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The Los Angeles Times, Conspiracy Theorist in Chief

It was bad enough back in 2011 when Donald Trump began peddling the crackpot conspiracy theory that President Barack Obama was not a native-born American. But at least Trump was just a private citizen then.

By the time he tweeted last month that Obama had sunk so low as to “tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process,” Trump was a sitting president accusing a predecessor of what would have been an impeachable offense.

Trump went public with this absurd accusation without consulting the law enforcement and intelligence officials who would have disabused him of a conspiracy theory he apparently imbibed from right-wing media. After the FBI director debunked it, Trump held fast, claiming he hadn’t meant that he had been literally wiretapped.

Most people know by now that the new president of the United States trafficks in untruths and half-truths, and that his word cannot be taken at face value.

Even more troubling, though, is that much of his misinformation is of the creepiest kind. Implausible conspiracy theories from fly-by-night websites; unsubstantiated speculations from supermarket tabloids. Bigoted stories he may have simply made up; stuff he heard on TV talk shows.

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This is pathetic, but it’s also alarming. If Trump feels free to take to Twitter to make wild, paranoid, unsubstantiated accusations against his predecessor, why should the nation believe what he says about a North Korean missile test, Russian troop movements in Europe or a natural disaster in the United States?

Trump’s willingness to embrace unproven, conspiratorial and even racist theories became clear during the campaign, when he repeatedly told tall tales that seemed to reinforce ugly stereotypes about minorities. Take his now famous assertion that he watched thousands of people in “a heavy Arab population” in New Jersey cheer the collapse of the World Trade Center on 9/11, an astonishing account that no one has been able to verify. PolitiFact rated that as “Pants on Fire.”

Or his retweeting of a bogus crime statistic purporting to show that 81% of white homicide victims are killed by blacks. (The correct figure was 15%.)

On several occasions he retweeted white nationalists. (Remember the image of Hillary Clinton and the star of David, for instance?)

His engagement with, to put it politely, out-of-the-mainstream ideas has attracted some strange bedfellows. It may not be fair to attribute to his senior aide, Steve Bannon, all the views that were published on the controversial alt-right site Breitbart.com, of which Bannon was the executive chairman. But it is certainly fair to wonder why Trump has elevated to a senior West Wing position a man who has trafficked in nonsense, bigotry and rank speculation.

Of course it was widely hoped that when Trump came into office he would put the conspiracy theories and red-meat scare stories behind him. Perhaps the “lock her up” mantra and the fear-mongering about Mexican rapists and the racial dog whistles and the assertions about Ted Cruz’s father’s connection to Lee Harvey Oswald — perhaps all that was just part of a cynical bid for votes, and it would go away when the election was over.

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But there’s no sign of that. Trump seems as willing to mouth off today as he was on the campaign — about wiretaps, inauguration crowds, fraudulent voters, you name it. And the problem with that is that he is no longer a blowhard TV personality or a raunchy guest on Howard Stern or a self-promoting real estate magnate or even a long-shot candidate for the Republican nomination. He’s now the president of the United States, and he is allowing the credibility of his unimaginably powerful office to be exploited and wasted on crackpot ideas that have been rightly discredited by politicians from both parties.

This is the fifth in a series.

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The Los Angeles Times, Trump’s War on Journalism

In Donald Trump’s America, the mere act of reporting news unflattering to the president is held up as evidence of bias. Journalists are slandered as “enemies of the people.”

Facts that contradict Trump’s version of reality are dismissed as “fake news.” Reporters and their news organizations are “pathetic,” “very dishonest,” “failing,” and even, in one memorable turn of phrase, “a pile of garbage.”

Trump is, of course, not the first American president to whine about the news media or try to influence coverage. President George W. Bush saw the press as elitist and “slick.” President Obama’s press operation tried to exclude Fox News reporters from interviews, blocked many officials from talking to journalists and, most troubling, prosecuted more national security whistle-blowers and leakers than all previous presidents combined.

