Can President Trump Be Presidential? – The New York Times

“A special strength of American democracy has been the desire of newly elected presidents to unite the public with healing words after the sound and fury of the campaign.

Now comes President-elect Donald Trump. He has won the office and yet has continued his vindictive, disruptive style of politicking. He has run a post-campaign that has corroded the traditional grace period of considerate political transition that the nation needs. The hope of citizens for a better future, for a sense of uplift, has wound up hostage to his impetuous Twitter attacks on individuals, institutions and nations.”

David Lindsay Hamden, CT January 20, 2017

Lovely piece NYT, thank you. Like prayer flags blowing in the wind outside a Buddhist temple in Nepal.
We just watched the Inauguration speech. Worse than expected. He had some great lines, like, “When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.”

But it was embarrassing. He can solve all our problems. No one else deserves any credit for what he inherits. He inherits a disgraceful disaster. This is about as true as his statement that he won by a landslide. If Trump succeeds, it will because the Obama team has set up the country to succeed.

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Department of Justification – By Emily Bazelon – NYT

“As the Republican primary season progressed, it became clear to Sessions and Bannon that Trump could be the vessel for their brand of Republicanism. Back in August 2015, Bannon emailed a friend, according to The Daily Beast, that while he felt good about other candidates like Ted Cruz, he was ready to pick Trump, because he was “a nationalist who embraces” Sessions’s immigration plan. Six months later, Sessions became the first senator to endorse Trump for president. Last August, Sessions helped create a new immigration policy for Trump, which called for reducing immigration by, among other things, tightening the rules about visas for high-skilled workers. That same month, Bannon took over Trump’s campaign.”

Oh my Gosh! NYT revelations. Steve Miller was a top aid of Sessions, who was in a cabal with Bannon. Sessions was a leader of racist immigration reform.

“Their shared view was central to Trump’s Inaugural Address, which, according to The Wall Street Journal, Bannon and Miller principally wrote. For a president taking office amid peacetime and economic growth, the speech offered a singularly dark vision. Trump spoke of “American carnage” — a country made increasingly dangerous by “the crime and the gangs and the drugs,” its economy ravaged by production abroad, its borders infiltrated by marauders. The speech was a perfect distillation of the foreboding view of America broadcast by Breitbart — a land in disarray and decline that has reached the point of crisis.

In fact, violent crime has been declining sharply for 25 years; with a small uptick in 2015, it remains low. The number of undocumented immigrants has fallen slightly in the last decade, and these newcomers are less likely to commit violent crimes than people who were born here. Evidence shows that immigrants are an engine of economic growth and entrepreneurship. While they take a small bite out of the wages of native-born workers without a high school diploma, they provide an overall boost to productivity that increases the pay of more educated workers by up to 10 percent, labor economists say. As for the “totalitarian threat” that, according to Sessions, Americans face from radical Islam, since Sept. 11, white supremacists and other non-Muslim extremists have killed nearly twice as many Americans as radical Muslims, according to the New America Foundation.

Why would the Trump administration paint a picture so starkly at odds with reality? It’s simple: A vision of the nation besieged provides clear justification for policies that will advance Sessions, Bannon and Miller’s divisive nationalism.”

There are many excellent comments, including:


Richmond 4 hours ago

Excellent, excellent article. I knew Sessions’ appointment was a dire development, but I had no idea how deep his roots with Bannon went. Thank you for the detail about the inner workings of DOJ, as well as some history. With an impotent, worse than useless Congress our only hope is a strong and principled Judiciary. We have seen them stand up for us so far. This piece wilts my hopes to some extent about their ability to withstand the onslaught of this administration’s attacks on our values and freedoms, but I hope they stand strong.

Christine McM

is a trusted commenter Massachusetts 3 hours ago

This article made me very depressed. As a nation, we used to pride ourselves on being a melting pot. Now it appears the angry white mob, convinced immigrants, blacks, and anybody that looks different from them are stealing things away from them, are out to purify the nation.

Bannon and company want to make America Christian and white, and they’re pushing the envelope to make it happen. It’s a nativist, ugly view of a nation founded on civic values of freedom designed to make our country the beacon of the world–not a closed off island of contempt and exclusion of anybody not exactly in their form.

In another article, I read that Steve Bannon was very angered that many (but certainly not as many as he claimed) Silicon Valley CEOs were Asians. This petty little man now sits right at Trump’s ear. Nobody elected Steve Bannon, yet there he sits at the pinnacle of power, cultivating Sessions and many of Trump’s cabinet to do his dirty work through the Justice Department.

As the quote goes, “all that’s necessary for evil to prevail is that good men do nothing.” I might add, “or that very bad men, like Sessions, Miller, and Bannon are put in charge of ensuring evil prevails for a very long time.”


