Now They’ve Pissed Off the Irish

What’s going on in the UK is about as frightening as what’s going on in the US, which is saying something considering we’re facing a massive storm on our east coast and our president is mentally defective. Instead of Nero fiddling while Rome burns, we’ve got Trump tweeting about his personal grievances (including two new tweets about Debra Messing) while the Carolinas are beset with floods and tornados. Stay safe, people.

But the UK is in big trouble, folks. What’s going on in Brexit could cause it to break up. This is especially critical for Northern Ireland, because Brexit would create a hard border between N.I. and the Republic of Ireland, which few people on the island want. There is also a fear that a hard border could re-ignite the Troubles.

Before Brexit, I never thought a united Ireland would be something seriously discussed as a possibility within our lifetime. Now it is getting widespread consideration.

There is a palpable fear that the conflict in the north could be reignited by the British government’s refusal to accept the backstop, the continued breakdown of power-sharing in Stormont, the hundreds of UK police that could reportedly be deployed to the border in the event of no deal, and recent attacks by the New IRA. As the political system in Britain seems to be fracturing, in Ireland the main parties have remained unified in support for the backstop, as have the major pro-remain parties in the north, which see it as key to protecting the peace.

This BBC page explains what the “backstop” is:

The backstop is a position of last resort, to maintain a seamless border on the island of Ireland.

It would involve the UK retaining a very close relationship with the EU for an indefinite period.

It will apply if the UK and EU have not agreed a final deal at the end of a standstill transition period or if that final deal does not guarantee a soft border.

It will not apply if the UK leaves without a deal in October.

The EU have insisted that any Brexit deal must contain the backstop.

When both the UK and the Republic of Ireland were members of the EU in good standing, commerce on the island was mostly open and seamless. A hard Brexit would put the two parts of the island in different customs and regulator regimes, the BBC says. There would be military at the border. People would need passports to go from one part to the other.

Northern Irish already are splitting along unionist and non-unionist lines. The non-unionists don’t want Northern Ireland choked off economically from the rest of the island, but the unionists fear that any arrangement made just for Ireland would threaten the union. Pro-Brexit British fear the backstop would trap the UK into the EU customs union, like it or not. And old enmities are bubbling up again. See Northern Ireland conflict 50 years on: will a no-deal Brexit threaten the peace?

So, it is understandable that the Irish are really upset about Brexit and mostly wish they’d never heard of it.

And then Mike Pence came to visit. Miriam Lord in the Irish Times:

US vice-president Mike Pence met President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on Tuesday during an official visit. His Irish hosts, up to their oxters for the last three years in Brexit worry, hoped to impress upon him Ireland’s fears about the consequences of a no-deal Brexit for the country.

He could, maybe, stick in a supportive word for us in his talks with Boris Johnson in London – his next port of call.

Pence, after all, is Irish American and wastes no opportunity to go misty-eyed about his love for the “Old Country” as he lards on his Mother Machree schtick on both sides of the Atlantic. He couldn’t praise Ireland enough on Tuesday – “deeply humbled” and “honoured” to be going to the hometown of his mother’s grandmother and so on.

But, after he said all these nice things about the “Emerald Isle” and how much his boss Donald Trump – he sent his best wishes, by the way – appreciates us and all we do to help American security in Shannon, he delivered a very strong endorsement of Boris Johnson and Brexit.

No room left for doubt. As Pence read from the autocue and Irish eyes definitely stopped smiling, it was clear he was channeling His Master’s Voice. Trump is a fan of Brexit and of Boris.

And this, after such a lovely morning, with Pence and his mother meeting the Taoiseach and his mother.

His Irish mother, as Mike calls her. He dotes on Nancy. So he should have known that any Irish mammy will tell you if you can’t say anything good, say nothing at all.

Instead, he veered off his rather gushing statement following his meeting with the Taoiseach into some crunching Brexit remarks about our duty to do right by Boris Johnson and the UK.

As the air in the steamy ballroom turned decidedly frosty, Pence urged Ireland and the European Union “to negotiate in good faith” with the new British prime minister.

Lord accused Pence of shitting on the carpet. Others in Ireland were similarly pissed:

The Guardian called Pence’s visit and comments “awkward.” Irish Central asked in a headline: “Did VP Pence betray Ireland in his Brexit comments during Irish trip?” An Irish Examiner column accused Pence of trying to “humiliate” Ireland.

“The cheek of him coming here, eating our food, clogging up our roads and then having the nerve to humiliate his hosts,” wrote political editor Daniel McConnell.

