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Daily Reads: Former Goldman Sachs President Enjoys New White House Influence; Is Trump Dropping Big Bombs to Boost Popularity?

A roundup of stories we're reading at BillMoyers.com HQ...

Former Goldman Sachs President Enjoys New White House Influence

Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn (L) and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer (C) attend a news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on April 12, 2017. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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Inauguration of president Cohn –> “I know the guys at Goldman Sachs. They have total, total control over [Ted Cruz]. Just like they have total control over Hillary Clinton,” Donald Trump said during the primaries, attacking his opponents. Now, with Steve Bannon (a former Goldman Sachs banker who nonetheless denounced Wall Street) falling out of favor, Gary Cohn, the former president of the bank, has stepped into his place, Damian Paletta reports for The Washington Post.

“Some may breathe a sigh of relief that Trump has ditched his white-supremacist sidekick and thrown in his lot with global cooperation and harmony (though the continued presence of Jeff Sessions and the rise of a national deportation force suggests Bannonism is more alive than Bannon, at least in some areas),” David Dayen writes for The Nation. “But Cohn-ism is also deeply harmful to any American outside of an executive suite. The new agenda is rooted in aggrandizing the economic power of the 1 percent and keeping the tide of corporate welfare flowing. It turns out Trump doesn’t resent elites; he just wants their approval.”

What this means for policy: Cohn’s goal, Justin Miller writes at The American Prospect, will be “to secure as much deregulation for his Wall Street comrades as possible.” That means his ideas about the American economy’s future should be taken with a grain of salt — including ones that, at first blush, seem they might hurt Goldman’s bottom line, such as a recent indication of support for a new Glass-Steagall. “People need to be mindful that there are numerous ways that a Glass-Steagall-like change could be done that would increase systemic risk, create unregulated too big to fail firms and put taxpayers on the hook for much bigger bailouts in the future,” Dennis Kelleher, president of the Wall Street watchdog Better Markets, warns.

The mother of all bombs –> The US dropped one of the most powerful non-nuclear bombs in Afghanistan. Originally developed to intimidate Saddam Hussein, the weapon has a 1-mile blast radius; at The Week, Jeva Lange notes that experts once called it an “indiscriminate terror weapon.”

At The New Republic, Jeet Heer writes that, following last week’s strike on Syria, Trump basked in the media’s adoration. “It’s not hard to imagine that Trump, who is struggling with record-low approval ratings, took one lesson from that operation: Bombing foreign countries is an easy way to boost one’s popularity.”

Take a deep breath, fellas –> China is warning the US and North Korea to step back from the brink of war, after the US threatened a preemptive strike — and North Korea warned that, if such a strike occurred, it would not “keep its arms crossed.” Justin McCurry and Tom Phillips write for The Guardian: “Speaking in Beijing on Friday, the Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, told reporters the region faced a ‘precarious situation’ in which ‘one has the feeling that a conflict could break out at any moment.’“

Big reward –> “The two lawmakers most responsible for rolling back landmark internet browsing privacy protections were richly rewarded by telecommunication giants,” Lee Fang writes for The Intercept. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) received payouts from the US Telecom Association and Verizon.

Another reason air travel is awful –> Private equity. To improve airlines’ “performance,” the companies that own them have added new and tricky fees, gotten rid of leg room and pushed to consolidate many airlines under only a few companies. At The American Prospect, Harold Meyerson writes “there’s a direct line running from private equity’s redefinition of the airlines’ mission to Dr. Dao being dragged like a sack of potatoes down an aircraft’s center aisle.”

Savvy operator –> While one half of the Steve & Steve duo that drove Trump’s nationalism is out of favor, the other is ascendent, Politico reports. Stephen Miller, who lent his white resentment to Trump’s campaign long before Bannon arrived, has made it clear that he is not aligned with the former Breitbart head, who has gotten into trouble recently by feuding with the president’s son in law. “Miller, who wrote Trump’s fiery ‘American carnage’ inaugural address, continues to work on the president’s speeches but takes direction from others on their tone,” Josh Dawsey and Eliana Johnson report. “He’s also begun working on energy and regulatory issues, while focusing less on immigration, the issue about which he’s long been most passionate.”

The network of journalists behind the Snowden leak –> Edward Snowden did not simply send his documents to the journalists who eventually wrote about his leaks — instead, to avoid having the documents picked up by US authorities, they were passed through a network of journalists affiliated with Columbia Journalism School. Two of them tell the story for Harpers magazine.

Daily Reads was compiled by John Light and edited by Kristin Miller.



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