The Briefcase: Lightning Round

Beth had the honor of dining with many of our DC listeners this week, and we're so happy to feature some of their voices in this episode! 

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With Sarah in New Orleans and Beth in D.C., the sound in this episode isn't ideal, but we hope the substance is worth it. First, we talk about Beth's experience at Vox Conversations before moving into a lightening round conversation about the news of the week: 

Michael Flynn's acceptance of payments from foreign governments

The White House's release of a tax reform memo

Efforts to resuscitate health care reform in the House

President Obama's lucrative speaking gig

A federal judge enjoining President Trump's executive order on sanctuary cities

Our Friday feedback comes directly from our listeners who attended dinner in DC. 

Thanks for bearing with us through the audio! We'll be back on Tuesday with better sound and a robust discussion of the issues. 

Rehashing the Clinton Campaign

Today, we discuss the post-mortem looks at the Clinton campaign, along with Trump's first hundred days in office, the French election, and the looming deadline for funding the government. 

SPONSORS: 

Aaptiv What do you get when an app that Sarah is obsessed with becomes a sponsor of the show? Aaptiv - a fitness app that provides audio workouts guided by a trainer synched with the perfect playlist and fully customizable by workout type, machine, duration, and intensity. Aaptiv is are offering our listeners a free 30 day trial. Go to https://aaptiv.com, sign up for a monthly subscription, and enter promo code PANTSUIT.

Harry & David Whether she’s a wine aficionado, a chocolate lover, or a fruit fanatic, Harry & David has something Mom’s guaranteed to love. UP TO 30% off select Mother’s Day items is an amazing deal, but it expires Friday. Harry & David is part of the 1-800 Flowers family of brands and the company we trust with Mom’s special day. Get up to 30% off select Mother’s Day favorites NOW! Just go to http://harryanddavid.com, click the radio icon and enter code PANTSUIT. 

CREDO Moblie What if you could make the world a little bit better every time you used your cell phone? Well, it turns out you can, thanks to CREDO Mobile. Because, whenever you use a CREDO product or service, you generate critical donations for progressive causes and vital activism work – at no extra cost to you. With over $150,000 donated every month to nonprofits like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, CREDO truly does give you the power to make positive social change every day. Not to mention, they offer coverage on the nation’s largest and most dependable 4G LTE network, and you can easily transfer over with your existing number. So, if you want a better world for all of us, AND a better way to stay connected to it, you want CREDO mobile.  And, right now, CREDO has a special deal for our listeners. Go to CREDOMobile.COM/pantsuit and get 2 smartphones FREE plus 50% off unlimited talk and text.  Or call 1-866-689-0099.  It’s time your phone company represented your value
 
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The Pearls

We're close to the end of the first hundred days of the Trump presidency, and it's becoming clear that President Trump has accomplished some, but certainly not all of the items on his Contract with the American Voter. While the 100 day marker is relatively artificial, it has become a flashpoint in journalism and analysis, and we think there's some merit to starting strong. 

The French voted over the weekend, with moderate Emmanuel Macron and nationalist Marine Le Pen emerging as the top two candidates. They'll face off in June. Le Pen is widely seen as an extremist, and most French politicians are quickly lining up to support Macron

Congress has until April 28 to pass a continuing resolution for funding the government. The Trump administration has made funding contentious by taking a hard line on its priorities. The administration is sharply focused on funding a border wall and increasing military spending. 

Sarah extended her compliment for the other party this week to Representative Jamie Comer (and then added kudos for Joni Ernst following remarks critical of President Trump for spending so much time away from the White House). Beth complimented Dick Durbin for his nuanced take on Democratic candidates' positions on reproductive rights. 

The Suit

We discussed the conversation emerging from Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes. We think the focus should be less on campaign infighting and drama and more on what we can learn going forward

The Heels

Beth shares a little about her sister, Kimberly's, wedding, and we talk more about Sarah's house hunt. 

The Briefcase: Elections Around the World

In today's Briefcase, we discuss elections in Georgia, Turkey, and the U.K., along with listener feedback. 

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The state of Georgia held a special election to replace Rep. Tom Price (now the Secretary of Health and Human Services). Democrats invested heavily in 30-year-old Jon Ossoff. In a crowded field and a district that Price carried by 23 points, Ossoff did well but failed to cross the 50% threshold required to win the seat. He and Republican Karen Handel will face off in a June election. 

Turkey held a referendum to diminish the parliamentary system and strengthen the president’s powers. The referendum measure eliminates the prime minister and places all of the prime minister’s powers in the president, gives the president more ability to make laws through decrees and more power over the judiciary, and potentially extends the president's term. President Recep Tayip Erdogan campaigned hard for this referendum which passed by a very narrow margin. He argued that threats to Turkey’s security require him to have broad power to protect the country. Opposition parties claim that there was foul play in the election and called for annulment of the referendum. The Turkish election board rejected the appeals. The change doesn’t go into effect until 2019, after an election that Erdogan is expected to win. (It’s also expected that he will hold this election earlier). This referendum is broadly seen as a move toward authoritarianism.  

Last month, Prime Minister Theresa May triggered a two-year process for withdrawing from the EU — meaning a March 2019 deadline. The process is going to be complicated, and Theresa May says that the UK needs to move past elections so that everyone isn’t campaigning just as the negotiations with the EU reach a fever pitch. She said she wouldn’t do this on many occasions, but she has reversed course. The election is now scheduled for June 8.  Commentators believe that she’s trying to strengthen her support in Parliament to have a stronger position in negotiations with the EU.

