Trump’s new asbestos rule will kill Americans to aid Russians

It has been widely accepted since Trump’s poorly attended inauguration that he epitomizes a despicably bad human being. A pair of related stories late last week confirmed that Trump is inherently greedy, has no regard for American lives, has utter contempt for the law and a glaring predilection to provide aid and comfort to foreign nations hostile towards America.

Any sane human being knows it was no coincidence that at about the same time Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced plans to relax prohibitions on using a globally known and almost universally banned carcinogen, asbestos, a Russian asbestos producer released images of Trump’s face on asbestos packaged for export.

First, the EPA announcement about allowing asbestos back in America attempted to portray the administration’s “concern” for American lives with some bovine excrement claim that new uses of asbestos “would require manufacturers and importers to receive EPA approval before starting or resuming manufacturing, and importing or processing of asbestos.

Despite EPA claims to the contrary, the new rule explicitly allows new uses for asbestos with the caveat that the EPA evaluate any new uses based on “risk evaluation, selected studies, and use the best available science.” However, the EPA evaluation process will not use “existing” science despite “the significant body of work around the inherent health risks associated with asbestos.” It is noteworthy that according to Russian asbestos producers, Trump and his former EPA chief Scott Pruitt have already deemed asbestos application “100 percent safe;” there will be no need for risk evaluations, selected studies, or any science.

The Russian asbestos producer, Uralasbest, is one of the world’s largest asbestos producers and included an image of Trump stamped on packaged asbestos with a caption: “Approved by Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States.” An English translation of the text accompanying the Trump image read:

Donald is on our side! … He supported the head of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, who stated that his agency would no longer deal with negative effects derived from products containing asbestos. Donald Trump supported a specialist and called asbestos ‘100% safe after application.’”

The prescient question that anyone with a pulse already knows the answer to is: if asbestos is safe, why is it banned in 55 developed and developing nations? The known carcinogen is still in use in Russia, Canada,  China, India and the United States. To be fair, sometime in the 1970s America  “had stopped” using asbestos in most buildings, and banned it from products like flooring felt and corrugated paper because it was too toxic to use around human beings. However, despite nearly 1 million Americans suing for asbestos-related diseases and deaths, Trump still claims the carcinogen is safe. So he directed his special interest running the EPA to do something he claims is “long overdue;” help asbestos make a comeback.

In one fell swoop Trump demonstrated again that he has no regard for established science or American lives, and that he will use Americans’ lives to repay his debt to Russia. By directing the EPA to pronounce asbestos “100 percent safe” for use in America, Trump confirmed to Russian asbestos producers that he is indeed “on their side.

Trump, an expert in peddling snake oil, treasonous acts, and pathological mendacity concluded as far back as 1997 that asbestos is perfectly safe and the rest of the developed world was wrong to ban its use. He also asserted that “the mob” was responsible for promoting fake news that gave a known carcinogen negative press and a bad reputation. Trump said in a book he could not possibly have written:

I believe that the movement against asbestos was led by the mob, because it was often mob-related companies that would do the asbestos removal. Great pressure was put on politicians, and as usual, the politicians relented. Millions of truckloads of this incredible material were taken to special ‘dump sites’ and asbestos was replaced by materials that were supposedly safe.”

Trump has also claimed several times that the only reason the two World Trade Center towers collapsed was because of the absence of asbestos. Chris Hayes provided a video clip of Trump defending the carcinogen in front of Congress in 2005. He was doing in 2005 what he has done regularly since Russia aided his ascendancy to the White House – parrot a claim by Fox News. Trump told Congress in 2005 what he heard on Fox News in 2001:

A lot of people [Fox News] say that if the World Trade Center had asbestos it wouldn’t have burned down, it wouldn’t have melted. O.K.? A lot of people in my industry think asbestos is the greatest fireproofing material ever made.”

Trump lied, of course. According to Asbestos.com:

Builders constructed the World Trade Center using  asbestos in the structure’s insulation, drywall, fireproofing materials and steel because of the mineral’s affordability. The 9/11 terrorist attacks released the deadly toxin in a dust cloud across Manhattan.”

What Trump failed to tell Congress, and the only reason he is an ardent champion of a known carcinogen he claims is safe, is that like “a lot of people in his [hotel] industry,” he is furious that he was required to remove asbestos from his buildings to save lives. Trump has vehemently opposed any rule or regulation created to protect people, and because asbestos removal is an expensive and hazardous process, Trump naturally opposed paying to remove it to protect human lives because it impacts his bottom line.

In the late 1990’s “Trump fought a bill by ex-mayor-turned-presidential-lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, requiring all residential buildings to be retrofitted with sprinklers;” Trump claimed at the time that it was too costly to protect people living in buildings his corrupt organization owns. Just a few months ago, a Trump Tower resident perishedbecause he lived in an upper floor residence where there were no working sprinklers. Trump has no regard for human life and relaxing America’s asbestos prohibitions as remuneration to his Russian facilitators will add to the 12,000 to 15,000 American deaths annually due to asbestos.

According to “The World Trade Center Health Registry,” about 410,000 people were exposed to toxic asbestos “during the rescue, recovery and clean-up efforts that followed 9/11.” As of two years ago at  the 15-year anniversary of the WTC’s collapses, the greatest concern among medical professionals was the certain increase of cases of asbestosis, lung cancer, cancer of the larynx and ovary, and a rare but aggressive cancer with no cure, mesothelioma. It is exactly what medical professionals expect after nearly  half-a-million people were exposed to over 400 tons of airborne asbestos long after the Towers collapsed.

There is no coincidence surrounding the EPA’s plan to help asbestos make a comeback and Russian asbestos producers stamping Trump’s image and approval on packaged asbestos likely slated for export to America. Obviously, the Russian asbestos company knew in advance that Trump’s EPA was going to help asbestos make a comeback and further the Trump administration’s goal of killing off Americans in the name of helping Russia. It is not exaggeration or hyperbole to claim Trump’s administration disregards American lives at the same rate Trump lies and disregards the law. In fact, a recent (2018) Harvard University analysis revealed that Trump’s EPA crusade to rollback and/or reverse environmental protections will, under the most conservative estimate, cost the lives of over 80 000 US residents per decade and lead to respiratory problems for many more than 1 million people.”

If any American is looking for one example to convince skeptics that Trump is greedy, a liar, supports Russia and has contempt for American lives, this one incident should serve to disabuse them of any doubts that Trump is a monster. In addition, it is noteworthy that “helping asbestos make a comeback,” like all of Trump’s assaults on the environment, will indiscriminately kill and injure American citizens regardless of their race, religion or economic station.

That is the problem with allowing a greedy, lying, inhumane and traitorous piece of work to occupy a place he has no right visiting, and why Trump’s legacy will feature his inclination to kill American citizens on American soil like homegrown terrorists Trump calls “fine people.” The primary difference between Trump and other  homegrown terrorists is that the latter are driven by religion, racial animus and an ideology founded on hate. The former is driven by greed and allegiance to a hostile foreign state that happens to be the major producer of the toxic mineral Trump wants to impose on the American people.

Alabama woman’s experience portends the American Taliban’s rise to power

It is unclear why Americans love war, or why some Americans particularly love wars against other Americans. Despite the horrors of the American Civil War, many of Trump’s acolytes yearn to wage war against other Americans opposed to Trump and his tyrannical style of ruling, but there is a particular bent among his religious right devotees to wage war against women. That is, after all, one of the primary reasons so-called Christians lovingly embraced a confessed sinner like Trump – he pledged to win the war against women by eliminating their constitutional right to self-determination regarding their reproductive health and so much more.

