Donald Trump Fails The Country In Refusing To Stand Up To White Supremacists

The hatred and violence seen in Charlottesville this weekend raises the question of whether Donald Trump will ever stand up to his white supremacist base. His statement about the violence has been criticized by many for failing to call out the white supremacists and identify the evil behind the event. The Dallas Morning News stated in an editorial that, Amid the violence in Virginia, President Trump failed in a test of leadership:

Unfortunately, what we witnessed Saturday in Charlottesville, Va., revealed the ugliness of America. What’s worse is that in its aftermath, President Donald Trump had an opportunity to show real leadership but couldn’t bring himself to do it.

White supremacists, in a protest billed as a “Unite the Right” rally, gathered to rail against the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a city park. The protests started out peacefully but as the day went on, fights broke out between the white supremacists and counterprotesters, including Black Lives Matter activists, faith leaders and the anarchist group Antifa…

Once police dispersed most of the crowd, a Dodge Challenger plowed into a crowd of protesters, hurling people into the air, killing one and injuring 19 others. The driver put the car in reverse, sped backward and managed to escape before being arrested later.

At a time when such ugliness took place in the hometown of founding father Thomas Jefferson, Trump had a golden opportunity to condemn the violence and speak out against the white supremacists and white nationalists, many of whom supported him in the election against Hillary Clinton. The country needed the leader of the nation to forcefully call out these ugly — and un-American — interests.

There is no room for violence from any group, including Antifa. But on this day, it was all about white supremacists, neo-Nazis and white nationalists.

The best President Trump came up with is to say, “We want to get this situation straightened out in Charlottesville. And we want to study it. And we want to see what we’re doing wrong as a country.” He also blamed “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.”

The country needed to hear the president specifically condemn white supremacists and make clear to them that while they have a First Amendment right to express their views, their hatred and bigotry run counter to the values of the United States. There will be no toleration of violence.

On Saturday, President Trump failed his country.

Chris Cillizza called Trump’s statement incredibly unpresidential:

What Trump failed to do is what he has always promised to do: Speak blunt truths. The people gathered in Charlottesville this weekend are white supremacists, driven by hate and intolerance. Period. There is no “other side” doing similar things here…

There are moments where we as a country look to our president to exemplify the best in us. They don’t happen every day. Sometimes they don’t happen every year. But, when they do happen, we need the person we elected to lead us to, you know, lead us.

Trump did the opposite today.

While Donald Trump failed his country in  his response, others from all sides of the political spectrum did far better. Barack Obama quoted Nelson Mandela in a series of three Tweets: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion … People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love…For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

Republican Senator Cory Gardner specifically called out Trump for failing to speak out against white supremacism. He Tweeted: “Mr. President – we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism.” Marco Rubio also stated that Donald Trump needs to clearly denounce white supremacists in Charlottesville.

Ted Cruz had this statement on Facebook:

It’s tragic and heartbreaking to see hatred and racism once again mar our great Nation with bloodshed. Heidi’s and my prayers are with the loved ones of those killed and injured in the ongoing violence in Charlottesville. The First Amendment protects the rights of all Americans to speak their minds peaceably, but violence, brutality, and murder have no place in a civilized society.

The Nazis, the KKK, and white supremacists are repulsive and evil, and all of us have a moral obligation to speak out against the lies, bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred that they propagate. Having watched the horrifying video of the car deliberately crashing into a crowd of protesters, I urge the Department of Justice to immediately investigate and prosecute this grotesque act of domestic terrorism.

These bigots want to tear our country apart, but they will fail. America is far better than this. Our Nation was built on fundamental truths, none more central than the proposition “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

Update:

Trump Backtracks And Blames Both Sides, Including Alt-Left, For Charlottesville Violence

Donald Trump Further Inflames Situation In North Korea

The conventional wisdom regarding North Korea has been that Kim Jong Un is crazy. While that very well may be the case, we are now in a strange situation where it is not clear which nation has the crazier leader. Trump made this threat: “He has been very threatening beyond a normal state, and as I said, they will be met with fire and fury, and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.” There has been received with universal criticism that it only inflames the situation. It also turns out that this was an improvised statement by Donald Trump. The New York Times reports:

President Trump delivered his “fire and fury” threat to North Korea on Tuesday with arms folded, jaw set and eyes flitting on what appeared to be a single page of talking points set before him on the conference table at his New Jersey golf resort.

