Friday: Will the US ever be the US again?

giphy-1Good Afternoon!

It’s just one devastating hit to the constitution, civil rights, global stability, science, women, our allies, our citizens of color, our GLBT citizens, journalists, National Parks, Federal Scientists and agencies … well, the list goes on and on.

We’re lucky if less than five horrifying policy offerings happen a day.  It’s at the point that we’re going to be lucky to survive this chaos.  This happened yesterday and then there was a certain amount of backing off from it by Spicer.  It’s hard to know what’s actual and what’s just swamp fever.

 

As an economist, all I can say is this is a very bad idea. Mexico and Canada are number 2 and 1 importers of US goods. Mexico imports nearly twice as much as China does from us. China is #3. Altogether, Mexico is our third largest trade partner if you do not include the EU as a bloc.

We have had a net negative immigration status with Mexico and the number of Mexicans living here illegally has declined.  The primary source of undocumented visitors is your local airport where people land and overstay their tourist VISAS. All of this information is quite verifiable simply by checking the sites of the World Bank and US immigration services.

g9510-20_hat-coverAlready, Mexican border towns are boycotting US goods, services and their daily shopping trips to US owned stores. Please remember Smoot Hawley and also that the WTO will allow Mexico to reciprocate. This is called a Trade War that has been known to start real wars. Our balance of trade with Mexico shows we run a trade deficit. This is one of our most equal and big trade partners!! This will seriously cripple US exporters and cost lots of jobs! 

The digital image shows a clenched fist bathed in the red, white and green of Mexico’s flag and decorated with the nation’s emblematic eagle. “Consumers, to the Shout of War,” it says in Spanish above the fist. “Consume products made in country…Use your buying power to punish the companies that favor the politics of the new U.S. government.”

Created by a Mexican food-activist group, the image is part of a slew of messages, memes and videos that have been spreading in Mexico in recent days as President Donald Trump pushes for a border wall, deportations and punishing new trade rules. Others messages call for specific boycotts of U.S. companies in Mexico, including McDonalds, Walmart and Coca-Cola. One of the most heavily trending hashtags is #AdiosStarbucks, or “Goodbye Starbucks,” referring to the Seattle company which has opened hundreds of coffee houses here.

The Mexican President bailed on a meeting with Kremlin Caligula. 

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto announced on Twitter around midday on Thursday that he was scrapping a planned trip to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly demanded that Mexico pay for a wall on the U.S. border.

Later in the day, White House spokesman Sean Spicer sent the Mexican peso falling to its low for the day when he told reporters that Trump wanted a 20 percent tax on Mexican imports to pay for construction of the wall.

Spicer gave few details, but his comments resembled an existing idea, known as a border adjustment tax, that the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives is considering as part of a broad tax overhaul.

The White House said later its proposal was in the early stages. Asked if Trump favored a border adjustment tax, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said such a tax would be “one way” of paying for the border wall.

“It’s a buffet of options,” he said.

The plan being weighed by House Republicans would exempt export revenues from taxation but impose a 20 percent tax on imported goods, a significant change from current U.S. policy.

96-9627-kbye500zSo, here’s the recession clenching bit of news for who ever came up with that awful policy.  We’re export heavy with Mexico because WE BUY THEIR SWEET MEXICAN CRUDE OIL.  Demand for gas is price inelastic which means any taxes will be passed straight on down to the final consumer.

Less than a week after assuming office, the Trump administration indicated it may impose the levy on imports from Mexico to finance construction of a barrier along the southern U.S. border. American companies imported about $14 billion in oil and related products in 2015, government data show. White House press secretary Sean Spicer noted that the tax was only one idea being mulled to pay for the wall, a cornerstone of Trump’s campaign.

The tax, which Spicer characterized in a briefing Thursday as “theoretical,” would apply to countries with which the U.S. has a trade deficit. That would seemingly exempt Canada, with which the U.S. ran a surplus of $11.9 billionin 2015. However it may include Saudi Arabia, the second-largest foreign supplier of crude to the U.S., which sent $31 billion more to the U.S. than it took back in 2012.

