Obama Returns - And Avoids Talking About Trump
Skipped it. I'm sure Obama didn't talk like Trump. He probably spoke in a logical and calm matter using nouns and verbs. Doubtful he used exclamation points and mispronounced names. Ditto on his crowd's size and lack of sounding like a pugilist. That's probably means Obama said more about Trump then he meant.
Trump Seeks 15% Corporate Tax Rate Even If It Swells National Debt
Skipped it. Lowering corporate tax rates only helps the price of stocks. Mr. Populist? Where is the stuff for your voters? Billionaire cabinet? Taking away H/C for millions? Tax relief for middle class working folk? A Wall? Kudos Donald. You are a world-calls huckster and you fooled your base. They haven't turned on you yet because of confirmation bias. But confirmation bias doesn't last long, when someone's life and family are worse off than they were before.
Trump Imposes 20% Tariff On Canadian Lumber
Skipped it. What's next? A tariff on the NHL and the Toronto Blue Jays? Donald we get it. You don't want anyone coming to this country. You don't want any foreign trade. Well ... except when your company does it. Really? Messing with Canada? That like messing with Hawaii. There is a joke in there. Feel free to explain it to Trump.
Trump Brags About Getting Better Ratings Than 9/11
Skipped it. Does the star of Celebrity Apprentice.think he just replaced Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show. And how can someone be so tone deaf to a national tragedy for their own personal insecurity? Seriously, the mainstream has done a pretty good job of holding Trump accountable. Why? They understand sanity is a rare commodity. And that brings higher earnings. What they won't say, is that Trump is out of his mind, over his head and becoming a national and world joke. That would eventually end the gravy train they are riding on now.
April 25, 2017
Trump isn't helping the post-World War II order by supporting Le Pen (who wants to get out of the EU and become closer to Russia). Trump isn't helping the post-World II order by legitimizing Turkey's dictatorship.
While things look better after the first French presidential election, a Le Pen victory in a run-off in May would destroy the post-World War II order.
With Brexit and a Le Pen victory the only thing holding up a return to a balkanized Europe - which was its state before World War I and II - is Germany. Merkel is up for reelection. I am not sure Germany could keep the EU if Le Pen is elected. But I am sure, that if Merkel were to lose in Germany, Europe will return to different countries with different agendas.
England would become an island of anti-Russian Western support. France would go in the opposite direction. And a pro-Russia Germany or anything between would leave Europe destabilized.
If all of this goes in this direction - with an American president applauding - Russia, who financially supported Brexit, and who is financially supporting Le Pen and anti-Merkel candidates - will have effectively destroyed the post-World War II order.
What Putin wants is probably not France and Germany. But what he does want is Ukraine, the Baltics and maybe Eastern Europe. Who is going to stop him?
At the very least, McMaster and Mattis, have to stop Trump from supporting these separatist and dictatorial moves in Europe. And Congress and the FBI need to ferret out whether Trump is simply unhinged - not listening to their advice - or has more nefarious reasons for his behavior.
The American people and Europe have a right to understand.
April 24, 2017
So it's Saturday. What does someone like me do on a Saturday. Well, I first get up at 6AM - instead of 4AM - and I work until noon. Then I have a running tickler list of shows, books, movies and/or history specials.
I have long stopped watching anything live on television. But I had read that PBS was running a 6-hour special on World War I: "The Great War". I have personally read most of the seminal books of this World War, that curiously most American know anything about. I hoped that I could recommend it to others - like my children - to understand the geopolitics that started the war and ended the war.
After six hours of watching, I can say that PBS's "The Great War" has little to nothing to teach the viewer about the big picture of World War I. Where it succeeds though - depressingly so - is shining a light on the real great war of the United States: ethnic/racial discrimination and tension.
I am half German. But I am not going to get into the plight of German-American internment and suspicion during World War I. Why? Because it was brief and it has had little to do with the main American racial war story from the American Revolution to today.
Maybe you are a racist. Maybe you are not. You may either not care about this "great racial war" or have never paid attention to it.
But I think it is important to see how hard African Americans have tried to prove themselves, to be "true Americans", throughout history and especially wars, only to be let down in the end.
Everything in the "great race war" seems to be one step forward and almost one step back.
