Sunday, July 29, 2018

The exhausting Trump porno saga

id President Trump, literally and figuratively our first pornographic president, have an affair with yet another porn star? Yawn.
It's not that I don't care about the legal implications of the recording recently aired by CNN in which Trump appears to discuss the possibility of making a cash payment to the former Playboy "Playmate" Karen McDougal with his embittered now ex-attorney Michael Cohen. If the payment was made by Cohen on Trump's behalf and later reimbursed — Rudy Giuliani, for some reason the president's attorney now, insists that it wasn't — was it an unreported campaign finance violation? Probably. Should he be prosecuted for it? Yes, for sure. Do I want to hear or read more about it? No
This is not because I don't think our campaign finance laws should be taken seriously or because I don't think Trump should be held to account for his swinish behavior. If anything I find it despicable that 10,000 swords have not leaped from their scabbards to defend the honor of our lovely first lady. Everything about the extended Trump porno saga, not only the events themselves but the manner in which their details are being relayed to the public, is disgusting. It's the sleazy D-list scandal the president deserves, like a crossover between The West Wing and VH1's The Surreal Life. The only thing the rest of us are gritting our teeth for is the inevitable Flavor Flav cameo.
As it stands, the cast of characters is dizzying enough.
There is Michael Cohen, the TV lawyer and Trump protégé who is said to have been responsible for the payments in question — if there were payments — and who has gone in the space of less than a year from delivering unhinged rants on behalf of his former boss on cable news to cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's never-ending Russia investigation.
There are, of course, the unfortunate women: Stormy Daniels, the sly trash-talking porn star and all-American folk hero recently arrested on some ludicrous pretext in Ohio, whose husband is divorcing her; and McDougal, who has been effectively silenced because in this country it is possible for a billionaire adulterer to have his cronies in the tabloid press allegedly buy the "exclusive" account of one of his affairs and then use his own money or that of his attorney to purchase the facts back from the magazine's chairman, the improbably named David Pecker.
Then there are the other lawyers involved: Michael Avenatti, who has represented Stormy Daniels and claims that he will be running for president in 2020 on goodness knows what platform, and Lanny Davis, a legal adviser for the Clintons who 
now seems to be doing more or less for Cohen what his client had done for Trump, namely stirring the pot on programs like Good Morning America. How long before Davis betrays Cohen, I wonder?
For now, at least Davis seems to be playing along. "Michael Cohen has turned a corner in his life, and he's now dedicated to telling the truth to everyone, and we'll see what happens," Davis said Wednesday on ABC. "This is about truth versus lying, and ultimately Donald Trump is going to be done in by the truth." I hope he is right.
Decades ago, in the days when The Washington Post allowed her to write things, Sally Quinn penned a column in which she excommunicated Bill and Hillary Clinton from official Washington because of the shame they had supposedly visited upon the city. Quinn was roundly mocked for this article, which appeared under the absurd headline "In Washington, that letdown feeling," and rightly so. It was a shrill and pompous piece of writing. But the more I think about it, the more I sympathize now with the instincts of this famed journalist and practitioner of the magical arts. There should, in fact, be a limit to what the rest of us have to put up with, whether we are part of the "nest" that politicians like Clinton and Trump "foul" or not.
Put aside, if you can, the issue of morality, a concession that nowadays is almost demanded when we are talking about politicians. Do you really want to read another news story about the labyrinthine schemes to protect the former host of The Apprentice from the consequences of cheating on his third wife dreamed up by his former real estate partner? I, for one, do not.
If sometime next year Bob Mueller and Congress throw Trump in prison because he lied about a tweet or something, it will be worth it if it means that this reality program gets canceled.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Remember, For Trump This Is All A Business Proposition

