Jeff, John, Lindsey, Marco, Olympia, et al… Where Are You? Speak Up!

The only way I know to act out and pretend that I am doing something meaningful is petition and write. I just signed the ‘Academics Against Immigration Executive Order’ and the ‘Statement by scholars on the January 2017 executive orders’ petitions. Now, I am writing this blog piece. I don’t know what else to do.

It was June 26, 1975. I was 12, I was aware, I was a citizen, and I did not know what to do. Just before the day was born, the President of India, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, on the advice of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, signed a proclamation imposing a national Emergency which essentially suspended the constitution. Something did not feel right then. Yesterday, President Trump signed an executive order titled, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.” The text of the executive order is still not up on the White House website. However, The New York Times and other new agencies have a White House staff supplied version of the executive order. I read it in great detail, and something did not feel right again!

Yes, I feel a bit like I am 12 again! Again, I am a citizen in a country where the President has used the power of his office to act in a manner that violates the basic norms of decency, and deeply held values of the republic. Only this time I over 50, can join my fellow academics and sign petitions, and write a blog piece.

It is worth noting that both in the case of the emergency in India and in the present immigrant executive order tragedy in the U.S. the raison d’être is the security of the country. Poppycock! Both cases are really examples of deeply flawed illiberal (and I use liberal in the classic 18th century British sense of the term, and not its present American variant – for some sense of the differences this Quora discussion may be helpful) individuals abusing the instruments of the state to act out their personal, parochial proclivities. The executive order is essentially the first step in President Trump getting his ‘extreme vetting’ immigration policy into place. Except, even on its own terms, this policy is silly. I don’t think it is difficult to demonstrate the silliness of the purpose of the executive order and the actions it imposes on the immigration authorities. But to discuss those discrepancies would give the logic of the order more respect than it deserves. Put simply, the order is immoral and unethical. It will also be counterproductive.

I said I don’t know what to do! So I am calling on people who I think can do a lot more to speak up.  LOUDLY AND CLEARLY! A number of Democrats have already spoken and no one need tell Democrats to speak up. However it seems many Republicans have been silent on the latest executive order. And it doesn’t seem like they have a problem sending out messages opposing Trump. Lindsey Graham sent out a tweet after it was suggested that President Trump will pay for the Wall with a 20% tariff on imports from Mexico – he tweeted, “Simply put, any policy proposal which drives up costs of Corona, tequila, or margaritas is a big-time bad idea. Mucho Sad.” McCain is on record of letting the President know that he won’t take removing Russian sanctions lying down. And Flake, Romney, and many other Republicans have not been afraid to oppose Trump. So, the silence is deafening.

So, I am LOUDLY AND CLEARLY calling on:

  • Susan Collins, R-Maine, of “It flies in the face of foundation of freedoms in this country so I disagree” fame.
  • Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, of “Just when you think@realDonaldTrump can stoop no lower, he does. These views do not reflect serious thought” fame.
  • John McCain, R-Arizona, of “Oh, I think it has an interesting effect of turning Muslims all over the world against the United States of America” fame.
  • Lindsey Graham. R-South Carolina, of “…To all of our Muslim friends throughout the world, like the King of Jordan and the President of Egypt, I am sorry. He does not represent us”
  • Marco Rubio, R-Florida, of “Temporary ban on Muslim immigration. That’s not going to happen” fame.

…and many others, to speak up and condemn the executive order.

Why the five highlighted by bullets especially? Because they have over the last year and a half opposed Trump and do not constitute one of the Republicans who have ‘fallen in line’. Each of them did say the ‘of… xxx fame’ statements next to their names in the context of Trump’s Muslim ban statement.  And each of them wields some power. They are in the Senate and the President should deal with them. He needs to get his Cabinet nominees through. They can stop him.

I said at the beginning of this piece I don’t know what else to do. I am happy to follow through if any of you have constructive suggestions.


P.S. All the statements attributed to individuals here are statements that they made in the context of  Trump’s call for a Muslim ban. I need to point that out before someone accuses me of concocting alternative facts. However, they are undocumented. Seemed the right thing to do given the present context. J


Trump and Syria: First World Problems Reconsidered

As an economist, relative prices are my bread and butter. I would like to suggest that when we think that we are all going to hell in a hand basket, we should have a measure of relative problems. Given the tragedies in the world, sometimes we should learn to separate a hiccup from a problem; a problem from a crisis; a crisis from a catastrophe; and a catastrophe from Armageddon.

Donald Trump has dominated the news for quite some time now. Some folks I know, and some of them I even respect, have said things which would suggest that his election is as bad as things can get. As much as I would have preferred that he was not elected President (my candidate came a distant third, or, was it fourth!) I would like to suggest that given the tragedies in Syria the election of Trump is a walk in the park.

If you want to proclaim the end of the world, you should point to Syria, not the U.S. This blog is a plea to be able to differentiate between a hiccup, a problem, a crisis, a catastrophe, Armageddon.

Syria is a catastrophe. At its worst, even for the most ardent anti-Trumper, the U.S.  election outcome is a problem.

