Saturday, June 9, 2018

Trump Trading Blows, Con't

Yesterday I talked about how Donald Trump was planning to ditch the G-7 summit to go hang out with his new dictator pals in Singapore, and today he made good on that threat, but not before storming out with the ultimatum that all nations wanting to do business with the US must drop tariffs, or else.

President Trump told foreign leaders at the Group of Seven summit that they must dramatically reduce trade barriers with the United States or they would risk losing access to the world’s largest economy, delivering his most defiant trade threat yet to his counterparts from around the globe.

But there were numerous signs here that other leaders stood their ground, having stiffened after months of attacks and insults. Each leader now faces crucial decisions about how to proceed.

Trump, in a news conference before leaving for Singapore, described private conversations he held over two days with the leaders of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Canada. He said he pushed them to consider removing every single tariff or trade barrier on American goods, and in return he would do the same for products from their countries. But if steps aren’t taken, he said, the penalties would be severe.

“We’re like the piggy bank that everybody is robbing,” Trump said. “And that ends.

The U.S. leader described the meetings with his counterparts as cordial, and he repeatedly blamed past U.S. leaders for what he views as a trade imbalance. He also said other nations had taken advantage of decades of U.S. complacency with regards to trade, something that he planned to end.

The two-day session under crystalline blue skies in Charlevoix, Quebec, put Trump’s transactional view of alliances, economic leverage and trade relationships into sharp focus for other nations often frustrated by Trump’s ad hoc decision-making.

At this second G-7 gathering of Trump’s presidency, the question of whether the U.S. leader would follow through on campaign boasts about punishing international freeloaders has been largely answered.

He did not back away or blunt his critiques, and despite first-name references to “Angela,” and “Justin,” Trump did little to disguise his distrust of the international consensus model of world affairs that the G-7 represents.

The thing is, our allies?  They're going to chose "or else".   They're not putting up with Trump's crap, and they are calling the bluff of a wildly unpopular elected official whose party is about to get crushed at the polls in five months.  When the economic damage of these tariffs starts to show up in jobs reports about September or October or so, you'll know what caused it.

Meanwhile, Trump is more than happy to go meet his actual boss Vladimir Putin in Vienna later this year, all while telling the G-7 allies to go to hell.

He's the best agent Putin could have asked for.

One of Us, One Of Us

The Bernie people aren't going to be happy about this, but it's something the DNC should have done years ago.

The Democratic National Committee’s rules and bylaws committee adopted a new rule on Friday that would prevent outsiders like Bernie Sanders from seeking the party’s nomination in the 2020 presidential race. The move seems to be the latest salvo in the ongoing jockeying over the party’s future that emerged following the at times bitter primary battle between Hillary Clinton and Sanders in 2016.

But while the rule change left some of Sanders’s top allies thinking the party was being driven by “spite,” it likely won’t affect him directly and could pave the way for one of his favorite reforms.

DNC member Randi Weingarten, who is president of the American Federation of Teachers, posted a photo of the rules change shortly after it was added to the proposed draft call for the 2020 Democratic convention. Weingarten, who attended Friday’s DNC meeting in Providence, R.I., wrote that the party “changed the rules to ensure to run for President as a Democrat you need to be A Democrat.”

The new rule would force candidates in Democratic presidential primaries to state that they are Democrats, accept the party’s nomination if they win the 2020 primary and to “run and serve” as a member.

“At the time a presidential candidate announces their candidacy publicly, they must publicly affirm that they are a Democrat,” the rule says. “Each candidate pursuing the Democratic nomination shall affirm, in writing, to the National Chairperson of the Democratic National Committee that they: A. are a member of the Democratic Party; B. will accept the Democratic nomination; and C. will run and serve as a member of the Democratic Party.”

The rule seems like a clear response to Sanders, who caucuses with Democrats in the Senate but has steadfastly maintained his status as an independent. Sanders ran to the left of Clinton and identifies himself as a “democratic socialist.”

Of course, the Bernie people knew this was coming and frankly don't care because they say it doesn't apply to Bernie anyway.

With Sanders’s independent status and push for inclusivity, the new rule change would seem to be a slap in the face and a potential roadblock should the Vermont senator decide to mount another presidential run in 2020. However, Sanders allies do not believe he would be affected by the measure thanks to a unique rule in his home state.

Sanders, who is currently running for reelection, typically runs in the state’s Democratic primary but declines the party’s nomination after winning. The move allows him to fend off Democratic challengers in the state while still running as an independent. Last month, the Vermont Democratic Party passed a resolution supporting this strategy and proclaiming that Sanders would still be considered a member of the party “for all purposes and entitled to all the rights and privileges that come with such membership at the state and federal level.” That membership could inoculate him against the DNC’s rules change.

So we'll be fighting over this rather than Sanders accepting the reality, joining the party, and moving on, because Sanders supporters think they don't need and don't actually want Democrats, they want Bernie, see.

Here we go again.

The Gunshine State Shines On

For some unfathomable reason, Florida's concealed carry permits are handled by the state's Agriculture department (because I guess gators really don't need to know if you're packing a Glock) but in a scathing new report from the office's inspector general, Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam, the GOP's candidate for Governor, apparently hasn't been checking any concealed carry permit applications against any federal databases because the employee doing it forgot his password for a year.

For more than a year, the state of Florida failed to conduct national background checks on tens of thousands of applications for concealed weapons permits, potentially allowing drug addicts or people with a mental illness to carry firearms in public.

A previously unreported Office of Inspector General investigation found that in February 2016 the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services stopped using a FBI crime database called the National Instant Criminal Background Check System that ensures applicants who want to carry a gun do not have a disqualifying history in other states.

The employee in charge of the background checks could not log into the system, the investigator learned. The problem went unresolved until discovered by another worker in March 2017 — meaning that for more than a year applications got approved without the required background check.

During that time, which coincided with the June 12, 2016 shooting at Pulse nightclub that left 50 dead, the state saw an unprecedented spike in applications for concealed weapons permits. There were 134,000 requests for permits in the fiscal year ending in June 2015. The next 12 months broke a record, 245,000 applications, which was topped again in 2017 when the department received 275,000 applications.

Department employees interviewed for the report called the NICS checks "extremely important." Concealed weapons licenses "may have been issued to potentially ineligible individuals." If it came out they weren't conducted, "this could cause an embarrassment to the agency," the report said.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has made it a priority to speed up the issuing of concealed weapons permits since he was elected in 2010. In 2012, he held a news conference to celebrate the state's one millionth concealed weapons permit, noting the time it took to process an application fell from 12 weeks to 35 days on his watch. There are now 1.8 million concealed weapon permit holders in Florida.

Now running for Florida governor as a Republican, Putnam's campaign touts his expansion of concealed carry permits as one of his top accomplishments.

And it was accomplished in record time for one reason: because the background checks weren't done at all.

Going to be interesting to see how Putnam's campaign defends this, especially in the light of the Pulse nightclub shooting and the Parkland High massacre.  My guess is they'll blame the employee and ignore it.  It'll also be interesting to see how the other Republicans in the primary, particularly Ron DeSantis, responds.  Florida's primary isn't until the end of August however, so there's plenty of time.

We'll see.  Putnam should resign his post and drop out of the race for such massive dereliction of duty, but that won't happen of course. Republicans never do actually give a damn about the job, only the power.
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