The American Century.

About 100 years ago, the United States began to take center stage in world affairs. Europe had destroyed itself and was gearing up to do it again. This was the end of the first era of globalization that had the British Empire at its heart. You can draw a lot of parallels, but there are, of course, many differences. For one, the British Empire decayed largely from external pressure.

The most remarkable feature of American politics at present isn’t so much the polarization, but the intellectual bankruptcy of the bases of both political parties. The Republican base has turned into a cult of personality; the Democratic base has turned into a cult of orthodoxy.

Things that used to be the trademarks of the conservative movement such as free trade and small government are close to meaningless in the current Republican party, and subject to change on the whim of the President. Even the post-war Hawkishness (including the anti-Soviet flavor) of the Republican party is lost.

Likewise, liberalism has no meaning anymore. Concepts like due process are discarded if they conflict with the prevailing orthodoxy. While the liberal left at one time distinguished itself on the basis of its deference to science, like all orthodoxies, inconvenient truths cannot survive the its inquisitions. Meanwhile, what science is part of the the orthodoxy is used to demand maximal outcomes in accordance with the orthodoxy instead of a solution.

The result is that each side gets very narrow results according to its immediate priorities, but only in the short term. Nothing long-term gets accomplished.

A vicious cycle of identity conflict has also arisen. Many whites are acting like a minority. Diagnosing the blame is irrelevant. This is going to get worse.

So, the American century looks set to end with the proverbial whimper with a farcical government of incompetence being manipulated by the lilliputian Russians while the Chinese advance.

The military believes it will lose in a conflict with China, according to its wargaming. We have failed to strengthen our alliances in the Pacific, and will ultimately lose our influence there, whether you want to call it “hegemony” or underwriting globalization. Will we fight for it?

In the west, Europe already understands that we are waning. Iran is challenging us in the Middle East.

There is no problem that a new President can fix, not that we will see a new one in 2021. That is not probable. Even if we did, the storm of scandal and obstruction that would follow would prevent any meaningful change. The United States will be more unequal in 2025 regardless of who is President. It will have done nothing meaningful about the environment in 2025, regardless of who is President. The dollar will be a less widely used currency in 2025, regardless of who is President. Adults will be deeper in student loan debt in 2025, regardless of who is President. Less people will have affordable medical care. And so on.

Thoughts on Intersectionality

Originally a critical studies concept that was used to talk about the “intersection” of questions of race and gender in the United States, the term has become an organizing principle of today’s left.

It’s a pretty broadly accepted concept, but it has its critics. Marxists think it doesn’t focus enough on class. Natch. Or that it’s not complex enough, or it’s American-centric. Outside of the “critical studies” world, it’s easy enough to imagine that the idea is impossible to accept by political conservatives.

My problem with it is a bit different. It has absolutely no empirical basis. There is no formula for figuring out who is more oppressed. Is it a black transwoman muslim? Or a poor gay Amerindian? How do we measure “oppression.” We can’t. The reason for that is that “oppression” is not one thing, pace Marxists.

For some, oppression is unfair scrutiny by police. For others it is identity-based difficulty in acquiring a job. There is no one oppression. It is not created by capitalism (prove me wrong). It is not created by colonialism. Not alone. All of the different kinds of oppression are just that: different. Some are, quite frankly, trivial and others are crimes against humanity.

I do agree that the catalog of “intersections” seems to depend on an American-centric choice, but if you look closer, it’s who is part of the American left. And herein lies the problem:

The politics of intersectionality define it, it and its theory of identity do not define a politics. If you are part of a group opposed to U.S. policy on any level, you are almost surely “oppressed” in some metaphysically compatible way with African Americans or gays.

This is reductive. It’s Manichean. It is just not correct.

Race-based slavery is the Original Sin of the United States and we aren’t done reckoning with it. Gender equality, on the other hand, was largely pioneered here. Religious freedom and gay rights also emanate from the United States rather than being founded on their negation.

Intersectionalism is so readily contradicted by its—ahem—intersection with religious identity that it’s hard to believe it’s taken seriously at all, given that most religions have teachings that are the source of some of the oppressions that the other groups feel.

When these problems become too plain to ignore, they resort to Colonialism. In other words, inside every Muslim is a LGBT ally trying to get out, but they are held back by their legacy of colonial oppression.


You can’t have diversity that way, by seeing a teleological end point of different groups’ views of identity.

But nobody does more to dissolve this “theory” into absurdity than the Jews. Jews are white, antisemitism is a second-class problem, and Israelis are colonialists.

That’s right. The world’s longest still-existing oppressed group, who have been chased from land to land for literally millennia and who number maybe 15 million–maybe 2% of the entire planet–are part of the oppressor class because they live in the tiny sliver of land called Israel and are rich in the United States.

Jews aren’t a race, so why are they “white”? Jews aren’t all rich unless you’re a Victorian-age antisemite. Jews are only a “majority” capable of oppressing anyone in that tiny piece of land called Israel, which, just happens to be the most liberal country in the area.