earlier this week, President Donald Trump again showed his willingness to use the powers of the presidency to go after his perceived political opponents when he announced, through White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, that he was considering revoking the security clearances of six former national security officers who have criticized his presidency. The group includes former FBI Director James Comey and former CIA Director John Brennan, along with President Obama’s former national security adviser Susan Rice.
In her usual contemptuous and convoluted style, Huckabee Sanders explained the president was considering the move because the former officials had “politicized, and in some cases monetized, their public service and security clearances.”
With all things Trump, the challenge is to distinguish the ridiculous from the dangerous. As several outlets immediately pointed out, stripping former officials of security clearances that some of them may no longer even hold shows again Trump’s destructive politics of distraction, a habit of inventing controversies to divert attention from his own latest crises. In this case, the White House was eager to muddle the news cycle in the wake of the recent Helsinki summit with Vladimir Putin where the president sided with the Kremlin rather than his own intelligence agencies on the question of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
In that light, Trump’s threat to take away the clearances also demonstrates his unconcern for, and perhaps even deliberate sabotage of, the nation’s security and safety.
t in the outrage over Trump’s latest assault on American democracy, what has been less noted but may be most revealing was Huckabee Sanders’ charge that Trump was considering the move because the targeted officials had sought to monetize their public service. It’s a charge Trump is, not surprisingly, quick to make because monetizing public office is exactly what he is using the presidency to do.
With eerie consistency throughout his presidency, Trump’s accusations against others have been shown to be confessions. Rather than truth-telling and honest brokering in service of the country — what we’ve long expected of our presidents, even if they haven’t always delivered — Trump’s words instead are a projection of his true character and a disclosure of his own nefarious schemes. Trump views everything through the lens of profit and self-interest, so surely the people criticizing him on CNN must similarly see themselves on the opposite side of a zero-sum competition. This is the bind of narcissism: One cannot imagine that others might have sins different from their own.
When it comes to profiting from his presidency, Trump’s crimes are many. Just a brief sketch suggests the pervasiveness of the kleptocracy Trump is building and how insidiously he has threaded his financial pursuits throughout the workings of his administration.
Much of that swindle happens through Trump’s hotels, especially his Old Post Office hotel in D.C., booked solid since Trump entered the White House and conveniently located just down the street, and at Mar-a-Lago where the membership fees doubled right after his election. Business leaders, lobbyists and foreign dignitaries know that the best way to reach Trump is through his properties, and they have been all too happy to fill Trump’s coffers for the chance to curry his favor onsite. While most Americans will never stay at these properties, their tax dollars are regularly being sent there. The Secret Service alone has paid Trump millions of dollars to lease space in Trump Tower and to stay in his properties when he travels.
Trump’s foreign deals continue to benefit the president, as well. And his children have been raking it in too. Trump’s sons, Don Jr. and Eric, who are now in charge of the family business, have been traveling the world, often blatantly mixing business with the perception that they were speaking on behalf of their father. Despite her announcement this week that she would be winding down her namesake fashion brand because of ongoing concerns about conflicts of interest, Ivanka Trump had made more than $5 million from the company in 2017 alone. In May, she secured hard-to-come-by Chinese trademarks before dining with the president of China later that day. All told, Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner made $82 million dollars last year, all while working their White House day jobs.
Presidents have long made money off of their presidencies. Ulysses S. Grant established the now-standard moneymaking plan of ex-presidents when he sold his memoir to the highest bidder in 1885. Grover Cleveland joined the corporate boards of two different insurance companies, another move popular with former presidents. Even the disgraced Richard Nixon found a way to earn big dollars, nabbing $600,000 for a series of sit-down interviews with the British journalist David Frost.
But as the examples point out, all these presidents had the decency — and good sense — to wait until they were out of the White House to cash in on the office.
Trump has neither decency nor good sense. But he does have a knack for spotting a scam, and he understood exactly how he could use the American presidency — the most powerful office on earth — to line his pockets and protect his shady business deals from legal prosecution.
Candidate Trump vowed that if elected president he’d run the government like he ran his businesses. For American voters, that promise should have disqualified him given his history of bankruptcy, fraud and numerous business failures.
The real truth all along was that Trump was going to run the U.S. government as his business. After a year and a half in office, he still thinks of the presidency as nothing but an opportunity for personal gain and can’t fathom that there would be any other approach to public service.
Like so many other of his enterprises, he may run this one into the ground. But that won’t stop him from making millions of dollars for himself in the process.
By Neil Young

Melania Trump’s Press Strategy Is Looking More And More Like Her Husband’s
                  A more combative tone is coming from the East Wing, and it’s a sharp contrast to what Americans saw from previous first ladies.

