Notes and Comment Blog

Emblazoned with the seal of the President of the United States

Mar 5th, 2018 10:24 am | By

Prepare to gag.

Pro Publica reports:

President Donald Trump loves putting his name on everything from ties to steaks to water — and, of course, his buildings. But now the Trump Organization appears to be borrowing a brand even more powerful than the gilded Trump moniker: the presidential seal.

In recent weeks, the Trump Organization has ordered the manufacture of new tee markers for golf courses that are emblazoned with the seal of the President of the United States. Under federal law, the seal’s use is permitted only for official government business. Misuse can be a crime.

Is using it to advertise and glorify the president’s profit-making golf courses misuse or is it official government business? That’s a tough one.

Past administrations have policed usage vigilantly. In 2005 the Bush administration ordered the satirical news website The Onion to remove a replica of the seal. Grant M. Dixton, associate White House counsel, wrote in a letter to The Onionthat the seal “is not to be used in connection with commercial ventures or products in any way that suggests presidential support or endorsement.”

Oh. It’s not? Huh. Then I guess sticking them up on the president’s profit-making golf courses is definitely misuse.

Eagle Sign and Design, a metalworking and sign company with offices in New Albany, Indiana, and Louisville, Kentucky, said it had received an order to manufacture dozens of round, 12-inch replicas of the presidential seal to be placed next to the tee boxes at Trump golf course holes. Two tee markers are placed on the ground at the start of a hole on golf courses to indicate where golfers should stand to take their first swing.

“We made the design, and the client confirmed the design,” said Joseph E. Bates, who owns Eagle Sign, declining to say who the client was.

They share a photo of tables covered with the things.

An order form for the tee markers reviewed by ProPublica and WNYC says the customer was “Trump International.” The Facebook page for Eagle Sign and Design shows a photo of the markers in an album with the caption “Trump International Golf Course.”

Slea-zeeeee. Also apparently a crime.

Eagle Sign makes a wide array of tee markers out of bronze and aluminum, and has made other signs for Trump’s courses, according to its website. At some of Trump’s golf courses, tee markers have sported the Trump family crest, which he took from the family that originally owned Mar-a-Lago without permission and then altered by adding his own name.

Bahahahahahahahahaha he’s so classy.

Is it hard to understand why this rule exists? I don’t think so.

The “law is an expression of the idea that the government and government authority should not be used for private purpose,” said Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University specializing in government and legal ethics said. “It would be a misuse of government authority.”

Not unlike Kellyanne Conway flogging Princess Ivanka’s merch on tv.

Let us now praise silent women

Mar 5th, 2018 9:49 am | By

Golly, this is stark:

Only American Beauty is even close to parity.


Mar 4th, 2018 4:51 pm | By

Another surprise story out of the White House: Trump is in a bad mood. Really?!! Well that caught us all flat-footed.

Barry McCaffrey says he’s “starting to wobble in his emotional stability,” which comes as a huge shock because we never knew he had any emotional stability to wobble in.

[T]he developments have delivered one negative headline after another, leading Trump to lose his cool — especially in the evenings and early mornings, when he often is most isolated, according to advisers.

But surely Melania and Barron are there to cuddle and cheer him. No? They’re in their own quarters with the doors triple-locked?

For instance, aides said, Trump seethed with anger last Wednesday night over cable news coverage of a photo, obtained by Axios, showing Sessions at dinner with Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who oversees the Russia investigation, and another top Justice Department prosecutor. The outing was described in news reports as amounting to an act of solidarity after Trump had attacked Sessions in a tweet that morning.

The next morning, Trump was still raging about the photo, venting to friends and allies about a dinner he viewed as an intentional show of disloyalty.

Well they didn’t invite him to come with them.

But to be serious for a second – isn’t that typical. It’s fine for Trump to call Sessions names on Twitter, but it’s an outrage for Sessions to have dinner with his deputy. Trump can be as mean, rude, abusive, slanderous, insulting, contemptuous, hostile, belligerent as he likes, while everyone else in the world is required to be servilely polite in return. One rule for Trump, and a completely opposite rule for the 7.6 billion not-Trumps on the planet.

Amid concerns about the rights of parents

Mar 4th, 2018 4:10 pm | By

Child marriage in Somalia Pakistan Yemen Kentucky.

