Venezuela

The unrest in Venezuela is one of those slow-motion disasters that no one seems to know how to stop. We are completely disengaged from the affairs of Latin America in this country. There are crises all throughout Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. There's plenty for us to get involved in, and for our State Department to deal with. And yet, we might as well be looking at the other side of the world instead of our own neighborhood.

Beginning on April 1, anti-government demonstrators have staged daily protests across Venezuela that continue to devolve into violent clashes with riot police, leaving thousands arrested, hundreds injured, and 66 dead. Opposition activists are protesting against the government of President Nicolas Maduro, blaming him for a crippling economic crisis that has caused widespread food shortages for years. The head of the Venezuelan military has warned troops not to commit "atrocities" against protesters, while Maduro’s government continues to work toward rewriting the constitution, defying those accusing him of clinging to power.

Our relationship with Venezuela has been poor for decades. If we had an active, engaged diplomatic and business effort to stabilize the country, win back the trust of the people, and if we had the desire to offer real assistance to the people, I'm sure that we would be treated with suspicion. 

Instead, it's more apathy and more disengagement. There was a time when we were trying to find the right footing in the region and now, well, that's just history.

I Love These Guys

This is the best thing on the Internet today, and I hope you enjoy it as well.

DPRK News Service is a parody account, and here's a little backstory for you:

DPRK News is run by two American guys: Patrick, a lawyer, and Derrick, a data analyst. They also run the “Popehat” account, which tweets from the perspective of, well, the pope’s hat.

We talked to them about their North Korean account. They’ve asked us to withhold their last names — they don’t want the North Koreans to be able to find them — so we’re calling them Patrick Popehat and Derrick Popehat.

Washington Post: Your DPRK News tweets are so spot-on that you've tricked a lot of people and some serious news organizations, too. What's the most surprising spoof tweet people have fallen for?

Patrick Popehat: Without a doubt, the first. On the first day of the account's existence, when Kim Jong Il, the father of North Korea's present leader, was still in power, Cyprus detained a North Korean ship caught smuggling cigarettes. I tweeted that the DPRK was threatening Cyprus with war over the ship. How the People's Navy would reach Cyprus was another question. In any case, that tweet was flagged by the Web-based arm of a Norwegian television network, and turned into a news story about the coming war. I shut down the account for a year (after boasting about the prank at my blog) after that tweet.

Derrick Popehat: Depends what you mean by "fallen." It's difficult to determine if someone is retweeting something because he/she thinks its "real," amusing or both. In this case, I would define "fallen" as "a major media outlet reported as fact." I figured after this, there wouldn't be any more. A simple Google search for the Twitter handle would not only reveal that article but several others covering the same material. So, waking up one morning and finding out this happened nearly nine months later was a little disconcerting.

At this point, Patrick and I haven't really been trying to "spoof" news outlets, so it was surprising that one made it in. That was the last major hit, I think. My favorite "spoof" moment was when Patrick killed a tweet I wrote about the Korea National Insurance Company, for being unrealistic. It actually exists, mostly as [an alleged]  front for reinsurance fraud.

WP: What's the best tweet you've written? Your favorite tweet?

PP: Boasts about Kim Jong Un and his omnipotence are always fun, and not too far from what North Korea's news services actually report. This is the most popular tweet we've written:

 

A Fake News Story Was Discredited in Record Time

This story hit the wires yesterday, and when it showed up in my Facebook feed, I quickly identified it as a piece of fake news. I got into a back and forth with some low-level trolls, and was able to move on without even writing about the incident.

Well, what do you know?

Last July, a Democratic National Committee staffer named Seth Rich was shot to death in what police called a botched robbery attempt in Washington. No suspect yet has been found. Throughout the summer, showing the same kind of discretion it once extended to the family of Vince Foster, the wingnuttosphere was alive with speculation that the Clinton Death Squad once again was abroad in the land.

