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  1. #31
    From Esquire online ...

    There's No Going Back From What Happened This Weekend. The Gun Debate Is Over.

    The only question is how far and how fast change will come.

    MAR 26, 2018

    Our national debate about guns is over. It ended in a dark movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas. It ended in a first grade classroom in Connecticut and at a high school in Florida. It ended a thousand times on the streets of Chicago, or Baltimore, or Memphis, with a thousand grieving mothers who never got invited to come onto cable television.

    It ended the last time a child found his daddy's gun and killed his sister in their living room. It ended the last time a person in crisis found a handgun. It ended when a bunch of high school students, who didn't know any better, decided that they could no longer trust the adults to protect them. It ended on a day in March when millions of ordinary Americans, angry and frustrated and mourning, took to their streets to declare it over.

    There is no going back from what happened this weekend. There is only the question of how far and how fast the change will come. If the people who marched on Saturday vote—and why wouldn’t they—the National Rifle Association and its lackeys in Congress and state legislatures around the country have no chance this November and beyond.

    For those craven politicians, elected and re-elected on the blood of innocents, beholden to an organization that long ago betrayed its founding principles, forever contorting law and logic to justify assault rifles for teenagers and peanuts for gun research, the game is over, the bluff's been called. You can only fool so many people for so long.

    Saturday was about passion and about the expression of grief, but the movement right now, the latest iteration of it, is about the numbers as much as anything. The gun lobby is losing whatever real constituency it ever had, one act of gun violence at a time. In the past 20 years alone, hundreds of thousands of teenagers and young adults have had direct experiences with school shootings and they are refusing to allow their own children to be as traumatized as they were.

    Add to this constituency the families ripped apart by individual acts of gun violence, the poor mothers and fathers who lose their kids in stories that never get told, and you see how the tide has turned. Not just in the poll numbers, which show declining support for the NRA and growing support for gun restrictions, but in real life.

    Robert Kennedy gave us his "ripples of hope" speech in South Africa 52 years ago, and it resonates here with a twist. We saw in America Saturday the impact of ripples of grief. Each instance of gun violence ripples out to a family, a clan, a neighborhood, a community, a village, until, as we saw this weekend, "crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."

    The ripples abound now. The current has arrived. The oppression and the resistance of the gun lobby and its allies in political office will not survive it.

    After the crowds had dissipated in one city and town after another, and the talking heads took back the stage, they hedged: What if the protesters don't vote? What if all the glory and the grit is for naught? Please. They already are voting. And registering, too. The constituency that changed American life in the face of drunk driving deaths is changing it again in the face of unremitting gun violence. Thank God for them.

    So long as Donald Trump and Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell continue to bow down to the gun lobby, they’ll remember. How could they forget? Every day brings a new tragedy and so all these brave, determined mothers and sisters and daughters and aunts and grandmothers will be reminded every day from now until November what's at stake: the lives of their children. In the 37 days since the Parkland massacre 73 more teens have been shot to death.

    The reason the conversation is over, the reason that so many millions of people have had enough with gun violence, the reason you saw so many Republicans on the streets with signs this weekend, is that the relentless misery guns bring into our lives is something we all can see, and feel, while the dark conspiracies and “toxic masculinity” peddled by the NRA and its tribunes sound more deranged by the day.

    Did you catch the NRA "hot take" on Saturday? The trolling of the brave Parkland students? How "no one would know their names" if their classmates had not been gunned down by a mentally ill teenager who had easy access to a weapon of war? That's how you know the conversation is over. One side finally is willing to trust what it sees with its own eyes. The other side mocks the teenage survivors of a gun massacre.

    The conversation’s over because at some point there’s no use talking any longer. I know plenty of people who want reasonable gun reform, including many gun owners. I bet you do, too. They see, like most rational people see, that there is no good reason on God's green earth to hand out assault rifles to children.

    But I don't know a single person who wants to take a shotgun or a rifle from the hands of a hunter or a handgun away from a sane homeowner who wants to feel protected in her own home. And I bet you don’t, either. Who’s coming for their guns? No one. How many more children have to die before they are convinced? None. Because the protesters no longer are interested in trying to convince them.

    The goal of the movement is much more modest than the gun lobby can admit, which accounts both for the growing popularity of the activists and the despair on the part of the NRA. The debate today is not over core gun rights. It’s over gun restrictions that are well within the parameters of the precedent that Justice Antonin Scalia, the charlatan of the Second Amendment, had to agree to in his landmark gun-rights ruling in 2008 that first recognized a personal right to bear arms.

    In the decade since that ruling, the Supreme Court has signaled over and over again that it is comfortable with gun restrictions. Just ask Justice Clarence Thomas, the NRA’s man at the Court, who has repeatedly expressed frustration with the limitations his colleagues have accepted about the scope of the Second Amendment.

    Here's an idea. How about we implement the gun restrictions and reforms most commonly discussed? How about we invest at last in federal gun research to better understand what we are up against? (Congress took a step toward this last week.) How about we deny assault weapons for anyone under the age of 21 - or, better yet, under the age of 25? How about we give teeth, at last, to universal background checks? How about we make sure the mentally ill cannot get their hands on weapons? How about we treat gun manufacturers the way we do every other company and strip from them the extra immunity Congress gave them in 2005? How about we crack down on gun sales in states like Indiana, where gun trafficking spreads onto the streets of Chicago? How about we ban bump stocks?

    How about we try all these things and save countless American lives each year and then have a conversation about the Second Amendment? How about we slide just far enough down that slippery slope so we can stop the bleeding, literally, and then see where we are as a country? How about we try for a few years to allow hundreds of thousands more of our fellow citizens to live or avoid being wounded and see what that feels like?

    That's all the protesters want. That, and to go to school without a fear that they will be cut down in their classroom. That, and to send their kids outside to play and not have to worry about a stray bullet. That, and to see their grandchildren grow into what they are meant to be. The debate is over. Now all that is left is to implement the noble and needed national consensus that has emerged from it.

