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, September 25, 2017

Missing The Point On Purpose

The anger and outrage about NFL players taking a knee during the anthem is certainly the topic du jour.  It became a topic, because Trump made it so with his asinine comments in Alabama - comments that got whoops and cheers from his "base."

Needless to say, social media has taken its half-assed take on this.  The most confusing response I've heard is that players who take a knee are disrespecting veterans.

Where the hell does that come from? Is it because veterans love the flag more than other people?  OK, I love my kids more than other people, but if other people don't love me kids more than I do, that's none of my concern.  Is it because veterans fought for the flag?  Who fights for laundry?  You fight for the Constitution and the principles that made this country unique.  Nothing is more American than protesting peacefully.  It's literally right there in the Bill of Rights, topic #1.

If you want to say they are disrespecting the country as a whole, OK.  I'll agree with you there.  Yes, by taking the knee, players are disrespecting a country that cares more about their posture during an anthem than about the unnecessary killing of African Americans by police.  Sadly, by missing the point on purpose, we are talking about the flag, the anthem, free speech...but not about the racism that is at the heart of this protest.

The people who are upset over this are also upset when protesters march in the streets, when they block traffic, when they shout down white supremacists.  Are you really upset with the protest?  Or are you upset with the idea that - contrary to the sanctities we toss about on MLK Day - we really are a nation with a serious race problem.  A problem that was largely invisible to white Americans until cell phones allowed us to film a man being choked to death for selling loosies, a child shot for playing with a toy gun, a man shot sitting peacefully in his car, a woman dying after being arrested for no obvious reason, and on and on and on.

It is much easier to retreat behind empty pieties about the flag than to have an honest discussion about the fact that black people in this country are far too often killed because the color of their skin presents a threat to some police officers.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Pivot!

Trump has really grown into the presidency!

Dialogue

Here is an interesting long form piece in the WaPo about a meeting between an anti-Islamic protester and Muslims in Texas.

A lot of anger has been expressed on both sides that has its roots in epistemological closure.  One side has its information, the other has its information.  There is simply no overlapping agreement on facts.  What was interesting about the piece was how - even though they couldn't break through some of the less grounded beliefs of the anti-Muslim activist - the simple act of talking actually seemed to make a difference.

This is another reason why Nazi punching is really not that helpful.  During the "Mother of All Rallies" (the same time as the Juggalo march), Black Lives Matter showed up to counter-protest.  The leader of the pro-Trump rally invited a spokesman for BLM to talk.  Few were moved.

But not all.

Several people afterwards came up and engaged the speaker, challenged him respectfully.  A few even admitted to having their minds changed a little.

Because of the self-reinforcing narratives that come with epistemological closure, it can be very hard to use facts to dissuade someone who is truly invested in their belief systems, but it is not impossible.  And it is exhausting to try and convince millions of Americans that, no, sharia law is not a threat to you in any way, shape or form.  That's just a dumb argument to have to have.

In the end, however, it might be our best hope.

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Wages Of Fear

Alabama's future Senator, Roy Moore, is a classic example of the Bible-humping theocons that populate so much of the Republican party.  His act is based on the old script of rot and decay at the heart of the Republic.  In Moore's mind, this decay is caused by sexual activity.  When you give/get a blow job, Baby Jesus sends a hurricane.

Moore is best understood as a Christianist.  If an Islamist is someone who wants to see Islam used as a governing ideology, a Christianist wants the same for Christianity.  And not the mellow, "love-thy-neighbor" Christianity either; the fire and brimstone kind.

Trump will go to Alabama to campaign for Luther Strange to try and derail a guy who will likely be a huge embarrassment for the establishment GOP if he gets elected.  But Trump and Moore are both products of the same withered stalk: America is a hellscape because X.

Trump's legendary rhetoric about inner cities being dystopian wastelands awash in crime ("Carnage!") is well documented.  Moore is pitching the same thing.  Trump blames the collapse of Murican civilization on the "blacks and browns" whereas Moore blames it on "teh gheys and atheists."

The central fact that both are wrong on almost all points seems lost.  America is not a hellscape.  Crime is at the lowest level it's been in decades.  Two things, however, give their message resonance. First, the stagnation in working class wages has people worried; second, the opiod epidemic has people terrified.  Those things are real.

Crime-racked cities with black people rioting in the streets is not.

I do worry that the constant negative beat of both Fox News and any local news broadcast only reinforces the idea that things are worse than they appear.

Right wing populism and authoritarianism requires a society to believe it is in the process of collapse.  Quite a few left wing radicals will echo the idea that society is collapsing.  To me this shows a lack of historical literacy or global perspective.

If we don't reverse it, we are doomed.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

A New Refugee Issue

Puerto Rico has been absolutely leveled by Hurricane Maria.  It was already in a free-floating economic crisis, and now they are likely going to be suffering a long, slow recovery.  Schools, hospitals, roads, homes...all destroyed.

Surprisingly few people understand that citizens of Puerto Rico are also citizens of the United States.  Many of them have extended family in the US, and they are likely to flee here as their country wallows in the misery that the combination of poverty and a natural disaster can bring.

It is with sickening certainty that I predict that Fox News and Trump supporters will double down on the Wall as a response to American citizens coming to America.

Breathtaking

Even a cursory scratching of the surface of the American Shit Sandwich Bill 5.0 shows a callous disregard for the lives and health of American citizens.  What is incredible - when you read the linked article - is how craven the supposed GOP moderates are when it comes to their "red lines."  They routinely said that "If the bill doesn't have X, it won't win my vote."  Well, Graham-Cassidy doesn't have all those Xs and it's still getting votes.

The most un/believable quote comes from Chuck Grassley.

“You know, I could maybe give you 10 reasons why this bill shouldn’t be considered,” he told local reporters this week. “But Republicans campaigned on this so often that you have a responsibility to carry out what you said in the campaign. That’s pretty much as much of a reason as the substance of the bill.”

How do you justify stripping millions of Americans of their health care coverage in order to validate your content-free splenetic whinging about Obamacare?  At what point do you grow the fuck up and admit it was a lot more complicated than you implied on "Fox and Friends" during your inevitable anti-Democratic circle jerks?

In our system of government - as opposed to a parliamentary system - the legislature has to actually share in the responsibilities of governing.  In a parliamentary system, the government - the prime minister and her cabinet - write the legislation and the majority passes it, because in order to become prime minister, you have to have a majority.  In our system - as we saw for the last six years - we can have divided government that makes it possible for the majority in Congress to avoid their governing responsibilities.  The GOP has gone so far down the opposition party path that they literally cannot be bothered to understand THEIR OWN LEGISLATION.

This is professional and civic malpractice on a colossal scale.  At the moment, I would say the best hope of saving the Republicans from themselves rests on the same three Senators who saved us the last time - Collins, McCain and Murkowski.  We could see Portman and maybe Capito join them, if it looks like a lost cause.

But McCain isn't voting against the bill, he's voting against the process - the lack of "regular order.

The important thing will be to wrest control of Congress away from these buffoons as soon as humanly possible.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Oh, Yeah. Call Your Senator

Providing your Senator is a Republican and not ethically vacant.  If such a person exists.

The latest iteration of the American Shit Sandwich Act is perhaps the worst yet.  And, still, it has perhaps the best chance of passing.

When you read their lame-ass explanations for voting for the American Shit Sandwich 5.0 Act, it's pretty clear that they only care about fulfilling a promise to their whackaloon, Fox News base rather than taking care of American citizens or actual federal spending.

They are sociopaths.

Your democracy, America.  Cherish it.

Also, thanks, Republicans.

Things Are Moving On The Russia Story

While we are captured by the tales of misery and woe from Latin America as Mother Nature wrecks great destruction on Puerto Rico and Mexico.  Those are legitimate and heartbreaking stories.

Meanwhile, Trump does a lampoon of a president at the UN, Iran takes the high road and Mueller seems to have Paul Manafort's ball in a vise.  The case against Manafort seems to get more powerful and far reaching every day, so why has he not been frogmarched into a police station?  One would have to think that they are working very hard to flip him.

