Wednesday Night #1819

Written by  //  January 18, 2017  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

The last Wednesday Night of the Obama era or, if you prefer, the last of the pre-Trumpian era.
The transition with all of its peculiarities is almost over and Donald Trump will take the Oath of Office on Friday. Even if one is a Trump supporter, it is obvious that there is a very rocky road ahead, for the U.S. and the world, along with the absence of the traditional honeymoon for an incoming administration. He will take office on Friday with less popular support than any new president in modern times, according to an array of surveys (Trump Entering White House Unbent and Unpopular) and “Mr. Trump has approached the interregnum as if he were a television wrestling star. He has taken on a civil rights icon, a Hollywood actress, intelligence agencies, defense contractors, European leaders and President Obama. The healing theme common at this stage in the four-year presidential cycle is absent.”

Cabinet nominees have been undergoing hearings which so far have generally gone quite smoothly, with particularly favorable reviews for General Mattis.
However, Betsy DeVos has been grilled about her role as Secretary of Education and according to The New Republic “just failed her first test”. Scott Pruitt, the nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency may encounter some problems on Wednesday. According to Diane Regas writing in Forbes,  “the tide may be turning against Pruitt … because reporting by the New York Times and others has exposed that his campaign to roll back bedrock environmental safeguards has been orchestrated and bankrolled by some of the worst elements of the fossil fuel industry.” Meanwhile,  a new nonprofit group, called Protecting America Now, is now raising hundreds of thousands of dollars from energy executives and other donors to counter anti-Pruitt campaigning by “anti-business environmental extremists,” according to Politico. And the candidate for Health & Human Services (wouldn’t it be nice if it were Humane Services), Representative Tom Price of Georgia, is not expected to get an easy ride, given the background of his Dubious Trades in Health Care Stocks.

Although the fact that Ethics is not the Trump strong suit has been established for some time, Just when you thought the Trump ethics disaster couldn’t get worse, it did.

The on-going battle between the ‘mainstream media’ and Donald Trump escalated this week over the suggestion that the White House press corps would be moved out of the White House. Some  backpedaling and re-framing followed, but was accompanied by a statement that Trump plans to “select the media representatives who are given access to the presidential press briefing room, but will not move the room out of the White House.” Not surprisingly, the American Press Corps exploded We Will Set the Rules, Not You: US Media to President-Elect Trump. Oh, P.S. The president-elect says he will continue tweeting because “I get very dishonest media, very dishonest press. And it’s my only way that I can counteract.” In an interview with Wendy Mesley, Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone political analyst, who is no admirer of Donald Trump, underlined that the media will have an uphill battle to regain the confidence of a broader segment of the population.  “The media and politicians had spent so much time with each other that they lost touch with regular people, and Trump capitalized on that. He made us in the media villains, representative of this out of touch, ivory tower political culture.” Trump may be a ‘clown,’ but he was right about the media: Rolling Stone journalist

Probably, we should all take Gwynne Dyer’s advice: Everybody take a Valium
“As Donald Trump’s inauguration looms, there is great panic among American commentators and strategic analysts (and quite a lot of people elsewhere) about the grave danger that the ignorant and impulsive Trump will pose to world peace, but this ignores two important facts.
One is that the other world leaders he is dealing with will still be grown-ups. The other is that the real U.S. government—the tens of thousands of senior civil servants and military officers who actually make the machine work—are people with a lot of real-life experience, and they instinctively resist extreme policies and grand visions. …
As for the Manchurian Candidate nonsense: while Trump may have had significant Russian help of one sort or another during his election campaign, he is almost certainly not an ‘agent of influence’ for Moscow. … Putin’s rational strategy must be to put and keep Trump in power, not to discredit him. The real cost of the leaked allegations for Trump is domestic, it is high, and he has already paid it. He has suffered grave and lasting reputational damage even among his own supporters.”

As delegates to Davos assumed their seats, Oxfam released its annual report about the growing divide: this year, just eight men own the same wealth as half the world. [And in Canada.  2 richest businessmen hold same wealth as 11 million Canadians]
The talk the first day was all about the speech in which Chinese President Xi Jinping defended globalization and free trade, setting China up to take on the new U.S. administration on one of Donald Trump’s favorite issues. “WEF founder Klaus Schwab said Xi’s presence was a sign of the shift from a uni-polar world dominated by the United States to a more multi-polar system in which rising powers like China will have to step up and play a bigger role.” Quartz  posits that “There are reasons to doubt that China has the wherewithal to replace the US as the guarantor of stable and prosperous global trade. But look for Xi to seize that mantle and make the case that he can.”  Geopolitical forecast: 2017 will bring a triangle of instability and an uprising of Luddites.
Joe Biden gave his final speech as Vice President on Wednesday, calling on the international community to defend the “liberal” world order against those who seek isolationism and to “build walls”. Christine Lagarde reminded her audience that “I warned about the dangers of inequality in 2013 and nobody listened”

Theresa May has finally outlined her plans for Brexit. As might be expected, reactions have been swift and range from boosterism to dismay to anger. Theresa May’s Brexit speech: what the national newspapers say

It won’t happen, but we love the suggestion that President Obama step down a day early so that Joe Biden could be president for a day. The proposal has gone viral on social media notably because of the damage it would inflict on Donald Trump’s vast range of inauguration memorabilia “Doing this would be extra fantastic because suddenly all of the pre-printed inauguration memorabilia “45th President” stuff Trump has made would suddenly be made inaccurate, as Biden would technically own that title. So they’d either have to scramble to make a bunch of new stuff OR they’d have to go through with the Inauguration without any “46th President” t-shirts or hats or whatever OR all the Trump supporters would just have to buy merchandise that was technically inaccurate.” A Brilliant Act Of Resistance Against Trump

Given PEOTUS’ well-known love affair with gold everything, the irony in this headline is  delicious: Gold’s lustrous rise in 2017 may be best sign Trump rally is fading Reuters.
Meanwhile, Business euphoria over Trump gives way to caution, confusion as the president-elect fires off mixed and sometimes confusing messages on healthcare, taxes and trade.
Never fear, Goldman Sachs has the situation covered; in fact, a key part of the government is dominated by six – count them – GS appointees.
Recent additions to the GS-Trump team are Anthony Scaramucci and Dina Habib Powell, who join White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, Treasury Secretary nominee Steve Mnuchin, National Economic Council Chairman-appointee Gary Cohn and Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman nominee Jay Clayton as top Trump appointees who held senior Goldman positions. This clutch of appointees has given rise to Rachel Maddow’s challenge to find an appropriate term for the collective hires.
The new Administration’s sole envoy to Davos, soon-to-be the assistant to the president, director in the office of public liaison, Anthony Scaramucci, has made quite a splash with his statement to a skeptical crowd that Trump is an “unbelievable strategist” with the “best political instincts of his generation of politicians.” The incoming president is a “geopolitical thinker” and “deal-maker” who values “human relationships.” Scaramucci Interview: Trump Represents a Hope for Globalism

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