June 4, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:14 PM


Just Say It's Racist (ADAM SERWER, 6/04/18, The Atlantic)

It was a framing that might have worked with any other two presidents. On Friday, The New York Times published a comparison of how Donald Trump and his predecessor, Barack Obama, approached controversies over racism. "Obama offered balm. Trump drops verbal bombs. But both were accused, in a polarized country, of making racial tensions worse," the paper tweeted. That bland equivalence between the first black president and his white successor, who rode to the White House on a racist conspiracy theory denying Obama was born in the United States, provoked a firestorm of criticism on social media.

That fact alone shows how impossible it is to approach the Trump presidency the way the media might approach any other administration--indeed, bafflingly, the article briefly references birtherism without acknowledging Trump's embrace of the conspiracy theory, and how it affected his political fortunes. The relationship between Trump and Obama is historically unique in that the former was elected by a racial backlash to the latter, another point the piece declines to acknowledge, whether to refute or affirm.

Instead, the piece is constructed around the juxtaposition of the criticism that Obama encountered for acknowledging the racism black Americans still face with the fact that Trump is often accused of racism. The piece notes that after Obama spoke at a funeral for nine black people murdered by a white supremacist, "some people, mostly white, accused him of dividing the country when he spoke empathetically about the racism faced by black Americans." By contrast, in the Trump era, "People often debate whether what the president did or did not say was a sign that he was racist."

The president's overtly prejudiced remarks about religious and ethnic minorities, in a country where the accusation of racism is often regarded as morally equivalent to racial discrimination, poses a challenge for media outlets seeking to accurately represent the views of the president and his supporters without enraging either of them.

...the more likely you are to invoke Godwin's Law.

Posted by orrinj at 6:10 PM


Is Donald Trump a Bernie Bro? (CHARLES J. SYKES, June 4, 2018, Weekly Standard)

In fairness, Steve Bannon has never really pretended to be a conservative.

"I'm a Leninist," Steve Bannon told Ronald Radosh, back in 2013. "Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that's my goal, too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today's establishment."

That included, of course, such antiquated ideas as free markets, fiscal conservatism, and small government. "Like [Andrew] Jackson's populism, we're going to build an entirely new political movement," he boasted to Michael Wolff back in November 2016. "The conservatives are going to go crazy. I'm the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. .... It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution--conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement."

In retrospect, the reference to the 1930s--not an especially great decade for conservative policy--ought to have been a tip-off. So it probably should not come as a great shock to hear that Trump's chief ideologist's grand new vision includes incorporating a socialist as a part of the future of his movement, while flirting with the far right European parties.

"Europe is about a year ahead of the United States. ... You see populist-nationalist movements with reform [here]. ... You could begin to see the elements of Bernie Sanders coupled with the Trump movement that really becomes a dominant political force in American politics."

Of course, it's tempting to brush this off as Bannonite grandiloquence, but the crossover between Trumpism and Bernie-ism has always been an undercurrent of Bannon's vision and Trump's campaign.

More than anything else, they are united in their hatred of the America that actually exists.
Posted by orrinj at 5:53 PM


Radio Address to the Nation on the Canadian Elections and Free Trade (Ronald Reagan, November 26, 1988)

My fellow Americans:

This week, as we prepared for Thanksgiving, Canada held an important election, and I'm pleased to again send my congratulations to Prime Minister Mulroney. One of the important issues in the Canadian election was trade. And like our own citizens earlier this month, our neighbors have sent a strong message, rejecting protectionism and reaffirming that more trade, not less, is the wave of the future.

Here in America, as we reflect on the many things we have to be grateful for, we should take a moment to recognize that one of the key factors behind our nation's great prosperity is the open trade policy that allows the American people to freely exchange goods and services with free people around the world. The freedom to trade is not a new issue for America. In 1776 our Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, charging the British with a number of offenses, among them, and I quote, ``cutting off our trade with all parts of the world,'' end quote.

And that same year, a Scottish economist named Adam Smith launched another revolution with a book entitled ``The Wealth of Nations,'' which exposed for all time the folly of protectionism. Over the past 200 years, not only has the argument against tariffs and trade barriers won nearly universal agreement among economists but it has also proven itself in the real world, where we have seen free-trading nations prosper while protectionist countries fall behind.

