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Monthly Archives: January 2017

Trump Backlash Turns Mexicans Against Nafta

trump-nieto-2_0

U.S-Mexico Trade: Impact on Emerging Markets

The Zocalo, a vast square in the heart of Mexico City, has been a gathering place since the days of the Spanish conquistadors. Walk through it today and you’ll encounter, as expected, intense hatred of Donald Trump.

But what you’ll also find is that Mexicans are just as furious at their own government for letting the U.S. president push their country around. What’s more, many proclaim to be fed up with Nafta. Trump’s pledge to rewrite the trade pact doesn’t go far enough for them. It should be scrapped entirely.

“We will be better off,” said Eduardo Avila, on a break from his job as a driver. He dug into the pocket of his jeans jacket to show off the lapel pin and ribbon he’d just bought, both emblazoned with a suddenly popular slogan: “United For Mexico. Buy Mexican Goods.”

Trump and his tough talk, Avila said, might just be the shot in the arm that Mexico needs to recognize its potential. “The U.S. is not the only country in this world — why are we clinging to them like an umbilical cord?”

The reality is harsh: The U.S. is by far Mexico’s biggest trading partner, with some $584 billion in tariff-free goods crossing the border every year. Trump has called Nafta “the worst trade deal in history,” but it has been a boon for Mexico, attracting billions in foreign investment, creating a booming auto industry and diversifying revenue sources for the once oil-dependent economy. In border towns far from Mexico City, Nafta has created thousands of jobs.Read more: What if Nafta is reopened?

None of that matters to Alejandro Sanchez, a vendor on the outskirts of the Zocalo. He welcomes what before Trump’s election was the unthinkable: an end to decades of friendship and economic cooperation with the U.S.

“They can raise the tallest wall in the world, in fact they should. They can keep their burgers and fast food, their junk culture,” he said, peering out from behind stacks of magazines, coloring books and cigarette packets. “I think most of us feel the same way — this is an opportunity. We are such a big country that this will help us activate our domestic economy.”

Give Trump credit, he added. “This man did something right. He united us.”

Protesters in the Zocalo demand the resignation of Pena Nieto, on Jan. 8.

Photographer: Yuri Cortez/AFP via Getty Images

Mexicans had already been pretty much on the same page about their leader, Enrique Pena Nieto, whose approval ratings are the lowest of any president ever tracked by Reforma newspaper. That’s in no small part because the government raised gasoline prices by 20 percent at the start of the year and promised another hike in February, setting off street protests.

Pena Nieto was criticized for meeting with Trump before the U.S. election. Now he’s not getting much credit from the people for canceling a visit to Washington last week after the American president said he’d follow through on campaign pledges to find a way to make Mexico to pay for a border wall.

‘Angry and Disappointed’

In the Zocalo, Trump and Pena Nieto are in a dead heat for most hated president.

“Both of them should be thrown in the trash,” Avila said. “The wall is what matters least. It’s politicians on this side of the border that bother me. How could they allow this person to humiliate us this way?”

It was a lament heard time and again all afternoon. Only the tone and some of the smaller details varied.

Nohemi Sanchez, a recent college graduate, expressed it this way: “We send our best products and produce abroad, and they leave the worst for us. This is what angers me, really — that our government doesn’t work in favor of our interests. We’re a country rich in natural resources but Mexico doesn’t do anything.”

Sitting a few feet away, Yareli Flores was listening intently to Sanchez. Music from organ grinders and the shouts of ice-cream vendors echoed around them. After a couple of minutes, Flores, a monument restorer on her lunch break, chimed in. She’s glad, she stated, that her 5-year-old daughter is too young to understand what’s happening.

“I’m angry and disappointed,” she said. With U.S. politicians or those in Mexico? “All of them. They’ve all disappointed me.”

 

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A Clarifying Moment in American History: How to Respond to Trump’s Betrayal of American Values

Kevin Lamarque / Reuters
BY ELIOT A. COHEN –
I am not surprised by President Donald Trump’s antics this week. Not by the big splashy pronouncements such as announcing a wall that he would force Mexico to pay for, even as the Mexican foreign minister held talks with American officials in Washington. Not by the quiet, but no less dangerous bureaucratic orders, such as kicking the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff out of meetings of the Principals’ Committee, the senior foreign-policy decision-making group below the president, while inserting his chief ideologist, Steve Bannon, into them. Many conservative foreign-policy and national-security experts saw the dangers last spring and summer, which is why we signed letters denouncing not Trump’s policies but his temperament; not his program but his character.We were right. And friends who urged us to tone it down, to make our peace with him, to stop saying as loudly as we could “this is abnormal,” to accommodate him, to show loyalty to the Republican Party, to think that he and his advisers could be tamed, were wrong. In an epic week beginning with a dark and divisive inaugural speech, extraordinary attacks on a free press, a visit to the CIA that dishonored a monument to anonymous heroes who paid the ultimate price, and now an attempt to ban selected groups of Muslims (including interpreters who served with our forces in Iraq and those with green cards, though not those from countries with Trump hotels, or from really indispensable states like Saudi Arabia), he has lived down to expectations.