The piece of paper, as it turned out, was a fact sheet on the opioid crisis he had come to talk about, and his ominous warning to Pyongyang was entirely improvised, according to several people with direct knowledge of what unfolded. In discussions with advisers beforehand, he had not run the specific language by them, though he had talked over possible responses in a general way.

The inflammatory words quickly escalated the confrontation with North Korea to a new, alarming level and were followed shortly by a new threat from North Korea to obliterate an American air base on Guam. In the hours since, the president’s advisers have sought to calm the situation, with Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson assuring Americans that they “should sleep at night” without worrying about an imminent war.

USA Today summarizes some of the international reaction. In reviewing past crises, another report in The New York Times reports how there is little precedent for such a statement. Others in the government are now busy attempting damage control. Jonathan Chait wins best headline award on the topic with, Ignore Our Crazy President, U.S. Government Tells North Korea.

Of course not everyone is critical of Donald Trump. In perhaps the scariest headline on the topic, The Washington Post reports, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un,’ evangelical adviser says:

Texas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress, one of President Trump’s evangelical advisers who preached the morning of his inauguration, has released a statement saying the president has the moral authority to “take out” North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“When it comes to how we should deal with evildoers, the Bible, in the book of Romans, is very clear: God has endowed rulers full power to use whatever means necessary — including war — to stop evil,” Jeffress said. “In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un.”

Trump’s statements most likely come from his lack of understanding of how to carry out the duties of the presidency. Kim Jong Un’s actions are in some ways more rational, if you look at his motivation based upon retaining absolute control over North Korea, regardless of how much suffering he causes.

There are multiple reasons which originally motivated North Korea to develop nuclear weapons, including both witnessing the effects of nuclear weapons in nearby Japan and the devastation their country suffered in the Korean War. However these events happened before the current leadership was born, and more recent events appear to be motivating them to further develop the nuclear weapons and refuse to compromise. North Korea has claimed that they need to preserve their nuclear program because of the example of how Saddam was overthrown after he gave up his weapons of mass destruction and Muammar Gaddafi was ousted and killed after he surrendered his nuclear weapons. Such examples make it unlikely that Kim Jong Un will back down in the face of sanctions.

It is now well known how George Bush lied us into the war in Iraq. The regime change in Libya orchestrated by Hillary Clinton has been a similar disaster, with Barack Obama calling it one of the biggest mistakes of his presidency. A report by the U.K. Parliament showed that this war, like Iraq, was also started based upon lies. The situation we now face in North Korea is yet another of the consequences we face for the reckless interventionism of neocons like Bush and Clinton. On top of this, the crisis must be dealt with by a president who appears to be clueless as to how to respond.

Update: The Washington Post points out one of Ronald Reagan’s contributions to the problem with the invasion of Grenada:

In October 1983, the United States invaded Grenada. The Kim family regime that controls North Korea saw this invasion as an early warning sign: If the United States could perceive even a small spice island as a threat, so too could it eventually train its sights on North Korea. Without an effective deterrent, any regime perceived as a threat would be little match for American military might.

It wasn’t just Grenada’s size that caught the Kim family’s attention. Grenada, a country of only 110,000 people that is known primarily for producing nutmeg, had significance for the North Korean leadership in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Kim Il Sung, grandfather of North Korea’s present-day leader Kim Jong Un, viewed the new Grenadian socialist government headed by Maurice Bishop as brave revolutionaries directly fighting U.S. imperialism in the Caribbean. Kim Il Sung also sought the help of recently decolonized nations like Grenada in international forums, as a way to undermine South Korea’s legitimacy abroad and garner support for a North Korean-led reunification of the two Koreas…

Joint Chiefs Ignoring Trump Transgender Ban As Twitter Not Part Of Chain Of Command

Why are Republicans so obsessed with other people’s genitals, who they have sex with, and which bathroom they use? The latest example was Donald Trump’s proclamation via Twitter that transgender individuals will not be allowed to serve in the military. Of course the Constitution does not provide for changes in policy via Tweets, and neither Congress nor the Joint Chiefs of Staff were prepared for this. Not surprisingly, they are insisting upon following the conventional change of command before making such changes. CNN reports:

The Joint Chiefs of Staff, including chairman General Joseph Dunford, were not aware President Donald Trump planned to tweet a ban on transgender service members, three US defense officials told CNN — the latest indication that top military leaders across all four service branches were blindsided by the President’s announcement.

