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Here's the Cruel Truth Behind the Trump Administration's Attacks on Planned Parenthood — It's About Much More Than Abortion

July 23, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

The Christian Right’s unending vendetta against Planned Parenthood is about much more than abortion.


Between defunding Planned Parenthood and vowing to pack the U.S. Supreme Court with far-right Antonin Scalia-ish “strict constructionist” justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade, President Trump and his Republican allies in Congress have been persistent foes of reproductive freedom. Attacking Planned Parenthood has been an effective way for Trump to shore up his support among fundamentalist Christians and so-called “pro-life” voters, but Trump, like so many Republicans, fails to mention that abortion is only a small part of Planned Parenthood’s activities—which also include everything from contraception to cancer screenings.

The myth that federal U.S. tax dollars have been funding countless abortions over the years is exactly that: a myth. Back in 1976, Congress passed the Hyde Amendment—which was sponsored by Republican Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois and has prohibited the use of federal funds for abortions except in rare cases (namely, rape or incest, or when a woman’s life is physically in danger). So even when federal tax dollars went to Planned Parenthood during the Bill Clinton or Barack Obama eras, it wasn’t for abortions—it was for contraception, cancer screening, PAP smears, breast exams, pregnancy tests, STD tests, and other health services.

In 2017, the U.S. Senate passed a bill that allowed states to withhold federal funds from organizations that perform abortions; Vice President Mike Pence was the tie-breaking vote, and Trump signed it into law. But as Danielle McNally pointed out in an April 17, 2017 article for Marie Claire, the bill wasn’t really an anti-abortion bill per se but was, in effect, an attack on women’s health services in general.

McNally asserted, “Here’s the real rub: because of the Hyde Amendment, no federal taxpayer dollars ever go toward abortions anyway. That means that if the states choose to stop giving Medicaid reimbursements or family planning grants to Planned Parenthood—which, thanks to the new bill, they can—they will be taking money away from preventive health care, birth control, pregnancy tests, and other women’s health services. Things like the 360,000 breast exams and …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Here’s Why the GOP Will Survive Donald Trump’s Disastrous Presidency — Just As It Survived So Many Scandals in the Past

July 23, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

Democrats should never underestimate an opponent that, time and time again, has demonstrated that it is as resilient as it is ruthless.


If there is any lesson to be learned, above all others, from the last 90 years of Republican Party politics, it is: never underestimate the GOP’s ability to bounce back from one scandal, debacle and blunder after another. President Donald Trump’s numerous critics in the Democratic Party are hoping that his disastrous presidency will eventually be the nail in the coffin of the Republican Party. But Trump—regardless of his controversial meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland on July 16 or allegations that he had sex with porn star Stormy Daniels and paid her hush money to keep quiet—remains popular among Republican voters. In fact, Trump’s approval among registered Republicans has been hovering around 90% in recent Gallup polls. And whatever happens with Trump’s presidency in the future—even if there are more scandals or if Democrats manage to recapture the U.S. Senate or the U.S. House of Representatives in the November midterms—Democrats should never underestimate the Republican Party’s ability to bounce back time and time again no matter how badly it screws up.

From the Great Depression of the 1930s to Watergate to Iran/Contra, the Iraq War and the Great Recession, the Republican Party has been incredibly resilient over the years. The Republican Party has bounced back from one debacle, one embarrassment, one calamity after another—and Democrats ignore that resilience at their own peril.

Herbert Hoover, one of the worst Republican presidents in U.S. history, was in office when the financial meltdown of 1929 occurred and the U.S. entered the Great Depression. Unemployment soared, banks failed and homelessness became so widespread in 1930 and 1931 that the tent cities, shantytowns and favelas that emerged were dubbed “Hoovervilles.” And when Franklin Delano Roosevelt won the Democratic Party’s nomination in the 1932 presidential election, he ran on an aggressively liberal platform of financial and banking reforms. FDR won by a landslide in 1932, Hoover was voted out of office, and FDR’s New Deal went …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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'He's Trying to Change the Subject': CNN Analysts Explain What Trump Is Trying to Hide by Lashing Out Indiscriminately

July 23, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

This is not the first time the White House has pulled a stunt like this.


As the White House whips up another cycle of media fury over its absurd suggestion that it will try to punish former intelligence officials who are critical of President Donald Trump by taking away security clearances, some astute observers noted that this new line of attack was just an effort at distraction.

