621 Ways To Be Happier - by James Wallace Harris, Saturday, April 29, 2017 Each day, the Internet now offers me more lists on how-to-be-happier than funny-cat-videos. That’s ironic...
17 hours ago
President Donald Trump recounted an absolutely astounding detail about one of his conversations with Chinese President Xi Jinping in comments published by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday afternoon.
Apparently, Trump came into his first meeting with the Chinese leader, in early April, convinced that China could simply eliminate the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear program. Xi then patiently explained Chinese-Korean history to Trump — who then promptly changed his mind.
“After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it’s not so easy,” the president told the Journal. “I felt pretty strongly that they had a tremendous power [over] North Korea. ... But it’s not what you would think.”
Four quick observations about this:
- Trump thought China could fix North Korea until the Chinese president politely informed him that North Korea is in fact complicated.
- Trump seems to have required the leader of China to explain basic facts to him that he could have Googled, or at least asked one of the many US government North Korea experts about.
- Trump came to a profound realization about one of the most dangerous conflicts on earth after a 10-minute conversation.
- Trump is getting his information about East Asian affairs from the leader of America’s largest rival in the region.
"On day one of a Trump administration, the US Treasury Department will designate China a currency manipulator," he wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed in 2015. In his Contract With the American Voter describing his plan for his first 100 days in office, he pledged: "I will direct the Secretary of the Treasury to label China a currency manipulator."
Well, it ain’t happening. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published Wednesday, President Trump said that he wasn’t in fact going to deem China a currency manipulator.
[Ezra] Cohen-Watnick is a 30 year old Mike Flynn protege from the Defense Intelligence Agency who was brought in by Flynn to serve as the NSC's senior director for intelligence programs. H.R. McMaster tried to remove Cohen-Watnick after McMaster replaced Flynn as National Security Advisor. In that goal, McMaster apparently had the strong backing of Mike Pompeo, the Director of Central Intelligence. But Cohen-Watnick appealed his ouster to Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner. Bannon and Kushner went to Trump and Trump decided that Cohen-Watnick should stay in his position.
White House factional politics are not in themselves necessarily of great interest. But having two aides with no national security experience overrule the National Security Advisor on a key NSC personnel decision is rather remarkable - even more so when the person in question apparently had the job only due to the influence of the former national security advisor who resigned in disgrace and now is reportedly the target of multiple criminal and counter-intelligence probes.
That set of facts in itself raises a lot of alarm bells. Did Flynn's influence still extend into the White House's inner circle early this month, weeks after he was fired? Is Cohen-Watnick that important a loyalist that Bannon and Kushner would refuse to see him dismissed? Was he doing work at their behest? ...
In this latest turn of events, Cohen-Watnick apparently scanned through highly classified material looking for something to justify Trump's ridiculous wiretapping tweet. He then found a way to get that material to Devin Nunes when Nunes visited the White House in the middle of the night. Nunes then returned to the White House the next day to present the information to Trump. Again, it's not altogether clear to me whether Nunes or Trump actually realized that the material was of little real consequence and had no bearing on Trump's tweets. However that may be, at a minimum Cohen-Watnick was using his access to highly classified information to mount a political pushback campaign against the various Trump/Russia probes and quite likely breaking the law to do so.
But Bart Gellman, who has a very granular understanding of the modalities and rules tied to handling this kind of material, suggests an additional possibility: that Cohen-Watnick et al. had this material because they were using their privileged access to the nation's top secrets to keep tabs on the FBI's investigation of Trump and his top associates.
The White House cited a parody article published in the Washington Post as support for President Donald Trump's proposed budget.
The article, "Trump’s budget makes perfect sense and will fix America, and I will tell you why,” was penned by the Post’s Alexandra Petri for her “ComPost” column.
“This budget will make America a lean, mean fighting machine with bulging, rippling muscles and not an ounce of fat,” Petri wrote in the article. “America has been weak and soft for too long. BUT HOW WILL I SURVIVE ON THIS BUDGET? you may be wondering. I AM A HUMAN CHILD, NOT A COSTLY FIGHTER JET. You may not survive, but that is because you are SOFT and WEAK, something this budget is designed to eliminate.”
