Thursday, September 7, 2017

Trump's Big CON: Lacking Honesty, Empathy, and Ability, He Is Simply Not Presidential Material, CONt.

UPDATE II:  "[B]roadcast and cable producers know — and Trump knows deeply — that most Americans don’t really care that much about what they insist they care about. A few headlines will get most through the morning. Twitter and Facebook keep the curious plied with updates, and by day’s end, who really wants to plunge into tax reform?

It is true, nonetheless, that when Trump needs time to fidget with something that actually matters, he tosses a dead fish into the Dasani tank and waits for the media herdlings to begin their march toward the trough.

Temporarily spared the spotlight, Trump fluffs the thatched nest atop his head and invites his brain to hatch some very bad ideas. Thus, we seem to be on the brink of a nuclear confrontation with North Korea. Remember when we used to worry about Trump having his finger on the nuclear launch button? Square that. When the other antagonist is North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, the nightmare can’t be dismissed as the twisted hankie of the persistently worried.

Never have two less qualified 'leaders' been so endowed with such devastating power without the requisite impulse control upon which living civilizations depend. Not to mention that these two nuke hecklers are unmercifully coifed to resemble cartoon characters so that we, the soberly sane, are left to ponder our face-melting demise as a clown showdown between two renegade circus performers. . .

In July, Trump was typically eloquent in describing his approach to thwarting disaster:

“We’ll handle North Korea. We’ll be able to handle North Korea. It will be handled. We handle everything.”

Whew, that.

As further insult to reason, this isn’t even a conflict over something at least historically rational, such as the now nearly charming contest between communism and Americanism. No battle of wits, the U.S.-North Korea stare-down is more accurately a battle of nitwits who seem to think threatening nuclear holocaust and mutual destruction is a contest to see who has bigger hands.

No one would suggest that Trump is responsible for all the nail biting these past few months or that Kim’s missile and nuclear tests aren’t deadly serious. But Trump surely has exacerbated matters with his “fire and fury” rhetoric. The goading language of ultimatum, more than a bluffing tactic, is an inflammatory agent such that the possible moves inexorably toward the inevitable. U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, the president’s toughest-talking Cabinet member, recently said: 'We have kicked the can down the road long enough. There is no more road left.'

Perhaps Kim might argue the same. Meanwhile, a can-kicking strategy (i.e., containment and diplomacy) seems a not-irrational substitute for mutual annihilation. Have we reached a point of no return? Will the president of the United States fire Kim, or will he invent some new distraction (staffers: Watch your backs) while he becomes a stealth, wartime leader?"

Read the Washington Post, Have we reached a point of no return?

UPDATE:  "Trump kicked off September by threatening a trade war with China and South Korea and pushing to deport young people at a time when businesses are struggling to find enough workers to fill all the available jobs. . .

So far in Trump's presidency, his threats on trade just turned out to be hot air. He said he would pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico. Instead, his administration is renegotiating it. He talked repeatedly of putting tariffs on steel and aluminum imports this summer, but it was repeatedly put off and Trump now says it's behind several other major items on his agenda. The China rhetoric may turn out to be more of the same, but businesses are on edge amid news this weekend that Trump had instructed his senior staff to draft the documents that would end the U.S.-South Korean trade deal. . .

The U.S.-Korea trade deal was negotiated under both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama. It has bipartisan support because it's not just about economics, it's about containing North Korea and China's influence in Asia. If Trump cancels the deal now, it sends a message to South Korea to deepen its relationship with China. It also plays into North Korea's hands by causing a rift between South Korea and the United States. . .

Trump has been touting how well the economy is doing lately. Unemployment is at a 16-year low, the stock market is soaring, and growth hit 3 percent in period between April and June. In a very encouraging sign, even business investment was finally picking up a bit. But Trump is putting that momentum in jeopardy by angering business leaders yet again.

Read the Washington Post, What Trump is doing with DACA and trade could backfire badly.

"President Trump in three very different settings over the past few days reminded us how unsuited he is for the job. Increasingly, his presidency is defined by blatant lies, an empathy deficit and a frightful lack of ability to navigate through dire international crises. Each has been on display. . .

One is left, still, agog at Trump’s dishonesty, narcissism and inability to project the calmness and discipline we expect from a president. Those who thought he’d grow in office or who perpetually think he’s “pivoting” or “becoming presidential” have engaged in dangerous delusion. One wonders how long we can muddle on with a president this unsuitable without provoking a constitutional or international calamity."

