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John Kelly Currently Has Less Influence on Trump Than Fox & Friends Does

July 30, 2018 in Blogs

By Kerry Eleveld, Daily Kos

The chief of staff is almost useless, having lost respect among staffers and exerting little control over Trump's impulsive agenda.


Whatever high hopes former Marine General John Kelly had when he was appointed White House chief of staff have long given way to the dismal reality of Donald Trump's West Wing. It's a one-man show and no one is getting in the way of Trump's delusion that he's nailing it on a daily basis. 

Perhaps Kelly should have had a clue his new job would bite when he found out he was getting it via a surprise Trump tweet. Politico writes:

John Kelly got the official news of his promotion a year ago the same way a select few in the Trump administration have — by presidential tweet.

Though a White House spokesperson claimed at the time that Trump had given Kelly a formal job offer in advance, it was a lie. Natch.

About a year later, Kelly is almost useless, having lost respect among staffers and exerting little control over Trump's impulsive agenda, decisions, and tweeting. Almostuseless … 

But for this president, keeping Kelly around offers the best of both worlds: somebody to blame when things go awry but nobody fettering his freedom of action.

So who's setting Trump's agenda?

“He comes down for the day, and whatever he saw on Fox & Friends, he schedules meetings based on that,” one former White House official told Politico. “If it’s Iran, it’s ‘Get John Bolton down here!’” Or if he spoke to Fox’s Sean Hannity the night before, the official said, “he’s got lots of flexibility to do whatever he wants to do.”

Let that sink in.

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Source: ALTERNET

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Here's the Underhanded Plan the Trump Admin. Is Considering to Slash Taxes Even More for the Wealthy

July 30, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Even the Bush administration decided the idea was illegitimate.


After Republicans slashed taxes for corporations and the wealthy at the end of last year while blowing up the deficit, there was little sign of the economic miracle that we were promised would occur as a result of the policy. So few if any serious voters or political observers have been clamoring for more tax cuts for the wealthy.

But Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told the New York TimestheMonday that the administration is actually considering another massive change to the tax code that would largely benefit the rich — and this time they're considering going around Congress to get it done.

The cut would affect capital gains taxes, which would only matter to people who are wealthy enough to have substantial investments. According to the Times, the proposal would give away $100 billion in reduced taxes by adjusting the formula that calculates the amount of the investment income.

“If it can’t get done through a legislation process, we will look at what tools at Treasury we have to do it on our own and we’ll consider that,” Mnuchin told the Times.

It's not clear whether the Treasury could make the cuts on its own without the adjustments being approved by Congress, and the Times notes that any attempt by the administration to act unilaterally would likely face a court challenge.

But in addition to any technical questions about executive authority and the role of Congress in writing the tax code, it defies reason that Republicans would actually consider another tax cut for the rich — especially ahead of midterm elections with favorable conditions for Democrats. Wage growth and business investment have been meager following the GOP tax bill, despite the president's promises, and most Americans have failed to see any benefit from the new tax rates.

It seems even Republicans know this, too, because they're not running their 2018 campaigns on the popularity of the tax bill. They know that their voters aren't impressed by the bill, so they're planning instead to double down on the culture war to motivate their base ahead of the elections. Despite …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Judge Orders an Independent Monitor to Evaluate Border Facilities Detaining Migrant Kids

July 30, 2018 in Blogs

By Gabe Ortiz, Daily Kos

The decision comes following allegations of abuse and inhumane conditions.


Following allegations of abuse and sub-standard conditions, Judge Dolly Gee has mandated the appointment of an independent monitor to evaluate conditions in facilities temporarily holding migrant children:

The independent monitor's role will be limited by the judge: confined to Customs and Border Protection detention facilities along the border in the Rio Grande valley in Texas. The monitor will also only assess accusations of ill treatment made to Judge Gee in a June 2017 motion.

“There continue to be persistent problems,” she said. “There seems to be disconnect between what both sides see at these facilities.” Under her order, the Trump administration and plaintiffs have until August 10 to agree on “a qualified candidate for the monitor job. Failing that, she said, they should each submit two candidate names and then she will decide.” 

