Thursday Morning Open Thread: The CPAC Clown Parade Is Back in DC


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… and this year, they have a drum major!

Remember when we could laugh at these creeps, grifters, bloviators, and post-college hopefuls trolling on Craigslists’ M4M?


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I want a better acronym than “Clowns Pandering to Aging Christofascists”. Any suggestions?

One extremely promising-for-parodists panel has already been cancelled…


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Two-Bit Grifter Open Thread: Apparently Donny Jr Is Jealous of the Attention Jared’s Been Getting…

Lest we overlook, in the crush of events, the Trump family’s ongoing attempt to sell out the country for their own two-bit schemes…

The president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., is making what has been dubbed an unofficial visit to India to promote his family’s real estate projects. But he’s also planning to deliver a foreign policy speech on Indo-Pacific relations at an event with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi…

During the visit, the 40-year-old Trump Jr., executive vice president of the Trump Organization, will take a break from his private promotional tour to give an address on “Reshaping Indo-Pacific Ties: The New Era of Cooperation” at a global business summit on Friday evening, co-sponsored by the Economic Times newspaper. Modi will also speak at the summit…

“Trump’s company is literally selling access to the president’s son overseas,” said Jordan Libowitz, the communications director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which is frequently critical of the first family. “For many people wanting to impact American policy in the region, the cost of a condo is a small price to pay to lobby one of the people closest to the president, far away from watchful eyes.”

Critics have often complained of the high cost of Secret Service agents accompanying the Trump children on private business trips, straining the agency’s budget. The Trump Organization’s spokesman did not return requests for comment…

Later this week, Trump Jr. will travel to Mumbai to open the demo unit at the golden-facade Trump Tower being built by the family development firm of Mangal Prabhat Lodha, a state legislator in Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party. That relationship has also sparked concern about potential conflicts of interest. As with most of its foreign deals, the Trump family licenses its name to the projects, collecting hefty royalty fees but avoiding risky investments.

“Part of the deal was that Trump would come and do promotions every couple of years,” said an employee of the Lodha Group, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media…

“Ideally we’d have preferred Ivanka,” he said, referring to the president’s elder daughter, who is now an adviser to her father. “She has a better public image. But it makes sense for Donald Trump Junior to do it.”

The Atlantic, “The Ethics of Donald Trump Jr’s Indian Adventure”:

“When these sons go around all over the world talking about, one, Trump business deals and, two, … apparently giving speeches on some United States government foreign policy, they are strongly suggesting a linkage between the two,” Richard Painter, President George W. Bush’s chief ethics lawyer who is a professor of law at the University of Minnesota, told me. “Somebody, somewhere is going to cross the line into suggesting a quid pro quo.”…

There are numerous Trump projects in India. There are buildings with the Trump name in Pune, a city of about 3 million people near Mumbai. Other projects are underway in Kolkota; Gurgaon, a suburb of New Delhi; and Mumbai. Prices for the luxury apartments range from $780,000 to $1.6 million. Properties are routinely sold for those amounts in India’s largest cities.

What all these projects have in common is that they are licensing agreements—not Trump construction projects. The Trump Organization’s Indian business partners use the Trump name in exchange for licensing fees. The Trump units reportedly sell at a 30 percent premium over the market rate.

“It’s all about status symbols,” Pankaj Bansal, the director of the real-estate firm M3M India, told CNN last month. “People want to be able to say: ‘Come, let’s go have a drink at the Trump Tower.’ That’s what we’re trying to tap into.”…

“If at dinner, he’s going to talk about United States government policy, that suggests a linkage between United States government official action and people buying condominiums [who] have an opportunity to influence United States government,” Painter said.

Trump Jr. was asked about this during his trip. He told CNBC-TV18 that the criticism the Trump Organization was profiting from the presidency was “nonsense.” “It’s sort of a shame,” he said. “Because we put on all these impositions on ourselves and essentially got no credit for actually doing that. … for doing the right thing.” Trump resigned leadership of the Trump Organization upon becoming president, and among other steps, the company announced that it won’t enter any new deals overseas while he is in office. Additionally, it said, domestic projects will be undertaken only after internal ethics approval. But Painter pointed out that the president himself “has a serious financial conflict of interest with his official duties.”….

Come to think about it, last time I can remember this level of blatant nepotistic influence-peddling was during the first Bush presidency, when runt of the litter son Neil was cruising around Asia, collecting ‘consulting fees’ with bonus ‘room service’ visits (“… The women, he said, simply knocked on the door of his hotel room, entered and had sex with him. He said he did not know if they were prostitutes because they never asked for money and he did not pay them…”) But that was a simpler age, and those naughty details didn’t come out until years later, when Neil’s longsuffering wife took him to divorce court. News moves more swiftly these days — and the Trump boys are even dumber than the young Bushes. So, silver lining, by this weekend there could be diverting infotainment stories about Donny Jr’s favorite kinks…

Vox is straightforward — “Donald Trump Jr.’s tour through India is staggeringly corrupt”:

Trump Jr.’s visit to India not only suggests that the Trump Organization wants to lean into its investments in India — it almost seems designed to invite corrupt behavior.

