The Two Missing Days

Things should have stopped for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but things didn’t stop. No one paid attention, but now that won’t do. Odd things have been happening. The New York Times’ Katie Rogers was keeping track:

President Trump retooled a campaign slogan on Monday to defend his worldview, declaring that “AMERICA IS RESPECTED AGAIN!” during a four-hour Twitter tirade as foreign allies braced for the potentially destabilizing effects of his policy decisions on national security.

Democratic leaders accused the president of “plunging the country into chaos” on Christmas Eve.

But that is how he chose to spend his Christmas Eve:

Ensconced in the White House with no official plans other than hosting a meeting on border security and tracking Santa Claus on military radar, Mr. Trump showed no sign of slowing a Twitter storm amid a government shutdown, the fallout over his defense secretary’s resignation and a cratering stock market.

In the midst of posting, he even lamented, “I am all alone (poor me).”

The stock market did drop off the cliff, the worst day in decades, in the worst month since 1931 or so, but Trump had more on his mind:

His posts were replete with grievances about funds for border security, the Federal Reserve chairman, Democrats critical of his relationship with American allies and Brett McGurk, the departing special envoy for the global coalition fighting the Islamic State.

“To those few Senators who think I don’t like or appreciate being allied with other countries, they are wrong, I DO,” Mr. Trump wrote in a pair of tweets critical of Jim Mattis, his departing defense secretary. “What I don’t like, however, is when many of these same countries take advantage of their friendship with the United States, both in Military Protection and Trade.”

Mr. Trump added: “General Mattis did not see this as a problem. I DO, and it is being fixed!”

If any country wants us as an ally, they have to pay big bucks for that. Otherwise, what’s in it for us? We’re not in this for stability and world peace. This is about the money:

Focusing on money saved, Mr. Trump sent more than 10 Twitter posts in four hours. In one, he declared that Saudi Arabia would “spend the necessary money needed to help rebuild Syria, instead of the United States.”

It was not immediately clear how or when that would happen.

Actually, that was news to the Saudis, and this was equally mysterious:

On the domestic policy front, Mr. Trump saved his ire for Democrats and furthered his longstanding, one-sided feud with Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chairman. Mr. Trump said on Twitter that a “complete” border wall would be paid for with “shutdown money.”

No one at the White House wanted to even try to explain what Trump meant by that. All those people furloughed or working with pay would never see their money again, even when (and if) the shutdown ends? Confiscate and use their paychecks to pay for the big wall? Who knows? Trump did say he talked tot of these people and they told him to not give in – they’ll give up their pay and their careers for that big wall. At least that’s what Trump said they all said to him. No one asked him how he had time to talk to all of them or even some of them. Let it go. He believes that. And he is not a man who changes his mind.

And then it was down to the main event:

Collman Lloyd, the seven-year-old South Carolinian girl who had a phone conversation with President Donald Trump during which he called belief in Santa “marginal” among her age set, wasn’t shaken by the implicit doubt cast on the jolly red elf – mostly because she didn’t know what “marginal” meant.

According to a Tuesday Post and Courier interview, any suspicions she might have had about Santa’s veracity were put to rest Christmas morning when she saw cookies eaten and a new American Girl Doll under the tree.

The call with the President, which has since sparked widespread outrage and snark, came as a surprise to the child, who was calling in to discover Santa’s whereabouts via the North American Aerospace Defense Command’s tracker.

She called in to find out where Santa was, and a strange old man told he she was stupid to still believe in the old guy, and she ignored him, which was the controversy:

After President Trump was roasted for appearing to mock a seven-year-old girl for still believing in Santa Claus earlier this week, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) raised eyebrows when he took it upon himself to defend Trump, by claiming his comments weren’t as bad as “boiling the little girl’s rabbit.”

Huckabee went on to blame the media for the debacle and suggested Americans have “disgust” and “disdain” for the press today.

He’s watched one too many movies about obsessive kinky public sex of course, but he’s right about disgust with the press:

MSNBC ended the week of Dec. 21st with the #1 cable news ratings on television, beating Fox News for the first time in 17 years. For the Monday through Friday leading up to the Christmas holiday, MSNBC averaged 1.558 million total viewers, while Fox averaged 1.541 million and CNN averaged 975,000. It was the first time MSNBC finished first for a week since September 2000. It was also the fourth week in a row that MSNBC beat Fox News in the 8-11 p.m. primetime hours in both total viewers and the 25-54 news demographic.