Melania Trump has freedom over her own remote control,” began a New York Times story earlier this week, which could have been mistaken for satire from “The Onion,” but was in fact real life.
The story referred to a statement the first lady’s communications director Stephanie Grisham gave to CNN, proclaiming that Trump can watch “any channel she wants.” That was in response to an earlier Times report that President Donald Trump became enraged that his wife watched CNN, which he frequently calls “fake news.” 
Grisham’s statement also sidestepped questions about that day’s major story, the president’s longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen releasing an audio tape of him and the then-presidential candidate discussing a payment to kill a story of an alleged extramarital affair.
She instructed reporters to instead focus on the first lady’s “Be Best” children’s initiatives, to which her husband has devoted little attention since becoming president.
The response on Wednesday was one of several recent examples in which the first lady appeared to take a page from the president’s media criticism playbook. Using similar rhetoric to that of her husband, she tweeted in May that “the media is working overtime speculating where I am,” referring to reports on how she had not appeared in public for nearly a month — unusual for a public figure such as the first lady.
After a Rose Garden launch event for Be Best this springGrisham released a lengthy statement accusing the “opposition media” of “baseless accusations towards the First Lady and her new initiatives,” and instructing reporters “to Be Best in their own professions.”
The “baseless” news coverage? The pamphlet for the program contained language that was identical to text from an Obama administration booklet on cyberbullying and online security.
Asked about the comparisons to the president, Grisham said that the East Wing has its own press strategy, and disputed that she only responds through criticism of the media.
“I put positive tweets/readouts/videos out constantly,” she wrote in an email. “In my opinion, the media chooses to cover the more salacious gossip or silly speculation in order to get headlines or clicks. To be honest, I wish they would cover more of her work on behalf of children, rather than some of the things they choose to focus on.”
These critical responses to press coverage have occurred in tandem with Melania Trump’s gradual and at times rocky ascension to her position as first lady, often fraught with challenges and seen as arcane and sexist. According to scholars who have studied the communications strategies of first ladies, it’s yet another way in which Trump has taken a radically different approach to the role.
While it was common for previous first ladies and their staffs to push for positive news coverage, according to Myra Gutin, professor of communication at Rider University and author of The President’s Partner: The First Lady in the Twentieth Century, they were rarely “combative” with reporters, she said.
“I don’t really recall anyone lecturing the press,” Gutin said, adding that Trump’s outreach to the press “always seems to be reactive rather than proactive.”
Instead, past first ladies strove for “positive relations with the press because they felt that they could help them tell their story,” she said. “I don’t get that sense at all from this administration.”
When I first heard she was visiting the border, I thought, “Wow, OK, that’s a good thing.” She’s showing her concern for the children and their parents. And then, to have the nonsense of the coat.
Polling and research have shown that they are more popular and less divisive than presidents, and can shape public opinion in positive and relatively noncontroversial ways, she said.
“This is such a unique opportunity for the White House,” Wright said. “The first lady’s office historically has been a boon for them, a beloved person who makes the president’s policies look good.”
Instead, several of Trump’s public appearances have created controversies of her own making — for example, the “I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?” jacket seen around the world, which both Gutin and Wright cited as a major and easily preventable misstep that overshadowed what could have been a positive moment for the first lady.
“How do you let her do that?” Gutin said of the jacket, which Trump wore before boarding a plane to visit undocumented immigrant children detained at the U.S.-Mexico border. “When I first heard she was visiting the border, I thought, ‘Wow, OK, that’s a good thing.’ She’s showing her concern for the children and their parents. And then, to have the nonsense of the coat.”
Some of the errors could be logistical, as Trump has a smaller staff compared to that of previous first ladies.
And Gutin noted that every one of her recent predecessors was already “in essence, a political professional. They’ve all been the spouse of a governor or a senator. So she came to this with, really, no background,” she said.
As for improving her public perception, Wright argued that Trump could do more to highlight her personal story.
“She has experiences that other Trump family members and surrogates do not,” Wright said. “Any other administration would look at those life experiences that she has had and really try to leverage them, politically speaking.”  

Friday, July 27, 2018

Of the verb to miss

It takes time to transform the absence of a loved one into a good memory, a nostalgia that does not hurt.

