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It’s official: Climate change is a threat to our national security.

In another move cementing his environmental legacy, President Barack Obama signed a memorandum Wednesday requiring all national security policies and plans to “fully consider the impacts of climate change.”

The memorandum is backed by a report from the National Intelligence Council citing examples of real and potential national-security challenges due to climate change: war caused by drought and crop failure; migration because of hotter temperatures and flooding; and heightened international tensions over increasingly limited natural resources. Earlier this year, the Pentagon began incorporating climate change into its operations from testing weapons to training troops.

In the last few weeks, Obama has created two national monuments, temporarily halted the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, and made climate change a part of national security policy. He likely has a few items left on his climate wishlist, and he’s got 120 days left to check them off.

September 29, 2016

The Washington Redskins are trying to ride the legal coattails of an Asian dance rock band called The Slants.

In 2011, the Portland, Oregon-based band were denied the trademark application for their name on the grounds that it was considered offensive to Asians. The decision seems cut and dry until you consider that the band consists only of Asian-American members who had chosen “slant” as a point of ethnic pride and as a way to confront racial stereotypes. The U.S. Trademark Office, however, had in fact taken the band’s racial identity into consideration; combined with the definition of “slant” at urbandictionary.com, among other sources, it defended it decision. But on Thursday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the band’s challenge to the federal law that denied them their trademark.

But it isn’t just the fate of The Slants that’s at stake. The Washington Redskins football team, which was stripped of their trademark on the same grounds last year, have hitched their wagon to The Slants’ case, much to the band’s dismay. The band has distanced themselves from the football team, saying that the word “redskin,” unlike “slant,” has a “long history of oppression” and was an “inherent racial slur.” But the Redskins have no such qualms, and filed an amicus brief urging the Court to hear the band’s case and perhaps even hear their cases at the same time, which the Court did not agree to do. Still, the outcome of The Slants’ case would definitely have a ripple effect on the Redskins’ case.

The two cases are similar only in a superficial sense. Native Americans have protested the team’s name for decades. In the Slants’ campaign to receive their trademark, they invoked a long history of cultural re-appropriation of stereotypes by Asian-Americans, from the Slant Film Festival to the popular blog Angry Asian Man, as avenues for tackling discrimination and engaging in racial discourse. At a time when cultural appropriation has become a highly contested battleground, distinguishing between who is doing the appropriating and how groups are affected by such actions seems to be a basic first step in bringing nuance to the discussion.

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The “Scholars and Writers for Trump” include a historian who thinks the Nazi perspective isn’t getting its due.

The website American Greatness has compiled a list of “Scholars and Writers for Trump” and there are some very odd names on it, including the historian Christiana Jeffreys. In 1986, Jeffrey had been hired by Ronald Reagan’s Department of Education to review proposed federal funding for a course on the Holocaust. Jeffreys was hostile to the course, arguing in her evaluation that “the program gives no evidence of balance or objectivity. The Nazi point of view, however unpopular, is still a point of view and is not presented, nor is that of the Ku Klux Klan.”

Jeffreys also argued that the course was propagandistic because it sought to “change the thinking of students in the same (way) that Hitler and Goebbels used to propagandize the German people. This re-education method was perfected by Chairman Mao and is now being foisted on American children under the guise of ‘understanding history.’” In 1995, when Newt Gingrich tried to appoint Jeffreys to the position of House Historian, her views on the Holocaust were so controversial the nomination was withdrawn.

Of course, the very idea of “Scholars and Writers for Trump” goes against Trump’s anti-elite appeal. For that reason, while the list includes a few fine scholars, many others are strange oddballs of little repute, such as:

  • Philosopher Hadley Arkes, who once compared those who murder abortion providers to “a band of Jews had killed guards and executioners on their way to work in Auschwitz.”
  • Popular historian Conrad Black, a convicted felon who was deported from the United States.
  • Historian Arthur Herman, who has defended Joseph McCarthy.
  • Anti–gun control advocate John Lott, infamous for fabricating research and creating a sock puppet named Mary Rosh to praise his own work.
  • Politician Newt Gingrich, who has a doctorate in history but is best known for other things, including trying to hire Christiana Jeffreys as the House Historian.