But Trump being Trump, he has escalated the traditionally adversarial relationship in demagogic and potentially dangerous ways.

Most presidents, irritated as they may have been, have continued to acknowledge — at least publicly — that an independent press plays an essential role in American democracy. They’ve recognized that while no news organization is perfect, honest reporting holds leaders and institutions accountable; that’s why a free press was singled out for protection in the 1st Amendment and why outspoken, unfettered journalism is considered a hallmark of a free country.

Trump doesn’t seem to buy it. On his very first day in office, he called journalists “among the most dishonest human beings on earth.”

Since then he has regularly condemned legitimate reporting as “fake news.” His administration has blocked mainstream news organizations, including The Times, from briefings and his secretary of State chose to travel to Asia without taking the press corps, breaking a longtime tradition.

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This may seem like bizarre behavior from a man who consumes the news in print and on television so voraciously and who is in many ways a product of the media. He comes from reality TV, from talk radio with Howard Stern, from the gossip pages of the New York City tabloids, for whose columnists he was both a regular subject and a regular source.

But Trump’s strategy is pretty clear: By branding reporters as liars, he apparently hopes to discredit, disrupt or bully into silence anyone who challenges his version of reality. By undermining trust in news organizations and delegitimizing journalism and muddling the facts so that Americans no longer know who to believe, he can deny and distract and help push his administration’s far-fetched storyline.

It’s a cynical strategy, with some creepy overtones. For instance, when he calls journalists “enemies of the people,” Trump (whether he knows it or not) echoes Josef Stalin and other despots.

But it’s an effective strategy. Such attacks are politically expedient at a moment when trust in the news media is as low as it’s ever been, according to Gallup. And they’re especially resonant with Trump’s supporters, many of whom see journalists as part of the swamp that needs to be drained.

Of course, we’re not perfect. Some readers find news organizations too cynical; others say we’re too elitist. Some say we downplay important stories, or miss them altogether. Conservatives often perceive an unshakable liberal bias in the media (while critics on the left see big, corporate-owned media institutions like The Times as hopelessly centrist).

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To do the best possible job, and to hold the confidence of the public in turbulent times, requires constant self-examination and evolution. Soul-searching moments — such as those that occurred after the New York Times was criticized for its coverage of the Bush administration and the Iraq war or, more recently, when the media failed to take Trump’s candidacy seriously enough in the early days of his campaign — can help us do a better job for readers. Even if we are not faultless, the news media remain an essential component in the democratic process and should not be undermined by the president.

Some critics have argued that if Trump is going to treat the news media like the “opposition party” (a phrase his senior aide Steve Bannon has used), then journalists should start acting like opponents too. But that would be a mistake. The role of an institution like the Los Angeles Times (or the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal or CNN) is to be independent and aggressive in pursuit of the truth — not to take sides. The editorial pages are the exception: Here we can and should express our opinions about Trump. But the news pages, which operate separately, should report intensively without prejudice, partiality or partisanship.

Given the very real dangers posed by this administration, we should be indefatigable in covering Trump, but shouldn’t let his bullying attitude persuade us to be anything other than objective, fair, open-minded and dogged.

The fundamentals of journalism are more important than ever. With the president of the United States launching a direct assault on the integrity of the mainstream media, news organizations, including The Times, must be courageous in our reporting and resolute in our pursuit of the truth.

This is the fourth in a series.

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The Los Angeles Times, Trump’s Authoritarian Vision

Standing before the cheering throngs at the Republican National Convention last summer, Donald Trump bemoaned how special interests had rigged the country’s politics and its economy, leaving Americans victimized by unfair trade deals, incompetent bureaucrats and spineless leaders.

He swooped into politics, he declared, to subvert the powerful and rescue those who cannot defend themselves. “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.”

To Trump’s faithful, those words were a rallying cry. But his critics heard something far more menacing in them: a dangerously authoritarian vision of the presidency — one that would crop up time and again as he talked about overruling generals, disregarding international law, ordering soldiers to commit war crimes, jailing his opponent.

