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An Eye on the White House


January 04, 2018

More Revelations Promised in New Book Trump Trying to Block

Michael Wolff’s FIRE AND FURY: INSIDE THE TRUMP WHITE HOUSE isn’t due to hit bookstores until January 10th, but it has already launched a firestorm of interest…and criticism from Donald Trump.

Trump is so worried about the contents becoming known that his lawyer sent out a cease and desist notice earlier today to block its publication. Leaving aside Trump’s long history of threatening legal action and then not following through, it’s highly unlikely this will work. Regardless, Trump is already trying to convince the public that the contents are not true.

That said, he certainly took issue with quotes attributed to Steve Bannon and has threatened to sue him as well.

The Trump presidency has been so littered with lies, idiocy, and jaw-dropping nonsense that almost nothing seems surprising anymore. However, most everyone is abuzz over this latest controversy. Of particular note is Wolff’s claim that Trump never wanted to win the presidency in the first place; he was only in it for the fame and the money.

Given his appallingly bad performance, this is certainly not surprising. In fact, pundits now spend much of their time pondering Trump’s exit strategy. Will he simply resign, resign under legal threat from Robert Mueller’s investigations, get impeached (increasingly unlikely considering that, as annoying as Trump is, Republicans are still getting some of the most extreme legislation passed under him), or manage to limp through an entire four years.

The thought of Trump running for a second term seems unfathomable. He still boasts the lowest approval numbers of any first-term president and it seems unlikely that a large enough percentage of Americans would fall for this con job a second time. And yet, here we are. If Donald Trump has accomplished anything at all,  he has shown that unpredictable chaos is the new norm in Washington.

December 04, 2017

Can’t Stop Thinking of the Damage Trump is Doing to America?

Does it seem like there is no getting away from Donald Trump? There he is on TV. And on the internet. And in the newspaper. Your friend talks about Trump almost as much as their spouse and kids. The person ahead of you at the grocery store is talking about him on their phone. His leering, orange, dimwitted face stares out from magazine covers.

It seems like Trump is everywhere and that makes it incredibly difficult to stop thinking about the incredible damage he is perpetrating. But what can you do? It seems irresponsible to just unplug and shut out the rest of the world. Surely, the fact that we ended up with Trump as president is due in part to people not doing their due diligence and failing to see that this third-rate conman and pathological liar has no business running a hot dog stand, let alone one of the most powerful countries in the world.

The whole ongoing situation can make one incredibly sad. Newsweek even recently warned that the average case of winter blues could be worse this year because of Trump.

Try to keep the following in mind:

Don’t Forget the Expiration Date

Trump won’t remain in power forever. While it’s pretty clear now that Republicans will not impeach him, the 2020 election seems like a pretty sure way for America to be rid of him. Providing, of course, that Democrats can put their divisions behind them and come together behind a candidate that truly serves liberal interests.

Recognize Your Limits

You can protest, you can resist, you can never surrender, but you can’t win this fight by yourself. Also, if you let Trump bother you to the point where it is compromising the rest of your life, then that could create serious personal problems for you, your loved ones, and possibly even the friends who support you.

Remember the Likely Damage to the GOP

Yes, Trump’s support doesn’t seem to waver among those who drank the Kool-Aid, but once they realize just how badly this new tax bill will impact them, a good number will finally wake up. Trump may have support now, but remember, even with those numbers, he still has the lowest popularity of any president at this stage in recent history. Trump’s damage will inevitably impact the GOP in both the House and the Senate. How much, however, will ultimately be up to Democrats and their supporters.

So, stay alert and stay vigilant, but don’t be afraid to disengage and tell your politically engaged uncle, “Let’s not talk about Trump today.”

 

November 15, 2017

How Canadians View Donald Trump (Spoiler: Very Badly)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and American President Donald Trump.

 

The United States and Canada have been joined at the hip for ages, even though the two countries’ views differ dramatically on some issues. This is certainly true in the present; Donald Trump’s far right agenda is a significant contrast from the much more centrist view of Justin Trudeau’s ruling Liberal Party.

If many Americans regard Donald Trump with dismay, their opinion is certainly echoed far and wide by their northern neighbors. In fact, Canadians’ rabid dislike of Trump has lowered their opinion of the United States in general. The Toronto Star reported that a mere 43% view America favorably and 51% are negative. That is down 22% from Barack Obama’s time in office and the lowest view of the USA in decades.

This may sound like a Left vs Right issue, but the generally positive outlook in the past was not influenced by party lines. However, Canadians were 55% positive, even when the infamous George W. Bush was in office. The numbers were in the 70s with Ronald Reagan, and the right wing then apparently did not hate Bill Clinton as much because the total during his time was similar.

Continuing with the data provided in the article:

  • 92% think Trump is arrogant
  • 78% think Trump is intolerant
  • 72% think Trump is dangerous
  • 16% think Trump is well qualified to be president

 

Those numbers are just comically bad. One can only assume they have actually gotten worse in the ensuing five months as Trump commits one jaw-dropping blunder after another.

