Category Archives: LAI

Why Is President Trump Trying So Hard to Piss Off South Korea?

Mother Jones

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Let me get this straight. First, Donald Trump pisses off South Korea by parroting the Chinese president’s claim that Korea was once part of China. Then he pisses them off again by saying the USS Carl Vinson is on its way to the Yellow Sea when, in fact, it’s cruising around in Indonesia. Then, today, he pisses them off again by saying he might terminate our trade agreement with them, and then demanding that they pay us a billion dollars for the anti-missile system we’re installing there.

But…we need good relations with South Korea if we’re planning to take on North Korea in some way. Right? Why would we be going out of our way to piss them off repeatedly?

It is a mystery. It is a Trumpism. Perhaps Trump still doesn’t realize that it’s not like the old days, when doing something stupid would get him some attention for a couple of news cycles and then go away. I thought maybe he’d finally figured that out after the whole Obama wiretapping fiasco.1 I guess not.

1In retrospect, it’s pretty obvious that he was delighted with those tweets at first because they turned the spotlight back on him and that’s all he wanted. He figured it would be like the campaign, when he’d do this kind of stuff, bluff his way through it for a couple of days, and then everyone would get tired and let it go. I imagine he was pretty shocked that everyone took it seriously for weeks on end. Come on! It was a weekend tweet! It’s not like I’m the presi— Oh.

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Why Is President Trump Trying So Hard to Piss Off South Korea?

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The Most Important Free Speech Question Is: Who Decides?

Mother Jones

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Like everyone, I’ve been watching as the free speech debate on college campuses has morphed from its usual steady background hum into a Big Issue Of The Day. First there was Milo Yiannopoulos at Berkeley. Then Charles Murray at Middlebury. Heather Mac Donald at Claremont McKenna. Ann Coulter at Berkeley. The right is naturally outraged that these speakers were harassed or banned, and the left is—well, what is the left’s reaction to all this? At first, it was mostly a matter of not really sticking up for free speech rights on campus. That was bad enough, but then the conversation changed. Instead of a collective mumble, I began reading affirmative arguments that there was absolutely nothing wrong with “no-platforming” these folks. For example, a few days ago a New Republic article showed up in my Facebook feed and got high fives from several people I follow. Here is Aaron Hanlon:

When departments or groups arrange for a speaker, invitations are usually authorized by small committees or localized administrative offices without a campus-wide discussion or debate….Instead of community-wide discussion and debate over the merits of bringing a given speaker to campus, the debate happens after the invitation, giving the misleading impression that no-platforming is about shutting down speech.

….But no-platforming is better understood as the kind of value judgment that lies at heart of a liberal arts education….This has always meant deciding what people needed to know, but also what they don’t need to know—or at least which knowledge and skills deserved priority in one’s formal education.

….No-platforming may look like censorship from certain angles, but from others it’s a consequence of a challenging, never-ending process occurring at virtually all levels of the university: deciding what educational material to present to our students and what to leave out. In this sense, de-platforming isn’t censorship; it’s a product of free expression and the foundational aims of a classically liberal education.

The sophistry here is breathtaking. If it’s just some small group that invites someone, then it’s OK if the rest of the university blackballs their choice. After all, universities are supposed to decide what students don’t need to know. It may “look like censorship from certain angles,” but it’s actually the very zenith of free expression. Juliet Kleber followed up today:

As Aaron Hanlon argued in the New Republic earlier this week, choosing not to host Ann Coulter or Milo Yiannopoulos on campus is not a suppression of their free speech. Academia certainly has an important place in selecting and elevating certain voices to relevance in a broader culture, but let’s not forget that a college isn’t a town hall: it’s a particular community of people engaged in intersecting missions of education. Coulter is not a member of that community and she has no claims upon it. Campus life is curated, and none of us outside of it are guaranteed access to that platform.

Enough. I don’t usually pay a lot of attention to the latest outrages on college campuses because college campuses are teeming with smart, verbal, overconfident 19-year-olds. Of course they do stupid things. We all did stupid things at that age. I’m generally happy for all these micro-outrages to remain local controversies handled by local administrators.

