Saturday, May 19, 2018

Last Call For That's Real White Of You, Con't

I understand that "My dad will disown me if I marry you" is a story as old as time and not every parent is going to give their blessing to their children when they get hitched to somebody they dislike, that trope is prominently featured in half the catalogue of Brit Lit and at least partially responsible for about a quarter of wars stretching back to the Bronze Age.

But apparently we're still playing this particular game in America in 2018.

Vickers “Vic” Cunningham, a former criminal district judge now in a Republican runoff for Dallas County commissioner, acknowledged Friday that he set up a living trust with a clause rewarding his children if they marry a white person.

Cunningham spoke to The Dallas Morning News about the trust after his estranged brother, Bill Cunningham, came to the paper earlier this week saying his brother had been a lifelong racist.

Vic Cunningham denied harboring racial bigotry but did confirm one of his brother’s primary allegations — that his trust includes a stipulation intended to discourage a child from marrying a person of another race or of the same sex.
“I strongly support traditional family values,” Cunningham said. “If you marry a person of the opposite sex that’s Caucasian, that’s Christian, they will get a distribution.”

Cunningham said his views on interracial marriage have evolved since he created the trust in 2010. He said he has accepted his son’s relationship with a woman of Vietnamese origin, though he said he couldn't change the terms of his trust.

However, a former political aide of Cunningham's described him making repeated racist statements. A text message from Cunningham’s son showed concern that his father would not accept his relationship with an Asian woman. And in a recorded conversation, Cunningham’s mother, Mina Cunningham, acknowledged her son had been a longtime bigot.

Bill Cunningham brought the allegations to The NewsMonday, shortly after he said Vic Cunningham arrived at his home and threatened him and his husband, who is black, and referred to his husband repeatedly as “your boy.”

“His views and his actions are disqualifying for anyone to hold public office in 2018,” said Bill Cunningham, 50. “It frightens me to death to think of people in power who could hurt people.”

Now this is clearly a fight between two brothers over the family money, and there's still no law that mandates you can't be racist asshole, but this man is running for public office, and voters should weigh in on that.

Of course it's entirely possible that voters will approve of it.

That's the real problem, isn't it?

Russian To Judgment, Con't

 Former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince has long been a subject of ZVTS (a primer on the private mercenary kingmaker and long-time GOP donor is here) and he's definitely mixed up in the Trump/Russia affair.

Not that this wasn't already all but assured, but one more piece of the Prince puzzle just fell into place today: the NY Times now places Prince and Nader at Trump Tower meeting with Don Jr. months before the 2016 election, along with an Israeli social media specialist.

Erik Prince, the private security contractor and the former head of Blackwater, arranged the meeting, which took place on Aug. 3, 2016. The emissary, George Nader, told Donald Trump Jr. that the crown princes who led Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were eager to help his father win election as president. The social media specialist, Joel Zamel, extolled his company’s ability to give an edge to a political campaign; by that time, the firm had already drawn up a multimillion-dollar proposal for a social media manipulation effort to help elect Mr. Trump.

The company, which employed several Israeli former intelligence officers, specialized in collecting information and shaping opinion through social media.

It is unclear whether such a proposal was executed, and the details of who commissioned it remain in dispute. But Donald Trump Jr. responded approvingly, according to a person with knowledge of the meeting, and after those initial offers of help, Mr. Nader was quickly embraced as a close ally by Trump campaign advisers — meeting frequently with Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, and Michael T. Flynn, who became the president’s first national security adviser. At the time, Mr. Nader was also promoting a secret plan to use private contractors to destabilize Iran, the regional nemesis of Saudi Arabia and the Emirates.

It's the Grand Unifying Theory for Cartoon Supervillains, folks!  We've got it all: Prince, Nader, Israeli social media manipulation, Iranian destabilization, the Russians, and a whole lot more!

