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." -- Vox.com

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.” -- NPR.org

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 direct...to 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









The New York Times via MSN -- White House Moves to Block Ethics Inquiry Into Ex-Lobbyists on Payroll


Another Donald J. Trump move that’s “unprecedented and extremely troubling”

“The Trump administration, in a significant escalation of its clash with the government’s top ethics watchdog, has moved to block an effort to disclose any ethics waivers granted to former lobbyists who have work in the White House or federal agencies.

“The latest conflict came in recent days when the White House, in a highly unusual move, sent a letter to Walter M. Shaub Jr., the head of the Office of Government Ethics, asking him to withdraw a request he had sent to every federal agency for copies of the waivers. In the letter, the administration challenged his legal authority to demand the information.

“Dozens of former lobbyists and industry lawyers are working in the Trump administration, which has hired them at a much higher rate than the previous administration. Keeping the waivers confidential would make it impossible to know whether any such officials are violating federal ethics rules or have been given a pass to ignore them.

“Mr. Shaub, who is in the final year of a five-year term after being appointed by President Barack Obama, said he had no intention of backing down. ‘It is an extraordinary thing,’ Mr. Shaub said of the White House request. ‘I have never seen anything like it.’

“Marilyn L. Glynn, who served as general counsel and acting director of the agency during the George W. Bush administration, called the move by the Trump White House ‘unprecedented and extremely troubling.’ ”

Read the full story here:

© J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

Walter M. Shaub Jr.,
the head of the Office of Government Ethics
White House Moves to Block Ethics Inquiry Into Ex-Lobbyists on Payroll

By New York Times’ Eric Lipton









Robert Reich's "The Travesty of Trumpcare"

Very good explanation of the House Republicans' American Health Care Act, euphemistically called Trumpcare.

Vox -- CBO: Republican health care bill raises premiums for older, poor Americans by as much as 850%


“I find it remarkable that Trump supporters like Steven Moore believe it's possible to insure the sick and the poor without requiring any sacrifices from the healthy and wealthy. This is conservative rubbish,” -- Robert Reich.


The American Health Care Act is "irresponsible and cruel." It would make the cost of health care for the sick and the poor not affordable, while it benefits the healthy and wealthy, many of whom could afford health care without lowering their insurance premiums.

In a nutshell, under the American Health Care Act -- the House Republicans’ Obamacare replacement that was passed last month -- as reported Wednesday by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), greatly increases the number of America’s uninsured, Americans would pay more for their health insurance, and it allows individual states to decide whether to allow insurers to charge more for those with pre-existing conditions.

The CBO forecasts that by 2026 twenty-three million Americans would have no health insurance.

They forecast the deficit would be reduced by $119 billion.

And, premiums are forecast to be lower than under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Premium cost, however, would come down for healthy Americans but those who are sick or suffer from pre-existing conditions would have access to less coverage.

Under the American Health Care Act, for most Americans, lower prices would mean higher out-of-pocket cost, fewer covered services, and coverage for Americans who would need it the most would be less accessible because it would cost more than they could afford.

Obamacare should not be repealed and replaced with something that is basically a good law for something that is not. Obamacare -- the Affordable Care Act -- should be carefully looked at and tweaked to make it a better law. Republicans will not because the law was put into place by the Obama Administration. But even better, replace the law with a single-payer health care system.

Now the Senate Republicans will have to decide whether to tweak the House's version or throw it in the trash. The best alternative would be to trash it permanently.

CBO: Republican health care bill raises premiums for older, poor Americans by as much as 850%

By German Lopez






Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Robert Reich -- Trump's infrastructure Scam

The Trump administration, determined to overhaul and modernize the nation’s infrastructure, is planning to privatize public assets such as airports, bridges, highway rest stops and other facilities, according to top officials and advisers. In his proposed budget released Tuesday, Trump called for spending $200 billion over 10 years to “incentivize” private, state and local spending on infrastructure. Here's why it's a scam:

Dan Rather -- The winds of our age howl and swirl and rattle the windows of our souls.


The winds of our age howl and swirl and rattle the windows of our souls. So much sadness and anxiety.

Horrific mass murder in Great Britain. Young lives of promise and hope ended in a flash of depravity and evil.