On this side of the pond there has been focus on Pence’s stay at Trump’s financially struggling hotel and golf course in Doonbeg, County Claire, which is not exactly convenient to Dublin.

Pence didn’t drive; he flew from Doonbeg to Dublin on Air Force Two. Wonder how much THAT cost?

To add insult to injury, one of the shifting excuses for this bare-assed money grab by Trump was that Trump’s hotel was required to “accommodate the unique footprint that comes with our security detail and other personnel,” Pence said. He might have meant it was the only place in Doonbeg that could accommodate the footprint, but the whole episode basically stinks out loud.

Kind of sad, considering the way things used to be between the U.S. and Ireland.

I understand the only people who turned out for Pence were some gay rights activists. But if Trump thought this would be good publicity for his golf club, he might be disappointed. Brexit will do the Irish economy no good, and the people in his base are more likely to vacation in Branson than in Doonbeg.

The Gun Problem Is Guns

Dharma help us, but Marianne Williamson wrote an op ed about the gun violence crisis. I actually agree with some of it. This includes the part in the second paragraph where she says he must break the influence of money in politics; can’t argue with that.

Sometimes she gets too wound up in saying something clever rather than sensible. “It is not just our gun policy but our politics that fails to free us of this insanity.” Um, sweetums, “gun policy” and “politics” are kind of inextricably bound together. Then she says,

America does not just have a gun crisis; it has a cultural crisis. America will not stop experiencing the effects of gun violence until we’re ready to face the many ways that our culture is riddled with violence.


Our environmental policies are violent toward the Earth. Our criminal justice system is violent toward people of color. Our economic system is violent toward the poor. Our entertainment media is violent toward women. Our video games are violent in their effect on the minds of children. Our military is violent in ways and places where it doesn’t have to be. Our media is violent in its knee-jerk shaming and blaming for the sake of a better click rate. Our hearts are violent as we abandon each other constantly, breeding desperation and insanity. And our government is indirectly and directly violent in the countless ways it uses its power to help those who do not need help and to withhold support from those who do.

Right. But there is one critical word that doesn’t appear anywhere in Williamson’s op ed. That word is greed. Our environmental policies cater to greed rather than protection. Greed is the real creator of poverty, IMO. I also would argue the military policies and most of the other stuff Williamson complains about are rooted in greed. If there is violence, it is greed fueling the violence. Toss in some ignorance, especially bigotry, and fear with that and you’ve accounted for it all. Violence is just a by-product. And government isn’t mitigating the effects of greed because of corruption.

Williamson’s Big Idea is to create a Department of Peace to battle the culture of conflict, which amounts to more wasted money, IMO. The eternally flakey Dennis Kucinich has been pushing a Department of Peace for a long time; these two should get together. But that’s the problem with the New Agey types; they are big on how everybody should be more about love and kindness, but they have no idea why they aren’t or how to bring about change. Williamson’s general method is to snarl at people about how they should be nicer. See also this passage from a New York Times article about Williamson

She finished her speech in New Hampshire to great applause and asked for questions, but nobody wanted to know how “a politics of love,” as she called it, would handle, say, President Vladimir Putin’s annexing Crimea, or how it would prevent a mass shooting, which were things she had thought about deeply and had specific and elaborate plans for. They didn’t want to know about her Department of Children and Youth or her Department of Peace. No, they wanted self-help. A woman raised her hand and said she didn’t know what to do about her trauma and her rage these days — how she couldn’t find forgiveness for the people who voted for Trump, even though those people weren’t exactly asking for it. “It’s like I’ve been infected,” the woman said. “How do I manage that?”

Williamson told her she has no time for people traumatized by the election.

Well, then, I have no more time for Williamson, and with any luck she soon will fade back into the pop culture woodwork. So let’s go on.

What’s killing the United States and the planet is greed and corruption. Gun violence is just a by-product; it’s greed and corruption that keeps turning up the flames of gun-rights zealotry, making us by far the most heavily armed citizenry on the planet. The United States has 5 percent of the world’s populations and an estimated 41 percent of the world’s civilian-owned firearms.

And that’s why we have a gun violence problem. I suspect any other group of people as heavily armed as we are would be shooting each other a lot, too. The presence of guns makes shooting a lot more likely. And there is a plausible argument to be made that the presence of guns stokes violent behavior, a phenomenon known in social psychology as the “weapons effect.”

As long as our knee-jerk reaction to gun violence is to buy more guns, our gun violence problem is just going to get worse. The problem of guns is guns.