Former CIA directors Michael Hayden and John Brennan, former FBI director James Comey, former national security adviser Susan Rice, former acting director of the FBI Andrew McCabe, and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper were all among those the White House is targeting. But as CNN's Jake Tapper noted, McCabe, for one, doesn't even have a security clearance.

“The suggestion being made by Democrats and others is, look, President Trump's just trying to change the subject from the fact he doesn't believe the intelligence community and doesn't believe what pretty much everyone else in the country except for the president and some people of a different network think is true — which is that the Russians interfered in the election,” Tapper said.

“I think that's true, that he's trying to change the subject and you have seen him do that over the last couple of days,” said CNN analyst Nia-Malika Henderson. “The tweet about Iran seemed to be an attempt to change the subject in all caps basically saying 'fire and fury' to rain down on Iran if they smart talk the U.S.Eeven this stuff about the Cohen leaks, the tapes from that, that seemed to be an attempt to change the subject. So this, too, is, I think, in the same category.”

Vox's Matt Yglesias noted that in addition to Trump's shifting positions on Russian interference, there was a lot for the White House to want to distract from last week.

“Helsinki was a fiasco, Kavanaugh bombed in early polling, he’s rolling back popular fuel efficiency rules, and his campaign manager is going on trial,” he said in a tweet. “Let’s all talk about John Brennan’s security clearance!”

Watch the CNN clip below:

<Img align="left" border="0" height="1" width="1" alt="" style="border:0;float:left;margin:0;padding:0;width:1px!important;height:1px!important" hspace="0" …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Why So-Called 'Low Tax' States Dominated by Republicans Aren’t Always So Low in Taxes

July 23, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

A lot of taxes are still being paid—although they’re more likely to be hidden or less obvious.


Two things one can count on in life are death and taxes, and in the United States, Republicans like to portray themselves as the party that allows Americans to keep more of their hard-earned money. But in states dominated by Republicans, a lot of taxes are still being paid—although they’re more likely to be hidden or less obvious.

Texas is a state where the Republican Party has a strong ground game politically, and because Texas has no state income tax, Republicans consider it heaven for taxpayers. But Texas collects taxes in other ways. Texas has a statewide sales tax rate of 6.25%, and sales taxes at the county or city level can exist as well. Texas allows a total sales tax rate of up to 8.25% when state, city and/or county taxes are combined, and that 8.25% is what one finds in Houston, Dallas or San Antonio.

Other taxes in Texas include 8.25% on alcoholic beverages, a gasoline tax of 20 cents per gallon, property taxes (on average, Texans are paying around $2654 annually if they own their homes) and taxes on cable or satellite television. For Internet access, anything over $25 on a bill is taxed.

Taxes around the world can be either regressive or progressive. With progressive taxes, the poor have the lowest tax rates because they’re the least able to pay—while the rich are taxed at higher rates. Regressive taxes, however, will tax people at the same rates across the board regardless of their ability to pay. And sales taxes, because they are often flat taxes, can be quite regressive.

On April 2, USA Today published an article that gave a state-by-state rundown of sales tax rates in the U.S.—and some of the higher sales tax rates were in red states.

For example, USA Today reported combined sales tax rates (factoring in state and average local taxes) of 9.1% in Alabama, 9.5% in Tennessee, 8.9% in Oklahoma, 8.7% in Kansas, 9.5% in Tennessee, 9.4% in …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Democrats Are Right to Be Concerned About Trump's Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Nominee

July 23, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

She had a role in some of the Trump administration’s worst blunders.


President Donald Trump is not only great at appointing Environmental Protection Agency heads who are terrible for the environment (Scott Pruitt) and secretaries of education who terrible for public education (Betsy DeVos)—he is also great at making certain that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) offers as little protection as possible to U.S. consumers. And this week, Trump officially named his nominee to replace Mick Mulvaney as head of the CFPB: Kathy L. Kraninger. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts—who was instrumental in the CFPB’s creation seven years ago—and other Democrats have been critical of Trump’s pick, and they have plenty of reason to be.

Kraninger presently serves as associate director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), where she reports to OMB Director Mulvaney. In November, Trump appointed Mulvaney as CFPB’s acting director—a temporary appointment—after Democrat Richard Cordray, appointed by President Barack Obama in 2011, stepped down to run for governor of Ohio (an important swing state in the 2018 midterms). But Mulvaney’s appointment to the CFPB was only meant to be temporary, while Kraninger’s would be long-term—despite the fact that, as Senate Democrats have been pointing out, she has no real background or expertise in consumer or financial protection.

