Independent Journal Review — the only reporter selected by State to travel with Tillerson — pressed the diplomat about his decision in an interview.
McPike noted China restricts press access and asked whether he’s concerned about the message he’s sending.
Tillerson claimed the decision not to allow more reporters had to do with a desire to save money, saying the plane “flies faster, allows me to be more efficient” with fewer people on it.

Has any one ever stopped to define ‘efficiency’ in terms of successful diplomacy?  I guess not.

BB shared this link yesterday.  It explains exactly how awful Jared Kushner is on every level of what you need to manage anything at all.  He’s also way out of his league.

But I worked for Kushner for 18 months as he tried to infuse a much smaller institution than the U.S. government with cost-cutting impulses from the commercial real estate world. And my experience doesn’t bode well for the Office of American Innovation. Not everything that works in the private sector is transferrable to the public sector — and even if it were, Kushner isn’t the best person to transfer it.

Then there’s Carl Icahn who demonstrates a new level of corruption equal to only Kremlin Caligula himself.  I haven’t cited D-Day for awhile since he writes for The Intercept but I will for a change.  There’s all kinds of nastiness surround former TWA CEO Carl Icahn.  Rachel Maddow calls it “quite blatant corruption”.

WATCHDOG GROUP PUBLIC Citizen asked Congress on Wednesday to investigate whether billionaire investor and unofficial Trump administration adviser Carl Icahn has engaged in illegal, unregistered lobbying in conjunction with his public bid to change an ethanol rule that would save one of his affiliated businesses $200 million annually.

Icahn raised eyebrows last week for getting the Renewable Fuels Association to reverse its position on a key proposal that would benefit him personally. The association, which lobbies for ethanol producers, agreed to a proposal to shift the responsibility for ensuring that gasoline contains a minimum volume of renewable fuels — from oil refiners to gasoline wholesalers. Icahn is the majority shareholder in CVR Energy, a refiner that cannot blend ethanol on its own, and which therefore must buy over $200 million in “renewable fuel credits” each year to follow the law. By shifting the responsibility to wholesalers, CVR would no longer have to make that purchase.

Trump tapped Icahn as his deregulatory czar in December. But as an unofficial adviser to the Trump administration, Icahn was able to maintain his prodigious financial holdings. The renewable fuels proposal struck many as an example of Icahn self-dealing — recommending changes in regulation that benefit him financially.

Now, Public Citizen is accusing Icahn and CVR of violating the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995. Any nongovernmental entity that crosses certain thresholds must register all lobbying activities with the government. Congress oversees compliance with this law.

Since the Trump administration insists that Icahn is a private citizen who receives no compensation as a government official, he would fall into the category of needing to register any lobbying work, according to a complaint sent to the clerk of the House and secretary of the Senate. Public Citizen argues that Icahn’s formal proposal to change the renewable fuel standard regulation, along with his reported assistance in vetting candidates for the Environmental Protection Agency, comprises lobbying activity.

“It is not lobbying to advise a candidate, but once Trump became president, Trump then became a covered official subject to the lobbying disclosure law,” energy program director Tyson Slocum wrote in the letter. “All of this has occurred with no record of any [Lobbying Disclosure Act] filings by or on behalf of Mr. Icahn, Icahn Enterprises or CVR Energy.”

In other words, either Icahn is a Trump administration official, and therefore profiting from his government service, or a private citizen, and therefore lobbying.

Failure to comply with the Lobbying Disclosure Act “may be subject to a civil fine of not more than $200,000,” according to the law’s text. And if an individual “knowingly and corruptly” fails to comply, they face a federal prison sentence of up to five years.


Matt Yglesias calls him  a “conflict-of-interest disaster’.  Oy.just.Oy.  

Five paragraphs into the Wall Street Journal’s article about how Carl Icahn, a legendary investor worth about $20 billion, will serve as a special advisor to Donald Trump on regulatory matters, things get interesting.

“The position isn’t an official government job,” the Journal reports. “Mr. Icahn won’t get paid and won’t have to give up his current business dealings.”

Of course, even if Icahn did get paid, the salary would be peanuts compared with his net worth. More to the point, the monetary value of getting to influence federal regulatory policy when you already have $20 billion in outstanding investments is enormous.

 Back in August, for example, Icahn was complaining to the media about a particular obscure Environmental Protection Agency rule that was hurting a refining company he owns.
And that brings us to what T-Russia signed this week that made Mr. Icahn so happy that he’s been increasing his investments prior to its signing.  Gee.  I wonder what kind of insider information led to that.

