Monday, November 21, 2016

A distaste for Trump Vodka

At some wifi pub on a dingy sidestreet of Valhalla the three shabby revenants in faded blue sitting in the corner booth pause over their whiskey as they overhear the Valkyries at the next table over - who have just opened their Æsirnet connection - swear and exclaim something about "...already working on becoming the most fucking corrupt presidential administration in American history".

Bill Sherman guffaws and slaps the dusty little man sitting beside him as Phil Sheridan raises his glass to his friend. Ulysses Grant simply takes a long pull on his stogie and slouches back with a sour little knowing smirk that says everything you need to know about his opinion of coming fate of the 45th President of the United States.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The End of the End of History

Hardly anyone now remembers Francis Fukuyama's The End of History and the Last Man, the 1992 publication that argued that the 20th Century had been, in effect, a massive, bloody, melodramatic argument over the question "what is the best way to govern human polities and organize human economic activities?" and that the collapse of the Soviet Empire proved that liberal democracy and free-market capitalism were the answers.

Well, of course Mr. Fukuyama ended up walking that back a bit. But I think that we, especially here in the United States, still see Fukuyama's End of History as durable and desirable endpoints for society as well as the inevitable and immutable state of American society.

It might be well to consider, however, that perhaps the arc of history is bending a trifle, and not - at least, not for those of us who see both of those (in one form or another...) as, at the very least, preferable to autocracy - towards the End that Mr. Fukuyama - and many of us - hoped to see.

In Turkey the now-president-for-life has effectively become an autocrat. The Philippines - admittedly never exactly a global ideal of political stability - appears to be heading towards autocracy under Duarte. Poland has made a fairly hard turn towards some sort - there appears to be a disagreement as to whether this turn is harder-left or harder-right - of authoritarian rule. An outright neo-fascist has a considerably-less-than-zero chance of being elected President of the Fifth French Republic in 2017. Russia was never anything but an autocracy but has now abandoned even the pretense of being anything but a dictatorship; the romantic in me almost wishes that Trump's pal Putin would quit kidding around and become Tsar Vladimir the First.

And, speaking of Il Douche, arguably the United States has elected as President a man who has made some very autocratic statements on the stump (and elsewhere...) and who has appointed an openly white nationalist his "primary advisor".

Since 11/9/16 I have been hearing quite a bit of tut-tutting about the actual authoritarian content of the inside of President-elect's tangerine-combover and a fair bit of "there-there" at my raised hackles over the likely changes to come. I'm hearing about "veto points" and "the durability of democratic institutions" and "waiting for Trump to show his hand".

All of which sounds very reasonable.

It probably sounded reasonable in the general headquarters of the French Army in April of 1940.

But one of the first rules I learned when assessing military intelligence is to attempt to determine "What is the enemy's most dangerous course of action?" Because that would be the move that had the potential to utterly overset you. Other attacks might be dangerous, or do damage...but the real danger was that action that could completely unhinge your defenses, as the mounted attack through the Ardennes and the breakthrough at Sedan did to France the following May.

We the People tend to think of ourselves as a "democracy", a "republic" because that has been our default setting for generations. We like to think that we are immune to this sudden burst of authoritarian rule. But, you'll note, that the places that are getting (or are likely to get) autocrats thought (or think) that they had or have strong democratic institutions. And, in many cases, those institutions "remain". They just don't work anymore.

We've watched for years as the state Republican parties suppress the votes of anyone not likely to vote GOP. About 24% of the U.S. public has now elected a man whose entire public life has been a squalling tantrum of greed and thin-skinned anger, usually expressed in litigation. Now, of course, Trump has all the resources of a nation-state to pursue his vendetti, assuming that he doesn't change his thin-skin or his spots.

One difficulty with trying to assess what the incoming Administration's "most dangerous course of action" for liberalism and the America founded in the New Deal of the Thirties is assessing the difference between policy and political danger.

