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, 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.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The One Thing Republicans Care About

They want to cut taxes on the rich.

That is their Alpha and Omega.  They don't care about deficits (unless a Democrat is in the White House).  They don't care about the white, working class, except as votes every two years.

They care about cutting taxes on the rich.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Bravo

Matthew Yglesias notes that Trump voters aren't that important.  Trump won slightly more of the popular vote than Michael Dukakis did. Those that voted for him will likely not abandon him, because people don't want to admit mistakes of that magnitude.  A few who did vote for him will abandon him either by switching their votes or not voting for him, because he's a colossal fraud and failure.  If Trump loses 5% of his support - and there are no strong third party candidacies - then Democrats should be in a very strong position in 2020, providing they nominate someone with a touch more charisma.

Also, frankly, Trump voters are older and some of them will die before 2020.

Efforts to flip those revanchist Trumpenproletariat are largely doomed.  Getting them NOT to vote might be the best strategy.

Overall, however, the levels of support for Trump is low and getting lower.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Sunday, April 23, 2017

France

Today, the French go to the polls to elect a new president.  Francoise Hollande won't run as he is very unpopular, so the field is wide open.  And I mean wide open.

France has an unusual electoral system - though one that I really like.  You have a wide open first round with every possible party represented.  It's similar to a "jungle primary" in that you have to get 50%+1 to win in the first round to win outright, but different in that in our system there are really only two parties. In France, it might make perfect sense to vote for the Green Party in the first round, but then change to the Socialists in round two.

Anyway, France's election features four main candidates.  One is a hard left candidate - Jean-Luc Melenchon - who wants to impose a maximum income (basically a 100% tax over a certain income).  Another is the main center right's candidate - Francois Fillon - who has been tainted by corruption allegations.  The least radical candidate appears to be Emmanuel Macron, a political neophyte who at least doesn't want to blow everything to shit. Which brings me to Marine Le Pen.  Le Pen - along with Melenchon - favors withdrawing from the post-World War II stabilizing institutions (NATO, the EU) while adding in some lovely racism directed at the "non-French" Muslim minority.

Needless to say, there is more evidence that Russia is trying to get these two to the next round.  What happened with Trump is not unique; the Russians have been monkeying around in Europe's elections for years apparently.  This is why it was European intelligence agencies were quicker to pick up Russian ratfucking on behalf of Trump.  They are used to seeing it.

What is interesting is exactly HOW Russia activates these anti-global candidates - from Trump to Nigel Farage to Geert Wilders to Marine Le Pen.  They basically open the box labelled "Atavistic Fears of Others" and let the unspoken fear (of Muslims mostly) combine with the toxic after effects of the Great Recession to bring to power (or not in the case of Wilders) groups that would withdraw from the organizations that threaten Russian sovereignty.

Basically, if you want Europe to remain Europe, you'd better hope that Fillon and Macron advance to the second round today, although I HOPE that if even one of them advances, France will rally around that person to oppose Le Pen or Melenchon.  With America adrift and clueless internationally, we need a strong Europe to hold the line.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

We Are Ruled By Morons

Apparently we are headed towards at least a 50-50 shot at a government shut down.  Given that Republicans control both ends to Pennsylvania Avenue, this is a remarkable achievement in Derp.  How the hell do you fail the basic task of governance?  Oh. Because we are ruled by morons.

On some levels, the continued dysfunction of Trumpistan has to take a toll on the Republican party's favorablity rating.  On the other hand, there are quite a few people who would vote for Satan himself, if he had an "R" next to his name.

It's been a nice run, America.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Grey Lady

Scott Lemieux is collecting reviews of the execrable first blush, tell all gossip rag about 2016.  Here he looks at the NY Times and then he looks at the Washington Post.

The undeniable truth is that many political scribes are closer to my professional education than they should be.  I have an MFA, the acquisition of which led me to a greater understanding of how stories work, even what is a story and what isn't.  Political reporters of a certain class tend to favor their narratives.  This was most clear in their treatment of Clinton.  They had a story about her and it was easy to push every slight and slander into that narrative.  The Comey Letter worked so well, because it gibed so well with the narrative the political press had been pushing about Hillary Clinton for 25 years.  The essential accuracy of that narrative was besides the point.

As Nate Silver noted, the press is doing some soul searching about how the covered Trump, but not how they covered Clinton.  Trump defied convention.  That was the narrative, and it had the benefit during the campaign of being true.  Now, however, Trump has become a GOP caricature, but I wouldn't count on the political press to point this out.  The fact that his populism has been increasingly demonstrated to be hollow and rhetorical won't penetrate the narrative.  I would imagine Hillary-haters on the Left will be especially loath to relinquish the idea that Trump's appeal is based on racial and social grievance rather than economic populism of the Sanders variety.

