Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Vanity Fair -- Donald Trump’s Fake Renoir: The Untold Story

Trump biographer Tim O’Brien talks about his years covering the developer turned reality star turned president—including a bizarre incident involving a fake impressionist painting.

Tim O’Brien, author of Trump Nation: The Art of Being The Donald, tells the story of Donald Trump trying to convince him that he owned an original Renoir painting.

Even though O’Brien, who had knowledge of the original painting, emphatically explained that it was not an original, Trump persistently disagreed.

The original painting is on display at the Art Institute of Chicago and appears on its online archive. It was completed by Renoir in 1881.

Years later, when Trump became President of the United States of America, O'Brien says he spotted it hanging in the background during one of his first interviews as president-elect.

In another interview with First Lady Melania Trump, the painting can again be seen in the background.

While this story is comical and sad and utterly bizarre on so many levels, it’s also emblematic of Trump’s very essence. He believes his own lies in a way that lasts for decades. He’ll tell the same stories time and time again, regardless of whether or not facts are right in front of his face. And, as O’Brien points out, that’s what makes Trump so dangerous in his current war with the media around so-called fake news. Its foundation is that he’s the final arbiter of what is true and what isn’t, and it’s one of the reasons that he’s so dangerous.

Here's the story:

By Nick Bilton

MSNBC -- Trump’s Treasury Dept Embarrasses Itself with One-Page ‘Analysis’

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin promised congressional Republicans that he would work on a detailed analysis of their $1.5 trillion tax plan that will show it would pay for itself, and it would be available before Congress voted on the plan.

However, in late November, an Office of Tax Analysis economist told the NY Times the report does not exist. They said Treasury officials have been largely shut out of the process,” and haven’t worked on the type of detailed analysis that Mnuchin described, according to MSNBC.

An analysis was finally released and made available to the public. Politico reports the Treasury Department said Monday that the GOP tax plan currently before Congress would need an assist from other Trump administration priorities to pay for itself.

Tax cuts alone aren’t enough, Treasury said in a one-page analysis, citing welfare reform and infrastructure spending as additional boosts to the economy.

Republicans are aiming to pass their tax overhaul by Christmas.

Professor Robert Reich says, “The willingness of Trump administration officials to lie about key aspects of their agenda is unlike anything I've ever seen before. For months, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin reassured the public that tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations would pay for themselves. But today his own department released a one-page report contradicting the claim. The trickle-down analysis also calls for welfare reform -- aka cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs -- to balance the budget.

Mnuchin and the other members of the Cabinet have an obligation to tell the truth and provide objective analysis of the administration's proposals. Instead, they are using government institutions to spread lies in order to achieve partisan ends. If left unchecked, this intention and systematic denigration of the truth will have serious consequences for our democracy.

Here’s the story:

By Steve Benen

Monday, December 11, 2017

WaPo -- In Franken's wake, three senators call on President Trump to resign

Senators Bernie Sanders, Jeff Merkley, and Cory Booker suggested that Donald Trump should resign in view of sexual harassment accusations that have driven out some members of Congress.

Sanders said that Senator Al Franken “felt it proper for him to resign” on Sunday’s Meet the Press. “Here you have a president who has been accused by many women of assault, who says on a tape that he assaulted women. He might want to think about doing the same.”

Merkley said in an interview for the weekday version of Meet the Press, “The president should resign because he certainly has a track record with more than 17 women of horrific conduct.”  

On Saturday, during a campaign swing endorsing Doug Jones in Alabama's U.S. Senate race, Booker said the standard that brought down Franken should be applied to the president.

Moreover, in a news conference on Monday, three women who accused Donald Trump of sexual misconduct during the 2016 campaign asked for a congressional investigation into their allegations as a growing furor over inappropriate behavior by powerful men has focused attention on Trump’s behavior.

Two of the women, Jessica Leeds and Rachael Crooks, say that Trump made sexual contact with them without their consent. The third woman, Samantha Holvey, says that Trump behaved inappropriately with contestants in the Miss USA pageant he owned, according to Bloomberg News.

Here’s the story:

By David Weigel

Sunday, December 10, 2017

NY Times -- Video Shows Daniel Shaver Pleading for His Life Before Being Shot by Officer (VIDEO)

Former Mesa, Arizona police officer Philip Brailsford was acquitted Thursday of a murder charge in the January 2016 fatal shooting of Daniel Shaver, who was unarmed outside his hotel room. The police were responding to a call that someone was pointing a gun out a window.

