Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Today's Links


FDR: “…Our basic trouble was not an insufficiency of capital. It was an insufficient distribution of buying power coupled with an over-sufficient speculation in production. While wages rose in many of our industries, they did not as a whole rise proportionately to the reward to capital, and at the same time the purchasing power of other great groups of our population was permitted to shrink. We accumulated such a superabundance of capital that our great bankers were vying with each other, some of them employing questionable methods, in their efforts to lend this capital at home and abroad. I believe that we are at the threshold of a fundamental change in our popular economic thought, that in the future we are going to think less about the producer and more about the consumer. Do what we may have to do to inject life into our ailing economic order, we cannot make it endure for long unless we can bring about a wiser, more equitable distribution of the national income.” (Pam Martens, “FDR Explains the Crisis: Why it feels like 1932” Counterpunch)




Dean Baker:  The bottom line is that this tax bill is about giving more money to the richest people in the country. These are the people who have received the bulk of the gains from the last four decades of economic growth. Now the Republicans are determined to give them even more. 




1--Trump unveils “America First” national security strategy


The National Security Strategy document constitutes a grave warning. In 2002, the administration of George W. Bush issued such a document advocating “preemptive war.” Within a year, US troops had invaded Iraq, launching a war of aggression based upon lies. The present document is making the case for a world war fought with nuclear weapons. 


2--The difference between Dems and Repubs in 1 minute by Huey Long

"One of them skins you from the ankles up, and the other from the ears down."


3--Huey Long: Share the wealth


4--As for the “Shiite crescent,” from Tehran to Bagdad to Damascus to Beirut, who created it?


Under Saddam Hussein, Iraq was Sunni dominated. It was the Americans who overthrew him and brought Shiite power to Baghdad.
In Syria, it was U.S.- and Sunni-backed “rebels,” allied at times with al-Qaida, who drew Iran and the Shiite militias in to save Assad.
And the Israelis called the Shiite Hezbollah movement into being by invading and occupying South Lebanon in 1982. As Yitzhak Rabin ruefully said, “We let the Shia genie out of the bottle.”
Are we now to fight a new Mideast war against a larger enemy than any of the others we have fought, to clean up the bloody mess we made of the region by our previous military interventions?

5--When Washington Cheered the Jihadists 


So long as Syrian jihadis are committed to fighting Iran and its Arab proxies,” the article concluded, “we should quietly root for them – while keeping our distance from a conflict that is going to get very ugly before the smoke clears. There will be plenty of time to tame the beast after Iran’s regional hegemonic ambitions have gone down in flames.”....


As Gambill put it: “Whatever misfortunes Sunni Islamists may visit upon the Syrian people, any government they form will be strategically preferable to the Assad regime, for three reasons: A new government in Damascus will find continuing the alliance with Tehran unthinkable, it won’t have to distract Syrians from its minority status with foreign policy adventurism like the ancien régime, and it will be flush with petrodollars from Arab Gulf states (relatively) friendly to Washington.”


6--Peter Strzok’s “insurance” text and the FBI’s plot to stop Trump


It is now known that the FBI gave credence to the Trump Dossier in the summer of 2016 to the point where it used information obtained from the Trump Dossier to obtain FISA warrants, notably one authorising surveillance of Carter Page.
That fact alone is sufficient to explain why hardliners within the FBI like Strzok were insisting in the summer of 2016 that the Russiagate investigation had to be launched despite the doubts about its lawfulness and propriety expressed by some people within the FBI....

Later entries in the Trump Dossier dated 19th July 2016, 30th July 2016, 5th August 2016 and 10th August 2016, and one entry incorrectly dated 26th July 2015 but which can be clearly dated to July 2016, not only claimed that the Russians were meddling in the election on Donald Trump’s behalf – purportedly on the direct orders from President Putin himself – but also claimed that Trump’s campaign was actively colluding with the Russians in doing this.  Some of these entries would almost certainly have been seen by Strzok before the Russiagate investigation was launched, and he had probably seen all of them before he texted Page on 15th August 2016.

