Wednesday, May 31, 2017

He's Completely Daft

You did NEITHER of those things.

Jesus wept.

Jesus Franklin Christ

Why on earth is this an executive decision? It should be an act of Congress. Especially with this president - he shouldn't be allowed to make any decisions alone. He's proven himself a lousy businessman and a joke of a human being who knows fuck all about being president and the same amount about science and environment.

For the love of Pete, will you shut up about Hillary and try to act like you're the president now?  She lost.  She can't hurt you.  Get over it.

What a LOSER.

 ...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Could It Look Any Worse?

The Trump administration is moving toward handing back to Russia two diplomatic compounds, near New York City and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, from which its officials were ejected in late December as punishment for Moscow’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.


Early last month, the Trump administration told the Russians it would consider turning the properties back over to them if Moscow would lift its freeze, imposed in 2014 in retaliation for U.S. sanctions related to Ukraine, on construction of a new U.S. consulate on a certain parcel of land in St. Petersburg.


Any concessions to Moscow could prove controversial while administration and former Trump campaign officials are under congressional and special counsel investigation for alleged ties to Russia.

You think?

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Why the Foreign Trip Wasn't Even More Chaotic

Top White House officials tell me the key to forcing a more disciplined President Trump like the one onstage overseas is limiting his screen time. In Trump's case, it's curtailing his time watching TV and banging out tweets on his iPhone.

Trump himself has been pushing staff to give him more free time. But staff does everything it can to load up his schedule to keep him from getting worked up watching cable coverage, which often precipitates his tweets. It has worked well overseas so far.

If only they could do that while he's at home.
POTUS' current device is an iPhone with ONE app: his tweeter.
...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Leaky, Leaky

Donald Trump has been handing out his cellphone number to world leaders and urging them to call him directly, an unusual invitation that breaks diplomatic protocol and is raising concerns about the security of the US president’s communications.


[Trump] urged Mexican, French and Canadian leaders to contact him directly, bypassing the traditional secure phone lines.

Does he think the NSA can't monitor those calls? Or is he just hoping the Russians can?

They've got his number in both senses now.
Presidents generally place calls on one of several secure phone lines, including those in the White House Situation Room, the Oval Office or the presidential limousine. Even if Trump uses his government-issued cellphone, his calls are vulnerable to eavesdropping, particularly from foreign governments, national security experts say.


The notion of world leaders calling each other up via cellphone may seem unremarkable in the modern, mobile world. But in the diplomatic arena, where leader-to-leader calls are highly orchestrated affairs, it is another notable breach of protocol for a president who has expressed distrust of official channels.


Throughout last year’s presidential campaign, [Trump] lambasted Democratic rival Hillary Clinton for using a private email server while she was secretary of state, insisting she should not be given access to classified information because she would leave it vulnerable to foreign foes.
And he won, didn't he?

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Kushner Connection

Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, was looking for a direct line to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia — a search that in mid-December found him in a room with a Russian banker whose financial institution was deeply intertwined with Russian intelligence, and remains under sanction by the United States.


The banker [Sergey N. Gorkov] is a close associate of Mr. Putin, but he has not been known to play a diplomatic role for the Russian leader. That has raised questions about why he was meeting with Mr. Kushner at a crucial moment in the presidential transition.


The Washington Post reported that Mr. Kislyak told his superiors in Moscow that Mr. Kushner had proposed a secret channel and had suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications.


White House spokeswoman, Hope Hicks [...] said that the meeting came at the request of the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey I. Kislyak, with whom Mr. Kushner had met earlier in December at Trump Tower to discuss opening a communications channel with Russian officials during the presidential transition.

Nothing fishy here.
It is not clear whether Mr. Kushner saw the Russian banker as someone who could be repeatedly used as a go-between or whether the meeting with Mr. Gorkov was designed to establish a direct, secure communications line to Mr. Putin.
Or to the Russian bank.
Several people with knowledge of the meeting with Mr. Kislyak, and who defended it, have said it was primarily to discuss how the United States and Russia could cooperate to end the civil war in Syria and on other policy issues.
Sure. That's it. Are already estabished US connections with US diplomatic facilities not secure enough? That makes no sense. The US government (via Kushner, or not) would not be using Russian diplomatic facilities secretly. It obviously wouldn't be secret from the Russians. Just the Americans.

Also..."primarily" means there were other topics under discussion.
They also said the secure channel, in part, sought to connect Michael T. Flynn, a campaign adviser who became Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser, and military officials in Moscow.

Mr. Flynn attended the meeting at Trump Tower with Mr. Kislyak.
A US national security adviser would be communicating with Russian officials using Russian diplomatic facilities, in an attempt to be unknown to other US officials.  No problem there.  The inclusion of Michael Flynn in these matters makes me think there was more to this than just a way to enrich the Trumps and Kushners. There are just a whole lot of questions.
During the Trump administration’s first week, administration officials said they were considering an executive order to unilaterally lift the sanctions, which bar Americans from providing financing to and could limit borrowing from Mr. Gorkov’s bank, Vnesheconombank. Removing the sanctions would have greatly expanded the bank’s ability to do business in the United States.
Namely, with Kushner's and Trump's business interests.
Mr. Kushner disclosed none of his contacts with Russians or any other foreign officials when he applied for his security clearance in January. He later amended the form to include several meetings, including those with Mr. Kislyak and Mr. Gorkov, but it is unclear whether he told the investigators who conducted his background check about the attempts to set up a back channel. His aides have said his omissions from the clearance form were accidental.
And we believe that, don't we?

By the way, there's another little interesting detail:
[Gorkov's] bank is controlled by members of Mr. Putin’s government, including Prime Minister Dmitri A. Medvedev.
[It] has also been used by Russian intelligence to plant spies in the United States. In March 2016, an agent of Russia’s foreign intelligence service, known as the S.V.R., who was caught posing as an employee of the bank in New York, pleaded guilty to spying against the United States.