I think of milestones - often depicted in cinema - that uplift the mind and lead to tears, but don't seem to be anything but one-offs.
Jackie Robinson. College educated and the first African American in baseball. Baseball becomes integrated. Racists think nothing of cheering on African Americans in sports today, as if they see black athletes in the abstract. At the same time, outside the world of sports, they want nothing to do with the race except to harm them.
The same can be said about African American entertainers. Even racists will watch integration movies like "Remember The Titans" with Denzel Washington, "Radio" with Cuba Gooding Jr. and "Something The Lord Made" with Mos Def, and it doesn't carry beyond the two hours of viewing.
As I have said before, I am an admitted stupid-bigot. If I had my way, I wouldn't let any stupid person vote. And no stupid kid has ever been allowed in my house. But I just don't get racial bigotry. When I say I don't get it, I am not saying it like I really have a theory. I really don't understand it at all. It perplexes me and frustrates me. I look for the good and bad in people and race never enters my mind.
Then came the election of Barack Obama. I thought we had reached the MLK post-racial milestone. But the Obama elections released a white racist backlash in the worst form: the election of Trump with the help of white nationalism.
Having said all that, I can't deny that African Americans have made relative progress despite the circumstances. Maybe it has been better than one foot forward and almost one foot back. Perhaps it has been one foot forward with a half step back.
But this point is undeniable. A great "racial war" has been fought in America for 250 years. It is still being fought today. The US as the model of liberty? Sorry, that doesn't pass the snicker test. Things are getting worse, not better. People don't want to travel to the US anymore. Certainly they don't want to immigrate here any more. And the irony is that African Americans have the right/penalty of staying, in what is now a xenophobic nation within an increasingly xenophobic world.
Next Post: Will the French Election Destroy The Post World War II Order?
April 23, 2017
Trump took time to congratulate Turkey's Erdogan on his contested referendum to give Erdogan almost dictatorial powers. Congress and the rest of the administration voiced negative statements about Erdogan. Not Trump. Is that because he likes dictators? Only marginally true. Candidate Trump admitted “I have a little conflict of interest because I have a major, major building in Istanbul.” Why marginally true? Because it is easier to do business with dictators.
Speaking of autocratic regimes, somehow Trump was granted rare Chinese trademarks in January. Also his daughter got trademarks approved the day Trump and the leader of China met. Both are contrary to the constitutional emoluments clause (Article I, Section 9, Clause 8) which prohibit elected officials from taking gifts from foreign governments.
Trump will be meeting with Argentina's president next week. Argentina's president is Mauricio Macri, the son of a wealthy real estate developer, who has known Trump for more than three decades. He and his father sold Trump real estate in Manhattan in the 1980s.
We still don't know what Trump's relationship with Russia is.
Sans that question, Trump may have made a fatal mistake in not putting his business in a trust. Whether warranted or not - Trump who does business around the globe - is and will continue to be subject to conflicts of interest charges when he works with other countries in two ways.
By conflict of interest changes from the press which are unneeded distraction for an administration that continues to be beset by drama, infighting, a lack of progress in its 100 days, and historical low poll numbers for a new president (Obama polled an approval rating of 61% at this time of his presidency and Bush 43 was over 50%) of 40%.
And by conflict of interest charges by the people and eventually its elected officials, which will be less distractive and more like posing an existential threat to the presidency.
April 19, 2017
Handicapping the 2018 election isn't something new. One of the challenges or strengths of the US's constitution, is the lower chamber has a two-year term cycle. Every cycle is the same. Days and weeks, not weeks and months, after the House is sworn in, the talk and the focus begins on the next midterm election.
On top of that, there was most recently, the Scott Brown election in December of 2009. Brown running as a Republican, won an open Senate seat. That event was and has been seen as a reflection/protest of Obama and Obamacare.
Much has been made of the Oklahoma congressional special election where a Republican beat a Democrat by lower margins than the district voted during the special election. The Democrats lost nonetheless.
Now you are hearing about another special election in Georgia tomorrow, which was held by a Republican, as a true bellwether election.
That mainstream narrative is flawed for the following two reasons.
