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Trump's Shocking Recklessness

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During last year’s presidential campaign, I conducted a running feature called the “Trump Time Capsule.” Its purpose was to chronicle the things Donald Trump said or did that were entirely outside the range of previous presidents or major-party nominees. This, in turn, was meant to lay down a record of what was known about this man, as the electorate decided whether to elevate him to presidential power.

By the time the campaign ended, the series had reached installment #152. Who Donald Trump was, and is, was absolutely clear by election day: ignorant, biased, narcissistic, dishonest. As Ta-Nehisi Coates argues in our current issue, everyone who voted for him did so with ample evidence about the kind of person they considered the “better” choice, or even as a minimally acceptable choice for president. Almost nothing Trump has done since taking office should come as a surprise.

But numerous things Trump has done are objectively shocking, in the sense of further violating the norms of the office and the historic standards the previous 44 incumbents have observed. (Among the things the Trump era has taught us: the difference in nuance between shock and surprise. Donald Trump in office has delivered a nonstop series of shocks, no one of which can really be considered a surprise.)

The past 36 hours have brought two dramatic and destructive illustrations, in which Trump has recklessly done great damage in areas where even the most flawed of his predecessors felt some constraint. They are his unmistakably race-baiting attacks on athletes as widely popular as Steph Curry and LeBron James, and as controversial as Colin Kaepernick, who have in common the fact of being black; and his unmistakably war-mongering latest set of tweeted insult-threats against North Korea and its leader.

* * *

Race Baiting

Since everyone from the sports pages to the political pages is pointing out what’s wrong with Trump’s “get that son of a bitch off the field!” comments in Alabama, obviously aimed at Kaepernick, and his follow-up Twitter war with Steph Curry, let me focus on what is unusual about it.

Other presidents have faced exactly this challenge: that of successful African American athletes using the leverage of their sporting prominence to make political points. In some cases, the athletes have been much more directly critical of a sitting president than Colin Kaepernick has been of Donald Trump. (Remember that Kaepernick began his kneeling-protests back in the summer of 2016, when he was calling attention to police violence against African Americans and when Donald Trump was still an implausible long-shot to become president.) But no previous president responded in the ugly and divisive way Trump has chosen.

Conveniently, the most prominent modern examples include presidents not otherwise thought to be models of restraint or of bringing the country together: Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. Consider the parallels between temptations facing them, and what Trump has done:

  • In 1966, Muhammad Ali—gold-medal winner for the United States in boxing at the 1960 Olympics, 24-year-old reigning heavyweight title holder, reportedly the most famous American in the world—formally refused induction for the draft, because of his opposition to the Vietnam War. A year later Ali was convicted of draft evasion and sentenced to five years in prison. By 1971 the Supreme Court had overturned his conviction, though Ali had irretrievably lost more than three years of his fighting prime. Twenty-five years later, by the time of the 1996 Olympics, Ali was revered enough to be the lighter of the Olympic torch for the Atlanta games. Ten years after that, in 2006, none other than George W. Bush presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor. (Update: I originally said that Ali had been out of action for five years. It was actually three and a half, from March 1967 to October 1970. Thanks to James Rosen for the correction.)

    But when Ali took his stand, he did so in direct opposition to and criticism of the president who hoped that the “Great Society,” and not the nascent war in Vietnam, would be his legacy: Lyndon Johnson. Ali memorably said, in explaining his draft refusal, “I ain't got nothing against no Viet Cong … no Viet Cong never called me nigger.”

    And what did Lyndon Johnson say about this? In public, nothing. “Nothing,” that is, that I was aware of as a teenager at the time or in research since then. It would have been unworthy of a president to answer criticism in this way. Even for the notoriously thin-skinned LBJ.
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  • In 1968, American track stars Tommie Smith and John Carlos won the gold and bronze medals (respectively) in the 200-meter race at the Olympics in Mexico City. When the awards ceremony came, they performed the original version of what now would be considered a Kaepernick protest. As “The Star-Spangled Banner” played they bowed their heads; they raised their black-gloved fists in what was then known as a “Black Power” protest salute; and they displayed on their USA team jackets a prominent badge from an anti-racist organization. The silver medalist, Peter Norman of Australia, did not raise his fist but displayed the badge and later made clear his support for the protest.

    This was on an international stage, rather than aimed at the mainly-U.S. audience of Kaepernick’s NFL protests; it was much more assertive than simply “taking a knee”; and it came during a year that is surpassed only by those of the Civil War in its trauma and turmoil for the United States. This was during the bloodiest fighting of the entire Vietnam war; it was six months after the assassination of Martin Luther King and four months after the assassination of Robert Kennedy; it was after a summer in which dozens of American cities had widespread riots; and it was three weeks before Richard Nixon’s election as president.