We also discussed Megan's feedback on our North Korea discussion (sign up for our emails to read Megan's full message and see her recommendations for further exploration of North Korea) and Kerry's feedback about Smart Power

The Complexity of North Korea

Today, we're discussing the most difficult problem facing the Trump administration: what to do about North Korea. 

First, in the Pearls, we discuss a new law repealing an Obama-era rule on funding for Planned Parenthood. Sarah recommends this documentary on abortion. We also talk about the Trump administration's decision not to make White House visitor logs public. For our compliments to the other side, Sarah compliments Republican governors in blue states (Massachusetts, Vermont, Maryland), who tend to be enormously popular and effective. Beth was impressed by a profile of Governor Dannell Malloy of Connecticut. 

In The Suit, we discuss North Korea. We recorded this episode prior to North Korea's failed missile test, but the question remains--how should the Trump administration respond to North Korea's weapons program? So far, the Trump administration has talked tough on North Korea. It's clear that President Trump is learning on the job with respect to North Korea, and some commentators worry that praise of his military action in Syria will move him toward a more aggressive stance. Context on North Korea matters greatly-- what's the regime thinking? What role does cyberwarfare play? And what are the ramifications for our relationship with China

In the Heels, Sarah discussed a blog post from Jen Hatmaker that caused quite a stir on our Facebook page, and Beth talked about her obsession with NPR's podcast How I Built This. 

SPONSOR: Aaptiv
What do you get when an app that Sarah is obsessed with becomes a sponsor of the show? Aaptiv - a fitness app that provides audio workouts guided by a trainer synched with the perfect playlist and fully customizable by workout type, machine, duration, and intensity. Aaptiv is are offering our listeners a free 30 day trial. Go to https://aaptiv.com, sign up for a monthly subscription, and enter promo code PANTSUIT.
 
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Primer: North Korea

Spend 20 minutes with Beth preparing for Tuesday's episode with some North Korean geography, history, and facts about the current state and its leader, Kim Jong-un. 

Recommended Resources: 

North Korea's Nuclear Program

Fast Facts on North Korea

The Official Website of North Korea

Understanding Kim Jong-un

Trump Inherits a Secret Cyberwar Against North Korea

The Briefcase: Glenn Greenwald on Trump's war

Photo Credit: DST-photography Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: DST-photography Flickr via Compfight cc

We tackle Glenn Greenwald's The Spoils of War: Trump Lavished With Media and Bipartisan Praise For Bombing Syria point by point as well as tackle listener feedback on environmental regulations and the need for love not fear.

SPONSOR: Aaptiv
What do you get when an app that Sarah is obsessed with becomes a sponsor of the show? Aaptiv - a fitness app that provides audio workouts guided by a trainer synched with the perfect playlist and fully customizable by workout type, machine, duration, and intensity. Aaptiv is are offering our listeners a free 30 day trial. Go to https://aaptiv.com, sign up for a monthly subscription, and enter promo code PANTSUIT.
 
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Pantsuit Politics Book Club: Hillbilly Elegy

Sarah discusses the Pantsuit Politics Book Club March pick - J.D. Vance's memoir Hillbilly Elegy with Jean, a stay-at-home mom from Central New York who was unimpressed with the best seller.   

Show Notes

Jean's beginning thoughts on J.D. Vance and Hillbilly Elegy

"He is a bad source for what he is trying to get you to understand about these people. He is intrinsically different and always was because while the people he was talking about had the fuck it mentality, he didn't. he wanted out and knew it. he used the military as many often do to pull himself out. something that any of the others could do but dont because theyve already given up. like the bird that doesnt leave the cage when the doors open. He cant understand his own people and maybe thats why he comes off as judgy, because hes trying to tell a story from a mold he doesnt fit.
My degree is in Psych, I have a deep rooted desire to understand why people think the way they do. I expected him to be a first hand source to aid in that understanding, but hes not. He is the outsider looking in at his own people because of that intrinsic difference between his drive and their lack of it, which means even he doesnt understand why they do and think the way they do. 

We also discussed:

Arlie Russell Hochschild Strangers in their own Land

S*town podcast

Morgan Spurlock's 30 Days

James Frey's A Million Little Pieces

The Pantsuit Politics Book Club will be reading The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution: Why Economic Inequality Threatens Our Republic by Ganesh Sitaraman.

Syria: Can we achieve peace through strength?

Photo Credit: neeravbhatt Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: neeravbhatt Flickr via Compfight cc

Today, in the pearls, we have a Kentucky theme—we’re going to talk a little about President Trump’s actions on coal and the Washington Post’s scathing editorial about Mitch McConnell. Then in the Suit we discuss the military strike in Syria, and in the Heels, we’ll discuss what’s on our minds outside of politics this week.  

SPONSOR: Aaptiv
What do you get when an app that Sarah is obsessed with becomes a sponsor of the show? Aaptiv - a fitness app that provides audio workouts guided by a trainer synched with the perfect playlist and fully customizable by workout type, machine, duration, and intensity. Aaptiv is are offering our listeners a free 30 day trial. Go to https://aaptiv.com, sign up for a monthly subscription, and enter promo code PANTSUIT.
 
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Show Notes

We acknowledge the horrendous attacks in Sweden and Egypt.

Sweden mourns 4 killed, 15 wounded in Stockholm truck attack

Palm Sunday bombings kill dozens at churches in Egypt

In our Kentucky-themed Pearls, we discuss Trump's recent actions on coal and the Saturday Night Live skit targeting Trump's Kentucky supporters.

Trump moves toward relief from water rule that threatens coal

Trump signs law rolling back disclosure rule for energy and mining

We also discuss the Washington Post’s scathing editorial about Mitch McConnell.