It is a sad state of affairs, but since Trump’s poorly attended inauguration the evangelical extremist cult’s rise to power has resulted in a wave of attacks against women and their constitutional rights.

Those assaults are borne of what the religious right regards as its constitutional religious freedom to put women in their biblical place – under control of religious men. It is also noteworthy that since Trump handed control over to evangelical extremists, his acolytes in the “family values” movement have felt emboldened to take matters into their own hands and forego Trump and Pence bestowing official government authority to control women.

Not too long ago an emboldened “family values” sycophant created a humiliating scene for two women who were legally breastfeeding their infants in public; because doing so offended what is becoming the “unofficial” modesty police.

Apparently, because Trump and Pence are dragging their feet in designating a Taliban-like religious agency to police women’s activities, the “family values” cult is preparing the population for the official modesty police. The breastfeeding “incident” in Minnesota a couple of weeks ago humiliated a breastfeeding mother because a “modest” family values woman was uncomfortable, but at least she was not forced to leave by management. It was not so “easy” for a woman in bible-thumping Alabama who dared wear shorts in oppressive 100 degree heat in the dead of summer.

The incident occurred in a Mobile shopping mall where security guards at The Shoppes at Bel Air are harassing women for wearing shorts. The shopper, Gabrielle Gibson, described on Facebook how she was “harassed” and “abused” by mall security serving as “modesty police” for the “family friendly” management. Ms. Gibson was “kicked out” of the mall because she was wearing shorts “prompting other women to come forward to share their personal stories of abuse and harassment by mall security guards doubling as family values police.”

Ms. Gibson explained that she was shopping when a security guard approached her after “looking at her a** cheeks” and told her she was being evicted for wearing shorts. Ms. Gibson’s “a** cheeks” were not exposed, but that is not the point. According to Ms. Gibson:

“I was literally harassed and kicked out of the Bell Air mall in Mobile, AL today because of what I’m wearing. Apparently grown men couldn’t contain themselves so I get kicked out. Security officer J. Mathis initiated that he was looking at my a** cheeks and it was a problem. Don’t look at my a** then; there’s a thought? As well. security officer Davis and head of security Jim Chavis were extremely rude and completely unprofessional about the situation.

They went as far as to threaten to call a police officer. From what I saw today everyone had short shorties on. I mean come on, its August and 100° outside. I don’t know why I was pinpointed. I’m just disgusted with the behavior of all these people.”

Of course, being residents of the evangelical cult’s second most religious state in America and one Hell-bent on exercising some evangelical religious freedom, the mall’s management denied ever doing anything wrong; they were simply freely exercising their religious freedom to enforce their Puritanical dress code. The Shoppes at Bel Air released a statement in support of a blatant attack on a woman exercising her constitutional right of self-determination regarding clothing. The mall management’s statement:

Given the high degree of importance we place on maintaining a family-friendly shopping environment, our policy requires all of our customers to dress in a manner that reflects our [religious] code of conduct. Anyone who violates this [religious] policy will be asked to change or to leave the premises.”

A perusal of the corporate ownership of the “mall” failed to turn up any known evangelical extremist involvement, so it is apparent, at least to this author, that enforcing a “family-friendly” dress code was under purview of the local bible-thumpers, not the corporate office in New York. Alabama is, after all, the second “most religious” state in the nation and also contains a vile religious freedom amendment that gives veritable impunity to “freely exercise” religion without interference of any state or federal law – such as anti-discrimination laws. It is likely why the mall’s modesty police threatened to summon the real police to officially enforce the family friendly “code of conduct.”

As it should have, the incident drew outrage from women whose only recourse is protesting what was a very public “slut shaming” to enforce some nasty Puritanical malcontent’s “code of conduct.”  A group of “concerned women” organized a protest as a response to Ms. Gibson’s horrible experience at being “slut-shamed”  by modesty police. The concerned ladies are calling their protest the “Bel Air Mall “Daisy Duke” SlutWalk.”

“Ok ladies – it’s time to bring out the booty shorts and crop tops (if you’re feeling it.) One gorgeous young woman was SHAMED and ASKED TO LEAVE because her shorts were “too short.” I have personally worn shorts shorter than what she wore and walked past security and police and no one said one word. It’s summertime. In South Alabama. It’s hot. WEAR WHAT YOU WANT. Don’t allow anyone to shame you for what you choose to wear. We’re banding together to support our sister in solidarity – women’s bodies are not shameful. We shouldn’t be forced to cover up because men can’t control themselves. Bring your ass (literally) and descend on Bel Air with us. Share with your friends! #SistersInSolidarity #StopShaming#WhatIWearDoesntEqualConsent

Now, although this ardent feminist author fully supports the “concerned” women rushing to defend Ms. Gibson and other women’s right to wear what they want, the choice of a name for the protest, “slut walk,” is curious. It plays directly into the narrative the religious right promotes ad nauseam; that women wearing shorts, short skirts, crop tops etc. are sluts.

For dog’s sake, feminists have been screaming about being “slut shamed” for years over how they dress, and sleazy defense attorneys have convinced juries for decades that raped women deserved what they got for “dressing like sluts.” Of course that is not the case, but the last thing women living in a misogynistic society need is other women donning “daisy Dukes” to participate in a slut walk. Women have a difficult enough time living in a burgeoning theocracy – giving the theocrats more ammunition is foolish and dangerous.

It is important to reiterate that this flagrant discrimination against women, and “slut-shaming,” although not unique, is on the rise due to Trump emboldening the faithful to use “religious liberty” to attack women.

It is worth mentioning that the modesty police are not confined to uber-religious states like Alabama. Some Americans may recall that about a year ago Speaker of the House Paul Ryan laid down some modesty rules against women who exposed their shoulders – sleeveless tops apparently violate the House’s Puritanical dress code. In July of last year a female reporter was attempting to do her job and enter the speaker’s lobby when she was told her dress wasn’t appropriate for entry. The offensive dress was of the sleeveless variety and just like in Puritanical America, a woman exposing her shoulders is “inappropriate.” It is also verboten for women to wear “sleeveless tops, sleeveless dresses, open-toed shoes or sneakers.

It is nearly impossible to believe that 21st Century American women are being subjected to Taliban-like abuse at the hands of religious extremists. And make no mistake, these assaults on women’s rights are solely the purview of religious extremists. Whether it is being evicted from a public place for their choice of attire, or being humiliated for choosing to breastfeed in a public place, or being restricted from using birth control because the religious right opposes women having “consequence free” sex, or daring to choose when to give birth; there is a war against women borne of religious zealotry. The religious right loves to demean Muslim adherents for following Sharia law, but they are on a crusade to impose their evangelical version of Sharia on American women under the banner of religious freedom. It would be considered a horrific situation in normal times, but now that the “American Taliban” have two champions running the Executive Department, America’s women are in deep trouble.

It is still a mystery why American men are sitting idly by watching passively as their mothers, girlfriends, wives, daughters, and sisters are subjected to maltreatment by what can only be defined as the American Taliban.  Today the evangelical modesty police are just evicting women from public places for not wearing family friendly attire, perhaps American men will wake up when women in their lives are stoned to death for wearing shorts, or baring their shoulders – it is what occurred under Taliban rule.

