Trump called for a government shutdown over immigration, and it makes no sense

Hmmmm…

Republicans want to keep immigration out of this spending fight. Trump just called for a shutdown over it.

Republicans want to keep immigration out of this spending fight. Trump just called for a shutdown over it.

Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images

President Donald Trump said he would “love to see a shutdown” if Democrats don’t agree to his demands on immigration reform, in an off-the-cuff comment that not only undermined his entire party’s messaging on government spending, but also seemed to miss the actual goings-on in Congress.

“If we don’t change it, let’s have a shutdown,” Trump said about immigration during a White House meeting on MS-13 gang violence. “We’ll do a shutdown and it’s worth it for our country. I’d love to see a shutdown if we don’t get this stuff taken care of.”

Trump went on to say: “If we have to shut it down because the Democrats don’t want safety, and unrelated but still related, they don’t want to take care of our military, then shut it down. We’ll go with another shutdown.”

Trump’s comment has put Republicans on edge, in part because Congress is currently in the midst of negotiating a spending bill before the government shutdown deadline this Thursday. One Republican lawmaker who was in the room, Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA), urged Trump to walk away from the “shutdown” rhetoric, saying “both sides have learned that a government shutdown is bad.”

But Trump, who has often taken to this kind of tough talk, either doesn’t know where his party stands on the issues, or doesn’t care. Here are a few thoughts on Trump’s latest comments:

1) For months, Congressional Republicans have spent all their energy to try and persuade Democrats to separate government spending and immigration. When most Democrats voted to shut down the government two weeks ago, Republicans’ took to blaming their Democratic colleagues for holding the government “hostage” over the “unrelated issue of illegal immigration.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan said it. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also said it. But it seems like it’s not only Democrats that Republican leaders need to scold about connecting the policies; their own Republican president is just as happy to tie the two issues.

2) When the three-day government shutdown at the end of January came to an end, McConnell promised Democrats an open immigration debate on the Senate floor that would allow amendments from both sides of the aisle, on the condition that Congress keeps the government open this week. Again, this is part of the Republicans’ efforts to separate spending and immigration negotiations.

In other words, what Trump would “love” to see seems to go against what’s actually going on in Congress.

3) There are also just some mechanical questions about what Trump is proposing here: Does this mean Trump is proposing a government shutdown on March 23 (the date it seems Congress has coalesced around to extend government spending to)? Is he assuming that the immigration bill would be attached to whatever spending bill is proposed at the end of March? If so, what happened to the March 5 “deadline” the Trump administration said they’d fully end DACA by?

4) The Trump administration’s immigration proposal was criticized by both Democrats and Republicans. It calls for a path to citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children, $25 billion to fund a southern border wall, substantial curtailing of family immigration, and elimination of the diversity visa lottery program, which some say could gut the legal immigration system. Both Republican leaders in the House and Senate supported the clarity offered by the White House proposal but made no commitments to the actual policy.

5) Meanwhile, debate in Congress over immigration seems to have stalled out in the last two weeks. Already some lawmakers are signaling that they could see Congress punting on DACA for a whole year — an idea, that although still unformed, is unlikely to see the immigration reforms Trump is saying they should “shut down” the government over.

6) At this point, immigration and spending negotiations need to slide toward common ground. But instead, Trump has continued to escalated partisan rancor. During the last shutdown he proposed going “nuclear” and just ending the filibuster to cut Democrats out of negotiations altogether (which also probably wouldn’t work). Now he’s doing it again — right as Congress gears up for an important spending vote and immigration debate.

Fact-checking the 2018 State of the Union address: Disaster

Fact Checker

 on this administration out there that this blog has not said much original because there is not much to add to what the “Non-Fox-News” people are already hearing (approximately 65% of the population which opposes Trump, a record among post World War II presidents).

Note: The tone of the Chief Executive occupying the White house was indeed more professional. But the lies were numerous.

Fact-checking the 2018 State of the Union address

 January 30 at 11:39 PM 

 1:40

Fact-checking the 2018 State of the Union address
 

Here’s are 10 of the president’s most dubious claims during the State of the Union address.

 

President Trump’s State of the Union speech had soaring rhetoric — and many dubious facts and figures. Many of these claims have been fact-checked repeatedly, yet the president persists in using them.

Here is a guide to 18 claims, in the order in which Trump made them. As is our practice with live events, we do not award Pinocchio rankings, which are reserved for complete columns.

“Since the election, we have created 2.4 million new jobs, including 200,000 new jobs in manufacturing alone.”

Trump often inflates the number of jobs created under his presidency by counting Election Day, rather than when he took the oath of office. There have been about 1.8 million jobs created since January 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s the slowest gain in jobs since 2010, which indicates how well job growth was going before Trump took office.

There were 184,000 manufacturing jobs created in the 11 months since Trump took the oath of office, compared with a loss of 16,000 in 2016, according to the BLS. This is a substantial one-year gain, but it’s still more than 1 million manufacturing jobs below the level at the start of the Great Recession.

“After years of wage stagnation, we are finally seeing rising wages.”

Trump once again takes credit for something that began to happen before his presidency. Wages have been on an upward trend since 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and in fact their growth slowed during the first year of Trump’s presidency.

Looking closely at the data, it’s possible to argue wages were stagnant from 2000 to 2014, but the median salary has been increasing steadily since then and actually declined in the fourth quarter of 2017, from $353 a week to $345 in inflation-adjusted dollars.

