Trump and family continue to receive millions from the Saudis

It’s not often that an article in Golfweek sets the tone for the actual week, but on Saturday the premier golfing  journal noted continuing problems for the nascent LIV Golf tour. The schedule of tournaments isn’t full. The roster of big name players that LIV needs to make itself seem a legit competitor to the 93-year-old PGA Tour have failed to materialize. The team-based structure of LIV has failed to create the kind of rivalries that the creators suggested would help raise interest in the new offering.  (NOTE:  LIV Golf  is a professional golf tour  financed by the “Public Investment Fund”, the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia.   This fund is owned entirely by Saudi ruler  Mohammed bin Salman.)

However, all those concerns could turn out to be minor. That’s because a court case in California, where LIV has filed an antitrust suit against the PGA, has gone in a direction that LIV definitely, definitely did not want. While fighting back against this suit, the PGA has sought to compel discovery about the real sources behind the fund picking up the ticket on LIV’s considerable expenses. As it happens, a slip of the tongue from a LIV attorney during the trial revealed that the fund owns 93% of LIV Golf and covers all of its expenses. 

[LIV Golf] has paid Trump-owned golf resorts unknown millions of dollars to hold its events there, and former President Trump has publicly championed the new league, made prominent appearances at its events, and urged PGA players to sign on with LIV Golf.

Exactly how many millions is bin Salman funneling to Donald Trump through LIV? We don’t know.

That LIV Golf was at least partially owned by Saudi sources was never a secret and has been a concern since the tour began. However, as a private company, its internal ownership and funding was obscured until the unfolding court case opened up the details of just how little involvement there is from anyone else. It’s not just that bin Salman owns 93% of the tour on paper. He’s picking up 100% of the bill.

In response to the effort to compel discovery on LIV’s finances, the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF) insisted that it could not be forced to reveal anything. They don’t have to talk, because they are an “organ of the Saudi state” and protected by “foreign sovereign immunity.”

That doesn’t exactly make things better.

According to Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director of Democracy for the Arab World Now, “The revelation that a fund controlled by Crown Prince MBS actually 100% funds LIV Golf means that MBS has been paying Donald Trump unknown millions for the past two years, via their mutual corporate covers.” She also stresses that this has implications that go way beyond golf and beyond Trump fattening his wallet. “The national security implications of payments from a grotesquely abusive foreign dictator to a president of the United States who provided extraordinary favors to him are as dangerous as they are shocking,” said Whitson.

In 2018, Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner paid a visit to bin Salman at a time when he was seeking $1.8 billion to bail his company out of a devastatingly bad real estate investment. At the time, there was great suspicion that Kushner, who later received his rescue in the form of a secret bailout, may have been selling bin Salman national security secrets, including the names of U.S. sources and dissidents in Saudi Arabia.

Also in 2018, bin Salman had Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi lured into a Saudi embassy, bound, tortured, dissected, killed, and burned. In that order. Later reports showed that, while he would not admit it, Trump was aware of bin Salman’s role in the journalist’s horrific death.

In 2022, the classified documents found in Trump’s private office in Mar-a-Lago reportedly included nuclear secrets from a foreign nation. Many reports have indicated that this information related to the Iranian nuclear program — information that would certainly be of direct interest to bin Salman.

Still, Donald Trump is being paid millions by Mohammed bin Salman. How many millions? We don’t know. What did bin Salman get from Trump in return? We don’t know.

But we shouldn’t be getting revelations from Golfweek.

Now we know: “Long live Trump! Long live Putin! Long live DeSantis!”

Activist Rafael Antonio Gomez praised former U.S. President Donald Trump (R), Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) at a Miami-Dade commissioners meeting on Tuesday.

Gomez began by telling the commissioners he did not know what the agenda item was, but they should vote against it.

“We can’t trust you people,” he insisted. “We can’t trust Republicans; we can’t trust Democrats. I don’t know what it is. Just don’t vote on it.”

“Everything you people do is bad, and now we’re going to have a moment of silence,” he said.

After pausing for a few seconds, Gomez offered his praise of the three leaders.

“Long live Trump; long live Putin; long live DeSantis,” he said. “And all you people should be thrown in jail.”

Watch the video below.

A failed US government agency

The Secret Service.

Turns out some Secret Service agents were big Trump supporters and it’s likely there are still Trumpsters in the agency.

Funny that classified documents showed up in areas (1) used years ago by VP Biden that were (2) guarded by the Secret Service who had access to all the areas where documents were found.

Just saying

There’s a reason the dry Western states are home to adobes that were abandoned 1,000 years ago

Joe McCue thought he had found a desert paradise when he bought one of the new stucco houses sprouting in the granite foothills of Rio Verde, Ariz. There were good schools, mountain views and cactus-spangled hiking trails out the back door.

Then the water got cut off.