Which brings us to Monday's story, which appeared almost simultaneously with the Washington Post story about the president* and his relaxed attitude toward top-secret classified information. From Fox 5 DC:

Rod Wheeler, a private investigator hired by the Rich family, suggests there is tangible evidence on Rich's laptop that confirms he was communicating with WikiLeaks prior to his death. Now, questions have been raised on why D.C. police, the lead agency on this murder investigation for the past ten months, have insisted this was a robbery gone bad when there appears to be no evidence to suggest that. Wheeler, a former D.C. police homicide detective, is running a parallel investigation into Rich's murder. He said he believes there is a cover-up and the police department has been told to back down from the investigation. "The police department nor the FBI have been forthcoming," said Wheeler. "They haven't been cooperating at all. I believe that the answer to solving his death lies on that computer, which I believe is either at the police department or either at the FBI. I have been told both."

So the evidence for this blockbuster is on a computer that Wheeler never has seen and that he "believes" is locked away either by the FBI or the local cops in Washington. Oh, OK.

And Charlie Pierce goes on to correctly identify Rod Wheeler as a "source" when, in fact, he's a low-grade lunatic operating somewhere between Infowars and the fevered imagination of whoever used to book Bill O'Reilly's show on Fox. This is easily discredited bullshit, and if I can do it, you can do it, too.

This is the original story, which, of course, has been updated with a paragraph at the end that basically calls into question every reason why it was written in the first place:

POSTED:MAY 15 2017 10:41PM EDT

UPDATED:MAY 16 2017 02:21PM EDT

WASHINGTON - It has been almost a year since Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was murdered in the nation's capital. There have been no solid answers about why he was killed until now.

Rich was shot and killed last July in Northwest D.C and police have suggested the killing in the District's Bloomingdale neighborhood was a botched robbery. However, online conspiracy theories have tied the murder to Rich's work at the DNC.

Just two months shy of the one-year anniversary of Rich's death, FOX 5 has learned there is new information that could prove these theorists right.

Family's private investigator: There is evidence Seth Rich had contact with WikiLeaks prior to death

Rod Wheeler, a private investigator hired by the Rich family, suggests there is tangible evidence on Rich's laptop that confirms he was communicating with WikiLeaks prior to his death. Wheeler's services were offered to the family and paid for by a third party, according to a statement issued by the Rich family Tuesday which also includes that "the private investigator who spoke to press was offered to the Rich family and paid for by a third party, and contractually was barred from speaking to press or anyone outside of law enforcement or the family unless explicitly authorized by the family." 

Now, questions have been raised on why D.C. police, the lead agency on this murder investigation for the past ten months, have insisted this was a robbery gone bad when there appears to be no evidence to suggest that.

Wheeler, a former D.C. police homicide detective, is running a parallel investigation into Rich’s murder. He said he believes there is a cover-up and the police department has been told to back down from the investigation.

"The police department nor the FBI have been forthcoming,” said Wheeler. “They haven't been cooperating at all. I believe that the answer to solving his death lies on that computer, which I believe is either at the police department or either at the FBI. I have been told both.”

When we asked Wheeler if his sources have told him there is information that links Rich to Wikileaks, he said, “Absolutely. Yeah. That's confirmed."

Wheeler also told us, "I have a source inside the police department that has looked at me straight in the eye and said, ‘Rod, we were told to stand down on this case and I can’t share any information with you.’ Now, that is highly unusual for a murder investigation, especially from a police department. Again, I don’t think it comes from the chief’s office, but I do believe there is a correlation between the mayor's office and the DNC and that is the information that will come out [Tuesday].

Wheeler told FOX 5 that he will provide us with a full report with the new details.

FOX 5's Melanie Alnwick spoke with D.C. Police on Tuesday and was told that Wheeler’s assertion that a source inside the department told him that detectives were instructed to stand down regarding the Rich case was false.