A budget proposal so cruel and heartless. Tax cuts for plutocrats on the backs of families who worry each night about feeding their children or caring for the sick. Not to mention huge cuts to medical research.

Daily bombshells of an investigation into the undermining of our democracy by a hostile foreign power and the potentially active collaboration by some of our own citizens. Now, we confront serious fears of obstruction of justice.

To all this we add so much more... desperate refugees fleeing war zones... a belligerent and unstable nation firing off missiles and boasting of nuclear weapons...a climate warming...add your own concerns to a list that can take so many forms...

And yet... and yet...

I go for a walk on a glorious spring day and see the flowers in resplendent bloom.

I hear the chatter of school children at the bus stop apprising their friends of pending summer activities.

The sun is out late as I settle into my favorite chair and turn on the television to the familiar chatter of a baseball game - words and phrases that I have heard since my youth

There are new books in the window of the local bookstore begging to be bought for a summer read.

Even the headlines in the newspaper suggest our nation may survive this stress test to its democracy. Congressional hearings heating up. An acknowledgement that this budget is dead on arrival. Spirited races for Congressional seats and a growth in civic engagement across the country.

There was a time when many of you asked me if I thought this was potentially the end to our way of life. I have returned many times to a word that was one of my father's favorites and has guided me since I was a child - steady.

Over the course of my lifetime the world has been shrouded many times in darkness and despair. It took courage and action to persevere and it will require that again. But somehow our precious Earth kept spinning. And as the sun crests on the horizon in the east this morning, I know it spins again today.


Dan Rather


Robert Reich and The 6 million people the White House believes can balance its budget


“President Trump's proposed budget released Tuesday rests on a key assumption: The economy will grow much faster than it has in recent years — and at a more robust pace than most analysts predict.” 

Robert Reich:

The Trump administration’s new budget assumes a 3 percent rate of economic growth to keep the budget balanced -- more than 50 percent higher than forecasts.

Budget director Mick Mulvaney says that growth will come from pulling some of the 6 million people who have been stuck on the sidelines of the economy – working part-time but would prefer full-time jobs, or too discouraged to look for work -- back into the labor force.

Rubbish.

1. There are about 160 million Americans in the labor force, who together generate GDP growth of just under 2 percent. Another 6 million people couldn’t possibly raise the growth rate another 50 percent.

2. Besides, it would be a one-time boost to growth. It wouldn’t expand the labor force for a sustained period of time, like the 10-year window of Trump's budget.

3. Mulvaney says the economy has often grown in the past at a 3 percent rate. "In fact, it's been normal for the history of the country,” he said. But the country's productivity and labor force growth were significantly higher between 1946 and 2010. Now, the giant baby boom generation is retiring. If you look at the longer term -- between 1881 and 2007 -- America’s average annual growth rate was 2 percent.

Bottom line: Trump's budget will cause giant deficits and explode the debt.

White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney
speaks to the reporters about President Trump's
 proposed budget on Tuesday.

Andrew Harnik/AP

Trump Budget Plan Relies On Optimistic Growth Assumptions, Analysts Say

By Yuki Noguchi















U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders --CNN: Carrier plant that Trump helped save will cut 300 jobs right before Christmas by Chris Isidore

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders:

It is outrageous that Carrier is planning on laying off hundreds of workers right before Christmas, after receiving a $7 million tax break courtesy of Donald Trump and Mike Pence.

During the campaign, Donald Trump made a 100 percent commitment to prevent United Technologies from shipping 2,100 jobs from Indiana to Mexico. All of us need to hold Mr. Trump accountable to make sure that he keeps this promise. It is not good enough to save some of these jobs. We cannot rest until United Technologies signs a firm contract to keep all of these good-paying jobs in Indiana without slashing the salaries or benefits workers have earned.

Let’s be clear: This company which is owned by United Technologies is not going broke. It makes billions in profits and receives billions more in defense contracts from the Pentagon. In 2014, United Technologies gave its former CEO (Louis Chenevert) a golden parachute worth over $172 million. If Donald Trump was really serious about saving these jobs, he would make it clear to the CEO of United Technologies that if his firm wants to receive another defense contract from the taxpayers of this country, it must not lay off these workers.

