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Former CIA Director Calls Donald Trump Jr. a 'Witting' Accomplice to Russia's Attempt to Influence the Election

August 7, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

The infamous Trump Tower meeting is reportedly a major focus of Robert Mueller's investigation.


Former CIA Director John Brennan said Tuesday that President Donald Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr., should have known better than to take the infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russian emissaries promising dirt on Hillary Clinton — and that doing so put him in the realm of being a “witting” accomplice to their efforts.

He made the comments on MSNBC's “Deadline: White House” with host Nicolle Wallace.

“You once — now famously — talked about 'witting' and 'unwitting' accomplices to the Russian effort to meddle in the 2016 election. In my mind, maybe erroneously, I put Don Jr. in the 'unwitting' category,” Wallace said. “Do the events of the last week move him over to perhaps a witting accomplice to the Russian efforts?”

She also described his dubious behavior in response to the offer of help from Russians. 

“He responded 'I love it,'” she said. “His father now says he absolutely walked into a meeting with the Russians, people that we now know to have ties to the Kremlin, and sat there willingly, wanting to have received dirt on Hillary Clinton.”

“I think I would put him in the 'witting' category in terms of going into that meeting, with an anticipation and an expectation that he was going to get dirt from those individuals that were associated with Russia,” Brennan replied. “Whether he was witting of just how bad that action was, I don't know. But if he had that position within the Trump campaign, he certainly should have been aware — and those who were working with him should have been aware — that going into that meeting, just by definition, would have been problematic.”

He continued: “So, I think it was a bit of naivete, a bit [of being] overly self-confident. But also believing that he could get away with it and not be held to account one day, and I think he was certainly wrong on that score.”

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'Magical Thinking of the Trump Cult': Former GOP Strategist Singles Out Core Truth of the Deluded Republican Party

August 7, 2018 in Blogs

By Chris Sosa, AlterNet

The president has convinced people he has a popular mandate that doesn't actually exist.


Former Republican campaign strategist Steve Schmidt called President Donald Trump's supporters a “cult” during a Tuesday MSNBC appearance.

Schmidt said Trump has convinced people he has a popular mandate that doesn't actually exist.

“He has performed some level of Jedi mind trick. Here's the deal — he lost by 3 million votes [...] He is weaker,” Schmidt said. “The majority of the country opposes this. It is only through the magical thinking of the Trump cult that there is any capacity to believe that a majority supports it. It does not.”

Then Schmidt offered advice for the Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections.

“What Democrats have to talk about is the vast corruption of this administration, the personal corruption of Donald Trump and the people around him, the kind of moral corruption, and the fact that the Republicans in Congress will do nothing to slow him down.”

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Source: ALTERNET

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Here's Why Democrats Should Be Going All in to Win the Senate Back

August 7, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Getting control of the chamber could be crucial for the next two years.


Even as anticipation about a coming “blue wave” in the 2018 midterm elections increases, Democrats have a much better chance of winning back the House of Representatives than they do the Senate.

That's because while every House seat is up for election every two years, only a third of the Senators go before voters each round. And this year, 10 Democratic senators are fighting for seats in tough races, while Republicans have only about four seats in any real danger.

But winning back control of the Senate will be key for any kind of progressive agenda in the coming two years — and it will certainly prove useful if Democrats win back the White House in 2020.

President Donald Trump's nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court could secure conservative dominance at the top of the judiciary. If he gets the opportunity to nominate another justice, a Democratic Senate would be the only way to stop the court from drifting even further to the right.

But the need goes beyond just the Supreme Court. Under Trump, the Senate has been remarkably efficient at funneling federal judges to high posts, further installing conservative ideology within the judicial branch. Democrats could stem the tide with a majority in the Senate.

And if progressives' dreams of impeaching Trump in the House of Representatives is achieved, the Senate will have the final say on whether to remove him from office. A Democratic majority hardly ensures his fate because a two-thirds vote is needed, but it certainly makes his eventual removal more likely.

As the New York Times opinion writer Frank Bruni argued Tuesday, Democrats do have a real shot at taking back the Senate in November, even if it's an uphill battle. He noted that they need to win two seats currently held by Republicans, and they currently have at least four states that present such opportunities: Nevada, Arizona, Tennessee, and Texas.

On the other hand, there are five states where Democratic incumbents on running in deep-red states, putting them at serious risk: North Dakota, Montana, …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Watch This Trump-Lover's Reaction When A Reporter's Simple Question Exposes the GOP's Hypocritical Attacks on Mueller

August 7, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

The attacks are now beyond parody.


President Donald Trump and his allies frequently argue that special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation had gone on too long and must stop, despite the fact that it has proceeded at a brisk pace, issued dozens of indictments, and secured several guilty pleas.

This argument has become popular among many of his voters and supporters, but as a recent video showed, the absurdity and hypocrisy of the talking point can be easily demonstrated.