    Within the Olympic “family,” the protest made huge waves. The very conservative head of the International Olympic Committee, Avery Brundage, was outraged and ordered Smith and Carlos expelled from the Olympics. Much of white America piled on to criticize the two athletes. “If I win, I am American, not a black American,” Smith said later. “But if I did something bad, then they would say I am a Negro. We are black and we are proud of being black. Black America will understand what we did tonight.” Nearly 50 years later, their protest is memorialized and honored in the African American History Museum on the National Mall. {Update: I had always heard and thought that Brundage also stripped Smith and Carlos of their medals. There are conflicting online accounts, and I’ve removed that detail.}

    The serving president, Lyndon Johnson, was a direct object of Smith’s and Carlos’s criticism. The soon-to-be president, Richard Nixon, was running on a law-and-order campaign in which he could easily have used the protest as evidence of why “real” Americans had to put the country’s house back in order.

    What did Johnson say about Smith and Carlos? In public, nothing (as best I remember from that time, and have been able to find since then). What did Nixon say on the stump in those fervid last days of the campaign? Nothing (as best I have found).

  • In 1969, the All-Star outfielder Curt Flood, who was black and an outspoken proponent of the era’s civil-right causes, was traded from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Philadelphia Phillies. Flood did not want to go—and he refused the deal. As Alan Barra explained in an Atlantic account, even though Flood lost his case in the Supreme Court (and suffered irreparable damage in his baseball career), he eventually forced a change in the owner-player power balance not only in baseball but in much of professional sports.

    Significantly, Flood cast his resistance in racial-justice terms. “I do not regard myself as a piece of property to be bought or sold,” he said in a letter to the baseball commissioner, arguing why he considered baseball’s “reserve clause” unjust. The owners were white; the players affected were disproportionately black—and Flood, like Ali, Smith, and Carlos before him, directed attention to these racial dynamics.

    Richard Nixon was president at the time. He was besieged by critics and protests, over his Vietnam policies and the racial implications of his “law and order” emphasis. Nixon also fancied himself an avid sports fan.

    What did he say about Curt Flood? As best I knew then and have found since, what he said in public was, nothing.

    Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon are usually taken as cautionary examples of mis-using the powers of the presidency, rather than of appropriate restraint. The new Ken Burns/Lynn Novick PBS documentary series on Vietnam documents in shocking detail the way each of them lied in public, to further enmire the United States into combat in Vietnam.

    But even the two of them understood something Donald Trump didn’t. A president doesn’t go out of his way to inflame America’s longest-standing injustice and wound, the legacy of its centuries of slavery. That is what Trump has recklessly done.

* * *

2. War mongering. What Trump tweeted last night about North Korea is shocking, even for him:

Every American president since Harry Truman has had at his command the power to kill countless millions of people in a nuclear exchange. Every one of those presidents except Donald Trump has borne this knowledge as a matter of the utmost gravity. Living with this responsibility is one reason presidents look 20 years older when they leave office than when they arrived.

For a man who could decide to use nuclear weapons to speak about them in a cavalier and bullying tone is obscene. For professional wrestling, fine; for matters of worldwide life and death, no.

To do so in threatening a dimly-understood foreign regime whose legitimacy is based on facing down bigger foreign enemies—this is reckless on a scale with no precedent I can think of in modern presidential posturing. (John F. Kennedy made a bad mistake in approving the Bay of Pigs invasion, but he soon rued that as the naivete of a new president. Lyndon Johnson made a disastrous mistake in step-by-step deepening America’s commitment to Vietnam, but he did not boast about it, Trump-style. George W. Bush made a catastrophic mistake in deciding to invade Iraq—but it was recklessness of a different nature than courting a nuclear showdown via Twitter.) If you’re in doubt about the folly of Trump’s dares to Kim Jong Un, please read Mark Bowden’s comprehensive story in The Atlantic, or Evan Osnos’s account of a recent visit to North Korea in The New Yorker.

Many of Trump’s tweets have been outrageous and insulting. This one crosses the threshold into being actually dangerous.

* * *

During the campaign, I argued that the greatest responsibility for Trump’s rise lay not with the man himself—he is who he is, he can’t help it—but with those Republicans who know what he is, and continue to look the other way. Their responsibility for the carnage of this era increases by the day, and has grown by quite a lot this weekend.

