Fake and disgraceful

Consecutive tweets from Fox News.

Will he be known as ‘the fake president’? Or the ‘fake’ president?

Up to 270%. Still, inn part because Trump pulled the US out of the TPP that would have addressed this.

The Atlantic: Trump’s Beef With Canadian Milk

Referring to steel and aluminum tariffs he has imposed on Canada, he wrote: “Our Tariffs are in response to his of 270% on dairy!” He has a point. But Trump’s complaint obscures the fact that Canada has in the past been open to allowing in dairy imports in exchange for appropriate concessions; that Canada complains that the U.S. subsidizes its own dairy industry; and, perhaps most important, that while Trudeau, like all Western leaders, might need a close relationship with the United States, he needs to appeal to domestic political realities even more.

At issue is the Canadian supply-management system, which covers dairy, eggs, and poultry products. The system sets domestic production quotas and keeps prices stable, thereby guaranteeing farmers a steady income. And, in order to keep the supply stable, Canada blocks imports from other countries, including the U.S., by imposing tariffs—up to 270 percent on dairy products.

Decades, in fact—and not just for the United States, whose dairy farmers would like access to the Canadian market, but also their counterparts in New Zealand and elsewhere. New Zealand had opposed Canada’s entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership over the supply-management system, but Stephen Harper, the Canadian prime minister at the time, agreed to dismantle the system in exchange for TPP membership. When the U.S. withdrew from the TPP, one of Trump’s first decisions as president, Canada withdrew that concession…

So concessions on dairy tariffs were withdrawn by Canada when Trump withdrew the US from the TPP.

Simplistic sound bites like “”Canada charges us 275% tariff on dairy products” don’t tell anywhere near the full story – they are deliberately misleading.

Like Trump’s insinuations that all illegal immigrants are a crime risk he keeps trashing Canada on their tariffs when Trump and the US are a large part of the trade problem.

Trump specialises in fake news, in different ways.

 

More on US immigrant detentions

The furore over immigrant detentions in the US continues, but it isn’t just over the caging of kids. Protests continue, Time magazine has been slammed for a cover image depicting a small child versus Donald Trump, and claims and counter claims of what was already being done and what has changed under Trump are all over the place.

CNN: Time cover backlash: Magazine stands by illustration of crying girl next to Trump

The cover features an image of a crying toddler taken by Getty photographer John Moore superimposed next to President Trump, who is towering over the child. The text next to the illustration reads, “Welcome to America.”

But as details about the little girl emerged this week, critics claim the cover is misleading because she is not one of the thousands of children who have been separated from their parents at the border.

I’m not sure why a magazine cover image is such an issue but that’s what it has become.

Soon reports began to emerge, citing the girl’s father, who is still in Honduras, and Customs and Border Protection, who said she was not separated from her mother.

“The June 12 photograph of the 2-year-old Honduran girl became the most visible symbol of the ongoing immigration debate in America for a reason: Under the policy enforced by the administration, prior to its reversal this week, those who crossed the border illegally were criminally prosecuted, which in turn resulted in the separation of children and parents. Our cover and our reporting capture the stakes of this moment,” Time’s editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal said in a statement to CNN .

Moore, the photographer, told CNN he never claimed that the little girl was taken away from her mother. His original caption said that they were “detained by U.S. Border Patrol agents before being sent to a processing center for possible separation.”

Despite those details, critics said use of the photo plays into the “fake news” hysteria promoted by the President and his supporters, who claim the media is purposely misleading the public in an effort to hurt the administration.

“It appears that the iconic image of the separations policy didn’t involve a separation—all too typical of how a hysterical, advocacy-driven media covers immigration,” Rich Lowry, editor of the conservative magazine National Review, wrote on Twitter.

OI don’t think this is a completely factual photo either:

Image result for national review cover

I guess trump could be both good and bad in different ways.

An unusual report from Fox: Woman detained for 2 weeks after accidentally jogging into US

A French citizen visiting Canada said she was detained for two weeks after she accidentally jogged across the U.S.-Canada border in May.