The GA district is a hotbed for Northern transplants in the Atlanta suburbs. Trump carried the District by one point in the general election. The election isn't a referendum on Trump and Republicans. Rather it is a referendum on Democrats to do something they are not good at: vote in a non-general election. It is also a referendum on all the protest rallies, turning into an actual political victory.
The other flaw in the mainstream narrative is that it WiLL be decided tomorrow. A 30-year old Democrat is running against a bevy of Republicans. The Democrat is polling - turnout models are nearly impossible in special elections - at 45%. Which means it is possible, that the only thing that happens tomorrow is the scheduling of a runoff election between the Democratic candidate and the second place Republican candidate.
April 17, 2017
Contrary to mainstream logic, China is now facing an existential crisis, as a result of supporting North Korea.
An American military attack on North Korea's nuclear facilities remains a real possibility. Under McMaster and Mattis, we know a few things. They understand gunboat diplomacy. They know how credible it would be to destroy enough of North Korea's nuclear and nascent air defenses. And you can bet they have gamed out the fallout and have shared it with China. Not that China hasn't gamed it out themselves.
Let's put ourselves in China's shoes. A pro-Western united Korea is their worst nightmare. They know any military threats against the US would destroy their market economy that requires the US market. They know that a US military action would be followed by both a war in the Korean DMZ - far from Seoul - and non-military families creating a refugee crisis into China they can't afford. And they know - at least from a conventional military perspective - that North Korea would lose a war between the US, South Korea, and Japan.
I might not trust Trump to make the right decision on North Korea, but I do trust McMaster and Mattis. McMaster and Mattis are smart enough to put China in a vise. They were with Trump in Florida during the meeting between the US and the head of China. We know the US threw out the carrots of taking currency manipulation claims and tariffs off the table, and we know China accepted the carrots.
China really only has one option. And that is to protest North Korea's status as an ally, by forcing regime change in North Korea. The tools they have are trade and key contacts within North Korea's military elite. North Korea knows this risk. That is why North Korea keeps killing off its military elite. Nonetheless the current North Korean military elite or successors can be contacted.
I believe that McMaster and Mattis have put both the necessary carrots and sticks in place to give China a little more time to bring about regime change in North Korea. And even if Trump - for political purposes - would like to take drastic military intervention into North Korea, McMaster and Mattis are strong enough to force Trump to give China more time.
April 16, 2017
Why Trump won and why there is no such thing as a Republican Party. Donald Trump won the GOP nomination due to the fissures of today's Republican Party. He exploited those fissures by becoming a populist - like Obama - with many Americans. He was the anti-establishment candidate - and like Obama - he won the general election the same way.
Today's Republican Party is made up of RINOs, pure conservatives, the Freedom Caucus and Trump populist acolytes. People wonder why a GOP lead House, a GOP lead Senate and a "GOP" president, can't get anything done. It's because there are united Democrats and an ever evolving GOP - for election purposes - that only have/had been united against the Democrats and Obama.
More simply put, for better or worse, the Democrats have a similar ideology. The GOP had one too after the election of Ronald Reagan. But Clinton and then Obama moved the Democrat Party to the center, which left less real estate at the margins for the GOP. That forced the GOP to become a non-ideological political coalition and a united legislative resistance party. And then came Trump.
Meaning after Trump's election to the presidency, there has been no such thing as a united GOP "block". The GOP finally caught the car. Once that was over, the separate factions within the GOP have gone back to being re-balkanized. That's a recipe for domestic policy gridlock. And I don't think said gridlock will change.
Now the myths of Jesus, his crucifixion and rising from the dead.
Who was Jesus? He was one of many Jewish resistance leaders to Roman occupation who used peaceful resistance.
His crucifixion? Way too many holes in the story. It wasn't until 500 years after his death that crucifixion was celebrated. That's probably because early Christians didn't see their leader dying as a good thing. And what about the story of the crucifixion - by the latter Gospels - that he carried the cross by himself? The Roman's conducted sedation crucifixions every day. Speed dictated having the crosses standing upright in the ground, well before executions, for efficiency. Finally what about nailing Jesus? Crucifixion is a method of dying from suffocation. Nailing Jesus - wouldn't have worked because his bones would have broken - leaving no way for his body to support suffocation. Why the story? Probably because Jesus would have had to have wounds to show the apostles during Pentecost. It is also worth remembering that the Roman's used rope for crucifixions.