One detained mom, Fatima, said that “on the second or third day” at a CBP facility, “my daughter soiled herself. I asked if I could clean her because her underwear [was] soiled. The guards said, 'No.' … She remained in her dirty underwear until we arrived at Dilley [Texas] several days later.” This is state-sanctioned child abuse, plain and simple, and where a complicit Republican-led Congress continues to abdicate its oversight responsibility, judges and courts are doing what the federal government refuses to do.

“One of the persistent problems that we see,” said Peter Schey of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, “is the inhumane treatment of children in border patrol facilities where they might be detained for anywhere from three to six days. This includes inadequate food. It includes enforced dehydration, it includes sleep deprivation because children do not have access to sleeping mats.”

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Source: ALTERNET

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Giuliani 'Torched Two Years of Donald Trump's Collusion Denials': MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace Tears Apart Ex-Mayor's 'Incoherent' Ramblings

July 30, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

The line from the White House has gone from “no collusion” to “collusion isn't a crime.”


MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace put the bizarre spectacle of Rudy Giuliani's latest media blitz in context Monday, showing how convoluted and twisted President Donald Trump's defenses of his own actions with regard to Russian interference in the 2016 election have become.

“In a single round of media appearances, Rudy Giuliani today torched years of Donald Trump's collusion denials, muddying the waters to a near-unrecognizable condition as he spirals deeper into incoherent scenarios about what the president did and didn't know about the Trump Tower meeting,” she said.

At the Trump Tower meeting in June 2016, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and campaign chair Paul Manafort met with a Russian lawyer in hopes of obtaining dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Kremlin. The president has denied knowing about the meeting at the time, but those denials are getting hard to believe.

“That meeting is now at the heart of the obstruction of justice investigation and is perhaps also being investigated as part of a conspiracy to coordinate with a known American adversary,” Wallace said. She noted that Giuliani and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have begun defending the idea that Trump might have known about or even encouraged the meeting.

“Here are two of the president's closest allies and advisors debuting the new line on Russian collusion, not that it didn't happen as Donald Trump has insisted on a near daily basis, but that if it did, it wouldn't really matter because, well, collusion isn't a crime,” Wallace said.

She noted, in addition, that “collusion” with the Russians could be a type of criminal conspiracy — which certainly is a crime.

Watch the clip below:

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'That's Not What Happened': Fox News' Shep Smith Fact-Checks Trump's Laughable Claim NATO 'Was Going Out of Business'

July 30, 2018 in Blogs

By Chris Sosa, AlterNet

The president's false claims were not getting a pass from the host.


Fox News' Shep Smith offered a brutal fact-check after President Donald Trump lied during press comments on Monday and claimed the NATO countries were “going out of business” but are now “paying a lot more money” because of his influence.

“That's not what happened,” Smith began.

“In each of the last four years, after the NATO countries agreed to do so, most countries in the alliance have already been increasing their defense spending as a percentage of their GDP,” he explained. ”It began under the Obama Administration. Weeks ago President Trump slammed our allies including Italy and demanded that each spend more on their own militaries. The Italian prime minister pushed back saying Italy had not made any promises to boost any defense spending.”

Fox News contributor John Bussey continued the discussion about Trump's saber-rattling, and it wasn't positive. 

“The president is looking for successes to give to Congress. He's got a lot of criticism from the GOP for his tariffs on China and the E.U. The European Union is mad about it,” he said.

Watch the segment below:

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Source: ALTERNET

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How Political Polarization Affects the Supreme Court

July 30, 2018 in Economics

By Trevor Burrus

Trevor Burrus

HOW MUCH can a Supreme Court ignore public opinion in a
polarized nation? With the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, that
question has become more pressing.

Assuming he’s confirmed, a court with Justice Kavanaugh rather
than Justice Anthony Kennedy is going to be more conservative, but
not much more. While it’s possible that some longstanding
precedents are on the chopping block, our current political
polarization will help keep the court’s hand from being too
disruptive.

