Tag Archives: Trump

Sending A (Hateful) Message

The New York Times recently reported on yet another outrage perpetrated by our persistently outrageous administration; the refusal to sign on to a global “call to action” addressing online hate. The call to action came in the aftermath of the horrific slaughter of worshippers in a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand.

The White House on Wednesday announced it would not sign the Christchurch call to action, an informal international pact among France’s and New Zealand’s leaders and social media platforms to combat online extremism.

The call to actionis a broad statement of intent, rather than a detailed policy proposal. It urges nations and private tech companies to address terrorist content online. Specifically it urges signers to “ensure its efficient and fast removal and to prevent the use of live-streaming as a tool for broadcasting terrorist attack.” The White House refused to sign the accord on the ground that it violated constitutional free-speech protections.

Anyone who believes that this administration gives a rat’s patootie about freedom of speech should check into a mental hospital without delay.

Of course, in its announcement that the U.S. would not be signing on, the nature of those Free Speech “concerns” was not addressed. Nor could they be, since the “Call” wasn’t a legal decree. It was and is merely a non-binding pledge, lacking any provisions for enforcement or even suggestions for regulations. It was– and is–simply an official acknowledgment of a growing problem that has been exacerbated by the total lack of internet regulation. As the Times article pointed out,

Without legally binding mechanisms or strict policy enforcements, the stakes of signing are low. So the act of not signing sends a strong message and cheapens the free-speech protections the administration claims to hold dear, using the First Amendment as a political tool and an excuse for inaction.

Trump’s sudden solicitude for the First Amendment reminded me of Nat Hentoff’s 1992 book, “Free Speech for Me but Not for Thee.”

The administration’s trepidation at intervening in the content moderation processes of social media platforms is also wildly inconsistent with the president’s own behavior on tech-platform oversight. For months, Mr. Trump has used his Twitter feed to rail against perceived social media censorship of conservatives and threatened to intervene.

Last August, he accused Googleof “suppressing” conservative voices and “hiding information and news that is good” about him after seeing an infographic on cable news from a “not scientific” study. In April, the president met with Twitter’s C.E.O., Jack Dorsey, where he derailed a conversation on public health to complain about losing followers of his personal Twitter account. Mr. Trump hinted at intervening in tech-platform moderation as recently as this month after Facebook banned a number of pro-Trump media figures for “extremism.” His response on Twitter: “We are monitoring and watching, closely!!”

As if to make its priorities regarding online freedom even clearer, just hours after declining to sign the Christchurch call, the White House announced an online tool for reporting tech-platform bias. “No matter your views, if you suspect political bias caused such an action to be taken against you, share your story with President Trump,” it said.

Trump’a free-speech solicitude is limited to right-wingers and racists.

If there was ever any doubt that Trump’s appeal has always been grounded in bigotry, misogyny and white nationalism, we can add his refusal to sign the “Call” to the mountain of evidence that already exists.

There is a reason David Duke and his ilk claim Trump as one of their own.  For confirmation, you need only read the report in the most recent issue of the Atlantic: “An oral history of Donald Trump’s Bigotry.” It’s a devastating”in his own words” documentation of the life-long bigotry of a man whose only claim to superiority is dependent upon inherited money and skin color.

Thanks to our antiquated and undemocratic Electoral College, we are saddled with a President who repeatedly tells the world that America is now on the side of hatred and white nationalism. Trump’s “Muslim ban,” his ridiculous “wall,” his administration’s appallingly inhumane treatment of would-be refugees at our southern (but not our northern) border, his defense of the “very fine” people among the Charlottesville neo-Nazis, his disdain for “shithole” countries, his move to deny transgender individuals the right to serve in the armed forces….the examples go on and on.

In 2020, if the electorate doesn’t massively repudiate this repulsive, reptilian man and his nest of vipers and idiots, we are no longer the (imperfect but aspirational)  America so many of us thought we were.