The family sent Alnwick a statement on Tuesday with the following statement:

"As we've seen through the past year of unsubstantiated claims, we see no facts, we have seen no evidence, we have been approached with no emails and only learned about this when contacted by the press. Even if tomorrow, an email was found, it is not a high enough bar of evidence to prove any interactions as emails can be altered and we've seen that those interested in pushing conspiracies will stop at nothing to do so. We are a family who is committed to facts, not fake evidence that surfaces every few months to fill the void and distract law enforcement and the general public from finding Seth's murderers. The services of the private investigator who spoke to press was offered to the Rich family and paid for by a third party, and contractually was barred from speaking to press or anyone outside of law enforcement or the family unless explicitly authorized by the family." 

Look for this story to disappear at some point. That's why I'm archiving it here, in its entirety. Yesterday's troll tried to trade on Wheeler's status as a police detective. Fuck that shit. Wheeler just got caught in the kind of hyperbolic lie familiar to anyone who sits before a camera on Fox News. The gravy train is running off the rails so why not pretend to be a private investigator who knows something that will embarrass Democrats? This scam is going to be run again and again in the days and weeks ahead because the Trump Regime is flying apart. I expect we'll see a great deal of this because, hell, it works, doesn't it? It fools people. It reinforces their need to latch onto something phony and make it confirm their biases. It doesn't matter that it's ridiculous--all the better! It plays well on your buddy's paranoid feed, doesn't it?

These fuckers never give up. It took less than 24 hours to slap down a cynical attempt by the right wing media to deflect attention away from the dumpster fire that is the Trump Regime and create a new "right wing myth" about the Clintons, this one involving a young man shot down in the prime of life.

Seth Rich's death is a tragedy, and it should not be used by anyone to advance a political agenda. He should be allowed to rest in peace and every effort should be made to offer some measure of comfort and sympathy to his family. I can assure you, I write of this not to make something worse, but to highlight the actions of evil people and their agenda.

The fantastic Caroline O. breaks this down even further. She is really masterful at exposing bullshit.

UPDATE:

 

 

You Will Love America Or Else

This tweet implies a few things that should be addressed.

1. This is what fascism looks like--blind obedience to the state, beginning with the inculcation of children.

2. America's children don't already love their country? When did this become an issue? Trump believes that if he talks about how awful he thinks America was when Obama was president, people will nod and agree with him. What a bunch of bullshit.

3. The flag is a symbol of the country, but it is not sacrosanct. The reason why America is great is because you can ignore the flag, burn the flag, and do stupid things with it and no one will throw you in jail or destroy you.

4. Why is President Trump holding a rally in Harrisburg, Virginia? His presidency is a failure.

5. Clearly, a lot of white people in Pennsylvania are starved for entertainment. About a half an hour away from Harrisburg is Hershey Park. Take your kids there and enjoy yourselves. Good God, you took your kid to see Donald Trump? I hope you went to Hershey Park before this rally. I really miss Hershey Park and that's the only thing that matters--having a good time with the kids is what life is supposed to be about. Not this political crap. Good gravy, people. If you have a theme park or something fun nearby, take your kids out and have a blast. 

More Clinton Derangement Syndrome Ahead

You can just imagine the headline--House Republicans Schedule Hearings to Determine Whether or Not Clinton Nephew Really Deserves a Modeling Career.

There's a new, six-foot-tall reason you'll be seeing the name "Clinton" in the news again.

Tyler Clinton, the 22-year-old nephew of Bill and Hillary Clinton, has just landed a modeling contract with IMG, home to supermodel sisters Gigi and Bella Hadid, as well as Amber Valleta, Ashley Graham and Taylor Hill. Tyler's dad, Roger, is Bill's younger half-brother and an actor with credits in Spy Hard and The Rugrats Movie.

I would be willing to bet you that Jason Chaffetz is already planning to spend $12 million dollars to find out whether or not Tyler Clinton has cheek implants. So, if you're in the fake news business, this is what's called a gimme. As in, gimme fifty pieces just like this. Woo hoo.

