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No, Tesla's solar roof will not cost less than a "regular" roof

TreeHugger Science-Tech - Tue, 2016-11-29 10:38
In fact, it will cost twenty times as much as a normal roof, which in America is asphalt shingles.

Trump - ripples effects in Europe

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2016-11-29 02:35

Bogdan Marcu, Los Angeles. This article is written together with Cristian Rosu, a Romanian media expert who works for Kirchhoff Consult Romania, a corporation for Public Relations and Communications. Cristian has a BA in Philosophy from the University of Bucharest. More articles and social media analyses by Cristian can be found on his blog.

The unexpected Mr. Trump

While there are significant difference between the political systems of Europe and the US, some similarities and political symptoms do cross the Atlantic westward, where US voters may react in some form of contamination. Trump's victory in the November 8th elections seems to have taken the European chancelleries by surprise, but perhaps it shouldn't have.

The political trends in several European countries were already pointing towards the disruption of the establishment. In 2015, the Greeks elected Alexis Tsipras as their prime minister: a charismatic but off-main-stream leader, with strong leftist views who took little time to begin a disruptive set of actions. In Hungary, the prime minister Viktor Orban is one of the Eastern Europe's leaders with the most vocal Eurosceptic views, also expressing pro-Russian views in spite of Hungary's NATO membership. In Central Europe, Poland's political leaders express the same level of Euroscepticism as Hungary, and perhaps stronger. Under the presidency of Andrzej Duda, Poland is pushing back against the idea that EU decisions made in Brussels should be automatically accepted in Warsaw. In particular, Poland, just as Hungary, unilaterally refuses to accept the refugee quotas imposed by the EU.

Two major events in 2016 should have provided a stronger warning that the disruptive current against established order and against existing political structures has widened and gained strength. On June 23 2016, the voters in the UK decided 52% to 48% in favor of leaving the European Union, an outcome known as the Brexit. The voter turnout was 71.8% with more than 30 million people voting. This decision leaves the US without an important ally within the EU structure. The second event is murkier, both in terms of the known details as well as the implications: on 15th of July 2016, a coup d'état was attempted in Turkey against state institutions, including, but not limited to the government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The coup failed and it was followed by vigorous purging of the military by Erdogan, as well as other significant outcomes: the coup has shaken the structure of the NATO alliance of which Turkey is a crucial member, and it has distanced Ankara from Washington with an apparent realignment towards Moscow, at least to some extent, as Erdogan and Putin are currently displaying a warm relationship.

In the meantime, anti-establishment currents have been growing in strength in Germany, France and Austria. In Germany, the large influx of Middle Eastern immigrants allowed into the country by the Merkel's government has led to a significant decrease of support for Merkel among the German voters. The Alternative for Germany, a right-wing populist and Eurosceptic political party in Germany had gained representation in 10 of the 16 German state parliaments as of September 2016. In Austria, the presidential candidate of the right wing Freedom Party, Norbert Hofer, won the first round of the presidential election of 2016, receiving 35.1%, and was only narrowly defeated by Green Party's candidate Alexander Van der Bellen, in the run-off. The election was contested however, and a re-run will be held on December 4th, with poll results too close to call a prediction. In France, the National Front party, a right wing nationalist party led by Marine Le Pen is growing in popularity. Marine Le Pen would lead the first round of the 2017 presidential elections, according to various polls. As of 2015, the National Front has established itself as one of the largest political forces in France.

The trends and events described indicate that in Europe, the politically correct legacy of the establishment is being vigorously contested due to the harsh realities of economic austerity, refugee crisis and attempts at diminishing the national identity. There is a common theme across Europe where the citizens find more alignment of their personal interests and worries with extremist parties than with the established parties. The Brexit is viewed a movement of protectionism and anti-immigration in the UK, despite the discrediting descriptions given in the media about the true awareness of the UK voters, or lack thereof, towards the real effects of their decision.

In the same measure, these trends should have been examined from the point of view of their diffusion across the Atlantic. After 8 years of the Obama administration which enjoyed popularity in Europe but was perceived as weak in foreign affairs, after Russia's moves in Ukraine and the Middle East and the creation and fast growth of ISIS, these changed trends should have pointed the analysts towards the possibility that the US voters would elect a president anti-establishment, a person with a direct manner, more aware of the harsh economic reality of unemployment rather than an embracer of ethnic diversity, a candidate with a stronger hand in foreign affairs and immigration. Donald Trump presented himself as such a candidate and won.

The administrations in Paris and Berlin have received the news of Trumps election victory with great concern. The European Establishment's concerns are many: what will be the new US administration's approach to the European's defense and NATO, given Trump's campaign rhetoric on the issue, and how will the new administration deal with immigration, given the aggressive Trump's statements during the campaign, and his departure from the accepted political correctness. What would be the implications of the unknown yet US policy on immigration, given the EU refugee crisis, and the rise of nationalism and extremism?

The President Elect Trump is viewed in some European circles as a counter-revolutionary leader against the EU policy of "unity in diversity". From this point of view, after several years during which an African American US president has been by far the most representative symbol of accepted diversity all over the world, after the acceptance and legalization of the same sex marriage in many European countries, and after the decision by Germany and to a lesser extent by France to accept a large number of Middle Eastern refugees, suddenly the new White House resident speaks forcefully of deportations, of renegotiation of economic agreements, of warmer relations with Russia, and selects for his future cabinets personalities with known extremist views.

The EU's own daemons + Russia

The economic crisis has strongly impacted the EU, although at different level of severity for different countries. While Germany has remained the uncontested locomotive of economics for the old continent, the so called PIIGS group of countries, Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain, were strongly affected. Among them, Greece has been in a continuous and extended dire condition with no clear solution in sight, while Italy's banks are seen as a strong liability for the Europe's financial system. Following the Brexit, several other countries contemplated the exit idea, among them Italy. This situation has led some political analysts to the conclusion that the EU could dissolve, either partially or completely.

The agreement reached by 28 European countries with Turkey on March 18th, to slow down the flow of refugees into Europe is now uncertain in terms of its execution due to various legal issues, but mostly due to complications related to the Turkey coup.

To all this, Trump's victory and his statements regarding NATO have fallen like a hammer on the heads of states in the EU.

Currently, France and Germany are the uncontested leaders of the European Union. While the EU Parliament in Brussels is officially the EU legislative body, the management of the economic crisis in EU is executed by decisions made mostly in Berlin and Paris, with the participation of the European Central Bank. In the meantime, however, both Germany and France are confronted with important domestic issues.

Parliamentary elections are due in Germany no later than October 22 2017. The popularity of Angela Merkel is currently at a historical minimum, with contesting actions even from her own party, the Christian Democratic Union. The refugee crisis and the various terrorist attacks, executed or attempted in Germany are problems hanging heavily on the ratings of Merkel's government. In particular, after large scale incidents of rape and attacks against women by refugees reported to the police around Christmas and New Year's Eve in Germany, the weak official reaction was perceived as a cover up meant to suppress the expected popular rejection of more inflow of refugees, and maintain Merkel's decision to bring in more. German foreign affairs have become more complex due to the complications in the relations with the US related to the Volkswagen and Deutsche Bank scandals. These two latest developments are adding to the strain generated by the revelations in 2015 that the NSA had been tapping the German Chancellery. Adding to the complexities, Trump's victory, and his statements related to the requirement that all NATO member states should increase their defense spending to a minimum of 2% of their GDP place Germany in a difficult position politically. This conjecture opens and increases the chances of the extremist and anti-establishment parties for the upcoming German parliamentary elections in 2017. In this context, it has become very difficult for Germany to manage both its internal and the overall EU crises.

France is in even more complex and difficult state. Although powerful from the military standpoint, with a very advanced industry and technology, the country is affected by 10% unemployment rate overall and between 24% to 26% youth unemployment rate. The youth unemployment is closely correlated with the presence in France of minorities from early waves of immigrants coming from the former French colonies. To that social layer is added the new wave of recent immigrant refugees, a situation that strains, cumulatively, the French social system. Shaken by the chain of terrorist attacks in the last two years, the country is heading towards the presidential elections of 2017. After the US election results were announced, both the French prime minister Manuel Valls and the president Fancois Hollande expressed their deep concerns regarding the ripple effects in France. Current president, Francois Hollande is fairing very low in polls, and another 4 years at the Elysee Palace is just a nice dream. The primaries of the French conservative parties were won by Fancois Fillon, considered a "has been" political figure but with a recent strong showing in polls. Trump's victory in the US may diminish the chances for such an establishment gentleman. On the rightmost end of the French political spectrum, Marine Le Pen was one of the first European leaders to congratulate Trump. Given Trump's statements regarding Russia's Vladimir Putin and the good relationship between Marine Le Pen and the Russian leader, the potential trend generated by Trump's victory will cause many sleepless nights in Paris.

This conjecture generates great expectations at the Kremlin. For Russia, the objective of a rapprochement with the US is the lifting of economic sanctions imposed after Russia's annexation of Crimea which have severely affected the Russian economy. In addition, the significant drop in the price of commodities and especially the drop in the price of oil due to the production gluts and excessive pumping by the OPEC members generate a significant squeeze of the Russian budgets. Besides the lifting of sanctions, Putin will want Trump to recognize Russia's ownership of Crimea - something no major state has done thus far. Putin also feels that Russia is entitled to a sphere of influence over the former republics of the Soviet Union, and Eastern and Central Europe. Moscow is pushing an ideology of "civilisational spheres" and "pluri-centricism" - code for Russia being a dominant world force on equal terms with the US. Just as with Crimea, Putin would like to revisit history: a new version of the 1945 Yalta treaty, when the US and Britain left the countries of Eastern Europe at Stalin's mercy. Perhaps Putin would settle for a deal where Trump implicitly acknowledges that Russia has "legitimate interests" in its former backyard. Trump has already questioned the role of NATO and said that the US will not defend countries that fail to contribute to NATO coffers. The vague potential that the new Trump administration may negotiate with Putin on these issues is generating fever chills in many European capital cities.