Thanks, Republicans.

"Good At Politics"

For years, it was legitimate to say that while Republicans had no good policy ideas, but they were really good at politics.  They could mobilize their voters and win elections.

Maybe it was their voters and not their skills.

Maybe you shouldn't piss off someone with a national megaphone and a compelling story.

Damn....

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Well, That's Not Creepy AF

Donald Trump wants to have a military parade in Red Square down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Trump has no consistent political ideology, but he has a reflexive respect for dictators for being "strong."  He is clearly a guy who gives no shits about Madisonian checks and balances.  That's why - given the supine nature of the Republican Congress - we are relying on the Courts to rein this doofus in.

Norms are important people.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Wheels Of Justice

Revelations that Paul Manafort has been wiretapped for some time certainly is a step forward in a story that has largely retreated from the front pages.  With Trump's seeming endless appetite for controversy and norm-shattering behavior we have largely ignored this burbling teapot over at Bob Mueller's place.

The Russia story isn't dead yet.

Ah, Crap

ACA repeal isn't dead yet.  Tough to see it Cassidy's bill passing the House, but we shall see.

This is why the debt ceiling deal works to Democrats advantage.  With that off the table, Democrats can try and grind the Senate to a halt.  Obamacare repeal has to be done by September 30th.  Now they can play out the clock.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Nancy Smash

Nancy Pelosi is the best Congressional leader of my adult life.  She knows exactly when to push her caucus and when to let them run free.  When she makes a legislative promise, she delivers.  And she brooks no shit.  Part of that comes from having a caucus that actually wants to run and fund the government, but she's also an adept herder of cats.

The "Pelosi is a failure" narrative is largely tied to Democratic reversals in the House from 2010 onward.  The problem is that Democrats lost in 2010 because of the political landscape post-2008 and the usual piss-poor turnout of Democratic constituencies.  This, in turn, led to partisan gerrymandering reinforcing the Big Sort of America into urban and rural camps.

In other words, Pelosi is being blamed for the weather.

Newt Gingrich and Mitch McConnell have, together, more or less destroyed Congress as an institution.  Yet they aren't subject to the sort of harsh treatment in the mainstream press that Pelosi gets.  I would argue that she would have a lot more favorable press if she were named Bill Pelosi.  As Hillary Clinton plugs her new book, it's worth keeping in mind that female politicians are often held to a different standard.  Which is, you know, bullshit.

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Disenchantment Of The World

Increasingly, watching the Evangelical community rally around serial sexual assaulter, thrice-married, morally bankrupt Evergropenfuhrer Donald Trump is like watching the final twist in a movie where you can see it coming, but you still remain transfixed by the pivot.

As Jennifer Rubin - who is still considered a "conservative" blogger, but is really the only remaining Rockefeller Republican - notes that Evangelicals support discrimination towards LGBT peoples while claiming that they themselves are the real victims of persecution.  What Conservative Evangelicals - and hence Trump supporters, since it's a single overlapping circle - are actually experiencing is a culture changing around them in ways they cannot control.

Generationally, young people are very tolerant of this new cosmopolitanism surrounding both race and sexual orientation/gender. The older, whiter, more rural Americans who call themselves Evangelicals are not. Their preferred status within American society has been eroding for years.

What distinguishes these people from other conservatives is the nature of their faith.  While there was a conservative argument against marriage equality - why change an ancient institution - that argument has largely been laid to rest.  Plenty of Republicans have shrugged and moved on.  Turns out letting Adam and Steve get married was not a big deal after all, except to Adam and Steve.

But if you're an evangelical, you have religious authority that hasn't changed. The Constitution was expanded, the Bible was not re-written.  In the past, I've describe the Republican Party as a sustained tantrum against the 21st century.  Instead, it is perhaps more accurate to describe Conservative Evangelicals that way.  Paul Ryan doesn't give a shit about marriage equality and even Orrin Hatch is fine with transgender soldiers.

Orrin Hatch and Paul Ryan are not the great mass of Republican voters, though.  That's why Donald Trump ran circles around Jeb! and the Zodiac Killer.  Not because he shared their faith, but because he shared their grievance - or at least pretended to.

It is fashionable for the unreflective, teenaged atheist to spout off about the Crusades or the Inquisition in denouncing faith.  Frankly, both of those are political acts, clothed in the language of religion.  What we are seeing among Conservative Evangelicals is really nothing more than politics in biblical terms.

It is corrosive; it is damaging and it is un-American.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Longman and Marshall: Who The Hell Knows?

As usual, Martin Longman says smart things on the Internet.  On the idea that Trump can be trusted to follow through on what may or may not be a DREAM Act, he begins with this rock solid analysis:

It’s admittedly hard to read a man like Donald Trump. He isn’t consistent. His word is not good. His comprehension of some of the basics of our system of government is shockingly low. His understanding of history, both recent and distant, is horribly flawed. His grasp of what is easy and difficult doesn’t appear to exist. He beat all his political opponents without seeming to have a realistic and overarching strategy, but more through a series of tactical battles that involved as many big losses as big wins. He lives in the moment and doesn’t follow even a basic script. He’s driven by lower emotions and is blinded to larger concerns.

Tough to argue with any of that, and it is why trying to predict some aspects of Trump's actions is a fool's game.  However, Trump is also very predictable, as Josh Marshall points out:

Trump remains the same narcissist and predator he’s always been. He will never change. But Trump is also profoundly needy. He craves attention, affirmation and praise. He rails at the “failing New York Times” but there may literally be no public institution whose approval and attention he’s craved more in his whole life. If Democrats can leverage his desire for praise and “wins” to save 800,000 Dreamers they should grab the chance. And I think they can and will do so with eyes wide open.

Again, that's solid analysis of Trump's motivations.  I think Trump feels he got some good press for keeping the lights on until Christmas, keeping the US out of default and providing hurricane relief.  The Presidency benefits from showing an ability to govern.

Since Trump is primarily a person of appetites and neuroses, good press is more important than ideological consistency.  In fact, Trump has no discernible ideology in any traditional sense.

As Longman notes:

He’s recently learned through hard experience that he can’t rely on the Republicans in Congress to unite behind must-pass legislation, and now he’s relying on them to pass the DREAM Act. What if they can’t, or won’t?

Again, this is a solid read on both the reality in Washington and in Trump's head.  The Republicans have given him nothing but defeats.  Working with the Democrats gave him his first victory since the Gorsuch nomination.  If Democrats and enough Republicans can pass a DREAM Act, why not take a victory?

Trump's very narcissism and ignorance about government may actually be able to result in some good legislation.

The question will be this:  What if Trump and a bipartisan coalition pass a DREAM Act, an infrastructure bill and some tepid tax reform?  Do his followers and the Hard Core MAGA types fall in line? Or do they brand him a RINO/Hidden Democrat and launch a civil war?

Who The Hell Knows?

Maybe there's a deal to get the DREAM Act passed.  Maybe there isn't (Trump is denying it.).  Then again, maybe there is.

A few things ARE clear.

1) Trump, Schumer and Pelosi came to some sort of agreement on principles.

2) Trump likes this, because it makes him look like the "deal maker" he styles himself as.  It also allows him to look like he's not a total racist.

3) He's fed up with following McConnell and Ryan's plans that seem to go nowhere.

4) If this really is true, and it really passes, this would indeed be a pivot of a sort from Orange Julius Caesar.

Very early yet, and maybe it's just Trump extricating himself from the mess he made with DACA, but this is a very interesting sign.  I can already here the Wall Street Journal and Fox News say that Trump was a Democrat all along.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Harnessing The Market

Bernie Sanders just got a show-vote on his universal health care "bill."  Meanwhile, China just made a big, big decision about cars.  Neither of these required passage in Congress or signing by the President.

However, while I don't think America can make a jump to universal, single payer health care, I think that Brian Schatz's plan is a good idea, but I would include employer plans.  Let Ford or GE buy Medicaid for their employees.  They will save money and we will get closer to the day when the switch from Blue Cross to Medicaid is a formality involving about 10% of the population.