Petri then ran down a list of agencies that would be affected by Trump’s budget draft.
“There will be no LABOR in the future,” she wrote of proposed cuts to the Department of Labor. “Labor is what women do, I think. All fetuses will burst out of wombs brandishing an Uzi on each arm. (Also, we will cut the funding to the people who would have explained that this is not how birth or labor works.)”
The White House included the article at the bottom of its “1600 Daily” newsletter. (Here’s an archived copy.)
Late Update: TPM Reader JF strikes early with a great contest entry. 1/15/17 Donald J. Trump: "We’re going to have insurance for everybody. There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.” ...
Latter Update: Oooooo ... TPM Reader NH is bringing it! 2/19/16: "Obamacare has to go. We can't afford it. It's no good. You're going to end up with great healthcare for a fraction of the price. And that's going to take place immediately after we go in. Okay? Immediately. Fast Quick." (CSPAN, Timestamp 34:23)
Entry #3: "Everybody's got to be covered. This is an un-Republican thing for me to say because a lot of times they say, "No, no, the lower 25 percent that can't afford private. But-- ... I am going to take care of everybody. I don't care if it costs me votes or not. Everybody's going to be taken care of much better than they're taken care of now." - 60 Minutes, September 27, 2015. TPM Reader MM.
Entry #4: "We're gonna come up with a new plan that's going to be better health care for more people at a lesser cost." ABC News, 1/25/17. TPM Reader JH.
Entry #5: "There are people who say everybody should have a great, wonderful, private plan, and if you can't afford that, and there is a percentage, a fairly large percentage that can't afford it, then those people don't get taken care of. That's wrong. We're going to take care of that through the Medicaid system. We’re going to take care of those people. We have no choice." Dr. Oz, 9/15/16. TPM Reader JN.
Entry #6: "The new plan is good. It's going to be inexpensive. It's going to be much better for the people at the bottom, people that don't have any money. We're going to take care of them through maybe concepts of Medicare. Now, some people would say, "that's not a very Republican thing to say." That's not single payer, by the way. That's called heart. We gotta take care of people that can't take care of themselves." CNN GOP Townhall, 2/17-18/16. TPM Reader BS.
Entry #7: "I’m not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid." 5/21/15. The Daily Signal. TPM Reader WM.
Conservatives, and many liberals too, have been conditioned by three generations of fear-mongering. It’s always something. Always something to be afraid of. Commies and Rooskies, Red Chinamen and Black Panthers, Ebola, the brown horde south of the border, gangs and gays and atheism, with terrorists around every corner. It’s always something with these people. Seventy-five years ago, in America’s darkest hour, a withered crippled man in a wheelchair told Americans that the only thing to fear was fear itself, and Americans hitched up their pants and squared their shoulders and faced their fears. But today? Today the politicians tell the people to be afraid. Nowadays we have entire media networks dedicated to inventing things to fear, from Truthers to Pizzagate. Americans as a people are addicted to being afraid, as a nation we embrace fear, we wallow in it, but conservatives? Conservatives own the market. Hell, they even fear their God. Fear is the very cornerstone of their religion, fear of a crazy genocidal unpredictable deity who just might wipe out the entire nation because he’s mad about the idea of gay people or socialism.
Republicans have been leveraging that fear to get elected for decades, they’re coming for your guns, they coming for your religion, they’re coming for your daughters, they’re coming for your jobs, they’re coming for your way of life. Be afraid! Be afraid!
Trump was just better at tapping into that fear than anybody else.
[Donald Trump] promised to round up and deport violent gang members and dangerous criminals and rapists. Because who isn’t afraid of that, right?
I don’t think any of us, conservative or liberal, would have a problem with rounding up criminals, but ICE isn’t raiding East LA or the South Side of Chicago and clearing the streets of gangbangers. We not bussing truck loads of Sinaloa Cartel and Mexican Mafia to the border, are we?
