Paul Krugman Issues A Warning About What We All Know Is Coming.

By Dartagnan  –

In September of 2001 the Administration of George W. Bush was running into trouble. A President who had lost the popular vote, installed into office only through a hotly contested Supreme Court decision, had nonetheless behaved from the start as if he possessed a mandate, eagerly dismantling his predecessor’s achievements and turning the country on a hard rightward course, following a strategy that had been carefully concealed from the public during the campaign.

The public reaction was swift and negative—Bush’s own popularity tanked precipitously as the public reacted to an agenda most had not realized they had voted for. Prior to September 11th his approval levels had dropped to the lowest of his still-young Presidency.

All of that was transformed in a matter of hours, as the nation witnessed the worst terror attack America had ever experienced. Before the rubble had even been sifted to identify the bodies, Bush’s popularity skyrocketed to 90%. Within a matter of weeks he began the process of lying us into an unnecessary war that had been planned prior to the attacks, using those same attacks as his justification.  That war destabilized the entire Middle East and resulted in hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of pointless deaths.

Meanwhile, here at home, dissent was shouted down as unpatriotic. The Right Wing media outlets labeled protesters as traitors, and nearly all the so-called conventional news sources either abetted or encouraged the Administration’s efforts, which soon instigated torture as an accepted practice, threw out the Geneva conventions, and instituted a web of foreign and domestic surveillance, the parameters of which are still undisclosed. Despite the fact that we were spending a trillion dollars for war, massive tax cuts were instituted benefitting only the wealthy.

Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman, writing for the New York Times, believes the situation we now find ourselves in, with Donald Trump holding the levers of power, is incomparably worse than anything the country faced with Bush or Cheney:

We’re only three weeks into the Trump administration, but it’s already clear that any hopes that Mr. Trump and those around him would be even slightly ennobled by the responsibilities of office were foolish. Every day brings further evidence that this is a man who completely conflates the national interest with his personal self-interest, and who has surrounded himself with people who see it the same way. And each day also brings further evidence of his lack of respect for democratic values.

The one positive thing that can be said about the Bush Administration is that it did not provoke the attacks of 9/11. Despite clear and well-documented early warning signs (which were ignored by Bush), the attacks, however carefully planned, were a shock to everyone, Bush included. And when the Courts began to rein in Bush and Cheney’s abuses of power, while they were surely displeased—even irate–they never stooped so low as to undermine the basic institution of the Judiciary.  As a result, the country slowly returned to a sense of normality because our institutions held up against the onslaughts.

Trump has already gone out of his way to provoke another terror attack on this country. By vilifying and demonizing not just Muslims by attempting to bar their entry into the country, but even equating those those who cross the Mexican border with the worst types of criminals imaginable, he has deliberately  laid the groundwork for some type of retaliation. He has, in fact, invited it. And, as Krugman notes, he seems to want it:

The really striking thing about Mr. Trump’s Twitter tirade, however, was his palpable eagerness to see an attack on America, which would show everyone the folly of constraining his power:

Krugman is referring to this “Tweet”:

Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!

What Trump has done in attacking the very Judges and Courts that have (thus far) placed restraints upon his arbitrary abuse of power is to tie those restraints directly to the potential for further acts of terrorism against the country. He is telling us, in a very cold, cynical way, that he will consider himself blameless if we are attacked, with the unmistakable implication that such an attack would justify abandoning any constraints or limitations on his own powers:

Never mind the utter falsity of the claim that bad people are “pouring in,” or for that matter of the whole premise behind the ban. What we see here is the most powerful man in the world blatantly telegraphing his intention to use national misfortune to grab even more power. And the question becomes, who will stop him?

It is abundantly clear that the malevolent cast of characters who make up his “inner circle” will do nothing to stop Trump from taking full advantage to exploit the public’s fear and grief in the event of a large-scale terror event.  His closest advisors, a white supremacist with a history of anti-Islamic hatred, and a general obsessed with Islamophobia in charge of the military,  appear absolutely thrilled at the prospect of provoking an attack.  They will not help us. In fact they would author the Orders that would attempt to initiate deportations and surveillance, limit speech and assembly, or otherwise revoke or “suspend” Due Process for certain “targeted” groups.

