Opinions and Commentary


A Proposal to Move from Threats to Talks with North Korea

By Mel Gurtov

What might it take to create a breakthrough to resumption of US-North Korea talks? The experiences of prior diplomacy suggest an answer: a special emissary of the president to meet with Kim Jong-un. North Korean leaders not only want a reliable deterrent to what they fear is a potential US attack, or attempt at regime change. They also want respect, especially from the United States, which translates to recognition of the country’s status and the regime’s legitimacy —its “supreme dignity,” at one observer puts it.

Use of a special emissary—someone of recognized stature, with appropriate international credentials—would meet the North Koreans’ standard of dignity. The emissary has been successful in a number of dicey situations between North Korea and the United States. Jimmy Carter’s visit to Kim Il-sung in 1994 paved the way for the Agreed Framework, which pre-empted US preparations to attack a North Korean nuclear site. Madeleine Albright’s visit to Pyongyang in 2000 produced an importantly symbolic joint statement of “no hostile intent” when the visit was reciprocated by a top North Korean party leader. Former New Mexico Governor and UN ambassador Bill Richardson’s mission in 2007 recovered the remains of US servicemen killed during the Korean War. Former President Bill Clinton’s visit in June 2009 resulted in the release of two American journalists after Kim Jong-il pardoned them.

Richardson, who has visited North Korea several times, has written that building trust through personal relationships is central to effective engagement and negotiations. The Trump administration should take note of that. Trading threats invites deeper trouble, and often leads to deployments of force that produce disastrous miscalculations. Is President Trump up to the task of learning from the past and trusting to diplomacy rather than gunboats? There is no weakness in engaging an enemy, and there is wisdom and maturity in trying creative diplomacy before firing shots.

Trump’s Threats

By Mel Gurtov

The problem with Donald Trump’s “fire and fury” statement on North Korea isn’t merely that it intensifies an already tense situation. Nor is it just another example of Trump’s inappropriate, childish language when faced with a complex issue.

Most worrisome is that he seems to have no grasp of how his remarks might play out in real-world international politics. Trying to one-up the North Koreans with threats may give Trump the false sense that he is besting them, since he believes—as always, from his business experience—threats work. But he has no awareness of how threats are received in Pyongyang, not to mention in Seoul, Tokyo, Beijing, and other capitals. Trump’s language does nothing to move the nuclear issue toward dialogue, but does much to further envenom relations with North Korea and to support the widespread view elsewhere that the president of the US is unstable and prone to violent actions.

In the past Trump has said of North Korea that attacking it sooner rather than later is the best way to resolve the nuclear issue. Bill Clinton disproved that in 1994 by rejecting an attack on North Korea’s nuclear facility at Yongbyon and instead entering into an Agreed Framework with Pyongyang that prevented war. Does Trump still hold to that view? Numerous specialists, and Trump’s own defense department leadership, have concluded that war would be catastrophic, with immediate one million deaths and economic costs of around $1 trillion. Needless to say, Koreans north and south, Japanese, and Chinese would pay the heaviest price for such madness.

But Trump, with his well-known ignorance about nuclear weapons, seems blissfully unaware of such matters. He would rather talk about “fake news,” attack critics, lie about his accomplishments, and keep pushing a domestic agenda that has gotten nowhere. Nuclear weapons, Korean history, North Korean motivations, and the art of diplomacy are outside his area of interest, and to say he is not a fast study is to be overly polite.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson responded to questions about Trump’s latest threat by saying “Americans should sleep well at night,” dismissing the threat as “rhetoric.” Given the drumbeat of war that the media has engaged in over North Korea’s missiles, I doubt that many informed Americans are sleeping well. I doubt that US military leaders in particular are sleeping well; they have an inexperienced, unpredictable commander-in-chief who just might issue an order to attack North Korea. And most assuredly South Koreans and Japanese are not sleeping well. Warlike rhetoric from the US president can never be dismissed.

In a word, President Trump is a loose cannon, a serious threat to national and international security.

Mel Gurtov, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University.

Friends –

I am sure you saw that yesterday President Trump threatened North Korea with “fire and fury like the world has never seen before.” A message he thought appropriate to send from New Jersey … while on vacation … at his golf course.

Listen… here is the absolutely pure, unvarnished truth: it is abhorrent that Congress has allowed a man who is so clearly unfit and lacking the mental capacity and intellectual curiosity to handle this job to continue in the role for so long.

But on this issue — on matters of war — they have a Constitutional obligation to assert their authority. And if the United States is going to take military action against North Korea, it should only happen if the sole branch of government responsible for declaring war, does so first.

Sign VoteVets petition right now if you agree that if military action against North Korea is going to happen, it can only happen after Congress passes a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force.

Trump’s reckless and theatrical threats only bring us closer to a new Korean War. It is abundantly clear that the surrounding cast at the White House — including General Kelly — are just out to lunch, and America may soon pay a heavy price for that. In their absence, Congress must assert its role here.

All my best,

Will Fischer

Iraq War Veteran and Director of Government Relations

VoteVets

August 9, 2017

Trump’s ‘Election Integrity’ Commission Harkens Back to Jim Crow

Politicians have stolen our right to vote before. They’ll do it again if they get the chance.

By Diallo Brooks

One October morning in Richmond, Virginia, 32-year old Joseph Cox watched his friends and neighbors go to the polls for the first time.

The fight to get to that moment had been long, bloody, and vicious. But as a black man newly eligible to vote after a lifetime of discrimination, Cox did something that would’ve seemed incomprehensible only a decade before: He won an election.

Cox was one of 24 black representatives elected across Virginia that year — 1867.

But the response to that progress was vicious.

Racist white politicians worked to find new justifications for stripping the voting rights of African American men (women could not yet vote), alleging voter fraud and implementing heinous tactics like literacy tests, poll taxes, and voting roll purges.

The fact that thousands of African Americans voted and held elected office during Reconstruction only to face a brutal Jim Crow backlash underscores an important theme in our country’s history: Voting rights have been won, then weakened, and then lost before.

Today, too many people take for granted that the advances achieved during the civil rights movement are still firmly in place. But progress is neither promised nor irreversible.

The latest incarnation of the long right-wing campaign to weaken voting rights is Donald Trump’s “Election Integrity” Commission, which Trump convened after absurdly claiming that he only lost the popular vote because millions of people voted illegally. But there’s not one shred of evidence of widespread in-person voter fraud in the United States.

The same sham justifications used to prop up voter suppression tactics during the Jim Crow era — claims that such measures preserve the integrity, efficiency, and sustainability of elections — are being recycled today.

Trump’s new voter suppression commission, which met for the first time in July, is led by some of the most strident opponents of voting rights alive today — people who’ve built careers on stripping the voting rights of thousands upon thousands of eligible voters of color.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who co-chairs the commission, is among the worst.

After requiring Kansans to show a passport or birth certificate in order to register to vote —a move that blocked nearly 20,000 eligible voters — a federal court said Kobach had carried out “mass denial of a fundamental right.”

Kobach also promotes the “Interstate Crosscheck” program that claims to identify in-person voter fraud. But in reality, the Washington Post reports, the system “gets it wrong over 99 percent of the time “— putting voters at risk of losing their most essential right.

Another member is Hans von Spakovsky, a former Justice Department lawyer described by former colleagues as “the point person for undermining the Civil Rights Division’s mandate to protect voting rights.”

Of course, no one should be allowed to vote twice in an election. But voter impersonation is basically non-existent. While the commission might claim to be about promoting the integrity of our elections, their true task is to find justifications for laws that make it harder for members of certain communities to vote.

The history of voting rights in America is a one filled with both progress and regression.

When I think of Joseph Cox winning his right to vote in Richmond in 1867, and when I think of my grandparents having to fight for that same right in that same place all over again a century later, I wonder how so many Americans have forgotten the fragility of this precious right.

I wonder how so many are blind and indifferent to the assault on the right to vote — a right people fought and died for — happening right before our eyes today. We’ve seen these attacks before. And not all of us have forgotten.

Diallo Brooks is the director of outreach and public engagement at People For the American Way.

Economy / Business

August 9, 2017

How Air Conditioning Unites — And Divides

Most Americans now have A/C at home. At work, it’s a different story.

By Sarah Anderson

Before air conditioning, even presidents had to suffer.

In the summer months, Abraham Lincoln used to ride a horse every evening from the White House to a cottage at a higher elevation four miles away. There he’d join his family in an attempt to escape the muggiest depths of the nation’s capital.

In July 1881, White House aides took to blowing air through sheets dunked in ice water in an effort to cool a severely wounded James Garfield. He wound up dying from an assassin’s bullet.

In 1909, William Howard Taft took the desperate step of sleeping on the White House roof to escape the furnace that is a Washington summer.

Back then, you could say, extreme heat was a social leveler. When air conditioning first entered American homes, it created a deep divide. Only the extremely wealthy — the ones least likely to have a job that required working up a sweat — could afford these newfangled contraptions.

Minneapolis railroad tycoon Charles Gates is believed to be the first to purchase a home cooling unit in 1914. At 7 feet high and 20 feet long, the device required a mansion-size home.

