Monday, December 31, 2018
Sunday, December 30, 2018
Saturday, December 29, 2018
Thursday, December 27, 2018
LaGuardia Temporarily Closed As Con Edison Transformer Explosion In Queens Lights Sky, Social Media Ablaze – CBS New York
Climate change: Huge costs of warming impacts in 2018 - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-46637102
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Trump in Iraq: Seals, secrets, selfies, squabbles - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-46694206
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Wednesday, December 26, 2018
The Washington Post: Trump makes unannounced visit to Iraq a week after announcing a victory over the Islamic State - somebody must have convinced him to leave the country before he does any further damage to the country or economy
The Ghost of Trump Chaos Future
Sorry, investors, but there is no sanity clause.
By Paul Krugman
- Dec. 24, 2018
Two years ago, after the shock of Donald Trump's election, financial markets briefly freaked out, then quickly recovered. In effect, they decided that while Trump was manifestly unqualified for the job, temperamentally and intellectually, it wouldn't matter. He might talk the populist talk, but he'd walk the plutocratic walk. He might be erratic and uninformed, but wiser heads would keep him from doing anything too stupid.
In other words, investors convinced themselves that they had a deal: Trump might sound off, but he wouldn't really get to make policy. And, hey, taxes on corporations and the wealthy would go down.
But now, just in time for Christmas, people are realizing that there was no such deal — or at any rate, that there wasn't a sanity clause. (Sorry, couldn't help myself.) Put an unstable, ignorant, belligerent man in the Oval Office, and he will eventually do crazy things.
To be clear, voters have been aware for some time that government by a bad man is bad government. That's why Democrats won a historically spectacular majority of the popular vote in the midterms. Even the wealthy, who have been the prime beneficiaries of Trump policies, are unhappy: A CNBC survey finds that millionaires, even Republican millionaires, have turned sharply against the tweeter in chief.
But market behavior has, until recently, been a different story.
The reality that presidential unfitness matters for investors seems to have started setting in only about three weeks (and around 4,000 points on the Dow) ago. First came the realization that Trump's much-hyped deal with China existed only in his imagination. Then came his televised meltdown in a meeting with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, his abrupt pullout from Syria, his firing of Jim Mattis and his shutdown of the government because Congress won't cater to his edifice complex and build a pointless wall. And now there's buzz that he wants to fireJerome Powell, the chairman of the Federal Reserve.
Oh, and along the way we learned that Trump has been engaging in raw obstruction of justice, pressuring his acting attorney general (who is himself a piece of work) over the Mueller investigation as the tally of convictions, confessions and forced resignations mounts.
But let's play devil's advocate here: Does all this Trump chaos matter for the economy, or for the stock market (which isn't at all the same thing)? At first sight, it's not all that obvious.
After all, aside from the prospect of trade war, none of Individual-1's tantrums, unpresidential as they are, have much direct economic impact. Even the government shutdown will impose only a modest drag on overall spending.
And even trade war might not do that much harm, as long as it's focused mainly on China, which is only one piece of U.S. trade. The really big economic risk was that Trump might break up Nafta, the North American trade agreement: U.S. manufacturing is so deeply integrated with production in Canada and Mexico that this would have been highly disruptive. But he settled for changing the agreement's name while leaving its structure basically intact, and the remaining risks don't seem that large.
So why do investors seem to be losing their what-me-worry attitude? It's not so much what Trump is doing, as what he might do in the future — or, perhaps even more important, what he might not do.
The truth is that most of the time, presidential actions don't matter much for the economy; short-term economic management is mainly up to the Fed. But when bad things happen, we do need the White House to step up. In 2008 and 2009, it mattered a lot that officials of both the outgoing Bush administration and the incoming Obama administration responded competently and intelligently to the financial crisis.
Unfortunately, there's no reason to expect a comparable degree of competence if something goes wrong again.
Consider how the Trumpistas have responded to falling stocks. So far these are just a minor economic bobble. Yet Trump himself, having claimed credit when stocks were rising, has flown into a rage and lashed out; hence the attacks on Powell. Meanwhile, top officials are still claiming that last year's tax cut was a triumph in the teeth of the evidence, and issuing bizarre statements — via Twitter — about the health of the banks, which nobody was questioning.
Now imagine how this administration team might cope with a real economic setback, whatever its source. Would Trump look for solutions or refuse to accept responsibility and focus mainly on blaming other people? Would his Treasury secretary and chief economic advisers coolly analyze the problem and formulate a course of action, or would they respond with a combination of sycophancy to the boss and denials that anything was wrong? What do you think?
