Friday, July 27, 2018

Thursday, July 26, 2018

From Newsweek: EU Chief actually used colorful flash cards to teach Trump about tariffs

The only way to get through to him....and this is our President. (Double SIGH and SOB)  Don't forget to vote in November!!!!
Crying Face on HTC Sense 8



President Donald Trump and European Commission Chief Jean-Claude Juncker held a successful round of trade negotiations Wednesday at the White House, partially due to Juncker's use of colorful cards with easy to read, simple explanations of the situation at hand, a senior EU official who was in the room during negotiations told The Wall Street Journal.

As a result of the meeting, Trump said that he would not increase tariffs on European cars and that the European Union would buy more soybeans and liquified natural gas from the United States. During joint remarks in the White House Rose Garden, it was announced that the leaders would "work together toward zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers, and zero subsidies on non-auto industrial goods."

The announcement came just one day after the Trump administration issued a $12 billion bailout to American farmers caught in the middle of the trade wars between the U.S., Europe, China, Mexico and Canada.

The result of the meeting between the two officials beat expectations on both sides. On the plane ride to Washington D.C., Juncker confessed to reporters that he did not feel ready and "we'll have to see how it goes." But the Oval Office discussion lasted three hours and ended in an agreement. It appeared that the president had reversed course from his stance in previous weeks when he called the EU his "foe."


Sunday, July 22, 2018

For your listening pleasure: My friend Prasanna playing the flute

Here is a video of scenes from Sonoma with my dear friend Prasanna (age 82) playing a 17-minute Indian Bhairava raga (Pining for the Beloved) on the flute, with his neighbor friend David on guitar. The deep mellow sound of his flute is truly enchanting. In the midst of all the turmoil in the world, just listening to this beautiful heart-centered music will carry you into a place of peace and love. (~.~)

For a wonderful interlude of serenity, just click on this link:

Prasanna is not only talented musically, he is a superb artist and a man of deep wisdom.  A rare man on the earth.  To see him being interviewed and to see some of his paintings, there is an online video at:

And a magazine article in a Sonoma magazine that tells more about his art -- and his philosophy at:


From an old Howard Stern interview with Donald Trump

Trump's relationship with empathy -- or not:


"A man, about 80 years old - very wealthy man, a lot of people didn't like him - he fell off the stage.

So what happens is, this guy falls off right on his face, hits his head, and I thought he died.

And you know what I did? I said, 'Oh my God, that's disgusting,' and I turned away.

I couldn't, you know, he was right in front of me and I turned away. I didn't want to touch him. He's bleeding all over the place, I felt terrible.

You know, beautiful marble floor, didn't look like it. It changed colour. Became very red.

And you have this poor guy, 80 years old, laying on the floor unconscious, and all the rich people are turning away

What happens is, these 10 Marines from the back of the room.

They come running forward, they grab him, they put the blood all over the place—it's all over their uniforms—they're taking it, they're swiping [it], they ran him out, they created a stretcher.

They call it a human stretcher, where they put their arms out with, like, five guys on each side.

I was saying, 'Get that blood cleaned up! It's disgusting!' The next day, I forgot to call [the man] to see if he's OK.

It's just not my thing".


Monday, July 02, 2018

Robert Reich: Trump has perfected the Art of the No Deal

Trump's Art of the No Deal

by Robert Reich | July 2, 2018 

— from Robert Reich's Blog

Trump promised to be America's dealmaker in chief, touting his "extraordinary" ability to negotiate. But so far – whether he's dealing with foreign governments or with Congress – Trump has shown that he can't make a deal. Here's the list:

1. No deal with North Korea. Following his June 12 summit with Kim Jong Un, Trump declared on Twitter that "there is no longer a nuclear threat" from North Korea. But in fact, there's no deal. Trump gave Kim what Kim wanted – a photo op showing an American president granting North Korea co-equal status, and the cancellation of joint military exercises with South Korea. Yet Kim conceded nothing on weapons and missile programs. In fact, recent satellite imagery showsthe North is actually improving its nuclear capability. Instead of surrendering its nuclear stockpile, American intelligence officials say North Korea is considering ways to conceal it at secret production facilities. A new report from the Defense Intelligence Agency concludes that North Korea is unlikely to denuclearize.

