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

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Baked In The Cake

With the narrow losses in GA-06 and SC-05 last night, there is the inevitable hand-wringing and self-flagellation that typifies liberal politics. And inevitably, someone will try and tie this back to Sanders v. Clinton, because that's helpful.  Josh Marshall points out - as many others have - that all these special elections are taking place on Republican-favored turf.  The fact that they are so close SHOULD unnerve the GOP.  If Democrats ride a 10 point wave in 2018, they will flip the House.  Not by flipping GA-06, but by flipping districts in CA, NY, VA and FL.

The arguments about messaging or which policy proposals mostly miss the point.  Democrats always run on better policies.  Look at the American Shitburger Bill currently winding its way in secret through the Senate.  You want good policy outcomes?  Elect Democrats.

And yet, people don't elect Democrats.

The lesson from last night and last November is that Republicans vote for Republicans.  That's how we wound up with Trump.  Republicans voted for him, even if they didn't "like" him.

Democrats will win once Republicans are embarrassed to admit they are Republicans.  You have to make the party radioactive.  Trump is certainly helping, and if they pass the American Shitburger Bill, that will help, too.

It's not about your message.  It's not about your policies.  It's about how many voters support your party.

Also, fuck you, Jill Stein.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Tweet Of The Day

"Mitch McConnell is the answer to the question 'how much damage could Trump do if he was clever.'" @ZeddRebel

Seriously, if you have any Republican Senators in your state, call them and decry the removal of health insurance from 20M Americans.

Monday, June 19, 2017

June?

Too much going on.  Luckily, that means I haven't been following the news.

I assume Trump tweeting something absurd.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Monster Is Calling From Inside The House

EJ Dionne goes about as far as nice NPR-listening pundit can go in pointing out that the GOP went insane at some point during the first Bush Administration.  He noted the violation of the no-new-taxes pledge as the moment the GOP lost its moorings (which was signaled by Gingrich's no-holds-barred brand of politics).

I think he missed the critical moment - it was the rise of Pat Buchanan.  Looking back, we can see in Buchanan a forerunner of Trump.  He was the angry, xenophobic, racist populist before Trump.  Trump merely managed to catch the right moment to take Buchanan's schtick to the next level.

The GOP has given itself over to the John Birch Society.  Once that was unthinkable.

Now we will have to see if it's survivable.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Exhausted

A long four days. Not sure it will entirely ease up, but it couldn't be any busier. I know everywhere looks great in June, but Chicago was just great.  The broad streets and wide sidewalks reminded me of the streets of Paris, complete with cafes and restaurants spilling outside.  The Loop is like a clean, friendly NYC.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

I Must Concur

Our cabbie from the airport said Chicago was the best. So far I'd have to agree with him. It's like the best of Boston combined with the best of NYC but clean.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Violent Country, A Violent Creed

Word that the shooter was a Sanders supporter does not reflect poorly on Sanders, but it does reflect poorly on the idea that "we need a revolution." This is what revolutions look like: bloody.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Call Your Senator

If you have a Republican Senator, please consider calling them and urging them not to strip health coverage from 20,000,000 Americans.

Here's a handy guide.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Kids Are Alright

A lot has been said about how Jeremy Corbyn defied the odds in the recent general election in Britain.  That's true, but I'm not certain how much of that is because of Jeremy Corbyn, per se.  

First, you have the collapse of the SNP, who were big winners in 2015.  They lost 19 seats to both Labour and Conservatives.  Perhaps this was a not-so-subtle jab at the SNP for a Scottish Exit from Britain.  Also, Labour poached seats in Wales and in Northern England.  In the north, it was especially a case of a collapse in UKIP.  UKIP went from 12.6% of the vote two years ago to 1.8% of the vote this June.  Either way, the real story is probably the collapse in support for the minor parties like SNP and UKIP.

Labour also won big in London, again with anti-Brexit voters.  The real message I take from the election is Brexgrets.  Sorry.  But it's clear that Britain is having serious second thoughts about Brexit.

Most notably, it was young voters who tilted the field to Labour.  They don't like Brexit and we are seeing a resurgence of socialism in young voters - at least in part by those who don't have living memories of the problems of state planning.

The Populist Right is undeniably an older cohort, presumably because they stay home and watch shitty TV.  There is a liberal wave coming demographically.  Sanders and this Labour result certainly suggest it's on its way.

The First Crisis

The Trump administration has largely been the author of most of its crises, and most of its crises are essentially political in nature.  Their impact is real, but limited to the political arena.  Experts have wondered what would happen when a true international crisis arose, how would the Trump "administration" handle it.

We are in the process of finding out.

Saudi Arabia and Egypt have led a coalition of Arab states in a boycott of Qatar, primarily because of Qatari support for the Muslim Brotherhood.  The Muslim Brotherhood has become a convenient straw man for the supposed fight against terrorism that Saudis pledged to Cheetoh Benito last month.  The fact that the MB has largely withdrawn from political violence and rejected terrorism doesn't seem to register, especially to a moron who only hears "Muslim" and "Brotherhood" in the same sentence and assumes they are bad.

In fact, Qatar is the home to a major American military base, from which raids on ISIS are launched, and Qatar has been funding the same rebel groups in Syria that the CIA funds.

Now, Turkey is pledging their support, along with Iran, to Qatar.  Significantly, neither Turkey nor Iran are Arab states, nor do they fear much from the Brotherhood.

The current conflict in Syria is best understood as a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, with ISIS as the wildcard.  Now, we have a second front under way in a conflict over support for the Muslim Brotherhood.

Rex Tillerson correctly understands that Qatar is a key American ally in the Middle East.  Donald Trump is a tangerine colored moron.  Their conflict over this exposes the dangers that Trump's emotive, irrational "leadership style" is bringing to this crisis.  Trump likes the Saudis.  They let him touch their glowing orb.  He can't see the deeper picture that Qatar represents a future Middle East not ruled over by retrograde monarchs like the House of Saud.  Or he doesn't care, because he likes the House of Saud's style.

Either way, a true Gulf War with Iran and Turkey on one side with Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Egypt on another would be an absolute calamity.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Own Goal

Congratulations to the Conservative Party of Great Britain.

They manage to commit unforced errors in consecutive Junes and still maintain control of 10 Downing.

That's oddly impressive.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Now What?

The Comey testimony - what little I could glean of it from bathroom breaks - appeared to have a few rhetorical fireworks but more along the lines of firecrackers than TNT.

What stood out in the coverage was how Republicans are running cover for Trump.  Seriously, McCain?  Hillary's emails?

There is little doubt that Trump engaged in obstruction of justice.  We have yet to determine the full menu of his criminality - follow the money - but that first charge alone was enough to bring down Nixon.  Plus, how is there not a strong contingent of Republicans who would prefer boring old troglodyte Mike Pence in the White House?

Trump is a criminal.  His supporters are morons.  His enablers in Congress are something worse.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Tehran

When Saudi Arabia and several other Arab states broke diplomatic relations with Qatar, because of their support for ISIS and Iran, that never made sense.  First, ISIS gets more support from Saudi Arabia than it gets from Qatar, and Iran and ISIS hate each other.

Trump, being a fool, took credit for this development which was really all about the power play between Riyadh and Tehran and not about terrorism.  Now, ISIS has attacked Iran, killing more people than were killed in London.

A smart president would use this to leverage better relations with Iran.

We have the walking comments section from a Yahoo! article as president, so that won't happen.  Nor will he acknowledge what the Islamaphobes overlook: more Muslims die at the hands of Islamist terrorists than non-Muslims.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Arby's

More people work at Arby's than in the coal industry.

But I bet they produce roughly the same amount of greenhouse gasses.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

ISIS, Europe And Terrorism

I have a "friend" on Facebook who posts a lot of inflammatory stuff about Muslims and terrorism.  His position is that Islam, as a religion, is inherently violent.  Certainly, he seems to revel in every assault upon a European city as validating his thesis.

However, there are a lot of Muslims in the world.  There are a lot of Muslims in the US.  Within the US, there was really one dyed in the wool jihadist attack, and that was San Bernandino.  The Orlando shooter, and probably the Ft. Hood shooter, seemed more expressions of American mental illness, though I could be persuaded about Ft. Hood.  There are also Muslims across Africa and Asia.  I mean, there are a billion Muslims.  If the religion itself was to blame, we'd have a lot more Londons and Manchesters and Parises on our hands.

