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“Donald Trump’s Shocking Ignorance, Laid Bare”: He Knows Next To Nothing About The Issues That Would Confront Him

Donald Trump’s ignorance of government policy, both foreign and domestic, is breathtaking. The Republican Party is likely to nominate for president a man who appears to know next to nothing about the issues that would confront him in the job.

Such a sweeping condemnation may sound unfair. I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump were already busy tweeting that I’m a “dummy” or something. But if you read the transcript of Trump’s hour-long meeting with the editorial board of The Post, which took place Monday, I don’t see how you can come to any other conclusion.

I should note that I’m not a member of the board and therefore did not attend. But The Post published a full transcript , and it is one of the most chilling documents I’ve read in a long time.

I have argued for many months that Trump should be taken seriously, that he has tapped into a legitimate anger and that he understands the Republican base far better than the party establishment does. I’ve had cordial conversations with him, on the telephone and in television studios, and I agree with those who say he should never be underestimated. So I’m not a reflexive Trump hater. I am, however, appalled at how little he knows — and truly frightened.

The editors and writers at The Post were not playing “gotcha,” as the transcript clearly shows. They asked straightforward questions such as, “Do you see any racial disparities in law enforcement?”

Trump’s response was to give an empty soliloquy, ending with the declaration that “I’m a very strong believer in law enforcement, but I’m also a very strong believer that the inner cities can come back.” Asked twice more whether blacks and whites receive disparate treatment, Trump offered this:

“I’ve read where there are and I’ve read where there aren’t. I mean, I’ve read both. And, you know, I have no opinion on that. Because frankly, what I’m saying is you know we have to create incentives for people to go back and to reinvigorate the areas and to put people to work. And you know we have lost millions and millions of jobs to China and other countries. And they’ve been taken out of this country, and when I say millions, you know it’s, it’s tremendous. I’ve seen 5 million jobs, I’ve seen numbers that range from 6 million to, to smaller numbers. But it’s many millions of jobs, and it’s to countries all over. Mexico is really becoming the new China. And I have great issue with that.”

No opinion? China? Mexico?

He continued in that vein at length, bemoaning that “you’re losing Pfizer to Ireland,” until yet another attempt was made to get him back to the original question. He finally allowed that disparate treatment of African Americans “would concern me” but said it could be solved, if it existed, by creating “incentives for companies to move in and create jobs.”

He was reminded that tax incentives and enterprise zones have been tried many times. What would be different about his approach?

“I.think what’s different is we have a very divided country,” Trump began. “And whether we like it or not, it’s divided as bad as I’ve ever seen it.” The rambling speech that followed ended with a pledge to be “a great cheerleader for the country.”

On foreign affairs, Trump was even more vague and vapid. Asked about the future of NATO, he was skeptical of the Cold War’s most vital alliance. He complained that we devote “hundreds of billions of dollars to supporting other countries that are, in theory, wealthier than we are.”

Called on that figure, he dialed it back to mere “billions.” His proposed solution was to “structure a much different deal . . . a much better deal.” I can’t help but imagine German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande being treated like minor partners in building some luxury condos or a new golf course.

Asked about Russian aggression in Ukraine, Trump said that “other people” should be doing more. Asked about China’s bullying actions in the South China Sea, he seemed to indicate he would be prepared to punish the Chinese with a trade war — but later took it back and said he wanted to be unpredictable.

I won’t even get into Trump’s lengthy defense of the size of his hands. Please read the transcript. Then decide whether it’s conceivable to put a man who knows so little in charge of so much.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, March 24, 2016

March 25, 2016 Posted by | Domestic Policy, Donald Trump, Foreign Policy | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It’s Not Your Imagination”: North Carolina Cracks Down On Local Anti-Discrimination Policies

North Carolina’s state legislature wasn’t supposed to be in session this week, but the Republican-led chambers rushed back to work for a special, taxpayer-financed session, focused solely on one key issue.

The issue, oddly enough, related to the use of public bathrooms.

