Trump Republicans believe colleges and universities have a negative effect on our country

Besides giving more of your money to the rich the Trumpanistas don’t want your kids educated either

I’m very certain Trump is concerned about minorities. We rich are are a minority you know

More than ever, higher education has become critical to snagging a stable job, moving up the income ladder and succeeding in the global economy.

Yet more than ever, higher education has also become a political football and object of derision.

In Arizona, Republican politicians clearly view beating up on colleges as a way to prove their conservative bona fides. Attorney General Mark Brnovich recently sued the board of regents of Arizona’s public universities, which under state law is technically his client. Brnovich complains that tuition is too high to meet the state’s constitutional requirement that colleges be “as nearly free as possible.”

The suit, unfortunately, leaves out the fact that Arizona has cut state funding per student by 41 percent since 2008, second only to Louisiana in higher-ed disinvestment. Which suggests that if anyone is violating the constitution, it’s state lawmakers, not schools.

“It’s a political distraction motivated by something other than an actual interest in tuition-paying students,” Arizona State University President Michael Crow said. “It’s motivated by the political aspirations of the person that filed the suit.”

Arizona colleges are hardly the only institutions in the culture-war crosshairs.

At a dinner in New York last month with about a dozen college presidents, other officials described similar showdowns with peacocking, publicity-stunting politicians.

A group of Louisiana legislators recently threatened to further slash public higher-ed appropriations — already down 43 percent per student since 2008 — if any student football players took a knee during the national anthem, according to Louisiana State University President F. King Alexander. (The threat was withdrawn after Alexander reminded lawmakers that LSU players traditionally remain in the locker room during the anthem.)

In Iowa, a state senator introduced a bill requiring ideological litmus tests for faculty hiring. In Nebraska, state senators waged a media campaign against the state’s flagship university after an ugly confrontation between a conservative undergrad and a liberal grad student went viral.

When asked whether they believed provisions of the Trump tax bill targeting colleges were punitive, nearly every president at the dinner answered yes.

Ambitious Republican politicians are not wrong to see college-bashing as politically useful. Several recent surveys find huge partisan divides in views of higher education.

A June Pew Research Center survey found that a majority of Republicans believe colleges and universities have a “negative effect on the way things are going in the country.” Democrats overwhelmingly said the opposite.

In an August Gallup survey, two-thirds of Republicans likewise said they have just some or very little confidence in colleges. The chief complaints: Schools are too liberal, they don’t allow students to think for themselves and students are learning the wrong things.

Or as Donald Trump Jr. put it in a campus speech last fall: “We’ll take $200,000 of your money; in exchange, we’ll train your children to hate our country.”

Most troubling — at least from an economic perspective — Americans are losing faith in the payoff of a college degree.

In an August Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey, most Republicans, rural residents and people who consider themselves poor or working class said college isn’t worth the cost. This is even though higher education averages a much bigger return than any other major investments; the occupations requiring at least some postsecondary education are projected to have the fastest job growth and highest earnings in the coming decade; and for those born at the bottom of the income distribution, a college diploma is key to achieving upward social mobility.

So how did college become a scapegoat for the nation’s ills?

To hear Crow tell it, the primary problem is the long-brewing perception that college is inaccessible, catering only to the self-dealing elite. As a result, he says, ASU has worked hard to lower costs and make its student body more representative of the state’s socioeconomic and ethnic makeup. In fact, contrary to Brnovich’s lawsuit, net tuition (i.e., not the sticker price, but what students actually pay after grants and other financial aid) for in-state students is lower today than it was 30 years ago, Crow says. That’s thanks to new funding sources (donations, grants, international students) and changes in how the school is organized.

What about that Republican perception that colleges are socialist brainwashing factories?

He smiles. Then he acknowledges that even his prized university has not always had “intellectual balance,” and notes that it has recently developed conservative-leaning programs.

Such initiatives have been partly funded by the otherwise-stingy state legislature, and partly by private donors, such as the Charles Koch Foundation.

Which may provide a worrisome preview into where public higher education is heading elsewhere, too: replacing dwindling public dollars with private ones, especially those that will appease suspicious conservatives.

 

Edited from: A column in the Washington Post By Catherine Rampell Opinion writer
https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-do-so-many-republicans-hate-college/2017/12/28

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El Caudillo Yanqui: Portrait of a man in serious cognitive decline

Trump’s New York Times Interview Is a Portrait of a Man in Cognitive Decline

Esquire’s Charlie Pierce:

“I don’t care whether Michael Schmidt was tough enough. We’ve got bigger problems”

On Thursday, El Caudillo del Mar-A-Lago (Trump) sat down with Michael Schmidt of The New York Times for what apparently was an open-ended, one-on-one interview. Since then, the electric Twitter machine–and most of the rest of the Intertoobz–has been alive with criticism of Schmidt for having not pushed back sufficiently against some of the more obvious barefaced non-facts presented by the president* in their chat. Some critics have been unkind enough to point out that Schmidt was the conveyor belt for some of the worst attacks on Hillary Rodham Clinton emanating from both the New York FBI office and the various congressional committees staffed by people in kangaroo suits. For example, Schmidt’s name was on a shabby story the Times ran on July 23, 2015 in which it was alleged that a criminal investigation into HRC’s famous use of a private email server was being discussed within the Department of Justice. It wasn’t, and the Times’ public editor at the time, the great Margaret Sullivan, later torched the story in a brutal column.

