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Trump, Congressional GOP Back Off From Immediate Obamacare Repeal

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., seen here with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., at a Jan. 18 hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, says he’d like to see the individual insurance market fixed before repealing Obamacare.

Carolyn Kaster/AP

There’s a moment in the Broadway musical Hamilton where George Washington says to an exasperated Alexander Hamilton, “Winning is easy, young man. Governing’s harder.”

When it comes to health care, it seems that President Trump is learning that same lesson. Trump and Republicans in Congress are struggling with how to keep their double-edged campaign promise — to repeal Obamacare without leaving millions of people without health insurance.

During the campaign, Trump promised to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act immediately upon taking office. Last month, in an interview with The Washington Post, he said he had a replacement law “very much formulated down to the final strokes.”

But on Sunday, he dialed back those expectations in an interview with Fox News.

“It’s in the process and maybe it will take ’til sometime into next year, but we are certainly going to be in the process. It’s very complicated,” Trump said.

He repeated his claim that Obamacare has been “a disaster” and said his replacement would be a “wonderful plan” that would take time “statutorily” to put in place. And then he hedged the timing again.

“I would like to say by the end of the year, at least the rudiments,” he said.

Trump’s recent hesitation comes as Republicans in Congress tame their rhetoric surrounding the health care law.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate health committee, says he’d like to see lawmakers make fixes to the current individual market before repealing parts of the law.

“We can repair the individual market, which is a good place to start,” Alexander said on Feb. 1.

He’s also urging his colleagues to leave the other parts of the health care sector — Medicare, Medicaid and the employer market — alone.

Throughout the campaign, and over the six years since the law passed, Republicans in Congress have vowed to completely repeal the Affordable Care Act.

But in the time since the law went into effect, it has helped as many as 20 million people get insurance who didn’t have it before, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Just last week, the open enrollment period for 2017 ended and HHS reported that 9.2 million people bought insurance through the federal government’s insurance marketplace – slightly lower than last year but still a large number. About 3 million more people likely bought coverage on state-run exchanges, based on enrollment in past years.

In addition, about 10 million people qualified for health coverage because of the expansion of Medicaid in most states.

That left Trump and Republicans, the day after the election, facing the choice of fulfilling their clear promise to repeal the ACA and the reality that doing so could leave millions of people without access to health care.

At that time the public seemed to gain a new appreciation of the law once it was actually threatened with repeal. In recent weeks, several polls have shown that more people view it more favorably than they did before the election.

Another reality Republicans have had to face is that, even though they control both houses of Congress and the White House, their ability to repeal the ACA is limited. That’s because Democrats in the Senate can block bills using their filibuster power.

But laws dealing with taxes and the budget are protected from filibuster, so Republicans can roll back many Obamacare provisions because they involve tax credits and federal spending.

That leaves lawmakers having to build a new health care system that works within the general framework of the Affordable Care Act. They hey can get rid of subsidies to help people buy insurance, but the law creating government-run insurance exchanges, for example, will still be on the books.

That’s why Alexander and a handful of other Republicans are beginning to talk about repairing the current system. Currently, not enough young healthy people have signed up for coverage to offset the costs to insure sicker, older people. The result is that premiums have risen and insurance companies that lost money pulled out of many markets.

But not everyone is on board. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said last week in an interview on Fox that repairing the health care system means “You must repeal and replace Obamacare.”


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UPDATE: Congress backs down on plan to sell off public land the size of Connecticut

by Lloyd Alter

UPDATE: Yesterday this post was titled Congress moves to sell off public land the size of Connecticut but it turns out that the voices of the people who actually use public land are loud and powerful. According to Reuters,

Republican U.S. Congressman Jason Chaffetz said on Thursday he plans to withdraw a bill that would have sold off more than 3 million acres of federal land to private interests after it drew a barrage of negative comments from hunters and outdoor enthusiasts….”I’m a proud gun owner, hunter and love our public lands,” the Utah representative said in a comment, beneath a photo he posted of himself outdoors wearing hunting gear and holding a dog. “I hear you and HR 621 dies tomorrow.”

Apparently “Sportsmen and women, hunting groups, and outdoor gear retailers had flooded Chaffetz’s Instagram account with thousands of posts, urging him to “say no to HR 621” and to “#keepitpublic.” The resistance across the board was very loud:

“I don’t think anybody had expected the backlash that has happened as a result of these bills. People are upset out here in the west and it is one of the hottest political issues in western states,” said Brad Brooks, Idaho Deputy Regional Director for the Wilderness Society.