Cedella Roman, 19, said she did not realize she crossed the border during her jog along a beach in White Rock, British Columbia on May 21. The young woman said she stopped during her jog to take a picture of the beach before deciding to turn around to run back when she was apprehended by two U.S. Border Patrol officers who told her she illegally crossed the border into Blaine, Washington.

And the separation of children from parents continues to get coverage.

What remains is major problems over illegal immigration into the US, especially via Mexico, and confusion and debate over how this should be dealt with humanely.

Economic boom, or bust? Or both?

Two contrasting views on economic prospects in the US. Given it’s size the economy in the US will impact on the rest of the world, including New Zealand.

Kevin Brady, Republican member of Congress and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee writes (WSJ): Six Months After Tax Reform, Something Big Is Happening

Six months ago, Republicans in Congress joined with President Trump to redesign America’s tax code and enact sweeping tax cuts. We were determined to let families and local businesses keep more of what they earn. The new tax code was built to help American companies and workers compete and win anywhere in the world.

Now something big is happening to America’s economy. Since January, more than one million jobs have been created.

In only six months, the economy has been reinvigorated—and the best is yet to come. That’s because the new tax code leapfrogs America’s competitors abroad. The U.S. is now at the head of the pack—one of the best places on the planet to find that next job, to build that new manufacturing plant, or to set up company headquarters.

As a result, businesses of all sizes are now investing in American workers and communities. They are bringing back their dollars from overseas and investing at home again. It’s no coincidence that small-business optimism has hit its highest reported level in 35 years.

There is a new hope and a new optimism that wasn’t here before

Given the choice between keeping taxes high and allowing families to keep more of their money, Republicans chose—and continue to choose—the American people. Empowering families to run their own lives is at the heart of the American Dream. It’s the key to our nation’s economic success, and it’s the reason that, six months into tax reform, Americans are more hopeful about their future.

But domestic tax rates aren’t the only thing that affects the US and world economies. Not everyone is this hopeful about the economic future.

Nomi Prins (The Nation): Donald Trump’s Trade Wars Could Lead to the Next Great Depression

Leaders are routinely confronted with philosophical dilemmas. Here’s a classic one for our Trumptopian times: If you make enemies out of your friends and friends out of your enemies, where does that leave you?

Let’s cut through all of this for the moment and ask one crucial question about our present cult-of-personality era in American politics: Other than accumulating more wealth and influence for himself, his children, and the Trump family empire, what’s Donald J. Trump’s end game as president?

If his goal is to keep this country from being, as he likes to complain, “the world’s piggy bank,” then his words, threats, and actions are concerning. However bombastic and disdainful of a history he appears to know little about, he is already making the world a less stable, less affordable, and more fear-driven place.

Trump’s approach may force the world into sorting out some shortcomings of current trade arrangements, but it has major risks.

What the American working and the middle classes will see (sooner than anyone imagines) is that actions of his sort have unexpected global consequences. They could cost the United States and the rest of the world big-time.

Could.

So far, President Trump has only taken America out of trade deals or threatened to do so if other countries don’t behave in a way that satisfies him. On his third day in the White House, he honored his campaign promise to remove the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a decision that opened space for our allies and competitors, China in particular, to negotiate deals without us. Since that grand exit, there has, in fact, been a boom in side deals involving China and other Pacific Rim countries that has weakened, not strengthened, Washington’s global bargaining position.

Meanwhile, closer to home, the Trump administration has engaged in a barrage of NAFTA-baiting that is isolating us from our regional partners, Canada and Mexico.

Trump is also annoying Britan and the EU over his trade barrages.

In the past four months, Trump has imposed tariffs, exempting certain countries, only to reimpose them at his whim. If trust were a coveted commodity, when it came to the present White House, it would now be trading at zero.

His supporters undoubtedly see this approach as the fulfillment of his many campaign promises and part of his classic method of keeping both friends and enemies guessing until he’s ready to go in for the kill. At the heart of this approach, however, lies a certain global madness, for he now is sparking a set of trade wars that could, in the end, cost millions of American jobs.

“Could, in the end, cost millions of American jobs” contrasts with Brady’s “more than one million jobs have been created”.  In fact both could be correct. Short term gains could disappear if Trump tirades turn trade into a turkey and the economy goes bad.

