Monday, December 31, 2018

Somebody's been doing shrooms

I say shrooms, but I don't know what drug it is. I just know that this is not the normal way he tweets.
He's riffing on an earlier comment he made about wheels and technology.  And, frankly, I don't know where he picked it up, but it doesn't seem like something that's come out of his own brain.  Maybe he and Rudy are doing shrooms together.

Need I say?  Wheels have definitely changed.  We no longer make them from rock or timber.

And...his steel slats aren't exactly a good old fashioned wall, either.

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



Unlike Sarah Sanders, McGurk will be able to find a job.

Trump deconstructing America - and tweeting shit

1)  Heads of countries are not calling.

2)  "Their" ambassadors are not "otherwise approved".  (Approval comes from 60 Senate votes.)

3)  Congress is not in session, so nobody is holding anything up, intentionally or otherwise.

4)  Since when was Chuck Schumer in charge of the GOP Senate?  Couldn't McConnell use that "nuclear option" Trump wants him to use for budget approval to confirm ambassadors?

5)  If Trump would nominate qualified people instead of lackies, more might get confirmed.

6)  As of November, Trump had not even nominated ambassadors for 18 countries, including very important countries of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Pakistan and Mexico.  (41 ambassadors have been nominated, awaiting confirmation.)

7)  There was a full bank of ambassadors until Trump, on his first day in office, fired every single one who was appointed by Obama effective immediately, with, of course, no replacement on deck.  A wise person - even a minimally competent one - might have gotten replacements approved before canning the person already working in the position.
In Australia, which shouldn’t be a difficult post to fill, [...] Trump initially nominated retired Admiral Harry Harris, the former U.S. commander in the Pacific, but switched him to South Korea even before he was confirmed. Then the president offered the job to Senator Bob Corker—an intriguing choice, since Corker once called the White House “an adult-day-care center”—but the Tennessean turned him down.


In Saudi Arabia, some diplomats suspect the White House has been slow to name an ambassador because Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, wanted to run the account through his personal relationship with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.


An unknown number of nominees have been blocked by Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, some for what appears to be good cause. Trump’s nominee for Malta once delivered a bullet-riddled target sheet to her ex-husband’s doctor as part of a contentious divorce. The candidate for Chile, a former business partner of Jared Kushner, withdrew after learning how many holdings he’d be required to divest.

But others have been stalled by Republicans. And seven who made it through the committee are now marooned on the Senate floor, mostly because Majority Leader Mitch McConnell decided that in an election year, he wanted to confirm federal judges first.


There’s a long list of reasons why all those posts are still unfilled. The Trump administration had a notably chaotic start. The president-elect arrived in Washington without a long list of friends he wanted to reward with embassies.

His transition team under former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie drafted lists, but the president discarded them. White House aides vetoed candidates from the State Department, rejecting Foreign Service officers who had worked on Obama administration projects and Republican foreign-policy experts who had been critical of Trump.

Trump’s first secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, seemed bent on eliminating positions instead of filling them; he shoved dozens of senior diplomats out the door and sent morale in the Foreign Service plummeting. Tillerson’s successor, Mike Pompeo, stopped the personnel cuts and has sped up the lagging pace of nominations, but he still hasn’t cleared away the backlog.

The process of nominating and confirming federal officials has been slowing down for years; the Obama administration had trouble naming ambassadors, too, especially after Republicans won control of the Senate in 2014. But the Trump administration appears to hold a modern record for the slows. At the end of 2017, Trump’s first year in office, only 64 new ambassadors had been confirmed, filling about one-third of 188 posts.

  The Atlantic
And, what's the danger without ambassadors?
When there’s no ambassador, the chief U.S. diplomat in another capital is usually a chargé d’affaires ad interim, a French/Latin title that’s less impressive in translation: “interim person in charge.”

“The chargé is often very good at what he does, but he doesn’t have the access,” said Barbara Leaf, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Arab Emirates. “Places like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Egypt are very status-conscious societies. Say you have a problem in Turkey: Who can pick up the phone and call [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan? A good ambassador can do that; a chargé can’t.”

Access means an ambassador can often collect better information than lesser diplomats.


One more thing an ambassador is useful for: handling problems that might otherwise land on higher officials’ desks. When the crisis between Saudi Arabia and Turkey erupted, Pompeo had to get on a plane and fly to Ankara and Riyadh. “If Pompeo wanted to launch a full-bore diplomatic campaign somewhere, who does he send? There isn’t anybody,” Leaf said.


Ambassadors work on more mundane jobs, too, like helping American companies land contracts overseas. “Other countries often send cabinet ministers to pitch major contracts,” said Gordon Gray, a former ambassador to Tunisia now at the liberal Center for American Progress. “The next best thing to a cabinet minister is an ambassador. A chargé d’affaires? Not even close.”

In Central Asia, for example, China is building a gargantuan “belt and road” network to connect Europe to Asia, complete with massive investments in construction projects. But the United States has no assistant secretary of state in charge of the region, and no ambassadors in its two most important countries, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

“We’re not on the field,” said Geoff Odlum, who served in the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan. “I don’t know if China is winning hearts and minds out there, but they’re making a lot of alliances of interests—and we’re not.”


George P. Shultz, who served six years as Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state, is fond of saying that successful diplomacy is like gardening. “If you plant a garden and go away for six months, what have you got when you come back? Weeds,” Shultz said. “Diplomacy is kind of like that. You go around and talk to people, you develop a relationship of trust and confidence, and then if something comes up, you have that base to work from.”

That doesn’t sound much like the Trump administration’s style. In a new book, The Jungle Grows Back, Robert Kagan, who once worked for Shultz, extended the metaphor. “You don’t plant a garden and then just sit back,” Kagan said. “The forces of nature are always trying to take it over. The vines are growing. The weeds are growing. And that’s true of our international order, too.”

The Trump administration fired dozens of its foreign-policy gardeners—otherwise known as ambassadors—and has been slow to get new ones into the field. It shouldn’t be surprised when the result is not a garden, but a jungle.
...but hey, do what you will anyway.

He knows very well he's lying when he lies

It's a barrier. A metaphor.
The former president and first lady purchased the nine-bedroom mansion for $8.1 million in 2017, The Post previously reported. It’s located in the affluent D.C. neighborhood of Kalorama, which is also home to Ivanka Trump and Amazon founder Jeffrey P. Bezos, who owns The Post.


TMZ reported on construction to the residence in 2017 before the Obamas moved in, which the website also characterized as “a wall.”

