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Scott Pruitt Is Ridiculous

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What I Need I Just Don t Have
What I Need I Just Don’t Have.

The New York Times writes:

Despite stiff competition, Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, is by common consensus the worst of the ideologues and mediocrities President Trump chose to populate his cabinet. Policies aside — and they’re terrible, from an environmental perspective — Mr. Pruitt’s self-aggrandizing and borderline thuggish behavior has disgraced his office and demoralized his employees. We opposed his nomination because he had spent his career as attorney general of Oklahoma suing the federal department he was being asked to lead on behalf of industries he was being asked to regulate. As it turns out, Mr. Pruitt is not just an industry lap dog but also an arrogant and vengeful bully and small-time grifter, bent on chiseling the taxpayer to suit his lifestyle and warm his ego.

Any other president would have fired him. Mr. Trump praises him.

One frequently overlooked truth about Mr. Pruitt amid these complaints is that for all his swagger he has actually accomplished very little in terms of actual policy — a wholly desirable outcome, from our standpoint. While hailed as the administration’s foremost champion of deregulation, he has yet to kill or even roll back any significant regulations that were in place when Mr. Trump came to office. (The Obama administration’s important Clean Power Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants had already been blocked by the courts.) He has delayed a few rules, but even these delays have been overturned or challenged. Most of his actions are in the proposal stage, and many will not be finalized for years, if ever.

(click here to continue reading Opinion | Scott Pruitt Has Become Ridiculous – The New York Times.)

Tough competition, indeed, but Pruitt is easily in the competition for worst Cabinet member.

One more snippet from a scathing editorial:

By endless repetition, he has reinforced in the public mind the lie that Republicans have peddled for years and Mr. Trump’s minions peddle now, that environmental rules kill jobs, that limiting carbon dioxide emissions will damage the economy, that the way forward lies not in technology and renewable energy but in digging more coal and punching more holes in the ground in search of oil. And, on the human level, he has been in the forefront of the administration’s shameless effort to delude the nation’s frightened coal miners into thinking coal is coming back, when any comeback is unlikely not because of regulation but because of strong market forces favoring natural gas and renewables.

Parenthetical note. I never noticed this byline before:

The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

Was that in doubt? Confusing, isn’t all the content published by the NYT related?

Written by Seth Anderson

April 17th, 2018 at 8:28 pm

Posted in environment,politics

Tagged with ,

Trump worries that federal investigators may have seized recordings made by Cohen

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You Are Being Film
You Are Being Film

Lordy, I hope there are tapes1

Ashley Parker, Carol D. Leonnig, Josh Dawsey and Tom Hamburger of the Washington Post report:

President Trump’s personal attorney Michael D. Cohen sometimes taped conversations with associates, according to three people familiar with his practice, and allies of the president are worried that the recordings were seized by federal investigators in a raid of Cohen’s office and residences this week.

Cohen, who served for a decade as a lawyer at the Trump Organization and is a close confidant of Trump, was known to store the conversations using digital files and then replay them for colleagues, according to people who have interacted with him.

“We heard he had some proclivity to make tapes,” said one Trump adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation. “Now we are wondering, who did he tape? Did he store those someplace where they were actually seized? . . . Did they find his recordings?”

(click here to continue reading Trump’s allies worry that federal investigators may have seized recordings made by his attorney – The Washington Post.)

Especially funny is that Michael Cohen2 made tapes because “Spanky” Trump so often bragged about how he taped conversations, despite the fact that Trump never actually took the time to create a system to record conversations.

You Wanted To Disappear
You Wanted To Disappear

WaPo:

 

Tim O’Brien, a Trump biographer and executive editor of Bloomberg View, wrote a column in the wake of Trump’s taping claim saying that Comey likely had little reason to worry. In the piece, O’Brien recounted that Trump frequently made a similar boast to him.

 

“Back in the early 2000s, Trump used to tell me all the time that he was recording me when I covered him as reporter for the New York Times,” O’Brien wrote. “He also said the same thing when I was writing a biography of him, ‘Trump Nation.’ I never thought he was, but who could be sure?”

 

But after Trump sued him for libel shortly after his biography came out, O’Brien’s lawyers deposed Trump in December 2007 — during which Trump admitted he had not, in fact, clandestinely taped O’Brien.

 

“I’m not equipped to tape-record,” Trump said in the deposition. “I may have said it once or twice to him just to — on the telephone, because everything I said to him he’d write incorrectly; so just to try and keep it honest.”

 

 

(click here to continue reading Trump’s allies worry that federal investigators may have seized recordings made by his attorney – The Washington Post.)

I’d say the odds are greater than 50/50 that Trump was recorded by Cohen saying something of interest to federal prosecutors, and that the Feds have a copy of this recording or recordings, and that Trump is stress-peeing on a rug in the Oval Office right now.

Footnotes:
  1. said everyone at the same time, except for Trump and his thugs []
  2. allegedly []

Written by Seth Anderson

April 12th, 2018 at 9:36 pm

Posted in crime,politics

Tagged with , , ,

F.B.I. Raid Is Perilous for Michael Cohen — and Trump

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Movie Night
Almost Like Movie Night…

The FBI raid on Trump “fixer” Michael Cohen is a pretty big development. Unusual for an attorney’s office to be raided, there must be some solid evidence of crime.

Ken White, aka Popehat, writes:

This is what we know, in part from Mr. Cohen’s attorney: The United States attorney’s office in Manhattan, acting on a referral from Mr. Mueller, sought and obtained search warrants for Mr. Cohen’s law office, home and hotel room, seeking evidence related at least in part to his payment of $130,000 in hush money to the adult actress Stephanie Clifford, who goes by her stage name, Stormy Daniels. There are reports that the warrant sought evidence of bank fraud and campaign finance violations, which is consistent with an investigation into allegations that the Daniels payment was illegally sourced or disguised. (For example, routing a payment through a shell company to hide the fact that the money came from the Trump campaign — if that is what happened — would probably violate federal money-laundering laws.)

What does this tell us? First, it reflects that numerous officials — not just Mr. Mueller — concluded that there was probable cause to believe that Mr. Cohen’s law office, home and hotel room contained evidence of a federal crime. A search warrant for a lawyer’s office implicates the attorney-client privilege and core constitutional rights, so the Department of Justice requires unusual levels of approval to seek one. Prosecutors must seek the approval of the United States attorney of the district — in this case Geoffrey Berman, the interim United States attorney appointed by President Trump.

Prosecutors must also consult with the criminal division of the Justice Department in Washington. Finally, prosecutors must convince a United States magistrate judge that there’s probable cause to support the search. Faced with a warrant application destined for immediate worldwide publicity, the judge surely took unusual pains to examine it. This search was not the result of Mr. Mueller or his staff “going rogue.”

(click here to continue reading Opinion | Why the F.B.I. Raid Is Perilous for Michael Cohen — and Trump – The New York Times.)

and importantly, if the Southern District of New York, in the process of examining Cohen’s records in their taint team, find evidence of other crimes or discover relevant documents for the Russia investigation, they can send those back to the Special Prosecutor.

Washington Post:

In a search like this, prosecutors typically set up a privilege team or “taint team” of investigators not involved in the case to review potentially privileged documents and shield those from the team actually involved in the prosecution. There is an exception to the attorney-client privilege if communications to an attorney are used in furtherance of a crime or fraud; that could come into play here as well. And documents related to anything Cohen did on his own — after all, Trump has denied knowing about the payment to Daniels — are likely not privileged if they do not contain attorney-client communications. Documents are not automatically privileged simply because they passed through an attorney’s hands.

(click here to continue reading Michael Cohen is in serious legal jeopardy – The Washington Post.)

Popehat again:

The Stormy Daniels payout may be outside the scope of the Russia investigation, but it’s possible that Mr. Cohen’s records are full of materials that are squarely within that scope. And the law is clear: If investigators executing a lawful warrant seize evidence of additional crimes, they may use that evidence. Thus Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen, with their catastrophically clumsy handling of the Daniels affair, may have handed Mr. Mueller devastating evidence.

