The State Department put up a travelog-style description of Mar-a-Lago, Don the Con’s privately owned weekend retreat in Florida, on its ShareAmerica website a couple of weeks ago, but the page was taken down today. There has been unwelcome publicity about the conflict of interest involved in advertising a 114-room mansion and golf course, for which Don the Con recently doubled the membership fee (from $100K to $200K).
Last week, records of the money donated by businesses and individuals to Don the Con to put on his inauguration festival were released. More than $107 million was raised, with billionaire Sheldon Adelson giving $5 million. Businesses were capped at $1 million each, and ATT, Pfizer, several coal companies, and many others donated the maximum. Don the Con has turned around and granted favors to these businesses and individuals, from gutting the EPA to repealing rules against dumping coal waste in streams. There is no doubt Donald is offering pay-to-play to all comers.
According to today’s Guardian, the budget bill that must be passed by April 28 to keep the US government running is threatened by Don the Con’s insistence that it include funding for a wall on our border with Mexico. White House sources were uncertain whether Don the Con would sign a budget bill unless it includes money for his wall.
The border wall has become an obsession with Don the Con, and he is in such a hurry to build it that he can’t wait for Mexico to come around and provide the funding. He is insisting that the wall be built with American funds, claiming that he will figure out later how to make Mexico pay. US government estimates put the cost of the wall at $21 billion, but some say it could cost as much as $75 billion.
Don the Con still claims that a wall will prevent drug smuggling and the entrance of members of the notorious Central American gang MS 13. Never mind that Mexican drug smugglers are sophisticated enough to send drugs in by airplane or boat, or even to tunnel under the border routinely. Never mind that gang members can easily fly in on six-month tourist visas and then overstay their visas– the method used by half of all illegal aliens. Never mind all that.
A “big, beautiful wall” will reward Don the Con’s cronies who are into concrete. As a matter of fact, Don the Con’s New York construction connections run to mafia contractors who control the concrete business. That is why his favorite building, Trump Tower, is built with concrete instead of the structural steel recommended by architects.
So far, none of Don the Con’s much vaunted campaign promises not supported by an overwhelming majority of Republican lawmakers has come true. We shall see if the opposition to the wall by Republican border-state legislators will trip up another of Don the Con’s promises.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who had been with Exxon for years before he was picked for this job in January, had been supervising a deal with Russia that was in the works when sanctions were applied against certain Russian officials in 2014 in retaliation for the annexation of the Crimea. This deal is estimated to be worth some $500 billion or more, but it was put on hold by the sanctions. Exxon has applied to the Treasury Department for a waiver to the sanctions in order to continue the deal, according to the Wall Street Journal yesterday.
The deal would help to prop up Vladimir Putin’s government, which has been in financial trouble since the price of oil dropped dramatically with the advent of fracking and other advanced drilling techniques. With this oil money, Putin could invest more in his military without crimping his overall budget. The financial bite of the sanctions would be undermined, which is almost as good as having the sanctions lifted completely. The negative publicity surrounding the lifting of sanctions could be avoided by approving Exxon’s waiver request.
The Guardian has reported that, on the day Chinese President Xi Jinping met with President Don the Con and his daughter Ivanka, she gained preliminary approval for three new trademarks in China. Ivanka markets products like jewellry and handbags under her own trademarks, and she has applied for over three dozen trademarks in China. The approval will make it easier and more profitable for her to market her products in China, an emerging luxury market. Business conditions for foreign firms are notoriously difficult in China, and Ivanka’s move into the territory will be greatly eased by her relationship with the kakistocrat-in-chief. The opportunities for corrupt self-dealing are boundless in the new administration.
Donald J. Trump has accumulated a lot of epithets, many of them centered around the color orange or his resemblance to an orangutang, a jackal, or other deplorable or outrageous animals. Donald himself has made a practice of using epithets for many people, from “Crooked Hillary” to “Lyin’ Ted”; he has insulted many more people with adjectives such as “failing” and “sad.”
The most important aspects of a good epithet for Donald are relevance, brevity, and insult value. “The Con” is descriptive because Donald is a con man, it is brief, and it rhymes. I propose that we should refer to “Don the Con” as much as possible.
“Kakistocracy” is, by the way, a government by the worst of men. That certainly applies to Don the Con, who has already been violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution and an express contract with the General Services Administration (GSA) since the day of his inauguration. (This refers to the Old Post Office, an historic building on which his company has a 60-year lease to operate a hotel; the contract he signed explicitly bars anyone with a government job from the lease. Naturally, after he was inaugurated, he appointed a new head for the GSA, and the contract was interpreted in a way that was favorable to him.)
Don the Con’s latest outrage, and little reported on, is to make secret ethics waivers for some of his appointees to allow them to work on areas that would be considered conflicts of interest. Since they are secret, we have no way of knowing which conflicts of interest that appear have already been waived by Don the Con. In addition, he has made the White House visitor logs secret “for national security and privacy reasons.” Naturally certain individuals would prefer that we not know that they have visited with Don the Con.
Never lose sight of the fact that while Don the Con is entertaining us with his outrageous corruption, he is infiltrating the Administration with ideological people who change or eliminate many aspects of government to fit their extreme views. Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch is only the most obvious of these nefarious individuals. In particular, large parts of the scientific work of agencies like NOAA, the Interior Department, and NIH are being altered or eliminated to avoid conflicts with extreme anti-scientific views held by alt-right conservatives. The destruction of scientific agencies is perhaps the worst crime of this administration, and it goes on largely in secret; by the time Don the Con is thrown out, decades of scientific work will have been lost and the general public will never know.
We must also avoid over-reacting; writing on Twitter that “Donald Trump must hang” does no good and may invite a visit from the Secret Service.
Here’s a bizarre thought: what if Putin told al-Assad to drop “just one” sarin bomb to give Donald an excuse to loudly berate the Russians and attack a Syrian air base (with minimal casualties)– all to distract the American public from the news that Carter Page had been the subject of a warrant for surveillance because of his Russia ties? In private, Vladimir could tell Secretary of State Tillerson that everything is really OK– just keep up the great job you are doing of dismantling the American government. After all, what could be better for the Russians than an America destabilized by poor government services to its neediest people? This is just what Donald is doing, exacerbating income and wealth inequality and freeing the police and the border patrol to abuse disfavored people– all of which leads to a less stable society, less able to counter the threat from a foreign enemy.