Image: Patheos

Trump theocrats claim abuses against women and LGBT people are Christian values

If Americans are the least bit doubtful that the Trump theocrats are on a White House-sanctioned global crusade to spread their savage version of Christianity, a recent announcement at the State Department should disabuse their reservations.

It is not a revelation that evangelical extremists yearn for an executive order from Trump asserting that punishing women for making their own reproductive choice is exercising “religious freedom,” and legal. It is also common knowledge among cognizant Americans that part and parcel of the religious right’s definition of “religious freedom” is brutalizing the LGBTQ community according to their “Christian values.” Now it is an official policy of the Trump administration intent on imposing the evangelical extremists’ style of “religious freedom” around the world; and any opposition to that imposition of “religious freedom” is officially “religious persecution.”

In yet another move legitimizing the evangelical rights’ bigotry and hatred, the Trump administration sent a clear signal that “Christian America” will no longer denounce countries that punish LGBT citizens or women for making their own reproductive health choices. In fact, going forward, nations that embrace religious-driven hatred leading to imprisonment and/or death of LGBTQ people, and abuse targeting women, will be rewarded by Christian America; because Christian-inspired hatred and bigotry exemplify “Christian values” according to Trump’s theocrats.

During an atrocity in a secular nation in Washington D.C., the “Christian Values” proclamation came during the State Department’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. The Trump theocrat honored to tell the world that Christian bigotry and hatred epitomize America’s Christian values was the director of Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney.

Mulvaney’s announcement entailed attacking the Obama Administration for threatening to withhold foreign aid to countries that punish women and members of the LGBTQ community. The evangelical right’s war on women and gays is now a global crusade sponsored by the Trump theocrats’ pushing a brutal version of religious freedom according to evangelical extremists.

Mulvaney said the theocrats in Trump’s administration will no longer encourage countries to abandon their draconian and deadly anti-LGBT and anti-women’s choice laws. Instead, Mulvaney “defended criminalizing and punishing homosexuality” as an American “religious freedom” issue, and that abusing and discriminating against women and gays embodies “Christian values.” According to Mulvaney and evangelical zealots, it is a disgrace that President Obama dared represent America as promoting women’s and LGBTQ rights.

As part of his remarks to the “State Department’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom,” Mulvaney said:

Our US taxpayer dollars are used to discourage Christian values in other countries. It was stunning to me that my government under a previous administration would say, ‘We know that you have a law against abortion, but if you enforce that law, you’re not going to get any of our money. We know you have a law against homosexuality, but if you enforce that law, we’re not going to give you any money.’

That is a type of religious persecution that I never expected to see.

I never expected to see that as an American Christian, that we would be doing that to other folks.

I am here to let you know there a lot of people in this government who want to see things done differently. They want to do something.”

What that means is that in the Trump theocracy denying women access to reproductive health care and criminalizing homosexuality indicates “Christian values;” while opposing discrimination against women and homophobia is “religious persecution.

As Zack Ford at ThinkProgress noted,  “Mulvaney’s implication that the Trump administration would turn a blind eye to anti-gay persecution around the world is consistent with actions it has already taken.”

As part of the “religious freedom” crusade promoting “Christian Values” globally, Trump already rejected a United Nations resolution condemning the use of the death penalty to target LGBTQ people. The Trump theocrats gave some lame excuse about not opposing the “proper” use of the death penalty, but it is noteworthy that Trump has mentioned that according to the head of domestic policy, Mike “preacher” Pence, “proper use” of the death penalty would be hanging all gays based on the Christian bible’s Old Testament rules.

It is also noteworthy that another Trump theocrat, Attorney General J. Beauregard Sessions proclaimed earlier this summer that America has ceased granting asylum to people who are victims of violence and abuse, and that America would be adding many new barriers to the asylum process. That includes new policies targeting LGBTQ people fleeing persecution to make it impossible for them to escape the brutal “Christian values” cult Trump’s theocrats are defending as part of their global “religious freedom” crusade.

It should be painfully obvious now that in America under Trump’s theocracy, “Christian Values” include criminalizing anything the evangelical extremist cult deems “ungodly.” And it is significant that the religious right supporting Trump’s theocrats are self-appointed authorities on what is “ungodly,” such as women’s reproductive rights and homosexuality. Further, anything resembling opposition to or non-compliance with those “Christian Values” is “religious persecution.” It is something that has been happening in America for a decade, at least, but it was never an official policy position until now.

Most Americans keeping abreast of the GOP’s crusade towards theocracy were already aware of what evangelical zealots considered “religious persecution,” but it has never been proclaimed publicly at the State Department by a high-ranking government official . However, it is now official and Americans should shudder at the revelation. It is a damn frightening prospect that anyone opposing the evangelicals’ brutal Christian values faces being accused of “religious persecution;” especially in an evangelical theocracy in the midst of an honest-to-dog religious crusade.

It is true that all Americans claiming Christianity do not embrace “Christian values” focusing on punishing homosexuality and criminalizing a woman’s right to self determination regarding her reproductive choices, but those “Christians” are not running the government. They are also not screaming in the streets that Trump and his theocrats do not represent Christian values. And why should they?

After all, they embrace the same Christian bible that the vicious evangelical extremist sect asserts gives them religious freedom to abuse women and gays – what they claim expresses their “Christian values.” And anyone opposing the imposition of “Christian values” is committing religious persecution. It is not a new policy by any means, but it is now the official position of America under Trump’s  theocracy and it began in earnest the day of Trump’s poorly attended inauguration.

Image: Patheos

DeVos gives for-profit schools a gift while punishing defrauded students

t is getting more difficult by the day to keep pace with the barrage of nasty policy “reforms” and attacks on domestic programs because of the never-ending distractions centering on the criminal in the White House. No doubt a few Americans overlooked another abominable action from Trump’s evangelical extremist running the Education Department that fairly epitomizes why Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary is an epic disaster. It also shines a glaring light on Trump’s greatest lie that his primary reason for running for office was to “drain the swamp” in Washington when in fact he began transforming the so-called “swamp” into a rotting special interest cesspool the day of his poorly attended inauguration.

Despite the best efforts of a real President, Barack Obama, to aid students defrauded by unscrupulous for-profit schools, Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos devised “new rules” to protect the for-profit private education industry that DeVos represents; the plight of the defrauded students was never a consideration despite they were fundamentally scammed out of a reported $13 billion.

The corporate-friendly plan eliminates regulations requiring for-profit colleges to prove that they provide a quality education that allows enrolled students to secure gainful employment. The plan is being criticized as “the most drastic in a series of moves that DeVos has made to free the for-profit sector from safeguards.”

The Obama-era regulations would have cut off federally guaranteed student loans to colleges if their graduates did not earn enough money to pay those loans off. The rule sent many for-profit colleges and universities into an economic tailspin because so many of their alumni were failing to find decent jobs due to fraudulent claims and inadequate education.

The DeVos-Trump private-school protection plan was hailed as a long-needed reform to “correct Obama-era” rules created to protect consumers. It is noteworthy that DeVos blocked the “Obama-era borrower rule”  from ever being implemented to protect her personal special interest – the for-profit private school industry. The action obviously garnered rave reviews from the for-profit education industry because it provides them with a field-tested means of defrauding students with veritable impunity.

Education activists, however, sharply criticized the action because it leaves defrauded students with $13 billion indebtedness with  little-to-no recourse or relief. At best, education advocates and defrauded students learned that in Trump’s America past corporate corruption and fraud is richly rewarded, and future corruption will be nearly impossible to prosecute – at least that is the case for industry that DeVos exists to enrich. It is worth noting that a government ethics report listed DeVos as invested in a “student debt collection agency” that does business with the Department of Education, but DeVos is only looking after the interests of the cheated students to hear her tell it.

