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Friday, April 19, 2019

If Mueller were a Dem...

First: The NYT offers a good summary of the counterintelligence aspect of the Mueller investigation. For the most part, the report does not explore this territory.
The stark reality is that one might have a moderate to high confidence that decisions are being made by an American president who, in the process of getting elected and after assuming office, has acted with the interests of an often-hostile foreign power influencing him.

And that conclusion is deeply worrisome as a national security matter.
Unfortunately, the Times neglects to address what I consider the most worrisome indicator that Trump (or someone close to him) has directly aided Putin.

The moles.

Why the hell aren't more people concerned about the moles?

During the opening stages of the Trump presidency -- actually, it started during the transition -- Putin systematically arrested a number of people in his national security structure, most of whom were accused of being spies for America. See here and here. Why aren't more people concerned about the ultra-suspicious timing of this purge? Am I the only one willing to posit that someone high up in our national security establishment handed Putin a list of names?

About the report: No, I've not yet completely read all 400-plus pages. But I've read a fair amount, and I've followed the online and cable news discussions ravenously. Bottom line: The report surprised me. Mueller accomplished more than expected, delivering some actual meat to go with the gravy. Meanwhile, Barr's slimy performance unmasked him as the world-class deceiver that I always knew him to be. Arguably, his lies smell worse than those told by Trump, if only because Barr's higher intelligence allows him to beguile more suavely.

In short: I was pleasantly surprised by the report. Yet I remain disappointed.

As noted in a previous post, our political culture maintains an infuriating double standard: When a Democratic president needs to be investigated, only a Republican prosecutor is considered acceptable. Conversely, when a Republican president needs to be investigated, only a Republican prosecutor is considered acceptable. This, despite the fact that the Republicans have established a far more formidable history of trickery and deception. Obvious examples: Watergate, Iran-contra, the lies that begat the Iraq invasion.

If Mueller were a Dem, he would not have given Don Jr. a pass for his insufficient awareness of election laws. Ignorance of the law is no excuse -- except if you are a Republican.

(Winona Ryder should have declared herself a Republican: "Hey, I didn't know that there were laws against shoplifting." She would have walked.)

If Mueller were a Dem, he would not have followed that hoary DOJ guideline memo which forbids the indictment of a president in office. The insufficiency of that guide has become quite apparent; the memo in question was written at a time when no-one contemplated the possibility of a president receiving aid from a hostile foreign power. This "rule" is not a law, merely a tradition -- and tradition should serve the citizenry, not the other way round. Why did Mueller feel fettered by a non-binding memo?

If Mueller were a Dem, he would have explicitly asked for impeachment, as Ken Starr did.

If Mueller were a Dem, he would not have handed important national security cases off to the tender mercies of William Barr, who will surely upend the prosecutions.

If Mueller were a Dem, he would have explicitly stated that Trump committed obstruction of justice, as the evidence clearly demonstrates. It's not enough to say that Trump has not been exonerated; we need something more explicit. Perhaps Mueller should have trotted out that old Doonesbury line: "Guilty guilty GUILTY!" I'm not at all persuaded by the "fairness" argument -- the argument that Trump should not be accused of a crime until he can defend himself in court, and that a court case must be postponed until he leaves office. Trump can (and does) defend himself very effectively, via the presidential bully pulpit and via a massively-effective right-wing propaganda machine.

If Mueller were a Dem, he would have admitted that, by any reasonable standard, the Manafort/Kilimnik interaction constitutes collaboration between a Trump campaign official and a functionary of the Russian government.

If Mueller were a Dem, he would have expanded the inquiry to include non-campaign personnel who interacted with both Team Trump and the Russians. In particular, he would have followed the investigative trail that Marcy Wheeler indicated when she approached the FBI. The more I think about that matter, the more important it seems. (I may explain what I mean in a later post.)

If Mueller were a Dem, he would have made crystal clear that Trump avoided conspiracy charges by obstructing justice. Evidence was destroyed; text messages were deleted. Most importantly: Trump clearly dangled a pardon in front of Manafort's eyes.

(Manafort appears to have been the key Trump/Russia point man. Something similar, I'd wager, could be said of Roger Stone, although we can't be sure at this point because so much Stone material was redacted.)

Here we see the danger of Barr's declaration that an obstruction charge should not be levied without proof of an underlying crime. By Barr's reasoning, John Gotti did nothing wrong when he beat the rap through witness intimidation.

What bothers me most of all is this nation's shifting standard for obstruction of justice.

George Conway, of all people, raised an important point when he compared the Mueller report to the "smoking gun" tape that brought down Nixon. At the time, the tape was said to offer ironclad proof that Nixon had committed obstruction. In fact, the tape documented attempted obstruction: Nixon asked CIA Director Richard Helms to tell a false story to the FBI in order to shoo the Bureau away from investigating the Watergate burglary. Nixon made the ask because he thought he could trust Helms. But Helms did not do as requested.

As one wit noted, history does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme. Anyone should be able to see an obvious rhyme between Trump/McGahn and Nixon/Helms, the major difference being the contrast between McGahn's honorable resignation versus the covert backstabs exchanged between Tricky Dick and the Even Trickier Dick.

In the 1970s, attempted obstruction was considered insufferable: Nixon had to go. Now, in this report, Mueller has given us the Smoking Gun Tape times ten -- yet we tolerate and rationalize the criminality of Donald Trump. Suddenly, attempted obstruction doesn't count.

Can this Republic survive? 

I began this post with the intent to say much, much more -- particularly on the topic of Paul Manafort, about whom the report gave us much juicy new information. No-one seems to have noted that the new Manafort revelations buttress my long-held suspicion that the real Trump scandal involves election fraud. Few care to discuss the possibility that Russia directly interfered with the vote tabulation. Well, I'm foolish enough to go where angels fear to tread, and thus I will soon have more to say about that.

Right now, let us ponder both the strengths and the weaknesses of the Mueller investigation. Was he the right choice for the job? Would we have been better served by someone more partisan and less beholden to tradition?

Let us ponder, too, the chutzpah of the Republicans, who have declared vindication even when the report offers nothing of the sort. I'm reminded of that old joke from the Vietnam era: Nixon should just declare victory and pull our troops out. Trump is declaring victory even though he just had half his capacious ass handed to him.

Infuriatingly, this tactic will probably work. And at the height of his victory dance, Trump may well pardon both Manafort and Flynn, while Barr will deep-six all of the "mystery cases" which Mueller referred to the DOJ.

If Mueller were a Dem, he would have found some way to prevent that sorry outcome.
I'm just stunned that Mueller didn't get Trump's financials. Everybody seems to assume that Putin wanted Trump in so Trump could seriously damage America's brand and not object to Putin's actions in the international arena. But what if it's not that, but that Trump needed to repay Russian, Deutshe Bank, loans. What if Trump was in default, like he always is and offered to repay if he got elected? What if it's not the politics, but the money?
If Trump asks someone, or orders someone, he has authority over to obstruct, and they refuse, Trump has not committed a crime. However, if Trump then punishes the person in any way for refusing to break the law on his behalf, then that is another story, and one that at the moment has not yet been addressed. Instead of looking to who refused Trump's Obstruction orders, everyone should be looking at everyone who was fired and see if Trump fired anyone because they refused to break the law on his behalf.
Alessandro, that's silly. You've ignored the precedent I cite: The Nixon/Helms interaction documented by the "smoking gun" tape.

Okay, it IS true that Nixon fired Helms in February of 1973, ostensibly for other reasons. Nobody has ever suggested that the firing was motivated by the refusal to obstruct justice on Nixon's behalf, although I would not dismiss the idea. It gets kind of weird, because on pretty much the same day Helms was fired, Nixon offered him the post of ambassador to the USSR, a job Helms didn't take, although he DID accept a subsequent offer to be the ambassador to Iran. It's all pretty mysterious and I admit that I've never quite understood that series of events. I don't even have a proper theory. It is worth noting that McCord wrote his famous letter to Sirica in March of '73, and that McCord was (I'm told) a Helms loyalist.

At any rate, the special prosecutor never argued that Helms was punished for refusing to go along with the obstruction scheme. It was believed (correctly) that the mere existence of this scheme constituted obstruction.

