WASHPOST: OUR UNPRESIDENTIAL PRESIDENT FAILS TO RESPOND PROPERLY TO DOMESTIC TERRORISM!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/what-a-presidential-president-would-have-said-about-charlottesville/2017/08/12/9f1ffec6-7fa4-11e7-9d08-b79f191668ed_story.html?utm_term=.aa4c1a783bce

August 12 at 6:27 PM

HERE IS what President Trump said Saturday about the violence in Charlottesville sparked by a demonstration of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members:

We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides.

Here is what a presidential president would have said:“The violence Friday and Saturday in Charlottesville, Va., is a tragedy and an unacceptable, impermissible assault on American values. It is an assault, specifically, on the ideals we cherish most in a pluralistic democracy — tolerance, peaceable coexistence and diversity.

“The events were triggered by individuals who embrace and extol hatred. Racists, neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and their sympathizers — these are the extremists who fomented the violence in Charlottesville, and whose views all Americans must condemn and reject.

“To wink at racism or to condone it through silence, or false moral equivalence, or elision, as some do, is no better and no more acceptable than racism itself. Just as we can justly identify radical Islamic terrorism when we see it, and call it out, so can we all see the racists in Charlottesville, and understand that they are anathema in our society, which depends so centrally on mutual respect.

“Under whatever labels and using whatever code words — ‘heritage,’ ‘tradition,’ ‘nationalism’ — the idea that whites or any other ethnic, national or racial group is superior to another is not acceptable. Americans should not excuse, and I as president will not countenance, fringe elements in our society who peddle such anti-American ideas. While they have deep and noxious roots in our history, they must not be given any quarter nor any license today.

“Nor will we accept acts of domestic terrorism perpetrated by such elements. If, as appears to be the case, the vehicle that plowed into the counterprotesters on Saturday in Charlottesville did so intentionally, the driver should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The American system of justice must and will treat a terrorist who is Christian or Buddhist or Hindu or anything else just as it treats a terrorist who is Muslim — just as it treated those who perpetrated the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.

“We may all have pressing and legitimate questions about how the violence in Charlottesville unfolded — and whether it could have been prevented. There will be time in coming days to delve further into those matters, and demand answers. In the meantime, I stand ready to provide any and all resources from the federal government to ensure there will be no recurrence of such violence in Virginia or elsewhere. Let us keep the victims of this terrible tragedy in our thoughts and prayers, and keep faith that the values enshrined in our Constitution and laws will prevail against those who would desecrate our democracy.”

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It might not be Presidential, but it’s what you’d expect from a President who has unabashed White Nationalists among his closest advisers and in a key cabinet position. It’s also what you would expect from someone who has spent the last several years pandering to White Supremacists, who now feel “at home” in today’s GOP, bigots, and racists, and whose own career shows little sensitivity to decency, values, or toleration.

PWS

08-13-17

HISTORY: In January 1972, A.G. John Mitchell Sat In His Paneled Office At The DOJ, Puffed On His Pipe, And Listened To Plans For A Whacko Criminal Conspiracy (Which Sent Him To Jail) — Since Then The Vaunted “Independence” Of The DOJ Has Been More Myth Than Reality — Trump Wants To Make The DOJ Part Of His Corrupt Political Empire — GOP Pols Talk Big But Do Little When It Comes To Standing Up To America’s Corruptor In Chief!

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/07/27/jeff-sessions-is-the-canary-in-the-coal-mine-215424?cid=apn

Joshua Zeitz writes in Politico:

“President Trump’s condemnation of his own attorney general may seem bizarre and unprecedented, but here’s something many in America’s gobsmacked chattering class are forgetting: The vaunted independence of the Justice Department took over a century to build, and it’s a far more fragile institution than we realize.

The spectacle of Trump attacking Jeff Sessions, one of his earliest and most stalwart supporters, as “beleaguered” and “unfair” is certainly jarring. The president seemingly cannot help but vent his frustration over the attorney general’s decision to step aside in the Department of Justice’s probe into Russian election interference—a step that led indirectly to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller. If Sessions “would have recused himself before the job,” Trump told the (“failing”) New YorkTimes. “I would have said ‘Thanks, Jeff, but I’m not going to take you.’”

The prospect that the president might fire Sessions, whose immigration policies and draconian approach to law enforcement are anathema to the left, places Democrats in an unusual position. They despise the attorney general but find themselves bound to protect the independence of his office. But the real test lies with Republicans, who have largely looked the other way as Trump has laid waste to one political norm after another. Will they draw a sharp line in the sand, or bury their heads in it?