Smaller window units hit the market in the 1930s, but at a cost of more than $120,000 in today’s dollars, they were beyond the reach of the vast majority of Americans. As late as 1965, just 10 percent of U.S. homes had air conditioning.

Today, the economic divide created by home air conditioning is virtually gone. The Department of Energy estimates that nearly 90 percent of U.S. families have either central air or window units.

The modern divide is in the workplace.

In my Washington, D.C. office, colleagues routinely wrap themselves in blankets for long meetings in our refrigerator-like conference room. And throughout the city, you can see men in dark suits and ties even when temperatures soar near 100 degrees. They may complain (and they do), but they spend so little time exposed to the elements that their hot uniforms aren’t much of a health risk.

The people who have to work outside are the ones who really suffer. And outdoor workers, the people who harvest our food, build our homes and bridges, and care for our greenery, tend to also be among the lowest-paid.

In Las Vegas, where luxury hotels blast cool air out onto the sidewalk, construction workers in the desert heat have sometimes had to fight for the right to water breaks. In the landscaping industry, which employs more than 900,000 workers nationally, average pay is just $28,560 per year, one of the lowest of any occupation tracked by the U.S. Labor Department.

And those are official statistics based on full-time employment. Outdoor workers’ actual earnings are likely much lower.

The Economic Policy Institute recently pointed out that most California farmworkers have unpredictable, seasonal work hours. In 2015, that state’s agricultural workers earned an average of just $17,500 per year, EPI estimates.

The health risks of outdoor work will only worsen, of course, with climate change. And one contributor to that change, ironically, is the air-conditioning boom in the developing world.

The rapid increase in air conditioner sales is narrowing the gaps between cool air haves and have-nots in countries like China, India, and Brazil — just as it did in the United States. But this boom will also generate massive greenhouse gas emissions that will make the planet even hotter.

Today’s air conditioning gaps are a symptom of much bigger problems with complex solutions.

On the labor side, we need to ensure living wages and safe working conditions for all workers. At the same time, we need to get serious about addressing climate change in a way that puts the greatest responsibility on those who have contributed the most to this global challenge.

Sarah Anderson directs the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies and is a co-editor of Inequality.org. Distributed by OtherWords.org.

Trump Has Declared a Culture War—This Is How to Fight Back

Democrats must not compromise on fundamental principles.

By Laila Lalami

August 28-September 4

At the grocery store the other day, I found myself in the checkout line behind an old man whose T-shirt showed an electoral map of the country. Like me, this man lives in California, which has a strong economy, low unemployment, the nation’s best public-university system, and some of the most innovative tech companies. But along with other blue states, it was being assaulted as a land of “dumb,” while red states were praised as the “real” America.

In the parking lot afterward, as the man loaded his groceries into a luxury SUV, I stared at him, unable to get past the message he was trying to convey to people like me: that he and I were not fellow Americans, working to form a more perfect union, but rather citizens of two battling nations. This wasn’t just a political statement, it was propaganda—and it was emblematic of the current culture war.

The trenches of this war are getting deeper. In July, two Republican senators, Tom Cotton and David Perdue, introduced the RAISE Act, a bill that would effectively cut legal immigration by 50 percent over the course of a decade. According to its sponsors, the bill would spur economic growth and raise workers’ wages by limiting competition from newcomers. It would establish a point system for all prospective immigrants, place restrictions on the type of relatives they can sponsor, add an English-language test, eliminate the diversity visa lottery, and limit the number of refugees.

But this legislation will not necessarily help the economy, simply because employers’ needs range widely, depending on the industry. In California, for example, tech and agricultural workers are both vital to the state’s economic health. Furthermore, automation and declining unionization, not just immigration, have been shown to be strong contributing factors to declining wages. What the bill will do, however, is limit the arrival of relatives through family reunification, close our doors to refugees, and give an immediate advantage to immigrants from English-speaking countries. The RAISE Act may or may not make the economy stronger, but it will probably make the country whiter.

Outside the Senate, the culture war is being fought on many fronts. At the Justice Department, Jeff Sessions has been critical of consent decrees—reform agreements with police departments that are accused of abuses—saying they “reduce the morale of police officers.” Sessions’s attorneys have also filed a brief in federal court arguing that the 1964 Civil Rights Act does not protect workers from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation. At the Education Department, Betsy DeVos is currently reconsidering the responsibilities that colleges and universities have under Title IX to investigate campus rapes. And on July 26, Donald Trump abruptly announced on Twitter that transgender service members would be banned from the military.

