Trump doesn’t understand stuff

I’m not sure if President Trump is stupid, ignorant, lazy, or some combination of the three. Here are two examples:

  • his accusation that Trump tower was wiretapped by President Obama:

President Trump refused to back down Friday after his White House aired an unverified claim that Britain’s spy agency secretly monitored him during last year’s campaign at the behest of President Obama.

and his evidence:

“We said nothing,” Trump told a German reporter who asked about the matter at a joint White House news conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel. “All we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind who was the one responsible for saying that on television. I didn’t make an opinion on it.”

“You shouldn’t be talking to me. You should be talking to Fox,” Trump added.

Fox News later added that they had no evidence, but the point is that Trump is getting his information from a TV station. Almost all reporters get their information from government sources, so Trump is saying that he is getting his information second-hand since he could directly ask the intelligence agencies which is where the reporters would have obtained their information. Does he not know this?

  • Donald Trump has said that the US should try to cut approval time for new drugs:

Trump’s direct aim at the NIH comes after his address to a joint session of Congress last month when he spoke to the importance of medical research. Trump told the story of Megan Crowley, a 20-year-old Notre Dame student who was born with Pompe disease, a rare illness. Crowley’s father helped develop a drug that saved her life, and in telling her story, Trump criticized the slow approval process at the Food and Drug Administration.

“If we slash the restraints, not just at the FDA but across our government, then we will be blessed with far more miracles just like Megan,” he said. “In fact, our children will grow up in a nation of miracles.”

That introduction comes from the fact that his administration wants to cut grants to the NIH by 18%.  I suppose in a perverse way it would decrease approval time for new drugs since fewer new drugs would be developed with the cuts to the NIH, but does Trump not know that the NIH funds studies to develop new drugs?

Pastor better than MSM at keeping Trump in line

Donald Trump was invited to speak at a church in Flint, Michigan, but started to do a political speech instead. The pastor stopped him:

Donald Trump being Donald Trump lied about it:

Donald Trump is lashing out against an African-American pastor who interrupted him Wednesday to chide him for campaigning in her Flint, Mich., church.

“Something was up,” Trump told Fox and Friends on Thursday morning, calling the Rev. Faith Green Timmons a “nervous mess.”

“I noticed she was so nervous when she introduced me,” he said. “When she got up to introduce me she was so nervous, she was shaking. I said, wow, this is kind of strange. Then she came up. So she had that in mind, there’s no question.”

“The audience was saying, ‘Let him speak, let him speak,’ ” Trump told Fox and Friends.

This despite the fact that you can clearly hear the pastor in the video above supporting Trump when the audience heckles him. What a loser.

Anyway, Trump told the press that he was going to talk about birtherism today, but:

After Donald Trump spent a mere 30 seconds addressing President Obama’s birthplace during a 30-minute event that started an hour late at his new hotel in Washington, D.C., the anchors at CNN tore into Trump and his attitude toward the press.

They really need to talk to that pastor to see how it’s done.

Does this apply to anything?

President Obama has nominated Merrick Garland to fill the open Supreme Court position. Let’s see what Republicans have to say:

“The American people may well elect a President who decides to nominate Judge Garland for Senate consideration. The next president may also nominate someone very different,” McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Wednesday. “Either way, our view is this: Give the people a voice in the filling of this vacancy.”

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said he fully supports that stand. “We should let the American people decide the direction of the court,” he said in a statement Wednesday.

“I continue to believe the Senate should not move forward with the confirmation process until the people have spoken by electing a new president,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said in a statement.

“After the election, I look forward to considering the nominee of our new president,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said in a statement. “Whether the American people elect a Republican or a Democrat, I will judge his or her nominee on the merits, as I always have.”

“The right thing to do is to give the American people a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice,” Coats said in a statement Wednesday. “The next president, with input from voters in the upcoming election, should fill the current Supreme Court vacancy.”

I have two questions here:

  1. How long can a President appoint a Supreme Court Justice for? If a Justice either resigns or dies in the first year of their presidency, is the President allowed to appoint their successor or does that have to wait until the next election also? Perhaps we should amend the Constitution so that there is a special election to vote on any nomination.
  2. Does this apply to any other areas? If the US is attacked, should a President wait until after the next election to respond?

Reformists in Iran

What a difference a President makes. In 2001 and 2002 it looked like Iran could become an ally of the US, working with us to go after al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and then President Bush gave his famous Axis of Evil speech and any possibility was gone.

