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  • Private Security Force Pt 4

    Specifically, the source said that Schiller came from a position on the dais that the agents would have used to evacuate Trump if that were to have been necessary. “If that happened, they would have run right into Keith. He was about three seconds too late,” the source said.

    Joe Funk, a former Secret Service agent who worked several presidential campaigns, said agents throughout their careers are “trained nonstop to react to different situations based on your position and distance from the protectee in what they call AOP, or assaults on the principal.” That includes intensive drilling as a detail before being deployed to protect a presidential candidate or president “to familiarize yourself with the people who you are going to be working with.”

    Stressing that he wasn’t assessing the response to the Dayton incident, Funk said “without any slight to Keith or to any of the guys on his team, they just haven’t had the opportunity to go through the Secret Service training that would allow them to respond to a situation like a Secret Service agent would.”

    Since retiring from the Secret Service in 2005, Funk has provided private security for presidential candidates, including Obama in the early stages of the 2008 campaign and Mitt Romney in 2012. In both those cases, he said that when the Secret Service took over, he almost immediately stepped aside. “My assignment was over. That was it.”

    So Funk said that he was “very surprised,” while providing security for Jeb Bush’s 2016 campaign, to witness firsthand Trump’s “composite detail” including the Service and private security at multicandidate events during the primary. “I was under the impression that at some point this would be weeded out,” or that the private security would revert to more of a traditional staff role, said Funk, who is senior vice president at a private security firm called TorchStone Global. As for why that appears not to have occurred, Funk said “there may be a very good reason for it, but as a layperson on the outside looking in, I’m just kind of scratching my head. In my experience, this is unprecedented.”

    Agents and their associates told POLITICO that Schiller and his team initially bristled at the Secret Service’s move to take the lead, and that the continued presence of the private security brigade at events has caused tension and in some cases gotten in the way of the Secret Service’s protocols.

    During the campaign, Schiller and his team could be seen at rallies appearing to direct Secret Service agents, local police and employees of security companies hired for specific events.

    Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks declined to respond to a series of questions about the private security officials, who is paying them, their relationship with the Secret Service, whether they’re armed and what their roles will be after inauguration. Instead, she said in a statement, “Trump rallies are incredibly safe events and are executed with support from USSS, local law enforcement and private security to ensure the safety and enjoyment of all guests in attendance. For further details please reach out to the USSS.”

    Secret Service spokeswoman Nicole Mainor issued a statement saying, “The Secret Service does not provide information regarding our protective operations,” and referring to a section of the U.S. Code that outlines the agency’s obligations to protect the president-elect. As for the agency’s relationship with Trump’s security personnel and whether the Service has asked Trump to dial back his security or whether the security carry firearms, Mainor responded only: “The individuals you are referring to are staff personnel.”

    Schiller did not respond to requests for comment.

    In a little-noticed video interview recorded in Trump Tower less than two months after then-candidate Trump was granted Secret Service protection, Schiller said his team had “a great working relationship” with the Secret Service. “They bring their own set of assets, which is right now, we can use everything we can get, as far as the way the world is right now, and the campaign in itself. It’s inherently a risky business every day,” Schiller said in the interview, which was posted in January of this year.

    But he also noted that he had received “some dignitary protection training through the Secret Service” when he was on the New York City police force, and he touted the capacity of the private security team he oversees. “We have the best assets money can buy, I can assure you of that, as far as protecting him, his family and his property,” Schiller told the interviewer, Rich Siegel, one of his childhood buddies from New Paltz.

    Schiller explained that he has “more than a dozen people” working for him. While he said that “I’m no stranger to putting my hands on people,” thanks to his days in the New York City Police Department’s narcotics units, he added, “Things are different right now. I hire big guys who do all the fighting.”

    The identities and numbers of the employees who constitute Trump’s private security operation — as well as other details — are not entirely clear. That’s partly because at least some of the costs — including Schiller’s salary at one point in the campaign — appeared to be split between The Trump Organization corporate structure and Trump’s presidential campaign, and also because the campaign paid many of its security officials, including several who continued working for Trump after the election, through opaque corporate structures.

    Schiller himself was paid $181,000 for campaign work from July 2015 through mid-November, according to FEC filings, with some of it coming in the form of in-kind payments, likely indicating money paid to Schiller by The Trump Organization, and possibly reimbursed by Trump personally.

    The campaign also paid $50,000 for “security services” during the second half of the year to a company called KS Global Group LLC. While the company, which was registered anonymously in Delaware in October 2015, bears Schiller’s initials, neither he nor the Trump transition team would comment on who is behind it.

    Another company, Black Tie Protection Services, which a Trump campaign operative said is linked to Schiller’s team, was paid more than $106,000 in the final four months of the campaign.

    And the campaign paid $28,000 for security services to a company called ASIT Consulting, which is owned by a 62-year-old former FBI agent named Don Albracht, who has been known to film and occasionally taunt protesters.

    But by far the biggest recipient of Trump security cash is a company called XMark LLC, which boasts on its website that its employees have expertise in surveillance, “close quarter battle” and “tactical shooting skills" and that the firm “provided all PPD [personal protection detail] for Mr. Trump’s campaign travel to include all advance work and coordination with local law enforcement agencies, in support, throughout the country, until being relieved by the United States Secret Service in mid-November of 2015.”

    Yet the company continued receiving payments from Trump’s campaign after that point, with $89,000 coming after Election Day. Its officials — including president Eddie Deck and vice president Gary Uher, both of whom are retired FBI agents — were seen policing the crowds at Trump rallies throughout the campaign, as well as during the post-election "Thank You Tour." The pair — combined with XMark and a retired New York City cop named Michael Sharkey, who also is associated with the company — have been paid nearly $579,000 and counting by the campaign.

    Trump transition team sources say the thank you rallies are being funded by Trump’s campaign committee, but that Trump, as president, might headline rallies funded and organized by a still-in-the-works outside group that will be able to accept huge donations unbound by federal campaign limits.

    While Trump’s Saturday rally in Mobile, Alabama, was the last one scheduled on the tour, he hinted to the crowd that he intends to resume the rallies as president. “This is the last time I’ll be speaking at a rally for maybe a while. You know, they’re saying as president he shouldn’t be doing rallies, but I think we should, right?” he said, prompting loud applause. “We’ve done everything else the opposite. Well, no, this is the way you get an honest word out, because you can’t give it to [he press] because they’re so dishonest.”

    If Trump’s team continues funding the rallies using private money, it would have the right to “decide who can attend their events, including which opinions or speech they deem acceptable by attendees,” said Lee Rowland, a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union.

    She co-wrote a post in March on the ACLU’s website bemoaning that the removal of protesters of color from this year’s presidential campaign rallies is “certainly not what we want our democracy to look like.”

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    • Private Security Force Pt 5

      Nonetheless, Rowland told POLITICO that as long as Trump’s campaign or an outside group “organizes and sets the rules for a private event, and a politician, including the president, is an invited guest, then the host can decide whether and when to revoke attendees’ invitations. That would make them trespassers and allow them to be legally removed.” If the rallies were funded or organized by the government, on the other hand, then only law enforcement could identify protesters for ejection and actually remove them, and only then for breaking the law, she said.

      Trump’s private security team has taken full advantage of that latitude, and Deck, who appears to be the leader of the rally security unit, has served as the point of the spear.

      Deck, a buff 62-year-old who at various times took to wearing street clothes to blend into rally crowds so he could sleuth out protesters, has drawn repeated complaints about excessive force and ejecting people solely because they don’t look like Trump supporters. >>>>>>>>>

      At an April rally in Harrington, Delaware, Deck was captured on video calling for assistance from Delaware state troopers to remove two young African-Americans separately. When one, Anwar Dyer, protested “I didn’t say anything,” Deck responded “I don’t care. You’re leaving. You’re leaving. And if you don’t leave, you’re gonna get hooked up, and I know you don’t want to get hooked up.”

      A college student who attended a Trump rally in Tucson, Arizona, in March told POLITICO that Deck “grabbed my arm and angrily pulled me through the crowd,” adding: “I genuinely believe I was kicked out because I am transgender.”

      At an August rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, Deck removed an 18-year-old Indian-American Trump supporter named Jake Anantha, who Deck accused of having protested at past Trump rallies. Anantha, a registered Republican who was wearing a Trump shirt, later complained to The Charlotte Observer, “Why are all these white people allowed to attend and I’m not?”

      Messages left for Albracht and at XMark email and phone numbers were not returned. And it was not clear whether they would continue working with Trump’s security team in any rallies he might do as president.

      Henry Brousseau — who alleges that he was punched in the stomach by Trump supporters after shouting “Black Lives Matter” at a March rally in Louisville, Kentucky — said Trump’s security “did not seem to be interested at all in public safety. They were there to keep the rally on message. They were being speech police.”