Terrorism, properly understood, if political violence.  Political violence occurs when politics doesn't function properly.  A person or group does not have access to governance and so resorts to violence.  This makes sense when we think of groups like the IRA, ETA or even the PLO.  It's no less true of Islamist terrorists in Europe.  They feel disenfranchised and they have the same sense of a gap between what they feel society should give them and what they have.  That's the anger Trump voters feel, but they have access to the ballot.

There is no doubt that liberal democracy is facing a crisis.  In some ways, it is facing a crisis as it attempts to add pluralism to a culture (Europe's) that really has no experience with it.  It is facing a crisis in places like the US, as a form of authoritarian populism has taken surprising hold in Washington.

To me, there is a huge governance problem in the Middle East.  There is also a disenfranchisement problem in Europe.  Hopefully, we can keep most of that away, because you know Trump is salivating at a chance to exploit a terrorist attack in the US.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

At the AP Reading

Great people.

Still a death slog.

The Boston Tea Party was not a REAL party, yo.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Remarkable

Apparently the Trump Administration is telling federal agencies not to comply with oversight information requests from Democrats.  And they are at least considering blocking Comey's testimony, though I'm not sure how that would work.

We are slipping more and more towards a half-Russian political system.  I doubt seriously that we can get all the way there, but it will rely on this actually happening.  To be fair, I think it might, especially if Trump's global warming act wears thin among suburban whites.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

In Which I Disagree With Booman

I have long been a fan of Martin Longman's political analysis.  He has devoted a lot of time since November coming up with his plan for a return to Democratic governance.  He unveiled it.

I'm skeptical, though I think he proposes a fine policy.

First, he predicates his vision on a repeat of the alliance between Populists and Progressives around the turn of the last century.  This seems historically flawed.  Populists were reactionary, hoping to turn back the clock to an imagined golden era.  Sound familiar?  Progressives were largely interested in cleansing American democracy from the corruption of machine politics and the "malefactors of great wealth."  There was overlap, but Progressives always held Populists like William Jennings Bryan at arm's length.  They never really bridged the rural-urban divide, except in certain policy areas.  Their alliance was tactical, fragile and short-lived.

Secondly, I don't think there is a policy magic bullet.

If policy mattered, Al Gore would have won.  Hillary Clinton would have won.  Generally speaking, people prefer Democratic policies.  They want family leave.  They want a fairer tax code.  They want a cleaner environment.  They want universal health insurance.  Some of the historical unpopularity of Trump and the Republicans comes from the fact that Republicans have to put forth their agenda and no one really likes it.

Trump, to a certain degree, conned them into believing he was a different type of Republican.  My worry is that motivated reasoning will come into play and many of his voters will embrace whatever he does as a way to retroactively justify putting this ignoramus in power.  Trump did not win with a policy agenda beyond "build the Wall and make Mexico pay for it."  He won, because he actively reflected back to his supporters their sense of status anxiety and proposed himself as a magic bullet to solve the problem that it's not a white man's country anymore.

Adding a policy arrow to the Democratic quiver isn't going to solve that.

Perhaps running an explicitly class warfare campaign, targeting the 1%, would make sense.  As Charlie Pierce put it about the drum circles of the Occupy movement, at least they were shouting at the right buildings.

To me, that's the critical fulcrum.  If Democrats can run against the "malefactors of great wealth" and the "economic royalists" then they can plausibly fold anti-monopoly into that emotional message.

The GOP - and Trump - are doing all they can to reinforce this message; however, we have to get past motivated reasoning.  Most Trump voters were Reagan voters.  They liked Reagan.  So, eventually, they adopted Reagan's anti-government positions as their own, no matter the fact that they liked the programs that they benefited from.  This voting pattern and this anti-government position remained mostly unchanged, and in fact, it grew to a point where I doubt Reagan would recognize it.

The trick has always been to get voters to see the GOP as the Party of Money, and then to get them to see that Money is ruining their lives.  Anti-monopoly is simply another arrow in the same quiver.

Democrats win when they nominate charismatic, compelling persons.  Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are magnetic personalities, and as a redneck and a black man, no one could accuse them of being part of the "Establishment."  Dukakis, Gore, Kerry and Hillary are all very competent technocrats.  Hillary was the only one with a really compelling story, as potentially the first female president, but she was killed by the Clinton Rules that magnified poor email practices into a national scandal.  Meanwhile, Trump's connections to Russia went largely unreported outside of the Washington Post.

There is also a pendulum effect in American politics.  2008 leads to 2010, which leads to 2012.  Yes, Democrats don't vote as much in midterms, but they voted in 2006.  If Trump spends the next 18 months fighting off scandal and the congressional GOP spends the next 18 months trying to funnel money upwards, while the opiod epidemic and the hollowing out of manufacturing continues apace, then Democrats will win because of what the GOP does, rather than anything they do or say.

FDR won in 1932 because of Hoover, not because of the "New Deal" which was more rhetoric than program.  He won because the New Era of capitalism of the 1920s proved unstable.  That's true now.  And that unbridled capitalism of the 1920s came immediately after the Progressive moment.  Republicans were able to hide their unpopular policies behind Obama's veto.  They don't have that luxury anymore and it's showing.

The key for Democrats will be to attack the GOP as the Party of Plutocrats, not just the Party of Trump. If anti-monopoly helps, OK. I just don't see policy proposals, however laudable, as doing any real good.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

America's Crime, Mexico's Sentence

American demand for heroin is destroying large swaths of Mexico.

Interestingly, as American demand for marijuana decreases with various forms of legalization and decriminalization, the demand for heroin is rising.  The fact that Congress can't come together to find and fund an opiod treatment plan is among the many spectacular failures of our current government.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Always Another Barrel

Every time we hit the bottom of the barrel we find another barrel.  This week has led to much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments.  Predictably, the strong showing of a Democrat in a losing effort in Montana has made the usual suspects fret that the Democratic party is doomed.  This is good clickbait but bad political science, though Taibbi is right that Democrats have to limit their losses among rural voters, which is not the same thing as winning those voters.

We had Mango Mussolini blow up NATO for shits and giggles, while genuflecting before the Saudi terror sponsors and glad handing Netanyahu's ethnic cleansing in the West Bank.  Trump is full of praise for the Saudi monarchy, the Turkish dictator and the Filipino madman.  He seems to hate actual democratically elected leaders.

Oh, and he's going to pull us out of the Paris Accords.

And maybe destroy health care.

All of this comes with an unhealthy denial of objective reality, praising goons like Greg Gianforte and creating tears within the very fabric of American civil life.

This sucks.  And I don't know if anything less than a complete and catastrophic collapse of the economy and America's standing in the world can truly reverse this.

I'm reading a biography of FDR by HW Brands.  In the 1920s, as FDR recovered from polio, he shrewdly refrained from allowing himself to be dragged into the race for president in 1924 and 1928, because he knew those would be Republican years.  He only reluctantly allowed himself to be drafted to run for governor of New York in 1928, because Al Smith asked him to.

Yet, by 1932, Democrats would control both the House from 1932-1994 with only a two year break.  They controlled the Senate for almost as long and held the White House from 1932-1968, with only the anomalous Eisenhower years to intervene.

The problem is that it took the Great Depression to create this Democratic majority.  I fret it will require something as ominous to loosen the grip of the GOP on certain segments of the voting public.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Treason? He Went To Jared!

In actuality, I don't necessarily think Kushner was committing treason when he established a back channel to Russia during the transition.  I think he - along with much of the rest of the Trump people - were enriching themselves at the expense of the state.  When this whole sorry mess gets written out in history, it will feel more like Warren Harding than Benedict Arnold, although to be fair, Arnold was enriching himself, too.

The best line I've heard is that the problem with the Trump Crime Family is that they are all Fredos.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Played

Fareed Zakaria makes the excellent point that Trump got played by Saudi Arabia.  I've been having an argument on Facebook - always a good idea! - with a conservative Israeli and his minions about the nature of Islam and terrorism carried out by Muslims.  They love Trump, because....well, I don't know precisely, except they feel he's "tough on terror" which really means bigotry and simplistic thinking about Islam.

As Zakaria points out, the true "bad actors" are usually Saudi.  Iran - whom Trump singled out for vilification in his speech - is a "bad actor" generally, but not when it comes to terrorism.  To think that is to be stuck in decades old thinking.

But that's where we are.  Led by fools who can be duped by autocrats.

Good job, Republicans.