Original post:

There are many who believe that public land is there to serve the public good, whether it be forestry and mining that create jobs, pasturing of animals, or for recreation. But there are apparently many others who think that the government has no business being in the land ownership business, and are trying to get the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to sell it off. According to Caty Enders in Guardian, US representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah has introduced a bill….

…to immediately sell off an area of public land the size of Connecticut. In a press release for House Bill 621, Chaffetz, a Tea Party Republican, claimed that the 3.3m acres of national land, maintained by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), served “no purpose for taxpayers”.

Pruitt© Pat Bagley
(This writer must admit that almost everything I know about Utah I learned from following the editorial cartoons of Pat Bagley at the Salt Lake Tribune, who has been absolutely devastating in his coverage of the attacks on the environment in Utah by Chaffetz and others, and whose cartoons are used here with permission.)

Hunters, fisher people and conservationists are appalled.

“Last I checked, hunters and fishermen were taxpayers,” said [hunter Jason] Amaro, who lives in a New Mexico county where 70,000 acres of federal lands are singled out. In total, his state, which sees $650m in economic activity from hunting and fishing, stands to lose 800,000 acres of BLM land, or more than the state of Rhode Island.

Even Republicans in Chaffetz’s own state are objecting to this, as one noted earlier in the Salt Lake Tribune:

“Selling off our public lands to reduce the deficit would be like selling the house to pay the light bill,” said Philip Carlson, Utah coordinator for the group Republicans for Environmental Protection. “America’s public lands are a lasting endowment that supports local economies. They’re magnets that attract sportsmen, backcountry trail riders, hikers and campers year after year. It makes no sense to sell off this endowment, especially in a down economy.”

bears ears© Pat Bagley

An earlier article in the Guardian notes that this has long been Republican policy.

Giving away national land has been part of the Republican Party platform since the mid-80s, after Reagan declared himself a Sagebrush Rebel, but it’s regained steam in the past few years as 20 states have introduced some form of legislation suggesting that federal property be given to local governments.

The attitude apparently is that “Washington bureaucrats don’t listen to people.Local governments do.” Fortunately there is still a lot of opposition from both parties and might not even be legal.

Chaffetz’s proposal might in fact be in violation of the common-law Public Trust Doctrine, which requires that the federal government keep and manage national resources for all Americans. Courts have upheld the policy that sale or use must be in Americans’ interest.

Of course these days, anything can happen. More in the Guardian


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First Facebook, Now Lyft: Peter Thiel Undercuts Tech Companies’ CSR Messages


It looks like the Donald Trump chickens are finally coming home to roost for Silicon Valley billionaire investor Peter Thiel.

The PayPal co-founder and Facebook board member is unique among the tech set for publicly supporting the Republican president during the campaign season, and that support continued. Barely two weeks into the new president’s term, though, that relationship is already undercutting the messages of inclusion and tolerance that Thiel’s high-profile affiliates are struggling to articulate.

TriplePundit has been following the Trump-Thiel relationship since last May, when Thiel emerged as an official delegate for Trump on the Republican slate. In addition to their lofty status in the business community, both men appear to share a disdain for journalism and an affinity for the white nationalist movement — up to and including Trump’s recently enacted “Muslim ban.”

When is a ban not a ban?

This week TriplePundit contributor Reed Bundy made a compelling case that the corporate social responsibility trend has received a shot of adrenaline as a result of Trump’s transparently anti-Muslim ban on entry to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries:

“Despite the negative consequences of Trump’s executive order, we should celebrate the fact that so many giants in the tech industry are suddenly staunch advocates for refugees and our nation’s immigrant population,” Bundy wrote on 3p.

“Not long ago, most CEOs opted to stay out of public political debate, usually so as not to upset or ostracize customers who may hold opposing views. Today, as corporate America grapples with the very real possibility of losing some of its most talented employees, the line between corporate social responsibility and political activism is suddenly blurred.”

Companies that normally withhold public comment on politically-charged issues have suddenly become change agents, with Starbucks, Google and Lyft among the leaders.

In stark contrast to this burst of activity, earlier this week Peter Thiel issued the following brief statement about the Muslim ban through a spokesperson (as cited by Forbes):

“Peter doesn’t support a religious test, and the administration has not imposed one,” said Jeremiah Hall, a spokesman for Thiel.

That statement has been widely reported in traditional media as well as in tech-oriented news organizations.

