Saturday, May 27, 2017

Vox -- It’s becoming increasingly clear that Jared Kushner is part of Trump’s Russia problem

The coverup continues -- and it’s getting closer and closer to Trump himself.

"As the Trump administration’s been sent into a death spiral over the firing of FBI Director James Comey last week — a failed move to curtail the Justice Department investigation into contact between his campaign and the Russian government — Kushner hasn’t been the “adult in the room” urging caution and scrupulousness. To the contrary, he’s been urging aggression and retaliation.

"And the White House’s reaction to the appointment of Robert Mueller as a special counsel in the Russia inquiry, including a possible attempt to use ethics rules to limit the scope of his investigation, shows that somebody in the White House is deeply worried about what might happen if Kushner were included in the probe." --

Robert Reich reviews the latest revelations.

1. The FBI has been investigating Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law.

2. Kushner played an active role in the firing of James Comey, the former F.B.I. director. In fact, the New York Times has noted that Kushner specifically “had urged Mr. Trump to fire Mr. Comey.”

3. Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that on December 1 or 2, Kushner and Russian Ambassador Kislyak “discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring.”

4. Later in December, Kushner met with Sergey Gorkov, the head of Vnesheconombank, a Russian bank that's the subject of U.S. sanctions placed on Russia in 2014 after its invasion of Ukraine. Gorkov is also a graduate of Russia’s Academy of the Federal Security Service, which trains the country’s spies.

5. Kushner failed to disclose either of these meetings on a standard security form, known as a SF-86, that all White House officials must fill out and sign in order to get security clearance.

6. Reuters reported yesterday evening that Kushner had two additional previously undisclosed phone calls with Kislyak during the presidential campaign.

7. CNN reported yesterday that FBI investigators are also interested in how Russia helped use computer bots to target and push negative information on Hillary Clinton (and positive information about Trump) on Facebook.

Trump campaign's data analytics operation was supervised by Kushner.

Trump has distanced himself from the others who are being investigated by the FBI -- Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, et al. But Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, has and continues to be one of Trump's closest confidantes -- the kind of person Trump entrusts to do the most delicate deals on his behalf. The question is, what if any deal did Kushner do with the Russians?

It’s becoming increasingly clear that Jared Kushner is part of Trump’s Russia problem

By Dara Lind

New Yorker - - The Republicans’ War On Medicaid

Robert Reich reacts to the Republican war on Medicaid:

Many people who don’t use Medicaid think of it as a federal health-care program for the poor. It’s not. As incomes have stagnated and health-care costs have accelerated, Medicaid has turned into an essential support mechanism for more than 1 out of 5 Americans.

About 60 percent of all nursing-home residents now receive assistance from Medicaid. Kids are also big beneficiaries: Medicaid and CHIP [Children’s Health Insurance Program] now help to provide medical coverage for about a third of all the children in America.

But the Republican Party doesn’t merely want to roll back Medicaid’s expansion under the Affordable Care Act; it wants to shrink the entire program. According to the CBO, the House’s Trumpcare bill would reduce over-all federal spending on health care by about $1.1 trillion over ten years. Of that, $840 billion —fully three-quarters of the savings—would come from cuts to Medicaid. The number of people covered by Medicaid and CHIP would fall by 14 million, accounting for almost two-thirds of the total decrease of 23 million predicted by the C.B.O.

Why is the Republican Party so hostile toward Medicaid?

1. It’s costly to the rich. Under the Affordable Care Act, households with taxable incomes of more than a quarter of a million dollars a year are obliged to pay a 3.8-per-cent tax on their investment income—money from things like stock dividends and interest payments on bonds—and a 0.9-per-cent surtax on their other earnings. The Obamacare repeal would abolish these taxes -- providing significant handouts to families in the top 1 per cent. The cuts to Medicaid pay for these handouts.

2. It’s become an embryonic single-payer system that could be further expanded pretty easily. Paul Ryan and the GOP want to kill it before it grows more.

Keep an eye on what happens to the Medicaid provisions of Trumpcare.

The Republicans’ War On Medicaid

By John Cassidy 

Washington Post -- Russian ambassador told Moscow that Kushner wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin

It’s obvious that President Trump, some in his administration, and some of his campaign advisors, have been extraordinarily secretive and appear to have criminality to hide.

“During a secret meeting in Trump Tower less than 2 weeks after Trump was elected, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, met with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak, to discuss setting up a secret and secure communications link between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin -- in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring by intelligence agencies, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports. The link would be through the Russian embassy.

“The meeting also was attended by Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser.

