Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Will Putin-Gate Lead To Impeachment?


Looks like his decision to not seek reelection has set Jason Chaffetz free from at least some partisan obligations to the Trumpist Regime. Watch that video above. Responding to a question about Trump/Putin crony Michael Flynn, Chaffetz said "As a former military officer, you simply cannot take money from Russia, Turkey or anybody else. And it appears as if he did take that money. It was inappropriate. And there are repercussions for the violation of law." CNN reported that "The announcement about Flynn comes a week after CNN reported that Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and a senior adviser to the President, has yet to detail to the federal government all of his foreign contacts, a condition of receiving his top secret security clearance, CNN has learned. When Kushner first submitted his forms to the FBI, he left the section about foreign contacts blank-- despite the fact that he had met with a large number of foreign emissaries and leaders once Donald Trump became the president-elect and he became the point man for international contacts for the incoming Trump administration."

Trumpist flack Spicy Spice then went on the air to say that Chaffetz's and the House Oversight Committee’s request for documents on Flynn is "pretty outlandish," defending the Regime's shocking denial of the request. The number of Americans who want an independent, non-partisan professional investigation into Putin-Gate has been growing by leaps and bounds, According to the new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll the number of Americans who want an independent probe is now 73%. And 61% of respondents say they have little to no confidence in Congress conducting a fair and impartial investigation into Russia's involvement in the 2016 election.

Putin-Gate is now a giant octopus of interconnected scandals that is quickly swallowing the entire Trump Regime. It's no longer just about Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone and Carter Page-- all of whom are likely to see prison terms-- but has spread right to the top, including Kushner-in-law. Devin Nunes, head of the Intelligence Committee was forced to recuse himself from the investigation (as was Attorney General Jeff Sessions) and Nunes is now under investigation himself for having participated in a coverup.

Yesterday Politico reported that Flynn's stint as a secret lobbyist for Turkey was tied to-- wait for it-- Putin!
The Turkish man who gave Mike Flynn a $600,000 lobbying deal just before President Donald Trump picked him to be national security adviser has business ties to Russia, including a 2009 aviation financing deal negotiated with Vladimir Putin, according to court records.

The man, Ekim Alptekin, has in recent years helped to coordinate Turkish lobbying in Washington with Dmitri “David” Zaikin, a Soviet-born former executive in Russian energy and mining companies who also has had dealings with Putin’s government, according to three people with direct knowledge of the activities.

This unusual arrangement, in which Alptekin and Zaikin have helped steer Turkish lobbying through various groups since at least 2015, raises questions about both the agenda of the two men and the source of the funds used to pay the lobbyists.

Although Turkey is a NATO ally, its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has grown increasingly authoritarian and friendly with Putin. And the hiring of Flynn by Alptekin came at a time when Flynn was working for Trump’s campaign and Putin’s government was under investigation for interfering with the U.S. election.

Flynn’s lawyer, Robert Kelner, declined to comment. In a filing with the Justice Department, Flynn said he relied on assurances from Alptekin that he was not directly or indirectly funded by a foreign government. But shifting explanations and a web of business ties raise questions about the arrangement.

Flynn has offered evolving accounts of his lobbying work for Alptekin. In September, Flynn reported his client as a Dutch shell company owned by Alptekin. After being forced to leave the White House-- reportedly because he lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations during the transition with the Russian ambassador-- Flynn filed new paperwork in March acknowledging that his lobbying work “principally benefitted” the Turkish government.

The revelation of Russian business ties to the man who hired Flynn-- which has not been previously reported-- threatens to complicate the White House’s struggle to escape the shadow of the FBI investigation into whether members of the Trump campaign coordinated with Russian agents.

Flynn has been a focus for concerns about Russian ties to both the Trump campaign, for which he was a key adviser and surrogate, and the Trump administration, in which, as national security adviser, he had access to the most sensitive state secrets.
Yesterday's NY Times reported that the same Kremlin hackers who put Trump into the White House have begun working on winning the French election for neo-Nazi Marine Le Pen. Nicole Perlroth wrote that "The campaign of the French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron has been targeted by what appear to be the same Russian operatives responsible for hacks of Democratic campaign officials before last year’s American presidential election, a cybersecurity firm warns in a new report. The report has heightened concerns that Russia may turn its playbook on France in an effort to harm Mr. Macron’s candidacy and bolster that of Mr. Macron’s rival, the National Front leader Marine Le Pen, in the final weeks of the French presidential campaign. Security researchers at the cybersecurity firm, Trend Micro, said that on March 15 they spotted a hacking group they believe to be a Russian intelligence unit turn its weapons on Mr. Macron’s campaign-- sending emails to campaign officials and others with links to fake websites designed to bait them into turning over passwords. The group began registering several decoy internet addresses last month and as recently as April 15, naming one and another to mimic the name of Mr. Macron’s political party, En Marche. Those websites were registered to a block of web addresses that Trend Micro’s researchers say belong to the Russian intelligence unit they refer to as Pawn Storm, but is alternatively known as Fancy Bear, APT 28 or the Sofacy Group. American and European intelligence agencies and American private security researchers determined that the group was responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee last year."

Putin has his intelligence forces going all in to do in France and Germany exactly what he was able to a chief in the U.S.-- undermine democracy and placing political leadership into the hands of a divisive, incompetent and friendly politician. It's worth mentioning that the Republican passage of Jeff Flake's bill to allow internet service providers to sell everyone's personal information-- which was swiftly and secretly signed by Trump-- will make these kinds of operations-- allowing the Russians to gain access to the campaigns' email accounts-- all the easier.
“The phishing pages we are talking about are very personalized web pages to look like the real address,” Mr. Mahjoubi added. Anyone could easily think he was logging into his own email. “They were pixel perfect,” he said Monday night. “It’s exactly the same page. That means there was talent behind it and time went into it: talent, money, experience, time and will.”

The goal was to obtain the email passwords of campaign staff members so a cyberattacker could lurk unseen inside an email account reading confidential correspondence. “If you are speed reading as you sign on, and everybody speed reads online, it’s something you might not notice,” Mr. Mahjoubi said. “For instance, it uses a hyphen instead of a dot, and if you are speed reading you don’t look at the URL.”

Unlike the attacks aimed at Mrs. Clinton’s staff, those directed at the Macron camp, Mr. Mahjoubi said, failed to gain access to any email accounts used by the candidate or his lieutenants.

This winter, the campaign’s website also came under attack. The attacks coincided with highly slanted articles about Mr. Macron on the French language services of Sputnik and RT, formerly Russia Today. Both are state-funded Russian news media outlets.

