Trump Archive

Friday, March 3, 2017

Friday Trump & Politics Roundup - 12

Donald TrumpThis is my semi-regular feature to post links to articles about Donald Trump along with excerpts from those articles. Trump has the potential to cause so much damage to our country and the world that it's every citizen's responsibility to keep pressure on him and our other elected officials to try to minimize the damage. To read previous entries in this series and other Trump related posts, check out my Trump archives.

I know I'm quoting Vox a lot this time around. I'll try to be more diverse in sources for the next update. Also, if you're only going to look at one article, I recommend the Foreign Policy article, President Trump's Terrible One-Month Report Card.

I'll also note that I'm experiencing a bit of a problem in focus. My original intent for this series was to post just a handful of articles pointing out the worst things Trump and his administration have been up to, making sure to include concrete policy examples, not just embarrassing things like his undignified use of Twitter. The problem is, the administration has been doing so many bad things. Believe me, I have a bunch of other articles I think are worth pointing out to people, but even just limiting myself to what I have, this post is already on the long side.


Foreign Policy Article

I'm only pulling one excerpt from this article, but I highly, highly recommend reading the whole thing. If you've already used your allotted free monthly articles from Foreign Policy, you can find further excerpts at Quora.


Foreign Policy - President Trump's Terrible One-Month Report Card

"Has it really only been a month? We wish we could say that Trump surprised us, but from the minute he took the oath of office one month ago today, he hasn't: This has been the worst, most unsettling start of a new president in modern memory. ... While the drama has provided plenty of fodder for the readers (and writers) of Shadow Government, it has been very damaging to the country. But how much? It's important to step back and reflect on the top ten things we have learned in recent weeks -- and what this means for the future."


Actual Policies:

Washington Post - Justice Department will again use private prisons

"The Justice Department will once again use private prisons to house federal inmates, reversing an Obama-era directive to stop using the facilities, which officials had then deemed less safe and less effective than those run by the government. / In a one-paragraph memo, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the previous directive to the Bureau of Prisons to either reduce or decline to renew private-prison contracts as they came due." ... "Private prisons have faced significant criticism in recent years from civil liberties advocates and others. Sally Yates, who served as deputy attorney general in the Obama administration, did not mince words in August when she ordered the Department of Justice -- of which the Bureau of Prisons is a part -- to end the use of private prisons entirely by phasing them out over time. / 'They simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department's Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security,' Yates wrote." ... "The private-prison industry is a formidable one, generating billions of dollars of revenue each year and giving significant amounts to politicians. The GEO Group and CoreCivic, for example, donated $250,000 to support Trump's inaugural festivities, spokesmen for the companies said. Management and Training Corp. did not, a spokesman said. Separately, the GEO Group, gave $275,00 to the pro-Trump super PAC Rebuilding America Now, according to FEC filings. One $100,000 donation came a day after the Justice Department announced it would no longer use the facilities."


Vox - Sean Spicer just said we should expect an anti-marijuana crackdown under Trump: If Spicer is right, the administration will take federal marijuana enforcement more seriously.

"On Thursday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer gave the clearest answer yet to this question: 'There's two distinct issues here: medical marijuana and recreational marijuana. I think medical marijuana, I've said before, that the president understands the pain and suffering that many people go through, who are facing especially terminal diseases, and the comfort that some of these drugs, including medical marijuana, can bring to them. And that's one that Congress, through a rider in [2014], put an appropriations bill saying that the Department of Justice wouldn't be funded to go after those folks. / There's a big difference between that and recreational marijuana. And I think that when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people. There's still a federal law that we need to abide by when it comes to recreational marijuana and other drugs of that nature.' / Given all this, Spicer said, "I do believe that you'll see greater enforcement of it." (For the record, though, the research increasingly shows that relaxing marijuana laws leads to fewer opioid overdose deaths.)"

Related: 2016 Texas Republican Platform - Part 11, Crime & Drugs - I think Spicer has it backwards. Recreational marijuana should be legal. Medicinal marijuana should be treated like any other medicine, going through clinical trials and FDA approval.


Vox - "It's dead on arrival." Republicans in Congress are balking at Trump's sweeping budget cuts.

"President Trump is currently crafting a budget to send to Congress. His initial outline would boost military spending by 10 percent in fiscal year 2018. And to pay for that, he's proposing steep cuts to a bunch of other domestic agencies -- including, reportedly, a 24 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency and a 30 percent cut to the State Department. Suffice to say, those are wrenching changes. / But ultimately, Congress will have the final say over any budget. And key Senate Republicans are already skeptical of Trump's outline. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told NBC that the reported State Department cuts were 'dead on arrival.' " ... "It's worth noting that last year in the House, Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA), who chairs the committee overseeing the EPA's $8 billion budget, only wanted to cut the agency's funding by 6 percent and freeze staffing at current levels of 15,000. He told E&E that he'd have to wait for more details before weighing in on Trump's proposals."


Vox - It's official: the Trump administration will "pull back" from investigating police abuses: Obama's Justice Department uncovered horrible abuses at police departments. Trump's attorney general said they'll "pull back" from such investigations.