Other people were unkind enough to point out that the interview was brokered by one Christopher Ruddy, a Trump intimate and the CEO of NewsMax, and that Ruddy made his bones as a political “journalist” by peddling the fiction that Clinton White House counsel Vince Foster had been murdered, one of the more distasteful slanders that got a shameful public airing during the Clinton frenzy of the 1990s. Neither of those will concern us here. What Schmidt actually got out of this interview is a far more serious problem for the country. In my view, the interview is a clinical study of a man in severe cognitive decline, if not the early stages of outright dementia.

Over the past 30 years, I’ve seen my father and all of his siblings slide into the shadows and fog of Alzheimer’s Disease. (The president*’s father developed Alzheimer’s in his 80s.) In 1984, Ronald Reagan debated Walter Mondale in Louisville and plainly had no idea where he was. (If someone on the panel had asked him, he’d have been stumped.) Not long afterwards, I was interviewing a prominent Alzheimer’s researcher for a book I was doing, and he said, “I saw the look on his face that I see every day in my clinic.” In the transcript of this interview, I hear in the president*’s words my late aunt’s story about how we all walked home from church in the snow one Christmas morning, an event I don’t recall, but that she remembered so vividly that she told the story every time I saw her for the last three years of her life.

In this interview, the president* is only intermittently coherent. He talks in semi-sentences and is always groping for something that sounds familiar, even if it makes no sense whatsoever and even if it blatantly contradicts something he said two minutes earlier. To my ears, anyway, this is more than the president*’s well-known allergy to the truth. This is a classic coping mechanism employed when language skills are coming apart. (My father used to give a thumbs up when someone asked him a question. That was one of the strategies he used to make sense of a world that was becoming quite foreign to him.) My guess? That’s part of the reason why it’s always “the failing New York Times,” and his 2016 opponent is “Crooked Hillary.”

Bat Shit Crazy wannabe despot

In addition, the president* exhibits the kind of stubbornness you see in patients when you try to relieve them of their car keys—or, as one social worker in rural North Carolina told me, their shotguns. For example, a discussion on healthcare goes completely off the rails when the president* suddenly recalls that there is a widely held opinion that he knows very little about the issues confronting the nation. So we get this.

“But Michael, I know the details of taxes better than anybody. Better than the greatest C.P.A. I know the details of health care better than most, better than most. And if I didn’t, I couldn’t have talked all these people into doing ultimately only to be rejected.”

This is more than simple grandiosity. This is someone fighting something happening to him that he is losing the capacity to understand. So is this.

“We’re going to win another four years for a lot of reasons, most importantly because our country is starting to do well again and we’re being respected again. But another reason that I’m going to win another four years is because newspapers, television, all forms of media will tank if I’m not there because without me, their ratings are going down the tubes. Without me, The New York Times will indeed be not the failing New York Times, but the failed New York Times. So they basically have to let me win. And eventually, probably six months before the election, they’ll be loving me because they’re saying, “Please, please, don’t lose Donald Trump.” O.K.”

In Ronald Reagan’s second term, we ducked a bullet. I’ve always suspected he was propped up by a lot of people who a) didn’t trust vice-president George H.W. Bush, b) found it convenient to have a forgetful president when the subpoenas began to fly, and c) found it helpful to have a “detached” president when they started running their own agendas—like, say, selling missiles to mullahs. You’re seeing much the same thing with the congressional Republicans. They’re operating an ongoing smash-and-grab on all the policy wishes they’ve fondly cultivated since 1981. Having a president* who may not be all there and, as such, is susceptible to flattery because it reassures him that he actually is makes the heist that much easier.

So, no, I don’t particularly care whether Michael Schmidt was tough enough, or asked enough follow-up questions. I care about this.

“I’m always moving. I’m moving in both directions. We have to get rid of chainlike immigration, we have to get rid of the chain. The chain is the last guy that killed. … [Talking with guests.] … The last guy that killed the eight people. … [Inaudible.] … So badly wounded people. … Twenty-two people came in through chain migration. Chain migration and the lottery system. They have a lottery in these countries. They take the worst people in the country, they put ‘em into the lottery, then they have a handful of bad, worse ones, and they put them out. ‘Oh, these are the people the United States. …” … We’re gonna get rid of the lottery, and by the way, the Democrats agree with me on that. On chain migration, they pretty much agree with me.”

We’ve got bigger problems.

No Shit!

Far more than a witch hunt the “real” criminal investigation now includes the RNC

Michael Isikoff, chief investigative correspondent for Yahoo News

Steve Bannon’s eyes lit up. Several months before he left his job as a senior White House adviser last August, Bannon was talking to President Trump about the brewing political storm over the Justice Department investigation into his campaign’s alleged ties to the Kremlin. Suddenly, Trump had an inspiration. He looked straight at Bannon, jabbed at him with his finger and uttered the phrase that would become the slogan of the White House pushback against the Russia probe: “Witch hunt!”

