February 1, 2017

Muslim ban


Starting off with a few fun tweets…

rowling


Setting a dangerous precedent, the President has now refused to work with CNN:

White House ices out CNN (Politico)

The White House has refused to send its spokespeople or surrogates onto CNN shows, effectively icing out the network from on-air administration voices.

“We’re sending surrogates to places where we think it makes sense to promote our agenda,” said a White House official, acknowledging that CNN is not such a place, but adding that the ban is not permanent.

A CNN reporter, speaking on background, was more blunt: The White House is trying to punish the network and force down its ratings.

“They’re trying to cull CNN from the herd,” the reporter said.

Administration officials are still answering questions from CNN reporters. But administration officials including White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and senior counselor Kellyanne Conway haven’t appeared on the network’s programming in recent weeks.

Spicer, speaking at an event at the George Washington University on Monday, denied that CNN was being frozen out, pointing out that he’s answered CNN’s questions in the regular daily briefings.

But, he added “I’m not going to sit around and engage with people who have no desire to actually get something right.”

Calling something fake news because you don’t like the facts is completely in line with the post-truth presidency.


Steve Bannon’s own words show sharp break on security issues

Rhetoric like this is dangerous and quite insane.

Steve Bannon, who has ascended in just months from relative obscurity to become one of President Trump’s most influential advisors, has said that Islam is “the most radical” religion in the world and the U.S. is engaged in a civilizational struggle potentially leading to “a major shooting war in the Middle East again.”

This is eminently reassuring as well, given his new role on the NSC:

“We’re going to war in the South China Sea in five to 10 years, aren’t we?” he said in March 2016. “There’s no doubt about that. They’re taking their sandbars and making basically stationary aircraft carriers and putting missiles on those. They come here to the United States in front of our face — and you understand how important face is — and say it’s an ancient territorial sea.”

This man is unhinged:

“The way the media is presenting this, it’s almost like they’re conforming to blasphemy law,” he said. “They will not criticize Islam, the president of the United States will not criticize Islam. Mrs. Clinton will not criticize Islam. Do you get a sense that the media in the West — and I mean in London and in the United States — is almost working under the precepts of sharia law right now?”

Concern about brewing conflict, he said, was a fundamental concept behind Bannon’s media enterprise. “Our big belief, one of our central organizing principles at the site, is that we’re at war,” he said.

It’s war. It’s war. Every day, we put up: America’s at war, America’s at war. We’re at war,” he said in December 2015. “Note to self, beloved commander in chief: We’re at war.”


No ‘G’day, mate’: On call with Australian prime minister, Trump badgers and brags

“This is the worst deal ever,” Trump fumed as Turnbull attempted to confirm that the United States would honor its pledge to take in 1,250 refugees from an Australian detention center. Trump, who one day earlier had signed an executive order temporarily barring the admissions of refugees, complained that he was “going to get killed” politically and accused Australia of seeking to export the “next Boston bombers.”

U.S. officials said that Trump has behaved similarly in conversations with leaders of other countries, including Mexico. But his treatment of Turnbull was particularly striking because of the tight bond between the United States and Australia — countries that share intelligence, support one another diplomatically and have fought together in wars including in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Trump Executive Order Threatens Foreign Students. How Will Their Universities Respond?

“One of things we are advocating is that schools resist providing information about their students from the federal government,” says Shirin Vossoughi, an assistant professor at Northwestern University. “It’s possible that in the future the Trump administration may attempt to withhold funding from publicly funded schools if they refuse to share information, but it’s important for them to stand strong on this issue.”

The University of Alberta is actively recruiting students from the affected travel ban countries:
The U of A has waived application fees for citizens of the seven countries affected by the U.S. travel ban. Applicants from these affected countries with questions about study permits, or concerns about meeting application or document deadlines, should contact University of Alberta International at welcome@international.ualberta.ca for advice. The university will make efforts to accommodate, wherever possible.