Precisely because the problem is one of temperament and character, it will not get better. It will get worse, as power intoxicates Trump and those around him. It will probably end in calamity—substantial domestic protest and violence, a breakdown of international economic relationships, the collapse of major alliances, or perhaps one or more new wars (even with China) on top of the ones we already have. It will not be surprising in the slightest if his term ends not in four or in eight years, but sooner, with impeachment or removal under the 25th Amendment. The sooner Americans get used to these likelihoods, the better.The question is, what should Americans do about it? To friends still thinking of serving as political appointees in this administration, beware: When you sell your soul to the Devil, he prefers to collect his purchase on the installment plan. Trump’s disregard for either Secretary of Defense Mattis or Secretary-designate Tillerson in his disastrous policy salvos this week, in favor of his White House advisers, tells you all you need to know about who is really in charge. To be associated with these people is going to be, for all but the strongest characters, an exercise in moral self-destruction.

For the community of conservative thinkers and experts, and more importantly, conservative politicians, this is a testing time. Either you stand up for your principles and for what you know is decent behavior, or you go down, if not now, then years from now, as a coward or opportunist. Your reputation will never recover, nor should it.

Rifts are opening up among friends that will not be healed. The conservative movement of Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp, of William F. Buckley and Irving Kristol, was always heterogeneous, but it more or less hung together. No more. New currents of thought, new alliances, new political configurations will emerge. The biggest split will be between those who draw a line and the power-sick—whose longing to have access to power, or influence it, or indeed to wield it themselves—causes them to fatally compromise their values. For many more it will be a split between those obsessed with anxiety, hatred, and resentment, and those who can hear Lincoln’s call to the better angels of our nature, whose America is not replete with carnage, but a city on a hill.This is one of those clarifying moments in American history, and like most such, it came upon us unawares, although historians in later years will be able to trace the deep and the contingent causes that brought us to this day. There is nothing to fear in this fact; rather, patriots should embrace it. The story of the United States is, as Lincoln put it, a perpetual story of “a rebirth of freedom” and not just its inheritance from the founding generation.

Some Americans can fight abuses of power and disastrous policies directly—in courts, in congressional offices, in the press. But all can dedicate themselves to restoring the qualities upon which this republic, like all republics depends: on reverence for the truth; on a sober patriotism grounded in duty, moderation, respect for law, commitment to tradition, knowledge of our history, and open-mindedness. These are all the opposites of the qualities exhibited by this president and his advisers. Trump, in one spectacular week, has already shown himself one of the worst of our presidents, who has no regard for the truth (indeed a contempt for it), whose patriotism is a belligerent nationalism, whose prior public service lay in avoiding both the draft and taxes, who does not know the Constitution, does not read and therefore does not understand our history, and who, at his moment of greatest success, obsesses about approval ratings, how many people listened to him on the Mall, and enemies.

He will do much more damage before he departs the scene, to become a subject of horrified wonder in our grandchildren’s history books. To repair the damage he will have done Americans must give particular care to how they educate their children, not only in love of country but in fair-mindedness; not only in democratic processes but democratic values. Americans, in their own communities, can find common ground with those whom they have been accustomed to think of as political opponents. They can attempt to renew a political culture damaged by their decayed systems of civic education, and by the cynicism of their popular culture.There is in this week’s events the foretaste of things to come. We have yet to see what happens when Trump tries to use the Internal Revenue Service or the Federal Bureau of Investigation to destroy his opponents. He thinks he has succeeded in bullying companies, and he has no compunction about bullying individuals, including those with infinitely less power than himself. His advisers are already calling for journalists critical of the administration to be fired: Expect more efforts at personal retribution. He has demonstrated that he intends to govern by executive orders that will replace the laws passed by the people’s representatives.

In the end, however, he will fail. He will fail because however shrewd his tactics are, his strategy is terrible—The New York Times, the CIA, Mexican Americans, and all the others he has attacked are not going away. With every act he makes new enemies for himself and strengthens their commitment; he has his followers, but he gains no new friends. He will fail because he cannot corrupt the courts, and because even the most timid senator sooner or later will say “enough.” He will fail most of all because at the end of the day most Americans, including most of those who voted for him, are decent people who have no desire to live in an American version of Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey, or Viktor Orban’s Hungary, or Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

There was nothing unanticipated in this first disturbing week of the Trump administration. It will not get better. Americans should therefore steel themselves, and hold their representatives to account. Those in a position to take a stand should do so, and those who are not should lay the groundwork for a better day. There is nothing great about the America that Trump thinks he is going to make; but in the end, it is the greatness of America that will stop him.