To me, as a child of that New Deal America, the policies pursued by Trump's Republican cronies in Congress are a fearful danger. People like Paul Ryan have had a boner for destroying the social safety net that is visible from space. The probability is overwhelmingly good that a Ryan-controlled House will send a President Trump bills that will attempt to throw Social Security to the Wall Street wolves (oh, and how is YOUR 401K these days..?) and voucherize Medicare represents to me the insane likelihood of returning America;s social fabric to 1930. Old people will be impoverished - not the genteel poverty of Social Security but the deadly poverty of the Depression - sicken and die. People unable to work because of injury or illness, physical or mental, will have no recourse but to hope for private charity or relatives probably themselves living precariously.

We look to have some sort of climate-change "skeptic" idiot in charge of our national environmental policy. Wall Street regulation - never the strictest under Obama - appears to be going to turned over to the Bank of America. The Trump cabinet so far is populated by some of the wingiest nuts in the wingnut basket, people who never met a public thing they didn't want to deregulate, privatize, sell off, or monetize.

And there are no "checks and balances" on all of this. The GOP controls the White House, Congress, and will soon have the Supreme Court back.

It's like an Ann Coulter wet dream, and I can't imagine anything more dangerous to the America I grew up in than that.

(Also, eeeew).

Because, like a sort of vindictive and petty tribe of Bourbons, the GOP has become the Party that learns nothing yet never forgets a slight. Still smarting from the public's loathing of their feudal politics and ridiculously-plutocratic "economics" they forget what a turbulent, dangerous place the United States was prior to the long capital-labor peace won by the New Deal.

Riots, strikes...troops sent into the mills, bomb-throwing "anarchists" under every bed, soldiers gassing Bonus Marchers, strikers and scabs and Pinkertons battling in the streets and frightened editorials about rage and revolt and anarchy in every newspaper. Remember that that cunning old aristo FDR didn't give pensions to the proles because he loved them. He gave them because knew that if he didn't ameliorate the miseries of vulture capitalism the bad examples of Soviet Russia and Fascist Italy stood as beacons for those who thought that the ends of hanging bankers from every lamppost justified the means of revolution.

So, to me, this Trumpist indifference to the GOP desire for a return to the oligarchic rule and the Dickensian capitalism of 1929 is, indeed, the "most dangerous course of action" that must needs be mobilized against. I have a hard time imagining anything more dangerous.

But Dan Nexon can.
"...the thing about institutions — domestic or international — is that you often don’t realize until too late that they’ve changed beyond recognition. Or how fragile they are until they collapse. The other thing about democratic norms and institutions is once they break, they’re very hard to put back together. What is true domestically is doubly true internationally.

In other words, we can change policies. If you’re a libertarian, you can hope to undo Trump’s likely military budgets. If you’re a liberal, you can rebuild the welfare state. If you’re a conservative, you can push for balanced budgets. Climate is a bigger problem—because major reversals now could make meeting optimistic targets very, very hard—but even here environmentalists can live to fight another day.

But if we lose our institutions, we are in serious trouble. Often, the United States has played the “White Knight” pushing democratization. What country can play that role for the United States if we head towards a hybrid regime? What all of this means seems to me quite clear: We should hope for the best—that Trump is a successful President who tames his worst impulses and receives wise council—but prepare for the worst.

That means building a broad political coalition with one goal: keeping these institutions alive. Doing so requires setting aside policy differences (in fact, on routine policy matters I see no problem with Democrats and country-first Republicans working with Trump). It requires putting country over party. And it requires doing this because of something basic we know about creeping authoritarianism and hybrid regimes—the strongest force for democracy is a united opposition; divide-and-rule tactics are the first resort of the autocrat."
So is the bigger danger not the destruction of the Paris Agreement and a massive federal coal subsidy, or the zeroing-out of the OSHA budget...but, rather, the institutionalization of the FBI as the D.B. Norton Motor Corps for the personal use of President Trump in hunting down and destroying people who are mean to him on Twitter, or the end of NATO?

This whole "most dangerous course of action" thing is beginning to look more complex than I originally thought.

I will say this, though; I still contend that the time is now to begin. We need to take the potential autocrat at his word. The Turks did not. The Filipinos did not. The French, apparently, will not. And as the Russians could tell them; once the autocrat is in charge resistance is futile. Russia never had the chance we have, Turkey seems to have lost what chance they had.