As The Post’s Fact Checker notes, the Obamas added security fencing to a retaining wall in front of the home (it is not a compound) for the needs of the Secret Service. A guard booth was built, and fencing was added to the back.

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


He keeps tweeting where he is, whether in the White House or the Oval Office.  This is not the first time someone has pointed out there's no marine on guard.  The last time, he was preparing that surprise trip to Iraq.  Why this time?  Where do you think he really is?  Wherever he is, he's imagining what a clever boy to be fooling everybody.

Otherwise, provide your own comments for these ridiculous tweets.

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

Ken Starr weighs in

If you're old enough, you remember Ken Starr. If not, he was independent counsel investigating Bill Clinton's affairs.
“Do you think that if there is the right evidence, Bob Mueller or another prosecutor could indict a sitting president, Donald Trump?” MSNBC host Ari Melber asked Starr on Wednesday, which was the 20th anniversary of Clinton’s impeachment.

“Yes,” Starr replied. “But the Justice Department has a different view and, as you know, had a different view for almost half a century, going back to a brief file by then–Solicitor General Robert Bork, then Office of Legal Counsel formal opinions, including during the Clinton administration.”

Bork in his brief wrote that a vice president could be indicted while serving, but that a sitting president could not be indicted.


The former special prosecutor said he believes the public interest in the enforcement of criminal laws is higher than civil litigation.


Starr also said that Mueller is “a person of complete integrity” and to “let the man do his job.” He added that “impeachment is hell” for the public to go through.

Trump in the president's seat is hell for the entire world, including flora and fauna.

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

What chaos? There's no chaos in this administration.

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

Living in metaphors instead of reality

Just like taking your shoes off and subjecting yourself to x-rays and pat-downs at the airport.  None of these things is keeping you safe.  They're just cementing the government's control over your person, shrinking your freedom.

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

Careful what you wish for

Does he really want the Dems to come back?  Because they'll have the House and they're going to crawl up his ass when they do.  And it's not like he hasn't had a Republican majority in both houses all this time.  Why couldn't he get that wall?

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

The House Judiciary Committee is looking for a few good lawyers.


While Democrats publicly talk up their interest in focusing on legislative priorities like health care and voting rights -- not to mention ending the ongoing partial government shutdown -- they are quietly preparing for what will likely be the largest congressional investigation of a sitting president in recent memory.


A recent committee job posting reviewed by CNN asked for legislative counsels with a variety of expertise: "criminal law, immigration law, constitutional law, intellectual property law, commercial and administrative law (including antitrust and bankruptcy), or oversight work."

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee needs lawyers, too, posting jobs for "executive branch investigative counsel."


One Democratic House committee posted a help-wanted ad on a job board frequented by Capitol Hill staffers the day after the November 6 midterm elections. The post, which did not name the committee, sought "investigative counsel to conduct congressional investigations and advise on policy matters related to oversight of the executive branch."

"Responsibilities include staffing letters and subpoenas, conducting interviews, organizing and staffing hearings and preparing memos, talking points, statements and reports as necessary," the listing stated. "Previous congressional or executive branch experience preferred, but candidates with diverse backgrounds and experiences are encouraged to apply. Candidates must have attention to detail, excellent writing skills, excel under pressure and have a sense of humor."


Schiff has signaled that he also wants to focus on questions about possible money laundering and the Trump Organization. A source familiar with the Intelligence Committee's planning tells CNN that Schiff is looking to hire investigative staff with expertise in financial crimes.

That could overlap with work that Rep. Maxine Waters of California intends to pursue. Waters will lead the Financial Services Committee, and has been pressing for an investigation into potential money laundering, particularly involving Trump's loans with Deutsche Bank.


Likely Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland has agreed to meet weekly with committee chairs to discuss priorities, according to a source familiar with the matter. Party leaders have also told incoming committee chairs to work out turf fights in private rather than hashing out who has jurisdiction over what in public.


Aides warn that it will likely be months before the public sees the full scope of investigations.


While there's been careful planning already underway about which investigations to pursue, new developments could alter the Democrats' strategy. After a second child died in the custody of US Customs and Border Protection this month, for instance, Pelosi announced that Democrats would be investigating the issue.

Pelosi also announced on Friday she plans to appoint Douglas Letter to be the new House general counsel, a nonpartisan role that could nonetheless be pivotal in court battles that may erupt between the House and Trump administration next year.

Letter had a 40-year career at the Justice Department before retiring earlier this year.


According to one Democratic aide, a bill to protect the special counsel from interference is expected to be among the first items Democrats pursue. Such legislation passed the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this year but was never put to a vote on the floor.

Thanks to Mitch McConnell.

As the swamp gels

With few allies left in the White House and a press office in disarray, President Trump has increasingly turned to Stephen Miller, one of the key architects of his hard-line immigration policies, to be the public face of his administration.

If there's one face that's worse for America than Trump himself, it's Stephen Miller. Both politically and literally. (And after that ridiculous and laughable spray-on hair performance, even the hair is competition for worst.)
On Dec. 16, Miller went on CBS’ “Face The Nation” to declare that Trump was “absolutely” willing to shut down the government if his demand for $5 billion to fund a border wall was not met. Four days later, Miller got into a shouting match with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer as he argued for the wall. These appearances drew shocked reactions due to Miller’s high volume, extreme positions and combative tone.


Miller similarly raised eyebrows the last time he blazed across the media landscape in 2017, and was rarely seen in the public eye afterwards.

Trump’s reliance on Miller comes as the White House press operation has been rocked by reports of impending high-profile departures. These rumors have come as the president’s spokespeople have retreated from view as weeks have gone without on-the-record briefings. Since Dec. 19, Trump’s communications team hasn’t even accomplished its most basic task: distributing guidance detailing the president’s public schedule.
Rats will indeed leave a sinking ship.
While Trump launched his presidential campaign with blistering attacks on illegal immigration, Miller has been the mastermind who designed policies to target migrants. He was a major force pushing for Trump’s travel ban aimed at Muslim countries and the separation of immigrant children from their parents at the border.

“Nobody wants to defend Stephen’s positions, so they stick his ass out there,” the ex-transition team member said. “Stephen’s in the background telling everyone, ‘Max pressure, max pressure,’ and saying those things are feasible. Everyone who’s actually worked in policy is like, That can’t work, go defend it yourself.”


[A] former member of Trump’s transition team said Miller managed to survive in spite of these “strategic mistakes” because his ideas appeal to the president.

“The boss likes him,” the former transition member said of Miller. “He’s certainly not judged on his policy successes; all he has is failures."