(click here to continue reading Opinion | Why the F.B.I. Raid Is Perilous for Michael Cohen — and Trump – The New York Times.)

Stay tuned!

Written by Seth Anderson

April 10th, 2018 at 9:33 am

Posted in crime,politics

Tagged with , ,

Shameless Grifter Pruitt Scored a $50-a-Day Condo From Lobbyists, Miraculously Their Client’s Project Got Approved

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Emotional Response to Swamp Trees
Emotional Response to Swamp Trees

Speaking of the demonic, shameless grifter Scott Pruitt

The NYT reports:

The Environmental Protection Agency signed off last March on a Canadian energy company’s pipeline-expansion plan at the same time that the E.P.A. chief, Scott Pruitt, was renting a condominium linked to the energy company’s powerful Washington lobbying firm.

Both the E.P.A. and the lobbying firm dispute that there was any connection between the agency’s action and the condo rental, for which Mr. Pruitt was paying $50 a night.

Nevertheless, government ethics experts said that the correlation between the E.P.A.’s action and Mr. Pruitt’s lease arrangement — he was renting from the wife of the head of the lobbying firm Williams & Jensen — illustrates why such ties to industry players can generate questions for public officials: Even if no specific favors were asked for or granted, it can create an appearance of a conflict.

“Entering into this arrangement causes a reasonable person to question the integrity of the E.P.A. decision,” said Don Fox, who served as general counsel of the Office of Government Ethics during parts of the Obama and George W. Bush administrations.

(click here to continue reading Pruitt Had a $50-a-Day Condo Linked to Lobbyists. Their Client’s Project Got Approved. – The New York Times.)

Staying in a 2 bedroom condo in a swanky DC neighborhood for $50 a night? That’s a good deal if you can stomp out of the swamp to get it. Pruitt’s daughter got to use the other room, but she stayed for free. And the $50 was only for nights he was there, not the entire time. You know, like a deal you would negotiate with your landlord. If your landlord was a lobbyist who had business in front of your agency, naturally.

However, an examination of Capitol Hill rentals suggests that rates typically are considerably higher and generally do not come with a provision, as Mr. Pruitt’s did, that the renter can pay for only the nights stayed at the condo.

“I’ll leave my stuff here for six months, will sleep here a few nights a month on an irregular schedule, and you’ll charge me only for the nights when the police don’t break down the door, and I wake up in your bed. Deal? Deal.“ 

Phil Marches On
Phil Marches On

Daily News:

 

Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt’s security detail broke down the door of the Capitol Hill condo he rented from the wife of an energy lobbyist last year because they believed the Trump cabinet member was unconscious, according to a report Friday.

 

The bizarre March 2017 incident unfolded after a member of Pruitt’s personal security became concerned about the administrator when he didn’t answer his phone, according to ABC News.

 

“They say he’s unconscious at this time,” a 911 operator is told, according to a recording obtained by the network. “I don’t know about the breathing portion.”

 

 

(click here to continue reading EPA boss Pruitt’s security worriedly broke down rental condo door – NY Daily News.)

Drugs? Weird BSDM? Spanking the Orange Dotard? Curious as to what really happened here.

Written by Seth Anderson

April 2nd, 2018 at 8:14 pm

Trump vs. Amazon

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Amazon Prime and The Pope
Amazon Prime and The Pope

The Washington Post reports:

President Trump escalated his assault on Amazon.com on Saturday, accusing the online retail giant of a “Post Office scam” and falsely stating that The Washington Post operates as a lobbyist for Amazon.

In a pair of morning tweets sent during his drive from his Mar-a-Lago estate to the nearby Trump International Golf Club, the president argued that Amazon costs the U.S. Postal Service billions of dollars in potential revenue.

Trump has repeatedly advanced this theory, even though officials have explained to him that Amazon’s contracts with the Postal Service are profitable for the agency.

The president also incorrectly conflated Amazon with The Post and made clear that his attacks on the retailer were inspired by his disdain for the newspaper’s coverage. He labeled the newspaper “the Fake Washington Post” and demanded that it register as a lobbyist for Amazon. The Post is personally owned by Jeffrey P. Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, and operates independently of Amazon.

Trump is typically motivated to lash out at Amazon because of The Post’s coverage of him, officials have said. One person who has discussed the matter repeatedly with the president explained that a negative story in The Post is almost always the catalyst for one of his Amazon rants.

The Post on Friday afternoon published online an exhaustive account of the Trump Organization’s finances being “under unprecedented assault” because of three different legal inquiries: special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation; a $130,000 payment allegedly to secure the silence of adult-film actress Stormy Daniels over a sexual encounter she says she had with Trump; and lawsuits alleging that Trump is improperly accepting gifts, or “emoluments,” from foreign or state governments through his businesses.

[From Mueller to Stormy to ‘emoluments,’ Trump’s business is under siege]

Trump is known to react especially sensitively to news stories about his personal and business affairs.

(click here to continue reading Trump accuses Amazon of ‘Post Office scam,’ falsely says The Post is company’s lobbyist – The Washington Post.)

Amazon stock fell drastically. If I was a securities lawyer, I might consider filing a class-action lawsuit against the Tiny Fingered Cheeto: smarter men than him have been sanctioned for attempting to manipulate stock prices.

Whole Foods Amazon and The Pope
Whole Foods, Amazon and The Pope

Gabriel Sherman of Vanity Fair writes:

Now, according to four sources close to the White House, Trump is discussing ways to escalate his Twitter attacks on Amazon to further damage the company. “He’s off the hook on this. It’s war,” one source told me. “He gets obsessed with something, and now he’s obsessed with Bezos,” said another source. “Trump is like, how can I fuck with him?”

 According to sources, Trump wants the Post Office to increase Amazon’s shipping costs. When Trump previously discussed the idea inside the White Hose, Gary Cohn had explained that Amazon is a benefit to the Postal Service, which has seen mail volume plummet in the age of e-mail. “Trump doesn’t have Gary Cohn breathing down his neck saying you can’t do the Post Office shit,” a Republican close to the White House said. “He really wants the Post Office deal renegotiated. He thinks Amazon’s getting a huge fucking deal on shipping.”

Advisers are also encouraging Trump to cancel Amazon’s multi-billion contract with the Pentagon to provide cloud computing services, sources say. Another line of attack would be to encourage attorneys general in red states to open investigations into Amazon’s business practices. Sources say Trump is open to the ideas. (The White House did not respond to a request for comment.)

Even Trump’s allies acknowledge that much of what’s fueling Trump’s rage toward Amazon is that Amazon C.E.O. Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post, sources said. “Trump doesn’t like The New York Times, but he reveres it because it’s his hometown paper. The Washington Post, he has zero respect for,” the Republican close to the White House said. While the Post says that Bezos has no involvement in newsroom decisions, Trump has told advisers he believes Bezos uses the paper as a political weapon. One former White House official said Trump looks at the Post the same way he looks at the National Enquirer. “When Bezos says he has no involvement, Trump doesn’t believe him. His experience is with the David Peckers of the world. Whether it’s right or wrong, he knows it can be done.”

(click here to continue reading “Trump Is Like, ‘How Can I F–k with Him?’”: Trump’s War with Amazon (and The Washington Post) Is Personal | Vanity Fair.)

Just another totally normal day in Washington…

Amazon Brick and Mortar Location
Amazon Brick and Mortar Location

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo adds:

One notable thing that people seldom discuss is that with a mix of constant growth, cultivation of market confidence and restraint Amazon has managed to be one of the most successful businesses in American history and pay close to no federal taxes for the simple reason that it’s careful to always operate at a more or less a break-even P&L. In other words, on many fronts Amazon creates huge negative externalities which society at large is subsidizing.

It is equally clear that low wage warehouse jobs, upending of retail businesses, disintermediation of publishers or tax avoidance are not things Donald Trump cares anything about. Indeed, the one thing he really focuses on with Amazon – Amazon ripping off the Post Office – seems pretty clearly not to be true. Amazon is Trump’s target because of The Washington Post.

