A semi-quieter Trump this week after 100 days

Of 38 specific promises Donald Trump made in his 100-day “contract” with voters, he’s accomplished 10, mostly through executive orders that don’t require legislation. He hasn’t started on 15 of his 100-day promises, which include several immigration laws, college affordability, infrastructure incentives and punishment for companies that move jobs overseas.

While Trump claims he doesn’t seem to care about the 100-day mark of his administration, he plans a whirlwind of activities seeking to highlight accomplishments. What those are, few know. Bombing Syria twice. After that? He claims job creation but how many were already in place prior to his election? Pipeline? Debatable. Trade?

Exiting TPP may or may not be a positive thing. Regulation cuts? Again. Debatable as some will make things easy to be done with little approval. He claims ethics. He should look in his own backyard. He claims travel restrictions but other than the electronics ban, it’s been a dismal failure. He claims constructing the wall but not an inch has been built. He claims new hires for immigration enforcement but he can’t find people to hire for border security. He claims helping women but he is killing planned parenthood.

On the 100th day – same day as a possible government shutdown – he will be in Atlanta for a National Rifle Association event as well as sign more executive orders while aides fan out around the country to promote the administration. There he said the second amendment was under “assault” for 8 years.

Trump, not surprising, is fuming over the less than stellar reviews of his first 100 days. Add to his tarnishing of the office [claiming that Obama tapping phones, illegal voters voted for Hillary Clinton, insulting allies] and failure to pass some executive orders [travel ban twice ]or to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Many campaign initiatives have been changed, failed or just ignored. Others such as comments about NATO, China and Russia have changed. He also has lost quite a few people he hired after the election like Michael Flynn and a few others aren’t doing well either.

Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, did not disclose foreign payments, despite a warning from the Pentagon in 2014. Spicer blamed the Obama administration, saying Flynn got top security clearance last year [they vetted him]. Spicer said Trump’s White House didn’t review Flynn’s security clearance, but rather relied on previous clearance from the Obama administration. Yup. Put the blame on someone else.

Trump said that he will move forward with terminating NAFTA if negotiations don’t success. For now, however, he is focused on reworking the agreement with Mexico and Canada. This even though he spoke to the Mexican President and Canadian Prime Minister and said he wouldn’t. Sounds a bit like a spoiled brat.

Trump hosed Canada’s softwood lumber industry when Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the tariffs, or taxes, were being imposed after trade talks on dairy products fell through. The tariffs — also called duties — ranged from 3% to 24% on five specific Canadian lumber companies. For all other Canadian lumber companies, there’s a nearly 20% tariff on exports to the US. Of course why lumber when dairy products negotiations failed? It was in early February when trump met Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that NAFTA would only be “tweaked” with Canada.

Canada is expected to file a complaint with the trade dispute court. They did in 2004 after a similar huge tariff imposed and the US lost. They also filed 4 other times and Canada won all of them.

The lumber tax is expected to hike the price of lumber used in home building by an average of 6% [$3,000], according to the National Association of Home Builders, the trade group for the U.S. industry. Builders argue that higher prices will translate into a slowdown of construction activity that could cost 8,000 U.S. jobs and $500 million in lost wages. With the possible lack of lumber, it will drive up prices across the US.

So the Trump administration is “helping” the lumber industry at the expense of new home owners and builders. An executive for the U.S. Lumber Association says that $3,000 is nothing if the average home is $225,000 [where?]. But that is about 1.5%, not 6%. 6% would be about $13,500. He’s dropping the increased cost so it doesn’t look as bad.

World Trade Organization ruled in Mexico’s favor, allowing it to impose trade sanctions worth $163 million a year against the US. The WTO says that’s how much money Mexico has lost from the US unfairly penalizing Mexican tuna. Mexican officials insisted for years that US laws discriminated against their tuna, and that other countries didn’t face the same level of enforcement.

In more fibbing from Trump, he claimed that after he threatened to do the preliminary work to kill NAFTA [even though he always said he would “tweak” it], he said that the Canadian Prime Minister and Mexican President called him to work on fixing NAFTA but at least the Canadian Prime Minister said Trump initiated the call. Who would you believe?

