Dictator’s actions seem counter productive to stated goals…

January 31, 2017

It appears to me that business people at all levels don’t know quite what to think about our new president and dictator Donald Trump. On the one hand they like the idea of a lessening of costly regulations, on the other hand they are coming to the realization that upsetting global trade with the cancellation or suspension of free-trade deals could be detrimental to them.

Same with labor. Yes, blocking foreign competition would seem to offer more opportunity for United States workers, and in some cases that could be true, and in some cases not. Overall, it seems it could be a net loss for home-grown labor — I don’t pretend to know the real answer. But I have seen the stories about American businesses that depend upon foreign trade and components or parts coming in from other nations in order to keep their operations running.

Trump is playing hardball, using his vaunted (and possibly exaggerated) business negotiating skills to get a better deal with foreign competitors in trade but to me it seems he is engaging in overkill and may be inflicting so much damage to our nation’s relations around the world and the prestige of America that it will be hard to overcome and counter-productive to the goal of helping American workers and business he has set.

And since we know, the whole world knows, that Trump’s tactics are intimidation and the bluff, how long does it take before any advantage to that wears off?

(And beyond trade, how will Trump have any credibility with foreign leaders when he displays a penchant for lying and ignoring facts, even when those facts are plain to see? I mean that little game might work when you are just trying to impress those who follow you in blind trust but it is useless on the rest of the world.)

The immigrant or travel ban he set in motion with nothing more than a dictatorial decree, not even consulting his own executive departments, has created chaos. Although his stated goal is to prevent terrorists from entering the country, due to the haste and sloppy way it has been handled, it has seemingly caught good and innocent people in its net.

Students and research scientists and others who have valid visas and/or green cards have been caught up in the net. It’s as if a crime was committed in New York city and all its residents were detained — I know hyperbole, I’m just trying to make a point.

From Trump’s campaign rhetoric (that has turned into more than just rhetoric), we know that he is keeping a promise to his base, or should I say pandering to his base. And I would describe his base as, well not deplorables, but let’s just say not open-minded but rather narrow-minded people who don’t care for analyzing things and scoff at people who do as liberals (as if that were something horrible) who can think through problems but can’t get anything done.

Well, Trump may be getting things done but if it continues on this way the whole nation will suffer.

Most of Trump’s goals seem laudable — I mean if you say what you are doing is the make our country great again (well it always has been), how can one argue with that? But seriously protecting or bringing about more jobs for Americans and protecting all of us from terrorism — that has to be good, no? But I for one am not willing to give up our democracy and civil rights and destroy our image around the world to do this, and I am fairly sure that left unchecked Trump’s actions will for the most part have the opposite effect that he claims they will.

For now I will put my faith in an informed citizenry, a free and responsible press, a judiciary, and even the Republican majority (with the Democratic minority) to do its duty and maintain our democracy.

p.s.

Trump’s right-hand girl Kelleyanne Conway, and others, claim that a little loss of freedom is a small price to pay for making us safer. Well if making us safer means giving up freedom I’d rather live dangerously. And yes, I realize there are or could be times when a state of emergency might require unusual action — this is not that time.

Also, we are assured that any temporary confusion is just a matter of getting the bugs worked out of policy. I have the suspicion that it has more to do with mal intent and amateurism at the top.

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As we enter the second week of the dictatorship

January 29, 2017

Make no mistake about it, we in the United States are one week and counting into the Donald Trump dictatorship.

(Yes, I realize the accusation that a president is acting like a dictator is commonplace, Republicans accused Barack Obama of that. But I really think this is for real and poses an imminent threat unless action is taken soon.)

Many actions have been taken, such as banning people from entering the country without clear guidelines as to figure out exactly who is to be banned, and therefore in some cases, it has been reported, banning American citizens, scientists from abroad, green card holders, and students. He has ordered the construction of a new wall at the U.S.- Mexico border, the virtual repeal of Obamacare,  a halt to enforcement of some environmental regulations, the building of new environmentally-questionable oil and gas pipelines, and has attempted to muzzle communication between government agencies and the press and public.