But now everyone is weighing in, and here on the left we’re caving in way too often to this Hanlon-esque lunacy. Is some of the speech he’s concerned about ugly and dangerous and deliberately provocative? Of course it is. But that’s not a reason to shut it down. That’s the whole reason we defend free speech in the first place. If political speech was all a harmless game of patty-cake, nobody would even care.

Speech is often harmful. And vicious. And hurtful. And racist. And just plain disgusting. But whenever you start thinking these are good reasons to overturn—by violence or otherwise—someone’s invitation to speak, ask yourself this: Who decides? Because once you concede the right to keep people from speaking, you concede the right of somebody to make that decision. And that somebody may eventually decide to shut down communists. Or anti-war protesters. Or gays. Or sociobiologists. Or Jews who defend Israel. Or Muslims.

I don’t want anyone to have that power. No one else on the left should want it either.

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The Most Important Free Speech Question Is: Who Decides?

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The Department of Defense Is Investigating Michael Flynn

Mother Jones

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The Defense Department’s inspector general has opened an investigation to determine whether Michael Flynn, Donald Trump’s former national security advisor, accepted payments from a foreign government without permission, according to documents released Thursday by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).

“These documents raise grave questions about why General Flynn concealed the payments he received from foreign sources after he was warned explicitly by the Pentagon,” Cummings, the top Democrat on the House oversight committee, said in a statement. “Our next step is to get the documents we are seeking from the White House so we can complete our investigation. I thank the Department of Defense for providing us with unclassified versions of these documents.” Earlier this week, Cummings blasted the White House for refusing to provide his committee with documents related to whether Flynn disclosed his foreign payments when he reapplied for a security clearance last year.

Prior to working for Trump, Flynn had led the Defense Intelligence Agency under former President Barack Obama. Flynn was pushed out of that job in 2014 and the DIA explicitly told Flynn that he could not to accept any compensation from a foreign state without prior permission from the federal government. Flynn, however, took $45,000 in speaking fees from television network RT (formerly know as Russia today), which U.S. intelligence officials describe as a Russian propaganda outlet.

Flynn claims the DIA was briefed on the payment, but the information released by Cummings shows that the agency cannot find any documentation “referring or relating” to his “receipt of money from a foreign source.” There’s also another relationship that Cumming says is alarming and may not have been properly disclosed: Flynn’s company received $530,000 from a firm owned by a Turkish businessman with close ties to the government. Flynn’s lawyer wrote that the business relationship “could be construed to have principally benefited the republic of Turkey,” and Flynn filed belated paperwork identifying his work as a foreign agent after losing his post in the Trump administration.

During Thursday’s White House briefing, Press Secretary Sean Spicer blamed the Obama administration when he was asked about the thoroughness of Flynn’s vetting by Trump’s transition team. “There’s an issue…that the Department of Defense Inspector General is looking into,” Spicer said. “We welcome that, but all of that clearance was made by the Obama administration and apparently with knowledge of the trip that he took.”

Earlier this week, Cummings and House oversight committee chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) held a joint press conference, during which they revealed that Flynn may have broken the law by not disclosing the payment from RT when he reapplied for a security clearance last year.

But Republicans on the oversight committee are furious about Cummings’ decision to make the documents public. “Though we’ve walked hand-in-hand with the Democrats during this investigation, this morning they broke with long-standing protocol and decided to release these documents without consulting us,” a spokeswoman for Chaffetz said on CNN.

Democrats say they’ve been working with the Pentagon to release unclassified versions of the documents to the public. A spokeswoman for Cummings said Republicans on the committee were informed the documents would be released this morning. “I honestly don’t understand why the White House is covering up for Michael Flynn,” Cummings said at a press conference today following the release of the documents. “There is a paper trail that the White House does not want our committee to follow it.”

