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Archive for January 28th, 2017

Does Trump know that executive orders are legal documents and not corporate memos?

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Kevin Drum has an interesting post, from which I take just a part:

Yesterday President Trump made good on his campaign promise to halt immigration of Muslims into the United States “until we know what’s going on.” An explicit ban on Muslims would be illegal, of course, even considering the president’s broad authority over immigration, so instead he picked seven Muslim countries and banned their citizens from entering the US for 90 days—by which time, presumably, Trump will have figured out what’s going on. He also banned refugees from everywhere for 120 days. The result has been rampant chaos and pointless suffering.

A friend writes: “I’m amazed at how badly Trump, et al. have been handling the executive orders they’ve been churning out. Don’t they know the orders are legal documents, not corporate memos?” That’s a good question. As near as I can tell, Trump is treating his executive orders the same way he treats his tweets: they’re designed as communiques to his fans, and that’s about it. The actual consequences hardly matter.

I think Drum’s right: President Trump thinks of executive orders as super-tweets: they get more press, they send a stronger message, and they bring lots of attention to him, who needs it more and more.

Doesn’t it seem we’re heading for a meltdown? The volume of tweets and executive orders and feuds and all: it’s at a manic level, and it seems to be picking up. And of course the skids are greased by the spinelessness and lack of principle personified by Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, but seen throughout the GOP Congress. The Senate has some who show principled opposition: John McCain and Lindsay Graham. Maybe others will appear, but they’re certainly biding their time.

Things are going to come to a head pretty soon. The stories of the human cost of President Trump’s hasty implementation of an executive order—no notice whatsoever, so everything has to be made up as you go along, and illegal to boot (thus the Federal judge granting the emergency stay). This is striking. And it does sound as though he thinks the executive orders are just tweets, or else that they will operate in a frictionless world in which regulations can be changed overnight, with no preparation or working out and resolving problem situations before they occur.

This is gaslighting. By god it is.

Later in Drum’s column:

What else can you make of this latest bumbling fiasco? Consider:

Not a single Muslim extremist from any of the seven designated countries has ever committed an act of terrorism on American soil.

But residents of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, and other US “allies” are exempt, even though their citizens have committed acts of terrorism here. By coincidence, these are also countries where Trump has commercial interests.

The executive order mis-cites the relevant immigration statute. Ed Whelan wonders if this means the Office of Legal Counsel is out of the loop:

If this error signals that White House is bypassing ordinary OLC review of EOs, that would be bad news. Important to get EOs right.

— Ed Whelan (@EdWhelanEPPC) January 28, 2017

The refugee ban is heartbreaking, especially for folks who have sold everything and were literally in the airport waiting to board a plane when they were turned back. But the order also applies to green card holders. These are legal residents. If they were overseas at the time the ban went into effect, they can’t return home.

There’s no excuse for this. The EO could have exempted green card holders. At the very least, it could have gone into effect for them after a warning period. But nobody in the White House gave a damn. So now our airports are jammed with legal residents who are trying to return home to their families but are being denied entry.

The Secretaries of State and Homeland Security are allowed to issue exemptions on a case-by-case basis. Does this mean either of them can, or that both have to sign off? Because there is no Secretary of State right now.

Republicans are mostly too callous, or too craven, to speak up about this debacle. I don’t need to bother checking to see what Breitbart and Ann Coulter think. I’m sure they’re thrilled. But even mainstream conservatives are largely unwilling to speak up about this. The Wall Street Journal editorial page has been unable to rouse itself so far to express an opinion. Ditto for the Weekly Standard. I thought the same was true of National Review, but no: they roused themselves to mostly approve of what Trump is doing. Paul Ryan, who once thought this kind of thing was terrible, is also on board. So is Mitch McConnell. And Mike Lee. And most of the rest of the GOP caucus. This is how we got Trump in the first place. Is it really worth it just for another tax cut?

So now airports are jammed with stranded travelers. People who have lived in the US for years are unable to return to their homes. Nobody knows if any exceptions will be forthcoming from our Secretaries of State or Homeland Security. It’s chaos everywhere.

And for no reason. . .

But read the whole thing.


