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The Dangers of Policy Learning

Via the New York Times:

Seizing on immigration as the cause of countless social and economic problems, Mr. Trump entered office with an agenda of symbolic but incompletely thought-out goals, the product not of rigorous policy debate but of emotionally charged personal interactions and an instinct for tapping into the nativist views of white working-class Americans.

Donald Trump isn’t so much tapping into ‘nativist’ views as, instead, exploiting citizens’ unawareness of the benefits of both immigration and trade. Immigrants contribute to the tax base, take less time off, and their direct descendants also contribute more to the tax base than ‘long-term’ citizens. Immigration is a net gain for ‘regular’ American workers but they haven’t been told just how, and why, their own lives and the social benefits they draw on are significantly improved by immigration into America.

Even as the administration was engaged in a court battle over the travel ban, it began to turn its attention to another way of tightening the border — by limiting the number of refugees admitted each year to the United States. And if there was one “deep state” stronghold of Obama holdovers that Mr. Trump and his allies suspected of undermining them on immigration, it was the State Department, which administers the refugee program.

The State Department is a core centre of American soft power; it’s programs, educational efforts, international outreach, and more are responsible for spreading American values around the world.1 That the administration is hollowing out the department is the truest evidence that the Trump administration is unaware of how, and why, America has managed to maintain its position in the world. While American military might is significantly responsible for the development and maintenance of its imperial stature in the world, this stature is solidified and extended through an adoption of American values. Such values are more than those associated with the military; they’re linked with those spread by staff from State who promote American values in more formal diplomatic efforts as well as the other range of activities undertaken by consular and embassy staff throughout the world.

It is incredibly hard to believe that the Trump administration is barely one year into a four year term. Given the lasting damage the administration has already done to America’s ability to project power around the world, it’s hard to imagine just what America’s stature will be in a few more years. But what’s most significant is that his administration has learned so quickly how to engage in the deliberate hollowing out of the institutions which have long been hallowed to Americans. This kind of learning is indicative that the administration might be successful on more of its more outrageous campaign promises, promises which are being supported by the Congress and Senate, and thus indicative of a broader series of values (or lack thereof) which are held by many American politicians.

  1. In the interests in disclosure: I will personally be enrolled in the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program in the coming fall.
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From Salon:

But here’s the thing. Mnuchin’s shameless posturing about the administration’s tax plans—at one point he even promised there would be “no absolute tax cut for the upper class,” which was a laugher given every proposal Trump had ever backed—points to a deeper problem. The man regularly says things that just aren’t true. He’s been claiming that there was an analysis underway. There wasn’t. And while a lot of people may roll their eyes about that in the context of a wonky tax debate, his complete lack of credibility is going to be a problem if we ever run into a serious economic or financial crisis. Just ask yourself: If the markets were crashing and Steve Mnuchin held a press conference assuring everybody that the administration had an action plan in the works, would you believe him? His complete detachment from reality has mostly been an infuriating sideshow during this tax push. If stuff ever really hits the fan, though, his reputation for fibbing is going to make things even worse. Just like someone else we know.

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Evaluating the Buzzfeed dossier, by a former Intelligence Analyst

Individual details, like lawyer Michael Cohen’s trip to Prague or the spelling of a name or two, may indeed be disproven. Not everything in these reports is 100% accurate.

However, it is extremely important to emphasize that micro-level inaccuracies do not detract from the credibility of the two broad points that I establish above: that Trump’s organization has had a relationship with the Kremlin and that he is subject to blackmail.

This is one of the better analyses of how to understand the dossier that was released this week on Donald Trump’s activities in Russia and involvement with the Russian government.

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Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America

As a candidate, Trump’s gas lighting was manipulative, as President-elect it is a deliberate attempt to destabilize journalism as a check on the power of government.

