Thursday, September 28, 2017

When Trump does not get what he wants...?

Yesterday Trump discussed the tax plan that will be proposed by his administration.  Simplification is definitely a positive aspect and the long outdated elimination of the AMT is welcome(that mainly affects the upper middle class and definitely not the 1% according to my understanding but reports today suggest that it affects the very wealthy as well. I do not understand that and think that the reporting is incorrect) The specifics of what will benefit the middle class are few, while some specifics of what will massively benefit the 1% are, such as complete elimination of the estate tax.

Some aspects are obviously political.  Elimination of the deductions for state and local taxes will significantly raise taxes for many in states like New York and California and in large cities around the country in high tax states.  These are areas that are not part of Trump's base and it is unlikely that they ever will be.  This will offset some of Trump's proposed cuts, but the specificity is clear.

What should also be clear is that tax reform is a highly complex process.  Trump's comments yesterday made it seem like there will be a bipartisan package agreed upon soon.  That possibility is remote, even among the Republican caucus.  It would be shocking if this could be a 2017 event, almost impossible.  Unless Trump decides to come up with an infrastructure package that would be  likely to gain bipartisan support more quickly, he will end 2017 with no major accomplishments.

While government functionaries are making many changes that are consistent with a new administration, like them or not, there is no immediate buy-in to major Trump initiatives in Congress.  An example is the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations approving a $51 billion budget for the Department of State rather that the $37 billion the Trump forces had requested.  Trump's proposal had dramatic cuts in necessary components of U.S. foreign policy activities that would have been harmful, even dangerous in some cases.  It is reassuring to see instances like this where the Trump cabal is thwarted.  Obviously Trump has little idea of the impact of some of the proposals that are put before him.

This week we saw Trump campaign for a Senate candidate in an Alabama Republican primary who lost to an even more right wing evangelical that will be a challenge to any moderation that McConnell and Ryan want to project.

Where is this post going?  When do we get to the point where Trump's frustration leads to an action meant to divert attention and force the country to stand behind him?  That's an old trick used around the world by unpopular leaders.  That makes Trump's fascination with North Korea and Iran more troublesome.  At least that's a concern here.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Trump's hour and a half rant in Alabama yesterday

Trump was at his unscripted worst in the mostly friendly state of Alabama.  It's hard to think of a group that he did not insult.  He is unstable, uninformed, and horribly biased.  The one thing that we cannot do is get in the mode of saying "that's just Trump".  He is dangerous.

His comment on the few NFL players that choose to kneel during the national anthem was outrageous and irresponsibly crude for a President.  Let's see if there are many many more "kneelers" tomorrow.  Lebron James' tweet in response to Trump's comments about Stephen Curry was classic, the best thing ever seen from him.  Find it if you can.

More to come...

Friday, September 08, 2017

U.S. Open tennis

Wednesday night's post looking forward to the upcoming semi-finals for women and men worked in a way.  The women's commentary did not predict anything, but the comments played out.  Looking to the final on the women's side, the comment on Wednesday that Stephens "does not go away" was completely accurate and that may well by the deciding factor in the finals.  Keys played one of the most consistent matches that she has ever produced against strong competition so "her personality" may be forming as well.  To complicate matters in the final, they are best friends on the tour.

Whether Del Potro can succeed in pulling off his disappearing act for the third match in a row is unclear.  That he could do that against Nadal is unlikely, but we will see soon see...

Very soon after postscript --- It was unlikely.  Wednesday prediction on the men's stands.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

U.S. Open tennis --- women's semi-finals

Having an all American semi-finals in the women's draw at the U.S. Open was completely unexpected.  It is so stunning that the media has yet to fully appreciate how unlikely this outcome was.  With American men's tennis in a prolonged doldrums, U.S. tennis excellence in recent years has been maintained primarily by the Williams sisters.  Now this.

Venus Williams at 37 is playing a veteran's game.  Her skills are still strong but no longer dominant, while her approach to matches is impeccable.  She plays as if a match is an ongoing mosaic, point by point, game by game.  Every piece has a meaning.  Patience will be rewarded, but if not it will be accepted.  Coco Vaneweghe is not a reliably good player from tournament to tournament, not at all, but the majors have been her place to grow this year.  She plays with an unbridled enthusiasm that works with the crowd and shows how much she enjoys being out there.  Sloane Stephens is making a comeback from injuries and from a certain malaise following her success in her rookie season in 2013.  Her game is steady, close to boring at times, but she does not go away.  Madison Keys is viewed here as the most unlikely semi-finalist as her performance literally can vary from game to game.  By the time one of the challenged announcers has finished explaining why she is faltering, she is back on track.  She is growing into her personality as a player, whatever that may turn out to be.

