Sunday, May 28, 2017
"I’m beginning to wonder if the wire photographers—from places like the A.P., Reuters, and other unshowy mainstays of the press pool—aren’t the true comedians of Donald Trump’s young and stressful Presidency. Alec Baldwin notwithstanding, the best way to make fun of a cretin of such operatic magnitude seems to be to present him with a steady naturalism, just as he is. This proved doubly true this past week, as the President embarked on a nine-day foreign tour, through the Middle East and Europe, that he and his advisers hoped would serve as a “reset” after so much Comey-induced stateside drama. But, alas, not so. The trip, now mercifully ended, instead provided a rolling photo essay of international embarrassment. Trump, in comfortable league with an absolute monarch and a dictator—the Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud and the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi—laid hands on an inexplicable, vaguely mystical orb; he made Pope Francis look sad again and again; he lost to the new French President, Emmanuel Macron, in a duel of alpha-male handshakes. Speaking of hands, he twice had trouble convincing Melania to take hold of his own.
I was struck, though, by one of the quieter captures of the President overseas. It is a photo, credited to Getty Images, showing Donald and Melania standing in the Sistine Chapel not long after their meeting with His Holiness. They are holding hands (a miracle worthy of the Vatican) and touching shoulders; the First Lady, after the custom of a woman granted audience with the Pope, is dressed in all black and shrouded under an intricate veil. potus and flotus crane their necks upward, the better to regard Michelangelo’s devotional masterpiece, “The Last Judgment.” From what we know about his taste in art and design, we can imagine Trump’s quibbles: Where’s the gold? This place could use a pillar or two. We know that the President—he of “Two Corinthians” fame—is likely ill-equipped to grasp the theological content of the fresco, which depicts Christ’s Second Coming, and dramatizes the final judgment of all mankind. His briefly controversial theory of heroism might help us understand his attitude toward the figure at the center of the work—he likes people who weren’t captured, much less crucified.
Still, probably because of the artful angle of the photo—which shows the first couple from behind and a bit below; the pair look like monuments, and “The Last Judgment” like a terrifying sky—I perceive, ever so slightly, a sense of awe. Some art demands it, no matter how dull or corrupt the critical apparatus of the viewer. I wonder, metaphysics aside, whether Trump, who never made a mess he felt ashamed to slink away from, saw the twisted, writhing bodies of the damned, near the bottom of Michelangelo’s arrangement, and was given, by some unnamed grace, a glimpse of their moral meaning—that someday, somehow, each of us pays for what he does. A revelation, you might call it, but I’m not holding my breath—the ever-mounting revelations of the Russia probe might prove a better teacher."
Vinson Cunningham joined The New Yorker as a staff writer in 2016.
Donald and Melania Trump’s Last Judgment - The New Yorker
"Any doubts about the senseless cruelty underlying the health care agenda put forward by President Trump and Congress were put to rest last week by two government documents. The fantasy that Mr. Trump intends to fight for the health of long-suffering working people should be similarly interred.
One document was the administration’s budget. The other was the Congressional Budget Office’s detailed analysis of the Trumpcare bill passed by the House earlier this month. The budget proposes billions of dollars in cuts to programs that fund research into new cures, protect the country from infectious diseases and provide care to the poor, the elderly and people with disabilities. The analysis said that Trumpcare — formally the American Health Care Act — would rob 23 million people of health insurance while leaving millions of others with policies that offer little protection from major medical conditions. All of this would be done in service of huge tax cuts for the richest Americans.
Consider the fate of Medicaid, a program that provides health insurance to more than 74 million people, among them 60 percent of nursing home residents and millions of people with disabilities. Trumpcare would slash Medicaid spending by $834 billion over 10 years, according to the C.B.O. The president’s budget would take a further $610 billion from the program under the pretext of reforming it. Taken together, this amounts to an estimated 45 percent reduction by 2026 compared with current law, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says.
Trumpcare, the C.B.O. says, would make it impossible for millions of people with pre-existing conditions like heart disease or diabetes to buy health insurance. That’s because the law would let states waive many of the requirements in the Affordable Care Act, the 2010 law known as Obamacare. It would also greatly increase the cost of insurance policies for older and poorer people, no matter where they live. By way of illustration, a 64-year-old earning $26,500 a year and living in a state not seeking waivers would have to pay $16,100 a year for coverage, nearly 10 times as much as she would under Obamacare.
The House speaker, Paul Ryan, would argue that Trumpcare is an improvement over the A.C.A. because it would lower premiums for many people, especially the young and healthy. The C.B.O. says he’s right, noting that plans would include fewer benefits. In effect, Mr. Ryan and his colleagues are patting themselves on the back for lowering health insurance premiums by taking away people’s access to medical services.