To be clear, the “us” here is everyone living under Trump. It’s radical progressives, hardline Republicans, and Jill Stein’s weird cousin. The President of the United States cannot be lying to the American electorate with zero accountability. The threat of deception is not a partisan issue. Trump took advantage of the things that divide this country, pitting us against one another, while lying his way to the Oval Office. Yes, everything is painfully clear in hindsight, but let’s make sure Trump’s win was the Lasik eye surgery we all so desperately needed.

The good news about this boiling frog scenario is that we’re not boiling yet. Trump is not going to stop playing with the burner until America realizes that the temperature is too high. It’s on every single one of us to stop pretending it’s always been so hot in here.

Teen Vogue has one of the more biting analyses of Trump’s activities in the US media. Teen. Vogue.

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Privacy experts fear Donald Trump accessing global surveillance network

Thomas Drake, an NSA whistleblower who predated Snowden, offered an equally bleak assessment. He said: “The electronic infrastructure is fully in place – and ex post facto legalised by Congress and executive orders – and ripe for further abuse under an autocratic, power-obsessed president. History is just not kind here. Trump leans quite autocratic. The temptations to use secret NSA surveillance powers, some still not fully revealed, will present themselves to him as sirens.”

Bush and Cheney functionally authorized the NSA to undertake unlawful operations and actively sought to hinder authorizing courts from understanding what was going on. At the same time, that administration established black sites and novel detention rules for persons kidnapped by the CIA from around the world.

Obama and Biden developed legal theories that were accompanied by authorizing legislation to make the NSA’s previously unlawful activities lawful. The Obama presidency also failed to close Gitmo or convince the American public that torture should be forbidden or that criminal (as opposed to military) courts are the appropriate ways of dealing with suspected terror suspects. And thoughout the NSA deliberately misled and lied to its authorizing court, the CIA deliberately withheld documents from investigators and spied on those working for the intelligence oversight committees, and the FBI continued to conceal its own surveillance operations as best it could.

There are a lot of things to be worried about when it comes to the United States’ current trajectory. But one of the more significant items to note is that the most sophisticated and best financed surveillance and policing infrastructure in the world is going to be working at the behest of an entirely unproven, misogynistic, racist, and bigoted president.

It’s cause to be very, very nervous for the next few years.

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How sexism and bigotry won Donald Trump the presidency

This election is already being spun as “voter backlash,” as if the most widely touted legislative policies and court decisions over the last eight years – the Affordable Care Act, same-sex marriage, the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – don’t say something about the people who wish to reverse them. There will soon be conversations about the transformation of the American electoral landscape which dance around the deliberate naming of sexism and bigotry as the proximate cause for nearly causing President-elect Donald Trump. All of this misses the point unless that darker urge in American politics is finally identified and examined.

That urge to halt progress, to let people who traditionally have not held power know their proper place in the hierarchy, is a familiar one. That a man as unpopular, temperamental, and inexperienced as Donald Trump could pull this off speaks not only to the inevitability of this cycle, but to the fact that even the worst possible candidate can be the best possible President when the mood is right.

God help us all.

The implications of this election are entirely unknowable: America has done something that is practically unthinkable. Everyone who examines and advocates for policies, regardless of political stripe or interest, has no idea what is going to follow. And it’s not evident that the lack of stability is a problem given that a significant swathe of Americans have given a mandate to a man who possesses a resevoir of ideology and, at best, a thimble of policy prescriptions.

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Donald Trump’s companies destroyed or hid documents in defiance of court orders

Newsweek:

Trump’s use of deception and untruthful affidavits, as well as the hiding or improper destruction of documents, dates back to at least 1973, when the Republican nominee, his father and their real estate company battled the federal government over civil charges that they refused to rent apartments to African-Americans. The Trump strategy was simple: deny, impede and delay, while destroying documents the court had ordered them to hand over.

Shortly after the government filed its case in October, Trump attacked: He falsely declared to reporters that the feds had no evidence he and his father discriminated against minorities, but instead were attempting to force them to lease to welfare recipients who couldn’t pay their rent.

The debates about who had hidden the most, and the significance of such hiding, continues unabated in the American election…