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Ivanka and Jared’s millions won’t help them govern

(CNN)Beset by controversy in his still-young presidency, Donald Trump is making a characteristic move: betting on family. But is it the right strategy for turning around a troubled White House?

Throughout his career, Trump has expressed his faith in genetically-conferred talents — especially his own — and the extreme loyalty of family. As President, he is acting true to form as he makes his daughter Ivanka an official White House employee — with security clearances and a West Wing office — and heaps responsibilities on his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
As a senior advisor to the President, Kushner will be involved in trade, government operations and the highly delicate work of diplomacy in the Middle East. This last responsibility is said to include seeking a permanent peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, an end that has eluded presidents and diplomats for nearly 70 years.
    Trump’s turn toward family makes some sense viewed in the context of his life experience. He has always operated with a small number of trusted partners and, from the moment they became adults, his children occupied that circle closest to him — and came to adopt his approach to business (and now, government). Ivanka and Jared in particular mirror the elder Trump in entering public service under a cloud of potential conflicts of interest. But unlike the President, they will be subject to all the laws and regulations governing federal officials.
    With a broad-based fortune estimated to be worth as much as $740 million, the couple could benefit from actions taken by any number of corporate titans or foreign officials who visit the White House. Kushner holds lines of credit from Deutsche Bank and Citigroup, for example, and his family’s businesses have sought investments around the world. Ivanka Trump has long used Asian factories to manufacture fashion items her company sells in America.
    Consider the situation from President Trump’s perspective and you can imagine why he’s pulling family close. He tried to invest some confidence in an outsider, appointing Michael Flynn to be national security advisor, only to see him driven from office in a matter of weeks. Next came the drip-drip-drip of reports of a myriad of contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials.
    Another President who felt betrayed by aides and bureaucrats might turn to seasoned and respected elders — think James Baker in the Reagan years — to provide some stability. Trump’s solution is to invest trust and power in a couple whose youth, inexperience and lifelong isolation in the extreme precincts of family wealth make them unlikely saviors for a President and a nation in crisis.
    Ivanka and Jared were both born in 1981. Together they can claim little meaningful experience in government, politics, national, or world affairs. Both attended posh private schools and earned degrees from elite universities.
    With minor exceptions, the two of them have spent their entire working lives inside family-run companies where they claimed leadership positions as their birthright. Ivanka became a more-polished female version of her father, fashioning her lifestyle into a commercial brand that she promoted through mass media. Even her most substantive policy ideas about childcare — highly touted by her father and other Republicans — have garnered intense criticism for their lack of attention to some of the women who don’t share her privileges.
    In Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump married a man much like her father. Like the elder Trump, Kushner comes from a family that got very rich in real estate adjacent to Manhattan. The Trump fortune was built on the construction and leasing of thousands of outer-borough apartments. The Kushners pursued the same wealth-building strategy in New Jersey.
    As the ambitious face of a new generation, Kushner, like Trump, sought to make a splash in Manhattan. He achieved this goal with the purchase of the skyscraper at 666 Fifth Avenue for $1.8 billion.
    In New York real estate circles, Jared is best known for that building. According to Bloomberg View editor Tim O’Brien, occupancy rates fell and Kushner needed outside investors to keep the operation afloat.
    Around the time that his father-in-law sewed up the Republican nomination, notes O’Brien, Kushner began talking to the Anbang Insurance Group of China about investing billions in the building, a move that would have compromised the country’s diplomatic relations with China. A spokesperson for Kushner Companies said last week that the two entities had “mutually agreed” to end talks about such a deal.
    It takes a good deal of chutzpah to court investment from a company with ties to the Chinese government when your father-in-law is one of two people competing to become President of the United States. It seems Kushner’s audacity rivals the nerve Trump himself has exhibited throughout his life. (Trump’s continuous claim to be an excellent businessman despite his four bankruptcies is Exhibit A of that attitude.)
    But Trumpian nerve may not be the only flaw Kushner shares with his father-in-law. Like Trump, Kushner appears to lack the sense of propriety that would help him steer clear of people and situations that could cause trouble in the future.
    Despite the enormous controversy swirling around Trump and Russia, Kushner met with both the Russian ambassador and a Russian banker in the weeks after the election. The banker was appointed to his position by Vladimir Putin and is a graduate of the school that trains Russia’s intelligence officers.
    The groundwork for Kushner’s contacts with the Russians was set in 2015, at a time when Trump was discussing with his family the idea of seeking the presidency. At that time, Kushner Companies bought part of the former New York Times building in Manhattan from a firm owned by an international developer, Lev Leviev, in a deal worth $295 million. Born in the former Soviet Union, Leviev has described Putin as a “true friend.”
    It’s clear that little in Kushner’s life prior to Trump’s inauguration indicates that he could supply the kind of wisdom and counsel a president needs. His decision to go skiing with his family with a key vote in Congress on the line suggests he may not have learned much during his father-in-law’s first weeks in office, either.

