Thursday, April 27, 2017

MORE LIES (on taxes), FROM OUR SO-CALLED PRESIDENT


Tax rate confusion, check ... decreased state revenue, check ... supply-side nonsense (again), check ... unnecessary corporate tax subsidies, check ... If you believe President Trump's wildly insane and unproven statements about the need to reduce corporate tax rates, I have a bridge to sell you, in Iraq.

Seriously, I've already posted on the issues Robert Reich discusses below, so there's no need for me to add anything. From Robert Reich's blog ...

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5 Reasons Why Trump’s Corporate Tax Cut is Appallingly Dumb


TUESDAY, APRIL 25, 2017
Trump wants to cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent, in order to “make the United States more competitive.” 
This is truly dumb, for 5 reasons:
1. The White House says the United States has one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world. Baloney. After corporate deductions and tax credits, the typical corporation pays an effective tax rate of 27.9 percent, only a tad higher than the average of 27.7 percent among advanced nations.
2. Trump’s corporate tax cut will bust the federal budget. According to the Congress’s own Joint Committee on Taxation, it will reduce federal revenue by $2 trillion over 10 years. This will either require huge cuts in programs for the poor, or additional tax revenues from the rest of us.
3. The White House says the tax cuts will create a jump in economic growth that will generate enough new revenue to wipe out any increase in the budget deficit. This is supply-side nonsense. The Congressional Research Service reviewed tax cuts since 1945 and found no evidence they generate economic growth. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush both cut taxes, and both ended their presidencies with huge budget deficits. Bill Clinton raised taxes, and the economy created more jobs than it did under Bush or Reagan. 
4. American corporations don’t need a tax cut. They’re already hugely competitive as measured by their profits – which are at near record highs.
5. The White House says corporations will use the extra profits they get from the tax cut to invest in more capacity and jobs. Rubbish. They’re now using a large portion of their profits to buy back their shares of stock and to buy other companies, in order to raise their stock prices. There’s no reason to suppose they’ll do any different with even more profits.
Don’t fall for Trump’s corporate tax giveaway. It will be a huge windfall for corporations and a huge burden on ordinary Americans.

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- Mark

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

THE FUTURE OF CARS, AND TRANSPORTATION



According to Wired, by 2022 vehicles that run on electricity will cost less than cars that run on gasoline. What this means, according to Bloomberg, is that electric vehicles will displace oil demand by 2 million barrels a day between 2023 and 2028, creating an oil glut like the one we saw in 2014 (when oil prices collapsed).



If you're asking where the cheap batteries and cheap electricity will come from, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the on-going and accelerating advances made with electric batteries and clean energy, especially in the areas of wind and solar energy. This will turbocharge the shift from petroleum guzzling cars to electric vehicles at a faster rate than previously imagined.

And, as was the case when digital cameras replaced film cameras, the process isn't going to only happen on the cheap-expensive end of the camera spectrum. It's going to happen to all new cars virtually overnight. This, incredibly enough, will be just a prelude to a not so distant future, where selling car units is not as important as selling miles on a transportation unit. Put another way, the cars of the future will be shared rather than owned.


As you can imagine, industry shills from the oil, nuclear and coal markets don't agree. Then again, these industry experts have a financial stake in getting people to doubt what the science and technology are telling the rest of the world. The idea of mass transit, bullet trains, and shared transportation work against the dinosaur industries that dominated the 19th and 20th centuries.

For those of you interested in the economics behind the coming wave of electric cars, and the next oil crash, take the time to read this (from CleanTechnica) and this (from Bloomberg).

- Mark

WORLDS APART ... OPEN YOUR WORLD

Heineken's provocative new ad, involving people who don't agree with one another and then decide to share a beer, deserves to be recognized. It's a very clever way of getting people to think about what divides us and then brings us together. Hint: what brings us together is not just the beer ...


- Mark

Monday, April 24, 2017

KERN COUNTY SHERIFF'S "LAW AND ORDER" CLAIM HAS MORE THAN A FEW HOLES


Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood is claiming that he wants to make Kern County a "law and order" county. He's asking Kern County supervisors to declare Kern County a "non-sanctuary" county. Specifically, he wants to make sure that Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) agents can continue to use Kern County's jails to sweep up undocumented residents, so they can be deported when they are released from jail.

