Monthly Archives: August 2019

Trump Is Melting Down Because China Won’t Give In on Trade

By Jonathan Chait, The Intelligencer

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump is in the midst of a public meltdown that is humiliating, scary, and banana republic–y even by Trumpy standards. The reason is that Trump started a trade war and China refuses to back down, having announced this morning that it is imposing retaliatory tariffs on $75 billion worth of U.S. goods.

Trump has picked fights with lots of countries. Usually they either placate him or try to give him a face-saving way of de-escalating (e.g., Mexico, which is never going to pay for the wall but doesn’t talk about the fact that it’s never going to pay for the wall anymore). Sometimes they get Trump to fold by stroking his ego (the North Koreans have carried out the most over-the-top version of this tactic).

China is playing it differently. Trump is pressuring China with tariff threats, on the theory that China, which is more export-dependent than the U.S., has more to lose from a trade war. China, apparently, calculates that it is Trump who has more to lose from a trade war, since he is facing reelection next year and Chinese president Xi Jinping is facing reelection … never. What’s more, China has little incentive to cough up permanent concessions in its trade relations with the U.S., given that there’s a better-than-even chance Trump will lose and it can just wait for the next president.

This has provoked one of Trump’s wilder public tantrums. First, he has lashed out at Federal Reserve chair Jay Powell, who has become Trump’s scapegoat for bad economic news despite the fact that it was Trump who appointed him to the job. (“Trump installed a Fed chair who is singlehandedly destroying the economy” sounds like an attack on Trump, but oddly enough it is Trump’s own argument.)

Trump wants Powell to aggressively, quickly, and smoothly reduce interest rates to mitigate the economic harm Trump is inflicting on the economy. As Powell has pointed out, this is hard. “Because the most important effects of monetary policy are felt with uncertain lags of a year or more, the committee must attempt to look through what may be passing developments and focus on things that seem likely to affect the outlook over time or that pose a material risk of doing so,” the Fed chairman said today. “But fitting trade-policy uncertainty into this framework is a new challenge.”

Translation: Monetary policy is always hard, but it’s really hard when the president is erratic.Get unlimited access to Intelligencer and everything else New York.LEARN MORE »

Trump has accordingly added Powell to his list of Enemies of the People. “My only question is, who is our bigger enemy, Jay Powell or Chairman Xi?,” he tweeted, a message that is unlikely to calm the waters.

Trump followed up that crazy tweet with a series of even crazier tweets, in which he ordered American firms to “immediately start looking for an alternative to China.”

Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump · Aug 23, 2019

Our Country has lost, stupidly, Trillions of Dollars with China over many years. They have stolen our Intellectual Property at a rate of Hundreds of Billions of Dollars a year, & they want to continue. I won’t let that happen! We don’t need China and, frankly, would be far….

Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump

….better off without them. The vast amounts of money made and stolen by China from the United States, year after year, for decades, will and must STOP. Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China, including bringing..56.1K10:59 AM – Aug 23, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy33.9K people are talking about this

He added a “hereby” to the order, giving it the ring of a presidential decree. Trump does not actually have the power to unilaterally order private firms to redesign their global business models at the drop of a hat just because he is mad online.

The stock market has indicated that businesses have not exactly been enjoying Trump’s anti-China bluster, but their panic has been bounded by the expectation that he will ultimately back down, as he has in his other international confrontations. Surely Trump won’t escalate the trade war to the point where he tips his own economy into recession, right?

The normal rule is that presidents who run for reelection in the midst of a recession lose. Trump may not believe the normal rule applies to him. The Washington Post reported that Trump has been briefed on the ominous economic news but “has told aides that he thinks he can convince Americans that the economy is vibrant and unrattled through a public messaging campaign.” Maybe he thinks his propaganda apparatus can convince voters the economy is good even if it’s bad?

If Trump does believe this, then he might actually continue escalating his trade war with China — not just with fake presidential decrees but with continued tariff increases. And maybe the assumption by business that this will all somehow end without too much collateral damage might turn out to be misplaced.

Democrats alarmed by Trump’s promise of pardons to build border wall


President Trump looks on during a news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron in Biarritz, France on Monday. (Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images)

Article written by By Seung Min Kim and Mike DeBonis August 28 at 7:41 PM published in The Washington Post

Through his pardons of political allies, conservative defenders and others convicted of federal crimes, President Trump throughout his term has sent indirect signals of his willingness to help those close to him escape punishment.

And now, the president has entwined that message with his chief campaign promise — by privately assuring aides that he would pardon them of any potential illegality as the administration rushes to build his border wall before he returns to the ballot next November.

The notion has alarmed congressional Democrats, who had been investigating potential obstruction of justice on Trump’s part as the House continues to weigh whether to launch impeachment proceedings once lawmakers return to Washington next month. 

Rep. David N. Cicilline (R.I.), a member of the House Democratic leadership and the House Judiciary Committee, said any suggestion that Trump would encourage subordinates to break the law by promising pardons is “appalling” and worthy of further investigation by the panel.ADVERTISING

“Sadly, this is just one more instance of a president who undermines the rule of law and behaves as if he’s a king and not governed by the laws of this country,” Cicilline said in an interview Wednesday. “He is not a king, he is accountable . . . I think it just adds to the ongoing proceeding before the Judiciary Committee as we consider whether to recommend articles of impeachment against the president.”

Trump on Wednesday denied that he had made those private assurances, first reported Tuesday evening by The Washington Post. Yet a White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity in advance of the report did not deny it and said Trump is joking when he makes such statements about pardons.

“Another totally Fake story in the Amazon Washington Post (lobbyist) which states that if my Aides broke the law to build the Wall (which is going up rapidly), I would give them a Pardon,” Trump tweeted Wednesday afternoon. “This was made up by The Washington Post only in order to demean and disparage — FAKE NEWS!” 

The Post is owned by Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, although it is run independently from the online retail enterprise. 

The wall discussions are not the first time that Trump has reportedly promised a pardon to a subordinate for doing something potentially illegal.

In April, the New York Times reported that Trump told acting Homeland Security secretary Kevin McAleenan that he would pardon him if he directed his employees to illegally deny asylum to migrants who request it at the southern border. Trump later denied doing so in a tweet, calling it “Another Fake Story.”

Members of the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to McAleenan requesting information and documents on the incident; a panel spokesman said that letter and another request related to the pardon issue did not garner any response. The committee said in a statement at the time that “offering a pardon to encourage an officer of the U.S. government to undertake an illegal action appears on its face to be an unconstitutional abuse of power.”

Several Democrats said Trump’s pardon comments were fair game for investigation as they continue to delve into details of potential obstruction of justice on the part of Trump that emerged from former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation.

“The fall is a period is when we are expanding the scope of our investigation beyond the Mueller report,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who like Cicilline is a member of the Judiciary Committee. “The abuse of the pardon power fits in with our broader investigation into the abuse of the powers of the presidency.”

Raskin added: “It’s similar to the president ordering the executive branch not to cooperate with congressional investigations. That is an abuse of power and an assault on the separation of powers.”

Cicilline said it did not matter whether Trump’s subordinates ultimately carried out his illegal directives.