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    Where he and Ivanka can be helpful, however, is in matters of style. They speak with poise and don’t send out controversial tweets. They have a history of supporting (and meeting with celebrities who support) more center-left causes. They could, in other words, help the President be more effective in dealing with the strong personalities he’ll need to cultivate if he wants to get things done in Washington.
    A besieged president and a country riven by Trump chaos needs more than the discretion of a daughter and a son-in-law, however. To succeed, Trump requires the wisdom of those who have been tested in government and politics before, who can demonstrate the integrity suited to serving the Constitution and the rule of law as well as the man in the Oval Office.

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/02/opinions/jared-ivanka-family-circle-dantonio-opinion/index.html

    Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton: Rescue the arts from the budget chopping block

    (CNN)What if there was one activity that could guarantee your kids would do better in school and cope well with life’s challenges? And what if this same activity helped them grow up to be lifelong learners, have more success in their chosen career, earn a higher salary and have more fulfilling relationships? What if it even made them more likely to volunteer, be philanthropic, vote — and ultimately, live longer, healthier, happier lives?

    In fact, there is such an activity. It is participation in the arts.
    Decades worth of research attests to the fact that the arts are among the most profoundly important and valuable ways to improve learning and promote success, from early childhood through adulthood.
      Indeed, according to four longitudinal studies compiled and published by the National Endowment for the Arts, young people who engage regularly with the arts are twice as likely to read for pleasure, three times more likely to win an award for attendance or be elected to class office, and four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement or perform community service.
      These students have higher grade-point averages and standardized test scores, and lower dropout rates, and they reap these benefits regardless of socioeconomic status.


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      And yet, the arts are the first to go when the budget ax falls. Now, with the shifting priorities of our new presidential administration, artists and arts organizations are at serious risk of losing the support they need to do their invaluable work. Funding resources, such as the National Endowment for the Arts, are in danger of being eliminated altogether. And poor, inner-city and rural communities, whose access to such resources are scarce to begin with, will shoulder a disproportionate share of those losses.
      This is mind-boggling to us, considering how much the arts benefit our lives and our world. They foster collaboration and creativity, essential skills for navigating in the workplace and surviving in a challenging world. They cultivate empathy and tolerance, by bridging cultural and socioeconomic divides. They’re also good for business: They spur urban renewal, promote tourism and generate hundreds of billions of dollars in economic activity annually.
      The typical arts attendee often shops and pays for meals, parking, babysitting and other services while attending cultural events or arts programs. And the use of arts programs in health care environments has even been shown to deliver benefits like shorter hospital stays and better pain management.
      In our professional and personal lives, we have seen and experienced these benefits firsthand.


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      Julie has heard from countless people over the decades who believe their lives were enriched by the inspiration, comfort and sense of connection they received from the music, stories, films and productions in which she was fortunate enough to participate. And in her philanthropic work, serving on the board of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and as a member of the Artists Committee for Americans for the Arts, she has witnessed the impact that arts education has for young people on an international basis
      In 1991, Emma and her husband, Stephen Hamilton, co-founded Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, New York, where Julie later performed, directed and served as a member of the board. Within a few short years of its opening, local real estate agencies were adding “walk to theater!” to their sales and rental listings. To this day, local restaurants offer dinner theater specials, and shops stay open late to accommodate the theater-going crowd.
      As creator of the theater’s Young Audience programming, and subsequently as director of the Young Artists and Writers Project at Stony Brook University, Emma has seen students base their decision to attend college or not to drop out on the opportunities provided by the arts. She has watched young people with no prior sense of direction discover their voices and their passion, improve their academic record, and, perhaps most significantly, grow into compassionate, contributing citizens, as a result of taking part in arts-based programs.
      There was the student who sat silently at the back of a playwriting class for the better part of the semester, ski hat pulled low over his forehead, arms folded defiantly across his chest. Who would have thought he would ultimately write an award-winning political satire that was selected for production, and go on to start a student-written and edited section of his local newspaper, before attending journalism school?


