Archive

February 14th, 2017

'What happens to us?' Why Sweden is so worried about the Trump administration.

    A winter evening in Stockholm, lights glinting in the harbor, snow falling outside. "And what about us," I am asked, "up here in the North? What happens to us?" My Swedish companions are journalists, analysts and civil servants, people who care about their country's national security. Though neither elite nor wealthy, they do share a worldview. They think their country's prosperity depends on the European Union and its open markets. They also think their safety depends on the United States' commitment to Europe. And since President Donald Trump took office, they suddenly find themselves staring into an unfathomable abyss.

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Trump's immigrant clampdown hurts the heartland

    Donald Trump was elected to the presidency on a promise to revive the economies of struggling regions. He drew strength from small cities and towns in the Midwest and the South. But the administration's hasty, poorly-thought-out policies toward immigrants and foreign students are putting many of those places in grave danger. Trump and his advisers seem to be unaware of the degree to which local economies in the heartland depend on universities -- and of how much those universities rely on foreign students.

    The president's first executive order on immigration restricted travel and denied re-entry by visa holders from several majority-Muslim countries. That is already affecting students at a number of American universities. Circulated drafts of the next executive order contain a provision severely limiting foreign students' ability to work while in the United States.

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To Reject Trump the Perverse, Poets Wage a Battle in Verse

    Some people stand up to President Donald Trump in the courts, others in street protests. And the poets among us, they battle Trump with an arsenal of verse.

    The Republican man of the hour 

    Is a wellspring of bluster and glower. 

    Trump is rich and he’s white, 

    How’s he leading the fight 

    Against entrenched Establishment power?

     

    That’s by Bill McGloughlin, a librarian in Charlotte, North Carolina, who was one of the winners of my Donald Trump Poetry Contest. We had about 2,000 entries, and today I’m publishing the winners.

    Some relied on humor — while complaining that almost nothing rhymes with “orange”! — and that’s the tack taken by Stephen Benko, a retired businessman in Fairfield, Connecticut. Benko has published an entire book of poems about Trump, but this one is new:

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The business lobby's hypocritical, one-size-fits-all answer to regulation: No.

    Like all presidents since Ronald Reagan, Donald Trump came into office promising to reduce unnecessary regulation, ordering rollbacks of environmental and financial regulation and directing all executive agencies to throw out two rules for every one new one they propose.

    Back in Reagan's time, the big debate was over his executive order requiring the government to perform cost-benefit analyses for every federal regulation. The business community had long complained that government officials focused only on the benefits of regulation, while ignoring the costs to businesses and the economy as a whole. Liberal interest groups - unions, consumer advocates and environmentalists - went bananas. How can anyone put a monetary value on the human life that is saved because of environmental regulation, they asked, or the limb that is not cut off because of workplace safety rules, or the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your life savings are safe from the predations of Wall Street sharks? Any estimates of the benefits of regulation, they argued, were too squishy and too subjective - and downright immoral.

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Steve Bannon vs. Pope Francis?

    Steve Bannon disrupted American politics and helped elect Donald Trump as president. Will he disrupt the Roman Catholic Church by joining forces with right-wing Catholics who oppose Pope Francis?

     Bannon's dark vision contrasts sharply with the sunny disposition of a pope who has chided "sourpusses" and "querulous and disillusioned pessimists."

     Bannon believes that "the Judeo-Christian West is in a crisis." He calls for a return of "the church militant" that will "fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity" which threatens to "completely eradicate everything that we've been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years."

    Where Francis has insisted on dialogue with Muslims, Bannon points to "the long history of the Judeo-Christian West struggle against Islam" and reaches as far back as the eighth century to praise "forefathers" who defeated Islam on the battlefield and "kept it out of the world, whether it was at Vienna, or Tours, or other places."

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Puzder's record on labor is terrible. But it's typical for the fast-food industry.

