The Kushner Family Extorted Government Levers–But Not Hard Enough

Bloomberg reports a must amusing story this morning.

“Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser, wakes up each morning to a growing problem that will not go away. His family’s real estate business, Kushner Cos., owes hundreds of millions of dollars on a 41-story office building on Fifth Avenue. It has failed to secure foreign investors, despite an extensive search, and its resources are more limited than generally understood.”

“As a result, the tower poses a significant challenge to the company. Over the past two years, executives and family members have sought substantial overseas investment from previously undisclosed places: South Korea’s sovereign-wealth fund, France’s richest man, Israeli banks and insurance companies, and exploratory talks with a Saudi developer, according to former and current executives. These were in addition to previously reported attempts to raise money in China and Qatar.”

Recall from earlier this year when Jared Kushner and his real estate partners wanted to take advantage of a federal program in 2015 that would save them millions of dollars as they built an opulent, 50-story residential tower in this city’s booming waterfront district, just across the Hudson River from Lower Manhattan.

Recall there was just one problem: The program was designed to benefit projects in poor, job-starved areas.

Yeah, cry me a river for the corrupt Kushner Family.

Words Matter With Forecasting Hurricane Harvey

Nerd alert–you are entering by being forewarned.

Often on this blog I write about why words matter.  For instance,if the people who go to work in a towering office building are called heroes for showing up to work but dying from an act of terrorists, then what do we call those men and women in emergency government who go into the flaming wreckage to provide aid?

As a former broadcaster and one who has also worked in politics and loves to read history it probably comes as no surprise I hold tightly to the fact words do matter.  So I have been listening and reading, like most others in this land, to the weather reports about the savagery of Hurricane Harvey.   I have never before heard such blunt assessments and dire warnings.   They were properly used but due to the fact they were even needed allows another spoke of this massive event to be considered–how meteorologists chose their words when speaking to a large and emotional audience.

Unprecedented.” “Unknown.” “Beyond anything experienced.”

When weather forecasters needed to describe Hurricane Harvey’s potential for death and destruction, they stretched their linguistic abilities into new territory.

Here was a storm system with 130 m.p.h. winds — strong enough to topple tall structures — and rains that would be so relentless that millions of gallons of water would fall for days on vulnerable towns and cities.

Hurricane Harvey’s power was so vast that it provided one of the most important lessons of weather forecasting: words matter. They can make the difference between life and death. Residents need to not just hear or read, but to grasp how dangerous the storm will be. Rescuers and aid groups need to know how extensively their services will be needed, and where.

So in one of the most memorable moments in forecasting history, communications teams at the National Weather Service found themselves scratching their heads. They needed new language and a new approach in graphics to capture the severity of the storm.

Officials have been grasping for superlatives. Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas called the storm “one of the largest disasters America has ever faced.” Local, state and federal officials have conceded that the scale of the crisis is so vast they were nowhere near being able to measure it, much less fully address it.

Words may escape politicians, but measuring and describing a storm is exactly the job description of forecasters.

“We wanted to convey the message that this is a storm that can kill you,” said Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist with the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

While Mr. Feltgen noted there were similar dire warnings for other devastating hurricanes like Katrina in 2005 and Sandy in 2012, Hurricane Harvey stood out. The predicted deluge of up to 50 inches of rain tops what Houston receives in a year.

Donald Trump Shows How Not To Be Presidential

When President Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg he did so not only as a military Commander-in-Chief but also as the President of the people of the United States.  Such a mission required that he be more than a military tactician and instead search for the larger meaning of the battle and horrific number of dead and speak to the people.  The battle had taken place in July and as Lincoln spoke in the fall there were still bodies piled and covered in lime powder.   His words were short but never forgotten.    They have resonated more over time than when he spoke them but there was no doubt he was one with the people who he served as their leader.

Yesterday President Trump visited Texas and there could not have been a farther distance in the tone and language of leadership from what Lincoln displayed had it been written in a Hollywood script.

As rescuers continued their exhausting and heartbreaking work in southeastern parts of Texas, and the storm was only hours from making its third landfall, and a reservoir near Houston spilled over Trump played to only one person.

Himself.

Trump grabbed a microphone to address hundreds of supporters who had gathered outside a firehouse near Corpus Christi and were chanting: ‘USA! USA! USA!’ ‘Thank you, everybody,” the president said, sporting one of the white ‘USA’ caps that are being sold on his campaign website for $40.  Simply tone-deaf on every level!

Trump played to his ego and said, “I just want to say: We love you. You are special…. What a crowd. What a turnout.”

It needs to be noted that this trip from Trump never even came close to a single storm victim, nor did he see an inch of rain or get near a flooded street. He was there for cheap ratings. I was heartened to see how some of the networks handled his quick minutes on the ground and gave him almost no air time (NBC Evening News).

There is no empathy gene in Trump and that was clear when he never once mentioned a dead police officer following his drowning, the tens of thousands who are homeless and in shelters.  There was no word for the grieving families who have lost loved ones to the storm.

But thankfully he was wearing merchandise for sale that will benefit him!