Read the Washington Post, Something is seriously off about this president.

Trump's Big CON: The Son-in-Law's Ruinous Business Experience Will Make Him a Disastrous Government Leader

The Trump family "story" is that son-in-law Jared Kushner will be a  'great government leader because of his successful business experience'.

So , Kushner is “President Trump’s point man with the Chinese . . brokering a durable truce between the Israelis and the Palestinians. 'If you can’t produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can,' Trump said to the 36-year-old real estate scion, who has absolutely no background in diplomacy, from the stage of an inaugural party. . . [and] supervising the brand new Office of American Innovation, whose modest ambition is a full-scale reorganization of the federal government that makes it more efficient.”

(Did I miss anything?)

Turns out, Jared is a failure, just masquerading as a successful businessman.

Read Business Insider, Jared Kushner's real estate empire is reportedly in a difficult financial position.

How did such a stupid group get elected.

Trump's Big CON: Red State Hypocrisy, Courtesy of Harvey

UPDATE X:  "The bulk of the federal money to help Texas residents rebuild their lives and communities should come in the form of a loan — perhaps a long-term loan at a favorable interest rate, but definitely a loan.

Here is why: Texas is avowedly a low-tax state. There is no personal income tax. There is no corporate income tax (although there is a surrogate tax on corporate receipts). There is no state-level tax on estates or inheritances. Texas ranks No. 46 out of the 50 states in state and local tax burden per capita, according to recent data from the Tax Foundation. It ranks 43rd in state tax revenue per capita.

Texas wants and needs federal help to rebuild from Harvey, and the federal government should provide significant financial aid. But it is grossly unfair for Texas to accept funds from all of America’s taxpayers to allow it to continue its exceptionally low-taxed ways. Unless Texas is willing to bear a reasonable share of the Harvey costs through increased state and local taxes, then the rest of the United States would just be giving Texas a handout. Better for the federal government to offer Texas a 'hand-up' in the form of immediate cash support with the requirement that Texas generate tax revenue to repay that help."

Read the Washington Post, Low-tax Texas should pay its fair share of Harvey costs.

UPDATE IX:  Read the Washington Post, When a red state gets the blues, which reads in substantial part:

"The Republic of Texas believes in self-reliance and is suspicious of Washington sticking its big nose in your business. 'Government is not the answer. You are not doing anyone a favor by creating dependency, destroying individual responsibility.' So said Sen. Ted Cruz (R), though not last week. Sunday on Fox News, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Texas would need upward of $150 billion in federal aid for damage inflicted by Harvey. The stories out of Houston have all been about neighborliness and helping hands and people donating to relief funds, but you don’t raise $150?billion by holding bake sales. This is almost as much as the annual budget of the U.S. Army. I’m just saying.

I’m all in favor of pouring money into Texas, but I am a bleeding-heart liberal who favors single-payer health care. How is being struck by a hurricane so different from being hit by cancer? I’m only asking.

In Cruz’s run for president last year, he called for the abolition of the Internal Revenue Service. He did not mention this last week. It would be hard to raise an extra $150?billion without the progressive income tax unless you could persuade Mexico to foot the bill.

Similarly, if a desert state such as Arizona expects the feds to solve its water shortage, as Sen. Jeff Flake (R) suggested recently, by guaranteeing Arizona first dibs on Lake Mead, this strikes me as a departure from conservative principles. Lake Mead, and Boulder Dam, which created it, were not built by Lake Mead Inc., but by the federal government. The residents of Phoenix decided freely to settle in an arid valley, and they have used federal water supplies to keep their lawns green. Why should we Minnesotans, who chose to live near water, subsidize golf courses on the desert? You like sunshine? Fine. Take responsibility for your decision and work out a deal with Perrier to keep yourselves hydrated. . .

Conservatives blanch at spending additional billions to subsidize health care for the needy, but a truckload of cash for Texas? No problem. It makes me think we Minnesotans should get a few billion in federal aid for recovery from the upcoming winter. It is going to be cold. This will cause damage to homes. Drive-in movie theaters and golf courses and marinas will suffer loss of revenue. We must salt the highways to prevent accidents, and the salt corrodes our cars. And then there is the mental anguish.

