Archive

February 17th, 2017

US Muslims' defense: The Constitution

    Two weeks ago, Sarah Cochran awoke to an inbox full of panicked emails.

    The night before, Reuters had reported that President Donald Trump would soon sign an executive order blocking visas for citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East and Africa. The move, an expression of the "Muslim ban" that Trump touted during his campaign, marooned Muslims legally working or studying in the United States and threatens to divide families who have relatives in their home countries.

    Cochran is director of the Virginia chapter of Emerge USA, an organization founded in 2006 to help Muslims get involved in local politics across five states. It's one of many organizations that American Muslims created in the aftermath of 9/11 to protect and advocate for their embattled community. That very morning, she was already set to travel to Richmond to meet with state lawmakers to communicate the concerns of Muslim Virginians.

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Things might work out if Trump borrows from Abe

    I have occasionally been accused of metaphorically hugging Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, but so far I've never had the chance to do so in literal terms. Not so Donald Trump, who gave a brotherly hug to the Japanese leader at a meeting at the White House on Friday. But I hope that in addition to hugging the man, Trump embraces Abe's approach to governing. In the past four years, Abe has created a template for a responsible, positive modern nationalism.

    When Abe was elected at the end of September 2012, many on the Japanese left and in the foreign press denounced him as a dangerous right-wing nationalist. His grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, served in the militarist Japanese government during World War II. He has worked to loosen the country's postwar restrictions on its military, and his appointees have included Nanjing Massacre denialists. For these reasons, the "Abe is Hitler" memes flew fast and furious in his administration's early days.

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Under Trump's plan, Mexico won't end up paying for the wall. You will.

    Last week, Donald Trump signed an executive order directing construction of the border wall between the United States and Mexico, one of his signature campaign promises. After President Trump restated his claim that Mexico would pay for the wall, President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico promptly canceled a planned meeting with Trump for the following week. The next day, White House press secretary Sean Spicer announced a plan that the wall would be funded through placing a 20 percent import tax on all imports from Mexico.

    What exactly is an import tax and who pays it?

    An import tax is a tax levied by the federal government on foreign goods shipped to the United States for sale in the United States. The tax is typically collected at customs upon entry. The importer pays the tax and passes some of that cost on to consumers by raising the sales price of the good.

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Ignorance Is Strength

    When I travel to Asia, I’m fairly often met at the airport by someone holding a sign reading “Mr. Paul.” Why? In much of Asia, names are given family first, personal second — at home, the prime minister of Japan is referred to as Abe Shinzo. And the mistake is completely forgivable when it’s made by a taxi driver picking up a professor.

    It’s not so forgivable, however, if the president of the United States makes the same mistake when welcoming the leader of one of our most important economic and security partners. But there it was: Donald Trump referring to Abe as, yes, Prime Minister Shinzo.

    Abe did not, as far as we know, respond by calling his host President Donald.

    Trivial? Well, it would be if it were an isolated instance. But it isn’t. What we’ve seen instead over the past three weeks is an awesome display of raw ignorance on every front. Worse, there’s no hint that either the White House or its allies in Congress see this as a problem. They appear to believe that expertise, or even basic familiarity with a subject, is for wimps; ignorance is strength.

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Trump is misusing crime statistics to scare us

    President Donald Trump wants the federal government to start publishing weekly lists of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. An executive order on "Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States" that Trump signed last month calls for the reports, which would also identify "sanctuary jurisdictions," cities and counties where local law enforcement authorities don't report immigration status violations to the federal government.

    But from my own work building a national database of crimes by police officers, I've learned that collecting and distributing reliable stats in real time may be much harder than Trump thinks. Especially for an administration that seems to have little regard for facts, good data or scientific integrity.

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February 16th

The health-care debate we're missing

    With the debate about the Affordable Care Act drawing so much scrutiny, a broader Republican agenda to fundamentally change the federal role in health care is flying under the radar. It's the most important issue in health care we are not debating.

    Many Republicans in Congress want to convert Medicaid to a block-grant program and transform Medicare from a plan that guarantees care into one in which seniors would receive a set amount of money to purchase coverage. Meanwhile, Republicans would replace existing subsidies for premiums under the ACA with less generous tax credits - all while eliminating the expansion of Medicaid that enables states to cover low-income childless adults.

    Taken together, these changes would amount to a fundamental rewriting of the health-care role of the federal government. They would end the entitlement nature of Medicaid and Medicare, cap future increases in federal health spending for these programs and shift much more of the risk for health costs in the future to states and consumers.

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Staying true to yourself in the age of Trump: A how-to guide for federal employees

    Less than three weeks into the administration of President Donald Trump, resistance from inside the U.S. government is growing. About a thousand State Department employees have signed an unusual "dissent cable" expressing their opposition to the president's executive order placing a temporary ban on immigrants and refugees from seven majority-Muslim countries. After the White House ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to cease advertising and outreach related to the Affordable Care Act, former agency workers and the law's supporters pushed back, prompting the ban to be lifted in less than 24 hours. Still other federal workers have created social media accounts to leak information about new policies and directives from Trump's political appointees. Nearly 200 civil servants signed up to attend a recent workshop to discuss legal rights and ways to challenge unethical or unconstitutional policies.

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Rising rage against Trump lifts Democrats' funk, a little

    The Democrats are perking up. The depression that suffused the party a month ago is diminishing, with a sense of a rejuvenated grass roots.

    This psychological revival is being driven by President Donald Trump's pronouncements, policies, appointments and avalanche of lies, all of which are remarkably divisive. It's all emboldened Washington Democrats to oppose Trump at every turn, engaged progressive groups around the country and aroused hope for midterm congressional victories in the 2018 election.

    Maybe. Turning anger into political success will require Democrats to figure out how to parlay the passions of the anti-Trump left-wing base without turning off swing voters, including some of the working-class Democrats who abandoned Hillary Clinton last November.

    With the developments of the last month, said Fred Yang, a top Democratic pollster, "we have lots of opportunities." He added: "There has been an organic outpouring. The challenge now is to sustain it and channel it into voting." He sees parallels to the tea party activists and Republicans in the years before 2016.

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Putting 'America First' isn't the problem. President Trump's version of it is.

    Many Americans were outraged when President Donald Trump put the United States and Russia on the same moral plane last weekend; he told Bill O'Reilly that Vladimir Putin may be a "killer," but "there are a lot of killers. You think our country's so innocent?" Condemnation rippled across op-ed pages and social media. But Trump was just following the logic of the "America first" credo he outlined in his inaugural address and during the campaign: We will not sit in judgment of other nations, because they are doing what it takes to put their own interests first, just as we should. At their core, in relations with one another, all nations are the same.

    It is vital to sort out precisely what so many of us are upset about. Trump was not saying anything that left-wing critics of American foreign policy have not been arguing for decades - that before we criticize, sanction and indeed invade other nations, we would do well to remember our own sins: the coups, murders, civilian deaths, destruction and destabilization that we have often wrought in other countries.

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Living in fear as a refugee in the U.S. is terrible for your health

    For the past few weeks, the young man's heart has been racing. His hands are sweaty. During the day, he has flashbacks of the world he fled in El Salvador: gang members chasing him, threatening murder. Nightmares of the same scenes disturb his sleep. He's not a patient in my psychiatric practice. Just another young guy studying for his high school equivalency diploma at the Latin American Youth Center in Washington. Like the 4,000 other kids taking classes there, he's been worrying as he watches what the center's chief executive, Lori Kaplan, calls "the big reality show . . . on cable news - and the tweets."

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