Friday, April 06, 2018

King Midas In Reverse


Is the Trump Regime off the rails? Sure looks that way. Where do we even begin? Random selection: Matthew Lee and Josh Lederman, reporting for the Associated Press: Anticipating an unpredictable president’s next moves, American officials have started actively planning for the likelihood that Señor Trumpanzee will announce that April showers have brought a May withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. “[N]o one knows,” they wrote, “exactly what would happen next or how Iran would respond.” With less than five weeks until Señor T’s deadline, for something or other, national security officials are exploring various ‘day after’ scenarios. “Those include how to sell a pullout as the correct strategy, how aggressively to reimpose U.S. sanctions on Iran that had been lifted under the agreement and how to deal with Iranian and European fallout from such a step, according to officials, diplomats and outside advisers to the administration.”
[A] complicating factor is Trump’s stated desire to withdraw U.S. personnel and resources from Syria, which many Iran hawks believe will cede the country to Tehran. Leaving Syria to keep his campaign promise of disentangling the U.S. military from the Middle East may force Trump’s hand on the nuclear deal, according to hawks who have expressed dismay at the president’s desire to pull back.

“I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back,” Trump said Tuesday. “Sometimes it’s time to come back home.”

Iran has said U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions would destroy the agreement and has threatened a range of responses, including immediately restarting nuclear activities currently barred under the deal.
OK-- that has thrown him into a standoff with his National Security Staff. CNN reported yesterday that he was testy and irritated with his top military brass and national security team on Tuesday when they advised him an immediate withdrawal of US troops from Syria would be unwise and could not provide a timeline for when American forces could exit. In a sometimes-tense meeting of his national security team, Trump complained at length about the amount of American money being spent in the region, which he said had produced nothing for the US in return.”

On top of that, his new chief economic advisor, TV personality Lawrence Kudlow is trying to play down Trumpanzee’s threats to start a trade war with China. Kudlow stressed U.S. tariffs announced on Chinese goods are still only proposals that might never take effect. Some people are worried that China’s very targeted retaliations will destroy the bond between Trump and rural voters who were stupid and desperate enough to vote for him in 2016. “None of the tariffs have been put in place yet,” said Kudlow, “these are all proposals. We’re putting it out for comment. There’s at least two months before any actions are taken.” Trump reacted by saying he’s considering “hitting China with an additional $100 billion in tariffs, on top of the $50 billion” he’s already authorized, escalating threats of a trade war with China. As Axios pointed out yesterday “This is exactly what the free traders who formerly worked in the White House feared, Trump in a macho pissing match against Chinese President Xi. Trump has a blunt understanding of leverage and believes the worst thing he can show is weakness. He also believes, as he tweeted, that the U.S. already is so far down on the scorecard with China that he’s got nothing to lose.”

And it’s not just in foreign affairs-- which he knows nothing about-- where he’s flailing around and feeling his oats (bad combo). He’s like a bull in a china shop. He’s also running into more problems domestically. On Wednesday Politico reported that Pruitt is in deep doo-doo for his ethics “lapses.” While the Regime is trying to save Pruitt, Señor Trumpanzee wants to make sure he’s “not pleased with all the negative headlines surrounding him. Pruitt’s challenges appeared to deepen when White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders-- asked why Trump is ‘OK’ with the leader of the Environmental Protection Agency renting a condo from a lobbyist for $50 a night-- responded that ‘the president’s not.’ Kelly told Pruitt that Trump’s forbearance isn’t endless and that “the flow of negative and damning stories needed to stop soon.” Good luck with that!

Yesterday he was in West Virginia to make a speech about the new tax law which is supposed to bolster Republicans’ slim chances to hold onto Congress in November. Trump threw his speech away-- literally. “This was going to be my remarks. It would’ve taken about two minutes, but… That would’ve been a little boring, a little boring. Now I’m reading off the first paragraph, I said this is boring. Come on. We have to say, tell it like it is.” Crazy man feeling his oats. Instead of talking about tax cuts, he blabbered on and on about the red meat topics he thinks got him elected and will get him elected again. Probably not going to help GOP candidates in 7 months.

