Trump Archive

Friday, May 12, 2017

Friday Trump & Politics Roundup - 15 - Time for Impeachment?

Donald TrumpThis is my semi-regular feature to post links to articles about Donald Trump along with excerpts from those articles. To read previous entries in this series and other Trump related posts, check out my Trump archives.

Usually, this series is about a broad range of issues related to Trump. But this week, I'm going to focus on one abuse of power in particular that's so egregious, I think it is time to start talking seriously about impeachment. I know, Trump was damaging the country before. But bad policy and bad political appointees aren't impeachable offenses - that's what elections are for. And yes, a lot of his previous corruption and authoritarian tendencies were alarming and damaging to American democracy and government mores (demonization of the free press, nepotism, cronyism, conflicts of interest...), but they were only borderline worthy of impeachment, and the political reality is that Trump wasn't going to be impeached for giving his kids government jobs or flouting the emoluments clause.

But now, Trump has potentially crossed the line into obstruction of justice, by firing James Comey, the director of the law enforcment agency that was investigating his adminstration. Granted, it still has to be proven that that was Trump's intent, but that's certainly where all the arrows seem to be pointing right now. And if that does turn out to be true, then I say it's time to impeach Trump. That's an abuse of power beyond the pale, and the American people deserve far better.

Since this is such a huge issue, I'm going to quote more articles than normal on a single issue, and pull out more excerpts than normal from those articles.


Vox - Experts on authoritarianism are absolutely terrified by the Comey firing

"Trump has talked like a would-be authoritarian since day one. ... This is the first clear warning sign that he's attempting to [act like one]."

Those are the words not of a Democratic political operative or a fringe liberal Trump critic, but of Yascha Mounk, a respected scholar of democracy at Harvard, reacting to Preisdent Trump's abrupt firing of FBI Director James Comey.

In the meantime, all we have to go on is what we know to have happened: The president fired the person who was investigating him and his associates.

To people who study the rise of authoritarian leaders, just those facts alone are terrifying.

"This is very common -- in semi-authoritarian and authoritarian regimes," Erica Chenoweth, a professor at the University of Denver, tells me. "Purges, summary firings, imprisonment: These are all things that authoritarian leaders do when they attempt to rid themselves of rivals within government."

One of the first steps in this pattern is weakening independent sources of power that can check the executive's actions. Like, say, the director of your domestic security service who just happens to be investigating your administration's foreign ties.
Now, before you worry that the United States is going to go the way of Turkey or Russia, it's worth noting that the institutions checking Trump are far stronger than the ones in countries where democracy has collapsed. The courts, the press, and social movements have all done a pretty good job checking Trump's power so far; even Congress, by far the most Trump-subservient institution, has blocked some of his policy proposals and appointees.

But the Comey firing is by far the greatest test of the strength of American democracy in the face of Trump's authoritarian instincts so far. Whether American institutions keep up their strong performance in the face of this stress test may well determine its fate.

That actually doesn't happen very much anymore. Outright fascist movements were mostly discredited after World War II, and data on military coups shows a clear decline in their frequency since a peak in the 1960s.

But in the past 20 years or so, we've started to see a new kind of creeping authoritarianism emerge in places around the world -- something that, in the wake of Trump's recent actions, now has ominous parallels to the United States.

This is what makes the firing of Comey so scary for these scholars.

Dismissing the head of a national law enforcement agency is extremely rare, both in the United States and in other advanced democracies worldwide. Only one prior FBI director, William Sessions in 1993, has been fired in the 82-year history of the modern FBI, and that was because of a protracted corruption scandal involving his alleged abuse of government resources for his own personal use.

Comey was fired, it seems, precisely because his FBI posed a threat to Trump's authority. Trump is doing exactly what new authoritarians do in the early stages of their leadership.
The Comey firing itself doesn't herald the death of democracy in America, not even close. But it is a watershed moment for the country's future nonetheless. What happens now will shape the future of American democracy -- if not its survival, then certainly its health and ability to function smoothly. Both Congress and ordinary Americans can shape it for the better -- or for the worse, if they just let this pass and do nothing.

At the end of our conversation, Chenoweth left me with one parting thought: "This is not a drill." I believe her.


The Atlantic - Two Dead Canaries in the Coal Mine

Just after election day, Ben Wittes and Susan Hennessey cowrote a post at Lawfare, the web site Wittes runs for the Brookings Institution, titled "We Need Comey at the FBI More Than Ever." It began by acknowledging that Comey was unpopular among many Republicans and Democrats, then made a case for retaining him in his post:
...[4 paragraphs worth of explanation here]...