 1:36
Fact Check: President Trump’s flip-flop on African-American youth unemployment
 

The president used data he once critiqued to claim success in lowering African-American youth unemployment. 

 

“African American unemployment stands at the lowest rate ever recorded, and Hispanic American unemployment has also reached the lowest levels in history.”

This is a flip-flop by Trump. During the 2016 campaign, Trump used to claim a Four-Pinocchio statistic that 58 percent of African American youths were unemployed. The official Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment rate for black youth at the time was 19.2 percent — about one-third of the rate used by Trump. Now that he’s president, Trump appears all too happy to cite the unemployment rate for African Americans, bragging that it’s the best since the turn of the century.

The African American unemployment rate has been on a relatively steady decline since it hit a peak of 16.8 percent in March, 2010, during the Great Recession. The rate had already fallen to 7.7 percent when Trump took the oath of office — it is now 6.8 percent — so Trump taking credit for this is like a rooster thinking the sun came up because he crowed.

Similarly, Hispanic American unemployment had also been trending lower before Trump’s presidency. It hit a low of 4.8 percent in several months in 2017, as well as in one month in 2006.

“Unemployment claims have hit a 45-year low.”

If Trump had given this speech last week, his claim might have been accurate. The number of people who filed unemployment claims hit 216,000 for the week that ended Jan. 13, the lowest level since January 1973. But there are more recent data now for the week that ended Jan. 20. New jobless claims rose to 233,000, the lowest since December. So it’s a six-week low, not a 45-year low.

“The stock market has smashed one record after another, gaining $8 trillion in value. That is great news for Americans’ 401(k), retirement, pension and college savings accounts.”

Trump frequently brags about the rising stock market — he’s done it about once every three days as president — even though during the 2016 campaign he had said it was “a big fat bubble” that was about to pop.

Trump is correct that $8 trillion in wealth has been created since the election — or $6.9 trillion since he took the oath of office, according to the Wilshire 5000 Index of stocks. But much of that gain in wealth did not trickle down to most Americans. Only about 50 percent of Americans own stocks directly or through retirement funds, according to a Gallup survey. And most of the value in stocks is held by the top 10 percent.

Moreover, the U.S. rise in 2017 was not unique. When looking at the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, it’s clear U.S. stocks haven’t rallied quite as robustly as their foreign equivalents. So it’s hard for Trump to make the case that his stewardship is making that much of a difference if stocks are doing better in other developed countries.

In fact, Trump even falls short in comparison to Barack Obama’s first year. The S&P 500 gained about 33.3 percent from inauguration through Jan. 29 under Obama, compared with 25.5 percent under Trump.

Data from Yahoo Finance

Bragging about the rise of the stock market could backfire on the president if there is a sudden downturn. Stocks fell more than 1 percent Tuesday, as rising bond yields are becoming competitive with stocks that pay big dividends and traders are looking for less risky places to put their money. According to Trump’s metric, almost $360 billion worth of wealth in the stock market disappeared Tuesday.

 1:00
No, President Trump’s tax cut isn’t the ‘largest ever’
 

The president has a habit of exaggerating; this time his exaggeration is the size of his proposed tax cut. 

 


“Just as I promised the American people from this podium 11 months ago, we enacted the biggest tax cuts and reform in American history.”

Trump repeatedly claims he passed the biggest tax cut in U.S. history, but it’s just not true.  He’s earned Four Pinocchios for this claim before — but repeated it 57 times in his first year as president.

The best way to compare tax cuts (or spending plans) over time is to measure them as a percentage of the national economy. Inflation-adjusted dollars are another option, but a percentage of gross domestic product helps put the impact of the bill into context. Trump’s tax cut, according to Treasury Department data, is nearly 0.9 percent of GDP — compared to 2.89 percent of GDP for Ronald Reagan’s 1981 tax cut. Trump’s tax cut is only the eighth-largest — and is even smaller than two of Barack Obama’s tax cuts.

“Our massive tax cuts provide tremendous relief for the middle class and small businesses.”

Trump is spinning the effects of his tax plan. Most of the benefits in the tax bill flow to corporations and the wealthy, according to numerous independent analysts.

More than three-quarters of the $1.1 trillion in individual tax cuts will go to people who earn more than $200,000 a year in taxable income, who constitute only about 5 percent of all taxpayers, according to a report by Moody’s Investors Service that warned the tax plan will have negative consequences for the fiscal health of federal and local governments.

Many of the tax cuts for individuals expires in 2025 — unless renewed by Congress — while the corporation tax cuts do not expire. The standard deduction was increased, as Trump noted, but personal and dependent exemptions were eliminated, muting the impact of the increase.

“We slashed the business tax rate from 35 percent all the way down to 21 percent, so American companies can compete and win against anyone in the world. These changes alone are estimated to increase average family income by more than $4,000.”

Trump is citing a White House Council of Economic Advisers report that has been widely criticized for the $4,000 estimate, including by the economist whose work is cited in making this forecast. (The economist, Mihir A. Desai, told the New York Timesthat actual income gain would be $800.)

Desai said he did not think the numbers added up. Our friends at FactCheck.org offered a good illustration. With almost 126 million households in the United States, an average of $4,000 per household would mean an income gain of $500 billion. Yet the United States collected just under $300 billion in corporate taxes in fiscal 2017.

