TBR News August 13, 2020

Aug 13 2020

The Voice of the White House

Comments for August 13, 2020:The  one reason rump is trying to shut down the Post Office is because he does not want mail-in ballots. This means he cannot manipulate the computerized votes. Trump is terrified that his criminal business dealings can easily lead to his arrest and imprisonment after he is no longer president. He will do anything he can to stay I office, believe me.

The Table of Contents

  • Trump admits he is undermining USPS to make it harder to vote by mail
  • Conservatives are trying to destroy the US Postal Service. Instead we should expand it
  • Biden Wins
  • What Are the Chances Trump Could Actually Go to Jail?
  • Secret German Intelligence Report on Donald Trump
  • The Real Danger From the Foreclosure Crisis
  • End to US unemployment protections could fuel wave of despair and suicides
  • US budget deficit climbs to record $2.81 trillion
  • Food prices to double by 2030, Oxfam warns


Trump admits he is undermining USPS to make it harder to vote by mail

The president says he opposes providing additional money to the postal service to help it deliver mail-in ballots

August 13, 2020

by Sam Levine in New York

The Guardian

Donald Trump admitted on Thursday he opposed additional funding for the United States Postal Service (USPS) in order to make it more difficult to deliver mail-in ballots.

Trump’s comments lend evidence for critics who say the president is deliberately trying to hamstring the USPS in advance of the November elections to help his re-election bid.

Trump said on Thursday that congressional negotiations over stimulus aid were held up in part because of Democratic proposals to provide $3.6bn to states to run elections and $25bn in aid to the postal service. The president, who has falsely claimed that widespread mail-in voting will lead to fraud, suggested that without the funding it would be harder to vote by mail.

“They need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” Trump said in an interview with Fox Business’s Maria Bartiromo. “If they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting because they’re not equipped to have it.”

Congress has allocated just $400m to help states run elections, a small fraction of the $4bn the Brennan Center for Justice estimates is needed this year. Many election officials are scrambling to figure out how they will run an election where there is expected to be an unprecedented level of mail-in and in-person voting. The lack of funding may already be having an effect; in Kentucky, the state’s top election official said this week he did not support expanding mail-in voting for the fall because the state did not have the capacity to do so.

The president’s comments also come amid accusations that Louis DeJoy, the new postmaster general and a major Republican donor, is making cuts at the agency to intentionally slow down the mail. There are reports of severe mail delays in places across the country and the Washington Post and other news organizations published internal USPS documents last month saying there was a blanket ban on overtime and that workers were being told to leave mail behind if it will delay them on their routes. A USPS spokesman denied there was a blanket ban on overtime, but did not address questions about whether employees were being told to leave the mail behind.

A slower mail service could have a big impact this fall because an unprecedented number of Americans are expected to vote by mail and many states require a ballot to arrive at an election office by election day, regardless of when it was put in the mail, in order to be counted. At least 65,000 ballots were rejected during the 2020 primaries because they arrived too late.

“If we don’t make a deal that means they don’t get the money. That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting. They just can’t have it. Sort of a crazy thing,” Trump said on Thursday.

Andrew Bates, a spokesman for Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said in a statement Trump was attacking the US economy and democracy.

“The president of the United States is sabotaging a basic service that hundreds of millions of people rely upon, cutting a critical lifeline for rural economies and for delivery of medicines, because he wants to deprive Americans of their fundamental right to vote safely during the most catastrophic public health crisis in over 100 years,” he said.

USPS officials have not said they need additional funding to deliver mail-in ballots this fall. “The Postal Service has ample capacity to deliver all election mail securely and on-time in accordance with our delivery standards, and we will do so,” DeJoy said at a meeting of the USPS board of governors on Friday.

In a separate interview on Thursday, Larry Kudlow, the president’s top economic adviser, dismissed efforts to make it easier to vote in negotiations over stimulus money.

“So much of the Democratic asks are really liberal left wishlists,” he said. “Voting rights, aid to aliens and so forth. That’s not our game.”



Conservatives are trying to destroy the US Postal Service. Instead we should expand it

The USPS is our most successful and trusted institution by almost any measure. Let’s embrace and empower it

August 13, 2020

by Bhaskar Sunkara

The Guardian

There is an American corporation that employs 633,108 people, handles 142.6bn pieces of product every year, and holds a 48% global market share in its sector. It constitutes a domestic retail network larger than McDonald’s, Starbucks and Walmart combined, one that spans even the most rural and isolated parts of the United States. It is an iconic brand tremendously popular with the American public. Even during a devastating pandemic, this firm has seen its total third-quarter revenue increase by $547m year over year.

Instead of trumpeting that 3.2% gain, however, the corporation’s CEO ominously warns that the company is “in a financially unsustainable position absent significant fundamental change” and threatens to start scrapping it for parts.

The notion is bizarre. Yet that is exactly what’s happening to the United States Postal Service (USPS). A completely politicized and manufactured crisis threatens to destroy one of the most important institutions in the United States.

The US Post Office Department was created by the federal government soon after the American Revolution with a mission to connect a geographically diverse country and avoid the state censorship that plagued colonial America. In the centuries that followed, it has only expanded that mandate, maintaining tens of thousands of far-flung retail offices and postal boxes, all at no taxpayer expense.

No surprise that 91% of Americans hold a favorable view of the USPS.

Contrary to common tropes of state inefficiency, the post office is both fulfilling a broad social service, far beyond what is expected of any private corporations, and doing so profitably. Those profits are disguised, however, by a 2006 law imposed by Congress that requires the USPS to create a $72bn fund to pay for its post-retirement healthcare costs 75 years into the future. It’s a requirement no other organization, public or private, has to fulfill.

Business leaders often worry about state intervention “picking the winners and losers” of market competition. But the decades-long campaign against the USPS is more like the opposite – the state undermining its own successful project in pursuit of ideologically driven cutbacks and privatization schemes.

