May 1 – 6, 2017

May 1 – 6, 2017

(Banana photo by Darkone)


Articles & Editorials:


Main Stories


Russia


Senate Committee Asks Carter Page to Reveal Russian Contacts
(NBC News – 5/5/17)

Comey Reveals Few Details About State of Russia Inquiry
(CNN – Updated 5/4/17)


Mental illness


Donald Trump Just Gave Two Incredibly Bizarre (and Fact-Free) Interviews
(CNN – 5/1/17)

“It’s something that I think is frankly maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years.”

President Donald Trump on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict


Healthcare


Republican Healthcare Pitch Built on a Foundation of Falsehoods
(MSNBC – 5/5/17)

Senate Won’t Vote on House-Passed Healthcare Bill
(Washington Examiner – 5/5/17)

What is in the Republican Health-care Bill? Questions and Answers on Preexisting Conditions, Medicaid and More
(Washington Post – 5/4/17)

50 Health Issues That Count as a Pre-existing Condition
(Time Magazine – 5/4/17)


Other Stories That You Should Know About:


Separation of Church and State


Trump Signs Order Aimed at Allowing Churches to Engage in More Political Activity
(Washington Post – 5/4/17)


Immigration


Sen. Bob Casey Unleashes Tweetstorm at White House
(Pittsburgh Post Gazette – 5/3/17)


Relations with Dictators


Trump’s ‘Very Friendly’ Talk With Duterte Stuns Aides and Critics Alike
(New York Times – 4/30/17)

President Trump Says he Would be ‘Honored’ to Meet with North Korean Dictator
(Washington Post – 5/1/17)

“We’ve never lived in a Third World banana republic. I don’t mean that gratuitously. I mean the reality is he is governing as if he is the President of a Third World country: power is held by family and incompetent loyalists whose main calling card is the fact that Donald Trump can trust them, not whether they have any expertise.”

Jerry Taylor, President
Niskanen Center (Libertarian think tank)
(The New Yorker – 5/8/17)


US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross


Wilbur Ross Says Syria Missile Strike Was ‘After-Dinner Entertainment’ at Mar-a-Lago
(Variety – 5/1/17)


 Keeping Track of the Basics:


Editorials


Trump has a Dangerous Disability
George F. Will, Conservative Columnist
(Washington Post – 5/4/17)

“His fathomless lack of interest in America’s path to the present and his limitless gullibility leave him susceptible to being blown about by gusts of factoids that cling like lint to a disorderly mind. Americans have placed vast military power at the discretion of this mind.”

George F. Will, Conservative Columnist
(Washington Post – 5/4/17)


When is it Okay to Say the President Might be Nuts?
Jennifer Rubin
(Washington Post – 5/2/17)

How Trump Could Get Fired
(The New Yorker – 5/8/17)

“He doesn’t drink. He doesn’t do drugs. His drug is himself.”

Sam Nunberg
2016 Trump Campaign Adviser
(The New Yorker – 5/8/17)


Elizabeth Warren: Obama was Wrong. The System is More Rigged Than You Know.

(Vox – 4/26/17)


Alternative Facts from an Alternative Universe

Self-selecting our news sources, a reluctance to hear opposing ideas, and the choice by many of us to surround ourselves only with like-minded individuals has resulted in many Americans becoming oblivious to the beliefs of those with whom they disagree. This bubble helped create the world of “alternative facts” in which Donald Trump could become President.

To counter this, each week I will present a little of what Trump’s supporters are thinking. Their reality may be very different from yours. Please listen/read to the end, and consider what respectful questions you could ask to better understand and have a conversation, rather than seeking to prove them wrong as quickly as possible and shut them down. We can’t change minds if we can’t talk to each other.

Meet the Evangelicals Who Still Love Trump
(Think Progress – 5/5/17)


Cartoons, Images & Videos


Fake Trump interview with Stephen Colbert:

Late Night host Seth Meyers rants about Trumpcare:

Posted on Facebook by Partnership for Responsible Growth:

Source –unknown:

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Posted on Facebook by Alan Spindle:

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Source –unknown:

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Events & Actions


Resources & Organizations


Keep Your Eyes on the Money – YOUR Money

Keep Your Eyes on the Money – YOUR Money

Keep Your Eyes on the Money – YOUR Money

There is rightly a major focus right now – among the media, in the House and Senate, by the FBI and other intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and the American public – on President Trump’s possible connections to Russia. Meanwhile, however, a question that could be of equal importance may be getting overlooked: why did Donald Trump run for President in the first place?