Instead Trump is making America safe by deporting people with brain tumors, day laborers, and arresting housewives as they pick their kids up from school. ...
As if you want to actually live in a country that would let a person die of a brain tumor over politics, as if we are really – really – going to use the (alleged) money saved by letting this women die to save an actual American child. Because we’re not going to do that either. We used to be the place that happily took in these people. We were famous for it. It says so right on the bottom of the Statue of Liberty.
The hell kind of a country, the hell kind of people, arrests a woman dying of a brain tumor and throws her in jail for deportation?
We’re not rounding up criminals, we’re deporting children and sick people who never wanted anything but a better life.
This is what you get when you elect a leader out of fear.
This is what you get when you cater to the basest elements of society.
This is what you get when you hire an amateur to run the most complex country in history.
This is what you get when liberals and progressives and rational conservatives don’t show up. ...
Trump should be constrained by Congress.
But he’s not.
Because liberals didn’t show up in 2010 or 2014. That’s why.
Because conservatives keep electing their representatives out of fear.
Because we keep catering to the lowest common denominator.
The Electoral College determines the president, but it’s the popular vote that determines your Senators and Representatives. And in the elections where the popular vote actually matters, well, liberals didn’t show up.
And so we have a House led by a Tea Party hack and a Senate run by a self-serving power-mad ideologue who’d rather burn the country to the ground out of pure spite than compromise with anybody. Our representatives, the congressmen who are supposed to be our voice, they don’t show up for town hall meetings because they don’t want to hear what we have to say, because they’re actually afraid of us, because they don’t even have the guts to face the kind of crowd any women has to push through just to get a goddamned pap smear from Planned Parenthood.
And it’s that way because liberals didn’t show up when the popular vote actually mattered.
Conservatives, they always show up. Always.
They’re afraid not to.
But here’s the real problem, liberals don’t show up at the state level.
Liberals are going to lose … well, everything. All the gains of the last eight years.
And they haven’t got anybody to blame but themselves.
Right now, liberals, progressive, democrats, and the more rational centrist conservatives are all fighting among themselves.
They’ve had since November to get over their defeat and get organized and get a plan on the table and get to work. Time’s a wasting, folks. But liberals haven’t done any better at getting organized than Donald Trump has at organizing his administration.
Two days ago, the DNC elected itself a new Chairman, and predictably liberals fell to fighting amongst themselves. They’re all bitching and moaning and rehashing the election, slinging blame and arguing over candidates that are long lost and who will never be president.
And they’ll still be fighting when Trump wins his second term unless they pull their heads out of their asses right now.
All politics are local.
Liberals, progressives, democrats, are going to have to show up. At town halls. At community meetings. At local elections. At school boards. Everywhere in that sea of red, and they are gong to have to address those fears.
He is now 72. Fremantle is where, in 1954, aged nine, he stepped off the ship from London, looking for the sheep he'd been told outnumbered people in Australia 100 to one.
He ended up at a place called Bindoon.
The Catholic institution known at one point as Bindoon Boys Town is now notorious. Based around an imposing stone mansion in the Australian countryside, 49 miles north of Perth, are buildings Walsh and his fellow child migrants were forced to build, barefoot, starting work the day after they arrived.
The Christian Brothers ruled the place with the aim of upholding order and a moral code. Within two days of arriving he says he received his first punishment at the hands of one of the brothers.
"He punched us, he kicked us, smashed us in the face, back-handed us and everything, and he then sat us on his knee to tell us that he doesn't like to hurt children, but we had been bad boys.
"I was sobbing uncontrollably for hours."
His story is deeply distressing. He tells it with a particularly Australian directness. He is furious.
He describes one brother luring him into his room with the promise he could have some sweet molasses - normally fed, not to the boys, but the cows. The man sexually abused him.
He claims another brother raped him, and a third beat him mercilessly after falsely accusing him of having sex with another boy.
"We had no parents, we had no relatives, there was nowhere we could go, these brothers - these paedophiles - must have thought they were in hog heaven."
He has accused the brothers at the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the first time he has fully disclosed his experiences.
