We Resist: Day 61

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One of the difficulties in resisting the Trump administration, the Republican Congressional majority, and Republican state legislatures is keeping on top of the sheer number of horrors, indignities, and normalization of the aggressively abnormal that they unleash every single day.

So here is a daily thread for all of us to share all the things that are going on, thus crowdsourcing a daily compendium of the onslaught of conservative erosion of our rights and our very democracy.

Stay engaged. Stay vigilant. Resist.

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Here are some things in the news today:

Ron Nixon at the New York Times: U.S. Limits Devices for Passengers on Foreign Airlines From Eight Countries.
Passengers on foreign airlines headed to the United States from 10 airports in eight majority-Muslim countries have been barred from carrying electronic devices larger than a cellphone under a new flight restriction enacted on Tuesday by the Trump administration.

Officials called the directive an attempt to address gaps in foreign airport security, and said it was not based on any specific or credible threat of an imminent attack.

The Department of Homeland Security said the restricted items included laptop computers, tablets, cameras, travel printers, and games bigger than a phone. The restrictions would not apply to aircraft crews, officials said in a briefing to reporters on Monday night that outlined the terms of the ban.

The new policy took effect at 3 a.m. E.D.T. on Tuesday, and must be followed within 96 hours by airlines flying to the United States from airports in Amman, Jordan; Cairo; Istanbul; Jeddah and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia; Kuwait City; Casablanca, Morocco; Doha, Qatar; and Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

It applies only to flights on foreign carriers, and not American-operated airlines.
That last line is important, because how could this remotely be defended on a security basis if American-operated carriers are excluded? Henry Farrell and Abraham Newman explain at the Washington Post:
It may not be about security. Three of the airlines that have been targeted for these measures — Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways — have long been accused by their U.S. competitors of receiving massive effective subsidies from their governments. These airlines have been quietly worried for months that Trump was going to retaliate. This may be the retaliation.

These three airlines, as well as the other airlines targeted in the order, are likely to lose a major amount of business from their most lucrative customers — people who travel in business class and first class. Business travelers are disproportionately likely to want to work on the plane — the reason they are prepared to pay business-class or first-class fares is because it allows them to work in comfort. These travelers are unlikely to appreciate having to do all their work on smartphones, or not being able to work at all. The likely result is that many of them will stop flying on Gulf airlines, and start traveling on U.S. airlines instead.

As the Financial Times notes, the order doesn't affect only the airlines' direct flights to and from the United States — it attacks the "hub" airports that are at the core of their business models. These airlines not only fly passengers directly from the Gulf region to the United States — they also fly passengers from many other destinations, transferring them from one plane to another in the hubs. This "hub and spoke" approach is a standard economic model for long-haul airlines, offering them large savings. However, it also creates big vulnerabilities. If competitors or unfriendly states can undermine or degrade the hub, they can inflict heavy economic damage.
This, they add, is a form of "weaponized interdependence." That is, Trump is exploiting the fact that we now "live in an interdependent world, where global networks span across countries, creating enormous benefits, but also great disparities of power. As networks grow, they tend to concentrate both influence and vulnerability in a few key locations, creating enormous opportunities for states, regulators, and nonstate actors who have leverage over those locations."

If you're thinking: That does not seem like a reasonable or just way for the U.S. president to behave, you are correct! It is not. And it will further erode what little remaining shred of moral standing the U.S. has around the world.

Which, in turn, makes us less safe.

So it's extra rich that the Trump administration is trying to pass off this shit as a security measure.

* * *

David Nather at Axios: Trumpcare Gets a Makeover, But Not an Extreme One. "So after all of that talk about big changes to the House Obamacare replacement bill, Republican leaders skipped some of the biggest ones they could have made. They did give some concessions to conservatives and moderates in the manager's amendment [pdf] they released last night, but they also did a lot of punting. ...The biggest actual changes the House GOP is making: States can now choose Medicaid per capita caps or block grants; there will be an optional Medicaid work requirement (with extra federal funds for states that do it); there will be a more generous Medicaid inflation adjustment for the costs of elderly and disabled; Obamacare taxes get repealed a year earlier. The punty change: A reserve fund to beef up the tax credit, especially for the low-income elderly, but no actual change to the tax credit. That's up to the Senate. What they left out: It doesn't end the Medicaid expansion earlier, as conservatives wanted."

In short: It's still garbage.

Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman at the New York Times: Trump's Weary Defenders Face Fresh Worries. (Boo hoo.) "By the afternoon the director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, had systematically demolished [Trump's] arguments in a remarkable public takedown of a sitting president. Even a close ally of Mr. Trump, Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California and the House Intelligence Committee chairman, conceded that 'a gray cloud' of suspicion now hung over the White House by the end of the day's hearings. ...But it's the obsessiveness and ferocity of Mr. Trump's pushback against the Russian allegations, often untethered from fact or tact, that is making an uncertain situation worse."