The average household would get a tax cut of $1,610 in 2018, an increase of about 2.2 percent in that average household’s income, according to the Tax Policy Center.

“Since we passed tax cuts, roughly 3 million workers have already gotten tax cut bonuses — many of them thousands of dollars per worker.”

Trump is citing a list maintained by Americans for Tax Reform, an anti-tax group, which says 285 companies have offered bonuses, pay increases or increased 401(k) contributions because of the tax plan. The group says at least 3 million Americans have received tax bonuses, many about $1,000 or $2,000; the list only identifies one company (IAT Insurance Group of North Carolina) as offering $3,000.

With about 126 million full-time workers in the United States, less than 2.5 percent have received these one-time bonuses so far. Many of the companies offering bonuses are in the financial services industry.

“Since we passed tax cuts … Apple has just announced it plans to invest a total of $350 billion in America, and hire another 20,000 workers.”

Trump suggests Apple is investing $350 billion in the United States over five years because of a tax package he signed into law in December.

That’s a stretch.

Apple announced a five-year investment plan in January, which includes $30 billion in capital expenditures and roughly $275 billion in domestic spending. This represents the bulk of its $350 billion investment plan. But the company did not say whether these moves were long in the planning or spurred by the tax changes.

Apple did say it would be making a $38 billion tax payment to repatriate overseas profit under a provision of Trump’s tax law. And like other big U.S. companies, Apple responded to the tax legislation by handing out bonuses to its employees.

It’s not clear from Apple’s announcement that it is dialing up U.S. investment levels. The tech giant spent “between $12 billion and $15 billion on projects such as facilities or land globally in the past few years, though it has not said how much of that went to U.S. projects.”

“In our drive to make Washington accountable, we have eliminated more regulations in our first year than any administration in history.”

Trump has clearly waged a battle against regulations but many of his claims cannot be verified.

Trump appears to be counting ”regulatory actions” so many of the items being delayed or withdrawn were not regulations yet. According to a Bloomberg News analysis, almost a third of the regulatory reversals actually began under earlier presidents. “Others strain the definition of lessening the burden of regulation or were relatively inconsequential, the kind of actions government implements routinely,” Bloomberg reported.

In fact, it is unclear whether Trump has cut more regulations in his first year than any other president. When the Fact Checker examined this question, experts said that the amount of withdrawn regulations is not necessarily the best metric, because these are rules that never went into effect. Moreover, often it takes another rule to repeal a previous rule. Research by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University shows that regulatory restrictions actually grew during Trump’s first year, but at a much slower pace than other presidents in their first year.

 2:36
Fact-checking the Trump administration’s claims on ‘saving’ coal
 

The Trump administration has made a lot of claims about gains in the coal industry, but virtually none of them are true. 

 

“We have ended the war on American energy — and we have ended the war on beautiful clean coal. We are now an exporter of energy to the world.”

There’s no such thing as “clean coal.” Power plants can mitigate some of the effects of burning coal by capturing and burying carbon-dioxide emissions, but that doesn’t cleanse the coal itself. By saying his administration “ended the war on clean coal,” Trump appears to be referencing the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to repeal the Clean Power Plan implemented under President Barack Obama, which had pushed states to favor energy sources that produce fewer carbon emissions than coal.

Trump also says the United States is “now an exporter of energy,” but the United States has long been an energy exporter. Trump pledged during his campaign to turn the country into a net energy exporter, meaning it sells more energy to other countries than it buys from them. But that hasn’t happened and the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates it won’t happen until sometime between 2020 and 2030.

According to the EIA, the United States was expected to become a net exporter of natural gas in 2017, and exports of crude oil and petroleum products more than doubled from 2010 to 2016. It’s important to note that the United States lifted restrictions on exporting crude oil in December 2015, while Obama was in office.

“Many car companies are now building and expanding plants in the United States — something we have not seen for decades. Chrysler is moving a major plant from Mexico to Michigan.”

Trump’s timeline is mixed up. Fiat Chrysler is investing $1 billion in a factory in Michigan, but that plan was in motion before Trump’s election in 2016, according to Sergio Marchionne, the Fiat Chrysler chief executive. Marchionne specifically credited talks with the United Auto Workers in 2015, not Trump.

“America is a nation of builders. We built the Empire State Building in just one year — isn’t it a disgrace that it can now take 10 years just to get a permit approved for a simple road?”

This isn’t the first time Trump has pointed to building and infrastructure projects from earlier in American history. He made similar claims about the Golden Gate bridge and the Hoover Dam in June 2017.

But in all of these cases, Trump is only focusing on the literal construction time — ignoring the bureaucratic negotiations, planning and preparation that took place leading up to construction and are required to make large-scale projects feasible. Moreover, for the Empire State Building, it actually took 13 months to build.

“The third pillar ends the visa lottery — a program that randomly hands out green cards without any regard for skill, merit or the safety of our people.”

Trump is stretching the truth here. The Diversity Visa Lottery Program, more commonly known as the Green Card lottery, isn’t random as Trump suggests.

Individuals apply for the visa system, and must have at least a high school diploma or work in specific industries to be eligible for the program. As the term “lottery” implies, applicants are selected via a randomized computer drawing. The selected applicants undergo a background check, interview and medical tests before entering the country, and some applicants undergo an additional in-depth review if they are considered a security risk. Plus, selected applicants can be deemed ineligible for a number of reasons including adverse medical conditions, criminal behavior, and security or terrorism concerns.

