Wednesday Reads: Just what exactly are the Republicans Nominating?

Steve Bell, UK The Guardian

Steve Bell, UK, The Guardian

Good Afternoon!

I’ve watched the Republican Party go straight down the drain from about the time they nominated and beatified a senile old B movie Actor for President.  I really thought that was about the worst they could do after Richard Nixon. Then came Dubya Bush.  That had to be the worst, right? Well, I was wrong.  They’re in the process of nominating a reality show celebrity with longstanding ties to the Mafia and the White Supremacy movement whose lies more than 90% of the time and has absolutely no understanding of the world beyond his penis and phony persona.  He’s a huckster with so many failed businesses–seeded by his inheritance and tax incentives–that it’s even difficult to take him seriously  when he touts his special deal-making talent.

Yes, don’t we all wish we had a rich father who co-signed every deal and whose death ended the dealing because there was no longer a co-signer?  Any one could do business on those terms.   The laundry list above is basically what the media buries below the free advertising it bestows on a man that should be a pariah.

The other thing, too, that I think the media has to hold his feet to the fire on is he’s gotten away with this notion that he’s a superior deal-maker, and a very successful businessman. I thought about it after he went after the Iran deal. He said, “Obama negotiated this horrible deal with Iran. It’s a bad deal, and when I get to Washington, there won’t be bad deals anymore. I’m a great deal-maker.” And then the reality, the objective reality, is that he’s been a horrible deal-maker. His career is littered with bad deals. And yet, he’s essentially now a human shingle. He’s not someone who’s a particularly adept deal-maker, if you look at his whole career.

Donald Trump Biographer Timothy O’Brien

Why are the Republicans doing this to our nation?  How much do they despise our country?


“This is too unreal. Can we watch something more realistic like Star Wars?” Philip Ytournel, Denmark’s Politiken

The consolidation that is now occurring within the Republican Party around this horrible human being who is widely recognized as being essentially morally and intellectually bankrupt is beyond horrifying.  It is the stuff that makes the most cynical of us start applying the Godwin Frame.  What kind of candidate is praised by the pariah state of North Korea? 

Writing in DPRK Today, a self-described Chinese North Korean scholar named Han Yong Mook called the presumptive Republican nominee “wise” and a “far-sighted presidential candidate.”
“The president that U.S. citizens must vote for is not that dull Hillary — who claimed to adapt the Iranian model to resolve nuclear issues on the Korean Peninsula — but Trump, who spoke of holding direct conversation with North Korea,” he wrote.

I cannot understand how many people do not see the appalling lack of character in this man. He is not fit for any level of public service and should’ve been cut off from any use of public funds years ago. It’s amazing to me that he’s not run afoul of the law before however, I am very aware that getting a rich white man into jail for stealing public treasure and racketeering is not an easily accomplished task given they can run amok in the justice system for some time.  The Trump “University” scam should have landed the man in jail.

Fernando Liera, Mexico

Fernando Liera, Mexico

I’ve taught university for some time both in for-profit Universities and state run Universities and community colleges.  The stories coming out of  the failed Trump “University” are horrifying.  An article in The Atlantic written by Matt Ford refers to it as “The Art of the Swindle.”  That’s very aptly put.

Predators, by and large, do not attack the strongest prey in the wild. They instead target the vulnerable, the very young, and the very old—the prey that is least able to defend itself.

Trump University, the defunct real-estate education program created by presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, pursued a similar approach, according to its former employees in legal documents unsealed Tuesday.

“Based upon my personal experience and employment, I believe that Trump University was a fraudulent scheme, and that it preyed upon the elderly and uneducated to separate them from their money,” said Ronald Schnackenberg, a sales manager at Trump University in 2006 and 2007.

Those declarations and other internal Trump University documents depict an aggressive, ethically dubious business model that targeted potential customers’ financial fears and socioeconomic anxieties and offered Trump’s personal brand as the solution—a strategy later echoed in his presidential campaign.

The model of registering students in for-profit Universities is frequently to line up Sales People that have innocuous names like Student Adviser or Recruiter to apply the screws. Many of these For-Profits have either failed or reformed under lawsuit, threat of losing any accreditation they may have achieved or under threat of losing the ability to provide Student Loans.  Trump “University” was never accredited and therefore never regulated under Federal laws.  So, it operated outside even the worst of these models.   Completely false information was provided to students as part of a heavy-handed sales pitch.  This article from HuffPo has some extremely interesting documents that were released by Judge Curiel via a decision related to Art Cohen v. Donald J. Trump.