It took well over a century for the office of the attorney general to accrue the very power and independence that Trump now stands poised to blow up. Originally a minor position with little authority or autonomy, over the years the AG emerged as the nation’s top law enforcement official and a key adviser to the president. The office withstood considerable strain in the latter quarter of the 20th century. But like so many civic institutions today, it is imperiled precisely because it is largely the product of traditions, and administrative rules that capture those traditions, rather than permanent statutes or laws. Once broken, it may not be so easily reassembled.”

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Read the complete article, which contains a fascinating short history of the DOJ, at the link.

Washington was, in fact, built on swampland with Tiber Creek running through it. I’m sort of expecting that the old swamp will just open up again some day and swallow Trump and the whole corrupt mess surrounding him.

PWS

07-27-17

 

 

GOP’S WAR ON OUR GOVERNMENT CONTINUES — FEDS’ COMPENSATION, RETIREMENT PROGRAMS TARGETED! — GOP WOULD SOCK IT TO MIDDLE CLASS TO GIVE UNNEEDED TAX CUTS TO RICH CRONIES!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2017/07/18/gop-again-hits-federal-retirement-in-latest-budget-plan/?utm_term=.4446f1d6d7d6&wpisrc=nl_buzz&wpmm=1

Joe Davidson & Eric Yoder report in the Washington Post:

“The House budget proposal released Tuesday continues Republican efforts to cut federal employees’ compensation by making them pay more for retirement benefits.

Saying they seek “reforms to civil service pensions to put them on a better fiscal path,” the spending plan released by the House Budget Committee calls on staffers “to make greater contributions to their own defined benefit retirement plans.”

While the Republican’s “Plan for Fiscal Responsibility” did not provide details, it echoes previous proposals, including one offered by President Trump this year. He proposed increasing individual out-of-pocket payments toward retirement by 1 percentage point each year until they equal the government’s contribution for those in the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS).

Over a six-year period, this would result in increased payments of about 6 percent. With no increase in benefits, that would equal a 6 percent drop in pay.

The budget “blueprint” assumes that the main panel overseeing federal employment in the House will take those steps to find the $32 billion in savings over 10 years that the blueprint would require.

The budget plan released by Committee Chairwoman Diane Black (R-Tenn.) also would end the “special retirement supplement,” which pays FERS employees “the equivalent of their Social Security benefit at an earlier age.”

“These plans put the ownership, flexibility, and portfolio risk on the employee as opposed to the employer,” the GOP document says. “Similarly, federal employees would have more control over their own retirement security under this option.”

Federal employee leaders sharply disagree.

“Slashing the pay and benefits of America’s civil servants while lining the pockets of the wealthiest of the wealthy is a shameful way to govern the country and is emblematic of everything that’s wrong with this horrible budget,” said J. David Cox Sr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees.”

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Read the complete article with charts at the above link.

These guys are shameless. The USG’s career civil service was once a “model program” that states, private employers, and even other countries sought to emulate. It produced an overall talented, motivated, honest, and effective workforce. And, the promise of an adequate, stable, and predictable retirement program underwritten by Uncle Sam was an important part of that success.

The GOP proposes to end all of that and turn the USG into just another lousy employer more interested in his or her own welfare than the well-being of the employees who are the heart and soul of the business. Shifting risk from the “big guys” like the Government, who can actually leverage investment and insurance markets and raise revenues when necessary, to individual employees who are much less well positioned to bear that risk is immoral, not to mention stupid. You get what you pay for. Reducing government employment to the lowest common denominator will essentially make us a third world country.

I dealt with this in Immigration Court all the time. The main difference between the U.S. and countries folks were fleeing (many of which had plenty of natural and human resources) was the lack of government structure and the inability or unwillingness of government to be an “honest broker” serving the needs of the people at large. In too many countries, corrupt governments are seen as primarily furthering the power and interests of those at the “top of the pile” and keeping everyone else in line.

We once had a President who sought to create a U.S. Government of “the best and the brightest.” Sadly, those days are long gone. Ultimately, all of us, and particularly those who come after us, will pay the price for the GOP’s endemic lack of vision and decency and their failure to honor and appreciate the massive contributions of career civil servants to to overall success of our nation.

PWS

07-18-17

 

DREAM ON: Cornell Duo Says America Needs More Refugees To Be Really Great — They’re Right, Of Course, But Truth Is Irrelevant In The “Parallel Universe” of Trump’s America!

http://www.lawschool.cornell.edu/spotlights/Make-America-Great-Again-Admit-More-Refugees-to-the-US.cfm

Professor Stephen Yale-Loehr and Aaron El Sabrout write in honor of World Refugee Day (June 20):

“Today is World Refugee Day, a day to commemorate the strength, perseverance, and courage of displaced people around the world. Over 65 million people worldwide are forcibly displaced from their homes, the highest number since World War II. Turkey alone has accepted nearly 3 millionrefugees from Syria.

