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Russia-linked company Columbus Nova that hired Trump lawyer Michael Cohen registered alt-right websites

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Part of Your Secret Life
Part of Your Secret Life

An odd thing for an investment firm to spend money on, wouldn’t you say?

The Washington Post reports:

A company at the center of widening questions involving President Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen is listed as the organization behind a string of websites targeted toward white nationalists and other members of the alt-right.

Columbus Nova, a company whose U.S. chief executive, Andrew Intrater, and Russian investment partner Viktor Vekselberg have both reportedly been interviewed by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team, is listed as the registrant behind a handful of domains for websites named after the alt-right that were created during the 2016 election.

It is unclear if any of these websites were launched or ever hosted content.

These sites include Alt-right.co, Alternate-right.com, Alternate-rt.com, Alt-rite.com, and other similar combinations, which were all registered in the two days following a speech given by then candidate Hillary Clinton in August 2016 in which she excoriated the far-right movement known for its extremist, racist, anti-Semitic and sexist viewpoints.

(click here to continue reading Russia-linked company that hired Trump lawyer Michael Cohen registered alt-right websites during election – The Washington Post.)

Columbus Novus has been around for while, acting as an Angel Investor firm.

Crunchbase reports on typical investments that Columbus Novus has made in the past, like Atlis:

 

– Local search platforms using average star ratings are antiquated, creating a poor user experience, and causing significant harm to local business reputations. These products still live in the desktop era.

 

– The system has removed negativity from the consumer feedback loop to prevent toxicity and abuse of local businesses, instead empowering satisfied customers to have a larger voice than ever before.

 

– Atlis has taken the preferred channel of “friendly advice” and applied it to a city-wide audience, letting users ask each other for various local businesses, products, and services to receive suggestions directly in real-time.

 

– Atlis tracks user preferences and collects a repository of the word-of-mouth advice across an entire city, making that dataset consumable via a passive search experience, as well. Machine learning will eventually transform this the data collection into smart, personalized search results that knows what people would have suggested to you.

 

– Company launched in NYC in October 2016 with its R&D team based in Tel Aviv. It has already built an engaged user base of over 10,000 and has signed up over 200 local businesses (without any B2B efforts). It has also secured valuable partnerships with Google, OpenTable, and others.

 

 

(click here to continue reading Atlis | Crunchbase.)

How does one make a business case that purchasing alt-right domain names is part of investment strategy? Unless your real strategy is assisting Putin put Trump in office by any means available.

The secrets of the world are whispered
The secrets of the world are whispered

I guess the Russians didn’t want to spend all of their funds with the NRA, and decided to spread it around a bit?

Natasha Bertrand, when she was with Business Insider, reported:

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has emerged as a hero of several prominent alt-right figures, raising new questions about the Kremlin’s influence on the far-right, white nationalist movement that has asserted itself as a new force in American politics. Whether Russia has played a direct role in awakening the American alt-right, whose resurgence as a crusade against establishment politics coincided with the rise of President-elect Donald Trump, is debatable.

 

But the extent to which the alt-right has found a natural ally in Russia’s current zeitgeist — which perceives the US as a globalist, imperialist power working on behalf of liberal elites — is hard to overstate.

 

Self-described white nationalist Matthew Heimbach, who said he identifies as a member of the alt-right, has praised Putin’s Russia as “the axis for nationalists.”

 

“I really believe that Russia is the leader of the free world right now,” Heimbach told Business Insider in a recent interview. “Putin is supporting nationalists around the world and building an anti-globalist alliance, while promoting traditional values and self-determination.”

 

 

(click here to continue reading Alt-right connections to Putin and Russia – Business Insider.)

or as Michelle Wolf put it:

 

 

Trump is racist, though. He loves white nationalists, which is a weird term for a Nazi. Calling a Nazi a ‘white nationalist’ is like calling a pedophile a ‘kid friend,’ or Harvey Weinstein a ‘ladies man,’ which isn’t really fair — he also likes plants.”