Similarly, while I despair of any even halfway decent policies from Hair Furor on climate change, the world isn't waiting.  If Ford and GM want to sit out the EV revolution, then we need to start saving for another bailout.  It's coming, and it's coming whether the US government acts or not.  Markets are now global.  If California follows suit, everyone will have to up their game when it comes to EV.

This shit might work.

Democracy

The fair, impartial and untainted process of voting is critical for continued faith in our democracy.  That is why the Russia probe is so important.  Right now it doesn't look like Russia actually monkeyed with vote tallies, but if they did....?

Instead, we have the influence of money and fake news on political decision making.  Republicans would have you believe that voting fraud is widespread, but there is literally zero evidence that it has happened.  Hillary Clinton's new book is going to set off a wave of relitigating the 2016 campaign.  (yay) She makes a claim that various voter suppression schemes cost her the election.  She points to Wisconsin, using a disputed study, to suggest that voter suppression denied her 200,000 votes in the Badger State.  More likely most of those "lost votes" came from African American voters who stayed home because she wasn't Obama.  But if only 15% of those were suppressed, that would have been enough to toss Wisconsin her way.  Michigan was even closer.

Secondly, we have gerrymandering.  Some of it is a natural process of the "Big Sort" between cities and countryside.  But some of it is done for racial and partisan reasons, which increasingly overlap.  A partisan gerrymander is increasingly a de facto racial gerrymander.  Yet the Supreme Court seems like it might be OK with that.  That's why stealing that Supreme Court seat from Merrick Garland was so egregious.

We HAVE to fix it so that we are truly equal when it comes to voting.  I will never have the economic power that the 1% have.  But I have to think that my vote counts the same as David Koch's or any other American.  In fact, the way we elect our President and Congress...that isn't remotely true.  We raise barriers to some voters while privileging the votes in swing districts and swing states.

So since 2006, Democrats have won a plurality of votes in all three presidential elections and won the Electoral College twice.  In the Senate, the few tens of thousands who elect Senator John Barasso of Wyoming have the same say as the millions who elected Kamala Harris.  In the House in 2012, Democrats won 48.75% of the vote and Republicans won 47.59%, yet Democrats won 46.21% of the seats and Republicans 53.79%.  In the last election, Democrats won 48.03% of the vote and 44.6% of the seats (Republicans won 49.11% and 55.4% respectively.)

This troubles me.  I'm very troubled.


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Endogeneity

We were just talking about good old endogeneity in class the other day.  Basically, in the social sciences especially but in human nature generally, there is a desire to understand why things happened in the past so that we can predict things about the future.  Endogeneity is the difficulty in determining what caused what or whether there is any causal relationship at all.

Ta-Nehsi Coates wrote a provocative piece about Trump being the "first white president."  Coates looks at Trump and sees the ascendancy of a man based entirely on his whiteness.  Trump held no public office and has displayed a vulgarity and predatory nature throughout his public career.  In Coates' analysis, this is the product of racism.  He rightly notes that Trump's support did not come from "poor whites in Appalachia."  It came from ALL sectors of white society.

Coates, however, notes but glosses over the fact that Trump's share of the white vote is roughly the same as Mitt Romney's.  While Coates' analysis about the role race plays in American politics is almost entirely accurate, he falls into the trap of monocausality.  Coates is probably America's best writer on racism.  But that tends to force his explanation through that prism.

Thus, Coates can simultaneously be right about racism in the role of Trump and wrong.\

Josh Marshall responded, as usual, about as well as can be expected.  What's more, he collected the responses of his readers that note other factors.  Two noted the role that sexism played. Coates frames Trump's election as a rejection of the black president.  But Obama wasn't on the ballot.  Hillary Clinton was.  And sexism was just as big a part of Trump's appeal to the Deplorables as was his racism.  Another pointed to the narrow margin of victory and how candidates can be perceived.

My favorite response noted that there are simply too many factors to explain why Trump won.  Yes, Trump benefited from racism.  But he also benefited from excessive Republican partisanship.  Plenty of Republicans voted for Trump because he had an R next to his name, not because he was a racist.  Absent the Comey letter, Clinton likely wins and we wouldn't even be having this conversation.

The Democratic Party is no longer the party of the white South.  It is no longer the party of white supremacy.  That mantle has passed to Republicans.  Trump has - as Coates - makes clear, laid that out more plainly that ever before.  But the Republican party also has retrograde ideas on gender and sexual orientation.  They are climate deniers.  They are - in fact - out of step with a great many ideals that Americans profess to believe in.  And yet they win elections, because of the way our elections work to privilege these white, rural enclaves.

Yes, Coates is right.  But he's incompetely right.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Irma

I spent a week in Tampa reading AP US exams.  We stayed at a hotel across from the convention center right on the water.  Down the street was an outpost of the Columbia Cafe.  Even then, I was wondering what would happen if a hurricane came ashore there.

Fingers crossed, the storm might be weakening.  I know people there and know people who have people there.

And here comes Jose....

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Elections Matter

Chris Murphy has put forward a plan that I've liked in some form for a long time: Medicare buy-in for everyone.  I actually prefer something closer to Brian Schatz's plan, which is Medicaid buy-in for all, but that would require taking Medicaid back from the states to really work.  Sanders plan would be so disruptive that even if you could pass it, it would cause a backlash so severe that you'd have 2010 all over again.

A Medicaid/Medicare buy-in would cause private insurance to slowly wither on the vine as more people and companies transitioned to a cheaper, better form of insurance.  Once you reach a critical mass, then you make it tax based rather than payroll based.

The reason we didn't have a public option in the first place was because odious shitsucking troll Joe Lieberman killed it.

I still hate that guy.

So Freaking Tiresome

The WaPo has the usual "Democrats in Disarray" article that practically write themselves at this point.  The endless relitigating of the 2016 primary, the differing visions of what the Democratic Party should stand for, hell, even Nancy Pelosi gets bashed a bit.  Pelosi has been - without a doubt - the best and most efficient Speaker of the House in decades.  She isn't who you want in front of the cameras - I guess Paul Ryan is, for reasons I can't explain - but she's an absolute pro at delivering her caucus.  Hell, even Gutierrez voted for the three month extension yesterday.  All the whinging would-be insurrectionists voted for it, even as they carped to the cameras and the Bernie Bros.

As for whether getting Trump to sign a DREAM Act constitutes a win for Democrats or a win for Trump...I mean, how about a win for three-quarter of a million young people?  As for who will get credit for it, whatever credit Trump gets from the center, he loses from the racist Right.

Legislate.  Govern.  That's your job.  Don't echo the Republican legislative absolutism.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Government Does It's Most Basic Job, Film At Eleven

The Trump-Schumer-Pelosi deal just sailed through Congress.  It insures that the government stays open and doesn't default on its debt (for three months), funds hurricane relief and allows for other pressing matters to come to the fore.

It passed the House 316-90 and the Senate 80-17.  The reason Trump made the deal is apparent in the numbers: All the "no" votes came from Republicans. They even booed and hissed after they passed the damned thing, like the children that they are.

I really hope Trump agrees to the deal that eliminates the debt ceiling altogether.  Watching the Freedumb Caucuses heads explode will make great television.

Google Nation

Franklin Foer makes a good case that tech companies have outstripped the ability of states to regulate them.  The same has been true of finance for years, but now it applies to Google, Apple, Amazon and others.

While his focus on AI will likely draw eyeballs, it's his broader critique of monopoly across the economy that should resonate.  We need a new Clayton Anti-Trust Act for the new Gilded Age.

Could This Be Good News?

Trump and "Chuck and Nancy" might be close to a deal to eliminate the debt ceiling altogether.

The debt ceiling doesn't make any sense, as it's simply about spending money Congress has already appropriated.  Get rid of it.  Take the gun out of the nihilists hands.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Oh FFS

Needless to say, some Democrats - on the Left - have a problem with the deal Schumer and Pelosi cut with Trump yesterday.

