Looking back on Barack Obama’s presidency

As president Obama’s term in office comes to an end, everyone seems to be evaluating his terms in office. We might as well start with the one issue that never goes away in America, and that is race. The president and his family carried the heavy burden of being ‘firsts’, people who are the first members of any community in a high office that they have not occupied before. Such people know that the members of their community are fervently hoping for just one thing: Don’t mess up. Because if they do mess up in any way, they know that those who oppose any advancement of their group will point to the failure as signs that they are incompetent and cannot be trusted with such responsibilities. Obama has undoubtedly passed that test, making it a little easier for the next person of color or another ‘first’, be it a woman or Latino or LGBT or atheist or member of some other group hitherto excluded, but they will still feel that pressure from their community.
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This should be an interesting case

During the campaign we had numerous women alleging that Donald Trump assaulted them in many ways, charges that the Trump campaign furiously denied and for which many of the accusers were harassed by Trump supporters. But now one woman Summer Zeervos has said through her attorney Gloria Allred that she has filed a lawsuit against Trump for defamation because of the charges he made against her while denying her accusations.
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Crowley loses job over plagiarism charges

Monica Crowley is one of those right-wing pundits who seems to have a permanent sneer on her face, especially when she is attacking the already marginalized. So naturally she was tapped for a position in the Trump administration as “senior director of strategic communications at the National Security Council”. But it turns out that she is a serial plagiarizer who has lifted verbatim, without citation, entire passages from other sources not only for her articles but even for her doctoral thesis for Columbia University. This seems to have been a little too much for even an administration that disdains ethics as much as the incoming one does and despite some earlier statements of support from them, she has withdrawn from the position, presumably to ‘spend more time with her family’.
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In praise of an adversarial press-government relationship

Donald Trump clearly has a strong dislike for much of the press, except for the alt-right extremists. This is not surprising. Trump is an incredibly thin-skinned and petty man who cannot stand any criticism from any quarter and during the campaign he received quite a lot of negative coverage. That much of it was generated by his own words and actions does not seem to matter to him. He seems to want and need fawning adulation all the time.
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Chelsea Manning to be out of prison on May 17

In one of his final moves in office, president Obama has commuted the 35-year sentence that was given to Chelsea Manning to mostly the time already served and she will be released on May. Alex Emmons reports:

While serving as an army intelligence analyst, Manning sent hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic and military documents to Wikileaks, revealing, among other things, a dramatically higher civilian death count in Iraq and Afghanistan than the Pentagon revealed publicly, and the chilling video of a U.S. Apache helicopter gunning down journalists in central Baghdad.
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The strange Russian dossier story

While I was away for the birth of our grandchild, I could only follow the news in a cursory manner but what I could catch dealt primarily with two things: the confirmation hearings of the Trump administration nominees and the story of a dossier that detailed some bizarre activities by Trump while visiting Russia as well as claiming that Trump associates were working with the Russian government and intelligence agencies. While we now should not be surprised by bizarre and even repulsive behavior by Trump, the more explosive element of this story was that this dossier had been prepared as part of an ongoing attempt by Russian intelligence agencies to co-opt and assist Trump. That raised the seriousness of the issue to a far higher level.
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The end of ethics

There is a cliché that what is scandalous in Washington are not the things that are done that are illegal but the things that are legal. They system of laws that we have contain an inbuilt bias to protect and enhance the wealth of those who already have money and influence. It should be no surprise that with few exceptions, the halls of government have elected officials who are already wealthy or have become immensely wealthy as a result of what we euphemistically call government ‘service’. The hard edges of this system is softened by so-called ethics guidelines that supposedly bind legislators and limit how much influence-peddling they can be the recipients of while in office and how much they can do after they leave, but those guidelines can be circumvented by those determined to do so.
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