Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Putin to Manafort to Trump––How We Became A Russian Satellite

We learn today that Paul Manafort, the man who guided Trump to the Republican nomination, has for over a decade been earning $10 million a year working on behalf of the Kremlin.

But the Republicans who do “extreme vetting” of homeless refugees who used to work for our military in Iraq and Afghanistan were not interested in Manafort’s work for Putin. No vetting of rich white Christian Republican businessmen.

Paul Manafort's Putin connection is revealed by the AP.

When Trump tweets bogus stories during his five AM bowel movement he is tweeting stories he learned on InfoWars and Breitbart. Both news sites [sic] are under investigation for links to the Russian mobsters and Russian spy agencies who interfered with the 2016 presidential election.

The InfoWars and Breitbart collusion with Russia is being reported in a continuing series by McClatchy

Follow the money, Deep Throat said.

The money flowed in millions from Russia through banks that loaned money to the bankrupt Donald J. Trump, who couldn’t get credit anywhere but was desperate to continue living large. Why does Trump love Putin. Look at the gold furniture he sits in. It becomes increasingly clear every day that Putin bought that.

The Guardian has new detail on Trump's flow of Russian money through DeutscheBank.

While the FBI and DOJ (at least the career lawyers if not the Trump people) are busy going after the Kremlingate treason octopus, witnesses keep being poisoned and thrown out of fourth floor windows.

Buzzfeed reports on the assassination of another Russian who know too much about how Trump was elected.

"Remember remember the eighth of November,
The Kremlingate Treason and Plot,
I see no reason why Kremlingate Treason
Should ever be forgot."

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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Diagramming Trump's ties to the Kremlin

Remember, remember the Eighth of November
The Kremlingate Treason and Plot
I see no reason the Kremlingate Treason
Should Ever Be Forgot

We’ve never had to worry if an American president was actually a Russian puppet. This has never happened before. It has happened now with the full eager cooperation of the Republican Party.

Here are the Trump/Russia connections broken into understandable parts. From POLITICO

Keep an eye on Rep. Eric Swalwell (D/CA). He is demanding full independent investigation of Trump’s ties to Russia and how these ties corrupted our election. From the LATimes

Swalwell’s got his own diagrams of the Trump/Russia connections

Rachel Maddow has spent several of her evening programs detailing these links. The bank in Cyprus co-owned by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and a money-laundering Russian mobster who has also funneled tens of millions of dollars directly to Trump. The disturbing links with Trump’s deeply indebted businesses also lead to Azerbaijan and to the terrorist-funding, money-laundering Republican Guard in Iran. (Far more interesting than the 2 pages of Trump’s taxes, but those taxes shown in full may disclose how corrupt this man is.)

I recommend watching Rachel's programs on Kremlingate

Benedict Arnold’s name is trending.

Malcom Nance calls Trump a B.A. at Salon

I urge Congress to hurry because the witnesses who might shed light on the Russian scheme keep dying mysteriously. This is from the Independent.

Now there's this story from Reuters news service about how Russians oligarchs close to Putin have invested $100 million in Trump real estate.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

We Could Try Laughing Him Out Of Office

Gif of DailyShow’s version of the BBC toddler photobomb starring Spicey, Kellyanne, Uncle Ben and Trumpy.

Tracey Ullman’s dead-on parody of the kind of interview assault victims have to endure with insensitive male law officers.

I include this because this is the kind of nasty mindset Trump has legitimized and elevated, making all of us feel embarrassed and insulted.

Trolling Trump. (The left can play this game too.) The Indian a cappella group doing their Trump version of a Village People classic.

The Onion gets a cease and desist letter from White House for making fun of the Orange Orangutan in Chief. The New Yorker reports.

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Wednesday, March 08, 2017

We Need A New Measure Of Economic Health––A Misery Industrial Average

The DowJones is at record levels, likely because of mouthwatering promises to remove regulations on pollution and regulations against gouging consumers and other antisocial corporate behaviors, as well as further tax cuts and forgiveness on the 1% and large corporations that Trump has outlined or suggested or promised.