Missing: Donald Trump’s Trillion-Dollar Infrastructure Plan – The New York Times

“A big infrastructure package involving direct government spending would, politically and economically, be a slam-dunk compared with other misguided investments and policies, like building a border wall or cutting taxes for the wealthy. Experts say that the United States needs a huge increase in spending on public works after years of neglect and to prepare for the increased threat from climate change. The American Society of Civil Engineers gives the country’s infrastructure a grade of D+ and says that $3.6 trillion in spending is required by 2020.

Mr. Trump would also bolster his popularity, something he clearly craves (55 percent of voters disapprove of his job performance, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released last week). Three-quarters of people surveyed by Gallup last year said that they wanted the federal government to increase infrastructure spending. And there would be little political opposition because many Democrats, including liberal stalwarts like Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, are practically begging the president to work with them on this issue. Last month, Democratic senators introduced a detailed $1 trillion plan.”

No mention of how to pay for it, or a single Republican on board.
Here is a top comment:
Larry Lundgren Sweden 8 hours ago

Let me tell you about hidden infrastructure that if added in the USA would put many people to work, people of many skill levels, and would make city by city better.

The only way for many readers to understand this hidden infrastructure would be to visit me here in Linköping or Göteborg because once these elements of the infrastructure are hidden there is nothing, of course, to see.

1) All electrical lines and now fiber optic cables are buried even quite far out into the countryside to the outer edge of areas where apartment complexes are being put up.

2) Most, perhaps all, cities are heated by the “fjärrvärme” system, literally distance heating but usually called district heating in English. A network of insulated pipes, the largest perhaps 0,5 – 1,0 m in diameter extends from each solid-waste incinerator plant about 1 m below ground surface to reach every building in the network. Water as hot as 100 C leaves each plant, distributes heat to every endpoint and returns, then at a lower temperature.

3) Ground-Source Geothermal Heat Pump systems (Champlain & Saint Michaels Colleges, VT). A completely invisible system of drill holes instead of, for example, a coal fired power plant.

These invisible networks mean far fewer power shutdowns in storms, more pleasing environment, and a heating system that has kept me warm 24/7 365 for the past 15 years without fail.

That is what I call Public Works that work.
Dual citizen – US SE

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Doug Mc

Chesapeake, VA 5 hours ago

President Eisenhower got us the interstate highway system by correctly labeling it a defense project. One of the seeds for this effort was planted in 1919 when he was part of a convoy testing feasibility of military movement by convoy from Washington DC to San Francisco. That trip took 62 days and was fraught with difficulty.

Having a huge military footprint is useless if no one can supply their state-side bases or the water is undrinkable or the base is underwater.

We won WWII in large part not because of our military force but because of the industrial capacity backstopping the military. Infrastructure is not sexy but maintaining it and rebuilding it where necessary is a powerful force multiplier which also makes our country eminently more livable for non-combatants.

The Uses of Outrage – by Paul Krugman – NYT

“Are you angry about the white nationalist takeover of the U.S. government? If so, you are definitely not alone. The first few weeks of the Trump administration have been marked by huge protests, furious crowds at congressional town halls, customer boycotts of businesses seen as Trump allies. And Democrats, responding to their base, have taken a hard line against cooperation with the new regime.

But is all this wise? Inevitably, one hears some voices urging everyone to cool it — to wait and see, to try to be constructive, to reach out to Trump supporters, to seek ground for compromise.Just say no.

Outrage at what’s happening to America isn’t just justified, it’s essential. In fact, it may be our last chance of saving democracy.”

Thank you again Paul Krugman. This is scary writing, but I am afraid I have to agree with Sensei, Dr. Krugman. I am less interested in demonstrations, and more interested in the hard work of talking to politicians and Trump supporters. We need to be polite, but firm. Now is not the time to be quiet or passive. Today’s lead story in the NYT is that Trump wants to gut programs like the EPA to increase sharply our military spending. This is a disastrous direction, since the U.S. military now has a budget greater than the next 7 or 8 countries combined. Meanwhile, climate change and over population are probably the greatest threats in the world to our way of life.

Part two. Along with my praise of Krugman’s piece, I have to disagree with his paragraph, “It’s not even O.K. to go golfing with the president, saying that it’s about showing respect for the office, not the man. Sorry, but when the office is held by someone trying to undermine the Constitution, doing anything that normalizes him and lends him respectability is a political act.” It is always OK in my book to accept an opportunity to get closer to Donald Trump, if you are going to use you access to lobby for view points that might differ from the Trump Team’s. Several pundits have written, Trump seems to pay particularly close attention to the last person he has just spoken to. This is obviously a bit of an exaggeration, but the danger of writing off communicating with Donald Trump, is you ignore his narcissistic desire to please his friends, and be loved by his public. So it is OK to play golf with Trump, if you are willing to lobby for a better world, and return after the game to fighting the 90% of his political ideas which are neither good for America or the world.

