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Trump Is Actually Hurting Legitimate Efforts to Stop MS-13 — He Just Uses the Gang to Score Political Points

May 23, 2018 in Blogs

By Bob Brigham, Raw Story

His attacks on the DOJ are a danger.


Former FBI Special Agent Clint Watts said that President Donald Trump’s attacks on the Department of Justice are hindering the federal government’s ability to fight the MS-13 gang.

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump reiterated his view that members of MS-13 are “animals” during a media event in New York.

“I think you’re being kind,” the acting director of ICE, Thomas Homan, told Trump. “Animals kill for survival. MS-13 kills for sport.”

The White House has also been warning of the “animals” of the MS-13 gang.

Watts, the former FBI special agent, said the president’s attacks on the Department of Justice were actually harming the administration’s fight against MS-13.

“I think the biggest part is how can you as the FBI — or really even the Department of Justice — really enforce the law at this point?” he wondered.

“Imagine, the key aspects by which you do these investigations are through confidential informants or undercover agents or by going out and delivering subpoenas. So if you were in Trump country and trying to do the work of law enforcement and enforce these laws or go after MS-13, which the president was really playing up here an hour or so ago, how do you do that when you are being undercut by your own president?” he asked.

Watts is the author of the soon-to-be released book Messing with the Enemy: Surviving in a Social Media World of Hackers, Terrorists, Russians, and Fake News.

“It makes it very difficult, not just in terms of morale, but you are supposed to be cultivating trusted sources,” he explained. “If you can’t guarantee that a source is going to be protected against all political actors in Washington, D.C., you are in a very tough position and it makes it’s hard to do your job.”

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Here's What Mueller Asked Jared Kushner About During His 7-Hour Interview

May 23, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

“They were the appropriate topics that Bob Mueller and his team are looking at.”


Jared Kushner, top aide and son-in-law to President Donald Trump, was recently interviewed for seven hours by special counsel Robert Mueller's team back in April, according to his lawyer Abbe Lowell, as part of the investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Speaking with CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday, Lowell refused to repeat the exact questions Kushner was asked by the special counsel, but he did share the topics they discussed.

“They were the appropriate topics that Bob Mueller and his team are looking at,” Lowell said. “They are: What happened in the campaign that might suggest that there were some outside influences, primarily what I call the allegations of Russian collusion; issues of contacts with people, particularly foreigners during the transition; and the topics of post-inauguration, what is lumped into the category of 'obstruction.'”

Lowell continued: “What we're trying to do is clear the air. We knew people knew about this, somebody leaked it. And I want to respect the Office of Special Counsel and allow them to do their work as Mr. Kushner did.”

Asked whether Kushner is fully cooperating with Mueller's office, Lowell said, ”I don't know that anybody could be cooperating with them more.”

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Source: ALTERNET

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Watch: Republican Lawmaker Tries to Guilt Police Out of Arresting Her for DUI

May 23, 2018 in Blogs

By Dominique Jackson, Raw Story

“So many people tell me that you guys treat people of color like s**t, and I always stood up for you.”


New Mexico’s State Rep. Monica Youngblood tried to use her charm to persuade a police officer to waive her drunk driving offense.

Youngblood, 41, was arrested in Albuquerque on Sunday morning. A video shows Youngblood tearing up and begging the police officer not to arrest her. Youngblood told the officer she was a state legislator.

“I literally fight for you guys… I fight for you guys every time I get the chance,” Youngblood said in the video. “So many people tell me that you guys treat people of color like s**t, and I always stood up for you.”

“I’m the one that runs the death penalty for people who try to kill cops and child murderers,” she said.

The police officer responded: “Well, I appreciate all that, but that doesn’t change anything.”

The Albuquerque Journal reported that in 2015, Youngblood co-sponsored a bill that supported harsher penalties to repeat drunk drivers.

Youngblood did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Source: ALTERNET

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U.S. Ambassador Who Resigned This Year Publicly Compares Trump to a 'Velociraptor'

May 23, 2018 in Blogs

By Shira Tarlo, Salon

“In private, he is exactly like he is on TV, except that he doesn’t curse in public,” he said.