As I pointed out in an earlier response to local community members, I have several problems with Sheriff Youngblood's "law and order" claim. 

Let’s make this real simple.

Donny Youngblood can’t claim to be a “law and order” sheriff if he’s refusing to honor or sign U Visas, which allow members of our undocumented population to stay in our country as witnesses / victims during criminal trials. If anything, denying or ignoring U Visas works against the efforts of law enforcement by making it clear that “the law” isn’t really interested in your testimony, especially if it reserves the right to arrest and deport both witnesses and victims during a criminal proceeding.

Also, what kind of message does Sheriff Youngblood’s proposed "symbolic" action say to those inclined to commit criminal acts against our undocumented population? It says one thing, loud and clear: go ahead and do what you want in the undocumented community, because they're going to be too afraid to come forward to report, or testify in court, about the crime. 

Where's the law and order there?

On another level, we shouldn't be so cavalier about what’s really happening here in Kern County, California ...


During the height of the Proposition 187 lunacy, I had a student in my class (CSU, Bakersfield) with blonde hair and blue eyes who always remained calm and mostly quiet during student discussions of Prop. 187. His support for Mexicans, and his opposition to Prop. 187, took many by surprise.

I learned from him about 5 years later that he was an undocumented Canadian, and that he knew if Proposition 187 passed (it did) that he too could be swept up. He made it clear he also understood he wasn’t the target of Proposition 187, and that he could always hide behind his whiteness, which made him feel safer. But he also felt disgusted by his little corner of safety. He saw Prop. 187 for the race-bating initiative that it was, and it embarrassed him. Not as an Anglo, but as a decent human being. 

He knew what was really behind the proposition.

My student passed away about 10 years ago (cancer), but before he did he told me that he never felt closer to people in America than he did to Mexicans during this time. Race-baiting and hate have a way of making strange bedfellows.

Kern County deserves better than Donny Youngblood and what he’s trying to do here.

Making an already weak and powerless community cower in fear because you think you're going to become the next Joe Arpaio is hardly inspiring. It's also not going to bring law and order to Kern County. 

There's more, but I think I'll leave it there. For now.

- Mark

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Friday, April 21, 2017

ANOTHER 'SPECTACULAR' TAKE ON JUSTICE IN AMERICA

The first 45 seconds in this clip makes it clear that we still have a lot of work to do when it comes to settling issues tied to "justice" and equality in America.


- Mark

Hat tip to Felix for the clip.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

WHAT'S HAPPENED TO SCIENCE IN AMERICA? IN MANY WAYS, IT GOT MUGGED BY THE FREE MARKET

The role of science in America is often discussed by renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. The clip featuring Neil deGrasse Tyson below just might be the most clarifying 3 minutes on the relationship between science and the American experience you will ever watch ...



After watching, if you're like most people of logic, you're probably asking, "What the hell happened to America? How in the world did we arrive at the point we're at today?" Ironically (or, not surprisingly), part of the answer can be attributed to the profit motive behind the free market.




The story of how market players in specific industries turned the tables on science - so they could make more money at the expense of broader health and safety concerns - is told in the Merchants of Doubt. In the FYI category, this book has elevated the discussion level in several of my classes (which is why I will be using it again).

For those of you who are interested, the book has been turned into a film, which you can preview here. It's eye opening, to say the least.



- Mark

PRESIDENT TRUMP WANTS TO CUT THE IRS's BUDGET. HERE'S WHY THAT'S A BAD IDEA ...



This is why President Trump's proposal to gut the IRS is not only a bad (and self-serving) idea, but reeks of crony capitalism ...



- Mark 

Monday, April 17, 2017

DONALD TRUMP IS THE FACE OF INCOMPETENCE ... CAN'T WAIT FOR SECOND 100 DAYS

President Trump's 100th day as president is fast approaching (April 29). As we contemplate the endless Twitter tantrums and any number of other stupidities he will engage in this week, let's not forget how little he understands about the most basic challenges and dangers that we face as a nation.