  2. #32
    Stormy Daniels' interview holds a mirror up to Trump and the picture isn't pretty

    By Michael D'Antonio

    Updated 1408 GMT (2208 HKT) March 26, 2018

    (CNN)It was not about Stormy Daniels, it was about Donald Trump.

    With a huge TV audience watching Anderson Cooper interview her on "60 Minutes" on Sunday, the adult film star who said she was paid to keep silent about her 2006 sexual encounter with the married man and future president served as a mirror that reflected Trump's dishonesty and disrespectful nature for all the world to see.

    "He knows I'm telling the truth," declared Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. She then went on to describe a mutually exploitative relationship consistent with the Donald Trump known by many. As in so many things, Trump apparently approached his time with Daniels as a transaction, and he used Trump-like superlatives -- he called her "special" she reported -- to sweeten the exchange.

    Like the Playboy model Karen McDougal, who told of an affair with Trump in another interview with Anderson Cooper on Thursday, Daniels said Trump spoke of how she reminded him of his eldest daughter Ivanka. And like McDougal, Daniels mentioned that Trump dangled a reward for the sex. McDougal said she was offered cash, which she said she refused. Daniels said Trump suggested she could appear on his TV show, "Celebrity Apprentice."

    Although she said she doubted the TV gig would materialize, "at the same time," she added, "maybe it will work out." It didn't. (Trump's spokespeople have denied the allegations of affairs.)

    In calmly responding to Cooper's questions, Daniels gave the lie to anyone who would dismiss her intelligence. Unlike the President, who often speaks in a disjointed way that is full of emotion and devoid of meaning, she offered declarative sentences that left no doubt about her meaning

    Yes, she had an affair with Trump that began shortly after his wife, Melania, gave birth to his youngest son.

    Yes, the man who would be president did not practice safe sex.

    No, she's not willing to be silent.

    None of what Daniels told Cooper about her experience seemed inconsistent with what we know already about Trump and his team. The affair is what we expect from a man with his record of scandal and heedless self-indulgence. The hush money aligns with his transactional nature. Lawyer Michael Cohen's claim to have paid it himself out of personal concern for his boss is consistent with the cult-like devotion common among longtime employees of the Trump organization. Enabling seems to be in the job description for everyone who seeks to remain in Trump's service.

    Her tale of an attempted cover-up had elements familiar to seasoned Trump-watchers. First there was Cohen, his longtime lawyer, serving as the aide who sought to make something unpleasant go away. Then came the alleged effort at intimidation, which is something I experienced personally when Cohen was concerned about my book about Trump and threatened to sue if I didn't do what he wanted. (Cohen said to Vanity Fair, "I have never threatened her in any way, and I am unaware of anyone else doing so.")

    The interview, and Cooper's additional reporting, did not leave Daniels unscathed. She had to account for three statements she made denying the affair. However, unlike Trump, who seems incapable of taking responsibility for any of the thousands of distortions he has made, Daniels copped to her deceptions. "I was concerned for my family," she said convincingly, "and for their safety."

    Although some seem willing to grant Trump endless mulligans for his sins against his family, and the basic tenets of human decency, the much-awaited Daniels interview undoubtedly turned even some ardent supporters against the man in the Oval Office.

    How did Daniels come to play this role? Proud to identify herself as an adult entertainer, she is invulnerable to the President's usual methods of counterattack, which involve degrading others who present themselves in conventional terms -- remember the names he called political opponents? -- and attempting to make them seem hypocritical. No one is in a better position to call out Trump than the woman who came forward to name herself as his partner in infidelity and note that it was he who pursued her.

    Daniels offered a direct and credible account of how, just before the 2016 election, Cohen paid her $130,000 to keep quiet about Trump, who by then was the GOP candidate for the presidency. Cohen has said it had nothing to do with the campaign, but the timing suggests it did. More recently Cohen sought to enforce a nondisclosure agreement, but Daniels defied him and his client by speaking out.

    Besides Daniels' candor, one can't help but be impressed by her tactical brilliance.

    Outplaying Trump at his own game, Stormy Daniels showed that she knows the media-savvy world hates hypocrisy and lies. A stripper and porn star by trade, she has never pretended to be someone she's not and has a reputation for demanding respect. Recent press profiles suggest she set high business standards for herself and others. Unlike the President, who pretended to fire people on TV but won't do so directly in real life, Daniels is known for dismissing those who fail her, and she does it face to face and on the spot.

    The political impact of the must-watch interview will develop over time. It speaks to the current state of politics in the era of Trump that an interview with a porn actress can be as influential as this one is likely to be.

    Should the fever of fear, confusion and acquiescence that has marked the Trump era begin to break, we can thank Stormy Daniels.

  3. #33
    Mueller's critics are wrong about his role

    By Michael Zeldin, CNN Legal Analyst

    Updated 2315 GMT (0715 HKT) March 26, 2018

    Michael Zeldin, a CNN legal analyst, has served as a federal prosecutor in the Criminal Division of the Justice Department and was a special counsel to then-Assistant Attorney General Robert Mueller. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own.

    (CNN)Recent criticism of the appointment of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller by Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr, among others, appears to have created some confusion about the reasons for Mueller's appointment and what specifically is within his investigative mandate.

    As the investigation seems to be moving forward at a fast pace and in several directions, it may be helpful to take a step back and recall why Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller in the first place, what Mueller is charged with doing, and why it is in the public interest for his investigation to proceed to its conclusion.

    The reasons for appointing a special counsel

    Professor Dershowitz agrees that a "broad and open investigation of Russian involvement in our elections" should be conducted. He believes, however, that a special counsel should never have been appointed because "there was no evidence of any crime committed by the Trump administration." Starr, on the other hand, believes that while Mueller is handling the probe in a professional manner and that his investigation is not a witch hunt, its focus should only be on what happened during the 2016 election in terms of collusion, as that is the "key idea."

    These perspectives reflect a misunderstanding of the legal rationale underlying the special counsel regulations generally, and/or disregard the full scope of Mueller's investigative mandate.