In our current political climate, some consider refugees a security threat and a drain on national resources. But America benefits economically, socially, and morally by accepting more refugees.

A new study by the National Bureau of Economic Research shows that after six years in the United States, refugees work at higher rates than citizens. A similar 2016 study by the Tent Foundationfound that refugees fill gaps in the labor market, work harder to learn skills and languages than economic migrants, and have a “dynamic” impact on growth.

The myth that refugees drain a nation’s economic resources is false. Yes, refugees initially require a substantial resettlement cost (approximately $15,000), and often initially need welfare services. However, after eight years in the United States, refugees receive welfare at the same rate as U.S. citizens with similar education and language skills. Over a 20-year period, refugees in the U.S. pay an average of $21,000 more in taxes than the initial cost of resettling them. In fact, a study by Texas A&M professor Kalena Cortes shows that over time, refugees tend to out-earn other immigrants and add more value to the economy than the initial cost of resettling them. For example, Vietnamese-Americans, many of whom arrived as refugees, tend to be more financially stable and more employed than the average American, and therefore less likely to need welfare benefits.

Refugees play a key role in creating new jobs and raising overall wages. This is in part because they are more likely than other groups to open small businesses, creating new jobs rather than taking old ones. For example, refugees were a major factor in stabilizing the economy of Utica, NY, because they filled important gaps in the labor force and created greater economic demand for goods.Even when refugees do low-skilled work, they do not displace American workers. A study by scientists at the University of California, Davis and the University of Copenhagen found that an influx of low-wage immigrant labor tends to raise wages for everyone.

Refugees also contribute tremendously to innovation and growth. Examples of famous refugees or children of refugees who have advanced U.S. culture and knowledge include Marc Chagall, Gloria Estefan, Madeleine Albright, Henry Kissinger, Enrico Fermi, Steve Jobs, and Albert Einstein.

That history is in jeopardy. President Trump issued an executive order in March slashing refugee admissions from 110,000 to 50,000 this year and temporarily suspends all refugee admissions. That order, which federal courts have temporarily blocked, insults our history and our legacy. We have a precedent of being welcoming and gracious. That precedent is not just rooted in altruism; accepting refugees is good for America. It’s time to step up and embrace our history of welcoming people fleeing persecution around the world. As a country, we have an economic and moral imperative to be what we once promised we would be: a refuge for the world’s huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.”

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Stephen Yale-Loehr is Professor of Immigration Law Practice at Cornell Law School, where he co-directs an asylum clinic. Aaron El Sabrout is a law student at Cornell Law School.

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Sorry, Steve & Aaron. Truth, values, morality, and simple human decency play no role in this debate. Refugees are foreigners, many with different religions, other cultures, other languages, and non-white skins (we wouldn’t seriously be having this debate if all refugees were white, English speaking, Christians from, say, Australia, Canada, the UK, and New Zealand). So in the world of Trump, his Xenophobic (and sometimes also racist) followers, and their GOP “fellow travelers” that’s all you need to know.

It’s not really about making America Great or keeping us safe; it’s about building political power by stoking xenophobia and unjustified resentment. And, the target is by no means just refugees and other migrants. No, it’s also about ginning up resentment against American citizens of Hispanic, Black, Arabic, and to some extent Asian American descent. Not coincidentally, these ethnic groups often are thought to vote more for Democrats than the GOP.

Happy Refugee Day!

PWS

06-22-17

NYT: Meet The White Nativist, Anti-Democracy Politician Kris Kobach — If You’re Non-White, He’s Out To Restrict Or Eliminate Your Right To Shape America’s Future — “implementing policies that protect the interests and aims of a shrinking white majority.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/13/magazine/the-man-behind-trumps-voter-fraud-obsession.html?action=click&contentCollection=Opinion&module=Trending&version=Full®ion=Marginalia&pgtype=article

Read Ari Berman’s shocking profile of a minor politician who wields outsized influence within the GOP and is out to put a “White’s Only” sign on the American Dream. For Kobach, the “Jim Crow Era” was the glory day of the “rule of law” in the U.S. When Kobach talks about the “rule of law” it’s code for using the legal system to cement the rule of a disproportionately white GOP minority over the rest of us, and particularly Americans of color. Will the “sleeping majority” wake up before we’re all disenfranchised by this racist in a suit hiding behind his Yale law degree and ability to spin legal gobbledygook? Kobach isn’t just “the ACLU’s worst nightmare,” as he smugly touts himself. He’s American Democracy’s worst nightmare!

