Originally Published: 8/26/2017
Charlottesville, Virginia: A planned protest by white nationalists protesting the removal of a stature of Robert E. Lee was abandoned after violence prompted Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) to declare an emergency. It was reported to be the largest gathering of white nationalists in recent years. They turned out “waving Confederate flags, chanting Nazi-era slogans, wearing helmets, and carrying shields.” Hundreds of counter-protesters also showed up. (NY Times) One guy drove his car into a crowd, killing 1 person and injuring 19. (NY Times) Trump came under fire for denouncing “hatred, bigotry, and violence from many sides” and not condemning right-wing extremists (Guardian) but white supremacists were “thrilled” by his response. (Business Insider) Trump finally redeemed himself and declared “Racism is evil” (NY Times) but the next day he stuck his foot in his mouth again and said he wasn’t condemning Nazi and white supremacist groups and questioned if people were going to pull down statues of George Washington, too. (NY Times) But things continued to deteriorate. Steven Colbert had a good summary of the week’s events. (You Tube)
Fallout: Kenneth Frazier, CEO of Merck & Co. resigned from Trump’s American Manufacturing Council, “saying he was taking a stand against intolerance and extremism.” Later that day Kevin Plank, founder of Under Armour, also resigned as did Brian Krzanich, CEO of Intel. (NY Times) By Wednesday 7 members had resigned and Trump decided to abandon this council as well as his Strategy & Policy Forum. (Business Insider) Then he disbanded his advisory council on infrastructure. (Washington Post) Business wasn’t the only group to show distain for Trump’s remarks. 17 charities canceled events at his Mar-a-Lago club, blaming “political turbulence.” (Washington Post) Next came the removal of confederate monuments across the country. The NY Times posted a map of the ones that have been removed and those whose removal is proposed.
Phoenix Event: Then came Trump’s visit to Phoenix. Thousands gathered outside the Convention Center to protest peacefully. Unfortunately things went from calm to chaotic after the police suddenly deployed riot tactics seemingly without warning, including the use of pepper spray on the crowd. (Think Progress) According to the Independent, as Trump’s speech “descended into incoherent rambling,” his supporters started leaving. CNN posted Trump’s “57 most outrageous quotes.” It was so bad that MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell interrupted his coverage of the rally “to tell his viewers that the president was lying.” (You Tube)
Russian Connection: The Trump election campaign turned over more than 20,000 pages of documents to congressional committees this month “after review by White House and defense lawyers.” Among them are copies of an email sent by Trump adviser George Papadopoulos to 7 campaign officials with the subject line: “Meet with Russian Leadership - Including Putin.” Papadopoulos offered to set up “a meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss U.S.-Russia ties under President Trump,” and telling the campaign officials that “his Russian contacts welcomed the opportunity.” Apparently the proposal “sent a ripple of concern through campaign headquarters in Trump Tower.” (Washington Post)
Fraud Investigation: Some newly leaked emails appear to embroil the Trump family in a $350 million bank fraud investigation related to the Trump SoHo Condominium Hotel. The hotel project ultimately failed and was foreclosed upon by lenders in 2014, “but its legacy lives on in a byzantine web of lawsuits.” The emails obtained by the Washington Journal show that Trump and his 3 eldest children “participated in a cover-up in order to keep borrowing massive construction loans on the hotel they pitched on NBC’s Apprentice from failing during the financial downturn.”
Steve Bannon: Trump fired him as White House chief strategist on Friday, the 18th. (Roll Call)
Sebastian Gorka: Another White House staffer has left. Gorka was a Bannon-ite and advised Trump on national security matters. He “abruptly” left on Friday, saying his “nationalist faction was being silenced.” (Washington Post) But according to Reuters, he was fired. The NY Times put up a list of all the Trump people who have left.
Military Power: According to the Washington Post, “high-ranking military officials have become an increasingly ubiquitous presence in American political life” under Trump. The military has “repeatedly” won arguments in the White House, “publicly contradicting the president and even balking at implementing one of his most controversial policies.” According to John McLaughlin, a former CIA director: “They are right now playing an extraordinary role.”
Patriot Act: The “sneak and peek” provision of the Patriot Act (see The USA Patriot Act) allows authorities to “conduct a search while delaying notice to the suspect of the search.” It was designed to investigate suspected terrorists. However, an analysis by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) found 2 things: “There has been an enormous increase in the use of sneak and peek warrants” and “they are rarely used for terrorism cases.” In 2010 there were 3,970 warrants. By 2013 there were 11,129. In the 3,970 cases, 3,034 were for narcotics cases and only 37 were for terrorism. Of the 11,129 cases in 2013, only 51 were for terrorism.