Neither will the Republican-dominated Senate, which, for all its phony pretensions of disapproval, is well on the way to confirming the most abominably incompetent President’s cabinet in the nation’s history.  Neither they nor their ideological compatriots in control of the House of Representatives are going to lift a finger to help us.

The Judiciary does stand in his way, for now. But the nature of the Judiciary is not to be proactive but to react, most often after the damage has already been done. Trump is doing his best to undermine the Judiciary by his now-constant attacks on Judges who stand in the way of his exercise of arbitrary power.  Ultimately they can only do so much.

No, when the terror attack comes—and Trump and Bannon are making damned sure that it does come—it will only be the common people, banding together, that will be able to stop him. If we let fear affect our judgments, an aftermath with rules imposed by people who have nothing but contempt for our institutions will be worse than anything terrorists could do to destroy us.

In the end, I fear, it’s going to rest on the people — on whether enough Americans are willing to take a public stand. We can’t handle another post-9/11-style suspension of doubt about the man in charge; if that happens, America as we know it will soon be gone.

We need to be ready. What is coming will literally be the fight of our lives.


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16-Year-Old Xiuhtezcatl Martinez Is The Environmental Activist The World Need

45893ca2271b0e63696ff72d7fba9fa7-500x300x1He’s suing the US Government over their lack of action on climate change.

On paper, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is a pretty impressive 16-year-old. His achievements are almost too long to list, but let’s give it a go.

By age 12, Xiuhtezcatl had already organised more than 35 protests and rallies. In 2013, President Obama gave him a national community service award. In 2014, he performed a TED Talk which also showcased his hip hop skills. In 2015, he borrowed a suit to address the UN on environmental policy and the future of his generation. He is the youth director of a worldwide organisation that inspires and unites young people in the fight against climate change. It’s called Earth Guardians.

There’s more, but nothing about his demeanour makes you feel inadequate. In fact, seeing his face light up as he tells the story of suing the US Government for their inaction over climate change is inspiring.

“In 2015, myself and 20 other young plaintiffs sued the US government. We’re holding the US Government accountable for violating our constitutional right to life, liberty and property by failing to take action on climate change and for passing laws to protect the very industries who created this crisis in the first place,” Xiuhtezcatl told The Huffington Post Australia.

“We are demanding the government puts climate recovery plans in place to massively reduce and cut our greenhouse gas emissions until we’re at a safe level in the global climate.”

The greatest mass extinction since the time of the dinosaurs is happening. Right now. We’re facing that.

A motion to dismiss the lawsuit was denied last year, and the lawyers now plan to take it to the federal court in the coming months.”I believe we have a chance to win and if we do, even though Donald Trump doesn’t believe in climate change, it will force his administration, it will force his government to make massive leaps towards cutting greenhouse gasses,” Xiuhtezcatl said.

“That could be one of the greatest wins in the climate movement. Ever. So I have a lot of hope in this movement.”

“It’s a very innocent ask. We’re asking that the politicians do their job, to protect our future from climate disaster.”

And what about the facts?

Well, for starters, there’s nothing ‘alternative’ about them.

“The greatest mass extinction since the time of the dinosaurs is happening. Right now. We’re facing that.”

“All the politicians and leaders in the world are largely responsible for letting humanity get to a point where we are no longer living in balance with nature. I think the politicians have a responsibility to see that climate change is not an issue that is separate from fighting for human rights.

I don’t think yelling at people for not agreeing with you is a successful way to get them to be on your side.

“Turning your back on climate change is turning your back on every climate refugee, on every family that has lost their home, their community and their life because of the climate crisis. Floods, typhoons and tornadoes, heatwaves and droughts — those things are real. Those things affect people. Climate change is not just an environmental issue for the left greenies, it’s an issue that affects every human being on the planet.”

For someone who has faced his fair share of climate change deniers, Xiuhtezcatl has an extremely calm and positive presence.

“I don’t think yelling at people for not agreeing with you is a successful way to get them to be on your side.”

“I like to try to find a mid-ground with people who don’t believe the science and the reality of climate change. There are certain instances where my energy is better spent giving hope and inspiration to people who do care than people who aren’t going to turn around.”

So that’s how he spends his time — inspiring young people, just like him, to give a damn about their future.