There is one kind of discrimination, however, that the administration seems keen on investigating. On August 1, it informed the Justice Department’s civil-rights division that it would be redirecting resources toward investigating and suing colleges for discrimination against white applicants. The reason for this is no great mystery: Trump is trying to appeal to his shrinking base. He is also trying to cover up his failures as president. The first six months of his administration have been remarkable for their incompetence. The “big, beautiful” wall he promised along the southern border has not received funding. The Muslim ban he championed resulted in chaos at airports and was rejected by federal courts. His vow to repeal and replace Obamacare led to multiple bills in the GOP-controlled Senate, all of which ultimately failed. His presidential campaign is under investigation for potential collusion with the Russian government. So Trump resorts to what he does best: waging a culture war.

Some people believe that the culture war is a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing, that it distracts from tangible issues like health care, the economy, education, and the environment. Every time Trump sends a tweet or endorses legislation that targets a minority group, a few good souls can be relied upon to cry, “Distraction!” But for those at the receiving end of insults or attacks, there is only the searing pain of rejection. The culture war cannot be ignored, or even avoided. Trump has brought the white-resentment battle to Democrats, while insisting to his supporters that Democrats are the party of identity politics.

How should Democrats respond? The chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Ben Ray Luján, has said there would not be “a litmus test” for candidates. To win back Congress in 2018, he said, the party needs a broad coalition, and candidates who oppose abortion rights could receive funding. The Washington Post’s Fareed Zakaria advised Democrats to “rethink their immigration absolutism” in order to appeal to Trump voters.

This is like saying that you can win a war by switching sides. If Democrats give up on women’s reproductive rights and immigrant rights, then what will they give up next—and what will they stand for? It makes far more sense, morally and strategically, to energize the eligible voters who didn’t bother casting ballots last fall. This doesn’t mean that discussions of abortion or immigration ought to be avoided. On the contrary, Democrats should make a better case for how their policies can reduce the rate of unwanted pregnancies or bring about progressive immigration reform.

In other words, instead of trying to convince the guy in the T-shirt, try talking to his neighbor. Large segments of the public already know that Trump is a boor unfit to be president, but they haven’t yet heard what they might gain under a fresh, fearless leadership: universal health care, higher wages, and better opportunities, in a nation that does not compromise on its ideals.

Laila Lalami is the author, most recently, of The Moor’s Account, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. She writes the “Between the Lines” column for The Nation, and is a professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside.

Trump doesn’t realize his tax plan is actually impossible

By Matt O’Brien

The Washington Post

August 10

President Trump is about two months away from discovering how complicated corporate tax cuts can be.

Why so long? Well, Trump looks like he’ll be pretty busy the rest of the summer finding out how tricky golf, avoiding a nuclear apocalypse, and not voluntarily defaulting on our debt all can be. At some point, though, Trump will also learn that the centerpiece of his ever-shrinking tax plan — slashing the corporate tax rate from 35 to 15 percent — is all but impossible. At least, that is, if he wants it to last more than a few years.

Now, there are three reasons for this. The first is that Republicans want to pass their tax bill with just 51 votes in the Senate instead of the 60 it takes to beat a filibuster, which, because of legislative rules, means that it has to be fully paid for outside of the 10-year budget window, or else expire when it’s not. The second is that Republicans can’t actually agree on any way to pay for any of their tax cuts. They spent a few weeks talking about closing the $1 trillion loophole that lets businesses deduct their interest expenses, before Trump ruled it out. Then they spent a few months talking about a new $1 trillion tax on imports, before congressional Republicans ruled it out. And now they’re talking about maybe getting rid of the $1 trillion state and local tax deduction, before, well, we’ll see. Presumably some of them would remember that they represent what would be hard-hit states like New York, New Jersey and California.

The third is that even a short-term corporate tax cut would lose quite a bit of money in the long-term. Indeed, the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that cutting the corporate tax rate to 20 percent for just three years would still result in a “non-negligible loss of revenue” after 10 years. This, of course, would be even more of an issue if they cut it to 15 percent like Trump wants. Why, though, would a tax cut that, economically speaking, wasn’t around much longer than Anthony Scaramucci keep costing us money well into President Ivanka Trump’s first term? Two reasons. First, companies would have more tax credits to carry-forward, since, with the lower rate, they wouldn’t need to use as many of them now. And second, they wouldn’t have as many overseas profits to potentially pay a high rate on given that they would bring a lot of them home at the temporarily reduced one.

So unless Republicans can come up with some tax breaks they would be willing to get rid of, they won’t be able to cut corporate taxes for more than two years. And by “some,” I mean $3.5 trillion worth. That’s how much the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center thinks Trump’s corporate tax cut would cost outside the 10-year budget window. Republicans, remember, have agreed on approximately zero dollars worth so far.