      Brousseau, who was a high school senior at the time, and two fellow protesters were ejected. And now they’re suing Trump and his campaign, as well as the convention center for failing to provide adequate security, while also claiming that Trump’s calls to “get 'em out” were “calculated to incite violence against the plaintiffs.”

      Brousseau said “it is a pattern of silencing his opponents" that is "unpresidential, undemocratic and un-American.”

      Another lawsuit was filed three weeks before the election, in part by an African-American man who alleges he was punched, kicked and called racial slurs by Trump supporters at a November 2015 Trump rally in Birmingham, even after security arrived on the scene — all while Trump yelled “get him the hell out of here!” It calls on Trump’s campaign, the convention center and the city of Birmingham “to pay for damages, institute new procedures for security and issue a public apology to those who attended the rally in question and to the residents of Birmingham.”

      A third lawsuit alleges that Schiller, Deck, Uher and two other Trump security officers assaulted a handful of protesters during a raucous protest outside the campaign’s Manhattan headquarters in September.

      In an affidavit in the case, Schiller acknowledged that he struck one of the protesters in the head. But he says that was because he felt the protester “physically grab me from behind and also felt that person’s hand on my firearm, which was strapped on the right side of my rib cage in a body holster. Based on my years of training, I instinctively reacted by turning around in one movement and striking the person with my open hand.”

      The protesters’ lawyers deposed Schiller, Deck and Uher in the days leading up to the Grand Rapids rally.

      The judge in June ruled that Trump would not have to provide a deposition in the case, despite the assertion by the protesters’ lawyers that “Trump has had a substantial role in bringing about violence on the part of his security guards.” Trump private security force ‘playing with fire’ - POLITICO

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      • A Tangerine Wig and a Tightrope Walk: Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump
        Alec Baldwin as Donald J. Trump on “Saturday Night Live” in November.

        It takes seven minutes.

        A dusting of Clinique Stay-Matte powder in honey. A hand-stitched wig. Eyebrows glued up into tiny peaks. The rest is left to Alec Baldwin: the puckered lips, a studied lumbering gait and a wariness of humanizing a man he reviles.

        The transformation of Mr. Baldwin, an outspoken liberal, into the president-elect, Donald J. Trump, for his running parody on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” entails a tangerine hairpiece and a tricky tightrope walk. It means balancing a veteran actor’s determination to subsume his identity into a character, even as, in his offstage life, he is firm in his belief that the man about to take office is a dangerous figure.

        The key to a convincing Mr. Trump, the actor said, are “puffs” — his word for the pregnant pauses in the president-elect’s speech. “I see a guy who seems to pause and dig for the more precise and better language he wants to use, and never finds it,” Mr. Baldwin said in an interview on Saturday in his dressing room at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in Manhattan, six hours before show time, his eyebrows already peaked. “It’s the same dish — it’s a grilled-cheese sandwich rhetorically over and over again.”

        Much has been made of Mr. Trump’s hands. For Mr. Baldwin, they are a focus, but for their movements. Before the actor’s first appearance, he watched hours of rallies and campaign appearances to mimic Mr. Trump’s style.
        Continue reading the main story
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        Continue reading the main story

        His Trump is as much censure as impersonation. He does not write the sketches. He is paid $1,400 for each appearance on the show, he said.

        “I’m not interested much by what’s inside him,” he said, but in how he moves and takes up space. Mr. Baldwin then amplifies the gestures, and distills them. An emphatic wave becomes a goofy “wax-on, wax-off” movement, he said, the simple hand motion reducing a candidate to an essence: pitchman.

        “Saturday Night Live” happens at a lightning pace: Those minutes of preparation include dusting the sunset color across Mr. Baldwin’s face — but not around his eyes, where “raccoon” circles of white are drawn, he said.

        The wig, which on Saturday night rested high on a shelf next to the actor Kate McKinnon’s Hillary Clinton hair, is custom made for Mr. Baldwin’s head, via seven vectors measured forehead to nape, according to Jodi Mancuso, the show’s hair designer.

        “It helps him transform instantly,” Ms. Mancuso said. “The minute it goes on with the makeup, it’s like, ‘Oh, I get it.’”

        Playing Mr. Trump as a buffoon landing headfirst in his own gaffes has at points rendered him almost sweetly silly on screen. After the election, Mr. Baldwin recalled, he was distressed to receive an email from a friend sardonically thanking him for humanizing Mr. Trump and helping him win.

        “I do recognize that that is a possibility,” Mr. Baldwin said. “But I think that now that he is the president, we have an obligation — as we would if it was him or her — to dial it up as much as we can.”

        As a result of his widely viewed appearances, his daily life has become a Ping-Pong match between Trump supporters’ revulsion and Trump haters’ adulation: Fans accost him on the street, some in tears. (On Sunday afternoon, while walking his dogs in Washington Square Park and talking on the phone with a reporter, Mr. Baldwin had a fan interrupt his call to bellow: “We will survive this thing!”)

        Mr. Baldwin said that he planned to continue playing Mr. Trump on “Saturday Night Live” and perhaps elsewhere, but that his work schedule — he is about to film two movies — would mean his performances would be intermittent. Besides, he said, it might start to get old for audiences.

        It has been suggested that Mr. Baldwin, 58, is uniquely able to portray Mr. Trump — and to rankle him — because of their similarities. In 2011, Mr. Baldwin mulled running for mayor of New York City. They can both appear thin-skinned. Antagonized by paparazzi and feeling harassed by what he says are false accusations that he uttered slurs, Mr. Baldwin has at times publicly denounced the media. On Twitter, he can be pugilistic, notably with Mr. Trump and with his brother Stephen Baldwin, over their divergent political views.

        Such a comparison profoundly pains Mr. Baldwin, whose father was a public-school teacher from Massapequa, on Long Island. He says he has striven not to let his financial success mar his values, and he vehemently denies the racist and homophobic slurs that have been ascribed to him. “The difference is, with Trump, it’s incontrovertible that he has said the things he’s said,” Mr. Baldwin said. “And he ran on them.’’

        As a candidate, Mr. Trump protested the “Saturday Night Live” portrayal of him, calling it part of a “rigged” media campaign to undermine him. Mr. Baldwin said that Lorne Michaels, the creator and executive producer of “Saturday Night Live,” has countered that the sketch show has long been an equal-opportunity heckler.

        Mr. Baldwin’s first appearance as Mr. Trump on the show was on Oct. 1, a little over a month before the election. He riffed on Mr. Trump’s irascibility and his pronunciation of “China.” Mr. Baldwin reprised the role four more times before the election, with each appearance building toward what many thought was the inevitable.

        Mr. Trump’s win caught the show off guard, Mr. Baldwin said, countering expectations on the show’s set of four years of Ms. McKinnon playing her mildly maniacal Ms. Clinton as president. He also did not imagine that Mr. Trump would keep providing material. A skit on Dec. 3, depicting Mr. Trump as receiving a security briefing, hinged on the president-elect sharing a Twitter post by a 16-year-old from California. (“He really did do this,” Ms. McKinnon, playing Mr. Trump’s adviser, Kellyanne Conway, says to the camera.)

        As president-elect, Mr. Trump has continued to tweet his displeasure. “Just tried watching Saturday Night Live — unwatchable! Totally biased, not funny and the Baldwin impersonation just can’t get any worse. Sad,” he posted just after midnight on Dec. 4.

        Mr. Baldwin said that he considered the reprobation “funny,” even as a fake news article has circulated since his first appearance as Mr. Trump, mourning the actor’s death.

        As the call to dress for rehearsal sounded in the eighth-floor corridor at 30 Rock, Mr. Baldwin ducked into his dressing room with his wife, Hilaria, and 3-year-old daughter Carmen, who had stopped by to kiss him good night, shutting the door.

        Suddenly, he popped it back open.

        “Whoever it is, wouldn’t it be great to be the person who pulls the sword out of the stone? Who gets rid of this guy?” Mr. Baldwin said into the hallway. “Wouldn’t that be thrilling?”

        He closed the door and put on his suit.
        Correction: December 20, 2016

        An earlier version of this article misidentified the brother Alec Baldwin feuds with about politics on Twitter. He is Stephen Baldwin, not Billy.

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        • Nonprofit Linked to Trump Sons Offers Donors Access to President
          THE WALL STREET JOURNAL Rebecca Ballhaus
          Dec 20, 2016 12:26 pm ET

          Donald Trump’s team on Tuesday sought to distance his adult children from a nonprofit offering top donors access to the president-elect Inauguration Weekend in exchange for $1 million donations.

