Donald Trump Archives - Page 5 of 197 - SaintPetersBlog

ProPublica hit piece will deliver ‘inaccurate, untruthful’ attack on Orlando charter school

Searching for the best way to teach our nation’s children, many communities see charter schools as one of the most effective ways to help students otherwise struggling to make it in public education.

Nevertheless, the pursuit of alternative solutions does not sit well with some, particularly those in the media who view charter schools a disruption of the status quo.

With the election of President Donald Trump and his provocative nomination of Betsy DeVos — a longtime school-choice advocate — as U.S. Secretary of Education, charter schools nationwide are bracing for the inevitable onslaught of negative media, despite many charter schools having proven records of successful student outcomes in reading and math growth, among others.

One such target of journalistic bias is Accelerated Learning Solutions (ALS), an Orlando charter school program servicing at-risk Orange County students who have, for a variety of reasons, fallen off‐track for graduation.

Most students who attend the ALS-run Sunshine High School have been referred by public school educators for academic intervention. Many students at Sunshine have previously dropped out of the public-school system, electing to re-enroll to salvage their academic careers.

Recently, Sunshine has found itself in the crosshairs of ProPublica, the New York-based investigative newsroom that seeks to produce deep-dive journalism in what they proclaim as the “public interest.”

As a startup, ProPublica received millions of dollars from the Sandler Foundation — created by Bay Area philanthropists and Democratic donors Herbert and Marion Sandler to fund progressive organizations. In 2010, ProPublica received a two-year grant from the Open Society Foundations, part of a network of international foundations primarily funded by billionaire George Soros, also as a method of supporting progressive causes.

This financial influence shows in ProPublica’s editorial slant.

Nevertheless, in the instance of Sunshine — which has been both transparent and forthcoming with ProPublica reporter Heather Vogell — such public interest may have fallen by the wayside, traded for a decidedly anti-charter agenda.

A Jan. 26 letter from ALS President Angela Whitford-Narine to various company stakeholders lays it out in no uncertain terms.

“Based on lines of questioning and statements to us and to Orange County District staff,” Whitford-Narine writes, “we are expecting her story to be an inaccurate and inappropriate reflection of our schools and of our relationship with Orange County Public Schools.”

During Vogell’s reporting, Whitford-Narine found — through feedback from various students — that the reporter seemed to lack a fundamental understanding of Sunshine’s student population, as well as its efforts to help students succeed both academically and socially.

A glance at the demographics of the student body shows that Vogell is indeed missing the mark. Even a cursory examination provides a clear insight into the challenges facing Sunshine, as well as similar charter schools throughout the country.

Many of Sunshine’s students come to the charter academically unsuccessful, with 96 percent reading below grade level and nearly 95 percent performing math below grade level (an average 5th grade level for both). The average GPA is a 1.4, versus the 2.0 required for public school graduation. Nearly half the student body are in stressful social situations, either parenting, pregnant or caring for other family members; 44 percent have jobs, 16 percent need special education accommodations, and 10 percent have English as a second language.

Recent correspondence from ALS to Vogel had school representatives expressing these increasing concerns over the methods and direction of the forthcoming ProPublica piece and the mischaracterization of its students.

Through discussions with students interviewed by Vogell since she began her investigation in August, an alarming pattern has emerged, one that is highlighted by a series of “inaccurate and blatantly untruthful accusations” including forced enrollment and a lack of accountability for the charter by the Orange County School District.

“I am particularly disturbed that Ms. Vogell has totally misrepresented what the students said to her,” she wrote, “that she failed to seek parental consent in speaking with and quoting minor students and refused to inquire about the success the students were having at our schools.”

In another wide-ranging letter, this one to Vogell herself — the last correspondence in several months of sporadic communication — Whitford-Narine refutes each issue in detail, pointing out the flaws in her reporting, which come either through neglect or willful ignorance. This letter to Vogell was accompanied by 80 pages of documentation addressing each issue.

“I am now concerned that your approach and tactics are designed to suggest that at‐risk students are being transferred to our schools against their will,” she writes, “that students are being referred by the school district to avoid accountability; that we are not a quality program; that our schools are losing too many students to Adult Education; and that our schools are not held accountable for their performance.”

First, despite Vogell’s implication, enrollment in Sunshine is entirely voluntary, requiring the signed consent of a parent or guardian for minor students, and the signature of a student over age 18.

Feedback from 10 students interviewed by Vogell shows several factual inaccuracies, including one where the reporter cites a student by which no record exists showing neither enrollment nor attendance.

Another student described Vogell “[approaching] him at a bus stop on his way home from school,” and like the conversations with others, “it became clear that she was not wanting to hear about anything positive.” This was despite the student saying he was “doing great” at Sunshine, as his reading levels and comprehension gained dramatically.

