Monday, January 30, 2017

President Trump's first constitutional crisis took a mere eight days to arrive.


The fight began Friday when Trump issued an executive order temporarily banning immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries — a sleight of hand whereby all immigration from those countries is banned, but then exceptions are made for non-Muslims. It was implemented immediately, without any legal review whatsoever (U.S. attorneys admitted in court they couldn't justify it), and caused immediate chaos. People whose visas were already approved were turned back, and at least at first, even green card holders coming from the targeted countries were denied entry.

Legal challenges filed by the ACLU and others got several quick victories in federal court. But federal Customs and Border Patrol officers reportedly refused to obey, and were continuing to do so as of early Monday morning. In one shocking instance, four sitting members of Congress from the D.C. suburbs went to the Dulles airport to demand that airport cops grant access to the people being detained, in keeping with the court order. But the airport authority's deputy police chief refused.

Here's what this means: Donald Trump's executive branch is defying the judiciary, even with the personal, in-person assistance of national legislators. He is attempting, in part at least, to overturn constitutional government in the United States.

This is not an exaggeration. In a republic, a professional legal corps gets to interpret the law as written by the elected representatives of the people, and the agents of state violence must obey their commands. In a tyranny, the leader does whatever he wants. That is what Trump, with the close counsel of his advisers Stephen Bannon and Stephen Miller, is trying to create.

President Trump is right about ObamaCare
This executive order is a relatively small action. Trump has not dissolved Congress, or proclaimed himself dictator for life. But obviously, what is stopping him from doing that is the general principle that the executive will obey the law. Once you've broken that, the way is short and easy to a full-blown tyranny.
This road was paved by many bipartisan actions before him. Snapping the neck of the rule of law is usually easiest when it's done by scapegoating some small, unpopular minority, and both Democrats and Republicans have partaken of policy bigoted against Muslims and refugees. Only last year Democrats were using an Islamophobic no-fly list to grandstand on gun control, and in 2015 Hillary Clinton was arguing that refugees from violence in Central America should be deported en masse. President Obama deported 2.5 million people as of 2015. That's more people than any other president, which hugely empowered the selfsame CBP in the process.

The imperial, increasingly lawless executive branch has also been built up over many preceding presidents. George W. Bush conducted illegal surveillance and torture by getting his pet legal hacks to write up nonsensical opinions justifying whatever he wanted to do, then keeping the justification secret. Obama scaled back that system slightly here and there, but he did not remotely conduct the root-and-branch reform to put the presidency back on a constitutionally sound basis.

Trump's defiance of the courts is going much further than Bush or Obama, of course, but he's demolishing norms that were already badly cracked because of them and their predecessors. It's important to remember the bipartisan nature of this history, because contrary to Obama partisans, defanging the executive branch will mean going far past the pre-Trump status quo to demolish a system that Obama protected and expanded.

Luckily, Trump's action also created mass protests in cities across the country. America's democratic and civic culture is far stronger than that strangled by Putin in Russia. It seems Trump later backed down on permanent residents — though the order was so chaotic that it's unclear whether that is actually happening. Many CBP agents seem to have taken that as license to carry out pre-existing anti-immigrant agendas.

Perhaps the most important question for the immediate future is what CBP and other law enforcement agencies will do. American cops have long had a case of creeping fascism, and both the largest police union and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement union endorsed Trump. If Trump orders these protests to be violently dispersed in violation of the Constitution, how will law enforcement respond?
by Ryan Cooper

Kellyanne Conway Says She ‘Didn’t See The Point’ Of The Women’s March

Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to President Donald Trump, said she didn’t understand why millions of people around the world attended protests Saturday, especially after the president’s “uplifting and unifying” inauguration speech.

Conway told ABC “This Week” host George Stephanopoulos on Sunday that she and Trump had briefly discussed the protests. The main march, which drew hundreds of thousands of people to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., exceeded organizers’ attendance expectations.  

“We certainly respect people’s First Amendment rights,” Conway said. “But I frankly didn’t see the point. I mean, you have a day after he’s uplifting and unifying and you have folks here being on a diatribe where I think they could have requested a dialogue. Nobody called me and said, ‘Hey, could we have a dialogue?’”

Trump’s speech ― which embraced an anti-Semitic slogan and painted a picture of “American carnage” ― came off as far more dark and divisive than uplifting and unifying.
Conway also criticized “celebrities from the podium using profanity-laced insults.”

“You have a very prominent singer who’s worth hundreds of millions of dollars not going over to a woman’s shelter here in D.C. to write a check, but instead saying that she thought of, quote, ‘burning down the White House,’” she said. 

Although Madonna did say she “thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House” and use explicit language, her typically edgy performance was hardly representative of the rest of the march.

“I just thought they missed an opportunity to be about solutions and to really fight for those millions of women whose kids are trapped in failing schools, who don’t have access to health care, who don’t have access to an economic affordable life,” Conway added.

But that’s exactly what many of the people who traveled to Washington this weekend were indeed talking about. Opposition to Trump and the policies he campaign on was an undercurrent throughout the day, but marchers all had other issues they felt were important to highlight. 
Helen Brock was among a group of Flint, Michigan, residents who came in a bus to urge Trump to address the city’s water problems. She ended up moving 15 miles outside of Flint because her hair was starting to fall out.