In addition to her work at the OMB, Kraninger has worked as a deputy assistant secretary for policy in the Department of Homeland Security. But consumer protection and financial services has not been her area of expertise, and Sen. Warren—who has a wealth of knowledge and expertise in those areas—is not happy about the nomination.

Warren, however, was not only critical of Kraninger for her lack of experience in financial regulation, but also, for her role in some of the Trump administration’s worst blunders—including its botched response to Hurricane Maria and the separation of families at the U.S./Mexico border.

Warren, grilling Kraninger, said of the separation of families, “These are innocent children who may be scarred forever by this policy. It is fundamentally immoral of you, and you were part of it, Ms. Kraninger. It is a …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Trump's Incoherent Approach to Iran

July 23, 2018 in Economics

By John Glaser

John Glaser

President Donald Trump is once again issuing bombastic threats
of war, this time against Iran. This administration’s total
lack of a coherent approach to Iran has created a strategic vacuum,
wherein U.S. policy is reduced to the hackneyed regime change
rhetoric of neoconservatives and the primal screams of an
undisciplined, callow president.

On Sunday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, taking note of an
increasingly antagonistic Trump administration, said America should
know that “peace with Iran is the mother of all peace and war with
Iran is the mother of all wars.”

The truth is that Trump’s
threat lacks credibility. A U.S. attack would provoke a wider
regional war that would be an order of magnitude worse than what we
saw in Iraq.

In response, Trump tweeted: “NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE
UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF
WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED.”

That seems a bit of an overreaction, but it is even stranger in
the context of Trump’s tweets from 2013, in which he
lambasted President Barack Obama for planning to go to war against
Iran “to save face” and “to show how tough he is.”

And let’s not forget that as president elect, Trump
promised in late 2016 to “stop racing to topple foreign regimes that we
know nothing about.”

Trump’s Twitter threat came just as Secretary of State
Mike Pompeo was giving a speech Sunday in California aimed at
rallying the Iranian people and diaspora to undermine the regime
in Tehran
. Pompeo railed against the Iranian regime’s
tyranny and rights abuses, offering sympathy and support for those
who seek to overthrow it.

The notion that the Trump administration cares one wit about
democracy and human rights in Iran is so transparently ludicrous as
to hardly even require refutation. After all, the White House is
enthusiastically supporting the authoritarian regime in Saudi
Arabia, a tyranny much worse than the one in Iran and which is
committing war crimes in Yemen with U.S. help.

Contrary to Pompeo’s feigned concern for the welfare of
the citizens of Iran, the administration’s approach harms,
rather than helps, the Iranian people.

The truth is that Trump’s threat lacks credibility. A U.S.
attack would provoke a wider regional war that would be an order of
magnitude worse than what we saw in Iraq.

The Trump administration’s hostility toward Iran is
irrational. Backing out of the nuclear deal not only created a
proliferation risk in Iran, it also locked the White House in a
policy of confrontation. The result has been confusion, needless
antagonism and a dangerous risk …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Pakistan Elections Jeopardized by Violence, Military Involvement

July 23, 2018 in Economics

By Sahar Khan

Sahar Khan

Violence is increasing ahead of Pakistan’s
general elections this Wednesday. Throughout July, attacks on political candidates have killed
more than 150 people and injured scores more.

Why it matters: Pakistan’s National Counter
Terrorism Authority has issued a warning to vulnerable candidates, and
the army announced that it will pledge 350,000 security personnel, but the increase in
violence still spells trouble for election day. Although the
military has stepped in for security purposes, it is also involved
in intimidation.

The details:

The military’s
interference in the elections not only hurts its credibility but
also that of Pakistan’s political system.

Candidates from the Pakistan Muslim League-N party have accused
the military establishment of targeting the party and working to divide its
vote base. The media has also accused the military of meddling to influence the national narrative — and
ultimately the election results.

#HerVote, a campaign to encourage women to
vote, has been trending online. But women in rural areas remain
fearful of voting, and a ban on
women voting
continues in some locations.

The bottom line: The military’s interference in the elections not only hurts
its credibility but also that of Pakistan’s political system.
At the end of the day, the ability to vote safely doesn’t much
matter if the elections are unfair and unfree to begin with.

Sahar Khan is a
visiting research fellow in the Cato Institute’s Defense and
Foreign Policy Department. …read more

Source: OP-EDS