Yet unless you’re one of the “Good Jews” willing to despise your co-religionists who feel the need to live in that place (which gets treated worse than North Korea by the international community) you aren’t Intersectional.®

This is simple: Israel is not part of the global left and hasn’t been since the early 50s. Therefore, it’s not Intersectional.® That is the only logical explanation. And that is why Intersectionality is really just a groupthink orthodoxy for the far left.

Quit Trying To Make Legal Arguments Against Trump

Oh boy. Fred Kaplan says Trump’s appointing Bannon to the NSC may be illegal. His legal analysis hinges on a few vague terms and barely justifies the headline. But a broader point:

It is problematic to tell the President who can give him advice in the first place. Maybe Bannon can’t have a “seat” but what difference does this make? None.

You will not solve the problems of the Trump administration with resort to legal arguments and appeals to the courts, especially once his hand-picked justice gets on the Supreme Court.

If people cared about this stuff, he wouldn’t be there in the first place. And if you block him from doing things people support on technicalities, it’s unlikely to be helpful electorally.

Unless we are talking coup, the only remedy for Trump is at the ballot box and that will unfortunately take more than clever legal arguments.

The Unfortunate Uncoolness of Anti-Trumpisms

Admit it.

He’s the worst President-elect in history already, but just because something shows defiance to him doesn’t mean it’s cool or smart or catchy. And we’re going to have to do a lot better to do much good.

The best anti-Trumpisms are the caricatures of him that are only barely exaggerations, like Alec Baldwin on SNL. But so much of what we see online and elsewhere is just … lame.

For example: “pussy grabs back?” And look, I’m not even getting into the fact that the Berniecrats are taking over the Democratic party. They think Bernie would have won, but they are basically saying that moving the party to the left is the way to… capture the white voters who cost the Dems the election?

The problem with that is that what they think Bernie says is different than what he actually says. He says, “focus on wealth inequality” and talks in policy specifics. What they hear is “send everyone to transgender reeducation camp and protest in the streets shutting down the freeway.”

No, unfortunately, Democrats don’t want to—or aren’t ready—to hear what will win them elections again. And it ain’t moving to the left.

It’s this very bitter pill: some white people now behave as a minority even though they aren’t. Call them what you want. They behave this way. To win them over, you need to speak to their issues the same way you do with any minority group or interest.

It might be possible to win without them in a re-run Presidential election, but if you ever hope to get Congress back or even approach parity in governorships and statehouses, this is just what you have to do.

Ready? OK. You won’t like it. I don’t like it. But this is just how shit is.

• It’s the economy, stupid. Which means:

• Stop demanding all social change to occur overnight.

• Apply the same kind of results-based, empirical governance to guns that you want done on issues like the climate. This means you probably need to give up on “assault rifles.” Cheap handguns are the top two dozens most confiscated guns and guns used in crimes. “Assault rifles” look scary but are basically impossible to conceal and are expensive and are used in less than 10% of crimes. Handguns, on the other hand, are used in more than 85% of crimes!  Anyway, gun control will be largely a waste of time as long as the  Trumpish Supreme Court-in-waiting stays alive. School shootings should be a time to focus on why we need universal healthcare that includes mental health coverage. This issue has killed Democrats in enough elections that this should be obvious by now.

• Apply the same kind of results-based, empirical governance to the crime issue that you want done on issues like the climate. This means you probably need to give up on “mass incarceration” as a buzzword because you can’t guarantee that it isn’t one of many different reasons that crime is (or was!) at historical lows. Promoting racial equality in sentencing and encouraging state-run prisons to replace private ones is fine, but fundamentally different than emptying the prisons. This has killed Democrats in enough elections in the past that the thought of making it a viable attack again should horrify you.

• Apply the same kind of harassment-free, warm-fuzzy mentality you expect everyone to show toward the groups you like to religious people, police, and white people. Yes, I know. Racism=prejudice+power. Tell it to your dorm-mates. The white virtual minority either doesn’t or won’t understand that. Stop trying.

• Stop making excuses for terrorists. Enough with muh colonialism. You’re trying to explain how to stop it. What is heard is why we should feel bad when they try to kill us.

• Stop making excuses for hostile foreign nations.

• Stop means testing any government program. Things that are only for poors (welfare/Medicaid) are hated; things that are for everyone are loved (Social Security/Medicare)

Do these things and you have a decent chance of being put in a place where you could work the kind of radical economic reforms we need to the problem of wealth inequality. Expanding Social Security to 55+s and making Medicare available to everyone would go a long way. All those people retiring at 55 would create a flood of jobs. No more pretending Republican answers to healthcare work.

Now, what would happen if we could get to a place where we had a strong, more equal economy? All the social problems would be much more easy to handle. Not simple, but simpler.

Oh, yes. This would also have the added benefit of completely weakening the Trump coalition since reachable voters are the ones you can reverse wedge on some of these issues that aren’t the doctrinaire conservatives.


New Rule

You can’t invoke “threats to democracy” or “undermining democracy” in criticizing investigations into Russian threats to our democracy and when this serves the interests of the man who lost by 3 million votes in an undemocratic system.