She said she’s not a Trump supporter, but “I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt, because I really don’t have a choice.” 

At least five women who have accused Trump of sexually assaulting them also came to the march. 

“It’s not right for anyone, let alone the president, to speak about nor treat women in the way that he has,” said Temple Taggart, a former Miss Utah USA who says Trump kissed her on the lips without consent when she was 21.

The Inevitability Of Impeachment


Trump has been trying to govern by impulse, on whim, for personal retribution, for profit, by decree ― as if he had been elected dictator. It doesn’t work, and the wheels are coming off the bus. After a week!

Impeachment is gaining ground because it is the only way to get him out, and because Republicans are already deserting this president in droves, and because the man is psychiatrically incapable of checking whether something is legal before he does it.

Impeachment is gaining ground because it’s so horribly clear that Trump is unfit for office. The grownups around Trump, even the most slavishly loyal ones, spend half their time trying to rein him in, but it can’t be done.

They spend the other half fielding frantic calls from Republican chieftains, business elites and foreign leaders. Trump did what? Poor Reince Priebus has finally attained the pinnacle of power, and it can’t be fun. 

It is one thing to live in your own reality when you are a candidate and it’s just words. You can fool enough of the people enough of the time maybe even to get elected. But when you try to govern that way, there is a reality to reality—and reality pushes back.

One by one, Trump has decreed impulsive orders, un-vetted by legal, policy, or political staff, much less by serious planning. Almost immediately he is forced to walk them back by a combination of political and legal pressure—and by reality.

Unlike in the various dictatorships Trump admires, the complex skein of constitutional legal and political checks on tyranny in the United States are holding—just barely at times, but they are holding. And the more reckless Trump’s behavior, the stronger become the checks. 

Only with his lunatic effort to selectively ban refugees (but not from terrorist-sending countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt where Trump has business interests) has Trump discovered that the American system has courts. It has courts. Imagine that.

The more unhinged he becomes, the less will conservative judges be the toadies to ordinary Republican policies that they too often have been. Anybody want to wager that the Supreme Court will be Trump’s whore?

In the past week, Republicans from Mitch McConnell on down have tripped over each other rejecting his view of Putin. They have ridiculed his screwball claim of massive voter fraud. 

They are running for cover on how to kill ObamaCare without killing patients or Republican re-election hopes. This is actually complicated, and nuance is not Trump’s strong suit. Rep Tom McClintock of California spoke for many when he warned:

“We’d better be sure that we’re prepared to live with the market we’ve created” with repeal, said Rep. Tom McClintock. (R-Calif.)

“That’s going to be called Trumpcare. Republicans will own that lock, stock and barrel, and we’ll be judged in the election less than two years away.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, mocking Trump’s own nutty tweeting habits, sent out a tweet calling a trade war with Mexico “mucho sad.” 

Trump’s own senior staff has had to pull him back from his ludicrous crusade against Mexico and Mexicans, where Trump forces the Mexican president to cancel an official visit one day, and spends an hour on the phone kissing up the next day.

Trump proposed to reinstate torture, but key Republican leaders killed that idea. Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the Senate’s third ranking Republican said Wednesday that the ban on torture was settled law and the Republicans in Congress would oppose any reinstatement. Trump’s own defense secretary holds the same view. After blustering out his new torture policy, Trump meekly agreed to defer to his defense advisers. 

All this in just a week! Now capped by federal judges starting to rein him in.

Two weeks ago, in this space, just based on what we witnessed during the transition, I wrote a piece calling for a citizens impeachment panel, as a shadow House Judiciary Committee, to assemble a dossier for a Trump impeachment, and a citizens’ campaign to create a public impeachment movement. 

In the two weeks since then, Free Speech for People has launched a citizens’ campaign to impeach Trump. About 400,000 people have already signed the impeachment petition. 

The bipartisan group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, (CREW) has been conducting a detailed investigation. Senior legal scholars associated with CREW have filed a detailed legal brief in their lawsuit, documenting the several ways Trump is in violation of the Emoluments Clause, which prohibits a president from profiting from the actions of foreign governments. 

There are already plenty of other grounds for impeachment, including Trump’s putting his own business interests ahead of the country’s and his weird and opportunistic alliance with Vladimir Putin bordering on treason. A lesser-known law that goes beyond the Emoluments Clause is the STOCK Act of 2012, which explicitly prohibits the president and other officials from profiting from non-public knowledge.

Impeachment, of course, is a political as well as a legal process. The Founders designed it that way deliberately. But after just a week in office, not only has Trump been deserting the Constitution; his partisan allies are deserting him.

Despite his creepy weirdness, Republicans at first thought they could use Trump for Republican ends. But from his embrace of Putin to his sponsorship of a general trade war, this is no Republican. One can only imagine the alarm and horror being expressed by Republicans privately.

In 1984, the psychiatrist Otto Kernberg described a sickness known as Malignant Narcissism. Unlike ordinary narcissism, malignant narcissism was a severe pathology.

It was characterized by an absence of conscience, a pathological grandiosity and quest for power, and a sadistic joy in cruelty. 

Given the sheer danger to the Republic as well as to the Republicans, Trump’s impeachment will happen. The only question is how grave a catastrophe America faces first.