The killing of NAFTA would cause major havoc with the economies of the 3 countries that could affect other economies. It may not be as complicated as Brexit but it would be complicated and would need approval from Congress [which trump has issues right now]. At least 33 states trade heavily with Canada – many voted for Trump.

Trump plans on announcing tax reform which would drop the corporate tax rate from 35 per cent to 15 per cent and drop the personal tax as well. But some experts doubt that by dropping the tax rate can the current deficit [about $560 billion] not increase even if it helps the economy to improve as it would need a big jolt to do so. Also whether or not the Automatic Minimum Tax will be changed or removed . This tax is applied to the wealthy as the minimum they must pay, no matter what they deducted in charities, loopholes, etc. In one year Trump could of saved over $30 million if AMT wasn’t around.

With a higher deficit, the Trump plan could damage the credibility of Republican lawmakers who spent years railing against the rising national debt under former President Barack Obama. Could be harder to pass lasting tax reform, since any policy that increases the debt above its baseline either requires Democratic support or — if passed by a slim majority of Republicans in the Senate — would expire in a decade.

Republicans who slammed the growing national debt under President Barack Obama have said they are open to Trump’s tax plan, even though it could add trillions of dollars to the deficit over the next decade. Republicans argue the cuts would spur economic growth, reducing or even eliminating any drop in tax revenue. But some had a change of heart after they saw the changes. The nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation said a big cut in corporate taxes, even if temporary, would add to long-term budget deficits.

In the brief outline for tax reform, it will slash the business tax rate on pass-through entities to 15% from 39.6%. [Pass-throughs’ profits flow through to the owners, partners and shareholders, who then report and pay tax on them through their individual tax returns.] All Trump family holdings are pass-throughs. So for every $1 million earned, Trump would pay $150,000 under his own plan instead of $396,000 today. From his leaked 2005 tax return, he would of saved $27 million.

Trump brought the complete Senate to his shack for a meeting to discuss North Korea. But “We learned nothing you couldn’t read in the newspaper,” Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley. Trump himself was only there for 14 minutes of the 60 minute briefing.

Trump claimed again that he was directly responsible for helping save $700 million on a February order of 90 F-35s — adding that costs will continue to shrink as more planes are delivered despite warnings from a non-partisan federal watchdog agency that testing delays could increase costs by more than a billion dollars. The program itself is worth $400 billion. So that’s a savings of 0.175%. He doesn’t explain what he did. Maybe he got had them remove the landing gear or something else less vital.

Trump tweeted “The Democrats don’t want money from budget going to border wall despite the fact that it will stop drugs and very bad MS 13 gang members” Not quite. More like the cost [estimated over $15 billion] is too much. As of this time, nothing yet built even though Trump had promised in his campaign. He also said that Mexico would pay but that won’t happen.

Bidders for the wall must have designs able to repel pickaxes and sledgehammers for at least an hour and be esthetically pleasing from the north side. One bidder suggested adding solar panels which would generate 2 megawatts of electricity an hour. Another bid suggests building a wall large enough for a deck that would offer tourists scenic views of the desert.

A federal judge blocked the Trump administration from enforcing a threat to take away funds from sanctuary cities — the latest blow from the federal judiciary to Trump’s immigration agenda.

“First the Ninth Circuit rules against the ban & now it hits again on sanctuary cities-both ridiculous rulings. See you in the Supreme Court!” Trump tweeted. Of course he wants to send everything to the Supreme Court [especially since he has his new lackey appointed]. But the judge who handed the ruling is not on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Ninth Circuit would hear the case next if appealed.

Democrats and Republicans voted overwhelmingly on a bill to keep the federal government open through next week, averting a shutdown while negotiators hammer out a broader deal to fund agencies through September. Trump’s wall building request wasn’t included.

