Archive

February 13th, 2017

Defunding Planned Parenthood was a disaster in Texas. Congress shouldn't do it nationally.

    The Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Congress are pushing to prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funds to pay for contraception and cervical and breast cancer screenings. Funding for the federal Title X program, which provides infrastructure support to a network of nearly 4,000 clinics across the country, could also be in jeopardy.

    Five years ago, we learned in Texas what can happen when efforts to defund Planned Parenthood are carried out: The network of health-care providers falls apart and women lose access to essential preventive services. Now Trump and his allies are poised to wreak the same havoc on the country that the 2011 Republican state legislature imposed on Texas.

    The motivation for the Texas action was the same as the motivation for what Congress plans to do: appeasing groups opposed to legal abortion. But none of these family planning programs pay for abortion care, which the law already prohibits spending federal money on. Defunding Planned Parenthood only reduces access to contraception and other necessary health care. Indeed, by reducing unintended pregnancies, the programs Republicans want to cut Planned Parenthood out of actually reduce the number of abortions.

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Checks and balances have their day in court

    The minutes seem like hours in the Trump administration. Every day brings a fresh deluge of alarming developments. Has it only been three weeks? Can the country survive four years of this?

    The most hopeful sign so far arrived Thursday, with the Latin phrase per curiam: Not only did the federal appeals court reject the Trump administration's highhanded argument that its immigration order was not subject to judicial review, it did so unanimously.

    A judge appointed by President George W. Bush joined two judges appointed by Democratic presidents (Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter) to uphold a decision by a district court judge named by Bush. The appeals court spoke as one. Not as partisans or ideologues but as judges, calmly and convincingly applying the law in State of Washington v. Donald J. Trump.

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Connecting Trump’s Dots

    Every day, the president’s behavior becomes more worrying. One day he demeans a federal judge who challenges him; the next day, without evidence, he accuses the media of hiding illegal voting or acts of terrorism. His lack of respect for institutions and truth pours out so fast, you start to forget how crazy this behavior is for any adult, let alone a president, and just how ugly things will get when we have a real crisis. And crises are baked into this story because of the incoherence of President Donald Trump’s worldview.

    How so? The world today is more interdependent than ever. The globalization of markets, the spread of cellphones, the accelerations in technology and biology, the new mass movements of migrants and the disruptions in the climate are all intertwined and impacting one another. As a result, we need a president who can connect all of these dots and navigate a path that gets the most out of them and cushions the worst.

    But Trump is a dot exploiter, not connector. He made a series of reckless, unconnected promises, not much longer than tweets, to get elected, and now he’s just checking off each one, without thinking through the linkages among them or anticipating second-order effects.

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The Trump administration came here from an alternative universe. It's a fact.

    We are being too uncharitable to the Trump administration.

    We have probably made Sean Spicer cry, and that is not what anyone set out to do.

    There is a much simpler explanation for the list of Secret Media Terrorism Coverups and the Bowling Green Massacre and the "alternative facts" than this idea that somehow, the Trump administration is making up facts or misleading the American people. Nonsense. They are doing the best they can with the facts they have. They simply have come here from an alternative universe.

    It is not their fault that their facts appear to be quite different from what is happening in the universe where most people live. They did not ask to come here. Something went wrong with the timeline, is all. Somebody stepped on a butterfly, and here we are.

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Bureaucrats under Trump face a crisis of legitimacy

    These are interesting times to be a federal bureaucrat. You know, in the "may you live in interesting times" sense.

    President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration unleashed a wave of dissent in the State Department -- and a warning from White House press secretary Sean Spicer that dissenters should "either get with the program or they can go." U.S. Representative Patrick McHenry, a member of the House Republican leadership, sent a letter to Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen last week demanding that the Fed stop negotiating agreements with foreign bank regulators "until President Trump has had an opportunity to nominate and appoint officials that prioritize America's best interests." Other House Republicans want to resurrect an 1876 rule that allows them to dock the pay of individual federal employees to $1.

    You might think this is all due to the unpresidented rise of Trump. That's definitely a factor, but the bureaucracy was undergoing a legitimacy crisis well before he got elected.

