Are Nazis Bad?

The surreal part of living through the reign of King Donnie, First of His Name is that we have to ask ourselves civic questions that we really shouldn’t have to ask. Like: Can a president pardon himself for gross corruption involving Russian agents and criminals? And then in the wake of Charlottesville, there’s another question being asked that ought to be obvious: Are Nazis bad?

Well, to paraphrase Bill Clinton, it depends on what you mean by “bad.”

The beautiful thing about the English language is that any given concept can be described with a number of words, and by the same token, several words can be interpreted in more than one way. As with “bad.” When we say Nazis are bad, does that mean that they are spiritually Evil? Yes.

Does that mean that they are wrong and should not be allied with? Yes.

But does “bad” mean that Nazis are bad in the sense of being bad at their jobs, in the sense that they won’t do what they say they will, or that they are outright incompetent?

Let’s see.

Anybody who saw the original Star Trek will remember the episode where Captain Kirk went to look up John Gill, the history professor he studied under at the Academy, and found that the planet where Gill had gone to study had somehow turned into an analog of Nazi Germany. And when the Enterprise crew investigated, Kirk discovered to his horror that his professor was actually the Fuehrer of this Nazi regime. Once Kirk got to confront the professor, he asked why he would come up with such a horrible idea, and the old man said that Nazi Germany was the “most efficient state Earth ever knew.” And Spock concurred, saying: “Quite true, Captain. That tiny country, beaten, bankrupt, defeated; rose in a few years to stand only one step away from global domination.”

When the Nazis formed a parliamentary government in 1932, they spent the next two years consolidating power, especially after the death of the aged head of state Paul von Hindenburg. A primary goal of the Nazis, and of the establishment military who were not always on board with Hitler, was to re-arm the country so that it could become a major power again.

One major instrument in this program was a financial scheme based on a previous program of the Weimar Republic. Promissory notes were issued by the Society for Public Works through the Reichsbank and used for job creation and public building projects, similar to projects in both Fascist Italy and Franklin Roosevelt’s later New Deal. When the Nazis took over, this project was used by Economics Minister (and Reichsbank president) Hjalmar Schacht. As part of the public-works program, Schacht helped initiate the construction of the Autobahn network (which was expanded under post-Nazi governments) and also modified the promissory bills program, creating the limited liability company Metallurgische Forschungsgesellschaft or “MEFO” for short. Mefo bills served as notes of exchange convertible to Reichsmarks on demand. The MEFO company had no existence except as a balance sheet entity. In his postwar testimony at the Nuremberg trials, Schacht said that the device “enabled the Reichsbank to lend by a subterfuge to the Government what it normally or legally could not do”.

While Mefo bills did serve to address the government’s deficit problems, inherited from the Great Depression, it also served to allow the Nazi regime to fund re-armament programs, paying arms manufacturers with off-sheet funds that concealed a military buildup forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles.

This government spending, as in Italy and the US, did help pull Germany out of the Depression, but the Mefo bills had interest that would eventually come due. Furthermore, in order to satisfy the regime’s demand for imported materials, Schacht supervised the “New Plan” that operated “by various measures suspending the service on Germany’s foreign indebtedness, by freezing other claims of foreigners on Germany, by a stringent system of export controls and by eliminating foreign travel and other unessential foreign expenditures.” These imports and domestic product were in turn directed by the Ministry of Economics with production quotas, in particular scarce war materials, in preparation for the eventual wartime economy.

In the Star Trek parallel, Kirk asked Spock why John Gill would use Nazi Germany as a political model knowing the results, and Spock answered “Perhaps Gill felt that such a state, run benignly, could accomplish its efficiency without sadism.” That turned out not to be the case; in the episode Gill was secretly neutralized and drugged by an unscrupulous lieutenant who used propaganda to incite his nation toward a genocidal war. In the case of the real Nazis, Hitler’s whole agenda was predicated on race war and conquest of Europe, and any beneficial changes were simply instrumental to creating a better war machine for that purpose. The economic miracle was based on a financial shell game whose bill was coming due and which could only be paid by looting nearby countries.

Which is why ultimately there is no distinction between the moral and the practical. If one seeks the quick and easy path to power by alliance with Evil, that means you cut corners and you make mistakes. The bad guys cut corners in that they dispense with bourgeois luxuries like “individual rights” and “rule of law.” But a leadership that holds itself to no higher standards than their own whim is prone to ignore information that goes against its dogma (like, don’t pick fights with the entire planet at once) and they suffer in the long run.

But one could argue that in the short run, Germans weren’t aware that things would turn out the way they did. When Hitler took over, Germany was still fairly screwed. And over six years, it became an industrially strong military power again. If Hitler had left off after saying the Sudetenland was “my last territorial demand” his regime might have survived. Because up to that point, evil as the Nazis were, they hadn’t made too many administrative mistakes.

And this is where the comparison to the modern day comes in. And even now, I generally find direct comparisons of Adolf Hitler to Donald Trump overheated. Although there was that one time in June 1941 when Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, and then six months later said, “nobody told me that conquering Russia would be so complicated.”

Part of the problem in comparison is that as racist as America is, it was always more liberal and multiracial than Prussianized Germany, and thus the would-be Nazis of our time are still a product of the generally liberal culture they are doing their utmost to destroy. What do you call a Nazi with a Slavic wife, Jewish in-laws, and connections to Goldman-Sachs? A STUPID Nazi. What do you call a Nazi who sees his Leader with a Slavic wife, Jewish in-laws, and connections to Goldman-Sachs, and still thinks that guy is the savior of his race? A REALLY stupid Nazi.

One thing that ex-President Steve Bannon  got right is when he gave that interview to The American Prospect  and told their reporter that his focus more than foreign policy or even racism was what he called economic nationalism- the use of various devices and protectionist policies to strengthen the economy versus other nations like China. “The Democrats,” he said, “the longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.” Given how many Americans either actively support “alt-right” racism or just don’t care, the real danger of Trump’s election was there was a chance that Trump could have done just as well as Hitler – if in fact he had done just as well as Hitler. Most Germans didn’t really care about (or hate) Jews as much as they cared about getting their jobs and their country’s prestige back. The comparison of the Trump Administration to the Nazi regime would hold up better if the Leader of the movement had even Adolf Hitler’s level of emotional maturity and common sense.

Fortunately that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Donald Trump, contrary to the apologist view of Nazism, is not efficient, but certainly is sadistic. The key is that the Nazis had enough regard for their own program that they could plan it out in advance with short notice and then implement it over a period of years. The Republican Party outside Trump may not be fascistic, but they did have both social and economic agendas that they had years to plan in advance anticipating a Republican president. As we have seen, they did not use that time wisely, and had no plan to replace Obamacare or enact the rest of the agenda. Their tax reform plans are probably more fleshed out than their healthcare plans, but given how much of them were based on a transfer of tax liabilities from the upper percentile to put the costs of healthcare on most customers’ deductibles, it’s doubtful that the “fiscal conservatives” will amount to much. And those guys in Congress are the serious and experienced politicians. As opposed to Mister “I’m Not A Billionaire, But I Play One On TV.”

It would take a while to go over exactly how much Donald Trump has failed his own program, assuming that he has one. So rather than print out every fuckup and self-inflicted wound that Trump has performed in just the last four weeks… just watch this.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1eRNCGR6pUg

Again, Bannon had at least the inkling of an idea to enact a useful “nationalist” policy with potential, but the real value is in the execution. It is generally considered that Steve Bannon was the architect of the Administration’s early “travel ban” on citizens of seven Muslim countries, but that order was unvetted, not examined by legal counsel, and so haphazardly put together that it was quickly shut down by lawyers and courts. And Bannon was the brains of the outfit. Trump’s blanket ban on transgender persons in the military seemed to have no backing other than a Twitter post, and the day afterward the Joint Chiefs of Staff announced that the policy on who may serve will not change until the White House sends new rules and the Secretary of Defense issues new guidelines. In other words, “we are not enforcing this tweet until it is backed up by something legally coherent.” This is of a pattern with Trump being so mercurial, acting on the spur of the moment rather than any long-term plan, that it is easy for his maneuvers to get checked by rivals within the system – who actually know how the system works, and who fear that his bull-in-a-china-shop behavior will wreck the structure on which they all depend. It’s that much worse when the “smart” people in the White House and in the Republican Party are supposed to be on board with the reactionary plan and they fight amongst themselves. If Trump has one thing in common with Hitler, it’s his possibly deliberate method of controlling his underlings by pitting them against each other for his favor. The difference is that Hitler’s underlings were mostly loyal to both him and the ideology, and (at least in the short term) were competent.

It’s horrible enough that anybody could endorse Nazism when it works. What’s truly pathetic about the Trump Right is that they’re bad at being Nazis. If you put these schmucks in charge of invading Poland on September 1, 1939, the Polish Army would have hit Berlin by the 4th.

Of course even more pathetic than the weekend Nazis of the alt-right are the sensible cloth-coat Republicans who must now realize that their boy has enhanced their reputation the way Hitler enhanced German nationalism. I mean, if you sold your soul to the Devil for luxury and power, and you actually got it, you might tell yourself you got some short term benefit for your damnation. But if you sold your soul to kill Obamacare and build a wall on Mexico and your Devil turned out to be a whiny little punk who had to beg Mexico to pay for his idea, and then bullied more experienced Senators on Obamacare and ended up with that whole thing blowing up in his face- what have you gained? Now you’re eternally damned AND you look like a tool. That’s gotta sting.

Charlottesville

What’s the difference between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump? One is a spoiled megalomaniac who wants to destroy America. The other is Kim Jong-un.

I posted that on Facebook a few days ago. Even then I didn’t know how right I was.

Overnight, white nationalists led by Richard Spencer marched with tiki torches at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. There they confronted anti-racist protestors near a statue of Thomas Jefferson, chanting “Blood and Soil“.  “Former” Klansman David Duke identified this movement with the vote for Donald Trump, saying “We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back.”

Today, August 12, the “Unite the Right” rally converged near Emancipation Park, formerly named for General Robert E. Lee and the Lee equestrian statue in the park. The Governor of Virginia declared a state of emergency before the rally could reach the park, with authorities using tear gas and chemical spray to break up protests between the white nationalists and counter-protestors. At one point a Dodge Challenger with no license plates drove into a crowd of protestors, crunching into the rear of another vehicle, before backing up (into other witnesses) and leaving the scene. At least 35 people have been injured by various causes.

A 32-year old woman has since died from the vehicle attack. As I write this, there are reports of a State Police helicopter in the area crashing and killing two occupants.

Supposedly the city’s decision to remove the Lee statue was the reason for the rally. I agree with many on the Right that we shouldn’t be using political correctness (or rather, fashionable opinion) to erase history. Unasked is the question of what history is really being erased.

