Day 33: Happy Some Saint’s Day

I know, it’s St. Patrick’s Day, not just any saint but the patron saint of Ireland. It’s certainly not St. Trump’s Day, that’s for sure.

Trump’s budget proposal is the furthest thing from saintly — cutting federal funding to the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) is just one disgusting example. CDBG provides grants to the Meals on Wheels (MoW) program, which feeds the home-ridden elderly and disabled as well as kids in after-school programs. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney says MoW is “not showing any results.” No more fishes and loaves for you, sickly/old/poor people, if Congress goes along with this nonsense. I guess your desiccated, malnourished corpses are the kind of results this administration wants to see.

According to St. Patrick’s ‘Confessio‘ — an autobiography-cum-confession — he overcame kidnapping from Scotland, enslavement by the Irish, and eventually converted Irish to Catholicism. In contrast, Trump was born with a silver spoon and treated his fellow man (and some family) like crap throughout his lifetime. Definitely not saintly. And definitely not up to converting those who aren’t already his hardcore faithful adherents.

Stuff of the Irish:

Irish PM Enda Kenny visits Trump and asks for leniency for illegal Irish aliens — Let’s be frank about this issue: Trump’s probably fine with them (meaning Bannon is fine with them, too) because these aliens are probably white and Christian. Got to give it to PM Kenny, though, for this nice bit of snark:

“They say the Irish have the capacity to change everything…I just saw the president of the United States read from his script, entirely.”

Wonder if Trump was ballsy enough to go for an other conflict of interest and complain about the sea wall he wants for his Doobeg golf course resort.

British Brexit secretary David Davis says border checks between North Ireland and Ireland possible post-Brexit — He did qualify them as “light” customs checks, saying,

“There are already customs checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland because there are excise differences, but they are done in a very light way. … There would be customs checks, [but] that does not mean we demur from our position of wanting to have a very light border, no hard border.”

But wait…what do the Irish think of this?

Sinn Féin MEP tells Theresa May Brexit border checks in Ireland can go ‘where the sun don’t shine’ — And there it is. I didn’t even paraphrase that hed, that’s exactly what The Irish Post wrote. Here’s exactly what MEP Martina Anderson said:

“Theresa, your notion of a border, hard and soft, stick it where the sun doesn’t shine ‘cos you’re not putting it in Ireland.”

Ouch. No mincing words there.

Women won largest number of seats ever in North Ireland’s assembly election — Sinn Féin leads in gender parity as women represent 41% of its Member of the Legislative Assembly. Between the surge of women in NI’s National Assembly and the increased weighting of representation by Sinn Féin in both NI and Ireland’s National Parliament, the reaction toward the UK and Brexit will be quite different from expectations nine months ago.

Banks may be moving to Dublin from London because of Brexit — This report says Ireland is surprised; I don’t know why, given the amount of business conducted in English language in Dublin as compared to any other location like Paris, Brussels, or Frankfurt. Ireland has been a tax haven and a center for both insurance and technology for a couple decades, too. Perhaps Ireland ought to be more lenient toward educated illegal aliens from the U.S. if it’s looking to staff up its financial sector quickly.

Op-ed: ‘Another day, another Brexit lie exposed’ — Theresa May has only increased Irish sympathies for Scotland with her rejection of a second independence referendum, as if all the other Brexit fail wasn’t enough. Could this animus be enough to unite Ireland, but against Britain and its “Tory public schoolboys”?

That’s a wrap on this work week and Day 33 in our countdown to Tax Day. Don’t drink green beer. Just don’t.

Blogger since 2002, political activist since 2003, geek since birth. Opinions informed by mixed-race, multi-ethnic, cis-female condition, further shaped by kind friends of all persuasions. Sci-tech frenemy, wannabe artist, decent cook, determined author, successful troublemaker. Mother of invention and two excessively smart-assed young adult kids. Attended School of Hard Knocks; Rather Unfortunate Smallish Private Business School in Midwest; Affordable Mid-State Community College w/evening classes. Self-employed at Tiny Consulting Business; previously at Large-ish Chemical Company with HQ in Midwest in multiple marginalizing corporate drone roles, and at Rather Big IT Service Provider as a project manager, preceded by a motley assortment of gigs before the gig economy was a thing. Blogging experience includes a personal blog at the original blogs.salon.com, managing editor for a state-based news site, and a stint at Firedoglake before landing here at emptywheel as technology’s less-virginal-but-still-accursed Cassandra.

Day 34: Frankly, We Have a Lot Right Now

Still shaking my head over Trump’s interview with Tucker Carlson. While asked about evidence supporting Trump’s claim that President Obama wiretapped him, Trump said, “Frankly, we have a lot right now.”

Bring it, buddy. And with less bullshit because frankly, we have a lot right now.

While you’re at it, bring your tax returns as evidence you’re not violating the Emoluments Clause or in bed with Russia.

Reminder: you’ve got 34 days until we expect to see a 2016 income tax return.

Non-Tax Return Stuff:

UK’s PM Theresa May denies Indy Ref 2.0 before Brexit — When you need a break from American leadership stupidity, just take a look at May. Here’s an unforced error of hubris and hypocrisy; telling the Scots they can’t have a vote to leave the UK after the UK had a vote to leave the EU is just asking for the Scots to hold a referendum on their own. Nicola Sturgeon has already rebutted, calling May’s block “undemocratic.”

Fed Chair Yellen said, “The data have not notably strengthened” after rate hike — Between increases in energy and health costs not offset by decreases in food and apparel costs, the consumer price index rose 2.7% over the last 12 months. Private sector compensation only rose 2.2% over the same period. Consumer spending has been lackluster and businesses are not investing. The post-crash boom is petering out and nothing this administration or Congress is doing will help. A billionaire can only buy so many condos and yachts to keep the economy afloat, and workers can’t buy much on their chicken feed minimum wage at part-time jobs while they have to budget for increasing health care expenses. (I should point out here that the CPI detailed report won’t be produced after June 2017 thanks to Trump’s diktats. How convenient.)

Trump tells Michigan auto workers he’s fighting for their jobs — Sure he is. This guy is fricking clueless about manufacturing (ex: Carrier in Indiana) including the automotive industry. Detroit’s cheese is being eaten by entirely new entrants who don’t worry about emissions standards and whose mileage concerns are of an entirely different nature. After decades of Detroit’s inadequate R&D sunk into battery-powered vehicles combined with vacillating leadership on the future of fossil-fueled combustion engines, Michigan’s auto industry is now battling for market share with companies like Tesla, while Tesla is already seeing new competition emerge like Lucid Motors. Tesla and Lucid are both located in the U.S. Meanwhile, Trump’s budget plans revealed today are a shiv in Michigan’s back; why live and work here if the lakes aren’t clean, schools are underfunded, mass transit is suppressed?

Dispatcher punished in Tamir Rice case — What a bunch of crap. The officer who had the ultimate final and mortal power in Tamir Rice’s case — shooting Rice in seconds after arrival at the playground — should have been criminally prosecuted. Meanwhile, a dispatcher who never saw the victim or the scene of the shooting was suspended.

I feel awful now, after reading so much about Trump and writing about that last piece. Treat this like an open thread though I can’t look in again until I do something positive to get the Trumpish off me.

Blogger since 2002, political activist since 2003, geek since birth. Opinions informed by mixed-race, multi-ethnic, cis-female condition, further shaped by kind friends of all persuasions. Sci-tech frenemy, wannabe artist, decent cook, determined author, successful troublemaker. Mother of invention and two excessively smart-assed young adult kids. Attended School of Hard Knocks; Rather Unfortunate Smallish Private Business School in Midwest; Affordable Mid-State Community College w/evening classes. Self-employed at Tiny Consulting Business; previously at Large-ish Chemical Company with HQ in Midwest in multiple marginalizing corporate drone roles, and at Rather Big IT Service Provider as a project manager, preceded by a motley assortment of gigs before the gig economy was a thing. Blogging experience includes a personal blog at the original blogs.salon.com, managing editor for a state-based news site, and a stint at Firedoglake before landing here at emptywheel as technology’s less-virginal-but-still-accursed Cassandra.

Count Them: Thirty. Five. Days.

I’m not going to elaborate on MSNBC’s Maddow program last night, featuring David Cay Johnston to whom Donald Trump’s 2005 tax filing had been “leaked.”