Most U.S. refineries reside inside Foreign Trade Zones, including the biggest U.S. importer of Mexican crude, a joint venture owned by Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Mexico’s state-controlled driller Petroleos Mexicanos.

I really hate this man.16174791_1364654720251999_4395787681036849674_n

Today, religious extremist nuts all over the country join Mike Pence and White House mommy in ignoring real live people and obsessing with fertilized eggs. Then, we have Bannon who seems to be at the center of overthrowing life as we know it in the US. This man may be as insane as Trump but not stupidly so.  He appears each day to have just drug himself off the couch after an all night bender.  The entire Trump staff looks as though the can barely dress themselves let alone look professional. But then, Trump himself may be the richest most unkept man alive.  Nothing about him says success.

White House and Hill GOP leaders are astonished by the unambiguous, far-reaching power of Steve Bannon and policy guru Stephen Miller over, well, just about everything.

  • They wrote the Inaugural speech and set in fast motion a series of moves to cement Trump as an America-first Nationalist.
  • They maneuvered to get more key allies inside the White House and positioned for top agency jobs.
  • They wrote many of the executive orders, sometimes with little input from others helping with the transition.
  • They egged on Trump to take a combative approach with the media, China, Mexico and critics.
  • And Bannon punctuated the week with a full-throated, Trump-pleasing bashing of the media.

Bannon, in a phone interview with NYT’s Mike Grynbaum, who covers media, TV, and politics (story is on A1): “The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while … I want you to quote this … The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States. … The elite media got it dead wrong, 100 percent dead wrong … The mainstream media has not fired or terminated anyone associated with following our campaign … Look at the Twitter feeds of those people: They were outright activists of the Clinton campaign … That’s why you have no power … You were humiliated.”

Pre-conventional wisdom: A conservative leader told Axios’ Jonathan Swan that Reince Priebus’ people were feeling like they “won November and December,” having filled the White House with so many loyalists. The spin was that Reince was outmaneuvering Bannon and would be the real power source. But now it’s dawning on them, as Trump makes his early moves, that maybe they spoke too soon.

Catherine Rampell writes in WAPO that Trump’s first week looks like the worst run business she’s ever seen.coverstory-blitt-big-short-879x1200-1458313496One week into the presidency, we’ve gotten a taste of Trump’s management style. And so far it’s been plagued by many of the bad habits common to poorly run businesses.

Take, for example, his administration’s clear indifference to — or outright rejection of — good measurement and analytics.

One of the first things you learn from talking to management experts and successful entrepreneurs is the importance of having a clear set of objectives, as well as good, consistent metrics for determining whether those objectives have been met.

Or, as Trump’s commerce secretary nominee, Wilbur Ross, argued not once but twice in his confirmation hearing last week: “I have a very heartfelt saying in management that anything you can’t measure, you can’t manage.”

Ross, arguably the most business-savvy of Trump’s Cabinet picks, has not yet been confirmed. In his absence, the administration has not exactly been taking his “heartfelt saying” to heart.

During a news conference Monday, for instance, White House press secretary Sean Spicer refused to answer a simple measurement question: What is the current unemployment rate?

The answer is not exactly a secret. Three weeks ago, the Labor Department publicly announced its latest reading as 4.7 percent.

But Spicer — whose boss has variously claimed the rate is “a total fiction” and as high as “42 percent” — ducked. Instead of providing the figure, or even citing alternative metrics he thought could be better gauges of economic health (such as measures of underemployment or labor force participation), Spicer pooh-poohed interest in quantitative gauges altogether.

“The president, he’s not focused on statistics as much as he is on whether or not the American people are doing better as a whole,” Spicer said.

He went on to admonish “Washington” for fixating on numbers and forgetting “the faces and the families and the businesses that are behind those numbers.”

I spent my private sector life being the brains for CEOs whose businesses were doing badly because they never once looked at any stats and analytics until they brought my young educated ass into the businesses.  It was horrifying.  My first big job out of university was basically to figure out that the largest S&L in about a 4 state area was going bankrupt and there was absolutely nothing they were going to be able to do about it.  Most of it was because their stupid Marketing VP kept getting them to buy up sinking banks in economically destitute areas to get more market share with no regard to the drain on assets thst would continue. A lot of CEOs are really hopeless and you’d be surprised how many of their compadres in senior management are guys they knew from high school.  Trump is beyond that and the devastation left in his wake pretty much proves it.  He excels at creating chaos.