Yet another student praised the staff, who had guided him to improve one grade level in reading and two levels in math, giving him a renewed enthusiasm for graduation.

As to his encounter with Vogell: “I did not like talking to her. It was clear that she wanted to focus on a bad story. She texted me, and I did not call her back.”

“How are the teachers here,” she asked the same boy in a distinctly negative way. “Are they bad?”

It was apparent those questions were worded to elicit the desired response, not for learning the truth behind ALS, Sunshine and its mission.

Whitford-Narine’s letter also takes particular exception to Vogell’s assumption that ALS is accepting students from Orange County public schools as a way of influencing the District’s graduation rates and also providing limited availability to advanced courses and extracurricular activities.

“This is wrong,” she says.

Florida’s graduation rate formula does not allow Districts to remove students from graduation rate calculations, just because they have transferred to alternative charter schools. As such, there is no benefit to the School District beyond giving these students a different opportunity so not to lose them.

Vogell seeks to attack Sunshine’s number of students who withdraw to pursue a GED by continually ignoring the fact that Public schools have tried for decades to find ways to get these at-risk, older students into a program that they can stick to through graduation.

By the time these students reach schools like Sunshine, they are often more than two years over-age, have been held back multiple times, skipping from school to school. As many as 30 percent of these students are considered “mobile” — looking for the easiest and quickest path out of school — which is understandable since many of them are between ages 19 and 21, and still have not graduated.

Since schools like Sunshine are graduating these troubled schoolchildren — who arrive already so far behind — as well as showing significant math and reading growth, it strongly suggests they are truly the effective options that Districts seek, and are what Sunshine and similar programs are working hard to accomplish.

Whitford-Narine reports that for ALS schools in Orange County, 63 percent of their students in their reading remediation program improved last year by a minimum two full grade skill levels and 50 percent of them increased by more than three grade skill levels.

ALS students also show a 63 percent increase in rates of credit earning as compared to what these same students were achieving in their earlier high school environment.

And with a significant focus on addressing the student’s social service needs, the schools reported 66 percent of their students having taken advantage of individual and family support services offered right on their campuses.

Also, not only are ALS schools fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS‐ CASI), but Whitford-Narine points out that students are welcome to participate in traditional extracurricular activities — even allowing students an opportunity to attend their school’s prom.

As for the overall direction of the ProPublica piece, it misses the one simple premise behind ALS and Sunshine (as is with most charter schools): giving students who face academic failure the individual, expert and specialized attention they need, so they can actually succeed.

Quality education for students is, and always will be, the real agenda. The reality of ALS bears that out, despite whatever inaccurate narrative Vogell and ProPublica seek to promote.

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Kathy Castor calls some of Donald Trump’s actions ‘beneath the dignity of the office’

It’s less than a month into Donald Trump’s presidency, but Congresswoman Kathy Castor is not impressed so far, describing some of his actions and demeanor “beneath the dignity of the office.”

“President Trump is simply unprecedented,” the Tampa Democrat said to reporters following a news conference held at the USF College of Nursing George & Marian Miller Center for Virtual Learning. “His actions and demeanor are really beneath the dignity of the office. And I worry about young people and kids seeing that as an example of their president and Commander in Chief. Hopefully he’ll rein that in.”

Castor joined her House Democratic colleagues at a retreat in Baltimore last week, where they attempted to find a common strategy to combat Trump and the GOP-majority Congress over the next two years. She said that she is well aware that the Democratic base is alive and engaged in politics in a way never before seen in her decade long in Washington.

“The grassroots are on fire,” she said. “People want to know – what’s coming up on the floor of the House this week. So that’s a little bit different, where we’re having to educate all of our neighbors and encourage them and teach them how to weigh in.”

Castor says that the nature of Trump’s attempted ban on refugees and his “playing footsie” with Russian leader Vladimir Putin are actions that “really undermine our national security.”

“So there are a lot of very serious issues, and you can’t blame our neighbors for being on edge, upset and wanting to be engaged,” she surmised.

For the second consecutive weekend, one of Castor’s GOP colleagues in the Tampa Bay Congressional delegation, Pasco/Pinellas Representative Gus Bilirakis heard from dozens of angry constituents regarding his intent to replace and repeal the Affordable Care Act. Eight years ago, it was Castor who was singled out for her support of the ACA, specifically when facing a hostile crowd of Tea Party activists at a town hall on the ACA at the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County.

“People are scared and that’s what you’re seeing at these town hall meetings for members of Congress,”she said, adding that “folks are reasonably frightened that there’s going to be this radical repeal plan, they’re just going to rip the rug out from under families. That’s the fight right now.”

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The new civics course in schools: How to avoid fake news

Teachers from elementary school through college are telling students how to distinguish between factual and fictional news — and why they should care that there’s a difference.

