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Robert Kuttner, The American Prospect <info@prospect.org>

AUGUST 1, 2018
Kuttner on TAP
About that Capital Gains Scam. The Trump administration has come up with a shameless and probably illegal way to deliver hundreds of billions in further tax cuts to the richest Americans. Allow taxpayers to adjust capital gains for inflation, and thereby pay a far lower tax.
They plan to do this by administrative fiat if they can’t get Congress to bite.
The move was discussed by the Bush administration, and was rejected as probably illegal. Only Congress can revise the tax code. But with the current Supreme Court, you never know. Anything goes.
Here is a dirty little secret for progressives to consider. As we demonstrated in our special issue on the tax cut, virtually all of the provisions of that cut, which Republicans jammed through Congress on a straight party-line vote, are unpopular. Republicans simply got too greedy and delivered nearly all of the benefits to the rich.
But as much as I hate to say it, this capital gains scam might be popular with the upper middle class, including many Democrats. Why? Because your typical $100,000 income family has most of its net worth in the family house.
And because of the inadequacy of pension plans in this country, the typical retirement plan includes selling the family home and downsizing. Do the arithmetic. You bought a house in 1988 for $150,000. Thanks partly to the run-up in housing prices, it’s now worth $650,000. So you are stuck paying a capital gain on $500,000.
But adjust that for inflation, and the taxable gain is more like $200,000. Pretty tempting. Lots of $100,000 families are far from “rich,” and many are Democrats. The Republicans may have backed into something politically clever.
Here’s a better way. Before recent rounds of tax “reform,” the system used to provide that you only paid capital gains tax in the case of a house on the difference between the value of the old house and the value of the new one, if the new one was worth less. That’s far better policy.
It would provide even more of a break to downsizing longtime homeowners. It also has the virtue of just targeting housing, as opposed to giving the same inflation break to owners of stocks and bonds, the vast majority of whom really are rich.
Democrats take notice. Let’s hope the courts find the administration’s gambit illegal, but it’s a seductive idea that may come before Congress, and it might even peel off some Democratic votes unless Democrats have a better alternative. You can’t beat something with nothing. ~ ROBERT KUTTNER

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By Sam Levine

POLITICS 07/26/2018 12:05 pm ET
Democrats Propose Making it illegal to spread false election information.
Under the measure, knowingly spreading misinformation about voting criteria and election hours could be punishable by prison time.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and other Democratic members of Congress plan to introduce legislation that would criminalize knowingly spreading wrong information about elections times and places, voter qualifications and registration status.
Several congressional Democrats plan to introduce legislation Thursday that would make it a federal crime to knowingly and intentionally publish false information about elections.
The legislation would criminalize knowingly spreading wrong information related to the time and place of elections as well as voter qualifications and registration status. The bill would also make it illegal to knowingly claim an endorsement from someone within 60 days of a federal election. Anyone who spread such misinformation would be subject to up to five years in prison and a $100,000 fine.
The measure is being introduced by Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Doug Jones (Ala.) and Patrick Leahy (Vt.). Democratic Reps. A. Donald McEachin (Va.) and Jerry Nadler (N.Y.) plan to introduce companion legislation in the House.
While dirty tricks such as fliers telling people to vote on the wrong day have a long tradition in American politics, the legislation comes amid increased attention to the spread of misinformation amid Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
“Misinformation campaigns intended only to suppress the vote and disenfranchise Missourians are crimes that run counter to our democratic values, and the punishment for those actions should fit the crime,” McCaskill, who is running for re-election this year, said in a statement.
Justin Levitt, a former Justice Department official charged with enforcing voting rights, said in an interview there is no federal statute that clearly prohibiting acts like telling people to vote by text message or on a Wednesday for a Tuesday election.
“That’s not currently illegal under most circumstances,” said Levitt, now a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “Most people say that it seems crazy that it’s not illegal to tell somebody they can vote on Wednesday when actually they can’t. And I agree with that.”