He’s also brought Orwell’s bleak “1984” into perspective.   This is Adam Gopnik writing for The New Yorker.

There is nothing subtle about Trump’s behavior. He lies, he repeats the lie, and his listeners either cower in fear, stammer in disbelief, or try to see how they can turn the lie to their own benefit. Every continental wiseguy, from Žižek to Baudrillard, insisted that when they pulled the full totalitarian wool over our eyes next time, we wouldn’t even know it was happening. Not a bit of it. Trump’s lies, and his urge to tell them, are pure Big Brother crude, however oafish their articulation. They are not postmodern traps and temptations; they are primitive schoolyard taunts and threats.

The blind, blatant disregard for truth is offered without even the sugar-façade of sweetness of temper or equableness or entertainment—offered not with a sheen of condescending consensus but in an ancient tone of rage, vanity, and vengeance. Trump is pure raging authoritarian id.

And so, rereading Orwell, one is reminded of what Orwell got right about this kind of brute authoritarianism—and that was essentially that it rests on lies told so often, and so repeatedly, that fighting the lie becomes not simply more dangerous but more exhausting than repeating it. Orwell saw, to his credit, that the act of falsifying reality is only secondarily a way of changing perceptions. It is, above all, a way of asserting power.

What we have here is a very unusual set of responses including the Woman’s March and now very mad Scientists.  No, not the 50s SciFi kind of mad but angry, activist political nerds. It’s the revenge of the civil servants!

The National Park System became the first rogue set of federal employees to take on Kremlin Caligula.

Five days into his presidency, Donald Trump has acted swiftly to dismantle Barack Obama’s legacy, issuing executive orders cutting federal funding to women’s health groups abroad if they discuss abortion, green-lighting the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, and scaling back the Affordable Care Act. While his press secretary Sean Spicer has been busy holding daily press briefings and generally evading journalists’ questions about the Trump presidency, Trump himself has been issuing gag orders against various federal agencies. He’s instructed employees at the Environmental Protection Agency—which has had its contracts and grants frozen—and the U.S. Department of Agriculture not to communicate with the press or the public, instituting a media blackout.

Not everyone within the federal government is staying quiet, however. On Tuesday, the Twitter account for South Dakota’s Badlands National Park—a subsidiary of the National Park Service—began tweeting out climate change facts, in apparent defiance of the gag order. Someone working for the national park’s social media team went rogue and started posting climate change facts from the National Wildlife Federation’s Web site in 140-character bursts. (Trump, who can generously be described as a climate change skeptic, has previously called called climate change a “hoax” engineered by the Chinese.)

The National Park’s tweets were retweeted thousands of times before they were suddenly deleted later Tuesday afternoon.

So, now I feel like this.

Trump is obsessed with so many things it’s not even funny. And, it’s all about him and size.

He appears to have pressured our heroes at the NPS to provide alternative facts for the size of his installation crowd.  What a small little man with a small mind!

On the morning after Donald Trump’s inauguration, acting National Park Service director Michael T. Reynolds received an extraordinary summons: The new president wanted to talk to him.

In a Saturday phone call, Trump personally ordered Reynolds to produce additional photographs of the previous day’s crowds on the Mall, according to three individuals who have knowledge of the conversation. The president believed that the photos might prove that the media had lied in reporting that attendance had been no better than average.

Trump also expressed anger over a retweet sent from the agency’s account, in which side-by-side photographs showed far fewer people at his swearing-in than had shown up to see Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009.

According to one account, Reynolds had been contacted by the White House and given a phone number to call. When he dialed it, he was told to hold for the president.

For Trump, who sees himself and his achievements in superlative terms, the inauguration’s crowd size has been a source of grievance that he appears unable to put behind him. It is a measure of his fixation on the issue that he would devote part of his first morning in office to it — and that he would take out his frustrations on an acting Park Service director.

imrsI’m now trying to stay off the internet which Trump wants to ‘close up’.

On Monday, Trump spoke at the U.S.S. Yorktown in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, and suggested that he would meet with Bill Gates to discuss closing down parts of the internet to curtail its use by ISIS as a recruitment tool.

“We’re losing a lot of people because of the Internet,” Trump said. “We have to go see Bill Gates and a lot of different people that really understand what’s happening. We have to talk to them about, maybe in certain areas, closing that Internet up in some way. Somebody will say, ‘Oh freedom of speech, freedom of speech.’ These are foolish people. We have a lot of foolish people.”

How long can the mania last?  How long can the Republicans let it go?  Are they all just suicide pilots throwing what they can at us to survive politically? This is Brian Beutler from TNR.

To the contrary, if they believed their lack of consensus and popular support were fatal to their agenda, they would have no reason not to jettison Trump before he did irrevocable damage to their party, the country, and the international order. Instead, they will embrace the current arrangement, in all of its recklessness, at least until their agenda is complete—or in ruins.

The alternative—to take a principled stand against Trumpism, at the expense of the platform they’ve waited patiently to enact—would provide them little political protection in the long run. They’d still be members of Trump’s party, but on his enemies’ list and with no substantive gains to show for it. Though Trump promises to be a disastrous president, they ironically have little incentive not to go down with him.

In a perverse and amoral way, the logic of the political suicide mission is self-reinforcing, even if it ultimately fails to meet all of its objectives. Those who carry it out will have gone down for a cause, rather than for for their own sense of moral purity. And they know they won’t have to live with the unintended consequences—but everyday Americans will.

I just am seriously trying to step away from media right now.  I thought I could stay on line and read but the more I read, the more the anxiety returns.  Will we ever feel like a civilized nation again?  What fresh hell will we awake to on Monday?

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 

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59 Comments on “Friday: Will the US ever be the US again?”

  1. RonStill4Hills says:

    Mary tossing the hat was the best thing ALL day!

  2. NW Luna says:

  3. NW Luna says:

    I’m one of those weird analytical types, so I’m not surprised at all! This is a perfectly apt description from my experience.

    A lot of CEOs are really hopeless and you’d be surprised how many of their compadres in senior management are guys they knew from high school.

    • Enheduanna says:

      Back in the 2000s the iteration then of the company I work for now had a closeted gay man as CEO. The senior management crew he brought in became known as the “Friends of Pete” – (note: that is not his actual name).

      He was just one in a succession of vampires who squeezed us dry and left with millions.

  4. NW Luna says:

    This:

    I thought I could stay on line and read but the more I read, the more the anxiety returns.

    To save my sanity, I’ll be far more selective, or drown in the onrush of bad news. Need to remember that there are still beauty and compassion in the world. We saw that Saturday. It’s going to be hard, but we will survive.

  5. NW Luna says:

    This is heartening:

  6. roofingbird says:

    As ever, you all are depressingly wonderful.

  7. NW Luna says:

    LOL! I tried clicking on the link from @BadHombreLands NPS on calling re: HR 621(selling off our public lands) and go this:

    Wow, this file is really popular! Some tools might be unavailable until the crowd clears.

    …was able to get thru a min later.

  8. Jslat says:

    Haley’s first day at UN, states that allies better have US back or “we’re taking names.”

    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-un-idUSKBN15B1NG

  9. bostonboomer says:

    Did anyone else watch Rachel Maddow last night? She had a very interesting story about the Russians arrested high level spies for treason–they must be suspected of revealing info on Russian interference in our election. This thing is going to be huge, folks.

    • Jslat says:

      Yes, in fact I read some reporting on it at The Guardian earlier. I have started watching RM and like her choice of topics. (However, sometimes she takes waaaaay too long to get to the point!) She’s not a favorite of mine but she breaks news earlier than most of the other media heads.

    • Pat Johnson says:

      I watched it. Chilling.

      Who is going to stop this insanity? And Pence is determined to turn this nation into a theocracy.

      My brain is freezing at the thought of what is facing us either way.