We need to send a very loud and very clear message to corporate America: the era of outsourcing is over. Instead of offshoring jobs, the time has come for you to start bringing good-paying jobs back to the United States of America.

Carrier plant that Trump helped save will cut 300 jobs right before Christmas

By Chris Isidore










Esquire -- Read New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu's Remarkable Speech About Removing Confederate Monuments


A politician actually takes a stand! And a controversial one at that. Please take a minute to read the speech delivered by New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu on why the city removed the last of its Confederate monuments. Yes, in 2017 there are still defenders of the "old south" and the mayor let them have it with both barrels. It's a speech that should be required reading in every high school in America, - News And Guts 

Read New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu's Remarkable Speech About Removing Confederate Monuments

BY JACK HOLMES









While You Weren’t Looking, Trump Basically Killed Dodd-Frank


As the nation’s capital has been consumed by the frothing chaos of President Donald Trump’s administration — botched Muslim bans, sudden personnel changes and the chief executive’s erratic behavior — a steady current of traditional right-wing orthodoxy is sweeping through the federal government. Whatever happens with Russia or the FBI, this tide is washing away former President Barack Obama’s second-greatest legislative achievement: Wall Street reform. And it’s all happening while you’re paying attention to something else.

Trump campaigned on conflicting promises about big banks. One minute, he was going to stick it to the corrupt financial insiders who had wrecked the middle class. The next, he’d vow to liberate our benevolent princes of capital from crushing regulations Obama had cruelly imposed.

Some of Trump’s populist rhetoric followed him into office. But the actual governing has been pure deregulation. Last week, a council of top regulators quietly met to discuss the future of the Volcker rule [reinstated under Dodd-Frank] ― the most important structural change Obama established for the financial system. A few days later, a freshly installed Trump official went further, threatening to defang the rule “unilaterally” by “reinterpreting” its entire purpose.

The rule is basically dead, Keefe Bruyette & Woods analyst Brian Gardner wrote in a note to clients last Monday: Examiners can start giving banks the benefit of the doubt regarding compliance with Volcker almost immediately.’ “

The Volcker rule was an update of the Banking Act of 1933, also called the Glass-Steagall law. It banned traditional banks from engaging in high-risk investments and separated commercial from investment banking. It was deemed a healthier financial system because it restricted banks from making certain kinds of speculative investments that did not benefit customers. Such speculative investments played a key role in the financial crisis of 2007–2010.

In 1999, President Bill Clinton signed the law repealing Glass-Steagall.

The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, commonly known as Dodd–Frank, was signed into law in 2010, as a result of the financial crisis 2007-2010, by President Barack Obama. Dodd–Frank (Volcker rule) was significant because it basically reinstated some of Glass-Steagall's principles.


Pier Marco Tacca/Anadolu Agency Via Getty Images

By Zach Carter














Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Robert Reich -- Trump’s Cruel and Deviant Budget


Trump’s proposal to cut federal spending by more than $3.6 trillion over the next decade, much of it for programs that help the poor (Medicaid, food stamps, Social Security disability, and health insurance for poor children) -- in order to finance a huge military buildup and tax cuts for corporations and the rich -- won’t get through Congress.

But it is significant in 3 respects:

1.Among the biggest losers would be people who voted for Trump – whites in rural and poor areas of the country who depend on Medicaid, food stamps, and Social Security disability. Yet will they know that Trump is willing to sell them out to the rich, or will they fall for the right-wing Republican propaganda (amplified by Fox News and yell radio) that this budget is designed to help people take more responsibility for themselves?

2. It sets a new low bar for congressional and public debate over social insurance in America, and of government’s role, far lower than anything proposed by Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush. It pushes the idea that each of us is and should be on our own, rather than we are part of a society whose members have responsibilities to one another.

3. It abandons any notion that an important aspect of patriotism involves sacrificing for the common good – paying for public services that you won’t use but will be used by others, and will thereby help the nation as a whole. It thereby frames the debate over Trumpcare (“why should I pay for her pre-existing health problem if I’m healthy?), and celebrates a cruel and virulent form of individualism – much like Trump himself.