Trump’s determination to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement has also not won him many friends in the Great White North, but he flip flops so dramatically and so often, it is tough to say whether this will even come to pass.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has done well with his high wire act so far, but a failure of NAFTA could well be the event that causes even him to publicly denounce this most unsteady of leaders.

July 26, 2017

Why Psychiatrists Can’t Pick Apart Trump’s Psychology

The world’s largest psychiatric association does not let its members comment on the President’s mental state.

Presidential politics is always personal.

It’s not to say the issues don’t matter. Health care, civil rights, the economy, and war are always at the top of the agenda in debates and interviews. But increasingly, the candidates themselves have become issues as contentious as any other.

This was never truer than in the 2016 Presidential race, where Donald Trump dominated media coverage with his exaggerations and unfiltered rhetoric. This has lead some on both sides of the political aisle to wonder just what’s going on inside his head.

Trump isn’t the first candidate to face accusations of being unfit to lead. When John McCain ran in 2008, commentators pointed to his advanced age as a liability (especially since it put Sarah Palin a “heartbeat away” from the office). Obama was accused of being born on foreign soil. Critics said Mitt Romney was too wrapped up in business dealings.

But President Trump is the first candidate in a long time to face questions regarding his mental health.

In the 1972 election, democrat George McGovern chose Thomas Eagleton as his running mate. McGovern was unaware that Eagleton had previous been hospitalized for depression. When he found out, he initially promised to back Eagleton “1,000 percent”, but later consulted with psychiatrists and doctors regarding his would-be vice president. He asked Eagleton to resign, and Eagleton abided.

Further back, in 1964, the press turned its guns on Republican Barry Goldwater. The poorly-named Fact magazine published an article claiming that 1,189 psychiatrists stated Goldwater was unfit to be president due to his mental state. In truth, the claim was misleading at best; the magazine had polled 10,000 psychiatrists, only 2,417 of whom applied, and the majority did not see Goldwater as unfit.

Goldwater lost the election, but he also filed a libel lawsuit against the magazine. Following this incident, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) put in place the “Goldwater Rule”, which reads as follows in the Principles of Medical Ethics:

On occasion psychiatrists are asked for an opinion about an individual who is in the light of public attention or who has disclosed information about himself/herself through public media. In such circumstances, a psychiatrist may share with the public his or her expertise about psychiatric issues in general. However, it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.”

In brief, it meant members of the association cannot offer opinions on someone they have not personally evaluated.

In March of 2017, the Washington D.C. branch of the APA debated the rule. Some argued the rule infringed on freedom of expression. One psychiatrist, John Zinner, argued psychiatrists have an obligation to speak out on the issue, just as doctors swear an oath to protect their patients. But not all agreed the rule was obsolete. Mark Komrad worried overturning the rule would turn the public against their profession, which is “already seen as peddlers of a liberal world view.”

Recently, the American Psychoanalytical Association announced it would allow its 3,000 members to comment on Donald Trump’s mental state as they pleased. Many commentators are touting this as a huge change, but the Psychoanalytical group is miniscule compared to the American Psychiatric Association, which boasts over 36,000 professionals in its ranks.

The latter group reaffirmed its commitment to the Goldwater Rule in March.

March 30, 2017

Attorney, Athlete, and Agriculturalist: The Presidential Line of Succession, Part 3

When the President of the United States takes an unforeseen absence, the presidential line of succession determines who steps in to fill his shoes. Typically, that honour goes to the Vice President. But if this successor should suffer a similar fate, another must swiftly takes his place – and so on.

Previous posts looked at the top three contenders, followed by the second round of successors. Today, we’ll hold to tradition and try on the seventh, eight, and ninth suits in this long presidential line.

#7 Jeff Sessions

No other name in Washington evokes a sense of overbearing southern-ness quite like Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III.

For a man among President Trump’s earliest supporters, the Office of Attorney general seems a fitting reward. During his 20-year tenure as an Alabama Senator, Sessions was a lawyer with his eyes on the federal bench. But his nomination was quashed by controversy.

Today, Sessions sits pretty as the country’s highest law enforcement official, giving his former critics what-for.

As president, Sessions would not be too different from the current leader. Jeff Sessions and Trump are alike on nearly every plank of presidential policy, from the environment (“Carbon pollution is CO2, and that’s really not a pollutant; that’s a plant food”) to immigration and most everything in between. The only sticking point between them is on infrastructure.

While Sessions loves the idea of a border wall, he’s loathe to pay for it. President Sessions would prefer a more modest solution – perhaps a ditch or a particularly nasty fence.

#8 Ryan Zinke

Ryan Zinke hates trees and loves freedom.

Zinke entered college on a football scholarship and became a star linebacker. He transferred that energy and physical prowess to the battlefield, where he served as a Navy SEAL for 23 years. Zinke was even on Seal Team Six before they were cool.

