Notes and Comment Blog


Hello soldier

Jun 14th, 2018 11:17 am | By

The Washington Post seems oddly surprised that North Korea sees and portrays Trump’s lovefest with Kim from its own point of view as opposed to someone else’s.

North Korean state television aired a 42-minute documentary on Thursday that offered a different view of Kim Jong Un’s meeting with President Trump in Singapore.

Gee, imagine that.

Anyway, the point is, Trump made it easy for them. Of course he did.

Notably, the documentary appears to have captured several scenes that international news organizations missed — including one awkward moment when Trump was saluted by a North Korean military leader. The U.S. president then salutes in return.

Though only a brief interaction, it was telling that the salute was included in the documentary, according to Jean H. Lee, a North Korea scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington.

“This is a moment that will be used over and over in North Korea’s propaganda as ‘proof’ that the American president defers to the North Korean military,” Lee said. “It will be treated as a military victory by the North Koreans.”

Maybe if he’d done some actual preparation instead of telling us he’s been preparing for it his whole life, he would know better than to do that.

Presidents aren’t required to return salutes to military personnel, even U.S. soldiers — Ronald Reagan supposedly started the tradition of the president regularly returning the salute to members of the U.S. military. And it is highly out of the ordinary for a president to return the salute of a member of a foreign military.

Maybe, just maybe, non-military people shouldn’t salute at all.



He can’t pardon himself out of this

Jun 14th, 2018 10:25 am | By

And a larger one. Breaking news:

The New York State attorney general’s office filed a scathingly worded lawsuit on Thursday taking aim at the Donald J. Trump Foundation, accusing the charity and the Trump family of sweeping violations of campaign finance laws, self-dealing and illegal coordination with the presidential campaign.

The lawsuit, which seeks to dissolve the foundation and bar President Trump and three of his children from serving on nonprofit organizations, was an extraordinary rebuke of a sitting president. The attorney general also sent referral letters to the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission for possible further action, adding to Mr. Trump’s extensive legal challenges.

Well, you know, if you elect an obvious crook to high office, these things are going to happen. You could even argue that that’s a drawback to electing an obvious crook to high office.

While such foundations are supposed to be devoted to charitable activities, the petition asserts that Mr. Trump’s was often used to settle legal claims against his various businesses, even spending $10,000 on a portrait of Mr. Trump that was hung at one of his golf clubs.

The foundation was also used to curry political favor, the lawsuit asserts. During the 2016 race, the foundation became a virtual arm of Mr. Trump’s campaign, email traffic showed, with his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski directing its expenditures, even though such foundations are explicitly prohibited from political activities.

Wellll yes but “explicitly prohibited” when it’s Trump just means “politely discouraged.”

The attorney general’s office is seeking $2.8 million in restitution, and the foundation and its directors could face several million dollars in additional penalties, depending on how the court rules. The office is also seeking to bar the president from serving as a director, officer or trustee of another nonprofit for 10 years. Likewise, the petition seeks to bar Mr. Trump’s three eldest children, Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric, from the boards of nonprofits based in New York or that operate in New York for one year, which would have the effect of barring them from a wide range of groups based in other states.

The action could force Mr. Trump’s children to curtail relationships with a variety of organizations. Last year, for example, Ivanka Trump set up a charitable fund supporting “economic empowerment for women and girls.” After the election, Eric Trump distanced himself from his charitable foundation, which has also been under investigation by the attorney general’s office related to shifting its resources to the Trump Organization.

The foundation was explicitly “prohibited from participating or intervening in any political campaign on behalf of a candidate,” the petition notes, adding that Mr. Trump himself signed annual I.R.S. filings, under penalty of perjury in which he attested that the foundation did not engage in political activity. “This statutory prohibition is absolute.”

But roughly $2.8 million was raised for the foundation at a 2016 Iowa political fund-raiser for the Trump campaign. At the time, Mr. Trump skipped a Republican debate and set up his own event to raise money for veterans, though he used the event to skewer his opponents and celebrate his own accomplishments.