America's most recent experiment with protectionism was a disaster for the working men and women of this country. When Congress passed the Smoot-Hawley tariff in 1930, we were told that it would protect America from foreign competition and save jobs in this country -- the same line we hear today. The actual result was the Great Depression, the worst economic catastrophe in our history; one out of four Americans were thrown out of work. Two years later, when I cast my first ballot for President, I voted for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who opposed protectionism and called for the repeal of that disastrous tariff.

Ever since that time, the American people have stayed true to our heritage by rejecting the siren song of protectionism. In recent years, the trade deficit led some misguided politicians to call for protectionism, warning that otherwise we would lose jobs. But they were wrong again. In fact, the United States not only didn't lose jobs, we created more jobs than all the countries of Western Europe, Canada, and Japan combined. The record is clear that when America's total trade has increased, American jobs have also increased. And when our total trade has declined, so have the number of jobs.

Part of the difficulty in accepting the good news about trade is in our words. We too often talk about trade while using the vocabulary of war. In war, for one side to win, the other must lose. But commerce is not warfare. Trade is an economic alliance that benefits both countries. There are no losers, only winners. And trade helps strengthen the free world.

 Yet today protectionism is being used by some American politicians as a cheap form of nationalism, a fig leaf for those unwilling to maintain America's military strength and who lack the resolve to stand up to real enemies -- countries that would use violence against us or our allies. Our peaceful trading partners are not our enemies; they are our allies. We should beware of the demagogs who are ready to declare a trade war against our friends -- weakening our economy, our national security, and the entire free world -- all while cynically waving the American flag. The expansion of the international economy is not a foreign invasion; it is an American triumph, one we worked hard to achieve, and something central to our vision of a peaceful and prosperous world of freedom.

Posted by orrinj at 5:45 PM


The Evidence That Trump and Putin Concocted a Cover Story for the Trump Tower Meeting (Martin Longman June 4, 2018, Washington Monthly)

Now, as I already mentioned, the Trump team knew that emails revealing all of these unsavory aspects of the meeting existed. Jared Kushner's lawyers had unearthed them at least three weeks prior and updated his security clearance application prompting a visit from the FBI. They also knew that the emails were responsive or would be responsive to both congressional inquiries and the investigation of the Special Counsel. And early on the morning of July 7, 2017 they were approached by reporters from the New York Times who apparently knew about the meeting but not about the emails.

As it happened, President Trump had a prescheduled meeting with Vladimir Putin at the G20 on July 7. He also had a second meeting that night that had not been scheduled. When this second meeting was revealed, it caused quite an uproar. For one, the White House did not volunteer that the second meeting had taken place. They also couldn't get their story straight about how long it lasted. Trump said it was "brief" but a senior White House official told CNN the discussion lasted "nearly an hour." No other American officials were present for the conversation which was a complete violation of protocol, yet Putin had a translator who facilitated the back-and-forth.

The official explanation was that Melania had been seated at dinner with Putin while Trump had been seated far away with the wife of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who did not speak any English. Growing bored, Trump decided to amble over to his wife. In other words, the president sat down to have a nearly hour long private conversation with Putin because Putin just happened to be seated with the First Lady.  All they did was exchange pleasantries.

Of course, since early that morning the entire Trump team had been scrambling and strategizing to figure how to respond to the Trump Tower meeting story they knew the New York Times was about to report. The subject was obviously on the president's mind, especially since it centered around his son. Did Trump discuss potential cover stories with Putin during their second meeting? Was that perhaps his real motivation in violating protocol and speaking privately with a foreign head of state with no American officials in tow to be witnesses?

Going back to that July 19, 2017 interview President Trump gave to the New York Times, you'll see something very interesting in retrospect.

TRUMP: [Melania] was sitting next to Putin and somebody else, and that's the way it is. So the meal was going, and toward dessert I went down just to say hello to Melania, and while I was there I said hello to Putin. Really, pleasantries more than anything else. It was not a long conversation, but it was, you know, could be 15 minutes. Just talked about -- things. Actually, it was very interesting, we talked about adoption.