When he returned to his homeland, Ryan Zinke became the first Navy SEAL to serve in the Senate. He published his memoirs, American Commander, with the writer behind the best-selling American Sniper. And now he’s Secretary of the Interior.

In short, he’s a walking, talking, book-writing American dream. As red white and blue as a jug of apple moonshine.

But what kind of president would he be? A Republican one. Typical of his kind, Zinke supports the wars in the middle east, hates Obamacare, and fights environmental regulation at every turn. Which is probably why President Trump named him to the office in charge of federal land and natural resources, including America’s national parks.

#9 The Mysterious Mike Young

Darkness falls. The streets are quiet. The wind gently carries a torn newspaper across an empty parking lot. The scene is otherwise motionless.

Suddenly, a roar pierces the silence. Not an a cry from an animal, but one from a machine. A black van speeds down the street and turns sharply into the lot, with two of its wheels hanging in the air. It crashes back down to earth and halts. A man steps out from the driver side door.

Could it be Mike Young?

Well, maybe. For all we know, it is. It’s not like we have any clue who he is or what he looks like. It could very well be Mike Young. Is it? We may never find out.

According to legend, Mike Young is both a businessman and a botanist. He’s a Democrat. Rumours are that he is a high-ranking civil servant in the Agricultural Department. And since President Trump has failed to have his nominee for Agriculture Secretary confirmed, Mike Young is the standing Secretary.

What bizarre sequence of events could lead to such a man becoming president? It’s not even certain that anything could. Since we’ve never gotten this far down the presidential line of succession before, no one’s sure if a person who was not confirmed by the Senate could become president.

But it’s not impossible. Nothing is impossible anymore. Not when the Mysterious Mike Young is pulling the strings.

March 24, 2017

7 Biggest Changes Under Trump’s Obamacare Replacement

Obamacare replacement

For the past seven years, the Republican Party has promised voters it would repeal and replace Obamacare. This week, President Donald Trump has his sights set on fulfilling that promise.

The huge, big league American Health Care Act is the fabled Obamacare replacement. The bill is currently before the U.S. House of Representatives. If the House passes the bill, it will go next to the Senate. And only when it passes Senate scrutiny will the bill land on the President’s (presumably gold-plated) desk to be signed.

So what does Trump’s Obamacare replacement actually do? Is it as bad as the Democratic Party feared?

While the merits of the bill are obviously subject to debate (even many Republicans are against it), the American Health Care Act does not fully dismantle Obamacare and smash it up into tiny pieces. But it does bring sweeping changes to the current system.

Here’s a quick summary of the American Health Care Act as it stands today.

1.      Eliminates Penalties for the Uninsured

Obamacare levies a fine on people who do not have health coverage. It also impacted employers, requiring those with 50 more employees to offer health insurance to 95% of the workforce. These measures were designed to encourage people to purchase insurance.

The American Healthcare Act would end these requirements, instead levying a 30% surcharge on insurance premiums for new healthcare plans if the purchaser had no insurance for 63 days the previous year.

2.      Increases Age-Based Premium Caps

Under Obamacare, insurance providers cannot charge their oldest customers more than three times the premiums charged to their youngest customer. The Act plans to increase this cap to five times the youngest customer’s premium.

3.      Limits Federal Funding for Medicaid

The American Health Care Act would bring forth three major changes to the way the federal government awards states funding for Medicaid. All would likely result in fewer people enrolled in Medicaid and fewer federal funds in state pockets.

First, Trump’s Obamacare replacement would remove the option for states to expand Medicaid to individuals making up to 138% of the federal poverty line using federal funding.

Second, it would limit Medicaid reimbursements based on the number of patients enrolled and the average medical care costs per state.

The Act would also give states the option of requiring Medicaid recipients to pursue a job or job training in order to continue receiving Medicaid. This would not apply to people who are pregnant, on disability, or working as a caretaker for a family member.

4.      Ends Federal Funding of Planned Parenthood

The American Health Care Act would end all federal funding of Planned Parenthood for one year and prohibit federal subsidies for plans covering abortion.

5.      Establishes New State Grants

Perhaps surprising given the slew of funding cuts, the Obamacare replacement also introduces a $100 billion fund to help states stabilize their healthcare markets and insure low-income individuals.

6.      Repeal Taxes on Insurers, Pharmacies, and Others

What are the insurance companies getting out of the bill? A massive tax cut, for starters.

Obamacare levied taxes on health insurance providers, pharmacies, companies that produce medical devices, over-the-counter medications, and tanning salons. The new bill would sweep all those taxes away, to the tune of $200 billion in lost tax revenue.

7.      Cut Taxes for Individuals

Well, the bill sounds great for insurance companies, but what about the common man? Scratch that – what about his boss?

Fear not – the American Health Care Act also ends Obamacare taxes on payroll and investment income tax for wealthy individuals.