Posts Tagged ‘Trump Administration’

Should we scapegoat China for the pandemic?

April 24, 2020

The Trump administration blames China for the coronavirus pandemic.  Administration sources say that if Xi Jinping had acted a week sooner than he did, some 95 percent of the infections in China could have been avoided.

Some go on to suggest that the Chinese government may lying about the pandemic.  They say it may have originated in a bio-lab and not in unsanitary live-animal meat markets as is generally believed.  And they say that Xi Jinping is lying about China’s success in bringing the pandemic under control.

Xi Jinping

I think there’s something to the first claim, but it’s a case of a pot calling a kettle black.  The world would have been better off if Donald Trump had acted six weeks sooner than he did.   People who live in a glass house throwing stones.

And while it’s possible that the Chinese government is lying, the U.S. government does’t have a good record for truth-telling.  Recall the claims that the Iraqi government had weapons of mass destruction, that the Syrian government used sarin gas against its people and that Iran was developing nuclear weapons.

I’m reminded of a comment made by the late Richard Feynman when somebody asked him whether it was possible that UFOs are piloted by extraterrestrials.  He replied that he wasn’t interested in what was possible, but in what was so.

Lots of things are possible, but claims require evidence—or at least the considered opinion of some qualified expert who doesn’t have a conflict of interest.

The states of Missouri and Mississippi are suing China in U.S. courts.  Presumably the lawsuit won’t get anywhere because of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which bars lawsuits against foreign countries.

There’s a good reason for such a law.  If the Americans could sue foreign countries in U.S. courts and get damages, presumably by seizing foreign assets in the United States, then foreigners could sue the USA in their own courts and seize American assets.

My first thought in writing this post was that ramping up the cold war with China was a terrible idea because the U.S. depends on China for 80 percent of essential drugs.

However, a Google search turned up an article in Reason magazine that show this dependence is greatly exaggerated.  Nobody knows for sure, but the likely figure is closer ti 13 percent from China.

It is true that we Americans are overly dependent on foreign countries overall for medical supplies and much else.  We should do what we can to reduce that dependence, but that will be a project that will take years—assuming we can do it at all.  Meanwhile we can’t afford any break in these fragile global supply chains.

The other problem with scapegoating China is that it is a distraction from American failure.  For example, many countries screen travelers arriving at their airports from foreign countries.  If the traveler has a temperature, he or she is placed in quarantine for 14 days.  But travelers arriving at the New York City airports are allowed to go their way without checking.

It’s not a good sign when governments put excuses for failure in place while the crisis is still ongoing.  It means nothing will be learned from experience.

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What’s really wrong with Trump’s administration

September 13, 2018

Most of the coverage of President Donald Trump is based on his constant stream of tweets and social media comments, which enables him to dominate the news.

Most of the rest is based in developments of the Mueller Russiagate investigation, which may or may not turn out to be what it’s cracked up to be.

What’s out of the spotlight is reporting about the Trump administration’s actual deeds and policies.

Trump has continued American policy of attempting to dominate the world through military threats and economic sanctions, despite their evident failure.   During the 2016 campaign, I saw some possibility that he, unlike Hillary Clinton, would try to wind down American military interventions.  He was either lying or, what I think is more likely, unable to control the national security establishment—what some of us call the “deep state.”

Trump has continued American policy to risk nuclear confrontation with Russia and North Korea, which puts the whole world in danger.  The national security establishment has undermined his feeble and inept attempts to make peace.  But evidently he has frightened the North and South Korean governments into trying to make peace among themselves, which is a good thing.

Trump does not even pay lip service to trying to avert catastrophic global warming.  Instead his policy is to promote fossil fuels over renewable energy, which will speed up climate change.

Nuclear war and global warming are the main existential threats to the nation and the world.  Trump has failed to address the first and is actively preventing action against the second.

Trump during the campaign promised to do something about the offshoring of American jobs, which is a real problem that the other candidates ignored.  But his threats and tariffs will not help because U.S. industry has become too entangled in international supply chains to free itself overnight.   What’s needed is a long-range industrial policy that will rebuild American industry, which neither party has so far attempted.

Trump during the campaign promised to reform immigration, which is another real issue other candidates ignored.  The cruel treatment of asylum seekers and long-time foreign residents is shameful and does not change the overall situation.  I think there is something to be said for a merit-based immigration system, but I admit I don’t have a complete answer to the immigration question.  But neither does Trump.