There are federal laws against depriving people of civil rights, he said, but “there aren’t good, tailored targeted provisions that deal with one-off lies that cause people to not be able to exercise their right to vote.”
Most people say that it seems crazy that it’s not illegal to tell somebody they can vote on Wednesday when actually they can’t. And I agree with that.
Justin Levitt, former Justice Department official
During the 2016 election, fliers were distributed on the Bates College campus in Lewiston, Maine, telling students that if they wanted to vote, they had to pay to change their driver’s licenses within 30 days and reregister their vehicles. The fliers were untrue. A GOP mayor in Georgia posted a message telling Republicans to vote on Tuesday and Democrats to vote on Wednesday, the day after Election Day.
The measure would instruct the attorney general to take steps to communicate with the public to correct reported election-related misinformation and would require the attorney general after each federal election to submit a report to Congress on all allegations of deceptive practices received before that Election Day. The report would detail the race, ethnicity and language of any group targeted by a deceptive message.
“All Americans deserve the right to choose a candidate based on relevant issues and the quality of the candidates, not based on underhanded efforts to deliberately undermine the integrity of our electoral process,” Leahy said in a statement. “Reliably, these tactics seem to target minority neighborhoods and are blatant attempts to reduce turnout. Such tactics undermine and corrode our very democracy and threaten the very integrity of our electoral system.”
It can sometimes be difficult to track down the source of fake voting information, but sometimes it’s obvious, Levitt said. While it can be difficult to prove intent, when someone takes a step like using an official symbol from a state on a flyer or letterhead, that makes it clear.
While the Supreme Court has afforded significant protections to political speech, Levitt said, that does not preclude such a law, “as long as it’s really focused on logistical falsity rather than disputed campaign positions.”

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The debate and obvious misrepresentations on immigration is becoming too much of an issue when it could have been resolved with less fanfare and possible a year ago. What we have now is a person in the White house as described by a Spanish saying” no necisita Abuela” which means one who toots his own horn. Each time TOTUS wants to change  the narrative he brings up a different subject, in this case its the implausible expenditure of 20 billion dollars for a wall along the southern border which will have little to no effect on crossings. His focus on the Democrats wanting “open borders” (what ever that means) and that he will shut down the government unless he gets it is another  “Trumpedation” (scam) to conflate , confuse and distract from real issues such as his poor leadership. This administration is being run in the same chaotic or Quixotic as the Trump  company. He gets a thought and tweets it without regard to the truth of it and then walks it back with another untruth to cover the first one. This he does without a hint of remorse or embarrassment. We have two unknowns that could very well be impeachable acts. First, it is unknown exactly what was discussed with Chairman Kim of North Korea and second the private meeting with Putin which is still under wraps since there were only the translators and the two principals involved. This administration has us on the edge another possible crisis or crises on several fronts. All the while the crew of administrative prevaricators continue to plie their trade with impunity. Our neer do well Congress is interested only in maintaining a majority in order to cater to the people who do not give a tinkers damn about the voters and their needs. I  believe the oft cited “American people” are being grossly misled by the administration and the Congress and we need to put an end to by electing different people if no more than to showing the “ins” that we can do it. One caution: forget labels and parties when you vote as there are other options to consider.

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Forget about party lines and the many stump speeches that are leading up to the mid-term elections. Do not accept any endorsements of any candidate by the President or any party members. As voters the choice of who you vote for should be yours and yours alone based your own research and beliefs. The modern news cycle ( for better or worse) has many opinions based on personal and party lines of thought. Each of us needs to cast off labels and become informed voters again. This Resident governs by insult, innuendo and lies. This is not how America remains great. We have never in reality been less great, we have just had poor leaders in Congress-yes Congress, the President has a limited time in office while we have Congressional members who have served for decades and done little for us no matter what they tell us when stumping for votes. TOTUS is an anomaly and has no ability to lead us anywhere good. His touted business acumen is suspect since he has bullied anyone who worked with him or for him and they eventually all lose while he reaps any rewards. This is the path we are currently on no matter what he says in his structured town hall meetings. As voters it is well to know and understand that any long serving politician has debts to pay to someone and we are the last to be paid.

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Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN 7 hrs ago
President Donald Trump is lashing out in all directions as the fallout from his summit with Vladimir Putin becomes ever more toxic, the Russia investigation grinds on with no end in sight, and his frustration boils over on a lack of progress on North Korea.
The tensions reached a new level Sunday night when the President issued an all-caps threat against Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who had warned the US that war with Tehran would be the “mother of all wars.” Trump tweeted that Iran would “suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before” if its government again threatened the US, immediately ratcheting up tensions.
Exacerbating a sense of a White House under siege is the President’s full-out assault on his former lawyer Michael Cohen, who recorded a conversation with Trump about a payment to a former Playboy model who alleges she had an affair with the former real estate tycoon before he entered politics.