7--The Trump Tax Fraud

The line from the Republicans is that the tax cut, most of which takes the form of a reduction in the corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent, will lead to a huge burst of investment. The logic is that lower tax rates will increase the after‐tax return on capital, causing foreign investment to flood into the country.
This investment will mean more economic growth, and most importantly, higher productivity, which will be passed on to workers in the form of higher wages...

There are good reasons for believing that nothing like this will occur. There is a great deal of evidence that investment is not especially responsive to changes in profit rates. For example, there has been a large increase in the after‐tax profit rate over the last fifteen years as a result of a huge redistribution from wages to profits. In spite of this rise in the profit rate, investment has been relatively lackluster over this period.
We did also try this experiment before. In 1986, the corporate income tax rate was lowered from 46 percent to 35 percent. Rather than prompting a flood of new investment, it actually fell for the next two years..

The bill also includes a major hit to the Affordable Care Act, ending the mandate that people have insurance. This is estimated to leave 14 million more people without health care insurance.

8--Bubbles: Are They Back?, Dean Baker


9--America’s Wars: Yet More of More of the Same?


Trump morphs into "War President": What happened? 


The Trump-Clinton election fiasco of 2016 was, to say the least, disturbing. And while I was no fan of Mr. Trump’s language, demeanor, or (however vague) policies, when it came to our wars he did seem to demonstrate some redeeming qualities. Running against Hillary the hawk presented him with genuine opportunities. She, after all, had been wrong about every major foreign policy decision for more than a decade. Iraq? She voted for it. Afghanistan? She wanted another “surge.” Libya? She was all in and had a fine chuckle when autocrat Muammar Gaddafi was killed....


He called both the Iraq and Afghan wars “stupid,” criticized the poorly planned and executed Libyan operation that had indeed loosed chaos and weaponry from Gaddafi’s looted arsenals across North Africa, and had even questioned whether military escalation, supposedly to balance Russian moves in Eastern Europe, was necessary. Whether he really believed any of that stuff or was just being an effective attack dog by pouncing on Hillary’s grim record we may never know.

What already seems clear, however, is that Trump’s version of global strategy -- to the extent that he even has one -- is turning out to be yet more of more of the same. He did, of course, quickly surround himself with three generals from America’s losing wars clearly convinced that they could “surge” their way out of anything. More troublesome yet, it seems to have registered on him that military escalation, air strikes of various sorts, special operations raids, and general bellicosity all look “presidential” and so play well with the American people....

In constant need of positive reinforcement, Trump has seemed to revel in the role of war president. When he simply led a round of applause for a widow whose husband had died in a botched raid in Yemen early in his presidency, CNN commentator Van Jones typically gushed that he “just became president of the United States, period.” After he ordered the launching of a few dozen cruise missiles targeting one of Bashar al-Assad’s air bases in Syria, even Washington Post columnist and CNN host Fareed Zakaria lauded him for acting “presidential.” War sells, as does fear, especially in the America of 2017, a country filled with outsized fears of Islamic terrorism that no one knows how to stoke better than Donald Trump. So expect more, much more, of each next year.
A Brief Tour of Trump’s Wars
Where exactly does that leave us? Like Obama before him, and Bush before him, President Trump has opted for continuing, even escalating, America’s war for the Greater Middle East. Long gone are the critiques of “stupid” interventions. 

10--What Would Happen If Sanders Ran for President in 2020?



11--Happy 10th Anniversary to the Tea Party! 


History lesson?


