The Twists and Turns of Extortion.

Foreign governments and lobbyists have rushed to book rooms at the new Trump International Hotel in D.C., expecting to curry favor with the president-elect. Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Foreign governments and lobbyists have rushed to book rooms at the new Trump International Hotel in D.C., expecting to curry favor with the president-elect. Chip Somodevilla/Getty.

Newsweek has broken a story about the twisty financial ties of Trump, and how very easy it would be for foreign governments to do some serious arm twisting, to get Trump to do their bidding. As I hope has been made clear through dozens upon dozens of posts, Trump is primarily concerned with his name and his wallet. This whole government thing, not so much. Anyone who thinks Trump will actually divest prior to inauguration, oh please, make it back to reality land. That simply won’t happen. Trump has already stated he doesn’t care if it’s a violation of the constitution. Unfortunately, that particular mess does not rest there. If you need one more reason to actively fight against Trump, here it is – this is person who thinks of the presidency as nothing more than a good business opportunity. He not only does not understand the implications, he does not care. This is just the tip of the iceberg, one which spells out, very clearly, that Trump is placing the U.S. government in a prime position to be blackmailed by an assortment of other governments. One of the most important things you can do is to read, stay informed, and verify.

Despite universal condemnation of the ongoing slaughter of Filipinos, Trump signaled his approval of Duterte’s policies during a phone call on December 2. According to Duterte—an account that has gone uncontested by Trump—the president-elect endorsed his tactics as “the right way.” Duterte added: “[Trump] was wishing me success in my campaign against the drug problem.” (He also said Trump invited him to the White House, a courtesy not yet extended to Theresa May, the prime minister of Britain, America’s most important strategic ally.)

[…]

One thing, however, is clear: The Trump family has an enormous financial interest in keeping Duterte happy. Trump Tower at Century City in Makati, Philippines, is on the verge of completion, with potential buyers having placed deposits on at least 94 percent of the condominiums, according to Century Properties, the Trump Organization’s business partner there. During the U.S. presidential campaign, Trump’s sons Donald Jr. and Eric traveled to Makati to shovel some dirt in a ceremony to celebrate the structural completion of the building; a photograph of the two men shoveling alongside top Century Properties executives was posted on the building’s website. (On that same website, a line of jewelry by Trump’s daughter Ivanka is offered for sale, and it is expected to be available for purchase at the $150 million property.) As with almost every property with Trump’s name on it built over the past decade, his company is not the developer; it merely sold its name to Century Properties to use on the building. Although details of the transaction are not public, contracts for other Trump branding deals reviewed by Newsweek show that they require a multimillion-dollar up-front payment as well as up to 25 percent of the developer’s revenue, year after year. So, under the deal, Trump’s children will be paid millions of dollars throughout their father’s presidency by Jose E.B. Antonio, the head of Century Properties.

Duterte recently named Antonio the special government envoy to the United States. The conflicts here could not be more troubling or more blatant: President Trump will be discussing U.S. policy in Southeast Asia with one of his (or his children’s) business partners, a man who is the official representative of a foreign leader who likens himself to Hitler. Also note that the Trump family has an enormous financial interest in Duterte’s deadly campaign: Rooting out crime in the Philippines is good for the real estate values.

The full, in-depth article is here.

Rachel Maddow also addressed highly troubling concerns when it comes to a Trump financial tangle and Turkey.

According to Maddow, Trump has a business relationship with the Doğan family, owners of Doğan Holding, which is building twin towers in Turkey bearing the Trump name for which the Trump family stands to make millions of dollars.

[…]

Maddow then got to the heart of the matter.

“Turkey desperately wants the U.S. government to extradite an imam [Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen],” Maddow explained. “They [the U.S.] have said that they are not extraditing him. But if that’s what you wanted, what if you could squeeze the personal financial interests of the American president as a way to get what you want from the American government?”

“I mean, the Trump family and the president-elect themselves, they stand to make millions of dollars from their relationship with the Doğan group in Turkey. That will stop if they get locked up,” she continued. “So they started locking them up. Nice leverage, right? It would be one thing if it was business leverage — but it’s leverage against all of us as Americans.”

As Eichenwald notes in his article: “If Erdoğan’s government puts more pressure on the company that’s paying millions of dollars to Trump and his children, revenue flowing from that tower complex in Istanbul could be cut off. That means Erdoğan has leverage with Trump, who will soon have the power to get Gulen extradited.”

Full story and video here.

Petition to Mark Zuckerberg: Don’t censor human rights documentation.

I received the link to this petition via email from several of the organizations listed as signatories below. Please sign and share.