Trump to focus counter-extremism program solely on Islam

The program, “Countering Violent Extremism,” or CVE, would be changed to “Countering Islamic Extremism” or “Countering Radical Islamic Extremism,” the sources said, and would no longer target groups such as white supremacists who have also carried out bombings and shootings in the United States.


Leaked Draft of Trump’s Religious Freedom Order Reveals Sweeping Plans to Legalize Discrimination

The draft order seeks to create wholesale exemptions for people and organizations who claim religious or moral objections to same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion, and trans identity, and it seeks to curtail women’s access to contraception and abortion through the Affordable Care Act.

Language in the draft document specifically protects the tax-exempt status of any organization that “believes, speaks, or acts (or declines to act) in accordance with the belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, sexual relations are properly reserved for such a marriage, male and female and their equivalents refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy, physiology, or genetics at or before birth, and that human life begins at conception and merits protection at all stages of life.”


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And I end today with a protest poem from 1914 by Ella Wheeler Wilcox.

Here it is read by Amanda Palmer.

PROTEST

To sin by silence, when we should protest,
Makes cowards out of men. The human race
Has climbed on protest. Had no voice been raised
Against injustice, ignorance, and lust,
The inquisition yet would serve the law,
And guillotines decide our least disputes.
The few who dare, must speak and speak again
To right the wrongs of many. Speech, thank God,
No vested power in this great day and land
Can gag or throttle. Press and voice may cry
Loud disapproval of existing ills;
May criticize oppression and condemn
The lawlessness of wealth-protecting laws
That let the children and childbearers toil
To purchase ease for idle millionaires.

Therefore I do protest against the boast
Of independence in this mighty land.
Call no chain strong, which holds one rusted link.
Call no land free, that holds one fettered slave.
Until the manacled slim wrists of babes
Are loosed to toss in childish sport and glee,
Until the mother bears no burden, save
The precious one beneath her heart, until
God’s soil is rescued from the clutch of greed
And given back to labor, let no man
Call this the land of freedom.

Originally posted at Brainpickings.org.

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January 31, 2017

seuss

The Complicated Relevance of Dr. Seuss’s Political Cartoons

One of these in particular, a drawing lampooning the non-Interventionist America First movement, has been reemerging recently amid protests against President Trump’s executive order barring immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries.

The cartoon, which mocks an apparent blithe naiveté about the dangers posed by Nazi Germany, as well as a callousness regarding the lives of children who aren’t American citizens, makes it a striking accompaniment to modern protests, not least of which is that Trump has named one of his own official platforms “America First.”


Donald Trump is purging career officials and surrounding himself with unqualified partisans

Currently, the five most powerful people that most have Trump’s ear are: a media propagandist in Breitbart’s Steve Bannon; a pollster in Kellyanne Conway; a general in Michael Flynn, who had such a penchant for conspiracy theories that his colleagues began to refer to them as “Flynn facts”; a lawyer who ran the national Republican Party in Reince Priebus; and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Those five are advising someone who has never served in government and who clearly does not understand government.


Continuing with the trend of painting Bannon as the power behind the throne…

Steve Bannon is calling the shots in the White House. That’s terrifying.

Bannon is not the president’s servant. The president is his tool. For years, Bannon cast about for the proper vehicle to carry the fight forward. Sarah Palin, Rick Perry –they were considered possible material. Now in Donald Trump he has found adequate if imperfect stuff. Both are workaholics. Both share a protectionist mindset. Both are combative.

But Bannon, in contrast to the president, is not easily distracted. He is intelligent, articulate, focused in his ideology and dedicated to the struggle.


We’re starting to see theories about the nefarious aims of the government emerge with analysis of recent events, reinforcing fears that preceded Trump’s inauguration. More along these lines should be expected.

The Immigration Ban is a Headfake, and We’re Falling For It

Jake Fuentes argues that the new administration is testing the boundaries of governmental checks and balances in an effort to consolidate power. He argues the playbook could look something like this:

We launch a series of Executive Orders in the first week. Beforehand, we identify one that our opponents will complain loudly about and will dominate the news cycle. Immigration ban. Perfect.