2. No deal on Nafta. Mexico and Canada insist they won't budge.

3. No deal with China on trade. In November, Trump lavished praise on Chinese President Xi Jinping of China after a one-on-one meeting in Beijing, during which Xi offered no concrete concession on trade. Now, we're on the brink of a trade war with China, which is retaliating against U.S. tariffs.

4. No deal on steel and aluminum imports. Europe has imposed retaliatory tariffs on several products exported from the U.S. to Europe, including motorcycles (inducing Harley-Davidson to announce it's moving some production to Europe), and causing GM to claim American jobs will suffer as a result.

5. No deal on the Qatar blockade.

6. No deal on Syria.

7. No deal on Russia. Even though Trump and Putin will soon meet, Trump has given away his bargaining leverage: Over the past few weeks he's called for Russia to be readmitted to the Group of 7 industrial powers, suggested it has a legitimate claim to Crimea because many Russian speakers live there, and continued to sow doubts about whether Moscow meddled in the 2016 presidential election — or if it did, whether the sabotage actually benefited Hillary Clinton.

8. No deal on Iran. On May 8, Trump announced America's exit from Iran nuclear deal. Since then, no negotiations. America's allies insist that no new deal will replace it.

9. No deal on climate change. Trump simply pulled out of the Paris accords. There have been no negotiations since.

10. No deal on Pacific trade. No new negotiations since Trump exited from the Pacific Trade pact.

11. No deal with Group of 7 leading economic powers. Instead, in a pique of irritation at Canada's prime minister, Trump refused to sign a communiqué his own team had agreed to. Since then, nothing.

12. No deal on DACA or immigration. Early this year Trump promised to sign what he called a "bill of love" to extend protections to 800,000 immigrants who entered the United States illegally as children. But since then he has thrown in the towel on such protections.

13. No budget deal. Trump promised he wasn't "going to cut Social Security like every other Republican and I'm not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid." But in February he proposed cutting Social Security disability programs. And he proposed a 2019 budget that would slash spending on Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, transportation and other essential government services, all while increasing the federal deficit. So far, no deal on any of this.

14. No deal on replacing the Affordable Care Act. Trump and the Republican Congress never agreed to a new plan, so Trump is quietly repealing the ACA administratively without a replacement. It's estimated that at least 5 million people will lose coverage.

15. No deal on gun control. After the Parkland shooting, Trump promised to tighten background checks for gun buyers and said he'd consider raising the age for buying certain types of guns. On March 11, he abandoned his promise, bowing to the National Rifle Association and embracing its agenda to arm teachers.

Bottom line: Trump can't make deals. He can only pull out of deals already made, or pretend he's made deals that soon evaporate. He's perfected the art of the no deal.


Sunday, July 01, 2018

The Sad Probability of a GOP addition to the Supreme Court

How Trump's Supreme Court Pick Could Undo Kennedy's Legacy

Upon Justice Kennedy's retirement, the President is unlikely to nominate a moderate. What rulings would a brazen conservative majority produce?

Illustration by Tom Bachtell

There is no mystery about Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's favorite word. It is "dignity," which he invoked repeatedly in his opinions. The word appears three times in his 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which established the principle that gay people could not be thrown in jail for having consensual sex. He mentions it nine times in his most famous opinion, Obergefell v. Hodges, from 2015, which guaranteed the right to same-sex marriage in all fifty states. Lawyers, hoping to appeal to the Court's swing vote, sprinkled their briefs and arguments with "dignity," even as critics on both the left and the right found Kennedy's infatuation with the word (which does not appear in the Constitution) maddening, because it was never quite clear what he meant by it. Still, the word seemed fitting for the man—a tall, sombre Californian who appeared ever aware of the burdens imposed by his station.

So there is some irony in Kennedy's decision, last week, to turn over his precious seat on the Supreme Court to the least dignified man ever to serve as President. Though Donald Trump was a frequent litigant when he was in the private sector, he displayed no discernible views on the judiciary. But, once he became a Republican candidate for President, he fully embraced the contemporary conservative dogma regarding the courts. He recognized that evangelicals and their political allies would overlook his vulgar demeanor if he pledged to give them the judges they wanted—and he has, and he will.