The Lee equestrian statue was commissioned in 1919 and fully completed in 1924. Robert E. Lee died in 1870, only five years after the Civil War. In his postwar career, the former Confederate general had his citizenship revoked for his actions. In 1865 he was made the president of Washington College in Virginia. Before the war he had actually opposed secession but became a Confederate to defend his state of Virginia. At the time of the surrender, he opposed a postwar guerrilla campaign, saying “far from engaging in a war to perpetuate slavery, I am rejoiced that slavery is abolished. I believe it will be greatly for the interests of the South.” Lee was always against giving black men the vote but as the head of Washington College expelled students for attacks on local black men, and toward the end of his life, helped establish state schools for blacks.

Both during and after the Civil War, Robert E. Lee was admired even in the North, because whatever his opinions on race, he was at least a gentleman of honor. Which the people who act in his name today are not.

Assume, for the sake of argument (because I know some people are making this argument) that the driver turns out to be an “Antifa” leftist hitting people just to smear the Right. How would it make the Left look good if that turned out to be the case? Wouldn’t that just turn people against their tactics? So consider that in the far more likely event that the assailant is one of your guys, how does that make you look? Does it reflect well on you at all that innocent blood is on your hands? You’re not trying to unite the country. In your own terms, you are trying to mobilize a Racial Holy War. But what you don’t get is that you are convincing more and more of the country, many of whom (like me), are technically in “your” demographic, that YOU are the enemy.

See, I was setting up to post a post-election opinion on the recurring subject of whether Hillary Clinton was more to blame for the 2016 election than third-party voters. But both Jill Stein and Gary Johnson ran for President in 2012 and the psychology that made Donald Trump president in 2016 did not help Mitt Romney. Goodness knows that in 2012 there were enough right-wing racists speaking against Barack Obama, but they were not enough to win an election. This is not the fault of Gary Johnson. It is not the fault of Jill Stein. (OK, maybe a tiny bit Jill Stein.)  It is not even the fault of people who stayed home, and it is certainly not the fault of people who voted for Clinton.

You people who voted for Donald Trump?

This is on YOU.

That woman’s blood is on your hands. This is what you wanted and this is what you got.

In his grudging statement against violence today, Donald Trump, who had previously told a gathering of New York police officers “don’t be too nice” when apprehending suspects, said “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama, this has been going on for a long, long time.”

But there were a double-digit number of people in the Republican Party running for president in 2016, and all of them would have been offensive to the Left. It was quite likely that one of them could have gotten elected anyway, due to either Clinton hate or a general fatigue with the incumbent party, and they most likely would enact policies that would offend liberals and even moderates. None of them except Trump started their campaign by saying that Mexicans “aren’t sending (us) their best … they’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists”.

None of them except Trump would ally with a self-described Leninist like Steve Bannon.

None of those campaigns would have responded to a Russian offer of Clinton campaign dirt with the three words: “I love it.” None of those campaigns would have coordinated a meeting with Russian agents with the help of Paul Manafort. None of them would have hired Paul Manafort as a campaign manager after what he did in Ukraine.

None of those potential presidents would have “gotten tough” on immigration with a crackdown on legal immigrants that was immediately thrown out by courts.

And while most of the other Republicans could have started a blanket ban on transgender people in the military, none of them would have used Twitter to do so, in such a brain-dead manner that it offended even Orrin Hatch.

But more important: None of those people would have gotten Trump’s level of support, and for those very reasons. When you saw the pathological liar with the circus peanut tan make shit up on camera, you said, “Finally, someone who’s authentic!” When it was pretty damn clear he didn’t have a plan to replace Obamacare, or build the Wall, you didn’t care. When he said John McCain wasn’t a hero just because he was tortured by the communist Vietnamese (at the same time Trump was dodging the draft), you agreed. And when he was caught on tape saying “grab ’em by the pussy, you can do whatever you want”, you didn’t disavow your hero. You cheered.

Remember, this event in Charlottesville came in the wake of a press conference where Trump actually praised Vladimir Putin for cutting Moscow embassy staff, on the grounds that we needed to reduce our payroll anyway.  After a certain point, the enemy doesn’t even bother to hide what they really are anymore.

The question is what the rest of us are going to do about it.

 

They’re Getting Sick Of Winning

On the July 30 episode of Game of Thrones, Queen Daenerys met Jon Snow and they were locked in tense negotiations over his desire for aid against the White Walkers versus her demand for fealty. Meanwhile, Queen Cersei’s new ally and Yara’s main enemy Euron Greyjoy captured Yara and the remaining Dornish leaders to parade through King’s Landing, eventually to be tortured. Cersei was told by the Bank of Braavos to pay her outstanding debts. Daenerys kept Jon on hold long enough to execute Tyrion’s plan to take the Lannister stronghold of Casterly Rock, only to find that Jaime Lannister had already decided to sacrifice the castle and use his family army to defeat Daenerys’ ally, House Tyrell, who also happened to be the richest family in the Seven Kingdoms, thus solving the bank problem. And out of courtesy Jaime agreed to let Dame Tyrell poison herself rather than be tortured, only for the old woman to tell him that she’d poisoned King Joffrey (Jaime’s incestuous son) for everyone’s good.

This is simpler to follow than the Trump Administration.

Where did this all begin? Well, a bunch of people in Hillary Clinton’s “firewall” states decided to mainline Alex Jones with a Rush Limbaugh chaser and gave the government a lobotomy. But this specific thread of events started with Donald Trump getting increasingly fed up with his press flack, Sean Spicer and pushing him further and further away from the press. Eventually Trump “solved” the problem by creating a new Commuincations Director, Anthony Scaramucci, who actually went by the nickname “the Mooch.” Which would make him the most aptly named public figure since Andy Dick. Trump seemed to have appointed Scaramucci to this role because he liked his style. It turned out he had all of Donald Trump’s entertainment value and none of his common sense. In a now-legendary phone conversation with Ryan Lizza at the New Yorker, The Mooch not only went through several New York Italian turns of verse, he attacked White House leakers in general and (alleged) Chief of Staff Reince Preibus in particular, saying “Reince Priebus—if you want to leak something—he’ll be asked to resign very shortly.” And lo, Preibus was made to resign around July 27, just after Scaramucci’s oratory was made public. The problem was that now Trump needed a chief of staff, and by either advice or his own inclination he decided to make his current Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly the new Chief of Staff, and one Kelly’s priorities seems to be getting grownups in charge. Certain people in the White House were embarrassed by The Mooch (obviously not Trump, or he wouldn’t have fired Preibus so quickly after The Mooch roasted him) and apparently at Kelly’s behest Tony the Mooch JUST resigned his office today. So even though he would have been SO MUCH FUN to watch in the job, Scaramucci wasn’t a very good Communications Director, unless the message being communicated was “this Administration is a Monty Python sketch directed by Martin Scorsese.”

Even then, that was just an especially colorful coating of the real news from the last ten days, which was the defeat of Trumpcare in the Senate. Prior to the vote to allow debate on a bill, it had already been categorically opposed by several senators, some of whom, like Rand Paul, were persuaded to change their minds. Two who didn’t were both moderate Republican women: Senator Susan Collins (R.-Maine) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R.-Alaska). With only 52 Republican Senators possible to vote for Mitch McConnell’s “reconcilation” maneuver, and all 48 Democrats set to vote against letting it to the floor, McConnell could not allow more than two defections if he wanted the vote to proceed, or for any bill to pass. McConnell and Trump desperately called Sen. John McCain (R.-Arizona) to come and vote for the bill even though he was recuperating from cancer surgery back home. But for the sake of his party, McCain came to Washington. He made a big show of endorsing “regular order” and the old bipartisan negotiation for bills, but on July 24 voted with 49 other Republicans and against Collins, Murkowski and the Democrats to allow the motion to proceed. With Vice President Mike Pence as the Senate tie-breaker, McConnell was able to proceed with votes for a bill that didn’t exist. So they voted for a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. That got only 43 Republican votes. Then they voted on a “clean” repeal that would be phased in two years, ostensibly to give Republicans time to create a replacement plan as if they hadn’t had seven years already. That one got 45 votes. Then McConnell’s people came up with a vaguely promised “skinny” repeal that would have repealed Obamacare’s individual mandate but not Medicaid expansion. On Thursday July 27, after liberals had had much wailing and gnashing of teeth over McCain letting things get to this point, the skinny repeal got a mostly party-line vote with Collins and Murkowski voting against it – along with McCain.

Collins and Murkowski had no reason to march with the Republican herd, because of their constituencies, and several reasons to go against it. McCain had that more reason to go against this White House, if not Republicans in general, and yet he kept us in suspense.

Why did McCain have his agony at Gethsemane for the better part of a week when he could have just shut the whole thing down by voting Nay for a floor debate? Because as it turns out, that wouldn’t have been the end of it.  Basically, McConnell, as is his way, tried to gin the result he wanted by eliminating Democrats from a process that is designed to work via negotiation. Most budget bills require a two-thirds majority in the Senate. But both chambers can request a reconcilation debate which allows a bill to pass with only a simple majority in the Senate (51 votes) and no filibustering. However such a special bill gets only 20 total hours floor debate, and- this is the key- only one such reconciliation bill can be proposed in any given year.

Had the bill never been allowed to get to the floor, McConnell could have potentially brought it up at a later time. Now that the bill has been debated, another bill cannot be proposed except through “regular order” – a standard Senate debate with two-thirds vote, which would require working with Democrats to get anywhere. And McCain knew all this.

Of course, it is still not clear whether McCain’s stunt was motivated by serious disagreements with the Republican approach to legislation or because of desire for revenge on a politician who’d insulted him and other POWs by saying “I like heroes who weren’t captured.” Because the two matters may be related.

Again, the latest Trumpcare effort crashed on July 27, and that was the same day Preibus was fired by Trump. Most of the reason that Preibus was even in the White House was as a liason to the Republican establishment, given that in 2016, he was the head of the Republican National Committee. In particular, he was a friend of House Majority Leader Paul Ryan, and allegedly Trump was persuaded by Priebus to focus on Ryan’s healthcare “reform” over other legislative priorities, even though Trump himself had little involvement in the healthcare issue and to the extent that he did, his whims were more populist than fiscally conservative. The failure of the healthcare drive was the last straw for Preibus as Chief of Staff. However useless he was, he was the only tie Trump had to the rest of the Republican institution. And now that’s gone.

Moreover, this all comes in the wake of other bad news from the Republican Party. In conjunction with Democrats, both houses of Congress passed veto-proof majorities for a bill to expand sanctions on Russia and in particular to limit Trump’s power to modify the sanctions without congressional approval. And in response to rumors that Trump would fire his Attorney General in order to find someone who would fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Senator Chuck Grassley (R.-Iowa), no liberal he, announced on Twitter “Everybody in D.C. (should) be warned that the agenda for the (Judiciary Committee) is set for rest of 2017. Judges first subcabinet 2nd / AG no way”. In other words, if Trump wants to hire a stooge who will help him obstruct justice, the Republican Senate will not help him.