  By Cris Guerra

My son wants to visit his father's grave. It will be their first meeting - Guillermo passed away when I was in the eighth month of pregnancy. Francisco is 11 years old, the same age as his father's death - time with one is time without the other.
Your unprecedented request has brought me a contradictory feeling. I was glad to see him willing to take that fault. To build nostalgia is to make real his story with the father that he did not have time to know and who feels the absence, but not the lack. On the other hand, perhaps I would rather spare him the pain of lodging a hole, that silence that deafens. When my mother died, my father spread his objects around the house, like traces that could tell a different story. The slipper, the knitting basket, the glasses. Seven years later, it was his turn. Of the lack of the two, I made a picture of the whole wall to wake up, to continue saying good morning. 
Failure is a door where no one enters. An echo inside us. The other suddenly blesses himself: he does not speak to us anymore, he does not give a phone call, he even provokes antipathy. The darn has the power to romanticize even what it was not. He transforms dialogue into a monologue, steals the object of love and leaves him dizzy, not knowing where to go. It is a time when we lose ourselves. A kind of condemnation, since death is perpetual - the impression is that we die together, so much the pain of existing. Too bad for so much time ahead. And no use lying down and sleeping, because the next day the fault is born again, along with the sun. Worse: some presences sharpen it. And then who wants to miss is us. Shrink and disappear once and for all.  
Failure often takes up too much space. Until we went out in search of our own presence. In the name of moving on, I made the absence of a habit, until it became scenery. Along the road, I confess, every now and then a wind of pain came through an unsuspected gap, stroking my skin with a chill of sadness. I thought I would feel those chills forever, like someone with a chronic illness. A rheumatism of love that from time to time it perpetuates and mistreats. 
Turning missing in longing is like making origami. Fold the white paper until it flies. Until the love is more than the person. A framed feeling, a picture that tells me a story - that does not even seem to be mine anymore.
Over time, I learned to live with absence as if it were a person - and it is. More than an interruption, lack is a way to stay forever. One to continue existing, now being part of who we love. By ritualizing his father's longing, Francisco names his pains and joys and gives each one his role. It transforms the missing absence. Draw your origin, build a north to look at.
Giuliani said Cohen has no credibility. What about the president?

“He’s been lying all week, he’s been lying for years. . . . I don’t see how he has any credibility.”

Exactly. Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s current lawyer, was talking about Michael Cohen, the president’s former lawyer. But if Cohen is so sleazy, and I don’t disagree, why did Donald Trump keep the self-described fixer around for so long?

As recently as April, Trump was calling Cohen a “good man.” As recently as May, Giuliani called Cohen “an honest, honorable lawyer.” Cohen’s character didn’t change. The damage he could inflict on Trump did.
And here’s the bigger problem with Giuliani’s argument against Cohen: It applies to his own client. Trump lies — constantly, flagrantly, provably. You might think that a smart lawyer, capable of seeing around a looming corner, would think twice before labeling someone else a “pathological liar.”

Especially since Trump’s lies include the very subject on which Giuliani now claims that Cohen’s alleged account should be discounted and Trump’s credited. If Cohen tells you the sky is blue, check the color. In a swearing contest between Cohen and Trump about the Trump Tower meeting, Cohen’s word alone isn’t reliable. Still, if there are motives to lie on both sides, whose is bigger? I would wager the one whose presidency may hinge on the outcome.

And the one who has the longer track record of prevarication on this topic. Trump is implicated in — he is the architect of — the original lie, about the contents of the Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer. It was adoption, sure! Trump and his lackeys then lied about the lie, denying Trump’s involvement in writing the initial misleading statement about it.
“I do want to be clear that the president was not involved in the drafting of the statement,” Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow said last July . That untruth was quickly overtaken by misleading spin from White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “The president weighed in as any father would.” Any father with zero fealty to the truth. Any father with political — and perhaps criminal — exposure of his own.

It is no stretch, then, to imagine Trump lying about whether he knew in advance about the meeting he then lied about. In fact, that would be perfectly in character. Sometimes it is hard to understand why Trump bothers to lie, when the truth is so provable and obvious. But often Trump’s lies simply reflect the primitive instinct of the cornered toddler with chocolate smeared on his face, insisting that he had not just raided the cookie jar.