Since he launched his presidential bid last year, Trump has offered conflicting accounts of his involvement with Trump University. In March, Trump defended the company during a debate, saying that its salespeople “did a good job” and that the program had an “A” rating from the Better Business Bureau. (The truth is a little more complicated.) Trump has also claimed in promotional videos that he hand-picked the instructors at Trump U.

The playbooks instruct salespeople to mention Trump by name in order to intimidate potential customers who are hesitant to spend thousands of dollars on a Trump University product. “Mr. Trump will not listen to excuses,” the playbook tells salespeople to say, “and neither will we.”

In another scenario, salespeople are instructed to berate potential customers, telling them, “You’ve had your entire adult life to accomplish your financial goals… and you’re not even close to where you need to be.”


But according to more than 5,000 former Trump University customers, it wasn’t their plans that were flawed — it was the Trump U. business model itself. Many of the former students now suing Trump say they were pressured into spending money they didn’t have on Trump University products.

The playbook instructed Trump University employees on how to target potential customers with bad credit. “What most people do,” reads one prompt, “is handle the tuition by putting it on their credit cards because it gives them the ability to make very small monthly payments and maintain a low overhead to run their real estate project.” Later on, it says, they can “use their success in real estate to pay off the banks in a couple of months or so.”

“However, you don’t seem to have the advantage of having that kind of leveraging power,” the pitch continues. “Do you have any other seed capital or savings set aside to further invest into your real estate projects?”


The playbook also emphasizes the need to collect key financial information from potential customers. Salespeople were instructed to find out if clients were single parents who “had three children that may need money for food,” for example, or if they were a “middle-aged commuter.”


Steve Bell, UK. The Guardian

This is an equally horrifying lede from NY Magazine : “Trump University Told Recruiters to Target Single Parents With Hungry Kids.” The analysis is provided by Eric Levitz.

It’s worth remembering that even before Donald Trump launched his pseudo-fascist campaign for the presidency, he was already among the most loathsome humans our great nation has ever produced. On Tuesday, U.S. district court judge Gonzalo Curiel ordered the public release of Trump University’s “playbooks” — guides the (bait-and-switch scheme masquerading as a) real-estate school used to recruit (or con) its enrollees. The playbooks show that prospective students were encouraged to pay for the program, which could cost up to $35,000, by going into credit-card debt.

“We teach the technique of using OPM … other people’s money,” reads one sales script that was obtained by The Hill. “Most students who are invited to this program use established lines of credit, like a credit card, utilizing the bank’s money, OPM, to handle their tuition. I’m not talking about tens of thousands of dollars, but on the other hand, not a couple of hundred dollars either.”

In practice, Trump University staff delivered this message a bit more crudely, according to newly released written testimony obtained by the New York Times. “It’s O.K., just max out your credit card,” Corrine Sommer, an event manager at the school, recalled her colleagues telling prospective students.

If a cash-strapped applicant said, “I don’t like using my credit cards and going into debt,” the playbook instructed recruiters to respond, “[D]o you like living paycheck to paycheck? … Do you enjoy seeing everyone else but yourself in their dream houses and driving their dreams cars with huge checking accounts? Those people saw an opportunity, and didn’t make excuses, like what you’re doing now.”

Most charmingly, the playbooks suggest recruiters exploit the desperation of a single parent with hungry children in order to convince said parent to take on massive credit-card debt.

The Republican Party is well known for its massive and nasty Opposition Research and character smear blitzes.  Roger Stone is with Trump so he obviously was not on the job working against his friend.  However, where were the people behind Jeb Bush?  This massive amount of information has been out there. The Politico link which leads to the first quote is an interview with five Trump Biographers who all basically find him to be an appalling person with pages of examples and citations.

Both the press and the Republican party have not done due diligence with Trump.  Are they that obsessed about Hillary Clinton that they’ll let a fascist in the White House with less morality than any sentient being slithering, crawling, or slinking in the deepest, darkest nether regions of our planet?

So, the Mafia connections are pretty brazen also. You can read my friend Peter’s take on them here at First Draft.  Peter excerpts a particularly horrifying article from David Cay Johnston.

David Rowe, Australia, The Australian Financial Review

David Rowe, Australia, The Australian Financial Review

I’m not the only one who has picked up signals over the years. Wayne Barrett, author of a 1992 investigative biography of Trump’s real-estate dealings, has tied Trump to mob and mob-connected men.