“It’s an abuse of the pardon power, it’s an abuse of the president’s authority, and it’s very likely illegal,” he said. “So whether anyone actually does it or not — that idea that the president of the United States, responsible for enforcing and upholding the rule of law in this country, is making a statement like that is just appalling.”

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Judiciary panel, did not comment on the issue Wednesday.

Several of the 15 pardons that Trump has issued during his presidency — a power that is nearly unchecked and that Trump has relished — have carried with them an overtly political tone. 

The first pardon Trump issued as president went to Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., whose controversial tactics on immigration enforcement garnered legal challenges and a conviction on a criminal contempt of court charge. Trump pardoned him of that crime in August 2017 — less than a month after the conviction and weeks before he was set to be sentenced.

In April 2018, Trump pardoned I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the former chief of staff to former vice president Richard B. Cheney, who had been convicted on perjury and obstruction of justice charges. Trump suggested Libby had been treated unfairly by the prosecution as it probed the leak of the identity of Valerie Plame, a CIA officer.

Trump said at the time that he did not personally know Libby, but the pardon came as several former Trump associates had pleaded guilty to similar charges amid Mueller’s Russia probe. 

The following month, Trump gave a full pardon to Dinesh D’Souza, a conservative commentator who had pleaded guilty to illegally using straw donors for a Republican Senate candidate in New York.

As with Libby, Trump concluded that D’Souza had been mistreated and said at the time that he was also considering clemency for former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich (D) and lifestyle guru Martha Stewart. The three had been convicted of crimes similar to charges faced by former Trump associates as part of the Mueller probe. 

In May of this year, Trump pardoned Conrad Black, who in 2007 was convicted on fraud and obstruction of justice charges. The billionaire last year penned a flattering biography of the president, “Donald J. Trump: A president like no other,” that defended him against accusations of racism and praised him for the “optimism to persevere and succeed, the confidence to affront tradition and convention, a genius for spectacle, and a firm belief in common sense and the common man.”

Trump has even pondered pardoning himself — tweeting in June 2018 amid the Mueller probe that he has the “absolute right” to do so and that his argument was bolstered by “numerous legal scholars.” (Whether Trump can actually do so is up for debate.) 

 “More than one isolated remark, it’s the pattern that’s concerning,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said of Trump’s pardon tendencies. “As much as what he may do, or not, is the message that it sends to the American people about his view of the importance of law and law enforcement.” 

(Why) American Discourse is Delusional — And Dangerous

How American Elites’ Failed Ideas and Perspectives Are Letting the Bad Guys Destroy Democracy

Written by Umair Haque in Medium July 2019

umair haqueFollowingJul 21 · 7 min read

I’m going to say something that makes you uncomfortable. Mainstream American discourse is now the dumbest in the world. Yes, really. I mean that. I have literally never witnessed anything dumber — and I’ve seen many, many societies collapse. With the exception maybe of North Korea or Iran, there is now nothing dumber than American discourse. But that only makes my case, doesn’t it? Let me prove it to you — and you can judge whether I succeed or fail.

I mean “dumb” in a precise way, not merely as an insult. I mean that American discourse is now completely delusional. It is totally divorced from really. Willfully so. And that is the bad guys’ best friend — when the good guys cannot really distinguish basic empirical truths, either. Then anything goes. When a discourse cannot identify obvious and catastrophic dangers to democracy — then a democracy can hardly endure.

Here’s America, according to American discourse. The ideas, perspectives, and understandings that mainstream elites use to give credence to reality.

The economy’s doing just fine. In fact, it’s booming. This isn’t resurgent fascism — it’s “racism” and “nativism”, maybe. Those aren’t concentration camps — they’re “detainment facilities.” Families being separated don’t constitute a literal form of genocide, defined under international law. It’s not bona fide authoritarianism when all three branches of democratic government have been captured by fanatical extremists.

Are you beginning to see what I mean?

Let me take it a little bit further.

Here’s what American discourse says. The economy’s doing just fine — in fact, it’s never been better. In fact, 70% of Americans can’t raise $1000 for an emergency, 80% live paycheck to paycheck, the majority struggle to pay basic bills, and the average American now dies in debt — which means they will never effectively save or own or earn anything: they are something very much like neo-serfs. There are only two countries in the world, in fact, where the gruesome trifecta of falling life expectancy, shrinking incomes, and dwindling savings are true: America and Britain. The American economy is not OK. Capitalism is in rude health, profits to capital skyrocketing, in large part due to massive bailouts. But capitalism is not “the economy”. The economy is people’s lives, and those are falling apart.

Yet because “the economy’s doing well”, American thinkers can’t trace the next set of links. They are totally blind to the catastrophic consequences of a destroyed economy.

What happens when economies stagnate? When inequality spikes? When a middle class suddenly implodes — like the American middle class did? What happens to failed states, in the end?

Well, what tends to happen is fascism. Just like when Weimar Germany became Nazi Germany, or in countries from Spain to Russia to Pakistan to Rwanda. Nationalism erupts, as people try to seize whatever morsels of a failing crop they can for their own tribes, clans, people. Soon enough, the dominant tribe institutionalized all this — and claims the social surplus for the true volk, the ubermen, the in-group. Bang! Fascism is born.

But there’s no fascism in America. At least not according to American elites. There can’t be. Because fascism is a product of a failing economy, and America’s economy isn’t failing. And because America is the land of the free, and the free can’t be fascist. Hence, you’ll never hear an Ezra Klein or a Jake Tapper or a Chris Hayes — ever — using the word fascism. It’s a red line, a taboo. They know if they say it that bad things will happen to them. Their fat paychecks will be threatened. Oh no!

So what do they instead? Well, Jake Tapper, for example, literally invites Nazis on to opine on…racism. LOL. What the? Are you beginning to see the absurd, disgraceful knots we twist ourselves into in American discourse? Why I say it’s the dumbest in the world?

But it goes much further. Since there’s no fascism happening in America, because the economy’s doing just fine, none of the things we’re seeing can be fascist.

Hence, what every single good Holocaust scholar agrees are actual, genuine concentration camps are, according to American intellectuals, thinkers, and pundits…”detainment facilities.” The torture happening in them is just “mistreatment” or maybe “abuse.” And the families separated on the way to the camps aren’t having genocide committed upon them — as defined by international law — nope. That inconvenient fact is just disappeared completely.

If there’s no fascism, because the economy’s! doing! great! Then the capture of more and more institutions by fascists can’t be happening either. Nope. So when the census is literally rigged to advance the goals of an ethnically pure state — that’s not literal, textbook fascism…even though a sixth grader should be able to say it is. When the courts are stacked with suspiciously extremist and racist judges, that’s not fascism either. It can’t be. And when literal supremacists are writing domestic and foreign policy…breaking up with democratic allies, making friends with other fascists around the globe…well, that’s not fascism either.

Are you beginning to see the scale and scope of the problem? Why I say American discourse is the dumbest in the world?

Because the economy’s fine, and there’s no fascism here — why bother looking at history? Why bother with the difficult, uncomfortable task of understanding that America was the world’s largest apartheid state until 1971, that that’s within living memory, and that America seems to be regressing to just that state of affairs? That objectively, America is the world’s most violent society, both internally and externally, and that never overcoming violence is what sowed the seeds for meltdown? Why bother figuring out that history will think of America as an apartheid state that regressed backwards into fascism — after 30 to 40 years of trying to become a genuine democracy — and failing?