The answer is likely many-fold, and can be explained by things that are easily knowable about the President, to the point where they almost define him. He likes to be the center of attention, and a Presidential run would feed that desire with months of ongoing coverage from the media and adoration from his supporters. He likes power, and the Presidency is arguably the most powerful position in the world. He has political views and policy ideas that he appears at times to feel strongly about; the Presidency would be a place where he could enact them.

But what else do we know about Donald Trump? What else defines him almost more than all of those things combined? He likes money. And in real estate, there is a term “OPM” that stands for “Other People’s Money.” When your career is buying real estate, OPM becomes an essential way to make yourself rich more quickly. You borrow – from banks, from wealthy friends, from relatives – to buy real estate that you believe will produce enough of a profit to enrich yourself and enable you to pay back your lenders (usually with interest). Of course, in the most ideal OPM situations, such as inheriting a fortune from your father, you don’t have to pay anyone back.

And what are a couple of other things that we have learned about Donald Trump since he came under closer scrutiny during the election and into the Presidency? He lies. Boldly. Bigly. He tells lies so big and so risky that most liars wouldn’t even consider telling them because of the lies’ audaciousness and the ease of proving them false (Obama is not an American citizen, the crowd at Trump’s inauguration was the biggest in decades, etc.).

We also know that Trump sometimes stiffs those who help him, like the numerous contractors who provided goods and services for his real estate empire, only to find themselves faced with having to accept a major loss when he chose not to pay them. He has been referred to by some as a conman, boosting people’s hopes for his own financial gain.

It is quite plausible that Mr. Trump planned to make money from the process of campaigning for President. As far back as 2000, he told Fortune Magazine “It’s very possible that I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it.” According to Politico, by September 22 of last year, the 2016 Trump Campaign had paid Trump’s businesses $8.2 million.

And as some of us currently grit our teeth at the millions being needlessly spent each week by the American taxpayer for the excesses that accompany Mr. Trump’s Presidency – Melania living in Trump Tower instead of the White House, the President’s near-weekly trips to Mar-a-Lago and his golf courses, the Secret Service entourage to accompany the Trump kids on their frequent trips – we hardly notice that buried within those extravagances are arrangements from which the President or his family make a profit. As long as Melania lives at Trump Tower, the government (i.e., you and I) must pay rent to have a team of Secret Service living there. When the President visits Mar-a-Lago, he generates free publicity for his business – far better than any expensive commercial – at government cost, while dangling the exciting possibility that visitors might get to sit near the President of the United States at dinner or see him on his golf course. And who gets paid for the rooms that the President’s security and staff stay in at Trump’s posh Mar-a Lago hotel when Trump spends yet another weekend there?

And yes, it all reaks of conflict of interest and questionable ethics at best.

But – and I say the following as pure speculation that may well qualify me for a tin-foil hat – what if those millions being pocketed here and there are all just small change compared to a more expansive agenda? What if, as he began seeing the possibility of a win, his run for the Presidency evolved in part into the biggest lie ever, a con so big and so brazen and so thoroughly outlandish that Americans wouldn’t even think of it as a possibility until after it had already happened? You know, the way several months ago, we didn’t think that covert action by Russia could possibly play an influential – potentially even deciding – role in an American Presidential election? What if the bid for the Presidency actually evolved into a bid to siphon off one of the largest piles of OPM ever from the biggest mark possible – the federal government and, by extension, us, the American taxpayers? And what if  there were a way to move that money around silently behind the scenes – in order to pay off major debts, to stash vast amounts in anonymous overseas bank accounts, or to assist in some some other massively self-serving cause?

As Presidential Cabinet positions go, the Secretary of Commerce is not generally a glamorous or high-visibility position. If you asked even your most politically involved friends – friends who could quickly rattle off the names of every recent Secretary of State or Secretary of Energy – few could likely name even one recent Secretary of Commerce. The position just does not generate a lot of buzz: it works quietly behind the scenes, doing work related to the department’s mission “to foster, promote, and develop the foreign and domestic commerce.”

The person whom Donald Trump appointed to that role is a man named Wilbur Ross. On February 27, 2017, MSNBCs Rachel Maddow did a segment looking into the background of Mr. Ross. (New Commerce Secretary at Nexus of Lucrative Trump Russia Deal). While I highly recommend taking the 22 minutes to watch Maddow’s report, the Cliff’s Notes version is as follows:

