Saturday, February 4, 2017

Can the Trump team learn from mistakes?

Following up on the last post about everything going wrong for the Trump team, the question becomes:  "Can the Trump team learn from mistakes?":  Here are a couple of examples:

1.  "Voter Fraud:"  During the campaign, when it seemed he was going to lose, Trump began saying that the election is rigged.   Then he won, and there was no more talk about rigged elections . . .  until people kept talking about him losing the popular vote to Clinton.   Now Trump does not like to lose, even when it doesn't really count.  So he concocted the story about the 2 to 3 million "illegal voters" that voted for Clinton and robbed him of the popular vote majority, which would have been his too.

That kept his spirits up for a while . . . until some smart ass brought up this point:  If he's really so concerned about voter fraud, why isn't he demanding an investigation of what would be a major, major scandal:   millions of illegal voters?? . . . UNTIL it came out that the "evidence" wasn't about illegal voting at all.

It was about people being registered to vote in more than one state, because they had moved,  but not actually voting more than once.   And further we learned that among those multi-registered citizens were:  Trump daughter Tiffany, son-in-law Jared, strategist Steve Bannon, press secretary Sean Spicer, and Sec. of Treasury Steve Mnuchin.   Then later we learned that the guy who started it all, by misinterpreting a study of the inefficiency of updating voter registration lists,  is himself registered in three states.

The Trump team went silent on this subject (after his Jan 25 promise of a major investigation of illegal voting) . . . UNTIL now when a senior administration official told CNN the investigation could happen in the future, but it is no longer a priority.

Now, please, everybody.   Let's just keep quiet about this.   If our temperamental, sensitive  commander in chief feels criticized for not keeping his promise to investigate, he might feel compelled to revive the faux investigation, after all.

Lesson to be leaned:   Don't just leap on what looks politically useful.  Have somebody smart look into the facts before you leap.  Remember that there is a lot of fake news out there;  we all have to learn to be more discerning, including the president.

2.  Some traditions are good:   Trump came into office determined to clean house, simplify procedures, and to force the complex institution to do things his way.   He would ignore tradition and tear down procedures that had developed over generations because they work.   Now some may no longer be the best for the current times, and they should evolve.   But Trump is not a slow evolutionist;   he is a do-it-now and do-it-my way kind of egomaniacal dictator by nature.  Examples of his bypassing usual, wise procedure abound;  I will focus on two that haven't worked out too well.

     a.  Vetting of appointees:  The head of the Ethics board that ordinarily vets prospective high level appointees, like cabinet secretaries, has revealed that the Trump transition team rebuffed the Ethics Board trying to advise them.   Thus some of these nominees who are running into trouble in their hearings over conflicts of interest, or investments, etc. were not vetted for ethical concerns.    The usual procedure is to have ethics screening before names are even mentioned, in order to avoid such embarrassments later.   The Trump team did not do this.

     b.  National Security decisions:  Trump boasted early in the campaign that he knew more about the Middle East than the generals, thus signalling that he had little respect for military expertise.  That has already turned out to be a problem.   As background evidence is being pieced together about this recent failed Navy Seal raid in Yemen, it seems that the final decision to put the plan into effect was done rather casually over dinner with Bannon and Jared Kushner -- and it's not clear at this point whether any military input or advice was even asked for.   They didn't seem to realize that a plan devised weeks ago under the Obama administration couldn't just be put into play without careful consideration of more up to date conditions on the ground, which had apparently changed since the original planning by the Obama team.

Lesson to be learned:   Experts are there for a reason, and they should be listened to.   The reason is that they do know more, they have experience, and they are trained to think analytically and to consider multiple factors, which you, Mr. Trump, are not.

Maybe, since he's a TV person, watching a few episodes of "The West Wing" or "Madame Secretary" would give him an idea of the seriousness with which such things are usually handled in the Situation Room.


Friday, February 3, 2017

Almost everything Trump does seems wrong: sometimes embarrassing, sometimes dangerous, sometimes just plain stupid. Where are the adults?

 A notable exception was the introduction of his Supreme Court nominee.   Somehow an adult snuck in and managed that one -- and wrote Trump's speech. which he read without embellishments.   I'm not talking about Judge Gorsuch's position on issues, but on how things are managed and whether there is competence beginning to develop in Trump and his staff.