It does delegitimize our system but our system is not directly democratic. So, for those so concerned about democracy, they ought to worry about the electoral college first.


Did the FBI Assist Kremlin Sponsored Coup?

Never written a more tinfoil line in my life. But, there’s this and this. So am I crazy or is this real?

Did the FBI obtain a warrant using false information from Trump aides to get e-mail issue live again which objectively tanked Clinton in the polls 10 days before the election—and was it part of a Russian plot? Intelligent people are saying so. I’m hearing this. Sad!

After all, the CIA says the Russians wanted to help Trump and no one can explain the second warrant they got on the e-mails.

Sounds like treason to me.

Palestine is a failed state

Generally, a state is that entity that has a monopoly on legal violence within its borders. A failed state has lost this ability, along with other features of a collective action body to provide services to the public.

The International community in the post-WWII world has focused on “self-determination” and the basic preservation of state boundaries. After the war, under pressure from the United States and the Soviet Union, the world rapidly decolonized and many new states came into existence. It was either presumed or ignored whether these states actually had the features of states in many cases, especially in Africa.

The case of Africa is interesting because especially in the case of the former British colonies, independence was conditioned on universal suffrage and states that resisted the occurring even over a rapid amount of time were made into international pariahs—though arguably not for that alone. Yet almost without exception, the new states that were given the vote became kleptocratic dictatorships almost immediately.

The situation is mostly similar throughout the Middle East with the exceptions of the Gulf emirates and Saudi Arabia that were given independence not on a western parliamentary model, but on traditional leadership structures. It is no mistake that these states are stable and Syria, Iraq, Egypt, and virtually all of Sub-Saharan Africa are not. Better understandings of how liberal democracies emerge show that it is rare that they emerge from illiberal democracies and common that they emerge from more centralized but stable states. The frequent slaughter, genocide, and famine in these areas seriously undercuts the policies undertaken in decolonization. At the very least, the assumption that these people want to “live free or die”—in this case, having one and only one fair election is “living free.”

The Oslo Accords provided space and time to see if some of these mistakes could be avoided in Palestine. They were not. In the first open elections (Doe-eyedly insisted upon by the second Bush administration) resulted in the last elections in over 10 years, the loss of control of Gaza from the recognized Palestinian authority and the failure of either the Hamas government in Gaza or the PA government in the West Bank to provide routine services—which in the international sphere is always blamed on Israel. But this really shouldn’t matter because a sovereign state should, at least in those parts that are unoccupied, be able to do this even with hostile neighbors. Cuba did it.

Of course the situation of white settlers and colonists cannot be in good faith compared to Jews in their ancestral homeland.

Despite this, the international community persists, just as it did after World War II, in either a case of malevolent neglect or being blinded by Kumbaya optimism some toxic mix of both in pushing the two-state agenda. At the very least, consideration of giving Gaza a separate independence should be considered. It also seems more likely that a confederation of the West Bank and Jordan is more likely to be a viable state and ironing out the ramifications of that easier than of a separate Palestine or a single-state solution with Israel.

In reality, the fate of the “settlers” left in an Arab state will likely be the fate of Jews left in every other Arab state. They will be cleansed out of it at best and slaughtered at worst.

A one-state solution in all of Mandatory Palestine would almost certainly result in the same one-man-one-vote but only once result seen elsewhere in the hemisphere under such circumstances. Since this enables the great powers and the UN to wash their hands of the situation it is often chosen.



It’s always our fault

A professor on NPR this morning, I believe from Davis, said things like “soul searching” and that complaining about racism was “intellectual comfort food”  when the reality was more complex.

A WSJ reporter on the program pointed out that if trade and economic anxiety were really the issues then why, in a place like Ohio, are free traders Portman and Kasich popular?

This election is not my fault. It’s not the fault of some inchoate coastal elite to “understand” “real Americans” or “working class whites.” If they are mad about being made fun of then how do they expect the minority groups they’re mad at to feel? Why is it always our fault.

Let me be clear: the problems of the white working class will not be made better by undoing trade deals and undoing the remnants of the safety net. They will be made worse. This is the path they chose. And if we’re in their living rooms, recording their conversations, it was done to stick it in the eye of their betters.

It’s classic “cutting off your nose to spite your face” behavior and I find attempts to understand or empathize with this comical.

How about these folks get a dose of empathy for the “urban” and “coastal” human beings they hate so much they are willing to suicide bomb them politically? Why isn’t it their job to understand us?

The Democrats do not need a major revolution in their policies or electoral strategies as strange as that sounds. They won the popular vote. They would win the House if it weren’t gerrymandered. As bad and as consequential as this loss was, it was still very close and not a landslide rejection. Those are two different things. 1984 was a landslide but since it was an incumbent’s reelection there weren’t the same consequences.

Becoming the party of the campus left isn’t going to help here either, no matter how much the BernieBros say so. Agreeing with Trump on trade isn’t going to make these “real Americans” ask you for your preferred pronouns anytime soon. If the Keith Ellison chairmanship of the DNC is any indicator, 2020 will be more like 1984.