 12--The RussiaGate Witch-Hunt—The Deep State’s “Insurance Policy,

 D Stockman


13--Trump’s national security strategy proves US foreign policy never really changes



14--US Congress set for Wednesday passage of multi-trillion-dollar tax cut for the rich


15--Actor Matt Damon comes under attack for his criticisms of the sexual misconduct campaign


16--Trump’s National Security Strategy: The return of “great power” military conflict


The predominant layers within the US ruling elite embraced a strategy based upon the delusion that US military supremacy could be actively employed as an instrument for offsetting the relative decline of American capitalism’s dominance of the globe.This belligerent posture was a manifestation not of American capitalism’s strength, but rather its degeneration and the fears within the US ruling class that the much-celebrated “American Century” could be coming to an end...


In 1992, under the Democratic administration of Bill Clinton, the Pentagon adopted a foundational Defense Planning Guidance document spelling out Washington’s global hegemonic ambitions. It stated:
“There are other potential nations or coalitions that could, in the further future, develop strategic aims and a defense posture of region-wide or global domination. Our strategy must now refocus on precluding the emergence of any potential future global competitor.”...

Above all, however, the text departs from previous NSS documents in its open embrace of nuclear war as a viable option. The document states that a buildup of the US nuclear arsenal is “essential to prevent nuclear attack, nonnuclear strategic attacks, and large scale conventional aggression,” strongly suggesting that the US military is prepared to launch a nuclear first strike in response to a nonnuclear challenge. It goes on to affirm that “fear of [nuclear] escalation will not deter the United States from defending our vital interests.”
“History,” Leon Trotsky warned on the eve of the Second World War, “is bringing humanity face to face with the volcanic eruption of American imperialism....
The new US National Security Strategy released this week and the speech delivered by President Donald Trump Monday to introduce it constitute a grim warning to humanity that US imperialism is firmly embarked on a road that leads to a nuclear third world war.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, the historian Arthur L. Herman declared Trump’s National Security Strategy heralds a “profound shift back to the world before 1917: an anarchic international arena in which every sovereign state, large or small, has to rely on armed strength” for its security.
“In this new era” Herman writes, “might inevitably makes right.” Only power matters, and “the big powers inevitably dominate the small.”
Herman adds, “This is the world of Otto von Bismarck, who said in 1862: “The great questions of the time are not decided by speeches and majority decisions. .. but by iron and blood.”...

the document reveals a longer-term “shift in the US foreign policy consensus from global economic integration to great power competition.” He continues: “The security strategy argues that the US is entering a new era of great power competition with ‘revisionist’ states—China and Russia. For several decades now, US policy has been to engage these powers, bringing them into international institutions and integrating them with the global economy. It was thought that this would, as the strategy puts it, ‘turn them into benign actors and trustworthy partners’. It adds that ‘for the most part, this premise turned out to be false.’

17--Republicans release final bill to slash taxes for US corporations and the rich


18--Iran to Syria route is open now.


19--UN rapporteur “shocked” by deep poverty in US


“My visit coincides with a dramatic change of direction in US policies relating to inequality and extreme poverty. The proposed tax reform package stakes out America’s bid to become the most unequal society in the world, and will greatly increase the already high levels of wealth and income inequality between the richest 1 percent and the poorest 50 percent of Americans. The dramatic cuts in welfare, foreshadowed by the president and Speaker Ryan, and already beginning to be implemented by the administration, will essentially shred crucial dimensions of a safety net that is already full of holes.”

The report notes that at the federal level, proposals to cut Medicare will be “disastrous.” Underfunding the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) will “have devastating [effects] on the health of millions of poor children.” If funding for the Federal Qualified Health Centers (FQCHs) is eliminated, “9 million patients could lose access to primary and preventative care.”

20- More sexual harassment allegations hit congressmen, media and entertainment figures


21-- Trump unveils “America First” national security strategy


22--Trump “is now surrounded by war hawks, 


 and some in his foreign policy team “have failed to move beyond the disastrous policies” of Trump’s predecessors, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, according to Black.