Earlier this month, the community’s longtime water supplier, the neighboring city of Scottsdale, turned off the tap for Rio Verde Foothills, blaming a grinding drought that is threatening the future of the West. Scottsdale said it had to focus on conserving water for its own residents, and could no longer sell water to roughly 500 to 700 homes — or around 1,000 people. That meant the unincorporated swath of $500,000 stucco houses, mansions and horse ranches outside Scottsdale’s borders would have to fend for itself and buy water from other suppliers — if homeowners could find them, and afford to pay much higher prices.

Almost overnight, the Rio Verde Foothills turned into a worst-case scenario of a hotter, drier climate, showing what happens when unregulated growth collides with shrinking water supplies.

For residents who put their savings into newly built homes that promised desert sunsets, peace and quiet (but relegated the water situation to the fine print), the turmoil is also deeply personal. The water disruption has unraveled their routines and put their financial futures in doubt.

“Is it just a campground now?” Mr. McCue, 36, asked one recent morning, after he and his father installed gutters and rain barrels for a new drinking-water filtration system.

“We’re really hoping we don’t go dry by summer,” he said. “Then we’ll be in a really bad spot.”

In a scramble to conserve, people are flushing their toilets with rainwater and lugging laundry to friends’ homes. They are eating off paper plates, skipping showers and fretting about whether they have staked their fates on what could become a desiccated ghost suburb.

Some say they know how it might look to outsiders. Yes, they bought homes in the Sonoran desert. But they ask, are they such outliers? Arizona does not want for emerald-green fairways, irrigated lawns or water parks.  At least for now.

And, no, the neighborhood will not become a campground because campgrounds need water.

Some people are unbearably stupid and proud of it

What can we expect from  people who believe:

  • an election was ‘stolen’ without a shred of evidence,
  • who believe that M&Ms are part of a leftist agenda,
  • who believe that vaccines contain tracking devices meant to spy on them,
  • who believe that Antifa stormed the Capitol on January 6th in order to stop the man they wanted to be president from being certified as such, and
  • who believe that Biden is about to confiscate their gas stoves?

We certainly cannot expect them to understand the difference between stealing classified documents and repeatedly lying about it and uncovering classified documents and immediately returning them to NARA.

Expecting the Unbearably Stupid to smarten-up is like expecting bears to stop shitting in the woods and start shitting in the Capitol rotunda, which is what “patriotic” Republicans do.

Smoking indoors to “own the libs”

Remember the era of indoor smoking?  Some of you will remember this: Homes, cars, restaurants, bars, college classrooms and even high schools pretty much let smokers have their way with the commonly shared air. Those of us who spent our nights in bars and clubs reeked of tobacco smoke all the time, even if we didn’t actually smoke. Our hair and our clothes permanently emanated that distinctive sour odor of it. Bans on indoor smoking were controversial at first, but when they finally arrived, it was something like seeing in color for the first time. The world, it turned out, is a lot more pleasant when you can smell things other than the reek of cigarette smoke. Going back to indoor smoking sounds about as much fun as having someone follow you around dragging their fingernails down a chalkboard all day long.

This is so self-evident that most Republicans I know agree personally, despite belonging to a political party whose guiding ethos is to be deliberately unpleasant in hopes of getting a rise out of some liberal somewhere. Even people who think Fox News host Greg Gutfeld is funny have enough sense to know that it sucks to smell like an ashtray sucks. Or at least I thought they did.

With the GOP now in control of the House of Representatives, people are smoking indoors again in the Capitol, or at least the half of it governed by the oh-so-powerful Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Gross! I suppose Republicans can congratulate themselves — what’s next:  maybe by refusing to take regular showers or to wipe their butts after using the bathroom.

But in fairness, this isn’t just about trolling. It’s also about a close cousin to trolling, in the constellation of motivations that make right-wingers such baffling and exhausting people: Toxic masculinity. For about as long as supporters of basic public health have argued for restrictions on tobacco use, conservatives have acted as if any regulations whatsoever on their foul-smelling weed literally amounts to prying the penises off their bodies. Before Rush Limbaugh died of lung cancer, the right-wing radio host who coined the term “feminazi” often portrayed smoking as a wholesome, manly activity that liberals wanted to take away from men purely to emasculate them.

“It’s true that everybody who smokes dies, but so does everyone who eats carrots,” Limbaugh said.

He wasn’t the only one. Former Vice President Mike Pence, when he wasn’t denouncing the Disney film “Mulan” for teaching girls they could have military careers, also wrote a sneering 2001 op-ed portraying anti-tobacco regulations as “back handed big government disguised in do-gooder health care rhetoric” and making the blatantly false declaration that “smoking doesn’t kill.”