The Washington Post chalks this all up to “an emboldened” Trumpanzee “discovering that the policies he once described as easy fixes for the nation are a lot more complicated in reality-- creating backlash among allies, frustrating supporters and threatening the pocketbooks of many farming communities that helped get him elected.” He’s not taking any of this well.
Freed from the caution of former advisers, Trump has spent recent weeks returning to the gut-level basics that got him elected: tough talk on China, a promise of an immigration crackdown and an isolationist approach to national security.

Several people who have spoken to the president say he is telling advisers that he is finally expediting the policies that got him elected and is more comfortable without a number of aides around him who were tempering his instincts. And he often cites rising poll numbers in recent weeks as a reason he should do it his own way.
Uh oh. The Atlantic, for example, focused in on one place where Trump’s blunders are going to punish the very people who looked to his election as salvation, people strung out on prescription drugs. Although, admittedly the people most likely to go to prison are… surprise, surprise: people of color.
The War on Drugs 3.0 began in earnest just last week. And it could have the same devastating effect on communities of color as the ones that came before.

In Manchester, New Hampshire-- the hardest-hit city in a state that’s become the epicenter of America’s opioid crisis--President Trump announced a new plan ostensibly designed to combat the epidemic. The president played something of a warrior king, promising a far-reaching campaign to curtail prescriptions and a crackdown on illegal drug use. “Drug traffickers kill so many thousands of our citizens every year, and that’s why my Department of Justice will be seeking much tougher penalties than we ever have,” he pledged. “That penalty is going to be the death penalty.”

Trump’s rhetoric is, of course, familiar. Like his predecessors Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan-- who presided over the last major escalations in anti-drug policy-- Trump anchored his appeal with a promise to return to law and order. And he vowed to use a similar tool: a federal dragnet to stop dealers with force, even lethal force if necessary.

But it’s the places where Trump’s strategy differs from his predecessors’ that marks a truly novel turn in policy. On the demand side, the administration proposed some new public-health-oriented policies for treating substance use that advocates have clamored for. And on the supply side, Trump pushed strongly for capital punishment-- a measure that is legal, but has rarely been used within a drug-trafficking context. On the whole, the new War on Drugs endorses developments in drug policy that may only deepen the vast racial divides within the American criminal-justice system: sympathy for a mostly white base of users, and naked aggression toward people of color.

These two visions for federal drug policy have been on display from the start of Trump’s presidency, when the White House began its slow, meandering path toward confronting the opioid crisis, the most deadly drug epidemic in American history and one that now kills more people than breast cancer. In his joint address to Congress in 2017, Trump distinguished dealers, who should be dealt with harshly, from users, who simply needed help-- promising to “stop the drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth,” and to “expand treatment for those who have become so badly addicted.”

…On the campaign trail through to today, part of Trump’s angle in opioid-ravaged areas of the country has been to paint the problem as one brought on by outside invaders. Instead of connecting New England’s rampaging opioid crisis to the more widespread “epidemic of despair” linked to deindustrialization, in New Hampshire last week Trump blamed dastardly felons from across the U.S.-Mexico border. As he’s told it, criminals use sanctuary cities as bases to get ordinary Americans hooked on drugs. The president employs a strategy similar to the one well-utilized by Maine Governor Paul Le Page. The governor blamed black dealers directly for drug problems in his state-- saying, famously, that “guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty” were responsible.

The reality is that drug dealers and drug users aren’t easily separable categories of people, no matter their race. For starters, it’s well-known that many people who supply drugs also use them. And in the fluid nature of drug transactions at the local level-- where drugs are often passed informally between acquaintances, and people can share heroin laced with fentanyl without knowing it-- many of the people caught with large quantities of drugs or subject to enhanced fentanyl sentences aren’t really distributors at all. And that’s not to mention the people operating in the murky boundaries between the legal and illegal sides of opioid distribution, where people often make money selling their own prescription drugs. It stands to reason that in mostly white communities, the drug supply chain is at the very least partially white, and also probably full of people with their own substance-use needs.