How bad is Syria? Please tune away from the Trump tamasha and pay attention to what is happening in Syria. And by the way, how long has this been going on? If interested please read this blog piece I wrote more than four and a half years ago titled, ENOUGH – Never Again Should We Say, “NEVER AGAIN”.

And for those of you who think that you can walk and chew gum at the same time, that you can bemoan Syria and Trump at the same time, the point of this blog piece is, Syria is a catastrophe; Trump at worst is a problem.

P.S. I want to be clear that I do not share the sentiment that Trump’s election is as bad as things can get. I’d like to write more about how I feel and think about Trump’s election. That is a piece for another day. Today, Syria and Aleppo is on my mind.

A Theory About Christie’s Trump Endorsement – Opportunism Meets the Art of the Deal

I am a lousy political prognosticator. Folks remind me that if things went as I predicted then we’d have President Romney. I don’t remember predicting Romney would beat President Obama in 2012. I am grateful for my less than stellar memory when it comes to faulty predictions!

A few months ago I was pretty sure and predicted with little doubt that neither Hillary nor Trump would gain their respective parties’ nominations. Both those predictions were based on my understanding of American politics. While I can rationalize and make sense of a Hillary nomination, the Trump thing still baffles me. I still maintain that he won’t get the Republican nomination. But I will not bet any money against him at this point.

The recent Christie endorsement of Trump is what moves me from the ‘surely Trump will not get the nomination’ column, to the ‘I’m saying he won’t get it because I don’t want him to get it’ column. In fact many people seem completely surprised at Christie’s open backing of Trump. Why, What, How?  I have a theory about the attack and the reward.


The Attack – Trump’s Benefit

As it is fashionable to say now, he is an opportunist. And a necessary condition to be an opportunist is to develop opportunities. My sense is that even before the New Hampshire primary Chrisitie figured out that he was not in the running. But he was still good enough to be on stage in the pre-New Hampshire Republican debate. Given Rubio’s strong showing in Iowa he won in spite of coming third – only in American politics), a strong Rubio showing in New Hampshire would have made it a two person race (Trump, Rubio) and an eventual Rubio nomination. That was Christie’s opportunity. And this is where the Donald struck a deal.

The deal was Christie would go after Rubio in the debate using a Donald technique – get personal and belittle the opponent. It made sense for someone other than Donald to do it. If Donald had gone after Rubio the way he went after Bush it would be entertaining, but not effective. Folks would have said, “Donald is being Donald,” not “Rubio is weak and programmed.” But if the straight shooting Christie went after Rubio, then it may stick.

And seven minutes of the debate was all that Christie needed. When Rubio said what he said about Obama and Christie was part of the conversation the New York-New Jersey deal bore fruit. Click here and see minutes 13.00 to 19.50 of the debate to see the damage being done. Rubio helped the Christie-Trump effort by repeating the line, “This notion that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing ….”

The irony is that while Christie rightly accused Rubio of delivering the “memorized 25 second speech,” listening to the tape now it seems that Chrisite himself had rehearsed a number of his lines. But Christie was smart enough to rehearse being extemporaneous as part of his preparation.


And Justice – Christie’s Reward

So what does Christie get in return? Whatever one thinks of Christie or not, it seems clear that he has political ambitions beyond New Jersey. If Trump goes on to win the Presidency I predict that Chris Christie will be the Attorney General of the United States. A pretty straight forward deal for a pretty ‘straight shooter’. And if it happens he will be the first New Jerseyian in over a hundred years to head the Justice department.


In Conclusion

Clearly I have no evidence to back any of this stuff. It is clearly speculative. But it seems like a plausible theory. I just hope that events do not so unfold that I will be right with my Christie Attorney General prediction. I sincerely hope that the premise of which the prediction is made (Trump wins) never comes to a pass.

Let me predict – “It will not come to pass. Trump will not be President.” For everybody’s sake, I hope I am right

Trumped Up – attempts at humor and a prediction – Nothing Top About This Ten List

It’s been a while since I wrote anything on this blog. With 2016 born, maybe I will try to get a little more regular!

I restart my blogging with a piece on the man who this Time was trumped by Merkel! And my take on the Donald is, Donald Trump:

  • #1 – Makes the case for the teleprompter.
  • # 2 – Is the first candidate running for the Presidency who caricatures Saturday Night Live.
  • # 3 – Wants to build a mini ‘Wall of China’ on the U.S.-Mexico border because someone told him that it was THE GGRREEAATT WALL!
  • # 4 – Moved many a man from their children’s ‘my dad is the biggest joke in the world’ list.
  • # 5 – Is right about not being politically correct. In fact he is politically wrong, socially wrong, culturally wrong … or as he would say it, HHUUGGEELLYY WRONG!
  • # 6 – May by his anti-Muslim words unite the Shias and Sunnis.
  • # 7 – Makes many folks at UPenn not want one of their grads to become President in 2016.
  • # 8 – Should get credit for (successfully) arguing that he will not take a bribe, because he has given one!
  • # 9 – May move to Warsaw because the polls say everybody LLOOVVEESS him.
  • # 10 – Will in all probability not be elected president! Though, while three months ago I would have given him a one in a hundred thousandth chance of being elected, now I will give him a 1% chance!