Trump Purges the State Department

Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during his morning shit tweet.  Tillerson had no advance notice of this.  Soon after, Trump then fired Tillerson’s number #2 man, no pun intended, at the State Department.  We also learned that Trump fired his personal assistant and had him escorted off the property due to a criminal investigation into the assistant’s finances.

Meanwhile, voters in Pennsylvania will be selecting a new Congressman in a special election. T rump and the rest of the Republican party have been trashing their own candidate, and Trump’s purge on the same day of the election signals that these folks already know the election is lost.  Firing a lot of people out of nowhere on the same day of an election doesn’t exactly make the voters warm to you.


Donald Trump Got Pornstar Stormy Daniels Pregnant During Affair, and then Stormy Had an Abortion?

A quick refresher, news recently surfaced that president Donald Trump had an affair with busty pornstar Stormy Daniels a few months after Melania gave birth to Barron Trump.  Trump denied, and Stormy said nothing because she was bound by a confidentiality agreement.  Then Trump’s lawyer wouldn’t shut his mouth about the agreement and Stormy and her lawyers started to say that Trump’s lawyer made the agreement invalid because he wouldn’t shut up about it.

This obviously made Trump’s lawyer nervous and he ran out and got a restraining order to force Stormy to comply with her confidentiality agreement.  Stormy responded by filing a lawsuit to invalidate the agreement.

We learned about the affair through a 2011 interview that Stormy gave.  During the interview, Stormy said that she had unprotected sex with Trump.

With the recent court filings between Trump and Stormy over the agreement, however, the word “paternity” has suddenly begun to show up.  What does the dictionary say about the word paternity?

pa·ter·ni·ty pəˈternədē/ noun
noun: paternity
1. (especially in legal contexts) the state of being someone’s father.
Why would Trump’s lawyer bring up this word as part of the $130,000 he gave to Stormy to keep her quiet after her and Donald Trump had unprotected sex?  Did Stormy get pregnant?  If she did, then the next question is what happened to the baby?  Since Stormy is only on record as having one other child, it means she either lost the pregnancy or had an abortion.  Stormy’s lawyer wouldn’t answer a question when asked about the pregnancy issue:

By Thursday, references to “alleged children” and “paternity information” in Stormy’s NDA were getting traction on Twitter, with O’Donnell asking Michael about “paternity information,” as well as Stormy being asked to “divest herself of any and all artistic media, impressions, paintings, video images, still images, e-mail messages, text messages, Instagram message, Facebook posting, or any other type of creation by DD,” short for David Dennison, which is Trump’s alias.

Avenatti told Lawrence it had been a long day of interviews for him, and Lawrence thanked him for appearing on the show.

All of this, along with Trump’s affairs with other women, is having an obvious impact on Trump’s marriage:

Since the news of Trump’s alleged affairs with Daniels and McDougal broke, there have been further signs of an increasing chasm in the Melania-Trump marriage. The First lady skipped the billionaire congregation in Davos after the story about Daniels broke, and just last Friday, it emerged that “she would drive alone to Andrews Air Force Base rather than helicopter there with her husband from the White House.”

Relationship expert and University of Washington sociologist Pepper Schwartz contends that these snubs from Melania are examples of passive-aggression by the First Lady. He validated his point by claiming that we mostly get to see instances of tension between Donald Trump and Melania, but that should not be the case considering they are always under scrutiny.

These people are under constant scrutiny. Has anyone ever seen a loving gesture between them?

NASA releases time-lapse Video of Disappearing Older Arctic Sea Ice

NASA recently released this stunning video, where you can see what is essentially the disappearance or death of older Arctic sea ice, an obvious result of our ongoing global warming issues.

Global warming, or climate change, is the biggest problem facing humanity, and yet there probably could not be a more difficult problem for humans to face.  It’s a massive problem but its impact will no be fully realized for decades.  So it is an easy problem to brush off and leave for “someone else,” or to hope that things “might not be as bad” as predicted.

Even getting around that, to solve the challenge of global warming, humans will have to drastically re-examine and rethink the ways we produce energy, not to mention dealing with those who have a huge interest in maintaining energy production just the way it is.

Beyond energy is the fact that the whole world has to work together.  If only one nation gets serious about global warming, other less-serious nations will quickly fill the pollution void and will be able to win economic battles with cheaper, dirtier energy.

Hope Hicks Abandons Donald Trump

Hope Hicks, the White House Communications Director, was one of Trump’s most trusted advisors, like “family.”  But she got herself into big trouble during congressional testimony the other day when she admitted that she told “white lies” for Trump.  She also refused to say whether a long list of Trump’s family members and close associates also asked her to lie.  In other words, they asked her to lie for them, and she lied for them, but didn’t want to admit it to Congress:

After Hicks provided that answer, [Congressman] Rooney said [Congressman] Swalwell “went through the phone book,” asking Hicks whether a “litany of 50” people, including “the entire Trump family,” had ever asked Hicks to lie. The list of names, both Rooney and Swalwell said, included Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon, Paul Manafort, Corey Lewandowski, Michael Cohen and others. Swalwell also asked Hicks whether she heard Mr. Trump ask others to lie for him.

