US Steps Back

International agreements are enormously complex.  They cannot be explained in sound bites so no one understands them completely except the negotiators and the handful of speed-readers who are dedicated enough to read through them.  Both political parties can find some language in them support their positions. So how are we to know whether the Trump administration should be applauded for withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord or castigated?  Three possible answers.

  1. It is a Trump administration decision so anyone with a brain
    1. should oppose it
    2. should support it
  2. It was negotiated by the Obama administration so anyone with a brain
    1. should oppose it
    2. should support it
  3. Other

Ok – that was a trick question.  The answer is Continue reading

Posted in Foreign policy | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Listening with Trumpian Ears

(Note:  This is republished to correct the publication date in the Permalink.)

I have been trying to hear the news recently through the ears of a Trump supporter.  I’m beginning to understand why he had enough supporters to win.  There are several  themes.  I’m trying to describe them so I can follow them for a while to see how  he does on these issues and to refine my understanding of what his supporters expected.  I am not arguing the right or wrong side of these issues but only that this is what a lot of Trump supporters see.  So here they are in no particular order: Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What, Do You Think Our Country’s So Innocent? (v2)

Leftists since at least the bad old days of the Viet Nam war have decried American misdeeds in other countries as well as or own.  In a Bill O’Reilley interview with Donald Trump, O’Reilly comments that Putin is a killer.  Trump’s reply is “What, do you think our country’s so innocent?” This exchange is in an interview with Bill O’Reilly that aired on 2/5/2017 on Fox.

Does that make Trump a leftist Democrat?  I don’t think so.   Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lucky Dog

I have a lucky dog.  He survived a vicious dog attack that almost killed him at four months old.  He is a melanoma survivor. And he doesn’t know what happened last night.

He was sleeping during the simultaneous destruction of both current US political parties.  He did not hear Susan B. Anthony’s sigh emanating from her grave.   The anguish of many current and potential US immigrants fell on his sleeping ears.   Continue reading

Posted in Politics | Tagged | Leave a comment

Why Not Trump?

Why not Trump for president?  He has expressed some good ideas.  For example, he has indicated the value of his being “self funded” to avoid being beholden to special interests. He is for improving the US infrastructure, repairing our tax structure, fixing the VA, fixing immigration, updating or replacing the ACA, expanding the economy, reviewing our trade policies and fixing Social Security while reducing the national debt.  Those are all goals I can support.  Those are also all goals that Hillary supports.

They differ mostly on how they would review trade policy and on tax cuts and how they would implement some of the goals above.  Trump says he’ll rip up our current trade agreements and start over; HRC says she’ll work to make sure they are fair.  Donald will cut taxes across the board; Hillary will raise taxes on the rich.  Hillary’s resulting budget deficits will be about the same as projected under current law resulting in a debt of 86% of GDP in 10 years.  Trump’s will be higher resulting in 106% of GDP in ten years.  Trump says he’ll generate so much growth that we will cut the deficits and start bringing down the debt.  Non-partisan economists say that won’t happen.  Actually, pretty much all economists that are not part of his advisory council say the same thing.

Overall, his policies are somewhat different from mainline Republican ideas but if you remove the rhetoric, most are not extreme.  So why are some people so against him?  I’ll get back to that.

Hilary’s policies are not outrageous either.  She is a politician and an insider.  As a result, people don’t like her.  She has added to the normal dislike and distrust of politicians by her own actions.  Her political instincts were sharpened in Washington and she has been under attack for a long time.  I don’t understand the deep-seated antipathy some politicians have toward her but I would guess it comes from the ill-fated “Hillarycare” she managed under her husband’s presidency.  Hillary has been under intense scrutiny for 30 or more years.  The Donald has not.  Hillary’s every flaw is well known.  Donald’s are not.  He has not only been fined by the Justice Department for violating a consent decree regarding housing discrimination but investigated for bribery, corruption in a construction project, sale of two housing units to members of the mob, stock dealings, illegal loans from his father to his casinos, improper lobbying, misleading earnings reports and Trump University .  Hillary is far from perfect but she is  very well known.  The Donald is known mostly to followers of the Apprentice.  Running the United States is not a reality TV show.