But a lot of Americans are not enjoying robust economic health or feeling economically secure. As pollution regulations are relaxed we can expect cancer rates and deaths to rise and deaths and illness from various mysterious causes downwind and downstream from industries to rise also. These ills will not be reflected in the Dow. As consumer safeguards go away lots of large companies will breathe easier and have a healthier bottom line because they will be able to get away with things they used to be prevented from doing. This will not elevate average Americans' feelings of well-being.

We need a different metric, another gauge of our economic health at the level working people feel it, not just at the level where the stock portfolios of workers lucky enough to have stock portfolios feel it. Regardless of what SCOTUS says, corporations are not people.

I am recommending what I call

The Misery Industrial Average

(compare DowJones and Standard&Poors averages)

Private prisons

Collections companies

Pawn companies

Private security firms

Predatory lenders

Polluters

Payday lenders

Day labor companies

Weapons manufacturers

Gambling and casino companies

Porn companies (like Manwin)

(Plus other categories of publicly traded corporations who create or profit from the misery and vulnerability of working people.)

When these firms flourish it likely means that American workers are not flourishing. Their robust health comes at the expense of working people. Corporate lobbyists like to refer to working people in need as parasites, as unproductive, but these kinds of companies are the parasites because their profits subtract from working people’s standard of living.

This idea has been broached in various ways before, but not as a daily metric that people could follow the way they follow the Dow. They watch the Dow and figure its happiness and security is their happiness and security. Even when it isn’t. Even when the Dow might very well reflect the opposite of their own economic position.

This, from Upworthy, calls the private prison industry the Misery Industry

The right wing UK tabloid The Daily Mail equates the “misery industry” with the professionals who try to treat human misery and depression, because it is a “conservative” belief that nothing is wrong if we ignore what is wrong. Shut up and stress and fear and anxiety and depression will go away without costing the fortunate happy people anything.

But the pharmaceutical companies that provide the medication to treat depression and anxiety should also go on the Misery Industrial Average.

Something called the “misery index” was invented during the Johnson administration. It reflects the unemployment rate plus the inflation rate. President Carter called it "malaise" which described it pretty well. This malaise peaked during the Carter administration because the Arab oil monopolies tightened supplies which dramatically raised prices and depressed the global economy, which made people uneasy and threw people out of work.

Because the unemployment rate and the inflation rates are low right now, we’re fine, right?

But what if inflation is low and has become low and remains low because wages have been suppressed. We all know higher education and the cost of medical care and food and housing have risen more every year than the inflation rate shows, so how can inflation be low and how are depressed incomes among working people causing them to be less miserable instead of more miserable?

An actual index measuring the value and the profits and the scale of misery-related industries would be a better measure. When a town loses its local merchants because a Walmart goes in just outside the city’s tax boundary and begins paying low wages requiring its employees to obtain public assistance to live––that is misery. When the small town main street loses its local druggist and its local hardware store and those local taxpaying businesses are replaced by a Pawn America and Dollar Store and Payday Lenders, that is misery. When more of those businesses show up on main street those companies are flourishing, and that industrial average in share prices would be a useful, even a vital, measure of how hard American life is getting. When private prisons are supplying a captive and obedient labor force competing with workers not in prison that is a reflection of negative economic growth. But it seems likely that many of the business categories buoying the Dow Jones right now may be helped by the robust health of the misery industrial complex.

One more key driver of American misery is the right wing media, which provides a steady 24/7 diet of fear mongering and hate mongering and dark descriptions of where America is at that don't have anything to do with reality but serve to drive reality in that direction. People who watch FoxNews have a weaker hold on fact and reality and tend to be whipsawed by the indoctrination they receive from their preferred news media. They tend to be driven by fear rather than hope, by hate rather than love, by suspicion rather than trust.

Scientific American summarized the differences between the right wing mindset and the liberal mindset

There is a tendency toward fear and anxiety among conservatives. There is also a tendency for Red States, Republican run states, to be less successful and less happy by a whole range of measures, and yet those citizens held captive by those beliefs and by their Republican leaders continue to elect them and perpetuate their misery. In a recent study, discussed in USAToday, the ten most miserable states to live in all fall into the Republican column.

This NPR interview addresses the odd paradox of how Red States where "family values" are a core issue are failing in those areas

Red states hate the federal government yet they need it more than blue states do because their systems are failing in so many key categories, in the education rate, the domestic violence rate, in family stability and income stability

This NPR story discusses how the Red States who distrust and despise the federal government the most also need it the most

So in the Red States where Republicans rule and right wing media promotes its mixture of fear and anger, we find a vicious cycle: negative policies create negative results.


