Category Archives: Trump

Say My Name

Say My Name

This past week CNN’s Jim Acosta got into a somewhat heated (for a press conference) exchange with Sarah Sanders (Trump’s press secretary). This brouhaha centered on President Trump’s recent comments on Twitter (where else?) that cast the press (“Fake News Media”) as the “real enemy of the people.”

Apparently this assertion is something poor Jim Acosta could not abide. He all but demanded that Ms. Sanders retract the claim by proxy by passive-aggressively asking her if that too was her stance. Since those who adhere to “goodthink” would never agree to such a sentiment then Ms. Sanders would have no choice but to contravene her boss. But, if she does what the job requires, that is to only promulgate the President’s position, then she is backed into a corner and can’t contradict the claim, even if personally she does not adhere to it. It’s the classic damned if you do and damned if you don’t situation.

After Mr. Acosta’s extended monologue-cum-question she did eventually answer the question as best she could within the constraints of her position. This was not to Jim’s liking. Again he persisted – he simply would not relent until he heard the words “the press is not the enemy of the people” come out of her mouth. But they never did.

Whether Trump’s remarks are a valid or invalid point of view is not the point of this article however. What I found far more interesting was the left’s reaction (in this case embodied by CNN) to Ms. Sander’s refusal to disavow the enemy-of-the-people notion. Later in the day Mr. Acosta had an “interview” with a CNN anchor concerning the events earlier at the press conference. He was approaching apoplexy as the sympathetic anchor nodded in unison to his bewilderment and then anger about such remarks. You see, she just refused to say “radical Islamic terrorism”, oh whoops, sorry, that is, “the press is not the enemy of the people.”

Yes the left too can rival the right in the exercise of elevating inane phrases as the “good American” litmus test. The “Thinkpol” have been alerted, watch out! And of course both sides only ever have the interests of Americans at heart. Trump insisted Obama was putting this country at risk by refusing to say “radical Islamic terrorism” as it failed to address the terrorism problem where it originated. Today the press insists Trump is putting the country at risk by refusing to disavow, “the press is the enemy of the people” because apparently somehow Joe citizen will interpret that phrase as permission to start The Purge™ on all journalists.

Both are patently absurd positions. Those who yearn to create such “loyalty oaths” that must be uttered in order to prove oneself to be a good upstanding American are engaged in a performative contradiction. The very act of expecting or demanding or requiring such utterances annihilates any connection you may be claiming to the putative ideals of America: freedom and liberty. Those words mean the following: I don’t owe you a thing and you don’t owe me a thing, but if we want to mind our business and stop worrying about what other people are doing or thinking or saying then maybe we can all just get down to the business of living together and treating each other with the same level of respect we desire in return.

 

Peace Over Politics Ignites TDS WMDs

I was reminded of the joke “How do you know when a politician is lying? His lips are moving” this week vis a vis the widespread, bipartisan outrage (also known as TDS, Trump Derangement Syndrome) over President Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki this past week. The aphoristic version of this sentiment would then be “How do you know when Donald Trump is doing the right thing? When the left and the right are equally outraged.”

The source of the left’s displeasure is, as usual, any action of Trump’s that can be somehow shoehorned into their Trump-Russia-collusion narrative. This Trump-Russia conspiracy theory truly is the “birther” equivalent for the left. Yet somehow they can’t fathom that they look as absurd as right-wing birthers did. Anything Trump does that can in any way be construed as being positive for Russia is for them simply further kindling to be heaped upon the bonfire they hope will one day consume the Trump presidency. Of course they conveniently ignore Trump’s belligerent actions toward Russia (various sanctions, expelling diplomats, firing on Russian troops in Syria, etc).

The right’s consternation over Trump stems from their reflexive, blind patriotism. How dare he not take the word of US intelligence agencies as being absolutely sacrosanct! Why these brave men and women are Americans! You must always believe your own countrymen! Anything else is treason! O ye of very short term memory. I guess they have quickly forgotten about that little “weapons of mass destruction in Iraq” fiasco a few years back. You know, that thing where the US “intelligence community” were all 100% sure Saddam had WMD’s. But hey, no big deal, it only resulted in a multi-decade war and occupation of the Middle East that led to millions dead or displaced and a few trillion added to the US national debt. Somehow “my bad” from the CIA doesn’t quite rectify things. Color me skeptical if I don’t think it’s a good idea to risk WWIII over their assurances that Putin interfered in US elections. Even if  true it’s not worth people’s lives.