As Facebook works with The Associated Press, FactCheck.org and other organizations to curb the spread of fake and misleading news on its influential network, teachers say classroom instruction can play a role in deflating the kind of “Pope endorses Trump” headlines that muddied the waters during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“I think only education can solve this problem,” said Pat Winters Lauro, a professor at Kean University in New Jersey who began teaching a course on news literacy this semester.

Like others, Lauro has found discussions of fake news can lead to politically sensitive territory. Some critics believe fake stories targeting Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton helped Donald Trump overcome a large deficit in public opinion polls, and President Trump himself has attached the label to various media outlets and unfavorable reports and polls in the first weeks of his presidency.

“It hasn’t been a difficult topic to teach in terms of material because there’s so much going on out there,” Lauro said, “but it’s difficult in terms of politics because we have such a divided country and the students are divided, too, on their beliefs. I’m afraid sometimes that they think I’m being political when really I’m just talking about journalistic standards for facts and verification, and they look at it like ‘Oh, you’re anti-this or -that.'”

Judging what to trust was easier when the sources were clearer — magazines, newspapers or something else, said Kean senior Mike Roche, who is taking Lauro’s class. Now “it all comes through the same medium of your cellphone or your computer, so it’s very easy to blur the lines and not have a clear distinction of what’s real and what’s fake,” he said.

A California lawmaker last month introduced a bill to require the state to add lessons on how to distinguish between real and fake news to the grade 7-12 curriculum.

High school government and politics teacher Lesley Battaglia added fake news to the usual election-season lessons on primaries and presidential debates, discussing credible sites and sources and running stories through fact-checking sites like Snopes. There were also lessons about anonymous sources and satire. (They got a kick out of China’s dissemination of a 2012 satirical story from The Onion naming Kim Jong Un as the sexiest man alive.)

“I’m making you guys do the hard stuff that not everybody always does. They see it in a tweet and that’s enough for them,” Battaglia told her students at Williamsville South High School in suburban Buffalo.

“It’s kind of crazy,” 17-year-old student Hannah Mercer said, “to think about how much it’s affecting people and swaying their opinions.”

Stony Brook University’s Center for News Literacy pioneered the idea of educating future news consumers, and not just journalists, a decade ago with the rise of online news. About four in 10 Americans often get news online, a 2016 Pew Research Center report found. Stony Brook last month partnered with the University of Hong Kong to launch a free online course.

“To me, it’s the new civics course,” said Tom Boll, after wrapping up his own course on real and fake news at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. With everyone now able to post and share, gone are the days of the network news and newspaper editors serving as the primary gatekeepers of information, Boll, an adjunct professor, said.

“The gates are wide open,” he said, “and it’s up to us to figure out what to believe.”

That’s not easy, said Raleigh, North Carolina-area teacher Bill Ferriter, who encourages students to first use common sense to question whether a story could be true, to look at web addresses and authors for hints, and to be skeptical of articles that seem aimed at riling them up.

He pointed to an authentic-looking site reporting that President Barack Obama signed an order in December banning the Pledge of Allegiance in schools. A “.co” at the end of an impostor news site web address should have been a red flag, he said.

“The biggest challenge that I have whenever I try to teach kids about questionable content on the web,” said Ferriter, who teaches sixth grade, “is convincing them that there is such a thing as questionable content on the web.”

Some of Battaglia’s students fear fake news will chip away at the trust of even credible news sources and give public figures license to dismiss as fake news anything unfavorable.

“When people start to distrust all news sources is when people in power are just allowed to do whatever they want, said Katie Peter, “and that’s very scary.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Donald Trump, Justin Trudeau to discuss women in workforce

President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will participate in a roundtable discussion about women in the workforce Monday, showing the rising policy influence of the first daughter who has stressed her commitment to issues like child care.

A White House official said the two countries would launch a new task force called the United States-Canada Council for the Advancement of Women Business Leaders-Female Entrepreneurs. The official said Trudeau’s office reached out to discuss working on a joint effort, noting that this was seen as an area of shared interest between both leaders.

Ivanka Trump, who has been a vocal advocate for policies benefiting working women, was involved in recruiting participants and setting the agenda for the meeting and will attend, the official said. Ivanka Trump stressed the importance of maternity leave and child care on the campaign trail, and has recently been meeting with business leaders to discuss those issues.

The White House official said that Trump’s economic agenda will include a “focus on ensuring women enter and stay in the work force and addressing barriers facing female entrepreneurs.” The official requested anonymity to provide details in advance of the meeting.

Advancing women has been a clear priority for Trudeau. In late 2015, he drew attention for naming a Cabinet that was 50 percent women, saying that he chose a group that “looks like Canada.” Trump did not promise to appoint a gender-balanced Cabinet and has named a smaller number of women and minorities to top jobs.

