Posts Tagged ‘Donald Trump’

Trump starts governing, by tweet and before assuming office!

January 3, 2017

Donald Trump has found a new tool, a new weapon which seems to be a remarkably effective way of getting a favourable response.

Without debate and without even being in office.

The Tweet.

CBS: House Republicans decide to strip ethics change in emergency meeting

House Republicans agreed Tuesday to withdraw the rules change that would have stripped the chamber’s outside ethics watchdog of its independence and power after heavy public backlash and tweets of disapproval from President-elect Donald Trump.

Republican lawmakers agreed by unanimous consent in a closed-door emergency meeting Monday to strip the rules change from their overall rules package that the lower chamber is scheduled to vote on later in the day, according to a GOP aide.

This came as the new Congress was supposed to gavel in, and just two hours after Mr. Trump tweeted that congressional Republicans shouldn’t be wasting their time with a major ethics change.

trump-ethics-tweets

On Monday night, a majority of Republicans voted to rename the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) to the Office of Congressional Complaint Review. The House Ethics Committee–whose members are lawmakers–will now oversee that outside office’s work.

Under the change proposed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia, the outside office would not have been able to investigate anonymous tips, it couldn’t have had a spokesperson and it would have been barred from releasing its findings to the public. Members of the House Ethics Committee would also have been able to stop the office’s investigations.

Two tweets and he got the House Republicans to backtrack. In two tweets he manged to do what Paul Ryan could not. Note that Trump gave the House Republicans who had secretly voted for the rule change, a face saving way to back off by terming the ethics watchdog as possibly “unfair”.

It was a negotiation by twitter and a successful one at that.


 

“Not enough blacks for Clinton, too many whites for Trump”

December 26, 2016

After all the punditry in favour of Clinton, after the main-stream media ganged up against Trump, after the GOP repudiated Trump, and after the world media ridiculed Trump, the story of the US election reduces down to this little phrase:

“Not enough blacks for Clinton, too many whites for Trump”

I can’t quite say “I told you so”, but I found both his winning the Republican nomination and then the election were not too surprising. The wins fitted my theory that there is a global anti-establishment, anti-political-correctness wave going on right now. Part of my theory is also that science in general, and political “science” in particular, has lost its skepticism and has become “consensus science” where confirmation bias reigns. Punditry of all kinds is given far too much weight and far too much respect and there is now a global push-back against the “consensus of experts” where the “experts” are appointed (and anointed) by newspapers and TV channels.

Nate Cohn in the NYT:

But the electoral trends that put Donald J. Trump within striking distance of victory were clear long before Mr. Comey sent his letter. They were clear before WikiLeaks published hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee. They were even clear back in early July, before Mr. Comey excoriated Mrs. Clinton for using a private email server. It was clear from the start that Mrs. Clinton was struggling to reassemble the Obama coalition.

At every point of the race, Mr. Trump was doing better among white voters without a college degree than Mitt Romney did in 2012 — by a wide margin. Mrs. Clinton was also not matching Mr. Obama’s support among black voters. ………

…… Campaign lore has it that President Obama won thanks to a young, diverse, well-educated and metropolitan “coalition of the ascendant” — an emerging Democratic majority anchored in the new economy. Hispanic voters, in particular, were credited with Mr. Obama’s victory. But Mr. Obama would have won re-election even if he hadn’t won the Hispanic vote at all. He would have won even if the electorate had been as old and as white as it had been in 2004.

….. In 2016, Mr. Trump made huge gains among white working-class voters. It wasn’t just in the places where Democratic strength had been eroding for a long time, like western Pennsylvania. It was often in the places where Democrats had seemed resilient or even strong, like Scranton, Pa., and eastern Iowa. 

It was a decisive break from recent trends. White voters without college degrees, for the first time, deviated from the national trend and swung decidedly toward the Republicans. No bastion of white, working-class Democratic strength was immune to the trend.

For the first time in the history of the two parties, the Republican candidate did better among low-income whites than among affluent whites, according to exit poll data and a compilation of New York Times/CBS News surveys.

According to exit polls, Mr. Trump did better than Mr. Romney by 24 points among white voters without a degree making less than $30,000 a year. He won these voters by a margin of 62 to 30 percent, compared with Mr. Romney’s narrow win of 52 percent to 45 percent. ………

…….. The turnout probably increased among all major groups of voters — Hispanics, white Democrats, white Republicans — except black voters.

The conclusive data is available in the Southern states where voters indicate their race on their voter registration forms, and they point toward a considerable decline in black turnout.