“I believe the ‘Deep State’ actors rushed this National Security Review to completion in order to use it as a tool to dominate the foreign policy of President Trump,” the senator told RT. “I believe that President Trump views Russia and China as economic competitors – not as enemies,” he added.
At the same time the document “drastically reverses Donald Trump’s campaign promises to normalize relations with Russia, work with the Syrian government, limit US involvement to defeating ISIS [Islamic State, IS], and downplaying our relations with NATO.”
While Trump has previously advocated cooperation with Russia on a range of international security issues, the strategy accuses Moscow of “subversive political interference,” destabilizing Eurasia and increasing “the risk of miscalculation.”

23--Pushing Russia’s Buttons

24--Americans say they are worse off today than 50 years ago




Public Trust in Government: 1958-2017

Public trust in the government remains near historic lows. Only 18% of Americans today say they can trust the government in Washington to do what is right “just about always” (3%) or “most of the time” (15%). 

 Will the Supreme Court Break or Remake the Labor Movement?

 “Russia is the furthest thing from those voters’ minds. … If you went out on the street right now and asked 100 people what the most important issue right now is, I would be shocked if even one said ‘Russia.’”   Dave Gilliard, Democratic strategist 

"I feel like there are so many more important issues that we could be focusing on other than something that's basically water under the bridge," said Martina Childers, a 53-year-old Republican who lives in Colorado.

Poll: Americans want Democrats to work with Trump
A strong majority of Americans say Democrats should look to cooperate with President Trump to strike deals, according to the inaugural Harvard-Harris poll provided exclusively by The Hill… Read more.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 49 percent of Americans believe President Donald Trump “likely” committed a crime connected to Russia’s suspected interference in last year’s U.S. presidential election.
Of those, 19 percent believe there’s “solid evidence” to back that up, with the other 30 percent saying it’s just a “suspicion.” Another 44 percent of those surveyed said it’s unlikely Trump committed a crime....

Predictably, the attitudes about Trump and the investigation broke down along party lines, with 78 percent of Democrats and just 38 percent of Republicans approving of how Mueller is handling the investigation. More than half of independent voters, 56 percent, approve of the job Mueller is doing.
The vast majority of Republicans — 82 percent — believe it’s unlikely Trump committed a crime; half of independents and 74 percent of Democrats believe it’s likely he did, the poll found.

"I feel like there are so many more important issues that we could be focusing on other than something that's basically water under the bridge," said Martina Childers, a 53-year-old Republican who lives in Colorado.
She said the economy, taxes, the military and small business concerns are more pressing issues. The Russia investigations? "I don't think that's so important. I just don't," she said.
Childers' views reflect the feelings of a majority of Americans. Just 4 in 10 call the Russia investigation very or extremely important to them. By contrast, immigration, taxes and health care are all considered much more important, according to the survey...
at this point few Americans have high confidence in either Mueller or Congress to fairly investigate the issue.
Of the special counsel's investigation, just 26 percent say they're very or extremely confident that it will be fair and impartial, while an additional 31 percent are moderately confident. Opinions about the possibility of a fair and impartial congressional investigation are even lower, with just 13 percent saying they're very or extremely confident in that happening and 32 percent saying they're moderately confident.
In Colorado, Childers said she can't completely trust Mueller.
"I feel like there may be some ulterior motives there," she said, noting that Trump "ruffled a lot of feathers" when he took office.
The AP-NORC poll surveyed 1,020 adults from Dec. 7-11 using a sample drawn from NORC's probability-based AmeriSpeak panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.

AP poll: Most Americans believe Trump did something illegal or unethical with Russia

Four in 10 Americans think the president has done something illegal when it comes to Russia, while an additional 3 in 10 say he's at least done something unethical. And 68 percent disapprove of his response to the investigations...

Overall, 62 percent of Democrats say they think Trump has done something illegal, while just 5 percent of Republicans think the same. Among Republicans, 33 percent think he's done something unethical, while 60 percent think he's done nothing wrong at all. 