“Our team reached out and suggested as it is an important part of the prime minister’s agenda and of our economic growth plan,” a Canadian official said. “It seemed like a natural fit given their commitments in their platform as well.” The official requested anonymity to discuss the meeting in advance.

Trump has offered a childcare plan and has signaled an interest in working on those issues.

The business round table will be part of an itinerary that includes a bilateral meeting and a working lunch. The visit is crucial for Canada, which relies heavily on the United States for trade. Trump has said he wants to discuss his plan to overhaul the North American Free Trade Agreement, which involves the United States, Canada and Mexico. There are fears Canada could unintentionally be sideswiped as Trump negotiates with Mexico.

Female executives from the United States and Canada are expected for the round table, including General Electric Canada CEO Elyse Allan, TransAlta Corp. CEO Dawn Farrell, Linamar Corp. CEO Linda Hasenfratz, T&T Supermarket Inc. Tina Lee and Schnitzer Steel Industries CEO Tamara Lundgren.

Also expected are Julie Sweet, CEO-North America for Accenture, NRStor CEO Annette Verschuren, Monique Leroux, chair of the board of directors for Investissement Québec. Carol Stephenson, of the board of directors for General Motors Co. will attend in place of the GM CEO.

Additionally, the meeting will include Katie Telford, Trudeau’s chief of staff, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and Dina Powell, assistant to the president and senior counselor for economic initiatives. Powell, Telford and Freeland were involved in setting up the council and recruiting the CEOS.

The council includes many of the meeting attendees, as well as Mary Barra, General Motors CEO, GE Vice Chair Beth Comstock and Catalyst CEO Deborah Gillis.

Topics at the event will likely include issues like providing maternity leave and childcare, how to recruit and retain women and how to better support women entrepreneurs.

Ivanka Trump does not have an official White House role. But her husband, Jared Kushner, is a senior adviser to the president and she stepped away from her executive positions at the Trump Organization and her lifestyle brand to move her family to Washington. She has been at several public White House events so far and has been privately sitting down with CEOs and thought leaders as she weighs how to pursue her policy interest.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Bob Buckhorn tells radio show he won’t “round up” Syrians living in Tampa

Bob Buckhorn’s visit to a Tampa mosque earlier this month to show solidarity with the Islamic community seemed to be a rather non-controversial event, but not to the morning hosts at WFLA-970 AM radio on Monday.

Buckhorn’s visit to the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay came exactly a week after President Trump signed an executive order banning travel into the U.S. by citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries. The ruling was overturned last week by the U.S. 9th Circuit of Appeals.

“I thought that ban on those seven countries was an attack on Islam, and I can tell you, Teddy, when I was at that mosque, on two occasions there were grown men who came up to me who were in tears,” Buckhorn told AM Tampa Bay host Tedd Webb.

Webb then went on to ask Buckhorn if there were people at the mosque who came from one of those seven countries that Trump named on his executive order (Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Iran, Sudan, Libya and Yemen), “You wouldn’t do a thing to round them up?”

“Not unless they had done something wrong,” Buckhorn replied, adding that it was important to screen refugees adequately and have control of our borders, “but that’s not the majority of people who immigrate to this country. It hasn’t been that way for generations. So, no, if they just happen to be from Syria, no I would not round them up. They’re not guilty of anything.”

Buckhorn was also pressed regarding the issue of whether Tampa is a sanctuary city.

The mayor has been consistent in saying that it is not, but added as always that he won’t be advising the Tampa Police Department to act as Customs and Enforcement officials in detaining undocumented immigrants unless they have committed a crime.

“That makes you a sanctuary city!” Webb interjected.

“Not necessarily” the mayor replied, repeating that if those people are found guilty of committing crimes, then they would certainly be detained. But they would not be detained for simply being undocumented.

“Undocumented? They’re illegal! They came into this country illegally, they broke a law to come into this country, Mayor,” Webb responded.

“They did, but I would tell you that we’re a nation of immigrants,” Buckhorn replied.

“We’re a nation of legal immigrants, Mayor,” Webb responded, later stating the premise that one reason Buckhorn might be so liberal on the issue is because “we know illegal immigrants convert into Democratic votes when they become legal.”

Buckhorn laughed before saying, “I don’t know that to be the case,” acknowledging that the Latino vote has been trending Democrat in recent elections, but that George W. Bush did receive 44 percent of the Latino vote as recently as 2004.

Buckhorn was also asked if he believed Donald Trump, 23 days into being president, should be impeached.

“At this point, no … I don’t think he has done nothing impeachable, but he’s made some decisions that clearly a lot of people have disagreed with.”

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Rick Scott inauguration party cost more than $600,000

Florida Gov. Rick Scott‘s big party in Washington D.C. to celebrate the inauguration of President Donald Trump cost at least $600,000, according to campaign finance records.