Their argument is that Democratic leadership should have tied the DREAM Act to the debt ceiling fight and forced the GOP to either protect the DREAMers or default on the debt.

This is basically Magical Pony Thinking, Jacobin-Style.

There are about 12 legislative days in the September calendar.  In addition to raising the debt ceiling, passing a continuing resolution, reauthorizing the FAA and plugging holes in the CHIP, Luis Gutierrez wants to pass the DREAM Act?  I don't fault his ardor, I fault his math.

Because this deal pushes the debt ceiling off until December, it allows the Democrat to push THAT reckoning off long enough to marshal votes for the DREAM Act of whatever comes next. Or, ideally, there are rumors that the next debt ceiling extension will be the last, by eliminating the debt ceiling altogether.  If Congress appropriates the money, the debt will be paid.  That makes sense and it would end this ridiculous game of chicken we play with America's credit every fall.

You can still use the government shutdown as leverage for DREAM.

You have given yourself an additional two months to get the Lindsay Graham and John McCain's on board with a return to regular order.  And as Ro Khanna notes, copying Ted Cruz's legislative strategy should be the last thing Democrats do.  The Democrats HAVE to be the party of responsible government.  Holding a gun to the head of the American economy is not the behavior of the party of responsible government.

Nevertheless, in typical fashion, the Left has decided to wage war on the Liberals, because they didn't get everything they want yesterday.

Best Take

Martin Longman explains what happened yesterday in perfect detail and summarizes everything just right.  

So there.

And this is why I prefer blogs like his to cable news.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Jeebus Voters

This is really interesting.  Basically it explains why Evangelicals can support a moral dumpster fire like Donald Trump.  It feels very "true."

What's interesting is the decline in White Evangelicals.  Some of that is actuarial.  They are older and older people die.  Some of it is cultural.  Younger people are just more tolerant of the Ghey and worried about climate change.  One factor to keep an eye on that the article can't foresee is whether Trump's Reverse Midas Touch will further destroy the ranks of Evangelicals.

Are you there God, it's me Margaret Donald?

Life Comes At You Fast...

So I was at school, welcoming new students and getting curious updates on my phone.

Apparently, Hair Furor has realized that he can't govern with the Republican majorities in the Congress, so he will need Democratic help to keep the country from falling apart.

Therefore, he has agreed to raise the debt ceiling and add three more month onto a continuing resolution that keeps the government open until Christmas.

As Martin Longman has predicted (and is now taking a victory lap) the entire GOP leadership from Trump to McConnell were staring into the abyss.  They had a HUGE workload for September and the Far Right was barking mad about their demands.  Ryan and McConnell (and whatever passes for adult leadership in the White House) knew they had a host of must-pass legislation and a restive group of Teanderthals ready to make a hash of everything.  The only option to keep from defaulting on the debt and keeping the government functioning was to secure Democratic votes.

As Longman notes, McConnell and Ryan can shake their head ruefully as these votes pass and the government is funded because Trump is just such a loose cannon.  In reality, they have to be relieved that they won't be overseeing a sovereign debt crisis and the collapse of the dollar.

The worry was that Trump and the Teanderthals would demand that the debt ceiling increase would come with strings that Democrats couldn't stomach.  And then there would be a default. And that would be a disaster.

Instead, we are going to get a clean debt ceiling increase, push the government shutdown until December and allow the Congress to work on other pieces of must-pass legislation, including the FAA, CHIP and potentially disaster relief (though Harvey relief appears to be covered in this deal).

It also decouples any shitty DACA patch that might have been attached to the debt ceiling.  Now they will have to vote on a real DREAM bill.

Democrats were ecstatic and you can understand why.  As for Republicans, they are furious.  It will be interesting to see how much longer Congressional Republicans can stomach Trump.  He's already "killing the brand."  If he starts siding with Schumer and Pelosi to keep the government funded and DREAMers from being deported...why not impeach the SOB?

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Ignoramus

A number of reports suggest that Trump really doesn't know the extent and possible ramification of his actions.  As I suggested the other day, perhaps Trump blunders into a scenario where he forces Congress to do it job.  This will require Congressional Republican leaders to cut deals with Democrats in order to pass what is essentially the Dream Act.  Republicans have boxed themselves in by complaining about Obama's executive overreach in creating DACA.  But DACA covered their own shameful inaction.

Now, Trump has forced them to either pass the Dream Act with Democratic votes or watch communities being torn apart.  You want to turn Texas and Arizona blue?  Kill DACA and fail to pass the Dream Act.

So all we need now is competence in Congress.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Fish Rots From The Head

The EPA under Trump.

Nothing To Add

Josh Marshall makes a very important point: Donald Trump can't even fake empathy.  Admittedly, Trump is "not a politician" who has learned to fake empathy over years of running for office.  But...damn!  How can you flub the easiest of presidential tests: not being an asshole during a disaster?

DACA

There is at least some hints that Congress might actually, you know, do some of that legislating.

Not in September.  September is going to be a triage unit of disaster avoidance.  The debt ceiling has to be raised and some sort of new spending - even a continuing resolution - has to be passed. There is Harvey (and maybe Irma) relief to pass.  And maybe we should find a way not to go to war with North Korea.

Hair Furor has announced that he will end DACA in six months.  DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Something That Starts With A.  Basically, if you were brought to this country when you were a minor, you can stay as long as you go to school, have a job and don't do crimes.  It is a perfectly sane policy implemented by Obama, because the GOP Congress wouldn't act on it.

Now, however, the GOP owns all policy outputs.  Trump's decision to end DACA is heartless and cruel, unless the Congress can pass a bill instituting DACA into law (at this point it was an executive action).  Since DACA has no real legal standing, this is an opportunity for the GOP to blunt some of their negative standing with people under 40.  They can claim credit for making DACA into law.

Of course, the way they are going about it, with Trump threatening to deport a bunch of kids, means that they are unlikely to see any real benefit.  Well played.

Here is a link to my former advisee, Chris Zheng's, Facebook page.   At the link is a fundraiser for United We Dream.  Consider throwing in some coin.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Who The Fuck Is Mark Bray?

Mark Bray teaches at my alma mater.  He is the current leading intellectual voice of antifas.  He has a book!

Inevitably, I'm reminded of my forays onto Twitter to debate anarchists, Bernie Bros and perhaps some antifas supporters about how stupid antifas is as both a tactic and a strategy.  What's dismaying about Bray is that he seems to embrace the ahistorical idea that we are slipping into fascism.  He seems to take the Far Left position that anything to the Left of John McCain is fascism.  The other book review at the above link is about the range from fascism to populism.

There is zero question in my mind that Trump represents a populist movement, rooted heavily in white working class resentment.  His movement is quite old and quite rural.  It represents the dying out areas of America, both literally and figuratively.  Fascism is schematic; it has a plan.  Populism is emotive; it responds to stimulae.

To look at Trump and see fascisms, or for that matter to look at 1500 tiki torch wielding morons and see Germany in 1933 seems to me to represent a real failure to learn real lessons from history.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Nice Message

Literally snatching kids' dreams.

Trump feels pressured to provide red meat to the Deplorables.  They are the only ones sticking by him, so he's going to do some fan service.  That means being heartless to children by ripping them from their homes and schools.

Remember that most of the Deplorables are "Evangelical Christians."

Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Hunh, I Wonder What The Statues Are All About?

A Republican state legislator has helpfully clarified exactly what sort of person believes that statues to traitors who tried to overthrow the American government in defense of slavery is really all about.

Really?

Really?

I mean, thanks for making the subtext the text, I guess.  But.... really?

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Marc Thiessen Is An Idiot

I know Marc.  We went to school together.  His lack of moral compass and intellectual bankruptcy have been a topic before in these digs.  His torture apologies were repugnant.

Today he has another moral atrocity that again demonstrates that this is someone with real rot in his soul.