The unedited video clearly shows Brailsford killing Shaver, who was obeying what the officer was directing him to do.

Mark Geragos, lawyer for the widow and the 5- and 8-year-old daughters of Shaver, said, “This, to me, is the most horrific shooting I’ve ever seen,” and it’s “the criminal justice system at its worst.”

Here's the story:

By Vivian Wang

CNN -- At Pensacola Rally, Trump Says 'Get Out and Vote for Roy Moore'

Donald Trump at a campaign-style rally in Florida encouraged Alabama voters to "get out and vote for Roy Moore" in Tuesday's Senate special election.

"We cannot afford -- this country, the future of this country -- cannot afford to lose a seat in the very, very close United States Senate. We can't afford it, folks. We can't. We can't afford to have a liberal Democrat who is completely controlled by Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. We can't do it," Trump said.

Trump even ridiculed Beverly Nelson, who has accused Moore of pursuing a sexual relationship with her when he was in his 30’s and she a teenager. As evidence of their relationship, Nelson said she had added notes under Moore's notation and signature in her high school yearbook. Trump said, “So did you see what happened today, you know, the yearbook? Did you see that?" Trump said. "There was a little mistake made, she started writing things in the yearbook. Ah, what are we gonna do -- Gloria Allred [Nelson’s lawyer], any time you see her, you know something's going wrong."

This is the President of the United States going after a woman who has had the courage to accuse a powerful man of sexual abuse, and her lawyer. Can you imagine the heat these women are now taking? Beverly Nelson and Gloria Allred are not politicians or celebrities with their own followings. Nelson is simply a private citizen of the United States, and Allred is representing her. Who in the future will have the courage to stand up to Trump and his powerful political allies when he mocks and attacks individuals like this?

This is how tyranny begins. This is how democracy ends. Friends, we must stand up to this,” -- Robert Reich.

By Eric Bradner

Reuters -- U.S. tax revamp still incomplete as Republicans eye social program cuts

Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan have indicated they will be considering cuts next year in entitlement programs in order to tackle the problem of federal spending.

“Next year, we’re going to have to get back to entitlement reform,” Ryan said on a radio talk show on Wednesday.

Entitlement programs mean food stamps, housing assistance, Medicare and Medicaid health insurance for the elderly, poor and disabled, and other programs to assist lower-income Americans.

Berkeley’s professor Robert Reich:

Last week, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan described what will happen after Trump signs into law the Trump-Republican tax cut for big corporations and the wealthy: “We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit,” he said, referring to programs like Medicare and Medicaid which “are the big drivers of debt,” requiring that “we spend more time on the health-care entitlements, because that’s really where the problem lies, fiscally speaking.”

Trump said that the goal after the tax cuts will be “welfare reform.” But since there’s no longer any welfare program in the United States (I was there when Bill Clinton and the Gingrich Republicans put an end to FDR’s Aid for Families with Dependent Children), presumably Trump is taking aim at Medicaid and Medicare, as well as whatever remains of the Affordable Care Act, and the relatively small Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. All provide help to people who are sick or elderly or children.

In the early 1980s, Ronald Reagan and his budget director David Stockman openly talked of “starving the beast” by cutting taxes so much that federal spending cuts would be necessary. But in those days, it was possible to cut spending without doing irreparable damage to needy Americans. Trump and Ryan, by contrast, have set their sights on what remains of the social safety nets that came into being under Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. They want to make the rich far richer, the poor more destitute, and everyone in between, more insecure.

What's their motive? For Ryan, it's purely ideological. For years he has wanted to roll back the New Deal and the Great Society. For Trump, it's about money and power -- more to him and his friends in order to live as well as other global oligarchs and rule the world.

By Amanda Becker

Friday, December 8, 2017

AP -- Palestinians say They Won't Meet with Pence, More Unrest Feared

By Josef Federman
A senior Palestinian official says the Palestinians will not meet with Vice President Mike Pence during his upcoming visit to the region because of Donald Trump’s announcement of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, and his plan to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to the Holy City. The announcement has sparked outrage across the region.