Apart from inflicting hardship, what would Trumpcare and the president’s budget achieve? Mainly a windfall for wealthy families. The administration has not provided enough information to make good estimates, so it’s hard to say how much the rich would gain from the budget, although it would be a lot. We know more about Trumpcare. The Tax Policy Center estimates that almost all of the tax cuts in that legislation would flow to the rich: The top 1 percent would take home an average of $37,200 a year, while people with middle-class incomes would get a measly $300.
The White House and Republicans in the House of Representatives agree on Trumpcare and are aligned on many parts of the president’s budget. The Senate, however, is still up for grabs. A handful of more moderate senators like Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Rob Portman of Ohio are all that stand in the way of this retrograde assault on American health care."
Trumpcare’s Cruelty, Reaffirmed - The New York Times
"BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Europe’s most influential leader, has apparently concluded that the United States of President Trump is not the reliable partner her country and continent have automatically depended on in the past.
Clearly disappointed with European leaders’ inability to persuade Mr. Trump to publicly endorse NATO’s doctrine of collective defense — or to agree to common positions on Russia, climate change or global trade — Ms. Merkel said on Sunday that traditional alliances were no longer as reliable as they once were, and that Europe should pay more attention to its own interests “and really take our fate into our own hands.”
Her strong comments were a further indication that Mr. Trump’s trip did not go down well with influential European leaders and that it seems, at least from the Continent’s perspective, to have increased trans-Atlantic strains rather than diminish them."
Merkel, After Discordant G-7 Meeting, Is Looking Past Trump - The New York Times
Saturday, May 27, 2017
Jon Ossoff - The Congressional Budget Office reported yesterday... The Congressional Budget Office reported yesterday that the House’s health care bill will make insurance unaffordable for 23 million Americans. It will raise premiums on older and low-income Americans. And those with preexisting conditions could be priced out of insurance altogether. John Armwood is a Brookhaven resident diagnosed with prostate cancer after losing his insurance. He was able to get covered thanks to the ACA. The current plan in Congress would be devastating for many Americans like Mr. Armwood. Jon Ossoff will fight to make affordable insurance and quality care available to all Americans.
"Zbigniew Brzezinski, the hawkish strategic theorist who was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter in the tumultuous years of the Iran hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970s, died on Friday at a hospital in Virginia. He was 89.
His death, at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, was announced on Friday by his daughter, Mika Brzezinski, a co-host of the MSNBC program ‘Morning Joe.’
Like his predecessor Henry A. Kissinger, Mr. Brzezinski was a foreign-born scholar (he in Poland, Mr. Kissinger in Germany) with considerable influence in global affairs, both before and long after his official tour of duty in the White House. In essays, interviews and television appearances over the decades, he cast a sharp eye on six successive administrations, including that of Donald J. Trump, whose election he did not support and whose foreign policy, he found, lacked coherence.
Mr. Brzezinski was nominally a Democrat, with views that led him to speak out, for example, against the ‘greed,’ as he put it, of an American system that compounded inequality. He was one of the few foreign policy experts to warn against the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Continue reading the main story RELATED COVERAGE
Op-Ed: ‘Why the World Needs a Trump Doctrine’ by Zbigniew Brzezinski and Paul Wasserman (Feb. 20, 2017) Zbigniew Brzezinski’s Writings in The New York Times"
Friday, May 26, 2017
Accused of underpaying women, Google says it's too expensive to get wage data | Technology | The Guardian
"Google argued that it was too financially burdensome and logistically challenging to compile and hand over salary records that the government has requested, sparking a strong rebuke from the US Department of Labor (DoL), which has accused the Silicon Valley firm of underpaying women.
Google officials testified in federal court on Friday that it would have to spend up to 500 hours of work and $100,000 to comply with investigators’ ongoing demands for wage data that the DoL believes will help explain why the technology corporation appears to be systematically discriminating against women.
Noting Google’s nearly $28bn annual income as one of the most profitable companies in the US, DoL attorney Ian Eliasoph scoffed at the company’s defense, saying, “Google would be able to absorb the cost as easy as a dry kitchen sponge could absorb a single drop of water.”
The tense exchanges in a small San Francisco courtroom emerged in the final day of testimony in the most high-profile government trial to date surrounding the intensifying debate about the wage gap and gender discrimination in the tech industry."
Accused of underpaying women, Google says it's too expensive to get wage data | Technology | The Guardian