Marc argues that antifas is not just problematic, which I would agree with, but the "moral equivalent of Nazis."

His "argument" follows two nonsensical tracks.  First, antifas are Marxists, and Marxism is as bad as Nazism.  His argument rests on the fact that Marxism - or at least Stalinism and Maoism - killed millions just like the Nazis.  What this rests on is the outcome rather than the result.  The point of Marxism, especially as opposed to Stalinism, was NOT to kill people.  In Nazism, killing people was precisely the point.  Marxism wanted true equality, but its method of getting there was bloody and bankrupted it of any moral legitimacy.  With Nazism, violence was precisely the point.

Secondly, he conflates the Black Bloc with all of antifas.  This is a typical move done on both sides of the rhetorical divide.  Not everyone in Boston or Berkeley were white supremacists, some were truly free speech advocates.  And most antifas see their role as protective. The Black Bloc are anarchists who believe in violent revolution.

What's again intellectually vacuous is that he equates anarchists with totalitarianism.  Marc has sometimes fashioned himself as a principled voice against SOME aspects of Trumpism.  Here he embraces the Trumpist tactic of having words make no sense.

Anarchists are fools.  It's never worked. It's the political equivalent of masturbation.

But they simply are the opposite of totalitarian.

The thing about totalitarianism is that - like Nazism - it is very, very rare.  Anarchism seeks to destory the state - again, because they are fools.  Saying that Black Bloc is totalitarian is like saying that liberals want concentration camps.  It's just....

There are plenty of problems with the use of violence on the Left, but even Marc notes that Nancy Pelosi condemned the violence in Berkeley in terms that escaped Trump.  The problems with antifas is that their tactics are counterproductive to their desired ends.  The problem with anarchists is that they are self-absorbed idiots.  The problem with Marc Thiessen is that he's an immoral idiot.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Nazi Punching

I decided to take Twitter out for a spin in August.  I was unimpressed.

I tried to get into substantive debates with people - mostly on the Left - about things like antifas and the 2016 election.  It did not go well.

Anyway, here are two really good takes on why it's probably not a great idea to be punching Nazis, even if it feels good.

Josh Marshall gives a solid historical take.

German Lopez looks at the poli-sci take.

Anti-fascist violence simply doesn't work as a tactic as well as non-violence (Lopez) and if you are using Germany in 1933 as a counterargument, you're not reading history well (Marshall).

I would add from my Twitter debates that it does seem that those who embrace violence seem to desire a glorified place for themselves as the True Defenders of the Just Cause.  They are better than you for punching Nazis, because you "just don't get it."  In fact, they want to be Indiana Jones, when they are only fighting cos-play Nazis.  It's all an ego charade on both sides, with neither side thinking of social progress.  There.  I "both sides-ed" it.

Yes, it is noble to fight against intolerance.  No, using violence to fight against intolerance is not the right choice.  Wearing a black mask and beating up a doughy Klansman who lives in his mom's basement does not make you Indiana Jones.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Harvey And Katrina

Once the breathless coverage of the disaster plays out, there will be the inevitable questions about what could have been done differently.

These discussions will mostly suck.

Yes, global warming made this storm bigger.  No, global warming did not make this storm.

In the end, the biggest lesson will go unlearned: sprawl is bad.  Houston built outwards and paved most everything.  Pavement means the ground can't absorb water.  Building outwards means that for millions there was simply no "other" place to go.  Notoriously lax zoning laws make it impossible to evacuate a city like Houston.

New Orleans drowned in Katrina, because it was in a bowl.  New York drowned in Sandy, because it's basically at sea level.  Houston drowned because it's basically a flat plain covered in buildings and pavement.  Hurricanes will keep doing this.  If you live in Denver, you're safe.  If you live within 50 miles of the coast, you aren't.

Inevitably, this question will turn to Trump.  Comparisons will be made to Katrina, because people don't understand how history works.  Trump's tweets during Harvey were, of course, abominable and tone deaf.  While he may have been paying attention during the landfall, he will constantly be distracted by trivialities and lose focus.

Those comparisons to Katrina will be all wrong, as Matthew Yglesias pointed out the other day.  Katrina wasn't even Bush's Katrina.  The narrative is that Bush's ham-fisted response destroyed his presidency.  Here's the actual story:


Historically, you can see 9/11 pretty clearly.  You can also see the upsurge around the invasion of Iraq and the capture of Saddam Hussein.  Can you spot Katrina in there?  A massive collapse in his approval numbers?  No, you can't.  In 2005, you can see an erosion from his second inauguration until the end of the year.  That included Terri Schiavo, the attack on Social Security and, yes, Katrina.  But his numbers REALLY took a dip in early 2006, several months after Katrina.

Lots of people are amazed that Trump can even manage a 35% approval rating, given his colossal incompetence, venality and base cruelty.  But as this graph shows, public opinion moves more slowly that the pundits and news junkies assume it will.

There is apparently a good team in place at FEMA, because he has some reasonably competent people on his national security team and no one wants another bungling response to a catastrophe.  But in the end, Harvey's devastation will be felt in Houston and in Texas, not in Washington DC.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Arpaio

When the parson hit, an alternative newspaper in Arizona listed just some of the things Joe Arpaio is accused of doing.  There are no two ways about it: he's a monstrous human being.  Arpaio is truly the face of American facism - and I'm a stickler for how that word is used.

Psychologists talk of the license effect, that certain people give others permission to behave in a certain way.  Arpaio gave his sheriff's department licence to engage in all sorts of brutality.  Now, Trump has sanctioned that barbarism, and that barbarism had at its core an idea of white supremacy.

Perhaps this action by Hair Furor will finally tip Arizona into the Democrats column, as nothing could motivate Hispanics more.  Trump has also decided to wage war on Jeff Flake, because Flake doesn't like Trump, even if Flake is a bog standard Republican.

Lenin spoke of "heightening the contradictions" in order to bring about radical change.  I have to say, Trump is doing his part to make sure everyone understands that his administration is based on white grievance and that white grievance is really just pissed of white supremacy.

I don't see how this doesn't get violent.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Liberal Democracy

Nice piece by EJ Dionne.  I would add that institutions are "sticky."  They tend not to change much - otherwise they wouldn't be institutions.  Trumpism is an assault on the institutions of liberal democracy - his patrimonialism, rent-seeking and nepotism combine with an ignorance of both the Constitution and the laws of the land.  The GOP is feckless in holding him to the rules and norms of American democracy.  Can we make it to 2018, much less 2020?  Are enough Americans strategically spread out and gerrymandered to prevent all but the biggest wave from breaking the GOP hold on the House?

I honestly don't know.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

He's Mentally Ill

Trump's little Nuremburg Rally last night had all the hallmarks of his presidency: it was devoid of facts, it was an exercise in demonization of his enemies, it was barely coherent or cogent.  Jennifer Rubin - ostensibly one of those smart, sane Republicans - has a nice rundown of his lunacy.  Don Lemon looks like Cronkite in comparison, which is saying something.  If you were to replace the word "media" or "press" with the word "Jews" you would have a cut-rate Hitler with an even worse haircut.

David Roth has a fine screed that was published before the Rally, but captured it perfectly, because Trump is Trump and simply will not change.  I was going to fisk it, but I'll just paste a large part of it here.

