Category Archives: International

Trump immigration plan like Canada’s? “You’d need to squint past major aspects of the plan”

Just before heading to his New Jersey Golf Course for an extended August vacation, President Trump previewed his immigration plan. The changes inspired, perhaps,  by the Canadian immigration point systemare found in the “Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy” (RAISE) Act. The legislation was originally sponsored in the Senate by Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.); reports suggested that if the measure is enacted it would slash legal immigration to the United States.

The Trump-endorsed plan will:

  • Reduce categories for family applications. Residents could still sponsor spouses and minor children, but not other relatives.
  • Abolish an existing diversity lottery.
  • Insist upon English proficiency to immigrate.
  • Redefine “immediate relative” to include children age 18 and under, down from the current age 21.
  • Deduct points for skilled workers whose spouses are less skilled.
  • Offer bonus points for select advanced degrees.
  • Give bonus points for applicants earning 150 per cent of the national average income.
  • Provide bonus points for some types of high achievers, but not others. Included would be certain categories of Nobel prize-winners and certain athletes, such as those who’ve won an Olympic medal.

Later at a White House news conference, Presidential advisor Stephen Miller repeated claims that the new legislation was inspired by Canadian immigration ruleswith some changes. The New York Times notes that while the Canadian immigration does rely on a points-based system, Canada’s approach, however, does not merely favor immigrants based on their skills but also uses a system that promotes a multicultural society. That, it must be noted, is something the RAISE Act would not do.  images 789

And Canada appears to have a much more compassionate attitude toward refugees. In fact Canadian officials are preparing a temporary welcome center for a surge of thousands of asylum seekers. Some of them would be refugees who found their way to the USA but are now fleeing north, fearful of what will happen to them at the mercy of Trump’s newly energized enforcers at ICE. These often desperate people took ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan seriously when he said undocumented immigrants “should be [more] afraid” under the Trump administration. As if undocumented workers in the U.S. haven’t always been afraid of family-busting raids by la migra, only now the raids are even more brutal and without rationale.

So, is the Trump-endorsed RAISE Act anything like Canada’s rules? Well, as one Canadian newspaper politely quips, it is: “[it] contains definite traces of Canadian influence — but to find them, you’d need to squint past major aspects of the plan.

Beyond the margin with Trump

Donald Trump started the week by continuing a prolonged twitter attack on his Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Later he tweeted a ban on transgender people serving in the armed forces then made a widely criticized politically divisive speech to a national gathering of Boy Scouts. Soon came an on-the-record obscene and insane rant by his new communications chief Anthony Scaramucci. Quickly following the Mooch’s rant, Trump fired  his Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus, and replaced him with the DHS Secretary, former General John Kelly. Woven into all that  chaos was the dramatic GOP loss in the Senate on a series of ACA repeal bills Trump supported.margincenter2

In reaction to all this chaos, The Donald turned on his own party and tweeted that the GOP “looked like fools” and threatened not to follow the Obamacare (ACA) law and to stop mandated payments to insurance companies. He left Washington, traveled to an event on Long Island and suggested to a gathering of police officers that they “…don’t be too nice” to alleged immigrant criminalsa comment widely perceived as a presidential call encouraging police violence. Here’s a link to a rundown of most of the events from the Financial Times

Watching this numbingly frightful week unfold, I remembered whatwhen the shock of Trump’s victory was still newseemed a worst case prediction of what was to come .

On November 29, 2016, only a few short weeks after the election, Rick Perlstein was interviewed by Sky News. Perlstein was a biographer of Nixon and a longtime observer of the American conservative movement, but his interview was cut short by the Murdoch-owned news channel. Although he never got the chance to make his comments on-air, Perlstein published his observations in the Washington Spectator.

None of these things [Trump’s unrealistic campaign promises], however, are possible.

So what happens next? His worshipful admirers cannot blame Trump for the stymying of this agenda: Trump is a god. It must be the people he told them to blame who are actually responsible. The lying media. The quisling Democrats. The sellout Republican establishment. Mexicans, of course. The more Trumpism fails, the more, and more violently, scapegoats will be blamed. And only some kind of stalwart resistance will stand between America and fascism.[emphasis added]

Remember, Perlstein planned to say these things in his on-air interview a mere 3 weeks after the election.

Here’s how he closed his piece: Maybe they [Sky News] didn’t like the direction I was heading; Sky News, after all, is owned by Rupert Murdoch, same as Fox. Or maybe I’m just being conspiratorial: Trump may soon be doing that to all of us. The margin has become the center. Paranoia strikes deep.