It was two pages, revealing little more than adjusted income, income tax assessed, and the lack of any charitable contribution deduction.

One of the two pages was also marked CLIENT COPY.

Not going to get into the rambling statement issued by the White House before the show either, unusual from this administration only for its lack of spelling errors.

But I’m going to point to the calendar.

Today is March 15. It’s a little over a month to Tax Day when filings for 2016 income are due.

35 days until the deadline at the end of the night on April 18.

35 days until Donald Trump has yet another tax filing for which he has no excuse to share with voters and their representatives in Congress.

Non-Tax Filing Stuff:

Kushner family may get $400M from Chinese Anbang Insurance Group — This reeks, absolutely stinks. Anbang is linked to top officials in China’s government; it’s negotiating a stake in a Manhattan property owned by Kushner (read: Trump’s in-laws). There’s no end to the corruption with this administration.

Volkswagen toying with a Fiat Chrysler merger — This smells of desperation to me. Can’t imagine the largest shareholders of VW willingly giving up any control in spite of the financial damage from the company’s emissions fraud. Not to mention the whole Too-Big-Too-Fail size of this potential merger when Volkswagen Group is responsible for nearly 10% of all Germany’s jobs.

Trump may undo years of clean air by screwing with emissions standards — Speaking of emissions and fraud, Trump will be speaking in Detroit today where he is expected to propose undoing mileage standards and emissions regulations. Not only is the automotive industry finally headed in the right direction toward alternative energy after nearly two decades of R&D and implementation, but apparently the public needs to be sicker ahead of the loss of health care insurance.

Robot killed worker, spouse files suit — Horrible and sad; incident happened in 2015. Husband filed suit last week against five robotics companies he claims are responsible for the robot’s failure.

Energy Transfer Partners wants tribal plea rejected — Oil could start flowing through DAPL within the week if U.S. District Judge James Boasberg rejects Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes’ appeal based on religious grounds.

There. That should keep you busy for a while. Treat this like an open thread.

Blogger since 2002, political activist since 2003, geek since birth. Opinions informed by mixed-race, multi-ethnic, cis-female condition, further shaped by kind friends of all persuasions. Sci-tech frenemy, wannabe artist, decent cook, determined author, successful troublemaker. Mother of invention and two excessively smart-assed young adult kids. Attended School of Hard Knocks; Rather Unfortunate Smallish Private Business School in Midwest; Affordable Mid-State Community College w/evening classes. Self-employed at Tiny Consulting Business; previously at Large-ish Chemical Company with HQ in Midwest in multiple marginalizing corporate drone roles, and at Rather Big IT Service Provider as a project manager, preceded by a motley assortment of gigs before the gig economy was a thing. Blogging experience includes a personal blog at the original blogs.salon.com, managing editor for a state-based news site, and a stint at Firedoglake before landing here at emptywheel as technology’s less-virginal-but-still-accursed Cassandra.

Democrats Need to Respond to Trump’s Narrative about Solving American Disinvestment

I didn’t like it and I realize that it was packed full of hatred and lies.

But I’m among those who believes that President Trump’s speech last night (I’ve put the transcript below) was effective.

I say that for several reasons.

First, last night Trump told a narrative of disinvestment in the United States that is, significantly, true. This passage, his assessment of “the mistakes of recent decades,” is true, to a point.

For too long, we’ve watched our middle class shrink as we’ve exported our jobs and wealth to foreign countries. We’ve financed and built one global project after another, but ignored the fates of our children in the inner cities of Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit — and so many other places throughout our land. We’ve defended the borders of other nations, while leaving our own borders wide open, for anyone to cross — and for drugs to pour in at a now unprecedented rate. And we’ve spent trillions of dollars overseas, while our infrastructure at home has so badly crumbled.

We have disinvested from the US. We have spent money elsewhere rather than in the US, most notably dumping billions on wars and ineffective reconstruction of the countries we destroyed. Less visibly (and not addressed by Trump) the financialization that accompanies globalization means that money slushing through the economy ends up in different places, even while many of those places are still in the US. That reality is why, in my opinion, so many voted for Trump: because he acknowledged that the US is getting hollowed out.

And Trump offered a solution. This is where Trump got downright offensive — which I’ll come back to (because that’s where I think Democrats should respond). But he did lay out a problem and offer a solution.

I also think Trump’s speech was effective because he addressed his critics, however obliquely. He started by — finally — addressing the attacks on Jewish targets.

Recent threats targeting Jewish Community Centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a Nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.

Obviously, his claim that we condemn hate and evil is utter bullshit. But it is what people want to hear.

In the most dramatic moment of the address (which the reality show host milked thoroughly), Trump called out Ryan Owens’ widow.

We are blessed to be joined tonight by Carryn Owens, the widow of a U.S. Navy Special Operator, Senior Chief William “Ryan” Owens. Ryan died as he lived: a warrior, and a hero –- battling against terrorism and securing our Nation. I just spoke to General Mattis, who reconfirmed that, and I quote, “Ryan was a part of a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies.” Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity. For as the Bible teaches us, there is no greater act of love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Ryan laid down his life for his friends, for his country, and for our freedom –- we will never forget him. To those allies who wonder what kind of friend America will be, look no further than the heroes who wear our uniform.

Trump had been dodging responsibility for getting Owens killed. Owens’ father has demanded answers about the raid (including whether the Muslim ban made the Arab partners on the raid less interested in working with us). But at least for last night, Trump reversed that, doing what a long line of Presidents have done: paper over the waste and destruction of war by turning it instead into a narrative about heroism.

Again, I don’t like this move. I know that both yesterday and today Trump is back to dodging responsibility for that raid and future raids. I know that Mattis is probably just telling his boss what he wants to hear, not least because he’s the one who exploited Trump’s ego to get him to approve the raid. But I hope those who have a problem with Trump exploiting Carryn Owens’ grief also had a problem with Obama and Hillary exploiting the Osama bin Laden raid for five years (and I assume everyone reading this had a problem with the way Bush exploited Pat Tillman, both in life and in death), because the move is the same. It’s a move leaders have been making since ancient times, because it works to get subjects to forget about how nasty and stupid war is.

And, finally, yes, I do think Trump’s delivery made a difference. It matters that he wasn’t his normal belligerent self. The same people who’ll be satisfied that Trump denounced hate will be happy that his delivery was not that of a toddler.

As I said though, the key was that Trump offered solutions to problems, real problems. His solution was always the most xenophobic one, and was often based off made up statistics about how dangerous terrorists are (or, for that matter, how foreign they are).

Trump falsely claimed most terrorists in the US are immigrants. Both Islamic terrorists and right wing ones are Americans.

Trump falsely claimed drugs were “pouring into our country and poisoning our youth,” without mentioning that the opioid crisis started when very American companies got people addicted to painkillers.

Trump falsely suggested crime always pits cops and victims against evildoers, ignoring how often the cops are the ones victimizing communities.

But Trump did lay out the problem and offer a solution, even if the solution (and other solutions, such as health savings accounts and privately funded infrastructure) will not actually solve the problem.

That leaves Democrats several openings to respond. First, they, too, need to tell a narrative like this. This is a point Marshall Ganz made in a great interview with John Judis the other day.

You need a story about a future that can be built based on democratic values, Bernie articulated some of that. But it’s most powerful if it can be enacted locally as well as nationally. I think one of the smart things the Christian Coalition did was starting to organize locally around school boards. Because then you can take over the schools and change the text books. That was a step toward this whole national mobilization that was going to happen.

Democrats need to learn to tell a story that links shared values with plausible goals, like JFK’s Peace Corps or Man on the Moon; Bernie’s free college, universal health care and good jobs; or Trump’s wall in the South, Muslim ban and trade deals.

One thing the story needs is alternate villains. It’s not enough to say that we like immigrants. It’s partly that we need to be saying that immigrants are fundamental to what makes America great. But it’s also about blaming the real culprits: serial stupid wars (launched by both Republicans and Democrats), banksters and financialization, charter school charlatans. As it happens, those villains happen to be the people Trump has hired to run his government.

There’s also a line that I think Democrats should exploit: “And streets where mothers are safe from fear — schools where children learn in peace — and jobs where Americans prosper and grow — are not too much to ask.” Immediately on hearing it last night, I pointed out that walking through the streets is not what “mothers” (note how Trump has framed women and their issues?) fear.