The press will be considering at length how they covered Trump 2016 and will miss Trump 2017: Ayn Rand Edition.  Meanwhile, their utter failures in covering Clinton will go unexamined.  That's not catastrophic, because Clinton won't run again.  But the broader disease of "both sides do it" is killing the ability of the press to tell the truth.

Here's the truth as near as I can see it:

- Hillary Clinton was a cautious technocrat who was the victim of a quarter century smear campaign by the Right Wing Wurlitzer.
- The Press treated the accusations with more respect than they deserved, under the Clinton Rules.
- Trump was GREAT for networks like CNN that cover politics like sports.
- Aggrieved white people voted their emotions and hatred, because they got conned by a con man who convinced them he cared about them, when he manifestly doesn't give two shits about anyone but himself.
- The press covered the controversy rather than looked at how these two people would govern.
- We are not going to be governed by a shitgibbon for 3 years and 9 months.

Print THAT, New York Times.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

This Is Good

CNN is breaking our politics.

Ossoff Runoff

Democrats came unbearably close to winning the special election in GA-06 to replace current HHS Secretary Tom Price.  This is Newt Gingrich's old seat and a bastion of suburban Southern Republicanism.  Jon Ossoff took 48% of the vote, but that will necessitate a run-off in June with Karen Handel.

The odds are long that Ossoff can hold off a united Republican field in June, as the dynamics of a jungle primary with a large number of Republicans running favored Ossoff in this round only.  However, there are two questions.  First, CAN the GOP unify around an insider candidate like Handel?  Much of the Trump GOP is motivated by a revulsion with GOP insider politics.  That's why the GOP field was so fractured.  How many populist votes can Ossoff siphon off?  Probably not many.  But how many populist GOP voters stay home in June?  That's critical.

Second, is the news for the GOP expected to get any appreciably better between now and June?

GA-06 was always a long shot.  Democrats probably have a better shot at the Montana At-Large seat.  But it does show a partisan shift towards Democrats that could be critical in November 2018.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Not So Good

President Erdogan of Turkey is basically constructing a dictatorship in his country.  This, needless to say, is intensely troubling for American policy in the region.  That hasn't stopped Cheetoh Benito from praising Erdogan's power grab, because he admires the power, one grifter to another.

In many ways, Turkey's retreat from democracy into personal rule is yet another casualty of the decision to invade Iraq in 2003.  The American invasion was designed to "drain the swamp" of Middle Eastern politics.  (Funny how the swamp drainers always seem to bring more snakes with them.)  By disturbing the status quo - the theory went - you could attract jihadists to Iraq where you could kill them and create a new paradigm of democratic rule in a region.  The Bold Thinkers among neoconservative foreign policy "experts" felt that "creative destruction" would end the sort of political environment that spawned Al Qaeda and 9/11.

Yeah, so 15 years later, Iraq is a mess.  That mess spilled over into Syria, along with the millions of Iraqi refugees that flooded into that country.  The Syrian Civil War - exactly the sort of creative disruption the neocons wanted - has led to the rise of ISIS and the worst humanitarian disaster since Pol Pot, maybe World War II.  All of this chaos on Turkey's southern border fed Erdogan's appeal as a strong man who can bring order to Turkish politics and security to the Turkish state.

First, this is worth considering as a warning about the current Tangerine Nightmare in the Oval Office.  He has promised to be a disruptive force in Washington and the world.  America is an unusually large bull in the global china shop, and if we start running around thrashing norms and causing "creative destruction" we will see more of the sort of dynamics that we are seeing in Turkey.  Let's take Korea for instance.  If we get a war on the Korean peninsula, we will see massive casualties in South Korea (currently emerging from the roiling turmoil of an impeachment process) and the possibility that even with an Allied victory the country could lapse into dictatorship as it struggles to integrate the impoverished, dysfunctional North.  Similarly, if Japan suffers from North Korean missile strikes, they could move to an even less democratic form of government and re-militarize, including nuclear weapons.  That, in fact, could happen even short of a war.

Democracy is not inevitable, and chaos is a real accelerant towards dictatorial rule.  As Trump runs around creating uncertainty and instability, he undermines the global institutions put in place at the end of World War II - mostly by the United States - that seek to create the global stability that allows democracy to thrive.

When you see these (young) chaos agents like this fool in the United States, what you are seeing is a generation far removed from the horrors of global disorder.  Even the ever present threat of nuclear warfare that I grew up with has been subdued.  All those clamoring for a revolution have no freaking idea what they will unleash.  They should look to Iraq and Syria to see what happens when you overturn the existing institutions of the state in a capricious manner.  You get chaos, then you get a dictatorship.