A Deplorable by Any Other Name

Oh, look. The puke who used his money to spread filth about Hillary Clinton is now out of a gig:

According to a report in Upload VR, Palmer Luckey, the co-founder of Oculus and the Rift creator, is leaving the company which he sold to Facebook three years ago. This will allegedly be Luckey’s last week with the company. “Palmer will be dearly missed," a statement from Facebook read. "Palmer’s legacy extends far beyond Oculus. His inventive spirit helped kickstart the modern VR revolution and helped build an industry. We’re thankful for everything he did for Oculus and VR, and we wish him all the best.” The Daily Beast has reached out to Facebook to confirm this information. 

Last September, The Daily Beast revealed that Luckey had been involved in funding a pro-Trump political organization called Nimble America, a self-described “social welfare 501(c)4 non-profit." It was intended for the purposes of shitposting about Hillary Clinton and circulating offensive memes about her. Luckey got involved in the project after meeting Milo Yiannopoulos. Shortly after the story, Luckey essentially disappeared and skipped the Oculus Connect (OC3) developer conference. He has kept a low profile over the past few months with no posts to his Twitter or Facebook accounts since September. 

In this country, he gets to keep his money and go on about his business. In Russia, he would have been imprisoned for being mentally ill and corrupt months ago. That's how it works now. You can be wealthy, powerful, and do whatever you want without any consequences until the people you're working for decide that you're too much of a liability to keep around.

I love the part about how he amscrayed from social media, though. If you have such popular ideas, why not share them with the rest of us? Are you afraid that the marketplace of ideas is going to reject you?

Too late for that now.

Dumbassery Masquerading as Intelligent Commentary

I followed a link from Lawyers, Guns and Money to a site billing itself as trying to reignite the fires of dumbassery from long dead embers found in a burial chamber where something-something once lived, and I discovered this article and burst out laughing.

By any chance, do you remember what Roger Pielke, Sr. is famous for? Anyone? Why, he's the father of Roger Pielke Jr., the guy who lasted five minutes out there as a "climate science skeptic."

Now that they* have shut down his original blog, Roger Pielke, Jr., is desperately trying to remain relevant in the blogosphere. Pielke’s preferred strategy — as it has always been — is to utterly misrepresent what people say and then attack that misrepresentation in the hopes of garnering media attention. Baselessly smearing the professional reputation of hundreds of leading U.S. scientists means nothing whatsoever to him — if it gets him press coverage (see details here).

These days, the main “media” paying attention to Pielke, Jr. (as with Pielke, Sr.) are the global warming deniers (see “Uber-denier Inhofe gives big wet Valentine’s kiss to Pielke “” go figure!”). So it’s no surprise that Pielke Jr.’s latest distortion was immediately picked up by Swift Boat smearer Marc Morano, much as the main person pushing Pielke Sr.’s climate disinformation is anti-science blogger Anthony Watts (see “Like father, like son: Roger Pielke Sr. also doesn’t understand the science of global warming “” or just chooses to willfully misrepresent it”) What is (a little) surprising is that Pielke would utterly misrepresent something I wrote when everyone can plainly see what he is doing.

Yes, the dumbassery abounds.

The problem with trying to peddle bullshit in the Trump era is that there are so many more outlets who got there first, and there are so many more who kissed ass and received access to the White House press room. There is, literally, a plethora of whiny, fact-free conservative blogs out there who missed the boat and are now having to run pieces by the father of the guy who got laughed off of 538.com.

Oh, and who tried to help him out?

Wikileaks.

A University of Colorado professor who's been criticized for his writings about climate change has been caught up in  WikiLeaks' dump of emails involving John Podesta, campaign chairman for Hillary Clinton.

Roger Pielke Jr., who has been a faculty member on the Boulder campus since 2001, was the  subject of a July 2014 email about  an essay he wrote on climate change for the website FiveThirtyEight.

Pielke writes a  regular column about sports governance for the Daily Camera.