My friends, other countries are poor and uneducated and powerless. But their discourse is far, far smarter than America’s. Even in Pakistan, thinkers will constantly warn of the dangers of religious extremism (yes, really.) Even in India, intellectuals will constantly warn that rising nationalist extremism spills over easily into fascism (yes, really.) In Argentina and Chile, thinkers will remind people of the dark times of the ascendant fascists — and how they’re just a breath away.

And do you know what adds insult to injury? Intellectuals, journalists, and thinkers in those countries face real consequences for saying so. Very real ones. Jail. Prison. Disappearance. Violence.

American intellectuals and journalists and thinkers face no consequences whatsoever. And yet they can’t seem to bring themselves to be anything but either fools, cowards, or simpletons, take your pick.

The only thing Jake Tapper would lose by calling fascism fascism is his paycheck. Poor Jake! I wonder what he’d do without that extra thirty million! I’m being deliberately cruel, so you see my point. The Jakes and Ezras and Chrises of the world will never face any real tasing consequences whatsoever for telling the truth, and yet they can’t. But Daphne Caruna Galizia was murdered for publishing the Panama Papers.

What cowardice, my friends, that is. I am repulsed by it, as you should be.

No country deserves a discourse as astoundingly, unbelievably, shamefully dumb as America’s. And no country deserves one that is so willfully, deliberately dumb, either. Not even America, the world’s big bully, it’s self-appointed overseer, the nation that’s bombing so many countries right now nobody even can keep count anymore. Not even America deserves a discourse this dumb.

But this is the discourse America has. And Americans would be wise to understand just why their discourse is so dumb. If you understand the above, then you will see that capitalism implodes into fascism, as thinkers from Adorno to Marx warned. American media is capitalist — and what reason do capitalists have to stand against fascists? They don’t. Hence, they tend to stand beside them. And then there’s the issue of the mediocre white man. Chris and Jake and Ezra. They’re all vivid examples. The guys with minds so mediocre they can’t even see a society collapsing right before their eyes. How did they get there? Because America was a racist society for two hundred years, and a failed democracy for just thirty, duh.

The failure of American discourse is itself a microcosm of the reasons America is collapsing. That’s not irony. That’s logic. Discourse, too, is an institution that must fail for the fascists to be able to corrode and corrupt it.

And the fascists don’t corrupt a public discourse by making everyone proud fascists. They do it by disappearing in plain sight. Being able to get away with being fascists. Never being identified as fascists to begin with. Nope! They’re just people with “differing opinions”, not those who want to turn democracy into a killing machine, an engine of violence, who want to cleanse society and eliminate the subhumans. Just differences of opinion, guys!

The fascists vanish. They have never been here at all. “What fascism? I don’t see any around here — do you, Chris? What about you, Jake? Nope — Ezra? Great! We’ve reached a consensus: no fascism here!”

The Chrises and Jakes and Ezras have let them do just that — and they do it all over again, every single day. And in that way, the are the modern handmaids to the warlords of Neo fascism.

July 2019

Do Americans Know How Weird and Extreme Their Collapse is Getting?

Even the Dark Ages Would Laugh at Where We’re Going

by Umair Haque Jul 2, 2018 · 6 min read

Here’s a tiny question. Do Americans know how extreme, bizarre, and weird American collapse is getting? How far off the charts it is? Forget the charts of “normal” — I mean the charts of history. Even the Dark Ages, ancient Rome, and the barbarians might laugh, astonished, at the backwardness of America in 2018. Doubt me? Indulge me — while I prove it.

Consider a tiny but telling and particularly awful example. There’s a GOP candidate in North Carolina, I read today, who proclaims that “God is a white supremacist.”

Now, you might laugh. It’s funny, in an absurd kind of way. But do we call such a belief? What does it take for a mind to think such a thing?

It’s not simple fascism — because fascism, at least the sort we know of in history, tends to reject the church. That’s because, of course, Nietzsche preached a different gospel: that Christian values make people weak, that only the strong survive, and that the job of the strong is to dominate the weak. Fascism is simply an expression of this perverse belief system, this ideology, and in that way, it tends to demonize religion — just as the Nazis did, ruling over a church they despised with an iron fist.

So what is it? Theocracy? Well, it’s not theocracy either — again, at least as we know it. Because in theocratic systems, God is an equalizer. You’re oppressed until you’re pious and faithful, maybe beaten, starve, punished, jailed, as in Iran or Saudi Arabia — but when you are pious, then you’re accepted into the community of believers. In other words, even in hardcore theocracies, God isn’t a racist (LOL) — he might be a vengeful, terrible, angry God, but he’s an equal opportunity abuser. He might call for women and gays and minorities to suffer terribly — but when they renounce their sin, and they’re pure, then they belong to society too. But “God is a white supremacist” is a belief so strange, so bizarre, so fundamentally new in history that it goes even further than that.

The question, then, is this: how far back in history do we have to travel to find a God who’s a racial supremacist? Who damns people purely for the color of their skin, their ethnicity, their “race”? Well, we’d have to go back past the colonial era — because even in, for example, South America and Africa and Asia, God could save everyone — religion was a colonial instrument (and I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense, just a historical one) — not just whites or Aryans or whomever. Sure, you might never be an archbishop — but the church would happily accept you into a congregation.

What about the Dark Ages? In fact, we’d have to go back past the medieval era, too — because even then, the same logic applies. God was angrier, and more menacing, demanding inquisitions and tests of faith — but nobody was beyond redemption. Even the medieval church had black saints!

Do you see how bizarre, extreme, and gruesome all this is getting? We’re already in the Dark Ages — but what America’s producing today is even more unenlightened than the actual literal textbook Dark Ages. How funny. How strange. How sad.

Let us continue, until we reach an answer. Let’s go all the way back to antiquity. What about Greeks and Romans? They weren’t monotheists — but were their Gods racial supremacists? Did Athena and Artemis damn black people and Asians, just for the color of their skin? Of course not. The most obvious classical example is Anthony and Cleopatra — neither of whom “converted” in any modern sense, but Cleopatra obviously wasn’t white, and Anthony obviously wasn’t Egyptian. In fact, by this time, Rome was a mixture of all kinds of people — and its Gods rejected no one.

So now we’ve gone back — all the way back in human history to the very dawn of civilization. And we haven’t found one example of a statement as weird, grotesque, and bizarre as “God is a white supremacist!!” That doesn’t mean that religions didn’t do terrible things, or even racist things — of course they did. But that is not the same as a racist God. But nowhere do we find such a belief. Even the ancients, it appears, aspired to higher moral and ethical values than racist Gods. Even they’d find such a thing fantastic, foolish, and laughable, probably.

(You might have thought by now — “it’s barbarism!” Ah, but it would be too easy to call this barbarism. Barbarians, the poor things, aren’t even this uncivilized. Their gods are violent and wrathful, but like the Vandals or the Visigoths or the Vikings, they weren’t racists, really, nor were they fascists, just warrior Gods, and besides, many “barbarians”, like indigenous Americans, had peaceful naturalist deities, probably far more civilized than their colonizers.)

