Friday, January 19, 2018

FACT CHECK - Watching the Watchdog

"'Independent' Watchdog's Secret Funder: Conservative Small-Government Group" by Mick Dumke (ProPublica) and Dan Mihalopoulos (Chicago Sun-Times), ProPublica 1/18/2018

Project Six, led by the former City Council inspector general, got 98 percent of its startup money from the right-leaning Illinois Policy Institute.

When former Chicago City Council inspector general Faisal Khan launched his not-for-profit anti-corruption group close to two years ago, he insisted that it was independent and nonpartisan.

At the same time, Khan refused to disclose who was funding the organization, which he called Project Six — a reference to the group of civic leaders who led the fight against Al Capone during Prohibition.

Now, records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times and ProPublica Illinois show almost all the money to launch Khan's Chicago-based watchdog organization came from a right-leaning group that is leading a crusade against government regulations, state spending and labor unions in Illinois.

The most recent federal tax filing for the Illinois Policy Institute shows it gave $623,789 to Project Six in 2016 — accounting for 98 percent of the group's first-year budget.  The records don't reveal — and Project Six officials haven't said — where the rest of its money comes from.

The Illinois Policy Institute, in turn, has received extensive support from foundations tied to some of the country's biggest Republican contributors, including the Koch, Mercer and Uihlein families, as well as Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and first lady Diana Rauner's charitable foundation.

The tax records offer a glimpse of how money often moves among nonprofit groups focused on politics and public policy.  Under federal and state laws, most charitable organizations — unlike political campaigns — are not required to publicly disclose all of their donors.

The Illinois Policy Institute, which identifies itself as an independent entity committed to free-market reforms, has close ties to conservative lawmakers and worked with Rauner for much of his first term.  It has also attacked the politics and policies of Michael Madigan, the longtime Illinois House speaker and Democratic Party chairman.

Since Project Six launched, promising to investigate cases of government waste and fraud across Illinois, its leaders have said it's necessary to hide the identities of the group's funding sources.  They cite the state's long history of entrenched corruption and the potential for retaliation.

Khan, meanwhile, said Project Six had “no political or ideological bent,” and he pledged to keep publishing reports of wrongdoing no matter the origin.  Reports appear on the Project Six website.

Tax records for Project Six and the Illinois Policy Institute are not yet available for 2017.  But in interviews last week, Khan said the Illinois Policy Institute continued to provide support for Project Six.

Khan said he wasn't certain how much the institute gave Project Six in 2017 because it hasn't completed its tax returns, but he estimated it was “significant” and in the “hundreds of thousands” of dollars.

In the interviews, Khan offered shifting accounts of Project Six's financial support.  He initially denied the Illinois Policy Institute was among his group's primary funding sources.

“We're not getting the money from IPI,” he said.  “We get money from all sorts of donors but we don't release their names because they fear reprisal from the city of Chicago.”

Later, though, he acknowledged the support of the institute, and said he was “overzealous” in trying to protect its identity as a financial backer.  In helping Project Six get started, the Illinois Policy Institute also provided the group with office space and helped Khan assemble his board of directors, according to Khan and the board members.

Khan said Project Six's connections to the institute do not affect its investigations, which have primarily focused on Chicago aldermen and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.  The mayor and all but one member of the City Council are Democrats; the other alderman has described himself as an independent conservative.

Four of the 12 reports Project Six has posted on its site targeted Chicago aldermen with ties to Madigan.  One investigation focused on spending by 13th Ward Ald.  Marty Quinn, who shares a ward office with Madigan.  Another centered on a lobbyist who was also a former staffer and consultant for 42nd Ward Ald.  Brendan Reilly, a former Madigan aide.

The institute reported the Project Six findings on its own website and Facebook page without noting that it funds the watchdog organization.

Two other Project Six reports zeroed in on city regulations for Airbnb and ridesharing companies.  The institute has fought to loosen rules for both industries.

Khan said Project Six staffers initiated the investigations and were not influenced by the institute.

“Absolutely not,” he said, arguing that most Chicago elected officials have some link to Madigan.

The real point, Khan said, is what his team has found.

“Where are we wrong in our work?” he asked.  “Every investigation we have done has been accurate and vetted.”

Some of Khan's targets dispute that.  Reilly said Project Six “mischaracterized” the role of the consultant who was working for his office.  Her lobbying work had nothing to do with issues in his ward, he said.

Reilly criticized Project Six for not revealing all its donors.

“It's a bit hypocritical for a group dedicated to transparency,” he said.

Last March, Project Six accused Ald. Proco Joe Moreno of abusing his influence over zoning in his First Ward.  Moreno says Khan's group selectively used facts to push a conservative agenda.

“Project Six is coming off as an independent investigative body that gets press,” Moreno says.  “But it's a right-wing, agenda-driven organization with dark money that is anything but independent.”

Project Six has also issued a report on questionable spending by the mayor of south suburban Markham, also a Democrat-led municipality.  The organization has not released any investigations into Republican officials or conservative strongholds.

“Regardless of who our contributors are, it doesn't affect our integrity, our work, or our investigations,” Khan said.  “We've only gone after people we've received credible information about.”

Khan was the Chicago City Council's first and last legislative inspector general, serving four years.  The office was dissolved in 2015, and Khan lost his position with the city.  The inspector general's office that oversees the executive branch at City Hall took over responsibility for investigating wrongdoing by aldermen or their aides.

A spokeswoman for the Illinois Policy Institute said her group's leaders “do not have any influence” over what investigations are pursued by Khan and his organization.

The spokeswoman, Hilary Gowins, said the institute would not provide funding for Project Six in 2018.

“We are very proud to have supported Faisal in his efforts to bring transparency to Chicago and the state of Illinois in an effort to end public corruption,” said John Tillman, the Illinois Policy Institute's chief executive.  “Faisal and Project Six remain an independent organization.”

But the tax return revealing the contributions from the Illinois Policy Institute “clearly shows that Project Six is far from the independent government watchdog that it claims to be and seriously calls into question Khan's motivation for establishing the group,” said David Armiak, a researcher with the Madison, Wisconsin-based Center for Media and Democracy, which has tracked funding to the institute and similar conservative organizations.

