Jared and Ivanka Are Buried in Debt

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Trump Maladministration

Let this soak in: Politico reported last week that the debt Jared and Ivanka were carrying on one Visa card dropped from a range of $100,001 to $250,000 down to a range of $50,001 to $100,000. “However, in revisions to the form before it was formally certified by the Office of Government Ethics on Dec. 26, the outstanding debt for the three credit lines was raised to the higher level.”

That’s credit card debt, people. Average interest rates on credit cards is about 15 percent right now, and of course plebians like us pay a lot more, like 20-something percent. People who run up credit card debt like that have financial issues, somehow. Maybe what they call a “cash flow” problem.

This week, we learned that “Jared and Ivanka have gone from cumulative debt of somewhere between $19 million and $98 million to a range of $31 million to $155 million in the last year alone.” And here I would have been telling them they’d better be saving their money, because once the Trump Administration finally goes down their earning opportunities are going to go down with it.

We learned this week that along with his much amended security clearance forms, Jared recently has been correcting his financial disclosure forms.

Jared Kushner quietly filed an addendum to his personal financial disclosure adding even more previously undisclosed business interests in recent weeks — and may have even more to disclose, according to real estate documents shared with TPM.

Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and a top adviser, wrote a letter to White House Deputy Counsel Stefan Passantino dated Jan. 3, 2018 adding a number of additional business interests that had not previously been on his personal financial disclosure form.

That letter, which has not been previously reported, corrects and adds new corporate positions and details of his companies’ structures that he legally was required to disclose, in a seeming attempt to square his filing with spouse Ivanka Trump’s as well as clean up some previously overlooked items.

Also, too:

According to a separate recent update from Ivanka Trump, Kushner appears to have taken out millions more in loans in recent months, a sign that his business may be on the rocks. The couple are currently battling a lawsuit filed in December that accuses them of illegally omitting information for 32 other companies, raising the possibility of hidden conflicts of interest.

Somehow, all those “business interests” must not be generating what we call “income.”

Now, let’s talk about Jared’s lack of a security clearance. Jennifer Rubin wrote,

Kushner met with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, to discuss a secret back channel and with the head of a sanctioned Russian bank, VneshEconomBank (VEB). (“The conversation is curious not only because it represents a top Trump official secretly meeting with an arm of the Russian government, but also because accounts of the meeting differ in important ways,” The Atlantic’s David Graham noted at the time. “Kushner says he attended the meeting in his capacity as an adviser to President-elect Trump. But VEB says that the meeting concerned Kushner’s family real-estate business.”) And he was present at the now-infamous June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower attended by a Kremlin-connected lawyer.

Kushner’s financial problems make these contacts all the more troubling. As he was racking up debt, Fordham Law School professor Jed Shugerman tells me, Kushner “also just coincidentally was setting up secret lines to the Kremlin and was meeting with (Russian President Vladmir) Putin’s banker a month after the election. And he just coincidentally was meeting with Russians offering dirt in Trump Tower during the election.” He explains, “Kushner’s massive debts are an important piece of the entire Russia conspiracy on some of the parties’ motives (Kushner, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and Trump) for such inexplicable behavior and such risk-taking.”

And here is what we call the very obvious “bottom line.”

In sum, Kushner has huge and growing debt, many suspicious Russian contacts and a close relationship (perhaps second only to Ivanka’s) with Trump. “The more money Kushner owes, especially to lenders or guarantors who do not have America’s best interests at heart, the more he and his father-in-law the president are subject to compromising pressures at best and outright blackmail at worst,” constitutional lawyer Larry Tribe tells me. “The fact that Kushner, without full security clearance, is permitted to peruse the president’s daily briefing, containing the most secret information that exists, makes all of Kushner’s financial obligations and debts urgent threats to our national security. This situation is unconscionable.”

Does anyone seriously think that Trump and the Kushners are above compromising American interests to make some money on the side? Of course they aren’t.

See also “Jared Kushner May Soon Be Working at TGI Fridays — If They’ll Have Him.”

When Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump accepted jobs as senior advisers to the president (a.k.a. “Dad”), they allegedly saw the gigs as stepping stones that would one day lead to a scenario in which one of them was president. But if the events of the past week (not to mention the past 15 months!) are any indication, political ascendance is not exactly in the cards for these two. Ivanka, of course, has her #WomenWhoWork hashtag to fall back on. Jared’s prospects, sadly, look less bright. His safety net—Kushner Cos.’s real-estate empire—is rapidly filling with holes, thanks in part to his own industry know-how, which could be charitably described as somewhat lacking.

Remember, neither Jared nor Ivanka have ever actually held jobs.

Speaking of security clearance — let’s look up the food chain a bit to Trump himself. Jonathan Chait writes that there’s a real possibility Trump is being blackmailed by Russia now.

Ronan Farrow’s new story shows that Trump habitually pays for sex. He had an affair with former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal, and offered her money after sex, which she turned down. At another point in the story, he offered adult entertainer Jessica Drake $10,000 for “her company.”

Farrow’s reporting also implies, without quite establishing as an absolute certainty, that Trump maintained a system for silencing his sexual partners. A network of sleazy operators, sometimes working in conjunction with National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, Trump’s close friend, would pay off women to prevent their stories from seeing the light of day. In any case, previous reporting by The Wall Street Journal has already established that Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid at least one of his former mistresses to stay quiet.

So, we know Trump habitually pays for sex, and we also know he is willing to pay to keep embarrassing secrets from going public. That is to say, these secrets could be leveraged against him.

This renders the sleazier allegations from the Steele Dossier a lot more credible, Chait writes. Of course, even if they aren’t true, there’s a huge possibility that Trump has financial secrets Putin knows about and America doesn’t.

But I bet Bob Mueller will sniff them out, if he hasn’t already …

But certainly the Russian blackmail theory explains why Trump steadfastly refuses to do anything about Russia. See “Trump’s Conspicuous Silence Leaves a Struggle Against Russia Without a Leader.”

See also “Mueller levels new claim of bank fraud against Manafort.”

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Kill the Chicago Myth

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Trump Maladministration
I’m already seeing the gun nuts trot out the old myth that Chicago has the nation’s strictest gun control laws and the highest rates of gun violence. Neither statement is true.
 
Chicago used to have stricter gun control laws, but its 1982 ban on handguns was struck down by the courts in 2010. Illinois’s concealed carry ban was struck down two years later, and this applied to Chicago as well. Now its gun control laws are pretty standard, for the U.S.
 

Chicago does not have the strictest gun laws in the country. It’s time for gun lovers to stop spreading that lie.

A decade ago that was indeed a title Chicago wore proudly. We were the only major city that still had an ordinance banning residents from keeping a handgun in their home.

The handgun ban made us the primary target of the National Rifle Association and the Second Amendment Foundation, and in 2010 the U.S. Supreme Court forced Chicago to fall into line with the rest of the country.

Since then, the courts have peeled off so many layers of our once stellar gun ordinance that it’s barely recognizable. We’re still maneuvering to keep gun stores and shooting ranges from opening in the city limits. But the courts have ruled against us on that, too, so we know it’s just a matter of time.

So much for the nation’s strictest gun control laws (I believe that honor actually goes to New York City, which also has a much lower rate of gun violence than most other U.S. major cities).
 
But what about Chicago’s awful gun violence rate? Chicago has a lot of gun violence, that’s true. And if you look at raw numbers, Chicago does have more shooting victims than other cities. But Chicago also has more people than most other cities. When you look at the data adjusted for population — killings per 100,000 residents — a different story unfolds, and Chicago falls way down the list. For many years the honor of most gun killings per capita has been held by New Orleans. I understand St. Louis is currently #2, having overtaken Detroit in recent years. Then we’ve got Baltimore, Oakland, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Memphis, Buffalo, District of Columbia, Stockton, Miami, Milwaukee, and Pittsburgh. Then comes Chicago. New York — you know, the place that really does have tough gun control laws — isn’t in the top 20 at all.
 