We both compliment Senators from the other side who criticized the party line with regards to the recent rule change.

In the Suit, we respond to our listener Katie's concerns that "'peace through strength' is getting more and more antiquated with every generation."

We also share our previous views on Syria we both shared on Sarah's blog before the podcast began.

Sarah: A mother's thoughts on Syria

Beth: Another Mother's Perspective on Syria

In the Heels, Beth gives Sarah the ultimate compliment and Sarah shares her thoughts on her recent trip to Dollywood. 

The Briefcase: Focus on Foreign Policy

Sarah returns to Pantsuit Politics on Tuesday's episode. For today's Briefcase, we have a special episode focused primarily on foreign policy. We're delighted to have Kerry Boyd Anderson on the podcast. Kerry is a political risk consultant with more than 14 years experience as a professional analyst of international security issues and Middle East political and business risks. She started her own company a year ago and is also a contributor to Gulf News in Dubai. She was previously a Deputy Director for Advisory services with Oxford Analytica.  Kerry joins Beth for a discussion of the humanitarian, military, and political crisis unfolding in Syria. 

Then Dante, our Chief Creative Officer, takes a spin in Sarah's chair to discuss the news of the week and listener feedback. Beth and Dante talk about President Trump's comments throughout the week, Ambassador Nikki Haley's comments at the United Nations, and the White House's potentially shifting position on Syria. We then discuss North Korea's test missiles and Rex Tillerson's strange response.  

Finally, we turn to the confirmation hearings for Judge Neil Gorsuch and discuss the Democratic and Republican positions with respect to the Supreme Court. 

We received great feedback this week and will save most of it for next week, but we had to address Sandy's question: 

I have yet to have an experience with regulations that was not literally "job creating" for me and/or rigor/responsibility-instigating.  I cannot really trace back an example where a regulation has forced a company to make significant cuts or go under.  (I do, however, know of companies in the Chemical Engineering realm have utilized tax breaks intended for cleaner energy...but only did so in loop-hole/ethically questionable way...but maybe that's a different topic).  Perhaps if I played out a scenario where the presence of regulations did make companies paralyzed (e.g. God forbid, if Honda leaked tons of antifreeze into storm water, knew about it, didn't report it ever, and then somehow owed a sum that would take them out), it feels like at that point such irresponsibility would have to be quite consequential.  

And I guess that's my question:  Why does this "anti-regulation" rhetoric exist?  Does it have any grounds?  Is it just a rallying cry?  Some attempt to beef up some stocks or something?  

Once I stopped and thought about it in my own life experiences and realized it didn't match my life experiences, I got confused & concerned. Thoughts? Love you ladies!

As always, we so appreciate the support of our listeners! 

 

Global Citizenship with Tsh Oxenreider

Photo credit: The Art of Simple

Photo credit: The Art of Simple

We are delighted to be jointly hosting a discussion of global citizenship with Tsh Oxenreider, founder of The Art of Simple, The Simple Show, and author of Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living, Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World, and At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe. 

With Tsh, we discuss what we've learned about podcasting, news, raising children who care about the world around them. We talk about how the world is actually getting better all the time, and we discuss Tsh's travels with her husband and three children. 

The Briefcase: Ivanka's new role and Pence's marriage

mike-pence-wife.jpg

Before we got started, we thanked everyone for their patience as our feed repopulated. The good news is you can now go all the way back to our premiere episode in the feed!

We talked about Ivanka's new role as special assistant to the president. We also discussed the Washington Post's profile of Karen Pence and the controversy over several observations about the Vice President's marriage. 

We praised the Senate Intelligence Committee  for being the adults in the room. 

We discussed feedback from Brynn on the need to empathize with everyone. "So I’m finding myself constantly caught in this catch 22 where I want to emphasize with Trump supporters who feel betrayed, while at the same time fighting back the urge to just SCREAM “we told you so!”"
Allison wrote in and wondered "if Ryan and the Republicans, instead of trying to appease the non-compromising Freedom Caucus, could try to reach out and work with moderate Democrats to draft and pass the bill?"

Also we shared a NY Times article "A Great New Accidental Renaissance" (link) from Megan and this fantastic quote. "It’s early, but we may be experiencing a great awakening for the humane values that are under siege by a dark-side presidency. People are going inward, to find something bigger than Trump, and outward, to limit the damage he inflicts on the country."

FISA, Flynn, and Failure

We're talking about the FISA process, Retired General Michael Flynn, and the failure of the American Health Care Act. 

The Pearls

We comfort ourselves about our miserable election predictions by noting that we predicted that the American Health Care Act would not make it through the House of Representatives. And it didn't. Big winners: the American people for not being subjected to a half-baked, not-really-about-health-care-health-care-bill. Big losers: Paul Ryan, Donald Trump, Republicans generally

Sadly, we have two incidents of violence to acknowledge. A British man, Khalid Masood, rammed his vehicle into a crowd at Westminster Bridge in London after stabbing a police officer. His connections to Saudi Arabia have police still investigating his possible motives. On Sunday morning, a dispute escalated into a shooting in a Cincinnati, Ohio, night club, leaving one person dead and 15 injured. Our prayers are with everyone impacted in London and Cincinnati. 

For our compliments to the other party, Sarah tipped her hat to the Freedom Caucus for standing their ground in opposition to the AHCA. Beth complimented the Democratic lawmakers behind the Making Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness Act (the MAR-A-LAGO Act), which would require the White House to publish its visitor logs and mandate the release of visitor logs when the President conducts business...elsewhere. 