Since President Trump is banging the drums of war in North Korea and the Middle East, let's start with this: terrorists and terrorism pose a very small threat to Americans. Yet, we're constantly told that we need to be afraid - very afraid - of terrorism and foreigners of all stripes. Unfortunately for President Trump the odds of Americans dying at the hands of a foreign born terrorist monster are quite remote. In fact, you will win the lottery before you die at the hands of a terrorist in your lifetime, as this Business Insider piece makes clear.



Worse, for Trump's message of fear, according to the very conservative Cato Institute, the chances of you being killed by a foreigner in a terrorist related act is about 1 in 3.6 million per year.

Unfortunately, in our alternative fact-filled universe, where knowledge and informed opinion gets swamped by reckless faith, and wild belief systems rooted in ignorance and fear, facts have little impact on President Trump's supporters. They regularly turn their back on reality. They prefer a world of doubt, shadows, and intrigue. Call it comfort food for the misinformed. It's what allows them to spin conspiracies, and pretend they're the only ones who have figured it out.

All the while, our nation creeps towards crisis in places like North Korea and Syria.

With Donald Trump flip flopping on foreign policy (after getting schooled on NATO and North Korea), backing away from his "China is a currency manipulator" claim (though they still are), deciding to keep NAFTA (after trashing it on the campaign trail), failing miserably on health care ("Nobody knew healthcare could be so complicated"), and generally being a national embarrassment on the global stage during his first 100 days, it's clear that President Trump's only path to greatness (for him) is more fear and the drums of war.

It's all he knows.

Simply put, President Trump understands so little of the world, and even less about how America is actually governed, that he will continue to exhibit the same incompetence that has compelled him to ignore basic facts - like on health care and terrorism - while pushing policies that undermine the long-term security of ordinary Americans.

Can't wait for the second 100 days.

Sigh ...

- Mark

Thursday, April 13, 2017

MARKETS ARE GARDEN-LIKE ECOSYSTEMS ...

In my book and in my class lectures I consistently point out that the state creates the conditions under which wealth is created. The idea that markets and market players, if left alone over time, will operate with machine-like efficiency was inspired by the 19th century's (entirely predictable) embrace of industrial metaphors. 

Unfortunately, the machine-like metaphor is misleading. It's also built around us ignoring some very ugly human realities and, then, embracing some very bad assumptions. There is a very dark side in our free market story, which includes slavery, child labor abuses, and exploitative family wage laws, among others. This dark side was made possible because markets are full of market players who aren't always rational, who are often petty and, worse, who are often driven by less than virtuous forces. This dark side had to be corrected.

Rationality, efficiency, and growth aren't the natural outcomes of market players doing what they want. They're a product of market players being watched and forced to play by the rules.

If we're going to use a metaphor to explain how markets actually function and grow Eric Liu, Citizen University founder, and Nick Hanauer, venture capitalist multi-millionaire, argue we should look to gardens.

Singapore's Garden by the Bay.

Like gardens, healthy and growing markets require great care and constant vigilance. More to the point, as Liu and Hanauer point out, markets are more like a complex ecosystem. In the hands of creative and inspired individuals, well tended gardens can become both productive and beautiful attractions. Conversely, "like any untended garden, an economy left entirely to itself tends towards unhealthy imbalances."



If you find the garden metaphor intriguing, you can read Liu and Hanauer's Evonomics article - "Complexity Economics Shows Us Why Laissez-Faire Economics Always Fails" - by clicking here.



- Mark

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

MID-WEEK READING (April 12, 2017)


Spicer: Hitler 'didn't even sink to using chemical weapons,' although he sent Jews to 'the Holocaust center' (Washington Post).

Donald Trump's White House can't even organize the Easter Egg roll (Washington Post).

Neil deGrasse Tyson: Trump's budget will make America weak, sick and stupid (HuffPost).

So far, Trump has been mercifully incompetent (Washington Post).


WHAT THE UNITED FIASCO REVEALS ABOUT OUR 'FREE MARKET' ECONOMY
The deeper scandal of that brutal United Video (The Atlantic).

Supreme Court's arbitration ruling is another blow to consumer rights (LA Times).

Clinical psychologist explains how Ayn Rand helped turn the U.S. into a selfish and greedy nation (Raw Story).

You can now be fined for falling behind on your student loan even if you're trying to catch up (BuzzFeed).


WHAT YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO FORGET (IGNORE) AFTER SYRIA
You make the call ... Rep. Devin Nunes isn't denying that the White House was his source about Trump's wiretap claim (Peter Alexander / NBC News Twitter).