Hicks gave a “blanket” response by declining to answer in each instance, Rooney said . . .

Beyond this latest screw up, Hicks has been in hot water for some time now.  She interviewed with Mueller for two days in December 2017.  Then in January 2018, Trump’s former legal team spokesman Mark Corallo said he thought Hicks was trying to figure out how to obstruct justice by making sure records regarding a 2016 meeting between Trump campaign officials and Russian intelligence agents would be destroyed and “never found” by investigators:

Mr. Corallo is planning to tell Mr. Mueller about a previously undisclosed conference call with Mr. Trump and Hope Hicks, the White House communications director, according to the three people. Mr. Corallo planned to tell investigators that Ms. Hicks said during the call that emails written by Donald Trump Jr. before the Trump Tower meeting . . . “will never get out.” That left Mr. Corallo with concerns that Ms. Hicks could be contemplating obstructing justice, the people said.

And the comments were not privileged because no lawyers were present during the conversation:

Mr. Corallo . . . told colleagues he was alarmed not only by what Ms. Hicks had said — either she was being naïve or was suggesting that the emails could be withheld from investigators — but also that she had said it in front of the president without a lawyer on the phone and that the conversation could not be protected by attorney-client privilege.

After the alarming conversation, Corallo then reported the incident to Steve Bannon:

Corallo, who previously served under Attorney General John Ashcroft, reportedly got off the phone, advised Trump to continue the discussion with lawyers present, took notes about the call, and told then-chief strategist Steve Bannon what had happened.

Bannon completely lost his shit in response and blew up at Hicks, which Triggered Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump (Fire and Fury, pp. 261-263:

. . . In time, he had come to see the twenty-eight-year-old as nothing more than a hapless presidential enabler and poor-fish Jarvanka flunky – and he believe she had deeply implicated herself in the entire disaster by participating in the Air Force One meeting. The next day, with more inquiries coming from reporters, he confronted Hicks inside the cabinet room, accusing her of doing Jared and Ivanka’s dirty work. The face-off quickly escalated into an existential confrontation between the two sides of the White House – two sides on a total war footing.

“You don’t know what you’re doing,” shouted a livid Bannon at Hicks, demanding to know who she worked for, the White House or Jared and Ivanka. “You don’t know how much trouble you are in,” he screamed, telling her that if she didn’t get a lawyer he would call her father and tell him he had better get her one. “You are dumb as a stone!” Moving from the cabinet room across the open area into the President’s earshot, “a loud, scary, clearly threatening” Bannon, in the Jarvanka telling, yelled, “I am going to fuck with your little group!” with a baffled President wanting to know, “What’s going on?”

[. . .]

For Bannon, this was just more Jarvanka desperation – they were the ones, not him, saddled with Comey-Mueller. They were the ones panicking and out of control.

For the rest of his time in the White House, Bannon would not speak to Hicks again.

Bannon saw the writing on the wall and apparently tried to scare some sense into Hicks.  So why would Hicks want to destroy records that could show that Team Trump was coordinating and conspiring with the Russian government to derail Hillary Clinton?  It might have something to do with a major criminal investigation that has already netted a number of indictments and criminal guilty pleas:

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is asking witnesses pointed questions about whether Donald Trump was aware that Democratic emails had been stolen before that was publicly known, and whether he was involved in their strategic release, according to multiple people familiar with the probe.

President Trump seems to be unable to get away from the original sin of his presidency: his cooperation, coordination, and conspiracy with the Russian government to make hacked Hillary Clinton and DNC emails public and to do it in a way that did maximum political damage to Clinton while providing Trump with maximum political assistance.

America, the 21st Century Debtor Nation

It’s strange to talk about economic problems in what the media and most Americans would agree is a booming economy.  Record housing prices, record jobs, growing income, tax cuts, what’s not to like?  What alarm bells could their be?

As was recently reported by the Washington Post, Americans have been spending money like crazy the last few years.  Their spending has increased more than their income:

For the past two years, spending has risen faster than disposable personal income, as pointed out by Jason Furman, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and a former chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers under Barack Obama. For most of the recovery, the two measures remained relatively close. But as the labor market tightens, consumers are getting frisky even though hourly earnings aren’t growing any faster than prices right now.

Americans have almost entirely stopped saving anything:

Americans have never been the world’s best savers (our thin welfare state doesn’t exactly make it easy). But even by our own low recent standards, we’re collectively putting away an exceptionally small slice of our paychecks. In December, the personal savings rate dropped to 2.4 percent, its lowest level since 2005. Before that, the only other time it dropped below 3 percent was in Oct. 2001.

Americans are using the credit card like crazy and racking up debt at a record pace:

According to, the average indebted household today carries roughly $8,600 in outstanding credit card debt. “The last time we came close was before the recession — Q4 of 2007 — and we deemed that level unsustainable at $8400,” said Jill Gonzalez, an analyst for WalletHub. “It’s not good news to start off 2018.