          An invitation for a Jan. 21 fundraiser, viewed by The Wall Street Journal, listed Donald Jr. and Eric Trump as “honorary co-chairmen” and said the event would be hosted by the Opening Day Foundation, a nonprofit where the younger Trumps were registered as directors, according to the Texas secretary of state, less than a week ago.

          In a statement Tuesday, Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks disputed the younger Trumps’ association with the event. “The Opening Day event and details that have been reported are merely initial concepts that have not been approved or pursued by the Trump family,” she said. “Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump are avid outdoorsman and supporters of conservation efforts, which align with the goals of this event, however they are not involved in any capacity.”

          The filing with the Texas secretary of state shows the Trumps were registered as directors for the nonprofit on Dec. 14. The registered agent for the group is Gentry Beach, a longtime friend of Donald Jr. whom the president-elect last month appointed to his inaugural committee.

          Mr. Beach didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

          Ms. Hicks said the president-elect is “not aware of the event or the details pertaining to” it. She didn’t respond to a question about whether he would attend.

          “Opening Day is your opportunity to play a significant role as our family commemorates the inauguration of our father and friend, President Donald J. Trump,” the invitation states. “Join us as we celebrate the great American traditions of outdoor sporting, shooting, fishing and conservation.”

          “All net proceeds” from the event will be donated to unnamed “conservation charities,” according to the invitation.

          Donors who give $1 million (“Bald Eagle” status) are offered a “private reception and photo opportunity for 16 guests” with Eric and Donald Jr. and a “very special guest”—confirmed by a person familiar with the event as the president-elect. They are also promised a “multi-day hunting and/or fishing excursion for 4 guests with Donald Trump Jr. and/or Eric Trump, and team.”

          An earlier version of the invitation, published by and first reported by the Center for Public Integrity, was blunter and named the president directly. A spokesman for the event didn’t return a request for comment about the change.

          During the campaign, Mr. Trump pledged to “drain the swamp” and said that as president, he wouldn’t be beholden to special interests and major donors. He also railed against Democrat Hillary Clinton and her family foundation, accusing her of engaging in “pay-to-play” politics as secretary of state.

          Mr. Trump could now spend his first full day as president meeting with donors to his own family’s foundation. What’s more, as a nonprofit, Opening Day Foundation will not be required to disclose its donors. Already, donors who gave $1 million or more to Mr. Trump’s inaugural committee are guaranteed tickets to a “candlelight dinner” with “special appearances” by Mr. Trump and his wife, Melania.

          On a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, spokesman Jason Miller said he hadn’t spoken to Mr. Trump about whether he planned to set a policy regarding his children’s fundraising efforts.

          Donors who give $500,000 (“Grizzly Bear” status) to participate in his sons’ event can also meet the newly sworn-in president along with eight guests, and can attend the “hunting and/or fishing excursion” with Mr. Trump’s children. The minimum amount donors can give and meet the president: $250,000 (“Elk” status).

          The Inauguration Weekend event will be held in downtown Washington, D.C., blocks from the White House. The attire: “Jeans, boots and hats are welcome.” Singer Toby Keith will also perform.

          In addition to Mr. Trump’s sons, two top fundraisers for Mr. Trump registered with the Texas secretary of state as directors of the nonprofit: Mr. Beach, an investor, and Tom Hicks Jr., son of a Dallas billionaire. Both are listed as co-chairmen for the fundraiser, and last month Mr. Trump appointed them to serve as finance vice-chairmen for his inaugural committee.

          The event is likely to spark further concerns about the role of Mr. Trump’s children, who are expected to take control of the family business once their father enters the White House. So far, they have played an active role in their father’s transition efforts, raising alarm about the potential for conflicts of interest. Mr. Trump appointed all three adult children to his transition team executive committee, and Donald Jr. heavily influenced his father’s decision to fill the post of interior secretary with Rep. Ryan Zinke—a congressman who shares the younger Trump’s enthusiasm for hunting.
          Nonprofit Linked to Trump Sons Offers Donors Access to President - Washington Wire - WSJ

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          • The future of liberalism - How to make sense of 2016
            Liberals lost most of the arguments this year. They should not feel defeated so much as invigorated
            THE ECONOMIST Dec 24th 2016

            FOR a certain kind of liberal, 2016 stands as a rebuke. If you believe, as The Economist does, in open economies and open societies, where the free exchange of goods, capital, people and ideas is encouraged and where universal freedoms are protected from state abuse by the rule of law, then this has been a year of setbacks. Not just over Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, but also the tragedy of Syria, abandoned to its suffering, and widespread support—in Hungary, Poland and beyond—for “illiberal democracy”. As globalisation has become a slur, nationalism, and even authoritarianism, have flourished. In Turkey relief at the failure of a coup was overtaken by savage (and popular) reprisals. In the Philippines voters chose a president who not only deployed death squads but bragged about pulling the trigger. All the while Russia, which hacked Western democracy, and China, which just last week set out to taunt America by seizing one of its maritime drones, insist liberalism is merely a cover for Western expansion.

            Faced with this litany, many liberals (of the free-market sort) have lost their nerve. Some have written epitaphs for the liberal order and issued warnings about the threat to democracy. Others argue that, with a timid tweak to immigration law or an extra tariff, life will simply return to normal. That is not good enough. The bitter harvest of 2016 has not suddenly destroyed liberalism’s claim to be the best way to confer dignity and bring about prosperity and equity. Rather than ducking the struggle of ideas, liberals should relish it.

            Mill wheels
            In the past quarter-century liberalism has had it too easy. Its dominance following Soviet communism’s collapse decayed into laziness and complacency. Amid growing inequality, society’s winners told themselves that they lived in a meritocracy—and that their success was therefore deserved. The experts recruited to help run large parts of the economy marvelled at their own brilliance. But ordinary people often saw wealth as a cover for privilege and expertise as disguised self-interest.

            After so long in charge, liberals, of all people, should have seen the backlash coming. As a set of beliefs that emerged at the start of the 19th century to oppose both the despotism of absolute monarchy and the terror of revolution, liberalism warns that uninterrupted power corrupts. Privilege becomes self-perpetuating. Consensus stifles creativity and initiative. In an ever-shifting world, dispute and argument are not just inevitable; they are welcome because they lead to renewal.

            What is more, liberals have something to offer societies struggling with change. In the 19th century, as today, old
            ways were being upended by relentless technological, economic, social and political forces. People yearned for order. The illiberal solution was to install someone with sufficient power to dictate what was best—by slowing change if they were conservative, or smashing authority if they were revolutionary. You can hear echoes of that in calls to “take back control”, as well as in the mouths of autocrats who, summoning an angry nationalism, promise to hold back the cosmopolitan tide.

            Liberals came up with a different answer. Rather than being concentrated, power should be dispersed, using the rule of law, political parties and competitive markets. Rather than putting citizens at the service of a mighty, protecting state, liberalism sees individuals as uniquely able to choose what is best for themselves. Rather than running the world through warfare and strife, countries should embrace trade and treaties.

            Such ideas have imprinted themselves on the West—and, despite Mr Trump’s flirtation with protectionism, they will probably endure. But only if liberalism can deal with its other problem: the loss of faith in progress. Liberals believe that change is welcome because, on the whole, it is for the better. Sure enough, they can point to how global poverty, life expectancy, opportunity and peace are all improving, even allowing for strife in the Middle East. Indeed, for most people on Earth there has never been a better time to be alive.

            Large parts of the West, however, do not see it that way. For them, progress happens mainly to other people. Wealth does not spread itself, new technologies destroy jobs that never come back, an underclass is beyond help or redemption, and other cultures pose a threat—sometimes a violent one.

            If it is to thrive, liberalism must have an answer for the pessimists, too. Yet, during those decades in power, liberals’ solutions have been underwhelming. In the 19th century liberal reformers met change with universal education, a vast programme of public works and the first employment rights. Later, citizens got the vote, health care and a safety net. After the second world war, America built a global liberal order, using bodies such as the UN and the IMF to give form to its vision.

            Nothing half so ambitious is coming from the West today. That must change. Liberals must explore the avenues that technology and social needs will open up. Power could be devolved from the state to cities, which act as laboratories for fresh policies. Politics might escape sterile partisanship using new forms of local democracy. The labyrinth of taxation and regulation could be rebuilt rationally. Society could transform education and work so that “college” is something you return to over several careers in brand new industries. The possibilities are as yet unimagined, but a liberal system, in which individual creativity, preferences and enterprise have full expression, is more likely to seize them than any other.