The damage being done won’t just affect American consumers, particularly those in rural areas that rely the most on the USPS. It will also affect voters – during a pandemic when voting by mail is more important than ever – and hundreds of thousands of workers.

Postal employment is one of America’s most powerful engines of upward mobility. As early as 1861, the Post Office Department began hiring black employees and maintained that practice throughout the century of racial apartheid that followed the end of slavery. Today, a full quarter of USPS workers are black and the vast majority of them unionized. For these workers, and millions of others, stable public sector employment is the only viable route to union protections, job stability and a decent living.

Given the status of the USPS as one of the largest employers in the United States, a needless austerity program of any size would directly affect every community in the country. But the indirect effects would be just as profound. Collective bargaining influences pay and benefits across sectors, benefiting even non-union workers in private companies like FedEx. USPS unions, such as the American Postal Workers Union, have intervened more widely, too, in defense of social goods enjoyed by all working people and backing Bernie Sanders and his demands for new programs like Medicare for All.

However, rather than just trying to protect the USPS as it currently exists from Trump administration attacks, we should go further. Let’s expand the USPS’s mandate.

For example, we should consider resurrecting postal banking. Throughout much of the 20th century the Post Office Department operated a savings system, which allowed customers to make deposits. Today, numerous countries offer postal banking services, including France, New Zealand and South Korea. The return of the postal savings system could help the millions of American adults who currently don’t have a bank account, but may regularly access the more than 17,000 post offices in zip codes where there is only one or no bank branch location.

As private banks continue to operate in predatory ways and close local branches and “payday lenders” prey on workers without bank accounts, a viable public option is needed more than ever.

We can imagine, for example, the USPS using its unrivaled logistical reach to deliver food and other essentials to the poor and elderly, or expanding into the field of telecommunications by helping to improve access to broadband internet in rural areas. No single part of our government is going to be able to do everything well. But it’s worth considering expanding the scope of our best-functioning agencies to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Despite our country’s tremendous wealth we’re failing behind our peers in the industrial world on a range of metrics such as poverty, hunger, life expectancy and infant mortality. Part of the reason is our refusal to invest in and develop our public sector and services. We’re failing ourselves and generations to come. Now is the time to double down on our most beloved and efficient public institution, not jeopardize its future.


Biden Wins

Then What?

by Andrew Bacevich

Tom Dispatch

Assume Joe Biden wins the presidency. Assume as well that he genuinely intends to repair the damage our country has sustained since we declared ourselves history’s “Indispensable Nation,” compounded by the traumatic events of 2020 that demolished whatever remnants of that claim survived. Assume, that is, that this aging career politician and creature of the Washington establishment really intends to salvage something of value from all that has been lost.

If he seriously intends to be more than a relic of pre-Trump liberal centrism, how exactly should President Biden go about making his mark?

Here, free of charge, Joe, is an action plan that will get you from Election Night through your first two weeks in office. Follow this plan and by your 100th day in the White House observers will be comparing you to at least one President Roosevelt, if not both.

On Election Night (or whatever date you are declared the winner): Close down your Twitter account. Part of your job, Joe, is to restore some semblance of dignity to the office of the presidency. Twitter and similar social media platforms are a principal source of the coarseness and malice that today permeate American politics. Remove yourself from that ugliness. Your predecessor transformed a presidency that had acquired imperial pretensions into an office best described as a cesspool of grotesque demagoguery. One of your central tasks will be to model a genuine alternative: a presidency appropriate for a constitutional republic, where reason, candor, and a commitment to the common good really do prevail over partisan name-calling. That’s a lot to ask for, but returning to a more traditional conception of the Bully Pulpit would certainly be a place to start.

During the transition: Direct your press secretary to announce that on January 20th there will be no ritzy Inaugural balls. Take your cues from Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s inauguration for his fourth term in office, a distinctly low-key event. After all, in January 1945, the nation was still at war; victory had not yet arrived; celebration could wait. Our present-day multifaceted crisis bears at least some comparison to that World War II moment. So, as you plan your own inauguration, ditch the glitz. A secondary benefit: you won’t have to hit up wealthy donors for the dough to pay for the party. And with no party, you won’t have to worry about inaugural festivities triggering another spike in Covid-19 infections.

In addition to selecting a cabinet and ignoring your predecessor’s bleating, the main focus of your transition period has to be policy planning. When you take office, the coronavirus pandemic will still be with us: that’s a given. Even if optimistic predictions of an effective vaccine becoming available by early 2021 were to pan out, we won’t be out of the woods. Not faintly. So your number-one priority during the transition must be to do what Trump never came close to doing: devise a concrete national strategy for limiting the spread of the virus along with a blueprint for prompt and comprehensive vaccine distribution when one is ready.

That said, it would also be prudent to engage in quiet contingency planning to lay out possible courses of action should your predecessor refuse to acknowledge his defeat (“rigged election!”) or leave the White House.

On January 20th, the big day arrives.

Noon, Eastern Standard Time: With the chief justice of the Supreme Court presiding, take the oath of office in the East Room of the White House in the presence of Vice President Kamala Harris and your immediate family. No inaugural address, no parade, no festivities whatsoever. Make like you’re George Washington: he wasn’t into making a fuss.          When the ceremony ends, have lunch and get down to work.

That afternoon: Issue an executive order directing the formation of a National Commission on Reconciliation and Reparations, or NCRR. Recruit Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates or another scholar of comparable stature to head the effort. While likely to be a lengthy and contentious endeavor, the NCRR will provide a point of departure for addressing the persistence of American racism by taking on this overarching question: What does justice require?

That evening: Speak to the nation from the Oval Office. Make it brief. Your address will set the tone for your administration. The nation has its hands full with concurrent crises. The moment calls for humility and hard work, not triumphalism. Don’t overpromise. Consider Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address as a model. Curb your inclination to blather. Abe only needed 701 words. See if you can better that.