“When young people see that their voices have power, that their actions can make a difference and the world needs them to be engaged citizens now, that empowers them to be part of something bigger than themselves.

“We have to continue as a society to give power back to the youth because they will be the ones to fight for change and in a lot of instances, more so than I believe our leaders will.”

And when you see our leaders yelling about this…

And this…

And even a bit of this…

You start to think he might be onto something.

Xiuhtezcatl is currently in Australia doing a series of talks. More details on how to catch one of his shows available here.


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Crime Against Persons with Disabilities: The Facts


by Audrey Demmitt –

Crime against people with disabilities, including those with visual loss, is a reality that calls for our attention.

A new report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) about violent crimes against people with disabilities has been published, and there are some disturbing findings. It presents estimates of nonfatal violent crime (rape or sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault) against persons age 12 or older with disabilities. Disabilities are classified by types: hearing, vision, cognitive, ambulatory, self-care, and independent living.

The report details the victimization of persons with and without disabilities living in noninstitutionalized households and provides comparisons by age, sex, race, disability type, and other victim characteristics. It also includes crime characteristics, such as victim-offender relationship, time of a crime, reporting to police, and use of victim services agencies.

Findings are based on the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) from 2009 to 2014, combined with data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Age adjustment was used to standardize the rate of violence against persons without disabilities to show what the rate would be if persons without disabilities had the same age distribution as persons with disabilities.

For the purpose of this article, methodologies will not be discussed. We will just take a look at some unsettling findings and ask ourselves “What does this mean?” and “What does this mean to me?”

Highlights from the Report

Crime Against People with Vision Disabilities

  • Visual impairment is the only disability category within which women are significantly more likely than men to have been victims of violent crime (especially striking because, among people with and without disabilities, women are typically less likely than men to be victimized). Females (31.9 per 1,000) had a higher rate of total violent victimization than males (22.8 per 1,000). In all other disability groups, victimization rates for males and females were similar.
  • Visual impairment is the only disability category within which people are significantly less likely than people without disabilities to report to police when they have been the victim of a violent crime.

Crime Against Persons with All Disabilities

  • The rate of serious violent crime for persons with disabilities (12.7 per 1,000) was more than three times the rate for persons without disabilities (3.9 per 1,000) in 2010 to 2014.
  • The age group with the highest victimization rate was the 16- through 19-years-old group followed by 12- through 15-years-old group with no statistically significant difference between the groups.
  • The age group with the lowest victimization rate was the 65 and older group for persons with and without disabilities.
  • For both males and females in 2010 through 2014, the rate of violent victimization was higher for persons with disabilities than for those without disabilities. In the non-disabled population, the rate is higher for males.
  • Persons of two or more races had the highest rates of violent victimization among persons with disabilities (101.4 per 1,000) and without disabilities (30.4 per 1,000).
  • Those persons with cognitive disabilities had the highest rates of total violent crime (56.6 per 1,000), serious violent crime (24.0 per 1,000), and simple assault (32.6 per 1,000) among the disability types measured.
  • A higher percentage of violence against persons with disabilities (40 percent) was committed by persons the victim knew well or who were casual acquaintances than against persons without disabilities (32 percent).
  • Other relatives (including parents, children, and other relatives) accounted for a higher percentage of total violence against persons with disabilities (11 percent) than persons without disabilities (7 percent).
  • Persons with disabilities (59 percent) experienced a higher percentage of total violence during the daytime than persons without disabilities (53 percent).

Being Aware

I live in a relatively safe community and have never feared for my safety or been threatened physically. I have probably erred on the side of being too comfortable with a false sense of security and neglecting personal safety measures. But as a woman who is visually impaired, I wonder sometimes just how vulnerable I am in different situations.

This report has served as a conversation starter among the VisionAware peer advisors and a wake-up call to me personally. It has brought up other related topics like domestic violence and elder abuse among people with disabilities. And it begs the question, “What can we do to protect ourselves from violence and victimization?” Be sure to read stories and articles on these important issues to help increase awareness of the problems and provide strategies and resources to address them. Watch for upcoming posts on personal safety tips, the benefit of taking self-defense classes, and more.