Trump’s Cruel and Deviant Budget

By Robert Reich







Business Insider -- 'If you're innocent, why are you taking the 5th?': Trump's comments about pleading the 5th could come back to bite him


“President Donald Trump slammed Hillary Clinton staffers who requested immunity or invoked their Fifth Amendment rights last year in response to requests to testify about the former secretary of state's private email server.

“ ‘If you are not guilty of a crime, what do you need immunity for?’ Trump said at a Florida campaign rally in September. 

" ‘The mob takes the Fifth Amendment," Trump said at a subsequent campaign event in Iowa. "If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?’

“That was then. Now, Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, requested immunity from prosecution in March in exchange for testifying before the House and Senate intelligence committees about Russia's interference in the 2016 election. And on Monday, Flynn is expected to flout a Senate subpoena for documents related to his contacts with Russia by invoking his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

“White House press secretary Sean Spicer also weighed in on the amendment, tweeting in 2013: ‘why do u take the 5th if you have done nothing wrong and have nothing to hide?’ “

Yes! Precisely! Why would you do that?

'If you're innocent, why are you taking the 5th?': Trump's comments about pleading the 5th could come back to bite him




Robert Reich -- Slashing Food Stamps: Where is this cruelty coming from?

President Donald Trump's proposed $4.1 trillion budget slashes safety net programs for the poor, targeting food stamps and Medicaid, while relying on rosy projections about the nation's economic growth to balance the budget within 10 years.

The cuts are part of a budget blueprint for the upcoming fiscal year that amount to a dramatic restructuring of the government, with protection for retirement programs for the elderly, billions of dollars more for the military and the rest of the government bearing the bulk of the reductions.

The plan was outlined in White House summary documents. It will be officially released on Tuesday - The Associated Press

Robert Reich responds:

People in regions of the country with chronically high rates of unemployment are temporarily exempt from the requirement that they be working in order to get food stamps. But Trump’s budget would eliminate or curtail these unemployment-rate waivers – cutting off food stamps to unemployed adults in areas where few jobs are available.

Many of these people were Trump voters.

A 49-year-old man, who could not afford a doctor to verify his disability status, and is thus considered able-bodied, described his diet in the months since he’d been kicked off food stamps: “I was eating what I could find, and borrowed from friends and strangers,” he said. “It turns out that red squirrel is a little tastier than one might think. There were many times ... when I would go two or even three days without food. If one was inclined to lose a lot of weight, I could recommend this diet wholeheartedly.”

May I remind you America is the richest nation in the world – richer than this nation has ever been? Why are we even considering taking food stamps away from people unable to find jobs? Where is this cruelty coming from?

Trump's proposed $4.1 trillion budget slashes food stamps, Medicaid

Associated Press


Monday, May 22, 2017

How He Used Facebook to Win


An interesting observation.

“Not long after Donald Trump’s surprising presidential victory, an article published in the Swiss weekly Das Magazin, and reprinted online in English by Vice, began churning through the Internet. While pundits were dissecting the collapse of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, the journalists for Das Magazin, Hannes Grassegger and Mikael Krogerus, pointed to an entirely different explanation—the work of Cambridge Analytica, a data science firm created by a British company with deep ties to the British and American defense industries.”

Robert Reich writes, As Sue Halpern notes, Donald Trump is our first Facebook president. His team figured out how to use all the marketing tools of Facebook, as well as Google, the two biggest advertising platforms in the world, to successfully sell a candidate that the majority of Americans did not want.

They understood that some numbers matter more than others—in this case the number of angry, largely rural, disenfranchised potential Trump voters—and that Facebook, especially, offered effective methods for pursuing and capturing them.

This also appears to be Trump’s approach to governing. Trump’s huge database continues to serve him well. In the first 3 months of his presidency, when only 36 percent of the country gave him a favorable rating, Trump and the Republicans raised $30 million toward his reelection.