 

 

(click here to continue reading Michelle Wolf’s Best White House Correspondents Dinner Jokes.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 10th, 2018 at 9:41 am

Posted in Business,politics

Tagged with , ,

Gina Haspel Should Be Sent To Trial At The Hague Not Promoted To Head The CIA

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It s About Judge Ment
It’s About Judge Ment

One of my biggest disappointments with Obama’s presidency is that he never vigorously prosecuted those in the US Government who conducted torture, or in Gina Haspel’s case, enabled torturers to evade public scrutiny by covering up evidence of crimes.

Gina Haspel should not be promoted, she should be sent to The Hague to stand trial for war crimes, along with others like Dick Cheney. Torture is not an American value, at least not in the America I want to live in.

The Guardian reports:

 

Gina Haspel is set to become the first female director in the 70-year history of the CIA. But smashing that glass ceiling will depend on offering the US Senate a convincing explanation about her dark past.

 

More than a decade ago Haspel reportedly oversaw an infamous secret CIA prison in Thailand where a terrorism suspect, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, was waterboarded, a process that simulates drowning. She is also said to have drafted orders to destroy video evidence of such torture, which prompted a lengthy justice department investigation that ended without charges.

 

 

(click here to continue reading Torture allegations dog Gina Haspel as she is poised to be first female CIA head | US news | The Guardian.)

I am personally not reassured by her assertion that the CIA won’t restart torture:

 

Gina Haspel is expected to tell the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday that she “will not restart” the CIA’s brutal interrogation program if confirmed to lead the agency, according to excerpts of her remarks released by the agency in advance of what is expected to be a contentious confirmation hearing.

But that is unlikely to satisfy those senators who have called for more public disclosure about her career. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), the Intelligence Committee’s vice chairman, told Haspel in a letter earlier this week that her recalcitrance was “unacceptable.”

 

 

(click here to continue reading Gina Haspel hearing for CIA director: Senate questions Trump’s nominee on interrogation program – The Washington Post.)

Not reassured at all that Haspel, Bolton and Trump won’t quickly start up black sites and begin torturing people again. Who would even know, at first? She seems quite happy with herself, able to sleep at night, unlike some of her victims.

In October 2002, she took over a secret CIA detention facility in Thailand where an al-Qaeda suspect was waterboarded. Another suspect was subjected to the same so-called enhanced interrogation technique before Haspel arrived. At the time, she was serving in a senior leadership position in the agency’s counterterrorism center.

In 2005, Haspel drafted a cable, ultimately issued by her boss, ordering the destruction of nearly 100 videotapes of the interrogation sessions. Officials familiar with the episode have said that Haspel believed her boss, Jose Rodriquez, then the director of the National Clandestine Service, would obtain approval from the CIA director and general counsel before issuing the order. But Haspel was a strong advocate within the agency for destroying the tapes, believing that were they to become public and reveal the identity of CIA interrogators, they could face reprisals from terrorists.

End Torture in Illinois
End Torture in Illinois, and everywhere

James Cavallaro of The Guardian writes:

In the coming days, Gina Haspel will testify before the Senate in connection with her nomination by Donald Trump to direct the Central Intelligence Agency. Much has been written about whether someone who oversaw a secret CIA detention site where detainees were tortured should be eligible to head the nation’s leading intelligence agency.

At first blush, this may appear to be the central debate. What ethical transgressions are inconsistent with an agency-level directorship in the United States government? Certainly, participation in torture should render a candidate unqualified. Yet, on further inspection, the focus on whether Haspel’s abusive conduct disqualifies her from CIA leadership cloaks a far more important and revealing debate.

Judging candidates to direct the CIA presupposes knowledge of the history of the CIA and a vision for its role – if any – in a society that purports to be democratic. Interrogating, so to speak, that knowledge and understanding that vision have been painfully absent from the national debate.

More recently, the CIA created black sites around the world to host programs of institutionalized torture, documented by the Senate itself. The torture memos, written to justify this torture, so twisted and distorted legal norms that they were kept secret for years. The agency also facilitated creation of a black hole legal regime in Guantánamo, where the US has indefinitely detained hundreds of people in violation of international law.