As the explosive Group of Seven, or G7, summit in Quebec showed, the Trump administration is increasingly isolating itself from its allies in palpable ways and, in the process, significantly impairing the country’s negotiating power.

If you combine the economies of what might now be thought of as the G6 and add in the rest of the EU, its economic power is collectively larger than that of the United States. Under the circumstances, even a small diversion of trade thanks to Trump-induced tariff wars could have costly consequences.

Good international relations generally means better outcomes. Wars of any kind are likely to make things worse.

A recent report by Andy Stoeckel and Warwick McKibbin for the Brookings Institution analyzed just such a future trade-war scenario and found that, if global tariffs were to rise just 10 percent, the gross national product (GDP) of most countries would fall by between 1 percent and 4.5 percent—the US GDP by 1.3 percent, China’s by 4.3 percent. A 40 percent rise in tariffs would ensure a deep global recession or depression.

In the 1930s, it was the punitive US Smoot-Hawley tariff that helped spark the devastating cocktail of nationalism and economic collapse that culminated in World War II.

The current incipient trade war was actually launched by the Trump administration in March in the name of American “national security.”

Using “national security” as a loose excuse for abuse is bad enough, but it has some disturbing parallels.

From the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:

As an absolute principle of national security, Nazi ideology called for the elimination of “racially inferior” peoples (such as Jews and Roma) and implacable political enemies (such as communists) from regions in which Germans lived.

Back to Prins:

The global economic system first put in place after World War II was no longer working particularly well even before President Trump’s trade wars began. The problem now is that its flaws are being exacerbated.

Once it becomes too expensive for certain companies to continue operating as their profits go to tariffs or tariffs deflect their customers elsewhere (or nowhere), one thing is certain: It will get worse.

I don’t think that’s a certainty, but it is a real possibility if Trump’s ‘negotiations’ turn trade to custard.

Is the US headed for boom, or bust?

It could easily be both. Busts often follow booms.

 

 

US Supreme Court rules on online sales tax

The US Supreme Court has overturned a ruling that had given online retailers a way of avoiding some state taxes.

NY Times: Supreme Court Clears Way to Collect Sales Tax From Online Retailers

Internet retailers can be required to collect sales taxes in states where they have no physical presence, the Supreme Court ruledon Thursday.

Brick-and-mortar businesses have long complained that they are disadvantaged by having to charge sales taxes while many of their online competitors do not. States have said that they are missing out on tens of billions of dollars in annual revenue under a 1992 Supreme Court ruling that helped spur the rise of internet shopping.

On Thursday, the court overruled that ruling, Quill Corporation v. North Dakota, which had said that the Constitution bars states from requiring businesses to collect sales taxes unless they have a substantial connection to the state.

This could be significant for New Zealand. If internet retailers like Amazon have to comply with all the state taxes in the US (a complex thing) depending on the location of the purchaser,then it should be simple to also comply with tax requirements for other countries.

Writing for the majority in the 5-to-4 ruling, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said the Quill decision had distorted the nation’s economy and had caused states to lose annual tax revenues between $8 billion and $33 billion.

But there could be a downside. If online retailers are forced to charge more tax in the US they may look for more sales in places where they can get away without charging tax.

Border control and caging kids

US border control has been in the spotlight more than ever, as a promised clampdown on illegal immigration from Mexico ramps up, and as threatened, children are being separated from parents and contained in cage-like structures.

Being tough on immigration is popular, but being heartless with kids involved is not going down so well.

As usual Donald Trump’s rhetoric is swinging wildly – From ‘I Alone Can Fix It’ to ‘Change the Laws!’

Nearly two years ago, on July 21, 2016, Donald Trump stood at a lectern in Cleveland and made a solemn vow.

“Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it,” he said.

To his critics, this line was chilling, even authoritarian, defying the democratic nature of the American system. But to many of Trump’s supporters, it was a heartening moment—a sign that he would not allow himself to be tied up in red tape and mealy-mouthed excuses. There would be none of the vacillating and hand-wringing of the Obama administration. President Trump would not hesitate.

