The Trump Chronicles, Volume 31: Yes, America, We're Paying For The Wall

From the initial announcement of his candidacy, President Trump has promised to build a wall between the United States and Mexico. As a matter of fact, he spoke of Mexican immigration when he announced his candidacy on June 16, 2015.

He’s also promised to compel Mexico to pay for it. But he never clearly told us how. I think we can all agree that if he sends a bill to Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto it won’t get paid. A few times he’s threatened to tax or ban remittances (money sent from the United States to Mexico, often from relatives).

Last week he announced a different plan: a 20% tariff on products imported from Mexico. Perfect, right?

Well, not exactly. You see, a tariff means that if Mexico imports a $20,000 car, the United States collects $4,000. A tariff is imposed to make an import more expensive and make a similarly produced American product more appealing. So Mexico appears to be the loser here.

Except that a tariff assumes Mexico will then charge $24,000 for the car. If the Mexican manufacturer eats the extra charge the tariff doesn’t work, so we can assume they will pass along the $4,000. Some Americans will pay the $24,000 and others will purchase a car made here. But there are some things that can only be made in Mexico.

We Americans love our margaritas, and depend on tequila from Mexico. By law, tequila must come from a region in central Mexico (the states of Jalisco, Colima, Nayarit and Aguascalientes). Tequila is distilled from the blue agave plant, and by all accounts, it can’t be grown anywhere else. You can read about it here. You can also read a funny response from South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.

But whether we pay the tariff out of choice or not, it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day the US government comes out ahead (they collect the tariff), Mexico breaks even (they pass the cost of the tariff to us), and we come out behind (paying more for the products we purchase).

In other words, we pay for the wall.

President Trump, when you promised us Mexico would pay for a wall many of us don’t want, you were lying. You hoped we wouldn’t notice, but we did.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 30: Massive Voter Fraud is a Myth

Several times this week President Trump has claimed he lost the popular vote because of voter fraud. In my last post I spoke about how his press secretary claimed Mr. Trump “has believed that for a while based on studies and information he has.”

But Mr. Spicer didn’t elaborate on the source of the studies and information. Today Mr. Trump tweeted that a man named Gregg Phillips makes these claims.

But today Chris Cuomo interviewed him on CNN where he refused to reveal any proof of his claim that 3,000,000 non-citizens voted in the election.

In addition there was talk that uncounted people registered in different states (and presumably voted in both places); Mr. Trump tweeted that out Wednesday morning. But that was quickly debunked. It’s true that many people are registered in different states, but that’s because when people move they often neglect to notify their local registration board. Interestingly enough Mr. Trump’s advisor Steve Bannon is registered in New York and Florida and Mr. Trump’s daughter Tiffany is registered in Pennsylvania and New York. I guess voter fraud begins at home.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 29: You Lost the Popular Vote. Get Over It

I’ve spoken about this before, but we Presidents aren’t elected by a majority of the popular vote, but by the majority of member of the Electoral College. Twice in the last 16 years we’ve elected someone who lost the popular vote but won the electoral vote.

In 2000 President George W. Bush became our 43rd President even though he lost the popular vote by 540,000 votes. But if President Bush reacted to this, I have not been able to find anything. He moved on and went about the business of running the country.

Not so in 2016. President Trump lost the popular vote by nearly 3,000,000 votes. A smart leader would see this and recognize the need to build bridges and give the 65,844,610 voters who chose Secretary Clinton cause to reconsider.

Instead, like any cry baby bully, he continues to insist he was cheated out of the popular vote by “the illegals.” I’ve said this before, but good leaders command respect while poor leaders crave approval.

Today Press Secretary Sean Spicer claimed the President “has believed that for a while based on studies and information he has.” But it’s not based on studies or information we have.

Mr. Trump, you do not serve us (your employers) well when you spend your time and energy lying to us.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 28: Alterative Facts? George Orwell Warned Us

I’ve spoken before about how thin skinned we find President Trump. This past weekend we saw it again.

Several media outlets reported that attendance at President Trump’s inaugural was smaller than attendance in 2009, when President Obama was inaugurated.

Saturday evening, presumably at President Trump’s direction, White House press secretary Sean Spicer held a press briefing. But he did not take questions and spent most his time charging that “the media” falsely downplayed the crowd and that this inauguration was the largest ever. He said this: “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration — period — both in person and around the globe.”

On Sunday morning Kellyanne Conway (Counselor to the President) appeared on Meet the Press. When asked why Mr. Spicer used his first press briefing to argue about such a small issue, Ms. Conway responded that Mr. Spicer gave “alternative facts”.