Deny first, with accompanying, if not convincing, indignance. Deal with the consequences later. As Giuliani said of Cohen, “If his back is up against the wall, he’ll lie like crazy because he’s lied all his life.”

Thursday, July 26, 2018

CNN says correspondent was barred at event with Trump at White House

Journalist was reprimanded by questions asked the president about recording in which he discusses bribery to former Playboy model

CNN has denied that one of its White House correspondents, Kaitlin Collins, was excluded from covering one of President Donald Trump's events on Wednesday, prompting a complaint from the White House Correspondents' Association.
Collins was barred from an event at the Rose Garden for his behavior at an earlier press conference where he questioned the president about the recording in which he discusses with his former lawyer Michael Cohen a way to pay Playboy ex-model Karen McDougal, to keep silent about his alleged extramarital affair.
CNN said in a statement that White House Communications director Bill Shine and press secretary Sarah Sanders told Collins that her questions were "inappropriate" and that she could not attend the event at the Rose Garden during the which Trump and Juncker have announced on trade talks. "This decision to ban a member of the press is retaliation by nature and is not indicative of an open and free press," CNN said.
Trump often complains about CNN's coverage of his presidency, saying he considers it unfair. The White House made no immediate comment on CNN's statement.
Olivier Knox, president of the White House Correspondents Association, criticized the Trump administration's decision.
"We strongly condemn the White House's misguided and inadequate decision to prevent one of our members from attending an open press event after she asked questions they did not like," Knox said in a statement.

US judge gives green light for trump suit against corruption

The lawsuit against US President Donald Trump, accused of violating the Constitution by keeping his actions at a Washington hotel that hosts foreign government officials, may take its course - according to a federal judge's decision.
It is the first time a judge - Robert Messitte of Maryland - has used the anti-corruption clauses in the Constitution known as "Emoluments clauses" and applies them to an acting president, according to different US media outlets.
This case refers to the profits made by Trump International Hotel, located near the White House. With the decision announced yesterday by Judge Messitte, the matter can move to the evidence gathering stage.
If this is confirmed - the Justice Department can appeal - the plaintiffs are likely to seek financial documents related to the president's business.
Trump has always refused to disclose this information, and in particular, to make his tax return public, something his predecessors in the White House had been accustomed to do.
Emolument clauses prohibit a president from benefiting financially from local and foreign governments.
The plaintiffs - the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia - believe that Trump violates these clauses with his hotel, very popular among official delegations arriving in Washington.
The Justice Department tried to dismiss the suit, claiming that the clauses did not apply to the hotel in question, but that they are designed to prevent a president from accepting bribes, rather than doing business. Judge Mesitte considered that interpretation too narrow.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Young people in the UK prefer to spend more time on the internet than having sex

Adolescentes do Reino Unido preferem passar mais tempo com os familiares e na internet do que fazer sexo
UK teens prefer to spend more time with family and on the internet than sex - 
London - Teens in the UK prefer to spend more time with family and the internet instead of having sex. This is what the British Pregnancy Information Service (BPAS) research, published on Tuesday after interviews with about 1,000 young people aged 16 to 18 years, points out.
Seven out of ten teenagers said they chat with friends online four or more times a week. Those who live together with friends - at school or out of work - add up to 24%.
Those who interact with friends personally and more often tend to have more sex. About four out of ten of those who see their friends four times a week have claimed to have had sex.

Adolescentes do Reino Unido preferem passar mais tempo com os familiares e na internet do que fazer sexo
UK teens prefer to spend more time with family and on the internet than sex - 
London - Teens in the UK prefer to spend more time with family and the internet instead of having sex. This is what the British Pregnancy Information Service (BPAS) research, published on Tuesday after interviews with about 1,000 young people aged 16 to 18 years, points out.
Seven out of ten teenagers said they chat with friends online four or more times a week. Those who live together with friends - at school or out of work - add up to 24%.
Those who interact with friends personally and more often tend to have more sex. About four out of ten of those who see their friends four times a week have claimed to have had sex.
In addition, respondents who socialize regularly tend to relate sexually to more than one person, concludes the survey.
The report also states that early pregnancy rates in England and Wales decreased by 11% from 2015 to 2017. "Low levels can be attributed to low personal contact between young people and their peers as sexual interaction, which could result in pregnancy, are reduced, "the study said.
According to the National Statistics Institute (ONS) of the British government, there were 18,000 cases of pregnancy in adolescents under 18 years of age in 2016, a reduction of 11% compared to 2015.
In Brazil, the number fell by 17% between 2004 and 2015 for mothers aged 10 years to 19 years, according to the Ministry of Health. The reduction was from 661,290 live births in 2004 to 546,529 in 2015. However, the country still has 68 , 4 babies born to adolescents per thousand girls aged 15 to 19, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) survey. The index is above the averages for Latin America and the world, estimated at 65.5 and 46 births per thousand, respectively
The enfeebling of America