Dems push leaders to talk less about Russia

In the races where I’m working, I think voters think that Russia is important and that the questions need to get answered,” Bill Burton, a veteran Democratic consultant, said at a political convention this past weekend. “But they’re mostly sick of hearing about it, and they want to hear politicians talk about things that are more directly important in their lives.

  a state that is critical to the party’s efforts to retake the House, Darry Sragow, a Democratic strategist whose California Target Book handicaps races in California, called Russia a “distraction” and said Democrats “are going to be in deep, deep trouble if they don’t start talking about what voters care about.”

“We need to talk about what people think about when they wake up in the morning, and it’s not Russia,” Sragow said. “The more we talk about stuff that voters don’t truly care about in their daily lives … it confirms that the Democratic Party’s brain has been eaten by the elites in Washington who have been sitting fat and happy for a lot of years while working Americans have lost their jobs and lost confidence in the future.”

ut a plurality of voters in the POLITICO/Morning Consult poll said Congress should not seek to impeach the president. An earlier Harvard-Harris Poll found nearly two-thirds of American voters say investigations into Trump and Russia are hurting the country.
...California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who’s running for governor, was even more direct in a recent appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” The Russia investigation, he said, “doesn’t do anything for Democrats at all. … It’s a loser.”...

“Democrats have forgotten one of the edicts of one of the wise men of their party, Tip O’Neill, who said ‘all politics is local,’” said Dave Gilliard, a strategist for four of California’s targeted Republicans — Reps. Jeff Denham, Mimi Walters, Issa and Ed Royce. “Russia is the furthest thing from those voters’ minds. … If you went out on the street right now and asked 100 people what the most important issue right now is, I would be shocked if one said ‘Russia.’”
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul last month called the Russia investigation a "witch hunt,” and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes has said Washington should “stop chasing Russian ghosts around the closet.”

We don’t spend a lot of time around here talking about Vladimir Putin and James Comey,” he said. “I’m as frustrated as anyone by what Comey did and that Putin interfered, and Congress should get to the bottom of that, but if that’s what we talk about . . . we will lose again.” Pepper, who spoke the night before indictments were unsealed Monday, added that the way Ohio Democrats will win next year “is by getting a core message that appeals across all 88 counties.

Rory Cooper @rorycooper
Under President Obama, Democrats have lost 900+ state legislature seats, 12 governors, 69 House seats, 13 Senate seats. That's some legacy.  charts dems losses

In his eight years in office, Obama oversaw the rapid erosion of the Democratic Party’s political power in state legislatures, congressional districts and governor’s mansions. At the beginning of Obama’s term, Democrats controlled 59 percent of state legislatures, while now they control only 31 percent, the lowest percentage for the party since the turn of the 20th century. They held 29 governor’s offices and now have only 16, the party’s lowest number since 1920

“We took our eye off the ball,” Rep. Tim Ryan, who represents Youngstown, Ohio, said of the party’s waning popularity in certain parts of the country. “We stopped being a big-tent party as far as going aggressively out to rural America and being there, being present there, listening, learning, recruiting candidates.”

 “The Democratic Party is at its lowest point in my lifetime,” said Mark Longabaugh, a senior strategist on Bernie Sanders’s campaign. “I don’t know how you walk away from that fact.”

“If I had told you eight years ago that America would reverse a great recession … that we would win marriage equality and secure the right to health insurance for another 20 million of our fellow citizens — if I had told you all that, you might have said our sights were set a little too high,” Obama said to the crowd of Democratic faithful.
All this had been accomplished in a country that seemed increasingly open to the Democratic Party’s ideas: At the beginning of Obama’s term, 44 percent of Americans thought marijuana should be legal; by the end of his time in office, 60 percent thought so. Support for same-sex marriage skyrocketed. In 2015, 45 percent of Americans said they leaned Democrat, compared to 42 percent who leaned Republican, and Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 3 million.
So why did the Democrats lose the 2016 presidential election?

We’re not even a national party at this point,” Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, said last month as he made a failed run at the House minority leader position. “We have some support on the coasts, but we’ve lost the support of middle America, and we’ve got to make some changes. So I’m pulling the fire alarm here, because the house is on fire.”