The email was sent by Judd Legum, the editor of  ThinkProgress, a site that's part of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the advocacy arm of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, which was founded by Podesta in 2003.

In his email to billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, Legum described how he believed Climate Progress, the environmental arm of ThinkProgress, got Pielke to stop writing about climate change for FiveThirtyEight.

"I think it's fair say that, without Climate Progress, Pielke would still be writing on climate change for 538," Legum wrote.

Peak wingnut? Nah, we're miles away from peak wingnut.

 

They're Coming For Your Weed

Just when you thought the whole thing was settled, the Trump Regime throws a monkey wrench into the gears just for the laughs.

But while Republicans generally support local control and the rights of states to pass their own laws, not all states' rights are created equal in the eyes of the new White House. Case in point: state marijuana laws.

In the White House briefing room Thursday, press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters federal law enforcement authorities would be taking a new view of state laws that have legalized recreational marijuana in recent years.

Never mind that the whole thing regarding "states rights" was settled decades ago--they're telegraphing their next move.

Do you live in a state where you can use marijuana for medical purposes or recreationally? Do you live in a state where it has been decriminalized? Good for you. The Trump people are going to undo all of that and destroy all of the progress we've made. This is because they still think marijuana is a "gateway" drug and that it's still 1983:

"When you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people," Spicer said. "There is still a federal law that we need to abide by when it comes to recreational marijuana and drugs of that nature."

The Obama administration had fought states on the bathroom issue, but let states experiment with marijuana legalization even though federal law supersedes state law under the supremacy clause of the Constitution.

The real criminals are the people who created the opioid crisis in the first place. That would be the drug companies, their marketing people, and the doctors who get kickbacks for prescribing millions of painkillers to people who don't need them. We're not going after those criminals. We're going after the little people because it's much, much easier to fill up a for-profit prison that way. See how it's all a big scam? Cops will get to seize your property and receive military gear. The prisons will fill up with marijuana users. The drug companies will get off scot-free. Profits for them, and not for thee.

We're entering a new phase of American history: the Drug War II. And if you know someone who drives to get their medical marijuana in a vehicle with a Trump bumpersticker, give them a pat on the back.

One Thousand Russian Trolls Helped Elect Trump

Buried at the bottom of this story about FBI Director James Comey's briefing to Senators yesterday is this amazing fact:

Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Intelligence committee, did not answer questions about the focus of the Comey briefing Friday. But he did talk about the extent of the investigation he is building with Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr. 

"What we are trying to do -- and I give Richard (Burr) a lot of credit -- is to not have this devolve into a partisan food fight that doesn't serve the public purpose. This is so important that we get it right," Warner said. "But the amount of manipulation, why there's not more outrage about the fact there were close to 1,000 Russian internet trolls, actual people, working trying to manipulate our news."

This is nothing new to Western leaders, by the way--it was on CNN in September of 2015:

An army of Internet trolls is using cyberspace to promote Russia and wage war against opposition groups and the West.

A former employee of the Internet Research Agency, Lyudmila Savchuk, has offered a rare glimpse inside the propaganda machine where young people were paid to praise President Vladimir Putin and his government. 

Savchuk, 34, who runs a Russian group that campaigns against propaganda, said she went undercover to "unveil the trolls and make them show themselves." 

The freelance journalist told CNN she accepted a job with the agency as a blogger, and then filed a lawsuit over its employment practices to shed light on the shadowy organization. 

The Russian government had denied all knowledge of the operation, and cast doubt on its existence. But a court last month awarded Savchuk symbolic damages of one ruble in recognition of the legal claims she made.

Why is this being briefed by the FBI Director now? Shouldn't we have known about this before the 2016 primaries even began? And since Trump was an announced candidate in the fall of 2015, why didn't anyone connect the dots on his campaign's Russian connections earlier? It would seem to me that this was a missed opportunity to provide some basic level of protection for American democracy. At the very least, it should have been the FBI's responsibility to warn people that the Russians were actively engaged in trying to throw the election while, at the same time, having multiple connections to the Trump campaign for months and months.