“Although Russian diplomats have secure means of communicating with Moscow, Kushner’s apparent request for access to such channels was extraordinary, according to current and former intelligence officers.

“What could Kushner (or his father-in-law) have wanted to talk to the Kremlin (or Putin himself) about just 10 days after the election and a month and a half before assuming office – without anyone else knowing? What did they have to hide?

“Sort of makes you wonder,” -- Robert Reich

Moreover, apparently former national security adviser Michael Flynn and Russian Ambassador to the United Stares Sergey Kislyak discussed arranging a meeting between a Trump representative and a Russian contact in a third country.

The Washington Post reported that Erik Prince, the former founder of Blackwater private security firm and an informal adviser to Trump’s transition team, met nine days before Trump’s inauguration with a representative of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

And Trump’s advisers Michael Flynn and Steve Bannon were secretive about meetings with leaders from the United Arab Emirates. Former President Barack Obama’s White House learned that the crown prince of Abu Dhabi was flying to New York in December to see Kushner because U.S. border agents in the UAE spotted the Emirate leader’s name on a flight manifest.

Read the full story here:

Russian ambassador told Moscow that Kushner wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin

By Ellen Nakashima, Adam Entous, and Greg Miller

Newsweek -- Texas Governor Greg Abbott Makes Joke About Shooting Reporters

"Today, after signing a bill that lowers the fee licensing a handgun in the state, Texas Governor Greg Abbott went to a gun range to show off his prowess with firearms. Then, as he displayed his target sheet and handgun, he joked in plain view of several reporters and photographers, 'I'm gonna carry this around in case I see any reporters.'

"Not funny. Two days ago, Republican House candidate Greg Gianforte beat up “Guardian” reporter Ben Jacobs at a public event in Bozeman, Montana. Gianforte was elected yesterday.
Under Trump, hatred of the mainstream press has become dogma among some sectors of the Republican Party and the public.

"Let me emphasize once more that violence and intimidation directed at America’s free and independent press is a threat to our democracy. Even if it’s supposed to be a joke.

“ 'Reporters Without Borders,' an organization that grades countries on the protections they afford to freedom of the press, now ranks the United States 43rd in the world, just below the small African nation of Burkina Faso," -- Robert Reich

Trump’s hateful rhetoric and behavior resulted in violent incidents of hate targeted at Muslims, Latinos and African Americans. During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump cracked a joke about assassinating Hillary Clinton. This too could have ended up very badly as did Sarah Palin’s political action committee’s infamous 'crosshairs' map targeting legislators who voted for Obama's health care bill.

Sarah Palin put crosshairs on a graphic over the district of former Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

On January 8, 2011, Giffords and eighteen others were shot during a constituent meeting held in a supermarket parking lot in the Tucson metropolitan area. Six people died, including federal District Court Chief Judge John Roll; Gabe Zimmerman, one of Giffords' staffers; and a nine-year-old girl, Christina-Taylor Green.

Leadership requires the best behavior and best examples at all times. There is a high probability that words and actions, even jokes,  by those in power will result in significantly serious consequences because some people will take them very seriously.

Gov. Abbott admires his practice target 
after signing Senate Bill 16, which reduces
the first-time fee for a license to carry handguns, 
on May 26, 2017. Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune
Texas Governor Greg Abbott Makes Joke About Shooting Reporters

By Alexander Nazaryan

Friday, May 26, 2017

Ron Kovic’s Memory of War

A majority of Americans have never served in the Armed Forces. Their understanding of military service and war comes from how the news media reports our wars. Television, movies, video war games . . .  distort their view of war. Unlike previous wars, restrictions on publishing certain images of war and inadequate media coverage sanitize war in a way that creates ignorance of the horrors of war, and what combat veterans face when they return home.

Most combat veterans cannot talk about their experiences. Not even to their families or best friends. They will only share their experiences with other veterans. They know people will not understand the adrenalin-driven rushes, exultation, rage, and dreadful fear simultaneously felt during combat. They will not understand how it feels to kill another human being.

But, it’s important for veterans to speak out and share their experiences. Men like Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic encourage veterans to join the anti-war movement. His articles, In the Presence of My Enemy: A Reflection on War and Forgiveness and Reflections are must-reads.

Kovic writes, "I know war very well. I know it at night when I am sleeping and nightmares still come or in the morning when I wake up and transfer into my wheelchair to start my day. I am happy to be alive, and recently bought a piano and hope to learn to play it someday. I love to play the high notes; they are gentle and soothing to me, almost like the sound of raindrops on my window when I was a boy. Just to touch the keys from time to time helps me to forget the war. The music of the piano fills the air with healing. The past recedes. And sometimes even the nightmares disappear for a while. The sound of a single note gives hope. Somehow we must begin to find the courage to create a better world even if it is with one note or one step."