Here is a comment that I support as well.

Freedom Furgle WV 3 hours ago

“Since Nov. 9th, I’ve been trying to open the eyes of Trump supporters. With zero success, I might add. I’ve made jokes about his incompetence to people in country bars. I’ve pointed out his autocratic tendencies to guys behind the counter at gas stations. And I’ve called out his lies to retirees standing in line at the post office. Whenever I get the chance to talk with people who I think might be Trump supporters, I take it. And – so far – all I’ve succeeded in doing is making people think I’m an idiot or a liar. Until this weekend, that is. When I struck gold.

I live in WV. And a few years back, we had a water crises in the Elk River because of a leak of chemicals used in coal mining that affected over 15% of the people in the state. People were scared of their water. And a heck of a lot of them still are. Which is why when I told a several people this weekend at a little honky tonk that Trump had undone regulations that protected rivers and streams from coal waste and runoff, I could tell that it wasn’t popular. Even in the eyes of Trump supporters.

There might just be a way to fight Trump and make him slowly bleed support. It takes a bit of work (and sometimes it takes a bit of courage) but I’m starting to think it’s possible. All you have to do is find something that Trump has done that is unpopular in the eyes of his supporters in your area, and then hammer that message to his supporters like there’s no tomorrow. If enough of us do it, we can make a real difference.”

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Buffett Asks Big Money: Why Pay High Fees? – The New York Times

““Much of the financial damage befell pension funds for public employees,” he wrote. “Many of these funds are woefully underfunded, in part because they have suffered a double whammy: poor investment performance accompanied by huge fees. The resulting shortfalls in their assets will for decades have to be made up by local taxpayers.”

For the past several years, Mr. Buffett has told anyone who will listen to avoid attempting to beat the stock market by investing in hedge funds or actively managed funds. Instead, he has counseled buying a low-cost S. & P. 500 index fund. (He has said he plans to advise the trustee of his estate after he dies to invest 90 percent of it in an S. & P. 500 index fund and the rest into government bonds on behalf of his wife.)

However, much of the biggest money in the nation hasn’t taken his advice and continues to pay enormous fees for underperformance.”

The Generals Guarding American Democracy – POLITICO Magazine

“Chairman Dunford has said little so far, but his role was brought to the fore by the president’s executive order reorganizing the National Security Council. The order left him, the nation’s highest-ranking military officer, without a permanent seat on the NSC’s most senior body, while giving one to Bannon. According to reporting from the Associated Press, it was on account of concern with these sorts of half-baked executive orders coming out of the White House that Mattis and Kelly arranged to have one of them in the country at all times during Trump’s initial weeks in office. While the detail is buried deep in the AP’s story, it’s a significant revelation. Essentially, it shows that it is military leaders, albeit retired, who feel the need to guard against the overreach of a civilian executive. It’s a phenomenon familiar to countries like Turkey or Egypt, but not the United States. Until now.”

Source: The Generals Guarding American Democracy – POLITICO Magazine

Trump Voters, Your Savior Is Betraying You – by Nicholas Kristof – NYT

“But that seems like a classic shell game. The Tax Policy Center estimated that Trump’s tax plan (to the extent that there is one) would hugely increase the federal debt and give middle-income households an average tax cut of $1,010, or 1.8 percent of after-tax income — while the top 1 percent would save $214,690, or 13.5 percent of after-tax income.

Trump made more than 280 campaign promises as a candidate, and a few — such as infrastructure spending to create jobs — would be sensible if done right. But there still is no infrastructure plan, and The Washington Post Fact Checker is tracking 60 specific campaign promises and found only six cases so far of promises kept.”

Lovely op-ed Nicholas Kristof.

Unfortunately, you made a glaring mistake, maligning Marie Antoinette, when you otherwise made another excellent point, writing: ”

The biggest Trump bait-and-switch was visible Friday when he talked about giving Americans “access” to health care. That’s a scam his administration is moving toward, with millions of Americans likely to lose health insurance: Instead of promising insurance coverage, Trump now promises “access” — and if you can’t afford it, tough luck.

This promise of “access” is an echo of Marie Antoinette. In Trump’s worldview, starving French peasants wouldn’t have needed bread because they had “access” to cake.’