Why not Trump?  If his policies, absent the exaggeration and hyperbole, are not totally despicable and in many ways not that different from Clinton’s, and their record of federal investigations are not dissimilar, why not take a chance on the outsider?  Here’s why.

  1. He is making bullying an acceptable behavior.  If a presidential candidate can make his arguments almost entirely through innuendo and ad hominem attacks, then that must be ok.  When said candidate uses social media extensively for the sole purpose of name calling, it must be normal.  Schools no longer need to teach the elements of logic nor critical thinking because all you need to win an argument is a bag of clever insults.  The idea of punching back regardless of the issue and punching harder means it is ok to beat up the little kid who gets in your way or to take his lunch if he insults you.  Sixth grade bullies have a how-to guide from the Republican candidate.  Way cool!  Ironically, Melania Trump spoke out against cyber-bullying and related her own wonderful story of coming to America.  However, the largest group of cyber bullies I know of are from Breitbart, InfoWars, 4Chan and of course, @theRealDonaldTrump.  Some of their most frequent targets are immigrants and immigration.  In other words, her husband and some of his most energetic backers.  Bullying is not ok; it is not an acceptable model for the president; and it coarsens the country and reduces its intellectual capability.
  2. Impetuosity is a liability in foreign affairs.  Combined with his bullying instincts, I can imagine him going off-script and upsetting multiple foreign heads of state.  Why do we care?  We need information and intelligence sharing with as many countries as possible in the fight against terrorism.  We need economic cooperation to improve or even maintain our trade deals.  We need our allies to believe we have their backs.  There are enough countries that don’t like us already.  We don’t need to add to the list by insulting a European head of state, for example, for being behind on NATO payments.
  3. The country needs to be united; he is a divider.  What ever you feel about Clinton or the press, inciting crowds with “Lock her up” chants and inviting insulting and abusive behavior to the press should not be acceptable.  We have due process laws.  They even apply to Democrats.  Hillary has not been charged  with any crime in the 30 years she has been in Washington.  We do not lock up people who have not been indicted.  The First Amendment is just as important as the Second (and all the rest) but it was first for a reason.  The writers of the Constitution knew the importance of the press and right to assemble.  Whether Donald does or not is less important than how his followers perceive the message and who they choose in the years to come at state and local levels.  Will press freedom begin to diminish?  Attacks on due process increase?  Where will that lead?  I don’t know but it won’t be a country governed by our Constitution.
  4. But the biggest problem is cynicism.  A campaign that panders to and reinforces the legitimate fears and concerns of a large part of the nation but has no credible plan to fix those problems is just cynical. I said earlier that fixing our immigration system is a good idea.  Trump has taken he good idea though and turned it into an element of divisiveness, not over how to fix the policy but over the immigrants and refugees themselves.  Even though Trump’s policies are not tremendously out of line with many candidates, his rhetoric is.  Listening to him makes it sound like the barbarians are not only at the gate but have broken the hinges and only he can now save us.  I find this appeal to the worst and most fearful elements of natures to be the best explanation of “why not Trump”.

Why HRC?  See above.  If the Democrats ran a normal candidate or even Bernie Sanders, there would be no contest.  Hillary has many flaws but she should not be further tainted by the sins of her husband.  The one thing that sets her apart (for this election) is that she worked effectively across the aisle when she was a Senator and developed good working relationships with a number of Senators who are still there.  She has some small chance of unifying the country.  Mr. Trump does not appear to me as though he wants to unify it.

Posted in Politics | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Trump’s Needed Apologies – 4 in an unending series

Donald Trump is redefining America as a third world country in which the press is a tool of the government, political opponents are threatened with jail, truth is an unnecessary luxury, elections are stolen by the elites and only the fervor of your supporters matters.