In fact, for those concerned that President Trump will trample the rule of law--liberals and conservatives alike--Comey's fate is one potential canary in the coal mine.

That canary is now dead.


The Atlantic - Will Republicans Check Trump's Presidential Power?

Richard Nixon's dismissal of the Watergate special prosecutor was met with bipartisan outrage. It's less clear whether the public, and its political leaders, will respond in kind to the firing of FBI director James Comey.
The question today is whether a deeply polarized nation can respond with equal determination to Trump's ominous assault on democratic accountability, which two legal scholars on Tuesday accurately described as "a horrifying breach of every expectation we have of the relationship between the White House and federal law enforcement."
A few Republicans frequently critical of Trump--among them Senators Jeff Flake of Arizona and Ben Sasse of Nebraska, and Ohio Governor John Kasich--joined virtually all Democrats in raising alarms about Comey's sudden dismissal. But most GOP leaders issued tepid responses that minimized or obscured the core issue: Trump fired the law-enforcement official leading the investigation into his campaign for possible collusion with a hostile foreign government.

With that decision, Trump made clear his willingness to trample the formal and informal limits that have checked the arbitrary exercise of presidential power through American history. What's unclear is whether leaders and voters in both parties can summon as much will to defend those limits as they did after Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre. If Trump can decapitate the FBI inquiry into his campaign without real consequence--such as an irresistible bipartisan demand for an independent counsel to take over the investigation--his appetite for shattering democratic constraints is only likely to grow.


Vox - This Harvard law professor thinks Trump really could be impeached over Comey

It's not too soon to put impeachment on the table.

It's absolutely fair to put impeachment on the table right now. I don't think it's likely, but there's enough smoke around to suggest that there might be impeachable conduct that we should worry about. Ultimately, this will turn on whether the Republicans decide they've had enough and draw a line in the sand with Trump. But that's a political decision, not a legal one.

An impeachment hearing is a sign that the Constitution is working, not a crisis.

Impeachment itself is not a constitutional crisis, because it's actually in the Constitution. And so an impeachment means, on some level, that the Constitution is working. It means presidential power is being checked or executive overreach is being punished by the instruments of law. When a president can break the law without fear of impeachment, then we should really be worried.


Vox - By firing James Comey, Trump has put impeachment on the table

Nothing we've seen credibly reported thus far about Trump and Russia would amount to an impeachable offense, and indeed, it's not really clear what allegations of "collusion" on the campaign trail would really amount to even if proven.

Firing the FBI director in order to obstruct an ongoing investigation would be different.

Anonymously sourced journalism is not the same thing as sworn testimony or hard evidence. But it's also indispensable to uncovering official wrongdoing. And Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning already brought forth plenty of evidence of wrongdoing:

[A long list of examples that I would encourage you to read by following the link above]

Some or all of this reporting may prove to be false. But it has all been published by credible journalists in credible publications. And it adds up to a very clear picture of a president deciding to fire an FBI director to obstruct an ongoing investigation and then stitching together a shaky rationalization for doing so.


ThinkProgress - Trump's firing of FBI director could be an impeachable offense, constitutional law experts say

Constitutional law experts say that while President Donald Trump's decision to fire Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey was legal, it appears to be an abuse of power that could constitute an impeachable offense.

Trump's decision to terminate Comey, the head of the nation's top law enforcement agency, was announced Tuesday and sent shockwaves throughout the political sphere.

It's not unconstitutional for Trump to fire his FBI director as he has the authority to fire anyone in the executive branch, explained David D. Cole, the national legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union, in a statement to ThinkProgress.

"But if he did so, as appears to be the case, because he is concerned that Comey's investigation of ties between his campaign and Russian officials might have implicated him in wrongdoing, it's tantamount to an obstruction of justice," wrote Cole, a constitutional law expert and professor who is on leave from the Georgetown University Law Center.


Politico - Behind Comey's firing: An enraged Trump, fuming about Russia

President Donald Trump weighed firing his FBI director for more than a week. When he finally pulled the trigger Tuesday afternoon, he didn't call James Comey. He sent his longtime private security guard to deliver the termination letter in a manila folder to FBI headquarters.

He had grown enraged by the Russia investigation, two advisers said, frustrated by his inability to control the mushrooming narrative around Russia. He repeatedly asked aides why the Russia investigation wouldn't disappear and demanded they speak out for him. He would sometimes scream at television clips about the probe, one adviser said.