Recognizing that these people are reactionary and dislike equality for minorities, however, is different than constantly saying “you are racist” at every turn. Knowing how things are doesn’t mean we have to say it 24/7.


Right-Wing Jewish Traitors

Any leader of a communal Jewish organization that is apologizing for Steve Bannon is just as much of a self-hating Court Jew trying to save his own skin by currying favor with power as any lefty pro-BDS Jewish sellout.

The fast-twitch antisemitism muscle fibers these folks have developed with respect to criticism of Israel seems to have atrophied with respect to the oldest most basic version of antisemitism.

I’m making no defense of the antisemitism that pervades the global left. It has descended into Jew hatred. But that the very people who have been correctly pointing this out for so many years can’t see the original model when it’s right in their faces is absolutely shocking.

The irony is that the importance of Israel as a safe harbor for Jews wouldn’t be such an issue if it wasn’t for this older type of Jew hatred rearing its head in every generation.

Anyone who stands up for this man, who has done more to bring the Old Hatred back to life in this country than anyone, is just a latter day Elisha ben Abuyah.

The Inevitable Post-Mortem

These are almost as useless as predictions are.

Hillary wasn’t “cool.” The winner of the presidential election since 1980 has always been “cooler.” I wish I had something deeper to add than that. I really don’t. Democrats need to stop believing the customer is always wrong. People don’t want a wonky technocratic President. They want a reflection of their aspirations and fears. Democrats need to stop nominating the A students and get someone charismatic that will listen to the A students. Apparently, no real qualifications are necessary, so there’s no need to limit yourself to the world of politicians.

I’m not saying this with the least touch of snark. I am serious. Kamala Harris has some Obama magic, but someone else’s magic isn’t “cool.” If Peyton Manning was or could be a Democrat, I’d get him going right now.

So, let’s talk about all the stuff:

Hillary wasn’t cool, but I don’t think she made any unforced errors. Some of them were forced. She was so unsubstantively criticized whatever she was for really didn’t matter. Her campaign trying to expand the map was reminiscent of the Maginot Line when her rear was exposed and she couldn’t turn the guns around.

The worst right now are the Sanders people who think he would have done better. Dig into the data. He would have been fighting over the same voters as Trump with less enthusiasm among what was Hillary’s base. Anyway, he wasn’t the candidate.

The worst thing is not knowing what is going to happen. Are the Rs going to repeal everything? or is Trump going to leave some safety net things untouched?

This blog was launched to try to lay out ways to get Democrats to react to Bush. Almost none of the lessons were learned that needed to be learned. Democrats went off on their usual mix of technocracy and identity politics which have only ever gone along for the ride on other issues. “It’s the economy, stupid” remains paramount.

But Democrats can be their own worst enemies, not realizing that they are unilaterally disarming and following rules the other team isn’t playing by anymore. Dems haven’t been rewarded and Rs haven’t been punished by procedural maximalism. They need to just go for it.

The urge to take the party to the Bernie left will probably be irresistible and probably give us 8 years of Trump. Too bad. You can have balls and fight for center-left positions too.

I can’t over-emphasize the identity issue. “Racist” might be true of someone but it won’t persuade them. All of the bullshit campus PC nonsense demanded a Sistah Souljah moment of some kind—wish it would have come from Obama.

Going at cops as cops instead of making it positive is a problem. Movements like Occupy Wall Street start that are supposedly about the 99% but then get coopted by Palestinian issues, police issues, and all the other shit from The Nation and Amy Goodman.

You could go pretty far left on the economy and get away with it if you didn’t bring that with you. Just sayin’

Margin Prediction

I think my results prediction from August is pretty damn good. If I had it to do over again, I would put Indiana in the Dems column for senate and be more likely to give them 51 votes. I might have to think harder about Arizona.

I’m going to call the final margin at 50-40. McMullin, Johnson, and Stein will add up to about 10. It’s a blowout by contemporary standards but the two party vote will keep it from doing much more in the electoral college than I originally thought. Maybe Arizona, maybe NE-2.

Jerry Fallwell

At this point what is the counterargument that “evangelicals” are nothing more than a white nationalist group? When I first read that the group emerged as a reaction to segregation and pretended it was in reaction to Roe v. Wade, I thought it was a bit much. Sometimes movements outgrow their original intent. But with Fallwell saying he would vote for Trump even if he liked rape, there’s no other answer. Family values are meaningless unless they advance white nationalism.

The Mormons are shaming the so-called Christians. At least they are standing on their values.

The One Real Major Flaw With Hillary

I haven’t heard anyone mention this since the 2000s.

It’s not that she’s corrupt. She’s not. It’s not that she’s too hawkish or too conservative or too liberal or too establishment or too radical. It’s not that she doesn’t fellate the media with access. In fact, none of the criticisms that have been leveled at her this year made any sense to me and apparently, very few of them had any real traction in comparison with Trump’s flaws.