A bill to make 18 the legal age for marriage in Kentucky has stalled in a Senate committee amid concerns about the rights of parents to allow children to wed at a younger age, according to several lawmakers.

Known as the “child bride” bill, Senate Bill 48 was pulled off the agenda just hours before a scheduled vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee for the second time in two weeks.

What about the rights of parents to spank children with spiked clubs? What about the rights of parents to lock their children out of the house on freezing nights? What about the rights of parents to hold their children’s hands in a flame to teach them about fire?

Parents don’t have “rights” to abuse their children. Children have rights not to be abused by their parents.

The bill’s supporters have said underage marriages most often involve a teenage girl marrying an older man and may have involved sexual exploitation of the girl.

An older man “marrying” a high school age (or younger) girl is itself sexual exploitation of the girl. He doesn’t do it because she’s a whiz at doing laundry.

Donna Pollard, a Louisville woman who said she was married at 16 to an older man who began sexually abusing her when she was 14, has advocated for the bill. She told Courier Journal that opponents include the Kentucky Family Foundation, a Lexington-based conservative group that lobbies lawmakers on social issues. Family Foundation Executive Director Kent Ostrander did not respond to requests for comment.

Ah those reactionary groups that name themselves after the word “family,” by which they actually mean male ownership and dominance over girls and women.

Pollard testified in support of the bill along with a representative of the Arlington, Virginia-based Tahirih Justice Center, a women’s advocacy organization seeking to end child marriages in the United States.

Pollard said the man she now calls her “perpetrator” became violent and abusive after they married in 2000, a wedding she said was encouraged by her mother, who married at 13.

“I felt just completely and totally trapped,” said Pollard, now divorced.

Not all of them are lucky enough to get divorced.

Sorry, not interested

Mar 4th, 2018 3:22 pm | By

Russian hacking of our elections? What’s that? What could that possibly mean?

As Russia’s virtual war against the United States continues unabated with the midterm elections approaching, the State Department has yet to spend any of the $120 million it has been allocated since late 2016 to counter foreign efforts to meddle in elections or sow distrust in democracy.

As a result, not one of the 23 analysts working in the department’s Global Engagement Center — which has been tasked with countering Moscow’s disinformation campaign — speaks Russian, and a department hiring freeze has hindered efforts to recruit the computer experts needed to track the Russian efforts.

In other words Trump has sent them a signal: Russia, if you’re listening, hack our elections in my favor, spasibo.

James K. Glassman, the under secretary for public diplomacy during the George W. Bush administration, said the center’s uncertain funding and temporary leadership reflected the administration’s lack of interest in countering either jihadist or Russian propaganda.

“They’ve got the vehicle to do this work in the center,” Mr. Glassman said. “What they don’t have is a secretary of state or a president who’s interested in doing this work.”

Mr. Tillerson is focusing his energies instead on drastically shrinking the department, leaving a significant part of its budget unused and hundreds of important decisions unmade.

And Russian trolling unhindered.


Mar 4th, 2018 1:13 pm | By

Andrew Gilligan has a big story in the Times today – big as in both important and information-rich (aka long).

A charity dealing with abuse survivors and promoting gay sexual health faces claims of sexual misconduct in the first recent charity sex scandal where the alleged victims are in the UK.

Leeds city council said it has referred two complaints about the Yorkshire-based organisation Men who Enjoy Sex With Men — Action in the Community (Yorkshire Mesmac) to police.

The Charity Commission also said it was in “ongoing engagement” with Mesmac, which has received more than £5m from councils, government and the police. The commission said it had “serious concern” after one of Mesmac’s former trustees was jailed for child sex offences committed during his time in post, including paying a boy, 15, for sex.

Brian Mynott, a Yorkshire-based therapist who works with abused young men, said he had spoken to a further three people, all victims of child abuse, who claimed to have been sexually harassed or asked for sex by Mesmac staff when they went to the charity for help. “They told me it was a pick-up joint and they did not want anything to do with it,” he said.

The kicker? This isn’t just employees breaking the rules – this is Mesmac policy.