Trump's firing of the high-profile FBI director on the 110th day after the president took office marked another sudden turn for an administration that has fired its acting attorney general, national security adviser and now its FBI director, whom Trump had praised until recent weeks and even blew a kiss to during a January appearance.


Guardian Op-ed - Donald Trump acts like an illegitimate president for a reason

The American people did not really choose Donald Trump. His presidency exists without the support of the majority of voters and, in turn, without a true mandate from the American people. Trump walks and talks instead like an authoritarian, and seems to believe he is above the people and the law, and need not answer to either. He wants to be untouchable. He behaves with impunity and acts as if legal standards like obstruction of justice don't apply to him.

Firing the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, James Comey, demonstrates a whole new level of defiance of the rule of law and our foundational system of checks and balances. More bluntly, it proves just how dangerous an illegitimate president is to our democracy. His actions do not only undermine the legitimacy and credibility of his presidency; they are a direct threat to our constitutionalism and our democratic legitimacy.

This seems like an obvious demand at this point, but it's worth stating clearly that now, more than ever, we need a special prosecutor appointed to look into the continuing drip, drip, drip revelations about Russia. But even more than that, the United States must regain our democratic legitimacy by ensuring that no citizen, president or otherwise, is above the law or above the American people.


Emily Farris Twitter Posting

Monday, May 8, 2017

Friday* Trump & Politics Roundup - 14

Donald TrumpOkay, today is Monday, but I meant to post this on Friday and just forgot to. This 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.


Trump's first 100 days: The good, the bad, and the ugly for tech and science

"The president's FCC appointment has pushed net neutrality to the chopping block. Online privacy took a hit as well after Trump signed legislation allowing home Internet and mobile broadband providers to sell or share Web browsing history without consent from consumers. Trump also signed legislation designed to limit federal funding for Planned Parenthood and other groups that provide abortions. The president ordered the termination of President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan, and he rolled back the Obama administration's move to require automakers to increase fuel efficiency."


Vox - The US Department of Justice is literally prosecuting a woman for laughing at Jeff Sessions

"These details [of Fairooz's history and actions] are all salient for the legal case, but it's important not to lose sight of the big picture here: The federal government is literally prosecuting someone for laughing. As if that wasn't bad enough, the Justice Department -- which Sessions now leads as attorney general -- is doing the prosecuting when the laughter was directed at its leader. At the very least, it's not a good look for the top law enforcement agency in the country."


Indivisible - Enough is Enough: Stop TrumpCare

"It's hard to overstate how cruel this bill is. Simply put, Republicans got TrumpCare passed in the House today by making it more extreme. They had to convince the uber-conservatives in the Freedom Caucus to vote for it, so they had to make it even crueler. The original failed TrumpCare bill last month stripped healthcare from 24 million Americans. But that wasn't enough for them. The new bill builds on that by:

•Gutting protections for pre-existing conditions
•Eliminating services for special needs kids in schools
•Letting insurers effectively charge women more than men

In short, TrumpCare is a moral monstrosity."

Related: Vox - The GOP plan for Obamacare could kill more people each year than gun homicides: If 24 million people lose insurance, we'll see more than 24,000 extra deaths per year.


Scientific American - We Must Strengthen the "Science" in Forensic Science: A national commission created to improve the reliability of forensics has been dealt a possibly fatal blow

"In 2009, the National Academy of Sciences evaluated the state of forensic science and, shockingly, concluded that many of the techniques used in court actually have no scientific validity. This means that the science used to convict the accused is neither reliable, nor robust and cannot be trusted in a court of law. In response to this report, the government established the National Commission of Forensic Science (NCFS) in 2013, which was tasked to explore these issues and make recommendations for improvement... Administered jointly by the Department of Justice and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the commission has worked diligently over the past four years to identify problems and propose changes to strengthen forensic science. / This progress is now in danger of being undone. On April 10, the Justice Department, under the leadership of Attorney General Sessions, refused to extend the term of the NCFS."


Vox - Donald Trump's first 100 days have been a moneymaking success story: He's getting what he cares about.

"But Trump isn't failing. He and his family appear to be making money hand over fist. It's a spectacle the likes of which we've never seen in the United States, and while it may end in disaster for the Trumps someday, for now it shows no real sign of failure. " ... "There is something grating about this, especially from a president who is making a big show of donating his salary to charity. Trump is directly pocketing what could easily amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in direct payments from the Treasury, while simultaneously claiming to be serving for free. What's more troubling, however, is indirect financial entanglements into which we have little real visibility. "


Vox - Donald Trump's absurd 100th day week was his presidency in miniature: Trump would be an excellent head of state. He is an awful president.