The most likely outcome, then, is that Trump will try to pass the most pointless tax cut of all time. That, after all, is what a two-year corporate tax cut would be — at least according to the people who support a permanent corporate tax cut. It’s a matter of incentives. A permanent cut, you see, would make it cheaper for businesses to invest their money, which, in theory, should make them invest more money, and, in turn, make the economy grow more than it otherwise would. A temporary cut, though, would only make it cheaper to invest for a little while before businesses would have to worry about it becoming more expensive again — so they wouldn’t change their behavior all that much. Whatever boost the economy got from this lower tax rate would, by the conservative Tax Foundation’s calculations, be almost entirely wiped out by that tax rate going back up. It would just be the equivalent of “dropping cash out of helicopters onto corporate headquarters for a couple years,” says George Callas, the top tax adviser to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.). That might sound okay to Wall Street, but not to anyone else.

When you think about it, this is actually a pretty remarkable achievement. Trump has found a tax cut for the rich that even Republicans might not be able to pretend would trickle down to everyone else. And it wasn’t even that complicated.

All you have to do is know nothing.

Matt O’Brien is a reporter for Wonkblog covering economic affairs. He was previously a senior associate editor at The Atlantic.

The Policies of White Resentment

By CAROL ANDERSON

The New York Times

AUG. 5, 2017

White resentment put Donald Trump in the White House. And there is every indication that it will keep him there, especially as he continues to transform that seething, irrational fear about an increasingly diverse America into policies that feed his supporters’ worst racial anxieties.

If there is one consistent thread through Mr. Trump’s political career, it is his overt connection to white resentment and white nationalism. Mr. Trump’s fixation on Barack Obama’s birth certificate gave him the white nationalist street cred that no other Republican candidate could match, and that credibility has sustained him in office — no amount of scandal or evidence of incompetence will undermine his followers’ belief that he, and he alone, could Make America White Again.

The guiding principle in Mr. Trump’s government is to turn the politics of white resentment into the policies of white rage — that calculated mechanism of executive orders, laws and agency directives that undermines and punishes minority achievement and aspiration. No wonder that, even while his White House sinks deeper into chaos, scandal and legislative mismanagement, Mr. Trump’s approval rating among whites (and only whites) has remained unnaturally high. Washington may obsess over Obamacare repeal, Russian sanctions and the debt ceiling, but Mr. Trump’s base sees something different — and, to them, inspiring.

Like on Christmas morning, every day brings his supporters presents: travel bans against Muslims, Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids in Hispanic communities and brutal, family-gutting deportations, a crackdown on sanctuary cities, an Election Integrity Commission stacked with notorious vote suppressors, announcements of a ban on transgender personnel in the military, approval of police brutality against “thugs,” a denial of citizenship to immigrants who serve in the armed forces and a renewed war on drugs that, if it is anything like the last one, will single out African-Americans and Latinos although they are not the primary drug users in this country. Last week, Mr. Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions put the latest package under the tree: a staffing call for a case on reverse discrimination in college admissions, likely the first step in a federal assault on affirmative action and a determination to hunt for colleges and universities that discriminate against white applicants.

That so many of these policies are based on perception and lies rather than reality is nothing new. White resentment has long thrived on the fantasy of being under siege and having to fight back, as the mass lynchings and destruction of thriving, politically active black communities in Colfax, La. (1873), Wilmington, N.C. (1898), Ocoee, Fla. (1920), and Tulsa, Okla. (1921), attest. White resentment needs the boogeyman of job-taking, maiden-ravaging, tax-evading, criminally inclined others to justify the policies that thwart the upward mobility and success of people of color.

The so-called Election Integrity Commission falls in the same category. It is a direct response to the election of Mr. Obama as president. Despite the howls from Mr. Trump and the Republicans, there was no widespread voter fraud then or now. Instead, what happened was that millions of new voters, overwhelmingly African-American, Hispanic and Asian, cast the ballots that put a black man in the White House. The punishment for participating in democracy has been a rash of voter ID laws, the purging of names from the voter rolls, redrawn district boundaries and closed and moved polling places.

Affirmative action is no different. It, too, requires a narrative of white legitimate grievance, a sense of being wronged by the presence of blacks, Latinos and Asians in positions that had once been whites only. Lawsuit after lawsuit, most recently Abigail Fisher’s suit against the University of Texas, feed the myth of unqualified minorities taking a valuable resource — a college education — away from deserving whites.

In order to make that plausible, Ms. Fisher and her lawyers had to ignore the large number of whites who were admitted to the university with scores lower than hers. And they had to ignore the sizable number of blacks and Latinos who were denied admission although their SAT scores and grade point averages were higher than hers. They also had to ignore Texas’ unsavory racial history and its impact. The Brown decision came down in 1954, yet the Dallas public school system remained under a federal desegregation order from 1971 to 2003.