These concerns have been fueled by dramatic staff turnover and continuing rumors of more imminent departures from the White House press office.

Indeed, just as Miller has stepped into the spotlight, some of the regular White House spokespeople have disappeared from view. Press secretary Sarah Sanders and Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah have both seen their public roles diminish since June when reports first emerged they were planning to depart the West Wing.


[Sanders'] retreat from the briefing room has coincided with a growing chorus of reports saying she is plotting an exit.

Yahoo News reached out to Sanders to ask about the criticism of the White House press operation and rumors of her impending exit. She answered with an email saying she’s “traveling” and asked for specific questions and details about this story. Sanders did not respond after receiving a list of queries.


In July, Shah was tapped to work on communications for the confirmation of Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Brett Kavanaugh. By September, Yahoo News reported Shah had told multiple associates he planned to leave his post after Kavanaugh was seated.


While Shah has stayed mum about his situation, he has removed his “principal deputy press secretary” title from his bio on Twitter.


The source said Sanders and Shah are both actively trying to leave the White House and have struggled to find new jobs.

Sanders interviewed with various companies and “everybody’s told her no. Sarah can’t find work. … Raj can’t find work either,” said the former transition team member.
Aw, gee. I wonder why.
According to [another] ex-official, the reputation the pair have earned as “serial liars” hurt their prospects for private sector work.

“What company would want to hire them?” the former official asked.
They can surely go on Fox News as "experts".
Both the ex-official and the second former White House staffer said they heard Shah would be off the White House payroll after the year ends. While the staffer said Shah was pursuing a job on Trump’s campaign, the other former official predicted Shah would not be offered a position there.
Trump has already had five different communications directors. The former White House staffer also pointed to some lower profile departures and said they had a clear impact. The Trump administration has shed at least four assistant press secretaries resulting in vacancies and hasty promotions in a position the ex-staffer described as vital for “playing triage.”


The other former official agreed that the White House communications operation was understaffed, and suggested it would have a hard time finding new talent.

“No professional in good standing will even interview for a job.” The former White House official said, adding, “It’s a zombie comms shop. Night of the living dead.”
And even Bill Shine probably can't convince any Fox News personalities to come on board. The pay would be a demotion.

Still, I have faith that there are plenty of whores out there who would knock off their mothers to get a chance to work in the Trump White House. If they can't find anybody, my guess is it's the daunting legal situation that's preventing it.  And they've still got Kellyanne.

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

Speaking of Slimey Kushner...

A real estate startup partly-owned by presidential senior adviser Jared Kushner is seeking an investment of at least $100 million from a private fund backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Sources familiar with the plans told Bloomberg a senior executive at Cadre, which was co-founded by Kushner, recently met with representatives of SoftBank Vision Fund, a Japanese conglomerate which receives much of its funding from the Saudi and UAE governments.

The technology investment fund claims investors such as Apple, Foxconn, Oracle cofounder Larry Ellison, and Qualcomm. Nearly half of its $100 billion is financed by the Saudi government's Public Investment Fund, Bloomberg said. At least $15 billion has been invested by the UAE sovereign wealth fund.


Kushner reportedly has stakes in the parent company that owns Cadre, valued between $5 million and $25 million, according to his updated financial disclosure last year.

  Business Insider
Remind me many times did he update that disclosure?
The discussions are especially sensitive as Kushner's and his family's business dealings with foreign entities have been called into question.

Kushner Companies took out four loans from Israel's largest bank, Bank Hapoalim, which is currently under investigation by the US Department of Justice.

Kushner himself has a close personal relationship with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, and has been instrumental in securing deals between the US and Saudi Arabia. He reportedly leaked classified information to the Saudi crown prince, who is said to have secretly boasted about having Kushner under his control.


Officials from several other countries, including China, have also bragged about having influence over Kushner.


Special counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly investigating contact between Kushner and foreign investors, particularly his links to [troubled Chinese insurance fund] Anbang.

Why does Jared still not have the proper security clearance?

For the first year of the Trump administration, Kushner had nearly blanket access to highly classified intelligence, even as he held an interim security clearance and awaited the completion of his background investigation.

But when White House security officials granted him a permanent clearance in late May, he was granted only “top secret” status — a level that does not allow him to see some of the country’s most closely guarded intelligence, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss security issues.

And he's supposed to be brokering peace in the Middle East.
The Central Intelligence Agency determines who can access this information, which primarily involves U.S. intelligence sources and surveillance methods, they said.

That has blocked Kushner at times from seeing some parts of the President’s Daily Brief, a highly classified summary of world events that sometimes describes intelligence programs and operatives, the people said.
Of course, it's not like Trump wouldn't tell him what's in the brief. If he had been paying attention during it. And if he could remember it.
The White House security office has authority to independently grant a “top secret” clearance after reviewing a staffer’s FBI background investigation.
So maybe he doesn't even qualify for that level?
The reasons for the constraints on Kushner’s intelligence access are unclear, including whether they are related to the ongoing special counsel investigation, which has examined his interactions with foreign officials.

A spokesman for the office of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III declined to comment.
That must be the greatest job in the nation. He gets paid to be a spokesman, and he never says anything.
McAdoo Gordon noted that clearance investigators normally check an internal Justice Department database to see if an applicant is the subject or target of a federal investigation. A person who appears in the index could face extended delays or additional scrutiny in seeking a clearance.
I put that in just because I wanted to post the name McAdoo Gordon. It's Leslie McAdoo Gordon, but it's a lot more fun if you only put her last name(s) down. (She's a security clearance lawyer.)
During his first year in the Trump White House, Kushner was able to see some of the nation’s most sensitive secrets — including the President’s Daily Brief — despite his interim security clearance, a situation that frustrated some top White House officials.

With his interim SCI designation, Kushner was able to attend classified briefings and issue requests for information to the intelligence community. Security clearance experts said it is rare to have such a high level of interim clearance for such a long period of time. Typically, senior officials do not get interim access to top-secret and sensitive compartmented material for more than three months, experts said.

In February, White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly downgraded the interim clearance of Kushner and several White House officials to “secret” after revelations that dozens of staffers were awaiting permanent security clearances and working for months with temporary approvals to handle sensitive information.
That was surely the beginning of the end for Kelly.
The move came as The Washington Post reported that officials in China, Israel, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates had privately discussed ways they believed they could manipulate Kushner by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience.
Not to mention Saudi prince MbS claiming he had Jared in his pocket.