The Sunday Times revealed in October that Mesmac explicitly allowed its staff to have sex with people they met through work, many of them young and vulnerable. In its official policy the charity stated that “sexual relationships are acceptable with service users initially met during work time”, although it added that intercourse “would be inappropriate if the service user has entered into a 1-2-1 or ongoing support relationship with the worker” and that sex with children was not allowed.

Mesmac dropped the policy after it was exposed but insisted that it had “never been made aware” of any case where a staff member had had sex with a client. However, The Sunday Times has established that in 2009 Mesmac’s then chairman, Brendon Fletcher, its treasurer, Paul Tidd, and another trustee, Richard Watts, had resigned in protest at the sex-with-clients policy and Mesmac managers’ refusal to change it.

The priests at least pretended it wasn’t policy.


Mar 4th, 2018 7:16 am | By

Trump threw a fundraiser in the party room at Mar-a-Lago yesterday. There he whined and complained about the fact that Hillary Clinton hasn’t been “investigated” since the election while for some mysterious and baffling reason he has.

In the closed-door remarks, a recording of which was obtained by CNN, Trump also praised China’s President Xi Jinping for recently consolidating power and extending his potential tenure, musing he wouldn’t mind making such a maneuver himself.

“He’s now president for life. President for life. No, he’s great,” Trump said. “And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot some day.”

Haha, hoho, funny joke. He should take over all the comedy work.

He’s been in a bad mood lately.

Morale at the White House has dropped to new lows, and Trump himself has seethed at the negative headlines.

On Saturday, among donors gathered in the grand ballroom named for himself at Mar-a-Lago, Trump pondered the happiness of his former rival, wondering aloud whether she was enjoying life after the campaign.

“Is Hillary a happy person? Do you think she’s happy?” he said. “When she goes home at night, does she say, ‘What a great life?’ I don’t think so. You never know. I hope she’s happy.”

That’s not much to build his life on – hoping Hillary Clinton is as miserable as he is. Do we think she is? Nope.

Happy photos of the event

Mar 3rd, 2018 2:59 pm | By

Farrakhan gave another anti-Semitic speech last weekend.

Minister Louis Farrakhan engaged in a series of anti-Semitic remarks on Sunday.

Farrakhan has led the black nationalist group Nation of Islam since 1977 and is known for hyperbolic hate speech aimed at the Jewish community.

During the speech in Chicago, Farrakhan made several anti-Semitic comments, including, “the powerful Jews are my enemy.”

“White folks are going down. And Satan is going down. And Farrakhan, by God’s grace, has pulled the cover off of that Satanic Jew and I’m here to say your time is up, your world is through,” he later said.

Yeah that’s no good. Whatever you think of Israel, that’s no good.

Women’s March co-chair Tamika Mallory was in attendance, CNN’s Jake Tapper pointed out on Twitter after she shared an image from the event on Instagram.

Mallory has posted on social media about Farrakhan in the past — on February 21, 2016, she posted an image of him from a stage at the Joe Louis Arena with the caption: “The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan just stepped to the mic for #SD16DET… I’m super ready for this message! #JUSTICEORELSE #ForTheLoveOfFlint.”

No good.

Katha Pollitt comments:

So Tamika Mallory, one of the four Women’s March leaders, goes to Farrakhan’s rally the other day, where he rambles on about how the Jews run the world and invented trans people and also pot that feminizes black men. She posts happy photos of the event, which Carmen Perez gives a thumbs up to. Questioned about this on twitter, she doubles down with some weird words about leaders who have the same enemies as Jesus.

Why is it so hard to say, yes, Farrakhan is a bigot and I dissociate myself from him? Obama did it. Instead, she doubled down. You can’t represent a mass movement if you’re going to be so divisive.

No good, no good, double-plus ungood.

She washes and gilds all she touches

Mar 3rd, 2018 2:37 pm | By

Virginia Heffernan points out that corruption requires the legitimate world to protect its gains. Star witness: Princess Ivanka.

Crooks seeking legitimacy are not fenced out in America. The U.S. is teeming with enablers champing at the bit to serve rich thugs: lawyers, lobbyists, bankers, security firms, consultants and PR people.

Like Paul Manafort for instance, and like…Princess Ivanka.

Oh, Ivanka. Her livelihood is as opaque as her full-coverage foundation, but she plays a critical role in her father’s administration — and in the broader danse macabre of corruption and legitimacy.