My guess is that none of this bleak history will be raised when Gina Haspel appears before the Senate. Since 9/11, we have witnessed a national, collective effort to rehabilitate the CIA and champion its role as a noble protector of the US. Our post-9/11 reverence for all those tasked with defending us against real and perceived terrorist threats has crippled our ability to assess the actions and role of agencies like the CIA critically. This collective amnesia regarding the agency’s abuses, including its pattern of interference in democratic processes, is particularly stark today, as our nation grapples with the consequences of Russian efforts to undermine our elections and those of other nations.

Given its sordid history, the question to ask might not be whether Haspel rises to the caliber of the CIA. The question might be whether Haspel descends to the level of instigator of torture, murder and interference in foreign governments that has marked the history of the CIA. Unless and until we examine the difficult questions about the past and future of the CIA, Haspel may just be perfect for the job.

(click here to continue reading The CIA has a long history of torture. Gina Haspel will be perfect for the job | James Cavallaro | Opinion | The Guardian.)

The Arc of History Is Rusted
The Arc of History Is Rusted

The AP reports:

 

Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, offered to withdraw her nomination amid concerns that a debate over a harsh interrogation program would tarnish her reputation and that of the CIA. That’s according to two senior administration officials.

 

White House aides on Friday sought out additional details about Haspel’s involvement in the CIA’s now-defunct program of detaining and brutally interrogating terror suspects after 9/11 as they prepared her for Wednesday’s confirmation hearing. This is when she offered to withdraw.

 

They said Haspel, who is the acting director of the CIA, was reassured that her nomination was still on track and she will not withdraw.

 

 

(click here to continue reading The Latest: Sanders: Haspel offered withdrawal to shield CIA – The Washington Post.)

If Ms. Haspel had any honor, and there is no evidence she does, she would immediately withdraw her nomination and start a non-profit organization dedicated to helping victims of human rights abuses around the world as a kind of penance. Even still, she should become a pariah, unwelcome to visit civilized societies.

Written by Seth Anderson

May 9th, 2018 at 8:29 am

As headlines swirl, Trump grows frustrated with Giuliani

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Don t Bring Your Dog Shet to Town
Don’t Bring Your Dog Shet to Town

Speaking of that repugnant person, Rudy Giuliani, the AP reports:

President Donald Trump is growing increasingly irritated with lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s frequently off-message media blitz, in which he has muddied the waters on hush money paid to porn actress Stormy Daniels and made claims that could complicate the president’s standing in the special counsel’s Russia probe.

Trump has begun questioning whether Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, should be sidelined from television interviews, according to two people familiar with the president’s thinking but not authorized to speak publicly about private discussions.

Trump also expressed annoyance that Giuliani’s theatrics have breathed new life into the Daniels story and extended its lifespan.

(click here to continue reading As headlines swirl, Trump grows frustrated with Giuliani.)

What a surprise!1

Rudy “9/11” Giuliani has always been a carpet stain, and a media hog, just like his motorboating buddy, Trump. The smart money was on betting that Rudy and Trump would not have a long time working relationship, too much competition for the same attention.

Footnotes:
  1. nobody is surprised []

Written by Seth Anderson

May 8th, 2018 at 4:48 pm

Posted in politics

Tagged with ,

Will Trump Testify in Mueller Probe?

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Dump Googly Eyes Trump
Dump Googly Eyes Trump

The WSJ reports:

Mr. Giuliani said he came into the case last month skeptical about letting Mr. Trump testify, based on his own experience as a former U.S. attorney and private lawyer.

“I’m not sure any client of mine has ever testified, and I sure as heck have benefited from ones who were dumb enough to do it” when he served as a prosecutor, Mr. Giuliani said.

Another consideration is how Mr. Trump would perform as a witness and whether he has the discipline to avoid unnecessary tangents that open himself to new questions.