The petition page reads:

Sign the petition to Facebook: Don’t Censor Human Rights Documentation

Facebook, a platform increasingly used to document human rights abuses, has censored human rights documentation, including content that depicts police violence.

This includes but is not limited to: the deactivation of Korryn Gaines’ account, the removal of iconic war photographs, reports of suppression of indigenous resistance, continued reports of Black activists’ content being removed, and the disabling of Palestinian journalists’ accounts following Mark Zuckerberg’s meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister.

A number of organizations (see below) have joined together for this petition and written a letter urging Facebook to end this practice and create rules that protect users from censorship of protected speech.

Sign the petition to Mark Zuckerberg: Don’t censor human rights documentation, especially content that depicts police brutality.

Dear Mark Zuckerberg,

When Facebook unilaterally censors user content that depicts police brutality at the request of the authorities, it sets a dangerous precedent that further hurts and silences marginalized communities, particularly communities of color.

With the safety check-in feature, profile solidarity filters, and in countless speeches, you present Facebook’s value of human life at the center of its public-facing image.

However, Facebook’s repeated silencing of marginalized communities that attempt to make their stories and struggles known proves otherwise. That is why we request that Facebook clarify its policy on removing video and other content, especially human rights documentation, at the request of government actors.

Specifically, we urge Facebook to:

  1. Make policies about how Facebook makes decisions to censor content clear and accessible to the public.
  2. Create a public appeals platform where users can appeal content censored by Facebook.
  3. Undergo an external audit on the equity and human rights outcomes of your Facebook Live and content censorship and data sharing policies. Then institute a task force for implementing the recommendations of the audit.
  4. Refuse to disclose customer content and data to third party agencies unless required to by law.

18MillionRising
CREDO
Center for Media Justice
Corporate Accountability International
Courage Campaign
Daily Kos
Demand Progress
Free Press
People Demanding Action
People’s Action
Presente.org
SierraRise

A larger coalition of 77 organizations has signed onto a public sign-on letter to Facebook, as well. You can find that letter here.

As of this writing, the petition is 70% toward a goal of 150,000 signatures. Please sign and share.

“the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications”

I’m not a fan of the electoral college, but it’s there for a purpose…and if it can’t serve that purpose, it should be disbanded. A reader sent in this suggestion for putting the college to work, and I’m just quoting their words directly:

In a live Facebook session yesterday, a couple of the Hamilton Electors said that at this point what’s needed aren’t more letters and emails to the electors, but to:

(1) Contact your representatives and governors to ask that they demand that the electors be debriefed on the CIA information on Russian interference prior to Dec. 19, and to delay the electoral vote if that’s not possible, given the time-frame.

(2) Contact the U.S. Attorney General and ask that the Electoral College vote be postponed until a full investigation of Russian interference and the Trump campaign’s potential coordination with Russia is complete.

You can reach the Attorney General’s office at 202-514-2000 (Comment line…press 4)

Some thoughts on activism.

The statement at refusefascism.org is, at the very least, a call to participate in the kind of organizing necessary (although not sufficient) to bring about meaningful political and cultural change. Despite consistently numbering in the minority, the US right has been wildly successful in affecting law, culture and policy for decades in large part because they have consistently organized, whereas for various reasons the left is a notorious herd of cats.

When it comes to leftist activism, I am a big believer in “all hands on deck”. Not everyone agrees on every lefty issue, or gives every progressive agenda item the same weight. Naturally, there are leaders and organizations that focus on single issues. But the fact remains that if we can find ways to connect and support each other, much more could be accomplished than if we remain focused only on the narrow set of issues that are near and dear to us personally. People of color need whites to amplify their voices and otherwise support them by doing what they ask of us. Ditto men with women, straights with queer people, and every other group on every other axis of privilege and oppression.

It’s also important to encourage many different kinds and levels of activism. Not everyone is willing (or able) to make phone calls to their congresscritter’s office, but they might submit something online during a public comment period. Not everyone is willing to risk arrest for civil disobedience, but might show up to a planned disruption to document police actions. My hope is that this blog will provide opportunities for us all to participate in ways we otherwise might not: a phone campaign, a local protest, a cause worth funding, a boycott of xyz corp., a march in DC, help for a specific person in trouble right now, and other possibilities we cannot presently predict. Consider that one-day women’s strike in Poland halted an abortion ban. Activism like that could have a tremendous impact in the US, and a necessary first step is publicizing and making such ideas mainstream.