The Democratic Party suffered huge losses at every level during Obama’s West Wing tenure.
The grand total: a net loss of 1,042 state and federal Democratic posts, including congressional and state legislative seats, governorships and the presidency.
The latter was perhaps the most profound example of Obama's popularity failing to translate to support for his allies. Hillary Clinton, who served as secretary of state under Obama, brought the first family out for numerous campaign appearances. In September, Obama declared that his “legacy’s on the ballot.”
Less than two months later, Americans voted for Donald Trump.
But 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue wasn’t the only locale to see a big partisan change since Obama took office in January 2009, according to figures from Ballotpedia.
Democratic U.S. Senate seats fell from 55 to 46. Their share of the House plummeted from 256 seats to 194. Republicans still control both chambers going into the next session.
Democratic governerships also became a rarity during this eight-year period, slipping from 28 to 16.
The Obama years, which saw the rise of the Tea Party as well as a new movement form around Trump that is still being defined, coincided with a loss of 958 state legislative seats for Democrat

"As much as the U.S. mainstream media has mocked the idea that an American “deep state” exists and that it has maneuvered to remove Trump from office, the text messages between senior FBI counterintelligence official Peter Strzok and senior FBI lawyer Lisa Page reveal how two high-ranking members of the government’s intelligence/legal bureaucracy saw their role as protecting the United States from an election that might elevate to the presidency someone as unfit as Trump." ("The Foundering Russia-gate Scandal", Robert Parry, Consortium News)

Elections matter. Free and fair elections represent the authority of the people to pick their own leaders. That's how democracy works. 

In the 2016 election, the Democrats ran the least trustworthy, most polarizing candidate in their history. And they lost.  They didn't lose because Americans had suddenly turned into rabid racist, misogynist, homophobic, gun-toting, bible-thumping hillbillies. They lost because Hillary Clinton was the lousiest, least-likable, mean-spirited candidate of all time. 

As a result, Donald Trump is president. He won the election.  It doesn't matter that he may be the most reactionary, unqualified, right-wing militaristic president in US history. He won, which means he's entitled to govern the country.

That doesn't mean Trump shouldn't be opposed. He should be.  We should oppose his right wing foreign policy, his Yemen policy, his North Korea policy, his Ukraine policy.
We should oppose his hateful environmental policy, his hateful immigration policy, his hateful tax policy, and his hateful education policy. 

Where I draw the line, is at opposing Trump for something of which he is entirely innocent, that is, colluding with Russia to sway the election in his favor. The allegations that Trump was in bed with Russia are not only idiotic, but they are also completely unrelated to the real dangers he poses to the country. Imagine if Harvey Weinstein was charged with burglary instead sexual harassment and predation.  How does that address the injuries of the victims?

It doesn't. Nor does the Trump-Collusion charge address Trump's policy failings; the relentless threats against North Korea, China, Iran; the "Trump tax cut" fraud that is designed to shift even more of the nation's wealth to the 1 percent; and the lunatic environmental policies that threaten our national parks, our clean water and air, our oceans, and our rapidly-incinerating planet. This is where Trump must be fought tooth-n-nail not Russia-gate. Russia-gate is scam by powerful members of the foreign policy establishment and their lackeys at the Intel agencies and law enforcement to reign in Trump, prevent him from normalizing relations with Russia, and prove to him what most Americans already know--that the president is a meaningless figurehead who is controlled by the big money guys who operate behind the smokescreen of phony democratic  institutions.

Opposition to Trump's right wing policies is not only a good thing, it is essential, just as building a new political party that represents the interests of working people is essential.

But that type of heavy-lifting has not even started yet and, unfortunately, may liberals seem to think that attacking Trump as Russian agent is much more likely to bear fruit than applying themselves to the drudgery of organizing a political coalition that can promote their interests and pull the country back from the brink of destruction. I respectfully disagree.












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