Experts say Junior is selling access to himself — and by proxy, to the president of the US — in exchange for buying his products. He knows that if a member of the Indian elite wants a chance to advocate for a policy that they’d like to see enacted, buying Trump property is a simple way to do it…
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Open Thread: Notes from the “President”‘s “Listening Session”


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Of course he likes it — he’s on the teevee, and other people have to do all the hard work!

Daniel Dale, of the Toronto Star, live-tweeted the whole performance. Click on any tweet for the whole spool:


(Note the recurrent Wingnut trope: I have a godgiven First Amendment right to be stupid! And if you attempt to point out how stupid my idea is, that’s censorship!)
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Late Night Horrorshow Open Thread: It’d Be More Entertaining If This Goniff Wasn’t Squatting in the Oval Office

Phillip Elliott, for Time, “Inside Donald Trump’s Twitter-Fueled Weekend Meltdown”:

White House aides prayed for rain. Inclement weather would mean President Donald Trump would have to take the motorcade to the waiting plane to Florida. That would mean he couldn’t take the helicopter from the South Lawn to Joint Base Andrews, which meant he wouldn’t walk in front of a few dozen waiting reporters who would of course ask him about Special Counsel Bob Mueller’s indictments of 13 Russians for meddling in the 2016 elections.

“If anyone knows a rain dance,” a senior White House official said in the hallway around midday Friday. She didn’t finish the sentence…

This is the daily reality of White House staff members at this moment. Their best hope of averting a crisis — of the legal, political, foreign policy, public relations and familial varieties — is hoping the weather report scuttles an airlift from the South Lawn. In conversations with more than a dozen White House officials and outside advisers, they describe the mood as being grim. Many inside are looking for a way out. Roughly half of them compared it to what they felt when Trump fired FBI Director James Comey last May. None would speak for attribution lest they be seen as publicly disloyal to the President…

Even by Trumpian standards, the President’s weekend in Florida was a class apart. In angry, sometimes profane and occasionally misspelled outbursts, the President gave the world a glimpse into what was going through his head at a moment certain to draw scrutiny for generations. It also brought to light what it’s like to work for this Leader of the Free World who is increasingly feeling isolated.

Already, the week had been a bad one. There were rumors, then reports, that a top deputy on the Trump campaign was ready to plead guilty in Mueller’s probe. A school shooting in Parkland, Florida, left 17 dead not far from the President’s private Mar a Lago club. The President scheduled a Friday evening visit to the community, although White House officials worried that it was a fraught situation for what most aides recognize is figure who doesn’t exactly exude compassion in public…

The President is increasingly angered with his personal and political situations and blames those around him: White House chief of staff John Kelly for the Porter drama; the FBI, even though law enforcement officials have been sharing with the White House lawyers their concerns about the hires; leaders in Congress for not being yes-men; the Attorney General for letting the special counsel exist in the first place; his lawyers for not being more careful with hush money. Ivanka Trump and Kushner have, according to reports, started shopping for a replacement for Kelly — a suggestion Vice President Mike Pence was sent out to deny last week.

Trump’s always formidable temper has been shorter-fused than usual, his willingness to listen less than normal. Some White House officials have stopped speaking up in meetings, knowing it won’t make any difference because Trump is counting on a shrinking circle of those he trusts. Nothing anyone on the National Security Council staff, in the counsel’s office or from across government can outweigh what the President hears from conservatives on cable television or from his social media maven and communications adviser…

The problems were only getting started. The President changed his Twitter picture to one of him flashing a smile and thumbs-up — taken while the President was visiting a hospital where victims of the school shooting were recovering. Other social media accounts featured a grinning President standing next to a young woman in a hospital bed and her medical equipment…



Russiagate Open Thread: Exposing the Tinpot Dictator Squatting in the Oval Office

(Matt Davies via GoComics.com)
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It’s a tragic status that’s getting noticed more & more…

The Pentagon is considering soliciting donations to fund the President’s requested military parade, which could cost between $3 million and $50 million, according to preliminary estimates from a defense official who spoke with CNN.

Because there is currently no money set aside for a parade in the military budget, the Pentagon would likely use those private donations to offset the cost of the non-military components of the event, according to CNN. Budget director Mick Mulvaney said Wednesday that he estimates the parade could cost between $10 million to $30 million.