The Cold Comfort Of Moral Victories

Good job, Montana.  Perhaps you had already cast enough votes to elect odious billionaire Greg Gianforte before he allegedly assaulted a reporter for asking questions about health care.  But clearly people went to the polls yesterday and voted for this guy.

Matthew Yglesias makes the not unreasonable point that the margin of victory demonstrates a continuing collapse of support for the GOP in the Age of Trump.  Mathematically, he's correct.  Similar arguments about the unexpectedly close races in special elections in Oklahoma and elsewhere can be and were made.  After a while, however, we need more than moral/mathematical victories.  We need to win elections.

This puts a ton of pressure on the coming special election in Georgia.  Montana was, indeed, tough sledding for Democrats; it is precisely the sort of aging, WWC electorate that prefers Trump.  GA-6 is the sort of suburban district that might be flipped in 2018.  Current polling has Ossoff winning, but that will only make a possible defeat all the more demoralizing.  Liberals in the age of Florida 2000, Ohio 2004 and 2016 are predisposed to expect defeat.  Currently they are mobilized, but a string of these defeats would be crushing.

Democrats also need to reach out to so-called moderate Republicans like Michael Gerson who have shown the potential of breaking with the GOP over Trump's politics.  He represents a certain type of Republican voter who is sickened by the nature of our politics in the age of Fox News and Trump.  That means expanding the Democratic Tent to include people that the Sanders Left might be uncomfortable with.  Hopefully they will show enough flexibility to actually start winning some of these races.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Stay Classy

Remember when we were surprised when a political figure accidentally shot a guy in the face?

Now we have the GOP puking up a House candidate accused of assault and reports have notorious goon Corey Lewandowski being rehabilitated for Trump's crisis management team.

I've had a hard time accepting the term "fascist" for Trump's brand of politics, because Fascism means something specific.  But every time the Trump GOP embraces political violence - or even just explains it away - we are getting close to having that term slip from the realm of hyperbole.

UPDATE: And, sure enough, the conservative wing descends quickly into the gutter.  I think we can objectively describe the modern conservative movement as "Fuck all of y'all, I got mine."  Modified with incessant whining over any form of taxation to provide for the common weal.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Putin Country

I just finished Anne Garrell's Putin Country: A Journey Into Real Russia. It was a nice easy read in the tradition of journalists who write books.  What it showed about Russia was fascinating by looking at Chelyabinsk, a medium sized city near Kazakhstan rather than a cosmopolitan city like Moscow or St. Petersburg.  As Sarah Palin might put it, It's real Russia, flyover country.

What comes across so clear in the book is the authoritarian mindset among the people of Russia.  Russia in the '90s was awful, chaotic and corrupt and catastrophic.  Putin brought order.  This gibes with something I read recently by Richard Hofstadter that most reform movements actually occur during good times, rather than bad times - the New Deal being an exception.  Bad times call forth the Hobbesian need for a strong, masculine leader, rather than a respect for difference and differences.

Listening to these Russian talk about themselves, their country and the world, it was hard not to hear the Republican base.  They hate gays.  They think women should stay home and serve the man, while also earning money, but no public day care.  They don't want the environment to stand in the way of jobs.  They hate the rest of the world.  They believe in a strong link between the church and state.  They hate Muslims.  They hate immigrants.  They prefer superstition to science.

But it is their sense of grievance that rings out most powerfully.  It is cultural rather than strictly economic.  Russia was a superpower, but 1989 changed all that.  Putin made Russia great again!  America tries to undermine Russia at every turn, and in fact the reason life in Russia mostly sucks is because of America and the West.  First, you can see why Russians would want to screw around in American elections.

Most of all, we can see how this broad sense of grievance in the developed world leads to figures like Putin, Trump, Le Pen, Wilders, Erdogan and Farage.  There is a growing tide of these figures who are rolling back the postwar global liberal order that seemed so promising in 1945 and again in 1993.  Oddly, their ambitions mesh nicely with the same fanatics who blow themselves up at a concert hall in Manchester.

Clearly the important need of the moment is to find someone who can lead the West - broadly speaking the liberal order of civil rights and liberties, tolerance and the rule of law - away from the authoritarians and the bigots.

Just as clearly, we don't have that person in the White House now.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Message and The Messenger

The big debate roiling Democratic circles is how Democrats should find their way out of the wilderness that November thrust them into.  Here is a mildly representative piece, naturally from Daily Kos.  The basic assumption of issue advocates is, naturally, that a failure to address their issue is what led to Trump's victory* and therefore Democrats must jump on board their message, which is usually something that Bernie Sanders said.  Because Clinton lost, the assumption is that the person who got 3 million more votes than the loser despite high personal unfavorables was bearing a flawed message.

To some degree there is some truth to this, as Clinton was especially vulnerable to the sort of economic and political populism Trump was spouting.  Trump was the barbaric yawp against the "Establishment" and Clinton was a perfect representation of that Establishment.

The argument breaks down when you consider the OTHER part of Clinton's flaws: She was way too wonky.  Clinton had plans upon plans upon plans.  And while many of them didn't go as far as Sanders' plans, they had the advantage of being realistic.  Sanders wanted to send everyone to college for free, which is actually kind of a crappy idea.  Clinton wanted to reduce current college debt and make college more affordable.  That is a good idea, and possibly achievable in a world without a GOP controlled Congress.

Clinton didn't lack for PLANS.  Her problem was that Trump managed to set the terms under which the campaign was fought.  With Trump's high negatives, you HAD to hit that.  How many things did Trump do that were disqualifying for any previous presidential candidate?  How do you NOT address that?

Since Clinton lost, the assumption has been that simply running against Trump in 2018 and 2020 won't be enough to win back the Congress and the White House.

I think that's largely wrong.  Ruy Teixeira has always been the most optimistic of liberal thinkers - he co-authored The Emerging Democratic Majority - which still seems to hold, even if we have to account for Trump's win.  Trump voters are much older than non-Trump voters and there will simply be fewer of them with each election.  Meanwhile the young embrace actual socialism in numbers we haven't seen before.

Anyway, Teixeira says that Trump is basically the best thing to happen to liberal ideas.  He has a TON of data to back it up, so go take a gander.  The key to understanding how something like Trump happens is two things, one of which Teixeira addresses: Americans are "symbolically conservative" and "operationally liberal."

Americans define themselves philosophically as conservative, but tend to embrace liberal policy positions.  This has been true for decades, and it drives me insane.  On just about every single issue in 2000, more people preferred Al Gore's position to George Bush's.  Same goes for 2004 and 2016 with Kerry and Clinton.  However, their symbolic conservatism makes them susceptible to conservative messaging.  Add in the poor geographic distribution of Democratic voters, and you have the electoral results that we have seen time and again.  Democrats get more votes and Republicans get more power.

That leads me to the point that Teixeira doesn't specifically address: the small-c conservatism of Americans doesn't mean Movement Conservatism.  Americans don't really want the apple cart overturned.  Obamacare was change and that freaked people out.  What's more, the party that holds the White House is held responsible for, well, everything.  If things are good, the party in power benefits; if things are bad, the party in power suffers.

This is a powerful argument in favor of continued protests.  I'm not a huge fan of political theater, but the left needs to have as many big protests as possible, to drive home the idea that things simply aren't OK.

What Teixeira really demonstrates though is that the message already exists.  Democrats don't need a "new message."  They need to talk about expanding Obamacare via a public option with a general move towards universal single payer.  They need to talk about taxing the rich to pay for infrastructure and education, especially college debt.  They need to talk about ethics in government.

That's it.  And that is largely what Clinton ran on, when she wasn't trying to respond to the latest outrage against civility and decency from Cheetoh, Benito.

Trump is a dumpster fire.  We are barely four months into his administration and people are seriously using the term impeachment.  The main message the Democrats should be harping on is Trump and Paul Ryan's policies: less health care, more tax cuts for the rich.  Less spending on, well, everything.  More corruption, well, everywhere.

The problem is NOT the message.  The problem is that Democrats need a great messenger.  They had one in Bill Clinton, not Hillary.  They had one in Barack Obama, not Al Gore or John Kerry.  They need someone who jumps through the screen and grabs the viewer's imagination.

And when they do get that person in the White House, they need a Democratic Congress to actually accomplish what they said they would do.  Obama ran into the McConnell stratagem of  universal obstruction and therefore had to water down every proposal to appease Joe Fucking Lieberman.  And then they lost the House and control over redistricting in 2010.

The Democrats have their message.  It is the same message they always have had and it's a winning message.  Trump alone makes that message more appealing.  Now they just need to find someone who can deliver it.