Scientific American:

In a 2015 study using data from the FBI and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard University reported that firearm assaults were 6.8 times more common in the states with the most guns versus those with the least. Also in 2015 a combined analysis of 15 different studies found that people who had access to firearms at home were nearly twice as likely to be murdered as people who did not.

In the minds of gun activists, strangers are eternally plotting to break into their homes and kill them, so they need a gun. I looked; the enormous majority of home break-ins are burglaries that take place when the residents are not at home. According to this, about 86 to 100 people a year in the U.S. are murdered by burglers who broke into their home, possibly, but the way the crime data is reported makes it all kind of murky. But let’s say 100 Americans a year are murdered by strangers invading their homes.

(Also, FYI, according to FBI crime statistics, where the relationship between the victim and perpetrator is known, only about 10 percent of homicide victims are killed by complete strangers. Apparently it’s the people you know you’ve got to watch.)

Compare/contrast to the nearly 2,900 children and teens (ages 0 to 19) who are shot and killed in the U.S every year, many of whom died by the gun their parents bought “for protection.” Nearly 15,600 are shot and injured. But you can’t tell the gun fanatics that having a gun in their home is a danger to their family. They need to “for protection.” They will not look at the data. They will not listen to reason. They have to have that gun.

Where is that fear coming from? At least some of it is being manufactured by gun lobbyists and the NRA, I’m sure. Our children have to die so that some people can make more money.

Yes, it’s madness, but the first path out of the madness is to reduce the prevalence of guns. I don’t see any way around that. As long as Americans are acquiring more and more guns, they are going to be more and more violent.

How to reduce the number of guns in circulation is another question, and I am sure there will be no magic bullet. And, ultimately, the greed has to be called out and punished, and we need a functioning government to do that. Well, good luck to us.

Being President Is Boring

At first Trump might have thought the Hurricane Dorian thing was a lucky break, since it gave him an excuse to cancel a boring trip to Poland. It was doubly lucky because Trump was also supposed to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy of Ukraine. Trump might have had to explain why he is holding up military aid meant to help Ukraine confront Russia. This was just a week after National Security Nutjob John Bolton assured Ukraine that U.S. aid would “intensify.” Oops! Trump sent Mike “the Weasel” Pence to bullshit on behalf of the administration instead.

So that business dispatched, Trump retreated to Camp David to monitor the hurricane. But Camp David is so boring. Nothing there but a driving range and a one-hole putting green. So on Saturday he took one of his taxpayer-funded helicopters to Trump National Golf Club in Potomac Falls, Virginia, to play 18 holes.

Still, there was that pesky hurricane thing going on he was supposed to be monitoring. On Sunday he had to sit through a boring FEMA briefing on the hurrican’s progress. Here he is attempting to pay attention.

I mean, the only part of the briefing that appeared to interest him was whether the hurricane would likely make landfall on one of his properties in south Florida.

“Let me just ask you,” the president said, showing an unusual interest. “Two days ago we were given a really comprehensive briefing and they seemed to think, almost every prediction was that [the storm] was going to go right through Florida and into the Gulf — actually right across Florida.”

“Does that not have a chance of happening now?” he asked. “What do you think the chances that it goes directly straight as the original predictions were?”

When assured that most of the models showed the hurricane staying in the Atlantic and moving further north up the east coast, Trump went back to trying to fake attention. After the briefing he spoke some words in a bored monotone about people keeping safe. However, more than once yesterday he said that the hurricane could strike Alabama, which indicates he either doesn’t know where Alabama is or he still wasn’t grasping where the hurricane might actually go.

Trump also was baffled by the designation “category 5,” saying he’d never heard of such a thing, which is the same thing he said about Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Michael. Boring science stuff is boring.

Trump’s twitter feed today is full of National Weather Service hurricane projections, probably posted by White House staff. But over the weekend Trump let us know what was really on his mind, which was mostly a lot of petty grievances. For example —

If you actually care why Trump is mad at Debra Messing, or if you can’t remember who Debra Messing is, here is the background.

But now Trump is supposed to pretend he cares about a monster hurricane that will impact a lot of little people he doesn’t know. So boring. However, it’s not 100 percent certain south Florida is out of harm’s way, in which case he might pay attention.

Trump Sentences Sick Children to Death; Pro-Life Organizations Silent

I’m sure you’ve heard about the decision from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services that eliminated a “deferred action” program allowing very ill non-citizens receiving lifesaving medical care to remain in the U.S. Many of these non-citizens are children. Last week patents and their parents began receiving letters from the U.S. government telling them they had 33 days to leave the United States or face deportation. Many of the doctors of these patients say that deportation would be a death sentence.