The university was slow to end its whites-only admissions policy, and its practice of automatically admitting the top 10 percent of each Texas public high school’s graduating class has actually led to an over-representation of whites. Meanwhile, African-Americans represent only 4 percent of the University of Texas student body, despite making up about 14 percent of the state’s graduating high school students.

Although you will never hear this from Mr. Sessions, men are the greatest beneficiaries of affirmative action in college admissions: Their combination of test scores, grades and achievements is simply no match for that of women, whose academic profiles are much stronger. Yet to provide some semblance of gender balance on campuses, admissions directors have to dig down deep into the applicant pool to cobble together enough males to form an incoming class.

Part of what has been essential in this narrative of affirmative action as theft of white resources — my college acceptance, my job — is the notion of “merit,” where whites have it but others don’t. When California banned affirmative action in college admissions and relied solely on standardized test scores and grades as the definition of “qualified,” black and Latino enrollments plummeted. Whites, however, were not the beneficiaries of this “merit-based” system. Instead, Asian enrollments soared and with that came white resentment at both “the hordes of Asians” at places like the University of California, Los Angeles, and an admissions process that stressed grades over other criteria.

That white resentment simply found a new target for its ire is no coincidence; white identity is often defined by its sense of being ever under attack, with the system stacked against it. That’s why Mr. Trump’s policies are not aimed at ameliorating white resentment, but deepening it. His agenda is not, fundamentally, about creating jobs or protecting programs that benefit everyone, including whites; it’s about creating purported enemies and then attacking them.

In the end, white resentment is so myopic and selfish that it cannot see that when the larger nation is thriving, whites are, too. Instead, it favors policies and politicians that may make America white again, but also hobbled and weakened, a nation that has squandered its greatest assets — its people and its democracy.

Carol Anderson is a professor of African-American studies at Emory University and the author of “White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide.”

Matt Matsuoka, July 22 —

When Bill Clinton left office in 2001, this country had a $230 billion SURPLUS.

When George W. Bush left office in 2009, he left the country with a $1.3 trillion DEFICIT.

That is what the deregulation of Wall Street, two unpaid-for wars and tax breaks for the rich will do.

Let’s be very clear. [The Koch brothers’] goal is not only to defund Obamacare, cut Social Security, oppose an increase in the minimum wage or cut federal funding for education. Their worldview and eventual goal is much greater than all of that. They want to repeal every major piece of legislation that has been signed into law over the past 80 years that has protected the middle class, the elderly, the children, the sick and the most vulnerable in this country. Every piece of legislation!

Robert Reich, July 20 —

This week marked several major developments in the Trump-Russia investigation:

1) Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort owed pro-Russia interests $17 million before joining the campaign, according to financial records obtained by the New York Times. The money was tracked to shell-companies known as conduits for shady Russian dealings.

2) Trump doesn’t want Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller to look into his finances. In an interview with the New York Times, Trump warned investigators against examining his financial history. When asked whether he would consider it “a red line,” Trump responded, “I would say yes.”

3) Deutsche Bank executives expect subpoenas from Mueller. The bank has long been the only financial institution willing to loan Trump money. He currently owes it around $300 million.

4) Mueller has been in contact with the attendees of Trump’s Jr.’s meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. Trump Jr. was prepared to receive information obtained by the Russian government. Across the table from Kushner, Trump Jr., and Manafort was also Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-American lobbyist with former ties to Russian counterintelligence, and Ike Kaveladze, a real estate developer linked to a money laundering investigation.

5) The Senate Intelligence Committee wants to hear from Kushner. Trump’s son-in-law will testify before the committee on Monday.

We now know how the Trump presidency will end. Let’s hope we survive: Burman

The outlines of the end are becoming more clear, as Robert Mueller’s investigators dig away. Expect things to be vicious.

It will end badly for Donald Trump as the special counsel closes in, but he has a loyal vice-president sure to pardon him, predicts Tony Burman.

By Tony Burman

Foreign Affairs Columnist

Toronto Star

Thu., Aug. 3, 2017

How will the Donald Trump presidency end? It will end badly, so let me count the ways:

1. America is hurtling towards a constitutional crisis that will rock its institutions to the core.

2. Its president and his business empire will soon be exposed as beholden to Russian oligarchs and mobsters.

3. Trump will try to fire special counsel Robert Mueller to prevent this from becoming known, but Congress will intervene.

4. His only remaining hope will be a 9/11-scale disaster or contrived war that he can exploit.

5. If we are lucky enough to survive all of the above, Trump will resign before he is impeached — but only in exchange for a pardon from his servile vice-president, Mike Pence.

Yes, this scenario is anything but far-fetched.

