Month: January 2017 (Page 1 of 2)

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#NeverTrump was right: Trump is everything #NeverTrump warned about

In less than two weeks in office, President Trump has already proven to be everything #NeverTrump warned about. He has lied, abused his power, implemented unconstitutional policies, disgraced the office and divided the nation.

Trump has lied brazenly

@Cheryl707 @SalenaZito @BradOnMessage That’s a lot of words to use to defend a pathological liar. – @AndyKindler

Just the day after his inauguration, Donald Trump was already brazenly lying to the CIA and the public to appease his narcissism. He told the CIA that he had the largest crowd ever for his inauguration and that maybe 1.5 million people came. He had press secretary Sean Spicer yell at reporters and berate them for accurately reporting the crowd size. Spicer’s first remarks included provably false statements about the number of metro riders at both his and Obama’s inauguration and the use of floor coverings. The next day Kellyanne Conway defended Spicer on the grounds that he was simply using “alternative facts.”

And spread conspiracy theories
But that wasn’t even the worst of it. Trump also said that “3 to 5 million illegal votes” caused him to lose the popular vote, which he lost by 2.8 million votes. Defending his nut job claim, Trump cited random internet person, Gregg Phillips.

Trump has a long track record of affiliating himself with conspiracy theories, including leading the birther crusade against Obama, suggesting Obama is a secret Muslim, believing that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the JFK assassination, being advised by Roger Stone, and appearing on the Alex Jones show.

Trump’s lies about politics spread into much that he says to defend his policies, including stating that, “If you were a Muslim [applying for refugee status in Syria] you could come in, but if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible,” and that his executive order banning everyone including green card holders from seven countries was the same as something Obama did.

Trump abuses his power and violates the Constitution

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Source: Google Public Data Explorer

Tariffs are falling everywhere but in America — 12 charts to explain the economy

Economic charts to explain some aspects of Trump’s economic policy.

Donald Trump has proposed a 20 percent tariff to pay for his proposed barrier on the border with Mexico. During the campaign, he often proposed raising tariffs on China up to 40 percent and renegotiating or leaving trade deals. Among his first executive orders was one to call for “renegotiating” NAFTA and leaving the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Trump’s argument for doing so rests on the case that America imports a lot of goods and thus has a high trade deficit and that he and some of the economists he has surrounded himself with, such as Peter Navarro, believe that America’s trade deficit is causing manufacturing jobs to be lost to countries with low wages, like China.

Trump is right that the U.S. has a high trade deficit, though he often espouses false and exaggerated numbers. In one debate he said the U.S. had an $800 billion trade deficit. In fact, the U.S. had a $484 billion trade deficit (deficit in current account balance) in 2015. Canada and Mexico were also among the top seven.

However, the United States also has the largest economy in the world. America’s trade deficit is nearly the same as that of Canada and Mexico as a percentage of GDP. Indeed, according to the IMF, the three countries rank consecutively.

Tariffs around the world have been falling for years as countries embrace free trade. While Mexico’s average tariffs remains higher and more volatile than Canada’s or America’s, it has fallen since 1990.

Source: Google Data Explorer

Source: Google Data Explorer

Tariffs in important Asian countries have fallen “bigly.” China’s average tariff fell from over 30% in 1992 to less than 5% by 2014. When China joined the WTO in 2001, its tariff fell from close to 15% to 10% the next year.

Source: Google Public Data Explorer

Source: Google Public Data Explorer

Along with a decrease in tariffs, major Asian countries have also seen increases in imports.

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Trump breaks some immigration promises, makes partial progress on others

It’s Trump’s first week in office, and already he has broken some promises and made progress on others. Throughout Trump’s tenure, Bombs + Dollars will track Trump’s promises and offer updates at intervals.

Trump has already taken bold actions with a number of executive orders on immigration, abortion, and Obamacare. Republicans in Congress, as well, are trying their best to repeal Obamacare, although it’s unclear what kind of a replacement they will try to push through.

Among Trump’s major executive orders was one to keep the Guantanamo Bay military prison open and in use, which fulfills his pledge to keep Gitmo open.

An executive order to expend funds to build a barrier on the border leaves open the question of whether the barrier would be a wall or a fence, a distinction Trump made on the campaign trail. The executive order also spends American money, not Mexican money, which would violate Trump’s pledge to have Mexico pay for the wall. Trump claims he will eventually get Mexico to reimburse America.