David Nunes explains his White House visit (Bloomberg).

The domestic conspiracy that gave Trump the election is in plain sight (HuffPost).

How Russian Twitter Bots pumped out fake news during the 2016 election (NPR).

1,000 paid Russian trolls spread fake news on Hillary Clinton, Senate intelligence heads told (HuffPost).

Star witness in treason trial involving Trump's campaign chair was just shot dead (Occupy Democrats).



MORE STUFF YOU'RE SUPPOSE TO IGNORE AFTER SYRIA
Fox News tells viewers to ignore Comey's bombshell testimony" "If you missed yesterday's hearing with FBI Director James Comey, you didn't miss much" (Think Progress).

Report: FBI investigating Russian operatives using bots to spread stories from Breitbart, RT, and Infowars (Media Matters).

Exclusive: Powerful Russian partner boasts of ongoing access to Trump family (Forbes).

WJS: Trump clings to wiretap claim 'like a drunk to an empty gin bottle,' damaging his credibility (Yahoo!).

What the heck is Devin Nunes talking about? A guide for the perplexed (Lawfare).


SO MUCH 'WINNING' ... ARE YOU BORED YET?
Seven lessons from Trump's Syrian strike (The Atlantic).

After Xi leaves U.S., Chinese media assail strike on Syria (NY Times).

Obamacare repeal vote postponed: Paul Ryan and Donald Trump, aka "the closer," have lost this battle (HuffPost).


IN CASE YOU FORGOT ... IMMIGRATION AND TRUMP'S AMERICA
A California waiter refused to serve 4 Latina customers until he saw proof of residency (Washington Post).

Trump supporter: My husband is being deported (Yahoo!).

Retired North Carolina police chief detained at JFK airport (Slate).


STUFF THAT MIGHT BE NEWS IN A NORMAL POLITICAL UNIVERSE
"I'm the president so there" (Time).

Donald Trump's sons' secret service protection on business trips could cost millions for U.S. taxpayers (Independent).

Secret Service can't afford Trump family lifestyle (HuffPost).

Jake Tapper: When I looked up, Fox wasn't covering the Russia media hearing, just like Russian state media (Media Matters).

How U.S. health care became big business (NPR).

Republicans lied about healthcare for years, and they're about to get the punishment they deserve (Business Insider).


MISCELLANEOUS
The likely cause of addiction has been discovered, and it's not what you think (Huffpost).

How right-wing media saved Obamacare: Years of misleading coverage left viewers so misinformed that many were shocked when confronted with the actual costs of repeal (Atlantic).

Ex-Colorado GOP leader said only Democrats committed voter fraud. Now he's charged with voter fraud (Washington Post).

When did Christians become comfortable with the loss of truth (Sojourners)?

A president's credibility: Trump's falsehoods [lies] are eroding public trust, at home and abroad (Wall Street Journal).

- Mark

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

UNITED TAKING A PR BEATING (that it deserves)



By now most of America has seen or heard about the United Airlines fiasco. Apparently, United and other airlines are within their right to overbook seats and then kick off paying customers as long as they offer vouchers. Beating them up, however, is proving to be another matter. This is precisely what makes the United Airlines hit pieces below so hilarious.

First up, the United Airlines Training Video ...




Next, a United Airlines pilot heading to the gate ...




This Jimmy Kimmel "United Airlines honest commercial" is well done ..




Then we have these pieces ...

"Pentagon awards contract to United Airlines to forcibly remove Assad" (Duffel Blog).


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On a more serious note, this piece - "The deeper scandal of that brutal United video" - from The Atlantic does a great job of explaining why United was within their rights to remove people from the plane (though, beating them up is another issue).

- Mark

UPDATE: OK, one more ...



BARCELONA: TAKING THE STREETS BACK FROM CARS?



In this clip from Vox, we learn how Barcelona is planning to take their city streets back from a civilization dominated by cars.


- Mark 

Monday, April 10, 2017

PUTTING PARTY BEFORE COUNTRY ... MITCH McCONNELL AND THE REPUBLICAN PARTY


Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich nails it (again) with this observation of Senator Mitch McConnell ...