They fear not being able to get their kid medical care because the co-pay is too expensive. They fear having to skip meals because they’ve run out of cash for the month. They fear cops shooting their innocent sons down in the street. They fear their kids drinking lead-poisoned water. They fear family members being rounded up and sent away.

Trump may have diagnosed the macro issue of America right, the disinvestment into America. But he — a billionaire who fears going into bankruptcy again or being publicly humiliated — didn’t diagnose the micro fears correctly.

So, yeah, Democrats need a narrative, one with solutions and villains, something that Bernie had but Hillary largely lacked.

But they also have the opportunity to show they’ve got a better understanding of what Americans actually fear — and with it, explain why their policies are actually better suited to solving those problems than Trump’s fear-ridden fixes. Far too many Democrats have been dodging these policy discussions, hoping something else will magically topple Trump (and all the Republicans who would take over if he were toppled). But Trump is making it easy, because his policies are disasters that are already having repercussions in people’s lives. Democrats just need to squarely place blame when Trump makes Americans’ lives noticeably worse, even in the short term.

The most intriguing line in Trump’s speech, in my opinion, was this one:

We just need the courage to share the dreams that fill our hearts. The bravery to express the hopes that stir our souls. And the confidence to turn those hopes and dreams to action. From now on, America will be empowered by our aspirations, not burdened by our fears –- inspired by the future, not bound by the failures of the past –-and guided by our vision, not blinded by our doubts.

Trump’s entire mobilizing strategy, of course, is not a call to courage, but instead of magnification of fears. I’ve been having a bit of fun with Trump trolls on Twitter, in fact, calling them out for being pants-wetting cowards. I note that Americans used to be less fearful. About a third of them get quiet when I point out how an obsession with pointless fears makes America weaker.

So this lie, among all the vile lies he told last night, may be his riskiest one. Because Trump can’t have Americans recognizing that he’s actually asking them to be fearful of things that don’t hurt them so they ignore the things that really are. That’s the job of Democrats: to show how Americans have more to fear from Trump than from their immigrant neighbors.


Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, the First Lady of the United States, and Citizens of America:
Tonight, as we mark the conclusion of our celebration of Black History Month, we are reminded of our Nation’s path toward civil rights and the work that still remains. Recent threats targeting Jewish Community Centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a Nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.
Each American generation passes the torch of truth, liberty and justice –- in an unbroken chain all the way down to the present.
That torch is now in our hands. And we will use it to light up the world. I am here tonight to deliver a message of unity and strength, and it is a message deeply delivered from my heart.
A new chapter of American Greatness is now beginning.
A new national pride is sweeping across our Nation.
And a new surge of optimism is placing impossible dreams firmly within our grasp.
What we are witnessing today is the Renewal of the American Spirit.
Our allies will find that America is once again ready to lead.
All the nations of the world — friend or foe — will find that America is strong, America is proud, and America is free.
In 9 years, the United States will celebrate the 250th anniversary of our founding — 250 years since the day we declared our Independence.
It will be one of the great milestones in the history of the world.
But what will America look like as we reach our 250th year? What kind of country will we leave for our children?
I will not allow the mistakes of recent decades past to define the course of our future.
For too long, we’ve watched our middle class shrink as we’ve exported our jobs and wealth to foreign countries.
We’ve financed and built one global project after another, but ignored the fates of our children in the inner cities of Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit — and so many other places throughout our land.
We’ve defended the borders of other nations, while leaving our own borders wide open, for anyone to cross — and for drugs to pour in at a now unprecedented rate.
And we’ve spent trillions of dollars overseas, while our infrastructure at home has so badly crumbled.
Then, in 2016, the earth shifted beneath our feet. The rebellion started as a quiet protest, spoken by families of all colors and creeds -– families who just wanted a fair shot for their children, and a fair hearing for their concerns.
But then the quiet voices became a loud chorus — as thousands of citizens now spoke out together, from cities small and large, all across our country.
Finally, the chorus became an earthquake – and the people turned out by the tens of millions, and they were all united by one very simple, but crucial demand, that America must put its own citizens first … because only then, can we truly MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.
Dying industries will come roaring back to life. Heroic veterans will get the care they so desperately need.
Our military will be given the resources its brave warriors so richly deserve.
Crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports and railways gleaming across our beautiful land.
Our terrible drug epidemic will slow down and ultimately, stop.
And our neglected inner cities will see a rebirth of hope, safety, and opportunity.
Above all else, we will keep our promises to the American people.
It’s been a little over a month since my inauguration, and I want to take this moment to update the Nation on the progress I’ve made in keeping those promises.
Since my election, Ford, Fiat-Chrysler, General Motors, Sprint, Softbank, Lockheed, Intel, Walmart, and many others, have announced that they will invest billions of dollars in the United States and will create tens of thousands of new American jobs.
The stock market has gained almost three trillion dollars in value since the election on November 8th, a record. We’ve saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars by bringing down the price of the fantastic new F-35 jet fighter, and will be saving billions more dollars on contracts all across our Government. We have placed a hiring freeze on non-military and non-essential Federal workers.
We have begun to drain the swamp of government corruption by imposing a 5 year ban on lobbying by executive branch officials –- and a lifetime ban on becoming lobbyists for a foreign government.
We have undertaken a historic effort to massively reduce job‑crushing regulations, creating a deregulation task force inside of every Government agency; imposing a new rule which mandates that for every 1 new regulation, 2 old regulations must be eliminated; and stopping a regulation that threatens the future and livelihoods of our great coal miners.
We have cleared the way for the construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines — thereby creating tens of thousands of jobs — and I’ve issued a new directive that new American pipelines be made with American steel.
We have withdrawn the United States from the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership.
With the help of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, we have formed a Council with our neighbors in Canada to help ensure that women entrepreneurs have access to the networks, markets and capital they need to start a business and live out their financial dreams.
To protect our citizens, I have directed the Department of Justice to form a Task Force on Reducing Violent Crime.
I have further ordered the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice, along with the Department of State and the Director of National Intelligence, to coordinate an aggressive strategy to dismantle the criminal cartels that have spread across our Nation.
We will stop the drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth — and we will expand treatment for those who have become so badly addicted.
At the same time, my Administration has answered the pleas of the American people for immigration enforcement and border security. By finally enforcing our immigration laws, we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions of dollars, and make our communities safer for everyone. We want all Americans to succeed –- but that can’t happen in an environment of lawless chaos. We must restore integrity and the rule of law to our borders.
For that reason, we will soon begin the construction of a great wall along our southern border. It will be started ahead of schedule and, when finished, it will be a very effective weapon against drugs and crime.
As we speak, we are removing gang members, drug dealers and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our citizens. Bad ones are going out as I speak tonight and as I have promised.
To any in Congress who do not believe we should enforce our laws, I would ask you this question: what would you say to the American family that loses their jobs, their income, or a loved one, because America refused to uphold its laws and defend its borders?
Our obligation is to serve, protect, and defend the citizens of the United States. We are also taking strong measures to protect our Nation from Radical Islamic Terrorism.
According to data provided by the Department of Justice, the vast majority of individuals convicted for terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 came here from outside of our country. We have seen the attacks at home -– from Boston to San Bernardino to the Pentagon and yes, even the World Trade Center.
We have seen the attacks in France, in Belgium, in Germany and all over the world.
It is not compassionate, but reckless, to allow uncontrolled entry from places where proper vetting cannot occur. Those given the high honor of admission to the United States should support this country and love its people and its values.
We cannot allow a beachhead of terrorism to form inside America — we cannot allow our Nation to become a sanctuary for extremists.
That is why my Administration has been working on improved vetting procedures, and we will shortly take new steps to keep our Nation safe — and to keep out those who would do us harm.
As promised, I directed the Department of Defense to develop a plan to demolish and destroy ISIS — a network of lawless savages that have slaughtered Muslims and Christians, and men, women, and children of all faiths and beliefs. We will work with our allies, including our friends and allies in the Muslim world, to extinguish this vile enemy from our planet.
I have also imposed new sanctions on entities and individuals who support Iran’s ballistic missile program, and reaffirmed our unbreakable alliance with the State of Israel.
Finally, I have kept my promise to appoint a Justice to the United States Supreme Court — from my list of 20 judges — who will defend our Constitution. I am honored to have Maureen Scalia with us in the gallery tonight. Her late, great husband, Antonin Scalia, will forever be a symbol of American justice. To fill his seat, we have chosen Judge Neil Gorsuch, a man of incredible skill, and deep devotion to the law. He was confirmed unanimously to the Court of Appeals, and I am asking the Senate to swiftly approve his nomination.
Tonight, as I outline the next steps we must take as a country, we must honestly acknowledge the circumstances we inherited.
Ninety-four million Americans are out of the labor force.
Over 43 million people are now living in poverty, and over 43 million Americans are on food stamps.
More than 1 in 5 people in their prime working years are not working.
We have the worst financial recovery in 65 years.
In the last 8 years, the past Administration has put on more new debt than nearly all other Presidents combined.
We’ve lost more than one-fourth of our manufacturing jobs since NAFTA was approved, and we’ve lost 60,000 factories since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.
Our trade deficit in goods with the world last year was nearly $800 billion dollars.
And overseas, we have inherited a series of tragic foreign policy disasters.
Solving these, and so many other pressing problems, will require us to work past the differences of party. It will require us to tap into the American spirit that has overcome every challenge throughout our long and storied history.
But to accomplish our goals at home and abroad, we must restart the engine of the American economy — making it easier for companies to do business in the United States, and much harder for companies to leave.
Right now, American companies are taxed at one of the highest rates anywhere in the world.
My economic team is developing historic tax reform that will reduce the tax rate on our companies so they can compete and thrive anywhere and with anyone. At the same time, we will provide massive tax relief for the middle class.
We must create a level playing field for American companies and workers.
Currently, when we ship products out of America, many other countries make us pay very high tariffs and taxes — but when foreign companies ship their products into America, we charge them almost nothing.
I just met with officials and workers from a great American company, Harley-Davidson. In fact, they proudly displayed five of their magnificent motorcycles, made in the USA, on the front lawn of the White House.
At our meeting, I asked them, how are you doing, how is business? They said that it’s good. I asked them further how they are doing with other countries, mainly international sales. They told me — without even complaining because they have been mistreated for so long that they have become used to it — that it is very hard to do business with other countries because they tax our goods at such a high rate. They said that in one case another country taxed their motorcycles at 100 percent.
They weren’t even asking for change. But I am.
I believe strongly in free trade but it also has to be FAIR TRADE.
The first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, warned that the “abandonment of the protective policy by the American Government [will] produce want and ruin among our people.”
Lincoln was right — and it is time we heeded his words. I am not going to let America and its great companies and workers, be taken advantage of anymore.
I am going to bring back millions of jobs. Protecting our workers also means reforming our system of legal immigration. The current, outdated system depresses wages for our poorest workers, and puts great pressure on taxpayers.
Nations around the world, like Canada, Australia and many others –- have a merit-based immigration system. It is a basic principle that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially. Yet, in America, we do not enforce this rule, straining the very public resources that our poorest citizens rely upon. According to the National Academy of Sciences, our current immigration system costs America’s taxpayers many billions of dollars a year.
Switching away from this current system of lower-skilled immigration, and instead adopting a merit-based system, will have many benefits: it will save countless dollars, raise workers’ wages, and help struggling families –- including immigrant families –- enter the middle class.
I believe that real and positive immigration reform is possible, as long as we focus on the following goals: to improve jobs and wages for Americans, to strengthen our nation’s security, and to restore respect for our laws.
If we are guided by the well-being of American citizens then I believe Republicans and Democrats can work together to achieve an outcome that has eluded our country for decades.
Another Republican President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, initiated the last truly great national infrastructure program –- the building of the interstate highway system. The time has come for a new program of national rebuilding.
America has spent approximately six trillion dollars in the Middle East, all this while our infrastructure at home is crumbling. With this six trillion dollars we could have rebuilt our country –- twice. And maybe even three times if we had people who had the ability to negotiate.
To launch our national rebuilding, I will be asking the Congress to approve legislation that produces a $1 trillion investment in the infrastructure of the United States — financed through both public and private capital –- creating millions of new jobs.
This effort will be guided by two core principles: Buy American, and Hire American.
Tonight, I am also calling on this Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare with reforms that expand choice, increase access, lower costs, and at the same time, provide better Healthcare.
Mandating every American to buy government-approved health insurance was never the right solution for America. The way to make health insurance available to everyone is to lower the cost of health insurance, and that is what we will do.
Obamacare premiums nationwide have increased by double and triple digits. As an example, Arizona went up 116 percent last year alone. Governor Matt Bevin of Kentucky just said Obamacare is failing in his State — it is unsustainable and collapsing.
One third of counties have only one insurer on the exchanges –- leaving many Americans with no choice at all.
Remember when you were told that you could keep your doctor, and keep your plan?
We now know that all of those promises have been broken.
Obamacare is collapsing –- and we must act decisively to protect all Americans. Action is not a choice –- it is a necessity.
So I am calling on all Democrats and Republicans in the Congress to work with us to save Americans from this imploding Obamacare disaster.
Here are the principles that should guide the Congress as we move to create a better healthcare system for all Americans:
First, we should ensure that Americans with pre-existing conditions have access to coverage, and that we have a stable transition for Americans currently enrolled in the healthcare exchanges.
Secondly, we should help Americans purchase their own coverage, through the use of tax credits and expanded Health Savings Accounts –- but it must be the plan they want, not the plan forced on them by the Government.
Thirdly, we should give our great State Governors the resources and flexibility they need with Medicaid to make sure no one is left out.
Fourthly, we should implement legal reforms that protect patients and doctors from unnecessary costs that drive up the price of insurance – and work to bring down the artificially high price of drugs and bring them down immediately.
Finally, the time has come to give Americans the freedom to purchase health insurance across State lines –- creating a truly competitive national marketplace that will bring cost way down and provide far better care.
Everything that is broken in our country can be fixed. Every problem can be solved. And every hurting family can find healing, and hope.
Our citizens deserve this, and so much more –- so why not join forces to finally get it done? On this and so many other things, Democrats and Republicans should get together and unite for the good of our country, and for the good of the American people.
My administration wants to work with members in both parties to make childcare accessible and affordable, to help ensure new parents have paid family leave, to invest in women’s health, and to promote clean air and clear water, and to rebuild our military and our infrastructure.
True love for our people requires us to find common ground, to advance the common good, and to cooperate on behalf of every American child who deserves a brighter future.
An incredible young woman is with us this evening who should serve as an inspiration to us all.
Today is Rare Disease day, and joining us in the gallery is a Rare Disease Survivor, Megan Crowley. Megan was diagnosed with Pompe Disease, a rare and serious illness, when she was 15 months old. She was not expected to live past 5.
On receiving this news, Megan’s dad, John, fought with everything he had to save the life of his precious child. He founded a company to look for a cure, and helped develop the drug that saved Megan’s life. Today she is 20 years old — and a sophomore at Notre Dame.
Megan’s story is about the unbounded power of a father’s love for a daughter.
But our slow and burdensome approval process at the Food and Drug Administration keeps too many advances, like the one that saved Megan’s life, from reaching those in need.
If we slash the restraints, not just at the FDA but across our Government, then we will be blessed with far more miracles like Megan.
In fact, our children will grow up in a Nation of miracles.
But to achieve this future, we must enrich the mind –- and the souls –- of every American child.
Education is the civil rights issue of our time.
I am calling upon Members of both parties to pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth, including millions of African-American and Latino children. These families should be free to choose the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school that is right for them.
Joining us tonight in the gallery is a remarkable woman, Denisha Merriweather. As a young girl, Denisha struggled in school and failed third grade twice. But then she was able to enroll in a private center for learning, with the help of a tax credit scholarship program. Today, she is the first in her family to graduate, not just from high school, but from college. Later this year she will get her masters degree in social work.
We want all children to be able to break the cycle of poverty just like Denisha.
But to break the cycle of poverty, we must also break the cycle of violence.
The murder rate in 2015 experienced its largest single-year increase in nearly half a century.
In Chicago, more than 4,000 people were shot last year alone –- and the murder rate so far this year has been even higher.
This is not acceptable in our society.
Every American child should be able to grow up in a safe community, to attend a great school, and to have access to a high-paying job.
But to create this future, we must work with –- not against -– the men and women of law enforcement.
We must build bridges of cooperation and trust –- not drive the wedge of disunity and division.
Police and sheriffs are members of our community. They are friends and neighbors, they are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters – and they leave behind loved ones every day who worry whether or not they’ll come home safe and sound.
We must support the incredible men and women of law enforcement.
And we must support the victims of crime.
I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to serve American Victims. The office is called VOICE –- Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement. We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by special interests.
Joining us in the audience tonight are four very brave Americans whose government failed them.
Their names are Jamiel Shaw, Susan Oliver, Jenna Oliver, and Jessica Davis.
Jamiel’s 17-year-old son was viciously murdered by an illegal immigrant gang member, who had just been released from prison. Jamiel Shaw Jr. was an incredible young man, with unlimited potential who was getting ready to go to college where he would have excelled as a great quarterback. But he never got the chance. His father, who is in the audience tonight, has become a good friend of mine.
Also with us are Susan Oliver and Jessica Davis. Their husbands –- Deputy Sheriff Danny Oliver and Detective Michael Davis –- were slain in the line of duty in California. They were pillars of their community. These brave men were viciously gunned down by an illegal immigrant with a criminal record and two prior deportations.
Sitting with Susan is her daughter, Jenna. Jenna: I want you to know that your father was a hero, and that tonight you have the love of an entire country supporting you and praying for you.
To Jamiel, Jenna, Susan and Jessica: I want you to know –- we will never stop fighting for justice. Your loved ones will never be forgotten, we will always honor their memory.
Finally, to keep America Safe we must provide the men and women of the United States military with the tools they need to prevent war and –- if they must –- to fight and to win.
I am sending the Congress a budget that rebuilds the military, eliminates the Defense sequester, and calls for one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history.
My budget will also increase funding for our veterans.
Our veterans have delivered for this Nation –- and now we must deliver for them.
The challenges we face as a Nation are great. But our people are even greater.
And none are greater or braver than those who fight for America in uniform.
We are blessed to be joined tonight by Carryn Owens, the widow of a U.S. Navy Special Operator, Senior Chief William “Ryan” Owens. Ryan died as he lived: a warrior, and a hero –- battling against terrorism and securing our Nation.
I just spoke to General Mattis, who reconfirmed that, and I quote, “Ryan was a part of a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies.” Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity. For as the Bible teaches us, there is no greater act of love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Ryan laid down his life for his friends, for his country, and for our freedom –- we will never forget him.
To those allies who wonder what kind of friend America will be, look no further than the heroes who wear our uniform.
Our foreign policy calls for a direct, robust and meaningful engagement with the world. It is American leadership based on vital security interests that we share with our allies across the globe.
We strongly support NATO, an alliance forged through the bonds of two World Wars that dethroned fascism, and a Cold War that defeated communism.
But our partners must meet their financial obligations.
And now, based on our very strong and frank discussions, they are beginning to do just that.
We expect our partners, whether in NATO, in the Middle East, or the Pacific –- to take a direct and meaningful role in both strategic and military operations, and pay their fair share of the cost.
We will respect historic institutions, but we will also respect the sovereign rights of nations.
Free nations are the best vehicle for expressing the will of the people –- and America respects the right of all nations to chart their own path. My job is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the United States of America. But we know that America is better off, when there is less conflict — not more.
We must learn from the mistakes of the past –- we have seen the war and destruction that have raged across our world.
The only long-term solution for these humanitarian disasters is to create the conditions where displaced persons can safely return home and begin the long process of rebuilding.
America is willing to find new friends, and to forge new partnerships, where shared interests align. We want harmony and stability, not war and conflict.
We want peace, wherever peace can be found. America is friends today with former enemies. Some of our closest allies, decades ago, fought on the opposite side of these World Wars. This history should give us all faith in the possibilities for a better world.
Hopefully, the 250th year for America will see a world that is more peaceful, more just and more free.
On our 100th anniversary, in 1876, citizens from across our Nation came to Philadelphia to celebrate America’s centennial. At that celebration, the country’s builders and artists and inventors showed off their creations.
Alexander Graham Bell displayed his telephone for the first time.
Remington unveiled the first typewriter. An early attempt was made at electric light.
Thomas Edison showed an automatic telegraph and an electric pen.
Imagine the wonders our country could know in America’s 250th year.
Think of the marvels we can achieve if we simply set free the dreams of our people.
Cures to illnesses that have always plagued us are not too much to hope.
American footprints on distant worlds are not too big a dream.
Millions lifted from welfare to work is not too much to expect.
And streets where mothers are safe from fear — schools where children learn in peace — and jobs where Americans prosper and grow — are not too much to ask.
When we have all of this, we will have made America greater than ever before. For all Americans.
This is our vision. This is our mission.
But we can only get there together.
We are one people, with one destiny.
We all bleed the same blood.
We all salute the same flag.
And we are all made by the same God.
And when we fulfill this vision; when we celebrate our 250 years of glorious freedom, we will look back on tonight as when this new chapter of American Greatness began.
The time for small thinking is over. The time for trivial fights is behind us.
We just need the courage to share the dreams that fill our hearts.
The bravery to express the hopes that stir our souls.
And the confidence to turn those hopes and dreams to action.
From now on, America will be empowered by our aspirations, not burdened by our fears –-
inspired by the future, not bound by the failures of the past –-
and guided by our vision, not blinded by our doubts.
I am asking all citizens to embrace this Renewal of the American Spirit. I am asking all members of Congress to join me in dreaming big, and bold and daring things for our country. And I am asking everyone watching tonight to seize this moment and —
Believe in yourselves.
Believe in your future.
And believe, once more, in America.
Thank you, God bless you, and God Bless these United States.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