Day 2: In a letter to House and Senate leaders, unveil the details of your coronavirus strategy, which must include: 1) a national plan to curb the existing Covid-19 outbreak and prevent future ones; 2) a nationwide approach to vaccine distribution; 3) a strategy for averting and, if needed, curbing the outbreak of comparable diseases; 4) adequate funding of key government pandemic relief and prevention facilities and activities. In the process, identify near-term and longer-term funding requirements that will require congressional action.

Day 3: Issue an executive order reversing the announced withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Accords. Describe this as just an initial down payment on the $2 trillion Green New Deal you promised Americans during the election campaign. Joe, if you can make meaningful progress toward curbing climate change, future generations will put you on Mount Rushmore in place of one of those slaveholders.

Day 4: Send a personal message to the German chancellor, the British prime minister, and the presidents of China, France, and Russia, declaring your intention to recommit the United States to the Iran nuclear deal that Donald Trump ditched in 2018. Quietly initiate the process of opening a back channel to the Iranian leadership. (I’ve got colleagues who might be able to lend a hand in laying the groundwork. Let me know if the Quincy Institute can be of help.) That same day, on your first visit as president to the White House press room, casually mention that the United States will henceforth adhere to a policy of no-first-use regarding its nuclear weapons. Simultaneously, tell the Pentagon to stop work on “modernizing” the U.S. nuclear arsenal. That’s $2 trillion that can be better spent elsewhere. No first use will flush “fire and fury like the world has never seen” down the toilet. Generals, weapons contractors, and aging Cold Warriors will tell you that you’re taking a great risk. Ignore them and you will substantially reduce the possibility of nuclear war.

Day 5: Issue an executive order suspending any further work on your predecessor’s border “wall.” At the same time, announce your intention to form a non-partisan task force to recommend policies related to border security and immigration, whether legal or otherwise. Ask former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro to chair that task force, with a report due prior to the 100th day of your presidency.

Day 6: Accompanied by Secretary of State Elizabeth Warren, visit the State Department for an all-hands-on-deck meeting. Let it be known that your administration will reserve all senior diplomatic appointments for seasoned Foreign Service officers. No more selling of ambassadorships to campaign contributors or old friends hoping to acquire an honorific title. Make clear your intention to revitalize American diplomacy, recognizing that the principal threats to our wellbeing are transnational and not susceptible to military solutions. The Pentagon can’t do much to alleviate pandemics, environmental degradation, and climate change. Those true national security crises will require collaborative action. Also use this occasion to announce the formation of a non-partisan task force that will recommend ways to reform and re-professionalize the Foreign Service. Top-flight diplomacy requires top-drawer diplomats. Ask former Ambassadors Chas Freeman and Thomas Pickering, both savvy global thinkers and seasoned diplomats, to co-chair that effort, with instructions to report back by July 11th, the birthday of John Quincy Adams, our greatest secretary of state.

Day 7: Begin your morning by inviting General Mark Milley to the Oval Office for a one-on-one meeting. Ask him to tender his immediate resignation as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Milley’s participation in the infamous Lafayette Square stunt, even if unwitting, renders him unfit for further employment. Later that same day, visit the remaining chiefs in the Pentagon. Explain your intention to commence a wholesale reevaluation of the U.S. military’s global posture — command structure, bases, budgets, priorities, and above all emerging threats. Ask for their forthright assistance in this endeavor, making it clear that anyone obstructing the process will be gone.

Day 8: Call on Ruth Bader Ginsberg in her chambers at the Supreme Court. Invite her to retire now that the Senate is in Democratic hands. Offer private assurances that her successor will be a) liberal; b) a woman; c) a person of color; and d) a distinguished jurist.

Day 9: Do what your predecessor vowed to do, but didn’t: end America’s endless wars. At your first full-fledged cabinet meeting, charge your new Defense Secretary James Webb with providing a detailed schedule for a deliberate, but comprehensive withdrawal (no ifs, ands, or buts) of U.S. forces from Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf, with a completion date by the end of your first year in office.

Day 10: Visit Mexico City. Engage in a trilateral discussion with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. At day’s end, sign the Declaration of Tenochtitlan affirming a common commitment to democracy, the rule of law, human rights, economic growth, and continental security. Your predecessors have taken Mexico and Canada for granted. You will correct that oversight. In fact, no two countries on the planet are of greater importance to the wellbeing of the American people.

Day 11: Invite China’s president Xi Jinping for an informal meeting at Camp David at a date of his choosing. As you know, Joe, the United States and China are hurtling toward a new Cold War. Reversing the momentum of events will prove difficult indeed. This will require considerable personal diplomacy on your part. Given the need for the planet’s two major economic powers to cooperate on lowering greenhouse gasses globally, nothing is more important than this. Start now.

Day 12: Announce plans to visit NATO headquarters in the near future. Begin quiet consultations with European members of the alliance to nudge them toward taking responsibility for their own security. Let them know that before the year is out you intend to make public a 10-year timetable for withdrawing all U.S. forces from Europe. That will concentrate minds in London, Paris, Berlin, and elsewhere in the alliance.

Day 13: Convene a meeting of the best minds in tech (which, by the way, does not necessarily mean the wealthiest tech tycoons). Pick their brains on the issue of privacy. This challenge will extend beyond your presidency. You can at least highlight the problem.

Day 14: You’re 78, the oldest man ever to walk into the Oval Office as president. Be smart. Take a day totally off to recharge your batteries. You have a long way to go.

Joe, you’re a bit long in the tooth for the duties you’re about to assume. Keep in mind the adage that applies to all us old folks: time is fleeting. We never know how much we have left, so seize the moment. No offense, but your days (like mine) are numbered.

Good luck. I’ll be pulling for you.


What Are the Chances Trump Could Actually Go to Jail?

New York state legal experts—and one of the president’s biographers—weigh in.

August 11, 2020

by James Bruno

The Washington Monthly

Will America soon have its first Shawshank President? Will Donald Trump find himself fending off riots in the Attica mess hall? Tweetless and at the mercy of 2,000 “angry Democrat” inmates?