Scott and First Lady Ann Scott in January hosted the Florida Sunshine Ball at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium two days before Trump’s inauguration. Free tickets to the ball went to hundreds of people invited by the governor and first lady.

Records show that Scott’s political committee Let’s Get to Work paid a company more than $609,000 to rent the auditorium, hire caterers and stage the event featuring The Beach Boys.

Let’s Get to Work regularly receives donations from some of the state’s main corporate interests. In the last few weeks Duke Energy donated $100,000 as did private prison provider The Geo Group.Republish

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Donald Trump’s Florida estate stirs protests, spurs ethics debate

President Donald Trump‘s South Florida estate is no longer just the place where he goes to escape.

He has described the sprawling Mar-a-Lago property as the Winter White House and has spent two weekends there so far this month. But it’s also become a magnet for anti-Trump protesters and the subject of an ethics debate over his invitation to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to join him this weekend — with Trump pledging to pay for the accommodations.

Demonstrators plan to assemble Sunday near the estate to protest Trump’s decision on the Dakota Access oil pipeline. The North Dakota project, opposed by a Native American tribe fearful of water contamination from potential oil leaks, had stalled in Democrat Barack Obama‘s administration. Trump’s executive order cleared the way for the developer to start building the final stretch of pipeline.

During Trump’s other weekend in Florida, several thousand people marched near the property to protest his temporary ban on travel to the United states by refugees as well as citizens of seven mostly Muslim countries. A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court’s decision that temporarily blocks the ban’s enforcement.

Trump’s election is also putting charitable organizations, such as the American Red Cross, in an awkward position for choosing Mar-a-Lago for events booked months in advance. The Red Cross held its annual fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago, as it has done for many years, on Feb. 4, about a week after Trump enacted the travel ban. Trump and his wife, Melania, attended.

“What an honor, what a great honor it is. And let’s go to Florida,” Trump told Abe on Friday at a White House news conference shortly before they boarded Air Force One for the trip.

The two world leaders and their wives headed straight to Mar-a-Lago, where they enjoyed a late dinner at the crowded patio restaurant. Joining them under a white-and-yellow striped canopy were Robert Kraft, the owner of the Super Bowl-winning New England Patriots, and several interpreters. Paying members and their guests took in the scene and mingled with Trump and Abe into the night.

On Saturday, Trump and Abe went to Trump’s golf course in nearby Jupiter and were expected to hold more talks over meals at Trump’s various Florida properties.

World leaders typically exchange gifts, and Trump and Abe did so when Abe rushed to New York City in November to become the first foreign leader to meet with Trump after the election. Abe gave Trump a pricey, gold-colored Honma golf driver; Trump reciprocated with a golf shirt and other golf accessories.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Abe’s free-of-charge stay at Mar-a-Lago is Trump’s gift to Abe this time around. But the gesture wasn’t sitting well with government watchdog groups.

Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, said Trump and Abe don’t need to meet at Trump’s commercial property, where the membership fee recently was doubled to $200,000.

“Hosting a foreign leader at the president’s business resort creates impossible sets of conflicts,” Weissman said. “If the president hadn’t offered to pay, the U.S. government would be paying Donald Trump’s business for the purpose of hosting the Japanese leader.” Typically, the U.S. government would pick up the costs associated with such a visit.

Weissman said Camp David, the U.S. government-owned retreat in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains, which presidents use for personal getaways as well as to conduct the people’s business, would do fine.

“Why should you go to a resort in Florida?” Weissman asked. “Fine, you want to go to a resort in Florida? Don’t go to one Trump’s family owns.”

But Trump has shown that he isn’t too concerned about possible conflicts of interest involving him and his family. This past week, Trump used his official government Twitter account to criticize Nordstrom after the retailer said it had dropped a line of clothing and accessories sold by his daughter Ivanka.

Trump offered a possible explanation for inviting Abe to Mar-a-Lago, saying a “great friendship” had developed from their New York meeting.

The president is expected to continue bringing world leaders to the estate, helping to fulfill the vision of the property’s former owner, Marjorie Merriweather Post. The late cereal heiress willed Mar-a-Lago to the U.S. government after her death in 1973, intending for it to become a retreat for U.S. presidents and visiting dignitaries.

Trump bought Mar-a-Lago in the 1980s and retains a financial interest in the club.

Presidents through the years often escaped the majesty and protocol of the White House by choosing less formal settings for bilateral talks.

“It’s difficult, in effect, to get away inside the White House with the press corps in the same building,” said Bruce Buchanan, politics professor at the University of Texas at Austin. “In fact, it’s very desirable for presidents to have multiple venues within which to build and create relationships with other world leaders.”

