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

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Dunkirk

We saw it on IMAX, and I recommend that version.  It's spare on dialogue, but the imagery and the concussive effect of those sound effects was powerful.  I read a review that described it as a monster movie where the monster was war, and that was very apt.

Don't wait to see it at home.  I don't care how awesome your HDTV is.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Pardon Me

I've been saying for a few weeks that eventually - once Mueller gets too close - Trump will simply start issuing pardons to people like Flynn, Kushner, Donny, Jr., and Manafort.  He will eliminate the ability of Mueller to flip these people against him.  Then, after closing down many avenues of investigation, he will fire Mueller (and likely Sessions and Rosenstein).

And there might very well be nothing we can do about it until 2018.  Even then, while Democrats might win back the House, they will not get anywhere close to winning enough seats in the Senate to remove him from office.

Once again, we are going to have to rely on Republican politicians to do the right thing by their country rather than by their party.  In other words, we are screwed.

As Chait and others note, this is an assault on the rule of law.  That idea - that the powerful are not above the law, that the law is the expression of the popular will - is the critical idea that makes democracy possible.  Without it, democracy collapses.

That's not hyperbole.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Press Fallacy

This kind of pisses me off.

There are two problems with Milbank's analysis.

First, as Linda Sanchez notes, Democrats have had an agenda.  OK, it's a fair criticism that Democrats either offer too many programs as opposed to a bumper sticker.  But the Republicans have been running on bumper stickers for years.  Guess what?  You can't govern from a bumper sticker.  Repeal and replace is easily understandable.  Get rid of the parts you hate and keep the parts you like is easy to understand, but it's not an agenda.

Democrats have both a philosophy and an agenda.  Hillary Clinton had a YUUUUGE agenda.  And every speech she made on the minimum wage or college tuition was swamped in her "goddamned emails."  Policy is booooooooring.  Horse races are fun!  Scandal is fun!  Do Democrats have an agenda?  A philosophy?  Yes, Dana Milbank.  They do.  Report on it.

Second, the negative appeal of the Republican message is that government doesn't work.  Have you ever had a government service fail you?  How many people equate the DMV with the federal government?

Democrats have the burden not only of "having an agenda" but also convincing a cynical public that the government will actually ACHIEVE that agenda.  As we've discovered, one of the flaws in the ACA is that it doesn't work WELL ENOUGH, not that publicly supported health insurance is the death of freedom.

You can promise whatever you want, but a large section of the public believes - wrongly - that all politicians lie in their promises.  That Trump lied to them doesn't bother them, because they expect to be lied to.  Democrats promising universal community college is just an empty lie, even if it's not.

The Mad King

Trump's biggest enemy might be his own weeping piehole.  Every interview turns into a piece of evidence against him.

Of course, I can't tell if it's for a criminal case or a commitment hearing.

Thanks Republicans!

Fuck Cancer

My father went to high school with John McCain.  Yesterday morning the melanoma that they cut out of him more than a dozen years ago finally took his life.  We saw it coming and yet yesterday (and for weeks and years to come) it blinded sided me from time to time.

So to the McCain family that will never read this, know that the family of an old schoolmate is pulling for you and yours.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Mitch Slapped

Adam Jentleson (No, I don't know who he is either) has a tweetstorm about Mitch McConnell.  Basically, Mitch McConnell broke the Senate and neutered individual GOP Senators in order to create a lockstep caucus so that they could win control of the Senate.  Then they could "do anything."
Now, the American Shitburger Act has demonstrated that the same levers that McConnell used to stymie Democrats and break the Senate are used against him.  Is there a more conservative friendly version of ACA possible?  Maybe, but that would require working with Democrats and listening to moderates.  That's not remotely possible.

Meanwhile, McConnell has always been a loathsome human being.  There is something uniquely repulsive about the man.  If he is not going to give his caucus victories, then what - exactly - is his usefulness?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Mmmmm. Hamburgers

Josh Barro is a Never-Trumper who has become a de facto moderate Democrat.  He still has some roots in the conservative movement, and he has some advice for Democrats who want to win elections.

It's interesting advice.

There were some lonely voices, notably Jon Chait, before the election warning Democrats about their PC problem.  Given that Chait placed his argument on the Internet, it quickly got heated and dumb.  He agrees, of course, with Barro's argument that the problem Democrats have is that they are self-righteous prigs.  I think Barro's argument about hamburgers is bizarre, but the overall critique of the Left being obsessed with offensive behavior has some ring of truth to it.

