Opinion: What The Coronavirus Teaches, And What Trump Won’t Learn, About A Free-Market Economy

Trump cancels Jacksonville convention

Republicans continue to block legislation to provide relief to tens of millions of Americans as well as the state and local governments that provide services and employment to them. Their hand-wringing, it seems, is rooted in the worry that providing relief, such as extending enhanced unemployment benefits, will eliminate any incentive, or coercion, for people to seek employment and return to work. read more

New York Times Wants Congress Tested for Coronavirus Following Louie Gohmert Debacle

The New York Times has called for all members of Congress to be tested for Coronavirus following the positive diagnosis of Republican Representative Louie Gohmert.

In an editorial entitled “Congress, Test Thyself“, the Times cited Gohmert critically and urged the lawmakers to institute a testing regime in the Capitol.

“Elected officials have a particular responsibility both to model responsible behavior during this pandemic and to take extra precautions so they don’t become super spreaders,” the editors wrote.

“Put another way, when a lawmaker behaves like a ‘ding dong,’ as one Republican aide said of Mr. Gohmert, he puts everyone at risk.”

“For one thing, Gohmert’s experience has led to renewed calls by members and staff workers to implement a testing regimen on the Hill. That’s an important next step.”

The editorial comes as more and more reports emerge of anonymous staffers on Capitol Hill complaining about the lack of Covid-19 precautions. Many have said mask-wearing is discouraged.

The newspaper appeared to address these issues directly.

“Congress members are influential figures, and in this time of crisis they ought to be leading by example,” the editors wrote.

“By taking steps to protect themselves, their staff members and their constituents, lawmakers can send a signal about the seriousness of this situation to a confused and weary public.”

Follow Darragh Roche on Twitter

John Lewis Appeals for National Redemption in Powerful Posthumous Article

John Lewis made one final appeal to the American people on Thursday in the form of an op-ed written before he passed away. The column was published on the day of his funeral.

The New York Times published the piece, entitled “Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation” on the very day the Civil Rights hero and Democratic congressman will be laid to rest.

“Though I am gone, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe,” the subheading reads.

“While my time here has now come to an end, I want you to know that in the last days and hours of my life you inspired me,” Lewis wrote.

“You filled me with hope about the next chapter of the great American story when you used your power to make a difference in our society.”

“Millions of people motivated simply by human compassion laid down the burdens of division. Around the country and the world you set aside race, class, age, language and nationality to demand respect for human dignity.”

Lewis’ final message to the country focused on racial justice, Civil Rights and the ongoing struggle for equality. He also called on Americans to rise the challenge.

“Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe,” Lewis wrote.

“In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.”

“When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down

the heavy burdens of hate read more

Barack Obama: Trump Saying Kung Flu “Shocks and Pisses Me Off”

Barack Obama is reportedly not happy with Donald Trump for using the terms “kung flu” and “China virus” to refer to Covid-19. The former president made the comments at a fundraiser.

Obama criticized Trump’s use of the racially charged terms on Thursday. He was raising money for former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign.

“I don’t want a country in which the president of the United States is actively trying to promote anti-Asian sentiment and thinks it’s funny,” Obama said.

“I don’t want that. That still shocks and pisses me off.”

The New York Times reported that Obama told an aide Trump has “no idea what he’s doing.” This followed a meeting between the two men in 2016.

Obama also tries to avoid mentioning Trump’s name. The Democrat is “so determined to avoid uttering the new president’s name that one aide jokingly suggested they refer to him as ‘He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’ — Harry Potter’s archenemy, Lord Voldemort.”

Trump has repeatedly referred to Coronavirus as “kung flu” or “China virus.” Early on in the pandemic, the term “Wuhan virus” was popular among the President’s supporters.

Many critics have pointed out that

these terms are racist read more

Opinion: Now that Trump Killed American Exceptionalism, Will Americans Reflect and Change?

