Archive

February 7th, 2017

An Apology to Muslims

    Whenever an extremist in the Muslim world does something crazy, people demand that moderate Muslims step forward to condemn the extremism. So let’s take our own advice: We Americans should now condemn our own extremist.

    In that spirit, I hereby apologize to Muslims. The mindlessness and heartlessness of the travel ban should humiliate us, not you. Understand this: President Donald Trump is not America!

    I apologize to Nadia Murad, the brave young Yazidi woman from Iraq who was made a sex slave — but since escaping, has campaigned around the world against ISIS and sexual slavery. She has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize yet is now barred from the United States.

    I apologize to Edna Adan, a heroic Somali woman who has battled for decades for women’s health and led the fight against female genital mutilation. Edna speaks at U.S, universities, champions girls’ education and defies extremists — and she’s one of those inspiring me to do the same.

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Trump's hard line on trade puts the Fed in a quandary

    The Trump administration's antagonistic approach to some countries could be putting monetary policy on a collision course with international trade and financial policy rather than fiscal policy as initially expected. Instead of facing a demand shock, the Federal Reserve could be facing a supply shock.

    Speculation on fiscal policy -- and a possible monetary offset -- heightened in the weeks after the Nov. 8 election. The basic story is that with the economy close to full employment, a deficit-financed surge in demand would be inflationary, forcing the Fed to offset additional spending with a more aggressive pace of tightening. This presumably would run counter to President Donald Trump's economic ambitions and set the stage for a showdown between the Fed and the White House.

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Why President Trump needs a history lesson

    Here's a tip, if you're going to speak at a Black History Month event: It helps to know a little black history.

    President Donald Trump overlooked that advice as he delivered a rambling Black History Month address before engaging in a "listening session" with African-American professionals at the White House.

    It didn't take long for the real estate developer and former star of "The Apprentice" to start talking about what seems to be his favorite topic, himself.

    First, he repeated a worn-out assertion that he keeps making at speaking events that "the media" deliberately reported falsely that he had removed a bust of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. from the Oval Office. In fact, the Time magazine reporter who was providing pool reports that day realized his mistake within minutes and sent out more than a dozen tweets correcting the mistake and apologizing. White House press secretary Sean Spicer tweeted back, "Apology accepted."

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Trump had a good idea on drug costs. He ditched it after meeting with pharma execs.

    It wasn't all that long ago -- though it seems that way, admittedly, with the never-ending flood of Trumpian news -- that I was prepared to acknowledge that President Donald Trump actually has a few good ideas. Or at least one.

    It was Tuesday morning. The new president was about to go into a meeting with chief executives from Johnson & Johnson, Merck and a handful of other major pharma companies. During his campaign, he often said that if he were elected, the federal government would start negotiating with the drug companies over the prices Medicare and Medicaid had to pay for drugs -- something it's now prevented from doing by statute. This is an issue that resonated with most Americans, the majority of whom want the government to do something about high drug prices.

    Along with The Wall and the Return of Manufacturing, this appeared to be one of his core issues. And unlike some other campaign issues, it didn't fade away after the election. Pharma companies were "getting away with murder," he said on Jan. 10, because they "had a lot of lobbyists and a lot of power." A few weeks later, he claimed that the government would save $300 billion if it could negotiate prices.

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'Trump adviser' is a contradiction in terms

    Rex Tillerson, who ran Exxon Mobil for a decade before signing on as Donald Trump's secretary of state, is reportedly "baffled" that the White House didn't consult with him on its controversial executive order restricting travel and immigration from seven mostly Muslim countries.

    James Mattis, who retired as a four-star Marine Corps general and supervisor of the U.S. Central Command before becoming Trump's secretary of defense, is said by the Associated Press to be "particularly incensed" about exactly the same thing.

    Both men -- seasoned, thoughtful managers with bucketloads of experience and insight -- probably thought that Trump recruited them to his cabinet to be trusted advisers. They may be in for more surprises, however, because there's a good chance that Trump sees them merely as hood ornaments atop the little engine of state he's building at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

    For most of Trump's career he has trusted only a small group of longtime loyalists at the Trump Organization, and even then he has often tightened the circle further to family members.