Morons. We Are Working With Morons.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross gushes over the fact there were no protests in Saudi Arabia.  Given that Trump basically gave a speech that could've been written by the Saudi royal family and, oh, the fact that Saudi Arabia is one of the most repressive regimes in the world, it's actually not a surprise.

You want to know why so much of the GOP admires Putin?  It's because so many of them crave the sort of political control he has.

What We Are Talking About, When We Talk About Russia

Josh Marshall has been all over one aspect of the Trump story, which is Trump's longtime financial dependency on Russian money.  As he summarizes here, the special counsel has pretty free rein to investigate any tangents from the original probe of Russian interference in the election.  If they are looking at Trump's crimes beyond the idea that he colluded with the Russians over Wikileaks and other acts, then Trump is likely in trouble.

The problem, of course, is that we are likely to see the following outcomes:

1) A bunch of Trump's campaign people go to jail for working with the Russians.

2) Trump gets exposed as a money launderer with extensive ties to organized crime.

3) No one cares, because there's no blow job involved.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The King's Speech

Trumpelthinskin was pumped full of Thorazine and rolled out in front of the TelePrompTer to give a speech that will probably be touted by the same desperate journalists who said his SOTU address was "the pivot."  There are some who are dying for Trump to "pivot" into a normal president.  Certainly, when he gets in front of a prepared text, he can do a poor impression of a normal person.  In listening to his address this morning, he sounded drugged and defeated. Unable to let his freak flag fly, he was reduced to making anodyne statements about good and evil.

He also - gasp! - did not use the magical phrase "Radical Islam" to call forth the demons of the Islamic world that they might be destroyed by the very words "Radical Islam," which Obama never uttered because he hates America.  And puppies.

The problem I had with the speech was that might as well have been written by King Salman of Saudi Arabia. It did not address the complex socio-economic factors and disenfranchisement that drives most of the young recruits into the arms of ISIS.  It therefore absolved regimes like that of Saudi Arabia that use corruption and oil wealth to enrich themselves while their younger subjects search in vain for a meaningful, fulfilling future.

An additional bit of text that sounded like it was written by the Saudis was the usual denunciation of Iran.  This is painfully ironic, in that Iran just had a very successful election that returned President Rouhani to power - a man dedicated to bringing Iran into greater concert with the rest of the world.  We had a similar opportunity under President Khatami in the late '90s and early '00s, but the Axis of Evil Speech undercut all efforts by Khatami to open to the West and led to the rise of Ahmadinejad.

This speech took a bland, cartoonish interpretation of the violence of the Middle East - it's all Iran's fault for supporting Assad, leaving aside Russia's role and absolving Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States for empowering ISIS - and throws the door shut in Rouhani's face, just as he can plausibly claim a mandate to bring Iran back into the community of nations.

An Iran that is powerful and integrated into global norms is a real threat to Saudi Arabia.  More so, arguably, than a nuclear armed Iran.  Iran has elections, however flawed. Iran has some rights for women, however circumscribed.  Iran has the potential to help stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan, however little.

The constant thrall of DC to Saudi antipathy towards Iran is based somewhat on our own fraught history with the Islamic Republic, but it is also bought and paid for by Saudi billions.  And it's a damned shame.

But Trump didn't step on his own dick, so...pivot!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Here's Some Good News

Iran President Hassan Rouhani has been overwhelmingly re-elected in the face of a hardline challenger.  While we should never overstate the degree of democracy in Iran, at this point, we can at least applaud the decision the Iranian people made from the choices they were allowed.

Rouhani will hopefully be allowed to continue his process of re-integrating Iran with the rest of the world.  That is unless Trumpelthinskin decides to destroy the whole thing.

Friday, May 19, 2017

FFS

Lieberman?  Really?

The Heir Apparent

Efforts are underway to inoculate Mike Pence from the burgeoning scandals of Trumpistan.  They are mostly bullshit. 

You can, of course, understand what's going on.  Pence is a classic troglodyte conservative who lacks the cognitive abilities of a border collie, although to be fair, border collies are pretty smart.  However, he's infinitely preferable to Twitler.  It's difficult for a day to go by without Trump admitting to a crime on camera.

Pence has the charisma of a brick, but he might not drag the Republican party down.  First, however, they have to distance him from the legal cesspool of the current occupant of the West Wing.

Good luck with that.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Oh. Just Shut Up

Trump is the whiniest manbaby I've ever come across.  Read these Tweets.

If you can't take a little criticism slink off to Mar A Lago you whiny little child.  Just shut the fuck up and let the grown ups talk, OK?

Oh, and Jabba the Hutt Cosplay Enthusiast Roger Ailes has died.  Hopefully this is the beginning of a trend for the Silent Generation of petulant cry babies, who only take time off from advertising their own victimhood and specialness to criticize 7 year olds for getting participation trophies.

The Payoff

Yesterday, the Trump Administration - in between acts of obstructing justice - took some time to follow through on "the very worst deal, the Iran deal, very weak.  Sad!"  The US followed through on our commitments, because Iran is following through on theirs.

Meanwhile, tomorrow Iran heads to the polls to elect their president.  Rouhani - the architect of the nuclear deal - is running for re-election against a conservative hard-liner.  Following through on our commitments is his best chance to win re-election and the best outcome for the US and really the entire region.

It's almost like careful, considered actions are preferable to half-assed Twittergasms of rage.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Genuinely Mystifying

As Martin Longman notes, parties will protect their presidents because they have ideological and personal stakes in that presidency succeeding.

It's also worth noting that Trump has no real personal ties with the establishment GOP.  Mike Pence does.

If the GOP wants to ram through its cruel, retrograde agenda of funneling wealth upwards, why not do it with Mike Pence in the Oval Office?  OK, he's stupid and uncharismatic, but doesn't that make him perfect for the job?  If anything, Pence's thundering blandness would be a welcome respite from the non-stop shitshow we are enduring now.

Why should the congressional GOP protect Trump?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Trial Run

OK, I just posited the lifecycle of a Trump story.  Now we have another one: Trump obstructed justice.

We should have some form of denial from hapless fartbag Sean Spicer soon, followed by Trump tweeting something outrageous in the wee hours of the morning.

Let's see if the pattern holds.

UPDATE: White House issues anodyne defense.  We are at stage two!

Lifecycle Of A Trump Story

At this point, it doesn't make any sense to react to the latest shitshow coming out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  The story will basically follow this pattern:

1) Fed up members of the government leak damaging information to a newspaper (probably the WaPo).

2) Trump's media team tries to carefully word a denial.

3) Trump ragetweets in the early morning that in fact he did exactly what the original story said he did and screw you,

4) Trump's media team bangs head against a wall until the screaming in their head stops.

5) Everyone rewinds the SNL clip of "Lester Holt" saying, "Nothing matters anymore."

I honestly don't know how we survive this moronic lunatic for three years and 8 months more.

Monday, May 15, 2017

A Victory, However Impermanent

The Supreme Court won't hear the case about North Carolina's naked voter suppression law.

This is good news, as North Carolina has been gerrymandered to death and adding voter suppression to the table would turn a purple state red.  This feels like a rearguard action by the GOP, as they seek to avoid having North Carolina go the way of Virginia.  However, I think we know that Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III will likely unleash some form of voter suppression on the national level, sooner rather than later.

There is substantial evidence that Wisconsin went for Trump because of the Voter ID law passed in that state. Reducing the access to the polls and the Electoral College are the only things that allow Republicans to hang on to power.

It's your democracy, America, cherish it.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Serious Question

Why are white supremacists always objectively the biggest losers on the planet?

They can chant and troll 4-chan all they want.  They will still be "fat virgins living in their parent's basement."

Yeesh.

Baffling


What a week, amirite?

You have the following revelations:

- Trump asked Comey for loyalty to himself rather than the law and doesn't see anything wrong with that.

- Trump flat out admits to obstructing justice in his firing of James Comey.

- Trump hints that he is recording conversations in the Oval Office, a practice he engaged in while in business.

So, to recap, we have basically the Watergate timeline that took Woodward and Bernstein and Archibald Cox almost two years to unravel basically occurring in a couple of news cycles.  In the words of Ron Burgundy, "Well, that escalated quickly."

