Saturday, April 29, 2017

100 Days of Nepotism and Corruption

WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump has left a trail of broken promises and unaccomplished goals in his first 100 days in office. Yet Trump has changed the White House in one major way: He has used the pomp and prestige of the presidency to serve his own bottom line.
When Trump announced on Jan. 11 that he would not divest from his multibillion-dollar international business, he broke with decades of ethical norms. Dollars flowing into his business during his time in the White House will accrue to his personal benefit. More than that, the Trump brand has gotten a permanent makeover thanks to the intangible assets the Office of the President of the United States bestows.
In his first 100 days, Trump has routinely advertised the link between the presidency and his brand. He has stated that ethics and conflict-of-interest laws and constitutional provisions do not apply to him. He has embraced the nepotistic practices more typically seen in pseudo-democracies and dictatorships by installing Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump as senior White House advisers.
This casual attitude about ethics has trickled down in his administration. His aides promoted his family’s business on television, U.S. embassies promoted his properties on government websites and his unpaid advisers have advocated for their self-interest. This is not even to mention his disgraced former national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, lying about payments from foreign governments and meetings with foreign diplomats.
Trump’s subversion of the presidency to serve his interests came after he campaigned on a decidedly anti-corruption message to “drain the swamp” and called his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton “the most corrupt person ever to seek the presidency.”

Trump International Hotel employees cheer during the Inaugural Parade on Jan. 20. His hotel has seen a boom in business from visiting dignitaries.

Fred Wertheimer, an expert in ethics and campaign funding, helped pass and institute the regime of ethics and campaign finance laws and norms that Trump now barely acknowledges as applying to him. From his work at the nonprofit Common Cause in the 1970s to his current role as head of Democracy 21, Wertheimer has seen and fought against many forms of Washington corruption, including Watergate, the campaign finance abuses of the 1990s, Jack Abramoff’s corrupt lobbying and the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision.
“President Trump is the worst president we have had in modern times in terms of issues involving ethics, conflicts of interest, protecting the integrity of the presidency and the government,” Wertheimer told HuffPost.
Wertheimer explains the situation like this: “The president maintains a worldwide business that licenses his name for fees. At the same time, he’s serving as president. His family members, his daughter, his son-in-law maintain their business operations. This is what happens in countries all over the world where leaders use their office to enrich themselves and open the door to corruption and influence buying.”
Trump’s family business specializes in one thing: brand management. Trump says he’s a dealmaker, but his true skills lie in advertising and marketing. He has licensed his name to more than 50 real estate properties around the world, earning him tens of millions of dollars in revenue. And he has already turned the presidency into a marketing tool for his for-profit interests.
I think our brand is the hottest it has ever been.Eric Trump, the Trump Organization
“Everything he owns has increased value not as a result of him but as a result of the presidency, and they have said so,” Wertheimer said. “His brand is no longer Donald Trump. His brand is President Donald Trump.”
Eric Trump, who now runs the Trump Organization with his brother Donald Trump, Jr., told the New York Times in March, “I think our brand is the hottest it has ever been.”
As he did on the NBC reality TV show “The Apprentice,” Trump makes sure his properties are advertised to his supporters and cable news viewers on a regular basis, permanently imbuing his business with the presidential brand.
Trump has visited a Trump-owned property on 31 of his first 100 days in office ― and on some days he’s visited more than one. The press reports on each visit, essentially advertising the property to the public as the federal government pays money directly to the property to rent space, rooms and even golf carts. The State Department and at least three U.S. embassies even advertised one of his properties online in April when a blog post about Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort was shared on government websites and on their social media accounts.
He has spent seven of his first 14 weekends as president at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, using the resort to conduct official presidential business. He hosted an open-air situation room when he consulted with Japanese President Shinzo Abe on how to respond to a North Korean missile test launch on the resort’s wide-open outdoor patio.
On another Mar-a-Lago weekend, this time when Chinese President Xi Jinping was visiting, Trump made the decision to fire 59 Tomahawk missiles at an air base in Syria.
Trump’s visits make his for-profit resort a permanent part of presidential history, which wouldn’t matter except that he’s the one who benefits financially.

