Making Sense of Trump/Bannon: February 5, 2017

Well, it's been a busy week in the South Lawn Swamp.



Immigration Orders:

As of this moment (January 5, 2017), the immigration bans are all "stayed." Multiple lawsuits have been filed (including one by Amazon and Expedia). So until those cases are sorted and heard and decided, at least this part of the Bannon/Trump policy is on hold. 

The messiness of the original orders (which were apparently crafted, as far as anyone knows, by Steves Bannon and Miller) may drag out these court cases for a looong time.

For a substantive deep dive into the nuts and bolts of what "could happen," see this from a reporter at the Los Angeles Times.


The "JOHNSON AMENDMENT" and domestic terror:

However. (And there's always gonna be a however in the Bannon/Trump White House: Of equal significance this week (at least in my opinion) were an executive order and a Trump assertion that will have a significant impact on life in these United States.

First was Trump's order changing the goals of the "domestic terror" program. As I mentioned in my last installment, that program is now aimed entirely at "radical Islam." Remember, this is a domestic program. These are the folks who used to hunt down people who bombed synagogues and murdered Christians. Now it's aimed entirely at Muslims. 

At the same time, DT announced that he would "destroy" the "Johnson Amendment." The JA prevents certain categories of non-profit organizations (those organized as 501 (c)(3)) from engaging in political activity. This includes "religious" organizations: Churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, etc. 

The Republican right has for years regarded the amendment as a restriction on free speech, but so far have failed to overturn it. Now Trump says he will.

Okay. So what's the connection between the new "radical Islam" domestic terror program and the Johnson Amendment?

If the amendment is repealed (and so far Congress is a doormat, so I think it's likely), all religious groups will be able to endorse political candidates and engage in other political activities. Including, of course, mosques.

Plays straight into the hands of the new domestic terrorism program: All someone has to do is say that a mosque is engaged in political activity. That activity is deemed suspect and wham! The mosque is forced to shut its doors because it poses a threat to domestic security.

Nice, eh? And because Bannon in particular believes the United States should be a Christian nation, it's safe to say that all "church" politicking will be legal. (More on Bannon below.)

By the way: The murders at the Quebec City mosque last week? Presidents Trump and Bannon said not ONE WORD about that tragedy. But he was all over the knife-wielding guy at the Louvre. Who happened to be a Muslim.


Personally, I think "politics" are a snore. But I'm forcing myself to pay attention. I'm less interested in details than I am in how this extraordinary power play will play out. McConnell is clearly still stumbling, trying to figure out who's side he's on: His party's. His president's. His nation's. Much the same can be said of Ryan, although I'll give him this: He's WAY better at staying far from the fray; so far away, that he seems irrelevant. (Hint: He's not.)

Anyway. This is a useful and thoughtful analysis of the fundamentals of the power game.

(From ProPublica, a non-profit that supports investigative journalism in the "public interest." Much of the work produced -- pieces like this article -- end up in the Washington Post, New York Times, etc. ProPublica is NOT a fake news site.)



You know: The constitution. The "law." We could all use a refresher in that stuff we learned in fifth grade, right?

This is first rate. And I could understand it. Which means it's first rate and useful. 

A portrait of Putin Politics. Worth reading because we need to know what's going. We will have to take sides. (And no, I don't like Putin. I'm a historian. Bad guys like him will always be with us. Always. Doesn't mean we gotta play along.)

Speaking of being an informed citizen, I'm forcing myself to heed stuff I'd rather not. Thus my link to The Daily Caller. You can see for yourself, instantly, what it is: An outlet of Fox News. I'm making myself read this stuff. It's a good exercise: Forces me to fact-check. Because it all sounds. ever. so. enticing.

I discovered Daily Caller via my Congressman (Steve King, IA). Ultra-far-right Republican. Savvy polished guy who's not, I fear, rising as fast as he'd hoped. He endorsed Cruz. Now he's Trump-chasing, fast as he can. 

Or, who know? Perhaps he's satisfied with his current kingdom: Roughly half the state of Iowa, including me. (Got a lecture on Christian genocide when I called his office the other day. Clearly no interest in what I had to say. Authoritarian microcosm!)



As you may know, DT is busying rolling back regulations/orders aimed at business, industry, commerce. Coal mines are now free to pollute creeks again, etc. Oy, it's complicated. This is the stuff I have a hard time tracking. That's because everything we humans are the marketplace. We make, sell, buy. That's what we do. And we regulate how we do it. 

So it's big, it's complicated. 

This is a shortish, but even-handed, take on the way "business" is reacting to Trump. Remember, for "business," it's all business. People who run businesses, any kind of business, are learning how to do business with this rocky, possibly unstable, Republican government. 

This isn't earth-shattering, but it offers good insight into how business managers can opt to respond to what's on offer.

And do remember: Everything's on offer. Nobody knows, as Steven Bannon says, how that wind's gonna blow. But he/she with the best lobbyists is already ahead of the game.

But here's a fascinating look at how trade regulations/agreements play out where in matters most: In every day life, in this case, in Nebraska ranching. 

But: It's all VERY complicated. So here's my tip for getting up to speed in an efficient manner. For coverage of the implications of this de-regulation, it's hard to do better than Marketplace/American Public Media, a radio/podcast program that originates in Los Angeles. 

Marketplace/APM offers many daily news programs, all of which aim to explain "business" to non-experts (like me). The programming includes the main offering, the M-F afternoon program, "Marketplace," as well as morning and weekend editions of (Marketplace Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, etc.) It also hosts a handful of other programming, again, aimed at explaining complicated stuff to a general audience.  

For purposes of catching up to the financial stuff,  I HIGHLY recommend listening to the main program, "Marketplace" from this past week, especially the programs that aired January 31-February 3. Incredibly helpful. Public reporting at its best. 

For another angle on business/ "marketplaces": Harvest Public Media.

Also a "public" programming outfit. Specific focus: "Food, fuel, and field."

In my opinion, HPM is the only substantive, even-handed, and high-quality (all three criteria) media outlet that focuses on rural and agricultural issues. (Which are, I will note, inextricably connected to absolutely everything else. A point I wish more people understood.)

Full disclosure: I've been interviewed on multiple occasions by these media outlets. I was not paid. I donate to Marketplace, and listen, more or less regularly, to both. 

(And here I insert a short plug for podcasts. The election inspired me, finally, to investigate this form of media, which I'd otherwise avoided. People! WHY did I wait so long? Podcasts are amazing.)



This is a short, but useful, take on what Pence is up to, and why it's probably a good thing he's around. 


Bannon, of course, is the guy we REALLY need to heed. Wish we didn't but . . . 

An analysis from a Washington Post reporter.