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Trump Continues To Make It Impossible For Congressional Republicans To Govern


Everything Trump puts his hand to turns to crap. Yesterday even Rush Limbaugh accused him of being, in effect, a loser. "I’m not happy to have to pass this on. I’m very, very troubled to have to pass this on. And I want to say at the outset that I hope my interpretation is wrong, and I hope this is not the case. But it looks like, from here, right here, right now, it looks like President Trump is caving on his demand for a measly $1 billion in the budget for his wall on the border with Mexico." Trump isn't fit for any government position under any circumstance and the fact that this ignorant crook is president and has some role in governance is just crazy. But this is exactly what conservatism leads to.

Even GOP corporate whores in Congress think Trump's push to cut corporate taxes from 35% down to 15% is insane and potentially extremely damaging to the economy. It would send the national debt into the stratosphere. Since this kind of thing can't be passed under reconciliation, Trump would need all the Senate Republicans and a handful of Democrats to get this passed, even if it manages to pass the House. Ryan is trying to help by offering to use a border adjustment tax (BAT) to raise a trillion dollars but even that isn't enough and not even Trump likes the tax. Club For Growth is on the warpath over it already and has been targeting Republican congressmembers who back it. Look at this ad they're running in Houston against vulnerable GOP doofus John Culberson:

Yesterday the Washington Post reported that Congress' Joint Committee on Taxation found that even Ryan's plan to cut the corporate tax rate to 20% would lead to massive revenue losses-- in the realm of nearly half a trillion dollars. The Joint Committee found that "cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent in 2018, 2019  and 2020 would lead to a decline in tax revenue collected those years by roughly one-third. And tax receipts would continue falling-- albeit only slightly-- in subsequent years, in part because companies would rush to repatriate money they are holding overseas during the tax holiday. The result would be reduced taxes on those foreign profits in future years."
While Ryan and other House Republicans are advocating a reduction in the corporate tax rate to 20 percent, President Trump wants the corporate rate lowered to 15 percent, which would lead to an even bigger drop in revenue, although the committee did not provide an estimate for such a change. The White House is expected to reveal more details of its tax plan Wednesday.

“We note that we project a nonnegligible revenue loss in the tax years immediately following the budget window notwithstanding the temporary nature of the tax reduction,” says the letter, which was signed by Thomas Barthold, the Joint Committee’s chief of staff.

The letter illustrates how even a temporary cut in the corporate tax rate could create major revenue challenges. It also shows how difficult it would be for Republicans to pass long-term changes to the tax code. Under Senate rules, a permanent tax cut that is expected to expand the deficit needs 60 votes to pass-- a major obstacle for Republicans, who control only 52 seats in the chamber. Without 60 votes, Republicans would be able to pass only temporary tax cuts, and the three-year cut referred to in the Joint Committee’s letter probably would not qualify, because of the reductions in taxes in later years.
The bullshit artist in the Oval Office is using the oldest trick in the book-- long discredited-- to pull the wool over everyone's eyes, claiming that his "proposed tax cuts would not lead to an increase in the deficit, because they would lead to a boom in economic growth, creating new tax revenue. But when congressional budget scorekeepers evaluate the bill, they won't use that growth assumption to determine whether the legislation will expand the deficit. Trump administration officials have also said lowering the corporate tax rate will create new incentives for companies to bring jobs back to the United States, and they have said it will also lead companies to bring trillions of dollars being held overseas back to their U.S. headquarters."

Progressives in Congress saw right through Trump's little kindergarten tricks. Ted Lieu: "I can explain in one word why the Trump tax plan and Trumpcare are both disasters: math.  No matter how hard the President and Republicans spin it, 2 + 2 will never equal 5... Despite this mathematically impossible spin, a cold, hard fact remains: the Trump tax plan does not pay for itself. It doesn’t even come close. America is a great nation, but we haven’t yet discovered magic. In the real world, the rules of math always apply.  Instead of paying for itself, the Trump tax plan-- particularly it’s slashing of the business tax rate to 15% without offsetting revenue increases-- will blow a 'bigly' hole in our nation’s budget, federal deficit and federal debt."

The House Republican plan, which seeks a 20 percent tax rate, includes changes to the corporate tax structure that would raise taxes on imports. This change, frequently called a “border adjustment tax,” would bring in roughly $1 trillion in new revenue over one year, according to estimates. The committee's letter did not factor in the potential new revenue that could come from a border adjustment tax.

The Trump administration has not said what types of new tax changes it might seek to offset the big drop in revenue from rate cuts.

The conservative-leaning Tax Foundation, a think tank, has estimated that it would take substantial economic growth to offset Trump's proposed 15 percent corporate tax rate, something it estimated was not achievable without other changes. For example, it projected that the tax cuts would have to lead to an increase in annual gross domestic product by 0.9 percent per year  to create enough revenue to offset the cuts. Rather, it estimates that the cut would lead to an increase in annual growth of 0.4 percent.
Julie Davis and Alan Rappeport warned NY Times readers this morning that the Regime's tax plan was written for billionaires-- and especially for family companies like... the Trump Organization. There is a a modest cut for middle-income people in the form of a small increase in the standard deduction for individuals but it puts off "the difficult part of a tax overhaul: closing loopholes and increasing other taxes to limit the impact of tax cuts on the budget deficit."
Republicans are likely to embrace the plan’s centerpiece, substantial tax reductions for businesses large and small, even as they push back against the jettisoning of their border adjustment tax. The 15 percent rate would apply both to corporations, which now pay 35 percent, and to a broad range of firms known as pass-through entities-- including hedge funds, real estate concerns like Mr. Trump’s and large partnerships-- that currently pay taxes at individual rates, which top off at 39.6 percent. That hews closely to the proposal Mr. Trump championed during his campaign.

But Mr. Trump’s decision to extend the corporate tax cut to real estate conglomerates like his own will give Democrats a tailor-made line of attack.

“Yesterday, we learned President Trump wants to slash the corporate tax rate, even though corporations already dodge most of their tax responsibilities while making record profits,” said Frank Clemente, executive director of the liberal Americans for Tax Fairness. “Today, we find out it’s even worse. In trying to slash taxes for ‘pass through’ business entities, Trump is seeking to dramatically reduce his own tax bill.”

...[F]inding ways to offset the large revenue reductions envisioned in the blueprint would be a challenge... The border adjustment tax may be revisited later but was considered too controversial to include now.

...Most analysts say the notion that Mr. Trump’s tax cuts will pay for themselves is unrealistic. A Tax Foundation analysis concluded this week that, on its own, a 15 percent corporate tax rate would reduce federal revenue by about $2 trillion over a decade. To make up for those losses without raising taxes elsewhere, the economy would have to become 5 percent larger.