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

Sunday, December 30, 2018


Also, the Mueller investigation has produced a number of indictments and guilty pleas already.  Considering the complexity and the additional crimes turned over, it's actually going very fast.  It's just that the stakes are so high for allowing this administration to stay in power that makes us clamor for more speed.


John Kelly on his way out the door

In the phone interview Friday, Kelly defended his rocky tenure, arguing that it is best measured by what the president did not do when Kelly was at his side.

  LA Times
Hmmmmm...does that make it seem very likely that Kelly was the one who posted that anonymous NYT op-ed meant to assure Americans that somebody was in the White House watching out for us all?
Kelly said he made sure that Trump had access to multiple streams of detailed information before he made a decision — even if the president says he often relies on his gut, rather than U.S. intelligence. “It’s never been: The president just wants to make a decision based on no knowledge and ignorance,” Kelly said. “You may not like his decision, but at least he was fully informed on the impact.”

Kelly allowed that spending nearly every waking minute of 15-hour days with a president seemingly inundated with one crisis after another has been a “bone-crushing hard job, but you do it.”

On most days, he said, he woke up at 4 a.m. and typically came home at 9 p.m. Then he often went straight into a secure area for classified reports and communications so he could keep working.

“I’m guarded by the Secret Service. I can’t even go get a beer,” he quipped.
Oh, I'm sure they'd bring you one, John.
Trump enlisted him to bring order to a White House racked by inter-agency rivalry, high staff turnover and constant controversy, Kelly said.
Don't you believe it. Trump says he's got a smooth running machine.
When Kelly led Homeland Security in early 2017, one of his first steps was to seek advice from those who “actually secure the border,” Customs and Border Protection agents who Kelly calls “salt-of-the-earth, Joe-Six-Pack folks.”

“They said, ‘Well we need a physical barrier in certain places, we need technology across the board, and we need more people,’” he said.

“The president still says ‘wall’ — oftentimes frankly he’ll say ‘barrier’ or ‘fencing,’ now he’s tended toward steel slats. But we left a solid concrete wall early on in the administration, when we asked people what they needed and where they needed it.”
Don't believe that either. Trump says everybody wants a wall. Especially San Diego.
Asked if there is a security crisis at the Southern border, or whether Trump has drummed up fears of a migrant “invasion” for political reasons, Kelly did not answer directly, but said, “We do have an immigration problem.”

From the 1980s to the mid-2000s, apprehensions at the border — the most common measure of illegal immigration — routinely reached more than 1 million migrants a year.

Today, they are near historical lows. In the fiscal year that ended in September, border authorities apprehended 521,090 people


“One of the reasons why it’s so difficult to keep people from coming — obviously it’d be preferable for them to stay in their own homeland but it’s difficult to do sometimes, where they live — is a crazy, oftentimes conflicting series of loopholes in the law in the United States that makes it extremely hard to turn people around and send them home,” Kelly said.

“If we don’t fix the laws, then they will keep coming,” he continued. “They have known, and they do know, that if they can get here, they can, generally speaking, stay.”

Kelly didn’t respond to Trump’s threats directly but suggested part of the problem lies on the U.S. side of the border.

“If you want to stop illegal immigration, stop U.S. demand for drugs, and expand economic opportunity” in Central America, he said.
Props to John for that.
Asked why he stayed 18 months in the White House, despite policy differences, personality clashes, the punishing schedule, and a likely lasting association with some of Trump’s controversies, he said simply: duty.

“Military people,” he said, “don’t walk away.”
Now ask him why he took the job in the first place.

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


[Trump's moments of slurred speech, cognitive and other anomalies] call attention to the alarming absence of a system to evaluate elected officials’ fitness for office—to reassure concerned citizens that the “leader of the free world” is not cognitively impaired, and on a path of continuous decline.

Proposals for such a system have been made in the past, but never implemented. The job of the presidency is not what it used to be. For most of America’s history, it was not possible for the commander in chief to unilaterally destroy a continent, or the entire planet, with one quick decision. Today even the country’s missileers—whose job is to sit in bunkers and await a signal—are tested three times per month on their ability to execute protocols. They are required to score at least 90 percent. Testing is not required for their commander in chief to be able to execute a protocol, much less testing to execute the sort of high-level decision that would set this process in motion.

The lack of a system to evaluate presidential fitness only stands to become more consequential as the average age of leaders increases.


After age 40, the brain decreases in volume by about 5 percent every decade.

  The Atlantic
So, when I say, "I'm losing it," it's not just a figure of speech.
The most noticeable loss is in the frontal lobes. These control motor functioning of the sort that would direct a hand to a cup and a cup to the mouth in one fluid motion—in most cases, without even looking at the cup.
Something we've seen Trump have trouble with at least twice in the past.
These lobes also control much more important processes, from language to judgment to impulsivity. [...] An annual presidential physical exam at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is customary, and Trump’s is set for January 12. But the utility of a standard physical exam—knowing a president’s blood pressure and weight and the like—is meager compared with the value of comprehensive neurological, psychological, and psychiatric evaluations. These are not part of a standard physical.


A president could be actively hallucinating, threatening to launch a nuclear attack based on intelligence he had just obtained from David Bowie, and the medical community could be relegated to speculation from afar.
To be fair, though, even if there were such a requirement, could the president's doctor be trusted to evaluate fairly and tell the truth? Certainly not any who have given us a report on his health to date.
Trump was once a more articulate person who sometimes told stories that had beginnings, middles, and ends, whereas he now leaps from thought to thought. He has come to rely on a small stable of adjectives, often involving superlatives. An improbably high proportion of what he describes is either the greatest or the worst he’s ever seen; absolutely terrible or the best; tiny or huge.

The frontal lobes also control speech, and over the years, Donald Trump’s fluency has regressed, and his vocabulary contracted.


He also more frequently finished sentences and thoughts.


Ben Michaelis, a psychologist who analyzes speech as part of cognitive assessments in court cases, told Begley that although some decline in cognitive functioning would be expected, Trump has exhibited a “clear reduction in linguistic sophistication over time” with “simpler word choices and sentence structure.”
And a tweety bird's focus:
People want the border wall. My base definitely wants the border wall, my base really wants it—you’ve been to many of the rallies. Okay, the thing they want more than anything is the wall. My base, which is a big base; I think my base is 45 percent. You know, it’s funny. The Democrats, they have a big advantage in the Electoral College. Big, big, big advantage ... The Electoral College is very difficult for a Republican to win, and I will tell you, the people want to see it. They want to see the wall.