Written by LeisureGuy

28 January 2017 at 8:08 pm

Here’s what’s psychologically wrong with Donald Trump (UPDATED)

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Karen Wehrstein writes at DailyKos:

With all the talk of Donald Trump’s mental health status, I’ve decided to do something I’ve put off for a while: write a diary that shows he is a textbook case of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), and spell out what that means in terms of what to expect from him and how to deal with it.  Certainly the term “narcissist” is being applied to him a lot, but most people don’t know the entirety of what that means, psychologically.

I am not a psychiatrist or psychologist, but for personal reasons I have educated myself about NPD.  It generally conceals itself and is little understood—but has a devastating effect on the lives of others close to the narcissist or to organizations he is involved with.  Knowing NPD creates a coherent picture that explains Trump’s behaviors. That will help you not only understand Trump, but enable you to spot people with NPD who want to enter your life, organization, etc., so that you can act accordingly. This is an educational moment in history.  It is very rare that the symptoms of NPD are on such massive public display.

If you find yourself completely baffled by Trump’s behavior, that’s because mentally-healthy people generally find NPD-rooted behaviors incomprehensible.  The narcissist violates social norms that healthy people hold instinctively and therefore assume (usually correctly) that others hold—while at the same time he creates a semblance of normalcy, because being able to do so is part of the disorder.  Because the rest of us cannot relate to, often cannot even imagine how a narcissist thinks and feels, it seems outside the realm of plausibility, and so his semblance of normalcy will fool us.  Not only Trump voters but fellow Republicans and even Putin have shown signs of buyer’s remorse with Trump.  That’s because he fooled them all.  Narcissists can do that.

So, since he’s a textbook case, let’s hit the textbook.  The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) – the American Psychiatric Association’s guidebook for mental health diagnosis – gives diagnostic criteria for all mental illnesses.  Between the fourth and fifth editions, the criteria for NPD changed, so I am going to use both to paint a fuller picture.  If you’ve been following the presidential news for the last few months, you’ll likely be able to think of at least one and probably several examples of Trump demonstrating every single diagnostic criterion below.

From DSM-IV:

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy.

1. An exaggerated sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)

2. Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love

3. Believes he is “special” and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)

4. Requires excessive admiration

5. Has a sense of entitlement

6. Selfishly takes advantage of others to achieve his own ends

7. Lacks empathy

8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him

9. Shows arrogant, haughty, patronizing, or contemptuous behaviors or attitudes

From DSM-5 . . .

Continue reading.

If you’ve ever been in a relationship with a person who meets the criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder, you know just how bad it can be. And now the US has a relationship with just such a person.

The worst part is the distorted picture of reality you get from being constantly gaslighted. You’re convinced (though there’s this nagging feeling…) and then, after the relationships imploded and ended, the gradual reconnection with reality, which feels exactly like coming out of a fog, with the reasons for various earlier odd events falling into place over a fair amount of time: months.

Scroll down in the comments to get more info, such as:

Friday, Jan 27, 2017 · 4:29:44 AM PST · Karen Wehrstein

How to Spot a Narcissist

In the comments, I asked if people wanted me to add a guide to the diary on how to identify someone with NPD.  I got lots of yeses, so here it is.  Reason it’s needed: one thing I didn’t mention in the diary is that every personality disorder is an extreme version of something normal.  So, say, borderline PD is an extreme version of the childishness we all have, and dependency PD, the needfulness we all have.  NPD is an extreme version of the natural human desire to look good and put our best foot forward.  Accordingly, narcissists are very good at making striking first impressions, and they’ll lie and fake and do Oscar-worthy acting to do so.  If you know the signs, you have some defense against this.  Note: all of them will not apply to all narcissists, so don’t eliminate the possibility if not all of them are there.

1)      Appearance is attention-seeking, flashy, seductive, trying for star quality, has fake aspects (e.g., Trump’s hair).

2)      Seeming intimidatingly impressive.  If you wonder how their accomplishments are possible, they actually might not be.

3)      Their Internet presence doesn’t match their story.  Google is your friend here.