When you’re a politician, you aim to run for office in hopes of boosting your resume to run for Congress. You run for Congress in hopes of running for Senate. And you run for Senate in hopes of getting elected President. But very few people get to be president, and sometimes these career politicians reach a point in their lives, like McCain has, where they realize that’s not going to happen. And when they realize this, they have to take stock of what the institution will be like when they’re gone. And some, not all, Republicans are looking at their Leader and they see a 70-year old man with a well-known fondness for KFC, McDonald’s and well-done steaks. Forget the 25th Amendment, Trump might not survive to 2020. And some of these guys have also come to realize that while their institution could survive Trump, he is enough of a spiteful little shit that he saw he was going down, he would try to take everything with him. The prospect of replacing him with Vice President Pence seems more practical by the day.

Pence certainly does not have Trump’s charismatic hold on the “base” and from a liberal standpoint, he would be that much more committed to a regressive agenda, but for the conservative establishment, that would be a point in his favor. But more important to them, a President Pence would eliminate the greater-than-zero possibility that Donald Trump will pull down his pants and take a hot dump on the Oval Office carpet during a televised interview, not to mention the even more disgusting possibility of Fox News and “Heartland America” praising such behavior as presidential.

There’s just one problem. It may already be too late for them.

There is an article in The American Conservative where columnist Rod Dreher analyzes the potential impact of Trump’s abortive ban on trans people in the military. He refers to other columns by National Review staffer David French and liberal writer Josh Barro, who both point out that whatever the military merits of such a ban, Trump’s strategy, or lack thereof, was the worst way to propose such a policy. French says “(Trump’s) typical inflammatory tweeting was guaranteed to ignite yet another round of public fury. He virtually guaranteed that the next Democratic president would immediately reverse his policy, and he made any congressional debate that much more challenging. Here’s what actual presidential leadership would look like. After permitting his respected secretary of defense to comprehensively study the issue of transgender service, he would draft a carefully written, factually supported statement describing in detail the military justifications for the policy. Then, with the full, prepared backing of the Pentagon, he’d approach a Republican-controlled Congress and write his policy into law — creating a far more permanent standard that couldn’t be quickly reversed by the next administration and wouldn’t jerk the military into a game of culture-war hot potato depending on whose party controls the White House. But that’s hard work. It’s much easier just to tweet.” Barro concurs: “By seeking to bar transgender people from the military, Trump makes the fight all about public policy. And he moves the public discussion of transgender people to some of the most unfavorable political ground possible for conservatives: Should people who wish to serve their country in a way Trump never did be allowed to do so? Democrats shouldn’t worry they’ll get in trouble for saying yes.”

By knowing nothing and caring less, Trump makes things that much harder for conservatives on an issue where he should be able to frame the debate on socially conservative and pro-military terms. Just as a population that was largely sympathetic to cracking down on scary immigrants was turned off by the treatment of legal aliens by this Administration. Just as Trump and Republicans enabled each other to create the worst of all possible worlds with healthcare and created a system that cost more and covered less, mainly to pass costs from rich people’s taxes to poor people’s deductibles, then wondered why no one wanted to kill Obamacare anymore.

This is the sort of rhetorical victory that the Left spectrum could never achieve on the merits of their own program. Likewise conservatives didn’t win because they had better ideas- they didn’t. Conservatives just managed to make people hate liberals more. It was easy given how insufferable some of their followers are. But for the most part liberals aren’t also out-and-proud bigots, and Democrats weren’t trying to actively destroy their own benefits program for the sake of their donors’ tax returns.

Republicans did not win elections because they were popular, because they had good ideas, or because they had a mandate. They won because voters hated their opponent more, or did not hate them enough to come out and vote. They fail to consider that if you get voters sufficiently pissed off, that dynamic may reverse.

 

Can I Pardon Myself? Asking For a Friend

Dear Don,

If it was that easy, don’t you think I would’ve done it?

Sincerely, Your Old Pal,

Bill

So I got back home from Comic-Con this Monday, and Donald Trump hasn’t declared martial law yet, and that’s always a good week.

But over the course of last week, Trump has made noises, tweets and possible leaks to the effect that he is thinking about firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions (who might actually be more authoritarian and bigoted than he is) for the sole reason that he recused himself on the matter of the Trump-Russia connection and thus allowed his deputy to appoint a special counsel that he cannot remove. And of course the chattering class was all abuzz about that. Then around the same time leaks came out saying that in regard to the Trump Tower meeting led by Don Jr., Trump was asking legal counsel if he could not only pardon Junior or Jared Kushner, but also himself.

And the legal answer to that question is, he probably CAN, if only because while the Founding Fathers anticipated that a presidential candidate might be the product of “cabal, intrigue, and corruption” they did not anticipate that voters and the Electoral College would be so GODDAMNED STUPID as to enable it for the sake of tribal loyalty.

Although even then, there are two caveats. First, Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution https://usconstitution.net/xconst_A2Sec2.html clearly states that the President “shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.” In other words, if Congress decides that the time has come to impeach the president, the Constitution specifically eliminates that loophole. He can pardon his family and cronies, and could preemptively pardon himself, but Congress can always impeach on its own charges. I don’t think there is a legal case for impeaching a president because he is a screaming little man-baby whose penis has retreated into his scrotum like a suicidally depressed turtle, but I think a lawyer could make a good presentation for it.

Second, if Trump did pardon Donald or Jared, legal precedent – specifically the case of Burdick v. United States (1915) https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/236/79/case.html holds that a pardon implies guilt on the part of the person accepting the pardon: ” This brings us to the differences between legislative immunity and a pardon. They are substantial. The latter carries an imputation of guilt; acceptance a confession of it. The former has no such imputation or confession. It is tantamount to the silence of the witness. It is noncommittal. It is the unobtrusive act of the law given protection against a sinister use of his testimony, not like a pardon, requiring him to confess his guilt in order to avoid a conviction of it. ” So that being the case, in making a pardon of his associates, Viceroy Trump would be officially and legally implying that there was something to hide, and there would then be grounds for impeachment. This move would tip his hand.

This isn’t a move that you would seriously make if you thought about the implications of it, but that isn’t the person we’re dealing with. Everything is just another disruption to keep Washington off-balance.

Which may be why on July 26, Trump pulled the totally non sequitur move of unilaterally declaring that the military “will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity”. Numerous reasons for this have been speculated. It was supposedly a sop to Mike Pence and other religious conservatives. According to Politico,  the main rationale was that conservatives objected to costs of gender reassignment surgery in the military and held up funding for Trump’s wall over it. But that could have been resolved simply by agreeing to forbid such surgery, and offensive as that would be to trans advocates, it would not require a blanket (and hasty) ban on trans people themselves. It’s far more likely that this is yet another smoke grenade to rile up the right-wing “base” and enrage the Left so their concentration is broken so that neither side pays attention to the important maneuver. Which according to The Washington Post is the idea of using a recess appointment to replace Jeff Sessions. Of course that requires Congress to actually be in recess, and Trump insists that Congress not go home until they pass his repeal-and-replace-no-wait-just-repeal-no-wait-replace, oh-who-gives-a-damn-just-fuck-Obama healthcare “reform.” And even with John McCain’s “principled” decision to vote for floor debate, the legislation is losing more and more Republican votes with each iteration it’s pretty clear that they just want to go home before August, and if you wonder why, you have never lived in the Maryland-Northern Virginia area in August. So not only is Trump at cross-purposes with himself, Democrats can hold “pro forma” sessions during the period so as to block an official recess. So even this is all just bullshitting. That doesn’t mean he won’t do it.

The conventional wisdom is that, oh, if Trump fires Sessions, that’ll get the Republicans upset. Like, majorly. They might actually… do something. Like they did when he insulted John McCain for being captured in a war that he avoided serving in. Like when he said “grab ’em by the pussy.” Like when he fired FBI Director Comey, who probably did more to gin the election in Trump’s favor than any Russian skullduggery. The conventional wisdom is that Trump can only go so far without the system rising up to protect itself.

Because the system has been so good at protecting itself up til now.

Do not take solace in “the way things are done.” The way things are done is gone. Every time Democrats and “decent” Republicans have thought Trump would hold back from breaking some norm, he breaks that norm and a couple more besides. If he wants to fire Sessions, the only thing stopping him from doing so is the contrary whims of his possibly-no-longer-cocaine-addicted brain.

Trump has two things in common with other bullies. The first of course is that he is a chickenshit little coward.  The second is that he gets away with bullying because bullying is gaming the social system. People maintain social norms (like, don’t be a dick) because they fear negative consequences. But what if there are no negative consequences? Bullies push the system and dare it to push back, and sometimes it doesn’t, either because the people in charge sympathize with them, or because they’ve never had their bluff called. And thus the moral code that tradition depends on is revealed as immoral, and loses its authority.

One other reason that people respect tradition and norms is that they realize that such norms protect them and theirs in the long run. They understand that it’s not all about them. That is not Trump. For all the armchair analysis, Trump is remarkably easy to understand: He is a spoiled little child, and his only philosophy is “anything that gets me what I want is Good, anything that stops me from getting what I want is Evil.” He is literally no more complex than that. He cannot consider anything above himself.

This is to be distinguished from what some of us call “ethical egoism” or “rational selfishness.” We advocate that philosophy because it is existential: You are the person in best position to judge what is in your own interest, and you ought to act in regard to your own survival. But acting in the interest of survival means having recognition of the world around you, and Trump can’t do that. Or rather, everyone in a position to discipline him, including his father and the regulatory system, protected him from such discipline. There is a difference between having no respect for others (the traditional definition of ‘selfishness’) and having no recognition of anything beyond oneself, and Trump has never had to learn this.

Thus Trump’s self-absorption is not merely evil in the traditional altruist sense of selfishness, but reflects a dangerous antipathy to reality. That is another reason why he can get away with pissing in the punch bowl, because not only does he not care about the consequences to himself, he doesn’t care about the consequences to others – including his own party.

But that goes back to two points I have repeatedly brought up. One, Donald Trump is simply what the average Donald Trump supporter would be if he had money. Secondly, Republicans, by their reflexive antagonism to anything beyond their incerasingly narrow tribe, made their party the Party of Trump even before he showed up. And when he did, all the Bushes and Rubios and Cruzes weren’t able to appeal to decency or rational self-interest, because Republicans had made such virtues politically incorrect. And the other part of the problem is that all Trump’s competitors wanted him to go down but they didn’t want to be blamed for it, because each of them expected to be the one to pick up his voter base- blanking out the fact that they voted for him because they’d finally found their guy. Republicans on both state and national levels have always played the game of playing to the red-meat “conservatives” as much as possible for the primaries then tacking to the center for general elections. They can’t do that anymore. The radicals have taken over. And because of that even the Republicans who know better can’t do anything about it, because they always put off their big goals until they could get a Republican president to nominate conservative judges and sign their legislation. And because if they didn’t, it no longer matters how anti-abortion, anti-tax or pro-Israel you are, if you want to not be steamrolled in your next primary. All that matters is if you can anticipate what color Donald Trump says the sky is today.

Republicans… there is a term in psychology for this. The term is “pussy-whipped.” That isn’t the politically correct thing to say, but you’re Republicans, so fuck political correctness, right?