For now, Dunford has informed service members that there will be “no modifications to the current policy until the President’s direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidelines.”

“In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect,” Dunford wrote in a memo to the military that was obtained by CNN. “As importantly, given the current fight and the challenges we face, we will all remain focused on accomplishing our assigned missions.”

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said Thursday that, to date, he has not received “directives on implementation” for a ban and learned about the President’s decision through the media.

We will work through the implementation guidance when we get it and then we’ll move from there,” he added while speaking at the National Press Club.

Maybe next Donald Trump will Tweet that Obamacare has been repealed and leave it at that, satisfying himself with no actual changes affecting anyone else.

Trump Tweeted that the military “cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.” Conservatives have complained about the cost of surgery for transgender members of the military, although not all even undergo surgery. Military Times reports that the “Defense Department spends 10 times as much money on Viagra and other erectile dysfunction medications than it spends on healthcare services for transgender troops.”

USA Today also noted this, along with comparisons of the cost of transgender surgery to the cost of Donald Trump’s trips to Mar-A-Lago:

A report for the Pentagon last year found that transition-related care would cost between about $2.4 and $8.4 million per year — less than 0.14% of the military’s medical budget.

That’s roughly the cost of four of Trump’s trips to Mar-A-Lago, GQ noted, even using a conservative estimate of $2 million per trip. And it’s way less than the $84 million spent on Viagra and similar meds by the Department of Defense in 2014, as others also said.

With cost not providing a good justification for this policy change, late night comic James Cordin had another explanation:

At this point, it just seems like Trump wants to do the opposite of everything Obama did. He is like, “Oh, Obama pardoned a turkey on Thanksgiving? Well I’m going to slaughter a turkey with a chainsaw on the front lawn.”

Vogue noted the lack of Ivanka Trump’s influence on Donald Trump in an article entitled, Look, It’s Time to Collectively and Officially Give Up on Ivanka Trump. They think that there are people who still think that Ivanka Trump is of any value in stopping her father? Really?

Investigations Of Trump Expand Along With Speculation That He Will Repeat Saturday Night Massacre

News reports discussed two avenues of investigation being pursued regarding Donald Trump. One of them, his business ties, appears to be of value. The other is of more questionable value–fake news on Facebook.

Bloomberg is reporting that Robert Mueller is expanding the investigation into Trump’s business ties:

The U.S. special counsel investigating possible ties between the Donald Trump campaign and Russia in last year’s election is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe.

FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said.

The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

The Wall Street Journal has further information related to the investigation of Paul Manafort:

Mr. Manafort, a Republican political consultant, spent years working for a pro-Russia party in Ukraine. He served as Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign manager for roughly three months in 2016 before resigning.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. also are investigating Mr. Manafort’s real-estate transactions, The Wall Street Journal has reported, with both offices examining his dealings for possible money-laundering and fraud. Messrs. Schneiderman and Vance are Democrats.

Mr. Manafort has spent and borrowed tens of millions of dollars in connection with properties in the U.S. over the past decade, including a Brooklyn, N.Y., townhouse and California properties being developed by his son-in-law, the Journal has reported.

The nature of the investigation, along with the contempt for law enforcement expressed by Donald Trump in an interview with The New York Times, has many predicting that Trump will wind up firing Paul Manafort in a scenario reminiscent of Richard Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre. Periodically I receive comments that such criticism of Trump comes from out of touch left wingers, so I will note that the conservative National Review also predicts, Yeah, Trump Is Probably Going to Fire Robert Mueller.