Major contributors to the Illinois Policy Institute have included:
  • Foundations funded by Charles and David Koch, the billionaire, industrialist brothers who long have been among the largest supporters of conservative causes in the country.
  • The Mercer family, which made its money in hedge funds, is a significant political contributor to President Donald Trump and has invested in the right-wing Breitbart news website once led by Steve Bannon — although the family recently broke with Bannon over his criticism of Trump in a new book.
  • Richard Uihlein, the Lake Forest businessman who has been a big financial backer of Rauner.  Uihlein, who has donated to many other Republicans as well as to conservative causes, gave $100,000 last year to a super PAC backing Roy Moore's losing Republican campaign for a U.S. Senate seat from Alabama.
The Rauner Family Foundation contributed to the Illinois Policy Institute before Rauner became governor in 2014, and former institute officials briefly moved into high-level roles in Rauner's administration last year, including as chief of staff and communications director.  But Rauner had a falling-out with the institute.

The institute was instrumental in launching Project Six, according to Khan and his group's early board members.  After leaving City Hall, Khan said, he talked with “a lot of people” about what to do next and wondered if he should continue the work he started as legislative inspector general.  One of the people he met with was Tillman.

Tillman, according to Khan, encouraged him to continue investigating fraud and waste in local government.  The institute offered Khan space in its office as Khan was setting up his new organization.

“Project Six is still my idea, my organization, but people like John Tillman and other business leaders helped me put it together and create a working model,” Khan said in last week's interviews.

Khan hired Illinois Policy Institute staffer Nate Hamilton as Project Six's director of marketing and communications.  And three of the organization's initial board members also had connections to the institute.

Businessman and former state GOP chairman Gary MacDougal, a contributor to the institute, said Tillman recruited him to the Project Six board.

“I got a call one day from John Tillman, who said 'I've got a really good guy who cares a lot about shining light in the dark corners and I'd like you to meet him,'” MacDougal said in an interview.  “I had a few strategy sessions with Faisal and, in fact, I'm still having strategy sessions with Faisal.”

After Project Six got up and running, MacDougal left the board because of other commitments, but he said he continues to talk with Khan and just donated to Project Six.  “I believe his heart and his focus are in the right place,” MacDougal said.

He said he's not worried about the new organization's independence.

Tillman, MacDougal said, “very much wants Faisal to be independent, and he is nudging Faisal in that direction.”

Project Six Board chair Randy Nornes, an executive with Aon, has donated to the Illinois Policy Institute as well as the Illinois Liberty political action committee, which was founded by Tillman and is currently led by Pat Hughes, external relations adviser for the institute.

Nornes said MacDougal and an official at the Illinois Policy Institute approached him about Project Six.  As a Chicago resident interested in good government, Nornes said, “I thought it would be a way to contribute back.”

He noted that he has donated to Democrats as well as Republicans and conservative groups, and said he has worked to recruit a diverse group of board members and donors for Project Six.  New board members include an expert in accounting fraud and a public-policy consultant.

“Our funding base now includes small donors,” Nornes said.  “We're doing a lot of the investigative work that in the old days journalists had the time to do.”

Monday, January 15, 2018

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 1/12/2018

IMHO:  Trump's remarks were a snapshot of his subconscious, therefore more truthful.  He likely really thinks he is not a racist, but in reality he IS.

"Shields and Brooks on Trump’s ‘s***hole’ comments, ‘Fire and Fury’ fallout" PBS NewsHour 1/12/2018


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including racially charged remarks reportedly made by President Trump about immigrants, the continuing fallout from a tell-all White House book, whether the President deserves credit for new economic numbers and more.

Judy Woodruff (NewsHour):  The first year of the Trump presidency has been marked by moments of controversy and remarks that regularly drew some sharp criticism.

This week brings perhaps one of the most striking examples yet, and again spotlights Mr. Trump’s views on race.

That brings us to the analysis of Shields and Brooks.  That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Welcome, gentlemen.

Mark Shields, syndicated columnist:  Judy.

Judy Woodruff:  So, it’s a tough subject, Mark.  We have been talking about it for much of this program, interviewed the ambassador from Haiti earlier.

What’s your takeaway from what happened in that meeting yesterday with the President and the members of the Senate?

Mark Shields:  Judy, first of all, revealing, and revealing at several levels.

I have no doubt the President said it.  There were six Republicans in the room.  Lindsey Graham has confirmed it basically to two other Republicans, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Tim Scott, his colleague from South Carolina.

Everybody else has gone mute on the subject, showing moral cowardice, when addressing this.  Even Mitch McConnell, the voluble Senate majority leader, is mute.  And so it’s really sort of tragic.

It’s one thing, Judy, when Donald Trump uses Pocahontas to attack or taunt one senator, Elizabeth Warren.  This, quite frankly, is beyond that.  I mean, this is racial.  It’s racist.  It is.

And for Paul Ryan to call it unhelpful or unfortunate, this shows the moral cowardice of the Republicans in response to it.  I mean, this is a man who thrives on being divisive, insists on being divisive.

We now have the lowest unemployment rate in 17 years, good economic news, as you reported earlier in the show, and yet he remains mired in the mid-30s, where a great majority of people do not think he’s honest, do not think he’s level-headed.  And it’s a tragedy for country, for the relations, and most of all an indictment, a serious indictment, of this presidency.

Judy Woodruff:  How are you reading, David, what happened, what he said?

David Brooks, New York Times:  Yes, well, I think it’s pretty clearly racist.

It fits into a pattern that we have seen since the beginning of his career, maybe through his father’s career, frankly.  There’s been a consistency, pattern of harsh judgment against black and brown people.  And so he’s at it again.

And I guess I’m reminded first just the way it’s rotting the Republican Party.  This is the one thing Republicans — they can tolerate a lot of things in Donald Trump, but the white identity politics, the racial politics, that’s just a cancer.  And that’s the one thing they can’t tolerate, but they are — seem to be tolerating.

My other thought is, we have been with this guy so long, we forget what, like, a normal, admirable political leader or human being looks like.  And so a normal, admirable human being is curious about the world, and is sort of interested in different cultures.  El Salvador, Haiti, Nigeria, they’re interesting.  Has compassion for people from around the world.

It’s hard to live in this country and not have admiration and compassion for the immigrants who come here from Africa, from El Salvador, from Haiti, and like the ambassador we just saw.  That story — you meet that story every week.

And so to not have any of that normal human compassion or curiosity go through the guy’s head is part of the deeper character flaw here that we have apparently learned to tolerate.

Judy Woodruff:  So, David says it’s rotting the Republican Party, Mark.  What — is it doing damage to the country?

Mark Shields:  Yes, it is, Judy.

Whoever the next President is — I assume that President will be elected in 2020 — faces a formidable task of repairing relations, of repairing the United States’ reputation, of just healing wounds both at home and abroad.