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How the Trump administration governs

November 24, 2017

Source: Real News Network.  Click to enlarge.

If you are a president or governor who believes that government doesn’t work, you staff your administration with people who don’t want government to work, and your belief becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.   This didn’t begin with Donald Trump and won’t end with Donald Trump.

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How long can they put their heads in the sand?

November 12, 2017

Double click to enlarge

Source: Real News Network.

“Reality,” according to the SF writer Philip K. Dick, “is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”

“You can ignore reality,” the philosopher Ayn Rand reportedly said, “but you cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.”

How long can members of the Trump administration ignore the reality of climate change?

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The Trump administration vs. rural Americans

November 8, 2017

Rural America is Trump country.   The U.S. Department of Agriculture is the federal department that does the most to help rural Americans.    A writer in Vanity Fair magazine reported on how the Trump administration is gutting the USDA, and will probably get away with it, because most Americans don’t know what the USDA does.

When I think of the USDA, I think of the Agricultural Extension Service and the Soil Conservation Service, which help and encourage to adopt best practices, and its crop subsidy programs, which, unfortunately, mainly benefit big agri-business corporations.

The fact is, as the Vanity Fair writer pointed out, that 70 percent of the USDA budget goes to programs to relieve hunger—food stamps, subsidies for school lunches, a program to assure proper nutrition to new mothers and infants and a dozen or so smaller programs.

The USDA conducts scientific research into food security, nutrition, food safety and plant-based fuel.   All these require taking global warming into account, which is unacceptable to the Trump appointees.

Other examples of the USDA’s many functions are inspection of meat animals and fighting forest fires.

The program of most benefit to ordinary people in rural communities are grants and loans for rural development, helping start-up businesses and local government projects that otherwise wouldn’t get started.

The political problem is the contradiction between rural America’s culture of self-reliance and fact of dependence on government.   This contradiction is resolved by hiding the source of funding.   Most people who benefit from USDA grants and loans are told that the help is coming from the local government or bank.   So when the grants and loans dry up, they won’t know why.

LINK

Inside Trump’s Cruel Campaign Against the U.S.D.A.’s Scientists by Michael Lewis for Vanity Fair.

It’s an ill hurricane that blows nobody good

October 30, 2017

The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) has canceled its outrageous no-bid $300 million contract with Whitefish Energy Holdings, which, among other things, forbid federal and Puerto Rican authorities to audit its labor costs and profit and had no penalties for failure to meet project deadlines.

But questions remain: Why was the contract granted in the first place?  And what is PREPA going to do next to restore power?

The whole thing reminds me of the contracts for reconstruction of Iraq.   After the invasion, American and other foreign companies were given lucrative, no-bid contracts to rebuild Iraq’s electrical systems, other public utilities and physical infrastructure.   Well-qualified Iraqi companies and workers were cut out of the process.

The result was that a lot of government contractors made a lot of money and very little reconstruction took place.   I can see the same thing happening with Puerto Rico—maybe a little less brazenly than in this case.

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Doug Muder on Jared Kushner

April 4, 2017

If you want a symbol of this new aristocratic reality, you need look no further than Jared Kushner, who was born rich, married the boss’s daughter, and is now (at age 36) one of the most powerful people in the country.

Kushner’s title is Senior Adviser to the President, and his yuuuuge portfolio just keeps growing.  For example, he is the administration’s point man on bringing peace to the Middle East.  That project might totally absorb someone of lesser dynastic credentials, but he also has been Trump’s channel to China, a nation some distance from the Middle East.  [snip]

Apparently that still left him with a lot of free time, so … Ivanka’s Dad named him to head the new White House Office of American Innovation … [snip]

Yes, Kushner may have little in the way of personal accomplishments or evidence of expertise relevant to governing a republic.  But if merit is a matter of blood and breeding, and if it is enhanced by an alliance of great houses, then he has merit in spades.

Source: The Weekly Sift

Getting the facts right about Trump

March 15, 2017

During the 40 years I worked on newspapers, I sometimes got the story wrong through finding facts, or seeming facts, that proved what I thought all along—and then looking no further.  The same thing has happened with posts on this blog.