"Of Trump's term so far, the best that can be said is that the president's incompetence has blunted his danger. 'It could be worse,' wrote Ross Douthat, and he's right. With apologies to Woody Allen, Trump's presidency has been awful, but at least the portions have been small. / This is a thin reed with which to secure the republic, however. America built the greatest superpower the world has ever known and handed it to a man whose own associates say their job is 'to talk him out of doing crazy things.' To be pleased that the Trump presidency has not yet ended in disaster is to set too low a bar for American democracy. Three cheers for electing a leader too easily distracted to be a successful authoritarian!"


Industrial Equipment News - Trump Tax Overhaul Proposes 15% Rate for Business: But critics say a big cut in corporate taxes will add to long-term budget deficits.

"Republicans who slammed the growing national debt under President Barack Obama have said they are open to Trump's tax plan, even though it could add trillions of dollars to the deficit over the next decade. / Echoing the White House, Republicans argue the cuts would spur economic growth, reducing or even eliminating any drop in tax revenue." ... "The argument that tax cuts pay for themselves has been debunked by economists from across the political spectrum. / On Tuesday, the official scorekeeper for Congress dealt the argument -- and Trump's plan -- another blow. / The nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation said a big cut in corporate taxes, even if temporary, would add to long-term budget deficits."


Religion News - Trump's religious liberty order slammed as 'pretty much nothing'

[This one's a relief, after the language in early leaked drafts.]

" '[C]onstitutionally dubious, dangerously misleading, and ultimately harmful to the very cause that it purports to protect,' David French wrote in a blistering analysis in National Review. 'In fact, he should tear it up, not start over, and do the actual real statutory and regulatory work that truly protects religious liberty.' " ... "Even the ACLU, which initially vowed to file suit against the order, later reversed course because the order had nothing in it that could be challenged. It was, ACLU executive director Anthony Romero said, 'an elaborate photo-op with no discernible policy outcome.' "

Friday, March 31, 2017

Friday Trump & Politics Roundup - 13

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.

It's been a few weeks since I've done one of these posts - not because Trump's been getting better, but because I've been busy focusing on other things. But like the introduction says, Trump has so much potential to cause harm, so we can't let 'Trump fatigue' let him start getting away with harmful policies and actions.


NBC News - Trump Proposes Slashing Medical Research This Year, Too

"The Trump proposals would slice $1.2 billion from a $31.6 billion NIH budget as it was laid out in the December continuing resolution. They also target health and science programs across other government agencies, including plans to:
•Take $350 million from the National Science Foundation's $6.9 billion budget
•Cut $37 million from the Department of Energy's $5.3 billion worth of science programs
•Excise $48 million from the Environmental Protection Agency's research and development budget of $483 million
•Cut in half the $101 million Teen Pregnancy Prevention program
•Reduce Food and Drug Administration staff spending by $40 million
•Cut domestic and global HIV/AIDS programs by $100 million plus cut the Presidential Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) $4.3 billion budget by $242 million
•Completely delete the $72 million Global Health Security fund at the State Department and cut other global health programs by $90 million and $62 million for global family planning"


Helicopter Association International - HAI statement on President Trump's 2018 budget proposal and administration support for privatizing air traffic control

"With the release of the White House's budget blueprint, Helicopter Association International (HAI) is alarmed that the Trump administration is pursuing the transfer of oversight of air traffic control (ATC) from the FAA to a private corporate entity that will be under the control of an airline-dominated board of directors. / 'HAI members currently enjoy a good relationship with and high level of service from the air traffic control division of the FAA, which is universally acknowledged as the safest and most efficient system in the world,' said Matthew Zuccaro, president and CEO of HAI. 'It would appear that the primary rationale for this initiative is the airlines' desire to gain control of the airspace, which is not in the best interest of other aviation stakeholders. The turnover of control of the National Airspace System to the airlines represents a clear conflict of interest. As the dominant force on the proposed governing board of the new ATC entity, the airlines stand to gain the most by focusing on their particular needs.' / The helicopter industry takes comfort in the fact that the air traffic control system is under the watchful eye of Congress, and that FAA ATC daily operations are conducted by the recognized professionals within the air traffic controller community."


Industrial Equipment News - Trump Budget Causes Alarm in Appalachia: The Appalachian Regional Commission says it has created or retained more than 23,670 jobs in the past two years, but it's on the chopping block in Trump's new budget.

"The ARC began its work in 1965 as part of former Democratic President Lyndon Johnson's famous "war on poverty." In the past two years, the agency has spent $175.7 million on 662 projects that is says has created or retained more than 23,670 jobs. / That investment has paid off: In Kentucky, the commission has awarded $707,000 to the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, which used the money to train 670 people who now have full time jobs earning a combined $13.6 million in wages." ... "It's also targeted for elimination by President Donald Trump. / Trump's budget proposal has alarmed much of the region, including longtime Republican Congressman Hal Rogers, who represents the mountainous eastern Kentucky coal region where Trump won every county, a first for a Republican presidential candidate. / 'I am disappointed that many of the reductions and eliminations proposed in the President's skinny budget are draconian, careless and counterproductive,' Rogers said."


IFL Science - Trump's Budget Annihilates Funding For Education And Environmental Science

"President Trump submitted his budget blueprint for the upcoming fiscal year to Congress today, and as expected, it's mostly bad news for government agencies, who are having their funding drastically slashed through a series of draconian spending cuts. / The biggest swing of the axe is set to fall on the beleaguered Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is currently led by a climate change denier of the highest order, the agency's former archenemy Scott Pruitt. According to an analysis by Bloomberg, its budget will be reduced by 29.6 percent, with programs focusing on pollution and carbon footprint mitigation set to lose out the most. / The Department of Education (ED), headed by someone with no experience in public schools whatsoever, is also set to lose 13.6 percent of its funding. / It's worth noting that both Betsy DeVos and Pruitt are nonplussed whenever the subject of the obliteration of their agencies comes up in conversation - and that there are concrete steps being made by Congressional Republicans to abolish both of them by the end of 2018." ... "The Department of Agriculture (USDA), the federal branch of government responsible for, among other things, maintaining the food supply of the US, is set to lose 29 percent of its funding. Health and Human Services (HHS), whose job it is to protect the health of all Americans, will also lose 23 percent of its budget."


Vox - The House just passed two bills that would stifle science at the EPA

"House Republicans just passed two bills that will make it harder for the Environmental Protection Agency to use scientific research to protect health and the environment. And they've done so under the deceptive guise of 'transparency.' / Over the past two days, the House has passed the 'HONEST Act' and the 'EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act.' On the surface, they seem noble. They use the same language scientists use when advocating for stronger research practices. / But they're 'wolf in sheep's clothing types of statutes,' says Sarah Lamdan, a law professor who studies environmental information access at CUNY. 'What's really happening is that they're preventing the EPA from doing its job.' "


Bad Astronomy - BREAKING NEWS: Scott Pruitt, head of EPA, doesn't think carbon dioxide is the main driver of global warming

"In a CNBC interview, when asked, "Do you believe that it's been proven that CO2 is the primary control knob for climate?" he replied this way: / 'No, I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there's tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact. So no, I would not agree that it's a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.' / This is science denialism at a stunning level. And it's incredibly disingenuous, too." ... "That's a classic denial method of distraction, sowing confusion about one issue to downplay another. Not only that, it's utter baloney. We know for a fact that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, and the main driver for the increased global warming we've seen over the past few decades. We also know for a fact that all or nearly all of that warming we've seen is caused by human activity." ... "And that is why so many scientists are up in arms over the Trump administration's bizarre and terrible appointees to science agencies, like Pruitt. They aren't just ignorant of basic science; they're openly antagonistic toward it. And that's why we must continue to speak up, make our voices heard, and do what we can to prevent these people for destroying the one planet we've got."

Related: Nature - Trump and Republicans take aim at environmental agency: EPA chief Scott Pruitt denies carbon dioxide's impact on the climate, and promises deregulation.


IFL Science - Energy Department's Climate Office Banned From Using Phrase 'Climate Change'

"In case you needed reminding, it's a bad time to be a scientist in the US. If you work for a federal research group, you've been muzzled, had your funding cut to historically low levels, and been told by a committee of anti-intellectual parrots that you're constantly lying. / Earlier this month, the word "science" was removed from the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) mission statement under the auspices of a man who doesn't think carbon dioxide warms the planet. Now, it seems that the Department of Energy's (DoE) climate change research office has banned the use of the phrase "climate change". / As reported by Politico, a supervisor at the DoE's Office of International Climate and Clean Energy told the staff in no uncertain terms that the phrases "climate change", "emissions reduction", and "Paris agreement" are not to be used in written memos, briefings, or any form of communication."