    The Code of Federal Regulations, 28 C.F.R. Section 600.1, establishes the grounds for appointing a special counsel. It provides:

    The attorney general - or, in cases in which the attorney general is recused, the acting attorney general - will appoint a special counsel when he or she determines that criminal investigation of a person or matter is warranted, and

    (a) That investigation or prosecution of that person or matter by a United States Attorney's Office or litigating division of the Department of Justice would present a conflict of interest for the Department or other extraordinary circumstances; and

    (b) That under the circumstances, it would be in the public interest to appoint an outside special counsel to assume responsibility for the matter.

    Rosenstein appointed Mueller given the unique circumstances presented by this case -- the events surrounding and including the presidential removal of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn on February 13, 2017, and the activity leading up to and including the firing of FBI Director James B. Comey on May 9, 2017, in the midst of an FBI counterintelligence investigation into the 2016 presidential election.

    Rosenstein determined that to "ensure a full and thorough investigation of the Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election," the public interest required him to place the investigation under the authority of a person who would be able to exercise a degree of independence from the normal Department of Justice chain of command.

    Mueller's mandate

    In his order appointing Mueller on May 17, 2017, Rosenstein authorized the special counsel to conduct the investigation into the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election confirmed by then-FBI Director Comey in testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on March 20, 2017 and related matters.

    On March 20, Comey testified that, "I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts. As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed."

    Included within Mueller's overarching counterintelligence mandate is the investigation of:

    - any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump; and
    - any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation; and
    - any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a), i.e., any federal crimes committed in the course of, and with intent to interfere with, the special counsel's investigation, such as perjury, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence, and intimidation of witnesses.

    The mandate also provides the special counsel with the authority to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters, if he believes it is necessary and appropriate.

    At the conclusion of his work, the special counsel is required to provide the attorney general with a report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions he reached, according to 28 C.F.R. 600.8.

    Thus, Mueller was appointed to carry on a pre-existing counterintelligence investigation that included, among other things, determining whether there was interference by the Russian government in the 2016 presidential election and, if so, whether there was any coordination with the Trump campaign.

    Contrary to Dershowitz's view, the regulations governing the appointment of a special counsel do not require the Trump administration to have committed a crime. Indeed, much of what Mueller has been authorized to investigate predates Trump's inauguration.

  4. #34
    ^ Continued ...

    How Mueller appears to be carrying out his mandate

    1. Potential Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election

    The counterintelligence investigation aspect of Mueller's work to date that is publicly known principally involves an investigation into the actions of parties outside of the United States, e.g. the Russian government or persons who may be associated with the Russian government, to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

    One aspect of this interference was outlined in the multi-count indictment returned by Mueller this past February. The indictment charged 13 Russians and 3 Russian corporations with a conspiracy to defraud the United States through the use of social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, etc.) to influence voter opinion against presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and in favor of candidate Trump. The second aspect, which is still under investigation, is believed to involve the hacking of the Democratic National Committee's computers and of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta's emails.

    2. Potential cooperation/association with the Russian government

    Secondary to this primary counterintelligence objective is the question of whether anyone associated with the Trump campaign cooperated -- knowingly or unknowingly -- with the Russian government or persons associated with the Russian government.

    Again, while no one has been charged with any criminal conduct, interest has focused on whether the Trump campaign's data analytics operation and the data research firm Cambridge Analytica potentially coordinated with a Russian social media campaign or others to influence the presidential election.

    Similarly, were Mueller able to determine who hacked the DNC's and/or John Podesta's computers, he then would look to see if any individuals associated with the Trump campaign potentially conspired to receive, use and/or distribute the hacked information.

    And, while former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos each pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements, the underlying conduct that gave rise to their broader cooperation agreements may address cooperation/conspiracy with foreign nationals.

    3. Matters potentially arising out of the investigation

    Beyond the counterintelligence and coordination aspects of the investigation, Mueller is authorized to investigate any other matters that arose, or may arise directly, from the investigation. These matters are referred to as the "arises out" of aspect of his mandate.

    The indictments of Paul Manafort, Trump campaign chairman, and Rick Gates, deputy campaign adviser, for money laundering, tax evasion and foreign registration act violations, as well as the plea agreements by former Skadden attorney Alex van der Zwaan (one count of making false statements) and California businessman Richard Pinedo (one count of identity fraud), would appear to fall within this column.

    The grand jury subpoena reported to have been served by Mueller on the Trump organization also may relate to an investigation of matters not directly tethered to the counterintelligence/coordination investigation, but which may fit within the "arises out" aspect of the Mueller mandate.

    4. Potential obstruction/interference in the investigation

    Finally, Mueller is empowered to investigate whether, during the investigation, anyone endeavored to interfere with or obstruct his investigation. This potentially could include any conduct to interfere with or obstruct the FBI's investigation following former FBI Director Comey's March 2017 testimony.

    The investigation of obstruction/interference is not straightforward, especially when it comes to the actions of President Trump. The publicly available information appears to focus on events, such as the firings of Comey and Flynn, Donald Trump Jr.'s potentially misleading statements describing the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting with certain Russians, and any possible efforts by the Trump administration to have the intelligence community push back against the FBI investigation.


    The 2016 presidential election was unprecedented. The allegation that the Trump victory may have been achieved, in part, with the possible help of foreign nationals working in a coordinated way with Trump campaign officials is very serious.

    Understanding what, if anything, occurred is of paramount importance to the nation. For this reason, the appointment of a special counsel with a broad mandate was warranted. In the interests of justice and the public interest, Mueller should be allowed to complete his work without executive or legislative branch interference.

    Only when his final report is released will we know all the facts: who, if anyone, participated; what their level of responsibility was; and, most importantly, how we can prevent interference in our elections in the future.

  5. #35
    Trump administration seeks to close immigration ‘loopholes’

    Associated Press / 07:29 PM April 03, 2018

    WASHINGTON - Trump administration officials said they’re crafting a new legislative package aimed at closing immigration “loopholes” following the president’s calls for Republican lawmakers to immediately pass a border bill using the “Nuclear Option if necessary” to muscle it through.