And in fact, the current situation in Eastern Europe appears favorable to the Russian objectives.

Ukraine's political movement that generated the break-away from its close relationship with Moscow now appears to lose momentum, with issues such as government corruption stalling progress, while the civil war in the East continues.

In Serbia, the government led by Tomislav_Nikolić maintains close ties with Russia. Serbia is one of Kremlin's most reliable political links, not because of any Slavic-Orthodox fraternity, but as a consequence of political calculation and propaganda disseminated through the local media, Internet, and social networks pounding on historical solidarity, the pernicious West and defense of traditional values.

In Hungary, the Prime Minister Viktor Orban has clear pro-Russian views as mentioned already here. Moscow is doubly influential in the country by informally partnering with Orban and, at the same time, bankrolling the extremist Jobbik party, a xenophobic group to the right of Orban's Fidesz party. Through these maneuvers, Moscow has two allies in the country: one in the opposition, and one in power. "Fidesz and Jobbik are crucial in channeling and implementing Russian interests," argues Daniel Hegedus, a Hungarian analyst at the German Council on Foreign Relations, a Berlin-based think tank. As a member of the EU and NATO, Hungary "is able to influence the political agenda and decision-making processes of these bodies." In particular, Hungary is notably vocal in warning the EU against renewing the sanctions in place against Russia.

The recent election in the Republic of Moldova, former Soviet Republic and a former territory of Romania occupied and annexed by the Soviet Union after the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, designated Igor Dodon as winner. While the result is contested and thousands of citizens in the Moldavian diaspora claim they had been unable to vote, the result of the election is not likely to change. Dodon is a strong pro-Russian leader and is expected to propel Moldova on close Russian orbits.

A similar election result came in Bulgaria, population 7 million, and a member of both NATO and the European Union. It elected Rumen Radev as president, leading to the resignation of its prime minister, Boyko Borisov, and prompting parliamentary elections for the spring. During communist times, Bulgaria was the closest Eastern European member of both the Soviet Union's military alliance, the Warsaw Pact, and COMECON, its economic union, prior to the breakup of the USSR. Radev is another new Eastern European leader with strong pro-Russian views.

In opposition to these trends, Romania and the Baltic States are the countries in Eastern Europe which, together with Poland in Central Europe, still maintain a strong desire to distance themselves from Russia.

The Baltics: Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania are all members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union. They are the countries where NATO membership and US protection is most critical. However, campaign statements by Donald Trump that NATO states must pay more for defense, his ambivalence about Crimea, and allusions to how America may not defend members against Russian military action generate strong concern for the local governments. As Bloomberg reported recently: "over the past month, Russian TV channels widely watched in the Baltics filled airtime with apocalyptic rhetoric about world war. Russia recently made a show of moving short-range, nuclear-capable Iskander missiles into its militarized Baltic exclave, Kaliningrad, wedged between Lithuania, Poland, and the Baltic Sea. And a recent military exercise near the Latvian border involved Russian servicemen using loudspeakers to call on NATO soldiers to surrender. The Baltics, with a combined population of 6.1 million (Russia has 142.4 million), have responded by raising defense expenditures and training their military--and general population--in guerrilla warfare. During the last days of October, Latvia staged a major military exercise involving 3,000 troops from the U.S. and other NATO countries, as well as a nationwide civil defense drill".

Romania, also a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union finds itself in a geopolitical conjecture where it is surrounded by pro-Russian interests. At the present, the local political landscape is stable, and the country will hold parliamentary elections on December 11th. But underneath the calm, there are daemons as well. The elections and the related campaigns are held against a background where the fight against government corruption is the main theme, besides the concern and suspicion regarding potential Russian overt or clandestine manouvers. The political parties which are considered in the lead by various polls, the Social Democrat (PSD) and the Liberal (PNL) parties are also considered to carry controversial legacies. Recently, under pressure from the EU, the country's Military Justice Court (Parchetul Militar) has re-opened for the 4th time the investigation of the events of December 1989. However, for the first time in 27 years, the official statements of the Court referred to the events as an organized action against the state, essentially a coup, and not a revolution. Unofficially, it is generally accepted in Romania that the coup was organized by the then Soviet secret services, the KGB and the GRU, with some degree of approval from the West and the US, following the Malta secret talks between the US president G.H. Bush and general secretary of the Communist Party of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev. The implications, relative to the current elections, are related to the legacy of the Social Democrat Party, which has its roots in the December 1989 National Salvation Front, considered today to have been founded by the coup leaders. Ion Iliescu, who is considered the leader of the coup of 1989 and who served twice as president of Romania from 1989 to 1996 and 2000 to 2004 is an honor member of the PSD, but no longer influential in the decisions of the party, after the new party leadership has formally condemned communism, and specifically condemned the decisions made by Iliescu in the early '90's when coal miners were brought to Bucharest to violently squash street demonstrations against him. A good fraction of the current PSD is looking westward and attempts at reforming from within: the formal entrance of Romania into the NATO membership was officially signed under the PSD watch, 85% of the current candidates are newcomers to the party while party rhetoric is very much in line with Western values of multi-culture, political and economic liberalism and reform. The National Liberal party also includes members considered as having been part of the 1989 coup legacy. During the recent mayoral race for Bucharest, the Liberal party was noted for a series of political gaffes, among which promoting and then quickly withdrawing several candidates in a short period of time. A third party is also challenging the two established organizations mentioned above: the Save Romania Union (USR) is a political party founded in 2016, extending an initial organization - the Save Bucharest Union - which unsuccessfully ran candidates for the mayoral race in the country's capital, Bucharest - to national level. The party leader, Nicusor Dan is considered an outsider and perhaps inexperienced, but the party's candidates run campaigns on a radical anti-corruption platform that is attractive to the young voters and to the large diaspora which considers USR as the only viable option for the country. Militarily, Romania has a special status within NATO and in direct relations with the US: both Poland and Romania are hosting on their territories the military installations of the US/NATO anti-missile shield. The United States sees the $800 million missile shield as vital to defend itself and Europe from so-called rogue states but the Kremlin says is aimed at blunting its own nuclear arsenal, and expresses strong irritation about the installations. Consequently, Russia's moving Iskander missiles into the Kaliningrad region is viewed as a response, in part, to the missile shield installations in Romania and Poland. In Romania, the missile shield installations are seen as a special guarantee extended by the US and NATO to Romania, an interpretation which generates special confidence in the US direction of its foreign relations with respect to the region, regardless of the electoral rhetoric in the US.

Quo vadis?

This short review clearly shows that Trump's victory finds the EU in a complex and difficult situation. Until now, the US military guarantees extended through NATO, doubled by NATO's Turkey control of the maritime access by Russian Navy to the Mediterranean through the Turkish straights have been the main defense directions for the EU against Russia. The "European Army" is still only a concept, while the military forces of Germany and France, considered individually, are no match against the Russian military. The EU states have not been allocating significant budgets to their military, after decades of American protection. In addition, Russia has demonstrated in Ukraine a special ability to carry a new type of hybrid war for which the EU has neither efficient counter measures nor adequate tactics.

Donald Trump's statements regarding a reduced US role within NATO and towards normalizing the relations with Moscow will generates uncertainty in the EU. It is also expected that the future Trump administration will have priorities other than the EU: China, the Middle East, and internal US economy. DEBKA website already reports that Trump's team is planning, in close contact with Russian and Turkish governments, significant military operations in the Middle East, to be initiated immediately after Trump's inauguration.

The EU leaders are therefore expected to operate in catch-up mode in reaction to the expected and unexpected decisions of the future Trump administration. This complicates the EU political dynamics in a way that may lead to significant changes in the EU political spectrum and parliamentary representation, with a potential disruption of the establishment.


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As Trump Continues To Flout Science, Top Researchers Make Urgent Appeal

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2016-11-29 00:56

The leaders of 29 U.S. research and academic institutions have urged President-elect Donald Trump to name a senior science adviser during his ongoing appointment pageantry, stressing the need for “science and technology to address major national challenges.”

The group ― whose signatories include the heads of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Chemical Society, the American Geophysical Union and the Association of American Universities ― sent a letter to Trump on Nov. 23, which was made public on Monday evening.

“As President you will face a wide range of domestic and international challenges, from protecting national and energy security, to ensuring U.S. economic competitiveness, curing diseases, and responding to natural disasters,” it reads. “These challenges share one thing in common: the need for scientific knowledge and technological expertise to address them successfully.”

The group called for the president-elect to appoint an adviser with the title assistant to the president for science and technology. The letter makes a particular point to note that such a person must be “a nationally respected leader with the appropriate engineering, scientific, management and policy skills necessary for this critically important role.”

That role is currently filled in the Obama administration by John P. Holdren, a graduate of MIT and Stanford with degrees in aerospace engineering and theoretical plasma physics. His CV is long.