Trump also is reportedly planning on signing an executive order to ban new refugees for a number of months and to ban anyone from a number of countries, including Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. That would result in more than 180 million Muslims being banned (Iran: 74.8 million Muslims; Sudan: 39.0 million; Iraq: 31.1 million; Yemen: 24.0 million; Syria: 20.8 million). However, there are 1,703 million Muslims in the entire world, including 257 million in South-East Asia alone, 204 million in Indonesia, 178 million in Pakistan, and 172 million in India. If this is the full extent of Trump’s “Muslim ban,” he would have failed massively to implement his plan for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” This policy, however, can credibly be argued to fulfill his promise to “suspend immigration from areas of the world where there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe or our allies, until we fully understand how to end these threats.”

Trump broke his promise to have call on Congress to pass “Kate’s Law” on his first day in office. To date, he has still not called on Congress to do so.

Presented below are some of the updates to the chart:

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Going forward, conservatives must not bow to Trump

January 20 we’ll all watch as Donald Trump is sworn into office, a spectacle most of us never thought would happen. For over a year we repeated the mantra of “keep calm, it won’t be Trump,” but that didn’t play out as we expected, obviously. In the midst of our astonishment we’ve been called to question much of what we’ve believed for so long, and, without doubt, I’ve had someone ask me a variation of the following at least once a day:
“I mean, didn’t we technically win? What do we do now as a movement? Should we give him a chance before judging his presidency? How will you handle things going forward?”

In reply I’ve given a slew of answers, from ideas on building a new party, to helping middle ground Democrats who are willing to meet us half-way. Maybe we stay on the right side of the aisle and be a voice of reason, or maybe we traipse over to the left and forge a new alliance. The options are endless, and everyone is walking around those options on eggshells, pondering the vast number of possibilities, and worried that they’ll choose the wrong one. However, regardless of how difficult the choice is, for so many it seems a choice must be made. They’re not content in the wilderness, and they desperately want to be a member of the tribe again.

I’ve listened to people say that, despite their refusal to vote for Trump, they must now join in the thunderous applause – “albeit reluctantly,” they’ll proclaim – of a Republican sweep until their fears are confirmed, because that’s what a good team player does. I’ve watched them cheer on Sessions, Tillerson, and Carson, despite obvious issues, simply because that’s what people on the right are doing.

As though getting behind the schoolyard bully is the only logical option, because while he’s shaken down all of the defenseless kids on the playground, it’s only reasonable to stand beside him until he shakes down the next, and then the next, and so on and so forth. They’re willing to wash, rinse, and repeat until there’s nothing left of their principles but a shell that barely tells the story of what they once were.

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Book Review: “Black Wind White Snow”

My review of Charles Clover’s “Black Wind White Snow”.

For International Affairs Chatham House.

 

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President Barack Obama meets with President-elect Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Few Recent Essays by yours truly

A lot changed in one year. Almost a pole switched, and the global order reversed, since September 2015 to Trump’s inauguration. A lot happened in between, questioning out essential assumptions about everything we know.

How did we get here? What changed? What went wrong, and how to explain the change?

From February 2017, I am starting to teach a course called “M11006 Problems in Global Politics” and I will be quite busy. But I took some time off, to write a few long essays about issues around us.

I like to see myself as a chronicler of time; a political realist, equally hated from the right and the left, and that gives me immense pleasure. True neutrality is something to be cherished, and strive for constantly. From the ashes of our civilisation, sometime in distant future, maybe there will remain some iconoclastic viewpoints, a few of them mine hopefully.

In that spirit, here are a few selected long essays from last couple of weeks. 

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Does President Trump deserve the respect of liberals?

Respect must be earned.

Two of the reasons Trump supporters are outraged this month are that Democratic Congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis called Trump an illegitimate president, and actress Meryl Streep criticized Trump in her speech at the Golden Globe awards. Trump is being disrespected in a way that no other modern president has been, we are told by Republicans and Trump supporters.

That may be. Conservative activists did begin holding Tea Party protests shortly into the first year of Obama’s term, and Rush Limbaugh did say that he hoped Obama failed, but Republican legislators didn’t begin making such attacks on the president until nine to twenty two months into his term. Joe Wilson Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell announced his goal of making Obama a one-term president in October 2010, and Rep. Joe Wilson interrupted Obama at his State of the Union speech to shout, “You lie!”