When veterans speak out we should pay attention. For they are evidence that we have failed at making the United States and our world a better place to live if only we had the courage to take a different path other than war.

Remember this Memorial Day that the greatest casualty of war has been our future.

Copyright © Horatio Green 2017

Participatory Management Skills That Define Today’s Strong Leaders

As an entry-level manager and administrator. I made an all-out effort to learn whatever I needed to know to be successful. In the beginning, I concentrated on learning the basics, which every manager knows involves the intricacies of planning, organizing, staffing, directing, and controlling. Of course, these functions are important to operating any business effectively. But I learned over a forty-four-year management career that the most misunderstood function of management, yet just as important and much harder to grasp, is leadership.

That’s because for years leadership has been associated with that part of the management process involved in directing and controlling. My superiors referred to those who lead with an iron fist as strong managers. And so my career began with an understanding that I needed to be an autocratic manager to be successful.

But over the years all that changed. Participatory styles of management became the new paradigm. Management that encouraged and empowered employees to make recommendations and participate in decision-making became the norm. Part of the reason for this needed change was that effective managers finally realized that they did not have all the answers.

Managers now need to not only be good at the technical intricacies of management but also need to be good motivational leaders.

They need to have a working understanding of other management styles because today’s good leaders employ different styles as circumstances dictate. When there are no alternatives, when immediate decisions are imperative, a manager must employ an autocratic style.

Today’s effective manager requires them to be out of their office every day, interacting with all members of their team. Leadership today requires management awareness that you cannot lead without everyone in the organization working together as a team; therefore, managers must possess skills at motivating, coaching, cheerleading, and building a team spirit. So it’s imperative that managers be good listeners, skilled at receiving as well as giving constructive feedback. Effective managers do not resent challenges to their authority and are able to work with people who may disagree with them. They have the ability to recognize unofficial leaders in their team and work through them in order to meet corporate and operational objectives, empowering them to work on their behalf.

In today’s world, managers who possess these interdisciplinary skills will generally have successful operations. Unlike the days of the “it’s my way or the highway” autocrat, it’s what defines managers as effective and strong leaders.

(This article was first published on the Yahoo Contributors Network on December 5, 2013)

Copyright © 2017 Horatio Green

Bill Moyers -- A Catholic Nun on What It Really Means to Be Pro-Life

Sister Joan Chittister provides the perfect response to the anti-abortionist, pro-life movement. Chittister’s remarks are not new. They have been out there for a while.

Here’s Sister Chittister’s memorable quote:

"I do not believe that just because you're opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don't? Because you don't want any tax money to go there. That's not pro-life. That's pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is," -- Sister Joan Chittister

Her remark is particularly applicable today as it ever has been in the past.

Today, the United States is under the burden of a Trump presidency and a Republican-led Congress who continue to introduce and pass restrictive legislation against women’s reproductive rights. They work to shut down women’s health clinics, and have a special vendetta against Planned Parenthood.

“President Donald Trump’s budget proposal together with the American Health Care Act, which Trump’s proposal embraces, would deny all federal funding to Planned Parenthood through both discretionary Title X grants and Medicaid.” -- CNSNews

Moreover, “Earlier this year Trump also announced he was withholding $32.5 million in funding earmarked for the U.N. Population Fund, the lead United Nations agency on family planning and maternal health. Trump made that decision on the grounds that the agency helps to support a Chinese government family planning program that forces people to get abortions and sterilizations — a determination that both the agency and many advocates for foreign aid vigorously dispute.

“The impact on women and children worldwide would be severe, contends the abortion rights advocacy group PAI. In an analysis released this week based on research data compiled by the Guttmacher Institute, PAI calculates that the reduction in family planning services that would result from ending U.S. funding would lead to 3.3 million more abortions, 15,000 more maternal deaths, 8 million more unintended pregnancies, and 26 million fewer women and couples receiving services per year.” --

I end this with another quotation from the beautifully dissident Sister:

“It’s so easy to be a one-issue voter. It’s also so superficial to be a one-issue anything. It’s a narrow, delimiting approach to the very essence of life. As in, I go to church every Sunday but I don’t believe in welfare. I’m not going to support slackers. If people worked as hard as I do, they could take care of themselves, too. Or even worse, ‘there’s no such thing as equal.’ 

“And there may be some truth in that. But it is also true that all humans must be enabled to live as human beings — with dignity and decency — or the rest of us are no longer fully human beings ourselves, whether we realize it or not, 

“The fact is that suffering built into the system for many will finally erode the lives of us all. “ -- Sister Joan Chittister

A Catholic Nun on What It Really Means to Be Pro-Life
A moral world is one whose societies realize that none of us can manage alone without the help of those who believe that every life is as important as their own.

By Sister Joan Chittister

NBC -- Jared Kushner Under Scrutiny in Russia Probe, Officials Say

A week or so ago, it was reported an unnamed White House official was under investigation in the Trump-Russia probe by the FBI. We now know his name.

Robert Reich writes,

The senior White House adviser under investigation in the Russia probe turns out to be Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

It’s unclear what possible crimes Kushner might be under investigation for committing, but in addition to possible coordination between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election, investigators are also looking into possible financial crimes.

It’s called corruption. Any expert on corrupt authoritarian regimes throughout history knows that those regimes' wrongdoing often runs through family members with official titles. That’s because people who want to curry favor with a regime often provide favors to family members as a way to get closer to the person in power.

Kushner has already come under scrutiny for his family possibly benefiting personally from his proximity to his leader-of-the-free-world father-in-law. His sister earlier this month mentioned Kushner's advisory role in the White House while pitching Chinese investors on a New Jersey housing development.

This is a big reason why we have anti-nepotism laws in the United States – precisely to avoid the corruption that all too often comes with installing relatives in positions of power. Trump and Kushner have disregarded those laws. They may come to regret it

Jared Kushner Under Scrutiny in Russia Probe, Officials Say

By Ken Dilanian, Peter Alexander And Courtney Kube

President Trump pushed aside Dusko Markovic, the prime minister of Montenegro (Video)

During his first joint meeting with North Atlantic Treaty Organization leaders, President Trump on Thursday pushed aside Dusko Markovic, the prime minister of Montenegro, out of his way in order to stand in front of a gathering of world leaders.Trump then adjusts his jacket, puts his chin in the air, and looks down his nose. Body language that’s interpreted as look, I am better than you.

Here’s a video of the interaction.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

CNN -- Trump scolds NATO allies over defense spending

President Donald Trump on Thursday lectured NATO member countries directly for not meeting their financial commitments to the alliance. Trump did not explicitly endorse Article 5, NATO’s mutual defense commitment.

Jorge Benitez, a Senior Fellow at the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security and Director of NATOSource, said the president should have been "clear, transparent, and reassure our allies" about Article 5 since he was speaking in front of a memorial to the very tragedy that prompted it -- commemoration of Article 5, the commitment to mutual defense, invoked after the 9/11 attacks.

The key section of NATO is Article 5 commits each member state to consider an armed attack against one member state, in Europe or North America, to be an armed attack against them all.

Benitez said,"The US is now not a reliable ally"

Robert Reich says “Trump continues to be an embarrassment.

“Trump had an opportunity today to make amends for his absurd campaign claim that NATO is ‘obsolete,’ and when he questioned why the United States was spending its own money to defend Europe and threatened to withdraw if other members failed to pay their ‘fair share.’

“Which is why European leaders eagerly anticipated Trump’s speech today at the ceremony to dedicate a memorial to NATO’s resolve in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

“But Trump blew it.

“In his speech he gave no specific commitment to NATO. Instead, he publicly chastised his fellow alliance leaders for not being ‘fair’ to U.S. taxpayers, saying ‘23 of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they are supposed to be paying,’ and that they owe ‘massive amounts’ from past years. ‘I have been very, very direct with Secretary Stoltenburg and members of the alliance in saying that NATO members must finally contribute their fair share and meet their financial obligations.’ Even the 2 percent of their gross domestic products that members have agreed to spend on defense is ‘insufficient,’ he said. ‘Two percent is the bare minimum for confronting today’s very real and very vicious threats.’

“This is particularly bizarre coming from someone who refuses to pay his fair share of U.S. taxes, and who's determined to rig the system even more so his rich friends don't have to pay their fair share.

“Then Trump focused on driving terrorists out of Europe and not letting them back in, saying ‘all people who cherish life must unite in finding, exposing and removing these terrorists and extremists. And, yes, losers. They are losers. . . . Drive them out and never let them back in.’

“Immediately after his speech, subdued European leaders gathered for a ‘family photograph’ — a standard feature of such summits. As they chatted among themselves, Trump was left alone at the podium.

“Message to Europe: He doesn’t represent the views of most Americans. We’re doing all we can to get rid of him.”

Trump scolds NATO allies over defense spending

By Jeremy Diamond