Monday 23 January 2017 – A culture of “alternative facts” at the White House and other news

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The Trump White House seems to be quickly becoming a place where we can expect the facts and the truth to be subjected to distortions, exaggerations, mistruths, out of context alterations, outright lies or to be completely ignored or dismissed as “fake news.” Former Trump campaign manager and now a Senior Advisor, Kellyanne Conway (pictured above), summed up the new Trump’s attitude towards what it will be telling the world, as “alternative facts.”  On Saturday the new Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, stormed out of his first White House press conference having not taken a single question. Instead he railed over the media’s “deliberate dishonesty” in its reporting of the crowds attending Friday’s inauguration on the National Mall.  Despite clear and damning photographic evidence  and evidence from public transport usage that the crowds at the inauguration were well down on those of the last two inaugurations for President Obama. It seems that Trump and his staff are unable to accept the truth. They therefore condemn it all as a media conspiracy and outright lies.  At one point Sean Spicer said that “this was the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, period,” and that “these attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong.”  It seems that it is going to be the policy of the press office to simply offer blatant lies as facts. Spicer then had the audacity to speak of  “deliberately false reporting”  and threatened the press: “We’re going to hold the press accountable.”

 

I feel that Trump must be living in a world of his own. A world where no-one dares call him out on his lies, grandiose claims and boastful exaggerations. It looks like this isn’t going to change in the White House and shamefully, people like Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway are quite happy to go along with the lies in order to maintain their positions in power.  Thankfully, not all of America’s media are cowering away from disagreeing with Trump as say Fox News does. It will be quality reporting from genuine and dedicated journalists, both in the United States and elsewhere, which will call out Trump’s lies and hopefully hold him to account.

 

The issue over the inauguration crowds  isn’t an isolated incident. In the last few days the White House has released figures suggesting crime has risen dramatically over the last eight years – presumably to highlight Trump’s  “American carnage” idea he shouted about in his inauguration speech. In reality crime has gone down over the last eight years in the United States. Another example was perhaps a gaffe, when the First Lady’s official page on the White House website said that she had “paused her studies” to focus on her modelling, when the Trump campaign website has claimed she had completed a degree in Solvakia. The same First Lady page had to quickly delete a link it had posted to Melanie’s own jewellery brand – as it would have been promoting personal commercial interests on an official Government website.

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On Donald Trump’s personal Twitter site, which he has refused to stop using now he is President and has an official @POTUS site, he continues to post his immediate thoughts on events, such as dismissing the women’s rights marches, saying that he was under the impression that we had just had an election and asking why these people didn’t vote? They did vote, just not for him. Of more concern is his continuing insistence that there is no problem between him and the CIA and intelligence community, despite again plenty of evidence to the contrary. He continues to blame the media for “making it seem like”  he was having a feud with the CIA. He dismisses the truthful reporting in high-end newspapers as “fake news”, his staff and followers perpetuate the lie, Fox News reports his lies as truth and before you know it facts are fake news and lies are alternative facts.

 

Transparency could also be lacking in the Trump White House, evidenced by the lack of information available on the official White House website which, as I write this post, has nothing on the executive orders Trump has signed so far, nothing on press briefings,  legislation, statements and releases, or speeches and remarks (with the exception of the inaugural address). The only detail on their are brief statements of intent on six core issues for the Trump administration: 1. America First Energy Plan, 2. America First Foreign Policy, 3. Bringing Back Jobs And Growth, 4. Making Our Military Strong Again, 5. Standing Up For Our Law Enforcement Community, and 6. Trade Deals Working For All Americans. There is nothing on important issues such as women’s right, civil rights, LGBT rights, education and healthcare. The section on the Cabinet contains only a brief description of what a Cabinet is, although elsewhere on the website, in the largely empty Briefing Room section, a list of nominations sent to the Senate was published on Friday. This shows some of his preferred Cabinet members and other appointments. Below are some of the Cabinet appointments sent to the Senate for confirmation:

 

  • Benjamin S. Carson Sr. (Florida) – Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
  • Elaine L. Chao (Kentucky) – Secretary of Transportation.
  • Elisabeth Prince DeVos (Michigan) – Secretary of  Education.
  • John F. Kelly (Virginia) – Secretary of Homeland  Security.
  • James Mattis (Washington) – Secretary of Defense.
  • Steven T. Mnuchin (California) – Secretary of the  Treasury.
  • James Richard Perry (Texas) – Secretary of Energy.
  • Mike Pompeo (Kansas) -Director of the Central   Intelligence Agency
  • Thomas Price (Georgia)  – Secretary of Health and Human  Services
  • Andrew F. Puzder (Tennessee) – Secretary of Labor.
  • Wilbur L. Ross, Jr. (Florida) -Secretary of Commerce.
  • Jeff Sessions (Alabama) – Attorney General.
  • David  J. Shulkin (Pennsylvania) – Secretary of Veterans  Affairs.
  • Rex W. Tillerson (Texas) – Secretary of State.
  • Vincent Viola (New York)- Secretary of the Army
  • Ryan Zinke (Montana) – Secretary of the Interior.