So it may be true that the Democrats are getting their unprecedented campaign of opposition to the new president started sooner than did the Republicans began unprecedentedly opposing Obama, but it’s also true that Obama and Trump are different people who got elected under different circumstances. By comparing Republican response to Obama to Democratic response to Trump, Republicans are implying that Obama and Trump are equal and should be treated equally. For a party that traditionally supports relatively unbridled capitalism, that’s a strange position to take. If everyone were equal in everything, shouldn’t everyone demand equal pay as each other?

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The Donald vs. the US Intelligence Community

If there’s anything that’s keeping me up at night, other than my PhD thesis, it is The Donald.

On a personal level, his (dis)temper, inadequate preparation for the exigencies of the office he has won, and his utter incapability to withhold commentary on absolutely anything that is purported to relate to him, concern me. The bigotry, homophobia, prejudice and racism upon which his campaign rested concern me. His “policies,” such as they are, concern me. His alliances with, and appointment of, heads of major corporations and individuals with a similar political acumen to himself (little to none), concern me. His policies toward immigrants, women, the disabled, and the poor concern me.

But there’s something more, that concern me as an Intel researcher.

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Trump: Neither isolationist nor interventionist

At China.org.cn, I analyze Trump’s foreign policy and why it doesn’t fit into traditional frames of reference:

The discourse over whether Donald Trump is “anti-interventionist” or a militant warmonger is misguided. Trump is neither, and yet he’s also both. Indeed, he has put forward arguments — contradictory as this may sound — for both ways of thinking.

The media and ideological analysts like narratives, and this has led them to seek to place Trump in one or other ideological camp. For instance, after he made noises that suggested he favored isolationism, many Americans on that side of the political spectrum considered Trump as one of their own.

A cohort of academics involved in international relations studies, including Professor Daniel Drezner of Tufts University, argued that Trump’s self-proclaimed anti-interventionism should be understood as “realism;” meanwhile, most respected realist scholars, such as Harvard’s Steven Walt, argued Trump wasn’t a realist at all.

The latest shot in the academic debate comes from George Washington University professor Henry Nau, who argued in The American Interest, just in time for Trump’s inauguration, that his traditional nationalism represents a dire threat to the longstanding American policy of “nationalism of internationalism,” which Nau defines as “intervention abroad to defend democratic allies, defeat terrorism, and trade freely.”

Embedded in his argument, however, some assumptions, derived from the view that Trump is an isolationist, simply don’t stand up to scrutiny. America will fall apart, Nau argues, if it reverts to “fighting terrorism at home because the United States is no longer willing to fight it on the ground abroad.” (“Fighting terrorism abroad” so Americans don’t have to face it at home is a neo-conservative argument for sending troops to Iraq or Afghanistan to fight ISIS, al-Qaeda and other insurgent groups).

It’s a misnomer, however, that Trump doesn’t want to send American troops abroad to fight terrorist and insurgent groups. After all, he’s repeatedly said he wants to “bomb the shit” out of ISIS in Syria. In March, he even paid lip-service to the need to send in up to 30,000 ground troops.

Read my full article: Trump: Neither isolationist nor interventionist

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A tale of two scandals

Investigations were being conducted into both of America’s two major party nominees by the FBI during the 2016 election. One was being looked at for her use of a private email server, the other for his alleged relations with Russia. The FBI director only gave a speech tearing into one and only released a letter 11 days before the election commenting publicly on one of the investigations.

Co-editor Sumantra Maitra wrote an article for Quillette about how Buzzfeed’s publication of the full document on Trump was irresponsible and causes trust in institutions to die. I recommend you read it. Sumantra is absolutely right.

But it’s not only trust in the press that is dying, trust in all institutions is threatened, including the FBI. One reason for that was FBI Director James Comey’s actions during the election, the double standard he applied to FBI investigations of Clinton versus those of Trump.

First, to make one thing clear: I don’t know whether most or some of the allegations in the report prepared as opposition research by a former British intel officer are true or not. Some of them appear highly unbelievable. Some of them have apparently already been disproven. But if one allegation is disproven that doesn’t mean all of them all. What we do know is that the FBI is investigating. The only fair thing we can say with certainty now is that we don’t know whether some portion of it is true or not.

The argument I present in this article is rather about the FBI and James Comey and how they influenced public discourse over the unverified report.

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