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Tuning Out Donald Trump

Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker writes on the Music Donald Trump Can't Hear. He has a point.

There is no song to describe UnPresident Elect Donald Trump because he has no music in his soul. The emotional state he triggers in so many of us, other than his under-informed, radical right supporters, ranges from sickening to terrifying. As the caption to the graphic accompanying the New Yorker article says,

There is an abyss between the man about to assume power and the best shared traditions of the country he represents.

This is not a time to reach out or accept him or the incoming Administration. Kudos to those bailing on Washington this week for other parts of the country. Tens of millions of us will blocking him out at home, with a firm hand on the remote control at all times to ensure he doesn't slip into our consciousness. [More...]

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Receiver Sets Price for Trump Tower in Toronto

Toronto's Trump Tower, another mega property Trump sold his name to and managed ended up in the hands of a receiver in November. The receiver has just offered it for sale and bids start at $298 million.

A group of owners in the property, who claim to be the victims of misleading marketing, are suing the property’s developer, Talon International and the business organization owned by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, which manages it and licensed the use of its name on the property.

There have been three court actions on the property -- including one trying to remove Trump's name and cancel his management contract.

On Tuesday, an Ontario court placed the Trump International Hotel and Tower into receivership after the owners failed to make debt payments for more than a year. That came after a three-judge panel on the Court of Appeal for Ontario found last month that the project’s investors had been deceived. And in a third legal action, the hotel’s owners tried to remove the Trump name from the building and cancel his company’s contract to manage the hotel.

Shortly after it opened in 2012, the building began "shedding glass."

For the first of many times, the police had to close the surrounding streets because of falling debris.


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Trump to Let Sons Control His Assets

Donald Trump says as a conflict avoidance measure, he will put his assets in a trust, to be run by his sons Donald and Eric, and Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg.

He will even hire a "conflict adviser" to determine if new deals pose a conflict. (Will this be an independent contractor or a Trump employee?)

Trump will place the majority of his assets—including cash, real estate and licensing entities—into a trust controlled by his sons by January 20th, she said. The trust agreement includes the hiring of an ethics adviser who must evaluate all new deals the Trump Organization makes that could pose possible conflicts of interest. The company will make no new foreign deals, but can work domestically.

“He will only know of a deal if he reads it in the paper or sees it on TV,” Dillon said.

What if one of his sons or someone else tweets about it? Donald will refrain from picking up the phone to tell them what he thinks? Right.

I hope some government agency will be monitoring every communication device accessible to Trump (and his wife when they are in the same city.) Sounds like a perfect job for the DEA since the FBI under Comey seems paralyzed by partisanship.

Jared Kushner will do something similar -- he will sell some assets, turn some over to his brother, and put others in a trust run by his mother.

Ivanka will no longer work for Trump and she will give up control of her company (that sells shoes made in China and Ethopia. Probably a good idea.)

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Russia's Alleged Not So Secret Dossier on Trump

Here's the dossier compiled by a British operative on Donald Trump, for the benefit of Russia. courtesy of Buzzfeed, which says the material is unconfirmed and there are some errors (although the ones they cite are very minor, like misspelling Alpha as Alfa.)

The dossier, which is a collection of memos written over a period of months, includes specific, unverified, and potentially unverifiable allegations of contact between Trump aides and Russian operatives, and graphic claims of sexual acts documented by the Russians. BuzzFeed News reporters in the US and Europe have been investigating various alleged facts in the dossier but have not verified or falsified them. CNN reported Tuesday that a two-page synopsis of the report was given to President Obama and Trump.

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1,100 Law Profs Write Letter Opposing Jeff Sessions for AG

1,100 law professors have signed a letter to Congress urging that Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) not be confirmed as Attorney General. The letter is here.

In my view, Jeff Sessions has always been a disaster for criminal justice. (The NY Times declared him an "insult to justice" after Trump picked him.)

On a related note, UnPresident-Elect Donald Trump, who has no say in the matter yet, yesterday opposed the release of more detainees from Guantanamo. President Obama, meanwhile, is pressing ahead with plans to release another 19 detainees.

“There is one commander in chief at a time, and the secretary of defense will continue to carry out his responsibilities as he sees appropriate,” said Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook.


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Tuesday Night Open Thread

I'm out tonight, here's an open thread, all topics welcome.

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Donald Trump: An American Tragedy

From Jesse Berney in Rolling Stone, An American Tragedy on what we know about Donald Trump:

We know he's inexperienced and ignorant enough to cause genuine harm to America's interests....We know he doesn't understand or care about the most fundamental constitutional rights...

After listing several other undesirable traits, the article says:

Add it all up, and what do you see? A child who reacts to the slightest perceived attack with vicious vitriol. A vengeful president who is willing to violate basic rights. A government run by incompetents, racists, bullies and conspiracy-mongers. It's a formula for tragedy.

The danger: [More...]

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Trump Picks Another General: Kelly for HSA

UnPresident Elect Donald Trump has named retired Gen. John Kelly to be Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

If you're wondering why his name is familiar, think Guantanamo:

General Kelly attracted notice while at the Southern Command for comments about the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, which fell in his area of responsibility. He rejected criticism from human rights activists about the treatment of detainees, and said the program to force-feed prisoners undertaking hunger strikes was reasonable and humane. He also dismissed one argument cited by those who advocate closing the military prison at Guantánamo, saying it had not proven to be an inspiration to those taking up militant action.

In an interview about a year ago, Kelly claimed "There are no innocent men down there."

His other area of "expertise" is Latin America and he's been a henny-penny claiming ISIS will take over the drug cartel routes. [More...]

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Philippine President: Trump Supports Policy of Slaughtering Drug Users and Dealers

The Philippines has endorsed the slaughter of more than 5,000 suspected drug users and traffickers by police and vigilantes in the past five months.

Philippine President Rodolfo Duterte encourages police and others (vigilantes) to kill ("neutralize") people they suspect of using or selling drugs.

President Duterte today said he recently spoke to Donald Trump on the phone, and Trump told him he supported Duterte's anti-drug policy, and that the country is going about it the right way.

In a statement Saturday, Duterte shared details of a seven-minute conversation that took place Friday. He said that during the call, Trump endorsed his campaign against drug users and dealers — a campaign that has left at least 4,500 Filipinos dead in about five months. Trump told Duterte that he was doing it the “right way,” according to Duterte’s account.

“I could sense a good rapport, an animated President-elect Trump,” he added. “And he was wishing me success in my campaign against the drug problem.”


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Trump Picks Defense Secretary, Retired Gen. Mattis

I haven't followed the news about Retired Gen. James Mattis. In reading he was chosen by Donald Trump to be Defense Secretary, I read a few things today.

  • He and Trump likely get on famously. They both make appalling comments. Mattis is famous for this quote:
  • “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys that slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil,” he said in 2005. “So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.”

  • NBC reports on a former special services member who claims Mattis left his troop to die in Afghanistan. (The question apparently not whether he did, but whether he was justified in doing so. The incident was also referred to in a book, The Only Thing Worth Dying for.)
  • He serves on the board of a controversial blood-testing company.
  • Congress would have to pass a law before confirming him because he's only been retired from the military for 3 years.


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Trump: The Slippery Slope of Compromise

The New York Review of Books (Daily) has an article by Massa Green (a Russian author and journalist and staunch opponent of Putin -- see the review of her book Putin: Man Without a Face), titled Trump: The Choices We Face. Green's grandfather was a member and later a leader of the Bialystok Judenrat, the Nazi-appointed Jewish council that ran the ghetto. At first the council was tasked with things like bringing in food to the community and urging residents not to form resistance groups. By the end, the group was tasked with selecting members of the community for the Nazis to kill first.

The question she takes on:

Criminal regimes function in part by forcing the maximum number of subjects to participate in the atrocities. For nearly a century, individuals in various parts of the Western world have struggled with the question of how, and how much, we should engage politically and personally with governments that we find morally abhorrent.


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Rudy Giuliani: Where Can He Do the Least Damage?

Donald Trump has narrowed the field of Secretary of State candidates to four (or five). While his spokesman didn't name them, one is believed to be Rudy Giuliani.

Rudy Giuliani has no foreign diplomatic credentials. He's taken money from numerous foreign governments.

He would be a terrible choice for Secretary of State. Here's a list of 10 things you should know about Rudy.

When Rudy left the Mayor's office, he did something unprecedented. He took all his papers with him. [More...]

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Sarah Palin May be Secretary of Veteran Affairs

Trump is considering Sarah Palin for Secretary of Veteran Affairs. On Twitter, Palin seems to be open to the job -- or actively seeking it, depending on how one reads her fawning over Trump as Commander in Chief.

Since her biggest claim to fame is that you can see Russia from Alaska (or as Tina Fey translated, she can see Russia from her window) I'm surprised he didn't make her Secretary of State.

What qualifies her for this position? Absolutely nothing as far as I can tell.

As the Daily Mail says about Trump's cabinet picks: Trump isn't draining the swamp, he's diving into it

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Pakistan Publishes Readout of Telephone Call With Trump

Meet the Fantastics: Pakistan has published a readout of the Prime Minister's telephone conference with Donald Trump. (Via Buzzfeed).

Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif called President-elect USA Donald Trump and felicitated him on his victory. President Trump said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif you have a very good reputation. You are a terrific guy. You are doing amazing work which is visible in every way. I am looking forward to see you soon. As I am talking to you Prime Minister, I feel I am talking to a person I have known for long. Your country is amazing with tremendous opportunities. Pakistanis are one of the most intelligent people. I am ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems. It will be an honor and I will personally do it. Feel free to call me any time even before 20th January that is before I assume my office.


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Trump's Business Announcement: Another Reality Show Trick

Update: These tweets by the Office of Government Ethics today are really funny. No one knows who posted them, but they are legit. When did Trump say he would totally divest himself of his businesses? He called it a "separation." The NY Times has more.

Donald Trump dropped a cliffhanger on Twitter this morning, reminding me of a reality show preview. He announced he would separate from his companies. How? He'll tell us in two weeks at a press conference.

Does anyone believe him? I think the only way for him to eliminate conflicts of interest is to sell his businesses to people outside his family, and put the proceeds in a blind trust. He'll never do that. [More..]

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