What bothers me most about Hillary is that her husband was president. Does that make me sexist? It bothers me because it’s quasi-dynastic. I am not saying she doesn’t deserve it on her own merit. On the contrary, there’s an argument that in a more female-equal society, it would have been Hillary elected in 1992. Fine. But it wasn’t.

I didn’t like that at all about George W. Bush and largely opposed Jeb Bush for that reason first of all. W got away with being a right-wing President because most people believed his presidency would be a repeat of his father’s—but oh boy.

On the other hand, Bill Clinton was a fine president who was a flawed husband. I believe Hillary will be a great president even if there is a quasi-dynastic edge to her election. But while we cannot risk another below par president, much less another W-scale disaster, let alone the whirlwind of Trump, it is nonetheless troubling that a Bush or a Clinton will have been in office for so much of the recent decades. I don’t think it’s an optimal position.

Might it be a way to have a “third term” of a popular president? Sure. George Wallace did this in Alabama and the Kirchners did it in Argentina. But it just seems a bit strange. Maybe the idea got going with RFK as a way to press rewind on the JFK assassination and Teddy for the same reasons. Maybe people want to press rewind to the 90s more than they admit. (I fully admit it.)

Obama was a gifted politician and the Iraq war issue was real, but some of me often wonders if this concern, maybe in the form of boredom, had more to do with it in 2008. Obama was also a reasonable policy equivalent and Sanders was not.

I would have been very torn between Hillary and Joe Biden.


HRC Takes One For The Team

This has been the theme of her political life. In 1975, she moved to Arkansas to marry Bill. After Bill’s first term as governor when he lost reelection, she remade her image to help him win. He did. When Bill’s presidential campaign got off to a rocky start due to Gennifer Flowers, she stood by him. When her health care bill failed, she stood down and became a more traditional first lady.

When Bill had an affair with an intern, she stood by him and eventually reconciled instead of divorcing and beginning her own political career.

I would argue that the Iraq vote was a vote the party needed too, but maybe that’s a bridge too far. (Remember: the leadership wanted this issue over with so they could run the 2002 election on the basis of economics.)

When Obama came out of nowhere and won the nomination from her, she teamed up and became one of his strongest political allies even with less policy control over the role of Secretary of State than was normal.

No one could be more opposite than Trump, who denies losses, cannot accept blame, refuses to admit mistakes, and has never stayed loyal to a wife.

If Trump wants to bring up Bill’s affairs, Hillary should respond with this line. She is a team player. She puts those who need her ahead of herself and she always has. Trump never has.

A Post-Debate Rant

Trump is a clown. There is no other way to put it. He constantly involves himself in idiocy, knows nothing. And (I never thought I’d write this) at least George W. Bush seemed to know he needed people to tell him what to do. Not only does Trump appear to hire shitehouse advisors, he doesn’t listen to them. I guarantee none of his advisors said, “yeah, fuck preparing for the debate.”

But this post-debate minitraversy about Miss Puerto Rico? He called her Miss Piggy and that’s “fat shaming?”

This is one of these college/liberal only memes that just sounds retarded to the rest of the country. Not only that, but she was a model or a beauty queen. No one else asks for it, but if you’re one of those things, you are doing your thing based on your looks. You were not forced to be in a beauty pageant.

Now, calling Rosie O’Donnell a pig—and she’s not attractive—is one thing. But Rosie is not in the business of being attractive. She’s a comedian and a talking head. Other misogynist attacks Trump has leveled against women are equally as irrelevant to what they were doing. Unless it was Megyn Kelly’s job to be pregnant, her being on her period is irrelevant, for example.

But when these bizarre new social rules are held against people—we can’t just beauty queens by their looks—it only fosters the believe that P.C. is out of control. (Spoiler alert: it is!)

Now, as for “fat shaming”: look, judging people by things other than their character is not what leaders of that echelon should do. But it is what most people do. Most people do make fun of people in not nice ways and when you aren’t careful about how you attack leaders for doing it, you’re attacking followers.

And you can count me as one of those people who doesn’t think fat is good. I expect no one to share my likes and dislikes, but I also expect no one to try and talk me out of my likes and dislikes. So, no, I will probably never find a 300 pound woman attractive. I also refuse to believe that a few “critical studies” professors are smarter than the “medical establishment” and can “prove” that being morbidly obese is actually healthy. Or that people who actually eat less calories than they consume don’t lose weight. Or that genetics are any barrier to weight loss.

It’s that whole reality-based, pro-science thing I have that is increasingly at odds with the overgrown children who think the whole world is kindergarten and no hurt feelings are allowed.

History Repeating: Boycotting the “Settlements” Only

If I was back in academia again, I might want to research two recurring themes in Jewish life in diaspora: the theme of the Court Jew whose close relationship with power provides security and the assimilator who thinks that blending in alone will provide safety. The problem with the former is that if the power is unpopular or deposed for any reason, populist anger is directed at those who benefitted regardless of their religion and often spreads even to the assimilators.

This almost never works out to anyone’s benefit, but it’s a knot that’s almost impossible to untangle for a small and hated minority. The only solutions to this dilemma that seem to function at all are Zionism and Western Liberalism though both are never completely secure protections.