President George W. Bush took advantage of his dusty ranch in Crawford, Texas, and regularly invited foreign counterparts there for talks.

Obama opted for Sunnylands, an estate in the California desert formerly owned by Walter and Leonore Annenberg. The late philanthropists built Sunnylands and long hoped the property they used as a winter home would become the “Camp David of the West.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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No matter the issue, Donald Trump knows a guy

President Donald Trump knows a guy.

No matter what issue Trump is addressing, he seems either to know somebody with a relevant personal experience or he’s got a firsthand tale to recount.

When he met airline CEOs on Thursday, Trump said his own pilot — “who’s a real expert” — had told him about problems with obsolete equipment.

When he met business and economic experts a week earlier, Trump cited the difficulties his friends in business were having borrowing money from banks as he spoke about the need to reduce financial regulations.

When he approvingly sized up Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Trump said last month that he’d had a “very bad experience” in his own businesses when dealing with the EU bureaucracy.

“Getting the approvals from Europe,” he said, “was very, very tough.”

Call him the anecdotal president: For good or ill, Trump processes policy proposals through his own personal frame of reference.

“It’s all about him,” says Jeff Shesol, who wrote speeches for President Bill Clinton. “His frame for Europe, his frame for the airlines, his frame for the banking system … is himself.”

It’s not necessarily a bad thing to draw on real-world experiences in developing or justifying policy.

Plenty of presidents and politicians have recognized the value of anecdotal storytelling in advancing their agendas.

President Barack Obama offered his own improbable life story as a metaphor for the wide-open possibilities available to all Americans. And he frequently drew on the concerns that came up in the 10 letters a day that he read from people who wrote to the White House.

Clinton was famous for sketching his encounters with ordinary Americans.

President Lyndon Johnson drew on his early experiences teaching disadvantaged Mexican-Americans in stressing the importance of education and economic opportunity for all Americans.

“I think it was then that I made up my mind that this nation could never rest while the door to knowledge remained closed to any American,” Johnson said after signing the Higher Education Act of 1965.

“Great Communicator” Ronald Reagan related the story of a woman who falsely collected welfare payments — then parlayed it into a stereotype of “welfare queens” cheating the system.

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a University of Pennsylvania professor specializing in political communication, says that in his first three weeks in office, Trump has surpassed even Reagan in his reliance on the use of “argument by anecdote.”

“Given the extemporaneous nature of Trump’s presidency,” she says, “we can reasonably assume that these individual moments are playing a more important role for him” in developing policy than they did for presidents past.

The risk, she adds, is that an overreliance on personal experiences “can lead to the assumption that something is typical when it’s atypical.”

With Trump, it’s hard to tell exactly what goes into his policymaking. But the billionaire businessman-turned-politician cites experiences from his own, very rarefied world that wouldn’t necessarily track those of ordinary Americans.

When he complained about onerous EU regulations, Trump appeared to be alluding to his failure to get approval for a sea wall at the Trump Organization’s golf resort in Ireland.

When he talked during the campaign about crumbling airport infrastructure, he mentioned the potholes at New York’s LaGuardia Airport — where Trump would have landed in his gilded private jet.

When he talked about the dangers of nuclear weaponry during the campaign, he would often invoke the expertise of his “brilliant” late Uncle John, a scientist at MIT.

In some cases, Trump may be drawing lessons from somewhat scrambled tales.

In calling for an investigation into alleged wide-scale voter fraud, for example, Trump has privately related a story about a pro golfer who either told Trump he had trouble voting himself or who had a friend who wasn’t allowed to vote even as others who somehow looked like they should be eligible to vote cast ballots, according to The New York Times.

Golfer Bernard Langer, a German citizen who is not eligible to vote in the U.S., later issued a statement to Golf Digest saying that elements of the story had gotten lost in translation. Langer said he’d told a friend the story of someone who couldn’t vote, and that tale had made its way to someone with ties to the White House and “from there, this was misconstrued.”

As for Trump’s difficulties with the EU, he did run into regulatory problems with the proposed sea wall at his Irish golf course, but he also encountered local opposition to that project.

In an interview in December, Trump said he’d also sought approval for a “massive, beautiful expansion” of the course but had dropped the idea after getting the OK from Ireland because it would have taken years to get EU clearance. However, there’s no record of him seeking approval for such an expansion.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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From protests to ‘pussy hats,’ Donald Trump resistance brews online

The revolution may not be televised — but it apparently will be tweeted. And Facebooked. And Instagrammed.

Not long after President Donald Trump temporarily barred most people from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S., social activist Dex Torricke-Barton took to Facebook. “I’m thinking of organizing a rally,” he posted. Within a few hours, more than 1,000 people expressed interest. The resulting protest a week later, in front of San Francisco’s City Hall, drew thousands more.

Torricke-Barton is far from alone. From organizing protests on the fly to raising money for refugee and immigrant rights groups, people have been using social media to fuel the resistance against Trump in ways their organizing predecessors from the 1960s could have hardly imagined.

ROOTS OF PROTEST

In Queens, New York, for instance, a group of 27 women met up to write postcards to their state and local representatives during a “Postcard-Writing Happy Hour” organized through Facebook.

And on Ravelry, the social network for knitters and crocheters, members have been trading advice and knitting patterns for the pink “pussy hats” that emerged as a symbol during the Women’s March on Washington and similar protests elsewhere after Trump’s inauguration.

“This is an incredible project because it’s mixed between digital and physical,” says Jayna Zweiman, one of the founders of the Pussyhat Project. “We harnessed social media for good.”

In 1969, activists planned massive marches around the U.S. to protests the war in Vietnam. The protests, called the Moratorium, drew millions of people around the world. But “it took months, a lot of effort, a national office of the organization to get it off the ground,” says Christopher Huff, a Beacon College professor focused on social movements of the 1960s. “The women’s march was achieved at a much larger scale at a fraction of the time.”

This immediacy is both an asset and a disadvantage. While online networks help people rally quickly around a cause, Huff says, they don’t necessarily help people grasp the “long-term effort” required to sustain a movement.

ONLINE, THEN OFF

In Silicon Valley and across the tech world, Trump’s travel ban created a stir that went well beyond the industry’s usual calls for deregulation and more coding classes for kids. Between aggregating donations, issuing fiery statements, and walking out of work in protest, tech company executives and employees took up the anti-Trump cause at a scale not seen in other industries.

New York-based Meetup, for instance, broke with nearly 15 years of helping people form and join interest groups on a non-partisan basis. “We’re vital plumbing for democracy,” the company wrote in a Medium post this week. “But after Donald Trump’s order to block people on the basis of nationality and religion, a line had been crossed.”

So Meetup held a company-wide “resist-a-thon” — a riff on the hackathons tech companies hold to devise new technologies — to help people get involved in the anti-Trump movement known as “the resistance.” It then unveiled more than 1,000 new “#resist” Meetup groups that people can join for free (it’s normally $15 a month to run a group). As of Wednesday, some 35,000 people had joined the #resist Meetup groups, and scheduled 625 events around the world.

Torricke-Barton, who in earlier incarnations wrote speeches for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Alphabet Chairman Eric Schmidt, said he and two sisters of Iranian descent organized their last-minute protest using Facebook groups and Messenger. That’s quite a contrast with Torricke-Barton’s earlier experience protesting violence in Darfur more than a decade ago.

Back then, “lawyers, marketers, communications people would help you get (the protests) off the ground … networks had to be created in advance,” he said. “Now, protests can start without any kind of infrastructure.”

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Shortly after Trump’s order, the venture capitalist Bijan Sabet tweeted a link to the fundraising platform Crowdrise alongside an explanation of his support for the American Civil Liberties Union— and then asked his followers to do the same.

Sabet figured it might take as long as two months to reach his $50,000 goal. It took three days. That weekend, the ACLU raised $24 million, far more than the $4 million it receives in a typical year.

Sabet, whose father is from Iran, says he’s seeing civic involvement “level up,” and that social media is pushing that along. Previously, he said, people would maybe say, “yeah, I’m a bit frustrated, but I don’t have all the information, I don’t know how to get involved.” Now, there’s no excuse.

LITTLE THINGS

The effects of social media aren’t limited to huge efforts.

A week or so after the election, Marisa Frantz, an art director in Cerrillos, New Mexico, created a private Facebook group called “America is Watching.” To join, all people had to do was comment “yes.” If they then posted their zip code in comments, Frantz would send them contact information for their senators and representative, Frantz’s sister-in-law, Sarah Bailey Hogarty, explained in an email.

“Like many of us, I was floundering around feeling terrible and afraid,” said Hogarty, a digital producer for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. “I wanted to do something, but I had no idea where to start.”

Hogarty called the group her “foothold to resistance.” Now, the group has more than 1,000 members across the U.S. and organizes weekly “calls to action,” such as contacting senators and representatives about a particular issue determined by a poll of the group.

Groups like this demonstrate how social media has helped “lower the barrier to entry” into social activism, in the words of Tarun Banerjee, a sociology professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

“What social media can do really well is spread awareness,” Banerjee said. “Can people make President Trump back down because of social media? Probably not. But it can shine the light.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Federal judges’ lifetime tenure for good reason; Tallahassee should take note

There is a profound reason why the Founders gave life tenure to federal judges, subject only to impeachment for bad behavior. As Alexander Hamilton explained it in The Federalist No. 78:

“In a monarchy, it is an excellent barrier to the despotism of the prince; in a Republic, it is a no less excellent barrier to the encroachments and oppressions of the representative body…”

Judges subject to the whims of a president or the Congress to keep their jobs would be worthless. So would the Constitution.

The founding wisdom has been confirmed time and again, most famously when the Supreme Court ruled that Richard Nixon was not above the law, and most recently Thursday, when the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that Donald Trump is not above it either.

Although the effect is only that Trump’s immigration decree remains on hold while the court fully considers his appeal of the District Judge’s order suspending it, the three-judge appellate panel made an enormously important point.

Trump’s lawyers had argued, as the court put it, that his “decisions about immigration policy, particularly when motivated by national security concerns, are unreviewable, even if those actions potentially contravene constitutional rights and protections.” The regime had also claimed, the court said, that “it violates separation of powers for the judiciary to entertain a constitutional challenge to executive actions such as this one.” (Emphasis supplied)

A president in office less than three weeks was asserting the powers of a dictator.

“There is no precedent to support this claimed unreviewability, which runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy,” the court said.

I hope they’re paying attention in Tallahassee, where some legislators seem to think they too are above the constitution and are trying to take down the state courts that sometimes disagree.

The current attack is led by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes. A constitutional amendment (HJR 1), sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora, would prohibit Supreme Court justices and justices of the five district courts of appeal from qualifying in retention elections after serving more than 12 years in the same office.

Why term-limit only those judges? Circuit and county court judges have vastly more power over the lives and property of citizens. But it’s the appellate courts that rule on the laws that legislators enact and the decisions governors make.

Corcoran, whose ambition to be governor is no secret, has declared that his nine appointees to the new Constitution Revision Commission must be committed to neutering the judiciary.

This concerns conservatives no less than liberals. Both sides warned a House subcommittee Thursday that, as one speaker put it, the first-in-the nation term limit would “insure that the best and bright rarely, if ever, apply” for appellate court appointments.

The subcommittee approved the measure 8-7, with only Republicans voting for it. However, the two Republicans voting no portend the lack of a supermajority to pass it on the House floor.

Although there’s no precise Senate companion, term-limit legislation assigned to three committees there is in several ways worse. No one could be appointed to an appellate bench who is under 50 and it would restrict Supreme Court appointees to candidates who had been judges for at least one year.

That would have ruled out such widely-esteemed lawyers as Justice Raoul G. Cantero III (2002-2008) who was 41 when Gov. Jeb Bush appointed him in 2002 and, Justice Charles T. Wells (1994-2009). None of three significant justices in the 1950s, Steven C. O’Connell, B. Campbell Thornal, and E. Harris Drew, had previously been a judge. Nor had Attorney General Richard Ervin when Gov. Farris Bryant appointed him to the Supreme Court in 1964.

Conceptually, there is a form of term limit that would make sense: A single, nonrenewable term of 20 years, with the judge no longer having to face retention elections, and the judicial nominating commissions restored to the independence they had before Republican governors got total control over them. But what the legislators are proposing does nothing good.

As the subcommittee was told but apparently chose not to hear, there is already significant turnover in the judiciary, where judges must retire upon or soon after becoming 70. The Judicial Qualifications Commission has not been idle in getting bad ones kicked off the bench. (I’ll write more about that in a subsequent column.)

The Legislature’s attacks on the judiciary may not succeed, but the greater danger is that Constitution Revision commission, which can send amendments directly to the 2018 ballot. With the House speaker and Senate president each appointing nine members, Governor Rick Scott, another court-hater, naming 15 including the chairman; and the attorney general, Pam Bondi, as an automatic member, it will be the first of the three commissions since 1978 to be dominated by one party’s appointees and, likely, hostile to the courts at the outset. The three members whom Chief Justice Jorge Labarga named next week will have the fight of their lives to protect the courts from becoming subverted by the governor and legislature.

Labarga’s three are well suited for their mission.

Hank Coxe of Jacksonville is a former Florida Bar president and has served on the Judicial Qualifications Commission. The CRC will need to listen to him on that subject.

Robert Martinez, of Miami, is highly regarded as the former U.S. attorney there. “In addition to being a good person and excellent lawyer, with thoughtful and humane values, Bob is one of the most courtly and well-mannered people I know,” a former assistant told me.

Arthenia Joyner, a Tampa lawyer who served in both houses of the Legislature, can tell the CRC firsthand what happens when the courts and law don’t respect people’s rights. As a student in the 1950s, she took part in lunch counter sit-ins at Tallahassee and was jailed for trying to desegregate movie theaters there.

Scott, Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron have yet to make their CRC appointments. Let them follow Labarga’s examples of integrity, experience and wisdom. One can always hope.

___

Martin Dyckman is a retired associate editor of the Tampa Bay Times. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

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