The Palestinians are asking the United Nations Security Council to take urgent action and demand that Donald Trump's decision be rescinded.

In response to Trumps decision, there has been an increase of border violence with Israel. Leaders all over the globe are condemning Trump’s decision and calling for calm and restraint.

Thousands of Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli forces in east Jerusalem and the West Bank. Demonstrators in the Gaza Strip burned U.S. flags and pictures of Donald Trump in a show of rage Thursday over the American decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Israeli forces were bracing for the possibility of even stronger violence on Friday, when tens of thousands of Palestinians attend weekly prayers at Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque, the city’s most sacred Islamic site. In Gaza, the supreme leader of the Hamas militant group called on Palestinians to launch a new uprising against Israel.

Although Trump had pledged during the 2016 campaign to recognize Israel's claim to Jerusalem and to move the American embassy there from Tel Aviv, the Palestinians nevertheless were caught off guard by Trump’s move to depart from decades of U.S. policy on Jerusalem and upend longstanding international assurances that the fate of the city would be determined in negotiations.

Palestinian Charge d'Affaires Feda Abdelhady-Nasser said in a letter to the council president that Trump's declaration violates numerous council resolutions and could lead to "a never-ending religious war.” He warned [It] could lead to the "exacerbation of religious sensitivities that risk transforming this solvable political-territorial conflict into a never-ending religious war, which will only be exploited by religious extremists, fueling radicalism and strife in the region and beyond."

The United Nations Security Council has scheduled an emergency meeting on Trump's announcement on Friday.

Clashes in Bethlehem and Ramallah after Trump names Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

NY Times --House Votes to Sharply Expand Concealed-Carry Gun Rights

The Republicans and their President are putting our country in danger at home and abroad.

Instead of working to improve the safety and well-being of Americans, they are working to bring our country back to darker times.

The House on Wednesday, effectively at the behest of the National Rifle Association, passed an expansion of the right to carry concealed firearms virtually anywhere in the United States.

Democrats said the measure would jeopardize public safety and set a dangerous precedent for overriding states’ rights to determine their own laws. Law enforcement officials say an expansion of the right to carry concealed weapons in the United States would force states with strict gun laws to bow to places with lax gun restrictions.

The House bill would not force states to change their own laws but would treat a concealed-carry permit like a driver’s license, allowing individuals permitted by any one state to carry a concealed weapon with them into any other state.

The legislation is headed to the Senate. Passage in the Senate would almost certainly require 60 votes to overcome a Democratic filibuster. If it passes in the Senate it will head to Trump’s desk for his signature, which he will unquestionably sign.

More guns and more people carrying guns concealed on our streets is not the answer to the problem of gun violence. That should be obvious. Yet to the Republicans it’s apparently not. With our experience of so many mass murders, you would think legislators would be looking at ways to tighten gun ownership and make efforts to marginalize gun violence, or even better, eliminate the possibility altogether. What they are doing is “reprehensible.”

By Nicholas Fandos

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

NY Times -- Trump Recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital and Orders U.S. Embassy to Move

Donald Trump on Wednesday initiated a plan to move the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to the fiercely contested Holy City of Jerusalem. Recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel brought condemnation from world leaders, who warned it would destroy the peace process, strengthen extremists and weaken the standing of the US in the world.

In an address to reporters after Trump finished his announcement, UN secretary general António Guterres said he opposed “any unilateral measures that would jeopardize the prospect of peace for Israelis and Palestinians.

Robert Reich writes, “The Old City of Jerusalem does not belong to any one religion or people, because it is a holy site for Jews, Muslims and Christians.

Of course Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel -- but it is also the capital of the State of Palestine, currently occupied by the Israeli army and unable to exercise its sovereignty in the Arab parts of Jerusalem.

By endorsing Israel's claims on the future status of Jerusalem, Trump weakens the hand of Palestinians who want to reconcile with Israel and strengthens the hand of Palestinians who refuse to achieve peace through negotiations. It’s a gift to Hamas and to the most reactionary of Israeli's.

Why do this? For the same reason Trump recently retweeted misleading right-wing extremist videos of Muslims. For the same reason he has tried to prevent Muslims from entering America. It’s much the same for why he equated white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville last summer with those who protested against them, why he pardoned Joe Arpaio, and why he’s supporting Roy Moore for the Senate.