Brilliant, thought Bannon, as he later related the exchange to colleagues.

Ever since, it is a phrase Trump has returned to time and again — and repackaged with typical Trumpian hyperbole. “This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!” Trump tweeted last May after ex-FBI director Robert Mueller was appointed as Justice Department special counsel to oversee the probe.

But now, as Trump prepares to end his first year in office, the witch hunt narrative may have outlived its usefulness. Mueller’s investigation has expanded and gained serious traction: The president’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and Manafort’s chief deputy, Rick Gates, have been indicted. His former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, has pleaded guilty and is now a cooperating witness. So too is a former foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos, who has admitted lying to the FBI about repeated contacts with alleged Russian cutouts who had offered the Trump campaign “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.”

As described by sources familiar with various aspects of the investigation, the Mueller probe is fast approaching a critical crossroads. The president’s lawyers, Ty Cobb and John Dowd, are pressing Mueller to wind down the investigation and exonerate their client, which they have assured the president will happen by early next year.

But the sources familiar with the probe say that such a rapid conclusion is — as one put it — “fanciful.” Mueller and his team, they say, are pursuing new leads, interrogating new witnesses and collecting a mountain of new evidence, including subpoenaed bank records and thousands of emails from the campaign and the Trump transition.

In just the last few weeks, his prosecutors have begun questioning Republican National Committee staffers about the party digital operation that worked with the Trump campaign to target voters in key swing states. They are seeking to determine if the joint effort was related to the activities of Russian trolls and bots aimed at influencing the American electorate, according to two of the sources.

In what is potentially another ominous sign for the White House, the lawyer for Jared Kushner, the president’s son in law and senior adviser who was in charge of the campaign’s digital operation, recently began searching for a crisis public relations firm to handle press inquiries — a step frequently taken by people who believe they may be facing criminal charges. (Kushner has denied all wrongdoing, and his lawyer, Abbe Lowell, has said he is cooperating with the Mueller investigation.)

Even if the new lines of inquiry don’t result in additional indictments — something unknowable at this point — the new material all but guarantees the Mueller investigation will stretch on for months, if not years, likely provoking Trump to revisit his decision not to fire the special counsel.

And if the president does take that step, many lawmakers and legal veterans say, it will cause a political explosion unlike any the capital has seen in decades. “It will be cataclysmic,” said Richard Ben-Veniste, a former Watergate prosecutor who lived through the so-called Saturday night massacre when President Richard Nixon fired special prosecutor Archibald Cox. “It will create a constitutional crisis.”

In the meantime, the president’s allies are mounting a ferocious attack on Mueller’s team — pointing to tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to Hillary Clinton and other Democrats by the special counsel’s prosecutors, and to text messages disparaging Trump by FBI agent Peter Strzok, whom Mueller has since moved off the investigation. They are also gunning for top FBI officials, especially deputy director Andrew McCabe, who they believe began a counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign’s links to the Russians last year based in part on the controversial dossier prepared by a former British spy and funded as “opposition research” by the Clinton campaign.

“Everything points to the fact that there was an orchestrated plan to try to prevent Donald Trump from being the next president of the United States,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, in a recent television interview in which he vowed to subpoena senior FBI agents about the origins of the probe.

But for Democrats, the attacks on Mueller and the FBI are a distraction tactic meant to obscure how much has already been uncovered about the Trump team’s contacts with the Russians. Back in January, when the issue first starting getting political traction, the president and his top aides denied that he and his campaign had any connections to Moscow. “I have nothing to do with Russia,” Trump tweeted at the time.

Since then,’s team and congressional investigators have detailed numerous contacts, meetings and email exchanges between Trump’s campaign and Russian-connected operatives and officials that were unknown to the public when voters went to the polls in November 2016. Jeff Sessions, the Trump campaign’s chief national security adviser, met with the Russian ambassador at a hotel reception and later in his Senate office. Papadopoulos met with a Russia-connected professor and a woman introduced as “Putin’s niece” in an effort to set up a summit between Trump and the Russian president. And most famously, Donald Trump Jr., Kushner and Manafort all met in Trump Tower with a delegation of Russians who they believed had derogatory information on Hillary Clinton — including “official documents” — that came straight from the highest levels of the Kremlin.

“Just from what’s been made public, it’s pretty clear the Trump campaign and family were willing and eager to work with the Russians,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., a member of the House Intelligence Committee. “They showed almost no restraint in engaging with the Russians to see what they had to offer on their opponent. It was a ‘whatever it takes’ mentality.”