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White House goes authoritarian on CNN scoop about Russia dossier

    CNN announced on air a breaking-news story Friday afternoon. U.S. investigators, said correspondent Jim Sciutto on Jake Tapper's show "The Lead," have corroborated "some of the communications detailed in a 35-page dossier compiled by a former British intelligence agent." Prior to this reporting, sources have insisted that details in that dossier, an explosive document that shook the news stream in January, were unverified. Now, according to reporting by Sciutto and colleague Evan Perez, "multiple current and former U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials tell CNN that intelligence intercepts of foreign nationals confirm that some of the conversations described in the dossier took place between the same individuals on the same days and from the same locations as detailed in the dossier." There's no confirmation about the content of those communications, nor is there any confirmation of the more "salacious" allegations in the dossier.

    So what did White House press secretary Sean Spicer say? "We continue to be disgusted by CNN's fake news reporting."

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Andrew Puzder will be a disaster for workers. I know: He was for me.

    In 1984, I was hired as a cashier at Hardee's in Columbia, S.C., making $4.25 an hour. By 2005, 21 years later, my pay was at only $8 an hour. That's a $3.75 raise for a lifetime of work. Adjusted for inflation, it's only a 2-cent raise.

    Andrew Puzder, the chief executive since 2000 of CKE -- which owns Hardee's, Carl's Jr., and other fast-food companies -- is now in line to become the country's next labor secretary. The headlines ponder what this may mean for working people in America, but I already know.

    I already know what Trump/Puzder economics look like because I'm living it every day. Despite giving everything I had to Puzder's company for 21 years, I left without a penny of savings, with no health care and no pension. Now, while I live in poverty, Trump, who promised to fix the rigged economy, has chosen for labor secretary someone who wants to rig it up even more. He's chosen the chief executive of a company who recently made more than $10 million in a year, while I'm scraping by on Supplemental Security payments.

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Trickle-down ethics at the Trump White House

    Kellyanne Conway took to Fox News on Thursday in defense of Ivanka Trump's much-discussed clothing and accessories business, which has fallen out of favor with some big retailers like Nordstrom. "Go buy Ivanka's stuff is what I would tell you," the president's senior adviser recommended to her interviewers. "I hate shopping but I'm gonna go get some myself today."

    To reinforce her pitch, Conway also told the Fox crew that she was one of Ivanka's satisfied customers.

    "It's a wonderful line, I own some of it," Conway beamed from the White House briefing room, with the presidential mansion's logo visible on a plaque hanging behind her. "I'm gonna give a free commercial here: Go buy it today, everybody. You can find it online."

    Fox helpfully kept the free ad posted on one of its websites, with a cheery, promotional headline: "Go Buy It Today!" And with that, Conway had created a problem for herself.

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Why Al Franken makes a weird amount of sense as a 2020 presidential candidate

    Ever since Donald Trump won the 2016 election, people have been asking me who Democrats could -- and/or should -- put up against him when, presumably, he seeks re-election in 2020.

    My rote answer goes something like this: Someone who is not a politician.

    Why? Because the way Trump won was by casting himself as the ultimate outsider to a political system that lots and lots of Americans -- in both parties -- hate. As a celebrity (and not a politician), Trump was held to a different standard of behavior too. Things that would have ended -- or badly handicapped -- other candidates bounced off Trump with little damage done.

    Nominate just another politician in 2020 and, I've believed, that Democrats are playing into Trump's hands -- allowing him to continue to run as an outsider and against a broken system despite the fact that he will have spent four years in the White House. Pick a Mark Cuban or Starbucks founder Howard Schultz, on the other hand, and now you are fighting Trump on equal terms.

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Long before Trump, boycotts led to big influence

    Boycott Trump? The movement to stick it to the billionaire-turned-president has been gaining momentum, with groups like Grab Your Wallet targeting the business ventures of Trump and his inner circle. Both Nordstrom and Nieman Marcus recently dropped Ivanka Trump's product lines, though both companies denied the boycotts had anything to do with their decision.

    Trump's opponents are even targeting companies deemed too cozy to the administration, forcing Uber's CEO to resign from the president's advisory council as a boycott campaign called #deleteuber rocked the company. Not to outdone, pro-Trump partisans have vowed to boycott companies that ran pro-immigration ads during the Super Bowl, with Lumber 84 and Budweiser among the targets of their ire.

    All this can seem like a distraction from the real issues. But consumer boycotts have been incredibly effective in U.S. history, not only altering the behavior of rulers but building a cohesive, powerful political movement from the ground up.

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