While I hope to see Manafort pursue investigations into the business dealings of Donald Trump and his associates, I question whether Congressional investigators will really find out much of value in an investigation of fake news and Facebook. CNN reports:

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, met with Facebook officials in California more than a month ago as part of his committee’s investigation into potential collusion or election interference, and he’s convinced the company can explain whether anyone from the Trump campaign helped Russians boost fake news articles targeting Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Warner is testing the theory popular among Democratic operatives that Russia was behind spikes in fake news that were anti-Clinton and that Russia had help targeting those articles from US political operatives…

At the core of Warner’s questioning is a theory among Democratic operatives and former top-level Clinton campaign staff that Russia had help from domestic political operatives to micro-target fake news articles. No evidence has been uncovered to prove that theory.

Last month, Senate intelligence staff interviewed Brett Horvath, a social media technology expert who argues it’s possible that Russian operatives got political data that could then be used for successfully micro-targeting swing voters on Facebook.

“Facebook has all the data that could prove this is happening or not happening, that’s the starting point,” Horvath, a veteran Democratic political operative, told CNN.

The key line above is, “No evidence has been uncovered to prove that theory.”

There certainly was fake news spread during the campaign, as there also was against Barack Obama and John Kerry in their presidential campaigns. Only the Clinton campaign has gone so far as to blame Russia for this, with reporters covering the campaign to write the book Shattered reporting that Clinton developed the strategy of blaming Russia and others for her loss within twenty-four hours of losing, failing to take responsibility for her own mistakes. Whether or not the fake stories being spread came from Russia, they did far less harm to Clinton than the damage caused by her violation of State Department rules (as verified by the State Department Inspector General), and then repeatedly being caught lying about the matter. The truth was far more damaging than fiction.

The questionable business ties involving Donald Trump and others in his family and campaign appears to be worth investigating, but I bet it will be a mistake to divert resources from the more important issues to pursue partisan fantasies. If Democrats rely upon such weak attacks they risk allowing the Republicans to survive the actual Trump scandals.

Clinton’s Popularity Continues To Decline, Possibly Affecting Democratic Voter Enthusiasm

Democrats lead in the generic Congressional polls, but there are warning signs for Democrats. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that by a 52 to 38 percent margin voters want Democrats to control Congress to be a check on Trump. However, 65 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning adults say they are “almost certain to vote,” only 57 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters say they are likely to vote.

There are probably many reasons why Democratic-leaning voters are less likely to vote, but the damage to the Democratic brand caused by the nomination by of Hillary Clinton in 2016 cannot be underestimated. For those who have voted Democratic in protest against the policies of the Bush administration, it was a great disappointment to see the Democrats nominate a candidate with essentially the same agenda. The undemocratic manner in which the party establishment essentially picks the nominees, despite the charade of a primary system, creates further disenchantment with the party. As bad a choice as Donald Trump was, at least he was nominated due to beating the establishment candidates in a year in which many voters from both parties did not want another Bush/Clinton, with the Republican establishment accepting the decision of its voters.

Normally losing candidates do better in the polls after the election. With Donald Trump doing such a terrible job and dropping in the polls, if she followed traditional patterns Hillary Clinton should be seeing a boost in her support. Instead a Bloomberg National Poll shows that Clinton’s support has declined and that she is even more unpopular than Donald Trump.

This is not based upon opposition to the party in general  as Barack Obama and Joe Biden’s popularity has increased since they left office, and Bernie Sanders has become the most popular politician in the country.

The poll doesn’t provide reasons for Clinton’s further decrease in popularity. Just losing to a candidate as terrible as Donald Trump further highlights how weak a candidate she was, with reports such as those in Shattered providing further confirmation. I would also bet that many people expressed positive views of Clinton in the context of an election campaign against Donald Trump, but now that the campaign is over have no reason to hide their distaste for her.

Clinton’s actions following her loss give additional reasons for an already unpopular politician to now receive even less support. Her frequent statements blaming others for her loss, while downplaying the serious mistakes she made, shows her lack of character. While her far right wing views on civil liberties has received too little attention, her call for Congressional action against fake news, which amounts to censorship of material critical of her, is alarming in light of her long standing support for restricting freedom of speech and dissent.

Clinton’s anti-Russia hysteria, going well beyond what has been proven in the investigations to date, might be fooling some Democratic partisans, but is alarming to others. Clinton does not benefit politically from the revelations involving the Trump administration and Russia when fear of world war with Russia was a motivating factor for some who voted for her. A recent study suggests that her ultra-hawkish views might have played a significant role in her loss. News out of Syria provides further reason to oppose Clinton, considering her push for greater interventionism, even to the point of risking direct conflict with Russia.

