Archive | February, 2017

Donald Trump’s First Address to Congress

By Editors

President Trump will address a joint session of Congress for the first time on Tuesday. Like those of all new presidents, Trump’s first address, which is scheduled to begin shortly after 9 p.m. ET in the House chamber, is not considered a formal State of the Union.

We’ll bring you the latest developments from the nation’s capital here. For more of our coverage, read:

Read On »

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Via:: The Atlantic

      

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The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Not the State of the Union

By Elaine Godfrey

Today in 5 Lines

President Trump will deliver his first address to a joint session of Congress. In his speech, which is scheduled to begin shortly after 9 p.m., Trump is expected to discuss Obamacare repeal, his budget demands, and, potentially, immigration-reform legislation. In an interview on Fox and Friends, Trump said he would give himself a good grade for what his administration has achieved so far, but a “C or a C+” for messaging. The FBI said it is investigating last week’s shooting of two Indian men in a Kansas bar as a hate crime. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said a manhunt is underway after two police officers were shot responding to a burglary.


Today on The Atlantic

  • Trump’s First Month: “Trump promised to steamroll the Washington status quo, disrupting both Republicans and Democrats,” writes Molly Ball. But so far, it appears Congress might be taming Trump.

  • Left Behind: A leaked draft of a Republican Obamacare replacement indicates that “millions of people in rural areas where it’s already hardest to find doctors might no longer be able to afford health insurance in a few years.” Here’s how. (Vann R. Newkirk II)

  • The Right to Peaceful Assembly?: In the wake of large-scale protests around the country, Republican lawmakers have proposed legislation that targets certain protest tactics or seeks to increase penalties for illegal protests. Will these measures become law? (Matt Ford)

Follow stories throughout the day with our ) and Candice Norwood (@cjnorwoodwrites)

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Via:: <a href=http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/AtlanticPoliticsChannel/~3/9KaGZc8uI_s/ class="colorbox" title="The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Not the State of the Union” rel=nofollow>The Atlantic

      

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Will Conservative Budget Hawks Cave To Trump?

By McKay Coppins

When President Trump stands to deliver his first address to Congress Tuesday night, he will lay out a fiscal agenda that upends key planks of conservative orthodoxy and openly defies the die-hard budget hawks in his own party.

But don’t expect to hear a peep of opposition from Republicans.

The proposed budget Trump is expected to outline in his speech would considerably increase defense spending, slash funding for other domestic programs, and—most significantly—leave entitlement programs entirely untouched. The president’s aversion to cutting Social Security and Medicare is nothing new, of  course—he was campaigning against the idea long before he ever formally launched a campaign—but it does represent one of the most yawning ideological divides within the Republican Party today.

For years, conservative budget hawks, led by House Speaker Paul Ryan, have argued fiercely that reducing the federal budget deficit without raising taxes would require a substantial restructuring of the government’s two most costly entitlement programs. Refusing to address the problem head on, they have often said, represented a reckless abdication of responsibility on the part of elected officials.

Given the clear battle lines and high stakes, Trump’s speech tonight has all the makings of a potential flashpoint in the GOP civil war—but so far, at least, there are few signs of conservative resistance.

Instead, party leaders on Capitol Hill gathered Tuesday morning for a rah-rah press conference, where they signaled nothing but unabashed support for Trump’s agenda. Ryan kicked things off with some brief, upbeat remarks celebrating this “once-in-a-generation moment” in which Republicans were finally positioned to “tackle big problems” head on—ticking off several targets, including taxes, border security, federal regulations, and health care.

When a reporter asked Ryan if he was “giving up the dream” of so-called entitlement reform, he responded, “I never give up a dream. I’m a Green Bay Packer fan!” Pressed …read more

Via:: The Atlantic

      

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A Note About Rumana Ahmed

By Yoni Appelbaum

On Monday, the Weekly Standard published an article by Lee Smith titled “Fake News, Exposed.” It alleged that Rumana Ahmed, a former National Security Council staffer and the author of an Atlantic essay about why she left the Trump administration, had misled readers about the nature of her position.

“Ahmed was a political appointee in the Obama White House. According to Trump White House officials, it was very late in her tenure in the Obama administration when she applied for a civil service position with administrative duties,” Smith wrote. “‘Burrowing,’ as it’s commonly called, is the process through which political appointees move into career government status. She was granted her new status at the end of January, just as the Trump team was moving into the White House.”

In fact, Ahmed held a term appointment that was not set to expire until the summer of 2018. Ahmed’s employment documents, which were reviewed by The Atlantic, show that her position with the NSC, which began in June 2014, was a Schedule A excepted service term appointment. Her term was renewed for another two years in August 2016.

“A Schedule A term appointment to the NSC would not ordinarily be described as a political appointment and it is a standard hiring authority for staffing the NSC,” explained Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service. “You’re not serving at the pleasure of the president, you’re serving a two-year term.”