So please, people, every time you see somebody spread the lie about Chicago gun laws and gun violence, set them straight. Thanks much.
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New Indictments from Mueller

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Trump Maladministration

While we were mourning the deaths in Florida, the Bob Mueller investigation has continued. So far we don’t know if anything the Russians did had any effect, and there’s no new word about hacking. But there’s no question the Russians were doing something. Here is some Hot news :

A federal grand jury has indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities for alleged interference in the 2016 presidential elections, during which they boosted the candidacy of Donald Trump, special counsel Robert Mueller‘s office said Friday.

The indictment says that a Russian organization called the Internet Research Agency sought to wage “information warfare” against the United States by using fictitious American personas and social media platforms and other Internet-based media.

The Russians posed as Americans to troll social media, buy advertising and hold rallies. Some of the Russians posed as Black Lives Matter. They also promoted Jill Stein. You do remember Stein.

One of the defendants is  Yevgeniy Prigozhin, who is profiled in the New York Times:

Despite his humble, troubled youth, Mr. Prigozhin became one of Russia’s richest men, joining a charmed circle whose members often share one particular attribute: their proximity to President Vladimir V. Putin. The small club of loyalists who gain Mr. Putin’s trust often feast, as Mr. Prigozhin has, on enormous state contracts. In return, they are expected to provide other, darker services to the Kremlin as needed.

On Friday, Mr. Prigozhin was one of 13 Russians indicted by the United States special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, for interfering in the American election.

According to the indictment, Mr. Prigozhin, 56, controlled the entity that financed the troll factory, known as the Internet Research Agency. He has denied involvement.

I understand there’s no indication in the indictments that any U.S. person knew what was going on. However,

In August 2016, Russian operatives communicated with Trump campaign staff in Florida through their “@donaldtrump.com” email addresses to coordinate a series of pro-Trump rallies in the state, according to Mueller, and then bought advertisements on social media to promote the events.

Also, too,

Former Trump campaign adviser Rick Gates is finalizing a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller’s office, indicating he’s poised to cooperate in the investigation, according to sources familiar with the case.

Gates has already spoken to Mueller’s team about his case and has been in plea negotiations for about a month. He’s had what criminal lawyers call a “Queen for a Day” interview, in which a defendant answers any questions from the prosecutors’ team, including about his own case and other potential criminal activity he witnessed.
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A Hard Rain Is Gonna Fall

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Trump Maladministration

I created this meme this morning.

This is what it comes down to, as far as I’m concerned: We can either continue to put up with gun nuts and cater to gun fetish culture, or we can stop mass shootings at schools. But we can’t do both. So what’s it gonna be?

Let us not lose sight of the fact that the FBI is investigating the NRA for allegedly funneling money from Russia into Donald Trump’s campaign. The NRA needs to go.

I have written a lot in the past about what I think needs to be done. Needless to say, the NRA wouldn’t like it. See especially:

Know Your Gunz

Why an Assault Weapons Ban Is Not Going to Help

Back to the Old Mental Illness Dodge

See also What Explains U.S. Mass Shootings? International Comparisons Suggest an Answer at the New York Times.

Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz belonged to a white supremacist group. Of course he did.  It’s a syndrome.

There’s a guy on the teevee right now talking about “mental health issue.” It’s not a “mental health issue.”  Most mass shooters have no definable mental illness. Mass shooters tend to be hotheads, but they aren’t hearing voices. Yes they may be “troubled,” but there are plenty of “troubled” people running around loose in other countries. The difference is that in those other countries it is much more difficult for them to get their hands on semiautomatic weapons. And that’s the only difference.

Now the guy on the teevee is saying we need to monitor social media. So are we going to investigate every hotheaded jerk who posts violent images on Instagram? Seriously?

No, people we need to make it a lot harder for people to get their hands on semiautomatic guns. And we need to start shaming gun nuts at every opportunity. They are pathetic excuses for human beings; their proclivities are not to be tolerated.