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, first lady Melania Trump, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, President Donald Trump and Abe’s wife, Akie Abe, dine together at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort on Feb. 10.

The presidential visits to Mar-a-Lago also afford members unprecedented access to the president ― for a fee. (The resort doubled its initial membership fees from $100,000 to $200,000 days after Trump assumed the presidency.) Members can also bring guests hoping to get the president’s ear.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) ― who was a bitter rival of Trump’s during the GOP primaries ― helped facilitate a meeting between Trump and Álvaro Uribe and Andrés Pastrana, two former conservative presidents of Colombia, at Mar-a-Lago earlier this month, where they lobbied Trump to oppose the peace deal between the current Colombian government and the country’s left-wing FARC rebels. The two former presidents were able to secure a private meeting with him at Mar-a-Lago when a member reportedly brought them in as guests.
Trump has also visited the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., twice since his inauguration to dine on his favorite well-done steak with ketchup at the hotel’s BLT Steak restaurant
The hotel is the perfect symbol of how Trump has intertwined his personal business interests with the operations of the U.S. government. The federal government actually owns the historic building the hotel occupies, which means Trump is both the landlord and the tenant at a property that is actively generating profits for his family. Trump’s lease with the General Services Administration technically prohibits elected officials from taking part in it ― but now that Trump heads the executive branch, the agency has decided that provision doesn’t apply to him.
Hotel management has already taken advantage of Trump’s presidential glow to pitch foreign governments on staying there. Less than 10 days after Trump won the election, his D.C. hotel hosted a gathering for about 100 foreign diplomats and tried to convince them to book rooms there when they stayed in Washington.
“Why wouldn’t I stay at his hotel blocks from the White House, so I can tell the new president, ‘I love your new hotel!’” one diplomat explained to The Washington Post. “Isn’t it rude to come to his city and say, ‘I am staying at your competitor?’”
This is just like companies that hire the Chinese princelings as a way of getting their permits agreed on.Sarah Chayes, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Since then, the governments of AzerbaijanBahrainSaudi Arabia and Kuwait have booked rooms or hosted events at Trump’s hotel. A business group affiliated with the government of Turkey will host both Turkish and American government officials at its annual conference at the Trump hotel in May. (While Trump promised to hand over foreign profits from his hotel to the U.S. Treasury, his company has not answered questions on how it will do so.)
Sarah Chayes, an expert in government corruption at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told HuffPost that it is no surprise that foreign governments with high rates of corruption are happy to put money in the president’s pocket. That’s because they recognize the arrangement.
“What all his bombast and straight-talking hid is the fact that this is very similar to the structure of governments I’ve been looking at in places like Azerbaijan, Honduras, Serbia, Nigeria, you name it,” Chayes said.
Chayes isn’t alone in her comparison. Former U.S. diplomats to countries with high rates of corruption and nepotism agree.
“I think that by the example they’re setting you can bet that is going to filter down throughout American governance and throughout the global commercial world,” said Joseph C. Wilson IV, ambassador to Gabon and Sao Tome Principe from 1992 to 1995.
The commercial enterprise Trump is most involved in ― high-end real estate ― is already known around the world for infamous cases of corruption and money laundering through shell companies. In 2015, the Department of Justice launched a pilot program requiring real estate buyers to disclose their real identities in a handful of major U.S. cities.
But that program did not apply to real estate purchases in Las Vegas, where Milan Investments, a limited liability company with anonymous owners, paid $3.1 million to buy 11 condos at the Trump International Las Vegas, which Trump co-owns. Because of the hidden ownership, it’s impossible to know if the sale was purely commercial.
Comparisons of the Trump administration to corrupt foreign regimesgo beyond the many opportunities for influence that his continued ownership of his business creates. They also extend to the employment of his daughter Ivanka Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner as top White House aides.
Both Ivanka Trump and Kushner maintain loose connections to their own corporate enterprises. In fact, the day Ivanka Trump sat next to China’s Xi and his wife at a Mar-a-Lago dinner, the Chinese government approved five new trademarks for her company. Her company continues to apply for trademark protection around the world as sales of her brand soar thanks to her increased publicity.
“This is just like companies that hire the Chinese princelings as a way of getting their permits agreed on,” said Chayes, who blew the whistle on corruption in Afghanistan and studies kleptocratic networks around the world.

Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, both White House advisers to her father, have dinner with China’s first lady, Peng Liyuan, and Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago.

The presidential brand even extends to Trump’s adult sons, who have been assigned to run the family business in his stead. Even though the Trump Organization promised to halt any new foreign deals after Trump assumed office, Donald Jr. and Eric Trump still travel overseas to check on the family’s deals that were already underway. When they travel, as they have to Canada and Dubai, they show up with Secret Service in tow.
Not only is it costly for the taxpayers to send agents on international business trips, but the visual of the president’s sons arriving with armed government protection also serves the interests of the Trump business. “When a person shows up with a gigantic Secret Service contingent, that is a negotiating benefit,” Chayes said. “That improves his negotiating position when he’s negotiating with weaker and smaller countries, which is every other country in the world except China.”
In the U.S., the Trump sons are trying to expand their hotel business. They have so far had difficulty opening new hotels in cities where the president is unpopular. The family’s past cooperation with shady businessmen with unknown foreign sources of investment also posed problems for the Trump sons’ plans to brand a hotel in Dallas. Now they’re hoping to expand in regions of the country where their father is still popular.
“No one has ever tried to pull off what President Trump is attempting here, which is to turn the way in which our democracy functions into the way corrupt countries function to enrich their leaders,” Wertheimer said. “It’s just never been done, and the scale here is enormous.”
“But then again, we’re only 100 days in.”

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

I Always Knew There Was Something Very Wrong With Conservafools

Barry X. Kuhle Ph.D.
Psychology Today
In Creationism as a Mental Illness, Robert Rowland Smith argues that creationists exhibit several signs of mental illness including denial, psychosis, and inability to grasp irony.
The specter of mental illness does indeed loom large over creationists, but they are not alone. Signs of psychopathology can also be seen among their political bedfellows, conservative politicians, especially when you consider a wide range of illness indicators. In his award-winning 2005 book, Dr. James Whitney Hicks discusses 50 signs of mental illness including denial, delusion, hallucination, disordered thinking, anger, anti-social behavior, sexual preoccupation, grandiosity, general oddness, and paranoia. Now I'm no clinician, but in my (admittedly biasedbrown) eyes it seems that prominent Republicans have evidenced each of these ten telltale signs of mental illness over the past year:
2) Delusion: climate is not changing
6) Anti-social Behaviortoward womengays, minorities, anyone without an umbilical cord or trust fund
7) Sexual Preoccupation: a fervent compulsion to control when we can mate, with whom we can mate, and precisely how we are allowed to mate (which I lampoon in Why Do Politicians Want to Police Dick and Jane's Private Parts?)
9) General Oddness: Ron Paul
Even (the not necessarily dumb) Pope Francis appears to recognize that “it is a serious illness, this of ideological [conservative] Christians. It is an illness, but it is not new, eh?” 
Regrettably, the Republican who least exhibits anti-science stances is the only one who (tongue-in-cheek) acknowledges his mental illness:

Until Jon Huntsman becomes the sane voice of his insane party, maybe "Republican Syndrome" should be added to the DSM-V so that crazy conservative pols can receive the mental health treatment they need. I bet "Obamacare" would even cover it. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

My Renewed Pledge to RESIST

Don't ever let the right get away with their lies. Call them on them each and every time. We know that facts are the enemy of the right. They seriously hate facts and like to make up their own 'alternate facts'. Without those 'alternative facts', this mango Mussolini infesting the White House would not be able to get by with his near-constant lies. Sadly, the right has been so dumbed down by the right wing bubble they survive in, they just no longer are capable of knowing what is real and what isn't. They've become the senile old aunt sitting in the living room on Thanksgiving day telling everyone the same 5 ancient stories over and over again about relatives nobody ever met because they died long before anyone in the room was even born. 