The former U.S. ambassador to Panama just likened President Donald Trump to a “velociraptor” who destroys any obstacles in his path.

“In private, he is exactly like he is on TV, except that he doesn’t curse in public,” John D. Feeley told the New Yorker. “He's like a velociraptor. He has to be boss, and if you don’t show him deference he kills you.”

Former Marine Corps helicopter pilot and career diplomat John D. Feeley announced his resignation from his diplomatic post earlier this year, saying he could no longer serve under the Trump administration. In an op-ed for the Washington Post, titled “Why I Could No Longer Serve This President,” Feeley explained that Trump had “warped and betrayed” what he considered as “the traditional core values of the United States.”

He wrote, “America is undoubtedly less welcome in the world today.”

Discussing the president's leadership style in a new interview with the New Yorker, Feeley similarly expressed that he was troubled that the country was taking up an attitude that was increasingly detrimental to diplomacy. “If we do that,” he told the New Yorker, “my experience and my worldview is that we will become weaker and less prosperous.”

Feeley said that in his first meeting with Trump, in June 2017, the president asked him: “So tell me—what do we get from Panama? What’s in it for us?”

At an Organization of American States event in 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry had vowed that the U.S. would end its interventionism in Latin America. “The end of the Monroe Doctrine is over,” Kerry said. But early this year at an appearance in Texas, Rex Tillerson, Trump's former state department head, sharply contrasted Kerry, calling the Monroe Doctrine “a success.”

Tillerson's rhetoric was not met with enthusiasm in the region, Feeley indicated. He said, “Latins believe that Trump and his senior officials have no real interest in the region, beyond baiting Mexico and tightening the screws on Cuba and Venezuela.” Since Trump’s election, “we've taken a step back in tone. We tried to get Kerry to bury the Monroe Doctrine. But …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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I Sued President Trump for Blocking Me on Twitter — And I Won

May 23, 2018 in Blogs

By Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza, Daily Kos

The First Amendment defeated the president.


I wrote about what it’s like to sue the president after we went to court in early March. Now I get to write about what it’s like to win a lawsuit against him. (Spoiler alert: It’s beyond surreal.)

The case began in July 2017. Seven of us so-called “blockees,” represented by Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute, filed suit against President Donald J. Trump. We argued that he and his communications staffers were violating the First Amendment by blocking users from his Twitter feed solely on the basis of our viewpoints. Our ask of the court was simple: Please clarify for the White House that blocking us is unconstitutional, and get them to unblock us. a.k.a. Set Trump straight.

We made three major First Amendment arguments. First, the @realdonaldtrump Twitter feed used by the president is a public forum, meaning that we can’t be excluded because we expressed critical views, and that excluding our views distorts the public forum for people who’ve not been blocked. Second, blocking people denies them access to important, presidential information being dispensed via Twitter; that’s not allowed when the basis for blocking is viewpoint. Finally, shutting users out of a communications channel that is available to literally everyone else just because of their viewpoints violates blockees’ rights to “petition the government for grievances.”

Oral argument was March 8; the ruling came down May 23. It’s a major win for the First Amendment. And us plaintiffs, of course. If I had to describe my mood in a word, it’d be “euphoria.” Not in the I-won-a-sports-ball game way. The euphoria I experienced (am experiencing) has everything to do with being amazed at the privilege of being involved in defending the First Amendment and succeeding.

Reading the opinion was surreal from a purely personal perspective, and enthralling from my legal nerd perspective. I’m a big fan of a clear first paragraph, and Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald delivers:

This case requires us to consider whether a public official may, consistent with the First Amendment, “block” a person from his Twitter account in response to the political views that person has expressed, and whether the analysis differs because …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Let the Farm Bill Stay Dead

May 23, 2018 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

On Friday, as the Republican-controlled House of Representatives
continued its descent into chaos and irrelevance, the farm bill
went down to defeat amidst dueling immigration proposals. Yet while
this latest snafu makes the Republicans look feckless once again,
they should probably be thankful that they have been saved from
this legislative dog’s breakfast.

All farm bills are bad, pure creatures of the D.C. swamp,
regardless of which party is in power, but Republicans appear to
have worked overtime to make certain that this one confirmed the
party’s worst stereotypes.