North Carolina legislators decided to rein in local governments by approving a bill Wednesday that prevents cities and counties from passing their own anti-discrimination rules. Gov. Pat McCrory later signed the legislation, which dealt a blow to the LGBT movement after success with protections in cities across the country.

The Republican-controlled General Assembly took action after Charlotte city leaders last month approved a broad anti-discrimination measure. Critics focused on language in the ordinance that allowed transgender people to use the restroom aligned with their gender identity.

If steps like these seem to be happening with increasing frequency, it’s not your imagination. A variety of cities have approved higher minimum wages, only to have states pass laws to block municipalities from acting on their own. Some cities have tried to pass paid sick-leave for workers in their area, only to have states change the law to prohibit such steps.

And a month ago, the city of Charlotte banned discrimination against LGBT citizens, only to learn a month later that the state had not only scrapped the local measure, but also changed state law to prevent any city from expanding protections against discrimination.

As we discussed earlier this week, contemporary conservatism is generally committed to the idea that the government that’s closest to the people – literally, geographically – is best able to respond to the public’s needs. As much as possible, officials should try to shift power and resources away to local authorities.

Except, that is, when communities consider progressive measures Republicans don’t like, at which point those principles are quickly thrown out the window.

So, let this be a lesson to everyone: when officials in Washington tell states what to do, it’s an outrageous abuse and clear evidence of government overreach. When states tell cities what to do, it’s protecting conservative principles.

And in this case, the new North Carolina policy is a mess. The Associated Press’ report added:

Gay rights leaders and transgender people said the legislation demonizes the community and espouses bogus claims about increasing the risk of sexual assaults. They say the law will deny lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people essential protections needed to ensure they can get a hotel room, hail a taxi or dine at a restaurant without fear.

“McCrory’s reckless decision to sign this appalling legislation into law is a direct attack on the rights, well-being and dignity of hundreds of thousands of LGBT North Carolinians and visitors to the state,” Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said in a statement.

Vox’s report called the new North Carolina measure, signed into law last night, a legislative package that combines “some of the most anti-LGBTQ measures proposed in the US, codifying the legality of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity into law.”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 24, 2016

March 25, 2016 Posted by | Discrimination, North Carolina Legislature, Pat McCrory | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Crazy About Money”: Cruz’s Obsession With Gold Would Do Even More Economic Damage Than Trump

In this year of Trump, the land is loud with the wails of political commentators, rending their garments and crying out, “How can this be happening?” But a few brave souls are willing to whisper the awful truth: Many voters support Donald Trump because they actually agree with his ideas.

This is not, however, a column about Mr. Trump. It is, instead, about Ted Cruz, who has emerged as the favored candidate of the G.O.P. elite now that less disagreeable alternatives have imploded.

In a way, that’s quite a remarkable development. For Mr. Cruz has staked out positions on crucial issues that are, not to put too fine a point on it, crazy. How can elite Republicans back him?

The answer is the same for Mr. Cruz and the elites as it is for Mr. Trump and the base: Leading Republicans support Mr. Cruz, not despite his policy positions, but because of them. They may not like his style, but they agree with his substance.

This is true, for example, when it comes to Mr. Cruz’s belligerent stance on foreign policy. Establishment Republicans may wince at the candidate’s fondness for talking about “carpet bombing” or his choice of a noted anti-Muslim bigot and conspiracy theorist as an adviser.

But both Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio chose foreign policy teams dominated by the very people who pushed America into the Iraq debacle, and learned nothing from the experience. I know I wasn’t the only observer who looked at those rosters and thought, “They will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.”

And then there’s a subject dear to my heart: monetary policy. You might be surprised to learn that few of the subjects I write on inspire as much passion — or as much hate mail. And it’s a subject on which Mr. Cruz has staked out a distinctive position, by calling for a return to the gold standard.

This is, in case you’re wondering, very much a fringe position among economists. When members of a large bipartisan panel on economic policy, run by the University of Chicago business school, were asked whether a gold standard would be an improvement on current arrangements, not one said yes.