Lie down with crooks get up with sleaze.



Just one small item

Jun 14th, 2018 10:14 am | By

In a sea of items small and large.



They have a great fervor

Jun 13th, 2018 6:31 pm | By

The Post editorial board singles out one thing Trump has said about North Korea for opprobrium.

“His country does love him,” Mr. Trump said, speaking to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “His people, you see the fervor. They have a great fervor.”

Yes, you see the fervor, because anyone in North Korea who does not display fervor for their leader may end up in a concentration camp. No one in North Korea may criticize Mr. Kim and expect to survive. If someone is suspected of disloyalty, his or her entire family is liable to be imprisoned or killed. Between 80,000 and 120,000 people are kept in these political concentration camps, and almost none survive or are ever released. Rape and forcible abortion and infanticide are the policies of the camps.

“The people of North Korea faced egregious human rights violations by the government in nearly all reporting categories,” the State Department said in its 2017 human rights report, “including: extrajudicial killings; disappearances; arbitrary arrests and detentions; torture; political prison camps in which conditions were often harsh, life threatening, and included forced and compulsory labor; . . . arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, and correspondence, and denial of the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, religion, and movement; denial of the ability to choose their government; coerced abortion; trafficking in persons; . . . domestic forced labor through mass mobilizations and as a part of the re-education system.”

Trump doesn’t read humans rights reports, and he wouldn’t care about them if he did. He has other concerns.



I didn’t record it, did you record it?

Jun 13th, 2018 11:54 am | By

Well at least we know we don’t have to worry about their basic competence.

President Donald Trump and US officials seem confused over whether notes were taken during Trump’s private meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore on Tuesday.

After the two leaders signed a joint statement, Trump gave a wide-ranging press conference. During this time, according to a White House transcript, Trump and a person he refers to as “Mike,” thought to be Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, appeared to be unsure whether notes were taken during a 38-minute one-on-one meeting with Kim earlier in the day.

Business Insider then quotes from the official White House transcript:

Q: Is there a transcript of (inaudible)?

THE PRESIDENT: What?

Q: Is there a transcript of (inaudible)?

THE PRESIDENT: Mike, do they have a transcript? They probably have a rough transcript, which you can give us, if you have one.

Q: So that was recorded?

THE PRESIDENT: No, they didn’t record it. I don’t think they recorded it. Are there any recordings of it? I wish there were. Because it is interesting stuff.

Q: (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT: Say it?

Q: (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT: I don’t. We probably have some notes or something. But they have, actually, detailed notes, I would imagine. But we had a great conversation. It was a very heart-felt conversation.

Q: How do you believe (inaudible) verify —

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don’t have to verify because I have one of the great memories of all time. So I don’t have to. Okay? Okay?

So not even basic competence then. Okay? Okay.



Wake up Punchy!

Jun 13th, 2018 11:29 am | By

It’s good to know that at least Trump is taking it all seriously and paying close attention.

Never mind.



For signs of ideological deviation

Jun 13th, 2018 10:48 am | By

The Trump people have planted an agent in the State Department to vet people for Loyalty to Trump.

A senior advisor to the State Department appointed just two months ago has been quietly vetting career diplomats and American employees of international institutions to determine whether they are loyal to President Donald Trump and his political agenda, according to nearly a dozen current and former U.S. officials.

Of course loyalty to a particular president is not supposed to be a criterion for career diplomats, in fact it’s decidedly supposed not to be, but hey, the rules don’t apply when Trump is emperor.

Mari Stull, a former food and beverage lobbyist-turned-wine blogger under the name “Vino Vixen,” has reviewed the social media pages of State Department staffers for signs of ideological deviation. She has researched the names of government officials to determine whether they signed off on Obama-era policies — though signing off does not mean officials personally endorsed them but merely cleared them through the bureaucratic chain. And she has inquired about Americans employed by international agencies, including the World Health Organization and the United Nations, asking their colleagues when they were hired and by whom, according [to] the officials.

Are you now or have you ever been disloyal to Our Divine Leader?