Because of how you have gamed the political system, you are the only ones in position to stop Donald Trump from enforcing his delusional agenda, but you are the main reason it has gotten as far as it has. Ultimately, he is not the problem. YOU are. So I am talking to you, because now YOUR rational self-interest is at stake. Now I know that if you really believe in the Bible, you’re not supposed to care about the things of this world, and should probably be looking forward to the Apocalypse, but if you really believed that no man knows the day or the hour, you probably wouldn’t care much about your bank accounts.

So consider: Jeff Sessions actually cares about the movement. Sessions is dangerous to liberals because he is what Trumpism would be if it was led by somebody competent and concerned with a philosophy beyond himself. It has been noted by analysts that Attorney General Sessions is responsible for all the Trump Administration’s policy accomplishments. Jeff Sessions was the first Senator to endorse Donald Trump for president. And this is the thanks he gets. He gets treated like Jim Comey. Or one of Trump’s ex-wives.

The irony being that if Trump wants a new AG on the premise that he would be devoted to blocking investigation of Russian entanglement, that means this person would have to prioritize Trump’s defense (or obstruction) over the rest of his job, making the Trump Administration’s impact on the government more transitory.

None of that matters to Trump of course. All that matters is the moment. And if that requires sacrificing long-term interest to save his hide one more day, good. Especially when that sacrifice is someone else.

You know why you’re antsy about what Trump is doing with Sessions, Republicans. Because he is you. If this is how such loyalty is to be repaid, what reward is there in your loyalty? What is the point of following him if everything he was supposed to give you is endangered by his actions? He doesn’t care about all the people he lied to. He doesn’t care about West Virginia. He doesn’t care about LGBTQ. You knew that, because you don’t care about them either. Now you are starting to learn he doesn’t care about you.

You are starting to learn that as the Russians advance, he will hunt and destroy the disloyal. He will scorch the country because he can.

You are starting to learn that when you feed the wolf, the sheep are not your worst enemy.

Sick of Winning Yet?

“Any sufficiently advanced malice is indistinguishable from incompetence.”

Well now.

On July 17, after two of 52 Republican Senators announced they would not vote for a debate to allow the Senate’s healthcare “reform” to come to the floor (Susan Collins because the bill didn’t keep enough of Obamacare, Rand Paul because it kept any part of Obamacare at all), two other Republican Senators, Mike Lee and Jerry Moran, followed suit, which meant that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s vote could not proceed, because it was predicated on only requiring a simple majority instead of a two-thirds vote that would have required Democrats. So following Donald Trump’s directive to just repeal Obamacare without worrying about a replacement (one suspects that was the goal all along), Mitch “the Bitch” McConnell decided to re-introduce a repeal bill that Republicans passed in 2015 – when Obama was President, and they knew they wouldn’t have to back it up. Of course the reason they went through this whole rigamarole is that there were even less votes for a straight repeal than there were for a negotiated reform. So no surprise that this last gasp at the Republican dream got taken out on July 18 by Collins, Senator Lisa Murkowski and Senator Shelley Capito. All women, which is probably just a coincidence.

Donald Trump responded. “We’re not going to own it, I’m not going to own it,” Trump said. “I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it. We’ll let Obamacare fail and then the Democrats are going to come to us and they are going to say ‘how do we fix it, how do we fix it’ or ‘how do we come up with a new plan?”

Of course as one guy on the news shows put it, Trump doesn’t own most of the stuff that has his name on it. But the best response to that sentiment was probably from Shepard Smith on Fox News: “But politically, Trump does own it. Because voters gave them control of Washington. It was a central promise of Republicans’ campaigns. For eight years, they told constituents and voters, give us control and we will repeal and replace Obamacare.”

If even some on the Right are criticizing the Republican approach, it’s not necessarily because they’re centrist-liberal squishes who were more aligned to the Democrats anyway. Some of the observers on the Right worked towards getting a Republican majority because they assumed that Republicans would do something with it. They thought that their side would have a better idea than the Democrats. As opposed to the people actually in charge, who apparently just wanted to string the voters along and didn’t realize that at some point they’d have to show their hand.

As for: “We’ll let Obamacare fail and then the Democrats are going to come to us and they are going to say ‘how do we fix it, how do we fix it’ or ‘how do we come up with a new plan?” it’s of a piece with their general attitude. Blame the Democrats for doing it wrong then ask them to do it for you cause you can’t do it at all. Hold the thinking, productive people hostage to their own morals so that the mindless moochers can avoid individual responsibility. Among the many ironies of late-stage “conservatism” is how it re-enacts Atlas Shrugged with the political sides reversed.

Republicans: You got everything you wanted. You had both houses of Congress and the White House. And we as a nation gave you all the power because even if we didn’t agree with you on all things, or even most things, we agreed that we hated the Democrats, we hated liberals in general, and we REALLY HATED Hillary Clinton. And you took that opportunity and did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING with it, and that’s because you’ve GOT nothing. You used Russia as an excuse to dither about the domestic agenda, and then you used the domestic agenda as an excuse to dither about Russia. Now you have no domestic agenda, and you’re on record as being enablers for Putin’s butt boy. Sick of winning yet?

And this is just in the first six months of a Republican President. You’ve got about 16 more months to undermine your status before the next midterm elections. Granted, if this all hinges on the ability of Democrats to pick up a clue with two hands, then God-Emperor Trump may be ruling the galaxy from his life-support chamber well past the year 40,000 AD. But if Democrats do fail to gain at least one house of Congress in the 2018 midterms, it won’t be because Republicans didn’t give them every opportunity they possibly could. Especially when “we’ll let Obamacare fail” is telegraphing a strategy to sabotage the system for political purposes so that you DO own the final result, and then expecting Democrats to crawl to people who have proven themselves to be untrustworthy and then expecting voters to crawl to the people who took away their healthcare as though that was a top resume item.

And the thing is, it didn’t have to be this way. Once you realized that as hated and flawed as the Affordable Care Act was, it was better than the prior status quo, and that repeal-and-delay was not nearly as popular as repeal-and-replace, which in turn was less popular than not repealing it at all, a sane party would have realized it was political malpractice to mess with the ACA without having an actual alternative. And since we now know you didn’t have that, you still had an option. At that point you could have just done what the Clintons do, and engaged in “triangulation.” You could have just juggled a few details and came up with basically the same thing, and shamelessly pandered saying that the ACA was a Republican idea all along. Because after all, it WAS.

But accepting the new status quo would have meant accepting Obamacare, and that just wasn’t possible for your Dear Leader, or your “base.” Even if the roots were a conservative idea, you didn’t like it just because Democrats liked it. (Specifically because the biracial whippersnapper with the middle name Hussein liked it.)

The problem is that even though the Democrats’ usual M.O. is to compromise their way through everything, Republicans have ruled that out because of their consistent “Fuck you because YOU want this” attitude. When you’re dealing with that level of brattiness, there is no point in negotiation.

Eventually Democrats are going to figure that out. In fact, some of them already have. Half the reason that the Affordable Care Act was insufficient by leftist standards (and why Obama never pushed things like a public option) is because the Obama Administration and the Democratic Senate were trying to get votes from Republicans, and when they couldn’t get those, they needed to compromise with the centrists of their own party to get a two-thirds majority. The latest bills being debated within the Democratic caucus are less about tinkering with Obamacare, which they already have, and more about pushing national healthcare systems like “Medicare for All.” Bill Maher, among others, has pointed out that the problem with Democrats is that they haggle from the middle. That is, rather than acknowledging that a negotiation is only going to give you some of what you want, they start from the position that they want to end up in rather than make exaggerated demands that the other side would not accept. As a result, rather than haggling bringing them to half a loaf of bread, they compromise down to the crumbs. There is now not much point in doing that. It should be obvious even to Democrats that there is no room to negotiate with the Republican Party as an institution even if individual Republicans are open to it, and as for centrist Democrats, they already got what they wanted in the Obama Administration. If (and that’s a big if, of course) Democrats regain the political initiative, the push will switch from “this is too socialist” to “this isn’t socialist enough.”

Republicans had the only serious attempt to reconcile a market-based insurance system with the supports necessary to cover high-risk patients who were not feasible for insurance companies to cover. That system just happened to be Obamacare. And yes, Obamacare has flaws. Because it does not address costs, it really is not feasible in the long run, but it is still more feasible in the short run than the status quo ante of leaving everything up to the insurance companies. That’s why a lot of businesses were secretly lobbying for the ACA, because the costs of insurance to businesses are costing more and more on the bottom line.

A fiscal conservative would have taken all of this into account. But the motivation here was never fiscal conservatism.

Having no free-market alternative to the ACA, “conservatives” have abandoned the field to those who want more government, not less. By sponsoring a medical “reform” that was more about shifting costs from rich people’s taxes to poor people’s deductibles, Republicans did more to justify the class-warfare paradigm than generations of leftist propaganda. And by hiring total incompetents to run Cabinet departments rather than either reforming them or making a clear case why they should be abolished, “small government” Republicans make it clear that their goal is to grow government to enrich the elite.

Republicans, you had a country that had gotten sick of ivory-tower liberalism after eight years of Obama, and the last thing they wanted was a Clinton comeback. They wanted an improvement from that. They got anti-intellectual parasites. Because that’s what you are, and that’s the kind of person you vote for. And in attempting to turn back the clock rather than acknowledge where you are now, you run the risk of a backlash that will make the backlash to Obama-Clinton look like nothing. After all, Clinton DID get more votes than your little boy, and that’s before people saw what he was going to do. And if the whole point of you voting for Republicans is “fuck your feelings, fuck Clinton and fuck the Social Justice Warriors”, what do you think they’re going to do when the political climate turns again?

They’re not just going to give you something to cry about. You’re going to scream like a little bitch.

Yes, Mr. and Mrs. America, your daughter WILL marry a Syrian Muslim woman. (After declaring herself to be a man.) And they will move into a taco truck. And they will support themselves with the aid of socialized medicine.

And it’s all your fucking fault.

 

Yeah, What ABOUT Ukraine?

Whataboutism is a propaganda technique formerly used by the Soviet Union in its dealings with the Western world, and subsequently used as a form of propaganda in post-Soviet Russia. When criticisms were levelled at the Soviet Union, the Soviet response would be “What about…” followed by an event in the Western world. It is a case of tu quoque (appeal to hypocrisy), a logical fallacy that attempts to discredit an opponent’s position by charging them with hypocrisy without directly refuting or disproving their argument.

– Wikipedia

“Follow the money.”

– Jesse “the Governor” Ventura

 

As we have seen, whenever events do not go well for the RosneftTrump Administration, they immediately try to deflect and shift blame somewhere else. As the details of Donald Trump Jr’s meeting with Russian nationals in Trump Tower get worse, and worse, AND worse, the story has shifted from “it didn’t happen” to “nothing bad happened” to “we asked for information but we didn’t get it, so therefore nothing happened”, just like if I met a guy over the Internet who said he could score me cocaine, and I met up with him, and I didn’t get the cocaine because he was an undercover cop and I got arrested, BECAUSE I never got the cocaine, I am therefore NOT guilty of procuring illegal drugs.

