Sunday, December 31, 2017

New Year's predictions 2018

January:  Doug Jones will be sworn in as the new Senator from Alabama.  He will have to dodge Roy Moore, who will run in and try to snatch the Bible off the table and administer the oath of office to himself.

February: Justin Timberlake will perform at Super Bowl halftime, fourteen years after the infamous 'wardrobe malfunction' in which he ripped Janet Jackson's outfit and exposed her breast.  This time he will surprise people and invite Jackson back on stage, but this time,  in this year of #TakeaKnee and #MeToo  , when Timberlake tries the same thing again he will  'take a knee' from Janet to the nether regions.

March:  The start of baseball season will include a pitch clock. A major scandal will erupt when the Red Sox get caught speeding up the clock when the Yankees are pitching. Donald Trump will send a tweet blaming Hillary Clinton and reminding people Massachusetts is a blue state, even if they do call their team the Red Sox.

April:  The Trump administration announces that entry fees to National Parks will rise again, to well over a hundred dollars for top National Parks.  When it is pointed out  that this might make it too expensive for a family to visit Yosemite,  White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders Huckabee says,  "Well, then, they can go to Six Flags and see Yosemite Sam instead !"

May:  A few months after passing a tax bill that raises the deficit, Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio will cite the skyrocketing deficit as a reason to cut entitlements (as they already have said they will.)  Social Security payments will be cut only slightly for present retirees.  Future retirees will be promised a t-shirt saying, "I paid thousands into Social Security but all I got was this lousy t-shirt."  When somebody points out that immigrants are overwhelmingly young people who could help stabilize Social Security and Medicare, conservatives will drown it out with chants of "build the wall, build the wall."

June:  Six months after moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, citing reasons of 'convenience,'   the Trump administration will announce they are moving our consulate with the Palestinian Authority to an abandoned oil platform off the coast of Louisiana,  also citing 'convenience.'

July:  The GOP effort to privatize Social Security by ramming it all through  in a matter of days that began in May will fail in the Senate.  Donald Trump will respond with a series of angry tweets attacking Hillary Clinton.

August:  The record breaking drought continues around the southwest.  In southern California and Arizona, mold is added to the 'endangered species' list.

September:  The Trump administration will announce a solution to the Confederate Monument controversy. They will all be relocated to Puerto Rico to serve as windbreaks for families who are still living out in the open with no heat or shelter a year after Hurricane Maria.  He will praise himself for helping bring 'a great success' to Puerto Rico.

October:  The Mueller investigation issues a final report several weeks before the election, concluding that there is evidence that Russia was in close collusion with members of the Trump campaign to ensure Trump's election.  Rather than indicating any concern about a foreign power being involved in our election, Republicans derisively criticize former FBI director Mueller and start wearing  Putin masks at Halloween parties.

November:  Democrats decisively win control of the House, many Governorships and despite the terrible Senate map, are able to pick up a 50-50 tie for control of the Senate.  Trump sends out a tweet calling the election results 'fake news.'

December:  On Christmas morning, the nation wakes up to find that the White House is buried under hundreds of tons of coal, with a reindeer poop on top of it.  Donald Trump will blame Hillary Clinton.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Trump's contradictory speech about international relations

Today Donald Trump spoke about how the U.S. would continue to engage in international leadership,  while criticizing 'revisionist' powers Russia and China.

Two questions this brings up.  First, what is a 'revisionist' power?  If Russia lost the Cold War, does that mean they will always be no threat to the U.S.?  No more than Germany stopped being a threat to France after it lost World War I.  History continues forward and it is foolish to assume that because of an event in the past (be it a military victory or whatever) that the future is thereby settled.  At best the immediate future is settled, but never history going forward.  By claiming that Russia is a 'revisionist' power (presumably meaning they want to reverse the outcome of the Cold War) it seems that Trump lacks a serious understanding of who they are.  OF COURSE Russia would like to reverse the Cold War. Vladimir Putin, a former KGB man who once called the collapse of the Soviet Union 'the greatest tragedy of the twentieth century'  has simply taken off the uniform and replaced it with a suit.  Out with the Hammers and Sickles and in with Tsarist trappings.  Out with one candidate elections and replace them with multicandidate elections in which the media are completely controlled by Putin and his allies, allowing only one candidate to be heard.

Like the Chinese, the Russians have undertaken limited economic reform,  'privatizing' state enterprises and instead allowing them to fall under the leadership of corrupt oligarchs and of Putin himself.  His raw territorial ambition and his quest to return to the world stage as great power have been shown by his invasions of parts of Georgia and the Ukraine (including all of Crimea) and more recently by his active intervention to tilt the Syrian civil war in favor of old Moscow ally Bashir al-Assad.

But the Chinese have even gone beyond this.  Doing much of the same in the way of 'reforms' as Russia (though China is still officially a communist country)  and bullying its neighbors to the southeast and east, China has also become a military power.  But beyond that,  the Chinese situation brings up the second question.

That question is this:  With the United States withdrawing from everything from the Paris climate accords to trade deals around the world, China has eagerly jumped in to replace the U.S. as a leader.  Showing leadership means to engage.  Now, it is certainly true that there have been some bad trade deals and I supported Trump's withdrawl from the proposed Trans-Pacific partnership;  Not, mind you, because it was a bad deal.  I don't know whether it was or it was not.  The reason I don't know is because the whole deal was negotiated in secret and even people who saw drafts of the deal were sworn to secrecy to where they could say nothing about what was in it.  The secrecy behind the TPP is what doomed it in the end, as many people felt (as I did) that the practice of negotiating that kind of a deal behind an opaque wall and saying nothing at all about it was itself  unacceptable, so we chose not to support it.

However, it is also true that where there is a vacuum, somebody will fill it.  TPP aside, the Trump administration has withdrawn the U.S. from MANY international treaties and deals,  leaving the game wide open for China to step into the leadership role and they have already been working out trade deals and inserting themselves anywhere the U.S. has stepped back from.  Heavy Chinese investment in Australia (formerly a reliable U.S. trading partner but less so anymore)  and even in Afghanistan (where American soldiers have died while Chinese companies have stepped in behind them and opened mines that develop the local economy and feed raw materials back to China) are cases where the failure of the U.S. to engage economically has created an opportunity for China.

Before making these grand (and contradictory) pronouncements about the U.S. engaging with the rest of the world AND opposing 'revisionist powers' (whatever that is supposed to mean)  perhaps the President should consider what it takes to do both of those things-- and balance them against each other as so far he has not done.
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