Candidate Trump was clear that he was talking, in large part, about immigration, which had been the central issue of his campaign:

Tonight, I want every American whose demands for immigration security have been denied—and every politician who has denied them—to listen very closely to the words I am about to say. On January 21st of 2017, the day after I take the oath of office, Americans will finally wake up in a country where the laws of the United States are enforced. We are going to be considerate and compassionate to everyone.

So Trump promised to be both tough and compassionate.

But his administration also threatened that their children would be separated if illegal immigrants tried to cross the border.

In fact, as my colleagues and I have reported repeatedly, the policy dates to May, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the federal government would prosecute everyone caught crossing the border illegally. Because an existing legal settlement bars children from being imprisoned, that decision means children and parents are separated. The Trump administration knew this would happen from the start.

In May, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly described separations as “a tough deterrent” to those who might try to cross. Sessions said around the same time, “If you don’t want your child separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally.”

There were clear warnings – those wanting to cross the border may not have heard them, but the intention was clear.

Image result for caging children usa

And now that this is being done and criticism mounts – including from Trump’s wife and all four other living ex- First Ladies – Mr Fixit is now blaming others.

Trump and the Republicans rule in the White House.

Republicans have a majority in both the Senate and Congress.

So it’s rather disingenuous to blame a clearly signalled family separation policy on the Democrats who have no power to change laws.

But that’s how Trump operates – talks a big game, but blames his political opponents or the media if things don’t look good.

The US has had very loose immigration control for a long time and a clampdown is justified. The splitting of children from parents as a threat tactic is more debatable.

But Trump hasn’t got the integrity to own his administration’s actions.

‘Caging’ kids is not even new. June 2014 (pre-Trump): Immigrant children flood detention center

Young boys sleep in a holding cell U.S. Customs and

Holding cell, US Customs and Border Protection Nogales Placement Center, 18 June 2014.
https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/childrens-concentration-camp/

Trump could blame a Democrat administration for doing it too, but instead he tries to blame them now for something his administration is responsible for it.

A very casual relationship with the truth

Image may contain: 1 person, text

Chris Cillizza: Donald Trump’s Friday morning proves the massive danger of sitting down with Robert Mueller

President Donald Trump has a very casual relationship with the truth. To him, facts are fungible. They are things to stretch, pull and sometimes break — all in service of the story that he tells himself about his life.

In his first 466 days in office, Trump said more than 3,000 things that were either partially or entirely untrue, according to a count kept by the amazing Fact Checker blog at The Washington Post.

Trump’s penchant for prevarication is, at some level, an accepted piece of his presidency at this point. It’s a feature, not a glitch. For most people — both those who support Trump and who vehemently oppose him — his exaggerations, mistruths and, in many cases, outright lies are baked in.

If you like him, you don’t really care — seeing it as Trump being Trump, with little practical effect on your life or his presidency.

But there’s one place where Trump’s lack of candor and honesty is a major liability: in a legal deposition where lying carries criminal penalties.Which brings me to Friday morning — and Trump’s interview with Fox News’ Steve Doocy and subsequent 30-minute scrum with other reporters gathered on the North Lawn of the White House. And the ongoing debate over whether Trump will sit down for an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller to answer questions about the 2016 election, his firing of FBI Director James Comey and a bunch of other things.

Here’s the thing: If Friday is any indication of how Trump would speak in a deposition with Mueller, it would be hugely problematic for him, legally speaking.

MSNBC’s Katy Tur counted 19 lies or mistruths from Trump just on Friday morning.
In the words of Radiohead, the distortions, half-truths and flat-out lies were everywhere all of the time.
Here’s a sampler platter:

  • The Justice Department inspector general’s report on the 2016 election “totally exonerates” Trump in the Mueller investigation
  • The reason children are being separated from their parents at the southern border is because of a Democratic law
  • Former President Barack Obama “lost” Crimea
  • The nuclear threat from North Korea has ended

Those are some — but not all — of the biggies. There are more.

Any one of those statements would be very problematic if Trump tried to make them across the table from Mueller. And it’s worse than that for Trump: Remember that Mueller and his special counsel team have talked to dozens of people. All of whom have helped fill out a picture for the special counsel’s office. Which means Trump’s version of events, conversations and the like would be compared against all of the other versions Mueller has gathered.