Stull also requires that every directive issued by the office be reviewed by her first, causing a bureaucratic bottleneck and even stalling issues that appear to be priorities of the White House.

According to two officials, she has stripped all references to “international law” and “international order” from action items and memos coming from the international organization bureau.

Ah here we go again – just a few days ago Trump people were sneering at the “rules-based international order” in connection with the G7 meeting. They’re all authoritarians all the way down. There are no rules, there is only the will of the führer.

Stull was largely unknown in diplomatic circles in Washington until her appointment in April. Her bio cites her work as a lobbyist in the food and beverage industry, which included work for the Grocery Manufacturers of America. More recently, she served as a senior fellow at American Opportunity, a Virginia-based conservative group affiliated with former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore.

She also previously worked for the Food and Agriculture Organization as a partnerships and outreach advisor. But several diplomatic sources said that she left the organization on contentious terms.

Stull’s conservative politics can be gleaned from her decade-old wine blog, where one trip to the wine store for bottles of Veuve Clicquot champagne became a vehicle for knocking former President Jimmy Carter and promoting the expansion of oil drilling sites in the United States.

On her Twitter feed, Stull has criticized the U.N. as “bloated” and “biased,” dismissed the U.N. Human Rights Council as an “abject failure,” and derided UNESCO, the organization that supports international education, culture, and history, as the U.N.’s “seedy underbelly.”

So no wonder the emperor’s people hired her for the State Department.



“Very soon” and “very quickly”

Jun 13th, 2018 10:28 am | By

North Korea is pointing out the obvious fact that it rolled Dealmaker Trump.

A day after its leader’s historic talks with President Trump, North Korea wasted no time on Wednesday spinning the results in its favor, claiming it had won major concessions from the United States.

The authoritarian country’s state-controlled news media said that Mr. Trump had promised to eventually lift sanctions against the North and to end joint military drills with South Korea. It also said the United States had agreed to a phased, “step-by-step” denuclearization process for the North, rather than the immediate dismantling of its nuclear capability.

I guess it left unsaid the part about having no intention of denuclearizing at all.

The joint statement that Mr. Kim and Mr. Trump signed on Tuesday contained vaguely worded commitments to “complete denuclearization,” “new” relations between their countries and a “peace regime” on the peninsula. In many ways, it was a rehash of agreements that the two nations had reached in the past but never honored.

It was some words. Apparently Trump doesn’t realize that there have been some words before. It’s too bad he doesn’t listen to anyone but himself.

Only after the signing ceremony did it emerge that more commitments had apparently been made. In a post-summit news conference on Tuesday, Mr. Trump announced that the United States would end joint military exercises with its South Korean allies, which Pyongyang has long denounced as rehearsals for an invasion of the North. The news appeared to catch both the South Korean government and the United States military off guard.

Whoopsie! Gotta be ready for surprises when Trump is involved.

Also on Wednesday, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported that Mr. Trump had agreed to “lift sanctions” once bilateral relations improve. Mr. Trump had said on Tuesday that the sanctions would stay in place until North Korea dismantled enough of its nuclear program to make it difficult to reverse course. Mr. Trump said the denuclearization process would begin “very soon” and happen “very quickly.”

But the North Korean news agency said the two leaders had agreed to a phased process in which Pyongyang would bargain away its nuclear arsenal in stages, securing reciprocal actions from the United States at each step. Such a process has been opposed by American hard-liners like John R. Bolton, now Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, who has argued in the past that the North must quickly dismantle and ship out its nuclear weapons program in its entirety, as Libya did more than a decade ago.

Blah blah blah; the Nuclear Threat Is Over; Trump said so!

“President Obama said that North Korea was our biggest and most dangerous problem,” Mr. Trump said Wednesday on Twitter. “No longer — sleep well tonight!”

The god has taken care of it!



There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea

Jun 13th, 2018 9:46 am | By

Says Trump:

everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea. Meeting with Kim Jong Un was an interesting and very positive experience. North Korea has great potential for the future!