New “Never Trump But The Liberal Media Is Being Totally Unfair To Him!” movement emerges.

Most conservatives who claim to be #NeverTrump can’t bring themselves to admit that Hillary Clinton is a basically normal liberal politician, acceptable if the alternative is fascism. What’s less clear is how many conservatives who claim to be #NeverTrump think a bit of American fascism might be less bad for the country and the world than four more years of conventional liberalism. This may explain the strange spectacle of conservatives who say they find Donald Trump abhorrent rushing to his defense against the dread liberal media.

“Lester Holt tilted anti-Trump during the debate,” wrote Rich Lowry, editor of National Review, which dedicated an entire issue during the Republican primary to opposing Trump. “[He] got tougher questions than Clinton, who was spared queries on matters such as the Clinton Foundation and Benghazi. It was fair game to ask Trump about birtherism, but Holt asked two follow-ups about it. And he fact-checked Trump in real time twice, arguably getting his correction of Trump about a complex stop-and-frisk case wrong. Notably, Holt got positive reviews.”

Shapiro, who resigned from Breitbart over its Trumpian tilt, is ostensibly calling foul on liberals and the media for finding fault in the Trump campaign’s efforts to smear a former Miss Universe who gained weight. After all, a mere 50 years ago a Democratic president was quite a misogynist.

What the word “never” means seems to differ from one conservative to the next, but we should distinguish between conservatives who view “Never Trump” as a statement of civic obligation (those, in other words, who are seeking to defeat him), those who view it as a statement of self-absolution (abstainers), and those who view it as a way to cover their own hides, while hoping others carry Trump across the finish line for them.

Donald Trump can’t stop bashing Alicia Machado and it’s dragging his campaign down.

Perhaps the Clinton campaign’s shrewdest insight into Donald Trump is that he is easily baited. When he feels personally slighted, he can’t let go of a subject but keeps on fighting. During Monday’s debate, Clinton laid some juicy bait for Trump by bringing up the way he had mistreated Venezuelan beauty queen Alicia Machado. Rather than showing any judgement by apologizing and moving on, Trump jumped on the bait like a hungry rat. Since debate night, he’s attacked Machado constantly. On Bill O’Reilly’s show last night, the Republican nominee portrayed himself as the victim of an ungrateful employee he tried to help. “I saved her job because they wanted to fire her for putting on so much weight ... it is a beauty contest,” Trump told O’Reilly.

Trump also hinted that there would be more personal attacks, saying, “A lot of things are coming out about her.” This is an allusion to a smear campaign against Machado being conducted by Trump’s media allies, which have been trawling Latin American tabloids for sensationalistic and often false stories about the former Miss Universe. Rush Limbaugh called her a “porn star Miss Piggy.” Some of Trump’s surrogates have also taken the bait. On Tuesday, Newt Gingrich told a Republican gathering, “You are not supposed to gain 60 pounds the year you’re Miss Universe.”

For a campaign that is struggling with a gender gap, attacking a woman for being overweight might seem like a self-destructive move. After all, according to a PPP poll, 65 percent of voters find Trump’s comments about Machado to be inappropriate and only 17 percent find them appropriate. Given these numbers, it’s puzzling that the Trump campaign has doubled down on the message “No Fat Chicks.”

Fox News

Is Sean Hannity gunning for a position in the Trump White House?

There’s a lot of great gossip in Robert Draper’s latest piece for The New York Times magazine about the ongoing Trump-fueled civil war in conservative media. We learn, for instance, that Trump and Ann Coulter are especially close, that she helped him with his “Mexican rapist” announcement speech, and that Trump has given her jewelry and a free membership to Mar-a-Lago. “Trump has made my life better in so many ways,” Coulter tells Draper.

Draper writes that Trump has “implicitly encouraged” his supporters to consider themselves “part of the campaign team,” so it should come as no surprise that these members of the media (I’m careful to not say “journalists”) are acting like campaign staffers. And it should especially come as no surprise that some of them may be eyeing positions in the Trump White House, should he win in November.