Russia had this massive online manipulation program up and running long before the 2016 election and no one in our government did anything to warn anyone. Amazing.

Batshit Crazy Takes a Great Photo

President Trump and Vice President Pence meet with Lilian Tintori and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) at the White House on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2017. (The White House)

President Trump and Vice President Pence meet with Lilian Tintori and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) at the White House on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2017. (The White House)

This is an interesting photo. You can see the misery and panic in the eyes of this young woman. You can see that Marco Rubio is already saying a prayer every night that his male pattern baldness holds off for a little more than four more years. You can see that Trump has no idea what's happening, so he flashes a thumbs up because that's about all he can handle right now. Pence? Pence is lost, hopelessly lost, but the National Naval Observatory is much, much nicer than the Indiana governor's mansion, so his family probably isn't completely miserable right now.

It's a photo taken on the deck of the Titanic. The deck chairs are about to go sliding off into the ocean. Thumb's up! Freedom is just around the corner. 

Oh no.

Where's Trump's other hand?

Tamron Hall

I'm going to say some rude things, and I want you to be offended:

Celebrated NBC News anchor Tamron Hall has been ousted from NBC News, reports Deadline. According to several rumors and reports, The Today Show anchor was bumped to make room for Megyn Kelly, who previously anchored at Fox News.
Last week’s announcement that Kelly would be leaving stirred up controversy and questions regarding the placement of Hall and Al Roker, who previously led the 9 a.m. hour together. With Hall’s departure, Roker will host the third hour slot until Kelly begins her tenure.

Miss Hall is very talented and acclaimed. The mere fact that she has lost her job in television broadcasting is bad enough. But there are some social and racial aspects to this that I want to highlight because what the fuckity fuck, NBC--hello?

First of all, firing a black woman in order to make room for a white woman who regularly talked about how bad black people are on her Fox News show is insulting and ridiculous. Does NBC really believe that firing Hall and replacing her with Megyn Kelly is culturally appropriate or sensitive to their audience?

Second of all, NBC just fired a black woman for being successful on television. Again, what the fuck is wrong with you, NBC? Is this how you maintain diversity and engage the public interest? By making room for another overpaid white woman to appear on television?

Third, of all of the news anchors and pundits and slimy cockroaches out there, you're telling me Tamron Hall is the one who gets fired? All of the people who got it wrong in November seem to still be working, especially all of the goddamned white women who show their legs on television and sit behind glass desks. All of the people who "normalized" the most insane president this country has ever had by reporting ABOUT HER EMAILS still have their jobs. All of the people who said that Hillary was as bad as Trump and boy, look how that turned out to be true, still have their jobs. Did David Brooks get fired? Did that jackass who goes on CNN every night called Jeffery Lord or whatever get fired? 

No.

But Tamron Hall got fired. Post racial America, right?

Seriously, NBC. What the fuck?

Show Me Your Papers

The Trump Regime's promise during the election to ban Muslims entering the United States has affected local law enforcement. This happened BEFORE the ban went into effect, but make no mistake about it--this is the country in which we live right now. 

There's no way a beat cop in Bel Air, Maryland should be accosting citizens and asking for their papers. The woman in question is just as American as you or I. The Bel Air police department should have fired that officer immediately. What an outrage. 

This shit will get out of hand fast. We are headed for panicky days ahead. If you're not ashamed of your country right now, you oughta be. This is not why I served in the Army. This is not what Americans should have to face when walking in their communities. And this is the logical extension of decades of subtle racism, courtesy of the Republican Party. White nationalism won the presidency and way too many people are cheering it on right now.

Governor Mark Dayton Has Prostate Cancer

cst 10814 Gov Dayton State of the State

This is horrible news:

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has been diagnosed with prostate cancer and will undergo either radiation or surgery for treatment, he announced Tuesday at the state Capitol. 
Dayton revealed the information while taking questions from journalists following the state government budget proposal. They asked if a health condition caused him to collapse Monday while delivering the annual State of the State address.
 
