What We’ve Read this Week – Donald Trump and The Chinese Trademark

As always Donald Trump has dominated political news this week, so he’s dominated our political reading.
Scott Pruitt: Poacher turned inside man?

Trump’s Lack of Foreign Policy

Politico have argued that the Trump administration’s foreign actions are so incoherent that the world’s most powerful nation essentially has no foreign policy. It’s worth reading to be reminded just how unclear and contradictory public statements about America’s policy with Russia, Israel and Iran have been.

Trump’s Press Conference(s)

The big political story this week was Donald Trump’s press conference. As Wired point out, the press conference was in fact multiple press conferences, with different sources moulding the raw materials a multitude of different ways:
If you were following what someone might perhaps carelessly refer to as the mainstream media—CNN, NBC, The Washington Post, The New York Times—you probably saw a president who seemed unhinged, if not outright dangerous.

But if you were following the media that has coalesced around the president more supportively—Infowars, Breitbart, Fox—you saw a president at the peak of his justifiable pride and understandable disdain for the media. Well, the media in that last paragraph.

In a pre-internet, four-TV-channel world, the media moved more slowly, and with a recognizably centralized (if not centrist) voice. But that was a long time ago. The 2016 election and the Trump presidency were both products of ever-more balkanized sources of information playing to smaller and smaller self-selected audiences, all accelerated to hyperspeed by always-on social media and the reporters who use it as a platform. Did you watch the press conference on a network? Or on Twitter?

Fox News’ Shep Smith honorably pointed out that Trump kept saying “things that are demonstrably, unquestionably, 100 percent false”, which has led to Trump supporters demanding Fox News shoot the messenger.

Shep Smith appears to be less right-wing than many of his Fox News colleagues. He has been praised by Rachel Maddow for putting pressure on Republican senators to explain their opposition to a First Responders’ Bill, and praised Stephen Colbert’s mockery of the Republican Party in 2004.
For Trump supporters, that is what now qualifies as far-left.

The Incident in Sweden

Saturday’s Trump campaign has generated headlines mostly for the ‘Swedish incident’ claim. It’s not clear what this was, and Swedes don’t seem to have an idea of what he meant. In the same campaign rally Trump defined himself as being an opponent of the “so-called global elites”, despite Mar-a-Lago doubling it’s membership fees since becoming the ‘southern White House’.

Hispanic Politicians Frozen out of ICE
A meeting between Congress and Immigration and Customs Enforcement initially had a guest list which included zero members of the Hispanic Caucus. Caucus Chair Representative Joaquín Castro was later allowed to attend, and noted that ICE agreed this was a much more aggressive round of deportations than under previous administrations.
Politico have noted that Trump’s immigration order will have a huge negative impact on tourism.This is why it’s smart to consult the houses before implementing badly scrutinised legislation. In Britain this used to be called ‘royal prerogative’ – we had a civil war about it.

In Politico’s words:

But immigration lawyers who have read the order carefully are now increasingly concerned that one of its provisions could have much wider repercussions, affecting literally every foreign visitor to America, from tourists to diplomats.

The little-noticed section, appearing immediately after the travel ban, calls for the government to develop a “uniform screening standard and procedure” for all individuals seeking to enter the United States. As written, it appears to require all visitors to go through the same vetting measures, regardless of where they come from or how long they intend to stay.

If interpreted as broadly as it’s written, “It would basically shut down tourism,” said Stephen Legomsky, the former chief counsel for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services during the Obama administration.

Trump’s executive order, issued last Friday, has already been criticized as hastily drafted and confusing, and the White House has already loosened up one portion of it, allowing green card holders currently overseas to re-enter the U.S.

But little attention has focused on section four, which directs federal officials to implement a “uniform screening standard and procedure” as part of the “adjudication process for immigration benefits” for all individuals seeking to enter the United States. In immigration parlance, “immigration benefits” refers to any permission granted a foreign visitor, from full-scale refugee resettlement to a passport stamp for tourists visiting Disneyland. That wording is about as broad as it can get, lawyers said, and if taken literally would include every single foreigner coming to the United States. “[It] is basically everything,” said Dan Stein, the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a group that supports reducing immigration levels.

Scandal Fatigue

As the Harvard professor of Constitutional Law Laurence Tribe has pointed out, the sheer volume of outrages prevents us focusing on any of them.

The Laziness of Bill Maher

We’ve read a fair bit on the politics of engaging with the far-right. Jezebel was critical of Bill Maher’s decision to engage fairly uncritically with Milo Yiannopolous.