The Suit

We start with a mini-primer on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act ("FISA"), which was enacted in 1978 to protect Americans’ privacy in the midst of counter-terrorism efforts. A law enforcement training white paper helped us significantly in understanding key provisions of FISA. FISA was enacted to limit the presidents' power and to create a judicially-manageable standard for issuing warrants in national security investigations. 

The key provisions of FISA were: 

  1. Non-criminal electronic surveillance can only occur for the purpose of collecting foreign intelligence and foreign counterintelligence
  2. Foreign powers and agents of foreign powers could be targeted for electronic surveillance (foreign powers and agents of foreign powers are defined in the statute—explicitly says “non US persons” — US persons are citizens, legal permanent residents, US corporations, unincorporated associates with a substantial number of members who are citizens or lawful permanent residents) 
  3. The government needs probable cause to conduct surveillance (and set a probable cause standard)
  4. Established foreign intelligence surveillance courts (FISC) at the district and appellate levels to review applications for warrants under the act
  5. The government can only conduct electronic surveillance in the US for the purpose of collecting foreign intelligence or foreign counterintelligence pursuant to a warrant issued by a FISC or in an emergency with approval from the attorney general provided that a warrant is sought within 24 hours 

In 1995, FISA was expanded to include physical searches (which meant a recognition that the president’s power to order physical searches in the interest of nat security is limited)  In 1998, provisions were added on pen registers and trap and trace - includes phone calls, email, and all electronic forms of communication. These provisions specifically prohibit investigation of US persons for activities protected by the 1st Amendment. 

Often the collection of information under FISA leads to collection of evidence of a domestic crime (not the intention of the surveillance). The FBI is obligated by the statute and executive order to pass that evidence the appropriate law enforcement agency. But, there have been many challenges to evidence collected under FISA in criminal cases because of 4th and 5th Amendment concerns. These challenges led to the establishment of the “primary purpose” test and “the wall” — the intelligence community became very careful about ensuring that applications for FISA warrants demonstrated that the primary purpose of surveillance was foreign intelligence or foreign counterintelligence — not law enforcement. Law enforcement and intel community have struggled a little with the appropriate sharing of information. 

This information-sharing struggle was directly confronted and significantly altered by the October 2001 passage of the Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act (the PATRIOT Act).

Under the PATRIOT Act, the intelligence community's burden on a FISA warrant application is to show that collection of foreign intelligence or counterintelligence is a significant purpose rather than the purpose of the activity.  In 2002, the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (part of the DOJ) asked the FISC to remove “the wall” (separating law enforcement and foreign intel collection). The FISC declined and wrote its own minimization standards, trying to maintain a balance between effectuating the PATRIOT Act and limiting the very intrusive methods available under FISA. The DOJ appealed to the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review. The Court of Review said that the FISC was wrong and was trying to end run the PATRIOT Act. It found that the wall did not survive the PATRIOT Act. 

Now, disclosure and use of FISA information: 

  1. Must be for a lawful purpose
  2. Must be accompanied by an admonishment that FISA derived info can only be used in a criminal proceeding with the advanced authorization of the Attorney General 
  3. The government has to give notice to the criminal defendant and the Court if it is going to use FISA derived info in a criminal proceeding (so the defendant has a chance to contest the use of the evidence)
  4. There are no exceptions to the AG having to approve disclosure in advance, and the government never produces a copy of the application to obtain a FISA warrant. 

In 2008, FISA amendments were passed. These amendments included section 702, which allows the government to collect email and other communications of non-US persons. Over 25% of the NSA’s intelligence relies on information obtained under 702. Section 702 expires at the end of 2017 and needs to be reauthorized — that’s what House Republicans were referring to in the Comey/Rogers hearing. This section has been widely criticized but not well understood. Surveillance under Section 702 can only be directed at specific foreign targets outside the US. It doesn’t allow for bulk collections. There are two important aspects of the Section 702 program: PRISM and upstream collection. Section 702, FISC, and intelligence agencies use minimization standards to protect incidental collection of information, including masking

After we discussed the process for collecting intelligence, we discussed the facts surrounding the resignation of Michael Flynn, who had registered with the Justice Department as a "foreign agent" because of a $530,000 contract from August - November 2016 with Inovo BV, which is owned by a Turkish businessman. It has been reported that Flynn's attorneys told the Trump campaign twice that he was going to have register as a foreign agent. 

We also discuss reported from former CIA Director James Woolsey regarding Flynn's presence in a meeting with Turkish officials about the extradition of Fethullah Gulen, a cleric accused by the Turkish government of orchestrating a failed coup attempt. Finally, we discuss reports from the weekend that Flynn might now be cooperating with the FBI to aid in the investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia. 

The Heels

We start talking food in the Heels since Beth has been cooking up a storm after her week with the flu. We mention amazing asparagus pizza, blueberry dumplings, and Beth's cobbler creation. Sarah recommended two books she just finished up -- A Piece of the World and The War that Saved My Life. 

The Briefcase: A report from the ground

We began by encouraging everyone to share the #trypod hashtag. The idea is to introduce someone who doesn’t listen to podcasts to the medium. Show them how to do it and obviously subscribe them to Pantsuit Politics!

We began by discussing FBI Director James Comey's testimony before Congress confirming that the FBI is investigation whether or not President Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to influence the election. We also discussed the AP's revelation that Paul Manafort, former Trump campaign manager, was paid millions by a Putin ally.

Karen on Twitter had a great read of the situation: Illegality all around T. He was likely influenced by ppl with specific agendas tailored to appeal to his world view and vanity and so he is influenced. Also think he probably willfully "ignorant" of crimes around him but I bet we will never be able to pin any intentional criminal activity on him.