Of course, as soon as the Saturday Night Massacre comparisons started to be made, the question becomes, What next?  Recall the Watergate timeline:
June 17, 1972 - The Plumbers are arrested bugging the DNC headquarter in the Watergate building.
October 10 - The Post reports that the bugging was tied to the reelection of Nixon.
November 11 - Nixon wins a landslide
January 30, 1973 - Liddy and McCord are convicted.
April 30 - Haldeman, Ehrlichman and Dean resign or are fired.
May 18 - Senate Watergate hearings begin.
July 13 - Butterfield lets slip that the White House tapes everything
July 23 - Nixon refuses to turn over the tapes.
October 20 - Saturday Night Massacre, Nixon fires AG, Asst AG and Cox
December 7 - The 18 minute gap is revealed.
July 24, 1974 - Supreme Court rules all tapes must be turned over.
August 8 - Nixon resigns.

That's two years.  Trump managed to compress that into two days.  He says he fired Comey over the "Russia thing" and that he might be tape recording stuff.  There are also reports he might be ready to fire a bunch more people.  Whatever, it's not Sean Spicer's fault that Trump routinely undercuts him in real time.

Like with Watergate, the problem is that the true problem resides in the Oval Office.  You can fire as many staffers as you want, but as long as Trump is president we are in for a rolling crisis in governance that seriously undermines the country.

This is bad.

Whenever Watergate comes up, the examples of Howard Baker and Barry Goldwater are dredged up to show how Republicans acted with honor and put their country first.  The problem, of course, is the timeline.  The Republicans at first defended Nixon.  Again and again they defended him.  And of course Democrats controlled the Congress in the mid-'70s.  Republicans can't react to Democrats exposing the dark secrets of the Nixon White House, they have to react to their own President revealing his crimes.

The question becomes when will Republicans break with the President.  And the answer is, "Most likely never."  Republicans are so afraid of the mouth breathing morons who elevated this would-be dictator and charlatan that they dare not cross their voters.  Sharp partisanship means that, while I imagine every single Republican Congressman would prefer to work with President Pence, they will be left to cower in the corners in fear of exciting their own voters against them.  That leaves us with Profiles in Cowardice like this.

This story is moving incredibly fast.  It is impossible to keep up with the revelations in real time.  Perhaps as this story sinks in, some of that Republican support for Trump softens and the institutional GOP ousts him in favor of Pence.

I can't see that from here.

But as we go into 2018, we need to express loud and clear and often that this is not a Trump Problem, this is a Republican Problem.  They've sold out their constitutional duty to keep a grip on power.

Shame on them.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Podesta Tries Some Trolling

John Podesta takes to the WaPo to troll the Trump White House staff.  He notes that the behavior of the White House staff is so incredibly far beyond the expected norms of American political behavior that they should resign.

This is, of course, true, but irrelevant, which is what makes it trolling.  The problem with the Trump Administration is not that the staff won't "speak truth to power" and protect the Office of the President, as opposed to the president himself.  The problem IS the president.  The problem is that Donald Trump can't be counted on to do anything approaching normal legal, ethical or political behavior.  Kathleen Parker thinks maybe an alien is wearing a Donald Trump suit, but she's probably closer to the truth when she suggests Trump fired Comey, because Comey is taller.

We are hopefully approaching the Emperor Has No Clothes moment that we need, but will it matter?  Trump has ALWAYS been this guy.  That's why Obama - ever the optimist - presumed America would not, could not elect this sputtering, incoherent bag of wounded ego and hot air.  Clinton's essential argument - "Donald Trump is not fit to be president" - has been criticized for not being positive or for not reaching WWC Rust Belt voters.  No one has stopped to consider that it is undoubtedly true.  Fewer are willing to wrestle with the fact that Trump's manifest unfitness for office, his arrested mental and emotional development and his fundamental assholishness is NOT disqualifying for Republicans, who continue to support this fraud in substantial numbers.

Maybe, hopefully, if Republican elites were to turn on Trump, some of his rank and file support would fall away. But there's little evidence that Trump supporters (as opposed to Trump voters) take any cues from Washington.

The Republicans elected Trump.  They support Trump still.  This is who they are.

No amount of buck passing should obscure this fact.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Motivated Reasoning In Action

Holy crap.

I would like to thank the Republican party - its voters and its elected officials - for giving us the worst president in this country's history.  For enabling a petulant man-child access to the levers of power and then to support him after he says and does things that should horrify anyone who cares about this country.

Seriously, tell me again how patriotic you are.

Unified Theory Of Trump

Reporters, politicians and political analysts have all approached Trump with the wrong filter; I'm as guilty as they are.  They have looked at Trump as a political animal who calculates moves from an ideological perspective.  This leaves them flummoxed when Trump makes what would normally be a self-destructive action.  But he does it and keeps right on going.

It is better to think of Trump as a 70 year old 3 year old. Which is to say, Trump has never learned to see other people as anything more than extensions of his own self.  And he reacts to everything entirely as emotional stimulae.  This is the point of David Roberts' tweetstorm yesterday.

Trump sees everything through the filter of how it reflects on him.  Does this make me look or feel good?  Then it is objectively good.  Does this make me look or feel bad? Then it is objectively bad.  So the revelation that Trump basically fired Comey because of Comey's "mildly nauseous" comment fits perfectly into this and "Trump's Razor" which  posits that the stupidest explanation of his behavior is likely the correct one. Comey meant that he was nauseous that he might have tipped the election one way or another, but Trump saw it as a slight against him, combined with the fact that Comey wouldn't pledge fealty to Trump and shut down the Russia investigation.  Boom, Comey gets fired and Trump can't understand what the big deal is, because he's a child who can't understand other people's perspectives.

This lends itself to an interesting conclusion about the Russia investigation.  The best explanation from the available evidence is that several of Trump's campaign figures were colluding with Russian hackers to expose unflattering stories about Hillary and the Democrats.  Trump himself is unlikely to have been involved.  However, the Russia story makes him look bad, so he is in the process of obstructing justice, which is - you know - a CRIME, because the story makes him mad.

Here are the basic options:

A) Trump colluded with the Russians to swing the election.
B) Trump did not collude with the Russians, but he's obstructing justice because he has the emotional intelligence of a three year old.

Which one scares you more?

UPDATE:  I mean, holy shit.  Doesn't he know it's NOT a good thing to be constantly compared to Nixon?

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Can We Invoke The 25th Amendment Yet?

The Preznit is a golldang moe-ron.

Halfway To A Good Idea

Democrats are going to GOP House members' town halls.  That's good, as far as it goes, to show that Democrats as a party aren't afraid of no ghosts constituents.

What they should be doing is identifying promising candidates for GOP House seats, coaching them up and then appear on stage with the sitting Democratic House member from another district.  Start making people see a face that they can relate to who is on their side.

It's early yet, but that's what I'd be doing.

Trump Is All Amygdala

David Roberts basically diagnosis Trump as not having a Mind.  It's worth a read.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Things You May Have Missed

In case you missed the OTHER assaults on democracy, we have this nuggets:

A reporter was arrested for asking HSS Secretary Tom Price questions.

Trump met with the Russian Foreign Minister and excluded American press but allowed Russian press into the room.

Right now the only safeguards against Trump's abuses of power are the press and the courts.  Trump has taken aim at both.

Lies And The Lying Liars Who Tell Them

As the damage to this countries political institutions comes fast and heavy, we should step back a moment to consider that perhaps the single greatest damage Trump is doing to our institutions is normalizing brazen, baldface lying.

Matthew Yglesias has a pretty thorough piece where he runs through the various lies that the GOP has embraced to sell the American Shitburger Act of 2017.  The important point is that these are not just Trump's lies.  I think we have become somewhat numb to the complete disregard for the truth that Trump has demonstrated throughout his life.  What is disturbing is that the GOP has no embraced this tactic of simply lying their asses off whenever it suits them.

I mean, why not?  As Trump observed, he could shoot a man in the face on Fifth Avenue and not lose any support.  That pretty much seems to go for the entire GOP.  Odious ambulatory cream cheese sculpture, Mitch McConnell, came forward and basically said, "Hey, no biggee.  I'm sure the House Oversight Committee is totally on this."  Anyone even half paying attention knows that there is almost no circumstance that one can reasonably imagine that would cause the GOP to break with Trump.  He's going to let them deregulate business, strip health care from the poor, appoint reactionary judges and pass tax cuts for the super rich.

What's not to like?  And besides, what's a little treason and obstruction of justice among friends.

For whatever reason the Right has proven much more vulnerable to the demonstrably false statements coming from Fox and Friends, which is to say Fox and the GOP.  There are people on the Left who will fall for SPIN, but spin is different from lies.