In March, both CNN and the Post columnist David Ignatius reported that Mr. Kushner had met with Mr. Gorkov because he wanted the most direct possible contact with Mr. Putin.
Why? With Trump as president, Trump has the ability to ring up Mr. Putin any time day or night.

And did Kushner and Flynn not know of this spying incident?
The most plausible ‘bad’ story behind the Trump/Russia mystery has always been some kind of financial preferment to members of the Trump family in exchange for lifting the sanctions put in place after the Russian annexation of Crimea and subsequent low-intensity incursions into eastern Ukraine. This wouldn’t come out of the blue. It would probably come in the context of some ‘deal’ over Syria or Ukraine or perhaps some agreement about global counter-terrorism cooperation. As I’ve written, there is a more ‘innocent‘ explanation as well. It may not be any quid pro quo. It could simply be years of doing business with Russians and people from other parts of the former Soviet Union which has made Trump inclined to see their needs in a sympathetic light.

I think I'd stick with that first analysis.
His hostility toward the sanctions regime could also be driven by the fact that, with his dependence on Russian and FSU investments and purchases, they likely hurt him directly.
Infinitely more likely than that he cares about the Russian people.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Leaky, Leaky

Russian government officials discussed having potentially "derogatory" information about then-presidential candidate Donald Trump and some of his top aides in conversations intercepted by US intelligence during the 2016 election, according to two former intelligence officials and a congressional source.

One source described the information as financial in nature and said the discussion centered on whether the Russians had leverage over Trump's inner circle.


But the sources, privy to the descriptions of the communications written by US intelligence, cautioned the Russian claims to one another "could have been exaggerated or even made up" as part of a disinformation campaign that the Russians did during the election.


"The Russians could be overstating their belief to influence," said one of the sources.


A White House spokesman told CNN: "This is yet another round of false and unverified claims made by anonymous sources to smear the President. The reality is, a review of the President's income from the last ten years showed he had virtually no financial ties at all. There appears to be no limit to which the President's political opponents will go to perpetuate this false narrative, including illegally leaking classified material. All this does is play into the hands of our adversaries and put our country at risk."


In 2008, Donald Trump Jr. said at a forum on real estate markets that Trump's businesses "see a lot of money pouring in from Russia." Earlier this year, journalist James Dodson claimed that in 2014, Eric Trump told him that that the golf business did not need American investment because "we have all the funding we need out of Russia." Eric Trump has vigorously denied he made the remark.


The President himself has denied having any financial ties to Russia. But his company has had some business dealings in the country over the years.

And is looking for more in the future.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Fairly Unbelievable

Following Trump’s trip abroad, [Angela] Merkel said Sunday that “the times in which we can fully count on others are somewhat over, as I have experienced in the past few days.”

[White House Press Secretary Sean] Spicer insisted on Tuesday that those remarks actually were “great.”

“That’s what the President called for. He called for additional burden-sharing. The secretary general of NATO said that the President’s calls are what’s moving them in the right direction,” Spicer said. “The President is getting results. More countries are stepping up their burden-sharing. That is a good thing for them. It’s a good thing for NATO and it’s a good thing for America.”


“I think the relationship that the President has had with Merkel he would describe as fairly unbelievable,” Spicer said at the daily press briefing when asked about Merkel. “They get along very well. He has a lot of respect for her. They continue to grow the bond that they had during their talks in the G7.”

Fake News.  Fairly unbelievable.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Another White House Casualty

White House Communications Director Mike Dubke is out, CBS News has confirmed.


The most recent staff shakeup was anticipated before Mr. Trump left for his overseas trip as the administration fell under a series of missteps including reports that Mr. Trump had divulged classified information to Russian officials at a White House meeting.


The communications director oversees the White House messaging and promotes its agenda.


Dubke was originally brought in to be communications director when White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked to focus on the briefing job and drop the time-consuming obligations of the job.

If the president weren't such a "loser", it wouldn't take a full time person to handle briefing.
Dubke has no attachment to Mr. Trump and has always been something of an outsider. He's not a Trump loyalist and did not work for the campaign. The White House has also not provided a name of who will be replacing Dubke's role.
Spicer is expected to lead the daily briefing later Tuesday afternoon where he is likely to face questions into Dubke's departure.
It's still not afternoon yet. There's still time for Trump to dump him.  But if he did, where would Trump find someone as eager to be his doormat?
Senior White House officials confirmed to the Guardian that Dubke handed in his resignation on 18 May, before Donald Trump left for his first overseas trip, a rocky nine-day tour through the Middle East and Europe that left key allies shaken.


Somebody's Been Watching Fox All Morning

Russian officials must be laughing at the sucker they've roped.

I wonder who that source was that says Jared Kushner didn't suggest the secret channel.  Jared Kushner?
A December meeting between Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and one of the senior advisers in the Trump administration, and Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak at Trump Tower focused on Syria, a source familiar with the matter told Fox News Monday.

The idea of a permanent back channel was never discussed, according to the source.


In addition, the source told Fox News the December meeting focused on Russia's contention that the Obama administration's policy on Syria was deeply flawed.


The source has told Fox News that Kushner is eager to tell Congress about the meeting and any others of interest.

  Fox News

Someone has too much time on their hands.  Who would have thought it would be someone with the job of president?

...but hey, do what you will anyway.


Top Republicans and Democrats in Congress have called for the $110-billion arms deal Donald Trump signed with Saudi Arabia last week to be reversed. Their primary concern is that the kingdom may use the newest weapons in the Yemen war, they say.

They wouldn't!
They argued that it was crucial to understand if the Saudi Air Force, which spearheads the kingdom’s invasion of neighboring Yemen, would be able to use the cutting-edge armaments in their strikes against Shia Houthi militias.
"Be able to"?
The lawmakers said that in December, the Obama administration suspended “a planned sale of PGMs due to concerns over widespread civilian casualties in Yemen and significant deficiencies in RSAF’s [Saudi Air Force] targeting capabilities.”

“This decision was the result of an internal review launched after the United Nations and a number of human rights organizations documented a series of RSAF airstrikes on civilian targets including hospitals, markets, schools and a large funeral,” the letter stated.


