Archive

February 26th, 2017

What's next for Trump's war with the media?

    Since facts tend to be very flexible things in the custody of President Donald Trump, one wonders what comes next with his self-declared "running war with the media."

    His constant cries of "fake news" to any news that does not blow him a kiss ratcheted up to a more threatening tone when he sent this Friday afternoon tweet:

    "The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!"

    With that he escalated from mere trolling to the ominous bombast of a tinpot dictatorship. A cooler head, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, assured us that at least he did not view the media as the enemy. Still, I was left wondering what his boss has in mind.

    That's our reality show president. Remember, during last year's election campaign, how delighted he was by the unauthorized and unlawful leaks that came from hacks of the Democratic National Committee emails?

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Wall Street Sodbusters

    I love the names: Bobcat Farm, Golden Eagle Ranch, Long Prairie, Ten Mile Farm. They conjure up Americana, the old homestead, and our rich rural culture.

    Less bucolic, however, is the fact that all those farms are part of a massive Wall Street investment scheme called Farmland Partners Inc. It’s run by a couple of slicks trained in mergers and acquisitions as executives at the investment powerhouse Merrill Lynch.

    Rather than sodbusters, Farmland Partners are taxbusters. They’re using a legalistic plow called the Real Estate Investment Trust, or REIT, to get enormous tax breaks to subsidize their scheme.

    With this special subsidy, the partners have attracted hundreds of millions of dollars from investors to buy up farms and ranches. They now own 295 farm properties covering 144,000 acres in 16 states.

    Of course, the Wall Street plowboys don’t soil their own soft hands by actually farming. No, no — the syndicate hires tenant farmers to do the sweaty work of plowing, planting, and nurturing the crops.

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Trump wants to reduce crime. But he doesn't understand good police work.

    President Donald Trump declared in executive orders this month that the federal government would try to "reduce crime in America" and that the White House was opposed to violence against law enforcement officers.

    Our criminal justice system works mostly at the local and state level, so the executive branch of the federal government is limited in its influence over local police. Crime reduction does not happen through fearmongering or federal fiat. And violence against police is illegal. But although the substance of these orders is near zero, their very existence reveals a shift in focus under the Trump administration.

    Reducing crime is a fabulous wish, and a federal focus on crime reduction was curiously absent in the previous administration. But Trump has little knowledge of the issues at hand. His rhetoric about the perils of cities - which relied on false statements about murder rates - illustrates that the devil, as always, is in the details.

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Trump Is Bad for Water and Puppies

    And now, things that are Really Happening in the world of Donald Trump.

    We bring you this list as a public service. It’s easy to be distracted by all the strange/contradictory/awful things the president says. For instance, a lot of people were stunned when he responded to a question about anti-Semitic attacks in the United States by citing his winning numbers in the Electoral College. Then, when the question came up again and he yelled at the reporter who asked it.

    Much, much later, Trump did read a statement denouncing racism and anti-Semitism. But even that seemed ... worrisome. It’s not just that an elected official should know how to answer that question without a lot of prep work. Everybody should know how to answer that question. Your 3-year-old nephew. Your Uber driver. Uncle Fred who gets drunk at Thanksgiving. Nobody gets to ask for a script.

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The Death of Compassion

    Folks, we have been here before.

    After Ronald Reagan, a celebrity-turned-politician, carried 49 states in his devastating defeat of Walter Mondale in 1984, Democrats were whining and moaning, shuffling their feet and scratching their heads.

    Reagan had done particularly well with those who would come to be known as Reagan Democrats — white, working-class voters, particularly in the Rust Belt, whom a New York Times contributor would later describe as “blue-collar, ethnic voters,” who were drawn to Reagan’s messages of economic growth and nationalistic pride.

    But just like Donald Trump’s path to victory, Reagan’s was strewn with racial hostilities and prejudicial lies.

    While Trump’s tropes involved Mexicans and Muslims and that tired euphemism of disastrous inner cities, Reagan used the “welfare queen” scare, as far back as his unsuccessful bid for president in 1976.

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Republicans' dream of tax reform is in big trouble

    There are only two certainties in life: death, and Republicans cutting taxes.