No other candidate for the White House this year has anything close to Trump’s record of repeated social and business dealings with mobsters, swindlers, and other crooks. Professor Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian, said the closest historical example would be President Warren G. Harding and Teapot Dome, a bribery and bid-rigging scandal in which the interior secretary went to prison. But even that has a key difference: Harding’s associates were corrupt but otherwise legitimate businessmen, not mobsters and drug dealers.

This is part of the Donald Trump story that few know. As Barrett wrote in his book, Trump didn’t just do business with mobbed-up concrete companies: he also probably met personally with Salerno at the townhouse of notorious New York fixer Roy Cohn, in a meeting recounted by a Cohn staffer who told Barrett she was present. This came at a time when other developers in New York were pleading with the FBI to free them of mob control of the concrete business.

From the public record and published accounts like that one, it’s possible to assemble a clear picture of what we do know. The picture shows that Trump’s career has benefited from a decades-long and largely successful effort to limit and deflect law enforcement investigations into his dealings with top mobsters, organized crime associates, labor fixers, corrupt union leaders, con artists and even a one-time drug trafficker whom Trump retained as the head of his personal helicopter service.

Now that he’s running for president, I pulled together what’s known – piecing together the long history of federal filings, court records, biographical anecdotes, and research from my and Barrett’s files. What emerges is a pattern of business dealings with mob figuresnot only local figures, but even the son of a reputed Russian mob boss whom Trump had at his side at a gala Trump hotel opening, but has since claimed under oath he barely knows.

Tom Robbins writing for Vice also has some very telling information.

Actually, there’s an old FBI memo that puts a different spin on Trump’s attitude about the mob. It is a classic example of a young but already shrewd Trump hard at work. It was written in 1981 by a veteran FBI agent, reflecting meetings that he and a fellow FBI official were having with the 35-year-old developer from Queens, then a rising star in New York’s business firmament. The topic of the meetings was Trump’s pending plunge into the Atlantic City casino industry. And while the memo was written in the stilted language of FBI-bureaucratese, Trump’s wide-eyed comments were recorded with what seems like barely suppressed amusement. “Trump advised agents that he had read in the press and media and had heard from various acquaintances that Organized Crime elements were known to operate in Atlantic City,” the memo states.

Then, there are the ties to white supremacist groups. This recent Forbes article is on his propensity to retweet NAZIs.  Okay, I finally Godwinned.

Trump is “giving us the old wink-wink,” wrote Andrew Anglin, editor of a white supremacist website called The Daily Stormer, after Trump retweeted two other “white genocide” theorists within a single minute. “Whereas the odd White genocide tweet could be a random occurrence, it isn’t statistically possible that two of them back to back could be a random occurrence. It could only be deliberate…Today in America the air is cold and it tastes like victory.”

It is possible that Trump ― who, according to the campaign, does almost all of his own tweeting ― is unfamiliar with the term “white genocide” and doesn’t do even basic vetting of those whose tweets he amplifies to his seven million followers. But the reality is that there are dozens of tweets mentioning @realDonaldTrump each minute, and he has an uncanny ability to surface ones that come from accounts that proudly proclaim their white supremacist leanings.

There’s this article from The Atlantic which diagram’s Trump’s language to the KKK of the 1920s which would indicate his father’s influence. Where was the sunlight on this last fall?  The analysis is by Kelly J. Baker.

Making America great required exclusion, intolerance, and vitriol. Unfortunately for the Klan, their message of 100 percent Americanism started losing ground by the end of the 1920s. Public scandals involving Klan leaders and convictions of Klansmen for murder made white Americans reconsider their allegiance to the order and its increasingly tarnished ideals. The Klan started to appear too extreme and dangerous for even the slightest association. Their steep rise was tempered by an equally steep fall. Moreover, the Klan developed an image problem: their persistent association with racism—which continues to plague the modern Klans despite efforts to rebrand their image to reflect the love of the white race, not racism per se.

The Klan’s message of 100 percent Americanism and restrictive immigration resonated in the 1920s, and their message gains traction again and again every time white Americans encounter social change and shifting demographics. With a black president, LGBT equality, an enormous Hispanic community, and predictions that America will soon be a majority minority country, their message resonates now, too. That’s why a former Klan leader is encouraging other white supremacists to vote for Trump and why The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos found that extremist white-rights groups also plan to vote for him. Maybe Trump doesn’t know better. Or maybe the echoes are less like echoes and more like the purposeful conjuring of a racialized message—one that too many white voters still want to hear.