But the interview ended up revealing more about Maher, who passed the time agreeing with much of what the 32-year-old alt-right poster boy and avid Trump supporter had to say. At one point, Milo asserted, “All I care about is free speech and free expression. I want people to be able to be, say, and do anything. These days…that’s a conservative issue.” Maher completely let him get away with it and even affirmed him. After the initial interview, Yianopoulos joined the night’s other guests on a panel, where he suggested that transgender people “have a psychiatric disorder.” In the one-on-one interview, Maher referred to people who were concerned about Yianopoulos’ appearance on his show as “schoolgirls.” And there is so much more where that came from.What I see as the major misconception of the interview was expressed in an interaction toward the end where Yiannopoulos asserts that, “The one thing authoritarians hate is the sound of laughter,” and Maher totally doesn’t call out Yiannopoulos for supporting a president with a highly authoritarian style of governing. Instead, Maher follows up with this: “And also because when people laugh, they know it’s true.” The pair howls and spits over how right they are about being funny (or is it funny about being Right?) for most of the interview.

It seemed to me that Maher was gesturing at the existence of some kind of universal truth that conveniently transcends all the aghast viewers who were most certainly not laughing as he and his guest took turns making pointlessly cruel remarks at the expense of LGBT people, women, people of faith (Muslims in particular, of course), and black people. Noticeably absent from this universally hilarious cohort of comedic targets: Trump and his entire administration, Breitbart, Republicans in general, cops, corporations—need I go on? Unlike many in Maher’s audience, this segment did not make me laugh so much as make me intensely conscious of how cold and clammy my face was becoming with each passing moment.

The thing about Maher is that—though he’s made too many nasty jokes about minorities and women for me to ever enjoy him—he is usually pretty good at making fun of everyone. He didn’t do that in his interview with Yiannopoulos.

As Ash Sarkar, the editor of the socialist Novara Media argues:

Milo is a proven liar, who spreads propaganda against the weakest in American society. The least to be expected from a competent and fair host is that Milo be called out for his lies and bullying.

Freedom of Speech…But Not for the People
The alt-right will make demands for ‘free speech’ – that proven liars like Milo Yiannopolous be given a platform to spread their lies. Meanwhile, the Republican Party, facing increasing pressure over the unpopularity of their plans, including the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, have found a solution. They’ll stop holding meetings with constituents. If free speech means anything useful, it means that ordinary voters should have the right to talk with their direct representative.
The Chinese Trademark
For eleven years Donald Trump has been trying to trademark his name in China, and failing. This week, Trump agreed that America would honour the ‘one China’ policy, and was granted the trademark.
Think Progress’ Judd Legum has a good twitter-storm on the subject.
We’ve seen coverage by Vanity Fair and Think Progress, but it has been overshadowed by Trump’s theatrics. It’s unclear to amateurs like us whether the relevant trademark was approved this week or six days after the election (the clearest answer we’ve seen is that November’s decision was provisional, and confirmed days after America’s foreign policy shift.)
Either way it’s a clear conflict of interest, breach of the emoluments clause, and something that Congress should at least be investigating. If there’s any substance to the allegation that this is more than coincedence, then the China conflict is, like the Russia allegations, treason and a bigger scandal than Watergate. The question now is whether Trump will remembered as America’s worst president, or America’s last president.
UKIP vs Truth
Across the pond, Trump’s philosophical brethren UKIP (his golden elevator buddies) have been exposed as having a similarly casual relationship with the nature of truth. Their leader Paul Nuttall has been exposed as lying about losing close friends at the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, a claim he made in a 2011 interview and on his website, but which he now blames on a press secretary.
A leaflet falsely promoting Nuttall as an ex-professional footballer has surfaced,
and a claim to have served on a charity’s board has been denied.
This pattern of telling lies then blaming others is not new for Nuttall. During his student days he cited the holocaust denier David Irving,then blamed his girlfriend. Nuttall failed to turn up for two debates in the run-up to an election in which he is the candidate, and has taken down his personal website for “routine maintenance” at a time when people will be looking to learn more about him.
In the same week major UKIP donor (and some would say real leader) Arron Banks repeated the slander that rioting Liverpool fans were responsible for the deaths of Hillsborough, and their MEP Jane Collins used a speech to claim, without evidence, that hundreds of ilegal immigrants arrive to the UK each week, and cited a fictional press statement by Sussex Police. (The best she could do when asked to provide evidence was find an article which stated that five illegal immigrants reached the UK, once).
.
Trump continues to be terrifying in new and surprising ways, UKIP’s indifference to the truth becomes more clear-cut, the horrible Milo edges closer to the mainstream and UKIP once more show their indifference to the concept of truth.
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Author: Mulder and Scully

Left-wing politics bloggers trying to make sense of the world. Green, Chomskyite, uncertain, pro-debate, anti-woo, Keynesian, sceptical, angry, hopeful. #PoliticsForBeginners

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