DeVos said the proposal will assist for-profit private schools avoid trouble – by describing how best to avoid being caught or held accountable for cheating. She also lied and claimed the “new rules” actually protect any student who was economically devastated by deliberate deception. According to DeVos, her plan is really focused on protecting the significantly indebted students, but only if “they can prove the [private for-profit] schools deliberately misled them.” If DeVos’ past actions are any indication, students will have to  prove they were defrauded by a for-profit private school to a committee made up of for-profit private school officials.

Education Department documents that were alleged to support DeVos’ plan claimed that although students “really should be protected” from fraudulent private schools, it is really their fault they picked the wrong schools. The Department said:

Postsecondary students are adults who can be reasonably expected to make informed decisions;  if they have access to relevant and reliable data about program outcomes.”

That giant pile of bovine excrement statement fails to mention that one of the primary purposes of President Obama’s “borrower protection rule” was to pressure for-profit private schools to provide prospective students with something they resisted like plague – “access to relevant and reliable data about program outcomes.”

DeVos claimed the new proposal will save nearly $13 billion by reducing the amount of loan relief awarded to students who were defrauded to the tune of at least $13 billion by the people DeVos exists to enrich and protect. Under the new proposal, likely written by the for-profit school industry, private schools can now defend themselves against fraud claims and prevent damage to their reputations; all while preserving the billions in revenue from students who were defrauded. It also authorizes for-profit fraudulent schools to “force students into arbitration agreements as well as bar them from ever suing the schools that defrauded the students.” It is a practice that many for-profit colleges use regularly and “would have been banned” under President Obama’s rules that DeVos prevented being implemented.

While the private education industry cheered another means of cheating students, education advocates “blasted the proposal.” They rightly claimed DeVos’ plan “places [unscrupulous] private schools ahead of students while discouraging victims from ever pursuing financial relief.”

The director of the Project on Predatory Student Lending at Harvard University explained the real purpose of the Trump-DeVos gift to the for-profit education industry.  Toby Merrill said:

“It encourages abusive and predatory institutions to continue to rip off students with impunity, while slamming the door on the debt relief that Congress has instructed the department to provide to cheated students.”

A senior fellow at the Century Foundation and a former Education Department official, Bob Shireman said:

The proposal is perhaps the most damaging action Betsy DeVos has taken since assuming office. These changes would effectively strip students of their right to recourse if a college or university misled them, making it next to impossible for defrauded students to get the relief they are entitled to.”

The for-profit school industry and their Republican facilitators hailed the corporate-friendly changes as a “great improvement for the for-profit college industry.” The president and chief executive of the trade group, Career Education Colleges and Universities, said the old rules allowing fraud claims to reach fruition were not only unfair, they were very detrimental to for-profit private schools, even though they were never implemented. Steve Gunderson said:

The department has undertaken a thoughtful and deliberate approach to this rule, and we applaud their hard work on this important matter.”

It is unclear how much Mr. Gunderson’s “private school trade group”  was involved in devising the rules to benefit the industry, but it was likely substantial. DeVos does not make any education move without consulting, and then enacting the demands of special interests .

DeVos belied the publicly-stated motivation behind what is her gift to the for-profit education industry she helped create and now represents. She told an assembly of her close business associates in the private school industry: “Our commitment and our focus has been and remains on protecting students from fraud.”

Of course the private education leaders applauded DeVos’ new policy because they perfectly understand that DeVos’ commitment and focus “has been and remains” protecting charlatans in the private education industry. If that was not the case, she would not be making it virtually impossible for defrauded students to ever get relief, much less restitution. It is the only reason she made suspending President Obama’s  2016 “borrower defense rules”  one of the first acts as the most “unqualified Education Department head” in history.

As a reminder, President Obama’s action followed the total collapse of two for-profit schools, Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute to give defrauded and indebted students a possible means of “relief” after suffering far too many for profit private schools’ obvious breach of contract.

It is almost certain that the average American is repulsed at the thought of being scammed, or defrauded, out of any amount of dollars – especially if they had to borrow those dollars with the hope of  improving their future. Trump is firmly behind this act because his so-called “Trump University” epitomized what at least 100,000-plus defrauded students experienced and now have the Herculean task of waiting until 2019 to attempt to “prove the schools deliberately misled them.”  The new rules will not go into effect until 2019, and because DeVos canceled President Obama’s “borrower defense rule” before it was implemented, defrauded students have no recourse.

Although this Trump-DeVos atrocity is not nearly as exciting as the myriad other troubles currently plaguing the criminal in the Oval, it should enrage the population whether they support education or not. It is yet another monumental monetary gift to special interests and that is ire-inspiring in-and-of-itself. But the real outrage is yet another Trump administration “reform” devised to allow special interests to inflict harm on consumers with the full protection of a corrupt federal government that is run by special interests and theocrats.

Trump’s love of tyrants hits “religious freedom” limit

Anyone keeping track of the world leaders Donald Trump has lovingly embraced surely noticed one overriding characteristic and defining trait, they are predominately authoritarian dictators. In addition, the tyrants Trump is enamored with have human rights abuses on their records that seemingly make them more appealing to Trump for the obvious reason that his dream is imposing harsh punishment on the people he regards as enemies.

There is little doubt, at least to this author, that if he believed he could get away with it, Trump would parrot the actions of tyrants such as Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, North Korea’s Kim Jung un, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and of course the tyrant he is most enamored with Vlad Putin. It is beyond doubt that one particular reason Trump is enamored with the aforementioned tyrants is the regularity of their human rights violations, particularly against dissenters.

During the 2016 presidential campaign Trump told supporters at a rally that he’d like to punch a protester in the face, and that he lusted for the “good ole’ days” when protesters could be  carried out on a stretcher.” During one rally he appallingly urged his supporters to “stand ready to knock the crap out of hecklers;” something he would instruct law enforcement to do if he had the same dictatorial authority his favorite tyrants enjoy. Instead, he offered to pay the legal fees of supporters arrested for assaulting peaceful protestors.

One of the tyrants Trump admires, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, must have held a special place in Trump’s black heart because after the terrible Turk  observed his security detail “brutally assault” American protestors in America’s capital, Trump’s silence was tacit approval. His silence also reinforced what many Americans already believed about Trump; an overwhelming desire to allow his vile supporters to “brutally assault”  anti-Trump protestors. It is certainly why he fairly praised white supremacists as “very fine people” after they attacked peaceful protestors in Charlottesville Virginia killing one woman for protesting against Trump’s fascist acolytes.

Trump has been silent about all of his favorite dictators’ record of human rights abuses since his poorly attended inauguration leaving many Americans to wonder what kind of atrocity would inspire Trump to condemn his authoritarian heroes. This week Americans learned there is a limit to Trump’s pleasure in human rights abuses at the hands of tyrants, but that limit was set by his extremist evangelical supporters and the aspiring preacher-in-chief Mike Pence – not any sense of common decency or regard for human rights.