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      There was the shy young woman who blossomed after being given the responsibility of leading the scene change crew, and the young man who had never been in a play, but who, despite having endured a broken wrist in a gang fight earlier in the day, showed up to perform that evening nonetheless. There was the boy who courageously confronted his years of sexual abuse by writing, and then acting in, a play about his experiences.
      The arts are fundamental to our common humanity. Every time we attend the theater, a museum or a concert, we are literally feeding our souls, and investing in and preserving our collective future. To paraphrase the great Katherine Anne Porter, when all about us is lying in the ashes, it is the arts that remind us who we are, where we came from and what matters most.
      We feel it has never been more critical to advocate for and support the arts — not just in our schools, but in our communities and our lives. We therefore respectfully request that every member of our society — individuals, educators, administrators, business leaders — do everything possible to preserve and advance this most precious and essential resource, and demand that our elected representatives do the same.

      Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/16/opinions/rescue-arts-from-budget-chopping-block-emma-walton-julie-andrews/index.html

      Are we heading toward another subprime mortgage crisis?

      (CNN)The Federal Reserve bailed out Bear Stearns on March 14, nine years ago. What has the Fed learned from that mistake? Not enough, perhaps.


      A little understood part of the Bear story is that in March 2008, the Federal Open Market Committee, or FOMC, ignored critical facts concerning Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Unfortunately, the Fed may be making the exact same mistake today.
      Bear’s problems came from excessive investment in bonds based on subprime mortgages, which carry greater risk for one or more reasons, such as the borrower’s poor credit rating. Fannie and Freddie were the principal housing lenders, having been organized as “Government Sponsored Enterprises” or “GSEs,” and they were responsible for the creation of much of the subprime mortgages.
        Yet the FOMC transcripts and the staff materials prepared in March 2008 suggest that no one in the Fed bothered to read the GSE’s 2007 annual reports, released February 28, 2008. In the FOMC conference call meeting March 10, there is mention of Fannie/Freddie in the context of declines in their stock prices, but no mention of important disclosures revealed in their annual reports.
        And those reports showed that Fannie and Freddie were both essentially insolvent at the end of 2007, at the business-cycle peak before the recession had really started. These two companies had obligations outstanding almost as large as the total Treasury debt outstanding, far larger than Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers combined.
        The possibility that households would cut consumption of goods and services as they attempted to meet subprime mortgage payments — touching off a deep recession — was never mentioned in the FOMC meetings surrounding Bear. Thus, failing to pay attention to the poor condition of the Fannie and Freddie mortgage loans was a Fed mistake that compounded the mistake of bailing out Bear Stearns.
        Today, the Fed is again ignoring the GSEs and their potential contribution to future instability. According to Freddie’s 2016 annual report, “Expanding access to affordable mortgage credit will continue to be a top priority in 2017.” Fannie/Freddie have redefined “subprime” to a credit rating of below 620; previously, these firms and banking regulators had used 660 as the dividing line that defined a subprime borrower. Now by using the lower number, they may be buying even weaker mortgages than before the financial crisis.
        The GSEs are wrapping new sub-subprime mortgages into the mortgage-backed securities they sell to the market. Fannie and Freddie guarantee these securities, and because the federal government stands behind the GSEs, there is little market discipline. Think about that: With regard to subprime mortgages we may now be in worse shape than we were before the crisis.
        In the crisis, the Fed was overwhelmed by events because it was not paying adequate attention to subprime debt and had no contingency plans. Timothy Geithner, president of the New York Fed at the beginning of the crisis and then secretary of treasury, was one of the financial crisis managers. He explained Fed policy with great clarity in his 2014 book, “Stress Test:” “… We were lurching all over the place, and no one had any idea what to expect next. Hank [Paulson] said he wouldn’t need to inject capital into Fannie and Freddie, then did what had to be done and injected $200 billion. Collectively, we helped prevent Bear’s failure, then seemed to suggest we let Lehman fail on purpose, then turned around and saved AIG from collapse. … Our unpredictability undermined the effectiveness of our response.”
        Where are we today? Few observers believe the Fed has a clearly articulated strategy on its adjusting the fed funds rate, which is likely to be the subject of its announcement at the end of its meeting tomorrow. That rate is its principal policy tool determining the degree of monetary policy stimulus. Equally important, how and when will the Fed deal with its bloated portfolio? Over recent years, the Fed accumulated a massive number of Treasury and Fannie/Freddie bonds that it cannot retain indefinitely without creating a huge risk of future inflation.
        Alan Greenspan had dissociated the Fed from supporting the GSEs to the maximum possible extent. Now, with its huge portfolio of mortgage-backed securities issued by Fannie and Freddie, the Fed gives aid and comfort to the affordable housing lobby that created the subprime mortgage mess and the financial crisis.
        In Freddie’s 2016 Annual Report, the agency says 36% of its obligations are “credit enhanced,” meaning they carry mortgage insurance of one sort or another, which is typically used for weaker mortgages. The insurance against default is only as good as the enhancing firms, and none is rated above BBB+. If these weak subprime mortgages begin to fail in large numbers, so also will the insuring companies.
        There is one critical difference between today’s situation and that of 2008: There is very little private capital that would be at risk if there’s another subprime mortgage bust. Before the crisis, there was some market discipline, however imperfect it was, because potential buyers of mortgages would look at their quality carefully. Now only Fannie and Freddie are examining the quality of the mortgages. And it is taxpayers who would carry the burden of bailing out Fannie and Freddie, since their obligations are guaranteed by the US government.
        According to the Fannie/Freddie annual reports for 2016, it is surely the case that subprime mortgage issuance is one force driving house prices once again up by about 30% over the past four years and now about back to the elevated peak in 2006.
        Will subprime debt begin to fail again when house prices level off?
        Why isn’t the Fed talking about this matter? Someone please convince me that “this time is different.”

        Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/14/opinions/risk-of-another-housing-crisis-poole/index.html

        For a ‘winner,’ Trump is doing a lot of losing

        (CNN)Remember when Donald Trump promised to be the Harlem Globetrotters of politics? “We’re gonna win at everything we do!” said Trump. “We’re gonna win, win, win. You people, you’re gonna be sick and tired of winning.” Now he’s president of the United States, and Trump has indeed given us tricks and deceptions worthy of the basketball legends. But winning? Not so much.

        With flourishes meant to create the image of a commander rapidly transforming Washington, Trump has instead notched one failure after another. Consider this list a lowlights reel:
        Top national security aide Michael Flynn, caught in a lie, forced to resign.
          Federal courts block Trump’s executive order banning travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries.
          Trump’s plan to immediately “repeal and replace” Obamacare is frozen by the reality that he never had actually had a health care plan to substitute.
          Mexico’s president, insulted by Trump, cancels his state visit.
          A contentious call with the Prime Minister of Australia (an American ally) concludes when Trump abruptly ends the call.
          A tail-between-the-legs acceptance of America’s longstanding “one China” policy, which he’d threatened to upend.
          Lies about voter fraud and a “massacre” that never happened have made the administration a laughingstock.
          The debacles have been so numerous that Trump’s aides, including counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, press secretary Sean Spicer and senior adviser Stephen Miller, must perform round-the-clock media duties where, deprived of serious facts and policy, they deliver distortions and deceptions.


          He has also moved to dismantle the rules put in place to protect the economy — and consumers — from the excesses of the financial industry, which were central to the collapse of markets and the Great Recession that was a legacy of the George W. Bush administration. All this from a president who, at his inauguration, complained of an “establishment (that) protected itself, but not the citizens of our country.”
          Had any other president abandoned his campaign commitments or nominated such ill-qualified people to serve in the Cabinet, he (or dare I say “she”) would have been pilloried in the press for these moves and blocked by Congress. However, Congress is in the hands of Trump’s party and thus, remains mostly silent. The press, like the American public, has been so overwhelmed by the Trump frenzy that it has been forced to apply a new standard. Sins that were once regarded as mortal are overlooked because so many bigger outrages require attention.

          This is not a surprise

          If it seems like it’s amateur hour in Washington, that’s because it is. Trump’s main argument for his candidacy was that he had so little contact with Washington that he represented a radical change. The lies he delivered on the stump were excused as a salesman’s exaggerations, not a sign that he suffered from severe character flaws. And besides, most experts didn’t give him a real shot at winning. Like the second-rate comic who warms up the audience before a headliner, Trump was entertaining in a crude and unsophisticated way but he wasn’t expected to succeed.
          Now we have a crude and unsophisticated president whose management skills, which were always hyped beyond reality, are inadequate to the task of running the country. He tried to substitute attitude for aptitude, confidence for competence, and failed time and again.
          Ironically, Trump’s record was apparent all along, and should have been enough to disqualify him. A real estate deal-maker and TV celebrity, Trump failed repeatedly at the job of running businesses that required his focused attention and he displayed no real concern for the damage he did to investors and contractors. In his public statements about prominent business figures, national leaders, his ex-wives and even his daughter, he spoke with no regard for the effect of his words.
          As an entrepreneur who controlled privately held companies, Trump indulged his own impulses in ways that revealed profound character flaws. He protected himself by hiring mainly on the basis of loyalty. As he told me, he wasn’t much interested in a man or woman’s record of achievement. He was looking, instead, for “talent” and commitment. Other qualifications were secondary. If an executive seemed energetic, aggressive, ambitious, and ruthless in the Trump mold, he or she got the job.
          The President’s past hiring practices help to explain why he has surrounded himself with so many people with no previous experience in government but an abundance of loyalty and nerve. When he built skyscrapers, he didn’t require that his executives know how the buildings were constructed, but he wanted them to be so loyal that if he ordered them to climb to the roof and jump off, they just might do it.
          We now have a government filled with Trump hires whose flaws seem consistent with the President’s own. Gen. Flynn practiced a classic Trump move when he placed calls to Russian officials during the transition and then offered deflections and deceptions when questioned about it. Yesterday he became the first administration official to jump from the roof and sacrifice his reputation and his career. We should expect to see more bodies flying past the windows.

          Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/14/opinions/for-a-winner-trump-doing-a-lot-of-losing-dantonio/index.html

          Donald Trump and Steve Bannon’s coup in the making

          (CNN)We’re not even two weeks into the Trump presidency. Has your head exploded yet? If so, you’re right where Donald Trump and our shadow ruler, Steve Bannon, want you to be.

          The onslaught of executive orders and threatening talk, while entirely in keeping with what Trump promised during the campaign, have left Americans of many political leanings feeling overwhelmed and fearful of what may come next.
          The confusion and chaos generated at the bureaucratic and individual level by Trump’s most spectacular executive order — his ban of individuals from selected predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States — came in part from its sudden announcement. From enforcers to the public, many were thrown off guard.
            Welcome to the shock event, designed precisely to jar the political system and civil society, causing a disorientation and disruption among the public and the political class that aids the leader in consolidating his power.
            Those who still refuse to take Trump seriously cite his incompetence for the rough start in office. Yet this blitzkrieg was intentional. “Get used to it. @POTUS is a man of action and impact … Shock to the system. And he’s just getting started” his counselor Kellyanne Conway tweeted Saturday.
            As Conway implies, these first days of the Trump administration could be considered a prologue to a bigger drama, and one that reflects the thinking of Trump and Bannon alike. From their actions and pronouncements, we cannot exclude an intention to carry out a type of coup.
            Many may raise their eyebrows at my use of this word, which brings to mind military juntas in faraway countries who use violence and the element of surprise to gain power. Our situation is different. Trump gained power legally but this week has provided many indications that his inner circle intends to shock or strike at the system, using the resulting spaces of chaos and flux to create a kind of government within the government: one beholden only to the chief executive.
            “Strike at the enemy at a time and place or in a manner for which he is unprepared,” reads one US Air Force formulation of the old military doctrine of surprise. Trump has long been an advocate of this tactic and complained various times during the campaign that our armed forces were far too transparent about their planned operations.
            Yet Bannon is the mastermind of this takeover strategy as it’s been adapted to the domestic realm. Well-versed in military tactics and the history of the radical left and right, Bannon has repeatedly talked about “destroying the state” in the name of securing power for “an insurgent, center-right populist movement that is virulently anti-establishment.”
            Besieging your targets until nothing makes any sense — giving them no time to absorb or recover from attacks — is a time-tested strategy in the history of war and authoritarian takeovers. One might cite what’s gone on in Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
            It’s now being employed at the pinnacle of American democracy. It’s particularly useful in situations where the leader is vulnerable due to possible investigations, blackmails or other circumstances that close off gradualist approaches to implementing an agenda. With all the emergencies going on, who is bothered at the moment about those Trump tax returns, or even his ties to Russia?


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            This strategy requires a two-pronged approach. First, the creation of a small group of loyal insiders, who take orders directly from the leader’s inner circle and are tasked with creating chains of authority that bypass those of the existing federal government and party bureaucracies. I was disturbed, but not surprised, when Conway said two days after the inauguration that “it’s really time for (Trump) to put in his own security and intelligence community.”
            Second is the unleashing of the political purges that authoritarians so love. Some purges are punitive (say the firing of acting Attorney General Sally Yates because she defied Trump’s immigration order) and some pre-emptive (the expulsion of senior State Department staff) but the effect is to cleanse the government of troublemakers and leave a power vacuum to be filled with loyalists — or not filled at all, for added disruption of the state bureaucracy.