In addition to record low savings and record high debt, Americans have almost nothing in their savings for emergencies or tough times.  A staggering 61% of all Americans can not get their hands on $1,000 cash even if they needed to in an emergency:

According to Bankrate’s latest financial security index survey, 34 percent of American households experienced a major unexpected expense over the past year. However, only 39 percent of survey respondents said they would be able to cover a $1,000 setback using their savings.

Even worse is what appears to be the complete and wholesale destruction of the middle class A full 75% of Americans do not have at least $10,000 in the bank.  This isn’t just your typical working-class or poor working single parent, this crosses wide parts of the economic spectrum in America.

Meanwhile, younger Americans, the 35 and under crowd, are finding it almost impossible to purchase a house.  Prices are sky high, and the ability to come up with a down payment is quite difficult–which isn’t hard to imagine given that 75% of people can’t even manage to save $10,000:

Listen to Ralph G. DeFranco, Ph.D, global chief economist, Mortgage Services, Arch Capital Services Inc.: “With interest rates and home prices both on the rise, first-time homebuyers – largely millennials – may want to consider making the jump from renting to owning sooner rather than late.”

In other words, everything is really expensive, and it’s going to stay expensive for a while.  In fact, it might even get more expensive. And why aren’t the younger folks able to buy anything?  Well, they are just flat out broke:

Relative to earlier generations, today’s cohort of young people is making less money, given their levels of education; more indebted with student loans; more likely to be underemployed; struggling harder to sock away savings; and facing shallower income-growth trajectories.

In short: Millennials want to buy houses, but they simply can’t afford to.

Meanwhile, the market for the other big ticket item most Americans will deal with, their vehicle, also is having some problems.  Not only are car prices at record highs, car loan debt is at a record, and people are having a problem making that car payment, which seems to be turning into a second mortgage given how high car prices have risen:

The US closed out 2016 with just shy of $1.2 trillion in outstanding auto loan debt, a rise of 9% from the previous year and 13% above the pre-crisis peak in 2005, in inflation-adjusted terms. The number of cars and trucks on the road, meanwhile, rose by only 1.5% last year, and 9% since 2005, according to US transportation department data. Total household debt levels are now a hair under their 2008 peak, with some of the fastest growth in recent years down to auto loans.

Families with median income can’t afford to buy a car:

A new analysis from found that a median-income household could not afford the average price of a new vehicle in any of the 50 largest cities in the country, though cars are more affordable in some cities than others.

If you can’t afford it, finance it!

That sort of squeeze helps explain why many people are borrowing more, for longer periods of time, to finance a car purchase. Experian Automotive said that in the first quarter of this year, the proportion of new cars bought with the help of financing rose to more than 86 percent, and the average loan amount topped $30,000, which is the highest since Experian began tracking the data.

In addition to a fat car payment and impossible mortgage, don’t forget that student loan payment:

Of the more than 40 million Americans who have student debt, 5.9 million—about 14% of the total group—owe more than $50,000. That’s nearly triple the percentage who owed that amount in 2000, and it’s a share that’s continuing to grow: Among one of the most recent cohorts, the group of borrowers who entered repayment in 2014, nearly 18% owed more than $50,000.

So yes, the economy is doing well.  At the same time, most Americans are facing a set of financial challenges the likes of which we have never seen before.  If the economy stays strong perhaps people will find a way to manage.  However, it wouldn’t take much to push people off a financial cliff, especially if they are thousands in debt and have a big fat car payment, mortgage payment, home equity line of credit payment, credit card payment, and student loan payment, on top of all the other costs of living.  We’ll see how this show ends soon enough.

West Virginia Teachers Walkout

Besides being targeted by murderous racists, psychopathic gunman and executed in school hallways, teachers across the country are fighting pay issues.  Cases like the the teacher in Texas who died because she couldn’t afford medication to treat the flu, the teachers in Oklahoma fighting for a pay increase, and pay issues in North Carolina, come to mind.  We now have a teacher walkout in West Virginia:

West Virginia teachers walked out after they got a 2% raise this year with a 1% raise to follow next year.  The cost of living, meanwhile, increases on average about 3% per year (not by 2% for one year and only 1% the next).

The sickest part of it all, however, is that the state is also increasing the insurance premiums for the teachers to a cost that is higher than what their raise would be.  This means the teachers are receiving a pay cut–not just a laughable below market cost of living increase.


Pressure Builds on Trump

Last week was supposed to be about Trump’s “infrastructure plan.”  But by the end of the week, after Special Counsel Bob Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals for tampering with the 2016 election, and Trump’s own National Security Adviser, H.R. McMaster confirmed that it was “incontrovertible” that Russians interfered with the 2016 election, Trump went on a raging and out of control Twitter bender.  It seems the pressure is getting to the president:

In the meantime, President Trump keeps rage-tweeting. In the last 24 hours, he has issued bizarre rants against prominent Democrats involved in the Russia probe, patently false claims that he never denied Russian attacks on our election, put-downs of his own National Security Council boss, and, most insidiously, the claim that the FBI failed to prevent the recent terrible school shooting in Florida because the Bureau was spending too much time on the Russia investigation. That vile assertion has no basis in any fact or reality and betrays a highly stressed president under siege, without off-ramps, who knows that more indictments are coming his way.