It is these last two items that are of most concern.  The campaign has insinuated for some time that the election is “rigged”.  It seems that the only way Mr. Trump loses is if the fight is unfair.  Otherwise, he is so smart, talented and charismatic that such a result is inconceivable.  Regardless of the laughability of that statement, if enough of his followers are rabid enough to believe the election process is unfair or is somehow controlled by some outside agency like the “elites”, we could see the beginning of a long, slow, tortuous trip to third world status for the several countries that used to be the USA.

There is no discussion of how this “rigging” happens.  Maybe through voter fraud from illegal immigrants recruited by the Clintons.  Maybe just outright cheating in the vote count by election officials.  Or the Russians could be hacking the voting systems to make sure the Trumpanistas don’t win.  Perhaps it is through the “crooked media”.  Interestingly, it is the media that made him in the first place by reporting on all the outrageous things he says.  That attracted many people.  As the election grows nearer, more people are paying attention.  The press still reports on everything he says but to a larger audience with more uncommitted voters. The expanded audience is more likely to be skeptical of Trump’s claims.  He doesn’t like that.  Therefore, rigged.

However, it would be a mistake to blame everything on the Donald.  He has a 30 year or more platform of growing distrust in the government sparked primarily but not exclusively by the right.  There are multiple possible starting points from Barry Goldwater to Ronald Reagan to Newt Gingrich.  All of them and their successors in Republican politics have railed against government being the problem, being in the way, being too big, too slow, too impersonal and more recently just inept and incapable.   Bernie Sanders and his band made similar points about the failure of governmentto execute its responsibilities.  Oddly enough, those two threads are closely related.  And they are not wrong.  Broadly speaking, they are about Congress not doing its job for a very long time.  Congress has focused not on solving problems but on serving conflicting philosophies.  Their approaches to politics has created more polarized  constituencies and allowed them to hold up any legislation that either creates a political risk for them or fails to meet their philosophy completely.  ACA is a good case.  Democrats can’t admit it has any flaws and Republicans can’t admit it has any benefits.  So it can’t get any better and no progress can be made on afordable healthcare.  The same logic applies to immigration, jobs, economy, inequality and security.  No progress, no agreement.  It leads to a lot of bubbling in the political and social cauldrons.

So what do I want him to apologize for this time?  For using the wretched situation our Congress has created to inflame passions instead of offering solutions.  I know that he has put forward some immigration, tax, education and other plans.  But he prefers, it seems, to incite the crowds to jeer the press corps and cast outrage at those who oppose him.  And he continually takes the spotlight off his plans anytime there is anything that dims the light on him! This leaves him behind in the polls (which irritates him to no end) and causes him to cast about for excuses.

On November 9th, I hope to have heard a concession and a plea to Congress to stop fighting begin working on solutions regardless of who wins.  America can’t afford more division.

Posted in Congress, Politics | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Trumps Needed Apologies, Number – I’ve lost count!

The Donald’s most recent foray into the dark recesses of his self-indulgent mind involves a locker room discussion that betrays his ego’s never-ending assumption that he is above everything.  Many men indulge in pretty grotesque discussions at some points in their lives.  Most don’t move on to assume that they can do or say anything they want if they are rich and famous.  Well, Bill Cosby may have; and a few presidents and actors.  But as a country we expect better behavior in our leaders and generally are pretty offended when it appears.  Most learn to keep a lid on it – at least where there might be hot mics and in public.  Most learn the discipline of focusing on their jobs, their families, their communities.

This event exposes Mr. Trump’s egocentricity and narcissism better than most earlier ones.  It is a specific statement that “I can have what I want when I want it because I am who I am.”  Henry the 8th thought the same way along with all the other divine right kings.  The fact that it applied to women is not limiting.  That is, I’m sure he has expected to get a good grope of politicians because he donated to their campaigns.  He has said as much.