Trump has no experience in politics; he’s never previously run for office or held a government position. So perhaps he was unaware that one of the hallmarks of the American system of government is that the president’s power to “fix” things unilaterally is constrained by an array of strong institutions — including the courts, the media, the permanent federal bureaucracy and Congress. Combined, they provide an essential defense against an imperial presidency.

Yet in his first weeks at the White House, President Trump has already sought to undermine many of those institutions. Those that have displayed the temerity to throw some hurdle in the way of a Trump objective have quickly felt the heat.

Consider Trump’s feud with the courts.

He has repeatedly questioned the impartiality and the motives of judges. For example, he attacked the jurists who ruled against his order excluding travelers from seven majority Muslim nations, calling one a “so-called judge” and later tweeting:

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It’s nothing new for presidents to disagree with court decisions. But Trump’s direct, personal attacks on judges’ integrity and on the legitimacy of the judicial system itself — and his irresponsible suggestion that the judiciary should be blamed for future terrorist attacks — go farther. They aim to undermine public faith in the third branch of government.

The courts are the last line of defense for the Constitution and the rule of law; that’s what makes them such a powerful buffer against an authoritarian leader. The president of the United States should understand that and respect it.

Other institutions under attack include:

The electoral process. Faced with certified election results showing that Hillary Clinton outpolled him by nearly 3 million votes, Trump repeated the unsubstantiated — and likely crackpot — assertion that Clinton’s supporters had duped local polling places with millions of fraudulent votes. In a democracy, the right to vote is the one check that the people themselves hold against their leaders; sowing distrust in elections is the kind of thing leaders do when they don’t want their power checked.

The intelligence community. After reports emerged that the Central Intelligence Agency believed Russia had tried to help Trump win, the president-elect’s transition team responded: “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.” It was a snarky, dismissive, undermining response — and the administration has continued to belittle the intelligence community and question its motives since then, while also leaking stories about possibly paring and restructuring its ranks. It is bizarre to watch Trump continue to tussle publicly with this particular part of the government, whose leaders he himself has appointed, as if he were still an outsider candidate raging against the machine. It’s unnerving too, given the intelligence services’ crucial role in protecting the country against hidden risks, assisting the U.S. military and helping inform Trump’s decisions.

The media. Trump has blistered the mainstream media for reporting that has cast him in a poor light, saying outlets concocted narratives based on nonexistent anonymous sources. In February he saidthat the “fake news” media will “never represent the people,” adding ominously: “And we’re going to do something about it.” His goal seems to be to defang the media watchdog by making the public doubt any coverage that accuses Trump of blundering or abusing his power.

Federal agencies. In addition to calling for agency budgets to be chopped by up to 30%, Trump appointed a string of Cabinet secretaries who were hostile to much of their agencies’ missions and the laws they’re responsible for enforcing. He has also proposed deep cuts in federal research programs, particularly in those related to climate change. It’s easier to argue that climate change isn’t real when you’re no longer collecting the data that documents it.

In a way, Trump represents a culmination of trends that have been years in the making.

Conservative talk radio hosts have long blasted federal judges as “activists” and regulators as meddlers in the economy, while advancing the myth of rampant election fraud. And gridlock in Washington has led previous presidents to try new ways to circumvent the checks on their power — witness President George W. Bush’s use of signing statements to invalidate parts of bills Congress passed, and President Obama’s aggressive use of executive orders when lawmakers balked at his proposals.

What’s uniquely threatening about Trump’s approach, though, is how many fronts he’s opened in this struggle for power and the vehemence with which he seeks to undermine the institutions that don’t go along.

It’s one thing to complain about a judicial decision or to argue for less regulation, but to the extent that Trump weakens public trust in essential institutions like the courts and the media, he undermines faith in democracy and in the system and processes that make it work.