Sure, if you ask Putin “did you try to interfere in the elections” he’s going to say “no”. It’s a stupid question, why ask it? Nobody who has gotten away with something is going to freely admit their guilt if asked. But for anyone to sit here and say, “you must never question US intelligence agencies conclusions” after the fiasco of WMD’s needs to have their head examined. For Trump to equivocate on answering that direct question doesn’t mean he’s a traitor or any other such nonsensebut rather that (despite all evidence to the contrary) he does have a few functional brain cells in that head of his. The only sane response is to question ANY intelligence agency from any country. All countries are equally culpable in this regard. The CIA has a long and sordid history of sowing misinformation and internal disruptions in other countries (see Iran, 1953) as well as our own (see Operations Northwoods, 1962) in order to manipulate people and alter the outcome of (gasp!) elections.

If “our” democracy is so fragile that a few ads on Facebook can “destroy” it then it’s really not worth saving, is it? Or maybe, just maybe, that is hyperbole and we should instead thank the Russians for saving our democracy, that is, helping to reveal the shady dealings of Hillary Clinton.  But I digress.

Those who wanted Trump to “talk tough” with Russia would rather risk war than sacrifice an opportunity to engage in useless testosterone fueled bravado designed solely to stroke the American ego. Considering Russia still has several thousand nuclear weapons prudence suggests both sides approach each other with a polite and conciliatory demeanor. Poking a bear in the eye with a stick will not result in anything good. President Trump summed it up best in what is perhaps his most thoughtful and eloquent statement of his presidency; “I would rather take a political risk in pursuit of peace, than to risk peace in pursuit of politics.” Pretty wise sentiment, wouldn’t you think?

Words Speak Louder Than Actions?

Why so much hate for the Donald? If we look only at his actual policies they are in fact no different than any of his predecessors. Differences that may exist are in degree, not kind. Or non-existant at all. For example ICE deportations are both up and down under Trump when compared to Obama. They are up from FY2016 (61,094 vs 44,512) but dramatically lower under Trump than under Obama’s first years (averaging over 225,000 from 2008-2012). The point being before you start jumping up and down about what a monster some president is in comparison to “your guy” chances are high that “your guy” at some point did the exact the same thing or far worse. That goes both ways my Democrat and Republican friends. That’s because they are all the same. Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump – they’ve all been responsible for murdering innocent civilians in other countries by the truck load. But nobody cares because we wave the flag and chant “US interests” or “national defense” as if somehow that incantation is supposed to bring absolution. We’re all too eager to protest the president over something he said (mere words) but then stand silent with respect to their horrendous actions (murdering innocents). I guess actions don’t speak louder than words when it comes to Presidential concerns, at least where it concerns Trump.

Clinton, Bush, Obama, and now Trump have all escalated the drug war. They have all been responsible for caging millions of people for the “crime” of having in their possession something that some other people think they shouldn’t have in their possession. If we threw people in cages for owning certain books there would be a groundswell of public outcry; yet change that word from “book” to “drug” and somehow it all makes perfect sense. There is no constitutional amendment (like alcohol prohibition had supporting it) mandating a drug war, so any of these presidents with the stroke of a pen could have ended this senseless and costly “war” on drugs. That not one of them has serves as a testament to their cowardice and wickedness.

So it is not Trump’s policies that the left finds so objectionable but rather his delivery. Indeed when he shuts up and bombs people the press fall all over themselves praising how “presidential” he is. For shame. Killing people is presidential? Trump is crude and blunt when he speaks. Not at all how we picture our Hollywood presidents to be. The press and the left would like someone from central casting (like Obama) filling the role – someone who just “seems” presidential. This crudeness is perhaps Trumps only redeeming quality. It puts the lie to the notion that presidents are somehow better, smarter, and wiser, than the rest of us and are worthy of the power we bestow upon them. They are not. With Trump we see the Everyman President. And it scares us. And it should. But it should scare us no matter who occupies that office. Do not be so easily duped by the silver tongue of the professional politician. If you focus on their deeds and not their words then perhaps we might one day reign in their power.

“Mr. Gorbachev, give us this wall”

Throughout Trump’s campaign he repeatedly promised that “we” would build a wall and that Mexico would pay for it. The details of that boast were conveniently omitted. But class is now in session and the homework is due, so at long last we have been made privy to his “secret” method of getting Mexico to pay for this wall: tariffs. Trump plans on imposing a 20% tariff on imported Mexican goods coming into the US. The proceeds are earmarked for paying for said wall. There’s just one problem with this little scheme of course: it won’t work, or at least not the way Trump imagines. In other words, as with all government actions, there will be unintended consequences. One of the central tenants of economics is that incentives matter. Closing a door just means now the window doesn’t look so bad. Like rats from a sinking ship, there are numerous routes to avoid the tariff. To offset the tariff Mexican exporters may raise prices, which of course means US buyers will shoulder the cost (although magically increases in minimum wage never incline one to increase prices). But higher prices mean US buyers may then opt to forego the purchase or to seek alternative goods; the net effect being no tariff earned and decreased sales for the Mexican company employing, you know, Mexicans (homework assignment: what effect might increased Mexican unemployment have on the demand to enter the US looking for work?). Or if the Mexican company decides to absorb the cost then that means they’ll either have to cut costs by potentially scaling back their work force or slowing the rate of hiring – all of which puts more Mexicans out of work (again see homework assignment above). The more you turn up your stereo to drown out your neighbor’s music, the more he does likewise in a perpetual game of one-upmanship until you both go deaf.

