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Thoughts on Events the Weeks of March 26 and April 2

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on April 14, 2018

I was so busy last week that I didn’t have time to produce thoughts on weekly events timely. But the topics this week are the same as last week (and so on and so on), with some new dollops of craziness poured on top. All of Trump’s weeks boil down to Russia, tariffs, immigration, corruption and scandal. So, this weekly blog is an aggregation of my thoughts on the basis of topic, not chronology.

Russia: President Trump called Russian President Putin to congratulate him on rigging his election, then asked Putin to come to his house for a play date, and maybe have a sleepover. Trump’s aides were stunned.

How must it feel to be an advisor to a fool who not only doesn’t listen to your advice, but tends to react to it in the opposite direction, and that this – being ignored or outright rejected – is the best you can expect from your employer? More typical is insult and termination. Also possible: subpoenas and prison.

Subsequently, after much refusal and stalling, and with tremendous pressure from the EU, Trump took his lips off Putin’s butt long enough to put some sanctions on Russia, though he told his aides not to make a federal case out of it (read don’t talk about it). Russia reciprocated.

Trump followed with personal sanctions on some of Putin’s cronies, a more meaningful sanction, atypical from him, which may or may not reflect the influence of a new hire. Trump’s default impulses toward Russia are fear and deference, but he has a new National Security Adviser-designate – John Bolton – who is barking mad, but who hates Russia. Awkward.

Tariffs: Lacking the most basic knowledge of international trade economics or policy, and misunderstanding the concept of trade deficits, Trump announced tariffs on more goods from China.

You’ll remember that Trump’s first announced tariff was on steel and aluminum, worldwide. Trump’s expressed target was China, but the tariffs were insignificant to China, from which we only import about 4% of our steel. The tariffs are very significant to Canada and Mexico, however, from where we get most of our steel imports. So, Trump exempted Canada and Mexico from the tariff, along with a lot of allies, with the result Trump’s tough tariff amounts to no tariff at all.

But this new one with China is serious, and it has been immediately reciprocated by China with tariffs on comparable amounts of our exports to China. A ratcheting up of tariffs has begun, which could lead to serious  economic trouble, but probably won’t, because Trump is bluffing, or so ill informed that when someone pours enough buckets of cold educational water on him, he will back down. What a putz!

Unlike Trump, China has targeted its tariff threats brilliantly, beginning with some targeted with surgical precision on the home states of Republican Congressional leaders McConnell and Ryan. In their subsequent escalation, China has threatened tariffs on many agricultural products – pork, soy beans, and the like – the very ones produced in Midwestern red states, by redneck Trump-voting farmers. Awkward.

While Trump was announcing tariffs, his Treasury Secretary was downplaying the possibility, and his shiny new TV-minted Director of the National Economic Council, Larry Kudlow, was saying they won’t happen. Each time Trump or Kudlow speak in opposite directions on the subject, the stock market gets whiplash.

Immigration: Trump went particularly dark and mean on immigrants, reacting, apparently, to the agitation expressed by his base and Fox News because the wall isn’t in the annual budget.

Trump declared an end to any hope for DACA Dreamers. He halted the DACA program himself about a year ago, gave the Congress six months to address it, and said if they didn’t, he would. Well, he has addressed it alright, with a complete betrayal.

The Dreamers are the clearly innocent bystanders in the immigration debate, and a large majority of voters want a solution found for them. Unfortunately, this majority doesn’t include any of Trump’s rabidly xenophobic base or Fox News.

A group of Central American refugees from violence in their own countries have apparently banded together on the road for mutual protection, to march to Mexico and seek asylum there or the U.S.

Hysterically xenophobic Fox News has inflated the group into a national security threat, saying this “caravan” is planning to march to the Mexico-U.S. border wall and do something terrible there, though it is hard to imagine what that might be. It would be hard for a “caravan” to sneak across the border. Someone would surely notice.

Trump, watching this truly manufactured story on Fox, and seeing how his ignorant base has been stirred up by it, jumped in on the threat mongering and is sending national guard troops to the border.

You rarely see such ludicrous, irrational demagogic overreaction in such vivid relief. The Terri Schiavo case comes to mind, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terri_Schiavo_case).

Among other irrational ironies involved, Trump sought and got $80 billion more dollars in the last budget to build up the military, and ever since has been frivolously pissing it away, ordering a preposterous parade and sending troops to stand on the border across from poor Central American refugees on the other side and do what, exactly? What a putz!

Corruption: On occasion, we find one weak willed or greedy individual committing corrupt acts. But in organizations, the tone and example is set not by the outlying behavior of an individual, but at the top, which determines the behavior of the deputies below.

This informs why so many of Trump’s deputies are being caught with their hands in the corruption cookie jar. They see their boss scooping up graft and emoluments, so they think it’s OK for them to do so too. This also informs why the Obama administration was so corruption free.

Trump is a total outlier on the corruption spectrum, but corruption in the U.S., and our attitudes toward it, have changed over time. In the 50s, President Eisenhower’s Chief of Staff Sherman Adams accepted a Vicuña coat from someone interested in doing business with the government and the government came to a standstill. Adams, a heretofore reputable public figure, was forced to resign immediately. (In his memoir, Nixon said he was the one who had to fire Adams, but that’s not true; it was Meade Alcorn, National Republican Chairman who fired Adams.)

Scandal: I don’t really consider it a scandal that President Trump had a roll in the hay with a porn star. But one could argue that it is a scandal that Stormy Daniels’ attorney is smarter than Trump’s entire legal team and is running rings around them.

In the meantime, Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, who paid Daniels $130,000 for no particular reason, with funds from no particular source, promises to keep this tryst on the front burner right up to the election, or Melania’s divorce filing, whichever comes first.

When this is over, Trump is going to wish he had just masturbated instead. As Woody Allen said, at least you’re having sex with someone you love.

Status of the States: Since I’m covering two weeks of cumulative thoughts, I will award two cups one to Arizona and one to Oklahoma – though unlike last week, both states deserve indictment.

Arizona, my own personal state at present, embarrassed itself when Joe Arpaio, convicted miscreant pardoned by Trump, who is running for U.S. Senate in the Republican primaries, told a conservative group that the reason he wants to get to the Senate is so he can prove that President Obama’s birth certificate is a fake and have him arrested.

Oklahoma’s shame, of course, is Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, who is doing his best to despoil the environment while leading the Trump cabinet is corruption accusations, which is really saying something.

 

 

 

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