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White House Lied About Porter’s Security Clearance, and Other Insecurity News

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Trump Maladministration

The White House claimed that Rob Porter’s background check was still pending when he was ousted last week. Today FBI Director Christopher Wray let it be known the FBI had completed Porter’s background check in July.

“What I can tell you is that the FBI submitted a partial report on the investigation in question in March, and then a completed background investigation in late July,” he said, noting that the FBI “followed the established protocol” with Porter.

“Soon thereafter we received requests for follow-up inquiry and we did the follow-up and provided that information in November. And then we administratively closed the file in January,” he continued. “And then earlier this month we received some additional information and we passed that on as well.”

White House spokesperson Raj Shah told “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday, describing the White House’s position, that Porter’s background check “had not been completed yet. It was still in the investigative process and had yet to be adjudicated. So prior to an adjudication, the White House is not going to step into the middle of a process and short circuit it.”

The FBI, however, doesn’t give security clearances.

People familiar with the process for obtaining clearance said the FBI does not make any final decisions or recommendations and that the White House, specifically the counsel’s office and the security office, would have been heavily involved in deciding whether to grant Porter clearance.

Porter is among multiple West Wing aides still working on interim clearances, according to administration officials. …

… At Tuesday’s hearing, director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said that people with temporary security clearance should get only limited access to sensitive, classified information, calling the process “broken.” Coats did not mention any individuals.

“Sometimes it is necessary to have some type of preliminary clearance in order to fill a slot, but … access has to be limited in terms of the kinds of information they can be in a position to receive or not receive,” Coats said. “It needs to be reformed.”

So, this security clearance screwup is entirely the White House’s screwup.

Daniel Coats, the director of national intelligence, addressed the situation with Russian interference with elections.

“There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts” to disrupt the 2016 presidential campaign “as a success,” and it “views the 2018 midterm elections” as another opportunity to conduct an attack, said Coats.

His assessment was echoed by all five other intelligence agency heads present at the hearing, including CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who two weeks ago stated publicly he had “every expectation” that Russia will try to influence the coming elections.

Sen. Mark R. Warner commented,

“What we are seeing is a continuous assault by Russia to target and undermine our democratic institutions, and they are going to keep coming at us.”

“Despite all of this, the president inconceivably continues to deny the threat posed by Russia,” Warner continued. “He didn’t increase sanctions on Russia when he had a chance to do so. He hasn’t even tweeted a single concern. This threat demands a whole-of-government response, and that needs to start with leadership at the top.”

See also Why there’s so much chaos in the Trump administration by Ezra Klein.

Update: Since this morning, Sarah Sanders has been reduced to admitting she doesn’t know what the bleep is going on (“Obviously the press team’s not going to be as read-in, maybe, as some other elements, at a given moment, on a variety of topics.”) Axios reports that John Kelly is becoming more isolated. Nobody is saying whether Trump knew that Porter was a bad security risk, or not.

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Trump’s Infrastructure Plan: Sell off the Infrastructure

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Trump Maladministration

No. Just no.

The Trump administration is making a push to sell off federal assets as part of its infrastructure plan released Monday.

Among the targets: Reagan National and Dulles International airports and two major parkways serving the Washington region, as well as power assets around the country, according to a copy of the proposal.

Power transmission assets from the Tennessee Valley Authority; the Southwestern Power Administration, which sells power in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas; the Western Area Power Administration; and the Bonneville Power Administration, covering the Pacific northwest, were cited for potential divestiture. The Washington Aqueduct, which supplies drinking water in D.C. and Northern Virginia, also is on the list.

This isn’t fixing; it’s dumping.

“The Federal Government owns and operates certain infrastructure that would be more appropriately owned by State, local, or private entities,” the Trump plan says. It calls for giving federal agencies “authority to divest of Federal assets where the agencies can demonstrate an increase in value from the sale would optimize the taxpayer value.”

I don’t even know what that last sentence means.  What it says to me is that Trump’s going to have a fire sale to benefit his corporate buddies, who will charge us citizen-rubes more in tolls and fees than we are paying in taxes for the same thing.

