Trump, Week 44: Friday, 17 November – Thursday, 23 November 2017 (Days 302-308)

 

 

Photo by Robert DelTredici

 

Keeping Track (of some things), Staying Outraged (it is possible), and Resisting (it’s essential)

Passages in bold in the body of the texts below are my emphasis. This is an ongoing project, and I update the site frequently. Because I try to stay focused on what has actually happened, I usually let the news ‘settle’ a day or so before posting. I hope readers will peruse the articles in full for a better understanding of the issues and their context; our democracy and our future depend on citizens who can distinguish between facts and falsehoods and who are engaged in the political process.

 

Friday, 17 November 2017, Day 302:

 

This remarkable, angry exchange between Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) over who would benefit from the Senate’s version of the tax bill unmasks the Republicans’ tax-cut lies, The Washington Post, Greg Sargent, Friday, 17 November 2017: “Late last night, just before the Finance Committee passed the Senate’s version of the tax bill slashing taxes on corporations and the rich, a remarkable moment unfolded that perfectly captured the GOP’s whole handling of the tax debate — in all its dishonesty, misdirection and bottomless bad faith. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) engaged in extended sparring with committee chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) over who would benefit from the Senate bill, with Brown insisting that it fundamentally represents a tax cut for the rich and not the middle class. This drew an enraged response from Hatch, even though Brown’s argument was 100 percent correct.”

For Now, Trump to Keep Ban on Importing Elephant Trophies, The New York Times, Emily Cochrane, Friday, 17 November 2017: “President Trump on Friday reversed the government’s decision to start allowing hunters to import trophies of elephants that were killed in two African countries, pending a further review. His evening Twitter message reversed a decision by his own administration over Zimbabwe that was announced this week and promoted as recently as Friday afternoon by the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. ‘Put big game trophy decision on hold until such time as I review all conservation facts,’ Mr. Trump tweeted. ‘Under study for years. Will update soon with Secretary Zinke. Thank you!’ Ryan Zinke, the interior secretary, said in a statement later Friday night that the decision applied to two African countries, though it did not name them.”

In Mocking Franken Over Claims of Sexual Misconduct, Trump Joins a Debate He Started, The New York Times, Peter Baker, 17 November 2017: “Last fall, Donald J. Trump inadvertently touched off a national conversation about sexual harassment when a recording of him boasting about groping women was made public at the same time a succession of women came forward to assert that groping was something he did more than talk about. A year later, after a wave of harassment claims against powerful men in entertainment, politics, the arts and the news media, the discussion has come full circle with President Trump criticizing the latest politician exposed for sexual misconduct even as he continues to deny any of the accusations against him. In this case, Mr. Trump focused his Twitter-fueled mockery on a Democratic senator while largely avoiding a similar condemnation of a Republican Senate candidate facing far more allegations. The turn in the political dialogue threatened to transform a moment of cleansing debate about sexual harassment into another weapon in the war between the political parties, led by the president himself…. But the notion that Mr. Trump himself would weigh in given his own history of crude talk about women and the multiple allegations against him surprised many in Washington who thought he could not surprise them anymore. A typical politician with Mr. Trump’s history would stay far away from discussing someone else’s behavior lest it dredge his own back into the spotlight. But as Mr. Trump has shown repeatedly during his 10-month presidency, he is rarely deterred by conventional political wisdom even as he leaves it to his staff to fend off the cries of hypocrisy.”

Continue reading Week 44, Friday, 17 November – Thursday, 23 November 2017 (Days 302-308)

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The Uncounted: U.S.-Led Airstrikes Against ISIS Are Killing Far More Iraqi Civilians Than Previously Believed

Azmat Khan and Anand Gopal, The Uncounted: U.S.-Led Airstrikes Against ISIS Are Killing Far More Iraqi Civilians Than Previously Believed. The New York Times Magazine, 16 November 2017. “In the effort to expel ISIS from Iraq and Syria, the coalition has conducted more than 27,500 strikes to date, deploying everything from Vietnam-era B-52 bombers to modern Predator drones. That overwhelming air power has made it possible for local ground troops to overcome heavy resistance and retake cities throughout the region. ‘U.S. and coalition forces work very hard to be precise in airstrikes,’ Maj. Shane Huff, a spokesman for the Central Command, told us, and as a result ‘are conducting one of the most precise air campaigns in military history.’… American military planners go to great lengths to distinguish today’s precision strikes from the air raids of earlier wars, which were carried out with little or no regard for civilian casualties. They describe a target-selection process grounded in meticulously gathered intelligence, technological wizardry, carefully designed bureaucratic hurdles and extraordinary restraint…. The coalition usually announces an airstrike within a few days of its completion. It also publishes a monthly report assessing allegations of civilian casualties. Those it deems credible are generally explained as unavoidable accidents — a civilian vehicle drives into the target area moments after a bomb is dropped, for example. The coalition reports that since August 2014, it has killed tens of thousands of ISIS fighters and, according to our tally of its monthly summaries, 466 civilians in Iraq…. Estimates from Airwars and other nongovernmental organizations suggest that the civilian death toll is much higher, but the coalition disputes such figures, arguing that they are based not on specific intelligence but local news reports and testimony gathered from afar. When the coalition notes a mission irregularity or receives an allegation, it conducts its own inquiry and publishes a sentence-long analysis of its findings. But no one knows how many Iraqis have simply gone uncounted. Our own reporting, conducted over 18 months, shows that the air war has been significantly less precise than the coalition claims. Between April 2016 and June 2017, we visited the sites of nearly 150 airstrikes across northern Iraq, not long after ISIS was evicted from them. We toured the wreckage; we interviewed hundreds of witnesses, survivors, family members, intelligence informants and local officials; we photographed bomb fragments, scoured local news sources, identified ISIS targets in the vicinity and mapped the destruction through satellite imagery. We also visited the American air base in Qatar where the coalition directs the air campaign. There, we were given access to the main operations floor and interviewed senior commanders, intelligence officials, legal advisers and civilian-casualty assessment experts. We provided their analysts with the coordinates and date ranges of every airstrike — 103 in all — in three ISIS-controlled areas and examined their responses. The result is the first systematic, ground-based sample of airstrikes in Iraq since this latest military action began in 2014. We found that one in five of the coalition strikes we identified resulted in civilian death, a rate more than 31 times that acknowledged by the coalition. It is at such a distance from official claims that, in terms of civilian deaths, this may be the least transparent war in recent American history. Our reporting, moreover, revealed a consistent failure by the coalition to investigate claims properly or to keep records that make it possible to investigate the claims at all. While some of the civilian deaths we documented were a result of proximity to a legitimate ISIS target, many others appear to be the result simply of flawed or outdated intelligence that conflated civilians with combatants. In this system, Iraqis are considered guilty until proved innocent. Those who survive the strikes, people like Basim Razzo, remain marked as possible ISIS sympathizers, with no discernible path to clear their names.”

Trump, Week 43: Friday, 10 November – Thursday, 16 November 2017 (Days 295-301)

 

Photo by Robert DelTredici

 

Keeping Track (of some things), Staying Outraged (it is possible), and Resisting (it’s essential)

Passages in bold in the body of the texts below are my emphasis. This is an ongoing project, and I update the site frequently. Because I try to stay focused on what has actually happened, I usually let the news ‘settle’ a day or so before posting. I hope readers will peruse the articles in full for a better understanding of the issues and their context; our democracy and our future depend on citizens who can distinguish between facts and falsehoods and who are engaged in the political process.