Just to add one point to what David made — and I agree with it — before I became a leading pundit and David’s colleague here…


Mark Shields:  … I used to do political campaigns.

I worked for Senator J. William Fulbright, former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in his last campaign in 1974 in Arkansas.  He was a man who was not falsely modest.  He’d been president of the University of Arkansas at the age of 34, a Rhodes Scholar, and the Fulbright scholarship program was his creation.

And in talking one night about Presidents with whom he had served, not under, whom he had served — with whom he had served, six, and he said, of John Kennedy, he said, “Whenever I went to the White House when John Kennedy was President, I was proud as an American that he was my President.”

I cannot believe that anybody, irrespective of how partisan they are, how devoted they are to the Republican side, could say that they feel proud that Donald Trump is the President, or their President, or our President.

I think it does damage to the country, does damage to the office, and it does damage to the national spirit.

David Brooks:  Yes.

And for the Republicans, (A) for all the evangelical leaders, the treatment of the refugee, and the poor, the outsider, that’s not — the Bible is not ambiguous about that.  And Donald Trump is certainly against that spirit.

[B] For the party, there’s a more specific problem, which is they have become a pretty anti-immigrant party.  And there are decent, normal human beings and admirable people like Senator Tom Cotton who wants to sharply cut immigration.  And they think they can divide their views on immigration, which are purely policy views, from the white identity, racial undertones that Donald Trump has now permanently — or not permanently — but has taken into this party.

And that is not possible.  If you want to restrict immigration, which is a legitimate point of view — I disagree with it, but it is a legitimate point of view — somebody like Tom Cotton has an extra burden to rise up against what Donald Trump said, to show, hey, restricting immigration is not synonymous with bigotry.

And if he doesn’t do that, then whatever his policy views will always be tainted by the sense that there’s an aroma of bigotry around it.

MEXICO - The Hidden Cancun

"The Cancun that tourists don’t often see, soaring murders amid a bloody drug war" PBS NewsHour 1/11/2018


SUMMARY:  It's not part of Cancun that tourists travel to see, heavily armed police working to stop a soaring homicide rate.  The fallout of Mexico's campaign targeting drug cartel leaders is spilling onto the periphery of the famous beach destination, where fractured gangs fight for control.  Yet the area's violence has rarely put vacationers in danger.  Special correspondent Danny Gold reports.

PUERTO RICO - Insecure Future

We should be ashamed that after 4 months our fellow citizens are still wanting.

"Traumatized Puerto Ricans see uncertain, insecure future" PBS NewsHour 1/11/2018


SUMMARY:  It’s been nearly four months since Puerto Rico was ravaged by Hurricane Maria, and the return to normalcy has been hindered by a painfully slow recovery.  Jeffrey Brown talks to special correspondent Monica Villamizar for an update on how residents are coping amid rising crime rates, dwindling school enrollment, and devastated infrastructure and natural resources.


"The privacy concerns at the heart of the FISA renewal debate" PBS NewsHour 1/11/2018


SUMMARY:  The House of Representatives voted to reauthorize a key provision [Section 702] of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which U.S. intelligence agencies say is critical to collecting communications from overseas.  But the complex issue has sparked some heated debate and seemingly contradictory tweets from the President.  Judy Woodruff learns more from Susan Hennessey of Lawfare.

IMMIGRATION - Bipartisan Deal and Trump's Rejection

"Senators have agreed on a bipartisan immigration deal.  Here’s what’s in it, and why the White House rejects it" PBS NewsHour 1/11/2018


SUMMARY:  A bipartisan group of senators announced on Thursday they have agreed on an immigration deal that would protect so-called “dreamers” and beef up border security.  But President Trump is not yet on board, according to spokesmen who say the proposal needs work.  Meanwhile, the President reportedly used vulgar language in describing immigrants from some countries.  Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff.

CLIMATE CHANGE - Boston's Plans

"Boston plans for climate change's promise of more storms.  Will it be enough?" PBS NewsHour 1/10/2018


SUMMARY:  An epic nor'easter, a full moon high tide and a rising sea all conspired to swallow up Boston with an icy cold winter flood.  What has been a somewhat rare event is believed in the coming years to become much more common due to the effects of climate change.  Science correspondent Miles O'Brien reports on how Boston is preparing and whether it will be sufficient.

THE WAR WITH RUSSIA - American Election Security

"‘42 states haven’t upgraded their election equipment in over a decade and Russia knows it’" PBS NewsHour 1/10/2018


SUMMARY:  Primary voting in the 2018 elections is set to being in just two months.  Is the U.S. voting system secure in case Russia tries to interfere?  Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn) join Judy Woodruff to discuss their bipartisan effort to protect future elections, as well as President Trump’s call for Republicans to take over the Russia probe and the immigration negotiations.

CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES - Aftermath, Mudslides

"After devastating wildfires came deadly mudslides.  Here’s what makes them so treacherous" PBS NewsHour 1/10/2018


SUMMARY:  Huge mudslides have wiped out at least 100 homes in Southern California, where authorities have confirmed 15 deaths.  Rescue crews dug through the mud and debris on Wednesday in search of survivors; hundreds are still trapped or missing.  Judy Woodruff gets an update from Sharon McNary of Southern California Public Radio from Montecito, the community that has suffered the worst damage.

"California mudslide rescue crews pull out ‘all the stops’ to search for the missing" PBS NewsHour 1/11/2018


SUMMARY:  Since mud cascaded through the wealthy California enclave of Montecito, rescuers have been forced to trek through knee-deep sludge, using long poles to probe for bodies.  For some families, it's an agonizing wait as the window to find life begins to close.  Judy Woodruff gets an update on rescue efforts from Amber Anderson of the Santa Barbara City Fire Department.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL - Alabama "The Crimson Tide will not be denied."

"How this Alabama game-time gamble paid off" PBS NewsHour 1/9/2018


SUMMARY:  College football ended its season on Monday with high drama.  Alabama won its fifth championship since 2007 in a battle against its Southeastern conference neighbor, GeorgiaIn storybook fashion, a [true] freshman player who never started a college game threw three touchdowns, including one in overtime that clinched the victory.  Jeffrey Brown takes a look back with Mike Pesca of “The Gist” podcast.

EDUCATION - Lessons for Sale

"Why teachers selling lesson plans have sparked debate" PBS NewsHour 1/9/2018

Note that this article is also a comment on teacher pay.


SUMMARY:  To earn extra money, many teachers around the country are selling lesson plans via online marketplaces.  But as such sites become more popular, there are also concerns, including who legally owns the educational materials a teacher creates, and what it means for the collaborative spirit of the profession.  Special correspondent Kavitha Cardoza of Education Week reports from Alabama.