Let's be clear: There isn't an obvious crisis-level threat looming at the moment. But growth is slowing, and as the bumper stickers don't quite say, stuff happens. And if and when it does, the people who would be supposed to deal with it are the gang that can't think straight. Merry Christmas.
Paul Krugman has been an Opinion columnist since 2000 and is also a Distinguished Professor at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He won the 2008 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his work on international trade and economic geography. @PaulKrugman
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More in Opinion
Tuesday, December 25, 2018
Time for G.O.P. to Threaten to Fire Trump
Republican leaders need to mount an intervention.
- Dec. 24, 2018
Up to now I have not favored removing President Trump from office. I felt strongly that it would be best for the country that he leave the way he came in, through the ballot box. But last week was a watershed moment for me, and I think for many Americans, including some Republicans.
It was the moment when you had to ask whether we really can survive two more years of Trump as president, whether this man and his demented behavior — which will get only worse as the Mueller investigation concludes — are going to destabilize our country, our markets, our key institutions and, by extension, the world. And therefore his removal from office now has to be on the table.
I believe that the only responsible choice for the Republican Party today is an intervention with the president that makes clear that if there is not a radical change in how he conducts himself — and I think that is unlikely — the party's leadership will have no choice but to press for his resignation or join calls for his impeachment.
It has to start with Republicans, given both the numbers needed in the Senate and political reality. Removing this president has to be an act of national unity as much as possible — otherwise it will tear the country apart even more. I know that such an action is very difficult for today's G.O.P., but the time is long past for it to rise to confront this crisis of American leadership.
Trump's behavior has become so erratic, his lying so persistent, his willingness to fulfill the basic functions of the presidency — like reading briefing books, consulting government experts before making major changes and appointing a competent staff — so absent, his readiness to accommodate Russia and spurn allies so disturbing and his obsession with himself and his ego over all other considerations so consistent, two more years of him in office could pose a real threat to our nation. Vice President Mike Pence could not possibly be worse.
The damage an out-of-control Trump can do goes well beyond our borders. America is the keystone of global stability. Our world is the way it is today — a place that, despite all its problems, still enjoys more peace and prosperity than at any time in history — because America is the way it is (or at least was). And that is a nation that at its best has always stood up for the universal values of freedom and human rights, has always paid extra to stabilize the global system from which we were the biggest beneficiary and has always nurtured and protected alliances with like-minded nations.
Donald Trump has proved time and again that he knows nothing of the history or importance of this America. That was made starkly clear in Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis's resignation letter.
Trump is in the grip of a mad notion that the entire web of global institutions and alliances built after World War II — which, with all their imperfections, have provided the connective tissues that have created this unprecedented era of peace and prosperity — threatens American sovereignty and prosperity and that we are better off without them.
So Trump gloats at the troubles facing the European Union, urges Britain to exit and leaks that he'd consider quitting NATO. These are institutions that all need to be improved, but not scrapped. If America becomes a predator on all the treaties, multilateral institutions and alliances holding the world together; if America goes from being the world's anchor of stability to an engine of instability; if America goes from a democracy built on the twin pillars of truth and trust to a country where it is acceptable for the president to attack truth and trust on a daily basis, watch out: Your kids won't just grow up in a different America. They will grow up in a different world.
The last time America disengaged from the world remotely in this manner was in the 1930s, and you remember what followed: World War II.
You have no idea how quickly institutions like NATO and the E.U. and the World Trade Organization and just basic global norms — like thou shalt not kill and dismember a journalist in your own consulate — can unravel when America goes AWOL or haywire under a shameless isolated president.
But this is not just about the world, it's about the minimum decorum and stability we expect from our president. If the C.E.O. of any public company in America behaved like Trump has over the past two years — constantly lying, tossing out aides like they were Kleenex, tweeting endlessly like a teenager, ignoring the advice of experts — he or she would have been fired by the board of directors long ago. Should we expect less for our president?
That's what the financial markets are now asking. For the first two years of the Trump presidency the markets treated his dishonesty and craziness as background noise to all the soaring corporate profits and stocks. But that is no longer the case. Trump has markets worried.
The instability Trump is generating — including his attacks on the chairman of the Federal Reserve — is causing investors to wonder where the economic and geopolitical management will come from as the economy slows down. What if we're plunged into an economic crisis and we have a president whose first instinct is always to blame others and who's already purged from his side the most sober adults willing to tell him that his vaunted "gut instincts" have no grounding in economics or in law or in common sense. Mattis was the last one.
We are now left with the B team — all the people who were ready to take the jobs that Trump's first team either resigned from — because they could not countenance his lying, chaos and ignorance — or were fired from for the same reasons.