What is such a thing, then? It’s entirely new in human history, more or less. Now, it’s dangerous to say that something is “new”. History’s a cycle, not a line. So when might we have found beliefs like this? Probably in times of great crisis. Imagine a series of failed harvests, season after season. The priests stand atop a great pyramid, and cry, “it is their fault! The Gods demand their blood!” And so the human sacrifices begin. A scenario like that is what would produce a racist God — but for the same reason, when the harvest returns, Gods, who must be impartial beings probably have the darkness of those days scrubbed from them, and go back to being Gods of mercy and justice and so on.

So if “God is a white supremacist!” is new — at least in the sense that it’s the kind of gruesome thing we only see in periods of genuine collapse — what do we call it? It’s not fascism, as we’ve already discussed, nor is it theocracy. It’s more like a bizarre, strange, toxic cocktail of the two — which are already toxic cocktails of their own, fascism of liberalism and conservatism, theocracy of state and church. So it’s a finely distilled poison, which we might call theofascism.

And that is what America is really inventing now. Once upon a time, it invented great and amazing things. Moonshots, chemotherapies, highways. Yet, even at those times, it was also inventing terrible things, too, which, mostly, it brushed under the rug — Jim Crow laws, segregation, and so forth. Now, though, the balance has changed. America isn’t inventing great things anymore (no, Facebook doesn’t count. Are you kidding?) It seems instead to be inventing new ways to destroy, ruin, and shatter things. What things? Democracy. Reason. Civilization. Truth, justice, equality. It is creating poisonous cocktails, so dangerous, so bitter, so toxic, that they are off the charts of history. Things like theofascism — which is just one ideology of ruin.

But there are many more, if we look closely at American collapse. The idea that we should arm teachers, instead of protect kids from school shootings — militant capitalism. The idea that people should have to crowdfund insulin — techno-Darwinism. The idea that people should never be able to retire — neofeudalism. The idea that freedom is just the weak being exploited by the strong — neo-authoritarianism. Those are four more weird, ruinous, baffling ideologies — and just like theofascism, we’d have to go a long, long way back in human history to make sense of them. All these ideas are so strange, self-destructive, and fatally absurd, that they’re off the charts of history, all the way back to the dawn of civilization.

Do you think the Romans would have let their kids hack each other to bits in the Colosseum? That the Vikings would have let hedge funds buy and sell the lives of their young and old with impunity? Do you think the Victorians would have stopped people from having insulin if they had it? Of course not — they were already pioneering public parks, libraries, and transport. American collapse is off the charts — in the weirdness and totality of its cruelty. So let me ask again: do you think Americans know how weird, extreme, and bizarre American collapse is getting?

July 2018

Trump is melting down. Again.

 Add to listTrump warns of market crash if he loses 2020 election: ‘No choice but to vote for me’President Trump urged supporters at a rally Aug. 15 to vote for him in the 2020 presidential election, or else “everything is going to be down the tubes.” (Reuters)

By Eugene RobinsonColumnist, Washington Post August 19 at 5:00 PM

Uh-oh. President Trump is in such a state of panic about his dimming reelection prospects that he’s getting his lies mixed up and occasionally blurting out the truth.

“It’s tough for Apple to pay tariffs if it’s competing with a very good company [Samsung] that’s not,” the president told reporters Sunday — flatly contradicting the ridiculous and utterly false narrative that he has spent months trying to sell. Trump apparently forgot his standard lie that China is somehow paying “billions of dollars” in tariffs, acknowledging instead that they are taxes paid by U.S. companies and, ultimately, the American consumer.

This reflects more than just the difficulty of juggling multiple lies. Evidence suggests that Trump is melting down. Again.

And for good reason.

Fears of a global recession, greatly exacerbated by Trump’s erratic and self-destructive trade policies, have sent financial markets tumbling. A sharp downturn would close off one of the principal lines of attack the president was hoping to use against his Democratic opponent. He tried it out at a rally in New Hampshire last week: “You have no choice but to vote for me,” he told the crowd, “because your 401(k)’s down the tubes, everything’s gonna be down the tubes” if he loses. “So whether you love me or hate me, you gotta vote for me.”

Fact check: No.White House downplays recession fearsAmid economic indicators signaling a potential recession, White House advisers were bullish discussing the economy on the Aug. 18 Sunday shows. (JM Rieger/The Washington Post)

Trump is flailing. He berates his handpicked chairman of the Federal Reserve, Jerome H. Powell, for not cutting interest rates fast enough to goose the economy. He practically begs Chinese President Xi Jinping for a meeting to work out a trade deal — any trade deal, apparently — and is met with silence. He threatens more tariffs but then backs down, at least for now. According to published reports, he sees himself as the victim of a conspiracy to exaggerate the growing economic anxiety in order to hurt his chances of winning a second term.ADVERTISING

He entertains grandiose, almost Napoleonic fantasies — purchasing Greenland from Denmark in what he calls “a large real estate deal,” perhaps, or imposing a naval blockade to force regime change in Venezuela. He apparently spent much of this past weekend fuming about not getting credit for how his New Hampshire rallybroke an attendance record for the arena that had been set by Elton John.

And Trump can’t seem to stop railing against a recent Fox News poll that showed him losing to four of the leading Democratic contenders. The president seems to consider Fox News his administration’s Ministry of Propaganda — indeed, that is the role the network’s morning-show hosts and prime-time anchors loyally play — but the polling unit is a professional operation. “There’s something going on at Fox, I’ll tell you right now. And I’m not happy with it,” Trump told reporters Sunday . He added a threat, saying that Fox “is making a big mistake” because he is “the one that calls the shots” on next year’s general election debates — the implication being that Fox News might not get to broadcast one of them if it doesn’t toe the party line.

For the record, Trump’s claim about his political standing is that it couldn’t be better — but could be better.

“Great cohesion inside the Republican Party, the best I have ever seen,” he tweeted Monday. “Despite all of the Fake News, my Poll Numbers are great. New internal polls show them to be the strongest we’ve had so far! Think what they’d be if I got fair media coverage!”

President Trump speaks during a rally at Southern New Hampshire University Arena on Thursday. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

An hour later, he was back on Twitter to attack Anthony Scaramucci, who famously spent 11 days as White House communications director and recently became the latest Trump supporter to hit the “eject” button. Predictably, Trump called him a “nut job,” claimed to barely know him and dusted off the ultimate insult, calling him “bad on TV.”

The astonishing thing is that the president of the United States is, let’s face it, raving like a lunatic — and everyone just shrugs.

The nation is still reeling from two mass shootings. The financial marketsare yo-yoing by hundreds of points. A bomb in Afghanistan, where we’re still at war, killed 63 revelers at a wedding. Tension between the United States and Iran continues to mount. North Korea keeps testing new missiles. India is playing with fire in Kashmir. Hong Kong has been convulsed for months by massive protests seeking to guarantee basic freedoms.

And Trump obsesses about buying Greenland.

The truth is that we don’t have an actual presidency right now. We have a tiresome reality show whose ratings have begun to slide — and whose fading star sees cancellation on the way.