Trump's hand was evident in the lead-up, where he tried to make it seem like the countdown to announcing the winner of his Miss Universe pageant -- or the firing of an Apprentice.   So there was apprehension about what was coming.  But the actual show turned out to be quite dignified.  Trump was subdued and appropriate.  Without any history or context, any stranger looking in might have thought he "looked presidential."

But that's it in toto on the positive side.  Unfortunately, almost nothing else has gone well.   Trump is still tweeting -- threatening to cut off federal aid to sanctuary cities and now to  UC Berkeley for cancelling the scheduled speech of a right-wing provocateur.   The truth is that opposing protest groups have escalated their verbal rhetoric to a level that authorities feared violent outbreaks and made the decision to cancel.  The speaker was the guy who declares that "hate speech is free speech" and  encourages college kids to embrace the Alt-Right as a kind of defiant act against restraint.

Trump has managed to alienate the leaders of several of our allies, the latest being Australia's Prime Minister Turnbull.  According to leaks,  in a phone call with Turnbull,Trump blasted the ongoing plan that Australia and the U.S. have been working on for us to resettle 1,250 refugees of the large group stranded in Australia.   Trump called it "the worst deal ever," and accused Turnbull of trying to send more "Boston bombers" into the U.S.   Then he told him that this was the worst phone call of the four he had had with world leaders that day, and he ended the call nearly 30 minutes earlier than planned.

The next morning, Senator John McCain called the Australian ambassador to the U.S. to try to clean up Trump's mess with the Prime Minister.    McCain asked the ambassador to convey to the Australian people the "unwavering support for the U.S.-Australia alliance."

In all, Trump has provoked at least three diplomatic incidents already this week.   Australia, plus a testy phone call with the Mexican president, in which Trump referred to "bad hombres" and, according to one report, said we might have to send our troops over the bordert to deal with them.   Then there was his NS adviser, Gen. Flynn, who took aim at Iran, echoed by Trump in a twitter, saying that we had "put Iran on notice."   Not very diplomatic language for what is not clearly the violation of the nuclear treaty that Flynn and Trump claim it is.

Of course, the chaos created worldwide by his atrociously mismanaged and misconceived ban on Muslims takes the cake for ineptness and rashness.   First, not consulting with experts at State, Homeland Security, Justice or anyone else, apparently, except his inner circle of Bannon and Flynn, Trump just dumped this on the nation's airport security forces -- without advance notice or help in understanding how they should handle the people already en route with valid visas.

Trump still seems to be operating on his campaign strategy:   get everybody upset about one thing, and then dump another one to push that one aside -- and just keep the chaos coming and keep everybody reacting to something new and forgetting yesterday.  It's a hell of a way to run a railroad, as we said in simpler times.

Yesterday's train wreck was Trump's first effort at a covert counterterrorism attack  The planning had been done over time by the Obama people, but it had to be delayed for operational reasons.  So the new Trump team made the final decision to put the plan into effect.  According to Reuter's news reports, almost everything went wrong. 

It was a Navy Seal Team 6 operation to capture intelligence from an Al Qaeda data and communications center in Yemen.   It turned out to be a much more heavily defended base than anticipated, and the Seal Team met heavy gunfire.   Apparently the delay had resulted in loss of the surprise element so crucial in this type operation.  Two Osprey aircraft were sent in to rescue team members, and one of the Ospreys sustained engine damage and had to be destroyed to avoid capture.

One Seal team member was killed and several others wounded.   At least 10 civilians were killed, including one eight year old girl, who was the daughter of Al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awaki, who was killed by a drone strike in 2011.   No word yet whether the intelligence data collected was valuable;   but no prisoners were taken who might have given intelligence, as hoped;   and very little on the ground surveillance was possible.

Reuter's said that U.S. military officials had told them that "Trump approved his first covert counterintelligence operation without sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup preparations."   Ordinarily, at least his National Security Adviser, the top military chief, and intelligence people would have been in the room participating in the decision.   We do not know if that was true -- or if Trump was operating with his diminished "principles committee," with Bannon but not the others.

This was not a good beginning as Commander in Chief.   Of course, such decisions are often made without sufficient information, only the best you have at the time.   But this was not some crisis, trying to rescue someone or prevent an attack.   There was no time pressure to act without sufficient information.

Thursday morning was no exception to the strategy pattern of "quick . . . do something else to grab the headlines."   This one goes in the embarrassing category.    Trump was scheduled to speak at the National Prayer Breakfast, a long tradition.  He seemed no better briefed on appropriate behavior for this event than he had been for the Al Smith Dinner last year.

Admittedly, I'm only reading anecdotal reports from Reuters and Huffington Post, and it's possible that he said something positive or even prayerful that they didn't report.   But, as we know thus far, Trump spent time telling the group:  "When you hear about the tough phone calls I'm having, don't worry about it.  Don't worry about it.   They're tough.  We have to be tough.  It's time we're gonna be a little tough, folks.  We're taken advantage of by every nation in the world virtually.   It's not gonna happen anymore." 

Then he launched into his schtick belittling Arnold Schwarzeneger's plunging ratings as the replacement host of "The Apprentice."   He asked the crowd to "pray for Arnold, for the ratings."    He seemed to think he was doing a roast, not a prayer breakfast, even throwing in a "to hell with it" in another comment during his remarks . . . at the Prayer Breakfast with religious leaders from all faiths.

We also know that Trump and daughter Ivanka made a trip to Dover Air Base to meet with the family of the Navy Seal officer whose body was being returned to the U.S.   Let's hope that what he said to these grieving people was more appropriate.   Ivanka is probably the best one to help him with this.


PS:  A later account from  the Washington Post gave a transcript of Trump's speech at the Prayer Breakfast.   Of course, it was written for him, and the remarks I quoted above were his own extemperaneous ad libs.   The speech itself was pretty standard and appropriate, albeit with some appeals to right wing issues.   So let's give Trump's speech writer a C and Trump himself a D.    Not an F, because he can do, and has done, much worse.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Trump's voter fraud expert registered in 3 states

It was delicious Schadenfreude when we noted that five members of Donald Trump's family or staff are registered to vote in two states -- for the usual reason people are registered in more than one place.    They moved.   And the records don't get corrected.

Now we have another to add to this list.   Gregg Phillips, who originated Trump's claim of 3 million illegal votes, is registered in three states, Alabama, Texas, and Mississippi.   He has lived in each of those states and may not even know he is still listed.  But it does take a bit of the fizz out of Trump's big deal lie about voter fraud.


Screen Actors Guild awards

The award ceremony for the Screen Actors Guild was held Sunday night -- and, even with all the excitement and joy felt by the winners, perhaps the most appealing photo of all was this one of Meryl Streep straightening Ryan Gosling's bow tie.

photo from Twitter

Why?   What makes it so appealing that multiple cell phones were snapping away and posted the moment?   Meryl is such a goddess among actors that her doing ordinary, human things is always heart-warming.  It brings both of them down from the big screen and seem more like ordinary people.  But it is also just so her.

Perhaps it is especially so right now because of the contrast with a certain "Man Who Would Be King" but was only elected president, who seems not to have a humble bone or nerve in his body.

The truth is:   Meryl Streep is really just like that.  Talk about "six degrees of separation" -- I know her with only one degree of separation -- i.e., I know someone who knows her.   When they were making the movie of the book, The Hours, in which she starred, a lot of it was filmed in London.  The author of The Hours (Michael Cunningham) and his partner -- my friend and New York psychoanalyst-colleague (Ken Corbett) -- were there and "spent time hanging out with Meryl."  Ken says she is just as down to earth and wonderful as people say she is.

More from the SAG Awards.   These awards really count in the acting world, because this is a guild of actorsvoting on awards only to actors.   So it's actors judging and rewarding fellow actors.   This year, I had seen more of the nominated movie entries than usual; and, as usual, I don't know most of the people who are up for television roles.   So I'm only reporting on movie awards.