Stephen Miller’s and Trump’s Gross Re-Politicization of DOJ

There was some legitimate concern about inappropriate machination of the Department of Justice when Trump named and confirmed Jeff Sessions as his Attorney General. Typical discussion followed this by Isaac Arnsdorf at Politico:

Donald Trump suggested on the campaign trail that he could use the Justice Department to fulfill his political agenda, taunting Hillary Clinton by threatening to throw her in jail over her email scandal.

Now, Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s pick for attorney general, will have to decide whether to follow his predecessors by vowing to not let politics drive the DOJ’s decision-making.

That was one, and a serious, level of concern. Today we find said concern not close to being deep enough as to how the Trump White House would try to run Justice as merely a lever of their extreme politics.

But, via the New York Daily News, comes a little noticed, and truly frightening report of just how renegade and ridiculous the “fine tuned machine” the Trump White House is determined to be in politicizing the DOJ. In an article captioned “Stephen Miller called Brooklyn U.S. Attorney at home and told him how to defend travel ban in court”, comes the stunning news that:

In the chaotic hours after President Trump signed on a Friday afternoon the sloppily written executive order meant to fulfill his Muslim ban campaign promise, Stephen Miller called the home of Robert Capers to dictate to the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District how he should defend that order at a Saturday emergency federal court hearing.

That’s according to a federal law enforcement official with knowledge of the call, which happened as Department of Justice attorneys cancelled plans, found babysitters and rushed back to their Brooklyn office to try and find out what exactly it was they were defending and who was being affected by it — how many people were already being held in America, how many were being barred from arriving here and the exact status of each person.

The full article at the NYDN is mandatory reading, but let that sink in for a second. 31 year old Stephen Miller, a wet behind the ears extreme right wing ideologue with white nationalist leanings and NO, repeat NO legal training, much less law degree, called up a United States Attorney – at home! – to “dictate” how the DOJ would operate in an emergency litigation situation in an United States District Court.

Stunning is too weak of a response. Shocking is insufficient. It is actually hard to know what the proper words for this are.

I asked Matthew A. Miller, former OPA head under the Obama DOJ for a thought on the implications of Stephen Miller’s hubris in this instance. His reply was:

The last time a White House started dictating demands to U.S. attorneys, the sitting Attorney General had to resign in disgrace. This raises yet another in a series of questions about whether the Sessions Justice Department will be independent from the Trump White House.