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Saturday, March 04, 2017

The Language of the Right

From Buzzfeed, a glossary of memes and codes popular among right wing trolls

Who knew that placing three parens before and after a person's name was a derisory way of labelling them as Jewish.

"(((Echo))) Parentheses: When used around someone's name, a means of indicating that they are Jewish. The "echoes" are a reference to some old gobbledygook about Jews "echoing through history," but the parentheses are a handy tool on Twitter for anti-Semites to signal to one another when someone they dislike is Jewish. Once the tactic was exposed, some Jews and non-Jews started adding them to their own Twitter usernames as a way to subvert the practice and make it less powerful."

From ATTN, a glossary of commonly used phrases that have racist origins or overtones

It includes an interesting entry from Encyclopedia Britannica about the "Grandfather Clause". The concept of "grandfathering" someone into legal status after a period of time has its roots in the Jim Crow South:

"It provided that those who had enjoyed the right to vote prior to 1866 or 1867, or their lineal descendants, would be exempt from educational, property, or tax requirements for voting. Because the former slaves had not been granted the franchise until the adoption of the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870, those clauses worked effectively to exclude black people from the vote but assured the franchise to many impoverished and illiterate whites."

Not that using the term today makes a person racist, but it's interesting to know. Just as it would be good to know that the term "Thug" that is now verboten has its roots not in white Americans' fears of gangs but in white British imperialists' fears of gangs in India, specifically the gangs that engaged in Thuggee, a violent killing ritual that targeted travelers, native Indians mostly, along the Great Trunk Road in northern India.

The weaponization of words is a major issue today, poisoning conversations and relationships. Groups have always used coded language to exclude people but this behavior entered the mainstream of party politics in the nineties with the rise of Newt Gingrich and his political guru Frank Luntz. Luntz helped Gingrich gain a Republican majority in the House and one of his weapons was a lexicon included in a GOPAC memo titled “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control.” FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting) reported on the memo in 1995.

Luntz taught Gingrich and Gingrich trained the Republicans to use language like a tar brush to smear the Democrats and make people feel suspicious and angry about them. Their caucus members followed the playbook.

"Often we search hard for words to help us define our opponents. Sometimes we are hesitant to use contrast. Remember that creating a difference helps you. These are powerful words that can create a clear and easily understood contrast. Apply these to the opponent, their record, proposals and their party.

"decay… failure (fail)… collapse(ing)… deeper… crisis… urgent(cy)… destructive… destroy… sick… pathetic… lie… liberal… they/them… unionized bureaucracy… “compassion” is not enough… betray… consequences… limit(s)… shallow… traitors… sensationalists…endanger… coercion… hypocrisy… radical… threaten… devour… waste… corruption… incompetent… permissive attitudes… destructive… impose… self-serving… greed… ideological… insecure… anti-(issue): flag, family, child, jobs… pessimistic… excuses… intolerant…stagnation… welfare… corrupt… selfish… insensitive… status quo… mandate(s)… taxes… spend(ing)… shame… disgrace… punish (poor…)… bizarre… cynicism… cheat… steal… abuse of power… machine… bosses… obsolete… criminal rights… red tape… patronage"


This list of words has remained in use ever since, and it's helped destroy the polity or traditional courtesy that used to make our political system function. Language helped make our democracy dysfunctional. When Obama was elected president most Americans polled said they were sick and tired of the nasty partisanship in Washington, yet they kept re-electing the same right wing cohort who'd poisoned the well. Americans wanted civility but in 2010, after two years of fierce Republican opposition and outright racism, they restored the Congress to the Republicans.

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Friday, March 03, 2017

Trump's Role As A Russian Eunuch

Watching Donald Trump's panoply and excess raises questions. Didn't this guy go disastrously bankrupt over a decade ago? Isn't it true that no banks would loan him money? If Trump has a colossal reputation it ought to be as a colossal financial failure. When U.S. banks refused to loan to him, European banks stepped in, but there are questions about why. Did they extend credit to Trump after he was guaranteed by Russian friends? The point is, he owes billions. He is not in the driver's seat.