Trump thrives on division, bigotry, and chaos. Sane people know where all this leads – to violence and the strengthening of strongmen who sacrifice democracy and human rights for power. Decent people – Arabs, Jews, Americans of all religions and races – will continue to stand up to this.

Here’s the story:

By Mark Landler

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Axios -- Trump lawyer claims the "President cannot obstruct justice"

Donald Trump’s lawyer, John Dowd, claims the "President cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under [the Constitution's Article II] and has every right to express his view of any case."

Berkeley professor of public policy Robert Reich’s writes on his Facebook page:

As tyrants take control of democracies, they place themselves above the law. With evidence mounting that Trump obstructed justice in the Michael Flynn investigation, his legal team has done just that.

[Dowd’s claim was in response] to a tweet Trump put out over the weekend suggesting that he was aware Flynn had lied to federal agents before firing FBI director James Comey. If true, this would be an astonishing admission of guilt.

Let's be clear: The federal crime of obstruction of justice applies to “[w]hoever corruptly, or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication influences, obstructs, or impedes or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper administration of the law” in a proceeding or investigation by a government department or agency or Congress. Obstruction of justice was also the primary charge that led to Richard Nixon's resignation.

We cannot allow ourselves to become numb to the Trump presidency. He and his enablers are threatening the basic principle that guides our legal system -- that no person is above the law. We must stay vigilant, organized and mobilized to protect our democracy from these power grabs.

NBC News

By Mike Allen

Intercept -- Trump White House Weighing Plans for Private Spies to Counter “Deep State” Enemies

The Trump Administration is considering a set of proposals developed by Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a retired CIA officer, with assistance from Oliver North, a key figure in the Iran-Contra scandal, to provide CIA Director Mike Pompeo and the White House with a global, private spy network that would circumvent official U.S. intelligence agencies, according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials and others familiar with the proposals. The sources say the plans have been pitched to the White House as a means of countering “deep state” enemies in the intelligence community seeking to undermine Trump’s presidency.

The creation of such a program raises the possibility that the effort would be used to create an intelligence apparatus to justify the Trump administration’s political agenda,” according to the Intercept.

In reality, it would give Trump his own private global spy network.

Professor Robert Reich writes that it is “Another sign of Trump's increasingly unhinged paranoia.

It would enable Trump to circumvent U.S. intelligence agencies, in order to counter assumed enemies in the intelligence community that want to undermine his presidency.

As he's shown before, Trump never lets facts get in his way. When he doesn’t like official facts, he blames the messengers and creates a new apparatus to manufacture facts he likes.

But a private global spy network is truly nuts – and dangerous. It wouldn’t be answerable to the American people; it would be answerable to Trump. Another step toward tyranny.

Oliver North testifying before Congress in 1986,
Erik Prince testifying before the  
on Oversight and Government Reform Committee 
in 2007

Photos: AFP/Getty, AP

By Matthew Cole, Jeremy Scahill

NY Times -- Billy Bush: Yes, Donald Trump, You Said That (VIDEO)

In a complete turnaround from what he has previously admitted to, Donald Trump now tries to cast doubt on the authenticity of the infamous hot mic recording made on the Access Hollywood Bus in 2005, calling it ‘fake.’

Rejecting Trump’s claim, Billy Bush, in an op-ed for The New York Times, wrote Donald Trump did boast about groping women. That he is indulging in some revisionist history, reportedly telling allies, including at least one United States senator, that the voice on the tape is not his. This has hit a raw nerve in me

This country is currently trying to reconcile itself to years of power abuse and sexual misconduct. Its leader is wantonly poking the bear.

Bush writes in part:

He said it. “Grab ’em by the pussy.”

Of course he said it. And we laughed along, without a single doubt that this was hypothetical hot air from America’s highest-rated bloviator. Along with Donald Trump and me, there were seven other guys present on the bus at the time, and every single one of us assumed we were listening to a crass standup act. He was performing. Surely, we thought, none of this was real.

In 2005, I was in my first full year as a co-anchor of the show “Access Hollywood” on NBC. Mr. Trump, then on “The Apprentice,” was the network’s biggest star.

The key to succeeding in my line of work was establishing a strong rapport with celebrities. I did that, and was rewarded for it. My segments with Donald Trump when I was just a correspondent were part of the reason I got promoted.