Here’s a sample of what Kobach has in store for the rest of us:

“Kobach’s plans represent a radical reordering of American priorities. They would help preserve Republican majorities. But they could also reduce the size and influence of the country’s nonwhite population. For years, Republicans have used racially coded appeals to white voters as a means to win elections. Kobach has inverted the priorities, using elections, and advocating voting restrictions that make it easier for Republicans to win them, as the vehicle for implementing policies that protect the interests and aims of a shrinking white majority. This has made him one of the leading intellectual architects of a new nativist movement that is rapidly gaining influence not just in the United States but across the globe.”

Read Berman’s lengthy article, and think about what YOU can do to put the kibosh on the plans of this self-proclaimed “fanatic” and his dream of turning America into a “White GOP Folks Only Club.” Even Republicans who might remember enough to know that the GOP in the far, far distant past was the “Party of Lincoln” might want to rethink their party’s support of and association with this dangerous extremist. Act before it’s too late and Kobach steals YOUR American Dream and turns it into a nightmare!

PWS

06-13-17

 

 

 

 

POLITICS/SATIRE: Latest New Yorker Cover Says It All!🤡 — But, Over In The “Parallel Universe” Of Trump Backers & The GOP, Everything Is A-OK!

“Comic Riffs
New Yorker cover renders Trump as a ‘Modern’ clown of his own making
By Michael Cavna June 9

The New Yorker
WERE FILM FANS to pick a Charlie Chaplin picture that most summons thoughts of President Trump, some might choose “The Gold Rush” or “The Great Dictator,” if not a short titled “The Property Man,” “His New Job” or “Gentlemen of Nerve.”

For his latest topical New Yorker cover, though, Barry Blitt goes with man vs. political machinations in a sly spoof of Chaplin’s gear-grinding clowning in “Modern Times.”

GIF
by Barry Blitt / The New Yorker 2017
“Both Chaplin and Trump are iconic clowns,” Blitt says. “In the classic ‘Modern Times,’ the iconic Little Trump character struggles to survive in a world fraught with calamities of his own making at every turn. Alas, his big red clown tie getting caught repeatedly in the works.” Continue reading POLITICS/SATIRE: Latest New Yorker Cover Says It All!🤡 — But, Over In The “Parallel Universe” Of Trump Backers & The GOP, Everything Is A-OK!

Two New Tools To Help You Understand/Practice Immigration Law: 1) USCIS “StatPack” & 2) Travel Ban Litigation Guide!

Nolan “Eagle Eyes” Rappaport kindly alerted me to this comprehensive source of USCIS immigration and citizenship data:

https://www.uscis.gov/tools/reports-studies/immigration-forms-data

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Additionally, Dan “Mr. Blog” Kowalski over at Lexis was kind enough to send me this like to a nationwide “Travel Ban” Litigation Database from “Lawfare,”  helpfully organized by Circuit:

https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__lawfareblog.com_litigation-2Ddocuments-2Dresources-2Drelated-2Dtrump-2Dexecutive-2Dorder-2Dimmigration&d=DQIFAg&c=euGZstcaTDllvimEN8b7jXrwqOf-v5A_CdpgnVfiiMM&r=CeRQeXwCO1XABbcnui0VccohOAIcGihPTU6SjunQmI&m=8DFHNqD9Wh7TH2g60EeuBylX7190m96Q_YTMDTMs5P0&s=evpzDZD-Isv1nTFviIW1D-wNdPdmyJyu9fl1qEQXgf8&e=

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Check both of these out! Thanks again to Nolan and Dan for their tireless efforts to promote an informed approach to immigration law and policy!

PWS

05-07-17

 

 

WANTED: MORE IMMIGRANTS TO MAKE AMERICA GREAT! — Trump Administration’s “White Nationalism” Likely Road To National Disaster!

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/06/opinion/sunday/to-be-great-again-america-needs-immigrants.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-right-region®ion=opinion-c-col-right-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-right-region&_r=0

Rushir Sharma writes in the NY Times Sunday Review:

“In short, the standard innovation theory of American exceptionalism is all about qualities that make each worker more productive. Today, nearly all the economic discussion about how to make America great again focuses on ways — like cutting red tape and taxes — to revive flagging productivity growth.