Some state officials said they were uncertain about how their residents would benefit from such a proposal. Federal assets come with crucial federal dollars that could not easily be replaced, officials said.

The states probably don’t want this stuff and don’t have the resources to take care of them. Or else, state taxes would have to go up.

The whole point of the plan is to pretend you’re doing something about infrastructure without spending any money.

The first thing you need to know about Donald Trump’s $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan is that it is, in fact, a $200 billion infrastructure plan. For those keeping score at home, it’s $200 billion from Washington and another $1.3 trillion dollars of state, local, and private money to be determined at a later date.

It comes out to $20 billion a year, over 10 years—a modest increase in the federal outlay for building projects. The government routinely spends several times that amount on this stuff: In 2014, for example, Washington spent $96 billion on transportation and water alone. Trump wants this new money to cover those projects—plus rural broadband and power, Superfund sites, and perhaps even commercial space travel.

About that $200 billion, though. It’s not being funded by, say, finally raising the federal gas tax. (That levy hasn’t changed in more than two decades, and it falls far short of paying for the Highway Trust Fund.) Instead, the plan depends on shifting the money from other parts of the government—including the departments charged with funding transportation and water projects. In Trump’s budget, which was also released today, the discretionary budget for the Department of Transportation falls by $3.7 billion; the EPA’s is cut by $2.8 billion. More broadly, the Center for American Progress says it has counted $281 billion in infrastructure cuts in the budget—making the two proposals a net negative for infrastructure spending.

The particular details of how Trump is proposing to parcel out the money are, however, basically irrelevant because of the White House’s stance on financing the program. …
…The really big question about Trump and infrastructure, ever since he won the election, is whether he actually wants to get something done on this or if it was just a campaign line. This proposal answers that question pretty definitively — by mashing up Trump’s vague rhetoric with his staff’s conventional hard-right politics, they’ve landed on a formula with no bipartisan appeal and no actual path forward.
Speaking of infrastructure, what’s up with Amtrak? There have been a string of passenger rail accidents with fatalities lately. Not that Trump noticed, but I have seen these things on the teevee.
Politico reports that the head of the acting chief of the Federal Railroad Administration resigned over the weekend because running railroads was getting in the way of his day job:

A top official charged with overseeing the safety of the nation’s railroads has resigned “effective immediately,” the Department of Transportation said Saturday after POLITICO raised questions about whether he was simultaneously working as a public relations consultant in Mississippi.

The news comes at a time of strain for the Federal Railroad Administration, which hasn’t had a permanent leader for more than a year while it investigates a string of fatal train crashes and deals with a rising trend of rail-related deaths.

Heath Hall became the Federal Railroad Administration’s acting chief after being appointed deputy administrator in June. But he subsequently appeared at least twice in local media reports last summer as a sheriff’s department spokesman in Madison County, Mississippi, where he has long run a public relations and political consulting firm.

The firm also continued to receive payments from the county for its services from July through December, despite Hall’s pledge in a federal ethics form that the business would be “dormant” while he worked at DOT. And Tiffany Lindemann, a former FRA public affairs official who left the agency in September, told POLITICO this week that she had fielded at least three requests from a Mississippi television journalist seeking to speak with Hall during the summer.

This was during a period when Hall was in charge of an agency with a $1.7 billion budget, overseeing the safety of 760 railroads, a multibillion-dollar freight rail industry and the safety of millions of passengers.

Hall has been on an extended leave of absence since last month due to what the FRA has described as a family emergency. But DOT officials said Saturday, after reviewing POLITICO’s latest questions, that his departure is now permanent.

This guy wasn’t supposed to be running railroads, anyway. A vote on Trump’s nominee, Ron Batory, has been held up by Chuck Schumer, who is holding out for federal money for a massive rail project in and around New York City.
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House of Bad Security Clowns

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Trump Maladministration

Conservative opinion writer Kathleen Parker explains why Rob Porter was kept at his job without a security clearance. He was one of the few people working at the White House “who knew how to do anything,” Parker says.