We're keeping the lid on this lying loon and his crew of criminal idiots and science deniers. Let's not let up the pressure. EVER. The future for our nation and our children is at stake. 


Friday, April 14, 2017

An Update For Trump Voters!!!

  1. He said he wouldn’t bomb Syria. You bought it. Then he bombed Syria.
  2. He said he’d build a wall along the border with Mexico. You bought it. Now his secretary of homeland security says “It’s unlikely that we will build a wall.”
  3. He said he’d clean the Washington swamp. You bought it. Then he brought into his administration more billionaires, CEOs, and Wall Street moguls than in any administration in history, to make laws that will enrich their businesses.
  4. He said he’d repeal Obamacare and replace it with something “wonderful.” You bought it. Then he didn’t.
  5. He said he’d use his business experience to whip the White House into shape. You bought it. Then he created the most chaotic, dysfunctional, back-stabbing White House in modern history, in which no one is in charge.
  6. He said he’d release his tax returns, eventually. You bought it. He hasn’t, and says he never will.
  7. He said he’d divest himself from his financial empire, to avoid any conflicts of interest. You bought it. He remains heavily involved in his businesses, makes money off of foreign dignitaries staying at his Washington hotel, gets China to give the Trump brand trademark and copyright rights, manipulates the stock market on a daily basis, and has more conflicts of interest than can even be counted.
  8. He said Clinton was in the pockets of Goldman Sachs, and would do whatever they said. You bought it. Then he put half a dozen Goldman Sachs executives in positions of power in his administration.
  9. He said he’d surround himself with all the best and smartest people. You bought it. Then he put Betsy DeVos, opponent of public education, in charge of education; Jeff Sessions, opponent of the Voting Rights Act, in charge of voting rights; Ben Carson, opponent of the Fair Housing Act, in charge of fair housing; Scott Pruitt, climate change denier, in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency; and Russian quisling Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State.
  10. He said he’d faithfully execute the law. You bought it. Then he said his predecessor, Barack Obama, spied on him, without any evidence of Obama ever doing so, in order to divert attention from the FBI’s investigation into collusion between his campaign and Russian operatives to win the election.
  11. He said he knew more about strategy and terrorism than the generals did. You bought it. Then he green lighted a disastrous raid in Yemen- even though  his generals said it would be a terrible idea. This raid resulted in the deaths of a Navy SEAL, an 8-year old American girl, and numerous civilians. The actual target of the raid escaped, and no useful intel was gained
  12. He called Barack Obama “the vacationer-in-Chief” and accused him of playing more rounds of golf than Tiger Woods. He promised to never be the kind of president who took cushy vacations on the taxpayer’s dime, not when there was so much important work to be done. You bought it. He has by now spent more taxpayer money on vacations than Obama did in the first 3 years of his presidency. Not to mention all the money taxpayers are spending protecting his family, including his two sons who travel all over the world on Trump business.
  13. He called CNN, the Washington Post and the New York Times “fake news” and said they were his enemy. You bought it. Now he gets his information from Fox News, Breitbart, Gateway Pundit, and InfoWars.
More to come.
Robert Reich

If it wasn't hurting our nation so badly, it would be funto laugh at you ____biting my tongue/fingers here___ who voted for this disaster. Sadly, your terrible choice is harming ALL of us. Thanks a heap, aholes....