Trump Scared

The Fix Analysis

Trump is clearly scared about the economy, and he’s setting up Jerome Powell as his fall guy

 Add to listThe Fed took Trump’s advice on interest rates. Now he’s not happy.As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump warned about “artificially low” interest rates. Now, as president, Trump wants interest rates to stay low. (JM Rieger, Elyse Samuels/The Washington Post)

By Aaron Blake Washington Post August 14

For the first two years of his presidency, Donald Trump bore an existential fear of the Russia investigation. And more often than not, he focused his ire on one man: then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

It’s possible the bigger threat to Trump’s presidency is now the economy, which is showing increasing signs of instability. And just as before, Trump appears genuinely worried and has found one man on which to focus his blame: Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome H. Powell.

Powell could be in for a world of pain ahead of the 2020 election — especially if things do go south.

With the stock market tanking following Trump’s announcement of new China tariffs — amid other warning signs — the Trump administration on Tuesday gave itself a mulligan and delayed some of the more high-profile tariffs until late this year. That was the first sign there was real concern; Trump after all, had announced the tariffs less than two weeks earlier, and pulling back on them could easily be seen as a sign of weakness in his standoff with the Chinese.ADVERTISING

That precipitated a rally in the stock market Tuesday. But then Wednesday, the inverted yield curve — which is generally acknowledged as one of the most prescient indicators of a recession — delivered more bad news. The markets fell again.

And Trump’s reaction to it all should erase any doubt about how concerned he is. He has spent much of the past 24 hours bashing Powell for not cutting the Fed’s interest rate fast enough — even as Powell has already given him some of the cutting he desires.

“Even now, you know, you see the interest rates,” Trump said Tuesday afternoon in Pennsylvania. “I’m paying a normalized interest rate. We should be paying less, frankly. This guy has made a big mistake. He’s made a big mistake — the head of the Fed. That was another beauty that I chose.”

Trump then took Powell to task on Twitter on Wednesday, after the inverted yield curve news.

“The Great [Fox Business host] Charles Payne ... correctly stated that Fed Chair Jay Powell made TWO enormous mistakes,” Trump began. “1. When he said ‘mid cycle adjustment.’ 2. We’re data dependent. ‘He did not do the right thing.’ I agree (to put it mildly!).”

Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump

The Great Charles Payne @cvpayne correctly stated that Fed Chair Jay Powell made TWO enormous mistakes. 1. When he said “mid cycle adjustment.” 2. We’re data dependent. “He did not do the right thing.” I agree (to put it mildly!). @Varneyco50.4K1:14 PM – Aug 14, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy22K people are talking about this

Trump then returned to the subject a couple of hours later, arguing explicitly that his China trade war, which economists have spotlighted for their increasingly dour forecasts, is not to blame — Powell is.

“China is not our problem, though Hong Kong is not helping,” Trump said, referring to unrest in the latter. “Our problem is with the Fed. Raised too much & too fast. Now too slow to cut.”

He added: “Spread is way too much as other countries say THANK YOU to clueless Jay Powell and the Federal Reserve. Germany, and many others, are playing the game! CRAZY INVERTED YIELD CURVE! We should easily be reaping big Rewards & Gains, but the Fed is holding us back.”

Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump · Aug 14, 2019

We are winning, big time, against China. Companies & jobs are fleeing. Prices to us have not gone up, and in some cases, have come down. China is not our problem, though Hong Kong is not helping. Our problem is with the Fed. Raised too much & too fast. Now too slow to cut….

Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump

..Spread is way too much as other countries say THANK YOU to clueless Jay Powell and the Federal Reserve. Germany, and many others, are playing the game! CRAZY INVERTED YIELD CURVE! We should easily be reaping big Rewards & Gains, but the Fed is holding us back. We will Win!69.6K3:21 PM – Aug 14, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy29.9K people are talking about this

Trump his criticized Powell before, but he’s now upping the ante — expressing regret for appointing him (just as he did for Sessions) and more explicitly highlighting his mistakes (just as he did with Sessions’s Russia recusal, etc.).

As I argued earlier this week, the odds of a downturn or even a recession are perhaps Trump’s biggest hurdle to reelection. Amid all his controversies and unpopularity, the economy is what has buoyed Trump. Were it to go away or be neutralized, it’s difficult to see his already-difficult reelection math adding up. Even if it just costs him a few percentage points worth of voters, it would start to look insurmountable pretty quickly — unless he’s got a pretty badly wounded Democratic opponent.

Trump’s strategy in blaming Powell for whatever lies ahead would seem twofold: 1) He can lean on Powell to give him what he wants for fear of shouldering the blame for anything bad that happens (perhaps forestalling economic pain until after 2020). 2) If and when that bad stuff does happen, he can simply do what he always does and say, “It’s not my fault; this guy wouldn’t listen to me.”

Layer on top of that the complex inner workings of the Fed and economics in general, and very few people will truly know whom to believe. Even if economists side with Powell and blame Trump’s trade war (as they are now), it will be something of a self-fulfilling prophecy: the “deep state” working to take Trump down by kneecapping his great successes on the economy to unseat him, once and for all.

It may not be enough to save Trump’s presidency if such a downturn were to come to pass, but he and some allies in conservative media are clearly already planning for that eventuality. That’s both an indication of how concerned he is and how ugly this all could get.

Today’s Problem With Masculinity Isn’t What You Think

Written by Benjamin Sledge and published by Medium


Benjamin Sledge


Storyteller | Combat wounded veteran | Metalhead | Designer | Bleeding on a page just makes it more authentic:

A former soldier explains the emotional vacancy of “the fatherless generation”

Benjamin SledgeFollowApr 5, 2018 · 11 min readPhoto by Oliver Ragfelt | Unsplash

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“Men are so quick to blame the gods: they say
that we devise their misery. But they
themselves — in their depravity — design
grief greater than the griefs that fate assigns.”

―Homer, The Odyssey

Idon’t have the group picture from the day my dad visited my fraternity house at Oklahoma State University. It was awkward compared to the “Mom’s Day” photo we would snap a few months later. Not that it’s awkward to take pictures with my dad — we’re all smiles — but the “Dad’s Day” photo, which hung above my fraternity brother’s desk, along with a compilation of date party photos, looked anything but natural.

Each year, the university invites parents to spend a day with their kids. Most of us eat at one of the iconic Eskimo Joe’s restaurants, tailgate, and then head to a football game. Afterward, it’s off to the bars, or whatever late night event your parent can muster the energy for. Outside fraternity and sorority houses, you’ll find co-eds posing for group photos with dear old mom or dad.

The photos with the moms always turn out great. There we are, hugging mom or kissing her face. Everyone’s laughing and appears to be having a great time. If your mom made it out to the bar for a drink, like mine did, you’d introduce her to the girl you were interested in while acting part of the perfect gentlemen. Then you’d meet the mother of said-girl and your moms would screech about what a cute couple the two of you would make.

Can you find me? I’m hugging my mom (in a green shirt)

Dads were different. Like Saturn versus Earth different.