Though this discussion remains critically important, it plays down a big shift in the story. The underlying growth potential of any economy is shaped not only by productivity, or output per worker, but also by the number of workers entering the labor force. The growth of the labor force is in turn determined mainly by the number of native-born and immigrant working-age people. Over the last two decades, the United States’ advantage in productivity growth has narrowed sharply, while its population advantages, compared with both Europe and Japan, have essentially held steady.

What makes America great is, therefore, less about productivity than about population, less about Google and Stanford than about babies and immigrants.

The growing importance of the population race will be very hard for any political leader to fully digest. Every nation prefers to think of itself as productive in the sense of hard-working and smart, not just fertile. But population is where the real action is.

Comparing six of the leading developed countries — the United States, Germany, Japan, Canada, Australia and Britain — I found that not only has productivity growth been slowing across the board in recent decades, but also that the gaps in productivity growth among these rich nations are narrowing sharply. For example, in the 1990s and 2000s, productivity was growing much faster in the United States than in Germany or Japan, but that advantage has largely disappeared in this decade.

The reasons for this convergence are complex, possibly having to do with the way production technology now spreads quickly across borders. But this trend spans the developed world, and it basically holds regardless of which two countries you compare, which should raise doubts about how any one country, including the United States, can regain a distinct economic advantage by focusing only on reviving productivity.

Which brings us back to babies and immigrants. Like productivity, population growth has been slowing worldwide in recent decades, the big difference being that the gaps among the rich nations are increasingly significant. In the 1960s the United States population growth rate averaged 1.2 percent, or 50 percent higher than Europe’s and about the same as Japan’s. By the late 1960s, population growth peaked worldwide because of the spread of birth control and other cultural shifts, but it has slowed much more gradually in the United States than in its rivals.

Since 2005, per capita gross domestic product has grown on average by 0.6 percent a year in the United States, exactly the same rate as in Japan and virtually the same rate as in the 19 nations of the eurozone. In other words, if it weren’t for the boost from babies and immigrants, the United States economy would look much like those supposed laggards, Europe and Japan.

Indeed, if the United States population had been growing as slowly as Japan’s over the last two decades, its share of the global economy would be just 15 percent, not the 25 percent it holds today.

Moreover, immigrants make a surprisingly big contribution to population growth. In the United States, immigrants have accounted for a third to nearly a half of population growth for decades. In other countries with Anglo-Saxon roots — Canada, Australia and Britain — immigrants have accounted for more than half of population growth over the past decade. Those economies have also been growing faster than their counterparts in the rest of Europe or Japan. But much of that advantage would have disappeared without their population advantage.

Politically, the irony of this moment is stark. Population growth is increasingly important as an economic force and is increasingly driven by immigration. Yet now along comes a new breed of nationalists, rising on the strength of their promises to limit immigration. And they have been especially successful in countries where anti-immigrant sentiment has run strong, including the United States and Britain.

. . . .

It would be unrealistic to imagine that hard economic logic will turn the anti-global, anti-foreign tide any time soon. So the likely result is that the United States and Britain will go ahead and limit immigration. To the extent they do — and their rivals do not — they will undermine their key economic edge, and cede much of the growth advantage they have enjoyed over Europe and Japan.”

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The “other people’s babies” crowd is driven by xenophobia and racism, not by any real desire for a great future for all Americans.

Meanwhile, tone-deaf Republicans, including Jeff Sessions, are calling for limits on legal immigration, without any credible factual or statistical basis to support their restrictionist agenda. Same goes for those who would limit family-based immigration in favor of some type of “point system” favoring highly skilled migrants.

The U.S. needs (and uses) migrant labor in all parts of the economy. If anything, migration, both legal and undocumented, at the “worker bee level” — farmworkers, construction  workers, food processors, child care workers, hospitality industry workers, janitors, and other service occupations — has been just as important to our growth and prosperity as a nation as have been scientists, researchers, professors, executives, star athletes, entertainers, and capitalists.

We need a comprehensive immigration reform package that not only legalizes those law-abiding immigrants already in  the workforce, but provides opportunities for significantly expanded legal immigration. Not only would this more realistic approach address our economic needs, but it also would be a better way to solve immigration enforcement issues than money spent on walls, detention, and more enforcement bureaucracy.

As the system more reasonably matches supply and demand, the pressure for migration outside the system decreases and the incentive for “getting in line” increases. Just good old capitalist theory applied to the oldest human phenomenon: migration.

PWS

05-07-17

LA TIMES CONFRONTS TRUMP IN FOUR PART EDITORIAL SERIES — Here Are Parts 1 & 2 — 1) “Our Dishonest President;” 2) “Why Trump Lies”

“Our Dishonest President”

“These are immensely dangerous developments which threaten to weaken this country’s moral standing in the world, imperil the planet and reverse years of slow but steady gains by marginalized or impoverished Americans. But, chilling as they are, these radically wrongheaded policy choices are not, in fact, the most frightening aspect of the Trump presidency.