Since Carl Icahn, the billionaire investor, was named by President Trump as a special adviser on regulatory matters, he has been busy working behind the scenes to try to revamp an obscure Environmental Protection Agency rule that governs the way corn-based ethanol is mixed into gasoline nationwide.

It is a campaign that fits into the charge Mr. Trump gave Mr. Icahn, to help the nation “break free of excessive regulation.” But there is an additional detail that is raising eyebrows in Washington: Mr. Icahn is a majority investor in CVR Energy, an oil refiner based in Sugar Land, Tex., that would have saved $205.9 million last year had the regulatory fix he is pushing been in place.

How’s this for savvy investing?  “Carl Icahn’s shares in CVR Energy have doubled since Trump won the election”.  Not so savvy you say?   Probably because, gee guess what happened with those regulations?  Rachel Maddow covered the “menu of scandal” of the T-Rump administration and it is so surreal.  I wanted to overwhelm you today with it because it’s almost so much you want to become desensitized.  This cannot become the new normal.  It cannot.

The Scott Pruitt stuff is so blatantly awful that the Bar of Oklahoma seeks to disbar him. Yet, he still seems to be serving safely in the T-Rump cabinet as yup, the guy in charge of the EPA.  And he single handedly took a deadly pesticide off a ban list just because … oh, nothing to do with its neurotoxicity.

Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, announced late Wednesday that a widely used pesticide will remain available to farmers, despite agency scientists recommending last year that it be banned due to neurotoxicity risks to farm workers and children, it is important to know that as a worker you have rights, I totally suggest to check out workers comp attorneys idaho if you need legal representation.

The pesticide, chlorpyrifos, made by Dow Chemical, is used on tens of thousands of farms in the country to protect dozens of different crops from a variety of insects. However, decades of research following its 1965 debut has found that the pesticide can harm the human respiratory, cardiovascular, and nervous systems. Animal and human studies have linked exposure to declines in learning and memory. When chlorpyrifos was commonly used in household bug sprays, babies exposed prenatally via cord blood showed structural abnormalities in brain regions linked to attention, memory, language, and impulse control.

Then there’s VIP Pence who refuses to be alone in a room with any woman and who is likely to go down with the Trumptanic.  This is Maddow again.

Mike Pence had been the head of the Trump transition. As such, he would have been intimately involved with the selection and vetting process for a job as important as national security adviser. Nevertheless, Vice President Mike Pence has professed absolute ignorance of any of the scandals of any of the foreign payments, contacts and all the rest of it surrounding Mike Flynn. Pence was the leader of the transition. As leader of the transition, he was notified in writing by members of Congress about Flynn’s apparent financial ties to the government of Turkey. The transition was also apparently notified twice by Flynn’s own lawyers about his financial relationship with the government of Turkey, but nevertheless, Vice President Mike Pence says he has no idea about any of that.

….

Vice President Mike Pence claims he had absolutely no idea about that despite him being notified about on the record multiple times and it being a matter of considerable public discussion. Mike Pence’s role in the Mike Flynn scandal is flashing like a red beacon for anyone who sees him as the normal Republican in this setting.

 Oh, and the not dining alone with women thing is illegal.  Why woudn’t it be unless you’re a Taliban and prefer your women buried in burkas as property and you forcibly instituted a theocracy in your country?

“I don’t work with women. If they’re attractive, I’m too tempted. And if they’re not attractive, what’s the point?”

A male partner at a law firm casually made this pronouncement one day at lunch, hardly looking up from his plate. Everyone laughed and went back to eating — in the rough-and-tumble world of DC law, it wasn’t even the most obnoxious thing said that day. But this is no laughing matter for the women whose career opportunities are impeded by men who cavalierly dismiss half of the labor force and insist that they’ve behaved honorably by doing so.

This issue was thrust into the news this week when the Washington Post ran a piece on Karen Pence, the wife of our current vice president, and reminded readers of something Mike Pence said in 2002: He does not eat alone with a woman or attend an event where alcohol is being served unless his wife is present. The Twittersphere lit up like a Christmas tree with jokes and rants about Pence’s wife-rule. It’s not clear whether Pence still adheres to this practice, but there are men who do.