Most likely, Rob Porter was deemed too valuable to the White House given that he, and virtually no one else, including the president and Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, understood how the legislative branch of government works. Whatever his military achievements, Kelly may be the least-qualified chief of staff in recent history, including his lackluster predecessor, Reince Priebus, who is James A. Baker III by comparison. …

… Kelly has pleaded ignorance about Porter’s alleged abusive background, saying he only recently found out about it. But it appears that Kelly was informed last fall and that White House Counsel Donald McGahn knew a year ago. The Post reported Thursday: “When McGahn informed Kelly this fall about the reason for the security clearance holdup, he agreed that Porter should remain.” …

… The shock and awe emanating from the White House about Porter aren’t so much a commentary on the man, but testament to the surreal and potentially perilous incompetence surrounding the president.

I would have left out “potentially,” but yeah.

Dozens of White House staff lack permanent security clearances. This includes Jared Kushner; officials say he is not expected to receive a security clearance in the near future.

The president’s son-in-law and close adviser has been allowed to see materials, including the President’s Daily Brief, that are among the most sensitive in government. He has been afforded that privilege even though he has only an interim clearance and is a focus in the ongoing special counsel investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to influence the election.

Get this–

Those in [White House Counsel Donald] McGahn’s office, people familiar with the matter said, feel they cannot take action on other people whose background checks have dragged on because they did not take similar steps with Kushner.

Porter and Kushner and who know who else in the White House surely had and have access to all the intelligence given to Trump, including his famously dumbed-down daily briefs that he apparently can’t read, but which have to be explained to him.

Trump, the Post reports, “has opted to rely on an oral briefing of select intelligence issues” because reading the brief — which every president has been able to do since its existence began — “is not Trump’s preferred ‘style of learning,’ according to a person with knowledge of the situation.”

Trump does not receive his verbal briefing daily, but instead “about every two to three days on average in recent months, typically around 11 a.m.” That’s when “executive time” ends and Trump has to turn off Fox News to listen to officials for a while, before he gets more screen time later in the day.

And then he can’t be bothered to listen to the explanations:

The early briefing sessions had a more freewheeling quality, according to current and former administration officials. Five or more White House aides might join Trump for the briefing, in addition to his briefer and intelligence officials.

The meetings were often dominated by whatever topic most interested the president that day. Trump would discuss the news of the day or a tweet he sent about North Korea or the border wall — or anything else on his mind, two people familiar with the briefings said.

On such days, there would only be a few minutes left — and the briefers would have barely broached the topics they came to discuss, one senior U.S. official said.

This causes one to suspect that people like Kelly, Porter and Kushner are the ones really driving anything the White House actually does. Kushner’s prior experience at being a big shot include turning the once-respected New York Observer into a combination Trump propaganda rag / shopping circular for the Upper West Side and blowing the family fortune on an overpriced white elephant on Fifth Avenue. If he ever actually succeeded at anything, I must have missed it. On top of that, he deliberately falsified security clearance forms and has extensive foreign business ties that ought to have disqualified him for a White House job by themselves.

As for John Kelly, he obviously has failed to bring order to the White House. He also is an immigration hard liner who was among those who were behind the scuttling of the Graham-Durbin budget deal at the “shithole” meeting.

Just three weeks ago, Kelly was being called “President Kelly” at the right-wing National Review. “Donald Trump runs a Twitter account. President John Kelly is running the administration,” Kevin Williamson wrote. Yes, but running it badly.

This is Trump’s latest tweet, btw.

 

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Outrage Fatigue Has Set In

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Trump Maladministration

I’m having a hard time working up any outrage over the Rob Porter scandal. Of course the White House was harboring a domestic abuser. Of course they knew about it and protected him. Of course nobody bothered to ask about his missing security clearance. Of course Porter handled intelligence briefings. Of course Trumpies don’t see what the big bleeping deal is. What else is new? Those people don’t rise to the level of “amateurs.”