Alternative facts? Really? Frighteningly we’ve seen this before. In 1943 George Orwell wrote about this here. He wrote that totalitarian regimes are at their most dangerous when they deny truth. He explained that Nazi Germany did not believe in science but in “German Science” instead of “Jewish Science.” When leaders are able to convince their followers to ignore truth in favor of propaganda, their power is limitless.

Today we see that everywhere. President Trump dismisses climate change as a Chinese hoax. Forty two percent of Americans don’t believe in evolution. And 100% of current Presidents believe he drew more people to his inauguration than President Obama.

Our Annual Pilgrimage to Yosemite Nation Park

Each year since 2000 Nancy and I have driven to Yosemite National Park. Each year nearly 4 million people visit but most people come during the summer; they don’t know what they’re missing.

In addition to Yosemite being magical in the snow, we also attend a wonderful event. It used to be called “Chef’s Hoidays” but because of a trademark dispute the event is now called A Taste of Yosemite. Each year they bring in gourmet chefs from around the country. Anita Lo topped the bill for our session. Nancy attends cooking demonstrations while I hike and read (and we both hike).

A few years ago I bemoaned the fact that the weather was getting warmer and I feared it was getting worse. It was better last year, and fantastic this year. A few days before our arrival they received a nice coating of snow and it snowed while we were there. When we left yesterday morning we needed to leave by a different route because of the snow, but it was well worth it.

In addition to Anita, we also met another chef, Scott Youkilis, who with his brother Kevin have opened a restaurant, Loma Brewing Company in Los Gatos, California.

And finally, we had several wonderful conversations with Gayle Pirie and John Clark, the owners of Foreign Cinema in San Francisco. I’m not dropping these names to puff up my importance, but to encourage anyone who lives in or near New York, San Francisco, and Los Gatos, you should eat there.

The only blemish on this trip was something I foreshadowed last year. For the past 20 years or so, much of Yosemite Valley was contracted to Delaware North but starting last spring it changed to Aramark. We noticed a few differences, including the dinner package itself. The crowd was much smaller than we remembered, and we were told that Aramark did very little marketing and we found the web page much harder to navigate. Hopefully by next year they will have learned how to do this.

In any case, we’ll be back in 2018.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 27: OK, President Trump: We're Keeping Score

Dear President Trump:

Ok, today is your day. I’ve been following your campaign since you announced it. Three weeks later I first mentioned you in my blog.

Since then many of us have watched in horror as all our predictions of your demise didn’t happen. We’ve believed all along that your success in turning this presidential election into a reality program reflected the worst of who we are as Americans.

And yes, we’ve recognized that large numbers of us have found the American dream out of reach, but we believe the cause isn’t immigrants or President Obama but the greed exhibited by you and the other other 1%.

And so we’re going to keep score. Today, the first day of your administration, we’re marking where we are. I begin with an excellent article on National Public Radio.

So here goes:

If you follow your playbook up to now you’ll blame your troubles on “fake news” or nearly anyone other than yourself. But here’s the problem: after winning America’s ultimate reality show, you now have to govern.

But the clock starts now and you can’t deny these numbers.

The American People

The Justice Chronicles, Volume 28: We Should All Be Concerned About the Holman Rule

The last few months I’ve written extensively on President Elect Trump out of a concern over where our nation is heading. I’ve also wanted to chronicle his Presidency for future reference; I got the idea from James Fallows who wrote The Daily Trump.

But in the last few days I’ve come across something that concerns me and it comes from the House of Representatives, something called The Holman Rule.

In 1876 the House passed a resolution (the Holman Rule) that allows individual members of Congress to target individual federal employees and reduce their pay to $1.00 per year (effectively firing them). On January 3rd this Congress voted to bring it back. Proponents claim this will allow the firing of dishonest, ineffective or lazy federal workers.

My fear, and the fear of others is that individual members of Congress will use this rule as a way of settling scores.

Career federal employees are often tasked with delivering bad news to elected officials. In it’s January 10th edition, The Washington Post spoke about Arthur Katz, who worked for FEMA, testified before a Senate subcommittee. He said: “I testified before a Senate subcommittee regarding the gross mismanagement of FEMA, including our lack of preparedness for natural disasters. My bosses weren’t at all pleased, but my civil service and union protection meant that I couldn’t just be fired. A few months later, Hurricane Andrew hit Florida, and my warnings about FEMA’s problems were proved correct. I kept my job and continued in federal service until my retirement.” Imagine if his bosses at FEMA were able to ask Congress to have him fired?