That doesn’t stop the Trump team from justifying their actions. When in Paris, Donald Trump, Viceroy for Russian North America stated, “I think from a practical standpoint, most people would have taken that meeting”. But if you were only following “the lamestream media” you might not know about the counterattack line that Trump’s followers are pushing: that not only would anyone else have acted in the same way under the circumstances, but that the real election interference was when a Ukrainian national “gave guidance” to journalists and the Hillary Clinton campaign about Paul Manafort, who at one point managed the Trump campaign and was at the Trump Tower meeting, a point that Fox News host Sean Hannity explicitly made when he interviewed Donald Trump Jr. on July 12.

Memo to both Republicans and Democrats: Whenever you say things along the lines of “everybody does it”, that is a pragmatic rationalization, and not a legal defense.

For one thing, let’s be real. This is all distraction. Like how the Viceroy “just found out” Obama was wiretapping Trump Tower.  You notice he isn’t pressing that issue? Why was there no followup? Because there’s nothing there to investigate. He was blowing it out his ass, just like the Trumpniks are doing with this story, to distract a mainstream media that has the attention span of the dog from Up, and a conservative media that has less attention span than that.

For another thing it’s of a piece with Trump’s usual tactic, which goes beyond projecting. He is consistent in that the more vehemently he attacks something, the more vehement he is in promoting that exact thing when he’s in charge. Like when he praised Canadian health care in the 2016 campaign, and when he called the House healthcare bill “mean” and said we should repeal and replace Obamacare, then endorsed the Senate bill and said that if that couldn’t be passed, we should just repeal Obamacare anyway. Or when he ridiculed Hillary Clinton for speaking to Goldman-Sachs, and ridiculed “Lyin’ Ted Cruz” because his wife worked with Goldman-Sachs, and as soon as Trump got elected, guess what he did.

But the “conservatives” are bringing Ukraine up as though it was just another smoke grenade to throw out, without researching exactly what the parallels are, and why the invocation of Ukrainian antipathy to Vladimir Putin matters.

The Atlantic, referring to an earlier article in Politico that Hannity also referred to, did what Hannity suggested and “followed up” on the story. The Politico story implied that Ukrainian private and government efforts to help Clinton backfired because Trump won the election. Specifically, a Ukrainian-American operative for the Democratic National Committee, Alexandra Chalupa, did personal investigations of Paul Manafort, researching publicly available information, and shared her findings with Democrats. (Note that conservatives are immediately assuming that Chalupa is tied to the Ukrainian government but dismiss any suggestion that Natalia Veselnitskaya or Rinat Akmetshin have any active association with Moscow.)

The other fact mentioned in the stories is that an anti-corruption probe in Ukraine investigated the former government’s financial ties to Manafort.  Last summer, The New York Times reported that the Ukrainian Party of Regions had ledgers showing $12.7 million in undisclosed payments to Manafort’s firm. This was also mentioned in the January 2016 Politico article. This shady activity was supposedly the reason that the Trump campaign removed Manafort as campaign manager.

The implication, at least from the Atlantic author, is that while Ukrainian attacks on Manafort and Trump were real, they were not nearly as substantial and sustained as Russian-directed attacks on the DNC and the Clinton campaign, which “U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded with confidence that Russia’s cyber campaign was intended to hurt Clinton and help Trump.” The other distinction between the Ukrainian anti-Manafort campaign and the mysteriously obtained Democratic National Committee leaks is that the Ukrainian information was publicly available through a government report. The Atlantic article also pointed out that the Ukrainian investigation into Manafort’s payments ended after the US election, raising the question as to whether this was a general corruption probe and more a targeted investigation of a Trump insider that was deemed no longer useful.

Some of this requires a wider context.

Ukraine is a nation that like Poland and Lithuania was a national community under control of the Russian Empire for centuries, had its own identity and bitterly resisted Russian domination and mistreatment under both czars and commissars. Unlike Poland, it only became independent after the fall of the Soviet Union. However, Eastern European communities were very intermixed, especially in the USSR, so when that country broke up, it led to certain problems. For one thing, in the early history of the Soviet Union, the Russian-majority Crimean peninsula was part of the Russian Soviet Socialist Republic, but in 1954, it was transferred to the Ukrainian SSR. This meant that when the Ukrainian state became independent, it contained a large population that was more loyal to Russia than “their” country. Moreover, immigration during the Soviet period meant that the eastern territories in the Donblas region (which unlike Crimea had always been considered Ukrainian) also became Russian-majority by the time of independence.

In 2004, one of the political parties of the new Ukrainian republic was called the Party of Regions, representing mainly the Russian-speaking plurality in the east. In Ukraine’s 2004 presidential campaign, the Party of Regions candidate was Viktor Yanukovych, an ethnic Russian who spoke Ukrainian as a second language at best. He won the presidency by a slim margin after a runoff vote, but his political opponent, Viktor Yuschenko, challenged the result due to reports from outside observers of ballot fraud and voter intimidation. (In September 2004, Yuschenko was visibly disfigured and hospitalized for a mysterious illness that was later confirmed to be dioxin poisoning.) A second runoff was held in December 2004 which Yuschenko narrowly won. In the later stages of the race leading to the second runoff, Yanukovych’s party hired Paul Manafort, a lawyer and political consultant whose clients included not only many national Republican candidates but dictators like Ferdinand Marcos and Mobuto Sese Seko.

Manafort remained Yanukovych’s political advisor through 2014 and helped prepare him for the next presidential campaign in 2010. Yanukovych defeated politician Yulia Tymoshenko. While some of President Yanukovych’s policies (including expanded trade and diplomatic relations with Russia) were popular, there were reports of press censorship from his administration. In May of 2010, Tymoshenko was prosecuted for various crimes including misuse of public funds as a government official. In 2011 she was sentenced to seven years in prison. By January 2013, more than half of Yanukovych’s appointees were from the Donblas region or financially tied to it, and almost half of infrastructure development was to this region. Yanukovych set up a police force under his personal command.

What really brought things to a head was in 2013, when Yanukovych abruptly reversed course on an “Association Agreement” expanding ties to the European Union in favor of greater ties to Russia, after Russian leader Vladimir Putin threatened Ukraine by engaging in a trade war and using gas supplies as a bargaining tool. Protests against Yanukovych reached up to 100,000 in Kiev that weekend. The protestors formed in the Maidan (city square) and reached almost a million in strength as the “Euromaidan.” In January 2014, Yanukovych forced “Anti-Protest Laws” allowing intensified actions against dissent. This only increased public outrage and the country’s Prime Minister resigned. In February, the parliament voted to remove Yanukovych from office. This was on February 22, the day after Yanukovych fled Ukraine with assistance from Russia’s government. The government set up new elections, revoked the Anti-Protest Laws and released Tymoshenko from prison on the same day that Yanukovych was officially ousted.

Paul Manafort, along with several individuals, holding firms and “John Does 1 through 100” is listed as a defendant in a racketeering case filed by Tymoshenko with regard to “the arbitrary prosecutions, arrests and detentions of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and other political opposition members” with the defendants “representing a collection of private and public figures that stand to benefit politically and/or financially by eliminating Ukraine’s political opposition.”

An August 2016 article in Politico detailed how Manafort relied on a local contact in Ukraine, Konstantin Kilimnik, an ethnic Russian who was trained as an intelligence translator by the Russian Army. According to the article, Kilimnik was instrumental in helping Yanukovych (through Manafort’s team) rehabilitate his image after 2004, using Western-style campaign tactics and talking to Western media. After 2006, Kilimnik and Manafort used their business connections to create a private equity fund in the Cayman Islands with funds from a Russian investor, an investment that collapsed before 2014. A petition requesting a “wind down” of the partnership after the money disappeared states that “The Petitioner made further repeated attempts to contact (both Paul Manafort and Rick Gates personally) requesting updates on the progress of the Wind Down but these requests were left unanswered. It appears that Paul Manafort and Rick Gates have simply disappeared.” Rick Gates is a Trump insider who, among other things, is blamed by some for “writing” Melania Trump’s speech to the Republican National Convention. After Viktor Yanukovych left Ukraine, Kilimnik and Manafort helped develop the Opposition Bloc, which has inherited the anti-EU position of the technically extant but effectively defunct Party of Regions.

After Yanukovych fled Ukraine, his mansion outside Kiev was stormed by the protestors, who discovered a 340-acre estate, a mansion roof of pure copper, Lebanese cedar doors, paneled staircases, a pavilion decorated in gold paint with a marble floor, a gilt and crystal chandelier worth $100,000, a golf course, a private zoo, and a replica Spanish galleon (to go with the yacht club on the river). Ridiculous, but a not unprecedented example of what some call Dictator Style.

However, after this, things escalated. After there was no longer a pliant government in Ukraine, the Putin government in Russia started moving forces into Crimea, less than a week after Yanukovych left Ukraine. The Russian takeover of Crimea is a fait accompli, but is still not legally recognized by the United States or the United Nations. Meanwhile, private citizens in Donblas- some of whom were known Russian nationals and others who just happened to have Russian military supplies, took over various eastern towns, leading to an undeclared and sustained civil war. The United States under the Obama Administration responded to Russian aggression with various sanctions. Previous sanctions included the Magnitsky Act, which is named after Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who exposed collusion between police and organized crime, was arrested by the authorities for allegedly participating in said collusion, and died in prison at the ripe old age of 37. The law prohibits Russians (specifically those implicated in Magnitsky’s death) from entering the United States or accessing its banking system.

According to Donald Trump Jr. himself, Natalia Veselnitskaya wanted to address the Magnitsky Act during their meeting at Trump Tower. That Jared Kushner was also in. With Paul Manafort.

That would bring us back to Do.

So, to review: A pro-Russia politician with dubious taste in home decor is barely elected head of state by gaming the system with the help of Paul Manafort, he used his position to enrich himself far beyond the capacities of his office, commited numerous and escalating violations of human rights, and ended up fleeing the country under the protection of his Russian masters, leaving a wake of corruption that is still being investigated.

And while Russia has legitimate territorial and security concerns about post-Soviet Europe, those concerns are not synonymous with the neo-imperialist goals of Vladimir Putin, and when his indirect manipulations fail to work on a sovereign nation, he resorts to more direct measures.

This history provides a bit of context to any Ukrainian attempts to get involved in the US presidential campaign, not for the sake of Trump or Clinton, but more to undermine Vladimir Putin.

And Sean Hannity would know this, if he didn’t suffer from an advanced case of cranial-rectal spatial inversion.

So now that we’ve gone over the issue of Ukraine, I have two questions for the three and a half people reading this blog:

One, does all this in any way remind you of anyone else at all?

And Trumpniks – is what happened to Ukraine really what you want your country to turn into?

Because it will.

President (for now) Trump

None of you understand. I’m not locked up in here with you. You’re locked up in here with ME.