2007 report from the Government Accountability Office did point to substantial fraud risks within the program and proposed using data to mitigate these risks. However, the State Department at the time disagreed with the report’s findings, saying that it already had managed these risks.

“The fourth and final pillar protects the nuclear family by ending chain migration. Under the current broken system, a single immigrant can bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives.”

“Chain migration” refers to the practice of immigrants bringing other members of their families to the United States. Under U.S. law, there is a preference for relatives already living in the United States, so a U.S. citizen can petition for a green card for spouses, children, parents or siblings. So, for example, a sibling of a U.S. citizen could come to the United States, bringing along spouses and minor children. The rules are stricter for green card holders: they can only petition for a spouse or unmarried children.

The suggestion that either a U.S. citizen or a green card holder could bring in “virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives” is an exaggeration to say the least. There’s often a lengthy wait list. As of November, according to the State Department, nearly 4 million people are waiting to get off the list, including 2.3 million“family fourth” preferences — children of siblings of citizens.

 1:42
Fact Check: Did an alleged terror suspect bring two dozen relatives to U.S.?
 

Three times, the president has told a story that falls upon close inspection.

 

“In recent weeks, two terrorist attacks in New York were made possible by the visa lottery and chain migration. In the age of terrorism, these programs present risks we can no longer afford.”

Trump is referring to Sayfullo Saipov, an Uzbek immigrant who entered the United States through the diversity visa lottery program, and Akayed Ullah, a Bangladeshi immigrant who entered through an extended relative as part of a program Trump calls “chain migration.”

Saipov drove a rented truck into a crowd of pedestrians and bicyclists in Manhattan in October, killing eight in the deadliest terrorist attack in New York since 9/11. Ullah attempted to bomb a New York City subway station with a crude explosive device, but the device failed and only Ullah was injured.

Trump presents these two cases as evidence that the diversity visa program and chain migration open the door to terrorist attacks. But two immigration cases out of thousands a year is not statistically significant.

Note that Trump steered clear of mentioning a new report from the Homeland Security and Justice departments, which links the same two immigration programs to terrorism cases. That report describes two international terrorism-related cases linked to chain migration, and two other cases tied to the diversity visa program. Again, not a statistically significant number.

It’s a big deal to claim that any policy exposes the country to more terrorist attacks, and it requires more proof than a few anecdotal cases.

“We are proud that we do more than any other country to help the needy, the struggling and the underprivileged all over the world.”

In raw dollars, the United States does contribute more development aid. But the United States is also richer, so as a percentage of gross national income, the United States ranks relatively low, according to 2016 figures published by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The United States contributed $33.6 billion, followed by Germany with almost $25 billion. But Norway contributed 1.1 percent of GNI, whereas the United States ranked 22nd out of 29 wealthy countries tracked by the organization. That ranking placed it between Slovenia and Portugal.

Oh wow: Court strikes down North Carolina’s GOP-drawn Congressional map as partisan gerrymander

In a massive victory for Democrats, a federal court hearing a challenge to North Carolina’s Republican-drawn congressional map struck it down on Tuesday evening as a partisan gerrymander designed to benefit the GOP in violation of the constitution. The ramifications of this ruling are enormous: If current district lines are replaced with a nonpartisan map, Democrats could gain anywhere from two to five seats, according to an analysis by Stephen Wolf, as shown at the top of this post.

The case could also give further ammunition to plaintiffs seeking to invalidate gerrymandered maps elsewhere on the same grounds. Republicans will inevitably appeal to the Supreme Court, which is adjudicating two other similar cases, so the outcome may yet change. It’s important to note that the Supreme Court has never before sustained a challenge to a map on the basis that it impermissibly benefits one political party over another, but it recently signaled a new openness toward doing so, so there’s a real chance this ruling could stand. And if new lines are put in place for this year’s midterm elections, that would go a long way toward helping Democrats win back the House.

Trump boasts that he’s a ‘very stable genius’ amid questions over his mental fitness

Should we be worried about this? I think so. The questions are disturbing, yes, but his answer even more so.– shiels

TRUMP SPPECH AT SNAP ON TOOLS

 
 2:00

Trump defends his mental fitness, slams ‘Fire and Fury’ author

At a news conference at Camp David Jan 6., President Trump responded to a question from a reporter about a tweet he posted on his mental state earlier that day. 

 January 6
President Trump lashed out at critics Saturday in defense of his mental fitness for office, calling himself a “very stable genius” in a tweetstorm of boasts.First on Twitter, then at a news conference with Republican leaders at Camp David, Trump defended himself against a new book that cites purported fears from former and current aides that he was unprepared for the presidency, incapable of processing information and uninterested in making difficult decisions.

Citing his success in business and on television, as well as his victory in presidential politics on “my first try,” Trump tweeted that his record “would qualify as not smart, but genius….and a very stable genius at that!” He suggested that the “Fake News Mainstream Media” are trying to smear him by using the “playbook” on President Ronald Reagan, who some believed suffered from mental deterioration due to age in the latter years of his two terms. Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease after leaving office.

During a news conference at the presidential retreat in Maryland, where Trump and GOP leaders were formulating their 2018 agenda, the president denounced the book’s author, New York media writer Michael Wolff, and a high-profile source, former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon. Trump, whose personal lawyer sent a cease-and-desist letter in an effort to stop publication of “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” has also called for tougher libel laws.