HABERMAN: You did?

TRUMP: We talked about Russian adoption. Yeah. I always found that interesting. Because, you know, he ended that years ago. And I actually talked about Russian adoption with him, which is interesting because it was a part of the conversation that Don [Jr., Mr. Trump's son] had in that meeting.

So, by his own admission,  the president joined Putin uninvited at the July 7 dinner and discussed Russian adoptions with him. On July 8, on Air Force One, he "dictated" the Russian adoption cover story despite protests from members of his family, legal team and other advisers.

While Hicks allegedly assured the group that the emails would never surface, causing the spokesman for the legal team to resign out of concern that she and Trump were obstructing justice, the New York Times told them they knew of their existence the very next day. And then they reported on that, too. Even worse, their sources were "three advisers to the White House briefed on the [Trump Tower] meeting and two others with knowledge of it."

By July 11, 2017, the Trump team realized that the New York Times had obtained actual copies of the emails and was preparing to publish them. To get ahead of that blockbuster story, Donald Jr. preemptively released the emails on his own in a series of tweets and did his best to rationalize and minimize them.

The next step was to try to protect the president. Trump insisted that he had no prior knowledge of the Trump Tower meeting and had only learned that it taken place at all a few days earlier.  But, of course, his lawyers had known for weeks and his son-in-law had been interviewed by the FBI about the matter on June 21.

By the end of the July, the Washington Post was reporting that the president was totally responsible for the adoption alibi.

The report said that President Trump had "overruled the consensus" of Trump Jr, Kushner, aides, and lawyers, who favored issuing "transparent" reports "because they believed the complete story would eventually emerge." The Post reported that Trump personally dictated, worked on, and released a version in Trump Jr's name with claims which "were later shown to be misleading". Some advisors reportedly feared "that the president's direct involvement leaves him needlessly vulnerable to allegations of a coverup."

In response to that article, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders falsely declared on August 1, 2017 that Trump "certainly didn't dictate, but ... he weighed in, offered suggestion, like any father would do". Her statement is now directly contradicted by the letter Trump's own lawyers sent to Robert Mueller on January 29, 2018.

You have received all of the notes, communications and testimony indicating that the President dictated a short but accurate response to the New York Times article on behalf of his son, Donald Trump, Jr. His son then followed up by making a full public disclosure regarding the meeting, including his public testimony that there was nothing to the meeting and certainly no evidence of collusion.

There's much more to this story, including strong indications that Trump actually was aware of the Trump Tower meeting at the time. But for our purposes, here, we can skip over those facets of this scandal. I will instead summarize the evidence that Trump and Putin colluded on the adoption story.

Trump acknowledges that he had a conversation with Putin on the evening of July 7, 2017 where by his own design no American witnesses other than his wife were present. That entire day, his staff had been preoccupied with figuring out how to respond to an impending nightmare involving the president's son. Trump, by his own admission, says that he and Putin discussed the adoption issue, which was tied in Putin's mind to the Magnitsky Act. The president then proceeded to board Air Force One and dictate a partially false and wholly misleading statement over the strong objections of some family members and staff. The statement omitted all references to the Magnitsky Act, sanctions, or dirt on the Clintons and focused exclusively on the adoptions issue that he had just discussed with Putin. The president then lied about having dictated that response, although his lawyers have admitted to the Special Counsel that he was solely responsible for it.

Posted by orrinj at 5:30 PM


How Governors Can Give All Students 'Freshman Year for Free' (Jeb Bush & Steve Klinsky, June 04, 2018, Real Clear Policy)

Modern States Education Alliance, a philanthropic organization dedicated to making college more affordable and more accessible, has pioneered "Freshman Year for Free," through its website ModernStates.org. It provides more than 30 top quality online college courses to anyone for free, and can lead to a full year of real academic credit at more than 2,900 traditional colleges and universities, from Purdue to the University of Wisconsin to Morehouse.