Marie Antoinette was a remarkable saint. Her bad reputation was created by propagandist in the Netherlands etc., who wanted to overthrow the French monarchy. They published disgusting rubbish and lies about the lovely, young, Austrian princess, whose real crime, was that she kept giving away large amounts of her own money to orphanages and hospitals. My source is an history book by Antonia Fraser, Marie Antoinette, which I listened to in an audio book. The malignant quote, let them eat cake, was never said by Marie Antoinette. It was sourced to a queen from a century before.

Trump Deportation Order Risk: Immigrants Driven Underground – The New York Times

“New deportation rules proposed by the Trump administration risk creating an American underclass with parallels to others around the world: slum residents in India, guest workers in oil-rich Persian Gulf states and internal migrant workers in China.

Those groups provide a cautionary tale for what could happen if the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, as well as their family members, are forced deep into the shadows.Stuck in a gray zone outside the legal system, they are vulnerable to exploitation, including wage theft and sex trafficking. Because they are denied formal protections or services, informal alternatives take their place — creating an ideal space for corruption, gangs and other forms of criminality.

The result is often the precise opposite of what the administration is seeking: not a cohesive society but a fragmented one, not less crime but more, and, rather than ending undocumented immigration, deepening the secrecy that makes it difficult to manage.”

Death and Tax Cuts – by Paul Krugman – NYT

“Suppose you want to make insurance available to people with pre-existing conditions. You can’t just forbid insurance companies to discriminate based on medical history; if you do that, healthy people won’t sign up until they get sick. So you have to mandate the purchase of insurance; and you have to provide subsidies to lower-income families so that they can afford the policies. The end result of this logic is … Obamacare.”

Thank you Paul Krugman.
The top comment is surprising. It doesn’t compliment Krugman, but it acutually says something so important, it compliements his piece with a crucial insight.

Stephen Reichard

It can’t be said enough (and isn’t said enough for reasons that utterly escape me): Obamacare is Republican health care. It was developed as a concept at the Heritage Institute in the 1990s in response to Hillary Care. It was first implemented in Massachusetts by a Republican governor, Mitt Romney. There is no Republican alternative to Obamacare because Obamacare IS the Republican alternative to Democratic healthcare which is, of course, single payer.

I get why Republicans don’t call this out: it exposes the lie that their opposition to Obama was based not on his race but on his supposed fire breathing radicalism. But why don’t Democrats hammer this truth?


Trump Voters Are Not the Enemy – by Nicholas Kristof – NYT

“I understand the vehemence. Trump is a demagogue who vilifies and scapegoats refugees, Muslims, undocumented immigrants, racial minorities, who strikes me as a danger to our national security. By all means stand up to him, and point out his lies and incompetence. But let’s be careful about blanket judgments.

My hometown, Yamhill, Ore., a farming community, is Trump country, and I have many friends who voted for Trump. I think they’re profoundly wrong, but please don’t dismiss them as hateful bigots.

The glove factory closed down. The timber business slimmed. Union jobs disappeared. Good folks found themselves struggling and sometimes self-medicated with methamphetamine or heroin. Too many of my schoolmates died early; one, Stacy Lasslett, died of hypothermia while she was homeless.

This is part of a national trend: Mortality rates for white middle-aged Americans have risen, reflecting working-class “deaths of despair.” Liberals purport to champion these people, but don’t always understand them.In Yamhill, plenty of well-meaning people were frustrated enough that they took a gamble on a silver-tongued provocateur. It wasn’t because they were “bigoted unthinking lizard brains,” but because they didn’t know where to turn and Trump spoke to their fears.”


Thank you Nicholas Kristof.  You continually impress me for daring to go where others don’t even want to follow. I have a category just for your writings at my blog,, which I called “Saint Nicholas Kristof.” Even if I dropped the Saint, it still often applies. I enjoyed some of the comments blowing back against you so much I recommended some of them. But you are still right. We are in a serious fight, like JR Tolkien’s epic fight for middle earth. Only this threat to both the planet and our way of life is real.

So I want to remind the angry commentator’s, and myself, your wisdom is from both love and discipline. We have to save the country and the planet. If we are going to use the democratic system, we have to think and communicate strategically. It makes no sense, as you aptly pointed out, to write off or insult the very audience that you have to educate and win over. This round of the war isn’t lost, it is just beginning. Thank you, for the lesson in tactics, manners and wisdom.

I was directed to a piece about Thich Nhat Hanh, and his followers, who counselled people to find peace even with Donald Trump. The idea was to recognize what you hate about him, has vestiges in yourself. You can therefore value your enemies, as being vehicles to help you become a more perfect, loving person. It is a Buddhist principle to value your enemies, for you can learn about your own weakness, by recognizing the weakness that making you angry.