    “As ridiculous as it sounds, the laws of our country do not easily allow us to send those crossing our Southern Border back where they came from. A whole big wasted procedure must take place. Mexico & Canada have tough immigration laws, whereas ours are an Obama joke. ACT CONGRESS!” President Donald Trump wrote in a series of continual, sometimes-misleading tweets Monday after a weekend in Florida with several immigration hardliners.

    Trump also declared protections for so-called Dreamer immigrants “dead,” accused Democrats of allowing “open borders, drugs and crime” and warned Mexico to halt the passage of “caravans” of immigrants or risk retribution.

    “Honduras, Mexico and many other countries that the US is very generous to, sends many of their people to our country through our WEAK IMMIGRATION POLICIES,” he wrote. “Caravans are heading here. Must pass tough laws and build the WALL.”

    Trump has been seething over immigration since realizing the major spending bill he signed last month barely funds the “big, beautiful” border wall he has promised his supporters. The $1.3 trillion funding package included $1.6 billion in border wall spending, but much of that money can be used only to repair existing segments, not to build new sections.

    Among the measures the administration is pursuing: ending special safeguards that prevent the immediate deportation of children arrested at the border and traveling alone.

    Under current law, unaccompanied children from countries that don’t border the US would be placed under the supervision of the Department of Health and Human Services and undergo often-lengthy deportation proceedings before an immigration judge instead of being deported.

    The administration is also pushing Congress to terminate a 1997 court settlement that requires the government to release children from custody to parents, adult relatives or other caretakers as their cases make their way through immigration court. Officials complain that many children never show up at their hearings.

    The proposals appear the same as those included on a White House immigration wish list that was released in October but failed to gain traction during negotiations over the border wall. Such proposals are likely to face opposition from moderate Republicans and Democrats going into the midterm elections. But Trump appears intent on ensuring the issues remain at the forefront of public conversation, even though the omnibus was widely seen as the last major legislation likely passed this year.

    Trump spent much of the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort, having meals with his family, watching cable news shows and rubbing elbows with conservative commentators including Fox News host Sean Hannity, according to several club members. Also spotted at the club: champion golfer Dustin Johnson, MyPillow maker Michael J. Lindell, boxing promoter Don King and former New York Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik.

    Staffers with Trump over the Easter holiday included policy adviser Stephen Miller, one of the chief architects of the administration’s anti-immigration policies

    Trump’s past calls to use the “nuclear option” – changing Senate procedure to require a simple majority of 51 votes to override a rule instead of 60 – have been repeatedly dismissed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who argues that Republicans will welcome the filibuster if they return to being the Senate minority. The current split is 51-49 favoring Republicans.

    “Dreamer” immigrants are due to lose coverage under a program that Trump tried to eliminate. Notably, his favored solution for extending protections to them mustered only 39 votes in the Senate, meaning it couldn’t have passed even with the nuclear option.

    Trump’s tweets calling on Mexico to halt “caravans” filled with immigrants in the country illegally came after a “Fox & Friends” report Sunday that featured the leader of the union representing border patrol agents predicting that those in the caravan would create havoc and chaos in the US as they wait for immigration reform.

    About 1,100 migrants, many from Honduras, have been marching along roadsides and train tracks in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca.

    These “Stations of the Cross” migrant caravans have been held in southern Mexico for at least the last five years. They began as short processions of migrants, some dressed in biblical garb and carrying crosses, as an Easter-season protest against attacks against Central Americans as they cross Mexico.

    Individuals in the caravans often try to reach the US border but usually not as part of the caravan. The caravans typically don’t proceed much farther north than the Gulf Coast state of Veracruz. The current march is scheduled to end this month with a conference on migration issues in the central Mexican state of Puebla.

  6. #36
    Trump orders National Guard to Mexican border

    Agence France-Presse / 08:19 AM April 05, 2018

    United States President Donald Trump has ordered the National Guard to deploy to America’s southern border, ratcheting up pressure on Mexico and taking another step in his quest to clamp down on illegal immigration.

    Trump’s latest border move on Wednesday came the same day as a caravan of Central American migrants – whose trek across Mexico had infuriated the US president – scrapped their highly publicized plans to try to enter the US.

    Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Trump had directed the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security to work with border state governors to figure out how to deploy National Guard forces to assist Border Patrol agents.

    “The president has reiterated this many times: A sovereign nation that cannot – or worse, chooses not to – defend its borders will soon cease to be a sovereign nation,” Nielsen said.

    “We do hope that the deployment begins immediately,” she added. “Today is the day we want to start this process. The threat is real.”

    The sudden action, which comes as lawmakers are out on Easter break, follows Trump taking to Twitter to rail against “ridiculous liberal” border laws, and warn of an inbound “caravan” of immigrants, threatening to axe the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) if Mexico did not stop them.

    Caravan leaders on Wednesday said most of the group – about 80 percent – would now remain in Mexico, where authorities are working with individual migrants and families to get temporary papers.

    “All they want is a place to live in peace, where they can work without having guns pointed at them, without being forced to join a gang,” said Irineo Mujica, the head of migrant advocacy group People Without Borders (Pueblo sin Fronteras).

    Mujica said a handful of migrants with strong asylum claims will continue to the US border on their own.

    “Donald Trump wanted the world to crush us, to erase our existence. But Mexico responded admirably and we thank the government for the way it handled this caravan,” Mujica told AFP in the town of Matias Romero, in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca.

    Trump has ratcheted up pressure on both Congress and America’s southern neighbor Mexico in recent days to take action to stem illegal immigration.

    “Until we can have a wall and proper security, we’re going to be guarding our border with the military,” Trump said on Tuesday, referring to his financially challenged pet project to build a wall along the frontier.

    The commander-in-chief’s seemingly off-the-cuff military directive caught Pentagon officials by surprise, and planners scrambled to find ways to support the edict on Wednesday.

    Nielsen said the US continues to see “unacceptable levels” of illegal drugs, dangerous gang activity, transnational criminal organizations, and illegal immigration flow across the southern border.