“Anyone can see he has great difficulty staying on a subject,” one person familiar with the legal team’s deliberations said.

A person familiar with the legal team, i.e., Rudy Giuliani, admitting that Trump has the attention span of a gnat. 

Preparing Mr. Trump to testify would be a serious distraction to his work as president, eating into time he needs to deal with pressing global issues, Mr. Trump’s lawyers contend.

In an informal, four-hour practice session, Mr. Trump’s lawyers were only able to walk him through two questions, given the frequent interruptions on national-security matters along with Mr. Trump’s loquaciousness, one person familiar with the matter said.

(click here to continue reading Trump Lawyers Aim to Decide by May 17 Whether President Testifies in Mueller Probe – WSJ.)

Yeah, there’s so many television shows he needs to keep up with; I’m certain his DVR is nearly full because he never has time in his busy day to watch the shows and delete them from his playlist. Oh, and golfing of course.

On the second quoted sentence, I think Mueller’s team would be fine with Trump rambling on and on, contradicting himself every other sentence, spinning tales that will reveal more than they conceal. Trump is a lot of things, but he isn’t shy about voicing his opinions, especially opinions that have no basis in fact. 

Oath
Under Oath

Trump’s new legal team doesn’t have a security clearance, but that’s never stopped Rudy Giuliani in the past from reading classified documents1 – allegedly.

Meanwhile, the turnover has created a separate problem for Mr. Trump’s defense: His lawyers lack security clearances, which could limit the documents and materials they can see.

When Mr. Dowd left in March, he was the only outside lawyer who held a clearance. The outside team as it now stands—Jay Sekulow, Marty and Jane Raskin and Mr. Giuliani—are all in the process of applying for security clearances, a person familiar with the matter said.

 

(click here to continue reading Trump Lawyers Aim to Decide by May 17 Whether President Testifies in Mueller Probe – WSJ.)

The best and the brightest people…

Footnotes:
  1. and leaking []

Written by Seth Anderson

May 8th, 2018 at 4:16 pm

Posted in crime,politics

Tagged with ,

Whose Bubble Is It Anyway?

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Hay Bales
Hay Bales 

Rebecca Solnit eloquently writes about the rural bubble that racists like Charles Murray want the rest of us to enter:

 The exhortations are everywhere. PBS News Hour featured a quiz by Charles Murray in March that asked “Do You Live in a Bubble?” The questions assumed that if you didn’t know people who drank cheap beer and drove pick-up trucks and worked in factories you lived in an elitist bubble. Among the questions: “Have you ever lived for at least a year in an American community with a population under 50,000 that is not part of a metropolitan area and is not where you went to college? Have you ever walked on a factory floor? Have you ever had a close friend who was an evangelical Christian?”

The quiz is essentially about whether you are in touch with working-class small-town white Christian America, as though everyone who’s not Joe the Plumber is Maurice the Elitist. We should know them, the logic goes; they do not need to know us. Less than 20 percent of Americans are white evangelicals, only slightly more than are Latino. Most Americans are urban. The quiz delivers, yet again, the message that the 80 percent of us who live in urban areas are not America, treats non-Protestant (including the quarter of this country that is Catholic) and non-white people as not America, treats many kinds of underpaid working people (salespeople, service workers, farmworkers) who are not male industrial workers as not America.

More Americans work in museums than work in coal, but coalminers are treated as sacred beings owed huge subsidies and the sacrifice of the climate, and museum workers—well, no one is talking about their jobs as a totem of our national identity.

PBS added a little note at the end of the bubble quiz, “The introduction has been edited to clarify Charles Murray’s expertise, which focuses on white American culture.” They don’t mention that he’s the author of the notorious Bell Curve or explain why someone widely considered racist was welcomed onto a publicly funded program. Perhaps the actual problem is that white Christian suburban, small-town, and rural America includes too many people who want to live in a bubble and think they’re entitled to, and that all of us who are not like them are menaces and intrusions who needs to be cleared out of the way.