Starbucks Rips Trump Policies, Vows To Hire 10,000 Refugees


Facing foreigners’ mounting fury toward the U.S. and American companies, Starbucks has issued a pledge to hire 10,000 refugees around the world over the next five years.

The company also released a statement condemning President Donald Trump’s crackdown on Muslim immigrants and his planned wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. It comes as protests roil the U.S. over Trump’s ban on immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim nations, and as Mexicans call for a boycott against Starbucks, McDonald’s, Walmart and Coca-Cola in retaliation for the promised wall.

Starbucks is vulnerable to international consumer protests against Trump’s policies because it has a significant global footprint in 75 countries. 

After various Mexican boycott organizers named Starbucks on social media, the company defended its Mexican operations, saying it has invested millions in the country, created more than 7,000 jobs, and that its local operator, Alsea, which operates close to 560 stores, is Mexican-owned, the Business Standard reported.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz issued a public statement Sunday, saying he was writing with a “heavy heart” and that his company supports “building bridges, not walls” with Mexico.

As for Trump’s crackdown on Muslim immigrants, Schultz said: “We are living in an unprecedented time, one in which we are witness to the conscience of our country, and the promise of the American Dream, being called into question. I am hearing the alarm you all are sounding that the civility and human rights we have all taken for granted for so long are under attack. We will neither stand by, nor stand silent, as the uncertainty around the new Administration’s actions grows with each passing day.”

Schultz vowed that Starbucks would do “everything possible to support and help” immigrant workers caught up in Trump’s crackdown that has elicited “confusion, surprise and opposition.” He reaffirmed the company’s support for the “Dreamers” program, allowing children of undocumented immigrants to become citizens.

Schultz called for more civility several times during last year’s presidential campaign, which he once compared to a circus. He said he was “stunned” by Trump’s victory in the election.

Mexicans are calling for a boycott of American companies through Twitter sites like #AdiosStarbucks and #AdiosProductosGringos, which began popping up after Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto canceled a meeting with Trump over Trump’s insistence that Mexico will pay for his border wall. 

Earlier this month, a Mexican state governor said his administration would no longer buy cars from Ford, calling on others to do the same after the company abruptly canceled a planned investment in the country.

But on Friday, Mexico’s wealthiest individual, Carlos Slim, spoke out against the boycott movement. “They are American businesses that have come to invest in Mexico, to give employment in Mexico, to produce in Mexico

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Emirates Airline Had To Change Pilots And Flight Crew Due To Trump’s Executive Order


Emirates is one of the largest international airlines in the world, with flights to 11 US cities every day.
After Trump signed an executive order to ban citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US, the airline said it has had to make “the necessary adjustments to our crewing, to comply with the latest requirements,” an Emirates spokesperson told Reuters.
Flight rosters, including pilots and flight attendants from the seven countries affected by the travel ban, for select US-bound trips have reportedly been changed. But a second spokesperson later told Reuters changes have been minimal so far.
What remains unclear for Emirates, and other international airlines, is if the order also affects dual citizen airline employees — those with one passport from a country on the ban list, and one with that is not on the list.
There has been mass confusion among government officials in other countries about dual nationalities. However, according to the US State Department, The Guardian reports dual nationals will be affected by the ban.
President Trump responded to worldwide criticisms and confusion on Sunday saying the bans are “working out very nicely,” especially at international airports.
“You see it in the airports, you see it all over, it’s working out very nicely, and we’re going to have a very, very strict ban,” he said.
Emirates airline assures customers that during this time all US-bound flights should still operate on schedule, a spokesperson said.
5 things you need to know now

A federal judge on Saturday evening issued an emergency stay temporarily and partially preventing the enforcement of President Trump's executive order banning visitors from seven Mideast nations. The ruling specifically applies to people, like the two Iraqi men detained at the airport in New York City, who have valid visas and were arriving or in transit to the United States when the order was issued. Similar rulings were later handed down in Massachusetts, Virginia, and Washington state. The Department of Homeland Security indicated it will comply with the orders. Both Iraqi men in New York have been released.
Source: CNN, The Hill
A White House official said Sunday that the multiple court rulings limiting enforcement of President Trump's executive order on immigration and refugee admissions do not defeat the order as a whole. "Saturday's ruling does not undercut the president's executive order," the official said. "All stopped visas will remain stopped. All halted admissions will remain halted. All restricted travel will remain prohibited. The order remains in place." The statement was similar to comments made by White House counselor Kellyanne Conway in an interview on Fox News Sunday, in which she distinguished between enforcement of the order against travelers who already obtained legitimate visas before the order was signed (the specific province of the rulings) and those applying for U.S. entrance after the order was signed. The rulings do not "affect the executive order at all," Conway said, "because the executive order is going to be prospective — it's preventing, not detaining." However, some reportssuggest Customs and Border Patrol agents may be defying the judges' orders on direction of the White House.
Source: Politico, MSNBC
In a presidential memorandum issued Saturday night, President Trump gave a permanent seat on the National Security Council (NSC) to Stephen Bannon, chief White House strategist and the controversial former head of Breitbart News. The memo restructured the NSC, adding Bannon to "the principals committee" while removing the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as well as the director of national intelligence, who will now be limited to meetings "where issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed." Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Sunday he finds the decision worrisome and a "radical departure from any national security council in history." Former National Security Adviser Susan Rice labeled the reorganization "stone cold crazy."
Source: ABC News, The Hill
Washington Democrats quickly castigated President Trump's executive order on immigration and refugee admissions, while the GOP mostly remained silent as criticism of the rule mounted. By Sunday, however, at least six congressional Republicans — two representatives and four senators — expressed varying degrees of public opposition. "Enhancing long term national security requires that we have a clear-eyed viewof radical Islamic terrorism," wrote Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) in a brief post on Medium, "without ascribing radical Islamic terrorist views to all Muslims." Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) called the order "ridiculous" and a potential threat to "many innocent, vulnerable people," while Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) tweeted that it is "not lawful to ban immigrants on basis of nationality" and that the order "appears to be more about politics than safety." Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Rob Portman of Ohio, and Ben Sasse of Nebraska all said the order is too broad. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) defended Trump's plan, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the courts should settle the issue.
Source: Vox, The Washington Post