However, Trump has made a series of appointments over the past weeks that seem to ignore the need for qualified leaders to address some of the most pressing scientific problems of our time, namely climate change. His choice to lead the transition at the Environmental Protection Agency is a noted climate change denier, front-runners to lead the Interior department include Sarah Palin and oil executive Harold Hamm, and his incoming chief of staff recently said Trump thought climate change was “a bunch of bunk.”

While the letter isn’t particularly aggressive ― the groups say they are “looking forward to working with” Trump ― it does appeal to one thing the president-elect will likely understand: the economic value brought on by scientific advancement.

The economic benefits of advancements in science, technology and innovation have been well documented, estimated by leading economists to have accounted for approximately half of U.S. economic growth over the last fifty years. Past government investments in the U.S. scientific and technological enterprise have fueled our economy, created new jobs, and ensured our global competitiveness and national security. At the same time, these investments have enabled the development of a system of U.S. research universities and national laboratories unmatched in the world.

Rush Holt, the CEO of the AAAS, the world’s largest multidisciplinary scientific society, urged Trump shortly after the election to “move quickly” to integrate a science adviser into his decision-making process. He pointed to urgent issues that will need presidential attention, including infectious disease response, cyber-security, agriculture and infrastructure.

Read the letter in full here.

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Trevor Noah: Trump Charging Secret Service For Rent Is 'A D**k Move'

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2016-11-29 00:40

It is still unknown exactly how much money Donald Trump has, but it’s pretty obvious he plans to make more while in the White House.

On Monday’s “The Daily Show,” host Trevor Noah pointed out how the president-elect seems to be more interested in making business deals rather than getting ready to be leader of the free world.

“Trump is like, ‘Now that I’m president, I can finally be a successful businessman!’” Noah said.

Trump could get richer while in office thanks to the Secret Service, which is considering spending $1.5 million of taxpayer money to rent an entire floor in Trump Tower that will be used as a command post to protect Trump and his family when in New York.

“That’s kind of a dick move. You’re going to charge rent to the people who are there to keep you alive?” Noah said. “You know if one [of the agents] takes a bullet for Trump, he’s probably going to charge them for his dry cleaning bill.”  

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Trump's Pick For HHS Signals He Is Dead Serious About Repealing Obamacare

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2016-11-29 00:35

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President-elect Donald Trump is ready to name an ultra-conservative surgeon, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), to run the Department of Health and Human Services, multiple media outlets are reporting.

The choice would appear to signal Trump’s determination to proceed with a major overhaul of federal health care programs ― including not just repeal of Obamacare but also, perhaps, the privatization of Medicare.

Price, 62, practiced as an orthopedist for about two decades before winning election to the House of Representatives in 2005.

Once in Congress, Price gained notoriety for his right-wing views ― first as chairman of the House Republican Study Committee, a group of conservative lawmakers, and then as a founding member of the Tea Party Caucus. A constant in his career has been a hostility to government interference with the practice of medicine.

That may help explain why Price has emerged one of Washington’s most vocal and persistent critics of the Affordable Care Act. That law, which President Barack Obama signed in 2010, has helped more than 20 million people to get health insurance and made coverage available even to people with pre-existing medical conditions. It has also increased the underlying cost of insurance and raised taxes on the very wealthy.

For years, Republicans have promised both to repeal and to replace Obamacare. In Price, Trump would be enlisting one of the few Republican lawmakers who has actually thought about the “replace” part seriously ― to the point of writing a detailed piece of legislation.

The “Empowering Patients First Act,” as it is known, would gut Obamacare’s regulation of insurance plans, reduce the total financial assistance going to people buying private coverage and rescind entirely the law’s expansion of Medicaid for the poorest Americans.

Insurers could resume some of the practices that Obamacare now prohibits ― like selling bare-bones plans and, in some cases, denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. Price’s proposal would offer people tax credits, but there’d be no guarantee the credits could actually pay for comprehensive coverage.

The result, according to one analysis, would be less government spending and regulation ― as well as lower taxes on the rich. Many younger and healthier people would get access to cheaper insurance, particularly if they were comfortable with plans that had minimal coverage or gaps in benefits.

But a scheme like Price’s would also mean fewer people covered and, almost certainly, less financial protection for people with the worst medical conditions.

“It would likely leave many of the 20 million people losing coverage they now receive under the Affordable Care Act without health insurance and going without needed care,” Edwin Park, vice president for health policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, told The Huffington Post.

In 2015, Price was a chief architect of legislation to repeal Obamacare using the budget reconciliation process ― a special legislative procedure, reserved for certain fiscal matters, that is not subject to filibusters in the Senate.

Both the House and Senate passed a version of that bill earlier this year. And while Obama vetoed it, many Republicans are already pushing to use reconciliation as a way to get Obamacare repeal through Congress again in 2017 ― after which Trump, as president, would presumably sign it.

And Price has said he wouldn’t stop with Obamacare. In mid-November, not long after the presidential election, Price said that Republicans could also use reconciliation to change Medicare, as well.

House Republicans, led by Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, have long called for converting Medicare into some kind of voucher scheme, in which seniors would get a fixed sum of money with which to choose a health plan.

Price has also endorsed transforming Medicaid into a “block grant” ― in other words, giving states a fixed sum of money with which to run the program and then reducing the federal government’s spending on it. 

During the presidential campaign, Trump indicated he would not cut either Medicare or Medicaid. But language on his new transition website says that he will “modernize” Medicare and give states more “flexibility” over Medicaid. In Washington, those terms are typically euphemisms for privatizing Medicare and transforming Medicaid into a block grant.

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He's Grounded! Delta Bans Obnoxious Trump Supporter For Life

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2016-11-29 00:10

Delta Air Lines has placed a lifelong ban on the Donald Trump supporter who was filmed before takeoff on a Nov. 22 flight harassing passengers who voted for Hillary Clinton, Delta CEO Ed Bastian announced Monday in an internal memo.

The passenger, described in the memo as “loud, rude and disrespectful,” shouted belligerently and called out “Hillary bitches” soon after boarding the flight from Atlanta, Georgia, to Allentown, Pennsylvania. 

Bastian said flight attendants made “the best decision they could given the information they had” by allowing the man to remain on the flight, but he admitted the airline made a mistake.

“If our colleagues had witnessed firsthand what was shown in the video, there is no question they would have removed him from the aircraft,” Bastian wrote.

The CEO told employees that Delta has issued refunds to all the passengers on the flight and that the decision to ban the passenger came after Delta received a wave of criticism for not kicking the man off at the time of the incident.

Many people commented on the company’s Facebook page, pointing out the hypocrisy of airlines who boot Muslim passengers from flights for doing virtually nothing wrong while letting disruptive white passengers, like the man on the flight to Allentown, slide.

In a video that went viral last week, the passenger can be seen in the aisle of the airplane cheering for President-elect Trump and insulting Clinton supporters.

“We got some Hillary bitches on here?” the man yells to the passengers. “Donald Trump, baby!” he says later in the video. “It’s y’all president. Every goddamn one of you. If you don’t like it, too bad.”

Emma Baum, who sat next to the loud Trump supporter, said she first noticed the man chanting “Make America great again” outside of the airport terminal before boarding, The Morning Call newspaper in Allentown reported.

The passenger continued to talk about Trump when they were seated on the plane, so Baum filmed his rant and posted it to Facebook. The video has been watched more than 2.4 million times and shared nearly 19,000 times in less than a week. 

Before takeoff, a flight attendant escorted the man from his seat after his obnoxious monologue, questioned him, then allowed him to return to his seat. “This is what I get for being a patriot,” Baum quoted the passenger as saying when he returned, according to The Morning Call.

Delta initially issued an apology to customers on Nov. 26, admitting that the offending passenger should not have been allowed back on the plane.

In Monday’s internal memo, Bastian told Delta employees that he wanted to make sure they knew “we have your backs.”

“The heightened tension in our society means that now more than ever we must require civility on our planes and in our facilities,” the CEO wrote. “We will not tolerate anything less.”

The identity of the obscene Trump supporter has not been released, but video of his rude speech to passengers continues to circulate online.

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Donald Trump's Washington Hotel Is About To Violate Its Government Lease

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2016-11-28 23:20

When President-elect Donald Trump takes office in January, he apparently will violate the lease for his new hotel in Washington, adding to the growing list of conflicts of interest between his business enterprises and his duties as president.

The lease for the Trump International Hotel, housed in Washington’s historic Old Post Office Pavilion, which is owned by the General Services Administration, contains a clause forbidding elected officials from involvement, according to two experts. Trump, as president, essentially would be both landlord and tenant.

In an op-ed published Monday in Government Executive magazine, Steven Schooner and Daniel Gordon, former government officials who specialize in federal contract law, recommended that GSA “immediately end the hotel lease relationship, before Trump becomes president” to avoid ethics problems.

The Post Office Lease differs from many of Mr. Trump’s other business arrangements. That’s because, in writing the contract, the federal and D.C. governments determined, in advance, that elected officials could play no role in this lease arrangement. The contract language is clear: “No ... elected official of the Government of the United States ... shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom...”   

The language could not be any more specific or clear. Donald Trump will breach the contract on Jan. 20, when, while continuing to benefit from the lease, he will become an “elected official of the Government of the United States.” 

Read the full op-ed here.

Schooner served as an associate administrator at the Office of Federal Procurement Policy in the Office of Management and Budget under President Bill Clinton. Gordon was that office’s chief administrator under President Barack Obama. Both now teach law at George Washington University, focusing on federal contract law, and in recent weeks, have been sounding the alarm about Trump’s potential ethics violations involving his new hotel.