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Trump betrays no sense for the president’s place among the myriad of institutions in the continuum of governance. He seems willing to violate long-established political norms without a second thought, and he cavalierly rejects the civility and deference that allow the system to run smoothly. He sees himself as not merely a force for change, but as a wrecking ball.

Will Congress act as a check on Trump’s worst impulses as he moves forward? One test is the House and Senate intelligence committees’ investigation into Russia’s meddling in the presidential election; lawmakers need to muster the courage to follow the trail wherever it leads. Can the courts stand up to Trump? Already, several federal judges have issued rulings against the president’s travel ban. And although Trump has railed against the decisions, he has obeyed them.

None of these institutions are eager to cede authority to the White House and they won’t do so without a fight. It would be unrealistic to suggest that America’s most basic democratic institutions are in imminent jeopardy.

But we should not view them as invulnerable either. Remember that Trump’s verbal assaults are directed at the public, and are designed to chip away at people’s confidence in these institutions and deprive them of their validity. When a dispute arises, whose actions are you going to consider legitimate? Whom are you going to trust? That’s why the public has to be wary of Trump’s attacks on the courts, the “deep state,” the “swamp.” We can’t afford to be talked into losing our faith in the forces that protect us from an imperial presidency.

This is the third in a series.

Part I

Part II

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From The Los Angeles Times, Dishonest Trump

Dear Friends,

Our Nation is endangered by what appears to be psychopathic behavior on the part of President Donald Trump.


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The Los Angeles Times has published the first two parts of a four part series “Our Dishonest President” and “Why Trump Lies”. I hope you all will read these articles and the ones that follow. America must be saved from the daily damage Trump inflicts on our people and our reputation. Only massive objections to his unbalanced behavior will turn the tide. Reach out to your representatives and the Supreme Court justices to resist this madness.

Asher Edelman

P.S. Many of you believe his economic rhetoric (policies) will aid the economy and your pocketbooks. When examined in the light of economic history it is evident that this idea is wrong footed. The economy will suffer should he succeed at much of what he preaches.


Our Dishonest President

Still, nothing prepared us for the magnitude of this train wreck. Like millions of other Americans, we clung to a slim hope that the new president would turn out to be all noise and bluster, or that the people around him in the White House would act as a check on his worst instincts, or that he would be sobered and transformed by the awesome responsibilities of office.

Instead, seventy-some days in — and with about 1,400 to go before his term is completed — it is increasingly clear that those hopes were misplaced.

Read More

Why Trump lies

But amid all those lies, told to ourselves and to one another in order to amass power, woo lovers, hurt enemies and shield ourselves against the often glaring discomfort of reality, humanity has always had an abiding respect for truth.

In the United States, born and periodically reborn out of the repeated recognition and rejection of the age-old lie that some people are meant to take dominion over others, truth is as vital a part of the civic, social and intellectual culture as justice and liberty. Our civilization is premised on the conviction that such a thing as truth exists, that it is knowable, that it is verifiable, that it exists independently of authority or popularity and that at some point — and preferably sooner rather than later — it will prevail.

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Grab Your Wallet

The Donald

Dear Friends,

I hope you will join me in boycotting Trump and Trump related products and supporters.The reason is succinctly stated on the website grab-your-wallet.com.

“For those who do not want to support the Trump family and their politics, this guide identifies businesses to boycott for CURRENTLY PROFITING from a relationship with the Trump family.”

 I hope you will be aware the next to time you grab your wallet.