I voted for one Republican in my lifetime, and it was Bush in 1988.  I had waded through the PC-wars of the late '80s and found them stifling, judgmental and unproductive.  That had at least some impact on my vote.  I didn't vote for Bush some much as I voted against Dukakis and the modern PC culture.

Now, having said that, there are certain things worth fighting against.  As Barro says,

It's possible to stake out the ground that, for example, characterizing Mexican immigrants as a mass of criminals and rapists is wrong, but what you wear at Halloween isn't really a concern so long as you're not in blackface. It's possible to push for the policies you think are important on climate change without making people feel guilty about their hamburgers.

Now, I can hear the arguments that if someone appropriates someones culture as a costume or as a party, that's disrespectful.  College students don't carry about Hindu spring festivals, they just like bright colors.  The problem I think the Left has created for itself is that it has equated emotions with acts.  If something or someone makes you feel bad, tell them why.  If they continue to do that, they are an asshole.  Don't hang out with assholes.  If someone punches you in the face, call the cops.

To be a liberal means on some level to value human liberty.  American liberals came to see inequality as the hallmark of a lack of freedom.  Jim Crow was an easy expression of inequality leading to a lack for freedom, but so is unequal pay, marriage inequality or excessive corporate influence on politics.  There is very little reason for liberal to give up their positions for a more equal America.  Those positions are popular, not universally so, but popular nonetheless.

You can never convince someone to change their mind by labeling them.  You can't make anti-racists by calling people racist.  Leftists and some liberals have thrown up their arms in exasperation over the Basket of Deplorables.  Look, you don't want the Deplorable vote.  You want the person who might vote for Obama, but couldn't vote for Clinton.  Clinton got hammered from the Left for being a "Neoliberal shill" but also from the Right for being an avatar of PC finger wagging.

I don't know if the "campus Left" and "online Left" will allow much deviation from the PC line, but there has to be a way to repackage the goals of a "kinder, gentler America" into something that appeals to voters who might like your policies but not your hectoring over gender.

"Liberty and justice for all" feels like a nice place to start.  The Right has effectively stolen the idea of liberty from liberals, but liberals need to steal it back by arguing that "the law in its majesty allows the rich and the poor equal freedom to sleep under bridges" is a piss poor form of freedom.  If you are  a slave to your paycheck, are you free?  Thomas Jefferson didn't think so, why should we?

The "justice for all" in an obvious call out to BLM and criminal justice reform, especially on drugs.  I've become convinced that until we fix our drug laws, we will continue to plunge both our country and Mexico into crime and violence that needn't otherwise exist.  "Justice for all" is equality before the law, and that not only means the poor are treated fairly, it means the rich and powerful are help to account.

The Democrats probably could continue to inch leftwards on economic issues, but they have to adopt a new tone when it comes to political correctness, one that focuses on the freedom to criticize and not the license to silence.  I doubt it will be that easy, but it is clear that culture is the divide Democrats have to cross.

Can't Nobody Do Nothing?

So the American Shitburger Act has apparently finally, really, no takebacks, completely died.  This parrot is deceased!

So here is where the modern GOP finds itself.

- They transformed themselves into the Party of No during Obama's presidency.  From the very first, they engaged in obstruction and delay to prevent him from achieving his goals.  This - combined with the lingering effects of the Little Depression - led to Republican gains in 2010.  Being the Party of No worked for them for 7 years.

- Being the Party of No does not lend itself to having ideas or doing stuff.  They can rollback certain elements of Obama's presidency at the margins, but they can't produce a positive, proactive agenda of their own.

- Or rather they can, but it is massively unpopular.  The institutional GOP cares about reducing the tax and regulatory burden on the rich.  That's it.  And that is unpopular.  It is likely that the only achievement of this Congress will be cutting taxes for the rich, and even than seems iffy, given the Byrd Rule.

Mitch McConnell is the most important figure in the Senate over the past forty years, because he has fundamentally changed/broken the Senate as an institution.  But being a bombthrower typically does not make you a good carpenter.

Nice job, Republicans.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Tired Of All This Winning

As many have noted, Trump has certainly seemed to prove the "Fifth Avenue Rule" whereby Trump can shoot someone in the face on Fifth Avenue and not lose his supporters.