– Rorschach, Watchmen #6

I am one of those people who will never put the words “President” and “Trump” in the same phrase. It’s almost as contradictory and offensive as combining “reality” and “TV.” Instead I refer to Donald Trump as “Viceroy for Russian North America.”

But until fairly recently, most public speculation on the Trump/Russia connection was merely conjecture. Then over the weekend the New York Times released the first of several articles saying that Donald Trump Jr., along with Trump’s son-in-law and now highly-placed White House official Jared Kushner and then-campaign director Paul Manafort, talked to a Russian contact with the intention of getting  information against Hillary Clinton for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.  On Tuesday, Donald Trump Jr. released the email chain  confirming that he had in fact talked with intermediaries about opposition research on candidate Hillary Clinton, “very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

(The Trump team spun this move as admirable transparency on Junior’s part, glossing over the point that journalists had revealed information he had previously denied, and had access to more of it, and therefore further concealment on his part would only lead to more public contradiction and embarrassment.)

What was really Goddamn funny was where Jared Yates Sexton, a journalist who was not on the New York Times story, went on Twitter and said “I worked on this story for over a year and .. he just … tweeted it out.”

And yet, the Trumpnik robots are continuing to act on their faulty programming. The whole storyline is now frequently referred to by Trump’s flacks as a “nothingburger.” As you’ll recall, “nothingburger” was Hillary Clinton’s favorite excuse phrase for why her email obfuscations were irrelevant to the campaign, until James Comey made them an issue (again) and did at least as much to undermine her election as the Russians did. So when the Trump team uses this line, it means at least one of two things: either “We know the Trump accusations are bullshit because our Clinton accusations were bullshit” or “Our Clinton accusations were serious, so if we’re now using the same argument she did, it just proves how weak and defensive we are.”

Republican Senator Lindsay Graham, whose main compliments to the Trump Administration are usually backhanded, still offered what seems to be the party defense of the Trump team:  “I know Donald Trump Jr. is new to politics. I know that Jared Kushner is new to politics, but this is going to require a lot of questions to be asked and answered.” Basically, “please forgive the boy, he’s a retard.”

Jared Kushner is new to politics. Oh yes. That’s why Trump chose him, not his Secretary of State, to handle negotiations between THE ISRAELIS AND PALESTINIANS. “Hey, you know Butterfingers McGee? The epileptic? Let’s put him in charge of the Bomb Squad!”

Is this schmuck Donald Trump trying to get himself kicked out of office? Again, that is not just speculation.  Everything else in his life has been power with no responsibility, and he fails to recognize that the most powerful office in the world doesn’t work that way. Howard Stern (who has hosted Trump on his radio show  several times before he ran for office and considers him a friend) said ““He just wants a couple more bucks out of NBC, and that is why Donald is calling for voter-fraud investigations. He’s pissed he won. He still wants Hillary Clinton to win. He’s so f–king pissed, he’s hoping that he can find some voter fraud and hand it over to Hillary.”

But here’s the thing, even if Trump wants to bail even more than the rest of us want him gone, we can’t get rid of him yet.

Why? Well, there’s the law, which granted, Trump and the Republicans don’t much care for. But there has to be a strong case for impeachment, and even if there is, the last two presidents to be impeached by the House could not get a two-thirds vote for conviction in the Senate. The standard is set deliberately high for a reason.

Which leads to the point that Trump can’t be impeached in the first place because Republicans in the House wouldn’t allow it. But Trump being where he is is a godsend for Democratic Party recruitment and fundraising, and they need him to be where he is just long enough to help inspire their voters to tip one or even two houses of Congress to the Democrats. Then they would be in position to impeach after findings from the special counsel, but for purposes of the presidential race they might want to leave this hanging over Trump’s head until 2020. They probably won’t, though, because as dim as the Democrats are, even they are starting to reckon with their own capacity to fuck up a sure thing.

Then there’s the point that Washington is generically conservative. That is, they crave stability and procedure. Impeaching Trump, even unsuccessfully, disrupts that in the same way that impeaching Clinton disrupted the operations of Washington before 2000. The problem for Trump is that he disrupts procedure simply by existing. And again, I’m operating on the assumption that at least part of him wants to be kicked out. At that point it is simply a matter of balancing how much Congress wants to stay the course versus Trump’s escalating violations of comme il faut.

Which is why the protestations of the poor little Trumpniks begging for the liberal media to leave their precious little boy alone are all the more specious. They whine, “all this Russia talk is a distraction that keeps Congress from focusing on the Republican agenda.” There’s just one problem there. The Republican agenda is shit. BY right-wing standards. It comes down to the point that reforming healthcare without a two-thirds vote in the Senate (in other words, with Democrats) would require appealing to moderate Republicans who want to keep much of Obamacare, which would alienate the hardcore conservatives and libertarians who want to trash the whole ACA on principle. And you don’t have enough votes to spare to alienate either camp. Ideologies aside, the Senate “plan” doesn’t even try to address the reasons Democrats were finally able to pass a healthcare plan in the first place (first and foremost of these being there was a demand for a national system because the status quo ante shoved people out of coverage), instead casting the repeal of not only existing Obamacare taxes but a ratcheting back of existing Medicaid as “better care.”

So it comes down to John Fugelsang’s joke that the Republican Party is like the guy in the comedy club who’s been heckling your act for eight straight years and then when he gets you off the stage and comes up to the mic, he’s got no material. Trump’s scandal is not distracting Republicans from their agenda. Trump’s scandal is the distraction of the mainstream media that Republicans need to pass their agenda.

And then there’s the point that a lot of this may be set up. How DID the Times get word of those conversations before Junior owned up to them? Is this yet another case of “It’s coming from INSIDE the White House”? Maybe. Keeping this stuff in the news might indeed be a nothing burger. If it is, why is it in Trump’s interest to keep the scandal alive? Not only does it distract the mainstream media and the easily distracted “progressives,” it allows Trump to do his persecuted victim act. And since his “base” are the only people whose inflated sense of grievance rivals his own, they rally around their Leader. It’s worked pretty well so far.

All this is why I don’t believe that Satan is real. I should think that if you sold your soul to the Devil for power, he wouldn’t undermine your credibility and dignity as slowly and blatantly as Trump has done to Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell.

But then, it goes to show that Trump is not the problem. The problem is the kind of mentality that would follow a Trump. Everybody including the people who voted for him knew that Trump was a career flim-flam man of no substance with an attraction to the lowest common denominator. If you consider that a proper leader for any country, and vote for such a creature, it really says more about you than it says about him.

Remember, this is a man who has set things up so that his own son will take the legal consequences for collaboration with a foreign power, which spells collusion and possible treason.

That’s your boy, Trumpniks. That’s YOUR role model.

That’s what YOU wanted to lead the country.

And now you’re stuck with him.

And as long as the rest of us are stuck with him too, we’re going to keep you stuck with him. We won’t let you let him go.

“If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into the eternal fire.” Remember who said that? Of course not, you’re Republicans, not Christians.

But if you know what’s good for you, you’ll go full Jigsaw on Donald Trump. Because by the time he, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are done destroying your party, you won’t be trusted with plastic forks.

Drip, drip, drip.

You hear that sound, Trumpniks?

That’s your blood.

Drip.

Drip.

DRIP.

The Right To

In the wake of Mitch “the Bitch” McConnell introducing a Senate bill to “repeal and replace” Obamacare that all observers conclude is basically intended to shift all the costs of the Affordable Care Act from the upper tax brackets to the average person who couldn’t afford healthcare in the first place (while at the same time, NOT repealing the Affordable Care Act)  it’s worth looking at an opinion piece from well-known liberal blogger Jim Wright, because he phrases public support for healthcare in a basic question: Is healthcare a right or not?

“Either you believe people are entitled to healthcare as a right or you don’t. The rest is just details.

Now, before we go any further, let’s get something straight: I don’t care if your answer is no.

I don’t. Really. I’m not going to condemn you for it. I spent most of my life in the military defending your right to see the world how you want. If you don’t believe that healthcare should be the right of every human being, well, I fully support your right to that viewpoint.

If you’re embarrassed or ashamed to admit your answer is no, that’s on you.

If you don’t believe that healthcare is a right, then at least have the goddamned courtesy to be honest about it.

Own it. Don’t pretend otherwise or try to make it sound like you do when you don’t. Don’t blow smoke up my ass. Don’t move the goalposts. Don’t dismiss the question. Don’t try to rationalize it.”

Okay.

I support the idea of a national health care system, even a single-payer system. I do NOT think it is a right. In the same way that the country works a lot better with a federal highway system and infrastructure maintenance, but even all the liberals who ask libertarians “who would build the roads?” don’t pose the issue in terms of roads being a right.

Wright continues, “If we all agree that healthcare is not a basic right of human existence, then we must acknowledge that healthcare is a privilege.

And not everybody is privileged. That’s the whole definition of privilege. Some people have it, some don’t. … And you should at least be honest enough to admit that’s what you’re up to. I want to hear every politician, every candidate for office, go on the record, yes or no. And if it’s no, if you believe healthcare is a privilege of those who can afford it, then have the guts to look into the camera and say so. And if you’re voted out of office as a result, or stripped of your privilege by the mob, well, that’s just too goddamned bad.”

Yes, but there’s just one problem. A lot of people think there’s a “right” to a living wage. And in the special election for Georgia’s Congressional District 6, Republican Karen Handel was in a debate with Democrat Jon Ossoff and she got slammed for declaring flat out that she did not believe there had to be a livable wage. And she WON.

I’m pretty sure that whatever your opinion on the subject of minimum wage, we can all agree on this: All minimum wage means is that if it were legal for the company to pay you less, they would.

And specifically that’s because your job, relative to the cost of training your replacement, is worth only that much to the company or less. Which gets to the argument that libertarians like myself make: When you call something a right, that means that it has to be provided or guaranteed, and if it is provided through the private sector, that means it has to be provided by a business. It’s one thing to say that a federal minimum wage needs to be higher than $7.25, especially since it hasn’t increased in almost a decade. It’s one thing to say Walmart and McDonald’s can afford a $15 minimum wage. That doesn’t mean every local business can afford it.

Is the definition of a right something that has to be provided? As Wright points out, the right to bear arms is “the” right where a lot of people are concerned, and it certainly counts as a right in that we are allowed to buy them in the first place. But that doesn’t mean the government will buy a gun for you if you can’t afford one. It certainly doesn’t mean a private gun seller is obliged to provide you a gun and supplies for free. Wright asserts this, and does so against the argument that a provider’s rights are being violated if he is forced to give a service as a “right.”