A number of recent developments show that one cannot rule it out. Things took a decidedly serious turn last week when New York prosecutors told a federal judge that there were “public reports of possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization.” They added that they that they may also be investigating possible crimes involving bank and insurance fraud, according to the New York Times, which also reported that Deutsche Bank has been complying with a Manhattan District Attorney’s Office subpoena for months, turning over detailed financial records in connection with some $2 billion the bank has lent Trump.

The news comes on the heels of a Supreme Court ruling last month that declared the president was not immune from state criminal investigations, therefore clearing the way for a New York grand jury to subpoena Trump’s financial records, an effort spearheaded by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr.

For Trump, the stakes couldn’t be higher once he leaves office: He could go from the White House to the Big House.

So, I asked some experts the likelihood that the president could really wind up in a New York prison. “Absolutely yes, if we are a nation of equal justice and Trump is convicted of serious felonies,” Trump biographer David Cay Johnston told me. But he quickly added, “Whether it happens is entirely unpredictable.”

Still, New York has a real chance at putting Trump behind bars. The state has jurisdiction over most of his properties and operations relating to his 2016 presidential campaign. Crucially, states also are not subject the U.S. Department of Justice’s rule that a sitting president may not be prosecuted for federal crimes. Trump, therefore, is stripped of his four-year kryptonite shield if he is re-elected. A state indictment of a sitting president, though historically unprecedented, is entirely possible. His DOJ-Roy Cohn, Bill Barr, is constitutionally powerless to intervene.

That should make Trump uneasy, especially as New York Attorney General Letitia James ramps up her own investigations. “We will use every area of the law to investigate President Trump and his business transactions and that of his family,” she declared after taking office two years ago.

At the same time, Vance’s subpoena appears to go beyond obtaining financial records relating to alleged pre-election hush money payments to silence two women, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. Both of the women claim to have had affairs with Trump. Information gleaned from the DA’s inquiry could expose tax cheating and money laundering as well as bank and insurance fraud, which are felonies.

Johnston told me he’s confident that Vance already has Trump’s New York tax filings. Even though the IRS and state tax authorities share tax information on citizens and business entities, it’s unclear whether he also has the president’s federal returns. The DA is seeking Trump’s financial records from his accounting firm Mazars USA in addition to Deutsche Bank—to compare that data with what he already possesses, looking for corroborating information, according to Johnston.

“Trump has a well-documented history as a tax cheat and for hiding business records,” Johnston said. “This is garden variety tax fraud, a straight-up tax scam that could easily be a felony.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean he will go to jail. More often than not, tax cheats get away with heavy fines in lieu of prison sentences, Johnston said. Moreover, Trump, like many very wealthy people, will continue to throw monkey wrenches into the judicial system with appeal after appeal and other rope-a-dope tactics until revenue agencies finally become open to a low-punitive settlement.

This is echoed by Duncan Levin, formerly a senior staff member under District Attorney Vance and an ex-assistant U.S. attorney. Whether the president would actually be sentenced to prison is a political call, Levin said. “Can you imagine an ex-U.S. president actually being sent to prison?” he told me. “It’s inconceivable that Trump didn’t know about the hush money payments. But it’s highly unlikely that he’d be arrested on misdemeanor charges. They would have to be very serious felonies.” False statements to financial institutions would count.

More likely, he added, the DA may be zeroing in at this point on Trump’s inner circle. “Michael Cohen didn’t act alone. He collaborated with people within the Trump organization to cover up the hush payments just before the election,” Levin said. Look, at least initially, for indictments of Trump underlings.

The good news, though, is that Vance will not put off his investigation and possible indictments until after the November election. DA’s proceed on cases irrespective of extraneous events, including a general election, Levin said.

But the hope of many that Trump could finally be held accountable for his crimes may be remote. At most, one can imagine him behind bars at a white-collar correctional facility like that of his former lawyer Michael Cohen, as opposed to hard time at a penitentiary like Attica. For now, though, time will tell. The Americans who want to see justice carried out are more likely to watch this shamed crook-in-chief spending his remaining years out of office consumed in exhausting and financially draining legal battles, fully exposed for the criminal he’s always been.