After Mr. Trump was elected, Mr. Nader paid Mr. Zamel a large sum of money, described by one associate as up to $2 million. There are conflicting accounts of the reason for the payment, but among other things, a company linked to Mr. Zamel provided Mr. Nader with an elaborate presentation about the significance of social media campaigning to Mr. Trump’s victory.

The meetings, which have not been reported previously, are the first indication that countries other than Russia may have offered assistance to the Trump campaign in the months before the presidential election. The interactions are a focus of the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, who was originally tasked with examining possible Trump campaign coordination with Russia in the election.

Mr. Nader is cooperating with the inquiry, and investigators have questioned numerous witnesses in Washington, New York, Atlanta, Tel Aviv and elsewhere about what foreign help may have been pledged or accepted, and about whether any such assistance was coordinated with Russia, according to witnesses and others with knowledge of the interviews.

The interviews, some in recent weeks, are further evidence that special counsel’s investigation remains in an intense phase even as Mr. Trump’s lawyers are publicly calling for Mr. Mueller to bring it to a close.

It is illegal for foreign governments or individuals to be involved in American elections, and it is unclear what — if any — direct assistance Saudi Arabia and the Emirates may have provided. But two people familiar with the meetings said that Trump campaign officials did not appear bothered by the idea of cooperation with foreigners.
So this brings up an excellent point.  It wasn't just Putin who wanted to see Trump win.  The Trump campaign was open for business, and Israel, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Russia, and possibly more foreign influences knew that Trump was open to the highest bidder.  And they took them up on the offer.

This is huge, of course.

Mueller knows all about it.

These guys are screwed.

Stay tuned.

The Authoritarian Check Is In The Mail

Once again for the cheap seats: the primary motivating factor in Donald Trump's daily decision-making is punishing those who slight him, real or perceived, and in 2018 that means using the power of the federal government to try to destroy his critics.

President Trump has personally pushed U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan to double the rate the Postal Service charges and other firms to ship packages, according to three people familiar with their conversations, a dramatic move that probably would cost these companies billions of dollars
Brennan has so far resisted Trump’s demand, explaining in multiple conversations occurring this year and last that these arrangements are bound by contracts and must be reviewed by a regulatory commission, the three people said. She has told the president that the Amazon relationship is beneficial for the Postal Service and gave him a set of slides that showed the variety of companies, in addition to Amazon, that also partner for deliveries. 
Despite these presentations, Trump has continued to level criticism at Amazon. And last month, his critiques culminated in the signing of an executive order mandating a government review of the financially strapped Postal Service that could lead to major changes in the way it charges Amazon and others for package delivery. 
Few U.S. companies have drawn Trump’s ire as much as Amazon, which has rapidly grown to be the second-largest U.S. company in terms of market capitalization. For more than three years, Trump has fumed publicly and privately about the giant commerce and services company and its founder Jeffrey P. Bezos, who is also the owner of The Washington Post
Trump alleges that Amazon is being subsidized by the Postal Service. He has also accused The Post as being Amazon’s “chief lobbyist” as well as a tax shelter — false charges. He says Amazon uses these advantages to push bricks-and-mortar companies out of business. Some administration officials say several of Trump’s attacks aimed at Amazon have come in response to articles in The Post that he didn’t like. 
The three people familiar with these exchanges spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the White House’s internal deliberations.
Brennan and Trump have met at the White House about the matter several times, beginning in 2017, and most recently four months ago, the three people said. The meetings have never appeared on Trump’s public schedule. Brennan has spent her career at the Postal Service, starting 32 years ago as a letter carrier. In 2014, the Postal Service’s Board of Governors voted to appoint her as postmaster general. 
Clouding the matter even further, Trump’s aides have also disagreed internally about whether Amazon is paying enough to the Postal Service, with some believing the giant commerce company should be paying more, while others believe that if it weren’t for Amazon, the Postal Service might be out of business, according to the three people. 
Trump has met with at least three groups of senior advisers to discuss Amazon’s business practices, probing issues such as whether they pay the appropriate amount of taxes or underpay the Postal Service, according to the three people.