THE KOREAS - Breaking Silence

"Rivals North and South Korea break their silence.  Here’s what could challenge future dialogue" PBS NewsHour 1/9/2018

NOTE:  Standford FSI


SUMMARY:  For the first time in more than two years, officials from the two Koreas sat for high-level, closed-door talks.  The two sides agreed to hold future military talks to ease border tensions and the North pledged to send a delegation to next month's Winter Olympic Games.  Judy Woodruff discusses the developments with former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Kathleen Stephens.


"What testimony on the Trump dossier adds to the Russia probe" PBS NewsHour 1/8/2018


SUMMARY:  What does Glenn Simpson's newly released testimony about the Trump-Russia dossier reveal?  In a unilateral move, Sen. Dianne Feinstein publicly shared the nearly 11-hour exchange.  Judy Woodruff talks with Mark Mazzetti of The New York Times to recap why the Senate Judiciary Committee wanted to talk with Simpson about the Trump dossier and Republican resistance to releasing the transcript.

2018 GOLDEN GLOBES - Hollywood's Call

"Oprah leads Hollywood’s call to end sexual harassment" PBS NewsHour 1/8/2018


SUMMARY:  At the Golden Globe awards Sunday night, Hollywood’s biggest stars wore pins saying “Time’s Up,” a nod to a campaign to end sexual harassment in the industry.  Several stars, including Oprah Winfrey, also made impassioned calls to speak up about misconduct during their acceptance speeches.  Jeffrey Brown reports on the campaign, the night’s events and the momentum of the #MeToo movement.


"Trump insiders ‘afraid for the country,’ says Michael Wolff" PBS NewsHour 1/8/2018


SUMMARY:  Michael Wolff defended his headline-grabbing new book “Fire and Fury” on Monday, saying he “absolutely” stands by his reporting depicting a chaotic first year inside the Trump White House.

“I spent the better part of seven months in close proximity to everyone in the White House,” Wolff told PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff in an interview Monday.  “I had no agenda.  I was perfectly willing to write a book in which Donald Trump was the unexpected successful President.”

But Wolff said his White House sources told him they became increasingly alarmed with Trump’s behavior as his first year in office wore on.

Numerous media outlets have reported on a chaotic atmosphere in the White House since Trump took office.  But Wolff’s book stands out in part for the on-the-record quotes disparaging Trump or members of his family made by top current and former advisers, like former chief strategist Steve Bannon.  Bannon’s comments in the book appeared to cause a rift between him and the White House, which distanced itself from Bannon in recent days.

MLK - Let Us Remember

Saturday, January 13, 2018

TRUMP DANGER - Hawaii Missile Threat Alarm

"Ex-Obama defense official on Hawaii false alarm: 'Thank God the President was playing golf'" by Brandon Carter, The Hill 1/13/2018


A former Defense Department official under former President Obama reacted to the false alert that a ballistic missile was headed toward Hawaii on Saturday by saying “thank God the President was playing golf.”

Patrick Granfield, a former strategic communications director at the Pentagon, posted the tweet after Hawaii officials declared the emergency alert was a false alarm.

Critics went after Trump for being at his Trump International Golf Course in Florida when the false alarm alert was sent out on Saturday.

The false alarm came amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and North Korea over Pyongyang's nuclear program and continued testing of ballistic missiles.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) accused Trump of not taking the threat of North Korea's nuclear program seriously during a phone interview with CNN minutes after the false alarm.

Gabbard had posted a tweet saying that "there is no incoming missile to Hawaii” and adding she confirmed with officials that the alert, sent to mobile devices and televisions across Hawaii, was a false alarm.

U.S. Pacific Command spokesman Cmdr. David Benham said in a statement that the military "has detected no ballistic missile threat to Hawaii" and that an "earlier message was sent in error."

Another alert was sent out on Hawaii's emergency system 38 minutes later calling the initial alert a false alarm.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Monday, January 08, 2018

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 1/5/2018

"Shields and Brooks on Russia revelations, Trump-Bannon rift" PBS NewsHour 1/5/2018


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including new revelations in the Russia investigation, the war of words between President Donald Trump and former White House adviser Steve Bannon, and what former Vice President Joe Biden told Woodruff earlier this week about the future of the Democratic Party.

Judy Woodruff (NewsHour):  Next to the analysis of Shields and Brooks.  That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Welcome, gentlemen.

So, David, the lead of the program tonight is what I guess a lot of people in Washington are reading and talking about right now, are these Russia revelations, what the President did or didn’t do in trying to pressure the Attorney General to stay involved or not in this investigation.

Then other stories keep coming out.  We talked about it a few minutes ago in the program, but are we really learning more about what President Trump did?

David Brooks, New York Times:  Well, we knew that he really wanted to squash this investigation, but I think what we’re learning is a lot of the details, a lot of the efforts that he made, the letter he wanted to write, his attitude toward government.

To me, the most astonishing quote of the whole deal is he saying, “Where is my Roy Cohn?”  And Roy Cohn was Joe McCarthy’s henchman, more or less.  And so he’s basically — and a mentor to Donald Trump, it should be said, later in life.

And so he thinks government is sort of a family mafia business, and he can shut it down, and loyalty to the Don is the primary value here.

To me, that was just a mind-boggling quote, because most people consider Roy Cohn and Roy Cohn's role with Joe McCarthy as a shameful moment in American history, not something you want to emulate.

Judy Woodruff:  So, Mark, are we learning more here?  I mean, the stories are coming almost by the bushel full, and every one of them has a little bit more information about what happened.

Mark Shields, syndicated columnist:  Yes.

Well, we’re certainly learning — and I’m trying to separate the stories right now, but we’re learning the President was deeply involved in trying to divert attention on that return flight from his European trip in July, you know, that he was — that this is a matter of personal urgency to him, and which just sets off alarms.

I mean, why?  What is it?  I don’t think there is — we’re anywhere near a smoking pistol or anything of the sort on him and Russia, but there’s no question of his hypersensitivity, concern, involvement and unseemly involvement in trying to divert attention and to send the attorney general out as his personal attorney.

I mean, he really views the Attorney General of the United States not at the Department of Justice, but as a personal attorney, and is somewhat upset that he doesn’t have the same relationship with Jeff Sessions that he perceives that John Kennedy had with Robert Kennedy, who was his brother and his campaign manager.