“We therefore urge the Committee to call a hearing with the Administration, in a closed session if necessary, to obtain critical information pertinent to this PGM sale prior to the 30-day statutory window closing on June 20,” the letter read.


US Senators Chris Murphy, Al Franken, and Rand Paul introduced a joint resolution of disapproval for the deal. Employing a provision of the Arms Export Control Act, they hope to block the arms sale to the Saudi Air Force, though it represents only one part of the multi-billion dollar deal.

On Saturday, Congressman Lieu also introduced a joint resolution to place conditions on all air-to-ground munitions sales to Saudi Arabia. The conditions regard avoiding civilian casualties, facilitating humanitarian aid, and targeting US-designated terrorist organizations such as AQAP and ISIS.
Pretend that would work.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Bad, Bad Germany

Germany’s exasperation was laid bare after the G7 summit, which wrapped up on Saturday with Trump refusing to affirm US support for the 2015 Paris climate accord.

Days earlier, in Saudi Arabia, Trump presided over the single largest US arms deal in American history, worth $110bn over the next decade and including ships, tanks and anti-missile systems.


[German foreign minister Sigmar] Gabriel said on Monday that “anyone who accelerates climate change by weakening environmental protection, who sells more weapons in conflict zones and who does not want to politically resolve religious conflicts is putting peace in Europe at risk”.

“The short-sighted policies of the American government stand against the interests of the European Union,” he said, judging that “the west has become smaller, at least it has become weaker”.

“We Europeans must fight for more climate protection, fewer weapons and against religious [fanaticism], otherwise the Middle East and Africa will be further destabilised,” Gabriel said.

  The Guardian
It looks like that's actually our goal.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Taking on the Bully

The President of France is talking about standing firm with predatory autocrats. And one of them is the President of the United States.


This is a remarkable passage wherein the President of France compares President Trump to Putin and Erdogan, as cheap bullies that need to be stood up to. Macron told a French paper: “my handshake with him, it wasn’t innocent.” It was rather a “moment of truth. One must show that you won’t make small concessions, even symbolic ones, but also not over-publicize things, either.”
“Donald Trump, the Turkish president or the Russian president see relationships in terms of a balance of power, Macron said. “That doesn’t bother me. I don’t believe in diplomacy by public abuse, but in my bilateral dialogues I won’t let anything pass.”

Indeed, Trump appears more impulsive and erratic in person than on TV. Rather than growing into the job he’s growing into the role of aggressor.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Angela Merkel Takes the Lead

It's hard to think of a clearer sign of the massive and rapid damage Trump has done to decades-old partnerships than Merkel's devastating speech.


Angela Merkel has once again cemented her status as the new leader of the free world. read more:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday declared a new chapter in U.S.-European relations after contentious meetings with President Trump last week, saying that Europe “really must take our fate into our own hands.”


Merkel, Europe’s de facto leader, told a packed beer hall rally in Munich that the days when her continent could rely on others was “over to a certain extent. This is what I have experienced in the last few days.”


Merkel said that Europe’s move toward self-reliance should be carried out “of course in friendship with the United States of America, in friendship with Great Britain and as good neighbors wherever that works.”

It was an unusually stark declaration from the normally cautious head of Europe’s most powerful economy, and a grim take on the transatlantic ties that have underpinned Western security in the generations since World War II.


The German leader received a minute-long ovation for her comments, which came as she seeks to whip up voter support ahead of September elections. Although her message was partly aimed at her electorate, it was a measure of how badly relations have deteriorated with Trump’s United States that hitting Washington might win votes, while working with it could be perilous.


[T]he message could be the signal of a shift away from the United States, perhaps even one that could outlast Trump’s time in office, and that would weaken U.S. global power over the long term. European leaders are developing plans to deepen military cooperation independently of the United States. They are also reaching out to economic partners in Asia that Trump has spurned. All of those shifts will have consequences that extend years, analysts say.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Trump and the White Supremacist Attack in Portland

President Donald Trump said on Twitter Monday that his prayers are with the victims of an attack in Portland, Oregon, more than two days after two men were killed standing up to a man spewing hateful verbal abuse at teenage girls.

Trump’s tweet came from his official account, not the personal Twitter handle that he used throughout the weekend to tweet about his recent overseas trip, the “fake news media” and Republicans’ recent win in a Montana congressional race.

In other words, Trump still hasn't made any comment. His staff has.
In a report released earlier this month, CAIR said the organization recorded over 2,200 “anti-Muslim bias incidents” in 2016, a 57 percent increase from the year before.
 ...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Must Be a Trump Buddy

“The New York Times ‘story’ claims that I have inside information on Russia’s election interference, but I am not ready to make them public until I get immunity. Both of these statements are absolute lies,” wrote Deripaska, whose net worth is estimated at $5.2 billion by Forbes.

"Fake news", eh?
“I actually have proof, unpleasant as this may be for some, of the opposite of what is being said, in terms of Russia’s election meddling,” he wrote.
Sure you do, pal. How can you prove they didn't meddle?
“Stopping the spread of libel and other types attacks by anonymous representatives of the US authorities are a condition of my participation and cooperation,” Deripaska wrote.
A new condition.

Does anybody actually want him to testify?

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

How Old Is This Man?

No. It's because they can't believe the president of the United States is such a moron - and spoiled baby.

Don't touch that dial, viewers!

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Leaky, Leaky

Oleg V. Deripaska, a Russian oligarch once close to President Trump’s former campaign manager, has offered to cooperate with congressional committees investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election, but lawmakers are unwilling to accept his conditions, according to congressional officials.

That's crap.
Senate and House panels turned him down because of concerns that immunity agreements create complications for federal criminal investigators, the officials said.


Mr. Deripaska, an aluminum magnate who is a member of the inner circle of the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, recently offered to cooperate with congressional intelligence committees in exchange for a grant of full immunity, according to three congressional officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the issue publicly.


Mr. Deripaska’s offer comes amid increased attention to his ties to Paul Manafort, who is one of several Trump associates under F.B.I. scrutiny for possible collusion with Russia during the presidential campaign.
Seriously, how much can the US do to him? Is he not a Russian citizen?