Similarly, while we’ve known for a while that Trump gets his talking points from conservative radio, Draper’s piece lays out just how intertwined they are. Here’s Draper on Hannity, for instance:

I asked Hannity if it was true that, as a Trump confidant had told me, he wished to be considered as a potential Trump White House chief of staff. “That’s news to me,” he insisted, adding a politician’s practiced nondenial denial: “I have radio and TV contracts that I will honor through December 2020.” Nonetheless, Hannity’s service to the Trump campaign well exceeds that of ritually bashing Clinton and giving Trump free airtime. He has offered private strategic advice to the campaign. The same Trump confidant told me of at least one instance in which Hannity drafted an unsolicited memo outlining the message Trump should offer after the Orlando nightclub shooting in June.

This helps explain why the elusive Trump pivot never happened: Trump may be listening to people like Reince Preibus with one ear, but Hannity and Coulter have the other, and they’re the ones who seem to have control over the puppet strings.

This should also disqualify Hannity as a theoretically objective source on Trump’s supposed (and fake) opposition to the Iraq War. Even if the chief of staff thing really is just a rumor, the fact that Hannity has taken on the mantle of unofficial aide should disqualify his defense of Trump completely.

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Will Donald Trump’s violation of the Cuban embargo hurt him in Florida?

This week’s Newsweek cover scoop by Kurt Eichenwald documents how, under Trump’s direction, his hotels, casino, and resort company spent a minimum of $68,000 on development projects in Cuba in 1998, thinly veiled as a charitable effort so as to bypass international trade law. Trump essentially cut corners to get ahead of the game in Cuba, anticipating an eventual thaw in U.S. economic sanctions. We should definitely take this to be further evidence of Trump’s shady business practices and skirting of the law for his own personal gain.

Historically, Cuban-American political exiles have favored the U.S. embargo, objecting to any olive branches offered to the communist regime that forced them to flee. Florida Senator Marco Rubio, whose parents immigrated to the U.S. prior to the rise of dictator Fidel Castro, is among that hardline class. Despite pressure from businesses to change his stance, Rubio has described Cuba as “adversarial” and “aggressive” and says he cannot justify softening the embargo when there has been no improvement in the country’s human rights record.

But opinions on the embargo are shifting. In 2014, President Barack Obama began a slow process of normalizing relations and re-establishing economic ties with Cuba after a 55-year embargo that has been estimated to cost the island nation at least $1 trillion in exports and tourism annually. A year later, polls showed 56 percent of Cuban-Americans in favor of lifting the embargo, while 36 percent opposed.

Florida boasts America’s largest population of Cubans, numbering over 1.2 million, a bit over 6 percent of the state’s overall population and 29 percent of the state’s Hispanics. With presidential polls as tight as they are there (RealClearPolitics estimates Hillary Clinton ahead by a margin of only 0.6 percentage points), it’s anyone’s game and Trump will want to steer clear of upsetting a key contingent of the Hispanic vote there.

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Paul Ryan is screwed no matter what happens in November.

For the last several months, he has tried to live in a parallel reality to Donald Trump. Whenever Trump says something controversial, Ryan claims total ignorance. When asked on Tuesday if he was aware that Trump had told Fox & Friends the morning after the debate that Alicia Machado gained too much weight after winning Miss Universe, Ryan said he had been “working out” at the time. It is as if Ryan prefers to pretend that Trump doesn’t exist. But as Politico notes this morning, he won’t be able to do that if Trump wins the election:

If Trump wins and Ryan retains the speakership, the Wisconsin Republican will be forced to continue to wedge his positions into Trump’s alternate Republican universe.

If Clinton wins, Ryan will have to preside over a slimmed Republican majority, more heavily populated with burn-the-house-down conservatives. He’ll have to cut deals and do business with Hillary Clinton—a woman he’s met with privately just twice—while at the same time keeping conservatives content.

If you looked at Trump and Ryan from a distance, you would not guess that they belong to the same party. They disagree about free trade and defense, for instance, and their philosophical and temperamental differences are profound. They do have one (horrible) thing in common, however: They are both fans of the novels of Ayn Rand. Ryan and House Republicans will certainly try to treat Trump as a rubber stamp to pass draconian entitlement cuts, but Trump, who has shown signs of being a Perot-esque egomaniacal micromanager, may not like that.