Foreign Policy gives us the background:

Here are the major talks and nuclear milestones that came before Trump:

1985: North Korea acceded to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It did not, however, complete an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards agreement.

1992: North and South Korea signed the Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, agreeing not to test, produce, posses, or deploy nuclear weapons, and agreeing to mutual verification inspections.

In 1994…

the Clinton administration and North Korea signed the “Agreed Framework” to freeze North Korea’s nuclear program. Most experts agree this was the closest Washington came to a successful deal with North Korea: Pyongyang agreed to freeze construction of nuclear reactors and production of plutonium in exchange for aid, fuel shipments, and other economic benefits.

The closest! But then…not so much.

2002: The Agreed Framework set up under Clinton broke down. President George W. Bush, who took a harder-line stance on Pyongyang than his predecessor, accused North Korea of cheating by secretly pursuing a uranium enrichment program. North Korea accused the United States of backing out of its end of the deal.

China hosted talks. No results. North Korea said nope nope nope.

North Korea conducted its first nuclear test in 2006. Talks collapsed over the issue of allowing inspectors in. Kim Jong Il died and his son Jong Un took over.

2012: President Obama tried to push Pyongyang to the negotiating table by ratcheting up sanctions. But Kim Jong Un scuppered a final deal that would have halted North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and allowed in international inspectors in exchange for U.S. aid. (Town says it is likely because Kim had to display strength to consolidate power after his father’s death.) Meanwhile, North Korea continued to make strides in its nuclear weapons program.

But then a miracle occurred, and Donald Trump by the power of his shining presence alone terminated the Nuclear Threat from North Korea.

H/t Leigh Williams



A tiny bit premature

Jun 13th, 2018 9:31 am | By

Great god almighty.

THERE IS NO LONGER A NUCLEAR THREAT FROM NORTH KOREA

It’s hard to understand how he can be that dumb and remember how to breathe.



Increasing our proverb deficit

Jun 12th, 2018 5:18 pm | By

Renowned China scholar and shoe-seller Ivanka Trump tweeted an Ancient Chinese Proverb yesterday, except that it was greeted by many people pointing out that it’s not a Chinese proverb. Oh yeah? Well what is it then?! A commonplace thought.

Those who say it can not be done, should not interrupt those doing it.

Oh, awesome. Also, those who don’t like what’s for dinner, can go out and get their own. Similarly, those who forget to walk the dog, can damn well clean up the poop right this second before doing anything else. Likewise, those who like to pull in lots of $$$ from expensive dreck, do well to have a rich corrupt daddy to make it all happen. Chinese proverbs, every one of them.

A lack of a clear source for Trump’s tweet has some people speculating the first daughter either made it up or, a more likely explanation, cut and pasted the saying from an unreliable website. In the meantime, the search for this “proverb” through ancient Chinese texts has become something of a viral Quixotic quest in China, filled with many a sarcastic comment:

“Did you get that from a fortune cookie?”

“估计是 fortune cookie 上学来的…”

But



But those were FOREIGN children

Jun 12th, 2018 5:00 pm | By

Dr. Seuss in 1941:

dr seuss adolf the wolf

The reference is to the ships that brought Jewish refugees from the Nazis to US ports only to be turned around and sent back to the Einsatzgruppen and the Zyklon B. Note the “America First” on Mama’s shirt.



Off with his head

Jun 12th, 2018 4:31 pm | By

I bet Trump was really jealous of Kim’s relationship with the press. He wishes he could shut up those pesky reporters who ask him questions he doesn’t like.

President Trump’s campaign manager on Tuesday called for a CNN White House correspondent to have his media credentials pulled for asking questions while Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un were signing an agreement at their Singapore summit.

Brad Parscale, who in February was named manager of Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign, took to Twitter to condemn the actions of Jim Acosta.

“Jim @Acosta should immediately have his press credentials suspended,” Parscale wrote. “He is an absolute disgrace!”

Why? Because he asked Trump a question, duh.

As Trump and Kim were signing the document in front of a small group of reporters, Acosta asked Trump: “Mr. President, did he agree to denuclearize?”