 

Friday, 10 November 2017, Day 295:

 

Special Counsel Robert Mueller Probes Former White House National Security Adviser Mike Flynn’s Role in Alleged Plan to Deliver Muslim Cleric Fethullah Gulen to the Turkish Government, The Wall Street Journal, James V. Grimaldi, Shane Harris, and Aruna Viswanatha, Friday, 10 November 2017: “Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating former White House national security adviser Mike Flynn’s alleged role in a plan to forcibly remove a Muslim cleric living in the U.S. and deliver him to Turkey in return for millions of dollars, according to people familiar with the investigation. Under the alleged proposal, Mr. Flynn and his son, Michael Flynn Jr., were to be paid as much as $15 million for delivering Fethullah Gulen to the Turkish government, according to people with knowledge of discussions Mr. Flynn had with Turkish representatives. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has pressed the U.S. to extradite him, views the cleric as a political enemy. Federal Bureau of Investigation agents have asked at least four individuals about a meeting in mid-December at the ‘21’ Club in New York City, where Mr. Flynn and representatives of the Turkish government discussed removing Mr. Gulen, according to people with knowledge of the FBI’s inquiries. The discussions allegedly involved the possibility of transporting Mr. Gulen on a private jet to the Turkish prison island of Imrali, according to one of the people who has spoken to the FBI. The Wall Street Journal previously reported on efforts by Turkish officials to get Mr. Gulen to Turkey without going through the U.S. extradition legal process, an effort that included an earlier meeting with Mr. Flynn in September 2016. The investigation is being handled by Mr. Mueller as part of his probe of Trump campaign advisers and Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to those familiar with the investigation.”

Republicans Try to Block Roy Moore’s Path as Senate Republican Candidate Denies Sexual Misconduct, The New York Times, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, Friday, 10 November 2017: “Senate Republicans scrambled on Friday to find a way to block Roy S. Moore’s path to the Senate, exploring extraordinary measures to rid themselves of their own nominee in Alabama after accusations emerged that he had made sexual advances on four teenage girls when he was in his 30s. Mr. Moore, meanwhile, remained defiant, insisting in a radio interview with Sean Hannity that he would stay in the race. He told Mr. Hannity, the Fox News host, who has endorsed Mr. Moore’s candidacy, that he “never had any contact” with Leigh Corfman, the woman who told The Washington Post that Mr. Moore touched her sexually when she was 14, though he did not deny dating some teenagers. ‘I have never known this woman, or anything,’ said Mr. Moore, who described the accusations as ‘politically motivated.’ Republican senators and their advisers, in a flurry of phone calls, emails and text messages, discussed fielding a write-in candidate, pushing Alabama’s governor to delay the Dec. 12 special election or even not seating Mr. Moore at all should he be elected. In an interview, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, declined to say whether he would agree to seat Mr. Moore should he win. Mr. McConnell deferred a question about a possible write-in campaign by Senator Luther Strange, the current occupant of the seat, to Mr. Strange. The Senate Republican campaign arm, which Mr. McConnell effectively oversees, withdrew Friday from a joint fund-raising agreement with Mr. Moore’s campaign. And Senators Mike Lee of Utah and Steve Daines of Montana rescinded their endorsements of the candidate.” See also, Roy Moore’s Republican Opponents Chased Rumors About ‘Women Issues’ for Years, but Could Never Nail Them Down, The Intercept, Jonathan Lee Krohn and Ryan Grim, Friday, 10 November 2017: “Republican strategists in Alabama have for years heard rumors that Roy Moore had ‘women issues’ — a euphemism for sexual misconduct used in the politics business — according to four sources who ran various campaigns against Moore, but they were never able to get definitive proof. ‘There’s been a rumor for a while,’ said David Mowery, an independent political consultant who first heard the allegations in his role as campaign manager for Bob Vance, Moore’s opponent in a 2012 race for chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. ‘But I don’t know if anyone knew the extent of it, if you know what I mean,’ Mowery added.  Moore is the Republican candidate in a December special election for a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama…. One Republican strategist who declined to be named said Moore’s problematic history with women was common knowledge in political circles, but the specifics — that he preyed on and molested a 14-year-old girl, as the Washington Post reported on Thursday — were unknown until this week. Part of the problem with chasing the story, the strategist added, is that rumors attach to so many men in power. ‘He’s got women issues going way back,’ the strategist said he was told. ‘I feel like you hear that about everybody.'” See also, Alabama state official invokes the Bible and Joseph and Mary to defend Roy Moore, CNN, Miranda Green, Friday, 10 November 2017: “An Alabama state official is citing the Bible to defend GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore against sexual assault allegations on a 14-year-old girl decades ago. Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler, a Republican, dismissed the charges brought forth in a Washington Post article about Moore Thursday, telling The Washington Examiner that the relationship would be akin to that of Joseph and Mary. ‘Take the Bible: Zachariah and Elizabeth for instance,’ Zeigler said. ‘Zachariah was extremely old to marry Elizabeth and they became the parents of John the Baptist. Also take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus. There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual.’ In the Bible, Jesus is conceived through the Holy Spirit, not sexual relations between Mary and Joseph. The Post report said Moore allegedly initiated the sexual encounter with a 14-year-old teenager in the late 1970s. Three other women also told The Post that Moore pursued them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18 and he was in his early 30s. None of those three women told the Post that Moore sexually harassed, or assaulted them, or forced them into a relationship. Alabama’s legal age of consent is 16.” See also, Trump casts doubt on allegations against Roy Moore, leaving Republicans an impossible choice, The Washington Post, Aaron Blake, Friday, 10 November 2017: “A day after Senate Republicans tried to buy some time amid the allegation that Alabama’s GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore had initiated sexual contact with a 14-year-old when he was 32, the last two GOP presidential nominees pulled them in opposite directions. While President Trump cast increasing doubt on the accusations, Mitt Romney issued a strong statement that puts pressure on other Republicans to denounce Moore. In a written statement delivered by press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump joined in the Senate GOP’s he-should-drop-out-if-it’s-true chorus, but also noticeably upped the doubt factor as to whether the accusations are true. ‘Like most Americans, the president believes that we cannot allow a mere allegation — in this case, one from many years ago — to destroy a person’s life,’ Sanders said. ‘However, the president also believes that if these allegations are true, Judge Moore will do the right thing and step aside.’ Two parts of that stand out: The words ‘mere allegation’ and ‘one from many years ago.’ Up front — and unlike the reactions from Senate Republicans — Trump decided he would like to stress that these accusations might not be true. This is perhaps understandable and to be expected from another politician who has been accused of sexual misconduct and strenuously denied it.” See also, Roy Moore’s shaky defense of the sexual misconduct allegations against him, annotated, The Washington Post, Amber Phillips and Eugene Scott, Friday, 10 November 2017. See also, How low will the Republican party sink? The Washington Post, Editorial Board, Friday, 10 November 2017: “In 1979, Roy Moore, then a 32-year-old assistant district attorney in Alabama, allegedly brought a 14-year-old girl to his home alone. She told The Post that Mr. Moore served her alcoholic drinks, kissed her and undressed her. Mr. Moore reportedly pursued relationships with three other teenagers between 16 and 18 during that same time period. Such predatory behavior is appalling from any quarter — particularly from a government official with great power in his community. It is especially egregious in a candidate for federal office. Yet Republican officials have yet to denounce the alleged conduct of Mr. Moore, the GOP’s nominee for senator from Alabama, as clearly beyond the pale. The four women who spoke to The Post all described similar behavior from Mr. Moore, who flattered the teenagers before asking them out on dates or taking them to his house. Only one woman, Leigh Corfman, remembered the candidate as having initiated sexual contact beyond kissing. Ms. Corfman was 14 at the time, below Alabama’s age of consent at 16 — meaning Mr. Moore’s alleged actions would have broken state law. Mr. Moore’s campaign declares that ‘this garbage is the very definition of fake news.’ ‘Innocent until proven guilty is for criminal convictions, not elections,’ former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney wrote, demanding that Mr. Moore withdraw from the race. ‘I believe Leigh Corfman.’ Unfortunately, other members of Mr. Romney’s party lack this moral clarity. With some exceptions — including Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), who likewise called for Mr. Moore to step aside — Republicans in Washington have hedged their condemnations. ‘If true, [the allegations] would disqualify anyone from serving in office,’ a statement from Vice President Pence’s office announced. ‘If these allegations are true, he must step aside,’ Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared.”