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The Department of Defense Is Investigating Michael Flynn

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The Surprising Green Benefit of Living in the City

Were not in the 60s anymore, Toto. Seems young people these days (aka millennials) no longer dream of moving to the country to try their hand at communal living and organic farming. Instead, they are turning to another way to help green the planetcity living. Huh? Well, unless you live entirely off the grid, most folks have to work for a living, and most jobs tend to be located close to urban cores. City dwelling also offer more cultural diversity, educational institutions, art galleries, museums, and nightlife, often within walking distance. And walking, rather than driving, to work or play is one of the greenest lifestyle changes you could make. Learn more.

Save money.

For families living in suburban communities, the cost of transportation comprises 25 percent of total household expenditures, making it the second largest household expense, exceeded only by the cost of housing itself. Compare this figure to thebudget of urban dwellers, where the percentage allotted for transportation drops to only 9 percent.

Save time.

Theres been a trend over the past 40 years toward what theWashington Postdubs the mega commuteran individual who, in order to get to the job every day, faces a long haul of 90 minutes each way. Do the math and youll see that adds up to an annual total of 31.3 days gobbled up traveling to and from work, an activity that many people rank among their least favorite ways to spend time. One simple solution to an admittedly complex problem is to move closer to your workplace.

Save gasoline.

Although electric cars (and the public charging stations they need in order to drive long distances) are becoming available, most people still rely on gasoline to power their automobiles. Gasoline has a number of drawbacks. To start, gas is expensive. Whats more, as a fossil fuel manufactured from crude oil, it is a non-renewable resource. But the most compelling motivation to reduce gasoline use stems from the fact that it contributes heavily to your carbon footprint. Burning a single gallon of gas produces20 pounds of carbon dioxide.

Save the planet.

In recent years, theres been a lot of buzz about taking steps to make homes more energy-efficient:installing energy-saving HVAC systems, replacing worn-out appliances with Energy Star certified models, and sealing and insulating the house exteriors. However, the Environmental Protection Agency advises thatlocation efficiencyis even more important to the health of our environment thanenergy efficiency. By this logic, the most eco-friendly home of all would combine energy-efficient features with a very walkable location.

Think like a millennial.

Millennials (young adults born between the mid-1980s and the early years of the 21stcentury) prefer walking to driving by a whopping 12 percentage points according tosurvey results. When theyre not driving, they like to bike to their destination, whether it be work, shopping, or entertainment. Compared to older age groups, they are much readier to live in attached housing, rather than the traditional single-family detached home in the suburbs, in order to shorten their commuting time.

Check theWalk Score.

If you are planning a move, consult the Walk Score for any property you might want to rent or buy. Based on accessibility to such facilities as schools, grocery shopping, restaurants, cultural activities, and parks, the score is calculated based on an ideal of 100. Anything over 70 rates as very walkable, while 90 plus is considered a walkers paradise. Not surprisingly, homes in cities tend to score highest on the scale.

Push for green spaces.

Some municipal governments are beginning to fund out-of-the-box oases such as green roofs and linear parks. Push your locality to add more and maybe even create your own community vegetable plot or roadside guerilla garden. Urban green spaces improve the air quality, soak up stormwater, and may evenreduce crime ratesin the area. Besides, they provide a pretty view when youre out walking.

By Laura Firszt, Networx.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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The Surprising Green Benefit of Living in the City

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One Chart Shows How the Trump Tax Plan Will Totally Pay For Itself

Mother Jones

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Here’s the first quick-and-dirty estimate of how much Donald Trump’s tax plan would cost. It comes from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget:

Oh please. This is a ridiculously pessimistic estimate because CRFB doesn’t account for the economic growth this tax plan will unleash. They estimate that productivity would need to grow 3.8 percent per year to make Trump’s plan pay for itself, something they scoff at. But that’s well within reason:

I don’t see a problem with that. Do you? Yes? That’s probably because you don’t believe in the power of the white American worker. That’s why you lefties lost the election.

Perhaps you sense that I’m taking this less than seriously. Guilty as charged. But if Trump himself doesn’t take his plans seriously, why should I?1

1Also, the eagle-eyed might have noticed that although the 1-page tax plan summary we got today was very similar to Trump’s campaign document, one thing was left out: it no longer claims to be revenue neutral. Funny how that works.

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One Chart Shows How the Trump Tax Plan Will Totally Pay For Itself

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