This is evident even off camera, as in last week’s post-golf sit-down with The New York Times at his resort in Florida:
The tax cut will be, the tax bill, prediction, will be far bigger than anyone imagines. Expensing will be perhaps the greatest of all provisions. Where you can do something, you can buy something … Piece of equipment … You can do lots of different things, and you can write it off and expense it in one year. That will be one of the great stimuli in history. You watch. That’ll be one of the big … People don’t even talk about expensing, what’s the word, “expensing.” [Inaudible.] One-year expensing. Watch the money coming back into the country, it’ll be more money than people anticipate. But, Michael, I know the details of taxes better than anybody. Better than the greatest CPA. I know the details of health care better than most, better than most. And if I didn’t, I couldn’t have talked all these people into doing ultimately only to be rejected. Now here’s the good news. We’ve created associations, millions of people are joining associations. Millions. That were formerly in Obamacare or didn’t have insurance. Or didn’t have health care. Millions of people. That’s gonna be a big bill, you watch. It could be as high as 50 percent of the people. You watch. So that’s a big thing …
The paper said that the transcript was “lightly edited for content and clarity.”
Jesus Christ, it was worse than that?
If Trump’s limited and hyperbolic speech were simply a calculated political move [...] then we would also expect an occasional glimpse behind the curtain. In addition to repeating simplistic phrases to inundate the collective subconscious with narratives like “no collusion,” Trump would give at least a few interviews in which he strung together complex sentences.


Reagan announced his Alzheimer’s diagnosis in 1994, but there was evidence of linguistic change over the course of his presidency that experts have argued was indicative of early decline. His grammar worsened, and his sentences were more often incomplete. He came to rely ever more on vague and simple words: indefinite nouns and “low imageability” verbs such as have, go, and get.

After Reagan’s diagnosis, former President Jimmy Carter sounded an alarm over the lack of a system to detect this sort of cognitive impairment earlier on. “Many people have called to my attention the continuing danger to our nation from the possibility of a U.S. president becoming disabled, particularly by a neurologic illness,” Carter wrote in 1994 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. “The great weakness of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment is its provision for determining disability in the event that the president is unable or unwilling to certify to impairment or disability.”

Indeed, the 1967 amendment laid out a process for transferring power to the vice president in the event that the president is unable to carry out the duties of the office because of illness. But it generally assumed that the president would be willing to undergo diagnostic testing and be forthcoming about any limitations.


Carter called on “the medical community” to take leadership in creating an objective, minimally biased process—to “awaken the public and political leaders of our nation to the importance of this problem.”

More than two decades later, that has not happened. But questions and concern around Trump’s psychiatric status have spurred proposals anew. In December, also in the Journal of the American Medical Association, mental-health professionals proposed a seven-member expert panel “to evaluate presidential fitness.”


The real-world application of one of these systems is complicated by the fact that the frontal lobes also control things like judgment, problem-solving, and impulse control. These metrics, which fall under the purview of psychiatrists and clinical psychologists, can be dismissed as opinion.


Indeed, thousands of mental-health professionals have mobilized and signed petitions attesting to Trump’s unfitness to hold office. Some believe Trump should carry a label of narcissistic personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, or both. The largest such petition has more than 68,000 signatures—though there is no vetting of the signatories’ credentials. Its author, the psychologist John Gartner, told me last year that in his 35 years of practicing and teaching, “this is absolutely the worst case of malignant narcissism I’ve ever seen.”

Many other mental-health professionals are insistent that Trump not be diagnosed from afar by anyone, ever. [...] A personality disorder is “only a disorder when it causes extreme distress, suffering, and impairment,” argues Allen Frances, the Duke University psychiatrist who was a leading author of the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, which was the first to include personality disorders.
Fine. Trump's personality disorders cause the rest of us extreme distress, suffering and impairment.
After more than a year of considering Trump’s behavior through the lens of the cognitive sciences, I don’t think that labeling him with a mental illness from afar is wise. A diagnosis like narcissistic personality disorder is too easily played off as a value judgment by an administration that is pushing the narrative that scientists are enemies of the state. Labeling is also counterproductive to the field in that it presents risks to all the people who deal with the stigma of psychiatric diagnoses. To attribute Trump’s behavior to mental illness risks devaluing mental illness.


The idea that the president should not be diagnosed from afar only underscores the point that the president needs to be evaluated up close.

A presidential-fitness committee—of the sort that Carter and others propose, consisting of nonpartisan medical and psychological experts—could exist in a capacity similar to the Congressional Budget Office. It could regularly assess the president’s neurological status and give a battery of cognitive tests to assess judgment, recall, decision making, attention—the sorts of tests that might help a school system assess whether a child is suited to a particular grade level or classroom—and make the results available.
Good idea.  A committee.  It'll never happen.
Even if every member deemed a president so impaired as to be unfit to execute the duties of the office, the role of the committee would end with the issuing of that statement. Acting on that information—or ignoring or disparaging it—would be up to the people and their elected officials. probably wouldn't matter anyway. At least not with a president like Trump and a Republican political party like we have now.

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

Deoncstructing America - and the world

The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday proposed a major change in the way the federal government calculates the costs and benefits of dangerous air pollutants, arguing that authorities should exclude some of the public health benefits stemming from new rules.

The proposal, which revisits a 2011 rule limiting mercury emissions from coal plants, argues EPA lacked justification to curb the neurotoxin in the first place because many benefits stemmed from the overall drop in air pollution that would occur once power companies adopted new technologies. The EPA is not reversing the Obama-era standards — with which the industry has already complied — the agency wants to alter the underlying calculations to set a precedent for future public health rules.


If adopted, the change would prevent regulators from calculating positive health effects — known as “co-benefits” — that come from reducing pollutants other than those being targeted.


Coal-fired power plants rank as the nation’s single biggest emitter of mercury. Over time, emissions of the pollutant also build up in fish, whose elevated levels of mercury are absorbed by people who eat them.


Under President Barack Obama, the EPA estimated that it would cost utilities $9.6 billion a year to comply with the new standards, while limiting mercury would translate into merely $6 million in public health benefits. But the EPA estimated at the time that other factors, such as reductions in soot and nitrogen oxide that would accompany cuts to mercury pollution, would save between $37 billion to $90 billion in annual health costs and lost workdays by preventing as many as 11,000 premature deaths and 4,700 heart attacks.


“There is no legitimate justification for this action,” Harold P. Wimmer, chief executive of the American Lung Association, said in a statement, adding that the regulation had been effective not just in limiting mercury, but also emissions of carcinogens such as arsenic, chromium and nickel, as well as toxic acid gases that form particle pollution, which causes asthma attacks, heart attacks and premature death. “EPA’s proposal to undermine the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards is one of its most dangerous efforts yet.”