You can follow any of these links to Trump’s sordid past, present, and undoubtedly our conjoined future.  Perhaps both the Republican Party and the media are so caught up in their own frames that they’ve failed to take Trump seriously. We’re beginning to see more standard vetting now.  However, it’s nearly too late.  Phillip Bump of WAPO analyzes the consolidation of the party around Trump.

What’s changed, though, is that Republicans have warmed up to the guy. As the Times writes, “[U]nfavorable views toward Mr. Trump among Republican voters have plummeted 15 percentage points since last month; 21 percent now express an unfavorable view of him, down from 36 percent in April.” We pointed out last week that consolidating the Republican base would make Trump’s favorability numbers look more like Clinton’s, and voila.

The subtext to that is this: With their nominee settled, Republicans are rallying around him. There’s more evidence to this effect than is worth delineating, but this is not uncommon for presidential races.

There will be undoubtedly be much white washing.  He’s still getting more free press than any one ever has before.  Just this week as Clinton was introducing major policy initiatives on the military and veterans, the  cable TV cameras were focused on an empty podium waiting the wildly-coiffed one.  Corporate news chases profits and this man needs to be stopped at all costs.  The two countries in the world that welcome Trump are Putin’s Russia and North Korea. The rest are horrified.  We all should be horrified.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Saturday Reads: America’s Greatest Mystery

JFK Assassination

Good Morning!!

In less than two weeks, our nation will mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. I’ve spent quite a bit of time recently reading books and articles about the assassination and it’s aftermath. I have wanted to write a post about it, but I just haven’t been able to do it. For me, the JFK assassination is still a very painful issue–in fact, it has become more and more painful for me over the years as I’ve grown older and wiser and more knowledgeable about politics and history. Anyway, I thought I’d take a shot at writing about it this morning. I may have more to say, as we approach the anniversary. I’m going to focus on the role of the media in defending the conclusions of the Warren Commission.

I think most people who have read my posts in the past probably know that I think the JFK assassination was a coup, and that we haven’t really had more than a very limited form of democracy in this country since that day. We probably will never know who the men were who shot at Kennedy in Dallas in 1963, but anyone who has watched the Zapruder film with anything resembling an open mind, has to know that there was more than one shooter; because Kennedy was shot from both the front and back.

The reasons Kennedy died are varied and complex. He had angered a number of powerful groups inside as well as outside the government.

– Powerful members of the mafia had relationships with JFK’s father Joseph Kennedy, and at his behest had helped carry Illinois–and perhaps West Virginia–for his son. These mafia chiefs expected payback, but instead, they got Bobby Kennedy as Attorney General on a crusade to destroy organized crime. In the 1960s both the CIA and FBI had used the mafia to carry out operations.

– FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover hated Bobby Kennedy for “interfering” with the FBI by ordering Hoover to hire more minorities and generally undercutting Hoover’s absolute control of the organization.

– Elements within the CIA hated Kennedy for his refusal to provide air support for the Bay of Pigs invasion (which had been planned by Vice President Nixon well before the 1960 election), and for firing CIA head Allen Dulles.

– Texas oil men like H.L. Hunt and Clint Murchison hated Kennedy for pushing for repeal of the oil depletion allowance.

– The military hated Kennedy because of the Bay of Pigs, his decision to defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis by pulling U.S. missiles out of Turkey in return for removal of the missiles from Cuba instead of responding with a nuclear attack, his efforts to reach out to both the Nikita Krushchev of the Soviet Union and Fidel Castro of Cuba, his firing of General Edward Walker, and his decision to pull the military “advisers” out of Vietnam.

– Vice President Lyndon Johnson hated both Kennedys, and he knew he was on the verge of being dropped from the presidential ticket in 1964. In addition, scandals involving his corrupt financial dealings were coming to a head, and the Kennedys were pushing the stories about Johnson cronies Bobby Baker and Billy Sol Estes in the media.

What I know for sure is that after what happened to Kennedy (and to Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy), there is no way any president would dare to really challenge the military and intelligence infrastructure within the government. Richard Nixon found that out when a number of the same people who were involved in the Kennedy assassination helped to bring him down.

To long-term government bureaucracies, the POTUS is just passing through the government that they essentially control. Any POTUS who crosses them too often is asking for trouble. People who think President Obama should simply force the CIA, NSA, FBI and the military to respect the rights of American citizens should think about that for a minute. Can we as a nation survive the assassination of another president?
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