Whether all this adds up to “collusion” — the sensational charge of active collaboration between the Trump campaign and Moscow that was first laid out in the controversial dossier commissioned by the Clinton campaign — is far from clear. But for Swalwell and quite a few others, it is already clear that the Russian probe has been far more than a witch hunt.

https://www.yahoo.com/news/mueller-probe-outgrows-witch-hunt-phase-100045988.html

More MICHAEL ISIKOFF Russia reporting:

Russian Doping Whistleblower Says He Fears For His Life

Heard on All Things Considered

NPR’s Robert Siegel speaks with Michael Isikoff, chief investigative correspondent for Yahoo News about Grigory Rodchenkov, the whistleblower in the Russian doping scandal. Rodchenkov fled to the U.S. and says he now fears for his life.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Two years ago, Grigory Rodchenkov fled Russia for the United States. He didn’t come empty-handed. Rodchenkov gave details of a massive state-run doping campaign that helped Russian athletes win big in the 2014 Sochi Olympics. His cooperation was instrumental in the International Olympic Committee’s decision to ban Russia from the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. Well now, Rodchenkov fears Russia wants him dead, as reported by our guest Michael Isikoff, who is chief investigative correspondent for Yahoo News. Welcome to the program once again.

MICHAEL ISIKOFF: Good to be here.

SIEGEL: And first, where is Grigory Rodchenkov, and what have you learned about him?

ISIKOFF: Well, we know that Grigory Rodchenkov somewhere in the United States, but he’s under the Federal Witness Protection Program. And in fact, because there are genuine concerns about threats to his life, his own lawyer has not even been able to communicate with him over the past week or so. That lawyer, Jim Walden, told me that he was recently informed by a U.S. government official that he should assume that there are Russian agents in the United States looking for Mr. Rodchenkov and that significant enhancements needed to be made in his security protections.

SIEGEL: Is it fair to say that Rodchenkov knew a lot about the Russian doping program because he in fact was doing it?

ISIKOFF: Well, he was the mastermind of the Russian doping program. He supervised it, but he did so under the direction of the Russian Olympic Committee and with the assistance of the FSB, the Russian secret police.

SIEGEL: The idea that there might be Russian agents looking for the now underground Grigory Rodchenkov, it raises the question of he’s not challenging Vladimir Putin as president of Russia, he didn’t send us nuclear secrets or tell us where Russian submarines are – how big a deal is disclosing the Russian athletic doping program?

ISIKOFF: This is a huge deal for Russia and for Vladimir Putin personally. The Sochi Olympics were a showcase for him. He took great pride in the fact that Russian athletes dominated those Olympics, winning more than 30 medals. And to have that prestige robbed from Russia, it was a huge embarrassment for Putin.

SIEGEL: When you’ve asked the Russian government about this, about the notion that Rodchenkov might be targeted by agents in the U.S., what are they saying?

ISIKOFF: Well, they have not responded to the specific information that Jim Walden, Rodchenkov’s lawyer, provided to me, but they have made clear that they view Rodchenkov as a criminal. They’ve filed criminal charges against him. They have demanded he be returned to Russia by the United States. And the former head of the Russian Olympic Committee has said that Rodchenkov should be executed the way Stalin would have done.

SIEGEL: So the Russians say they want to prosecute Rodchenkov, but if Rodchenkov enjoys witness protection here in the U.S., the implication is he is of some use to American prosecutors.

ISIKOFF: Exactly. One of the interesting things his lawyer, Mr. Walden, told me is that federal prosecutors are conducting investigations that could lead to criminal charges against Russian Olympic officials. These could be racketeering charges. And the idea would be that Americans who participated in the Olympics, the American Olympic Committee, American companies such as NBC, which broadcast the Olympics, would have been defrauded by this doping scheme.

SIEGEL: Michael Isikoff, chief investigative correspondent for Yahoo News, thanks.

ISIKOFF: Thank you.

Here’s your lump of coal and twist of the knife from the Donald

Trump kicked off his holiday weekend at Mar-a-Lago Friday night at a dinner where he told friends, “You all just got a lot richer,” referencing the sweeping tax overhaul he signed into law hours earlier.  Trump directed those comments to friends dining nearby at the exclusive club — including to two friends at a table near Trump’s who described the remark to CBS News — as he began his final days of his first year in office in what has become known as the “Winter White House.”

Trump has spent many weekends of his presidency so far at the “Winter White House,” where initiation fees cost $200,000, annual dues cost $14,000, and some of the most affluent members of society have the opportunity to interact with the president in a setting while many Americans cannot. This weekend, the president arrived after signing the most consequential legislation, and arguably, the greatest achievement, of his presidency thus far.

For months, the White House and congressional Republicans have looked to tackle tax reform, a feat some critics deemed too challenging after Republicans’ failure to find a compromise on health care. But on Wednesday, the Senate and House, in that order, passed what Trump has deemed the “biggest in history” tax cut and reform bill.

Trump and White House have emphasized repeatedly that the tax legislation is targeted as a tax break for the middle class.

On Saturday when asked for comment, the White House reiterated the benefit of the new law to the middle class.

But critics point out that some aspects of the GOP tax overhaul — such as the doubling of the cap for the estate tax break and lowering of corporate and S-corporation taxes — disproportionately benefit the most affluent Americans. The president has said the tax bill is “not good” for him personally, although that statement is difficult to assess when he has declined to release his tax returns.

Trump himself on Sept. 13 — long before the bill was finalized — said the wealthy would not benefit from the GOP tax overhaul.