What is most worrisome about Trump is Trump himself. He is a man so unpredictable, so reckless, so petulant, so full of blind self-regard, so untethered to reality that it is impossible to know where his presidency will lead or how much damage he will do to our nation. His obsession with his own fame, wealth and success, his determination to vanquish enemies real and imagined, his craving for adulation — these traits were, of course, at the very heart of his scorched-earth outsider campaign; indeed, some of them helped get him elected. But in a real presidency in which he wields unimaginable power, they are nothing short of disastrous.

Although his policies are, for the most part, variations on classic Republican positions (many of which would have been undertaken by a President Ted Cruz or a President Marco Rubio), they become far more dangerous in the hands of this imprudent and erratic man. Many Republicans, for instance, support tighter border security and a tougher response to illegal immigration, but Trump’s cockamamie border wall, his impracticable campaign promise to deport all 11 million people living in the country illegally and his blithe disregard for the effect of such proposals on the U.S. relationship with Mexico turn a very bad policy into an appalling one.

. . . .

On Inauguration Day, we wrote on this page that it was not yet time to declare a state of “wholesale panic” or to call for blanket “non-cooperation” with the Trump administration. Despite plenty of dispiriting signals, that is still our view. The role of the rational opposition is to stand up for the rule of law, the electoral process, the peaceful transfer of power and the role of institutions; we should not underestimate the resiliency of a system in which laws are greater than individuals and voters are as powerful as presidents. This nation survived Andrew Jackson and Richard Nixon. It survived slavery. It survived devastating wars. Most likely, it will survive again.

But if it is to do so, those who oppose the new president’s reckless and heartless agenda must make their voices heard. Protesters must raise their banners. Voters must turn out for elections. Members of Congress — including and especially Republicans — must find the political courage to stand up to Trump. Courts must safeguard the Constitution. State legislators must pass laws to protect their citizens and their policies from federal meddling. All of us who are in the business of holding leaders accountable must redouble our efforts to defend the truth from his cynical assaults.

The United States is not a perfect country, and it has a great distance to go before it fully achieves its goals of liberty and equality. But preserving what works and defending the rules and values on which democracy depends are a shared responsibility. Everybody has a role to play in this drama.

This is the first in a series.”

Read the entire editorial here:

http://www.latimes.com/projects/la-ed-our-dishonest-president/

“Why Trump Lies”

“Donald Trump did not invent the lie and is not even its master. Lies have oozed out of the White House for more than two centuries and out of politicians’ mouths — out of all people’s mouths — likely as long as there has been human speech.

But amid all those lies, told to ourselves and to one another in order to amass power, woo lovers, hurt enemies and shield ourselves against the often glaring discomfort of reality, humanity has always had an abiding respect for truth.

In the United States, born and periodically reborn out of the repeated recognition and rejection of the age-old lie that some people are meant to take dominion over others, truth is as vital a part of the civic, social and intellectual culture as justice and liberty. Our civilization is premised on the conviction that such a thing as truth exists, that it is knowable, that it is verifiable, that it exists independently of authority or popularity and that at some point — and preferably sooner rather than later — it will prevail.

Even American leaders who lie generally know the difference between their statements and the truth. Richard Nixon said “I am not a crook” but by that point must have seen that he was. Bill Clinton said “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” but knew that he did.
The insult that Donald Trump brings to the equation is an apparent disregard for fact so profound as to suggest that he may not see much practical distinction between lies, if he believes they serve him, and the truth.

His approach succeeds because of his preternaturally deft grasp of his audience. Though he is neither terribly articulate nor a seasoned politician, he has a remarkable instinct for discerning which conspiracy theories in which quasi-news source, or which of his own inner musings, will turn into ratings gold. He targets the darkness, anger and insecurity that hide in each of us and harnesses them for his own purposes. If one of his lies doesn’t work — well, then he lies about that.

If we harbor latent racism or if we fear terror attacks by Muslim extremists, then he elevates a rumor into a public debate: Was Barack Obama born in Kenya, and is he therefore not really president?
If his own ego is threatened — if broadcast footage and photos show a smaller-sized crowd at his inauguration than he wanted — then he targets the news media, falsely charging outlets with disseminating “fake news” and insisting, against all evidence, that he has proved his case (“We caught them in a beauty,” he said).