The GSA and the Trump Organization in 2013 agreed to a $180 million lease over 60 years. As president, Trump would oversee the GSA and appoint its administrator ― a conflict of interest with his business.

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GSA officials said they are looking into the matter, telling Government Executive that the agency “plans to coordinate with the president-elect’s team to address any issues that may be related to the Old Post Office building.”

The hotel, completed more than a year behind schedule, hosted several events during Trump’s campaign. In September, Trump held a press conference there, in which he finally acknowledged that President Barack Obama was born in the United States. In October, he held a glossy ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate the hotel’s grand opening, which doubled as a campaign event. 

The hotel is just one of Trump’s businesses that may benefit from his presidency. Trump has said that he would place his businesses into a “blind trust” and that his children, who also have roles in his presidential transition team, would take over operations. 

If the GSA enforces the lease by canceling it, the agency risks litigation.

“In the end, it’s just a frigging lease,” Schooner told The Huffington Post this month. “If GSA wants to terminate it tomorrow, the only thing Trump can do is sue and get money damages. That’s a price worth paying.”

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North Dakota Governor Orders Pipeline Protesters To Evacuate

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2016-11-28 22:18

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North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple ordered Dakota Access Pipeline protesters Monday to immediately evacuate the main camp they’ve maintained on federal land for months because of “severe winter weather.”

Snowfall, which began blanketing the region Monday, is expected to stop on Wednesday, according to a winter storm warning from the National Weather Service.

The Republican governor, however, ordered the protesters not to return. 

“Winter conditions have the potential to endanger human life, especially when they are exposed to those conditions without proper shelter, dwellings or sanitation for prolonged periods of time,” Dalrymple’s order said. “These persons are ordered to leave the evacuation area immediately, and are further ordered not to return to the evacuation area.”

Protesters, who call themselves water protectors, who violate the order “[do] so at their own risk, and assume any and all corresponding liabilities for their unlawful presence and occupation of the evacuation area,” Dalrymple said. 

Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault said late Monday: “This state executive order is a menacing action meant to cause fear, and is a blatant attempt by the state and local officials to usurp and circumvent federal authority.”

Members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and their allies, sometimes numbering in the thousands, have camped in tents, yurts, tipis and other makeshift lodgings on federal land near the pipeline’s route.

A coordinator at the Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council, which runs medical and other services at the sprawling Oceti Sakowin camp and others, told The Guardian that they are prepared to continue providing care without government assistance. 

The evacuation order came after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has oversight of the camp area, announced Friday that it would close the area to the public on Dec. 5.

The Army Corps softened its stance Sunday by saying it “has no plans for forcible removal” of protesters who disobey the deadline to leave. Overstaying the cutoff carries legal risks, however, as the Army Corps warned that protesters could be punished for violating federal, state or local laws. 

The Standing Rock Sioux had quickly vowed to disobey the Corps’ deadline to leave.

The Oceti Sakowin camp is the main base for protesters who oppose the 1,172-mile pipeline, which begins in North Dakota and crosses through South Dakota and Iowa on its way to Illinois. 

Safety concerns also prompted the Army Crops’ decision last week to ban people from the area, Col. John Henderson, district commander of the Army Corps, said in a letter to Archambault last week. 

Recent clashes between protesters and police have become more violent, and the onset of North Dakota’s harsh winter will make it tough to deliver emergency services to anyone north of the Cannonball River, Henderson wrote.

The Army Corps had encouraged the Sioux and its allies to relocate to a “free speech zone” for peaceful protest on the other bank of the Cannonball River, which is more accessible for police, fire and medical services. 

“We fully support the rights of all Americans to exercise free speech and peacefully assemble, and we ask that they do it in a way that does not also endanger themselves or others, or infringe on others’ rights,” Henderson said. 

Perhaps the most serious confrontation occurred last week when a woman was hit with an explosive device that witnesses said was thrown at her by police. Sophia Wilansky, 21, may lose her arm, her father said last week. 

The presence of protesters also interferes with a rancher’s grazing rights, according to Henderson. 

Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier, whose office has arrested more than 500 protesters, had criticized the Army Corps for backing off.

The Army Corps “is basically kicking the can down the road, and all it is doing is taking the liability from the Corps and putting it on” the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, he told the Associated Press.

The $3.8 billion privately built pipeline is largely complete except for a 20-mile section that would cross beneath Lake Oahe near the Standing Rock Sioux’s reservation. The tribe has sought to block its completion, saying that the Army Corps did not conduct a proper environmental review of its impact.

The Obama administration will not grant a permit for the disputed section to Energy Transfer Partners, the developer, until a review of the tribe’s concerns that began in September is completed. 


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Mike Pence Supporter Angry Over 'Hamilton' Protest Charged In Racist Attack On Asian Diner Patrons

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2016-11-28 22:04

A supporter of Vice President-elect Mike Pence faces a court hearing next month after police said he called two women in a New York City diner racist names and pepper-sprayed a bystander who defended them.

Frank Camino, 56, is scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 19 on charges of assault with intent to cause physical injury, attempted assault, recklessly causing injury and harassment in the second degree, local news website Gothamist reported.

Police arrested him early Nov. 20 at a diner after he reportedly called two Chinese-American women “c**ts” and “whores” and said they should “go back to Tokyo,” the website reported. Then he pepper-sprayed a man who stepped up to defend the women and said he doesn’t “tolerate racism,” according to a witness. Gothamist couldn’t reach Camino for comment.

One of the women, Sally Wen Mao, said the “loud, angry” man tore into her and a friend after she asked him to lower his voice. He had been griping how “disgusting” and “racist” the cast of the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton” was to issue an appeal to Vice President-elect Mike Pence, according to Mao, a 29-year-old Chinese-American poet.

Mao wrote about the experience on Twitter and Facebook.

1. Last night I was in an east village diner. a loud angry man complains abt Hamilton, how disgusting & "racist" they were to Pence.

— Sally Mao (@sallywenmao) November 20, 2016

@sallywenmao 2. He was right behind me speaking to the diner owner, then started rambling loudly, complaining about "so-called minorities"

— Sally Mao (@sallywenmao) November 20, 2016

@sallywenmao 3. At some pt listening to racist bile was intolerable, I said lower yr voice we are just trying to eat. Then we switched seats

— Sally Mao (@sallywenmao) November 20, 2016

Camino reportedly entered the Lower East Side Coffee Shop alone after midnight and sat behind Mao and her friend, who had just come from an event celebrating Asian-American culture, Gothamist reported.

“When I was at the diner with my friend, we were talking directly about xenophobia in America and white male rage and how much it impacts us, our sense of humanity,” Mao, an Asian-American Studies educator for The City University of New York, told The Huffington Post.

@sallywenmao 4. Inevitably the Trump supporter got aggressive and told us to go back to Tokyo, then called us c**** and whores

— Sally Mao (@sallywenmao) November 20, 2016

Camino began talking loudly to a diner employee about the “Hamilton” cast’s address to Pence the previous weekend and “how disgusting and ‘racist’ they were,” Mao wrote in a Facebook post. She said Camino also complained about “so-called minorities.”

Mao said the man turned his aggression toward her and her friend when she asked him to lower his voice. Even after the women switched tables, the man continued ranting, telling them to “go Back to Tokyo” and calling them misogynistic slurs, Mao said.

Mao said she stood and splashed water from her cup into his face.

“His spite and his malice and his loudness reinforced how we were feeling,” Mao said. “I had no patience for that kind of tirade. In that moment, I really needed to take a stand.”

@sallywenmao 5. At which point I wasn't having it with his racism and misogyny -- I splashed my water across his face

— Sally Mao (@sallywenmao) November 20, 2016

@sallywenmao 6. He escalates, whining, and calls the police and says he will have me arrested all the while calling us derogatory slurs

— Sally Mao (@sallywenmao) November 20, 2016

Camino threatened to have the women arrested, called the police and blocked the diner entrance so no one could leave, according to Marie Solis, a Mic.com staff writer who witnessed the confrontation and wrote an essay about it.

“My friends and I asked Mao and [her friend] to sit with us because we had all been genuinely fearful that this man, who was clearly angry and dangerous, would hurt them,” Solis wrote.

As Camino continued his racist rant, Mao threw a second cup of water at him. 

Police soon arrived and took statements from those involved. Officers told Mao she wouldn’t be charged and allowed her and her friend to leave. After the officers walked outside, another customer approached Camino and told him, “I don’t tolerate racism,” according to Solis.

Solis described Camino’s response in her essay:

The man didn’t take well to this comment. “I wasn’t being racist,” he insisted. “I just told them to go back to Tokyo.”

I could sense things were going to escalate...

At that moment, though, a lot of things happened very quickly: I heard shouts and then turned to see the man stand up, reach into his pocket and pull out pepper spray, which he sprayed directly into the eyes of the patron who had called him out on his racism.

Solis ran outside to alert the police officers. Mao said she later learned the man hit with pepper spray was treated at a hospital. 

“The rage and venom of these men know no limit now that this regime has been voted into place,” Mao wrote on Facebook, referring to the Trump administration.

“It was always there,” Mao added, “but now many like this man feel the need to inflict their rage over everyone around them, even in public spaces.”

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Justifying Torture: CIA Psychologist's Book Defends His Role

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2016-11-28 21:51

WASHINGTON ― A former CIA contractor who is being sued for his role in the spy agency’s torture program argues in a forthcoming book that his actions were legal, morally justified and necessary to protect Americans from terrorist attacks.