Exactly. I would have said “unprecedented” above along with “stunning” and “shocking”, but for what occurred during a period of the Bush/Cheney regime when the interaction and control of the DOJ from the White House was extreme. And, ultimately, blown up as beyond unacceptable and appropriate by more reasoned minds and authorities. And, I might add, substantially due to the Fourth Estate of the press, that Trump blithely and ignorantly describes as “enemies of the American people”.

Yes, it is really that important of a moment now with Stephen Miller (note: NO relation to Matthew A. Miller) and the extreme hubris and lack of institutional awareness, competence or control, and obvious disdain for any, by the Trump Administration.

Back in 2007 Senator Sheldon Whitehouse created, and displayed at a Senate hearing, a stunning graphic displaying the shocking difference between communication between the Clinton White House and DOJ, and the ridiculous political input that the Bush Cheney White House had to DOJ.

With the grossly inappropriate statements of President Donald Trump as to how “he” will direct prosecutions of political enemies and other criminal and military defendants, leakers and others, to the literally insane conduct of Stephen Miller here, it is time to remember Senator Whitehouse’s chart.

It is also time to wonder if Sheldon Whitehouse and other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have the cojones to take the fight for the Constitution and integrity of the justice system once again to a renegade White House. And the Trump White House has quickly made the Bush/Cheney White house look better in the rear view mirror, as truly craven as they were.

And, yes, the situation is exactly that dire if you recall the same Stephen Miller, being sent out and directed to all the Sunday political shows to declare and mandate that:

“…our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.”

This is straight up an Article II Branch declaration of pure tyranny by Stephen Miller and Trump. This is a serious problem, and this is an Administration making good on its promise and determination in that regard.

Bmaz is a rather large saguaro cactus in the Southwestern Sonoran desert. A lover of the Constitution, law, family, sports, food and spirits. As you might imagine, a bit prickly occasionally. Bmaz has attended all three state universities in Arizona, with both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Arizona State University, and with significant post-graduate work (in physics and organic chemistry, go figure) at both the University of Colorado in Boulder and the University of Arizona. Married, with both a lovely child and a giant Sasquatch dog. Bmaz has been a participant on the internet since the early 2000’s, including active participation in the precursor to Emptywheel, The Next Hurrah. Formally joined the Emptywheel blog as an original contributing member at its founding in 2007. Bmaz grew up around politics, education, sports and, most significantly, cars; notably around Formula One racing and Concours de Elegance automobile restoration and showing. Currently lives in the Cactus Patch with his lovely wife and beast of a dog, and practices both criminal and civil trial law.

Nevertheless, She Persisted

One of the most disgusting events recorded in U.S. Senate history occurred last night while Senate Democrats held the floor to debate Jeff Sessions’ nomination as U.S. Attorney General.

Senate Leader Mitch McConnell used a gag rule to stop Elizabeth Warren from reading Coretta Scott King’s 1986 letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee about Jeff Sessions’ efforts to suppress African American voters and his fitness to serve as a federal judge.

This is breathtakingly offensive.

A Senator denied a First Amendment right, unable to participate in speech and debate in their role on behalf of constituents.

The suppression of an historic written statement by an historic figure, presented decades ago to the Senate.

A woman Senator prevented from speaking as part of a governmental body whose composition is 79% men.

The quashing of fact regarding a cabinet nominee’s racist behavior as a former member of law enforcement, germane to their unsuitability as U.S. Attorney General.

And most horrifically, the use of a gag rule circa 1836, instituted by white supremacist members of Congress who prevented abolitionists from speaking about ending slavery.

The Party of Lincoln is dead. It is a zombie animated by hatred, intent on hurting any who pose a threat to its continued grasp on power. It doesn’t take seriously its oath of office, instead resurrecting archaic nonsense to deprive the people of their rights while encouraging corruption.

In summoning Rule XIX and cementing his wretchedness into Senate record, McConnell said about Warren, “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

She will, indeed, persist, Senator McConnell. She and millions of Americans will persist in their rejection of white supremacy and fascism which relies on it. You have generously offered a rallying cry for our resistance.

And when your body finally relinquishes the venal energy which moves it daily, know that whatever memorial is mounted for you will be visited for the next hundred years by women and minorities who’ll paste it with mementos which read, “Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Blogger since 2002, political activist since 2003, geek since birth. Opinions informed by mixed-race, multi-ethnic, cis-female condition, further shaped by kind friends of all persuasions. Sci-tech frenemy, wannabe artist, decent cook, determined author, successful troublemaker. Mother of invention and two excessively smart-assed young adult kids. Attended School of Hard Knocks; Rather Unfortunate Smallish Private Business School in Midwest; Affordable Mid-State Community College w/evening classes. Self-employed at Tiny Consulting Business; previously at Large-ish Chemical Company with HQ in Midwest in multiple marginalizing corporate drone roles, and at Rather Big IT Service Provider as a project manager, preceded by a motley assortment of gigs before the gig economy was a thing. Blogging experience includes a personal blog at the original blogs.salon.com, managing editor for a state-based news site, and a stint at Firedoglake before landing here at emptywheel as technology’s less-virginal-but-still-accursed Cassandra.

The Sickening Decay of Lamar Alexander

Lamar Alexander is a small-town boy from Maryville, TN, near Knoxville*, the son of a preschool teacher and a high school principle. He was a fine pianist, and athlete, and high school class president. He went to Vanderbilt, where he compiled a great record, went to law school, and clerked for Judge Minor Wisdom at the Fifth Circuit. He became involved in national politics, serving under Bryce Harlow in the Nixon White House, and as a staffer for Senator Howard Baker. He was also active in Tennessee politics, where he was campaign manager for the first Republican governor in 50 years. Alexander was elected governor in 1978, succeeding Ray Blanton. Blanton didn’t run, probably because he was suspected of issuing pardons for bribes and of selling state liquor licenses, both of which turned out to be true. At that time, I was working in the Tennessee Attorney General’s office, and I vividly remember discussions about an early swearing-in to prevent Blanton from further crimes, as well as some arguably funny stories about the sale of liquor licenses.

His Commissioner of Commerce and Insurance was John Neff, a decent and highly competent man as were all of Alexander’s appointees. In mid-1980 Neff hired me to be his Assistant Commissioner for Securities, a post I held for three and a half years. That gave me the opportunity to see up close that Alexander was a decent governor. He never once interfered in any of the decisions I made as Commissioner, either in prosecuting or in rule-making. He never interfered with my hiring decisions, though he presumably knew directly or indirectly that I was a Democrat. Among positive things, he was an education reformer. I didn’t agree with all his ideas, but there was no doubt of his personal dedication to improving the education system in Tennessee, and his willingness to spend political capital and work with Democrats to achieve his goals.

After two terms as governor, Alexander was appointed President of the University of Tennessee, where he did a decent if vanilla job. He left that position to become Secretary of Education under the first Bush. There was a hint of weirdness: Alexander overruled an advisory committee and approved the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools as an accrediting organization. The group had been denied that status under Reagan, probably because it was formed to accredit colleges that taught creation science. The group is still accredited, having been reapproved in 2013**.

Alexander’s career was buoyed up by a number of Tennessee businessmen and friends, including Jack Massey (KFC), Ted Welch (real estate), Tom Beasley (Corrections Corporation of America), and Chris Whittle. Welch was a major Republican fundraiser. These connections nourished Alexander’s political career, and while in the private sector, he became fairly wealthy. Envious people might raise questions about the arrangements that led to his wealth, but this was and is common, and more or less acceptable for politicians not named Clinton. He was an unsuccessful candidate for president in 1996 and 2000, and was elected to the Senate in 2002, both times running as a moderate Republican.

Alexander was a member of Westminster Presbyterian Church, a PCUSA church in Nashville, where I was a member of the choir for over 20 years. The choir processed in and out on Sunday morning, and I saw him often with his wife, Honey. The preacher was K. C. Ptomey, a brilliant man and a wonderful preacher. His command of Presbyterian and Christian history and dogma was amazing, and I learned a great deal from listening to him Sunday after Sunday, and at least one Sunday School class he led that didn’t conflict with choir practice. As a young man in the early 60s, K.C. was involved in efforts to open the Presbyterian Church to African-Americans. You could not hear a sermon without realizing that K.C. was a good person.