But a Clinton victory would push Ryan in an even more difficult place. Compromise has undone many Republicans before, and the party should be bracing for a rash of alt-right candidates in 2018, should Clinton win.

Don’t vote for Gary Johnson. He is bad.

The Libertarian candidate for president had another “Aleppo moment” at an MSNBC town hall last night, failing to name a single world leader that he admired. “Anywhere! Any continent!” Chris Matthews goaded. “Canada, Mexico, Europe over there, Asia, South America, Africa, name a foreign leader that you respect!” Johnson came up with “the former president of Mexico,” a man he respected so much he couldn’t remember his name.

So we know that Johnson probably hasn’t looked at a map or read a newspaper in quite a while. But it’s not clear how much this hurts him with his supporters. A student of the George W. Bush school of political branding, he presents himself as a man of the people, which in his view amounts to knowing “not one thing.” This amateurish persona, in addition to smoking dad weed and being anti-interventionist and calling for a pardon of Edward Snowden, has endeared him to younger voters who won’t vote for Donald Trump but distrust slick, conventional candidates like Hillary Clinton. In head-to-head match-ups, Clinton trounces Trump with voters between the ages of 18 and 35; in four-way scenarios (including the Green Party’s Jill Stein), it is much closer, an indication that Johnson is drawing millennial voters who lean Democratic.

But there are so, so many reasons Democratic leaners should not vote for Johnson, not least of which is that protests votes won’t do anything but help Trump get elected. As governor of New Mexico from 1995 to 2003, he was a classic “Reaganite antitax crusader.” He supports Citizens United, and is against all manner of gun control. As president, he would privatize education, roll back Obamacare, weaken Medicare, and raise the minimum age for Social Security. His proposal to simplify the tax code to a single consumption tax would place a far greater burden on lower-income earners who are taxed at a lower rate in our current progressive tax code. On top of all that, the man has a thing for spandex and wraparound sunglasses. He would be a bad president.

In a military town hall, Obama had to walk a difficult tightrope: criticizing Trump without naming him.

Speaking to a group of soldiers and their families at Fort Lee in Virginia—along with CNN viewers—President Obama had to be careful to not get too partisan on Wednesday, night, even as he answered highly political questions about the state of the Department of Veterans Affairs, the role of women in the military, and strategies for defeating ISIL.

Since the talk took place on a military installation, Obama was not allowed to engage in electioneering. But he did use a question about his refusal to use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” to take a jab at the Republican nominee.

Obama made the standard arguments: that it’s wrong to cede the title of Islam to violent extremists like ISIL, and that the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” insults Muslim-Americans and antagonizes many allies America needs in the Islamic world. But he also alluded to the current election, noting “the danger” of someone “aspiring to be president” using loose language that “betrays our ideals.”

When host Jake Tapper asked Obama if he meant Donald Trump, Obama backed away from the partisan edge and denied it, saying “there have been a number of public figures” who have done “commentary that is dangerous.”

September 28, 2016

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Congress’s first override of an Obama veto is a victory for 9/11 families.

In the same month that the country commemorated the 15th anniversary of the terror attack, the legislature will force through a bill allowing families of 9/11 victims to sue the government of Saudia Arabia for any involvement in the plot.

Senators voted overwhelming to override the veto, 97 to 1, with Minority Leader Harry Reid the only senator voting against.

It is almost guaranteed that the House’s veto override will also be successful, given the bipartisan nature of the initiative. “This is a decision I do not take lightly” Senator Chuck Schumer said, “because it would allow the victims of 9/11 to pursue some small measure of justice, finally giving them a legal avenue to pursue foreign sponsors of the terrorist attack that took from them the lives of their loved ones.”

The legislation will amend a law from 1976 granting countries broad immunity from American lawsuits, the exception being those listed by the State Department as state sponsors of terrorism. Though Saudi Arabia is not on the list, it is widely believed to be a source of funding for terrorism worldwide, even as its government is considered an American ally in the fight against terror.

A New York Times editorial from today highlights the risk such a bill would cause to American diplomacy, with the European Union already warning that “if the bill becomes law, other countries could adopt similar legislation” and sue the U.S. government in turn. A valid concern given the fact that the U.S. has military bases, drone operations, intelligence missions, and training programs all over the world.