We craft the ban to be about 20% more extreme than we actually want it to be — say, let’s make the explicit decision to block green card holders from defined countries from entering the US, rather than just visa holders. We create some confusion so that we can walk back from that part later, but let’s make sure that it’s enforced to begin with.

We watch our opposition pour out into the streets protesting the extremes of our public measure, exactly as we intended. The protests dominate the news, but our base doesn’t watch CNN anyway. The ACLU will file motions to oppose the most extreme parts of our measure, that’s actually going to be useful too. We don’t actually care if we win, that’s why we made it more extreme than it needed to be. But in doing so, the lawsuit process will test the loyalty of those enforcing what we say.

While the nation’s attention is on our extreme EO, slip a few more nuanced moves through. For example, reconfigure the National Security Council so that it’s led by our inner circle. Or gut the State Department’s ability to resist more extreme moves. That will have massive benefits down the road — the NSC are the folks that authorize secret assassinations against enemies of the state, including American citizens. Almost nobody has time to analyze that move closely, and those that do can’t get coverage.

When the lawsuits filed by the ACLU inevitably succeed, stay silent. Don’t tell the DHS to abide by the what the federal judge says, see what they do on their own. If they capitulate to the courts, we know our power with the DHS is limited and we need to staff it with more loyal people. But if they continue enforcing our EO until we tell them not to, we know that we can completely ignore the judicial branch later on and the DHS will have our back.

Once the DHS has made their move, walk back from the 20% we didn’t want in the first place. Let the green card holders in, and pretend that’s what we meant all along. The protestors and the ACLU, both clamoring to display their efficacy, jump on the moment to declare a huge victory. The crowds dissipate, they have to go back to work.

When the dust settles, we have 100% of the Executive Order we originally wanted, we’ve tested the loyalty of a department we’ll need later on, we’ve proven we can ignore an entire branch of government, and we’ve slipped in some subtle moves that will make the next test even easier.

We’ve just tested the country’s willingness to capitulate to a fascist regime.


Along these lines, here is the much cited blog post from Google engineer Yonatan Zunger:

Trial Balloon for a Coup? (Medium.com)

That is to say, the administration is testing the extent to which the DHS (and other executive agencies) can act and ignore orders from the other branches of government. This is as serious as it can possibly get: all of the arguments about whether order X or Y is unconstitutional mean nothing if elements of the government are executing them and the courts are being ignored.


It looks like we can anticipate even tighter immigration restrictions…

Trump administration circulates more draft immigration restrictions, focusing on protecting U.S. jobs

The Trump administration is considering a plan to weed out would-be immigrants who are likely to require public assistance, as well as to deport — when possible — immigrants already living in the United States who depend on taxpayer help, according to a draft executive order obtained by The Washington Post.

A second draft order under consideration calls for a substantial shake-up in the system through which the United States administers immigrant and nonimmigrant visas, with the aim of tightly controlling who enters the country and who can enter the workforce, and reducing the social-services burden on U.S. taxpayers.


Anddd… it’s Supreme Court nominee day…

What Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s SCOTUS Pick, Means for American Women (Slate)

Gorsuch may end up ruling on laws that ban abortions after a certain pre-viability gestation threshold, force abortion providers to get admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, or require abortion clinics abide by unnecessary building codes. Several states already have laws like these percolating through the courts…

Gorsuch is also likely to face cases that put contraceptive access and insurance coverage on the chopping block. Whether or not Republicans follow through on their promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act, they are likely to continue trying to make birth control and abortion care more expensive and difficult to get. Just last week, they passed a House bill that would discourage insurance providers from covering abortion in their plans.


Trump’s Grand Strategic Train Wreck (Foreign Policy)

Quoting this one a little more.