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            Trump campaigned on a platform of unifying the nation, but by striking at the state he and Bannon intend to turn us against each other.
            Their blitzkrieg not only throws us off balance but forces us to take sides. Do I work for Trump or leave the government? Do I issue a statement that my company disapproves of the travel ban? What will my shareholders and stakeholders think? It’s no accident that the World War II language of resistance and collaboration has come back into circulation — these are the situations authoritarians create to divide us, making it easier for them to restrict our freedoms.
            Trump and Bannon are in this for the long run. Trump has already filed paperwork for a 2020 candidacy. Our focus, in the middle of this storm, is to keep our feet on the ground and our eyes on the prize: the defense of American democracy.

            Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/01/opinions/bannon-trump-coup-opinion-ben-ghiat/index.html

            Not a surprise, suspension of rate cut still hurts

            (CNN)Last weekend, while enormous numbers of Americans were marching throughout the country against the proposed policies of a president sworn in just the day before, the Trump administration had already made a move that will make it more expensive for many Americans to become homeowners. The rescinding of a pending cut in mortgage insurance rates planned to go into effect January 27 wasn’t a big surprise, and it doesn’t seem to have been a carefully considered policy decision. The Obama administration implemented the planned cut in its final days, apparently without consulting the incoming Trump team. But none of that changes the fact that for all President Trump’s talk about helping the little guy, this move will hurt low- and middle-income borrowers.


            Trump’s persona as champion of the everyday American has long been a head fake, given his business track record that includes being sued for racial discrimination, fraud and for not paying the small business owners who have done work for him. This move, coming so early in his tenure, simply underscores what we’ve long known about his priorities — they don’t include the everyday Americans struggling to make ends meet.
            That’s why the pleas to “just give him a chance” or “wait to see what he does” have always been absurd. The decisions Trump has made from the day he began running for president have proven that he is rhetorically in tune with what many Americans want to hear, which is often the opposite of what they need. In addition to his mortgage insurance decision, Trump took first-day steps to begin the gutting of the Affordable Care Act, which has improved and saved the lives of millions of everyday Americans. He has also staffed a Justice Department that likely won’t protect voting rights as aggressively as the Obama administration, and espoused a tax policy that could be heavily weighted toward providing relief for the richest among us.

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            It’s clear Trump isn’t waiting to see what his opponents plan to do before acting. There’s little reason to believe he wouldn’t implement policies that hurt, rather than help, the very communities he pledged to help during his campaign. That’s why elections matter. But that’s also why what happened on Saturday, with coordinated marches throughout the country in a way we haven’t seen in a long time, must be a beginning, not an end. Trump’s actions, if not his words, prove that he isn’t a champion of the everyday American — which means everyday Americans better be ready to champion themselves.

            Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/24/opinions/trump-mortgage-hud-bailey-opinion/index.html

            Why we’ll help Mr. Trump put people of color first

            (CNN)In the days and weeks following the 2016 presidential election, a wave of racially motivated hate crimes and harassment swept the nation. Many of the perpetrators invoked the name of Donald Trump, suggesting that a new ethos had descended upon the United States.

            Of all the dangers and uncertainties represented by the incoming administration, the assumption of a fundamental ethical change is potentially the most destructive. We are not a different country just because we have a different president. Our principles of inclusiveness, respect for diversity and opportunity for all citizens haven’t changed. Our core values can and should remain the same.


              Trump promised a $1 trillion infrastructure investment, of which the inner cities will be a major beneficiary. We would support such a bill, if and only if, it contained a strong jobs-building component that guaranteed employment for workers in neighborhoods with high unemployment rates and minority business participation.
              That said, Congress has not always been welcoming to infrastructure initiatives — particularly under President Obama. Obstructionists blocked his $50 billion “roads, rails and runways” proposal in 2010 and his American Jobs Act in 2011. They blocked his proposals for an infrastructure bank, a national high-speed rail network and the GROW AMERICA Act (Generating Renewal, Opportunity, and Work with Accelerated Mobility, Efficiency and Rebuilding of Infrastructure and Communities throughout America).

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              Even if partisan loyalty can overcome some of the hurdles to infrastructure bills, there are still doubts about Trump’s commitment to African-American “jobs, wages and security.” Many of his statements and actions throughout the campaign and transition have been deeply troubling.
              He has nominated for attorney general Sen. Jeff Sessions, a former federal prosecutor with a history of hostility to racial justice and voting rights. His secretary of education nominee supports policies that drain resources from public schools and into private and for-profit institutions. His nominee to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development disparaged the Fair Housing Act. And Trump himself has never apologized for his real estate company’s history of racial discrimination, nor his campaign to execute five teenagers of color who were later exonerated.