The purpose of this policy change, other than the cruelty itself, is obscure.  I doubt we’re talking about large numbers of people here. The only number I’ve seen is that USCIS processes about 1,000 applications for the program a year, for a two-year deferment. And the ham-handed way this policy change was handled suggests Stephen Miller, Wraith of Evil, was behind it. Lawyers for immigration advocacy groups are preparing to challenge the policy change in court; let us hope the courts will put a stop to this.

But it strikes me that we’re not hearing from the Fetus People on this issue. I actually went to some “right to life” websites and news sources and looked for something about it. Crickets.

Keep in mind that the so-called “right to lifers” are not just about enforced pregnancy. They also have a long history of butting into end of life decisions to “save” patients from having life support terminated. Here is just one recent case, from this May — Texas Right to Life “saved” a woman named Carolyn Jones whose life support was being terminated by Memorial Hermann Southwest in Houston. Jones was taken to some other facility — where she died anyway.  Right-to-life news outlets are full of stories about innocent people being unjustly removed from life support; this is almost as big an issue with them as abortion. And I know some of these cases are difficult, but an intervention by loony-tune fanatics can’t possibly be a help.

The Fetus People are even opposed to people issuing “advance directives” about when to terminate their own life support in case they become incapacitated. The Fetus People site Life News has had a regular vendetta going about an Oregon law that simply spells out how people can prepare a legal directive to not be put on life support if they don’t want it. Life News headlines about this law screamed Oregon Bill Would Allow Starving Mentally Ill Patients to Death.

And need I remind you — Terri Schiavo?

So, given how opposed the Fetus People are to allowing people to die even when there’s no hope, you’d think that they’d be demanding that these innocent foreign people be allowed to remain in the U.S. to receive treatment that is actually saving their lives.

Well, you’d be wrong. Again, I looked and looked. The Fetus People ain’t touchin’ this one. I can’t say I’m surprised.

Stephen Miller directing U.S. immigration policy

Trump Just Screwed the U.S. Military

This comes under the heading of why the bleep are they doing this

Children born to US service members and government employees overseas will no longer be automatically considered citizens of the United States, according to policy alert issued by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on Wednesday.

Previously, children born to US citizen parents were considered to be “residing in the United States,” and therefore would be automatically given citizenship under Immigration and Nationality Act 320.

Now, children born to US service members and government employees, such as those born in US military hospitals or diplomatic facilities, will not be considered as residing in the US, changing the way that they potentially receive citizenship.

In other words, if you are a U.S. citizen and career military and you and your family are stationed in Germany, and your baby is born at, say, the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, which is entirely owned and operated by the United States military, that baby is not automatically considered a U.S. citizen? That’s not how it’s ever worked before. And even if the baby eventually becomes a citizen, he or she isn’t eligible to run for president. That would have eliminated the late John McCain. Maybe that’s the point, even though his being dead kind of took him out of politics..

And what about the many people born overseas to U.S. diplomatic and military personnel who have been skipping through life presumed to be U.S. citizens? Do they lose their citizenship now?

I don’t understand what purpose this serves. It seems to me that if I were career military and I planned to have a family I might have second throughts about re-enlisting.

Putin’s Boy

Last night on The Last Word Lawrence O’Donnell dropped something of a bomb.

MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell said a “source close to Deutsche Bank” told him that President Donald Trump’s loans were underwritten by “Russian billionaires close to Vladimir Putin.”

“If true, that would explain every kind word Donald Trump has ever said about Russia and Vladimir Putin,” O’Donnell said.

There has been no other reporting that substantiates this claim.

“I want to stress that is a single source, that has not been confirmed by NBC News, I have not seen any documentation from Deutsche Bank that supports this and verifies this. This is just a single source who has revealed that to me. And that where it stands at this point, its going to require a lot more verification before that can be a confirmable fact,” said O’Donnell at the end of his show Tuesday.

Earlier on Tuesday, Deutsche Bank confirmed that it held tax records to do with Trump, but no details have yet been made public.

Trump’s ties to Deutsche Bank have long been the subject of rumor and speculation, and O’Donnell has a long record of controversial statements.

If true, this would explain a lot. Of course, we shouldn’t assume it is true until there is corroboration. And also of course, if Trump wanted to put the rumor to rest he could produce copies of the loan documents. So far, Trump hasn’t addressed this issue on his Twitter feed; he may not know it’s out there if they aren’t talking about it on Fox News. Deutsche Bank appeared to confirm it had copies of Trump family tax returns and other relevant documents yesterday.