The parallel to Trump/McGahn is striking.
I am unsure that it makes much difference as to which political party the felonious president or his prosecutor belongs. After all, it was a GOP Senate that voted against Slick Willie's impeachment fate arising from his dalliances with Miz Lewinsky and then Independent Counsel Robert Ray, a Republican, let Bubba walk from further danger from perjury and obstruction of justice charges after his term of office ended for a mere 25 Grand and suspension of his law license. In 1994, Clinton had agreed to settle the Paula Jones lawsuit for $850K, but word has it that this princely sum didn't come from the president.
If Robert Muller were a Dem in the manner of the Third Way caucus, he would have folded.
Though Trump has tried, the public knows the republican bona fides of Mueller, Comey, Rosenstein, et al. A flawed report better than none at all.
Pelosi was hoping Mueller would give her cover and she wouldn't have to go out on a limb. Now she has to spine up.
Here's a thought, the public is against impeachment in a way they weren't against the Iraq invasion. We need a Judith Miller/New York Times grinning up the call to impeach.
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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

I predict disaster and doom

I do not expect that the redacted report will offer us many shocks, although I do think that we will be unpleasantly unsurprised by the number of redactions. Barr will slash out anything which concerns ongoing legal proceedings, and that means we may not see one word about Paul Manafort and Roger Stone. There is also a case against Stone pal Andrew Miller, plus an indictment against a whole slew of Russian hackers.

Absent that information, we don't really have a report, do we? How can there be a proper report on Russian hacking if Barr can snip out anything having to do with Russian hackers?

Mueller handed a number of cases off to the DOJ for prosecution by the US Attorney's Office in DC. This move effectively allows Barr to take over those prosecutions. Right now, that office is headed by Jessie Liu, who had a role on the Trump transition. Liu will soon become an Associate AG at DOJ; she will be replaced by someone who will make sure that none of the Mueller-initiated cases does any damage to Donald Trump.

In other words, we're screwed.

Roger Stone now says that he has not spoken to Trump in over two years. Believe that if you are so inclined; I have my doubts. I cannot imagine a universe in which Trump ignores Stone while talking to Alex Jones, and in January of 2018, Alex Jones announced that Trump had called him three times during the past month. Jones says that he missed the calls because Trump insists on phoning early in the morning.

(Does Donnie ever sleep? Texas is an hour behind DC!)

In December of last year, Stone specified that he had not spoken with Trump "about a pardon," but did not say that he and Trump had not talked at all.

Again: We're screwed. I don't think that tomorrow's release will end the controversy over Russiagate one way or the other, although the right will declare victory regardless. We may see very subtle signs that countries other than Russia played a role in electing Trump -- and by "other countries," I mean Saudi Arabia and Israel. One may also point out that Cambridge Analytica is basically an arm of the UK's secret state.

Be warned: The Republicans are damned serious about turning the Mueller probe into a probe of the Democrats. Frankly, I think that this effort will succeed, at least in the sense that Benghazi mania and Whitewater helped the GOP. They weren't able to indict the Clintons, but the propaganda blitz was incredibly effective. With Trump in ever-increasing control of the courts -- well, who knows?

We were wrong to place so much hope in Mueller. Frankly, I've been pretty lukewarm on Mueller from the get-go; all indications are that he planned his strategy without taking the power of the pardon into account. This kind of investigation required a younger person capable of more radical thinking.

Nevertheless, all hope is not gone: We do have the House (until 2020) and there is some possibility that the state of New York will take the kind of action we need. Even my pessimism has limits.

Predictions. If NY can't give us a Trump-killing revelation, my current predictions are that Bernie will win the nomination and will go on to a historic, McGovern-esque defeat. The coming Trump sweep may well put the GOP back in control of the House.

This unparalleled disaster will, I hope, force the Dems to come to their senses. They must give up on their insane insistence on squeaking out a narrow win based on endless GOTV efforts directed at women, blacks and Latinos. If the Ds lose big, they will belatedly realize that they have to win back working class voters, even if those voters have unfashionably pale skin.

Every time a prog calls a working class white person "privileged" (even if he's homeless!), a Republican gets a vote. This country was in much better shape when the word "privileged" was defined in purely economic terms.

Democrats must explicitly denounce identity politics, socialism, progressive purity, and the insane, man-hating version of feminism which has commandeered so much of our national discourse. I'm talking about the kind of feminism now taught in gender studies courses at universities across the land.

Most Americans (including most female Americans) share my position: In overwhelming numbers, they favor gender equality but they have learned to despise feminism, or at least what feminism has become. The word has taken on unsavory connotations because the movement has been commandeered by a bunch of postmodernist nutcases who view males the way Hitler viewed Jews.

Political correctness, "victimhood chic," feminism and identity politics are all unpopular. Unfortunately, all of these concepts have become associated with the Democratic party.

Identity politics is really just another form of racism -- anti-white racism. Why should white people (particularly white males) vote for a party that considers them subhuman and inherently bestial?

On campus, the whack-jobs teaching identity politics (the ones who love to use the new buzz word "intersectional") force students to see all social phenomena in race-vision. Long gone are the days when "colorblind" was considered the ideal attitude. Now, students are taught to judge people by the color of their skin, not by the content of their character. Tribalism rules; one must never discuss the individual as an individual.

And for God's sake, one must never discuss issues. Issues are boring. Race is all. The only thing that matters is the ethnic (or sexual) group assigned to you by an accident of genetic destiny.

Naturally, this insistent focus on racial and gender identity has led to a hideous (and very predictable) backlash: Trump is in office, bigotry is on the rise, fascism has gained new muscles, and the number of KKK chapters has risen nationally from 72 to 190. Meanwhile, a woman's right to obtain an abortion is in far more danger now than it was in the "bad old days" of Bill Clinton -- the days before feminists went intersectionally insane.

In short: Identity politics has had the opposite of the desired effect. It turns out white people won't sympathize with your cause if you keep telling them that they are monsters. Democracy is a popularity contest; if you keep telling white working people that they are all born evil, your favored candidate won't be popular and won't get elected. You can't get anything done.

Unfortunately, the imbecilic apostles of identity politics simply do not care if their rhetoric empowers the far right. The concept of effectiveness does not matter to these pseudo-progressive crackpots. All they care about is blaming all of their personal failures on the Great White Male Conspiracy, just as Hitler's followers blamed all of their problems on the Great Jewish Conspiracy.

As for socialism: All polls indicate that Americans don't like the concept, or at least they don't like the word.
In a Fox News survey of registered voters, 25% had a favorable view of socialism. A new Zogby Analytics online poll found a similar result: 29% of likely voters had a positive view.
And that's why Trump loves the idea of turning 2020 into a referendum on socialism

Neither AOC nor Bernie have come to grips with an ironclad rule of American politics: The only way to implement the kind of changes that an Ayn Randroid would describe as "socialistic" is to pursue those policies while insisting that you are not a socialist. That's how FDR did it. Nowadays, many people speak of him as a "kind of, sort of" American socialist, but in his own day, leftists considered him a tool of the capitalist class. The prog purists of the 1930s viewed Roosevelt the way the Bernie Bros view the Clintons. They hated him and continually worked to undermine him.

Imagine how awful the world would be if FDR had not held power...!

("But young people don't have these hang-ups about socialism!" Oh, fuck you. Are young people the only ones who are going to vote?)

Elizabeth Warren has the right idea. She advocates Medicare-for-all while calling herself a "capitalist to the core." A contradiction? Perhaps, though only if you insist on a very rigid definition of "capitalist." At any rate, the nature of the American electorate demands such a stance. The important thing is to win.

A final word about Buttigieg: I like the guy. Of course, that estimation may shift -- remember, I used to like Bernie. What I don't like are the kind of people who like Buttigieg -- college-educated progs earning more than $100,000 a year. The brie-and-chablis crowd, as we used to say.

That kind of appeal is not how we win back the working class.

Is it permissible, in this cycle, to speak in terms of winning back the working class? Many progs sneer at that goal, and that sneer is the reason why I predict a big Dem disaster in 2020. Liberals cannot win while disdaining the votes of those who struggle to make ends meet. And I'm talking about all the strugglers, including the ones with pale complexions who live in rural areas.

I don't care about a candidate's gender or race, and I don't give a damn about what people do with their wee-wees. All I care about is this: The Dems must choose a candidate who can win the vote of the poor schlub who works behind the counter at a 7-Eleven in Baraboo, Wisconsin. Can Buttigieg do that? 
Nope, Pete may be able to work some miracles, even in Wisconsin, but he will never get the vote from an Arab working in a 7 Eleven in the Circus City - Baraboo - simply because there is no 7 Eleven and only one Arab in this community of 18,000,

There are only 16 stores in the Badger State.
Brookfield (1)
Franklin (1)
Kenosha (1)
Madison (5)
Milwaukee (3)
New Berlin (1)
Oak Creek (1)
Oconomowoc (1)
Pewaukee (1)
Sussex (1)

My sincerest apology for mis-typing the name Baraboo! It's actually one of my favorite place names in the US. In a previous post, I talked about the legend of the ghost elephants said to roam the forests outside of Baraboo.

And I am shocked to learn that there are so few 7-Elevens in WI. I've traveled across this country several times, and these journeys convinced me that the 7-Eleven is a national constant. I did not mean to imply that a convenience store clerk in that town would be Arab. Where I live, the people holding such positions tend to be white or black. Or brown, at the local small Hispanic market where I do most of my shopping.