 

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7 times in history alternative facts fooled us and how we can avoid them in the future.

By Carlos Foglia –

“This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period,” said press secretary Sean Spicer during his first time in the White House briefing room. That claim: totally false.

According to the D.C. Metro, “subway entries Friday, during President Trump’s inauguration, totaled about 570,557 in a 20-hour period,” which is lower than the totals of the previous three presidential inaugurations. The Women’s March, held the day after the inauguration, saw more than 1 million entries.

“You’re saying it’s a falsehood and Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that,” said counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway in a heated interview with “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd.

View image on Twitter

Even Merriam-Webster issued a brilliantly worded rebuttal to Conway’s creation of “alternative facts.”

📈A fact is a piece of information presented as having objective reality. https://www.merriam-webster.com/news-trend-watch/conway-alternative-facts-20170122 

Photo published for Trending: Conway: 'Alternative Facts'

Trending: Conway: ‘Alternative Facts’

“Alternative facts” aren’t a new political tool. They’ve been used throughout history by people in power to maintain control and status. But each time we’ve been able to debunk these myths in the name of progress.

Here are seven times throughout history alternative facts were used — and later proven false:

1. Alternative fact: The world is flat.

Oftentimes alternative facts are accepted as truth until real facts and information can be sought out and proven, much like with the first global explorers who took to the seas in search of new lands.

What you see below was considered common knowledge during the Middle Ages. The Earth was “flat.”

The Greeks discovered the Earth was round. Everyone outside of Europe believed it. It wasn’t until the late Middle Ages that everyone inside of Europe finally caught up.

Washington Irving wrote “The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus” in 1828. From the title, you’d think it’s a biography but in reality, it was mostly fiction and said that “Europeans learned from Columbus’s trips to the New World that the planet was round.

Because of this storyline and others like it, children were taught that up until Columbus, everyone thought the world was flat.

Photo by George Pickow/Three Lions/Getty Images.

Actual fact: The world is round.

Ancient Greek astronomer Eratosthenes is credited with discovering the spherical nature of the Earth in 240 B.C., 700 years before the Middle Ages and 2,000 years before Washington Irving picked up his first pen.

2. Alternative fact: Jesus was white.

The world’s most famous refugee is often historically depicted as a blue-eyed, pale-skinned messiah:

“Sacred Heart of Jesus” via N. Currier/Library of Congress.

Actual fact: Jesus would not have been white.

Assuming Jesus existed, the BBC documentary “Son of God” used modern technology to show us what he would have actually looked like, based on ancient skulls of Semite people from the same era and geographical location.

Image from “Son of God,” BBC.

3. Alternative fact: Slavery is a good thing.

In the 1820-30s, politicians in southern states defended slavery by professing the “positive good” of it and how important it was for the American economy. They claimed it allowed Africans to be civilized because white masters were letting them learn from them. (I did not make this up.)

Actual fact: Slavery is awful, inhumane, and wrong.

It took a bit longer in the U.S., but the British began the process of outlawing slavery and the slave trade in 1807. The moral ineptitude of treating humans like property and even valuing them as 3/5 of a person is a dark side of American history. It all finally came to a head with Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863. This eventually helped end the Civil War but claimed up to 750,000 lives, including Lincoln’s.

Image by Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

4. Alternative fact: Jews are the reason for Germany’s problems.

Jospeh Goebbels was Hitler’s minister of propaganda. Goebbels was a master of illusion and he used the murder of a German diplomat by a young Polish-Jew to launch the massive campaign to end Judaism. He did this by convincing the masses that the Jews were responsible for all of Germany’s problems.

Image by Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

Actual fact: Germany needed an excuse to go to war in order to fix their economy that hadn’t recovered from the last war.

The incarceration and murder of over 6 million Jews was the result of the German people looking the other way and believing in the above mentioned alternative facts. They had lost a lot of land in the previous global battle and were more than happy to launch into the worst war the world has ever seen. But we learned that lesson and hopefully will never let something like that happen again.

Image by Horace Abrahams/Keystone/Getty Images.

5. Alternative fact: AIDS is a gay problem.

White House press secretaries shouldn’t make fun of minority groups … but in the ’80s, Larry Speakes was caught on tape espousing crude homophobic jokes when asked about the AIDS crisis. This sentiment carried over to mainstream thinking, with people assuming only gay people got AIDS.

Actual fact: AIDS can be transmitted in many ways.

About half the people who have died from AIDS in the U.S. since the epidemic began were gay men. Is that a large percentage? Sure. But the alternative fact created the perception that HIV/AIDS was not only a disease solely among gay men, but also one that it was only sexually transmitted.