“It’s a disgrace that he can do something like this,” said Trump, who has previously threatened to silence news organizations over critical coverage. “Libel laws are very weak in this country. If they were stronger, hopefully, you would not have something like that happen.”

 19:45
Trump’s full Camp David news conference

President Trump spoke about his legislative priorities and answered reporters’ questions at a news conference at Camp David, Md., on Jan. 6. 

Trump’s outburst magnified attention on the book that his aides have derided as “fantasy” and “complete fiction,” but it also seemed to reveal a president who relishes constant conflict as feeling more besieged and isolated. With his approval ratings at historic lows after nearly one year in office, Trump has gone from battling Democrats and foreign leaders to fending off doubts from his closest advisers and even, reportedly, family members.

Wolff, appearing on NBC’s “Today Show” on Friday, said that “100 percent” of Trump’s team, including daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner, both White House advisers, doubted the president’s competency and grew more alarmed by his temperament during the first months of his presidency.

How Trump is helping China

CHINA WINS

Image result for maps of china

555 × 433 – maps-of-china.net

 

 

The president undoing himself systematically one day at a time.

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The New York Times
The New York Times

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

David Leonhardt

David Leonhardt

Op-Ed Columnist

On the day that Donald Trump was inaugurated president almost a year ago, a Chinese military leader named Jin Yinan gave a speech to top Communist Party officials in China. “We repeatedly state that Trump ‘harms China,’” Jin said. “In fact, he has given China a huge gift.”
That gift, Jin explained, was Trump’s planned pullout from the trans-Pacific Partnership, which formally happened three days after Jin’s speech, on Jan. 23. The partnership was a trade deal in which the United States and Pacific countries like Australia, Malaysia and Vietnam had banded together to check the economic rise of China. The likely economic effects of the pact were the subject of intense debate in this country, on both the right and left. In reality, though, the economic effects would never have been as large as either the deal’s boosters or critics argued.
Instead, the most important effect of the deal was geopolitical. The deal was, as the Australian academic Salvatore Babones has said, “primarily a tool for spreading U.S. interests abroad.” Above all, the deal was a response to China’s new global assertiveness.
But Trump said no thanks. And top Chinese officials correctly saw his withdrawal as “a huge gift.”
The story of Jin’s speech to Communist Party leaders comes from an article in the new issue of The New Yorker, by Evan Osnos. The piece is a calm but devastating indictment of Trump’s foreign policy. The canceling of the trade pact, Osnos explains, is merely one of the ways Trump is helping China.
The details include: a World Trade Organization meeting that the Trump administration left early, only to have Chinese officials then hold sway; the easy ways that Chinese officials have manipulated Trump by favoring his family business; and a quotation from the prime minister of Singapore, explaining that other countries now look first to China for international engagement.
“Trump is the biggest strategic opportunity” for China, as one influential foreign-affairs scholar in Beijing tells Osnos.
Some aspects of Trump’s foreign policy, like his campaign against ISIS, have worked better than expected so far. Yet it would be a big mistake to miss the larger picture. While prattling on about “America first,” Trump is actually doing grave damage to American interests around the world. No country benefits more from that damage than China, the most significant strategic challenger to the United States.
China’s leaders are well aware of the gift they have received.
I recommend reading all of Osnos’s article. It’s off to an early lead as 2018’s most important piece of journalism.
Programming note. Yesterday marked only the fifth time in the last 120 years that The New York Times has changed publishers. Our new publisher is A.G. Sulzberger, and for more on him and the future of The Times, you can read:
• this 2017 story from Wired magazine;
• the Innovation Report of 2014, which he oversaw;
• two follow-up reports that were heavily influenced by that report (one from 2015 on business strategy and one from 2017 on newsroom strategy).
Or you can hear from Sulzberger himself. He has written a piece on the editorial page today:
“There was a reason freedom of speech and freedom of the press were placed first among our essential rights,” he writes. “Our founders understood that the free exchange of ideas and the ability to hold power to account were prerequisites for a successful democracy. But a dangerous confluence of forces is threatening the press’s central role in helping people understand and engage with the world around them.”
The full Opinion report from The Times follows

North Korean leader says he has ‘nuclear button’ but won’t use it unless threatened

 from Washington Post Beijing correspondent Simon Denver today 1/1/18
 Winds of Change? Your Move, Mr. Trump. Analysis to follow.

South Koreans watch a news broadcast of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s annual New Year’s Day speech, at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul. (Lee Jin-man/AP)
 January 1 at 3:24 AM

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un boasted in an annual New Year’s Day speech Monday that he had a nuclear button on his desk and that the entire United States was within range of his weapons — but he also vowed not to attack unless threatened.

Kim promised to focus this year on producing nuclear warheads and missiles for operational deployment. But he also struck a conciliatory note, opening the door to dialogue with South Korea and saying he would consider sending a delegation to the Winter Olympics to be held in his southern neighbor in February.

“The United States can never fight a war against me and our state,” he said in the nationally televised speech. “It should properly know that the whole territory of the U.S. is within the range of our nuclear strike and a nuclear button is always on the desk of my office, and this is just a reality, not a threat.”

But Kim also said that North Korea was a peace-loving and responsible nuclear power, and would not use its nuclear weapons unless “hostile aggression forces” encroach on its sovereignty or interests.

“This year, we should focus on mass-producing nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles for operational deployment,” Kim said. “These weapons will be used only if our security is threatened.”