            The dream of reason
            After 2016, is that dream still possible? Some perspective is in order. This newspaper believes that Brexit and a Trump presidency are likely to prove costly and harmful. We are worried about today’s mix of nationalism, corporatism and popular discontent. However, 2016 also represented a demand for change. Never forget liberals’ capacity for reinvention. Do not underestimate the scope for people, including even a Trump administration and post-Brexit Britain, to think and innovate their way out of trouble. The task is to harness that restless urge, while defending the tolerance and open-mindedness that are the foundation stones of a decent, liberal world.
            How to make sense of 2016 | The Economist

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            • Trump Is Going After Health Care. Will Democrats Push Back?
              NY TIMES THEDA SKOCPOL DEC. 21, 2016

              Where should Democrats head after their recent electoral rout? As it happens, coming fights about federally subsidized health insurance offer the party a golden opportunity to engage people far beyond its urban strongholds, in communities that will be hard hit by Republican plans to shrink Medicaid, privatize Medicare and eliminate the taxes that pay for Obamacare subsidies.

              Donald J. Trump won the Electoral College, and Republicans maintained congressional majorities, because of overwhelming victories in small cities, outer suburbs and rural counties. Yet the president-elect and the Republicans are poised to deliver blows to the social fabric and economic underpinnings of those very communities. Along with Representative Tom Price, Mr. Trump’s nominee for secretary of health and human services, congressional Republicans say they want to move quickly to revolutionize all types of federal health insurance spending, using special procedures that require only 51 votes in the Senate.

              Congress will be asked not only to cut the taxes levied on businesses and the rich to finance Obamacare benefits for 20 to 30 million low and middle-income Americans; Republican leaders also plan to slash federal commitments to Medicaid, giving states the authority to shrink this health care program for the poor and elderly. And Republican House members, led by Speaker Paul D. Ryan, seem determined to abolish traditional Medicare insurance for retirees and replace it with “premium vouchers” that would throw older Americans on the mercies of private insurance markets and require them to pay more for their care.

              Trump voters will be especially hard hit if just part of this sweeping agenda comes to fruition.

              Conservatives often point to poor blacks and Latinos as the primary beneficiaries of federal health insurance programs. But such rhetoric obscures the enormous importance of Medicaid, Medicare and Obamacare subsidies to economically struggling white Americans living in small cities and rural areas. In Pennsylvania, where Mr. Trump narrowly beat Hillary Clinton with overwhelming support outside big cities, about 17 percent of residents are 65 or older, above the national average. Meanwhile, some 16 percent of Pennsylvanians benefit from Medicare, and 18 percent from Medicaid. With the bulk of Medicaid going to elderly and disabled residents, that program is the single largest federal subsidy flowing into the Keystone State.

              Repealing the Affordable Care Act would also hit Pennsylvania hard. Under the act, some 468,000 low-income Pennsylvanians had gained Medicaid coverage by August 2016, and another 439,000 bought private coverage on the Obamacare marketplace, with more than three-fourths of those people getting tax credits averaging $251 per month. Health care is often sparse in nonurban areas, and the providers that do exist depend on federal insurance programs that help many patients pay for care. If radical Republican cutbacks in federal contributions to health insurance are enacted, Pennsylvania hospitals and health care businesses will lose vital revenues, leaving many lower-income and sick Pennsylvanians at risk of losing access to care.

              This is the case in other states as well, meaning many rural and small-town Trump supporters may soon see that Make America Great Again means accelerating economic decline and social devastation. Mr. Trump shows little understanding of the intricate interplay of subsidies and rules in the health care system, and probably has no inkling that federal taxes collected from liberal states like California, Massachusetts and New York heavily subsidize vital health services, businesses and family benefits in the very places that voted heavily for him. In delegating plans for huge health care cutbacks to hard-right congressional Republicans, he will be hurting his own base.

              But will Mr. Trump suffer repercussions if the Republican Congress plows ahead? Its proposed changes are unpopular — including repealing the Affordable Care Act, which only one in four Americans support — and eliminating benefits usually arouses anger in the affected groups. But political punishment will not be automatic, because Democrats currently have little organized presence outside urban areas. Small cities and rural areas are overwhelmingly represented in Congress and state capitols by Republicans, who will do all they can to displace blame.

              For the Democratic Party, the coming Republican assault on public health insurance represents a huge political opportunity. But to seize it, the party will have to beef up state committees and place a priority on activating volunteer supporters everywhere — getting people to write messages to local newspapers and social media sites, and reach out to hospitals, health care providers and nonprofits to beat the drums about losses the Republicans are inflicting. Even if Democrats cannot soon win outright majorities beyond their urban base, they must be actively involved in communities damaged by Mr. Trump’s false campaign promises.

              Democrats cannot just defend Medicare; they must loudly point out that repealing Obamacare means eliminating the taxes that subsidize health care for low- and middle-income people. That huge and immediate tax cut for the rich would lead to the demise of subsidized health insurance for millions of less privileged Americans in rural, suburban and urban communities. Proclaiming this truth could help Democrats gain a new hearing from many Trump voters. But it remains to be seen whether the party can rise to the challenge of showing up everywhere.

              æ, !

              Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


              • Trump's letters to the former First Minister of Scotland

                Donald Trump letters to Alex Salmond published - BBC News


                • Last month Nigel Farage was at the Trump Tower to pay homage to the Donald.

                  Donald urged Nigel to campaign against wind farms in England, Scotland and Wales. The turbines would spoil the views of the coastal course, which is named Trump International Golf Links.

                  Farage stated that the UK can 'do business' with Trump.
                  If the Donald and Nigel have experience in anything, it's wind !

                  æ, !

                  Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                  • Presidential Transition
                    Trump team discussing ‘half-blind’ trust for conflicts of interest

                    Critics say the plan could allow Trump or members of his administration to continue to draw income from their businesses — and even peek in on how their companies are faring.
                    POLITICO Josh Gerstein 12/21/16 05:05 AM EST

                    Donald Trump’s aides are considering a business arrangement that critics say would allow him or his appointees to sidestep conflict-of-interest laws governing the incoming administration and large investments in private-sector business.

                    Aides responsible for setting up ethics firewalls have held discussions with officials at the Office of Government Ethics about establishing what’s known as a “discretionary trust,” according to two sources briefed on the talks.

                    Such an arrangement could allow Trump or his family members to reap some of the legal benefits of a blind trust, but could also give them some insight into how the Trump businesses are faring while also allowing Trump and his family to continue to make money from those investments.

                    The sources said it was unclear whether Trump’s aides were exploring the arrangements for the president-elect, for Trump family members or for a series of wealthy individuals nominated for his Cabinet.

                    But the conversations provide a window into the Trump team’s high-stakes deliberations over how to address ethical and conflict-of-interest concerns as the new administration moves to install in top-ranking positions individuals with vast business holdings.

                    The discussions with the Office of Government Ethics about discretionary trusts suggest the Trump team is still weighing options that fall short of what ethics watchdogs have demanded, such as selling off assets that could pose a conflict of interest or parking wealth in classic blind trusts.

                    “It’s highly inappropriate,” said Richard Painter, a former ethics lawyer in President George W. Bush’s White House who recently joined watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “To have someone baby-sit your conflict-creating assets while you go around and do whatever you want, in my view that’s a violation of at least the spirit of the rules and that’s an abuse.”

                    An OGE spokeswoman declined to comment on the reported discussions.

                    In a typical blind trust arrangement approved by federal ethics authorities, an incoming official’s investments are transferred to an institutional financial manager who oversees them without reporting details to the owner. Assets that risk a conflict of interest are sold off over time and replaced with assets the official is not informed about.

                    Even with a blind trust, the conflicts are not considered resolved until the original problem-creating assets are sold off.

                    But with a discretionary trust, the conflicts almost magically disappear because the investments aren’t considered to belong to the incoming official at all — even if they’re producing a steady stream of income for the official. Instead, the assets are held in a trust that is often overseen by a family member who can, but is not legally required to, send revenues from the assets to the government official. Another benefit: there’s no explicit prohibition on the official talking with the trustee about the financial holdings.

                    “You don’t have to disclose it, since you don’t own it, Aunt Millie owns it,” Painter said. “And it cures your financial conflicts of interest under the criminal statute. ... If you really have a discretionary trust, you can participate in government decisions that affect those assets — if they let you get away with it.”

                    Longtime observers of OGE believe the office’s current chief, Walter Shaub, is unlikely to approve any expansion of the discretionary trust policy already in place. Shaub was nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate in early 2013. His five-year term runs into January 2018.

                    “My impression is OGE is certainly not going to expand the use of discretionary trusts,” one legal observer said, predicting that a move in that direction would erode the incentives to seek a true blind trust. “Nobody can fit within the definitions of ‘qualified blind trust’ for any useful purpose, [so] people are pushing the envelope. ... OGE realizes this, but they don’t want people using [discretionary trusts] to get around the rules. They’re concerned about this.”

