Friday, January 20, 2017

Trump Manages to Choke His Own Rally

Donald Trump was headed for an amazing stock market rally to 20000, but on December 20, after a 1642 point surge, it stalled. Today, a month later, it has drifted more than 181 points below the December 20 high point of 19974 (Jan. 20 – 19793).

Most of the rally was correlated to optimism for Trump’s likely tax, regulatory and spending proposals. But when examining the polls, an inference can be made that he choked off his own rally with poor behavior, most highlighted by his ill-tempered and poorly thought out tweets. His polling numbers have dropped after about a month of post-election improvement (an 11-point drop in confidence in mid-January). He is stepping on his own message of positive change by spreading confusion and conflict.

One thing most of the public (69%) and nearly all the investor class would like to see much less of is Donald Trump’s tweets.

The Dow will likely hit 20000 soon, but for now, the Trump surge is the Trump stall.

Populism Dominates 2017 European Politics

Populism is the rage. It’s on the cover of Foreign Affairs, the topic of politicians, columnists and faculty, and the apparent political trend resulting in Brexit, the Donald Trump victory, and numerous political movements and elections in Europe the last few years.

The word’s origin is mostly generic and can apply to a host of political movements, some right, some left, some benign and some ominous, but in today’s context the main features are anti-elitism and desire for a strong leader to ensure significant change. In Europe, it tends to be anti-EU, anti-immigrant and pro-Russia.

European political conversation has been dominated by talk of the sweep of populism from Poland and Hungary to Great Britain and Italy and most of the nations in between.

The year starts with the global conference in Davos where capitalists, globalists and free traders will try to account for the hostile environment. Chinese President Xi will be the ranking world leader, positioning himself and China as protectors of globalism. Conference session focuses on the dangers of anti-globalism and trade protectionism – elements in the current version of populism. Capitalism is on the defensive from the right and the left.

Italy’s pro-EU party of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi lost a referendum in early December to reform the sclerotic Italian government. He resigned (Obama’s last state dinner was held for him) and the populist Five Star Movement is maneuvering to win an election likely to be called this year.

Great Britain
Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged to begin its Brexit negotiations in March. There appears little consensus on how the process will work or the objective. But the anti-immigrant, nationalist fervor that led to the Brexit vote looms as a threat to the British establishment. She appears committed to a “hard” as opposed to a “soft” exit.

France faces an election in May that will likely bring a conservative to power, with the populist Marine Le Pen leading the largest anti-immigrant, anti-EU party in close pursuit of the center-right frontrunner, François Fillon. Both candidates take a friendly position toward Russia.

The German anti-immigrant right is still too weak to derail Chancellor Angela Merkel in the September German federal elections, but they have forced Merkel to move to the right on immigration. She is now the only voice of authority for European unity and continued sanctions on Russia.

America’s new foreign policy direction, apparently more in alignment with the anti-immigration, anti-EU, pro-Russian trends, is likely to influence the politics of the continent, if not the voters directly. But the potential significant impact of Trump’s presidency (such as Steve Bannon, Mike Flynn and others) on 2017 European politics is a story yet developing.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

America’s Views of World Leaders

The latest CNN poll asked Americans at the start of the new administration how they would rate some national and world leaders. The results should remind the new administration that there is a backdrop of attitudes positioning friends and foes that should be kept in mind as policies and tweets start to fly.

For example, at the bottom of the list of favored leaders are Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, Raúl Castro and Xi Jinping. Claiming any one of these people a good friend and ally will be a lift.

The public loves the Queen and the Pope. They have a few detractors, both to the office and the person, but very few. Starting fights with them will be costly.

Many people don’t know Angela Merkel or Theresa May, but due to old alliances and respect for their actions, they have more than two-to-one favorability among the attentive public.

Donald Trump has a 44 percent favorability rating, higher than the mean of the eight foreign leaders. However, with near universal awareness, his unfavorability rating of 53 percent is near Raúl Castro’s.

The Red Line: A Decision that Leveled a Foreign Policy

Barack Obama is doing his legacy tour. There are some high points; some may even survive his successor. But one decision sums up a series of mistakes that most harmed his foreign policy and produced a disastrous effect still being felt.

In August 2014, Obama backed away from a threat to punish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his regime for the use of chemical weapons against his population. From the moment the decision was announced, Obama’s credibility dropped with allies and adversaries, foreign and domestic.

The Situation Room announcement picture captures the disbelief among the president’s team, especially the responsible politicians – Biden, Kerry and Hagel.

In fact, the decision only highlighted an often described feckless policy related to the Syrian civil war. A strategy that contributed to millions of refugees, many fleeing and destabilizing democracies in Europe, a vacuum allowing the entry of Russia on Assad’s side, and the utter destruction of Aleppo. The decision was firmly embedded in Obama’s fundamental approach of minimalism in the Middle East, which included the Iraq withdrawal and the truncated Libyan intervention.

See blogs:
President has options in Syria
Will foreign policy effect the 2014 elections?
Red Line: Kerry and Hagel agree Obama foreign policy disaster
Chuck Hagel – Nice guy, wrong fit
Syria: Public opinion cul-de-sac
Panic in the White House – Foreign policy
Obama’s last State of the Union and foreign policy

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Marijuana Takes Heat in State of the State Speech

Marijuana was mentioned, but not in a friendly fashion, in John Hickenlooper’s State of the State address.

He opened by stating he hadn’t supported the legalization of recreational marijuana in 2012, but the state had mastered regulating it, including addressing continuing problem areas of edibles endangering children and the need for education on underage use.

Gov. John Hickenlooper, State of the State address
Photo: Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
But then he shifted to the bad news. He pointed out that, contrary to the claims of drug advocates, organized crime is flourishing in a home grow “gray market” and action must be taken to fight it. Finally, he linked the spread of marijuana in Colorado to mental illness and chronic homelessness, and advocated using marijuana money to service the victims.

Governor’s list of major problems:
  • Endangering children
  • Underage use
  • Organized crime
  • Mental illness and chronic homelessness
Just as four more states legalized recreational sales of marijuana, Colorado’s leadership, from the state to local level, appear to be becoming aware of the ill consequences of commercialization of marijuana. In Colorado, the public may also be becoming more attuned to the problem. A majority (53%) in a DU/Korbel School poll was against the increased sales of recreational marijuana in their community.

Eight states and Washington D.C. have now legalized commercial marijuana. California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada joined the number with Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington. Numerous other states are considering legislation or initiative to legalize commercial sales. The question in Colorado is no longer legalization, which a majority of the public favors, but retail sale and use in neighborhoods and communities. On this issue, the public is becoming much more skeptical. Will the forces of opposition get organized?

The Hill: Marijuana reforms flood state legislatures
The Buzz: Colorado Voters Appear Reluctant to Expand Use of Recreational Marijuana
The Buzz: End of Marijuana Holiday? El Paso County Says “No” to Marijuana Expansion

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Kalorama and Kompromat: The Week of Transition in Washington

Washington loves and dreads transition. The inaugural event is a high political society celebration, a circus, and can be a civil war. A bit of all three will take over Washington this weekend. There will be nostalgia for the Obamas, a modern update of a Norman Rockwell painting and the Nelsons of TV sitcom fame. Of course, there is a relief for those anxious to end what they consider a failed administration. The Trump inaugural instills a combination of dread and elation. Almost all new residents of the White House are considered vandals and Philistines, although Donald Trump appears to look for fights: John Lewis, the intel community, CNN, EU, Merkel, NATO and China, and that’s just the last few days.

The new words of currency this week are Kalorama and Kompromat. Kalorama, an exclusive section of D.C. north of DuPont Circle, has just gotten the Obamas, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, and Jeff Bezos ($23 million for house) as residents. This may be ushering in an era of big money and big houses.

Kompromat is the Russian term for compromising material, like that found in the unverified dossier on Donald Trump. Sex, scandal, tweets and Russians are in D.C.’s future.

As thousands pour into the weekend celebrations and demonstrations, the 2016 post-election period is over and the fun begins.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Tall is Good – Regis Jesuit

Congratulations to Regis Jesuit for attracting and supporting women sports stars and superstars.

Missy Franklin at 6’2” and Fran Belibi at 6’1” are Regis Jesuit stars and part of an academic program that puts athletes on track for Berkeley and Stanford, which offers support that produces winning athletes and teams.