Update: Lawyers for Trump are demanding the story be retracted, claiming that all the loan documents already are part of public record. That’s news to me. Where are they, then?

Update update: O’Donnell tweeted a retraction to the news story, possibly in response to the lawyer’s letter.

Reports are coming out now that Trump wouldn’t shut up about Putin in the G7 meetings.

A sharp and sometimes bitter disagreement broke out between President Donald Trump and several G7 leaders over whether to allow Russia back into their club during a welcome dinner on Saturday, according to two diplomatic officials and a senior US official with knowledge of the exchange.

Trump, as he did in public over the course of the summit, ardently advocated for it, the officials said. As the leaders discussed issues like Iran and fires in the Amazon rainforest, Trump interjected and asked why Russia should not be included in the talks, given its size and role in global affairs.

That met sharp resistance from some of the leaders, principally German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. They argued Russia had grown more anti-democratic since it was ejected in 2014 for its incursion into Ukraine, disqualifying it from rejoining the G7.

Do also see Trump Used the G7 to Remind the World He’s on Team Putin by Ryan Bort at Rolliing Stone and Trump Went to the Mat for Putin at the G7 Summit by Jonathan Chait.  Of course, Trump doesn’t grasp “democracy” so that wouldn’t have meant anything to him. And then there was Trump’s incoherent speech about how Ukraine was “taken away” from President Obama and that’s why Russia was kicked out of the old G8.

President Donald Trump on Monday concluded his G7 trip by repeating Russian propaganda, claiming once again that it had been kicked out of the Group of 7 in 2014 because Russian President Vladimir Putin had “outsmarted” and “embarrassed” President Barack Obama by annexing Crimea from Ukraine.  …

…Stating that there were a “lot of bad things” that happened between Obama and Putin, Trump said that Obama’s “red line” warning to Syria—a Russian ally—over the use of chemical weapons was one of the reasons Russia wasn’t in the G7. He then pivoted to the annexation of Crimea.

“And the other [reason] was in Ukraine, having to do with a certain section of Ukraine that you know very well, where it was sort of taken away from President Obama,” Trump declared. “Not taken away from President Trump, taken away from President Obama. President Obama was not happy that this happened because it was embarrassing to him, right? It was very embarrassing to him.”

He continued: “And he wanted Russia to be out of the—what was called the G8. That was his determination. He was outsmarted by Putin. He was outsmarted. President Putin outsmarted President Obama. And I can understand how President Obama would feel. He wasn’t happy. And they’re not in for that reason.”

Note that in the extended exchange Trump didn’t use the name “Crimea” until a reporter said it. One suspects he couldn’t remember what the “certain section of Ukraine” was called.

In other news, Trump is furious with Fox News for presenting a relatively straighforward newsy interview with a DNC official and tweeted that Fox News “isn’t working for us any more!

Well, there’s always Glenn Beck. And finally, we have reports that Trump is near frantic that the 2020 general election is just over a year away and no part of his border wall has been built yet. So it’s time to cut some corners.

President Trump is so eager to complete hundreds of miles of border fence ahead of the 2020 presidential election that he has directed aides to fast-track billions of dollars’ worth of construction contracts, aggressively seize private land and disregard environmental rules, according to current and former officials involved with the project.

He also has told worried subordinates that he will pardon them of any potential wrongdoing should they have to break laws to get the barriers built quickly, those officials said.

Trump also is pressuring the Army Corps of Engineers to give a contract for his wall to a company whose chief executive is a donor to Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), one of his top GOP allies in Congress. Just another day in Trump World.

Baby Men

This morning we woke up to the news that the G6 leaders (baby-man Donald Trump being absent from the climate change meeting, apparently sulking, which was for the best) pledged 22 million dollars to fight the Amazon rainforest fires that threaten life on this planet. And the baby-man Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro turned it down unless French President Emmanuel Macron apologizes to him.

Bolsonaro and Macron have engaged in a days-long spat after the French leader used the G-7 summit this week to call for action to protect the Amazon and said the fires are a world environmental crisis that Bolsonaro has allowed to worsen. He also said that Bolsonaro, a climate change skeptic, had lied about his effort to combat deforestation.

Bolsonaro responded angrily, saying Macron had insulted him and was trying to undermine Brazil’s sovereignty by intervening in the Amazon.