This is twice as much as Obama raised in the first three months of his first term, while enjoying much higher approval ratings. What our Facebook president has discovered is that it actually pays only to please some of the people some of the time. The rest simply don’t count.

drawing by James Ferguson
How He Used Facebook to Win

By Sue Halpern




















The Wall Street Journal — Saudi Arabia’s $20 billion wager with Blackstone is record-sized bet on U.S. infrastructure


President Donald Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan is promised to be introduced sometime in May. However, Trump and the Republican-led Congress refuse to raise money for infrastructure projects that rely on direct federal spending, but rather on tax breaks for wealthy investors, partnerships with private enterprise, and other incentives for investors to put money into projects.

The latest deal with Saudi Arabia is a good example of just how Trump envisions his infrastructure plan internationally and domestically will work. But did Trump make a quid-pro-quo deal for investments in America’s infrastructure in exchange for the $110 billion arms deal he signed with the Saudi government . . . an agreement he signed on his very first day to Riyadh, negotiated by his son-in-law Jared Kushner, in a country he accused of being behind the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center's Twin Towers.

Since it’s a key part of Trump’s infrastructure plan, capitalist perceive infrastructure as promising a very good return on their investment.

Robert Reich’s opinion on Trump’s investor-based infrastructure plan:

Saudi Arabia just joined the parade of investors into U.S. public works by pledging a record $20 billion investment with Blackstone Group’s new infrastructure fund.

It’s the latest push around the world by large investors to buy up U.S. airports, roads, bridges, water systems, and other public projects.

Rather than taxing the wealthy and then using the money to fix our dangerously outdated infrastructure, the states and the federal government increasingly are giving rich investors tax credits to encourage them to do it.

The investors then charge tolls and user fees, and earn big profits.

So the public pays twice – once when we subsidize the investors with our tax dollars, and then again when we pay the tolls and user fees that also go into their pockets.

We don’t even get the infrastructure that’s most needed. Projects most attractive to investors are those whose tolls and fees bring in the biggest bucks – giant mega-projects like major new throughways and new bridges.

Not the thousands of smaller bridges, airports, pipes, and water treatment facilities most in need of repair. Not the needs of rural communities and smaller cities and towns too small to generate the tolls and other user fees equity investors want. Not clean energy.

To really make America great again we need more and better infrastructure that’s for the public – not for big developers and investors. And the only way we get that is if corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes.

CEO and co-founder of Blackstone
Stephen Schwarzman participates in
a U.S.-Africa leaders summit in 2014.
Blackstone has created a new
infrastructure fund that just drew
Saudi Arabian investment.
Saudi Arabia’s $20 billion wager with Blackstone is record-sized bet on U.S. infrastructure

By Ryan Dezember








Sunday, May 21, 2017

The New Yorker — What Kind Of Loyalty Does A President Need?


The New York Times reported, a week after Trump’s inauguration, then-FBI Director James Comey was “summoned to the White House for a one-on-one dinner with the new commander in chief.” Comey said that during the dinner Trump asked him to pledge his loyalty. Comey responded by only promising the president that he could be honest, according to associates close to Comey.

In a Fox News interview, Tump denied asking Comey for loyalty. "No, no I didn't, but I don't think it would be a bad question to ask. I think loyalty to the country, loyalty to the United States is important. You know, I mean it depends on how you define loyalty," Trump said.

There are not various definitions of loyalty, Mr. Trump. There are different ways of describing loyalty but there are not “alternatives.”

A way of describing loyalty was made by newly appointed special counsel Robert Mueller in an address at the FBI’s 100 Year Anniversary Commemoration Ceremony in July 2008.

In that speech, Mueller connects fidelity with integrity.

For most of us, fidelity (loyalty) is faithfulness to an obligation, trust, duty to country, justice, the law, the Constitution, and to equality and liberty. “It is the quality of being of sound moral principle; uprightness, honesty, and sincerity.

“For the men and women of the FBI, integrity is reflected in all that we say and we do—in honesty, in keeping promises, in fairness, in respect for others, and in compassion.”

It sets expectations for behavior. And it’s a way of life.

Loyalty is trust gained from earned respect and honesty, and honesty Donald Trump does not possess.

Our experience with Trump’s actions and behaviors are enough evidence for us to say, not only honesty but that he possesses none of the aforementioned qualities.

The Atlantic’s Mckay Coppins, in The Myth of Trump's Loyalty, writes, "Despite his boasts, the president built his success on his willingness to toss aside mentors, friends, and family members during moments of frustration and chaos."