We have not, but the example of all this dictatorship should be like a firebell in the night for us who have no love for our country, as flawed, as much of an oligarchy as it is already, to go even further down that easy path to the Rule of One.

For by the time the sound of tank engines is heard in the forest, it's too late.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Service in the time of Trump

I never really feel anything but a mild irritation on this day. THIS today the irritation is less mild and is overlayered with a sort of sour contempt.
A large minority of my fellow citizens has chosen to put over me as my nation's Chief Executive a man that I would have done my best to chapter out of my Army had he come through my training unit when I was under the hat; a compulsive liar, a man who shirked his own service then boasted that prancing around in some sort of silly military school uniform was "just like serving", a bully and a con man and a thief.

This man, and his party, will over the next four years attempt to destroy the America I grew up in. They will attempt to reverse, repeal, and destroy the liberal and progressive and egalitarian and regulatory acts that have changed the face of this nation since 1929.

I've been Chief Executive-d by knaves and bastards before. I despised Dubya, had little but personal contempt for Bill Clinton and his wandering penis, thought Ronnie Reagan was a bloviating idiot. In a sense I tolerated them and the people who elected them because their elections owed more to We the People's ridiculous optimism and poor education and, sometimes, their venality and greed. They promised us "stuff" and we gave them power. That's how people are and that's how "leadership" has always been since the days of bread and circuses.

I'm not pissed off that my nation has elected this con man because he promised change in the form of doing the awful things to the sorts of people and things they hated, and people responded to that with unfounded optimism and poor education (and some venality, greed, a smidgen of racism and sexism and hate).

No, what irks the shit out of me is the fucking stupid of it. Bone-stupid. Thermonuclear stupid.

It was such, obvious, lame-ass con. From the fucking idiotic Wall to the impossible promises of those millions of beautiful jobs it was a con so visible and so clearly ridiculous that only a real simpleton would have believed it. But millions of simpletons fucking did. I hate to think that so many of my fellow Americans are Just That Stupid that they'd buy a Gilded Age thinking they were getting a raise and a week's vacation at Sandals. But, apparently, they are.

Goddamn it but I wish I had their e-mail addresses so I could run one of those Nigerian oil-minister scams on them. I'd be a fucking millionaire.

I remain stubbornly proud of my service and the ideals of my country that led me to that service.

But of the country itself, its "leaders", and many of its people, I am today less proud than ever.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Post-Trump Ruminations

Frank Moraes has a good post up about the direction that progressives might take in light of the minority rejection of "liberalism" last Tuesday and, specifically, the problem that is being widely discussed about how - outside of the open racism, xenophobia, and misogyny what are, let's not kid ourselves, a big part of Il Douche's appeal to a basketful of deplorable white people - to fire up the Democratic base.

His first point, on the Electoral College, is indisputable. The damn thing is nothing but a ridiculous vestige of the slavery era. But, since it was designed specifically to over-represent the slaveowning South (and, thus, white landowners in particular) but has morphed into overrepresenting rural whites, for the Republicans that’s a feature for them not a bug.

Frank seems to think that they'd be good with 86ing it. I'm not so sure. For all that they make mouth-noises about how much they haaaaaate it it’s worth noting that it’s 40% failure rate was a felix culpa for the Party of Personal Responsibility. If the GOP was being honest I think they’d admit that they don’t reeeeally want to chance relying on the popular vote in presidential elections...


Here’s the thing on the “Democratic base”, and the same problem I have with all the morning-after analyses that blame the Democratic Party for not being more responsive to the “economic anxiety” of the white working class.

If the Democratic Party doesn't want to become the straightforward "non-white party" there has to be some appeal for non-racist, non-xenophobic (basically, "non-asshole") whites. One problematic element for Clinton was her close ties to things like globalization and "free trade" agreements lile the TPP and NAFTA. The single strongest arguments that Bernie Sanders' supporters are using for this loss is that Clinton did nothing, or even attempt, to deploy Bernie's populist, anti-globalization/offshoring, anti-inequality platform.

The idea is that if the Democrats provide ideas to help with "economic anxiety" that they could have peeled off the non-asshole white voters from Drumpf.