If the fires are not brought under control very soon, I personally think the rest of the world would be justified in moving in to do the job whether Brazil likes it or not. If baby-man Bolsonaro doesn’t like that, I’m sure somebody’s got some black ops commandos available  who could persuade him to shut up. I’m serious. And that’s not something I suggest lightly, but the consequences of inaction could be beyond catastrophic.

President Trump came to Bolsonaro’s defense on Tuesday, saying via Twitter, “He is working very hard on the Amazon fires and in all respects doing a great job for the people of Brazil — Not easy.”

In reply, Bolsonaro thanked Trump and wrote, “The fake news campaign built against our sovereignty will not work.”

Of course, these two baby-men see eye to eye. Baby-man Bolsonaro also has been making crude and juvenile remarks about Michelle Macron, the French president’s wife. How Trumpish of him! Naomi Klein remarked,

Just your morning reminder that disdain for women’s bodies and disdain for the earth are deeply connected. Both remind idiotic baby men like Bolsonaro and Trump that they are part of web of interdependent life and not the lone heroic figures pretend to be.

Whether women’s bodies or the earth remind the baby-men of anything useful is questionable, but I agree that such disdain seems to be part of the baby-man syndrome.

A giant balloon inflated by activists depicting US President Donald Trump as an orange baby is seen during a demonstration against Trump’s visit to the UK in Parliament Square in London on July 13, 2018. – US President Donald Trump launched an extraordinary attack on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit strategy, plunging the transatlantic “special relationship” to a new low as they prepared to meet Friday on the second day of his tumultuous trip to Britain. (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP) (Photo credit should read TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Trump’s Tariff Superpowers

After the last few days one would think there would be a lot more alarm bells going off in national media, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Peter Baker at the New York Times:

In the space of a few hours, he declared that his own central bank chief was an “enemy,” claimed sweeping powers not explicitly envisioned by the Constitution to “order” American businesses to leave China and, when stock markets predictably tumbled, made a joke of it.

Mr. Trump’s wild and unscripted pronouncements on Friday renewed questions about his stewardship of the world’s largest economy even as he escalated a trade war with China before heading to France for a high-profile summit with the leaders of many of the world’s other major industrial powers.

“Renewed questions” about his stewardship of the ecocnomy? Renewed questions? Your bleeping hair should be on fire, you dweeb.

The best analysis of the past couple of days I’ve seen so far comes from Josh Barro, a one-time Republican who still calls himself a neoliberal. But putting that aside, “This Is How Trump Will Tank the Economy and His Presidency” sounds about right to me.

If he wanted less China-related economic drag, he could back off the tariff threats. And indeed, he did a little of that a couple of weeks ago, delaying some of the new tariffs he announced for September 1 so they won’t take effect until December 15. His administration said this delay was for national security reasons, though he said himself it was because he didn’t want to interfere with the Christmas shopping season.

But the Chinese appear to have read the delay as a sign of weakness. This week they announced more tariffs, infuriating the president. Since backing off didn’t work, he decided to escalate today. And that’s what’s so nerve-racking for the markets: His trade policy no longer appears to be self-limiting. In fact, it could be self-reinforcing, where tariffs cause damage and the president tries to “fix” the damage with more tariffs. …

…With a China less willing to back down and a trade war maybe too far along to stop, the president is backed into a corner. He may feel he can’t save the economy by folding. And so he may follow his instinct — one of the few consistent policy views he has expressed for decades — that protectionism is good for the economy, and that despite what the markets and his advisers are telling him, trade wars are good and easy to win and more tariffs and more disruption will only mean more winning for the U.S.

What the president showed us today is he’s prepared to hit the gas as he approaches the cliff.

I don’t see any way that won’t happen as long as Trump is in the White House. Near term, the money people may still keep the stock market, and Trump, propped up, but we’ll see what happens with the markets on Monday.

Trump keeps demanding that the Fed drop interest rates to goose the economy he’s killing with his tariffs. Whether dropping interest rates would do as much for the economy as Trump thinks is questionable. But see also Trump’s company could save millions if interest rates fall as he demands.

Another thing that irritates the hell out of me is that the teevee bobbleheads keep saying that of course a president has the power to enact any tariffs he wants to, without congressional approval. Except he doesn’t, or at least he’s not supposed to. The Constitution plainly gives Congress and only Congress the power to levy tariffs in Article I, Section 8, first paragraph, where it says “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.” In 18th century language tariffs come under “duties” and “imposts.” 