Will the Republican Party Fail Another Roy Moore Test? The New Yorker, Amy Davidson Sorkin, Friday, 10 November 2017: “The report, in the Washington Post, that Roy Moore, the Alabama Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate, engaged in predatory behavior with teen-age girls when he was in his thirties, poses a test for Republicans, but it would be farcical to say that it is the first difficult problem that he has posed for them. Roy Moore tests have been administered regularly, and with few exceptions the G.O.P.’s leaders have failed them spectacularly. On October 26th, for example, Senator Jeff Flake, of Arizona, said that he could not endorse Moore because ‘a guy who says a Muslim member of Congress shouldn’t be able to serve—that’s not right.’ This is, indeed, something that Moore said, in 2006, in an opinion piece for WorldNetDaily, in which he argued that Representative Keith Ellison, a Democrat from Minnesota, should not be seated; when questioned about it in October, he said that the article was an accurate expression of his views. But, two days before Flake’s remarks, the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee had entered into a joint fund-raising agreement with Moore, one of a number of ways that the institutional Party has put its weight behind his campaign. (On Friday afternoon, the N.S.R.C. withdrew.) Neither Flake’s warning nor a speech that he gave on the Senate floor pointing out that Moore, who talks a good deal about religious freedom, was trampling on that tradition caused anyone in the Republican leadership to budge. This was true even though, in the Alabama primary, the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, had endorsed Moore’s opponent Luther Strange. But Moore’s victory seemed to wash all that away. The Majority Whip, Senator John Cornyn, of Texas, endorsed him, and so did Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. Others dodged questions about him. One of the only other Republican senators to join Flake—who is, perhaps not incidentally, retiring after this term—in openly refusing to endorse Moore was Ben Sasse, of Nebraska, who said, ‘The Constitution is pretty dang clear about not having a religious litmus test.’ What litmus tests does the Republican Party have these days? Islamophobia evidently wasn’t enough to end its support of Moore, but neither, apparently, were his imprecations that homosexuality should be criminally punished and that the Supreme Court’s marriage-equality ruling was worse than the Dred Scott decision; or his record of being twice removed from the Alabama bench for defying, and ordering other judges to defy, federal courts, once regarding a Ten Commandments monument outside his courthouse, and once for his attempt to deny marriage equality to Alabama couples; or that the foundation he formed has hosted ‘Secession Day’ events; or his brandishing of a gun on a stage at a political rally; or his comments about the Bible superseding American law; or his belief in birtherism—though that one, actually, loops back to Islamophobia, and to President Trump. The President, who first backed Strange, later said that Moore ‘sounds like a really great guy.’ If all that really weren’t enough, the Republican Party now has the alleged abuse of teen-age girls to consider.”

 

Continue reading Week 43, Friday, 10 November – Thursday, 16 November 2017 (Days 295-301)

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Trump, Week 42: Friday, 3 November – Thursday, 9 November 2017 (Days 288-294)

 

Keeping Track (of some things), Staying Outraged (it is possible), and Resisting (it’s essential)

 

Passages in bold in the body of the texts below are my emphasis. This is an ongoing project, and I update the site frequently. Because I try to stay focused on what has actually happened, I usually let the news ‘settle’ a day or so before posting. I hope readers will peruse the articles in full for a better understanding of the issues and their context; our democracy and our future depend on citizens who can distinguish between facts and falsehoods and who are engaged in the political process.

 

Friday, 3 November 2017, Day 288:

 

‘Very Frustrated’ Trump Becomes Top Critic of Law Enforcement and Says Justice Department and F.B.I. Must ‘Do What Is Right’ and Investigate Democrats, The New York Times, Peter Baker, Friday, 3 November 2017: “One of President Trump’s biggest disappointments in office, by his own account, was discovering that he is not supposed to personally direct law enforcement decisions by the Justice Department and the F.B.I. So, instead, he has made himself into perhaps the most vocal critic of America’s system of justice ever to occupy the Oval Office. Just this week, he denounced the criminal justice system as ‘a joke’ and ‘a laughingstock.’ He demanded that the suspect in the New York terrorist attack be executed. He spent Friday berating the Justice Department and F.B.I. for not investigating his political opponents. He then turned to the military justice system and called a court-martial decision ‘a complete and total disgrace.’ The repeated assaults on law enforcement cross lines that presidents have largely observed since the Watergate era, raising questions about the separation of politics and the law. But as extraordinary as Mr. Trump’s broadsides are, perhaps more striking is that investigators and prosecutors are so far ignoring the head of the executive branch in which they serve while military judges and juries are for the most part disregarding the opinions of their commander in chief. ‘You know, the saddest thing is that because I’m the president of the United States, I am not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department,’ Mr. Trump said in a radio interview on Thursday on the ‘Larry O’Connor Show.’ ‘I am not supposed to be involved with the F.B.I. I’m not supposed to be doing the kind of things that I would love to be doing. And I’m very frustrated by it.’ That frustration has been fueled particularly by Mr. Trump’s inability to control the special counsel investigation into whether his campaign coordinated with Russia during last year’s election, an investigation that unveiled its first criminal charges this week against Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman and two other advisers. Mr. Trump has made clear that he sees the attorney general and the F.B.I. director as his personal agents rather than independent figures, lashing out at both for not protecting him from the Russia investigation.” See also, Trump pressures Justice Department to investigate ‘Crooked Hillary,’ The Washington Post, Philip Rucker, Friday, 3 November 2017: “President Trump on Friday pressured the Department of Justice — and specifically the FBI — to investigate Hillary Clinton, ticking through a slew of issues involving the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee and her party, and urging law enforcement to ‘do what is right and proper.’ Trump’s advocacy for criminal probe of his political opponent marked a significant breach of the traditional boundaries within the executive branch designed to prevent investigations from being politicized.”

Commercial Real Estate, Which Fueled Trump’s Fortune, Fares Well in Tax Plan, The New York Times, Alan Rappeport, Friday, 3 November 2017: “An industry familiar to President Trump appears to have emerged from the Republican tax rewrite relatively unscathed: commercial real estate. For months, commercial real estate developers had been concerned that the tax plan in the works would make it more difficult or expensive for them to take out huge bank loans or would damage demand in the property market. But if the plan unveiled this week by House Republicans comes to pass, developers like Mr. Trump, who made much of his fortune building skyscrapers, hotels and resorts, will have little to worry about. ‘The industry was left whole,’ said Thomas J. Bisacquino, president of NAIOP, a commercial real estate development trade group. ‘The provisions we feel are working will still work.'”