Your loyalty, Mr. Trump, is the question we should be asking you.

Photograph By Wally Mcnamee / Corbis / Getty
What Kind Of Loyalty Does A President Need?

U.S. Presidents throughout history have long defined loyalty differently. Lyndon B. Johnson’s definition was extreme; Trump’s definition has so far proved disastrous.

By Jeff Shesol





Saturday, May 20, 2017

Robert Reich: 4 syndromes of passivity in the face of pending Trump tyranny

Our country is in difficult and perilous times. 

It seems daily we are bombarded by depressing news from President Donald Trump or by one or more of his associates. And, when there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel it soon becomes very dim with a President adept at circumventing his scandalous behavior, with a considerable number of the  Americans who voted for him who accept his shenanigans, and with a Republican-led Congress who look the other way. 

Other than the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel to oversee the Trump-Russia investigation, which is problematic since if things aren't satisfactory to Trump, he could simply fire Mueller too, there is little hope that things are going to change.

Robert Reich says there are 4 syndromes to watch out for. "If you find yourself falling into one or more of these syndromes, that’s understandable. Normalizing, numbing, becoming cynical, and feeling powerless are natural human responses to the peril posed by Trump."

Robert Reich: 4 syndromes of passivity in the face of pending Trump tyranny










It’s Time To Make College Tuition Free And Debt Free


"In a highly competitive global economy, we need the best-educated workforce in the world. It is insane and counter-productive to the best interests of our country and our future, that hundreds of thousands of bright young people cannot afford to go to college, and that millions of others leave school with a mountain of debt that burdens them for decades. That shortsighted path to the future must end,”-Senator Bernie Sanders.

Sanders introduced on April 3, “The College for All Act” The act aims to eliminate tuition and fees at public four-year colleges and universities for students from families that make up to $125,000 per year. The bill would make community college tuition-free for all income levels.

Just like healthcare, education is plagued with the burden of money and the need to make a profit. The need to make a profit supersedes all other considerations. It therefore is the greatest hurdle to overcome in building a better future. We must remove the profit incentive if we really want to change the direction of education in our country.

That can only be done by making the nation’s colleges tuition free. By doing so, it will remove the hurdle of the need to profit from education. Under capitalism money will always be an obstacle. But overcoming this hurdle will, in the end, provide long-term economic benefits that will make it worthwhile.

As it stands right now, most Americans are priced out of higher education. Our current system discriminates against the poor and makes education increasingly unaffordable for most Americans except those with high incomes. Profit and money are an impediment to building a better future, in all that that implies.

In the United States, in order to work and the workforce to compete internationally, we cannot continue to require more and more education but at the same time restrict access to higher education.

We were making headway at one time. But with the election of Ronald Reagan came Reaganomics, a supply-side/trickle-down economic theory that brought tax cuts for the wealthy but left most Americans to carry the remaining tax burden. Reaganomics, in part, claimed that massive social spending programs, including education aid, hampered growth.

So we stopped investing in our young people. We widened economic inequality in America that continues to this day. And todays students have even higher cost associated with acquiring student loans.

College in the 70s was almost free.




“President Donald Trump doesn’t appear willing nor interested in addressing astronomical student-debt levels, which long since crested above $1 trillion. In fact, his administration has made it easier for for-profit colleges to rip off students, and recently scrapped Obama-era regulations that limited rates loan-guarantee agencies can charge people who defaulted on student loans. His budget also proposed cutting $5 billion in higher-education funding for low-income Americans. Perhaps that’s not surprising from a president who just finalized a $25 million settlement stemming from his scam for-profit university,” - The Nation

Bernie Sanders Just Introduced His Free College Tuition Plan

Joining with Elizabeth Warren, Sanders wants students to organize around the legislation. 

By George Zornick





Friday, May 19, 2017

Robert Reich — a Step Beyond Impeachment: The Annulment Of The Trump Presidency


“The time has come for Congress to launch an impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump for obstruction of justice.

“The remedy of impeachment was designed to create a last-resort mechanism for preserving our constitutional system. It operates by removing executive-branch officials who have so abused power through what the framers called "high crimes and misdemeanors" that they cannot be trusted to continue in office.