However, the WaPo has a new poll and it does show some important trends.  First, somehow Trump has an 11% approval rating among Democrats.  I literally can't even.  He has only lost about 2% among Republicans (from 84% to 82%).  Again, Trump is not an outlier, he IS the 2017 Republican Party.

The most precipitous decline in among Independents, where he has fallen from 38% to 32%.  Those are obviously unsustainable numbers for re-election.  The last time a president had numbers this crappy it was Dubya Bush post- Social Security privatization/post-Katrina.  That led directly to the 2006 Democratic wave.

We are seeing the Russia story slowly build up steam.  While quite a few non-political junkies (and most Republicans) aren't paying much attention to the story, the relentless drumbeat is having an effect.  Only about a third of Republicans think Russia tried to influence the election.  This poll was in the field just as the Donald Junior story was breaking, so it's tough to say if this will have any impact on Republicans current war with reality.

The struggles for the Democrats in the poll aren't shocking.  Few can find a coherent message beyond opposition to Trump.  Given that there is no singular figure to hone a message, that's unsurprising, but they will need to craft some sort of overall message for 2018.

I would suggest:

- Fixing and improving the ACA, including a public option.
- Increased minimum wage
- Increased taxes on Wall Street/1%.
- Using those tax increases for infrastructure and...
- ...Free community college
- Criminal justice reform, especially vis a vis marijuana laws and mandatory drug sentencing
- Increased support for opiod treatments

It's coherent and simple and largely conforms to what Democrats have run on in the past.  I'm sure Martin Longman would like throw anti-monopoly into the mix.

The Republicans are unpopular because they have the floor and no one likes what they are saying besides Republicans.  Democrats are unpopular, because they are currently simply in opposition to Trumpelthinskin.

One of those is fixable.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Rotten To The Core

Let's not forget that while Trump is sui generis, he's also a perfect emblem of the GOP in 2017.  And it's their fault - entirely their fault - that we are saddled with him.

Seriously read Jennifer Rubin.  It's a cry from the heart of someone who saw what was once a conservative party become a reactionary hate group.

Have Things Really Changed?

Martin Longman thinks the collusion case is proven, and I'm not going to argue with him.

But the sole voice of reason and reality and Fox News had one of his moments when he strips away the non-stop spin and calls the reality what it really is.  Trump continues to hold on to his supporters, but even 35% of Republicans think the Russia story needs to be investigated.

When Trump's collapse comes it will be sudden and surprising and yet not sudden and surprising.  On the Watergate timeline, this is remarkably fast moving. Perhaps if the American Shitburger Act fails in the Senate, they will quickly pass a horrific, budget busting tax plan, get Donny to sign it, then cash out on this nightmare of a president.

Mike Pence is currently lying about the American Shitburger Act, so he's just another bog-standard Republican though slightly stupider than most.  But at least he's not a Mussolini wannabe, so there's that.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Render Unto Caesar

I gave a nod at trying to decipher the merits of this piece.  The methodology seems pretty ad hoc and the causality is muddled.

But it did spur a thought I've been mulling over since my sojourn in Georgia.  I wonder how much of the toxicity of Republican politics is tied to its reliance on religious, especially evangelical, voters.

The modern creed of the GOP is faith.  Faith that tax cuts for the rich will create working class jobs.  Faith that the climate isn't really warming.  Faith that their vision of morality - at odds with the secular 21st century agenda on LGBT rights, marriage and abortion - is morally superior and should be the law of the land.

The opposite of Faith is not Doubt.  Doubt is simply the terrain Faith navigates.  The opposite of Faith is Evidence, and observable evidence is the backbone of the scientific method.  The Bible said a prophet made the sun stand still in the sky.  If you read that as literally true, you have to accept that A) the sun revolves around the earth or B) the laws of physics that keep us glued to the planet's surface don't exist.  The Bible has a creation story; the fossil record has a different creation story.  One exists on faith, one exists in evidence.

Once you commit yourself to the idea that there is an Invisible Sky Daddy who controls every facet of creation, you have to ask yourself: "What's up with the Holocaust/pediatric cancer/Sandy Hook/Syria?"  Let's just take Sandy Hook.  How come Invisible Sky Daddy couldn't convince the voices in Adam Lanza's head to make him swallow a bullet?  If he can make the earth stop rotating on its axis and keep everything from hurtling into the void of space, why couldn't he just stop 20 little kids and 6 of their teachers from getting slaughtered?

