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Donald Trump’s decisively inept immigration actions over the weekend were especially unseemly and ironic to Osama Siblani, a Lebanese immigrant who’s the Detroit-based editor of the Arab American News. It’s the largest Arabic paper in the United States.
It’s a “coup d’etat against what the United States stands for,” says Siblani. By rich confidence, he was naturalized on Oct. 1, 1984 at a ceremony at Detroit’s Cobo Hall presided over by none other than another Republican president craving to upend establishment Washington. Siblani was among 120 new citizens that day from 52 countries.
“Fifty-million immigrants came to this country in the last 200 years,” Ronald Reagan told them. “Some of the most recent have crawled over walls and under barbed wire and through mine fields, and some of them risked their lives in makeshift boats.”
“And I know that all of them felt as the immigrants of the early part of this century felt,” continued Reagan, not exactly the sort of bleeding heart liberal whom top Trump aides now revile. “…Bring to us its culture and its heritage. We don’t reject them. We need them. They enrich us.” (The American Presidency Project)
So it’s worth finding journalists, like Siblani, who observed and covered the weekend’s ham-handed outrage — or “misguided” reporting by the media, the White House said last night during a press briefing — with a visceral understanding born of deep personal understanding. He came to this country at age 21 in 1976, with $185 in his pocket “and big dreams,” then earning an engineering degree before starting a paper so he could have a voice in the Arab-American community.
He’s got a staff of 19 in Detroit, six overseas, prints 35,000 bilingual copies of his weekly. He recalls the words Reagan spoke before a crowd of 4,000 at Cobo Hall as if they were spoken yesterday.
“This is not an attack on the Muslim community,” Siblani said, “it’s an attack on the Constitution.”
“I find the whole thing horrifying,” says Rekha Basu, a thrice-weekly columnist for the Des Moines Register, who was born in India to United Nations employees and had a green card before applying for citizenship in Des Moines in 1997.
Basu married an American and raised American kids. A son, who is a Yale Law graduate and lawyer, is married to an Indian who is also a Yale Law grad, a Hindu, a green card holder and American Civil Liberties Union employee. But the couple just happened to be in Canada visiting family, which made Basu anxious (they subsequently returned safely late Sunday).
Is there a chance one of those columns this week will be about immigration? “I’ve been thinking of almost nothing else,” she says.
Julia Ioffe, a staff writer at The Atlantic, wrote a first-person essay Sunday that recounted a refugee’s sense of fear and alienation about her journey to America.
“Where would we have gone? We were people without a home, without a country. We had been stripped of our Soviet citizenship, we had sold everything to pay the four steep fines for having four citizenships stripped from us, and we certainly didn’t have enough money left over for four plane tickets back, back to a country we no longer belonged to and wouldn’t have us.”
If the Trump White House seemed to change course on green card holders Sunday, it should have no illusions about the emotional and psychological impact of its actions.
“People are scared,” says Tareq Hahawaja, editor of the Urdu Times, a small, family-run Pakistani weekly in Chicago. He was in suburban Skokie on Sunday, covering a protest demonstration at a Muslim education center.
“People are angry. The way he (Trump) talks, the words he uses, his style, arrogance, the haters in his speech. He gives the impression he doesn’t care.”
This morning comes word from Tokyo, “Sony Corp. said Monday it would write down nearly $1 billion on its struggling Hollywood movie business, a move it said was mainly linked to the shrinking market for packaged software such as DVDs.” (The Wall Street Journal)
If you’ve got a loose $5 million around for Sunday
“With the Super Bowl just days away, Fox has yet to sell a handful of lucrative advertising spots for the year’s most-watched TV event, putting pressure on the broadcast network to finish before the clock runs out. Fox has been seeking around $5 million for 30 seconds of airtime, a new record.” (Bloomberg)
Trump’s digital savants
Motherboard translates into English a German magazine article that explored the impact of the Trump digital campaign by inspecting the roles of Warsaw-educated Michal Kosinski, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford, and Brit Alexander Nit, president of a data firm called Cambridge Analytica (notably, Trump Svengali Steve Bannon was on their board). Nit helped the pro-Brexit forces, crunching social media and Facebook data to put people into different psychological categories targeted with different messages.
For sure, there were decisions made by app-laden Trump canvassers that were similar to the Democrats in targeting. “But there is no evidence that they (Democrats) relied on psychometric profiling. Cambridge Analytica, however, divided the U.S. population into 32 personality types and focused on just 17 states. (Motherboard)
Important caveat: “But to what extent did psychometric methods influence the outcome of the election? When asked, Cambridge Analytica was unwilling to provide any proof of the effectiveness of its campaign. And it is quite possible that the question is impossible to answer.”
Trump meets with porn star
Or so one thought.
“The ‘special relationship’ between President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May has gotten off to an awkward start.” (The Huffington Post)
“In a White House memo detailing the duo’s Oval Office meeting and joint press conference on Friday, staffers from the Office of the Press Secretary repeatedly spelled her name wrong. Instead of writing ‘Theresa’ with an ‘h,’ they wrote ‘Teresa.’ In doing so, they confused May with the former British adult actress and model Teresa May of (almost) the same name.”