In Georgia, the black share of the electorate fell to 27.6 percent from 29.9 percent, and in Louisiana it fell to 28.5 percent from 30.1 percent, according to the completed state turnout data. …….. Turnout dropped by 8 percent in the majority black wards of Philadelphia, while rising everywhere else in the city. …… The turnout in Detroit fell by 14 percent. Turnout fell in other industrial centers with a large black population, like Milwaukee and Flint, Mich. …….. Taken in totality, it appears that black turnout dropped somewhere between 5 percent and 10 percent — with few exceptions.

Hispanic and Asian and female voters were, in the event, not the key to this election. The huge disappointment among women, not just in the US but  all over the world, was entirely gender based and did not reflect the lack of any Clinton message.  “Make America Great Again” resonated with whites but did not scare blacks too much. And Clinton had no real message for blacks except the continuation of the status quo – and that inspired nobody.

Trump over-performed with whites and Clinton badly under-performed with blacks.


 

“Dalai Lama to meet with Donald Trump”

December 3, 2016

That headline hasn’t been written yet but don’t be surprised if it happens,  and soon, sometime before Trump’s inauguration.

Trump needs to rile China as much as possible while minimising any real retaliatory actions. What he does now, before his inauguration, can only lead to threats of retaliation but not any real actions. His mere acceptance of a call from Taiwan’s President has caused large waves. Something the US administration for 40 years has not had the courage to do. Maybe I attribute too much sense to Trump’s team, but I suspect that they have calculated quite well. They have thrown the current Obama administration into a bit of a spin and rendered them effectively impotent in their China posture.

The time before his inauguration is is a unique opportunity for Trump to make statements, meet people and indicate actions which he can later walk away from. It is the time for outrageous trial balloons. Few President-elects have had the nerve to do this before. I note his skillful, and almost Machiavellian, use of the selection process of “possible” members of his administration to confuse and mislead a hostile press.

The liberal/left press still don’t get it. Democracy is all about populism. It may be a trifle stupid but that is what democracy is about. The liberal “elite” – or any elite – cannot prevail in a democracy. They can no longer expect to be blindly followed by the unthinking plebs. They need to court popularity. I suspect there has been a lot more real thinking (whether by heart or by brain) by the Trump voters in deciding to vote for him than those who blindly followed their “elite” leaders in voting for Clinton.

Trump needs, while minimising the consequences, to rile China, India, France, Germany, Mexico, Canada and a few other “socialist” countries. He did Mexico during the campaign. He continued with India with his apparently effusive telephone conversation with Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan. Now he’s done China. The French/German/British investment in – and creation of  – some of the rebel groups now losing in Aleppo has been part of the US strategy disaster in Syria. A losing strategy that Trump will want to move away from. And that he will do by means of contacts with Putin.

It is more unlikely but I would not put it past him to make contact with Iran.

But meeting with the Dalai Lama is an easy decision to take.

Dalai Lama impersonating Trump (Good Morning Britain)

Dalai Lama impersonating Trump (Good Morning Britain)


 

The media’s sanctimonious self-righteousness contributed to Trump’s victory

November 11, 2016

It should be fairly obvious that I am not overly impressed by the main-stream (mainly liberal) media in the US. It is my contention that their blindness to the anti-establishment wave that was abroad, and then their sanctimonious stupidity, was no small contributor to the anger against the perceived establishment.

Now the analysis starts.

But some few liberals do see – at least in hindsight – what I thought I saw back in May.

Maybe it’s time to consider whether there’s something about shrill self-righteousness, shouted from a position of high social status, that turns people away.

This is Thomas Frank in The Guardian: (my bold)

Clinton’s supporters among the media didn’t help much, either. It always struck me as strange that such an unpopular candidate enjoyed such robust and unanimous endorsements from the editorial and opinion pages of the nation’s papers, but it was the quality of the media’s enthusiasm that really harmed her. With the same arguments repeated over and over, two or three times a day, with nuance and contrary views all deleted, the act of opening the newspaper started to feel like tuning in to a Cold War propaganda station. Here’s what it consisted of:

  • Hillary was virtually without flaws. She was a peerless leader clad in saintly white, a super-lawyer, a caring benefactor of women and children, a warrior for social justice.
  • Her scandals weren’t real.
  • The economy was doing well / America was already great.
  • Working-class people weren’t supporting Trump.
  • And if they were, it was only because they were botched humans. Racism was the only conceivable reason for lining up with the Republican candidate.