As the Atlantic observes, such arrangements are especially common within marriages between religious conservatives of various stripes. (It need not be only men who follow such strictures, but the emphasis is often on male temptation.) On Capitol Hill, where long days and late nights away from the family are part of the job, some Congressmen will not travel alone in a car with a female staffer, the National Journal has reported. Some politicians set gender-neutral rules that have a side effect of keeping them from being alone with women — such as excluding any staff from the office before 7 am or after 7 pm — but others clearly apply special rules to women.

To be sure, a politician’s declining to dine alone with a woman does not fall in the same category as a law partner refusing to work with women (or at least musing about refusing to work with women). Nonetheless, the practice described by Pence in that 2002 interview is clearly illegal when practiced by a boss in an employment setting, and deeply damaging to women’s employment opportunities.

Title VII, which governs workplace discrimination, does not allow employers to treat people differently on the basis of certain protected characteristics, one of which is sex. This means that an employer cannot set the terms and conditions of employment differently for one gender than for the other. This includes any aspect of the relationship between employer and employees — extending to benefits like equal access to the employer.

Why earth are we fighting ISIS if we accept this kind of behavior from our own elected officials?  What’s the difference between this and a Taliban?  Oh, and Mike Pence was the tie breaking vote on a law designed to let states defund Planned Parenthood.

The bill erases a regulation imposed by former President Barack Obama that lets states deny family planning funds to an organization only if it is incapable of providing those services.

Meanwhile, we will no longer be learning if T-Rump deploys troops to Iraq or Syria after the second military inquiry is now scheduled to determine how our military told over 200 innocent civilians in Mosul to stay in their homes to be safe just before we bombed them to death.

Even as the U.S. military takes on a greater role in the warfare in Iraq and Syria, the Trump administration has stopped disclosing significant information about the size and nature of the U.S. commitment, including the number of U.S. troops deployed in either country.

Earlier this month, the Pentagon quietly dispatched 400 Marines to northern Syria to operate artillery in support of Syrian militias that are cooperating in the fight against Islamic State, according to U.S. officials. That was the first use of U.S. Marines in that country since its long civil war began.

In Iraq, nearly 300 Army paratroopers were deployed recently to help the Iraqi military in their six-month assault on the city of Mosul, according to U.S. officials.

Neither of those deployments was announced once they had been made, a departure from the practice of the Obama administration, which announced nearly all conventional force deployments.

Here’s the link to the deadly Mosul strikes.

So, the big news of the day is that the Senate Intell Com has said no to the offer of testimony for immunity by Mike Flynn.

My biggest question is can our country survive anymore #MAGA or T-Rump style winning? Michael Gerson has an Op Ed up at WAPO about the failing Trump presidency and the free fall that characterizes the Republican Party.  Basically, these are the Swamp things that have set the nation on fire while having eliminated the Fire Fighters.

Republicans got an administration that is incompetent. The White House policy process has been erratic and disorganized. It has failed to provide expert analysis or assistance to Congress and did little to effectively advocate the president’s policy in ways that could have united the party.

Republicans got an administration that is morally small. Trump’s proposed budget would require massive cuts in disease research, global development and agricultural programs — just as a famine gathers a hideous strength. The proposed budget practices random acts of gratuitous cruelty.

This is a pretty bad combination: empty, easily distracted, vindictive, shallow, impatient, incompetent and morally small. This is not the profile of a governing party.

Some Republicans choose to comfort themselves by repeating the mantra: “Gorsuch, Gorsuch, Gorsuch.” But that does nothing to change Trump’s stunningly high disapproval ratings. Or the stunning rebuke by the FBI director concerning his claim of being wiretapped by President Barack Obama. Or the stunning rejection of his central campaign promise by elements of his own party. Or his stunning ignorance of the basics of policy and leadership.

 What we have here is a stunning set of enablers that will basically bring the country down as long as they can push their ChristoFascist and kleptocratic, science denying agenda of hate through.  Their black, crusted over souls have been sold for a SCOTUS appointment and the denial of reproductive health care to women, the maintenance of a racist police state and justice system, and bigoted hate-filled interpretation of the rantings of an angry Iron Age Sky Fairy.

Somebody better save this country before there is nothing left of it to save.

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Tuesday Reads

AP photo of Assassination of russian ambassador in Turkey

AP photo of Assassination of russian ambassador in Turkey

So . . . It’s Tuesday

As usual these days, the news is not good. tRump will be POTUS in one month, and it’s very hard to imagine how our country survives as a democratic republic. All I can do is cling to hope that something will prevent this monster from becoming Hitler 2.0. It also looks like instability is going to keep rising around the world, and that too is a reaction to tRump–either directly or indirectly.