Trump looked up and responded, “We’re starting that process very quickly.”

After another reporter posed a question, Acosta asked whether Trump and Kim had discussed Otto Warmbier, an American student who died last year after returning to the United States from a labor camp in North Korea. Trump did not respond.

Outrageous, huh?

At a subsequent news conference, Trump called on Acosta for a question, cautioning him to “be respectful.”

No, reporters don’t have to be “respectful” of that jumped up toad. He’s not a god-emperor and he’s not the boss of us.

During his 2016 presidential bid, Trump’s campaign temporarily banned several news organizations from his rallies, including The Washington Post, citing dissatisfaction with the coverage.

Last month, Trump raised the prospect of taking away credentials from media outlets that he believes are reporting negatively on his administration.

I repeat. He’s not a god-emperor and he’s not the boss of us.



Well hey Toby Young liked it

Jun 12th, 2018 3:38 pm | By

Lionel Shriver wrote a thing in the Spectator a few days ago – a sadly prolix, bad-tempered, sneery, predictable thing, one that could have been written by anyone of that Tendency – Steve Bannon, Jordan Peterson, Grumpy McGrumpface, anyone. It’s a “what’s all this fuss about diversity you stupid snowflakes” piece, and it’s every bit as interesting as it sounds.

I’d been suffering under the misguided illusion that the purpose of mainstream publishers like Penguin Random House was to sell and promote fine writing.

Stop right there. That’s the very first sentence and already we’re in trouble, because that’s a crock, and she only said it for the sarcasm. The purpose of mainstream publishers is first of all to remain solvent; they want fine writing if they can get it without repelling buyers, but what they want ahead of anything else is writing that people want to buy.

And it’s all like that – stuffed with clichés and lacking actual thought and precision and clarity. The result, ironically, is pseudo-fine writing as opposed to the real thing. Kind of wannabe Mencken or Hitchens but actually just Milo.

A colleague’s forwarded email has set me straight. Sent to a literary agent, presumably this letter was also fired off to the agents of the entire Penguin Random House stable. The email cites the publisher’s ‘new company-wide goal’: for ‘both our new hires and the authors we acquire to reflect UK society by 2025.’ (Gotta love that shouty boldface.) ‘This means we want our authors and new colleagues to reflect the UK population taking into account ethnicity, gender, sexuality, social mobility and disability.’ The email proudly proclaims that the company has removed ‘the need for a university degree from nearly all our jobs’ — which, if my manuscript were being copy-edited and proof-read by folks whose university-educated predecessors already exhibited horrifyingly weak grammar and punctuation, I would find alarming.

Etc etc etc. You know what it says without having to read it. She may have a ghost of a point, in that publishers and others shouldn’t focus on demographic markers to the exclusion of substance, but then again that’s probably not what Penguin has in mind in the first place, is it, and Shriver probably knows that, doesn’t she.

Drunk on virtue, Penguin Random House no longer regards the company’s raison d’être as the acquisition and dissemination of good books. Rather, the organisation aims to mirror the percentages of minorities in the UK population with statistical precision. Thus from now until 2025, literary excellence will be secondary to ticking all those ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual preference and crap-education boxes. We can safely infer from that email that if an agent submits a manuscript written by a gay transgender Caribbean who dropped out of school at seven and powers around town on a mobility scooter, it will be published, whether or not said manuscript is an incoherent, tedious, meandering and insensible pile of mixed-paper recycling. Good luck with that business model. Publishers may eschew standards, but readers will still have some.

Blah blah blah ha ha ha except that’s a caricature, and too broad and sloppy to be really amusing.

The BBC reported on this item and got a response from Penguin:

A Penguin Random House spokesperson said: “Our company-wide goal is driven by our strong belief that the books we publish should reflect the diverse society in which we live.

“After all, books shape our culture, and this should not be driven only by people who come from a narrow section of society.

“We acquire all our writers on talent, first and foremost.

“However, in setting this goal we recognised that we needed to do more in actively seeking out talented writers from communities under-represented on the nation’s bookshelves.”

