Saturday, September 30, 2017

Donald Trump Needs To Stop Campaigning

Donald Trump was elected President by running an unconventional campaign featuring politically incorrectness, the bullying of people weaker than he (like the father of a veteran killed in action, a former beauty pageant winner, and so on), claims of business competence, and appeals to racial and ethnic prejudice.  Since his inauguration, he's demonstrate scant ability to govern.  He has accomplished essentially none of his campaign priorities.  His most significant legislative achievement to date was achieved by striking a deal with Congressional Democrats.  His administrative actions can be reversed by the next President.  His Cabinet and White House staff consist of a kaleidoscope of people coming and going, while hundreds of lower level appointed positions remain unfilled (perhaps because many potential candidates shy away from the chaos and controversy of the Trump Presidency).  His tax reform proposal, announced just a few days ago, already appears to be quietly losing the Congressional majorities it would need to be enacted.  America's standing with its allies in Europe and Asia is weakening, while Russia and China have become emboldened to pursue their international ambitions more aggressively.  Perhaps worst of all, Trump, who has reached an age where one might have expected he'd have some maturity and wisdom, has allowed himself to be drawn into a juvenile but nuclear confrontation with a fat kid in North Korea who can't even get a decent haircut.  His poll ratings have set new lows for a first year President.  His managerial ability is vanishingly thin, and he's needed to bring in a former Marine Corp general as chief of staff to restore order.

Trump's response to his poor public standing has been to conduct campaign style rallies where he's fallen back on coarse pronouncements reminiscent of his campaign. He picked a fight with NFL players over their exercise of First Amendment rights, even though he seems content to let white supremacists and neo-Nazis speak their minds.  And he Twitter-bullied the mayor of San Juan, who had the temerity to plead for more aid for her suffering constituents in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.  Oliver Twist had it better than she does. 

Trump seems to be a one-trick pony.  He can't do anything except campaign.  His executive abilities are close to non-existent.  He appears to be learning the hard way that, when you're President, there is no bankruptcy court you can duck into in order to relieve the pressure.  The tactics of your business career won't work in government.  The pressure will continue every day, relentlessly, and campaigning does nothing except foster a momentary illusion that things aren't quite as tough as they really are.  

Trump's response to the Hurricane Irma's impact on Puerto Rico illustrates the problem.  Anyone with a smidgen of managerial ability would have realized immediately that Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands would be the most difficult relief challenges of this hurricane season.  Even though Texas, Louisiana and Florida took really hard hits too, they are connected to the rest of the U.S. by highways, railroads, the interstate power grid, and Jones Act waivers for their ports (allowing much faster transit of aid by ship).  Aid can reach them much more quickly and in much larger amounts. Isolated by the sea, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands would obviously present much greater logistical challenges, and major managerial attention to their relief would self-evidently be required.  But Trump seemed almost inclined to benign neglect of the islands (a perception exacerbated by his blame-the-victim bullying of the mayor of San Juan), and his administration only very recently managed to cough and choke its way to a Jones Act waiver for the islands.  Underneath all this, it's not hard to perceive yet another manifestation of Trump's bigotry against Hispanics, which first glaringly emerged with his "rapists" comment about Mexican immigrants early in his campaign. Trump's bigotry may score points with his base, but it also strengthens the perception among many,  many others that he's just a bush-league poseur who managed, possibly with underhanded Russian help, to sneak his way into the White House.

At the age of 71, it's doubtful that Trump, with his ingrained stubbornness, will change and improve.  But if there's any hope for the Trump Presidency, it would come from his aversion to failure.  He's failing badly as President--really badly--and change is his only option.  He's getting nowhere by repeating the same mistakes. Notwithstanding the unvarnished loathing of the legions of Trump-haters, the man has the potential for a somewhat and maybe even reasonably successful Presidency.  He isn't bound by ideology, which gives him the flexibility to put together working, bipartisan coalitions.  We saw this in his deal with Congressional Democrats over the debt ceiling and budget.  He's sometimes open to persuasion--contrary to the isolationist leanings of his campaign, he's now authorized an increase of troop strength in Afghanistan.  His tendency to conduct more rallies whenever the going gets tough is like children closing their eyes so that others can't see them.  He has to figure out that this doesn't work, and that he needs to do what will work.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Why North Korea Can't Afford to Nuke America

Despite all the noise Kim Jong Un is making about nuking America, he can't afford to do it.  That's not simply because of the doctrine of mutually assured destruction and his inability to touch America's Trident submarines, any one of which could obliterate North Korea.  It's also because he'd target North Korea if he tried to hit America.

Recent news reports indicate that North Korea has ballistic missiles that either can or soon will be able to reach Washington, D.C.  The nation's capital would naturally be a primary target for Kim's missiles, and he'd no doubt put his most powerful nukes on the missiles headed for DC.  Those missiles, if they actually succeeded in reaching their target, would likely cause a lot of damage in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington.  The damage could come either from explosive blast or from electromagnetic pulse (EMP), or both.

Somewhere around 70% of the world's Internet traffic flows through servers located in northern Virginia (  The effects of the blast and the EMP could knock out a large portion of those servers and the infrastructure in which they operate.  The Internet could promptly become one gigantic, intractable traffic jam.

North Korea is about as isolated as any country in the world.  One of its main connections to the outside world is through the Internet.  The Internet is a crucial tool for North Korea, to steal money, do business (often illicit), to spy on other people, and to find out the truth (the problem with purveying fake news is that you still have to know the truth or the truth will sooner or later smack you up one side and down the other).  Without the Internet, North Korea would have to rely largely on its own internal resources.  And those aren't sufficient even to feed its own population a nutritionally adequate diet, let alone provide a decent standard of living.

So if North Korea nukes America, it loses its Internet connection.  And these days, that's almost the worst thing that can happen.