The Young Turks reporter Eric Byler revealed the obvious contradictions of the calls to end the Mueller Probe when interviewing a Trump supporter outside the president's recent rally in Pennsylvania. He spoke to a woman wearing a Trump hat and a shirt about the Benghazi investigations, who reiterated the GOP claims that the Muller probe has gone on too long.

She said that while Mueller's probe may be investigating issues worth uncovering, it is a waste of money to hopelessly try to uncover the truth.

“If we’re using valuable resources to get to a conclusion that we probably will never end up at,” she said. “It’s very hard to prove that kind of stuff.”

She added: “When you get up into the government there is so many cover-ups and things that the public just doesn’t know about,” she said.

The reporter pointed out, however, that her shirt bearing the quote, “What difference does it make?” — along with a caricature of Hillary Clinton as the Joker — refers to the Benghazi investigation. That investigation, he noted, went on much longer than the Russia probe. 

“I understand it's kind of contradicting what I said about that,” the woman admitted. After the contradiction was pointed out, she backpedaled, seeming to agree that she does support the Mueller investigation finishing, assuming his team finds sufficient evidence of crimes like treason.

Watch the clip below:

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Former Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen Is Under Investigation for Tax Fraud: Wall Street Journal

August 7, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

His taxi medallion business reportedly brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars in the last five years — much of it in cash.


The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Michael D. Cohen, former personal lawyer for President Donald Trump, is under investigation for possible tax fraud.

According to the Wall Street Journal, federal prosecutors in New York City are trying to determine if the Long Island-born Cohen underreported income from his taxi medallion business on his tax returns. A taxi medallion, also known as a certificate of public necessity and convenience or CPNC, is a transferable permit that allows a taxi driver to operate; New York City has the most valuable taxi medallions in the U.S.

Cohen’s taxi medallion business, according to the Journal, brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars in the last five years—and many payments were made in cash. The Journal is also reporting that prosecutors are investigating to determine if a bank allowed the 51-year-old attorney to receive loans “for which he didn’t provide adequate documentation.”

Cohen’s name has often come up in connection with allegations that Trump had sex with adult film star Stephanie Clifford, a.k.a. Stormy Daniels, in 2006 and that Cohen, in 2016, paid her $130,000 in hush money to keep quiet. Cohen has admitted to paying Daniels $130,000, saying that he did so with his own money—although the White House has denied that Trump had an affair with her.

Playboy model Karen McDougal has also alleged that she had an extramarital affair with Trump—and last month, CNN obtained a recording of a 2016 conversation in which Trump and Cohen are heard discussing a payment that is believed to be a payment to McDougal. The recording was given to CNN by Cohen’s attorney, Lanny Davis.

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Ending the Korean War Is in the National Interest

August 7, 2018 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

It has been decades since bombs fell and bullets flew on the
Korean peninsula. Yet the United States, China, North Korea, and
South Korea still technically are at war. The Korean War ended in
an armistice, not a peace treaty.

The time is long overdue for the “combatants” to
declare a state of peace.

Until now formally ending the war might have seemed premature.
North Korea launched routine rhetorical fulminations and occasional
violent attacks over the years. The North’s conventional
forces were essentially spring-loaded just north of the
Demilitarized Zone, ready to resume combat. Furthermore, despite
Pyongyang’s sometimes pacific protestations, it didn’t
seem like the North Korean leadership actually wanted peace.

Everything changed this year. Although the Trump-Kim summit was
the highlight, there was much more. Kim’s three meetings with
China’s Xi Jinping suggest that the Democratic People’s Republic of
Korea has moved closer to Beijing’s position, which for years
emphasized stability and peace.

Kim met twice with the Republic of Korea’s Moon Jae-in and the
second visit was arranged overnight. South Korean diplomats report
that the DPRK’s Supreme Leader treated Moon, his elder, with
traditional Asian deference. Kim rules with a lethal hand but is
deftly playing the game of international statesman.

A peace treaty will do
more to change Pyongyang’s behavior than a return to a cycle of
escalation.

Indeed, Kim apparently has been invited to Moscow to meet
Vladimir Putin, and there is even talk of a summit with Japan’s
Shinzo Abe. The North Korean leader appeared to enjoy his stroll in
Singapore. He appears unlikely to revert to his father’s and
grandfather’s hermit-like behavior.

Equally significant, the North recently ended its anti-American
propaganda. Cleaning up Pyongyang, so to speak, will be no easy
task. Posters line streets and fill walls. The United States was a
frequent target. This change could be a ruse, of course. But likely
not. For seventy years Washington and its “puppets” in
the ROK were the primary enemies used to rally North Koreans behind
the regime. Now Kim Jong-un has implicitly declared that peace
reigns on the peninsula.

Recognizing changing reality is a good reason to make peace
formally, but there is a better one: encouraging movement toward
denuclearization.

Grant that no one has ever gone broke betting against DPRK
intransigence. Moreover, America has given Kim much cause to hold
on to his nukes. The last international pariah to disarm in return
for Western expressions of love and affection, Muammar Gaddafi,
probably wondered in his dying moments why he had trusted the
Americans.