Amazon doesn’t own The Washington Post. But it is owned by Amazon’s founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. So close enough. President Trump’s attacks on Amazon are entirely part of his attacks on independent and even mildly critical media.

(click here to continue reading McCabe, Amazon and Defending the Republic from Donald Trump – Talking Points Memo.)

plus, from Raw Story, we learn the WSJ isn’t pleased by this attack1:

The conservative editorial board of the Wall Street Journal took President Donald Trump to task for his bizarre Thursday tweet attacking Amazon.com, saying the assault on the popular company appeared to be political in nature and that he could face impeachment should he decide to sic government agencies on the company.

In the piece published on Friday morning, the WSJ board noted that Trump appears to be going after Amazon because it was founded by billionaire Jeff Bezos, who owns the Washington Post, which has been highly critical of the Trump administration.

The Journal noted that Trump got his facts wrong about the relationship between Amazon and the U.S. Post Office writing, “Mr. Trump’s other big gripe is that taxpayers are on the losing end of Amazon’s deal with the U.S. Postal Service. But that story is also more complicated. The Post Office has often operated at a net loss, but package volumes grew in fiscal 2017 by more than 11%, making it a rare growth market. Many of the additional 589 million boxes delivered last year came from Amazon.”

“Though imperfect, the deal is mutually beneficial,” the editorial continued. “The Post Office arguably needs Amazon more than Amazon needs the Post Office. The Post Office could drop Amazon as a delivery partner, but it would likely have to raise prices elsewhere or endure higher losses. Would Mr. Trump take credit for that?”

As for the possibility that Trump might try to compel officials in his administration to inflict damage on the company, the Journal warned Trump he might be flirting with disaster and impeachment.

“Mr. Trump could try to unleash the Internal Revenue Service, though that would be a scandal that could be an impeachable offense,” the editorial cautioned. “The press and prosecutors would not give the Trump IRS the pass they gave Lois Lerner during the Obama years for targeting conservative nonprofits with extra scrutiny.”

(click here to continue reading Wall Street Journal warns Trump’s ‘political’ attacks on Amazon and Jeff Bezos could lead to impeachment.)

Footnotes:
  1. though not to worry, the Fox and Friends talkers are on board []

Written by Seth Anderson

April 2nd, 2018 at 6:54 pm

Posted in Business,politics

Tagged with ,

Spending measure could disrupt Trump’s plans to cut agencies

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Dreaming Has A Low
Dreaming Has A Low

The Washington Post reports:

Trump probably would have been even more upset [with signing a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending plan] had he read the provision that could sharply curtail his plan to reorganize the government.

Section 740 of the 2,232-page document (PDF) makes it clear, as Bloomberg Law previously reported, that Congress, not Trump, is in charge. “None of the funds made available in this or any other appropriations Act may be used to increase, eliminate, or reduce funding for a program, project, or activity as proposed in the President’s budget request for a fiscal year” unless Congress approves, according to the omnibus legislation.

That could make it more difficult for Trump to impose the cuts he wants. His March 2017 “Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch” seeks “to eliminate unnecessary agencies, components of agencies, and agency programs.” Among other cuts, his proposed budget for this fiscal year called for the elimination of 19 small agencies, from the African Development Fund to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Members of Congress, including Republicans, are not eager to be Trump’s hatchet men. The omnibus spending plan provides a clear declaration that he cannot act alone. It is Congress that creates and eliminates.

(click here to continue reading Spending measure could disrupt Trump’s plans to cut agencies – The Washington Post.)

That’s pretty funny. No wonder the Democrats were happy with this omnibus spending bill, and that right wing performance art bloviators like Ann Coulter were so dismayed

No Need To Panic
No Need To Panic

The Defense Department got more money than it needs, but on the other hand, many Democratic priorities were strengthened. Some like the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities got even more money than requested1

Sarah Binder writes:

 

 

One of the reasons GOP leaders were keen to rush the bill to a vote is that they didn’t want their partisan base to notice that it both funds innumerable Democratic priorities and blocks the Trump administration from doing such things as expanding detention of immigrants, defunding sanctuary cities, and ending federal funding for the arts, to name a few. The Trump White House and many conservatives wanted deep cuts to domestic programs. Party leaders ignored that. The more quickly the two chambers vote, the less time potential opponents have to unearth details that could outrage the GOP base, who might pressure their representatives to vote against the deal.

 

 

(click here to continue reading Three things we learned from the omnibus spending bill – The Washington Post.)

Trump is so lazy that I don’t see this process changing much in the future, even if a resurgent Democratic Party takes over the House and Senate in November, 2018. Trump isn’t going to waste his precious Executive Time reading 2,232 page documents and fighting about what it contained therein, he will only react if Trump TV spoon feeds him any of it. Let’s be honest, neither are we2, but I’d like to think if we were in the White House we’d at least make the attempt to understand a bill before signing it.

Footnotes:
  1. by a small amount, but still… []
  2. though I did download it, and skim it []

Written by Seth Anderson

March 31st, 2018 at 9:42 am

Posted in government

Tagged with , ,

Defense Department subpoena sought Re Federal Savings Bank

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The Federal Savings Bank
The Federal Savings Bank, West Loop, in the news again. 

Crain’s Chicago reports:

Two senior House Democrats are pushing to subpoena the Department of Defense on whether Trump administration officials considered nominating Chicago banker Stephen Calk as secretary of the Army after his small local bank made outsized loans to Donald Trump’s former campaign manager.

The request for a subpoena was made in a letter today—you can read it below—to U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-Texas, chairman of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, from the panel’s senior Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, and Rep. Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts, senior Democrat on the House Oversight subcommittee on national defense.

The two Democrats said the Defense Department hadn’t produced any of the documents they asked for, nor said when it would.

The letter referenced “extremely troubling reports that a banker named Stephen Calk may have made loans of up to $16 million to President Donald Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, in exchange for promises to name him secretary of the Army.”

Calk’s Chicago-based lender, Federal Savings Bank, made a total of $16 million in loans to Manafort in December 2016 and January 2017. They were collateralized by homes in New York City, the Hamptons and Virginia.

At just $364 million in assets, Federal Savings Bank is far too small to be making loans of that size to a single borrower.

“Although Mr. Calk ultimately was not given a position with the department, reports that he was being considered for a high-level and highly sensitive national security position within the Trump administration as part of a quid pro quo with Mr. Manafort raise serious concerns that, completely apart from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, warrant scrutiny by Congress,” the Democrats’ letter said.

They want to review all Defense Department documents and communications regarding a potential role for Calk, among other items.

(click here to continue reading Defense Department subpoena sought on Trump official – Government News – Crain’s Chicago Business.)

Previous coverage here and here  

Written by Seth Anderson

March 28th, 2018 at 5:19 pm

Stormy Daniels’s 60 Minutes Interview And Kompromat

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She would return from where she came
she would return from where she came… 

Like a great number of other folks, I watched the 60 Minutes interview with Stormy Daniels. Mostly she confirmed what had been reported elsewhere (topics like: spanking Trump with a magazine that had his face and his daughter’s on the cover; watching Shark Week with The Orange Dotard; the promise of Celebrity Apprentice appearance dangled in exchange for sex, etc.). What was new to me was the1 threat of violence in a parking lot, and that Trevor Potter thought there was a credible case of campaign finance malfeasance, especially on the part of Michael Cohen. 

There’s also the part of the story about Kompromat – are there other as-of-yet-untold stories about Trump’s sex life that a foreign government has gotten hold of? Plausible, yes? Are there illegitimate children? Abortions? STDs? BDSM videos? Incestual relations with Ivanka?

Matthew Yglesias of Vox writes:

Stormy Daniels’s 60 Minutes interview was, in its way, fascinating. But it ultimately failed to shed light on the two most interesting questions posed by this entire imbroglio, presumably because Daniels herself doesn’t know the answer.

How many other sexual partners has Trump paid hush money to? How many foreign intelligence services know about one or more of those women?