In the specific case of Turkey, Trump's coziness with a new authoritarian is hardly surprising.  We know authoritarianism is perhaps his only constant orientation.  However, Turkey's move away from democratic norms could push it further from NATO (any hope of the EU died years ago).  From an American point of view, Turkey has been an increasingly unreliable ally in the war on ISIS.  At what point does Turkish intransigence and rejection of European norms open the door to the West supporting Kurdish independence?

An independent Kurdistan is more or less a reality in northern Iraq, and the Kurds are really our only ally in the region, aside from Israel (who are hardly steadfast in their support of America's interests).  A deft foreign policy team could leverage Erdogan's power grab into the creation of a democratic Kurdish state with reciprocal defense agreements with the US.  Of course, we don't have a deft foreign policy team, and the creation of Kurdistan would be another act of creative destruction.

From 1989-2016, the world was governed more or less by global integration and a steady move towards more democracy.  In 2003, the US rashly unleashed instability in the Middle East, and that has led to all sorts of unpleasant outcomes, from the Ahmadinjad presidency in Iran, to the Syrian Civil War to the rise of ISIS and now the collapse of democracy in Turkey.  The US is also now led by an ignorant buffoon who distrusts the global institutions most able to sustain order.

We are so very, very screwed.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Race And Trump

Really interesting data being released today about the 2016 election.  Basically, racists were more likely to vote for Obama than Hillary Clinton, because Democratic racists weren't being "activated" by guys like Romney and McCain.  Trump appealed directly to their sense of racism - which mostly revolved around their idea that white people can't catch a break because of all the "reverse racism."

Trump also did really well among low income voters.  My guess is that there is an overlap between those low income voters and voters who feel that special programs for black people are keeping them poor.

Their racism is less directed at black people and more directed at their sense of racial grievance that black people are somehow benefiting from government in ways they aren't.  The fact that black people are NOT benefiting from these mysterious government programs is simply not registering.

The Madman Gambit

Nixon famously had Kissinger present to the Soviets and Chinese that he was dangerously unbalanced and could be provoked into war at any moment.

Trump seems to be upping the ante on this gambit.  The problem is, North Korea is a poor target of the Madman Gambit.  What, exactly, would we gain from striking North Korea?

Anyway, right now the only thing stopping a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula is the calm and measured leadership of Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.

Enjoy your spring day...

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Journalism Or Performance Art?

What are we to make of this?

I really don't like conspiracy theories.  But this one is SOOOOO fun!

Actually, keep an eye on Boris Epshteyn.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Cleek's Law

Cleek's Law states: Today’s conservatism is the opposite of what liberals want today, updated daily. This seems like snark, but it's really consistently applicable.

Take a look at this tweeted poll result.  Comparing 2013 to 2017, Democrat's support for air strikes in Syria goes from 38 to 37%.  In other words, about 37-38% of Democrats are what we might label "liberal interventionists."

Republican support for those strikes was 22% in 2013.  After Trump made some rubble bounce, support for air strikes soared to 86%.

If Republican support for policy can basically be determined by whether that policy has a "D" or an "R" next to its name, then there really is NO Republican policy.  Not to the Republican voting populace.  This might explain why the first 100 days of the Trump administration has been an unmitigated disaster.  Sure, the White House is a bundle of dysfunction, but the House is, too.

All the GOP knows how to do is oppose.  That leaves them vulnerable to wild variations in policy and no set plan.

Remind me again why Donald Trump is some crazy outlier to GOP politics?

Friday, April 14, 2017

Nice Lede

Ryan Cooper begins with, "It's tough to grapple with the apparent fact that the president of the United States is a dolt."

It gets better from there.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Mobbed Up

Josh Marshall makes a great point about the Trump/Russia story.  What we are already discovering about Trump's Russian mafia ties is a huge story in and of itself.  The more we seek to find some Robert Ludlum novel at the heart of the story, the less we realize what we are staring in the face.  The President of the United States has extensive ties to the underworld.

What's even more worrying is that we may never find that Ludlum novel, which would seem to exonerate Trump.  But he's not innocent.  We just need to figure out exactly what he's guilty of.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A Bad Week For National Socialism

First, can we all take a moment to consider the entertainment offered by Sean Spicer on a daily basis?  And can we hope against hope that Melissa McCarthy is free this Saturday night?

Spicer's tone deaf comments proved he was not good at his job.  His immediate impulse to double down and dig himself deeper into his rhetorical hole proves that he is truly incompetent and yet also representative of the Trump White House.  NEVER SURRENDER.  Except today, he's having to apologize.