Another question: Is Trump going to make it to mid-terms?

UPDATE:  Deripaska is denying this report.

Dear, Trumpettes...

Despite repeated efforts by President Trump to curtail refugee resettlements, the State Department this week quietly lifted the department’s restriction on the number of refugees allowed to enter the United States.


The State Department’s decision was conveyed in an email on Thursday to the private agencies in countries around the world that help refugees manage the nearly two-year application process needed to enter the United States.


The result could be a near doubling of refugees entering the country, from about 830 people a week in the first three weeks of this month to well over 1,500 people per week by next month, according to refugee advocates. Tens of thousands of refugees are waiting to come to the United States.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Leaky, Leaky

The White House is burning.

The Reagan defense.
Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports.

Ambassador Sergey Kislyak reported to his superiors in Moscow that Kushner, son-in-law and confidant to then-President-elect Trump, made the proposal during a meeting on Dec. 1 or 2 at Trump Tower, according to intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by U.S. officials. Kislyak said Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications.

The meeting also was attended by Michael Flynn.


Kislyak reportedly was taken aback by the suggestion of allowing an American to use Russian communications gear at its embassy or consulate — a proposal that would have carried security risks for Moscow as well as the Trump team.


The White House declined to comment. Robert Kelner, a lawyer for Flynn, declined to comment. The Russian Embassy did not respond to requests for comment.

Imagine the scrambling going on though.
To some officials, it also reflects a staggering naivete.


“How would he trust that the Russians wouldn’t leak it on their side?” said one former senior intelligence official. The FBI would know that a Trump transition official was going in and out of the embassy, which would cause “a great deal” of concern, he added. The entire idea, he said, “seems extremely naive or absolutely crazy.”
No shit. Our national security is at risk with these dumbshits in the White House. Who knows how much has already been compromised.
The FBI closely monitors the communications of Russian officials in the United States, and it maintains a nearly constant surveillance of its diplomatic facilities. The National Security Agency monitors the communications of Russian officials overseas.


Russia would also have had reasons of its own to reject such an overture from Kushner. Doing so would require Moscow to expose its most sophisticated communications capabilities — which are likely housed in highly secure locations at diplomatic compounds — to an American.
And an idiot.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Don't Pull Your Head Out of the Sand Yet

If spent fuel at one of the dozens of US nuclear sites sets alight, it “could dwarf the horrific consequences of the Fukushima accident [in Japan],” researchers from Princeton University and the Union of Concerned Scientists warned in their study published in the May 26 issue of Science magazine.


[T]he hypothetical fire would result in contamination of an area larger than New Jersey and force mass relocations.


The researchers say that this frightening scenario can be avoided if spent fuel is not housed in the pools which are used at almost all US nuclear plants to store and cool used radioactive material. Instead, it would be safer to transfer it to dry storage casks after it is cooled in pools for around five years, they say. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) previously considered such measures, but decided they would be too costly.

It might be a tad more costly if one caught fire.
The NRC previously said the transfer of spent fuel, which could reduce the threat of radioactive releases by 99 percent, would require additional spending of $50 million per pool. An accident would result in $125 billion in damages and radioactive contamination would not go beyond 50 miles of the site, according to the NRC, in sharp contrast to the researchers' estimates. The NRC also said that the consequences would be dealt with within a year, while the Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents have shown much worse effects, with the areas still deserted.


The study blames the NRC for downplaying the potential consequences and risking millions of Americans’ lives to favor nuclear industries.


"Unfortunately, if there is no public outcry about this dangerous situation, the NRC will continue to bend to the industry's wishes.”

The researches also stressed that a nuclear disaster could be brought about by a large earthquake or terrorist attack, the possibility of which was excluded by the NRC.

They have called on the agency to take action to reduce the potential danger by enhancing the monitoring of the pools and increasing water levels in case of a breakdown. If the NRC does not act, the researchers say Congress should step up.
Seriously? You don't think Congress is beholden to nuclear industry money?

If you haven't and you can, watch "Command and Control" now streaming on Netflix and see how safe you feel. It's not about nuclear power plants, but it is about the cavalier attitude and incompetence of government agencies in charge of dangerous materials.

 ...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Counter Leak

Then-FBI Director James Comey knew that a critical piece of information relating to the investigation into Hillary Clinton's email was fake -- created by Russian intelligence -- but he feared that if it became public it would undermine the probe and the Justice Department itself, according to multiple officials with knowledge of the process.


The Russian intelligence at issue purported to show that then-Attorney General Lynch had been compromised in the Clinton investigation. The intelligence described emails between then-Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and a political operative suggesting that Lynch would make the FBI investigation of Clinton go away.


The Washington Post reported Wednesday that this Russian intelligence was unreliable. US officials now tell CNN that Comey and FBI officials actually knew early on that this intelligence was indeed false.


Comey did not let on to lawmakers that there were doubts about the veracity of the intelligence, according to sources familiar with the briefings. It is unclear why Comey was not more forthcoming in a classified setting.

Sources close to Comey tell CNN he felt that it didn't matter if the information was accurate, because his big fear was that if the Russians released the information publicly, there would be no way for law enforcement and intelligence officials to discredit it without burning intelligence sources and methods. There were other factors behind Comey's decision, sources say.

First of all, shouldn't we hear this from Comey himself before we decide it's true? And if Comey denies it, then where will we be?

This whole thing is going to get so muddied that nobody will be able to figure anything out. Like the accounting books at an insurance firm where I once worked.
Multiple US officials tell CNN that to this day Russia is trying to spread false information in the US -- through elected officials and American intelligence and law enforcement operatives -- in order to cloud and confuse ongoing investigations.
They don't even need to waste their time and money. We'll do all that on our own.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Shakeup the White House

Trump is actively discussing major changes in the White House, including a shakeup of his senior team, after spending much of his free time during his overseas trip weighing the Russia investigation and the political crisis it poses for him, according to several senior administration officials and outside advisers.


