Friday, May 12, 2017

Trump's Corruption: Kinda Like Saying Water Is Wet

Dear president trump,

I am a liberal. I am an unapologetic liberal. I didn't vote for you, and to be frank I would not have voted for you if your opponent was Lord Voldemort. I thought that electing you as president would be a catastrophe of monumental proportions. I would like to say, here and now, without reservation, that you have proved me wrong.

A catastrophe would be a sunny walk in the park in comparison to the unmitigated Category 5 shitstorm you have unleashed.

Many of your apologists -- and their numbers are legion -- are regularly crowing about your various "accomplishments" in your first 100 days. You know, things like two travel bans (with exceptions for Christians, of course) that were both thrown out as violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution. Or appointing a Secretary of Education that opposes public education. Or an Attorney General that has a record of being a blatant racist and bears a disturbing resemblance to Hank Hill's dad. Or a Secretary of Energy who was unaware that his department oversees America's nuclear arsenal. Or an EPA Directory who opposes environmental regulations.

However, they are leaving something very important off this list.

Yesterday I wrote an article in which I attempted to present a list of the actual accomplishments of your administration. I made a genuine effort to find things that you had accomplished. I only had two questions that had to be answered to make this list:
  1. Was this an actual thing you had gotten done, as opposed to the daily loud-mouthery we hear from you?
  2. Would this thing be beneficial for the general public?

I have to be honest, sir. I was unable to find anything, so I expanded the scope of the search to eliminate the first question so that the only criterion was that this thing, whether you have already done, are planning to do it, or are publicly musing about doing, would be good for the American people.

Given even this low bar, I was only able to find one thing: renegotiating NAFTA. You stated that it needs to be fixed, and I agree (for the reasons I covered in that article here). Unfortunately, I was unable to find anything else ... until now. That's right. I'm here to put another one in the "win" column for you. So, this second big thing you have done?

In just a few short months, you have managed to rehabilitate the reputations of both Richard Nixon, arguably the most corrupt President in our history, and George W. Bush, who some would say is the dumbest President. This is no small task, as both Watergate and Iraqgate are still reverberating in American culture.

In fact, it was Nixon who gave us the standard of affixing the "-gate" suffix to any scandal in the first place.

Compared to your administration, though, Nixon looks like a choirboy. Don't believe me? Consider the following items that point to a level of corruption unheard of in the White House prior to this.

The Russian Connection

Since the waning days of the campaign, there have been allegations that the Kremlin interfered with our election to get you elected. Not you, per se, but just any Republican. You do deserve credit for being the last one standing when the Republican clown car that was the primary season ended, but if you think you won this election on your merits as a politician ... well, sir, you are mistaken to the point of being delusional.

It is also telling that, as soon as the Russian investigation started gaining any traction at any point in the last several months, you would do something outrageous to distract everybody. I will admit that you are very shrewd when it comes to knowing exactly when to display a shiny object to draw attention away from things. The problem you are running into is the law of diminishing returns ... the objects have to be shinier each time, as people are becoming desensitized to your particularly white-trashy way of dealing with things ... which is why you had to resort to firing the Director of the FBI. You knew that late-night tweets and ranting about election returns just wasn't going to cut it this time around.

My fear is that, next time you need a distraction, you're going to launch a nuclear first strike against ... oh, I don't know, San Francisco, or something ... to deflect attention away from Jared Kushner selling the Washington Monument to the Saudis, or something like that.

Which brings us to ...

Nepotism

Like you, Ronald Reagan had grown children. Like you, he doted on them. Nobody faults you for wanting the best for your kids ... it's a natural desire shared by all parents going back to the earliest days of a functioning prefrontal cortex in mammals.The problem is that Ronald Reagan did not install his kids in powerful senior positions in government even though they had no goddam idea what the hell was going on.

You have made Jared Kushner responsible for, among other things:
  • Negotiating peace in the Middle East.
  • Solving America's opioid epidemic.
  • Diplomacy with Mexico and China.
  • "Reimagining" the Veteran's Administration.
  • Reforming the criminal justice system.
  • Reinventing government so it works more like a business (which, regardless of how much you want it to be, it ain't ... which I have discussed at length here).

In addition to this, your daughter Ivanka has an office in the West Wing and is touted as a "senior adviser." Granted, neither of these two are drawing a salary ... but they each have unprecedented power and access, and neither one have any experience in governing or policy ... and, in fact, Kushner's business portfolio is littered with failure (nearly bankrupting the real estate company he inherited; buying the New York Observer for $10 million so he could publicly argue that his father is not an anti-Semite, etc.).

Authoritarianism

Many comparisons have been drawn between you and Adolf Hitler, and America in 2017 vs. Germany in the early 1930s. While the vast majority of these comparisons have been overwrought and intended as nothing more than ways to stir the pot, there are disturbing similarities.

Attempts to discredit the press. You routinely squawk about "fake news" and famously called the press "the enemy of the people." Neither of these is true, but your supporters -- apologists, really, given your insanely low approval ratings -- use your statements as fuel for the grease fire that is pro-trump sentiment in this country. While it is true that trump has not gained control over the media to same degree that Hitler did in 1933, this is more a function of the nature of the American system of government that prevents this sort of thing from happening than it is any restraint on trump's part. Given his druthers, he would shut down every outlet except those with which he agrees ... and, considering this list changes on a daily basis, means that the only ones left would be Breitbart and InfoWars.

Scapegoating. Hitler blamed Jews, minorities, and Marxists for the problems plaguing Germany, even though the underlying causes were much more subtle. You do the same thing with Mexicans and Muslims. In neither case was there any underlying factual basis for these claims ... but as demagoguery, they worked brilliantly, inflaming the population into a screaming hatred for these groups that crowded out rational thought.