Charles Pierce:

The simple fact is that the White House is out of anyone’s control because the president* is out of anyone’s control. (As is his hairwhich appears to be preparing for its annual migration to the forests of Guatemala any day now.) The simple fact is that Rob Porter found a job in the White House that he could keep—for a while, anyway—despite what his bosses knew about his history of domestic violence, because his ultimate boss has faced plenty of his own accusations and ended up becoming the damn President* of the United States. The fish is a bully from the head down. The president* certainly had a lot to talk about with the other guests at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday morning.

See here why John Kelly might be the next contestant booted off the island.

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Here Are Your Goose Steppers, Donnie

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Trump Maladministration

You’ve probably heard that The Creature has decided that U.S. military personnel are his personal trained monkeys and has demanded that the Pentagon give him a big military parade “like the one in France.” He’s referring to a Bastille Day parade he saw last year.

France has had Bastille Day parades since 1880 to commemorate one of the world’s most significant populist uprisings. If France wants to do that, it’s fine with me. But what does Trump want to commemorate other than “I got a bigger military than you do”?

Rick Noack writes at WaPo,

France’s Bastille Day parade, which has persisted through two world wars and a Nazi occupation, has also been used to emphasize a very different message, which could be summarized as: We are only strong together. What Trump may have missed while watching the Paris parade last July was that its organizers have frequently invited foreign troops — from Morocco and India to the United States, Britain and Germany — to march alongside French soldiers or to even lead the procession. Instead of the French flag, French soldiers sometimes wave the European Union flag, even though the political bloc does not have its own army.

And Trump?

On a continent where Trump has never had many supporters, defense analysts worried on Wednesday whether the president’s possible misunderstanding of military traditions was a sign of a broader problem. “At what point does healthy appreciation for the military turn into unhealthy obsession?” asked German defense expert Marcel Dirsus. Brian Klaas, a fellow at the London School of Economics, referred to Trump’s plan as a “strongman military parade” and  an addition to “Trump’s wannabe despot checklist.” …

… “Trump plays with the subject so carelessly and recklessly as if it were some kind of video game,” Aaron David Miller, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars who has advised several secretaries of state, said on Twitter. “My head’s exploding.”

The way Trump discusses nuclear weapons echoes a pattern observed among military officials in the past, researchers have noted. They were referring to a 1985 study by Carol Cohn, who analyzed military remarks that compared nuclear war with “an act of boyish mischief.”

Cohn said that those kinds of remarks were an expression of a “competition for manhood” and “a way of minimizing the seriousness of militarist endeavors, of denying their deadly consequences.” She concluded that they posed a “tremendous danger” in real life.

The next question is, how much would the damn thing cost? NBC News:

President George H. W. Bush held a military parade in Washington on June 8, 1991, to mark victory in the Persian Gulf War. The cost of that parade was $12 million, according to a C-SPAN report at the time, which amounts to about $21 million once adjusted for inflation. At the time it was called the biggest victory celebration in Washington since the end of World War II, with a crowd of around 200,000.

I doubt that Gulf War parade measured up to what France does every year, so it wouldn’t be big enough for Trump. The NBC News story quotes politicians of both parties expressing queasiness at the potential cost as well as at the appropriateness of tanks and big weapons, possibly nuclear, being paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue.

The Pentagon is exploring the idea of holding Trump’s Parade on November 11 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. That would make it less political, they think. But that’s all wrong for the Armistice plus 100, I say. For the end of World War I there should be lots of children with doves and flowers, not military stuff.

I say the Pentagon should tell The Creature to blow it up his ass. If he wants a parade, he can hire these guys:

Or, if he’s so taken with France’s Bastille Day, maybe we can round up a few hundred thousand people and re-create it by storming the White House? If someone else wants to organize that, I’m in.

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The Trump Administration’s Opioid “Policy” Is a Bad Joke

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Trump Maladministration

Well, strictly speaking, Trump doesn’t seem to have an opioid policy. He made big promises to address the opioid crisis on the campaign trail. But as president the drug problem has slipped his mind. Last October he directed the Department of Health and Human Services to declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency, which seemed to indicate he was about to do something

“No part of our society — not young or old, rich or poor, urban or rural — has been spared this plague of drug addiction and this horrible, horrible situation that’s taken place with opioids,” Mr. Trump said during an elaborate and emotional ceremony in the East Room of the White House, attended by families affected by opioid abuse, members of Congress and administration officials. “This epidemic is a national health emergency.”