“The rich will not be gaining at all with this plan. We are looking for the middle class and we are looking for jobs — jobs being the economy,” Trump said.

Still, the tax overhaul is a legislative victory for the president, as he completes his first year in office and ends out the year at Mar-a-Lago.

Trump spent some of Saturday golfing with friends and pro golfers Jim Herman, Daniel Berger, Justin Thomas and his father at Trump International Golf Club.

edited from:
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/trump-mar-a-lago-christmas-trip/

FBI and Mueller’s team following the conspiracy and the money all the way to Cyprus

The FBI has asked officials in Cyprus for financial information about a defunct bank that was used by wealthy Russians with political connections and has been accused by the US government of money laundering, two sources have told the Guardian.

The request for information about FBME Bank comes as Cyprus has emerged as a key area of interest for Robert Mueller, the US special counsel who is investigating a possible conspiracy between Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Kremlin.

People familiar with the FBI request told the Guardian that federal investigators and the US Treasury approached the Central Bank of Cyprus in November seeking detailed information about FBME, which was shut down this year.

One person familiar with the FBI request said it appeared to be connected to Mueller’s ongoing examination of Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign manager who was indicted in October, and money that flowed between former Soviet states and the US through Cypriot banks.

The Central Bank of Cyprus, which in 2014 placed FBME under administration in a direct response to US action and obtained full access to the bank’s data, declined to comment. The US special counsel’s office also declined to comment.

FBME has vigorously denied accusations that it has been a conduit for money laundering and other criminal activity.

The owners, Lebanese brothers Ayoub-Farid Saab and Fadi Michel Saab, issued a statement following a series of recent critical articles about the bank and denied all wrongdoing.

Bloomberg reported last week that FBME was the subject of two US investigations: one into the bank’s credit card unit, and another into alleged laundering of money from Russia. Bloomberg said the Russia-related investigation, which is being led by the US attorney’s office in New York, was connected to a flow of illegal Russian funds into the New York real estate market.

FBME, previously known as the Federal Bank of the Middle East, was based in Tanzania but about 90% of its banking was conducted in Cyprus. A report by the US Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) in 2014 said the bank was an institution of “primary money laundering concern”.

The report found that the bank was evading efforts by the Central Bank of Cyprus to supervise its activities, and that FBME was facilitating money laundering, terrorist financing, transnational organised crime, fraud, sanctions evasion, weapons trading and political corruption.

A 2014 internal report by the Central Bank of Cyprus about FBME that was obtained by the Guardian found that FBME had banking relationships with several Russians who were considered to be politically sensitive clients and that about half of the bank’s clients were Russian nationals, including Vladimir Smirnov, who is close to Putin, and Aleksandr Shishkin, a member of Putin’s political party.

FBME was subjected in 2016 to what is known as a “fifth special measure”, a hard-hitting US regulatory tool that was established after the 9/11 attacks to address law enforcement concerns in the banking sector. The move prohibited the bank from doing business in the US or using US dollars, and barred US banks from opening or using any bank accounts on FBME’s behalf. In effect, it shut the bank down. FBME has challenged the decision but US courts have so far upheld the move.

It is not clear why Mueller and his team of investigators appear to be interested in FBME’s financial data. But it indicates that the special counsel is continuing to examine money flows from Cyprus.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty to charges that he laundered millions of dollars through foreign banks as part of a scheme to hide his work for political parties in Ukraine. He is accused of funnelling the funds through foreign shell companies, including many that were based in Cyprus.

Manafort’s attorney, Kevin Downing, has called the charges, including those related to his use of offshore accounts, “ridiculous”.

A spokesman for FBME bank told the Guardian that Manafort was never a client of FBME.

Mueller’s team has separately issued a subpoena for information from Deutsche Bank. According to a person close to the bank, the subpoena was issued in the autumn. The German bank is Trump’s biggest lender.

Deutsche also worked as a correspondent bank for FBME. Internal emails seen by the Guardian show that executives from both banks were in contact in 2014 discussing accounts that were “on the radar” of US law enforcement.

Deutsche Bank said in a statement: “We severed our relationship with FBME in 2014 and have added more than 1,000 anti-financial crime staff in recent years to make our business safer and increase our controls.”

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/dec/24/fbi-investigates-russian-linked-cyprus-bank-accused-of-money-laundering

It’s a Trump lump of coal for all ya’all

America’s first so-called businessperson in the White House is doing more to destroy the American capitalist system than any previous president. (Karl Marx is smiling somewhere)

A strong market economy needs a robust middle class, mechanisms for upward mobility, and clear rule of law to grow and sustain itself over time. Trump has little allegiance to any of these and is busy undermining them all.

In the rush to fulfill campaign promises and sate the greed of corporate backers, Trump and his minion Republican enablers are re-organizing US tax policy in favor of the very rich, gutting environmental and business regulations and higher education, and flagrantly destroying long-standing norms and protections against conflicts of interest.

This new-found, but fleeting, Republican power has been made possible by the party’s condoning of a resurgent American tribalism known as populist racism.