It also contradicts Steve Bannon’s remarks in Fire and Fury when he says that another Trump attorney, Marc Kasowitz, “has gotten him out of all kinds of jams. Kasowitz on the campaign — what did we have, a hundred women? Kasowitz took care of all of them.” And the National Enquirer appears to have paid $150,000 to former Playboy centerfold Karen McDougal to try to keep her quiet.

Now, obviously, nobody seriously believed that Trump was chaste and pure as the driven snow before we heard from Daniels. He’s never really tried to sell himself as a family man in the traditional sense and wears the hypocrisy of his political commitment to abortion restrictions and abstinence-only sex education very lightly. All that said, for one reason or another, Trump is clearly quite committed to trying to prevent his former partners from discussing their dalliances in public. He and his associates are willing to put cash on the line for this, threaten massive legal consequences, and perhaps even engage in acts of physical intimidation.

Trump has secrets that he regards as worth keeping.

And while that put Daniels under pressure, it means that entities with more power and sophistication than an adult film actress can use those secrets to put pressure on Trump. The president has successfully cultivated an image as so flaky and incompetent that his many baffling decisions on the world stage — from leaking Israeli intelligence to the Russian foreign minister to undercutting his own administration’s policy on Qatar to mysteriously leaving Japan off a list of allies exempted from steel tariffs — generally get written off as evidence that he is flaky and incompetent rather than being actively manipulated by foreign actors.

Maybe that’s all it is. Maybe Daniels and McDougal are the only women he’s ever paid off. Or maybe there are others out there but nobody from Russia or the United Arab Emirates or the Mossad or whoever hates the Japanese steel industry found out about it. Anything’s possible. But I have my doubts.

(click here to continue reading Stormy Daniels’s 60 Minutes interview raises 2 critical questions – Vox.)

Again, with emphasis: Trump has secrets that he regards as worth keeping.

He’s willing to pay to keep his secrets secret. How many secrets are there? And who holds the details?

Daily News - March 26th, 2018 

Jonathan Chait writes:

Daniels says she would recognize the man if she saw him again, but does not know who it was. There is a lot of reason to suspect Cohen had something to do with the threat. Cohen is a Trump cultist, whose legal skills, such as they are, compose a small portion of his value to the Trump organization. His true value is as a goon. “If somebody does something Mr. Trump doesn’t like, I do everything in my power to resolve it to Mr. Trump’s benefit,” Cohen said in 2011. “If you do something wrong, I’m going to come at you, grab you by the neck and I’m not going to let you go until I’m finished.” In 2015, he told a reporter, “I’m warning you, tread very fucking lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting. You understand me?”

 

Intimidating and threatening people who get in Trump’s way seems to be a recurring theme in his business interactions. There are many documented instances of this behavior. One victim of Trump’s shady financial maneuverings in Atlantic City received a phone call and was told, “My name is Carmine. I don’t know why you’re fucking with Mr. Trump but if you keep fucking with Mr. Trump, we know where you live and we’re going to your house for your wife and kids.”

 

 

(click here to continue reading Stormy Daniels Has Put Trump’s Fixer in Serious Legal Danger.)

High Voltage
High Voltage

On the campaign contribution subject:

 

The government watchdog group Common Cause argues that the payment was intended to influence the 2016 election by silencing Daniels and therefore was an illegal in-kind contribution to Trump’s campaign. Cohen has called the Common Cause complaints “baseless.”

 

On “60 Minutes,” Trevor Potter, a chairman of the FEC appointed by President George H.W. Bush, said he thinks the payment could be seen as a campaign contribution and could create an “enormous legal mess” for Cohen and Trump. He said the problem is particularly acute for Cohen if he was not reimbursed because he far exceeded the individual legal gift limit.

 

 

(click here to continue reading Stormy Daniels says threats kept her quiet about alleged Trump affair until now – The Washington Post.)

MoDo  Get a Clue
MoDo – Get a Clue

On abortion-as-kompromat, Maureen Dowd wrote back in April, 2016:

 

 

In an MSNBC interview with Chris Matthews, the formerly pro-choice Trump somehow managed to end up to the right of the National Right to Life Committee when he said that for women, but not men, “there has to be some form of punishment” if a President Trump makes abortion illegal.

 

Trump quickly recanted and even told CBS’s John Dickerson that “the laws are set. And I think we have to leave it that way.”

 

“This was not real life,” he told me. “This was a hypothetical, so I thought of it in terms of a hypothetical. So that’s where that answer came from, hypothetically.”

 

Given his draconian comment, sending women back to back alleys, I had to ask: When he was a swinging bachelor in Manhattan, was he ever involved with anyone who had an abortion?

 

“Such an interesting question,” he said. “So what’s your next question?”

 

 

(click here to continue reading Trump Does It His Way – The New York Times.)

That means, yes, right?

Footnotes:
  1. alleged, but come on, who is more believable? Stormy Daniels or Donald Trump?? []

Written by Seth Anderson

March 26th, 2018 at 11:15 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with

White House Job Requirement: Signing Trump’s NDA

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Are We Really Free
Are We Really Free?? 

I guess most of us knew that people who willingly worked for Donald Trump are idiots.

As a real estate executive and reality TV star, Donald J. Trump tightly controlled his image by insisting that everyone around him sign nondisclosure agreements threatening steep monetary penalties if they revealed anything about him or his company.

So a few months into his presidency, Mr. Trump — infuriated by leaks about everything from staff rivalries to his bathrobe-wearing, TV-viewing habits — ordered Reince Priebus, then his chief of staff, to do the same thing in the West Wing.

Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, had warned the president before that such a blanket policy could not be imposed on federal employees. But in order to placate an angry president who was convinced that the people around him had to be pressured into keeping his secrets, Mr. McGahn drew up a broad document barring White House officials from publicly disclosing what they heard and saw at work.

That nondisclosure agreement, presented by Mr. Priebus to the senior staff last April, did not specify any penalties — financial or otherwise — and was something that almost everyone around the president understood could not be enforced. But it was an early indication that Mr. Trump, who spent decades using pressure tactics and secrecy in his private life, wanted to do the same thing at the White House, breaking with tradition. He would push the obsession of many of his predecessors with damaging leaks to a new level.

But former White House lawyers and government ethics experts said the agreement raised serious legal questions and reflected Mr. Trump’s refusal to submit to the norms of public disclosure or respect the basic right of free speech.

“You can’t blanket wipe out speech, and you have to show there’s a compelling government purpose for doing so,” said Norm Eisen, the top ethics lawyer in former President Barack Obama’s White House Counsel’s Office.

(click here to continue reading White House Job Requirement: Signing a Nondisclosure Agreement – The New York Times.)

What I would love to happen is for someone who signed Resident Trump’s NDA to publicly leak info, and subsequently get sued by a raging Trump. Trump would be humiliated in court I’d assume, and this would send him in an even worse impotent rage. People who are angry tend to make mistakes.

Freedom Isn t Free
Freedom Isn’t Free

Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post reported that the initial NDA had a $10,000,000 penalty for violations. The White House has denied the number was as high, but take their denials with the normal 67 tons of salt.

 

Moreover, said the source, this confidentiality pledge would extend not only after an aide’s White House service but also beyond the Trump presidency. “It’s not meant to be constrained by the four years or eight years he’s president — or the four months or eight months somebody works there. It is meant to survive that.”

 

This is extraordinary. Every president inveighs against leakers and bemoans the kiss-and-tell books; no president, to my knowledge, has attempted to impose such a pledge. And while White House staffers have various confidentiality obligations — maintaining the secrecy of classified information or attorney-client privilege, for instance — the notion of imposing a side agreement, supposedly enforceable even after the president leaves office, is not only oppressive but constitutionally repugnant.

 

Unlike employees of private enterprises such as the Trump Organization or Trump campaign, White House aides have First Amendment rights when it comes to their employer, the federal government. If you have a leaker on your staff, the cure is firing, not suing.