It’s a matter of seeking out, and of correcting the unconscious tendency to prefer people more like Oneself. It’s not a matter of Shriver’s snide parody.

The Guardian reports today:

Lionel Shriver has been dropped from the judging panel for a writing competition run by magazine Mslexia, after the author slammed publisher Penguin Random House for its diversity and inclusion policies.

Debbie Taylor, editorial director and founder of Mslexia, said that Shriver’s comments in a piece for the Spectator magazine were “not consistent with Mslexia’s ethos and mission” and would “alienate the very women we are trying to support”. Consequently, Shriver would no longer be a judge on their annual short story competition, she said.

At first blush that looks like punitive censorship, but then again if you were entering a writing competition would you want Shriver judging your entry? Would you suspect she would apply criteria that had more to do with snobbery than with quality? Or to put it another way that snarly piece comes across as just mean first of all, as childishly insulting, as hostile. Trumpish. Hostility might not be the best quality for a writing contest judge.

Shriver’s comments were widely condemned over the weekend – one author called the piece “deeply embarrassing” – but gained support from journalist Toby Young.

Ah yes, Toby Young – well he’s another, isn’t he, another of those sneery types who aren’t as clever as they think they are.

It takes a lot of talent to be a good curmudgeon. There aren’t many of them.



Donnie and Jongy

Jun 12th, 2018 12:09 pm | By

Creepy beyond belief – the White House created a propaganda movie to go with the summit.

Reporters crowded into a Singapore auditorium Tuesday, expecting President Trump to walk out and announce the results of his historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Suddenly, two huge screens on either side of the empty podium came to life. Soaring music boomed over the speakers, and the reporters were bombarded with a montage portraying North Korea as some sort of paradise.

Golden sunrises. Gleaming skylines and high-speed trains. Children skipping through Kim Il Sung square in Pyongyang, North Korean flags waving between images of Egyptian pyramids, the Taj Mahal and the Lincoln Memorial.

In a split-screen shot, Kim Jong Un waved to an adoring crowd while President Trump stood beside him with his thumb in the air. The pair appeared over and over again, like running mates in a campaign video.

The film went on like this for several minutes, with brief interludes of missiles, soldiers and warships interrupting the fanfare. Some journalists, unable to understand the Korean-language narration, assumed they were watching one of Pyongyang’s infamous propaganda films. “What country are we in?” asked a reporter from the filing center.

Then it played again, with English narration, then Trump came out and said haha surprise the White House made it, to encourage Kim.

“I hope you liked it,” Trump told the reporters. “I thought it was good. I thought it was interesting enough to show. … And I think he loved it.”

As the president explained it, the video was an elevator pitch — the sort of glitzy production that Trump might have once used to persuade an investor to finance a hotel and that he now hopes will persuade the leader of one of the most repressive regimes in the world to end nearly 70 years of international isolation and militant hostility to the United States.

Deep resonant voice: Will he choose peace or will he choose annihilation?

“Of those alive today, only a small number will leave a lasting impact,” the narrator said near the beginning, as alternating shots of Trump, Kim and North Korean pageantry flashed on the screen. “And only a very few will make decisions or take actions to renew their homeland, or change the course of history.”

Geddit? Geddit? Trump is one of them! Trump is one of the very very very few. Bow down before Trump. Trump is glorious, resplendent, shining, excrorishilated.

“You can have medical breakthroughs, an abundance of resources, innovative technology and new discoveries,” the narrator said, the footage more and more resembling a Hollywood movie trailer as it built to its finale:

“Featuring President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un in a meeting to remake history,” the narrator concluded, as Korean words flashed on a black background: “It is going to become a reality?”

STARRING PRESIDENT DONALD DONALD DONALD TRUMP.

Trump admitted that some of the imagery he pitched may have been a little far-fetched, as North Korea is mired in poverty, internationally isolated, and has been mismanaged for decades by a family of dictators — Kim, his father and grandfather.

“That was done at the highest level of future development,” Trump said of his pitch video. “I told him, you may not want this. You may want to do a much smaller version. … You may not want that — with the trains and everything.”