If Minnesota gets billions of dollars for winter recovery, then I am going to seriously consider becoming a conservative. As a philosophy of governing, conservatism is rather sketchy, but if it helps Minnesota, I am all in favor. I have my principles, but I can be bought, same as the rest of you."

UPDATE VIII:  Read also CBS News, Why is Houston so prone to major flooding?, which notes:

Houston is "relatively flat and is barely above sea level. Downtown is only about 50 feet above sea level, and there's only about a four-foot change between the highest and lowest parts of downtown. That means when rain falls, it has nowhere to go, and takes a long time to drain out. . .

Some experts also point to Houston's big building boom as a potential factor, in exacerbating the problem  Development decreased the amount of wetlands in the city by almost 50 percent over the last 25 years.

All that hard, impermeable pavement means there's less land to soak up rainfall after a major storm.

Combine all that with the fact Houston is only about 50 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. That puts it right in the path of slow-moving storms that can generate massive amounts of rainfall.

In fact, the number of downpours measuring at least 10 inches have doubled over the last 30 years."

UPDATE VII:  "In 1994, after the the Great Flood of 1993 in the upper Midwest, a study was issued.

“At the time, Houston ranked third (and surrounding Harris County fourth) in the nation in the number of repetitive-loss buildings, behind only Jefferson Parish, La., and New Orleans. It was too late to change policies in a way that would help New Orleans, which was already mostly built out — and mostly at or below sea level. But Houston and its adjacent areas, even with explosive growth and development underway, still had clear options to prevent future floods. They could conduct watershed planning and management. Officials could buy out or relocate the most endangered buildings, or put them on stilts, and could adopt higher building-elevation standards and stronger building codes. They could regulate the expansion of impervious areas in a way that would limit paving over pastures and wetlands to construct parking lots and endless subdivisions, and they could establish shoreline protections to reduce flood risks and costs going forward. This was the array of approaches needed to stay and hopefully reverse the growing costs of flooding. The nation’s floodplain organizations, at the same time, pleaded with city leaders to heed these warnings and act.

They didn’t. Houston did some buyouts, but repetitive losses continued to mount as development pushed along mostly unfettered. Over the past week, many news reports have highlighted long-ignored studies chronicling the steady encroachment on Houston-area bayou floodplains, and the paving and building over of pastures and wetlands that used to act as sponges absorbing and slowing runoff. At least 4,000 residential and commercial structures have been built within the identified 100-year floodplain since 2010, and, according to one Texas A&M University study, 30 percent of Harris County’s coastal prairie wetlands were paved over from 1992 to 2010. . . 

After the most damaging flood in U.S. history, we also need to fund accurate flood mapping for the entire nation. We need better maps out ahead of development, so people know how to build and won’t get caught with costly flood insurance premiums if maps are drawn after an area is developed. It would take an estimated $7.5 billion to map all the floodplains in the nation.

Congress should also reinstate the federal flood risk management standard President Trump recently revoked in an infrastructure executive order to assure a reasonable building standard for states and municipalities that use federal money to rebuild after disasters. This could be as simple as constructing most buildings one or two feet above the 100-year flood level (and two or three feet higher for critical facilities such as hospitals and police and fire stations). That way, taxpayers won’t have to pay to rebuild these facilities as often. Houston already required putting new buildings one foot above the 100-year flood level. Studies of Harvey’s rain may soon show that to be too low for the city’, which may instead want to consider the three-foot standard Dallas has in place might be worth considering. . .

[The government] should immediately focus on improving and streamlining voluntary buyouts and other mitigation options to help residents move out of harm’s way within reasonable time frames, especially after disasters, allowing communities to reform their land use in response to nature’s realities.

The nation has not been particularly good at learning from past floods, which have occurred with discouraging frequency. This time, we need to actually fix some of the problems. If we don’t, Americans facing some new devastation in the future will be looking back at Harvey and wondering why we didn’t act now."

Read the Washington Post, We already knew how to reduce damage from floods. We just didn’t do it.

UPDATE VI:  "Few places need the federal government right now more than Texas does, as it begins to recover from Hurricane Harvey. Yet there are few states where the federal government is viewed with more resentment, suspicion and scorn.

For Republicans, who dominate Texas government, anti-Washington sentiment is more than just a red-meat rhetorical flourish — it is a guiding principle.

Gov. Greg Abbott, the Republican former state attorney general, once described a typical day in his old job as, 'I go into the office, I sue the federal government and I go home.' His predecessor as governor, Rick Perry, wrote a book titled 'Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America From Washington.'