The General Accountability Office (or GAO) is tasked with overseeing that federal monies are spent properly. Since their job is essentially telling Congress when money isn’t being spent properly, can we imagine any scenario where they will feel their job is secure?

Can anyone feel they can speak truth to power when power has shown its eagerness to stop them?

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 26: I Understand the Boycott

I write this a few days before the Inauguration of Donald Trump.

And as I write this, 60 members of Congress will boycott the inauguration.

They explain their absence in several ways. Some are angry over previous statements about women or Mexicans or Muslims, or the real possibility that his victory depended on interference from the Russians, or, well you get the picture.

I’m grateful that I’m not a member of Congress, but if I were, I would boycott for a different reason. I would boycott out of a lack of respect for the office.

Even in the most contentious days of our nation most of us have recognized the value of the office even if you don’t respect the person who occupies it. As a matter of fact, in 1951 President Harry S Truman fired General Douglas MacArthur. At the time General MacArthur was the Supreme Commander in Korea. General MacArthur disagreed with President Truman’s plans for a limited war and made the disagreement public even after told to knock it off. I wasn’t able to find much corroboration for this but President Truman’s response was: “You may not respect the man, but you will, by God, respect the office. You are fired.”

I don’t believe the Congressmen and Congresswomen who boycott are disrespecting the office of Presidency: I believe Mr. Trump is.

The role of President elect has historically been one of observing and learning. He has famously refused most intelligence briefings, he has broken protocol by speaking directly with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen (which he defended by claiming “she called me”).

In short, his disrespect for the office calls all of us to boycott as defenders of the office.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 25: We’re Going to Hold You To This

For the past 6 1/2 years the cornerstone of the Republican Party rested on repealing the Affordable Care Act. As long as President Obama occupied the White House their words were meaningless and they didn’t have to worry about how to keep their promise.

But in four days the House of the Representatives, the Senate and the White House will all be in Republican hands and suddenly the spotlight is on them.

Yesterday I raised the alarm that “repeal and replace” would become “repeal and abandon.” At this point I assumed that they would begin to backtrack on these promises, but President Elect Trump continues to double down on promises I’m pretty certain he can’t keep.

Yesterday’s post included his promise that the ACA would keep provisions that allowed adult children to remain on their parents’ policy until age 26, and prevent insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions.

Today we learned that he is promising “insurance for everyone.” This link is worth a read because he kept going.

He also said he could craft health care “in a much simplified form — much less expensive and much better.”

Truthfully, if he can pull this off, I’ll be the first to cheer. We Democrats want exactly that and that’s been our hope for the Affordable Care Act. Providing affordable, reasonably priced health care for all benefits us all.

The problem is this: The Republicans opposed Social Security in the 1930s. They opposed Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960s. And they opposed the Affordable Care Act in 2010. Each time they predicted doom and despair. And now they find themselves saddled with a President Elect who makes broad promises with no plan to succeed.

I’m writing this because in the weeks and months to come he’ll claim he never promised to cover everyone. I’m writing this blog as a way to keep a record.

Mr. Trump, we’re paying attention.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 24: All Talk? Talk About the Need to Apologize

It appears that President Elect Trump continues to brood, rant, and use Twitter to show us just how thin skinned he is.

A few days ago NBC reporter Chuck Todd spoke with U.S. Representative John Lewis. In a conversation about Russian interference in the election (that I wrote about here) Mr. Lewis called Mr. Trump’s election not legitimate.

In the hours before sunrise yesterday Mr Trump tweeted that Mr. Lewis is all talk and no action.

This is exactly why someone in the Trump camp needs to shut down his Twitter account. Had there been an adult in the room when Mr. Trump tweeted this deeply offensive remark, that would have better served the country. Mr Trump famously brags about not reading much and we can assume he has a limited understanding of our history.

I confess that I’m a ridiculous history buff and I try not to make fun of those who aren’t. But that said, how can it be that our next President doesn’t know Mr. Lewis’ biography? How can he not know that Mr. Lewis participated in Bloody Sunday in 1965?

Mr. Trump, I doubt you’ll read this, but if you do, here’s what I want to tell you: In 1964 Mr. Lewis was the chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee or SNCC. On March 7, 1965 he led a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. On the Edmond Pettus Bridge in Selma, the local police department attacked the protestors. Mr. Lewis suffered a skull fracture.

When Mr. Lewis nearly died, Mr. Trump, you were a freshman at Fordham University. I’m sorry you didn’t last there. The Jesuits have a long history of excellence in teaching. I wish you had a history of learning.