The 2020 election will also send a message–it will tell us just what percentage of our neighbors share Trump’s ignorant and hateful attitudes– just how many are willing to vote for a sub-human incompetent because he hates and fears the same people they do.

 

Red Myths, Rural Realities

Paul Krugman recently looked at the effects of Trump’s policies on rural America, and found–to no sentient person’s surprise–that the effects have been disastrous.

Economists, reports Politico, are fleeing the Agriculture Department’s Economic Research Service. Six of them resigned on a single day last month. The reason? They are feeling persecuted for publishing reports that shed an unflattering light on Trump policies.

But these reports are just reflecting reality (which has a well-known anti-Trump bias). Rural America is a key part of Donald Trump’s base. In fact, rural areas are the only parts of the countryin which Trump has a net positive approval rating. But they’re also the biggest losers under his policies.

As Krugman points out, whatever Trump’s campaign rhetoric might have promised, his actual policies have been aligned with (okay, dictated by) Congressional Republican priorities–what Krugman calls “G.O.P. standard”: big tax cuts for corporations and rich people, accompanied by cuts to the social safety net.

The only real deviation from GOP orthodoxy has been the tariffs, and Trump’s evident belief that trade wars are “easy to win.” Even the farmers who have been a reliable part of Trump’s base are beginning to recognize that they will bear the brunt of the substantial injuries caused by those wars.

As for the tax and social safety net cuts…

The Trump tax cut largely passes farmers by, because they aren’t corporations and few of them are rich. One of the studies by Agriculture Department economists that raised Trumpian ire showed that to the extent that farmers saw tax reductions, most of the benefits went to the richest 10 percent, while poor farmers actually saw a slight tax increase.

At the same time, the assault on the safety net is especially harmful to rural America, which relies heavily on safety-net programs. Of the 100 counties with the highest percentage of their population receiving food stamps, 85 are rural, and most of the rest are in small metropolitan areas. The expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which Trump keeps trying to kill, had its biggest positive impact on rural areas.

It is fair to suggest that many rural Americans are unaware of the variety of ways in which Medicaid expansion and other social programs support farm country; some of those benefits are indirect (which doesn’t mean they aren’t critically important). The impact of the tariffs, however, is hard to miss.

What about protectionism? The U.S. farm sector is hugely dependent on access to world markets, much more so than the economy as a whole. American soybean growers export half of what they produce; wheat farmers export 46 percent of their crop. China, in particular, has become a key marketfor U.S. farm products. That’s why Trump’s recent rage-tweeting over trade, which raised the prospect of an expanded trade war, sent grain markets to a 42-year low.

If Trump succeeds in plunging us into a full-blown trade war, which certainly seems more likely than not, Krugman says American imports and exports will both shrink — and since farmers rely disproportionately on exporting, they will be the biggest losers.

The harm being done to rural America by Trump leads to that perennial question: why do so many of the people bearing the brunt of his ignorance continue to support him?

Krugman delicately suggests that it has to do with “cultural factors”–by which he means hostility to immigrants and resentment of coastal elites they believe look down on rural America. (What Krugman calls hostility to immigrants is, if the research is to be believed, part of a much larger and more ingrained hostility to non-whites and non-Christians.)

Krugman thinks that rural America’s support for Trump may start to crack as the negative effects of his policies become too obvious to miss. I’m less sanguine.

When we so-called “elitists” talk about “voting ones interests,” we are almost always referring to economic interests. When I listen to Trump supporters–when they post angry diatribes on Facebook or are interviewed for a new program–what I hear is a very different view of what constitutes their interests.

Economic reality be damned. Trump voters are defending their vision of America, and that vision is white, heterosexual, and fundamentalist Christian. So long as they believe Trump is hurting people who fall outside that narrow category, he’s their guy.

 

Wag The Dog?

Is Trump preparing to take us into war with Iran? 