The fact that it did apply to women is consistent with his entire history.  It seems to indicate that Mr. Trump’s appreciation of women is skin deep.  While he has several woman on his campaign team, it could be argued they were chosen first for their looks and then for their ability to defend his positions and speak articulately.

He issued an apology to “anyone who was offended”.  I’m curious about the people he thinks might not be offended.  Many of them will be men with daughters and wives and mothers and aunts and woman friends.   The rest will be women.   It is hard to find anyone who has no relationship to a woman.

His apology should be something along the following lines.
“I apologize for being a boorish and misogynistic dick-head.  There is nothing I can do about it at my age.”  I think he might add “So screw you and send in the girls, but only the tens.”

Posted in Politics | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Trump’s (Needed) Apologies – part 2 of ?

A while ago I thought it would be fun to keep track of the apologies Donald Trump owes the country.  I wrote one on his assertion that Judge Curiel could not rule on his Trump University case since the judge is of Mexican heritage and could not possibly be unbiased.  It was fun.  But I could not keep up.  What with the Khan family, fire marshals, beating up protesters, lying about his changed positions on Syria and Libya, on the number of immigrants in the country illegally, the unemployment rate, crime rates, Obama as founder of ISIS and at least 70 other stories tallied by PolitiFact, I was beaten.

Then I realized those are just chump change!

The biggest and most abject apology owed to America is for accelerating the decline of our most important institutions.  He and his fellow Republicans have for years been doing their best to create darkness where there should be light.  They have turned the perception of science from an instrument of discovery and verification to an instrument for promotion or vilification of political positions.    They have changed reverence for education into distrust of expertise.  Support for common infrastructure has become classified as “tax and spend” programs to wreck the budget.  For these, the Donald gets credit for advancing the ball but not for all the recent progress.  The Republicans, after all, have worked on knocking down government for years.

Mr. Trump’s singular contribution is his unique ability to stare into the mouth of a bear and deny that he sees teeth or even that there may be a bear.  For example, we have his continuing claim that what he said in 2004 about favoring the invasion of Iraq, on film, did not happen.   Also, his claim that president Obama is not a native-born American is now being denied on his behalf by his campaign but he would not admit it in person until 9/16/2016.  And speaking of bears, he still denies Russia has troops in the Ukraine.

Most of all, though, we have his skill in debasing political debate.  I know, I thought that art had already been perfected by Congress, but I was wrong on that too.  Trump has skills in innuendo, ad hominem attacks, misdirection and blatant lying that make the most ambitious sixth grade bully weep from jealousy.  With his recent claim that Secretary Clinton has run a “hate filled” campaign, he has taken the school yard taunt “I know you are but what am I?” to impressive new levels.  Similarly with his continuing attacks on the Clinton campaign regarding Benghazi, the email server, her health and the Clinton Foundation, he has created exactly the sort of distraction that his son now says is the real reason he won’t release his tax returns – that it would create a distraction and keep Mr. Trump from delivering his message.  I wonder what the distraction would be?

Posted in Politics | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Trump’s Needed Apologies – Part one of who knows?

John Kasich has demanded that Donald Trump apologize for stating that Judge Curiel is incapable of exercising proper legal judgement.  That is only the first unicorn in the parade around Trump Tower.  Just on this issue, he owes apologies to the judge, to the judicial system, to America and to western democratic ideals.  But those are only the apologies for the Trump U. case. There are lots of others for another time.

First, the judge.  Mr. Trump’s comments say more about himself than about the judge.    The judge has some Mexican heritage therefore he must be biased because Trump will build a wall to prevent immigrants from easily breaching the US border and has made disparaging remarks about Mexicans.  Mr. Trump apparently has a world view in which it is normal and natural to judge others based on ethnic identity.  It is particularly disturbing that  he believes an American judge would automatically be subject to that type of bias.