MUSIC - Reaches the 'Unreachable'

"Music helps people in nursing home once considered unreachable" PBS NewsHour 1/5/2018


SUMMARY:  A California nursing home is using music therapy with residents suffering from dementia.  In collaboration with INewSource news service in San Diego, Joanne Faryon reports on how music is reaching those once considered unreachable.

SECURITY - Your Computer

As a retired Computer System Specialist and IT Technician, I had to deal with this issue on a regular bases and have over 40yrs experience.  There are simple steps that can protect your computer:
  • You cannot be hacked if your computer is OFF (not just logged out).
  • Your computer cannot be hacked if you are NOT online.  Disable your internet connection if you have no need to use the internet.  AND never go online without an anti-virus.
  • BUY a very high quality anti-virus utility.  'Free' anti-virus utilities (including Windows Defender) do NOT have all the features you need, most are only demo versions of a full utility you can purchase.
  • ALWAYS keep your Operator System up-to-date!

"Is your computer safe from hackers?" PBS NewsHour 1/4/2018

This particular issue applies to shared users.


SUMMARY:  This week, Google announced the discovery of three design flaws in processors of computers, tablets and smartphones that could let hackers access data.  Dmitri Alperovitch, co-founder of CrowdStrike, tells Hari Sreenivasan about the vulnerabilities and what’s being done to address them.

BUSINESS - Orchestrating Change

"What orchestras can teach executives about conducting business" PBS NewsHour 1/4/2018


SUMMARY:  Corporate executives are getting a lesson in leadership and communication from the conductor’s podium thanks to the Music Paradigm, a program that trains business leaders in the fine art of teamwork.  Paul Solman goes behind the scenes of a recent session.

TRUMP AGENDA - Raping the Oceans

"How Trump could vastly expand offshore drilling" PBS NewsHour 1/4/2018

aka Lets forget the Exxon Valdez 1989 and Deepwater Horizon 2010 oil spills, and the damage they caused.


SUMMARY:  In a newly released five-year plan, the Trump administration has proposed opening up vast new areas to oil and gas exploration, including federal waters off the California coast and off the East Coast, from Georgia to Maine.  Amy Harder, who covers energy and climate change issues for Axios, describes what this all means.

ONE ON ONE - Joe Biden Interview and "Promise me, Dad"

IMHO:  Joe Biden, one of the last 'decent' citizen politicians.

"Joe Biden condemns Trump’s handling of North Korea, hasn’t ruled out 2020" PBS NewsHour 1/4/2018


SUMMARY:  In a wide-ranging interview with PBS NewsHour's Judy Woodruff, former Vice President Joe Biden said he believes the U.S. is closer than ever to nuclear war, adding President Trump "undermines" the office of the President.  He also talks about his latest book, "Promise me, Dad," which chronicles his son Beau's brain cancer diagnosis and death, and his own decision not to run for President in 2016.

TAXING MATTERS - 2018 Tax Year

"Know your rights and other tips for filing your taxes this year" PBS NewsHour 1/3/2018


SUMMARY:  The IRS faces a time crunch to implement changes under the new tax law.  Nina Olson, the National Taxpayer Advocate at the IRS, joins Lisa Desjardins to describe how the agency is getting up to speed and the resources available to taxpayers.

DENTISTRY - New Treatment

"This new treatment could make your next trip to the dentist more bearable" PBS NewsHour 1/3/2018


SUMMARY:  A new method of treating tooth decay using silver nitrate may make the pain, and expense, of traditional treatments obsolete.  Special correspondent Cat Wise [NewsHour] has the story.

WORLD VIEW - Of Twitter-n-Chief

"How Trump’s love of Twitter translates abroad" PBS NewsHour 1/3/2018


SUMMARY:  President Donald Trump uses Twitter to speak directly to the American people.  How is this mode of communication heard in foreign nations?  Former ambassador Nancy McEldowney who is now at Georgetown University, and Kenneth Weinstein, president and CEO of the Hudson Institute think tank, lend their perspectives. 

POLITICS - Trump vs Bannon

"The Trump-Bannon rift and what we’re learning about the Russia investigations" PBS NewsHour 1/3/2018


SUMMARY:  In an upcoming book, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is quoted as saying a 2016 meeting with Donald Trump Jr., campaign staffers and a group of Russians was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.”  Mark Mazzetti of The New York Times, and Robert Costa host of Washington Week, talk with Hari Sreenivasan about the latest revelations in the Russia investigation and so-called Steele dossier.

TRUMP AGENDA - Silencing Journalism and Criticism

From the King of 'Fake News,' Trump.

"How do Americans view ‘fake news’ today?" PBS NewsHour 1/2/2018


SUMMARY:  President Donald Trump has tweeted about “fake news” repeatedly during his first year in office.  Margaret Sullivan, a media columnist for The Washington Post, and Craig Silverman a media editor for BuzzFeed News, talk to Judy Woodruff about how Americans view the media in a climate of distrust.

SCIENCE - Visiting Mars on the Cheap

"How to visit Mars with a tiny satellite and static electricity" PBS NewsHour 1/1/2018


SUMMARY:  CubeSat's, low-cost, bite-sized satellites inspired by the tubes used to hold Beanie Babies, were invented in 1999 as educational tools.  Now, aerospace suppliers and governments across the globe see the tools as the future of space commercialization and deep space exploration.

TRANSGENDERS - Serving in U.S. Military (reprise)

About time.

"Transgender individuals may now openly join the U.S. military" PBS NewsHour 1/1/2018


SUMMARY:  As of Monday, openly transgender people are allowed to serve in the U.S. military, despite President Donald Trump tweeting last July that he would “not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity."  We take a second look at a report on what the shift in military policy could mean for supporters and critics alike.

IRAN - The Protests

"Iranian president calls for calm amid deadly protests" PBS NewsHour 1/1/2018


SUMMARY:  Iran saw a fifth day of anti-government protests on Monday with at least 12 fatalities reported.  Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called for calm amid the regime’s most serious challenge to its rule since the 2009 mass demonstrations.  William Brangham learns more from The New York Times’ Thomas Erdbrink in Tehran.

"What’s driving the deadly protests in Iran?" PBS NewsHour 1/1/2018


SUMMARY:  Iranians continued to demonstrate against the clerical leadership on Monday amid economic hardships.  Karim Sadjadpour, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, describes the factors behind the unrest and how the protests differ from previous ones.

"Iran’s Supreme Leader blames ‘enemies’ for unrest" PBS NewsHour 1/2/2018


SUMMARY:  Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei spoke publicly Tuesday, the first time since protests broke out last week, blaming “enemies of Iran” for the unrest.  Rageh Omaar of ITV News reports.