Last year there was a big flap about the very few nominations of African-Americans at the Oscars.  If that was due to bias in choices of movies to make, of casting for those movies, or of the nomination process, then it should be corrected.   And they did make some changes, by broadening the eligibility of who votes for the Oscars.    But there also are just going to be ups and downs, from year to year, in any characteristic you choose to look at, whether it's race or age or whatever.

This year  was a particularly good year for black actors. In fact, it was a great year because of the films that were made -- three of the Best Picture nominees were stories about black people and how being black affected their lives.   Those films provided some great roles for black actors, and some great acting resulted -- and led to Oscar nominations.  It wasn't just that Hollywood decided to vote for them to make up for last year..

For the movie division, among the four individual acting awards, Emma Stone was the only white winner -- for Best Female Actor in "La La Land."  Denzel Washington won Best Male Actor for "Fences."  Viola Davis won Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role for "Fences," and Mahershala Ali won Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role for "Moonlight."   In addition, the ensemble of actors that won the Cast Award for "Hidden Figures" were mostly black, including all three of the principle roles in the film.


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

NY Times editorial titled: "President Bannon?"

From the New York Times editorial board, January 31, 2017.

*     *     *     *     *
"Plenty of presidents have had prominent political advisers, and some of those advisers have been suspected of quietly setting policy behind the scenes . . . .  But we’ve never witnessed a political aide move as brazenly to consolidate power as Stephen Bannon — nor have we seen one do quite so much damage so quickly to his putative boss’s popular standing or pretenses of competence.

"Mr. Bannon supercharged Breitbart News as a platform for inciting the alt-right, did the same with the Trump campaign and is now repeating the act with the Trump White House itself. 

"That was perhaps to be expected . . . .  Mr. Trump never showed much inclination to reach beyond the minority base of voters that delivered his Electoral College victory, and Mr. Bannon . . . is helping make sure he doesn’t.

"But a new executive order, politicizing the process for national security decisions, suggests Mr. Bannon is positioning himself not merely as a Svengali but as the de facto president.

"In that new order, issued on Saturday, Mr. Trump took the unprecedented step of naming Mr. Bannon to the National Security Council . . . .  More telling still, Mr. Trump appointed Mr. Bannon to the N.S.C. “principals’ committee,” which . . . meets far more frequently. At the same time, President Trump downgraded two senior national security officials — the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff . . .  and the director of national intelligence. . . .

"All this may seem like boring bureaucratic chart-making, but who sits at the National Security Council table when the administration debates issues of war and peace can make a real difference in decisions. In giving Mr. Bannon an official role in national security policy making, Mr. Trump has not simply broken with tradition but has embraced the risk of politicizing national security . . . .

"Mr. Trump’s order says that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the director of national intelligence will attend the principals’ committee meetings only 'where issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed.'  Could there be any national security discussions when input from the intelligence agencies and the military will not be required? People in those jobs are often the ones to tell presidents hard truths, even when they are unwelcome.

"As his first week in office amply demonstrated, Mr. Trump has no grounding in national security decision making, no sophistication in governance and little apparent grasp of what it takes to lead a great diverse nation. He needs to hear from experienced officials . . . .  But Mr. Bannon has positioned himself, along with Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as the president’s most trusted aide, shutting out other voices that might offer alternative views. He is now reportedly eclipsing the national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.

"While Mr. Trump long ago embraced Mr. Bannon’s politics, he would be wise to reconsider allowing him to run his White House, particularly after the fiasco . . . of the risible Muslim ban.  Mr. Bannon helped push that order through without consulting Mr. Trump’s own experts at the Department of Homeland Security or even seeking deliberation by the N.S.C. itself. The administration’s subsequent modifications, the courtroom reversals and the international furor have made the president look not bold and decisive but simply incompetent.

"As a candidate, Mr. Trump was immensely gratified by the applause at his rallies for Mr. Bannon’s jingoism. Yet now casually weaponized in executive orders, those same ideas are alienating American allies and damaging the presidency.