The foundation dig is cruel but warranted – I noticed when watching that clip the other day where Princess rebukes the “inappropriate question” about the King’s pussygrabbing: she’s absolutely plastered in makeup, as if wearing a clay mask. It’s somewhat creepy.

The so-called first daughter proves that “laundering” applies to more than money. She washes and gilds just about everything she touches. Consider her warehouses upon warehouses of petroleum-based separates, many of them sewn for poverty pay in sweatshops. When you call this schmatte smorgasboard the Ivanka Trump Collection it does brisk business — if not on Rodeo Drive, then in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

It’s impossible to keep track of all the gangsters Ivanka has palled around with. But what’s truly damning are the shady real-estate projects she has made rise and go forth.

In 2006, she oversaw the development of the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in Panama City. The project was connected to a Brazilian money launderer later arrested for fraud and forgery as well as a Russian investor who’d previously been jailed in Israel for kidnapping…

Ivanka was also a ranking official on the Trump SoHo, which has since shed the name Trump. In 2010, as ProPublica and WNYC have reported, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office began building a criminal case against Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. for using inflated sales figures to defraud prospective buyers. After receiving a visit from Trump family lawyer and campaign donor Marc Kasowitz, then-DA Cyrus Vance Jr. backed off.

There’s more, there’s Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver, which the FBI is now investigating.

When an organization exists not to build buildings but to brand them, its business is optics. And Ivanka has long window-dressed the Trump Organization’s deals. She was born to make the shoddy look cute, to legitimize corruption.

And if it’s the coverup and not the crime that will ultimately bring down the Trump syndicate, Ivanka may turn out to be the point person for its demise.


An ignominious anniversary

Mar 3rd, 2018 11:37 am | By

Trump hits 100.

President Donald Trump reached a presidential milestone at his Palm Beach County, Florida, golf club on Saturday: One hundred days in office at a golf club that bears his name.

100 days in 13 months: not too shabby.

Trump, once a critic of presidential golfing, has ignored his own advice and made a habit of visiting some of the many golf courses emblazoned in his moniker. The habit is part of the broader trend of the President and first lady making frequent trips to properties owned and operated by the Trump Organization.

So, you see, he’s not actually golfing in the recreational sense, he’s working to exploit the presidency to promote his businesses.

In total, Trump has spent nearly 25% of his days in office at one of his golf clubs. It is impossible to know whether Trump golfs every time he visits one of his golf clubs because White House aides rarely confirm that he is golfing, and Trump has, at times, visited his golf clubs to eat a meal or meet with people.

Yeah whether or not he’s actually pushing the little white ball around with the long stick isn’t really the issue.

Norm Eisen, the chief White House ethics lawyer under Obama, called Trump’s 100th day at a golf property as president “an ignominious anniversary.”

“First, there is his hypocrisy in criticizing Obama for golfing and then playing much more himself,” Eisen said. “Then there is the fact that he is using his government platform to promote his businesses.”

Eisen added, “Finally, he is also mingling with representatives of corporate interests who are paying to play, and not just golf. Because they have business before the federal government, that creates more conflicts. Trump has hit an unprecedented ethics bogey.”

He’s providing jobs for the people who mow the grass.

For the duration of Women’s History Month

Mar 3rd, 2018 11:23 am | By

Of Liberal Intent on Facebook:

Starting Thursday, March 1, 2018, Of Liberal Intent will host a new feature called Women’s Writes. For the duration of Women’s History Month, there will be a new post every day related to women and feminism. The author, Robin Buckallew, has declared the intent to write something every day for Women’s History Month every year until women everywhere have the same rights, opportunities, pay, and respect as men all over the world are able to command. The management of this site hope she lives a very long time…

Works posted there will be works of short fiction, essays, or excerpts from longer works. Please check in regularly to see any and all of the updates in this dynamic new area. This new section will continue to host the works of this author throughout the year, and will host the once a day posts every March until…well, unfortunately, the way it looks, probably until the end of the author’s life, even though she is still young(ish).

Posts will be uploaded at Women’s-Writes and shared on this page.

-The Management™

March 1

First post of new feature, Women’s Writes. A new post will appear every day of Women’s History Month.
Today, March 1, is the first day of Women’s History Month 2018, and I am posting my first piece. It was a singularly crazy day, following a singularly crazy week, and so I had to keep it a bit short, but if you start off the first day by breaking your vow, I have learned you will not succeed. So I opted for a haiku.