I seriously doubt that any of these B-players would have been hired by any other administration. Not only do they not inspire confidence in a crisis, but they are all walking around knowing that Trump would stab every one of them in the back with his Twitter knife, at any moment, if it served him. This makes them even less effective.
Ah, we are told, but Trump is a different kind of president. "He's a disrupter." Well, I respect those who voted for Trump because they thought the system needed "a disrupter." It did in some areas. I agree with Trump on the need to disrupt the status quo in U.S.-China trade relations, to rethink our presence in places like Syria and Afghanistan and to eliminate some choking regulations on business.
But too often Trump has given us disruption without any plan for what comes next. He has worked to destroy Obamacare with no plan for the morning after. He announced a pullout from Syria and Afghanistan without even consulting the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or the State Department's top expert, let alone our allies.Doug Mills/The New York Times
People wanted disruption, but too often Trump has given us destruction, distraction, debasement and sheer ignorance.
And while, yes, we need disruption in some areas, we also desperately need innovation in others. How do we manage these giant social networks? How do we integrate artificial intelligence into every aspect of our society, as China is doing? How do we make lifelong learning available to every American? At a time when we need to be building bridges to the 21st century, all Trump can talk about is building a wall with Mexico — a political stunt to energize his base rather than the comprehensive immigration reform that we really need.
Indeed, Trump's biggest disruption has been to undermine the norms and values we associate with a U.S. president and U.S. leadership. And now that Trump has freed himself of all restraints from within his White House staff, his cabinet and his party — so that "Trump can be Trump," we are told — he is freer than ever to remake America in his image.
And what is that image? According to The Washington Post's latest tally, Trump has made 7,546 false or misleading claims, an average of five a day, through Dec. 20, the 700th day of his term in office. And all that was supposedly before "we let Trump be Trump."
If America starts to behave as a selfish, shameless, lying grifter like Trump, you simply cannot imagine how unstable — how disruptive —world markets and geopolitics may become.
We cannot afford to find out.
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More in Opiniononty Bannerman
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Sunday, December 23, 2018
Friday, December 21, 2018
Glee in Russia Over Trump's Foreign Policy LargessFor Russia's president, Vladimir V. Putin, President Trump is the foreign policy gift that keeps on giving.Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated Press
By Neil MacFarquhar
- Dec. 21, 2018
MOSCOW — A note of glee crept into Russian commentary and news coverage on Friday about the current turmoil in Washington around national security, with President Vladimir V. Putin seemingly checking off one item after another that he might have written on his wish list for Santa.
First, President Trump blindsided his aides and the rest of the world by deciding to pull the full contingent of some 2,000 American troops out of Syria, helping the Kremlin to confirm Mr. Putin's gamble that intervening in Syria would revive Russian influence in the Middle East.
Mr. Trump followed that up by declaring that the United States would pull half its forces out of Afghanistan; the combined withdrawals prompted the resignation of Jim Mattis, the respected general who leads the Pentagon.
All that followed Mr. Trump's already substantial effort to undermine NATO and the European Union by weakening the American commitment to its traditional alliances.
"Trump is God's gift that keeps on giving," said Vladimir Frolov, a Russian columnist and foreign affairs analyst. "Trump implements Russia's negative agenda by default, undermining the U.S.–led world order, U.S. alliances, U.S. credibility as a partner and an ally. All of this on his own. Russia can just relax and watch and root for Trump, which Putin does at every TV appearance."
One headline in a regional Russian newspaper trumpeted, "Trump Leaves the Dog Out in the Cold," referring to Mr. Mattis's nickname, Mad Dog, from his days in the Marines. Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the international affairs committee in the upper house of Russia's Parliament, wrote on Facebook that the differences in Washington were "an interesting signal, and moreover, rather a positive one."
There was also positive news for Russia on the economic front, with Washington announcing that it intended to lift sanctions on Rusal, the Russian company that dominates a large share of the world aluminum market. The firm is headed by Oleg Deripaska, an oligarch who is not only close to Mr. Putin, but also a one-time business partner of Mr. Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort.United States Army vehicles in Hajin, eastern Syria, last week. President Trump blindsided his aides and the rest of the world by deciding to pull the full contingent of American troops out of Syria.Delil Souleiman/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
If the perception in some quarters in the United States and on Twitter is that the Kremlin was blackmailing Mr. Trump into doing its bidding, that theory did not gain immediate traction in Russia. Instead, analysts and news articles more likely to suggest that Mr. Trump was fulfilling his campaign pledges.
"I am not of the idea that he is being blackmailed," said Nina L. Khrushcheva, a professor of international affairs at the New School in New York, currently in Moscow. "Undermining NATO and undermining Europe is something that Putin would like to do, but Trump is doing it for different reasons."