So I can’t help but wonder what the point of this letter signed by many respected Jewish academics is. Is it to try to be a “good Jew”? I’m sure any query at the signatories is answered with “not in my name” and “moral responsibility” and so forth and so on.

But there’s just one problem. It’s wrong not only on a basic factual level, it’s actually counterproductive in a utilitarian way towards resolving the situation.

First, it’s wrong because it’s based on falsehoods. The 1967 lines may be a starting point for final status negotiations, but they only reflect the status quo of 1967. Prior to that, there were Jewish “settlements” in places like Gush Etsion that were destroyed and whose inhabitants were murdered. It’s an arbitrary point and notwithstanding a number of UN resolutions with no legal effect whose real purpose was to foster peace discussions, answering the question of whose territory is it leads to absurdity if the answer isn’t Israel. It could be the UK’s, since they were the Mandatory Power, but they left and the only state declared within the mandate prior to 1967 was Israel. It could be Jordan’s, but then you’re validating their war of conquest—which wasn’t even defensive in nature. If it’s “Palestine” then it’s a disputed claim with Israel and there’s no legal reason why the lines are those of 1967 and not whatever the two negotiate. The last remotely sensible answer would be Turkey, which is the successor state to the Ottoman Empire. Under that logic, however, neither Israel nor Palestine exist.

Leaving the question of sovereignty aside and just reverting to the question of title, most of the physical land in the West Bank belonged to the state or to large land barons, many Turkish, many Syrian, very few “Palestinians.”

To the extent settlements from Israel conflict with prior land use rights, there should be redress available in the legal system and those injured due compensation or a return of those rights. But that’s very different than saying every square inch inhabited by an Israeli is an illegal settlement. Israeli settlements are largely built on empty land that was infeasible to build towns on before modern infrastructure and engineering were developed.

I’ve traveled quite a bit in the “West Bank” and see these places with my own eyes.

Second, this will hurt, rather than harm, peace. If Palestinians (correctly) perceive that Israel is a divisive issue among Jews and that persistent repetition of falsehoods and drummed out outrage incited by these “new facts” can convince even Jewish Americans that they are correct, then there’s little incentive for them to stop it. The reaction on the Israeli side is and has been to feel even more bunkered and isolated with American support on the wane. These are utilitarian calculations, of course, but that’s all that’s left after the moral absolutes of the truth are left behind in the first place.

The worst idiocies of the left are in attempts to repeat the procedures of their victories. Not every disadvantaged group are “just like” American blacks or South African blacks. Every disadvantaged group deserves its own organic solutions to its own unique problems.

The logic of the civil rights movement in the US has now been expanded to include anything that people might make a comment on that hurt’s your feelings. The way you are born, like race, or traditions you keep, like religion, are nothing special in this milieu. Anything you choose to do now, no matter how absurd, self-indulgent, or self-destructive must now not only be benignly ignored, but praised and encouraged.

This is creating a generation of psychologically disabled Americans who cannot understand conflict and who cannot pierce the emotional trappings of conflict. And this is, of course, leading to a change in attitudes towards tough conflicts like Israel.

But in the end, the only solution involves security for self-determination for both peoples in some form. But you won’t get there encouraging Palestinian obstruction and Israeli defensiveness based on garbage lies.

Politics Isn’t The Culture War

Why is presidential politics so messed up? One thing I’ve started to think a lot about is that some people see it as a part of the culture war instead of choosing over policies.

If we were simply picking someone to run the government, an awful lot of what we talk about wouldn’t come up. Character issues might be there in extreme cases, but I doubt it would be as front and center.

It’s what the candidate stands for. Polls seem to show that a lot more people think Hillary is qualified to be president, but a huge portion of that group will not vote for her anyway. Why? Trump is a wildcard and a hothead. He has no experience.

But he stands for a no apologies version of pressing pause on the culture wars and perhaps even reversing them.

To liberals, that last sentence means that he wants to do damage to civil rights. You’re right. But what’s important to understand is why would someone do that?

Why would a man like Dennis Prager support Trump when he’s spent his entire career being a moral scold? I don’t agree with Prager about much. I don’t think someone saying the word ‘fuck’ is a mortal sin.

It’s the culture of irresponsibility. It’s the culture of “fat activists” who claim medical science is biased against them and people who want to do whatever they want and you have to like it. It’s the culture of safe spaces and “inter sectionalism” and “microagressions” and all of the other vapid garbage people do to avoid hearing dissent.

Not put up with it. Like it. It’s the make your problem my problem, but don’t make my problem your problem culture. Since we don’t have an alternative remedy to this that comes from a group careful with civil rights, the package deal from the right is all there is.

It’s easy to analogize this to austerity policies like welfare. Some people do want to not work. And I don’t think their lives should be luxurious, but it only makes problems if they aren’t fed and sheltered. Abortion too can be portrayed as lazy irresponsibility.

Until there is a Democratic candidate that loses her/his patience with this babyish mentality, people who have lost their patience will only be drawn to the right and the baggage that its solutions bring.