The Rachel Maddow Show was the most-watched cable news program of the week with over 3.2 million total viewers (compared to about 2.3 million for Sean Hannity). The long-awaited MSNBC ratings victory comes amidst a coordinated advertiser boycott of Tucker Carlson’s primetime Fox News show.

This is not what Mike Huckabee had in mind:

The drumbeat of bad news for President Donald Trump hasn’t been good for his most prominent backer in the media.

While Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity will end 2018 as cable news’ most popular personality for the second year in a row, he’s been slumping in the ratings since the midterm elections and ominous stories related to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of the president.

His show averaged 2.76 million viewers since the election through Dec. 17, down 19 percent compared to the previous month, the Nielsen Company said. Among the 25-to-54-year-old demo most coveted by advertisers, he’s down 30 percent. Competitors Rachel Maddow on MSNBC and Chris Cuomo on CNN are up in each measurement.

Maddow has been beating Hannity outright in December, a turnaround from October. During that month, when Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation drama dominated the news, Hannity’s audience routinely exceeded Maddow’s by about a million people each night, Nielsen said.

“I think it’s a reflection of the mood of his audience,” said Mark Lukasiewicz, dean of Hofstra University’s communications school and a longtime NBC executive. “They can’t be happy with what is coming out of Washington every day.”

Hannity has lost his touch:

With bad news piling up for Trump, Hannity frequently spends time criticizing ideological opponents in the media for the types of stories they emphasize, and discusses misdeeds by previous Democratic administrations.

“Even hardcore Trump fans are starting to put Hillary Clinton in their rearview mirrors and say, ‘it’s been two years,'” Lukasiewicz said.

Hannity is out of touch, as this, from Thomas Heath, is the real news:

Stocks on Wednesday climbed back from their epic Christmas Eve plunge as all three indexes posted big gains.

The Dow Jones industrial average roared up 1,086 points, or 4.98 percent – its biggest point gain in history as stocks snapped a four-day losing streak that had placed the 10-year bull market on the edge of death Monday…

It was the largest daily percentage gain for markets since March 2009. The NASDAQ composite rose 361 points, 5.8 percent, to close at 6,554. Both the S&P and the NASDAQ enjoyed their best day in three years. But despite the big gains, all three indexes are still in the loss column as the year’s end approaches.

The Dow, S&P and NASDAQ all finished down 2 percent or more on Christmas Eve. The Dow closed down 653 points.

These are wild swings in a market that’s lost all the year’s gains, because no one knows what’s happening:

Investors have been shaken by recent economic and political ­developments, including the abrupt resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis; a partial federal government shutdown; an interest rate hike; speculation that Trump might seek to fire Powell; Mnuchin’s calls to U.S. banks; and Trump’s sudden decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria against the counsel of his national security team.

There’s all that, and just one thing:

The president on Christmas Day cast fresh doubt on the record of Powell, whom he has increasingly blamed for the market weakness.

“Well, we’ll see,” the president said when a journalist asked whether he had confidence in Powell. “They’re raising interest rates too fast; that’s my opinion. But I certainly have confidence… I think that they will get it pretty soon. I really do.”

Get what? Who knows? Wall Street is spooked, and things won’t get better anytime soon:

Congressional lawmakers see no clear end in sight to the nation’s partial government shutdown, as thousands of federal workers have been furloughed amid a deep divide over President Trump’s proposed border wall.

The White House has demanded that Congress approve $5 billion for constructing a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, a request Democrats have rejected as wasteful.

Congressional lawmakers see no clear end in sight to the nation’s partial government shutdown, as thousands of federal workers have been furloughed amid a deep divide over President Trump’s proposed border wall.

The White House has demanded that Congress approve $5 billion for constructing a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, a request Democrats have rejected as wasteful.

And that’s that, as is this:

Many national parks across the country have also been closed, and the Internal Revenue Service planned to close taxpayer assistance lines, among other operations, weeks ahead of filing season.

The shutdown also began affecting the nation’s court system, as the Justice Department asked a federal judge to temporarily pause certain cases until the government provides funding for the department.

“Now that the holidays are behind us, the cold reality of the shutdown is going to start to hit,” said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), who represents Northern Virginia, home to thousands of federal workers.

This is what it is:

Paul Greenberg, a NASA research scientist and physicist at the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, is working on a project funded by Homeland Security to build sensor packages that first responders and firefighters can wear to monitor their exposure to airborne substances, as well as a telescope to send data back from deep space. The telescope is supposed to be in orbit in 2020.

“You can’t build something someone’s never built before sitting on your ass doing nothing,” he said. “Everything just stops.”

“We’re told we’re worthless parasites,” said Greenberg, who has spent 30 years at NASA and is a congressional liaison for the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers. “I’ll tell you, retirement’s looking more attractive all the time.”

Maybe it is time to give up. Everyone took two days off. Maybe more days would be appropriate, but then there was the next day, as the Los Angeles Times’ Eli Stokols reports here:

President Trump made a surprise visit Wednesday to a U.S. air base in Iraq to meet with American troops and commanders, and to dispel growing complaints that he had never visited a war zone in his first two years in office.

Trump, accompanied by his wife, Melania, left a partially shuttered government in Washington just after midnight, flew all day and landed in the dark at the joint U.S.-Iraqi Asad Air Base west of Baghdad about 7 p.m. local time.

Asked why he came, Trump told reporters before a meeting with military leaders on base: “It’s a place I have been talking about for many years – many, many years. I was talking about it as a civilian.”

That didn’t answer the question, but the answer was obvious. He was there to tell the troops he has sent that fool, Mattis, packing, and he alone would make the decisions now:

He spent about 3½ hours at the heavily guarded base before getting back on Air Force One. He then stopped in Ramstein, Germany, to visit troops stationed there before heading back to Washington, where his national security policy appears to be in growing turmoil.

Last week, Trump blindsided allies and overrode his top Pentagon advisors and military commanders when he abruptly decided to order the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from neighboring Syria.

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis resigned in protest and issued a scathing letter that all but accused Trump of endangering U.S. security by undermining alliances and abandoning allies. In response, Trump fired Mattis rather than let him quit.

Trump defended his decision on Syria while in Iraq, and suggested he may order other withdrawals.

Let Putin and Iraq have the northern arc of the Middle East, and let Erdogan wipe out the Kurds. Let Putin take back the Iron Curtain countries. What do we care? That seems to be the general idea:

In comments to about 100 troops, Trump made clear his dim view of America’s military commitments and alliances around the globe, emphasizing the “America first” policy he has espoused since the 2016 campaign.

“The United States cannot continue to be the policeman of the world,” Trump said. “It’s not fair when the burden is all on us, the United States.”

“We are spread out all over the world,” Trump added. “We are in countries most people haven’t even heard about. Frankly, it’s ridiculous.”

Inside a khaki-colored tent, Trump, who was accompanied by his national security advisor, John Bolton, was briefed by U.S. military commanders. The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Douglas Silliman, also took part.

Trump then shook hands and posed for selfies with troops. The troops, clad in desert camouflage, applauded and cheered the president and his wife. A few held red “Make America Great Again” hats for him to autograph and at one point he signed an embroidered patch that read “TRUMP 2020.”

He made them HIS army, not America’s army, and there was this:

A scheduled meeting with Iraq’s prime minister, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, was canceled. The White House did not give a reason.

Why bother? But the whole thing was odd. Trump seemed to have caved to political correctness:

Trump had been criticized for failing to visit active-duty American troops in a combat zone, a gesture that presidents routinely perform around holidays.

The jibes mounted after the White House scrubbed a planned visit to a U.S. military cemetery in France because of rain and after he did not go to Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day, as most presidents have done. He made a surprise visit to Arlington several weeks later.

He finally had to do what all other presidents do, routinely. That must have made him angry, but he’d show them, he’d show them all:

Trump said last week that Islamic State had been defeated, a boast that most counter-terrorism experts sharply disputed. The top U.S. diplomat in the battle, Brett McGurk, resigned in protest and warned that thousands of the militants remain and that the group could rebuild itself quickly.

“We’ve knocked them out. We’ve knocked them silly,” Trump said of Islamic State on Wednesday, repeating his claim at the air base in Iraq.

Everyone’s wrong and he’s right and this about the money, about the United States turning a profit:

He said other countries must pay more in the aftermath of the war.

“The nations of the region must step up and take more responsibility for their future,” Trump said.

“And others will do it too. Because we are in their region. They should be sharing the burden of costs and they’re not.”

Where is our money? Stokols wonders about that:

Trump’s foreign policy remains muddled and sometimes contradictory, especially in the Middle East. Challenging Iran and supporting Israel are among his most consistent goals. Yet the Syria pull-out benefits Iran and potentially endangers Israel.

Israel has been bombing weapons depots in Damascus. Syria will be sending Hezbollah their way soon, now that the United States in outta there – no our problem of course, nor is this:

His withdrawal from Syria has further muddied prospects for peace in the region, including Iraq.

The Iraqi government now controls all the country’s cities, towns and villages after fighting its last urban battles against Islamic State militants in December 2017.

But Iraq’s political, military and economic situation remains tenuous, and Baghdad and other cities still experience sporadic bombings, kidnappings and assassinations.

That’s why they were angry:

Iraqi political and militia leaders condemned U.S. President Donald Trump’s surprise visit to U.S. troops in Iraq on Wednesday as a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty, and lawmakers said a meeting between Trump and Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi was canceled due to a disagreement over venue.

Sabah al Saadi, the leader of the Islah parliamentary bloc, called for an emergency session of parliament “to discuss this blatant violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and to stop these aggressive actions by Trump who should know his limits: The U.S. occupation of Iraq is over.”

The Bina bloc, Islah’s rival in parliament and led by Iran-backed militia leader Hadi al-Amiri, also objected to Trump’s trip to Iraq.

“Trump’s visit is a flagrant and clear violation of diplomatic norms and shows his disdain and hostility in his dealings with the Iraqi government,” said a statement from Bina.

As usual, it’s complicated:

Trump’s visit comes amid a backdrop of escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran, as Washington seeks to counter Iran’s sway in the Middle East. The formation of Iraq’s government has stalled as well amid intensifying discord between the Islah and Bina blocs.

Falih Khazali, a former militia leader turned politician allied with Bina, accused the United States of wanting to increase its presence in Iraq. “The American leadership was defeated in Iraq and wants to return again under any pretext, and this is what we will never allow,” he said.

Bina said Trump’s visit “places many question marks on the nature of the U.S. military presence and its real objectives, and what these objectives could pose to the security of Iraq.”

While there has been no full-scale violence in Iraq since Islamic State suffered a series of defeats last year, some 5,200 U.S. troops train and advise Iraqi forces still waging a campaign against the militant group.

This won’t go well:

Some Iraqis, however, were less concerned with the U.S. president’s visit.

“We won’t get anything from America,” said Baghdad resident Mohammad Abdullah. “They’ve been in Iraq 16 years, and they haven’t given anything to the country except destruction and devastation.”

There’s a lot of that going around there days:

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen is headed to the U.S.-Mexico border later this week in response to the Christmas Eve death of an 8-year-old Guatemalan boy who was in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

In a statement Wednesday, Nielsen called Felipe Gómez Alonzo death “deeply concerning” and partially blamed the influx of immigrant children detained at the border on those who oppose the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

“Our system has been pushed to a breaking point by those who seek open borders,” Nielsen said. “Smugglers, traffickers, and their own parents put these minors at risk by embarking on the dangerous and arduous journey north.”

Nielsen called on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as “partners in Mexico,” to investigate “an uptick in sick children crossing our borders.”

It’s their own-damned fault:

Alonzo is the second immigrant child to die while in detention this month. Two weeks earlier, Jakelin Caal, a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl who survived a 2,000-mile journey to the U.S., died less than 48 hours after being detained by CBP at the border, along with 163 others. Caal died of shock and dehydration, according to The Washington Post.

At the time, Nielsen blamed Caal’s family for the 7-year-old’s death, insisting that the migrant group shouldn’t have tried to enter the U.S.

“You know, this is just a very sad example of the dangers of this journey,” Nielsen said on “Fox & Friends” on Dec. 14. “This family chose to cross illegally.”

And those were the two missing days of Christmas. Things should have stopped for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but things didn’t stop. And now it’s time to pay attention.

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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