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The Return of Secret Treaties: President Trump’s Two-Hour Closed-Door Conversation with Russian President Putin

2018-07-20

(I would Photoshop Trump’s head in place of the girl but she’s just as funny herself.)

The only overlooked (primarily because of an absence of evidence) aspect of Vlad “the Impaler” Putin’s conversation with Don “the Con” Trump is the exact nature of the agreements that were made between the two autocrats.  According to the LA Times,

Both leaders have said that their private, two-hour conversation yielded agreements in various policy areas, though by Thursday, the White House and State and Defense departments had been unable to provide details, with many officials professing to be in the dark themselves.

Even the director of national intelligence, former Sen. Dan Coats, acknowledged that he doesn’t know what took place between the two presidents, and said he opposed their meeting alone.

“That is the president’s prerogative,” Coats said in his televised interview Thursday. “If he had asked me how that ought to be conducted, I would have suggested a different way.”

Asked if Putin might have recorded the meeting, he said, “That risk is always there.”

The problem with secret agreements is the autocrat’s ability to obligate his country’s resources in the service of another country.  For example, the Soviet Union sold vast quantities of raw materials to the Nazis up to the day the Germans invaded Russia in World War II– in exchange for much-needed hard currency to buy foreign-made war equipment.  Was Stalin right to do this, or was he merely exercising his dictatorial power in the service of a whim?

(photo courtesy of pixabay.com and klimkin)

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Journalist Marcy Wheeler: “This is clear quid pro quo. They went to Trump and said, ‘We’ll help you. We want sanctions relief, we want Syria, throw in Ukraine, maybe we’ll throw in a Trump Tower.’ And that’s it; that is the basic equation we’re talking about.”

2018-07-19

(photo courtesy of pixabay.com)

John Kelly, Chief of Staff to President Trump, Tells High-Level Republican Politicians That It’s OK to Criticize the President For His Behavior in Helsinki

2018-07-18

A bizarre piece ran in “The Hill” yesterday that described the testimony of three anonymous witnesses who reported that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly gave high-level Republican politicians oral permission to criticize President Trump’s statements at his press conference with Vladimir Putin.  In fact, some Republicans like the leaders of the House and Senate obliquely rebuked the statements as being a mistake, pointedly saying, “Russia is not our friend.”  McCain, who is homebound with brain cancer, gave the most negative remarks about the president’s behavior; other retiring Republican Senators and Congressmen were also highly critical.  Only the former head of the CIA, John Brennan, went so far as to describe Trump’s behavior as “treasonous.”

The remarkable thing is that John Kelly would give permission to leading Republicans to make critical remarks– it seems that Trump has disregarded Mr. Kelly’s instructions on how to behave at the meeting with Putin, and Kelly was angry about this.  What is worse, Kelly reasons that Trump’s behavior might worsen the situation with the investigation headed by special counsel Robert Mueller going on right now.  In other words, embracing Russia might seem like a quid-pro-quo for whatever Putin has on Trump– whether it is kompromat, details of money-laundering schemes, secret financing, or you name it.

This suggests that John Kelly is likely to resign his post soon, probably because he can’t stand it anymore.  He probably feels that Trump doesn’t take his advice anyway so there is no way to influence  him.  Trump doesn’t respect Kelly because he’s not rich– he only listens to people who are at least multi-millionaires.

Mr. Trump’s 24-hour turnaround, from “would” to “wouldn’t” at a news conference that unfolded with an eerie blackout just after he had spoken his words of contrition makes sense if we presume that he got an earful from Mr. Kelly when he returned to the White House.  Mr. Trump’s advisors would have forcefully reminded him that all the intelligence agencies are certain that Russia is the culprit in the hacking cases and that Russia is our enemy, not the European Union.

Thus unreels the destruction of American federal government by the election of a man fundamentally unfit to be president.  Once this is over there must be a law enacted to prevent it ever happening again.