So much for the e-book revolution
“In a keynote address delivered at the opening of last week’s Digital Book World conference in New York City, Jonathan Stolper, senior vice president and global managing director for Nielsen Book, presented a series of charts that provided a detailed look at the steadily declining unit sales of e-books. The figures are based on e-book sales reports from more than 30 traditional publishers through the first nine months of 2016, with Nielsen estimating sales for the final quarter of the year.” (Publishers Weekly)
Alluring headline of the weekend
“The Science Behind Slurpees: Why no matter which 7-Eleven you go to in the world, your Slurpee tastes the same.” (Eater)
The morning babble
The weekend immigration protests were all about “angry activists” on “Fox & Friends,” with its favorite image that of teary Sen. Chuck Schumer, a favorite new Democratic pinata. ‘Not backing down: WH vows to enforce rule, despite judge ruling” was a chyron. Said co-host Ainsley Earhardt: “I have no problem with this. As a mother, I want to keep this country safe.”
MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” chided the administration for woeful internal communications among relevant agencies. Joe Scarborough, a Trump whisperer, indicating what he says will be the internal post-mortem in the West Wing. And, “I was struck by the Democratic senators’ response. They are still jarred by the election results.”
CNN’s “New Day” co-host Chris Cuomo argued that this is about “phobias not facts” and urged guest pundit David Gregory to underscore the same point. Cuomo himself offered a solid fact check, citing libertarian Cato Institute figures that show how since 1975 there have been 3.2 million refugees admitted, with 20 proving to be terrorists, or .00062 percent, with three attacks pulled off and no Americans killed by any of those 20. “Let’s be honest, this is about fear,” he said.
And check the take of Richard Clarke, once a high-profile figure who served on the White House National Security Council staff for Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. He calls what played out over the weekend “amateur hour” in a New York Daily News op-ed. (Daily News)
Covering one’s butt?
Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy informed employees and certain authors that even though S&S imprint signed controversial author Milo Yiannopoulos to a deal, “the company will not publish books that contain hate speech.” (Publishers Weekly)
The new White House press operation
The Trump press operation on Sunday put out a release with its version of the Sunday Show highlights. The narrow selection of quotes suggested Pravda-like aplomb:
“Top highlights from the Sunday shows: On the president’s executive order protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’: The Trump administration will ‘apologize for nothing here.'”
Then, “White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on ABC’s ‘This Week’: We must ‘ensure that the people that we’re letting into our country are coming here with peaceful purposes and not to do us harm.'”
And in case you missed it, “On the president keeping his promises, Conway on ‘Fox News Sunday’: ‘There’s a fundamental fairness that Donald Trump ran, won on and will execute’ on.”
You get the drift. Not a hint of any counter-argument on anything. It’s a somewhat more overt form of propaganda than found in its predecessor regimes.
Many journalists are proud of the their memories, which makes Scientific American opinion editor Michael Lemonick add a cautionary note to this recollection of the space shuttle Challenger’s explosion 31 years ago this week.
“I remember that awful day in vivid, almost cinematic detail. I was in my cubicle at Science Digest magazine in New York City. A friend called to tell me what had happened. I ran over to the office television and switched it on, calling to my colleagues to join me. I know the TV was tuned to CBS because I remember Dan Rather’s ashen face on the screen. While we watched in horror, I glanced down at my hand, which was clutching a postcard I had gotten that morning. It confirmed that NASA had received my application to be the first journalist in space.” (The Wall Street Journal)
“Except that isn’t how it happened. Clear as that scene is in my mind, it’s impossible. As a monthly magazine with a three-month lead-time and, of course, no website in 1986, we didn’t cover breaking news. We had no office TV. I must have watched the news when I got home later that day. And if that detail is incorrect, others probably are as well.”
Psychologists, he notes call, such recollection “flashbulb memories.”
FOIA in Wisconsin
“Madison — Most state agencies are now systematically tracking requests for public records but can still take weeks to respond to relatively straightforward queries, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has found.” (Journal Sentinel)
“The upshot: The agencies that responded to the newspaper are following the basics of (Gov. Scott) Walker’s order. But bureaucracy and slow response times can still delay answers for citizens.”
A book for Trump, Putin
A “five best” book feature in the terrific arts section of the weekend Wall Street Journal looks at the Russian Revolution and includes “Runaway Russia” (1918) by Florence MacLeod Harper, the first American female reporter in Petrograd.
“Sure that trouble was coming, she waited ‘as I would for a circus parade.’ From the women’s bread protests of the heady first days when the mob seemed ‘good-natured’ to the later horror of the ‘Marseillaise-singing crowds being mowed down by machine guns, she remained undaunted, repeatedly returning to the streets despite the dangers she courted daily. She searched the morgues so that she could do a story on the victims.” (The Wall Street Journal)
Bannon goes high, Bannon goes low
The press covered Trump Svengali and self-appointed media critic Steve Bannon being named to the National Security Council. (ABC News)
It missed this: “Following a series of incidents that left food and used paper products scattered throughout the West Wing, White House staff were reminded Friday to place lids firmly on all trash cans after President Trump’s senior advisor, Steve Bannon, got into the garbage again.
Good work by, oh, The Onion.