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Trump's unworthy attack on the federal judiciary

   It's no surprise that President Donald Trump initiated a Twitter attack Saturday on federal judge James Robart for freezing the executive order on immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries. The ultimate fate of the order will depend on proceedings in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which denied the government's emergency request to reinstate the ban, and possibly even the U.S. Supreme Court. But because judges issue rulings, not press releases, it's also up to civil society and the news media to defend the judge and the rule of law from the president's bluster.

    So here's the legal truth: The Seattle-based judge's decision, which unlike earlier rulings against the order forces the entire executive branch to comply, was completely legitimate. Rather brilliantly, Robart, a George W. Bush appointee, cited the precedent of the federal judge in Texas who in 2015 froze President Barack Obama's executive order on immigration. Turnabout is fair play. The same judicial power that thwarted Trump's predecessor is now being used against him.

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There's no quick fix to Trump's immigration ban

    The high-speed cycle of the first 24 hours after President Donald Trump's executive order banned immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries is giving way to the long, hard slog of legal reality. A State Department memo made public in court proceedings Wednesday reveals that the Trump administration revoked all visas from those countries on Friday, Jan. 27, the day of the order. That revocation, the essence of the immigration ban, remains in place. As a result, the federal judicial orders against the ban are ineffectual -- because no one from the seven countries has been allowed to board a plane to the U.S. since the day the memo was issued.

    The lesson for the next four years is brutally clear. Excited resistance was inspiring, and the symbolic image of the courts working after hours to freeze the immigration order will persist. But the actual fight over the effects of Trump's order, like the rest of his policies, is just getting started. And without slow, patient effort to work within the legal system, the fight cannot be won.

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Trump tears politics and policy asunder

    President Trump's first weeks in office have not only stood American foreign policy on its head, but party politics at home as well. Both the Republican and Democratic parties are reeling from his deeply divisive tactics.

    The leaders of Mexico and Australia have pushed back against Trump's reckless and distinctly undiplomatic telephone threats. Trump still insists Mexico ultimately will pay for his wall on the southern border. And last week he scolded the Australian prime minister for "the worst call" he had had that day with a foreign leader.

    Meanwhile, Democratic Party leaders are at sea over what can be done about the Trump one-man wrecking ball. He has them back on their heels trying to cope with his Supreme Court nominee to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia with a right-wing clone, Judge Neil Gorsuch of Colorado. They have failed to block most of Trump's cabinet nominees.

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The dream of cheap, clean nuclear power is over

    For much of my life, I loved the idea of nuclear power. The science was so cool, futuristic and complicated, the power plants so vast and majestic. I devoured science-fiction novels like "Lucifer's Hammer," where a plucky nuclear entrepreneur restarts civilization after a comet almost wipes us out. I thought of accidents like Three Mile Island and even Chernobyl as stumbling blocks to a nuclear future.

    Then, in 2011, two things happened. First, a tsunami knocked out the nuclear reactor at Fukushima, forcing a mass evacuation and costing Japan hundreds of billions of dollars. Second, I learned that progress in solar power had been a lot faster and steadier than I had realized. I started taking a closer look at whether nuclear was really the future of energy. Now I'm pretty convinced that my youthful fantasies of a nuclear world won't come true anytime soon.

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Me, Me, Me, Me, Me

    President Donald Trump has a tense relationship, to say the least, with African-Americans. He earned it. He built his political base in part by questioning the legitimacy of the first black president and demanding to see his birth certificate. He used racism for traction.

    So what was his demeanor on Wednesday, when he marked Black History Month by sitting down with a handful of black leaders (supporters, really) in the Roosevelt Room? Did he ramp up the courtesy? Tamp down the self-congratulation? Go out of his way to emphasize that he’d be a president for all and that he fully appreciated the struggles and hardships of black Americans over time?

    Not so much.

    But he did talk about his struggles. His hardships. He couldn’t mention Martin Luther King Jr. without flashing on the King bust in the Oval Office, noting that there had been an erroneous report of its removal and lamenting what he sees as his terrible victimization by biased journalists and “fake news.”

    King’s martyrdom became Trump’s martyrdom. Black History Month turned into Trump Appreciation Day.

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