It is telling that Trump condoned Turkish President Erdogan’s security detail viciously assaulting peaceful American protestors on American soil, but he is reportedly incensed at Erdogan for detaining an American evangelical preacher accused of causing dissent. This week, Trump threatened to “impose large sanctions” on Turkey over the detention of evangelical preacher Andrew Brunson. Trump’s threat was on the same day as  Mike “preacher”  Pence’s warning during a “religious freedom” summit. To keep pace with the “religious freedom” crusade to pressure an ally,  the Senate Foreign Relations committee passed legislation that would use America’s influence on the World Bank to withhold financial assistance to Turkey – for as long as the evangelical preacher is being detained.

Of course Turkey’s foreign minister responded to the threats in the same way America responds to threats from religious extremists:

No one dictates Turkey. We will never tolerate threats from anybody. Rule of law is for everyone; no exception.”

The particulars of why preacher Brunson is being held under house arrest are, for the purpose of this screed, primarily irrelevant. Harsh treatment, whether it is being imprisoned or summarily slaughtered, in Turkey has not incurred any untoward comments, much less threats, from the Trump theocrats. But there is a new “international religious freedom” campaign underway and it was during one such confab led by Pence that a tyrant is being reproached by America’s theocrats – over the treatment of one “man of the evangelical faith.”

What is noteworthy is that the Muslim-majority nation charged Brunson with “dividing and separating the majority-Muslim country by spreading his Christian faith.” That is the reason preacher Pence called on “believers across America to pray for Brunson” while warning the sovereign Muslim nation:

That if it does not take immediate action to free this innocent man of faith the United States will impose significant sanctions on Turkey – until pastor Andrew Brunson is free. To President Erdogan I have a message on behalf of the president of the United States of America: Release Pastor Andrew Brunson now or be prepared to face the consequences.”

Trump is no more interested in a tyrant’s aggression toward people in his nation than he is fulfilling the pledge he made to uphold and support the U.S. Constitution during his poorly attended inauguration. If that were the case he would be dispensing threats of “significant sanctions” on all manner of nations including his heroes Kim Jung un, Vlad Putin and Rodrigo Duterte et al for committing real human rights abuses, not just “detaining” an evangelical “man of faith.”

In fact, Trump and Pence had a prime opportunity to deliver threats and warnings against Egypt just recently for sentencing 75 people to death for participating in a “sit-in” in 2013. Just like when Turkey’s president watched his security detail brutally assault American protestors on American soil, Trump and Pence have been silent over a tyrannical nation imposing the death sentence for protesting; because the protestors are Muslims.

This absurd round of threats against a sovereign nation for imposing its own laws is a very bad sign that the Trump administration’s “international religious freedom” crusade has nothing to do with promoting religious freedom internationally. Frankly, it is nearly impossible to have any empathy for an American evangelical preacher who relocates to a majority-Muslim nation to “convert” Muslims to Christianity. For dog’s sake, the evangelicals  championing “religious freedom” in America do not comport Muslim adherents whatsoever, much less if they came from foreign nations to proselytize Christians and convert them to Islam.

It is worth noting that as an American of Armenian descent, this author has little-to-no regard for Turkey or its tyrannical leader – no matter if the country is an American ally. However, Turkey is a sovereign nation and if according to its laws the evangelical preacher violated some statute against using his religion to divide the country, then it is the evangelical’s problem regardless of his nationality. He may enjoy “religious freedom” to ignore and violate the law and U.S. Constitution with impunity in America, but he is not in America. Moreover, regardless of how one views a nation guilty of exterminating 1.2 million Armenians, at least in Turkey “the rule of law is for everyone; no exception.”  If only that were the case in America that was founded on the “rule of law,” it is highly likely the threat of “religious freedom” to impose a theocracy would not exist.

Image: AP Photo/ Evan Vucci

Michigan residents warned to stop drinking poisoned water

One of Trump’s first executive orders after his very poorly attended inauguration was allowing coal companies to dump toxic waste into water sources. Shortly thereafter, the cretin directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to replace the Clean Water act with a decade-old idea proffered by deceased Antonin Scalia based on his conservative opinion; not on “hydrology, biology, chemistry, or environmental concerns.”

Suffice it to say, with Republicans in charge of the government and a majority of the states, the concept of “Clean Water” is now almost exclusively the purview of special interests with no interest in protecting water for human consumption.

It should be no great shock, then, that two Michigan communities had such “dangerously high levels of industrial chemicals” in their drinking water that it prompted officials to issue an emergency alert warning citizens to stop using the water.  The residents of Parchment and Cooper Townships were warned late Thursday:

To immediately stop using their water for drinking, cooking, making baby formula and food, or rinsing fruits and vegetables … and cautioned that boiling it would not remove PFAS, nor would filters.” Officials also called on “residents using the City of Parchment’s water supply, which includes Cooper Township, to help spread this message to your neighbors.”

The two municipalities in Kalamazoo County began receiving bottled water Friday morning because:

High amounts of per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, were detected by the [Michigan]  Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). The state agency tests yielded 1,410 parts per trillion in the drinking water supply.”

The level of PFAS was a whopping 20 times higher than the “lifetime health advisory” according to the EPA, although a recent study by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and the EPA revealed “that the health advisory should be set far lower.

According to the Detroit News, the toxic water is so dangerous that the State Emergency Operations Center was activated putting police, the Department of Environmental Quality, Health and Human Services, and the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team on alert. At least in this latest toxic event, and unlike the disaster in Flint, Michigan officials are not denying the danger or waiting to provide clean water to the affected citizens; it is a midterm election year after all.

Gov. Rick Snyder (R) did not claim ignorance of the problem like he did during the still ongoing  Flint water system crisis. Snyder said in a statement that the health of residents would be prioritized in addition to ensuring their access to drinking water.

Our next step is to work as a team to address the source of this contamination and restore the municipal water system.”

House Representative Fred Upton (R-MI) represents the area and posted his reaction to the news of more poisoned water on Facebook. He said “he would be meeting with state and local officials to mount a response and called on the Trump administration to crack down on PFAS. [The} immediate need is to get to the bottom of this and ensure folks have safe drinking water in the meantime.”

City officials claimed they were not sure how the man-made chemicals entered the water sources, although they do know, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), that PFAS is found in non-stick cookware, water-repellent clothing, stain resistant fabrics and carpets, some cosmetics, some firefighting foams, and products that resist grease, water, and oil. PFAS is nothing to ignore as it can lead to severe health problems because it affects the human immune system leading to an increased risk of cancer and liver disease, “among other health hazards.”

This is not the only instance of PFAS contamination and it is not restricted to Michigan. Just this week New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued human consumption limits for fish found in a dozen bodies of water over PFAS concerns. Other states, including Alabama, Minnesota, and Wisconsin have either drawn up drafts or were proactive and actually finalized new limits on the amount of PFAS their citizens can safely ingest. In Pennsylvania, another state struggling to overcome “severe PFAS contamination,” lawmakers and community leaders are begging the EPA to issue new PFAS health standards; but they are not calling on anyone to  ban the dangerous toxin or severely punish industry caught releasing it into water sources.

With Trump’s special interest puppet running the EPA, it is highly unlikely there will be any real action to restrict the chemical’s release into Americans’ water sources. The Republicans in charge of the EPA and CDC, and even Trump,  may offer lip service during a midterm election year, but it is doubtful there will be any real action. Remember, Trump follows the Koch-Heritage-GOP script carefully and claims that the environmental and health regulations regarding industry poisoning drinking water are killing jobs –  it is the reason he has given with every new executive order eliminating different aspects of the Clean Water Act and rollback of environmental protections.