The controversies raging around the Oval Office underline how the President is increasingly taking control of his own defense and is willing to dictate high-risk political and legal strategies. But his incessant and often false attacks on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation also give the impression of someone who fears its ultimate conclusions and is unsettled that his fate may be out of his hands.
The most surreal aspect of the latest lurches of this unparalleled presidency is the intensifying public debate over the once implausible idea that the President of the United States is compromised by a hostile foreign power.
But Trump is vehemently defending the summit in Helsinki, Finland, seven days ago as a great success, despite lingering mystery over what went on in his private one-on-one meeting with Putin and amid uproar over his invitation to the Russian leader for a second summit at the White House.
He is also facing increasing scrutiny about the results of another major summit: his encounter with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore last month, which ended with Trump declaring he had solved the isolated nation’s nuclear threat.
Since then, Pyongyang has returned to its characteristic strategy of diplomatic obfuscation and delay. The Washington Post reported Sunday that despite publicly talking up the success of the summit, Trump was fuming to aides in private that there had not been more dramatic steps forward in denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.
CNN’s Kevin Liptak reported Sunday that according to a US official, the President had indeed registered frustration, but he was also convinced that North Korea’s continued suspension of nuclear and missile tests was a positive achievement.

No one can stop talking about the Putin summit

One week on from the Putin summit, no one can stop talking about it. And Trump’s defiance and failure to publicly rebuke the Russian leader in Finland over election interference is spurring unusual criticism from Republicans.
“The evidence is overwhelming,” South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“It can be proven beyond any evidentiary burden that Russia is not our friend and they tried to attack us in 2016,” Gowdy said. “So the President either needs to rely on the people that he has chosen to advise him, or those advisers need to reevaluate whether or not they can serve in this administration. But the disconnect cannot continue. The evidence is overwhelming, and the President needs to say that and act like it.”
Still, on Sunday, Trump appeared to return to a previous position that Russia’s election interference was a story dreamed up by Democrats to excuse Hillary Clinton’s defeat — despite saying in a scripted statement last week that he held Putin personally responsible for it.
“So President Obama knew about Russia before the Election. Why didn’t he do something about it? Why didn’t he tell our campaign? Because it is all a big hoax, that’s why, and he thought Crooked Hillary was going to win!!!” Trump tweeted.
The intensifying saga of presidential misdirection, recriminations and accusations is a sure sign that the corrosive impact on American politics triggered by the Russian election intrigue is worsening. The odds of it ending in any manner that does not deepen political divides are lengthening by the day.
The question of why the President is acting in a way that often seems to further Russian goals — for example in his attacks on allied leaders and institutions like NATO — is driving growing concerns about his attitude toward Russia and explains why the controversy over the Helsinki summit is showing no signs of ebbing.
“I think there’s no ignoring the fact that for whatever reason, this President acts like he’s compromised,” Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said on ABC News’ “This Week.”
“There is simply no other way to explain why he would side with this Kremlin former KGB officer rather than his own intelligence agencies,” he said.
But Tom Bossert, the former White House homeland security adviser, said on the same show that suggestions that Trump was compromised by Russia were a “cheap shot.”
Contrasting Putin’s background as a former KGB agent who uses “penny-ante spy tactics” with Trump’s as a former businessman, Bossert said, “We spend our time trying to have productive meetings with foreign leaders. All the rest of this speculation and smoke is meant to undermine the President. It’s domestic partisan political concern mixed with some legitimate need to throw our intelligence forces against the prevention of spying and interfering in the United States.”
Whatever Trump’s motivation, there is also anxiety in Washington over his strategy of getting closer to Putin, even though most observers understand the necessity of communication between the world’s two top nuclear powers at a time of dangerously ruptured ties with Moscow.
“(Putin) is not interested in better relations with the United States,” Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” implicitly contradicting Trump’s rationale for engaging the Russian leader. “I think he walked away from that a long time ago. He’s interested in gaining advantage at our expense and to his benefit. And as long as we go in with a very clear understanding, we can engage him all we want, but not under any illusion.”
Mystification over Trump’s invitation to the Russian leader is compounded by the astounding prospect that the meeting with Putin will be in Washington in the fall, around the time of midterm elections, which US intelligence agencies say are already being targeted by Russia.
There is also uncertainty about the long-term fate of Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats after his dumbfounded on-camera reaction at a security forum in Aspen, Colorado, on Thursday to the breaking news about the invitation to Putin.
Coats issued a remarkable statement on Saturday that is being interpreted as a bid to keep his job.
“My admittedly awkward response was in no way meant to be disrespectful or criticize the actions of the President,” Coats said.