In unfolding Trump news stories we read the resilience of Donald Trump seems to have more to do with powerful friends helping him out, cosigning his loans. Many of those friends appear to be Russians. They've kept him afloat because he's been useful to them and might be more useful in the future. Well that time has come. He's now president of the United States, the most powerful country in the world. But he's on the hook.

All along, his finances have been dicey. We don't know how dicey because he's hidden that, but very dicey by all accounts. Billions owed, much of that debt overseas debt, much of it Russian obligations. Being obligated to foreign powers is not appropriate for a leader of a country.

Which is why Donald Trump's life of obscene excess reminds me of the Indian maharajahs during the Raj.

During that period when the British ruled India, they kept the old Indian princes on their thrones and allowed them to live in splendor and powerlessness. They were political eunuchs, no powers at all, just show. Photographs from the period reveal a bizarre excess, a pathetic gaudiness. A gaudiness that reminds me of Donald Trump. Pomp and puppetry. The vulgar excess of Trump's personal style says something about what he lacks. He's compensating for feelings of powerlessness with excessive show. What power he exercises appears to be exercised by his puppet master through him the way the British used their princely puppets during the Raj, keeping them in splendor but reserving all powers to the master.

This cannot be a good state of affairs. The vast luxury of the Indian princes who dined on peacock tongues while millions starved became a greater insult to the people of India when they woke from their imperial nightmare and threw the British out. These princes were useful idiots, like Donald Trump, providing expensive showy cover for the foreign ruler, letting the natives believe they still ran their own affairs.

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Thursday, March 02, 2017

The Trump White House In Cover Up Mode Over Russia Collusion

Today’s Republicans remember Watergate differently.

They don't remember it as a major corruption scandal. They remember Watergate as a failure to cover up a major corruption scandal. (Hunter Thompson knew better.)

Republicans in Congress share this mindset: if something bad is going on and nobody is told, that means nothing bad is going on.

The scandal is that people are finding out.

The criminals are the ones alerting the public to the crime. Sounding the alarm is a crime, according to Republican leaders. Republican leaders are obeyed by all Republican followers. Republicans are very obedient.

The senator who's supposed to be leading the probe into the White House's Russia ties is Richard Burr, head of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The guy who agreed to deter the press from reporting White House ties to Russia. (This kind of story by Politico might be why Politico is banned from the White House.)

There are labels for this kind of behavior, this kind of ritual.

Omertà.

Keep your mouth shut or you're dead.

Shoot the messenger.

Don’t tell anybody what is going on because if you do blow the whistle you pay consequences. The consequences are brutal. The people doing the crime pay no consequences.

Put it another way: the Republicans would have hung Paul Revere.

Today’s Republicans would have erected statues to commemorate the heroism of Benedict Arnold. To the leaders of the GOP, the people selling our country to the Russians are patriots.

One of the memorable phrases from Watergate was “Follow The Money.” Mark Felt (Deep Throat) said it to Bob Woodward when Woodward felt like the trail had gone cold. Follow the money and you will find the answers. You will learn who the criminals are.

Rachel Maddow detailed how deeply it appears our new Commerce Secretary is involved with Russia. Wilbur Mills doesn't just consort with Russian spies he owns the bank in Cyprus where they launder their money. And who are his partners in this bank? Putin's favorite Russian mobsters.

The Daily Beast has the same story.

The Hill, Congress's newspaper, has the story about how hard Republicans are working to keep the public from knowing about Trump's finances. Because the Republican book of rules says there is no crime as long as the public is unaware of it.

The Guardian reports on Reince Priebus's efforts to shut up reporters. Which is why the Guardian is barred from the White House.

That doesn't matter so much when White House staffers will meet you in a bar somewhere and tell you all about what's going on.

Two stories broke last night.

The Attorney General, Jefferson Davis Beauregard Secessions (sic), the man in charge of enforcing the law and overseeing all investigations of possible treasonous collusion with Russians in the recent campaign, appears to have lied under oath about his own collusions with Russians. The Washington Post broke the story. Which is why the Washington Post is barred from the White House.

And in the final days of Obama’s presidency, as new evidence was emerging about Trump campaign complicity with Russia, the departing president ordered all departments in the White House and the executive branch to preserve that evidence, concerned that the new administration would lose or destroy it.

That story from SLATE

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