The courses are taught by top university professors, and include free online textbooks as well, with one course for every subject tested by the College Board's well established College Level Examination Program (CLEP). The CLEP exams have been around for more than 50 years, and are particularly useful because they can be taken by people of any age, any day of the year, at 1,800 different assessment centers worldwide. 

Students can now go to ModernStates.org as easily as they visit Netflix. They then simply download a course, pass a CLEP exam and become eligible for credit when they enter any of the thousands of traditional four-year universities that accept a passing score on the CLEP exam for credit. Modern States spent more than three years developing the website and courses in partnership with professors from Columbia University, Purdue, Johns Hopkins, SUNY (State University of New York schools) and other leading universities. It is also itself paying the College Board's $85 per course exam fee for the first 10,000 test takers.

That's where the opportunity for governors comes in. For $85 per CLEP exam, far less than the cost of tuition for college credits, governors across the country can enable students to take a CLEP test for free and earn college credit. 

Just make it an alternative to senior year of high school.

Posted by orrinj at 5:27 PM



[R]obinson is no free-speech martyr, either. Some say he has been 'targeted' by the British state for his work 'exposing' the 'Islamification' of Britain. Some have talked about a media 'blackout' after his arrest. But the complete details of why he was arrested were published today, and this was only delayed because of further conditions imposed by the court. The idea that Robinson was arrested for his ideas is contrary to what we know about the case. Anyone else doing what Robinson did, in these circumstances, would also have been arrested and jailed.

The reaction to Robinson's arrest shows us how confused the free-speech debate has become. On the left, free speech is dismissed as a tool for the spread of fascist ideas. On the right, it is invoked in situations that have little or nothing to do with the free exchange of ideas. Arguing for free speech does not mean arguing for the right of anyone to do or say anything they want at any time. Contempt-of-court laws, which Robinson seems determined to violate, are not in and of themselves an attack on free speech. They represent a narrow curb on what can be said and when, so as to make sure trials aren't prejudiced. There may well be occasions in which such laws are used by the police to limit free speech. But Robinson's arrest was not an example of this. The men he targeted are entitled to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence. Robinson was not arrested because of what he said. He was arrested because of when and how he chose to say it.

Posted by orrinj at 5:19 PM


NBC's Craig Melvin grills Bill Clinton on the Monica Lewinsky scandal in tense Today interview (Kimberly Alters, 6/04/18, The Week)

Melvin noted that detractors say Clinton should've resigned after admitting to having an affair with then-White House intern Monica Lewinsky, and asked the former president whether if he were president "now, in 2018," he would've handled things differently.

Clinton immediately took a defensive tack, saying, "I don't think it would be an issue because people would be using the facts, instead of the imagined facts. If the facts were the same today, I wouldn't [do anything differently]." He added that he believes that "a lot of the facts have been conveniently omitted" from the 20-year-old scandal, blaming the renewed interest on people who are "frustrated" about the "serious allegations" of sexual assault made by many women against President Trump.

"I think I did the right thing. I defended the Constitution," Clinton said, before acknowledging that while he publicly apologized at the time to Lewinsky and her family, he never personally offered his contrition. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:32 PM


Supreme Court cites agency hostility in ruling for Christian baker (DEBRA CASSENS WEISS, JUNE 4, 2018, aba jOURNAL)

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 Monday that Colorado's Civil Rights Commission violated the free exercise rights of a Christian baker by showing hostility to his explained religious reasons for refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a dissent, joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Kennedy's narrow decision stressed the hostility shown to religious claims of the baker, Jack Phillips, who owned Masterpiece Cakeshop.

Kennedy said the difficult case asks the court to reconcile two principles: the authority of states to protect the rights and dignity of gay people who seek goods and services for their weddings, and the rights of people to free speech and free exercise of religion.

"Whatever the confluence of speech and free exercise principles might be in some cases," Kennedy wrote, "the Colorado Civil Rights Commission's consideration of this case was inconsistent with the state's obligation of religious neutrality."

Posted by orrinj at 1:28 PM


Free trade puts Republican megadonors on collision course with Trump (Doina Chiacu, Caren Bohan, 6/04/18, Reuters)

The embrace of free trade principles by major Republican donors comes as Trump pursues aggressive measures against trading partners from China to Canada and U.S. allies in Europe, in line with his campaign pledge to pursue better trade deals.