I’m going to please no one in expressing what I think about this.

We should be taking police violence seriously. I think most police do. And certainly, the man can express himself how he wants. But let’s look at the context.

Kapernick was an overhyped quarterback who was on the cusp on winning something under very talented coach Jim Harbaugh, but he was never able to round out his game. He had trouble getting plays off in time. I don’t think he ever mastered a real NFL offense. As a result, he was benched for a guy who would be the third stringer on a lot of teams.

Now suddenly he is woke?

Without getting into all of the silly questions about his level of “privilege” and his complicated racial identity, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and say all of this is just part of some soul searching he’s been doing. He still fucked up.

Why? By choosing to exercise his speech in the way he did he guaranteed that all he would do is give each side in this particular culture war fuel for their fires. Linking patriotism to police violence and the like has always been a strange choice to me. Why aren’t the victims symbolized by the flag? They were Americans. Why are the people you’re protesting symbolized by the flag? They were bad Americans. This I don’t understand. The only linkage here is that in the tribes of the American culture wars, one side has claimed the flag and the other has not.

So now one side can say, “See?!?!!111? These people HATE America!!!”

In the current lexicon on the left, I can be accused of all kinds of neologisms for this opinion: whitesplaining, tone policing, and so on. But in reality, I just don’t like it when a laudable goal is pursued with bad strategy. Again, he’s free to do what he wants, but if the goal here is really to change the debate, he did it wrong. The people that need persuading here, for one thing, are largely white. Most minorities already get it.

If you want to make change you have to be hyper-aware of the reactions and consequences not just to your statement or action, but to your persona, your circumstances and understand how it will look even if those aren’t genuine reflections of how you feel.

I would also add that the last thing we need in this country is more divisiveness. It’s to the point now where bad policies will be pursued just in order to “slap down” actions like this regardless of whether it’s going to be good or bad for policing.

We all need to start giving each other a break.

The Cancer That Is Killing The GOP

Imagine this alternative history.

It’s mid-December, 2000. Al Gore has just conceded the election and asked his supporters not to contest the slates of electors in Congress. An aide walks into his room and tells him that it’s Governor Bush on the line. He picks up the phone and says, “Congratulations, Mr. President-elect.”  Bush is flattered by the title. He says, “Listen, Mr. Vice President, I’m worried about the legitimacy not just of my presidency, but of the government in general after this. Is there a possibility of you joining my government?” Gore thanks the President elect, but declines. His advisors, of course, had mentioned the possibility of brokering a solution where Congress picks him for Vice President and Bush for President as a resolution to the crisis, but it’s mostly over now. Gore, however, does offer to be a sounding board for anything the new president needs, totally confidentially. Bush says, “OK, then, first one: I want to have a meeting with President Clinton and I want his advice on a unity agenda for our country. It wouldn’t hurt if you were in on it too.”

Gore is stunned but promises to set it up.

The Vice President and President meet with the President and Vice President elect early in January, after the new Congress is sworn in. “I need to govern from the center. It’s the only way to make my presidency legitimate and heal the republic at this point, and I need your help.” Clinton and Gore talk with Cheney and Bush for a few hours. One of the sticking points is whether the mid-term elections would an appropriate point to change course if the results favor the Republicans. Clinton is hesitant on this issue. Bush finally agrees to govern as a unity president for his entire first term.

Bush is concerned that he ran on a tax cut and feels like he has to deliver. In the end, he agrees to promote the Greenspan plan that includes deficit-based triggers and to a sunset after 4 years. Bush promises to name a Democrat as Attorney General and as Treasury Secretary. He agrees to announce all of this in a joint press conference with President Clinton.

Now even if I haven’t already set the table here for avoiding 9/11 by placing someone other than Ashcroft in as attorney general, someone who would seriously heed Richard Clarke’s warnings about al-qaeda, imagine Bush takes the same approach on 9/11.

“Gentlemen, Bush says, we are going to catch Osama bin Laden immediately and we are not going to rest until we’ve disrupted his terror network. This means we have to set aside our concerns about Saddam for now.”

In this scenario, Bush’s approval ratings never fall below 60%, Bin Laden is captured in late 2001 before entering Pakistan, the economy comes to a much softer landing with less worries about future deficits and no savings glut looking for quick bucks in the real estate market.

Bush is re-elected by a landslide in 2004 and decides that his ticket into the history books is continuing his strategy of moderation and reconciliation between the parties. Enough Democrats and Republicans buy into this to produce some decent legislation, including education reform that doesn’t imagine total proficiency for all students by 2014, and Bush vetoes bankruptcy reform.

In his second term, he delivers further on his massive tax cut proposal, but it is much more progressive than his original version. He shocks everyone by pushing for a carbon market reminding people that it’s similar to the system used by his father to tackle ozone depletion. Bush leaves office with very high approval ratings having accomplished much and led the country through 9/11 and ending the war on terror after 1 year and only having endured one moderate recession. He did not ever get around to reforming health care, even though he admired another market-based solution that a Massachusetts governor had tried.