    Andrew Puzder has never been a big friend of labor, but he might soon become its biggest boss. As President Trump's choice to lead the Department of Labor, the former chief executive of CKE restaurants, of Carl's Jr. and Hardee's brand fame, could soon control the regulatory body he's been accused of flouting throughout his career.

    Puzder has been linked to a smorgasbord of alleged labor abuses: Since 2004, scores of investigations by the Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division resulted in penalties totaling about $145,310 in back pay for 877 employees, plus about $81,600 in civil penalties. Occupational-safety regulators also documented 32 serious health and safety violations, including workers getting scalded with hot water and hot oil and, in one case, being injured in a trash compactor. Meanwhile, in a survey by the advocacy group Restaurant Opportunities Center, two-thirds of female workers reported experiencing sexual abuse while working for the corporation famous for its controversial burger ad featuring Paris Hilton in a bathing suit.

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It’s 1984 in Trumplandia

    Tromp-tromp-tromp — troops are marching to battles. Boom-boom-boom — bombs are blowing up communities. Whoooosh — poisonous gas is being released.

    Forget Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan — this is Trump’s War.

    Our bellicose commander in chief is at war in the homeland, deploying his troops to attack everything from our public schools to the EPA, dropping executive order bombs on Muslim communities and the Mexican border.

    He’s spewing poisonous tweets of bigotry and right-wing bile at the media, scientists, inner cities, “illegal voters,” Meryl Streep, diplomats, Democrats, and people who use real facts.

    Basically, Trump is at war with everyone who doesn’t agree with him — in short, with the majority of Americans. And you thought Nixon had a long enemies list!

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Congress can obtain Trump's tax returns

    Though our new president may not realize it, Congress has the power to obtain his tax returns and reveal them to the public without his consent, including returns under audit. As just urged by Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J., legislators seeking information on President Donald Trump's possible conflicts of interest should immediately exercise this authority rather than wait for the passage of new veto-proof legislation - a highly uncertain prospect - that would have the same effect.

    The ability of Congress to disclose confidential tax information was added to the law almost 100 years ago. Since the Civil War, when it began requiring taxpayers to submit private information to the government to comply with the tax laws, Congress has struggled to balance the privacy interests of taxpayers with the public's right to know. Eventually, Congress decided that tax information should remain confidential except in two situations. First, it authorized the president to determine whether any tax information could be disclosed. And, in 1924, it gave the same power to certain congressional committees.

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Bannon's right. The media is the 'opposition.'

    Stephen Bannon, the White House strategist, roving provocateur and now foreign policy guru for President Donald Trump, stirred up a hornet's nest recently when he called the national media "the opposition party."

    Mainstream media organizations howled in protest at Bannon's mischaracterization of their role and pledged anew their dedication to fairness, truth and accuracy. As they should.

    But I suggest they also take a deep breath - and eagerly embrace Bannon's (and subsequently Trump's) description of the media's mandate in these deeply troubled times for American democracy. Not the "party" part, of course. But being an independent "opposition" - an outside check on abuses of power by government and by other public and private institutions - is exactly what the Founding Fathers had in mind for the feisty, boisterous scribes and pamphleteers of their time. It's just what the media should do, and what the country needs, today.

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Authoritarian Bumbling

    The real story of the Trump administration to date isn’t about any one policy. It’s about Trump and a small group of insiders throwing their weight around — and incompetently at that.

    That should concern everyone who cares about the Constitution and the rule of law — but especially Republicans.

    After all, if you like Trump’s agenda, don’t you want him to achieve it in a way that’s effective and legal?

    I personally can’t imagine a bigger bummer than finally getting a president who promises to do everything I want, only to have those policies overturned by our courts or implemented poorly.

    Take the Muslim ban, for example. Putting aside whether or not you agree with it (and I certainly don’t), the way it was written and enacted says a lot about how Trump is operating so far.

    Recall that Trump has at hand any number of lawyers who could have checked the legality of his executive orders and helped him draft them in a way that would stand up in court.

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