Donald Trump ran for president promising to "Make American Great Again." But the result of his presidency is almost certain to be a massive, unprecedented decline in American economic strength and geopolitical status.
Can anyone doubt that his policies, combined with the president's insulting, mendacious, selectively obsequious words and behavior, will have the consequence of leaving the United States vastly weaker than it was before his election?
The U.S. has single-handedly started a global trade war that will sap our economic power — and we've done it with no clear aim beyond the amorphous goal of securing "better deals," with our clueless and feckless commander in chief in charge of the negotiations.
Trump has deliberately sabotaged the military alliance that has bound together the powers of the Western world for 70 years of unprecedented peace and prosperity and that has given the U.S. immeasurable leverage to further our national interests without having to resort to military force. His actions over the past 18 months are sure to set us on a path of vastly diminished influence around the world.  Trump has publicly prostrated America before Vladimir Putin, turning the U.S. into a global laughingstock that gladly welcomes meddling in our political system by hostile and flagrantly anti-liberal foreign powers.
Trump has shown America to be unreliable, with the bureaucracies of the executive branch often pursuing contradictory policies, and the president himself often undercutting them, turning us into global bunglers who constantly trip over ourselves, from Brussels and London to Jerusalem, Pyongyang, and Helsinki. The United States is now the geopolitical equivalent of a habitual drunk driver who repeatedly creates a hazard on the road, endangering himself and everyone around him.
How does any of this advance a coherent notion of American interests? What is the overarching strategy that would redeem, explain, or justify this behavior?
This isn't supposed to happen. Political leaders are supposed to act to advance their country's interests. Sure they can fail, making mistakes and misjudgments that lead to detrimental consequences. But they aren't supposed to act in ways that will obviously and deliberately damage the political community.
This, however, is exactly what President Trump is doing. His statements and policies clearly weaken and undermine America. They might not amount to national suicide, but they do point in the direction of intentional self-harm.
Trump's America-weakening words and deeds are not mistakes. George W. Bush's Iraq War was a mistake. Barack Obama's Libya intervention was a mistake. Both policies were undertaken with the intention of furthering American interests and the well-being of those who reside within the countries themselves. That turned out to be wrong, but the failure shows only that those who crafted and executed the policies made an error (or several of them).
One needn't assert that the status quo before Trump was perfect — or even good — or that it didn't stand to be revised or reformed in various ways to acknowledge that smashing that status quo along multiple dimensions simultaneously, with no indication at all that the person doing the smashing has engaged in even the most rudimentary thinking about precisely what he ultimately aims to accomplish, is astonishingly reckless.
Drastically reforming — nay, upending — American policy in even one area would be a major undertaking, requiring a considerable act of statesmanship. Upending them all at the same time without doing significant damage to the country would probably be impossible for anyone — let alone for someone as intellectually and temperamentally ill-suited to the presidency as Donald Trump.

To an observer watching from the outside, the United States during the Trump administration looks very much like an immensely wealthy and powerful country acting to take itself down a few pegs. As pundits have begun to realize, much of what the president is doing won't be reversible when he's gone. Point the nose of a passenger jet toward the ground at a sharp enough angle and at a certain point righting the plane becomes impossible — and the crash inevitable.
By elevating Donald Trump to the White House, the United States has opted in favor of its own decline. Historians of the future will need to answer the complicated question of how and why it happened. But that it happened won't be a matter of much dispute.

Second Week of Congressional Hearings Increases Pressure on Trump US President Donald Trump faces the threat of further testimony that ...