Massey, Welch and Ptomey are dead now. Alexander is wealthy and probably won’t run again, given his age and the rise of Trumpism in Tennessee. He isn’t beholden to anyone, and is free to follow his conscience. He certainly knows that Trump is ignorant and a bully, and he’s smart enough to suspect that Trump is mentally unstable. He certainly knows about the White Nationalist Steve Bannon and the rest of the Dr. Strangelove characters and witless nepotists in the White House. He doesn’t have to kiss Trump’s ring, but he does: he’s carrying the nomination of Betsy DeVos forward, and promises to “repair” (the Frank Luntz rebrand word) Obamacare.

To me Alexander represented the classic Republican realist/moderate, and I assume that was the kind of man his mentors and wealthy donors supported. I have no idea what they would think of Trump or of the man Alexander has become. I imagine his parents would be appalled by his support of Betsy DeVos.

But I feel certain that K.C. would be ashamed of Lamar Alexander, and deeply depressed that he puts party over country, rejecting the principles, the ethics and the ideals K.C. lived and taught. It makes me sad too.

==========
* Some of this history is based on personal knowledge, and some is from this Wikipedia entry.

** Full disclosure: when I was with the State AG, I handled two cases for the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, which was in charge of policing colleges, both involving religious schools. I was successful in the case that went to trial, and the other school made arrangements to be accredited by an agency acceptable to THEC.

Notre Dame undergrad (math); JD, Indiana University at Bloomington; 1st Lieutenant, US Army.; private practice in corporate and securities law; Assistant AG in Tennessee for consumer protection and securities; Blue Sky Securities Commissioner, Tennessee; private practice, bankruptcy and corporate law.

I have had a lifelong interest in economics. For most of my career, that interest was practical, focused on the problems in front of me. Lately I have been more interested in economics as a theory, especially its impact on the lives of people like those I met in my bankruptcy practice, and on the politics of money in the US. I also enjoy reading philosophers, starting in college and steadily expanding my reading ever since. I wrote at FireDogLake for a number of years.

Generally, I think the problem facing the US is the dominance of neoliberal discourse. I think it clouds the vision, and limits the kinds of problems that can be identified and solved. For example, the existence and danger of climate change can easily be identified in a scientific discussion. However, the problem does not fit the neoliberal discourse because science insists that the pursuit of individual and corporate self-interest will lead to devastation. In neoliberal discourse, the pursuit of self-interest always leads to Eden.

The neoliberal project has two prongs. One is the police function of crushing dissent and alternative views. The police function is provided by government agencies and private and institutional actors. The counterpart is the economic system , which is operated by government and by private and institutional actors. Some of these actors operate in both spheres. I focus on the second prong.

Donald Trump, Making Canada Great Again!

It hasn’t taken long for tech companies to react strongly against President Trump’s assault on one of their key advantages: international labor. Tech companies are dumping money into pro-immigrant funds, and challenging legal cases, even while advising their foreign-national employees to stay put in case Trump does something else rash with immigration laws.

The WSJ has a piece that suggests Canada will benefit from this, as tech companies locate their foreign national employees there to avoid dealing with Trump’s capricious immigration actions.

[P]ast issues with U.S. immigration laws pushed Microsoft to open a satellite office in Vancouver in 2007, explicitly as a place for engineers it wanted to hire but couldn’t get into the U.S. In 2009, Bill Gates held up Microsoft’s Canada office as an example of how limits on the number of H-1B visas in the U.S. threatened America’s pre-eminence in tech.

A spokesman for Microsoft says that, while immigration laws haven’t been a primary driver of the company’s investment in Canada, they’ve certainly been a contributing factor.

Microsoft is hardly alone—Apple, Google, Facebook,Cisco and dozens of other large U.S. tech companies have established offices in Canada for the same reason they build them all over the world: Tech talent is so valuable that when companies aren’t able to get it to come to them, the companies will go to the talent.

Admittedly, this is, thus far, corporate posturing, an attempt to fearmonger back at Trump.

But it is posturing I’d love to see a lot more of. I have said repeatedly that, in addition to all the other responses to Trump’s attack on immigrants, Tim Cook or — even better — Sergey Brin should make a very public real estate shopping trip to Ireland.

As the spouse of an Irishman, I’m admittedly biased (even while I recognize the tech companies are only in Ireland because, in addition to being English speaking, it is also a tax haven). I wouldn’t mind seeing Ireland benefit if the US had to lose.

But threatening to move key facilities, or even headquarters, to Ireland would have another benefit, even over threatening Canada. Because it is in and undoubtedly will remain in the EU, location in Ireland would serve as a lily pad that would make compliance with EU data protection laws far easier (though the tech companies would have to get better at protecting their users’ data, which would also be welcome).

More importantly, unlike Canada, Ireland is not part of the Five Eyes data sharing agreement. If the tech companies were to move outside of the Five Eyes — and therefore outside the realm where US spies can access the content of much of the world with a few keystrokes — it would undercut the power that Trump will almost assuredly abuse.

It may take more to cause tech companies to really respond: they’ll surely be happy with Trump’s assault on regulations. But they do have leverage over Trump that is meaningful.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

Ask Uncle Ed

Dear Uncle Ed,

I feel very, very badly for the people who are very scared for their way of life. From what I’m understanding, [Trump is] only really wanting illegal immigrants that have committed crimes to be deported, which I agree with. I feel bad for the lesbian and gay and transsexual community that fear for their way of life. From what I understand, he says he’s not going to mess with that.

Somebody called me a racist because I did vote for Trump. Hold on, you don’t know me. Doesn’t that make you a racist by calling me a racist when you don’t know me? I’m looking for a brighter future for me and my children, and honestly I felt l like our country was kind of at risk if we did elect Hillary.**

Signed, K.H. in AL

Dear K.H.

Uncle Ed is glad to see you acknowledge that lots of people are likely to be harmed by the election of Trump. As to immigrants, you are right to be careful in stating Trump’s position, because he has several. As to his position on the LGBT community, again, you may be quite right. Who knows?

But you seem to think the only issue is what Trump thinks. That’s just not true. Trump was elected as a Republican, and now the federal government is controlled by Republicans. As a group, they have repeatedly promised to get rid of immigrants, as did Trump mostly, and have relentlessly opposed decent treatment of immigrants who live here and their children born here or brought here. They support laws and rules treating the LGBT community as second class citizens.

You didn’t mention the risks facing African-Americans, who are already mistreated by the police, and treated unequally in education, safety and hiring. Trump calls himself the “law and order” candidate, which is Republican-speak for even more aggressive policing and mistreatment of Black communities.

You are offended that someone called you a racist. Uncle Ed is glad you don’t want to be thought of as a racist. But, here’s the thing. Your vote empowered known racists like Steven Bannon, Trump’s campaign manager and now a policy adviser in the White House. The Republican party will do its best to hurt immigrants, the LGBT community, and people whose religion or lack of religion they don’t approve, not to mention Blacks and Latinos.

Uncle Ed doesn’t know what’s in your heart. Uncle Ed doesn’t care. Uncle Ed cares about how you act. If you vote for a racist, if your vote emposers racists, then there is no functional difference between you and the most rabid KKK member in terms of the political outcomes for the outgroups. You are operationally a racist.

The most that can be said is that you are willing to accept racism if it makes your life better. That’s how you defend your vote. You claim just you want a brighter future for yourself and your children. As you put it: “…our country was kind of at risk if we did elect Hillary.” Again, what makes you different from self-acknowledged racists?

What about all the other minorities who will be harmed directly by installing racists in the White House and racism in Congress? You are willing to sacrifice all of them and their children. You are willing to deny them their claims to equal dignity and equal rights in whole or in part.

Equal dignity and equal rights are a crucial part of what it means to be an American. The Declaration of Independence says that all of us are entitled to equal dignity. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution says that all of us have equal rights under law. Those ideas, however imperfectly we have lived up to it, are the heart of our democracy.

Now, thanks in part to you, we are governed by a party that flatly doesn’t believe in that kind of equality. They are perfectly willing to ignore some or all the rights and interests of vast numbers of Americans. the LGBT community, women, Muslims, and who knows, maybe even white male coastal elites like Uncle Ed. They don’t think we are real Americans. They expect those despised groups to follow all their laws, to respect their politicians, and to pay taxes, but they do not intend to treat us equally in rights or dignity.

