Archive

February 19th, 2017

Drip, Drip, Drip

    Every day there is a fresh outrage emerging from the murky bog of the Donald Trump administration.

    Every day there is a new round of questions and a new set of concerns that raise anxieties and lower trust.

    Every day it becomes ever more clear that it is right and just to doubt the legitimacy of this regime and all that flows from it.

    The latest round involves the former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, who this week was forced to resign following disclosures about his communications with the Russian ambassador on the same day that then-President Barack Obama announced sanctions against Russia for its interference in our election to help Trump and damage Hillary Clinton.

    The official reason given for requesting Flynn’s resignation was, according to the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer: “The president was very concerned that Gen. Flynn had misled the vice president and others.”

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Donald Trump has put America in legal hell

    President Donald Trump's attack on the federal judiciary last week came off to many as just the latest in his pattern of insults du jour, lobbed against anyone daring to defy the White House's designs. The outcry, from congressional Democrats, law professors, and even, if Sen. Richard Blumenthal is to be believed, Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, was predictable. Gorsuch reportedly called the president's remarks "demoralizing" and "disheartening."

    Underlying the ritual furor, though, is a set of deeper concerns. Constitutional experts worry that the president's comments reveal an authoritarian chief executive who may prove unwilling to be checked or balanced by the judiciary. By scorning norms of comity and respect for a coequal branch of government, Trump's comments also strike at the bedrock of America's global leadership, which is grounded in the rule of law.

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Dear White People: Don't be snowflakes

    Everybody loves free speech, it seems -- and just about everybody also knows someone who they wish would just hush up.

    That's an old saying that I just made up. It came to mind amid some of the protests that have been busting out all over Donald Trump's America.

    Back in the 1960s, progressive college students campaigned for free speech. Today we see a new generation of college students and faculty who seem to be campaigning just as passionately to restrict speech -- as long as it is somebody else's.

    Conservatives have made hay for decades out of this censoring impulse, especially when they think it is only found on the left.

    An exquisite example is provided by Milo Yiannopoulos, author, public speaker and senior editor at the conservative Breitbart news sites.

    I almost felt sorry for Yiannopoulos when his speaking engagement sponsored by the College Republicans club at the University of California, Berkeley, was cancelled after peaceful protests turned into a riot.

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As a Christian, I defended Obamacare. But I really support single-payer insurance.

    A video of me questioning Rep. Diane Black, R-Tennessee, about how her party will replace the Affordable Care Act went viral last Friday. I had gone to her town hall meeting on Thursday near my home to ask what the poor and sick would do once they're left without the law's protections. The next night, I had the really weird experience of seeing myself on national television, and the even weirder experience of hearing and reading other people's interpretation of my own words. My town hall question has been described as a "Christian defense of Obamacare" and "an impassioned case for the ACA's individual mandate."

    But the truth is that I do not actually believe that the ACA is the best way to insure people. In fact, I am ashamed and afraid that this video might have done more harm than good. In my view, Christians shouldn't be satisfied with health-care policy that leaves anyone out, especially those who need care most but can afford it least. Christians should support a universal, single-payer system.

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American Hellscape

    In case you were wondering what Republicans have planned for the environment, it’s now clear.

    Some of the ideas aren’t new — like mining and logging our national forests. Or giving the green light to controversial oil pipelines like the Dakota Access Pipeline, which threatens the drinking water and sacred sites of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

    But apparently those ideas came from a more restrained Republican Party which still had to get its laws signed by Democrat Barack Obama. Now the gloves are off.

    Why just mine and log our national forests when you can also drill for oil in our national parks, as one bill would allow? Parks at risk under the bill include the Everglades, the Grand Tetons, and the Flight 93 National Memorial.

    Or, heck, just get rid of the whole Environmental Protection Agency. I mean, what was that hippie Richard Nixon doing establishing it in the first place? Sure, the Cuyahoga River was so polluted with industrial waste that it literally caught fire — but what do we need rivers for, anyway?

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Will Trump Save the Jews?

    Dear President Trump:

    These are the moments that make or break a presidency.