Easter, Jesus returning from death, wouldn't have seemed unusual to Jews. Because "risen stories" were quite common throughout early-Judaism. They were more philosophic than actual. While within the greater Roman society, and within 30 AD Judea, already had a "risen story" stamped on the currency. The current Caesar is shown rising from the dead. A Caesar was a god.
I have written a fair number of posts on the historical Jesus. I believe Jesus was the leader of a Jewish peaceful resistance movement and was executed for sedation. I believe Jesus's vision for the less fortunate - long ago during Roman occupation of Judea and applicable today - was a mixture of kindness, inclusiveness, a disdain for hypocrisy and for selfless charity. I believe he died and his influence was strong enough to change history.
I may not believe in organized faith, but I do call myself a Christian. As imperfect as I am - we all are - my moral compass and my entire life has been based on what Jesus said and not what other say about him.
I know plenty of church-going christians that would argue whether I am a Christian. But I know too many church-going christians who are not kind, even driving out of a church parking lot, are not inclusive, are hypocritical and are less selfless and more selfish.
Just take a look at the issues of our times. Church-going christians supporting deportation, white supremacy, wanting their taxes lowered so the least among us is harmed? If that is being a Christian, regardless of not knowing the historical Jesus, that is so blasphemous that they don't have any right to being a "Christian".
So I say Happy Easter. Celebrate with family and friends. Acknowledge the greatness of the man who is being honored today. And if you went to Church today, but you are nonetheless blasphemous, try flipping through the Beatitudes and reflecting on your life.
The Trump Pivot. Ah, the illusive general pivot to normalcy. It didn't happen after Trump won the nomination. It didn't happen after he was inaugurated. But we maybe seeing it happen this week/yesterday. The only reason for "maybe", is not a day or a week, does an unpredictable Trump make.
But it is quite noteworthy that Trump's positions returned to center yesterday and where they stood under Obama. China is no longer a "currency manipulator". Nato isn't obsolete. He is open to reappointing Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet L. Yellen. He embraced the Export-Import Bank, a government agency that he mocked last year and that has long been despised by conservatives who labeled it crony capitalism.
Maybe it's true what one of the camps in the Trump administration have said about Jared and Ivanka. They call the couple the "Democrats".
Russian Kabuki Dance. Here is an immutable fact: Assad - short any sustained outside intervention by the US, which isn't going to happen - is a long-way towards winning the Syrian Civil War. The US is taking care of ISIS. Any opposition is cornered in Idlib. The rest of the country - including Damascus (recovering) and Aleppo ("you have made a desert and called it peace" - Tacitus) - is under control. Assad is on the verge of winning.
Then for some god-known reason, Assad uses chemical weapons again last week. Trump fires off 59 Tomahawk missiles (is it me or does the media (a) drool every time they have been used over the last 20+ years and (b) does the media always use the same film footage contrasting darkness with "cool" rockets?). Russian complains. Assad goes back and continues to bomb Idlib from the same "damaged airbase".
Then Tillerson goes to Russia and repeats a new Trump administration refrain: "Assad must go". That's of course not going to happen. It may have been a legitimate issue/request during the early and mid-stages of the Syrian War. But there is no such thing as leverage, when you have a dictator of a sovereign nation, who is winning.
I have not heard any mention of the House or Senate investigations into Trump and his team, in regards to colluding with Russia or Trump having financial and other ties with Russia, since those Tomahawk missiles were fired.
Sean Spicer. While he made my skin crawl by contrasting Syria's use of battlefield chemical weapons and comparing it to the Holocaust, Trump's spokesman is ... well stupid.
His English is improper. He get too flustered. He doesn't stay on point. He has too many fits of anger. And he misspeaks so many people's names ... there is a website that allows you to enter your name and get a Spicy misinterpretation of how Spicer would say it.
I said it before, but Trump will roll his bus over anyone to save his butt. A purge is right around the corner. Steve Bannon's potential firing will be a catch all for Trump's previous crazy ideas. Rience Priebus potential firing will be a catch all for all of Trump's legislation failures and not getting the deportation exec order through the courts (even though Trump's own lawyers told him his exec orders would not stand up in court). KellyAnne Conway? I guess there isn't anything to fire, if she continues to pretend she has an actual job in the White House.