4)      Dominating conversations, either one-on-one or holding court at a social gathering.  Narcissists just love to be heard and are much less interested in listening to you or anyone else.  You are spell-bound by the conversation but come away feeling steamrollered.

5)      Talking about themselves without insight or self-examination.

6)      Name-dropping, claiming to have notables and celebrities for friends.  Find a way to verify it.  Social status is of great concern to them.

7)      Straight-out bragging.  It’s not subtle, but some just can’t help it.

8)      Complaining that the world doesn’t seem to recognize their awesomenessand give them enough credit.  Also not subtle, but some just can’t help it.

9)      Drama and tension in the air.  Narcissists are the original drama queens and not at all at peace with themselves.

10)  Love-bombing.  This comes up on the dating scene.  A male narcissist will sweep his date off her feet, with adulation, outings, generous gifts; a female narcissist will be more seductive.  Avowals that the romance is somehow extraordinary or unprecedented – meant to be, you are soulmates, it’s the best ever, it’s yuuuge!  And yet something whispers to you that this person somehow doesn’t seem to see… you.  As an individual.  Listen to that whisper.  Note that cults use this same technique to draw in love-starved people.

11)  Controlling behaviours: directs the topic of conversation, decides where you will sit, etc.  May not mean narcissism, but whatever it means isn’t good.

12)  A sense that you are privileged to be receiving their attention, so special a person they are.  You feel flattered to be in their glow.  You’re being groomed to become their minion.

13)  You find yourself making excuses to yourself for behaviors that seem a little off, such as flashes of selfishness or meanness.  I repeat: normalizing is gaslighting yourself.

14)  Their emotions seem superficial, they don’t laugh naturally, their smile is bottom half of the face only, and you feel you never know what they’re really thinking.

15)  A sense that you need to walk on eggshells with them, never criticize them.  You feel compelled to give up your freedom of speech.

16)  They don’t apologize for an overstep, or else they make a non-apology or an apology followed by self-justification.  Or any other form of not taking responsibility for their actions.

17)  Feeling an attraction that has a sense of excitement and even a frisson of danger.  That frisson of danger is your intuition telling you “Stay away.”

18)  Perhaps the most central: you come away from an encounter or a conversation with a sense that you are kind of… not there.  Or at least diminished, or not seen in your individuality.  Narcissists can fake all sorts of things, but there is one thing they cannot fake: normal human social relations.

Much more at the link. Share.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 January 2017 at 7:45 pm

Looking at healthcare, Bernie Sanders makes some good points

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Good points that the Washington Post derides, incorrectly labeling them false. Bernie writes:

The next great struggle that will take place in Congress is literally one of life and death. If the Republicans succeed in repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without a replacement and throw some 20 million people off of their insurance, up to 43,000 Americans each year could die. That’s not Bernie Sanders talking. That’s the evidence from a well-researched study. Further, people with pre-existing conditions could be denied health insurance or be forced to pay unaffordable rates. There would be no cap as to what people with serious illnesses would have to pay. Women will be forced to pay higher rates because they are women. Prescription drug costs for seniors will go up.

The United States is the only major country on earth not to guarantee health care to all as a right. Our job is to move to a Medicare-for-all single payer system, not create a situation where up to 43,000 Americans die unnecessarily.

And then he links to this article by Jim Naureckas at FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting):

With the New York Times finally agreeing to name politicians’ lies where they belong—in the headlines of the stories where they first occur—it’s time to end the failed experiment of factchecking columns. Not only do these projects give the false impression that checking facts is a sidelight rather than central to the journalistic mission, they are fatally compromised by  corporate media’s interest in maintaining the illusion of impartiality. As’s Brooks Jackson (Time, 10/9/12) said, in an admission that should have put paid to the whole enterprise:

Even if we could come up with a scholarly and factual way to say that one candidate is being more deceptive than another, I think we probably wouldn’t just because it would look like we were endorsing the other candidate.

Unmoored for commercial reasons from any hard and fast standards for what constitutes a fact, media factologists are free to follow their own political whims (or those of their outlets). Which seems to be what’s going on in a recent Washington Post factchecking effort by Glenn Kessler, “Bernie Sanders’ Claim That ‘36,000 People Will Die Yearly’ if Obamacare Is Repealed” (1/14/17).