I had a discussion with someone over the "rape is a preexisting condition" story.  That's spin.  It's not that you won't be treated for rape.  But it is true that if you have psychological issues or a persistent STD from that rape, that IS a preexisting condition.  That's spin, and spin is an old political form of speech.

What we have here is new and profoundly disturbing.  Without a common frame of reference, it is literally impossible to see how we can survive as a democratic nation.

It's THAT bad.

Trump's Gonna Trump

So why and how did the Comey firing happen?  That's the question everyone seems to be asking.  The official rationale for his firing has the irony of being absolutely true and absolutely irrelevant.  It is "world class trolling."  Trump was apparently taken aback by the blowback he's getting from Democrats.  He assumed that because Democrats were and are pissed about Comey's unprofessional meddling in the election a week before the vote that Democrats would be pleased that Comey was fired.

Think about what this reveals about Trump.

Trump is a narcissist.  That can't be in doubt anymore.  He's also a naif.  In his mind, anyone who slights or upsets him, anyone who angers him is by definition an enemy, a bad person.  He projected this petulance onto Democrats (and much of the public).  He seems incapable of understanding why someone would both hate Comey's job performance and yet not want to see him fired.

As a historical illiterate, he probably can't remember the outrage of the Saturday Night Massacre or why the appearance of meddling in an on-going investigation would stink to high heaven.  He has responded to this criticism exactly as one might expect with an unhinged Tweetrum that casts blame everywhere but where it belongs.

All of this - of course - is the most favorable explanation for the firing of James Comey.  Trump didn't like the Russian investigation, because anything that is bad for Trump is, ipso facto, bad.  Comey is a sanctimonious tool who has no friends on either side of the aisle.  Trump wanted him gone, because he's objectively pretty bad at his job.

Trump's inability to see the context of the firing - the recent subpoenas the FBI have filed, the Yates testimony, the possible testimony of Michael Flynn, the possible squealing by Roger Stone - is not terribly surprising.  Again, he's a narcissist and a naif.  He has zero perspective beyond his own blinkered sense of self.  Comey=bad; Comey=gone.

Trump has been under some form of investigation for years.  He was a scummy, scummy business man.  All of these investigations are "fake news" in Trumpistan.

Of course, these is not fake news.  The timing, the circumstances...this screams cover-up.  From a man who still hasn't released his tax returns, from a man who only fired Flynn because someone leaked the damaging evidence of Flynn's compromised state, from a man whose every move has been to silence dissent and disloyalty to Trump the Man, all of this behavior suggests that there is a major fire at the center of the Russian scandal.

But then again, there is another plausible story where Trump's behavior is simply a product of his narcissism and ignorance.  Certainly his surprise that people would be upset by this transparently self-serving move suggests that he's not looking at this as a cover-up.

Nevertheless, even with the best possible spin on this - Trump is an idiot and a narcissist who doesn't understand basic norms of accountability in government - still requires an independent prosecutor.

Whether the sycophantic, craven lickspittles of the Republican caucus can see their duty to the country rather than their party remains very much in doubt.  Very much in doubt.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

This Is...Bad

I believe with a near certainty that James Comey's terrible and unprofessional decision to insert himself into the presidential race in late October is why we currently have a kleptocratic narcissist in the White House.  The race was too close and the math is too sound to suggest anything different.  Maybe it shouldn't have been close enough for it to matter, but Clinton had close to a 6 point lead before the letter, she finished with just under a 3 point win in the popular vote and lost three critical states by a combined vote total of less that 100,000 votes.

Comey gave us Trump.

However, his firing means that the last marginally independent investigation - outside of the press - into Trump's Russian connections and the various venal and self-serving enterprises of the gang of grifters currently running this country is now kaput.

Republicans have repeated time and time again that when faced with a choice between party loyalty or the good of the country, they will choose party loyalty.  Unless John Cassidy, Susan Murkowski and Susan Collins can hang tough, the Senate will pass the American Shitburger Act of 2017 and strip health insurance from 24,000,000+ Americans.  And now, the last best defender of any investigation into Trump's web of lies and nefarious connections to Russia is gone.  Trump will appoint some clownishly evil mandarin - my money's on Rudy Giuliani - to run the FBI and shield Trump from further scrutiny.  As Charlie Pierce notes, it's not even subtle what they are doing here.

In a functioning America, Comey should have been fired months ago.  For those who hate him for saddling us with Trump, I fear we are going to miss him in a few months, when the FBI and DOJ decides to prosecute Hillary Clinton for her emails, while the Washington Post's reports of graft and foreign influence go Scot free.

Sorry, this really has me freaked out a little.  This is clumsy tinpot dictator territory.

Social Anxiety vs Status Anxiety

The "latest survey" shows that Trump voters were most motivated by cultural anxiety, not economic anxiety.  This contradicts the idea that Bernie Sanders' message could have won these voters, though I think we have to acknowledge that he probably would have won some votes that Clinton lost, while also losing some votes she did win.

However, as with all things 2016, we need to keep two big things in sight: Trump won because of a quirk in the Electoral College that allowed a clear minority president to win and the Trump Coalition is old.

So the idea that Trump could somehow use these same votes to win in 2020 seems a stretch.  If he garners 46% of the vote again - no guarantees that he will - it is tough to see him (in Roger Cohen's words) draw three consecutive inside straights again.

The idea that "racism" drove Trump voters is as incomplete as the "economic factors" argument.  Yes, the cultural anxiety referenced in the piece is sort of coded for race, but that doesn't make all these voters "racist."  Some certainly are, and this isn't even scratching the surface of the Alt-Right. No one is suggesting that Democrats can return to power by winning the vote of Milo Yianolinhkjbdfkjbkjhs or whatever his name is.

The question is, can they lose WWC voters by a small enough margin.  This article suggests that could be difficult, absent a recession.  Their identification with being part of a "beleaguered majority" is atavistic.  It's not going to be mollified by a position paper or careful messaging.  As the article above notes: Republicans voted for the Republican.  And this milieu of white grievance is a critical part of Republican politics.

The GOP self-inflicted wound of the Shitburger Act of 2017 could unmoor some of Trump's softer support, and the actuarial table will remove a little bit more every year, especially in the Rust Belt.

However, these rural WWC voters aren't wrong that their relative status in America is declining.  Both the Obama years and the current virulent backlash against Trump among the "creative classes" is reinforcing.  This would suggest that the current strategy of trying to win college educated suburban voters might actually be the best way forward.  Ed Burmila says this is group is unreachable.  They have been the backbone of Reaganite Republicanism since Nixon.

But I wonder if perhaps that overstates the monolithic nature of the suburbs.  Again, what will Georgia 6 and Montana-at-large tell us?

Russian To Judgment

Like many have noted, the Russian story isn't going away.  Sally Yates basically showed what the competent members of the federal state have been saying: Russia has had its fingers in Trump's pie in substantial and troubling ways.

Yates didn't necessarily drop a bombshell, even if she did blast some of the sanctimonious hypocrisy of ambulatory shitbags like Ted Cruz.  Seriously Texas, we know you hate anything to the left of Lindsay Graham, but is he really the best you can do?  Take a quick look at this gif that I can't embed.  Yates pretty much represents any competent, thinking human being who is confronted by the idiocracy currently manifesting in Republican governance.

The fact that Republicans SENATORS (as opposed to the partisan mercenaries of the House) spent much of their question time pressing her on the travel ban and the nature of leaks rather than on the fact that Trump seemed perfectly content to have his National Security Adviser being at best compromised by the Russians, if not an outright Russian mole, is the scariest expression yet of just how far the GOP will go to hang on to power.

Speaking of Lindsay Graham, he is burnishing his maverick credentials by taking on the Trump team in this.  I guess I should be encouraged, but I keep coming back to Josh Marshall's Law of GOP Governance: the Moderates Always Cave.  Graham pretty much hates Trump, but Ted Cruz should hate Trump, too.  Trump went after his father and his wife, for crying out loud.  And yet there was Tailgunner Ted attacking Yates and protecting a Trump Administration that couldn't be bothered that its NSA was carrying on nefarious plotting with the Russian ambassador.

What the everloving hell, people?

Critics of Trump and advocates for, you know, democracy are worried that Trump's ability to generate outrage outpaces our ability to assimilate it into our new world.  There is little doubt that the Trump White House is engaged in something political scientists call rent seeking.  Basically in this case, the Trump extended family is trying to enrich itself because of its connection to the US government.  Look at this unbridled act of overt corruption by the Kushner family.