Trump blasts Mueller and Cohen

While he remains consumed by his outreach to Putin, Trump is also fuming about Mueller’s investigation, apparently reasoning that he can use it to drum up partisan fury that will enthuse the base voters he needs to stave off a Democratic surge in the midterms.
“No Collusion, No Obstruction – but that doesn’t matter because the 13 Angry Democrats, who are only after Republicans and totally protecting Democrats, want this Witch Hunt to drag out to the November Election,” Trump tweeted on Saturday night. “Republicans better get smart fast and expose what they are doing!”
The President also accused the Justice Department and the FBI of misleading the courts, following the release of a previously classified warrant application to surveil former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page.
Trump tweeted that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act documents “confirm with little doubt” that the Justice Department and FBI “misled the courts,” despite the fact that the document itself acted as legal justification for the FBI to obtain the 2016 warrant.
But Trump’s attacks on the special counsel pose their own questions.
To begin with, his prolonged assault on the investigation hardly suggests he has nothing to hide from Mueller. They also worsen the partisan imbroglio that plays directly into Putin’s desire to weaken American democracy.
While Trump’s ultra-sensitivity about Mueller looks suspicious, it could also be born out of an explosive reaction every time there is any question about the legitimacy of his election victory and his trademark insistence on hitting back harder anytime he feels he is unfairly attacked.
As if the Russia-related histrionics were not dramatic enough, there is also new intrigue about the case of Trump’s former lawyer Cohen, who is under federal investigation amid increasing concern among the President’s supporters that the attorney could turn on his former top client.
CNN reported on Friday that Trump’s lawyers waived attorney-client privilege on the President’s behalf regarding a secretly recorded conversation he had in September 2016 with Cohen in which they discussed a payment to ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal.
Lanny Davis, an attorney for Cohen, questioned whether the tape, first reported by The New York Times, supported the arguments of the President’s lawyers that there was no wrongdoing by the President.
But in a possible sign of concern that Cohen could chose to cooperate with prosecutors in a way that could deepen the President’s legal exposure, Trump lambasted Cohen in a tweet Saturday that mischaracterized the FBI’s raid on his home and office in April, which was executed on a court-approved warrant, amid a criminal investigation of Cohen by the US attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York.
“Inconceivable that the government would break into a lawyer’s office (early in the morning) – almost unheard of,” Trump wrote. “Even more inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client – totally unheard of & perhaps illegal. The good news is that your favorite President did nothing wrong!”

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It’s Definitely Time To Pack The Supreme Court, But For Entirely Practical Reasons
An expanded Supreme Court would be more effective, and make each appointment less of an apocalyptic event.

By Kyle Sammin
July 13, 2018

President Trump called his decision to nominate Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court “the most important decision a U.S. President can make.” That is true, but it shouldn’t be. Once considered the “least dangerous branch” of government, the judiciary has taken on more power than the Founding Fathers ever imagined. As a result, the nine justices have gained far more control over American lives than they should have, making each of their nominations an increasingly contentious event.
One solution to this problem is for Congress to do its job and resolve more issues with legislation and constitutional amendments, rather than leaving them up to the least democratic branch of government. But that’s not going to happen any time soon. In the meantime, changing how the Court functions could make it work more efficiently, while calming the roiling political scene that accompanies each new justice’s accession to the bench.
Angry People Make Bad Choices