We then shared Beth's interview with Katherine Gypson, reporter for Voice of America, who was in the room for both Comey's testimony and Representative Devin Nunnes's press conference. 

We discussed Judge Gorsuch's confirmation hearings and growing concerns about his views on torture and statements about women at law firms. We also discussed the Democratic party's plans to filibuster his confirmation. 

We moved on to talk about two abortion laws that recently passed in Texas and several pieces of feedback we've gotten related to abortion. 

We talked about the proposed Reins Act and whether or not the Congress really needs approval over so much regulation. We wrapped up with feedback from Shannon on the difference between how we discuss terrorism when the terrorist is white. 

Our Empathy Deficit

IMG_4986.JPG

In the Pearls, we discussed President Trump's proposed budget. The big winners under this budget were the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, as well as Veteran's Affairs. The biggest loser was the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as nineteen other agencies that Trump proposed elimination. Beth argued that this budget shows diplomacy is not a priority for President Trump as it also includes cuts to the State Department and reductions in foreign aid. 

Inexplicably, healthcare companies such as drug makers and device makers will pay more than twice as much in 2018 to have their medical products reviewed for approval by the Food and Drug Administration under the proposed budget. The proposal budgets over $2 billion in fees to be collected from industry, twice as much in 2017. This doesn't seem to fit the increasingly loud narrative of reducing health care costs. 

We then moved on to compliment the other side. Sarah had big praise two Texas Congressmen who hit the road for a bipartisan road trip. Beth praised Representative Rodney Moore for his eloquent advocacy for charter schools.

In the Suit, we discussed the fiery response on social media to Sarah's photo of a local church bulletin board featuring the viral photo of Omran Daqneesh, a 5-year-old Syrian child. The caption seems to imply all the little boy needs is Christianity in his life and this position left many of you angry and seemed to reflect a growing disenchantment with religion itself. 

Found this in a local church. I'd like to talk about it. I'll start... 😫😫😫😫 -s

A post shared by Sarah & Beth (@pantsuitpolitics) on

We discussed our own frustrations and history with organized religion and what those ideas can (and cannot) mean when it comes to politics. Do Americans suffer from an empathy deficit? What does it mean to be empathetic?

Sarah had high praise for Krista Tippet's expanded audio edition of Becoming Wise, which addresses the interplay between spirituality, religion, and politics incredibly well. 

Beth discussed a wonderful Washington Post article that illustrated the difference in approach between empathy and entitlement in immigrants versus natural-born citizens. She also shared Anne Lamott's recent Facebook reflection.

As well as one of her favorite lines from The Invitation by Oriah Mountain dreamer which states simply, "I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it." 

We ended the show in The Heels by lightening things up a bit with talk of real estate and Designated Survivor.

The Briefcase: Someone Else's Babies

This week, Americans are squarely confronting the rights and responsibilities of our government, our citizens, and our fellow humans. With the travel ban, news from the intelligence community, and the AHCA, we’re asking what we exactly we do and do not owe to someone else’s babies. 

The Travel Ban

A federal district judge in Hawaii enjoined enforcement of President Trump's revised executive order on immigration. We recap the decision

The plaintiffs were seeking a nationwide temporary restraining order. They had to establish

  1. Standing (similar to state of Washington in 9th Circuit decision + tourism; the Court also held that an individual plaintiff had standing to challenge the order)
  2. Strong likelihood of success on the merits of the Establishment Clause claims

The Court extensively quoted statements from then-candidate Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and Stephen Miller regarding the intention of the executive order. "The Government has established a disfavored religion." The Court also found that the executive order does not achieve its stated national security objectives because citizenship, according to the DHS, is an "unlikely indicator" of terrorism threats. 

Under the Lemon test, the Court held that the government could not show that the order has a primarily secular purpose. The Court also rejected the Government's claim that the executive order does not discriminate against Muslims because it does not apply to all countries with majority-Muslim populations, saying, “The notion that one can demonstrate animus toward any group of people only by targeting all of them at once is fundamentally flawed. The court declines to relegate its Establishment Clause analysis to a purely mathematical exercise."

The Court held that the plaintiffs would likely suffer irreparable harm without a temporary restraining order. Sarah fully agrees with the Court's analysis. Beth, while taking serious issue with the executive order, thinks the Court's analysis, particularly on standing, is very thin and problematic. 

Other News

We discuss the Justice Department's indictment of two Russian spies and two criminal hackers in connection with the breach of 500 million Yahoo accounts in 2014, and we wonder how the administration will respond. 

Senators Richard Burr and Mark Warner announced this week that there is no indication that the government surveilled Trump Tower before the election. Sean Spicer then told the press that a British intelligence agency, GCHQ, actually did the spying. GCHQ responded by saying that Spicer's allegations are "utterly ridiculous." 

We applaud the Netherlands for Geert Wilders' defeat, and we lament remarks from Congressman Steve King

Friday Feedback

We briefly discuss the CBO report on the American Health Care Act and consider feedback from listeners Lauren and Susan. 

From Lauren: speaking as someone who has had fibromyalgia for nine years those ads have actually brought a new awareness to the disease. 9 years ago when I was 15 and diagnosed and would people I that I had been diagnosed they would say "wait what is that I don't know what that is." Or even "well that sounds fake you must just want special treatment and the attention."  But now they say "oh yeah the one with the drug ad on TV" and it gives them a point of reference to understand what the disease is better than they did before. 