He continues: “Look here: in America, you have the right to legal representation. If you’re accused of a crime and you cannot afford a lawyer, then one will be appointed to you by the court. Does that make you entitled to another’s labor? Yes. Yes it does. That’s what Public Defenders do. They’re not slaves, they chose to do that job and they’re paid for it. And just because you’re entitled to legal representation doesn’t rob lawyers of their rights. ”

Yes… but as with everything else, you get what you pay for. And if the work isn’t being paid for, regardless of who’s responsible, it often doesn’t get done. According to the Legal Services Corporation: “In the past year, 86% of the civil legal problems reported by low-income Americans received inadequate or no legal help… In 2017, low-income Americans will approach LSC-funded legal aid organizations for support with an estimated 1.7 million problems. They will receive only limited or no legal help for more than half of these problems due to a lack of resources.”

In other words, even if we concede that a service IS a right that needs to be provided through government, that doesn’t mean that it will be provided, especially if it cannot or will not be funded.  It doesn’t matter whether you call it a right or a “privilege.”  It’s a fact.

As I keep saying, the Affordable Care Act did one of the two things required for healthcare reform. It got rid of “pre-existing conditions.” But it depends on a private insurance market which can only profit if it is allowed to screen people for pre-existing conditions that they would then have to pay for. To make sure those companies could stay in business, the “risk pool” was made nationwide through the individual mandate – forcing people to either buy insurance or take a tax penalty, without the price controls that people would need to afford insurance in a now captive market. That is, the Affordable Care Act does not actually make care affordable. It did make a difference insofar as people could get care in the first place, but prices were still too high, and with the mandate there was no longer a means of avoiding them. Thus a lot of people accepted the tax penalty because even that was less expensive than available policies. This in turn caused a lot of companies to leave the marketplace in some states. Remember when I said that not every business could afford a $15 minimum wage? This is how that sort of thing plays out.

On a daily basis, people are more dependent on food, or the Internet, than they are on medical coverage, but we don’t think of these things as “rights” that have to be provided by government, because the private sector is doing a good job of providing them.

Whereas we think of medical coverage as something that has to be provided by government because it is not really something we can get through the private sector, at least not without sacrificing luxuries like food and the Internet.

Which is why I think that it would be a good idea to provide certain things through the government, just as the government funds a lot of things that are beyond the resources or authority of one individual. That in itself doesn’t mean these things are “rights” in the concept of natural rights that are pre-existing and are guaranteed, NOT provided, by government. It means that we as a polity have decided that it is in our best interest to have government do these things. No more, no less. The fact that some on my side will not acknowledge a necessity for anything above bare minimum public services does not justify taking the opposite extreme and defining anything you want as a “right” – partially because that doesn’t answer the question of how the thing will be provided.

As Wright says, the Ninth Amendment to the Constitution says: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

Which gets to my real objection. Even if one’s conception of rights is limited to the classical liberal/libertarian concept of “negative rights” (that is, government is required to NOT violate rights that you have naturally), our legal tradition enshrines certain rights like freedom of speech, freedom of religion (or conscience) and the right to be secure in your person and documents (a right to privacy). And yet, government in recent years, especially in this Administration, has not been very supportive of these rights and has often tried to suppress them. So if the government is hostile to enumerated rights that have frequently been upheld in the courts, what are the chances of it supporting politicized “rights” that the previous administration just made up?

I keep going back to Wright’s essay, because he really does go through most if not all of the hypotheticals, and his basic thesis is, “is healthcare a right? Yes or no. The rest is just details.” Yes, but THE DETAILS ARE THE PART THAT FUCKING MATTER. Specifically, what kind of government we have and what its priorities are. Because we already have rights that everyone agrees exist, and right now we have a government that says those rights shouldn’t exist.

The first priority is having a government that protects our rights. ANY of them. Once you have that, the question of what should be regarded as a right is much simpler. Without that, the question is meaningless.

Same Shoot, Different Day

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable.”

  • John F. Kennedy, March 13, 1962

On June 14, Republican members of Congress were in Alexandria, Virginia practicing for their annual charity baseball game with the Democrats. Someone at the scene asked team members if it was Republicans or Democrats on the field. Just after that, he shot at the field, critically injuring Congressman Steve Scalice of Louisiana and wounding an aide and two of his security detail before the assailant was taken down by Capitol Police. Of course it was just the same day that a UPS office got shot up.

It was of course a cause for a lot of people to endorse stricter gun control measures, given that even in the wake of this attack, Republicans are against more “gun safety” regulation. But as in many of the shooting cases in this country, investigation determined that the shooter, James Hodgkinson, had purchased his weapons legally.  And of course this event was in the wake of a terrorist attack in notably anti-gun Britain, where three men used a van to run over pedestrians in the London Bridge area before getting out and attacking people with knives, killing seven and injuring dozens more before they were shot by special police. (If knives are outlawed, only chefs will have knives.)

As it turned out, in both the London Bridge case and the Alexandria case, the reason that casualties weren’t even worse was that there WERE “good guys with guns” right on the scene- they just happened to be law enforcement. Given that in one attack there were guns and in the other there weren’t, the issue is not the weapon used but who was in position to respond. Because even if one concedes a right to self-defense, my question is why we should NEED to be packing heat everywhere we go. Because if you’re in a theater, say, and some psychotic asshole comes in with firearms, shooting indiscriminately downrange, and you have your concealed carry and you’re good to go, but it’s dark, you’re in your seat and you need to aim at someone in particular, you’re at a disadvantage. It’s precisely because most people are law-abiding citizens that they don’t feel the need to carry weapons everywhere, and any law-abiding citizen who does train with weapons knows there are some cases where firing them is not practical.

We don’t need gun control, we need psychotic asshole control, but barring the development of some Minority Report-style “precrime” technology, that’s not going to happen.

You can’t predict whether a person is going to commit a crime. You can however look for clues. After the fact, reporters looked at the life of James Hodgkinson and found that he had a record of smaller offenses, including domestic violence and assaulting a foster child. This is a factor in support of the gun-control position, since the criminal record he did have was not sufficient to restrict his weapon purchases.

But something else grabbed everybody’s attention. In addition to his numerous personal problems, Hodgkinson was a Bernie Sanders supporter who worked on his 2016 campaign (and at least one other volunteer described him as ‘very mellow‘) He’d done public protests calling for 1938-level taxation on the rich. And he described Scalise and Donald Trump as racists and assholes – as did half of the people on social media, including me.

So as they often do when a news story looks bad for their position, the Party of Trump decided to engage in projection and distraction. Granted, the idea of a liberal shooting conservatives is treated as a “Man Bites Dog” story by the news media, but Hodgkinson’s attack was treated by conservatives as being part of a leftist campaign to organize violence against them in general and Donald Trump in particular, for example when one of those Shakespeare-in-modern-dress productions cast a blond guy with a red tie and a Slavic wife as Julius Caesar and had him assassinated in the Ides of March scene, which this week got crashed by two protestors saying that the intent was to normalize violence against the Right. So you have a play where Caesar is pre-emptively murdered to stop Rome from becoming a tyranny, in which Antony incites populist violence against the conspirators, causing the mob to kill an innocent man by association, and all this violence ultimately fails to stop the destruction of Rome’s republican norms, and two conservatives used indirect force against it as a protest against mob violence, which is another great example of missing the point.

But insofar as it’s unusual for a leftist to engage in the level of gun violence we saw in Alexandria, it supports my larger point that even when guns are not a factor in violence (as with the London Bridge attack), people are still feeling encouraged to kill others.

I mean, a certain conservative pundit referred to abortionist George Tiller as “Tiller the Baby Killer” for years before an anti-abortion activist decided he needed to shoot him. In church.

More recently, at least one politician has said that the country needs “Second Amendment solutions” to deal with political issues instead of working within the system. Before and after a liberal Congresswoman, Gabby Giffords, was shot.

But conservatives scream and cry and make a big deal out of it when THEY’RE the targets?

As I keep telling you “conservatives”, you are neglecting the danger of succumbing to intellectual decay in order to win elections. The danger is that what passes for conservatism really will turn America into a one-party state. That one party being the Democrats. Right now, liberals are fighting with one hand tied behind their backs, because they actually believe they are more moral than conservatives. Once they remember that they’re not, you will be like a wolf pack facing the wrong end of a ruminant stampede. Because liberals DO own the media, and more important, they have numbers over you. You may not have noticed, but outside your epistemically-closed circle, nobody cares about making trans women use the Men’s room. Nobody else thinks that it is a prerogative to harass attractive women in the workplace. That is why business and sports boycotts obliged North Carolina to modify its anti-trans law, why boycotts of The O’Reilly Factor forced Fox News to get rid of their most popular personality, and how a similar boycott forced their second-most popular guy (Sean Hannity) to back off his latest Clinton conspiracy theory.

(The fact that the marketplace had the final verdict in these cases is a little irony that few liberals and no conservatives want to point out.)

But in the moment, we’ve actually got a situation where a lot of typically left-wing demographics are starting to buy guns.  A BBC story from just after the election mentioned various people, such as a trans woman who says “she does not fear for her personal safety in the Californian city where she now lives but she says she knows people in rural areas “who woke up and found a bunch of swastikas and words like ‘faggot’ and ‘trannie’ scrawled all over their building” and she continued, “(t)hings are already escalating and they will continue to do so and me not engaging or being prepared to defend my friends by force… isn’t going to stop people from being attacked or harassed”.

Lest anybody start to feel Schaedenfreude over this, look at this from the other person’s perspective. Liberals: Now you know how it feels when the government doesn’t belong to you anymore. This is how it feels when it’s against your agenda. This is how it feels when you don’t feel secure with them in charge and the only one who can protect your rights is yourself. And conservatives: This is what happens when you threaten people with violence. They may think you’re serious about it. Especially when you are.

That’s why when this garbage happened in Alexandria, a lot of liberals made hay out of Senator Rand Paul’s comment from the scene that without Capitol Police, the shooting would have been a massacre. They reposted a Twitter comment where Paul requoted libertarian Judge Andrew Napolitano, saying “Why do we have a Second Amendment? It’s not to shoot deer. It’s to shoot at the government when it becomes tyrannical!”

As a libertarian, I agree. Of course, as a member of the Libertarian Party, I have pledged to disavow the initiation of force as a means of achieving political or social goals. In any case, we have the rule of law. Before resorting to violence against tyranny in government, we should be able to investigate the government entities that are tyrannical and corrupt, and impeach those officials responsible. Unless they don’t want that to happen, of course.

Again, if gun prohibition is counterproductive, then what we need to do is discourage the development of psychotic assholes. However, telling the public in so many words that their “democracy” is an elaborate scam for the political class to justify what it was going to do anyway, and that there will be no peaceful redress of grievances, does a lot more to encourage such people in the future.

On the Other Side of the Pond

As you should know by now, there was an election Thursday June 8 in the United Kingdom, called by the Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May three years ahead of schedule, that was supposed to cement her political advantage in advance of Brexit negotiations with the European Union.

This made a lot of people angry and has widely been regarded as a bad move.

The end result was that May’s Conservative Party ended up losing 13 seats with the opposition leftist Labour Party gaining 30, with previous challengers UK Independence Party being almost wiped out, the net result being that the Conservatives lost their majority in Parliament. Opinion columnists are now convinced that this was a golden opportunity that Labour could have used to gain a majority outright instead of letting the Conservatives have a weak government, but given that May’s party had been leading in the polls, it’s amazing Labour did as well as it did. Which raises the question, how did this happen?