The Post, just to set the stage, is a paper with a serious animus against the junior senator from Vermont—once running 16 negative stories on Sanders in 16 hours, and on another occasion squeezing four separate Sanders-bashing articles out of one dubious study. So it isn’t surprising to see Kessler giving “four Pinocchios” (the highest score, reserved for “whoppers”) to Sanders’ warning that “as Republicans try to repeal the Affordable Care Act, they should be reminded every day that 36,000 people will die yearly as a result.”

Sanders’ number came from Think Progress (12/7/16), which in turn derived its forecast of how many people could lose insurance under Obamacare from an Urban Institute report, and its estimate of the effect of insurance on mortality from an Annals of Internal Medicine study (5/6/14). So—a pretty solidly grounded political claim? Ah, sorry, you don’t understand the rules of political speech—as applied by the Washington Post to Bernie Sanders.

You see, Sanders in his tweet didn’t include all the academic qualifiers that occurred in the original Annals study. (It was a study of Massachusetts, not the whole country!) And Sanders’ warning was based on the “pretty big assumption” that the ACA will not be replaced with a brand new GOP-designed program—the barest outlines of which have yet to be described.

This kind of “fuzzy math” generally merits three Pinocchios, Kessler said. What “tips this claim into four-Pinocchio territory,” though, was the fact that Sanders expressed a prediction in the future tense: He said that people “will die” rather than “could die.” I would remind Kessler that every statement about the future is necessarily uncertain, and therefore every use by a politician of the future tense should be awarded an extra Pinocchio. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 January 2017 at 7:27 pm

David Cole in the NY Review of Books: “Trump Is Violating the Constitution”

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David Cole writes:

When Barack Obama became the forty-fourth president of the United States in 2009, he appointed Norman Eisen, a “special counsel for ethics and government,” to ensure that he violated no prohibitions on conflicts of interest. Before he was replaced in 2011, Eisen, later an ambassador to the Czech Republic and a lawyer who specialized in cases involving fraud, addressed a wide range of questions, including such matters as whether President Obama, a basketball fan, could accept tickets to see the Washington Wizards or the Georgetown Hoyas play.

When Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, he sought a formal opinion from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel on whether he could accept the award without violating a constitutional prohibition on the president or any other federal officer accepting “emoluments,” essentially any payment or benefit, from a foreign state. (The office concluded that he could, only because the Nobel Prize Committee is a private entity with no foreign government involvement.) Like every president to precede him in the last four decades, President Obama placed all his investments in a blind trust, so that he would be unaware of his interests and therefore free of conflicts of interest with respect to the many decisions he might make that could affect his own personal wealth. President Obama, again following the precedents of his predecessors, also released his tax returns, both during his campaign for office and as president. Obama, in short, was punctilious about ethics, and his administration was almost entirely free of ethics scandals.

Donald J. Trump, who became the forty-fifth president on January 20, has taken a different approach. He comes to office having repeatedly refused to release his tax returns, even after a leak indicated that he may have paid no taxes for eighteen years. He has cited an ongoing IRS audit as his reason for not disclosing his returns, but the IRS itself has refuted that claim, saying that “nothing prevents individuals from sharing their own tax information.”

Two days after inauguration, his administration announced that Trump would not release the returns even if an audit were complete. Trump has somewhat gleefully asserted that the conflict-of-interest rules don’t apply to the president. He mixed together personal business and official diplomacy during several meetings and conversations with foreign officials during the transition. And despite his widespread private holdings in commercial real estate, condominiums, hotels, and golf courses here and around the world, he has refused to follow the lead of his predecessors by selling his assets and placing the proceeds in a blind trust. Instead, he has transferred management, but not ownership, of the Trump Organization. He retains his ownership in full. And he has assigned operational responsibility not to an independent arm’s-length trustee, but to his sons, Eric and Donald Jr.

As a result, President Trump almost certainly began violating the Constitution the moment he took the oath of office. It’s true that conflict-of-interest statutes don’t cover the president—not because we don’t care about compromised presidents, but because such statutes generally require officeholders to recuse themselves from decisions in which they have a personal financial stake, and in the president’s case, recusal is rarely a workable option, since there is no alternative decision-maker.