Brands, Clothing and Shoe Stores to Boycott: Retailers that Sells Trump Family Products

BestBuyEyeglasses.com

Buy Buy Baby

DSW

Eyeglasses.com

Heels.com

IvankaTrump.com

IvankaTrumpFineJewelry.com

KidsShoes.com

Lyst.com

Marshalls

Ross Stores

TJ Maxx

TrumpHomeCollection.com

Zappos

Bon Ton

Carson’s

Elder Beerman

Filene’s Basement

Wegmans

 

LL BEAN: board member raised funds for Trump campaign

 

Marketplace Stores to Boycott: Retailers that Sells Trump Family Products

Amazon.com

HSN

Jet

Overstock.com:

Rakuten

Bluefly

Bloomingdale’s

6pm.com

Hudson’s Bay

Macy’s

Build.com

 

 

Accessories and Household Stores to Boycott:Retailers that Sells Trump Family Products

1800lighting.com

Bed Bath & Beyond

Betteridge.com

brobinson.com

build.com

downlitebedding.com

FineHomeLamps.com

FragranceNet

HydeParkJewelers.com

Perfumania

Winners

 

Others to Boycott

Scion Hotels (brand to be opening soon in multiple locations)

Trump Golf courses: Trump Owned, Branded, or Operated Business

Trump Office Spaces: as above

Trump Real Estate: as above

Trump Residences: as above

Trump Restaurants and Bars: as above

Trump Spas: as above

Trump Winery: as above

Kushner properties: Owner Jared Kushner led Trump’s campaign

MillerCoors: Board member Peter Coors raised funds for Trump PAC

New Balance: CEO raised funds for Trump PAC

Breibart News: hate speech site/propagates fake news

King’s Hawaiian: celebrity apprentice advertiser

See’s Candies: same as above

The New Celebrity Apprentice: Donald is executive producer

Trident: celebrity apprentice advertiser

Universal Studios Hollywood: same as above

Uber Technologies Inc.

Welch’s:same as above

ABC Supply: CEO raised funds for Trump PAC

Lending Tree: CEO raised funds for Trump PAC

Uline: CEO raised funds for Trump PAC

Hobby Lobby: Company CEO endorsed Trump

NASCAR: CEO Endorsed Trump

Ultimate Fighting Championship: President endorsed Trump

Yuengling Beer: Founder endorsed Trump

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Trump’s budget: the dream of a paranoid strongman and a vicious Scrooge

GOP Presidential Candidates Take Part In CNN Town Hall In Milwaukee

Dear Friends,

I’ve been reticent to write my current thoughts about Donald. Between his preposterous positions and the intelligent press I’m left with little to say (speechless). Only to say I hope his “infrastructure spending” includes a secure looney bin to house him and his cohorts if this all continues.

Best to all of you,

Asher


By 

Donald Trump isn’t a details guy, which is why his skinny budget is skinnier than most. Every president sends these proposals to Congress to specify their general spending preferences. Trump’s plan is especially sketchy when it comes to how it actually pays for everything. As a political vision, though, it couldn’t be clearer: a kind of banana republic militarism designed to fleece taxpayers, enrich defense contractors, punish agencies deemed disloyal and screw the poor at every turn.

It is at least refreshing that Trump’s budget plan makes no pretenses of fiscal responsibility. It seeks to lift the spending caps imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act, the last big attempt to rein in deficits, because the BCA set limits to defense and non-defense discretionary spending alike. Trump wants a $54bn boost for the military, and promises to pay for it by eliminating programs popular with many, including Republican, members of Congress. Which won’t happen, which means some combination of austerity and deficit spending instead.

Trump likes to compare himself to Reagan, and the comparison isn’t unwarranted: Reagan’s legacy, too, was putting the country massively into debt to pay for an arms race. That Trump’s arms race is not only wasteful but impractical is, like Trump, another 80s throwback: the proposal leans heavily on military hardware that is entirely inappropriate for the wars the US finds itself fighting today, with outlays for warships and fighter jets, despite the fact that Isis, last anyone checked, does not have a navy or air force.

Trump doesn’t want an effective military; he wants a big, expensive, ostentatious one that he can march down Pennsylvania Avenue like a Soviet May Day parade. The centerpiece to this, Trump’s Star Wars, is the disastrous F-35 joint strike fighter, which Republicans and even Trump himself have derided as a turkey that can’t perform any of the functions it’s supposed to, other than make money for Lockheed Martin.