13 Federal Agencies Unveiled an Exhaustive Scientific Report That Says Humans Are the Dominant Cause of Climate Change, Contradicting Top Officials in the Trump Administration, The New York Times, Lisa Friedman and Glenn Thrush, Friday, 3 November 2017: “Directly contradicting much of the Trump administration’s position on climate change, 13 federal agencies unveiled an exhaustive scientific report on Friday that says humans are the dominant cause of the global temperature rise that has created the warmest period in the history of civilization. Over the past 115 years global average temperatures have increased 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, leading to record-breaking weather events and temperature extremes, the report says. The global, long-term warming trend is ‘unambiguous,’ it says, and there is ‘no convincing alternative explanation’ that anything other than humans — the cars we drive, the power plants we operate, the forests we destroy — are to blame. The report was approved for release by the White House, but the findings come as the Trump administration is defending its climate change policies. The United Nations convenes its annual climate change conference next week in Bonn, Germany, and the American delegation is expected to face harsh criticism over President Trump’s decision to walk away from the 195-nation Paris climate accord and top administration officials’ stated doubts about the causes and impacts of a warming planet. ‘This report has some very powerful, hard-hitting statements that are totally at odds with senior administration folks and at odds with their policies,’ said Philip B. Duffy, president of the Woods Hole Research Center. ‘It begs the question, where are members of the administration getting their information from? They’re obviously not getting it from their own scientists.’ While there were pockets of resistance to the report in the Trump administration, according to climate scientists involved in drafting the report, there was little appetite for a knockdown fight over climate change among Mr. Trump’s top advisers, who are intensely focused on passing a tax reform bill — an effort they think could determine the fate of his presidency.” See also, What the Climate Report Says About the Impact of Global Warming, The New York Times, Henry Fountain and Bard Plumer, Friday, 3 November 2017: “The same, only worse. Global warming is affecting the United States more than ever, and the impacts — on communities, regions, infrastructure and sectors of the economy — are expected to increase. That’s the gist of Volume II of the National Climate Assessment, a draft report made public on Friday that focuses on the current and future impacts of climate change. The draft will eventually accompany a report on the science of climate change that was unveiled by 13 federal agencies in its final form on the same day. In addition to comments by members of the public, Volume II is being reviewed by an expert committee of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. After revisions by the agencies involved it is expected to be published in December 2018. Like the scientific report, the draft of Volume II contains many of the same findings cited in the previous National Climate Assessment, published in 2014. But reflecting some of the impacts that have been felt across the country in the past three years, some of the emphasis has changed.” See also, Trump administration releases scientific report finding ‘no convincing alternative explanation’ for climate change, The Washington Post, Chris Mooney, Juliet Eilperin, and Brady Dennis, Friday, 3 November 2017.

 

Continue reading Week 42, Friday, 3 November – Thursday, 9 November 2017 (Days 288-294)

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Trump, Week 41: Friday, 27 October – Thursday, 2 November 2017 (Days 281-287)

 

Photo by Robert Del Tredici

 

Passages in bold in the body of the texts below are my emphasis. This is an ongoing project, and I update the site frequently. Because I try to stay focused on what has actually happened, I usually let the news ‘settle’ a day or so before posting. I hope readers will peruse the articles in full for a better understanding of the issues and their context; our democracy and our future depend on citizens who can distinguish between facts and falsehoods and who are engaged in the political process.

 

Friday, 27 October 2017, Day 201:

 

Trump says sexual harassment claims against him are ‘fake news,’ but there are corroborators, The Washington Post, Glenn Kessler, Friday, 27 October 2017: “16 women have accused Trump of sexually harassing them. While the president dismisses this as ‘fake news,’ the problem for the White House is that some of these women have produced witnesses who say they heard about the incident at the time — long before Trump made his political aspirations known. Such contemporaneous accounts are essential to establishing the credibility of the allegation because they reduce the chances that a person is making up a story for political purposes. In the case of sexual allegations, such accounts can help bolster the credibility of the ‘she said’ side of the equation. Often, a sexual assault will happen behind closed doors. The contemporary corroborators can explain what they heard at the time and whether the story being told now is consistent with how the story was told years earlier. This does not necessarily mean the allegation is true, but it does give journalistic organizations more confidence to report on the allegation.” See also, Why Harvey Weinstein is disgraced but Donald Trump is president, Vox, Anna North and Ezra Klein, published (and included in this daily chronicle) on Thursday, 26 October 2017.

The first charges are filed in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, CNN, Pamela Brown, Evan Perez, and Shimon Prokupecz, Friday, 27 October 2017: “A federal grand jury in Washington on Friday approved the first charges in the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller, according to sources briefed on the matter. The charges are still sealed under orders from a federal judge. Plans were prepared Friday for anyone charged to be taken into custody as soon as Monday, the sources said. It is unclear what the charges are…. Mueller was appointed in May to lead the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Under the regulations governing special counsel investigations, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has oversight over the Russia investigation, would have been made aware of any charges before they were taken before the grand jury for approval, according to people familiar with the matter.” See also, Special Counsel Robert Mueller Sends a Message: He’s Deadly Serious, The New Yorker, John Cassidy, published on Saturday, 28 October 2017: “On Friday night, CNN reported that a grand jury in Washington, D.C., has approved the first charges arising from the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign and the Russian government. Citing ‘sources briefed on the matter,’ the network said that a judge had ordered the charges kept under seal, but that at least one arrest could take place as early as Monday. Details were scant. The CNN report didn’t specify what the charges were or whom they had been brought against. But the news created an immediate furor, as other news organizations sought to follow up the story, and people on television and social media began speculating about the nature of the charges. Shortly before midnight, the Wall Street Journal confirmed CNN’s scoop, without providing any additional details.” See also, CNN broke news in the Russia probe. Roger Stone, one of Trump’s former campaign advisers and a longtime Republican operative, was suspended from Twitter after tweeting insults and attacks against CNN anchor Don Lemon and New York Times columnist Charles Blow on 27 October, Avi Selk, published on Sunday, 29 October 2017.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s Schedule Shows Focus on Religious and Nontraditional Charter Schools at the Expense of Public Schools, The New York Times, Eric Lipton, Friday, 27 October 2017: “For years, Betsy DeVos traveled the country — and opened her checkbook — as she worked as a conservative advocate to promote the expansion of voucher programs that allow parents to use taxpayer funds to send their children to private and religious schools. A detailed look at the first six months of Ms. DeVos’s tenure as the secretary of education — based on a 326-page calendar tracking her daily meetings — demonstrates that she continues to focus on those programs as well as on charter schools. Her calendar is sprinkled with meetings with religious leaders, leading national advocates of vouchers and charter schools, and players involved in challenging state laws that limit the distribution of government funds to support religious or alternative schools…. [T]he emphasis, a review of the calendar shows, is on the same kinds of alternatives that Ms. DeVos promoted when she was a conservative philanthropist donating money to groups like Alliance for School Choice and the Foundation for Excellence in Education, which advocate school choice.” See also, A quarter of the schools Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has visited are private, even though such schools educate just one-tenth of the nation’s schoolchildren, The Washington Post, Moriah Balingit, Friday, 27 October 2017. See also, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos offers buyouts to shrink Education Department workforce, The Washington Post, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, Friday, 27 October 2017: “The U.S. Department of Education on Friday informed staff in the Office of Federal Student Aid, the arm of the agency that handles grants and loans to college students, that buyouts are being offered to shrink the division. In a memo obtained by The Washington Post, the department said it received approval from the Office of Personnel Management to offer early retirement and voluntary separation incentive payments. The offer, according to the memo, does not extend to all positions. Eligible employees will receive an email from human resources by Wednesday.”