Read, and cheer her on!

Intrinsically male

Mar 3rd, 2018 10:41 am | By

I’m reading comments on this post about the reasons Lawrence Krauss got semi-banned from Case Western Reserve, and I’m brought up short by this comment – by, specifically, a bit where it quotes Sam Harris.

It’s an elephant that looms large for female atheists, but is invisible for male atheists: Ed Drayton noticed the gender disparity, didn’t know why, so he asked and got knowledgeable answers: Sam Harris also noticed it, didn’t know why, but didn’t let ignorance get in the way of instant expertise when, off the cuff at a book signing, he supplied an answer from his own imagination:

“I think it may have to do with my person[al] slant as an author, being very critical of bad ideas. This can sound very angry to people… People just don’t like to have their ideas criticized. There’s something about that critical posture that is to some degree intrinsically male and more attractive to guys than to women,” he said. “The atheist variable just has this—it doesn’t obviously have this nurturing, coherence-building extra estrogen vibe that you would want by default if you wanted to attract as many women as men.”

I’ve seen it before, of course; I did a furious post about it at the time, of course (I’m nothing if not predictable), and yet…I hadn’t seen it in awhile and I’d forgotten details. The “estrogen vibe” bit has been much quoted and I fell into the habit of citing it that way when occasion arose to cite it, with the result that I neglected the rest of it. The estrogen vibe part is not the worst part. No.

I’ll tell you what is.

There’s something about that critical posture that is to some degree intrinsically male and more attractive to guys than to women,” he said.

“There’s something about that critical posture that is to some degree intrinsically male and more attractive to guys than to women,” he said.

What’s he saying there? He’s saying that the ability to take a step back from the given, the normal, the accepted, the mainstream, the conventional, the everybody knows, the unquestioned, the unquestionable – to take a step back from it and think about it, analyze it, question it, doubt it, be critical of it, is


It’s a truly astounding thing to say.

After all what can be more basic? How can we ever improve anything if we don’t have that habit of questioning the obvious? If we accept that it’s intrinsically male then women are useless for any kind of real thinking. It frames men as the innovators and rebels and reformers, and women as the bovine accepters.

But apparently that really is how most of them do see us, and that’s why they’re customers for endless iterations of An Evening With

  • Sam Harris
  • Richard Dawkins
  • Michael Shermer
  • Lawrence Krauss
  • Bill Maher

There’s one coming up in just two days – Harris and Shermer.

Pangburn Philosophy presents an Evening with Sam Harris & Michael Shermer, Monday, March 5 in Dell Hall.

Join authors Sam Harris & Michael Shermer for a night of skepticism, science & reason.

Sit at the feet of the manly Thinkers who are intrinsically inclined to be “very critical of bad ideas” – except their own, of course.

Harris “explained” at the time that it was just a spontaneous reply to a question, not a carefully reasoned claim in a piece of writing. Yes; granted. He probably wouldn’t put it that starkly in a piece of writing. But the fact that it is what popped into his head when he was asked is striking and profoundly depressing. That’s how they see us. That’s what they think of us. We’re too sweet and loving to take a critical posture…so that’s why it’s absolutely necessary to leave us out of all the intellectual work and just keep hogging the microphone forever and ever and ever and ever…………..


Mar 3rd, 2018 10:04 am | By

Sometimes you just have to laugh.

Nothing like shouting at people to make them have a good nap.

Trump calls out mediocrity

Mar 2nd, 2018 4:57 pm | By

This morning:

The Times has background:

Mr. Trump had refrained from remarking on the show on Twitter for many months. But on Friday morning, Mr. Baldwin’s remarks were highlighted on Fox News and Mr. Trump weighed in soon after.

They share the tweet.

(An earlier version of the post in which Mr. Trump misspelled Mr. Baldwin’s name as “Alex” was deleted.)

It also spelled “dying” “dieing.”

So anyway, how mediocre has Alec Baldwin’s career been? Let’s ask Wikipedia.

