Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Trump Increasingly Using Cell Phone To Bypass Kelly’s Authority

Talking Points Memo

President Donald Trump is frequently turning to his cell phone to contact advisers, a sign that he is seeking to circumvent chief of staff John Kelly’s gatekeeping and take direct control of who has access to him, CNN reported Monday. 

Unnamed sources told CNN that Trump is bypassing the White House switchboard, which would give Kelly access to Trump’s daily call log. This system has reportedly benefitted former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who Kelly tried to cut off from Trump earlier in the administration. Trump has also established that he wants National Security Adviser John Bolton and national economic adviser Larry Kudlow to come directly to him without looping in Kelly, a break with precedent.

This revelation is in keeping with recent reports about the increasingly strained relationship between the President and his chief of staff.

This practice reportedly could pose security threats, as cell phones are vulnerable to hacking and eavesdropping, as well as hampering record keeping for historical archiving and accountability.


Here’s A List Of Some Of The Nonsense Scott Pruitt Has Wasted Your Money On

Talking Points Memo

Reporters, members of Congress, government ethics officials and everyday taxpayers have given EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt a lot of flak for wasting money faster than a Russian oligarch.

In fact, as I wrote up this report, five Democrats wrote a letter to House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) with a compelling argument that two particular expenses, a $43,000 phone booth and a sweep for surveillance devices in Pruitt’s office, were useless and conducted through an improperly awarded contract, respectively.

But is it really that bad, all told? Like Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) said earlier this month, “it may add up to more than what the previous guy did. But what about the big picture of how he’s taking care of the taxpayer’s dollars with the department, the EPA?”

Pruitt has defended his spending time and time again.

Well, let’s tally it up:

  • A soundproof phone booth in Pruitt’s office, even though the EPA already has so-called “Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities”: $43,000, including installation.
  • Bullet-resistant seat covers, alongside plenty of other unnecessary additions on a new SUV lease that was itself unnecessary, because the EPA already had one: $10,200 yearly lease.
  • Five-digit raises for seven EPA staffers featured in a recent EPA IG document who had mostly worked at the EPA for less than a year: $204,693, despite Pruitt’s professed ignorance of the raises.
  • Well-funded trips abroad, including to Italy ($120,000) and a planning trip to Australia by two staffers and three security officers ($45,000) even though the actual trip by Pruitt never happened.
  • An unprecedentedly massive, 24/7 security detail that Pruitt’s taken along to venues like the Rose Bowl and Disneyland: At least $3,000,000.
  • Cost to repair the door to Pruitt’s former townhouse, after said security detail smashed through it in a panic, only to find Pruitt napping inside: $2,460.
  • Sweep for surveillance devices in the administrator’s office: $3,000.
  • A now-cancelled contract for media monitoring with a GOP opposition research firm: $120,000.
  • Subsequent contract to another GOP-aligned media firm to produce a reporting touting Pruitt’s accomplishments: $6,500.
  • Private, charter and business-class flights justified as security expenses because Pruitt was apparently getting cursed at on airplanes: Tens of thousands of dollars, at least.

Did I forget anything?


The Weekly List

APRIL 21, 2018
Week 75

Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.

This week Trump became increasingly frantic about the fed raid on Michael  Cohen, as innuendo swirled that Cohen could cooperate with federal prosecutors if indicted. Trump spent much of the week attacking James Comey, and teetering on firing Rod Rosenstein and Robert Mueller. Yet again this week, the national focus continued to be on Trump’s gyrations, with no visible efforts in Congress towards the typical discussions and debates on policy or legislation.

The untold and less-covered stories continue to be loss of rights and protections for marginalized communities and women, and the outright cruelty of the Trump regime when it comes to immigrants. Kleptocracy and corruption continues unabated, and in a sign of our country’s normalization of the previously unthinkable, Tax Day came and went this week with barely a whimper for Trump not sharing past returns.

  1. On Sunday, Trump attacked Comey in a series of tweets, calling him a “slimeball,” “Slippery James Comey,” and adding, “(he is not smart!), will go down as the WORST FBI Director in history, by far!”
  2. Trump also tweeted, “The big questions in Comey’s badly reviewed book aren’t answered like, how come he gave up Classified Information (jail), why did he lie to Congress (jail).”
  3. Trump also attacked a former president again, “Why can’t we all find out what happened on the tarmac” between “Wild Bill and Lynch?” Trump asked if Loretta Lynch was “promised a Supreme Court seat, or AG” to lay off Hillary.
  4. A NBC News/WSJ poll found Trump’s approval dropped back down to 39%, down 4 points from last month. His disapproval rose to 57%.
  5. On Sunday, shortly after the poll was released, Trump tweeted “Just hit 50% in the Rasmussen Poll much higher than President Obama at same point.” The Rasmussen number is 7.5 points above the average poll.
  6. On Sunday, in his first TV interview about his book, Comey castigated Trump for being a serial liar, “morally unfit,” and a “stain” on all around him. Comey said Trump was incinerating the country’s norms like wildfire.
  7. Two black men waiting for a friend to arrive at a Starbucks in Philadelphia were handcuffed and arrested after a white Starbucks employee called the police. The men were held by police for nine hours before being released.
  8. On Tuesday, Starbucks announced the company will close 8,000 of its stores on the afternoon of May 29 to conduct “racial-bias education” training for nearly 175,000 employees.
  9. HuffPost reported a federal judge in Washington barred the federal government from implementing Trump’s transgender military ban, saying transgender people have been “subjected to systemic oppression and forced to live in silence,” and are therefore a protected class.
  10. On Tuesday, Miami Herald reported ICE arrested Juan Gaspar-García, an undocumented Guatemalan man with Down syndrome, as part of a raid at TentLogix. Gaspar-García, 22, was one of 28 people detained.

