Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Trump’s not a liar. He’s a madman.

Even by President Trump’s standards, this Memorial Day weekend was memorable for the sheer volume of balderdash, bunk, poppycock and patent nonsense flowing from the White House.

Balderdash: Trump went after the “failing and corrupt” New York Times for citing a senior White House official “who doesn’t exist” and admonished the newspaper to “use real people, not phony sources.” It turned out the senior official in question had spoken at a White House briefing arranged by Trump’s aides and attended by dozens of reporters.

Bunk: Trump attacked “the 13 Angry Democrats” working for Robert S. Mueller III, apparently referring to prior party registration. But Mueller himself is a Republican, appointed by a Republican who was himself appointed by Trump.

Poppycock: He called for “pressure on the Democrats to end the horrible law that separates children from there [sic] parents once they cross the Border into the U.S.” There is no such law, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has acknowledged that family separation “inevitably” results from Trump’s “zero-tolerance” enforcement policy
Patent nonsense: “Who’s going to give back the young and beautiful lives (and others) that have been devastated and destroyed by the phony Russia Collusion Witch Hunt?” Trump asked. I can picture the GoFundMe campaign: “Paul Manafort, a young and beautiful 69-year-old, had a promising career ahead of him selling access to the White House before he was cruelly indicted . . . ”
Early in this weekend’s monsoon of malarkey, New York Times White House reporter Maggie Haberman tweeted that Trump told “demonstrable falsehoods” — and she was roundly ridiculed on Twitter for failing to say Trump was lying. She defended herself by saying Trump’s pronouncements “can be hard to label” because “he often thinks whatever he says is what’s real.”
Haberman is right, but there’s another reason not to label Trump’s untruths “lies”: Calling him a liar lets him off easy. A liar, by definition, knows he’s not telling the truth. Trump’s behavior is worse: With each day it becomes more obvious he can’t distinguish between fact and fantasy. It’s an illness, and it’s spreading.
I’ve been writing for two years about his seeming inability to separate truth from falsehood: from his claim that he opposed the Iraq War to his belief that his rainy inauguration was “really sunny.” The man who ghostwrote Trump’s “Art of the Deal” marveled at Trump’s “ability to convince himself that whatever he is saying at any given moment is true.”
Trump has acknowledged as much himself. In a 2007 deposition — he was suing author Timothy O’Brien for asserting that Trump’s net worth wasn’t in the billions but in the range of $150 million to $250 million — Trump was asked how he calculates his net worth.
“My net worth fluctuates,” Trump said, “and it goes up and down with the markets and with attitudes and with feelings, even my own feelings. . . . I would say it’s my general attitude at the time that the question may be asked.”
Of course, Trump’s “feelings” don’t change his net worth any more than they change the weather. That he thinks they do is his problem — and ours.
Writing last week for NBCNews.com, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at University College London, along with a researcher, offered an explanation for Trump’s mendacity.
Noting that the daily average number of Trump falsehoods has been rising since he took office (as measured by The Post’s Fact Checker), the professor, Tali Sharot, pointed to the biological process of “emotional adaptation.” People tend to feel uncomfortable when they tell lies, but research has found that the discomfort is reduced each time a person lies — thereby increasing the frequency of lies.
Trump’s fictions are so pain-free that they may not feel like lies to him — honestly. And, ominously, they may seem less glaring to others over time. Sharot noted that people “may desensitize to the president’s falsehoods in the same way that they do to overused perfume, making them less likely to act to correct this pattern of behavior.”
You can see this in the repeated failure of congressional Republicans to call out Trump’s untruths, when they obviously know better. And you can see it in administration officials’ determination to support whatever Trump says, no matter how ludicrous. (The White House held a briefing Tuesday to support Trump’s attempt to blame Democrats for immigrant family separation.) Trump may not be able to separate fact from fiction, but those who knowingly back up his falsehoods are liars.
So what should we call the twaddle and claptrap Trump spouts? I propose “Trumpery.” Defined as “worthless nonsense,” it also has a felicitous echo of “Trumped up.”
Go ahead and say he’s lying, if you think so. To me, his facility with fallacy and his pain-free fibbery aren’t sympto­matic of a liar but of a madman.

Russia comes under fire at UN over MH17 downing 

Russia on Tuesday rejected calls at the United Nations to accept responsibility for the downing of Flight MH17 over Ukraine after an investigation found that a Russian army missile was used in the attack.
At a Security Council meeting on Ukraine, Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok called on Moscow to accept the findings that the airliner was shot down by a Russian-made BUK missile provided by a brigade based in the Russian city of Kursk.
"The language of ultimatums is not something that anyone will be allowed to use when speaking to Russia," Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told the council meeting.
"We cannot accept the unfounded conclusion of the JIT", the Dutch-led Joint investigation Team, he added.
All 298 people on the Malaysia Airlines flight en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur were killed when the missile slammed into the plane as it flew over territory held by pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine in July 2014.
Responding to Nebenzia, the Dutch foreign minister said his arguments were "nothing new" and again urged Russia to work with the Netherlands and Australia to identify the perpetrators.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley voiced strong support for the Dutch and Australian call on Russia to acknowledge its role in the tragedy and help bring to account those responsible for the shooting down.
"Despite its transparent denials, there is no doubt Russia is driving the Ukrainian conflict," said Haley.
More than 10,000 people have been killed since the Moscow-backed insurgency broke out in April 2014 following Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin told the council that Russia's rejection of the findings "did not surprise me at all."
"We have no doubt that the downing of MH17 flight is a terrorist act," he said.
Ukraine will present documents to the International Court of Justice next month showing that Russia is violating anti-terrorism agreements, he said.
Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz renewed his call for a peacekeeping mission to be deployed to east Ukraine and urged Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to appoint a UN special envoy for Ukraine.
Diplomats say Russia, a veto-wielding power at the council, has blocked attempts to step up UN involvement in efforts to end the conflict.