  • In January 2017, Deutsche Bank was fined $630 million by the US Department of Justice for money laundering (i.e., processing tainted money in a way that makes the money appear “legitimate”). Deutsche Bank had moved approximately $10 billion out of Russia as part of a stock fraud scheme. Some of the people involved were close friends and relatives of Vladimir Putin (the Russian government also fined Deutsche Bank a whopping $5,000 for the incident).
  • When Deutsche Bank’s money laundering activities for this scam began in 2011, its CEO was Josef Ackerman. Ackerman left Deutsche Bank in 2012 after serving there for ten years. In 2013, deposits to Deutsche Bank began to be seized in the wake of questions arising over the $10 billion. In 2014, Ackerman was appointed Chairman of the Bank of Cyprus.
  • Cyprus is a Mediterranean island off the coast of Turkey, Lebanon and Syria. It is known to be a major hub where Russian oligarchs use the banking system to launder their money.
  • The Bank of Cyprus has two Vice Chairmen: one is Viktor Vekselberg (second wealthiest man in Russia and a close personal friend of Vladimir Putin) and the other is long-time Trump friend Wilbur Ross. Vekselberg and Ross are both the largest shareholders in the Bank of Cyprus. Vekselberg and Ross were the ones who brought in Ackerman as the new CEO of the Bank of Cyprus.
  • Another large shareholder in the Bank of Cyprus is a Russian oligarch named Dmitry Rybolovlev. Rybolovlev began a divorce from his wife in 2007 or 2008. The divorce was finalized in 2015. At some point, a judge awarded Rybolovlev’s wife $4.5 billion as part of the settlement. During the divorce proceedings, she accused Rybolovlev of “secreting and transferring assets in order to avoid his obligations.”
  • In 2006, Donald Trump bought a tacky Palm Beach mansion called la maison de l`amitie for $40 million. The property sat vacant for two years, In 2008, Trump sold it to Rybolovlev, who inexplicably paid $100 million for it, netting Trump a quick $60 million in profit. Rybolovlev reportedly never lived in the house.
  • At the time, Trump was having financial difficulties and was fighting to avoid paying off a large loan from Deutsche Bank.
  • Rybolovlev and Trump never met: they performed their entire multi-million dollar real estate transaction through intermediaries. The person who introduced Russian oligarch Rybolovlev and Trump was Wilbur Ross, one of the two Vice Chairmen of the Bank of Cyprus.
  • Trump nominated Wilbur Ross to be US Secretary of Commerce, and Ross was confirmed for that role in February, 2017.
  • Some intelligence officials believe that “one reason the Russians compiled information on Trump during his 2013 trip was that he was meeting with Russian oligarchs who may be stashing money abroad.”

Summary:

Wilbur Ross, the man whom Donald Trump has appointed to structure and oversee the moving around of large amounts of America’s money, is the largest investor in and has had a very recent (possibly still active) high-level controlling role in the Bank of Cyprus, a bank with deep ties to Russia, a bank which, according to Maddow, is known for laundering large amounts of money for wealthy Russians. The bank’s Chairman, appointed by Ross, previously headed Deutsche Bank during a time when Deutsche Bank began laundering $10 billion, including money from governments, for the benefit of wealthy individuals, notably wealthy Russians and friends of Vladimir Putin.

The President’s recently proposed budget made headlines for its staggering cuts to numerous government programs and agencies. Some programs were zeroed out, while others were cut by double-digit percentages. If even a fraction of that proposed budget is enacted by Congress, it will mean that enormous amounts of American taxpayer money will be in flux, and things are likely to get very hazy and disorienting for awhile.

As Mr. Trump does what he does best – saying and doing things that completely captivate the attention of the American media and American public – keep your eyes on your money … and keep your eyes on Wilbur Ross and the Department of Commerce.

– rob rünt


 

February 27 – March 5, 2017

February 27 – March 5, 2017

 


Articles & Editorials:


Main Stories


Russia and Wilbur Ross, US Secretary of Commerce

New Commerce Secretary at Nexus of Lucrative Trump Russia Deal (21:44)
This is a must-watch. If you check out nothing else on this site this week, this story is huge.
(MSNBC – 2/27/17)

Two Trump Companies Discovered in Cyprus, EU’s Russian Off-Shore Banking Haven
(Huffington Post – 12/19/16, Updated 3/2/17)

Here’s Another Trump Cabinet Pick With Close Financial Ties to Russians
(Mother Jones – 12/19/16)


Russia and the Trump Campaign

Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking
(New York Times – 3/1/17)


Russia and Jeff Sessions, US Attorney General

Sessions Met With Russian Envoy Twice Last Year, Encounters He Later Did Not Disclose
(Washington Post – 3/1/17)

Jeff Sessions Denials of Contact With Russians are Falling Apart Quickly
(Washington Post – 3/2/17)

Six Times Sessions Talked About Perjury, Access, and Special Prosecutors – When It Involved the Clintons
(Washington Post – 3/2/17)

“Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, is considered by US intelligence to be one of Russia’s top spies and spy-recruiters in Washington, according to current and former senior US government officials.”