Looking back at this prediction from today’s perspective, six months further on in the Trump presidency, we have to say:  without a doubt, Perlstein called it. Except that we might say it’s the fringe, not the margin that is the center for now. If Trump was a flat-earther, we’d all be in danger of falling off the edge.

Just a “hoax” ? No,and it is as big as…

In addition to recently pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accords, our own climate-denier-in-chief really has tweeted climate change skepticism 115 times. In 2012 Trump accused the Chinese government of promoting the “hoax” of climate change science in order to gain competitive advantage over the U.S.A.ahoax

Regardless of what Donald Trump might tweet or want to believe about climate change, this is not hoax: one of the largest icebergs ever recorded — 2,200 square miles — has broken off from Antarctica. For now, some scientists caution, it is too soon to determine if this is a direct result of climate change — but it certainly focuses the mind.

But how big is the giant iceberg compared to the size of something most people can comprehend? Well, if you are are familiar with Ukraine, it is half the size of the Transcarpathian region. The online news site Quartz.com has a regional rundown of what in the world something so large can be compared to so we can understand the magnitude of what just happened. asbigas

And should President Trump care to give the giant iceberg a second thought while watching a the Bastille Day parade and festivities in France this week he might find it enlightening to know that it is  55 times the size of Paris.

Wow, the ratings are in and the world swamped Trump!

It is well known Donald Trump, former reality TV performer, is obsessed with his own popularity in polls. He once called himself a ratings machine, but following a few short months in office, his worldwide numbers are in: a poll shows more than three quarters of the world has no confidence in President Trump.

According to a Pew Research Center survey of 37 nations, a median of just 22% has confidence in Trump to do the right thing when it comes to international affairs. This stands in contrast to the final years of Barack Obama’s presidency, when a median of 64% expressed confidence in Trump’s predecessor to direct America’s role in the world. It is worth noting the survey was conducted before Trump’s widely unpopular decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accords.

Pew Research found the biggest decline in worldwide public trust in Trump and his administration was with our closest allies in Europe and Asia.

Mirroring the numbers garnered by President Obama, the poll also showed that America as a country was popular then, and much less so now: In the closing years of the Obama presidency, a median of 64% had a positive view of the U.S. Today, just 49% are favorably inclined toward America. Only in two countries — Russia and Israel — out of the 37 polled, did Trump get higher marks than former President Obama had while in office.

Trumparrogant The resoundingly negative view around the world is an issue of the Trump character as well as policy. In the eyes of most people surveyed around the world, the White House’s new occupant is arrogant, intolerant and even dangerous. Among the positive characteristics tested, his highest rating is for being a strong leader [a bully?]. Fewer believe he is charismatic, well-qualified or cares about ordinary people.

Although the American people and popular culture are maintaining a reservoir of favorable opinion, the Guardian.com sees a troublesome trend developing, noting the Pew findings: […] also shows that the low level of support for the president is leading to a decline in support for wider American values. Just 49% expressed a broadly positive view of the US, compared with 64% in surveys carried out 2015 and 2016.

And Vermonters have only to look north to see what effect Trump’s “charm” has on our Canadian neighbors. For the first time in Pew Research history, most Canadians no longer regard America as a force for good in the world.

Just 43% of Canadians have a positive view of their neighbour.

I recall Trump’s 2016 New Hampshire primary victory speech when he promised: “And the world is going to respect us again. Believe me.”

Well maybe it’s time to cancel his show due to low ratings. Not so good Donald … sad, believe me.anvil3

Trump: A uniquely unwelcome visitor

Immediately after the latest horrible terrorist attack in London President Trump impulsively burst through the headlines, in form of a twitter storm. Trump attacked London Mayor Sadiq Khan in a self-serving way, promoting his own proposed immigration ban, by twisting the Mayor’s statements out of context — and all this before offering any condolences to the victims and families.

This is the second time he picked a feud with the Mayor following a terror attack. Kahn, a Muslim and a forceful Trump critic (he warned: “[Trump’s] ignorant view of Islam could make both of our countries less safe”), was the target of an earlier tweet storm, raising questions that anti-Muslim sentiment may motivate Trump.trumptweets2

About Trump’s latest the Washington Post writes: Before British authorities detailed exactly what happened on the London Bridge, before they blamed Islamist extremism and even before they publicly concluded it was an act of terrorism, President Trump fired off a tweet to his 31 million followers: An unconfirmed bulletin from the Drudge Report.