No man has done more in recent years to undermine the functioning of U.S. government than Mitch McConnell. For example:
1. As Majority Leader of the Senate, McConnell famously declared in 2010: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” 
2. By 2013, McConnell had led filibusters of 79 of Obama’s court nominees, compared with 68 in the entire previous history of the Republic. 
3. After Justice Antonin Scalia’s death was confirmed last year, it took McConnell less than an hour to say that the vacancy should be filled by the next president. He called keeping Obama’s nominee off the court “one of my proudest moments.” 
4. Although his predecessors as majority leaders at least attempted collegiality, McConnell practices no such niceties (recall his recent silencing of Senator Elizabeth Warren). 
5. Now comes his use of the "nuclear option," ending the filibuster on Supreme Court nominees, killing the tradition of unlimited debate in the Senate dating back to 1789. Two years ago, when Obama was president, McConnell said he would abolish filibusters of Supreme Court justices only if there were 67 votes for such a change. This week, he employed a maneuver to do it with 51 votes. 
McConnell has consistently placed party over country. He is no patriot. He has shamed himself, the Republican Party, and America.

For my part, I would add that Mitch McConnell has been aided by a gaggle of small thinking enablers, like Reps. Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy, and a cohort of Ayn Rand inspired sycophants on the far right.


These people have literally lost themselves in a dystopian ideology that has little to do with Adam Smith and Thomas Jefferson, and everything to do with crony capitalism and the maintenance of political power. Donald Trump is a product of more than 30 years of putting a failed ideology before country.

History will record Mitch McConnell and the modern Republican Party as stains on the American experience.

- Mark

Friday, April 7, 2017

SYRIA AND THE TRUMP DOCTRINE ... IT'S ALL BUILT AROUND A FALSE NARRATIVE AND JUNK SCIENCE


Theories and objective truths are built upon some pretty solid evidence. They evolve from seeing something, or observing an event, and then explaining its development by referring to constant or recurring phenomena over time. Evidence and reason are the keys, and the basis, for building both things and good policy.

So, for example, the theory of flight has been explained after years of watching things fly and then studying draft, thrust and embracing the principles of engineering (wings, for example). Airplanes and human flight are now possible.

The study of the human genome and the theory of evolution are no different, and help us understand medicine and health, as this clip makes clear.



Similarly, international stability and theories of major or "hegemonic" wars - the Napoleonic Wars, World War II, etc. - can be explained with reference to some pretty solid historical evidence.

Generally speaking, scholars of international relations can make the case that major or cataclysmic wars follow: (1) when a dominant nation, or a group of dominant nations, fail to maintain the conditions necessary for equilibrium or stability in the international community, or (2) because of the rise of a new power; e.g. France in the 18th century, and Germany in the 19th century. Understanding this helped the global community create the "islands of order" in our global sea of anarchy in the post-WWII era.

Here's the point I want to make. The unfolding global dystopian disaster should not come as a surprise to anyone. Apart from his narcissism and making money, there is no discipline to President Trump's thinking. We all saw it on the campaign trail. As president, Trump's references to NATO, while trying to charge Angela Merkel for Germany's "NATO bill," made it clear that President Trump has no idea about world politics, let alone what made our post-WWII world order so productive and stable.
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In many ways - and unfortunately - President Trump is a product of America's rejection of disciplined thought, and 30 years of anti-intellectualism. America's embrace of pop thinking have made Fox News, Breitbart, and The Kardashians an accepted part of our popular culture for many Americans.

Why think when we can embrace reality TV, and then pretend our global stage is akin to a WWE match, where story lines can be pushed and the mob dutifully eats it up. At some point we shouldn't be surprised if President Trump shows up in a cape, or in cloak-like attire (I'm only half joking). Circus and bread are not new in the human experience.

Let's face it, decades of pushing false narratives and embracing junk science are the reasons we're now saddled with Donald Trump and his sudden "let's be concerned about Syria" approach to foreign policy.

Strong thinking, solid theories, and objective truths no longer apply.
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What's worse, many Americans now have a viral form of Political ADD, and President Trump is thriving on it. He's trying to distract the mob from his Russian ties, while covering for his kleptocratic family's activities. All of this, and Trump's collapsing poll numbers, are behind the false narrative and the junk science now driving the evolving Trump Doctrine.

