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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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