"I will ... in the interest of full disclosure say that I learned last week -- I had a biopsy -- that I do have prostate cancer," he said. 
 
Dayton, 69, said doctors say it appears the cancer has not extended beyond his prostate and he was optimistic he would recover. He planned to receive treatment at the Mayo Clinic.

Dayton has been a successful governor primarily because he's done everything that Scott Walker won't do in Wisconsin. Dayton has raised taxes, fought for better health care, and has created a situation in Minnesota where there is not only a budget surplus but a very successful and business friendly economy. Dayton is the opposite of Sam Brownback, he of the Kansas miracle, which turned a state in deep trouble into a stack of dumpsters on fire.

This is horrible. Some wingnut is going to step in and do what Tim Pawlenty did and bankrupt the state once again. The modern Republican believes that if you give tax breaks to the wealthy and slash spending on education, you'll make people hate their government so much, they'll stop paying attention.  

Democrats and progressives need Dayton more than ever. He is one of the few remaining successful blue state governors. Here's hoping he comes back fighting.

Me, Me, Me

The first step in establishing a dictatorship is the creation of the cult of personality. This is the actual bio for the new president of the United States of America. There is no mention of losing the popular vote by nearly 3,000.000 votes, nor is there so much as a thank you to Vladimir Putin. 

Can't wait for the banners, the mega-portraits, and the parades.

Who even uses the word "likewise" anymore?

Republican Hypocrisy is Eternal

Edwin D. Williamson, today:

President-elect Donald Trump’s attempt to put the conflicts issue behind him has failed, at least according to the mainstream media. His announcement that he would resign from all positions with companies in the Trump Organization, put the Trump Organization in a trust run by his two sons and a Trump Organization employee, and not communicate with the trustees on the business did not stifle the howl from the media and such self-appointed ethics watchdogs as Richard Painter and Norman Eisen, who continue their dire warnings about the new president's potential conflicts of interests. Even the supposedly nonpartisan director of the Office of Government Ethics has chimed in, saying that Trump's "plan does not comport with the tradition of our presidents over the last 40 years" (which is incorrect with respect to President Carter; the others did not have financial interests that came close to the extent and complexity of Trump's).

The media and the watchdogs insist on a full divestiture by Trump of all financial interests in the Trump Organization (he will be the principal beneficiary of the Trump trust). For a variety of reasons, divestiture probably cannot be done at all, but it certainly cannot be done without creating an entirely new set of conflicts. What the president-elect has done would not satisfy the requirements of the federal conflicts law if they applied to him (they do not), but he has made a good-faith effort to distance his role as president from his financial interests.

Edwin D. Williamson, November, 2008:

An MSNBC article discusses ethics issues that former President Bill Clinton's extensive charitable activities could present if Barack Obama nominates Hilary Clinton to be Secretary of State. Here's an excerpt:

[V]ast amounts of money and prestige are involved, and those factors could pose problems for lawyers at the State Department who work to prevent ethical conflicts from corrupting the nation's foreign policy.

Edwin D. Williamson, who served as the State Department's chief legal adviser under President George H.W. Bush, said he does not know how the agency would resolve the potential conflicts. "If a client came to me with this set of facts, I would describe it as nightmarish," he said.

The gall of these people. Their moral compass disappears as soon as a Republican gets near the White House. Every single legal argument used against the Clintons for over 25 years is simply flushed down the memory hole.

You may remember how both Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W, Bush placed their personal assets in blind trusts in order to ensure that they could not be accused of anything unethical, but that's not enough. You may remember how Presidents Clinton and Obama did the same thing, but you'd be sneered at for bringing it up. You might remember how all other candidates have released their tax returns, but now you're just being shrill.