CNN, regarding the Russian individual who met with recently resigned National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and current Attorney General Jeff Sessions
(CNN – 3/2/17)

 

Jeff Sessions Recuses Himself from Russia Inquiry
(New York Times – 3/2/17)

Meet the Russian Diplomat at the Center of the Sessions Controversy
(The Hill – 3/3/17)

Why Would Jeff Sessions Hide His Talks With Sergey Kislyak?
(New Yorker – 3/3/17)


Yemen Raid

Trump Passes Blame for Yemen Raid to His General: “They Lost Ryan”
(Washington Post – 2/28/17)

Yemen SEAL Raid Has Yielded No Significant Intelligence: Officials
(NBC News – 2/28/17)

Slain SEAL’s Dad Wants Answers: “Don’t Hide Behind My Son’s Death”
(Miami Herald – 2/26/17)


Other Stories That You Should Know About:


Healthcare

Trump: “Nobody Knew Healthcare Could Be So Complicated”
(The Guardian – 2/27/17)


Trump’s Mental health

Trump Says Obama is Helping to Organize Protests Against His Presidency
(Washington Post – 2/28/17)

Trump Accuses Obama of ‘Nixon/Watergate’ Wiretap – But Offers No Evidence
(Washington Post – 3/4/17)

Posted on Twitter around 6am Saturday, 3/4/17:

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Lawmakers Stunned by Trump’s Wiretap Allegations
(Politico – 3/5/17)

White House Says It Will No Longer Comment on Trump’s Wiretapping Claims
(Huffington Post – 3/5/17)

Director of National Intelligence (2010-2017) James Clapper on Trump’s Allegations of Wiretapping by Obama Administration
(Meet the Press, MSNBC – 3/5/17):

 


Freedom of the Press

“I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy. We need an independent media to hold people like me to account. Power can be very addictive. And it can be corrosive. And it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power, whether it be here or elsewhere.”

Former President George W. Bush
Interview with Matt Lauer on NBC’s Today Show – 2/27/17
(Full Article : NPR)

Trump Moves to Become Master of His Own Messages
(New York Times – 3/2/17)


Hate Crimes

He Yelled ‘Get Out of My Country,’ Witnesses Say, and Then Shot Two Men from India, Killing One
(Washington Post – 2/24/17)

A Sikh Man Was Shot On His Driveway And Allegedly Told, “Go Back To Your Own Country”
(Buzzfeed – 3/4/17)

In Day of Pro-Trump Rallies, California March Turns Violent
(Reuters – 3/4/17)
Editor’s Note: Much of the violence in the rally was committed and/or incited by people who came to protest Trump. When the anti-Trump people behave like this, it serves to discredit the anti-Trump movement, and increases the likelihood that future Trump protests may experience retaliatory violence from Trump supporters.


Keeping Track of the Basics:


Editorials


Trump’s Emotional Moment With a Navy SEAL’s Wife Could Define Him – For Good But Also For Bad
(Aaron Blake, Washington Post – 3/1//17)

Remembering a City Where Smog Could Kill
(Jim Dwyer, New York Times – 2/28/17)

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Alternative Facts from an Alternative Universe

Self-selecting our news sources, a reluctance to hear opposing ideas, and the choice by many of us to surround ourselves only with like-minded individuals has resulted in many Americans becoming oblivious to the beliefs of those with whom they disagree. This bubble helped create the world of “alternative facts” in which Donald Trump could become President.

To counter this, each week I will present a little of what Trump’s supporters are thinking. Their reality may be very different from yours. Please listen/read to the end, and consider what respectful questions you could ask to better understand and have a conversation, rather than seeking to prove them wrong as quickly as possible and shut them down. We can’t change minds if we can’t talk to each other.


I’m a Silicon Valley Liberal, and I Traveled Across the Country to interview 100 Trump Supporters – Here’s What I Learned
(Sam Altman, Business Insider, 2/23/17)


Cartoons, Images & Videos


Photo by Agence France Presse:

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Artwork by Illustrator Kieron Dwyer:

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Posted by ImgFlip.com:

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Artwork posted on Facebook by Rob Brezsny:

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Published by Vox, Graphic by Javier Zarracina:

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Events & Actions

Two major nationwide protests coming up:

  • Wednesday, March 8, 2017: “A Day Without a Woman”
    Women nationwide will not be participating in work – at their jobs or in the home – to bring attention to the importance of women to the functioning of America. Learn more  here!
  • Saturday, April 15, 2017: “Trump Tax Day March”
    Americans across the country will be marching to let President Trump know that it’s not just reporters who care about his undisclosed tax returns – find your nearest rally here!

Resources & Organizations