"Over the past several years, the US Department of Justice played a key role in exposing abuses from local police departments, exposing everything from unjustified shootings to a broader pattern of racism in a police force. But on Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions confirmed that all of that work will come to an end -- saying that the Justice Department will "pull back" on civil rights lawsuits and investigations against police." ... "Trump argued that the administration's policies have fostered a broader anti-police sentiment, enabling more crime and violence against cops. And he suggested that he would allow police to be even more aggressive than they are today. " ... "These are only three of many more investigations by the Justice Department, ranging from Chicago to New Orleans. Time and time again, the Justice Department found big problems: a pattern of excessive use of force, racial bias, outright discrimination, and more. / These police departments were enormously troubled. The cities' residents were outright terrorized by police departments that were far more interested in looking "tough" with higher arrest numbers or collecting budget revenue for their local governments than improving public safety. Yet we would have never known about just how bad these problems were without the deep, months-long Justice Department investigations."


Scandals / Ethics / Big Picture

CNN - Trump rips media, repeats 'enemy of the people' line

[These attempts to discredit the media are actually one of my biggest immediate worries about Trump. It's one of the first steps of authoritarians - eroding faith in the very institutions that could hold them accountable.]

"President Trump mocked and disparaged the news media on Friday in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, repeating his attack that much of the press represents 'the enemy of the people.' / 'I want you all to know that we are fighting the fake news,' Trump told attendees. / 'A few days ago, I called the fake news the enemy of the people, and they are,' he added, referring to a tweet last week. 'They are the enemy of the people because they have no sources. They just make them up when there are none.' / He also said reporters 'shouldn't be allowed' to use unnamed sources."


CNN - White House blocks news organizations from press briefing

"CNN and other news outlets were blocked on Friday from attending an off-camera White House press briefing that other reporters were hand-picked to attend, raising alarm among media organizations and First Amendment watchdogs. / The decision struck veteran White House journalists as unprecedented in the modern era, and escalated tensions in the already fraught relationship between the Trump administration and the press."


Vox - Bush ethics lawyer: Trump's Russia scandal so far is "much worse" than the early stages of Watergate

"The facts now in this investigation are much worse than the facts in the early stages of Watergate, which was a simple break-in ordered by midlevel campaign officials -- not by the president. Here we have facts that are much worse: We have a foreign power that has orchestrated a break-in. It's a much worse situation than the outset of Watergate." ... "I have been a Republican for decades, and the one thing that Republicans and Democrats should have in common is concern about our national security. And in particular the attempts by Russia over the decades -- going back to the 1920s -- to subvert our government by supporting extremist groups like the American Communist Party, or now white supremacist groups. / This is not a Democratic and Republican issue, and figuring out who in our government is cooperating with the Russians is of the utmost importance. We certainly don't need a McCarthy-type witch hunt, and this shouldn't be abused for political purposes, but it's a critically important issue, and Democrats and Republicans can be united on this. And I certainly don't think the Republican Party should become a pro-Putin party. If it is, we are going to have sort ourselves out."


Scientific American Blogs - How to Defeat Those Who are Waging War on Science

"President Trump's decision to constrain and muzzle scientific research signals an important milestone. The War on Science has shifted into high gear. This is a fight for our future, and scientists as well as citizens had better prepare for what is coming next. / At his confirmation hearings last week, the new EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt unveiled the new language of this war--a subtle, yet potentially damaging form of science skepticism. Manmade climate change, he says, is 'subject to continuing debate.' There is reason to be concerned about methane released by fracking, but he's 'not deeply concerned.' And research on lead poisoning is 'not something [he has] looked into.' / These might sound like quibbles compared to the larger cultural and political upheavals happening in America today, but collectively, they add up to something big. / The systematic use of so-called 'uncertainty' surrounding well-established scientific ideas has proven to be a reliable method for manipulating public perception and stalling political action. And while certain private interests and their political allies may benefit from these tactics, the damages are something we will all have to face." ... "At its heart, the War on Science is often an attempt to de-regulate industry and weaken environmental laws. Stifling science--especially on topics like climate change, toxic pollution, unsustainable agriculture, and animal welfare--is part of a ploy to undermine these safeguards, and to cast doubt on inconvenient scientific truths, all in the service of profits and power. / It's time to call out this merciless greed and ignorance. The short-term gains of a few corporations and individuals must no longer rise above our national interests, our long-term economic competitiveness, and most importantly, our individual safety, health and wellbeing. / So, let's not be timid. Let's call things as they are. / America has a choice to make. A choice between advancing civilization or bringing it down. A choice between knowledge and chaos. / Now, everyone must choose which side they are on."


Vox - 3 winners and 2 losers from President Trump's first address to Congress

"But Trump is harder to pin down than his predecessor -- for better and for worse. He is infamously prone to repeating the opinion of whoever spoke to him last, and the public is forced to resort to Kremlinological interpretations of his statements and those of key aides like Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, along with leaks of behind-the-scenes infighting. / Tuesday night's speech was Trump's chance to clarify what he stood for and issue clear directives for what Congress should do on Obamacare, tax reform, infrastructure, and immigration. It was his chance to bring his party in line behind a specific, common agenda. / And ... none of that happened. Instead, you got a repeat of his usual greatest rhetorical hits."

"A fair read of the evidence is that immigration probably doesn't hurt US workers at all, and that even if there is damage, restricting immigration further is a ham-handed and inefficient remedy. The fact that there's still strong opposition to immigration despite this is not surprising. It just indicates that the opposition to immigration has, as in Trump's case, traditionally been motivated mainly by a desire to preserve the majority culture and a fear of demographic change, and has little to do with economics. / But the shift to economics is important for what it portends for policy. Because all immigrants, legal or not, are supposed to have these negative effects on native workers, Trump is laying the groundwork for a crackdown not just on the undocumented population but on legal immigration in the future. That's been a longstanding priority of Bannon and Miller's, and this speech was a strong indication that it's now Trump's."


