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Paul Krugman Explains Why Trump's 'Stupid Trade War' Is Such a Terrible Idea

May 31, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

“So this is a remarkably stupid economic conflict to get into.”


As the United States gears up for a full-on trade war with key allies, economist Paul Krugman has a stark warning for Presiden Donald Trump: It's not going to go well.

In a column posted Thursday evening, Krugman argues that Trump's trade war — which he once said should be “easy to win” — will be bad for many Americans, including many that see the president as their defenders.

“So, the trade war is on,” Krugman begins. ”And what a stupid trade war it is.”

“[T]it-for-tat trade retaliation will hurt a lot of American workers (and especially farmers), quite a few of whom voted for Trump and will now find themselves feeling betrayed,” he notes.

He also argues that Trump's view of international trade is overly simplistic. Slapping tariffs on a few industries isn't an isolated action, and it will have ripple effects across the economy. This is because, as Krugman explains, “it’s a matter of complex value chains, which the Trump trade war will disrupt. This will produce a lot of American losers, even if they aren’t directly employed producing exported goods.”

Even more worrying for Trump is that prices across the board could rise if the trade war “spirals” further. The Republicans sold their giant tax giveaway to corporations based on minor, temporary cuts for individual payers, but even these measly gains could evaporate if prices rise. That could be disastrous for the GOP heading into the midterms.

And in international political terms, Krugman argues, Trump may be underestimating the downsides fo his actions. Many people in other countries really hate Trump, which means they will likely push their leaders to stand up to him. Don't expect Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to back down easily.

One thing Krugman doesn't mention, though it is implied by this last point, is that the non-economic consequences of the trade war could also be disastrous. Trump currently needs allies desperately for many of his foreign policy efforts: putting pressure on North Korea, constraining Iran, and countering China. By engaging in a trade war with our allies, Trump …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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CNN Conservative Guest Sputters as Jake Tapper Reveals His Flagrant Hypocrisy over Trump's Refusal to Condemn Racism

May 31, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

“Let's look at his actions and not his words, in this case.”


CNN's Jake Tapper cut through his guest David Urban's stunning hypocrisy on Thursday as the conservative political commentator attempted to defend a double standard for judging President Donald Trump's words and actions.

Tapper was hosting a panel on his show “The Lead” to discuss the controversy around Samantha Bee's recent use of the word “c*nt” to attack Ivanka Trump. The panel roundly condemned Bee's use of the misogynistic epithet, but two panelists also noted that President Trump's refusal to condemn Rosanne Barr's racist attack this week was even more stunning after the White House rebuked Bee.

Tapper noted that the White House is quick to defend the president's daughter, but not the millions of African-Americans Barr smeared. 

Uband disagreed.

“Let's look at his actions and not his words, in this case,” he said. “I think he should have forcefully come out in Charlottesville…”

“Wait a second,” Tapper said. “You're condemning Samantha Bee's words, but you're saying we shouldn't take President Trump's words.”

 Urban began sputtering in response, and then bizarrely switched the topic to Keith Olbermann's objectionable language. Tapper wasn't buying it.

“This is something I hear from a lot of supporters of the president: Judge his actions, not his words,” Tapper said.

Watch the clip below:

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Source: ALTERNET

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Trump Told Jeff Sessions He'd Be a 'Hero' if He Took over the Russia Probe and Went After Hillary Clinton: Report

May 31, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

A new report from Axios shows Trump's behavior is even more troubling than we knew.


President Donald Trump's efforts to convince Attorney General Jeff Sessions to withdraw his recusal from the Russia investigation and other campaign-related investigations were much deeper and extensive than has previously been revealed, according to a new report from Axios.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that Trump had pressed Sessions in March 2017 to withdraw his recusal and regain control of the Russia investigation — but Axios reports that this instance was one of at least four in which Trump pushed his attorney general to reinsert himself into the Justice Departments involvement in election-related matters.

Trump reportedly told Sessions he would be a “hero” for conservatives if he took control of the Russia probe and began an investigation of Hillary Clinton.

However, Sessions has consulted in-house Justice Department experts about whether he should recuse, and he has stuck by their decisive recommendation.

“The sustained pressure made several officials uncomfortable, because they viewed it as improper and worry that it could be politically and legally problematic,” Axios reported.

Trump has said that he thinks his attorney general's responsibilities include protecting the president.

The Times reports that special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Trump for obstruction of justice related to the Russia investigation, and the effort to convince Sessions to withdraw his recusal may play a part in that case.

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Source: ALTERNET

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Meet the Economist Behind the One Percent’s Stealth Takeover of America

May 31, 2018 in Blogs

By Lynn Parramore, Institute for New Economic Thinking

Nobel laureate James Buchanan is the intellectual linchpin of the Koch-funded attack on democratic institutions.


