US Press: pick of the papers

The ten must-read opinion pieces from today's US papers.

1.Payroll tax bill passes (Politico)

Congress today easily approved a two-month extension of the payroll tax break and renewed several other provisions dealing with unemployment and Medicare, writes Seung Min Kim.

2. The desperation down the block (Detroit Free Press)

Those of us who remain employed can choose to the stories of desperation around us in many ways, this Editorial suggests.

3. Sailor's gay kiss is a milepost on a long road of change (Los Angeles Times)

Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta's homecoming kiss to her girlfriend shows progress in the military. But more is needed, according to this Editorial.

4. Newt Gingrich takes New Hampshire for granite (Politico)

New Hampshire has all the conditions in place for an insurgent conservative to catch fire. If only Newt Gingrich - or anyone else - would strike a match, suggests Alexander Burns.

5. White House Christmas Cards: Signed, Sealed, Secular (Star Tribune)

Since the beginning, the White House's Christmas messages have usually taken on an inclusive, if not bland, character - one that manages to respect the holiday season and simultaneously to give scant offense, writes David Greenberg.

6. Voter rights need protection (Philadelphia Enquirer)

Voting rights are under attack, according to this Editorial.

7. Why isn't peace on anyone's platform? (The Boston Globe) ($)

Nicholas Burns asks- is the word "peace'' disappearing from our national conversation?

8. The GOP's payroll tax debacle (Washington Post)

Now that Congress has reached agreement on what must be one of the worst pieces of legislation in years - the temporary payroll tax holiday extension - Charles Krauthammer surveys the damage.

9. Holder's Voter ID Fraud (Wall Street Journal)

Witness Eric Holder's attempt to play the race card and perhaps twist the law in a campaign against voter identification laws, according to this Opinion piece.

10. Christopher Hitchens gets the last laugh (Chicago Tribune)

No Hitchens screed has taken more heat over the years than his 2007 Vanity Fair essay "Why Women Aren't Funny", writes Meghan Daum.

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Leader: The chaos and mendacity of Trump’s White House

That General Flynn was the first of the president’s men to fall should perhaps not have caused surprise.

In his inauguration speech on 20 January, Donald Trump used the phrase “American carnage” to ­describe the state of the US under Barack Obama. The description was correct, but President Trump had the timing wrong – for the carnage was still to come. Just a few weeks into his presidency, the real-estate billionaire and reality-TV star has become embroiled in more controversy and scandals than Mr Obama experienced in eight years. His ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries entering the US caused chaos at airports both at home and abroad and damaged America’s global standing. It was a false claim that the executive order, since suspended by the courts, would make the US safer. By alienating and stigmatising Muslims, it may well do the opposite.

The decision to pursue the policy so recklessly and hastily demonstrates Mr Trump’s appalling judgement and dubious temperament. It also shows the malign anti-Islamic influence of those closest to him, in particular his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, his senior adviser Stephen Miller, and Michael Flynn, the retired general who on 13 February resigned as ­national security adviser after only 24 days in the job.

That General Flynn was the first of the president’s men to fall should perhaps not have caused surprise, given his reputation for anger and arrogance. As recently as August, the retired three-star general said that Islamism was a “vicious cancer inside the body of 1.7 billion people” and falsely claimed that Florida Democrats had voted to impose sharia law at state and local level. He also led the chants of “Lock her up!” aimed at Hillary Clinton during the Republican ­National Convention, which would have been appreciated by Mr Trump then and today by those who enjoy irony.

Now General Flynn is under investigation by justice officials. He resigned over revelations in the media, most notably the Washington Post, that before taking office he had discussed US sanctions against Moscow with the Russian ambassador. It is unlawful for private citizens of the US to ­interfere in diplomatic disputes with another country.

Before standing down, General Flynn had publicly denied talking about sanctions during calls and texts with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in late December. He had also issued misleading accounts of their conversation to Vice-President Mike Pence and other Trump officials who went on to defend him. Given President Trump’s propensity to lie, General Flynn may have believed that he could get away it. As the former chief of a Pentagon spy agency, however, he should have known that the truth would come out.

The FBI had wiretaps of the ambassador’s conversations with General Flynn. In January, the acting US attorney general – later sacked by President Trump for opposing his “Muslim ban” – informed the White House that General Flynn had lied about his communications with the ambassador and was potentially vulnerable to Russian blackmail. Yet it took newspaper revelations about the intercepts to bring the national security adviser down. American carnage, indeed.

The disruptive present

How has capitalism shaped the way we work, play and eat – and even our sense of identity? Nine writers explore the cutting edge of cultural change in the latest instalment of our New Times series in this week's magazine.

The past decades have brought enormous changes to our lives. Facebook became open to the public in 2006, the first iPhone was launched in June 2007 and Netflix launched in the UK in 2012. More and more of us are ceaselessly “on”, answering emails at night or watching video clips on the move; social media encourages us to perform a brighter, shinier version of ourselves. In a world of abundance, we have moved from valuing ownership to treating our beliefs as trophies. The sexual vocabulary and habits of a generation have been shaped by online pornography – and by one company, MindGeek, in particular. We cook less but love cookery shows. We worry about “fake news” as numbers of journalists decline. We have become gender consumers, treating it as another form of self-expression. These shifts in human behaviour have consequences for politics and politicians. “The question should always be,” as Stuart Hall wrote in 1988, “where is the ‘leading edge’ [of change] and in what direction is it pointing?” The question is even more apposite today.

This article first appeared in the 16 February 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times