In order to square this circle, you have to avoid hard questions and uncomfortable evidence.  You have to convince yourself that there were dinosaurs on Noah's Ark.  You have to claim that Invisible Sky Daddy gets enraged when a gay couple gets married, but really couldn't be bothered to stop the Holocaust.

Once you take on that cognitive armor, it's pretty easy to keep it strapped on all the time.  And that is what they do.  They reject any idea that contradicts their existing viewpoint.  Crime is going up; Trump's Russia story is fake news; solar activity is causing rising temperatures.

Friedrich Schiller and Max Weber referred to the Enlightenment as the "disenchantment of the world."  Yet it is clear there are a sizable number of Americans who have turned their back on the very movement - the Enlightenment - that created the institutions of the United States.  It can be no surprise, therefore, that those who have turned their back on the Enlightenment are turning their backs on the institutions - notably the rule of law - that are essential of American democracy to survive.

That these re-enchanted Americans are comfortable with authoritarianism should come as no surprise.  Fundamentalist religion - whether Christianity, Islam or Judaism - is patriarchal and dictatorial to its core.  The Invisible Sky Daddy is nothing if not a Lord, a King, the Host of Hosts.  God demands you obedience and your enemies shall perish (read the Psalms; it's revenge poetry).  How is that different from what Trump promised them.  The fact that Trump makes a mockery of most of Jesus' teachings is irrelevant.  This isn't a theological or ethical discussion, it's a shibboleth.

The basic moral, ethical philosophy at the heart of all great religions is empathy, compassion and devotion to the divine in your fellow human beings and the world around you.  But the new magical evangelism isn't about those things.  It's about obedience to the word of God.

And obedience - blind, unquestioning obedience - is about as un-American a trait as I can think of.

I Feel Like I'm On Crazy Pills

I'm honestly not sure how we can survive as a democracy when one of the two political parties behaves like this.  The post-Reagan GOP made a decision to embrace a set of governing policies that don't make sense; they don't comport with reality.  Massive tax cuts don't work the way they say they do.  Climate change is real.  Poverty and inequality are corroding our nation.  People don't like moral busybodies telling them how to live.  They can't "do" health care.

It has gotten to the point where Trump isn't the outlier that some Republicans want you to believe he is.  He is, in fact, a perfect arbiter of the state of the contemporary GOP.  Some of them get that.  But the herd mentality that exists in both parties exists on an order of magnitude greater in the GOP.  Democrats have clustered together around certain policies just because the Blue Team supports them.  What is unique about the GOP is that are perfectly comfortable arguing against objective, factual, measurable reality.

Some of this can be seen in Josh Marshall's new "Trump Razor."  Trump and those in his orbit see everything as a media strategy.  They have thrived off the chaos of the modern media environment and that chaos derives from the idea that anything is up for debate among screaming panels on CNN.

I don't know how we can have a functioning political system unless the GOP's fevered madness is broken, and that can only happen with a wave election the likes of which we haven't seen.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

And Oh By The Way...

The GOP have come out with their latest efforts to appeal to anxious white working class voters. Not only does it blow a $7.8 billion hole in the treasury, but it funnels the overwhelming bulk of the tax cuts to the top 0.1%.

Yglesias is right.  The whole debate about whether to use economic populism to appeal to WWC voters at the expense of college educated suburbanites is a false choice.  Trump was able to sell himself as a champion of the common man, because he shared some of their resentments.  But he's still richer than you are.  And these policies would basically cement the idea of the GOP being in the thrall of the 1%.

You run on class warfare.  The 99% against the 1%, and even some of the 1% will be on your side.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

They Are All Fredo

Honestly, I get in the car for a day and the Trump Crime Family goes full Fredo?

Trying to figure out why DTJ dropped his full admission on to the Internet is making people dizzy with speculation.  He pretty much comes out and proves every dark conspiracy theory out there.

This could be the acid test for the shoot-someone-in-the-face theory that Trump has about his popularity with his base.  At least one apologist had to do a double take, but until Faux News starts hammering him on this, I'll hold my breath.