The group photos always seemed cold. There were some hugs happening, but they were those weird side hugs that Christians seem so fond of giving one another — the “keep some room for the Holy Spirit” variety. Everyone looks like a stoic philosopher; the smiles seem somewhat forced. When the dads came to the bar, they either became Frank the Tank or scanned the room like the Terminator. Most guys never introduced their dad to the girl they were interested in, either. Unlike my mom, my dad and I grabbed dinner and caught up before he had to leave. He had work the next day.

I’ve long wondered why the two photos turned out so opposite. Why did we suddenly look like “mama’s boys” when we so often tried to be “the man?” Why such a lack of intimacy with our fathers (and even our friends) when we seemed to be OK with it from our mothers?

Where’d You Learn to Be a “Man”?

The memory of the Dad’s Day picture has been nagging me, so I start questioning other men and my friends. At first my question was too complex: Who did you learn emotional intimacy from? Or do you feel you have any intimacy with male friends? Some guys laughed. Other stared and responded with something like, “WTF does that mean?” So I changed my question:

“Did your dad ever teach you how to be a man?”

The responses I’ve received range from learning how to change a tire or the oil in a car, or learning how to tie a tie. This made me think, if this is what qualifies as masculinity, we’re in deep shit. So I dug further.

“Did your dad ever talk to you about the mistakes he made in life? Was he vulnerable? Did he teach you how to date or romance a woman? How to pick healthy friends? Did he talk about sex, porn, or masturbation?”

It’s fascinating that in Judeo-Christian literature there’s an entire book of the Bible dedicated to teaching a son about money, friends, sex, adultery, making wise decisions, marriage, and business — the book of Proverbs, in case you’re wondering — but in America, the resounding answer I heard from men was, “No, my dad didn’t talk about those things.” If a father did talk about those issues, then it was usually one of those, “This is how sex works… good talk,” moments. But because we live in what I call a fatherless generation, Dad wasn’t often in the picture to begin with.

So where did we learn to become men?

The Influence of the Alpha Male

Most everyone who’s read Lord of the Flies remembers how a group of boys descend into barbarity, and can easily recall the moment where Piggy gets his brains smashed in. For most boys, growing up these days isn’t all that dissimilar. With no one teaching young men virtue, character, or responsibility, the alpha male emerges thinking he has some semblance of how the world works, and so the other boys follow his lead. Sometimes the alpha male lands that leadership position because he’s mimicking problematic behavior that’s been demonstrated by a shitty father figure at home, which his friends may consider cool, since they don’t have positive male representation around them. Dad shows him porn, so he shows it to his friends, who then learn early on to objectify women. Dad talks about sports all the time and can tell you where every player on the Patriots played junior varsity football, so his alpha son gets his friends into sports and berates them for not having an encyclopedic knowledge. Dad talks about women with misogynistic overtones, so he and his friends mimic him and begin to talk that way too. Dad reminds his son that real men don’t cry. Real men act tough all the time. Real men get angry when insulted. Real men don’t show their emotions.

Photos like this are great, but sadly, most men would wonder if they’re gay instead just of friends | Photo by Derek Owens on Unsplash

It doesn’t all come down to just one alpha’s influence, though. Many of these behaviors and ideas permeate young boys’ minds through things they’ve seen or heard in the media and online. The wolves teach the wolf pups how to become wolves. But we don’t run in packs anymore. We prefer to lone wolf it. Or if we do run in a pack, we never display weakness for fear we’ll be turned on and devoured.

It’s a lonely world when you don’t have friends you can have deep conversations with. It’s much more common to find yourself in male friendships where you can’t express your angst or pain without fear of being labeled a pussy. There’s no camaraderie. Aside from guys you grab drinks with after work or go to a sporting event with, the extent of your relationship is superficial. When you don’t know how to manage your emotions, you won’t know how to handle rejection, dating, fear, loneliness, or sadness — let alone anything else. Virtues like character, loyalty, love, humility, courage, and vulnerability are replaced with vices like anger, jealousy, vanity, and pride.

While men desperately crave emotional intimacy with other men, some of us have built up callouses so tough that even the notion of deep connection is considered effeminate. Instead, men lash out with deadly violence and dive head first into asynchronistic digital intimacy as opposed to real relationships.

Getting Bombed in Austin and the Porn Patch

Every man can tell how many goats or sheep he possesses, but not how many friends.

— Marcus Tullius Cicero

When the package bombings that rocked Austin, Texas, made the news this past March, friends called to check and see if I was anywhere near the explosions. Once they learned I was fine, they asked if the bombings carried the markings of someone with military expertise, due to my combat experience.

All around Austin, fear ran rampant as rumors were passed as fact. Neighbors informed me that our area of town should expect to be hit next. I laughed at their misinformed panic, fueled by the fact that we love to believe what we want to hear — provided it lines up with what we already assume.

When I explained that the Austin bombings carried the mark of an amateur who probably learned from YouTube, the dark web, or a jihadi website, people then asked about motive. While everyone still seems to be searching for it — since bomber Mark Anthony Conditt’s confession video didn’t offer any definitive explanation — I think it’s right in front of our faces. The statement made about Conditt’s confession video by Austin police Chief ­Brian Manley explained that this was “the outcry of a very challenged young man talking about challenges in his personal life that led him to this point.”

People were caught up in semantics after Manley’s statement, wanting to know whether the bomber was a terrorist or whether his motive was racially-based, since two of the victims were prominent members of Austin’s black community. I think the more simple truth is — like other men in our generation — Conditt was lonely, isolated, and bought into the view that men express anger and hurt through violence. As I stated in another piece, we’re dealing with a generation that no longer has the skills necessary to cope with hardship and adversity. People are chronically lonely even though they’re more connected than ever. Notice there are zero media reports in which they interview Conditt’s friends or past girlfriends, even. The only people in the interviews are old acquaintances from school or church. And don’t hold up the penalty card as if his dad provided sufficient care because he was raised in a religious home. Many times, religious homes can be the most emotionally vacant place for a young man.

Austin bomber Mark Anthony Conditt

One thing I feel would confirm my suspicions about the Austin bomber is whether he regularly consumed porn. Hear me out: Since we have no reports on friends or past girlfriends, one thing most lonely men do is watch porn. Just get on 4Chan or a similar site and the chatter often revolves around porn while simultaneously making fun of themselves for living in their parents’ basements. It’s an easy patch for the lack of emotional intimacy they crave with a real human.

Can’t get a date? There’s porn for that.
Don’t know how to talk to a woman? There’s porn for that.
Get rejected when you ask a girl out?There’s porn for that.

In my line of work, I counsel a lot of young men through porn addiction. They always come in thinking porn is the issue, but it’s always symptomatic of something much deeper. Out of each man I’ve counseled, I’ve discovered that they all lacked emotional intimacy with their dad growing up. While that may sound ludicrous, consider this excerpt from Dr. Joshua Straub’s book Safe House.

A team of researchers at the John Hopkins School of Medicine set out on a 30-year study to find if a single related cause existed for five major issues: mental illness, hypertension, malignant tumors, coronary heart disease, and suicide. After studying 1,377 students over thirty years, the most prevalent single cause wasn’t what everyone thought. They found that the most significant predictor of these tragedies was a lack of closeness to the parentsespecially the father.