How did the journalists’ crusade fail? The fourth estate came together in an unprecedented professional consensus. They chose insulting the other side over trying to understand what motivated them. They transformed opinion writing into a vehicle for high moral boasting. What could possibly have gone wrong with such an approach?

 

Image from Truth Feed

Image from Truth Feed


 

Part 2 of “Why Trump couldn’t win but did”

November 9, 2016

It is deja vu.

It is not that I am expert enough to have predicted a Trump victory. But in May this year when Trump won the Republican nomination I posted:

May 6th 2016:

I have made this point before. Attacking Trump head on only fuels his anti-establishment support. It is only by occupying the ground he occupies that some of his support can be captured.

Attacking Trump – from any direction – only seems to strengthen his support. That suggests that his support is coming from those who feel that their fears are completely unrepresented by any of the other candidates. The 2016 election is dominated, I think,  by the avoidance of worst fears and not by the meeting of aspirations.  It could well be that nobody will be able to take away from Trump’s support unless they can articulate the same disdain for establishment politics and political correctness that he does and address the worst fears that exist.

The current headlines in the US media are now about how and why Clinton will trounce Trump. It all sounds exactly like the reasons given over the last year for why Trump couldn’t win the Republican nomination. Some of it – especially in the left leaning media – HuffingtonPost, Slate, Politico and Washington Post – are more like wishful thinking rather than analysis. They have not learned from their past mistakes and still haven’t understood the strength of the anti-establishment wave. Bernie Sanders is the only other candidate from either party who has begun to understand the mood abroad. To take away the “politically incorrect” territory from Donald Trump may be beyond Hillary Clinton.

My prediction for November is that Clinton support is more likely to collapse than that Trump’s campaign will implode. And therefore I will not be at all surprised at a very close run election and even if Trump wins.

And from the results it is pretty clear that the entire main stream media missed it and are still missing it. They are also still missing the point that they have themselves contributed to the resentment and anger that the Trump voters have now demonstrated with stunning effect. They (WaPo, HuffPo, LATimes, BostonGlobe, Politico, CNN and even the NYT) have been living in their own little bubble of virtuosity and sanctimonious blather that their vituperative attacks on Trump have been entirely counter-productive and have only cemented his support. Looking at the editorials today, they are still living in their bubble. They are still in denial about their own role in their own defeat. They have imbued political correctness with such a halo that Trump supporters have been invisible to the pollsters. Election models have been discredited soundly.

(As I have written elsewhere, election models are like climate models. They

  1. have pre-determined outcomes,
  2. are based on data manipulation,
  3. are biased to protect the “establishment”, and
  4. just plain wrong.)

I don’t expect even Trump the buffoon to be all bad. There are many silver linings to his dark cloud. But one thing is sure. President Trump is, at least partly, a reaction to Obama’s failures. His failure to let the US economy to be the engine for global growth, his failure to curb profligacy in government, his failure with Obamacare and his many failures with foreign policy. To that extent it is Obama’s fears of action which have enabled Donald Trump.


 

The world looks on amazed as the US picks a Witch or a Buffoon

November 6, 2016

I wonder how November the 8th, 2016 will be recorded in history.

It seems – in our time – to be an epic – and fateful – battle with consequences beyond just the US. Populism versus establishment. The “people” versus the party system. The “people” versus the media. The “people” versus the “elite”. Institutions versus individuals. Liberalism or conservatism. Decadence opposed by decency. Depravity set against prudishness. Open borders versus protectionism. Big government against small. Profligacy opposed by austerity. White trash versus black trash. Muslims versus Christians. Mordor versus Gondor.

It is “the poor” against “the rich” but both Clinton and Trump are extraordinarily rich. It is “good” versus “evil” with both claiming to be the “good”. It is integrity against corruption where it is difficult to see who is less corrupt. It is a choice between evils but the lesser evil may not win. It is a race to see who is perceived worse.

But whether Donald Trump is a white rider from Rohan or the Black Lord of Mordor is uncertain. Or is he just Coco the clown brought on for light relief? Hillary Clinton is certainly no Galadriel but whether she is an Evil Witch or just a Red Queen is open to question.

If Hillary Clinton wins it will either be remembered as the day the Red Queen triumphed or the day when Witch Hillary of Little Rock prevailed. If Donald Trump wins it will either be the day a Great Buffoon came to power or the dawn of a Return to Greatness.

Either way the world is amazed it has come to this. That 325 million people gave themselves no option but the choice of a Witch or a Buffoon.