Secret German Intelligence Report on Donald Trump


S T R E N G   G E H E I M

Hintergrundbericht über den amerikanischen Präsidenten Donald T R U M P







Translation from the German


  • Trump is not an honest man by any stretch of imagination. He has a long record of bankruptcies, business failures, very dubious business practices and extraordinarily negative behavior to staff and other employees. To catalogue the full sweep of a flood of patently dishonest business allegations against Donald Trump would require thousands of words and lump together the trivial, the blatently criminal with the truly scandalous.
  • Certainly, the psychological personal profile of Donald Trump could hardly be better tailored to being easily turned by a hostile intelligence agency.
  • The concept of Trump taking bribes from the Russians (or the PRC) is completely understandable if one applies the concept of Occam’s Razor to the tumult and disruption he is deliberately causing both domestically and in foreign areas.
  • Russian intelligence agencies are known to have highly compromising and often bizarre sexual material on him going back more than 30 years and they have used Trump and his elaborate network of business entites as a funnel for laundering dirty money from the Russian mafia and from post-Soviet oligarchs. The Russians are well-known to have more than enough compromising material on Trump to bend him to their will.
  • Trump has constantly been engaged in bribings and manipulations and does this through second parties such as Cohen his former lawyer or Manafort, his recently convicted campaign manager during the election.
  • Following Mr. Trump’s bankruptcies in the 1990s he borrowed very large sums of operating capital from Russian sources. He also obtained large loans from the Deutsche Bank (over 640 million dollars)
  • Other big banks, domestic and foreign, have long refused to lend to him, coining the term “the Donald risk” to refer to his repeated bankruptcies and failures to repay loans. However, Deutsche Bank, whose real-estate division continued to lend him hundreds of millions of dollars to finance his projects, seemed to have a greater risk appetite. There is a solid connection and on-going business between this bank and two Russian-based banks.
  • 1,300 Trump condominiums have been sold to Russian-connected buyers. Even a cheap Trump condo costs over a million dollars, so there over 1,300 condos that meet all the criteria for what is normally called money laundering. Russian intelligence is using Trump real estate to launder money
  • In 2008 his son, Donald Trump Jr., said that Russia was an important source of money for the Trump businesses.
  • Trump and his entourage have made a significant number of trips to Russia in the past (a list of these along with Russian personages he was in contact with can easily be found on Google), seeking financing and permission to build luxury hotels in that country
  • Russian intelligence owns Wikileaks entirely and released the damning, and authentic, ‘Podesta papers’ concurrent with Hillary Clinton’s campaign in coordinated agreement with the Trump people. This did serious damage to her campaign and was a major contributory factor to her narrow defeat and Trump’s election to the presidency.
  • Trump’s actions, as President, are deliberate efforts to alienate both the putative allies of the US such as Germany, France, and Canada and, to a lesser degree, Mexico. Also, the tariffs suggested by Trump against China would result in retaliation by that country and many retail outlets in the United States would be forced to close because they would be unable to purchase Chinese-made goods, the bulk of their stock.
  • Trump has deliberately launched pointless, and destructive, attacks against Mexican and Muslim immigrants, as well as Canadian, Chinese and German imports. All this has done is to create a highly negative image of his persona primarily and secondarily, the global image of the United States. This is only to the benefit of Putin’s Russia, not the United States.
  • Trump’s tariffs, and threats of tariffs, have engendered counter-tariffs that will, when implemented, create serious economic problems for American businessmen and, eventually, the American public.
  • Trump’s politically foolish but calculated support of the Israeli far right has done, and is doing, serious damage to the US image in the Middle East. It should be noted that Russian influence in the Shiite areas of the Middle East, is growing. Also note that Iran, and parts of Iraq, both Shiite, have extensive oil reserves and that Saudi Arabia, a Sunni state, once America’s primary source of badly-need oil, is running dry. Further, his aggressive support of Israel is resulting in increasing antisemitism in the United States.
  • The Middle East areas where Russia now has growing influence, have oil and if Russia sets itself up as major oil merchandising source, this will give them tremendous economic leverage vis a vis the United States which is the world’s largest consumer of oil and its by-products.
  • By alienating America’s allies and disrupting that country’s social structure, Trump benefits only Russia and its interests.
  • When he is caught at this, and it is common knowledge that the FBI was deeply interested in his Russian connections long before he ran for President, either the American public will have to deal with another Dallas or Trump will suffer a fatal heart attack. Vice-President Pence, a Christian fanatic, would then have to be told to mind his manners or suffer similar terminal problems.
  • Trump is very well aware of the ongoing and growing official investigation into his denied but completely genuine Russian connections and is certainly also well aware of what they can find, and probably have already uncovered, so he initially fired the head of the FBI and even now, according to a very reliable source, is determined to replace the FBI with the cooperative CIA (their former head, Pompeo, is now Secretary of State) as the sole foreign and domestic intelligence agency. He, and his Russian intelligence handlers, want to nip any FBI revelations in the bud so that Trump can continue on his course of castrating the United States as a global power to the benefit of Putin’s Russia.
  • There was a full page ad that he took out in the New York Times, the Boston Globe and the Washington Post in 1988, putting forth foreign policy points that could have been dictated by Vladimir Putin. It was an assault against NATO, and the European Union, both anathema to Russia
  • In 2015, Western European intelligence agencies in France and Germany began picking up solid evidence of communications between the Russian government and people in Donald Trump’s orbit. In April 2016, one of the Baltic States shared with then–CIA director John Brennan an audio recording of Russians discussing funneling money to the Trump campaign. In the summer of 2016, Robert Hannigan, head of the U.K. intelligence agency GCHQ, flew to Washington to brief Brennan on intercepted communications between the Trump campaign and Russia.
  • During the Soviet era, Russian intelligence cast a wide net to gain leverage over influential figures abroad. (The practice continues to this day.) The Russians would lure or entrap not only prominent politicians and cultural leaders, but also people whom they saw as having the potential for gaining prominence in the future. In 1986, Soviet ambassador Yuri Dubinin met Trump in New York, flattered him with praise for his building exploits, and invited him to discuss a building in Moscow. Trump visited Moscow in July 1987. He stayed at the National Hotel, in the Lenin Suite, which certainly was known to be bugged
  • Throughout his career, Trump has always felt comfortable operating at or beyond the ethical boundaries that constrain typical businesses. In the 1980s, he worked with La Cosa Nostra, which controlled the New York cement trade, and later employed Michael Cohen and Felix Sater, both of whom have links to the Russian Mafia. Trump habitually refused to pay his counter parties, and if the people he burned (or any journalists) got in his way, he bullied them with threats. He also used LLCs which he created for the purpose of swindling firm who, for example, laid new carpet in one of his hotels. The vendor billed the LLC which promptly went bankrupt. This has been a favorite gambit of Trump.
  • Trump continually acts like a man with a great deal to hide: declining to testify to anything under oath, dangling Presidential pardons to keep potential witnesses and former employees from incriminating him, publicly chastising his attorney general for not quashing the whole Russian investigation, and endorsing Russia’s claims that it had nothing to do with the election. (“Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!” he tweeted last month, contradicting the conclusion of every U.S. intelligence and counter-intelligence agency.) Trump’s behavior toward Russia looks exactly like that of an accessory after the fact.
  • When, and not if, it becomes public knowledge that the President of the US is an agent of a foreign power, it would be the worst scandal in American history, far surpassing Tea Pot Dome or Watergate.
  • In conclusion, it is clearly obvious that President Trump was jobbed into his office with the full cooperation of Russian intelligence and that he is currently engaged in efforts to carry out their political global programs which, if allowed to continue, will wreak economic and political havoc on the American government, business community and public.
  • And consider that the United States has been harassing Vladimir Putin’s Russia economically and causing considerable problems for that country. Mr. Putin’s reactive countermeasures against the United States are certainly in response to these actions and in the long view, far more effective than sanctions and hysterical threats


The Real Danger From the Foreclosure Crisis

Washington’s Blog

People were told that the investment in their house was as solid as a rock:

Unfortunately, millions are now upside down, because the housing bubble – fed to a large extent by fraud – has burst: And the people who supposedly verified the accuracy of mortgage documents never did so, and – in many cases – weren’t who they said there were:

The foreclosure scandal will likely depress the real estate market, as clear title for millions of homeowners comes into question.