Clinton has been out of step with more liberal voters on other issues, including economics, trade, the drug war, and health care policy. While many Democratic leaning voters support a single-payer system (as promoted by people including Bernie Sanders and Al Gore), Hillary Clinton also showed she was out of step in campaigning against  Medicare-for-all.

It is hard for many independents, along with principled Democrats, to be enthusiastic about the Democrats after nominating a candidate which so many dislike for good reason. The attacks on liberals and progressives opposing Clinton from partisan Democrats, showing a gross lack of respect for the basic principles of democracy in thinking that those who oppose her had some obligation to vote for her, further alienates potential Democratic voters. If Democrats are to expand their base and win elections, they need to show more respect for the views of those who oppose their move to the right.

Democrats have done poorly in 2010, 2014, and again in 2016 after moving to the right and running as a Republican-lite party. Bloomberg reports that Democrats are again looking at promoting more conservative candidates in 2018, failing to learn that voters see no reason to turn out to vote for candidates who do not stand for anything. The Democrats should do well in 2018 in response to the Trump disaster, but they also appear capable of pulling defeat again out of what should be sure victory.

Over 2000 Civilian Deaths From Trump’s Air War In Less Than Six Months

Donald Trump said before he was inaugurated that he would “bomb the shit” out of ISIS. This is one of the few promises he has kept, and the consequence is a marked increase in the number of civilian deaths compared to under Barack Obama. The Daily Beast, in a study conducted with the watchdog organization Airwars, reports:

Civilian casualties from the U.S.-led war against the so-called Islamic State are on pace to double under President Donald Trump, according to an Airwars investigation for The Daily Beast.

Airwars researchers estimate that at least 2,300 civilians likely died from Coalition strikes overseen by the Obama White House—roughly 80 each month in Iraq and Syria. As of July 13, more than 2,200 additional civilians appear to have been killed by Coalition raids since Trump was inaugurated—upwards of 360 per month, or 12 or more civilians killed for every single day of his administration…

A number of factors appear responsible for the steep recent rise in civilian deaths—some policy-related, others reflecting a changing battlespace as the war enters its toughest phase. In one of his first moves as president, Trump ordered a new counter-ISIS plan be drawn up. Second on his list of requests were recommended “changes to any United States rules of engagement and other United States policy restrictions that exceed the requirements of international law regarding the use of force against ISIS.”

In short, Trump was demanding that the Pentagon take a fresh look at protections for civilians on the battlefield except those specifically required by international law. That represented a major shift from decades of U.S. military doctrine, which has generally made central the protection of civilians in war…

Though the U.S. military had shifted to such annihilation tactics—a change cited with glee by the Trump White House—Mattis claimed there have been no updates to U.S. rules of engagement. “There has been no change to our continued extraordinary efforts to avoid innocent civilian casualties,” he told reporters.

When Airwars asked the Department of Defense whether, once implemented, the new plan was expected to lead to more civilian casualties, officials did not answer the question and only pointed to Mattis’ remarks.

Yet beginning in March 2017—the month after Mattis handed over the new plan—Airwars began tracking a sharp rise in reported civilian fatalities from U.S.-led strikes against ISIS. In part this was due to the savagery of the battle for Mosul. But in Syria—where almost all strikes are American—likely civilian fatalities monitored by Airwars researchers increased five-fold even before the assault on Raqqa began.

There is much more detail in the full report.

This report is consistent with  a recent UN report cited by Reuters of ‘Staggering’ civilian deaths caused by US-led air strikes in Syria.

In comparing the number of civilian casualties since Donald Trump took office to those under Barack Obama, it should also be considered that Hillary Clinton had supported much greater military intervention in Syria than under Obama, which would probably have also lead to an increase in civilian deaths. There is no way to compare what the number of deaths would be under Clinton compared to Trump.

Last week I looked at a report on the failures from the U.S. war on terror. Another recent study suggested that her support for greater military interventionism might have cost Clinton the election.

