Tag Archives: Trump

Donald Trump Is Afraid of Steve Bannon, and That’s Why He Won’t Fire Him: Report

If the president fires his political strategist, he could lose support from angry white nationalists.

Steve Bannon has built a lucrative career as an outspoken advocate and defender of white male privilege, but his strategy of pandering to the nation’s inner nationalist-racist demon that helped Donald Trump win the presidency is increasingly becoming a problem for the administration.

So will the president finally boot Bannon from the White House?

According to some insiders, Trump is hesitant to kick out a man who is held in such high esteem among the president’s key constituency of alt-right supporters. Bannon headed the popular right-wing news site Breitbart before joining Trump’s presidential election campaign.

“The president obviously is very nervous and afraid of firing him,” a White House insider told Reuters. As Trump’s popularity tanks, he could be hesitant to alienate his hard-right base by firing one of their own.

On Tuesday, during a heated press conference where Trump offered unequivocal support to the swastika-waving nationalists that descended on Charlottesville last weekend, the president hinted at yet another White House shakeup.

“We’ll see what happens with Mr. Bannon,” Trump said during the event at Trump Tower in New York when asked about Bannon’s fate in the wake of widespread condemnation of the president’s response to the clashed in Charlottesville.

For months Bannon has jockeyed for influence against Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the president’s national security advisor and is said to have an acrimonious relationship with Jared Kushner, the president’s closest advisor and son-in-law.

The latest Gallup tracking poll shows Trump’s approval rating has dropped to 34 percent, down from 37 percent last week.

By Angelo Young / Salon

Posted by The NON-Conformist

The Clintons, Trump and White Backlash

In the mid-1980s Klan leader, White nationalist and one-term Representative from Louisiana David Duke traded in his KKK garb for a business suit and a corporate haircut in order to merge his version of White nationalism with then resurgent capitalism. Neoliberalism links a malleable conception of freedom as what those with social power want to circular social apologetics. And the capitalist / Thatcherite assertion that the individual is the fundamental social unit revivifies White nationalism by erasing history.

Another way of putting this is that neoliberalism has long been a subtext of White nationalism. If social outcomes reflect individual capabilities, goes the theory, then group social failures result from aggregated individual failures— from some ‘defect’ that characterizes individuals as members of that group. This is the theoretical basis of ‘scientific racism.’ Likewise, Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s ‘culture of illegitimacy’ erased three centuries of race-based social repression to frame the legacies of slavery and Jim Crow as Black moral failures.

The charitable explanation is that this sort of ‘rational’ racism is prescriptive— an effort to right existing circumstances, rather than descriptive as misstatement of actual social history. However, the temporal sleight-of-hand of historical erasure comes straight from capitalist theory. By the early 1990s Bill and Hillary Clinton were using this temporal flattening to conflate the neoliberal theory that markets create a society where individual capacities and effort are rewarded with their programs that exacerbated existing social divisions through class warfare.

Graph: ‘participation rates’ are the percentages of given populations that are employed. With the caution that demographic differences explain some of the variability, the persistence of a lower Black Participation rate regardless of which political party is in power demonstrates the emotive (content-free) quality of party differentiation when it comes to race. In other words, the Democrat’s ‘opportunity society’ looks like Reagan’s / Trump’s ‘White backlash’ when it comes to institutional outcomes. The greater variability of the Black Participation Rate is cyclical, a sign of the relative vulnerability of Black employment. Source: St. Louis Federal Reserve.

Of current relevance is the effort to explain Donald Trump’s election in terms of ‘White backlash.’ Both the Clintons and Barack Obama made a small number of rich people much richer while making working class and poor people poorer. From starting positions characterized by unresolved institutional racism— race-based social disadvantage, the Democrats’ economic policies rewarded and punished people by these starting positions and not by capacities and effort. The Democrats ‘meritocracy’ is in this way tautological, a low-budget restatement of Voltaire’s ‘best of all possible worlds.’

For displaced Democrats the theory of White backlash has obvious appeal— barely employed, barely educated hicks get their revenge for eight years of America’s first Black president passing virtuous and inclusive policies. Questions like why a number of Americans sufficient to elect Mr. Trump are barely educated and barely employed eight years into a Democrat administration and economic ‘recovery’ are left for the communists. (The bourgeois and the rich vote— they elected Mr. Trump). And in fact, recent research supports the contention that millions of workers were forced to exit labor ‘markets’ during Mr. Obama’s tenure due to a lack of jobs.

This isn’t to dismiss the theory of backlash entirely. Amongst the 16% of the population that voted for Mr. Trump ((eligible voters / population) X 27% eligible who voted Trump), some fair portion may well be ideologically committed racists. Furthermore, American history is full of political opportunists periodically exacerbating racial tensions to divide working people and the poor and distract attention away from capitalist predations. The problem for Democrats with charging dim jackass Trump with racial opportunism is that the Clintons mastered that game some twenty years ago.

Graph: capital, a remarkably sore subject in economics despite its place at the theoretical core of capitalism, is well described as control over social resources— in particular, productive resources. The neoliberal epoch has placed most wealth, and with it control over social resources, in a small number of overwhelmingly White hands. The difference between average and median wealth is a measure of this concentration. Through deregulation, financialization, globalization and the concentration of corporate power in the executive suites, Bill Clinton helped build this system of wealth concentration. Through bailouts of Wall Street Barack Obama restored it to power. As the graph suggests, ‘opportunity’ is a non sequitur when a few connected White people own all of the resources. Source: Economic Policy Institute.

