Thursday, February 15, 2018

Immigration Word Games

A couple of weeks ago I saw a Facebook comment by someone (presumably a Trump supporter) sharing his thoughts on what he wants changed in US immigration policy. He listed four things: The Wall, an end to “chain migration”, an end to the “visa lottery”, and mandatory E-verify. (Notably, no mention of DACA or Dreamers). These four measures, he asserted, would greatly help in “solving the immigration problem”. 

Shortly after posting his comment, he edited it by adding “illegal” to the last part so it read “solving the illegal immigration problem”. In doing so he revealed something: 
  1. He must have realized that it’s not politically correct to see legal immigration as a “problem”. American is a nation of immigrants, of course, with the exception of Native Americans. Even most conservatives will take pains to stress they’re not against people coming to the country, as long as they do it legally. 

  2. So it’s clear he added the word “illegal” in order to appear that he has no issue with legal immigration itself. He just wants the illegal immigration to stop (or so he would have you believe).

  3. But this is false. Two of the items on his wish list, “chain migration” (or to use the proper, and less sloganeering, term "Family-based Immigration") and “visa lottery” (again, officially the "Diversity Visa Program") are currently legal ways of coming to the country. They have nothing to do with illegal immigration. As a side note, Family-based Immigration is probably the reason Amalija and Viktor Knavs (Melania Trump's parents) now call the US home, rather than Slovenia. Just saying. 
The only problem solved by ending those two policies would the “problem” of TOO MUCH legal immigration. Or rather, too much immigration from some countries. 

Obviously, the commenter is a immigration restrictionist, unhappy with the thought of more foreigners coming to America, legally or otherwise. Moreover, he's possibly even a racist, mainly unhappy about dark-skinned foreigners coming to America, since it's hard to imagine what else would engender such strong feelings against legal new arrivals. With that small, last-minute edit, he showed his true colors.  

He was being honest at first, but then decided maybe that was too honest.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Hannity Dishonesty

One thing that I suppose helps Trump supporters sleep at night is the notion that, despite his rotten, ill-tempered, chaotic, ignorant, conniving, and dishonest nature, Trump has one saving grace – he is giving a tremendous boost to the economy. Or, at least, that’s what he never hesitates to claim he is doing. 

And, in some ways that Democrats may be reluctant to acknowledge, there might be something to some of these claims. Some economic indicators are looking better under Trump. But not necessarily all. 

One such indicator is GDP. During the campaign, Trump loved to blast Obama for the sluggish economy and highlighted the fact that annual GDP growth never rose above 3% in Obama’s eight years. Trump promised that, with him in charge of the economy, growth would go up to 4%, maybe even to 6%. This pie-in-the-sky promise was also touted by Trump’s number one bootlicker, Sean Hannity. Naturally.

So, it’s no wonder that when, back in November, the Atlanta Fed made an eye-watering prediction of 4.5% growth for the final quarter of last year, Hannity latched onto this bit of optimistic news like a dog on a bone, repeating it often on his radio show. (Hannity generally repeats the same talking points a lot, ad nauseum, in fact.) 

This prediction was just what Hannity wanted to hear. He effused:
“Yesterday, the Atlanta Fed projected that GDP growth for the fourth quarter will be 4.5%. Obama never once in his presidency for a year had 3% GDP growth. Not once. The only president in history.”
You can see how Hannity was parroting Trump’s line about Obama’s shoddy GDP track record. 

Now, the preliminary results for 2017 are in. The Atlanta Fed’s 4.5% growth rate for Q4 didn’t materialize. Instead, it came in at only a more down-to-earth 2.6%, forcing Hannity to create some positive spin by misleading his listeners. He does this all the time. Here’s what he said this week: 
“When you look at these economic statistics, they’re mind-blowing. Lowest unemployment rate we have had now in decades. The best economic growth. It could have been better for the final quarter of the year. The fourth quarter it was 2.6%. But the previous two quarters were better than Obama had in any two given years.” 
The last sentence is where Hannity’s supreme dishonesty is on full display. He’s trying to deflect from the disappointment of 2.6% growth by pointing to the Q2 and Q3 rates of 3.1% and 3.2%, respectively. 

As I’ve written before, he’s comparing apples to oranges. It’s true that Obama never had a year of 3.1% or 3.2% growth.  But neither has Trump. Not yet. Hannity is implying that Obama never saw the kind of quarterly growth that we've seen so far under Trump. That’s a lie. 

In fact, under Obama there was a quarter of 3.1% (Q3 2013), and a quarter of 3.2% (Q1 2015). Plus, two quarters of 3.9%, one quarter of 4.0%, two quarters of 4.6%, and one quarter of 5.2%. That’s eight quarters as good, or much better, than Trump as achieved thus far. 

Of course, Hannity also failed to mention the annual rate for 2017, which is preliminarily estimated to be 2.3%. That’s not quite the 3%, 4% or 6% Americans were promised. And he would be even less eager to mention that Obama had annual rates higher than 2.3% during three years of his presidency (2010, 2014, 2015). 

Now, 2.6% growth perhaps isn’t too bad. And perhaps this will turn out to be the nadir of the Trump economy. Perhaps 2018 will turn out much better, maybe even be tremendous. 

Maybe. But, still it always pisses me off when someone like Hannity so obviously twists the truth in order to gloss over unwelcome news that runs counter to his narrative – and most of his audience no doubt swallow it all without blinking.  And that is sad.  