    She and other administration officials boasted of a “Trump effect” that saw illicit border activity drop when Trump took office, but said the numbers of illegal border crossings had now risen back to previous levels.

    Last stop: Mexico City

    In Mexico, the 1,000 or so migrants who currently make up the caravan – many traveling in families of up to 20 people – have been camped in Matias Romero since the weekend, deciding their next move.

    The group, mainly Hondurans, also includes Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and Nicaraguans, mostly fleeing the brutal gang violence that has made Central America home to some of the highest murder rates in the world.

    The caravan is in fact a yearly event held since 2010 and its goal is more to raise awareness about the plight of migrants than to reach the US – though some participants have traveled to the border in the past.

    Mexico’s former foreign minister, Jorge Castaneda, called Trump’s reaction to the caravan “a little hysterical,” telling Mexican radio that he suspected the US president was more worried about his Republican party losing this November’s mid-term elections than the migrants.

    “He’s just mobilizing his conservative base,” he said.

    The caravan, which set off on March 25 from Tapachula, on the border with Guatemala, now plans to travel to the central city of Puebla for a conference, then on to Mexico City for a series of demonstrations – and end its journey there.

    The Mexican government, which bristled at Trump’s criticism and his move to militarize the border, said on Monday that it was up to the US to decide whether to admit such arrivals or not.

    Many of the migrants said they had no intention of trying to enter the US.

    Carol Torres, a 26-year-old Honduran woman, told AFP she joined the caravan after her abusive husband hired gang hitmen to attack her, forcing her to leave her two children behind.

    She said she planned to settle in Tijuana, on the Mexican side of the border – not cross into the US.

    “I don’t believe in the American dream, because the president over there is a son of a bitch who doesn’t like immigrants,” she said.

  7. #37
    From Inquirer online ...

    Trump lashes out at ex-FBI chief over book revelations

    07:24 AM April 16, 2018

    UNITED STATES – Donald Trump launched into another furious Twitter tirade against James Comey on Sunday, hours before the broadcast of an extended interview with the fired former FBI director and with a memoir detailing his interactions with the president soon to hit US bookstores.

    Excerpts of the interview with ABC News already have been aired, as have reviews of Comey’s memoir, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership.”

    The book, which is due out Tuesday, likens Trump to a dishonest, ego-driven mob boss and says he demanded Comey’s personal pledge of loyalty — a damning account that has infuriated the president at a moment of intensifying legal pressure on other fronts.

    “I never asked Comey for Personal Loyalty. I hardly even knew this guy. Just another of his many lies. His ‘memos’ are self serving and FAKE!” Trump said in one of his latest tweets.

    The president again called Comey, who has said he took detailed notes of his meetings with Trump, a “slime ball” and said he “stupidly” handled a probe into Trump’s 2016 election rival Hillary Clinton.

    In another tweet, the president undertook a mini-review of Comey’s memoir: “The big questions in Comey’s badly reviewed book aren’t answered like, how come he gave up Classified Information (jail), why did he lie to Congress (jail), why did the DNC refuse to give Server to the FBI (why didn’t they TAKE it), why the phony memos, McCabe’s $700,000 & more?”

    The jumble of references appeared to allude to unsubstantiated accusations Trump has previously made claiming Comey lied in Senate testimony last May in denying he had served as an anonymous news source.

    “Look, it’s been very clear that James Comey is a self-admitted leaker. He lied to Congress,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said on ABC’s “This Week.”

    A Justice Department inspector general’s report released this week took aim at former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe on similar grounds, finding that he improperly authorized release of information to a Wall Street Journal reporter in 2016 and misled investigators about it.

    But McCabe, who was fired last month, has charged his dismissal was an attempt to discredit a probe by special counsel Robert Mueller into possible Trump campaign collusion with a Russian effort to sway the 2016 elections.

    The escalating feud comes as the Mueller probe gathers momentum - and with the president under pressure on other legal fronts.

    In the latest twist, the Justice Department revealed this week that Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, has been under “criminal investigation” for months by the US attorney’s office in New York.

    On Monday, investigators took the unusual step of searching Cohen’s New York residence, office, hotel room, safety deposit boxes and cellphones. Materials seized could include evidence related to payoffs to keep two women — a porn star and a former Playboy playmate — from talking about their past sexual encounters with Trump.

    Email probe

    Trump and his aides have countered Comey’s media blitz by attacking his handling of an investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state.

    Comey, who was fired by Trump last year, acknowledged in the ABC interview that his belief that Clinton would be elected president “was a factor” in his decision to reopen the email probe 11 days before the US election, a development that Clinton blames for her surprise defeat.

    “I don’t remember spelling it out, but it had to have been, that she’s going to be elected president and if I hide this from the American people, she’ll be illegitimate the moment she’s elected, the moment this comes out,” Comey said.

    His comments echoed a quote from his memoir, in which he said it was “entirely possible” his concern over Clinton’s legitimacy “bore greater weight than it would have if the election appeared closer or if Donald Trump were ahead in all polls.”

    “Unbelievably, James Comey states that Polls, where Crooked Hillary was leading, were a factor in the handling (stupidly) of the Clinton Email probe,” Trump tweeted.

    “In other words, he was making decisions based on the fact that he thought she was going to win, and he wanted a job. Slimeball!” he wrote.

    In another tweet he accused Comey of throwing former attorney general Loretta Lynch “under the bus,” an allusion to Comey having criticized Lynch in the memoir for suggesting that he refer to the Clinton probe as only a “matter,” rather than an investigation.

    “Was she promised a Supreme Court seat, or AG, in order to lay off Hillary,” Trump asked. /cbb

  8. #38
    From GQ Online ...

    Patagonia vs. Donald Trump


    April 5, 2018

    We all knew the legendary outerwear company Patagonia lived and breathed the adventurous life. We knew they cared about the environment. But it wasn’t till Trump came along that we realized they were ready to fight.