Bluster is not a theory, nor what the Realist school of thought is about. And, seriously, if you think President Trump has any concern for Syrians I've got a bridge to sell you, in Iraq.

I'll have more to say about the end of objective truth and the embrace of junk science under President Trump in a later post.

Sigh ...

- Mark

Update: Ron Burgundy meme added after posted.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

THE TIES THAT BIND ... DONALD TRUMP, HIS RUSSIAN "FRIENDLY" ASSOCIATES, AND THE EROSION OF THE AMERICAN EXPERIMENT

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Apart from the Trump associates who are friendly with the Russians, there are some very real but very subtle developments that are pointing us towards the gradual erosion of America's democratic experiment. From Medium, we're provided with a list of the 75 most recent slow motion developments that point us towards the crumbling of the American experience, and the rise of an incompetent regime built around nepotism, crony capitalism, and an increasingly authoritarian streak.

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  1. * Four weeks have passed since Trump’s tweet accusing Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower. He has yet to offer any evidence or apologize.
  2. The Sunday Times reported that during Merkel’s visit to the WH, Trump handed her a £300bn invoice for money he falsely claimed Germany owed to NATO.
  3. * On Sunday, Trump announced that Kushner would lead a newly formed White House Office of American Innovation, giving him broad authority over federal bureaucracy. Kushner already has a significant portfolio.
  4. * On Monday, NYT reported that the Senate Intelligence Committee will question Kushner about two meetings he arranged with Kislyak during the transition.
  5. * Kushner will also be questioned on a previously unreported meeting with Sergey Gorkov, the head of Russia’s state-owned development bank, Vnesheconombank (VEB). Gorkov is former KGB, and was appointed by Putin to run VEB, a bank under US sanctions for three years.
  6. * Kushner and VEB gave different public accounts of why they met.
  7. * VEB paid the legal bill as a secret “third party” for their employee, Evgeny Buryakov, at his trial for spying in the US for Russian Intelligence.
  8. Kushner arrived for a ski vacation in Aspen on the same day as Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, one of Putin’s closest confidants. Abramovich’s wife is also friends with Ivanka.
  9. China’s Anbang walked away from the planned purchase of 666 Fifth Avenue, which would have netted Kushner $400mm — a sign that the Chinese government is uncertain of the Trump regime’s longevity.
  10. * Changing course, Ivanka will become a federal employee. In her new role of Assistant to the President, the highest staff title, Ivanka will have the same rank as McMaster.
  11. * In January, Trump attorneys had said Ivanka would resign from her business positions. She is still listed as CEO of a NY based business.
  12. * Ethics filings released on Friday showed that Ivanka and Kushner, despite their new roles, will remain as beneficiaries of real estate and investment businesses worth about $741mm.
  13. Ivanka will also maintain her stake in the controversial Trump Hotel DC, which netted her between $1–5mm from January 2016-March 2017, and value her stake between $5–25mm.
  14. * Ethics filings also revealed that Bannon earned $917k in the past 12 months, more than half of which comes from Mercer related entities.
  15. * Trump again took credit for jobs created before he took office: this time a $1.2bn investment by Ford that was planned in 2015.
  16. * Per WAPO tracking, so far Trump has taken credit for jobs created before he took office 11 times.
  17. * Trump’s anti-immigrant policies are scaring eligible families away from safety net programs like SNAP, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and free school lunches.
  18. ICE arrested five Green Card applicants in Lawrence, MA when they showed up for their scheduled appointments at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office. All are scheduled to be deported.
  19. * A federal judge in Hawaii extended the order blocking Trump’s second Muslim Ban.
  20. * Trump has been named in more than 50 lawsuits filed by individuals, arising from his Muslim Bans.
  21. * Trump signed an EO which legalizes discrimination against LGBTQ federal employees.
  22. * Trump excluded LGBTQ people from the US Census, removing categories for “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”
  23. * At a WH women’s event, Trump said “If I weren’t president, [women’s empowerment] would be a very scary statement. We can’t compete!” He also asked the crowd is they knew about Susan B. Anthony.