Cutting Through Trump’s Game of Distraction

Guest Post by Sandra

It’s hard to tell if Trump and his administration really have an agenda. He won the presidency being “anti-everything,” but this “rage against the machine” attitude doesn’t really offer much as a guiding principle for policy making. This lackluster approach combined with the drama surrounding the Russia investigation, the President’s attacks on the media and his empty threats about North Korea give the impression of chaos and disorder, and subsequently, of inaction.

This can be seen clearly by the repeated failure of the new health care bill. Trump’s only promise was to repeal “Obamacare,” putting himself in line with this “anti-everything” approach, but because he and his advisers have no real plan for an alternative, the bills being drawn up in Congress are downright awful, leading them to stall and generating doubt about whether something will ever get done.

However, this illusion of inactivity does not tell the whole story. Things are getting done, albeit slowly, but more concerning, they are getting done with very little public attention. Without drifting too far into conspiracy theories, we have to wonder if this wasn’t the plan all along. We’re seeing a clear case of Noam Chomsky’s “anti-politics.” The happenings of Washington are so repulsive to the ordinary citizen that many are turning their backs on Washington, paving the way for corporate power to advance quietly in the background. Here is something the current government has done, the consequences of which should be concerning for those interested in preserving democracy.

The Financial CHOICE Act

Remember the 2008 financial crisis? Of course. Who could forget it? Well, after decades of deregulating Wall Street, the world paid a heavy price, and the response by the Obama administration was to push through new regulations to make sure nothing like that could ever happen again. The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, more commonly referred to as Dodd-Frank, was born from this idea. It includes countless new regulations for banks to prevent them from making overly risky loans that could lead to instability.

If you haven’t seen it already, the film The Big Short gives an entertaining, although disturbing, version of the events leading up to the crash, and if there is one big takeaway, it’s that the lack of oversight on the banks was a huge driver of what turned out to be the largest financial crisis since the Great Depression. The film is available on Netflix, which you can access even if you’re restricted by location.

However, the Dodd-Frank bill is not perfect. It includes over 20,000 pages of regulations, and it makes some pretty black and white distinctions among banks. Specifically, it outlines rules for banks based on the value of assets, not the level of risk. This has led many smaller community banks to speak out against the bill, saying it prevents them from being able to expand their business because they have to dedicate so many resources to regulation-related paperwork. Others say this is what the bill was supposed to do—limit risky loans—but others say it goes too far. Regardless, it is clear Dodd-Frank could use some reform.

And so Trump and his Republican House reformed it by passing the Financial CHOICE Act. In general, the bill is modest. It reduces some of the red tape banks need to cut through to grant loans, making it easier for them to provide capital to interested borrowers. But the concerning part of the bill is the reduction of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). This agency was created from Dodd-Frank and serves as a way for consumers to file complaints about banking fraud, to get information on the practices of other banks and to correct errors in reporting (specifically credit reporting).

In the new bill, the CFPB will be prohibited from banning “abusive” products, and it will have an entirely new leadership structure (a bipartisan committee of five people). Given the current state of Washington politics, the word “bipartisan” could easily be replaced with “do-nothing.” It’s hard to imagine the agency having any real direction without clear leadership from the top.

While Republicans are claiming the Financial CHOICE Act is a way to reduce unnecessary government regulation to help community banks, it’s hard to see how reducing the reach of the CFPB does that. One of the main reasons the 2008 crisis happened was that banks were able to operate largely in secret. They were using seriously questionable tactics, but no one was looking over their shoulder until it was too late. Had an agency like the CFPB existed during this time period, perhaps the damage would not have been so bad.

Reforming the CFPB and the Dodd-Frank bill shows a willingness in Washington to slowly drift back to the days where darkness clouded the banking industry, allowing it to do as it wishes while ordinary citizens bicker over daily controversies. The bill still needs to pass the Senate, but all signs point to a similar approach, and since Republicans have the majority, there might not be much hope of stopping it.

It is not a big leap to say we are in this political predicament because of the 2008 crisis. The consequences of decades of growing inequality and stagnant wage growth were unleashed with the banking collapse. Millions saw their futures disappear in a matter of minutes, and the anger arising from this has polarized even more what was already a divided country. But the answer to this is not more bank deregulation. However, with so many distractions going on in Washington, it is easy to see why this issue has not received much attention, but the potential consequences of this critical first step by Wall Street to return to the glory days of deregulation should be more than enough cause for concern. Much like a magician, Trump is using this “anti-everything” strategy to keep people focused elsewhere so that corporate America can continue its infiltration into politics and its seemingly endless expansion of power.