This is obviously a huge problem.

But the largest problem for the economy could be – not from mortgages themselves – but from the securitizations of those mortgages:

Joshua Rosner – noted bond analyst, and Managing Director at independent research consultancy Graham Fisher & Co – told his clients Tuesday, that the impact from foreclosure gate on the securitized market could be huge.

As Shahien Nasiripour reports:

[Rosner] said he believes the paperwork problems regarding foreclosed properties will ultimately be resolved, he wrote that “We have a larger and more significant concern, which, if proved out, could call into question the validity of nearly all securitizations.”

***     Rosner said, the current scandal “may give investors an opening to challenge the legality of deals, threatening to unnerve financial markets.”

***     Those challenges, which would result from the revelations unearthed during the foreclosure process, could then be used to investigate the documentation practices that occurred when these mortgages were first given to borrowers. Inflated income levels, fake home appraisals and other lies inserted into mortgage documents — something Wall Street and Washington have long suspected, but never truly investigated — could then be used to force big banks to buy back the garbage they peddled in the first place to unwitting investors.

Another possibility is that trustees, who oversee the flow of documents from the originator of the mortgage to the vehicle that holds those documents for investors, may not have properly performed their role, either.


Just four firms dominate the trustee market for mortgage-backed securities in which the mortgages aren’t guaranteed by Uncle Sam: Deutsche Bank, U.S. Bancorp, Bank of New York Mellon, and HSBC serve as trustees for 70.5 percent of all such issuance since 2005, according to Asset-Backed Alert, an industry newsletter and data provider. An additional four firms — Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and Citigroup — control 29.1 percent, Asset-Backed Alert data show.

All told, these eight firms have served as trustees for 99.6 percent of all private-label mortgage-backed securities issued since 2005.

Were the document errors now cropping up in a handful of cases “to be found to have resulted from [the] widespread failure of issuers and trusts” to properly handle and transfer documents, “there would … appear to be a strong legal basis for the calling into question [of] securitizations,” Rosner wrote.

As David Faber notes:

The worry centers on the mortgage loan pools created by many of the big banks as they fed the seemingly endless desire for mortgage-backed securities and CDO’s (collateralized debt obligations) made from them.

It appears the mortgage content of many of those pools—created when the banks were dominating the mortgage securitization market in 2005, 2006 and 2007—may have been misrepresented. For example, an underwriter may have maintained that 80 percent of the mortgages in the pool were for primary residences when in fact far fewer were for that purpose. Or the underwriter stated that only 10 percent of the pool would be made of of “no-doc” loans—those that include less documentation about the borrower—when in fact the percentage was far higher.

That could be fraud, and if so, the creator of the mortgage pool could be liable. Given that the market for private label RMBS (residential mortgage-backed securities) was $1.5 trillion, the potential liability may be considerable. And while most of the originators of these mortgages are long gone, the securitizers are not.

Joshua Rosner agrees.

Rosner told Elliot Spitzer, the banks and rating agencies knew that 28% of the loans which the banks securitized and sold to pension funds and other investors didn’t meet underwriting standards. And yet they turned around and processed them into sausage (securitized them) and sold them to investors, representing that they did meet underwriting standards.

Rosner said that the rating agencies apparently intentionally avoided looking into this, since the more deals they approved, the more profits the rating agencies got.

And Rosner points out that – knowing about the high percentage mortgages which failed to meet underwriting standards – the big banks then bet against the housing market. Spitzer called that trading on inside information:

The potential securitization problem is why bank stocks are now in trouble.

And as former Managing Director of Goldman Sachs Nomi Prins points out, the Bernanke and Geithner are terrified of a meltdown in the securitization market as well:

The free-market, let the banks do what they do mentality was what allowed them to create a $14 trillion mountain of securities backed by precarious mortgages to begin with.

***     But the real reason for Geithner’s reluctance about a foreclosure moratorium is that he’s scared stiff about those securities – because even if he won’t admit it, he knows that the bailout wasn’t just about TARP and Bernanke isn’t just an economic savior.

***     If foreclosed homes couldn’t be sold because of fraudulent paperwork or had to wait for more detailed inspections, you can imagine how difficult selling assets stuffed with faulty loans might be. If it’s tough to find a title for a foreclosed home, think how tough it is to back the related loan out of a pyramid of securities sitting on top of it.See, the loan that might be analyzed in a foreclosure situation could be part of a chain connecting the underlying home to 20 or 50 different securitized assets, all depending on it for either the interest payments the loan was supposed to provide, or the value of the foreclosure property if those payments stopped (in Wall Street speak, the “recovery value”). If a foreclosed property isn’t selling, it’s not recovering any money back to any asset waiting for it. Think what that can do to the value of toxic assets living at the Fed and the Treasury Department. Kill it.

The reason TARP and all the other subsidies happened was that Hank Paulson, Ben Bernanke, Tim Geithner (the pillage gang) and the most powerful Wall Street CEOs were scared. Banks had stopped trusting each other (no one cared about the person who couldn’t pay their mortgage, or had their home taken, whatever the reason). When there is no confidence in the market, there is no bid for securities, no matter what the reason.

The banks couldn’t pay for all their leverage and they were facing bankruptcy if the system remained seized up. So the gang paid to keep the securitization market going, by finding a home or back-up home for the assets. They did not propose any remotely effective plan to help individuals at the loan level …. They merely enabled the worst practices and excesses to keep going in the name of saving the country from a greater depression, by shifting them to Washington and providing the illusion of demand for them.