Defense officials are also concerned about the lack of available troops to attend a parade, CNN reported. A large-scale parade would require weeks of planning and the transportation of equipment, like tanks, to Washington, D.C. days ahead of time in order to prepare, according to the official who spoke with CNN…

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Hey, remember how offended the Trumplodytes were when the South Korean government was nice to Kim Jong-un’s sister?…

The government is preparing a VIP welcome for U.S. President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who comes to Korea for the closing ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics on Feb. 25. The government apparently wants to soften her up so Trump agrees to a mooted visit to Pyongyang by President Moon Jae-in…

Trump runs the White House like a private fiefdom and has levered both Ivanka and her husband Jarred Kushner into ill-defined foreign-policy roles.

Technically, Seoul has no diplomatic obligation to roll out the red carpet for the child of a U.S. leader, and even the head of a U.S. presidential delegation does not receive the treatment given to a head of state…

Moon himself seems minded to greet her cap-in-hand. A Cheong Wa Dae official said, “Ivanka enjoys sports and especially skiing, so we are discussing having the president travel to Pyeongchang with her to watch a skiing competition.”

Ivanka Trump is the mother of two sons and a daughter, whom the government wants to lavish with presents.

The government has to calibrate the red-carpet treatment so it meets at least the welcome given to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister Yo-jong, who visited the opening ceremony. The first daughter has repeatedly been treated as a virtual head of state during visits to other countries, not least to Germany, where she shared a stage with Chancellor Angela Merkel…


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BREAKING…

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s interest in Jared Kushner has expanded beyond his contacts with Russia and now includes his efforts to secure financing for his company from foreign investors during the presidential transition, according to people familiar with the inquiry.

This is the first indication that Mueller is exploring Kushner’s discussions with potential non-Russian foreign investors, including in China…

It’s not clear what’s behind Mueller’s specific interest in the financing discussions. Mueller’s team has not contacted Kushner Companies for information or requested interviews with its executives, according to a person familiar with the matter.

During the presidential transition, Kushner was a lead contact for foreign governments, speaking to “over fifty contacts with people from over fifteen countries,” according to a statement he gave to congressional investigators…



Russiagate Open Thread: What Would You Sell, If You Needed the Money?

“His honor”, without something more tangible to back it, would be worth about 37 cents even in a sellers’ market…


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A little background reading…


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Late Night Open Thread: To Infinity, With Branding!


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The Trump Administration wants all kinds of stuff it ain’t gonna get:

The White House plans to stop funding the station after 2024, ending direct federal support of the orbiting laboratory. But it does not intend to abandon the orbiting laboratory altogether and is working on a transition plan that could turn the station over to the private sector, according to an internal NASA document obtained by The Washington Post.

The plan to privatize the station is likely to run into a wall of opposition, especially because the United States has spent nearly $100 billion to build and operate it. Last week, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) said he hoped recent reports of NASA’s decision to end funding of the station “prove as unfounded as Bigfoot.” He said the decision was the result of “numskulls” at the Office of Management and Budget…

“The ISS is built for science and human exploration, it’s not built for profit seeking,” said Andrew Rush, the chief executive of Made In Space, a company that uses 3-D printing to manufacture objects on the space station.

Frank Slazer, the vice president of space systems for the Aerospace Industries Association, said the plan also could prove sticky with the station’s international partners.

“It will be very hard to turn ISS into a truly commercial outpost because of the international agreements that the United States is involved in,” he said. “It’s inherently always going to be an international construct that requires U.S. government involvement and multinational cooperation.”…

Progressives support the ISS, because science, and conservatives support it, because WIN THE SPACE RACE has been a Repub applause line since the 1950s. (Not to mention, Reagan’s ‘Star Wars’ miracle missiles.) Declaring bankruptcy and walking away, not an option.

Per the New York Times, “NASA Budgets for a Trip to the Moon, but Not While Trump Is President”:

Sending astronauts back to the moon is one of the top space priorities of President Trump. But his administration wants to accomplish that without giving NASA additional money, and it won’t occur until after he leaves office, even if he wins re-election…

In future years, the administration would like NASA’s spending to drop to $19.6 billion and stay flat through 2023. With inflation, NASA’s buying power would erode, effectively a budget cut each year…

The proposal is just an opening bid. Congress decides the final spending numbers, sometimes adjusting them or ignoring a president’s priorities. But an administration’s wishes are often incorporated.

NASA’s budget will be announced at a moment when the agency has no permanent leaders to carry out the new directions. Mr. Trump nominated Jim Bridenstine, an Oklahoma congressman, to be the next administrator, but the Senate has not yet confirmed him. Whether the administration has the votes to confirm him remains uncertain. This is by far the longest period in NASA’s history without an administrator…

Apart from the photo-op, Trump doesn’t really give a damn, so the scientists still there are trying to slow-walk his wilder demands until he’s out of office, right?