On the non-defense side, Trump’s plan calls for austerity that will fall squarely on the shoulders of the poor. Someone has to pay for all those F-35s, after all, and it won’t be Trump’s golfing buddies at Mar-a-Lago, who he’s promised tax cuts (“the biggest since Reagan, maybe bigger”). The cutbacks include those to the women, infants and children program, loans for small business owners, after-school programs and work-study aid for students, and job training programs for both low-income youth and senior citizens. And the proposed budget eliminates outright the Community Development Block Grant program, the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program, the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Economic Development Administration, programs which give grants and provide financial services to poor communities.

There are many other programs on the chopping block, most of which are economically insignificant: foreign aid, long targeted by Republicans despite its role in counterterrorism, is 1% of the federal budget. Trump’s plan to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts entirely, for example, would pay for one F-35. Yet even if voters may not care about Sesame Street, or national parks, or finding a cure for cancer, there’s something deeply sadistic about eliminating a program that helps elderly poor people heat their homes in the winter – especially coming from a president who has charged taxpayers $10m and counting for weekend getaways to his Palm Beach mansion.

Trump’s budget isn’t about saving money – he’s said so himself, that military spending is “more important” than a balanced budget. And it isn’t about rebuilding a “depleted” military for a country that already spends more on defense than the next twelve countries combined. Trump’s plan is about catering to his base. Not the fabled white working class, who will soon lose their WIC, heating subsidies, and job training. No, his real base, those golfing buddies and board members at companies like Lockheed, who want lower taxes and access to the government spigot, and want poor people to pay for it all.

It’s also about disciplining the deep state. Notably, the agencies facing the sharpest cuts are not the most expensive but those Trump has suspected of disloyalty: the EPA, state department and the USDA, all of which Trump’s transition team sought to muzzle and requested lists of names of employees working on programs he opposes.

Taken as a whole, Trump’s proposal points to an increasingly paranoid strongman who sees budgets as tools to reward friends and punish enemies, the military as a personal ornament, and poor Americans as piggy banks for his boondoggles and vanity projects. This doesn’t even cover the wall, which would cost enough to pay for the NEA for the next 146 years.

The likelihood that Congress will pass a bill looking much like Trump’s proposal is slim. After all, everyone hates government spending except when it funnels into their home district. Most likely Trump sees it as an Art-of-the-Deal-style opening bid, in which Congressional Republicans will come back with slightly less draconian cuts that look reasonable only in comparison.

What remains to be seen is how long Trump voters, many of whom will be on the losing end of any bargain that makes it through Congress, will go along with it. This will be the eighth straight year of austerity for non-defense discretionary spending, and it’s about to get a lot worse. Anger at austerity has brought down governments in other countries. Which may be why Trump’s been planning those military parades.

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Plunge Protection Team

mnuchin1

Steve Mnuchin, Treasury Secretary

Dear Friends,

From time to time I’m asked for a market opinion, especially in today’s confusing economic environment. When contemplating market movement, it might be helpful to think about the possibility of legal government sponsored manipulation. This article which I wrote in 2016 might be enlightening.

Asher Edelman


We often point our finger at the Chinese government’s manipulative market intervention not knowing that the U.S. Government has in place the “Working Group on Financial Markets” created on March 18th, 1988 with precisely the purpose of manipulating markets.

This body is composed of the Secretary of the Treasury, the Chairperson of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Chairperson of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Chairperson of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. It is colloquially referred to as the “Plunge Protection Team.”

It has the right, and probably uses it more often than we might imagine, to enter into all markets with taxpayer money and the responsibility to encourage the major financial players (banks) to join in. As no minutes are kept and there is no transparency as to the activities of the “anti plungers” one can only guess that when the markets are struggling the favored banks are informed and enter the market along with the U.S. taxpayer. The 1% is thankful.
Watch those sudden rallies from out of nowhere. If we are correct, in our observation the “Plunge Protection Team,” though successful for the short term pops, protectors have fared no better than the Chinese in turning markets.
1/14/2016