In fact, many economists believe that a destructive focus on gold played a major role in the spread of the Great Depression. And Mr. Cruz’s obsession with gold is one reason to believe that he would do even more economic damage in the White House than Mr. Trump would.

So how can elite Republicans — people who have denounced Mr. Trump in part because they claim that he advocates terrible economic policies — be supporting a candidate with such fringe views? The answer is that many of them are also out there on the fringe.

This wasn’t always true. As recently as 2004, Bush administration economists lauded the very kind of policy activism a return to the gold standard is supposed to prevent, declaring that “aggressive monetary policy can help make a recession shorter and milder.” But today’s leading Republicans, living in their own closed intellectual universe, are a very different breed.

Take, as a not at all arbitrary example, Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House and arguably the de facto leader of the Republican establishment.

As I have pointed out on a number of occasions, Mr. Ryan is fundamentally a con man on his signature issue, fiscal policy. Incidentally, for what it’s worth, Mr. Cruz has been relatively honest by his party’s standards on this issue, openly declaring his intention to raise taxes that hit the poor and the middle class even as he slashes them on the rich.

But Mr. Ryan seems to be a true believer on monetary policy — the kind of true believer whose faith cannot be shaken by contrary evidence. It’s now five years since he accused Ben Bernanke of pursuing inflationary policies that would “debase” the dollar; if the rising dollar and slumping inflation that followed has ever given him pause, he has shown no sign of it.

But what, exactly, is the nature of his monetary faith? The same as the nature of Mr. Cruz’s beliefs: Both men are devotees of Ayn Rand, even if Mr. Ryan now tries to downplay his well-documented Rand fandom.

At one point Mr. Ryan got quite specific about his intellectual roots, declaring that he always goes back to “Francisco d’Anconia’s speech on money” — one of the interminable monologues in Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” — “when I think about monetary policy.” And that speech is a paean to the gold standard and a denunciation of money-printing as immoral.

The moral here is that we shouldn’t be surprised by the Republican establishment’s willingness to rally behind Mr. Cruz. Yes, Mr. Cruz portrays himself as an outsider, and has managed to make remarkably many personal enemies. But while his policy ideas are extreme, they reflect the same extremism that pervades the party’s elite.

There are no moderates, or for that matter, sensible people, anywhere in this story.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Contributor, The New York Times, March 25, 2016

March 25, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Monetary Policy, Ted Cruz | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Terrorists And Their Privacy”: Do Tech Company Profits Trump National Security?

One inevitable sequel to a terrorist attack is seeing the ugly mugs of creeps-turned-monsters thrust before us over a multitude of news cycles. Another is a debate over cellphone encryption.

Encryption is a means of turning information into secret code. Terrorists communicate through encrypted devices to hide their plans and protect the identities of their co-conspirators. For obvious reasons, law enforcement wants to know what’s being said and to whom.

The FBI had been demanding that Apple turn over an encryption key to crack the iPhone used by San Bernardino gunman Syed Rizwan Farook. Apple has refused, arguing that helping the FBI hack Farook’s iPhone would put the privacy of other iPhone users in jeopardy. That would be bad for business.

Apple’s case has always been morally and legally flawed, but now it may be moot. That’s because on the very day of the terrorist outrage in Brussels, the Justice Department announced it may now be able to get at the information in Farook’s iPhone without Apple’s input.

An unidentified third party has reportedly found a way to hack the phone. That method is being tested to ensure that it doesn’t destroy the valuable data in the process.

If it succeeds, Apple will have lost in three ways. No. 1: Consumers are no longer assured that iPhone data is invulnerable. No. 2: By forcing others to find a means of cracking an iPhone, Apple loses control over the process. And No. 3: Apple is left with having fought the bad fight.

All that goodwill Apple has amassed for its wonderful products could start draining away as Americans wonder what side it’s on. The rampage in San Bernardino took 14 lives and grievously injured 22 others. Survivors and relatives of the dead have protested Apple’s defense of a mass murderer’s cellphone data. That’s definitely bad for business.