Vox - Donald Trump is dangerous when he's losing: Trump's failures at governing feed his illiberalism.

"A few weeks back, I wrote a piece about Donald Trump titled "How to stop an autocracy." The essay began with the premise that Trump has a will to power and a contempt for the basic norms and institutions of American democracy, and then explored how to limit the damage. The answer, basically, was that Congress needs to do its damn job. / But after I wrote it, smart people argued the piece was built atop a mistake. Trump might have the will to power, but he doesn't have the discipline for it. Grim scenarios suggesting his presidency would grow too strong missed the likelier scenario that it would be extremely weak." ... "And then I talked to Ron Klain." ... "Klain had a theory that combined Trump's authoritarian impulses and troubled White House management in a way I found hard to dismiss. In Klain's view, it's Trump's dysfunctional relationship with the government that catalyzes his illiberal tendencies -- the more he is frustrated by the system, the more he will turn on the system. / 'If Trump became a full-fledged autocrat, it will not be because he succeeds in running the state,' Klain said. 'It's not going to be like Julius Caesar, where we thank him and here's a crown. It'll be that he fails, and he has to find a narrative for that failure. And it will not be a narrative of self-criticism. It will not be that he let you down. He will figure out who the villains are, and he will focus the public's anger at them.' "


Vox - After a new wave of anti-Semitic attacks, White House appears skeptical about anti-Semitism

"President Trump spent weeks conspicuously staying quiet about a wave of anti-Semitic incidents across the US before finally describing them last week as 'horrible and painful.' / He should have stopped there. Instead, he is now hinting the attacks might be a "false flag" operation carried out by his political opponents to make the White House look bad." ... "Shapiro later told journalists that Trump called the bomb threats and desecrations 'reprehensible,' but then seemed to indicate the threats might not be exactly what they seemed. Trump continued his comments by noting that the threats and vandalism might instead be an attempt to 'make others look bad.' " ... "In a statement distributed to the press, Rabbi Jack Moline, president of the Interfaith Alliance, said the president's comments were 'outrageous and irresponsible.' / Moline maintained that the president's comments and Scaramucci's tweet together represent an utter failure to comprehend the recent surge in violent rhetoric and attacks directed at Jews, Muslims and other religious minorities.' "

Friday, February 24, 2017

Friday Trump & Politics Roundup - 11

Donald TrumpThis is my semi-regular feature to post links to articles about Donald Trump along with excerpts from those articles. Trump has the potential to cause so much damage to our country and the world that it's every citizen's responsibility to keep pressure on him and our other elected officials to try to minimize the damage. To read previous entries in this series and other Trump related posts, check out my Trump archives.

Thankfully, things are slowing down a bit for now. After Trump's flurry of executive orders and other actions when he first took office, he now seems to be facing the fact that Washington just doesn't move quickly (CNN - Trump's promises hit Washington reality in first month). That doesn't mean that this past week was without incident, as the links and excerpts below make clear.


New York Times - Dismal Voucher Results Surprise Researchers as DeVos Era Begins

"The confirmation of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education was a signal moment for the school choice movement. For the first time, the nation's highest education official is someone fully committed to making school vouchers and other market-oriented policies the centerpiece of education reform. / But even as school choice is poised to go national, a wave of new research has emerged suggesting that private school vouchers may harm students who receive them. The results are startling -- the worst in the history of the field, researchers say." ... "Three consecutive reports, each studying one of the largest new state voucher programs, found that vouchers hurt student learning." ... "The new evidence on vouchers does not seem to have deterred the Trump administration, which has proposed a new $20 billion voucher program. Secretary DeVos's enthusiasm for vouchers, which have been the primary focus of her philanthropic spending and advocacy, appears to be undiminished."


The Daily Beast - New Trump Administration Order Lets States Bully Transgender Students

"This evening, after days of speculation--sparked by a Monday evening Washington Blade report and further fueled by a Tuesday statement from Press Secretary Sean Spicer that the president considers the ongoing bathroom debate to be a "states' rights issue"--the Departments of Education and Justice issued a joint letter rescinding the Obama administration's 2016 guidance on transgender students." ... "What this means concretely is that individual states and schools could still find themselves on the receiving end of Title IX lawsuits. / But the new Trump administration letter sends the message that states and schools can require transgender students to use bathrooms corresponding to their birth-assigned gender without necessarily being penalized by the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division or immediately risking the loss of federal funding. / In other words, the federal government has effectively declared open season on transgender kids--and the many states that sued the Obama administration over the 2016 guidance could follow suit." ... "The U.S. Transgender Survey found that almost a third of transgender people had 'limited the amount they ate and drank to avoid using the restroom in the past year.' Eight percent said they had developed a urinary tract infection or a kidney-related health problem due to restroom avoidance. / And one 2016 study of transgender people who had attended college--published last year in the Journal of Homosexuality--found that 'denial of access to [bathrooms and campus housing] had a significant relationship to suicidality, even after controlling for interpersonal victimization.' Transgender youth already think about and attempt suicide at astronomically high rates, although individual risk tellingly tends to decrease with social support."


Al Jazeera Op-ed - Donald Trump's presidential diplomacy deal? Trump is treating the US as a business venture and replacing the 'art of diplomacy' with the 'art of the deal'.