What do you think of the Financial CHOICE Act? Is it needed reform or a way to return power to the already mighty banks? Let us know by leaving a comment in the section below.

About the Author: Sandra is an alternative news blogger who focuses largely on politics. She is concerned the circus that Washington has become distracts us too much from the important issues. As such, she frequently writes about things such as bank regulation, internet privacy and security, and corporate power, as she considers these to be fundamental issues that few are talking about.

Noam Chomsky On Bernie Sanders, Democrats, Russia, And Donald Trump

“There’s good reason to suppose that Sanders would have won the nomination had it not been for shenanigans of the Obama-Clinton party managers.”–Noam Chomsky

The New York Times has an interview with Noam Chomsky which is primarily about Donald Trump. I found his discussion of the Democratic Party and Bernie Sanders to be among the more interesting portions. Following is an excerpt:

Take the success of the Bernie Sanders campaign, the most remarkable feature of the 2016 election. It is, after all, not all that surprising that a billionaire showman with extensive media backing (including the liberal media, entranced by his antics and the advertising revenue it afforded) should win the nomination of the ultra-reactionary Republican Party.

The Sanders campaign, however, broke dramatically with over a century of U.S. political history. Extensive political science research, notably the work of Thomas Ferguson, has shown convincingly that elections are pretty much bought. For example, campaign spending alone is a remarkably good predictor of electoral success, and support of corporate power and private wealth is a virtual prerequisite even for participation in the political arena.

The Sanders campaign showed that a candidate with mildly progressive (basically New Deal) programs could win the nomination, maybe the election, even without the backing of the major funders or any media support. There’s good reason to suppose that Sanders would have won the nomination had it not been for shenanigans of the Obama-Clinton party managers. He is now the most popular political figure in the country by a large margin.

Activism spawned by the campaign is beginning to make inroads into electoral politics. Under Barack Obama, the Democratic Party pretty much collapsed at the crucial local and state levels, but it can be rebuilt and turned into a progressive force. That would mean reviving the New Deal legacy and moving well beyond, instead of abandoning, the working class and turning into Clintonite New Democrats, which more or less resemble what used to be called moderate Republicans, a category that has largely disappeared with the shift of both parties to the right during the neoliberal period.

Elsewhere in the interview, Chomsky said that, “The most important issues to address are the truly existential threats we face: climate change and nuclear war.” At the end he criticized those who see alleged Russian  hacking as being “the political crime of the century.”  Chomsky said:

The effects of the crime are undetectable, unlike the massive effects of interference by corporate power and private wealth, not considered a crime but the normal workings of democracy. That’s even putting aside the record of U.S. “interference” in foreign elections, Russia included; the word “interference” in quotes because it is so laughably inadequate, as anyone with the slightest familiarity with recent history must be aware…

Is Russian hacking really more significant than what we have discussed — for example, the Republican campaign to destroy the conditions for organized social existence, in defiance of the entire world? Or to enhance the already dire threat of terminal nuclear war? Or even such real but lesser crimes such as the Republican initiative to deprive tens of millions of health care and to drive helpless people out of nursing homes in order to enrich their actual constituency of corporate power and wealth even further? Or to dismantle the limited regulatory system set up to mitigate the impact of the financial crisis that their favorites are likely to bring about once again? And on, and on.

Why The CBO Report On The Senate Republican Health Care Bill Is Devastating

The Congressional Budget Office released its scoring of the Senate health care bill. The New York Times summarizes:

The Senate bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act would increase the number of people without health insurance by 22 million by 2026, a figure that is only slightly lower than the 23 million more uninsured that the House version would create, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Monday.

Next year, 15 million more people would be uninsured compared with current law, the budget office said.

The legislation would decrease federal deficits by a total of $321 billion over a decade, the budget office said.

The results can be seen in the above graph.

The American Medical Association gave this assessment of the bill:  “Medicine has long operated under the precept of primum non nocere, or ‘first, do no harm.’ The draft legislation violates that standard on many levels.”