One American was killed and three wounded in a firefight Saturday against al Qaeda militants in Yemen. Local reports say the raid killed about 30 people, including 10 women and three children. The U.S. commandos arrived by helicopter in the Yakla district of al-Bayda province to target a leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Abdulraoof al-Dhahab, who was among those killed. Though the United States has long provided support for Saudi Arabia's coalition intervention in Yemen, including drone strikes, this is believed to be the first U.S. ground operation in Yemen's civil war.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Don't be surprised by Trump's crackdown. Be shocked.


While Trump didn’t take the time to properly inform agency personnel how the new rule was supposed to work, to brief the press, to consult with relevant groups, or to have a Senate-confirmed Secretary of State in place, he did manage to make sure that his visa ban doesn’t include any of the Middle Eastern countries in which he has business interests. 
It’s not surprising per se to see Trump apparently taking his personal financial interests into consideration when making public policy. Nor is it particularly surprising to see that, in doing so, Trump is clearly signaling that he knows perfectly well the national security rationale for his actions is bogus. I’m not surprised that Trump did this before he had the chance to consult with American allies in Europe or with military officers serving on the ground in Iraq and Syria. 
He signaled during the campaign that he’s sloppy and ignorant just as clearly as he signaled a desire to clamp down on refugees. 
Hope, however, springs eternal. Some combination of Mattis and John McCain seems to have convinced Trump to (temporarily) foreswear his intention to bring back routinized torture. Life, blessedly, is full of surprises. But most of the time Trump will probably live down to the low expectations people who value policy expertise and cosmopolitan humanism have of him. It’s not surprising. But is should never stop being shocking. 
by Matthew Yglesias

Countries where Trump does business are not hit by new travel restrictions


The seven nations targeted for new visitation restrictions by President Trump on Friday all have something in common: They are places he does not appear to have any business interests.
The executive order he signed Friday bars all entry for the next 90 days by travelers from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Libya. Excluded from the lists are several majority-Muslim nations where the Trump Organization is active and which in some cases have also faced troublesome issues with terrorism.
According to the text of the order, the restriction applies to countries that have already been excluded from programs allowing people to travel to the United States without a visa because of concerns over terrorism. Hewing closely to nations already named as terrorism concerns elsewhere in law might have allowed the White House to avoid angering some more powerful and wealthy majority Muslim allies, such as Egypt.
But without divesting from his company, as bipartisan ethics experts had advised, Trump is now facing questions about whether he designed the new rules with his own business at least partly in mind.
He needs to sell his businesses outside his family and place the assets in a blind trust, otherwise every decision he makes people are going to question if he’s making the decision in the interests of the American people or his own bottom line,” said Jordan Libowitz, the spokesman for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a liberal watchdog group. The group has filed a lawsuit arguing that Trump is already in violation of a constitutional provision barring federal officials from accepting payments from foreign officials.
Earlier in the week, Norm Eisen, the group’s chairman and a former ethics adviser to Barack Obama, tweeted: “WARNING: Mr. Pres. your Muslim ban excludes countries where you have business interests. That is a CONSTITUTIONAL VIOLATION. See u in court.”
Stephanie Grisham, a White House spokeswoman, said, “The high-risk territories are based on Congressional statute and nothing else.”
Trump has said he has handed management of his real estate, licensing and merchandising business over to his adult sons to avoid the perception that he is making presidential decisions to boost his own business. But he has retained ownership of the company, meaning that if it thrives during his presidency, he will personally profit.
The new executive order points to the complications that are likely to arise from the arrangement.
Trump’s order makes no mention of Turkey, which has faced several terrorist attacks in recent months. On Wednesday, the State Department updated a travel warning for Americans visiting Turkey, noting that “an increase in anti-American rhetoric has the potential to inspire independent actors to carry out acts of violence against US citizens.”
Trump has licensed his name to two luxury towers in Istanbul. A Turkish company also manufactures a line of Trump-branded home furnishings. Trump’s most recent financial disclosure, filed in May when he was a presidential candidate, showed that he had earned as much as $6 million in the previous year from the deals.
“I have a little conflict of interest ’cause I have a major, major building in Istanbul,” he said in a December 2015 interview with Breitbart News. More recently, he has insisted that he has no conflicts because laws making conflicts illegal do not apply to the president.
Also untouched by Friday’s executive order is the United Arab Emirates, a powerful Muslim ally with whom the United States nevertheless has complicated relations. Trump has licensed his name to a Dubai golf resort, as well as a luxury home development and spa.
Trump has seemed particularly disinclined to divorce himself of interests in the project. Its developer, Hussain Sajwani, attended a New Year’s Eve party at Trump’s Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, where a video showed Trump singling him out for praise, calling him and his family “the most beautiful people.”
Trump returned to the topic of his Dubai partnership again in mid-January at a news conference intended to demonstrate how he was separating from his business.
“Over the weekend, I was offered $2 billion to do a deal in Dubai with a very, very, very amazing man, a great, great developer from the Middle East — Hussein, Damac, a friend of mine, great guy. And I was offered $2 billion to do a deal in Dubai — a number of deals and I turned it down,” Trump said then, referring to Sajwani’s development company.
His point was that he was voluntarily turning aside new projects that could raise ethical questions. An attorney for the company announced at the same event that the Trump Organization will embark on no new foreign deals while Trump is in office. But the comment also served as a reminder that Trump’s business, included the personal relationships he forged with wealthy partners around the world, was still very much on his mind as he entered the presidency.
The executive order makes no mention of Saudi Arabia, home of 15 of the 19 terrorists involved in the 9/11 attacks. The Trump Organization had incorporated several limited liability companies in preparation for an attempt to build a hotel in Saudi Arabia, showing an interest in expansion in the country. The company canceled those incorporations in December, indicating that no project is moving forward.
Excluded as well is Indonesia, the world’s largest majority-Muslim nation, where there are two large Trump-branded resorts underway, built in partnership with powerful local interests.
“To be blunt, we really don’t know what to make of which motives are driving this president’s decisions,” said Kamal Essaheb, director of policy and advocacy for the National Immigration Law Center. “From what we could tell from his campaign and his actions since he became president, what seems to be first and foremost on his mind is his own self-interest and an obsession with his brand.”