    Patagonia was built in the image of its founder, Yvon Chouinard. In late January, when we met for the first time, that image included a flannel shirt, beat-up trousers, and flip-flops. Chouinard is an unlikely nominee for wealthiest man in the room. He walks with an air of deflection, as if to duck attention. “It's funny, the first time I met him,” the celebrated mountain climber Tommy Caldwell told me, “I walked into the cafeteria at Patagonia, and I was like, ‘That guy looks like a homeless dude.’ ”

    Chouinard is both a beatnik dropout and a renegade capitalist. A revolutionary rock climber in his day, who still disappears regularly to surf and fly-fish, he oversees a corporation that did $800 million in sales last year. At 79, Chouinard looks like a recovering mountain troll who enjoys sunshine, food, and wine but will probably outlast the rest of us if the apocalypse hits tomorrow. “I've spent enough time in the mountains,” he told me, “that I can get from point A to point B safely and efficiently. If shit hits the fan, I could feed my family off the coast. But I'm totally lost in the desert. I don't understand the desert at all.”

    In the months leading up to our meeting, Chouinard and Patagonia had seen a few disasters. The Thomas wildfire, the largest in California history, torched the hills around the company's Ventura headquarters. Five employees lost their homes, and then came the mudslides. All of which took place while Patagonia dealt with a crisis back east: a decision by President Trump, the great un-doer, to shrink some of his predecessor's national monuments. The pledge was a first for an American president; limiting the size of monuments like Bears Ears in Utah would mean the largest reduction of protected land in U.S. history. Which is what led Patagonia, in early December, to change its home page to a stark message: “The President Stole Your Land.”

    In response, the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources sent out an e-mail with the subject line “Patagonia: don't buy it.” This wasn't just Trump whining on Twitter that Nordstrom wasn't supporting his daughter's fashion line. The federal government, run by allegedly pro-business Republicans, basically called for the boycott of a privately held company—provoking a former director of the Office of Government Ethics to label the action “a bizarre and dangerous departure from civic norms.”

    Chouinard has been known to be a prickly contrarian. He doesn't do e-mail. His cell phone goes largely untouched. But he's adept at delivering powerful sound bites. In December, Chouinard went on CNN—wearing what looked to be the same flannel shirt from the day we met—and said, “I think the only thing this administration understands is lawsuits. We're losing this planet. We have an evil government.… And I'm not going to stand back and just let evil win.”

    Which explains why Patagonia is presently suing the White House in federal court.

    This is not your parents’ fleece-maker. We're past the old jokes about Patagucci or Fratagonia. Sure, you still see a Synchilla vest on every venture capitalist in Palo Alto; not for nothing does the Jared Dunn character on Silicon Valley possess a Patagonia collection supreme. But the vest also crisscrosses popular culture: DeRay Mckesson, one of the faces of Black Lives Matter, wears Patagonia so often his vest has its own Twitter feed. A$AP Rocky shows up in Snap-T sweaters. Louis Vuitton cribbed its Classic Retro-X jacket for a mountaineering look. Universities from Oregon to Ole Miss are Patagonia-saturated, and meanwhile, vintage finds—the rarest featuring the original “big label” logo—fetch a premium on eBay.

    The company's HQ looks like a cross between a college campus and a recycling center. Solar panels everywhere. Wet suits drying on the roofs of cars—the five-acre spread is a short walk from the beach. The company has an on-site school where employees can enroll their kids through second grade, one of the reasons that Patagonia has near gender parity among employees. Many of its CEOs have been female, including the current one, Rose Marcario. Chouinard writes in his memoir–cum–business bible, Let My People Go Surfing, “I was brought up surrounded by women. I have ever since preferred that accommodation.”

    Chouinard was born in Maine but formed in California. The son of a hardworking French-Canadian carpenter, he moved with his family to Burbank, just north of Los Angeles, in 1946, when Chouinard was 8; it was his mother's idea, to improve his dad's asthma. In California, Chouinard stood out, not in a good way. He was short, spoke French, and had a name like a girl. He hated school. High school history class was for practicing holding his breath, so he could free-dive deeper to catch wild lobster off Malibu. “I learned a long time ago that if you want to be a winner,” he told me, “you invent your own games.” So he ran away, to Griffith Park to hunt rabbits, the Los Angeles River to catch crawdads. It was a funny wilderness in the Valley—his favorite swimming hole was fed by a movie studio's film-development lab. “Yeah, I used to swim in the outfall,” he said, cracking up.

    Then he discovered climbing. In the 1950s, age 16, Chouinard drove to Wyoming and climbed Gannett Peak, the state's highest mountain. Soon he met other young climbers, like Royal Robbins and Tom Frost, and migrated to Yosemite, where he lived off scraps—at one point, tins of cat food—and made first ascents up the granite walls. “In the '60s, it was kind of the height of the fossil-fuel age,” he said. “You could get a part-time job anytime you felt like it. Gas was 25 cents a gallon. You could buy a used car for 20 bucks. Camping was free. It was pretty easygoing.”

    Chouinard and his friends would transform rock climbing, helping to bring about the modern “clean” version, where you no longer hammer iron spikes into the cracks to aid your progress. This led to athletes like Caldwell, a Patagonia “climbing ambassador,” pulling off accomplishments no one thought possible—like the first free climb of Yosemite's Dawn Wall. Chouinard also met his wife of 47 years, Malinda, in Yosemite. At the time, she was a climber who worked as a weekend cabin maid. According to Chouinard, the moment that clinched it was a day they were hanging out and Malinda saw some women pull up and throw a beer can out the window. She told them to pick it up. They gave her the finger. Malinda went over, tore the license plate off their car with her bare hands, and turned it in to the rangers' office. Chouinard was in love.

    Patagonia got its start as Chouinard Equipment, selling the climbing gear that Yvon was making for his friends. The first apparel was equally functional, designed to resist rock: sturdy corduroy trousers, stiff rugby shirts like the ones Yvon brought back from a climbing trip in Scotland. When the clothing started to take off, they decided to separate the garments from the gear; they just needed a good name. As Chouinard explained: “To most people, especially then, Patagonia was a name like Timbuktu or Shangri-la—far-off, interesting, not quite on the map.”