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GOP Dysfunction And Failure Are Attracting Quality Candidates To Congressional Races


Back in February 34% of Americans were very confident that Ryan's plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act would make healthcare better. Does that sound like a small number of people? Since then, people have had a chance to see Ryan's concrete plans (TrumpCare) and according to the new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll that number has shrunk... to 8%. And a Washington Post poll shows something even more bizarre, namely that large numbers of Trump voters reject the actual core ideas around which the Republican health plan is premised. For example, a majority of these Trump voters-- just like normal people-- favor a national ban on hiking premiums on preexisting conditions. Turning this into a potentially even more toxic brew is the revelation that most voters in key swing states which Trump carried--Florida, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania-- now finally understand that Trump is a liar. Just over half of the Republicans in those states say he exaggerates the truth, while close to 70% of Democrats say he intentionally lies. Luckily for Señor Trumpanzee, most voters (84%) operate from an assumption that all Republican politicians lie and that he's isn't special in that way.

How many 2018 Republican-held House seats does this imperil? That same Wall Street Journal/NBC poll found that dissatisfaction with congressional Republicans in general and with Paul Ryan in particular is growing exponentially. Only 22% of voters now see Paul Ryan positively-- and nearly double that number have a negative impression of him. In February there was just a 1% gap between those who liked him and those who didn't. The gap is now 18%-- and not in Ryan's favor. Only one in five Americans think Congress-- completely controlled by the Republican Party-- is doing a satisfactory job.

Just in the last two days, more grassroots (as opposed to DCCC-imposed) Democratic congressional candidates have come on the radar. A progressive emergency room nurse, activist and former Riverbank city councilwoman, Dotty Nygard, tossed her hat into the ring for the CA-10 seat held by confused Republican Jeff Denham. The Central Valley district, which stretches from Tracy, Manteca and Riverbank in the north through Modesto and down to Turlock and Newman in the south, saw Obama win twice and Hillary beat Trump 48.5% to 45.5% while the DCCC screwed up the congressional races in this white minority district again and again and again. In her Facebook statement she said that "an elected representative should embody the ideals, strengths, and spirit of the people they represent. Equally important, they must understand the concerns and struggles we face as individuals and as a community. An elected official must show leadership and dedication to their constituents, rather than sacrifice our future to the highest bidder. Here's my pledge to you: I will bring back the caring, compassion, and community that is often lost in the mundane, indifferent, business-as-usual culture in Washington and our Political establishment. I am running for congress to say enough is enough on your behalf!"

NO MORE playing politics with our Healthcare,

NO MORE playing politics with our natural resources,

NO MORE playing politics with our children's education or our ability to earn a living wage and support our families.
"We deserve better! We need to preserve and protect the nation's leading agricultural industry here within our rich Central Valley soils. The future sustainability of our region hangs in the balance, and will be decided at the voting booth in 2018. We must embrace our diversity and respect the tradition of immigration at the core of our Nation's heritage. I will stand FOR you, and I will march WITH you! Our needs and values should NOT be lost in the political process but our voices should be heard THROUGH it."

Another crucial Central Valley race is starting to take shape due south of CA-10, down the 99 Freeway past Merced and Madera, you get to Fresno and Visalia, the two main cities in CA-22, Devin Nunes' district. The DCCC has never challenged Nunes but he's made such a spectacle of himself over Putin-Gate that interest in ending his career in Congress is now sky-high. Yesterday the first candidate to jump into the race was Fresno County prosecutor Andrew Janz, a 33 year old who told the Fresno Bee that he's "not a politician; I’ve never considered running for Congress until recently.
Republicans hold a significant voter registration advantage in the district-- 42.8 percent of voters identify themselves as Republicans, compared to 32.8 percent Democrats. But a significant proportion of the voters-- more than 19 percent-- listed no party preference on their registration as of February.

Janz said he’s undaunted and believes there may be some momentum building toward the 2018 election because of Trump’s volatile, confrontational style and proposals over health care and taxes. “I feel like I have a connection with the district,” he said. “I believe I share the values of a lot of the people in the district.”

While he’s a lifelong Democrat, “I’m not the type of person who votes the party line,” Janz said. “I’m willing to listen to anyone… I’m going to focus on building a coalition of progressives, moderates and people who share the values of the area.”
And Sunday, on the other side of the country, in western North Carolina, a potential Democratic superstar, Matt Coffay, announced his candidacy at a healthcare-focused town hall event in Waynesville. Matt, a leader of Our Revolution in North Carolina is taking on Freedom Caucus head man Mark Meadows in NC-11, a viciously gerrymandered district that is a prime example of what corrupted overly partisan legislators can do to undermine democracy. The district went for Romney 60.4-39.6% and then for Trump 63.2-34.0%. It was Trump's strongest score in the state. Coffay appears undaunted by the challenge.

At the event Sunday he told the crowd of several hundred that "America is at a crossroads. Our Republic is eroding into a country of partisan bickering and vast income inequality, with millions of hardworking people left behind by a changing economy. We need to sustain the activist energy that's emerged in Western North Carolina and carry it all the way through midterm elections. We’re going to build the biggest grassroots movement that the 11th District has ever seen, and that’s why we’re starting the campaign right now... I’m going to stand up to the health insurance industry and the pharmaceutical industry. I’m going to stand up and say that it’s time we raised the minimum to a living wage of $15 an hour, and that we need tuition free public college. We need infrastructure investment here in Western North Carolina, and we need the jobs that infrastructure investment will bring. With your help, we’re going to raise the money that we need, and we’re going to go all the way to Washington, D.C., to change the face of American politics."

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Grinding Poverty? In America? Mostly In Areas Controlled By Republicans


Just before the Civil War, Issaquena County, Mississippi was the second richest county in America. That's because 92.5% of the inhabitants were slaves. 115 slave owners owned everyone else. They were rich because of the value of "slave property." Today Issaquena County has the 3rd lowest per capita income of any county in America-- $18,598 compared to $48,112 for the country as a whole. It's part of Mississippi's 2nd congressional district, represented by Bennie Thompson. The county, which had given Obama a 61-38% win over Romney, voted for Hillary over Trump, 56.5% to 42.6%. At least it has a congressman who advocates for policies that help poor people. Almost none of America's other poorest counties do.

The two counties in the country worse off than Issaquena are Wheeler County, Georgia and Union County, Florida. Wheeler is named for Confederate General Joseph Wheeler, who was also a reactionary congressman from Alabama until 1900. Wheeler Co. (where the per capita income is $16,007) is part of Georgia's 12th congressional district, represented by right-wing kook Rick Allen, who was reelected in November with 61.6% of the vote. Trump won the congressional district 56.9% to 40.7%. Wheeler was even more Trump-oriented-- 67.6% to 30.7%. Allen is a knee-jerk GOP reactionary who does everything he can to make the lives of the poor folks in Wheeler County unbearable. Union County ($18,255) is the second poorest county. Part of Florida's 3rd congressional district, this backward hellhole is represented by far right nut case Ted Yoho, who is one of the most anti-working family members of Congress. He was reelected with 56.6% this past cycle and Trump took the district 56.2% to 40.2%. But Union County went for Trump in much greater numbers-- 80.2% to 17.8%.