"How is the Iranian government responding to protests?" PBS NewsHour 1/2/2018


SUMMARY:  President Donald Trump tweeted that the ‘U.S. is watching’ Iran’s continuing protests.  Abbas Milani, director of the Iranian Studies program at Stanford University, analyzes how the Iranian government is responding to the unrest.

Abbas Milani, Iranian Studies Program at Stanford University:  I think it is characteristics of Mr. Khamenei.  He has a paranoid view of the world.  He doesn’t believe that he has made any mistakes.  He has yet to accept any mistakes for any of the major policy decisions that he is directly responsible for.

Does Milani's comment sound like anyone in America we know?

Sunday, January 07, 2018

THE BIG PICTURE - Today's Mess

"How We Got Into This Mess, And How Get Out of It"
by Robert B. Reich

This is the best, and simple to understand, presentation of how America got into the mess we have today (aka why we have Trump).

(Suggest watch in Full Screen)

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

SUPREME COUNT - In the Fine Print

"Legal Footnote: You Have to Look Hard to See the Supreme Court Correct Its Mistakes" by Ryan Gabrielson, ProPublica 1/2/2018

When the justices err, care is taken not to call attention to the mishaps.  Some think that’s its own mistake.

Rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court often come with great anticipation and attention, even true drama.  Anxious crowds gather outside the court at dawn.  Opinions first go out on paper to the waiting hands of television news interns, who sprint the documents to correspondents to be immediately deciphered on the air.  Justices later announce their decisions in open court, and occasionally read aloud the opinions.

But when the court fixes mistakes in its opinions, it does so very quietly.  No press releases.  No public reading of corrections.  For most of the court’s history, the justices have only signaled their fixes and edits by adding the word “modified” in small type to newly issued print and digital versions of the opinions.

The changes thus have proved hard to find — not just for the general public, but for lawyers and judges and scholars of the law.

Gabe Roth, executive director of Fix the Court, an advocacy group pushing for judicial transparency, thinks that’s a problem.

“The court does what it can to obscure its mistakes and to obscure some of the finer points of what they do,” Roth said.

Most changes in opinions are minor — fixing a fact or two, not altering a constitutional determination.  But some of the changes made have been substantial.

One of the court’s most infamous rulings — Scott v.  Sanford, which in 1857 held that African Americans whose ancestors arrived as slaves could not be U.S. citizens or sue for their freedom — was heavily altered shortly after its release.  Chief Justice Roger Taney added more than a dozen pages to the Scott majority opinion, largely to defend against arguments another justice made in a furious dissent.  Taney did not show the rest of the court his rewrite before publishing the final opinion.

In 2014, Richard Lazarus, a Harvard University law professor, exposed the court’s methods for handling mistakes in a law review article.  Lazarus dove into archival files, the working papers of retired justices, and proofs of opinions to unearth the backstories for several altered opinions, including the Scott ruling.  He argued the Supreme Court should better notify the public of its revisions since the opinions are widely referenced and quoted.

“Serious practical problems arise when the version of the court’s opinion upon which lower courts, other branches of government, and scholars and teachers rely can change, without notice, as many as five years after initial publication,” Lazarus wrote.

After the article, the court took a step toward greater transparency.  Since 2015, the court’s website has flagged opinions that are modified after their initial release.  It now also posts digital copies of the decisions that highlight edits.

However, this reform applies only to recent decisions.  Finding earlier changes can be challenging, and details about the revisions — how the errors happened or were uncovered, for instance — are rarely in the documents.

This year, ProPublica fact-checked a sampling of the Supreme Court’s majority opinions from 2011 through 2015, and found several errorsincluding a couple of glaring inaccuracies in big decisions.  A ruling that struck down part of the Voting Rights Act featured incorrect voter registration data.  Another that helped reshape criminal sentencing relied on flawed studies claiming that judges were punishing defendants erratically.  The bad information came from legal filings, from government records and from the justices’ own independent research.

To date, the court has not corrected those errors.  ProPublica sent the court questions about its practices for revising opinions, but the court did not respond.  Chief Justice John Roberts and the other justices have repeatedly declined to comment when ProPublica provided them with our findings.  “As a matter of policy the court does not comment on its opinions, which speak for themselves,” Kathleen Arberg, spokeswoman for the court, wrote in a September email denying interview requests.

There will be little, or no, public notice if justices later fix the errant opinions.  And there is slim chance the court will ever explain its revisions.

Federal laws dictate what happens to Presidents’ and lawmakers’ work documents, which detail what government officials have done and why.  Those records often become the public’s property.

But no statute or regulation governs justices’ internal records.  Further, the court does not even have in-house policies for its files, Jill Lepore, a New Yorker magazine staff writer, reported in 2014.  The justices themselves have complete control.

“They can shred them; they can burn them; they can use them as placemats,” Lepore wrote.  “Texts vanish; e-mails are deleted.  The court has no policies or guidelines for secretaries and clerks about what to keep and what to throw away.”

The court also has not permitted much access to the minimal information it does release about changes in opinions.

In the course of his research, Lazarus sought copies of the “change pages” that mark revisions in rulings for publishers.  He obtained one year’s worth of the pages from an online service before the "Reporter of Decisions of the Supreme Court," which disseminates opinions, directed the service to stop.  The Reporter didn't respond to Lazarus’ direct requests for change pages until after his law review article published.

“My view is that they impeded my efforts,” Lazarus told ProPublica.  “The Reporter’s view is that they were agnostic.”

Justices have occasionally been more open about fixing factual errors when the mistakes became embarrassing.  But they never offer a full accounting of how the mistakes occurred, how they decided to correct them and whether they verified the rest of their facts.

In 2010, the court ruled in Graham v. Florida that juvenile crimes other than homicide cannot bring life sentences in prison without parole under the Eighth Amendment, which protects against cruel and unusual punishment.  Justice Anthony Kennedy undertook his own research in the course of writing the majority opinion.

A study of life sentences for juvenile offenders by Florida State University professors became central to the court’s decision.  It determined that such penalties were very rare.  Only 109 juveniles were serving life sentences for crimes less than homicide nationwide, the study found, of which 77 were in Florida.

The study included data from 47 states.  Lawyers for the state of Florida argued the research was not comprehensive nor independently vetted, and should not be trusted.

Kennedy sought to fill in the missing data.  The Supreme Court’s library sent letters to officials in the states that did not provide information to the Florida State professors and to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, asking for a count of juvenile life sentences for non-homicides.  All provided information to Kennedy, and the justice added the new numbers to the earlier study’s tally.  (He also counted an Oklahoma case based solely on a newspaper report.)