Read more, see links to news stories

The Shameful Silence of the CEOs


Congressional Republicans would be more willing to stand up to Trump if their major financial backers – big business and Wall Street – had more backbone.

Ever since 1971, when the then future Supreme Court justice Lewis Powell urged corporations to mobilize politically, corporate money has flooded Washington – most of it into Republican coffers.

Today, big corporations and Wall Street essentially own the Republican Party. In the 2016 campaign cycle, they contributed $34 to candidates from both parties for every $1 donated by labor unions and all public interest organizations combined.

They donate far more to Republicans than do extremists like the Koch brothers, and have far more influence over the GOP than does the Tea Party.

Which means the CEOs of America’s largest firms have the power to constrain the most dangerous, divisive, and anti-democratic president ever to occupy the Oval Office.

So why don’t they? What explains their silence?

Consider Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, the largest bank in the United States. Dimon also chairs the Business Roundtable – the most influential confab of major CEOs in America, founded in 1972, just after Powell urged CEOs to mobilize.

Dimon has gone out of his way not to criticize the mad king. While he “strongly disagreed” with Trump’s equating white supremacists to protesters in Charlottesville last summer, he also counseled “not to expect smooth sailing” in the first year of a new administration.

Now well into Trump’s second year, with the sailing more treacherous than ever – Trump has fired most of the adults around him and grown even more erratic and unhinged – Dimon is even more conciliatory.

Asked last week how Trump is doing, Dimon gushed.“Regulatory stuff, good.” The potential summit with North Korea, a “great idea.” He regrets his 2017 prediction that Trump would be a one-term president, telling Fox Business  "I wish I hadn’t said it, I was talking probabilistically.”

Dimon’s reluctance to criticize Trump is particularly curious given Dimon’s public laments about widening inequality, the explosion of student debt, America’s growing racial divide, the failure of inner-city schools, and the expenditure of “trillions of dollars on wars.”

One obvious explanation is found in the money rolling in from the GOP’s new tax law and Trump’s frenzy of deregulation. Profits have soared at JP Morgan and at other big banks and corporations. Compensation for Dimon and other CEOs has exploded.

Never underestimate the power of a fat compensation package to buy up scruples. From the perspective of Dimon and other CEOs, what’s not to like about Trump and the GOP?

It turns out, plenty. As the Republican Party moves toward Trump’s looniness – his xenophobia, isolationism, attacks on the press and on truth, conflicts of interest, anti-Muslim and racist provocations, climate-change denials, proposed cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, dismantling of the Affordable Care Act, and evisceration of the constitutional divide between church and state – Jamie Dimon and his ilk could come out big losers.

Let them try to sustain corporate profits as America slides towards authoritarianism. Try to maintain comfortable lifestyles as America descends into angry populist tribalism.

Besides which, don’t Dimon and other CEOs have a moral responsibility to sound the alarm?

I’m old enough to recall a time when CEOs were thought of as “corporate statesman” with duties to the nation. As one prominent executive told Time Magazine in the 1950s, Americans “regard business management as a stewardship,” acting “for the benefit of all the people.”

CEOs of that era formed the Committee for Economic Development to champion such causes as universal pre-kindergarten and campaign-finance reform.

Today’s CEOs finance a larger part of our political system, yet they won’t take a stand to save it.

The socially-conscious Committee for Economic Development has withered, while the profit-obsessed Business Roundtable (and its louder cousin, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce) have become dominant.

The corporate statesmen of the mid-twentieth century have been replaced by sycophantic Dimons of the twenty-first – at a time when we need statesmen more than ever.

Democracy is fragile. Two weeks ago, Hungary’s far-right governing party, Fidesz, gained a huge victory in national elections, further tightening Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s grip on power – signaling an end to Hungary’s independent press and a deepening threat to its democracy.

If the leaders of American business remain silent about what Trump’s is doing to American democracy, they will be complicit in its demise.



Democrats Organizing For America

Chuck Todd is a pretty poor journalist, but his eyes don't look particularly 'sleepy' to me. Well, see- he's Jewish.

"The term's origin comes from a list of criteria used by NAZIS to determine who might be a Jew.
This list includes traits such as a widow's peak, dark curly hair, attached earlobes, weak or pointed chins, thick lips, head shape, and thick eyelids with "sleepy, wary eyes."

That list naturally found it's way to various neo-Nazi, White Supremacist, and other anti-Semitic groups after WWII. "How to spot a jew" is a common search phrase on Google, and the results are hundreds of variations on this list of Nazi-originated criteria. Chuck Todd *is* Jewish, a fact that Trump most certainly knows.

It is unlikely in the extreme that Trump would pick "sleepy eyes Chuck Todd" as an insult at random and without malice aforethought.

While Trump himself may or may not know the origin of the insult and who commonly uses that insult today, it's obvious he surrounds himself with people (*cough*Stephen Miller*cough*) who use this term openly in the halls of government and business.

The President of the United States calling a Jewish person "sleepy eyes" isn't funny or clever or harmless.

If Trump DOESN'T honestly know that he's engaged in an anti-Semitic slur, that doesn't make it better, it makes it WORSE. "


Religiously speaking

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News, opinions, tweets and more 4.24.2016

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