Afghanistan: Trump’s decision to increase troop levels in Afghanistan (TWW, Afghanistan, 6/17/17) did not come easily. According to the Washington Post, he considered firing the current commander, “flirted with privatizing the military,” and even considered pulling out. Erik Prince’s proposal to profitize the Afghan war (TWW, Profitization of War, 7/15/17) which was supported by then-chief of staff Steve Bannon, was not received well by the Pentagon. (Daily Beast) But nobody is talking about the money being flushed in the endeavor. According to the General Accounting Office (GAO), “Since the U.S. began training and supplying the police and military in 2002, more than $76 billion has been spent on Afghan security.” But according to Kabul Khan Tadbeer, a former Afghan intelligence official and a security analyst, the “brazen corruption” has seen “a large proportion of the money and weapons siphoned off.” He said that $76 billion worth of military equipment would have been enough to last them for 40 years. “But at the moment we do not have half of it left with our defense and security forces as most of it has been looted and embezzled.” (Anadolu Agency)
China and Russia: The Treasury Department placed sanctions on Chinese and Russian individuals and companies conducting business with North Korea. (Washington Post) What about other countries?
India: India’s Supreme Court ruled that a Muslim instant divorce law is unconstitutional, “a landmark victory for Muslim women who have spent decades arguing that it violated their right to equality.” (Reuters)
North Korea: The UN has intercepted 2 shipments in the last 6 months from North Korea to a Syrian government agency “responsible for the country’s chemical weapons program.” (Reuters)
Venezuela: Remember Trump said he would consider military action against Venezuela? (TWW, Venezuela, 8/12/17) Well, Columbia nixed that idea. “Speaking alongside visiting U.S. Vice President Mike Pence,” Columbia’s Juan Manuel Santos said, “The Latin American continent, every country in Latin America, would not favor any form of military intervention and that is why we are saying we are intent on looking into other measures some of which are already underway and others to be implemented in the future.” (CNN) But Trump hit Venezuela with new financial penalties which would “bar dealings in new bonds and stocks issued by the government and state oil company.” (Washington Post)
Pre-emption Laws: Conservative state legislatures are at it again, enacting laws that ban local governments from passing ordinances. This time it’s about seeds. 29 states have barred localities from banning GMO seeds. (Fern’s AG Insider)
Arizona: Trump pardoned former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. (Washington Post) Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt of court “for ignoring a judge’s order to stop detaining people because he merely suspected them of being undocumented immigrants.” (TWW, Arizona, 8/5/17)
Georgia: Life Resources of Georgia, “a self-described pro-life Christian organization,” was awarded a contract by the state to “facilitate the Positive Alternative for Pregnancy and Parenting Program.” $3 million in taxpayer money is going to the organization that attempts to prevent people from seeking abortion services. (Rewire)
Indiana: According to an analysis by the Indianapolis Star, for the past 7 years Republicans have “repeatedly blocked Indiana’s most populous and Democratic-friendly county from adding early voting locations” while election officials in GOP-leaning districts approved several early voting locations of their own.”
Missouri: Workers have collected more than 300,000 signatures on a petition to put the state’s “right to work” law on the ballot in November 2018. (People’s World)
South Carolina: Governor Henry McMaster (R), in an executive order, “demanded that state agencies cut off state and local funds to abortion clinics.” (The Hill)
Texas: U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos blocked the state from enforcing its revamped voter ID law (TWW, Texas, 4/15/17), “ruling that the State Legislature’s attempt to loosen the law did not go far enough and perpetuated discrimination against black and Hispanic voters.” (NY Times)
Secret Service: It’s going to run out of money before the end of September. It will hit the mandated cap on salaries and overtime unless Congress intervenes. “If lawmakers don’t lift the cap, about a third of the agency’s agents would be working overtime without being paid.” (Washington Post)
War: During how much of your life has the United States been at war? The Washington Post has a great graph so you can figure it out - if you really want to know.
Trump Resistance: AG Jeff Sessions has requested information from a website hosting provider, Dreamhost, for the people who visited the site used to organize protests against Trump. Dreamhost believes the request has gone too far and would amount to handing over “roughly 1.3 million visitor IP addresses to the government, in addition to contact information, email content, and photos of thousands of visitors to the website.” The information could be used to identify any individuals who used the site. (The Hill)
Immigration: Trump is expanding his deportation dragnet by “working with like-minded sheriffs” to “channel undocumented immigrants from local jails into federal detention.” (NY Times)
Border Wall: Trump is threatening a government shutdown if Congress doesn’t give him his border wall. “The escalating tensions between the Republican president and the Republican Congress endanger delicate negotiations in the coming weeks to overhaul the tax system, keep the government running, and avoid a costly default on the country’s debt.” (NY Times)
Transgender Military: Trump signed a directive that “precludes transgender individuals from joining the military but gives Defense Secretary Jim Mattis wide discretion in determining whether transgender personnel who are already in the armed forces can continue to serve.” (NY Times)
Obamacare: As you know, Trump has been threatening to cut off cost-sharing reductions (CSRs). According to a report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), this is not good. Let me, once again, explain CSRs. Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires insurers to offer plans with reduced deductibles, copayments, and other means of sharing costs with the insureds, the federal government makes payments to them to help cover the additional costs so that insureds aren’t hit with thousands more dollars in costs. This is what Trump is threatening to cut off as punishment for not getting Obamacare “repealed and replaced.” The CBO/JCT analysis shows that premiums for the most popular health insurance plans would increase up to 20% next year and as much as 25% higher by 2020. Federal budget deficits would increase by $194 billion in the coming decade if he does this. Let me point out that, according to Kaiser, premium increases are already being planned by insurers because of the uncertainty Trump has created just by his threat.