These are the dozen poorest counties in America:
Wheeler County, GA- $16,007- Rick Allen (R)
Union County, FL- $18,255- Ted Yoho (R)
Issaquena County, MS- $!8,598- Bennie Thompson (D)
Telfair County, GA- $19,306- Austin Scott (R)
Bledsoe County, TN- $20,719- Scott DesJarlais (R)
Ziebach County, SD- $20,944- Kristi Noem (R)
Stewart County, GA- $21,677- Sanford Bishop (Blue Dog)
Elliott County, KY- $21,745- Hal Rogers (R)
Concho County, TX- $22,008- Al Green (D)
Glades County, FL- $22,121- Tom Rooney (R)
Long County, GA- $22,525- Buddy Carter (R)
Lafayette County, FL- $23,012- Ted Yoho (R)
Only two of the dozen poorest counties, Concho in Texas and Issaquena in Mississippi, are represented by congressmembers who advocate for poor people. The other 10 are represented by conservatives who are handmaidens of the wealthy and powerful.

Trump won most of these counties by overwhelming margins-- 82.9% in Concho, for example. Hillary won Issaquena and Georgia's Stewart. According to Brookings, most poor people in the United States live in a community represented by a Republican and Republican districts have more poor residents overall: 25.1 million poor people lived in red districts in 2010-14 compared with 22.7 million in blue districts.
Between 2000 and 2010-14, the poor population grew faster in red districts than blue. The number of people living below the poverty line (e.g., $24,230 for a family of four in 2014) in Republican districts climbed by 49 percent between 2000 and 2010-14 compared with a 33 percent increase in Democratic districts. As a result, Republican districts accounted for 60 percent of the increase in the nation’s poor population during that time. At the same time, poverty rates rose by similar margins in both red and blue districts (3.3 and 3.2 percentage points, respectively).
According to a new book by MIT economist Peter Temin, The Vanishing Middle Class, America is regressing to have the economic and political structure of a developing nation, as it already has in the counties listed above. Our roads and bridges, he writes look more like those in Thailand and Venezuela than those in parts of Europe.
The economist describes a two-track economy with on the one hand 20 per cent of the population that is educated and enjoys good jobs and supportive social networks.

On the other hand, the remaining 80 per cent, he said, are part of the US’ low-wage sector, where the world of possibility has shrunk and people are burdened with debts and anxious about job security.

...He found that much of the low-wage sector had little influence over public policy, the high-income sector was keeping wages down to provide cheap labour, social control was used to prevent subsistence workers from challenging existing policies and social mobility was low.

Mr Temin also claims that this dual-economy has a “racist” undertone. 

“The desire to preserve the inferior status of blacks has motivated policies against all members of the low-wage sector.

“We have a structure that predetermines winners and losers. We are not getting the benefits of all the people who could contribute to the growth of the economy, to advances in medicine or science which could improve the quality of life for everyone — including some of the rich people," he writes.

Commenting on Mr Temin’s findings, Lynn Parramore, senior research analyst at the Institute for New Economic Thinking, writes: “Without a robust middle class, America is not only reverting to developing-country status, it is increasingly ripe for serious social turmoil that has not been seen in generations.”


The Brotherhood Of The Traveling Five Eyes


4 Trump is willing to see go to prison for Putin-Gate

-by Alex Campbell

At some point on Sunday while most Americans were enjoying a pleasant weekend afternoon, a week long conference started all the way across the globe at a tony golf resort called Millbrook located in Invercargill, New Zealand. No one knows what the subjects covered at the conference will be. And the participants at the conference won't even confirm that is happening and who is in attendance. The prime minister of New Zealand, Bill English, has said publicly that it is a meeting of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance and said to Radio New Zealand on Monday that it is "one of the regular conferences that they have, we work with the other four countries, combating terrorism, protecting our citizens around the world."

The Five Eyes alliance is comprised of the intelligence agencies of the five English speaking countries of the world--Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The information sharing network was born out of the alliance formed in World War II between the U.S. and UK and after the war was officially expanded to include the other three Anglophone countries. In the spy community and intelligence circles, it is regarded as the closest alliance of intelligence agencies amongst countries. And the relationship between the UK and the U.S. agencies is especially close as reported by Buzzfeed last month when they covered Trump's "wiretapp" allegations and the subsequent fallout.
"The US and UK’s intelligence cooperation is so deep that neither country’s signals intelligence-- material harvested from communications networks across the world-- is capable of operating independently. GCHQ and the NSA rely on each other’s code, access points, physical sites and staff to maintain their surveillance. GCHQ and NSA staff work from the same buildings, within feet of each other, at sites in the UK and across the world. It is by far the closest and most significant intelligence relationship for both nations-- and now that relationship is strained."
On April 13, The Guardian reported that it was British spies who were the first to spot Trump team's links to Russia and turned that information over to American authorities:
"GCHQ first became aware in late 2015 of suspicious “interactions” between figures connected to Trump and known or suspected Russian agents, a source close to UK intelligence said. This intelligence was passed to the US as part of a routine exchange of information, they added. Over the next six months, until summer 2016, a number of western agencies shared further information on contacts between Trump’s inner circle and Russians, sources said. The European countries that passed on electronic intelligence-- known as sigint-- included Germany, Estonia and Poland. Australia, a member of the “Five Eyes” spying alliance that also includes the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand, also relayed material, one source said. Another source suggested the Dutch and the French spy agency, the General Directorate for External Security or DGSE, were contributors. It is understood that GCHQ was at no point carrying out a targeted operation against Trump or his team or proactively seeking information. The alleged conversations were picked up by chance as part of routine surveillance of Russian intelligence assets. Over several months, different agencies targeting the same people began to see a pattern of connections that were flagged to intelligence officials in the US."
We don't have a confirmed list of participants for the meetings in New Zealand but we do know FBI Director James Comey arrived over the weekend due to local reporting as there is a photograph of him disembarking. And CIA Director Mike Pompeo is rumored to be there as well-- a Gulfstream jet with a registration number linked to the CIA was also spotted arriving at the Queenstown airport.

The Five Eyes intelligence network has done a lot of the heavy lifting in the Trump/Russia affair, if the leaks to the press so far are even half accurate. So lets hope that Russia is a major topic at this conference. This morning it was reported that the Senate's Intelligence Committee investigation into Russia and the election is possibly being slow walked by Trump toadie Republican Senator Burr. Is anyone surprised by this? Recall that Burr was asked by Priebus in February to push back on reports that there was an FBI investigation into Trumpland on Russia and also remember that Burr was an advisor to the Trump campaign and ask yourself why anyone thought Burr wouldn't impede an investigation? At this point the FBI and the Five Eyes alliance might be our only hope to shed light on the truth between what really happened between Putin and Trump. Because it is becoming obvious that Republicans are putting party over country.

