The Cost of Doing Business

After reflecting on the financial good news of last week, I can’t figure how much of the US economic recovery is on account of Obama’s old work, or from Trump’s new policies. I suspect it’s a little of both. I also suspect the removal of regulations has played a major part in our energy production, at least. In this case, it’s ironic that the administration is calling such production “sustainable.”

I have no problem with a booming economy. (And as my mother pointed out, we Democrats better be very careful about how we react to the boom—because we do not want to sound as if we’re rooting against the economy.) That said, I’ve got everything against my country getting rich to the tune of environmental and humanitarian degradation. Just today, I got an e-mail from the NRDC about how the Trump administrations’ drilling plans will threaten such areas as the Bears Ears National Monument. Last week, as the court-ordered border reunification deadline passed, CNN reported that 33 percent of detained children still remain separated from their parents. (How this detention ever affected the economy is beyond me—but the Trumpers claim that undocumented immigrants take their jobs, so…)

And here’s more behavior I reject: I reject Trump’s implication that America is a victim and that we’re just now reclaiming respect around the world. According to Gallup (from last January), the median approval of US leadership dropped 30 percent, among 134 countries, during 2017. Last month, tens of thousands of British protestors dogged Trump with—among other things—the Trump-baby blimp. Later in that same month, world leaders were still condemning Trump’s lap-dog routine with Vladimir Putin. And last May, while I was in Iceland, our tour-guide, who depended on tips, joked about Trump to a busload of high-end, excursion-booking, Americans. All of this is a far cry from President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize.

And let’s not forget that this victim talk is actually despot talk. Victimhood, such as it is, has been used to justify atrocity and tit-for-tattery from Carthage to Dachau to the border detention centers. Stalin used at least the threat of victimhood to liquidate tens of millions of his own people while his Soviet Union transformed itself into an industrial super power. (Hmm.)

And speaking of Russia… In his annual foreign policy speech, last October, Vladimir Putin said this: “The biggest mistake our country made was that we put too much trust in you [the west]; and your mistake was that you saw this trust as weakness and abused it.” Sound familiar? Putin says that the US humiliated Russia. (Just this week, Trump said that other countries have humiliated us.) Putin says that NATO has betrayed Russia. (Earlier this month, Trump called NATO delinquent.)

The script changes, somewhat. Obviously now, Trump and Putin are such good buddies that they have secret conversations. But the voice is the same—and the stance is the same. Trump sounds like Putin’s protege. And our economic growth, though welcome, is far too small a compensation for us embrace the same tradition of totalitarianism that we’ve resisted since the pilgrims fled it 300 years ago.

If the Shoe Fits…

Dr. Sam Green is the head of King’s College London’s Russia Institute. On Point interviewed him this morning about Putin, where they discussed, among other things, why he’s so, uh, Putey. Green acknowledge the fact that Putin has been out to revitalize the fallen Soviet Union, but he also said that Putin keeps power by conflict and surprise. He likes to push everybody off-balance, and then keep them there. The problem is that to keep up his act, he has to constantly escalate. In my assessment he’s like a TV drama that’s gone on too long. Pretty soon you have helicopters falling on surgeons–or passenger airliners falling out of the sky. The pattern is as addictive as it is lethal–and it could go on for years. 

At that point, my schedule was such that I couldn’t finish the interview. But I left wondering whether, if I had come in during the middle of what I heard, I’d think we were talking about somebody else.

(Originally posted March 15, 2018)

Prediction

I awoke with this plot in my head: A secret agency buys out a number of our large, American companies. And through those companies, they start to contribute to Congressional campaigns. They contribute to a group of candidates who are both charismatic and manipulable. As these candidates win office, the Agency pushes them into stances that are more radical than what the candidates originally stood for. The rhetoric sharpens. Regardless of whether the politicians believe in the platforms they now hold, their handlers convince them that they’re reflecting the will of their constituents. The constituents, being largely moderate on their own, start to believe what the politicians declare from their platforms. Perhaps media commentators reinforce the radical messages. Perhaps they, in turn, receive sponsorship from the Agency that either created or discovered them. Perhaps the politicians recruit subsequent generations of politicians who really believe the platform. This goes on for a few years–maybe a few decades. Americans grow to distrust themselves. The government is so conflicted that it barely functions. With every election cycle, the Agency gets closer to paralyzing one of the most powerful nations on Earth.

Who is the Agency? I don’t know. North Korea? ISIS? The Illuminati? The Lizard People? The debate about who’s at fault would serve the Agency just as well as anything else.

(Originally posted July 27, 2015)