I’m also dealing with my housing situation and I’m basically paralyzed with fear and anxiety. I can’t recall the last time I felt so overwhelmed. It was probably back when I was at the worst of my drinking. I’m trying my best to focus on one day at a time, but it’s not easy.  I am going to move into the apartment I told you about, but the money I will have to live on is going to be more limited than it was for me where I am now. I’m feeling a lot of shame about being so poor. But I really have no choice about doing this. I will have to be very careful about what I spend on food. I’m feeling so emotional right now; I keep crying out of the blue. I guess it is the shock of having to move after all these years and not really knowing how I’m going to manage it.

Anyway, sorry to burden you all with my problems. Since I already shared what is happening, I felt I had to provide an update. I hope in time, I’ll be feeling a lot better about all this. This will be mostly a link dump, because I have to go sign my lease and deal with other stuff today.

The events that took place yesterday in Turkey and Germany are incredibly disturbing, because we will have an insane POTUS dealing with these kinds of attacks. And that follows on the incident with China a few days ago which was very likely a response to tRump’s foolish phone call with Taiwan and his ridiculous twitter comments. Here’s the latest.

The Washington Post: An assassination and a gunman’s final words put Turkey on edge.

A team of Russian detectives arrived in Turkey on Tuesday to join the investigation into the slaying of Moscow’s ambassador by a Turkish police officer — an act portrayed by both countries as an effort to rupture a rapprochement between the two regional powers backing opposite sides in Syria’s civil war.

The attack Monday also touched off sweeps across Turkey as authorities hunted for clues in the life of the 22-year-old gunman, who decried the violence in Syria after pumping several bullets into the ambassador at a photo exhibit.

Russia is a key ally of Syria’s government while Turkey has been a stalwart backer of rebel factions, although both nations have worked together on a plan to evacuate civilians and opposition fighters from their last enclave in the embattled Syrian city of Aleppo.

Officer Mevlut Mert Altintas gunned down Ambassador Andrei Karlov as the diplomat spoke before an exhibition of Russian photos at an art gallery in the Turkish capital of Ankara.

After killing the ambassador, Altintas, an officer with the riot police, denounced Russia’s role in the Syrian war, screaming: “Don’t forget Aleppo! Don’t forget Syria!” He was later killed in a gun battle with the police.

Truck plows into crowded Christmas market in Berlin

Truck plows into crowded Christmas market in Berlin

NBC News: Berlin Truck Attack: Pakistan Migrant Is Christmas Market Suspect.

BERLIN — A migrant from Pakistan was identified Tuesday as a suspect in a truck attack on a crowded Christmas market in Germany’s capital, but police said it was still unclear if he was the main perpetrator.

The man was arrested not far from the scene of Monday night’s carnage, which left 12 people dead and wounded nearly 50 others.

He entered the country last year and had applied for asylum, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said, adding that other people may be involved.

The suspect in custody has denied responsibility.

Berlin police chief Klaus Kandt told reporters: “We are not sure if the suspect in custody is the right man … in fact, in my view it is still not certain whether he really was the driver.”

A temporary accommodation center for migrants was raided overnight by special operations police, but no further arrests were made.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has faced political pressure over open-arms policy for refugees, earlier said it would be “hard for us all to bear” if the perpetrator “was someone who sought protection and asylum.”

Of course tRump will see this as ammunition for his war against immigrants.

On the corruption front, tRump’s conflicts of interest get worse and more frightening by the day.

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Think Progress: Under political pressure, Kuwait cancels major event at Four Seasons, switches to Trump’s D.C. hotel.

The Embassy of Kuwait allegedly cancelled a contract with a Washington, D.C. hotel days after the presidential election, citing political pressure to hold its National Day celebration at the Trump International Hotel instead.

A source tells ThinkProgress that the Kuwaiti embassy, which has regularly held the event at the Four Seasons in Georgetown, abruptly canceled its reservation after members of the Trump Organization pressured the ambassador to hold the event at the hotel owned by the president-elect. The source, who has direct knowledge of the arrangements between the hotels and the embassy, spoke to ThinkProgress on the condition of anonymity because the individual was not authorized to speak publicly. ThinkProgress was also able to review documentary evidence confirming the source’s account.