 1:51
Experts say North Korea’s latest ICBM is a big step for their missile program

North Korea’s rapid advancement of its ICBM program. 

North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test in September and launched its most high-tech intercontinental ballistic missile in November, ignoring international condemnation and steadily tightening sanctions.

In typically bellicose language, it declared the latest round of United Nations sanctions imposed last month an “act of war,” and Kim said his country had achieved the historic feat of “completing” its nuclear forces.

North Korea’s nuclear capabilities do not yet match Kim’s boasts, experts say, since it is far from clear it could successfully deliver a nuclear weapon on one of its missiles. Yet there is little doubt its capabilities have advanced significantly in the past year.

But Kim, dressed in a Western-style gray suit and tie, also offered a potential olive branch to Seoul, saying it is imperative to lower military tensions on the Korean Peninsula and improve ties with the South.

He said that the path to dialogue was open and that he would consider sending a delegation to the Winter Olympics in Pyeong­chang, South Korea.

“North Korea’s participation in the Winter Games will be a good opportunity to show unity of the people, and we wish the Games will be a success,” he said. “Officials from the two Koreas may urgently meet to discuss the possibility.”

South Korea has been trying to reassure the rest of the world that the Olympics will be safe despite the nuclear tensions, and President Moon Jae-in has said North Korea’s participation would ensure their safety. He also proposed last month that Seoul and Washington postpone annual joint military drills until after the Olympics, and he generally takes a less-confrontational approach to relations with the North than his predecessor, Park Geun-hye.

John Delury, a professor of international relations at Yonsei University in Seoul, said Kim’s message to Seoul was “more promising” than he had anticipated, addressing in a specific and actionable way South Korea’s desire to make the Games a success.

“That should give hope to those in the South who are trying to get something going and open a channel at least,” he said.

The idea of improving relations between the two Koreas is one that is frequently spoken about but seldom achieved, and Kim’s warmer words could also be seen as an attempt to drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington.

While Kim’s words were more combative toward the United States, he also refrained from a personal attack on President Trump, after the two men engaged in several rounds of mutual name-calling in 2017, Delury noted.

When asked about North Korea’s nuclear claims Sunday night, Trump said only, “We’ll see, we’ll see.”

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said Kim’s claims about his country’s nuclear capability underscored that there was no viable “military solution” to denuclearizing North Korea and that sanctions alone would not persuade Pyongyang to halt or reverse its nuclear buildup.

“To avoid a nuclear conflict and the full-scale deployment of an operational North Korean strategic deterrent force, U.S. leaders, in concert with South Korea, should redouble efforts to engage North Korea in direct talks and cease any further explicit or implicit threats of military action against the North,” he said in an email.

“The upcoming Olympics provide an important opportunity to break the ice and to begin discussions with the North Koreans on mutual steps that reduce the chances of miscalculation and war,” he added.

Kansas’s ravaged economy a cautionary tale as Trump plans huge tax cuts for rich

Image result for KANSAS MAP TRUMP 2016

Take a look at this!

 

Kansas slashed taxes at the top to try to spur growth – but the plan crippled the state’s finances and proved disastrous for its Republican governor

by  in Topeka, Kansas

 
 

 

IDonald Trump about to turn America into Kansas? It’s a question some worried people who live in the state are asking as the Republican party pushes through the biggest tax overhaul in a generation – an overhaul that, they claim, bears an uncanny resemblance to a tax plan that left their midwestern home in disarray.

After a failed economic experiment meant to boost economic growth blew a holein the Kansas budget as big as a prairie sky (a $350m deficit in the current fiscal year and nearly $600m in the next) state jobs and services have been slashed.

Prison guards are sharing stab vests at the El Dorado maximum security prison in southern Kansas. At the end of a shift, the sweat-soaked vests, worn all day in a facility without air conditioning, are passed to the next person by guards, many of whom are coming off 12- or 16-hour shifts.

Jail cells designed to hold one inmate are housing three or four at Ellsworth correctional facility. Riots have broken out at other prisons. The family of one guard who recently killed himself told union reps stress and over-work were to blame.

Next year, the state faces a school shutdown after the supreme court found its educational spending was unconstitutionally low. Some of those schools have already had to shorten the school year in order to save cash.

To make ends meet, money that was earmarked for roads has been diverted to the general fund. A state that used to maintain 1,200 miles of road a year is now repairing 200 miles a year. Even in the capital, Topeka, potholes are everywhere.

The crisis follows the 2012 passage of a tax plan by Kansas governor Sam Brownback that he dubbed “the march to zero”.

Individual state income tax rates dropped from 6.4% to 4.9% – with the intention of getting rid of them altogether eventually. Taxes were eliminated on so-called pass through entities – businesses where taxes are collected at the rate of the business owner and not at the corporate rate. The plan would provide a “shot of adrenaline” to the Kansas economy, Brownback claimed.

Trump Approval Dips in Every State,

 Though Deep Pockets of Support Remain

 TRUMP SPPECH AT SNAP ON TOOLS

FROM CAMERON EASLEY AS REPORTED BY EIN NEWS SERVICE; MY ANALYSIS TO FOLLOW

SPECIAL REPORT

 Though Deep Pockets of Support Remain

A comprehensive survey of more than 470,000 Americans finds Trump’s approval has fallen in every state since taking office

Morning Consult illustration / Getty Images
  • A majority of voters in 25 states and the District of Columbia said they disapprove of the president’s job performance.
  • Trump retains support from a majority of voters in 12 states ranging from the Mountain States to the South.