Working class is working class is working class. The Dems must focus once again on the working class. THAT was my point.
Cut the crap out about feminism. You sound like an MRA. You don't even know what feminism is, and it shows in your posts.

You don't know the difference between sex and gender. They are not synonymous. Until you know that difference don't comment on feminism anymore.

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Remember what I said about effectiveness? Effectively, OTE, you have forced me to double down on feminism. I'll be publishing a lot about it in the future. For a preview, Google the name "Helen Pluckrose," my newest candidate for the position of Best Person in the World.

I allowed your comment to appear here because I've been looking for an opportunity to make an observation about the words "sex" and "gender." When I was young, I read a piece by Anthony Burgess in which he insisted that "gender" should only be used when speaking of male and female nouns in non-English languages. In college, I constantly annoyed my friends by insisting on this point. It's a wonder they didn't smash my teeth in.

Eventually, I realized that there is no way to stop the application of the word "gender" to human beings. In more recent years, I ran into people who posited a more subtle difference: "Sex" (we are now told) refers to a biological distinction between male and female, while "gender" refers to a sociological distinction.

It should be understood that this redefinition is NEW. There's no use pretending that society has made this distinction since time immemorial, because such is not the case. And there's no use trying to get your way by insulting and caterwauling and screaming and holding your breath until your face turns blue. Don't try those tactics with me, because they won't work: You should know by now that I'm an obstinate bastard.

No matter what you say or do, you cannot escape the fact that you are insisting on a NEW way to define ancient terminology. Sorry, but I simply don't much care for that kind of thing. I tend to have rather conservative ideas about the English language.

(That said, I've given in on various points over the years. One example: "Hopefully." As you may recall, a new use of that word gave rise to a huge controversy in the 1970s. My resistance to the new definition of "hopefully" was another point of contention which caused my college friends to consider making me eat my own teeth.)

In popular parlance, "gender" and "sex" are regarded as synonyms. Simple as that. At this stage, I've decided that the popular idea is the right idea.

My main reason for coming to this conclusion is that our society makes the word "sex" do too much work: It serves as both a nice way to say "fucking" and as a way to categorize living creatures as "male" and "female." As a result, "sex" is overused in many sentences. If ever a word needed a synonym, "sex" is the word.

Thus, years ago, I decided to follow the popular will; I now use "sex" and "gender" interchangeably. If you dislike that decision -- well, sorry, but I will not change my course, no matter what sort of insults you lob my way.

Perhaps you could consider my usage of "gender" a personal quirk, similar to Bernard Shaw's idiosyncratic insistence on using "shew" instead of "show." (He also preferred "labor" to "labour," which seemed odd to his British readers.)
Thank you, Joseph, for writing about the American working class. as a former union activist, collective bargaining is one of the greatest tools we have in both the private & public sectors. I hope to see more articles over time like the one below as people wake up to the power we have to bring about real change.

I'm not sure feminism is the prime issue. I think Ageism is a bigger issue. The Dems are doubling down on doing whatever it takes to defeat the "old racists", even if it means lowering the voting age to 16. Core issues that I think Democrat Politicians are discovering through their focus groups is Democrat Politicians need to credit Donald Trump for winning the 2016 Presidency, and for being right about a Border Wall.

Democrats refuse to take away Trump's power base because they loathe him so much. Democrats have put loathing Donald Trump over helping the Heartland and that is what may propel Donald Trump to a second Term.
Trump called Jones early in the morning? It's typical for dictators to get up very late and then if they want to meet someone to snap their fingers at 3am and tell the person to come and see them.
Steny Hoyer and Nancy Pelosi flapping pie holes singing the Impeachment Shuffle duet. They just lost the White House and probably their House majority.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Deutsche Bank and Trump's taxes

Natasha Bertrand (a thousand blessings upon her head!) offered this recent tweet concerning the congressional subpoena of Deutsche Bank records:
This was reportedly one of Trump’s red lines for Mueller—Trump was so angry over reports that Mueller had subpoenaed Deutsche Bank for records about their relationship that he sought to fire him in Dec. 2017, per NYT
Those bank records have an intimate relationship with Trump's taxes. If Trump's stated income to the IRS does not match his stated income to the bank, he has committed fraud. He lied to either the IRS or the bank -- perhaps to both.

Remember, we are talking about a man whose estimation of his net worth varies according to how he feels on any given day. He admitted as much during testimony.

It might be as well to repeat points made in previous posts about Deutsche Bank. Specifically, this post. Frankly, I had forgotten much of this material myself.

* * *

The money. Trump's defenders keep saying that he has nothing to do with Russian money. Trump's lawyers have been making that same claim.

However, it is well-known that one of the few banks willing to lend big money to Trump after his bankruptcies was Deutsche Bank, which was fined for a $10 billion money laundering scheme benefiting Russians. The scheme involved something called "mirror trading," described in this fine New Yorker piece.

It worked like this: between 2011 and 2015, related corporate entities in Moscow and London bought and sold identical quantities of the same stock, through Deutsche Bank’s Moscow equities desk. By this alchemy, rubles in Russia were transformed into dollars in London. The process bypassed tax officials, currency regulators, and anti-money-laundering controls.
The head of Deutsche Bank, Josef Ackermann, was forced out by the scandal. Guess where he ended up? That's right: The Bank of Cypus -- the favorite bank of Vladimir Putin and his Russian oligarch pals. He was chosen for that position by Wilbur Ross, the Trump chum who just became our Commerce secretary, and by a billionaire crony of Vladimir Putin's named Viktor Vekselburg. It seems that Putin turned against Vekselburg late last year; they've since kissed and made up.

As it happens, Vekselburg has a partner named Len Blavatnik, worth $20 billion. Although Blavatnik made his money in Russian oil, he has strong American ties -- in fact, he owns Warner Music. He also made a seven figure donation to a Super PAC controlled by Mitch McConnell -- which explains why you should not expect Mitch to show any enthusiasm for any kind of probe (either independent or congressional) which might inconvenience Trump's Russian buddies.

Trump's lawyers did concede that a Russian purchased a Donald Trump property in Florida for $95 million, even though most observers agree that its actual market value was less than half that. Such a purchase is a good way to hide a "donation" or a bribe. (Paul Manafort seems to have benefited from a similar deal, albeit on a smaller scale.)

The man who bought the house was -- as most of you already know -- Dmitry Rybolovlev, who also owns the largest stake in the Bank of Cyprus. Therefore, we may say that he is part of the Putin/Vekselburg/Wilbur Ross "club." Rybolovlev also owns the private jet registered as M-Kate which has mysteriously followed Donald Trump's peregrinations the way my dog would follow me if I were carrying a BLT sandwich.

Another point. People forget that Deutsche Bank and Donald Trump were not always on good terms -- in fact, their conflict gave rise to one of the more bizarre lawsuits of Trump's career. He later got loans not from Deutsche Bank per se but from a subsidiary, which always seems to go unnamed in news accounts. See this Mother Jones investigation from last year:
Trump has four large mortgages with Deutsche Bank, borrowing against three of his most prized possessions: the Doral golf resort in Florida, his Chicago tower, and his brand new Washington luxury hotel. For the Washington hotel, Trump has a $170 million line of credit from Deutsche Bank that was granted in 2015, just as his presidential campaign was kicking off. According to a bank spokeswoman, all four of the loans were obtained from Deutsche's "private bank"—a division that caters exclusively to high-net-worth individuals and that can lend separately from the corporate side of the bank.

The corporate side of Deutsche Bank previously loaned to Trump, but the relationship fell apart around the time of the financial crisis. In 2005, Trump borrowed $640 million from Deutsche Bank and several other lenders for the construction of his Chicago hotel tower. When he failed to pay back the money on time in 2008, the banks, including Deutsche Bank, demanded he pay the $40 million he had personally guaranteed. In response, Trump sued Deutsche Bank for $3 billion, saying the project's financial troubles were the fault of the economic recession, which he claimed the bank had helped cause. He accused Deutsche Bank of undermining the project and his reputation. The lawsuit was eventually settled.
It's not clear if Trump has personally guaranteed any of the loans his businesses have with Deutsche Bank.
If Trump didn't guarantee those loans, then who did?
*  *  *

This post contains further insights into the time Trump sued Deutsche Bank...

*  *  *

I don't care how much money you have -- if you sue a bank for three billion, that bank won't want to do business with you ever again. And this is particularly true in the case of a man like Donald Trump, whom most other banks have long avoided like the plague.