In the early fall, the Kuwaiti Embassy signed a contract with the Four Seasons. But after the election, members of the Trump Organization contacted the Ambassador of Kuwait, Salem Al-Sabah, and encouraged him to move his event to Trump’s D.C. hotel, the source said.

Kuwait has now signed a contract with the Trump International Hotel, the source said, adding that a representative with the embassy described the decision as political. Invitations to the event are typically sent out in January….

The apparent move by the Kuwaiti Embassy appears to be an effort to gain favor with president-elect through his business entanglements, and it appears to show Trump’s company leveraging his position as president-elect to extract payments from a foreign government. The latter, according to top legal experts, would be unconstitutional and could ultimately constitute an impeachable offense.

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NPR Morning Edition: Trump’s Doral Golf Course Highlights His Conflicts Of Interest.

President-elect Donald Trump has financial stakes in hundreds of companies. But one line of business is particularly important to him: golf courses.

He owns more than a dozen courses, which provide the Trump Organization with major streams of revenue and bolster his “luxury” brand image.

But they also created conflicts of interest. As president, he will be able to steer environmental and labor policies that could boost the income from his golf courses.

Take Trump National Doral. It’s a huge luxury resort near Miami, and it provides a good example of how Trump’s role as president and as businessman will come into conflict….

But at Doral, and for clubs and golf courses around the country, new labor regulations promoted by the Obama administration are having an impact on how they do business. And many course owners aren’t happy.

Brad Steele explains why. He’s the general counsel with the National Club Association, a trade group that represents country clubs and golf courses. Steele says the recession was tough on golf courses, and the recovery hasn’t been easy. “The last eight years have been relatively difficult for… the private club industry,” he says.

Among the labor rules Steele and his members are most concerned about is one that greatly expands the number of workers eligible for overtime pay. It’s been criticized by business groups and Republicans in Congress, and was recently put on hold by a federal judge.

It’s a rule that Steele thinks will be targeted by the new administration. “We are excited that now there’ll be an administration that starts to look a little more … critically at the impact that these kinds of things can have on business,” he says.

Read the rest at the link.

And then there are the gobsmacking cabinet appointments.

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Catherine Rampell at The Washington Post: Trump’s OMB pick seems poised to ignite a worldwide financial crisis.

Over the weekend, President-elect Donald Trump tapped Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) to be his director of the Office of Management and Budget. This Cabinet-level post is responsible for producing the federal budget, overseeing and evaluating executive branch agencies and otherwise advising the president on fiscal matters. It’s a position with tremendous, far-reaching power, even if the public doesn’t pay much attention to it.

Which is why it’s so concerning that Trump chose Mulvaney, who seems poised to help Trump ignite another worldwide financial crisis.

Mulvaney was first elected to Congress in 2010 as part of the anti-government, tea party wave. A founding member of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, he is among Congress’s most committed fiscal hawks. He has repeatedly voted against his own party’s budget proposals because they were insufficiently conservative.

All this will presumably put him at odds with Trump’s plans to balloon federal deficits through a $7 trillion cut in individual and corporate income taxes, another half-trillion in infrastructure subsidies and other major spending expansions.

It’s unclear how Trump’s fiscally profligate platform meshes with Mulvaney’s preference for penny-pinching. He might push back on Trump’s most expensive ideas. Maybe he’ll employ accounting gimmicks and magic asterisks to force Trump’s numbers to add up. Trump’s campaign advisers have already been doing this, disingenuously claiming that his policies will pay for themselves through unrealistic economic growth.

Or maybe Mulvaney’s job will simply be to convince the rest of the Freedom Caucus to stay mum when deficits explode.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

More news, links only:

Mother Jones: Trump’s Budget Director Pick Spoke at a John Birch Society Event.

Politico: Gingrich: Congress should change ethics laws for Trump.

The Hill: Gingrich suggests Trump pardon advisers who break the law.

Media Matters: Alex Jones Warns Trump That The CIA Is Trying To “Assassinate” The President-Elect.

Talking Points Memo: GOP Rep’s Vision Of Post-ACA World: You Wait To Treat Your Kid’s Broken Arm.

Center for Public Integrity: Donald Trump’s sons behind nonprofit selling access to president-elect.

Haaretz: With Donald Trump, Netanyahu Sees Opportunity for ‘Historic Changes’ for Israel.

What stories are you following today?