There was an election in Iran this weekend and we get:

Partial election results in Iran on Saturday point to major gains by reformists and moderates who favor expanding freedoms and engaging with the West, and who defended the recently implemented nuclear deal with world powers against opposition from hard-liners.

Friday’s election was the first since last summer’s agreement was finalized, lifting international economic sanctions in exchange for Iran curbing its nuclear program. U.S. officials had hoped the deal would strengthen President Hassan Rouhani and other moderates, paving the way for greater cooperation on other regional issues.

Iran is far from perfect, in fact it’s pretty bad, but this is a welcome sign. It’s also a reminder that Iran is much more of a democracy than most of the countries in the region:

Nearly 55 million of Iran’s 80 million people were eligible to vote. Participation figures were not immediately available, but Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli on Saturday said turnout likely exceeded 60 percent based on the partial counting of the votes.

Iran is a theocracy and panels have final say on who can run for office, but even there there’s a bit of democracy:

Partial results from Tehran showed moderates also gaining ground in the 88-member Assembly of Experts, which will select the successor to 76-year-old Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s top decision-maker since 1989.

The article also looks at what happened to the reformists the last time they had some power:

Reformists last rose to power with the 1997 election of President Mohammad Khatami, followed by 2000 parliamentary elections that brought a reformist majority for the first time. The movement pressed for an easing of Islamic social restrictions, wider freedom of expression and better relations with the West.

But their hold on power was broken in the next election in 2004, when reformist candidates were largely barred from running. Ahmadinejad’s victory in 2005 sealed the movement’s downfall. Reformists were virtually shut out of politics until Rouhani was elected in 2013.

Gee, do you think that President Bush’s speech including Iran in the Axis of Evil as Iran was cooperating with the US had anything to do with that?

Presidents Bush and Obama

For some reason this hasn’t been much reported on:

The TARP legislation included specific instructions to use a section of the funds to prevent foreclosures. Without that language, TARP would not have passed; Democratic lawmakers who helped defeat TARP on its first vote cited the foreclosure mitigation piece as key to their eventual reconsideration.

TARP was doled out in two tranches of $350 billion each. The Bush administration, still in charge during TARP’s passage in October 2008, used none of the first tranche on mortgage relief, nor did Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson use any leverage over firms receiving the money to persuade them to lower mortgage balances and prevent foreclosures. Frank made his anger clear over this ignoring of Congress’ intentions at a hearing with Paulson that November. Paulson argued in his defense, “the imminent threat of financial collapse required him to focus single-mindedly on the immediate survival of financial institutions, no matter how worthy other goals were.”

Whether or not you believe that sky-is-falling narrative, Frank kept pushing for action on foreclosures, which by the end of 2008 threatened one in 10 homes in America. With the first tranche of TARP funds running out by the end of the year, Frank writes, “Paulson agreed to include homeowner relief in his upcoming request for a second tranche of TARP funding. But there was one condition: He would only do it if the President-elect asked him to.”

Frank goes on to explain that Obama rejected the request, saying “we have only one president at a time.” Frank writes, “my frustrated response was that he had overstated the number of presidents currently on duty,” which equally angered both the outgoing and incoming officeholders.

Obama’s unwillingness to take responsibility before holding full authority doesn’t match other decisions made at that time. We know from David Axelrod’s book that the Obama transition did urge the Bush administration to provide TARP loans to GM and Chrysler to keep them in business. So it was OK to help auto companies prior to Inauguration Day, just not homeowners.

In the end, the Obama transition wrote a letter promising to get to the foreclosure relief later, if Congress would only pass the second tranche of TARP funds. Congress fulfilled its obligation, and the Administration didn’t. The promised foreclosure mitigation efforts failed to help, and in many cases abjectly hurt homeowners.

There’s always money for the rich when they get in trouble, but the rest of us are on our own.

Mandatory voting

I agree with Charles Pierce that President Obama is basically trolling Republicans when he implies he might be for mandatory voting. I’m not really for mandatory voting but if we start discussing it perhaps it will lead to a couple things that I’m definitely for:

  • automatic registration, such as Oregon now has–registration should be easy for everyone and automatic for most. Voting is an essential part of a democracy so why do some people want to make it hard?
  • there should be a federal holiday for national elections. Again, nothing is more important in a democracy than voting–we should celebrate it. If we don’t want another holiday we could move it to one of the current ones–July 4, for example, would be perfect.

