Trump’s Immigration Order: Fact Checking The Fact Checker

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There’s little question that President Trump thoroughly botched the rollout of his immigration order on Jan. 27. But so-called fact checkers don’t need to try to tip the scales even further.

“My policy is similar to what President Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months,” Trump said on Jan. 29.

Some background.

Following the arrest of two Iraqis in Kentucky in May 2011 for terrorism, Obama pledged to re-examine the records of 58,000 Iraqis who had been settled in the United States and the administration imposed more extensive background checks on Iraqi refugees.

“As a result of the Kentucky case, the State Department stopped processing Iraq refugees for six months in 2011, federal officials told ABC News — even for many who had heroically helped U.S. forces as interpreters and intelligence assets,” ABC News reported. ABC said that as a result of the visa pause, an “Iraqi who had aided American troops was assassinated before his refugee application could be processed, because of the immigration delays.”

At a congressional hearing, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said a hold had been placed on Iraqi visa applications “…until they could be more stringently vetted to ensure that we’re not letting into the U.S. people who would do Americans harm.”

The Economist reported, “Immigration authorities soon began rechecking all Iraqi refugees in America, reportedly comparing fingerprints and other records with military and intelligence documents in dusty archives. About 1,000 soon-to-be immigrants in Iraq were told that they would not be allowed to board flights already booked. Some were removed from planes. Thousands more Iraqi applicants had to restart the immigration process, because their security clearances expired when the programme stalled.”

The result? The pace of visa approvals slowed to a crawl, the Los Angeles Times reported in 2011, telling of an Iraqi who had served as an interpreter for the U.S. military and was unable to secure a visa to the U.S. “…Thousands of former interpreters have been cast adrift, threatened by insurgents as they wait for the federal bureaucracy to act,” The Times reported.

Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler initially argued that since Obama didn’t announce an actual ban on Iraqi visa applications, but “danced around” the question, what Obama did bore no resemblance to Trump’s order. Kessler said further that Trump’s policy wasn’t the same because because Obama’s policy didn’t prevent green card holders from traveling to the United States (though the Trump administration has since made it clear that green card holders are not affected by Trump’s Executive Order).

So Kessler said the assertion that Trump’s policy was similar to Obama’s action in 2011 “was worthy of at least Two Pinocchios”. The Washington Post explains what this means as follows:

 Two Pinocchios

Significant omissions and/or exaggerations. Some factual error may be involved but not necessarily. A politician can create a false, misleading impression by playing with words and using legalistic language that means little to ordinary people. (Similar to “half true.”)

More disturbing, Kessler later updated his rating to Three Pinochios” in light of new information”.

The Washington Post explains what this means as follows:

Three Pinocchios

Significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions. This gets into the realm of “mostly false.” But it could include statements which are technically correct (such as based on official government data) but are so taken out of context as to be very misleading.

Kessler said his revised rating was based on statements by two former Obama Administration officials, as though they should be the final word. One of those officials said there was no ban on Iraqi refugee admissions under Obama because although there were processing delays, but here was was no single month during which no Iraqis arrived in the U.S.

Another former Obama Administration official said there may have been “a lower level of Iraqi resettlement” for a period, “there was never a point during that period in which Iraqi resettlement was stopped, or banned.”

Kessler also reiterated that Trump’s order was different because Obama’s policy did not prevent green-card holders from traveling to the United States. (Again, Trump’s order did not do this either)

Fact check? I don’t think so.

It would have made more sense for Kessler to simply say “In my opinion…” rather than try to disguise himself as an unbiased truth-teller.

The fact is that although Obama did not announce a ban on visa applications by Iraqis, the impact was essentially the same. To say otherwise is a dishonest portrayal of reality and as disingenuous as can be.

 

The Race to Space

cassini2saturn

Come to a presentation by Todd Barber, the senior engineer at the NASA’s Jet Propulsion laboratory and the lead propulsion engineer on the Cassini mission to Saturn.

When: Feb. 17, 2017

Where: Lake Oswego City Hall Council Chambers

380 Avenue

Lake Oswego, OR

Time: 7 PM

Trump’s Not The First To Try To Control the Drip Drip Drip

leaks

Media are joining in on the hysteria about the Trump Administration’s efforts to control federal government communications.

“Federal agencies are clamping down on public information and social media in the early days of Donald Trump’s presidency, limiting employees’ ability to issue news releases, tweet, make policy pronouncements or otherwise communicate with the outside world, according to memos and sources from multiple agencies,” Politico reported today, Jan. 25.

Willamette Week jumped on the bandwagon today as well, telling readers, “Send us tips, oppressed comrades!”

“Got information that would make a great story, but worried about revealing who you are? (Because you work for, say, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under President Trump?) WW has two new ways to send tips without disclosing your identity,” WW said.

“It’s a dark time right now,” because of Trump Administration restrictions on the use of social media and other channels by government employees, a former Obama administration spokeswoman told Politico. “From what we can tell, the cloud of Mordor is descending across the federal service,” added Jeff Ruch, executive director of the watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

Before everybody goes off the deep end on all this, assuming it’s something new under the sun with the evil Trump, let’s step back a bit.