It is not quite fair to say that Donald Trump lacks core beliefs, but to the extent that we can take apart these beliefs they amount to Give Donald Trump Your Money and Donald Trump Should Really Be on Television More. The only comprehensible throughline to his politics is that everything Trump says is something he’s said previously, with additional very’s and more-and-more’s appended over time; his worldview amounts to the sum of the dumb shit he saw on the cover of the New York Post in 1985, subjected to a few decades of rancid compounding interest and deteriorating mental aptitude. He watches a lot of cable news, but he struggles to follow even stories that have been custom built for people like him—old, uninformed, amorphously if deeply aggrieved.
There’s a reason for this. Trump doesn’t know anything or really believe anything about any topic beyond himself, because he has no interest in any topic beyond himself; his evident cognitive decline and hyperactive laziness and towering monomania ensure that he will never again learn a new thing in his life. He has no friends and no real allies; his inner circle is divided between ostensibly scandalized cynicsand theatrically shameless ones, all of whom hold him in low regard and see him as a potential means to their individuated ends. There is no help on the way; his outer orbit is a rotation of replacement-level rage-grandpas and defective, perpetually clammy operators.
Trump now “executes” by way of the The Junior Soprano Method. When he senses that his staff is trying to get him to do one thing, Trump defiantly does the opposite; otherwise he bathes in the commodified reactionary grievance of partisan media, looking for stories about himself. It takes days for his oafish and overmatched handlers to coax him into even a coded and qualified criticism of neo-Nazis, and an instant for him to willfully undo it. Of course he brings more vigor to the latter than the former; he doesn’t really understand why he had to do the first thing, but he innately and deeply understands why he did the second. The first is invariably about someone else—some woman, there was a car accident, like during or maybe after that thing—and therefore, as an asshole, he does not and cannot really care about it. The second is about him and therefore, as an asshole, he really, really does.
To understand Trump is also to understand his appeal as an aspirational brand to the worst people in the United States. What his intransigent admirers like most about him—the thing they aspire to, in their online cosplay sessions and their desperately thirsty performances for a media they loathe and to which they are so helplessly addicted—is his freedom to be unconcerned with anything but himself. This is not because he is rich or brave or astute; it’s because he is an asshole, and so authentically unconcerned. The howling and unreflective void at his core will keep him lonely and stupid until the moment a sufficient number of his vital organs finally resign in disgrace, but it liberates him to devote every bit of his being to his pursuit of himself. Actual hate and actual love, as other people feel them, are too complicated to fit into this world. In their place, for Trump and for the people who see in him a way of being that they are too busy or burdened or humane to pursue, are the versions that exist in a lower orbit, around the self. Instead of hate, there is simple resentment—abject and valueless and recursively self-pitying; instead of love, there is the blank sucking nullity of vanity and appetite.
This is what an asshole is, and lord knows Trump is not the only one in his business, or our culture, who insistently bends every incident or issue back towards his sour and jealous self. Some of the people who do this even care at some level about the broader world, but because they are assholes believe that the solution that world’s problems lies in paying more attention to one particular asshole and his or her ideas. Trump is not one of those people. The rest of the world is an abstraction to him, a market to exploit; there is no other person in it who is real to him. They’re all supplicants or subjects, fans or haters, but their humanity is transparently not part of the equation. What other people might want, or indeed the fact that they could want at all, is crowded out of the picture by the corroded and corrosive bulk of his horrible self.
There is no room for other people in the world that Trump has made for himself, and this is fundamental to the anxiety of watching him impose his claustrophobic and airless interior world on our own. Is Trump a racist? Yes, because that’s a default setting for stupid people; also, he transparently has no regard for other people at all. Does Trump care about the cheap-looking statue of Stonewall Jackson that some forgotten Dixiecrat placed in a shithole park somewhere he will never visit? Not really, but he so resents the fact that other people expect him to care that he develops a passionate contrary opinion out of spite. Does he even know about . . . Let me stop you there. The answer is no.
The answer is always no, and it will always be no because he does not care. Every lie, every evasion, every massive and blithely issued shock to the conscience Trump authors will only ever be about him. He will never be embarrassed by any of these things, because he cannot understand anyone’s response to them except as it relates to him. Slavery? That’s another thing that his very dishonest enemies want to blame him for. Racism? He’s been accused of it, and honestly it’s so ridiculous, so ridiculous. History? He’s in the business of making it, baby. Violence? Not his fault. People protesting? He doesn’t know them.
This is the horror at the hole of every asshole, and it is why Trump will never get better as a president or a person: it will always and only be about him. History matters only insofar as it brought him to this moment; the roaring and endless present in which he lives matters because it is where he is now; the future is the place in which he will do it all again. Trump’s world ends with him, and a discourse or a politics that is locked into scrutinizing or obsessively #resisting or otherwise chasing him will invariably end up as arid and abstracted and curdled as he is. More to the point, it’s a dead end. The shame an animal feels is secret to us.


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Anchors

Katrina vanden Heuvel writes a piece about how the Democrats are starting to coalesce around an agenda - the Better Deal - which melds together some of the various movements on the Left.  She makes the point that Democrats have been crushed since 2010 across state and congressional races.

There's a problem with that, that I don't think gets addressed enough.  Most elections are referenda on the White House, 2010 certainly was.  After 2010, there was substantial gerrymandering, but even then, Republicans were freed from having to actually DO anything, because most Americans think the President is an Emperor and can do anything he wants.  Therefore, everything was Obama's fault.


There are still structural advantages that Democrats hold in the presidential race.  Trump drew two inside straights, but that is VERY unlikely to happen again.  He's polling terribly, he's incapable of learning anything new and he's likely going to give up even trying if he hasn't already.

Evidence of this can be found in polls like this one that show Mitch McConnell getting crushed. McConnell, as we know, has the charisma of bathroom mold, but he has won because Kentucky and because he's a power player in DC.  But Kynect (Obamacare in Kentucky) is popular and McConnell can't get shit done.

Democrats should absolutely create a platform of diverse ideas, because our ideas are better.

In the end, however, it will be the fact that the GOP is drowning and Trump is an anchor around their necks.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Patrimonial Kleptocracy

One of the common "defenses" on behalf of Donald Trump since Charlottesville is that he isn't programmatic enough in his thinking to be an actual Nazi.  And that's true, to a point, in that Trump isn't an actual Nazi, he just likes Nazis because they say they like him.

And while it's true that Trump has no core ideology - because he has no education or curiosity about politics beyond crowd size and vote counts - he does have a governing "philosophy" if you will: patrimonial kleptocracy.

Patrimonialism is an ancient form of "governance" whereby a ruler co-opts the elites around him with favors and riches.  Those people in turn support the leader who makes that constant flow of lucre possible.  This naturally leads to kleptocracy, the rule by thieves, because the elites proceed to loot the state of its resources and revenues.  It was Trevor Noah who first pointed out the similarities between Trump and an African "Big Man" like Mobutu, Amin or Mugabe.

Today brought a perfect example of this dynamic with the revelation that Trump has stressed the Secret Service's budget by his constant trips to properties that he owns. This includes $60,000 that Trump properties have charged the Secret Service for golf cart rentals.  His decision to conduct business in the dining room of Mar-A-Lago has also stressed their ability to do their job.  In other words, Trump's desire to drum up business at his properties is impeding the budgetary ability of the Secret Service to protect him.

Some of this preceded Trump, but his constant investment in his investments is making a bad situation intolerable.

Much was made of Trump's refusal to fully place his assets in a truly blind trust.  We are seeing why.  Trump has not been able to pass much of any of the GOP agenda.  Aside from Neil Gorsuch and regulatory rollback, much of their agenda is DOA.  True tax reform looks increasingly difficult.  Trump's approval ratings are at record lows for this point in a presidency.

But he's enriching himself, his family and their hangers-on.

In the end, that's the point.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Boston

It looks like - contrary to TV news who tend to play up drama - that Boston did it right and avoided violent confrontations.

There is no question that the timing was stupid.  But are we really going to cheer on suppression of free speech?  I can agree with the position that any armed protests and Nazi/KKK protests carry with them an explicit threat, and threatening speech is not protected.

But I'm not sure that the free speech protesters in Boston were KKK and Nazis.  The proper thing to do is to shut them down by the power of numbers, but there was abuse present (if not violence) and that can't be the default position of the Left.

Jon Chait got a lot of grief for saying that the Campus Left represented a new intolerant force that people who care about liberty and free expression should fight back against.  I wonder if he was right.  What's more, I worry that every action where the Left shuts down conservative speech - as opposed to hate speech - becomes a win for the narrative that empowers actual Nazis.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Oof

The Israeli Right made a gambit to ally themselves with the American Right.

How's that working out?

