Wednesday, February 1, 2017

"The Month That Was - January 2017"

Sydney M. Williams

                                                                                                                                   February 1, 2017

“The Month That Was – January 2017”

…on the first of January let every man gird himself once more,
with his face to the front, and take interest in the things that are
 and are to be, and not in things that were and are past.
                                                                                                Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887)
                                                                                                “A Completed Year,” December 31, 1882

Like the two prior months, January’s news was dominated by Mr. Trump. While the liberal media is obsessed with his habit of tweeting amid claims of “fake news,” what has been newsworthy is how much has been accomplished in the twelve days since inauguration. The new President signed five executive orders in the first five days, nine memorandums, and began to unravel regulatory burdens. He met with the British PM, and corporate and union leaders. It has all been in keeping with his campaign promises.

He froze the hiring of federal employees. He removed the United States from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), which was not supported by Mrs. Clinton and which was not expected to receive Senate approval. He signed a go-ahead for the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines, projects that had been approved by the State Department, before Mr. Obama, bowing to pressure from rail investors like Warren Buffett and environmental groups, put a stop to them. He canceled federal funding to sanctuary cities. He began to undo some of the mandates required of the Affordable Care Act. And, remembering his promise to “drain the Swamp,” he signed a five-year ban on White House officials becoming lobbyists. He ordered the removal of criminal illegal immigrants. On the last day of the month he nominated Neil Gorsuch of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Colorado to the Supreme Court.

In a controversial move, toward the end of the month, he temporarily suspended immigration from seven terror-prone countries. This aroused resistance, much of it feigned; keep in mind, in 2011 Mr. Obama placed a six-month ban on immigration from Iraq, with no opposition and no crocodile tears. Of the roughly 100,000 people entering the U.S. from overseas every day, 109 were detained during the three days ending last Sunday. All had been released by Monday. The ban, which is for 90 days, applies to seven predominantly Muslim nations – nations cited by the Obama Administration as incubators of terrorism. To put the number of seven countries in perspective, there are fifty-six UN member states who are also members of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation. The decision was not Islamophobiac, theophobic or xenophobic. It was aimed at preventing terrorists from entering the United States – protecting Americans is every President’s primary responsibility. Could the ban have been announced and implemented more effectively? Probably. He could have alerted our partners both at home and abroad, but we should not alert our enemies as to our intentions. Regardless of what he did, Mr. Trump would have been criticized.

Mr. Trump met with Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May, with whom he discussed a trade agreement for a Britain untangled from the European Union, and he reaffirmed the “special relationship.” He signed an order to build a wall along the Mexican border, a 2,000-mile line, almost half of which is the Rio Grande and along which almost 700 miles of fence already exists. The purpose: to keep out criminal elements and help stem the flow of drugs that annually kill 50,000 Americans. While a planned meeting between Mr. Trump and President Enrique Nieto was cancelled, he spent an hour on the phone with him. He spoke to Vladimir Putin, but made no promise to lift sanctions. The Senate has been slow to confirm his cabinet, but what seems telling is that none of the nominees are fearful of contradicting their future boss, suggesting Mr. Trump has enough self confidence that he doesn’t need “yes men.”

Despite anguished cries from the Left, thus far what Mr. Trump has done is what he promised to do during his campaign. It is why he was elected. It is that – putting action to words – that has upset his opponents. Politicians are supposed to be deceptive. With Mr. Trump – at least so far – what you saw is what you got. And honesty in politicians is baffling. Congress accepted the electoral vote, but “not without grumbling,” according to reports. And Democrats, in October, feared Republicans would not accept the results!

The day after Inauguration Day, 500,000 women descended on Washington in a “Women’s March,” calling the newly elected President a misogynist and “illegal,” a march in which “Right-to-Lifers” were excluded. Indicative of their disdain for the working class, they left behind several tons of trash. Six days later, about the same number of women and men showed up for the annual “Women’s March for Life.” With less press coverage, they marched from the Mall to the Supreme Court, but were far more considerate than the earlier crowd of those who must clean up.

(As for the allegation that Russia interfered in our election, I feel certain that Putin has done – and will do – whatever he can to discredit democracies. On the other hand, the accusation that he interfered to promote Trump over Clinton defies common sense. If you were Putin, would you have preferred the individual you knew, someone you had been able to manipulate to your advantage, or would you rather have taken a chance with an unknown, a man widely characterized as unbalanced? The answer seems obvious.) My advice to Mr. Trump: Do what the people elected you to do, but without the arrogance of your predecessor.

Overseas, Ivan Rogers, Britain’s top diplomat in Brussels unsurprisingly resigned. Turkey, a member of NATO since 1952, further distanced itself from the West, particularly the United States. “In Turkey, Fingers Point At America After Nearly Every Crisis,” ran a headline in The New York Times five days after a New Year’s Day attack in Istanbul that killed thirty-nine. A prison riot in Brazil killed fifty-six, with gang violence cited as cause. An avalanche in the Abruzzo region (east of Rome, on the Adriatic) buried the Hotel Rigopiano. Seventeen died. Four Israeli soldiers were killed in Jerusalem when a Palestinian truck driver plowed into a crowded popular tourist spot. Some “Remainders” in Britain, like some Democrats in Washington, remain unconvinced by election results. It is not a “hard” or “soft” Brexit that is wanted, Theresa May stated; it is a “clean” and “honest” break from the EU that is needed. As The Wall Street Journal editorialized: “The biggest threat to the EU isn’t a Britain that succeeds outside the common market, it is an EU that keeps failing the economic prosperity demanded by its citizens.” A terrorist attack on a mosque in Quebec City killed six and wounded eight. The killer, a non-Arab, shouted Allahu Akbar as he pulled the trigger. Ricardo Rossello was sworn in as Puerto Rico’s governor. He had campaigned on a platform of paying debts, shrinking government and restoring economic growth! Let’s hope he succeeds.

Nowhere was the difference between elites and the working class so obvious, as at the annual gathering in Davos, Switzerland. The World Economic Forum attracted 2,500 people, including 40 world leaders. “Davos Glitter in the Gloom of Populism” was the way The New York Times headlined their story, then added, “Elite mull inequity, but avoid talk of sacrifice.” Why does that not surprise me! Chinese President Xi Jinping took advantage of elites’ dislike for Mr. Trump in Davos by suggesting democracy had reached its limits. The People’s Daily, house organ for the Communist Party declared: “Democracy…has become a weapon for capitalist to chase profits.” Mr. Xi held himself out as the wave of the future. Keep in mind, the authoritarian Mr. Xi has assumed more powers than his two predecessors and was recently named a “core” leader, a title held by Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. That’s a wave you don’t want to catch!

Elsewhere in economic news, U.S. 4th Quarter GDP came in at 1.9%, giving the U.S. its slowest annual rate of growth since 2011. The Country added 156,000 jobs in December, with unemployment coming in at 4.7%. The labor participation rate ticked up to 62.7% from 62.6%, but remains at 1970s levels. On January 25th, for the first time, the DJIA closed above 20,000, before trading lower over the last two days. U.S. Treasury’s were basically flat during the month, and the Dollar weakened about three percent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the number of U.S. workers who belong to unions fell to 10.7% of the workforce – 6.4% of the private workforce and 34.4% of public sector workers. While manufacturing jobs increased, right-to-work states were the beneficiaries.

Scientists implanted human stem cells into a pig embryo, and then placed the embryo into a sow’s uterus. The result – a Chimera (a name taken from Greek mythology) – will be harvested in a few weeks. The idea, which is quite controversial, is to grow human organs in non-human host animals for transplantation. We’ll see. Iran tested a ballistic missile in defiance of a UN resolution.  The Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists – a Left-leaning board, largely made up of non-scientists – advanced the hands of the Doomsday Clock by 30 seconds, to two and a half minutes before midnight, the closest to midnight since 1953. Denial of climate change is their professed reason. White House advisor Steve Bannon told the media to “shut up.” Despite the press being mostly advocates, not independent watchdogs, that was the wrong message. He should encourage competition. The California legislature voted to decriminalize child prostitutes, as they are victims not criminals. But what happens to the pimps who run them?

Meryl Streep made an eloquent, though self-serving speech at the Golden Globes, in which she cast herself and fellow black tie-clad actors as victims of the villainous Donald Trump: “Hollywood, foreigners and the press are the most vilified segments of society right now!” Really! More so than Mr. Trump?   Tornados in Georgia and Mississippi killed nineteen, while floods and mudslides in California killed at least four. Portland, Oregon reported some of the worst winter weather since 1874. Cold and snow – some of the worst in years – killed dozens in Europe. “La La Land” was nominated for 14 Oscars, matching “Titanic” in 1997 and “All About Eve” in 1950 for most nominations. Amazon’s “Manchester by the Sea,” the first movie produced by the on-line retailer to be nominated for an Oscar, received six nominations. Dr. Gosnell, the infamous Baltimore practitioner of late-term abortions, was convicted of murder in the first degree. It took Mr. Obama ten days to criticize his successor, something his predecessor didn’t do in eight years.

Denise Mueller of San Diego set a women’s world speed record on a bicycle, going 147 miles per hour on Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats. Clemson beat Alabama for the national collegiate football title. The Falcons will play the Patriots in the Super Bowl on February 5th. Manchester United beat Spain for the first time in a dozen years. Age didn’t get in the way at the Australian Open. Serena Williams and Roger Federer, both 35, were the two winners.

Thanatos had a busy month. Clare Hollingworth, the young British reporter who scooped everyone on the start of World War II, died at age 96. Harold Hayes, the last survivor of a secret World War II odyssey, died at age 94. Call up his obituary in the NY Times for inspiration! Lord Snowden, once married to Princess Margaret, died at 86. Eugene Cernan, the last man alive to walk on the moon, died at age 82. Civil rights legend, and NRA member, Roy Innis died at age 82. Also at age 82, ex-Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani died. Mary Tyler Moore succumbed at age 80 to cardiopulmonary arrest. Steven McDonald, the New York City police officer who became renowned for forgiving the man who shot and paralyzed him, died at age 59. And I lost a friend, Tom Keogh of Old Lyme who died at age 84.

We move on to February, the birth month of Presidents and of my daughter, the month when Punxsutawney Phil looks for his shadow, and when lovers seek their Valentines! Winter will still be with us, but there will be days when the smell of spring will be in the air. Keep safe!

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