Anyways, when will Trump roll his bus over everyone? Probably at the 100-day mark. His lack of success in his first 100 days "can't be due the great Trump". It has to be due to other people. And those other people are going to learn a lesson they should have know about Trump. It's all about him and his ego. He is necessary. Others are not. It's that simple.
April 13, 2017
Syria. It's complicated.
The US's focus under Trump has been to advance defeating ISIS by taking control of Raqqa using mostly Kurdish fighters.
But the Trump administration hasn't focused where the bulk of the Syrian rebels are massed and preparing for an existential fight to topple Assad, Furthermore, Assad has been slowly pushing all non-ISIS opposition to Idlib.
This is the result of the Assad regime’s years-long strategy to assemble all his enemies — including U.S.-backed rebels and Islamic jihadists — in one place.
The US under Trump has conducted limited strikes against al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Idlib. The US under Trump has also cut off all aid to moderate groups fighting in Idlib.
This appears to be deadly consistent with Trump's Syria/Assad policy changes from the Obama administration. Continue the Obama administration plan to defeat ISIS in Raqqa. But let Syria and Assad keep Assad's enemies in one place, to better kill them through bombing.
Then there was a slight hiccup. Or a plan if you are so inclined. Assad used chemical weapons in Idlib. Then Trump fired off some media-friendly Tomahawk missiles that did token damage to a small airport in Idlib. The Russians complained. Meanwhile, the small airport was up and running the next day.
Meaning nothing has really changed about Assad plans to eliminate his enemies by bombing them in Idlib. Nothing seems to have changed about the Trump administration accepting Assad's strategy to eliminate his enemies in Idlib. Nothing has changed that death by chemical weapons and by non-chemical weapons is the same. Nothing will change for "beautiful babies" that have been killed and will be killed in the future. And nothing will change for Syrian "beautiful babies" and their parents, because they will continue to be denied the ability to become safe refugees.
If Obama's Syria strategy was feckless, than surely Trump's Syria strategy can be called a combination of realpolitik with at least a one-time dash of hypocrisy.
April 10, 2017
Lobbying 59 Tomahawk missiles - which I referred to as "token bombing" yesterday in reference to Obama's rejected redline option - was a great tactical move by Trump.
Although, he made pains to alert Russia and its forces in Syria, the attack gave Trump a way of neutralizing - at least for awhile - his besieged ties with Russia. Russia seemed to play along, by criticizing the Trump administration calling the "token bombing" a violation of international war. That could be the real Russian reaction or that could have been a part of a planned puppet show.
Token bombing gets you John McCain and Lindsey Graham. Democrats don't have the power to take Trump down, but McCain and Graham do.
Finally, token bombing will give Trump a lift in the polls. Rallying around the flag is always good tactical politics.
If Trump stops at token bombing - we are talking about a Syrian airbase the size of an executive private plane airport - he will have made a very smart political move and sent China a message on North Korea while he is meeting China's president at his Florida White House.
I call all of this "token bombing", because we have seen such means used before. Most notably by the Clinton administration. Every provocative Al Qaeda attack was met by Clinton with the very same naval-based Tomahawk missile attack.
It didn't change the events on the ground in the 1990s and it will not change the events on the ground in Syria today.
Unless, Trump gets sucked into - perhaps for political purposes - what he said he wouldn't do. Which is to get stuck into a protracted conflict in Syria and the Middle East. In fairness, if the objective is to remove Assad, and to ignore the other nuances, a slippery slope is one way to do it.
Token bombing gets token tactical political relief. The slippery slope option gets longer political relief. Token bombing has almost no national risk. The slippery slope option has similar national risk as the Iraq War.
I guess it all comes down to whether Trump wants to be Clinton and be a president under a cloud of congressional investigations. Or does Trump want to be Bush 43, a president who was able to stay in power by the narrowest of margins above 50%, but having to "own" the broken pieces of a part of the Middle East, along with the inevitable massive deficits that result from such slippery slopes.
We shall see.
April 7, 2017