[R]evisions on the table include a new filter of the president’s social-media habit and fewer scheduled press briefings, officials and allies said.


One major change under consideration would vet the president’s social media posts through a team of lawyers, who would decide if any needed to be adjusted or curtailed. The idea, said one of Mr. Trump’s advisers, is to create a system so that tweets “don’t go from the president’s mind out to the universe.”

Filter the Rooster? It'll never happen.
Trump aides have long attempted to rein in his tweeting, and some saw any type of legal vetting as difficult to implement. “I would be shocked if he would agree to that,” said Barry Bennett, a former Trump campaign aide.
We all would be.
Other changes under discussion include removing communications director Mike Dubke and installing Sarah Sanders as the main spokesman instead of Mr. Spicer. Another consideration is scaling back on daily press briefings.
Those changes wouldn't surprise me one bit.
One White House official said that Mr. Spicer, parodied by comedian Melissa McCarthy on “Saturday Night Live,” has taken on an unwanted celebrity status that threatens to undercut his effectiveness as a spokesman.
No, it threatens to make him more of a celebrity than his boss. That won't do.

Is all this just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic?

 ...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Separate State and Church

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has declined a request to host an event to mark Islam's holy month of Ramadan, two U.S. officials said, apparently breaking with a bipartisan tradition in place with few exceptions for nearly 20 years.


When asked by Reuters to comment on Tillerson declining a request to host an Eid al-Fitr event in July for Ramadan, a State Department spokesperson said: "We are still exploring possible options for observance of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the month of Ramadan. U.S. ambassadors are encouraged to celebrate Ramadan through a variety of activities, which are held annually at missions around the world."


If Tillerson avoids hosting one this year, that could send a message "that it is not as important to this administration to engage with Muslims," said former U.S. diplomat Farah Pandith, who served in the Bush and Obama administrations and helped plan Ramadan events at the White House and State Department.

You know what? Good on Tillerson. I don't know what his reasoning is, but there shouldn't be any recognition of anything religious by the arms and offices of the United States government. They should stop having those prayer breakfasts and Easter and Christmas events. None of these things is proper.
Tillerson issued a statement on Friday to mark the start of Ramadan, which he called "a month of reverence, generosity, and self-reflection."

"Most importantly, it is a cherished time for family and friends to gather and give charity to those who are less fortunate," he said.
He shouldn't even have done that.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Trump Must Go

So says....the German magazine Der Spiegel.
Donald Trump is not fit to be president of the United States. He does not possess the requisite intellect and does not understand the significance of the office he holds nor the tasks associated with it. He doesn't read. He doesn't bother to peruse important files and intelligence reports and knows little about the issues that he has identified as his priorities. His decisions are capricious and they are delivered in the form of tyrannical decrees.


Trump is a miserable politician.


Trump is also a miserable boss.


He is a man free of morals. As has been demonstrated hundreds of times, he is a liar, a racist and a cheat. I feel ashamed to use these words, as sharp and loud as they are. But if they apply to anyone, they apply to Trump. And one of the media's tasks is to continue telling things as they are: Trump has to be removed from the White House. Quickly. He is a danger to the world.


Nothing is as it should be in this White House. Everyone working there has been compromised multiple times and now they all despise each other - and everyone except for Trump despises Trump. Because of all that, after just 120 days of the Trump administration, we are witness to an American tragedy for which there are five theoretical solutions.

  Der Spiegel
Continue reading.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

America Has Lost Its Way

Airwars and FP reached out to all 12 non-U.S. members of the coalition to ask which were responsible for the 80 deaths. The responses ranged from outright denials of involvement (Australia, Canada, Denmark, and Britain); to no response (Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates); to several ambiguously worded statements.

Despite these statements, Airwars and FP confirmed that every coalition member identified as responsible for any of the 80 deaths were informed by U.S. officials of their assessed involvement. The allies have known for months if not longer of these findings, according to U.S. officials — but those nations responsible chose not to admit it when questioned by Airwars and FP.


U.S. officials’ efforts to release information about casualties caused by their partner nations, however, came at a cost. As the result of a deal struck among the coalition partners, civilian casualty incidents included in monthly reporting will not be tied to specific countries. That means the United States will in the future no longer confirm its own responsibility for specific civilian casualty incidents either — a move toward greater secrecy that could deprive victims’ families of any avenue to seek justice or compensation for these deaths.


Going forward, a total tally of coalition strikes that resulted in civilian casualties will always be included in reports. However, the United States will no longer identify the strikes that were carried out by its own forces. This is due to a concern that allies responsible for civilian deaths could be identified by a process of elimination.

  Foreign Policy
Really? How? The only one it would eliminate would be the US.
“We will just say ‘Coalition,’ and we won’t say if it was U.S. or not,’ confirmed Centcom Director of Public Affairs Col. John Thomas.
Sounds more like the US is getting a pass. Especially since we are far and away the country with the most civilian deaths to account for.
The coalition has so far admitted to killing 352 civilians since 2014, including the 80 or more non-combatants slain by U.S. allies. However, this may just by the tip of the iceberg: That figure is still roughly 10 times lower than Airwars’s own minimum estimate of 3,500 civilian fatalities in the air campaign. That tally is the result of monitoring carried out by our team of researchers, and does not include incidents that are contested or are currently backed by weak evidence.

Leaky, Leaky: Trump Circle of Jerks: Carter Page

When the hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” pressed Trump on air in mid-March to name people with whom he spoke about foreign affairs, the candidate’s response only seemed to underscore his lack of serious advice.

“I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain,” he said.


By late March 2016, when Trump appeared before The Post’s editorial board, he was prepared to brag about his new foreign policy team.

“I can give you some of the names,” Trump said after Post Publisher Frederick J. Ryan Jr. asked about his advisers.

Second on the list of five read aloud by Trump: “Carter Page, PhD.”


[W]hen Carter Page, an international businessman with an office near Trump Tower, volunteered his services, former officials recall, Trump aides were quick to make him feel welcome.