Monday, January 29, 2018

Commonsense Voting in Finland

Yesterday, I voted in the Finnish presidential election for the first time. But it’s not the first time I’ve voted here. (Non-citizen permanent residents can vote in municipal elections.) And as always, I’m impressed with how simple it is.

I showed up at the polling place (our local school), stood in line for some minutes (the place was busy and overall turnout was almost 70% nationwide, 80% in my neighborhood), and presented my driver’s license. The poll worker ticked my name off the list of registered voters and gave me a blank ballot, which I took to the booth and marked with the number of my candidate (there were eight to choose from). Then I dropped it in the ballot box (an actual box) after another poll worker stamped it. 

If not for the long line, I would have been in and out in about three minutes. As it was, it took about 15.

I could have used my passport as my ID, as many folks were doing. That’s proof of identity and citizenship. But a driver’s license is enough, since it’s an official photo ID. What makes the whole thing even simpler is that I’ve never had to bother registering to vote. I’m registered automatically, based on where I live. If I ever moved somewhere else, I would automatically be registered to vote there. Also, election day always a Sunday, when most people aren't working. Seems like an obvious choice. And I'm even talking about advanced voting and arrangements made for people who can't easily make it to polling places.

If you ask me, compared to the way voting is done in the States, the system here is so much more sensible. It's clearly geared to making casting a ballot as easy as possible, which is the way it should be in a democracy.  Or, at least, so you would think.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Trump's Big Mouth Tips His Hand

Donald Trump, in a cabinet meeting last week after the GOP passed its big tax bill – the only major legislative achievement of his first year as so-called president – said this:

“But Obamacare has been repealed in this bill. We didn’t want to bring it up. I told people specifically be quiet with the fake news media because I don’t want them talking too much about it. Cause I didn’t know how people would... But now that it’s approved I can say the individual mandate on health care – where you had to pay not to have insurance, okay, think of that, where you pay not to have insurance – the individual mandate has been repealed.”

I think this is a superb example of Trump’s inability to control his mouth – and, in doing so, reveals something he shouldn’t normally want revealed. Consider this:
  1. He’s boasting about the repeal of the individual mandate (a GOOD THING from his point of view, right?), at the same time as he’s saying he felt the need to downplay this supposedly GOOD THING.

    It’s like saying “We cured cancer, but we wanted to stay quiet about it.”

  2. In order to keep the American people from hearing about this GOOD THING the Republicans were doing, Trump didn’t want the “fake news” talking about it.

    In other words, he didn’t want the media, which he claims tell only lies, to report (and obsess about) this good, but TRUE, thing. Surely he was afraid that by telling the public the truth about this GOOD THING, the media would make it sound BAD. What made him think his followers would believe the media anyway?

  3.  And Trump’s reason for this hush-hush approach (and here is the REVEAL) was that he wasn’t sure “how people would...” Would, would...something. I’m sure he was about to say “how people would react” or “how people would take it” or "how people would like it". It’s like saying “We’ve cured cancer, but I’m not sure whether people will be happy about it.” 

    But as he was about to speak those words, Trump suddenly realized where his train of thought was taking him. He pulled back at the last moment and left the sentence unfinished. After all, it would have been an admission that not everyone thinks this GOOD THING is really that good. Maybe even he realizes that – outside the 35% of Americans who will follow him to the ends of the Earth – many Americans, maybe even most, might not actually want him to “repeal Obamacare”.

  4. So, while the provision to rescind the individual mandate was being considered (you can’t say “debated”, since there was hardly any of that), Trump didn’t dare talk about it. 

    But after the deal was done, after the die was cast, the Rubicon crossed, the point of no return passed, when it was too late to do anything about it,
    then it was okay to come clean. Hence, his “But now that it’s approved I can say...”

    It’s like telling your wife, “Honey, I’ve sold the house and we’re all moving to Mexico. I didn’t tell you before, cause I knew you’d object, but now that it’s too late, I thought you should know. ¡OlĂ©!”

In summary:  Trump didn’t want the LYING PRESS telling the TRUTH about the VERY GOOD THING he was doing for Americans, because he knew that many of those Americans would think it was NOT a good thing, but after it was TOO LATE to change it, he couldn’t help BRAGGING about how he’d tried to HIDE the whole thing since it was such a VERY GOOD THING. 

And what fake president wouldn't be proud of that?

Friday, October 27, 2017

Veep Said It Best

Last week we learned that there are up to 1000 US troops stationed in Niger, a force level that even key senators were not aware of. This follows Donald Trump’s earlier announcement that he will send additional troops to fight in Afghanistan indefinitely.

Such news makes me think of a certain scene from “Veep”, the Emmy-winning farce about a West Wing in disarray. By the way, it’s a portrayal that is looking more realistic and prescient every day.

In this particular scene (season three, episode nine), White House strategist Kent Davison travels to New Hampshire to deliver some urgent news in person to Vice President Selina Meyer. Feeling the full gravity of what he’s about to say – that President Hughes has unexpectedly decided to resign and that Selina will shortly become president – Kent has difficulty beginning.

Noticing Kent’s solemn look, Selina quickly asks him, “What is it? Are we at war?”

Without skipping a beat, he answers, “Ma’am, we’re America. We’re always at war.”

Ain’t that the truth.