Consider this report and think about your own safety and what you can do to protect yourself.

Related Articles

Crime Against Persons with Disabilities, 2009-2014

Please Take Our 2017 Survey

Personal Stories

Blog Posts


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Congress Taps Little-Used Law to Repeal Obama Regulations


Their success hinges on a little-used law that allows Congress to “disapprove” any recently passed regulation with a simple majority and the sitting president’s approval.

The 1996 Congressional Review Act (CRA) presents a candy store of opportunities for the Republican-led Senate and House, ranging from environmental regulations to extended requirements for gun purchases for some individuals with mental disabilities.

Under the CRA, Congress can vote to repeal regulations that were passed after June 13, 2016. Also called the “midnight rule,” the CRA has only been used once. In 2001, then-President George W. Bush disapproved an Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulation related to standardizing the use of ergonomics in the workplace.

But by the end of last week, the House and Senate succeeded in voting for the repeal of five of some 50 rules currently on the chopping block, stripping away both civil and environmental protections.

One of the first regulations to be dumped was a rule preventing coal mining waste from being discharged into public waters. The stream protection rule would have also required new mining operations to develop a plan and a fund ahead of time to restore any streams that were polluted during operation.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called the regulation an “attack against coal minors and their families.” The repeal was 54-45, paving the way for a likely approval by President Donald Trump.

On the same day, the House voted to repeal a regulation that extended the screening process for individuals with mental disabilities seeking to buy a gun.

The Social Security gun rule, which was put in place following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, required the Social Security Administration to submit information for any recipient diagnosed with certain conditions who later sought to purchase a firearm.

The House voted to repeal the rule 235-180, and it is now awaiting ratification by the Senate.

Another regulation that came under fire in the House is the controversial “blacklisting”contractor rule, which placed contractors under an additional layer of scrutiny designed to block those who have legal violations on their record from being granted a federal contract until they have made changes to their operations.

The rule didn’t actually blacklist contractors, but it did require applicants to address performance issues before being issued a new contract. The rule was voted down 236-187.

But the real bonus of the week for opponents of Obama’s environmental legacy arrived on Friday with the repeal of the controversial methane waste rule, which required oil and gas companies contracting on federal and tribal lands to reduce methane leaks by capturing the greenhouse gas and reselling it.

Prior to the rule, there were no real restrictions against companies “flaring” or releasing methane as unburned gasses. The repeal punts the issue back to states, many of which have failed to implement stronger climate regulations.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said the repeal was an effort to balance overregulation of the energy market. “There are less costly and more efficient ways to achieve environmental protection without devastating American jobs and energy production,” McCarthy said.

But by not capturing methane gasses, contractors are actually “squandering” lost revenue, the technical consulting firm ICF concluded in a 2015 study on behalf of the Environmental Defense Fund. The report determined that the cost to taxpayers could be as much as $330 million when oil and gas companies don’t take precautions to limit the loss of natural gas at the extraction site.

The House also disapproved a rule that required companies to disclose when they pay foreign governments taxes or fees for extraction rights. The Security and Exchange Commission’s landmark regulation was supposed to increase transparency in the oil, gas and mining sectors, especially in countries where human rights were a concern.

Rex Tillerson, Trump’s pick for U.S. secretary of state, was a chief opponent of the rule — which not only required his former employer, ExxonMobil, to disclose payments to foreign governments, but was also designed to increase scrutiny in countries where slave labor was documented in the mining sector.

And the repeal of Obama-era environmental and civil protections likely aren’t over. Although some Republicans did not condone the use of the CRA to repeal environmental rules, its proponents probably won’t have a problem passing further changes. Trump has vowed to roll back as much as 75 percent of current business regulations.


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Trump, Congressional GOP Back Off From Immediate Obamacare Repeal

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., seen here with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., at a Jan. 18 hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, says he’d like to see the individual insurance market fixed before repealing Obamacare.

Carolyn Kaster/AP

There’s a moment in the Broadway musical Hamilton where George Washington says to an exasperated Alexander Hamilton, “Winning is easy, young man. Governing’s harder.”

When it comes to health care, it seems that President Trump is learning that same lesson. Trump and Republicans in Congress are struggling with how to keep their double-edged campaign promise — to repeal Obamacare without leaving millions of people without health insurance.