Supreme Court justices understand the somewhat precarious place
the court inhabits in our constitutional system. If its judgments
are to be enforced, the court depends upon respect from the
legislative and executive branches and broad support from the
public.

In the words of Alexander Hamilton, writing in the
“Federalist Papers,” the judiciary has neither
“the sword or the purse” and it “must ultimately
depend upon the aid of the executive arm even for the efficacy of
its judgments.”

Throughout American history, Supreme Court justices, and
particularly chief justices, have been sensitive to public opinion.
While many would argue they shouldn’t be, the court ignores
public opinion at its own peril. Without sword or purse to enforce
its rulings, how will the people react if a Supreme Court decision
undermines their deeply held convictions?

That question was put to the test in 1954, when the Supreme
Court decided the landmark case of Brown v. Board of
Education
and all hell broke loose. America was polarized
then, too, with the Southern states being much more in favor of
segregation than the Northern ones. When the Supreme Court
announced its ruling, the resistance began almost immediately. Gov.
Orval Faubus of Arkansas called out the Arkansas National Guard to
help block nine African-American children from entering a high
school. In response, President Dwight Eisenhower sent the 101st
Airborne to Little Rock to escort the children into school. It was
a true constitutional crisis, the likes of which had not been seen
since the Civil War.

Without sword or purse to
enforce its rulings, how will the people react if a Supreme Court
decision undermines their deeply held convictions?

Chief Justice Earl Warren was aware of the dangers of striking
down school segregation. Fearing that any dissenting vote would
embolden a resisting South, Warren worked behind the scenes with
Justices Hugo Black and Felix Frankfurter to ensure a unanimous
ruling. Warren visited Justice Robert Jackson in the hospital,
where he was after suffering a heart attack, to persuade him not to
file a separate opinion. Only Justice Stanley Forman Reed was left,
and Warren told him, “Stan, you’re all by yourself in
this now.” Reed ultimately joined the opinion, and Jackson
left the hospital on …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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America and China: Destined for Conflict or Cooperation? We Asked 14 of the World's Most Renowned Experts

July 30, 2018 in Economics

By John Glaser

John Glaser

The future of the Sino-American relationship is deeply
uncertain.

Though the United States will remain at the top of the
international hierarchy for the foreseeable future, it is
undoubtedly experiencing relative decline, while China is
indisputably on the rise. The two titans of the 21st century
maintain an uneasy rapport, conscious of each other’s power,
suspicious of each other’s intentions, and covetous of the stature
that accompanies global supremacy.

In its approach to China over the past few decades, U.S.
leadership has oscillated between dismissive arrogance, sincere
cooperation and brazen competition.

Tragic foul-ups, like the Clinton administration’s accidental
bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade and the in-air collision
of a U.S. spy plane with a Chinese fighter jet early in the Bush
administration, are seen in Beijing as the hubristic blunders of an
intemperate bully. More deliberate taunts continue to this day,
exemplified by the Obama administration’s pointless opposition to
innocuous Chinese initiatives like the Asian Infrastructure
Investment Bank, overwrought anxiety toward the Belt and Road
Initiative and President Trump’s imperious trade war
ultimatums.

Many great powers
throughout history have let fixations about national prestige
thrust them into destructive wars.

Yet, on crucial diplomatic and security efforts, from the Six
Party Talks and the Paris climate accord to post-9/11
counterterrorism cooperation and the Iran nuclear deal, the United
States capitalized on overlapping interests while respecting
China’s position as a vital global player. Though less than
perfect, the bilateral economic relationship has been immensely
beneficial to both sides.

However, the U.S. approach at times appears to resemble outright
containment. The cutthroat geopolitical undertones of the so-called
Pivot to Asia were lost on no one. Washington’s attempts to counter
Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea have, if anything, hardened
China’s posture. And the Trump administration’s blunt
confrontational approach seems to have provoked even greater
distrust across the Pacific.

Rising powers must be managed carefully. China’s growing
strength will surely translate into a more ambitious foreign
policy, but how we deal with it is up to us.