After a gunman killed a police officer on the Champs-Elysees, an attack the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for, Trump tweeted: “Another terrorist attack in Paris. The people of France will not take much more of this. Will have a big effect on presidential election!” Some suggest he was referencing far-right Marine Le Pen and her party [known in the past to be anti-Semitic, anti-immigration, anti-EU].

So Ivanka was whining on the Today Show recently saying that it is a human crisis regarding the Syrian refugees. Meanwhile what has her father done? Banned them. Maybe they should do some coordinating.

The US economy only grew at an annual pace of 0.7% in the first three months of the year under Trump, according to the Commerce Department’s report on the GDP. It was the slowest quarter of growth since the first quarter of 2014.

“Our rights are under attack like never before,” the NRA says on its website. But from where? They have a supposedly conservative “president”. The gun industry grew from 166,000 employees in 2008, the year Obama was elected, to 301,000 last year. But since Trump has been in charge, gun sales have dropped.

In a recent poll, 32% still believe that Obama spied on Trump and it jumps to 52% when Republicans are asked. This considering that there is no evidence to support this.

A new CNN/ORC poll finds Trump reaches this milestone holding on to the lowest approval rating of any newly-elected president after 100 days. Overall, 44% say they approve of Trump’s handling of the presidency, 54% disapprove.

In an AP poll, eighty-six per cent of Democrats and 57 per cent of independents oppose new spending for a border wall with Mexico. Republicans break about 2-1 in favour of the wall, but that’s more narrow support than on other priorities. By a 64 per cent to 19 per cent margin, most oppose decreasing spending on scientific and medical research. Most Americans also oppose cuts to spending on the environment and on climate change, by a 52 per cent to 28 per cent margin. Finally, Americans are more likely to oppose than favour cutting spending for public television, radio and the arts, 44 per cent to 32 per cent.

Only 32 percent of millennials approve of his performance so far, according to a poll released by the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics. About 40% said they would give Trump an “F” on his first 100 days, and only a third said they support his handling of ISIS and Obamacare. Nearly 70% of young people, regardless of political ideology, said Trump’s tweeting is “not appropriate” and expressed reservations about cracking down too hard on immigration and jettisoning Obamacare.

 

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Democrats to investigate loss

Well it has been a week since Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump with the latter becoming President-elect of the United States.

The democratic party, in shock, is trying to figure out what happened. They had a double digit lead a bit over a week before the election. That shrunk down to just a few percentages prior to the election.

While Clinton did actually get the most votes, it is the number of seats that decides who will become President. For example, Clinton demolished Trump in the District of Columbia [i.e. Washington] and did very well in the states that would be hers [such as California] but many states she was neck and neck with Trump. She lost key battleground states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida where she should have won them. Probably just 1-2 of those states would have gone her way and she would be President-elect.

Clinton has blamed the FBI director [who for now will be keeping his job] but it wasn’t just the mail server. You don’t lose maybe 10% in the polls on an issue like that.

The Democrats couldn’t count on the minorities and younger voters that should of propelled her. Some believe she may have alienated the African American voters. She obviously did not get the same support as Barack Obama did in his two wins [of course he is African-American].

Now they have about 3 years to figure what happened and how to correct things.

[Of all things, there is now a movement in California to leave the union.]

 

 

Messy US politics hit the Supreme Court

For those who aren’t too familiar with US politics, it has become even messier today.

Antonin Scalia, the influential conservative and most provocative member of the Supreme Court, has died at the age of 79.

Not surprising, President Obama wants to choose his successor as soon as possible. But it could be an issue as the Republicans hold the balance of power in the Senate. They would most likely block any choice by Obama – probably unless the chosen is a right wing one and that is probably unlikely.

Not surprising, the Republicans have already started with their rhetoric says things such as:

  • Don’t nominate anyone until the next President [11 months away]. If the court is deadlocked at 4-4, the lower court prevails. Right wing justice Kennedy has sometimes sided with the left wing though.
  • Some Republican nominees have already said that a left leaning justice would mean [for example] the end of the constitution.
  • Others say a possible conspiracy with someone hired from the left wing killing the justice so Obama can bring in a left wing justice before he leaves the White House.