 

“This is crazy,” said attorney Debra Katz, who has represented numerous government whistleblowers and negotiated nondisclosure agreements. “The idea of having some kind of economic penalty is an outrageous effort to limit and chill speech. Once again, this president believes employees owe him a personal duty of loyalty, when their duty of loyalty is to the institution.”

 

I haven’t been able to lay hands on the final agreement, but I do have a copy of a draft, and it is a doozy. It would expose violators to penalties of $10 million, payable to the federal government, for each and any unauthorized revelation of “confidential” information, defined as “all nonpublic information I learn of or gain access to in the course of my official duties in the service of the United States Government on White House staff,” including “communications . . . with members of the press” and “with employees of federal, state, and local governments.” The $10 million figure, I suspect, was watered down in the final version, because the people to whom I have spoken do not remember that jaw-dropping sum

 

 

(click here to continue reading Trump had senior staff sign nondisclosure agreements. They’re supposed to last beyond his presidency. – The Washington Post.)

Written by Seth Anderson

March 21st, 2018 at 2:53 pm

Posted in politics

Tagged with ,

Facebook’s Role in Data Misuse Sets Off a Storm on Two Continents

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Helicopter with Camera
Helicopter with Camera

The big news over the weekend was how Facebook, Trump and Cambridge Analytica worked together to weaponize people’s personal information against them to help Trump win the 2016 election, perhaps with the assistance of Russia. The truth is this harvesting and manipulation of data is Facebook’s model, and anyone who uses Facebook is participating. Facebook is “free”, how exactly do you think they make their billions?

American and British lawmakers demanded on Sunday that Facebook explain how a political data firm with links to President Trump’s 2016 campaign was able to harvest private information from more than 50 million Facebook profiles without the social network’s alerting users. The backlash forced Facebook to once again defend the way it protects user data.

Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, a Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, went so far as to press for Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, to appear before the panel to explain what the social network knew about the misuse of its data “to target political advertising and manipulate voters.”

The calls for greater scrutiny followed reports on Saturday in The New York Times and The Observer of London that Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm founded by Stephen K. Bannon and Robert Mercer, the wealthy Republican donor, had used the Facebook data to develop methods that it claimed could identify the personalities of individual American voters and influence their behavior. The firm’s so-called psychographic modeling underpinned its work for the Trump campaign in 2016, though many have questioned the effectiveness of its techniques.

But Facebook did not inform users whose data had been harvested. The lack of disclosure could violate laws in Britain and in many American states.

(click here to continue reading Facebook’s Role in Data Misuse Sets Off a Storm on Two Continents – The New York Times.)

Even the Faux Walls have eyes
Even the Faux Walls have eyes

If you have time, you should read the tale of the ex-Cambridge Analytica whisteblower, Christopher Wylie in The Guardian/Observer.

which includes this revelation:

Dr Kogan – who later changed his name to Dr Spectre, but has subsequently changed it back to Dr Kogan – is still a faculty member at Cambridge University, a senior research associate. But what his fellow academics didn’t know until Kogan revealed it in emails to the Observer (although Cambridge University says that Kogan told the head of the psychology department), is that he is also an associate professor at St Petersburg University. Further research revealed that he’s received grants from the Russian government to research “Stress, health and psychological wellbeing in social networks”. The opportunity came about on a trip to the city to visit friends and family, he said.

There are other dramatic documents in Wylie’s stash, including a pitch made by Cambridge Analytica to Lukoil, Russia’s second biggest oil producer. In an email dated 17 July 2014, about the US presidential primaries, Nix wrote to Wylie: “We have been asked to write a memo to Lukoil (the Russian oil and gas company) to explain to them how our services are going to apply to the petroleum business. Nix said that “they understand behavioural microtargeting in the context of elections” but that they were “failing to make the connection between voters and their consumers”. The work, he said, would be “shared with the CEO of the business”, a former Soviet oil minister and associate of Putin, Vagit Alekperov.

“It didn’t make any sense to me,” says Wylie. “I didn’t understand either the email or the pitch presentation we did. Why would a Russian oil company want to target information on American voters?”

Lukoil is a private company, but its CEO, Alekperov, answers to Putin, and it’s been used as a vehicle of Russian influence in Europe and elsewhere – including in the Czech Republic, where in 2016 it was revealed that an adviser to the strongly pro-Russian Czech president was being paid by the company.

When I asked Bill Browder – an Anglo-American businessman who is leading a global campaign for a Magnitsky Act to enforce sanctions against Russian individuals – what he made of it, he said: “Everyone in Russia is subordinate to Putin. One should be highly suspicious of any Russian company pitching anything outside its normal business activities.”

Odd.

(click here to continue reading ‘I made Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare tool’: meet the data war whistleblower | News | The Guardian.)

The attention led to Facebook suspending Mr. Wylie’s Facebook and Instagram accounts…

Techcrunch reports

In the latest turn of the developing scandal around how Facebook’s user data wound up in the hands of Cambridge Analytica — for use in the in development in psychographic profiles that may or may not have played a part in the election victory of Donald Trump — the company has taken the unusual step of suspending the account of the whistleblower who helped expose the issues.

(click here to continue reading Facebook has suspended the account of the whistleblower who exposed Cambridge Analytica | TechCrunch.)

Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic writes:

Academic researchers began publishing warnings that third-party Facebook apps represented a major possible source of privacy leakage in the early 2010s. Some noted that the privacy risks inherent in sharing data with apps were not at all clear to users. One group termed our new reality “interdependent privacy,” because your Facebook friends, in part, determine your own level of privacy.

For as long as apps have existed, they have asked for a lot of data and people have been prone to give it to them. Back in 2010, Penn State researchers systematically recorded what data the top 1,800 apps on Facebook were asking for. They presented their results in 2011 with the paper “Third-Party Apps on Facebook: Privacy and the Illusion of Control.” The table below shows that 148 apps were asking for permission to access friends’ information.

But The Guardian’s reporting suggests that the company’s efforts to restuff Pandora’s box have been lax. Wylie, the whistleblower, received a letter from Facebook asking him to delete any Facebook data nearly two years after the existence of the data was first reported. “That to me was the most astonishing thing,” Wylie told The Guardian. “They waited two years and did absolutely nothing to check that the data was deleted. All they asked me to do was tick a box on a form and post it back.”

But even if Facebook were maximally aggressive about policing this kind of situation, what’s done is done. It’s not just that the data escaped, but that Cambridge Analytica almost certainly learned everything they could from it. As stated in The Guardian, the contract between GSR and Strategic Communications Laboratories states, specifically, “The ultimate product of the training set is creating a ‘gold standard’ of understanding personality from Facebook profile information.”

It’s important to dwell on this. It’s not that this research was supposed to identify every U.S. voter just from this data, but rather to develop a method for sorting people based on Facebook’s profiles. Wylie believes that the data was crucial in building Cambridge Analytica’s models. It certainly seems possible that once the “training set” had been used to learn how to psychologically profile people, this specific data itself was no longer necessary. But the truth is that no one knows if the Kogan data had much use out in the real world of political campaigning. Psychological profiling sounds nefarious, but the way that Kogan and Cambridge Analytica first attempted to do it may well have proven, as the company maintains, “fruitless.”

(click here to continue reading Cambridge Analytica and the Dangers of Facebook Data-Harvesting – The Atlantic.)

The way I personally deal with Facebook is by seeding it with incorrect information whenever I can, and by being diligent about deleting Facebook cookies from my browsers. Of course, I’m sure they know way too much about me, but at least some of their information is wrong.

Facebook Cookies
Facebook Cookies.PNG

Written by Seth Anderson

March 19th, 2018 at 9:27 am

Posted in Business,politics

Tagged with , ,

How Trump Consultants Exploited the Facebook Data of Millions While Facebook Winked

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Revolution of The Innocent
Revolution of The Innocent…

Cambridge Analytica, remember them?

All the more reason to cut back on the amount of time you spend at Facebook, and all the more reason to give Facebook and similar data-mining corporations fake information whenever possible:

As the upstart voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica prepared to wade into the 2014 American midterm elections, it had a problem.