(click here to continue reading Rebecca Solnit: Whose Story (and Country) Is This? | Literary Hub.)

We’ve discussed this before a few times. The rural voters may have disproportionate power in Congress, but they don’t have much cultural power. Urbanites are not clamoring to move out to small towns in Alabama or Iowa, places where the Walmart and four Protestant churches are the sum total of cultural life. Not all rural folk are racist assholes wallowing willfully in their ignorance, by the way. And in truth, there are liberal-minded folk all over the country, even in pockets of small town America. Jefferson’s America is long, long gone though. 

I actually have lived in rural America, years ago, albeit not by choice. I have no desire to move back. 

I mean, sure, who wouldn’t like being wealthy enough to have a place to go and unwind, some isolated thousand acre ranch in beautiful country, maintained by staff, but I wouldn’t want to live there more than a few weeks a year.

Rural Still Life
Rural Still Life

Back to the main point, why aren’t there a gazillion think pieces on the bubble of the rural Trump supporter? Coal jobs are not coming back, women are going to be able to vote, and drive, and make reproductive decisions for themselves; and non-white people are going to have civil liberties and be able to vote for their own interests. Supporting reactionaries like Trump and Scott Pruitt and the like is not going to alter the march of human history towards inclusion.

Quoting myself:

 

As somebody said on the internets (sic), the corporate media and the political chattering classes are treating the Trump base as if they are superdelegates. These reactionaries who voted for Trump despite all the warning signs of Trump’s incompetence are never going to be convinced to vote for progressive policies, why do we need to devote so much effort trying to cater to them? Are the Deplorables the only citizens who matter? Why not spend resources convincing the sometime voters who lean left to come to the polls instead?

 

 

(click here to continue reading Democrats Can Retake the House in 2018 Without Converting a Single Trump Voter at B12 Solipsism.)

Written by Seth Anderson

April 22nd, 2018 at 9:26 am

Posted in News-esque,politics

Tagged with , ,

The GOP Tax Cuts Are a Blatant Scam

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Tax Refund Received

Joshua Holland of The Nation reports:

But it’s the brazenness with which the Republican Party abandoned any last remaining pretense of caring about deficits or federal spending that may come back to haunt them, and mark a shift in the political landscape around taxes and spending. It goes further than the $1.9 trillion in additional deficits, including higher payments on the national debt, that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects will result from the tax bill over the next 10 years. When the nonpartisan number crunchers evaluated the fiscal impact of all of the legislation passed since mid-2017, including new spending, their analysis found that the GOP will add $2.6 trillion to the deficit over that period. What’s more, as Catherine Rampell noted in The Washington Post, that assumes that the economy will continue growing apace, and that the “temporary” individual tax cuts will expire according to the written law. But recent history suggests otherwise—most of George W. Bush’s budget-busting cuts were made permanent under Obama. In CBO’s worst-case scenario, “deficits would be larger by an average of a full percentage point of GDP, rising by a total of $2.6 trillion to yield a cumulative deficit of nearly $15 trillion” over the next 10 years.

Then, having created massive deficits for as far as the eye can see, House Republicans had the chutzpah to try to pass a constitutional amendment that would bar future Congresses from running any deficits at all. It’s a remarkably stupid policy. Running deficits isn’t inherently a bad thing if the purpose is to stimulate the economy during a recession or address a national emergency. The problem with these deficits is that they come at a time when the economy is growing and mostly just enrich the wealthy and pump up corporate profits.

(click here to continue reading The GOP Tax Cuts Are Such a Blatant Scam That They Might Change the Whole Conversation | The Nation.)

Paul Ryan’s real legacy is this. GOP-style austerity only applies to social safety net programs, not corporate tax give-aways.

And as Holland mentions in his article, Democrats like Senator Brian Schatz note the GOP fiscal hypocrisy.