Meanwhile, tea leaf readers in DC are counting the hours until Steve Bannon gets the ax.  Bannon's influence was primarily in shaping the rhetoric of the Trump campaign and White House.  My guess is that he was behind the language in Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III's speech that was too extreme even for AG Sessions.  Bannon is the poet of Trump's dystopian hellscape.  He is not, nor has he ever been, a policy thinker or a competent political manager.  He's a bomb thrower.

Trump, or perhaps Co-President Jared Kushner, has had enough of the bomb throwing.  It would be tough to see who has Bannon's back right now, beyond Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka.  Purging the White House of those three would give Spicer some breathing room, too.

In my dream world, they fire Bannon, who immediately turns on Trump with the venom that only he can.  Bannon knows, perhaps, where some of the bodies are buried with regards to Russia.  Plus, Bannon has always said his desire was to create an ethno-nationalist party within the heart of the GOP.  If he get booted from the GOP, I certainly hope he creates his American Party to draw his voters away from the GOP.  Last night's special election in Kansas suggests that the current dysfunction in Trumpistan has about a 20 point effect on the margins of victory.  Ten points is a landslide; twenty is a fundamental realignment.  Siphon off 5-10% of Republican voters into the American Party, and Democrats will romp.

Hey, a guy can hope.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Populists

I'm reading Richard Hofstadter's The Age of Reform because I'm a great big nerd.  Plus, Fargo doesn't start for a couple of weeks and Game of Thrones isn't on until freaking July.  So, Hofstadter, it is.

I'm wrapping up his examination of the Populists, and he half makes a point that is clearer today than when he wrote back in the 1960s.

The Populists were radical visionaries, with an agenda that largely defined the later Progressive Era.  However, Hofstadter has always argued that the Populists were not true revolutionaries, but rather harassed small businessmen.  I think they WERE perhaps revolutionaries, but as mechanization and urbanization both increased their markets, they moved from being a Jeffersonian agrarian force for democratic accountability to basically a version of the Southern Lords of the Plantation.  They went from harried subsistence farmers on their 300 acres to agribusiness men on 2000 acres.  The less fortunate farmers were pushed off the land into cities or tenancy.

For a long time and even to this very day, the stranglehold that demographic distribution gives to rural voters has basically empowered a retrograde force in American politics.  For a moment, there was the Kansas rebellion that Thomas Franks writes about, but that was only a moment.

The sticks have always been the sticks - not much interested in social progress, thank you very much.  They care about their economic interests, as everyone does, and for a few years that meant embracing some fairly forward looking ideas.  But as "they got theirs" under Wilson and FDR, the farmers sank back into their natural conservatism.

And then Pennsyltucky gave us Trump.

Super.

Special Elections Blues

There are a few special elections coming up in Kansas and Georgia especially, though we have one for our state assembly seat.  Both the Kansas and Georgia seats are WAY closer than they should be, given that they are Republican Safe districts.  I mean...Kansas?  The GOP has been forced to mobilize money and assets to shore up what should be easy victories.

Special or off-year elections are usually referenda on the party in power, and this obviously suggests that Trump will be a YUGE drag on the Republican ticket in 2018.  On the other hand, I worry that if Democrats come close in both these elections, but don't win any of them, it could be demoralizing for a party whose natural reflex seems to be to become demoralized.

Obviously, I hope they win both and scare the crap out of the GOP, but I'm worried more air will be let out of the sails of the resistance when the overwhelmingly partisan nature of these districts manifests itself.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Someone Check Trump For A Pulse

Rick Wilson just stuck a shiv in his guts.

What The Fact?

So I read the WaPo's fact check of Susan Rice's claim - and the Obama administration's claims in general - about the removal of chemical weapons from Syria.  Basically, they engaged in careful parsing of their words to spin their agreement in the best possible light.

The agreement pulled out the "known" chemical weapons, while leaving some hidden weapons in place.  That's what Rice said.  As with so many things in Syria, there were simply no good options.  The negotiated settlement probably got rid of more chemical weapons than strikes would have.  Certainly, they got rid of more chemical weapons that Trump's rubble bouncing last week did.  That's what Rice said.

Nevertheless, in a blatant case of Both Sides, the statement was given "Four Pinocchios."  Basically, they took Rice's spin and said it was a blatant lie, even though it was factually accurate within the parsed limits of the language.  They equated measured spin with the daily blatant bullshit spewing from the White House.

This is why we can't have nice things.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Much Ado About Nothing



As the Syrian missile strikes come clearer, what is obvious is that these strikes did jack shit.  We warned Russia, who warned Syria.  No military assets seemed harmed.  And how is it that we dropped over 25 tons of explosive munitions on an airfield and it's already operational again?

As I said, the strikes were probably necessary.  However, Trump needs to "win" at all costs.  It seems pretty clear we made some rubble bounce, but unless we see some shift in Syrian behavior, this was "security theater" again.