Trump Scared Off Stage

When a reporter asked Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a news conference last Tuesday what he thought about Donald Trump’s threat to use armed forces to suppress the mass protests occurring in the wake of the police murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and in response to unceasing state violence against African Americans, Trudeau’s answer spoke volumes about the global standing of the United States. read more

Opinion: Coronavirus Makes Us Re-think How We Value Labor and Lives

“It’s like suddenly they realized we are here contributing,” Nancy Silva told The New York Times.

Silva, a 43-old undocumented immigrant who has been picking fruit on American farms for most of her life while constantly evading immigration authorities, made this statement in response to the federal government deeming her and other farmworkers “essential employees.”  The Department of Homeland Security determined such farmworkers to “critical to the food supply chain.” read more

Opinion: Trump’s Attack on Land, Environment Undermines American Lives and Economy

Ronald Reagan notoriously once asked, “Where would this country be without this great land of ours?”

As ridiculous as Reagan sounded asking that question, the question has taken on a renewed seriousness given Donald Trump’s assault on the American land itself and thus, by extension, we Americans who depend on a safe and well-managed environment to provide clean water and myriads of other resources to make our lives possible.

And I’m not just talking about the fact that William Perry Pendley, appointed last July to head the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees a substantial chunk of the nation’s publicly-owned lands, advocates for selling off public lands, basically robbing taxpayers of this “great land” and hence “this country.”  Pendley would indeed prefer to leave Americans pondering literally the question Reagan asked.

I’m talking about the fact that Trump has proudly rolled back not just Obama-era regulations spelled out in the 2015 Waters of the United States rule but also key elements of the Clean Water Act legislated in 1972 and amended multiple times in the 1970s and 1980s to ensure Americans had access to clean water by regulating the dumping of pollution into the nation’s surface waters, including lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands, and coastal areas.

Without a lot of fanfare, Trump issued the Navigable Waters Protection rule at the tail-end of last January, completing his obliteration of the Obama administration’s water protections—and worse. Derrick Z. Jackson, a Fellow of the Union of Concerned Scientists, points out, Trump’s rule is somewhat ironically named, allowing clear navigation for polluters.

Coral Davenport, writing for The New York Times, elaborates the damage of trump’s roll-back, writing, “The new water rule for the first time in decades allow landowners and property developers to dump pollutants such as pesticides and fertilizers directly into hundreds of thousands of waterways, and to destroy or fill in wetlands for construction projects.”

Her reporting highlights the actually informed perspective of Blan Holman, a lawyer specializing in federal water policy at the Southern Environmental Law Center.  In Holman’s expert judgment,

“This will be the biggest loss of clean water protection the country has ever seen. This puts drinking water for millions of Americans at risk of contamination from unregulated pollution. This is not just undoing the Obama rule. This is stripping away protections that were put in place in the ’70s and ’80s that Americans have relied on for their health.” read more

Opinion: 2020 Campaigns Need to Challenge Trump on Civil Rights

Arguing to center LGBTQ people in contemporary discussions about, and activism for, civil rights, certainly risks igniting an inflammatory comparative oppressions debate about which groups are most marginalized and under assault in U.S. society.

Racism is alive and well in America. Voter suppression efforts, particularly against African Americans, are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to disenfranchising African Americans.  White nationalism and more pervasive and often less dramatic and thoroughgoing institutionalized white supremacy, endorsed and encouraged by the highest office in the land, validate a reign of terror and more general de-valuing of the lives of people of color, particularly African Americans, in the U.S.  Immigrants of color are being caged and criminalized. And one could go on—unfortunately, on and on.

When it comes to equal rights, and hence civil rights, for women, well, Virginia just recently became the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, and the ERA still faces substantial obstacles—and heated defiance—in making its way into the Constitution.

Our nation still trembles, indeed inflames, when it comes to validating this simple statement statement in the ERA :

“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.”

And, of course, the all-out assault on abortion rights underscores the ongoing assault on women’s civil rights.