In “Enhanced Interrogation: Inside the Minds and Motives of the Islamic Terrorists Trying to Destroy America,” James Mitchell and his coauthor, Bill Harlow, deliver a firsthand account of how he joined the CIA’s interrogation program in 2002 as an adviser and eventually became one of the agency’s top interrogators, using techniques now widely recognized as torture against suspected al Qaeda members imprisoned at secret torture locations, known as  black sites.

In his book, Mitchell is dismissive of former interrogators who say that building rapport with prisoners is more effective than violent coercion. The CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques,” Mitchell says, saved lives. 

Mitchell was one of two psychologists hired by the CIA in 2002 to help develop ways to break down detainees’ ability to resist interrogations. He and his colleague John “Bruce” Jessen worked at the military’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) school, where they taught U.S. troops how to endure brutal treatment if they were taken captive by a country that does not adhere to the Geneva Conventions. Under Mitchell and Jessen’s guidance, the CIA used modified SERE techniques against suspected terrorists between 2002 and 2008.

President Barack Obama banned enhanced interrogation techniques in 2009, and the Senate Intelligence Committee released a scathing report on the CIA program, using code names for Mitchell and Jessen, in 2014. Mitchell admitted his role in the program to Vice News in 2014, but his book, which will be released Tuesday, is his comprehensive defense of his work with the CIA and the methods they used.

Mitchell, one of the few public faces of the CIA’s torture program, may appear in court next year in a civil case brought by former CIA black site prisoners. He has a vested interest in convincing readers that he was motivated by a sense of patriotic duty and that the interrogation techniques used by the CIA were less horrifying than described in a 500-page report by its Senate overseers. 

Here are the top takeaways:

Mitchell admits to crafting the torture program and personally interrogating prisoners.

Two survivors of the CIA’s torture program and the family of one man who died in CIA custody are suing Mitchell and Jessen for damages for their role in the torture program. The psychologists’ lawyers argued earlier this year that the pair “did not create or establish the CIA enhanced interrogation program; they did not make decisions about Plaintiffs’ capture, treatment, confinement conditions, and interrogations; and they did not perform, supervise or control Plaintiffs’ interrogations.”

The case is scheduled to go to trial next year, and it will be hard for the lawyers to continue making this argument. In his book, Mitchell admits to almost the exact opposite.

“Jose [Rodriguez] not only wanted me to help them craft the program, he wanted me to conduct the interrogations using [enhanced interrogation techniques] myself,” Mitchell writes, referring to the then-head of the CIA’s counterterrorism center.

Throughout the book, Mitchell provides thorough descriptions of how he and Jessen personally interrogated CIA prisoners using techniques such as slamming them into a wall and waterboarding them. Mitchell interrogated “fourteen of the most senior so-called high-value detainees in U.S. custody,” according to his biography in the back of the book.

Mitchell tried to get the Navy to stop using waterboarding in SERE training because it was too brutal.

Defendants of the CIA’s torture program point to the fact that U.S. troops are exposed to the interrogation techniques in SERE training as evidence that the methods aren’t that bad. But before they signed on to work with the CIA, Mitchell and Jessen “spent years trying to get the Navy SERE School to abandon its use of waterboarding not because it didn’t work, but because we thought it was too effective,” Mitchell wrote. “One hundred percent of the warfighters exposed to it in training capitulated even if it cost them their jobs.”

Mitchell and Jessen personally waterboarded Abu Zubaydah, the first prisoner to enter the CIA’s torture program. One waterboarding session caused Zubaydah to throw up his food. Mitchell responded by shortening the period of time of the simulated drowning but made sure to expose him to “one or two more short pours so that he didn’t get the idea that a dramatic display would stop the procedures.”

Mitchell says Zubaydah lost his eye because of a botched plastic surgery.

Even after the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report, which detailed torture techniques the CIA used against Zubaydah, there is no public record of how he lost his left eye.

Mitchell claims that Zubaydah told him during an interrogation that he had plastic surgery so he could avoid capture while traveling. “The Pakistani doctor who did it was, in his words, a ‘quack,’” Mitchell says, and the procedure made him go blind in one eye.

The CIA, which reviewed Mitchell’s book to make sure it didn’t disclose classified information, would not confirm Mitchell’s account of how Zubaydah lost his eye. Joseph Margulies, Zubaydah’s lawyer, also declined to comment.

There were rogue interrogators who used torture techniques they weren’t authorized to use.

Mitchell portrays himself as a cautious interrogator who followed the CIA’s rules. He is extremely critical of another interrogator whom he describes as a rogue operator who used interrogation techniques that went outside of the CIA’s mandate. “I wondered how much adolescent dick checking I’d have to put up with from this guy,” Mitchell writes of their first encounter at the end of 2002.

That interrogator forced Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged plotter of the USS Cole bombing, into positions that caused the prisoner to scream and risked dislocating his shoulders, Mitchell says. He writes that he was surprised when the on-site medical staff failed to intervene.

Mitchell says he later watched the interrogator splash Nashiri with cold water “while using a stiff-bristled brush to scrub his ass and balls and then his mouth.” He says he saw the interrogator blow cigar smoke into Nashiri’s face until he became nauseated.

When Mitchell reported the incident to the chief and deputy chief of the CIA’s Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation Group, the deputy chief called Mitchell a “pussy” and a “bleeding heart liberal who cared more about the feelings of a ‘fucking terrorist’ than about the safety of the American people,” Mitchell writes.

Mitchell believes the media and the Democrats are out to get him.

In his book, Mitchell recalls a conversation he claims to have had with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged planner of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. “He prophetically predicted that the press and some members of my own government would turn on me and Bruce and others like us who took aggressive action to prevent the next 9/11 attack and save American lives,” Mitchell writes.

One of the last chapters of Mitchell’s book, “KSM’s Prophecy Comes True,” refers to that prediction. It details the Obama administration’s investigation into the CIA torture program (which concluded with no charges against anyone involved in the program), the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report, which was shunned by the committee’s Republicans, and the media’s coverage of the events when they “get the torture bug” and “lose all reason.”

Mitchell claims that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who spearheaded the Senate report on the agency’s torture program, “cherry-picked” documents that made him and other CIA personnel look bad and declined to interview them because it would challenge her narrative.

“There was no cherry-picking of facts,” Feinstein spokesman Tom Mentzer wrote in an email. “Intelligence Committee staff reviewed more than 6.3 million pages of CIA records. The final study is 6,700 pages long and backed up by 38,000 footnotes. It’s an exhaustive chronicle of the detention and interrogation program, and the 500-page executive summary is a broad overview of what is covered in the longer, still-classified study.”

The one good thing about the Senate report, Mitchell acknowledges, is that it allowed him to tell his side of the story for the first time. Ironically, the declassification of the report’s executive summary led the Obama administration to declassify some information about techniques used in the CIA’s interrogation program, making it possible for Mitchell to respond publicly to years’ worth of material that has been written about him.

He doesn’t think the CIA will torture again.

President-elect Donald Trump, who promised on the campaign trail to bring back waterboarding, has since flip-flopped on his support for reinstating torture. Mitchell believes that with the rise of ISIS, the U.S. is in more danger than it was before the Sept. 11 attacks.

Mitchell is still haunted by some of the techniques he used against detainees, he writes, but he doesn’t regret it. He maintains that “enhanced interrogation techniques” produced intelligence that non-coercive forms of interrogation could not ― and believes that bringing back these techniques could save lives.

Even so, he writes, “I have a hard time imagining responsible individuals in the intelligence community queuing up to employ EITs after seeing how those of us who did so after 9/11 were treated.

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North Carolina State Board Of Elections Dismisses Some Of Pat McCrory’s Election Protests

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2016-11-28 21:37

North Carolina’s State Board of Elections ordered local election boards Monday night to dismiss any election protest from Gov. Pat McCrory (R) that “merely disputes the eligibility of a voter.”

The dismissal follows election protests filed in 52 counties by the McCrory campaign alleging that ballots were cast by dead people, felons or voters who cast ballots in multiple states (even though it’s unlikely voter fraud is the reason behind any irregularities). 

McCrory officially filed for a statewide recount on Nov. 22, after hinting that he would do so earlier this month. His opponent, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper (D), declared victory over McCrory on Nov. 9.  

“This is a devastating blow to the McCrory campaign and further evidence that there is no path to victory for Governor McCrory,” said Trey Nix, the campaign manager for Cooper for NC, in a statement. “Roy Cooper’s lead has grown to over 9,000 votes as Republican claims of voter fraud have been routinely rejected by members of their own party. It’s time for Governor McCrory to respect the will of the voters.”

County boards must continue to investigate claims surrounding possible violations of election law and allegations that would affect enough votes to alter the outcome of the race. Cooper is ahead by 9,700 votes as of Monday night, according to state election counts.

Related Coverage 

North Carolina’s LGBTQ Community Doesn’t Want To Spend 4 More Years With Pat McCrory

North Carolina Governor, Trailing In Votes, Vows To Fight Past Thanksgiving

Here’s A Look Inside Election Protection Efforts In North Carolina

North Carolina Governor’s Race Is Way Too Close To Call

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Trump's Son-In-Law Favors Romney As Secretary Of State

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2016-11-28 21:30
All of Washington wants to know who will be the Secretary of State in a Donald Trump administration after his campaign manager Kellyanne Conway waged on all out air and tweet war on one of the candidates for the job, Mitt Romney. Conway questioned his loyalty to the incoming President since the 2012 GOP presidential nominee had made cutting personal remarks about Trump during the primaries. She noted Trump loyalists would be angry over the selection of Romney and even questioned whether the former Massachusetts governor was qualified for the job.

Yet, Romney is having dinner with the President elect on Tuesday night. While Trump, a former reality show star, has said that he likes that Romney looks the part, it is thanks to Jared Kushner that he's still in the mix. Kushner, who is married to Ivanka Trump, favors Romney for the job. His opinion carries extra weight for this nomination because Trump has already suggested in an interview with the New York Times that Kushner could be tasked with making peace between the Palestinians and Israelis. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has been openly campaigning for the job and is seemingly owed some kind of position for endorsing Trump earlier than most, but has not succeeded in securing the nomination. Kushner, who seems to have Trump's ear, has pushed back against his nomination over fears that Giuliani's international business dealings would make the confirmation process contentious.

A dark horse in the race may yet win the sweepstakes for Secretary of State. Disgraced General David Petraeus talked with Trump at Trump Tower for an hour on Monday. The general's selection seems unlikely due to his guilty plea over the mishandling of classified information. It would also prompt charges of hypocrisy since Trump led chants of "Lock Her Up" on the campaign trail over Hillary Clinton's mishandling of classified information with her private email server. Senator Bob Corker, who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will arrive at Trump Tower on Tuesday to talk about the position with the President-elect. Former UN ambassador John Bolton seems to have lost his earlier momentum for the job.

Time will tell if blood is thicker than water for Trump.

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Trump: Looking For Love

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2016-11-28 21:04
In line with his all-consuming ego, President-elect Donald Trump has exhibited a craving not just for affirmation but for adulation in his interactions with the outside world.

Perhaps that is why he tailors his message, contradictory if necessary, to suit whatever audience is at hand. Where he will ultimately end up is anyone's guess.
Ironically, his fickleness provides environmentalists with some hope. Could Trump's newfound hesitation to follow through on his campaign pledge to withdraw from the international climate change Paris accord foreshadow a reversal in the wings? How firm is his vow to engage in a full-throated rollback of environmental regulations (especially those governing energy production)?

A leader fixated on being revered is psychologically ill-equipped to handle public excoriation in capitals around the world. Yet that is precisely what Trump faces if he spurns the climate change pact signed by 196 nations. Failure to modify his hard line stance would isolate us when international cooperation appears increasingly integral to survival.

On the home front, recent polling disclosed that eight out of 10 Americans, regardless of political affiliation, support the Paris accord and believe that human-generated global warming is cause for concern. Being at odds with the majority of his countrymen certainly would not play into Trump's obsessive pursuit of widespread public acclaim.

To top it off, hundreds of American corporations have formally urged Trump not to abandon the Paris agreement and withdraw from the international effort to transition to an eventual clean energy economy.

Does Trump want to be viewed as a pariah in the business community populated by many of his contemporaries? His ego demands allegiance and stiffens at rejection.

What of the environmental regulations that Trump has vowed to rescind in relation to energy production? These rules are health-based, and the Environmental Protection Agency disputes that they are hurting the coal industry's economic bottom line. Indeed, there is ample evidence that competition from cheap natural gas, not the presence of environmental regulations, is sending the coal industry into a tailspin.

What if a major health crisis occurred and could be linked to environmental laxity under Trump's watch? Consider a major asthma outbreak associated with weakened air pollution standards. How much of a hit would Trump's image take if relaxed regulations led to a massive offshore oil spill likely to pollute coastlines and fisheries for generations? Would Trump dare risk being blamed for contamination of municipal water supplies as a result of easing curbs on industrial outflows?

Climate change-denier Trump is quoted as saying with confidence that no one is concerned about weather extremes because they are natural phenomena. Tell that to the coastal residents of his home state of Florida if hurricanes meet governmental do-nothing projections and strike with increasing intensity and frequency. Trump would be pilloried.

There is another aspect to his dilemma. A public backlash against Trump for eviscerating environmental protection would make it much more difficult to attract the supportive crowds that he drew on the campaign trail. If his favorability ratings plunged, would he beat a hasty retreat and sequester himself in the White House where he would create his own reality?

One thing is for sure. Trump displays a proclivity to say whatever his audiences want to hear. The question for environmentalists is just how much this justifies optimism for the stormy months ahead.

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The First Faithful Elector

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2016-11-28 20:52
Donald Trump may already be assembling his cabinet, but he is actually not yet President. He still needs a majority vote from the 538 electors that make up the Electoral College. In normal election years, that is a merely formal procedure. But Trump is not a normal President-elect, and so several scholars, as well as millions of petitioners on change.org, are urging electors from Trump-majority states to defect and withhold their vote from Trump.

Few electors have done that in the history of the Electoral College. Those who have are called "faithless electors." And the idea that electors would vote for Hillary Clinton, who lost the Presidential election, is ludicrous.

The idea that electors might refuse to vote for Trump, by contrast, is not. Indeed, the first Republican elector has now publicly declared his resistance. Art Sisneros, an elector from Texas, lays out in two long blog posts why he cannot, in good conscience, vote for Trump. He describes the agony of having to decide between what his conscience requires from him, and what he pledged to the Republican Party. In the end, the only way out that he sees is to resign from his post as an elector.

Sisneros can be called many things, but faithless is not among them. It is precisely his faith that prevents him from electing Trump. Sisneros, a devout Christian, finds Trump not to be "biblically qualified" to serve for office. That may not be everybody's criterion. But Sisneros' broader argument should make sense to everyone who fears what Trump may do. Trump is eminently unqualified for office, outside of the acceptable. And hat means that an elector who thinks so bears moral responsibility not to vote for him.

Sisneros makes the point so eloquently he deserves to be quoted:

The reality is Trump will be our President, no matter what my decision is. Many are furious that I am willing to have this discussion publicly. Personally, I wish more civil officers would be honest about their convictions. Assuming a Trump Presidency is their ultimate goal, they will get that. The problem is, that isn't what they want. They want a democracy. They will threaten to kill anyone who challenges their power to vote for Skittles for dinner. That is evidence alone to prove that our republic is lost. The shell may remain, but in the hearts of the people and functionality of the system our republic is gone.

This is brave. Would it be braver for Sisneros to stay on the Electoral College and cast his vote against Trump, instead of resigning and thereby giving his spot to someone who will vote for Trump? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe 36 other Republicans would follow his lead. But maybe civil unrest would be the consequence. But maybe civil unrest now might still be better than Trump as commander in chief. But maybe it would not. These are not questions an elector should have to face.

One thing seems sure, though: When the history will be written of how Trump brought down the Republic, the heroes will not be those who still refuse to accept that Hillary Clinton lost. The heroes will not be those who dream of an alternative universe in which Bernie Sanders would have been the candidate. They will not be those who still fight for individual policies without realizing that our very constitutional structure is at risk. And the heroes will certainly not those who normalize Trump.

Instead, many of the real heroes of the story will be conservatives like Art Sisneros. Staunch Republicans who realize that Trump is undermining the foundations of our Republic. Conservatives whose conscience and principles, prevent them from normalizing Trump. Devout Christians who find Donald Trump to be as deeply flawed as he is. Christian resistance to dictatorship has a long, though certainly checkered history. At its best moments, it has been powerful and important.

Too many Republicans are still holding their nose and going along with a President-elect who violates all of their principles. A mere elector, Art Sisneros, is showing them what it actually means to be faithful. If there were more people like him, the Republic might still have a chance to survive. If not, it will be Skittles for dinner, and worse. Much worse.

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The Slow, Painful Death Of The TPP

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2016-11-28 20:38
In spite of the hopes of many elite types for a last-minute resurrection, it appears that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is finally dead. This is good news, but it took a long time to kill the deal and the country is likely to pay a huge price for the execution.

The basic point that everyone should know by now is that the TPP had little to do with trade. The United States already had trade deals with six of the 11 other countries in the pact. The trade barriers with the other five countries were already very low in most cases, so there was little room left for further trade liberalization in the TPP.

Instead, the main purpose of the TPP was to lock in place a business friendly structure of regulation. The deal was negotiated by a series of working groups that were dominated by representatives of major corporations. The regulatory structure was to be enforced by investor-state dispute settlement tribunals. This is an extra-judicial system that would be able to override U.S. laws with secret rulings that were not bound by precedent or subject to appeal.

In addition, the TPP would strengthen and lengthen patent and copyrights and related protections. This is protectionism: It is 180 degrees at odds with free trade. These protections can raise the price of protected items, like prescription drugs, by a factor of ten or even a hundred. This is equivalent to tariffs of several thousand percent, with the same waste and incentives for corruption. Free traders oppose such protections, if they are honest.

The dishonesty used to push the TPP continued with the post-mortems. Both the "New York Times and Washington Post" gave us stern warnings about how China is likely to capitalize by pushing ahead with its own trade deal for East Asia and the Pacific. This appeal to anti-China sentiments is striking since it completely contradicts everything that the "free traders" ordinarily say about trade.

First, we ordinarily believe that more prosperous trading partners are good for the United States. If China and other countries in the region reduce their trade barriers, it should lead to faster growth, making them better customers for U.S. exports and better suppliers of high quality imports. This is the reason that the United States generally supported the growth of the European Common Market and later the European Union.

There is an argument that we may not want to see China, a country without a democratic government or respect for basic human rights, get even stronger. But it is not clear what the alternative proposal is.

Furthermore, almost without exception, the current group of China fearers was 100 percent supportive of admitting China into the WTO without imposing conditions like respecting the rights of workers to organize. In other words, no one should take these people's concerns on China very seriously.