Every administration in recent memory has tried mightily to control the flow of information it doesn’t want disclosed from its agencies, with varying degrees of success.

In 1962, President Kennedy approved the wiretapping of a New York Times reporter and then set in motion Project Mockingbird, illegal CIA domestic surveillance on American reporters.

Richard Nixon fought leaks to the media with a vengeance. After an initial honeymoon with the media, he later distrusted them and fought them tooth and nail, believing coverage of him was deeply biased. And, frankly, it was. As Politico’s John Aloysius Farrell wrote in 2014, “Just because he was paranoid doesn’t mean the media wasn’t out to get him.”

A recent report commissioned by the Committee to Protect Journalists blasted the Obama administration for being overly aggressive in controlling government communications with the media, too, saying its information disclosure policies had a“…chilling effect on accountability.”

“The war on leaks and other efforts to control information are the most aggressive I’ve seen since the Nixon administration,” said Leonard Downie, a former Washington Post executive who authored the study.

David Sanger, the chief Washington correspondent for the New York Times, said in the report: “This is the most closed, control-freak administration I’ve ever covered.”

The report told of how the Obama administration used the 1917 Espionage Act to prosecute leakers and created the “Insider Threat Program” requiring government employees to help prevent leaks to the media by monitoring their colleagues’ behavior.

The report also described how the Justice Department secretly subpoenaed and seized all the records for 20 Associated Press telephone lines and switchboards for two months of 2012, after an AP investigation into a covert CIA operation in Yemen.

“Put all these together and it paints a pretty damning picture of an administration that talks about openness and transparency but isn’t willing to engage with the media around these issues,” said Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists.

So before everybody goes ballistic, singling out Trump’s efforts to tightly manage public pronouncements and minimize leaks, consider that he’s part of a long line of presidents who have fought hard to do the same.

That’s just a fact. Depressing, isn’t it.

The Media Are Missing the Mark In Their Trump Coverage

Did you know President Trump’s press secretary and the media were engaged in an all-out war over the size of the crowd at the inauguration?

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White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer blasted the media on Jan. 21, accusing them of intentionally falsely reporting on the size of Donald Trump’s inauguration crowd.

Do you know that Saturday Night Live writer Katie Rich has been suspended for a tasteless tweet about Trump’s 10-year-old son Barron: “Barron will be this country’s first homeschool shooter?” And that about 80,000 people have signed a Change.org petition demanding that Rich be fired?

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Madonna at the Women’s March

How about that attention-hogging Madonna said “Fuck” multiple times in her remarks to the Wash., D.C. Women’s March, that a Time magazine reporter incorrectly said in a tweet and a pool report that a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. had been removed from the Oval Office, or that actor, James Franco, who had a breakout role in 1999’s “Freaks and Geeks”, said he’s “spiraled into a depression” following Hillary Clinton’s loss to Trump?

You have probably heard about all this because the media loves this stuff and figures you do too. But in the media’s obsession with being adversarial and entertaining in its coverage of the new Trump Administration, they are falling into a trap of covering the non-consequential.

To an unfortunate degree, the media has gone from its obsequious coverage of Barack Obama, what Noah Rothman called in Commentary a “kind of vapidity that typified political media in the Obama years,” to a 24-7 hostility to Trump that can’t distinguish between the trivial and the significant.

Meanwhile there’s real consequential governing going on.

Today, for example, Trump signed executive actions that cut aid to groups that provide or promote abortions overseas, withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and impose an immediate federal hiring freeze.

Trump’s administration also has signaled it is unlikely to move quickly to discontinue the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program Obama established in 2012, that it is rethinking its earlier promise to move the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and that plans to penalize so-called sanctuary cities are expected to move ahead.

If the media really wants to perform a service for the American people, they need to move away from distracting audiences with inconsequential blathering, petty grievances and tit-for-tat arguments and commit to focusing on significant events in the United States and around the world that have the potential to change our lives.

Not ANOTHER Grandiose Presidential Center and Foundation!

The Clinton Foundation isn’t going to be the last money-grubbing institution established by a former president. Another foundation money race is already on.

Hours before Donald Trump’s inauguration, Barak Obama posted a two-minute video on Obama.org calling on Americans to contribute to the Obama Foundation which will oversee the construction of the Barack Obama Presidential Center in Chicago.

obamas-chicago-library

The Obama Foundation will “focus on developing the next generation of citizens — and what it means to be a good citizen in the 21st century,” according to obama.org.

The Obama Foundation will try to raise money from the public to build and help maintain the Barack Obama Presidential Center. The Foundation has already raised $7.3 million at the end of 2015. The fundraising total for 2016 hasn’t been disclosed. The Center is expected to cost $1 billion.

“We once held the office of president, as well as its occupant, in high regard,” Anthony Clark wrote in his book, The Last Campaign: How Presidents Rewrite History, Run for Posterity, and Enshrine Their Legacies. “As we have lowered our opinions of both, presidential libraries, consequently, have grown larger and more powerful—and, not incidentally, less truthful.”