The problem is that the Trump administration is liable to be the most overtly corrupt in our nation's history.  Warren Harding was personally honest.  Nixon didn't enrich himself off the state.  Meanwhile, as Trump engorges his family fortune, the government turns a blind eye to bad actors like Michael Flynn.

I'll say it again.  What the everloving hell, people?

Monday, May 8, 2017

Anglo-Saxons...

The recent results of elections in Europe - the Dutch and French elections - demonstrate that while right wing populism has legs, those legs are very short.

Some of this was due to the nature of elections.  If we had a majority vote system like the French, we likely avoid Trumpelthinskin.  If we had a parliamentary system like the Netherlands, we likely avoid Trumpelthinskin.  We shall see what the June Parliament elections in Britain bring, but the hopeless and hapless nature of today's Labour party suggest we will see large numbers of Conservative MPs.  What we won't see are large number of UKIP MPs.

Brexit and Trump share a calendar year (Someone suggested that Wilders and Le Pen would have won if the calendar said 2016.  That someone might have been my son.) but they also share the genetic link of Anglo-Saxonism.  Both Britain and America, as island and continental nations respectively, have always looked at the rest of the world with side-eyed suspicion.  The sense of exceptionalism that they share as being the pre-eminent world powers of the 19th and 20th centuries - again respectively - means that they see themselves above and apart from much of the rest of the world.

The people of France and Holland are not a people apart, the way Britains and Americans are - or at least the British and American country folk who revel in their history of empire without having been any further afield than that one trip to the Big City to see Cats in the '80s.

It is perhaps not wrong to see the current moment being less a conflict between the Christian/secular West and the Islamic East as it is between the Global "We" and the Tribal "I."  Between - as Barber put it 25 years ago - McWorld and Jihad, not the jihad of Islam, but the struggle of a tribal, particular group against the global whole.  Trump and Le Pen draw strength from Russia, because Putin hates the Global "We."  In this way, the Tribal "I" of Putin, Trump and Le Pen has more in common with ISIS than with the cosmopolitan French victims of an ISIS killer.


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Another Brick In The Wall

A story that seems to have disappeared from the news is the Trump-Russia connection.  There is the possible Michael Flynn testimony to Congress, but aside from that, the story has moved very far to the back burner.

But it's not dead.

Here is something being reported out of Boston.  Back in 2014, a golf writer queried the Trumps about where they were getting money to build golf courses.  No American banks would loan to Trump - only Deutschebank would among major banks - and no one was making loans for golf courses in the post-2008 financial landscape.

Where did they get their money?  Russia.  They are pretty up front about it in the article, as they have been in other places before Donald started running for president.  In case you were wondering what was in those tax returns, one thing you would likely see is that Trump was leveraged up to his ass to Russian oligarchs.

Of course, none of this proves a quid pro quo, though you could understand why Trump would be opposed to the sanctions Obama put in place shortly after this interview was given.  And you could understand why Trump has been reflexively pro-Russian and pro-Putin.  You can also understand why the Russians would want to do what they could to get Trump in the White House.

The question ultimately is whether there is a smoking gun out there to tie all the threads of this story together.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Coinky Dinky

Isn't it amazing that the hacks of political campaigns all seem to benefit the right wing populists preferred by Moscow?  What a coincidence!

If this is another example of Russia mucking about the the Western world's political processes, at what point does this require a vigorous response? There may not be any shooting,  but this is aggression plain and simple.

Friday, May 5, 2017

How Broken Are We?

Ed Burmila asks a good question: Have our politics disappeared completely down the rabbit hole of false facts and alternative realities?

His argument is that we operate on certain assumptions about human behavior, one of which is that humans will - all things being taken into consideration - act on their best interests.  But that evaluation of what is in our best interests is subjective and bound by the limits of the information available in any given moment.

The vote the House took yesterday is being met generally with disbelief by those who operate within a knowledge ecosystem that prizes facts and evidence.  The AHCA is an objectively horrible bill that violates every promise Trump made about health care.  Of course, given that he is a complete ignoramus, Trump may not know that the bill he feted with a kegger violates every single promise he made.  Or he knows and doesn't care.

Given that the MORE GENEROUS version of this shitburger polled about as well as syphilis or cockroaches, the more punitive and restrictive version is unlikely to improve on that number.

Unless...

If Trump and the GOP and Fox News all say what a great bill it is, some people will simply accept that it is a great bill.  No amount of evidence, presumably, will alter the view proffered to them by Dear Leader.  Partisan loyalty, in this case, will triumph over basic facts.  Add in that health care is "hard" and "complicated" and opinions differ and "both sides are to blame" and you wind up with a situation where a GOP Congressman would see voting for the shitburger to be in his best interest.  And of course, he's been made to reflexively fear a primary challenge to his right, and not passing the shitburger presumably increases the odds that a David Brat will come along and unseat him.

There is of course another possibility, which is that the American people become outraged by the heartlessness of the shitburger and create a wave election that sweeps the GOP out of the House.

So a lot of things are on the ballot in 2018.  Our understanding of objective reality might be one of them,

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Perspective

"And then we said, let's fuck over MORE people!"

There is some general wailing and rending of garments about what the House GOP did today with their repeal bill.  OK, it's an objectively awful piece of legislation.  I get that it brings us closer to a very bad outcome for tens of millions of Americans.

But I felt this was always going to pass the House.  I was gobsmacked that it didn't pass within the first month.

Anyway, the Senate has always been the battleground.  As it is, the House GOP just voted for a shitburger of a bill that will only become less popular once someone actually reads and scores the damned thing. Josh Marshall has something called the Iron Law of Republican Politics, which is "the moderates always cave."  His benchmark was impeachment, which was an objectively dumb idea at the time and seen as such.  The moderates in the House did, indeed, cave.  But quite a few Senate Republicans balked at removal, because the Senate isn't the House.

So, yes, maybe the Senate moderates do cave.  But I have a feeling the coverage of this bill is going to get worse, not better.  I know Susan Collins wants to be governor of Maine, so she's not going to vote for it.  Rob Portman is already a "no".  I think Lisa Murkowski's a pretty strong "no".  Tom Cotton seemed like a "no" earlier.

In fact, the Senate has decided to "start from scratch."  That can't make the Freedumb Caucus happy.

Anyway, they voted for the shitburger.  They own it whether it passes the Senate or not.

They would strip health care from millions of Americans just to satisfy this smug prick that he fulfilled his Randian duty to starve some grannies.

Zombie Trumpcare

Third time is the charm, apparently, for the GOP's long held goal of stripping health insurance from Americans and making even existing health care programs dysfunctional.

There is a strong possibility that this shitburger of a bill passes the House.  There is a much, much stronger possibility that if it does, it dies or is completely re-written in the Senate.  I can think of three Senate Republicans who will vote against this bill.  My guess is that number could go up.

Of course, as bad as the GOP is at math, maybe it dies in the House today.  But if it does pass, this is a gift for Democrats.  There is gathering evidence that 2018 could be a wave election, the kind strong enough to deliver the House to Democrats.  What will be necessary is a strong message to nationalize the campaign.  The GOP voting on a bill that - when the CBO is finally allowed to score it - will show that tens of millions of Americans will lose their coverage and tens of millions more will see what coverage they DO have hollowed out.

Yet, for ideological reasons, the GOP appears intent on recreating the Charge of the Light Brigade into the chattering guns of public opinion.

There is a scenario where the Senate actually passes the bill, but if that happens, the GOP is on the hook even more for the catastrophe that follows.  Even more comical is a situation where the Senate rewrites the House bill so substantially that it fails to pass when it's returned to the House.  Basically, we can watch while the GOP spends a calendar year working as hard as possible to fail to pass a bill that will kill Jimmy Kimmel's son.

Great job, guys.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Agree To Disagree

Long time readers know that I am especially fond of the analysis of Martin Longman, aka Booman.  However, his latest piece left me puzzled and a tad upset at his reasoning, because it seems to fly in the face of his usual pragmatic liberalism.

He has consistently been saying - rightly - that Democrats cannot afford to lose rural Rust Belt districts 20-80, like they did in 2016.  We need to go back to losing them 40-60.  He frets that Democratic outreach and inroads among suburban voters threatens to further alienate those WWC voters that we have been endlessly told to genuflect before, because they gave us the Cheetoh colored fart-sack currently occupying the Oval Office.