The Perils of Calling Trump a Liar

    
When Richard Nixon was president, most journalists knew he was a thoroughly dishonest man. Early in his first term he had declared war on them—famously in two high-profile speeches delivered by his pit-bull vice president, Spiro T. Agnew—and he spied on many with illegal wiretaps authorized by his national security adviser Henry Kissinger. When reporters crossed him, he punished them with petty retributions (excluding some from his trip to China) and unconstitutional abuses of power (siccing the IRS or FBI on others) that became grounds for his impeachment.

Well before Watergate, Nixon’s treatment of reporters led them to thunder that because of his distortions and manipulations, freedom of the press was under siege. The news media’s leading lights sounded the alarm. Accepting the “Broadcaster of the Year” award in 1971, Walter Cronkite labeled Nixon’s anti-press campaign “a grand conspiracy.” On the Dick Cavett show, Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee charged that “the First Amendment is in greater danger than any time I’ve seen it.” A blue-ribbon National Press Club report found Nixon guilty of “an unprecedented, government-wide effort to control, restrict and conceal information” and “discredit the press.” The Senate even convened hearings—chaired by Sam Ervin, Democrat of North Carolina, who later led the Watergate inquiry—into whether, as Ervin put it, “the Constitution’s guarantee of a free press” was “on its deathbed.”
Notably, though, it wasn’t until the Watergate investigations proved that Nixon had deliberately uttered his falsehoods with the intent to deceive the public that journalists rolled out the heaviest rhetorical artillery available to them: Calling the president a liar.
Several reasons accounted for this circumspection. A lie isn’t simply any old falsehood; it’s told with the knowledge that it’s false and with the intent to deceive. In most cases, journalists couldn’t prove that Nixon was knowingly misleading them, and as workaday reporters they didn’t want to seem biased—especially with the administration officials and surrogates clamoring about their alleged liberal bias in order to discredit them. Then, too, there was a certain respect for the office of the presidency. “When it’s Richard Nixon,” explained Clark Mollenhoff of the Des Moines Register, who had worked briefly in the Nixon White House, “you restrain yourself and do not call him a liar.”
Over time, however, the daily contradictions between what Nixon said and what journalists were discovering grew stark. The discrepancies, noted Bradlee and his Post colleague Howard Simons, “forced the reader and the listener to choose between the White House and the press.” By the end, even Nixon defenders in the press were using the l-word. “He lied to the people. … He lied to his lawyers. He lied to the press,” sighed the conservative columnist James J. Kilpatrick the day after Nixon resigned, in August 1974. “My president is a liar.” Eventually even the most diehard Nixon loyalists agreed. “Lies,” noted Chuck Colson, Nixon’s chief thug, “brought Nixon down.”
The barrage of false, duplicitous, dishonest and misleading statements emanating from Donald Trump and the White House in the last week has again raised the question of whether and when it’s OK for a mainstream news organization—one that aspires to objectivity and non-partisanship in its news coverage—to say flatly that the president is lying. This is far from a new challenge with Trump; his cavalier disregard for the truth was an abiding preoccupation of journalists throughout the campaign. Scores of news outlets, including this one, devoted op-ed columns, media criticism, fact-checking features and listicles to cataloguing and debunking Trump’s fire-hose spray of false statements.
But what was mildly controversial during the campaign has become considerably more fraught now that Trump is president. After his press secretary’s brazenly false assertions last week about turnout at the inauguration and Trump’s own repetition of the spurious claim that millions of Americans voted illegally in the election, journalists have begun to wonder—quite legitimately—whether the next four years are going feed them not just a steady diet of the usual White House spin but an exceptionally toxic brew of misinformation, propaganda, bullshit and lies. And it’s not entirely clear how to respond.
Some want the objective press to repeatedly call out Trump for lying—using the word whenever possible. As they see it, such imprecations could inform the public about the president’s incessant mendacity or at least provide a morally clear and refreshingly blunt description of his modus operandi. Many news editors, however, fear that using the l-word will mean overreaching and speculating about Trump’s intent. Besides, it will be sure to give rise to charges of bias, name-calling and unprofessionalism. On this one, these editors are right. Though it may seem fainthearted to use word like “falsehood” and “untruth,” in the long run the press will have more influence if it avoids insinuating more than it can confidently assert to be true.