I’m sure all politicians would agree … well, except for Republicans, who really don’t want everyone to vote (see here for example).

Republicans whine

I’m a little slow to get to this, but it seems that President Obama gave a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast mostly extolling religion:

And, finally, let’s remember that if there is one law that we can all be most certain of that seems to bind people of all faiths, and people who are still finding their way towards faith but have a sense of ethics and morality in them — that one law, that Golden Rule that we should treat one another as we wish to be treated.  The Torah says “Love thy neighbor as yourself.”  In Islam, there is a Hadith that states: “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.”  The Holy Bible tells us to “put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”  Put on love.

Whatever our beliefs, whatever our traditions, we must seek to be instruments of peace, and bringing light where there is darkness, and sowing love where there is hatred.  And this is the loving message of His Holiness, Pope Francis.  And like so many people around the world, I’ve been touched by his call to relieve suffering, and to show justice and mercy and compassion to the most vulnerable; to walk with The Lord and ask “Who am I to judge?”  He challenges us to press on in what he calls our “march of living hope.”  And like millions of Americans, I am very much looking forward to welcoming Pope Francis to the United States later this year.

His Holiness expresses that basic law:  Treat thy neighbor as yourself.  The Dalai Lama — anybody who’s had an opportunity to be with him senses that same spirit.  Kent Brantly expresses that same spirit.  Kent was with Samaritan’s Purse, treating Ebola patients in Liberia, when he contracted the virus himself. And with world-class medical care and a deep reliance on faith — with God’s help, Kent survived.

And then by donating his plasma, he helped others survive as well.  And he continues to advocate for a global response in West Africa, reminding us that “our efforts needs to be on loving the people there.”  And I could not have been prouder to welcome Kent and his wonderful wife Amber to the Oval Office.  We are blessed to have him here today — because he reminds us of what it means to really “love thy neighbor as thyself.”  Not just words, but deeds.

Each of us has a role in fulfilling our common, greater purpose — not merely to seek high position, but to plumb greater depths so that we may find the strength to love more fully.  And this is perhaps our greatest challenge — to see our own reflection in each other; to be our brother’s keepers and sister’s keepers, and to keep faith with one another.  As children of God, let’s make that our work, together.

As children of God, let’s work to end injustice — injustice of poverty and hunger.  No one should ever suffer from such want amidst such plenty.  As children of God, let’s work to eliminate the scourge of homelessness, because, as Sister Mary says, “None of us are home until all of us are home.”  None of us are home until all of us are home.

As children of God, let’s stand up for the dignity and value of every woman, and man, and child, because we are all equal in His eyes, and work to send the scourge and the sin of modern-day slavery and human trafficking, and “set the oppressed free.”

If we are properly humble, if we drop to our knees on occasion, we will acknowledge that we never fully know God’s purpose.  We can never fully fathom His amazing grace.  “We see through a glass, darkly” — grappling with the expanse of His awesome love.  But even with our limits, we can heed that which is required:  To do justice, and love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.

I pray that we will.  And as we journey together on this “march of living hope,” I pray that, in His name, we will run and not be weary, and walk and not be faint, and we’ll heed those words and “put on love.”

May the Lord bless you and keep you, and may He bless this precious country that we love.

So all those religious types must be pretty happy right? Umm, no:

“The president’s comments this morning at the prayer breakfast are the most offensive I’ve ever heard a president make in my lifetime,” said former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore (R). “He has offended every believing Christian in the United States. This goes further to the point that Mr. Obama does not believe in America or the values we all share.”

Ah yes, I skipped a bit:

We see sectarian war in Syria, the murder of Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, religious war in the Central African Republic, a rising tide of anti-Semitism and hate crimes in Europe, so often perpetrated in the name of religion.

So how do we, as people of faith, reconcile these realities — the profound good, the strength, the tenacity, the compassion and love that can flow from all of our faiths, operating alongside those who seek to hijack religious for their own murderous ends?

Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history.  And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.  In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.  Michelle and I returned from India — an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity — but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs — acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhiji, the person who helped to liberate that nation.

Suggesting that Christianity has had its problems in the past and still is not perfect is the most offensive thing Gilmore has heard a President say. Imagine, just imagine, if there ever is a President who was an atheist and wondered why people believe in a magical sky fairy. Their heads would explode.

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