Many on the Left continue to be disappointed with Trump as president, none more so than those who put the most trust in the courts. Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court in 2017 angered them, but Kavanaugh’s nomination this month is spinning some folks around so hard that they are able to convince themselves of all manner of bizarre conspiracy theories about the new nominee and the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy.
It has also led some prominent voices on the Left — though none in a position of power, just yet — to call for court-packing when the Democrats return to office someday. The idea that more seats should be added to the Court until there are a majority of justices who vote the Democrats’ way is a bad one. As Josh Blackman wrote for National Review last week, “It is not difficult to see how such a plan would irreparably alter the way our polity views the Court: If five justices rule against your favored position, simply add two more who would rule the other way! […] This downward spiral would quickly unravel our polity.”
The idea is not completely out of bounds — the Constitution sets no limit on the Court’s size. But it is a bizarre idea for the party in control of neither the presidency nor the Congress to call for the norm-breaking expansion of the Court. Republicans will reject the idea at first, but if it gains popularity on the Left, what is to stop the Right from agreeing? And, more importantly since they actually have the votes, what is to stop them from doing it right now? In their fury, the Left is normalizing something that will, like the destruction of the filibuster, almost certainly end up harming them more than their opponents.
The politically motivated expansion of the Court is a bad idea, one that will destroy any remaining semblance of the idea that a judge’s job is to rule impartially about what the law says. A Court that is packed by one party, then re-packed again when they lose, then re-packed once more ad infinitum will have no pretense of objectivity. Nor should it: such a politicized Court would be encouraged to take more power from the elected branches of government, because its newest members would have been put there for that explicit purpose.
The Court’s Size Has Changed Before

Politically motivated expansion would be destructive, but not all expansions are the same, nor has the Court always been made up of nine justices. As originally constituted in 1789, it had six seats. It grew to seven in 1807, nine in 1837, and ten in 1863. Every time Congress added a judicial circuit, they added a Supreme Court justice, so the Court expanded with the country. The changes in the Court’s membership were pragmatic, not political, which made sense for a body that was still by far the least powerful branch of our government.
Changes — and attempted changes — that followed were not so non-partisan. In 1866, relations between the Republican Congress and President Andrew Johnson were so bad that they resolved to eliminate Supreme Court seats rather than let him appoint new justices. One seat was already vacant and was eliminated immediately under the Judicial Circuits Act of 1866, which was passed over Johnson’s veto, like much of the Reconstruction legislation. Justice James Moore Wayne died the next year, and the Act arranged for his seat to be automatically eliminated too. The Court shrank to eight.
Johnson survived impeachment in 1868, but neither party nominated him for election to a new term and he left office in 1869. With Ulysses S. Grant taking over, Reconstruction was in good hands, and Congress restored one of the two eliminated seats, but not the other, giving the Court the nine seats it currently has. (If you want to get technical, Congress created a tenth associate justice seat in 1870; seats number five and seven remain abolished.)
But that is not the end of the story. In 1937, frustrated with a Supreme Court that repeatedly struck down his New Deal legislation, President Franklin Roosevelt proposed to “fix” the problem by adding seats to the court, which he would then fill with judges who shared his expansive view of federal authority. The proposed Judicial Procedures Reform Act of 1937 would have permitted Roosevelt to nominate a new federal judge for each judge with ten years’ service who did not retire after turning 70 — up to a maximum of six new seats on the Supreme Court and two each on any lower court.

In 1937, there were six such justices on the Court, which meant the measure would have allowed Roosevelt to appoint 40 percent of the expanded Court at once. Most Americans, though, even those who supported Roosevelt for reelection the year before, thought the bill went too far. Democrats held 76 out of 96 Senate seats, but the Senate voted 70–20 to send the bill back to committee, where the court-packing section was deleted.
Roosevelt eventually got what he wanted. By the end of his second term he made five Supreme Court appointments. But the Senate had proved its point, too — expanding the Court for ideological reasons was out of bounds, even for a president of their own party whom they supported in every other area of legislation.
The Court Is Too Small, Though
In all of this madness over forcing the Court to one political ideology or another, however, there is a good point being made: the Supreme Court is too small. For one thing, the country has grown tremendously since the Court’s membership was last expanded in 1869. America’s population in 1870 was 38 million. In 2010 it was 308 million, and the Census Bureau’s most recent estimate from 2017 is 325 million. There are 8.5 times as many Americans and the same number of Court seats.
More importantly to the Court: there are more laws than there used to be and, consequently, more legal disputes. In 1789 or even 1869, the federal government made a small impact on the average American’s life. Since then, the kind of laws Roosevelt wanted to pack the Court to uphold have multiplied. With that explosion of federal law and regulation comes a vast increase in federal litigation. The Courts of Appeal resolve these as best they can, but if the Supreme Court does not hear a case, the result is often one that leaves one circuit contradicting another in interpreting a given law. This means federal law is not uniform across the country. The Supreme Court’s most important job is to resolve such circuit-splits. But with limited manpower, they cannot possibly keep up with it all.