Writing in Salon, Clark said presidential centers tend to be “proud, defensive, and a little self-absorbed” that eventually become theme parks with declining numbers of visitors.

With that in mind, it is discouraging to see the number of extravagant presidential centers continue to grow. Do we really need another library and recklessly large foundation funded by influence seekers and built by a legacy-hungry ex-president?

Unfortunately, each successive administration seems to think its library needs to be more grandiose than its predecessor.

The 135,000 sq. ft. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, including endowment of an Institute at Harvard for the study of politics and public affairs, cost $20.8 million. Adjusted for inflation, that would be $72.1 million.

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Center for Public Affairs, the largest of all the presidential libraries, cost $60 million. Adjusted for inflation, that would be equivalent to a little more than $130 million now.

Obama’s $1 billion project would be twice what George W. Bush raised for his library and its programs.

It would also be more than the $165 million spent on William J. Clinton’s Presidential Center and Park in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Obama’s massive fundraising effort may well lead to all the same conflicts and questions associated with the Clinton Foundation.

It’s time to stop this arms race of ever-expanding presidential libraries and foundations.

Sen. Merkley Says He’s Committed To Bipartisanship; His Record Says Otherwise

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Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) is trying to portray himself to Oregonians as someone committed to bipartisanship, to working hand-in-hand with Republicans to advance the country’s interests.

“I believe that if you simply oppose the Administration because you’re of a different party, no one benefits, “ Merkley said in an interview with KGW-TV that ran Wednesday night. “I think of Gandhi’s expression when he said, ‘If all you believe in is an eye for an eye, the whole world goes blind.”

Not so fast, Senator. You can’t walk away from your record so easily with platitudes. The fact is your record shows you are one of the Senate’s MOST partisan members.

According to the Bipartisan Index of 98 senators released by The Lugar Center and Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy, Merkley had the fourth most partisan track record in the entire Senate in the most recent analysis covering the First Session of the 114th Congress in 2015.

That was even worse than Merkley did in the 113th Congress, when he was ranked the 7th most partisan senator.

The Index takes into account how well members of opposite parties and ideologies work together. The Bipartisan Index measures the frequency with which a Member co-sponsors a bill introduced by the opposite party and the frequency with which a Member’s own bills attract co-sponsors from the opposite party.

“We sought to develop an objective measure of how well members of opposite parties work with one another…,” former Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind) said.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) ranks as the most partisan on the list, followed by Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif) and then Merkley.

Bills introduced by highly partisan senators without co-sponsors from the other party “are being written not to maximize their chances of passage, but to serve as legislative talking points.,” Lugar said.

 

 

 

Taking Advantage: Why Doesn’t Metro Pay All Its Interns?

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Portland area progressives have been the strongest advocates for fair wages. But the area’s regional government, Metro, isn’t walking the talk.

One result? Low-income Oregonians having to choose between a career enhancing internship with Metro and an afternoon job at a Dairy Queen may have little choice if they want to make any money.

That’s because some Metro internships pay zero. Not one thin dime. Not one red cent.

The Oregon Zoo, for example, is offering unpaid internships in:

It’s a good thing Metro is offering internship opportunities, but it is treading on thin ice by not paying interns.

Federal law is clear that most interns should be paid at least the minimum wage plus overtime after 40 hours a week. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), covered and non-exempt individuals who are “suffered or permitted” to work must be compensated for the services they perform for an employer.

In mid-2016, federal District Court Judge William H. Pauley III of New York ruled that Fox Searchlight Pictures broke the law when it didn’t pay production interns working on the movie “Black Swan” because they were essentially regular employees. “Searchlight received the benefits of their unpaid work, which otherwise would have required paid employees,” the judge said.

Pauley said unpaid internships should be permitted only in very limited circumstances. He added that whether an intern is receiving college credit for the work matters little in determining whether an intern should be paid.

Pauley’s ruling wasn’t a departure from precedent. There’ve been other cases, too, in which courts have ruled that interns must be paid.

You’d think employers would have learned by now and stopped trying to get free labor from interns, but many persist.

“In some industries, especially media, the unpaid internship is the risk many companies are willing to take,” Ed Reeves, a labor and employment attorney at Stoel Rives LLP, told me. “Less so in other businesses. We counsel against that risk, but not every company asks.”

Some employers that bring on interns without paying them may think it’s enough that they get experience, do some networking and get to hang around the fascinating people who do the “real work.”

But aside from the legal issues, that means students from well-off families can afford to take a career-building unpaid internship, but not the kid from an average family struggling to deal with potentially crippling college loan debt. That perpetuates inequality.

Paid internships tend to pay off more for students too. According to the National Association of Colleges & Employers, graduates who have done paid internships outpace their unpaid peers in job offers and salaries.

Metro says its employees are guided by the shared values of public service, excellence, teamwork, sustainability, innovation and respect.

A little more respect for interns by paying all of them a fair wage would be a good way to prove that.