LINK: George Orwell on “Alternative Facts”

ARTICLES: BBCGuardian, NBC News, New York Times, CNN Media, Telegraph


Trump administration to move U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem

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In a move that clearly shows Trump’s loyalties when it comes to the Middle East, the White House has confirmed that it is in the early stages of moving the U.S.’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to  the divided city of Jerusalem. This move will please the Israeli government, who regard Jerusalem as their capital and maintain their primary governmental institutions in Jerusalem, but will enrage the Palestinians who regard Jerusalem as the de facto seat of power should it ever get an independent state. Ironically, the international community largely does not recognise either the Israeli or Palestinian claims that Jerusalem is their capital as legitimate. Jerusalem has been at the heart of Israeli conflicts with its neighbours and with the Palestinians since the 1940s at least and even today no foreign embassies are based in the city. Moving the U.S. embassy to the disputed city will only incite more anger from the Palestinians and will probably make the embassy an even greater target that the existing one in Tel Aviv is.  Some are also warning that the move would breach international law and could completely destroy the peace process.

 

This news follows on from Trump’s firing of all America’s ambassadors around the world – done so without any in place to take up the vacant posts. Trump has indicated that he wants the lawyer  David Friedman to be the new U.S. ambassador to Israel but this has not yet been confirmed by the Senate. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is no doubt pleased at Trump’s signs of support. In particular he is expecting Trump to end the U.S. Government’s opposition to its building projects on disputed land. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah told Reuters that: “We strongly condemn the Israeli decision to approve the construction.”  Trump’s strong support for Israel is, at best, going to leave a solution to the interminable crisis in the Middle East as far away as ever and, at worst, could escalate it out of control and provoke yet more fighting.

ARTICLES: Telegraph, Independent


News in brief

Trump is indicating that he wants to “massively” reduce taxes and regulation on businesses.  He says that this will apply to businesses who stay in America, “all you have to do is stay,” he says. With promises of reducing Corporation Tax from 35% to as low as 20% or 15% and slashing regulations by up to 75% he is offering measures that  will certainly encourage some companies to stay, but most American companies – who have had no intention of going anywhere – will benefit as well. While good for businesses and likely to create jobs, it will be a massive fall in tax revenue. READ MORE

 

People on the internet have been showing support for Barron Trump after he was widely criticised and trolled on the internet. This follows the insensitive tweet by NBC’s Saturday Night Live writer  Katie Rich, who posted a now-deleted tweet in which she said that “Barron will be this country’s first homeschool shooter”  – despite the fact that he isn’t homeschooled, but attends a school in Ne York. Many say that Barron, who is only ten, should be left alone and not made a target by those who don’t like his father. Meanwhile on YouTube, more sympathetic videos have been posted, such as this one, that shows him in a favourable light.  READ MORE

 

Claiming Trump is breaking Constitutional laws by accepting payments from foreign companies,  ethics lawyers are preparing to file a suit against the President. His son, Eric Trump, who is executive vice-president of the Trump Organisation, has dismissed the claims as: “harassment for political gain.” READ MORE

 

Trump is now saying he will not release his tax returns despite several promises he would. This is according to his Senior Advisor Kellyanne Conway who told ABC’s This Week that the Trump administration would do nothing about calls for the release of his tax returns. His refusal to do so has only increased speculation that he has something to hide, most likely that he has been avoiding tax for a long time. Despite a poll suggesting 74% of Americans (including 53% of Republicans) want him to release the tax returns, Kellyanne Conway was insistent:  “People didn’t care. They voted for him, and let me make this very clear: most Americans … are very focused on what their tax returns will look like while President Trump is in office, not what his look like.”  READ MORE

 

Trump will issue an executive order to begin Nafta renegotiation. Trump wants to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement negotiated by George H.W. Bush and enacted by Bill Clinton in 1994. Trump has used the Nafta as an example of the populist anger felt in parts of America over trade, saying that “we want to bring manufacturing back to our country.” During his campaign he singled out Nafta as the worst example of a trade deal ever. Trump has indicated that he will have talks with the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, and the Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto, over the future of Nafta. READ MORE

 

Gil Kerlikowske, commissioner of Customs and Border Protection Agency  during the Obama Administration left his office on Friday, but not before saying that building a wall on the Mexican border would be a waste of time and money. The wall has been a repeated promise by Donald Trump during his campaign as a means of keeping out Mexican immigrants. Looking at the sheer scale of building the wall prompted Mr Kerlikowske to say: “I think that anyone who’s been familiar with the southwest border and the terrain…kind of recognizes that building a wall along the entire southwest border is probably not going to work.” READ MORE

 

Now that he is President, Trump’s properties around the world face terror risks. U.S. brands have been targeted abroad in the past and none of them were owned by a President. There is fear that Trump’s new-found high-profile may result in  his buildings or employees being targeted. READ MORE

 

Senator John McCain expresses his concerns over Trump administration’s relationship with Russia, and discusses his thoughts on Trump’s Cabinet nominations, and said that he doesn’t know if he has the utmost confidence in President Trump. READ MORE

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