First, the framework:

At a minimum, a grand strategy consists of an understanding of the basic contours of the international environment, a country’s highest interests and objectives within that environment, the most pressing threats to those interests, and the actions that a country can take in order to address threats and promote national security and well-being. Grand strategy, then, is both diagnostic and prescriptive. It combines an analysis of what is happening in the world and how it impacts one’s country, with a more forward-looking concept of how a country might employ its various forms of power — hard or soft, military or economic — to sustain or improve its global position. Every grand strategy has a “what” dimension, a notion of what constitutes national security in the first place, and a “how” dimension, a theory of how to produce security in a dynamic international environment and given the tools at hand.

Trump see the world in terms of three dangers:

The first is the threat from “Radical Islam” — which, for the president and many of his closest advisors, poses an existential and “civilizational” threat to the United States that must be “eradicated” from the face of the Earth….

Second, Trump portrays unfair trade deals and the trade practices of key competitors as grave threats to the U.S. economy and therefore a national security priority….

Third, and finally, Trump has consistently railed against illegal immigration, arguing that the pace and scale of migration has cost American jobs, lowered wages, and put unsustainable strains on housing, schools, tax bills, and general living conditions. He has also consistently framed immigration as an issue of personal and national security, arguing that illegal immigration is associated with crime, drugs, and terrorism — and claiming, without providing supporting evidence, that “countless Americans” have died as a consequence. And, tying the issue back to his diagnosis of the terrorist threat, Trump has consistently portrayed Muslim refugees, immigrants, and the children of immigrants as a “Trojan Horse” for the spread of radical Islam in the United States.

There are four key pillars to the Trump Doctrine:

The first is what White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon proudly calls“economic nationalism.” Trump has signaled a willingness to embrace a protectionist and mercantilist foreign policy more familiar to the 19th and early 20th centuries than to the 21st. In his inaugural address, for example, Trump declared: “From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first, America first. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our product, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.”…

A second key pillar is what might be called “extreme” homeland security. This includes the infamous wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and other investments in stepped-up border security. It includes Trump’s threat of mass deportations of illegal immigrants, starting with those with a criminal record. And his approach calls for an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees, a temporary ban on all refugees, and a suspension of legal immigration from several Muslim countries until such time as “extreme vetting” procedures can be put in place to ensure that entrants to the United States “share our values and love our people.”…

What we call “amoral transactionalism” represents the third, and perhaps most central, feature of Trump’s grand strategy. In Trump’s view, the United States should be willing to cut deals with any actors that share American interests, regardless of how transactional that relationship is, and regardless of whether they share — or act in accordance with — American values.

The final pillar of Trump’s grand strategy is a muscular but aloof militarism. For decades, Trump has advocated “extreme military strength.” On the campaign trail and during the transition, Trump called for larger U.S. naval, air, and ground forces, and significant new investments in cyber warfare capabilities and nuclear weapons. (On January 27, Trump announced an executive order to follow through on this commitment, but the details remain unclear.) Yet Trump’s stated purpose is not to engage in military adventures, or to bolster U.S. alliances, but rather to deter potential adversaries and defeat those who attack the United States.

Now go read the rest for the analysis of what this means…

President Bannon

bannon

As I mentioned in my last post, we’re seeing a new tactic popping up – the elevation of Bannon as the defacto King with Trump as mere mouthpiece and one has to wonder how long Trump will indulge this narrative if it really gathers steam. I think it will be an effective strategy for sowing division between the two, as Trump is a textbook narcissist who will tolerate no challenge to the idea that he is the ultimate captain of the ship.

To that end, here’s some of the narrative so far…

bannon2

bannon3


Is Donald Trump Just a Pawn in Steve Bannon’s Game? (Vanity Fair)

But Bannon, who jokingly refers to himself as “Darth Vader,” is perhaps alone in viewing the Trump administration as a means to a specific philosophical end.

This strategy so far has worked for Bannon, either because Trump understands he needs him or hasn’t caught wind of the fact that he might be being played. The reason why Kushner rose to prominence so quickly, after all, is the fact that Trump knows where his loyalty lies, and that is squarely behind him. If Trump feels that Bannon’s own motives are setting him up to lose, then it’s anyone’s bet as to how topsy-turvy this West Wing could get.


refugee1

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