OK.  I get the logic if your desire is to form a coalition of working class whites and black to upend the plutocracy.  You want those WWC voters to vote their pocketbooks and ally with minorities to upend Wall Street's stranglehold on the country's economy and politics.  The problem with reaching out to wealthier suburban voters if that you risk further alienating those WWC as being the party of minorities and the suburban professional class.  That seems to be Longman's argument.

Here's my counterargument.  No successful reform movement has left out the middle and professional classes.  None.  The American Revolution was a revolution of merchants and landowners.  Abolitionists were the comfortable.  The Progressives were eminently respectable.  The Civil Rights movement mobilized middle class blacks and animated white middle class outrage.

If the old saw "Programs for the poor are poor programs" is true, then "Reform movements led by the poor are poor reform movements" is also true.  If you want to create the equivalent of the British Labour party, just take a look at how the Labour party is falling apart.

Shaun King has a laugh/cry line where he challenges his audience to say what the Democratic party stands for.  To me, the Democrats have - since the Age of Reagan - stood for good governance above all else.  Democrats use evidence-based decision making to bring the most good to the most people.  Want an example? Watch Jimmy Kimmel's incredibly moving story about the birth of his son and his son's heart defect.  His son is protected from discrimination by the ACA, and Kimmel is obviously not economically disadvantaged.

Being the party of good government - or to put it another way, the party that brings the most good to the most people - means creating a coalition that embraces that.  Minorities, immigrants and certain groups of poor people have a natural affinity for a strong, competent state that can protect them from the majority and the malefactors of great wealth.

But I believe that those comfortable suburban upper middle class voters ALSO want good governance.  They are ALSO upset that the 1% effectively pay no taxes.  They are ALSO sensitive to environmental and LGBT issues.  Yes, there will be issues where migrant Hispanic laborers and suburban lawyers don't see eye-to-eye, but that's the nature of coalition politics.

The GOP coalition is being torn apart, precisely because they are an ideological rather than pragmatic party.  And they are being led by a mentally unbalanced charlatan.  But also the ideological purity of the Tea Party is ripping the party apart in Congress.  Democrats will not return to a majority party by being "pure."  They will do it by winning a majority in the coming House elections and then the Presidency in 2020.

Being the party of good government, government that does the most good for the most people, is a hard sell in a country historically antithetical to a powerful state.  But we can also be certain that those rural WWC voters didn't vote for Trump solely out of the sense that he was going to "make their lives better."  They voted their resentments at the city folk (and the suburban folk) who they feel have left them behind and sneer at them.

We aren't winning them back.

Instead, the raging dumpster fire of Trumpism puts the suburbs in play.  We are seeing that in the Georgia special election.

Democrats need to put themselves forward as the party of competence and compassion, even as they need to find someone who can make that message sing.  Hillary Clinton never mastered the poetry of that message.  Her husband did.  Obama did. Gore and Kerry did not.  This is a problem, in that few technocrats are poets.  But Democrats won power in 2006 and 2008 because the Bush Administration was a series of colossal fuck ups.  That time looks like an Eden compared to now.

Don't be afraid of the tensions between well-off suburban voters and the existing Democratic base.  Work to create a new Progressive coalition that welds them into a governing force.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

We Are So Screwed; An Ongoing Series

Read this piece by Politico, cataloging Trump's recent interviews.  It is so full of batshit crazy, it's difficult to know where to start.  As Prof. David Blight notes accurately, "You can be too ignorant to know your ignorant."  Trump's stunning lack of knowledge about anything important is breathtaking in its scope and comprehensiveness.  Reading the text of his public statements is like reading the stream of conscious answers from the worst student in school who didn't do the homework and is trying to fake his way through the test.

Trump's ignorance collides dangerously with his overwhelming overconfidence in his own abilities.  It may be that on some level, Trump knows he's completely out of his depth.  He recently expressed surprise at how hard presidenting is, and how easier his old life was.  However, Trump is also a raging narcissist, and he's unlikely to admit any flaws or faults within his own abilities or decisions.  Hell, he doubled down on the Civil War nonsense.

There was an episode of The West Wing, when Jed Bartlett was running against a moron, played by James Brolin.  Some character said something along the lines of, "It's not necessary for the President to be a genius, but it's nice to know he has a full toolbox."  Trump's toolbox consists entirely of a hammer, which he pounds into his own head every day.

Needless to say, Trump raging incompetence, ignorance and vanity won't make a lick of difference to the people who supported him.  Wrapped as they are in their own cocoons of ignorance and self-centeredness, they are unlikely to see what the rest of the world sees with clarity: Trump is an erratic moron who shouldn't be trusted to run a school board, much less the United States of America.  He is supported by the people who populate Yahoo! comment threads.  The angry old crank who sends emails about the number of people the Clintons have had killed or how Obama is secretly a Muslim is now president and has the support of his fellow cranks.

To some degree this is the rise of the Internet and Fox News in action.  Without informational gatekeepers to differentiate between the real and the false, the important and the trivial, we spend months yammering about Ebola or "her emails."  This has created an idiot-feedback loop that has given us Trump.

Thanks, Republicans.

Thanks a lot.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Leftovers

The Leftovers is the weirdest thing on television, and I mean that in the best possible way.  It feels like what Lost might have been in a different universe.

The 100 Days

Sure, it's arbitrary.  But it was Trump's own standard and he failed it.

In the Department of Wishful Thinking, Martin Longman suggests that Trump should just quit already.  It is, however, based on logic and precedence, and therefore irrelevant to Trump.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Would You Like To Know Why I Hate Wall Street?

This is why I hate Wall Street.

The Murdoch Crime Family

All Don Corleone Rupert Murdoch wanted was for his son Michael Lachlan to go legit and become Senator Corleone a multiplatform media mogul.

But the Murdochs are coming to see that empowering Jabba the Hutt cosplay enthusiast Roger Ailes has led to a potentially bruising series of lawsuits against the toxic workplace that was and is Fox News.  Bill O'Reilly is out and if Sean Hannity isn't a serial workplace harasser, I'd be shocked.

Josh Marshall puts it best:
If you’ve watched Fox for years and you found that it wasn’t a hotbed of sexual harassment, pervasive racist attitudes and a generalized sixty-something faux-bro “alpha” culture, you’d have to think you had been scammed, that the big screen talent were somehow hypocrites and frauds.

How does Fox move past the very real dilemma that its product IS the politics of white guys who are pissed they can't let their id gallivant through the workplace anymore?  How does the slow ascension of the more cosmopolitan sensibilities of James and Lachlan Murdoch change the fundamental nature of Fox News?

Several thoughtful conservatives have noted - in David Frum's words - that "We thought Fox News worked for us and it turns out we worked for Fox News."  You simply do not get Donald Trump without the soaked in fear, rage filled screechings of the Fox News culture.

I think Trump forces a reckoning within Republicans at some point.  If so, Fox could be the conduit, but only if they morph from "Angry Old White Republicans" to "Thoughtful Conservative."

Let's see which way they go.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Carnivorous Cycle

One of Obama's greatest strengths as a president was his indifference to the 24 hour news cycle.  He was uniquely adept at filtering out the signal from the noise.

E.J. Dionne suggests that Trump has a signature genius at distracting the new cycle.  This is true.  This is also largely irrelevant.  Josh Marshall rightly points out that Trump's presidency is obsessed with one thing: winning.  Jon Chait notes that Trump is largely controlled by television.

What Chait and Marshall prioritize over Dionne is the idea that what a president DOES is what matters.  Winning the news cycle is ephemeral.  Winning a policy battle is a lasting achievement.  As Marshall and Chait note, Trump has no core beliefs, no primary agenda.  As a result he is a captive of events.  His desire to win means that the actual substance of winning isn't important.  In a hypothetical situation where Democrats win control of the Congress in 2018, Trump could very easily sign a climate bill just to sign a climate bill.  Yay.  But he could also wind up signing something extraordinarily damaging just to sign something.  Boo.

Dionne gets around to this at the end of his column, noting that Trump's ability to distract from the various scandals doesn't mean the investigations into said scandals are defunct.  Jason Chaffetz's surprising decision not to run in 2018 could free him up to be especially critical of a Republican who is uniquely unpopular in Utah.  If Chaffetz decides to really go after Flynn and Page and the other cast of apparatchiks, this could provide all sorts of problems for Trump.

These scandals aren't going away.  The lack of the GOP to agree on much of anything isn't going away.  The need for Democratic votes in the Senate to do anything important isn't going away.

Lots of people left of center bemoan how much they miss Obama.

Maybe they should start acting like him.