The 2016 Plum Book, an exhaustive list of political positions in the federal government, lists only the executive director as a political appointee among the NSC staff—along with the national security adviser and his deputies. A broader definition might encompass most other senior staff on the NSC, who are hired into the excepted service on …read more

Via:: The Atlantic

      

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A Murder in Trump’s America

By Anand Giridharadas

Last Wednesday evening, a couple of regulars were drinking al fresco at Austins Bar and Grill, in Olathe, on the southwestern, Kansan outskirts of Kansas City. Some of the wait staff were said to know Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani as “the Jameson guys.” By the end of the night, one was dead, and the other wounded. I wrote a book about a similar crime that took place a decade and a half ago, in Texas. And I learned along the way that understanding a tragedy like the one in Kansas requires looking at the broader context of hate and fear in which it took place, and at their enablers.

Kuchibhotla and Madasani were Indian immigrants who worked at Garmin, the company behind the GPS technology that has helped to bind the world; it was founded in Kansas by a white American and a Taiwanese immigrant and is now based in Switzerland. Olathe, today a suburb popular with Indians, was incorporated in 1857 by a Virginia transplant who tended to the local Shawnee Indians—the other kind of “Indians”—as their doctor, and who was also a militantly pro-slavery man who served the Confederacy as a surgeon in the Civil War—yet not before deferring to the Shawnees and naming the town after their term for “beautiful.”

America, too, is beautiful in these layers and complexities and comings and goings; and some people don’t like that. On that Wednesday night, the Jameson guys began to be harassed by one of those self-appointed guardians of a simpler, purer country that never was. A white man named Adam W. Purinton wanted to know where they came from. Witnesses said the former Navy man was shouting racial slurs at the Jameson guys. Although reports suggested that Purinton …read more

Via:: The Atlantic

      

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Do Scientists Lose Credibility When They Become Political?

By Ed Yong

In 1933, after speaking out against the rise of fascism in Germany, Albert Einstein was chastised by the Prussian Academy of Sciences, from which he had pre-emptively resigned. His fellow physicist Max von Laue spoke out in his defense, but also cautioned that academics should separate themselves from politics. “Here, they are making nearly all German academics responsible when you do something political,” he wrote to his friend. Einstein responded:

“I do not share your view that the scientist should observe silence in political matters, i.e. human affairs in the broadest sense. The situation in Germany shows whither this restraint will lead: to the surrender of leadership, without any resistance, to those who are blind or irresponsible.”

Eighty-three years later, this debate about whether scientists should engage with politics is still raging fiercely. In the wake of Donald Trump’s election, several scientists are planning to run for office, a political action committee called 314 Action has formed to support them, and thousands of scientists and science enthusiasts are planning to march in Washington, D.C on April 22. These new movements bring old critiques: that scientists who engage in political advocacy are jeopardizing their credibility as objective, impartial, rational chroniclers of evidence. Worse, as Von Laue suggested of Einstein, these outspoken few risk the credibility of the entire scientific enterprise.

These are perennial objections—often repeated, but seldom tested. “There’s been plenty of speculation and commentary, but very little systematic research looking at how average Americans respond to advocacy by scientists,” says John Kotcher from George Mason University. In 2009, a Pew Research Center survey found that 76 percent of Americans “say that it is appropriate for scientists to become actively involved in political debates.” But that’s an “abstract idea,” says Kotcher. “We wanted to test how people respond …read more

Via:: The Atlantic

      

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Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy Pushes Natural Gas as Climate Solution at Contentious Town Hall Meetings

Louisiana Sen. Cassidy holds a town hall meeting with constituents in Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans. (Photo: Julie Dermansky)

Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy holds a town hall meeting with constituents in Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans. (Photo: Julie Dermansky)

Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy’s constituents packed emotionally charged town hall meetings across the state during Congress’ February break, a trend seen in other meetings with lawmakers around the country.

At Sen. Cassidy’s first town hall in Denham Springs, which was ground zero for the 1,000 year flood that devastated parts of southern Louisiana last year, the senator focused on flood recovery efforts.

While Sen. Cassidy mentioned that lowering greenhouse gas emissions would “theoretically” be good for sea level rise, he failed to connect climate change to the region’s extreme floods. Instead, he praised President Donald Trump’s goals of bringing back manufacturing jobs to the United States, which could then be powered by the nation’s natural gas reserves.

Aerial view of 2016 flooding in Livingston Parish, the Louisiana parish in which Sen. Cassidy's first of five town halls was held during the February 2017 Congressional recess. (Photo: Julie Dermansky)Aerial view of 2016 flooding in Livingston Parish, the Louisiana parish in which Senator Cassidy’s first of five town halls was held during the February 2017 congressional recess. (Photo: Julie Dermansky)

“If President Trump is successful in having industry move back to the United States, using our natural gas, renewables, and nuclear instead of China’s coal, that will dramatically decrease global greenhouse gas emissions,” Cassidy said.