Ask people to name the key minds that have shaped America’s burst of radical right-wing attacks on working conditions, consumer rights and public services, and they will typically mention figures like free market-champion Milton Friedman, libertarian guru Ayn Rand, and laissez-faire economists Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises.

James McGill Buchanan is a name you will rarely hear unless you’ve taken several classes in economics. And if the Tennessee-born Nobel laureate were alive today, it would suit him just fine that most well-informed journalists, liberal politicians, and even many economics students have little understanding of his work.

The reason? Duke historian Nancy MacLean contends that his philosophy is so stark that even young libertarian acolytes are only introduced to it after they have accepted the relatively sunny perspective of Ayn Rand. (Yes, you read that correctly). If Americans really knew what Buchanan thought and promoted, and how destructively his vision is manifesting under their noses, it would dawn on them how close the country is to a transformation most would not even want to imagine, much less accept.

That is a dangerous blind spot, MacLean argues in a meticulously researched book, Democracy in Chains, a finalist for the National Book Award in Nonfiction. While Americans grapple with Donald Trump’s chaotic presidency, we may be missing the key to changes that are taking place far beyond the level of mere politics. Once these changes are locked into place, there may be no going back.

An Unlocked Door in Virginia

MacLean’s book reads like an intellectual detective story. In 2010, she moved to North Carolina, where a Tea Party-dominated Republican Party got control of both houses of the state legislature and began pushing through a radical program to suppress voter rights, decimate public services, and slash taxes on the wealthy that shocked a state long a beacon of southern moderation. Up to this point, the figure of James Buchanan flickered in her peripheral vision, but as she began to study his work closely, the events in North Carolina and also …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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'What I'm Going to Do to You Is Going to Be F***ing Disgusting': Listen To Michael Cohen's Vicious Threats to a Reporter

May 31, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

NPR posted a recording of threats from President Trump's fixer during the 2016 campaign.


President Donald Trump's attorney Michael Cohen verbally abused and threatened a Daily Beast reporter in 2015 covering Ivanka Trump's allegation of rape against the president, which she has since qualified. Now, the recording of Cohen's threatening phone call has finally become public in a piece published by NPR.

“Mark my words for it, I will make sure that you and I meet one day over in the courthouse and I will take you for every penny you still don't have, and I will come after your Daily Beast and everybody else that you possibly know,” Cohen told Tim Mak, then a Daily Beast reporter who has since moved to NPR. “I'm warning you, tread very f***ing lightly because what I'm going to do to you is going to be f***ing disgusting. Do you understand me? Don't think you can hide behind your pen because it's not going to happen.”

Mak repeatedly tries to discuss the story reasonably with Cohen throughout the recording and incorporate Trump's point of view into the story, as is typical journalistic practice. Cohen repeatedly returns to aggressively threatening Mak, disparaging his paper and him personally.

Cohen also falsely claimed in the recording that it is not possible for a man to rape a wife. While this had been a troubling aspect of sexual assault law in the United States, it was not the case at the time of Ivana Trump's claims against Donald Trump. And regardless of what the law is, it is obviously an abominable claim to say that a husband cannot rape his wife.

Cohen later apologized for this claim.

While Ivana Trump made the allegation of rape against her ex-husband during a deposition as a part of their divorce proceedings, she later said, “I referred to this as a ‘rape,’ but I do not want my words to be interpreted in a literal or criminal sense.” However, she never retracted the facts described in the case, which do describe a rape in any reasonable sense of the word.

NPR notes …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Yes, Amazon Is Tracking People

May 31, 2018 in Economics

By Matthew Feeney

Matthew Feeney

When most people think of the tech giant Amazon, they think of
an innovative, consumer-friendly company responsible for affordable
deliveries. Recent news is shattering that image.

According to
documents
obtained by American Civil Liberties Union affiliates
in three states, Amazon is providing police departments in Orlando,
Fla., and Washington County, Ore., with powerful facial recognition
technology.

The documents show that the company’s interests go beyond
efficient shopping, and should serve as a reminder not only that
police departments ought to be prohibited from using real-time
facial recognition technology, but also that most lawmakers have
been asleep at the wheel when it comes to the proliferation of
surveillance technology

Amazon’s facial recognition service, Rekognition, is designed to
identify and track people going about their daily business. This
isn’t hyperbole – a Rekognition spokesperson
explicitly mentioned
real-time tracking and identification at
an Amazon Web Services summit earlier this year. The same
spokesperson
went on
to call Orlando a “smart city,” with cameras everywhere
that allow authorities to track persons of interest in real
time.