Google Recalls Staff to U.S. After Trump Immigration Order


Alphabet Inc.’s Google delivered a sharp message to staff traveling overseas who may be impacted by a new executive order on immigration from President Donald Trump: Get back to the U.S. now.
Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai slammed Trump’s move in a note to employees Friday, telling them that more than 100 company staff are affected by the order.
"It’s painful to see the personal cost of this executive order on our colleagues," Pichai wrote in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg News. "We’ve always made our view on immigration issues known publicly and will continue to do so."
The comments underscore a growing rift between the Trump administration and several large U.S. technology companies, which include many immigrants in their ranks and have lobbied for fewer immigration restrictions. Pichai’s note echoed similar statements from tech peers voicing concerns about the harm such policies could have on their businesses.\

Trump signed an executive order Friday prohibiting entry by people from seven majority-Muslim nations for 90 days. Citizens of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya would be banned from entering the U.S. for the period, while the government determines what information it needs to safely admit visitors.
The Department of Homeland Security issued a directive on Friday afternoon ordering the Customs and Border Control agency to enforce the order, the New York Daily News reported. Late Friday, some green card and visa holders were already being blocked from boarding flights to the U.S., the newspaper said.
"We’re concerned about the impact of this order and any proposals that could impose restrictions on Googlers and their families, or that create barriers to bringing great talent to the U.S.," a Google spokeswoman said in a statement. "We’ll continue to make our views on these issues known to leaders in Washington and elsewhere."
Some Google employees were traveling abroad and were trying to get back to the U.S. before the order took effect. The company asked them to reach out to Google’s security, travel, and immigration teams for assistance, according to a person familiar with the situation. The person asked not to be identified talking about internal company communications.
The employees in question normally work in the U.S. but just happened to be abroad either on work assignments or vacations. The concern is that even if Google staff have valid visas, they may still be at risk if they’re from one of the seven countries and they’re outside the U.S. when the order kicks in, the person also said.
One employee rushed back from a trip to New Zealand to make it into the U.S. before the order was signed, Google’s Pichai wrote in his memo. 
"We are advising our clients from those seven countries who have green cards or any type of H-1B visa not to travel outside the U.S." said Ava Benach, a partner at immigration law firm Benach Collopy LLP, while noting that the order takes effect immediately.
“No one is really sure whether a green card holder from these seven countries can return to the U.S. now. It’s fairly clear that an H-1B visa holder can’t," Benach said. The H-1B lets U.S. companies employ graduate-level workers from other countries in technical occupations such as technology, engineering and science.
"If anyone in these situations has the misfortune to have gone abroad recently, it’s a treacherous moment, possibly for green card holders too," Benach said.
Other technology companies are likely in a similar situation, she added.
Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said Friday he was “concerned” by Trump’s recent moves to restrict immigration.
Microsoft Corp. inserted language in a securities filing on Thursday on the issue, cautioning investors that immigration restrictions "may inhibit our ability to adequately staff our research and development efforts.

THE BEST STATE TO GROW OLD


The nation's elderly population is growing. The 2010 decennial census recorded the greatest number and proportion of Americans age 65 and older ever recorded, at 40.3 million people, or 13% of the U.S. population. Today, nearly 15% of the U.S. population is 65 or older, and that share is expected to continue to increase in coming years. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Americans 65 and older will comprise over 20% of the population before 2050.
State officials, families, and elderly individuals will likely need to spend increasingly large resources and time considering the role of older community residents. Circumstantial factors such as weather preference and the presence of friends and family play a major role in the quality of life for elderly residents. Based on relatively material indicators, including health, labor markets, amenities, and access to medical facilities, elderly populations in some states are better off than in others.
Further, while Americans of all ages face everyday economic, social, and medical challenges, low income, poverty, violent crime, medical expenses, and other such difficulties disproportionately affect older people. Most older Americans will require some level of support sooner or later, and many elderly individuals need long-term care and support services. The experience of growing old can also differ substantially between states.