Still, even if convinced that Mr. Trump is not being blackmailed, analysts are still puzzled over why his actions so closely coincided with Russia's foreign policy goals.
"Once again we see a president who appears to be acting impulsively and erratically — except when it comes to Russia," said Leslie Vinajmuri, professor of international relations at SOAS University of London. "Here, Trump has been eerily consistent in his willingness to adopt policies that enable Russia's strategy while undermining ours."
Nevertheless, not everything is flowing in Moscow's favor.
"Trump's announcement that they are leaving Syria is a gift, of course," said Valery D. Solovei, a political-science professor at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. The Kremlin may use its success in Syria to forge on into Libya for similar reasons, he said.
Afghanistan was more complicated, however.
"On the one hand, the Russians are gleeful about the American withdrawal; there is this 'We told you so' feeling," he said, referring to the Soviet Union's disastrous invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. But "the Kremlin has always feared that destabilization in Afghanistan could increase the flow of drugs and extremists to Russia."
In Syria, the American presence had proved to be a convenient excuse for Mr. Putin about why the Russian intervention was not bringing the conflict to as rapid a close as he had promised. In addition, fighting the remnants of the Islamic State will now become Russia's problem, with any upsurge in violence likely to undermine the Kremlin position that Syria is stable enough for a postwar political process and reconstruction funds.
On the sanctions front, although the United States lifted penalties on Rusal, that came at the cost of diminishing Mr. Deripaska's role with the company. And Mr. Deripaska himself remains under sanctions for his business practices.
In addition, the Russian argument all along has been that sanctions had nothing to do with its actions, like invading Georgia and Ukraine and annexing Crimea, but were a way for the West to keep Russia down. So negotiating to escape them undermined that argument.The foundry of the Rusal aluminum smelter in Krasnoyarsk, Russia. Washington announced it intended to lift sanctions on the company.Ilya Naymushin/Reuters
The Russian government also continued to harbor reservations that what Mr. Trump says and what he does are not always the same thing — and are subject to reversal at the drop of a tweet. So senior Russian officials reacted cautiously to the withdrawal announcements, starting with Syria.
"We need to figure out how, when, to where and in which manner the Americans are leaving," Dmitri S. Peskov, Mr. Putin's spokesman, told reporters on Friday. "At this point, this is not clear."
Mr. Putin, at a news conference on Thursday, again praised Mr. Trump, suggesting that the change to a Democratic majority in the House would further undermine the American president's attempts to improve relations with Russia.
Despite such praise, however, the Trump administration has taken positions — on issues like withdrawing from arms-control treaties and especially on Ukraine — that the Kremlin dislikes. Washington has not acquiesced to Russia's efforts to exert control over Ukraine, with Moscow's attempts to maintain influence throughout the former Soviet Union one of its main foreign policy goals.
Moscow conveniently accuses Washington of being the source of its tensions with Kiev, including the naval clash in the Kerch Strait late last month and the moves by the Orthodox Church in Ukraine to establish its independence from Moscow.
Over all, there is also concern that Mr. Trump is a little too erratic. For now, his decisions are tilting in Mr. Putin's favor, but there is also concern that they also could move in the other direction with equal speed.
"Too unstable a world is something that Putin does not really want," said Ms. Khrushcheva, pointing out that Russia did not have the same financial or other resources as the United States to address problems all over the globe. "If there is way too much chaos, Russia would have to act in too many directions."
For the moment, however, Moscow is on board for some instability. Mr. Trump's curbs on the United States' international role and focus on domestic matters give room for countries like China and Russia to expand their influence, analysts said.
"We can tolerate some degree of unpredictability and mercurial policies on the tactical level — it's worth it," Mr. Frolov, the Russian foreign affairs analyst, wrote in response to written questions. "In Trump we trust … to do the right thing."
Ivan Nechepurenko contributed reporting from Moscow, and Steven Erlanger from Brussels.
Putin Welcomes U.S. Withdrawal From Syria as 'Correct'Dec. 20, 2018
America's Allies Fear That Traditional Ties No Longer Matter Under TrumpDec. 21, 2018
In Afghanistan, Alarm and a Sense of Betrayal Over U.S. DrawdownDec. 21, 2018
Trump Administration to Lift Sanctions on Russian Oligarch's CompaniesDec. 19, 2018
Jim Mattis, Defense Secretary, Resigns in Rebuke of Trump's WorldviewDec. 20, 2018
Winners and Losers in Trump's Planned Troop Withdrawal From SyriaDec. 20, 2018
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