Fewer than nine months into President Donald Trump’s White House tenure, a Morning Consult survey in all 50 states indicates that voters have grown bearish on his performance in office.

Trump has failed to improve his standing among the public anywhere — including the states he won handily as the Republican nominee during the 2016 presidential election, according to the online survey, which was based on interviews of 472,032 registered voters across each state and Washington, D.C., from Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration to Sept. 26.

Trump’s Net Approval in All 50 StatesUse the slider to track how Trump’s approval changed month over month-50050Net Approval (approval minus disapproval)

2%

OREGON(Net Approval)
JAN

The negative swings in net approval ranged from as high as 30 percentage points in solidly blue Illinois and New York to as low as 11 points in red Louisiana. But in many of the states Trump easily carried last year — such as Tennessee (-23 percentage points), Mississippi (-21 points), Kentucky (-20 points), Kansas (-19 points) and Indiana (-17 points) — voters have soured on the president in 2017.

A majority of voters in 25 states and the District of Columbia said they disapproved of the president’s job performance in September, including those residing in Upper Midwest states with large Electoral College hauls that were critical to Trump’s victory over 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton — and some of which are home to some of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats of the 2018 election cycle. Fifty-five percent of respondents in Michigan said they disapproved of Trump, as did 53 percent in Wisconsin and Iowa and 51 percent in Pennsylvania.

Fifty-one percent of voters in Nevada and Arizona, where the Senate GOP’s most vulnerable members are up for re-election next year, also disapproved of Trump’s handling of the presidency.

RELATED: Charlottesville Violence Impacts Virginia Voters’ Views of Trump

“It’s always hard, though not impossible, for the president’s party to maintain or even gain ground in an election,” Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, said in a Sept. 21 interview. He cited solid approval numbers in recent years for former Presidents Bill Clinton in 1998 and George W. Bush in 2002, when their parties bucked midterm trends.

But, Kondik said, those types of gains are made when the president has favorable numbers.

“Again, these presidents were all popular,” Kondik said. “Trump is not right now, and his weakened standing could threaten Republican chances to defeat Democratic Senate incumbents in dark red states.”

In three other states Trump carried during the presidential election — Florida, Georgia and North Carolina — voters were practically split on his job performance, with an even or nearly even net rating.

The president retained support from a majority of voters in a dozen states in September, all of which he carried in 2016. Trump is most popular in Wyoming, where 60 percent of Cowboy State constituents said they approved of his job performance as of September, followed by West Virginia, where 59 percent of Mountain State voters approved. Trump’s approval in the Deep South is highest in Alabama, at 59 percent, while 57 percent of Louisianans, 54 percent of Arkansans, 53 percent of Tennesseans and 51 percent of South Carolinians are still in his corner.

RELATED: West Virginia Voters Becoming More Critical of Trump; Support in Maryland Falls to 33%

Looking at the bigger picture, Trump’s national net rating was down 19 points from January, when 49 percent of voters approved of him and 39 percent disapproved. In September, 43 percent of respondents approved of Trump while 52 percent disapproved.

The president enjoyed a relative honeymoon period during his first three months in office, but the decline in his support was consistent into August before his numbers bounced back slightly in September amid bipartisan deals with top congressional Democrats on extending the debt ceiling and government funding. From April to August, the dips tracked with a number of controversies involving the investigation into whether any of Trump’s campaign associates colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election — particularly the circumstances surrounding his decision to fire then-Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey in early May — and his reaction to the violent events in Charlottesville, Va. Congressional Republicans’ at-times chaotic and secretive efforts to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, former President Barack Obama’s signature 2010 health law, also correlated with a loss of confidence in the president.

Democrats and independents accounted for much of the downward spiral: Trump’s net approval among Democrats is down 25 points (from -46 to -71) since taking office and he’s down 18 points among independents (from even to -18). Eighty-four percent of Democrats and 54 percent of independents said they disapproved of Trump as of September. Republican voters have also taken a dimmer view of Trump’s job performance as the months rolled on: His net approval rating among GOP voters has dropped 9 points, although 81 percent still backed him in September.

Perhaps more concerning for Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill ahead of the 2018 midterms — which typically serve as referendums on the presidency — is a growing enthusiasm gap among GOP voters and dissenting partisans.

From January to September, the share of Republicans who strongly approve of Trump declined by 10 points, from 53 percent to 43 percent. Meanwhile, the intensity of disapproval among Democrats and independents has risen. Seventy-one percent of Democrats said they strongly disapproved of Trump in September, up 16 points from January, and among independents, there was an 11-point bump in strong disapproval, from 26 percent to 37 percent.

Those figures may encourage the Democratic Party, which is hoping to harness that energy — and a lack thereof for Washington’s ruling party — to ride a wave similar to the one that gave Republicans control of the House in 2010 and the Senate in 2014.

Nonpartisan political handicapper and former Roll Call columnist Stuart Rothenberg said in a Sept. 25 interview that while the growing enthusiasm gap doesn’t guarantee a wave election, “the potential drop-off in Republican turnout, along with independents behaving like Democrats in the midterm elections, create a significant risk.”

However, that risk is minimized in the Senate, where Democrats are defending 25 seats and Republicans are trying to hold just eight — and “even in the House, you have so few competitive races,” Rothenberg said.