What is poorly understood by many conservative Republicans is that unfettered capitalism will eventually destroy itself. Left to its natural trajectory, capitalism tends to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of a few, and the system implodes on itself because of limited demand from an emaciated middle class and shrinking competition in the marketplace.

Some intervention by the state, in the form of wealth redistribution and regulation, curbs the worst excesses of the system and allows it to be sustained over time.

The GOP tax legislation, likely to arrive on Trump’s desk in the coming days, massively cuts taxes for corporations and the wealthiest individuals in the country. While some middle-class households will see tax cuts in the short term, most will see just very much the opposite. The net effect is an end to progressive taxation in America and increasing wealth concentration at the top of the economic ladder. It won’t take long for this new tax policy to effectively stifle consumer demand in the US.

In the early 20th century, carmaker Henry Ford understood that the US economy worked best when you have a thriving middle-class. In fact, part of his rationale for raising wages was his implicit understanding that the company needed a middle-class consumer base that would buy the Model T vehicles that Ford plants were producing.

Unfortunately, such enlightened self-interest is rare. It’s not that business people don’t understand this, but they want to have their cake and eat it too. In other words, business owners want a prosperous and educated middle class that is neither supported by more robust wages nor redistributive taxation policies.

The result in the US, until recently, has been an oppositional political system with one party, the Democrats, largely supported by workers and labor unions, and the other, Republicans, mostly buttressed by business interests and the wealthy.

The Democratic Party worked for higher wages, redistributive taxation, robust public education, and health and safety regulations, whereas the Republication Party sought a leaner government and limited taxation. As long as the two sides were relatively balanced, a modicum of redistributive taxation, public investment, and regulation curbed the worst excesses of the capitalist system and kept it running smoothly.

Trump’s evil genius was to overtly tap into the dark world of populist racism.

Populist Racism functions a lot like tribalism in other contexts because it fosters pre-capitalist thinking. Rather than voting along class-based lines formed by shared economic interests, both tribalism and racism foster group thinking that cuts across class lines. As such, poor white workers are led to believe that they have more in common with their white capitalist bosses than their fellow workers of color.

Thanks to populist racism, capitalist tycoons have been able to bamboozle poor working-class whites into supporting their agenda to jettison the moderating influences of progressive taxation and regulation that actually sustains a market economy over time.

Republicans have always hated education for the masses, so in the GOP tax plan, there are a series of taxes on university education.

These include a new tax on graduate tuition waivers, a key way many post-graduates in the US are able to attend school, as well as plans to scrap tax deductions related to university student loans. These proposals would not only stifle the engine of the US’ knowledge economy, but they would destroy a key means of upward mobility in the country.

Last but not least, the Trump administration’s blatant nepotism and disregard for long-standing precedents on avoiding conflicts of interest signal a retreat from the rule of law, abandonment of meritocracy, and deepening crony capitalism.

Living in a country where the president remains heavily invested in businesses he promotes regularly and has a son-in-law as a key adviser, does not feel like the country we used to know as the United States of America. While the US business sector may always seek to lower costs and maximize profits, it also must have a robust consumer base, a well-educated workforce, and an even-handed state to apply rules and regulations and hold all actors to the same standard.

Although businesses may chafe against the exigencies of the modern welfare state, more enlightened entrepreneurs understand that they have to pay their dues to sustain the system that feeds them.

In contrast, it is the bottom-feeders in the capitalist system that tend to focus on short-term profits and ignore the health of the system in which they are operating. These actors would just as soon as feast on the goose that lays the golden egg because they can’t see past the *foie gras and imagine a better future for everyone. Sadly, such an actor is now running my country, and he is attempting to unwind history and return us to protocapitalism. *(the liver of a specially fattened goose or duck prepared as food)

There now appear to be at least three possible bad futures before us;

The first (and very terrifying) is that Trumpism continues to spread and the world further regresses into tribalism, primitive accumulation and (dramatic) environmental decline. The likes of Poland and the Philippines suggest that this is a possibility.

The second is that cooler heads eventually prevail in the US, Trump is forced out, and Republicans are held somewhat accountable for their support of a madman. Under this scenario, the worst policy stumbles of the Trump regime are at least partially unwound, and the US somewhat recovers from this very un-glorious moment.

The third possibility is that the US economy and society is so badly wounded by Trumpism that it never recovers and other nations recognize and avoid such blunders. These countries may move on to be the world’s new global economic powers. Under this scenario, American capitalism will be remembered as an era – an age abruptly ended by a backward (dumbass) dictator/president.

 

Taken from an editorial in Al Jazeera by William G Moseley is a professor and chair of geography at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota, US.

 

 

Trump and his minions doth protest too much, wethinks – The war on the FBI

Illegitimate and corrupt. Using the FBI as a political weapon and America’s secret police. “Secret surveillance, wiretapping, intimidation, harassment and threats. It’s like the old KGB that comes for you in the dark of the night, banging through your door.”

This is special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, as seen through the eyes of news anchor and analyst Gregg Jarrett this week. Anyone expecting him to be challenged live on air was destined for disappointment.

Fox News host Sean Hannity replied: “This is not hyperbole you are using here.”