So far, China shows no inclination toward aggressive territorial
conquest. Nor is it clear that a Chinese-led order would differ
much on the essentials than the U.S.-led order. Indeed, China’s
rise is more a threat to America’s status as the indispensable
nation than any tangible threat to national security.

Many great powers throughout history have let fixations about
national prestige thrust them into destructive wars. If the
Sino-American relationship is to remain peaceful, we must learn to
forfeit such superficial pretensions and focus on narrow, concrete
security and economic interests. Failure to do so may lock us into
a costly cold war that neither country can win.

John Glaser is
director of …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Reality Check: Women Are Worse off in 'Democratic Socialist' Countries

July 30, 2018 in Economics

By Vanessa Brown Calder

Vanessa Brown Calder

In light of self-professed “democratic socialist”
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s primary election results, the term
“democratic socialism” has been bandied about a lot
recently. Not least of all on “The View” this week,
where Meghan McCain argued with Joy Behar about normalizing it.

When McCain pressed Behar for an example of a democratic
socialist country that was successful, she listed five Nordic
countries: Sweden, Finland, Norway, Iceland, and Denmark. Those
countries are better described as social democracies, with
relatively free economies paired with generous redistributive
social welfare programs. That is, these countries aren’t
examples of socialism that “works.”

Why does this distinction matter? Notably, Ocasio-Cortez’s
vision of a world where capitalism “will not always
exist” and her Bernie-esque policy prescriptions including
government job guarantees and doubling the federal minimum wage
actually lie to the left of Scandinavian countries economically.
Proponents like Behar often don’t realize that replicating
the Scandinavian system would require not only increasing
redistribution, but also increasing economic freedom —
something that is seemingly not at the top of either Behar or
Ocasio-Cortez’s policy wish-list.

Indeed, the United States
surpasses the Nordic countries and other western European countries
on a variety of metrics.

That aside, the generous redistribution Behar favors in Nordic
countries hasn’t resulted in all roses for women: there are
trade-offs. In a recent report, “The Nordic Glass
Ceiling,” Swedish author Nima Sanandaji outlines
“several aspects of Nordic social policies [that] have
negatively affected women’s career progress and even
contributed to a glass ceiling” for working women.

Policies including public-sector monopolies, punishing taxes,
publicly funded child care and parental leave, and even ineffective
gender quotas have held back Nordic women’s career
trajectories. Sanandaji argues that, as a result, “the
proportion of women managers, executives, and business owners is
disappointingly low.”

Indeed, the United States surpasses the Nordic countries and
other western European countries on a variety of metrics. OECD data
shows that 14.6 percent of U.S. working women are managers, while
in Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark, just between 1 and 4.6
percent of working women are managers. Overall, women in the United
States are about equally likely as men to be managers, while women
are only half as likely as men to be managers in western OECD
countries overall.

As Sanandaji stresses in his report, redistributive policies and
high taxes in the Nordic countries push women to be
“part-time workers and part-time housewives” partly
because Nordic career women “find it harder to afford
domestic help than their American equivalents” due to high
taxes and perhaps partly because substantial redistribution
including lengthy parental leave makes women more expensive to
employ and leads to statistical discrimination at work. Working a
part-time schedule usually doesn’t qualify workers for
promotions …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Zuckerberg Was Right About How to Handle Holocaust Deniers

July 30, 2018 in Economics

By Flemming Rose

Flemming Rose

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg got into trouble
recently when he said he wouldn’t remove Holocaust deniers
from his platform, claiming some aren’t “intentionally
getting it wrong.”

In response, the Anti-Defamation League charged that Facebook has a “moral and
ethical obligation” to prevent the
“dissemination” of Holocaust denial. Others attacked
Zuckerberg for not taking growing anti-Semitism seriously. Zuckerberg
later clarified that he wasn’t defending the intent of
Holocaust deniers.

The free-speech challenge that Facebook and similar platforms
with global reach face is immense. Since World War II and
especially since the Cold War, more countries have enacted
legislation -with references to history, religion, culture, social
peace and security concerns- that undermines a common understanding
of what free speech entails. This has made free speech advocacy
increasingly difficult on the international level.