In the opinion, Kennedy wrote “there are 129 juvenile non-homicide offenders serving life without parole sentences."  A few days after the ruling, the Solicitor General’s Office, lawyers representing federal agencies, notified the court that its number was inaccurate.  The prisons bureau had sent Kennedy a list of six inmates serving life inmates for juvenile crimes, but each of those convictions had involved homicide.

The justice used data he collected without double-checking it.  Kennedy edited the opinion to subtract the federal inmates from his count and include a footnote acknowledging the error.

Friday, December 29, 2017

THE DAILY SHOW - Philando Castile Verdict (looking back)

The Truth About the Philando Castile Verdict 6/21/2017

After dashcam footage of Philando Castile's police shooting is released, Trevor breaks down America's unconscious bias against African Americans.

In America, even a jury of you peers will OK a police shooting of a man because he's black.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

ATTORNEY GENERAL - Duty to Protect a President, NO

Regarding Donald Trump's apparent belief that the Attorney General should protect the President:  No.

RUSSIA FILES - Spammer Ties 4/10/2017 (Reminder)

Spammer's Arrest Eyed For Donald Trump-Russia Ties

Rachel Maddow reports on the latest developments in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and the possibility of coordination with the Donald Trump campaign, including the arrest of a Russian hacker in Spain.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

INTERVIEW - Prince Harry With President Obama 2017

Prince Harry Interview Barack Obama on How He Felt During Trump Inauguration


Monday, December 25, 2017

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 12/22/2017

"Shields and Brooks on how politics of 2017 will affect 2018" PBS NewsHour 12/22/2017


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including the GOP tax bill signed into law, the things lawmakers didn’t accomplish before the end of the year and what it will mean for the 2018 midterm elections, plus David and Mark share whom they would give holiday gifts to this year.

Judy Woodruff (NewsHour):  And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks.  That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Gentlemen, welcome.

Three days before Christmas, Congress has just gone home.  David, the President says this tax bill that they passed is a great gift for the American people.  He said today corporations are going wild over this.  They’re showering their employees with bonuses.

But the polls show people are still skeptical.  What are people to make of this?

David Brooks, New York Times:  Yes.

Well, I have not been a big fan of this tax bill for a whole number of reasons, one of which I think was revealed today.  When you look at all the intricacies of it, not all the big things, little changes that could have vast effects on American societies.

For example, we have got the health insurance system, the employer-based health system because of some minor change during World War II.  This has all sorts of minor things.  Because we had no hearings, because we had no expert review, and no time to actually look at what’s in the bill, it has dozens of that kind of minor changes that could have massive effects.

For example, we could all — it doesn’t make sense to work for a company anymore, when you can declare yourself a corporation and pay the corporate rate.  And so that could just have massive effects of the economy.

So it’s actually kind of hard to know what the effects of this tax bill will be, because I think most of them are unintended.

Judy Woodruff:  So, are people scratching their heads, Mark, or are they worried?  What do you see?

Mark Shields, syndicated columnist:  People have concluded, at least strong initial judgment, Judy, that it is a bill that favors corporations and favors the very well-off.

And that is a conclusion.  As Peter Hart, the pollster says, when a negative judgment is formed, it’s very difficult to overcome that.  And that is the perception.

Most people don’t have the option of declaring themselves corporations.  That comes to a level of affluence and influence not available to most American families.

And I think what David cited is a good example.

David Brooks:  Yes.  I would say one thing.  I don’t think it is going to be a political loser for the Republicans.

Judy Woodruff:  You don’t?

David Brooks:  Because 80 percent of the country does — or tax units, does get a break out of it of varying sizes.

Some people will get pretty significant breaks.  If you have a kid or a couple of kids, the child deductible tax credit, it doubles and it becomes refundable, so you actually get a check in the mail.  And a lot of people are going to be seeing that.  And a lot of people are going to be surprised to see that.

So I don’t think it will be the total loser that it looks now.  I think now the polling, people don’t know what’s in the tax bill.  They just don’t like Trump.  He’s associated with it.  They get the Republicans favor the rich.

But this bill is — you spend a trillion-and-a-half dollars, you can give a lot of money away.

Judy Woodruff:  So, Mark, you…


Judy Woodruff:  Go ahead.

Mark Shields:  In 1986, which was an employer tax reform bill, Ronald Reagan, passed the Senate 74-23, passed the House 296-132, bipartisan, overwhelmingly, and popular.

And President Reagan refused to sign anything that wasn’t deficit-neutral, and, Judy, historic.  And that year, 1986, the Republicans lost control of the Senate, lost nine Senate seats.  Democrats increased their majority in the House.

It is a — in 1981, after President Reagan signed his then historic first tax cut, the same thing.  The Republicans suffered.

David’s point is that they get a couple more bucks.  I get 20 bucks more or 30 bucks more in my check.  But I’m going to be regaled and inundated with stories of millionaires walking away, of special interests, of Wall Street getting it.  And it becomes very relative.  I’m starting to feel duped, because all of these wealthy people are getting windfalls.

David Brooks:  Yes.

I think the Republicans are going to do very bad in the midterm, but not because of the tax bill.

Mark Shields:  OK.

David Brooks:  And there are lot — in ’86, it was revenue-neutral.  In ’81, there was a recession.  Now times are economically good.

Mark Shields:  That’s right.

David Brooks:  So you can vote on a lot of things.  In general, when you run up big deficits and give away — back money to people, they like it.  And people like me say, hey, you should worry about the deficits or you should worry about the distribution effects.

That’s just never been, I think, my experience of how people respond to it.  They say, hey, I got some money back.

TELEVISION - Best of 2017

"The best, bingeable shows 2017 had to offer" PBS NewsHour 12/22/2017


SUMMARY:  If you’re planning a little TV binge-watching this holiday, there are plenty of great shows from the past year to catch up on.  Eric Deggans of NPR and Jen Chaney of Vulture join Jeffrey Brown to offer their top picks of 2017 for best TV and streaming shows.

TRUMP AGENDA- 'Kidnapping' Toddlers

aka "The Inhumanity of Immigration Policy"

"Migrant seeking asylum says his toddler was taken away at the U.S. border" PBS NewsHour 12/22/2017


SUMMARY:  At least four Central American men in this California detention facility say U.S. immigration officials took their children after they arrived at the border, asking for asylum.  Immigration and Customs Enforcement says the agency separated the children for their safety, because the men didn't have enough proof they were the fathers.  Special correspondent Jean Guerrero of KPBS in San Diego reports.