Bannon Unbound

The firing of Steve Bannon is good for many reasons.  The symbolic ouster of an Alt-right agitator.  The lack of cover for the other white supremacist goons in the West Wing (look for Miller and Gorka to depart soon).  The aesthetic appeal of not having to seen the scab encrusted face on the news.

Take a look at this quote from Bannon:
“The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over,” Bannon told the Weekly Standard. “We still have a huge movement, and we will make something of this Trump presidency. But that presidency is over. It’ll be something else. And there’ll be all kinds of fights, and there’ll be good days and bad days, but that presidency is over.”

Here we have my real hope for Bannon's firing.  My hope is that he tries to fulfill his dream of creating a third party.  Bannon goes on:
“I think they’re going to try to moderate him,” Bannon said. “I think he’ll sign a clean debt ceiling; I think you’ll see all this stuff. His natural tendency — and I think you saw it this week on Charlottesville — his actual default position is the position of his base, the position that got him elected. I think you’re going to see a lot of constraints on that. I think it’ll be much more conventional.”

Again, he's not interested in policy (similar to Trump in that regard).  Bannon and Trump worked because they both wanted the combat, not the victories.  As the author of the article notes, Bannon is going to position himself at Breitbart in behalf of Trump and against the GOP. (Yes, obviously the latte-sipping liberals, but he could have done that in the White House.)

As Trump starts to actually do his job and sign things like a debt ceiling increase, maybe a tax deal with a carbon tax, he will move further from his base of deplorables.  Bannon will be there to blame it on "the swamp."

Hopefully the next step is creating a new party - for historical sake, let's call it the American Party - and they start siphoning off votes in critical races.  Neither Bannon nor Trump have much use for the GOP establishment, so the fact that the American party will be handing power to Democrats won't phase them.  They could convince themselves that they are playing the long game, like the way the Free Soil Party destroyed the Whigs.

If you pull out the 25% of the electorate that doesn't believe in evolution, but believes in Donald Trump, you hand the Congress, the Presidency and the state houses to Democrats.

Please proceed, Bannon.  Please.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Barcelona To Charlottesville

The point is not that white supremacist terrorism is worse than Islamist terrorism or vice versa.  They arise from the same place.  These are toxic young men who can't handle the modern world and it's message that you can't dominate people anymore.  You can't rely on your penis to give you some sort of license to rule over other people.  You want to do it?  It's going to take hard work and a little luck.

There are undeniable economic forces both for rural white Americans and Muslim Europeans that marginalize them.  But the women are under those same strains and they don't drive cars into crowds - at least not that often.

It is not just that young men are overwhelmingly the largest demographic to commit violence.  The difference between the drunk frat boy getting in a fight and a Nazi or a takfir jihadist killing people is the certainty of their righteousness combined with that simmering anger and threat of violence.

I've long wondered if perhaps the relative safety and security of the world most of us live in isn't somehow responsible for all this.  These young men have a biological craving to protect their tribe.  They all do, but they have no outlet for it.  Where does that anger go?  I'm afraid we are finding out.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Unified Theory Of Trump

Josh Marshall nails it.

Political Decay

I'm (trying to finish) reading Francis Fukuyama's The Origins of Political Order.  He's a good enough writer, but it's still tough sledding at times.  It is tough when you have a chapter that covers 2000 years of Indian history and you have to make it compelling.

Anyway, one of his points that I've gleaned so far is the pervasiveness of tribalism.  The first form of socio-political organization was the clan or kinship group.  There were small, very tightly knit groups that organized along family lines.

Tribes grew from that, as humans developed agriculture and were able to settle more densely.  Tribes have some form of common ancestor - often mythic and are bound by more extended kinship ties.  As China and India attempted to develop states, they constantly struggled to overcome the tribal nature of both societies.  In the end, China was able to create a series of dynasties that functioned as states, whereas India never quite got there, because of the social orders created by Hinduism.  The power of caste undermined the power of the state.

But in each case, the power of kinship unity, of tribalism, constantly undermined the ability of leaders to create even mildly pluralistic states.  India remained pluralist without creating a state (foreign invaders did that) and China created a state by eliminating pluralism.

Which brings me to our current predicament.  We have two Americas (sorry, Obama).  We have a largely urban, coastal, pluralist state, and we have a largely rural, white tribe.  The two are not inhabiting the same political space.  They speak a different language, and believe in different sources of strength and power.

Unlike 1860, this division is not starkly geographical, in the sense of the compass.  We can't simply divide in two today anymore than we could have in 1860 (despite some willingness in my beliefs to jettison that other America).

One thing that is for sure is that ANY modern polity can collapse if they allow tribalism to "trump" pluralism.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Trump's Words

Donald Trump, 45th President of these United States, is a racist.  He has always been a racist, a trait he likely picked up from his KKK supporting father.  He's learned to keep the racist voice in his head quiet as he navigated his way through the NY business and social scene.  But that voice that we heard during yesterday's self-immolation of a press event was always there.

The most obvious immediate fictional narrative of Obama's election was that we were no longer a racist country because Obama.  In fact, Trump himself became the leading voice of the racist Birther movement - a movement that sought to delegitimize the first African American president as being de facto un-American.

In fact, Obama's presidency got under the skin of the racists in our country, in much the same way BLM does.  Today's racists "have black friends" and "don't see color" but they get very upset when African Americans express agency over their own lives or - the horror! - agency over white lives.

But they had to keep those voices inside their head, like Trump did for all those years.

They won't feel they have to any longer.

The President has made their case for them.  He's let the voice inside his head have the world's biggest microphone.  Everyone else who believes what he believes but has learned not to say it aloud will feel fine saying it aloud.

Fine.  Mark yourself with that.  Put the Confederate battle flag on your truck. Show the world who you are.

The problem is that we live in such hyperpartisan times that even those who might not want to defend Trump on this will find themselves rationalizing their defense.  It was heartening to see so many people - including Fox News pundits - express their dismay at the fact that the President is defending Nazis and Klansmen.  I hope they continue to do so. I have my doubts.  As attacks on Trump increase, the Right Wing Wurlitzer will do the only thing it knows how: creak into action to defend the in-group against "them."

Trump is the loudmouth racist uncle who lives off of Fox News and Alex Jones.  We know this.  We've always known this.  Many of us tried to tell people this.  Being right brings no succor.

His words have made a bad situation worse, at least in the short run.  Our task is to keep a ledger of those who use this moment to excuse or defend the inexcusable and indefensible.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Durham

I'm not sure how I feel about the people in Durham who tore down the statue commemorating the Confederacy.  The release of catharsis after Charlottesville no doubt played a role in this, but catharsis isn't always helpful a few days down the line.  They broke the law.  They have to be OK with the consequences of that or they aren't really protesting, they're emoting.

Josh Marshall has a very good take on the entire issue of Confederate statuary.  Mobs pulling down statues accomplishes very little; communities deciding to stop honoring traitors and white supremacists by collectively removing those statues says quite a lot more.

You can take down the statue by mob action or you can mobilize as a community to have them removed from public spaces.  One is harder and better than the other.

Fox News Might Be Destroying Our Country

Here is a nice interview with Mark Lilla who makes a lot of points I agree with.  His argument is that leftist identity politics can't win across the broad expanse of the country.  It can win the presidency, but not the necessary number of statehouses, Senate seats and House districts to create a viable majority.  He argues that Democrats need to find a unifying philosophy and articulate that.

I think those awful, neoliberal sellouts in the Democratic Congress actually have found a good message (not the slogan) around some economic issues.  But they need a compelling spokesperson to make the case that we are still a society.  That is Lilla's important insight, that both the post-Reagan Right and Left have abandoned the idea of a common destiny.  The Right is all about the individual, the Left is all about your affinity group.

Except, I think that last part is largely a construct of the Right Wing Wurlitzer, especially Fox News.

When you read things like this, you have to ask where such a unique take on reality comes from.  How is Obama responsible for Charlottesville?  How is BLM like the Nazis?  That is, you can ask, but the answer is obvious: It comes from Fox News.

