Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Sandy Pearlman, Who Pretty Much Invented Me, Died This Morning


I'm bad at remembering dates things happened. I remember my birthday; not much else. But other things besides numbers-- markers-- remind me when significant events happened. So many of them in my life have it do with Sandy Pearlman. I met Sandy at freshman orientation at Stony Brook in 1965... wow, 5 decades ago, my first day at school. Neither Sandy nor I ever imagined we'd live for 5 more decades after our time at Stony Brook. He wasn't a freshman that day. He was a senior-- a senior-plus. He was spending an extra year at Stony Brook because he had been elected moderator, head of the student government, in the spring. There must have been some other reason, like not having finished something he needed to do to go on to the next step... graduate school at Brandeis, something to do with his Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, something to do with the band he was working with as songwriter, manager, producer, inspirer, the Blue Öyster Cult. I'm getting ahead of myself.

This morning when I got up at 4, I found an e-mail from Robert and Roni Duncan, our old friends. They've been watching over him this year. "His suffering is over. He passed peacefully, surrounded by love, with Mars peeking in the window, at 12:30 am, July 26, 2016, in Marin County, California." If it wouldn't have been today it would have been tomorrow or the next day. Sandy was dying. When I looked back at the posts he had done for DWT, I found one, basically a lecture he did at McGill-- where we were both teaching music classes for a time, he more seriously and consistently than I-- about frisson, "What Makes Music Thrilling?" As an intro, I wrote that Sandy has been one of my closest friends since 1965. He introduced me to music. Probably best known as the producer (and writer) for Blue Öyster Cult, he also produced albums for The Clash, The Dictators, Pavlov's Dog, Dream Syndicate and many other artists. He also introduced me to politics-- music and politics... a pretty big chunk of my life. And more than that; he inspired me to dream and think outside myself; that's a big deal. He asked me to embed Holst's "Mars, the Bringer of War" from The Planets to illustrate the piece.

I was a cook once, in Amsterdam's meditation center, the Kosmos, for a few years. I arranged a photo album in a macrobiotic cookbook, pasting the pictures from my life over the recipes, each chapter representing another astrological house. I put pictures of Sandy in the 9th House, Sagittarius, meant to represent the superconscious mind-- understanding, expansion of horizons-- in other words, spiritual philosophies and visions, intuition, inspiration, long journeys... a different place for pictures than, say, a chapter about friends or lovers or personality. I always thought of it as my guru chapter-- my teachers. There are a bunch of Sandy snapshots pasted over recipes for Ter-Yaki and some French dishes.

Sandy-- anytime between the late '60s and now

Sandy, if I recall, was a philosophy major-- maybe sociology and philosophy. He would have been 73 had he lasted another couple of weeks. But last year he had a stroke, hit his head hard on the pavement when he fell and was in a coma for a very long time. At one point he came out of it and I thought he was going to recover. He wasn't; it was just something I told myself to make it lesser horrible.

About 7 years ago Sandy did a couple of posts for DWT, one on his old and dear friend Patti Smith, who he introduced me to when she was a poet living above a shoe store on 14th Street in Manhattan with a photographer named Robert Mapplethorpe. It seemed pretty bohemian. I was visiting from Amsterdam and he wanted me to meet her and to see her perform in a church basement. I told him it was one of the most thrilling performances I had ever seen but that it could never be captured on vinyl. Years later, the first week I was hired as general manager of Sire Records, I managed to find the masters of "Piss Factory" and "Hey Joe," which my boss, Seymour Stein, had financed in 1974, and released them, for the first time, on a CD. I felt I was making a contribution to culture that day.

The other post he did for us that year was an obit for Ellie Greenwich, one of his idols. In a writing class somewhere along the way, a professor of mine taught the class that when you're writing about an artist, the hardest-- and most important-- thing would be to convey the art itself. The 3 links about Ellie, Patti and frisson posted above make that part easy. Please read them for a better idea about Sandy. He was always a much better writer than I ever was.

He wrote Imaginos, a collection of poems, which would become Blue Oyster Cult songs, while we were still at Stony Brook. Up top is "Astronomy" from that collection, produced many years later by Sandy, himself... his dream come true on some levels. Maybe you can get a sense from it how he helped open a new world for me, an unformed teenager from Brooklyn searching for... an idea of who I was. I went up to him on that first day of freshman orientation-- the first guy I had ever spoken with who was an authority figure of around my own age and the first guy who I had ever spoken to who had long hair. He told me about the Rolling Stones and asked me to run for freshman class president. I was hoping to score some pot from him; he had never tried it. Later that year I was walking around in Greenwich Village with a joint in my pocket that I had just bought. It started raining and I was getting wet. I heard a tinny little beep beep and looked up and it was Sandy in his little green Sunbeam. Like me, he often found his way from Long Island to the Village. I jumped in and lit up my joint. He didn't want any, but at least I didn't have to take the Long Island Railroad back to Stony Brook. We drove that route in his Sunbeam countless times, usually to hear music or see a film. He's tell me about extraterrestrials long after midnight on the Long Island Expressway.

What did I discover with Sandy? The Velvet Underground and Andy Warhol. The Jefferson Airplane. The Grateful Dead. The Doors. The Byrds. I had my first acid trip with him, Bill Graham, Paul Kantner and Marty Balin. Sandy didn't take any acid; he was driving. And I think he thought drugs would fuck him up profoundly. Later he introduced me to The Clash and I introduced him to U2. I don't know what to make of his passing. I'm glad he isn't suffering any more-- stuck inside a body wracked with pain, partially unable to move, unable to communicate for the most part, trapped. I need to think about it today.

Christopher Walken played the Sandy-based character on one of Saturday Night Live's most iconic skits once. Sandy, always the philosopher, took it in good stride and always laughed about it. My friend is dead.

UPDATE: From Our Friends Helen Klein and Michael Bart

Through Howie, I met Sandy early in my freshman year at Stony Brook, in the fall of 1967. He was the hippest, coolest, most brilliant guy, immersed in rock ’n roll, and I was in awe of him. At college concerts, and there were many, there was Sandy, standing off to the side, dressed in black and wearing a hat and sunglasses, bopping his head to the beat. Lucky for me, he considered me a friend and opened up my world. He knew what was in the forefront of culture and I went along for the ride. Sandy took me to the first Star Wars movie when it opened at the Ziegfeld, my first Bruce Springsteen concert at the Palladium and so many other events. He even brought me along to hang out with Joe Strummer of The Clash. I listened to the Blue Oyster Cult, aka the Soft White Underbelly, in college lounges and went to a Texas barbecue with the Dictators when they played there. Being in his company and listening to him speak was amazing. He was the most interesting person I ever had the pleasure to meet. I had not seen him often in recent years, but I cherish our interaction. I spent time with him in Austin at South by Southwest, and he surprised everyone by showing up at a Stony Brook gathering at a friend’s house in Napa, regaling everyone with his wit. He came to my house for decade-celebrating birthday parties. His discussion with my physicist friend was so high level it was incomprehensible to me. Our last communication was in the fall. I love you Sandy and I will miss you terribly. Your were a great influence on my life and a wonderful friend.