                    The search for a wall between public and private interests has been a politically painful one for Trump. He initially promised to announce an ethics plan at a news conference last week, but days before the conference Trump canceled the announcement, tweeting instead that his adult sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump would run the business in his absence and that he would announce a comprehensive arrangement before taking office in January.

                    Asked whether the Trump team is exploring discretionary trust arrangements, Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks replied: “No decisions have been made. We look forward to sharing more details next month.”

                    The option the Trump team is said to be exploring seeks to build on legal memos the Office of Government Ethics issued in 2008 and 2013, ultimately concluding government officials who are beneficiaries of trusts did not have to report them on financial disclosure forms if the officials were not legally entitled to payments or assets from the trusts.

                    The use of a discretionary trust would not be without its own complications.

                    If President-elect Trump or his family members moved existing assets into new or existing trusts, that could create capital gains or gift tax liabilities, lawyers said. However, OGE can issue a certificate to defer the capital gains bill when such moves are made to comply with federal conflict-of-interest laws or policies.

                    Another wrinkle the Trump team will have to consider: OGE’s opinion on what constitutes a conflict of interest under federal law usually carries the day with ethics officers at various government agencies, but it is not binding on federal prosecutors, who have the ultimate enforcement authority. So even a stamp of approval from OGE doesn’t guarantee someone won’t face investigation in the future.

                    Painter said the Trump team is unlikely to prevail if it presses OGE to approve a discretionary trust arrangement, at least as long as Shaub is in charge.

                    “They’re going to create a conflict with OGE, if they continue to push this,” said Painter, who is calling for Trump to divest his assets completely into a blind trust that would then sell them off. “So long as Walter Shaub is director of OGE, these abuses ... are very unlikely to occur — he will not let anyone get away with it. If he were ever to leave for any reason, I have no idea what would happen.” Trump team discussing ‘half-blind’ trust for conflicts of interest - POLITICO

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                    Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                    • Donald Trump is holding a government casting call. He's seeking 'the look.'
                      THE WASHINGTON POST Philip Rucker & Karen Tumulty December 21, 2016

                      Donald Trump believes that those who aspire to the most visible spots in his administration should not just be able to do the job, but also look the part.

                      Given Trump’s own background as a master brander and showman who ran beauty pageants as a sideline, it was probably inevitable that he would be looking beyond their résumés for a certain aesthetic in his supporting players.

                      “Presentation is very important because you’re representing America not only on the national stage but also the international stage, depending on the position,” said Trump transition spokesman Jason Miller.

                      To lead the Pentagon, Trump chose a rugged combat general, whom he compares to a historic one. At the United Nations, his ambassador will be a poised and elegant Indian American with a compelling immigrant backstory. As secretary of state, Trump tapped a neophyte to international diplomacy, but one whose silvery hair and boardroom bearing project authority.

                      The parade of potential job-seekers passing a bank of media cameras to board the elevators at Trump Tower has the feel of a casting call. It is no coincidence that a disproportionate share of the names most mentioned for jobs at the upper echelon of the Trump administration are familiar faces to obsessive viewers of cable news — of whom the president-elect is one.

                      “He likes people who present themselves very well, and he’s very impressed when somebody has a background of being good on television because he thinks it’s a very important medium for public policy,” said Chris Ruddy, chief executive of Newsmax Media and a longtime friend of Trump. “Don’t forget, he’s a showbiz guy. He was at the pinnacle of showbiz, and he thinks about showbiz. He sees this as a business that relates to the public.”

                      “The look might not necessarily be somebody who should be on the cover of GQ magazine or Vanity Fair,” Ruddy said. “It’s more about the look and the demeanor and the swagger.”

                      As Trump formally announced his vice presidential pick in July, he said that Mike Pence’s economic record as Indiana governor was “the primary reason I wanted Mike, other than he looks very good, other than he’s got an incredible family, incredible wife and family.”

                      And in picking retired Marine Gen. James Mattis as his nominee for defense, Trump lauded him as “the closest thing to General George Patton that we have.”

                      Mattis has a passing physical resemblance to the legendary World War II commander, as well as to the late actor George C. Scott, who won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Patton in the 1970 biopic. Trump also seems particularly enamored with a nickname that Mattis is said to privately dislike.

                      “You know he’s known as ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis, right? ‘Mad Dog’ for a reason,” Trump said in a recent interview with the New York Times.

                      The president-elect, however, does not mention Mattis’ other sobriquet, which is “Warrior Monk.” Or his call sign: “Chaos.”

                      On the other hand, in Trump’s book, not having the right kind of appearance is tantamount to a disqualifier. During the presidential campaign, he stirred a controversy when he pronounced that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton lacked “a presidential look, and you need a presidential look.”

                      Battling through the GOP primary, Trump frequently made barbed comments about his opponents’ appearances.

                      Those kind of skin-deep standards helped make Trump a success as a reality-television star and international brand, but his critics say they are worrisome in the Oval Office.

                      His personnel choices show signs of being “cast for the TV show of his administration,” said Bob Killian, founder of a branding agency based in Chicago. “They are all perfectly coifed people who look like they belong on a set.”

                      But Trump spokesman Miller insisted that some qualifications do not lend themselves to lines on a résumé: “People who are being selected for these key positions need to be able to hold their own, need to be doers and not wallflowers, and need to convey a clear sense of purpose and commitment.”

                      All of which has led him to some unconventional picks. If confirmed by the Senate, ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson will become the first secretary of state in modern history to come to the job with no experience in government. Then again, Trump himself has none.

                      South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) has little obvious foreign policy experience to qualify her for United Nations ambassador, but she is a rising political star who brings diversity to Trump’s largely white and male picks for top jobs. Given how she and the president-elect had clashed during the 2016 campaign, Haley’s selection also suggests that Trump is willing to bring adversaries into the fold when they suit his needs.

                      In hiring, Trump has long trusted his own impressions, at times more than a candidate’s expertise or experience.

                      In 1981, he saw a security guard at the U.S. Open tennis championships masterfully eject some hecklers. Trump asked Barbara Res, one of his top construction executives, to hire the man.

                      “But you’ve never even met him!” she protested. Trump said he liked how the man looked when he handled the situation.

                      That security guard, Matthew Calamari, has worked for Trump for 35 years and is now chief operating officer of Trump Properties. His son, Matthew Calamari Jr., started with Trump five years ago as a security guard and is now the Trump Organization’s director of surveillance.

                      Trump’s closest aides have come to accept that he is likely to rule out candidates if they are not attractive or not do not match his image of the type of person who should hold a certain job.

                      “That’s the language he speaks. He’s very aesthetic,” said one person familiar with the transition team’s internal deliberations who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “You can come with somebody who is very much qualified for the job, but if they don’t look the part, they’re not going anywhere.”

                      Several of Trump’s associates said they thought that John R. Bolton’s brush-like mustache was one of the factors that handicapped the bombastic former United Nations ambassador in the sweepstakes for secretary of state.

                      “Donald was not going to like that mustache,” said one associate, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak frankly. “I can’t think of anyone that’s really close to Donald that has a beard that he likes.”

                      Trump was drawn to Tillerson and 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney for secretary of state because of their presence and the way they command a room when they walk in.

                      The president-elect considered Romney despite the former Massachusetts governor’s scathing criticism of him during the presidential campaign. Several Trump associates say he was drawn to Romney, and later to Tillerson, by their “central casting” quality, a phrase the president-elect uses frequently in his private deliberations.

                      People close to Trump said he has been eager to appoint a telegenic woman as press secretary or in some other public-facing role in his White House — both because he thinks it would attract viewers and would help inoculate him from the charges of sexism that trailed his presidential campaign.

                      His first choice was his campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, who has resisted the offer. Others under consideration included Laura Ingraham, Kimberly Guilfoyle and Monica Crowley, all of whom are conservative pundits familiar to the viewers of Fox News Channel.

                      The current favorite for press secretary is Republican National Committee chief strategist and communications director Sean Spicer, who has impressed Trump with his tough and unyielding defenses of the incoming administration in hostile interviews on cable news networks.

                      Crowley, meanwhile, has been picked to become communications chief for Trump’s National Security Council, where the deputy director will be K.T. McFarland, another longtime denizen of the Fox green room.

                      Trump is also said to be considering CNBC commentator Larry Kudlow for head of his Council of Economic Advisers. That is normally an all-but-invisible spot given to a prestigious economist, but Kudlow has neither an undergraduate nor graduate degree in the subject.

                      Kudlow is, however, known for his ardent advocacy of tax cuts, which are also a top priority for the incoming president. In Trump’s administration, the job description may be to formulate his policies — and also help sell them on TV.