Look At All These People Who Care About Your Taxes 

Vox reports on Senator Schatz’s plan for making college more affordable, and includes this exchange:

But overall, Schatz sees little appetite from his Republican colleagues to reform the system. And with hastily passed GOP tax cuts estimated to add $1 trillion to the national deficit over the next decade, Schatz said he’s not yet going to wade into details of how he’ll pay for his plan because he thinks there’s a double standard with Republicans and Democrats.

“I don’t play the pay-for game. I reject the pay-for game,” he said. “After the Republicans did the $1.5 trillion in unpaid-for tax cuts, and as we’re doing a bipartisan appropriations bill — which I support — which is also an increase in federal spending [that’s] unpaid for … I just reject the idea that only progressive ideas have to be paid for. We can work on that as we go through the process, but I think it’s a trap.”

And he’s under no impression that his bill will gain traction in the current Republican-controlled Congress, especially given the tumult of news swirling around President Donald Trump and few signs from Republicans that they’re going to seriously entertain the issue.

“One of the things I have observed among Republicans — and part of it is that they’re just unserious about governing in the first place, but I certainly observed on health care that they had no actual legislative program once they got the gavels,” Schatz said. “And I think it’s important for us to draw a clear contrast with Republicans over the rest of the year, but also be ready to govern.”

 

(click here to continue reading Exclusive: Sen. Brian Schatz’s ambitious new plan for debt-free college, explained – Vox.)

Written by Seth Anderson

April 17th, 2018 at 9:27 pm

Posted in politics

Tagged with , ,

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 ,

The Paul Ryan Story: From Flimflam to Fascism

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Bedtime Story  drawing by Barry Blitt
Bedtime Story – drawing by Barry Blitt

Paul Ryan has always been a flim-flam man and a ridiculous Randian. But the Koch brothers loved him, and certain influential people swooned over Ryan’s blue eyes and P90X work-outs, so he kept falling upward. 

Paul Krugman writes:

I do have some insight into how Ryan — who has always been an obvious con man, to anyone willing to see — came to become speaker of the House. And that’s a story that reflects badly not just on Ryan himself, not just on his party, but also on self-proclaimed centrists and the news media, who boosted his career through their malfeasance. Furthermore, the forces that brought Ryan to a position of power are the same forces that have brought America to the edge of a constitutional crisis.

About Ryan: Incredibly, I’m seeing some news reports about his exit that portray him as a serious policy wonk and fiscal hawk who, sadly, found himself unable to fulfill his mission in the Trump era. Unbelievable.

Look, the single animating principle of everything Ryan did and proposed was to comfort the comfortable while afflicting the afflicted. Can anyone name a single instance in which his supposed concern about the deficit made him willing to impose any burden on the wealthy, in which his supposed compassion made him willing to improve the lives of the poor? Remember, he voted against the Simpson-Bowles debt commission proposal not because of its real flaws, but because it would raise taxes and fail to repeal Obamacare.

And his “deficit reduction” proposals were always frauds. The revenue loss from tax cuts always exceeded any explicit spending cuts, so the pretense of fiscal responsibility came entirely from “magic asterisks”: extra revenue from closing unspecified loopholes, reduced spending from cutting unspecified programs.

(click here to continue reading Opinion | The Paul Ryan Story: From Flimflam to Fascism – The New York Times.)

I guess someone else will have to eliminate Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and other social safety net programs now that Ryan is leaving. Unless he figures out a way before the new Congress comes in.

Written by Seth Anderson

April 13th, 2018 at 9:58 am

Posted in 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 , , ,

FBI Raid On Paul Manafort Storage Locker

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One Step Forward
One Step Forward

Michael Cohen being raided is big news, but there are other threads we are following, including the Paul Manafort case. 

The FBI found a storage locker with lots and lots of documents that Paul Manafort was saving, perhaps to be made whole. This will come up again, mark my words.

Betsy Woodruff reports:

According to court documents, one of Manafort’s former employees led an FBI agent to a storage locker filled with paperwork on Manafort’s businesses and finances. The person’s name is redacted from the filings. But he’s now at the center of a fight over evidence that could play a significant role in the government’s case against Manafort.

“People do strange things when confronted with authoritative FBI agents,” said Sol Wisenberg, a criminal defense attorney with Nelson Mullins.

The person whose name was redacted also gave the FBI agent “a key to the lock on Unit 3013 and described the contents of Unit 3013,” according to the affidavit. That person also gave the FBI agent “written consent” to search the storage unit, and opened it for the FBI agent.

The FBI agent then looked into the storage unit and saw about 21 boxes of documents, as well as a filing cabinet. One box was marked as containing expenses, paid bills, invoices, and legal complaints. Another box said it contained “Ukraine Binders,” as well information about ballot security, Georgia, research, and “Ukraine Campaign.”

Manafort and Gates have been involved in Ukrainian politics for years, and helped prop up Kiev’s Putin-friendly strongman, Viktor Yanukovych.

The FBI agent seemed to figure out immediately that the storage unit’s contents were interesting, because the law enforcement officials started surveilling the storage unit facility to see if anyone went in to take out any files. The day after seeing the storage unit, the FBI agent filed the affidavit—which was more than 20 pages long—with a magistrate judge.

(click here to continue reading A Second Paul Manafort Associate Has Turned on Him.)

I guess these guys haven’t heard of a document shredder or something. I shred stuff on a regular basis and I avoid criminal or even sketchy business! Why wouldn’t these guys have a contract with a shredding company to come every other month?

Gleamingly Banal
Gleamingly Banal

A sign of one’s age when this is the birthday present I bought myself

Written by Seth Anderson

April 10th, 2018 at 10:04 am

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 , ,

What’s the Matter With Trumpland?

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No One Will Know How Things Are Between Us
No One Will Know How Things Are Between Us

Paul Krugman writes:

Many of the states that have refused to expand Medicaid, even though the federal government would foot the great bulk of the bill — and would create jobs in the process — are also among America’s poorest.

Or consider how some states, like Kansas and Oklahoma — both of which were relatively affluent in the 1970s, but have now fallen far behind — have gone in for radical tax cuts, and ended up savaging their education systems. External forces have put them in a hole, but they’re digging it deeper.

And when it comes to national politics, let’s face it: Trumpland is in effect voting for its own impoverishment. New Deal programs and public investment played a significant role in the great postwar convergence; conservative efforts to downsize government will hurt people all across America, but it will disproportionately hurt the very regions that put the G.O.P. in power.

(click here to continue reading Opinion | What’s the Matter With Trumpland? – The New York Times.)

Not a brand new phenomena, but relatively new. I call it the Fox News effect: the conservative red states who have been bamboozled to reflexively refuse the exact government help that would assist them in their lives because their spiritual/cultural leaders yelling at them on the tee-vee have convinced them that tax cuts and a smaller government is panacea, plus it will “trigger the liberals”. Yeah, those liberals, always trying to help, what’s wrong with them?

So Kansas1 and Oklahoma have cut taxes so much that teachers are having to strike for living wages. In my ideal world, teachers would be paid as much as least as much as investment bankers. Teachers should at least get a living wage, preferably more so that the “best and brightest” choose the teaching profession. Good teachers are important to our civil society, essential even, why should they get sub-poverty wages just so the Koch Brothers can pay slightly less in taxes?

South River Public School
South River Public School

The Guardian reports:

While Oklahoma has the country’s lowest tax on oil and natural gas production, teachers’ salaries remain stubbornly low, at 49th in the nation. According to data provided by the National Education Association (NEA), teachers make $45,276, nearly $13,077 below the nationwide average of $58,353 and well below the nationwide high of New York at $79,152.

“Over a decade of neglect by the legislature has given our students broken chairs in classrooms, outdated textbooks that are duct-taped together, four-day school weeks, classes that have exploded in size and teachers who have been forced to donate plasma, work multiple jobs and go to food pantries to provide for their families,” said the Oklahoma Education Association in a statement. “We are saying enough. No more empty promises. The governor and legislature need to act now to fix this.”

It’s a feeling shared by teachers in places like Arizona, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and other states, who are all also considering action.

