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

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Hunh, I Wonder What The Statues Are All About?

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



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

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Marc Thiessen Is An Idiot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But they simply are the opposite of totalitarian.

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

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

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Nazi Punching

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

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

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

Josh Marshall gives a solid historical take.

German Lopez looks at the poli-sci take.

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

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

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

Monday, August 28, 2017

Harvey And Katrina

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

These discussions will mostly suck.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 27, 2017


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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Liberal Democracy

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

I honestly don't know.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

He's Mentally Ill

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 21, 2017

Patrimonial Kleptocracy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the end, that's the point.

Sunday, August 20, 2017


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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 19, 2017


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

How's that working out?

Bannon Unbound

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please proceed, Bannon.  Please.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Barcelona To Charlottesville

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Unified Theory Of Trump

Josh Marshall nails it.

Political Decay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Trump's Words

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

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

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

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

They won't feel they have to any longer.

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


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

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

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

Fox News Might Be Destroying Our Country

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 14, 2017

Black Lives Matter Are Not The Same As Nazis

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

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

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

And yet...

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

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

Think about the layer of rationalization going on here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 13, 2017

On Fascism And Charlottesville

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

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

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

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

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

Up until it gets violent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Nope, Still Not Reassured

Here's a piece saying the North Korea acts within a certain logic.  It is sound analysis.  However, North Korean actions over the years have been predicated on the US not responding out of spite or anger or fear or malice.  They have played the madman, because the US has to be the sane one.

What has everyone worried is not just North Korea's nuclear brinksmanship, but the fact that the US is led by an impulsive, petulant manchild who doesn't understand much of anything beyond his own emotional needs in a given moment.

And, on cue, Kim is upping the ante, because that has always worked in the past to sober up Washington.  I doubt it will work this time, unless McMaster and Tillerson have control of Hair Furor's tweeter feed.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Not Reassured

Several security and international relations sages have said that we shouldn't worry too much about a war on the Korean peninsula, because reasons.  Those reasons break down into several broad and seemingly plausible categories:

- North Korea and the US engage in saber rattling quite frequently.
- The US is not on a war footing, including the lack of mobilization in Korea, no ambassador to Seoul and no global preparation.
- North Korea - while bellicose - has not been irrational in the past.

All of these are true, and all of them are quite possibly irrelevant.  Hair Furor and Kim Jong Un are the least tempered and calm leaders their countries have none in the modern era.  Kim is unbound by any norms and Trump acts like he is.  Their perception of crisis - its roots and solutions - are different than everyone else.  Both men are obsessed with "strength" as a posture rather than something more profound.

There are ample examples from history of wars that start because both sides assumed the other side would cave quickly.  Since exactly 72 years ago this week, world leaders who have had access to nuclear weapons restrained themselves from using them.  Nothing about these two whackaloons suggest they are familiar with restraint.

To be clear, I'm not saying war with North Korea is inevitable, but it is more likely right now that I can remember, with two variously desperate narcissists making the final critical decisions.

Hopefully, the weather stays nice in New Jersey so Trump can stay on the links, away from headlines like these and let the grown ups handle this.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

War Porn

Apparently, North Korea might be able to put a nuke on one of its ICBMs.  That brings them up to one of Trump's "red lines."  Trump - who basically tries to divine what Obama did then do the opposite - is likely to respond with force.  This is terrible news for Japan, cataclysmic news for South Korea and an extinction event for North Korea.

Fox and the other various agitprop outfits are starting to push the war porn, which will only accelerate Trump's march to war.

I would guess that we are fighting somewhere sooner rather than later.

This is only going to get worse.

(No sooner than I post this than he does this.)

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Coming Cataclysm

Martin Longman runs through some of the game scenarios for the debt ceiling.  The fundamental issues are as follows:

- The GOP can't govern.  They can't get their Teanderthal wing to do jackshit, so they do nothing.
- Trump is neither popular nor competent, so he can't whip the party behind a debt ceiling increase.
- Mike Mulvaney is a fucking idiot.

So, any debt ceiling increase is likely to need Democratic votes.  A lot of them, possibly.  In the past the majority party simply bites the bullet and passes the increase without any help from the minority party.  In this case, there are enough Mulvaney-level morons to make it very unlikely that Ryan and McConnell can pass a debt ceiling increase without Democratic votes (this is especially true of Ryan).

What, then, should Democrats ask for in return for their votes.  The typically craven play would be simply to ask for a clean extension.  It's responsible, sober and the usual shitty politics that distinguishes Democratic strategy.

A likely play would be a debt ceiling increase that guarantees some spending on certain things Democrats like: Planned Parenthood, SNAP, the EPA.  That's not terrible in this day and age, but you'd better get a nice return and figure out a way to get credit for it.

The bold play would be to hold out for a commitment that the debt ceiling is a fiction.  Once Congress passes any spending bills, the US government commits to paying those costs, even if it raises the debt limit.  Basically, it would give up the very idea of the debt ceiling and the almost annual crisis it engenders.

