Saturday, July 28, 2018

Avenatti and Cohen

Michael Avenatti is on the side of the angels. Anyone who pisses off Alan Dershowitz deserves applause.

Nevertheless, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels is starting to rub me the wrong way. He clearly has formed presidential ambitions. That, in and of itself, is not a bad thing: Without ambition, there can be no achievement. That said, I personally don't want to see another non-politician in the Oval Office -- not for a while.

Avenatti touts his skills as a street fighter, and one must concede that sometimes it takes a thug to beat a thug. But some of us are sick of thuggishness; some of us long for a return to normalcy -- to dignity, elegance and civilization.

Why the hell is Avenatti slamming Cohen so viciously at a time when everyone else in the Resistance is trying to woo Cohen into joining the Good Guys? A wallop is no way to woo, unless you travel in very kinky circles. Avenatti explains himself -- kinda, sorta -- in this video, which has to do with this affair.
A federal judge said Friday that he was inclined to deny the request by Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal lawyer, for a gag order to stop attorney Michael Avenatti from attacking him in the news media.

At a hearing in Los Angeles, U.S. District Court Judge S. James Otero said he was concerned about Avenatti’s frequent attacks on Cohen. Avenatti has called Cohen “a dishonest thug” and predicted he would soon be indicted.

But Otero voiced skepticism about whether the court could impose “prior restraint” on Avenatti’s comments to the media without violating his 1st Amendment right to free speech.

“I’m not sure you really appreciate the significance of the order that you’re asking the court to issue,” Otero told Brent Blakely, Cohen’s attorney.
Part of me would prefer a gag order. There comes a point when pugnaciousness is self-defeating. A person who tries too hard to get his mug on camera may soon lose the public's affection.

Let's say that Cohen does flip.
Here's the first thing someone should ask him: "Did you go to Prague, as alleged in the Steele dossier?"

Many Trumpers insist that the dossier has been entirely disconfirmed, when in fact much of it has received verification. This is yet another one of those battles that the Republicans hope to "win" through sheer, tireless repetition, as opposed to point-by-point argumentation.

(Note that, when discussing the dossier, the Republicans remain wedded to a truly insane conspiracy theory in which the Russians were helping Hillary. They repeat this charge with slap-happy self-assurance, even though Putin admitted in Helsinki -- on camera -- that he wanted Trump to win.)

When the Trumpers challenge the dossier, they invariably bring up the allegation that Michael Cohen went to Prague. Cohen claims that his passport does not contain the relevant stamps. The matter is of no small importance. (McClatchy offered an unverified report that Mueller has found evidence rebutting Cohen.)

As I never tire of repeating, when Paul Manafort's home was searched, investigators found three passports.

How does one acquire more than one? There are several methods. During the Cold War, spooks angled for membership in the Knights of Malta, the Catholic order which can issue its own passport, because the Knights are a sovereign nation. Kinda. Sorta. (It's complicated.)

More recently, the country of Dominica has offered this service, for a price.

To follow this trail, you may want to check out this story about Paolo Zampolli, the modelling impresario and longtime friend to Trump (and Hillary!), now Dominica's ambassador to the UN. Zampolli -- an enigmatic figure in his own right -- once took under his wing a lovely Slovenian import named Melania. In fact, he introduced Der Donald to the current first lady, thereby initiating a magnificent love story which will undoubtedly thrill romantics long after the names of Abelard and Heloise have vanished from human memory.

My purpose is here is not to discuss the Mysteries of Melania. Instead, I would like to draw your attention to Zampolli's strange connection to Dominica.
Zampolli is a diplomat by appointment and not nationality, like his wife. He has also been Dominica’s ambassador for oceans and seas, as his website states, since 2013. He has been associated with environmental causes but links to foundations that he names on his site turn up nothing. We Are the Oceans, for example, features a big picture of water and says it is “arriving in 2017.”
This oceanographic obsession is of some interest to those of us who have studied the latter-day career of Ghislaine Maxwell, but that's a tale for another time. I ran the above quotation past your eyeballs to establish that Trump's pal Zampolli is in very tight with the government of Dominica. Although Zampolli is known for his modelling agency, he has joined forces with Trump on certain real estate ventures -- and for a while now, he has been working to establish a very Trumpian resort in Dominica.
The project is being promoted by the government as its first real estate development undertaking in the country and features an economic-passport program bonus. Dominica has long offered citizenship in return for a one-off payment to the government, an article in Caribbean News Now! explained in 2016.

A second option now allows foreigners who invest $200,000 into a government-approved real estate project to buy their passports for $50,000, half the usual price. It appears that the Zampolli-led investment role in the Cabrits resort is part of the deal. The economic passports scheme is a major source of revenue for Dominica, albeit one that is raising serious questions about criminals who could buy them to enter other countries. (The similar program in the US is also being scrutinized.)