Until I met Sandy Pearlman I thought that I was the only motor-head who appreciated the psychedelic music coming out of San Francisco. Then I read his Crawdaddy article about the the Byrds with the cryptic title, "Beyond Andy Granatelli." I immediately made the connection between race-car builder Granatelli, his development of STP engine additive, and Sandy's sly reference to the drug by the same name.

I was pretty certain that only a small handful of people on the planet would've connected those dots. It was that sort of elliptical thinking and broadly-informed creativity that attracted me to Sandy.

My first LSD experience took place on the Stony Brook campus during the summer of '68. I don’t remember where or how, but I ended up in a room that was filled with BOC equipment. Sandy appeared at one point, dressed all in black leather. In my delirium, I was convinced that he was the devil, but I made it out of there with my soul intact.

About eight years later, the devil surprised me with an act of kindness. I was at a particularly low point in my life, and Sandy let me crash at his Setauket digs while Joan was vacationing in Europe. After all, someone had to walk the dogs-- Angelina and Elflandria-- and take the Porsche in for servicing.

Sandy put me to work fulfilling mail order requests for BOC lyrics and merchandise. After much wheedling on my part, he took me to the NYC studio where he was in the process of mixing one of the Cult's albums. I had the opportunity to watch him earn his "more cowbell" reputation as he put the individual musicians-- Donald in particular-- through endless takes.

It was a real eye opening lesson in how the "sausages" of rock and roll are actually made. On another occasion he let me tag along to a Grateful Dead mixing session. Garcia and Lesh were working on “Anthem of the Sun.” Jerry ordered Sandy and me to lie flat on the floor so as not to disrupt the sound pumping out of two speakers-- each the size of a large refrigerator. It was a weird and wonderful experience, and something that you took for granted if you hung out with Sandy for any length of time.

In spite of our proximity, Sandy always maintained an aloofness, and I gladly accepted my place as a young "hanger on." He was brilliant, and I was struggling to keep up with his restless imagination.

Then, as the years rolled by, Sandy mellowed, and our infrequent interactions became more personal. We met up at South by Southwest a few years back and again at an impromptu Stony Brook reunion in Napa. On both occasions, I encountered a much mellower and more welcoming Sandy.

And that's how I will remember him-- for his wit, his brilliance, his creativity and his generosity.



Sherrod Brown Wants To Fight Payday Lenders-- Or Does He?


The above is an e-mail I got yesterday from Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown. I agree with every word of it. Shred is usually right about domestic policy. He's been a dependable leader on fair trade for as long as I can remember him in Congress. And he's one of the best in Congress on reining in Wall Street's predatory excesses. No one's perfect, of course, but Sherrod's craven vote to support Bush-Cheney on torture, made it hard for me to get over this kind of betrayal for perceived political gain trust him again.

Brown sold out progressives by voting for Bush's torture legislation because he wanted to win an election. Ugly. Now he's selling out his own campaign against pay day lenders by backing Patrick Murphy against Alan Grayson in the Florida Senate race. Pay day lenders give their political bribery-- "campaign contributions"-- al;most entirely to Republicans and it is primarily Republicans that push the toxic pay day lender agenda that Brown is fighting. The pay day lenders are playing in the battle to win the Senate this year-- but, in the crucial Florida race, they're playing on the same side as Sherrod Brown: electing Wall Street errand boy Patrick Murphy:

Richard Shelby is the Chairman of the Senate's powerful Banking Committee, the committee Sherrod would become chairman of if the Democrats take back the Senate in November, the committee that oversees the activities of the pay day lenders. The industry's $82,700 to Shelby isn't a surprise to anyone. He protects their bottom lines. They are also significantly helping finance reelection campaigns for two other members of the committee: Tim Scott (R-SC) and Pat Toomey (R-PA), each of whom pays slavish devotion to the demands of the pay day lenders. But so far this cycle Patrick Murphy, who isn't even a senator yet-- but serves on the House Financial Services committee and champions the pay day lenders there-- is the second biggest recipient of pay day lender bribes of anyone running for the Senate. Patrick Murphy is a crook and Sherrod Brown is well aware of that. But Chuck Schumer, who can make it easier or harder for Sherrod to get his committee chair, asked him to endorse Wall Street's candidate for the Florida seat, so Sherrod sent out this:
I’d like to introduce you to Patrick Murphy. He’s a Congressman from Florida running a tough race for U.S. Senate this cycle. You may not have heard of Patrick’s campaign yet, but I can assure you, the Koch brothers and their Republican allies have already taken notice. Earlier this month, the Kochs' group, Americans for Prosperity, ran a full-page Op-Ed attacking Patrick for opposing Citizens United. Special interest groups spent more than $40 million against me-- one of the most expensive races in the country. And I can tell you who one of their top targets will be this year: Patrick... Patrick is the kind of person I want to work with in the Senate. He’s a tireless advocate for the middle class, and he has a track record of doing what’s right for his district.
That's all a big fat expedient lie from a politician it's getting harder and harder to trust. A few months after Sherrod started serving in the Senate, he was asked by Cenk Uygar of the Young Turks why he had voted for Bush's torture bill-- the only progressive in the House to have done so. "It was a bad vote," he admitted. "I shouldn't have. A vote I'll correct ... when it comes... I take responsibility. It was the heat of the campaign and I made a mistake." Yes he did make a mistake, a very grievous one-- making him the first and only candidate Blue America had ever endorsed and then unendorsed. And by backing Wall Street shill and so-called "ex"-Republican, Patrick Murphy, against Alan Grayson, Sherrod Brown has made another grievous mistake. Grayson, decidedly not the candidate of the Wall Street banksters or their paid political shills like Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, has a very clear vision of what he'd like to see done in regard to payday lenders. "What we need," he just told us, "is a normal banking system that covers everyone equally, like Elizabeth Warren’s post office banking bill, drawing upon the experience in Japan (where the post office is the largest bank, with branches in all neighborhoods, rich or poor). Large banking institutions have abandoned poor neighborhoods, relegating the poor to second-class banking." Please help Grayson get into the Senate, where he, unlike Murphy, will help Sherrod Brown fight against the corrupt practices of the payday lenders and Wall Street banksters.

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Monday, July 25, 2016

Oh, Mike Pence Is Much Much Worse Than Tim Kaine-- No Comparison! So?


It's an extraordinarily low bar but Kaine is better than Penzzzzzzzzz

Someone on Twitter was trying to promote the idea that putting Tim Kaine first in the line to presidential succession was not just less terrible than putting Mike Pence there but actually a good thing... and used as evidence a link showing that Pete Peterson's Fix the Debt operation-- whose ultimate goal is the destruction of Social Security and Medicare-- named Kaine a Fiscal Hero, along with other such well-respected and beloved political figures of the American center-right as John Boehner (R-OH), Jim Himes (New Dem-CT), Rob Portman (R-OH), Kyrsten Sinema (Blue Dog-AZ), Steny Hoyer (D-K Street), Jim Cooper (Blue Dog-TN), Dan Coats (R-IN), and Michael Bennet (D-CO). I had just cast the deciding vote on a committee discussing whether or not to endorse Bennet for re-election to his Colorado Senate seat-- another lesser-of-two-evils choice being forced on the voters. (Happy to report that, Bennet, easily the lesser evil, isn't being endorsed.)