Foreclosure fraud is not new. Many sane people and organizations have been talking about fraud for years — you don’t manufacture $14 trillion worth of mortgage-backed securities and all their permutations and mega leverage out of $1.4 trillion worth of subprime loans in five years without cutting a lot of corners. Banks knew that. But when the value of their assets plummeted, unlike individual borrowers, they got to dump them on the Fed and the Treasury department, while receiving cash injections and guarantees, and cheap money subsidies in return.

As Congressman Brad Miller told Dylan Ratigan, failure to use subpoena power to audit the quality of the mortgages in the securitized pools held by Fannie and Freddie and to pursue all available legal rights to protect taxpayers from getting stuck with the bill for toxic securitized assets would constitute yet another stealth bailout of the big banks


End to US unemployment protections could fuel wave of despair and suicides

Experts warn over mental health threat if US fails to reinstate enhanced jobless benefits and eviction moratoriums.

August 13, 2020

by Nina Lakhani in New York

The Guardian

A failure to reinstate enhanced federal unemployment benefits and eviction moratoriums could contribute to a a wave of despair, drug overdoses and suicides among Americans, amid mounting fears about the long-term toll of the coronavirus pandemic.

Suicides have been rising in the US over the past two decades, with 132 people every day on average ending their lives in 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Overall, it is the 10th leading cause of death, with the highest rates among middle-aged white men and rural dwellers.

Suicide is always complex. Risk factors include untreated mental health problems, substance misuse, access to lethal methods, previous attempts, isolation, past abuse, physical health problems, long-term unemployment and hopelessness.

Protective factors include access to mental health services, family and community support, and strong religious or spiritual beliefs that discourage suicide.

But now Covid-19 has upended almost every aspect of normal life for many people, resulting in an increase in multiple suicide risk factors while also weakening some of the protective ones.

“The pandemic has already generated a combination of factors associated with increased risk, including economic recession, access to firearms, and a generalized sense of anxiety and depression. I would not be surprised if this leads to an increase in suicide deaths,” said Jonathan Singer, president of the American Association of Suicidology and associate professor of social work at Loyola University in Chicago.

In addition, emerging evidence suggests that some Covid-19 survivors may experience mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD as part of a myriad of long-term consequences.

But the situation could get worse, according to Singer, as a moratorium on evictions and enhanced unemployment benefits had until now acted as a buffer. “In the next six months I think we’ll see a dramatic increase in suicide deaths, or at least despair,” Singer said.

There is precedent for that dire outlook. In the aftermath of the 2007 recession in North America and Europe, about 10,000 more people, mostly middle-aged and older men, died by suicide than expected in a two-year span.

Before the pandemic, almost 4 million evictions were filed annually, and one in four renters paid over half their pre-tax income to landlords, while almost 200,000 people slept in their cars, on streets or in abandoned buildings. Now, unemployment is above 10%, the federal enhanced unemployment benefit has expired amid partisan wrangling and tens of millions of families face the threat of eviction.

“Losing your home takes away an important protective factor and may lead to family splits. It increases suicide risk, no question about it,” said Steve Moore, co-chair of the Illinois chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

“Hope is the best protective factor … losing hope is a big problem.”

The full mental health impact of the pandemic won’t be fully understood for several years because of a data lag, but there is some cause for concern.

At least 35 states have reported a rise in fatal opioid overdoses during the pandemic, with powerful synthetic drugs like fentanyl and methamphetamine increasingly implicated, according to the American Medical Association. Access to harm reduction and life-saving medical services has been curtailed due to physical distancing requirements and pressure of emergency rooms.

“This epidemic caused 70,000 deaths last year, and it’s far from over,” said Dr Ken Duckworth, chief medical officer of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (Nami).

In Cook county, Illinois, the medical examiner last week reported 58 suicide deaths so far in 2020 – compared with a total of 56 for all of the previous year. The deaths overwhelmingly occurred in Chicago’s predominantly poor black neighborhoods – which have also disproportionately borne the brunt of Covid-19 deaths, job losses and a rise in fatal gun violence. The biggest suicide surges were among black men and younger people under the age of 30, including a nine-year-old boy in July.

“It is not surprising that the communities that have suffered the most are the ones who have the least. Disinvestment, red lining and systemic racism have culminated in a crisis that once again hits the African American community hardest,” said Toni Preckwinkle, president of the county board.

In 2012, the then Chicago mayor, Rahm Emanuel, shut down half the city’s mental health clinics, a widely condemned policy move that disproportionately affected low income African American communities.

An uptick in suicides has also been reported by health officials in Fresno, California; Los Alamos, New Mexico; and Dougherty county, Georgia. Meanwhile, some states, including Idaho and Colorado, have reported a drop.

Experts say that while every suicide is a tragedy, it is too early to draw conclusions about trends.

Nevertheless, even before coronavirus, the suicide rate in the US increased by 35% over the past two decades, bucking a downward trend in peer countries like the UK.

Important country-specific factors that could also affect the Covid fallout include easier access to firearms. Americans own more guns than any other nation, and states with few restrictions, such as Wyoming, Alaska, Nevada, Idaho, Montana and Utah, also have the highest suicide rates.

Owning a handgun vastly increases a person’s risk of suicide, according to a study recently published in the New England Medical Journal. Gun sales have soared during the pandemic.

Access to mental health services in the US is also woefully inadequate. In 2017, only two-fifths of people suffering from mental illness received services, and access was significantly lower for black and brown people. Then, almost 28m people did not have health insurance. Another 5.4m adults lost their jobs and insurance between February and June.

“The US doesn’t have a social safety net, like many countries in Europe. Instead we have the American myth of rugged individualism – that if you work hard enough you’ll achieve what you want in life, and if you don’t, it’s because of a personal failure,” said Singer.