Trump gets loans not from Deutsche Bank per se but from a subsidiary set up for "special" customers, presumably those backed by the Russians.
Last week, Deutsche Bank, the struggling financial giant that is Donald Trump’s biggest lender, anointed a new CEO, a longtime executive named Christian Sewing. He’s worked in a number of roles at the bank, but what’s significant about his résumé is the job he held prior to his promotion: He oversaw the firm’s private bank, the division that caters to high-net-worth clients and has loaned Trump’s company hundreds of millions of dollars over the years, when few lenders (including Deutsche Bank’s own commercial lending arm) would do business with the bankruptcy-prone businessman. According to Trump’s financial disclosures, he has loans with the bank totaling as much as $364 million.
Interested in learning more about what this Sewing fellow has been up to? Start with this story:
"Deutsche Bank Really Sorry For Helping Russians Legally Launder All Those Billions."

and yet, the borderwall is racist. lol. There is no point in trying to impeach Trump or pile on if the Dems are so stupid they can't even give Trump credit for winning in 2016 and that the majority of Americans OUTSIDE of California want a Border Wall.
Alessandro, that is not actually true.
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Monday, April 15, 2019

Notre Dame

“All things are in place in that work of art – self-created, logical, and well proportioned. To measure the great toe of the foot is to measure the giant.” -- Victor Hugo.

The giant is broken. The roof collapsed; the great Rose Window is no more. She will be rebuilt, though I won't see that day. I wish I had not seen this day.
It feels like civilization is collapsing.
Not getting much mention was a fire inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Fortunately, it wasn't as devastating.
So some children cause a minor fire not at Al Aqsa but at the Marwani prayer hall, which caused no injuries or damage and this is related to the massive fire at Notre Dame? I assure you that there were larger fires which did caused greater damage and went unreported.

Reportedly the rose windows survived the fire.
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Sunday, April 14, 2019

Is Trump CAUSING the immigration crisis?

During the "caravan" pseudo-crisis of 2018, right-wing propagandists tried to convince us that George Soros had paid immigrants to come to this country. An absurd theory.

To accomplish all of the evils attributed to him, Soros would have to be richer than Putin and all of his oligarchs put together. In the rightist imagination, Soros can accomplish innumerable evils without leaving any documentary evidence; he can command obedience and omerta from thousands of co-conspirators without a single blown whistle or deathbed confession.

Millions of Americans take this guff for gospel. Depressing, innit?

The "Soros funded the caravan" conspiracy theory was absurd even by Trumpist standards. Why on earth would Soros do such a thing at that time? The caravan aided the Republicans during a crucial election season. Why would Soros give the GOP an issue to run on?

Simple political logic -- reasoning from effects back to causes -- suggests that, if a "caravan conspiracy" did exist, it must have been initiated by right-wing interests. Even Josh Marshall flirted with this idea in a column published at the time. (He is usually too conventional to pursue such notions very far, but he does have his moments.) Although Marshall didn't offer evidence, he was brave enough to ask what should have been an obvious question: "Why now?" Why did the caravan arise at the precise time when it could do the most good for the GOP?

We have been repeatedly told that refugee caravans sprang from the wretched conditions in certain Central American states. The 2018 election is over and the 2020 contest has begun; once again, it is time for us to reason from effects to causes. 

Isn't Trump's reelection bid served by this crisis? Is it not in Trump's interest to make matters worse in that part of the world?

Here, I think, is the real explanation for the DHS purge and the forced resignation of Kirstjen Nielsen.
Last week, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen visited Honduras and announced what she called a historic regional compact to address the root causes of migration with the three countries known as the Northern Triangle, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.

But, over the weekend, the State Department announced it would cut all foreign assistance to those three countries. Today, Congress gave the State Department a deadline to provide details of the cuts.
Whatever you may think of Nielsen's hardline tactics at the border, she was undoubtedly sincere in her efforts to ameliorate the root causes of the refugee crisis. She did not understand that Trump's political calculations require worsening misery on that region. He needs caravans. When he is comfortably re-elected (as I predict he will be), he may then address the root causes if he cares to, although I doubt that he will. If he does make the effort, and if those efforts prove successful, even liberals will forget and forgive.

Two weeks ago, David Graham made a similar argument in The Atlantic: The Worse Things Are, the Better They Are for Trump
Many of Trump’s decisions on border issues seem designed not to solve any problem. This includes Trump’s standing threat to close the border with Mexico; his decision to end DACA, a program that he has said achieves goals he favors; and most prominently, his decision to separate unauthorized immigrant families arriving at the border. None of these do anything to solve or reduce what Trump has called a crisis at the border. In fact, they are likely to only worsen the crisis. Separations, for example, became a costly and distracting circus, taking up already short space in detention centers and then necessitating a major effort to reunite families and restore the status quo ante when courts predictably rejected the policy.

Along similar lines, it’s more politically useful for Trump to be in a lengthy fight about building a border wall than it is to have actually built it. If and when the wall is built, it will become clear that it isn’t a panacea for immigration, but in the meantime, it’s a useful political wedge. The more migrants are coming toward the United States, the more Trump can warn of an “invasion” and inflame nativist fears that he thinks will help him win reelection. Trump isn’t really interested in solving immigration. A permanent crisis is more useful to him.
From today's WP:
From the day Trump announced his plans to run for president, immigration has been his political go-to issue. It is the most-used weapon in the president’s rhetorical arsenal and will likely be in the forefront of the 2020 campaign. Whenever he needs to rally his supporters, whenever he needs a diversion from other problems, he has turned back to immigration.
How we got here. Central America was ruined, in large measure, by the United States government. Over the course of 65 years, the CIA and Special Forces advisers have fought a covert war against "Marxism," broadly defined as any force which endangers the aristocracy's hold on power.

Our original sin, the crime from which so many other evils sprang, was the Guatemalan coup of 1954. A democratically-elected government headed by Jacobo Arbenz -- a reformer, not a communist -- was toppled by American covert operators using psychological warfare tactics. (Their psy-war mentor was a strange and remarkable figure named Paul Linebarger, one of Baltimore's more noteworthy citizens; I've spoken about him in previous posts.) Ever since that operation -- code-named PBSUCCESS -- Americans have kept a succession of thugs in power in that country.

As any sensible person might have predicted, the crushing of an anti-Marxist reform movement in Guatemala caused the popularity of Marxism to skyrocket throughout the region. In particular, Che Guevara decided that liberal democracy was hopeless. He wasn't the only one.

In the late 1970s, neighboring El Savador was a nation long ruled by a handful of corrupt families who functioned as a kind of collective tyranny. A long-overdue rebellion, supported by both the Marxist left and some elements of the Catholic church, threatened the oligarchs. The Reagan administration ruthlessly worked with the fascist Salvadoran right to crush the revolution.

The oligarchs ruling Honduras could not have stayed in power without the CIA, which has maintained a controlling interest in that nation's affairs. CIA influence lingered long after the collapse of the USSR and thus cannot be rationalized by invoking the Marxist bogeyman. The repression has been incredibly brutal. William Blum argues that Hillary Clinton helped to initiate the current crisis when she sanctioned the overthrow of another reformer:
The particularly severe increase in recent years in Honduran migration to the US is a direct result of the overthrow of Zelaya, whose crime was things like raising the minimum wage, giving subsidies to small farmers, and instituting free education. It is a tale told many times in Latin America: The downtrodden masses finally put into power a leader committed to reversing the status quo, determined to try to put an end to two centuries of oppression … and before long the military overthrows the democratically-elected government, while the United States – if not the mastermind behind the coup – does nothing to prevent it or to punish the coup regime, as only the United States can punish; meanwhile Washington officials pretend to be very upset over this “affront to democracy” while giving major support to the coup regime. The resulting return to poverty is accompanied by government and right-wing violence against those who question the new status quo, giving further incentive to escape the country.
Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala are collectively known as the Northern Triangle of Central America. This Medium article offers a good overview:
For decades, U.S. policies of military intervention and economic neoliberalism have undermined democracy and stability in the region, creating vacuums of power in which drug cartels and paramilitary alliances have risen.
Gangs. Repressive regimes are a large part of the problem, but there are other factors. At another time, I may discuss the environmental problems besetting the region. For now, I want to concentrate on gangs.

Gang violence has run rampant throughout the Northern Triangle, particularly El Salvador. Most Americans still don't understand that the warring gangs MS-13 and Barrio 18 (known in my former hometown as the 18th Street Gang) were exported from the United States to Central America.
The origins of these two gangs began in Los Angeles. During the civil war in Central America during the 1980s, over a million people had fled to the US to escape the violence. Many went to Los Angeles...
Unable to fit in the social milieu, the poor and marginalised illegal immigrant youth joined the criminal gangs in LA. The Ronald Reagan administration denied refugee status to these Central American immigrants, who were then forced into clandestine lives. During the nineties, US authorities cracked down on the gangs and deported thousands to Central America. But many of the deported, who were born or brought up in US, found it difficult to adjust in Central America and continued with their LA gang culture. They regrouped themselves locally with guns smuggled from the US and scaled up their crimes, taking advantage of the weak law enforcement and justice system of these countries.