The only good news is that Michigan officials were actually running periodic tests on the affected water sources and alerted the public to stop using their water. It is not clear how long the PFAS levels have been 20 times higher than is considered safe over a lifetime, but at that rate it is difficult to imagine there will not be serious health ramifications in the future due to even limited exposure.

Since this issue is widespread and has been ongoing, it is likely all the attention now is due to the looming midterm elections. Based on the Republican support for Trump’s assault on the Clean Water Act and coupled with attacks on regulations restricting industry pouring toxic waste into water supplies, the sense of urgency by some Michigan officials seems insincere at best. Particularly when officials are asking the people impacted by poisoned water to do the job state and federal agencies exist to do; warn the people to stop using poisoned water.

Image: Danny Miller – AP

Trump will have blood on his hands by eliminating California’s emissions waiver

It is no secret that Republicans despise California because the majority of its people hold beliefs contrary to everything conservatives love. It is particularly true that Trump hates California whether it is because the state’s economy is humming along after the people voted to raise taxes, or because the majority of the people recognize that Trump is a worthless charlatan, or because the people love and desire clean air and water enough to support environmental regulations.

There is not much Trump can do about the majority of Californians detesting him on general principles, something he knew before his poorly attended inauguration. But he and Republicans have punished the people for raising taxes by eliminating their ability to deduct them on their federal income tax returns.

Now Trump is preparing to punish Californians’ health and welfare, and their economic lives,  by revoking the Golden State’s authority to set its own vehicle emission and fuel efficiency standards; actions that would provide no benefits whatsoever for the people. It is just one reason why the majority of Californians abhor Trump.

There are a couple of reasons Trump is punishing Californians this time; likely one reason is to repay the oil industry for its electoral support. The oil industry does oppose environmental regulations nearly as much as they hate the idea of higher fuel efficiency standards. There is also the issue of California refusing to force its law enforcement agencies to become de facto ICE and Border Patrol agents. Trump’s obsession with eliminating anything beneficial to the American people that occurred during a real President, Barack Obama’s tenure in the White House is also a contributing factor in his decision to inflict serious harm on Californians.

The rumors thus far are that Trump is going use the EPA to bring a screeching halt California’s ability to set its own fuel efficiency standards, and put the brakes on the state’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles in place under the Clean Air Act (CLA). In 2009, California earned a waiver under the CLA allowing it to set emissions standards for cars and trucks that exceed those of the federal government. States’ rights Republicans opposed the waiver because the Koch brothers oppose the concept of emissions standards as a matter of course.

The idea of putting a halt to higher fuel efficiency standards will impact more than just Californians because Trump, like the oil industry, wants all Americans to buy more fuel; Trump’s assault on fuel efficiency will be a nationwide affair. Although the economic injury of paying more for transportation is not necessarily life threatening, but ending California’s ability to set higher car and truck emission standards is.

According to the World Health Organization, California’s San Joaquin valley, a region known as “America’s salad bowl,” has the worst air pollution in the entirety of the United States. That pollution in and around fertile farmland providing much of the country’s, and the world’s, fruits, nuts and vegetables is also the cause of higher rates of cancer, asthma, and several hundred premature deaths every year.

The World Health Organization also reported that in 2012 alone, “premature deaths from air pollution” was responsible for over 7 million deaths worldwide. The number of premature deaths in the San Joaquin portion of the “Great Central Valley” number several hundred every year and that is in spite of what Republicans claim are devastating air quality regulations that include vehicle emission standards. Those mortality numbers will only increase with Trump’s deregulatory crusade, but those deaths and health issues mean nothing to Trump, Republicans, and the oil industry.

Anyone who has spent any time in the San Joaquin valley can attest to the effects of pollution caused primarily from oil drilling, traffic and farming; most recently car and truck tailpipe emissions have been identified as the leading cause of pollution with oil drilling overtaking the damage from agricultural chemical pollutants.

It is true that California has a robust air quality resources agency, but “regional” air pollution control districts in “the valley” districts represented by Republicans Devin Nunes, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and special interest puppet Jeff Denham play according to special interest rules.

Those Republican-dominated regional “air quality representatives” pander to businesses vehemently opposed to clean air and water regulations. This author can attest that those local air quality representatives lie like Trump by asserting that state and federal environmental protections are “highly destructive” and are killing off “family” businesses responsible for pollution.

For example, during an editorial board meeting a few years ago at a McClatchy newspaper serving the San Joaquin Valley, the Republican from the local air resources board complained bitterly that California emission standards were destroying too many “family businesses” up and down the valley; particularly the southern part of the valley. After a brief but heated exchange with this author, the air quality representative conceded that the “family businesses” were really oil drilling and refining operations run by some of the nation’s largest oil companies. As an aside, the Koch brothers contribute more to Republican candidates for state offices, including local air quality boards, in California than any other state. The Kochs are also responsible for all manner of “ballot initiatives” seeking to eliminate the Golden State’s environmental protections.

As the director of Sierra Club California, Kathryn Phillips, rightly noted: “They are conspiring to change the [air quality] standards so things don’t look as dirty as they are.”

The only glimmer of hope Californians have to cling to is, according to Dan Sperling of the California Air Resources Board, “We have the law on our side, as well as the people of the country and the people of the world.”

An attorney for Earthjustice, Paul Cort, concurred with Mr. Sperling:

California has done the math, and it’s concluded that the only way to meet both its greenhouse gas goals and its ozone targets is to move away from fossil fuel-based transportation. The law is very clear about California’s authority to set these standards, and for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to try to narrow it now means they have an uphill battle.”

Whether Trump likes it or not, Californians are like most Americans who want vehicles with higher fuel efficiency as much as they want clean air. The latter is an honest-to-dog existential issue and the former is economic. The only people in America that lust for lower fuel efficiency vehicles are the Koch brothers and their dirty oil industry cohorts. They are also the primary drivers of the conservative anti-environmental movement condoning higher cancer rates, respiratory problems, birth defects, and premature deaths if it increases their profits. Of course Trump is as inhumane as the Koch brothers and he hates California, but this atrocity is as much about reversing another good thing President Obama provided the people as it is Trump’s flagrant disregard for human life.

There is little doubt that Trump will publicly revel in aiding the fossil fuel industry with what is being touted as a major deregulatory action, with the value-added treat of punishing Californians. The real question is whether he will celebrate publicly that his obsession with eliminating President Barack Obama’s life- and environment-saving actions means he will have California residents’ blood on his hands.

 

Real GOP outrage at Trump’s ‘Soviet type’ $12 billion bailout for farmers

Anyone who has ever performed even a cursory look at how Trump ran his “business empire” should be well aware that he regularly used other people’s money to cover his failures. That is, after all, the reason Trump filed bankruptcy six times; to force contractors, material suppliers, employees and financial institutions to absorb the costs of his ineptitude and corruption. Now, the American people will absorb the monetary damage of Trump’s incompetence on international trade to the tune of $12 billion. If the people were not already outraged over the never-ending Trump atrocities, this latest expense should inspire their ire and drive them insane with rage.

After Trump’s Agriculture Department announced the oaf in the Oval’s plan to “bail out” farmers hurt by Trump’s trade war tariffs that primarily affect the agricultural industry, many Republicans in Congress from farm country were driven to rage.

For example, Trump supporter Joni Ernst, Republican senator from Iowa, said that international trade supports 456,000 jobs in her state alone. Ms. Ernst added:

These new tariffs are threatening $977 million in state exports.  Those are real people — Iowans — who are waiting for terms to be negotiated, for new deals to be finalized.”