Nevertheless, Kim appears to be different than his predecessors.
He is more committed to economic reform and comfortable with the
international spotlight than his …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The Tories Should Ditch the Pro-Business Label and Focus on Being Pro-Market Instead

August 7, 2018 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

The great and good of the commentariat fear that Brexit will
mean the Tories’ abandoning the terrain as the
“pro-business” party.

But is that even a label worth fighting for and a good guide to
how the party should approach policy?

Those who self-define as free-marketeers or libertarians have
long argued that politicians should aim to be
“pro-market” rather “pro-business”. This
distinction might appear trivial or meaningless for most issues
— but it’s an important one to make.

Being pro-market implies a starting point of considering
consumer welfare, competition, and ease of exit and entry of firms
(including those that do not even exist yet). It’s about
getting the institutions right, and then allowing businesses to do
their thing.

Describing oneself as
pro-business then is to put the cart before the horse.

Being pro-business, on the other hand, inevitably means a
tendency toward the status quo and government favouritism.
Politicians often think of themselves as “pro-business”
if they acquiescence to demands from existing firms for
protectionism, subsidies from government, industrial strategies, or
support for things such as childcare, even though these might harm
the economy overall.

Some, such as prominent libertarian economics blogger Bryan
Caplan, argue that abandoning the pro-business label cedes too much
ground to capitalism’s critics. Sure, he says, some dumb
government policies do tilt the playing field towards some
businesses over others, but the overall impact of business on
society is positive, and therefore worth defending.

Caplan points out that businesses play an extraordinary role in
organising us to undertake activities to fulfil the wants and needs
of others, much more efficiently than governments could ever
do.

Given negative media portrayals of prominent business leaders
and a tendency towards reporting only nefarious activities, it is
necessary to make the counter case for business as a positive
force.

Caplan may well be broadly right about the role of business in
western societies. But being pro-something implies unconditional
support for it.

If I were to take to Twitter to describe myself as pro-Trump,
people would justifiably ask how I could support some of the
President’s more economically illiterate policies, such as
the imposition of highly damaging tariffs using the veneer of a
“national security” threat.

In the same way, whether one likes it or not, self-defining as
pro-business is seen as apologising for all sorts of bad business
activity.

The important question, therefore, is why do businesses have the
positive impact Caplan outlines?

The very reason businesses are a force for good in the way he
describes is because they are embedded in a market economy. The
frameworks set out under the law mean that, in most cases, the way
businesses make money is by meeting our demands. …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Fighting Violent Extremism by Teaching Tolerance

August 7, 2018 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Although terrorism understandably has become the focus of U.S.
foreign policy, the problem of religious intolerance and violence
is far broader. As Islamic extremism has erupted throughout the
Middle East, most dramatically in Iraq and Syria, Christians,
Yazidis, and other religious minorities are being driven from their
historic homes.

What to do? U.S. “public diplomacy” has been
ineffective, essentially attempting to put lipstick on a pig in
terms of selling American foreign policy. Washington has spent
millions on foreign aid to promote education and provide social
services for supposedly at-risk Islamic youth, without any evident
impact on violent behavior.

America’s military response has turned into endless war,
which appears to create as many terrorists as are captured or
killed. Indeed, America’s multiple interventions and wars
have both spawned violent extremists and created chaos in which
they thrive. The Islamic State, the fount of so much horror, was
merely the most notable beneficiary of misguided U.S.
war-making.

However, the fact that there is no simple, quick answer
doesn’t mean there is nothing to do. Education can work, but
of a unique kind. The group Hardwired, run by Tina Ramirez, a
former Capitol Hill staffer, engages in what it calls
“rights-based education,” which has had notable if
small-scale success in building support for religious tolerance and
liberty.

Washington has spent
millions on foreign aid to promote education and provide social
services for supposedly at-risk Islamic youth, without any evident
impact on violent behavior.

I witnessed the group’s approach at a conference held in
Erbil, Kurdistan. Hardwired brought together people of varying,
even contentious faiths and backgrounds — most of whom had
suffered persecution at the hands of Islamic radicals. Although
divided in beliefs, they came to recognize their shared interest in
respecting the rights of others.

Hardwired also has targeted children, efforts detailed in a new
study by Lena Smith, Tina Ramirez, and Mary Anne Rea-Ramirez,
“Protecting Children from Violent Extremism.” The
report reviewed Hardwired’s efforts in Iraq, Lebanon, and
Morocco, in which the group taught 56 teachers and 1161 students at
46 different schools. The overall assessment: “students
demonstrated greater acceptance of the rights of others, greater
respect for the equal rights of women and minority communities,
were less intimidated by public expression of belief, and reflected
greater resiliency to extremist thinking.”

As almost everyone recognizes, kids are the most important
target for purveyors of violence. Explained the group, “The
threat of intolerance, extremism, and radical ideology is evident
everywhere, and children throughout the Middle East and North
Africa are particularly vulnerable to its influence.”

The problem is not just that children are exploring their way,
gaining new experiences, and coming under new influences. With
conflict and oppression widespread …read more

Source: OP-EDS