The increase in uninsured would come from reductions in the number of people covered by Medicaid and by private coverage. Beyond the severe cuts in Medicaid, the Senate bill would provide less assistance in purchasing private plans. One devastating paragraph from the CBO report has been receiving attention:

Under this legislation, starting in 2020, the premium for a silver plan would typically be a relatively high percentage of income for low-income people. The deductible for a plan with an actuarial value of 58 percent would be a significantly higher percentage of income — also making such a plan unattractive, but for a different reason. As a result, despite being eligible for premium tax credits, few low-income people would purchase any plan, CBO and JCT estimate.

The plan also fails to lower premiums for most people, or help to increase the number of insurance plans offered. In other words, it fails to solve the problems which Republicans criticize Obamacare over.

The Republicans face two fundamental problems in trying to develop their own health plan. The first is that Obamacare is essentially the Republican alternative to Hillary Clinton’s health care plan. Obamacare does more than the old Republican plan to regulate insurance companies, but the basic structure is the same. Republicans widely supported the individual mandate and the other aspects of Obamacare which they now attack before it was proposed by Obama. This forces them to come up with something different, and there really are not that many ways to handle health care coverage.

The other problem is that the problems we now see on the individual market were not created by Obamacare. Insurance coverage has always been expensive for those buying coverage on their own, as opposed to being in an employer or government plan, provided that the insurance provided decent coverage. The market has never been able to solve this problem and the only realistic options short of a single-payer plan are ones which involve further government involvement, such as a public option or Medicare buy-in. Republicans are not going to back this.

It is also questionable if enough Republicans will back their current plan for it to even pass in the Senate.

Republicans Have Neither Tapes Of Trump/Comey Meetings Or A Viable Health Care Plan

Today we found that Donald Trump does not have any secretly recorded tapes of James Comey and the previously secret Senate Republican health care plan has been released. Neither was a surprise. If Trump had any tapes proving he was telling the truth, he would have already released them, and if there happened to be tapes which showed he was lying, he would never admit to having them. Also, as expected, the Senate plan includes deep cuts to Medicaid, decreases subside for lower income individuals, and increases costs for those who are older.

Barack Obama described the plan:

Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family – this bill will do you harm. And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.

I hope our Senators ask themselves – what will happen to the Americans grappling with opioid addiction who suddenly lose their coverage? What will happen to pregnant mothers, children with disabilities, poor adults and seniors who need long-term care once they can no longer count on Medicaid? What will happen if you have a medical emergency when insurance companies are once again allowed to exclude the benefits you need, send you unlimited bills, or set unaffordable deductibles? What impossible choices will working parents be forced to make if their child’s cancer treatment costs them more than their life savings?

To put the American people through that pain – while giving billionaires and corporations a massive tax cut in return – that’s tough to fathom. But it’s what’s at stake right now. So it remains my fervent hope that we step back and try to deliver on what the American people need.

It is far from certain that the Republicans can even pass this plan, despite using reconciliation so that they only need fifty votes. They can only afford to lose two votes, but four conservatives have already expressed reservations. From NPR:

Senate Republicans’ health care bill may already be on life support, with four key lawmakers announcing their opposition just hours after the GOP’s latest effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act was released.

“Currently, for a variety of reasons, we are not ready to vote for this bill, but we are open to negotiation and obtaining more information before it is brought to the floor,” Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky.; Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Mike Lee, R-Utah; and Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

They cannot easily move further to the right to appease the conservatives as some more moderate Republicans already have their own objections:

Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who faces a competitive re-election race in 2018, says he has “serious concerns about the bill’s impact on the Nevadans who depend on Medicaid.”

“As I have consistently stated, if the bill is good for Nevada, I’ll vote for it and if it’s not — I won’t,” Heller said.

Annie Clark, a spokeswoman for Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said the centrist has some misgivings about the bills as well.

Whether or not it passes, Republicans will now be able to tell their constituents that they have attempted to keep their promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. If their plan fails, the blame could be placed on Democrats and whichever Republicans vote against it, as opposed to the party as a whole. If that doesn’t work, McConnell could always take something from the Clinton playbook and blame Russia.