The NewYorker has a deep-dive lengthy investigative report by Adam Davidson into Donald Trump’s Worst Deal: The President helped build a hotel in Azerbaijan that appears to be a corrupt operation engineered by oligarchs tied to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (excerpts):
The building, a five-star hotel and residence called the Trump International Hotel & Tower Baku, has never opened, though from the road it looks ready to welcome the public.
* * *
The more time I spent in the neighborhood, the more I wondered how the hotel could have been imagined as a viable business. The development was conceived, in 2008, as a high-end apartment building. In 2012, after Donald Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, signed multiple contracts with the Azerbaijani developers behind the project, plans were made to transform the tower into an “ultra-luxury property.” . . . For an expensive hotel, the Trump Tower Baku is in an oddly unglamorous location: the underdeveloped eastern end of downtown, which is dominated by train tracks and is miles from the main business district, on the west side of the city. Across the street from the hotel is a discount shopping center; the area is filled with narrow, dingy shops and hookah bars. Other hotels nearby are low-budget options: at the AYF Palace, most rooms are forty-two dollars a night. There are no upscale restaurants or shops. Any guests of the Trump Tower Baku would likely feel marooned.
The timing of the project was also curious. By 2014, when the Trump Organization publicly announced that it was helping to turn the tower into a hotel, a construction boom in Baku had ended, and the occupancy rate for luxury hotels in the city hovered around thirty-five per cent. Jan deRoos, of Cornell University, who is an expert in hotel finance, told me that the developer of a five-star hotel typically must demonstrate that the project will maintain an average occupancy rate of at least sixty per cent for ten years.
Posted in AZBlueMeanie, Corruption, Crime, Ethics, International, Justice, Law Enforcement, President, Scandals, Terrorism
Tagged FCPA, Iran Sanctions, money laundering, Oligarchs
Democracy is said to be in decline around the world. According to a report by Freedom House, only 45% of the world’s countries are considered to be fully free and the percentage is trending downward. The volatile situation in Afghanistan is proof that a functioning democracy is a tough thing to create. The invasion by U.S. and NATO forces in December 2001 quickly drove the Taliban and their al-Qaida allies from power. After more than 15 years of nation building effort by NATO, the UN reported that almost 3,500 civilians were killed and 7,900 injured in the Afghan conflict during 2016. It was the highest number of civilian casualties since the UN began keeping records in 2009.
The American plan to replace Taliban rule with a democratically elected government ran into many problems. The flood of foreign cash that followed the demise of the Taliban regime in 2001 often undermined the new government or was wasted on uncoordinated projects. Well-meaning foreign aid agencies paid salaries 20 times higher than the Afghan civil service pay rate, many Afghan officials quit and went to work for the external agencies. As fighting the Taliban insurgency continues, NATO forces have dropped from a peak of 132,000 in 2011 to approximately 13,000 today. The U.S. and NATO mission in Afghanistan is estimated to have cost nearly $1 trillion between 2001 and 2014.
Kellyanne “alternative facts” Conway was not available this weekend for the Sunday morning bobblehead shows because she violated ethics rules by promoting Ivanka Trump’s clothing line in a Thursday morning interview with Fox News — “I’m going to give a free commercial here: Go buy it today, everybody; you can find it online” — for which she is allegedly being “counseled” (a “time out”?) Kellyanne Conway Promotes Ivanka Trump Brand, Raising Ethics Concerns:
Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said Ms. Conway’s comments were ‘wrong, wrong, wrong, and there’s no excuse for it.’ Chaffetz and the panel’s ranking Democrat, Elijah Cummings, formally asked the Office of Government Ethics for an inquiry.
For a brutal takedown of Kellyanne Conway, you have got to watch Saturday Night Live’s “Fatal Attraction” parody entitled Jake Tapper. Wow!
With Kellyanne in “time out,” the Trump administration trotted out the other half of its updated version of The Daily Show’s Even Stevphen act, Steve Bannon’s counterpart Stephen Miller, who was featured in unflattering background pieces over the weekend in both the New York Times, Stephen Miller Is a ‘True Believer’ Behind Core Trump Policies, and the Washington Post. Stephen Miller: A key engineer for Trump’s ‘America first’ agenda.