Cassidy’s statements mirror former President Obama’s claim that natural gas is a “bridge fuel” to cleaner energy sources, but evidence shows that natural gas production has a significant impact on the environment and is not a clean energy source.

Instead, leaking methane …read more

Via:: Truthout

      

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Losing a War One Bad Metaphor at a Time: Thrashing About in the Afghan “Petri Dish”

America’s war in Afghanistan is now in its 16th year, the longest foreign war in our history. The phrase “no end in sight” barely covers the situation. Prospects of victory — if victory is defined as eliminating that country as a haven for Islamist terrorists while creating a representative government in Kabul — are arguably more tenuous today than at any point since the US military invaded in 2001 and routed the Taliban. Such “progress” has, over the years, invariably proven “fragile” and “reversible,” to use the weasel words of General David Petraeus who oversaw the Afghan “surge” of 2010-2011 under President Obama. To cite just one recent data point: the Taliban now controls 15% more territory than it did in 2015.

That statistic came up in recent Senate testimony by the US commanding general in Afghanistan, John “Mick” Nicholson Jr., who is (to give no-end-in-sight further context) the 12th US commander since the war began. Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, he called for several thousand more US troops to break what he optimistically described as a “stalemate.” Those troops would, he added, serve mainly as advisers and trainers to Afghan forces, facilitating what he labeled “hold-fight-disrupt” operations.

As to how long they would be needed, the general was vague indeed. He spoke of the necessity of sustaining “an enduring counter-terrorism (CT) platform” in Afghanistan to bottle up terrorist forces, so they wouldn’t, as he put it, hit us in the “homeland.” Indeed, the US military considers what it has begun to speak of as a “generational” war in that country “successful” because no major attacks on the United States have had their roots in Afghanistan since September 11, 2001. And that certainly qualifies …read more

Via:: Truthout

      

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On the Rights of Nature

Reading headlines on the environment can be terrifying.

In November, a New York Times headline stated, “Great Barrier Reef Hit by Worst Coral Die-Off on Record, Scientists Say.” In December, USA Today reported “Giraffes face ‘silent extinction’ as population shrinks nearly 40%.” And in January, the Washington Post reported that “US scientists officially declare 2016 the hottest year on record. That makes three in a row.”

Environmental degradation is advancing around the world. The United Nations has warned that we are heading toward “major planetary catastrophe.” With this there is a growing recognition of the need for fundamental change in how we, humankind, live on planet.

More than forty years after the passage of the major federal environmental laws in the United States, including the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act — laws which are now mirrored around the world — the earth’s species, waterways, oceans, coral reefs, forests, and other ecosystems are rapidly declining.

These environmental laws, rather than protecting the rights of the environment to exist and thrive, instead regulate its use and exploitation. Thus, environmental laws largely legalize harm — including fracking, mountaintop removal mining, and pipelines — rather than protect against it.

These laws are premised on nature being considered property under the law, and therefore, as right-less. Much like indigenous peoples, slaves, and women have been considered right-less under the law — unable to defend their own basic rights to life and well-being — so today do environmental laws treat nature.

A movement is building to advance a different paradigm, one which is recognizing the inherent rights of nature.

Rights of nature laws have now been passed in more than three dozen communities in the United States, as well as codified in Ecuador’s Constitution. These laws recognize the inalienable rights of nature — or Pacha Mama as is …read more

Via:: Truthout

      

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How a GOP Health-Care Plan Could Leave Rural Areas Devoid of Coverage

By Vann R. Newkirk II

The devil’s always in the details, but if the details of a new 100-page leaked draft of a House Republican plan to repeal Obamacare are too dense to parse, here’s a brief snapshot: Millions of people in rural areas where it’s already hardest to find doctors might no longer be able to afford health insurance in a few years.

The basics of that plan, which was unveiled by House Speaker Paul Ryan two weeks ago, and the rough shape of which has the support of new health secretary Tom Price and the Trump administration, are known. The plan removes the individual and employer mandates to purchase and provide insurance, respectively, and it would also repeal most of the taxes that fund Obamacare. It would roll back funding for the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion and dramatically restructure the Medicaid program’s funding. Further, the plan would replace the Affordable Care Act’s cost-sharing subsidies and premium tax credits with an age-rated tax credit, all while keeping Obamacare’s popular pre-existing conditions ban.

With the leaked draft legislation released by Politico last week, there are more details as to exactly how House Republicans and the Trump administration plan to repeal Obamacare and usher in a replacement. The draft specifies that Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion for low-income able-bodied adults won’t be completely eliminated, but the eligibility and funding will be rolled back after 2020. The draft also contains a provision changing federal funding for Medicaid in 2020 onward from an open-ended obligation to a system where the per-person spending every year is capped based on spending levels in 2019 and increased annually to correspond with medical inflation.

Although the draft plan repeals the tax-based individual mandate, it re-establishes a kind of mandate through its incentive to maintain continuous health-insurance coverage. For people not covered by employers or …read more

Via:: The Atlantic

      

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