The oft-uttered contention that the Clintons are mere racial opportunists while Mr. Trump is a real racist ignores that the Clintons pushed some of the most destructively racist legislation in American history. The argument that they (the Clintons) shouldn’t be held to account for legislation they supported undermines the base precept of legal liability used to write it. In other words, the Clinton apologia appears to be that they shouldn’t be held to account but the several million poor Blacks imprisoned under legislation they supported should have been. And there is no hyperbole in linking the language, structure and intent of the 1994 Crime Bill to Nazi Law through precedents in Jim Crow.

Finally, the ‘backlash’ thesis proceeds from the premise that there was something worthy of backlash against. There was celebration around the globe when Barack Obama was elected in 2008. And Republicans did spend the next eight years proclaiming that his neoliberal (state-capitalist) policies were ‘socialist.’ But the debased state of American political discourse hardly makes this so. The more descriptively accurate term for a politician who bails out Wall Street, passes a ‘market-based’ health insurance sales scheme, pushes high-capitalist trade agreements and works to cut social spending is ‘Republican.’

None of this is to give dim tool Trump a pass for fanning the flames of hatred and intolerance. It is to argue that the premise of difference, and therefore that there is refuge in the Democrat Party, is based on ignorance, wishful thinking and delusion. As vile as Mr. Trump is, the governing ideology of the national Democrats’ (paging Antonio Gramsci) revivifies White nationalism through reifying starting positions of asymmetrical economic power (graph above). Race and class repression have grown in lockstep with resurgent capitalism supported most effectively by national Democrats.

Ultimately neoliberalism is for those hearty souls who took Margaret Thatcher’s (and Ayn Rand’s) brain-farts seriously. From Hillary Clinton’s speeches to Wall Street, she appears to have confused prescriptive with descriptive in the sense laid out above— she believed the educated fools in $3,000 suits who had just killed the global economy were capable of running the world because they still had jobs. This is the very same ‘creative class’ that Barack Obama bailed out Wall Street to save. It also fits Donald Trump’s preference for ‘winners’ over people otherwise able to do a job.

The difference between living in a flawed capitalist democracy and a relentlessly oppressive totalitarian shithole depends more the social space that one occupies than pre-modern social apologetics. The tautological conception of merit favored by national Democrats implies that Blacks suffer from institutional racism because of some deficiency inherent to Blackness. The American ruling class favors this tautology because it legitimates the concentration of wealth and power under the illusion of merit. Neoliberalism, the governing ethos of Washington, links three centuries of White nationalism to capitalism through this circular social apologetics.

Last, a new article in The Nation gives substantive backing to the long held contention that the ‘Russian hacking’ story is complete and utter bullshit. As Julian Assange and others contemporaneously argued, DNC emails were gotten through a leak— through an inside job, and not through a hack by malevolent outsiders. A quick bet is that this will ultimately do for national Democrats what the ‘weapons of mass destruction’ fraud did for the Bushies and the New York Times. The larger question is why grift-o-crats use short-con fabrications when they will still be in full view when the con falls apart? To save the suspense, these are enthusiastically not-gifted people. So much for a meritocracy.

By Rob Urie/CounterPunch

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Trump Wants to Slash All Research Funds—Except for Military

President Donald Trump’s budget would slash nearly one in four dollars spent on science research at federal agencies, affecting study of everything from faster airport screening to protecting people from earthquakes and storms, and investigating new drinking water contaminants.

Trump’s proposal targets every federal department for cuts – except the Pentagon and Veterans Affairs, where research funding would increase substantially.

Overall, Trump’s budget would eliminate more than $30.6 billion, or nearly 21 percent, of research and development funding in fiscal year 2018 compared with 2016, when the Obama administration budgeted $148.3 billion. Adjusted for inflation, those cuts would reach almost 24 percent.

The biggest loser would be the Environmental Protection Agency, which would surrender 46.3 percent, or $239 million, of its research and development funds. Five others also face double-digit blows: the departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Interior, Energy and the National Science Foundation.

Details of the potential impacts on the federal government’s scientific and engineering research are outlined in a new Congressional Research Service report that analyzed 12 major federal departments and agencies, and compared them with fiscal year 2016, the latest year available for a governmentwide comparison.

Robert Cowin of the Union of Concerned Scientists, a research and advocacy group, said the report reveals a clear pattern of White House hostility to the government’s role in science on topics as critical as water supplies, space, oceans, renewable energy, diseases, weather and earthquakes.

“That’s troubling, given all the benefits that we’ve enjoyed from that (research),” Cowin said.

For instance, the budget would trim a third of the funding for Department of Homeland Security research into making airport security screening faster and less intrusive for passengers while also being better at spotting terrorists.

The biggest winner in Trump’s research budget, the Defense Department, would account for almost half of all federal research and development spending, according to the report. The $84.4 billion proposal represents an increase of more than 18 percent in the Pentagon’s research, which ranges from medical topics to destroying chemical weapons and disarming roadside bombs in combat zones.