6. Alternative fact: Iraq had WMDs.

We have been at war for 15 years because of this alternative fact.

Photo by Stephen Jaffe/AFP/Getty Images.

Actual fact: Nope. They didn’t.

“The Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction reports that the intelligence community was ‘dead wrong’ in its assessments of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction capabilities before the U.S. invasion,” according to CNN.

7. Alternative fact:  Trump’s inauguration had the largest, hugest, most “bigly” crowds ever.

Actual Fact: Photographic evidence.

Left photo by Lucas Jackson/Getty Images, right photo by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images.

Each of these examples was a heavily pushed alternative fact created by the ruling religion, class, race, military, or administration. But each was debunked.

Sometimes with technology. Sometimes with pure math. Sometimes with common sense, and sometimes with compassion. We are better off as a (round) planet because of it.

It’s important to be critical of the media you consume and not listen to the loudest frequency on your social media feed (even if it is behind the seal of the president). With many unbiased, impartial news sources available at our fingertips through a free press, it’s important to take advantage of them.

So next time the White House press secretary tells you something hilariously untrue, just know that in less than four years you can cast an alternative vote.

 

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The State Department’s entire senior administrative team just resigned

45893ca2271b0e63696ff72d7fba9fa7-500x300x1By Josh Rogin –

The Washington Post’s Josh Rogin explains what the recent resignation of senior State Department management means for the agency going forward under the Trump administration. (Jorge Ribas, Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s job running the State Department just got considerably more difficult. The entire senior level of management officials resigned Wednesday, part of an ongoing mass exodus of senior Foreign Service officers who don’t want to stick around for the Trump era.

Tillerson was actually inside the State Department’s headquarters in Foggy Bottom on Wednesday, taking meetings and getting the lay of the land. I reported Wednesday morning that the Trump team was narrowing its searchfor his No. 2, and that it was looking to replace the State Department’s long-serving undersecretary for management, Patrick Kennedy. Kennedy, who has been in that job for nine years, was actively involved in the transition and was angling to keep that job under Tillerson, three State Department officials told me.

Then suddenly on Wednesday afternoon, Kennedy and three of his top officials resigned unexpectedly, four State Department officials confirmed. Assistant Secretary of State for Administration Joyce Anne Barr, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Michele Bond and Ambassador Gentry O. Smith, director of the Office of Foreign Missions, followed him out the door. All are career Foreign Service officers who have served under both Republican and Democratic administrations.

Kennedy will retire from the Foreign Service at the end of the month, officials said. The other officials could be given assignments elsewhere in the Foreign Service.

In addition, Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Gregory Starr retired Jan. 20, and the director of the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations, Lydia Muniz, departed the same day. That amounts to a near-complete housecleaning of all the senior officials that deal with managing the State Department, its overseas posts and its people.

“It’s the single biggest simultaneous departure of institutional memory that anyone can remember, and that’s incredibly difficult to replicate,” said David Wade, who served as State Department chief of staff under Secretary of State John Kerry. “Department expertise in security, management, administrative and consular positions in particular are very difficult to replicate and particularly difficult to find in the private sector.”

Senior State Department diplomats resign right before Tillerson takes charge

Play Video1:37
Washington Post senior national security correspondent Karen DeYoung talks about the unexpected resignations of senior State Department officials, and what it means for the Trump administration and international diplomacy. (The Washington Post)

Several senior Foreign Service officers in the State Department’s regional bureaus have also left their posts or resigned since the election. But the emptying of leadership in the management bureaus is more disruptive because those offices need to be led by people who know the department and have experience running its complicated bureaucracies. There’s no easy way to replace that via the private sector, said Wade.

“Diplomatic security, consular affairs, there’s just not a corollary that exists outside the department, and you can least afford a learning curve in these areas where issues can quickly become matters of life and death,” he said. “The muscle memory is critical. These retirements are a big loss. They leave a void. These are very difficult people to replace.”

Whether Kennedy left on his own volition or was pushed out by the incoming Trump team is a matter of dispute inside the department. Just days before he resigned, Kennedy was taking on more responsibility inside the department and working closely with the transition. His departure was a surprise to other State Department officials who were working with him.

One senior State Department official who responded to my requests for comment said that all the officials had previously submitted their letters of resignation, as was required for all positions that are appointed by the president and that require confirmation by the Senate, known as PAS positions.

“No officer accepts a PAS position with the expectation that it is unlimited. And all officers understand that the President may choose to replace them at any time,” this official said. “These officers have served admirably and well. Their departure offers a moment to consider their accomplishments and thank them for their service. These are the patterns and rhythms of the career service.”

Ambassador Richard Boucher, who served as State Department spokesman for Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, said that while there’s always a lot of turnover around the time a new administration takes office, traditionally senior officials work with the new team to see who should stay on in their roles and what other jobs might be available. But that’s not what happened this time.