"Most world leaders are having a hard time adapting to Donald Trump's foreign policy style. None of his seemingly capricious decisions fit within the staid models of diplomatic consistency or the genteel practice of back-channel advance signalling to key partners that change may be coming." ... "Given the size of Trump's ego and his need to continuously be in the centre of an adoring spotlight, it is highly unlikely that he will back away from his self-conceived role as toughest negotiator on the global stage. / The very real risk is that he will continue confusing the 'art of the deal' with the 'art of diplomacy'. / As both George W Bush and Barack Obama learned the hard way, remedying unintended foreign policy missteps is far more complicated and expensive than refinancing a hotel redevelopment. / Until Trump figures this out, presidential diplomacy risks being like one of his failed business ventures - lots of expensive show with little underlying substance that leaves a trail of broken businesses and suppliers in its wake. / The added danger now is that stakes have risen exponentially, meaning that his failures could very well lay waste to whole countries, including possibly his own."


CNN - FBI refused White House request to knock down recent Trump-Russia stories

"The FBI rejected a recent White House request to publicly knock down media reports about communications between Donald Trump's associates and Russians known to US intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign, multiple US officials briefed on the matter tell CNN." ... "The direct communications between the White House and the FBI were unusual because of decade-old restrictions on such contacts. Such a request from the White House is a violation of procedures that limit communications with the FBI on pending investigations."


Politico - Cabinet picks clash with White House over hiring: The Trump administration's Cabinet picks are finding themselves in a staffing tug-of-war with White House aides.

"The White House's deep involvement in hiring decisions across the government is frustrating some of President Donald Trump's Cabinet secretaries, spurring early tussles between the president's advisers and leaders of federal agencies. / White House officials have sometimes rejected candidates who have previously criticized the president -- even if they boast sterling credentials or have the endorsement of top Republicans. And they've often imposed their choices on agencies, according to more than a dozen people inside and close to the administration." ... "So far, Trump has nominated fewer than three dozen of the 550 most important Senate-confirmed jobs, according to an analysis by the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit group that advised Trump officials during the presidential transition. / Top officials at the Defense and Homeland Security departments have disagreed with White House aides over potential deputy hires and political appointees, administration and government officials say. Some candidates dropped out of the bid for national security adviser because Trump's team appeared reluctant to let them pick their own people, sources say."


Vox - Trump had 2 chances to calm fears of rising anti-Semitism in America. He chose neither

"President Donald Trump could have used his bully pulpit this week to reassure Jews who are fearful of rising anti-Semitism in America. He took two chances for targeted messaging to talk, instead, about himself. / At two press conferences this week, reporters raised sober questions about Jewish safety in America and the rise of anti-Semitism over the course of the election and beyond. Both were opportunities for a statement of firm condemnation against acts of violence and a moment of empathy: a presidential reassuring hand and an outstretched arm. Both times the questions were deflected, and rerouted, leaving the Jewish community reeling." ... "The reason so many Jews are asking questions about anti-Semitism is that, following the increasingly worrisome rhetoric, associations, and bedfellows of the campaign, there has been a rise in terrifying anti-Semitic incidents since the year began. In January, 60 bomb threats were called in to some 48 Jewish community centers (JCCs) across North America. 'I've been in the business for 20-plus years, and this is unprecedented,' Paul Goldenberg, national director of the Secure Community Network, told CNN. 'It's more methodical than meets the eye.' "

Related:
CNN - Trump condemns anti-Semitism but can't stop questions about his motives
Chicago Tribune - Jewish group again cites anti-Semitism from Trump administration


Nature - US Republican idea for tax on carbon makes climate sense

"A group of senior US Republicans has proposed an entirely sensible climate policy: put a substantial and steadily rising tax on carbon, and then send the proceeds back to citizens to offset the economic pain of higher energy prices. It is dubbed a conservative solution for climate change and, if implemented properly, could represent just that. Unfortunately, these stalwart conservatives -- led by the likes of James Baker, who served as secretary of state under president George H. W. Bush, and Henry Paulson, who headed the Treasury under George W. Bush -- hark from another era. The Republicans who currently control both chambers of the US Congress and the White House are dismissive of, if not openly hostile towards, climate policy -- be it conservative, sensible or any other kind." ... "White House officials were less enthusiastic in their statements to the press, and there is no indication that the proposal is going anywhere anytime soon."

Friday, February 17, 2017

Friday Trump & Politics Roundup - 10

Donald TrumpThis is my semi-regular feature to post links to articles about Donald Trump along with excerpts from those articles. Trump has the potential to cause so much damage to our country and the world that it's every citizen's responsibility to keep pressure on him and our other elected officials to try to minimize the damage. To read previous entries in this series and other Trump related posts, check out my Trump archives.

I find myself varying between opposite extremes in my reaction to Trump so far. On the one hand, he's doing / attempting to do really bad things - conflicts of interest and his refusal to put his businesses in a blind trust, breaking anti-nepotism laws, breaking the emoluments clause of the Constitution, the immigration ban, his horrible cabinet appointments and obvious cronyism ... well, everything I've been calling attention to in these posts. But then, I see him behave like he did in his press conference, and I'm tempted to believe he's so incompetent that he's not going to be able to accomplish anything. Then I go and read articles about how nobody took Hitler seriously until it was too late (like this one - Early Warnings: How American Journalists Reported the Rise of Hitler), and I'm back to being worried again (just to be clear - I don't think Trump is the next Hitler, but there are some unsettling parallels in tactics. More info: Salon - Donald Trump: Not exactly Hitler! But his "Nazi Germany" comments conceal a dark parallel pattern and The Independent - Donald Trump using Adolf Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' playbook, says world expert on Nazi leader).