The only other federal agency that would receive a boost is the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to the Congressional Research Service. VA research, such as projects related to the treatment and rehabilitation of injured veterans, would increase by 11 percent, or $135 million. Trump’s budget tells the VA to prioritize suicide prevention, pain management and opioid addiction.

Single-digit cuts would be in store for the departments of Commerce (6.8 percent) and Homeland Security (3.1 percent), as well as NASA (3.1 percent). At NASA, money would be stripped from Earth science and climate change research, and the maintenance of an Earth-observing satellite already built and launched with taxpayer dollars.

At the EPA, nearly half of the funds would disappear for researching air pollution, water contaminants, chemical safety, climate change and other areas related to protecting the environment and human health. One target: “Strengthening the science for drinking water and water-quality standards and guidance for new and emerging contaminants that threaten human health and aquatic ecosystems.”

The Energy Department’s investigations into efficiency and renewable energy would take major hits under Trump’s plan to cut its research budget by almost 12 percent.

Research into the health of the oceans, including fisheries and marine mammals, as well as science related to climate change and weather, would be cut at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Facing a 25 percent cut in research funding, the Agriculture Department would see several labs closed, research programs slashed or eliminated, and no funding for several grants to colleges, including its Women and Minorities in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program. The Interior Department’s U.S. Geological Survey would have about 30 percent less money to research earthquakes and land use changes, according to the report.

The report focused on just one Department of Health and Human Services program, the National Institutes of Health, the world’s largest biomedical research funder, which would see a 21.5 percent decrease from 2017 under Trump’s budget, according to a report by the nongovernmental American Association for the Advancement of Science or AAAS.

So far, the House has rejected that, moving to increase NIH research money by 3.2 percent, according to the AAAS, signaling just one likely flashpoint in the fight ahead.

HHS Secretary Tom Price, whose department would lose 19 percent or $6.1 billion – the most research and development dollars of any in the government – said in May that Trump’s budget “outlines a clear path toward fiscal responsibility by creating efficiencies that both improve services and save money.” Even before action on the 2018 budget, Price has already eliminated the department’s funding for teen pregnancy prevention research.

Trump didn’t mention research and development or science in his budget message in May, but he said “we must scrutinize every dollar the federal government spends.”

“Just as families decide how to manage limited budgets, we must ensure the federal government spends precious taxpayer dollars only on our highest national priorities, and always in the most efficient, effective manner,” the president said.

For years, a cost-cutting Congress has been backing away from what had been a strong public commitment to innovation in energy, technology, health and the environment. Public investment in non-defense research and development has been essentially flat since 2004, except for a one-off boost from the 2009 stimulus act.

But the cuts in the Trump budget go far deeper than the belt-tightening Republicans in Congress have advocated.

In response, Congress is starting to push back, with House bills that contain more money than the president requested for specific programs, and Senate bills offering more than the House. At the EPA, for example, a House bill would reduce research by 14.4 percent rather than Trump’s 46.3 percent.

With the House and Senate recessed for August, Congress hasn’t agreed on a final budget for fiscal year 2018, which begins Oct. 1.

The AAAS says the congressional proposals risk violating statutory spending caps. The Budget Control Act of 2011, which President Barack Obama signed into law to resolve a federal debt standoff with Congress, requires annual cuts in discretionary spending through 2021. If cuts aren’t deep enough, that could trigger automatic, across-the-board cuts to all agencies.

To avoid that, Congress would have to reach a temporary deal to waive the caps, as it has done before.

“The bottom line is that much of what Congress has produced is not workable under current law,” Matt Hourihan, the AAAS research and development budget analysis director, wrote in another report on Aug. 1.

Energy research shows how Congress, while seeming generous compared with Trump, still would cut federal support in key areas. For example, Trump wants to reduce research funding for efficiency and renewables by nearly 70 percent from fiscal year 2017 levels, to $636 million, according to the AAAS. Some initiatives would be eliminated. In the House, that research funding would drop by 48 percent, to $1.086 billion. Even the Senate’s much larger figure, $1.937 billion, would be a 7.3 percent cut.

One of the smallest yet effective health research programs eliminated in Trump’s budget: the Fogarty International Center, which for 50 years has funded international health research. All $70 million for the center would disappear. The House, however, wants to keep the center alive, adding $3 million.

Without Fogarty’s support, some ongoing investigations in Peru, Brazil and Mexico into Zika, Chagas and dengue – diseases that are posing increased danger in the United States – would halt. Researchers say Fogarty, a unit of the National Institutes of Health, also has been vital in the fights against HIV and Ebola.

In an interview on the center’s website, Kenyan Dr. Ruth Nduati of the University of Nairobi, a former Fogarty trainee, said many people are alive today because of the U.S. funds.

“Fogarty has changed the face of HIV medicine,” she said.

By Randy Lee Loftis / Reveal

Anything Goes When You’re a Cop in America

“There is one criminal justice system for citizens—especially black and brown ones—and another for police in the United States.”

—Redditt Hudson, former St. Louis police officer

President Trump needs to be reminded that no one is above the law, especially the police.

Unfortunately, Trump and Jeff Sessions, head of the Justice Department (much like their predecessors) appear to have few qualms about giving police the green light to kill, shoot, taser, abuse and steal from American citizens in the so-called name of law and order.

Between Trump’s pandering to the police unions and Sessions’ pandering to Trump, this constitutionally illiterate duo has opened the door to a new era of police abuses.