This outburst may only serve to complicate beyond precedent a presidential state visit to the UK in October which was already drawing serious opposition. As of January, 1.8 million Britons had signed an online petition objecting to President Trump’s visit. Reportedly Trump wants to forego his armored limousine and has demanded a ride through London to Buckingham Palace in the royal golden carriage, an expensive security nightmare because its so much easier to tip over.

On Monday Mayor Khan suggested that the Trump trip should be canceled: “I don’t think we should roll out the red carpet to the president of the U.S.A. in the circumstances where his policies go against everything we stand for. When you have a special relationship it is no different from when you have got a close mate. You stand with them in times of adversity but you call them out when they are wrong. There are many things about which Donald Trump is wrong,”

Can’t say I disagree: no country needs an unwelcome guest who can’t control himself to meet the standards of common decency, much less those of diplomacy.

Here’s to our French allies!

In a sweeping rejection of her nationalist and xenophobic message, French voters have chosen Maria LePen’s rival and opposite, Emmanuel Macron as the next President of France.

Preliminary vote counts give Macron something like 65% of the vote, while LePen could only manage 34%.

This is a victory for progressive values that we can ALL celebrate, and it has been a while since we Americans have had much of anything to be glad about.

It seems that Donald Trump’s antics have provided just the cautionary tale that French voters needed in order to sober up and see the writing on the wall/.

Too bad the Brexit vote came too soon to benefit from the same dose of cruel perspective.

Tomorrow morning’s 3:00 AM tweets from King Donald will no doubt deliver angry rebukes to former President Obama for “interfering” in the French election.

Maybe the “coincidence” that Macron’s party headquarters was hacked will somewhat dampen his inclination to shoot off his twitter mouth, since it does simply add more credibility to the ever thickening tissue of evidence that his own inner circle may have colluded with Russia in undermining the 2016 U.S. election.

But never mind all of that for today. Let’s relish the moment with a toast:

“Liberte, égalité, fraternité!”

Donald wants a carriage ride to visit the Queen

President Trump will be going to the UK and Buckingham Palace this October.  And he wants to do it in style. However…tipping donaldIn typical TRUMP® fashion he’s causing others great expense. Only da biggest, best, and shiniest for Donald: The White House has made clear it regards the carriage procession down the Mall as an essential element of the itinerary for the visit currently planned for the second week of October, according to officials.

Security sources have warned, however, that the procession will require a “monster” security operation, far greater than for any recent state visit.

The UK was spared some of this expense when Obama visited Buckingham Palace because he chose to go by motorcade rather than golden carriage. Xi Jinping, in 2015 did ride in a carriage (closed rather than open) to see the Queen, but that cost is expected  to dwarf what it will be for TRUMP® to have his open carriage ride.

A British security official notes that the U.S. presidential limo is formidable and: designed to withstand a massive attack like a low-level rocket grenade. Unlike the Royal coach, although it can be protected with bullet proof glass:

[…] In particular it is very flimsy.

“It would not be able to put up much resistance in the face of a rocket propelled grenade or high-powered ammunition. Armour-piercing rounds would make a very bad show of things.”

Other than his well documented attraction to shiny golden baubles is it any wonder why Trump may be insisting on the carriage? VladPutin

Well, his BFF Vladimir Putin (a.k.a. Vlad the Elector) had an open carriage ride when he went to visit the Queen. So, of course it’s an “essential” element for Donald too. Here’s his game in musical parody, insecurity and all.

Donald “wags the dog”: rates low in historical context…sad

After President Trump abruptly changed his policy against intervention and  fired 59 Tomahawk missiles (roughly $1 million each) at Syria, there was speculation that he was interested not so much in red lines that Assad may have crossed but more with lines his own waning popularity crossed. Many observers figured Donald was “wagging the dog” – distracting attention and changing the subject away from his intensely troubled first few weeks in office.  Politico.com wondered, as many other publications did: It is hard to avoid wondering whether the purpose of the strikes was less to defend a red line that Trump had never supported than yet another effort by the president to distract the media’s attention and change the subject from his problems at home.

TrumpedDiversion may or may not have been Trump’s motive but if it was, it seems to have failed in one regard. A new Gallup poll shows : US Support for Syria Strikes Rates Low in Historical Context – Americans’ opinion of U.S. missile strikes in Syria: 41% disapprove and 50% approve.

  • Ten other military actions assessed since 1983 had majority support
  • Only action with lower approval was Libya in 2011, at 47%

The GOP loved it though: 82% of Republicans approve, compared with 33% of Democrats. A divide such as this along partisan lines is new. Intervention by President Obama in Libya 2011 and Syria 2014 showed no such partisan divide at the time they were polled.