“I just think it’s a little fuzzy math when you say, ‘Reduce mercury and we have all these other benefits over here,’ as the shiny object,” EPA acting administrator Andrew Wheeler said in an interview with The Washington Post this fall.

EPA issued the proposal just hours before the agency is slated to shut down, at midnight, due to the ongoing budget impasse between President Trump and congressional leaders.
Here's your reminder that it's a conscious decision to let it all burn because "the planet's fate is already sealed." 

...but hey, do what you will anyway.  There's wealth to be had before the planet dies.

America crashing - Part 2

In the past three days, Huge electrical explosions in New York and Louisiana, emergency 911 system outages in 37 states, and ...
A suspected malware computer virus from outside the United States prevented the Los Angeles Times from publishing many of its Saturday print editions, in an attack that similarly crippled other newspapers across the country, the Times said.

The newspaper reported in its online edition at 4:55 p.m. that the cyberattack “appears to have originated from outside the United States.”


The San Diego Union-Tribune was unable to make Saturday delivery of its print addition, and the Southern California editions of the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times were affected as well.


In an update Saturday afternoon, the paper said that all publications within The Times’ former parent company, Tribune Publishing, had problems with print production Saturday. Tribune Publishing sold The Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune to Los Angeles biotech billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong in June, but the companies continue to share various systems, including software.

The LA Times said that readers could access the Saturday edition online via the digital edition.

Are we crashing due to degrading infrastructure, or are we being crashed via cyber attacks?
May 15, 2018

The White House eliminated the position of cybersecurity coordinator on the National Security Council on Tuesday, doing away with a post central to developing policy to defend against increasingly sophisticated digital attacks and the use of offensive cyber weapons.

A memorandum circulated by an aide to the new national security adviser, John R. Bolton, said the post was no longer considered necessary because lower-level officials had already made cybersecurity issues a “core function” of the president’s national security team.

Cybersecurity experts and members of Congress said they were mystified by the move, though some suggested Mr. Bolton did not want any competitive power centers emerging inside the national security apparatus.


Trump began his administration with two respected veterans of cyber policy. He appointed Thomas P. Bossert, a lawyer in the administration of President George W. Bush, as the homeland security adviser.

The cybersecurity coordinator who reported to him, Rob Joyce, had run the Tailored Access Operations unit of the N.S.A. — the unit that, until it was reorganized and renamed, was responsible for breaking into foreign computer systems as part of United States covert operations.

Mr. Bossert and Mr. Joyce said Russia and North Korea were the culprits in major cyberattacks over the last year.


Mr. Bossert was forced out on Mr. Bolton’s second day on the job, and Mr. Joyce returned to the N.S.A. on Friday.


The elimination of the cybersecurity role is likely to increase concern that the Trump administration is short-handed and unprepared to deal with increasing cybersecurity threats.


Security experts are also worried that hackers operating out of Iran or Russia could renew their efforts to penetrate computer systems in the United States, including machines that operate critical infrastructure like the electric power grid.


Joshua Steinman, who had little cybersecurity policy experience before joining the N.S.C., will assume responsibility for offensive policy, including responses to cyberthreats from foreign adversaries. The defensive and homeland security responsibilities will fall to Grant Schneider, who already serves in a dual role as acting United States chief information security officer and senior director for cybersecurity at the N.S.C.

President Donald J. Trump is committed to protecting the cybersecurity of our Nation, and has made it clear that this Administration will do what it takes to make America cyber secure.

Since the beginning of President Trump’s Administration, he has taken action to protect the American people in cyber space. Building on these strong efforts, today, the President signed the National Cyber Strategy—the first fully articulated cyber strategy for the United States since 2003.

The National Cyber Strategy identifies decisive priority actions to protect the American people.


This Administration will not treat cyberspace as a separate arena. Instead, we are integrating cyber into all elements of national power.


We will manage cybersecurity risks to increase the security and resilience of the Nation’s information and information systems. We will do this by taking specific steps to secure Federal networks and information, secure critical infrastructure, combat cybercrime, and improve incident reporting.


We will preserve America’s influence in the technological ecosystem and pursue development of cyberspace as an open engine of economic growth, innovation, and efficiency. To do this, we will support a vibrant and resilient digital economy, foster and protect American ingenuity, and develop a superior cybersecurity workforce.
All this without a cybersecurity coordinator.
We will identify, counter, disrupt, degrade, and deter behavior in cyberspace that is destabilizing and contrary to our national interests, while preserving America’s overmatch in and through cyberspace.
It seems pretty obvious we're failing on this one.
To achieve this, we will do our part to enhance cyber stability through norms of responsible state behavior, attribution of unacceptable behavior in cyberspace, and the imposition of costs on malicious cyber actors.
Russia, if you're listening.
We have a lot of work to do, and there is no time to waste. We will Make America Cyber Secure.
Better pick up the speed.

Here's the entire strategy paper.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

The Christmas spirit: America failing basic humanity

Children in Border Patrol holding facilities "would vomit on their clothing" and had no soap to clean up.

One child "had diarrhea, had dry lips, he had a fever," but border agents declined to seek medical care and closed the cell door.

Children were told they could drink water from a sink, but "are not given any cups" nor soap to wash their hands.

Those allegations and many others, from families apprehended by Border Patrol agents, were included in a raft of legal filings in August 2018.

Four months later, two Guatemalan children being held by the Border Patrol in New Mexico got sick, began vomiting and soon died.


Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen announced "a series of extraordinary protective measures," adding health screenings and more medical professionals for migrant children.

But concerns about migrant children becoming sick — and the lack of medical care for them in ill-equipped Border Patrol stations — were far from new.

No kids had died before.
Federal officials did not comment on the filings directly, but in an interview with The Arizona Republic, defended their handling of migrants and said border agents were not expected to be medical professionals.


"As pediatricians, we say these detention centers are bad," said Dr. Colleen Kraft, the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which is now consulting with Homeland Security on providing better pediatric care. "They're cold, the lights are on 24/7, there are open toilets, and as a child, if you're not sick you can get sick."
Only a medical professional would know those conditions were problematic.
On Dec. 26, Nielsen announced that she had sought assistance from the Centers for Disease Control, the Coast Guard Medical Corps and the Department of Defense to provide medical expertise. She said, "all children in Border Patrol custody have been given a thorough medical screening."
Well, that was obviously a lie.
Dr. Marsha Griffin is a professor of pediatrics with the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley who has been visiting detention facilities for a decade. She has visited the 1,500-person capacity Ursula facility in McAllen but said that she hasn’t been granted a visit in the past 10 months.