Orlando Police Department spokesman Sgt. Eduardo Bernal
issued a statement
stressing that the department’s use of
Rekognition is limited and is in an early testing phase. Police
with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon have built a
database of at least
300,000
mugshot photos for use in conjunction with Rekognition
via a mobile app. Last year, an “Information Systems Analyst” with
the Washington County Sheriff’s Office emailed an unnamed Amazon
employee, saying that while Rekognition’s tattoo identification
feature can recognize tattoos, it would be better if it could
specify what the tattoo shows (dragons, flowers, etc.).

In order to protect civil
liberties without hampering innovation, lawmakers should require
public input before surveillance tools are deployed and ensure that
facial recognition databases are purged of data related to
law-abiding people.

Other emails mentioned merging real-time facial recognition with
body cameras, something Axon, one of the largest body camera
manufacturers in America,
is pursuing
. Axon isn’t alone. According to a 2017
Department of Justice survey
, nine of 38 body camera
manufacturers either
have facial recognition capability or have that capability built in
for future use
. The Orlando Police Department
does not put any limits
on biometric tools such as facial
recognition being used on body camera footage. Fortunately, an
official with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office pointed out in
one of the released emails that using facial recognition in
conjunction with body cameras
is illegal in Oregon
. However,
the majority of major police departments
…read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Beyond Mass Incarceration

May 31, 2018 in Economics

By Jonathan Blanks

Jonathan Blanks

Earlier this month, the
Trump White House held a bipartisan event supporting prison reform,
including good time credits for low-level offenders. Mass
incarceration has indeed become the primary focus in the world of
criminal justice reform, with many of the most popular reforms
focused on sentencing and community reentry for nonviolent drug
offenders. And although much can and should be done for those who
have been incarcerated, there are many more victims of the the drug
war’s abuses than just those who end up in prison. In addition to
the millions of people arrested each year for misdemeanor drug
possession, countless people who will never step foot into a jail
or prison nonetheless have been harassed and searched by police
looking for drugs or their proceeds.

And the same incentives that drive police to make so many
arrests and searches can also influence them to lie about how and
why any search or arrest was legal. For example, if a police
officer says he “smelled marijuana” emanating from a car during a
stop, he can use that as probable cause to search a car, whether or
not the smell was real. In addition, low-level dealers who are
arrested are sometimes coerced into becoming informants and setting
up stings with larger dealers, often at their own peril. What’s
more, the potential profits in the illicit drug trade can lead
unscrupulous officers to use their authority as
cover for criminal enterprise
. In other words, on both the
individual and institutional levels, prosecuting the drug war has
corroded the integrity of law enforcement and its officers.

Just as Prohibition failed to make America dry again, the
federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970 and local enforcement of
drug prohibition have likewise failed to keep Americans sober. But
during Prohibition, enforcement resources primarily went to curb
the supply of illicit hooch to the American public. Even
at the height of Prohibition Era, American law enforcement focused
on those who were responsible for supplying black market booze, not
those who were drinking. In today’s drug prohibition regime,
front-line police officers also go after the demand side
by arresting users and low-level peddlers of drugs, who are often
one in the same, rather than focusing primarily on high-end
traffickers. To put this in perspective, and despite legalization
and decriminalization efforts around the country,
more Americans were arrested for marijuana possession in 2016 than
for murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault …combined.
Is this what “to protect and to serve” is supposed to look
like?

In other words, on both
the individual and institutional levels, prosecuting the drug war
has corroded …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Do These Guys Prefer War with North Korea?

May 31, 2018 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

No one yet knows if there’s going to be a summit with
North Korea. But the alternative to a Trump-Kim tête-à-tête should
be a different form of diplomacy, not war, as the administration
and its cheerleaders have suggested.

When Lord Acton coined the phrase “power tends to corrupt,
and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” he might have had
America in mind. Never mind U.S. leaders’ professed good
intentions: possession of extraordinary military power continues to
lead otherwise sensible people to pursue dangerous, even monstrous
policies.

So it is with North Korea. President Donald Trump beat the war
drums loudly last year. He sounded a lot like Kim Jong-un when he
threatened to visit “fire and fury” upon the Democratic
People’s Republic of Korea. Senator Lindsey Graham led the
Greek chorus in support of the administration, amplifying the
president’s threats.

Never mind the consequences of a Second Korean War.
“Japan, South Korea, China would all be in the crosshairs of
a war if we started one with North Korea,” Graham admitted.
But that would just be unfortunate collateral damage. “If
there’s going to be a war to stop [Kim], it will be over
there. If thousands die, they’re going to die over there.
They’re not going to die here,” he explained.

John Bolton and Lindsey
Graham are saber-rattling as though armed conflict is the only
way.

The prospect of a summit between Trump and Kim halted the talk
of war. But on May 20, Graham began spewing threats anew. On Fox
News he declared that “If [the North Koreans] don’t
show up that means diplomacy has failed.” Which in turn
“puts us back on the path to conflict. It would be time to
take American families and dependents out of South Korea.” Or
if the North Koreans “do show up and try to play Trump, and
that means military conflict is the only thing left.”

