Category Archives: IOKIYAR

A crony capitalist ‘kitchen cabinet’ at Mar-a-Lago runs the VA – the Trump swamp

Republicans and their allies (e.g., The Arizona Republic) generated public outrage in recent years over the Phoenix VA health-care system scandal: An Arizona Republic Investigation. It led to staff at the Department of Veterans Affairs being fired, and Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin resigning (or was he fired?) over his travel expense scandal. David Shulkin says he was fired. The White House says he quit.

So it is rather surprising that this new investigative report from ProPublica is barely receiving a mention today in the news. It appears that our “Dear Leader” has a crony capitalist “kitchen cabinet” at Mar-a-Lago — none of whom have military service or experience in running a large federal agency — being allowed to dictate policy and personnel at the VA. This is the next big VA scandal. The Shadow Rulers of the VA:

Last February, shortly after Peter O’Rourke became chief of staff for the Department of Veterans Affairs, he received an email from Bruce Moskowitz with his input on a new mental health initiative for the VA. “Received,” O’Rourke replied. “I will begin a project plan and develop a timeline for action.”

O’Rourke treated the email as an order, but Moskowitz is not his boss. In fact, he is not even a government official. Moskowitz is a Palm Beach doctor who helps wealthy people obtain high-service “concierge” medical care.

More to the point, he is one-third of an informal council that is exerting sweeping influence on the VA from Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump’s private club in Palm Beach, Florida. The troika is led by Ike Perlmutter, the reclusive chairman of Marvel Entertainment, who is a longtime acquaintance of President Trump’s. The third member is a lawyer named Marc Sherman. None of them has ever served in the U.S. military or government.

Yet from a thousand miles away, they have leaned on VA officials and steered policies affecting millions of Americans. They have remained hidden except to a few VA insiders, who have come to call them “the Mar-a-Lago Crowd.”

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Grifters gotta grift: the Trump swamp (updated)

Why has this crook not already resigned, or been fired? Oh that’s right, he works for America’s premier grifter, Donald Trump.

Dan Alexander at Forbes reports on Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross robbing his clients blind to build his fortune. New Details About Wilbur Ross’ Business Point To Pattern Of Grifting:

A multimillion-dollar lawsuit has been quietly making its way through the New York State court system over the last three years, pitting a private equity manager named David Storper against his former boss: Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. The pair worked side by side for more than a decade, eventually at the firm, WL Ross & Co.—where, Storper later alleged, Ross stole his interests in a private equity fund, transferred them to himself, then tried to cover it up with bogus paperwork. Two weeks ago, just before the start of a trial with $4 million on the line, Ross and Storper agreed to a confidential settlement, whose existence has never been reported and whose terms remain secret.

* * *

There are bigger allegations. Over several months, in speaking with 21 people who know Ross, Forbes uncovered a pattern: Many of those who worked directly with him claim that Ross wrongly siphoned or outright stole a few million here and a few million there, huge amounts for most but not necessarily for the commerce secretary. At least if you consider them individually. But all told, these allegations—which sparked lawsuits, reimbursements and an SEC fine—come to more than $120 million. If even half of the accusations are legitimate, the current United States secretary of commerce could rank among the biggest grifters in American history.

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In 2019, #AZLeg Should Review Corporate Tax Giveaways (video)

Fair tax forum in Tucson

A standing room only crowd filled the IBEW Hall for the Stop Thief! Let’s Restore Fair Taxes Forum, hosted by PALF and PDA Tucson, with support from other unions and community groups.

#RedForEd lifted the veil from our eyes and put the issue of corporate tax giveaways front and center in the fight to restore public education funding in Arizona.

As many of you are aware, the Arizona Legislature is giving away more than $13 billion in taxes every year and using only $10 billion to run the state. It is not sound fiscal policy to use accounting gimmicks and 50 fund transfers to “balance” the budget. It is no surprise that the state owes K-12 education around $1 billion. Thanks to scheduled corporate tax cuts passed by the Tea Party*, beginning in 2011, Arizona’s corporations got to keep an extra $1 billion in 2017. These corporate tax cuts continue through 2019, even though we can’t afford them.

As a result of the anger and frustration that many Tucsonans feel about the Arizona Legislature’s performance, the Stop Thief! Let’s Restore Fair Taxes Community Forum drew a standing room only crowd of diverse participants.

The event opened with heart-felt testimonies from current high school students, who explained how school budget cuts have impacted their lives and their schools.

LD9 Rep. Randy Friese gave a detailed presentation on tax revenue and how it has been siphoned off by special interest groups and corporate tax cuts for decades. (Video here.)

LD9 Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley’s talk focused specific tax giveaway bills and the drama that swirled around the bills that passed and the ones that failed. (Video here.) Excluding any votes related to budget appropriations, all of the tax giveaway votes in the 53rd Legislature were bipartisan— with Democrats and Republicans on both sides.

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Putin’s fifth column of fellow travelers in the personality cult of Donald Trump

I have castigated the craven cowards in the Congress who will not defend America against Russian asset Donald Trump’s traitorous act of betrayal of the United States at the Surrender Summit.