    These days, that “far-off” land is thriving. With Marcario at the company, revenue and profits have quadrupled. In addition to clothing, the company produces films, runs a food business, even has a venture-capital fund to invest in eco-friendly start-ups; one, Bureo, makes skateboards and sunglasses from former fishing nets. Along the way, Patagonia began donating 1 percent of its sales to environmental groups—$89 million as of April 2017—and led the garment industry in cleaning up its supply chains, demanding better practices from factories overseas. (Chouinard, his wife, and their two adult children remain the sole owners of Patagonia.)

    For all the success, an enduring thorn sticks in Chouinard's side: A clothing company can't help but pollute. This season's new puffy jacket is tomorrow's landfill. “The best thing you can do for the planet as far as clothing goes is to buy used clothes and wear them until you just can't wear them anymore,” Chouinard said. “It's like a car. If you get rid of your Chevy and buy a Prius, you're not doing anything for the planet—you just put one more car on the road. Someone else is going to be driving your Chevy.”

    In 2011, on Black Friday, Patagonia ran a full-page ad in The New York Times, headlined “Don't Buy This Jacket.” The company vowed to repair or recycle old garments while also pleading for customers to stop buying crap they didn't need. Of course, Patagonia's ad made headlines—and the company sold a ton of jackets. “But it also forced us to put in the largest garment-repair center in North America,” Chouinard said. “I made a commitment to our customer that we were going to put as much quality as we could into the product. If it breaks down, we were going to fix it, and if you no longer want it, we're going to find another home for it, and then when it's finally completely finished, we were going to recycle it into more product.” He added, “It wasn't a way to sell more product, even though, of course, that jacket sold like crazy. It's kind of Zen. You do the right thing and good things happen.”

  9. #39
    ^ Continued ...

    In the Trump era, Chouinard and his company feel galvanized. Following the election, a junior employee had the goofy idea to give away Patagonia's Black Friday profits to hundreds of grassroots environmental organizations, the kind that often work for changes the current administration hates. But not just a share of the day's revenue: all of it. The idea was kicked up the chain. Within days, the company had made a promise on social media. Sales started to pour in.

    The previous year, Patagonia had done $2.5 million on Black Friday. In 2016 it was $10 million—and they gave it all away. “It cost us a bunch of money,” Chouinard said, “because it was total revenue. But 60 percent of the customers were new buyers. Sixty percent. It was one of the best business things we've ever done.”

    In Ventura, weeks after the Thomas fire, the air still smelled of smoke. Patagonia's headquarters had been used to house evacuees until the fires got too near. Later, the Ventura store gave away long underwear to firefighters working nights in the mountains and fishing waders to crews trying to find people in the mud. I felt a little awkward, then, considering the context, when I told Chouinard that Patagonia's activism seemed pretty convenient when it did so well for the bottom line. What's “Zen” to his mind might sound to others like “good marketing.” He conceded the point, somewhat, but strongly disagreed: “What we say we're doing, we're actually doing. A lot of companies are just greenwashing, and young people can see right through it. Kids are smart, so we don't talk down to them. Our marketing philosophy is just: Tell people who we are. Which is, tell people what we do, and don't try to be anything more than that.”

    I asked Chouinard about the lawsuit and his personal feelings about Trump. He thought for a moment, perhaps to contain himself. “What pisses me off about this administration is that they're all these ‘climate deniers’—well, that's bullshit. They know what's happening. What they're doing is purposely not doing anything about climate for the sake of making more money.” He paused, bowed his head, and scraped his fingernails on the table. He sat up again. “That is truly evil. That's why I call this administration evil. They know what they're doing, and they're doing it to make more money.”

    Gradually, the conversation went even darker. About Trump, Chouinard added, “It's like a kid who's so frustrated he wants to break everything. That's what we've got.” I asked sarcastically if any part of him was an optimist. Marcario, sitting next to him, laughed loudly. “Did you just ask Yvon if he's an optimist?” Chouinard smiled and cocked his head. “I'm totally a pessimist. But you know, I'm a happy person. Because the cure for depression is action.”

    In December, Chouinard was invited to Washington to testify before the House Committee on Natural Resources. He refused. In a response Patagonia made public, Chouinard wrote to the committee chairman: The American people made it clear in public comments that they want to keep the monuments intact, but they were ignored by Secretary Zinke, your committee, and the administration. We have little hope that you are working in good faith with this invitation. To me, he scoffed and shook his head; Washington's the kind of desert a man like him could get lost in. “You sit down in a little chair, and they're up on high chairs looking down at you, and they give you two and a half minutes to give your testimony,” he said. “I'm not going to play that game.”

    It reminded me of how Chouinard had described his childhood, growing up in Burbank, facing off against teachers and bullies. When I asked him how it felt to be attacked by the administration, he laughed. “I'm stoked. If you're not getting attacked, you're not trying hard enough.”

    Utah is currently feeling the effects of one of the company's political actions. The outdoor-retail industry gathers each winter at an enormous trade show to flaunt new gear. Traditionally, the event had been held in Salt Lake City, giving the city a roughly $20 million boost—until last February, when Patagonia led the charge to move the show. Along with companies like REI and The North Face, Patagonia had gotten fed up with Utah's Republican governor, Gary Herbert, who was determined to roll back protections on his state's public lands.

    Herbert was reportedly furious. Montana senator Jon Tester said the relocation had sent “a hell of a message.” At this year's show, in Colorado, it was a topic of conversation everywhere I went. An industry veteran pointed out to me how, for one example, REI has plenty more members than the NRA but no lobbying muscle to compare. Now maybe that could change.

    I wandered the trade show for two days. Among the tens of thousands of attendees, Patagonia was easily the unofficial clothier of the convention, if not the city of Denver. Backpacks, jackets, trucker hats. On the street, outside the convention center, a man selling a newspaper that benefits the homeless, the Denver Voice, was wearing a Patagonia hat and top-of-the-line down jacket.