Ivanka Trump Wins China Trademarks, Then Her Father Vows to Save ZTE 

BEIJING — China this month awarded Ivanka Trump seven new trademarks across a broad collection of businesses, including books, housewares and cushions.
At around the same time, President Trump vowed to find a way to prevent a major Chinese telecommunications company from going bust, even though the company has a history of violating American limits on doing business with countries like Iran and North Korea.
Coincidence? Well, probably.
Still, the remarkable timing is raising familiar questions about the Trump family’s businesses and its patriarch’s status as commander in chief. Even as Mr. Trump contends with Beijing on issues like security and trade, his family and the company that bears his name are trying to make money off their brand in China’s flush and potentially promising market.
he most recent slew of trademarks appear to have been granted along the same timeline as Ms. Trump’s previous requests, experts said. But more broadly, they said, Ms. Trump’s growing portfolio of trademarks in China and the family’s business interests there raises questions about whether Chinese officials are giving the Trump family extra consideration that they otherwise might not get.
These critics say the foreign governments that do business with Ms. Trump know they are dealing with the president’s daughter — a person who also works in the White House.
Some countries will no doubt see this as a way to curry favor with President Trump,” wrote Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, and Norman Eisen, chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, two nonprofit watchdog groups. Mr. Eisen’s group reported on the trademarks on Saturday.
“Other countries may see the business requests made by his daughter’s company as requests they cannot refuse.”
Ms. Trump’s representatives have said that there is nothing improper about Ms. Trump’s trademarks and that they prevent individuals from profiting off her name. Abigail Klem, her brand’s president, said previously that the brand’s protection of trademarks is “in the normal course of business,” especially in countries where trademark infringement is rampant. Ms. Trump’s representatives were not immediately available for comment on Monday, a holiday in the United States.
Chinese trademark officials didn’t respond to a request for comment on Monday.
Mr. Trump said in a surprise announcement on May 13 that he was working with China’s president, Xi Jinping, to save jobs at the Chinese telecommunications company, ZTE. The company was left paralyzed after American officials forbade companies in the United States from selling their chips, software and other goods to ZTE for violating trade controls. Mr. Trump’s announcement was widely seen as a potential peace offering to Beijing as the United States and China threatened each other with tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of trade.
Just before and after that announcement, Ms. Trump won some long-sought trademarks covering her name in China.
Six days before the ZTE announcement, China said it approved five of Ms. Trump’s trademarks, according to data from China’s trademark office. Then, on May 21, China awarded Ms. Trump two more trademarks in snacks, spices and bleaching preparations. In total, Ms. Trump now has 34 trademarks in China that would allow her to capitalize on her brand in the world’s second-largest economy.
Experts said the timing appeared to be a coincidence, given how quickly Ms. Trump won her previous trademark requests from the Chinese authorities, though they differed on whether she appeared to receive special treatment.
Ms. Trump applied for six of the trademarks in March 2017. She applied for the seventh even earlier, in May 2016. China’s trademark office usually takes up to 18 months to approve trademarks, said Charles Feng, head of the intellectual property division at the law firm East & Concord Partners.
“From application to registration, this is very fast,” he said.
Laura Young, a trademark lawyer at Wang & Wang, said she did not see anything unusual about the timing. She pointed out that under Chinese law, the trademark office should complete its examination of a filing within nine months, and that some of her clients get decisions within a year.
Still, Ms. Trump’s fame is likely to have helped her with the trademark approval process in China, according to Ms. Young. The president’s daughter has a large following in China, where she is lauded by many for her appearance and wealth. Videos of Ms. Trump’s daughter, Arabella, singing Chinese songs have gone viral.
“When a person is famous, and the examiners say: ‘Oh, I’ve heard of this person,’ it can be decided more quickly than if the examiner is not sure and has to consult others or go to a committee,” Ms. Young said.
Mr. Trump himself has more than 100 trademarks in China. Several United States senators have criticized these trademarks, warning it could be a breach of the United States Constitution and that foreign governments could use Mr. Trump’s trademarks to influence foreign policy decisions. Mr. Trump has said he has handed over control of his business to his two adult sons. The Trump Organization has said it has been actively enforcing its intellectual property rights in China for more than a decade to protect its brand from infringers.
China’s infamous “trademark squatters” — people who register the names of famous brands and people and “squat” on them in the hopes that they can cash in on it — have flocked to the Trump brand. According to Mr. Feng, there are more than 10 Ivanka trademarks registered by parties not related to Ms. Trump.
Some of these include a company in the southern city of Foshan, which has registered “Yiwanka,” the Chinese translation of Ivanka, for sanitary pads and tampons. The Nanjing Good Daughter Wine Company, an alcohol maker, has registered Ivanka Trump in English and Chinese.
The trademarks are not the only Trump-related deal that took place around the time of Mr. Trump’s pledge to save ZTE.
On May 15, an Indonesian company called MNC Group, which is partnering with the Trump Organization to build a six-star hotel and golf course in Indonesia, said it had struck a deal with an arm of the Metallurgical Corporation of China, a state-owned construction company, to build a theme park next door to the planned Trump properties. MNC has said that the hotel and the theme park are separate projects within the same development.

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