The firm had secured a $15 million investment from Robert Mercer, the wealthy Republican donor, and wooed his political adviser, Stephen K. Bannon, with the promise of tools that could identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behavior. But it did not have the data to make its new products work.

So the firm harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission, according to former Cambridge employees, associates and documents, making it one of the largest data leaks in the social network’s history. The breach allowed the company to exploit the private social media activity of a huge swath of the American electorate, developing techniques that underpinned its work on President Trump’s campaign in 2016.

But the full scale of the data leak involving Americans has not been previously disclosed — and Facebook, until now, has not acknowledged it. Interviews with a half-dozen former employees and contractors, and a review of the firm’s emails and documents, have revealed that Cambridge not only relied on the private Facebook data but still possesses most or all of the trove.

Cambridge paid to acquire the personal information through an outside researcher who, Facebook says, claimed to be collecting it for academic purposes.

During a week of inquiries from The Times, Facebook downplayed the scope of the leak and questioned whether any of the data still remained out of its control. But on Friday, the company posted a statement expressing alarm and promising to take action.

“This was a scam — and a fraud,” Paul Grewal, a vice president and deputy general counsel at the social network, said in a statement to The Times earlier on Friday. He added that the company was suspending Cambridge Analytica, Mr. Wylie and the researcher, Aleksandr Kogan, a Russian-American academic, from Facebook. “We will take whatever steps are required to see that the data in question is deleted once and for all — and take action against all offending parties,” Mr. Grewal said.

(click here to continue reading How Trump Consultants Exploited the Facebook Data of Millions – The New York Times.)

Smile Through It All
Smile Through It All

Yeah, Facebook is going to “take action”. How? By admitting that they accumulate and sell way more personal information than their users know? By deleting this information? What exactly is the action that Facebook is going to do that will miraculously solve their bad PR?

The data analytics firm that worked with Donald Trump’s election team and the winning Brexit campaign harvested millions of Facebook profiles of US voters, in the tech giant’s biggest ever data breach, and used them to build a powerful software program to predict and influence choices at the ballot box.

A whistleblower has revealed to the Observer how Cambridge Analytica – a company owned by the hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer, and headed at the time by Trump’s key adviser Steve Bannon – used personal information taken without authorisation in early 2014 to build a system that could profile individual US voters, in order to target them with personalised political advertisements.

Christopher Wylie, who worked with an academic at Cambridge University to obtain the data, told the Observer: “We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles. And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons. That was the basis that the entire company was built on.”

Documents seen by the Observer, and confirmed by a Facebook statement, show that by late 2015 the company had found out that information had been harvested on an unprecedented scale. However, at the time it failed to alert users and took only limited steps to to recover and secure the private information of more than 50 million individuals.

The New York Times is reporting that copies of the data harvested for Cambridge Analytica could still be found online; its reporting team had viewed some of the raw data.

(click here to continue reading Revealed: 50 million Facebook profiles harvested for Cambridge Analytica in major data breach | News | The Guardian.)

Alarmist
Alarmist

From the Facebook statement:

In 2015, we learned that a psychology professor at the University of Cambridge named Dr. Aleksandr Kogan lied to us and violated our Platform Policies by passing data from an app that was using Facebook Login to SCL/Cambridge Analytica, a firm that does political, government and military work around the globe. He also passed that data to Christopher Wylie of Eunoia Technologies, Inc.

Like all app developers, Kogan requested and gained access to information from people after they chose to download his app. His app, “thisisyourdigitallife,” offered a personality prediction, and billed itself on Facebook as “a research app used by psychologists.” Approximately 270,000 people downloaded the app. In so doing, they gave their consent for Kogan to access information such as the city they set on their profile, or content they had liked, as well as more limited information about friends who had their privacy settings set to allow it.

Although Kogan gained access to this information in a legitimate way and through the proper channels that governed all developers on Facebook at that time, he did not subsequently abide by our rules. By passing information on to a third party, including SCL/Cambridge Analytica and Christopher Wylie of Eunoia Technologies, he violated our platform policies. When we learned of this violation in 2015, we removed his app from Facebook and demanded certifications from Kogan and all parties he had given data to that the information had been destroyed. Cambridge Analytica, Kogan and Wylie all certified to us that they destroyed the data.

(click here to continue reading Suspending Cambridge Analytica and SCL Group from Facebook | Facebook Newsroom.)

Since 2015, Robert Mercer’s team of anti-liberal hordes have been siphoning personal information from Facebook, and Facebook only suspended them yesterday. Who else is doing similar things? I bet the list is long, longer than I can even imagine. But Facebook is content to take the cash…and get Trump elected.

Embarrass
Embarrass

Bloomberg reported a while ago

Facebook Inc.’s platform was a crucial messaging tool for President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, according to the campaign’s digital director — who told CBS’s “60 Minutes” that he hand-picked pro-Trump “embeds” from the company to help him use the platform in targeted ways.

“Twitter is how [Trump] talked to the people, Facebook was going to be how he won,” Brad Parscale told “60 Minutes,” according to an excerpt of an interview that the program intends to air Sunday. The social-media platform was particularly valuable because it allows for targeted messaging, Parscale said, according to the excerpt.

Facebook’s employees showed up for work at his office multiple days a week to provide guidance on how to best use the company’s services, Parscale said in the interview excerpt. “I wanted people who supported Donald Trump,” he said — and he questioned the workers about their political views.

(click here to continue reading Facebook ‘Embeds’ Helped Trump Win, Digital Director Says – Bloomberg.)

Written by Seth Anderson

March 17th, 2018 at 9:31 am

Posted in Apple,Business

Tagged with , ,

HUD emails show push to find workaround for $5,000 legal limit on Ben Carson’s office furnishings

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Sphinx  Schoenhofen Pyramid Mausoleum
Sphinx – Schoenhofen Pyramid Mausoleum. 

In a normal presidential administration, Ben Carson would have resigned over this. But then in a normal administration, Dr. Carson would never even been nominated for the position in the first place. What exactly were his qualifications? Besides once being poor, and living in an apartment, there doesn’t seem to be much overlap with Carson’s “skills” of Egyptian pyramid sleuthing and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The emails also reveal that Carson’s dissatisfaction with the options readily and cheaply available to him in HUD’s basement took up months of time from the agency tasked with finding housing solutions for the last fortunate, frustrating some employees who viewed the legal $5,000 spending cap as the end of the line.

“He only gets 5k for new stuff,” then-HUD chief administrative officer Helen Foster wrote to fellow employee Kevin Cooke on March 3, 2017, at 2:38 p.m. “He chose to use it on window treatments.” Foster eventually claimed she was demoted over her unwillingness to exceed the $5,000 limit.

Acquiring new furniture for Carson’s office was a priority from day one — and before. On his first official day as secretary, Carson expressed displeasure with the chairs in his office.

“The secretary’s office called and said he doesn’t like his chairs,” reads an email from HUD director of facilities management services Mike Schimmenti to Foster and HUD administrator Laura McClure, in an email headed “secretary’s furniture request” on March 3, 2017 — the same day he was confirmed.

Before that, on Feb. 13 at 5:43 p.m., Foster emailed HUD finance officer Sarah Lyberg, saying she had been repeatedly asked to find more money for Carson’s office.

(click here to continue reading HUD emails show push to find workaround for $5,000 legal limit on Ben Carson’s office furnishings – CBS News.)

Small potatoes compared to Emolument Man, and the Dimpled Slumlord Princeling, but corruption and evasion of law is still unacceptable, or should be. Ben Carson is lucky that there are so so so many scandals in the Trump mal-administration that his office furniture snafu is mostly ignored.

Sit Like An Egyptian
Sit Like An Egyptian

And there are actually worse things Carson’s HUD is doing:

 

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson is changing the mission statement of his agency, removing promises of inclusive and discrimination-free communities.