Nadal will win the tournament on the men's side.  He is in his usual fine physical shape.  His occasional lapses in momentum can be overcome and he is by far the most talented player remaining.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Calvin Trillin stays in fine form

To "The New Yorker" readers, 81 year old Calvin Trillin remains someone whose articles are immediately read when they appear.  To readers of "The Nation" his Deadline Poet column is reliably there for each edition.  While he is a serious man, his deft touch with humor is unique.  This week's New Yorker has a new article, looking at both the past and playing with his grandchildren today.  The following excerpt is a perfect example of this style.

"I had reached the age at which one's children begin sentences with the phrase "You are no longer allowed..."  This phrase of selective prohibition began a few years ago with my adventure on an exceedingly long, steep slide near Abigail's house, in San Francisco.  Another visitor to the slide had presented my grandchildren and me with some waxed paper; sitting on it, she suggested said, would enhance the experience.  When I gave it a try, I found myself hurtling toward the bottom at a speed I later estimated to be between sixty and seventy-five miles an hour.  My landing didn't seem to cause any injuries, but I understand for the first time what the football announcer means when he says something like "Manning was shaken up on that play."

Monday, September 04, 2017

Trump act is appalling

Trump's repeal of DACA after a six month period reflects his thoughtless and reprehensible agenda. This does not represent the view of the majority of American people, at least I surely hope not. Today's Congress can't unzip it pants in six months so new legislation is unlikely to be passed in time.  If this is his action tomorrow,  Trump is the real heartless bastard.

Absolutely nothing needed to be done.  Don't listen to the cloned Trump apologists now on many cable news programs.

U.S. Open Tennis 2017

This year's matches at the Open have occasionally been interesting to watch even at this early stage. Most notable and entertaining was the first set at night in the round of 32 between Nadal and a talented young newcomer. Of course Nadal won after the first set loss, but it was obvious that his entourage thought that they should already be heading back to Smith and Wollensky in Manhattan mid-way through the match.

The Open is played nearby, 20 minutes on the LIRR to the site.  We went every year until recently, myself often multiple days during the early rounds when walking from court to court to watch new and old talent was enjoyed immensely and it was uncrowded.  The concessions as depicted on television were as plentiful then as now.  The atmosphere was relaxed and it was not uncommon to bump into friends from the past, especially as my former employer remains the major sponsor.

Federer tonight.  He could be vulnerable here despite his remarkable year at age 36.  Five setters are not good for him.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Trump's ego is his only driving force --- everything is personal

When he took office, Donald Trump immediately withdrew the United States from the TPP, the largest trade agreement in history that joined together 12 nations.  It had been years in the making. The withdrawal was based on his opinion and not on any discussions with state department officials, the military, or other nations.  There were those in the business community that thought his action had merit and could have led to some renegotiation, but there was not a dialogue or an attempt to change OR modify the agreement.

 A few months later he pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Accords, a consensual agreement among most countries on earth that was to be monitored but was non-binding.  That too was based on his opinion plus that of his adviser at the time Steve Bannon. There were few if any discussions of consequence with others.  That too had been a historic agreement that had taken years to patch together.  Congress had no advise and consent role in either action.

At times he seems driven by his dislike of Obama and the fact that the former President, among other things, made fun of him at a dinner in 2011.  That is why DACA, one of the most broadly endorsed humanitarian acts of recent times that reflects American values, may be in trouble.

Trump clearly believes that as President he is personally free to do anything he wants and in significant ways he has succeeded.  His habit of early morning tweets to say whatever is on his mind, as if he were casually bantering with the public, further reflect his complete self absorption and lack of understanding for what his words as President of the most powerful country in the world mean. This morning's tweets on North Korea were typical and were dangerous.  In them he somehow chose to insult our strong ally South Korea in a way that infuriated that entire country.

Trump seems to have the mind of a child.  He has to tweet or talk.  What he thinks, he says at once without consulting anyone.  It is a distinguishing characteristic and it will not change.  It is obviously not appropriate behavior in his role.  Ultimately this trait will end his presidency and that cannot come soon enough.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Vice News on Venezuela

Friday night Vice News programs have one or two extended features rather than a focus on the day's news.  Last night's program was on the political crisis in Venezuela.  It was exceptional reporting with footage not seen elsewhere.  It will be repeated over this weekend so can still be seen.