Archive

February 17th, 2017

Ignorance Is Strength

    When I travel to Asia, I’m fairly often met at the airport by someone holding a sign reading “Mr. Paul.” Why? In much of Asia, names are given family first, personal second — at home, the prime minister of Japan is referred to as Abe Shinzo. And the mistake is completely forgivable when it’s made by a taxi driver picking up a professor.

    It’s not so forgivable, however, if the president of the United States makes the same mistake when welcoming the leader of one of our most important economic and security partners. But there it was: Donald Trump referring to Abe as, yes, Prime Minister Shinzo.

    Abe did not, as far as we know, respond by calling his host President Donald.

    Trivial? Well, it would be if it were an isolated instance. But it isn’t. What we’ve seen instead over the past three weeks is an awesome display of raw ignorance on every front. Worse, there’s no hint that either the White House or its allies in Congress see this as a problem. They appear to believe that expertise, or even basic familiarity with a subject, is for wimps; ignorance is strength.

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Trump is misusing crime statistics to scare us

    President Donald Trump wants the federal government to start publishing weekly lists of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. An executive order on "Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States" that Trump signed last month calls for the reports, which would also identify "sanctuary jurisdictions," cities and counties where local law enforcement authorities don't report immigration status violations to the federal government.

    But from my own work building a national database of crimes by police officers, I've learned that collecting and distributing reliable stats in real time may be much harder than Trump thinks. Especially for an administration that seems to have little regard for facts, good data or scientific integrity.

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February 16th

The health-care debate we're missing

    With the debate about the Affordable Care Act drawing so much scrutiny, a broader Republican agenda to fundamentally change the federal role in health care is flying under the radar. It's the most important issue in health care we are not debating.

    Many Republicans in Congress want to convert Medicaid to a block-grant program and transform Medicare from a plan that guarantees care into one in which seniors would receive a set amount of money to purchase coverage. Meanwhile, Republicans would replace existing subsidies for premiums under the ACA with less generous tax credits - all while eliminating the expansion of Medicaid that enables states to cover low-income childless adults.

    Taken together, these changes would amount to a fundamental rewriting of the health-care role of the federal government. They would end the entitlement nature of Medicaid and Medicare, cap future increases in federal health spending for these programs and shift much more of the risk for health costs in the future to states and consumers.

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Staying true to yourself in the age of Trump: A how-to guide for federal employees

    Less than three weeks into the administration of President Donald Trump, resistance from inside the U.S. government is growing. About a thousand State Department employees have signed an unusual "dissent cable" expressing their opposition to the president's executive order placing a temporary ban on immigrants and refugees from seven majority-Muslim countries. After the White House ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to cease advertising and outreach related to the Affordable Care Act, former agency workers and the law's supporters pushed back, prompting the ban to be lifted in less than 24 hours. Still other federal workers have created social media accounts to leak information about new policies and directives from Trump's political appointees. Nearly 200 civil servants signed up to attend a recent workshop to discuss legal rights and ways to challenge unethical or unconstitutional policies.

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Rising rage against Trump lifts Democrats' funk, a little

    The Democrats are perking up. The depression that suffused the party a month ago is diminishing, with a sense of a rejuvenated grass roots.

    This psychological revival is being driven by President Donald Trump's pronouncements, policies, appointments and avalanche of lies, all of which are remarkably divisive. It's all emboldened Washington Democrats to oppose Trump at every turn, engaged progressive groups around the country and aroused hope for midterm congressional victories in the 2018 election.

    Maybe. Turning anger into political success will require Democrats to figure out how to parlay the passions of the anti-Trump left-wing base without turning off swing voters, including some of the working-class Democrats who abandoned Hillary Clinton last November.

    With the developments of the last month, said Fred Yang, a top Democratic pollster, "we have lots of opportunities." He added: "There has been an organic outpouring. The challenge now is to sustain it and channel it into voting." He sees parallels to the tea party activists and Republicans in the years before 2016.

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Putting 'America First' isn't the problem. President Trump's version of it is.

    Many Americans were outraged when President Donald Trump put the United States and Russia on the same moral plane last weekend; he told Bill O'Reilly that Vladimir Putin may be a "killer," but "there are a lot of killers. You think our country's so innocent?" Condemnation rippled across op-ed pages and social media. But Trump was just following the logic of the "America first" credo he outlined in his inaugural address and during the campaign: We will not sit in judgment of other nations, because they are doing what it takes to put their own interests first, just as we should. At their core, in relations with one another, all nations are the same.

    It is vital to sort out precisely what so many of us are upset about. Trump was not saying anything that left-wing critics of American foreign policy have not been arguing for decades - that before we criticize, sanction and indeed invade other nations, we would do well to remember our own sins: the coups, murders, civilian deaths, destruction and destabilization that we have often wrought in other countries.

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Living in fear as a refugee in the U.S. is terrible for your health

    For the past few weeks, the young man's heart has been racing. His hands are sweaty. During the day, he has flashbacks of the world he fled in El Salvador: gang members chasing him, threatening murder. Nightmares of the same scenes disturb his sleep. He's not a patient in my psychiatric practice. Just another young guy studying for his high school equivalency diploma at the Latin American Youth Center in Washington. Like the 4,000 other kids taking classes there, he's been worrying as he watches what the center's chief executive, Lori Kaplan, calls "the big reality show . . . on cable news - and the tweets."

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It's never too soon for a functional White House

    Perhaps we're getting somewhere. From a Politico profile of an administration ending its third week:

    "The interviews paint a picture of a powder-keg of a workplace where job duties are unclear, morale among some is low, factionalism is rampant and exhaustion is running high. Two visitors to the White House last week said they were struck by how tired the staff looks.

    "In Washington circles, talk has turned to whether a staff shake-up is in the works.

    "One person close to Trump said: 'I think he'd like to do it now, but he knows it's too soon.' "

    It is most certainly not "too soon."

    It's not entirely clear how much of what's wrong would be cured by imposing a proper structure onto a Donald Trump White House. The president would still be ill-informed, intemperate, and just entirely unsuited for the job.

    However, putting a real chief of staff in charge would at least help compensate for Trump's utter lack of management skills.

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If the press skips the White House correspondents' dinner, we would prove President Trump's point

    The White House Correspondents' Association dinner is not a mood ring. It doesn't care if President Donald Trump - or any president - likes, dislikes, celebrates, scorns or ignores White House reporters. The annual gala does not indicate, illustrate or represent the relationship between the White House and the reporters who cover it. It is an institution that celebrates one bedrock American value, the First Amendment, and two journalistic goals: to highlight excellent reporting and to award scholarships to the next generation of American journalists.

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I worked for the U.S. Army in Iraq. But when I landed in America, I was detained.

    I started working with the U.S. Army, Bravo Company 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) in Baghdad on March 1, 2003. I joined because of my complete faith that the United States had come to Iraq to give us our freedom and dignity back and remove injustice.

    Despite my decade of service to the United States, when I finally got my visa and arrived in New York late last month, I was detained for more than 18 hours at the airport because of the ban President Trump ordered on travel from Iraq and six other mostly Muslim nations. This was not the America I knew. Maybe the ban is not really reflective of America: It has been blocked by the courts so far, including a federal appeals court ruling Thursday night, so that it cannot take effect while it's being challenged.

    When I was first detained, I was disappointed and surprised. But when I was released, my faith was again restored. I was moved by the crowds of people who came to welcome me. And I'm so glad that I have come to live here with my wife and our three children.

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