I would like to know who is actually thinking about the young and sick because there are a lot of us? I feel like I and people like me have been completely forgotten in this discussion and it is one that will greatly affect my life in far more ways than it will affect my peers as they are young and healthy. 

From Susan: As a physician I have been regularly confronted with all the ways the current insurance structure (with or without the ACA) fails patients (and makes their doctors crazy talking to insurance companies to get coverage for standard of care items).  I have always been anti-single-payer but have started to feel like maybe it's the only way to get the people who need help, well, helped.  And then I listened to today's podcast!

I think that so often the idea of single payer can be seen as the ONLY way we actually help those in need, while those who promote a market based strategy are seen as elitist or not wanting to help those in poverty.  Your approach of "absolutely, we are have to help people, but let's do it in a way that keeps as much control as possible in their own hands" was so refreshing, and a voice I think is sorely missing from the more public conversation.  I am so with you on separating insurance from employers... I would be really interested to hear if you have amy thoughts on how to make that opinion heard - many of my colleagues (and most medical associations who make statements on policy) are pro-single-payer, so that avenue of advocacy as not as useful as it can be at times.

Repeal and Replace: The American Health Care Act

Republicans have been saying "repeal and replace" for seven years. Today, we're talking about their proposal, the American Health Care Act, to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. 

The Pearls (our quick discussions at important  stories of the week) 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions requested the resignation of 46 United States Attorneys this week. Though it is not unprecedented for new administrations to transition personnel in the Department of Justice, the Trump administration's approach seemed unnecessarily graceless. The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, was especially taken aback by the Trump administration's move, refused to resign, and was ultimately fired.

We also discussed two thought-provoking pieces on how we take in information. A recent study concluded that Breitbart dominated right-wing media during the 2016 election, creating an ecosystem of thought that altered the broader media agenda. We discuss our thoughts on Breitbart as a nationalist and populist outlet, rather than a conservative one, and on what we see as asymmetric polarization. In connection with exiting the echo chamber, Sarah recommended PolitEcho and Escape Your Bubble

The second piece is a fascinating experiment in gender roles. An NYU professor recreated parts of the debates between Trump and Clinton using a woman actor to play Trump and a male actor to play Clinton. Aside from the gender swap, the language, gestures, and tones of voice exactly mimicked Trump and Clinton during the debates. The results surprised the NYU audiences, and we were surprised by our reactions.

As always, we took a moment to compliment the other party. Beth complimented Congresswoman Debbie Dingell for her measured comments on health care reform. Sarah complimented Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner for his willingness to hold town halls and address constituent concerns. 

The Suit (our closer look at a single topic): 

Following the November 2016 elections, Beth said that Republicans would have to step up and actually govern now because having an undivided government means there are no excuses. The American Health Care Act is Republicans' first real shot at actually governing, and we're not impressed. 

First, we discuss the strategy of beginning the legislative agenda with health care when immigration or tax reform seem like more logical choices that would set the stage for health care reform. We also discuss the rushed, secretive process to create the bill and the hypocrisy in pushing the bill through the committee process without a CBO score. Republicans are also failing to build bipartisan consensus and instead trying to push the bill through with a simple majority in the Senate through the budget reconciliation process. As a result, House Speaker Paul Ryan says the bill is the first of three phases, and the bill can deal only with matters related to the budget under the Byrd Rule. 

The ACHA replaces the individual mandate under the Affordable Care Act with a 30% penalty for failing to maintain continuous coverage. We think the effectiveness of this provision is dubious at best. 

Additionally, the ACHA creates a tax credit system based on age for purchasing insurance, and it takes dramatic steps to change the Medicaid system.  We think the bill largely helps the upper middle class and the wealthy through expanding the use of health savings accounts and repealing a number of taxes, such as the net investment tax, that the ACA imposed. 

Fundamentally, the ACHA does not tackle the hardest questions about health insurance -- namely, how to lower the cost of health care, how to provide coverage for working adults who cannot afford health insurance, and how to provide affordable care to the sickest Americans. Beth feels strongly that employer-sponsored health care contributes to these problems and that Republicans should work to transition health care away from employer-sponsored plans to make lasting and sustainable progress. She references the work of Avik Roy on health care. Sarah also favors getting employers out of health care because of her views on reproductive rights. We discuss competition, market-driven options, and a single payer system as alternatives. Because the ACHA fundamentally doesn't address the hardest questions to promote lasting change in health care, we give it a C-/D, which mirrors comments from David Brooks and John Kasich

The Heels (what we're thinking about outside of politics) 

Sarah is stoked about Paducah's new float center -- Revive Paducah. Beth can't stop thinking about her visit to Glenn O. Swing Elementary School in Covington, Kentucky, which is using innovation in teaching and supporting students to shatter the myth that poor kids can't learn.

 

The Briefcase: Transparency, Wikileaks, and Listener Feedback

Photo Credit: UKNGroup Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: UKNGroup Flickr via Compfight cc

We discuss Noah Dyer - candidate for governor in Arizona - who posted a VERY transparent statement on his sex life on his website.

Is total transparency something we want? Wikileaks certainly does. We discuss the trove of documents allegedly showing the CIA's cyber hacking capacity and technologies. We also discuss Assange's belief that total transparency is the goal. 

We follow up on some feedback from our Book Club discussion with Brynn who shared: I have tried SO.  HARD.  since the election to "reach across the aisle" and talk to people like this.  But now, 120 days later, I am done.  Do I condone physical or verbal aggression towards these people?  Of course not.  But if they are not willing to see that their views are truly HATEFUL then I don't know what else I can do.  At this point I say we just press on without them if they aren't willing to abandon Radical Christian Extremism, embrace public education and accept facts as truth.  Because there HAS to be some kind of line in the sand.  We cannot keep making excuses for them or analyzing them like we're anthropologists forever.  WE (all rational people of any political leaning) have to take a collective stand and tell them NO.  