The New Yorker recently reminded us that the U.S. has a less-than-glorious history of provoking war:

The United States has a long history of provoking, instigating, or launching wars based on dubious, flimsy, or manufactured threats. In 1986, the Reagan Administration plotted to use U.S. military maneuvers off Libya’s coast to provoke Muammar Qaddafi into a showdown. The planning for Operation Prairie Fire, which deployed three aircraft carriers and thirty other warships, was months in the making. Before the Navy’s arrival, U.S. warplanes conducted missions skirting Libyan shore and air defenses—“poking them in the ribs” to “keep them on edge,” a U.S. military source told the Los Angeles Times that year.

We are still paying the price (fiscally and morally) for our invasion of Iraq–a decision sold to the American public on the basis of misinformation, bad intelligence and outright lies. As the article reminds us, we are still living with the repercussions sixteen years and more than four thousand American deaths later.

Those of us who are older will recall that the Vietnam War was authorized by two purported (and subsequently disputed) attacks on U.S. warships in the Gulf of Tonkin. Those “attacks” prompted Congress to give President Johnson  “all necessary measures” to prevent “further aggression.” Fifty-seven thousand Americans and as many as a million Vietnamese died.

Those weren’t the only examples in the article–not even close.

Americans were promised that the war against Iraq would be “easy”–the Iraqis would “greet us as liberators,” and democracy would flower in the Middle East. (Too bad the GOP has so little interest in reintroducing democracy to the U.S.) Those predictions, needless to say, were inaccurate–which explains why chills ran down my spine when I heard similar rhetoric from the usual suspects who can’t hide their eagerness to invade Iran.

The State Department has issued a “Do Not Travel” advisory for Americans going to Iraq; it also ordered nonessential personnel out, and warned of a “high risk for violence and kidnapping.”

This action comes after the United States indicated that Iran was behind attacks on four oil tankers just outside the Persian Gulf. Iran has denied those accusations, but as tensions in the region increase, Republicans are lining up to spread the message that war with Iranwould be easy,  and that it’s time foreveryone to get behind Donald Trump.

On Tuesday, Republican Sen. Tom Cotton declared that the United States could win a war in Iran with just “Two strikes: the first strike and a last strike.” This is completely at odds with the evaluation of military strategists. There is little doubt about the ability of the U.S. military to overcome that of Iran in the field, but the military of Iran is much more capable than that of Iraq, where the “easy” victory has been followed by well over a decade of low-grade warfare, bombings, and terror attacks.

Tensions with Iran were dramatically heightened when Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the Iran nuclear treaty. The withdrawal was opposed by the other signatories to that treaty, and numerous monitoring agencies confirmed–contrary to Trump’s assertions– that Iran was in full compliance with its terms.

It’s a fairly safe bet that Trump is lying about the attacks on our oil tankers.

The New York Times reports that a British military official—who also happens to be the deputy commander of the coalition fighting ISIS—has stated that he sees “no increased risk from Iran or allied militias,” but the U.S. has fired back to say there are “identified credible threats” that generated the State Department warnings. That’s not to say that European officials and coalition members aren’t seeing aggressive moves in the Middle East. It’s just that those moves have “originated not in Tehran, but in Washington.”

Bottom line: Trump is perfectly capable of starting a war if he thinks a war will help him win re-election.

If he moves in that direction, every single sane American needs to take to the streets. We need to mount demonstrations so massive they will make the Women’s Marches look like lightly attended tea parties.

Trump has done enormous–hopefully, not yet irreparable– damage to this country. He has given aid and comfort to neo-Nazis, anti-Semites and white supremicists; trashed America’s image across the globe, and significantly deepened the country’s tribal divisions.

We cannot sit by and allow him to initiate a conflict that–idiots like Tom Cotton to the contrary– would be anything but “easy to win” and that might well trigger World War III–just because he wants to “wag the dog.”

Enough is enough.

Fighting Back

You can file this under “thank goodness the news isn’t all bad”–or, if you are like the worry-wort who writes this blog, you can file it under “this is why the courts are so frigging important and we will lose the rule of law if Trump and McConnell and the GOP keep packing them with partisan ideologues.”