As senior editor Adam Serwer warns in The Atlantic,

“When local governments violate the basic constitutional rights of citizens, Americans are supposed to be able to look to the federal government to protect those rights. Sessions has made clear that when it comes to police abuses, they’re now on their own. This is the principle at the heart of ‘law and order’ rhetoric: The authorities themselves are bound by neither.”

Brace yourselves: things are about to get downright ugly.

By shielding police from charges of grave misconduct while prosecuting otherwise law-abiding Americans for the most trivial “offenses,” the government has created a world in which there are two sets of laws: one set for the government and its gun-toting agents, and another set for you and me.

No matter which way you spin it, “we the people” are always on the losing end of the deal.

If you’re a cop in the American police state, you can now break the law in a myriad of ways without suffering any major, long-term consequences.

Indeed, not only are cops protected from most charges of wrongdoing—whether it’s shooting unarmed citizens (including children and old people), raping and abusing young women, falsifying police reports, trafficking drugs, or soliciting sex with minors—but even on the rare occasions when they are fired for misconduct, it’s only a matter of time before they get re-hired again.

For example, Oregon police officer Sean Sullivan was forced to resign after being accused of “grooming” a 10-year-old girl for a sexual relationship. A year later, Sullivan was hired on as a police chief in Kansas.

St. Louis police officer Eddie Boyd III was forced to resign after a series of incidents in which he “pistol-whipped a 12-year-old girl in the face in 2006, and in 2007 struck a child in the face with his gun or handcuffs before falsifying a police report,” he was quickly re-hired by another Missouri police department.

As The Washington Post reports: “

In the District, police were told to rehire an officer who allegedly forged prosecutors’ signatures on court documents. In Texas, police had to reinstate an officer who was investigated for shooting up the truck driven by his ex-girlfriend’s new man. In Philadelphia, police were compelled to reinstate an officer despite viral video of him striking a woman in the face. In Florida, police were ordered to reinstate an officer fired for fatally shooting an unarmed man.”

Much of the “credit” for shielding these rogue cops goes to influential police unions and laws providing for qualified immunity, police contracts that “provide a shield of protection to officers accused of misdeeds and erect barriers to residents complaining of abuse,” state and federal laws that allow police to walk away without paying a dime for their wrongdoing, and rampant cronyism among government bureaucrats.

Whether it’s at the federal level with President Trump, Congress and the Judiciary, or at the state and local level, those deciding whether a police officer should be immune from having to personally pay for misbehavior on the job all belong to the same system, all with a vested interest in protecting the police and their infamous code of silence: city and county attorneys, police commissioners, city councils and judges.

It’s a pretty sweet deal if you can get it, I suppose: protection from the courts, immunity from wrongdoing, paid leave while you’re under investigation, the assurance that you won’t have to spend a dime of your own money in your defense, the removal of disciplinary charges from your work file, and then the high probability that you will be rehired and returned to the streets.

It’s a chilling prospect, isn’t it?

According to the New York Times, “Some experts say thousands of law enforcement officers may have drifted from police department to police department even after having been fired, forced to resign or convicted of a crime.”

It’s not safe to be one of the “little people” in the American police state.

Consider what happened in San Antonio, Texas.

In 2006, police officer Jackie Neal was accused of putting his hands inside a woman’s panties, lifting up her shirt and feeling her breasts during a routine traffic stop. He remained on the police force. In 2007, Neal was accused of digitally penetrating another woman. Still, he wasn’t fired or disciplined.

In 2013, Neal—then serving as supervisor of the department’s youth program—was suspended for three days for having sex with a teenage girl participating in the program. As Reuters reports, “Neal never lost a dime in pay or a day off patrol: The union contract allowed him to serve the suspension using vacation days.”

Later that same year, Neal was arrested on charges that he handcuffed a woman in the rear seat of his police vehicle and then raped her. He was eventually fined $5,000 and sentenced to 14 months in prison, with five months off for “work and education.” The taxpayers of San Antonio got saddled with $500,000 to settle the case.

Now here’s the kicker: when the local city council attempted to amend the police union contract to create greater accountability for police misconduct, the police unions flexed their muscles and engaged in such a heated propaganda campaign that the city backed down.

It’s happening all across the country.

This is how perverse justice in America has become.

Our Bill of Rights has been torn to shreds, and the cops have replaced it with their own Bill of Rights: the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBoR), which protects them from being subjected to the kinds of debilitating indignities heaped upon the average citizen.

Incredibly, while our own protections against government abuses continue to be dismantled, a growing number of states are adopting LEOBoRs—written by police unions—which provides police officers accused of a crime with special due process rights and privileges not afforded to the average citizen.

In other words, the LEOBoR protects police officers from being treated as we are treated during criminal investigations: questioned unmercifully for hours on end, harassed, harangued, browbeaten, denied food, water and bathroom breaks, subjected to hostile interrogations, and left in the dark about our accusers and any charges and evidence against us.

Not only are officers given a 10-day “cooling-off period” during which they cannot be forced to make any statements about the incident, but when they are questioned, it must be “for a reasonable length of time, at a reasonable hour, by only one or two investigators (who must be fellow policemen), and with plenty of breaks for food and water.”