The more immediate problem for Trump, according to Rothenberg, is that his declining numbers will reduce his influence with Republicans on Capitol Hill, whom he’ll need to help secure legislative victories.

“He wants to have clout, and to the extent that he is deemed to be a drag — an albatross — on Republicans running around the country, it just lessens his influence on the Hill,” he said

A DIFFERENT SOLUTION TO THE”GUNS USA” DEBATES

LAS VEGAS GUNS ONION
Hmm, maybe we should try “2nd Amendment” “buttressing” with Propping Up “bump-start”, and ADDING, automatics, silencers, bazookas, and grenades to “open carry” for a 90 month trial (for “home protection, of course”).
I’m all for protecting home-locked-up hunting guns with safety devices and other enhancements., but maybe if we went in the Other direction for 3 months we could get a Real spectacular that would return the NRA to the sane organization it once was. A terrible price to pay but it wouldn’t take long for the 500 to trigger legislation that would eliminate some of the 12,000 deaths by gun each year (and that’s down 40% from 1995).
Maybe if FIVE HUNDRED people were lost, we’d take a second look at Australia and sensible gun policy. As with so much, we are becoming an international freak-show (how many “are hearts go out to…. and to our brave first “responders”) are we going to go though.
Hello!–it’s not just a mental health problem Or a flood of guns, some of which were illegal until fairly recently (I.e.. banned by federal law). IT’S BOTH.

A Second Korean War Could Quickly Spread Across All of Asia

Not sure I agree with this yet but it’s a chilling scenario.

Brendan Scott

 and 

Adrian Leung
August 21, 2017, 5:00 PM EDT August 22, 2017, 12:51 AM EDT
  • Northeast Asia’s geography reveals the peril of any strike
  • Great powers risk being drawn into escalating conflict
0:140:30
Burns Says War With North Korea Is Not Imminent

Nick Burns, professor at Harvard Kennedy School, discusses Trump administration dealings with geopolitical events. He speaks with Bloomberg’s David Westin on ‘Bloomberg Daybreak: Americas.’ (Source: Bloomberg)

Follow @bpolitics for all the latest news, and sign up for our daily Balance of Power newsletter.

A recent survey commissioned by the New York Times found that people who could find North Korea on a map were more likely to favor talks over military action. A glance at North Asia’s geography explains why.

More than six decades after the Korean War ended without a peace treaty, the peninsula remains bisected in a perpetual stalemate, with the U.S.-backed South Korean military lined up against more than a million North Korean troops. While tensions have occasionally flared — such as after Kim Jong Un’s weapons tests or threats of “merciless revenge” over American-led military exercises that began Monday — the two sides have so far staved off another devastating conflict.

The 250-kilometer (160-mile) border defined in a 1953 armistice lays bare one obvious peril of any confrontation: The demilitarized zone sits on the doorstep of the Seoul metropolitan area, where about half of South Korea’s 51 million people live.

North Korea has spent decades concealing hundreds of artillery batteries along the frontier that could wreak havoc in the southern capital, according to Joseph Bermudez, an analyst for the 38 North website run by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. Those weapons could kill thousands of people and damage scores of factories in the time it took the U.S. to project “fire and fury” across the border, as President Donald Trump has warned.

“If all of a sudden artillery rounds started plopping down in the middle of the city, hitting those high-rises, there would be panic like you would not believe,” Bermudez said. “Not only are people killed by direct explosion, they’re killed by all the debris, and they’re killed by accident. You don’t need much artillery to do that.”

After an initial exchange of fire, the danger could quickly engulf the rest of South Korea and neighboring Japan, countries that have been American allies since World War II. More than 80,000 troops are based across the two countries and the U.S. territory of Guam, which would provide key staging areas for any American-led attack.

Those U.S. bases were within reach of Kim’s bombs long before his first successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile on July 4. Even if Kim still lacks the capacity to outfit those missiles with miniaturized nuclear warheads, he could cause plenty of damage with conventional and chemical weapons.

Kim would probably seek to maximize his advantage against more powerful foes by striking softer civilian targets in places like the greater Tokyo area, which is home to almost 40 million people. At the same time, North Koreans might look to escape the allied onslaught by flooding across the Yalu River to China. The region might also face environmental threats should the U.S. strike Kim’s heavy-water reactor north of the capital Pyongyang, scattering radioactive debris into the atmosphere and groundwater.

Mao Zedong’s decision to back China’s communist neighbors in North Korea was a key reason the U.S.-led United Nations forces were never able to achieve a decisive victory in the Korean War. China’s concern then — that a unified Korea could provide a springboard for attacks on its own territory — remains largely unchanged. And the world’s most populous country would be hard-pressed to remain on the sidelines if a full-fledged conflict erupted on its border.

Unlike his predecessor, Chinese President Xi Jinping commands a nuclear power with one of the world’s most advanced navies and air forces. Should China join a second Korean conflict, that firepower would make it harder for Trump to ensure the safety of the U.S. homeland — much less its bases and allies across Asia.

And don’t forget Russia, which shares borders with China, Japan and North Korea. Russian President Vladimir Putin is already challenging the U.S. in hotspots around the world.

The U.S. is constantly engaging with China and Russia to explain what it would do in a conflict to minimize the chance of an escalation, Bermudez said.

“It’s certainly possible to prevent superpower escalation,” he said. “Communication is the key here.”

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