Timothy Egan recently had a column in the New York Times, titled “Revenge of the Coastal Elites.” In it, he celebrated the near-perfect “score” West Coast states have amassed in the numerous lawsuits they’ve brought against Trump and company.

Egan began with an “in your face” celebration in California.

LOS ANGELES — A big crowd showed up for the festive unveiling of President Barack Obama Boulevard here last weekend, at the intersection of “hope and resistance,” as one news outlet put it. Sure, it’s just a three-and-a-half-mile stretch of road, a living ex-president’s name added to streets honoring Jefferson and Washington.

But the ceremony also marked the latest, and one of the most joyous, of the not-so-subtle ways in which the West Coast continues to live free and prosper under a president doing everything he can to hurt the 51 million Americans in the three lower-48 states that hug the Pacific shore.

As Egan noted, Trump absolutely hates the West Coast, and it certainly looks as if the  states of Oregon, Washington and California return the sentiment.

His energy and environmental policies would hasten the collapse of some of nature’s finest handiwork, from a pristine coastline that he tried to open to oil drilling, to forests that will soon be aflame again because the president will not do anything to stall climate change.

His trade war is a bullet that could wound the nation’s most trade-dependent state, Washington, which produces apples and wine and software and coffee and jetliners and trucks andhealth care for the world.

To Trump, everything “Out West” is like occupied territory. Almost daily, he issues legal missives and executive orders intended in some way to make life worse on the West Coast.

But as Egan goes on to report, there’s “good news for E Pluribus Unum: He’s losing.” Consistently.

The West Coast is crushing it against Trump. Using the law to fight a bully, the Constitution to challenge an authoritarian, and facts against Fox News-driven fantasy, California, Oregon and Washington have stalled some of the most despicable of Trump’s retrograde policies.

California’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, is currently leading an aggressive coalition to protect the Affordable Care Act, which allows 133 million Americans to keep their health insurance despite having pre-existing conditions. If that effort is as successful as previous ones, he’ll succeed.

Federal judges have repeatedly sided with California against Trump on air pollution, toxic pesticides and oil drilling. In April, the Interior Department was forced to suspend a plan to drill off the Pacific shore. Anda federal judge in Oregonhas so far backed a far-reaching attempt to hold Trump’s government responsible for averting climate change.

West Coast governors have defied Trump’s ban on transgenderAmericans serving in the military; they’ve opened their National Guard ranks to the people Trump is trying to shun from service.

Washington’s attorney general, Bob Ferguson, has filed 36 lawsuits against the Trump administration and has not lost a case. His first takedown of the tyrant halted, nationwide, the initial Muslim ban.

Egan ended his report by reminding the rest of America how economically successful those recalcitrant states on the West Coast have been, and comparing that success with Trump’s performance.

Under Trump’s guidance, the United States is running up debt faster than one of his bankrupt casinos. It’s what he does. By contrast, California, after raising taxes on the rich and wages for the poor, after extending family leave and health care, is projecting a $21 billion budget surplus for the coming fiscal year.

Talent and capital can go anywhere. It’s drawn to the West Coast, because creativity doesn’t grow well in nurseries of fear and tired thinking. Washington was named the best state for business in 2017, and the best place for workers in 2018.

We’ll soon look west for a replacement for Trump. By moving their presidential primaries up to March, California and Washington have assured that the one-in-seven Americans who live in those two states will have an early say. It’s only fitting, given how much they’ve contributed to the fight against the Trump blight on the Republic.

As wonderful as these successes have been, they highlight the critical importance of maintaining a competent, non-politicized judiciary. Without judges whose allegiance is to the Constitution and the rule of law, we have no checks and balances.

 

Trump’s Empty Threats

At least once a day–and sometimes more often– Donald Trump reminds us that he is an idiot.