One lesson we have learned from the slow-motion train wreck of this Trump presidency is that precise predictions are impossible to make. That is true, except for one thing.

We are now getting a much clearer sense of where this high-stakes drama is heading. The details may change but the contours of this epic chapter in American political history are beginning to emerge.

Although it has been another head-spinning week, perhaps the most important disclosure was a Washington Post story (notwithstanding reports that Mueller impaneled a grand jury to probe Russia’s ties to the 2016 campaign). The story suggested how centrally involved Donald Trump has become in the expanding inquiry about his secret connections with Russia.

The story revealed that, contrary to previous public assurances, Trump himself dictated a misleading statement about the nature of a meeting with a Russian lawyer during the campaign.

Mueller, a former FBI head, is examining Russian interference in the 2016 election, including potential obstruction of justice and allegations of cover-up. But much to Trump’s horror, Mueller’s investigation is expanding to include the history of connections between Trump’s controversial business empire and Russian government and business interests.

In this latter category are some of the most corrupt Russian oligarchs and mobsters, involved in widespread money laundering, who rose to prominence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

On the surface at least, one of the most perplexing questions still unanswered from last November’s shocking election result has been Trump’s persistent refusal to single out Russia or President Vladimir Putin for dramatically interfering in the American presidential election.

This has prompted many people in the U.S. and abroad, not only his critics, to ask the question: “What does Russia have on Trump?”

Increasingly, it appears that the Mueller investigation will help answer that question by examining the close but largely secret relationship between the Trump empire and Russian financial interests.

According to leaks, it has only been in recent days that Trump has realized that this Mueller probe, if not stopped, may even include an examination of his tax returns that he has been so stubborn to keep secret.

A revealing preview of what Mueller is undoubtedly discovering was featured as the extensive cover story of September’s issue of the U.S. magazine New Republic. Written by investigative journalist Craig Unger, the story was titled: “Married to the Mob: What Trump Owes the Russian Mafia.”

Unger was stark in his conclusions: “Whether Trump knew it or not, Russian mobsters and corrupt oligarchs used his properties not only to launder vast sums of money from extortion, drugs, gambling and racketeering, but even as a base of operations for their criminal activities. In the process, they propped up Trump’s business and enabled him to reinvent his image. Without the Russian mafia, it is fair to say, Donald Trump would not be president of the United States.”

More than anyone, Trump knows what Mueller will discover. He knows the legal peril that he and his family are in. He also knows that his presidency is certain to end — in some way — if that story ever becomes public.

We should remember this when we see how Trump acts in the weeks to come. Like a cornered rat, he will fight to protect his interests. In every conceivable way, he will work to stop Mueller’s probe, to challenge Congress if it intervenes, to undermine the press and judiciary if they get in the way and — yes — even to engage in reckless military adventures if he thought that would strengthen his position.

This next stage of this Trump story will no longer be a diverting reality show. It will be the moment when Americans — and the rest of us — will learn if U.S. democracy is strong enough to stop him.

Hamilton 68: Putin apparently trying to incite American Civil War #2 (not kidding)

By Karen Wehrstein

Huffington Post

Friday Aug 04, 2017

If you go on Twitter and search “#civilwar” you will be horrified, disgusted and enraged at best, alarmed at worst. This is basically a thread for Trump supporters to threaten the country with civil war if Trump goes down in some way, whether it be impeachment, charges via Mueller or what-have-you. I was thinking of sharing a few examples, but I don’t even want to put that energy onto this site. If you want to see, do the search yourself.

But what is far worse — and I feel almost sick writing this — the hashtag is also being pushed by Russian trolls/bots. It almost didn’t register when I first saw it, for disbelief. My emotions don’t want to accept it. But my intellect knows it’s not in the slightest bit implausible.

My source here is the website Hamilton 68, introduced in this diary. It tracks the activities of 600 Twitter accounts known to be linked to Russian influence operations. Check it out.

“#civilwar” is showing up as being influenced under “Trending Hashtags” as per the image above, meaning Russian cyber-warriors are using it in a lot of tweets. I’ll be watching Hamilton 68 to see what it does over the next hours and days.

My interpretation is that now that Putin has learned that Trump won’t be able to repeal the sanctions that so threaten the mob money-and-murder machine that keeps Putin in power, he’s switched to Plan B, which will serve him just as well: destroy the US as a world power by destabilizing it internally. A second American civil war would be the gift that keeps on giving… to him.

Please rec and share. The mainstream media needs to be reporting on this. The German Marshall Fund of the United States has given us a great tracking tool showing what they are doing, so CNN, MSNBC, CBS, NYT, WaPo etc. should be following it. Let’s get as many people aware of this as possible!

