Something a little different for today: So much news has been happening so fast, as is typical in Trump world, but the last couple days have been especially busy, and I’m having a hard time picking a single item to focus on. So instead of doing a deeper focus on just one issue, today I’m going to give you a list of Things I Think You Should Know, with a note about each of them. If you don’t have time to read all the linked articles, my notes will give you an idea of what’s going on. But hopefully you can read the full articles, because the articles all add more colorful & interesting details . . .
1. You’ve most likely heard about the raid in Yemen earlier this week in which navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens was killed. Now the military is investigating whether there were also more civilians killed in that raid than previously thought. And then there’s this unsettling detail from the Reuters report:
U.S. military officials told Reuters that Trump approved his first covert counterterrorism operation without sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup preparations. As a result, three officials said, the attacking SEAL team found itself dropping onto a reinforced al Qaeda base defended by landmines, snipers, and a larger than expected contingent of heavily armed Islamist extremists. The Pentagon directed queries about the officials’ characterization of the raid to U.S. Central Command, which pointed only to its statement on Wednesday. “CENTCOM asks for operations we believe have a good chance for success and when we ask for authorization we certainly believe there is a chance of successful operations based on our planning,” CENTCOM spokesman Colonel John Thomas said. “Any operation where you are going to put operators on the ground has inherent risks,” he said.
A Democrat by heritage and Republican by choice, Bannon has come to see both parties as deeply corrupt, a belief that has shaped his recent career as a polemical filmmaker and Internet bomb thrower. A party guest recalled meeting him as a private citizen and Bannon telling him that he was like Lenin, eager to “bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s Establishment.” . . .
Historian David Kaiser played a featured role in [Bannon produced documentary] Generation Zero, and he recalls his filmed interview with Bannon as an engrossing and enjoyable experience.
And yet, he told TIME, he was taken aback when Bannon began to argue that the current phase of history foreshadowed a massive new war. “I remember him saying, ‘Well, look, you have the American revolution, and then you have the Civil War, which was bigger than the revolution. And you have the Second World War, which was bigger than the Civil War,'” Kaiser said. “He even wanted me to say that on camera, and I was not willing.”
[Author Neil] Howe, too, was struck by what he calls Bannon’s “rather severe outlook on what our nation is going through.” Bannon noted repeatedly on his radio show that “we’re at war” with radical jihadis in places around the world. This is “a global existential war” that likely will become “a major shooting war in the Middle East again.” War with China may also be looming, he has said. This conviction is central to the Breitbart mission, he explained in November 2015: “Our big belief, one of our central organizing principles at the site, is that we’re at war.”
3. A new study by a non-partisan think tank, the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute, finds that 5 million U.S. jobs (or 1 out of every 29 workers) depend on Mexico, both directly and indirectly. That’s something we should probably keep in mind as we watch Trump trash our relationship with our southern neighbor, continue to demand that they pay for the border wall, and insist that he’s going to somehow unilaterally renegotiate NAFTA.
4. This morning at the National Prayer Breakfast, Trump reiterated a promise he made on the campaign trail, that he would repeal the Johnson Amendment. The Johnson Amendment prohibits non-profit organizations (like churches) from endorsing, or speaking against, political candidates. It’s the reason you’re not supposed to hear about politics during your church sermon or service at temple, etc (though you sometimes do anyway). It also covers universities and other non-profits, but most of the controversy over the law seems to be around religious entities and their freedom to speak out while retaining their tax-exempt status.
5. Some good news for the Trump opposition: The Washington Post polled Americans on their support for the women’s marches. 60% said they lean toward supporting the marches versus 29% who said they lean toward opposing. This is heartening for those on the opposition side because protest movements can sometimes spark a backlash against the movement. Certainly that’s what Trump was hoping for when he tweeted that celebrities were hurting the cause. So far, at least, that doesn’t appear to be the case.
6. Buzzfeed reports that Texas Governor Greg Abbott is the first in the country to cut off federal funds to punish a sanctuary city since Trump signed the executive order on that issue. The executive order punishes local governments that don’t assist federal authorities in their deportation efforts.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott is fulfilling his promise to cut off more than a million dollars in state grant money to one county after the sheriff vowed to break with immigration enforcement practices and detain inmates suspected of being undocumented immigrants only if they are charged with a serious violent crimes.
7. An interesting article from the NY Times points out that many “blue collar” jobs that used to provide a good salary to someone with a high school degree have been lost not to other countries but to automation. And because of the ubiquitous use of computers, even where those jobs still exist they now require a higher level of skill or education than ever before. The article explores the idea that – instead of telling everyone they need to go to college – apprenticeships might help better prepare students for these types of jobs, without the associated debt.
Students in the United States are offered few feasible routes to middle-skill careers — jobs that require more education than a high school diploma but typically not a bachelor’s degree. The National Skills Coalition, a nonprofit organization, calculates that middle-skill jobs — in computer technology, health care, construction, high-skill manufacturing and other fields — account for 54 percent of the labor market, but only 44 percent of workers are sufficiently trained . . .
Faced with a skills gap, employers are increasingly working with community colleges to provide students with both the academic education needed to succeed in today’s work force and the specific hands-on skills to get a job in their companies. John Deere, for example, has designed a curriculum and donated farm equipment to several community colleges to train technicians for its dealer network. About 15 to 20 students come through the program at Walla Walla each semester. Because they are sponsored by a John Deere dealership, where the students work for half the program, most graduate in two years with a job in hand. Technicians start at salaries just shy of $40,000, on average.
8. Google, Apple, Facebook, Uber and several other tech companies are writing a letter to Trump opposing his “travel ban” (aka the Muslim ban). I’d say it’s a pretty softly worded opposition.
9. Donald Trump’s favorite punching bag, Jeb Bush sent out a tweet criticizing the travel ban:
10. Former Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice also criticized the ban, calling it “ill considered and badly delivered.”
11. And finally, you’ve probably heard about Trump’s call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. If not, you must read about it – it’s really something. Trump cut the call short after a dispute over an agreement Obama had made with Turnbull for the U.S. to take some refugees who are currently being held in processing centers on two islands off of Australia. After the call, Trump tweeted this:
It’s hard to come to any conclusion other than that Trump doesn’t understand the difference between a refugee and an illegal immigrant. Which could go part of the way toward explaining why the rollout of Trump’s “travel ban” this past weekend was such a disaster.