Unsurprisingly, the bill cuts food stamps. There is a strong
argument for this. The food-stamp program has expanded enormously
in recent years, essentially doubling under President Bush and
doubling again under President Obama. Despite the economic
recovery, the program shows no signs of returning to pre-recession
levels.

Welfare for farmers is
every bit as destructive as welfare for poor people – and even less
justifiable.

But Republicans somehow managed to cut benefits for recipients
without actually reducing spending on the program. The bill would
trim benefits by roughly $9.2 billion over ten years (for a program
that will cost around $650 billion over that period). But it would
increase administrative costs by $7.7 billion over the same period,
and when other new costs are included, the program would cost an
additional $500 million. That’s not a lot of money by
Washington standards, of course, but less money for poor people,
more money for bureaucracy is not the best message.

Republicans also strengthened the program’s work
requirements, actually something of a return to pre-recession work
mandates. This too is entirely defensible, given the ongoing
decline in unemployment and the increasing shift of the program
from temporary to long-term participation. But the Republicans
combined the requirement with a massive increase in funding for a
job-training program whose effectiveness was last evaluated more
than 20 years ago, when the Department of Agriculture found no
evidence that it helped recipients find jobs. (That’s one
driver of the new costs mentioned above.)

While getting tough on food-stamp recipients, Republicans
simultaneously opened the floodgates for corporate welfare. As
usual, the big winners are corn, wheat, soybean, cotton, rice, and
peanut farmers, who receive more than 90 percent of subsidies. And
though farm subsidies are often sold through nostalgia for
hardscrabble family farmers, the reality is that this bill is
welfare for corporate agriculture. According to a 2017 report of
the Congressional Research Service, “farms with market
revenue equal to or greater than $250,000 accounted for 12 percent
of farm households, but received 60 percent of federal farm program
payments.” Maybe that’s why just 600 companies spent
half a billion dollars …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Injecting Common Sense into Financial Markets

May 23, 2018 in Economics

By Ike Brannon

Ike Brannon

An elementary moral hazard problem plagues investment
funds—namely that those of us who put our money in one of
them simply do not have the ability to fully monitor what the
investors do on our behalf, and they do occasionally
possess priorities beyond maximizing our return. The debate over
the fiduciary rule—which is still ongoing, of
course—rested upon that perception.

While those of us saving for retirement or college can
monitor the returns that accrue to our investments, this alone is
insufficient to discern whether our investors are serving in our
best interests: For starters, we often don’t have the right
perspective to judge the results. One wealth manager lamented to me
that while his overt goal—one he carefully articulates to his
clients—is to minimize risk and avoid chasing returns, his
clients expect him to beat the stock market in bull markets and to
do at least as well as cash in a bear market—a nearly
impossible task on its face and impossible to do so if risk
mitigation is important.

But even the act of doing an analysis of our return can be
problematic: The Nobel Laureate Richard Thaler has found that the
more often people check the performance of their portfolios the
more often they are likely to move some portion of their portfolio,
and we know that such active investing almost invariably reduces
returns.

Financial regulatory
reform is invariably done with an eye towards the last crisis,
mainly because it is difficult for politicians to act with any
foresight.

Of course, we cannot simply check out and ignore our retirement
funds, regardless of what kind of fund our wealth resides in,
because we simply cannot be sure that the people running our
investments are, in fact, doing things that are beneficial for them
but not necessarily for us.

For instance, the Department of Labor recently issued guidance
that prohibited investment firms from declaring that letting ESG
principles (that is, investing in businesses that hew to certain
environmental, social, and governance standards) help direct
investment, as an increasing number of investment funds are wont to
do, goes against their fiduciary duties. That is, they cannot
pretend that allowing these non-financial priorities to guide their
investment decisions is actually in the best interest of the people
whose money they invest.

Fortunately, there is now an entity that is pushing back on the
rhetoric behind the politicization of the investment process that
is called the Main Street Investors Coalition. Its main purpose is
to call attention not just to the cost that such investing can
impose on savers but also that some of the financial regulations
imposed on companies to ostensibly protect …read more

Source: OP-EDS