He waved his hands. “You know, with super everything, to the top. It’s going to be up to them,” he said.

And then, in his usual style, Trump was thinking out loud about the “great condos” that might one day be built on the “great beaches” of North Korea.

“I explained it,” he said. “You could have the best hotels in the world. Think of it from the real estate perspective.”

Condos! Gold-encrusted condos! Golden golf courses! Gold leaf casinos! Gold dogs, gold horsies, gold chocolate cake!



To drum up business from foreign governments

Jun 12th, 2018 11:20 am | By

Then there’s that emoluments case.

A federal judge on Monday sharply criticized the Justice Department’s argument that President Trump’s financial interest in his company’s hotel in downtown Washington is constitutional, a fresh sign that the judge may soon rule against the president in a historic case that could head to the Supreme Court.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland, charge that Mr. Trump’s profits from the hotel violate anti-corruption clauses of the Constitution that restrict government-bestowed financial benefits, or emoluments, to presidents beyond their official salary. They say the hotel is siphoning business from local convention centers and hotels.

It’s siphoning business because people see patronizing the hotel as a way to bribe Trump to talk to them, probably accurately.

The Trump Organization signed a 60-year-lease in 2013 with the federal government for the building, renovated it and reopened it as a hotel just before Mr. Trump was elected president. Since then, the plaintiffs claim, the hotel has made special efforts to drum up business from foreign governments, including appointing a head of diplomatic sales. Mr. Trump himself regularly visits.

I didn’t know the hotel had appointed a head of diplomatic sales. That’s corrupt as hell right there.



Baby idiot speaks

Jun 12th, 2018 10:13 am | By

Jesus h christ almighty.



The very special bond

Jun 12th, 2018 10:01 am | By

Nicholas Kristof doesn’t quite agree with Trump’s take on the hangout with Kim.

Trump made a huge concession — the suspension of military exercises with South Korea. That’s on top of the broader concession of the summit meeting itself, security guarantees he gave North Korea and the legitimacy that the summit provides his counterpart, Kim Jong-un.

Within North Korea, the “very special bond” that Trump claimed to have formed with Kim will be portrayed this way: Kim forced the American president, through his nuclear and missile tests, to accept North Korea as a nuclear equal, to provide security guarantees to North Korea, and to cancel war games with South Korea that the North has protested for decades.

In exchange for these concessions, Trump seems to have won astonishingly little. In a joint statement, Kim merely “reaffirmed” the same commitment to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula that North Korea has repeatedly made since 1992.

“They were willing to de-nuke,” Trump crowed at his news conference after his meetings with Kim. Trump seemed to believe he had achieved some remarkable agreement, but the concessions were all his own.

Funny how the genius deal-maker is so excited about a mere statement. Kim said something and wham, miraculous solution achieved. Trump knows Kim means it how exactly? How is it different from the Iran deal that he abruptly pulled us out of? These are difficult questions.

The most remarkable aspect of the joint statement was what it didn’t contain. There was nothing about North Korea freezing plutonium and uranium programs, nothing about destroying intercontinental ballistic missiles, nothing about allowing inspectors to return to nuclear sites, nothing about North Korea making a full declaration of its nuclear program, nothing about a timetable, nothing about verification, not even any clear pledge to permanently halt testing of nuclear weapons or long-range missiles.

Kim seems to have completely out-negotiated Trump, and it’s scary that Trump doesn’t seem to realize this.

Scary and a great strain on the organ of credulity.

In 1994 there was a deal to freeze North Korea’s plutonium program, complete with a strict monitoring system; nothing like that here – just “he promised.”

There was also something frankly weird about an American president savaging Canada’s prime minister one day and then embracing the leader of the most totalitarian country in the world.

…the next. Yes, there was.

“He’s a very talented man,” Trump said of Kim. “I also learned that he loves his country very much.”

In an interview with Voice of America, Trump said “I like him” and added: “He’s smart, loves his people, he loves his country.”

Oh god. Baby Idiot strikes again.