If we do want to push forward on "free trade," we should take the concept seriously and not just use trade pacts as a tool to redistribute income upward. A good place to start would be to focus on removing the barriers that prevent foreign workers in highly paid professionals (e.g. doctors, dentists, lawyers) from working in the United States.

It is illegal to practice medicine in the United States unless you complete a U.S. residency program. As a result of such restrictions, our doctors earn on average more than $250,000 a year, twice as much as they get in other wealthy countries. Free trade in doctors could save us roughly $100 billion annually (around 0.6 percent of GDP). There might be comparable gains from free trade in the other highly paid professions. We can design international standards that ensure high quality, but open the door to people trained in other countries.

When it comes to technology, instead of patent and copyright monopolies, how about instead developing mechanisms for freely disbursing new innovations all over the world? There is a lot to the argument for the benefits of free trade. Let's apply it to innovations in medicine, software, and other areas. We know how to develop mechanisms for financing research where the cost could be parceled out among countries.

If our trade deals were actually about free trade instead of increasing profits for the pharmaceutical, software, and entertainment industries, this is the direction trade negotiators would be looking. But given the fealty of our politicians to major corporate interests, they don't even want to see alternatives to government granted monopolies discussed. There's no time for real free trade in these people's minds.

Anyhow, if the politicians want to get serious about real free trade agreements it is easy to come up with progressive directions for such deals. In the meantime we can celebrate the well-deserved death of the TPP, which has proved to be enormously costly for the country.

The decision by proponents of the TPP to push ahead with their deal almost certainly cost Hillary Clinton the election. Trade was a big issue in swing states like Michigan and Pennsylvania and the people who cared about trade overwhelmingly voted for Trump. So the TPP might be dead, but we will have to deal with its legacy in the form of President Trump - thanks guys.

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A Post-Truth Presidency

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2016-11-28 20:30

We’re approaching the end of the year, so we can all expect to hear lots of “the year that was” items in the news. One of the earliest entries in this news genre came from across the pond:

Oxford Dictionaries has selected ‘post-truth’ as 2016’s international word of the year, after the contentious ‘Brexit’ referendum and an equally divisive U.S. presidential election caused usage of the adjective to skyrocket, according to the Oxford University Press.

Now, “post-truth” is just a new spin on an old concept. Stephen Colbert was feeling a bit peeved last week, since “post-truth” is just another way to express Colbert’s own famous neologism, “truthiness.” But other than coining a new term for it, the idea behind Colbert’s (or Oxford’s) snappy word certainly isn’t new. Back in World War II, it was known as “The Big Lie.” The basic idea is an easy one to grasp: believe the hype, not the facts. Repeat a falsehood enough times, and a whole bunch of people start to believe it. Once they do, proving it wrong using facts just doesn’t seem to work.

Donald Trump might be called “post-truthiness defined” (with apologies to both Oxford and Colbert). Whatever Donald Trump believes at any given moment is truth, to him. Furthermore, even with mountains of evidence to contradict him, whatever he believes at the moment is always what he believed. Any videotape showing this not to be true is dismissed as the “crooked media” misunderstanding or misrepresenting Trump’s true beliefs.

This was on full display this weekend, as Trump took to Twitter to (confusingly) argue both sides of an issue simultaneously. First, he called the recount effort in Wisconsin, launched by Green Party candidate Jill Stein, as a “scam.” Then, apparently still miffed that Hillary Clinton beat him in the popular vote by over two million votes, Trump bizarrely tweeted (without a shred of actual proof) that, if the “millions who voted illegally” weren’t counted, then he, in fact, had won the popular vote. So in the space of hours, Trump is arguing that recounting votes is a scam, but also that millions voted illegally ― confirming all his bluster in the weeks leading up to the election that it would be “rigged.” Trump (and, to be honest, most of the media) doesn’t see any contradiction in those stances. He’s taking all sides of the issue, so he can later claim to have been right no matter what happens. Post-truthiness at its finest!

Believing the hype rather than the facts, once again, is nothing new in politics. The fact that a leader believes something that is not true also influences everyone around him. Anyone attempting to curry favor with such a leader will have to prove they too fervently believe the hype over the facts. This feedback loop only serves to reinforce the falsehood in the leader himself. This is so well-known we even have a myth available as an example, which is used to warn children about such people. Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes” accurately predicts the consequences of a leader believing a lie and forcing all those around him to believe it as well. Trump’s not naked, he’s just got magic new clothes that nobody can see.

At his core, Donald Trump shows a dangerous instability that could have far-reaching consequences for millions. New York Times reporters who met with Trump last week in an on-the-record interview session revealed part of this instability when they said Trump does actually appear malleable on some core issues, and that whatever he says at the moment, he fully believes for that moment. Trump sitting down with a general who warned that waterboarding and other torture was ineffectual and counterproductive resulted in Trump drastically shifting his own position. Perhaps, though, if Trump sits down with proponents of torture, he’ll change his mind again.

The really scary part of this is how Trump expects everyone else to just accept his statements at face value and by doing so to totally ignore all his previous statements to the contrary. If Trump believes it now, then he always must have believed it. Hey, who you gonna believe, Trump or all those lyin’ video tapes?

Trump proved himself a master at these mental gymnastics on the campaign trail. Back then, it didn’t really matter whether Trump reversed himself on any particular issue, because his supporters would blandly tell you it was Trump’s style in speaking rather than what he was actually saying that they admired. They weren’t about to believe (or even read) what some pointy-headed media factchecker had to say about things, since the media was so crooked and so anti-Trump. But this will change as president. When Trump makes up his mind about something, then there are going to be real-world consequences. Whatever course of action Trump decides upon will influence a lot of lives. However, if Trump later on decides to abruptly reverse his position, reversing course in the real world will take longer than dashing off a tweet in the middle of the night. Trump loathes ever admitting he was wrong, but when such a reversal means reversing all the real-world consequences of his previous position, it’s going to be a lot harder to just pretend it all never happened.

This, too, has a literary reference worth noting: “We’ve never been at war with Eastasia ― we’ve always been at war with Eurasia.” No matter the changing policy from the top, the Ministry of Truth in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four would scrub the past of any proof that any other policy had ever previously been followed. This may be overstating the case, but the Trump administration will be in charge of all the bureaus and agencies which put out official statistics. Could Trump insist that the Labor Department go back and change all the unemployment numbers from the past eight years to show what Trump believed the rate to be? Could he likewise insist that the unemployment numbers under his reign be calculated in a creative new fashion to show the reality he believes his policies are creating? These would be unimaginable questions to ask of any other incoming president, it’s worth pointing out. And the unemployment rate is just one obvious example. Justice Department statistics on civil rights violations is another that easily springs to mind, with Jeff Sessions in control.

Normally, presidents wouldn’t be allowed to get away with such things, but these are anything but normal times. Normally, the White House press corps would hold a president accountable for radical shifts in policy direction. But I have to wonder if President Trump is even going to bother holding press conferences. Will he boldly stand before hostile reporters and attempt to brush away inconvenient questions? Or will he decide that just phoning in to Sean Hannity’s show every once in a while is sufficient? What happens if Trump just decides to stonewall any reporters (and any media outlets) that write critical stories about him? This could lead directly to more and more critical stories about Trump, which would just reinforce Trump’s decision that they’ll never give him a fair shake. Will White House press conferences become a thing of the past, swept away by Trump “changing Washington” to suit his needs? These are all ― sadly ― also valid questions to ask, at this point. Trump hasn’t held a press conference since the election (indeed, the last one he gave was in July), so maybe it’s time for media outlets to create rolling countdown (countup?) clocks showing how long it has been since Trump held a press conference.

If Trump surrounds himself with people who will never point out his contradictory stances (for fear of losing influence) and if Trump refuses to face the press (who might ask him about such contradictions to his face), then he will have created his own post-truth bubble. This will serve to insulate him from any news that his policy ideas either aren’t working or are actively making things worse. It will also insulate Trump from having to admit failure, because every new policy idea (even those diametrically opposed to his previous ones) will be treated as singular events unconnected to any inconvenient past failures of his own making.

To conclude, there’s a saying in many parts of the country about the weather. “If you don’t like the weather here, wait 15 minutes and it’ll change.” Will this be the operative way to deal with Trump’s presidency? If Trump makes a really bad decision, will we all just have to wait for a spell before Trump reverses himself and insists that he never believed otherwise? If he is indeed open to hearing reality from his advisors, this might be the best thing to hope for. Of course, this shows the instability of Trump’s core persona. But if Trump can navigate being post-truthy (so he can sleep at night, or whatever) in order to change his mind on things that aren’t working as advertised, perhaps it’s something most people will accept in a president. Perhaps a post-truth president might be better than a stone-cold ideologue who would never reverse course, even when things weren’t working out as planned. Perhaps we’ll all forgive a bit of post-truthiness in Donald Trump if it means it’ll be easier for him to scrap ideas which just don’t work. It’s an optimistic way to look at it, to be sure, but for now it seems the best thing to hope for in a Trump presidency: if you don’t like his policies, just wait a few months until they change.


Chris Weigant blogs at:

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


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Battery made from a diamond and nuclear waste could last thousands of years

TreeHugger Science-Tech - Mon, 2016-11-28 10:54
The technology turns the problem of nuclear waste into a source of safe nuclear energy.

WATCH: Pastor Speaks In Tongues To Celebrate Defeat Of 'Jezebel' Hillary Clinton

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2016-11-28 02:00

A preacher was caught on video apparently speaking in tongues to celebrate Donald Trump’s election victory.