To combat the epidemic, the president said the government would produce “really tough, really big, really great advertising” aimed at persuading Americans not to start using opioids in the first place, seeming to hark back to the “Just Say No” antidrug campaign led by Nancy Reagan in the 1980s.

“This was an idea that I had, where if we can teach young people not to take drugs,” Mr. Trump said, “it’s really, really easy not to take them.” He shared the story of his brother Fred, who he said had struggled with alcohol addiction throughout his life and implored Mr. Trump never to take a drink — advice the president said he had heeded.

“We are going to overcome addiction in America,” the president said.

That’s about as much of a drug policy as we’ve seen so far. There was no follow up even to that much. Brianna Ehley wrote for Politico in last month,

President Donald Trump in October promised to “liberate” Americans from the “scourge of addiction,” officially declaring a 90-day public health emergency that would urgently mobilize the federal government to tackle the opioid epidemic.

That declaration runs out on Jan. 23, and beyond drawing more attention to the crisis, virtually nothing of consequence has been done.

Today we read that Kellyanne Conway is sabotaging what little was being done to address the crisis. Brianna Ehley and Sarah Karlin-Smith write,

President Donald Trump’s war on opioids is beginning to look more like a war on his drug policy office.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway has taken control of the opioids agenda, quietly freezing out drug policy professionals and relying instead on political staff to address a lethal crisis claiming about 175 lives a day. The main response so far has been to call for a border wall and to promise a “just say no” campaign.

Trump is expected to propose massive cuts this month to the “drug czar” office, just as he attempted in last year’s budget before backing off. He hasn’t named a permanent director for the office, and the chief of staff was sacked in December. For months, the office’s top political appointee was a 24-year-old Trump campaign staffer with no relevant qualifications. Its senior leadership consists of a skeleton crew of three political appointees, down from nine a year ago.

“It’s fair to say the ONDCP has pretty much been systematically excluded from key decisions about opioids and the strategy moving forward,” said a former Trump administration staffer, using shorthand for the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which has steered federal drug policy since the Reagan years.

The office’s acting director, Rich Baum, who had served in the office for decades before Trump tapped him as the temporary leader, has not been invited to Conway’s opioid cabinet meetings, according to his close associates.

See also  Eric Levitz at New York magazine, “Trump Has Given Victims of the Opioid Crisis Nothing But Contempt“; Jeremy Binckes, “Trump administration gives up on being serious about the opioid crisis“; Denis Slattery and Christopher Brennan, “Kellyanne Conway opts for Trump cabinet members over drug policy experts for opioid epidemic meetings: report.

Levitz writes,

The year Donald Trump was elected president, drug overdoses killed 63,600 Americans. That was 21 percent more drug deaths than America had seen in 2015, which had been the worst year for such fatalities in our nation’s history. It was also more unnatural deaths than gun violence, HIV/AIDS, or car accidents had ever caused in the United States in a single year. The scale of devastation wrought by the opioid epidemic was so vast, life expectancy in the United States fell for the second consecutive year — the first time that had happened since the early 1960s.

The epidemic’s body count was almost certainly higher in 2017, according to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If the use of synthetic opioids like fentanyl continues to grow at its current rate, Stat News forecasts that more than 650,000 Americans will die from drug overdoses over the next decade — which is to say, slightly more than one would expect to perish if a foreign military power incinerated the entire city of Baltimore.

And yet, in his first State of the Union address, Trump did not offer a single concrete policy proposal for combating this “public health emergency.” Instead, he promised to get “much tougher on drug dealers and pushers”; “get treatment for those in need”; and pass restrictive immigration reforms — asserting, without evidence, that building a border wall and ending “chain migration” would “support our response to the terrible crisis of opioid and drug addiction.”

So, about addressing the opioid crisis … never mind.

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