My personal feeling is that they are going to set Don Jr up as the center of it all and then Don Sr will pardon him.  And then they will erect a massive golden middle finger on the south lawn of the White House that rotates to follow people as they walk by.  His 27% base will excuse everything and the GOP Congress will continue to stroke their chin and express some concern, but you know...

Thank you, Republicans.  This is really making America great again.

Heckuva a job, Whitey.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Krazy Keystone Kops

The recent bombshell (at least the Trumpeters are preparing us for whatever war they have coming by shelling us constantly with bombshells) from the NYTimes is a great example of the complete cluster fuck that is the Trump Administration.

Apparently the story goes like this:

- "Three advisers to the White House and two others with knowledge of it" broke the story that Donald Trump, Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner met with a Russian lawyer with close ties to the Kremlin who promised them compromising information on Clinton.  As most people have noted, it is the sources that matter.  This many sources this highly placed means that either there is something worse coming and they want to get on top of it or maybe shape the timing of the story.  Or perhaps they are starting to sell each other out, as each person looks for the exits.

- Donald Jr.'s version of events was that it was no big deal, because even though they were promised compromising information on Clinton, they didn't get any so, YOLO LOL JK WTF.  This is the Trump Administration in all it's stupid glory.  "Hey, we wanted to commit a crime, but our co-conspirator fell through so no biggie."

- Bush 43's ethics lawyer says this boarders on treason.  Remember that in 2000, when Al Gore was given Dubya Bush's debate prep book, he turned it over to the FBI.  Trump's people met with a known agent of Russia to help get damaging information on Clinton, and it was the candidate's son, son-in-law and then campaign manager who took the meeting.  Anyone with a working knowledge of of politics and the law is increasingly gobsmacked.

- And it won't make a whit of difference.  People who hate Trump will see their exasperated disgust grow with no outlet.  Republicans who bemoan being saddled with this tinpot wannabe dictator will facepalm and shake their heads, but do nothing of substance to stop him.  His troglodyte supporters will decry "fake news" despite the confirmation from Junior himself.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Thanks, Republicans.  Really.  Your love of country over party is really something to behold.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Wizard Of Ahs

We have spent a fair amount of time talking about media bubbles since 2016 shocked the world in Britain and America.  The basic idea is that we only talk with our like-minded partisans and shut out the messy fact that about half the people disagree with us on fundamental issues beyond mere policy.  I mean, are you surprised that there is still a Flat Earth society? How can you be surprised by anything anymore?

Still, there is another bubble we wrap ourselves in as Americans.  We are a people uniquely powerful in the world beyond our borders and uniquely ignorant of it, too.  Are you curious how the president* is viewed from abroad?  Take a listen to this analysis from a reporter from a country arguably as similar to us as any in the world.  There is not a word that a fair person could argue with and it is as devastating a take down of the Marmalade Mussolini as you could imagine.

Make America Great Again went from a joke to a threat.  It is now so painfully and pathetically ironic that it almost leaves me breathless.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

War. What Is It Good For?

As I have been tending to my ailing father, I've avoided the news, because there is only so much misery I can take in a 24 hour period.  However, I've been reading Rick Atkinson's Liberation Trilogy; I've liberated Africa and I'm about to liberate Rome.

Atkinson writes with a sort of Homeric flair, and he pulls it off. But he does his best work at describing the misery, fear and meat-grinding carnage infantrymen faced in the Mediterranean Theater.  Reading his description of Churchill's dogged determination to attack Italy and then Anzio is to lower one's estimation of the man.  Churchill was as eager to expend young men's blood at Anzio as he was at Gallipoli in World War I.  This cavalier attitude toward slaughter weighed on the generals and lower ranking officers whose orders sent men to their death.

I was thinking about that as I considered the emotionally retard meatpuppet we have as our current president.  On the one hand, you have the sort of rank incompetence up and down the administration that would be shocking if it weren't so commonplace.  Failure to book a hotel for the G-20.  Mistaking the name of China. Basic literacy.

Churchill and Roosevelt were not gods. They made horrible mistakes and miscalculations.  But they were men steeped in history and knowledgeable about the world they lived in.  And they still blundered into killing fields and made decisions that slaughtered millions.

What chance do we have in North Korea?  Sure, militarily, we will win the war eventually.  But the dead will pile themselves upon themselves, all because we elected an incurious manchild to be our king and savior, because the competent lady had poor email standards.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Sorry

I've been immersed in family stuff.  To preserve my sanity, I haven't been following the news as closely.