Continue reading Week 41, Friday, 27 October-Thursday, 2 November 2017:

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Trump, Week 40: Friday, 20 October – Thursday, 26 October 2017 (Days 274-280)

 

Keeping Track (of some things), Staying Outraged (it is possible), and Resisting (it’s essential)

 

Passages in bold in the body of the texts below are my emphasis. This is an ongoing project, and I update the site frequently. Because I try to stay focused on what has actually happened, I usually let the news ‘settle’ a day or so before posting. I hope readers will peruse the articles in full for a better understanding of the issues and their context; our democracy and our future depend on citizens who can distinguish between facts and falsehoods and who are engaged in the political process.

 

Friday, 20 October 2017, Day 274:

 

After Video Refutes John Kelly’s Charges Against Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, She Raises the Issue of Race, The New York Times, Yamiche Alcindor and Michael D. Shear, Friday, 20 October 2017: “Video of a 2015 speech delivered by Representative Frederica S. Wilson revealed Friday that John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, misrepresented her remarks when he accused her of bragging about securing $20 million for a South Florida F.B.I. building and twisting President Barack Obama’s arm. Mr. Kelly, escalating a feud between Mr. Trump and Ms. Wilson, had cast the congresswoman on Thursday as a publicity-seeking opportunist. However, the video, released by The Sun Sentinel, a newspaper in South Florida, showed that during her nine-minute speech, Ms. Wilson never took credit for getting the money for the building, only for helping pass legislation naming the building after two fallen federal agents. She never mentioned pleading with Mr. Obama, and she acknowledged the help of several Republicans, including John A. Boehner, then the House speaker; Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo; and Senator Marco Rubio. Ms. Wilson, in an interview on Friday, called Mr. Kelly a liar and hinted strongly that the altercation, prompted by a call from President Trump to the widow of a fallen black soldier, was racially charged. ‘The White House itself is full of white supremacists,’ she said. ‘I feel very sorry for him because he feels such a need to lie on me and I’m not even his enemy,’ Ms. Wilson said of Mr. Kelly. ‘I just can’t even imagine why he would fabricate something like that. That is absolutely insane. I’m just flabbergasted because it’s very easy to trace.’ While she stopped short of accusing Mr. Kelly, a retired Marine general, of racial animus, she did say that others in the White House are racially biased. ‘They are making themselves look like fools. They have no credibility,’ she said. ‘They are trying to assassinate my character, and they are assassinating their own because everything they say is coming out and shown to be a lie.’… [White House Press Secritary Sarah Huckabee] Sanders … told a reporter who questioned Mr. Kelly’s veracity that ‘if you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that that’s something highly inappropriate.'” See also, Video shows John Kelly, Trump’s chief of staff, made false claims about congresswoman Frederica Wilson in feud over Trump’s condolence call, The Washington Post, David Nakamura, Friday, 20 October 2017. See also, John Kelly, Trump’s chief of staff, owes congresswoman Frederica Wilson an apology, The Washington Post, Editorial Board, Friday, 20 October 2017: “White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly owes Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.) an apology. That is the only conclusion that can be drawn after watching a video of the representative’s remarks at the dedication of an FBI building in Miramar, Fla., in 2015. Mr. Kelly took to the lectern in the White House briefing room Thursday to defend President Trump’s handling of a condolence call to a widow of one of the soldiers killed in Niger and to attack Ms. Wilson as selfish and politically motivated for her criticism. To bolster that characterization, he offered up his remembrance of the dedication of the FBI building in memory of two FBI agents who had been killed in the line of duty. He claimed Ms. Wilson used the occasion to take unseemly credit for securing federal funding for the building. ‘We were stunned,’ he said, ‘stunned that she had done it. Even for someone that is that empty a barrel, we were stunned.’ But, as a video by the Florida Sun Sentinel of Ms. Wilson’s remarks that day shows, Mr. Kelly got it all wrong. She did not say she got money for the building. She was generous and graceful in sharing credit for how legislation naming the building was fast-tracked. And she spent most of her nine-minute speech praising the FBI agents killed in a gunfight with drug dealers: ‘Today it is our patriotic duty to lift up Special Agent Benjamin Grogan and Special Agent Jerry Dove from the streets of South Florida and place their names and pictures high, where the world will know that we are proud of their sacrifice, sacrifice for our nation.'” See also, Let’s Compare John Kelly’s Lie About Congresswoman Frederica Wilson With Reality, The Intercept, Robert Mackey, Friday, 20 October 2017: “White House Chief of Staff John Kelly lied on Thursday when he falsely claimed that Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., had loudly boasted about obtaining money for an FBI building in Miami during a dedication ceremony he attended in 2015. We know this for a fact because, on Friday, the South Florida Sun Sentinel published video of Wilson’s complete remarks at the event…. It is jarring to listen to Kelly’s description of Wilson’s behavior and then hear the entirely respectful and generous remarks she actually delivered. But the contrast gives us a chance to trace the exact contours of how much a seething resentment at modern American society has distorted the White House chief of staff’s perception of reality, like that of his boss. As my colleague Shaun King writes, that Kelly said he was enraged by Wilson’s remarks as she made them is perhaps even more disturbing, because it means that this is not just about his faulty memory. (And his memory is faulty: in his remarks on Thursday, Kelly misremembered not just what Wilson said that day, but the name of one of the agents the building was dedicated to, and said, incorrectly, that the agents had been killed by ‘drug traffickers,’ instead of bank robbers.) So the distorted lens through which the man now running the Oval Office views the world does not only warp his recollection of events, but his understanding of them as they unfold in front of his eyes.” See also, Here are the four-star generals Donald Trump has publicly bashed, The Washington Post, Herman Wong, Friday, 20 October 2017. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said it is “highly inappropriate” to question a four-star general. This article identifies three four-star generals Trump has bashed.

John Kelly and the Language of the Military Coup, The New Yorker, Masha Gessen, Friday, 20 October 2017: “Consider this nightmare scenario: a military coup. You don’t have to strain your imagination—all you have to do is watch Thursday’s White House press briefing, in which the chief of staff, John Kelly, defended President Trump’s phone call to a military widow, Myeshia Johnson. The press briefing could serve as a preview of what a military coup in this country would look like, for it was in the logic of such a coup that Kelly advanced his four arguments. Argument 1. Those who criticize the President don’t know what they’re talking about because they haven’t served in the military…. 2. The President did the right thing because he did exactly what his general told him to do…. 3. Communication between the President and a military widow is no one’s business but theirs…. 4. Citizens are ranked based on their proximity to dying for their country. Kelly’s last argument was his most striking. At the end of the briefing, he said that he would take questions only from those members of the press who had a personal connection to a fallen soldier, followed by those who knew a Gold Star family. Considering that, a few minutes earlier, Kelly had said most Americans didn’t even know anyone who knew anyone who belonged to the “one per cent,” he was now explicitly denying a majority of Americans—or the journalists representing them—the right to ask questions. This was a new twist on the Trump Administration’s technique of shunning and shaming unfriendly members of the news media, except this time, it was framed explicitly in terms of national loyalty.”

Senate to take up the AUMF (authorization for use of military force) debate as Trump defends his reaction to Niger attack, The Washington Post, Karoun Demirjian, Friday, 20 October 2017: “The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is taking up a long-awaited debate about authorizing military force against the Islamic State as President Trump comes under unprecedented public scrutiny for his treatment of dead soldiers’ families, following an ambush on troops helping to fight Islamic terrorists [in Niger]. Senators will grill Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in an open hearing on Oct. 30 about whether the administration thinks it is necessary for Congress to pass a new authorization for use of military force, or AUMF, to replace existing AUMFs that date back to the early years of the George W. Bush administration. The hearing is seen as a precursor to a more congressionally driven legislative effort to write an AUMF that can draw enough Republican and Democratic support to pass. Lawmakers have wrangled for years over whether or how to replace the existing 2001 AUMF, which authorized operations against al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and affiliated groups in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, and the 2002 AUMF, which allowed for operations in Iraq, with a new AUMF more focused on present-day and future threats — particularly the Islamic State. Many members of Congress have charged that the existing AUMFs do not provide a firm legal basis for current operations, a view that both the Obama and Trump administrations have argued against. But the timing of this hearing has put an increased urgency behind the AUMF debate, as Congress and the nation demand answers about what led to the deaths of four U.S. Special Forces in Niger on a support mission to fight Islamic terrorists like the Islamic State.”

Continue reading Week 40, Friday, 20 October – Thursday, 26 October 2017:

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The Drug Industry’s Triumph Over the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)

Scott Higham and Lenny Bernstein, The Drug Industry’s Triumph Over the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The Washington Post and 60 Minutes, 15 October 2017. “Amid a tarteted lobbying effort, Congress weakened the Dea’s ability to go after drug distributors, even as opioid-related deaths continue to rise, a Washington Post and ’60 Minutes’ investigation finds. In April 2016, at the height of the deadliest drug epidemic in U.S. history, Congress effectively stripped the Drug Enforcement Administration of its most potent weapon against large drug companies suspected of spilling prescription narcotics onto the nation’s streets. By then, the opioid war had claimed 200,000 lives, more than three times the number of U.S. military deaths in the Vietnam War. Overdose deaths continue to rise. There is no end in sight. A handful of members of Congress, allied with the nation’s major drug distributors, prevailed upon the DEA and the Justice Department to agree to a more industry-friendly law, undermining efforts to stanch the flow of pain pills, according to an investigation by The Washington Post and ’60 Minutes.’ The DEA had opposed the effort for years. The law was the crowning achievement of a multifaceted campaign by the drug industry to weaken aggressive DEA enforcement efforts against drug distribution companies that were supplying corrupt doctors and pharmacists who peddled narcotics to the black market. The industry worked behind the scenes with lobbyists and key members of Congress, pouring more than a million dollars into their election campaigns. The chief advocate of the law that hobbled the DEA was Rep. Tom Marino, a Pennsylvania Republican who is now President Trump’s nominee to become the nation’s next drug czar. Marino spent years trying to move the law through Congress. It passed after Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) negotiated a final version with the DEA.”

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Trump, Week 39: Friday, 13 October – Thursday, 19 October 2017: (Days 267-273)

 

Keeping Track (of some things), Staying Outraged (it is possible), and Resisting (it’s essential)

 

Passages in bold in the body of the texts below are my emphasis. This is an ongoing project, and I update the site frequently. Because I try to stay focused on what has actually happened, I usually let the news ‘settle’ a day or so before posting. I hope readers will peruse the articles in full for a better understanding of the issues and their context; our democracy and our future depend on citizens who can distinguish between facts and falsehoods and who are engaged in the political process.

 

Friday, 13 October 2017, Day 267:

 

Trump sets new conditions for the U.S. to stay in the Iran nuclear deal, tossing the issue to Congress, The Washington Post, Anne Gearan and Abby Phillip, Friday, 13 October 2017: “President Trump on Friday officially disavowed the international nuclear deal with Iran, undermining but not terminating an agreement he called weak and poorly constructed. The administration asked Congress to attach new caveats that could either alter the pact or lead to its rupture. Sounding frustrated and angry, Trump also threatened to unilaterally withdraw from the seven-nation accord if his concerns are not met…. His decision to withdraw presidential ‘certification’ of the deal throws its future into doubt by tying continued U.S. participation to new requirements for Iran. But the approach also falls well short of Trump’s repeated campaign vow to scrap the deal altogether, marking the latest collision between his ‘America first’ worldview and the realities of global diplomacy and dealmaking. The move was immediately met with opposition Friday from U.S. allies that are part of the pact and with skepticism from many U.S. lawmakers, including some Republicans. Iran, meanwhile, responded with a threat of its own, vowing in a statement to walk away if Iranian ‘rights and interests in the deal are not respected.'” See also, Trump Disavows Nuclear Deal, but He Doesn’t Scrap It, The New York Times, Mark Landler and David E. Sanger, Friday, 13 October 2017. See also, Fact-checking Trump’s speech on the Iran deal, The Washington Post, Glenn Kessler, published on Saturday, 14 October 2017. See also, Assessing Trump’s Criticisms of Iran and the Nuclear Deal. Trump Offered Misleading or Incomplete Claims About Iran and the Nuclear Deal in His Rebuke. The New York Times, Linda Qiu, Friday, 13 October 2017: “President Trump declared his intention not to recertify the Iran nuclear deal in a forceful speech on Friday. But the rationale he provided includes several misleading or incomplete statements about the terms of the deal, what he considers a violation of the agreement and Iran itself.”

Trump Defies the World on Iran, The New Yorker, Robin Wright, Friday, 13 October 2017: “Defying most of the world, President Trump announced on Friday that the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal is no longer in the U.S. interest, and took the first step toward unravelling it. The accord—brokered jointly with Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia, during two years of often tortuous diplomacy—is the most significant agreement stemming proliferation of the world’s deadliest weapon in more than a quarter century. It now faces a precarious future—with the United States, not Iran, shaping up as the first country to violate its terms…. The unveiling of the Trump Administration’s long-awaited Iran policy—after nine months of contentious internal debate—is somewhat of a compromise. The President did not formally pull out of the deal, despite his description of it, on Friday, as ‘one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.’ But he is now refusing to certify—as required every ninety days by U.S. law—that Iran has fully complied, even though his own Administration acknowledges that Tehran has met all its obligations for two years. International inspectors with the International Atomic Energy Agency have also reported eight times, most recently in August, that Tehran is obeying the terms…. Trump’s decision to decertify Iran—after twice certifying its compliance this year—now punts action to Congress. It has sixty days to decide whether to re-impose punitive sanctions that were originally lifted as the incentive for Iran to surrender most of its nuclear program. If Congress re-imposes sanctions, the United States will be violating its obligations under the Iran deal…. Trump’s long-anticipated Iran policy has sweeping implications far beyond Iran. It creates tensions with allies, and China and Russia, as well, that could have a major impact on other global crises. It undermines diplomacy to resolve the escalating showdown with North Korea. It weakens U.S. credibility on arms control—and, for that matter, international agreements on any issue. It threatens U.S. efforts to defuse other flash points in the Middle East. And it risks escalating tensions with Iran—and the first tentative engagement on regional issues, after almost four decades of hostility. The world’s major powers quickly spurned Trump’s appeal to amend or renegotiate the Iran accord.” See also, European Leaders Criticize Trump’s Disavowal of Iran Deal, The New York Times, Stephen Castle and Thomas Erdbrink, Friday, 13 October 2017: “Iran, Russia and European leaders roundly condemned President Trump’s decision on Friday to disavow the Iran nuclear deal, saying that it reflected the growing isolation of the United States, threatened to destabilize the Middle East and could make it harder to resolve the growing tensions on the Korean Peninsula. The reaction was far from panicked, as Mr. Trump’s decision punts to Congress the critical decision of whether the United States will reimpose sanctions on Iran — a step that would effectively sink the deal. But Mr. Trump also warned that unless the nuclear agreement was altered and made permanent — to prohibit Iran from ever developing nuclear weapons — he would terminate the agreement, an ultimatum that threw the future of the accord into question.”