At the time he says: "I was too terrified to report the abuse. I knew no other life.
"I've lived 60 odd years with this hate, I can't have a normal sexual relationship because I don't like to hold people," says Walsh. "My own wife, I couldn't hug."
He was troubled by all the memories.
"I couldn't show any affection. Stuff like that only reminded me of what the brothers would do all the time."
The Australian Royal Commission recently estimated that 7% of the country's Catholic priests were involved in child abuse.
And such is the scope of sexual abuse allegations in the Catholic and Anglican churches in the UK that entire strands of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse are dedicated to them.
At a different time, in another country, it was effectively a death sentence.
Being branded an "enemy of the people" by the likes of Stalin or Mao brought at best suspicion and stigma, at worst hard labour or death.
Now the chilling phrase - which is at least as old as Emperor Nero, who was called "hostis publicus", enemy of the public, by the Senate in AD 68 - is making something of a comeback.
In November, the UK Daily Mail used its entire front page to brand three judges "enemies of the people" following a legal ruling on the Brexit process.
Then on Friday, President Donald Trump deployed the epithet against mainstream US media outlets that he sees as hostile.
"The FAKE NEWS media (failing New York Times, NBC News, ABC, CBS, CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!" he wrote on Twitter. ...
Steve Silberman, an award-winning writer and journalist, wondered whether the remark would prompt Trump supporters to shoot at journalists.
And that might not be a far-fetched concern. Late last year, a Trump supporter opened fire in a pizza restaurant at the centre of a bizarre conspiracy theory about child abuse.
The US president's use of "enemies of the people" raises unavoidable echoes of some of history's most murderous dictators.
Under Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, out-of-favour artists and politicians were designated enemies and many were sent to hard labour camps or killed. Others were stigmatised and denied access to education and employment.
And Chairman Mao, the leader of China who presided over the deaths of millions of people in a famine brought about by his Great Leap Forward, was also known to use the phrase against anyone who opposed him, with terrible consequences. ...
Carl Bernstein, a reporter who helped to bring down Richard Nixon with his reporting on the Watergate scandal, tweeted: "The most dangerous 'enemy of the people' is presidential lying - always. Attacks on press by Donald Trump more treacherous than Nixon's."
On Feb. 6, Germany's most-read newspaper reported that dozens of Arab men, presumed to be refugees, had rampaged through the city of Frankfurt on New Year's Eve. The men were said to have sexually assaulted women as they went through the streets; the newspaper dubbed them the Fressgass “sex mob,” referring to an upmarket shopping street in the city.
Bild's report sparked widespread concern in Germany. The nation has taken in millions of migrants over the past few years, and there had been reports of a similar incidents in Cologne and other cities the previous New Year's Eve.
But police investigating the crime now say that the allegations included in the article are “without foundation.”
According to the Frankfurter Rundschau, the witnesses who spoke to reporters may be investigated themselves. Bild has now deleted the story from its website. The paper's online editor in chief on Tuesday said that the company apologized “for our own work.”
There have been plenty of false stories about refugees and migrants in Germany over the past few years, in large part a reflection of divisive political views on the issue within the country and the increasingly fragmented world of online media. They include the story of the “Allahu akbar”-chanting mob that set Germany’s oldest church alight (quickly proved false), for example, or the refugee who took a selfie with German Chancellor Angela Merkel who was accused of terrorism links (again false).
But most of these stories have been driven by social media or spread by ideological websites like Breitbart.
The truth is Michael Flynn does not matter. We have before us a question that has stood before us, centerstage, for something like a year, brazen and shameless and yet too baffling and incredible to believe: Donald Trump's bizarre and unexplained relationship with Russia and its strongman Vladimir Putin.
It is almost beyond imagining that a National Security Advisor could be forced to resign amidst a counter-intelligence investigation into his communications and ties to a foreign adversary. The National Security Advisor is unique in the national security apparatus. He or she is the organizer, synthesizer and conduit to the President for information from all the various agencies and departments with a role in national security. This person must be able to know everything. The power and trust accorded this person are immeasurable. It is only really comparable to the President. And yet, we are talking about the President. A staffer or appointee can be dismissed. The President is the ultimate constitutional officer. ...