"To my knowledge, there's nobody walking around in the pods to check on people," Griffin said about Ursula facility. "They do have guards, but to date, no one that I know of has been trained in pediatric care, which is a problem because children are not little adults. They can get very sick and die."


[Lydia Guzman, a Phoenix immigration activist] said complaints have been filed for years to DHS's Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties about mistreatment and medical denial in CBP facilities.

"Because of those cold cells, people are being discharged and deported with pneumonia — we know of a gentleman who died," Guzman said. "This is something that's been going on. It hasn't started with this administration."
As long as we're saying "Merry Christmas" and not "Happy Holidays".

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

What is wrong with this statement?

It wasn't a very long call.  Not unless he was tweeting his irritation with the Democrats while he was talking.

Something tells me there was no call at all.

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

It's gonna be a long wait

Has anyone told him Congress is out on vacation?

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

SEALs video exposure update

Pentagon officials said there was no violation of Defense Department security protocols after President Donald Trump posted a video to his official Twitter account posing with members of a special operations unit.


“The special operators voluntarily participated in this open press event,” said U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Carla Gleason, a Pentagon spokeswoman, in an email to Newsweek on Friday. “There was no security violation.”


U.S. Navy Commander Sean Robertson, a Pentagon spokesman, told Newsweek on Friday that from the Defense Department's standpoint, there was no security violation.

"I'm not going to comment on what a command should or should not do," Robertson said regarding an individual unit's operational security policies, but, "this was a free and open event to the press, and from the big DoD perspective, there was no violation."

Since when can special ops people voluntarily reveal their identities?
U.S. Navy Lieutenant Trevor Davids, the Naval Special Warfare Center’s public information officer said: “All these guys will go on to do clandestine work,” he said in his explanation of operational security concerns this past July. “And that work is dangerous.”
More dangerous than ever now. 

Well, at least there's no Secretary of Defense to quit in protest.

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

Meanwhile in North Carolina

A disputed congressional seat in North Carolina could remain vacant for months after incoming Democratic House leaders in Washington on Friday declared they would not seat the apparent Republican winner because of unresolved allegations of election fraud in that race.


Citing what he described as the “well-documented election fraud that took place,” Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the incoming House majority leader, said on Friday that “Democrats would object to any attempt by Mr. Harris to be seated on Jan. 3.”


Even before Democrats made that fresh vow on Friday afternoon, the chaotic fight for the Ninth District’s House seat had already plunged into deeper turmoil: North Carolina’s state elections board dissolved at noon on Friday under a court order, two weeks before it was to hold a public hearing to consider evidence of the fraud allegations.


Friday’s political drama came more than seven weeks after Mark Harris, the Republican nominee for Congress in the Ninth District, seemed to defeat Dan McCready, the Democratic candidate, by 905 votes in November. But Mr. Harris’s apparent victory was soon overshadowed by allegations that a contractor for his campaign engaged in illegal activity to compromise the election. According to witnesses and affidavits, the contractor, L. McCrae Dowless Jr., and people working for him collected absentee ballots in violation of state law.

Because they can't win if they don't cheat.
Mr. Harris has denied wrongdoing but acknowledged this month that he had directed the hiring of Mr. Dowless, a political operative from Bladen County who had previously been scrutinized by the authorities for possible election tampering. No one, including Mr. Dowless, has been charged in connection with this year’s allegations, and Mr. Dowless, who has declined to comment, rejected a request to meet with state investigators.

Those investigators had been expected to present their findings at an elections board hearing on Jan. 11. After reviewing evidence at that hearing, the state board was expected to determine whether to order a new election under a North Carolina law that allows a new vote if “irregularities or improprieties occurred to such an extent that they taint the results of the entire election and cast doubt on its fairness.”

But plans for the January hearing, and the fate of the board, eventually ran headlong into a case that dealt with the constitutionality of the elections board’s design. On Thursday night, in a decision that stunned North Carolina Democrats and Republicans alike, a three-judge panel angrily rejected a bipartisan request to extend the life of the board temporarily.


Even with the demise of the board, state officials said the inquiry would continue at the staff level, even if a board was not yet in place to consider evidence and reach conclusions.

“The staff will continue to investigate the Ninth District irregularities and perform all other elections-related functions,” said Patrick Gannon, a spokesman for the embattled panel.
...but hey, do what you will anyway.

UPDATE 2/27/19:

Isolated and panicking

Where's his babysitter?

This might not be a good time for him to be bringing up obstruction of justice.  (Nor is it the first time he's made this claim.) Also, his claims are pure bullshit.
Trump’s reference to 19,000 texts appears to be the result of adding the total texts recovered from Strzok’s and Page’s S5 phones together.

But his suggestion that the messages are permanently lost is wrong. The OIG recovered a total of more than 126,000 lines of text from Strzok and Page.


Trump also said the text messages, between former agent Peter Strzok and bureau lawyer Lisa Page, would have exposed Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe as a hoax, had they not been "purposely and illegally deleted."


There are some major factual problems with Trump’s claim[s].


First, a new report from the Justice Department’s internal watchdog suggests the roughly 19,000 messages slipped through the cracks due to technical glitches with the FBI’s data-collection tool on Samsung devices, not because Strzok and Page went around the system.

Second, perhaps most importantly, while the messages were initially not captured, they have since been recovered. Trump’s claim gives the false impression the texts are still unaccounted.


The inspector general discovered a five-month gap in the Strzok-Page communications, from mid-December 2016 through mid-May 2017. This prompted the inspector general to conduct a follow-on report to supplement its June 2018 findings. The follow-on report, which further described the inspector general’s forensic efforts to recover the missing Strzok-Page texts, was released Dec. 13.

The inspector general found no evidence Strzok and Page tried to prevent the FBI from collecting their texts.


It concluded: "The OIG investigation determined that the FBl's collection tool was not only failing to collect any data on certain phones during particular periods of time, it also does not appear that it was collecting all text messages even when it was generally functioning to collect text messages."


An outside expert hired by the inspector general to assist with the Samsung portion of the investigation concluded "it was unlikely that Strzok and Page attempted to circumvent the FBI's text message collection capabilities," and the watchdog found no evidence they did.


"OIG digital forensic examiners used forensic tools to recover thousands of text messages" from the Samsung S5 devices of Strzok and Page, the report notes.