WYOMING

Based on a range of metrics, Wyoming is the best state in which to grow old. The physical decline that comes with aging means access to nearby medical facilities is especially beneficial for elderly communities. In Wyoming, There are 4.4 hospitals for every 100,000 residents, the sixth most of all states and several times the nationwide 1.4 hospitals to 100,000 person ratio. Because elderly adults are relatively vulnerable to isolation and exclusion, the presence of social establishments such as historical sites, museums, restaurants, and religious organizations can also play a major role in quality of life for older adults. In Wyoming, there are over 40 such establishments for every 10,000 residents, sixth highest concentration of states and well above the national ratio of 30.1 venues to 10,000 person.

What does America import from Mexico? A whole lot


The Trump administration’s proposal to impose a 20 percent tariff on goods from Mexico, as well as other countries, would hit Americans hard. That’s because Mexico is the third-largest exporter of goods to the U.S., behind Canada and China.
In 2015, the U.S. imported $295 billion worth of products from Mexico, according to the government trade data. The top category was cars and car parts, most of them owned by American automakers and intended for the U.S. market. The U.S. also relies heavily on Mexico for machinery, oil and agricultural products.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Thursday that revenue raised from a tariff on Mexico would be used to pay for the construction of a proposed wall along the U.S. southern border. 
“Mexico has taken advantage of the U.S. for long enough,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter on Friday. “Massive trade deficits & little help on the very weak border must change, NOW!”

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 27, 2017
Among other imports from Mexico, the U.S. got $11.3 billion worth of oil came from Mexico in 2015 (the latest year for which data was available), according to UN Comtrade, which keeps data on trade. Mexico also shipped $9.3 billion worth of prefabricated buildings, hailed as the next big innovation in construction, as their use speeds up projects and keeps their cost low.
There was $2.1 billion worth of rubber and rubber articles, and $2.4 billion worth of apparel. The category of “beverages, spirits and vinegar” racked up $3.5 billion of exports to the U.S. Beer made up $1.9 billion of that figure and spirits another $1 billion of spirits. That includes Mexican beers Corona, Dos Equis and Modelo, and the many tequilas for which the country is renowned.
Americans also imported $5.5 billion of vegetables and $3.9 billion of fruit and nuts from our southern partner. Among them were $1.8 billion of tomatoes and $1.3 billion avocados. 
Although the Trump administration has yet to release details on the plan to tax imports from countries with which the U.S. is running a trade deficit, some experts immediately panned the idea.
“For all intents and purposes, this is a tax on U.S. consumers to pay for the wall,” said Carl Weinberg, chief economist with High Frequency Economics, in a report. “What possible good can come from alienating the government of the United States’ fourth most important trading partner? We stand resolute in our analysis: Trade wars are bad. Tariffs are bad. Nobody wins when trade barriers go up.
President Trump is not a hypocrite. He's something much worse.


  The word "hypocrisy" poses a problem these days. It's simply inadequate to the events it's supposed to describe.
We think of hypocrisy as a venal sin, something parents do. It's a human flaw to be winked at, a form of dishonesty we politely overlook. But in political life, it's much more than this: The distance between the truth a politician knows and the truth he tells becomes the code by which the public reads him. It usually takes some time to figure out a specific president's code (hence the honeymoon period during a typical American presidency). But by opening with a bald lie — the one about crowd sizes — the Trump administration revealed its code early. And then, in a singular approach to public relations, President Trump proved exactly how little he cared about the issues he criticized Hillary Clinton for during the campaign by making his own administration replicate them.
In his interview with David Muir on ABC Wednesday night, Trump doubled down on his debunked claim of voter fraud, saying, "You have people that are registered who are dead, who are illegals, who are in two states. You have people registered in two states. They're registered in a New York and a New Jersey. They vote twice."
The fact is that Trump's adviser Steve Bannon is registered to vote in two states. So is his daughter Tiffany Trump. So is his Cabinet nominee Stephen Mnuchin. So are at least three other people in his inner circle.
This is not mere "hypocrisy." This is something else entirely, something both more concerning and more valuable: It's proof.
Indeed, it's self-contained proof — proof without media "spin" or leaks or anything but Trump's own words — that the president's concerns about voter fraud are non-existent except insofar as they made his numbers look worse than he'd like. Rumors of Trump's narcissism have abounded for a long time. But this is not rumor. This is conclusive evidence.
You might recall Trump's performative outrage at Clinton using a private server that wasn't secured — the charge being that she posed a risk to national security. The fact is, Trump himself is currently using an unsecured device — his Android phone. His senior staff are using private RNC email accounts. His official @POTUS Twitter account is linked to a private Gmail account.
The takeaway is not "OH WHAT HYPOCRITES." That masks what's going on here. The takeaway is that none of what Trump pretends to care about is what he actually cares about.
This is more than hypocrisy: It is a lesson. And it has enormous consequences for his presidency.
Trump is teaching us is that every concern he raises must first be considered a pretext to save his ego. If Trump cared about national security, he would make sure to use a secure device. He does not. He cares more about being able to use his phone to tweet.
If Trump cared about people using private email servers, he would forbid his senior staff from using them.
If Trump cared about the voter rolls, he would have made sure the people he hired and nominated and fathered weren't guilty of doing exactly what he is accusing "illegal voters" of doing.
Our president does not care about these things. What he cares about is the fact that not enough people were impressed by his inauguration and his victory.
What we are witnessing is proof of the president reverse-engineering an outcome in every way he can think of so that it matches what he wants the truth to be. It doesn't matter whether the way he gets there is The Media Lied! Or My Crowd Was The Biggest Ever! Or People Voted Illegally! Or The CIA Gave Me The Biggest Standing Ovation! What he is demonstrating is that he will say anything — really, anything — to make the story he wants to be true. He will even launch an extremely expensive investigation into his own electoral victory to try to muscle the story he wants to hear into being.
It is a president's job to train the public to read him, and Trump has done so with admirable speed. He has proven that his reasons for choosing a course of action do not derive from principles or convictions or public-mindedness, but from a compulsion to salve his own ego. This gives the public valuable information. We know now that when Trump signs an executive order to build the wall, the decision will have little to do with the merits of doing so (there aren't many, as Texas GOP Rep. William Hurd points out: "Building a wall is the most expensive and least effective way to secure the border.") Whether that wall gets built or not will depend on Trump's feelings about his image. From squabbling about crowd size to calling for a White House email to be sent listing his praises, it's clear that Trump has a compulsion to compel others to agree that he is as great as he says.
This is valuable information. When a crisis comes — and it will — we now know that America's 45th president will act based on what will maximally benefit his sense of his own image. We know he will say only what he thinks makes him look good. And, if forced to choose between his feelings and the American people's welfare or freedom, we know how he will choose.
It is concerning that President Trump and his administration are doing everything they accused the opposition of doing and more. Hypocrisy is not the word for that. And yet: For all the fear circulating about what it means for democracy for a White House to put forward its theory of "alternative facts," the real fact is that lies have consequences for the liar too.
Rarely in history has a president so efficiently trained the public to disbelieve him as a matter of course.
by Lili Loofbourow