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skittone
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Gatorade can no longer make disparaging comments about water, fined $300,000

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The State of California fined Gatorade for making a video game for kids that says, "keep your performance level high and avoid water." In the game, called Bolt!, players give Gatorade to Olympic runner Usain Bolt to increase his fuel level. If you give Bolt water, the fuel level goes down. Now they have to pay $300,000 as part of a settlement with the state.

From Oregon Live:

"Making misleading statements is a violation of California law. But making misleading statements aimed at our children is beyond unlawful, it's morally wrong and a betrayal of trust," [California Attorney General Xavier Becerra] said in a statement.

Gatorade agreed to the settlement but has not admitted wrongdoing.

"The mobile game, Bolt!, was designed to highlight the unique role and benefits of sports drinks in supporting athletic performance. We recognize the role water plays in overall health and wellness, and offer our consumers great options," spokeswoman Katie Vidaillet said in an email.

In addition to agreeing not to disparage water, Gatorade agreed not to make Bolt! or any other games that give the impression that water will hinder athletic performance or that athletes only consumer Gatorade and do not drink water. Gatorade also agreed to use "reasonable efforts" to abide by parent company PepsiCo's policy on responsible advertising to children and to disclose its contracts with endorsers.

From a 2014 report published by University of California Berkeley's Center for Weight and Health:

The Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend sports drinks as a hydration source for children and adolescents and finds that water is the best source of hydration for ordinary children engaging in routine physical activity (Schneider, 2011). The only instance when sports drinks may be indicated is for child athletes that engage in prolonged, continuous vigorous activity for more than one hour in hot weather conditions (Schneider; Meadows‐Oliver; Unnithan). The Academy of Pediatrics advises against the use of sports drinks among children due to their contribution of excess carbohydrate calories in the diet that can increase risk of becoming overweight or obese (Schneider). The Institute of Medicine recommends against providing sports drinks in schools for regular consumption and even advises against providing sports drinks to student athletes unless they are participating in prolonged, vigorous sports activities (IOM Report on Standards for School Foods, 2007).

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skittone
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They got off cheap.
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First Female Marine Completes Grueling Infantry Officer Course

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Marines participate in an exercise during the Infantry Officer Course in August at Quantico, Va. The first female Marine to complete the course graduated on Monday.

The 13-week program is considered one of the toughest in the U.S. military, and one-third of the class dropped out before graduation. The lieutenant has asked to keep her identity private.

(Image credit: Master Gunnery Sgt. Chad McMeen/Office of Marine Corps Communication)

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skittone
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3 GOP Senators Oppose Graham-Cassidy, Effectively Blocking Health Care Bill

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Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Susan Collins, R-Maine (seen in 2013), along with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., have announced firm opposition to the latest GOP health care bill.

Maine Sen. Susan Collins says she'll vote no on the latest push to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. That once again leaves the GOP short of the votes it needs to pass a health care bill.

(Image credit: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

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skittone
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Disqus comments adding third-party ad-tracking

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skittone
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Well, that's not good. Maybe it'll load EVEN SLOWER now.
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fxer
19 hours ago
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More reasons to kill of Disqus on your site
Bend, Oregon

The Trump administration just made its travel ban permanent

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President Donald Trump issued an executive order over the weekend that restricts travel to the US from more countries than any of the travel bans that have come before it, effectively banning almost all travel from eight countries — six of which have majority Muslim populations — indefinitely.

Come October 18, nationals of Chad, Iran, Libya, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, Somalia, and North Korea will be more or less barred entry to the United States. Each nation under this ban is subject to its own travel restrictions, but the order overwhelmingly bars tourists, families of American residents, and even those seeking medical visas from entering the United States. Those who already have permanent residency or already hold visas are exempted from the ban — but cannot renew their visas after they expire. And now the Supreme Court has canceled oral arguments against the travel ban, until both sides file new briefs on the impact this permanent policy would have.

Refugee applicants are also not included in the scope of this executive order, but have already been limited by the Trump administration. According to the New York Times, the administration is already preparing new rules for refugee asylum applicants, which it is expected to release in the coming days. The 120-day refugee ban is also coming to an end.

With Trump’s revised March travel ban now expired, this new order will stay in place until the named countries work to meet certain baseline security requirements set by the Department of Homeland Security — metrics that could be unattainable for countries without the proper technological advancements.

It appears as though the Trump administration may have learned from past travel ban unveilings with the rollout of this order, and there will likely be less chaos at airports — where the administration’s first attempts at a travel ban fell into mayhem in February. But the impact of this order is more permanent than past iterations, and a clear reassertion of Trump’s intent to keep large swaths of the world out of the United States.

“There is no light at the end of the tunnel anymore,” Mirriam Seddiq, an immigration lawyer and founder of the American Muslim Women Political Action Committee, said. “Before the argument was, ‘This is only 90 days; why are you freaking out?’”