Meanwhile... Reuters: Rex Tillerson Will Reportedly Miss NATO Talks for China Meeting and Visit to Russia. "US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plans to skip an April meeting of NATO foreign ministers for a visit by the Chinese president and will travel to Russia later in the month, US officials said on Monday, a step allies may see as putting Moscow's concerns ahead of theirs. ...Trump has often praised Russian president Vladimir Putin, and Tillerson worked with Russia's government for years as a top executive at Exxon Mobil Corp and has questioned the wisdom of sanctions against Russia that he said could harm US businesses."

David Leonhardt at the New York Times: All the President's Lies. "The big question now is not what Trump and the White House are saying about the Russia story. They will evidently say anything. The questions are what really happened and who can uncover the truth. The House of Representatives, unfortunately, will not be doing so. I was most saddened during Comey's testimony not by the White House's response, which I've come to expect, but by the Republican House members questioning him. They are members of a branch of government that the Constitution holds as equal to the presidency, but they acted like Trump staff members, decrying leaks about Russia's attack rather than the attack itself. ...Our president is a liar, and we need to find out how serious his latest lies are."

Peter Stone and Greg Gordon at McClatchy: FBI's Russian-Influence Probe Includes a look at Breitbart, InfoWars News Sites. "Operatives for Russia appear to have strategically timed the computer commands, known as 'bots,' to blitz social media with links to the pro-Trump stories at times when the billionaire businessman was on the defensive in his race against Democrat Hillary Clinton, these sources said. The bots' end products were largely millions of Twitter and Facebook posts carrying links to stories on conservative internet sites such as Breitbart News and InfoWars, as well as on the Kremlin-backed RT News and Sputnik News, the sources said. ...Investigators examining the bot attacks are exploring whether the far-right news operations took any actions to assist Russia's operatives."

Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker at the Washington Post: Trump Faces His Hardest Truth: He Was Wrong. "James B. Comey—the FBI director whom Trump celebrated on the campaign trail as a gutsy and honorable 'Crooked Hillary' truth-teller—testified under oath Monday what many Americans had already assumed: Trump had falsely accused his predecessor of wiretapping his headquarters during last year's campaign. Trump did not merely allege that former president Barack Obama ordered surveillance on Trump Tower, of course. He asserted it as fact, and then reasserted it, and then insisted that forthcoming evidence would prove him right. But in Monday's remarkable, marathon hearing of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Comey said there was no such evidence."

Derek Hawkins at the Washington Post: Andrew Napolitano Reportedly Pulled from Fox News over Debunked Wiretapping Claims. Fox News has reportedly pulled legal analyst Andrew Napolitano from the air over his baseless claim, repeated by [Donald] Trump, that British intelligence officials spied on Trump at the request of President Barack Obama. Napolitano, a regular face on Fox News, has not appeared on the network since Thursday and will not be a guest in the near future, the Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press reported Monday, citing anonymous sources. ...The move would distance Fox News from allegations that British officials, as well as National Security Agency Director Michael S. Rogers, have denounced as false."

In other news, Mother Jones' Russ Choma and Andy Kroll continue to hammer away on Trump's conflicts of interests: The Trump Organization Says It's Vetting Deals for Conflicts—But Refuses to Say How. "Robert Weissman, president of the good-government group Public Citizen, says the Chen deal raises questions about whether any real vetting happened. 'Here, where we actually need extreme vetting, it appears to be absent,' he says. 'It's absolutely unclear if [Bobby Burchfield, a Washington-based corporate lawyer serving as the Trump Organization's outside ethics adviser] or anybody else is doing anything pursuant to what they alleged they would do. And if they are, we don't know what it is. But we should not presume it's happening.'"

NBC News: Trump's Business Is in Violation of New York City Law. "Donald Trump's business, The Trump Organization, is in violation of New York City law, NBC News has learned. The Trump Tower skyscraper located at 725 Fifth Avenue—where [Donald] Trump and Melania live in the penthouse apartment and his two eldest sons work in offices just below—is not registered this year with the New York City Department of Housing Preservation & Development, a spokeswoman for the department confirmed on Tuesday. Property owners of certain residential buildings are required by law to register annually by Sept. 1, but Trump Tower's registration expired in 2016 and The Trump Organization never renewed it."

[Content Note: Islamophobia] Tom Namako, Hannah Allam, and Talal Ansari at BuzzFeed: An Anti-Muslim Leader Says She's Going to the White House. "Brigitte Gabriel, one of the most influential anti-Muslim leaders currently in America, said Monday evening she has a meeting at the White House. Gabriel—who once said 'every practicing Muslim is a radical Muslim'—founded the group ACT for America in 2007. The White House said that it did not have any information regarding a meeting with Gabriel." I'll bet.

What have you been reading that we need to resist today?

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