The problem of non-intellectual/semiskilled living-wage jobs isn’t going away. The “problem” isn’t so much that those jobs are being stolen by Mexican rapists (tho the willingness of undocumented immigrants from the southern tier of the Americas to take piss-poor-nonliving-wage-jobs DOES have a lot to do, IMO, with the continuation of those jobs as piss-poor-nonliving-wage-jobs) but that
1) barring tariff protections, restrictive trade legislation, and a massive forceful reduction in capital mobility those jobs are going, or gone, and won’t be coming back, and
2) many of those that ARE here are being rapidly automated.

A Democratic party that stood for an end to that would have real problems. The press, neither knowning nor caring to know the technological and fiscal issues, would hammer it as the Party of Luddites and the Party of Protectionism. The People of Wal-Mart would shriek like gelded hogs as the price of cheap plastic crap soared. Manufacturers would whine and squeal about being forced to employ buggy-whip manufacturers...

Don’t get me wrong; I think that the Democratic Party needs to think hard, and come up with SOME kind of better solution to issues like global trade, trade agreements, deindustrialization and offshoring than they have.

But I think the problem is that, very much like climate change, this is an insanely tough challenge, a very, very complex issue and one that would require a massively complex, interlocking system of legal, economic, social, and political changes to solve...if, indeed, it IS solveable.

And you also have to factor in that our political system is ridiculously poorly designed to solve problems like that. Our public is ridiculously poorly prepared to inform itself, think through, and vote intelligently on problems like that. Climate change is, IMO, the canary in that coal mine and We the People have done horrendously on that issue.

So...while I agree that the Democrats need to do “something” about this whole “economic anxiety” problem I’m not sure that they can arrive at a solution that will carve off enough of the white nationalists who want to hear Trump tell them that he’s gonna build that big, beautiful wall and bring all those jobs back in a shopping cart also filled with rainbows and cuddly puppies.


This goes for Bernie and the "Revolution" movement, too, by the way. I think his message on trade agreements and economic inequality was and is a good one. I think the Democratic Party needs to embrace it, and become more openly...perhaps not "counter-globalization" but more intelligent on globalization. Right now the DLC/Clintonist message is "Globalization! It's What's For Dinner!". That's fine for the sort of Democrat that books a suite at Davos, but the rest of us? We're not getting much out of that, and the lack of enthusiasm showed bigger than hell this past Tuesday.

But. Even if Bernie closed the trade loopholes, kiboshed the TPP and NAFTA, and got a top tax bracket back in the 90's...the problems of deindustrialization and automation wouldn't go away, and I'm not sure whether Bernie and the Sanders Movement has thought about what happens the day after the TPP is burned down to ash, either.

I'm saying that I think the the Democratic Party needs to move Bernie-wards on trade and globalization. I'm ALSO saying that I'm not sure that solves the problems that make this issue such a perfect one for a demagogue like Trump.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Welcome to our new Tangerine-hued Overlord! least we won't have to worry about all that obstructionism!'s what worries me most about yesterday.

The GOP has much the same priorities today as it did in 2001; taxcuttery, deregulation, privatization, in essence to destruction of what remains of the environmental, labor, and safety regulations, the welfare state, and the New Deal left by eight years of Reagan and eight years of Bush (and eight years of a pretty damn centerist Clinton...) - a return to the pristine unmoderated vulture capitalism of the Gilded Age.

Ironically we were spared that in 2001 only by Osama and Bush having to spend the next seven years chasing muj in the desert instead of running down granny's Social Security or kicking the apartment doors of gay adopters.

Today Trump and his supporters have no such distractions. Trump himself has shown very little enthusiasm for wars other than the usual war-on-terror bullstuff that's carried on thru Obama's tenure. Osama can't come to our rescue now, he sleeps wit' da fishes.

Nope. Donnie's got a TON of time and inclination to use it to endorse Paul Ryan's Randite boner and Joni Ernst's kill-the-fags butthurt. He's got nothing to do but grab us by the pussy and return us to the Republican paradise of 1899; when men were men, women were life support systems for a vagina, and when you could dump your coal tar and your fly ash in the crick without some prissy bureaucrat whinin' about "drinking water" or some such faggy shit.