There are some of the most divisive issues in the nation such abortion, affirmative action, immigration policy and more. A left wing justice could shape legal issues such as these and others possibly for a decade or more.

Scalia himself was in favor of capital punishment, ban abortion, against affirmative action, etc. He was outspoken and author of firey descents as well as made harsh comments such as whether rights applied to all including thoughs not heterosexual.

Was it an Email conspiracy?

A mini bruhaha is brewing in the US.

It seems undeclared Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton was caught using a non-government server as secretary of state [and even now]. No she wasn’t using Hotmail but her own private server.

The Republicans [and others] have known this for two years. So why bring it up now? Some say because she is the leading candidate for the Democrats in the 2016 election.

What she did was legal according to legal experts but wasn’t quite the normal way of doing this. According to policies, any government official is required to CC a copy of any correspondence to a government Email address. Surely as Secretary of State she sent correspondences to other in her departments or others.

Also why is it that no one complained about this for the two years or more? After all, when you get an Email from someone, you can clearly see it is not a .gov Email address.

Clinton has addressed the issue by asking that all correspondence be released publically. The state department has said they have to comb through the thousands of Emails to verify there is nothing against national security, privacy issues, etc.

This Email controversy was around during the Benghazi embassy attack in 2013. So now that GOP run investigation is all related Emails that Clinton wants to make public. [You think they will come out with a final report after the election? Nah.]

Predictions for 2015

So with about 0.20% of the year gone, here are some of my predictions [some incorporating rumors that started in 2014, some of them less likely, some are probable]:

In technology:

  • Apple will release a new iPhone in the spring – probably a slightly remade iPhone 5S. They did the same thing with the iPhone 5C which as a rebranded and slightly upgraded iPhone 4S [I think].
  • Apple will also have a major issue come to one of their products causing major problems. This would be as surprising as since Tim Cook took over from Steve Jobs, quality control has been less than stellar.
  • While Windows 10 does come out with plenty of fan fare, it still ends up being only a partial success as it still forces many desktop users to go though the tiles/modern interface too often.
  • Meanwhile, Microsoft decides to give a slight discount for some Windows 8.x users but not enough to satisfy them.
  • The Windows Server 2003 comes to a close in July but nasty bit of security attacks force Microsoft to further release some security updates after the end of support for the OS.
  • Google decides that it has had enough and begins to back away from both Google+ and the Chrome OS development. Both are bleeding the company dry even with Google’s advertising arm firmly entrenched in Google+.
  • Not really a surprise but there will be another major cloud breach similar to the one that hit Apple this past year [remember the celebrity nude pictures?]. One still wonders why people put nude pictures of themselves in the cloud.

In entertainment:

  • Yet another breach in an entertainment company, not as serious as Sony, but still high profile.
  • This will also be the year where movie distributors stop gauging the buying public and release Blu-ray movies at very similar pricing as a DVD.
  • The music shoppers will begin to get tired of the boy bands and scantly clad female singers that seem to come and go quite fast.
  • Justin Bieber will finally get arrested [he hasn’t already]?
  • Miley Cyrus will do something so wrong/disgusting that fans will turn their back on him.

In politics:

  • Vladimir Poutine [Putin] will finally cave in and force the Russian “separatists” in eastern Ukraine to come back to mother Russia or be left on their own. Still nothing resolved for Crimea. All this as the oil pricing by OPEC and the financial punishment still cripples Russia coupled by growing unrest by Russian citizens as price of goods continue to rise.
  • Putin gets tired of having OPEC dictating oil prices by trying to start “his” own oil council but fails.
  • In US politics, the early stages of preparations for the primaries in both Democratic and Republican parties fizzle as Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush are almost crowned before they start. Meanwhile the Republicans get hit with a few scandals along the way as the Tea Part branch causes further strains within the party.
  • In Canadian politics, an early fall elections has current Prime Minister Stephen Harper ousted with Liberal leader Justin Trudeau taking over with either a slight majority government or a near majority minority government. The NDP party, getting blown back to smaller party status will prop up the Liberals [if a minority government] – this after the Conservative party saying throughout the election that the Liberals and NDP would form a coalition government after they see the writing on the wall and see no chance in forming a government.
  • Devastated by the loss, Harper would end up resigning his leadership with eventually leaving politics in late 2015 or early 2016. As well, NDP leader will decide to leave as leader of party but will stay around.