There’s a big difference between preaching to the social media unquestioning faithful, and a high levela legal investigation.

Is Trump experienced or expert enough to stuff things up more?

President Donald Trump is having some successes and some things are going his way, but he also looks like an incompetent disaster waiting to happen. But despite his obvious inexperience and lack of expertise, is their much risk of him stuffing things up any more than past US administrations?

The US has made a mess of many things over the last half century and more – the Korean war was in the 1950s and still isn’t resolved. Cuba, Vietnam, Grenada, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Russia…

Mathew J. Petersen at Intellectual Takeout: Thank God Trump Isn’t a Foreign Policy Expert


What Trump Lacks
In fact, many on the Right and Left over the past two years have suggested their main worry about Donald Trump is the fact he now represents America to the rest of the world and will cause a devastating disaster, nuclear or otherwise.

I propose some simple, evaluative questions and a thought experiment to set the minds of the nation at ease the morning after the most significant moment of the Trump presidency.

Does Donald Trump have enough experience and expert wisdom to give away as much to North Korea as the American foreign-policy establishment, with all its experience, top-shelf degrees, and stratospheric test scores, has given away in the past 30 years?

Does Donald Trump have enough experience and expert wisdom to keep the hostile stalemate the American foreign-policy establishment created and fostered with North Korea since America first waged the Korean War?

For that matter, does Trump even have the experience and caste of mind to start a war, say, in the Middle East, that costs trillions of dollars and disrupts and inflames the region as President Bush and his entourage did? Does he even know how?

Does Trump have the expertise to take over the wreckage of such a war and support jihadist rebels, help create ISIS and a global refugee crisis, and give Russia the most power it’s had in the region since the peak of the Cold War, like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton did?

The truth may alarm you. Trump has never even started a war before—not even a little one.

Trump is such an ignoramus, forget war—for decades the uniparty American foreign policy establishment’s most basic solution to problems overseas has been to supply the gift of training and weapons to people in other countries who then end up becoming terrorists or some other version of our worst nightmare. That’s an inside the beltway American tradition, for Democrats and Republicans alike.

Does Trump even know this?

Departing from “the Norm”

There’s sure as hell no way Trump knows yet how to meet with a foreign dictator like Kim Jong-un and come to an agreement that ultimately doesn’t change anything or makes things worse, like all our sane and competent leaders have been doing since the Cold War ended. Thus, we should indeed all consider the possibility that Trump might somehow be different.

Assuming North Korea has some desire to reform itself—admittedly, the very assumption we are now testing—the biggest obstacle to peace on the Korean Peninsula is the disastrous legacy of Hillary-Obama foreign policy, which mimics decades of earlier, similar American failures.

Regardless of the spin on both sides, remember: whatever the ultimate result of the Singapore summit, it will not be determined, as it has been in the past, by the slow-moving, Byzantine maneuvers of the foreign-policy expert class, the members of which Michael Anton aptly calls “priests” in “America and the Liberal International Order.” This priest class has tried to make a science of “international relations” that somehow abstracts from prudence and the plain old study of human nature, history, and politics.

Trump upended their order. What matters now is the result of two men in a room, representing their respective people, sizing each other up, and speaking directly to one another.


There is no guarantee this will work any better (or less worse) than past military and diplomatic attempts, and there will almost certainly be some negatives to the inexpert bluster of Trump, but he doesn’t need to achieve much to improve on past efforts.

Ok, there is a risk that Trump will blunder bigly and something really crappy will happen in Korea, the Middle East or with Russia, or somewhere else the US has been involved or decides to interfere, but those risks were there under past presidents too.

In shaking the old norms up Trump may create chaos, but out of that we may end up with a better world. May.

‘Spur of the moment’ Trump on North Korean meeting

Donald Trump has been all over the place leading up to the meeting with North Korean leader Kim Yong-un in Singapore shortly. He now seems to be playing down expectations, and shows that he seems to be winging it.