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                      Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                      • Trump Says the U.S. Should Expand Its Nuclear Capacity
                        NY TIMES MICHAEL D. SHEAR & JAMES GLANZ DEC. 22, 2016

                        WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — President-elect Donald J. Trump said on Thursday that the United States should greatly “expand its nuclear capability,” appearing to suggest an end to decades of efforts by presidents of both parties to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in American defenses and strategy.

                        Mr. Trump’s statement, in a midafternoon Twitter post, may have been a response to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who in a speech to his military’s leadership in Moscow earlier on Thursday vowed to strengthen Russia’s nuclear missiles.

                        Mr. Putin said nuclear forces needed to be bolstered so they could “reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defense systems,” apparently a reference to the Pentagon’s efforts to develop systems capable of shooting down nuclear-armed rockets.

                        Shortly after Mr. Putin’s comments were reported by the news media, Mr. Trump said on Twitter that the United States must “strengthen and expand” its nuclear forces “until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.” He did not elaborate.

                        The vagueness of Mr. Trump’s posting made it difficult to assess its possible impact on American foreign policy, and further illustrated the potential dangers in setting policy, especially on such grave matters, in Twitter bursts and offhand remarks. Nuclear weapons are so fearsome that only a president can order their use, and deterrence is normally a complicated subject debated in academic treatises and negotiated over years by diplomats.

                        Aides to Mr. Trump, asked to clarify what the president-elect meant by the need to “expand” the nuclear ability of the United States, responded with a statement that did not address that point.

                        Jason Miller, the incoming White House communications director, said in the statement that Mr. Trump was referring to “the threat of nuclear proliferation and the critical need to prevent it — particularly to and among terrorist organizations and unstable and rogue regimes.”

                        Mr. Miller added that the president-elect had in the past “emphasized the need to improve and modernize our deterrent capability as a vital way to pursue peace through strength.”

                        It was the second time in two days that aides had tried to recast a statement from Mr. Trump. On Wednesday, he appeared to say that recent terror attacks in Europe had vindicated his campaign pledge to bar Muslims from entering the United States. Aides later said he was merely restating his promise to implement strict vetting and suspend the admission of people from countries associated with terrorism.

                        With his Twitter post on nuclear arms, it remained unclear from his use of the word “expand” whether Mr. Trump would try to reverse agreements such as the New Start treaty, which Russia and the United States signed in 2010 and which commits both nations to modest reductions in strategic nuclear forces.

                        But the implications of Mr. Trump’s post — if it signals the beginning of a new era of nuclear weapons expansion in the United States — could be profound.

                        Derek Johnson, the executive director of Global Zero, a group that seeks the elimination of nuclear weapons, accused Mr. Trump of calling for a “new nuclear arms race,” even as Mr. Putin appears eager for a major expansion of Russian nuclear abilities.

                        “The use of even a single nuclear weapon, anywhere in the world, would be a global humanitarian, environmental and economic disaster,” Mr. Johnson said in a statement. “A nuclear buildup in the U.S. and Russia only makes that nightmare scenario more likely.”

                        The United States and Russia are already racing to modernize their existing nuclear arsenals, replacing aging missile systems with smaller, more modern weapons that are harder to stop and more precise. That effort by Moscow and Washington, while allowed by current arms control treaties, has nonetheless caused fears of renewing a kind of Cold War-era arms race as the two nations seek technological dominance.

                        The United States is also moving ahead with a modest system of missile defenses in Europe, a program that has deeply angered the Kremlin, which rejects arguments that it is aimed solely at the threat from Iran.

                        But if Mr. Trump also intends to increase the number of America’s nuclear weapons, it could represent a significant break in strategic policy that dates to talks between the two nations that began under President Richard M. Nixon.

                        It could also be a drastic reversal of President Obama’s approach. In one of his first major speeches in 2009, Mr. Obama told a cheering crowd in Prague that the United States would lead an effort to pursue rules and treaties that would result in a world without any nuclear weapons.

                        Mr. Obama has had some limited success in pursuing that vision during his eight years in office. He convened a regular nuclear nonproliferation summit meeting aimed at stopping the spread of nuclear material with special concerns about terror groups gaining access to these materials.

                        Mr. Obama negotiated a deal with Iran that his administration says would delay that government’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon. But during Mr. Obama’s time in office, North Korea has conducted several nuclear weapons tests.

                        Contrary to Mr. Obama’s own conciliatory nuclear posture, and concrete steps in that direction, his administration has also embarked on a sweeping modernization of the American nuclear arsenal that may cost up to $1 trillion over three decades. It features new factories, refurbished nuclear arms and a new generation of weapon carriers, including bombers, missiles and submarines. The bombers are to carry a new super-stealthy cruise missile meant to slip through enemy air defenses.

                        During the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump said that he would not rule out the use of nuclear weapons even though he called their potential use “a horror.”

                        In an interview with The New York Times in March, the president-elect also suggested that Japan and South Korea might have to obtain their own nuclear weapons, which would be a reversal of an American policy that for decades extended promises of protection to allies and foreclosed the need for them to go nuclear.

                        John R. Harvey, who from 1995 to 2013 held senior positions overseeing nuclear weapons programs in the energy and defense departments, said Mr. Trump’s Twitter post on Thursday had several possible meanings, ranging from the routine to actions that could exceed current treaty limits.

                        For example, Mr. Harvey said, Mr. Trump could have simply been voicing support for continuing the “nuclear modernization” program. But Mr. Trump might also have been suggesting that he wants to substantially increase the number of bombers, missiles and submarines.

                        The United States currently has about 7,000 nuclear weapons in the stockpile, including about 1,750 strategic warheads deployed in missile silos, on bombers and in submarines around the world, according to the Federation of American Scientists. That is down from more than 30,000 warheads at the height of the Cold War. Russia has about 7,300 nuclear weapons, the federation says.

                        Under the New Start treaty, both countries have committed to reducing the number of deployed nuclear weapons to 1,550 by 2018, though that figure can be exceeded because each bomber is counted as a single weapon even if it carries more than one.

                        David Wright, co-director of the global security program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, expressed dismay at Mr. Trump’s choice of Twitter to discuss nuclear weapons policy.

                        “It’s a pretty blunt instrument to be trying to say something intelligible on what his plans are,” he said. “It sounded to me more like an advertisement to appear to be strong to the world as opposed to an assessment of what the U.S. may or may not need.”

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                        Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                        • Lexington: Winning by breaking - Donald Trump’s most damaging legacy may be a lower-trust America -
                          Fomenting cynicism and partisan divisions is his best chance of surviving his term
                          Dec 24th 2016 THE ECONOMIST

                          AT THE height of Silvio Berlusconi’s power, as the billionaire-politician brushed scandals and lawsuits aside with the ease of a crocodile gliding through duckweed, a professor at an Italian university described to Lexington how the terms furbo and fesso helped explain the then-prime minister’s survival. In those bits of Italian society from which Mr Berlusconi drew his strongest support, it is a high compliment to be deemed a furbo, or a sly, worldly wise-guy. The furbo knows how to jump queues, dodge taxes and play systems of nepotism and patronage like a Stradivarius. In contrast the fesso is the chump who waits his turn and fails to grasp how badly the system is rigged, or how much of his taxes will be stolen. The fesso might cheer a new clean-air law in his city, naively taking an announcement by the elites at face value. The furbo wonders who in the environment department may have a brother-in-law with a fat contract to supply chimney scrubbers. Mr Berlusconi’s fans saw him as the furbo to end all furbi. He showed that he heard them, offering them crude appeals to wise-guy cynicism, as when he asserted that any Italians who backed his centre-left opponents were not just mistaken, but were coglioni or, to translate loosely, “dickheads”, who would be voting “against their own interests”.

                          Living in that sort of society comes with costs. For decades anthropologists and political scientists have weighed the advantages of living in a high-trust, highly transparent country like Sweden, and measured how corruption and squandered human capital harm places like Sicily. “Trust”, a book published by Francis Fukuyama 20 years ago and now sadly topical again, suggested that America and its distinctive model of capitalism flourished because strangers learned to trust one another when signing contracts, allowing them to do deals outside the circles of family, tribal or in-group kinship relied upon in low-trust societies.

                          As the Trump era dawns in America, the composition of the cabinet and inner circle taking shape around Donald Trump is too ideologically incoherent to define the next president’s policy agenda. There are bomb-throwers and hardliners in Team Trump, including cabinet secretaries who have called for the federal agencies they will run to be hobbled or abolished, and an alarming number of men who see no harm in threatening a trade war or two. But it also has figures from the oak-panelled, marble-pillared heart of the Republican establishment.