Anyway, here are this week's articles.


Vox - Why Trump just killed a rule restricting coal companies from dumping waste in streams

"On Thursday, President Trump signed the bill, which means the stream protection rule is now dead. Coal companies will have a freer hand in dumping mining debris in streams. / Killing this regulation won't exactly fulfill Trump's goal of reversing the coal industry's decline; that decline has more to do with cheap natural gas than anything else. Instead, Republicans are mostly focusing on this rule because they can. Because the stream protection rule wasn't finished until very late in 2016, it's much, much easier to kill than most of the other Obama-era rules around coal pollution. It was a ready target, so long as the GOP acted fast." ... "In the end, environmentalists weren't thrilled with the rule -- many groups didn't think it went far enough to restrict the dumping of debris, and they don't believe coal companies can restore damaged streams fully to their prior state after mining. But on balance, they thought the rule an improvement over the status quo. An outside analysis suggested the rule would improve water quality in 262 miles of streams throughout Appalachia."

Related: Vox - Want to see why Trump will struggle to save the coal industry? Look at Michigan.


Vox - Fact-checking Trump's claim that he has no business ties to Russia

"Trump has a long history of trying to do business in Russia, but despite many efforts and plenty of boasting and angling, he hasn't managed to land a single major real estate deal there. / But that's only part of the picture. He has partnered with Russian financiers on major projects elsewhere around the world. Russian investors have been instrumental in helping him cope with all the credit problems he has thanks to his serial bankruptcies. And a number of Trump's former and current advisers have had financial ties to Russia."


Raw Story - Trump just gave a weapons-grade crazy press conference -- here are the 7 most insane moments

"President Donald Trump held a press conference today in which he once again boasted about his November election win and attacked the mainstream media for producing 'fake news.' / But beyond the usual boasting and bashing, the president made several jaw-dropping statements that were surprising even by his standards. Below, we'll go over the seven craziest moments at today's press conference." ... "1.Trump says that while the leaks coming out of his administration are real, the news stories being written about them are still fake news." ... "2.Trump falsely claims that his electoral college victory this past November was the biggest since Ronald Reagan's." ... "3.Trump said he was fine with WikiLeaks because it never leaked classified information." ... "4.Trump dismisses GOP town hall protesters because most of them are Democrats." ... "5.Trump insists that the alternative to getting along with Russia could be 'nuclear holocaust.' " ... "6.Trump shouts down a Jewish reporter who asked him about rising anti-Semitism." ... "7.Trump asked a black reporter to help him set up a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus."


Japan Times - Japan's interpreters struggle to make sense of 'Trumpese'

"As political leaders in Japan pay close attention to how U.S. President Donald Trump will go in office, so, too, are interpreters who have had a nightmarish experience translating his disjointed speeches." ... " 'He is so overconfident and yet so logically unconvincing that my interpreter friends and I often joke that if we translated his words as they are, we would end up making ourselves sound stupid,' Tsuruta, who is also a professor of interpreting and translation studies at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, said in a recent interview.


N.Y. Times Op-ed - When the Fire Comes

"What will you do when terrorists attack, or U.S. friction with some foreign power turns into a military confrontation? I don't mean in your personal life, where you should keep calm and carry on. I mean politically. Think about it carefully: The fate of the republic may depend on your answer." ... "We're only three weeks into the Trump administration, but it's already clear that any hopes that Mr. Trump and those around him would be even slightly ennobled by the responsibilities of office were foolish. Every day brings further evidence that this is a man who completely conflates the national interest with his personal self-interest, and who has surrounded himself with people who see it the same way. And each day also brings further evidence of his lack of respect for democratic values." ... "In the end, I fear, it's going to rest on the people -- on whether enough Americans are willing to take a public stand. We can't handle another post-9/11-style suspension of doubt about the man in charge; if that happens, America as we know it will soon be gone."


The Atlantic - How to Build an Autocracy: The preconditions are present in the U.S. today. Here's the playbook Donald Trump could use to set the country down a path toward illiberalism.

[I'm pulling out a lot of quotes from this one. I really recommend reading the whole thing.]

"No society, not even one as rich and fortunate as the United States has been, is guaranteed a successful future. When early Americans wrote things like "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty," they did not do so to provide bromides for future bumper stickers. They lived in a world in which authoritarian rule was the norm, in which rulers habitually claimed the powers and assets of the state as their own personal property."

"What has happened in Hungary since 2010 offers an example--and a blueprint for would-be strongmen. Hungary is a member state of the European Union and a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights. It has elections and uncensored internet. Yet Hungary is ceasing to be a free country."

"Outside the Islamic world, the 21st century is not an era of ideology. The grand utopian visions of the 19th century have passed out of fashion. The nightmare totalitarian projects of the 20th have been overthrown or have disintegrated, leaving behind only outdated remnants: North Korea, Cuba. What is spreading today is repressive kleptocracy, led by rulers motivated by greed rather than by the deranged idealism of Hitler or Stalin or Mao. Such rulers rely less on terror and more on rule-twisting, the manipulation of information, and the co-optation of elites."