A trip by Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit of Dominica to the Middle East and Southeast Asia in 2016 was meant to sell part of the investment package: visa-free travel to Europe. Foreigners who acquire citizenship of Dominica can get a passport that allows them, if all goes well, to travel unimpeded to more than 100 countries, including Britain and the Schengen zone of Europe.
The so-called "Prague meeting" took place in the Schengen zone.

Is Dominica the source of Manafort's passports?

Is Dominica the source of an as-yet unknown Cohen passports?

Do other Carribbean nations indulge in the passport racket? Oh yes.
As globalization continues, increasing numbers of global high net worth individuals (HNWI) have sought out citizenship by investment opportunities, according to a recent report by the New World Health Organization.

Citizenship-by-investment provides HNWI and their families the opportunity to become citizens of a new country of their liking through investment in real estate or government programs. While moving their families may have once seemed a difficult decision, many find the tax advantages, succession planning, alterations in lifestyle, and other factors are too financially attractive to pass up.
Of the three options available, the most common financially sound approach to dual citizenship by HNWI is through real estate.
The proper political use of the word "socialist." George Will -- a man I never expected to praise -- shows how it's done. Like it or not, Americans are hard-wired to despise the word "socialist."

Don't listen to all of that misleading claptrap the BernieBros are handing out. Yes, I know that there are polls which supposedly indicate that the young are less-inclined to despise the sound of the word "socialist." The times, they are a-changin'....

Folks sang that exact same tune back in the early 1970s. At that time, when I was young and very naive, I actually believed the commonly-heard prediction that America would soon morph into an ultra-groovy Peoples' Republic in which President Tom Hayden would hand out free abortions and free weed. Back then, all the cool kids laughed at the idea of a Ronald Reagan presidency. We also laughed at the Libertarians.

Let me repeat the two most important points from a post of which I remain quite proud.
According to consistent Gallup polls, some 69 percent of the country thinks that Big Government is America's top problem, while 25 percent sees Big Business as the biggest problem.

The word "socialist" is an insurmountable general-election turnoff. It doesn't matter how you view the word or how I view the word; in an election, the only thing that matters is how the general public feels. Pew tells us that 59% of the public views "socialism" negatively, while just 29% views the word positively. Gallup reveals that Americans are much more disposed to elect a gay, Muslim or atheist candidate, as opposed to a socialist.
Before you howl the predictable howls, let me be clear about where I stand: Of course I favor Social Security and some form of National Health Insurance. Hell, I favor all sorts of things which the Ayn Randroids would declare to be signs of the Bolshevik Menace.

But I am also realistic enough to admit that the S-word is toxic. So let's use other words. Simple as that.

The Republicans have used this same tactic to marvelous effect. A Republican candidate with serious hopes of attaining office will never embrace the word "fascist," because the F-word is even more toxic than the S-word. (Granted, I'm worried about the growing number of online fascists who do wear the button). Nevertheless, the Republican party is now the party of Trump, and Trumpism is, by any historical measure, fascism.

Trump was placed into office by Steve Bannon, a disciple of fascist philosopher Julius Evola. The man who ran Trump's campaign and had a key position in the White House is now embarked on a grand scheme to band together all of Europe's fascist parties into one grand Fascist International. And yet, no matter how well the shoe fits, Bannon is bright enough not to say the words "I am a fascist."

That's a good strategy. Don't use toxic words to describe yourselves, Democrats. Apply toxic words to your enemies. George Will -- yes, George Effing Will -- has shown you how.

Never presume that you have such magical powers of persuasion that you can make the term "socialist" seem attractive, because the vast majority of Americans considers "socialist" and "church-burner" to be synonyms. Americans will always link "socialist" with headlines like this. This attitude is part of the American DNA. You cannot re-code DNA.

If you think you can do the impossible, you are an arrogant fool who deserves to lose. Like it or not, Nixon was right when he said Losers don't legislate. Verbiage and actual governance are two different things. If you're the sort of progressive purist who arrogantly insists on using toxic verbiage, you will never govern.  (Deep down, you don't want to govern.)

My personal preference would be for a Democrat who governs as a "soft" socialist (to the degree that political reality permits) while never using the S-word to describe himself or herself. FDR provides an excellent model. We need another FDR; we do not need an Emma Goldman -- or a Bernie Sanders. Or an Ocasio-Cortez.
I use the term FDR Democrat. Everybody loves FDR, well mostly.
Whatever your political beliefs, if you don't have an actual strategy to achieve power, then your politics is a form of self-expression and not a way create change. Acquiring power is hard to do and real change cannot happen without obtaining it. This is the problem with the socialists/leftists. They think they can go as far left as they want and package themselves as a far left party without paying any electoral consequences. As long as they live in this fantasy land, they are irrelevant and will achieve nothing except harming Democrats chances of winning.
Call me paranoid, but I'm worried this whole Cohen-Trump thing is a setup.
Call me paranoid too. Everyone else does.

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