Lewis Carroll is needed to bring some sense into this.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
  And the mome raths outgrabe.

That it has come to this is also part of Barack Obama’s legacy.


 

Is the US election all over?

October 26, 2016

Some of the polls are now predicting a landslide victory for Hillary Clinton.  The media are overwhelmingly convinced that Trump has shot his bolt (though I still question why – if the result is so certain – they take such a vituperative tone in their Trump coverage and don such rose-coloured glasses to view Hillary’s shortcomings and transgressions).

It does seem that even with the now expected Clinton win, the US political divide is going to be wider and more clearly delineated than it has been for a long time. A sharply divided US probably means that the muddle in the Middle East will be compounded rather than eased. Hillary’s track record as Secretary of State does not hold out much hope for any great improvement in foreign policy and strategies. Four years of increasing Russian influence can be expected.

On domestic policy, I suspect a Hillary Clinton term will be much of the same slow, gradual decline under Barack Obama. I am not sure which hole Obamacare will end up in but whichever road Clinton chooses is filled with pot-holes.

I suppose election night still contains some suspense and there is still a chance that the polls are wrong again (a la Brexit). Probably Clinton wins but with a result much closer than is being predicted by some.


 

Republican nightmare begins as Trump goes “independent”

October 11, 2016

All through the primaries the worst GOP nightmare was of Donald Trump standing as an independent 3rd party candidate.  That fear was one of the factors which led to his winning the nomination against massive “establishment” opposition. They feared an official Republican candidate being humiliated by a rampant, populist, independent Trump. And they were afraid that a presidential annihilation would have a knock-on effect on Republican chances in the House.

But they are feeling queasy about being identified with Trump’s crude populism. Now, as the Republican establishment distance themselves from Trump they have effectively brought their own nightmare scenario into play. Paul Ryan is going down a lose-lose road. Trump no longer has to be restrained from castigating the Bush legacy and the ineffective republican leaders in the House and in the Senate.

Really Trump should no longer have a chance in November. But something strange is abroad and he refuses to be buried. But whatever the result may be in November, the GOP will have to face its nightmare scenario.

independent-trump-1

independent-trump-2

Though Trump should – by all accounts – lose to Hillary Clinton, he probably has a better chance being labelled as an independent. As an “independent” he might be able to mobilise parts of the electorate that “other beers cannot reach”


 

It is now “not-Clinton” versus “not-Trump”

October 9, 2016

It is no longer about Clinton versus Trump. It is stop-Clinton versus stop-Trump.

It is more than a little sad that an election for the most influential position in the world is reduced to avoiding the one of two candidates you hate more.

It still amazes me that a country of some 325 million people can throw up no candidates not only no better than, but also as bad as,  Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. On the one hand we have a loud, lewd, crude, successful businessman, and on the other a sick, selfish, greedy, establishment politician.

After the latest negatives about both candidates it seems to me that this election will be decided by the mobilisation of voters against rather than voters for.

stop-campaigns

You get what you vote for and a fundamental weakness in any democracy is that the ability to capture votes (or more accurately, in this case, to repel voters) says little about any other abilities.

With either of these two candidates the US position in global affairs has a bleak 4 years ahead. Trump will withdraw while Clinton will appease. In both cases Russia wins. In domestic matters, Trump will alienate minorities and Clinton will appease. In both cases racial tensions will increase. In economic matters, Trump will use “trickle-down” and Clinton will increase public debt. In both cases, wealth production will decrease.

This is not a choice I would like to be stuck with.


 

To pay tax you don’t owe is just incompetence

October 2, 2016

I note that the NY Times is busy attacking Trump for offsetting tax on profits against past losses. Which of course is something the NY Times is itself very quick to do when it can. As Forbes reported in January this year:

New York Times Hypocrisy On Corporate Taxes Reaches Record High

……. More recently, for tax year 2014, The New York Times paid no taxes and got an income tax refund of $3.5 million even though they had a pre-tax profit of $29.9 million in 2014. In other words, their post-tax profit was higher than their pre-tax profit. The explanation in their 2014 annual report is, “The effective tax rate for 2014 was favorably affected by approximately $21.1 million for the reversal of reserves for uncertain tax positions due to the lapse of applicable statutes of limitations.” If you don’t think it took fancy accountants and tax lawyers to make that happen, read the statement again. …….

There is much hypocrisy about taxes and tax-paying. To pay more tax than the tax code demands is all about incompetence – not about ethics.