The sentiment is not limited to politicians. In June, the legislature of Texas Boys State — the mock-government exercise for high schoolers, run by the American Legion — voted overwhelmingly to secede from the union.

Now, though, it is Texas Republicans who will be crucial in securing, and helping to administer, what is likely to be one of the most ambitious and costly federal disaster-relief packages in American history, one that will almost certainly run to tens of billions of dollars.

There are few doubts that a Republican-dominated Congress will end up delivering aid to a battered state and key base of Republican power. But along with an outpouring of support, the process is raising eyebrows and drawing charges of hypocrisy.

What this means for Texas politics is difficult to say, at a time when rescue crews and volunteers are still plucking flood victims from their homes. But the new reality is already making itself felt.

Most notably, Senator Ted Cruz, one of Washington’s most ardent proponents of fiscal restraint, has suddenly taken on a new role, promising to lead the effort to secure a generous federal aid package.

In 2013, in a move his critics consider infamous, Mr. Cruz joined more than 20 of his Texas colleagues in Congress in voting against a $50.5 billion relief package for victims of Hurricane Sandy, saying that the bill was larded with pork projects unrelated to rebuilding the battered Northeast coast. (The bill passed regardless.)

Last week, Mr. Cruz was all over the Texas flood zone, promising that Congress would provide 'very significant resources for the people who have been damaged by this terrible storm.'"

Read The New York Times, In Texas, Distrust of Washington Collides With Need for Federal Aid.

UPDATE V: Oh woe is me, the chemical plant exploded.  How did that happen?

"The French company that says its Houston-area chemical plant is spewing 'noxious' smoke — and may explode — successfully pressed federal regulators to delay new regulations designed to improve safety procedures at chemical plants, according to federal records reviewed by International Business Times. The rules, which were set to go into effect this year, were halted by the Trump administration after a furious lobbying campaign by plant owner Arkema and its affiliated trade association, the American Chemistry Council, which represents a chemical industry that has poured tens of millions of dollars into federal elections.

The effort to stop the chemical plant safety rules was backed by top Texas Republican lawmakers, who have received big campaign donations from chemical industry donors."

Read the IBTimes, Texas Republicans Helped Chemical Plant That Exploded Lobby Against Safety Rules.

UPDATE IV:  "[W]e are reminded that some politicians think government is great when it helps their own constituents and wasteful if it helps anyone else.

We also regularly assert that government is better when it prevents problems than when it focuses primarily on cleaning up after the fact. But when environmentalists suggest that development can be carried out in more sustainable ways or that climate change is worth dealing with, they are mocked as 'anti-business' or 'crisis-mongers.' Then a crisis comes, and we wonder why the politicians were so shortsighted. . .

[I]t is entirely appropriate to call out the hypocrisy of Texas conservatives who voted against assistance for the victims of Superstorm Sandy in New York and New Jersey but are now asking for federal help on behalf of their folks. They broke this basic rule of solidarity in the name of an ideology that, when the chips are down, they don’t really believe in. Of course we should help all the areas devastated by Harvey. I’d just appreciate hearing our Texas conservative friends, beginning with Sen. Ted Cruz, admit they were wrong.

Call me a liberal (I won’t mind), but I do believe in using government’s taxing powers reasonably to direct help toward people who really need it, and in regulations to protect the environment and prevent catastrophe. . .

We can certainly debate where government compassion becomes overreach. Unfortunately, we’re not anywhere close to such a measured and civilized dialogue."

Read the Washington Post, A hurricane of conservative hypocrisy.

UPDATE III:  When Repebli-CONs demand less government, less taxes, more personal freedom, they claim that charities and churches can help people in need.

Ask Houston how that worked out for them.

Read Market Watch, Joel Osteen, criticized for closing his Houston megachurch to Harvey victims, relents.

UPDATE II:  "As he toured rising floodwater in Texas on Tuesday, President Trump effusively praised his administration’s Hurricane Harvey response, an effort he began touting on Twitter last weekend even before the storm made landfall.

But not too long ago, the president proposed a budget calling for cuts to some of the federal government’s most consequential efforts to prepare states and local communities and help them recover from catastrophic events such as Harvey. . .

The proposed cuts would include programs run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, whose new administrator was praised by Trump in a tweet last weekend for “doing a great job”; the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which helps rebuild homes, parks, hospitals and community centers; the National Weather Service, which forecasts extreme storms; and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, whose research and community engagement help coastal residents prepare for disaster."