Perhaps most troublesome of all, by a simple signing of an executive order he suspended NAFTA the free-trade agreement that links the U.S. and Mexico and Canada. His aim he said was to stop Mexico from taking unfair advantage of us and stealing jobs from American workers. But the fact is, whether there needs to be a more favorable negotiation, is that pulling out of NAFTA could mean a major loss for U.S. business and jobs. So an action has been taken without any study of the facts and debate in congress and could do irreparable damage to our economy. And the way it was done and the ongoing issue in which the president claims Mexico should pay for the wall (and they would do that because?) may well force Mexico to turn to other trading partners –China? South America, Spain, the rest of the world.

He also by the stroke of his pen put what could be considered the final nail in the coffin of the U.S. participating in a trans pacific trade deal, thus turning over the reins to China.

While not unprecedented for presidents, he has declared a virtual war on journalism — I know most people prefer the term “media” — and has asserted something his administrations calls “alternative facts”.

But without getting into detail about all he is doing, let’s just look at the immigration action or travel ban — I say travel ban because at one point over the past 24 or 48 hours people holding green cards were advised by the government to check with the proper authorities first before leaving the country– they might not be let back in.

The action on immigration seems somewhat confusing but I lifted the following from the New York Times (and I hope that does not violate copyright):


The president’s order, enacted with the stroke of a pen at 4:42 p.m. Eastern on Friday, suspended entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days, barred Syrian refugees indefinitely and blocked entry into the United States for 90 days for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

A series of rulings by federal judges across the country blocked part of the president’s actions, preventing the government from deporting some travelers who found themselves ensnared by the presidential order. But the court decisions largely stopped short of letting them into the country or issuing a broader ruling on the constitutionality of Mr. Trump’s actions.


Now the whole premise of the wall and the immigration ban is that they are actions designed to protect our nation from a flood of undocumented immigrants, enemies, and common criminals from without. But the way that this is all coming down, by executive orders signed with much fanfare by President Trump but without any legislative debate and action I fear sets a precedent for more to come. It’s shaping up to be a dictatorship or actually already is.

Now I am reading that there is beginning to be some concern among the Republican majority in congress. I would hope so. And of course there is by the Democrats.

What worries me is that if the president by simple fiat can do all this, what is to stop him from doing anything, such as banning travel by American citizens abroad? Walls and travel restrictions can work both ways. He might come up with some theory about citizens engaging in conspiracies with foreign counterparts or he might simply declare certain places too dangerous for American citizens to travel to — and they might not be the usually suspects. He might declare France too dangerous or any nation who might have the temerity to criticize his administration — say Mexico.

Even if he does not have bad motives, this is Trump’s style, and it is a very dangerous one.


I have attached most of my previous post:

I generally prefer a strong president. And that certainly is what Donald Trump in his first week of office thinks he is no doubt. And to bolster that feeling he is holding the Republican Party hostage — I mean he won the presidency by the rules, and even if he did not get the majority vote, he did get a sizeable vote. And he did this under the banner of the Republican Party (with some reluctance until he seemed inevitable).

And to top that he has seemingly sent the Democratic Party into the wilderness. It is all but powerless at this time in both houses of congress and holds very few state houses anymore.

Commentator David Brooks of the New York Times and a regular on the PBS News Hour offered that Trump is really not a Republican or Democrat or of any party — he just used the GOP to his advantage.

And I would say that he does seem to have the GOP regulars confused and disoriented.

His first week of office, just past, was governance and foreign policy by tweet and executive orders.

It is preferable I believe to have a strong leader (not Trump maybe, but a strong person, male or female) in charge. I wish we could swap Trump for Prime Minister Theresa May of the United Kingdom. She speaks intelligently and sounds reasonable (don’t know if I would agree with all of her ideas). But at the same time we have something called the “separation of powers” between the three branches of government (executive, legislative, judicial) which is supposed to create a system of checks and balances to prevent one branch from taking over and to prevent a dictatorship.

Now the modern history is that executives, often in conjunction with their party in congress, have done their best to pack the Supreme Court in an effort to use it as a tool, that is to select judges they think will render opinions favorable to their way of thinking. That does not always work. Justices have a habit of being not always predictable and of being independent and they cannot be fired, only impeached. No U.S. Supreme Court justices have been removed via impeachment. One did resign under threat of impeachment.