You violated a core American principle. It was thoughtless of you to act this way. Uncle Ed wishes you hadn’t. Calling you a racist seems like a mild reproof when you consider the likely consequences for millions of your fellow citizens. Uncle Ed hopes you continue to think about people other than yourself in the future, and refuse to vote for any politician whose first principle is to deny any of us our rights as Americans to equal dignity, and to be treated equally by our government.

¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬+++++++++++
* This is perhaps the first of an occasional series. I’ve been trying to figure out how to respond directly to the stated reasons people give to explain their vote for Trump. It’s mostly a way for me to justify my own position. I’ve been debating whether to post this, but today I saw the movie HIdden Figures, which helped me make up my mind.

Lefties, liberals, coastal elites, all of us are constantly told we need to understand and sympathize with the concerns of Trump voters. Trump voters are never told they must work to understand and sympathize with people who voted for the Democrat. In fact, Trump voters are told that liberals are their enemies, that we hate them and want to hurt them. Of course, they don’t read my posts, and I know I won’t ever persuade anyone that they made a terrible mistake. But I do wish they were forced to think about why those they believe are The Other might be so angry.

** This is quoted from this New York Times article.

Notre Dame undergrad (math); JD, Indiana University at Bloomington; 1st Lieutenant, US Army.; private practice in corporate and securities law; Assistant AG in Tennessee for consumer protection and securities; Blue Sky Securities Commissioner, Tennessee; private practice, bankruptcy and corporate law.

I have had a lifelong interest in economics. For most of my career, that interest was practical, focused on the problems in front of me. Lately I have been more interested in economics as a theory, especially its impact on the lives of people like those I met in my bankruptcy practice, and on the politics of money in the US. I also enjoy reading philosophers, starting in college and steadily expanding my reading ever since. I wrote at FireDogLake for a number of years.

Generally, I think the problem facing the US is the dominance of neoliberal discourse. I think it clouds the vision, and limits the kinds of problems that can be identified and solved. For example, the existence and danger of climate change can easily be identified in a scientific discussion. However, the problem does not fit the neoliberal discourse because science insists that the pursuit of individual and corporate self-interest will lead to devastation. In neoliberal discourse, the pursuit of self-interest always leads to Eden.

The neoliberal project has two prongs. One is the police function of crushing dissent and alternative views. The police function is provided by government agencies and private and institutional actors. The counterpart is the economic system , which is operated by government and by private and institutional actors. Some of these actors operate in both spheres. I focus on the second prong.

The Hashtag DrainTheSwamp and the Structure of Trump’s Power

I’ve been a bit of a Debbie Downer on the Twitters of late, because I’ve been nagging people about anti-Trump humor.

It started weeks ago, shortly after Trump called the press into Trump Tower and scolded them for what he argued was unfair coverage during the campaign. He complained, especially, about a photo NBC had used emphasizing his double chin.

He also complained about photos of himself that NBC used that he found unflattering, the source said.

Trump turned to NBC News President Deborah Turness at one point, the source said, and told her the network won’t run a nice picture of him, instead choosing “this picture of me,” as he made a face with a double chin. Turness replied that they had a “very nice” picture of him on their website at the moment.

That led to a slew of people spending hours tweeting around memes of the photo.

screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-8-20-19-am

I responded by asking what the theory of change behind it was. How would tweeting an unflattering photo of Trump help Democrats move towards winning back power? How would it prevent Trump from pushing us into fascism?

Given how humor works, it probably would have the opposite effect. Humor functions to create a community — those who find something funny, because they know the cultural references and find the upending of them to be amusing, are on the inside; those who don’t find something funny are on the outside. Trump’s supporters back him because he’s their vehicle to punish the snobs who call them “deplorable.” Indeed, even a Hillary campaign staffer believes the use of the term “deplorable” is when Hillary lost the race.

Every time those snobs laugh at Trump, it reinforces the reason why supporters (some portion of whom are Obama-to-Trump voters) support him. Because they’re tired of elites laughing at them, especially elites with a long history of catastrophic failures.

The same dynamic happened with the fun many had with Trump’s misspelling, in a rash tweet attacking China for taking our “research” drone, of “unprecedented” as “unpresidented.”

I get that the neologism is actually quite hysterical, a totally apt label for Trump, one I suspect will stick for good reason. But especially in a venue where Trump voters will interact, to make fun of Trump for doing something very human is, in my opinion, pretty counterproductive. Again, lots of people derive a sense of resentment from others making fun of them for speaking funny or improperly; Trump channeled that resentment in part because he speaks more like they do, gaffes and all. The counterproductivity of making fun of the spelling is all the more true given that the substance of the tweet was actually fairly important.

So I’ve been trying to refrain (with admittedly varying degrees of success) from mocking Trump on Twitter. Calling out his hypocrisies? Sure. Mocking certain Trump surrogates? Why not? But reinforcing the sense of resentment that is the primary engine of Trump’s power? Counterproductive.

There are two exceptions of note however. The first is reminding people that Hillary won the popular vote. As it is, 52% of Republicans believe Trump won the popular vote. To the extent it will help, disabusing them of the notion that they, Trump supporters, are a majority in this country is an important step to undercutting his claim he has a mandate (and to undercutting the sense, among doubters, that many many others don’t feel the same way).

A more important one, though, is the hashtag DrainTheSwamp. Because it is such a popular hashtag, using it guarantees that a significant number of Trump supporters will see the hashtag, even weeks after the campaign. Eliminating the “rigged” system of Washington is something they care significantly about. And it’s something that Trump’s voters showed the earliest remorse about over their choice, most notably when a woman Steven Mnuchin had foreclosed on got named Treasury Secretary.

When Donald Trump named his Treasury secretary, Teena Colebrook felt her heart sink.

She had voted for the president-elect on the belief that he would knock the moneyed elites from their perch in Washington. And she knew Trump’s pick for Treasury — Steven Mnuchin — all too well.

OneWest, a bank formerly owned by a group of investors headed by Mnuchin, had foreclosed on her Los Angeles-area home in the aftermath of the Great Recession, stripping her of the two units she rented as a primary source of income.

“I just wish that I had not voted,” said Colebrook, 59. “I have no faith in our government anymore at all. They all promise you the world at the end of a stick and take it away once they get in.”

I’ve seen similar responses after a number of Trump’s other appointments.

In other words, using the DrainTheSwamp hashtag to highlight the many ways Trump is reneging on his promises is actually a fairly direct way to communicate directly with Trump voters in terms they’re habituated to. It works especially well if you use words about Trump reneging on his promises.

It looks like I’m not the only one who thinks this way. Trump now wants the hashtag discontinued. In fact, he never liked it — he just used it (and released a policy on it) to rile up the crowd.

Donald Trump fired up campaign crowds with a promise to “drain the swamp” of Washington corruption. But former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says the president-elect has soured on that populist rallying cry now that he has won the White House.

“I’m told he now just disclaims that. He now says it was cute, but he doesn’t want to use it anymore,” Gingrich, one of Trump’s most high-profile boosters, told NPR in an interview broadcast on Wednesday.

“I’d written what I thought was a very cute tweet about ‘the alligators are complaining’… and somebody [from Trump’s team] wrote back and said they were tired of hearing this stuff,” said the former lawmaker, whose conduct in the late 1990s earned him a historic bipartisan reprimand.

Trump himself had alluded to mixed feelings about the slogan during a Dec. 8 rally in Des Moines, Iowa, part of his triumphant postelection “Thank You” tour.

“Funny how that term caught on, isn’t it?” he said. “I hated it. Somebody said ‘drain the swamp.’ I said, ‘Oh, that’s so hokey. That is so terrible.’ I said, ‘All right, I’ll try it.’ So, like, a month ago I said, ‘Drain the swamp.’ The place went crazy. I said, ‘Whoa, watch this.’ Then I said again. Then I started saying it like I meant it, right? And then I said it, I started loving it.”

This, it seems, is a key insight. About the only incitement Trump is now trying to tamp down among his mob is the DrainTheSwamp hashtag. Of course! That’s because he’s done nothing so much as gild the swamp, much less drain it.

On no other issue is it so clear that Trump has already left his voters in the lurch. Especially in advance of big fights over billionaire nominees, making that more clear seems one of the easiest ways to undercut Trump’s power.

Update, 12/22: Oh my.

Trump just tweeted that he has not ditched the DrainTheSwamp hashtag, but does so without actually using the hashtag.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.