Archive

The New Language

    For parents of a certain age it was the new math taught in our schools that defied us. Now parents of school age children, as well as the rest of us, will have to learn a new language. We did not know that was to be a fringe benefit of the new Presidential Administration; however, language grows as did Pinochio's nose!

    There is a new language afoot and it is called "alternative facts." Truth seems to be the victim here. Just as in the fairy tale it means what the speaker wants it to mean. It defies even absolute truth.

    What a world we have created when language does not evolve but explodes on us. It will be interesting to see what an ego-maniac becomes in this new world. We knew we were in for a ride following the elections of November 2016 but this soon, this astounding? It will be interesting, trying to second guess just what is meant. The one thing we can be sure of is that the truth is somewhere else in the ether. It is not too evident in those confirmation hearings in the Senate or elsewhere in that political balloon surrounding the leader.

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Pence Pulls Trump’s Strings

    Do you think Donald Trump is just Mike Pence’s puppet?

    Interesting idea, right? Particularly since the very idea would make our new president totally nuts. Hehehehe.

    And it’s possible. Trump is not a man who concentrates on policy issues. So far, the parts of the job that have obsessed him most are crowd size and vote size. And yeah, the wall. But there has to be somebody behind the scenes deciding the non-ego questions. Pass the word that it’s Pence.

    The best early evidence is reproductive rights. Not an issue that Trump seemed all that interested in during the campaign — you generally had to sort of poke him to bring it up. Yet one of the first things he did as president was to sign an order that will eliminate American aid to international health programs that provide information on abortion.

    Every Republican president since Ronald Reagan has issued the order, which is often referred to as the global gag rule. But Trump’s seems much worse. The Reagan-Bush-Bush version covered family planning programs. Trump’s targets global health in general.

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Oh SNAP! Boosting benefits beats paternalism, promotes long-term health

    A recent New York Times article on what families on SNAP (the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, more commonly known as food stamps) consume got the story very wrong, as various commentators, including the Times' public editor, have pointed out. A quick look at the article's headline ("In the Shopping Cart of a Food Stamp Household: Lots of Soda"), the accompanying photo of a shopping cart filled with mostly soda, and misconstrued numbers from the new research on which the article was based may have led some readers to the mistaken belief that families that use food stamps buy very different, and nutritionally much worse, food than households that don't use food stamps.

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Making the Rust Belt Rustier

    Donald Trump will break most of his campaign promises. Which promises will he keep?

    The answer, I suspect, has more to do with psychology than it does with strategy. Trump is much more enthusiastic about punishing people than he is about helping them. He may have promised not to cut Social Security and Medicare, or take health insurance away from the tens of millions who gained coverage under Obamacare, but in practice he seems perfectly willing to satisfy his party by destroying the safety net.

    On the other hand, he appears serious about his eagerness to reverse America’s 80-year-long commitment to expanding world trade. On Thursday, the White House said it was considering a 20 percent tariff on all imports from Mexico; doing so wouldn’t just pull the U.S. out of NAFTA, it would violate all our trading agreements.

    Why does he want this? Because he sees international trade the way he sees everything else: as a struggle for dominance, in which you only win at somebody else’s expense.

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In search of the truth about Trumpism

    Is Trumpism a scam? And if so, who is Donald Trump scamming?

    Or is the country confronting something even more troubling: a president unhinged from any realities that get in the way of his impulses, unmoored from any driving philosophy, and willing to make everything up as he goes along, including "alternative facts"?

    Of course, there's another possibility: that there's a method in all of this.

    In his first days, Trump has been riding policy horses that seem to be moving in quite different directions. On the one hand, he has continued to make himself out as a "populist" standing up for workers by scrapping the Trans-Pacific Partnership and bringing verbal pressure on American companies to keep or create jobs in the United States.

    On the other, he has been promising corporations the moon. He has already delivered a freeze on regulations, imposed a gag order on many federal agencies that businesses see as getting in their way (notably the Environmental Protection Agency) and promised steep tax cuts.

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For this Trump nominee, it was better to be lucky

    When I wrote about Tom Price's health-care stocks on Tuesday, I was in a state of high dudgeon. Rep. Price, R-Georgia, President Donald Trump's nominee to be secretary of Health and Human Services, has a portfolio clotted with pharmaceutical, medical device and health-care companies -- this despite sitting on an important health subcommittee and taking repeated actions aimed at helping those companies. While I doubt Price did anything illegal, he clearly acted unethically, ignoring the kind of conflicts of interest that would get most of us fired.

    The one stock I didn't dwell on was the one that's gotten the most attention: Innate Immunotherapeutics, a tiny Australian penny stock. Because it was so obscure, I wanted to do a little more digging. Which I've now done. And while Price's ownership of the stock has caused Democrats to howl -- Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden accused Price of insider trading at a confirmation hearing on Tuesday -- I came away more amused than anything else. You know what they say: Sometimes it's better to be lucky than crooked. (They do say that, don't they?)

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Shutting up is not an option

    Let me begin with a word of thanks to Stephen K. Bannon, the chief White House strategist. With a single interview, he dispelled any illusions that normal or productive relations with the media will even be possible under the Trump administration.

    True, the new president's modern predecessors in both parties all tangled with the media. And the claim that traditional news outlets are "liberal" has long been a marker of conservative faith.

    But where other chief executives saw the Fourth Estate as a legitimate institution to be dealt with (and, where possible, manipulated), Trump sees reporting purely in terms of his own power. "I want you to quote this," Bannon told The New York Times. "The media here is the opposition party."

    Bannon went further still. In his ideal world, the media would remain silent, which is pretty much its posture under autocratic regimes.

    "The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while," Bannon said.

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January 30th

The president's alarmingly erratic first week

    Week One of the Trump administration was among the most alarming in the history of the American presidency.

    There have been scarier weeks for the country, certainly -- the Cuban missile crisis and the Sept. 11 attacks. There have been more tragic ones -- the Sept. 11 attacks again, the terrible toll of wartime, the horror of four presidential assassinations.

    There have been occasions of terrible presidential judgment -- Franklin Roosevelt's order to detain Americans of Japanese descent during World War II. And there have been moments of looming constitutional crisis -- during Watergate alone, the Saturday Night Massacre, the showdown with the Supreme Court over the release of the tapes, the impeachment inquiry that resulted in Richard Nixon's resignation.

    But the first week of the Trump presidency was alarming in a different way, because the frightening part involved the president's own erratic, even bizarre, behavior.

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Five burning nuclear problems on Trump's desk

    Nuclear weapons remain the most powerful weapons on the planet and how President Donald Trump's team manages nuclear issues is critical to our security. These are hard challenges; none were perfectly addressed under President Obama's leadership. But we made them a priority from day one. Whether or not the new team puts them at the top of the to-do list, here are five issues that will demand their attention before too long.

 

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Who will suffer from a government hiring freeze? Veterans.

    On Jan. 23, in accordance with his promises to shrink the size of the government through attrition, President Trump announced a federal hiring freeze. This is red meat to his base, which has fervently argued that limited government is better, more effective government. This administration may be the first to deliver so literally on that idea, with some potential Cabinet appointees having a history of being publicly opposed to the mission of the agencies they have been selected to run, and now this across-the-board halt to all new and existing government jobs, exempting only national security, public safety and the military.

    Never mind that federal employment is at record lows. Never mind that the last two times a president froze government hiring, it actually ended up costing more money. When I heard of the plan to freeze federal hiring, however, all I could think about was how bad this decision will be for veterans.

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