(photo of upside-down car in Helsinki courtesy of pixabay.com and leebest90)

 

Trump’s Fixer Michael Cohen and Drug Maker Novartis: How “Business” is Done in Our Federal Government, and How This Relates to Fascism

2018-07-17

Among the revelations after Michael Cohen (Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and “fixer”) had his residence and office raided recently was the news that Mr. Cohen had several contracts with American corporations in 2017 for unclear reasons.  Among those companies was Novartis, maker of Clozaril (clozapine, an aytpical antipsychotic), Voltaren (diclofenac, an ibuprofen-like anti-arthritic pain drug), Tegretol (carbamazepine), Diovan (valsartan, a blood pressure drug) Gleevec ( imatinib, a new anti-cancer drug) , Neoral (an immune suppressant), Ritalin (methylphenidate, a stimulant often used in attention deficit disorder), Lamisil (terbinafine, an antifungal), and many others; Novartis is one of the biggest drug makers in the world and was third-largest Swiss-headquartered corporation of any kind for some years.

Novartis contracted for Michael Cohen’s services for $100,000 a month for a year starting in January 2017; their CEO at the time, Joe Jimenez, has said that it became apparent at their first meeting that Cohen was unsuitable for his task of providing “access to key policymakers.”  Nonetheless, they did not cancel the contract despite a clause requiring “satisfactory performance”.  Mr. Jimenez apparently claimed that there was only one meeting, but Senate Democrats, in a report released Friday, revealed that there were several further contacts, including at least two emails from Cohen and scheduled calls from Jimenez to Cohen.

Mr. Jimenez stated that, at their first meeting, it was apparent that  “Mr. Cohen had made no effort to learn anything about Novartis, or the policy issues that were of concern to Novartis specifically, or the pharmaceutical industry generally.”  Why this single meeting displaying Cohen’s ignorance and lack of interest did not prompt cancellation of the contract is a mystery to me.

One email chain of some significance included Jimenez’ wish list of government initiatives that supposedly were aimed at reducing drug prices.  Parts of this wish list appeared later, in a document released by the Trump administration that they called their “drug price blueprint”.

Another email chain from Cohen touted a small drug company as an investment for Novartis.  Jimenez responded to the initial email within an hour.  Novartis never invested in the drug company, although they did look into the possibility.

This is how federal government works these days: corporations invest in people with access to the levers of power, personal relationships to the president and his staff.  Suggestions and advice travel back and forth in this personal chain of influence, and the people with access are enriched– in this case, $1.2 million over 12 months, deposited to the same account used to pay off “Stormy Daniels” (Stephanie Clifford) for her silence prior to the election (also known as blackmail.)  That the people in power are also enriched goes without saying, although their payoffs come in different forms.  Naturally, this is un-Constitutional, under the so-called “Emoluments Clause”, although this clause has never yet been enforced.

Mr. Trump was plainly in violation of the emoluments clause from the day of his inauguration, through his control of an hotel in Washington DC; all the foreign dignitaries and many American VIPs stay there, especially when they have business with the government.  No-one has stepped forward to enforce the Constitution against Mr. Trump, although private parties have filed civil lawsuits.  With impunity, the other steps towards fascism come so much more easily.  Remember that fascism is an alliance of private businesses with government which perverts democracy and leads to its destruction– the only other step needed is government violence against parties who exercise their free-speech rights to object to government misbehavior.

By these definitions, fascism is a feature of the largest national governments in the world: China, Russia, Indonesia, Pakistan, and possibly even India.  We are not yet under a fascist government, but it will not be long at this rate.

(details of the Novartis–Michael Cohen story are from a report in today’s Los Angeles Times; information about Novartis’ drugs come from Wikipedia.  Other details are common knowledge already.)

(image courtesy of pixabay.com and mamuki0, of a WWII-era Spanish peseta showing a pair of fasces– a bundle of sticks and an axe bound together– from which the term fascism is derived– on the sides of the coat of arms)

 

George Soros: “the connection between capitalism and democracy is tenuous at best”

2018-07-08

 

(photo courtesy of pixabay.com and rhulk)

Tony Schwartz(co-author of “The Art of the Deal”): “the millions of people who voted for him [Trump] and believe that he represents their interests will learn what anyone who deals closely with him already knows—that he couldn’t care less about them.”

2018-07-05

(photo courtesy of pixabay.com)

HL Mencken: “On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

2018-07-04

(photo courtesy of pixabay.com)