Read the Washington Post, Trump would slash disaster funding to the very agencies he’s praising for Harvey response.

UPDATE:  "Whenever an extraordinary event such as Hurricane Harvey occurs, there will be those who implore us not to “politicize” it. But this impulse is exactly wrong, because politics is the process we use to decide how we will collectively approach challenges and problems.

So there’s never been a better time to ask how our government responds to natural disasters, and how the two parties react when confronted with immediate public demands for help.

Today, many people — both Democrats and Republicans from the Northeast — have noticed that Republican politicians in Texas are asking for immediate federal help for their constituents in the Houston area, yet five years ago when Hurricane Sandy battered the Northeast, those very same Republicans were unwilling to help. . .

There are some kinds of hypocrisy both Democrats and Republicans engage in, but this isn’t one of them. When there’s a natural or human-made disaster and people are crying out for aid, virtually all Democrats say, 'The government should help.' Lots of Republicans, on the other hand, say, 'Is this happening to our people? If so, then yes, the government should help. If not, screw ’em.' . .

[W]when the final vote comes, nearly all Democrats will be in favor of it, because they think that the government should help its citizens, even if most of those particular citizens in this case live in a red state. “Republicans must be ready to join Democrats in passing a timely relief bill that makes all necessary resources available through emergency spending,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) yesterday.

Of course, the two parties have different ideas about the proper scope of government. But only one party is being consistent in how it applies its philosophy. Whatever else you might say about Democrats, they don’t play into the juvenile belief so many Americans have that government should be as small and light as possible, stepping gingerly aside as we go about our lives, and yet it should also solve all our significant problems. Republicans appear to believe that disaster relief is one of the important things government should do — but it depends on where the disaster hits and which Americans are affected.

That’s more than just hypocrisy. And it’s not something both sides are guilty of."

Read the Washington Post, On disaster relief, Republicans go beyond hypocrisy.
Repebli-CONs are always demanding less government, less taxes, more personal freedom, except when they are not.

Read the Washington Post, Cost of cleaning up Harvey will bring new test of governance for Trump and GOP, which noted:

"After Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy “some prominent Republicans resisting emergency aid packages because of concerns about what it would mean for the federal budget. . .

Directing emergency funds to areas hit by natural disasters had traditionally been quick bipartisan exercises, but that changed after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

That evolution has tracked alongside growing attention to federal spending and budget deficits by conservative Republicans, who have increasingly demanded that emergency aid spending be offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget.

That push had its genesis in 'Operation Offset' — a 2005 proposal from the Republican Study Committee, a group of House conservatives, to identify spending cuts that would compensate for the approximately $200 billion expected for Hurricane Katrina relief — including cutting farm subsidies, Amtrak funding and postponing the Medicare prescription-drug bill Republicans had approved two years earlier.

The RSC’s chairman at the time was Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, who is now the vice president. 'We simply can’t allow a catastrophe of nature to become a catastrophe of debt for our children and grandchildren,' Pence said at the time. . .

Republican opposition to approving emergency disaster funds without other cuts to offset the new money has persisted.

By the time Hurricane Sandy struck New Jersey and New York in 2012, offsetting any new spending had become a key tenet for most Republicans, so when President Barack Obama pushed for a $60 billion package of federal aid, it sparked more than three months of partisan sparring — a delay that left Democrats and northeastern Republicans fuming while the remainder of the GOP fulminated against the threat of a growing national debt and the inclusion of spending they deemed extraneous in the aid package. . .

An amendment offered by Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) that would have offset some of the relief funding by instituting an across-the-board cut in other federal spending failed but won support of 157 of 233 House Republicans. The final package passed the House despite the opposition of 179 Republicans in the House and 36 in the Senate.

Texas’s Republican senators opposed the Sandy relief bill, arguing that it still included extraneous spending.

Mulvaney is now the White House budget director.

Raw emotions from that episode persist. Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), who fought hard to secure funds after Sandy, said over the weekend that he would support Harvey relief funds even though Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) tried to block the same type of emergency money for his state in recent years.

'Ted Cruz & Texas cohorts voted vs NY/N.J. aid after Sandy but I’ll vote 4 Harvey aid. NY wont abandon Texas,' King tweeted. '1 bad turn doesn't deserve another.'"