Tough two years in the US coming

Seems that after the mid-term elections, President Obama will have his hands full.

The Republicans took control of both chambers in Congress for the first time in 8 years.

The GOP did not get the two-thirds congressional majority – so they can’t override a presidential veto. So now the GOP must come out with new laws that can work their way and be left enough so that Obama will pass.

Surely anything related to the “Obamacare” would be vetoed by Obama. In addition some GOPs have said that Obamacare seems to be working for the voters now. The GOP do want to cut down on some over-regulation such as the Environmental Protection Agency as well as budget cuts. On the other hand, the Keystone XL pipeline with oil coming from Canada could be finally approved.

However there are plenty of hard-line GOPs [let alone Tea Party followers] who could cause some problems. They could try and push for congressional investigations for everything that happened in the last 6 years [of course it could backfire as well]. They also will probably push for tax reform – particularly after Burger king’s headquarters moved to Canada in a merger with Canada’s Tim Hortons to reduce the number of taxes the company pays [but Burger King probably denies].

With a GOP majority, It also holds great power to approve or reject the judges, cabinet members, political staff, and diplomats that the White House appoints.

Many Supreme Court justices aren’t too far from retirement. Obama may decide to not fill in the seats if there is a retirement [or death] until the 2016 elections.

Even in the Gubernatorial races, the GOP picked up a few states.

If you think things got crazy, how is this one: A Republican, running for a House seat, from New York who faces 20 criminal charges, was heard on camera threatening to throw a guy off a balcony and was shunned by his own party during the campaign, won his seat.

On the other hand, most Presidents lose seats in midterm elections…. Although maybe not this badly.

Why the loses [aside from the history comment above]? Obama is stuck at around 40% approval but lower in swing states [those that bounce between GOP and Democrats during elections] and rural states where GOP is generally king. In a non-presidential election year, the electorate are older, whiter, and more conservative. In a presidential election, there are many younger, non-whites and more liberal voters.

Obama hampered by the Republicans

So President Obama had his big State of the Union address last night on most major US TV channels [why not CW and the others] and on many non-US news channels as well.

He decided that since the Republican controlled House only accepted 2 of 41 legislative initiatives [one was to stop the government shutdown], he will push his own unilateral actions with the first being to increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour for employees of federal contractors.

Would you believe the Republican did not want any increase and in fact some suggested lowering the minimum wage to just $3. The Republicans say that an increase in minimum wage would result in job loses. The old minimum wage has been below the poverty line since 2008. [Do the Republicans like having citizens in poverty?]

Obama may also push for some type of amnesty for illegal immigrants – maybe not full citizenship but something more official to the estimated 11 million illegal workers who do jobs that some Americans don’t want to do. That includes agriculture pickers, construction workers, etc. Republicans are against the plan.

Obama’s approval rating has dropped 11% since the previous State of the Union address. That is better than Congress at 13% and Republicans at 24%.

So while the Republicans are hampering Obama’s efforts to run an effective government, they are actually shooting themselves in the foot by doing so. It is their plan to cause legislative problems and at election time say Obama was ineffective. Of course he was ineffective – the Republicans blocked 95% of the initiatives.

Obama tried to push gun control and tax reform but the former was blocked primarily by the Tea Party elements and the National Rifle Association – this even after major gun shooting events called for more gun control. Just last week there was at least one major shooting incident each day of the week.

The biggest problem with the US political system is if the President does not have at least a slight majority in the House and the Senate, nothing can be properly passed.

Those who voted Democrats out of office in the previous elections are probably having second thoughts now.

[And why is it the Republican Party has a sub-party, the Tea Party?]