Kennedy is no liberal. He provided the fifth vote to deliver the Presidency to George W. Bush in Bush v. Gore; he was the author of the majority opinion in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which hastened the deregulation of American politics; he upheld Trump's travel ban this term; and his votes on the day-to-day grist of the Supreme Court's docket—on labor law, the environment, and health care—hewed closely to those of his fellow Republican nominees. But, to the dismay of conservatives, he departed from their orthodoxy on some key issues in addition to gay rights, among them affirmative action, the death penalty, and, most notably, abortion rights. In the 1992 case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Kennedy voted to uphold Roe v. Wade, and he remained a reluctant but steady advocate for maintaining the precedent.

The whole purpose of Trump's Supreme Court selection process has been to eliminate the possibility of nominating someone who might commit Kennedy's perfidies of moderation. The activists from the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation who supplied the President's list of twenty-five prospective nominees are determined to tear down the monuments, on select issues, that Kennedy has built. Their labors have already produced one soaring success, in the confirmation, last year, of Neil Gorsuch. His extremism has exceeded that of his predecessor Antonin Scalia and equalled that of his colleague Clarence Thomas, the Justice with whom he has voted most often.

Yet it's far from certain that the public wants the kinds of rulings that a brazen conservative majority would produce. So the nominee and his or her supporters will avoid spelling out the implications of this judicial philosophy. As with Gorsuch, the nominee will be supported with meaningless buzz phrases: he or she will be opposed to "legislating from the bench" and in favor of "judicial restraint." Like Gorsuch, the nominee will rely on airy generalities rather than on specific examples. It's all the more important, then, to articulate in plain English what, if such a nominee is confirmed, a new majority will do.

It will overrule Roe v. Wade, allowing states to ban abortions and to criminally prosecute any physicians and nurses who perform them. It will allow shopkeepers, restaurateurs, and hotel owners to refuse service to gay customers on religious grounds. It will guarantee that fewer African-American and Latino students attend élite universities. It will approve laws designed to hinder voting rights. It will sanction execution by grotesque means. It will invoke the Second Amendment to prohibit states from engaging in gun control, including the regulation of machine guns and bump stocks.

And these are just the issues that draw the most attention. In many respects, the most important right-wing agenda item for the judiciary is the undermining of the regulatory state. In the rush of conservative rulings at the end of this term, one of the most important received relatively little notice. In Janus v. afscme, a 5–4 majority (including Kennedy) said that public employees who receive the benefits of union-negotiated contracts can excuse themselves from paying union dues. In doing so, the Justices overruled a Supreme Court precedent that, as it happens, was nearly as old as Roe v. Wade. (Chief Justice John Roberts, who has made much of his reverence for stare decisis, joined in the trashing of this precedent, and will likely join his colleagues in rejecting more of them.) The decision not only cripples public-sector unions—itself a cherished conservative goal—but does so, oddly enough, on First Amendment grounds. The majority said that forcing government workers to pay dues violates their right to free speech. But, as Justice Elena Kagan wrote in a dissent, this is "weaponizing the First Amendment, in a way that unleashes judges, now and in the future, to intervene in economic and regulatory policy." She added, "Speech is everywhere—a part of every human activity (employment, health care, securities trading, you name it). For that reason, almost all economic and regulatory policy affects or touches speech. So the majority's road runs long."

Anthony Kennedy didn't spend his entire career on that road, and there is, in his best opinions, the kind of decency and empathy that characterized many of the moderate Republicans who once dominated the Court, such as Justices Potter Stewart, Harry Blackmun, and Sandra Day O'Connor. Kennedy's words at the conclusion of the Obergefell opinion deserve to be his judicial epitaph. "It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage," he wrote. "Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization's oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right." But the Constitution grants only those rights that the Supreme Court says it grants, and a new majority can and will bestow those rights, and take them away, in chilling new ways. ♦

This article appears in the print edition of the July 9 & 16, 2018, issue, with the headline "After Kennedy."