According to investigative journalist Eli Hager, the most common rights afforded police officers accused of wrongdoing are as follows:

+ If a department decides to pursue a complaint against an officer, the department must notify the officer and his union.

+ The officer must be informed of the complainants, and their testimony against him, before he is questioned.

+ During questioning, investigators may not harass, threaten, or promise rewards to the officer, as interrogators not infrequently do to civilian suspects.

+ Bathroom breaks are assured during questioning.

+ In Maryland, the officer may appeal his case to a “hearing board,” whose decision is binding, before a final decision has been made by his superiors about his discipline. The hearing board consists of three of the suspected offender’s fellow officers.

+ In some jurisdictions, the officer may not be disciplined if more than a certain number of days (often 100) have passed since his alleged misconduct, which limits the time for investigation.

+ Even if the officer is suspended, the department must continue to pay salary and benefits, as well as the cost of the officer’s attorney.

+ These LEOBoRs epitomize everything that is wrong with America today.

As Redditt Hudson, a former St. Louis police officer, noted,

“We all know – either from personal experience or the experience of someone close to us – that there are officers that will violate citizens’ human rights and civil liberties with impunity and who are comfortable in the knowledge that the system will protect and cover for their actions… These inequities have led, inexorably, to the current national crisis in police-community relations – and the best way forward is to make sure we severely punish officers that violate the rights of the citizens they serve. They must be held accountable for their actions.”

Now once in a while, the system appears to work on the side of justice.

Every so often, police officers engaged in wrongdoing are actually charged for abusing their authority and using excessive force against American citizens.

And occasionally, those officers are even sentenced for their crimes against the citizenry.

Yet in just about every case, it’s still the American taxpayer who foots the bill.

For example, Baltimore taxpayers have paid roughly $5.7 million since 2011 over lawsuits stemming from police abuses, with an additional $5.8 million going towards legal fees.

New York taxpayers have shelled out almost $1,130 per year per police officer (there are 34,500 officers in the NYPD) to address charges of misconduct. That translates to $38 million every year just to clean up after these so-called public servants.

Over a 10-year-period, Oakland, Calif., taxpayers were made to cough up more than $57 million (curiously enough, the same amount as the city’s deficit back in 2011) in order to settle accounts with alleged victims of police abuse.

Chicago taxpayers were asked to pay out nearly $33 million on one day alone to victims of police misconduct, with one person slated to receive $22.5 million, potentially the largest single amount settled on any one victim. The City has paid more than half a billion dollars to victims over the course of a decade. The Chicago City Council actually had to borrow $100 million just to pay off lawsuits arising over police misconduct in 2013. The city’s payout for 2014 was estimated to be in the same ballpark, especially with cases pending such as the one involving the man who was reportedly sodomized by a police officer’s gun in order to force him to “cooperate.”

Over 78% of the funds paid out by Denver taxpayers over the course of a decade arose as a result of alleged abuse or excessive use of force by the Denver police and sheriff departments.

That’s just a small sampling of the most egregious payouts, but just about every community—large and small—feels the pinch when it comes to compensating victims who have been subjected to deadly or excessive force by police.

The ones who rarely ever feel the pinch are the officers accused or convicted of wrongdoing, “even if they are disciplined or terminated by their department, criminally prosecuted, or even imprisoned.”

In fact, police officers are more likely to be struck by lightning than be held financially accountable for their actions.

A study published in the NYU Law Review reveals that 99.8% of the monies paid in settlements and judgments in police misconduct cases never come out of the officers’ own pockets, even when state laws require them to be held liable. Moreover, these officers rarely ever have to pay for their own legal defense.

For instance, law professor Joanna C. Schwartz references a case in which three Denver police officers chased and then beat a 16-year-old boy, stomping “on the boy’s back while using a fence for leverage, breaking his ribs and causing him to suffer kidney damage and a lacerated liver.”

The cost to Denver taxpayers to settle the lawsuit: $885,000. The amount the officers contributed: 0.

Kathryn Johnston, 92 years old, was shot and killed during a SWAT team raid that went awry. Attempting to cover their backs, the officers falsely claimed Johnston’s home was the site of a cocaine sale and went so far as to plant marijuana in the house to support their claim.

The cost to Atlanta taxpayers to settle the lawsuit: $4.9 million. The amount the officers contributed: 0.

Meanwhile, in Albuquerque, a police officer was convicted of raping a woman in his police car, in addition to sexually assaulting four other women and girls, physically abusing two additional women, and kidnapping or falsely imprisoning five men and boys.

The cost to the Albuquerque taxpayers to settle the lawsuit: $1,000,000. The amount the officer contributed: 0.

Human Rights Watch notes that taxpayers actually pay three times for officers who repeatedly commit abuses: “once to cover their salaries while they commit abuses; next to pay settlements or civil jury awards against officers; and a third time through payments into police ‘defense’ funds provided by the cities.”

Still, the number of times a police officer is actually held accountable for wrongdoing while on the job is miniscule compared to the number of times cops are allowed to walk away with little more than a slap on the wrist.

Trust me, this is a recipe for disaster.

“In a democratic society,” observed Oakland police chief Sean Whent, “people have a say in how they are policed.”

As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, America is a constitutional republic, not a democracy, which means that “we the people” not only have a say in how we are policed—we are the chiefs of police.