So....


Thursday, June 29, 2017

The View From The Other Side

I have been on call at my father's sick bed and he tends to watch a lot of Fox News.  A lot.

We have brokered an agreement where when I come in the room, he hits mute, but I've heard a ton of Fox propaganda simply by being under the same roof.

Basically Obamacare is a terrible, terrible failure that is failing in a failure-type way every failing day.

Except, you know, it's not.

My father - being himself - wanted to pick a fight on Medicaid expansion to people who are working.  I demurred, but the idea that everyone on Medicaid is either unemployed or loafing or both is a pernicious lie.  If you make, as a single person, about $15,000 a year and don't get insurance through your employer, you get it through Medicaid.  (The baseline goes up with the number of people in your household.)  Many of those people work part-time here and there, either because they are single parents or their employers keep them under 30 hours a week so they don't have to offer health insurance.  Maybe they are self-employed.

We give them health insurance through Medicaid.

His nurse's assistant today was railing against that, because why should someone who won't work (again, false about Medicaid) get health insurance?

And as long as that is our attitude about health care, we will remain a cruel, petty people.

Monday, June 26, 2017

AHCA

I don't know if the American Shitburger Bill will pass, but if it does, it is because in the Republican Party, "the moderates always cave."

Leaning on Heller, Cassady and Collins is a weak reed.

Also, I've been busy with family business, but thank God it's kept me from the news.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Baked In The Cake

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

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

And yet, people don't elect Democrats.

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

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

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

Also, fuck you, Jill Stein.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Tweet Of The Day

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

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

Monday, June 19, 2017

June?

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

I assume Trump tweeting something absurd.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Monster Is Calling From Inside The House

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Exhausted

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

Thursday, June 15, 2017

I Must Concur

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

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Violent Country, A Violent Creed

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

Monday, June 12, 2017

Call Your Senator

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

Here's a handy guide.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Kids Are Alright

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

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

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

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

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

The First Crisis

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

We are in the process of finding out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 9, 2017

Own Goal

Congratulations to the Conservative Party of Great Britain.

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

That's oddly impressive.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Now What?

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Tehran

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 5, 2017

Arby's

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

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

Sunday, June 4, 2017

ISIS, Europe And Terrorism

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 3, 2017

At the AP Reading

Great people.

Still a death slog.

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

Friday, June 2, 2017

Remarkable

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

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

Thursday, June 1, 2017

In Which I Disagree With Booman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

America's Crime, Mexico's Sentence

American demand for heroin is destroying large swaths of Mexico.

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

Monday, May 29, 2017

Always Another Barrel

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

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

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

And maybe destroy health care.

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Treason? He Went To Jared!

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

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

Friday, May 26, 2017

Played

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

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

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

Good job, Republicans.

The Cold Comfort Of Moral Victories

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Stay Classy

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Putin Country

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Message and The Messenger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Morons. We Are Working With Morons.

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

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

What We Are Talking About, When We Talk About Russia

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The King's Speech

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Here's Some Good News

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

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

Friday, May 19, 2017

FFS

Lieberman?  Really?

The Heir Apparent

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

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

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

Good luck with that.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Oh. Just Shut Up

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

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

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

The Payoff

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Genuinely Mystifying

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

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

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

Why should the congressional GOP protect Trump?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Trial Run

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

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

Let's see if the pattern holds.

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

Lifecycle Of A Trump Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 15, 2017

A Victory, However Impermanent

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

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

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

It's your democracy, America, cherish it.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Serious Question

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

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

Yeesh.

Baffling


What a week, amirite?

You have the following revelations:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is bad.

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

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

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

I can't see that from here.

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

Shame on them.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Podesta Tries Some Trolling

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

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

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

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

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

No amount of buck passing should obscure this fact.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Motivated Reasoning In Action

Holy crap.

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

Seriously, tell me again how patriotic you are.

Unified Theory Of Trump

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

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

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

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

Here are the basic options:

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

Which one scares you more?

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

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Can We Invoke The 25th Amendment Yet?

The Preznit is a golldang moe-ron.

Halfway To A Good Idea

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

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

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

Trump Is All Amygdala

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

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Things You May Have Missed

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

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

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

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

Lies And The Lying Liars Who Tell Them

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's THAT bad.

Trump's Gonna Trump

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

Think about what this reveals about Trump.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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