Climate Change: Trump disbanded the Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment. The group compiles the National Climate Assessment every 4 years and is the author of the draft of the 2018 report that was recently leaked. (TWW, Climate Change, 8/12/17) (Washington Post)
Permafrost: Alaska’s permafrost, “the always-frozen ground” that contains “vast amounts of carbon in organic matter,” is thawing. Permafrost underlies much of the state. “Starting just a few feet below the surface and extending tens or even hundreds of feet down, it contains vast amounts of carbon in organic matter - plants that took carbon dioxide from the atmosphere centuries ago, died, and froze before they could decompose. Worldwide, permafrost is thought to contain about twice as much carbon as is currently in the atmosphere.” [Emphasis added.] When this starts thawing, it will release all that carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and “could contribute as much as 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit to global warming over the next several centuries, independent of what society does to reduce emissions from burning fossil fuels and other activities.” (NY Times)
Flood Standards: Trump signed another Executive Order to “roll back standards that demanded the federal government account for climate change and sea-level rise when building new infrastructure.” (NY Times)
Coal Mining: The Interior Department ordered the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to stop its scientific study of the public health risks of mountaintop-removal coal mining. (NY Times)
Rover Pipeline: Energy Transfer Partners’ controversial $4.3 billion Rover pipeline (TWW, Rover Pipeline, 4/22/17) has more negative inspection reports than any other major interstate natural gas pipeline built in the last 2 years. In Ohio, Energy Transfer has been cited for “damaging protected wetlands and improperly disposing of wastewater, among other things.” In West Virginia, “a state regulator temporarily ordered the company last month to cease and desist activities after it inadvertently polluted streams.” And in Washington, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission “has halted horizontal drilling on certain segments of the pipeline, following a massive 50,000-barrel spill of diesel-tainted drilling fluid.” (Bloomberg)
Electric Grid: The Energy Department report on the electricity grid is out and it made recommendations for regulatory changes “that would bolster coal and nuclear power plants.” The changes, if adopted, “would alter the way prices are determined in electricity markets, ease environmental reviews for coal plants, and speed the permitting process for a variety of energy sources.” Energy Secretary Rick Perry is very happy. (Washington Post)
National Monuments: After reviewing our national monuments, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has recommended the first reduction. He’s recommending that Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah and Cascade-Siskiyou in Oregon be reduced in size. (Washington Post)
Household Debt: According to the New York Federal Reserve Bank, household debt reached a new record in the 2nd quarter of this year, “surpassing a peak record at the start of the global financial crisis.” The debt is now $12.8 trillion, 1.2% higher than the 3rd quarter of 2008. Mortgages account for the bulk, at $8.7 trillion. Auto lending is at $1.2 trillion, and “student loans were steady at $1.3 trillion.” (Daily Mail)
Auto Loans: Subprime car loans have hit a crisis-era milestone. “There’s a section of the auto-loan market - known in industry parlance as deep subprime - where delinquency rates have ticked up to levels last seen in 2007.” According to Bloomberg, analysts have been warning for years that subprime car loans “pose a threat to lenders as delinquency rates have edged higher since reaching a post-recession low in 2012.” According to the Committee for Better Banks, Santander Consumer USA, “which provides about 1 in 5 auto loans nationwide, is fiercely pursuing delinquent borrowers who have gotten mired in debt for financial products they cannot afford and should probably have never been sold in the first place.” The sub-prime auto loan industry is now worth about $26 billion “and is shaping up to be the next finance bubble.” (The Nation)
Fiduciary Rule: The latest step in the Labor Department’s efforts to rescind the fiduciary rule is a proposed 18 month delay in implementing key provisions. The delays so far, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), will result in a loss to retirement savers of $7.6 billion over the next 30 years. (TWW, Fiduciary Rule, 6/10/17) Now EPI has estimated that the additional 18 months will cost savers another $10.9 billion dollars over the next 30 years. Check out the map.
Bank Deregulation: Fed chair Janet Yellen is defending the regulations put in place after the 2008 meltdown. She said the “rules safeguard the economy against another crisis.” She rejects Trump’s assertions that they should be rolled back. (Washington Post)