False flags and emergency laws. The 1933 arson attack on the Reichstag allowed Hitler to use public sentiment to enact a series of measures that gave him virtually complete power and autonomy over Germany. It turns out that there was evidence that the "attack" was actually carried out by Hitler himself as a means for gaining that authority. You haven't pulled a stunt like this yet (that we know about, anyway), but it would not be the least bit surprising to hear reports of a "terrorists attack" on US soil ... or, more likely, a common crime that magically balloons into a terrorist attack that justifies implementation of "security measures" that -- coincidentally, I'm sure -- would curtail press access, etc.

Compared to the gigantic ball of dumbfuckery perpetrated by your administration, the sinking of the Titanic is a leaky faucet, the Hindenburg was a Fourth of July sparkler, and Bernie Madoff's activities were equivalent to bounced check to the electric company. You, sir, are monstrously corrupt, woefully incompetent, and (to be kind) intellectually incurious (or, to be less kind, a raging, egomaniacal, narcissistic dumbass). Regardless, you are not qualified to babysit a dead ladybug, much less run the country.

I am putting you on notice. You have approximately eighteen months to turn this thing around and show that you can actually be president -- and not a "lookit me, I'm on Air Force One and I have Secret Service guys all over the place" president, but an actual running-things-for-the-benefit-of-the-American-people-and-not-just-me-and-my-friends president, or we are kicking your sorry, doughy, creamsicle-colored ass to the curb.

And your little lapdog -- the syphilitic sycophant Bannon -- too.

Sincerely,

Everyone

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Hey, He Ain't All Bad, Right?

Well, I've been away for a while. A minor cold, my brother's wedding, server crashed at work ... it's been a busy couple of weeks. But I'm back now, and ready to be as outspoken and misinformed as ever.

Today, since everything I have posted so far about the trump administration has been overwhelmingly negative, I thought it might be a nice change of pace to cover the more positive aspects of trump's presidency. And no, this isn't going to be "snarky positivism" in which I say things like "at least he hasn't caused the planet to burst into flame" (because, after all, he ain't done yet), nor is it going to be a case of spinning this trainwreck into something palatable (i. e. "well, at least the Saturday Night Live writers' room has plenty to do now"). No, I am actually going to point out things that he has done that are genuinely positive achievements.

With all that being said, let's dive right in, shall we? Here we go ... the Official List Of Things Done By trump That Are Good For Everyone:

1. Renegotiate NAFTA
I realize that, for a lot of people, NAFTA was considered to be a third rail of sorts. I also realize that, during the campaign, he called NAFTA "the worst trade deal of all trade deals" (of course, he also said that about the TPP, the purchase of Alaska in the 1800s, and the Louisiana Purchase, but whatever). The point is that, after he got elected, he shifted from scrapping the entire thing to renegotiation. And say what you will about the man, he knows how to haggle.

The problem lies in his end game. What is he trying to accomplish with this renegotiation? I honestly think he doesn't know, and that he thinks this is the same thing as bickering over the price of new windows for his hotel.

Be that as it may, NAFTA could use some tweaks. After all, conditions on the ground have changed drastically in 24 years:
  • In 1993, when NAFTA was passed, the internet was still in its infancy.
  • Cell phones were toys of the rich and upper middle class, and almost every home had a landline.
  • Computers with 64 meg -- that's "megabytes," not "gigabytes" -- of memory were considered to be monster workhorses.
  • Beepers were a thing, and not an anachronistic joke.
  • America Online was the leading social network, even though that term had not yet been invented.
  • MTV stilled played music videos.
  • People could smoke in restaurants and bars.
  • A gallon of gas cost, on average, $1.16.
  • Movie tickets were around $4.25.
  • A new Honda Accord -- and a nice one, not the bare-bones model -- cost around $15,000.
  • The Dow Jones closed the year at 3,654.
  • "Seinfeld" was the #1 show on television -- which, by the way, was still the undisputed territory of the broadcast networks.

The idea behind NAFTA was that open trade between the United States, Canada, and Mexico would promote economic growth in all three countries by removing trade barriers. To a degree, this is what happened. The problem is that, for the vast majority of workers on the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder, wages stayed flat or fell. In addition, because the phaseout of tariffs was not part of the original agreement, tariffs were eliminated at different rates in different countries. So, for example, corn subsidies in Mexico that kept prices high for corn farmers were eliminated fairly quickly, while corn subsidies in the United States remained. This depressed demand for labor in Mexico ... and, because this also reduced the amount of corn on the market, this increased demand for labor in the US. This had the effect of increasing incentives for people to illegally cross the Mexico-US border, creating a spike in illegal immigration that lasted for nearly twenty years.

Trump saying he is going to renegotiate NAFTA can be a good thing, if he can set aside his monstrous ego long enough to recognize that he still has a lot to learn before sitting down at the table and listen to people who are experts in this field, from both parties. Granted, there is actually not a very good chance he's going to do that; he's probably going to fall back on his "America First" bluster and start making unreasonable demands until Justin Trudeau gives up and punches him in the face.

The fact remains, though, that trump is not wrong when he says that NAFTA needs to be reworked (I'm not sure "renegotiated" is the correct term). The original was intended, among other things, to help Mexico fight the grinding poverty of many Mexicans, and on that front is kinda failed. Mexico was supposed to invest a lot more infrastructure than it did, the end result of which was to limit the amount of US investment in manufacturing there. This created a demand imbalance, which also led to the increased levels of illegal immigration.

In the end, even though this is technically not an "accomplishment" in that it hasn't happened yet, I'm going to put this in the favorable column for him.

2. Ummmm ...
Yeah, the NAFTA thing is about all I can come up with.

Whew! I gotta tell ya, that took a lot out of me. It was hard just to keep up with all of his wonderful accomplishments.

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Changing tack

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