But anyway I would hope, even though Trump won on the Republican ticket and even though the GOP has control of congress, that the legislative branch who is not in lockstep with him on all issues, that is not in private (in public they are in a quandary), will not simply roll over and play dead or back down in fear they will anger Trump’s following. They have their own home constituents, many of whom will likely suffer from many of Trump’s proposals if brought to fruition or who at least don’t approve of his policies.

And finally, I give credit to Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim (what, the third richest man in the world?) for explaining that Trump is a negotiator but not an experienced policy maker and that policy cannot be made by tweets. Slim, it is said, prefers face-to-face meetings or the telephone. He reportedly does not have a twitter account.

And then about business people running public policy:

Government is not a business and is not meant to be. The duty of democratic (small d)government is to serve the people, even when in doing so no profit is made. However that does not mean governments should bankrupt the treasury — of course they have to be fiscally responsible.

But one person’s fiscally responsible is another’s boondoggle.

Anyway, hopefully there will be checks on our new strong leader’s power: the other two branches of government, and most important, an informed citizenry, who can keep up on the issues via a free and unrestricted but responsible press.

 


President Trump needs to be kept in check…

January 29, 2017

NOTE: Events seem to be moving so fast. I think we are moving into a dictatorship here in the United States of America — and they said it couldn’t happen here. I will likely have another post today. When I wrote this current post the full implications of the travel or immigration ban had not sunk in yet. This dictatorship can be stopped if responsible people in government, irrespective of party affiliation, consider their country first. They need to move now, however.


 

I generally prefer a strong president. And that certainly is what Donald Trump in his first week of office thinks he is no doubt. And to bolster that feeling he is holding the Republican Party hostage — I mean he won the presidency by the rules, and even if he did not get the majority vote, he did get a sizeable vote. And he did this under the banner of the Republican Party (with some reluctance until he seemed inevitable).

And to top that he has seemingly sent the Democratic Party into the wilderness. It is all but powerless at this time in both houses of congress and holds very few state houses anymore.

Commentator David Brooks of the New York Times and a regular on the PBS News Hour offered that Trump is really not a Republican or Democrat or of any party — he just used the GOP to his advantage.

And I would say that he does seem to have the GOP regulars confused and disoriented.

His first week of office, just past, was governance and foreign policy by tweet and executive orders.

It is preferable I believe to have a strong leader (not Trump maybe, but a strong person, male or female) in charge. I wish we could swap Trump for Prime Minister Theresa May of the United Kingdom. She speaks intelligently and sounds reasonable (don’t know if I would agree with all of her ideas). But at the same time we have something called the “separation of powers” between the three branches of government (executive, legislative, judicial) which is supposed to create a system of checks and balances to prevent one branch from taking over and to prevent a dictatorship.

Now the modern history is that executives, often in conjunction with their party in congress, have done their best to pack the Supreme Court in an effort to use it as a tool, that is to select judges they think will render opinions favorable to their way of thinking. That does not always work. Justices have a habit of being not always predictable and of being independent and they cannot be fired, only impeached. No U.S. Supreme Court justices have been removed via impeachment. One did resign under threat of impeachment.

But anyway I would hope, even though Trump won on the Republican ticket and even though the GOP has control of congress, that the legislative branch who is not in lockstep with him on all issues, that is not in private (in public they are in a quandary), will not simply roll over and play dead or back down in fear they will anger Trump’s following. They have their own home constituents, many of whom will likely suffer from many of Trump’s proposals if brought to fruition or who at least don’t approve of his policies.

And finally, I give credit to Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim (what, the third richest man in the world?) for explaining that Trump is a negotiator but not an experienced policy maker and that policy cannot be made by tweets. Slim, it is said, prefers face-to-face meetings or the telephone. He reportedly does not have a twitter account.

And then about business people running public policy:

Government is not a business and is not meant to be. The duty of democratic (small d)government is to serve the people, even when in doing so no profit is made. However that does not mean governments should bankrupt the treasury — of course they have to be fiscally responsible.

But one person’s fiscally responsible is another’s boondoggle.

Anyway, hopefully there will be checks on our new strong leader’s power: the other two branches of government, and most important, an informed citizenry, who can keep up on the issues via a free and unrestricted but responsible press.

p.s.