By John W. Whitehead/CounterPunch

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Did Trump Bamboozle HBCU Presidents? His Delay In Appointing a Director of the Initiative Shows They Are Not a Priority

When President Donald Trump met with leaders from historically Black colleges and universities in February, it sparked a backlash. Students and alumni criticized the decision of HBCU presidents to meet with a man who paved his way to the White House by making a series of offensive comments about African-Americans and other racial groups. At Howard University, graffiti turned up criticizing the school’s president, Wayne Frederick, for accepting the meeting.

“Welcome to the Trump plantation. Overseer: Wayne A.I. Frederick” read one message. Another mimicked Kanye West’s criticism of George W. Bush: “Wayne Frederick Doesn’t Care About Black People.”

But at the time, HBCU leaders thought the executive order Trump had signed regarding Black colleges was revolutionary. The order shifted the Initiative on HBCUs from the Department of Education to the White House’s executive office with the goal of making these educational institutions more financially stable and economically empowering for students. Fast forward to August, however, and not only haven’t HBCUs received any additional funding from the federal government, but Trump also has yet to appoint an executive director for the initiative, casting doubt on his claim earlier this year that supporting HBCUs was an “absolute priority.”

Naming a leader for the initiative is “the next step in saying HBCUs are important,” Dillard University President Walter Kimbrough told Inside Higher Ed.

“I look at it as another opportunity to share the message of HBCUs as well as to have someone, in a way, lobbying for HBCUs every day within the federal government. So, I think that’s a tremendous opportunity,” he said.

The initiative dates back to President Jimmy Carter’s administration. During recent years, though, leadership has been spotty. John Sylvanus Wilson led the initiative during President Barack Obama’s first term, but since he vacated the post in 2012 to serve as Morehouse College’s president, three different people have headed the initiative.

According to a White House spokesman, the Trump administration has selected finalists for the position but hasn’t yet chosen an appointee. Leonard Haynes, executive director of the initiative during President George W. Bush’s administration, helped Trump write the executive order on HBCUs but explained that he’s not interested in leading the program again. While the Trump administration has left many appointments unfilled, it’s particularly worrisome that the Initiative on HBCUs has no leader, since the annual HBCU Week Conference takes place next month. Traditionally, the initiative oversees the event. Kimbrough said it’s important to have an executive director by September, because of the upcoming conference and also because of Trump’s strained relationship with the African-American community.

Throughout his campaign, Trump made disparaging remarks about Blacks, suggesting that African-Americans largely live in inner cities overrun with crime, despite research that shows the opposite is true. Trump, who publicly called for the execution of the Central Park Five, the group of Black and Latino teens falsely accused of beating and raping a jogger in the New York City landmark in 1989, refused to apologize when evidence vindicated them. And in January, Trump attacked U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia), a civil rights icon, on Twitter.

“Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to……mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk — no action or results. Sad!” Trump said on the social networking site, prompting outcry even from fellow Republicans. Moreover, the fact that Trump has previously faced allegations of housing discrimination certainly doesn’t help how African-Americans perceive him.

Dillard’s Kimbrough suggests that fulfilling his promise to HBCUs can help Trump improve his relationship with Blacks.

“A really good person has to say, ‘How do I assure people in the African-American community that I am still committed to the causes of the African-American community?’ knowing that there might be some things that the president does that might be diametrically opposed to the interests of African-Americans?” he told Inside Higher Ed.

But Trump appears to be doing little to repair his relationship with the Black community or with the HBCU leaders he met with five months ago. Since meeting with the group, he’s slashed funding for grant and work-study programs upon which many HBCU students rely. He’s refused to attend events organized by civil rights groups such as the NAACP and the National Urban League. Plus, in May, he questioned whether HBCUs could legally receive aid from the federal government. That’s because Trump apparently thought HBCUs weren’t open to non-Black students and, thus, discriminatory, despite the fact that whites and non-Black students of color have attended HBCUs for years. U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos seems just as uninformed about HBCUs as Trump, describing them as “real pioneers when it comes to school choice,” even though they came to be because mainstream universities and colleges denied admission to Black people.

While the leaders who met with Trump in February probably don’t want to hear “I told you so” from all of the naysayers, it appears increasingly clear that the man who agreed to settle a $25 million fraud lawsuit connected to Trump University likely bamboozled them, too.

Morehouse President Wilson saw the writing on the wall months ago when Trump’s budget did not allocate additional funding to HBCUs.

“I don’t mind saying that we were — a number of us — were disappointed, not because of what we thought on our own leading up to this meeting, but what we were led to think,” Wilson said. “And so I think it was a little underwhelming to see that the most tangible differentiator that happened here was an office relocation.”

 By Nadra Nittle/AtlantaBlackStar
Posted by The NON-Conformist

Is this Trump’s worst-ever Twitter move? Threatening Congress could become an epic disaster

In a new tweet-burst, Trump threatens to cut off health care for Congress and staffers. Let’s see how that works!

President Donald Trump declared war on Congress this past weekend: both parties and both chambers, and including modestly paid Capitol Hill staffers. Not only that, he threatened to unilaterally rescind subsidies to help low-income Americans pay their health insurance premiums, potentially stripping millions of Americans of their coverage. In a Saturday tweetgasm, the Mad King blurted from his porcelain throne:

Trump tweet

If a new HealthCare Bill is not approved quickly, BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies and BAILOUTS for Members of Congress will end very soon!

The “bailout for Insurance Companies” is Trump’s obnoxious shorthand for what Reuters described as “$8 billion in cost-sharing reduction subsidies paid by the federal government to insurers to lower the price of health coverage for low-income individuals.” In other words, if you and your family earn less than 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), the government helps you pay your premiums. Given that health insurance coverage is now mandated by the government and given that uninsured Americans tend to drive up health care costs, premium subsidies are both fair and fiscally responsible.

The “bailout for Congress” is more complicated, but the fact that Trump threatened to kill it with fire ought to both infuriate and ostracize members from both sides of the aisle (more about this presently). Trump is engaging in clear extortion in order to further pursue his maniacal obsession with repealing the ACA, despite Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s declaration that it’s “time to move on.”

Let’s review. Several years ago, former House Speaker John Boehner and former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid led a bipartisan group of congressional lawmakers to the White House in order to convince President Obama to continue providing a salary benefit for members of Congress and their staffers. Obama acquiesced to their request for the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to continue its decades-long practice of providing health insurance premium-sharing as a benefit for any members who choose to have employer-based insurance coverage.

Until 2013, members were covered under the same government employee health plan as all other federal workers: the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program. Briefly put, it’s the public-sector equivalent to the employer-based health coverage most Americans receive through their private sector full-time jobs. As of 2013, though, a seldom-discussed amendment to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), proposed by Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, went into effect, requiring that all members of Congress and staffers who wanted to continue their employer-based health coverage purchase their plans through the District of Columbia’s marketplace, established through the ACA. However, the Grassley amendment didn’t include any provisions for continuing FEHB’s premium-sharing, under which the government pays 72 percent of the health premiums for members and staff. Again, that isn’t out of the norm given that most full-time workers in America receive a similar benefit through their jobs.

This brings us back to Boehner, Reid, Obama and the OPM. Per the request of Congress, Obama ordered OPM to write a new rule allowing members and staff to continue receiving the premium-sharing salary benefit, ported to the D.C. exchange. Without the rule, Hill employees and their bosses would face a massive pay cut. Obama’s rule solved that problem, but no good deed goes unpunished: Republicans almost immediately began framing the benefit as an “exemption from Obamacare,” making it appear as if Congress was exempt from the entire law.

This, of course, was a whopper lie given that Congress was mandated by law to buy insurance through the Obamacare exchange if its members and their employees wanted employer coverage. Members and staffers can buy insurance through whatever means they choose, but premium-sharing is only provided if employer coverage is chosen. According to a 2013 tally by the Washington Post, libertarian-leaning Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a longtime advocate of Obamacare repeal, purchased his insurance through the D.C. exchange while receiving the premium-sharing benefit.

Trump, whose White House staffers are likely covered through FEHB, complete with premium-sharing benefits paid by taxpayers, is directly and explicitly blackmailing Congress. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., tweeted in response: “This is a clear threat to Congress: pass my health bill or as punishment I will end health care for you, your staff, & your constituents.” It’s difficult to fully illustrate how dumb and terrible this is — not like that’s something brand new. The “terrible” part is self explanatory: Trump is using the lives and livelihoods of millions of American citizens, including members of Congress, as a cudgel to get what he wants. And we shouldn’t be particularly shocked when he follows through.

Trump continues to make confoundingly stupid decisions: The executive branch has become a kakistocracy — government run by its most unqualified and corrupt occupants. See also “Idiocracy.” By threatening Congress from a position of utter weakness (38 percent approval rating, via Gallup), the president is not only crippling his own legislative agenda, he’s making enemies out of allies. At some point, and hopefully it’s soon, his entire presidency could come down to a congressional vote. In the near term, he needs all the friends he can muster without anything to offer in return.

Worse yet, former intelligence officer and MSNBC analyst Malcolm Nance reported on the syndicated Stephanie Miller Show last week that most of the leaks that so enrage the president are coming from Capitol Hill, not the intelligence community. Either way, Trump’s berserker lack of discipline, his uncensored blurts and “Fox & Friends”-inspired tantrums will only serve to accelerate the flow of damaging anti-Trump leaks, while augmenting the ranks of his enemies at the southeastern end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Trump thinks that Congress, and indeed, the entire federal government, works for him. In the real world, every new day and every fresh bout of explosive social-media diarrhea further isolates him. He thinks his chaotic flailing makes him more popular, but the exact opposite is true. He still hasn’t learned that he’s not the boss of the nation, no matter how loudly he stomps and screams. If this latest episode ends up being the tipping point, he only has himself to blame.

By Bob Cesca/Salon

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Trump Says He Has ‘Complete Power’ to Pardon

President Trump addressed the news media in the East Room of the White House on Monday. Mr. Trump suggested on Twitter that he did not see limits to his pardon power. CreditTom Brenner/The New York Times

NORFOLK, Va — President Trump on Saturday asserted the “complete power to pardon” relatives, aides and possibly even himself in response to investigations into Russia’s meddling in last year’s election, as he came to the defense of Attorney General Jeff Sessions just days after expressing regret about appointing him.

Mr. Trump suggested in a series of early morning messages on Twitter that he had no need to use the pardon power at this point but left the option open. Presidents have the authority to pardon others for federal crimes, but legal scholars debate whether a president can pardon himself. Mr. Trump’s use of the word “complete” seemed to suggest he did not see a limit to that authority.