Baldwin has won three Emmy Awards,[24] two Golden Globe awards and seven Screen Actors Guild Awards for his role. He received his second Emmy nomination for Best Actor in a Television Comedy or Musical as Jack Donaghy in 2008, marking his seventh Primetime Emmy nomination and first win. He won again in 2009.[25]

Baldwin was nominated for an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, and the Screen Actors Guild Award for his performance in the 2003 gambling drama The Cooler.[7]

On May 12, 2010, Baldwin gave a commencement address at New York University and was awarded a Doctor of Fine Arts degree, honoris causa.[52]

It doesn’t seem all that mediocre.

Also, nobody is forced to watch Saturday Night Live. Trump really should learn something about the laws of this country.

A vitriol that stuns

Mar 2nd, 2018 4:22 pm | By

Inside the West Wing:

But a president who has long tried to impose his version of reality on the world is finding the limits of that strategy. Without Mr. Porter playing a stopgap role on trade, the debate has been marked by a lack of focus on policy and planning, according to several aides.

Morale in the West Wing has sunk to a new low, these people said. In private conversations, Mr. Trump lashes out regularly at Attorney General Jeff Sessions with a vitriol that stuns members of his staff. Some longtime advisers said that Mr. Trump regards Mr. Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation as the “original sin,” which the president thinks has left him exposed.

If it stuns his staff it must be scorching, because they can’t ever have thought he was a nice guy.

Mr. Trump’s children, meanwhile, have grown exasperated with Mr. Kelly, seeing him as a hurdle to their father’s success and as antagonistic to their continued presence, according to several people familiar with their thinking.

Yes if only it weren’t for Kelly, Trump wouldn’t be the bumbling but corrupt bozo he is.

Yet Mr. Trump is also frustrated with Mr. Kushner, whom he now views as a liability because of his legal entanglements, the investigations of the Kushner family’s real estate company, and the publicity over having his security clearance downgraded, according to two people familiar with his views. In private conversations, the president vacillates between sounding regretful that Mr. Kushner is taking arrows and annoyed that he is another problem to deal with.

It’s so sad that poor Prince Jared is “taking arrows” simply for having conflicts of interest you could march a battalion through.

Privately, some aides have expressed frustration that Mr. Kushner and his wife, the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump, have remained at the White House, despite Mr. Trump at times saying they never should have come to the White House and should leave. Yet aides also noted that Mr. Trump has told the couple that they should keep serving in their roles, even as he has privately asked Mr. Kelly for his help in moving them out.

I’m picturing Kelly packing boxes while listening for Princess or Prince coming up the stairs.


Mar 2nd, 2018 11:56 am | By

Another tightening of the noose:

Federal investigators are scrutinizing whether any of Jared Kushner’s business discussions with foreigners during the presidential transition later shaped White House policies in ways designed to either benefit or retaliate against those he spoke with, according to witnesses and other people familiar with the investigation.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has asked witnesses about Kushner’s efforts to secure financing for his family’s real estate properties, focusing specifically on his discussions during the transition with individuals from Qatar and Turkey, as well as Russia, China and the United Arab Emirates, according to witnesses who have been interviewed as part of the investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign to sway the 2016 election.

They’re talking to some Turkish nationals. Also…

Qatari government officials visiting the U.S. in late January and early February considered turning over to Mueller what they believe is evidence of efforts by their country’s Persian Gulf neighbors in coordination with Kushner to hurt their country, four people familiar with the matter said. The Qatari officials decided against cooperating with Mueller for now out of fear it would further strain the country’s relations with the White House, these people said.

Kushner Companies repeatedly tried to get Qatar to “invest” in 666 Fifth Avenue, with no luck. Prince Jared had a meeting with a former prime minister of Qatar, who had also been in talks with Kushner Companies about 666 about “investing” in 666, which also fell through. Then…

In the weeks after Kushner Companies’ talks with the Qatari government and HBJ collapsed, the White House strongly backed an economically punishing blockade against Qatar, led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, citing the country’s support for terrorism as the impetus. Kushner, who is both President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and a key adviser, has played a major role in Trump’s Middle East policy and has developed close relationships with the crown princes of Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

That look horrendous even if there is in fact no connection. How does it look if there is a connection? I’m not sure we have the vocabulary for it.