Trump taps climate change skeptic Kathleen Harnett White to lead the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). The CEQ advises the president on environmental matters and ensures federal agencies comply with the National Environmental Policy Act. The Hill, Devin Henry, Friday, 13 October 2017: “President Trump has nominated a skeptic of climate change science to lead the White House’s environmental policy board. The White House late Thursday announced that Trump picked Kathleen Hartnett White to serve as a member, and eventually chairwoman, of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). White is a fellow for energy and environment issues at the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) and the former chairwoman of the state’s Commission on Environmental Quality. But her views on climate change do not align with the scientific consensus, which says greenhouse gas emissions produced by human activity is the driving factor behind a dangerous warming trend around the globe. At the TPPF — which has received funding from the fossil fuel industry — White led a project to ‘explain the forgotten moral case for fossil fuels,’ and she has written that carbon dioxide is the gas ‘that makes life possible on the earth and naturally fertilizes plant growth.’ ‘Whether emitted from the human use of fossil fuels or as a natural (and necessary) gas in the atmosphere surrounding the earth, carbon dioxide has none of the attributes of a pollutant,’ she wrote in a 2014 paper that argued ‘global warming alarmists are misleading the public about carbon dioxide emissions.’ She was also a critic of the Obama administration’s environmental initiatives, calling them a ‘deluded and illegitimate battle against climate change’ in an op-ed for The Hill last year and arguing against regulations like the Clean Power Plan rule for power plants.” See also, Trump Names Former Texas Regulator Kathleen Harnett White as White House Environmental Adviser. She has called renewable energy ‘unreliable and parasitic.’ The New York Times, Lisa Friedman, Friday, 13 October 2017: “The appointment is the latest in a series of disputed environmental nominations. This week, Mr. Trump nominated Barry Lee Myers, the chief executive of AccuWeather, a for-profit weather forecasting company, to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Last week, the president nominated Andrew Wheeler, a coal lobbyist, to be deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Environmentalists say Mr. Trump is stacking agencies with those who either reject the scientific consensus that human-made emissions cause climate change or lack the scientific qualifications for their jobs. ‘Now you have a full house for the fossil fuel industry,’ said Christy Goldfuss, who served as managing director of the White House environmental council under former President Obama. She called Mrs. White’s appointment particularly troubling, citing a piece she wrote entitled, ‘Fossil Fuels: The Moral Case.’ In it, Mrs. White argued that labeling carbon dioxide emissions as a pollutant is ‘absurd’ and asserted that it should be considered the ‘gas of life.’ Mrs. White also has called renewable energy ‘unreliable and parasitic,’ described global warming as ‘a creed, a faith, a dogma that has little to do with science,’ and asserted that science does not dictate policy in democracies.”

Continue reading Week 39, Friday, 13 October – Thursday, 19 October 2017:

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From Aggressive Overtures to Sexual Assault: Hollywood Producer Harvey Weinstein’s Accusers Tell Their Stories

Ronan Farrow, From Aggressive Overtures to Sexual Assault: Hollywood Producer Harvey Weinstein’s Accusers Tell Their Stories. The New Yorker, 10 October 2017. “Since the establishment of the first studios a century ago, there have been few movie executives as dominant, or as domineering, as Harvey Weinstein. As the co-founder of the production-and-distribution companies Miramax and the Weinstein Company, he helped to reinvent the model for independent films, with movies such as ‘Sex, Lies, and Videotape,’ ‘The English Patient,’ ‘Pulp Fiction,’ ‘The Crying Game,’ ‘Shakespeare in Love,’ and ‘The King’s Speech.’ Beyond Hollywood, he has exercised his influence as a prolific fund-raiser for Democratic Party candidates, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Weinstein combined a keen eye for promising scripts, directors, and actors with a bullying, even threatening, style of doing business, inspiring both fear and gratitude. His movies have earned more than three hundred Oscar nominations, and, at the annual awards ceremonies, he has been thanked more than almost anyone else in movie history, just after Steven Spielberg and right before God. For more than twenty years, Weinstein has also been trailed by rumors of sexual harassment and assault. This has been an open secret to many in Hollywood and beyond, but previous attempts by many publications, including The New Yorker, to investigate and publish the story over the years fell short of the demands of journalistic evidence. Too few people were willing to speak, much less allow a reporter to use their names, and Weinstein and his associates used nondisclosure agreements, monetary payoffs, and legal threats to suppress these myriad stories. Asia Argento, an Italian film actress and director, told me that she did not speak out until now—Weinstein, she told me, forcibly performed oral sex on her—because she feared that Weinstein would ‘crush’ her. ‘I know he has crushed a lot of people before,’ Argento said. ‘That’s why this story—in my case, it’s twenty years old; some of them are older—has never come out.’ Last week, the New York Times, in a powerful report by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, revealed multiple allegations of sexual harassment against Weinstein, a story that led to the resignation of four members of his company’s all-male board, and to Weinstein’s firing from the company. The story, however, is more complex, and there is more to know and to understand. In the course of a ten-month investigation, I was told by thirteen women that, between the nineteen-nineties and 2015, Weinstein sexually harassed or assaulted them, allegations that corroborate and overlap with the Times’ revelations, and also include far more serious claims. Three women—among them Argento and a former aspiring actress named Lucia Evans—told me that Weinstein raped them, allegations that include Weinstein forcibly performing or receiving oral sex and forcing vaginal sex. Four women said that they experienced unwanted touching that could be classified as an assault. In an audio recording captured during a New York Police Department sting operation in 2015 and made public here for the first time, Weinstein admits to groping a Filipina-Italian model named Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, describing it as behavior he is ‘used to.’ Four of the women I interviewed cited encounters in which Weinstein exposed himself or masturbated in front of them. Sixteen former and current executives and assistants at Weinstein’s companies told me that they witnessed or had knowledge of unwanted sexual advances and touching at events associated with Weinstein’s films and in the workplace. They and others describe a pattern of professional meetings that were little more than thin pretexts for sexual advances on young actresses and models. All sixteen said that the behavior was widely known within both Miramax and the Weinstein Company…. Virtually all of the people I spoke with told me that they were frightened of retaliation…. Several former employees told me that they were speaking about Weinstein’s alleged behavior now because they hoped to protect women in the future…. It’s likely that women have recently felt increasingly emboldened to talk about their experiences because of the way the world has changed regarding issues of sex and power. These disclosures follow in the wake of stories alleging sexual misconduct by public figures, including Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, Bill Cosby, and Donald Trump…. While Weinstein and his representatives have said that the incidents were consensual, and were not widespread or severe, the women I spoke to tell a very different story…. Weinstein’s behavior deeply affected the day-to-day operations of his company. Current and former Weinstein employees described a pattern of meetings and strained complicity that closely matches the accounts of the many women I interviewed. The employees spoke on condition of anonymity, they said, because of fears about their careers in Hollywood and because of provisos in their work contracts…. Weinstein and his legal and public-relations teams have conducted a decades-long campaign to suppress these stories. In recent months, that campaign escalated.”