And yet, while it is indisputable that women and people of color have been denied civil rights, their personhood has nonetheless been acknowledged in civil rights legislation. The 1964 Civil Rights Act outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

This language does not include, apparently, LGBTQ people.  The Supreme Court is currently deliberating a case brought heard last October arguing that the word “sex” should include sexual orientation and gender identity.

While the verdict is not in, a good portion of the justices’ discussion and questions seemed less than promising for the case’s success. For example, Justice Samuel Alito at one point responded to attorney Pamela Karlan, representing two of the plaintiffs, “You’re trying to change the meaning of what Congress understood sex to mean in 1964.”

But beyond the question of whether or not LGBTQ people will find their collective personhood recognized and protected in U.S. law, active efforts are alive and well across the nation and in the Trump administration to exclude LGBTQ from already existing legal protections, rolling back rights already granted.

The Iowa GOP, for example, recently filed a bill to remove transgender people from the state’s civil rights protections. These rights were written into law for LGBTQ people in 2007 when the state added sexual orientation and gender identity to its anti-discrimination law. According to Alex Bollinger, reporting for LGBTQ Nation, passage of the bill would “make it the first state to give civil rights protections to transgender people – or any class at all – and then take them away.”

Passage of the bill would mean one could be fired, denied housing, and more, simply for being transgender, for being who you are.

In fact, transgender people in America are already enduring—and have persistently endured– the consequences of this lack of protection.

Last December Lola Fadulu, in The New York Times, wrote an extensive piece chronicling the Trump administration’s myriad rollbacks of Obama-era executive orders. The piece begins with the story of Nicolas Talbott, a transgender graduate student at Kent State University who is also enrolled in the Reserve Officers Training Corps program.  Because of Trump’s ban on transgender people in the military, Talbott was informed that he could stay in the program but would not be eligible to actually become an officer and would also no longer be eligible for the health insurance and student loan forgiveness he had been promised and which others in the program received.

Fadulu provides a laundry list of such rollbacks and consequences individuals have suffered.

The onslaught on LBGTQ people, and transgender people in particular, is intensifying and widespread, and they are being written out of the law.

Or else negatively written into it.  The Governor of Tennessee recently signed legislation enabling foster care agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ parents.

Back in 2017, Education Secretary

Betsy DeVos began rolling back Obama-era read more

Opinion: Does America Really Value Equality? What Women and Transgender People Might Say

The Supreme Court ruled in the Citizens United case that corporations merited certain rights of personhood. The decision in this case became crystallized in the notorious phrase, “Corporations are people.”

This year’s events insistently raise the question of which Americans enjoy the basic rights of personhood in America.

How are we doing when it comes to achieving our nation’s putative hallmark ideal of equality?

A reading of U.S. history we often hear tells the story of a nation that has thus far imperfectly realized its founding premise that “all men are created equal” but that has nonetheless been on an ongoing quest to achieve a fully egalitarian culture for all people, even and perhaps especially those that the initial formulation did not include in its reference to “all men.”

The cherished founding principle that “all men are created equal” animating the American experiment has obviously been vexed by realities of our national life and history, which stand undeniably in stark contradiction to that principle.  The racism informing the practices of slavery and genocide present in U.S. history since the nation’s inception highlight the unrealized status of this value of equality.

But “we” the people still believe in it, right? We’re still just trying to figure it out, right?

It’s just that it is so hard to figure out, right?

While we could ask many constituencies, particularly people of color, how they are faring when it comes to equal rights, let’s take a quick look at women and transgender people might assess the national terrain in this regard.

In last November’s election, Democrats in Virginia flipped the state Senate and House of Delegates to gain full control of the state government for the first time since 1993. These election results have inspired hope that the state government will now become the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which passed the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives in 1972 and was quickly ratified by 22 states. Any constitutional amendment requires ratification by 38 states. The crawl toward reaching this number has been a slow one, with Nevada becoming the 36th state to ratify in 2017, followed shortly thereafter by Illinois.  Last February, efforts in Virginia fell short by one vote in the House of Delegates. The votes now seem to be there.