I think a lot of the reporting on Donald Trump is bad for precisely this reason.

President Trump himself sometimes says things that are obviously not true, and then refuses to back down.  I get that.

But if you’re going to accuse someone of dealing in “fake news” and “alternative facts,” people (other than those who already agree with you) are not going to believe you unless you are careful about the facts yourself.

The writers I trust the most are the ones who report facts that are contrary to their points of view—what lawyers call “admissions against interest.”   The links below are by writers who dislike Donald Trump, but dislike inaccuracy more.

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Trump’s Muslim decree versus the rule of law

January 31, 2017

The noteworthy things about President Trump’s decree on Muslim immigration were how unnecessarily cruel it was, how incompetently it was drawn and how it caught everyone by surprise.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

The other noteworthy thing was how mass protests against his decree pressured him to back down from one of the worst parts of it—the forbidding of Green card holders and other legal foreign residents from returning to the country if they are out of it.

I think these things will be hallmarks of his administration—that is, cruelty, stupidity and unpredictability, but also vulnerability to public opinion and public pressure.   Trump does not have the power of a dictator, although he would like to have it.

Even conservatives who strongly believe in keeping out unauthorized immigrants and immigrants from the Muslim world thought Trump handled this wrongly.

But the most dangerous trait that Trump revealed was unpredictability.

Being unpredictable is a strength when you’re fighting against adversaries, whether on the battlefield, the marketplace or an election campaign.  It also is a strength of a showman, which Trump most definitely is.

It is, however, a dangerous trait in the head of government of a great nation.   The most important defining characteristic of a free country is the rule of law.   People who live in a free country need to be able to know what the laws are, and to know that they are safe so long as they obey the law.

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Life with Trump

December 3, 2016

president-donald-trumpI’m not a good predictor of the future, but I’ll risk some predictions about the Trump administration.

I don’t think Donald Trump is a new Hitler, despite his manifest contempt for legal and Constitutional limitations.  Rather I see a  Trump administration as another step downward on a path the USA already is on.

In terms of policy, I don’t see a great difference between him and Vice-President Mike Pence, Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell or House Speaker Paul Ryan.   The objection of mainstream Republicans to Trump was more an objection to his vulgarity and offensive behavior rather than to his policy positions.

Nor, for that matter, do I see any great difference between establishment Republicans and establishment Democrats on the issues that concern me most—war and peace, civil liberties and Wall Street dominance.

I do think the working-class and middle-class people who voted for Trump will be disappointed.

Specifically, I am willing to bet anybody a reasonable amount that the following will be true four years after Trump is sworn in on January 20, 2017.

  • There will be fewer American manufacturing jobs.
  • The annual trade deficit will be greater than it is now.
  • The federal budget deficit will be greater than it is now.
  • The upper 1 percent, upper 0.1 percent and upper 0.01 percent will have a greater share of the national income than they do now.
  • The wages of American workers, measured in inflation-adjusted terms, will be less.

I think there will be fewer unauthorized immigrants in the United States than there are now, but this is part of a trend that has already begun.

Winners during a Trump administration will include:

  • The Trump Organization.
  • Creditors of The Trump Organization.
  • Wall Street.
  • The CIA, NSA and other intelligence organizations.
  • The Pentagon
  • Government contractors, especially military contractors.
  • The fossil fuel industry
  • The National Rifle Association
  • Torturers and war criminals
  • Abusive police officers.

Losers during a Trump administration will include:

  • Public schools
  • Higher education
  • Protesters (except for armed right-wing militias)
  • Whistle-blowers
  • Dissident journalists
  • Labor unions and wage-earners generally
  • Climate scientists and researchers of all kinds
  • Planned Parenthood and its clients
  • Immigrants
  • Muslims
  • Welfare recipients

The main good thing I hope to see in a Trump administration is a less confrontational policy toward Russia.   My great fear of a Clinton administration was the increased and very real possibility of nuclear war.   This possibility will not be zero under Trump, but I think it will be less than it would have been under Clinton.

Other good things I hope to see in a Trump administration is a refusal to sign bad trade treaties and an effort to renegotiate existing trade treaties.   NAFTA, the TPP and the like are not free trade treaties; they are corporate wish lists enacted into international law.  In today’s world, believers in democracy need to defend national sovereignty, because none of the international institutions are democratic.

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