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Trump, Week 38: Friday, 6 October – Thursday, 12 October 2017 ( Days 260-266)

 

Keeping Track (of some things), Staying Outraged (it is possible), and Resisting (it’s essential)

 

Passages in bold in the body of the texts below are my emphasis. This is an ongoing project, and I update the site frequently. I hope readers will peruse the articles in full for a better understanding of the issues and their context; our democracy and our future depend on citizens who can distinguish between facts and falsehoods and who are engaged in the political process.

 

Friday, 6 October 2017, Day 260:

 

2017 Nobel Peace Prize Goes to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), The New York Times, Rick Gladstone, Friday, 6 October 2017: “In a year when the threat of nuclear warfare seemed to draw closer, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded on Friday to an advocacy group behind the first treaty to prohibit nuclear arms. The group, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, a Geneva-based coalition of disarmament activists, was honored for its efforts to advance the negotiations that led to the treaty, which was reached in July at the United Nations. ‘The organization is receiving the award for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its groundbreaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons,’ the Norwegian Nobel Committee said in a statement. The choice amounted to a blunt rejoinder to the world’s nine nuclear-armed powers and their allies, which boycotted the negotiations. Some denounced the treaty as a naïve and dangerous diversion. It also represented a moment of vindication for the members of the winning organization, known by its acronym ICAN, and for the United Nations diplomats who were responsible for completing the treaty negotiations. ‘This prize is a tribute to the tireless efforts of many millions of campaigners and concerned citizens worldwide who, ever since the dawn of the atomic age, have loudly protested nuclear weapons, insisting that they can serve no legitimate purpose and must be forever banished from the face of our earth,’ ICAN said in a statement.” See also, The 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Goes to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), a Grassroots Anti-Bomb Group, The New Yorker, Robin Wright, Friday, 6 October 2017: “The dreamers won. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons is still so green that, when the call came from the Norwegian Nobel Committee, the group initially thought it was a prank. But, in the middle of two brewing crises over nuclear weapons, the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded on Friday to a global coalition of young activists who defied the United States and the eight other nuclear powers this summer to win support at the United Nations for the first treaty to ban the world’s deadliest weapon. With dogged determination, ICAN, which was formed just a decade ago, generated support from more than a hundred and twenty countries for the landmark accord. Fifty-three nations have signed it since the formal process began, on September 20th. The Trump Administration led a boycott of talks on the ICAN initiative at the United Nations last spring.” See also, The world has nearly 15,000 nuclear weapons. This year’s Nobel Peace Prize honors the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and its quest to abolish all of them. The Washington Post, Michael Birnbaum, Friday, 6 October 2017.

Trump Administration Rolls Back Birth Control Mandate for Employer Health Insurance, The New York Times, Robert Pear, Rebecca R. Ruiz, and Laurie Goodstein, Friday, 6 October 2017: “The Trump administration on Friday moved to expand the rights of employers to deny women insurance coverage for contraception and issued sweeping guidance on religious freedom that critics said could also erode civil rights protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The twin actions, by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Justice Department, were meant to carry out a promise issued by President Trump five months ago, when he declared in the Rose Garden that ‘we will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore.’ Attorney General Jeff Sessions quoted those words in issuing guidance to federal agencies and prosecutors, instructing them to take the position in court that workers, employers and organizations may claim broad exemptions from nondiscrimination laws on the basis of religious objections. At the same time, the Department of Health and Human Services issued two rules rolling back a federal requirement that employers must include birth control coverage in their health insurance plans. The rules offer an exemption to any employer that objects to covering contraception services on the basis of sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions. More than 55 million women have access to birth control without co-payments because of the contraceptive coverage mandate, according to a study commissioned by the Obama administration. Under the new regulations, hundreds of thousands of women could lose those benefits.” See also, Trump’s cold war on Obamacare, The Washington Post, Aaron Blake, Friday, 6 October 2017.

Jeff Sessions Issued New Guidance on Protecting ‘Religious Liberty.’ Critics fear the policy may provide a loophole for discrimination against women and LGBT people. BuzzFeed News, Dominic Holden and Zoe Tillman, Friday, 6 October 2017: “Attorney General Jeff Sessions instructed federal agencies and attorneys on Friday to protect religious liberty in a broad, yet vague, guidance memo that critics fear could give people of faith — including government workers and contractors — a loophole to ignore federal bans on discrimination against women and LGBT people. The guidance says the government cannot unduly burden people or certain businesses from practicing their faith, noting, ‘The free exercise of religion includes the right to act or abstain from action in accordance with one’s religious beliefs.’ The policy does not create new law, but rather interprets how the government should construe the Constitution and existing federal law. It comes on the heels of the Justice Department weighing in on a religious liberty case, in which lawyers under Sessions argued in a brief to the US Supreme Court that a Christian baker had a First Amendment right to deny a gay couple a cake for their wedding.” See also, Civil liberties groups decry Sessions’s guidance to executive branch agencies on religious freedom, The Washington Post, Matt Zapotosky and Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Friday, 6 October 2017: “Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued sweeping guidance to executive branch agencies Friday on the Justice Department’s interpretation of how the government should respect religious freedom, triggering an immediate backlash from civil liberties groups who asserted the nation’s top law enforcement officer was trying to offer a license for discrimination.” See also, Jeff Sessions’s guidance to federal agencies on religious freedom undercuts LGBT rights, Southern Poverty Law Center, David Dinielli, Friday, 6 October 2017: “Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued guidance today setting forth the views of the Department of Justice about how federal agencies should protect religious freedom. The guidance directs agencies to give the broadest possible protection to people, companies and government contractors who cite religious beliefs to avoid compliance with anti-discrimination and other laws. This latest memo reflects the Trump administration’s continuing campaign to roll back the rights of the most vulnerable members of society, including LGBT people. By saying virtually nothing about how the invocation of religious exemptions can cause real harm to real people, it invites taxpayer-funded agencies, government employees, government contractors and government grant recipients to discriminate against LGBT people, as long as they cite a religious reason for doing so. Religious freedom is a treasured right in our country, and it should never be used as a guise for harming others. The guidance memo ignores this competing American value – that in exercising our rights we must and should account for the rights and well-being of others. Freedom of religion does not give us the right to impose our beliefs on others, or to discriminate. The clear intent of this guidance is to undermine the many gains LGBT Americans and others have achieved in securing dignity and equality for themselves and their families. It is motivated by the false notion that LGBT rights, reproductive rights and other rights have come at the expense of religious liberties, an idea that is an affront to the millions of Americans of faith who reject discrimination against all people, including LGBT people. It does not reflect who we are as a nation, with a clear majority of Americans supporting laws that protect LGBT people from unequal treatment.”

Continue reading Week 38, Friday, 6 October – Thursday, 12 October 2017:

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