“While all agree the U.S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us,” he wrote on Twitter. “FAKE NEWS.”

The Washington Post reported in recent days that the president and his advisers had discussed pardons as a special counsel intensifies an investigation into whether associates of Mr. Trump and his campaign conspired with Russia to intervene in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Mr. Trump also responded on Saturday to an article by The Post reporting that Mr. Sessions may have discussed campaign activities and policy with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, last year, despite his public statements to the contrary. In the article, The Post cited intercepted communications between Mr. Kislyak and his home office in Moscow. Mr. Trump excoriated the newspaper and expressed no concern about his attorney general’s conduct.

 “A new INTELLIGENCE LEAK from the Amazon Washington Post, this time against A.G. Jeff Sessions,” Mr. Trump wrote. “These illegal leaks, like Comey’s, must stop!”

The president was equating the report in The Post, which is owned by Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, to a decision by James B. Comey, whom Mr. Trump fired as F.B.I. director, to leak contents of a memo he wrote describing a conversation he had with the president. Mr. Comey has said the memo was unclassified and therefore not illegal to disclose.

The message about the Post story was quickly followed by one assailing The New York Times. “The Failing New York Times foiled U.S. attempt to kill the single most wanted terrorist, Al-Baghdadi,” he wrote. “Their sick agenda over National Security.”

Mr. Trump did not specify what he meant, but he may have been referring to a Fox News report, a version of which aired about 25 minutes before the president’s tweet, about comments by a top commander at a conference on Friday.

Gen. Tony Thomas, head of the military’s Special Operations Command, said at the Aspen Security Forum that American forces were “particularly close” to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, after a 2015 raid recovered information about the militant group.

“That was a very good lead,” General Thomas said, according to the Fox report. “Unfortunately, it was leaked in a prominent national newspaper about a week later and that lead went dead.”

Fox reported that the general appeared to be referring to a June 2015 report by The Times that said American intelligence agencies had “extracted valuable information” from the raid. The story reported that United States forces had recovered “laptops, cellphones and other materials,” including four to seven terabytes of data. It also said that Mr. Baghdadi and other Islamic State leaders had used their wives to pass information to one another to avoid electronic surveillance.

The Pentagon raised no objections with The Times before the story was published, and no senior American official ever complained publicly about it until now.

The Russian military said last month that it might have killed Mr. Baghdadi in an airstrike in Syria, but Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Friday that he believed Mr. Baghdadi was still alive. The White House made no comment when asked for clarification about the president’s tweet.

Mr. Trump’s posts came shortly before he flew to Norfolk, Va., where he presided over the commissioning of the Gerald R. Ford, the nation’s newest aircraft carrier.

The Post reported that Mr. Kislyak told superiors in Moscow that he had discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Mr. Sessions during the campaign, contrary to Mr. Sessions’s public assertions. Mr. Sessions, who was advising Mr. Trump on foreign policy at the time, met at least twice with Mr. Kislyak and failed to disclose those contacts during his Senate confirmation hearings. After news reports about them were published, he said the meetings were not related to the campaign.

Sarah Isgur Flores, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said in a statement to The Post and other news organizations that she could not comment “on the reliability of what anonymous sources describe in a wholly uncorroborated intelligence intercept.” She added that Mr. Sessions “never met with or had any conversations with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election.” She did not deny that Mr. Sessions discussed campaign or policy issues more generally with Mr. Kislyak.

The revelation of Mr. Sessions’s meetings with Mr. Kislyak in March prompted the attorney general to recuse himself from overseeing the Justice Department investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election and any possible collusion with associates of Mr. Trump. The president has been upset about that recusal ever since and told The Times in an interview on Wednesday that he never would have appointed Mr. Sessions had he known the attorney general would step aside.

In the interview, Mr. Trump faulted Mr. Sessions for his misleading testimony. “Jeff Sessions gave some bad answers,” the president said. “He gave some answers that were simple questions and should have been simple answers, but they weren’t.”

In his tweets on Saturday morning, he offered no concern that Mr. Sessions had not been fully forthcoming. Instead, as he often does, Mr. Trump tried to turn attention back to his opponent from last year.

“So many people are asking why isn’t the A.G. or Special Council looking at the many Hillary Clinton or Comey crimes,” he wrote, referring to Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel now leading the Russia inquiry. “33,000 e-mails deleted?”

He added: “What about all of the Clinton ties to Russia, including Podesta Company, Uranium deal, Russian Reset, big dollar speeches etc.”

Mrs. Clinton was investigated last year by the F.B.I. for using a private server to route official email. More than 30,000 messages that she and her team deemed personal and unrelated to her service as secretary of state were deleted. As F.B.I. director, Mr. Comey said Mrs. Clinton had acted irresponsibly but that he would not seek criminal charges against her.

The president also referenced his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., who met with several Russian figures during last year’s campaign after being promised incriminating information about Mrs. Clinton.

“My son Donald openly gave his e-mails to the media & authorities whereas Crooked Hillary Clinton deleted (& acid washed) her 33,000 emails!” he wrote.

The younger Mr. Trump released emails setting up the Russia meeting only after being informed that The Times had obtained them and was about to publish them itself.

By Peter Baker/NYTimes

Posted by The NoN-Confromist