The strikes are unique in that they are not being called for by the leadership of the unions, but often through direct appeals of rank-and-file members using social media and their own personal networks to organize across entire states and now the country.

(click here to continue reading Wave of teachers’ wildcat strikes spreads to Oklahoma and Kentucky | US news | The Guardian.)

Not to mention the whole conservative pushback to the Affordable Care Act:

A new wave of teacher strikes has highlighted a growing problem for all US workers – growing health costs which have become a “hungry tapeworm” on Americans’ wages.

In the most expensive health system in the world and the only industrialized nation without universal healthcare, more than 177 million Americans get health insurance through an employer. But insurance is rarely free.

“They’ve shifted the healthcare costs and the pension costs on to employees, so employees are making less and they’re spending less,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, which represents 1.7 million members. “It’s a double whammy.”

Conservative legislatures’ push to shift health and pension costs on to individual teachers means in some states, teachers take home less pay than they did five years ago.

(click here to continue reading ‘Double whammy’: teachers strike as healthcare costs cut into earnings | US news | The Guardian.)

I hope these teachers get their raises, and that they vote in 2018 for Democrats.

Footnotes:
  1. which we’ve discussed before []

Written by Seth Anderson

April 3rd, 2018 at 9:59 am

Posted in government,politics

Tagged with , , ,

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 ,

Donald Trump Cherishes Lou Dobbs So Much He Puts Him on Speakerphone for Oval Office Meetings

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They Can t Deport Us All
They Can’t Deport Us All

Simply wow. I’m without words.

The Daily Beast reports:

As such, Dobbs doesn’t get to just interview and socialize with the president; he is involved in some of the administration’s more sensitive discussions. During the first year of the Trump era, the president has patched in Dobbs via speakerphone to multiple meetings in the Oval Office so that he could offer his two cents, according to three sources familiar with these conversations. Trump will ask Dobbs for his opinion before and after his senior aides or Cabinet members have spoken. Occasionally, he will cut off an official so the Fox Business host can jump in.

Dobbs, these sources all independently recounted, has been patched in to senior-level meetings on issues such as trade and tax policy—meetings that featured officials such as senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, former top economic adviser Gary Cohn, former chief strategist Steve Bannon, trade adviser Peter Navarro, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

(click here to continue reading Donald Trump ‘Cherishes’ Lou Dobbs So Much He Puts Him on Speakerphone for Oval Office Meetings.)

Lou Dobbs is a horrible person, so it makes sense that the Orange Dotard loves him.

Written by Seth Anderson

April 2nd, 2018 at 6:24 pm

Posted in politics

Tagged with

Advertisers Drop Laura Ingraham

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Streets slick with regret
Streets slick with regret…

Daniel Victor of the NYT writes:

Laura Ingraham, a Fox News host, apologized under pressure on Thursday for taunting a survivor of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., as at least eight companies confirmed they would pull advertising from her show.

In response, Mr. Hogg, who has rapidly become a prominent advocate for gun-control policies, called on Ms. Ingraham’s advertisers to boycott her show. Eight of the companies, TripAdvisor, Wayfair, Hulu, Nutrish, Johnson & Johnson, Nestle, Atlantis Paradise Island and Stitch Fix, said they were removing their ads. A ninth, Expedia, said it had recently pulled its advertising but declined to say when.

(click here to continue reading Advertisers Drop Laura Ingraham After She Taunts Parkland Survivor David Hogg – The New York Times.)

Laura Ingraham and the rest of the Fox News stains must be shocked by this response – they’ve spewed similar vitriol for decades without consequence. Has Ingraham ever said anything positive about someone she disagrees with? For a sampling, read some of Media Matters’ 983 items listed under Ingraham

Until Fox News loses all of its blue chip advertisers, the show will go on. The target may change with the ebb and flow of the news, but the vicious Fox tone will remain the same.

Written by Seth Anderson

April 1st, 2018 at 10:58 pm

Posted in Advertising,politics

Tagged with , ,