The officials who manage the building and thousands of overseas diplomatic posts are charged with taking care of Americans overseas and protecting U.S. diplomats risking their lives abroad. The career Foreign Service officers are crucial to those functions as well as to implementing the new president’s agenda, whatever it may be, Boucher said.

“You don’t run foreign policy by making statements, you run it with thousands of people working to implement programs every day,” Boucher said. “To undercut that is to undercut the institution.”

By itself, the sudden departure of the State Department’s entire senior management team is disruptive enough. But in the context of a president who railed against the U.S. foreign policy establishment during his campaign and secretary of state with no government experience, the vacancies are much more concerning.

Tillerson’s job No. 1 must be to find qualified and experienced career officials to manage the State Department’s vital offices. His second job should be to reach out to and reassure a State Department workforce that is panicked about what the Trump administration means for them.

Read more: 

The Post’s View: Tillerson doesn’t seem to realize speaking up for human rights is part of the job

Dana Milbank: Tillerson’s foreign policy: Russia first

Carl Bildt: Why Europe was alarmed by Trump’s inaugural address

Zephyr Teachout: Trump is getting payments from foreign governments. We have no idea what they are.

 

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Flex your political activist muscles with these resources

US Capitol building

CC BY 2.0 Drew Stephens

It’s a brave new world out there, but we don’t have to go quietly into 1984.

Regardless of your political affiliation or who you may have voted for in the 2016 US presidential election, if you’re an advocate of science, environmental protections, and clean energy, you may be feeling a little despondent right now with all of the gloomy news coming out of DC from the new administration. Climate science is getting the proverbial shaft, public lands may soon become profit centers for private fossil fuel enterprises, clean air and water regulations may effectively be reversed, funding for essential healthcare services may be getting the ax, and that’s just in the first week alone.

Now that the Trump administration’s nominees are being sworn in, or are in the process of taking office, it’s easy to start feeling like anything we do now will be too little, too late, even with the massive turnout for the recent Women’s March and the strong push-back we’re seeing right now from journalists, news organizations, and environmental groups.

However, don’t despair, because there’s still a lot we can do to make our voices heard, but it will require a lot more from us than simply upping our clicktivism and tweeting about the issues (although those can certainly be part of our efforts). It’s going to require us to be a lot more engaged in the political process than ever before, and we can’t just wait until the mid-term elections (or heaven forbid, the next presidential election), to cast our votes, figuratively speaking.

It’s going to mean calling our senators and representatives, organizing for collective action, and learning the ways of government, and it’s probably going to feel like we’re swimming uphill backwards. But fortunately, a whole new crop of guides, web platforms, activist groups, and apps have surfaced, built by people who really know their stuff, all of which can be brought to bear for the sake of environmental justice, climate action, health, and civil rights.

Here are a few resources to start flexing your activist muscles:

Countable

Countable is both a website and an iOS and Android app (all free) that aims to make it quick and easy to understand which laws and issues Congress is considering. It also streamlines the process of contacting your own senators and representative, enabling you to easily tell them how you want them to vote on bills that are under consideration, and even record a video comment for them. It offers non-partisan summaries of the bills, with both pros and cons, and then allows you to follow up afterward to see how your representatives voted, which helps us keep them accountable the next time they run for re-election. Select the issues you’re most interested in following and voting on, and check in on the web or via the app to vote on upcoming bills in those issue areas, and to share the issues via social media.

IssueVoter

IssueVoter is a web platform that’s described as “politics for busy people,” and it has a similar function as Countable, except it’s just for representatives, not senators. Sign up, select the issues you care about, and get email alerts about upcoming bills, including a summary, the pros and cons of the bills, and related news. The platform then tracks your rep’s votes, and informs you as to how that stacks up against your own votes, again allowing us, the constituents, to hold them accountable for their votes. A sharing function encourages users to help inform their social networks about the bills, and about the actions of their representatives as well.

Indivisible Guide

The Indivisible Guide, while being decidedly partisan in its approach (the subtitle is “A practical guide to resisting the Trump agenda”), is applicable no matter which party or political persuasion you lean toward. The Guide is essentially a ‘best practices’ for community and grassroots organizing in order to get members of Congress to listen to their constituents. It was written by former congressional staffers, based on their experiences, and released originally as a Google document, but now has its own website for reading the document online or downloading it (in both English and Spanish). The guide draws a lot on the tactics used by Tea Party activists to “beat back President Obama’s agenda,” and offers “a step-by-step guide for individuals, groups, and organizations” who wish to replicate those successes.