An infusion of money into media, grassroots mobilization, lobbying and policy analysis into the domestic debate on free trade could embolden Republican candidates in the November congressional elections to part ways with the president on the issue.

Republican lawmakers, already grumbling about some of Trump's trade initiatives, outright condemned the Commerce Department announcement last week on impending tariffs on steel imports and aluminum to be imposed on the European Union, Canada and Mexico.

Posted by orrinj at 4:43 AM


Galston on the New "Revolt of the Masses" (AURELIAN CRAIUTU, 6/04/18, Law & Liberty)

In Galston's view, populism is always accompanied by a distinctive set of well-defined policies and a certain art of governance with a clear inner logic.[2] It cuts across the Left and the Right, and is semantically eclectic. Rightwing populists tend to attack immigrants and scapegoat minorities, foreign countries, or independent NGOs, while leftwing populists attack the banking system, large corporations, and, more recently, denounce police or state brutality. Either way, populism appears as a form of politics "that reflects distinctive theoretical commitments and generates its own political practice," writes Galston. It is based on a "dyadic" and Manichaean vision that divides society into two opposing forces and pits an allegedly homogenous and virtuous "people" against a corrupt and ill-intentioned elite, identified with the establishment.

Populist leaders uniformly claim that only they represent the "true" voice and will of the "real" people or the "silent majority," and stigmatize all other politicians as illegitimate or corrupt. Moreover, populists view themselves as arch-democrats who challenge establishment values and elites. They believe that ordinary citizens are better suited than experts or politicians to make key decisions about most aspects of their lives. [...]

He designates anti-pluralism as the most important aspect of populism. Anti-pluralism is divisive and inhibits compromise among the many groups that contend for power in society. By endorsing an idiosyncratic view of virtual representation, populists slowly undermine the general confidence in democratic norms, procedures, rules, and institutions. They adopt--and encourage their supporters to adopt--conspiracy theories and constantly look for scapegoats on which to blame all of the problems their countries face. Genuine debate based on solid evidence and reasoned argument is gradually replaced by alternative facts and loud denunciation of one's opponents.

Relying on a nice quote from Lincoln--"The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. ... As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew"-- Galston urges a  new way of thinking as we try to grasp the roots and the nature of our present discontent. He is concerned that the concept of populism has become a dangerous weapon, especially if one takes into account how it seeks to undermine key liberal principles. The fact that populism seems to be more an emotion-laden stance than an ideology only contributes to its heightened appeal in times of crisis. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:35 AM


Would a Former President Get Secret Service Protection in Prison? (DANIEL ENGBER, JUNE 04, 2018, Slate)

Posted by orrinj at 4:30 AM


Trump's phone call with Macron described as 'terrible' (Michelle Kosinski and Maegan Vazquez, 6/04/18, CNN)

A call about trade and migration between US President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron soured last week after Macron candidly criticized Trump's policies, two sources familiar with the call told CNN.

"Just bad. It was terrible," one source told CNN. "Macron thought he would be able to speak his mind, based on the relationship. But Trump can't handle being criticized like that."

Posted by orrinj at 4:11 AM


'Replica' in jeep next to Kobach stunned onlookers at Shawnee parade. City apologizes. (HUNTER WOODALL AND MIKE HENDRICKS,  June 02, 2018, KC Star)

Kris Kobach made his way through a parade in Johnson County Saturday morning, waving from an American flag colored jeep with a large gun mounted in back.

The city of Shawnee later issued an apology for Kobach's display.

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 AM


Daily life in Gaza: 'There is no future in this place': Gaza residents give an insight into their daily lives under Israel's siege. (Al Jazeera, 02 Jun 2018)

As Trump's daughter and adviser, Ivanka, inaugurated the new US embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, Israeli soldiers shot dead 60 Palestinians and wounded more than 1,200 others along the border with Gaza.

Palestinians now describe the mounting fury and desperation in Gaza over Israel's land, air and sea blockade, which began in 2007 following Hamas victory in Gaza elections the previous year.

