Disclose & Divest

U.S. journalists sometimes use the phrase “Russian oligarchs” to describe obscenely rich Russians affiliated with Vladimir Putin, who doles out wealth to consolidate power. It’s meant to convey the corrupt, anti-democratic nature of Putin’s regime.

We’ve got our own oligarch problem. While Trump has thus far proved too soft and stupid to replicate a Putinesque regime on American soil, it hasn’t been for lack of trying or scarcity of resources. In addition to the Republican Party, Trump has American oligarchs in his corner, including Robert and Rebekah Mercer.

The Mercers, along with Steve Bannon, are investors in Cambridge Analytica, the shady data company that played a role in Russian interference in the 2016 election. Mr. Mueller’s team and the congressional committees are investigating.

The jury is still (technically) out on whether the Mercers colluded with a hostile foreign power to swing the election. But earlier this month, BuzzFeed exposed the Mercers as direct funders of Nazi and white supremacist outreach on behalf of Trump and the Republican Party, via Bannon and his repulsive henchman Milo at the Breitbart hate site.

These Nazi-linked American oligarchs are continuing to amass wealth and influence, largely under the radar — and some of our most well-known institutions are helping them do it via a hedge fund called Renaissance Technologies. Jedd Legum and Danielle McLean at ThinkProgress published a terrific piece yesterday about “RenTech” and how foundations, public sector pensions, scientific institutions, etc., are funding white supremacy, whether they know it or not. An excerpt:

Neither Mercer’s involvement in Breitbart, nor his support for Yiannopoulos, nor charges of discrimination, have appeared to negatively impact his business. Renaissance Technologies now manages $45 billion in assets, up from $27 billion at the start 2016, according to Forbes. Outside investors pay a hefty fee for the privilege of accessing a Renaissance fund and a good deal of that money ultimately ends up in Mercer’s pocket.

The identity of Renaissance’s investors has largely remained secret. The company is not obligated to disclose their clients, who are generally required to invest at least $25 million. ThinkProgress, however, has been able to identify numerous investors in Renaissance by identifying institutions that, either voluntarily or by law, disclose how they invest their money. This includes reports from public pension plans, non-profit filings, and university endowment reports.

Here are the 10 RenTech investors ThinkProgress revealed in the piece:

The Public Schools Employee Retirement System of Missouri
Columbia University
Michigan State University
The Employee Retirement System of the City of Providence
Los Angeles Water & Power Employees Retirement Plan
National Academy of Sciences
Baltimore Fire and Police Employees’ Retirement System
The William Penn Foundation
American Physical Society
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

When I was a college student back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, anti-apartheid activists took on universities, pressuring them to divest from US-based multinational companies with South African holdings. Shouldn’t companies run by American oligarchs with Nazi ties get the same treatment?

It’s likely the institutions ThinkProgress revealed as RenTech investors had no idea they’re helping to inject Nazism and other flavors of white nationalism directly into the bloodstream of one of our two major political parties, thus undermining American democracy itself. Well, now they know, and it’s time for them to choose a side.

So much for General Kelly’s honor…

General Kelly followed the Trump playbook to the letter in a presser this afternoon. Here he is attempting to deflect criticism of his odious boss for the insensitive remarks that upset Sergeant Johnson’s widow to Congresswoman Wilson, the long-time family friend who called Trump out on them:

Kelly’s remarks were carefully considered: He blasts the congresswoman — lord knows the base will lap that up. Not only is Representative Wilson a politician, she’s a black woman: a hate-object trifecta for the Trumpsters. Kelly conveniently neglects to mention the fact that Sergeant Johnson’s wife and mother agreed with Wilson’s assessment.

Kelly pretends to be “stunned” that the congresswoman was “listening in to the sacred call” — as he himself was. Kelly lays the blame for Gold Star families losing their “sacred” status “at the conventions,” either eliding the fact that it was his boss who attacked the Khans or, worse, obliquely attacking the Khans himself. Utterly contemptible.

Everything Trump touches turns to shit. But perhaps General Kelly was shit all along.

Late Night Yapper Open Thread: Corgis Have Knees (But O’Reilly Has No Clue)


That poor dog. Maybe she just doesn’t like cameras, but she looks so miserable. And like her knees hurt.

(Anatomically, of course, that’s ‘taking an elbow’, but yeah it’s the canine equivalent to show respect.)

Pennies For Pence

Groupon!!  Best headline of the day:

Cost to see VP Mike Pence in Denver plummets after tickets struggle to sell

The original minimum ticket for the Mike Pence event was $275. Now it’s $150.

Because of a lack of demand, the Colorado Republican Party is offering a Groupon-like deal to see Vice President Mike Pence.