During the campaign, Trump promised to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act immediately upon taking office. Last month, in an interview with The Washington Post, he said he had a replacement law “very much formulated down to the final strokes.”

But on Sunday, he dialed back those expectations in an interview with Fox News.

“It’s in the process and maybe it will take ’til sometime into next year, but we are certainly going to be in the process. It’s very complicated,” Trump said.

He repeated his claim that Obamacare has been “a disaster” and said his replacement would be a “wonderful plan” that would take time “statutorily” to put in place. And then he hedged the timing again.

“I would like to say by the end of the year, at least the rudiments,” he said.

Trump’s recent hesitation comes as Republicans in Congress tame their rhetoric surrounding the health care law.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate health committee, says he’d like to see lawmakers make fixes to the current individual market before repealing parts of the law.

“We can repair the individual market, which is a good place to start,” Alexander said on Feb. 1.

He’s also urging his colleagues to leave the other parts of the health care sector — Medicare, Medicaid and the employer market — alone.

Throughout the campaign, and over the six years since the law passed, Republicans in Congress have vowed to completely repeal the Affordable Care Act.

But in the time since the law went into effect, it has helped as many as 20 million people get insurance who didn’t have it before, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Just last week, the open enrollment period for 2017 ended and HHS reported that 9.2 million people bought insurance through the federal government’s insurance marketplace – slightly lower than last year but still a large number. About 3 million more people likely bought coverage on state-run exchanges, based on enrollment in past years.

In addition, about 10 million people qualified for health coverage because of the expansion of Medicaid in most states.

That left Trump and Republicans, the day after the election, facing the choice of fulfilling their clear promise to repeal the ACA and the reality that doing so could leave millions of people without access to health care.

At that time the public seemed to gain a new appreciation of the law once it was actually threatened with repeal. In recent weeks, several polls have shown that more people view it more favorably than they did before the election.

Another reality Republicans have had to face is that, even though they control both houses of Congress and the White House, their ability to repeal the ACA is limited. That’s because Democrats in the Senate can block bills using their filibuster power.

But laws dealing with taxes and the budget are protected from filibuster, so Republicans can roll back many Obamacare provisions because they involve tax credits and federal spending.

That leaves lawmakers having to build a new health care system that works within the general framework of the Affordable Care Act. They hey can get rid of subsidies to help people buy insurance, but the law creating government-run insurance exchanges, for example, will still be on the books.

That’s why Alexander and a handful of other Republicans are beginning to talk about repairing the current system. Currently, not enough young healthy people have signed up for coverage to offset the costs to insure sicker, older people. The result is that premiums have risen and insurance companies that lost money pulled out of many markets.

But not everyone is on board. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said last week in an interview on Fox that repairing the health care system means “You must repeal and replace Obamacare.”


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UPDATE: Congress backs down on plan to sell off public land the size of Connecticut

by Lloyd Alter

UPDATE: Yesterday this post was titled Congress moves to sell off public land the size of Connecticut but it turns out that the voices of the people who actually use public land are loud and powerful. According to Reuters,

Republican U.S. Congressman Jason Chaffetz said on Thursday he plans to withdraw a bill that would have sold off more than 3 million acres of federal land to private interests after it drew a barrage of negative comments from hunters and outdoor enthusiasts….”I’m a proud gun owner, hunter and love our public lands,” the Utah representative said in a comment, beneath a photo he posted of himself outdoors wearing hunting gear and holding a dog. “I hear you and HR 621 dies tomorrow.”

Apparently “Sportsmen and women, hunting groups, and outdoor gear retailers had flooded Chaffetz’s Instagram account with thousands of posts, urging him to “say no to HR 621” and to “#keepitpublic.” The resistance across the board was very loud:

“I don’t think anybody had expected the backlash that has happened as a result of these bills. People are upset out here in the west and it is one of the hottest political issues in western states,” said Brad Brooks, Idaho Deputy Regional Director for the Wilderness Society.

Original post:

There are many who believe that public land is there to serve the public good, whether it be forestry and mining that create jobs, pasturing of animals, or for recreation. But there are apparently many others who think that the government has no business being in the land ownership business, and are trying to get the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to sell it off. According to Caty Enders in Guardian, US representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah has introduced a bill….