NBC tripled my salary and paid for my moving van from New York to Los Angeles.

Was I acting out of self-interest? You bet I was. Was I alone? Far from it. With Mr. Trump’s outsized viewership back in 2005, everybody from Billy Bush on up to the top brass on the 52nd floor had to stroke the ego of the big cash cow along the way to higher earnings.

None of us were guilty of knowingly enabling our future president. But all of us were guilty of sacrificing a bit of ourselves in the name of success.

In the days, weeks and months to follow, I was highly critical of the idea of a Trump presidency. The man who once told me -- ironically, in another off-camera conversation -- after I called him out for inflating his ratings: “People will just believe you. You just tell them and they believe you,” was, I thought, not a good choice to lead our country.

Here’s the Access Hollywood video:

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Guardian -- Joe Biden: 'We're walking down a dark path' under Trump (VIDEO)

By David Smith
In October, Joe Biden, in receiving the Zbigniew Brzezinski annual prize at the Center for Strategic and International Studies thinktank, warned that Donald Trump is taking Americans down a 'very dark path,' and that Trump poses an “existential threat” to the postwar international order.

We’re walking down a very dark path that isolates the United States on the world stage and, as a consequence, endangers – not strengthens – endangers American interests and the American people.”

Rarely does a vice president or president from a previous administration speak out against the President who currently holds the office. Nevertheless, in a scathing speech, the former Vice President, “In a dig at Trump’s past career as a New York property developer, said: Rather than building a shared narrative of freedom and democracy that inspires nations to unite in common goals, this administration casts global affairs in a dog-eat-dog competition, like it’s a competition: who gets that plot to build the new high-rise building.

He said, the foreign policy establishment in this country, have to start to speak out.

Extracting two other notable remarks from the many, Biden said:

“Trading insults. Deploying taunting nicknames. Promising to ‘totally destroy’ a country of 25 million people. Such erratic action only worsens the crisis and rejects the possibility of diplomacy.”

“So far President Trump has been unwilling to call out Putin for Russia’s meddling, even in our own democratic process, or criticise his action. Think of that. Think of the signal it sends around the world, for God’s sake.”

Here, too, are parts of his speech:

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

CNN -- Trump Retweets Anti-Muslim Videos

President Donald Trump retweeted Wednesday morning three inflammatory videos from a British far-right account rife with anti-Muslim content.

To all of you who continue to support this horrible man, condemning me and others for saying what he actually is. This should leave no doubt of that what most of us have said about "your President." Why do you still support this disgustingly "deplorable" man?

And by the way, press secretary Sanders defense of Trump’s behavior is bullshit of the highest order.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders defended Trump's retweets, telling reporters that he shared them to start a conversation about border security and immigration.

“ ‘I think his goal is to promote strong borders and strong national security, Sanders told a small group of reporters after appearing on Fox News.

Sanders also downplayed questions about whether the videos were authentic, because the threat is real.’”

This is a stretch. No, it's so far beyond a stretch it's embarrassing. The credibility of the White House is in tatters.News and Guts

CNN’s Brian Klass writes Donald Trump’s Britain First retweets must be the final straw:

The President of the United States woke up this morning and decided to retweet three videos from the account of Jayda Fransen -- the deputy leader of Britain First: a far-right, ultranationalist, neo-fascist hate group.

Britain First organizes Christian patrols and "invades" mosques trying to intimidate those who attend religious services.

Fransen, the woman that Trump re-tweeted, was reportedly arrested in November for using "threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior." She had already been convicted in November 2016 for abusing a Muslim woman wearing a hijab.
Trump gave her a platform -- spreading her hateful message to his 43 million followers.

The videos he retweeted paint Muslims as anti-Christian criminals who beat up white kids and break statues of the Virgin Mary. They are clearly aimed at demonizing Muslims, a religious minority that already faces a disproportionate number of hate crimes.

Let's be crystal clear about this: Trump's behavior is sick, disgusting and disqualifying. We are watching, in real time, the President of the United States using his power and platform to mainstream the vile ideologies of racist neo-fascism.

This isn't coming from the political fringe any more; it's coming from the political center of the United States: the Oval Office.

Have you no decency, Mr. President?

The answer, of course, is no -- he does not. But if we continue to accept these reckless, divisive outbursts as part of our normal political discourse, then we will have answered the question as to whether we have any decency left too. We will have failed yet another test.

Here’s the rest of the story:


By Elizabeth Landers and James Masters

NY Times -- Casting Wall Street as Victim, Trump Leads Deregulatory Charge

Leading up to the financial crisis of 2007-2008, “Mortgage lenders contributed to the financial crisis by issuing or underwriting loans to people who would have a difficult time paying them back, inflating a housing bubble that was bound to pop. Lax regulation allowed banks to stretch their mortgage lending standards and use aggressive tactics to rope borrowers into complex mortgages that were more expensive than they first appeared. Evidence has also surfaced that lenders were filing fraudulent documents to push some of these mortgages through, and, in some cases, had been doing so as early as the 1990s. A 2005 Los Angeles Times investigation of Ameriquest – then the nation’s largest subprime lender– found that “they forged documents, hyped customers' creditworthiness and ‘juiced’ mortgages with hidden rates and fees.” This behavior was reportedly typical for the subprime mortgage industry. A similar culture existed at Washington Mutual, which went under in 2008 in the biggest bank collapse in U.S. history.ProPublica

Regulations were put in place to minimize the chances of that happening again and to help protect American consumers, such as in the provisions of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, put in place with the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.(CFPB) under Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform legislation, which protects consumers from unfair and abusive collection practices.

Now, Donald Trump and the Republican Party want to do away with these regulatory protections. As a matter of fact, they want to do away with CFPB altogether.

Robert Reich on his Facebook page writes:

Commercial banks last year generated $157 billion in profits, the highest level ever, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Their stock prices have been marching ever higher, as Wall Street profits are on track to exceed last year’s. In the first half of 2017, bank profits jumped 33 percent to $12.3 billion. Wall Street’s traders and dealmakers are on track for their biggest bonuses since 2014, according to the comptroller’s annual report.

Yet Trump and his administration are now determined to get rid of the regulations that were put in place after the financial crisis of 2008, when millions of Americans lost their jobs, homes, and savings. Why? Because, says Trump, bank regulators like those at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have left the financial industry “devastated and unable to properly serve the public.”

Trump has loaded his administration with former Wall Street executives. His Treasury Secretary and head of the National Economic Council are both alumni of Goldman Sachs. They stand to make a fortune from the Republican tax bill they’re pushing. And they’ll make even more from bank deregulation.

Is there no end to the cynicism of this administration? No end to the lying? Does Trump believe Americans have no memory?

Former Rep. Barney Frank 
and former Sen. Chris Dodd
talk about the Dodd-Frank
Wall Street reform law

Getty Images

 By Matthew Goldstein And Stacy Cowle

NY Times -- The Biggest Tax Scam in History

Paul Krugman has been reporting his strong objection to the Republican plan to overhaul the federal tax code for a while now.

The proposed tax reform bill as presented so far, in on way or another, will hurt main street Americans.

Here are the opening paragraphs from Krugman’s latest scathing opinion:

"Donald Trump likes to declare that every good thing that happens while he’s in office -- job growth, rising stock prices, whatever -- is the biggest, greatest, best ever. Then the fact-checkers weigh in and quickly determine that the claim is false.

"But what’s happening in the Senate right now really does deserve Trumpian superlatives. The bill Republican leaders are trying to ram through this week without hearings, without time for even a basic analysis of its likely economic impact, is the biggest tax scam in history. It’s such a big scam that it’s not even clear who’s being scammed -- middle-class taxpayers, people who care about budget deficits, or both.

"One thing is clear, however: One way or another, the bill would hurt most Americans. The only big winners would be the wealthy -- especially those who mainly collect income from their assets rather than working for a living -- plus tax lawyers and accountants who would have a field day exploiting the many loopholes the legislation creates.

“Either this bill is a big tax hike on the middle class, or it’s a huge budget-buster. Which is it? Nobody really knows; probably even the people who wrote this monstrosity don’t know. But someone is being scammed, bigly...."

Here’s the rest of his story. Be sure to read it. It’s a good read:

By Paul Krugman

CNN -- Sen. Chris Coons calls for hearing into possible Trump interference with US attorneys

There are reports that Donald Trump is interfering with the selection of candidates for positions in the U.S. Attorneys’ office.