"Presidents are entitled to pick their advisers. But Mr. Trump’s first spasms of policy making have supplied ample evidence that he needs advisers who can think strategically and weigh second- and third-order consequences beyond the immediate domestic political effects

"Imagine tomorrow if Mr. Trump is faced with a crisis involving China in the South China Sea or Russia in Ukraine. Will he look to his chief political provocateur, Mr. Bannon, with his penchant for blowing things up, or will he turn at last for counsel to the few more thoughtful experienced hands in his administration, like Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and General Dunford?"
*     *     *     *     *

Apparently the editorial board wrote this before the Monday night firing of the Acting Attorney General for not defending his immigration order in court.   That only adds another layer of alarm onto the deep concern expressed in this editorial.  Trump's overweening belief in his own thoughts, coupled with Bannon's determination to "bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today's establishment," as he told the Daily Beast in 2013, could literally destroy our democracy.

Trying to silence the press, tolerating no dissension, firing his Acting Attorney General for standing up to him to oppose an illegal order, and showing that he will not respect the rule of law and the constitution as interpreted by our judges -- these are the first steps toward dictatorship

There were voices warning against Bannon from the beginning . . .  and here we are with it all taking shape as a reality that is even worse than we thought.    This is a real test of the balance of powers in this country.   Even more, it is a test of whether We, the People will stand firm and not let our system of government be taken away.


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Ambassadors protest ban that will hurt American's image rather than keep us safe

Donald Trump and his team are playing the "Keep America Safe" card for all it's worth -- actually, far more than it's worth.    Democrats condemn the ban as violating American values.  Even Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham express practical concern that it will do more harm than good to our national security by helping terrorist recruitment.

Scores of American diplomats stationed around the world have drafted a formal "dissent memo" objecting to Trump's ban.   A copy was obtained by ABC News.  It states, in part:  “It will immediately sour relations with these six countries, as well as much of the Muslim world, which sees the ban as religiously motivated.” 

A dissent memo is a mechanism, dating back to the Viet Nam War, which ensured that diplomats have a means of expressing disagreement with formal U. S. policy.  In this case, the draft writers go far beyond just disagreeing.   They write:

“This ban stands in opposition to the core American values that we, as federal employees, took an oath to uphold. . . .  The end result of this ban will not be a drop in terror attacks against the United States; it will be a drop in international goodwill towards Americans and a threat towards our economy.”


A constitutional crisis, already?? Meanwhile, Acting AG won't defend immigrant ban; Trump fires her.

Many of us were expecting President Donald Trump to provoke a constitutional crisis, but who thought it would happen so soon?   Not even 10 days from his inauguration.

As Huffington Post writer Nick Baumann put it:  Obedience to specific court orders is what keeps us from being a banana republic or fascist dictatorship. That’s a really big deal.”

Baumann continued:  "Late Friday, Trump issued an executive order forbidding millions of refugees, hundreds of thousands of visitors and 500,000 legal immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States. Over the following 48 hours, massive protests erupted in cities and airports nationwide. . . .  [A}n anonymous White House official proclaimed the whole episode a 'massive success story.'"

Not so fast.  The ACLU and others filed suits in federal courts, and judges in Boston, Brooklyn, Seattle, and Virginia each put some form of stay or delay on the orders.  But the Trump administration is not fully complying;  rather they are claiming the Brooklyn judge's ruling does not undercut the executive order.  And Customs and Border Patrol officials have refused to obey the federal court rulings in at least some cases.

As I understand what Team Trump is saying:  the executive order invalidates existing visas of those covered by the order.  Thus, the judicial rulings -- that those arriving with valid visas must be admitted -- is meaningless.  Because there are now no valid visas for people from these countries.

Democrats in congress are fighting the administration and have made a request to the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General to investigate whether CBP officers disobeyed court orders and, if so, who ordered them to do it.

Some law professors have agreed that this has the makings of a constitutional crisis.  And that is probably exactly what Bannon and Trump want.   Another law professor said that it is not just a constitutional crisis;  if the defiance continues, it is indication of a lack of respect for the rule of law.

It seems like the sooner we get this settled, the better.   If this president is not going to follow the rule of law, then he must be impeached forthwith.


UPDATE:   Monday evening:   Acting Attorney General Sally Yates is a career prosecutor at the Justice Department, who was appointed Deputy AG two years ago, and who Obama put next in the line of succession when AG Loretta Lynch left.  Trump then asked her to stay in that position until his AG  Jeff Sessions is confirmed.    On Monday Yates made a stunning announcement:  the Justice Department will not defend President Trump's executive order blocking refugees and certain foreign nationals.

Saying that she is responsible to see that the Justice Department remains consistent with it's solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right.

Before this, the Office of Legal Counsel had given an opinion that the executive order was legal.   But Yates' letter clarified that something can be legal in a technical sense but not be wise or just.   There is a growing numbers of lawsuits, and a number of judges have already put delays on deportations.

President Trump could fire AG Yates or he could ask the Senate to expedite confirmation of Sessions, which would automatically end Yates' from the role of Acting Attorney General.   As of Monday evening, there has been no response from the White House.

UPDATE #2:   By 9:00 pm, President Trump had fired Acting AG Sally Yates, saying she had "betrayed" the Justice Dept. by refusing to defend his order.  He has already appointed a replacement, Dana Boente, an Obama appointee but who has apparently said that he will "defend the laws."

But here is the greater issue.   This raises serious questions about how independent a Justice Department will be under President Trump, and it puts the confirmation of Jeff Sessions in a new light.   He has said he will be independent;  but he was a very close member of the Trump campaign team.   The Senate should not rush to confirm him tomorrow but rather bring him back in for further questioning about this issue.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Trump's changes at NSC are just "stone cold crazy" -- Susan Rice, Obama's National Security Adviser

President Obama's National Security Adviser, Susan Rice, said she is "appalled" at what President Donald Trump is doing to the National Security Council, sidelining foreign policy experts and instead giving his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, a place at the table.

Trump issued a presidential memo which removed the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from permanent seats on the NSC "principals committee."   In the future they will attend only when their "responsibilities and expertise" are needed.   In their place will be Bannon, whose last job was CEO of Breitbart News, a publication that regularly airs white nationalist views.

John Bolton, George W. Bush's ambassador to the U.N., said that Bush did not allow his political strategist, Karl Rove, to attend NSC meetings;  because he wanted to avoid any hint that politics played a role in national security decisions.   I agree with Rice:   It's just "stone cold crazy."  I fear that we are witnessing first steps in a strong-man takeover of our government.  


Trump's strategist Steve Bannon. Thought to be the author of these executive orders.

Image result for Steve Bannonphoto by Hollywood Life

In a DailyKos article, Frank Vyan Walton had this to say about Steve Bannon, President Trump's chief strategist and senior adviser:  "Steve Bannon has no previous government experience.   Steve Bannon is not an attorney.   But Steve Bannon is apparently now the author of the fiats from on high that are tumbling out of the Trump White House like a pile of rocks smashing their way down a hill."

Walton bases this in part on what White House aides told Politico:   that the Trump team of Bannon and policy advisor Stephen Miller (a political operative who wrote most of Trump's major campaign speeches) have made "almost no effort to consult with federal agency lawyers or lawmakers as they wrote these executive orders" for Trump to sign.  This includes the one on immigration and travel entry that is causing so much turmoil and confusion at airports -- and apparently even at high levels of the government, as in conflict between the Homeland Security Department and the White House.

Some lawmakers have complained about the lack of legal scrutiny and input of voices of experience.  People with no governing experience are putting out executive orders that may conflict with existing law.   The impetus seems to be to create the impression of great momentum in fulfilling campaign promises, rather than crafting orders that will be effective.   For example, the immigration order includes only vague language about funding and says nothing about the role of Congress in approving funds.

Another seemed to be simply an aspirational statement about "increasing the size of the military," with lots of superlative adjectives but no concrete directives about how to do it.

But some of the executive orders are unconscionable, and many people are already being seriously hurt -- along with our nation's image and ethical standing.   The immigration order is perhaps the worst of these so far.   Refugees that were already placed and expected by a sponsoring community are now being turned away.   An Iraqi man who has worked with the U.S. for 10 years as an interpreter was refused admittance to the country at JFK airport.

Walton says:  "Besides the problem of 'looking like you're getting things done' when you’re really just spinning your wheels with impractical and unworkable ideas, we basically have a rank amateur adviser writing executive orders for a rank amateur President."     And I would add this:   The rank amateur writing the orders has a very dark vision of the problems facing our country -- and a strong opinion about who their opposition is (the "establishment" and the media) and of the solutions.  