  24. * Trump’s lawyer said the Zervos sexual harassment-related lawsuit, suing Trump for defamation, should be put on hold because it will “distract the president from his duties.”
  25. * On the back of the failed Yemen raid and the Mosul bombing that left 200 civilians dead, Trump declared Somalia a war zone, lifting Obama’s civilian protection rules for airstrikes.
  26. * WAPO reported a growing sense of panic and mistrust among civilians in Iraq and Syria amidst a record number of casualties by US-led airstrikes.
  27. * NBC reported that 40% of US colleges reported a drop in international student applications because of Trump’s policies like the Muslim Ban. Foreign students generate $32bn in revenue and 400k jobs.
  28. * Trump approval hit a new low at Gallup: 35% approve, 59% disapprove. Ratings this week are the lowest ever for a new president.
  29. Trump will not throw the ceremonial first pitch in the Nationals opening day, making him the second since Taft in 1910 not to do so.
  30. * USA Today reported Trump and his companies have been linked to at least 10 former Soviet businessmen with alleged ties to organized crime or money laundering.
  31. * WNYC reported three all-cash real estate purchases by Manafort in New York. One purchase was for $10mm at Trump Tower in 2006 — the same time Manafort entered a $10mm contract with a pro-Putin Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, to help strategize on influencing US elections.
  32. Deripaska took out quarter page advertisements in the WAPO and WSJ denouncing the AP story, and offering to testify to Congress.
  33. * On Monday, Nunes unilaterally cancelled all scheduled hearings and meetings for the week. He refused to share his source for the leaks.
  34. * On Tuesday, WAPO reported that the Trump regime tried to block Sally Yates from testifying at the House hearing.
  35. * WAPO also reported that both Yates and Brennan had made clear that parts of their testimony contradict statements made by the WH.
  36. * On Thursday, NYT identified two WH officials, Ezra Cohen-Watnick and Michael Ellis, as the ones who gave Nunes intelligence reports. Ellis formerly worked for Nunes, and Cohen was brought in by Flynn and kept on by Trump/Bannon/Kushner despite McMasters’ desire to fire him.
  37. * WAPO identified a third WH source involved in leaking information to Nunes: John Eisenberg, top lawyer for the National Security Council, on which Bannon sits.
  38. * E Randol Schoenberg uncovered that Ezra Cohen-Watnick’s wife Rebecca Miller did PR for Putin.
  39. * Barton Gellman raised the specter of unchartered territory — that these leaks could indicate that the Trump WH is spying on the FBI.
  40. * On Friday, Schiff met with Trump and was given the materials. In a statement, Schiff said nothing he had seen warranted a departure from normal review procedures. He also questioned why senior WH staff leaked to Nunes, who then shared the info back with Trump’s WH.
  41. * CREW and Democracy 21 requested an OCE inquiry into whether Nunes violated House ethics rules.
  42. * Robert Wasinger, a former Trump campaign official, transition team staffer and Trump appointee became the second staffer to leave without signing an ethics pledge. Wasinger is now working as a lobbyist.
  43. * ProPublica reported the Trump regime is refusing to respond to inquiry letters from Congressional Democrats, including the letters sent by Senate Democrats to Wilbur Ross in Week 18.
  44. * The man behind the #Calexit Campaign — an effort to break California from the rest of the country — splits his time between living in San Diego and Russia, and has ties to a group reportedly backed by the Kremlin.
  45. BBC verified a key claim in Steele’s dossier — a Russian diplomat named Kalugin (misspelled in the dossier as “Kulagin”), who was head of the embassy’s economic section in Washington, was a spy.
  46. * BBC also confirmed contact between the Trump campaign and Russia, including sharing of voter rolls in key states like MI and PA.
  47. * The identity of ‘Source D’ in the Steele dossier, source of the most salacious details, was confirmed to be Belarusian American businessman Sergei Millian, who also had ties to Trump campaign officials.
  48. * The FBI raided an obscure casino in Saipan run by a Trump protege, which has attracted attention over its huge revenue and cash flows. Board members include Trump transition team member Woolsey.
  49. * On Thursday, Flynn’s lawyer said he had offered his testimony to the FBI and the House and Senate intelligence committees in exchange for immunity. Per his lawyer, Robert Kelner, so far there are no takers.
  50. * The next morning, Trump tweeted that Flynn should ask for immunity in this “witch hunt.”
  51. * Robert Kelner tweeted on November 12, 2016, “A prediction: Donald Trump will make novel and unusual use of the President’s pardon power. An under-utilized tool of political power.”