Peterson's operation defines Fiscal heroes as having "distinguished themselves by taking fiscally responsible votes, pushing their party leaders to make debt a priority, leading bipartisan efforts to work through policy options to fix the debt, using their town hall meetings to engage and educate constituents, delivering floor speeches to raise awareness about the issue, advocating to keep tough choices on the table, and introducing legislation to improve the nation's fiscal position. These elected officials have recognized that we will need to take a comprehensive approach to address the core drivers of the debt, such as entitlement reform and tax reform, to put it on a downward path in the long-term and allow the economy to thrive. Given that there is much more to be done to confront the nation's debt challenges, it is important that the work of those who focus on these issues is recognized."

Here, for example is wealthy, spoiled young Patrick Murphy, right after he was elected to Congress pretending to be a Democrat-- who didn't make the grade then but will soon, no doubt, going on TV and when asked what he would cut, twice volunteering Social Security and Medicare:

You know, one of the things that's wrong with settling for lesser-of-two evils candidates all the time-- we discussed it at greater length yesterday-- is that it means we have the wrong people making countless behind the scenes decisions daily. Tim Kaine is a shitty VP choice, not nearly as terrible as Pence, obviously, but certainly one I would ever want to see ascending to the presidency. His reasonable defenders-- not the ones bragging about how he's great for Wall Street and knows how to cut Social Security and Medicare-- point out that Planned Parenthood and NARAL have endorsed him (although he's "personally" anti-Choice), the Sierra Club supports him because he opposed the Keystone XL Pipeline, the AFL-CIO has given him a 98% lifetime rating, and that he stood up to the tobacco lobby and the gun manufacturers lobby while he was governor of Virginia. In fact, Kaine has a "F" from the NRA. That's all good... and I want to share something former Congressman Brad Miller of North Carolina sent me today, which he already published at HuffPo. Remember, someone appoints all these decision-making bureaucrats:
These are words that I have never written-- or thought-- before and expect never to again: House Republicans are right.

On July 11, House Republicans issued a report on an investigation into the Department of Justice’s 2012 settlement with HSBC, the British megabank, for laundering $900 million for the Columbian and Mexican drug cartels and for regimes under international sanctions for nuclear proliferation, genocide and support for terrorism. The DOJ touted the $2 billion civil penalty as a “record,” but the penalty amounted to five weeks of profits for the bank taken from shareholder funds. There were no criminal charges.

Lanny Breuer, the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, and Eric Holder, the Attorney General, both argued that the DOJ could not bring criminal charges because convictions might jeopardize the bank and the stability of the world’s financial system. But then Holder said his statement had been “misconstrued.”

Holder said “there are a number of factors that we have to take into consideration....Innocent people can be impacted by a prosecution....But let me be very, very, very clear. Banks are not too big to jail.” The DOJ would bring criminal charges where there was enough evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The congressional report concluded there was ample evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The decision not to pursue criminal charges was entirely because HSBC was “too big to jail.”

Executive branch cooperation in congressional investigations is seldom cheerful, but the DOJ flatly refused to produce any subpoenaed documents. The Department of Treasury grudgingly produced some documents redacted at DOJ’s request. The stated reason was that the withheld information pertained to “prosecutorial decisions.”

The courts have never precisely defined “executive privilege,” the protection of the confidentiality of some discussions about some decisions between some executive branch officials to encourage uninhibited debate. But this much is clear: there is no blanket protection for “prosecutorial deliberations.”

There is no government power more susceptible to dangerous abuse or more in need of constant independent scrutiny than the power to bring, or not to bring, criminal charges.

An aggressive Senate investigation exposed the Teapot Dome scandal almost a century ago. The Secretary of the Interior went to prison for taking bribes for no-bid petroleum leases on federal lands. The Senate also examined the Justice Department’s failure to investigate and prosecute the people involved.

The Supreme Court upheld the Senate’s authority to hold a subpoenaed witness in contempt for refusing to testify on the Justice Department’s conduct. The Court said the question whether the Justice Department’s “functions were being properly discharged or being neglected or misdirected...concerned a subject on which legislation could be had and would be materially aided by the information which the investigation was calculated to elicit.”

A decade ago the Bush Administration fired federal prosecutors who had brought prosecutions that hurt Republicans or failed to bring flimsy prosecutions that would hurt Democrats. Administration officials refused to comply with House subpoenas and the House went to court. The court rejected the Administration’s argument that the decision to fire prosecutors was entirely up to the President and none of Congress’s business. Congress had a “unique ability to address improper partisan influence in the prosecutorial process,” the court said, and “[n]o other institution will fill the vacuum if Congress is unable to investigate and respond to this evil.”

There is no evidence that DOJ’s decision to settle with HSBC was criminally corrupt or the product of improper partisan influence. Wall Street critics hotly dispute that criminal prosecution of HSBC executives would have threatened the financial system, but DOJ’s decision to settle was likely based on that concern, as Breuer and Holder first said. The obvious injustice is deeply offensive to most Americans.

Savvy Washington insiders avoid public debate with Wall Street critics, so some political functionary told Holder that he was off message.

House Republicans’ concern for the injustice of the settlement is patently insincere. House Republicans’ only motive is to embarrass the Obama Administration, not to side with Wall Street critics.

Certainly the investigation could inform legislation. Most obviously, any institution that seeks the special treatment that HSBC received should immediately be broken into small-enough-to-jail pieces. That is legislation House Republicans will never enact.

But political embarrassment punishes misconduct, including the misconduct of staying on a message that deviates from the unvarnished truth. Americans are entitled to know how the power they confer by their ballots is used. And Americans are entitled to know if some powerful financial institutions receive special treatment in the criminal justice system.

A great American political scientist, Woodrow Wilson, wrote in 1885 that the “proper duty of a representative body [is] to look diligently into every affair of government and to talk much about what it sees...The informing function of Congress is to be preferred even to its legislative function.”

If congressional oversight causes political functionaries to hesitate to tell presidential appointees to stay on messages that are varnished versions of the truth out of fear of embarrassment, then that would be a wholesome result.
Can you keep this tucked away in the back of your mind? Some day we will will prevail on Miller to jump back into electoral politics-- so far we've come up short-- and at that time, we'll need to fight really hard for him. There aren't many Democrats willing to advance this kind of embarrassing narrative about the kind of corruption that has no place in democratic governance. Meanwhile, though, please consider helping get Alan Grayson into the U.S. Senate instead of either of the 2 Wall Street lackeys, Patrick Murphy and Marco Rubio, opposing him.

Goal Thermometer

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Meet Misty K. Snow, A Democratic Senate Candidate In Utah Who Chuck Schumer Refuses To Recognize


Pretty much the only Senate race in the whole country that DSCC bosses Chuck Schumer and Jon Tester refuse to even acknowledge exists is the one in Utah for the seat of far right extremist Mike Lee. The DSCC website lists every race-- including ones without candidates-- except the one in Utah, where they are somehow offended that a political outsider, a super-progressive transgender woman, Misty Katherine Snow, won the primary. Misty was an outspoken Bernie supporter, something that infuriated Schumer, of course. When Bernie beat Hillary by a huge margin-- 61,333 (79.3%) to 15,666 (20.3%)-- it just further antagonized the Senate Democrats new self-styled dictator. Misty beat the conservative Blue Dog, Jonathan Swinton, that the party establishment was pushing-- and she beat him convincingly, 27,138 (59.4%) to 18,530 (40.6%), despite Swinton spending almost twice as much as she did.

Goal Thermometer After she became the official Democratic Party candidate and Chuck Schumer refused to acknowledge that Utah is even a state with a Senate race, Blue America endorsed her. You can contribute to her campaign by tapping on the thermometer on the right. We asked if she would be interested in writing a guest post about the single issue that most animates her campaign and that she feels the strongest about. Please give a read and then consider helping her get her message out to an electorate in Utah that is apoplectic and Trump being the Republican Party's nominee. The DSCC should understand this and give Misty a hand but... well, Chuck Schumer.

Fighting For A Living Wage In Utah
-by Senate candidate Misty K. Snow

Currently 51% of people in this country make $30,000 a year or less. This means a majority are barely making it, they are living in poverty or are close to it. This is unacceptable; we must do better for working people in this country and their families.  

The current minimum wage of $7.25 in this country is not enough. A working person cannot live on that wage anywhere in the county. Such a low wage is not only insufficient to live on; it is actually an insult to working people. No corporation can be profitable without the talents and labor of its workers; do they not deserve to share in the fruits of their labor?

The workers being paid these low wages often rely on public assistance such as food stamps and subsidized housing in order to survive. These benefits paid to low income workers and their families in effect become a form of corporate welfare as it forcing the government to fill in the income gap of workers who are not being paid a living wage while the corporations that employ them make millions of dollars in profits.

Every year taxpayers spend $6.2 billion on food stamps, housing assistance, and other forms of welfare to meet the needs of Wal-Mart employers around the country and that is just one corporation. All together taxpayers are spending $153 billion every year on welfare programs just to meet the needs of already employed people. Why are we subsidizing the low wages paid by corporations that are making millions, or even billions of dollars in profits? Why do we not make these corporations pay their workers a living wage?

We must fight for a living wage in this country. We must raise the minimum wage in this country and we must do so aggressively. I believe that we can raise the minimum wage to $15 on hour over the next several years with an annual adjustment for inflation thereafter. Doing so will finally allow tens of millions of working people in this country to finally make a wage that is much closer to a living wage and by also including an annual adjustment for inflation we ensure that we will not have to fight this battle again down the road.  

Furthermore the workers who are being paid these low wages are disproportionately women, people of color, members of the LGBT community. If we want to help close the wage gap experienced by women, people of color, and the LGBT community then it is necessary that we increase the minimum wage.  

We can win on this issue and we must win on this issue. Inaction here will abandon far to many working people and their families to poverty while allowing corporations to reap the benefits of subsidized low wages. It's time to make corporations pay their workers a living wage so that working people and their families can live with dignity and economic security.

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Predictably, Wasserman Schultz Ruined The First Day Of Hillary's Convention-- How Much Damage Will She Do?


The Trumpist catastrophe in Cleveland last week tee-ed up the perfect beginning for a united Democratic Party convention in Philly today. But the "United Together" theme some marketing consultant got paid so much to come up with, turned into "United Apart," complements of Debbie the Destroyer. And instead, the first images on national television were of Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz being boo-ed off the stage at a Florida delegates meeting. And people wondering about Clinton's leadership abilities... if she can't even get this toxic freak show off center stage, how is she going to run the country? What is Mook or Podesta worth if they can't hand #DebtTrapDebbie a plane ticket back to Weston and ask her not to show her face outside of her district for the next three and a half months? Instead, they put out a tone deaf press release that had Hillary saying "There's simply no one better at taking the fight to the Republicans than Debbie-- which is why I am glad that she has agreed to serve as honorary chair of my campaign's 50-state program to gain ground and elect Democrats in every part of the country, and will continue to serve as a surrogate for my campaign nationally, in Florida, and in other key states. I look forward to campaigning with Debbie in Florida and helping her in her re-election bid--because as President, I will need fighters like Debbie in Congress who are ready on day one to get to work for the American people." Terrible optics-- and terrible idea. Who in their right mind wants someone as toxic and representative of cheating, entitlement, lying and failure as a surrogate?

Debbie Wasserman Schultz is a figure of disdain inside and outside the Democratic Party. Obama, who saddled the party with her (after Tim Kaine's unsuccessful stint at the DNC), should appoint her ambassador to Ruthenia or Manchukuo and let the Senate put an end to her public career. She;'s been on a path to hell for over a decade and only idiots refused to recognize that after she helped the Republican state senate in Florida gerrymander up the state to GOP advantage while she was able to draw herself a safe congressional district. Later, she confirmed what kind of a politicians she is when, as head of the DCCC's Red-to-Blue program, she publicly sabotaged 3 Democratic candidates in South Florida to help her Republican pals, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and the Diaz-Balart brothers. (She's still playing those old cards to this day.)

She's still refusing to get up in front of her own Broward and Miami-Dade county constituents and debate her primary foe, Tim Canova, using her role at the DNC as the excuse. Tim just turned her role at the DNC against her with an FEC complaint.
"Our lawyers are preparing a complaint against Wasserman Schultz that we will file with the FEC for her wrongful use of DNC resources in her campaign against me, based on the wikileaks disclosures."
Over at Politico this morning, Glenn Thrush, Gabriel Debenedetti and Edwards-Isaac Dovere dug deeper into the behind the scenes efforts to get rid of Wasserman Schultz and how Obama aides had been urging him to dump her for almost a year. The Clintons claim they wanted her out as well. Now the Obama and Clinton people are pointing fingers at each other about whose fault it really is that this two-legged toxic dump remained head of the DNC for so long. When it finally came down yesterday, it made the Obama and Clinton teams look weak, pathetic and without agency. "The move had to happen on Sunday, said a senior Democrat: Sanders-supporting delegates-- without the buy-in of his campaign-- had been organizing an effort over the preceding day to have state delegations vote to demand her resignation at the Monday morning caucus breakfasts. Given the number of delegations in which Sanders supporters are the majority, the movement would likely have spread, overtaking any other news on the convention’s opening day."
John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman-- and a former top adviser to Barack Obama-- broached the idea of replacing Wasserman Schultz as early as last fall, only to be rebuffed by the president’s team, according to two people with direct knowledge of the conversation.

“It came down to the fact that the president didn’t want the hassle of getting rid of Debbie,” said a former top Obama adviser. “It’s been a huge problem for the Clintons, but the president just didn’t want the headache of Debbie bad-mouthing him. ... It was a huge pain in the ass.”

The Obama team-- especially 2012 campaign manager Jim Messina-- long viewed Wasserman Schultz as a major campaign liability, questioning her fundraising prowess and her tendency to appoint personal aides to positions of authority, prioritizing loyalty over competence and effectiveness as a spokesperson for Democrats. At the time, senior campaign officials leaked details of an internal survey, conducted by pollster David Binder, showing Wasserman Schultz was the least-liked Obama surrogate; she later dismissed the report as National Enquirer dross.

After Obama’s 2012 victory, Messina and longtime political adviser Patrick Gaspard, who worked under Wasserman Schultz at the DNC, pressed the president to push her out, advising that he tap former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak as her replacement. Obama-- who cared little for the party machinations-- figured the move would be more trouble than it was worth and told his aides that he was OK having Wasserman Schultz serve as chairwoman until he left office. “It’s embarrassing that Obama left the problem for Hillary,” one former West Wing adviser told Politico.

...[T]he Clinton campaign was very much involved in the DNC chair’s defenestration. Earlier in the day Sunday, Sanders had again suggested that Wasserman Schultz should resign — and DNC officials announced she would be replaced as convention chair by Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge, an influential member of the Congressional Black Caucus. By sundown-- after intense negotiations with senior Clinton campaign officials-- the committee tapped longtime Clinton aide, TV surrogate and party vice-chair Donna Brazile as interim chairwoman.

It was an embarrassing episode-- and a sign of discord that Republicans, fresh off their own fractious convention pounced on. “I know firsthand how hard it is being the chair of a national party, but when you rig a system and spread emails around with each other and senior staff in that matter, this outcome is inevitable,” said Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, during a news conference here on Sunday, barely suppressing his glee. “Obviously, the end has come and I don’t think there was any other outcome that was foreseeable. These events show what an uphill climb the Democrats were facing in unifying their party.”

But, to senior Democrats, it also represented a clean-up operation that brought Clinton and Sanders-- who has demanded her ouster for months-- into closer alignment a day before the Vermont senator was due to deliver his opening-night endorsement of an opponent he long accused of rigging the election with the help of the D.C.-based party establishment.

...“This was the right move. She doesn’t deserve every attack that’s been thrown at her, but her faults have become too big a distraction and she hasn’t deftly managed the internal politics involved in managing a national committee,” said a DNC staffer. “The DNC should be playing a consequential role in the general election and that hasn't been possible as long as she’s been in charge.”

All the while, state party chairs had been emailing each other in semi-panic, receiving no response from national committee staff as speculation about a move heated up throughout the weekend. The same held true for party fundraisers, even those at a DNC retreat in town on Sunday, who were blindsided by the party’s split-second reorganization.

Team Sanders got no warning either, but they were immediately cheered by the installation of Brazile. They had instructed Clinton aides in May-- the last time speculation swirled about Wasserman Schultz’s exit-- that he party vice-chair would be preferable, and they regarded her as better than Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's option at the time, as well.

Inside the White House, aides and lawyers have been poring through the Wikileaks dump all weekend. There’s a lot of flagging of potential problems, but also a lot of eyerolling and disbelief about what Wasserman Schultz and her staff were thinking, and that they were putting it in emails.

Still, Obama didn’t get involved at all as Wasserman Schultz was at the brink. Whenever the topic of replacing her came up, despite the fact that the president had lost patience with her years ago and generally avoided having to talk to her, he’d always felt that forcing her out wasn't worth the trouble it would bring.

As the election got underway, he felt the leadership questions should be left to Clinton. And this weekend, as conversations between her Brooklyn headquarters and Wasserman Schultz intensified, neither the president nor his staff was involved. Once the decision was made, Wasserman Schultz called White House political director David Simas to tell him, and Simas then told the president. Obama decided to call to thank her for her work. The conversation was full of platitudes, a source familiar with the discussion said. He didn't go out of his way to say he was sorry to see her go, and certainly didn’t twist her arm to get her to reconsider.

...“We all knew this was coming yesterday after the WikiLeaks news, it felt like it had to happen. It was just a question of the timing, to be honest,” said one state party chair. “A lot of us thought this was going to happen a month ago. That would've been a more opportune time to do it. ... You won’t find a lot of fans of hers among state chairs, but this is shitty timing.”
This was Tim Canova's message to South Florida voters this morning: "There is no question now that our opponent, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, abused her position at the DNC to unduly influence the presidential primary and to assist in her re-election campaign, which is a clear violation of federal law. I am glad to hear that she will be stepping down as DNC Chair this week. She was terrible at the job, but she should also be resigning from Congress as well. In my view, she has embarrassed herself and the people of South Florida in this debacle. And if she refuses to resign from Congress, then we have a responsibility to ensure the end of her political career by winning this primary next month. Now that she's been relieved of her party position, Wasserman Schultz should have ample time to defend her record in public debate. She has spoken in the past about the importance of debates in a democracy, yet she has dodged debates against me. The people of South Florida deserve to hear from all the candidates, including their representative who is supposed to serve their interests. I hope we will be able to force Wasserman Schultz to match her own words with action by debating me in the days to come."

It was inevitable that she would ruin day one of the convention-- and Hillary, Obama and their inept cronies earned it. Now it's up to the Democratic voters in Florida's 23rd congressional district to get rid of her for good-- on August 30-- and replace her with good government reformer Tim Canova. You can help here, by tapping the thermometer and contributing what you can.
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Is It Fair To Label Trump A Racist?


The Woody Guthrie song above, "Old Man Trump" was written in the early 1950s when Woody Guthrie was renting an apartment from Trump's notoriously racist father Fred in the Beach Haven neighborhood of Brooklyn, not far from where I grew up and where my first girlfriend, Doreen, lived. It paints an accurate picture of the bigoted milieu Little Donald-- who has started unambiguously that "my legacy has its roots in my father’s legacy"-- grew up in. Even if you heard this new rendition of the song by Ryan Harvey, Tom Morello and Ani DiFranco when I wrote about it at the beginning of the month, I want to ask you to give the song another listen now. That's because yesterday, writing at the NY Times, Nick Kristof posed a question that will finally be seriously discussed in the mainstream, Is Donald Trump A Racist? Spoiler: yes, very much so. Kristof was diligent in going back over 4 decades of records of Trump's racism to reach the conclusion.

One early red flag arose in 1973, when President Richard Nixon’s Justice Department-- not exactly the radicals of the day-- sued Trump and his father, Fred Trump, for systematically discriminating against blacks in housing rentals.

I’ve waded through 1,021 pages of documents from that legal battle, and they are devastating. Donald Trump was then president of the family real estate firm, and the government amassed overwhelming evidence that the company had a policy of discriminating against blacks, including those serving in the military.

To prove the discrimination, blacks were repeatedly dispatched as testers to Trump apartment buildings to inquire about vacancies, and white testers were sent soon after. Repeatedly, the black person was told that nothing was available, while the white tester was shown apartments for immediate rental.

A former building superintendent working for the Trumps explained that he was told to code any application by a black person with the letter C, for colored, apparently so the office would know to reject it. A Trump rental agent said the Trumps wanted to rent only to “Jews and executives,” and discouraged renting to blacks.

Donald Trump furiously fought the civil rights suit in the courts and the media, but the Trumps eventually settled on terms that were widely regarded as a victory for the government. Three years later, the government sued the Trumps again, for continuing to discriminate.

