This article is quite comprehensive.
More than one-fifth of Donald Trump’s US condominiums have been purchased since the 1980s in secretive, all-cash transactions that enable buyers to avoid legal scrutiny by shielding their finances and identities, a BuzzFeed News investigation has found.
Records show that more than 1,300 Trump condominiums were bought not by people but by shell companies, and that the purchases were made without a mortgage, avoiding inquiries from lenders.
Those two characteristics signal that a buyer may be laundering money, the Treasury Department has said in a series of statements since 2016. Treasury’s financial-crimes unit has, in recent years, launched investigations around the country into all-cash shell-company real-estate purchases amid concerns that some such sales may involve money laundering. The agency is considering requiring real-estate professionals to adopt anti-money-laundering programs.
All-cash purchases by shell companies do not by themselves indicate illegal or improper activity, and they have become more common in recent years in both Trump buildings and other luxury home sales across the United States. Developers such as Trump have no obligation to scrutinize their purchasers or their funding sources.
But federal investigations “continue to reveal corrupt politicians, drug traffickers and other criminals using shell companies to purchase luxury real estate with cash,” Treasury’s former financial-crimes chief Jennifer Shasky Calvery said at a Capitol Hill hearing in 2016.
I’m not letting myself actually get optimistic, yet. From my own perspective (which should never be regarded as a source of anything like claims to complete, final, and absolute truth), my #1 lesson from 2016 is that the overall socio-political intelligence in this country is less than I had fondly believed it to be. But certainly the signs going forward could be a lot worse.
The SurveyMonkey results put Trump’s total approval rating for 2017 at 42 percent, with 56 percent disapproving. That’s slightly higher than, but within range of, other major public surveys.
In the 2016 election, exit polls found that Trump’s best group was whites without a four-year college degree; he carried 66 percent of them. But his approval among them in the 2017 SurveyMonkey average slipped to 56 percent. In 2016, whites with at least a four-year college degree gave Trump 48 percent of their votes. But in the 2017 average, just 40 percent approved of Trump’s performance, while a resounding 60 percent disapproved.
Layering in gender and age underscores voters’ retreat. Trump in 2016 narrowly won younger whites. But he now faces crushing disapproval ratings ranging from 62 percent to 76 percent among three big groups of white Millennials: women with and without a college degree, and men with a degree. Even among white Millennial men without a degree, his most natural supporters, Trump only scores a 49-49 split.
OK, if you want to get with an additional, kind of upbeat perspective (from Mother Jones), here you are. But I can’t help but go back to how confident I was of an historic blue wave when it became clear that Trump really would be the GOP presidential candidate.
Add in the likelihood of a farm bill that will be even more geared to (economically and environmentally disastrous) overproduction than the current one, and there is the high potential for a lot of pain in rural America. (Though this careful article makes sure not to really go there.)
But research presented on (Jan. 5) in Philadelphia, at America’s annual mega-gathering of economists, suggests the (tax) bill contains downsides for the industry in general and particularly for lower-income farmers.
A model of the law’s effects on farm households by Siraj G. Bawa and James M. Williamson, of the Agriculture Department’s Economic Research Service, projects that 70 to 80 percent of the law’s benefits will flow to the top 1 percent of farm households by income.
The law actually shrinks tax refunds for the lowest-earning 20 percent of farm households, Mr. Bawa said in a session hosted by the Agriculture and Applied Economics Association. The reason stems from a combination of changes in the bill, including its elimination of a tax break for domestic production.
“The lowest quintile is actually getting a tax raise under this,” Mr. Bawa said.
(New York Times)
And since they’ve presumably long since somehow come to terms with what they do, why not?
Arms companies have had a good year.
The top 100 learned in July that their annual revenues amounted to a healthy $364.8 billion, with American companies — as usual — dominating. While the military itself has suffered several calamities — the apparent murder of a Green Beret by two Navy SEALs in Mali in June, the deadly crash of the U.S.S. John McCain near Malaysia in August, the killing of four Special Forces troops in Niger in October, — the contractors have thrived.
The author of The Art of the Deal has helped.
$110 billion from Saudi Arabia, $2.4 billion from austerity-ravaged Greece, $1.4 billion from Taiwan — all these deals have been set in motion by the Trump White House. Even if they’re not completely fulfilled, as can often be the case in such an opaque and unpredictable market, the financial outlook for America’s arms companies will keep making other (less lethal) industries look like mom-and-pop stores.
But the real victory is political. One voice at the top of the Pentagon is, in the long run, far more valuable than a big, new F-35 contract — and this is where President Trump has been so useful to the makers and sellers of weapons.
Well before the Thanksgiving break, the Senate had already confirmed that the new No.2 at the Pentagon will come from the executive council of Boeing; and the new Army undersecretary from the vice presidency of Lockheed Martin‘s F-35 sustainment program.
“Emotionally erratic” is putting it kindly.
There are definitely parts of Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury” that are wrong, sloppy, or betray off-the-record confidence. But there are two things he gets absolutely right, even in the eyes of White House officials who think some of the book’s scenes are fiction: his spot-on portrait of Trump as an emotionally erratic president, and the low opinion of him among some of those serving him.
Why it matters: Wolff captures the contempt some Trump aides have for the president and his family. Axios’ Jonathan Swan notes that this includes people you see trumpeting their loyalty to him.
How many Trump voters had no idea that they were voting for a demented, imbecile man-baby? How many knew, or at least suspected, but didn’t care?
In psychology, there’s an idea known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. It refers to research by David Dunning and Justin Kruger that found the least competent people often believe they are the most competent because they “lack the very expertise needed to recognize how badly they’re doing.” This dynamic helps explain comments like the one Trump makes here.
Over the course of reporting on the Trump White House, I have spoken to people who brief Trump and people who have been briefed by him. I’ve talked to policy experts who have sat in the Oval Office explaining their ideas to the president and to members of Congress who have listened to the president sell his ideas to them. I’ve talked to both Democrats and Republicans who have occupied these roles. In all cases, their judgment of Trump is identical: He is not just notably uninformed but also notably difficult to inform — his attention span is thin, he hears what he wants to hear, he wanders off topic, he has trouble following complex arguments. Trump has trouble following his briefings or even correctly repeating what he has heard.
It’s helpful to bear in mind that many of those doing the looting honestly believe that this is the best deal for everyone. That’s motivated reasoning, run amok to demented, and dangerous, extremes.
Over the course of 2017, both in Congress and in the executive branch, we have watched the task of government devolve into the full-scale looting of America.
Politicians are making decisions to enrich their donors — and at times themselves personally — with a reckless disregard for any kind of objective policy analysis or consideration of public opinion.
A businessman president who promised — repeatedly — that he would not personally benefit from his own tax proposals is poised to sign into law a bill that’s full of provisions that benefit him and his family. Congressional Republicans who spent years insisting that “dynamic scoring” would capture the deficit-reducing power of tax cuts are now plowing ahead with a bill so fast that they don’t have time to get one done, because it turns out they can’t be bothered to meet their own targets.
Meanwhile, in the background an incredible flurry of regulatory activity is happening out of public view — much of it contrary to free market principles but all of it lucrative for big business and Trump cronies.
Throughout the 2016 campaign, the political class talked a lot about “norms” and how Donald Trump was violating them all. He brushed off fact-checkers, assailed the media, went on Twitter tirades against his critics, and dabbled in racism. Since taking office, his norm busting has spread. Members of Congress who under other circumstances might be constrained by shame, custom, or the will of their constituents have learned from Trump’s election that you can get away with more than we used to think.
Apparently Trump went off on Jeff Sessions the other day for not staying in the U.S. Senate, so a Democrat wouldn’t have won his old seat. In Alabama, quite possibly the reddest state in the country.
So, um … he’s stupid, right? He appears to be blaming Jeff Sessions for not being two people at once, or is possibly blaming him for accepting the job Trump asked him to do? Or, sweet Jeebus, has he possibly forgotten why Jeff left the Senate at all?
I mean, it’s not just that he’s stupid, but that he’s … really stupid? Like, amazingly, astonishingly, trophy-worthily stupid? As dumb as a solid gold toilet? As dumb as a fast-food burger hand-delivered to a private jet? As dumb as—…
This isn’t just stupid, this is a level of stupidity mankind has never before witnessed. This is the Moon Shot of stupid, we’re looking at. This man is genuinely the stupidest person to have ever walked the planet. He may have had his own brain removed and bronzed as act of self-worship; it may even now be buried, forgotten, under a pile of old golf magazines in a Trump Tower closet. This is not dementia, and far beyond narcissism; Donald Trump is, in fact, just very, very, very stupid.
I’m just quoting the beginning and the ending. The bulk of the article is specific, well-supported criticism.
Trump’s National Security Strategy document is about as confused and wrongheaded piece of writing you’d ever want to see…
This document is just bluster and hot air, showing no sign of actually understanding the occasional terrorism that surfaces in the Muslim world or giving the slightest idea of knowing how to combat terrorists.
Not understanding that the main terrorist threat is from white Americans is the big error, which colors everything else in the report.
Trump is so incompetent and just plain wrong that his daily barrage of insults that pass for foreign policy are undoing all the valuable work done by American counter-terrorism officials.