We also discussed our listener Chiara's argument that maybe we do want the President to fail. Chiara wrote us, " I was thinking about how, on the latest episode, you said that you aren't rooting for Trump to fail because you have respect for the office of the president. That's actually something I've been thinking about a lot too...but for me, I'm starting to think that I AM rooting for him to fail...but for the same reason: because I respect the office of the presidency. The truth is, if Trump succeeds, it will inevitably send the message that it is entirely okay for the American people to elect a president who is racist, sexist, bigoted, possibly engaged in illegal activities, and not at all knowledgeable about government or world affairs. If Trump succeeds, people will see that if such a person is elected, everything will be fine. And I don't think that's okay. So I don't want that message to be sent, lest he get re-elected (or we end up with a similar president in the future). It's the same as with President Obama, at least if we're going entirely on identity. Even though I didn't agree with all of his policies, his successful presidency demonstrated that a black, feminist community organizer/constitutional lawyer could do the job relatively well. And I believe that is a great thing, and fundamental to his legacy."

We also shared Amanda's thoughts on educated v. expert. "I wonder whether, when we're talking about the value of ideas, we shouldn't put a premium on expertise rather than education alone. They very often come hand in hand, but this leaves the door open for more people, allows more of us into the conversation. It allows both the economics professor and the lifelong welfare recipient to be heard because in different ways, they're both experts. When it comes to crafting policy, things get more complicated (this way of looking at expertise won't be of much use when it come, to dealing with global warming, for example), but I think it provides an okay framework for dealing with certain types of emotional arguments. 

 Of course, this doesn't shed much light on the discussions a lot of us are having right now, where it seems like individuals really want their feelings to have the same value as facts. Balancing knowledge and emotion is difficult for most of us as individuals, let alone as a nation."

Our Tuesday show will be discussing the Republican's Obamacare Replacement Plan so don't miss it!

What the Russia!?!

Show Notes

We start this episode with a mini-primer on Russia: In terms of land mass, Russia is much larger than the US. The reverse is true on population, with the US almost at twice the population of Russia. There is a major difference in nominal GDP (market value of all final goods and services without regard to cost of living)  — Russia at $1.857 trillion; US at $17.419 trillion — major fluctuations annually but the point is, US economy is much, much stronger.  But Russia has less debt as a country than the US. Russian military is well-armed, and Russia has more known nuclear warheads (both active and total) than the US

Vastly oversimplified history is that a Cold War existed between the US and Russia following World War II up until the late 1980s. Constant political and military tension between the two superpowers, which had vastly different political and economic systems. 

Russia as it exists today was established in 1991 after the fall of the Soviet Union. This resulted from the Reagan - Gorbachev relationship, the relaxation of Soviet control in Eastern Europe, and the eventual declaration in 1989, between Boris Yeltsin and George HW Bush, that the Cold War was over. Boris Yeltsin had generally good relationships with GHW Bush and Bill Clinton 

Then came Vladimir Putin, who became President after Yeltsin resigned. Putin is a former KGB officer (KGB roughly translates to Committee for State Security — military service overseeing internal security, intelligence, and acting as secret police).  He’s 64 years old. He was the President of Russia between 2000 and 2008; then he was term-limited from seeking a third consecutive term and was appointed Prime Minister from 2008-2012 by president Dmitri Medvedev and became Russia’s president again in 2012. 

Under Putin, Russia has become more assertive in international affairs (and assassinations - Poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko), blamed the US for revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine. Russia and the US clashed over the US building an anti-ballistic missile station in Poland in 2007.

In 2009, President Obama and Putin hit it off at the G20 in London and promised a fresh start to US - Russia relations. That’s when Hillary Clinton and her Russian counterpart actually pressed a reset button (which fell pretty flat in a lot of ways, especially because the State Dept messed up the spelling so it translated to “overload” instead of “reset”). In 2010, Russia and the US agreed to start reducing nuclear arsenals. But in 2011, there were massive protests in Russia following a legislative election, and Putin accused the US of interfering and inciting unrest. Putin specifically believed that Hillary Clinton had incited unrest in the country. Putin started moving away from democracy and seeking superpower status again. He manipulated trade policy and caused divisions within NATO. 

And it just kept getting worse. The US passed the Magnitsky Act in 2014, imposing financial and travel restrictions because of human rights abuses in Russia. This law is named after a Russian lawyer and auditor who died in a Moscow prison after investigating fraud involving Russian tax officials. The US has accused Russia of violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea and President Obama called Russia a “regional power” rather than an international player. That didn’t sit well with Putin. 

Now Russia supports the Assad regime in Syria and some have called Syria a proxy war between Russia and the US. In 2016, Putin suspended a plutonium management agreement with the US, saying that the US has violated the agreement. 

With relations at a historic low (at least since the mid 1970s)…Donald Trump comes along. 

Trump’s History With Russia (mad props to Politico)

People to know: 

Carter Page — Trump named him as a foreign policy advisor in March 2016. Page is a banker and lived in Moscow for three years. He resigned in September. 

Paul Manafort — Trump hired him as campaign manager in March 2016. Manafort had recently served as a senior advisor to the pro-Russia Ukrainian President. In August, NYT published an expose showing that the pro-Russia Party of Regions earmarked $12.7 million for Manafort. 