Gallup summarized the current finding:

Americans’ initial reaction to the missile airstrikes the U.S. launched against Syria last week is among the least positive of the 12 military actions Gallup has measured since 1983. Support does exceed opposition, which has been the case for each of the military actions tested, but the 50% approval is lower than all but one of the other interventions.

The strikes do not appear to have affected Americans’ views of Trump — at least in the short term. His job approval averaged 40% Tuesday through Thursday before the strikes, and has averaged 40% Friday through Sunday after the strikes.

If the Trump administration had hoped to change the subject and rally support, well Donald’s dog wouldn’t be wagged… this time.

Is California’s new EB-5 scandal more scandalous than ours?

Vermont’s massive EB-5 scandal at Jay Peak broke about a year ago, and it isn’t the only federal investments-for-visas program that may be riddled with fraud. But the latest EB-5 scandal involves international politics, foreign fugitives and even a Trump cameo.fraudawards

The FBI in California raided offices, a townhouse and home associated with The California Investment Immigration Fund alleged to be involved in a substantial EB-5 investment company fraud. The company solicits EB-5 funds mostly from Chinese investors. And the majority of all U.S. EB-5 funds come from Chinese citizens.

Interestingly the FBI raids took place on Saturday while president Trump and Chinese president Xi Jinping were meeting in Florida at Donald’s ersatz palace.

The FBI raids, […] were focused on California Investment Immigration Fund (CIIF), a business allegedly connected to abuses of the controversial EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program that has in recent years fueled a high-end US residential boom and has been widely used by developers including the president’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner.

Since 2008 attorney Victoria Chan, her father Tat Chan, and Fang Zeng harvested $50 million from more than 100 Chinese investors for CIIF and related companies.

[…] instead of legitimately investing the funds into US businesses, the trio either refunded the funds to the EB-5 investors while their petitions were pending in a way to solicit investors, or stole millions of dollars to use for personal expenditures, including buying million-dollar houses

That list of allegations should sound familiar to anyone who followed the exploits of Jay Peak partners Stenger and Quiros. But as often happens California goes one better because this fraud may involve three fugitives from China – on their most-wanted list – illegally obtaining U.S. green cards.

According to China Daily, among CIIF’s investment green card clients found on the fugitive list are Xu Jin (No. 13) and his wife Liu Fang (No.66). In China they are both accused of embezzlement, accepting bribes, and abuse of power, for which the maximum penalty is death. A third is identified only by the initials “K.L.,” and no crimes the mysterious unnamed fugitive may have committed in China are included.

Not to downplay  Stenger and Qurios’ alleged EB-5 fraud at Jay Peak, but strictly in terms of staging and dramatic casting, California’s EB-5 scandal may outclass ours – Vermont just can’t match the international intrigue or top cameo performances by the Trump family.

Kushner hires horror film PR man for White House job

It was only three days ago that Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, made his first hire, PR man Josh Raffel, for the White House’s new Office of American Innovation. The OAI is being described as “a SWAT team of strategic consultants” which will, the White House says, be given “sweeping authority to overhaul the federal bureaucracy.” PR man Josh Raffel once did PR work for the Kushner family and Glenn Beck. Prior to joining the Kushner’s ‘SWAT” team Raffel was an executive managing the publicity for Blumhouse Productions — a horror movie producer. One recent horror film — The Purge: Election Year — featured posters with the tagline Keep America Great.purgekushnerGMD

Kushner’s long list of high-level jobs he performs for his father-in-law president include foreign-policy trouble-shooting: US/Mexican border issues (the WALL); Chinese relations; and Mid-East peace negotiating. Domestically he is tasked with addressing opioid addiction and veterans affairs, just to name two areas of responsibility.

Last week Kushner, along with Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made a quickie visit to troops in Iraq. Security protocols were violated when officials at the White House confirmed the trip before Jared and his entourage had landed in the war-torn country.kushneratwar 2

Once he was  in Iraq, images made available of Kushner wearing stylish Ray-bans, a nicely cut blue blazer, pressed button-down shirt, and a personalized bullet-proof vest began to draw widespread derision. Twitter online comments include From Here to Fraternity and The Funds of Navarone, and the one which gets my vote for being both funny and truthful: Saving Private Equity.

The newly hired PR wizard may want to start on his new boss Kushner’s image. After all, Raffel has experience in selling cheap horror shows to the public ; the difference now is he’ll have a virtually unlimited budget: think of the potential for special effects!