What's more, they should hold fast to this demand, even if it launches a recession.  I know, I know, recessions are like wars, they tend to spiral out of control.

Trump and the GOP are remarkably unpopular.  They are unpopular despite a relatively healthy economy and peace.  If a recession cracks open, you have the potential to realign the country in a significant way.  As Jon Chait notes, the last two times the GOP held complete power in DC, they created the conditions for the two worst financial crises of the past 100 years.  Both of those crises led to Democratic governance and significant reforms.

Play the long game, Democrats.  For once, play the long game.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Odd Little Things

Yesterday, we chanced upon my Dad's voice on the answering machine.  Today, with news that Jalen Collins of the Falcons was suspended, I briefly thought, "What will Dad say?"

But of course, recordings are all that's left of his voice and he will never be able to weigh in on the Falcons again.

On the other hand, I know exactly what he would say about Collins and I can hear him say it.  Memories may not be immortality, but it will do for now.

Saturday, August 5, 2017


Jon Chait makes the case that Trump's presidency has already failed.  It is tough to argue against any of the particulars.  Trump should not be president.  Increasingly, he has earned the opprobrium or defiance of increasing parts of "his party" and the government at large.

We are not terribly far from a scenario where Trump seeks to launch an attack on North Korea and his military balks, creating a potential crisis within the institution of the military.

If this does play out in some form, if the GOP manages to discover their spine and sense of national duty, if Trump gets bounced from office somehow, it is absolutely imperative that Democrats make sure that EVERYONE knows that Trump was a creature of the Republican party at large.  Trump IS the modern GOP base.

We have them to thank for this shitshow.

Friday, August 4, 2017


I'm not sure what to make of this.  It's a nice piece of writing, sure, as it describes a dying Texas town and the bonds of community.

How are these place supposed to exist?  How is a town so small it has 9 members of the Senior class supposed to run a school?  What jobs exist?

The vast empty Red State is increasingly America's problem.  Yes, there are issues of race, but the cities are mostly functioning fine.  Drug wars continue to kill people in certain cities, like Chicago, but it's not the cities that have struggled to adapt to the 21st century.

At the end of the 19th century, a clergyman asked, "What are we to do with our great cities?"  This was in response to the horrific poverty and crime of the slums.  Despite the news, that's not the big story.

The big story comes from little places.  Places too small to notice, but whose combined weight is dragging its people down.

Thursday, August 3, 2017


Some Dude at WaPo says we shouldn't count out Trump when his poll numbers are around 37%.  His argument is that Trump might be approaching his floor, since hardcore Republicans still support him.

This is flawed for two reasons.

First, if you're the Democrats, you shouldn't give two shits how Trump does among Republicans.  In the coming years, look at how many Republicans there are.  What I anticipate with Trump is more and more old school centrist Republicans becoming independents.  Some of those will cross party lines in 2018 and 2020 to muzzle Mango Mussolini.  As many have noted, Trump isn't an anomaly in the Republican party; he's an anomaly among Republican elites, but he is their base distilled, tinted orange and with a wig slapped on top.

Second, any president at the end of six months in office who is this far underwater with a relatively robust economy is in deep, deep trouble.  Trump drew two inside straights to become president.  This is what everyone seems to forget.  He needed to eek out marginal victories in either Wisconsin/Michigan or Pennsylvania.  He wound with both, but that was largely because he held the same sort of appeal to same sort of voters.  That appeal will largely dissipate with time.

Trump is guaranteed a strong primary challenger that the Establishment lines up behind.  Win or lose the primary, the GOP will be riven.  There is no greater predictor for an incumbent president losing an election than a strong primary challenge.  Ask Taft, Carter, or Bush 41.  LBJ went so far as to quit the race.

Yes, we are likely stuck with Trump for at least another year and a half or more, so in that sense, the article is right.

But that has nothing to do with the polls.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Massaging the Message

My friend, David Greenberg, has a piece in the WaPo about how better spin and communication strategy isn't Trump's problem; Trump's problem is that he is not a good president.  He uses historical examples of president's who were considered media wizards until they weren't.  And they weren't because reality will ultimately overwhelm the spin.

The converse in some ways is true.  Since both 2010 and 2016, Democrats have fretted endlessly about how to either activate more core voters or flip WWC voters.  The assumption is that messaging will make a huge difference.  As David points out, reality overwhelms spin.  Democrats didn't win in 2006 and 2008 because their messaging improved, no matter how much you love the Obama videos.  If Obama was a great messenger - and he is - why did Democrats lose control of the House in 2010?

They lost because the economy was still quite bad and people were suspicious of Obamacare.  In other words, they won because they had the negative message on their side.  In effect, the same thing happened in 2016, the negative message sort of won out over the policy message.  Some of this is because Republican voters are more in tune with negative messaging - "government is bad," "blacks are bad," "Mexican Muslims are scary" - but it's also true for Democrats.

Being in opposition means being in opposition.  Yes, Democrats should have a platform to run on, but before 2020, they won't have a predominant spokesman to deliver it.  Instead, it absolutely makes sense to harp on Trump and the Republican's many shortcomings.  It works.