The Warrior Poet

Late one evening I stumbled out of a dusty building like a drunk pirate not quite used to walking on land. My head was spinning from the news I had just received. I wanted to vomit and scream all at the same time. The Iraqi base I was stationed at in the middle of Ramadi remained still while the whirl of generators filled the night, my shuffling adding to the noise. Taking another step, I collapsed into the dirt and wept until my tears formed mud on my hands and face.

It would be my friend Greg who would find the shell of a man lying on the ground with a muddy, tear-streaked face.

“She’s leaving. She’s leaving… god, she’s really leaving,” is all I managed to get out while sobs racked my body.

Thirty minutes ago I’d gotten the devastating news about the end of my relationship back home. Iraq was a hard enough place to deal with anyway, but now the person I loved most was gone. Greg leaned me against his barrel-shaped chest and hugged me while I cried. What he said that night made all the difference.

“You’re not alone… and we’ll get through this together.”

Many view the military as the epitome or last great bastion of masculinity. Even English writer Samuel Johnson once remarked, “Every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier, or not having been at sea.” Each time men learn I served in the military and in combat, I often hear similar sentiments. “I wanted to enlist, but have a medical condition/parents wanted me to go to college/[insert reason here].” While many men (but not all) see the military as a mark of masculinity, what they fail to recognize or acknowledge is the deep and emotional bonding that occurs amongst soldiers. Instead they paint us solely as warriors and never poets with deep feelings.

Of the men I served with I can tell you about their life stories, fears, victories, relationships, and struggles. We’ve cried, hugged, laughed, and shared some of our deepest secrets with one another.

Men at war | Photo from Wikipedia

While post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) gets lobbed around like a grenade in a china store as an explanation for why soldiers are killing themselves at an endemic rate, I believe the answer is much simpler. We’re lonely and lack the emotional intimacy we once had with our brothers in arms.

Those who ascribe to the toxic view that men should stifle their emotions are likely unaware of a soldier’s capacity to feel deeply — due in large part to the relationships we foster — and their possession of a so-called “effeminate” side.

Oh Fathers, Where Art Thou?

”The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”

— Plato, “The Republic”

As a child, I jumped off houses trying to mimic Superman. I microwaved spiders in an attempt to transform into Spiderman. Every stick was a sword. Apples became grenades. Crackers were carefully bitten into the shape of guns as my brother and I carried out invisible cracker wars with our snacks.

But I also drew and loved art. I sang in a choir. I played with Barbies. I wrote poetry and stories.

There is currently a two pronged assault on young boys.

  1. We view roughhousing, playing with toy swords, and fake war as a sign that our boys will become psychopaths because of recent events.
  2. Men falsely believe sensitivity and visible displays of emotions are signs of weakness.

This leaves a lot of young men growing up confused. We don’t engage in the healthy types of play we need to bond, and we don’t get the emotional connection we need from fathers or other men. This leaves men apathetic and indifferent when they feel they can be neither, and thus we retreat into our digital worlds of lethargy.

Today, many good men sit on the sidelines while evil continues to infect the masculine soul like a cancer. We’re not teaching young men virtue or character, but vice. We’re telling them, tamp down your feelings, but also don’t be too masculine because that’s bad. The internal warrior gets crushed, and the poet is labeled a sissy.

I’m not sure what the answer is to all this, but I know it begins with strong male figures “fathering” other men. It will take men of integrity who want to change our culture from within, not those who scream from their social media soapbox. Any change that happens will be built on the backs of one-on-one mentoring between men of character and their pupils lost and adrift in today’s culture.

It will take men of honor.

It will take courage in a world that promotes vice.

Only then can we create warrior poets.


Thanks to Oliver “Shiny” Blakemore and Stella J. McKenna. 

The steep price of Trump’s incoherent nihilism


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President Trump, left, and China’s leader Xi Jinping. (Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images)

By E.J. Dionne Jr.Columnist- Washington Post August 14 at 6:05 PM

A concern for human rights and democracy has often been seen as an add-on to our country’s foreign policy, an attractive veneer over the usual realpolitik. But President Trump is demonstrating that a supposedly “America First” policy focused entirely on trade and divorced from a commitment to our values is incoherent.

Trump is embarrassing our country — and weakening it, too — by refusing to stand with the people of Hong Kong as they struggle against China’s dictatorship.

We have long wondered when the thoughtless chaos of Trump’s presidency would finally catch up with him and endanger our country. How long could an administration that replaces policy with impulse and thinking with tweeting stay out of crisis? The disarray around Trump’s China policy and the economic turmoil it has unleashed tell us that moment is now.ADVERTISING

Somehow, Trump seemed to think he could be tough on China and still express his admiration for President Xi Jinping’s brutally authoritarian rule.

“He’s now president for life. President for life. No, he’s great,” Trump told Republican donors at a fundraising event at his Mar-a-Lago estate in early 2018. “And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll give that a shot some day.”

So it should not surprise us that as Xi tries to put down pro-democracy forces in Hong Kong, Trump was ready to employ “the language used by Communist Party officials,” as the New York Times put it, in saying on Aug. 1 that Hong Kong has had “riots for a long period of time.”Opinion | China has misread the Hong Kong protests from the start. It’s time to get it right.Chinese leaders need to discuss Hong Kong protesters’ demands or face political consequences, the Editorial Board says. (Photo: EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock and Daron Taylor/The Washington Post)

“Somebody said that at some point they’re going to want to stop that,” Trump added. “But that’s between Hong Kong and that’s between China, because Hong Kong is a part of China.” Translation: Do what you have to do, China.

Trump underscored his indifference to democracy Tuesday on Twitter. Responding to Chinese troops gathering at the Hong Kong border, he said only: “Everyone should be calm and safe!”

This reaction is scandalous from the leader of a nation whose Constitution begins with the words: “We the People.”

When it came to trade negotiations, Trump blustered about imposing new tariffs on Chinese goods, sent the stock market into a tailspin and then backed off from many of the tariffs, “just in case they might have an impact on people.”

We count on presidents to consider “just in case” issues before they act. With Trump, it’s all a thoughtless, strategy-less blur. Say anything, see how it goes, then say something else.

He charmingly expressed concern about the effect of the tariffs on “the Christmas shopping season,” thus effectively contradicting his own false claims that the Chinese, not Americans, would pay the tariffs.

But Trump’s correction-on-the-fly may not be able to undo the damage he (and Xi) have done to the world economy. The stock market’s dive on Wednesday reflected recession fears gripping investors. Unsurprisingly, Trump’s about-face seemed motivated not by any grand strategy but by a purely selfish concern for his own reelection. “Nobody wants to run for president, on either party, in the middle of a recession,” Tom Donohue, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce chief executive, told CNBC.

What’s maddening about Trump’s approach at a practical level is that many nations, including the United States’ traditional democratic allies, see China as a bad actor tearing up trade rules not to its liking and regularly violating intellectual property rights. But rather than going about the patient work of building support for what should be a broad and united front against China’s abuses, Trump’s erratic approach is making it easier for China to cast the United States as the heavy. This does not put the interests of America first.

And Trump’s affection for dictatorships is squandering the high ground our country has historically been able to occupy, even in the face of our imperfections and inconsistencies. Championing democracy is not simply the right thing to do. It is a strategic asset. It is also in our national interest at a time when democracy is under challenge from both China and Russia and faces nationalist threats in countries whose free institutions once seemed secure.