Fox has been consistently peddling the same fucking lies and distortions for years.  The Trump Administration is a patrimonial kleptocracy.  Lost in this weekend's violence is the fact that Mueller is looking into Wilbur Ross for money laundering.  Ross, the Secretary of Commerce, wasn't on anyone's radar, but of course he's corrupt.  Yet, once the indictments come down, Fox will be filled with outrage that Ross is being indicted, but Obama wasn't for Solyandra.  Solyandra isn't really a thing, it's just a magic word like Benghazi or BLM to shield wingers from the fact that their ideology is bankrupt, their governance is non-existent and they are at best fellow travelers with a bunch of Nazis and Klansmen.

Fox spends countless hours harping in the threat of radicalized Muslim extremists, while simultaneously radicalizing angry white boys.  Since 9/11 - over a decade and a half now - it has been these angry, radicalized white boys who have killed more Americans that the scary brown Muslims.  In other words, Fox is the ISIS internet of white terrorism in this country.  Do you think this guy watches MSNBC? How about this guy?

As I wrote about the demonization of BLM, it's a case of projection and deflection to blame black people for white supremacists.  If you think black people are the reason we have white supremacist, then you might be a redneck racist.

And at the nexus of this bullshit information ecosystem sits Fox News.  And the target audience for Fox News is a seventy year old white guy from Queens who inherited a bunch of money (and privilege) from his dad and yet thinks he's been oppressed.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Black Lives Matter Are Not The Same As Nazis

I've seen a lot of people defend Trump or at least his tone deaf response by trying to change the subject to Black Lives Matter.

Once again, it's fascinating to watch the Fox News Hivemind at work.

The basic idea of BLM is that police shouldn't kill black people for no reason.  They have - as their main argument - the increasing number of videos of police pretty much shooting black people for no reason.  BLM is less an organization than a movement, and so there are a variety of voices and perspectives in that movement, some of whom might argue for more radical solutions.  But overall, BLM has been very, very consistent in speaking out against violence by BOTH demonstrators and police.  After the Dallas shootings, both BLM and Obama condemned - immediately and in very firm language - anyone who would use political violence.

And yet...

I see it on Twitter.  I see it on Facebook.  The real villain here is not Trump's open flirtation with the Stormfront crowd.  It's not his long history of racist statements or his family history with the Klan.  It's not the actual words of the Nazis who say Trump is their patron saint.

No, the problem in Charlottesville was caused by Barack Obama and BLM.  When Obama said that if he had a son, he might look like Trayvon Martin, Obama was stoking the flames of racial hatred.  When he said Eric Garner or Tamir Rice or Sandra Bland or Philando Castile didn't deserve to die, he was inciting a race war.

Think about the layer of rationalization going on here.

Explicit is the idea that black people marching so that police won't kill them for no reason are a threat.  Simply by taking to the streets, they pose a threat to public order.

"Those black people won't stay in their place."  That's it.  That's the subtext and the text all in one.

Because marching black people are a threat to millions of people tapped into the Fox News Hivemind, then Nazis - who embrace a violent ideology by definition - are the same.  This allows you to condemn the Nazis - Good for you, you little trooper! - while simultaneously equating black people assembling for a redress of grievances as an equal threat.

In other words, you aren't a Klansmen, but it wouldn't surprise me if there are a fair amount of "I'm not a racist, BUT..." statements in your past.

I am adamant that protesters should train to remain nonviolent.  I just posted my problem with antifas, but that it mostly tactical.  I have nothing but contempt for the Black Bloc.  When BLM becomes violent - which happens on occasion - they should be held to account in a court of law.  Those are the rules.  And I would guess that when that happens many are arrested.

However, there were few arrests in Charlottesville because the Klansmen came armed to the teeth.  Police literally couldn't arrest some lawbreakers because they were so heavily armed.

And BLM is a threat?  Preachers and activists asking not to be killed is the REAL problem?

Yeah, fine, you're not a Klansman, but there are sheets in your closet that maybe you think you don't need anymore.  You're not a Nazi, but damn, Hitler sure made the trains run on time.


Sunday, August 13, 2017

On Fascism And Charlottesville

There will be a lot of pixels spilled about what happened over the weekend.  I would just add this: While there is no one who deserves to be punched in the face more than a Nazi, you simply can't meet fascists with violence, and that means that the antifas movement is incredibly counterproductive.

The Beer Hall Putsch was a joke, and up until the death of the young woman yesterday, the Charlottesville rally was a joke.  A national call to "Unite the Right" was answer by about 1500 virgins with bad haircuts and tiki torches.  Tiki torches?  Really?  The losers and sociopaths that marched in Virginia represent a tiny group of people.  At best, they represent tens of thousands of people in a nation of 320 million.

The language of fascism is violence.  It is the air that ideology needs to breathe.  Strip violence away from them, and their entire ideology collapses.  Fascism first defines the nation - its nation - in racial terms, and then it militarizes that nation in opposition to other nations/races/ethnic groups.  That's it.  That's the whole ideology. And that's why - aside from a unique historical moment in Europe brought about by the collapse caused by World War I - it has never really found purchase anywhere else.  Crypto-fascist regimes like Argentina in the '70s or North Korea today are isolated and rare.

The defining moment for fascism in Germany was the burning of the Reichstag.  The Nazi party was a minority movement that exploited the violence of the Reichstag fire to seize control of the state.  In fact, they themselves lit the fire and blamed it on Communists to seize that power.  There are simply not enough Nazis in America to pull that off.

What IS worrisome is that a significant part of the Republican Party is eager to follow an authoritarian figure like Donald Trump.  Trump lacks the discipline or "vision" of Hitler.  He's a patrimonial kleptocrat, not a true fascist - though he relies on the Authoritarian Right as his "base" (and that word works double duty here).  The news that around half of Republicans would support cancelling the 2020 election if Trump asked for it is profoundly troubling.  But that represents less than a quarter of Americans.  If you read the responses of Republicans like Orrin Hatch and John McCain, it's pretty clear that there remains about half the Republican party, almost all independents and all the Democrats opposed to this authoritarian spasm.

Up until it gets violent.

Trump's bullshit statement about "many sides" is being treated with the contempt it deserves.  However, there are plenty among the Authoritarian Right who agree with him.  And isolating them and attacking them will only entrench their agreement.

The tricky needle opposition movements need to thread is how to resist this burgeoning authoritarianism without fueling it.

The single best moment from this weekend was the group of students and residents who surrounded the Jefferson monument and were then surrounded by the Tiki Torch Nazis.  They stood resolute and non-violent and the Nazis were left with nothing.

I would also add mockery to the appropriate response to these assholes.  Mock them, belittle them.  They are who they are, because they are small, fragile men who have sublimated their fragility into hate.  They embrace power and strength because they have none of their own.

Point this out.  Repeatedly and loudly.  Mock them, meet them with numbers, embrace the ethos of King and Gandhi.

Because THAT IS HOW YOU WIN.  And winning this fight needs to be more important than the emotional catharsis of punching in the face some dipshit in a polo shirt holding a tiki torch.

I completely understand the outrage that people of color feel when they look at the response to Charlottesville and compare it to Ferguson or Baltimore or Baton Rouge.  You're right, it's appalling that white people can march with automatic weapons under a Nazi flag and Tamir Rice gets shot on sight for playing with a toy gun in a park.  Again, I understand the cathartic appeal of violently resisting a system that tolerates that.

But tactically and strategically, if you embrace violence, you give fascism and the Authoritarian Right the opening they need.  Fascism and Authoritarianism need the breakdown of laws to justify overriding the Rule of Law.

Everything in this historical moment resists perspective. The perspective that the "Shite" Supremacists represent a tiny minority; the perspective that the laws actually do still work, if imperfectly; the perspective that calm, firm resolve will win in the end.  That's why perspective is so important at this very moment.

It could be easier to destroy two centuries of of the democratic Rule of Law than to preserve it.  But the effort is more important than the moment.