    At one point, I caught a panel of executives discussing access to public lands. Corley Kenna, Patagonia's director of global communications, mentioned that, in addition to what had happened in Utah, numerous other monuments were on the chopping block—not to mention the Arctic Refuge, which Trump had just opened for oil drilling, or U.S. coastlines, which he'd vowed to exploit for drilling, despite resistance from the vast majority of the states themselves. Kenna pledged that the company, with its partners, would maintain its resolve: “We're fighting an administration that lies, that flat-out lies.”

    Building off the momentum around public lands, Patagonia is doubling down on its activist streak. In February, it launched a new online platform to connect customers with environmental groups. This spring it will announce a certification it's spearheading for “regenerative organic agriculture,” Chouinard's latest obsession. That's the practice where farmers, through topsoil management, absorb carbon from the climate. As Chouinard sees it, it's possibly our best shot against climate change—and likely good for Patagonia's bottom line. “In business, this is what we do here—we just break the rules,” he said. “Life is so much easier by breaking the rules than trying to conform to the rules. It's so much easier.”

    For a doomsayer on the verge of becoming an octogenarian, Chouinard stays awfully busy: writing op-eds, developing new products, stoking outrage. Assuming he doesn't get cancer from those childhood swims in photo-processing chemicals, I don't just think he'll outlast Trump, who's eight years his junior; he'll probably outlast me, and I'm only staring down 41. The solution, Yvon-style, would appear to be to remain active, to remain engaged. In a 1992 letter to employees titled “The next hundred years,” Chouinard wrote, “I have a little different definition of evil than most people. When you have the opportunity and the ability to do good and you do nothing, that's evil. Evil doesn't always have to be an overt act. It can be merely the absence of good.” The cure is action.

    Rosecrans Baldwin's latest novel, The Last Kid Left, was one of NPR's Best Books of 2017.

  10. #40
    From the New York Times online - - -

    What Trump Doesn’t Get About Conservatism

    By Roger Scruton

    Mr. Scruton is a conservative author and commentator.

    July 4, 2018

    I have devoted a substantial part of my intellectual life to defining and defending conservatism, as a social philosophy and a political program. Each time I think I have hit the nail on the head, the nail slips to one side and the hammer blow falls on my fingers.

    Like many others, both conservative and liberal, I did not foresee the political career of Donald Trump, nor did I imagine that such a man could occupy the highest office of state, in the name of a party that specifically makes appeal to conservative voters. Is this simply an aberration, or are there some deep links that tie the president to the great tradition of thought that I describe in my recent book, “Conservatism: An Invitation to the Great Tradition”?

    When describing the history of an idea, one naturally looks for its best expression. A history of liberalism will have a lot to say about John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, somewhat less to say about Hillary Clinton. A survey of the conservative idea will dwell at length on Edmund Burke and Thomas Jefferson and devote only a paragraph or two to Margaret Thatcher.

    On the other hand, Mrs. Thatcher, and to some extent Mrs. Clinton, are known for invoking the great figures of political philosophy and for showing an educated awareness that “ideas have consequences,” as the American conservative Richard Weaver expressed the point. In Mr. Trump we encounter a politician who uses social media to bypass the realm of ideas entirely, addressing the sentiments of his followers without a filter of educated argument and with only a marginal interest in what anyone with a mind might have said.

    Americans are conscious of their constitutional rights and freedoms. These assets are not guaranteed by human nature and exist only because Americans have fought for them. And they have fought for them as a nation, facing the future together. National identity is the origin of the trust on which political order depends. Such trust does not exist in Libya or Syria. But it exists in America, and the country has no more precious asset than the mutual loyalty that enables the words “we, the people” to resonate with every American, regardless of whether it is a liberal or a conservative who utters them.

    Those first words of the United States Constitution do not refer to all people everywhere. They refer to the people who reside here, in this place and under this rule of law, and who are the guardians and beneficiaries of a shared political inheritance. Grasping that point is the first principle of conservatism.

    Our political inheritance is not the property of humanity in general but of our country in particular. Unlike liberalism, with its philosophy of abstract human rights, conservatism is based not in a universal doctrine but in a particular tradition, and this point at least the president has grasped. Moreover he has understood that the legal order of the United States is rooted in customs that the Constitution was designed to protect. In this, too, Mr. Trump has shown himself to belong to the wider conservative tradition, seeking a Supreme Court that applies the Constitution, rather than one that constantly revises it, regardless of the elected legislature.

    But as Edmund Burke pointed out in one of the founding documents of modern conservatism, his “Reflections on the Revolution in France,” we must “reform in order to conserve.” Institutions, traditions and allegiances survive by adapting, not by remaining forever in the condition in which a political leader might inherit them. Conservative thinkers have in general understood this. And the principle of adaptability applies not only to law but also to the economy on which all citizens depend.

    In another of conservatism’s founding documents, “The Wealth of Nations,” Adam Smith argued that trade barriers and protections offered to dying industries will not, in the long run, serve the interests of the people. On the contrary, they will lead to an ossified economy that will splinter in the face of competition. President Trump seems not to have grasped this point. His protectionist policies resemble those of postwar socialist governments in Europe, which insulated dysfunctional industries from competition and led not merely to economic stagnation but also to a kind of cultural pessimism that surely goes entirely against the American grain.

    Conservative thinkers have on the whole praised the free market, but they do not think that market values are the only values there are. Their primary concern is with the aspects of society in which markets have little or no part to play: education, culture, religion, marriage and the family. Such spheres of social endeavor arise not through buying and selling but through cherishing what cannot be bought and sold: things like love, loyalty, art and knowledge, which are not means to an end but ends in themselves.

    About such things it is fair to say that Mr. Trump has at best only a distorted vision. He is a product of the cultural decline that is rapidly consigning our artistic and philosophical inheritance to oblivion. And perhaps the principal reason for doubting Mr. Trump’s conservative credentials is that being a creation of social media, he has lost the sense that there is a civilization out there that stands above his deals and his tweets in a posture of disinterested judgment.

    Roger Scruton, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a fellow of the British Academy and the Royal Society of Literature, is the author, most recently, of “Conservatism: An Invitation to the Great Tradition.”

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