Roger Stone — long-time friend of Trump who has said bizarre things in lots of forums, including on twitter, that suggested he knew what wikileaks had and when it would be released 

2013: Trump holds the Miss Universe pageant in Russia; makes a comment about Putin attending, says he does a lot of business with Russians in tv interviews. After the Miss Universe pageant, he tweets that he learned a lot in Moscow, that the US must be very smart and strategic

2015: - September: the FBI tells a tech-support contractor at the DNC that the DNC might have been hacked. The contractor isn’t sure if the FBI agent is real. 

- November: Trump says he knows Putin well because they were on 60 Minutes together and says he supports Putin “knocking the hell out of ISIS.” 

- Dec: Michael Flynn goes to Russia Today dinner, is paid to speak. 

Dec. 17: Russian President Vladimir Putin praises Trump, then the front-runner in the Republican primary, at his year-end news conference.

“He is a very flamboyant man, very talented, no doubt about that. But it’s not our business to judge his merits, it’s up to the voters of the United States," Putin says. "He is an absolute leader of the presidential race, as we see it today. He says that he wants to move to another level relations, a deeper level of relations with Russia … How can we not welcome that? Of course, we welcome it.”

Trump responds with praise of his own.

"It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond," Trump says in a statement. "I have always felt that Russia and the United States should be able to work well with each other towards defeating terrorism and restoring world peace, not to mention trade and all of the other benefits derived from mutual respect."

Feb. 2016: Trump starts saying that Putin has called him a genius (he repeated it many times throughout the campaign) 

March 19 2016: John Podesta gets an email instructing him to change his password. A Clinton campaign staffer tells him (incorrectly) that the email is legit. He changes his password, which allows Russian hackers access to his mailbox. Same thing happens to Billy Rhinehart, another Clinton staffer, a few days later. 

April 2016: Trump gives a foreign policy speech and calls for better relations with Russia…the Russian ambassador was there in a literal front - row seat. 

“We desire to live peacefully and in friendship with Russia and China. We have serious differences with these two nations, and must regard them with open eyes, but we are not bound to be adversaries. We should seek common ground based on shared interests. Russia, for instance, has also seen the horror of Islamic terrorism. I believe an easing of tensions, and improved relations with Russia, from a position of strength only, is possible, absolutely possible. Common sense says this cycle, this horrible cycle of hostility must end and ideally will end soon. Good for both countries. Some say the Russians won’t be reasonable. I intend to find out. If we can’t make a deal under my administration, a deal that’s great — not good, great — for America, but also good for Russia, then we will quickly walk from the table. It’s as simple as that. We’re going to find out.”

May 2016: James Clapper says there are some indications of cyberattacks aimed at presidential campaigns.

June 2016: A Trump advisor, Carter Page (we’ll talk about him in a second) says Putin is a stronger leader than Obama. Guccifer 2.0 publishes some DNC emails. 

July 2016: Three Trump advisors, including Carter Page meet with the Russian ambassador in Cleveland and say they hope to improve Russia-US relations

Same week — July 18: The Republican National Convention adopts the official Republican Partyplatform, with the following language on Ukraine: “We support maintaining and, if warranted, increasing sanctions, together with our allies, against Russia unless and until Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are fully restored. We also support providing appropriate assistance to the armed forces of Ukraine and greater coordination with NATO defense planning. … We will not accept any territorial change in Eastern Europe imposed by force, in Ukraine, Georgia, or elsewhere, and will use all appropriate constitutional measures to bring to justice the practitioners of aggression and assassination.”

The Washington Post reports the same day: “The Trump campaign worked behind the scenes last week to make sure the new Republican platform won’t call for giving weapons to Ukraine to fight Russian and rebel forces, contradicting the view of almost all Republican foreign policy leaders in Washington.”

Gordon, one of Trump’s national security advisers, would later tell CNN that he opposed efforts to add language that was more aggressively pro-Ukraine because he believed that would have been inconsistent with Trump’s public statements on the matter.

July 20 - Jeff Sessions meets with the Russian ambassador The Wikileaks gets started and DWS resigns More leaks, more warm statements about Russia

August  - Trump gets briefed on direct links between the Russian government and the email hacks. He names Kellyanne Conway as campaign manager, Manafort starts fading and then resigns 

September - President Obama and Clapper make public statements about Russia’s involvement in the hacks; Trump and Pence both say that Putin is more a leader than Obama. Trump tells Russia today that Russia probably isn’t behind the attacks and that the Democrats were likely floating that story

September 8 - Jeff Sessions meets with the Russian ambassador again

More leaks. More Trump skirting the Russia issue in debates. 

Nov 9: Russian parliament applauds when Trump’s election is announced

December 8: Carter Page is in Russia, says he’s there to meet with “business leaders and thought leaders” 

December 26: A former KGB official who is believed to have been assisting in putting together a dossier on Trump’s relationships with Russia is found dead in his car. 

December 29: Obama administration sanctions Russia for election involvement

January & Feb - IC says Russia definitely intended to influence the election. Flynn Resigns 

Sessions recuses himself. Now Trump says Obama wiretapped Trump tower Corey Lewandowski says that President Obama listened in on Jeff Sessions’ office.

After tackling this timeline, we attempt - but mostly worry - about what should and most likely will come next in the intelligence community and in Congress.

In the Heels, Beth adds to our idea about our app that helps you avoid small talk by adding a feature that alerts people to what you DO want to talk about. (PS Sarah wants to talk about Making Oprah). Sarah is thinking about Lent both fun practices and giving up things. Pema Chödrön: Are You Addicted to Distraction?