NEWSHOUR BOOKSHELF - "The Doomsday Machine"

"‘Doomsday Machine’ author Daniel Ellsberg says Americans have escaped self-annihilation by luck" PBS NewsHour 12/21/2017


SUMMARY:  The military analyst turned whistleblower who leaked the Pentagon Papers looks at the existential threat of America’s nuclear capacities in his new memoir, “The Doomsday Machine."  Very little has changed, says author Daniel Ellsberg, when it comes to what he calls the immoral and insane policies regarding nuclear weapons.  William Brangham sits down with Ellsberg to discuss the looming danger.

MAKING SEN$E - What's the Beef?

"Should plant-based meat replace beef completely?" PBS NewsHour 12/21/2017

IMHO:  I've tried these 'plant-based' (aka fake) burgers.  Sorry, they don't even come close to In-n-Out.


SUMMARY:  What’s the beef with beef?  As plant-based meat startups try to chop the meat from our diets, beef is seen as bad for the land, air and the body.  But that’s not the full story.  Economics correspondent Paul Solman takes a closer look at the costs, pros and cons of our obsession with the mighty bovine.

BROADWAY - "The Band's Visit"

"In Broadway’s ‘The Band’s Visit,’ mistranslation leads to musical connection" PBS NewsHour 12/20/2017


SUMMARY:  When the members of an Egyptian band arrive in an Israeli city for a performance, it's clear something is wrong -- they've gotten the name wrong and ended up in a sleepy desert town.  That's the premise of a new musical, "The Band's Visit," that's connecting with audiences and critics alike.  Jeffrey Brown reports.

SCIENCE - The Battle Over Fact vs Politics

"In 2017, politics overshadowed science and scientists fought back" PBS NewsHour 12/20/2017


SUMMARY:  Scientists taking to the streets, enormous icebergs rupturing, a solar eclipse that captured the nation's attention, and new insights into the workings of the universe.  2017 has been quite a year in science.  Science correspondent Miles O’Brien joins William Brangham to look back and add some context.

HEATH - Where You Live Matters

"Giving poor families more choices in where to live can greatly improve health" PBS NewsHour 12/20/2017


SUMMARY:  When low-income Americans are concentrated in substandard homes in struggling or violent neighborhoods, it has tangible consequences for well-being.  Research confirms that moving families into less segregated neighborhoods improves overall health, and some communities are giving families vouchers to relocate.  Special correspondent Sarah Varney of Kaiser Health News reports.

EDUCATION - Vision for Baltimore

"What happens to learning when students get much-needed glasses" PBS NewsHour 12/19/2017


SUMMARY:  Good vision care is a luxury for families who can’t easily afford the time or money spent getting a child’s first pair of glasses.  But a new program called "Vision for Baltimore" called provides eye exams and two pairs of glasses to every student who needs them, totally free of charge -- a simple thing that can dramatically improve the quality of their education.  William Brangham reports.

NEWSHOUR SHARES - Patrice Banks on 'Auto Airheads'

"This female-operated auto shop puts women in the driver’s seat of their own repairs" PBS NewsHour 12/19/2017


SUMMARY:  In our NewsHour Shares moment of the day, Patrice Banks used to get uncomfortable taking her car to the mechanic.  But following a successful career as an engineer, she decided to revolutionize the industry with her own take on the classic car shop by catering to the market’s number one customer, women.

TRUMP AGENDA - Gaging Health Choices

A "March to Theocracy" report.

"Impact of ‘global gag rule’ goes beyond abortion for these health groups in Kenya" PBS NewsHour 12/19/2017


SUMMARY:  The so-called global gag rule, which cuts off some U.S. government aid to health agencies that offer or mention abortion services, has been reinstated by every Republican president going back to Reagan.  But the Trump administration has gone much further, cutting all funding to groups that offer vital health care services in places like Kenya.  Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro has the story.

GOP TAX BILL - Old/Failed 'Trickle Down' Religion

"The surprising winners and losers of the latest GOP tax bill" PBS NewsHour 12/18/2017


SUMMARY:  Who benefits most from the latest GOP tax plan?  Who won -- and who lost -- in the last-minute changes?  With the House poised to pass its tax bill on Tuesday, Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff to analyze its impact and some of the surprising details inside.

"Tax cuts alone won’t answer U.S. economic needs, Bloomberg says" PBS NewsHour 12/18/2017


SUMMARY:  Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City and billionaire investor and business owner, wrote a column this week calling the tax bill a “trillion-dollar blunder."  He tells Judy Woodruff why he thinks Congress and President Donald Trump put politics ahead of true tax reform.

"Sweeping GOP bill set to revamp U.S. tax code, slash corporate rate" PBS NewsHour 12/19/2017

aka "Coming of United States of America Inc."


SUMMARY:  For Republican lawmakers, it's a day to celebrate.  Cheers went up as the GOP tax overhaul received House passage, signaling the end of a legislative sprint to get the bill wrapped up by Christmas.  Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff to discuss what ended up in the bill, a minor snag in the Senate, plus the prospects for passing a federal funding bill and avoiding a government shutdown.

The spin......

"U.S. needs to be a ‘little bit patient’ to see robust economic growth from the GOP tax plan, says Thune" PBS NewsHour 12/19/2017


SUMMARY:  After a year in the majority marked by several legislative speed bumps and dead ends, Republicans are happy with the final tax bill that's poised to pass, according to Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.)  Judy Woodruff asks Thune about the long-term tax increase for the middle class, doubts that the tax cuts will spur the kind of growth predicted by the GOP plan and concerns about a ballooning deficit.

Killing the ACA by the back door.....

"The GOP tax bill deals a blow to the Affordable Care Act.  Here’s how" PBS NewsHour 12/20/2017


SUMMARY:  The sweeping tax bill passed by Congress on Wednesday extends beyond what you file with the IRS.  It also affects American health care by repealing Obamacare's [ACA] so-called individual mandate.  John Yang learns more from Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News about that and other health care matters on Congress’ agenda.

The uncharitable Republicans......

"Charities fear GOP tax overhaul will dry up donations.  Here’s how" PBS NewsHour 12/21/2017


SUMMARY:  Charities are concerned that the GOP tax overhaul disincentives giving.  By doubling the standard deduction, fewer people may end up itemizing deductions, meaning fewer would take the charitable tax break.  Judy Woodruff learns more from Stacy Palmer of The Chronicle of Philanthropy about the effects and gets advice from people who want to give.