10 Actions / 100 Days

Out of the wildly successful Women’s March comes a new campaign, 10 Actions for the first 100 Days, which seeks to build on and amplify the voices brought forth the day after the new administration took office. Driven by the website and an email notification system, the campaign aims to garner collective action every ten days on the same, or similar, issues that lead to the initial gatherings on January 21st.

100 Days of Resistance

Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor and currently the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at US Berkeley, offers an agenda for what he calls 100 Days of Resistance, some of which is general advice (write letters, boycott, etc.) and some of which is specific (call your senators and representatives).

Indivisible Radio

Tune in to Indivisible Radio four nights a week to listen or call in about the issues, brought to you by WNYC. (Not affiliated with the Indivisible Guide.)

“Indivisible is public radio’s national show about America in a time of change. For the first 100 days of the new presidential administration, stations around the country are joining to bring you four nights a week of live, participatory conversation. Each night has its own host. Each night has its own theme. The common thread is your participation.”

These are by no means the only tools in the activist shed, but they may serve as a great starting place to get you flexing your activist and citizen muscles.

To be honest, other than being a petition-signing son of a gun, a donor to eco-causes and human rights organizations, and an environmental writer and social media activist, up until this last election I haven’t spent that much time or energy exploring the waters of political activism on a personal level. And I certainly have never phoned my senators and representative until this past week, when I added their numbers to my contact list and made calls to them expressing my opinion on specific issues. I’ve always sent form emails, and signed petitions, and taken action when it was easy, but now I’ve got a new perspective, with an eye toward what works in the political arena. I hope you’ll join me, because it’s not enough to simply let environmental groups do the heavy lifting anymore. Our elected officials need to hear from us, repeatedly, about the issues and current events that concern us.

Tags: Activism

 

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CIA Starts Recruiting Its Newest Asset: Donald Trump

PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY THE DAILY BEAST

Langley is ready to woo the new president like a foreign leader. The key? Flattering his ego. ‘He is extremely insecure like an adolescent boy,’ one analyst told The Daily Beast.
Kimberly Dozier

by KIMBERLY DOZIER –

After a brutal start, the CIA is set to mend fences and win over “Customer Number One,” President Donald Trump, putting aside his awkward address to the agency on Saturday and doing what they do best: recruit him to their way of thinking.

“Congratulations, he’s already recruited. Where is first place he showed up? His main intelligence agency,” said one former senior CIA official whose job used to be cultivating foreign sources.

The CIA’s main job overseas is to get into the mind of foreign leaders, and to recruit foreign intelligence assets to help them do that, wooing and winning them into becoming useful to the CIA and the United States. Intelligence officials current and former say that’s what they’re now doing with Donald Trump, though slightly in reverse: studying what’s important to him to learn how best to get through to him, and how the intelligence agency can be a useful tool to his presidency.

There are also key policies various factions of the CIA would like to see addressed. Some want to shore up the agency’s role as key operator of drone strikes against overseas terrorist targets—which the Obama administration had hoped to transfer in large part to the military. Others would like to roll back some of the recent reorganization of the CIA into 10 geographic or mission specific new centers. (It’s something newly confirmed CIA director, conservative Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo has already said might need “tweaking.”)

Other changes would be far more controversial. In written answers to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Republican Pompeo left the door open to resuming the harsh interrogation methods of the Bush era, saying that he’d ask officers if current tactics were getting them the intelligence they need. He made similar comments about collecting Americans’ data, saying he may recommend changes if he finds CIA officers hands are being tied by today’s regulations.

Those answers were meant to serve as signs that the Trump White House has the CIA’s back—fence-mending that continued Monday with White House spokesman Sean Spicer explaining that Trump’s beef was with the intelligence leadership of the Obama administration, not the rank and file.

“There’s a difference between having differences with the intelligence leaders, and… the men and women who toil every single day,” he said in his Monday press conference.

But it will be a while before the blot of Trump’s meandering speech at the agency headquarters Saturday fades—a rambling, stream of consciousness series of riffs that veered from blaming the media for making up a Trump-CIA feud (despite his previous comparisons of the agency to Nazis) to assessing his own intelligence, calling himself “smart.” Worse, to some agency staffers, he spoke in front of the CIA’s Memorial Wall to its fallen—without ever paying homage to those fallen. CIA officers said they were “appalled” and “horrified” that their new commander in chief was so tone deaf.

Former CIA Director John Brennan’s comment over the weekend—where he said he “is deeply saddened and angered at Trump’s despicable display of self-aggrandizement”—was not helpful in building a new relationship between CIA and Trump, some insiders feel. “He’s reminding them of all the people he put in top positions on the 7th floor (home to the agency’s senior executive suites), his followers and acolytes, and that they’re still in touch with him,” one said. “He should shut up.”

But the CIA officers were also eager to explain it away—that perhaps the newly assembled White House staff had failed to brief him, or perhaps Trump was simply displaying the inexperience of a successful businessman who has never had to send people into dangerous situations, and lose them.