…to immediately sell off an area of public land the size of Connecticut. In a press release for House Bill 621, Chaffetz, a Tea Party Republican, claimed that the 3.3m acres of national land, maintained by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), served “no purpose for taxpayers”.

Pruitt© Pat Bagley
(This writer must admit that almost everything I know about Utah I learned from following the editorial cartoons of Pat Bagley at the Salt Lake Tribune, who has been absolutely devastating in his coverage of the attacks on the environment in Utah by Chaffetz and others, and whose cartoons are used here with permission.)

Hunters, fisher people and conservationists are appalled.

“Last I checked, hunters and fishermen were taxpayers,” said [hunter Jason] Amaro, who lives in a New Mexico county where 70,000 acres of federal lands are singled out. In total, his state, which sees $650m in economic activity from hunting and fishing, stands to lose 800,000 acres of BLM land, or more than the state of Rhode Island.

Even Republicans in Chaffetz’s own state are objecting to this, as one noted earlier in the Salt Lake Tribune:

“Selling off our public lands to reduce the deficit would be like selling the house to pay the light bill,” said Philip Carlson, Utah coordinator for the group Republicans for Environmental Protection. “America’s public lands are a lasting endowment that supports local economies. They’re magnets that attract sportsmen, backcountry trail riders, hikers and campers year after year. It makes no sense to sell off this endowment, especially in a down economy.”

bears ears© Pat Bagley

An earlier article in the Guardian notes that this has long been Republican policy.

Giving away national land has been part of the Republican Party platform since the mid-80s, after Reagan declared himself a Sagebrush Rebel, but it’s regained steam in the past few years as 20 states have introduced some form of legislation suggesting that federal property be given to local governments.

The attitude apparently is that “Washington bureaucrats don’t listen to people.Local governments do.” Fortunately there is still a lot of opposition from both parties and might not even be legal.

Chaffetz’s proposal might in fact be in violation of the common-law Public Trust Doctrine, which requires that the federal government keep and manage national resources for all Americans. Courts have upheld the policy that sale or use must be in Americans’ interest.

Of course these days, anything can happen. More in the Guardian


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First Facebook, Now Lyft: Peter Thiel Undercuts Tech Companies’ CSR Messages


It looks like the Donald Trump chickens are finally coming home to roost for Silicon Valley billionaire investor Peter Thiel.

The PayPal co-founder and Facebook board member is unique among the tech set for publicly supporting the Republican president during the campaign season, and that support continued. Barely two weeks into the new president’s term, though, that relationship is already undercutting the messages of inclusion and tolerance that Thiel’s high-profile affiliates are struggling to articulate.

TriplePundit has been following the Trump-Thiel relationship since last May, when Thiel emerged as an official delegate for Trump on the Republican slate. In addition to their lofty status in the business community, both men appear to share a disdain for journalism and an affinity for the white nationalist movement — up to and including Trump’s recently enacted “Muslim ban.”

When is a ban not a ban?

This week TriplePundit contributor Reed Bundy made a compelling case that the corporate social responsibility trend has received a shot of adrenaline as a result of Trump’s transparently anti-Muslim ban on entry to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries:

“Despite the negative consequences of Trump’s executive order, we should celebrate the fact that so many giants in the tech industry are suddenly staunch advocates for refugees and our nation’s immigrant population,” Bundy wrote on 3p.

“Not long ago, most CEOs opted to stay out of public political debate, usually so as not to upset or ostracize customers who may hold opposing views. Today, as corporate America grapples with the very real possibility of losing some of its most talented employees, the line between corporate social responsibility and political activism is suddenly blurred.”

Companies that normally withhold public comment on politically-charged issues have suddenly become change agents, with Starbucks, Google and Lyft among the leaders.

In stark contrast to this burst of activity, earlier this week Peter Thiel issued the following brief statement about the Muslim ban through a spokesperson (as cited by Forbes):

“Peter doesn’t support a religious test, and the administration has not imposed one,” said Jeremiah Hall, a spokesman for Thiel.

That statement has been widely reported in traditional media as well as in tech-oriented news organizations.