“No American president has ever been removed for such abuses, although Andrew Johnson was impeached and came within a single vote of being convicted by the Senate and removed, and Richard Nixon resigned to avoid that fate.

“Now the country is faced with a president whose conduct strongly suggests that he poses a danger to our system of government.

“But whether it is devotion to principle or hunger for political survival that puts the prospect of impeachment and removal on the table, the crucial thing is that the prospect now be taken seriously, that the machinery of removal be reactivated, and that the need to use it become the focus of political discourse going into 2018,” according to the Washington Post as published by the Chicago Tribune.

Robert Reich suggests we need more than impeachment:

There are already ample grounds to impeach Donald Trump. If, in addition, it is found that Trump or his aides colluded with Russian operatives to rig the presidential election of 2016, the nation should consider a step beyond impeachment: The annulment of the Trump presidency.

I'm not talking about airbrushing Trump out of history, as former Soviet dictatorships used to treat leaders who fell out of favor. I'm referring to action that officially negates the Trump presidency as an historic error.

The Constitution doesn’t mention a presidential annulment, but it is within Congress’s power to enact a bill that voids all actions that Trump has taken as president. This would include everything Trump did on his own -- including all executive orders and all regulations or repeals of regulations since his inauguration. (The confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court would not be included in the annulment because it entailed Congressional action.)

The bill of annulment would also stipulate that henceforth, all official listings of presidents of the United States would note that the Donald Trump presidency had been annulled. And the president who replaces Trump (presumably, Michael Pence) would officially be listed as the forty-fifth president of the United States.

Some will argue that we shouldn't even be considering such a thing until or unless Trump is impeached. But I think it useful to consider the possibility earlier than that. Nixon was impeached for covering up a two-bit burglary. If Trump was involved in Russia's rigging of the 2016 election -- the most serious attack on American democracy in history -- the appropriate response requires something more. (And would give voters even more incentive to flip Congress in 2018 even if by then Trump is well on the way to being impeached.)

Why President Donald Trump must be impeached

Laurence H. Tribe











NBC News — Manafort Got $3.5M Mystery Mortgage, Paid No Tax


There are too many circumstances of President Donald Trump’s associates nefariously colluding with the Russian government, for the most obvious reason: to put Donald Trump in the White House.

Paul Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign manager up to August of 2016, is the leading focus of the government’s intelligence agencies into whether Trump’s associates coordinated with the Russians to interfere in the 2016 campaign on Trump’s behalf.

All of those revelations increasingly point to Trump’s direct knowledge of, and perhaps at his direction to diminish Hillary Clinton’s chance of becoming the next President of the United States.

Paul Manafort links Trump ever more directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

As previously reported: “ . . . Based on authenticated documents -- Manafort was paid to boost the interests of Russian Putin. This wasn’t just in Ukraine but in all the former Soviet republics. Starting in 2006 and lasting at least through 2009, Manafort received $10 million a year from Russian aluminum tycoon Oleg Deripaska, described by U.S. intelligence officials as one of Putin’s closest allies, to tip the scales in favor of Putin in former Soviet republics,” — Robert Reich

Now, “Federal investigators have subpoenaed records related to a $3.5 million mortgage that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort took out on his Hamptons home just after leaving the campaign, according to NBC news.

“The mortgage document that explains how Manafort would pay back the loan was never filed with Suffolk County, New York — and Manafort's company never paid up to $36,000 in taxes that would be due on the loan.

“In addition, despite telling NBC News previously that all his real estate transactions are transparent and include his name and signature, Manafort's name and signature do not appear on any of the loan documents that are publicly available. A Manafort spokesperson said the $3.5 million loan, which was taken out through a shell company, was repaid in December, but also said that paperwork showing the repayment was not filed until he was asked about the loan by NBC News.”

We can only hope that newly appointed special counsel Robert Mueller can quickly find the truth. So, hopefully, we can end this nightmare of a presidency.


Newsweek
Manafort Got $3.5M Mystery Mortgage, Paid No Tax

By Tom Winter And Kenzi Abou-Sabe