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              Where we and the rest of the civil rights and social justice community can find common ground with the incoming administration, we will offer support, but we stand firm against any attempts to roll back 50 years of progress on voting rights, economic progress, educational achievement and housing discrimination.
              As thousands of us chanted as we marched last weekend in Washington, DC: We shall not be moved. We will speak out. We will urge our representatives in Congress to block regressive policies. We will continue to mobilize communities to exercise their legal rights — at the ballot box, at school, in their workplaces and financial institutions and in the communities where they live.

              Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/20/opinions/we-shall-not-be-moved-morial-opinion/index.html

              Under Trump, the anti-vaxxers might just win

              (CNN)Individuals on both the left and right in America share a common instinct — an opposition to vaccines. Vaccinations can be a costly imposition, and like taxes, the payoff isn’t always obvious.

              Despite the imposition, those in the center have passionately and, until now, successfully advocated for the necessity of vaccinations. But can vaccine acceptance withstand the power of the Presidency?
                On the campaign trail, Donald Trump, a real estate developer, entertained libertarians with his theory that spacing out vaccines makes more sense to him than what the carefully studied schedule that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and every other legitimate medical authority in our country recommends.
                But Trump has joined in his vaccine skepticism with unexpected bedfellows like the Green Party’s Jill Stein. She lent credence to conspiracy theorists who see vaccination campaigns as a scheme invented by profit-hungry corporations.
                It’s crucial that a bastion of quality medicine like the Cleveland Clinic, with a reputation that people trust, consistently does its part in supporting important public health messages for people who aren’t scientists and doctors.
                The same used to be true of the White House, which has a long history of establishing important presidential commissions that have positively influenced public policy. When President Obama established the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, which published an influential report on ethics in neuroscience, he notably appointed respected scientists and scholars to the body, not a wayward Kennedy.
                So what are the baseline facts about vaccines and autism? The latest research finds abnormal brain development associated with autism occurring early in gestation well before birth and the first vaccination. We know that autism isn’t purely a genetic condition, as it isn’t always shared by identical twins. Some aspect of the environment is probably at play, but numerous large analyses rule out vaccines as a factor.
                Second-level analyses that eliminate even more variables, like one looking only at Japanese children in order to limit the influence of differing genetics as much as possible, continue to show no relationship between the most contested measles-mumps-rubella vaccination and autism.
                Then there’s thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative that’s used in trace amounts in some vaccines, and which draws much of the suspicion from anti-vaxxer parents. But thimerosal exposures bear no relation to autism onset either. Yet another Cleveland Clinic doctor wrote the foreword to Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s scare-mongering book implicating thimerosal for a host of childhood problems.
                Government ultimately holds quite limited authority over vaccinations. None of us is outright forced to vaccinate; diehards can find alternative schools and alternative careers. And when a state senator in California drafted a bill requiring vaccinations for schoolchildren, the anti-vaxxers attempted to recall him.

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                That said, Donald Trump’s candidacy and successful election lifted the lid on a whole array of deplorable, but surprisingly widely held beliefs in our country, ranging from white supremacy to denigration of the disabled. It now appears his nods to the fringe made during the campaign may well translate into official acts and policies.
                Presidential commissions are serious affairs that address issues of major national importance. Creating such a panel on autism with a leading vaccine skeptic would do enormous damage, regardless of what the commission concludes.
                If the fringe on vaccines becomes mainstream, our health will be in grave danger.

                Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/12/opinions/vaccinations-under-attack-vox/index.html

                Putin: Trump’s most dangerous best friend

                (CNN)In the 1962 political thriller “The Manchurian Candidate,” a hostile government uses covert measures and secret agents in an elaborate plot to get its favored candidate elected president of the United States. The scenario seemed fanciful even at the height of the Cold War.

                Today, the idea seems strangely topical.
                  To be clear, nobody has suggested that President-elect Donald Trump and his team are secretly working for Moscow. Law enforcement officials who investigated the campaign’s Kremlin ties last summer said they found no conclusive evidence of a direct link between Trump and the Russian government.