Reuters: Any agreement with North Korea will be ‘spur of the moment’: Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday any agreement with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at next week’s summit would be “spur of the moment,” underscoring the uncertain outcome of what he called a “mission of peace.”

“I have a clear objective, but I have to say – it’s going to be something that will always be spur of the moment,” Trump told reporters at a news conference at the G7 summit in Quebec.

That seems like a bit of a contradiction.

“You don’t know. This has not been done before at this level.”

The main issue for the June 12 summit in Singapore, which he departed for before the end of the G7 meeting, is the U.S. demand for North Korea to abandon a nuclear weapons program that now threatens the United States.

Trump said it would probably take time to reach an agreement with Kim on denuclearization, but at a minimum he believed the summit could produce a “relationship” between the United States and North Korea, which do not have diplomatic ties.

It would be remarkable if Trump and Kim made significant progress at the meeting towards a lasting solution on Korea.

Another indictment in Mueller inquiry

The Mueller inquiry into possible Russian interference in the 2016 US election continues to proceed slowly, with another indictment added to the list.

Bloomberg: Mueller Indicts Konstantin Kilimnik, Manafort’s Ukraine Fixer

Konstantin Kilimnik, who worked with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on a U.S. lobbying effort on Ukraine’s behalf, was indicted on federal charges Friday by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

The indictment comes as part of an existing money-laundering case against Manafort, and charges him and Kilimnik with obstructing justice. On June 5, Mueller accused Manafort of attempting to tamper with witnesses in his case, saying Manafort and another person tried to contact witnesses to secure false testimony about work done for Ukraine.

The new charges identify that person as Kilimnik, charging him with obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Kilimnik is a Ukraine-born Russian speaker who has been tied in previous court filings to Russian intelligence, including one citing an FBI assessment that his ties to Russian intelligence continued into the 2016 election. Kilimnik’s whereabouts are unknown.

Kilimnik worked for Manafort’s longtime business partner, Rick Gates, when they served as political consultants in Ukraine. Prosecutors have previously said Manafort and Gates secretly coordinated an extensive lobbying campaign in the U.S. to benefit former President Viktor Yanukovych of Ukraine before he fled to Moscow. Gates is cooperating with prosecutors in the case against Manafort.

It’s likely to be some time yet before it will be known what come worms out of the woodwork.

While Mueller and his investigation team are drip feeding progress via legal processes Donald Trump and his lawyers keep trying to play public opinion – it’s hard to know why they are doing this as it shouldn’t effect law and facts, and it has some risks.

And it doesn’t seem to be moving public opinion in their favour (but it could be stemming leakage of support).

Odd US embassy illnesses

Numbers of US staff at both their Cuban and Chinese embassies have been reported to have suffered from similar mysterious illnesses.

MSN: U.S. evacuates China consulate staffers as illness mystery deepens

The United States has evacuated some Americans from its consulate in the Chinese city of Guangzhou after an employee was confirmed to be suffering symptoms consistent with the mysterious illness that led to the removal of more than half of the U.S. Embassy staff in Cuba, the State Department said Wednesday.

Heather Nauert, the State Department’s spokeswoman, said “several” consulate employees had returned to the United States from China for further evaluation after they were screened as part of a task force Secretary of State Mike Pompeo created last month. The force is investigating reports of hearing, vision, balance and memory damage.

The State Department said in a health alert last month that the employee in Guangzhou reported “subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure” that had no immediate explanation. Pompeo said then that the employee’s symptoms were eerily similar to those reported by the Cuban embassy staff.

Doctors said in February that the symptoms among some 24 Havana embassy staffers were similar to those caused by concussions — headaches, balance problems, sleep disturbances and visual and hearing difficulties.

U.S. experts have said they know of no technology that would explain the symptoms.

But President Donald Trump and other U.S. officials have accused Cuba of having targeted U.S. personnel with some kind of “acoustic sonic weapon” for unknown reasons, an allegation the Cuban government has forcefully denied.

The State Department responded by pulling 60 percent of its workers out of the Havana embassy in early October and expelled two-thirds of Cuba’s staff in Washington.

Have they considered it could be US technology used to screen and block eavesdropping that could be having an adverse effect on their embassy employees?