If his attempt to limit the number of Muslim visitors to the U.S. degenerates into an absolute fiasco and a display of his administration’s incompetence, then he falsely asserts that terrorist attacks are underreported. (One case in point offered by the White House was the 2015 attack in San Bernardino, which in fact received intensive worldwide news coverage. The Los Angeles Times won a Pulitzer Prize for its reporting on the subject).

If he detects that his audience may be wearying of his act, or if he worries about a probe into Russian meddling into the election that put him in office, he tweets in the middle of the night the astonishingly absurd claim that President Obama tapped his phones. And when evidence fails to support him he dispatches his aides to explain that by “phone tapping” he obviously didn’t mean phone tapping. Instead of backing down when confronted with reality, he insists that his rebutted assertions will be vindicated as true at some point in the future.

Trump’s easy embrace of untruth can sometimes be entertaining, in the vein of a Moammar Kadafi speech to the United Nations or the self-serving blathering of a 6-year-old.

. . . .

Our civilization is defined in part by the disciplines — science, law, journalism — that have developed systematic methods to arrive at the truth. Citizenship brings with it the obligation to engage in a similar process. Good citizens test assumptions, question leaders, argue details, research claims.

Investigate. Read. Write. Listen. Speak. Think. Be wary of those who disparage the investigators, the readers, the writers, the listeners, the speakers and the thinkers. Be suspicious of those who confuse reality with reality TV, and those who repeat falsehoods while insisting, against all evidence, that they are true. To defend freedom, demand fact.

This is the second in a series.”

Read the complete editorial here:

http://www.latimes.com/projects/la-ed-why-trump-lies/

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Stay tuned for parts 3 & 4 in this LA Times editorial series.

PWS

04-03-17

 

Religion: Stephen Mattson In Sojourners: “American ‘Christianity’ Has Failed”

https://sojo.net/articles/american-christianity-has-failed

“Because while the gospels instruct followers of Christ to help the poor, oppressed, maligned, mistreated, sick, and those most in need of help, Christians in America have largely supported measures that have rejected refugees, refused aid to immigrants, cut social services to the poor, diminished help for the sick, fueled xenophobia, reinforced misogyny, ignored racism, stoked hatred, reinforced corruption, and largely increased inequality, prejudice, and fear.

. . . .

By these standards — and by the ultimate example that Jesus himself set for us by example — mainstream Christianity in America has failed. It looks nothing like Jesus.
But the reality is that following Jesus is extremely hard. It demands giving away your most prized possessions and abandoning your biggest fears. So while there might be political, economic, financial, and safety reasons for implementing policies that harm people and refuse them help, there are certainly no gospel reasons.

Nobody understood this better than the early church. Those first Christ followers who refused to bow to the emperor and go along with the policies of the Roman government. For them, they gave everything — to the point of being persecuted, arrested, tortured, and eventually martyred — for the purpose of serving Christ and serving others, the result of choosing to dedicate their lives to the truths of Jesus rather than the ideals of the ruling empire.

The question is, will American Christians ever learn to do the same?”

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PWS

01/28/17

 

Beware: When Egotistical Nationalist Leaders Invoke “The Will Of The People,” Very Bad Things Are Likely To Happen!

http://billmoyers.com/story/a-date-that-will-live-in-infamy/

Retired professor of theology Charles Bayer writes on “Moyers & Company:”

“What shall we do now? I doubt we can pass this off as simply an intellectual or academic problem that can be solved by further conferences, documents, symposia or formal papers.

Perhaps we should rather look at what has produced serious positive change in the recent past. I think of a woman who just sat in the front seats of a bus, and the Freedom Riders who traveled throughout the American South at the risk of their lives. And I remember the tens of thousands of both young and older people who hit the streets and finally whose acts were critical in ending the disastrous Vietnam War. To the extent that these actions were nonviolent, they gained the respect of the American people. Violence just sets things back. New generations of in-the-street activists, not journalists or academics, might blunt the destructive nationalistic thrust of the new administration, and prepare the rest of us to play an important role in making America good again.”

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PWS

01/22/17

Uniting America, Trump Style — I Never Found Much Common Ground With George Will (Except, Sometimes, On Baseball) — But, I Woke Up The Morning After To Find We Were “Brothers!”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2017/01/20/a-most-dreadful-inaugural-address/?utm_term=.36d0d9ef923f

George Will writes in the op-ed page of today’s Washington Post:

“A most dreadful inaugural address
Trump’s inaugural address in three minutes

Play Video2:59

On Jan. 20, 2017, President Trump took the oath of office, pledging in his inaugural address to embark on a strategy of “America first.” Here are key moments from that speech. (Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)

Twenty minutes into his presidency, Donald Trump, who is always claiming to have made, or to be about to make, astonishing history, had done so. Living down to expectations, he had delivered the most dreadful inaugural address in history.

Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s White House counselor, had promised that the speech would be “elegant.” This is not the adjective that came to mind as he described “American carnage.” That was a phrase the likes of which has never hitherto been spoken at an inauguration.

Oblivious to the moment and the setting, the always remarkable Trump proved that something dystopian can be strangely exhilarating: In what should have been a civic liturgy serving national unity and confidence, he vindicated his severest critics by serving up reheated campaign rhetoric about “rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape” and an education system producing students “deprived of all knowledge.” Yes, all.
But cheer up, because the carnage will vanish if we “follow two simple rules: Buy American and hire American.” “Simple” is the right word.

Because in 1981 the inauguration ceremony for a cheerful man from the American West was moved from the Capitol’s East Portico to its West Front, Trump stood facing west, down the Mall with its stately monuments celebrating some of those who made America great — Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln. Looking out toward where the fields of the republic roll on, Trump, a Gatsby-for-our-time, said: “What truly matters is not which party controls our government but whether our government is controlled by the people.” Well.

“A dependence on the people,” James Madison wrote, “is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.” He meant the checks and balances of our constitutional architecture. They are necessary because, as Madison anticipated and as the nation was reminded on Friday, “Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm.”

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Right on, George, you “nailed” it this time!

And, he was by no means the only one. Perhaps predictably, the “headliner” on the lead Washington Post Editorial was: “In his inaugural address, Trump leaves America’s better angels behind.” Wow, how “presidential” does it get?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/in-his-inaugural-address-trump-leaves-americas-better-angels-behind/2017/01/20/d0f06378-df40-11e6-ad42-f3375f271c9c_story.html?utm_term=.a2e4249340c

Even the Wall Street Journal, by no means a shill for progressive liberalism, had to remark on President Trump’s complete failure to acknowledge the Constitutional limits on his power or to recognize that he will need to work with another Constitutional Branch of Government, the U.S. Congress (and, probably not just the Republicans there) to get things accomplished.  And, in the spirit of the “new unity,” I acknowledge that the Wall Street Journal has always had a very clear understanding of the essential contributions of immigrants, regardless of status upon arrival, to America’s economic, social, and political success.  Although I often disagree with its stances, I find that the Journal’s overall optimism about America and our future stands in stark contrast to the dark, sinister caricature of America set forth by President Trump yesterday.

Here is the link to the WSJ editorial:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/trumps-populist-manifesto-1484957386

Remarkably, President Trump appears to view himself as not just the representative of the American people (which, as President, he is) but also the very embodiment of the American people. That’s a very odd assertion for a leader who came into power while losing the popular vote by 2.8 million. Such appeals to narrow, totally self-interested nationalism are not new for world leaders past and present; however, they are seldom heard from leaders of true republican democracies. Does President Trump really understand how unbridled nationalism caused two disastrous world wars along with genocides and mass political exterminations during the past century?

Even more disturbing, President Trump’s definition of the “American people” seems inappropriately narrow: it excludes not only the majority of American voters who favored his opponent, but also doesn’t appear to fully acknowledge the existence of many Americans who can’t vote, such as children and, in particular, immigrants, regardless of status, whose interests, according  to the U.S. Supreme Court, are entitled, along with those of other non-voters, to fair representation by our elected officials all the way up to our President. That’s why the Supreme Court upheld apportionment by total population, not just the population of U.S. citizens or registered voters. For example, the large number of electoral votes that President Trump picked up in Texas owes, in no small measure, to the large number of immigrants, legal and undocumented, who have fueled Texas’s overall population surge at the expense of other states in the East and Midwest with dwindling populations.

I try to remain optimistic. I approach the news each day with the hope, however slim, that I will discover some evidence that our President understands the real America out there and his responsibilities to represent and inspire all Americans, not just the minority who happen to agree with him.  (I also heard and read enough “anecdotal” interviews with Trump voters after the election to know that some of them don’t necessarily share his dark and exclusive vision of America; they just want some change and hope that as a successful businessman President Trump will bring them and their communities at least some of the same material success that he has accumulated over a lifetime.)

But, as one of my “around 70” friends said to me recently, “Schmidt, at our ages we are what we are; what you see is pretty much what you get.”  And, President Trump has been around even longer than we have.  That’s something that might not bode well for the real America out there.  We’ll just have to hope for the best, for all Americans.

Celebrate the really great America, every day!

Due process forever!

PWS

01/21/17