He mumbled something about human rights but then quickly mumbled something about human rights in other places too so shut up.

Incredibly, Trump told Voice of America that he had this message for the North Korean people: “I think you have somebody that has a great feeling for them. He wants to do right by them and we got along really well.”

Glorious genius diplomat! Thank god he didn’t prepare, so that he could come out with sapience like that!

My guess is that Kim flattered Trump, as Moon has, and that Trump simply didn’t realize how little he was getting. On my most recent visit to North Korea, officials were asking me subtle questions about the differences in views of Mike Pompeo and Nikki Haley; meanwhile, Trump said he didn’t need to do much homework.

Whatever our politics, we should all want Trump to succeed in reducing tensions on the Korean Peninsula, and it’s good to see that Trump now supports engagement rather than military options. There will be further negotiations, and these may actually freeze plutonium production and destroy missiles. But at least in the first round, Trump seems to have been snookered.

But he’ll never grasp that, so whatever.



Tremendous

Jun 12th, 2018 9:42 am | By

Kim played Trump like a violin.

US President Donald Trump says his historic talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un that ended in a joint agreement were “tremendous”.

The signed document includes a pledge from Mr Kim to rid the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons.

But the Kims have been saying that for years, while doing the opposite.

If Trump had done any preparation he might have known that. If he had brought other people into the room with him they might have been able to tell him that. Granted it’s more likely that he would have forgotten the first and ignored the second, but as it is, he made it impossible for either to happen.

But in an extraordinary media conference later, Mr Trump announced details not in the paper.

He said he would halt US military exercises in South Korea, something widely seen as a concession.

Widely seen as because it is. What else would it be?

In a post-summit interview with ABC News, the president said he was confident that the agreement meant full denuclearisation.

“Yeah, he’s de-nuking, I mean he’s de-nuking the whole place. It’s going to start very quickly. I think he’s going to start now,” he said.

“I think he trusts me and I trust him,” Mr Trump added.

Oh, whew. That’s all right then. If Trump trusts Kim then there’s no more to be said – his radar is that good. He said so himself.



Black voters were twice as likely to be removed from the rolls

Jun 11th, 2018 4:54 pm | By

Ari Berman on why the Supreme Court ruling on Ohio’s voter suppression matters:

In 1965, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act to end the disenfranchisement of black voters in the Jim Crow South. The law was remarkably successful in dismantling barriers to the ballot box like literacy tests and poll taxes, but a few decades later, Congress recognized that more still needed to be done to boost political participation. In the 1988 presidential election, for example, barely half of eligible African American voters cast a ballot.

In response to persistently low voter turnout, Congress passed the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 to allow voters to register at Department of Motor Vehicles offices and other public agencies. President Bill Clinton called it “a sign of a new vibrancy in our democracy.” The “motor voter” law had an immediate impact: More than 30 million people registered or updated their registrations through the NVRA in its first year in effect. Roughly 16 million people per year have used it to register ever since.

That’s good; it’s a good thing; we don’t want people to have to make “a little effort” to vote when they were prevented from voting for a century after the Civil War. We want to eliminate as much need for “a little effort” as possible, because what are minor obstacles to people with cars and internet access and free time are prohibitive barriers to people with two or three badly-paid jobs and no car and children and no nearby internet access or bus route.

One of the key features of the law was to protect voters from being wrongly removed from the voter rolls. The NVRA stipulated that someone could not be removed from the rolls “by reason of the person’s failure to vote.” But in a 5-4 decision Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that the state of Ohio could remove infrequent voters from the rolls, severely weakening the power of the NVRA and opening the door to wider voter purging.

Ohio purged more than 2 million registered voters between 2011 and 2016, more than any other state. Black voters in the state’s largest counties were twice as likely as white voters to be removed from the rolls. In a dissent to Monday’s ruling, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that the court’s opinion “entirely ignores the history of voter suppression against which the NVRA was enacted and upholds a program that appears to further the very disenfranchisement of minority and low-income voters that Congress set out to eradicate.”

This is why talking about having more respect for people who make a little effort to vote is so wrongheaded.