Pastor John Kilpatrick never mentions Trump’s name in the clip posted online by Raw Story, which shows him speaking at the Evangel Temple in Meridian, Mississippi, earlier this month. 

However, he declares that “God’s spirit is going to begin to move again in America” because of the election results.  

Kilpatrick also cries out an insult aimed at Hillary Clinton

“Thank the Lord for the victory! Thank you for saving our nation! Thank you, Lord, for bringing Jezebel down! Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you WOOOOOO! Revival’s on the way!” 

Jezebel was a biblical figure killed for idolatry, and her name is often used to mean an evil or immoral woman.

Throughout the clip, Kilpatrick speaks in what sounds like gibberish.

He also calls on his followers to stand and pray with each other and “lay hands on one another” ― but men are allowed only to pray with and “lay hands on” other men, and women only with other women. 

“The politically correct mindset would say I’m a crazy man,” he says at one point in the clip. “The politically correct mindset would say don’t listen to him, he’s a nut.”

See more in the clip above. 

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Stop Perpetuating Myth of Vote Fraud to Distract From Reality of Massive Voter Suppression

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2016-11-27 21:44
Stop Perpetuating Myth of Vote Fraud to Distract From Reality of Massive Voter Suppression

Donald Trump's most recent claim purports that he won the popular vote if you "deduct the millions of people who voted illegally."

This bombastic claim runs contrary to the evidence amassed this election cycle. The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law leads the nation's largest non-partisan voter protection program. We received calls and complaints from voters across the country. Here is a snapshot of what we actually saw this election cycle.

Pennsylvania adopted a strict voter ID law that was found to violate the state's constitution by "imposing an unreasonable burden on the right to vote", and was struck down in 2014. Nonetheless, that did not stop poll officials from requiring that voters present id in polling sites across the state's five most populous counties of Philadelphia, Allegheny, Montgomery, Bucks, and Delaware, as well as in Berks County, Chester County, Dauphin County, Erie County, Lancaster County, and Luzerne Counties.

Officials across Texas in Denton, Tarrant, Grimes, Harris, Medina and Montgomery Counties continued to seek photo id from voters despite an en banc ruling from the Fifth Circuit that found that the state's photo id law had a discriminatory effect on the state's Black and Latino voters. In Bexar County, a temporary restraining order was issued mandating that officials remove all illegal voter ID signs and correct its website and hotline with the updated voter ID rules.

In Durham, North Carolina, e-poll books failed on the morning of the election. Voters were told to leave and return once the problem was corrected. That afternoon a court order was secured that extended poll hours at several impacted polling sites. It is unclear how many voters learned about the extension and were provided a fair opportunity to cast their ballots.

In Wisconsin, a strict photo id law, the subject of long and protracted litigation, resulted in depressed voter turnout rates across the state. The impact was starkest in Milwaukee where voter turnout rates dropped by 51,000 between 2012 and 2016. Milwaukee's election chief attributed the low turnout and problems at the polls to the state's restrictive voter ID law. In commenting on the law this summer, a federal judge found that "preoccupation with mostly phantom election fraud leads to real incidents of disenfranchisement."

Student voters were not immune. Poll workers in Erie County, Pennsylvania home to at least seven higher education institutions, unlawfully turned away scores of college students who presented their student photo ID to vote. College students in Boca Raton, Florida were turned away after election officials told them their Florida Atlantic University address was considered "a hotel" and not a residence.

Misinformation regarding the date and location for voting spread extensively online. In some places, misinformation was sent by mail including in Tuscaloosa, Alabama where voters received a letter stating that Tuscaloosa Republicans will vote for president on Tuesday, and Tuscaloosa Democrats will vote on Wednesday.

Arizona is an open-carry weapon state. Voters in Maricopa and Pima Counties reported visibly armed individuals standing near the exits or entrances of polling places attempting to interact with voters.

And we also received complaints from some of the 6 million people in our country who are disenfranchised as a result of a criminal history- people who are citizens and unable to vote because of a conviction in their past.

There is one central point about the 2016 presidential election that can't be ignored- voter suppression had an impact. The most intense voter suppression efforts can be traced to a 2013 ruling issued by the U.S. Supreme Court that gut a core provision of the Voting Rights Act. Since the day the ruling was issued in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, states have unleashed a seemingly-coordinated campaign to make voting more difficult. Those efforts bore fruit during the 2016 presidential election cycle.

Voter suppression tactics come packaged in different forms but there is usually one single justification put forth by suppression proponents. They claim these restrictions are needed to prevent voter fraud and that there are "millions of people illegally voting." When pressed to provide the proof, they are unable to offer any because vote fraud simply does not exist.

Once we move beyond the myth of vote fraud, greater focus must be placed on the reality of voter suppression that threatens the integrity of American democracy.

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The Democrats' Circular Firing Squad

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2016-11-27 20:49
If you are like me, you are probably very weary of debates about Who Lost America to Donald Trump.

The debate goes something like this:

Hillary blew it! What a terrible campaign. What a blemished candidate. What horrible judgment to take those speaking fees from Wall Street, to keep classified data on her personal server, to fail to ask her top aide Huma Abedin to leave her employ once the Anthony Weiner mess blew up, yet again. She handed her enemies a loaded gun. And now we're stuck with Trump!! Hillary screwed up, we pay the price.

Hold on, misogynist pig. Hillary won! She won the popular vote by more than two million. Even apart from the alleged hacking of election results, old-fashioned voter suppression -- in the form of closed polling places, long lines, restrictions on early voting, abuse of ID requirements, improper purges -- probably cost her at least three swing states where the winning margin was razor thin. She won!

Yeah, but a decent candidate would have beat Trump by ten points. There was no excitement for Hillary outside the bubble. Did you even see Hillary lawn signs, or bumper stickers?

Give me a break. Look at all the dirty tricks -- the Russians hacking and leaking confidential communications by her top advisers. The FBI chief breaking all the rules and meddling in an election. Look at how the media obsessed about her emails and kept giving Trump a free pass.

I'll give you this: The rot goes a lot deeper than Hillary. The Democratic presidential party has been blowing off the white working class for decades, getting into bed with Wall Street, making trade deals by and for corporate America. No wonder Trump, despite being a billionaire and a fake, could get traction as a champion of working people. Why do you think Bernie almost beat her for the nomination?

Bernie and the Bernie bros cost us the election. He never was going to win. He sapped energy from the general election.

Hey, just think of the Bernie vote as data. Hillary and the establishment party had such weak appeal among the young and the working class that they supported a 74-year-old Jewish socialist.

What does that tell you?

Those white working class guys who voted for Trump? How many of them are just plain racist? How many of them would never vote for a woman? There is a new majority coalition in this country -- of minorities, women, immigrants, the young, LGBTQ people. It just didn't totally come together in 2016 because of all the dirty tricks.

Yeah, that and the lack of voter enthusiasm. If you think it was racism that defeated Hillary, how do you explain that Obama, a black man, did better in 2008 with the white working class than Hillary did in 2016? I'll tell you the answer. He looked like an outsider, and regular people are sick to death of insiders -- so sick that they voted for Trump. Sorry, but that coalition doesn't coalesce without the white working class.

Maybe they are more inclined to vote for an African American man than a woman, much less a feminist.

Sorry, identity politics doesn't cut it without the working class.

No, no, stop. It's not mainly class. It's racism and misogyny. It's culture!






Okay, campers. Can we please move on? We've got a constitution to defend.

Can we stipulate: Hillary ran a terrible campaign, and she was the victim of dirty tricks and presidential Democrats have been far too cavalier about regular working people, and there is plenty of racism and misogyny?

Completing the rights revolution for blacks, women, gays, lesbians, trans people, immigrants, would have been tricky politics even had Hillary been better at lunch-bucket policies for Middle America. But it was a bridge too far in the absence of credible appeals to the working class.

Gentle reader, it is both/and. And class is culture. Just hang out in a bar in a working class town, where the factories have moved to Mexico or China, where half the storefronts on Main Street are shuttered and a way of life that was once valued is ruined. Is that class or culture? Surely, it's both. This was once FDR country. It's now Trump country.

John Kennedy famously said that victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan. Not this time. This particular bastard of a defeat had plenty of fathers -- and mothers.

So can we please declare this debate closed, and think about what to do now?

What do we know about President Elect Trump? We know that he views the presidency mainly as a business opportunity; that he is appointing other billionaires to high offices, so that they can also turn government and public policies into profit-making ventures. Betsy DeVos, the designated education secretary, supports school vouchers not just as school "choice," but as a money-making opportunity.

We know that apart from a few gestures, he will do just about nothing for the white working class protest voters. So can Democrats somehow win these folks back?

It won't be easy, precisely because the revolt against the establishment is about culture as well as class. Trump, however, may be his own worst enemy. While posing as a populist, he seems inclined to let the Republican establishment have its way, not just with welfare for the poor but with federal programs that Middle America actually values, such as social security and medicare.

At some point, even the devout Trump backers may notice that the man is a fraud. And Democrats need to be there with a brand of constructive economic nationalism that actually serves working people.

But in the meantime a great deal is at risk -- not just the programs going back to Franklin Roosevelt and the civil rights victories going back to LBJ and Martin Luther King but constitutional democracy itself.

Now, can the Democrats please suspend their usual ritual of the circular firing squad -- and get on with the business of defending what's decent in America?

Robert Kuttner is co-editor of The American Prospect and professor at Brandeis University's Heller School. His latest book is Debtors' Prison: The Politics of Austerity Versus Possibility.

Like Robert Kuttner on Facebook.

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