He had come with a referral from the son-in-law of Richard Nixon, New York state Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox, who had conveyed Page’s interest to the campaign, Cox said.


A top Trump adviser, Sam Clovis, then employed what campaign aides now acknowledge was their go-to vetting process — a quick Google search — to check out [Page]. He seemed to have the right qualifications, according to former campaign officials — head of an energy investment firm, business degree from New York University, doctorate from the University of London.


But what the Google search had not shown was that Page had been on the FBI’s radar since at least 2013, when Russian officials allegedly tried to use him to get information about the energy business.


A thorough vetting of Page might have revealed several red flags. Page had spent three years working in Moscow, for instance, and he held stock in the Russian company Gazprom, meaning that he could have a personal financial stake in the future of U.S.-imposed sanctions against Russia.


In June, Page stunned a group of foreign policy luminaries during a private meeting at Blair House with the visiting prime minister of India by going off-topic to declare that Putin was a stronger and more reliable leader than President Barack Obama, according to people who were in the room. Page also promised that U.S.-Russian relations would improve if Trump were elected. Page has denied this account, blaming it on his political enemies.


Page had previously drawn the attention of the FBI after he had conversations in 2013 with a man posing as an executive with the New York branch of the Russian development bank Vneshecon­ombank. The man was later convicted of being a Russian spy, and FBI recordings included discussions among Russian operatives about their attempts to recruit Page.


Over the summer, the FBI convinced a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge that there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of Russia.


In his defense, Page in recent weeks has sent a series of meandering letters to investigators. He has quoted Maroon 5 lyrics, cited the writings of George Orwell and said he is being persecuted because of his Catholic faith.

Oy, vey.

Here's something I missed at the time:
In early March 2016, more than 70 conservative national security experts signed an open letter opposing Trump’s candidacy, calling him “fundamentally dishonest.”
They could have added fundamentally ignorant.  Note that Trump had to read the list of his policy advisers in that Post interview.  He probably had no input in choosing them or care who the hell they were.  When push comes to shove in the Russia collusion aspect of the investigation, he'll be able to pull the Alzheimer-Reagan defense: I didn't know, or I forgot.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Our Eternal Pals

The facts are well-known. For five decades, Saudi Arabia has spread its narrow, puritanical and intolerant version of Islam — originally practiced almost nowhere else — across the Muslim world. Osama bin Laden was Saudi, as were 15 of the 19 9/11 terrorists.


The Islamic State draws its beliefs from Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi version of Islam.


Leaked German intelligence reports show that charities “closely connected with government offices” of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait are funding mosques, schools and imams to disseminate a fundamentalist, intolerant version of Islam throughout Germany.


Trump has adopted the Saudi line on terrorism, which deflects any blame from the kingdom and redirects it toward Iran.


Almost every terrorist attack in the West has had some connection to Saudi Arabia. Virtually none has been linked to Iran.


And we know, via a leaked email from former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, in recent years the Saudi government, along with Qatar, has been “providing clandestine financial and logistic support to [the Islamic State] and other radical Sunni groups in the region.” Saudi nationals make up the second-largest group of foreign fighters in the Islamic State and, by some accounts, the largest in the terrorist group’s Iraqi operations. The kingdom is in a tacit alliance with al-Qaeda in Yemen.


The Saudis showered Trump’s inexperienced negotiators with attention, arms deals and donations to a World Bank fund that Ivanka Trump is championing. [...] In short, the Saudis played Trump.

The Saudis have lots of money. We like that.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Caption Contest

Is he telling that woman to just look at the awesome size of his hand?  Is the woman in red trying to figure out just how it is that hairdo is created?

And lest you think Macron wasn't deliberately taking on the Donald, he (or his minions) posted a video clip of him snubbing the tRump in Brussels on his own Twitter account.


From the Belgian Press

Donald Trump offered an insight into his approach to political life during his 30 hours in Belgium while munching “lots of” Belgian chocolates, it has been reported

Le Soir, a Belgian daily newspaper, reported that the US president acclaimed the chocolates.


“These are the best,” he said, before explaining that his ambivalent attitude towards the EU was a consequence of his experiences trying to set up businesses, notably golf resorts, on the continent.

“He made a lot of references to his personal journey. He explained, for example, the functioning of Europe on the basis of his difficulties in doing business in Ireland,” one source told the Francophone paper.

How subtle. No family business interest conflicts here. Could he be any more transparent about what's important to him?  I do believe using your office as president to enrich yourself is considered to be improper.  Improper enough to have you removed.
A second source told the newspaper: “Every time we talk about a country, he remembered the things he had done. Scotland? He said he had opened a club. Ireland? He said it took him two and a half years to get a licence and that did not give him a very good image of the European Union.”
Me, Me, Me.
The paper reports: “Donald Trump had no idea of the economic weight of Belgium and even less of what the country represents for trade with the United States. Then he was introduced to the thing in a very visual way. But the president only gave vague attention to it.”
Wasn't any Trump business concern involved.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.


The US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, has flown to the UK to deliver in person an apology for leaks by US officials of details of the police investigation into the Manchester bombing.

Tillerson, who met the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, said: “We take full responsibility for that and we obviously regret that that happened. With respect to the release of information inappropriately … certainly we condemn that.”


“That whatever reason as people immigrate into our countries – whether it is in Great Britain, in the United States or other countries – we seem to have difficulty assimilating those people so they feel a part of our society and would never consider acts of violence against their fellow citizens and their fellow neighbours,” Tillerson said. “It is an extremely complex issue, this mass immigration of people we are witnessing around the world.”

Gee, I can't imagine why they don't feel a part of our society, can you?

No mention of why we had to pay for him to fly to England to make an apology.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

The Age-Old Story of US "Lost" Arms

The US army has failed to monitor over $1bn worth of arms and other military equipment transfers to Kuwait and Iraq, Amnesty International says in a report citing a 2016 US government audit.

The now-declassified document by the US Department of Defence (DoD) audit, was obtained by the rights group following Freedom of Information requests.