But the Constitution subjects the president to a conflict-of-interest law: the so-called “emoluments” clause. That clause provides that no federal officeholder may, absent express approval by Congress, accept “any present, Emolument,…of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” It is designed to ensure that federal officials, from the president on down, serve only the interest of the American public, and are not compromised by foreign influence. In 1787, Charles Pinckney of Virginia proposed the provision at the Constitutional Convention, urging “the necessity of preserving foreign Ministers & other officers of the US independent of external influence.”1 At the Virginia convention to ratify the Constitution, Edmund Jennings Randolph explained that the clause was “provided to prevent corruption.”2

The emoluments clause is a categorical bar against a president receiving payments from foreign states. Recognizing that divided loyalties are difficult to discern, that self-interest is an extremely powerful motivator, and that foreign states may seek to buy influence, the Framers chose to ban all presents or “emoluments…of any kind whatever.”

The sole exception was where Congress expressly authorized a transaction, presumably on the theory that such a public and transparent accounting would reduce the risk of corruption and undue influence. According to the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel in 1981, an “emolument” is any “profit or gain arising from station, office, or employment: reward, remuneration, salary.”3 As the reference to “salary” or “gain” suggests, the prohibition is not limited to outright gifts, but includes payments for services rendered or profit from ordinary business transactions.

What does this mean for Donald Trump? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 January 2017 at 7:08 pm

If ICE agents show up at the door..

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Written by LeisureGuy

28 January 2017 at 6:46 pm

How Does Trump’s Immigration Freeze Square With His Business Interests?

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Peter Overby and Jim Zarroli report at NPR:

Even as President Trump takes steps to restrict visitors from some majority-Muslim countries, he and his family continue to do business in some of the others.

Ethics experts question whether that might indicate conflicts between Trump’s business interests and his role as U.S. president.

The executive action, “Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States,” targets seven nations: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Trump has no business interests in those countries.

One other thing they have in common, as NPR’s Greg Myre writes: “No Muslim extremist from any of these places has carried out a fatal attack in the U.S. in more than two decades.”

The 19 terrorists in the Sept. 11 attacks were from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates, Myre points out. They are among the Muslim-majority countries not affected by Trump’s immigration freeze, but where Trump does business.

He has significant commercial interests in Turkey and Azerbaijan, is developing properties in Indonesia and Dubai, and has formed companies in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. His daughter Ivanka said in 2015 that the company was looking at “multiple opportunities in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Saudi Arabia — the four areas where we are seeing the most interest.”

Critics said it appears that Trump is picking favorites, overlooking terrorist links in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey that have their own history of terrorism.

And there appear to be conflict-of-interest questions, which could raise legal and constitutional concerns for the Trump White House.

Norman Eisen, a former ethics adviser to President Obama and a current fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, told NPR in an interview:

“I don’t believe that our Constitution allows the president to order State Department and other U.S. government employees to discriminate between otherwise identical people, favoring those from countries he likes because they give him unconstitutional foreign emoluments, and punishing those from other countries that do not pay such personal and illegal tribute to him.”

Emoluments are gifts. A provision of the U.S. Constitution, called the emoluments clause, prohibits U.S. officials from taking gifts of value from foreign officials or governments.

Eisen said of Trump: “Normally he would, of course, have freer rein legally in these foreign policy, immigration and refugee matters, but his open and notorious violation of the Constitution changes that. This is the corrupt misconduct of a medieval potentate, not an American president.”

Speaking with NPR Friday, Eisen said the executive action may lead to lawsuits, for example by American citizens whose family members are now barred from joining them in this country. “These decisions about who to let in and not to let into the United States can now be challenged, because there’s an unconstitutional basis for the president’s decision,” he said.

The Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank, hit the same point harder, saying Trump was “carpet-bombing U.S. foreign policy”: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 January 2017 at 6:40 pm

Does Kellyanne Conway possess any integrity whatsoever? Watch and decide.

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Written by LeisureGuy

28 January 2017 at 6:29 pm

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