Most recently, he displayed his ignorance of economics by imposing new tariffs on China, and then confidently asserting that China was paying them. Since his massive ego doesn’t allow him to learn from anyone–not even the third-rater “experts” with whom he has surrounded himself and who (dim as some of them are) still know far more than he does–he doesn’t understand that tariffs are essentially a tax on American consumers. (His steel tariffs alone have raised the price of washers and driers by more than $100 each.)

Not too long ago, Trump issued what he clearly thought was an oh-so-clever threat to those evil “sanctuary cities.” He proposed to resettle immigrants exclusively in those cities, an idea that the Brookings Institution called “part and parcel of the president’s approach to immigration, an issue on which he has always maintained a tenuous relationship to reality.”

Tenuous indeed.

He has apparently abandoned the threat, clearly puzzled by the lack of concern expressed by those he’d threatened. (Actually, “bring it on” is more than a lack of concern…)

In Trump’s view, sending immigrants to sanctuary cities is a way to punish those Democrats unwilling to “change our very dangerous immigration laws.” In the president’s eyes, because illegal immigration is so appalling to him, it must be appalling to everyone, and the transfer of refugees seeking asylum to sanctuary cities will turn voters against pro-immigration reform Democrats.

The president’s aborted plan for sanctuary cities is emblematic of everything that is wrong with his approach to immigration. Even if the claim that a disproportionate number of immigrants are criminals were true (it is not), the obvious problem with his plan is that there is nothing to guarantee that all these “bad actors” would stay in these Democratic strongholds. Once there, they might just move to places where large proportions of Trump voters and supporters live, and data the Washington Post obtained on a small sample of recent immigrants shows that occurring.

The Brookings article also noted that implementing this cockamamie policy (my terminology, not theirs) would require numerous violations of the laws, beginning but not ending with the Hatch Act.

Think of it this way: what if a Democratic president decided that Republican states who had voted against him or her on the basis of opposition to welfare programs should not get food stamps. There would obviously be howls of opposition if deep-red states were systematically deprived of federal funds, raising concerns about political abuse of power and a subjugation of Congressional intent in appropriations.

Trump constantly demonstrates that he doesn’t understand law–not only is he ignorant of specific rules that most Americans know, he clearly doesn’t understand the role of law in governance generally. (Granted, he also doesn’t understand governance…or really, much else.)

It isn’t just the legal framework that eludes him. He is also blissfully fact-free. As the Brookings analysis explains:

 As of the halfway mark of the fiscal year, 190,000 people have been apprehended in family units—almost a four-fold increase over last year. They currently make up the majority of all border apprehensions.

What would be the impact of relocating those asylum-seekers? There are eight states that have designated themselves sanctuary states (California, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, and Vermont) totaling a population of 80.23 million. In addition, there are another 87 counties and municipalities outside of those eight states that have designated themselves sanctuary jurisdictions, with a population totaling 39.71 million. Thus, the total population living in areas designated as sanctuary jurisdictions totals 119.94 million people.

The president believes the transfer of asylum-seekers to sanctuary jurisdictions would put such an undue burden on those local governments and populations that the people would rise up against their governments’ embrace of sanctuary status. In reality, however,… all families apprehended so far this year total an equivalent of .016 percent of the population of those sanctuary jurisdictions. Put differently, if those asylum-seekers were spread across sanctuary jurisdictions according to population, those jurisdictions would receive 16 asylum-seekers per 10,000 residents.

Hardly an unsupportable burden, even if asylum-seekers were the unproductive drains on local economies that Trump insists they are. But of course, he’s wrong about that too.

In 2017, researchers in the Department of Health and Human Services conducted an analysis of the economic impact of refugees, a very similar population to asylum-seekers. They found that in a 10-year period, they contributed $63 billion more in government revenues than they cost.

The administration rejected the report, because facts aren’t their thing.

America’s Oval Office is currently occupied by an incredibly uninformed (and embarrassingly stupid) raving bigot. If the (misspelled and ungrammatical) comments his supporters post to this and other blogs are any indication, they share those characteristics.

It explains a lot.