“It’s emotional ground zero for the agency,” said former acting CIA director McLaughlin of the Memorial Wall. “The president hasn’t visited Dover yet, but he will, and then he will understand that.” Dover Air Force Base in Delaware is where fallen troops, and fallen CIA officers, make the last journey to the United States to be reunited with their loved ones.

CIA officers saw another flash of ignorance in Trump’s comment that many of them had probably voted for him.

“For democracy and intel to coexist, CIA must be objective and apolitical as possible. That’s why content of Trump speech so wrong,” tweeted former senior CIA official Carmen Medina. She pointed out that federal employees aren’t supposed to be partisan anyway, as per the Hatch Act of 1939, which bans federal employees from most partisan or political activities. (CBS News reported Monday that many of those cheering were actually Trump supporters, not agency emloyees, but CIA insiders pushed back saying many of those in the room were CIA professionals who jumped at the opportunity to meet the new commander in chief.)

That said, she and others are treating the odd speech as a roadmap to decoding Trump.

“There’s nothing unusual about analyzing a new president, their style, their cognitive dispositions to figure out how you can support them,” Medina said in an interview. “The first step is actually getting access to the president, getting him to pay attention to what you write.”

The key to Trump? “He likes to win. He has a nostalgia for a period in history when U.S. always won,” Medina said. So on climate change, for instance, rather than pointing out that there’s science behind it, or that the U.S. needs to set an example, an analyst could point out that the solar energy business is likely to be a “gazillion-dollar business and the U.S. wants to be the winner,” she said. “That’s not politicizing the intelligence, it’s talking to the consumer.”

If Trump’s style means talking to him rather than giving him a written report, that’s fine, said former Acting CIA Director John McLaughlin.

“When I briefed Ronald Reagan, I was told to have a joke ready. I did,” he said.

“It seems from his speeches… that he does not want to dive deeply into a topic and assess it exhaustively,” said former CIA briefer David Priess. “Instead, he is thinking about implications and its effect on him and how it related to things he has said and done.” Former commanders in chief have wanted to know what the foreign press or foreign publics say about them, something Priess details in The President’s Book of Secrets. “This is simply a different manifestation of that.”

A less flattering way to look at it? Multiple officers said: Flattering his ego will be key.

“He is extremely insecure like an adolescent boy,” one former analyst said. “If you are very secure with yourself, you don’t talk about yourself all the time. People who are loud and bragging and projecting confidence, they are overcompensating for their own personal insecurities through their behavior.”

That’s a vulnerability that can be exploited both inside and outside the U.S. government.

“He could get hoodwinked on the details,” if a foreign leader tells him what he wants to hear, but obscures key facts, another officer said.

Trouble ahead will come in the form of briefing the Trump White House on things that don’t match their understanding of events, like Russia’s attempts to influence U.S. voters by releasing hacked Democratic emails.

“You’re going to have to have your arguments really tight,” a third former senior official said. “When you say something they don’t think is true, you’re going to have to be standing on granite.”

The key will be getting a person into his inner circle whom he trusts as much as his National Security Adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn. Multiple Trump advisers and intelligence officials say Flynn has been playing the most prominent role in teaching Trump about intelligence. Flynn had a sometimes contentious relationship with the CIA when he was head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, where he sought to expand its clandestine spy service which the CIA saw as an unnecessary addition to its own.

“They have got to get somebody in there to establish a personal relationship with Flynn or have a strong enough relationship with the president so they can be a voice to add” to the debate, one of the senior former officers said. “That’s going to be extremely difficult.”

“We’ll get past this,” McLaughlin said, especially now that Trump’s pick Pompeo can get to work. “People there are mature enough to know that this is Trump. At the end of the day, they are dedicated to supporting a president. That’s in their DNA.”

 

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Trump’s Tweets: Good Politics, Poor Economics

trump-tweetby Bill George Harvard Business School Professor, former Medtronic CEO, and Best-selling Author

If the Roman emperors ruled by edict, President-elect Donald Trump appears poised to rule by tweet. Even before taking office, Trump has discovered he can move the world’s largest global corporations with simple, 140-character tweets. And though his aggressive approach is winning politically, good politics doesn’t necessarily mean good economics.

Voters see Trump fulfilling his campaign promises to close America’s borders and bring jobs back home. He is using the bully pulpit to stand up for workers by taking on the most powerful American companies, including Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and United Technologies/Carrier.

Thus far, no CEOs have had the courage to stand up to Trump. General Motors CEO Mary Barra has said the company’s small-car production will remain in Mexico, but it could only be a matter of time before she’s forced to change course. Trump’s sudden tweets likely worry many CEOs who fear they may be his next target. Right now, most have just tried to stay out of his way. Some, like SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son and Fiat’s Sergio Marchionne, have put forth peace offerings to invest more in the U.S.