"Donald Trump, however, represents something much more radical. A president who plausibly owes his office at least in part to a clandestine intervention by a hostile foreign intelligence service? Who uses the bully pulpit to target individual critics? Who creates blind trusts that are not blind, invites his children to commingle private and public business, and somehow gets the unhappy members of his own political party either to endorse his choices or shrug them off? If this were happening in Honduras, we'd know what to call it. It's happening here instead, and so we are baffled."

" 'Populist-fueled democratic backsliding is difficult to counter,' wrote the political scientists Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Erica Frantz late last year. 'Because it is subtle and incremental, there is no single moment that triggers widespread resistance or creates a focal point around which an opposition can coalesce ... Piecemeal democratic erosion, therefore, typically provokes only fragmented resistance.' Their observation was rooted in the experiences of countries ranging from the Philippines to Hungary. It could apply here too."

"If citizens learn that success in business or in public service depends on the favor of the president and his ruling clique, then it's not only American politics that will change. The economy will be corrupted too, and with it the larger culture. A culture that has accepted that graft is the norm, that rules don't matter as much as relationships with those in power, and that people can be punished for speech and acts that remain theoretically legal--such a culture is not easily reoriented back to constitutionalism, freedom, and public integrity."

"By all early indications, the Trump presidency will corrode public integrity and the rule of law--and also do untold damage to American global leadership, the Western alliance, and democratic norms around the world. The damage has already begun, and it will not be soon or easily undone. Yet exactly how much damage is allowed to be done is an open question--the most important near-term question in American politics. It is also an intensely personal one, for its answer will be determined by the answer to another question: What will you do? And you? And you?"

Friday, February 10, 2017

Friday Trump & Politics Roundup - 9

Donald TrumpThis is my semi-regular feature to post links to articles about Donald Trump along with excerpts from those articles. Trump has the potential to cause so much damage to our country and the world that it's every citizen's responsibility to keep pressure on him and our other elected officials to try to minimize the damage. To read previous entries in this series and other Trump related posts, check out my Trump archives.

I'm slightly expanding the content of this series to include actions by other political figures, not just Trump.


Vox - How to stop an autocracy: The danger isn't that Trump will build an autocracy. It's that congressional Republicans will let him.

"Trump has shown himself unconcerned with the norms of American democracy. He routinely proclaims elections rigged, facts false, the media crooked, and his opponents corrupt. During the campaign, he flouted basic traditions of transparency and threatened to jail his opponent. His tendencies toward nepotism, crony capitalism, and vengeance unnerve. His oft-stated admiration for authoritarians in other countries -- including, but not limited to, Vladimir Putin -- speaks to his yearning for power. / Amid all that, David Frum's Atlantic cover story, "How to Build an Autocracy," is a chilling read. "We are living through the most dangerous challenge to the free government of the United States that anyone alive has encountered," he writes. The argument works because its component parts are so plausible. Frum does not imagine a coup or a crisis. He does not lean on the deus ex machina of a terrorist attack or a failed assassination attempt. The picture he paints is not one in which everything is different, but one in which everything is the same. / He imagines a Trumpian autocracy built upon the most ordinary of foundations: a growing economy, a cynical public, a cowed media, a self-interested business community, and a compliant Republican Party. The picture resonates because it combines two forces many sense at work -- Trump's will to power and the fecklessness of the institutions meant to stop him -- into one future everyone fears: autocracy in America." ... "Donald Trump is a paper tiger. But the US Congress is a tiger that we pretend is made of paper. It is, at this point, taken for granted that congressional Republicans will protect their co-partisan at any cost. It is, at this point, expected that they will confirm Trump's unqualified nominees, ignore his obvious conflicts of interest, overlook his dangerous comments, and rationalize his worst behavior. / That expectation -- and the cowardice it permits -- is the real danger to American democracy."


N.Y. Times - Supreme Court Nominee Calls Trump's Attacks on Judiciary 'Demoralizing'

"Mr. Trump escalated his public feud with the courts over his immigration order, saying that he had found a federal appeals court hearing on his executive order Tuesday night 'disgraceful,' and that the judges had failed to grasp concepts even 'a bad high school student would understand.' / The comments were a remarkable show of disdain by a sitting president for an independent judiciary..." ... "Mr. Trump's invective toward judges is a jarring break from a tradition observed by presidents of both parties. Presidents have usually tried to refrain from even appearing to intervene in court cases that concern them or their policies, or from impugning the jurists charged with deciding them, according to judges and legal experts from across the political spectrum." ... " 'It's not illegal, it's not a violation of the law to do these things, but it's bad policy because it raises questions about the independence of the courts, and it raises questions about the judicial system as a whole when the president says this,' said Peter Wallison, who served as White House counsel to President Ronald Reagan."


Vox - It sure looks like Kellyanne Conway just broke federal ethics rules

"The Nordstrom saga has now crossed the line from a somewhat vague conflict of interest (Trump seemed like he was defending his daughter, but his company, the Trump Organization, also owns the Ivanka Trump brand) to a seemingly more clear-cut violation of federal ethics rules. / Federal employees in the executive branch, including Conway, aren't allowed to 'endorse any product, service or enterprise.' / The rules are strict, and even cover things like writing book blurbs for authors the federal employees admire. (Not allowed.) When The Revenant, a novel written by Michael Punke, Obama's ambassador to the World Trade Organization, was made into an Oscar-nominated movie, Punke couldn't even talk about the film because to do so might violate federal conflict of interest rules."


Vox - Betsy DeVos can change education in America without doing a thing

"Education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos narrowly squeaked through the Senate on Monday, winning confirmation by a vote of 51 to 50 after Vice President Mike Pence weighed in to break the tie. / DeVos is the most controversial education secretary ever. She was confirmed with fewer votes than any Cabinet secretary in history. If Democrats hadn't abolished the filibuster on executive branch nominees in 2013, DeVos's opposition would have relegated her to the heap of Cabinet might-have-beens." ... "DeVos was not the candidate Trump would have picked if bipartisan consensus were a goal. She has no experience running a public school system or state university or shaping statewide education policy. Her signature issue, school vouchers, isn't particularly popular, and even some conservatives from rural states are skeptical of it because rural areas typically have few choices besides the local public school. She was guaranteed well-funded, well-organized opposition from teachers unions, who see vouchers as siphoning money away from public schools and into private hands. "


Vox - A congressman challenged CNN to name more than 2 white terrorist attacks. It's not that hard.

"The argument that this was a one-off incident is just false. These attacks have popped up time and time again throughout the West. It's not just the Quebec mosque attack that occurred last month or the 2015 Charleston mass shooting at a black church. They have occurred so frequently that Ben Mathis-Lilley managed to compile a list of 32 fatal white extremist attacks since Timothy McVeigh carried out the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, including attacks by Ku Klux Klan leader Frazier Glenn Miller in 2014, neo-Nazi Keith Luke in 2009, and white supremacist James von Brunn in 2009. (And it doesn't even include attacks outside the US, like the 2011 Norway attacks by far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik.)

And the statistics, in fact, show that right-wing extremist attacks, often carried out by white supremacists and nationalists, have typically killed more Americans in most years than Muslim jihadist terrorist attacks since 9/11."

Terrorism Deaths in USA since 9/11


VOA News - Analysts Weigh In on Trump's Call to Repeal Johnson Amendment

" 'The theory of tax exemption for a broad range of organizations in the U.S. is that they have a public function, that they serve the good of the community at large,' said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a Washington, D.C.-based religious liberty watchdog group. 'And religious institutions have been included within that range of good, non-governmental agencies that are deserving of a tax exemption.' / Many of these groups rely heavily on donations from private individuals and foundations. Being designated 'tax-exempt' by the IRS lends them legitimacy, increasing the confidence of would-be donors, who are allowed to deduct contributions to tax-exempt groups from their annual tax returns." ... "As the law stands now, individuals may not deduct from their tax returns any donations to politicians or political campaign groups. If the Johnson Amendment were repealed, though, it would open a new loophole in the law, encouraging individuals to make political contributions through religious groups and realizing tax benefits for doing so. / And that brings up another issue, says Lynn, financial transparency. Churches, he explains, are the only tax-exempt nonprofits that are not required to disclose their finances to the IRS, the public or even their donors. / 'So if the Johnson Amendment goes, I would argue that dark, hidden money will come into the political system through the churches,' Lynn said. 'They'd become, essentially, money-laundering operations and would never have to disclose the sources or amounts.' "

Related: Washington Post - The potential effects of repealing the Johnson Amendment


Nature - Trump immigration ban upends international work on disease

"Diseases don't respect borders, laws or walls. And efforts to combat them rely on networks of scientists to detect outbreaks early, understand how the diseases operate and then intervene. Researchers say that President Donald Trump's travel ban challenges that process, putting the United States at risk." ... "Public health is just one beneficiary of cross-border partnerships. Some policy analysts say scientific collaboration improves national security. If countries can respond to crises ranging from Ebola outbreaks to nuclear spills on their own, Americans are at less risk, says Hotez. Apolitical science partnerships make for good diplomacy, he adds."

Friday, February 3, 2017

Friday Trump Roundup - 8

Donald TrumpThis is my semi-regular feature to post links to articles about Donald Trump along with excerpts from those articles. Trump has the potential to cause so much damage to our country and the world that it's every citizen's responsibility to keep pressure on him and our other elected officials to try to minimize the damage. To read previous entries in this series and other Trump related posts, check out my Trump archives.

This is going to be a very difficult and dangerous four years. Trump's only been in office two weeks, and he's already outdone himself in horrible actions and executive orders. But the problem is, he keeps committing all these bad deeds so rapidly, that his previous misdeeds fade into the background. Remember his conflicts of interest and his refusal to put his businesses in a blind trust, or breaking anit-nepotism laws by appointing his son-in-law as a senior advisor, or breaking the emolumnets clause of the Constitution? Yeah - all huge problems that should be sources of public outcry at the least, and possible impeachment for blatantly flouting the law and the Constitution. But he just creates new controversies, and those previous controversies get forgotten.

Don't forget his past crimes and misdeeds, but his latest actions can't go unmentioned, either. Here are this week's links.


Slate - The Commander Stumbles: Trump's first executive orders will make it harder to vanquish ISIS.

"After President Trump signed an executive order on Saturday giving the Joint Chiefs of Staff 30 days to devise a plan for destroying ISIS, I emailed several senior U.S. military officers--some active duty, some retired, all with combat experience in our recent wars--and asked them what sort of plan the chiefs should submit. / One of the officers, a general, wrote back, 'They might begin by telling him to lift this stupid and heinous visa ban.' / The remark highlights a big problem not just with Trump's scattershot orders but also with his tenure so far as commander in chief: He doesn't seem to understand the political nature of war or the strategic consequences of politics."