    First you were tested by a rival — Russia — and utterly failed to appreciate the corrosive impact on our democracy of your indulgence of Russia’s hacking our election. And on Wednesday you’re going to be tested by a friend — Israel — and its prime minister, Bibi Netanyahu. Can you appreciate the corrosive impact on Israel’s democracy of what it’s now doing in the West Bank? I ask because you may be the last man standing between Israel and a complete, self-inflicted disaster for the Jewish state and the Jewish people.

    Let me explain it in terms you’ll appreciate: golf.

    Did you happen to follow the story involving Barack Obama and Woodmont Country Club? Woodmont is the mostly Jewish golf club in Maryland, just outside D.C., where Obama played as a guest several times during his presidency. Near the end of his term it was rumored that Obama would seek membership there.

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Why Republicans can't ignore protesters

    Republican members of Congress are feeling a bit under siege right now. Their office phones won't stop ringing, and their town hall meetings are mobbed by people angry about health care, the travel ban, various Donald Trump cabinet officials, and more.

    Their reaction? Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz said the huge turnout at his town hall meeting last week was filled with people shipped in from other states -- "more of a paid attempt to bully and intimidate" than genuine constituent sentiment. This echoes what Trump himself tweeted earlier in February:

    Indeed, some Republicans have been making this charge since the rallies immediately after the election in November. It is, of course, false. Just as with the Tea Party protests in 2009, there are national efforts -- such as the "indivisible" movement -- to supply the infrastructure of protest for angry rank-and-file citizens, but all of that would be worthless if a large number of citizens weren't actually angry to begin with. And we can be pretty certain there's no proof, or even evidence, of "paid protesters" for the simple reason that if Republicans had such evidence they would be supplying it every chance they got.

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Trump asked what African-Americans had to lose; they're waiting to see the gain

    In Donald Trump's new hometown Sunday night, there was a homicide. Thirteen gunshots were fired in a neighborhood less than four miles from the White House. When D.C. police showed up, they found Kenny Bell, a 30-year-old black man, dead on the grounds of the Ferebee-Hope Recreation Center in southeast Washington.

    The rec center is in Ward 8, which is predominantly black and scarred by deep pockets of poverty but also home to a vibrant middle class. Of the 135 homicides in the city last year, 46 were in Ward 8. During President Trump's campaign, he referred to such crime-plagued areas as "a living hell."

    Now he was just a 10-minute motorcade ride away from one, having pledged to curb violence, reduce unemployment and improve schools in such places.

    "I will produce for the African-Americans," Trump said.

    Did he mean it?

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Sorry, FDR and LBJ: Trump is about to make America awful again

    President Donald Trump has only just begun his term in office, and so far he's stuck to executive orders that by nature can't make sweeping changes to the structure of government programs. The most concrete glimpse we have of the shape this larger policy agenda, then, are his cabinet picks and other key advisers. And so far, all of these selections point in one clear direction: undoing the biggest gains for equality over the last century.

    Two eras -- policymaking under Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson, characterized as the New Deal and Great Society, respectively -- brought the country the most significant changes in how we provide social insurance and protect Americans with the least. Yet Trump is making America great again by choosing people who have pledged to dismantle them.

    We can't know yet exactly what Trump's Cabinet members will do; they could turn out to be as mercurial as the man himself. Yet Trump's team has long been intent on repealing the achievements of the New Deal and Great Society.

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Here's how President Trump will change Obamacare

    Promises made by Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act are proving to be more complicated than they sounded on the campaign trail. With reality now setting in, what's most likely to happen?

    I expect to see Republicans stage a dramatic early vote to repeal, with legislation that includes only very modest steps toward replacement -- and leave most of the work for later. Next, the new administration will aggressively issue waivers allowing states to experiment with different approaches, including changes to Medicaid and private insurance rules. At some point, then, the administration will declare that these state experiments have been so successful, Obamacare no longer exists.

    In other words, the repeal vote will be just for show; the waivers will do most of the heavy lifting.

    I predict something like this will happen because of two core challenges that stand in the way of Republicans' replacing the ACA through legislation: the need for so-called community rating and the need to have 60 votes in the Senate to pass a comprehensive new health-care law.

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