The audit reveals that the DoD "did not have accurate, up-to-date records on the quantity and location" of a vast amount of equipment on hand in Kuwait and Iraq.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Secret-Trading Back to Normal

British police have resumed sharing information with their counterparts in the US after a brief suspension over a series of leaks by American officials to journalists providing details of the Manchester bomb investigation.

The suspension, announced early on Thursday morning, lasted less than 24 hours. It was primarily intended to send a message to US law enforcement agencies registering anger at the casual way in which sensitive information was disclosed to American journalists.

  The Guardian
We'll be waiting for the next leak.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Gianforte Update

He won.
Greg Gianforte has won a special election for Montana’s sole seat in the House of Representatives, just one day after he was charged with misdemeanor assault for “body-slamming” a Guardian reporter.


Speaking at the G7 meeting in Sicily on Friday, Donald Trump called the victory a “great win in Montana”.

  The Guardian
Trump's America. ...but hey, do what you will anyway.

UPDATE 11/20/17:  Looks like he lied to the police.

Shady Jared

When Saudi Arabia announced last week a $20-billion investment in a U.S. infrastructure fund managed by Blackstone Group LP, many noticed that it came shortly after presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner personally negotiated a $110-billion arms sale to the country. What went unnoticed -- and is largely unknown -- is how important Blackstone is to the Kushner family company.

Since 2013, Blackstone has loaned more than $400 million to finance four Kushner Cos. deals -- two of which have not been reported -- making it one of the business’s largest lenders. And their ties go beyond the loans. Stephen Schwarzman, Blackstone’s co-founder and chief executive officer, heads Trump’s business-advisory council and was in Riyadh with the president and Kushner. The Saudi promise to invest in Blackstone’s fund drove the firm’s stock up more than 8 percent.

Using the office of the president for personal gain? Noooooo. Of course not.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

He Must Be Exhausted

Let's take these in the order they were tweeted.

"Just arrived in Taormina"

(With FLOTUS Melania - He always adds her name when he mentions FLOTUS. Either as a memory aid or as a distinction from FLOTUS Ivanka - I don't know which.)

That was, as you can see, 13 hours ago.

Why Taormina?
Despite the town’s temporary transformation into a police state in paradise for the Group of 7 summit meeting attended by Mr. Trump and other world leaders, Taormina’s postcard panoramas, its exaggerated Epcot Italian-ness and its reputation as the sun-drenched pleasure dome for reality TV stars, aging playboys and affluent Russians remain intact.

"Aging playboys and affluent Rissans."
It is a spot that is both exclusive and a little hokey, where those with jet-setter schedules, gilded tastes and an appreciation for luxury, models and discretion come together.
"Luxury, models, and discretion."
[Dino Papale, a 69-year-old Sicilian lawyer] was quoted at length in the local paper, La Sicilia, [just days after the November election] recounting that Mr. Trump had visited Taormina at his invitation in June 2013 and secretly stayed for three days at the Atlantis Bay Hotel.

In an interview in his rose-scented courtyard filled with Greek, Roman and Bronze Age sculptures, Mr. Papale insisted that “Trump was never here,” blaming the paper for inventing the story.

But at other points he was less definitive, saying: “It could be that it happened, because everything can be true, right? I don’t remember”; “If a friend says, ‘I’m coming to Taormina but no one can know,’ what do you do?”; and, most mischievously, “Taormina is a very discreet place” where “Americans and Russians often meet.”
Dino will be getting a visit from some American alphabet types, if he hasn't already seen them.

Here's Dino in his palazzo in Taormino:

"Just arrived in Italy" - 1 hour ago.

I'm not sure he knows where he is.  Did he take a little jaunt from Taormino (Siciliy) into Italy?  He says he "just arrived".  The G7 summit is being held in Taormino.  His tweet labels Taormina in Italy:

If we're including Sicily in Italy, then his second tweet makes even less sense.

Perhaps he's just exhausted.*

"We saved the USA many billions of dollars and millions of jobs." The biggest and the best. It may be a lie, but the numbers are the biggest. Millions of jobs. Billions of dollars. Funny, I haven't seen any information on either of those things. They must be secret.

"Gettin ready to engage G7 leaders"

Unfortunately, he already "engaged" them in Brussels at the NATO meeting, and it didn't sit well. Japan is the only country not represented in NATO, and we've seen how he "engaged" with Japan's PM.


He doesn't mention that climate change, refugees and free trade are on the agenda.

Can't wait to see the tweets when he gets back home.

*After a major faux pas in a speech on the third day of his trip in Saudi Arabia, his spokesfolks said it was because he was "just an exhausted guy."

Remember these moments of the campaign...

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Leaky, Leaky

I guess we knew that. At least we surmised correctly.
Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and one of his senior advisers, has come under FBI scrutiny in the Russia investigation, multiple U.S. officials told NBC News.

Multiple officials.

Investigators believe Kushner has significant information relevant to their inquiry, officials said. That does not mean they suspect him of a crime or intend to charge him.
No, but I doubt if his hands are entirely clean on either the Russia connection or funny business business deals. He might need to lawyer up, too.
The FBI's scrutiny of Kushner places the bureau's sprawling counterintelligence and criminal investigation not only on the doorstep of the White House, but the Trump family circle.
The Trump family circle is where the sleaze is.
It is not known whether Kushner has received any records requests from federal investigators.


Also unclear is what precisely about Kushner's activities has drawn the FBI's interest [in Kushner].
Get better official sources.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

What. The. Fuck.

What the hell is he doing at the NATO meeting? It was bad enough he was in Brussels after once having called it a hellhole.
Trump got a chilly reception at the NATO summit in Belgium after attacking fellow members. But he was caught pledging a battle with German automakers as part of his anger with “back dues” he feels the country owes to NATO. As CNN’s Jake Tapper noted Thursday, “Trump seems to think it’s like a country club.”

In a discussion about the country’s trade surplus, Trump said. “The Germans are evil, very evil.”

  Raw Story
Elsewhere this is translated as "bad", not "evil", which makes a little more sense, but still.