The president of course has enacted a travel ban on all refugees entering the U.S. and the details seem sketchy or unclear as I write this, but apparently there are already reports of people who have green cards being denied entry back in and people doing scientific work, and other hapless travelers (due to confusion over enforcement). I’d have to digest all this —  but in light of world terrorism we need to take strong measures,  but there needs to be care in doing so. While it is said that we have not had terrorist attacks from people coming from out of country since 9/11 (ours have been home grown) that is not entirely true. As an example, the woman in the San Bernardino attack came from Pakistan (and both man and woman had visited Saudi Arabia), and others I would think may have been directed from abroad and we likely have people who have slipped in who are plotting. All the more reason we need comprehensive immigration reform — both Republicans and Democrats have failed in this. We need legislative action on this, not just policy by fiat from the president. But he claims his bold actions is what gets people talking. Congress needs to do more than talk and it needs to do more than cower before Trump (both Democrats and Republicans). It’s early, though. But things seem to be moving at warp speed.


On torture: I am against it but I also have this ever-so-slightly nuanced position…

January 27, 2017

Do we really want to go back to the Middle Ages?

I’m talking about President Trump resurrecting the notion that we should “torture” terrorist captives in order to extract information.

Now there is perhaps a difference of opinion on what exactly constitutes torture but I thought it had been a settled issue that waterboarding was indeed torture.


And right up front I have to note that torture would seem to be prohibited in our Bill of Rights, in the 8th Amendment to be more specific:

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. (from Wikipedia)

I have not done actual legal research, but my quick check of the facts is that under current U.S. law “torture” is illegal. However, there is an ongoing debate as to whether waterboarding constitutes torture, with some legal interpretations issued that say yes and some no. This post is not specifically about that question.

 


 

In interviews I saw with Trump over the last 24 hours he clearly said he was in favor of “torture” — he used that word. Now apparently he was referring to waterboarding and not the rack or drawing and quartering people, but he used the word “torture” more than once and said he supports it and claimed that some people inside the world of terrorist interrogations claimed it is effective, while he previously disclosed that Gen. James Mattis, his Secretary of Defense pick, said it was not.

I myself would not argue whether it was effective, although I would doubt you could count on it. Torture me or you and the both of us might well say anything we thought our tormentors wanted to hear. I have read that in some cases terror suspects give erroneous information to make the torture stop and to mislead their interrogators.

But here’s the point as far as I am concerned: inflicting torture is morally wrong. If you don’t mind being immoral, then I guess that does not matter. And maybe more importantly it creates a danger. Once we officially engage in torture and make it known, we have no leverage against anyone else who might then inflict that torture on our own people and our actions might even encourage a wider-spread use of it against our people by any enemy. And more important than all of that is that once we go down the road of torture we shall surely fall into the abyss of immorality and lose our souls.

I know, I sound like some kind of preacher here. But it has unnerved me ever since this subject came up several years ago. I was appalled that normal people seem to be indifferent to the subject — I mean who cares what we do to people who are our enemies and for that matter would torture us (and then kill us) if they had the opportunity? Well I don’t care about the people we torture so much, but I care about ourselves and what it does to us as a people.

And there is always this argument presented: what if a child or other loved one of yours was being held hostage and in imminent danger, wouldn’t you want the authorities to use any means possible including torture to extract information to free your loved one?

That I feel is a loaded question of sorts. In such a situation you would surely act on emotion and sincere love for the one in distress and a justified sense of responsibility for the one in danger. In other words, if this makes sense, you would be seeing the micro picture but not the macro picture. Things of this nature are situational. But I come back to it being a loaded question because you are almost forced to choose one answer. I’ll leave the point there.

But, am I naïve? I grew up watching World War II movies. The story was that the Japanese and the Germans engaged in gross maltreatment of our prisoners of war. The Japanese especially were portrayed as being particularly brutal. On the other hand the story was always that we did not engage in mistreatment of prisoners. Well I was not there. I don’t know what may or may not have happened on our side.

I have read that there are far better ways to extract useful information from prisoners than torture. Gaining their trust and offering kindness and friendship (if only as a ruse) often is effective. They, like we would in the same spot, have a fear or concern about the unknown. They don’t know what might happen. So they are trying to figure out if cooperating might be in their own personal best interests. I mean isn’t that how our own police get confessions. You get arrested and even without any actual physical mal treatment you are held captive and have no way of knowing when it will end while you are kept hours in a hostile or extremely uncomfortable environment. You figure better to say something and make it end, make a deal, gain your freedom. A lot of false but signed confessions have been the result of all that.