But let’s also step back and get a little perspective.  Here we are in 2019 still asking whether or not women—some half of our population—should enjoy equal rights or continue to be relegated to the status of second-class citizen.

Isn’t it strange, for a nation pretending to value equality, that we still ask this question, deferring equal rights to women?

Here’s the statement in the ERA this nation trembles to validate:

“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.” read more

Debate makes Clear: Public Education, the Public Good itself, Hang in the Balance in 2020

When asked about his approach to education in last Thursday’s Democratic primary debate, Pete Buttigieg’s response boiled down the difference between his approach and Donald Trump’s to its most  basic element.  “Step one,” he said, would be to “appoint a secretary of education who actually believes in public education.”

Buttigieg’s pithy statement put sharply into focus the stakes the 2020 election holds for the health, indeed the fate, of public education in America—even the fate of the public good itself.

As basic and common sense as this first-step solution is, that someone needed to say it—and that it actually and accurately captured reality—should speak volumes to the American people about how the Trump administration has approached and understood the role of governing overall. For Trump, the role of government is not to support the public good and cultivate a vibrant public sphere that enables and encourages people’s democratic participation in serving each other; rather, for Trump, governing is about using—or abusing—the power of the presidency to help some exploit our national resources to profit off of others–at the severe expense of those others.

Of course, the lawsuit moving forward against Trump for violating the emoluments clause in the Constitution alleges this same behavior.

But compelling allegations aside, Trump’s own behavior speaks for itself.

Last August he appointed a labor secretary, Eugene Scalia, who has historically devoted his energy to undermining the rights and conditions of labor in favor of the businesses who profit from exploiting workers.  As Morgan Chalfant reported for The Hill, Scalia “has a career history of representing businesses and fighting to roll back labor regulations. One of his more prominent cases involved representing Walmart as the retail giant fought a Maryland law on employee health care.” Labor unions vigorously opposed his appointment because of his long record of fighting for business against labor.

And, of course, Trump’s appointments to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, previously Scott Pruitt and now Andrew Wheeler, have aggressively sought to assault rather than protect our environment.  Pruitt was instrumental, for example, in convincing Trump to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord; and for a taste of Wheeler’s environmentally destructive antics, just look back to last Thursday when the EPA rolled back Obama-era regulations on clean water.

And just as Trump’s labor secretary and EPA head support business’s profits over the well-being of workers and people generally, as all our impacted by deteriorating environmental standards, it is no different when it comes to the secretary of education Betsy DeVos.

DeVos has repeatedly undermined access to education for America’s students and, in her routine yet stalwart support of for-profit education, participated in fleecing Americans of millions of dollars and leaving them, as they earnestly sought degrees to improve their lives and pursue their dreams, without degrees.

At the end of last August, DeVos, reversing policies put in place during the Obama administration to enable students to seek forgiveness for loans they received when for-profit colleges defrauded them, made it more difficult for students to qualify for such loan forgiveness.

She complained students were just raising their hands to get “free money.”

Eileen Connor, legal director of Harvard Law School’s Project on Predatory Student Lending, found these rollbacks so unconscionably egregious that the project has vowed to challenge them in court.   She said, “If Betsy DeVos won’t do her job and stand up for students, then we will fill that void. That is why we will be filing a suit challenge these harmful new regulations that give a green light to for-profit colleges to continue scamming students.”

Senate Democrat Dick Durbin similarly characterized the move “another Trump-DeVos giveaway to their for-profit college cronies at the expense of defrauded student borrowers.”

Indeed, let’s not forget that shortly after the 2016 election Trump settled a lawsuit for $25 million against his own sham for-profit Trump University.

When it comes to education, too, the Trump presidency is all about either enriching himself and his family at the expense of people and the public good or helping others do so.  The overarching policy of his administration is to create conditions, using the authority and resources of the federal government, in which some can reap enormous profits at the expense of the tax-paying American public.

This truth revealed itself with crystal clarity last July when Erica L. Green and Stacey Cowley reported for The New York Times the substantial depth of complicity of DeVos’s Education Department in supporting the fraudulent for–profit Dream Center Education Holdings, a subsidiary of Los Angeles mega-church that was allowed to buy out the collapsing for-profit Argosy University and the Art Institutes chain.

First, the Times underscored the fact that Dream Center had no experience in higher education when it received the blessing of DeVos’ department to buy the troubled for-profit chains.

Second, we learn that the head of higher education policy for the department, Diane Auer Jones, a former executive and lobbyist for for-profit colleges, was pulling strings to help the colleges earn back accreditation, while Dream Center held back the truth from students who were paying tuition, often with federal funding from tax-payers, that the school did not have accreditation and thus the credits for which they were paying were worthless.

When finally Dream Center closed the doors on its institutions, students were left holding the bag, having paid tuition to an institution that could not grant them a degree.

Obviously, DeVos’ leadership enabled incompetence and greed, mirroring Trump’s presidency.

What is clear, though, is that the current administration not only does not value public education as serving the public good but that it simply doesn’t value serving the public good anyway.

The Trump administration is interested only in serving the private interests of the few at the expense of the American public majority.

Buttigieg makes clear that in the 2020 election, much hangs in the balance when it comes to serving the nation’s children through public education.

 

 

‘They Abandoned the Cover Story’ – New Evidence Proves Trump Crimes

Gene Robinson Last Word

Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson was on MSNBC to discuss the bombshell New York Times expose on the different checks Donald Trump used to reimburse Michael Cohen for hush-money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels.

The Times reported that there were 11 checks in total paid to Cohen, and these prove that Trump committed the crimes that are sending Cohen to prison for three years.

The Times wrote:

The checks, mostly with Mr. Trump’s distinctive up-and-down signature, bolster the prosecutors’ conclusion about his involvement in the payoff scheme. Mr. Cohen has pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws as well as lying to Congress and faces three years in prison starting in the spring.”

“The checks show the quality of the evidence against him, and also show the extent of Trump’s leading role in the scheme. It now leaves little doubt that he faces criminal prosecution after he leaves office for the same offenses for which Cohen will serve time,” said Robert F. Bauer, a law professor at New York University.”

Robinson joined Lawrence O’Donnell on “The Last Word” and was asked by the host:

“Gene, The New York Times is out tonight with more on these checks that were written by Donald Trump to reimburse Michael Cohen and it’s a fascinating collection now of these checks because they change accounts.”

“And, for some reason, they changed accounts where that money was coming from — switched it out of a Trump business account and moved it into a Donald Trump personal account and that may be because Allen Weisselberg started to get very nervous about what this was.”

“It could be,” Robinson answered.

“Maybe that’s the reason, because just stepping back from it, you would — it looks as if they just abandoned the cover story, right?”

“If it was coming out of the trust account, that was consistent at least with the false cover story that this was some sort of retainer agreement.”

“If it’s going to be just Donald Trump writing a personal check to Michael Cohen, it can’t be business, attorney relationship retainer.”

“It is just Trump reimbursing him for the money that he shelled out for Stormy Daniels.”

“So the only thing that makes sense is that Weisselberg said hold on a minute, this isn’t right. We’ll just have to see.”

By Writing Personal Checks to Reimburse Michael Cohen Trump Has Admitted He Committed Crimes

Michael Cohen goes back to the House Intelligence Committee today for another round of questioning. This means the Democrats on the committee will be able to ask him why the checks he received from Donald Trump for paying off Stormy Daniels came from two separate accounts.

By leaving a paper trail Donald Trump blew his own cover story that the payments to Cohen were business expenses for legal services. He has in effect admitted that the payments were to cover up his crimes. And many times the cover up is worse than the crime.

The best thing that could happen now would be for Donald Trump to be called to testify and explain why he wrote all these checks to Cohen from two separate accounts. But that is not likely to happen.