It was one telling glimpse of the parallel universe that Donald Trump hopes will save him from Mueller’s sprawling investigation and potential impeachment. Far from an outlier, it was typical of how in recent days rightwing media, congressional Republicans and Trump’s base have gone to war, seeking to discredit and delegitimize the special counsel.

Even if they do not win in the court of public opinion, they hope to sow enough doubt that should Mueller produce damning evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, the reaction will be as divided as everything else in split-screen America, offering the president an escape route.

“It’s the only way he’s going to get out of this: by trying to make the investigation seem partisan,” said Max Bergmann, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress (CAP) Action Fund in Washington. “It’s the only strategy now: make sure his base is with him and Republicans in Congress won’t hold him accountable.”

Only 56% of Americans are ‘very or somewhat confident’ that Mueller will conduct his investigation fairly, according to a survey of 1,503 by the Pew Research Center. More than two in three Democrats (68%) say they are at least ‘somewhat confident’ that Mueller’s investigation will be conducted fairly. Less than one in two Republicans (44%) think the same way.

There was little doubting the mood among Trump’s core support at a rally in Pensacola, Florida on Friday night. Mike Newell, dressed in gear proclaiming that he was a marines veteran, dismissed the investigation as “a big joke”, adding that it was “all politically motivated and … a shame we’re wasting that kind of taxpayer money on something that’s so ridiculous”.

Newell said he followed the story “all over the media, the fake media mostly” and that the most reliable source was Fox News, which Trump consumes voraciously. “They are accurate on what they say,” he said.

La-Vonne Haven of Pensacola, who was wearing a “Make American Great Again” wool hat to keep warm on an unseasonably cold day on the Gulf coast, said: “We watch Fox when we want to get the truth. I’ll go to Fox because there’s just too much political untruths out there.”

She agreed with Newell that the Mueller investigation should be wound up. “It’s time we put it to rest because there’s nothing against our president.” She conceded that there may be a case against others in the campaign but was confident that Trump was not involved.

Some believe they discern a political plot to undermine the White House. Kelly Moffitt, of Cottonwood, Arizona, said of Mueller’s investigators it “seems they have already drifted and his team is more than just partisan – they have some sort of axe to grind”.

‘They can’t beat us at the voting booths’

Mueller was appointed Special-counsel in May, following Trump’s dismissal of FBI director

. On the day it emerged Mueller had convened a grand jury, Trump laid out a blueprint for delegitimising the entire exercise, portraying it as a Democratic plot against his supporters.

“They can’t beat us at the voting booths so they’re trying to cheat you out of the future and the future that you want,” he told a rally in Huntington, West Virginia in August. “They’re trying to cheat you out of the leadership that you want with a fake story that is demeaning to all of us and most importantly demeaning to our country and demeaning to our constitution.”

Since October, Mueller has charged four people from Trump’s inner circle, most recently his former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Although the president has avoided attacking Mueller directly, probably on legal advice, he did tweet last week that the FBI’s reputation was in “tatters” while his allies have launched a massive counter-offensive on multiple fronts.

At a press conference on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Congressman Matt Gaetz said Republicans intend to investigate the “unprecedented bias against President Trump that exists when we allow people who hate the president to participate in the investigations against him”.

He added: “A witch hunt continues against the president with tremendous bias, no purpose and no end in sight.”

A day later Bob Goodlatte, the Republican chair of the House judiciary committee, assailed the FBI over how it handled an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state and whether it gave her preferential treatment over Trump.

Republicans also questioned whether Mueller’s team has political bias after media reports said an FBI agent, Peter Strzok, was removed from the Russia investigation because he had traded text messages that denigrated Trump and praised Clinton. The conservative group Judicial Watch is suing to obtain the messages sent by Strzok, who was also involved in the Clinton email investigation.

Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, wrote to the justice department: “Strzok’s behavior and involvement in these two politically sensitive cases raises new concerns of inappropriate political influence in the work of the FBI.”

Such efforts are ably supported by a rightwing media working overtime to chip away at Mueller’s reputation, even at the risk of damaging once-sacred institutions. Brian Stelter, senior media correspondent of CNN, wrote this week: “The overarching message from Fox & Friends and Hannity is unmistakable: Mr President, you’re the victim of a ‘deep state’ plot to take you down. Don’t let it happen.”

He added: “It’s an alternate universe. It’s as simple as that. All the hours dedicated to attacking Mueller mean Fox viewers aren’t hearing about the newest developments in the Russia interference investigations.”

Among the examples cited by Stelter were White House press secretary Sarah Sanders’ father, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who told Monday’s Fox & Friends: “There needs to be an investigation of the investigation.” Another was Lou Dobbs on Fox Business, who said Mueller, Strzok and Comey “should be the subjects of criminal investigations and held fully accountable for crimes against a sitting president and the voters who supported him”.

James Comey

Hannity, who is close to Trump and whose show enjoys the highest ratings, said in a polemical monologue: “Let’s start off with the head of the snake. Mueller’s credibility is in the gutter tonight with these new discoveries, his conflicts of interests, his clear bias, the corruption are on full display. Mueller is frankly a disgrace to the American justice system and has put the country now on the brink of becoming a banana republic.”