Kara Swisher of Recode issued this particularly scathing observation:

“… Every time you open your mouth, you look more and more like you got played by Steve Bannon and his army of hobgoblins to the detriment of tech leaders whom you somehow got to bow and scrape to the new administration.”

Swisher hammered home the point that Thiel has effectively linked Silicon Valley’s finest to Trump and his anti-immigrant policies:

“It was bad enough that you pulled off that frightful kumbaya by trooping the most powerful people in Silicon Valley into Trump Tower for what amounted to a photo op for Trump…

“Now worse, you have dragged your pals, like tech icon Elon Musk and Uber’s Travis Kalanick, onto the president’s advisory council, with the promise that engagement with Trump will give them the chance to change his mind.”

Trouble for Facebook, Lyft and . . .

Underscoring both Bundy’s and Swisher’s points, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg was forced to defend Thiel’s position on the company’s board of directors last October, after employees raised alarms over his support of then-candidate Trump.

Even after the Muslim ban, Zuckerberg continued to mince words. In a widely circulated Facebook post, he diluted his concerns over the new policy by expressing optimism that Trump would do the right thing.

Mainstream media is beginning to draw attention to that relationship, and more.

In an article published on Tuesday, CNN’s Seth Fiegerman drew attention to Thiel’s investment in Lyft. The ride-sharing company has had a “banner week” in terms its response to the Muslim ban, including a $1 million pledge to the American Civil Liberties Union — which was well-received by fans. However, Fiegerman shines the spotlight on Peter Thiel:

“Less noted, however, is the fact that Peter Thiel is one of Lyft’s investors,” Fiegerman wrote. “Thiel, the billionaire investor and PayPal (PYPL, Tech30) cofounder, is Trump’s top tech advocate and an adviser on his transition team. He also recently appeared to defend the travel ban, despite the many concerns about it in Silicon Valley.”

Do read the full article for more detail. Fiegerman cites a laundry list of other companies that have pushed back against the Muslim ban, but share financial or other business ties with Thiel.

In addition to Facebook, that includes Airbnb, Stripe, Artsy, Pando and the startup incubator Y Combinator, where Thiel is a partner.

Y Combinator is particularly noteworthy because venture capitalist Ellen Pao was among the few tech-sector A-listers to speak out publicly — and with great force — against Peter Thiel during the campaign season. Thiel’s $1.25 million donation to the Trump campaign in the run-up to Election Day prompted her to cut ties between her organization, Project Include, and Y Combinator (emphasis in the original):

“… We are completely outraged to read about Thiel donating $1.25 million to Trump, ‘apparently unfazed by the storm around the candidate in the last week following the broadcasting of lewd conversations.’

“While all of us believe in the ideas of free speech and open platforms, we draw a line here. We agree that people shouldn’t be fired for their political views, but this isn’t a disagreement on tax policy, this is advocating hatred and violence.

Ironically, Y Combinator — the force behind Uber and Dropbox, among others — has just announced that it will provide financial support to the ACLU in its legal battle against the Trump administration on behalf of immigrants.

In a brief blog post on Tuesday, Y Combinator referred to ACLU’s successful effort to block enforcement of the Muslim ban (at least partially) last weekend and issued a call for additional support:

“… The ACLU has always been important, but has a particularly important role right now,” wrote Y Combinator. “We are honored to be able to help, and we will send some of our team to New York for the rest of the batch to assist.

“The ACLU will have full access to the Y Combinator network and community, and they will present at Demo Day in March.

“We are hopeful that the YC community will join us in supporting this important work. In particular, if you’re an engineer and want to spend some time helping them out, let us know. We’ll keep you updated on opportunities.”

So, that could get interesting.

The ACLU-Y Combinator hookup is all the more  interesting because another Peter Thiel connection — the data mining company Palantir — is beginning to raise flags about his potential role in the mass identification and deportation of immigrants in the U.S.

Adding to the irony, Thiel himself has immigrant status in two different countries.

He was born in Germany and brought to the U.S. at a very young age, and news has just emerged that he won special permission for citizenship in New Zealand back in 2011, though he didn’t come close to meeting the standard five-year residency requirement.

Stay tuned for more.

Image credit: By Kenneth Yeung at PandoMonthly event via, creative commons license.


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The Secrets of Medieval Castles: Stairs are built in a clockwise fashion for a VERY good reason

Medieval Castles were more than just large fortresses with massive stone walls. They were ingeniously designed fortifications that used many brilliant and creative ways to protect their inhabitants from attacking enemies.

by Will Kalif –

A lot of thought, ingenuity, and planning went into the design of Medieval Castles.

Everything from the outer walls to the shapes and location of stairwells were very carefully planned to provide maximum protection to the inhabitants. Here are some of the unique and lesser-known secrets of medieval castle designs.

The Moat – A moat, which is a body of water that surrounds a castle, is often thought of as a water obstacle that had to be crossed; but this wasn’t the primary function of a moat.

One of the biggest concerns of the inhabitants of a medieval castle or fortress was the fear that an invading army would dig tunnels under the fortification.

This tunneling could either provide access to the castle or cause a collapse of the castle walls. A moat prevented this because any tunnel under the moat would collapse and fill with water.

It was a very effective deterrent against tunneling. Often times the moat wasn’t even on the outside of the castle. It was on the inside between the outer wall and the inner wall.

Concentric Circles of Defense – This was an extremely effective method of defense for the inhabitants of a Medieval Castle. It was a series of obstacles that started on the outside of the castle and worked their way in.

It was usually a progression like a cleared field, an outer wall, a moat, an inner wall, a keep and then a strong hold tower. An attacking army would have to overcome each of these obstacles one at a time. And this took a lot of time and effort to do.

The Main Gate as a Death Trap – The main gate of a castle was often the most dangerous place in the castle because it was also a deadly trap.

It often opened into a small courtyard that had another main gate at the far end. The forward main gate often had an iron portcullis that was held in the open position and if the main gate was broken through and attackers made it into the small courtyard the portcullis was brought down and the attackers were trapped in the small courtyard.

The walls of the courtyard had small holes called death holes where the defenders could fire arrows and other projectiles at the trapped attackers.

You can see more of Will’s work here All Things Medieval 


The hidden secrets of Stairwells – Stairwells were often very carefully designed in Medieval Castles. Stairwells that curved up to towers often curved very narrowly and in a clockwise direction.

This meant that any attackers coming up the stairs had their sword hands (right hand) against the interior curve of the wall and this made it very difficult for them to swing their swords.

Defenders had their sword hands on the outside wall, which meant they had more room to swing. Another ingenious design of stairs was that they were designed with very uneven steps. Some steps were tall and other steps were short.

The inhabitants, being familiar with the uneven pattern of the stair heights could move quickly up and down the stairs but attackers, in a dimly lit stairwell, would easily fall and get bogged down in the stairwells.

This made them vulnerable to attacks and slowed their attacks down significantly. You can see more of Will’s work here All Things Medieval 

Secret Passages – What Medieval Castle would be complete without secret passages?

Many castles had secret passages and they served a variety of purposes. Some passages were designed to open up a distance from the castle so inhabitants could escape during an attack or get supplies in and out during a siege.

Secret passages also led to secret chambers where people could hide, supplies could be kept or a well for water was dug.

A medieval castle was more than just a large glamorous palace with massive stone walls around it.

A medieval castle was a structure that was totally designed right down to the last detail with the protection of its inhabitants in mind.

If you ever visit a medieval castle and you notice that the stairs are very uneven you will know that it wasn’t because the builders couldn’t measure out steps evenly.

It was just that this is a little secret of the builders of the castle.


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Trump Silent As Buddy Putin Brazenly Shells Ukraine, Killing Dozens

Given the tight political and financial ties between the Trump administration and Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin, the renewed Russian military assault appears to be Putin’s way of testing the waters to determine how far Russia can go in its irredentist aggression without provoking an American response. And the answer so far appears to be quite far indeed. It is particularly telling that the Russian attack, which included some 2,500 artillery and mortar shells on Sunday alone, came the day after Presidents Trump and Putin held their first phone conference, in which they discussed forming a new alliance against Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) and on other issues.

Even as a barrage of mortars rained down on Ukraine, leaving scores dead in a naked show of Russian aggression, and Russian-backed separatists renewed their terror campaign in the cities of the Donbass, the response from Trump’s supposedly tough-on-aggression White House was muted. Asked Wednesday if the administration views the fighting as a direct challenge from Russia, White House press secretary Sean Spicer could say only that “we’re keeping an eye on the situation in Ukraine.” Earlier in the week the Trump administration released a statement condemning the violence that managed to avoid mentioning Russia at all.

The consensus among foreign policy experts is that Putin’s Kremlin is, in the words of a senior U.S. defense official who spoke to Foreign Policy magazine anonymously, trying to “gauge what they could accomplish” under a Trump administration. Alexander Vershbow, the ex-deputy secretary general of NATO, said that the Kremlin “may be trying to test the administration to see if they distance themselves from Kiev, and tell [Ukrainian President] Petro Poroshenko that he has to make the best deal with Russia, which of course would destroy him politically.”

And if the Trump administration’s response to the attack so far is any indication, it appears they will leave Putin tremendous room for maneuver when it comes to the illegal irredentist campaigns he so loves. That could have deadly consequences for the citizens of a dozen former Soviet republics whose embrace of democracy could easily be turned back by an assault from Putin’s kleptocratic dictatorship. The supposedly freedom-loving Trump, however, has nothing to say to condemn this naked aggression, revealing once again the corrupt financial dealings behind his political lies.

The roots of Trump’s abandonment of the Ukrainian people are of course financial. Both Trump himself and may of his advisors have tight monetary ties to the inner circle of Russian oligarchs, and there is even some indication that has advisers illegally met and coordinated with Kremlin officials during the campaign. Whether those accusations are true or not, it is undeniable that the Kremlin intervened in our presidential election with the explicit aim of making Donald Trump president.

One of Putin’s key calculations in making that decision was that Trump would abolish or at least ease the Western sanctions that have been slapped on Moscow since Putin’s unilateral occupation of Crimea in 2014, an invasion that Trump has denied occurred. And there are whisperings of even more nefarious back-room dealings: The notorious Steele dossier included, besides its reporting of Trump’s sexual activities in a Moscow hotel room, a claimthat the Kremlin had offered Trump aide Carter Page a 19% share in the state oil giant Rosneft in exchange for a lifting of the sanctions. Then last December, months after the Steele dossier was compiled, 19.5% of Rosneft was sold to “parties unknown.”

While the exact specifics of the backroom deals made between the Kremlin and the Trump administration may never be revealed, what is clear is that the new administration is allowing an unabashed show of aggression against a democratic ally by a brutal kleptocratic dictatorship. The neo-Nazi alt-right, with its love of all things oppressive, has always had a soft spot for Vladimir Putin. Now, with men like Steve Bannon pulling the strings of foreign policy formation, that Putin fetishization, once confined to 4chan message boards, could be dictating the future of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians threatened by Russian aggression. Ultimately, Trump’s refusal to condemn the Russians is a fundamental betrayal of what America supposedly stands for, and he and his administration should be taken to task for it.


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Lynch admits he wanted secretive hiring process to test 49ers’ leaking culture



During his turbulent Jan. 2 press conference, I had one question for 49ers CEO Jed York:

Do you understand and recognize leaking the news of Chip Kelly’s firing is exactly what’s wrong with your organization?

“You have a two-win team that people have been speculating that there were going to be decisions that were made for the last month,” York began. “I wish that it would have been cleaner…”

This exact leaking culture in San Francisco, and the fact that York didn’t see any negative consequences with it, was a major concern to GM John Lynch, too. As he started to become intrigued with this job opportunity, making sure news didn’t hit the national media was the one litmus test Lynch had to make sure York and Paraag Marathe could pass.

“One of the great and liberating things for me, and I think why this thing came to fruition, I made a big deal that this stay quiet,” Lynch said Wednesday morning on KNBR 680. “First of all, you know what I was doing? Part of the rumors are things fly out of that building. And I wanted to see if I could trust this person. And so that was part of my thinking.”

A revealing, honest answer from the man who will now lead the 49ers. It’s encouraging that Lynch has recognized this free flow of information coming out of Santa Clara as a problem, and it suggests he may now be in control of what does and does not see the light of day.

A winning football team can keep some secrets in-house. York no longer needs buddies in the national media to spin news for him on Colin Kaepernick or Jim Harbaugh. Lynch is now the communicator for the franchise, not Adam Schefter or Ian Rapoport.

In fact, Lynch’s relationship with York will be paramount if the 49ers are able to achieve sustained success over a prolonged period. York became entirely too close of friends with Trent Baalke, which arguably blinded him from all the football operations mistakes his former GM was making.

It’ll be up to Lynch to both make York feel like he’s involved but also no getting too chummy with his boss.

“(Jed’s) tired of some strife and contention in the building. He wants harmony,” Lynch said. “He wants to give us the resources. He wants to be a support mechanism. But he wants to get out of the way and let us work. To me, that’s an awesome deal.”

Not matter what Lynch says, York’s prior history will not give this regime the benefit of the doubt from a wounded and frustrated 49ers fan base. Lynch will continue to win the PR battle for the 49ers in every interview he does — make no mistake, that was part of why he was hired.

But winning press conferences, free agent signings and the draft will matter very little in San Francisco, until Sunday football games turn into victory Monday’s again.

“I’m aware of (the negativity) just from being a football fan,” Lynch said. “As an analyst you have to stay up on the whole league. So, yes, I’ve seen some negativity. I can tell you my experience being around this league, 15 years as a player, eight-plus as a broadcaster, that’s the reality. When you aren’t winning, there’s going to be negativity. I do know that exists.

“Are there skeptics? Absolutely. Should there be skeptics? Absolutely. I understand that. And I understand the only way we change those skeptical thoughts from people is to win. That’s what this league is all about. I won’t make any promises as to when that will happen, but we’re going to work our tail off and I’m going to surround myself with great people that can fill some of my deficiencies.”


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Trump Backlash Turns Mexicans Against Nafta


U.S-Mexico Trade: Impact on Emerging Markets

The Zocalo, a vast square in the heart of Mexico City, has been a gathering place since the days of the Spanish conquistadors. Walk through it today and you’ll encounter, as expected, intense hatred of Donald Trump.

But what you’ll also find is that Mexicans are just as furious at their own government for letting the U.S. president push their country around. What’s more, many proclaim to be fed up with Nafta. Trump’s pledge to rewrite the trade pact doesn’t go far enough for them. It should be scrapped entirely.

“We will be better off,” said Eduardo Avila, on a break from his job as a driver. He dug into the pocket of his jeans jacket to show off the lapel pin and ribbon he’d just bought, both emblazoned with a suddenly popular slogan: “United For Mexico. Buy Mexican Goods.”

Trump and his tough talk, Avila said, might just be the shot in the arm that Mexico needs to recognize its potential. “The U.S. is not the only country in this world — why are we clinging to them like an umbilical cord?”

The reality is harsh: The U.S. is by far Mexico’s biggest trading partner, with some $584 billion in tariff-free goods crossing the border every year. Trump has called Nafta “the worst trade deal in history,” but it has been a boon for Mexico, attracting billions in foreign investment, creating a booming auto industry and diversifying revenue sources for the once oil-dependent economy. In border towns far from Mexico City, Nafta has created thousands of jobs.Read more: What if Nafta is reopened?

None of that matters to Alejandro Sanchez, a vendor on the outskirts of the Zocalo. He welcomes what before Trump’s election was the unthinkable: an end to decades of friendship and economic cooperation with the U.S.

“They can raise the tallest wall in the world, in fact they should. They can keep their burgers and fast food, their junk culture,” he said, peering out from behind stacks of magazines, coloring books and cigarette packets. “I think most of us feel the same way — this is an opportunity. We are such a big country that this will help us activate our domestic economy.”

Give Trump credit, he added. “This man did something right. He united us.”

Protesters in the Zocalo demand the resignation of Pena Nieto, on Jan. 8.

Photographer: Yuri Cortez/AFP via Getty Images

Mexicans had already been pretty much on the same page about their leader, Enrique Pena Nieto, whose approval ratings are the lowest of any president ever tracked by Reforma newspaper. That’s in no small part because the government raised gasoline prices by 20 percent at the start of the year and promised another hike in February, setting off street protests.

Pena Nieto was criticized for meeting with Trump before the U.S. election. Now he’s not getting much credit from the people for canceling a visit to Washington last week after the American president said he’d follow through on campaign pledges to find a way to make Mexico to pay for a border wall.

‘Angry and Disappointed’

In the Zocalo, Trump and Pena Nieto are in a dead heat for most hated president.

“Both of them should be thrown in the trash,” Avila said. “The wall is what matters least. It’s politicians on this side of the border that bother me. How could they allow this person to humiliate us this way?”

It was a lament heard time and again all afternoon. Only the tone and some of the smaller details varied.

Nohemi Sanchez, a recent college graduate, expressed it this way: “We send our best products and produce abroad, and they leave the worst for us. This is what angers me, really — that our government doesn’t work in favor of our interests. We’re a country rich in natural resources but Mexico doesn’t do anything.”

Sitting a few feet away, Yareli Flores was listening intently to Sanchez. Music from organ grinders and the shouts of ice-cream vendors echoed around them. After a couple of minutes, Flores, a monument restorer on her lunch break, chimed in. She’s glad, she stated, that her 5-year-old daughter is too young to understand what’s happening.

“I’m angry and disappointed,” she said. With U.S. politicians or those in Mexico? “All of them. They’ve all disappointed me.”


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