A regular Trump critic, an anomaly in Washington politics, Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) issued a statement saying:

This trade war is cutting the legs out from under farmers and the White House’s ‘plan’ is to spend $12 billion on gold crutches. . . .America’s farmers don’t want to be paid to lose — they want to win by feeding the world. This administration’s tariffs and bailouts aren’t going to make America great again, they’re just going to make it 1929 again.”

After Trump gave a speech in Kansas City Missouri claiming that the economic and trade experts were wrong, and that his damaging tariffs were benefitting America’s farmers, one of Trump’s supporters, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said:

The president’s Trump is going to have to say more than ‘I like the farmers and I support the farmers.’”

Retiring Tennessee Republican, Senator Bob Corker, spoke plainly in condemning what he labeled “Trump’s incoherent trade policy offering welfare to farmers to solve a problem he created.” As Mr. Corker rightly noted, the “overall problem is Trump’s trade policies that go against free-market principles.”  Mr. Corker continued:

“You have a terrible policy that sends farmers to the poorhouse, and then you put them on welfare, and we borrow the money from other countries. It’s hard to believe there isn’t an outright revolt right now in Congress over what is happening.”

Another Republican senator, Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson, compared Trump’s bailout plan to cover his ineptitude to the former Soviet Union, labeling it “downright un-American.” Mr. Johnson said:

“This is becoming more and more like a Soviet type of economy here. Commissars deciding who should be granted waivers. Commissars in the administration trying to figure out how they’re going to sprinkle around benefits.”

An agricultural trade group leader who obviously understands the dangers of Trump’s trade war stated the obvious; “American farmers need contracts, not taxpayer funded welfare, for stability and to keep their livelihoods in place.” Brian Kuehl is the executive director of a trade group, Farmers for Free Trade, who said regarding Trump’s welfare for farmers:

“The best relief for the president’s trade war would be ending the trade war. This proposed action would only be a short-term attempt at masking the long-term damage caused by tariffs.”

It is noteworthy that there is indeed going to be long-term damage even if Trump should rescind the tariffs; because America’s once loyal trading partners are swiftly moving forward with a rash of new “free trade” agreements with nations opposed to isolationism. Trump’s bovine excrement lie that the taxpayer funded cover for his trade malfeasance is necessary to protect the farmers until he can negotiate new trade deals is typical Trump stupidity.

For dog’s sake, no nation in their right mind will negotiate with Trump because everyone knows he cannot be trusted, and they have already moved on to better trade deals. They have no reason to deal, or negotiate trade deals, with America when they have made remarkable “free trade” agreements with nations that are not opposed to globalization or afraid of Trump’s America.

It should be no surprise that despite the immediate negative reaction from members of his own party, Trump is not only undeterred, he intends to expand the trade war with utmost haste. Many pundits have opined that Trump’s intent to spend $12 billion of taxpayer funds to cover the damage from his tariffs is proof he is Hell-bent on expanding the trade war. In fact, after being criticized mercilessly by his own party for implementing an “incoherent trade policy” and creating “a Soviet-type” economy to cover his idiocy, Trump “tweeted” that his “Tariffs are the greatest!

This issue, like everything connected to the criminal in the Oval Office, should inspire ire and outrage among the population for myriad reasons. The people Trump is going to provide welfare to assuage the economic damage he created are among his most ardent and bigoted supporters. That includes the Senate Republicans from agriculturally rich states now railing against the policies Trump pledged to enact at every campaign rally throughout the 2016 presidential campaign.

No decent American wants to celebrate the economic damage Trump is wreaking on his supporters in the agriculture sector, but it is difficult to have an iota of compassion for their plight. Because despite the deliberate pain Trump is causing their families and livelihoods, they still support him and his make America white and Christian agenda.

However, the aspect of this latest abomination that is the most infuriating is that Trump is going to use $12 billion of taxpayer money for injuries he unilaterally inflicted on his base. In addition, it is a slap in the face of every American that Trump bemoans spending “money we don’t have” on healthcare, food, education, and housing for the poor, but is quick to drop $12 billion of other people’s money to cover his incompetence and idiotic trade war. Throughout his alleged “illustrious” business career, Trump has used material suppliers’, contractors’ and financial institutions’ money to cover his greed and incompetence. It should not be surprising he is using American taxpayers’ money to cover the damage from his “incoherent trade policy” and “Soviet style economic agenda.”

As retiring Republican Senator Bob Corker said, “It’s hard to believe there isn’t an outright revolt right now in Congress over what is happening.” It is also hard to believe there isn’t an outright revolt among the general population, because they are the ones who will suffer most from Trump’s trade war and now they have to pay for Trump’s incompetence.

Although Trump has provided a thousand reasons to be enraged over the past two years, the idea that he is blatantly using Americans’ tax dollars to pay for his idiocy, no matter who gets the money, may be the proverbial straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. At some point, even Republicans in Congress have to comprehend that like some of their colleagues, Americans will only stay silent and passive for so long, especially with midterm elections looming large.

Americans may continue tolerating Trump’s treasonous affair with Vlad Putin and Russia’s oligarchs; and they may even overlook Trump and his family personally profiting from living in the White House. But it is difficult to fathom very many Americans’ overlooking having to pay $12 billion to cover Trump’s personal incompetence and outrageous tariffs – especially when they understand that Russian President Vladimir Putin likes Trump’s tariffs on America’s trading partners.

Image: Reuters

Japan and the E.U. hit back at Trump with major free trade agreement

In Trump’s insignificant little mind he is a master of “the deal,” but his alleged prowess in “dealing” with America’s international trading partners is proving to be a significant detriment to nearly every industry in the United States. That fact was manifest in grand fashion when as expected, Japan and the European Union signed a major trade agreement that is as much a slap in Trump’s bloated orange face as it is going to be an economic benefit to the nations involved – nations that will not include the United States.

President Barack Obama, and this nation’s leading economists, manufacturing industries and corporate leaders, were avid supporters of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) because it allowed America to dictate its own economic destiny. The concept of America ever being able to dictate, or control, its own economic destiny died the day of Trump’s poorly attended inauguration. That is the day when reality sunk in that a know-nothing television celebrity intended to “make America great” by abandoning hard-fought trade agreements negotiated solely to benefit American industries. That reality prompted America’s trading partners to begin seeking new trade agreements without the isolationist-minded United States’ involvement; the Japan and the European Union agreement is a result of Trump’s plan to make America great by isolating it from the rest of the world.

The agreement signed last week is the culmination of negotiations that began exactly one year ago during the so-called G20 economic summit in Hamburg Germany. Those negotiations were a direct result of Trump unilaterally withdrawing America from the TTP and coupled with his campaign pledge to force Canada and Mexico to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

It is noteworthy that just the threat of America reneging on its NAFTA agreement prompted Mexico to initiate its so-called “Plan B” and begin negotiations with other nations eager to supplant America’s powerful agriculture sector. Those negotiations have yielded agreements that benefit Mexico and several other nations at the expense of America’s agriculture sector; the new EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) deals an additional blow to American farmers.

The new EPA drastically reducesmost bilateral tariffs including high Japanese duties on EU products and EU tariffs on Japanese automobiles.” The European Commission projects that the EPA will eliminate roughly $1.2 billion in tariffs for EU exporters and “double the amount for Japanese companies.” Because of Trump, American exporters will be at a major trade disadvantage because they are now “isolated” from the “free-trade zone” the countries making up around 30 percent of the world’s GDP now enjoy. As noted by Bob Bryan writing for Business Insider, “The EPA is the just the latest in a series of liberalizing agreements that have been initiated or formalized by major economic powers around the world;” all while Trump is isolating America and antagonizing the country’s allies and trading partners as a matter of course.