The immigration “problem” is one of positive feedback. Actions designed to decrease an effect actually make it grow. The irony here is that Trump of all people doesn’t see the problem. He is quite fond of blaming China for harming the US economy and putting people out of work by flooding the US market with cheap goods. However, he fails to see the US has been doing the exact same thing to Latin America for decades. That area of the world is less developed and so depends much more on agriculture production to support its economy. Any factors (such as cheap imports) in that agricultural market will have an outsize effect in that region. The US has a long history (since the depression) of agriculture subsidies to US farmers. Subsidies lower the cost of US agricultural products, allowing US farmer to export heavily into the Latin American market where local farmers can’t compete. That darn NAFTA! Yes, NAFTA enabled cheap imports in both directions. These imports had the obvious effect of putting them out of work whereupon they are left with little choice but to move to where there is a demand for low skilled labor – the US.

The inconvenient truth is that the solution to most of the immigration “problem” is to simply end all agricultural subsidies. But no, we’d rather scratch our heads as to why so many keep coming here, shrug our shoulders, and then set about building a wall to keep “them” out. Farm subsidies have become such a political lighting rod in this country that it is actually easier to subsidize foreign farmers (the US sends subsidies to Brazilian cotton farmers!) than to scale back subsidies to our own farmers.

If Trump really wants to stem the tide of Mexicans entering the US he needs to make Mexico great again – great enough that their economy becomes a magnet to all expatriates, drawing them home to where the jobs are. Perhaps Carrier should build that Mexican plant after all.

The Carrier Deal

Donald Trump is an enigma. On the one hand he is not even President yet and he’s already using his legendary (according to him) negotiating skills to make good on his promise of keeping jobs in America. On the other hand this feat was accomplished through a combination of crony-capitalist carrots and sticks whose effectiveness was largely a consequence of Carrier’s parent company (United Technologies) being a cog in the military-industrial fascist apparatus. Dependency fosters control and United Technologies is highly dependent on the federal government for much of its business, therefore this was somewhat of a low-hanging fruit “win” for Trump.

The reaction to this deal has predictably fallen along party lines although there is a bit of cognitive dissonance on both sides as they try to come to terms with balancing fairness with pragmatism. People appreciate that Trump saved those jobs but are troubled by how he did it. Is it fair to bestow tax “giveaways” on one company but not others? Is it fair to reward only those that threaten to leave? Is it fair to invoke a punitive 35% tariff on goods imported from US overseas firms? The answer depends on the framework in which the question is asked. Within the framework of natural rights and individual liberty none of these are legitimate. The actions of any entity that initiates violence (taxation, tariffs) to achieve its ends are illegitimate. But we don’t live in that world. We live in a world literally run by the very warlords we are told would arise absent the state. Every state (i.e. country) is a plantation; some are far worse than others, but a gilded cage is still a cage. So given our condition of servitude to the state is it fair if the master decides to treat one slave more favorably than the others? Should we tell the master “You have no right to lift our brother out of the mud, please, cast him back down here with us!” Thus we have both sides of the political spectrum opposing this but for opposite reasons. The left opposes it because they enjoy being in the mud and believe this is the only way we can all be equal, therefore it is “wrong” for anyone to get out of the mud. The right opposes it for purity reasons. They believe ALL should escape the mud but that it is an either-or proposition; either all escape or none escape. Libertarians will argue for the moral solution but (grudgingly) accept the pragmatic one as a stepping-stone. Better for some to escape than none. Since wholesale emancipation seems to be off the table, then let’s create so many loopholes and deals that all can escape.

So do I wish I could get the kind of tax incentives Carrier got? Sure. It is absolutely unfair that they get them and other businesses like mine do not. However I’ll still applaud their small victory if it means it moves the needle even a bit toward the direction of universal tax relief.

#NoPresidentNeeded

Donald Trump may turn out to be the best thing ever for this country. In less than a week after the election he has managed to rouse the question-authority left from their deep slumber. Apparently Obama’s actual abuses of presidential power (secret kill lists) and continued prosecution of the morally bankrupt war on drugs and futilely destructive war on terror were A-Okay, but straw-men based fears of what Trump could do (even though having never uttered a word on such subjects e.g. gay marriage) is more than sufficient to goad them into action once again. Sorry if I have no sympathy for their outrage if droning children in foreign lands strikes no passion in their heart but a 0.0001% risk of not getting to use the bathroom of their choice does. As they say, first world problems.