    • Fannie says:

      Sorry, I didn’t. Have lost my brother, heart failure. Low keyed, but this morning, I over heard Stephanie Ruhle, msnbc. She had someone I had never heard of on, Louise Mensche, and this journalist was nailing it:

      “Russia’s goal was to undermine faith in American Democracy, now POTUS is undermining faith in American Democracy”. She went to say “I would regard this as another attack from Vladimir Putin, via his lackey, Stephen Bonnan.”

      I tried to find it, but she is not up, noticed she was on tweeter. She woke me up. Have you heard her. I hope this thing with Russia is cracked wide open.

  10. bostonboomer says:

    Great post, Dak.

    • dakinikat says:

      Thx! Here’s another treat!!

    • dakinikat says:

      • NW Luna says:

        Oh FF’sS! He gets more pettily trivial each day!

      • jan says:

        the man doesn’t know truth when he sees it and doesn’t want us to either. He will use up most of the government’s money making things appear to be as he wants them, and how his voters want things to be. Never thought I would live through this. My father fought in WWII and Korea, my dad in Korea, etc etc. Can’ t stand the idea that the US has become a small time dictatorship.

  11. bostonboomer says:

    The WaPo got a leaked copy of a recording of Republicans talking in behind closed doors–many are leery of the political costs of repealing the ACA and defunding Planned Parenthood.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/behind-closed-doors-republican-lawmakers-fret-about-how-to-repeal-obamacare/2017/01/27/deabdafa-e491-11e6-a547-5fb9411d332c_story.html?utm_term=.0f3790951da7&wpisrc=al_alert-COMBO-politics%252Bnation

    • Jslat says:

      Sounds like the Resistance is working! They are worrying about backlash. Good!

    • NW Luna says:

      They should be shaking in their suits. I have a feeling that more and more voters will toss out the Rs next election. And they’re jamming the phone lines now.

    • palhart says:

      The republicans can’t repeal and replace Obamacare with anything resembling ACA. They’ll probably block grant that money to the states and then yearly chip away at the dollars allotted. I worked with clients receiving Medicaid, among other social work responsibilities in the ’70s, and many couldn’t find doctors who would take them as patients. Republicans don’t care about these people in need of assistance and will let them down brutally. Trump will not be their voice since he has to prop up himself every half hour. Few other targets will make me angrier than cruelly treating this poverty group with little to no real access to healthcare. I never saw a welfare queen driving up in her Cadillac, a la Reagan. Don’t say you care or are a Christian, Pence, if you won’t adequately provide for the elderly, chronically sick, or orphaned children.

      • NW Luna says:

        I worked in a community clinic during the ’00s, and sure, we could provide primary care for them. But as soon as a problem came up in an area where they needed a specialist — say cardiology, or neurology — forget it. One of my patients was able to get a free screening mammogram, and the radiologist called me to say there was a suspicious mass which should get biopsied. Well, there were no programs to cover something that was non-screening and that specialized. Ended up my physician mentor and I tried doing it ourselves. We only could because the mass was near the surface. If it had been deeper or next to the chest wall we primary care providers (back then I was a PCP) would not have been doing it. Turned out it was non-malignant, so we didn’t have to face trying to get tens of thousands of dollars of charity care for her. But our referral folks sure had to try to do that for some others. Medical expenses were the most common reason for ordinary people to go bankrupt back then.

    • Jslat says:

      Oh boy! The USA is a business venture! From above article.

      “Allies, though, worry that instead of being based partly on shared values such as democracy, free trade, and the rule of law, their dealings with the United States might become transactional and start to resemble Trump’s real estate deals.”We are business people. We are not going to govern this country with diplomatic niceties; we are going to govern this country as a business,” said a Western diplomat, quoting a Trump advisor.”

    • dakinikat says:

  12. NW Luna says:

    I have no words now for what I think of Assange.

  13. NW Luna says:

  14. NW Luna says:

  15. palhart says:

    Are any of you seeing these 45Committee ads encouraging people to call their Senators to tell them to vote for Tom Price and Jeff Sessoms? The ad features this alternate fact: “Jeff Sessons, A lifetime time spent fighting for justice.” Yeah, right!

    • NW Luna says:

      Fortuntely, the Trumpotemkin language is so easy to translate — all we have to do is reverse the sense.