The gangs evolved a culture of tattoos, brutal rites of initiation, extortion, crime and drug trafficking. It is worth noting that both the MS-13 and Barrio 18 gangs are still active in many states of the US.
Also see here:
Under the Clinton administration, federal agents tried to empty the prison by deporting undocumented gang members back to El Salvador, where civil war had left the country with little rule of law.
Violence in El Salvador escalated to near-civil war rates, and within a generation the children of those who’d fled war, and who were then were deported, had destabilized the country so thoroughly that it fueled another mass migration.
Now let's go here:
Increased deportations of Salvadoran gang members during the Trump administration will likely have the effect of further swelling gang membership numbers in El Salvador, which will in turn lead to more migration as Salvadorans flee gang extortion rackets and violence.
Gangs are, in short, a made-in-America problem. Not long ago, most Guatemalans were simple, religious peasant farmers; they did not form criminal associations until their young received an education in brutality from California's Mexican gangs, and from the Crips and the Bloods.

(It is worth noting that the Crips arose after the American power structure had decimated black political movements. Power tolerates criminality, not rebellion.)

Arguably, gangs are this country's most significant export.

In a recent poll, 42 percent of El Salvadorans said that gangs run the country, while only 12 percent said that the government runs the show.
MS-13 is a dominant force in Salvadoran affairs. Outside the U.S., MS-13’s largest presence is in Central America, particularly in the northern triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
MS-13 has become a powerful force, capable of coercing weak Central American governments. For example, in 2012, the Salvadoran government was forced to sign a truce with MS-13 in an effort to reduce skyrocketing homicide rates. Although the truce did reduce homicides, the agreement was widely unpopular. Extortion and associated criminal activity continued at high rates with almost no resistance from the government.

When current President Salvador Sánchez Cerén reversed the 2012 truce and implemented a “mano dura,” or iron-first policy, against MS-13 in 2014, the gang retaliated by dumping bodies on the streets. The homicide rate skyrocketed and in 2015, El Salvador had the highest homicide rate in the world.

MS-13 largely relies on extortion as its largest source of income, but has also been known to engage in drug and human trafficking, money laundering, kidnapping, and theft.
Here's more.
In neighbourhoods throughout the capital, San Salvador, residents heading to work or school pass through an informal checkpoint where a bandera – the term the gangs use for their young lookouts and errand runners – asks everyone for a dollar. At many of the roadblocks, the bandera is barely eight years old. But most people fork over the money. Anyone who doesn’t pay up might come to regret it later.

Extortion at places of business is the bigger problem. At least once a week, older gang members, or mareros, come by every shop and vendor’s stall in the neighbourhood market to collect the renta, or protection money, from merchants who can’t afford their own security guards. Again, most shopkeepers pay. To defy the gangs is to court death.
Many Salvadorans stay away from public places and even avoid walking down the street. The affluent generally stay inside gated compounds. After sunset, many streets in San Salvador are deserted. The night is for the maras, which do most of their killing then. And it’s for the army and police, who wait until after dark to conduct their house-by-house searches for criminal suspects. Police officers always wear a gorro navarone, or face-covering balaclava, scared that gang members will come after them and their families.
America and the gangs. Most would scoff at the suggestion that American interests sanctioned the rise of the gangs in Central America. I ask those scoffers to consider a thought experiment.

Suppose MS-13 and Barrio 18 advocated land reform. Suppose they targeted the wealthy instead of preying on working people and shopkeepers. Suppose a leader came out of this demimonde -- an ambitious, well-read leader who dared to utter forbidden thoughts: "You know, Das Kapital has some interesting ideas, once you get past the boring stuff in the beginning."

Suppose, in short, that MS-13 planted one foot in the left. What then?

Admit it. You know the answer.

If MS-13 were that kind of organization, it never would have been allowed to attain the kind of power it now wields. The beast would have been strangled in adolescence. The gangs would have met with a fate similar to that meted out to the left-wing rebellions of the 1970s and 80s. Northern Triangle military officers would have used torture tactics taught at Fort Benning. "Advisers" from our intelligence agencies and Special Forces would have flooded the area.

The leftist uprising that began 40 years ago had genuine popular support and approval from substantial sector of the Church. Yet the rebels were crushed. The gangs, despised by all, thrive.

We must therefore presume that the gangs were and are allowed to thrive. They control the region with America's blessing. If "blessing" is too strong a word for you, consider a phrase like "tactical disinterest." From Wikipedia's entry on MS-13:
The gang in particular has become a core component to Republican Party political messaging on immigration policy in the United States, beginning in the 2010s.
If MS-13 did not exist, it would be necessary for the American right to invent it.
The caravans arriving from Central America are well organized - so where do we look to find the perpetrators? I would think that we look no further than the richest organization in the world - the Catholic Church, or at least the many charitable arms financed by the Church.

With that effort in place, Mexican criminal elements supported by the drug trade are right there to screw the travelers out of their cash stashes and apparently the Church puts up with the charade.
Of course it is much worse and far longer than 40 years. Google Smedley Butler and his discussion of his time in Central America over 100 years ago. And by the way, I take offense when people criticize my religion without knowing anything about it. I take the same offense a nonsensical criticisms of the Catholic Church, which most assuredly is NOT behind the caravans.

Proof that a magic sky daddy or karma are things of myth. All the rat fuckery in South and Central America but no Devine retribution.
BTW you do know that Evangelical Christian spox Pat Robertson wants Trump to take out Venezuela's President Maduro with a drone launched Hellfire missile. Only thing holding Trump back is Putin didn't green light it.
Your title does not represent your content very well. Just four months ago Democrats were ridiculing Trump, stating there was no Border Problem. Now, if there is a Border Problem, Trump created, that is A laughably stupid scenario. Meet The Press claimed that in Central American States Radio Ads from Coyotes are telling people it's now or never if they want to go to America. Why is that Trump's fault?

However, I am appalled that Trump has no interest in meeting with his Southern Neighbors, Only a Political idiot devalues his Neighboring Countries to the point where they may turn elsewhere for help. Trump's lack of empathy for Countries he probably views as shit holes will eventually cause his Presidential Stewardship to be viewed as nothing more than feeding his own ego or his own economic interests.
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Thursday, April 11, 2019

“Let’s hit Trump with our Kompromat!” Plus: Sister Act

To the best of my recollection, I've never linked to this DC Blue site. It seems dodgy. The name brings to mind Capitol Hill Blue, another dodgy site which became semi-prominent during the Dubya years.

(Surprisingly, they're still in business. The cerulean nomenclature suggests a certain similarity.)

Nevertheless, this story from Christopher Powell seems worthy of note. The headline: "Russia claims to have blackmail on Trump – Official threatens to release it"
A Russian debate took place on Russian state-run television where several Russian officials discussed various political issues. One of which was was Nikita Isaev, the Director of the Russian Institute of Contemporary Economics.

He said, “Let’s hit Trump with our Kompromat!”, which certainly looks like a reference to the infamous Pee Pee Tape or, at the very least, some type of other blackmail material the Kremlin is holding over Trump’s head.
The host asked, “Do we have it?” Isaev responded “Of course we have it!”
The interested part here is that someone in Isaev’s position wouldn’t have said something like this on Kremlin-controlled TV unless Vladimir Putin gave him permission to say it.
If the video really does carry this exchange, then debating the credibility of DC Blue is beside the point. The video cannot be embedded in this blog, but you can see it here. I don't understand Russian, but perhaps one of my readers does. YouTube kindly notes that this channel is "funded in whole or in part by the Russian government."

Even if we presume that Powell has reported accurately, we need not take this exchange at face value. In the recent past, we've seen a series of reports that Trump has been trashed on Russian television. It would make strategic sense for Putin to allow such a campaign on Russia's airwaves: Doing so works against the collusion narrative. In other words, the real target would be the American public. The message: "See? Trump wasn't working for the Russians. Obviously, they hate his guts!"

When you think about it, Putin should have begun this campaign in the summer of 2016.

Russia will not hit Trump with kompromat. It's not as though the Dems will give Putin an easier time. Trump is tearing this country apart, and this "cold civil war" works to Russia's advantage.

Trump's big sister Maryanne Trump Barry, a retiring judge, is as corrupt as he is.
The court inquiry stemmed from complaints filed last October, after an investigation by The New York Times found that the Trumps had engaged in dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud, that greatly increased the inherited wealth of Mr. Trump and his siblings. Judge Barry not only benefited financially from most of those tax schemes, The Times found; she was also in a position to influence the actions taken by her family.
Judge Barry had been a co-owner of a shell company — All County Building Supply & Maintenance — created by the family to siphon cash from their father’s empire by marking up purchases already made by his employees, The Times investigation found. Judge Barry, her siblings and a cousin split the markup, free of gift and estate taxes, which at the time were levied at a much higher rate than income taxes.

On a financial disclosure form filed in 1999, Judge Barry noted that her share of the All County profits for the previous 17 months totaled just over $1 million.

The family also used the padded invoices to justify higher rent increases in rent-regulated buildings, artificially inflating the rents of thousands of tenants. Former prosecutors told The Times that if the authorities had discovered at the time how the Trumps were using All County, their actions would have warranted a criminal investigation for defrauding tenants, tax fraud and filing false documents.

Similarly, Judge Barry benefited from the gross undervaluation of her father’s properties when she and her siblings took ownership of them through a trust, sparing them from paying tens of millions of dollars in taxes, The Times found. For years, she attended regular briefings at her brother’s offices in Trump Tower to hear updates on the real estate portfolio and to collect her share of the profits. When the siblings sold off their father’s empire, between 2004 and 2006, her share of the windfall was $182.5 million, The Times found.
Some of you may recall what David Cay Johnston had to say about Judge Maryanne. Briefly: Donald Trump had a longstanding relationship to a drug-dealing gangster named Joseph Weichselbaum.
Meanwhile, Weichselbaum agreed to plead guilty in Federal District Court in Cincinnati. His Ohio lawyer, Arnold Morelli, asked that sentencing be done either in Miami, where Bradford Motors is located, or Manhattan where the confessed drug trafficker lived.

Instead the case somehow ended up in New Jersey—and in not just any courtroom, either. It came before Judge Maryanne Trump Barry, Trump’s older sister.

After three weeks Judge Barry recused herself, explaining to the chief judge that her husband, Trump casino lawyer John Barry, and she had flown in the helicopters of a confessed drug trafficker. At the time, there was only a signed order reassigning the case, but not explaining the reasons for doing so. Six years passed before Barry’s reason for recusal—potentially damaging to the federal judiciary—emerged in a book by investigative reporter Wayne Barrett.

Then Trump wrote a letter on Trump Organization stationery pleading for mercy for Weichselbaum. He called him “a credit to the community.” Trump also described the drug trafficker as “conscientious, forthright and diligent,” not the sort of language a law-and-order presidential candidate would be expected to apply to a drug trafficker who moved more than 11 pounds of cocaine in one shipment alone and more than three quarters of a ton of marijuana in another.
Trump wrote that letter even though doing so might have endangered his casino license. Since Judge Maryanne was flying around in a known drug lord's chopper, can you be terribly surprised to learn that she stands accused of ripping off tenants in rent-controlled apartments and engaged in dubious schemes to avoid estate taxes?

"Trump" is not a name, not a family, not a brand, not a business. It is an infection.
I'm guessing the statute of limitations has expired on the Trump family fraud. As to judicial malfeasance is Judge Trump home free upon retiring?
Really good comments. Thanks for your very interesting insights. I guess the whole Trump family is so totally corrupt that anything that can be done to oust them is fair game. They all make my skin crawl.
The hits just keep on coming.
That video dates from 4 September 2017; on 5 September 2017, the Independent ran essentially the same story. The source for both was a tweet from Julia Davis -- not that Julia Davis but, amazingly, though, this Julia Davis, whose background seems to raise enough red flags to supply the Left Bank, circa 1968. That the Independent is owned by a Putin crony also lifts an eyebrow, although I'm not sure if in disbelief or confirmation.

Interestingly, DC Blue and the Independent both use a photograph of the show host as illustration, as did Davis's tweet -- even though the quote was ascribed (in a later comment on her Twitter thread) to Nikita Isayev. Isayev is a guest on that episode.

(Incidentally, you can set YouTube to generate auto-translated subtitles for the video [enable close-captioning and change your settings to enable automatic translation to your language of choice]. Unfortunately, trying to watch the show is like enduring an hour-long session of The Game from Galactic Pot-Healer, and I soon felt my brain dribbling from my ears. I tried to cheat by fast-forwarding until I found an image similar to those used in the articles, but still could find nothing kompromat-related. At that point I discovered I was watching for appearances by the wrong person, and I threw in the towel.)
FYI, the exchange *appears* to take place around 56:11 in the video. The young-looking fellow in the plaid jacket with the burnt orange checks is Isayev. The exchange (in auto-translate from auto-generated captioning) goes something like this

Russia needs to pull out dirt

which we have about this need

beat therefore tramp which is there on

hairy where we have of course

That includes both Isayev and the host talking; I'm not sure where one stops and the other starts.
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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Nunes: Follow-up. Plus: Pecker's predicament

It's a big news day, but I can't help paying attention to this Nunes nuttiness. Check it out:
Nunes responded on Fox News Wednesday, saying he'd love to find out the sources of their reporting, and challenged several other stories run by the national news media company.

“I am absolutely sure they don’t want this to get to discovery so we find out who their sources are," Nunes said.
What the hell? Why is this crazed congresscritter trying to create the impression that the Bee used hidden "sources"? As demonstrated in the preceding post, I had acquired everything that the Bee had, and I got that information months before they published. I communicated with no-one. Everything was online, for those who knew where to look. I learned what I learned from the lawsuit which Alene Anase filed against her former employer, Alpha Omega Winery. No need for clandestine meetings in a parking garage with shadowy, chain-smoking insiders.

I'm sorry, but if a Congressman is heavily invested in a company that offers cocaine and underaged hookers to VIPS, that is news. Even if he was not on that boat, it's still news. Nunes has never denied the basic fact that he owns a substantial piece of Alpha Omega Winery. 

So why is he playing this silly game?
"Somebody gave them the phony information that the National Rifle Association was involved with Russian national collusion, somebody gave the phony info on Cohen, somebody gave them on me, that they ran across all their platforms and digitally, that’s not OK. They can talk all they want, but we’ll see them in court.”
The NRA accusation was quite justified, despite the shady right-wing efforts to change the record. The "phony info on Cohen" claim probably refers to the Steele dossier. In that case, "the media" did not meet with any sources. Steele's employees did that -- and it appears that at least one of those sources was a Russian national working for the Trump campaign. The current thinking is that the Russians got wind of what Orbis (Steele's company) was up to and decided to toss disinformation into the mix -- standard procedure in Spookworld. I fail to see how "the media" was at fault.

By the way: Here it is. 

The Enquirer is for sale.  The Bezos scandal is picking up, and the agreement between David Pecker and the SDNY seems quite shaky, to put it mildly. So it comes us no surprise that Pecker is selling the Enquirer.
American Media CEO David Pecker confirmed the plan on Wednesday after the Washington Post reported that the company has come under "intense pressure" to part ways with the Enquirer.

The pressure has come from the company's board of directors and from its controlling shareholder Chatham Asset Management, The Post reported. According to the newspaper, Chatham's managing partner Anthony Melchiorre was concerned about both "the financial difficulties of the tabloid business" and "the Enquirer's tactics."
This is hilarious. To save face, everyone is pretending that the Enquirer is an independent entity -- a conscious being with agency and the ability to make decisions. Those decisions were almost certainly made by Pecker himself. At the very least, he bears responsibility for the actions of his employees.

Before this brouhaha, I was never a big Bezos fan. But right now, I hope he eats Pecker for breakfast.

Perhaps I should rephrase that.
Have to say you were 1000% right about Barr. Even his biggest skeptics didn't think he'd be this corrupt this quickly.

This country is such a shit show.
I was so naive about Barr. I hoped that his being old friends with Mueller meant he auditioned for the AG role to protect Mueller. Hope springs eternal. Sigh.
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Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Is Nunes nuts?

Devin Nunes is suing McClatchy and the Sacramento Bee over a story that contains no factual errors -- in fact, he does not even claim that the story is erroneous.

This is the should-be-famous story of a yacht owned by the Alpha Omega winery, a business in Nunes' district, in which he has invested heavily. In 2016, a female employee of the winery, Alene Anase, claimed in a lawsuit that she was asked to work on the yacht during a party for VIPs -- a party which included cocaine and prostitutes, some of whom clearly appeared to be underaged. The lawsuit was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.

I knew all about this party long before the Sacramento Bee published. In fact, I unsuccessfully tried to contact Ms. Anase. Her lawsuit said only that the party (held in San Francisco Bay) catered to "VIPs." The Sacramento Bee story never claimed that Nunes was present, merely that he had invested a large (for him) amount of money in a company that had (according to Ms. Anase) had hosted a disturbing event.

Again: Nothing in that story was inaccurate. The Bee had merely summarized a lawsuit -- a public document. Yet Nunes calls this report "fake news" and demands that it be withdrawn from the internet.

I had written about this matter well before the Bee published. My post did not mention Nunes, Anase, or the Alpha Omega winery.

However, I did note the disturbing parallels to certain other stories that had come to my attention. One such story involved Nastya Rybka (born Anastasia Vashukevich), the escort linked to Oleg Deripaska; she claimed to have audio evidence of Russian meddling in the US election. Since the publication of my post, her tale took a disturbing turn, which most of you know: The Russians got hold of her. She was forced to retract her claims, although no-one with any sense believes her retraction to be sincere.

I might as well reprint what I wrote in 2018:
First and foremost: Allow me to make an obvious and discomforting observation that everyone else has avoided. Rybka looks young. She could pass for underaged now. It is possible that, not long ago, she could have successfully claimed to be fifteen, fourteen -- hell, maybe as young as twelve -- even though she was actually older.

By her own admission, she was not just an escort: She was bribery-bait. It's easy to visualize a situation in which she seduces a VIP who, on the following morning, gets the bad news: "You know that girl you were with last night? She may have told you that she was nineteen, but she's really fourteen. We have video."

"Rybka" is a nom-de-l'amour; the word means "little fish." The choice of this pseudonym may offer a clue. If you've read your Tacitus, you may recall that the Emperor Tiberius owned a pleasure palace, where he kept a beautiful swimming pool. This pool came stocked with "little fishes" -- children required to service the emperor and his guests.

So I think Rybka's job was to play younger than she really was. She would seem persuasively underaged when it came time to strike fear into a politician's heart.

The elements outlined in the above video -- Russians, gangsters, yachts, underaged prostitutes, kompromat -- have all appeared in previous Cannonfire stories. You will recall this bit, quoted from a book called Deep Capture:
One of Bayrock’s co-founders was Tevfik Arif. In 2011, Arif was arrested in Turkey after Turkish commandos raided a party that Arif was holding on a yacht that had once belonged to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Turkey’s founding president. Arif, a native of Kazakhstan, was arrested along with a small harem of prostitutes and some unnamed government officials from Central Asia. (It is unclear why the commandos raided the yacht; the media has reported that Arif was charged only with illegally hiring prostitutes, a crime that does not usually result in commando raids).
Arif and Trump are connected. This fact has been established beyond rational debate.

To the above quotation, I added these words:
As we've seen below, the Israeli press reported that the prostitutes were underaged girls from Russia, who were being used to acquire blackmail on VIPs; they were working for Arif. This ties in with what we know about Mogilevich, who is said to run a large-scale prostitution ring, and who obtains kompromat on important people around the world.

It also inevitably reminds us of Trump's old pal Jeffrey Epstein, who also surrounded himself with underaged Russian girls. According to Virginia Roberts, these girls were also used to acquire kompromat on VIPs.

Since the source of Epstein's money remains mysterious, it is fair to speculate as to whether he has had financial dealings with Mogilevich's criminal empire. For all of his personal failings, Epstein is a brilliant man -- and the same can be said of Mogilevich. The two men would seem a natural fit for each other.
Now let's explore some very dangerous territory...
Before proceeding, let me note that Arif has also tried -- successfully -- to intimidate all of the press organs which reported on his connection to the "party boat" scandal. Note, for example, this 2010 New York Daily News story which bears the headline "Donald Trump pal Tevfik Arif busted in Turkey for allegedly running hooker ring aboard yacht." The online version of that article was later amended to include this paragraph:
In April 2012, Tevfik Arif was acquitted by a Turkish court of all charges in connection with the incident reported here. The court also found that none of the women on the yacht was under the age of 18. –Updated October 19, 2012.
Does the Turkish court system deserves our unwavering faith? I leave that decision to the reader.

For present purposes, the important point is that similar "He was acquitted!" notices have been added to most, perhaps all, of the news articles about this story which were originally published in 2010 and 2011. Arif, or his lawyers, must have been incredibly persuasive; I can't think of anyone else who has received this kind of treatment. (For example, you can look up old NYT stories about the Sam Shepherd murder case without encountering an added "editor's note" informing you that his conviction was eventually overturned.)

Basically, Nunes is imitating Arif. The congressman wants to squelch an accurate news story which makes him look bad. People linked to Trump are now protected: Anyone who publishes disturbing news stories about Team Trump must fear nuisance suits and other forms of retribution. Meanwhile, the National Enquirer is free to publish complete bunk about the Clintons.

Let's return to my earlier post:
There is a certain extremely pro-Trump congressman whose disruptive tactics have made him despised by all Democrats. I won't mention his name here, but you should be able to guess. (Please: Let's have discretion in the comments.)

This congressman has made a hefty (for him) personal investment in a certain bibulous business located in his home state. For a brief period, some reporters looked into the possibility that this business had Russian ties -- an investigative avenue which turned out to be a blind alley.

However: A female employee of said bibulous business brought suit when she was asked to work a party on a large white yacht belonging to the business owner, a successful lawyer. What bothered this employee was the presence of prostitutes brought in to service the "VIPs" on board that yacht on that night.

The party occurred in San Francisco Bay. The employee (who is attractive) spent that night in fear that she might be taken for one of the prostitutes. (It wasn't as if she could simply walk off.)

She also said that some of the prostitutes clearly appeared to be underaged. My memory may be playing tricks here, but I recall that she said that these girls were of Eastern European origin.

I do not know how the lawsuit was adjudicated. The employee moved on to another job.

I looked (a bit) into the yacht. It's a huge damned boat. Too huge, I should think, to be owned by a lawyer, even a very successful lawyer. To put things into perspective, it's substantially larger than the ship featured in the video embedded above -- a ship which Russian magnate Oleg Deripaska considered his home away from home.

(The yacht that I'm talking about has nothing to do with the yacht owned by Attaturk, which is a much older vessel called the MV Savarona. After the prostitution scandal, that ship is now back in the hands of the Turkish government, and has served the needs of Prime Minister Erdogan.)

Although the party took place in the San Francisco area, the yacht is often found in the Mediterranean.

Was the much-despised congressman aboard that yacht? Well, he had invested heavily in the afore-mentioned bibulous business, so his presence at the party as a "VIP" certainly seems possible. The theory that this congress-critter opened himself up to kompromat would explain a lot.

Was our "little fish" present on that vessel? Was she previously a visitor to the Savarona? If not, does she know any of the girls who worked
The Sacramento Bee did not engage in speculation. I did. I feel that a blogger (as opposed to a reporter) should engage in a certain degree of speculation as long as it comes clearly indicated as such.

Moreover, the Bee did not attempt to look into the history of that yacht. As near as I can tell, I am the only writer who has done so, although I received a message from a reader who thought that I got it wrong:
Um, the yacht in question is actually a 57' Carver Voyager -- probably in the Carver 560 series. I think you may have been confused by the owners of said yacht *also* occasionally hosting a Mediterranean 'super-yacht' cruise aboard a much larger vessel. These latter cruises are in conjunction with a bibulous company they own in Spain.

I've not been able to identify who the party was for. The yacht's owners regularly make its use available as a prize for charity auctions. (Wonder if that will continue under the new tax laws?) The event to which the auction's winners allegedly brought prostitutes almost certainly had nothing to do with the bibulous company itself, let alone their Congressional investor....
So we may be talking about two separate yachts. Or perhaps not; I don't know the source of the claim that Alpha Omega yacht is a Carver 560. That model seems rather small to host the kind of party described by Alene Anase. I could be wrong.

Nevertheless, this information indicates that Nunes has invested his money in a rather remarkable enterprise.
This story is a reason for a Me Too Movement, no? For Decades Older rich men have used younger, perhaps even under aged women as some sort of trophy, an allegedly well deserved reward they somehow felt they had earned.

If only, If only the men had enough honor to pay so well that the young women could literally buy their own yacht and not ever again be dependent on the Men who stile their young lives. Transfer of assets wouldn't make it right, but would certainly better than what has been transpiring.
Nunes may or may not being a nut but the blizzard of law suits that he has launched have a clear purpose, to force his targets to spend a lot of money and time defending them. Even if he loses all of his suits, his targets will have been forced to spend a lot of money. He is trying to bleed them. The real question for any ambitious journalist must be: Who is bankrolling Devin Nunes. No sane attorney would work on a contingency basis when the chance of a payoff is so remote. Some deep-pocketed person our entity is backing Nunes in his attempt to make the media bleed. It's the job of the journalists to find out who and to drag that information into the light of day
#yachtscocaineprostitutes@DevinNunes is a thing on Twitter.

If Nunes had friends they'd tell him to stop digging as discovery is going to expose the sordid. Seems fellow republicans content to sit back and watch Devin self destruct.
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Trump's taxes (an update): "Except in cases of fraud..."

In the preceding post, I stated that -- by law -- an IRS audit cannot last longer than 28 months. A reader begged to differ. I probably should not mention this reader's name, but he is well-known within certain circles.

His corrective to my post deserves to be noted here. My basic point stands: Trump's claim to be perpetually under audit is simply not credible. Here are my reader's words:
At, you wrote
“Twenty-eight months is the legal limit for any audit. Says so right here.”
There are exceptions, notably fraud.

Perhaps a reasonable suspicion of fraud is enough to extend the limit.

From [emphasis added:]
IRS auditors must complete audits within 28 months of the date the audited taxpayer filed the tax return, or by the date it was due, April 15, whichever is later. Actually, the law gives the IRS eight additional months after that (for a total of 36 months, or three years), but auditors need to leave at least eight months in which the IRS can process appeals... This three-year limit does not apply, however, if they underreported their income by more than 25 percent. In those cases, the IRS has six years in which to conduct an audit and assess additional taxes if they are warranted. There is no time limit at all for audits in cases where taxpayers file fraudulent returns...

Sometimes the IRS is not able to complete an audit within its three-year time limit. In such cases, the IRS may extend this time limit. Taxpayers do not have to agree to an extension, but the IRS can make the audit very unpleasant if they do not get an extension.
Legal answer: Three years... Technically, except in cases of fraud or a back tax return, the IRS has three years from the date you filed your return (or April 15, whichever is later) to charge you (or, “assess”) additional taxes. This three-year timeframe is called the assessment statute of limitations.

Practical answer: 26 months... IRS agents should “strictly adhere to” this guideline, to make sure that the audit and other processing needs are complete within the three-year timeframe.

Some exceptions exist to this rule...of course:

Exception One: If you have understated your income by more than 25% this 3 year deadline can be extended to 6 years.

Exception Two: If you filed a fraudulent return, there isn’t a time limit for the IRS to finish the assessment.

I searched and found those links because I could not find the 28-months limit on the page you linked to at
I apologize for the link that went wrong; I had reprinted a section from a much older post. Either I made a mistake long ago or the cited webpage has been changed. At any rate, this new information strongly indicates that the only reason for Trump to be under audit past 26 months is if the investigators found indications of fraud.

I'd love to see Trump's lawyers try to explain THAT.

We may have more luck if New York makes the state tax returns available to Congress. Needless to say, Trump's lawyers will sue the state of New York -- but if the suit comes after-the-fact, what of it? I don't see how Trump's lawyers can physically prevent the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance from complying with both state law and a congressional request.

So that approach seems promising. As I've said on previous occasions, "Think state."

Nevertheless, I continue to believe that it is important to get Trump's "I'm being audited" excuse on the record officially. If Congress places him in that situation, Trump will have but two choices: Either he will commit perjury or he will confess that he has lied to the public for years. I think he'll commit perjury.

Incidentally, Adam Schiff has said "No" to Michael Cohen, who had hoped to trade new information (documented) for a reduction in his sentence. I think that Schiff should play ball, or at least ask for a proffer.
Those 20 year cycle depreciation Tax Returns, if fraudulently filed, can constitute one, long running filing and the clock does not start until the last of the filings has been filed.
I wish people would stop wasting everybody's time and energy analyzing that alleged tax audit.

There is no audit. The only evidence of one is Trump's own statement, and anyone who considers Trump's statements to be evidence of truth... is a damn fool. Trump likes to claim he is under audit because it makes him feel important, and it turns out to be a handy excuse (for the suckers) to avoid disclosing his tax returns.

There is no audit...but there IS a criminal investigation that will likely include some tax fraud charges.
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Monday, April 08, 2019

The tax thing: I have a plan

From The Hill:
Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said Sunday that Democrats will "never" see President Trump's tax returns.

"Nor should they. That’s an issue that was already litigated during the election. Voters knew the president could have given his tax returns, they knew that he didn’t, and they elected him anyway," Mulvaney said during an appearance on "Fox News Sunday."

He added that Democrats "know they're not going to" get the tax returns
Obviously, the documents offer evidence of impeachable corruption. Why else go to such lengths to hide them?

Although I hope Congress will continue to seek those returns, the fight is probably doomed. Trump will take the battle all the way to the Supreme Court, and there it will end -- in his favor. That is the harsh, infuriating, unfair truth of the situation.

New York state legislators may soon seek Trump's state taxes, which will contain much of the same information. Although I applaud this tactic, Trump will fight that fight all the way to the Supreme Court, with a very predictable result.

Is the coming defeat inevitable? Perhaps, but I have a rather sneaky idea. Even a defeat can be used to the Democrats' advantage.

One of the three committees requesting Trump's returns should find some strategy by which he or his lawyer is required to explain why the returns may not be divulged. The goal: Force Trump to repeat that tired line about the taxes being under audit.

His "audit" claim is hogwash, of course. Everyone -- including his supporters -- understands this. Twenty-eight months is the legal limit for any audit. Says so right here.

Trump can continue to tell his lie to the American people with apparent impunity, because his supporters don't care about his brazen dishonesty. Fibbing in front of the teevee cameras is one thing, but lying under oath -- or lying to Congress, even when not under oath -- is a weighty matter. That's perjury.

In other words, I propose a new game. The name of this new game is not "Get the tax returns" but "Get the lie on record."

Once Trump (or his lawyer) has officially lied to Congress, vast possibilities will emerge. The first, most obvious step would be to request a statement from the IRS declaring Trump to be under audit. There's always a letter, and there's no reason why we should not see that letter.

Nevertheless, we can fairly predict that Trump will refuse to show any such communication. That's when the fun will really start.

Previous heads of the IRS can be interviewed under oath. Although they will not speak directly about Trump's taxes, they can confirm what I've just said about the 28 month limit. It might prove instructive to grill Trump's man at the IRS, Charles Rettig. He will, of course, tell interrogators that he is unable to confirm Trump's story about being under audit. Savvy investigators should then ask Rettig if he has ever heard of any audit lasting more than 28 months.

Picture the scene: "Is it not the case, Mr. Rettig, that Mr. Trump's tax returns for the years 2015 and before cannot possibly be under audit?" Watch him squirm!

In the end, he will be forced to admit that the "audit" story is fraudulent. He won't say so directly, but the message will be clear.

The goal, in short, is to maneuver Trump into the commission of perjury and then to prove that his statement was, in fact, perjurious. I will not call this tactic a "perjury trap," since there is no trap. Nothing compels him to lie.

Beto. I don't really have a favorite in the race for the Democratic nomination, although I have an UNfavorite. (Guess who.) Until this point, I was leaning toward Kamala Harris, if only because the Berners went on a hate crusade against her. Julian Castro impresses the hell out of me. I've always liked Biden, despite my concerns about his age.

But all of a sudden, I'm a Beto guy.
Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke on Sunday described Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a “racist” whose outreach to far-right interests as he seeks to hang onto political power has seriously damaged the chances of peace in the Middle East.

Speaking at a town hall here at the University of Iowa, the former Texas congressman denounced Netanyahu’s pledge Saturday that he would annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank if he wins another term in Tuesday’sIsraeli general election. Netanyahu’s proposed annexation, O’Rourke said, “will make peace in the long term impossible.”
Now that's a profile in courage.

I'm betting that no small number of American Jews agree with Beto. Bibi is basically running as a Trump clone, and most American Jews don't like Trump.
“The world has come to understand that Netanyahu is essentially the political twin of Donald Trump,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the liberal pro-Israel group J Street. “Unlike his previous elections, there is a much deeper antagonism toward Netanyahu because of that close affiliation between him and Trump and the Republican Party.”
New York-based journalist Jane Eisner, former editor of The Forward, a Jewish newspaper, said many American Jews have “Netanyahu fatigue” — even some who supported him in past.
Jews surely noticed that Trump, in essence, gave presidential approval to the accusation that American Jews owe their first loyalty to Israel. That statement was no mere malapropism. Trump understands that there is a certain degree of intersection between "I support Israel" and "Juden Raus!"

From Haaretz:
He mocked asylum seekers and said of refugees, “Our country is full, can’t come, I’m sorry,” earning only mild applause. Jewish groups have generally favored generous refugee allowances.
The Republican party is that close to saying aloud what so many far-rightists have long thought: "Yes, Jews have a home -- and they should go there." The tiki-torch battalions support Israel because they want all American Jews to relocate.

The ideals of multiculturalism and tolerance are under constant attack from both the Alt Right and the "progressive" left, which have become two sides of the same coin. The goal of fascism has always been to assign real estate according to ethnicity, and that's where we're heading. Mass relocations.

It's time for American Jews to ask themselves: Do we really want this
IIRC, some of the early Nazis supported Zionism, with an eye toward eventually sending the German Jews to Palestine.
Pretty much the law congress can see the president's tax returns after the Teapot Dome Scandal. Trump's attorneys can try a constitutional argument and the Beer Bong Court can ignore precedent but I doubt they'll risk it.

Speaking of relocation, I saw a tweet by a John Dean for a gofundme that gives financial aid to Black people wanting to move to Africa. Don't know if it's a poor taste April Fool or a real thing.
Mr Mike, the Supreme Court can declare a law unconstitutional. And they will. You say "I doubt they'll risk it." WHAT risk?
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