At the time, the Conservatives were leading in the polls, and the PM’s prerogative to call an early election now requires a supermajority vote in the House of Commons. But despite this, leaders of other parties approved the special election, including May’s main rival, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn, who could be described as “Bernie Sanders, only leftist”, campaigned hard and reversed earlier negative public impressions of him, and like Bernie came across as a likeably rough contrast to his prim opponent. It also helped that the Conservatives’ attempts to pay for spending elsewhere were in some cases covered by cost-cutting in some parts of social services, such as raising the income level required for home care to no less than 100,000 pounds, which Labour and other opponents quickly labeled a “dementia tax.”

What really grabbed press attention throughout the world was when Islamist terrorists attacked an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester on May 22 and then shortly after (June 3) attacked civilians in the London Bridge area by ramming people with a truck and then attacking with knives. While the latter attack brought a quick police response that prevented the casualties from being any worse, reporters questioned several members of the Muslim community who said they’d reported the attackers for suspicious activity, which the government apparently did not follow up on.

Then there was the point that May had refused to participate in debates with Corbyn and Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, which didn’t really help her optics. One columnist in Britain had this analysis:

It concerns me that one of, if not the, most powerful figures in Britain currently, is unable to juggle planning Brexit negotiations and a live TV debate, and yet the same figure will jump at any opportunity to criticize Corbyn for not talking about Brexit enough, and being more concerned with TV appearances.

A (further) concern of mine is that this is a general election called by Theresa May herself, in the midst of these Brexit negotiations, but it appears she is not treating it as such. This is an opportunity for the British public to vote for a future and society they want, not the Brexit they want. As far as I’m concerned, this election is not about Brexit, as it could be May, Corbyn, or myself in charge of the negotiations – the outcome will always be the same. Theresa May has failed to show that she understands the implications of what she has done. “

And of course there’s always the question of whether this means anything for the United States or whether the political situations are comparable. The takeaway I get from the election is this: Conservatives, just because voters hate liberals, that doesn’t give you carte blanche to make them hate you even more.

There’s also something else. It was assumed by some of the press that May’s reluctance to debate stemmed partially from being ill-at-ease with public discussions. According to some reporters, May’s staff had called her “Darth Vader”and the Left had accused her of creating a “hostile environment” for legal immigrants while in her previous job running the Home Office. (Making the fallout from the London attack that much more damaging.) Theresa May was never the most popular person even within her own party, and indeed only became Prime Minister due to parliamentary politics and the fact that no one else in the ruling party was in political position to take the job. And yet she was Prime Minister. There was indeed sexist commentary directed towards her, but no one questioned May’s position or her right to it.

And at the same time as May was raked over the coals by the press and her peers, the election of 2017 produced the largest number of female Members of Parliament, with 207 women winning election.

There’s a reason I bring this up.

America still has no female president in its history. And while some gains have been made, women have not been more than 20% of any given Congress over all.  Whereas in a previous era, Israel had Golda Meir and India had Indira Gandhi. And of course, Britain had Margaret Thatcher. More recently, Germany elected Angela Merkel and Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a point of having a cabinet composed of at least half women. America’s democracy is falling behind in representing that viewpoint.

Assuming we survive the Annoying Orange and his party of toadies, America will elect a woman as president. Hopefully sooner than later, because when that happens, it will be possible to envisage a second one. And if that should happen, it may be possible to criticize a female politician as being tone-deaf and inept because she actually IS tone-deaf and inept, and not get reflexively attacked for being sexist.

I look forward to the day when American political culture is that practical and mature.

Why She Lost

On May 31st, 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton held a talk at the Recode Conference event, saying “I take responsibility for every decision I made, but that’s not why I lost.” Which is a great way of not taking responsibility for losing.

For instance, she asserted as she has in the past that FBI Director James Comey’s decision to resume an investigation into her emails had a “measurable” effect on her momentum. “The overriding issue that affected the election that I had any control over — because I had no control over the Russians — was the way of the use of my email account was turned into the greatest scandal since Lord knows when,” Clinton said. “This was the biggest ‘nothing burger’ ever.”

Accept her point that she couldn’t control the Russians, and she couldn’t control Comey. What she could control was what she and her team did about the emails, which should have been to come clean (after all, if there was nothing criminal being discussed, there would be no reason NOT to, right?) and admit that her handling of the data was a self-created problem but not a crime. Instead she dismissed the whole matter as a “nothing burger” and left it open for her political enemies to exploit, and when that happened, she came across looking more defensive and dishonest than Donald Trump.

Now THAT takes some Goddamn genius.

Clinton has also said that she is being treated on a double standard with regard to (for instance) how her well-paid speeches to Goldman Sachs are somehow regarded as more suspect than every other politician’s well-paid speeches to Goldman Sachs, saying “at some point it bleeds into misogyny.”

Here’s the thing, there has been so much rank sexism from Donald Trump and his cult that I can’t dismiss such accusations out of hand. I also don’t accept them uncritically. What both Clinton fans and haters have to admit is that there is no other female politician who has reached her level of prominence in American politics, and thus there really aren’t any other female politicians who can be compared to her. So in analyzing her unpopularity, it’s unclear how much of that is because she’s a woman, and how much of it is because she’s her. In particular it’s a point of discussion how much her image problem is based on being different from other politicians and how much is from being an all too typical example of the political class that Donald Trump successfully campaigned against when he beat all Republican challengers in the primaries.

But in her conference talk, she also cast about blaming other factors, saying “I set up my campaign and we have our own data operation. I get the nomination, so I’m now the nominee of the Democratic Party. I inherited nothing from the Democratic Party. I mean, it was bankrupt, it was on the verge of insolvency, its data was mediocre to poor, nonexistent, wrong,” Clinton added.

This was not a terribly popular opinion among Democratic insiders. One of them told The Hill,  “She’s apparently still really, really angry. I mean, we all are. The election was stolen from her, and that’s how she feels. But to go out there publicly again and again and talk about it? And then blame the DNC?” the aide wondered. “It’s not helpful to Democrats. It’s not helpful to the country, and I don’t think it’s helpful to her.”

I’d take a step back and ask a few more questions. One, for somebody who has been angling for political power at least since Bill Clinton was elected president, why was she apparently surprised by how bass-ackward the Democratic operation was? Who was running the Democratic National Committee? Why was it going bankrupt? Why was its data mediocre to nonexistent? (For that matter why did the former Secretary of State with a good reason to be suspicious of Vladimir Putin’s Russia not anticipate skullduggery on the likes of which she had seen Putin stage in other nations, and thus secure her own damn data?)

Let’s step further back and look at the big picture. This is the second time Democrats have had cause to bitch because the Electoral College gave the Republican the election when the Democrat had the majority of all American votes. What did they propose, in the 16 years since Bush vs. Gore, to address that issue? Did they stage any proposals to change the system to make it more representative and remove that Achilles’ Heel? Not even in terms of whether an amendment to the Constitution could be passed. The Republicans kept “repealing” Obamacare over and over again knowing it would never actually happen. Until it did.

Or is the Electoral College, like gerrymandering and ballot reform, one of those bloody shirts the Democrats wave around to get contributions and then never get around to cleaning up when they do win elections?

Well, it seems that way to me, but I could just be cynical.

I direct the reader to this article: Why Republicans (and Trump) May Still Win Big in 2020 – Despite ‘Everything’. It’s authored by Grover Norquist, a well-known right-wing anti-tax partisan, so leftists may be prone to automatically dismiss it. But his point is important. While Democrats love to blame their current woes on the Republican gerrymandering of state legislatures to tailor their own districts (blanking out the point that Democrats needed to lose their majorities in state government for that to happen in the first place), Norquist points out a serious factor they’re overlooking, or at least not emphasizing: In 2011, Wisconsin’s Republican governor, Scott Walker, signed a bill called Act 10 which limits the power of unions in the state, such that union membership is no longer mandatory for government work, unions cannot automatically force wages to be deducted from the gross paycheck and given to the union, and unions must hold an annual vote as to whether members still wish to be represented by the union. Norquist is very clear about the ulterior motive in this: “Currently, there are 25 states with Republican control of the governorship and both houses of the legislature. If half of them pass Act 10 or its equivalent, the collapse of union dues cannot be replaced by any collection of progressive billionaires.” At the same time, he also spells out how things got to this point. Namely, the idea of not being forced to join a union had some appeal. From the standpoint of an evil, child-sacrificing, Satan and/or Ayn Rand worshiper like myself, it makes sense that people would want a choice in whether to join a union or not, and thus whether to pay dues or not. Norquist also says there was a practical consideration for mayors and local government. Under Act 10, unions cannot negotiate pensions, so that while pension plans do exist, “mayors can no longer be mau-maued to grant pension benefits that would bankrupt the city in 30 years” and “Mayors, even Democrats, loved the ability to actually govern cities and manage workforces.” All this means is that Republicans identified a key revenue source for Democrats, and knew that it had enough unpopular or impractical elements that it could be attacked. And Democrats knew it: “Union leaders in Wisconsin and the other 49 states understood what was at stake. They offered to accept pay cuts if they could maintain the laws that forced workers to pay dues and have the state collect them for the union. Their focus was on funding the union structure — not pay or benefits.” Which was sort of a concession that the main purpose of a union is to shill for the Democratic Party, not to represent “the little guy”, especially since the rate of private-sector unionization went from 16.8% in 1983 to 6.7% in 2013.

In the long run, this means that Bernie Sanders was right. Not on everything, but specifically on the issue of campaign financing. While he railed against “the billionaire class” that made both Republicans and Democrats dependent on their favor, he somehow failed to point out that unions are their own form of institution, and just as each party tries to pass legislation to either hamper or enable corporations (that end up financially supporting them), it is possible for legislators to either hamper or enable unions, and given the ideological issues involved, that basically means that if Republicans can target them as a fundraising arm of the Democratic Party, they will. Whereas Sanders got a great deal farther than most people expected with his campaign because he depended on widely scattered small-scale contributions, which in retrospect not only made him less dependent on big donors, it meant that those sources were harder to target.

If one wonders why I’m not a Democrat, part of it is that the party operates like the French military in the first half of the 20th Century: always preparing for the last war while the Germans were always prepping for the next one.

In her Recode appearance, Hillary Clinton insisted “I also think I was the victim of the very broad assumption I was going to win. I never believed it, I always thought it would be a close election.” But one doesn’t make such a statement unless the assumption was already implicit. More importantly, that assumption is the only consistent explanation for all the unforced errors of Clinton’s campaign and all the weaknesses she did not guard against.

And while some liberals may wonder why people like me are so turned off by Hillary Clinton in particular, it’s because whatever one may say in regard to feminism or her resume, her political vices are those of the Democratic Party in general, and if they don’t address those vices, they’re going to be Monday-morning quarterbacking elections for the foreseeable future. I assume that’s not what they want.