Tuesday Morning Open Thread: The Kleptocracy

It used to be third-world shiteholes and banana republics where the ruling autocrat was brought low by the thieving ways of his inept relatives. Thanks, GOP, for making this comic trope AMERICAN!

Within the warped internal logic of the Trump presidency — where it is taken as a given by essentially everybody around him that the president is impulsive and grotesquely ignorant — his shocking actions and statements have a more understandable basis.

A week ago, it appeared that the probe would center around the activities of a handful of figures who are now marginal within Trumpworld: former campaign manager Paul Manafort, foreign policy adviser Carter Page, and deposed National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. That has changed. The Washington Post reported Friday that investigators have identified a current White House official as a person of interest in its financial probe. (The story hinted, and New York Magazine contributor Yashar Ali confirmed, that the person is Jared Kushner.)…

All this implies that the probe is scrutinizing the financial aspects of Trump’s business, which is a family operation. While some Trump advisers opposed the firing of Comey, Kushner reportedly advocated for it. That fact may seem strange if one thinks of Kushner as a voice of pragmatism. But it is easier to understand if you think of him as a figure sitting near the heart of a financial scandal, who harbors a strong interest in suppressing the investigation…
 
The official White House line maintains — or has tried to maintain — that the administration welcomes special prosecutor Robert Mueller and sees his work as a chance to dispel the cloud of suspicion needlessly hanging over the presidency. Their actions suggest a very different calculation. From Trump’s campaign to ensure the loyalty of his FBI director, to his subsequent firing of him, to his tweet-rages against the special prosecutor as an unfair witch hunt — all of this indicates high levels of panic in the Oval Office. Trump has almost certainly engaged in obstruction of justice for the simple reason that there is a lot of justice to obstruct.

Of course, like every other aging crime family capo, the old man can’t resist going back to his known accomplices…



Open Thread: Now, the Happy Part Is Over…


Okay, the Secretary of Commerce thinks criminalizing protests isn’t such a bad thing, since he got ‘two gigantic bushels of dates’ from his security detail. One look at Wilbur Ross’s face, you can understand why dietary fiber is so valuable to him!



Open Thread: More Global Adventures with the Trump Crime Cartel

They look like any other bunch of rich kleptocrats on parade. Remember when the Repubs thought Secretary of State HR Clinton’s official trips were embarrassing-bordering-on-treasonous?



Open Thread: Just Desserts

A compost creme pie right inna kisser, and who’s done more to deserve it?



Human Auto-Tune’s Vapid Pitch

Low hanging synergy-fruit Ivanka Trump brought her women’s empowerment corporate cliché roadshow and shakedown fest to Saudi Arabia along with her embarrassing father. Unsurprisingly, real-life activists who are resisting the nightmarish autocracy in Saudi Arabia weren’t buying what the auto-tuned Trump was selling. Via WaPo:

“All the women that Ivanka Trump met have a guardian,” said Aziza al-Yousef, a 58-year-old activist here who has campaigned to abolish the guardianship rules [i.e., necessity of obtaining male permission for work, education, travel, healthcare, etc.]. A retired professor of computer science at King Saud University, she was recently rebuffed when she tried to deliver a 14,700-signature petition on eliminating the guardian system to the government.

“All these achievements depend on whether you’re lucky to be born in a family where your guardian will be understanding, will help you,” Yousef said. “If Ivanka is interested in women empowerment and human rights, she should see activists, and not just officials.”

“It’s not about Ivanka speaking at the meeting,” said activist Loujain al-Hathloul, “but is it actually useful for these women from Saudi Arabia to speak as well? Is their contribution in such events helpful to us Saudi women in general, not princesses or business owners or rich women? Does it actually help us? I doubt it.”

I hear you, Saudi sisters. The ambulatory teeth whitening strip’s* patter about women’s empowerment rings a bit hollow in the States too. Particularly when she holds herself up as an example of how pluck and determination drive entrepreneurial success.

Pffft. It would be a lot easier to watch these entitled pricks monetize the U.S. government if they didn’t expect us to pretend that they’re doing us all a favor.

PS: Help the sweet old lost dog pictured below find his way home — details here!

And open thread!

* H/T: Sam Bee



Donald of Arabia: A Photo Album


 

(Nice cup of tea, but no accompanying large bowl of individually-wrapped pharmaceuticals)


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(Edgar suit, Men in Black)

Conjure your own images:



Saturday Morning Open Thread: Light Breakfast Reading

Alexandra Petri, at the Washington Post“The president is not a child. He’s something worse:

We were wrong, it turns out. Anyone cannot be president. Anyone can be elected president (any man, that is), but not anyone can be president…

The Trump presidency is the discovery that what you thought was a man in a bear suit is just a bear. Suddenly the fact that he wouldn’t play by the rules makes total sense. It wasn’t that he refused to, that he was playing a long game. It was that he was a wild animal who eats fish and climbs trees, and English words were totally unintelligible to him. In retrospect, you should have suspected that after he just straight-up ate a guy. But at the time everyone cheered. It was good TV. Also, he was your bear.

Okay. So you have spent 200 years building a fragile snow globe, and now you have given it to a bear. The animal doesn’t care. You cannot even explain to him what the thing is. To him, all your words are just sounds. He looks at you when you are making them and he looks away when you are finished. You can only hope the bear becomes bored and sets the snow globe down and wanders off looking for food.

(Again, this is an insult to bears, who have fewer places to live than Trump and do not do so at the taxpayer’s expense.)…

He’s a human Failure to Read the User’s Manual…

Professor Krugman, “What’s the Matter With Republicans?“:

It has become painfully clear… that Republicans have no intention of exercising any real oversight over a president who is obviously emotionally unstable, seems to have cognitive issues and is doing a very good imitation of being an agent of a hostile foreign power.

They may make a few gestures toward accountability in the face of bad poll numbers, but there is not a hint that any important figures in the party care enough about the Constitution or the national interest to take a stand…

The Democratic Party is a coalition of interest groups, with some shared views but also a lot of conflicts, and politicians get ahead through their success in striking compromises and finding acceptable solutions.

The G.O.P., by contrast, is one branch of a monolithic structure, movement conservatism, with a rigid ideology — tax cuts for the rich above all else. Other branches of the structure include a captive media that parrots the party line every step of the way. Compare the coverage of recent political developments on Fox News with almost everywhere else; we’re talking North Korea levels of alternative reality.

And this monolithic structure — lavishly supported by a small number of very, very wealthy families — rewards, indeed insists on, absolute fealty. Furthermore, the structure has been in place for a long time: It has been 36 years since Reagan was elected, 22 years since the Gingrich takeover of Congress. What this means is that nearly all Republicans in today’s Congress are apparatchiks, political creatures with no higher principle beyond party loyalty…

In a perverse way, we should count ourselves lucky that Trump is as terrible as he is. Think of what it has taken to get us to this point — his Twitter addiction, his bizarre loyalty to Flynn and affection for Putin, the raw exploitation of his office to enrich his family, the business dealings, whatever they were, he’s evidently trying to cover up by refusing to release his taxes.

The point is that given the character of the Republican Party, we’d be well on the way to autocracy if the man in the White House had even slightly more self-control. Trump may have done himself in; but it can still happen here.

Apart from waiting for the next shoe(s) to fall, what’s on the agenda for the day?