Related: Scientific American Guest Blog - Why the Trump Immigration Ban Is Bad for the U.S. and Bad for the World


Scientific American Blogs - Is Trump Driving Recruits to ISIS?

"Is Donald Trump effectively acting as an ISIS recruiting sergeant? The research we and other social psychologists have conducted in recent years suggests that the answer is probably yes." ... "Trump's Executive Order is even more harmful than most overreactions. It is not even a response to some outrage. And it gives especially strong ammunition to those in ISIS and other groups who argue that Americans see Muslims as their enemy and hence act as the enemy of Muslims. Moqtada al-Sadr, a leader of the anti-American insurgency in Iraq, responded immediately to Trump's ban by arguing that Americans be thrown out of his country. Renad Mansour, a Middle East expert at Chatham House points out in TIME that Sadr and others can now say to those Muslim moderates who challenged their "apocalyptic ideology of hatred" (to reprise the words of McCain and Graham): "I told you so."" ... "In short, Donald Trump needs enemies to validate his worldview as much as ISIS needs an American enemy to validate theirs. As long as Trump's provocative actions make him an effective recruiting sergeant to his own cause, we cannot expect him to stop doing things that make him an equally effective recruiting sergeant for ISIS."


Nature - Trump agenda threatens US legacy of science diplomacy

"A newly minted leader with no experience governing at home or establishing policy abroad now oversees the United States' vast diplomatic enterprise. US President Donald Trump has a deep bench of scientific and technical expertise to tap across multiple government agencies -- but it is not clear that he will use it." ... "Science diplomats are watching warily to see whether the volatile new president will draw on the best available evidence when setting foreign policy. So far, his isolationist tendencies are winning: Trump is reportedly considering whether to pull the United States back from international organizations such as the United Nations." ... "Trump has said that he supports high-tech businesses and investments that would keep the United States a global leader. But if he withdraws the country from the worldwide stage, other nations may soon surpass it in scientific and technical innovation, says Colón."


Engadget - Who is Jerry Falwell Jr. and why is he reforming higher education?

"Donald Trump has already earned his reputation of nominating candidates for his cabinet-level positions who face stiff opposition from the science and tech community. ... On Tuesday, Trump continued this streak by tapping Jerry Falwell Jr. to head up a presidential task force charged with suggesting reforms for the Department of Education." ... "Falwell is apparently not too big on the sciences, at least as they have conventionally been taught. That is, science courses at Liberty University take the Bible to be a historically accurate document rather than a collection of parables. Falwell's input could have a debilitating effect on the direction of higher education..." ... "He is clearly not a fan of the LGBTQ+ movement, if his school's draconian student code of conduct is any indication. 'Sexual relations outside of a biblically ordained marriage between a natural-born man and a natural born woman are not permissible,' the code reads. Nor is Falwell Jr. a proponent of sexual education. Liberty University's publication, the Liberty Champion, has repeatedly argued against the need for sexual education for both middle and grade school children. Rather than educate kids, the publication instead promotes an abstinence-only stance."


The Atlantic - A Clarifying Moment in American History

"For the community of conservative thinkers and experts, and more importantly, conservative politicians, this is a testing time. Either you stand up for your principles and for what you know is decent behavior, or you go down, if not now, then years from now, as a coward or opportunist. Your reputation will never recover, nor should it." ... "There was nothing unanticipated in this first disturbing week of the Trump administration. It will not get better. Americans should therefore steel themselves, and hold their representatives to account. Those in a position to take a stand should do so, and those who are not should lay the groundwork for a better day. There is nothing great about the America that Trump thinks he is going to make; but in the end, it is the greatness of America that will stop him."


Washington Post - No 'G'day, mate': On call with Australian prime minister, Trump badgers and brags

"It should have been one of the most congenial calls for the new commander in chief -- a conversation with the leader of Australia, one of America's staunchest allies, at the end of a triumphant week. / Instead, President Trump blasted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refu­gee agreement and boasted about the magnitude of his electoral college win, according to senior U.S. officials briefed on the Saturday exchange. Then, 25 minutes into what was expected to be an hour-long call, Trump abruptly ended it." ... "Trump told Peña Nieto in last Friday's call, according to the Associated Press, which said it reviewed a transcript of part of the conversation, 'You have a bunch of bad hombres down there. You aren't doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn't, so I just might send them down to take care of it.' "


Reuters - Exclusive: Trump to focus counter-extremism program solely on Islam - sources

"The Trump administration wants to revamp and rename a U.S. government program designed to counter all violent ideologies so that it focuses solely on Islamist extremism, five people briefed on the matter told Reuters. / The program, 'Countering Violent Extremism,' or CVE, would be changed to 'Countering Islamic Extremism' or 'Countering Radical Islamic Extremism,' the sources said, and would no longer target groups such as white supremacists who have also carried out bombings and shootings in the United States."


Yahoo News - CIA head was 'blindsided' by waterboarding memo

"CIA director Mike Pompeo was 'blindsided' by a draft executive order that could open the door for American intelligence agencies to resume waterboarding and other 'enhanced interrogation techniques' at newly reopened CIA 'black site' prisons overseas, according to a source familiar with conversations he has had about the document. / Trump, in an interview with ABC News anchor David Muir released Wednesday night, indicated he is in fact considering reinstating waterboarding because he believes it 'absolutely' works."


Updated 2017-02-03: Added last article

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