These craven cowards are more afraid of upsetting the sycophant supporters in the personality cult of Donald Trump than in performing their constitutional and patriotic duty to defend the national security of the United States.

Max Boot makes a critical observation at the Washington Post. The stench from Trump’s execrable performance grows ever more putrid:

Even Russian state television admits that Trump “really smells like an agent of the Kremlin.” The only question is whether he is a witting or unwitting agent. But if Trump is, at best, a “useful idiot” for the Kremlin, what does that make Trump’s useful idiots? All of the “conservatives” (I use the word loosely) who serve as the president’s enablers should understand the price of their partisanship: They are weakening U.S. security and facilitating foreign aggression.

The most useful and idiotic enablers are at Fox “News” Channel [aka Trump TV]. The propagandists (a category that excludes genuine journalists such as Chris Wallace) were in fine fettle after Helsinki. Tucker Carlson, seemingly intent on making America a safe space for xenophobes, claimed that Mexico is guilty of far worse election meddling than Russia “by packing our electorate.” Sean Hannity praised his idol for being “very strong,” thereby raising the epistemological question of whether strength in supinity is possible. Jeanine Pirro rebutted Trump’s critics by demanding: “What was he supposed to do, take a gun out and shoot Putin?” (Was that the only alternative?) And Lou Dobbs, with elementary-school eloquence, dismissed all naysaying as “stupid stuff.”

This brainwashing is as effective as it is preposterous. In a recent Economist/YouGov survey, only 40 percent of Republicans said the United States should stay in NATO and 56 percent said that Trump’s (borderline treasonous) relationship with Putin is a good thing. In the course of my lifetime, Republicans have gone from denouncing useful idiots to becoming useful idiots.

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Judge Kavanaugh provided misleading testimony in his previous confirmation hearing

Lost in the media memory hole is the fact that Brett Kavanaugh, then an adviser to President George W. Bush and one of his most controversial judicial appointees, had to go through the nomination process twice because of strenuous objection to his nomination, once in 2004 and again in 2006.

Roll Call recently reported, Democratic Senators Once Accused Potential Trump SCOTUS Pick of Offering Misleading Testimony:

Senators might find themselves debating whether the judge gave false testimony about detainee policy the last time he had a confirmation hearing.

That is in part because the two senators who suggested Kavanaugh may have misled them still serve on the Judiciary Committee.

Kavanaugh’s potential connection to the detention policies in the early 2000s stems from his work as a lawyer in the White House during the George W. Bush administration.

The question of what Kavanaugh knew about the interrogation programs was a topic of discussion during Senate consideration of his nomination to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Illinois Democratic Sen. Richard J. Durbin, the current minority whip and a long time member of the Judiciary Committee, asked Kavanaugh back in 2006 what he knew about the involvement of William J. Haynes II, who had been a Bush nominee for a Fourth Circuit seat, in developing detainee policies.

“Senator, I did not — I was not involved and am not involved in the questions about the rules governing detention of combatants — and so I do not have the involvement with that,” Kavanaugh said back in May 2006.

Kavanaugh was confirmed. But the following year, news reports established that this answer was misleading at best, and lying to Congress at worst. NPR reported in 2007, Federal Judge Downplayed Role in Detainee Cases:

One of President Bush’s most controversial judicial appointees, Brett Kavanaugh, may have been less-than-forthright with Congress at a crucial hearing last year to confirm his appointment to a seat on the powerful federal appeals court in Washington, D.C.

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A referendum on democracy itself is on the ballot

Let’s be perfectly clear: if a Democratic president had done what Donald Trump is currently doing in foreign policy, that president would be the subject of an impeachment proceeding right now as we speak. Republicans would have drafted an article of impeachment for treason, without doubt. But as always, IOKIYAR.

David Leonhardt of the New York Times sums it up nicely. Trump Tries to Destroy the West:

President Trump is trying to destroy [the Western] alliance.

Is that how he thinks about it? Who knows. It’s impossible to get inside his head and divine his strategic goals, if he even has long-term goals. But put it this way: If a president of the United States were to sketch out a secret, detailed plan to break up the Atlantic alliance, that plan would bear a striking resemblance to Trump’s behavior.

It would involve outward hostility to the leaders of Canada, Britain, France, Germany and Japan. Specifically, it would involve picking fights over artificial issues — not to win big concessions for the United States, but to create conflict for the sake of it.

A secret plan to break up the West would also have the United States looking for new allies to replace the discarded ones. The most obvious would be Russia, the biggest rival within Europe to Germany, France and Britain. And just as Russia does, a United States intent on wrecking the Atlantic alliance would meddle in the domestic politics of other countries to install new governments that also rejected the old alliance.

Check. Check. Check. Check. Trump is doing every one of these things.

He chose not to attend the full G-7 meeting, in Quebec, this past weekend. While he was there, he picked fights. By now, you’ve probably seen the photograph released by the German government — of Trump sitting down, with eyebrows raised and crossed arms, while Germany’s Angela Merkel and other leaders stand around him, imploring. Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, wears a look of defeat.

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