There is also increasing frustration with the failure of Palestinian politicians to come together and act on behalf of their citizens more effectively. 

"There's no money because of all the wars and unemployment," Nafez Adayess, a baker, tells Al Jazeera.

"There's no work, nothing to keep busy with, nothing. There's four guys sitting around [but] there's [only] enough work for an hour. Four men and we're barely making enough to feed ourselves".

Almost four years after the 2014 war, Gaza's continued isolated has devastated its economy, impoverished its population and left 60 percent without jobs, adequate electricity and health services.

Aid organisations say around 90 percent of Gaza's water is not safe to drink, Raw sewage is pumped directly into the sea because there is not enough electricity to power the sewage. 

"We live in a prison," says Nahed Alghool, who delivers drinking water.

"People don't know what to do, the situation is difficult."

International human rights organisations have repeatedly condemned Israel's blockade and related restrictions, saying that they contravene international humanitarian law.

Posted by orrinj at 3:54 AM


All Roads Still Lead to Medicaid Expansion (Jonathan Bernstein, 6/03/18,  Bloomberg News)

Medicaid expansion is still going strong. And Virginia may have just given us a preview of another wave.

The Virginia Legislature on Wednesday, despite very narrow Republican majorities in both chambers, voted for the piece of Obamacare that the Supreme Court had made optional for the states. After Virginia, there are only 17 holdouts -- including Texas and Florida.

What's really important is that no state has gone in reverse, even those states that switched from Democratic to Republican governments after implementing expanded Medicaid. I'm going to take a short victory lap on my prediction from five years ago: "The future of this is now pretty clear: It's going to work just as the original Medicaid roll-out did. That was also optional for states, and many of them declined the first time around, but eventually all 50, no matter how conservative, found themselves participating. The key -- and I expect this to be true of the ACA Medicaid expansion as well -- is that the decisions were one-way. Over time, some of the decliners decided to join, but no state walked away."

The inevitable result of not offering a universal alternative to Obamacare was always National Health.

Posted by orrinj at 3:41 AM


Why No One Answers Their Phone Anymore (ALEXIS C. MADRIGAL  MAY 31, 2018 , The Atlantic)

In the moment when a phone rang, there was an imperative. One had to pick up the phone. This thinking permeated the culture from adults to children. In a Hello Kitty segment designed to teach kids how the phone worked, Hello Kitty is playing when the phone starts to ring. "It's the phone. Yay!" she says. "Mama! Mama! The telephone is ringing. Hurry! They are gonna hang up."

Before ubiquitous caller ID or even *69 (which allowed you to call back the last person who'd called you), if you didn't get to the phone in time, that was that. You'd have to wait until they called back. And what if the person calling had something really important to tell you or ask you? Missing a phone call was awful. Hurry!

Not picking up the phone would be like someone knocking at your door and you standing behind it not answering. It was, at the very least, rude, and quite possibly sneaky or creepy or something. Besides, as the phone rang, there were always so many questions, so many things to sort out. Who was it? What did they want? Was it for ... me?

"Hello, Madrigal residence," I would say, and it would make sense of everything for me and whoever was on the other end of the line.

This became a kind of cultural commons that people could draw on to understand communicating through a technology. When you called someone, if the person was there, they would pick up, they would say hello. If someone called you, if you were there, you would pick up, you would say hello. That was just how phones worked. The expectation of pickup was what made phones a synchronous medium.

I attach no special value to it. There's no need to return to the pure state of 1980s telephonic culture. It's just something that happened, like lichen growing on rocks in the tundra, or bacteria breaking down a fallen peach. Life did its thing, on and in the inanimate substrate. But I want to dwell on the existence of this cultural layer, because it is disappearing.

No one picks up the phone anymore. 

The Wife stopped me from putting the following on the voicemail message for the mailbox we finally just got rid of:

"Hello, you're reached the Judd residence; we're probably here but not answering; we probably won't listen to these messages; if we listen we probably won't respond, but feel free to leave one if you so desire."

Apparently, that's a tad too rude...