But, he promised, “they will lose it, not us.” Thus,
“President Trump is going to end this problem with North
Korea one way or the other, and he should.”

Shortly thereafter North Korean officials objected to John
Bolton’s talk of the “Libya model,” which
resulted in the ouster of Moammar Gaddafi after he agreed to close
his missile and nuclear programs. (Bolton was involved in
negotiating the surrender of Gaddafi’s weapons. In 2011, he
publicly called for the U.S. military to take out the Libyan
leader.)

The implications for Kim were obvious—too obvious for
Bolton not to be aware of, which is why some observers suspect he
meant to sink the summit. Yet rather than dismiss Bolton’s
implied menace, the president responded with a threat: “If
you look at that …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Kim Won’t Be Duped like Qaddafi

May 31, 2018 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

The much-heralded summit between the United States and North
Korea has entered a state of uncertainty; you don’t know
whether it’s off or on again until you check at any given
moment. Invitations have been accepted, canceled, and re-accepted;
letters have been sent; tweets have been shouted into the
atmosphere.

Right now, it appears to be back on again. But many observers
fear a return to last fall’s mano a
mano
confrontation between U.S. President Donald Trump and
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, with war a real possibility. If
that happens, the blame will mostly fall on the Trump
administration. The dangerous language coming out of the White
House — especially discussion of a “Libya model”
for the talks — has left the North Koreans angry and upset.
To Pyongyang, that language is an implicit threat — and a
sign that the United States can’t be trusted.

Enough has occurred to justify a meeting. North Korea has
destroyed its underground nuclear test site, released three
American prisoners, held two positive summits with South Korean
President Moon Jae-in, and invited then-CIA Director, now-Secretary
of State Mike Pompeo to Pyongyang.

Washington’s Libya model
for nuclear negotiations is an illustration of why nuclear weapons
are necessary.

Moreover, the North Koreans don’t want the summit to flop.
For Pyongyang, it would be relatively simple to affirm the general
objective of denuclearization, specify a few deliverables, and
detail a follow-up diplomatic process to discuss elimination of the
North’s nuclear arsenal. How far and fast the two governments
then would go is anyone’s guess. Still, such a result would
be worth the effort, simultaneously dampening tensions,
constraining the North’s threatening behavior, and, most
important, creating an opportunity for further phased reforms.

But the biggest obstacle has been the talk of Libya.

Administration officials complained about the North’s
angry words and failure to show for a preparatory meeting in
Singapore. But these came after the administration’s
reference to the Libya model, backed by threats of military action
if the North did not accept U.S. demands. Even Pompeo apparently
blamed National Security Advisor John Bolton for the debacle.

Bolton, uncompromisingly hawkish and an experienced bureaucratic
backstabber, publicly mused that the model for
denuclearization should be Libya in 2003, essentially boxing up the
North’s weapons and facilities and sending them to
America.

Although the U.S. president apparently sought to downplay
Bolton’s comments, he ended up threatening regime change and
war. Amid a rather muddled discussion of Libya, Trump said, “If you look at that model with
Qaddafi, that was a total decimation. We went in there to beat him.
… that model would take place if we don’t make …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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'They Can Just Have a Cartoon': New Book Reveals Obama's Real Reaction to Trump Election

May 30, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

A top aide to the former president is set to publish a book that offers a glimpse inside a devastated White House after Trump's victory.


President Barack Obama felt self-doubt and disappointment after Donald Trump's victory in the 2016 election, Ben Rhodes reveals in a new book previewed in the New York Times on Wednesday. The passages paint the picture of a devastated White House in shock over the election result and reveal the range of emotions Obama endured through the transition period.

It notes, for instance, that Obama did his best to cheer up his aides in the days following the election. But he soured in the days that followed.

“Maybe this is what people want,” Obama reportedly said about Trump's win. “I’ve got the economy set up well for him. No facts. No consequences. They can just have a cartoon.”

Rhodes also writes about Obama's farewells to world leaders. German Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly told Obama that Trump's victory made her feel a greater obligation to run for a fourth term which she ended up winning. When she left Obama for the last time, she “had a single tear in her eye.”

Obama also apparently felt that, despite the criticism he has since received, there was little more he could have done to counter Russian interference in the 2016 election. Calling out the meddling efforts even more than he did would have resulted in Trump saying Obama was rigging the election and Putin working harder to undermine the vote, the president feared.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pointedly refused to issue a bipartisan statement condemning Russia' actions when Obama wanted to take action, limiting his options. Rhodes called this refusal “staggeringly partisan and unpatriotic,” but he says Obama was unsurprised.

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