Kara Swisher of Recode issued this particularly scathing observation:

“… Every time you open your mouth, you look more and more like you got played by Steve Bannon and his army of hobgoblins to the detriment of tech leaders whom you somehow got to bow and scrape to the new administration.”

Swisher hammered home the point that Thiel has effectively linked Silicon Valley’s finest to Trump and his anti-immigrant policies:

“It was bad enough that you pulled off that frightful kumbaya by trooping the most powerful people in Silicon Valley into Trump Tower for what amounted to a photo op for Trump…

“Now worse, you have dragged your pals, like tech icon Elon Musk and Uber’s Travis Kalanick, onto the president’s advisory council, with the promise that engagement with Trump will give them the chance to change his mind.”

Trouble for Facebook, Lyft and . . .

Underscoring both Bundy’s and Swisher’s points, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg was forced to defend Thiel’s position on the company’s board of directors last October, after employees raised alarms over his support of then-candidate Trump.

Even after the Muslim ban, Zuckerberg continued to mince words. In a widely circulated Facebook post, he diluted his concerns over the new policy by expressing optimism that Trump would do the right thing.

Mainstream media is beginning to draw attention to that relationship, and more.

In an article published on Tuesday, CNN’s Seth Fiegerman drew attention to Thiel’s investment in Lyft. The ride-sharing company has had a “banner week” in terms its response to the Muslim ban, including a $1 million pledge to the American Civil Liberties Union — which was well-received by fans. However, Fiegerman shines the spotlight on Peter Thiel:

“Less noted, however, is the fact that Peter Thiel is one of Lyft’s investors,” Fiegerman wrote. “Thiel, the billionaire investor and PayPal (PYPL, Tech30) cofounder, is Trump’s top tech advocate and an adviser on his transition team. He also recently appeared to defend the travel ban, despite the many concerns about it in Silicon Valley.”

Do read the full article for more detail. Fiegerman cites a laundry list of other companies that have pushed back against the Muslim ban, but share financial or other business ties with Thiel.

In addition to Facebook, that includes Airbnb, Stripe, Artsy, Pando and the startup incubator Y Combinator, where Thiel is a partner.

Y Combinator is particularly noteworthy because venture capitalist Ellen Pao was among the few tech-sector A-listers to speak out publicly — and with great force — against Peter Thiel during the campaign season. Thiel’s $1.25 million donation to the Trump campaign in the run-up to Election Day prompted her to cut ties between her organization, Project Include, and Y Combinator (emphasis in the original):

“… We are completely outraged to read about Thiel donating $1.25 million to Trump, ‘apparently unfazed by the storm around the candidate in the last week following the broadcasting of lewd conversations.’

“While all of us believe in the ideas of free speech and open platforms, we draw a line here. We agree that people shouldn’t be fired for their political views, but this isn’t a disagreement on tax policy, this is advocating hatred and violence.

Ironically, Y Combinator — the force behind Uber and Dropbox, among others — has just announced that it will provide financial support to the ACLU in its legal battle against the Trump administration on behalf of immigrants.

In a brief blog post on Tuesday, Y Combinator referred to ACLU’s successful effort to block enforcement of the Muslim ban (at least partially) last weekend and issued a call for additional support:

“… The ACLU has always been important, but has a particularly important role right now,” wrote Y Combinator. “We are honored to be able to help, and we will send some of our team to New York for the rest of the batch to assist.

“The ACLU will have full access to the Y Combinator network and community, and they will present at Demo Day in March.

“We are hopeful that the YC community will join us in supporting this important work. In particular, if you’re an engineer and want to spend some time helping them out, let us know. We’ll keep you updated on opportunities.”

So, that could get interesting.

The ACLU-Y Combinator hookup is all the more  interesting because another Peter Thiel connection — the data mining company Palantir — is beginning to raise flags about his potential role in the mass identification and deportation of immigrants in the U.S.

Adding to the irony, Thiel himself has immigrant status in two different countries.

He was born in Germany and brought to the U.S. at a very young age, and news has just emerged that he won special permission for citizenship in New Zealand back in 2011, though he didn’t come close to meeting the standard five-year residency requirement.

Stay tuned for more.

Image credit: By Kenneth Yeung at PandoMonthly event via, creative commons license.


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