Stelter also noted the dramatic u-turn by Newt Gingrich, a Trump cheerleader and former House speaker who once described Mueller as a “superb choice to be special counsel” and said “his reputation is impeccable for honesty and integrity”. On Wednesday, Gingrich opined: “Mueller is corrupt. The senior FBI is corrupt. The system is corrupt.”

Other media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal and Breitbart News, have joined in the Mueller-bashing. Joel Pollak, senior editor-at-large of Breitbart, contends the investigation is an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of last year’s presidential election.

“There are some conflicts of interest that are very unusual,” he said in an interview. “The deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, for example, is both a witness in the investigation and is overseeing the investigation.”

Mueller has far exceeded his mandate by digging into Trump’s financial records and details about who drafted particular media statements, Pollak believes.

“There is a lot of frustration that much of what the investigation is doing has nothing to do with Russia. At the moment it looks like a political witch hunt, in the way President Trump has framed it. Certainly the Democrats are making no secret of using it for moving towards impeachment. They’ve been trying to do that for a long time.”

But there is nothing that warrants impeachment, according to Pollak. “If Mueller merely says there was an attempt to collude, I don’t think the president’s supporters would abandon him. They would defend him. If Mueller says we think there was actual collusion, it depends what that collusion was. There’s no statutory crime of collusion and I think Trump supporters would defend him. I would.

“If they can find an actual crime, I think people will say it’s time to reckon with this. If it’s something minor, like a mistake on a tax return in 2006 or something, that is not grounds for impeachment. Even if Trump did something illegal during the campaign, I think you’d find his supporters – including me – would say that is not grounds for impeachment because it was the campaign, not when he is president.”

‘The distraction machine’

Bergmann of the CAP Action Fund is confident Mueller will produce evidence of vast collusion and urges Democrats to press the issue with voters in 2018.

“There’s no doubt there’s a concerted Republican strategy to try to discredit the Mueller investigation, throw sand in the eyes of the public and the press and bring up all sorts of ancillary issues,” he said. “When the heat gets turned up, the distraction machine kicks into gear on the Republican side.”

This has ranged from a hunt for leakers, to a row over “unmasking”, to claims that Comey was politically biased, to a faux scandal over a uranium deal involving Clinton and Russia “trying to provide a Russia whataboutism,” Bergmann said.

“Now we’re seeing an effort to say: ‘Oh my God, there was a Democrat in the FBI’, to try to say it’s all biased when Robert Mueller himself is a registered Republican, appointed by George W Bush, who served in Vietnam.”

All of it could save Trump’s skin, Bergmann said.

“Should the Mueller investigation find evidence of collusion or other crimes, it’s going to be the Republicans who are going to have to make a decision on impeachment. Fox, which has effectively been a state news network, is cementing the base that will stay with Trump. If the base holds, it’s going to be very hard for Republicans to jump ship.”

Matthew Miller, a partner at strategic advisory firm Vianovo and former justice department spokesman, agreed.

“The president has been trying to delegitimize the justice department going back to the summer,” he said. “In the last couple of months, we’ve seen the rest of the Republican party join in and follow his lead.

“There have been two goals. First, to kick up dust so there is something else to talk about when the president is under scrutiny. Second, to delegitimise the Mueller investigation so the president can fire him or Congress can ignore his conclusions if he finds Trump broke the law.”

Mueller still has the public’s trust “but I’m not sure that matters to Republicans in Congress”, Miller said. “They’re more and more not accountable to public opinion. If you live in a gerrymandered district where your biggest concern is a primary challenger, you’re no longer concerned about what other people think.”

Trump may consider terminating Mueller sooner rather than later, Miller said. “He probably flirted with getting rid of Mueller and I think [his lawyer Ty] Cobb told him: ‘If you just cooperate it will be over by the end of the year.’ But when January rolls around and Bob Mueller is not only not finished but closer to the president than ever before, there’s a very good chance he’ll look at it again.

“Six months ago I thought there would be a bipartisan outcry, but you only have to watch Fox News for five minutes to see the partisan message that Mueller is on some kind of witch hunt. A lot of the Republican members live in an alternative reality where Fox dictates the terms of the debate.

“That seeps in and, if Trump is found to have colluded with Russia, I would not be surprised if Republicans let him get away with it.”

Bill Galston, a former policy adviser to President Bill Clinton, remains hopeful that Mueller’s authority is holding against the onslaught of conspiracy theories and bilious punditry.

“They’re doing their best but so far they haven’t succeeded,” he said. “The data shows there is solid and pretty stable majority support for the Mueller investigation. My bottom line judgment is that his recommendations will be given significant public weight. I think his reputation both precedes him and strengthens him.”

As for ’s diatribe, Galston, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington, observed dryly: “If you throw that kind of mud into a gale force wind, it’s likely to come back in your face. I’m sure Mr Hannity knows a disgrace when he sees one and that’s in the mirror when he shaves every morning.”

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/dec/10/robert-mueller-trump-special-counsel-russia?