Trump has made a "good faith" effort. Except that he hasn't used a blind trust in any way, shape or form. That's not good faith. That's thumbing your nose at the whole idea that a president should comport himself in an ethical manner.

The Republicans have set up a dangerous precedent. In the future, be prepared to laugh in their face if they ever raise a concern for the "appearance of a conflict of interest" with regards to any Democrat.

 

In Russia, This is Bug, Not Feature

Print

The Russians are messing with us now:

In a strange moment of startling symmetry with the current state of American politics, C-SPAN—the public affairs network that regularly broadcasts proceedings the United States House of Representatives and Senate—was interrupted by a broadcast of Russia Today.

The state-funded Russian news network briefly took over the online feed of C-SPAN1, which had been broadcasting a discussion in Congress regarding the Securities and Exchange Commission Regulatory Accountability Act.

As California Democrat Maxine Waters was speaking, the feed suddenly cut from the House floor to a broadcast of RT. The feed cut in with a commercial break before returning to the RT news desk, where an anchor spoke of a suicide bombing.

Multiple C-SPAN watchers made mention of the sudden change on Twitter, including Deadspin editor Timothy Burke, who captured the moment the C-SPAN feed switched to RT.

The takeover reportedly lasted about ten minutes before the C-SPAN feed was returned to normal. The interruption does not appear on the saved broadcast hosted on the network's website.

When contacted by IBTimes, A spokesperson for C-SPAN provided the following statement: "This afternoon the online feed for C-SPAN was briefly interrupted by RT programming. We are currently investigating and troubleshooting this occurrence. As RT is one of the networks we regularly monitor, we are operating under the assumption that it was an internal routing issue. If that changes we will certainly let you know."

When they substitute the Big Bang Theory with a parade of Russian missile launchers, maybe then and only then will Americans figure out what the hell is going on.

96 Million Americans Are Looking For a Job

The real number is around 5.1 million, but what does that mean anymore?

Donald Trump’s first press conference as president-elect will be best-remembered for his jeering at the press and vague dismissals of financial and ethical impropriety. But buried inside the taunting and dissembling was a Trump moment that stands out as a kind of microcosmic footnote—subtle yet representative of his ability to scramble the news cycle with simple falsehoods.

“Right now, there are 96 million [people] wanting a job and they can't get [one],” he said. “You know that story. The real number. That's the real number."

No. That’s not “the real number.”

This is a perfect example of the effect Trump will have on any policy debate he seizes. He takes a fraught yet critical topic—American work, lack of the work, and the way the U.S. government addresses both—reduces it to a bizarro sound bite that bears no relationship to reality, and bends the political and policy conversation toward his dramatic warping of the truth, all without offering a substantive plan to address even the moderate version of his apocalyptic proclamations.

Trump didn’t pull this particular figure out of thin air. There are 96 million Americans over the age of 16 who are not in the labor force. But “not in the labor force” does not mean they want a job and can’t get one. In fact, it means something quite different: that they are neither working nor looking for work.

To use this number as a data point about unemployment is absurd. Most of these 96 million people are retired. Most of the rest are stay-at-home parents and students. To say that 96 million people “want a job and can’t get one” is to argue that a 90-year-old grandfather at a nursing home is struggling to find a suitable job. Is Trump hoping grandpa gets back on his feet and starts realizing his latent labor potential? If not, don’t call him unemployed! If yes, we have deeper issues.

I don’t want to give the impression that unemployment is a cut-and-dry issue just because Trump’s mistake is cut-and-dry. As CNBC's Steve Liesman wrote, the real number is closer to the 5.4 million Americans who say they want a job but aren't working. Liesman is technically right. That is the official figure. But determining the “real” unemployment rate is not like measuring the pressure of a gas in a beaker. It’s a measurement inflected with mutable values and arbitrary definitions.

The Trump Regime has a whole host of Baghdad Bobs on the payroll. Their job is to appear on television, repeat lies, and pretend they are hurt when someone points out that they are lying.