Reportedly, Trump has personally interviewed candidates, who if confirmed, would have “oversight in districts sensitive to his business dealings”, and are positions that would be in charge of investigating Trump administration shenanigans.

During the Senate Judiciary Committee questioning of Attorney General Jeff Sessions in October, regarding his contacts with the Russian Ambassador, “came a troubling new bit of line-crossing by his boss, the president: word was circulating that Donald Trump had been personally interviewing candidates for the United States attorney jobs in New York City and Washington, D.C.,” according to Vanity Fair.

Furthermore, it is "rare for a president to interview candidates for the 93 U.S. attorney jobs. Former President Barack Obama never interviewed a U.S. attorney candidate during his two terms, according to Matthew Miller, who served as Justice Department spokesman under the Obama administration," according to Politico.

Back in March, Trump abruptly fired 46 US attorneys, and it now appears he's looking to replace them with loyalists. According to reports by CNN, Trump has even gone so far as to personally interview at least three candidates who would oversee parts of New York City and Washington, DC. These key posts would have the power to initiate investigations into the president.

Democratic Senator Chris Coons has requested a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee to understand the extent of Trump's meddling. In a letter to the committee chairman, Coons writes that he is concerned that President Trump does not respect the important boundaries between politics and the prosecutorial decisions of US Attorneys within the Department of Justice.

These efforts by Trump fit a pattern of trying to stymie investigations, and install cronies who are more loyal to him than the rule of law. Blocking these appointments is another reason why it's so important that Democrats win back control of the Senate in next year's midterm elections.

By David Shortell

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Again What Was About Someone Else -- Navajo Code Talkers -- Has Become About Donald Trump

Yesterday, our despicable President, Donald Trump, decided to use the derogatory nickname “Pocahontas”-- a slur that is viewed offensive to Native Americans -- as he has often done in reference to Senator Elizabeth Warren, at a ceremony meant to honor Native American war heroes known as Navajo code talkers.

Navajo Nation Council Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty criticized Trump's comment as the "latest example of systemic, deep-seated ignorance of Native Americans and our intrinsic right to exist and practice our ways of life."

"The intentional disregard of the historical trauma of Pocahontas as a sexual assault survivor directly resulting from colonization is disturbing."

Dan Rather on his Facebook page responded in his usual thoughtful way:

In the tally of injustices that have plagued the United States of America, the plight of the native peoples of this continent ranks as one of the most tragic. It is incumbent that we do not, as a nation, minimize the historic suffering, subjugation, and segregation of these people. The shadows of these policies still cast a deep darkness of pain and sorrow.

What happened today in the White House shows the utter lack of sensitivity, knowledge, and caring of President Trump about the plight of these native people. In a ceremony honoring Navajo code talkers who served valiantly in World War II, Mr. Trump cast out one of his many childish and derogatory nicknames - this one being Pocahontas, for Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren who has claimed Native American ancestry. Many within and without the Native American community consider Mr. Trump's use of Pocahontas to be a racial slur.

Once again a moment that was supposed to be about someone else has become about Mr. Trump. Once again a marginalized group feels more marginalized by comments from this President. Once again, we must ask ourselves whether these utterances deserve coverage.

But when it comes to Native Americans I believe any such slur or attack needs to be brought out into the open. This is not right. We cannot remake our history, but we can remember it and vow to make the future better.

In writing my latest book about patriotism in today's America, I kept returning to the idea that for all the wonderful rhetoric of our supposed shared values, the Native Americans have come up short - they who once inhabited this land of seemingly endless bounty. This is how I described it:

"Our nation was built on a foundation of ideals. To be sure, we are a country of natural wonder — a cross-continental expanse of fertile farmland, churning rivers, great resources, and some of the most beautiful places on Earth. But more than land, we are bound together by a grand experiment in government, the rule of law, and common bonds of citizenship. This is what it means to be an American. It’s tragic that those with the strongest ancestral tie to the land, the Native Americans, have so bitterly felt the chasm between the soaring words of our Declaration of Independence and Constitution and the harsh reality of governmental policy."

Today, thanks to President Trump, Native Americans feel that way once again. They may be invited to the White House, but they are reminded that, in some people's eyes, they do not fully belong there other than as a backdrop for a political attack.

Being sensitive about our history, be it positive or negative, must be part of what unites us.