...the circumstantial evidence, the unexplained actions, the unheard of spectacle of a foreign power subverting a US election while the beneficiary of the interference aggressively and openly makes the case for the culprit, the refusal to make even the most elementary forms of disclosure which could clarify the President's financial ties - they are so multifaceted and abundant it is almost impossible to believe they are mere random and chance occurrences with no real set of connections behind them. ...
If you were Vladimir Putin you could not have done more to help the cause of Donald Trump. And if you were Trump, you could not have done more in actions and statements to repay the favor. The only question is whether the trajectory of perfectly interlocked actions were simply chance or tacit. Is it even remotely credible that with everything that led up to it, Michael Flynn initiated and conducted this back channel on his own? Hardly. It's crazy that we're having this conversation about a sitting President. But here we are. It's time. We need to know the answer to this question.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) on the Flynn affair: "I just don't think it's useful to be doing investigation after investigation, particularly of your own party. We'll never even get started with doing the things we need to do, like repealing Obamacare, if we're spending our whole time having Republicans investigate Republicans. I think it makes no sense."
That was the same mindset – an aversion to accountability in exchange for perceived short-term political gain – that produced an explosion of GOP corruption in the mid-aughts. There's little evidence the party learned from that sordid period, and Trump seems likely to reproduce it, except bigger, more garishly, and with more conspicuous gilding. And his congressional enablers seem ready to help out, if only by omission of real oversight.
Trump does not simply have “a running war with the media,” as he so indecorously and disrespectfully spouted off while standing on the hallowed ground before the C.I.A. Memorial Wall. He is in fact having a running war with the truth itself.
Donald Trump is a proven liar. He lies often and effortlessly. He lies about the profound and the trivial. He lies to avoid guilt and invite glory. He lies when his pride is injured and when his pomposity is challenged.
Indeed, one of the greatest threats Trump poses is that he corrupts and corrodes the absoluteness of truth, facts and science.
It is no coincidence that the rise of Trump is concurrent with the rise of “fake news.” It is no coincidence that his rise comes during an age of severely damaged faith in institutions.
And now that he has been elected, Trump wants absolute control over the flow of information, to dictate his own version of facts rather than live with the reality of accepted facts. Trump is in a battle to bend the truth to his benefit.
He hates members of the press because, when properly performing, they are truth seekers rather than ego-strokers. The press may sometimes get things wrong, but it most often gets them right. A truly independent press is not stocked with political acolytes but political adversaries.
This doesn’t sit well with an administration that wants to be perpetually patted on the back and never rapped on the knuckles.
After Trump and his press secretary, Sean Spicer, got called out by the press for lying about Trump’s inauguration crowd size and viewership, Spicer limped back to the mic and whined of Trump’s press coverage: “The default narrative is always negative, and it’s demoralizing.”
No, sir, the default is to call a lie a lie; lies are negative because they are the opposite of the truth; and Trump continuously lies. ...
And Trump for his part continues to rage about three to five million illegal votes causing him to lose the popular vote in November. This, too, is a lie. A lie. Not the euphemisms you hear on television, like “unsubstantiated,” or “unproven,” or “baseless.” It is a lie, pure and simple.
But Trump won’t let it go. His pride is hurt, his vanity tarnished. The man who prides himself on winning lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly three million votes, the biggest popular vote loss by a winning candidate in American history. That stings.
So, even after his lie is reported and rejected, he continues to perpetuate it. This is what makes Trump qualitatively different from our leaders who came before him: He believes that truth is what he says it is, and the only reason it has yet to be accepted is that it has yet to be sufficiently repeated. ...
We all have to adjust to this unprecedented assault on the truth and stand ready to vigilantly defend against it, because without truth, what’s left? Our president is a pathological liar. Say it. Write it. Never become inured to it. And dispense with the terms of art to describe it. A lie by any other name portends the same.