Years later, members of the Proud Boys filmed themselves smoking inside the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection, a visual fuck-you to those who prefer not to smell like a bar’s trash can. They each got four years in prison, where cigarettes are famously a form of currency, as well as a way to speed up your inevitable demise. But just as House Republicans have made the anti-democratic desires of the Jan. 6 insurrectionists the center of their political vision, this juvenile and offensive gesture of impotent rage at the “nanny state” has gone from the rioters to the offices of members of Congress.

As the Limbaugh and Pence examples show, Republicans have long framed public health measures as a feminizing threat to their snowflake-fragile masculinity. But that rhetoric has gone into overdrive in recent years, as Donald Trump and then the GOP masses made dying of COVID-19 into a marker of partisan identity politics — and almost a noble sacrifice for the cause of so-called freedom. The deep irony of seeing a man behave pathetically while claiming to be “strong” was amply illustrated in Trump’s attempt to deny that he nearly died from COVID by dramatically ripping his face mask off on a White House balcony. He definitely believed he looked confident, but that moment was uncomfortably reminiscent of Trump’s repeated claims that his stubby fingers tell us nothing about what he’s carrying in his pants.

So we’ve been forced to endure nearly two years of Republicans defending their masculine bona fides by claiming they’re not afraid of COVID-19, often by acting very, very afraid of the vaccine. So many manly men running around declaring they will prove their toughness by refusing to get stuck with a little tiny needle! Joe Rogan, current king of the trying-too-hard culture of talk-radio masculinity, has been an avatar of this hilarious un-self-aware paradox of dudes who will thump their chests and claim they’re too much man to be felled by a virus, before squealing like babies at the idea of getting the shot.

I don’t know that the “good health = small dick” mentality has actually gotten dumber over the years, but man, it sure feels that way when you see Republicans like Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana complaining about liberals who carry around “Ziploc bags of kale” and pronounce that “kale tastes to me like I’d rather be fat.” The gender politics of this stuff are never hard to suss out, as Kennedy also complained about “yoga mats” in that same speech, objects generally associated not just with blue-state exercise routines but also with women.

The crowd that witnessed Kennedy’s rant — at a December campaign rally for soon-to-be-defeated Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker — ate it up, evidently never asking themselves how lion-hearted a man is if he’s terrified of a vegetable. Women have long been subject to stereotypes about being afraid of mice and spiders, which supposedly makes us weak. But somehow the epitome of rugged manhood is to flee at the sight of a leafy green.

Almost nothing is funnier than someone with a massive gulf between the way they perceive themselves and the way they look to other people. I’ve witnessed decades of Republicans declaring themselves to be John Wayne heroes while acting like petulant kindergartners making faces because Mom told them to eat their broccoli. It never stops being hilarious. But there are real costs when conservatives seek relief from their yawning insecurities by sacrificing public health to partisan loyalty.

Women have long been subject to stereotypes about being afraid of mice and spiders, which supposedly means they are weak. But somehow it’s the epitome of rugged manliness to flee at the sight of kale.

As Scientific American reported in July, there’s “a growing gap in mortality rates for residents of Republican and Democratic counties across the U.S.” Even before vaccine refusal led to huge numbers of Republicans pointlessly dying of COVID, the GOP hostility toward routine public health measures already meant that people in more conservative counties are likelier to die of many other causes, including suicide, heart disease, opioid overdoses and obesity-related illness. Some of this is cultural: Republicans are less likely to get enough exercise, for instance. But a lot of it is also due to policy decisions, such as poor access to health care, lax gun laws and inadequate road maintenance.

As nearly all sensible people understand, perfect health is not a realistic goal for any of us. There are always tradeoffs between the best possible health practices and actually living our lives. People are going to take sexual risks, stay up late, drink alcohol, do drugs, skip workouts and eat fattening food. Most of us have decided that the risks of post-vaccination COVID-19 aren’t severe enough to live like shut-ins for the rest of our lives. Despite hysterical right-wing media claims to the contrary, the government is not coming to take away your gas stove. Contrary to right-wing stereotypes that Democrats will deploy secret-police tactics to make us all live like vegetarian monks, progressive health regulations always try to balance improved public health with ordinary people’s understandable desire to decide how they want to live their lives.

When I was a teenager, more than a third of young people smoked. Now it’s less than 9%, and continuing to fall. High cigarette taxes and prohibitions on smoking in most public and commercial spaces have contributed, but it’s much more that people have realized that the temporary high of nicotine isn’t even remotely worth it. You’re risking agonizing disease and an early death for the payoff of smelling like an old shoe. There are just way too many other good times to be had, with nowhere near the danger. You can have non-procreative sex, take your friends a drag show or read a book, for instance — which as you probably noticed, are all things the modern GOP would like to legislate out of existence. Smoking, by comparison, is just a bummer. Republicans’ petty and self-destructive enthusiasm for it is just another reminder that they’ve become a party devoted to being stupid just because they can.