    That, after all, is what Ronald Reagan did, it's what George W. Bush did, and it's what Donald Trump has promised to do - which, with a Republican House and Senate, looks like as sure a bet as there is. What's less clear, though, is whether it will be a run-of-the-mill tax cut or a once-in-a-generation tax reform.

    What's the difference? Well, tax cuts are just about lowering tax rates, while tax reform is usually about lowering tax rates even more and paying for it by getting rid of tax breaks. The problem is that some people wouldn't benefit as much from lower tax rates as they do now from the tax loopholes that would be closed - so they'll fight it. In other words, tax cuts are easy because everyone is a winner, but tax reform is hard because there are losers. Still, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., thinks it's worth it, because tax reform would let Republicans cut rates lower and for longer than they otherwise could.

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Republicans suddenly realize burning down the health-care system might not be a great idea

    The Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act is not going well, in large part because it turns out that making sweeping changes to a system that encompasses one-sixth of the American economy turns out to be rather more complicated than they imagined. Their backtracking has an interesting character to it, in particular how they've been gobsmacked by the transition from shaking their fists at the system to being responsible for it.

    Up until November, they had been pursuing a strategy they got straight from Marx and Lenin, but now that they're in power, it suddenly looks like a terrible idea. Here's the latest fascinating pirouette they're undertaking, as explained in an article in US News & World Report:

    "House Republicans and the Trump administration on Tuesday filed a joint motion seeking to delay lawsuit proceedings that threaten to undo President Barack Obama's health care law, the Affordable Care Act.

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Regulations Can Favor Some Businesses — And That’s Fine

    As the Trump regime’s anti-environment onslaught begins, there are several terms used by men (and in the case of Trump’s cabinet, it’s nearly all men) attempting to turn us against protecting the air we breathe and water we drink.

    Polluting industries become “job creators,” and the policies that allow them to pollute are “pragmatic,” “balanced,” and “common sense.” Meanwhile, the rules put in place to keep Americans safe and our environment clean become “government abuse” or “overreach.”

    These are buzzwords, developed by polluting industries and their political allies, to convince us to let them keep trashing our planet.

    Another favorite, already uttered by Trump’s new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, is “picking winners and losers.” Any time the government attempts to rollback pollution, fossil-friendly politicians trot this phrase out.

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President Trump's favorite so-called insult

    One of President Donald Trump's favorite ways to undercut or demean things he doesn't like is to refer to them as "so-called." The most famous recent example of this came with his dismissal of the "so-called" judge that overturned his executive order on immigration. On Tuesday evening, he used the moniker to dismiss another political opponent: critics who've been peppering Republican town hall meetings over the last few weeks.

    Here, in reverse chronological order, is everything that Donald Trump has referred to as "so-called" on Twitter -- and our analysis of whether or not that so-called thing is actually that thing or not.

    --Trump tweeted, "The so-called angry crowds in home districts of some Republicans are actually, in numerous cases, planned out by liberal activists. Sad!"

    Are the so-called angry crowds actually angry crowds? Not every attendee is angry, certainly, and your definition of "crowd" may differ from Trump's, but generally groups like the one below are both sincerely angry and sincerely crowding a town hall.

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February 25th

Fox News's Bill O'Reilly: 'Mr. Trump often veers away from hard facts'

    On his ratings-killing show, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly on Tuesday night couldn't quite bring himself to acknowledge that his friend President Trump is a liar or a serial teller of falsehoods or a prevaricator. No, the King of Cable News chose his words more carefully, more softly.

    "Mr. Trump often veers away from hard facts," said O'Reilly, a longtime friend of Trump's who has enjoyed numerous vanilla milkshakes with him.

    For a guy who has consistently enabled Trump, that's at least a slight acknowledgment of the president's runaway mendacity. Progress, in other words. Now for the implications: What harm could come from Trump's tendency to veer away from "hard facts"? Could that tendency lead to a poorly informed populace? Could it stoke irrational fears about terrorism? Could it unjustifiably diminish the standing of the media in American democracy? Could it lower the reputation of what Trump called the "very famous White House"?

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