At article published at Vox last year explained how Congress has been ceding trade regulation powers to Congress for decades through a number of bills that give presidents tariff powers under particular circumstances that can be stretched to fit just about any occasion. Trump shows us why that was a bad idea. But today he specifically mentioned one instrument of that congressional power shift  —

The full title of the bill is International Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977, known as IEEPA for short. Trump seems to think this bill gives him complete control over how American businesses work with China. Per Anya van Wagtendonk at Vox: Um, no.

The Economic Powers Act allows the president of the United States to regulate commerce during a national emergency. It does not allow a president to order companies to close their factories in foreign countries, however. And as there has not yet been a national emergency declared with respect to Chinese trade, Trump’s present abilities to govern economic interactions with China are limited to measures like tariffs.

Even Wagtendonk surrenders extraconstitutional tariff powers to Trump. IMO if we ever again have a Democrat in the White House and a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress, there needs to be a great taking back of a lot of these surrendered powers, including war powers. See also this “primer” on IEEPA at Lawfare that is fairly terrifying, since it describes what a president could do under IEEPA.

And see also Trump ‘hereby’ orders U.S. business out of China. Can he do that? at WaPo. The answer is, yes and no. Trump really could do a lot of things presidents haven’t done before that could do a lot of damage, and at this point it’s clear there is nobody keeping him in check. Congress could do it, if it acted, but Mitch McConnell won’t allow that.

But the Chinese can read poll numbers and can see that Trump could be a one-term president, meaning it’s likely he’s got 17 months before he’s out. The Chinese do tend to take the long view of things. I would be enormously surprised if they blink.

Steering Straight for the Iceberg

As much as I’d like to take time to celebrate observe the death of David Koch, there is more significant news. As I write this, the Dow is down 457 points. Earlier today is was 500. It’s possible the Big Money people will dump enough money into the markets to prop it up before the bell rings, of course.

But what caused today’s financial scare? Trump, of course. Well, and China.

The trade war between the U.S. and China worsened Friday as Beijing imposed retaliatory tariffs on $75 billion in American goods and President Trump took the extraordinary step of calling on U.S. companies to stop doing business with China.

The new tariffs, which included reinstated levies on auto products, delivered a strategically timed blow as recession warning signs cast doubt on the strength of the U.S. economy.

Now, that’s a bad thing. What would a sensible, level-headed response from the White House be? Probably not this:

Trump initially directed his ire at Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell in Friday tweets, painting the Fed’s lack of monetary easing as a greater threat to American workers and businesses. But moments later, he said he would be responding to China’s tariffs later Friday and demanded American companies cut ties with China.
Yeah, the tweets were even more off the wall than usual today. Here is his most recent one:

Who knew that Moulton (which one was he, again?) was that significant? 573 points? Latest updates I can find say 536.26. Not lookin’ good.

Anyhoo — this morning the Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said that interest rate cuts are on the table, but that the Fed could only do so much to counteract Trump’s trade policies. Well, he didn’t mention Trump, but that’s what he meant.

“Trade policy uncertainty seems to be playing a role in the global slowdown and in weak manufacturing and capital spending in the United States,” Mr. Powell said, adding that there were “no recent precedents to guide any policy response to the current situation.”

Trump went ballistic.

The thing is, recent events clearly point to, um, deterioration in Trump’s mental and emotional state. The Chinese are not stupid. They might have sensed the time to strike is now.

Trump really did order all U.S. companies to stop doing business with China. “Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China, including bringing your companies HOME and making your products in the USA,” he tweeted.

Kevin Drum:

Wait. I thought we had all agreed that nothing Trump tweets is actually an order or anything like it. It’s merely a manifestation of how Trump wants his base to perceive him. In this case, he apparently wants them to perceive him as Albert Speer or something.

Anyway, the president obviously doesn’t have the authority to order US companies to do anything, even if he does use a big word like “hereby.” Still, I assume Republicans will all be shocked and outraged by this megalomaniac attempt to interfere in the free market. Right?

Ha. But I guess if you think you’re Jesus, it’s not that far a stretch to be emperor of commerce, too. And the G7 is about to start! Great fun!

Also: On a sober note, it’s been announced that Ruth Bader Ginsburg is being treated for pancreatic cancer. This is seriously bad.

Update: Just a couple of minutes before the closing bell the Dow was down over 700 points, but last minute trading brought it back up to 622.6. Still, there’s nothing like a bad Friday to lead to a worse Monday.