What we know about this order

“Following an extensive review by the Department of Homeland Security, we are taking action today to protect the safety and security of the American people by establishing a minimum security baseline for entry into the United States,” Trump said in a statement Sunday.

Trump’s order is the policy result of a July report from DHS, the State Department, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who said they reviewed the travel security protocols of nearly 200 countries. They concluded that 47 countries did not adequately meet a baseline standard for identity management, like electronic passport data, information sharing, or including criminal history records for travelers, or had fostered a “significant terrorist presence within their territory.”

Trump’s administration is reported to have allowed the countries to meet the above requirements over a 50-day period, resulting in the final list of banned countries — the restrictions for which vary.

Whom it bans

  • For example, nationals of Chad, Yemen, and Libya, including those with business and tourist visas, are banned outright.
  • Iranian citizens, with the exception of those with valid student and visitor visas, are also barred from entry.
  • Somali immigrants are banned from entry, but non-immigrants — those seeking business or tourist visas — must undergo additional screening measures.
  • Venezuelan government officials and their families are banned from entering the United States, while nationals with visas are subjected to additional screening measures.
  • Syrian and North Korean nationals are banned outright — although North Korea also does not allow most of its nationals to leave the country.
President Trump's Revised Travel Ban Goes Into Effect, After Supreme Court Partially Revives It Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

Whom it does not ban — yet

  • People with permanent US residency — like a green card — are not subject to this ban.
  • Anyone on a diplomatic visa will be allowed to enter the United States.
  • Those who already have visas will not have them revoked. However, once those visas expire, they will not be able to renew them.
  • Notably this order does not include refugees, for now. Any foreign national who has been granted asylum by the United States and any refugee who has already been admitted to the United States is exempt. However, the administration is expected to release further rules on refugees in the coming days.
  • Nationals from these listed countries that have dual citizenship with another country not included in this travel ban will be able to travel to the United States with a passport from a country not on the ban list.
  • Anyone who receives a waiver from Customs and Border Patrol or one issued by the State Department — a case-by-case process — will be exempt.

This new order could have significant long-term effects on the United States, especially if foreign nationals are not allowed to renew their work visas. It’s a clear articulation of what has been a widely debunked yet established part of the Trump doctrine that immigration hurts the American economy.

This travel ban is more refined — but that doesn’t erase the history of the policy

This travel ban is indefinite, making it more far-reaching than past iterations. And unlike earlier versions, it is more specific in its guidance, clearing up a lot of the gray areas that allowed for chaos and legal holdups in the past — likely by design.

“This breaks up possibility for litigation,” Seddiq said, specifically pointing out that refugees are no longer lumped together with immigrant and non-immigrant foreign nationals. “It’s smart; it lessens the emotional pull of the travel ban.”

But already, immigration advocates and those who were vocal against original iterations of the travel ban — Seddiq included — have pointed out similar flaws in this order as in past ones, namely that the list of targeted nations doesn’t always correlate with the given reasons.

Countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, which have a known terrorist presence, are not included on the list, while nations with more politically contentious relationships with the United States are.

Some of this can be attributed to safety concerns for American troops — like in Iraq, where there is still a strong American military and diplomatic presence that could put American lives at risk.

Adding countries like North Korea and Venezuela to the list might make it easier for the Trump administration to argue against accusations of religious discrimination, but advocates argue that Trump can’t undo the damage already done.

“Six of President Trump's targeted countries are Muslim,” Anthony Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said. “The fact that Trump has added North Korea — with few visitors to the US — and a few government officials from Venezuela doesn't obfuscate the real fact that the administration's order is still a Muslim ban. President Trump's original sin of targeting Muslims cannot be cured by throwing other countries onto his enemies list.”

Judges from lower courts have already used statements from Trump and his surrogates in their rulings to block the travel ban in the past. Those continue to play a central role in the case against these policies. In light of the Trump administration’s new order, the Supreme Court canceled its oral arguments in the legal challenge against Trump’s previous travel bans, originally scheduled for October 10, allowing both sides to file briefs on the impacts of this new directive.

Regardless, this order is yet another declaration from the Trump administration that it is committed to implementing some kind of travel ban — a campaign promise that resonated with his base, despite its alleged unconstitutionality.

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skittone
14 hours ago
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Ugh. Sure, don't let people come here to see for themselves who we are. Let them know us only through the prism of their governments and our current administration of bigots.
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mareino
1 hour ago
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To recap: Venezuelan defense contractors are allowed in; the Libyan people who defeated Qaddafi and are fighting ISIS are banned.
Washington, District of Columbia
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