According to the census bureau’s latest coronavirus household pulse survey, half of all adults – 105 million – reported feeling down, depressed or hopeless on at least several days during the previous week. Meanwhile, 11%, or 23 million, had relied on unemployment benefits to cover living expenses.

On the plus side, teletherapy may have helped close the gap during the pandemic, after Medicare changed its policies to include most telehealth, and many private insurers followed suit.

But many distressed people still fall through the gap.

Rebecca Henderson works with the Crisis Center in Birmingham, Alabama, part of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network.

In one recent call, Henderson counseled a single unemployed woman with two young children and limited social support who was feeling increasingly despondent about the future. In another call, an unemployed man in his 30s was starting to panic as he could not find work and the federal unemployment benefit had ended.

“I can help keep someone safe for now, but there are not enough resources and services for people. Honestly, this could get worse in two or three weeks when the evictions start and unemployment isn’t renewed, a lot worse,” said Henderson.

Alabama is one of 15 states to refuse federal funding to expand Medicaid, denying as many as 324,000 people healthcare and contributing to dozens of avoidable hospital closures.

Henderson added: “The pandemic has exposed our crumbling mental health system, and the biggest struggle in doing this work is knowing that we’re putting a bandaid over a gaping hole.”


US budget deficit climbs to record $2.81 trillion

August 13, 2020

by Matt Ott


SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) — The U.S. budget deficit climbed to $2.81 trillion in the first 10 months of the budget year, exceeding any on record, the Treasury Department said Wednesday.

The nation’s budgetary shortfall is expected to eventually reach levels for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30 more than double the largest annual deficit on record.

The federal government rang up a $63 billion deficit in July, the department reported. That’s a relatively modest amount compared to red ink that spilled in the spring months when the government tried to revive an economy that all but ground to a halt due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Last month’s deficit was sharply lower than June’s $864 billion, in part because the government collected a record amount tax revenue in July — $563 billion — after extending the filing deadline to July 15. That extension allowed Americans more time to sort through the economic havoc wrought by the pandemic.

Outlays to the Small Business Administration, which doled out $511 billion as part of the Paycheck Protection Program in June, fell to about $26 billion in July.

So far this budget year, government receipts total $2.82 trillion, off just 1% from the same period last year, Treasury officials said, crediting the “income replacement” provided by various government aid packages. In other words, unemployment benefits and other aid are still taxable.

Outlays so far this budget year total $5.63 trillion, a 50% increase over the $3.73 trillion at this point in 2019, with the vast majority of the extra spending related to fortifying the country’s economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Congress has already passed rescue packages totaling nearly $3 trillion this year, but Democrats and Republicans remain far apart on another relief bill, just as an expanded unemployment benefit of $600 per week expired on July 31.

President Donald Trump issued a series of presidential directives last weekend to prolong the extended unemployment benefits at $400 a week, with 25% to be paid for by the states. But it’s unclear how much of an economic boost the extension would provide, given the economic uncertainty and funding that could run dry after five weeks.

Democrats in the House passed another bill with $3 trillion in aid, but the Republican-led Senate is pushing for a package closer to $1 trillion and did not bring the House bill up for a vote before going on August recess.

The Congressional Budget Office has forecast a $3.7 trillion deficit for this fiscal year as the country fell into a deep recession in February, ending a record expansion of nearly 11 years. The Trump administration is predicting that the economy will bounce back in second half of 2020, but many private forecasters are concerned that consumers will dial back spending as infections surge in states like Florida. Consumer spending drives the U.S. economy, making up about 70% of all economic activity.

Last month, the government reported that the gross domestic product declined at a record 32.9% annual rate in the April-June quarter, as a resurgence of the viral outbreak pushed businesses to close for a second time in a number of regions.

For 20 consecutive weeks, more than a million Americans have sought jobless benefits. The unemployment rate fell last month to 10.2%, still higher than any point during the financial crisis of 2008-2009.

That was also when the federal government set the record for an annual deficit, hitting $1.4 trillion in 2009 as it tried to dig the country out of recession. The U.S. blew past that mark in May.


Food prices to double by 2030, Oxfam warns

Charity says era of permanent food crisis will hit poorest people hardest and spark social unrest

by Felicity Lawrence


The average price of staple foods will more than double in the next 20 years, leading to an unprecedented reversal in human development, Oxfam has warned.

The world’s poorest people, who spend up to 80% of their income of food, will be hit hardest according to the charity. It said the world is entering an era of permanent food crisis, which is likely to be accompanied by political unrest and will require radical reform of the international food system.

Research to be published on Wednesday forecasts international prices of staples such as maize could rise by as much as 180% by 2030, with half of that rise due to the impacts of climate change.

After decades of steady decline in the number of hungry people around the world, the numbers are rapidly increasing as demand outpaces food production. The average growth rate in agricultural yields has almost halved since 1990 and is set to decline to a fraction of 1% in the next decade.

A devastating combination of factors – climate change, depleting natural resources, a global scramble for land and water, the rush to turn food into biofuels, a growing global population, and changing diets – have created the conditions for an increase in deep poverty.

“We are sleepwalking towards an age of avoidable crisis,” Oxfam’s chief executive, Barbara Stocking, said. “One in seven people on the planet go hungry every day despite the fact that the world is capable of feeding everyone. The food system must be overhauled.”

Oxfam called on the prime minister, David Cameron, and other G20 leaders to agree new rules to govern food markets. It wants greater regulation of commodities markets to contain volatility in prices.

It said global food reserves must be urgently increased and western governments must end biofuels policies that divert food to fuel for cars.

It also attacked excessive corporate concentration in the food sector, particularly in grain trading and in seed and agrochemicals.

The Oxfam report followed warnings from the UN last week that food prices are likely to hit new highs in the next few weeks, triggering unrest in developing countries. The average global price of cereals jumped by 71% to a new record in the year to April last month.

Drought in the major crop-growing areas of Europe and intense rain and tornadoes in the US have led to fears of shortfalls in this year’s crops.

The World Bank warned last month that rising food prices have pushed 44 million people into poverty since last June.










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