Most striking was Ford’s recent decision to reverse plans to build a $1.6 billion plant in Mexico to produce small cars. Then Trump rattled Japan’s leading automobile producer, Toyota, and its CEO, Akio Toyoda, by threatening to slap a “big border tax”—which he has referred to as 35%—on any automobiles the company assembled in Mexico and imported into the U.S.

Shortly thereafter, Marchionne committed to invest $1 billion in two existing U.S. plants and create 2,000 new jobs—investments that were already part of Chrysler’s plans. He said it is “quite possible” his company will abandon Mexican production altogether if Trump’s tariffs are too high.

Trump didn’t stop with the automakers. He jawboned Carrier into keeping jobs in the United States, threatened Boeing for the cost of Air Force One and Lockheed on its F-35 aircraft, and pharmaceutical companies on their high drug prices.

There is no doubt that Trump is winning the political game and shaking up America’s largest companies. But there is real danger that his pressure may corrode the competitiveness of U.S.-based global companies and cause retaliation by foreign governments.

One of America’s greatest strengths is having global companies that dominate their markets around the world through innovation, quality, and marketing. That’s why American companies lead a wide range of industries, from information technology, e-commerce, and social media to finance, pharmaceuticals, medical technology, consumer products, automobiles, farm equipment, and aircraft. They do so profitably with global supply chains that enable them to design and produce products to achieve optimal costs and deliver the greatest value to their customers around the globe. In many countries, they are required to produce a portion of their products locally.

The global strategies of our corporations have enabled them to compete effectively with Chinese, Japanese, German, and Korean manufacturers—all vigorous competitors striving to win share in global markets. At the same time, they have been profitable enough to reinvest substantial portions of their profits in research, innovation, and product development. When they do so, they stay ahead of their global competitors and increase their market shares. This positive cycle allows them to justify large capital investments in their facilities and provide substantial returns for their shareholders, as share prices for these global companies are at all-time highs.

Trump has learned how to reach the American people directly through his tweets, thus bypassing mainstream media. With his threats of large tariffs on imported goods, he has succeeded in forcing these giants to make uneconomic decisions—such as Carrier paying $25 per hour to its workers in Indiana to do work that can be done by Mexican employees for $2.50 per hour. However, in the long run, this will be a losing strategy for American workers if it forces Carrier to sell its air conditioners on the world market at non-competitive prices, or replace its production workers with robots, as Tesla has done in producing its electric cars. In either case, Carrier will be forced to reduce its Indiana workforce, with its workers ultimately becoming the losers.

The same logic applies to Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, and Toyota. Toyota has created 136,000 American jobs through direct employment, and has invested $21 billion in the U.S. What appear now to be significant “wins” for Trump may turn into pyrrhic victories, as America loses its competitive edge and hiring declines instead of increasing.

Trump has also repeatedly threatened to levy large tariffs on imports from Mexico and China. If he is serious about doing so, he will quickly learn that other countries can also play this game, and are quite willing to do so. This could trigger a trade war that will disadvantage American companies and their employees. Decades of progress in opening up foreign markets to American-made goods could quickly vanish.

Behind all of the threats and CEO responses lies a much deeper issue: the vital need for America to upgrade its workforce so that American employees can compete for jobs of the future. While there are 7.5 million unemployed Americans as of December 31, 2016, the irony is that there are 5.5 million jobs unfilled, many due to a lack of skilled workers. This situation will get worse in the years ahead as jobs become more complex and require more education and training. Filling these jobs with qualified Americans is essential for the competitiveness of U.S. companies.

Rather than jawboning companies to make uneconomic decisions, Trump and Congress should instead work with major employers to train and educate workers. Americans might even find a real strategy that emphasizes preparing for the jobs of the future vs. trying to save the jobs of the past.

If Trump’s tweets turn into an industrial policy, this may signal that the U.S. is headed into an era of “crony capitalism,” similar to the systems of France and Russia. In contrast, American business has been built on free market principles of market-based competition, free trade, meritocracy, and diversity. For five decades, the U.S. government has worked to ensure U.S. companies are free to sell their goods around the world on a level playing field with local competitors.

Now it appears the focus may shift to negotiation with the U.S. government over jobs, factory sites, and a host of other issues. If this becomes the prevailing norm, global companies will be reluctant to create new jobs and invest in new factories for fear of being locked into unprofitable decisions. This is a primary reason why France’s current unemployment rate of 9.5% is more than double the U.S.’s relatively modest 4.7% rate.

Let’s hope the bark of Trump’s Twitter account is worse than its bite. If Trump and his new team are wise, they will use his rising popularity to create transformative policy that fosters real growth for the next generation by making America truly competitive in world markets.

 

 

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