In fairness, those suits date from long ago, and the discriminatory policies were probably put in place not by Donald Trump but by his father. Fred Trump appears to have been arrested at a Ku Klux Klan rally in 1927; Woody Guthrie, who lived in a Trump property in the 1950s, lambasted Fred Trump in recently discovered papers for stirring racial hatred.

Yet even if Donald Trump inherited his firm’s discriminatory policies, he allied himself decisively in the 1970s housing battle against the civil rights movement.

Another revealing moment came in 1989, when New York City was convulsed by the “Central Park jogger” case, a rape and beating of a young white woman. Five black and Latino teenagers were arrested.

Trump stepped in, denounced Mayor Ed Koch’s call for peace and bought full-page newspaper ads calling for the death penalty. The five teenagers spent years in prison before being exonerated. In retrospect, they suffered a modern version of a lynching, and Trump played a part in whipping up the crowds.

As Trump moved into casinos, discrimination followed. In the 1980s, according to a former Trump casino worker, Kip Brown, who was quoted by the New Yorker: “When Donald and Ivana came to the casino, the bosses would order all the black people off the floor. … They put us all in the back.”

In 1991, a book by John O’Donnell, who had been president of the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, quoted Trump as criticizing a black accountant and saying: “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day. … I think that the guy is lazy. And it’s probably not his fault, because laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is, I believe that. It’s not anything they can control.” O’Donnell wrote that for months afterward, Trump pressed him to fire the black accountant, until the man resigned of his own accord.

Trump eventually denied making those comments. But in 1997 in a Playboy interview, he conceded “the stuff O’Donnell wrote about me is probably true.”

The recent record may be more familiar: Trump’s suggestions that President Obama was born in Kenya; his insinuations that Obama was admitted to Ivy League schools only because of affirmative action; his denunciations of Mexican immigrants as, “in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists”; his calls for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States; his dismissal of an American-born judge of Mexican ancestry as a Mexican who cannot fairly hear his case; his reluctance to distance himself from the Ku Klux Klan in a television interview; his retweet of a graphic suggesting that 81 percent of white murder victims are killed by blacks (the actual figure is about 15 percent); and so on.

Trump has also retweeted messages from white supremacists or Nazi sympathizers, including two from an account called @WhiteGenocideTM with a photo of the American Nazi Party’s founder.

Trump repeatedly and vehemently denies any racism, and he has deleted some offensive tweets. The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi racist website that has endorsed Trump, sees that as going “full-wink-wink-wink.”

...Here we have a man who for more than four decades has been repeatedly associated with racial discrimination or bigoted comments about minorities, some of them made on television for all to see. While any one episode may be ambiguous, what emerges over more than four decades is a narrative arc, a consistent pattern-- and I don’t see what else to call it but racism.
Woody Guthrie knew Trump was a racist piece of garbage and so does Nick Kristof-- and so do the neo-Nazis, white supremacists, anti-Semites and white nationalists who have been drawn to Trump's campaign like flies to fresh horse manure. At the convention in Cleveland last week, they preferred to refer to themselves as "alt-right," as though they were part of a punk rock movement. They wear nice clothes though. "And," wrote Steve Peoples for the Associated Press, "far from hiding in chat rooms or under white sheets, they cheered the GOP presidential nominee from inside the Republican National Convention over the last week. While not official delegates, they nevertheless obtained credentials to attend the party's highest-profile quadrennial gathering. Several gathered in the luxury hotel well after midnight following Trump's Thursday address, a fiery appeal they said helped push the Republican Party closer to their principles. 'I don't think people have fully recognized the degree to which he's transformed the party,' said Richard Spencer, a clean-cut 38-year-old from Arlington, Virginia, who sipped Manhattans as he matter-of-factly called for removing African-Americans, Hispanics and Jews from the United States. Like most in his group, Spencer said this year's convention was his first. On his social media accounts, he posted pictures of himself wearing a red Trump 'Make America Great Again' hat at Quicken Loans Arena. And he says he hopes to attend future GOP conventions. 'Tons of people in the alt-right are here,' he said, putting their numbers at the RNC this week in the dozens. 'We feel an investment in the Trump campaign.'" They aren't advocating exterminating Jews, blacks and Hispanics-- at least not yet-- just forcing them out of the U.S. (Hitler started that way too, by the way.) "We'll help them go somewhere else. I'm not a maniac," Spencer said of the minorities he wants to eject from the country. "I know in order to achieve what I want to achieve, you have to deal with people rationally... Trust me. Trump thinks like me," Spencer said. "Do you think it's a coincidence that everybody like me loves Trump and supports him?"

No me. I've known right from the start it was no coincidence. Ironically, Jews are paying less attention than blacks or Hispanics, who recognize what Trump is and plan to give him the electoral support he's earned-- basically none. There have been entire polling samples where not even a single black voter could be found backing Trump. Last week, the Latino Victory Project reported a poll of Hispanics who watched the Cleveland Hatefest. Each day of the convention, Trump's historically low support from Hispanics dropped even further:

The polling showed that 83% of Hispanic voters who watched the GOP convention felt that "racist" was an appropriate description for Trump and other top descriptions were "bully" (82%), "divisive" (83%), "unstable" (81%) and "dangerous" (80%). Only 13% considered the world "classy" an appropriate to describe him. There were also questions meant to measure Hispanic feelings towards Republicans in general. "During a cable news interview," wanton question, "Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King said, 'Go back through history and where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people? Where did any other subgroup of people (other than white people) contribute more to civilization? Western civilization is rooted in Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and the United States of America.' Are you surprised to learn a Republican Congressman said this, or is this similar to what you often hear from Republicans?" 32% said they were surprised but 68% said they weren't and that it "is similar to what I often hear from Republicans." The respondents were also asked which words describe the Republican Party.
Young- 15%
Old- 76%
Happy- 17%
Angry- 75%
Anti-immigrant- 78%
Respect Latinos- 20%
Optimistic- 28%
Negative attitude- 79%
Has good ideas- 30%
Makes America more united- 19%
Dangerous- 76%
Cares About people like me- 20%
This is a list of 21 congressional districts with Republican incumbents who have anti-immigrant records and large Hispanic populations (30% or more). The DCCC is only targeting the bolded ones-- 5 of the 21. The rest are getting free rides to reelection:
FL-27- Ileana Ros-Lehtinen- 76%
CA-21- David Valadao- 74%
FL-25- Mario Diaz-Balart- 71%
FL-26- Carlos Curbelo- 69%
TX-23- Will Hurd- 68%
NM-02- Steve Pearce- 53%
TX-27- Blake Farenthold- 52%
CA-22- Devin Nunes- 47%
CA-10- Jeff Denham- 42%
CA-08- Paul Cook- 39%
WA-04- Dan Newhouse- 38%
CA-23- KevinMcCarthy- 38%
CA-25- Steve Knight- 38%
CA-42- Ken Calvert- 37%
TX-11- Michael Conaway- 37%
TX-19- Randy Neubebauer- 36%
CA-39- Ed Royce- 34%
CA-50- Duncan Hunter- 31%
TX-02- Ted Poe- 31%
TX-07- John Culberson- 31%
TX-21- Lamar Smith- 30%
Two more questions that were asked of these Hispanic voters who watched the convention:

1-" On the first day of the convention, the Republican National Committee played a video that stated we need to deport all illegal immigrants and build a wall to keep Mexican immigrants out. A featured Republican speaker on stage said 'some people call them illegal immigrants-- but I call them illegal aliens, criminal illegal aliens who kill people.' Do you think these comments are offensive?"