However, there are other people who can provide the testimony that will help prove the crimes that were committed by Trump that

may very well lead to his impeachment. read more

NYT Reporter Reveals Why Whitaker Couldn’t Obstruct Justice for Trump

When Matthew Whitaker assumed the role of acting attorney general in November 2018 after Attorney General Jeff Sessions was fired, it was part of a nefarious scheme by Donald Trump to subvert the Justice Department’s chain of command.

Whitaker, an outsider, told friends at the time that his purpose for taking the job was “to jump on a grenade” for Trump, according to a New York Times report.

Many critics of the administration argued that his appointment was an unconstitutional effort by the president to take control over the many investigations into him and his allies. This included Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe as well as other Justice Department investigations in the Southern District of New York (SDNY).

Whitaker failed to help Trump, however, and both Mueller and the SDNY have moved forward with their investigation. Mueller has been issuing subpoenas to more people and organizations, and he recently indicted Roger Stone. The SDNY has been busy interview executives of the Trump Organization and have obtained documents connected with the Trump Inauguration Committee.

In an interview with The New Yorker, New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt, one of the co-authors of the recent Times report on Trump’s efforts to obstruct the investigations, explained why Whitaker failed to fulfill his goal of sidetracking investigations into Trump.

Schmidt said that many career employees in the Justice Department knew that Whittaker was there to do the president’s bidding. But they had their own ways of undercutting Whitaker, making him completely ineffective in his temporary job.

Schmidt said:

“I think that, when we get a fuller picture of this, we will continue to see that Whitaker ran into forces that were far greater and stronger than he thought he would face, and ultimately was not that successful in helping the President.” read more

Trump Won’t ‘Tone It Down’ As He Blames Democrats and the Media

President Donald Trump said on Friday said he would refuse to “tone down” his rhetoric despite the arrest earlier in the day of one of his supporters who was charged with mailing pipe bombs to prominent Democrats and critics of the president.

The following tweet was posted by ABC News reporter Cecilia Vega on Friday afternoon:

“I just asked @realDonaldTrump if he would pledge to tone down his rhetoric over the next few days ahead of the midterms. His answer: no.”

On Friday night, Trump held another one of this signature campaign rallies in Charlotte, North Carolina.

CNN, one of the targets of Cesar Sayoc Jr., the serial bomber known as the MAGABomber, was forced to hire security to cover the rally,

The New York Times reported. read more

Why So Many People Think Mike Pence Wrote the Op-Ed in the Times

After the anonymous op-ed piece appeared in the New York Times yesterday social media went wild with speculation about who its author might be. Only the Times editors know for sure, and they aren’t talking.

Here are our thoughts:

  • Because the editorial refers to “the cabinet” invoking the 25th amendment, it seems as if the author is not in the cabinet but is close to cabinet members.
  • Because it talks about morality and deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy the author appears to be a “true” conservative with a strong sense of morality.
    • This seems to rule out cabinet members and former generals or others with military backgrounds, such as John Kelly.

    =&0=&

    The majority of people on social media seem to think that Mike Pence is the likely author of the anonymous editorial. This seems far-fetched for a straight-arrow like Pence, but it is possible for a number of reasons.

    =&1=&

    The first is that the op-ed uses the unusual word “lodestar” and in the past Pence has often used that word. This means that either Pence wrote this op-ed or the real author knew Pence often used the word and “lodestar” and included the word in the editorial to make people think Pence wrote it.

    =&2=&

    Just before the Times published the op-ed Pence publicly stated his support for Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Is this just a coincidence? Or did Pence write this op-ed as part of a plot to oust Trump and support Sessions.

    Elizabeth Landers from CNN tweeted about this:

    A rare moment: @vp stopped in the Capitol hallway to answer my Q on whether he had confidence in AG Jeff Sessions.

    “I hold Jeff Sessions in the highest regard. I appreciate his service to the nation,” he responded. read more