  52. * Jeremy Bash, an ex-intel official, said Flynn could only get immunity if he could deliver evidence against someone higher up the chain: Trump.
  53. * A federal judge approved the $25mm Trump University settlement for defrauding more than 6,000 students, and with all the news, no one really noticed.
  54. * NBC reported that the Obama administration was so concerned that Trump would destroy documents related to the Russia probe, that they created a list with serial numbers and hand delivered it to all members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
  55. * At a press conference before Senate Intelligence Committee hearings, Burr said Russia hired more than 1,000 hackers to create fake, anti-Hillary news. Warner added that Russia targeted key swing states, including MI, PA and WI.
  56. * The Senate Intelligence Committee held its first day of hearings on Thursday. All experts who testified concurred on Russia’s involvement.
  57. * Former special agent Clint Watts testified that one of reason Russia’s attacks were so successful is Trump and his team amplified and seemingly coordinated with propaganda coming out of Russia.
  58. * As proof that Russia wasn’t only aiming to hurt Hillary, but rather to buoy Trump, Watts testified that Russia interfered in the Republican primary to undermine candidates, including Rubio.
  59. Rubio shared at the hearing that during his presidential campaign, his staff had a hack attempts from Russian IPs. Also, this week a second attempt was made to hack his former members of his campaign staff.
  60. * CBS reported the FBI is probing whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russian Intelligence to carry out cyberattacks on the DNC and other targets in 2016
  61. Trump’s personal lawyer of more than 15 years, was named lead attorney for Sberbank, a Russian bank which is majority owned by the Russian government. Sberbank faces charges in US federal court for racketeering.
  62. * WAPO reported that nearly one out of every three days while in office, Trump has visited a Trump branded property.
  63. * The Center for Public Integrity noted that Wilbur Ross, while charged with Trump’s trade policy, maintains a stake in a shipping company that flies the Chinese flag, and visits Iran and Russia.
  64. * Trump insider Rudy Giuliani is defending an alleged Iranian money launderer. Giuliani did not notify the court of his role, as is generally required. He also visited Turkey to discuss the case with Erdogan. The case it being heard in the Southern District of NY (formerly Bharara).
  65. * In a letter to the federal judge on Friday, the federal prosecutor on the case disclosed that Giuliani tried to go around him, and cut a deal between the Turkish and U.S. governments.
  66. * Senate Democrats called for an ethics probe of Mnuchin for promoting a movie he produced during a public interview on March 24th. Mnuchin said Friday it was not his intention to promote the movie.
  67. * ProPublica reported that while in Congress in 2016, HHS Price bought stocks in 6 pharmaceutical companies, then used his connections to help scuttle a rule that would have hurt the companies’ profit.
  68. * The Oklahoma Bar launched an investigation into whether Pruitt lied under oath in his testimony during his Senate confirmation hearing by saying while AG he only used his professional email for AG business.
  69. The State Department has gone dark. Since the IJR interview of Tillerson in which he signaled regret over taking SoS, both John Bolton and Condoleezza Rice have been invited to the WH by Trump.
  70. * WAPO reported that many career diplomats in the State Department have been instructed not to speak to Tillerson directly, or to make eye contact.
  71. * Senators in the House Armed Services oversight subcommittee urged Trump to fill Pentagon positions to “ensure that the American people know about and have a means to address instances of waste, fraud and abuse in their government.” Only one position has been filled (Mattis). Bannon and Kushner have blocked other picks.
  72. * Trump friend and insider Carl Icahn, stands to significantly benefit from several of Trump’s policies, including a regulation that if put in place will save CVR Energy, of which Icahn owns 82%, $206mm per year.
  73. * Newsweek reported that Comey wanted to go public in July with information on Russia’s campaign to influence the election, but in a meeting with Kerry, Lynch, Johnson and Rice, was told not to proceed.
  74. * When asked by a reporter about Flynn during an EO signing ceremony, Trump walked out of the room without signing the orders.
  75. * NPR reported that Trump has started to employ “Whataboutism” — a Russian propaganda tactic commonly used by Putin. When criticized, Trump will say someone else is worse.

  76. ********************

- Mark