Finally, my fervent wish is that anyone and everyone concerned about Trump and berserker right-wing governance (including myself) examine—and challenge—what “willing and able” really means to each of us personally. For outstanding activist examples we need look no further than FtB’s very own Caine, the women leaders of Black Lives Matter and my late, great friend Niki Massey. For those who didn’t know her, Niki was black, female, physically disabled, in chronic pain, mentally ill, queer and poorand she still did fucking clinic escort. In Minnesota. In winter. The bar these women have set is extraordinarily high, and although I may never reach it, I sure as hell can try harder to reach toward it. Can you?

Let’s do this.

Aww. Our first troll.

FREETHOUGHT RESISTANCE was only live for a few hours before its very first troll plopped this turd:

The Revolution
pzmyers@nospam.com
109.73.66.165

The Right must be quaking in its boots now the Freethought bloggers are on the case.

You ridiculous people.

Hahaha. Oh cupcake. No one here need ever lift a finger for the right to quake in its boots. They shit themselves silly at the mere thought of lesbian wedding cakes, women with opinions and the very existence of brown-skinned people. Why would we ever trouble ourselves in this regard? LIFE IS SHORT.

Have a nice day.

The Resistance should include proactive steps!

Some suggestions from SJDorst:


Freethought Blogs just started a new group blog: FREETHOUGHT RESISTANCE (They named it in all caps, I’m just passing on their representation! For brevity, I’ll refer to it as #FTBResist) The first I saw of this was from PZ Meyers. There are already a few posts to #FTBResist, and one in particular prompted this post. Here’s the critical excerpt:

The purpose of this blog is:

  1. To report on and document abuses and criminal activities of the right wing and theocratic zealots;
  2. To express our own opposition to these acts;
  3. To promote activism;
  4. To provide information about opportunities for activism;
  5. To provide an online rallying point for opposition to the illegitimate government of the United States.

I don’t think this goes far enough! We should also be thinking about steps we can take that proactively create solutions to the problems that are likely coming down the pike!

Read on for a few of my ideas …

Most — perhaps all — on our side agree that Trump’s non-disclosure of his tax returns for the past few years would have exposed his “I’m in it primarily for me” nature — perhaps changing enough votes from Trump to anybody else that Trump wouldn’t now be our President Elect. I think this can be prevented in the future entirely by action in just a few states! I’ve blogged about this. Read more about it here.

There are a whole host of Federal programs that are administered by the states. Under the Trump administration, many of them are likely to either go away, be severely underfunded, or be combined into block grants that — taken together — will force states to make some extremely painful decisions (since the block grants are likely to total far less than the current Federal support for the programs they replace). But there are a few states that could avoid the problems this is likely to create, using only their own taxing authority! Again, I’ve blogged about this, and you can read more about it here.

How about the Electoral College? While many assert that Trump would have lost, if not for the Electoral College, it’s not quite that simple. Yes, he probably would have lost, but we can’t say for sure because the campaigns (I suspect) would have been quite different. But we can’t know for sure. However, we CAN make the Electoral College into a purely ceremonial body by ensuring that the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact takes effect in time for the 2020 election. (Wait? Why didn’t I make that a link? Because I think it’s far better explained in it’s Wikepedia entry! But for those of you who prefer it, here’s a link straight to the source.)

And here’s some other ideas, less fleshed out, to work on proactively:

  • Take back the Democratic Party from the New Dems, Blue Dogs, and Third Way people — by local action. Take over your local Democratic Party and, when enough of us have done that, we’ll have control of the national party too!
  • Start a shadow government!
  • Work to preserve and expand voting rights in your state. Who knows? If enough states make voter registration automatic and voting easy, perhaps someone in a restrictive state will succeed in an Equal Protection court challenge!

Finally, don’t forget to take care of yourself! Do something small, even if it’s likely to have no effect, that make you feel better. Here’s one thing I did.

REFUSE To Accept a Fascist America!

The words below are from Sunsara Taylor, at refusefascism.org, calling for a month of protests against the actions of the developing fascism in the United States. It’s past time to organize a resistance.


What can you do?

  • Add your name to the list of dissenters.
  • Donate to activist organizations.
  • Contact your representatives and express your concerns.
  • State your refusal to accept fascism on social media.
  • Organize locally. Plan a protest.
  • Participate in protests in your area.

NO!
In the Name of Humanity,
We REFUSE To Accept a Fascist America!

Donald Trump, the President-elect, is assembling a regime of grave danger. Millions of people in the US and around the world are filled with deep anxiety, fear, and disgust. Our anguish is right and just. Our anger must now become massive resistance – before Donald Trump is inaugurated and has the full reins of power in his hands.

Should we fail to rise with determination and daring in our millions now to stop this, the consequences for humanity will be disastrous. We, the undersigned, know in the depths of our beings, the catastrophe that will befall the people of the world should the Trump/Pence regime assume full power.