Trump’s big-league greatness will come from his capacity to get growing numbers of people to see the presidency and by extension much of government for what it is: a joke. People bizarrely hold the office of the presidency (and by extension all of government) on a pedestal. Wise, somber, erudite, self-sacrificing statesmen lead the country forward upon their trusty stead. Like nationalized parents they comfort the country with their solemn words in times of tribulation. Oh, all bow down before our wise leaders. All nonsense. Adults need neither leaders nor caretakers. This religious-like fervor infects so many minds when thinking of the Presidency. Trump has shattered this illusion. “Trump, why he’s a joke, he’s not a real leader! We want the officially sanctioned model, not some cheap knock off!” Sorry folks, but you got McDowell’s, not McDonalds. Ultimately this will be beneficial when it instigates a national introspection that leads all to realize McDonald’s is no different than McDowell’s.

Once this insight is achieved there will be a real possibility for expansion of freedom and liberty in this country that follows in the wake of greater rejection of state power. Thankfully it seems to be starting. All those #notmypresident types are finally getting it! No one should ever be #mypresident. The fact that some people are finally coming to realize that if Trump is not their president, and so by extension no one is their president, they have no need for a President.

To be clear, Trump is no more or less qualified to be in office than any one else. They are ALL just regular folks like you and me. No one possesses magical qualities that make them qualified to run the lives of 300 million people. All they do is decide who gets to be left alone and who gets to suffer state interference. Apparently “good” presidents interfere in the most lives (FDR), while “bad” ones do little (Coolidge). It remains to be seen where Trump will fall on that spectrum, but any increase in the number that regard the Presidency as irrelevant will be a step in the right direction.

Phantom Menace

I voted for Johnson. Trump was not my guy, but… moving past the initial shock of his win, I am both cautiously optimistic and filled with schadenfreude. The schadenfreude is directed at Hillary supporters. Donald Trump is the perfect vessel for wiping that conceited smugness from their soul. As the saying goes, if you live by the sword, don’t act all shocked when someone uses the sword to vanquish you. That sword is democracy and she is indeed a fickle mistress. If you abuse her power she will flee you and indeed that is exactly what happened to the left. For 8 long years they crammed tax increases, Obamacare, pro-Union rules, and a tidal wave of new regulations down our throats. They thought it would improve our lives. I’m sure they meant well. But they were wrong (economic ignorance will do that n.b. Bernie supporters).

People ultimately vote their pocket book, which is why it was not a wave of “white racism” that elected Trump (indeed he carried less of the white vote than Romney and the same as Bush) but rather economic self-interest. Yes, Trump is a boorish loudmouth, but people don’t care as long as they think he’s the most likely to improve their lot. Do you poll your plumber about his relationships with women or do you just want him to fix your toilet? I’m not hiring Donald Trump to teach manners or to babysit my kids. People voted for Trump not because of the things he said, but in spite of them. That takes real courage.

But you wouldn’t know it to witness the outpouring of apocalyptic hyperbole from the left on social media and the airwaves. The hypocrisy is astounding. Not two weeks ago after the third debate the liberal media was all a twitter about Trump’s unprecedented remarks about reserving his acceptance of the results until after the election and what this would mean for our democracy. Gasp! The liberal media predicted possible violence and turmoil from trigger-happy right wing nut-jobs. Well guess what? The left lost and then behaved exactly as they had predicted the right would! Indeed, it is their behavior that is unprecedented. Never before have elections results in the US been openly and violently contested. Then right on cue (see we were right!) the prophecies came true. Stories started coming in of pro-Trump violence against minorities. But this boy has cried wolf one too many times. The left has a track record of such false flags. Thanks to Wikileaks we learned the Clinton campaign paid people to incite violence at Trump rallies. Likewise we soon found that most if not all of these stories were either fabricated from whole cloth or were grossly misrepresented. https://goo.gl/Q269bv

But so far these protests aren’t about anything Trump has done, merely their fear of what he might do. He is today but a phantom menace. I suppose that fear is understandable given the mantle of unchallenged executive authority he is inheriting from Obama. Perhaps if the left had not been so indifferent to the pleas of libertarians and constitutional conservatives about executive abuses of power they would have less to fear now. But, I guess when it’s your guy doing stuff you approve of it’s no big deal. I don’t know what you’re afraid of though, it’s not like Trump is going to round up all the Muslims or Mexicans and put them in internment camps. Only a Democrat (FDR) would do something like that.