These groups include Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, then-National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn and Domestic Policy Council Director Andrew Bremberg. Bremberg has served as a key liaison with Brennan.

Openly seeking to harm a business like this, even as one as big and as detrimental to the world as Amazon, is a textbook authoritarian move.  And we're supposed to be grateful for the people keeping Trump's rage in check, when the real issue is if there was any justice in the world, Trump would probably be sharing a cell with Jeff Bezos anyway.

It's hard to root for either side.

But this is America, as Childish Gambino says.

The Tyrant Needs A New Foil

The constant Trump search for the new bad guy du jour continues as the regime needs a new foe to scream about to the GOP base.  After all, the perpetual poutrage machine has to be fed continuously, lest it turn on its masters.  With former FBI Director James Comey and former Deputy Director McCabe gone, the quest for firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein needs a new "corrupt Obama FBI" target, and the geniuses at the White House think they have their scapegoat.

If they knew who they were, that is.

President Trump’s allies are waging an increasingly aggressive campaign to undercut the Russia investigation by exposing the role of a top-secret FBI source. The effort reached new heights Thursday as Trump alleged that an informant had improperly spied on his 2016 campaign and predicted that the ensuing scandal would be “bigger than Watergate!” 
The extraordinary push begun by a cadre of Trump boosters on Capitol Hill now has champions across the GOP and throughout conservative media — and, as of Thursday, the first anniversary of Robert S. Mueller III’s appointment as special counsel, bears the imprimatur of the president. 
The dispute pits Trump and the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee against the Justice Department and intelligence agencies, whose leaders warn that publicly identifying the confidential source would put lives in danger and imperil other operations. 
The stakes are so high that the FBI has been working over the past two weeks to mitigate the potential damage if the source’s identity is revealed, according to several people familiar with the matter. The bureau is taking steps to protect other live investigations that the person has worked on and is trying to lessen any danger to associates if the informant’s identity becomes known, said these people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence operations. 
Trump reacted on Twitter on Thursday to recent news reports that there was a top-secret source providing intelligence to the FBI as it began its investigation into Russia’s interference in the election process.

“Wow, word seems to be coming out that the Obama FBI ‘SPIED ON THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN WITH AN EMBEDDED INFORMANT,’ ” Trump tweeted. He added, “If so, this is bigger than Watergate!”

It's all breathless stupidity, but it's red meat to the grinder.  Even Trump's supporters say that Mueller should be allowed to finish his investigation (because they've been told for years that you can't trust a president, you know).  So, the only way forward for Team Tangerine is to try to muddy the waters and escape in the confusion. Greg Sargent explains:

The explicitly, openly stated motive for doing this is to create a rationale for Trump to either try to close down Mueller’s investigation by removing him, or to fire Rosenstein, which would allow Trump to install a loyalist to oversee and dramatically limit the probe’s scope. A replacement for Rosenstein could also do a lot more to keep Mueller’s findings under wraps. 
Soon enough, we may find out the truth about this alleged informant. But here’s what we know so far: Career intelligence officials believe what House Republicans are now doing could imperil lives and compromise ongoing intelligence investigations, harming our national security. 
Now, surely House Republicans would respond that in saying this, intelligence officials are merely trying to resist legitimate oversight into their activities. But here’s what we also know at this point: Previous efforts by Nunes and his fellow House GOP travelers to exercise such oversight have proved to be thoroughly bogus.

The Nunes memo was supposed to reveal dark new details about the genesis of the probe that would undercut its legitimacy. It ended up doing the opposite. The final House Intelligence Committee report concluded that Russia didn’t interfere in the election for the purpose of helping Trump. But the Democratic response revealed that Republicans didn’t take key investigative steps that could have fleshed out what Trump knew about the Trump Tower meeting and when. And the House GOP conclusion was undercut by Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which concluded that the intelligence services’ original assessment — that Russia favored Trump — was correct, boosting their credibility.

It won't work, but there's always a lot of damage Trump can do on the way out.
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