From a political perspective, the Court’s small size has the troubling effect of making each justice’s nomination an event of apocalyptic proportions. Replacing one Republican appointee with another, as Trump is doing with Kavanaugh, has provoked widespread wailing and gnashing of teeth. Attempting to replace a conservative with a liberal, as Obama tried to do in 2016, ground the process to a halt altogether. Should Trump have the opportunity to replace either of the octogenarian Clinton appointees on the Court, paroxysms of rage will sweep the Left like nothing in the history of court appointments.
Why? The fault is two-fold. First, Congress has ceded too much control over our lives to the courts. Expanding the Court will not stop that, but it won’t make it worse, either. The other reason, though, is that with so few justices, each vote is all the more important. More members would dilute the influence of each one. Court-watchers and politicos would still get excited, just as they do over appellate court nominations, but regular folks could relax a little knowing that each nomination is not a make-or-break affair for their favorite issue.
Expand It, But Gradually
Even if you agree to all that, it still leaves the problem of court-packing. Any expansion of the Court will be treated — correctly — as a grant of power to the party controlling the White House. Expanding the Court to thirteen justices this year or next would be a political disaster, just as Roosevelt’s attempted power-grab of 1937 was.
The expansion would have to be gradual, spaced out over a generation. If Congress acts soon, the tenth justice could be added after January 20, 2021, with three more new seats spread out over the next few years in 2025, 2029, and 2033. This would ensure that the benefit does not automatically accrue to one party, since the winners of those future elections are unknown. Having the four picks spread over four presidential terms would also mean that they would almost certainly be divided among multiple political parties. Democrats last won more than three straight elections in 1948; Republicans have not done it since 1908. Since presidential term limits were added to the Constitution, only once has a party won even three elections in a row.
Dividing the appointments this way makes it clear that the goal is making the court more efficient, not advancing one party’s agenda. Having the winner of each election pick a justice, even as each justice’s vote becomes less important, will also remind the electorate of one of the president’s most important duties, and will hopefully make them consider how much power they are putting into the chief executive’s hands. By the end of the process, a larger Court will lessen the impact of each nomination and make it more capable of performing its duties, all while maintaining the tradition of keeping partisan politics out of the debate over the Court’s size.
Kyle Sammin is a lawyer and writer from Pennsylvania. Read some of his other writing at kylesammin.com, or follow him on Twitter @KyleSammin.

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The biggest surprise and possibly pain will come to the most ardent Trump Supporters. The Executive orders repealing regulations benefit big business, not the ordinary citizens. Now coming down the pike is a Conservative High court Judge who will put more pain on all of us. While all of the Tweets are flying, there are regulations thinning out healthcare for many including people with pre-existing health conditions. Our neer do well seat fillers are saying nothing (and that their job to shout BS when it occurs, if they represent us as they say) for fear of a calling out by the Resident. If you are in the mindset that your representative is doing all they can for you then you probably have been living somewhere else for a long time. There are no more statesmen in the Congress, what we have are 500 plus malingerers  plying their trade and getting paid to do it.. This administration is about Trump not America. All administration actions are geared towards the edification of a narcissist not the country as a whole. The current staff in the administration is staffed by the very special interest folks that we have railed against previously but seem to have tacitly embraced now. It is in our best interests to avoid embracing this administration’s actions as they will surely slap us in the face down the proverbial road with the help of our elected legislators.

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JULY 5, 2018
Meyerson on TAP
Adding Insult (More Precisely, Discomfort and Anger) to Injury. Airline passengers, abandon all hope. On Tuesday, Donald Trump’s Federal Aviation Administration decreed that it would do nothing about the relentless shrinkage of airplane seats and legroom. Rejecting a plea from Flyers’ Rights (a passengers’ organization) and a judge’s order that it reconsider its position, the FAA said that such concerns as passenger comfort were none of its business.
Over the past couple of decades, the average width of a coach airline seat has shrunk from 18.5 inches to 17 inches. The average amount of seat pitch (the distance between your seat and the seat in front of you) in coach has shrunk from 35 inches to 31 inches, though on some airlines it’s been scrunched to 28 inches.
The size of the average passenger has not shrunk correspondingly.
If passengers flying in steerage—excuse me, in coach—have problems with the FAA’s obeisance to the airlines, they’re left with what is effectively the non-option of imploring the airlines themselves. However, the years of seat shrinkage coincide with the years that airlines have increasingly come under the control of private-equity firms and other large-scale investors bent on squeezing more seats on to the planes and more profits out of the airlines. In 2015, a former private-equity executive and American Airlines board member penned a gushing column in The Wall Street Journal, celebrating how private equity’s ownership of American had eliminated the “inefficiencies” (such as the decent treatment of passengers) that had reduced the airline’s profits. Just yesterday, the Journal reported that a private-equity firm had purchased Sun Country Airlines.
Squeezed between the voraciousness of finance capital and the indifference to public welfare of Trump’s regulatory agencies, the American airline passenger has been officially told to lump it—and the lump had better be small. ~ HAROLD MEYERSON


JULY 6, 2018
Kuttner on TAP
Kielbasa Republic. Question for today: What exactly is the difference between the way Poland’s autocratic rulers have disabled its Supreme Court and the way the Republicans have taken over the U.S. courts?
Poland, where the governing party has an absolute majority in parliament, is in trouble with the leaders of the European Union and many of its own outraged citizens for jamming through a measure requiring mandatory retirement at 65 for Supreme Court justices. This thinly disguised coup will force the ouster of some 27 of 72 sitting justices, and turn the Court into a rubber stamp, removing the last obstacle to full dictatorship.
In the U.S., Republicans under Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pursued a policy of blocking as many Obama judicial appointments as possible, slowing the process way down, and bargaining with the administration to appoint more centrist nominees as a condition of agreeing to a vote at all. This was in sharp contrast to the way Democrats treated appointees of President George W. Bush, when only the most extreme nominees were challenged.
When a Supreme Court seat came open after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016, McConnell pursued the unprecedented course of simply refusing to act on Obama’s nomination of the relatively moderate appellate judge Merrick Garland. As a consequence, Trump got to fill a seat that was rightfully Obama’s.
So, what is the difference between destruction of an independent judiciary in Poland and the U.S.? Mainly, timing. In Poland, the coup has been abrupt. In the U.S., it has been a slow roll. The outcome isn’t that different—hijacked, politicized courts. ~ ROBERT KUTTNER

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The old Testament appears to be the forecasting of the coming of Christ and the new testament’s the chronicling after the Birth of Christ. Between these two Books, there are two other books, the Torah and the Quran both of these are essentially the same except for the named prophets and some other details which can differ due to translation between languages. The current administration has used (often wrongly) bible inferences to justify and gain approval for their nebulous and nefarious actions against us all. The Tax Reform under the guise of benefitting the lower class is a boon to Corporations and high income people. Using a street gang as a reason to deter the entry of  Hispanics into the country, using religion as reason to bar certain religions from entering the country and separating children from their parents. This dishonest action has extended to the military which has promised citizenship to foreign born folks who have enlisted and served with honor then were discharged without notice. Then there’s the issue of military LBGTQ members who have served and still serve with honor being forced in some cases to leave the service due to misinformation about the increased medical liabilities. Now there is the case of the High Court which is supposed to be composed of apolitical folk or at least people who are able to put their political beliefs aside for the good of the country, We have come to a time where the separation of Church and state has become  muddied by  a powerful segment of Conservatives whose “holier” than thou mindset seeks to bring us back to the days of “real witch Hunts”, indiscriminate Lynchings and the condemnation of any religion which they deem as not of God (who as a deity is put up as forgiving and open). It is important to understand that Bias of any kind in the name of religion is inherently  wrong if one is to believe the Bible(s) yet we have many members of government waving the religious flag to  further their personal agendas. I personally think many political types seek votes and will jump on any bandwagon that will get them to that destination. There are too many serving  elected officials whose convictions don’t include the people who support them. To correct the political imbalance one needs to know the candidates and ignore the hype before committing a vote for them.

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