Friday, January 27, 2017

5 things you need to know now

President Trump signed two more executive orders Friday, one focused on "the protection of the nation from foreign terrorist entry" and the other mandating "a great rebuilding" of the military. The first, Trump said, will establish "new vetting measures to keep radical Islamic terrorists" out of the U.S. "We want to ensure that we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas," Trump said. "We only want to admit those into our country who will support our country and love deeply our people." The second order regarding the military outlines a plan for "new planes, new ships, new resources, and new tools for our men and women in uniform," the president said.
Source: Talking Points Memo, CNN
President Trump applauded Brexit during his joint press conference Friday with British Prime Minister Theresa May, following their meeting at the White House. He predicted Brexit would be "a wonderful thing" for Britain, because "you're going to have the people you want in your country," and he vowed that "today the U.S. renews our deep bond with Britain." May later announced that Trump has accepted a state visit invitation from the Queen for later this year, and she also said Trump has indicated he is "100 percent behind NATO." "I'm delighted to be able to congratulate you on what was a stunning election victory," she said. May was the first world leader Trump has hosted; he was scheduled to meet with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto next Tuesday, but Peña Nieto canceled after Trump expedited plans to build a Mexico border wall.
Source: The Guardian
President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin have not spoken since Trump won the election and Putin called to congratulate him. That will all change Saturday, when Putin will speak with Trump over the phone, the Kremlin announced Friday. Putin's spokesperson said the two leaders will "exchange views about main parameters of current bilateral relations." It is unclear what specifically will be discussed or if the two will agree to meet in person during their call. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer confirmed Trump's call to Russia, while Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Friday released a statement reminding Trump that "the man on the other end of the line is a murderer and a thug" and urging the president not to drop U.S. sanctions on Russia. Trump will also speak with the leaders of Germany and France on Saturday.
Source: The Associated Press, The White House
Vice President Mike Pence became the highest political official to ever address the annual March for Life on Friday as thousands of abortion opponents arrived in Washington, D.C., to protest the 1973 Supreme Courtdecision legalizing the practice. "This administration will work with the Congress to end taxpayer funding of abortion and abortion providers," Pence said Friday. Top White House adviser Kellyanne Conway also joined Pence at the demonstrations. The march will unavoidably draw comparisons to last weekend's Women's March, which drew half a million people to Washington; organizers for the March for Life expect a more modest 50,000. But "I don't think that these numbers are the most important," March for Life president Jeanne Mancini said. " The number most important for us is 58 million, which is the number of Americans that have been lost to abortion."
Source: ABC News, The New York Times

Longtime rivals Roger Federer, the No. 17 seed, and Rafael Nadal, the No. 9 seed, will face off Sunday in the Australian Open singles finals. Nadal made it to his first Grand Slam final since 2014 after a nearly five-hour-long semifinal match against Grigor Dimitrov that began in Melbourne on Friday evening and didn't wrap up until 12:44 a.m. local time Saturday. Federer and Nadal haven't faced each other in a Grand Slam final since the 2011 French Open, where Nadal beat Federer in four sets. Though Nadal has beat Federer in 9 out of their 11 Grand Slam matchups, he has been sidelined in recent years because of injuries. Nadal will be fighting for his 15th major title, while Federer will be battling for his 18th. The match starts Sunday at 7:30 p.m. local time, or 3:30 a.m. ET.

Second Week of Congressional Hearings Increases Pressure on Trump US President Donald Trump faces the threat of further testimony that ...