Some top Qatari government officials believe the White House’s position on the blockade may have been a form of retaliation driven by Kushner who was sour about the failed deal, according to multiple people familiar with the matter. Saudi Arabia and UAE have long had a rivalry with Qatar.

The White House, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have said the blockade against Qatar is in retaliation for their government’s support for terrorism.

Well they’re not going to say it’s because of that non-forthcoming loan, now are they.

While Qatari officials were in Washington last month, they came armed with materials they said showed the UAE has worked against their government, including information involving Kushner, people familiar with the matter said. They debated for days whether to turn it over to Mueller but felt their meetings with U.S. officials had been productive and so decided against it, these people said.

Kushner Companies’ discussions with the Qatari government about funding did not advance, the people familiar with the matter said. After the company’s pitch during a meeting in April 2017, the government decided not to invest. The Intercept first reported Friday that Kushner’s father, Charles Kushner, had held the meeting with the Qataris.

Oh him – the convicted felon. So that’s reassuring.

During the transition Kushner had been negotiating with Chinese investors to secure needed financing for the Fifth Avenue building, including at least one meeting with the chairman of Anbang Insurance Group, but Anbang later said publicly that it would not invest in the building.

Nothing at all corrupt about that, no indeed.

Kushner could face legal exposure if Mueller’s team determines he is “making decisions in the White House that ultimately have an impact on his own financial position,” said Ron Hosko, who retired in 2014 as head of the FBI’s criminal division.

Under U.S. law, it is illegal to for any government employee, including someone being considered for an advisory role, to render advice based on financial interest.

Democratic lawmakers raised concerns about possible conflicts of interest in a December letter to Kushner, asking whether he used his upcoming position at the White House to secure financing for the indebted property.

This is so sickening.

It’s easy!

Mar 2nd, 2018 11:11 am | By

Europe to Trumpistan: ok you’ve done it now – we’re slapping a tariff on bourbon and blue jeans, so ha.

It’s a clever move. Trump will hate that, because American Greatness!

The European Union will hit back at the heart of the United States, slapping tariffs on products like Harley-Davidsons, Kentucky bourbon and bluejeans, if President Trump goes ahead with a plan to place tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, the president of the bloc’s executive arm vowed on Friday.

Harleys! They really know how to attack Americanitude, don’t they.

Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, made the remarks to the German news media in reaction to the proposed tariffs. Mr. Junker said the plans to tax the American goods, produced in the home states of key Republic leaders, had not yet been finalized, but amounted to treating them “the same way” that European products would be handled if the metals tariffs go through.

“None of this is reasonable, but reason is a sentiment that is very unevenly distributed in this world,” Mr. Juncker declared.

Oh zing.

Officials around the world have been voicing varying degrees of dismay and anger since the proposal was unveiled on Thursday.

Mr. Juncker’s proposal to hit back at the United States through some of the products for which it is best known in Europe was first floated last month in the German news media. The German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung cited a plan to target the home states of influential members of the Republican Party, including Senators Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Do it. Bite’em.

Meanwhile Trump shared his thoughtful analysis with the world:

That inquiry? Skip it

Mar 2nd, 2018 9:10 am | By

Via Talking Points Memo:

The Securities and Exchange Commission late last year dropped its inquiry into a financial company that a month earlier had given White House adviser Jared Kushner’s family real estate firm a $180 million loan.

While there’s no evidence that Kushner or any other Trump administration official had a role in the agency’s decision to drop the inquiry into Apollo Global Management, the timing has once again raised potential conflict-of-interest questions about Kushner’s family business and his role as an adviser to his father-in-law, President Donald Trump.

That is, there’s no evidence that outsiders are aware of, so far, that we know of – but that doesn’t rule out the existence of evidence known to a few or not yet discovered or so well hidden that it will never be discovered. That’s one reason the ethics rules exist: to remove the potential for conflicts of interest so that there can’t be the appearance of conflict of interest, with or without conclusive evidence.

There may be no evidence that the public is aware of so far, but there sure as hell is motive, and that’s the problem.

Apollo said in its 2018 annual report that the SEC had halted its inquiry into how the firm reported the financial results of its private equity funds and other costs and personnel changes. Apollo had previously reported that the Obama administration SEC had subpoenaed it for information related to the issue.

Maybe it’s all purely routine and normal, but we can’t tell, can we, and that’s a problem.