And then that brings me back to something I noted in a previous post: while I don’t think we as a nation should officially recognize torture as legal and necessary, who knows what really goes on behind closed doors? A prisoner charged or suspected of a terrorist act or having important information might go into an interrogation with confidence he or she is protected by U.S. law from abuse but his captors might imply, that’s just the official story.

I am 100 percent against torture. I am sincere in that. I am not as enthusiastic about broadcasting to the whole world what we will and will not do. Keep ’em guessing.

So I have presented, at least between the lines, a somewhat nuanced position on torture.

p.s.

And as in capital punishment, there is always the possibility of the wrong person being detained. It has happened in many, many murder cases that resulted in executions (we have found out obviously after the fact) and in the detention of terror suspects.

 


The wall and charges of voter fraud a distraction for the press and American people…

January 26, 2017

The wall and the claims of widespread voter fraud and the inane argument over crowd sizes seems to be all part of a distraction. What we really need to do is look behind the scenes and see what President Trump and the Republican congress (whose interests may not always be the same) are really up to.

I have to wonder where all the enmity against Mexico by Trump comes from or what it is all about. My only idea is that it is just part of his demagoguery that may have helped him win the election. Apparently in some circles being anti-Mexico gains votes. But he continues out of habit and the realization that his hostility can be a useful tool, for him that is.

Now we all know there is an ongoing drug war in Mexico and violence has been particularly bad along the border, mostly within Mexico. We of course have our own violence here in the U.S., only a fraction of it in any way connected to Mexico.

But Trump has claimed more than once — recorded on video tape — that Mexico is sending criminals and rapists over the border. I would think the more obvious truth is that people come over primarily in search of work and a better and safer life but along with them, along with most any group of people, there are bad actors — “bad dudes”, as Trump might say.

So yes, border security is always a serious matter. But I am fairly sure the wall project is a costly blunder. We already have fencing, and walls in some cases, along with geographical barriers in some spots. And people can get around up and over and under walls and will no doubt.

And what are we supposed to do with those caught trying to scale the wall? Machine gun them down like the old East German border guards? Okay for those of you too young to remember, back when Germany was divided between a soviet-controlled sector, East Germany, and free western democracy, West Germany, East German guards would shoot down anyone trying to escape. There are films of that. Very ugly. Of course in this case we would be building a wall to keep people out — but I think the whole thing is just some made-up issue to stir up bigoted people and get their votes. Trump got enough votes, but now he is using it as a distraction to keep the press busy while he and his cohorts or even the existing Republican majority pushes through its anti-progressive agenda.

I am fairly sure Mexico is not going to directly pay for that wall. And we know now by admission of the new administration that indeed it is the American taxpayer who would be footing the bill up front for this sort of modern version of the Maginot Line (that failed line of fortifications that did not stop Germans from blitzkrieging into France in WWII — they went around it). It would be impossible to build a wall the whole length of the border due to geography, environmental problems, and even the disruption of the use of property by American citizens.

Actually, although Trump’s proposal is commonly referred to by him and others as a “wall”, it has been brought out that an actual wall would be just part of it, the rest being augmenting of existing barriers, basically fencing.


This from the CNN site:

As far as cost goes,Trump has cited a $10 billion estimate that was given to him during the campaign by the National Precast Concrete Association. That comes to about $7.4 million per mile.


The whole project sounds like boondoggle to me.

Even so, I am all for border security. I have been on the southwestern border at various spots many times. I’m not sure our existing Border Patrol manpower is being used efficiently. When several agents pour out of a shack in the middle of the night to check my truck (I am a truck driver) and then go back into that shack I have to wonder: why so many? And if you’ve ever gone through the check station on I-5 near San Onofre, Ca. (between San Diego and LA) you have to wonder what’s up with all the Border Patrol vehicles stationary. And that is not to say that I am not aware that much work is done by the patrol and it can be very dangerous. But we need to be efficient about all this.