It is moments like this when we are able to reflect on our history and place true presidential leadership–the type Lincoln displayed–alongside those such as Trump who try to play a leadership role and wind up looking small and inferior.

Stunning Photos Of Flooding In Houston

There are no words to define how devastating the flooding is in Houston so photos are needed. Click on link for 28 stunning reminders of the power Mother Nature has over our lives.

Interstate highway 45 is submerged from the effects of Hurricane Harvey seen during widespread flooding in Houston, Texas, U.S. August 27, 2017. REUTERS/Richard Carson – 

 

Political Reality Check

Lets cut to the core on politics and policy in short fashion this morning.

The tragic weather that has smashed parts of Texas is going to reshape what had appeared to be a most cantankerous fight in congress over the debt limit.  There are times when events overtake all the other news stories and in the process realign priorities and alliances.  Hurricane Harvey is one such event.

Everyone was thinking September was going to be fireworks galore in congress concerning government funding. President Trump had even thrown out red meat that shutting down the government might be a worthy price to pay for the border wall.  Even when it was said it looked silly and inept–but now such a statement looks just down right ridiculous in comparison to the severe woes and needs of many Texans.

At this time there is no way to judge the amount of loss or the piles of money which will be required to rebuild the impacted areas and restore people.  The fact that this mission will be a multi-year undertaking and will cost a great deal means there is no way anyone is going to allow government funding to lapse.    Even the president is now saying such funding would be approved quickly for Texas, saying that such a funding measure would have “nothing to do” with talk of shutdowns.   He needs to go further and verbally omit leaving a shutdown on the table over wall funding. Because if he does not remove such a position he will find himself once again on the losing side–looking just plain foolish.

Trump’s Russia Connections Get Deeper

Many news organizations are reporting the deeper connections which existed between Donald Trump’s businesses and Russia–even during the campaign for the White House.

The top takeaway: Trump’s business associates — in the midst of the presidential campaign — were actively trying to make deals in Russia.

  • The New York Times: “A business associate of President Trump promised in [November 2015] to engineer a real estate deal with the aid of the president of Russia, Vladimir V. Putin, that he said would help Mr. Trump win the presidency… ‘Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,’ [Felix] Sater wrote in an email. ‘I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.’”
  • The Washington Post: “While Donald Trump was running for president in late 2015 and early 2016, his company was pursuing a plan to develop a massive Trump Tower in Moscow, according to several people familiar with the proposal and new records reviewed by Trump Organization lawyers… Trump never went to Moscow as Sater proposed. And although investors and Trump’s company signed a letter of intent, they lacked the land and permits to proceed and the project was abandoned at the end of January 2016, just before the presidential primaries began, several people familiar with the proposal said.”
  • More from the Washington Post: “A top executive from Donald Trump’s real estate company [lawyer Michael Cohen] emailed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s personal spokesman during the U.S. presidential campaign last year [in mid-January 2016] to ask for help advancing a stalled Trump Tower development project in Moscow, according to documents submitted to Congress on Monday.”

Conservative Columnist: Trump’s Job Is To Defend Freedom Of The Press

Conservative columnist Jeff Jacoby who I enjoy reading hits his latest column out of the park with the following paragraph.

It is commonplace for critics to lecture journalists about their obligation to cover the news fairly. Rarely is it noted, especially by politicians, that freedom of the press — a liberty explicitly guaranteed in the Bill of Rights — is not contingent on media objectivity. The First Amendment protects the freedom of journalists to practice their profession as they see fit. It imposes on them no obligation to protect or defend the president’s interests. On the other hand, presidents do have an obligation toward the press. Trump, like the 44 chief executives who preceded him, swore a solemn oath to “preserve, protect, and defend” the Constitution — including the Bill of Rights that empowers the news media Trump despises.  Whether Trump likes it or not, defending freedom of the press is part of his job description. When he uses his bully pulpit to demean the press, to insult journalists, or to threaten retaliation against media outlets he doesn’t like, he isn’t just being inimical. He is violating, or at least undermining, his oath of office.

Trump’s Disregard For The Rule Of Law

From The New Yorker.

Clearly, Trump’s disdain for judicial authority should trigger alarm, but it is far from the only constitutional concern implicated by the Arpaio pardon. To start, Trump has smashed through an even more basic set of norms that apply to the Chief Executive, who is tasked with serving as a role model on—and initial interpreter of—what the law requires. In a July 28th speech on Long Island, Trump made clear that he has no problem with officers roughing up suspects. “Please don’t be too nice” to arrestees, he urged the police in his audience, and instructed them to feel free to stop protecting a suspect’s head when placing them in a patrol car “if they just killed somebody,” prompting applause from some officers standing behind him. The White House later said that Trump was joking, but the remark rightly triggered a wave of rebuke from law-enforcement officials across the country and from the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Now, by pardoning Arpaio—shortly after a rally where he suggested that Arpaio was “convicted for doing his job”—Trump has committed an official act that serves to confirm his views on the permissibility of law enforcement’s use of excessive force. That act does not merely undermine the courts’ ability to serve as a check on police misconduct from the back end. It is a move to redefine what constitutes legitimate law enforcement from the front.