Forensic experts recovered more than 9,300 texts sent or received from Strzok's S5 phone, about 8,300 of which were sent to or received from Page. They also collected 10,760 texts from Page’s S5 device, about 9,700 of which were communications with Strzok.


Separately from their Samsung devices, the two officials were issued Apple iPhones when they began working as members of the special counsel investigation.

By the time the inspector general obtained their Apple phones, they had been reset to factory settings so they could be reassigned, and contained no data related to the previous owner’s use, the report states.


And lastly, there is no evidence the texts show that the special counsel investigation is, as Trump called it, a "hoax."

We rate this claim Pants on Fire.


We reached out to the White House for comment but did not hear back.

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

America crashing

Did your internet go out yesterday?  Mine did.  I had no idea it was more than just my local company.  

And that's not all...

Top of the US government

The Trump administration:


It's going to be a huge undertaking for the next president (dear god, let there be a next one) to stock the government with qualified people.

Heather Nauert is an ex-Fox News personality who has spent the last year and a half being the spokesperson for the State Department.  That is the extent of her "qualifications".

Contrary to Trump's constant claim that America is respected again, America is a joke.  

The wall's counterparts

The more I think about that stupid wall idea, the more ridiculous it seems, and the more disgusted I feel with its proponents.

Just imagine for a minute that a wall actually were erected on our southern border.  What would that say about us?  Stupid, insular, bigoted, paranoid, among other things.  Not only would it not stop people from getting into the US and be a huge waste of money simply for the impracticality and ineffectiveness, it would be a terrible blight on the landscape and a monument to our failure as a nation.

Just as we view the countries that built the Berlin wall and the walls in Israel, that's who we would become.

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

House GOP would like to waste more time and money

Republicans have quietly and unceremoniously ended their congressional investigation of whether the FBI and Justice Department were biased in their handling of inquiries into Hillary Clinton’s emails and Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.

House judiciary chairman Robert Goodlatte and oversight chairman Trey Gowdy, who are retiring next week, sent a letter rather than a full report to the Justice Department and the Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. It wraps up an inquiry that was conducted mostly behind closed doors.


Goodlatte and Gowdy say in their letter that they reviewed thousands of documents and conducted interviews that “revealed troubling facts which exacerbated our initial questions and concerns”. They call on the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel to investigate further. A separate report issued this year by the Justice Department’s own internal watchdog found there was no evidence that the then FBI chief James Comey or the department were motivated by political bias toward either candidate.

Jerry Nadler, the top Democrat on the judiciary committee, and Elijah Cummings, top Democrat on the oversight panel, are expected to formally end the investigation when they take power in January. Nadler has called it “nonsense”.

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

Friday, December 28, 2018

Told you she wouldn't be hanging around

This was yesterday's news:

Goldman sucks

Goldman Sachs, which has survived and thrived despite countless scandals over the years, may have finally stepped in a pile of trouble too deep to escape.


Goldman has survived many scandals in recent years. The bank paid $550 million to settle the infamous “Abacus” affair, in which Goldman helped hedge fund investors create a born-to-lose mortgage investment product to bet against.

Then they agreed to pay another $5 billion to settle claims of improper “packaging, securitization, marketing, sale and issuance of residential mortgage-backed securities” between 2005 and 2007.


There’s even a Donald Trump angle to this latest great financial mess, but the outlines of that subplot – in a case that has countless – remains vague. The bank itself is in the most immediate danger.


In the 1MDB scheme [which is currently under investigation, with criminal charges filed against Goldman], actors tied to former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak allegedly siphoned mountains of cash out of a state investment fund. The misrouted money went to lavish parties with celebrity guests like Alicia Keys, a $35 million jet, works by Monet and Van Gogh, property in New York, Los Angeles and London, and (ironically) the funding of the movie The Wolf of Wall Street.


Najib lost re-election in May, ending a 61-year reign for his party. National anger over 1MDB was a major reason for his downfall. The prime minister was allegedly central to the scam, which involved luring investors to national development projects that mostly never took place.


Malaysian authorities filed criminal charges [...] seeking a stunning $7.5 billion in reparations for the bank’s role in the scandal. Singapore authorities also announced they were expanding their own 1MDB probe to include Goldman.


The cash for this mother of all bacchanals originally came from bonds issued by Goldman, which earned a whopping $600 million from the Malaysians. The bank charged prices for its bond issuance that analysts believe were suspiciously high – like a massage price that suggests you’re probably getting more than a massage.


Najib was one of the first world leaders to congratulate Donald Trump on his win in 2016. At least at one time, the two men were pals. [...] Trump hosted Najib at the White House last year, thanking the soon-to-be-ousted leader for “all the investment you’ve made in the United States.”


On November 30th of this year, the Justice Department filed a civil forfeiture suit targeting more than $73 million funneled into the country by 1MDB players. There is email evidence the money may have been intended to help influence the Trump administration to drop the case.


[Najib's electoral loss] completely reversed the situation,” says John Pang, a former policy adviser to the prime minister’s office in Malaysia. “Before, you essentially had the victim saying there was no crime. Now, you had the Justice Department meeting with a 1MDB task force in Kuala Lumpur.”

  Matt Taibbi
All this reinforcing for Trump, being in a similar corrupt position, the fact that he can't lose office or his goose is cooked.
In addition to the Malaysian action seeking $7.5 billion, the company is facing two more class-action lawsuits filed by investors, and a significant amount of negative press.


At year’s end, Goldman is known to be under investigation in the U.S., Singapore and Malaysia, while 1MDB probes are ongoing in at least 10 countries.


What was in it for the bank? About $600 million in fees [...] “two hundred times the typical fee.”


Clare Brown of the Sarawak Report, who broke many of the early stories about 1MDB, was writing about Goldman’s pricing a long time ago. In one story in 2013, she noted that when the bank earned $196 million in one transaction, that represented “around 8.8% of the issue’s total nominal value rather than the normal rates, which might be expected to amount to around 0.25%, according to traders.”

Reached by email this week, Brown said recent events only bring what was obvious some time ago into greater focus. “Basically, anyone with any knowledge of the markets and banking could see this deal was fishy as hell,” she says, adding, “What is absolutely clear is there is no way the bosses of the bank could have failed to see what a mere onlooker like myself was calling out back in 2013. They ALL HAD TO KNOW.”


The scandal showed that all it takes is a corrupt official and a morally flexible bank office to generate billions in public losses.
Continue reading.

 ...but hey, do what you will anyway.

So...there's a silver lining in the shutdown for Trump