87% said they found it offensive.

2- "At campaign events over the last year Donald Trump has said: 'You’re going to love me in terms of immigration and illegal immigration. We’re building a wall. Nobody is going through my wall. Trump builds walls. I build walls. We’re building a wall.' And 'Nobody can build a wall like I can build a wall. And some people think it was a racist thing and I’m not talking about keeping Mexico out I’m talking about keeping the world out. You know we’re like a dumping ground for the world.' Do you think most Republicans running for office agree with Trump’s views on this issue?"

42% of respondents agreed that most Republican politicians agree with Trump on that and 58% said they don't think most Republican politicians agree with Trump. It would be the DCCC's job to help Hispanic voters understand that most Republicans either do agree with Trump or, at the very least, enable that agenda inside Congress by voting for and supporting Republican leaddership that pushes those policies. But the DCCC doesn't. It's too busy campaigning on Steve Israel's brilliant plan to make TSA airport lines longer instead.

Blue America has endorsed candidates running in some of these Latino-heavy districts, including opponents of Kevin McCarthy (Wendy Reed), Lamar Smith (Tom Wakely), Mario Diaz-Balart (Alina Valdes) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Adam Sackrin), Please consider contributing to their efforts-- none of which are backed by the DCCC) by tapping the thermometer:
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I Just Got Back From Moscow... Where I Didn't Get A Chance To Discuss Trump With Putin


Saturday I did a brief post at the travel blog about the fantastic Museum of Russian Political History in St. Petersburg which I visited a few weeks ago. I was really impressed that a still somewhat paranoid country barely emerging-- slowly-- from unbroken centuries of routine authoritarianism would permit such an unbiased and objective presentation of history right up to the present day. That said, no one crosses Putin in Russia and gets away with it. That painting up top of him and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in lingerie by Konstantin Altunin was seized by security personnel in 2013 and the artist was forced to flee and seek political asylum in France. The city of Moscow appeared to me to be particularly uptight about anything that could be interpreted as disparaging to President Putin and people there do not joke around about him. People in St. Petersburg are considerably more open and expressive and the Political History museum included an exhibit-- neutral enough, but not fawning or complicit in his cult of personality-- on him. I very spontaneously cracked a joke in front of it tying Putin to Trump. The whole room-- primarily filled with Russians, the museum being off the beaten tourist track-- cracked up. Everyone got the joke. And, even if Putin isn't, Trump is very much a joke... at least among people in St. Petersburg who are conversant in English.

Look, I'm going to get to the Putin-Trump connections in a minute but let me take a little detour from my tangent for a moment. I won't get into how this happened but I wound up spending an afternoon at Russia's most famous cemetery, Novodevichy, part of a 16th century convent. Virtually all of the top Soviet political and heroic leaders are buried in the Kremlin wall behind Lenin's ghastly tomb in Red Square-- Stalin, Felix Dzerzhinsky, Leonid Brezhnev, Marshall Zhukov, Yuri Gagarin, John Reed, Mikhail Suslov, Sergei Kamenev, Mikhail Frunze, Mikhail Kalinin, Dmitriy Ustinov, Konstantin Chernenko-- but not all.

Me & Nikita 
Novodevichy Cemetery, aside from national luminaries like Chekhov, Gogol, Stanislavski, Rostropovich and Prokofiev, holds the bodies of Andrei Gromyko and of out-of-favor former ruling elites like Nikita Khrushchev and Boris Yeltsin-- and has a plot ready for Mikhail Gorbachev (next to his deceased wife). There was always a feeling among some of Russia's political elites that Gorby was somehow owned by the CIA and his deconstruction of the Soviet Union was something they (we) had put him up to. Some think Putin's revenge is none other than Donald J. Trump. Perhaps Clinton campaign manager Robbie Mook, not a scholar but a worshipper of unnamed "experts," is of that mindset. "Experts are telling us," he told CNN's Jake Tapper yesterday, "that Russian state actors broke into the DNC, stole these e-mails... Other experts are now saying that the Russians are releasing these emails for the purpose of actually helping Donald Trump. I don't think it's a coincidental that these emails were released on the eve of our convention. And that's disturbing... We need to be concerned that we also saw last week at the Republican convention that Trump and his allies made changes to the Republican platform to make it more pro-Russian... This isn't my assertion. There are a number of experts that are asserting this. I think we get to the bottom of these facts. But that is what experts are telling us. Experts have said that it is the Russians that in fact went in and took these emails and if they are the ones who took them then we have to infer that they are the ones who have been releasing them."

Mook may be a nut or an ignoramus-- or both-- but there is a seemingly credible case being built that ties Trump and Putin. I don't know how much of it is true but I do know the Clinton team has signaled they will be using it to denigrate Trump for the next 3 and a half months. Let's remember that Trump has been making statements that would seem to be in line with what Putin would like him to say-- like refusing to defend NATO partners in a way that undermines the core of the alliance the West has built to contain Russia. And yesterday Trump was babbling about pulling the U.S. out of the WTO, the trade system which helps western elites control the world's economy.

The U.S. and NATO have given the Russians plenty of legitimate reasons to be uncomfortable and Putin's vision of the U.S. as an adversary is not unwarranted by any stretch of the imagination. And that's far more in line with Clinton's thinking than with Trump's, who's basically just in it for a quick buck rather than anything to do with the complex global strategies that are well beyond his grasp or interest.

Josh Marshall laid a lot of the popular groundwork for this weekend's paranoia about Putin's hold on Trump when he pointed out that the untrustworthy and heavily leveraged Trump has been blackballed by all major U.S. banks and that his tottering empire is only able to stay afloat because of Putin-connected (and directed) money. Remember, we still don't have a clear picture of Trump's business ties with Putin and his wide network of allies because Trump is still refusing to release his taxes. "At a minimum," wrote Marshall, "Trump appears to have a deep financial dependence on Russian money from persons close to Putin. And this is matched to a conspicuous solicitousness to Russian foreign policy interests where they come into conflict with US policies which go back decades through administrations of both parties. There is also something between a non-trivial and a substantial amount of evidence suggesting Putin-backed financial support for Trump or a non-tacit alliance between the two men." Marshall asks his readers to consider 7 facts that seem to tie Trump and Putin together:
1. All the other discussions of Trump's finances aside, his debt load has grown dramatically over the last year, from $350 million to $630 million. This is in just one year while his liquid assets have also decreased. Trump has been blackballed by all major US banks.

2. Post-bankruptcy Trump has been highly reliant on money from Russia, most of which has over the years become increasingly concentrated among oligarchs and sub-garchs close to Vladimir Putin. [T]here's a good overview from the Washington Post, with one morsel for illustration ...
Since the 1980s, Trump and his family members have made numerous trips to Moscow in search of business opportunities, and they have relied on Russian investors to buy their properties around the world.

“Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Trump’s son, Donald Jr., told a real estate conference in 2008, according to an account posted on the website of eTurboNews, a trade publication. “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
3. One example of this is the Trump Soho development in Manhattan, one of Trump's largest recent endeavors. The project was the hit with a series of lawsuits in response to some typically Trumpian efforts to defraud investors by making fraudulent claims about the financial health of the project. Emerging out of that litigation however was news about secret financing for the project from Russia and Kazakhstan. Most attention about the project has focused on the presence of a twice imprisoned Russian immigrant with extensive ties to the Russian criminal underworld. But that's not the most salient part of the story. As the Times put it,
"Mr. Lauria brokered a $50 million investment in Trump SoHo and three other Bayrock projects by an Icelandic firm preferred by wealthy Russians “in favor with” President Vladimir V. Putin, according to a lawsuit against Bayrock by one of its former executives. The Icelandic company, FL Group, was identified in a Bayrock investor presentation as a “strategic partner,” along with Alexander Mashkevich, a billionaire once charged in a corruption case involving fees paid by a Belgian company seeking business in Kazakhstan; that case was settled with no admission of guilt."
Another suit alleged the project "occasionally received unexplained infusions of cash from accounts in Kazakhstan and Russia."

Sounds completely legit.

Read both articles: After his bankruptcy and business failures roughly a decade ago Trump has had an increasingly difficult time finding sources of capital for new investments. As I noted above, Trump has been blackballed by all major US banks with the exception of Deutschebank, which is of course a foreign bank with a major US presence. He has steadied and rebuilt his financial empire with a heavy reliance on capital from Russia. At a minimum the Trump organization is receiving lots of investment capital from people close to Vladimir Putin.

Trump's tax returns would likely clarify the depth of his connections to and dependence on Russian capital aligned with Putin. And in case you're keeping score at home: no, that's not reassuring.

4. Then there's Paul Manafort, Trump's nominal 'campaign chair' who now functions as campaign manager and top advisor. Manafort spent most of the last decade as top campaign and communications advisor for Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian Ukrainian Prime Minister and then President whose ouster in 2014 led to the on-going crisis and proxy war in Ukraine. Yanukovych was and remains a close Putin ally. Manafort is running Trump's campaign.

5. Trump's foreign policy advisor on Russia and Europe is Carter Page, a man whose entire professional career has revolved around investments in Russia and who has deep and continuing financial and employment ties to Gazprom. If you're not familiar with Gazprom, imagine if most or all of the US energy industry were rolled up into a single company and it were personally controlled by the US President who used it as a source of revenue and patronage. That is Gazprom's role in the Russian political and economic system. It is no exaggeration to say that you cannot be involved with Gazprom at the very high level which Page has been without being wholly in alignment with Putin's policies. Those ties also allow Putin to put Page out of business at any time.

6. Over the course of the last year, Putin has aligned all Russian state controlled media behind Trump. As Frank Foer explains here, this fits a pattern with how Putin has sought to prop up rightist/nationalist politicians across Europe, often with direct or covert infusions of money. In some cases this is because they support Russia-backed policies; in others it is simply because they sow discord in Western aligned states. Of course, Trump has repeatedly praised Putin, not only in the abstract but often for the authoritarian policies and patterns of government which have most soured his reputation around the world.

7. Here's where it gets more interesting. This is one of a handful of developments that tipped me from seeing all this as just a part of Trump's larger shadiness to something more specific and ominous about the relationship between Putin and Trump. As TPM's Tierney Sneed explained in this article, one of the most enduring dynamics of GOP conventions (there's a comparable dynamic on the Dem side) is more mainstream nominees battling conservative activists over the party platform, with activists trying to check all the hardline ideological boxes and the nominees trying to soften most or all of those edges. This is one thing that made the Trump convention very different. The Trump Camp was totally indifferent to the platform. So party activists were able to write one of the most conservative platforms in history. Not with Trump's backing but because he simply didn't care. With one big exception: Trump's team mobilized the nominee's traditional mix of cajoling and strong-arming on one point: changing the party platform on assistance to Ukraine against Russian military operations in eastern Ukraine. For what it's worth (and it's not worth much) I am quite skeptical of most Republicans call for aggressively arming Ukraine to resist Russian aggression. But the single-mindedness of this focus on this one issue-- in the context of total indifference to everything else in the platform-- speaks volumes.

This does not mean Trump is controlled by or in the pay of Russia or Putin. It can just as easily be explained by having many of his top advisors having spent years working in Putin's orbit and being aligned with his thinking and agenda. But it is certainly no coincidence. Again, in the context of near total indifference to the platform and willingness to let party activists write it in any way they want, his team zeroed in on one fairly obscure plank to exert maximum force and it just happens to be the one most important to Putin in terms of US policy.

Add to this that his most conspicuous foreign policy statements track not only with Putin's positions but those in which Putin is most intensely interested. Aside from Ukraine, Trump's suggestion that the US and thus NATO might not come to the defense of NATO member states in the Baltics in the case of a Russian invasion is a case in point.

There are many other things people are alleging about hacking and all manner of other mysteries. But those points are highly speculative, some verging on conspiratorial in their thinking. I ignore them here because I've wanted to focus on unimpeachable, undisputed and publicly known facts. These alone paint a stark and highly troubling picture.

To put this all into perspective, if Vladimir Putin were simply the CEO of a major American corporation and there was this much money flowing in Trump's direction, combined with this much solicitousness of Putin's policy agenda, it would set off alarm bells galore. That is not hyperbole or exaggeration. And yet Putin is not the CEO of an American corporation. He's the autocrat who rules a foreign state, with an increasingly hostile posture towards the United States and a substantial stockpile of nuclear weapons. The stakes involved in finding out 'what's going on' as Trump might put it are quite a bit higher.

There is something between a non-trivial and a substantial amount of circumstantial evidence for a financial relationship between Trump and Putin or a non-tacit alliance between the two men. Even if you draw no adverse conclusions, Trump's financial empire is heavily leveraged and has a deep reliance on capital infusions from oligarchs and other sources of wealth aligned with Putin. That's simply not something that can be waved off or ignored.
Thursday, John Harwood interviewed extreme rightist Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), simultaneously a violent and aggressive hawk and a Trumpist. Cotton may be the youngest member of the Senate but he's an unreconstructed Cold War psychopath, always ready for for war. "Putin," he glady reminded Harwood, "was a KGB spy and he never got over that. He does not have America's best interests at heart and he does not have any American interests at heart. I suspect, after this week, when Donald Trump is the nominee and he begins to receive classified briefings, similar briefings to what I receive as a member of the Intelligence Committee, he may have a different perspective on Vladimir Putin and what Russia is doing to America's interests and allies in Europe and the Middle East and Asia." It doesn't seem to have occurred to Senator Cotton-- nor even to McConnell or Ryan, to whom it should be occurring-- that the very idea of giving Trump classified information on Putin and Russia, information which will most assuredly get right back to Putin, is an extremely dangerous proposition.

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