                          When it comes to national security, Mr Trump’s nominee to run the Pentagon is a retired general, James Mattis, who has called Russia’s annexation of Crimea a “severe” threat and accused President Vladimir Putin of wanting to “break NATO apart”. His pick to run the State Department, Rex Tillerson, is CEO of an oil firm, ExxonMobil, that argued against sanctions imposed on Russia after the Crimean invasion. Mr Trump’s Office of Management and Budget is to be run by a shrink-the-government fiscal conservative, Representative Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, while his chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, has called for a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan that will drive conservatives “crazy”. It is equally easy to imagine headlines, years from now, that call President Trump a revolutionary who took America down the path to hard-edged nationalism, as it is to imagine a hapless incompetent paralysed by factional in-fighting and plunging poll ratings.

                          If Mr Trump’s policies are a mystery, his approach to politics is not. The Republican won office by systematically undermining trust in any figure or institution that seemed to stand in his way, from Republican rivals to his Democratic opponent, leaders of Congress, business bosses, the news media, fact-checkers or simply those fessi who believe in paying taxes. Accused of avoiding federal income taxes during a debate with Hillary Clinton, he growled: “That makes me smart.”

                          Mr Trump will not be able to stop that destructive mission to make America less like Sweden and more like Sicily. He has too many promises that he cannot keep. He must betray those supporters whom he wooed with a conspiracy theory dressed up as an economic policy, backed with crude invective worthy of an American Berlusconi. He spotted a market opportunity: millions of Americans with conservative instincts, notably working-class whites in the Midwest, who felt ill-served by both major parties and could conceive of no benign explanation for social and economic changes that angered and dismayed them. Mr Trump ignored transformational forces, such as automation or global competition. He dismissed the notion that foreign policy is filled with complex trade-offs. Instead Mr Trump told voters a story about “stupid” and feckless elites who had given away what was rightfully theirs: from manufacturing jobs to traditional values or a border secure against illegal immigrants and Muslim terrorists. Just give him power, and all would be well.

                          Get smart
                          Fomenting cynicism and partisan divisions is not a flaw in Mr Trump’s approach to politics: it is his best chance of surviving the next four or eight years, as reality bites. That is why he has told his supporters not to believe the CIA, when American spy chiefs accuse Russia of working to disrupt the election by hacking e-mails sent by bosses at the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign. It is why Mr Trump has recently held rallies in states that he won, telling supporters, “We are really the people that love this country” and breezily saying of crowd chants to lock Mrs Clinton up: “That plays great before the election, now we don’t care.” As a man about to break his word, Mr Trump needs an America in which all morals are relative, facts are written by winners and principles count for less than winking appeals to partisan loyalty. Most of the Trump legacy is still unknowable. Some of what he does will be reversed by the next president when the electoral pendulum swings the other way, as it usually does. A lower-trust America will be harder to fix.
                          Donald Trump’s most damaging legacy may be a lower-trust America | The Economist
                          Truth be told, Trump is not anchored in either major party. His ideology is Trumpism. His appeal lies in tribalism.

                          Anointed by the white simple-minded working-class yahoos w/guns, Trump is the White Champion, striking out in the dark against imagined enemies.

                          æ, !

                          Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                          • At Lunch, Donald Trump Gives Critics Hope
                            NY TIMES Thomas L. Friedman NOV. 22, 2016

                            Well, that was interesting … Donald Trump came to lunch at The New York Times. You can find all the highlights on the news pages, but since I had the opportunity to be included, let me offer a few impressions of my first close encounter with Trump since he declared for the presidency.

                            The most important was that on several key issues — like climate change and torture — where he adopted extreme positions during his campaign to galvanize his base, he went out of his way to make clear he was rethinking them. How far? I don’t know. But stay tuned, especially on climate.

                            There are many decisions that President-elect Trump can and will make during the next four years. Many of them could be reversible by his successor. But there is one decision he can make that could have truly irreversible implications, and that is to abandon America’s commitment to phasing out coal, phasing in more clean energy systems and leading the world to curb CO2 emissions before they reach a level that produces a cycle of wildly unpredictable climate disruptions.

                            When asked where he stood on that climate change issue — which in the past he dismissed as a hoax — and last December’s U.S.-led Paris emissions-reduction accord, the president-elect did not hesitate for a second: “I’m looking at it very closely. … I have an open mind to it. We’re going to look very carefully. … You can make lots of cases for different views. … I will tell you this: Clean air is vitally important. Clean water, crystal-clean water is vitally important.”

                            Do you think climate change is caused by human activity?

                            “I think there is some connectivity,” Trump answered. It is not clear “how much,” and what he will do about it “depends on how much it’s going to cost our companies.” Trump said he would study the issue “very hard” and hinted that if, after study, he was to moderate his views, his voice would be influential with climate skeptics.

                            On the question of whether the U.S. military should use waterboarding and other forms of torture to break suspected terrorists — a position he advocated frequently during the campaign to great applause — Trump bluntly stated that he had changed his mind after talking with James N. Mattis, the retired Marine Corps general, who headed the United States Central Command.

                            Trump said Mattis told him of torture: “I’ve never found it to be useful.” (Many in the military and the C.I.A. have long held this view.)

                            He quoted Mattis as saying, “Give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I always do better” than anyone using torture. Concluded Trump, “I was very impressed by that answer.”

                            Speaking of the Middle East, Trump said unprompted: “I would love to be able to be the one that made peace with Israel and the Palestinians,” adding, “I have reason to believe I can do that.” And he hinted that his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, could be his special envoy and “he’d be very good at it. … He knows the region.” (Wow, watching Trump try to forge a deal between Bibi Netanyahu and the Palestinians would be pay-per-view!)

                            The one area where I think Trump is going to have the hardest time delivering on his campaign promises is to create “millions” of good-paying jobs by incentivizing and pressuring American companies to manufacture more in the U.S. He still talks about America as a manufacturing wasteland when, in fact, manufacturing remains the largest sector of the U.S. economy but employs far fewer workers.

                            As the management consultant Warren Bennis famously observed: “The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment.”

                            Bottom line: The campaign is over, but the struggle for Donald Trump’s soul has just begun. Trump clearly learns by talking to people, not reading. Because so few thought he would win, many of those who gathered around him and had his ear were extreme characters.

                            But now that he has been elected president he is exposing himself to, and hearing from, a much wider net of people. He mentioned that he had had telephone conversations with Bill Gates and with Apple C.E.O. Tim Cook. And he stressed repeatedly that he wants to succeed: “I am doing this to do a good job.”

                            To do that he needs to moderate many views and learn from a much wider network of people. For those of us who opposed Trump’s election, it is not time to let down our guard and stop drawing redlines where necessary. But for moderate Republicans and Democratic business leaders, like a Bill Gates, who can gain his ear and respect, and who have made big investments in clean energy, Trump may be — may be — persuadable on some key issues. They need to dive in now and try to pull him toward the center.

                            For a meeting between the newsmaker and this news organization that has covered him without fear or favor, the lunch was fairly relaxed, but not without some jousting. Asked if he read The New York Times, Trump said: “I do read it. Unfortunately. I would live about 20 years longer if I didn’t.”

                            æ, !

                            Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                            • Dancing in a Hurricane
                              NY TIMES Thomas L. Friedman NOV. 19, 2016

                              BRITAIN’S vote to withdraw from the European Union followed by Donald Trump’s election in America constitute a single giant political event — one that makes 2016 a vintage year in history that will long be studied. Big political events have big causes. For the last three years I’ve been working on a book about what’s been happening beneath the surface — in the plumbing and wiring of the world — that’s roiling politics in so many places. My answer begins with a question: What the hell happened in and around 2007?

                              2007? That’s such an innocuous year. But look again.

                              Steve Jobs and Apple released the first iPhone in 2007, starting the smartphone revolution that is now putting an internet-connected computer in the palm of everyone on the planet. In late 2006, Facebook, which had been confined to universities and high schools, opened itself to anyone with an email address and exploded globally. Twitter was created in 2006, but took off in 2007. In 2007, Hadoop, the most important software you’ve never heard of, began expanding the ability of any company to store and analyze enormous amounts of unstructured data. This helped enable both Big Data and cloud computing. Indeed, “the cloud” really took off in 2007.

                              In 2007, the Kindle kicked off the e-book revolution and Google introduced Android. In 2007, IBM started Watson — the world’s first cognitive computer that today can understand virtually every paper ever written on cancer and suggest to doctors highly accurate diagnoses and treatment options. And have you ever looked at a graph of the cost of sequencing a human genome? It goes from $100 million in the early 2000s and begins to fall dramatically starting around … 2007.