I wrote in December 2015;

Tax avoidance is a measure of the incompetence of the lawmaker and the competence of the taxpayer

…. As law-abiding individuals and companies, we calculate and pay our taxes according to the rules that prevail. We use all available rules of allowable deductions and off-sets and deferred taxes and tax-breaks to minimise the amount of personal assets that are to be confiscated by the State. We use accountants and experts to navigate the complexities and intricacies of tax legislation. No individual is ever expected to pay more than the prevailing rules require. Any individual who does pay more than required, and assuming his perfectly rational objective is to minimise the tax to be payed, is fundamentally incompetent. Any company which pays more tax than it should also demonstrates incompetence and is not demonstrating due care of its investors’ assets.

Individuals and corporations are not required or expected to pay more than what is due under the rules prevailing. The issue of ethics is in play when the rules are formulated and is also involved in the following of the rules. The act of payment is an ethical issue but minimisation of tax due is a matter of competence, not of ethics. Paying more taxes than are due demonstrates incompetence and gains no ethical credits. So when there is criticism of companies for “not paying enough tax”, the real failure is with the politicians who have made the deficient rules – not with the individuals or companies who have followed the prevailing rules to their own best advantage.

Back in January 2015 I was also exercised about the sanctimonious clap-trap that wealth inequality gives rise to:

Wealth inequality: The poor are not poor “because” the rich are rich

Most people on the left of the political divide want more to be taken from the rich to be “given” to the poor. The Robin Hood syndrome. Note that when the intention is to “give to the poor” and not for “making the poor greater creators of wealth”, the driving force is mainly envy. It is when the desire to deprive the rich is more important than any desire to improve the lot of the poor. Concern is over-ridden by envy. Sometimes it seems to me that the real difference between left and right is that the left wants to spread the consumption of existing wealth (and hope that total wealth increases), while the right want to focus on creating wealth (and hope that it trickles down and gets equitably distributed).

But there is a fundamental fallacy in the view that the poor are poor because the rich are rich. There may well be some of the rich who are exploiting some of the poor and where the poor are not getting a just opportunity to be creators of wealth. There may well be members of the rich who create no wealth but remain rich because of inherited wealth. But by far the greatest majority of the rich are rich because they created more wealth than others. The real question is whether each individual gets an equitable opportunity to create wealth and then gets to retain an equitable portion of the wealth he has created. (It is a different matter but I still do not understand why it is the creation and the retention of wealth that attracts more penalties in the form of taxation than the destruction or consumption of wealth).

I incline to the view that taxation as it is practiced today by most states is fundamentally immoral. It is in fact an act of confiscation. This I wrote in February 2015.

On the legitimacy and morality of taxation

I am persuaded that the concept of taxation as practised today is immoral. It is fundamentally a coercion of an individual by a larger (stronger) society. It is an enforced confiscation (by threat of legal action) of an individual’s property or wealth. It cannot be seen as a membership fee for being a member of the society because leaving (or being expelled from) the society is not an option. It is closer to the extortion of “protection money” than to the membership dues for a golf club. The use to which the funds are put is irrelevant. The key point is whether the payment is voluntary or coerced. When early Christians paid a “tithe” to the Church voluntarily it was not immoral. But when the payment was coerced and no longer voluntary, the system became immoral. Similarly Islam requires the payment of zakat on individual wealth over the minimum nisab and this also shifted from a quite unexceptionable and moral voluntary payment to become an obligatory and immoral coercive confiscation.

I don’t quarrel with the need for any society to generate “common funds” to improve the well being of that society. But the legitimacy of appropriating the funds lies only in that the society (state) is stronger than the individual. Might becomes right. I come to the conclusion that a tax code by which the amount a “good citizen”should contribute to society is calculated is quite moral as long as the payment is then voluntary. There would be no moral issue if all taxation was voluntary. The immorality lies in the use of threat or force to confiscate the payment. It is the oppression of the minority by the majority which is immoral. (I observe that all democracies use the very fact of being a “democracy” as being a justification for the oppression of minorities when that is the will of the majority. As if being in the majority – by and of itself – ensures proper behaviour). But, the good socialist will argue, compulsory payment of tax is necessary to ensure the funds for the common good. Without coercion society as a whole would suffer. The common good – as seen by the majority – is worth the oppression of the minority who do not pay their dues.

And so we come full circle. The end justifies the means. Oppression of the minority by a majority is acceptable for the good of the majority. A society must be able to use force and coercion against its own minorities for the greater good. Taxation is made legitimate only because the state is stronger than the individual.


 


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