We therefore CALL FOR A MONTH OF RESISTANCE beginning on December 19th, reaching a crescendo by the January 20th 2017 Inauguration.

Our resistance must spread rapidly to every sphere and every corner of the country. Because we refuse to accept a fascist America, millions must rise up in a resistance with a deep determination such that we create a political crisis that prevents the TRUMP/PENCE fascist regime from consolidating its hold on the governance of society.

The Presidency of Donald Trump is illegitimate.

Donald Trump did not win the popular vote. Not even close, he lost by 2.5 million votes.
He won the Electoral College – an institution set up in 1787 to protect slavery. This legacy of the most brutal oppression of Black people has become the means that enabled the election of Trump and Pence.

More fundamentally, it is the fascist character of the Trump/Pence regime and what they are planning to do which renders it illegitimate and an immoral peril to the future of humanity and the earth itself.

Under the slogan “Make America Great Again,” Donald Trump has viciously attacked Mexicans and Muslims, threatening to register and deport millions, closing borders. He incites fear and hate of all who are “different” – nationalities, religions, or gender. He crudely demeans and degrades women, openly boasting about molesting them. He champions white supremacy and whips up a racist lynch-mob mentality. Trump has mocked the disabled. He is a bellicose militarist, who threatens to use nuclear weapons. He openly advocates war crimes — including torture. He vows to pack the Supreme Court with justices who will take away the right to abortion and gay rights. He denies science – calling climate change a hoax and will wreak devastation on the environment. He has attacked and threatened the press and stirred up his supporters to do the same. He has threatened to strip citizenship for constitutionally protected dissent. Trump has utter contempt for facts and the truth, and consistently lies to advance his agenda. As for the rule of law, Trump went so far as to openly threaten his opponent, Hillary Clinton, not only with jail, but even assassination. By any definition, Donald Trump is a fascist. He has put together a regime who will carry out this program, and worse.

This is fascism and it is a very serious thing. It has direction and momentum that must be stopped before it becomes too late.

Fascism foments and relies on xenophobic nationalism, racism, misogyny, and the aggressive re-institution of oppressive “traditional values.” Fascism feeds on and encourages the threat and use of violence to build a movement and come to power. Fascism, once in power, essentially eliminates traditional democratic rights. Fascism attacks, jails, even executes its opponents, and launches violent mob attacks on “minorities.” In Nazi Germany in the 1930s and ’40s, fascism did all these things. This is where this can go. And yes, Hitler himself could “talk graciously” when he felt it would serve his interests and lull his opponents.

In the world today, shockwaves reverberate. Over decades in the U.S. virulent movements of white supremacy and anti-immigrant hysteria have gained momentum. A narrow, intolerant, and political form of Christian fundamentalism has been brought into government and policy at all levels. The Trump/Pence cabinet and judiciary will coalesce all of this and worse with horrific consequences at the highest level of power. No election, whether fair or fraudulent, should legitimize this. “Reaching across the aisle” only legitimizes that which is illegitimate.

If you work with fascists you normalize the road to horror. You cannot try to “wait things out.” Those who lived through Nazi Germany and sat on the sidelines, looking on as Hitler demonized, criminalized, and eventually rounded up one group after another, became shameful collaborators with monstrous crimes. Don’t Conciliate…Don’t Accommodate…Don’t Collaborate!

The Trump Regime Must and Can Be Stopped Before It Starts!

This is not wishful thinking but could be made a reality if all who hate what is represented by this fascist regime translate our outrage into massive mobilization to create the political conditions which make this possible. We are millions. Our only recourse now is to act together outside normal channels. Every faction within the established power structure must be forced to respond to what we do – creating a situation where the Trump/Pence regime is prevented from ruling.

We call on each and every one who opposes what this regime stands for, and what it will do, to take part in and actively build, this resistance and refusal. Organize. Plan. Act.

The Month of Resistance

Starting 12/19/16, it begins – the day the Electoral College meets to vote in each state: hold a press conference or a protest. Starting now, distribute this Call everywhere and on social media, host house meetings, fundraising events concerts and forums. Everywhere step up the resistance: walkouts from schools and work, protests against attacks and threats on Muslims, women, people of color, LBGT people – all linked to the objective of Stopping the Trump/Pence regime. The struggle must grow.

On MLK weekend, there needs to be massive demonstrations of many thousands in key cities, including Washington. D.C., that grow to millions over the next week, protests that don’t stop . . . where people refuse to leave and more and more people stand up with conviction and courage demanding:

NO! We Refuse to Accept a Fascist America!

Welcome to the Resistance

Freethought Resistance is a new group blog for FtB. Many of us are horrified at the current turn of events in the United States: the rise of the contemptible alt-right, police violence, institutionalized misogyny, demented right-wing militias, the abuse of water protectors in the name of oil interests, theocratic thugs generating growing opposition to the legitimate rights of GLBTQ individuals, and in general, rising intolerance. To cap it all off, we now have a president-elect who is corrupt, treasonous, and incompetent, who is stocking important offices in government with individuals with a long history of opposing the goals of those offices, and who are often grossly unqualified and incompetent themselves.

We oppose this wholesale destruction of democratic values and the equality and liberty of American citizens. To that end, we’ve created this blog to specifically express our outrage with the current intolerable state of affairs.

The purpose of this blog is:

  1. To report on and document abuses and criminal activities of the right wing and theocratic zealots;

  2. To express our own opposition to these acts;

  3. To promote activism;

  4. To provide information about opportunities for activism;

  5. To provide an online rallying point for opposition to the illegitimate government of the United States.

Multiple bloggers from various sites on FtB will be contributing to this blog. We will also consider guest posts from other parties. If interested, send submissions to your favorite blogger with a request for consideration for posting on Freethought Resistance.

An Unholy Trinity.

Russia’s $500 billion oil deal with Exxon was killed by U.S. sanctions. CREDIT: Wall Street Journal, 9/11/2014.

Russia’s $500 billion oil deal with Exxon was killed by U.S. sanctions. CREDIT: Wall Street Journal, 9/11/2014.

For those people who may have read all the posts about Standing Rock, DAPL, and ETP, and wondered why there was a fuss, it’s just a pipeline, right? Well, you need to read, and understand that all these smaller actions by big oil are just the tiny feeder roots of what they really want to do, and what they really want to do is stuff their already overflowing pockets, and if our earth is damaged past the point of no return, eh, who cares, because money.

There’s been little reaction to Russia’s role in making sure Trump was elected, and that should be an electric shock to all those people who care about democracy, among other things. The insane amount of attention paid to “emails! emails” when it came to Clinton was near unbelievable, but there’s solid evidence of just how much Russia did influence and manipulate this election, and all of a sudden, conservatives don’t give a shit? You may think that marching fascism in is okely dokely, because you think it’s wrapped in Christian Jingoism, but it’s going to bite your head off too. This is a game of serious money and power, and the only ones who count are those who have the goods to ante up. The rest of us? We do not matter, and that message needs to hammered home, hard. We. Do. Not. Matter. People, please, wake the fuck up.

The aligning interests between Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russia’s choice for U.S. president (Donald Trump), and Big Oil represents the gravest threat to humanity (and democracy) since the rise of the Axis powers in the 1930s.

That’s because while Trump may not be able to destroy global climate action and the landmark 2105 Paris climate deal all by himself — as he pledged to do during the campaign — he probably could do that with help from Russia and the trillion-dollar oil industry.

So much is explained by Trump’s Secretary of State choice. Media reports now say it will be Rex Tillerson, CEO of oil giant ExxonMobil, which had made a $500 billion oil deal with Putin that got blocked by sanctions.

Stalling the biggest oil deal ever did not just “put Exxon at risk,” as the Wall Street Journal reported in 2014. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow explained last week this deal was so big it was “expected to change the historical trajectory of Russia.”

This deal could explain why Putin appears to have interfered in U.S. elections in favor of a Trump victory. Recently, “the C.I.A. altered its formal assessment of Russia’s activities to conclude that the government of President Vladimir V. Putin was not just trying to undermine the election,” as the New York Times reported Saturday, “but had also acted to give one candidate an advantage.”

You can certainly make a plausible case, as many have, that Putin had enough motivation to interfere simply to undermine the legitimacy of U.S. elections.

[…]

But for Putin and the kleptocrats who benefit from his rule, little matters more than enriching coffers right now. It is no coincidence that just last week, Putin revealed Russia had sold a 19.5 percent stake in the Kremlin-controlled oil giant Rosnet for $11.3 billion to Qatar and others, “confounding expectations that the Kremlin’s standoff with the West would scare off major investors,” as Fortune reported in a must-read piece that connects major pieces of this puzzle.

There’s so very much to this story, the full article is at Think Progress. If for some reason, you think the Paris accord will help or make a difference, you need to go read just how easy it will be for Trump and Putin to nullify it. If for some reason, you think democracy is still alive, you need to disillusion yourself – that’s close to gone, and the celeb-elect has not yet taken office. Once he does, the the death knell sounds.