                              The cost of making solar panels began to decline sharply in 2007. Airbnb was conceived in 2007 and started in 2007. GitHub, now the world’s largest open-source software sharing library, was opened in 2007. And in 2007 Intel for the first time introduced non-Silicon materials into its microchip transistors, thus extending the duration of Moore’s Law — the expectation that the power of microchips would double roughly every two years. As a result, the exponential growth in computing power continues to this day. Finally, in 2006, the internet crossed well over a billion users worldwide.


                              In time, 2007 may be seen as one of the greatest technological inflection points in history. And we completely missed it.

                              Why? 2008.

                              Yes, right when our physical technologies leapt ahead, many of what the Oxford economist Eric Beinhocker calls our “social technologies” — all of the rules, regulations, institutions and social tools people needed to get the most out of this technological acceleration and cushion the worst — froze or lagged. In the best of times social technologies have a hard time keeping up with physical technologies, but with the Great Recession of 2008 and the political paralysis it engendered, this gap turned into a chasm. A lot of people got dislocated in the process.

                              How could they not? What happened around 2007 was that connectivity and computing got so fast, cheap, ubiquitous and leveraged that they changed three forms of power — in really differentiated ways — all at once: the power of one, the power of machines and the power of ideas.

                              What one individual or small group can now do — the power of one — to make or break things is phenomenal. When President-elect Trump wants to be heard he now gets his message out directly from his New York penthouse through Twitter to 15 million-plus followers at any hour of the day he pleases. And the Islamic State does the same from a remote province in Syria. Machines can now not only beat humans at “Jeopardy!” or chess, they are starting to become truly creative, offering architectural and other designs and writing news stories, songs and poetry that are indistinguishable from the work of humans.

                              At the same time, ideas now flow digitally through social networks all over the world faster and farther than ever. As a result, new ideas (including fake news) can suddenly take root, and long-held ideas — think opposition to gay marriage or transgender rights — can suddenly melt away.

                              So if you look down from 30,000 feet you see that technology, globalization and, I would add, Mother Nature (in particular, climate change, biodiversity loss and the impact of population growth) are all accelerating at the same time, and feeding off one another: More Moore’s Law drives more globalization and more globalization drives more climate change. And together, climate change and digital connectivity drive more human migration.

                              I recently met with economic and climate refugees in West Africa who made it clear to me they didn’t want aid from a rock concert in Europe. They want to come to the Europe they see on their cellphones — and they are using WhatsApp to organize vast illicit migration networks to get there.

                              So no wonder many in the West feel unmoored. The two things that anchored them in the world — their community and their job — are feeling destabilized. They go to the grocery store and someone there speaks to them in a different language or is wearing a head covering. They go into the men’s room and there is someone next to them who looks to be of a different gender. They go to work and there’s now a robot sitting next to them who seems to be studying their job. I celebrate this diversity of people and ideas — but for many others they’ve come faster than they can adapt.

                              That’s why my favorite song these days is Brandi Carlile’s wonderful ballad called “The Eye,” the main verse of which is: “I wrapped your love around me like a chain/ But I never was afraid that it would die/ You can dance in a hurricane/ But only if you’re standing in the eye.”

                              These accelerations in technology, globalization and Mother Nature are like a hurricane in which we’re all being asked to dance. Trump and the Brexiters sensed the anxiety of many and promised to build a wall against these howling winds of change. I disagree. I think the challenge is to find the eye.

                              For me, that translates into building healthy communities that are flexible enough to move with these accelerations, draw energy from them — but also provide a platform of dynamic stability for citizens within them. More on that another day.

                              æ, !

                              Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                              • Bibi Netanyahu Makes Trump His Chump
                                NY TIMES Thomas L. Friedman DEC. 28, 2016

                                For those of you confused over the latest fight between President Obama and Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu of Israel, let me make it simple: Barack Obama and John Kerry admire and want to preserve Israel as a Jewish and democratic state in the Land of Israel. I have covered this issue my entire adult life and have never met two U.S. leaders more committed to Israel as a Jewish democracy.

                                But they are convinced — rightly — that Netanyahu is a leader who is forever dog paddling in the middle of the Rubicon, never ready to cross it. He is unwilling to make any big, hard decision to advance or preserve a two-state solution if that decision in any way risks his leadership of Israel’s right-wing coalition or forces him to confront the Jewish settlers, who relentlessly push Israel deeper and deeper into the West Bank.

                                That is what precipitated this fight over Obama’s decision not to block a U.N. resolution last week criticizing Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The settlers’ goal is very clear, as Kerry put it on Wednesday: to strategically place settlements “in locations that make two states impossible,” so that Israel will eventually annex all of the West Bank. Netanyahu knows this will bring huge problems, but his heart is with the settlers, and his passion is with holding power — at any cost. So in any crunch, he sides with the settlers, and they keep pushing.

                                Obama ordered the U.S. to abstain on the U.N. resolution condemning the settlements (three months after Obama forged a 10-year, $38 billion military aid package for Israel — the largest for any U.S. ally ever) in hopes of sparking a debate inside Israel and to prevent it from closing off any chance of a two-state solution.

                                Friends don’t let friends drive drunk, and right now Obama and Kerry rightly believe that Israel is driving drunk toward annexing the West Bank and becoming either a bi-national Arab-Jewish state or some Middle Eastern version of 1960s South Africa, where Israel has to systematically deprive large elements of its population of democratic rights to preserve the state’s Jewish character.

                                Israel is clearly now on a path toward absorbing the West Bank’s 2.8 million Palestinians. There are already 1.7 million Arabs living in Israel, so putting these two Arab populations together would constitute a significant minority with a higher birthrate than that of Israeli Jews — who number 6.3 million — posing a demographic and democratic challenge.

                                I greatly sympathize with Israel’s security problems. If I were Israel, I would not relinquish control of the West Bank borders — for now. The Arab world is far too unstable, and Hamas, which controls another 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza, would likely take over the West Bank.

                                My criticism of Netanyahu is not that he won’t simply quit all the West Bank; it is that he refuses to show any imagination or desire to build workable alternatives that would create greater separation and win Israel global support, such as radical political and economic autonomy for Palestinians in the majority of the West Bank, free of settlements, while Israel still controls the borders and the settlements close to it.

                                Bibi never lays down a credible peace plan that truly puts the ball in the Palestinians’ court. And when someone like Obama exposes that — and Bibi comes under intense criticism from the liberal half of Israel, which sees the country getting more and more isolated and less and less democratic — Bibi just calls Obama an enemy of Israel and caves to the settlers. U.S. Jewish “leaders” then parrot whatever Bibi says. Sad.

                                More worrisome is the fact that President-elect Donald Trump — who could be a fresh change agent — is letting himself get totally manipulated by right-wing extremists, and I mean extreme. His ambassador-designate to Israel, David Friedman, has compared Jews who favor a two-state solution to Jews who collaborated with the Nazis. I’ve never heard such a vile slur from one Jew to another.

                                Trump also has no idea how much he is being manipulated into helping Iran and ISIS. What is Iran’s top goal when it comes to Israel? That Israel never leaves the West Bank and that it implants Jewish settlers everywhere there.

                                That would keep Israel in permanent conflict with Palestinians and the Muslim world, as well as many Western democracies and their college campuses. It would draw all attention away from Iran’s own human rights abuses and enable Iran and ISIS to present themselves as the leading Muslim protectors of Jerusalem — and to present America’s Sunni Arab allies as lackeys of an extremist Israel. This would create all kinds of problems for these Arab regimes. A West Bank on fire would become a recruitment tool for ISIS and Iran.

                                One day Trump will wake up and discover that he was manipulated into becoming the co-father, with Netanyahu, of an Israel that is either no longer Jewish or no longer democratic. He will discover that he was Bibi’s chump.

                                What a true friend of Israel and foe of Iran would do today is just what Obama and Kerry tried — assure Israel long-term military superiority to the tune of $38 billion, but, unlike Trump, who is just passing Israel another bottle of wine, tell our dear ally that it’s driving drunk, needs to stop the settlements and apply that amazing Israeli imagination to preserving Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
                                The American policy is "one president at a time."

                                Trump is not Mr. President yet.

                                No one in Trump's stable has informed him re Logan Act:
                                The Logan Act (1 Stat. 613, 18 U.S.C. § 953, enacted January 30, 1799) is a United States federal law that forbids unauthorized citizens from negotiating with foreign governments having a dispute with the U.S. It was intended to prevent the undermining of the government's position. The Act was passed following George Logan's unauthorized negotiations with France in 1798, and was signed into law by President John Adams on January 30, 1799. The Act was last amended in 1994, and violation of the Logan Act is a felony.

                                To date, only one person has ever been indicted for violating the act's provisions. However, no person has ever been prosecuted for alleged violations of the act.

                                æ, !

                                Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp