Trump Goes To Court

I’m pretty sure the reason Trump tweeted, “SEE YOU IN COURT!” is because he’s so used to being in court. Being sued all the time (or suing people all the time) probably makes it like his second home (you know, after Trump Tower, Mar-A-Lago, and the White House).

But I digress. For those of you who haven’t heard because you were busy refreshing this page in the fervent hope that I’d be blogging again soon (wish granted; you’re welcome), and therefore missed the news that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (or rather their three-person committee) upheld a stay on the travel ban-that-isn’t-a-ban-but-is-definitely-a-ban, Trump got mad at the decision and tweeted his indignation and an assertion that he’d take the court to court. So yeah.

Today, he tweeted out that the 9th Circuit “forgot” to cite or read an important article that he claims supports his ban. (Spoiler alert, it probably doesn’t.)

However, as that liberal rag (not really), The Hill, notes:

“The Ninth Circuit is correct to leave the [temporary restraining order] in place, in my view, for the simple reason that there is no cause to plunge the country into turmoil again while the courts address the merits of these matters over the next few weeks,” the post says.

It adds that the judicial system will eventually have to confront the clash between the president’s powers and “the incompetent malevolence with which this order was promulgated.”

I really wonder how Trump feels right about now. Well, I won’t even bother with a spoiler alert: apparently, he fucking hates it. It turns out that he CAN’T run government the same way he runs his businesses – by throwing down edicts from on high and throwing a tantrum until he gets his way, because he’s Donald Trump, God Dammit, and we’ll do it his way or the highway!

Anonymous source rumors aside, Trump appears to be confused at the concept of oversight. Being in charge of the Trump Organization meant he could be in charge and throw his weight around, making all the decisions, making the deals – but it’s difficult at best to do that with the US Government. We have checks and balances for a reason, and it’s generally considered a good thing that the president has both Congressional and Judicial oversight. We don’t elect kings in this country, a fact that apparently has been slow to dawn on Trump.

I’d like to say that the man will eventually get it, that everything will click, and suddenly we’ll have the presidential pivot that we were all promised during the campaign. I’d also like to say that I have a million dollars in my bank account and no debt, but neither of those things are true, and repeating it won’t make it happen. There is no pivot. Trump is still bitching about imaginary voter fraud and crowd sizes, and he’s obsessed with his appearance in the media. Tweeting that he would take the 9th Circuit to court is another attention-grab, whining from someone who’s used to getting his way and isn’t happy that he can’t do everything on his own timing.

Being in charge of the free world takes patience and determination. You have to be willing to work with people who may be radically opposed to you. You can’t expect to “make deals” if you’re insulting allies and belittling trade deals that took years to undertake. Trump will find himself alone, and America will be worse off. But hey, remember Hillary’s e-mails! We sure dodged a bullet with that one, right?

Burning The Village To Save It

I hated school growing up. It was terrible. I was bullied incessantly by teachers and students alike, and because I was above average but also had an oppositional and independent streak (a really big one) I wasn’t allowed to participate in gifted programs. I had “an attitude problem,” I was “disrespectful,” I didn’t “work well with others.” I spent more time in the corner and in time out in 3rd and 5th grade than anyone else. Well, it certainly felt like it, anyway. Public school was a nightmare for me, and I felt left out because I was ahead of the class but made to wait on my peers, which made me resentful of classmates and teachers, and which made my classmates and teachers dislike me. If I could do it all over again, I’d never set foot in a public school ever.

But public school is a necessity. Public schools function as a way of ensuring that we have an educated populace prepared to take on the challenges of the world, but also ensure the future of our economy at home. Don’t want to go to public school? Go to private school, or a charter school. But the local public school ensures that the kids who don’t have a charter or private school option have a chance at a decent education. It’s part of the social contract we sign with each other when we decide to live together under the branch of a local government. Or something. A number of my friends are teachers and they’re passionate about their jobs – they work incredibly hard for not a lot of money. They understand the importance of education, and they wouldn’t do it otherwise.

So when Trump nominated Betsy DeVos to head the Department of Education, we were all appalled. Betsey DeVos has no experience in public school, has never been involved in a public school, has never held any public office, has never done anything but lobby for “school choice.” Of course, party loyalty mattered more than actually promoting what was best for the nation’s public schools and the children who attend them, so all but two Republican Senators rubber-stamped DeVos’ appointment. The two Senators who did reject her did so because they were concerned about her lack of experience and knowledge of the public education system.

“I have serious concerns about a nominee to be secretary of education who has been so involved in one side of the equation, so immersed in the push for vouchers, that she may be unaware of what actually is successful within the public schools, and also what is broken and how to fix them,” Ms. Murkowski said last week when the two announced their opposition. [Source: NYT]

Okay, so maybe we need to make radical changes to the system. Maybe we need someone new and different to effect real change. However, that usually means the radical change agent is going to have some knowledge of (1) the system they’re trying to change, (2) the problems that need to be resolved, (3) the things that work that should be kept. In reading DeVos’ background, it’s clear that she doesn’t have any knowledge of any of those things. If you aren’t convinced, look up the video of her confirmation hearings. Apparently, the biggest problem that needs to be resolved for teachers is not having enough guns in schools to protect kids from grizzly attacks.

If that doesn’t concern you, Cosmo (yes, that Cosmo…) has an article on 11 things you should know about DeVos, and I can tell you that 3 – 5, and 7, are very concerning to me, with #5 being most concerning. DeVos pushed for charter schools in Michigan, and she got them – at the price of compromising childrens’ education. From the article:

An investigation by the Detroit Free Press in 2014 found that Michigan’s charter schools “rake in taxpayer money and refuse to detail how they spend it,” that charter school employees and board members were “steering lucrative deals to themselves or insiders,” and that more charter schools were ranking below the 25th percentile than public schools. Even a charter advocate, former state schools superintendent Tom Watkins, said, “People are making a boatload of money, and the kids aren’t getting educated.”

Adding school choice only works when those schools perform as good or better than the existing public schools. The whole point of providing alternatives is to give people a better alternative that works for them. Providing an alternative that has no accountability and is actually worse than the existing system is counterproductive at best, actively destructive at worst. The whole thing smacks of the bizarre assertion that you have to burn the village in order to save it, and the people who will suffer the most are the kids who go to these crappy schools and come out unprepared for the real world as future adults, the people who will rely on these future adults to support the economy, and the future generations that have to work to fix an even more broken system.

But that’s all in the future, and politics is hyper-focused on the here and now. How many votes can I get NOW? What are my popularity ratings NOW? What’s my likelihood of re-election NOW? The future is obscure and doesn’t get votes, but pandering to current concerns (real or imagined) does.

Well, good luck, everyone. So far we’re doing a good job of turning our country into Idiocracy. Hopefully it will at least be entertaining….

Image result for idiocracy

 

Edited: (1) to correct spelling of Mrs. DeVos’ name.

The Problem of Loyalty

Many people I know are mourning the upcoming inauguration. Trump has been elected, he’s readying his cabinet (oh god, the cabinet…), but the inauguration hasn’t even happened yet and even Krauthammer is saying The Honeymoon Is Over.

Look, I’m never going to like Donald Trump. I think he’s in the category for Top 5 Worst Presidents and he hasn’t even been elected yet. (That list, by the way, includes Richard Nixon, Andrew Johnson, and Herbert Hoover. Fill in your favorite for the other guy.) The man is the living embodiment to Millenial Crybaby Whining and he’s almost 70. The 3AM twitter rants, his “victory lap” around the US (did he even finish that? I don’t remember – maybe it was interrupted by a tweet-storm.), and his constant vacillation from one stance to another, really bothers the shit out of me. I mean, say what you will about Obama (and you will) at least he was predictable.

If you haven’t read Jonah Goldberg’s latest G-file, you should. He rightly points out one of the biggest problems facing America in general, but Conservatives and Trump’s administration in particular: emotional correctness. Trump’s biggest problem is that he demands loyalty at all costs. He wants yes-men, he wants his ideas supported, he wants his ego stroked, and he rewards that (much like any administration has) by giving sweetheart deals and cabinet positions to his most loyal supporters. Goldberg writes:

On the right, Never Trump has become a convenient psychological crutch for dismissing inconvenient arguments. Like the ever-metastasizing phrase “fake news,” it’s waved like a magic wand to make any threatening claim disappear without having to deal with it on the merits. Marxists used to use the term “false consciousness” in much the same way: to head-off threatening facts or arguments by attacking motives. When I point out that until a few months ago Republicans and conservatives despised crony capitalism or “picking winners and losers,” the instant reply amounts to: “When are you going to get over your Never Trump obsessions?” The upshot of all of these responses is “Get with the program,” “Get on board the Trump Train,” or “Get on the right side of history.”

Loyalty at all costs is the sign of a weak regime. Of groups and people who are afraid that their underlying ideology is so fragile that any negative comment, any questioning, even the whiff of insufficient enthusiasm, can cause it to come crumbling down. If we can’t question our own beliefs, how can we embrace them and make them stronger? I’ll borrow a quote from G.K. Chesterton here:

  • “What embitters the world is not excess of criticism, but an absence of self-criticism.”  – Sidelights on New London and Newer New York

We must be able to exercise self-criticism, and criticism of our heroes and leaders. We are not perfectly moral and righteous people (if we are, why do we still struggle with morality and righteousness?), and none of our ideals or leaders are either. If we place Trump beyond criticism, what happens when he does things that are truly wrong? We cannot simply sit back and pass off all criticism of our leaders as mere “Nobama” or “Never Trump” or “Killary” or whatever other epithet we choose to label it. We cannot move forward if we are closing our eyes to what is right in front of us and blindly pretending that it is glorious and golden.

Let us not also forget the history of dissent in this country – not just Alexander Hamilton and The Federalist Papers during the enlightenment, but even to the Puritans who dissented to English rule (much as I disagree with them), down through the numerous decades of journalistic dissent, popular dissent, protest…. Ideas don’t change and become better if you just accept the first version that comes across your desk.

I’ll leave you with a final thought in the form of a quote from Mr. Chesterton.

  • “I have formed a very clear conception of patriotism. I have generally found it thrust into the foreground by some fellow who has something to hide in the background. I have seen a great deal of patriotism; and I have generally found it the last refuge of the scoundrel.” – The Judgement of Dr. Johnson, Act III

Holi-daze

This is at the same time my favorite and least-favorite time of year. The holidays mean cooking, baking, cheesy music, and fancy decorations. Unfortunately, the holidays also mean stressful social situations, packed stores, and, for people with anxiety, feeling the crushing weight of inescapable social obligations (GIVE. ALL. THE. GIFTS!!!!!!!!). It also means melancholy remembrances of family members who have passed on or who are nearing the end of their lives. I’ve certainly been trying to avoid thinking about the impending doom of the upcoming Trumptacular inauguration. Further addendum, the people complaining about a War on Christmas are really missing the point. But whatever, I continue to celebrate Christmas in my own way anyway.

2017 remains a Schrodinger’s box – it is both an impending doom and not doom until such time as it actually happens, such that 2017 is either preparing a Challenge Accepted, Motherfucker, or a resigned Anything Is Better Than 2016. 2017 will surely be Yuge and Bigly, whatever the hell that means, but as long as J.K. Rowling is around it’ll be a bit more bearable.

So what are we looking forward to in 2017? Based on the drama of the post-election Cabinet selection process, we’re looking at a Republican-led Congress that has a laser-focus on spiting the Obama Legacy, even if it means cutting the noses off of their bigger old faces; an incoming President who has no idea what he’s doing and it packing his cabinet with cronies and billionaires and supporters (in other words: business as usual!); and a first family that has apparently been elected to do the President’s job while he runs his businesses. Good job, America. At least the press has finally woken up enough to realize that they maybe probably definitely fell down on the job with scrutinizing Trump during the primaries and the election (at least we hope they have), and many of his supporters are realizing that he’s a two-faced idiot who will say anything for attention (well, I HOPE they’re realizing that). The Hill even managed to narrow down the upcoming 100 days to only five major fights he’s going to have (I could have done it in one: all of them.) Even better, anti-Semitism is on the rise, so we can look forward to more of this crap (literally… unfortunately), and definitely more of these unintentional blunders: “…this Christmas heralds a time to celebrate the good news of a new King.” At least we finally know what Crow tastes like:

All in all, though, I’d say 2017 is going to be a good year for political bloggers, and I am gleefully looking forward to it. Yep, 2017 is going to be a hell of a year. Unfortunately.

Something something free market dark side….

Let’s talk about Carrier. As a native Texan, I love their products. Their air conditioning systems make life down here in the armpit of America bearable. (Side note, if Florida is America’s wang and the Gulf Coast is the armpit, where does that leave the rest of America’s anatomy? I’ll leave that for a future post.) Apparently, they were all set to send some jobs out of Indiana to Mexico, where they’d save $65M buckaroos in operating costs (I’m guessing mainly salaries and benefits, but also production costs from cheaper factories).  Now, though, thanks to the direct involvement of Donald Trump and soon-to-be-former Indiana Governor Mike Pence, Carrier will be leaving approximately 1,000 of the 1,400 jobs they had planned to move here in the US. Yes, that’s right. Our President-elect directly negotiated with a privately-held company and the State of Indiana to prevent that company from moving jobs overseas.

Leaving aside the fact that Carrier’s parent company collects approximately 10% of it’s annual revenue from federal contracts (approx. $6 billion, y’all), and may have been threatened with being cut-off from those sweet federal dollars, are we not worried about free markets? Governments staying out of business affairs? Leaving corporations free to do what they feel is in their best interests? Every year around election time I hear arguments about “free markets,” “capitalism,” “keeping government out of business,” “small government,” “de-regulation,” and so on and so forth. The argument goes that we need to support the free market! De-regulate everything and ensure corporations can manage their own affairs! If corporations are allowed to make money for themselves and their shareholders, it will provide a fertile breeding ground for jobs, which means more opportunities for employees, economic growth, etc. The problem is that this is not reflective of reality.

According to this article by the Cato institute, and this article by FreedomWorks, Big Business and Big Government are likely to go hand in hand. While politicians and their constituents like to talk about the dangers of Big Government, regulations, and direct governmental involvement in corporate affairs (Socialism! Communism! Oh my!), corporate lobbyists are more likely to push for regulations that provide barriers to entry in an industry, thereby making it more difficult for smaller enterprises from encroaching on bigger entities. And when it comes to State and Federal contracts, corporations are really sensitive to the Big Government Cash Cow.

So why does Carrier matter? There are two issues in this that I’m most concerned about:

  1. Should the government directly intervene in corporate decisions? Don’t people keep saying that’s bad for the free market economy and capitalism?
  2. Now that Trump has shown that the “consequences” for threatening to move jobs overseas is tax cuts and government contracts, isn’t that going to encourage more companies to threaten offshoring so they can get in on the tax cut deal?

I’m not an economist by training, and frankly as a CPA I think it’s more like voodoo than the cold hard reality of accounting. However, I’m still unclear on how this helps the economy. Trump prevented a little under 1,000 jobs from moving to Mexico, at a cost of $7M in lost tax revenue to Indiana taxpayers. That’s great for the 1,000 people whose jobs are staying, not so great for the people whose jobs are getting cut. Companies around the US are considering offshoring every day – is Trump going to be able to personally negotiate with every single one of them? It seems odd and unlikely, and I’m not fond of the precedent he’s setting, or the disappointment that’s going to occur when he can’t negotiate with every company that threatens to offshore jobs. However it turns out, I’m not excited about what seems like a token gesture after the campaign to make it look like he’s doing something of substance.

Electoral Remorse

After watching elections for 30+ years, and participating in elections for 16 years, I’ve learned that electoral remorse is one of the biggest barriers to political participation. When people feel like their politicians have failed them, they stop participating in the process. I read and hear a lot of people complaining that all politicians are crooks and liars, “both sides” are [evil/bad/dumb/criminal/etc.], and government fails the American people. But what I don’t hear are people saying, “I called my Congressmember to complain that he was doing a shitty job.” People have kind of given up on the political process in America (and our lousy voter turnout is evidence of that).

Since Super Tuesday, I’ve been engaged in several discussions recently on Facebook surrounding the election. Many are with people who believe that Trump was elected and therefore he is our leader and can do whatever he wants, while others rail against this asshole who is “Not [their] president,” others want to wait and see and hope everything blows over, and still others warn against Neo-Nazi’s, White Nationalists, and other problematic persons being packed into the White House and Cabinet who will put all the gays, Muslims, feminists, and immigrants into death camps. At the very core of it, most of the people I talk to have some level of “buyer’s remorse” with the election (or electoral remorse, I suppose), though the staunch conservatives I know have jumped on the Trump Train and can’t wait for January 20 so they can “Make America Great Again” (or take back their country, whatever their current slogan is).

Here’s my take: people were frustrated with their lack of progress over the past 8 years, they felt left behind by both parties, and rather than seeing Trump as someone who would burn it all down so they could start over, they saw him as someone coming in from the outside to bring needed change. Now that he’s been elected, I’m seeing more of the same: Cabinet picks are made from people who supported Trump either during the election or in his business ventures, billionaires and lobbyists and Washington insiders. All this after running on a campaign of “draining the swamp” and changing Washington politics. While I will grudgingly agree with some of his policies, I’m still confused at how his transition is at all draining the swamp or bringing in outsiders or, well, doing anything other than politics as usual. But then, I’m not easily excited by politicians. In my lifetime, I’ve watched promise after promise be broken, changed, or “renegotiated” to fit a re-election agenda, leading to voter frustration and resentment.

The main problem with Trump’s cabinet picks, as with most presidents’, is that they’re made of friends and allies, yes-men who will support everything the president wants to do. What the president needs is a team of advisors who will challenge him when he proposes a terrible idea, give honest feedback (including criticism where warranted), and help him manage expectations. Trump ran on a campaign of big promises (“I alone…”), and in the days since the election has either overtly or implicitly indicated that he won’t follow up on several of them, or at the very least will only enact a small portion of the promise (the border wall may just end up being a fence, and he may not actually start deporting people, and maybe yes or no to Obamacare, but the Republican-led Congress definitely wants to kill it).

It’s true that time will tell what Trump actually manages to accomplish during his term, but what we don’t have to do is “wait and see” what his plans are because he is already telling us what he wants to do with his cabinet picks. I mean, I assume he is, because his indecipherable twitter ranting, combined with various contradictory interviews, isn’t exactly helping clarify his positions on his campaign promises or hot-button issues.

I’m not in the Camp of Doom And Gloom about the future, but neither am I in the Camp of Oh Well Guess It’s Over or Camp Let’s Wait And See And Hope It Blows Over. Elections aren’t a one-and-done deal; if you’re waiting until the next election to complain to your elected officials about the job they’re doing (or aren’t doing), you’re waiting too long. Call your Congress person, the mayor, your State rep, city council member – if they walked back a promise or decided they only cared about re-election instead of actually working on difficult issues, call and talk to their office directly. And if Trump is falling down on the job (which I suspect he will, much to the detriment of our country), call HIS office and complain. If he isn’t at his Penn. Ave. address, call Trump Tower. He might be there.

Don’t let electoral remorse kill your participation – our elected officials are all grown-ups who can and should be held accountable if they start fucking things up.