If you can read German, here's the Spiegel Online article.
“Look at the millions of cars they sell in the US, and we’ll stop that,” sources told Der Spiegel.


According to a report from the “Süddeutsche Zeitung,” the EU allies were horrified by the willingness of the Americans to view global trade with such a lack of awareness. Trump’s economic consultant Gary Cohn was said to have chided German auto trade during a discussion between the US and Germany and the USA and Belgium. Trump had previously attacked them during another conversation.

“I would say to BMW if they want to build a factory in Mexico and sell cars to the US without a 35 percent tax, they can forget that,” Trump said at the time.
He's been walking around there with his chin up and his chest out, like a banty rooster. Jesus, WTF?
Donald Trump’s visit to Brussels today has been one controversy after another. First he brusquely pushed Montenegro’s prime minister aside to get to the front of a photo-op. Then he declined to support Article Five, the cornerstone of NATO’s alliance, in a speech. Now, two of Germany’s leading newspapers are reporting that in a meeting with the EU’s top leadership he insulted Germany, threatened to cut off its car imports to the US, and displayed a stunning lack of knowledge about basic trade policy.

Der Spiegel and the Süddeutsche Zeitung (links in German), each citing sources who were at the meeting, reported Trump calling the Germans “bad, very bad” for their running a trade surplus with the US.“Look at the millions of cars they’re selling in the US. Terrible. We will stop this,” he told European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council president Donald Tusk, according to Der Spiegel.


Juncker reportedly defended the Germans, making the case for free trade in a friendly but firm tone, Spiegel reports. The EU leaders were also appalled at the Americans’ poor knowledge of EU-US trade policy, both papers say. Chief economic adviser Gary Cohn, the former president of Goldman Sachs, seemed to think that there were different customs tariffs between the US and Germany than between the US and Belgium, according to Der Spiegel. (In fact, all euro-zone countries abide by the same tariff policy.)

  Quartz Media
Jesus Frederica Christ.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

House of Crooks

Heather Rinkus, the guest reception manager at Trump's "Winter White House," is working with the president's advance and logistics team, while Trump's exclusive club, Mar-a-Lago, closes for the summer. She has an official White House email and government-issued phone, two sources familiar with Rinkus’s trip told BuzzFeed News.


[Rinkus, who has no prior government experience,] is married to a twice-convicted felon, Ari Rinkus.


Ari Rinkus, who is still on probation for pleading guilty to wire fraud as part of a Ponzi scheme, has told a foreign company, Securablinds, he can use Heather's access to the president to secure government and Trump Organization contracts.


Rinkus pleaded guilty in 2006 to conducting a criminal enterprise — specifically, the “illegal possession and resale of stolen motor vehicles,” in Michigan, and in 2011, he again pleaded guilty in federal court to felony wire fraud for a Ponzi scheme. He was released from prison in 2014.


Rinkus presented himself to [UK-based Securablinds company] executives as "well-connected with the Trump family," claiming he could get a contract for the company to put its blinds in Trump Tower. "He told us he discussed it with Eric Trump,” he said, referring to one of Trump's sons.


"Someone who has access to the Trump family would have been quite effective to us,” [Securablinds CEO Gavin] Richardson said, adding he terminated his involvement with Rinkus after reading BuzzFeed News’ story about his background.


Heather Rinkus started working for Mar-a-Lago in 2015. She had previously worked for the Amway Hotel Corporation, which is owned by the family of Trump's education secretary, Betsy DeVos, as a front desk supervisor and later as a nanny.


Her dual role is the latest example of how closely intertwined the president's inner circle is between his business and government, despite Trump's claims of a firewall.

It also raises questions of whether other Trump Organization employees are quietly employed by the White House, as the administration struggles to staff up amid a chaotic few weeks. Trump, who likes to be surrounded by aides who are loyal to him, has already brought in senior adviser Hope Hicks, his longtime bodyguard Keith Schiller, and his social media director Dan Scavino from the Trump Organization.
...but hey, do what you will anyway.

It Was Aaron Nevins

A Republican operative in Florida received a trove of Democratic documents from the Russia-linked hacker believed to be a key player in the Kremlin's efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election.

The Wall Street Journal identified the operative as Aaron Nevins, who last summer told hacker Guccifer 2.0 to "feel free to send any Florida based information" after learning that the hacker had tapped into Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee computers.


The GOP operative then published some of the material on the blog, using a pseudonym.

Guccifer 2.0 sent a link to the blog post soon afterwards to Republican operative Roger Stone, a longtime confidante and associate of then-candidate Donald Trump.


It was known that had published hacked Democratic documents, but it was previously unclear how much material was sent and who the operative behind the blog was.


Trump has repeatedly denied any coordination with Russian officials, and the Kremlin has done so as well while also rejecting any connection to Guccifer 2.0.

Nevins himself cast doubt on the Russians' role in the hacks, but told the Journal that he did not care either way, because his interests appeared to fall in line with those of the hackers.

“If your interests align, never shut any doors in politics,” he said.

  The Hill
The true politician's motto.

Who the hell is Aaron Nevins?
October 20, 2016

Aaron Nevins, a 35-year-old Republican voter in Broward and former staffer for ex-state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, said he's going to shut down U.S. 441 on Election Day for an automobile race.

"The election hasn’t excited me so much. I thought maybe I’d do something else,'' he said.

Nevins, son of political columnist Buddy Nevins of, said he sent the Broward Sheriff's Office a certified letter on Thursday alerting the agency to his plans.

U.S. 441 is a corridor through many black communities, but Nevins said he didn't select that roadway and the date, Election Day, to keep Democrats from voting for Hillary Clinton.


He said he had to select a road in unincorporated Broward, and that was "slim pickings.''

"I’m acting on my own. I am a Republican. There’s no denying that. I’m not coordinating with the Republican Party or Roger Stone or any of those people,'' he said.


The sheriff's office responded to Nevins with a long list of documents, including road-closing permits, that would be needed before the sheriff's office would acquiesce.


[UPDATED Oct. 20: Aaron Nevins has withdrawn his request, according to Broward Sheriff's Office.]