Bad Astronomy - When it comes to climate change, some people just want to watch the world burn

"On Wednesday, March 29, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology will hold a hearing entitled 'Climate Science: Assumptions, Policy Implications, and the Scientific Method'. / This hearing will be a sham. / My apologies for not mincing words, but there's no other way to say it. This Committee holding a hearing on the scientific method is like an arsonist holding a hearing on how to upgrade a fireworks factory security system. I strongly doubt the intent will be to honestly investigate climate change and scientific methodology. Instead, it will likely be an attack on the science, and lay the groundwork for further impediments to it. / This isn't hard to suss out; over the years the many sins of the Committee's majority members have been out in the open for all to see. Right after the GOP took over the House in the 2010 midterm elections, they stacked the Committee with members who deny basic science -- including such things as the Big Bang, evolution, climate science, and even anatomy (remember Todd Akin?). Their official Twitter feed commonly posts ridiculous comments..."


Scientific American Blogs - Anti-Immigration Rhetoric Is a Threat to American Leadership: Our embrace of international students and faculty has given the U.S. a leg up on all other countries in the race to lead in innovation and discovery

"America's universities are the best in the world. The quality of the students, faculty, teaching, infrastructure, the commitment to academic freedom, and the extraordinary research opportunities attract the best and brightest people from around the globe to the United States. And our nation is far better for it." ... "In all, 42 percent of the Nobel Prizes awarded between 1901 and 2015 went to individuals working/living in the United States, and nearly one third of those recipients were born outside the U.S. Our ability to attract the world's leading scientists to our universities has helped us maintain global leadership in innovation and discovery, a tremendous component of our economic strength and national security." ... "Research universities are seeing an immediate effect on the recruitment of international faculty and students. Stony Brook University has seen a decline of roughly 10 percent in international applications for graduate school this year, a figure that seems to be on a par with the decline seen at other institutions. The reasons for these declines may not be solely based on anti-immigration policies and rhetoric, but some accepted applicants to Stony Brook, especially from countries targeted by the first Executive Order, have stated explicitly that they will choose a Canadian or Australian university instead, based on the uncertainty of U.S. immigration policy and the fact that they are being singled out based on their country of origin, not on their academic credentials. And the recent suspension of expedited processing of H1-B visas, which is of significant concern to the Technology Sector, could also have a chilling effect on the ability of Universities to attract outstanding international faculty and scientists to help sustain our research and educational missions."


Scientific American Blogs - Republicans Want to Destroy Our National Parks. It's Up to Us to Save Them

"Since the election, Republicans in Congress have launched a sustained attack on America's national parks and public lands. Starting in January, they wasted no time putting in place new rules and legislation that threaten the future of our national treasures. They launched their assault on their very first day in session, and haven't stopped." ... "Republicans are determined to place our public lands in corporate hands, and Trump is happy to help them. So it's up to us. If you've ever loved our national parks, if you've ever enjoyed the wildlife in federal refuges, if you've ever taken your family to explore our heritage at national historic sites, now's the time for you to act."


Vox - 6 reasons the Trump presidency is in shambles

[On the plus side, this means Trump isn't wrecking things. On the negative side, it means nothing constructive is being accomplished by the President of the United States of America. It's a national embarrassment. However, before getting too comfortable thinking Trump isn't causing too much damage, take a look at the next article after this one.]

"Bullshitting is easy, but governing is hard: Trump's bluster and bombast, so effective on the campaign trail, has backfired spectacularly in office. / As Vox's Ezra Klein noted this week, Trump is failing on almost every front. His health care bill died -- killed by his own party. His approval rating has sunk to 35 percent. His executive orders banning immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries were struck down by the courts. Russia-related investigations are undermining his agenda. And his administration, plagued by leaks, remains divided."


Washington Post Op-ed - The Daily 202: How Trump's presidency is succeeding

"Despite the chaos and the growing credibility gap, Trump is systematically succeeding in his quest to "deconstruct the administrative state," as his chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon puts it. He's pursued the most aggressive regulatory rollback since Ronald Reagan, especially on environmental issues, with a series of bills and executive orders. He's placed devoted ideologues into perches from which they can stop aggressively enforcing laws that conservatives don't like. By not filling certain posts, he's ensuring that certain government functions will simply not be performed. His budget proposal spotlighted his desire to make as much of the federal bureaucracy as possible wither on the vine."

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."

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