There are a lot of rumours out there about what is going on with the Trump/Russia investigation. And there are coordinated efforts to take out and discredit people promulgating those rumours. The White House is still worried, as evidenced by the Devin Nunes affair and the active GOP smear campaign to blame the Obama administration for spying on Trump. Flynn and Manafort have supposedly lawyered up and aren't talking to anyone. Carter Page is talking to everyone unconvincingly. And the latest rumour is that Rudy Giulani is embroiled in this affair and is seeking a deal but has been turned down by James Comey. Giulani, who never met a camera or microphone he didn't like, has been noticeably absent from the airwaves of late, so I tend to give that rumour some credence. I saw it first mentioned by Claude Taylor on twitter @TrueFactsStated, who is a Beltway insider and worked in the Clinton administration.

Something is happening under the surface, but the only people who really know are at a golf resort in New Zealand. Let us hope that at this golf course, some actual work gets done, unlike with the Cheeto-in-Chief's weekend visits to the golf courses in his fiefdom.

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15 House Republicans Join The Democrats To Stand Up Against Encroachments By Big Brother


Do you remember what these 15 congresscritters have in common?
Justin Amash (MI)
Mo Brooks (AL)
Mike Coffman (CO)
Warren Davidson (OH)
Jimmy Duncan (TN)
John Faso (NY)
Garret Graves (LA)
Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA)
Walter Jones (NC)
Tom McClintock (CA)
Dave Reichert (WA)
Mark Sanford (SC)
Elise Stefanik (NY)
Kevin Yoder (KS)
Lee Zeldin (NY)
Yes, they are all Republicans. Some are crazy right-wing lunatics from the Freedom Caucus like Mo Brooks and Warren Davidson; some are libertarians like Walter Jones, Jimmy Duncan and Justin Amash; some are relatively mainstream conservatives like John Faso snd Jaime Herrera Beutler. Because of the nature of their districts, some are in precariously vulnerable positions for reelection, like Mike Coffman, and some are set-for-life, like Garret Graves. But all 15 crossed the aisle on March 28 of thise year to vote with every single Democrat against Jeff Flake's Joint Resolution-- which has since been signed into law by Trump-- to allow Internet providers to sell our personal online data to the highest bidders without our permission and, in fact, without even informing us.

That was insane for the Republicans-- regardless of how many of them took massive bribes from the internet providers-- to do. The bill passed narrowly, 215-205 and it makes every Republican, other than those 15, vulnerable on an issue millions American voters care very much about regardless of partisan politics.

Matt Coffay is a leader of Our Revolution in western North Carolina. He's running for Congress, taking on Freedom Caucus chieftain Mark Meadows, one of the Republicans who voted to allow Internet providers to sell our personal information to whoever wants to buy it. Matt disagrees with that vote. This morning he told us, "My position on internet privacy is much like that of Senator Bernie Sanders: your internet history belongs to you, and not to corporations. This isn't complicated, or radical. How can Republicans in Congress claim that they want government to stay out of people's lives, and then vote for a bill that allows people's private browsing data to be sold to the highest corporate bidder? This bill is a violation of our right to privacy, plain and simple."

David Gill is the progressive candidate for the IL-13 seat currently held by knee-jerk Republican Rodney Davis, who, of course, backed giving the Internet providers the green light to sell our personal information. David wasn't amused by his decision. "This vote represents yet another betrayal of his constituents by Rodney Davis: he took $49,000 from the telecom industry, and then he voted to allow those companies to sell your web browsing history to marketers and other third parties-- so much for privacy! I support undoing Citizens United & reforming campaign finance laws. When we take those steps, we'll have representatives who stand up for their constituents, rather than reps who sell out their constituents."

Three years before Flake wrote his Joint Resolution, Michael Gurnow wrote The Ed Snowden Affair, a book that tackles many of the issues the GOP legislation starkly brings up for Americans. Even back then, he wrote that "data brokers take their information, organize it into precise little profiles, and offer it to anyone with an open checkbook."
This includes the obvious customers, U.S. government and corporations, but they have other steadfast clients. Many “people locator” websites purchase data mining profiles and resell them to the general public. For a nominal fee, anyone can access a person’s birthday, place of birth, current and past residences, family relations, social security and phone number, educational background, email address, place of current and former employment, and medical, property and court records. Medical insurance firms are curious whether a potential client prints Internet coupons for over the counter headache medicine and pays in cash to avoid a rate-hiking paper trail. Employment agencies want to know an applicant’s hobbies and proclivities without having to ask. Loan companies are interested in a candidate’s choice of recreational locales, be it a casino, truck rally or library. Once this data is combined with receipts from many of the major corporations, buying habits are then merged with wants and desires. The result is a very concise, detailed picture of an individual’s pos- sessions, activities and goals. This is then compared to established buying patterns. The end result is daunting. The owner of an analyzed profile knows who a person was, is, and is going to be. Corporations refer to this as market research. Privacy advocates consider the process an infringement upon the Fourth Amendment and argue third-party cookie usage violates the last sanctuary of privacy, one’s thoughts. Orwell’s prophecy is modestly conservative by 21st-century standards. The main character in Nineteen Eighty-Four believes, “Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimetres inside your skull.”

The surveillance debate has intensified since June 5 and lent new perspectives upon the concept of the safety technol- ogy can provide. The underlying political issue is who has the right to particular varieties of information.

The public believes there are two types of conversations, public and private. The intelligence community doesn’t agree. In the Internet Age, a person can “Like” the activity of fishing enough to let the world know by making it public knowledge on one’s Facebook profile. The individual can also choose to obtain a vanity Facebook URL by confidentially submitting one’s telephone number to the social networking site. The phone number is used for authorization purposes to verify the request is coming from the Facebook account holder. Though it is not placed online, the number is nonetheless (questionably) stored on the company’s servers. David Omand, former head of GCHQ, has no problem with collecting the publicly-known fact Bob likes fishing along with his cell number via Facebook’s FISC order permitting the U.S. government access to the information. For the watchers, there is no line dividing what an individual puts on the Internet and what people have privately entrusted to another party, be it a website, bank, doctor or telephone company.

Government spies also scoff at the notion of intellectual property rights. Bought-and-sold politicians agree. If something is publicly or privately posted online, it automatically becomes the property of the website’s owner. (This is also why most businesses permit and encourage employees to use their company-issued phones and email accounts for personal communications-- the firms have legal license to review an employee’s private network and communications, because they own the devices and programs and therefore the data on them.) It is an absurd proposition analogous to stating an individual surrenders rightful ownership of a vehicle to a bank when it is parked on property whose tenant has yet to pay the mortgage in full. This policy refuses to acknowledge the resources and labor provided by the Facebook account holder, i.e., the computer used to access the social networking site, time it took to create a profile and mental ingenuity in deciding how and what to say about oneself. It is understood that the website has issued the venue which, in turn, makes the information available worldwide but the skewed exchange undermines the statement that profiles are “free.” No profit sharing is offered the user. Without account holders, social networking sites would be empty voids on lonely servers and not multinational corporate affairs.

In the surveillance communities’ opinion, everything is public domain and no one has the right to ask “Do you mind?” to someone eavesdropping on a conversation. Their argument is that if a person doesn’t want what is being said to be known (by whomever), the individual best not speak at all. In the cloak-and-dagger world of data mining, the person having a discussion cannot reasonably expect privacy, because the individual is voicing one’s thoughts, period. It does not matter whether they are spoken in confidence and directed to a particular person, much like an email is addressed “To: Bob” and not “To: Bob; Bcc: The NSA.” If the speaker is naïve enough to say something at a volume where a microphone can detect it, it is de facto public knowledge. Whereas government surveillance only exchanges the recorded conversation with its own kind, corporate surveillance broadcasts the discussion to anyone who is willing to pay to hear it. In the surveillance world, the only guarantee of privacy is dead silence.

The U.S. government knows the difference but deliberately ignores it. It does not want a distinction to be made, because it would restrict its power and the power of those who fund political campaigns: defense contractors, telecoms, Internet companies, corporate retailers, fast food enterprises and mul- timillion-dollar data mining firms. The last thing the U.S. government or private business wants is account holders to have control over their own information.

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Are The 2018 Midterm Elections Turning Into A Dysfunctional Free-For-All?


What is the DCCC looking for in candidates?
Wealthy self-funders
Republican-lite conservatives
ex-military officers
followers (as opposed to leaders)
And what are they not looking for? Primary challenges to their own weak incumbents like these and idealistic progressives (i.e., Berniecrats). But that's what's comin' their way. Yesterday, Alex Thompson, who, very appropriately, doesn't know much-- if anything at all-- about electoral politics, penned a post for Vice, Trump Pushes Hundreds To Run For Congress about "an unprecedented early surge of Democrats"-- already over 400 of them-- running for House seats. He speculates that "This tsunami of Democratic challengers will likely make it more difficult for President Donald Trump to pass his legislative agenda as members of Congress-- Republicans and Democrats alike-- will be wary of casting votes that provide ammo to progressive Democratic challengers." I'm not as sanguine as Thompson on that point but I hope progressive candidates like Marie Newman and Talia Fuentes can force corrupt conservaDems Dan Lipinski and Kyrsten Sinema moderate their extreme Republican tendencies.

Aside from the DCCC, groups across the spectrum of Democratic politics, from EMILY's List on the right to some of the Bernie-inspired groups on the left, everyone is recruiting and training and backing candidates, some of whom are awesome and some who are... less so.

Thompson talked with Randy Wadkins, a chemistry professor at the University of Mississippi who is running in MS-01 in the northern part of the state, a district with a PVI of R+16, that includes suburbs south of the Memphis Airport, like Southaven, plus Oxford and Tupelo and most of the hill country. Both McCain and Romney beat Obama there with 62%. Last year Trump triumphed over Hillary 65.4-32.4%. The incumbent, backbencher Trent Kelly beat Democrat Jacob Owens 203,142 (68.8%) to 82,133 (27.8%). Owens didn't raise the $5,000 that would have triggered an FEC report. Kelly raised $1,053,947. Thompson wrote that "The anti-Trump resistance is so decentralized that dollars are already flowing Wadkins’ way even though the race is not considered competitive by political forecasters. He has raised $13,630 through Crowdpac from donors around the country in his first few weeks, a fraction of what he knows he will ultimately need. 'I refuse to believe it's a lost cause,' he wrote."

And maybe he's right. If Trump and the Republican Congress trigger a depression, Wadkins would have a shot-- albeit a slim one-- at displacing Kelly.
At least 140 new Democrats have already begun their campaigns since Trump’s inauguration, many in places where Democrats aren’t usually expected to compete. Some of them are people who have run previously and lost, but the majority are political novices, many of whom emerged from newly minted anti-Trump groups. Many also do not fit the Democratic Party’s typical focus-grouped profile for recruitment.

They include several 27-year olds, a former writer for The Onion, a 34-year-old PhD student whose campaign staff is made up mostly of friends from Semester at Sea, and a woman who, fitting the times, goes by the name Mad.

Patrick Nelson, a 27-year old who served asa delegate for Sen. Bernie Sanders at the Democratic National Convention last summer, was a staffer in the New York State Assembly and worked for the last two Democratic candidates in New York's 21st district, both of whom lost.

Fed up, he decided to announce his own candidacy this year, and announce early. When asked about his qualifications, he told Vice News that he “would hesitate to think there is any person in the world that has knocked on more doors or called more people than I have in the 21st district. People of our generation have created multi-billion dollar businesses, we are very capable.”

If Nelson wins the nomination next year, he will face off against the youngest member of Congress, 32-year old Republican incumbent Elise Stefanik.

Glenn Miller, also 27, is running in Indiana's 8th district. Asked about his previous experience, he said that he “was very vocal on social media” during Sanders’ campaign for the Democratic nomination.

Interviews with more than a dozen novice Democratic candidates showed they are united by both their dislike of Trump and their distrust of the Democratic Party establishment following Clinton’s loss last November.

...The candidates, mirroring Trump, appear to have little reverence for the normal campaign playbook. For example, candidates typically don’t declare their candidacies until after April 1 or the beginning of another quarter so that their first quarterly finance report doesn’t show a low number.

“We welcome candidates with an outside-the-box background to run against career politicians,” Kelly said. “We also need those candidates to show they can run strong campaigns.”

The sheer volume of candidates all over the congressional map promises to pose some difficult decisions for the national party about whom to support and where to send money. At the moment, the DCCC is prioritizing Republican-held districts where Hillary Clinton won or was close to winning last November.

...Some of those outside groups are raising money for Democrats in reliably red districts that normally wouldn’t receive much support from the party. In Utah’s 3rd district, one of the most conservative in the country, Democratic candidate and political neophyte Dr. Kathryn Allen has already raised more than $500,000-- one of the highest first-quarter totals ever for a first-time candidate-- through the political crowdfunding site Crowdpac.

The DCCC argues that it needs to spend its time and money where it can actually win, while many progressives and new candidates think the national party is no longer a reliable judge of Democratic strength.
I certainly agree that the DCCC isn't a reliable judge of Democratic strength and that isn't even close to the worst crap about them. That said, IN-08 saw Hillary sink from Obama's 40% of the vote to just 31% while Trump out-performed Romney 65% to 58%. That's a tough district and unless someone has unlimited resources, it's hard to make the case to spend national money there rather than in any of 60 districts with far better chances to turn from red to blue.

Look at TX-21, the district where so much progress was made last year towards displacing Congress' chief science denier Lamar Smith. So far there are 8 declared candidates and perhaps more joining soon. The DCCC craves a very wealthy "ex"-Republican, Joseph Kopser, their kind of candidate. He's the only non-progressive. The other 7 could well split the vote so badly that Kopser could win, throwing out completely all the work Tom Wakely and his volunteers put in in the 2016 cycle.

Don't let anyone ever tell you democracy isn't messy. Meanwhile... vetted and ready:
Goal Thermometer

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If Bannon Gets To Shut Down The Government Friday, How Badly Will Congressional Republicans Pay In 2018?


Will the government be open in 5 days? We speculated the other day that Bannon would like to make sure it isn't. Congressional Republicans feel otherwise. In yesterday's NY Times, Matt Flegenheimer explained that the congressional leadership-- as a matter of electoral self-preservation for its members, is "eager to forge a deal before government funding expires Friday" while the Regime "wants to use the deadline as a point of leverage that Democrats-- and at least a few Republicans-- do not believe they have, raising the prospects of a shutdown that had seemed unlikely." Trump claims he won the election, at least in part, because of his promise to build a wall to keep out Mexicans but he always-- like, totally always-- promised that Mexico would pay for it, which, obviously, they won't. Plenty of Republicans have no intention of shutting down the government over Trump’s crazy promises about a wall that not a single border state senator or House member of either party embraces. Bannon thinks it's a battle worth fighting with Ryan and McConnell (and the Democrats). Supposedly, Bannon's enemies inside the Regime are happy to see him take on this losing battle and hasten his own demise.
In 2013, at a time of peak conservative fury at Mr. Obama, some Republicans did not seem to mind positioning themselves as faces of the shutdown, which supplied a soapbox for ambitious hard-liners like Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

This time, at least so far, no one seems to want any fingerprints on an impasse... [T]here seems to be little public patience for another round of Washington dysfunction.

...Republicans in Congress appear keenly aware that a shutdown would be blamed largely on them, despite Mr. Trump’s attempts to shift responsibility to Democrats.

And while many are unlikely to say so publicly, some Democrats would plainly relish the political upside of a unified Republican government ushering in Mr. Trump’s 100th day by failing to keep the lights on.

“Shutdown is not a desired end,” Mick Mulvaney, Mr. Trump’s budget director, said on Fox News Sunday. “It’s not a tool. It’s not something that we want to have.”

But, he added, “we want our priorities funded.”
Monday morning's Politico published a more generally alarming piece for Republicans by Alex Isenstadt, that pokes around into how Trump's toxicity with voters will impact the 2018 midterms. Before we look at it, let's just forget that most of the advantages the Democrats have will be negated by a structurally incompetent and venally corrupt DCCC. We'll make believe, for the sake of this pst at least, that the DCCC is a well-functioning normal electoral committee instead of what it actually is. Isenstadt began with some good tidings for the Dems: "Republicans say" Señor Trumpanzee needs to turn things around fast-- "or the GOP could pay dearly in 2018." Ryan and McConnell are freaking out about el Señor's "lack of legislative accomplishments, his record-low approval ratings, and the overall dysfunction that’s gripped his administration." So how's the nightmare starting to shape up in terms of the midterms?
The stumbles have drawn the attention of everyone from GOP mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, who funneled tens of millions of dollars into Trump’s election and is relied upon to bankroll the party’s House and Senate campaigns, to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Adelson hasn’t contributed to pro-Trump outside groups since the inauguration, a move that’s drawn notice within the party, and McConnell is warning associates that Trump’s unpopularity could weigh down the GOP in the election.

Potential GOP candidates whom party leaders want to recruit are afraid of walking into a buzz saw, uncertain about what kind of political environment they’ll be facing by the time the midterms come around-- and what Trump’s record will look like.

...[I]nterviews with more than a dozen top Republican operatives, donors and officials reveal a growing trepidation about how the initial days of the new political season are unfolding. And they underscore a deep anxiety about how the party will position itself in 2018 as it grapples with the leadership of an unpredictable president still acclimating to Washington.

“It’s not the way you’d want to start a new cycle,” said Randy Evans, a Republican National Committee member from Georgia. “At some point, they’ve got to find some kind of rhythm, and there is no rhythm yet.”

“They’ve got to put some drives together,” he added.

Appearing Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus pushed back on the suggestion Trump has accomplished little. Among other things, Priebus pointed to the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and reports that border crossings have plummeted since the start of the new year.

“He is fulfilling his promises and doing it at breakneck speed,” Priebus said.

Goal Thermometer Behind the scenes, the administration is keeping a watchful eye on the 2018 election. Priebus remains in touch with his political allies from his time as party chairman. There’s talk Priebus may attend an RNC meeting in San Diego next month and a Mitt Romney-hosted donor summit in Park City, Utah, slated for June. The midterms are likely to be front and center at both events.

Priebus and chief strategist Steve Bannon are carefully tracking the special election for a Republican-leaning Georgia House seat, a contest the administration sees as a key early test of the president’s political standing. White House officials were heartened that Democrat Jon Ossoff-- whom Trump attacked on Twitter and robocalls-- fell short of an outright victory in the first round of voting, triggering a June runoff against Republican Karen Handel.

Yet as Republican strategists examine that special election, and one for a conservative Kansas seat a week earlier, they’re seeing evidence of a worrisome enthusiasm gap. In the run-up to the Georgia election, low-propensity Democratic voters-- people who in years past did not consistently turn out to the polls-- cast ballots at a rate nearly 7 percentage points higher than low-propensity Republicans, according to private polling by one Republican group.

In Kansas, the chasm was wider. Infrequent Democratic voters cast ballots at a rate of 9 percentage points higher than low-propensity Republicans did. The GOP nonetheless held the seat.

Former Rep. David Jolly, a Florida Republican who won a 2014 special election that was a precursor to a broader GOP sweep in that year’s midterms, said the Georgia race was rife with warnings for his party.

“It's a verdict on Trump's first 100 days,” Jolly said. “Ossoff simply has to speak to the president's failure, while Republicans have to wrestle with whether and how to defend Trump's historically low approval ratings and how closely to align with a president who at any moment could undermine Handel's entire messaging strategy with an indefensible tweet or an outright lie.”

Jolly, who lost reelection in 2016 and is considering running again, said he and other would-be GOP midterm contenders are struggling to take measure of what they’d be getting themselves into. The election is bound to be a referendum on Trump’s first two years. Two Republicans, Wisconsin Rep. Sean Duffy and Indiana Rep. Susan Brooks, recently announced they will be forgoing Senate runs.

"If you're a prospective candidate, boy, it's tough," Jolly said. Republicans are far more concerned about the House than the Senate. The GOP has a four-seat edge in the Senate and a map tilted heavily in its favor. House Republicans, by contrast, have a 24-seat margin but must defend dozens of swing districts. It’s a scenario not entirely unlike the first midterm election of Barack Obama’s presidential tenure, when Democrats lost control of the House.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a member of GOP leadership, said the lack of legislative progress so far has imperiled his party’s hold on the House. But Cole doesn’t point the finger at Trump: Instead, he said, fellow Republicans unwilling to compromise on key agenda items like health care are to blame.

“The majority is not safe,” he said. “We need to be more constructive legislatively, and there are going to be political implications if we don't."

“I'm confident President Trump and the Congress will deliver meaningful results for the American people,” said Henry Barbour, an influential RNC member from Mississippi and the nephew of former Gov. Haley Barbour. “We don't have another option, particularly as it relates to the House in 2018.”

Goal Thermometer Not every Republican is confident about the Senate, either. McConnell has privately expressed concern about Trump’s approval ratings and lack of legislative wins, according to two people familiar with this thinking. A student of political history, the Senate leader has warned that the 2018 map shouldn’t give Republicans solace, reminding people that the party in power during a president’s first term often suffers electorally.

“We do have to do something with our full control of the government,” said Scott Jennings, who served in George W. Bush’s White House and oversaw a pro-McConnell super PAC during his 2014 reelection. “Doing nothing is not an option. There’s time-- the midterm elections aren’t until November 2018-- but at some point we have to finish the things we ran on.”

Republican fundraising, bolstered by the party’s full control of the federal government, has been robust. The RNC reported raising $41.5 million during the first quarter of the year, a record.

Yet Trump’s rocky start is causing restlessness in some corners of the donor world. Adelson, the Las Vegas casino mogul, has privately complained about Trump’s failure to fulfill his campaign promise to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, three people close to the billionaire said. Adelson is also rankled that some people he recommended for administration posts haven’t yet been tapped.

More fundamentally, Adelson is dismayed by what he sees as a state of chaos in the new administration, these people said. In what some Republicans are interpreting as a sign of his frustration, Adelson has yet to give money to any of the pro-Trump outside groups set up to boost the president’s agenda.

An Adelson spokesman, Andy Abboud, said the billionaire is “overall not angry or unhappy” with the president and is pleased with his decisiveness on certain issues. Adelson, he said, is waiting patiently for action on the embassy.

Others are less forgiving. Texas businessman Doug Deason and his billionaire father, Darwin, have become so annoyed with the lack of progress that they have told Republican members of Congress they will not donate to them until the president’s agenda is approved. The younger Deason, a member of the Koch brothers’ political network, said he blamed House and Senate Republicans for the impasse, not Trump.

"I think generally people are happy, but we're in a rare position where we have the presidency and both houses of Congress, and we want to get things done," he said.

In recent weeks, party leaders have taken steps to assure nervous donors that the political environment remains stable for Republicans and that the president’s agenda is on track. During a recent donor summit in Palm Beach, Florida, hosted by House Speaker Paul Ryan, organizers stressed that health care and tax reform could still get done.

Indeed, some Republicans say it’s premature to start fretting about an election 18 months away, regardless of Trump’s early blunders.

“This is part of the growing pains of the new administration. It’s like fumbling a football in the first three minutes of the game,” said Ken Abramowitz, a New York businessman and major GOP donor. “It’s not great. But if you’re going to fumble the football, it’s good to do it in the first three minutes.”
How this is specifically playing out for Democrats thinking about running for Congress is something we're going to have a look at later this morning in the next post.

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Monday, April 24, 2017

The Apple Does Not Fall Far From The Orange-- Ivanka's and Jared's Fabulous Adventure


John Oliver's segment this weekend on Ivanka and Kushner-in-law was classic. You've got to watch it. This morning his analysis was examined by Newsweek, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly and the New York Daily News. You don't need them; just watch it.

Stephen Walt's Jared Kushner Will Be Eaten By The Blob in Foreign Policy is not a prediction of how Chris Christie will eventually get his revenge on Kushner for getting his revenge on Christie (due to Kushner's father Charlie getting his revenge on someone else). "Kushner," he wrote, "may be unusually inexperienced, but he’s hardly the first person to achieve a position of political, and even diplomatic, prominence largely because of personal ties to a president." His role inside the Trumapnzee Regime "has provoked heated criticism from Democrats and skepticism from an array of pundits. It has also given late-night comics, satirists, and the Twitterati plenty of free material. And at one level their responses are understandable: Not only does Kushner’s role reek of good old-fashioned nepotism, but it is frankly absurd to think a young real estate developer can possibly perform all the miracles his loving father-in-law has asked him to produce. At last count, Kushner’s assignments include solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, leading a 'SWAT team' of private consultants that will reorganize and streamline the federal government, and serving as an informal presidential envoy to China, Iraq, and anywhere else Trump decides to send him. He also seems to have acquired the job of keeping Steve Bannon in check (or maybe getting rid of him entirely). Kushner hasn’t made his situation any easier by coming across like a spoiled rich kid who’d rather go skiing than govern. But he’d have his work cut out for him even if he combined the cunning of a Henry Kissinger and the political skills of a Lyndon Johnson... [T]he real issue is what his outsized position tells you about the president he serves and about the nature of political life in Washington, D.C."
Let’s start by remembering something important about Donald J. Trump: He’s old. A 70-year-old man is not going to learn a lot of new management tricks or adopt a new leadership style at this late stage of life. By most accounts, Trump’s management approach has long relied on promoting rivalries among subordinates and demanding intense loyalty from a circle of trusted insiders (such as his sons and now his son-in-law). Given the success of his highly unorthodox presidential campaign, why expect Trump to operate differently now?

...Kushner’s role in the White House actually reveals a deeper problem: Trump doesn’t actually care if his policies work or not. He doesn’t care if health care is ever fixed, if the climate warms up and millions of people die, if coal miners or autoworkers get new and better jobs, if the Islamic State is ever defeated, or if U.S. infrastructure is rebuilt. All he cares about is whether he can convince people that he’s responsible for anything good that happens and persuade them that adverse developments are someone else’s fault. It has been apparent from day one that Trump cares first and foremost about himself, his family, and his fortune. Full stop. Doing the people’s business-- that is, actually governing-- is hard work, and it really cuts into the time you can spend on the golf course.

Not caring about getting anything done is also liberating: It means you can hire whomever you want, give them a thousand impossible things to do before breakfast, and then get back to correcting your slice. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why Jared Kushner has a job in the White House that no one could possibly perform.

It’s also why you don’t see him devoting much time or effort to trying to resist the Washington foreign-policy establishment his father-in-law once so vociferously maligned, as evidenced by the recent humanitarian intervention in Syria and discussion of sending tens of thousands of ground troops there. It is entirely predictable that Kushner, and Trump, would abdicate to the Blob, since their stated political beliefs, even when they contained a glimmer of insight, were never moored by practical knowledge. The Trump family’s essential interest in the jobs they’ve acquired is personal vanity; they’re happy-- indeed, obliged-- to outsource those jobs’ other aspects.

But the fault ultimately lies not with Kushner (though a smarter person might have turned down the offer and concentrated on saving his own family’s business). The fault lies in the man from Mar-a-Lago.
Oh... and let's not forget this... which, I'm guessing, is going to turn out to be even more important:

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