That isolationism and protectionism Trump champions is also one of the reasons the EPA was signed in a very public way. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and European Council President Donald Tusk were forthright in telling the rest of the civilized world why they acted decisively without American participation. Mr. Tusk said:

This is an act of enormous strategic importance for the rules-based international order, at a time when some are questioning this order. We are sending a clear message that we stand together against protectionism.”

Prime Minister Abe also leveled some criticism Trump’s way and rightly asserted that Japan and the EU were taking the lead in international trade that America once enjoyed. Mr. Abe said:

“While protectionism is spreading in the world, Japan and the European Union will take the lead as flag bearers for free trade.”

It bears repeating, ad nauseam, that America is being left out of more and more free trade deals due to Trump. While the imbecile in the White House consults his own moronic mind on international trade, the world’s other “major economic powers” have been negotiating similar deals to the EPA over the past year or so.  It is true that some of the deals were in the works prior to Trump, but the loss of America’s leadership prompted the rest of the world to expedite their commitment to free trade and eliminate the barriers like those Trump is erecting on America’s trading partners.

This EPA deal is not the EU’s only foray into international trade as the new world leader. The EU is in the process of ratifying “a landmark agreement with Canada” and “pursuing deals with Mexico, Australia, and the so-called “Mercosur;” a trading bloc made up of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. The EU is also in talks with China that recently “lowered tariffs on products including vehicles and launched talks with the EU to build a stronger trade relationship;” all while Trump is doing everything in his power to decimate America’s trade relationships with ill-advised unilateral tariffs.

In fact, last Monday, China and the European Union economic leaders issued a rare joint statement reiterating their dedication “to resisting protectionism and unilateralism, and making globalization more open, balanced, inclusive, and beneficial to all;” except for America with its isolationist malcontent incapable of comprehending the benefits of participating in, much less leading, a global economy.

It is unclear how much damage to America Republicans and their corporate funders are going to allow Trump to single-handedly inflict on the nation’s economy before they say enough. He has created a disaster for the agriculture industry with idiotic immigration policies, tariffs, withdrawing from the TTP and just threatening to balk on America’s commitment to NAFTA. And the downstream damage to American manufacturers due to tariffs on steel and aluminum is going to be significantly devastating. All the while, Trump’s supporters who are the first casualties of his isolationism maintain their undying support for him. It is almost certain they will continue their support even as they lose their livelihoods and suffer higher prices due to Trump’s tariffs.

It is a travesty that although America is a powerful economic force, it ceded its global leadership to other nations like Japan, Canada, China, and the European Union simply because Trump fails to recognize the benefits of globalization and the value of free trade. The bigger travesty is that Trump’s supporters, those who are already feeling the effects of his isolationist and protectionist policies, will continue supporting him for two overriding reasons unrelated to international trade; he pledge to make America white and Christian.

Image: South China Morning Post

Putin and Trump coordinate their attacks against dissenters in America

Despite the alleged mystery surrounding exactly what Trump discussed and agreed on with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin during their secretive confab in Helsinki, there is one agreement the two authoritarians probably discussed at length. How to best combat and demean Americans who criticize Trump for siding with Russia against the interests of the United States, its intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and American democracy.

As Mark Sumner opined on Saturday, there was an abundance of distractions over the past week to keep the Trump-Russia assault on American institutions out of the headlines at the nation’s peril. It likely contributed to many Americans missing the report in Reuters that Trump’s love-interest Putin followed Trump’s lead and accused “powerful forces” in the United States of trying to undermine “the glaring success” of Trump’s private sit-down with Putin. It is an accusation shared by Kentucky senator and spurious “eye doctor” Rand Paul, although it is highly unlikely that Paul was informed about the “secret agreements” between the two leaders.

Putin shared his disgust with “powerful forces in the United States” with Russian diplomats from around the world during a meeting in Moscow on Thursday past.  Putin contends that the only reason those “forces” are being mean to, and critical of Trump is because of the success of the private Helsinki talks.  Putin, like Trump, said that the secretive meeting between the two leaders vastly improved relations between Russia and America, including boasting that the private meeting yielded many “useful agreements” that no one in America except Trump is privy to.

However, because Putin is using the same talking points as Trump regarding the opposition from Republicans and Democrats over an American giving aid and comfort to a hostile foreign adversary, it appears that one of those “useful agreements” was coordinating the attacks on Americans opposed to what sane human beings consider treason.

Putin agreed with Trump, or Trump agreed with Putin, that “some people” in America hate the fact that the two authoritarians share an ideology that is contrary to America’s interests. According to Putin, and in total agreement with Trump:

There are powerful forces in the U.S. trying to sabotage everything the private talks achieved. We see that there are forces in the United States that are prepared to sacrifice Russian-U.S. relations for their ambitions in an internal political battle in the United States. Those U.S. politicians who put their ‘narrow party interests’ above the best interests of the United States are powerful enough to foist their questionable stories on millions of Americans.”

Obviously, “questionable stories” is Putin’s way of saying “fake news;” likely one of the “secret agreements” he made with Trump so as not to make their criticisms appear too closely coordinated.

Putin did not identify any of the Republicans or Democrats who are appalled that the White House occupant demeaned America, its intelligence agencies, the United States Congress, and the media for acknowledging Russia’s attack on democracy during the 2016 election. However, Rand Paul had no qualms calling out, by name, a few of the Republicans who criticized Trump for siding with Putin against the United States; an action that earned the Kentucky senator a rousing “thank you” from dirty Donald Trump. He does appreciate anyone, whether another Republican or foreign adversary, who assails his critics ensconced in the Republican movement.

According to Paul, the only reason members of his own party are criticizing Trump’s treasonous actions after Russia attacked America’s democracy is because they “just don’t like President Trump.” He said:

Republicans that are making the criticism are either the pro-war Republicans like McCain and Graham or the anti-Trump ones like Sasse … They are motivated by their persistent and consistent dislike of the president Trump.”

Trump was beside himself with joy after Putin, and then a poor excuse for an American, defended him for taking sides with Russia against the interests of the United States. He took to his favorite means of communication, Twitter, to “tweet” some serious praise and gratitude Rand Paul’s way for supporting his embrace of an aggressive enemy of America. And yes, Putin is an enemy – no friend or American ally launches an attack on our democracy. Especially when the attacks are still ongoing. Trump tweeted:

Thank you @RandPaul, you really get it! The President Trump has gone through a year and a half of totally partisan investigations – what’s he supposed think?”

It is noteworthy that all of the investigations into Trump, from his poorly attended inauguration to today have been at the hands of Republicans in control of Congress as well as the intelligence and law enforcement community. In addition, the judges authorizing search warrants against Trump’s henchmen were appointed by Republican presidents; including the warrants served on Michael Cohen and Carter Page. If there is anything one-sided about the myriad investigations into Trump and his criminal conspirators, it is founded on prejudice favoring America over Russia and their most valued American asset – Trump.

Americans may never learn what kind of “useful agreements” were made during the secretive meeting between Trump and Putin. But if the coordinated attacks on Americans who oppose an American giving aid and comfort to the enemy are any indication; it is likely the two authoritarian leaders agreed to work in concert against Americans opposed to a traitor in the White House.