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                  The same year, Trump made an unusually profitable real estate sale. Having bought and renovated a 17-bedroom mansion in Florida for $41 million, he was having trouble finding a buyer. His salvation came in the form of the Russian fertilizer tycoon Dmitry Rybolovlev, who paid $95 million for the beachfront estate.
                  Rybolovlev was apparently not the last Russian to come to Trump’s aid. According to the Washington Post, CIA officials have concluded that the release of hacked emails by individuals tied to the Kremlin last summer aimed not just to undermine faith in US elections but specifically to help Trump win.
                  Meanwhile, Trump has stunned foreign policy expertsboth Democrats and Republicanswith a series of pronouncements that echo or applaud Kremlin positions. He has said that Putin “is doing a great job” and has pledged to “get along very well with” him. Rather than Putin being behind the cyberattacks disrupting the US election, Trump has suggested the culprit may be “some guy in his home in New Jersey.”
                  He assured an interviewer that Putin would not “go into Ukraine,” only to be told that the Russians already had. He has said he’d “take a look at” recognizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and has cast doubt on whether he would assist NATO members if attacked. No act by Moscow could have done more to undermine confidence in the alliance.

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                  All this is quite unprecedented. No previous incoming president has had such a dense and murky network of indirect ties to leading circles in a power hostile toward the US. Potential conflicts of interest need to be thoroughly examined during Senate confirmation hearings for Trump’s cabinet appointees, and law enforcement must investigate suspicious leads whenever the evidence merits.
                  Still, the greatest concern about Trump’s relationship with Russia is not that he is being secretly influenced by the Kremlin. Two other issues are taking greater precedence.
                  First, even if he wishes to bargain hard for US interests, Trump enters the contest with Putin at a disadvantage, having given away his strongest cards. He has already granted Putin’s first goalto be brought out of isolationwithout asking anything in return, and has shown that he has little stomach to continue sanctions. On Syria, he has backed away from demanding Assad’s ouster.
                  By making unrequited concessions and raising expectations of rapprochement, he has placed Putin in the driver’s seat. The Russian leader will likely view him as nave and seek to exploit his inexperience, vanity and desire for quick results. The danger is that Trump will concede even more US interests in return for insignificant gestures.

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                  The second danger arises from Trump’s famed temperament. Putin, who has lately cultivated a reputation for unpredictability, may have finally found his match in this regard. With two leaders improvising recklessly, the risk of miscalculations rises.
                  Not only are both leaders prone to gamble, each has surrounded himself with colleagues with a conspiratorial view of the world. Putin’s intelligence service aides are known to exaggerate the influence of the CIA in world events. Trump’s national security advisor designee, according to several news organizations, has used social media to push fake news stories.
                  The combination of inaccurate information and impulsive decision making is deeply troubling when found in a single leader. In two, it is downright dangerous.

                  Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/11/opinions/troubling-relationship-russia-america-treisman/index.html

                  Dear journalists: Stop taking Trump literally

                  (CNN)Just before the dawn of the Trump administration, journalism in Washington, DC, faces an existential crisis — but virtually no one in the profession is willing to diagnose it.

                  Here it is: For the first time, words don’t matter.


                    The task for journalists covering Trump should be to get into the mindset of their readers, and out of the mindset of their own newsroom bureaucracies. Writing endless columns on this or that flip-flop based on Trump’s conflicting rhetoric is wasting the time of the readers and viewers who have decided that’s not what matters with this particular President-elect.
                    The public — also known as “customers” of for-profit news outlets — sees Trump’s words differently than journalists do. They, or at least the members of his winning electoral coalition, see Trump not as a politician but as a businessman. They know, and even value, the fact that his words have not passed through a gauntlet of spinners, prose smoothers, and fact-checkers.
                    They may have met other real estate professionals in their own lives and they know better than to take the words of ad hoc marketing seriously. These supporters are not giving Trump a benefit of the doubt. They recognize his professional DNA, and journalists are overdue to recognize this discernment by their own audiences.
                    Trump has spent a career being judged by the monetary value of his transactions and the certainty with which he can turn dirt into concrete and steel. Those are the metrics he expects to be judged by as President as well. If the economy and the federal budget are better off after his term, he’ll be re-elected in spite of his words. If the dollars and the concrete in America are in worse shape, he’ll lose.
                    He won this year in spite of his words and he can succeed as President in spite of them, too — so long as voters continue to take him seriously but not literally.

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                    Donald Trump’s electoral coalition has shaken up American politics in ways few expected. Smart operatives in both parties are already trying to adapt practices and metrics to better suit the wave of change Trump rode.
                    The Washington press corps, already suffering through a decade-long decline in viewer trust and consumption, would be foolish to not adapt as well. If the press covers Trump the way it covered prior presidents — too literally — it may find its own customers take journalism itself a lot less seriously.

                    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/28/opinions/journalists-stop-taking-trump-seriously-todd/index.html

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