The Hard White Wall of Hypocrisy

So the Creature actually tweeted this:

I had never heard of Wayne Allyn Root. Turns out he is a nutjob opinion writer:

Root, a longtime conservative columnist and radio host, has promoted a wide range of false conspiracy theories, including that President Barack Obama attended Columbia University as a “foreign exchange student,” that Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was murdered by Democrats because he provided DNC files to WikiLeaks, that progressive donor George Soros hired the murderer of Charlottesville, VA, rally victim Heather Heyer, and that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts’ 2015 Obamacare ruling might have been the result of him being “blackmailed or intimidated.”

Root has nonetheless received direct access to Trump and his family, whom he has partied with at the president’s Mar-A-Lago resort.

Of course. Back to Trump:

“The last time ‘King of the Jews’ trended, things did not end well.” Charles Pierce

Fifty-three years ago, John Lennon said the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, and the Bible Belt erupted in outrage. Today? Not so much.

One of my Facebook friends says that for Dispensationalists, which conservative evangelicals often are, claiming to be as loved as Jesus in Israel puts Trump in serious Antichrist territory. I’ll take his word on that; I don’t care to look deeply into Dispensationalism. But will any of Trump’s evangelical supporters express concern about this? I’m not going to hold my breath until they do.

We need a cartoon of Trump and Franklin Graham throwing Jesus under a bus.

And then there’s the Greenland thing. Trump actually cancelled a visit to Denmark that was supposed to have happened around the first of September because the Danish prime minister told him flatly she wasn’t selling Greenland. Kevin Drum:

Can we finally start talking publicly about Trump’s mental state? This is the action of a child, not an adult in full control of his faculties. Everyone aside from Trump understood that his Greenland compulsion was a sign of cognitive regression in the first place, and this episode demonstrates that it was no passing fantasy. Trump took it seriously enough to treat Frederiksen’s comments as just another incitement to a feud with a political enemy.

The man is not well. I don’t care what you want to call his condition, but he’s not well. I can only shiver at the thought of what the folks who work regularly with Trump really think of him these days.

Greg Sargent thinks that it’s possible Trump is aware that Barack Obama is scheduled to visit Denmark in mid-September, and Trump is afraid the Danes will treat Obama better than him and make him look bad. But as a “most charitable” reason, that still smells out loud.

This is a fresh tweet:

No, moron, the other NATO countries do not owe us protection money. NATO is not the Mob.

Oh, and Trump is now starting a war with the auto industry. He can’t understand why they aren’t grateful to him for getting rid of Obama emission standards. Instead of just reverting to manufacturing smog-emiting cars, automakers are agreeing to abide by standards passed by California that are, essentially, the Obama standards. The Trump Administration declared that states cannot set their own standards, but that is being challenged in court. The auto manufacturers probably realize that once Trump is gone the next president will reinstate the Obama standards, so there is no point retooling. But Trump is pissed.

No, he’s not well. And perhaps the most dangerous thing the King of the Jews said yesterday was to call Jews “disloyal.” Dahlia Lithwick:

At a press conference on Tuesday, President Donald Trump released a tirade of nonsensical statements after he was asked whether the United States should reconsider its policies toward Israel after the country refused entry to two Muslim American U.S. congresswomen. His reply? “I can’t believe we’re even having this conversation. Where has the Democratic Party gone? Where have they gone where they are defending these two people over the state of Israel?” Trump said. “I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”

Media accounts suggest it wasn’t exactly clear to whom Jews voting for a Democrat would be disloyal, but in context it appears that he was suggesting that Jews owe their first loyalty to Israel and that any choice to defend Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota—freshman Democrats who were first granted entry to Israel by the Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and then denied it after Trump suggested they be barred—is a choice not to defend Israel, where, according to Trump, Jews’ principal loyalty should lie.

This is not at all farfetched. Awhile back, in a speech to American Jewish Republicans, Trump referred to Benjamin Netanyahu was “your prime minister.” In Trump’s head, American Jews are not entirely American. This is dangerous. Some of Trump’s unhinged, gun-toting followers might take Trump’s “disloyalty” comments to mean that it’s time to shoot up another synagogue.

Jennifer Rubin notes that a number of prominent Democrats have criticized Trump’s words. And “Jewish groups — with the exception of the quisling Republican Jewish Coalition, which had the chutzpah to defend Trump — condemned the president,” she wrote.

However, we have yet to hear from Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) or House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who claimed to be oh so concerned about anti-Semitism when the issue was statements by Omar. It comes as no surprise to anyone paying the slightest attention that their concern about anti-Semitism appears to be entirely situational.

Also, too:

He’s not well. Nancy Pelosi, please, do your job.

Update: Now he’s complaining the prime minister of Denmark was “nasty” to him. He’s escalating.