I happened to catch Miller on ABC’s This Week with George “Snuffleupagus.” (He also appeared on NBC’s Meet Chuck Todd). What a raging asshole!
This guy was like a pez dispenser spewing out lie after lie with an angry attitude of “how dare you question my alternative facts!” Whenever “Snuffleupagus” pointed out he had presented no evidence to support his lies, Miller had a look on his face that said “how about I come over there and kick your ass!” This guy needs anger management.
Posted in AZBlueMeanie, Corruption, Election Integrity, Elections, Ethics, Immigration, International, Justice, Law Enforcement, Media, President, Scandals, Terrorism
By Michael Bryan
Many have identified the reasons why Trump’s Executive Order (EO) suspending travel from seven Muslim majority counties is ineffective, illegal, and just plain stupid: it is clearly discriminatory toward Muslims, it harms our counter-terror efforts made in conjunction with those nations’s governments, it is a propaganda win for the terrorists, and there haven’t actually been any terror attacks in America by visitors from the targeted countries since 1975, among many other reasons.
But what I find most disquieting about the EO is something that I have not seen a lot of commentary on, thus far: it demonstrates that this Administration is ready and willing to take ill-considered and deleterious actions regarding national security for purely political reasons, and then blatantly lie about classified intelligence to justify it.
It appears the Trump White House is afraid that its botched handling of the Yemen raid could become the next Benghazi! meme — Al Bayda! — although this Tea-Publican Congress shows little interest in investigating anything that the Trump administration does.
Margaret Hartman reports, U.S. Military Sources Claim Trump Approved Yemen Strike Without Enough Preparation:
New questions have emerged about what went wrong in the U.S. military raid against Al Qaeda in Yemen last weekend. Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, a Navy SEAL, was killed in the operation and three other U.S. service members were injured. Nawar Al-Awlaki, the 8-year-old daughter of American Al Qaeda leader Anwar Al-Awlaki, was also killed, and local reports say as many as 30 people died. The raid was the first operation approved by President Trump.
Earlier this week, a senior military official told NBC News that “almost everything went wrong” during the mission. The aim was to detain Yemeni tribal leaders working with Al Qaeda and gather phones and computers that could yield intelligence. But Navy SEALS found themselves in an intense 50-minute firefight, with Al Qaeda fighters using women and children as cover, and some of the women firing at the commandos.
Airstrikes were called in to take out the Al Qaeda fighters, and then two MV-22 Ospreys were sent in to extract the SEALs. One experienced a “hard landing,” injuring crew members, and the $75 million aircraft had to be destroyed by a precision-guided bomb to keep it from falling into enemy hands.
Posted in Arizona Congressional Delegation, AZBlueMeanie, Congress, Ethics, International, McCain, Media, Military, President, Scandals, Terrorism, War
Tagged Foreign Policy
CBS Evening News aired an extraordinary report last night on a president “divorced from reality.” Here is a link to the video. ‘It Has Been a Busy Day for Presidential Statements Divorced from Reality’.
Here is a rush transcript of Scott Pelley’s introduction:
President Donald Trump told a U.S. military audience that there have been terrorist attacks that no one knows about because the media choose not to report them.
It has been a busy day for presidential statements divorced from reality.
Mr. Trump said this morning that any polls that show disapproval of his immigration ban are “fake.”
He singled out a federal judge for ridicule after the judge suspended his ban, and Mr. Trump said that the ruling now means that “anyone can enter the country.”
The president’s claims, whether fabricated or imaginary, are now worrying even his backers, particularly after he insisted that millions of people voted illegally giving Hillary Clinton her popular vote victory. There’s not one state election official, Democrat or Republican, who supports that claim.
Posted in AZBlueMeanie, Congress, Conspiracy Theory, Constitution, Corruption, Courts, Ethics, Immigration, International, Media, Party Politics, President, Scandals, Terrorism, War