 

In a March 5 memo addressed to HUD political staff, Amy Thompson, the department’s assistant secretary for public affairs, explained that the statement is being updated “in an effort to align HUD’s mission with the Secretary’s priorities and that of the Administration.”

 

 

(click here to continue reading Ben Carson Removes Anti-Discrimination Language From HUD Mission Statement | HuffPost.)

or

 

In an interview released Wednesday, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson said that a “certain mindset” contributes to people living in poverty, pointing to habits and a “state of mind” that children take from their parents at a young age.

 

“I think poverty to a large extent is also a state of mind. You take somebody that has the right mindset, you can take everything from them and put them on the street, and I guarantee in a little while they’ll be right back up there,” he said during an interview on SiriusXM Radio with Armstrong Williams, a longtime friend.

 

“And you take somebody with the wrong mindset, you can give them everything in the world, they’ll work their way right back down to the bottom,” Carson said.

The Trump administration’s 2018 budget blueprint, unveiled Tuesday, would cut more than $6 billion from HUD’s budget. The cuts would end popular grants that facilitate first-time home ownership and revitalize economically distressed communities, including the Community Development Block Grant. The budget would also cut billions of dollars in funding for public housing support, gutting dollars used to fund big-ticket repairs at public housing developments around the country.

 

 

(click here to continue reading Ben Carson calls poverty ‘a state of mind’ during interview – The Washington Post.)

Reebie Building  Stand Like an Egyptian
Reebie Building – Stand Like an Egyptian

or 

 

Ben Carson appeared to liken slaves to immigrants who choose to come to the United States while addressing employees at the Department of Housing and Urban Development Monday.

 

Carson, who was confirmed to lead the department earlier this month, heralded the work ethic of immigrants before implying slaves who came to the United States worked harder than others. “There were other immigrants who came in the bottom of slave ships, who worked even longer, even harder, for less, but they too had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great grandsons, great granddaughters might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land,” said Carson, who is black. “And do you know of all the nations in the world, this one, the United States of America, is the only one big enough and great enough to allow all those people to realize their dream. And this is our opportunity to enhance that dream,” he added.

“Ben Carson is also the guy who once compared Obamacare to slavery,” tweeted Keith Boykin, a CNN political contributor. “I’m starting to think he may not understand the word ‘slavery.'”

This is not the first time Carson has likened something to slavery.

In 2013, Carson said that Obamacare — the Obama administration’s landmark healthcare law — was the worst thing “since slavery.”

“You know Obamacare is really, I think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery,” Carson said at the Values Voter Summit in Washington. “And it is in a way, it is slavery in a way, because it is making all of us subservient to the government, and it was never about health care. It was about control.”

Carson also compared abortion to slavery in an interview with NBC during his 2016 presidential run.

“During slavery — and I know that’s one of those words you’re not supposed to say, but I’m saying it — during slavery, a lot of the slave owners thought that they had the right to do whatever they wanted to the slave,” Carson said in October 2015. “What if the abolitionists had said, ‘I don’t believe in slavery, I think it’s wrong, but you guys do whatever you want to do?”

 

 

(click here to continue reading Carson: ‘There were other immigrants who came in the bottom of slave ships’ – CNNPolitics.)

Hieroglyph
Hieroglyph

or

 

Ben Carson does not like the creature comforts, at least not for low-income Americans reliant on the government for a helping hand.

 

As he toured facilities for the poor in Ohio last week, Mr. Carson, the neurosurgeon-turned-housing secretary, joked that a relatively well-appointed apartment complex for veterans lacked “only pool tables.” He inquired at one stop whether animals were allowed. At yet another, he nodded, plainly happy, as officials explained how they had stacked dozens of bunk beds inside a homeless shelter and purposefully did not provide televisions.

 

Compassion, Mr. Carson explained in an interview, means not giving people “a comfortable setting that would make somebody want to say: ‘I’ll just stay here. They will take care of me.’”

 

When Mr. Carson assumed the helm of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, he had no government experience, no political experience beyond a failed bid for the Republican presidential nomination and no burning desire to run a major federal bureaucracy. But his views on poverty alleviation were tough-minded and well-known

 

 

(click here to continue reading Don’t Make Housing for the Poor Too Cozy, Carson Warns – The New York Times.)

Another faux Christian, in other words. If the evasion of statutory law to purchase over-the-top office furniture that cost more than many folks annual salary is the thing that brings Carson down, so be it, but there is plenty to choose from.

Written by Seth Anderson

March 15th, 2018 at 9:55 am

Posted in government,politics

Tagged with , ,

Rex Tillerson Out as Trump’s Secretary of State, Criticized Russia Yesterday

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Snacks

Another chapter in the continuing saga.

Yesterday, Rex Tillerson said this about the UK poisoning:

SANTA MARIA, Cape Verde — Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson on Monday called the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain “an egregious act” and added, “It appears that it clearly came from Russia.”

The statement, made in an interview with reporters at the end of a five-nation tour of Africa, was the clearest statement yet from the Trump administration, after several days of equivocation in which American officials declined to explicitly blame Russia for the March 4 attack.

“I’ve become extremely concerned about Russia,” Mr. Tillerson said in the interview. “We spent most of last year investing a lot into attempts to work together, to solve problems, to address differences. And quite frankly, after a year, we didn’t get very far. Instead what we’ve seen is a pivot on their part to be more aggressive.”

He added: “And this is very, very concerning to me and others, that there seems to be a certain unleashing of activity that we don’t fully understand what the objective behind that is. And if in fact this attack in the U.K. is the work of the Russian government, this is a pretty serious action.”

(click here to continue reading Poisoning of Russian Ex-Spy Is ‘Almost Beyond Comprehension,’ Tillerson Says – The New York Times.)

and today, Rex is gone. Can’t besmirch the mother country1 and work for Trump, Exxon Mobil oil rights in the Arctic notwithstanding…

 

President Trump announced on Tuesday that he had ousted Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson and will replace him with Mike Pompeo, now the C.I.A. director, ending the 14-month tenure of the nation’s chief diplomat who repeatedly had found himself at odds with the White House on a variety of key foreign policy issues.

 

“We were not really thinking the same,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House, explaining his decision to replace Mr. Tillerson.

 

He added: “Really, it was a different mind-set, a different thinking.”

 

Mr. Tillerson found out he had been fired before dawn, shortly after his flight returned from a weeklong trip to Africa, said Steve Goldstein, the under secretary of state for public diplomacy. There was no indication during the five-nation visit that Mr. Tillerson’s departure was imminent; Mr. Goldstein said on Tuesday morning that the secretary had been expected to remain in office for the foreseeable future.

 

The president did not personally call Mr. Tillerson, and Mr. Goldstein said he did not know how the chief diplomat learned he had been fired.

 

Mr. Trump announced his decision on Twitter.

 

 

(click here to continue reading Rex Tillerson Out as Trump’s Secretary of State, Replaced by Mike Pompeo – The New York Times.)

If this were a telenovela, it would be a little too obvious of a plot twist, but since it is the Trumponovella, the swirl continues unabated.

And as Steven K Johnson noted on Twitter, this also implies that the Kremlin is A-OK with Mike Pompeo being the new Secretary of State. Hmmm.

Discarded Cautions
Discarded Cautions

Footnotes:
  1. Russia []

Written by Seth Anderson

March 13th, 2018 at 9:04 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with ,

May issues ultimatum to Moscow over Salisbury poisoning

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 Albion
Albion. 

Will this become a NATO thing? Prime Minister May is using specific language, will NATO have to respond as well?

Theresa May has given Vladimir Putin’s administration until midnight on Tuesday to explain how a former spy was poisoned in Salisbury, otherwise she will conclude it was an “unlawful use of force” by the Russian state against the UK.

After chairing a meeting of the national security council, the prime minister told MPs that it was “highly likely” that Russia was responsible for the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia. She warned that Britain would not tolerate such a “brazen attempt to murder innocent civilians on our soil”.