Since now I think we get to live in an Dickensian cosplay only with real hunger and sickness here's the thing, Red America:

You voted for this. You own it. It's all yours. Now you get to Make America Great Again.


When your poor neighbor's Medicare voucher runs out and she curls on her front steps in pain unable to afford her medication just remember; you voted for this.

When the guy at the taqueria who used to make those great churros is gone Friday just remember; you voted for this.

When the fence wire goes up across what used to be your favorite wilderness trail just remember; you voted for this.

When the DA refuses to indict the three men who roughed up your daughter's gay friend just remember; you voted for this.

You've been whining for years that political correctness and liberal prejudices kept you from making America great again. Those are now gone, swept away; in six months you will control all three branches of the federal government. Your dreams have come true.

And when those dreams become your fellow Americans' nightmares, just remember;

You voted for this. You own it. I cannot stop you. I tried. I failed.

What happens now will be on your heads, for good...or ill.

As for me..?

You will be unsurprised to know that I despise the President-elect and all he stands for. While I cannot do much I will do everything I can to fight him and his party's agenda. I will work, to the extent I can, here in Oregon, every minute for the next four years to mitigate the damage he and his minions will do to my friends, my state, my country, and the world. If I cannot do that I will work, at least, here in Oregon to build a great, big, beautiful wall to keep Trumpism away from my friends that he would pursue; my gay and lesbian friends who fear the loss of their legal marriage, my immigrant and Muslim friends who simply fear, period. My daughter, who is afraid that when he gins up a trade - or a hot - war with China that she will suffer the fate of the Japanese in WW2.

He IS the President. The laws under which our nation is governed have rewarded him and his supporters with the right TO govern. I'm not going to imitate the Republicans under Obama, I'm not going to be a whiny little titty-baby and spend the next four years refusing to accept that and trying to dirty-trick my way into undermine his legitimacy.

Fight his agenda? Sure. Refuse to accept his victory, #NotMyPresident? No. He is my President, and yours, much as it hurts me to say that.

And I swear, I will not rest for the next four years until I can no longer say that.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

108 years

I'll admit this right upfront: I am not and never have been a Cubs fan.

I followed the Phillies in the 1980s and the early 1990s and then gradually transferred by allegiance to the Portland PCL club but my interest in baseball gradually faded after the AAA Portland Beavers blew town.


...the soundtrack of my childhood includes Harry Caray calling Cubs games from the little coral-colored plastic Motorola radio that sat beside my mother's chair out on the small side porch in our house in Glen Ellyn to the continuo of her voice making small sounds of satisfaction when Fergie Jenkins would notch another strikeout and Ernie Banks would take one out to Waveland Avenue, or her "tck!" of irritation if Glen Beckert would hit into a 5-3 groundout.

So that explains how, all morning, I've been hearing my mother's voice saying; "The Cubs will shine in '69!"
Wherever he is today, I hope Ernie "Mister Cub" Banks is grinning from ear-to-ear.

"It's a beautiful day for a ballgame ... Let's play two!"

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Notes from a constitutional crisis

About a couple of weeks ago I put up a post that bitched about how modern "conservatism", as embodied by the U.S. Republican party, had 1) no viable policies that didn't effectively promise a New Gilded Age of concentrated wealth and widespread poverty, and 2) no intention of allowing the United States to function unless if functioned in such a way as to enact their policies.

For this I was called "unconvincing" and "meanspirited".


What I find insanely frustrating is that while I don't expect all Americans to agree with me that the current GOP is completely bughouse politically - there were all sorts of people in this country who believed in slavery, after all; "say what you want, at least it's an ethos..." - I would expect them to agree that our current system of government, flawed as it may be, is generally superior to a dictatorship.

But...refusing to accept the governance of people who don't share your political views is just exactly that. It's what dictators do; they use force to prevent those who disagree with them from effectively disagreeing with them.

That this has become the default position of one of the only two political parties we allow ourselves is madness. That this madness is not routinely characterized as such by the public press in tones of the utmost horror is beyond madness.

Damn near a third of my "fellow citizens" are objectively in love with dictatorship providing that they (or their political surrogates) get to be the dictator.

I have no idea what may come of this.

But it cannot be anything good.