This is a paradox. Due to increased migration, rapid
urbanization and developments in technology, more people are
becoming virtual and physical neighbors. Yet while this increases
the need for shared norms about free speech and its limits, the
world seems to be moving in the opposite direction.

Facebook has over 2 billion members from every corner of the
planet — all communicating within the context of vastly
different legal systems, histories, cultures, religions and social
norms — creating an overwhelming amount of competing
priorities. To illustrate this point, consider the contrasting
norms in the two countries with the most Facebook users: the United
States and India. While it’s not controversial in Texas to tell
others that you slaughtered a cow and had some great steaks, doing
so in India could get you killed. The cow is sacred in Hinduism,
and in parts of India, killing a cow is punishable by life
imprisonment. Just a couple of months ago, a man was beaten to death in India after a mob accused
him of slaughtering a cow. What should Facebook do if somebody in
India establishes a group for beef-lovers?

We should be careful to
draw sweeping conclusions, but the limited data we have indicates
that banning Holocaust denial isn’t the most effective way to fight
it and similar incidents of anti-Semitism.

Or what about the profound differences in nudity norms in
countries like the United States and Denmark? In Denmark and other
European countries, nudity is not by definition seen as pornography
or as explicit sexual content. It was therefore not controversial
when a well-known Danish author included nude photos in a book a
few years ago and published some on Facebook. In the United States,
though, both Apple and Facebook censored the photos for violating
community standards. Facebook notified …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Bill Funding Trump's Border Wall Includes Common-Sense Immigration Reforms

July 30, 2018 in Economics

By David Bier

David Bier

Budget appropriators in the House of Representatives
approved
a Department of Homeland Security funding bill
Thursday. In addition to $5 billion for the president’s

border wall
, the Appropriations Committee advanced the bill
with several amendments, including three authored by Republicans,
that would improve the legal immigration system. The bill would
streamline immigration for families of U.S. citizens and for
higher- and lower-skilled foreign workers, while protecting
immigrant Dreamers and asylum seekers at the border.

In a major win for legal immigration, Rep. Dan Newhouse,
R-Wash., inserted a provision expanding the H-2A guest worker
program. Current law limits the H-2A program only to jobs that are
“seasonal” in nature. This blocks employers in
year-round industries such as dairy, livestock, and poultry from
accessing legal workers. It’s a pointless restriction that
incentivizes illegal employment and undermines the purpose of the
program, so Newhouse is rightly seeking to undo it.

Similarly, the committee also
approved
an amendment by Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., that would
increase the number of H-2B guest workers for nonagricultural jobs.
The H-2B program is critical for seafood, landscaping, and
construction industries that cannot access the H-2A program, which
has no cap at all. In recent years, employers have repeatedly been
shut out of the program due to high demand.

This amendment would restore the “returning worker
exemption” under which a worker who entered in the prior two
years would not be counted against the limit again. In addition, it
would also allow the government to distribute the visas more fairly
across companies rather than shutting out some businesses from the
program entirely. Both reforms would improve the system
dramatically, and increasing the numbers of lesser-skilled guest
workers
is proven
to reduce illegal immigration.

This micromanaging of
America’s demographics results in senseless outcomes.

Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., managed to convince the committee to
include his legislation, the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants
Act (H.R.
392
), into the funding bill. This amendment would start to end
the discriminatory practice, started in the 1920s, of limiting
immigration based on nationality. These “per-country”
limits prevent any nationality from using more than 7 percent of
the green cards for permanent residents. This irrationally provides
the same number of green cards to 334,000 Icelanders as to 1.4
billion Chinese.

This micromanaging of America’s demographics results in
senseless outcomes. Immigrants from India sponsored by employers
who are applying right now will face
such a long wait
that they will likely die before receiving
permanent residence. Other applicants face no wait at all.
Family-sponsored immigrants from several countries face even longer
wait times. H.R. 392 would end the …read more

Source: OP-EDS