But reality doesn’t matter very much when one’s endeavor is to divide people in two: creating state protection and sympathy for one group of people, while wielding the full resources of the most advanced carceral state in history against another. White users have increasingly become the face of the opioid epidemic, while black victims in particular are largely discounted from public consideration, despite data showing shocking rates of drug deaths in the black community. This disparate treatment could have public-health implications, with new resources funneled primarily to white communities. And it could have drastic law-enforcement implications, too: Black and Latino people are already much more likely to be policed, arrested, and sentenced than their white counterparts. Black Americans especially still face criminalization from the last two major iterations of the drug war, two campaigns that never really stopped. It doesn’t exactly take a leap in logic to determine who’s most likely to get caught up in an anti-opioid dragnet: black and Latino victims and suppliers alike.

But perhaps the most remarkable consequence of the Trump plan is how it may not even help many white people. Criminalization will inevitably destabilize some white communities, too, and federal and state criminal-justice initiatives will only siphon funds and attention away from public-health programs, which even with the addition of $6 billion in federal money are woefully underfunded. It’ll largely be up to states to choose between joining in the administration’s harsh prosecutorial campaign, or firmly rejecting it in favor of the public-health paradigm.

A year ago, Donald Trump in his inaugural address made a promise to stop the “American carnage” of  “the crime, and the gangs, and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.” But it’s clear from his track record-- his exhortations to police to brutalize suspects, his invocation of the specter of crime in Chicago, his accusations about black protesters being fueled by drugs, and now, his drug policy-- that all that’s in front of the country is more of the same, or worse.
Yep, he’s going to do a lot more damage than anyone imagined-- and everything he’s touching is turning to shit. There’s nothing Putin could have done to harm America more than to install Trump in the Oval Office.

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At 6:15 AM, Blogger Robert Welain said...

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At 6:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We are all Kansans now.

At 7:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Electoral "College" failed to perform its duty to prevent a poor choice from taking office (assuming that the views of those who created it can be taken as accurate), The "democrats" aren't even making an issue out of trump's terrible actions because they are more focused on keeping their Party from throwing them out on their GOP-lite ears. And as long as Republicans' greed is fed, they aren't about to change a thing.

Only NASA appears to be attempting to do something positive with poop - and Trump wants to slash their budgets.

The Great Experiment is creeping to a halt.

At 8:09 PM, Blogger Larry Piltz said...

"The "democrats" aren't even making an issue out of trump's terrible actions..".

The above line is from the 'Anonymous' comment above. It's hard to even think of a more incorrect disingenuous lie. This 'Anonymous' person (a paid shill?) will make up any outrageous distortion or non sequitur he/she can think of and then use it to 'prove' why we're all doomed with no hope in ourselves, each other, or our resilient institutions which still stand strong. Anonymous is wrong, of course, but it's interesting to see the deceitful distracting lengths he/she will go to, to create hopelessness in our system. One must wonder why. The 'paid shill' is my bet.

At 1:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Larry Piltz

That you bother to show up and defend those corrupt bastards only reveals you to be the paid shill.

Don't spend it all in one place.

At 7:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Larry, the only thing wrong with 7:30's opinion is he/she only singled out the republicans for corruption.

The Rs are corrupt but they are driven more, IMO, by their fundy ideology (greed, hate, fear, lust, greed, hate and hate).

The democraps, otoh, have been driven strictly by greed. They are MORE corrupt than the Rs.

They're only recently embracing some of the hate. They saw that it works for white men, so they are going to try to steal some of the hate vote from some Rs.

Democraps are NOT doing anything about trump or his Reichstag of enablers and other scavengers. They have already forsworn impeachment and are running a wide slate of right-wing shitheads as Pelosi is retreading her 2006 gambit.

As for "our resilient institutions", well, I need say no more than "EPA", do I?

At 2:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

DOJ, DOEd, DOEnergy, State, FEC...

They exist in name only. Is that what "resilient" means? They still print a letterhead with the logo?


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