It goes beyond inexperience and dark vision, however.  Walton continues:  ". . . these guys seriously don’t know what they’re doing, and the entire country is at risk while they learn these hard and costly lessons over and over again."    One order quite possibly violates the Civil Rights Act.   The order that threatens to cut off all federal funds to "sanctuary cities" is probably unconstitutional.

What Bannon and Trump are doing, however, is stoking up the appearance of fulfilling campaign promises to keep their political base satisfied.   And Trump has such power over the Republican Party now -- with that signing pen, which they prize above all else -- that they would be loathe to impeach him.

I'm beginning to wonder whether we have one mad man in the White House -- or two.   Trump and Bannon.   How much longer is Reince Priebus likely to last?   The last few days suggest that Bannon is winning the struggle to influence Trump.   And that cannot end well.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Quotable quotes

1.  From James Poniewozik in New York Times:
"Alternative facts are what they use in alternatives to democracy."

2.  From Keith Olberman for GQ, referring to President Trump:
 "This man is not of sound mind. . . .  He must resign."

3.  From Stacy:
"#ThankYouTrump for making Saturday Night Live Great Again."

4,  From Jonathan Greenberg's Letter to Editor, New York Times:  "If Democrats were clever enough to swing the popular vote in Hillary Clinton's favor with fraud to the tune of three million illegal votes, why didn't they arrange a mere 80,000 more votes in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania so that they could win the Electoral College and the presidency too?"

5.  And Chris Garnatz quoted Mark Twain, that most quotable of all:

It's easier to fool people than to convince them 
that they have been fooled."

Each day gets worse -- a White House in chaos

I had wanted to let this blog have a day of rest from the escalating bad news being made by President Trump, but the turmoil and mounting reactions to his immigration order mandate some attention.  So along with the planned "Quotable Quotes," here's this.

There are so many terrible parts to this Executive Order, but the most immediate effects are being felt at our nation's airports where massive protests are happening.   New York cab drivers are on strike, because of Trump's orders regarding Muslims entering the country.   Not surprising since so many New York cab drivers are immigrants from Muslim countries.

Even if you agree with his policy -- which I certainly don't -- this order has been thrown together without much thought and without consultation with other agencies and affected venues.

Basically, it bans immigrants, refugees, and even travelers from seven countries:   Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen -- unless they are part of a religious minority in that country.  The most immediate effects of this order fall on travelers and on refugees who were about to be settled in their new homes in the U.S.

Examples are already accumulating, such as a synagogue that was sponsoring two refugee families from Syria, expected to arrive next week, only to be told -- on Holocaust Remembrance Day, no less -- that Trump's executive order would not allow the family to settle in the U.S.   Other anecdotes tell of foreign nationals who have worked with the U.S. as interpreters in some of these countries, being denied access to the U.S. and turned away at our airports.

These are the immediate effects.   But the order is far more expansive with long term problems, including the propaganda usage that ISIS and Al Qaeda will make of video footage of all this chaos.   Just imagine:   fresh evidence that "the Great Satan -- the U.S. -- hates Muslims and is at war with Islam."    Show the videos and blast it out on the internet as a recruiting ad.

As of this writing later Saturday night, major international airports like JFK, O'Hare, San Francisco, and Dulles are swarming with protesters over the bans.  Google told all its traveling staff to come back to the U.S., according to BBC News reporting.

Meanwhile, President Trump said that his immigration order "is working out very nicely."

Folks, we have rank amateurs running the country and refusing to consult with experienced hands.   Maybe this is the chaos that is necessary to force them to admit they don't know what they're doing, that governing is complicated and hard, and that experience does count.

They'd better hurry up and try to lure back those top tier career diplomats that they just fired from the State Department.


PS:   Just heard the news that a federal judge has put a stay order on the Trump-ordered deportation of those arriving from any of the seven countries, at least as it applies to those who have visas.   That feels like a first step in the forces of our governmental system of checks and balances coming into play.   Another temporary restraining order from a federal judge in Virginia blocks deportations of those with green cards.