It would be far better if we had a president who was more diplomatic with Mexico, maybe even one who spoke Spanish, and worked with that nation on our mutual concerns and for our mutual benefit between nations, especially in the areas of trade and immigration and drug enforcement, but environmental is important too. We have to remember that the drug war is the result of competing criminal gangs vying for control of a huge market in the U.S.  And those guns they use down there come from up here. International trade on the black market.

Finally, I imagine modern technology makes a wall all but obsolete.

While I have to admit it is nice to see a president moving swiftly on problems, all that photo-op of executive order signing and all that tweeting are both the result of Trump’s love affair with himself and his continuing need for adoration and more importantly may be a distraction to cover up — who knows what?

Hopefully someone is covering the real story.

p.s.

Trump’s continuing claim that there was wide-spread voter fraud is puzzling when it seems there is no evidence and he cites none. But for a couple or more decades now the far right (mostly via radio programs that seem to reach an audience who wants to believe) have spread false narratives, mixed in with a small dose of verifiable fact at times, that has sunk into the psyche of a segment of our society and now President Trump has benefited from that and continues along the same vein. Of course voter fraud is a serious matter but then why is there no evidence presented by Trump or others who claim it? I mean if it is there let’s fix it. Oh, one report I saw says that much of the small amount of voter fraud that does occur is with absentee ballots. Yeah, look into that. Oh, and at least two of his cabinet picks, it has been reported, are registered to vote in more than one state. Yeah let’s look into all that.


We need both protection (ism) and trade…

January 24, 2017

Trump is tearing up the free-trade deals. One way to look at it is that he is moving away from globalization which many blame for wreaking havoc on our economy and way of life, but maybe you can’t really run from the global economy but you can get a better deal, and I think that is what he has said he would do all along.

Can he do it? We will see. There is going to be pressure on his own party members in congress by many large corporations not to kill the goose that laid the golden egg, American workers be damned.

He definitely sounded the protectionist theme in his inauguration address. And he has promised to slap higher taxes or tariffs onto goods coming into the country and punish companies that send work overseas and then import products back into the U.S.

I have mixed emotions. I mean there is no mixed emotion about what I think of Trump the man — he is a vile character. But he is president and he has the power to do things — the ability, we’ll see.

But I have thought and wrote ever since I began this blog more than eight years ago that there is no reason we cannot stress Made in America and rebuild our great productive power. I have always lamented what I think was the wrong-headed thinking of moving to the so-called “service economy”. But at the same time I recognized that we would likely have to move carefully and avoid the protectionism that history indicates resulted in the Great Depression.

And while I do not pretend to understand the complexities of international trade I have been part of it on a down-to-earth basis for the past two decades working as an over-the-road truck driver. A large percentage of the hauling I have done involves international trade, much of it between the U.S. and Mexico. As an example, I have hauled particle board from Oregon to the Mexican border to be forwarded on into Mexico, and then hauled produce from Mexico back to Oregon. The highway lanes go both ways folks.

It seems to me that years ago I hauled apples to the port of Seattle to be shipped to Australia but that I also at times picked up apples coming in from Australia. I know I have hauled grapes out of California’s Central Valley that were home-grown, but ironically I have hauled grapes out of the same coolers that originated in the South American nation of Chile. The seasons are opposite of course on either side of the equator.

One heck of a lot of jobs are tied up in international trade all up and down the line involving transportation (drivers, warehouse workers, buyers and brokers), and retail marketing, and various other sectors. And in the case of produce, the consumer gets an abundant supply all year around at arguably reasonable prices.

But would you say U.S. agriculture is for free trade? Depends. If you grow rice or walnuts I would think so. A major portion of those crops are marketed overseas. But lemon growers have successfully got Trump to put the brakes shipments of lemons from Argentina into the U.S. (just happened to read that, and I think it may be just a temporary hold).

However, in my way of thinking it is a shame that in a nation such as ours with such abundant land and natural resources we cannot produce what we need to supply ourselves and keep ourselves employed while we are at it. We would wind up paying a lot more for some things and I imagine some products would disappear from the shelves.

I don’t think we want to close our borders to all imports, even if that were possible. But it seems we have gone too far the other way. Employment statistics from the government are somewhere between skewed and misleading to useless. Look around. There are far too many people unemployed or under employed and far too many who have to work for too low of a wage to sustain an acceptable style of living. And too many young people face bleak job prospects, and we are producing generations in some levels of society who do not even know what work is.