In a statement to the House of Commons that triggered an angry response from Moscow, the prime minister said the evidence had shown that Skripal had been targeted by a “military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia”. Describing the incident as an “indiscriminate and reckless act”, she said that the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, had summoned the Russian ambassador to Whitehall and demanded an explanation by the end of Tuesday.

Ministers on the national security council were told that the nerve agent used was from a family of substances known as Novichok. “Based on the positive identification of this chemical agent by world-leading experts at Porton Down, our knowledge that Russia has previously produced this agent and would still be capable of doing so, Russia’s record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations, and our assessment that Russia views some defectors as legitimate targets for assassinations, the government has concluded that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act against Sergei and Yulia Skripal,” she said.

 

The prime minister said that left just two plausible explanations “Either this was a direct act by the Russian state against our country, or the Russian government lost control of this potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.”

Nato’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said: “The United Kingdom has concluded that Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia. And prime minister Theresa May stated today that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act. The use of any nerve agent is horrendous and completely unacceptable. The UK is a highly valued ally, and this incident is of great concern to Nato. Nato is in touch with the UK authorities on this issue.”

(click here to continue reading May issues ultimatum to Moscow over Salisbury poisoning | UK news | The Guardian.)

Also, I cannot believe that the US president has not commented upon this crime against one of America’s closest allies. If the terrorist who used this chemical weapon was from Syria, or anywhere with a predominantly Muslim population, Trump would be issuing a Twitter storm. But since it is most likely a Russian attack, Trump is silent. Is he scared? Is he happy that he isn’t the one poisoned? Or what exactly?

sub Hoc Floresco

Parliament Buildings London
Parliament Buildings London

First Site of Scotland Yard
First Site of Scotland Yard

Written by Seth Anderson

March 12th, 2018 at 8:54 pm

Posted in crime,News-esque

Tagged with , , ,

The Case of Russian Gun Lovers, the NRA, and Donald Trump

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It Might Rain Money It Might Rain Fire
It Might Rain Money It Might Rain Fire

The NRA has been receiving sketchy money from unknowable sources, like Russia, ever since the Citizens United decision opened up the dark money spigots. Did some of that Russian money work its way into the Trump 2016 campaign? Probably, and no doubt Mueller is investigating, but we don’t know for certain. Did some Russian money also end up in other Republican coffers? Probably. Traitors. Send them to Gitmo…

Peter Stone and Greg Gordon of McClatchy first reported a few months ago:

The FBI is investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency, two sources familiar with the matter have told McClatchy.

FBI counterintelligence investigators have focused on the activities of Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA, the sources said.

It is illegal to use foreign money to influence federal elections.

It’s unclear how long the Torshin inquiry has been ongoing, but the news comes as Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s sweeping investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including whether the Kremlin colluded with Trump’s campaign, has been heating up.

However, the NRA reported spending a record $55 million on the 2016 elections, including $30 million to support Trump – triple what the group devoted to backing Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential race. Most of that was money was spent by an arm of the NRA that is not required to disclose its donors.

Two people with close connections to the powerful gun lobby said its total election spending actually approached or exceeded $70 million. The reporting gap could be explained by the fact that independent groups are not required to reveal how much they spend on Internet ads or field operations, including get-out-the-vote efforts.

 

(click here to continue reading FBI investigating whether Russia funneled cash to NRA to aid Trump’s campaign | McClatchy Washington Bureau.)

Strange. In our lifetimes, Republicans have gone from being pro-law enforcement, and anti-Russia to the exact opposite. Power corrupts, as the cliché goes.

First Stop Guns
First Stop Guns

Continuing to explore the subject, Denise Clifton and Mark Follman write in Mother Jones:

For more than a year now, reports have trickled out about deepening ties among prominent members of the National Rifle Association, conservative Republicans, a budding gun-rights movement in Russia—and their convergence in the Trump campaign.

Now attention is focused around a middle-aged Russian central bank official and a photogenic young gun activist from Siberia who share several passions: posing with assault rifles, making connections with Republican presidential candidates, and publicizing their travels between Moscow and America on social media. Alexander Torshin and his protégé Maria Butina also share an extraordinary status with America’s largest gun lobbying group, according to Torshin: “Today in NRA (USA) I know only 2 people from the Russian Federation with the status of ‘Life Member’: Maria Butina and I,” he tweeted the day after Donald Trump was elected president.

Of particular interest are their overtures to Trump. Butina asked him straight-up at a campaign event about the future of “damaging” sanctions against Russia. Torshin twice tried to meet with Trump, according to the New York Times, and did meet with Donald Trump Jr. at an NRA event. Meanwhile, the House Intelligence Committee has heard sworn testimony about possible Kremlin “infiltration” of the NRA and other conservative groups. And the FBI reportedly is investigating whether Torshin illegally funneled money to the Trump campaign through the NRA—which backed Trump with a record $30 million.

(click here to continue reading The Very Strange Case of Two Russian Gun Lovers, the NRA, and Donald Trump – Mother Jones.)

A bit more background:

 

A conservative operative trumpeting his close ties to the National Rifle Association and Russia told a Trump campaign adviser last year that he could arrange a back-channel meeting between Donald J. Trump and Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian president, according to an email sent to the Trump campaign.

 

A May 2016 email to the campaign adviser, Rick Dearborn, bore the subject line “Kremlin Connection.” In it, the N.R.A. member said he wanted the advice of Mr. Dearborn and Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, then a foreign policy adviser to Mr. Trump and Mr. Dearborn’s longtime boss, about how to proceed in connecting the two leaders.

 

Russia, he wrote, was “quietly but actively seeking a dialogue with the U.S.” and would attempt to use the N.R.A.’s annual convention in Louisville, Ky., to make “ ‘first contact.’ ” The email, which was among a trove of campaign-related documents turned over to investigators on Capitol Hill, was described in detail to The New York Times.

 

 

(click here to continue reading Operative Offered Trump Campaign ‘Kremlin Connection’ Using N.R.A. Ties – The New York Times.)

Killing People Is Rude
Killing People Is Rude

and NPR earlier this month:

 

A prominent Kremlin-linked Russian politician has methodically cultivated ties with leaders of the National Rifle Association and documented efforts in real time over six years to leverage those connections and gain deeper access into American politics, NPR has learned.

 Russian politician Alexander Torshin said his ties to the NRA provided him access to Donald Trump — and the opportunity to serve as a foreign election observer in the United States during the 2012 election.

 Torshin is a prolific Twitter user, logging nearly 150,000 tweets, mostly in Russian, since his account was created in 2011. Previously obscured by language and sheer volume of tweets, Torshin has written numerous times about his connections with the NRA, of which he is a known paid lifetime member. NPR has translated a selection of those posts that document Torshin’s relationship to the group.

 These revelations come amid news that the FBI is investigating whether Torshin, the deputy governor of the Bank of Russia, illegally funneled money to the NRA to assist the Trump campaign in 2016.

Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, told NPR this week that the committee’s members have asked relevant witnesses about the NRA through the course of their investigation.

“I can’t go into what we’ve been able to learn thus far on that issue. I can tell you it’s one of deep concern to me and to other members of the committee, that we get to the bottom of these allegations that the Russians may have sought to funnel money through the NRA,” Schiff said. “It would be negligent of us not to investigate.”

Glenn Simpson, the co-founder of research firm Fusion GPS, alluded to Torshin and the NRA during his closed-door testimony before the House intelligence committee in November.

“It appears the Russians, you know, infiltrated the NRA. And there is more than one explanation for why,” Simpson told lawmakers. “But I would say broadly speaking, it appears that the Russian operation was designed to infiltrate conservative organizations. And they targeted various conservative organizations, religious and otherwise, and they seem to have made a very concerted effort to get in with the NRA.”

 

 

(click here to continue reading Depth Of Russian Politician’s Cultivation Of NRA Ties Revealed : NPR.)

Citizens United is the worst thing to happen to America democracy, even worse than gerrymandering. If foreign hostile nations can pour untraceable funds into our system of elections, democracy is not preserved.

Written by Seth Anderson

March 10th, 2018 at 9:39 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with , , ,