Apollo said the company founder who met with Jared Kushner did not discuss with him “a loan, investment, or any other business arrangement or regulatory matter involving Apollo.” It added that the Kushner loan to refinance a Chicago skyscraper went through the “standard approval process” and that the founder was not involved in the decision.

Well Apollo would say that, wouldn’t it. It’s worth precisely nothing.

Kushner Cos. said in a statement that the implication that Kushner’s position in the White House had affected the company’s relationships with lenders is “without substantiation.”

That’s worse than worthless – it’s cynical and insultingly unethical. We’re not supposed to have to wait until there’s “substantiation” that Kushner’s nepotistic job in the White House would influence the company’s relationships with lenders, we’re supposed to have a system in which such influence is made impossible.

Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Jared Kushner attorney Abbe Lowell, had no comment on the dropped SEC inquiry or whether it was influenced by Kushner’s contacts with Apollo. He added that Kushner has “had no role in the Kushner Companies since joining the government and has taken no part of any business, loans or projects with or for the Companies after that.”

But he’s still an owner and he still profits when they profit, so the fact that he’s not currently involved in hands-on administration does nothing to remove the conflicts of interest.


Bumpy night

Mar 1st, 2018 5:12 pm | By

So what happens when Don has a really bad day? He starts trashing the place in earnest.

President Trump whiplashed Washington through 24 hours of chaos and confusion, culminating Thursday with a surprise announcement that he will unilaterally impose steep tariffs on all steel and aluminum imports.

His own aides were stunned. The stock market plunged. It was the moment many of his advisers had long feared would occur when he grew tired of talking points and economic theory and decided to do things his way.

Maybe next time it will be starting the nuclear Armageddon.

Trump often likes to sow misdirection, running the White House like a never-ending reality show where only he knows the plot. But even by his standards, the day-long period that ended Thursday left some senior aides and Republican lawmakers wondering whether the White House had finally come unmoored, detached from any type of methodology that past presidents have relied on to run the country and lead the largest economy in the world.

Well that’s for grown-ups. Trump is a child.

On Thursday morning, Trump had a meeting with top economic advisers including Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Cohn warned against the tariffs, and a number of White House advisers came away from it believing that a decision had been postponed and that Trump’s meeting with steel and aluminum executives would amount to little more than another gathering of CEOs at the White House, several people briefed on the planning said.

After all, they had persuaded Trump before, diverting him from withdrawing from the North American Free Trade Agreement and a free-trade agreement with South Korea.

But that all changed around noon. Trump unexpectedly summoned reporters into the Cabinet Room for his meeting with the executives. Senior White House officials did not want reporters to attend the meeting, for fear of Trump announcing tariffs, but the president made an impromptu call to bring in the media and proceeded to announce his trade crackdown.

“What’s been allowed to go on for decades is disgraceful,” Trump said.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 500 points within several hours.

Today the Dow Jones, tomorrow the nukes! Or a round of golf. One of those.

The hacking and leaking

Mar 1st, 2018 4:49 pm | By

Interesting times.

Special counsel Robert Mueller is assembling a case for criminal charges against Russians who carried out the hacking and leaking of private information designed to hurt Democrats in the 2016 election, multiple current and former government officials familiar with the matter tell NBC News.

Much like the indictment Mueller filed last month charging a different group of Russians in a social media trolling and illegal-ad-buying scheme, the possible new charges are expected to rely heavily on secret intelligence gathered by the CIA, the FBI, the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), several of the officials say.

Well we didn’t think he was going to get it all from the Post and MSNBC.

He’s had the goods for a long time but there is strategy to consider.

The sources say the possible new indictment — or more than one, if that’s how Mueller’s office decides to proceed — would delve into the details of, and the people behind, the Russian intelligence operation that used hackers to penetrate computer networks and steal emails of both the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.

Remember those days? Hammering the Democrats, and leaving the Republicans entirely alone. Guess what: it worked.

In July 2016 the FBI began a counterintelligence investigation into how the Russians carried out the operation and whether any Americans, including members of the Trump campaign, were involved. Mueller took over the probe in May 2017. His office has filed more than 100 criminal charges against 19 people and three companies, securing guilty pleas and cooperation agreements from three members of the Trump campaign.

All together now: WITCH HUNT!