Trump seems to be taking the hardball approach, tearing up trade agreements to force a better deal, but some observers are concerned that pulling out of the Trans Pacific Partnership (congress never ratified it but Trump has officially pulled us out) will cede the leadership in trade over to China.

But I do like the idea of Made in America.

Our best hope would to be to compete at the upper level in quality like Germany does, not at the lower level like China and many of the third-world countries do (and I in no way mean that all Chinese imports or ones from other nations are always inferior).

p.s.

This nation has depended upon world trade from its beginnings and will continue to do so, but of course each nation, including ours, has to look out for its own interests, and that means putting its people first.

 


Truth is the ultimate weapon, but sloppy reporting will dull it…

January 23, 2017

Journalism is under attack from the Trump administration.

And what else is new?

Journalism is almost always under attack by presidential administrations or sometimes administrations cozy up to it and use it for their own purposes, which can be more damaging than a head-on assault.

Right now it appears that in its first days the Trump administration is desperately trying to convince everyone that unfavorable reports are all lies, even though in many things there seems to be so much evidence to the contrary — I mean crowd sizes are always hard to estimate, but it seems clear that way more people turned out Saturday in Washington D.C. to protest the new president than for Friday’s inauguration.

First Trump and then his surrogates claim it is all press lies, and then confronted with the truth they fall back to the size of the crowds is really not important, the important thing was that he was elected.

But Trump and his surrogates have to keep hammering at the journalists because they need someone or something to distract from the truth. Journalists play the part of their foil. As long as they can project the notion that people in the media are spewing lies about the Trump administration they feel or hope they can keep the story focused on what they claim is unfair reporting rather than the real issues.

On the other hand, journalists play right into their hands when they are too cavalier with reporting as fact or implying fact without named or credible sources.

Case in  point, media outlets jumped all over a New York Times story that Trump’s Secretary of Energy nominee Rick Perry (former Gov. of Texas) did not know that the department he agreed to head oversaw the nation’s nuclear arsenal. And so a plethora of headlines proclaimed his ignorance. Now there is a controversy over the fact that the Times failed to cite actual sources and the story itself does not quite live up to its headline or its lead.

As far as I know, Perry has not said what he knew and did not know exactly, but in his confirmation hearing he admitted to changing his mind about the role and responsibilities of the department.

Of course Perry is such a good story. He’s the guy who could not remember the name of the department he now wants to run. During a presidential candidate debate he began naming federal departments he wanted to scuttle, energy was one of them, except when he got to the point where he was intending to name it there was a pregnant pause and then he admitted he forgot the name of it (did not have a clue, did a complete flop sweat). Biggest campaign gaffe in history maybe. But to mis-report something about him or report without confirmation of the facts is a major gaffe as well and has implications on a whole profession and the public’s ability to be accurately informed.

A candidate only hurts himself, sloppy journalists do damage to the whole profession and the public at large.

The best thing journalists can do I think is stick to the verifiable truth and not be drawn into skirmishes with the administration that only serve to discredit themselves. Report the facts and let them speak for themselves, I’d say. But don’t be bashful about reporting those facts. And sometimes when something is important enough, that is deemed so crucial the public needs to know now, then great care should be taken to emphasize that all the facts are not in — and mere rumor reporting is seldom justified in honest journalism.

Gossip and rumor reporting only hurts the cause of mainstream journalism and should be left on the supermarket checkout stands with the tabloids (and fake news sites on the web are a form of as yet seemingly incurable cancer that threatens the lifeblood of journalism).

And simply reporting Trump tweets is not journalism. Yes, he is president, and they have to be acknowledged, but there is more of substance to report and it should be given more play.

I do find it strange that Trump personally and his staff got so riled about the crowd size reporting. I think it makes them look awful silly when they have to lie about the crowd size to dispute reports and when Trump special advisor Kellyanne Conway has to come up with something about while the journalists have one set of facts the administration has an “alternative set of facts”. It’s Trump against the world I guess.

And poor Trump, first it was the gibe during the campaign about the implications of his stubby fingers, and then the size of the crowd at his inauguration.

I guess he is worried that size matters.