Suppose Belgian investigators cleaning up the body parts came across an encrypted iPhone of a terrorist impressed by Apple’s promise of privacy. Would Apple refuse to help uncover accomplices in that bloodbath, as well?

Some argue that Farook’s iPhone 5c is easier to crack than the newer iPhones. Does Apple now want to bet that hacking the iPhone 6 or a later model can’t be done by a highly talented geek?

The Justice Department’s legal basis for requiring Apple to unlock an encrypted device is the 1789 All Writs Act. The law applies only if compliance is not an unreasonable burden. Apple claims invading Farook’s iPhone would be “unreasonably burdensome.”

With a search warrant based on probable cause, law enforcement may barge into your home, break into your metal file cabinets and look in your underwear drawer. (For further information, consult some “Law & Order” reruns.)

One’s cellphone is not a sacred space. Mobile phone users worried that police doing a warranted search might come across their third-grader’s math scores or a prescription for Viagra should not put such data onto their gadget in the first place.

The concern in Apple’s boardroom and elsewhere in the Silicon Valley is that governments less constrained by civil liberties than ours would demand the key to breaking the encryption. They already do, but that’s between the companies and the other countries. It’s really not the American public’s problem — unless you want to argue that tech company profits trump national security.

Apple’s position was insupportable. Now it may be irrelevant. A wise move for those in the tech industry would be to quietly work out some accommodation with law enforcement in the halls of Congress. Rest assured, they won’t want to hold such discussions in the heat of another, even more devastating terrorist attack.

 

By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, March 24, 2016

March 25, 2016 Posted by | Apple, Cell Phone Encryption, National Security, Terrorist Attacks | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Gun-Toting, Citizens United–Loving Conservative”: GOP Fights For Hillary Clinton’s Right To Select SCOTUS Nominee

Many have accused Senate Republicans of embracing the nonexistent “Biden rule” and refusing to even hold hearings on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee for purely political purposes. However, on Sunday, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan explained that nothing could be further from the truth.

In a video posted on Twitter, the House speaker earnestly outlined the made-up principle Republicans are fighting to uphold: The American people should get a chance to weigh in on Justice Antonin Scalia’s replacement by selecting a new president (with a mere ten months left in office, President Obama, who was elected twice, doesn’t count).

Simply put: The #SCOTUS nomination is going to have to go to the American people in 2016. https://t.co/AN29xQbfNuhttps://t.co/yWPZzxKKwN

— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) March 20, 2016

Okay, but lets say the GOP Establishment’s various election plots don’t pan out, and Hillary Clinton is elected president in November. Then during the real lame-duck session (not the entire last quarter of Obama’s second term), Senate Republicans would be willing to consider Judge Merrick Garland, the centrist white guy praised by Democrats and Republicans alike, right? Wrong. “That’s not going to happen,” Mitch McConnell told Fox News Sunday. “The principle is the same. Whether it’s before the election or after the election. The principle is the American people are choosing their next president, and their next president should pick this Supreme Court nominee.”

As Chris Wallace confirmed, that means that Senate Republicans would let Clinton make a nomination rather than holding a vote on Judge Garland. “I can’t imagine that a Republican majority in the United States Senate would want to confirm, in a lame-duck session, a nominee opposed by the National Rifle Association, the National Federation of Independent Business that represents small businesses,” said the majority leader, attacking Garland’s judicial philosophy for the first time. “I can’t imagine that a Republican-majority Senate, even if it were assumed to be a minority, would want to confirm a judge that would move the court dramatically to the left.”

Clearly the smart (not to mention noble) move is to cross their fingers and hope that Clinton nominates a gun-toting, abortion-hating, Citizens United–loving conservative.

 

By: Margaret Hartmann, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, March 21, 2016

March 25, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, Mitch Mc Connell, Paul Ryan, Senate Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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