Pence is the headliner for a party fundraiser Oct. 26 at the Denver Marriott Tech Center, where the minimum-priced tickets originally cost $275.

The party announced the event weeks earlier but struggled to sell the 800 tickets available. So now it’s lowering the lowest-price ticket to $150, a 45 percent discount. A couple can attend with a two-for-one deal at the original $275 price.

Colorado Republican Party Chairman Jeff Hays tried to put his best spin on the news, writing in an email Wednesday: “Due to popular demand, we have made more tickets available at a new lower price.” But the same invite later says space is limited.

read the rest at  the Denver Post

Here’s what I think of that:

What’s making your day better? Open thread

Trump Opens Another Front in His Personal War with Military Families

“President” Flapjaw had to play the big shot in front of the cameras yesterday; when he got called on his bullshit, he went on the offensive (‘offensive’ being his baseline state). That gave the Washington Post an(other) excuse to go do some actual investigative reporting — “Trump offered a grieving military father $25,000 in a call, but didn’t follow through”:

Chris Baldridge, the father of Army Cpl. Dillon Baldridge, told The Washington Post that Trump called him at his home in Zebulon, N.C., a few weeks after his 22-year-old son and two fellow soldiers were gunned down by an Afghan police officer in a suspected insider attack June 10. Their phone conversation lasted about 15 minutes, Baldridge said, and centered for a time on the father’s struggle with the manner in which his son was killed.

“I said, ‘Me and my wife would rather our son died in trench warfare,’ “ Baldridge said. “I feel like he got murdered over there.”

Trump’s offer of $25,000 adds another dimension to the president’s relations with Gold Star families, an honorific given to those whose loved ones die while serving in support of the nation’s wars. The disclosure follows questions about how often the president has called or written to grieving military families.

The Washington Post contacted the White House about Baldridge’s account on Wednesday morning. Officials declined to discuss the events in detail.

But White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said in a statement Wednesday afternoon, “The check has been sent. It’s disgusting that the media is taking something that should be recognized as a generous and sincere gesture, made privately by the President, and using it to advance the media’s biased agenda. “…

The president has faced worsening backlash since details emerged of his phone call Tuesday with the widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson, who was killed Oct. 4 alongside three other U.S. soldiers in Niger. After not addressing the incident for 12 days, Trump on Monday falsely claimed that previous presidents never or rarely called the families of fallen service members. In fact, they did so regularly…

Trump denied the allegation Wednesday morning. But the fallen soldier’s childhood guardian, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, told The Washington Post that she also was in the car when the White House called, and said that “President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband.”

In all, seven Gold Star families contacted by The Post said they have had phone conversations with Trump. Most said they appreciated the gesture. Four families said they have not received a call and were upset. One said Trump had not called but that they knew the late soldier would not want his death politicized. An additional family said that it had corresponded with the White House, but declined to elaborate…

Euvince Brooks’s son, Sgt. Roshain E. Brooks, 30, was killed Aug. 13 in Iraq. He has not heard from the White House. The president’s claim this week that he had called every military family to lose a son or daughter only upset the Brooks family more.

Brooks said that after watching the news on Tuesday night he wanted to set up a Twitter account to try and get the President’s attention.

“I said to my daughter, ‘Can you teach me to tweet, so I can tweet at the president and tell him he’s a liar?’” he said. “You know when you hear people lying, and you want to fight? That’s the way I feel last night. He’s a damn liar.”

Of course Trump doesn’t have to contact the grieving families — as my Nana used to say, the only things you “have to” do are breathe and someday die. But if the stupid bastid had enough sense to simply not run his big yap, the families wouldn’t have been put to further abuse and the rest of us wouldn’t have been “gifted” this new example of Trump’s basic sociopathy.


“The Ambassador from Russia is Russian”

KKKeebler Elf brings his outraged honor act to the Senate Judiciary Committee — for an audience of one. Senator Franken isn’t taken in by the moonlight and magnolias act:

Franken rightly calls the pint-sized bigot out for moving the goal posts on campaign collusion with Russia in the 2016 election, which is what Team Trump has done from the beginning. First, they were all, “Russians? What Russians?” Then, they said, “Okay, some operatives may have talked to Russians, but no one close to the campaign.” Next, it was, “Well, not every single surrogate talked to the Russians.” And finally, “How dayuh you impugn mah honah, suh?”

Good God, what a clown show.

Tuesday Evening Open Thread: Why the Election Was Close Enough to Steal


Imagine you were an idiot, and imagine you were a Trump voter. But I repeat myself!

Apart from [all the facepalms], what’s on the agenda for the evening?