I have taken to tweeting “#RUSSIABOTWARNING: topics now being influenced:” with a list of them then the Hamilton 68 link, so the tweet shows up on all of them. I’m thinking of creating a Twitter account named Russiabotwarning so I don’t waste 17 characters and so can list more topics. I wonder if anyone else is interested in making this a collective twitter account that multiple people can use, then promoting it to gain followers. It would be nice if these tweets were sitting on top of these topics when people searched them.

Friday, Aug 4, 2017 · 2:46:17 PM EDT · Karen Wehrstein

I was not aware when I wrote this diary that “Judge” (feh) Jeanine on “Fox & Friends” said there’d be an “uprising” if a Trump family member was indicted…

…and Trump RT’d it!

(She says “uprising” in the video.)

This is what is going to end civilization

Geoffrey Nimmo

July 9

Though it’s seldom mentioned by name, it’s one of the major forces in Texas politics today: dominion theology, or dominionism. What began as a fringe evangelical sect in the 1970s has seen its influence mushroom — so much so that sociologist Sara Diamond has called dominionism “the central unifying ideology for the Christian Right.” (Italics hers.) That’s especially true here in Texas, where dominionist beliefs have, over the last decade, become part and parcel of right-wing politics at the highest levels of government.

So, what is it? Dominionism fundamentally opposes America’s venerable tradition of church-state separation — in fact, dominionists deny the Founders ever intended that separation in the first place. According to Frederick Clarkson, senior fellow for religious liberty at the non-profit social justice think tank Political Research Associates, dominionists believe that Christians “have a biblical mandate to control all earthly institutions — including government — until the second coming of Jesus.” And that should worry all Texans…Christians and non-Christians alike.

Robert Reich, July 14 —

Can we trust the Trump’s to tell the whole truth about anything?

LIE #1: Trump Jr. states that the meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya last June was primarily about a program for adopting Russian children. (Trump Sr. signs off on this statement.) Then we learn that the meeting was really about sharing dirt on Hillary Clinton that came from the Russian government.

LIE #2: Trump Jr. concedes the dirt was offered but says he didn’t know the “name” of the lawyer, suggesting he had no idea where the information came from. Then, after Trump Jr. is forced to release the emails because the Times is about to, we learn they refer to a “Russian government attorney” who has “official documents and information” to help the Trump campaign and injure the Clinton campaign, as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

LIE #3: Trump Sr. hails his son’s “admirable transparency” about the meeting. Then, this morning, NBC News reports there was someone else at the meeting besides Veselnitskaya, who Trump Jr. never disclosed: a former Soviet counter-intelligence officer suspected by U.S. officials of current ties to Russian intelligence.

So now we know the president’s son, son-in-law Jared Kushner, and campaign chair — all three at the very center of the Trump campaign — knowingly met, just weeks after Trump was nominated, with a Russian lawyer and a former Soviet counter-intelligence officer having possible current ties to Russian intelligence, for the express purpose of receiving damaging information Russia had dug up on Trump’s rival, as part of the Russian government’s support for Trump.

Matt Matsuoka, July 16 — Over 82% of our National Debt was spent by Republicans

The GOP Strategy for Dummies

Step 1: Break Government

Step 2: Run on a platform of “Government Doesn’t Work”

From Facebook Posts —

Well here’s a funny little coincidence (not) Mariya Putin, Vlads eldest daughter just so happens to run a children’s endocrinology charity, guess who specializes in endocrinology? Spectrum Health of Michigan. The same site that all the computer traffic was going to and from Trump Tower and Alfa Bank of Russia. Spectrum Health is owned by Betsy Devos. LOL That ladies and gentlemen is called an implausible coincidence. Devos didnt get a cabinet position because she was qualified(an understatement)! She got that job because she’s right smack in the middle of all this! They used her companies computer servers to communicate with the Russians and they thought no one would notice! I’m sure she’s terrified right about now, If we all know what she did you can best be sure Robert Mueller knows what she did!

And Erik Prince is her brother!!!

Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the thirty thousand e-mails that are missing. —Donald Trump

This was Trump confessing… during the election.

Trump supporters don’t see it.

Obama met with GOP leaders and tried to work out a way to warn Russia that there was bipartisan support for pushing back against foreign meddling in our elections.

The problem was, there wasn’t bipartisan support for that.

The GOP hates Democrats, hates the poor, hates GLBTQ, hates the recipients of government subsidized services far far more than our geo-political enemies.

So of course they accepted Russian help.

They think it’s funny that we even question this.

Now, they’re hard at work trying to take healthcare away from 30 million Americans… this could reduce the cost of suppressing the vote… when these people die.

That’s fiscal responsibility.

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