Our president has already done grave damage to our nation’s domestic fabric by dividing us against one another, provoking both racism and nativism, and seeking to delegitimize all who stand against him. Now, his nihilism is wreaking havoc on our economy and around the world. This is the place where a slapdash, value-free approach to governing was bound to lead us.

Read more from E.J. Dionne’s archivefollow him on Twitter or subscribe to his updates on Facebook.

Why we need single-payer health care — and ‘health justice’

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Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) on Capitol Hill in Washington last month. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

By James DownieOpinions editor- Washington Post August 14 at 3:13 PM

During the first two rounds of Democratic presidential debates, no topic received more attention than health care. In the two-night face-off in June, discussions of health care and immigration occupied the most airtime; in the July debates, the attention to health care expanded, when it was the only subject that all 20 candidatesreceived time to discuss. The focus was almost entirely on whether Medicare-for-all is sustainable. That has led to some grousing online that health care, while important, was getting too much attention. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In “Health Justice Now,” author and activist Timothy Faust has written the best concise explanation of why the United States needs single-payer health care — and needs to widen the definition of health care itself. Faust has experience in the health-insurance industry as a data scientist and in government by helping to sign people up for Obamacare. In other words, he has lived in the two bellies of America’s health-care beast: in an industry “in which the question of ‘Who gets to receive healthcare, and when?’… is determined by private profitability,” and in government programs that, while improved by Obamacare, remain woefully inadequate.

Faust’s summary of the problems with the U.S. health-care system will be familiar to all. Americans pay more than peers in other developed countries for worse health-care outcomes. Thousands of people die every year because they don’t have health insurance. Mental health is covered essentially in name only. And the current multi-payer system has had decades to solve these problems, without success.ADVERTISING

The good guys in this industry are hard to find: “Most of these cost increases occur because hospital CEOs, pharmaceutical companies and device manufacturers keep finding more and more ways to charge more money for the same procedures … and no private insurer can stop them,” Faust writes. The same MRI procedure at the same hospital can vary in cost by hundreds depending on the insurer. In California, a hospital stay for an appendectomy can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $182,000, with little or no connection to the patient’s health. And the current market system underpays primary-care physicians, Faust says, which “exacerbates health inequities in rural or poor areas” and creates doctor shortages precisely where they are needed most.

Rather than largely just reviewing current system’s flaws, as other similar books have done, Faust then affirmatively makes the case for a single-payer system, such as a House bill introduced by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and a Senate bill from presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Such a system, Faust writes, would include “comprehensive coverage, including medical, vision, dental and long-term care for all people … that is free to receive with no cost-sharing.” It’s affordable — even the conservative Mercatus Center estimates that the measure would lower Americans’ health-care expenditures by $2 trillion over 10 years. It expands health-care access, including helping save or reopen primary-care clinics in rural areas where loss of profitability has led dozens to close. And it would markedly improve the lives of tens of thousands who would finally have health insurance.

Other options have their flaws. A Medicare buy-in or “public option,” as proposed by several more-centrist Democrats, Faust writes, “doesn’t do anything about the skyrocketing cost of treatments.” European models like the Netherlands’ system still leave people struggling to afford insurance premiums. “All of these programs — from Medicare buy-ins to the Dutch model — might be better for some people than what we have in America,” Faust says, “but they continue to leave behind those people who we are already leaving behind.”

Finally, Faust argues that the health-care debate needs to expand to what he calls “health justice,” which recognizes how closely health care is tied to what are too often seen as separate policy areas. When “black mothers die during childbirth at over three times the rate of white mothers,” fighting racism and sexism is health care. When millions can’t afford necessities such as food and housing, fixing inequality is health care. When prisons are the largest “provider” of mental-health resources in many cities — yet function less as hospitals than as “warehouses for the mentally ill” — criminal-justice reform is health care. So in some sense, those who complained about how much time health care was getting in the Democratic presidential debates didn’t realize just how much time it was really getting.

If Faust’s book has one weakness, it is the comparatively short shrift he gives to how the United States politically gets to single-payer and health justice. As models, Faust cites the AIDS and disability rights movements of the 1980s and early 1990s, and more recently the grass-roots-driven ballot initiatives expanding Medicaid in Idaho and Maine. In both cases, the details aren’t much more than “many people worked hard, and succeeded.” The vagueness is hardly a surprise, though, because while we might not know exactly what a health justice movement will look like, we do know it will come through the broad archetype of a grass-roots movement.

That might seem almost redundant: Of course something like Medicare-for-all wouldn’t happen without popular support. Health care affects too many people to be overhauled otherwise. But it’s a truth that two candidates understand: Sanders, with his talk of a “political revolution,” and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who has begun talking more about a “grass-roots movement” to beat wealthy interests. The sooner the rest of the Democratic field understands that, and the sooner the country moves toward health justice, the better.

American Challenge

Anyone who seriously considers the current state of affairs in America should realize that we are in crisis. In the balance lies the soul of America. I have met quite a few people who feel so overwhelmed by the barrage of lies, distortions and false claims that they have stopped watching, reading and listening to the news and opinions from all quarters. They would rather concentrate on living a peaceful life just for today. I can’t blame them.

But what is happening to us in the meantime? Our country is still beset by systematic dismantling of our government structures developed over many years to protect our society. Fear is fanned to frighten groups with varying interests into attacking each other. We are warned to distrust and exclude the flow of immigrants who made us the country we are. Our country has been framed as an economic venture with money the only concern. We are seen by the current administration as a society which can suddenly withdraw from our place in the world community and thrive in isolation. We are encouraged to relive the Wild West where violence with assault weapons speaks for us rather than conversation.

I agree that these are not pleasant prospects. But ignoring them can only lead to decay and decline of the society which most of us have come to love and for which so many of our citizens and their families have sacrificed so much. We can appreciate that, other than Native Americans, the rest of us came from other countries. If we look back far enough, we can see that even the Native Americans made their way across the land bridge connecting what is now Russia with what is now Alaska.

We all came from somewhere else or have ancestors who did. Our new homeland has extensive resources bestowing on us almost countless benefits. Although we consist of many societies and ways of thinking, we are all the same in several ways. We would like to do more than survive. We would like to improve our lives or preserve what has been left to us. We would like our children to grow up in a world which provides them the opportunities we had or wished we had.

We live in an electronic world which replaces personal communication with truncated communication through various devices leaving out much of what we feel about ourselves and each other. We also live in a world of extensive natural resources. Some of us would like to use these resources without consideration of caring for our natural home and what would keep it healthy. Others realize that we are called upon to be caretakers of our environment.

Our challenge is to set aside fear of each other, selfishness about our own needs and desires, ignoring the needs of our neighbors, disregard for the wellbeing of our environment. We also need to avoid working in the interest of our nation while disregarding that of other nations and peoples. We need to again see ourselves as part of the world community. We can’t wait for someone else to make these changes for us. They are the responsibility of each of us. You pass or meet many people each day. Try imagining what they want in their lives. When you are ready, hopefully soon, try asking them about their aspirations and sharing your own.