Which brings us to apology number two.  If Mr. Trump believes that a judge of Curiel’s stature is so easily corrupted by nothing more than an accident of heritage and that’s a natural condition, then what does he think of the rest of the institution?  Does that mean he would only appoint Supreme Court Justices that would likely be good for his businesses?  (Thank God for the Senate confirmation process – for once!)  Does it mean that he cannot be judged because those of different racial, ethnic or political groups would be prejudiced against him and those of his groups would be biased in his favor so no one can judge him?  I wonder if that would work for me.

He should also apologize to the country for demeaning its ideals.  I will be far from the first to proclaim that the US has no flaws but I will always argue that its principles are the model of western democracy.  If Mr. Trump believes they can be so easily ignored by a member of one of its core institutions, then perhaps he does not actually believe in the institutions of the country he wants to run.  He shows the same sort of contempt for freedom of the press and to some degree for freedom of assembly (but only if the assembly includes people who are against him).

I’m not holding my breath that we will get any apologies but at least that has better odds than the unicorns knocking down Trump Tower — well, maybe not!

Posted in Politics | Tagged , | 2 Comments

The Republicans Brought This on Themselves!

The grandees of the Republican party are nearing panic over the potential of Donald Trump becoming their nominee for President.  They alone are to blame for their fate.  And this fate does not depend solely on whether Trump becomes their candidate.

Republicans created the environment that allowed, maybe even enticed, a candidate like Trump to run and win or come close enough to  fracture the party.

They created an atmosphere in which complete disrespect for the other party is not only OK but expected. The 2008 decision by Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor among other Republican leaders to obstruct every Obama initiative gave substance and sustenance  to massive disrespect.  The contempt with which party leaders and now the candidates spew disdain for anything Democrat paves the way for Trump’s outrageous comments to fall on numbed ears.

It extends to public disdain for “the other”.  “The other” is any bogeyman the current political speaker needs to blame for whatever they don’t like to generate an emotional response.  The Republican list currently includes Democrats, immigrants, scientists, Muslims and the press.  For the Democrats, it is “Wall Street”.  That is a shorter list and more nebulous but just as dangerous.  Both parties have culpability in the search for bogeymen.

It is hard to deny the disrespect Republicans create when they attempt to shut down the government rather than advancing principled but achievable options; when they spend more time fund-raising  than they spend working; and when they fail to do their constitutional jobs like passing budgets and confirming court nominees.  If Congress doesn’t respect the government, why would we not expect the people to drift toward a candidate to promises to “make America great again”. Whether you think government should be smaller, larger or just work, most people expect their representatives  to work to make it so and not just avoid tough votes.

Facts have never been of major concern to political campaigns.  Nonetheless, the Republicans’ continuous attacks on science from denying climate change science to defunding the Office of Technology Assessment, helped increase the general populace’s acceptance of the idea that facts are subject to political vetting.  When they assign Representatives who fundamentally do not believe in the process of science to the House  Committee on Science and Technology, you have to think they don’t take science seriously.  (Paul “science is spawn of the devil” Broun for instance.  Google it.  There are now at least five Republican anti-science members of that committee.)

If facts don’t matter in science or political campaigns, why would it matter that 76 of 77 statements made by Mr. Trump and fact checked by Politifact turned out to be false?

The Republicans have also shown a systematic revulsion for their own ideas when proposed by a Democrat – e.g., ACA, Cap and Trade, and Common Core (which was more bi-partisan but a grass-roots initiative).  When a Republican dominated Congress spends six years arguing over purely symbolic issues instead of trying to improve anything, how can a large part of the public avoid a level of cynicism that makes the Donald look attractive relative to professional politicians?  At least he gets things done – according to his branding.  The fact that he makes stuff up, makes outrageous claims and has no political theory is of no consequence if all other politicians are regarded as the same!  Then, simply the facts that he is from outside and reflects the frustration is enough to give him a platform.

Hilary – similar lessons applies to the Democrats!  Wonder why Bernie looks so appealing?

 

Posted in Congress, Politics | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment