Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Monday, April 22, 2019

It's Coming

Not winter.

Impeachment.

Just not on Twitter's timeline.  I assigned a reading from Francis Fukuyama's book from 6 years ago, where he argued that while democracy might be the global default (even authoritarian regimes have "elections") the institutions of democracy are both fragile and often unworkable. Looking around the world, it is difficult to say that democracy is in a healthy place.  Above all, democracy requires the rule of law - that the law is sovereign over everyone even, especially, the powerful.  Trump's entire life is a frontal assault of the rule of law. 

It's time democracy fought back.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Happy Easter

And how horrible what happened in Sri Lanka. Religion so often is used to fuel the worst of us, when it should appeal to the best of us.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Impeachment

Impeachment is inherently a political process.  It is not a criminal proceeding, but rather an ability for the legislative branch to check rampant lawlessness in the executive.  There are arguments being made that impeachment isn't worth it, because you will never get the Senate to remove Trump from office.  "That's what 2020 is for" goes the argument.  There is not much of an argument that Trump doesn't deserve to be impeached, rather that it would be politically counterproductive.

I don't buy it.

But I do believe that starting impeachment now, over the Mueller report, wouldn't be helpful.  There are multiple avenues into the Trump Crime Family.  There is the obstruction of justice in the Russia probe. There is the rampant tax evasion and money laundering. They are ongoing violations of the emoluments clause. There is the rampant corruption involved with Mar-A-Lago.  There is the selling of access within the Cabinet.

Investigate it.  Investigate all of it.  Find all the dead bodies, Michael Cohen can help you find them.

Start impeachment hearings in November of this year.  Let them run all winter.  Take every sordid detail of Trump's plutocratic corruption and lay it out before the American people.  Make every Republican Senator and House member defend him. Turn the screws.

Yes, if Trump wins despite all this, we are screwed, but we are screwed anyway if he wins.  Every party that has impeached (or started to impeach in Nixon's case) won the White House in the next election.

Most Americans aren't really paying attention.  They won't be paying attention until the presidential race gets under way.

So, put it off a bit, wait until the political season is in full swing, then air it all out.  Every bit of it.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Lessons From The Mueller Report

It's long.  The broad outlines are in place, but there will be more information to glean from it, especially as the redacted parts are read by members of Congress.  As Josh Marshall explains, we know what Trump did, we know it was - at the very least - incredibly sketchy, we know he did almost everything in his power to obstruct the investigation.  Very little in the Mueller report is fresh information, if you've be diligently following this story.  Basically, the special prosecutor found that what we believed to be true was, in fact, true. Russia wanted Trump to win. Russia worked to help Trump win.  Trump desired Russian help to win.

Therefore to me, the real story is the complete failure of the media in reporting on this story.  Or more accurately, the failures in evaluating the importance of this story.  The investigative reporters did exceptional work and got most of the information correct. The problem remains that too many media figures extend to the Trump administration a benefit of the doubt when it comes to truthfulness that the Trump administration has completely unearned.

One "revelation" in the report is that Sarah Sanders lied when she said that FBI agents thanked her for the Comey firing.  Did anyone seriously believe this? Has Sarah Sanders EVER been completely forthright?  Much of the news coverage (as opposed to the investigative reporting) has fallen into the predictable "he said/she said" dynamic when it comes to initial reports.  At some point, the Times and the Post and CNN simply need to assume that a Trump spokesperson is lying until proven otherwise.  The disgraceful performance of William Barr should be the final nail in a coffin that should have been buried two years ago. 

Mueller decided to abide by the OLC decision that he couldn't indict a sitting president, therefore turning the matter over to Congress.  So far, House Democrats seem gun-shy about pursuing impeachment, preferring to let the election decide the matter.

But if the media have failed to learn the lessons of 2016 and every day since, we are screwed.  False balance and unearned credulity will destroy the republic.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Please Do Me A Favor

Don't believe anything about the Mueller Report until someone has actually read it that isn't AG Barr.

Also, this:

Imagine what Barr would have done if Republicans still controlled the House.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Future Liberals Don't Want

Martin Longman lays out the startling argument that Democrats are likely headed to a brokered convention. Ultimately, this is why Biden feels like he has to jump in, and might wind up consolidating his choice.  Few people within the party want Bernie Sanders to be the nominee.  But in a badly fractured field, no one would wind up winning the nomination.  That would lead to a brokered convention, and - as Longman notes - the Russians and GOP would turn the simmering embers left over from 2016 into a bonfire.

I'm sure all the lower tier candidates are hoping to catch fire the way people like Buttigieg have.  If your Corey Booker, you're hoping that "something happens" to catapult you into relevancy.  But at some point, you're not helping.  When do Gillibrand, Booker, Castro, Swalwell, Yang, Inslee and the others pack it in?  If it's after New Hampshire, it could be too late.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Helplessness

Watching Notre Dame burn yesterday was like so much of watching the news these days.  You watched something precious slowly being destroyed and there was nothing you could do about it.  You also know that at any moment, some nitwit on Twitter will start talking about "who started it" in a way designed to tear further at the increasingly fragile ties that tether us together as people.  Sometimes terrible things happen by accident. We aren't entirely equipped to handle that.  Many of us would prefer if there were some dark cabal behind every misfortune.  But sometimes terrible things happen for no reason.

Monday, April 15, 2019

On Ilhan Omar

I would argue that two things are simultaneously true:

1) Trump and the Republican attacks on her are Islamophobic and racist, designed to fire up their evangelical voters and pit one American against another.  It serves to buttress their long running argument that only Republicans are true Americans, because they are white people who live in the countryside.  These comments are going to get someone killed.

2) Representative Omar is not very good at message discipline beyond her base.  When you compare her to another high profile House freshwoman - Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez - Omar simply hasn't found the right way to leverage her high profile to make a consistent and valuable attack on the GOP.  AOC has mastered the Twitter age message war; Omar has not.

Democratic leadership was called out by Leftist Twitter for not forcible defending Omar by name.  Most of that was bullshit.  But there is no doubt that if you are trying to keep your House majority, create a Senate majority and win the Presidency, you don't want to be dragged off message.  The Democrats' message seems to be about corruption, democracy and inequality, with a little climate and guns thrown in.  They don't want to be arguing about Ilhan Omar in 2020, because she steps on their message in ways AOC does not.

Game Of Thrones

Watching the beginning of the end - plus some of the marathon recap - it strikes me that one of the most pervasive themes in the show is how people are trapped by their history.

Cersei, Daneyrs, Jon, Sansa, Arya, Jamie, Tyrion...they are all prisoners of their past.  Even Bran, who can see everything, is trapped by the past.  Trapped IN the past.  Cersei is captured by the death of her children, the cruelty of her family, her hatred of her brother.  Danerys is a Targarean, ultimately relying on Fire and Blood. Jon finds that he, too, is trapped by his lineage. Sansa by the barbarism inflicted on her by others, Arya by her quest for revenge, Jamie by his past callousness, Tyrion by his lack of wisdom at critical moments.  Everyone is flawed, because everyone carries the tremendous weight of past cruelties that they both inflicted on others and had inflicted on them. 

That's why my king will always be Hotpie, First of His Name, Long May He Reign.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

How Broken Are We?

When I read this story about the bullshit posturing over who gets "credit" for the first images of a black hole, it's difficult to think of anything but how broken we are as a society.  It's understandable  -given how underrepresented women are in the STEM fields - to see Katie Bouman held up as a nice example of the contributions women make to science and technology.  However, it was wrong to say that she "did it."  It was even more wrong to denigrate her important contributions out of some peevish whine about male grievance. 

The most important advancements in human history have almost always been collaborations.  Or they have been the product of work that comes to fruition at the same time.  That's why Liebnitz and Newton both invented calculus at the same time, and two different people invented the telephone at roughly the same time. 

Some of this is the myth of the solitary genius, which has always warped our understanding of human achievement.  Edison ran a factory full of inventors, but he gets the credit for their work.

Now, of course, the internet allows us to force every single goddamned story through a political filter.  Every event is thrust forward to advance some political agenda - usually a shitty one.  My guess is that these opinions were always out there, but now they are amplified by being shared. 

It's exhausting.

It's not going to get any better.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Changing The Rules

HR1 is a good start at reforming democracy, but there has to be a series of laws passed after Democrats gain control of government that limit some of the egregious loopholes that Trump has exploited.  Presidential candidates must be transparent with their personal finances.  New safeguards need to be put in place surrounding the Justice department's impartiality.

And there are going to have to be more vigorous nepotism laws.

These fucking people....

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Good News From Across The Pond

The EU has given the British an extension on Brexit until October.  That lessens the chance of a global recession caused by the nationalism of Putin's willing fools in Britain.  Meanwhile, another willing fool  - accused rapist Julian Assange - has been arrested in London after the Ecuadorians finally had enough of his shit.

Also, they deposed the long time dictator of Sudan.

Not everything is awful.  Just in DC at the moment.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Today In Your Democracy In Crisis

Where shall we begin?

The Attorney General of the United States was spreading conspiracy theories.

He also looks like he will refuse to issue the Mueller report.

The Treasury Department said they can't give the House Trump's tax returns, even though the law is very clear on this.

Fox News questioned whether a Muslim member of Congress was a real American.

Three or more states are moving to make abortions effectively illegal.

A Trump nominee for the Justice Department could not say if Brown v Board of Ed was properly decided.

The interim director of ICE is leaving because he's not sadistic enough.

These.  Fucking. People.

The Worst People

Among all the grifters, incompetents and racists that have populated the Trump Maladministration, there was - for a spell - an agreement that he would staff certain critical positions with competent people.  This was why his first National Security team included people like Mattis and McMaster.  The jettisoning of Nielsen from Homeland Security is a troubling expression of the idea that Trump is no going full bore into hack loyalists over any sort of expertise or competence.

This look also to be true for the Federal Reserve.  Trump has nominated two complete fools for these powerful positions.  Stephen Moore is a hack's hack with no discernible economic insights or abilities.  And he's the BETTER of the two candidates being vomited forth from the West Wing. The assumption is that Herman Cain will be voted down and Moore given a seat on the Fed Board, because the GOP can only oppose outright lunacy (Cain) as opposed to mere incompetence (Moore).

Still, it's worth gaming out if there are four GOP Senators who might oppose both Moore and Cain.  My first thought was obviously Murkowski, just because she's the only even slightly independent voice in the GOP caucus.  One has to assume that Collins will dither and fuss and then vote for Trump's people anyway.  Rob Portman might defect as a Senator with at least a modicum of financial expertise. 

But the best way to sink these disastrous choices would be in Committee.  Neither will get any Democratic votes, so only one GOP member of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs committee would have to flip.  Jerry Moran is retiring and sick of the bullshit, Martha McSally has to win re-election in a purpling state, Ben Sasse and Tim Scott occasionally wander off the beaten path, and Pat Toomey and Richard Shelby are also votes to watch.

Looking over the roster, I have to admit, it's very on-brand of the committee on Urban Affairs to have GOP Senators from: Idaho, Alabama, Nebraska, Arkansas, North and South Dakota and Kansas...