Why didn’t this happen? It didn’t happen because whatever impulse Bush may have had to write himself into the history books wasn’t stronger than the partisan impulses that surrounded him. Many conservatives felt that this was their chance to reverse serious mistakes and actively enact legislation they otherwise could never dream of, and, of course to settle some foreign grievances as well.

It’s the same reason they couldn’t accept the reasons they lost in 2012. They won’t moderate because they are still successful enough at the state level and, for now, in Congress. And because they are beholden to ideological funders who demand extremism.

This isn’t to say that Democrats aren’t beholden to interest groups, but the Democratic coalition is varied enough to let you form different constellations of them and still succeed. You cannot be a Republican that is willing to raise taxes, however.

A 20-year old demographic shift has taken away their majority and a disastrous nomination may cost them control of Washington. But will they moderate?

I doubt it. A small faction may. We’ll see.


Both Extremes in America Are Intellectually Bankrupt But The Mushy Middle Still Needs Leadership

The American left has never been as left or as strong as the left in other countries. Today, it has become dominated by white grievance just as much as the right. On identity issues, it is white self-grievance; on other issues, it’s a laundry list of more social spending that benefits the already-middle class. Almost all of it is deeply infused with the politics of complaint and monday-morning quarterbacking. It’s very obvious, for example, that leftist critics of Obama would not be involved in any manner with the Syrian conflict, but they don’t explain why this would be effective in any credible manner.

It’s too much to criticize the agenda of the far left as that of a fifth column but before anyone agrees with dismantling the American Empire, they must explain what will replace the incumbent world order, the pax americana, if you will. I don’t support empire for its own sake, but I’m skeptical everything suddenly fixes itself if we disengage from the world.

On the economic front, it is certainly the case that the American safety net is too weak. But is free college part of the safety net? So many problems stem from poverty and malnutrition, yet those issues have taken a backseat to restoring the middle class to the perks that only the upper middle class now have instead of lifting the bottom out of poverty.

The one exception to this has been the largely union-backed campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15. While this only helps people with jobs, it’s actually treating the problem.

Unlike many, I have no problem with things that sound like “class warfare.” I’m not squeamish about higher taxes on wealth and incomes, but where I differ is that I believe this should be done in the name of social welfare, not punishment. Punishing “Wall Street” simply to punish them might feel good, but it won’t bring us back to the post-war middle class unless the program is tuned to raise incomes. In general, punishing the corporate class is largely not all that different than criticisms of the government from both sides that aren’t constructive, are monday-morning quarterbacking, and in the case of the left are basically just critiques of capitalism in general.

The reason this is getting worse on the left is that it has turned into its own echo chamber in a way that it wasn’t 10 years ago. When Dolores Huerta and Paul Krugman are rejected because of their choice of candidate, it’s clear that any dissent isn’t tolerated. If you propose an idea that seems like a compromise to win an election, you’re selling out. When the election results bear that warning out, it was rigged, or it was the media—anything other than the fact that Americans aren’t who they are.

Americans are not all Ph.D.s in some liberal arts subject. They are not all sweater-wearing NPR listeners. Nor are they all NRA members who worship Ayn Rand. America is more complex than that.

I focused on the left because a I generally believe that capitalism requires a safety net—if that’s socialism, then I whatever; but I do not believe the government should own the means of production.

The right in this country is beyond saving. They too fail to realize that they will never win a majority for many of the ideas they won’t compromise on, like trickle down economics. Their conversion into white Christian nationalists is complete.

The problem is that the technocratic center, to the extent that it exists, is still far too partisan to be called a “center” and does not really exist in the Republican party. There are a few left here and there, but for the most part, the Republican of governance was purged.

This leaves the Democratic party divided between the governance wing and the activist wing and in our system those divisions leave it vulnerable to losing even when the ideas of the other side aren’t great.

It also means that the Democrats too will eventually feel the centrifugal force pulling them to the extreme and they will probably overreach with policy.

Two areas where this may occur, in my opinion, are crime and identity politics. Crime is low. If that changes, those to blame for it will suffer a huge political price. In the identity politics realm, the continuous insistence that campus notions of equality can translate to the population at large will stall out. “I was born this way” appeals to basic American fairness. Self-flagellation and expecting to do whatever you want without consequences do not.

The problem here is that new things happen and new challenges will occur. If the only two solutions on offer come one each from a rigid fantasy world where all ideas must conform to doctrine, eventually there will be no effective governance.


Do a UK Trade Deal Now.

Trade deals are unpopular. Lurking beneath the froth is a bunch of special pleading for industries that are worried about competition. The froth is mostly comprised of claims that pertain more to capitalism in general than to international trade. For example, what Paul Krugman calls the “sweatshop fallacy”: we hear a lot about how bad conditions are in “sweatshops” but little about how worse those workers are before the work.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t problems with capitalism. Of course there are and they require the presence of a meaningful social safety net. And of course there are problems with trade. Also, there is nothing wrong in politics with special pleading for industry. It just doesn’t need to be cloaked in the bleeding heart language of the sweatshop fallacy.

That particular problem doesn’t apply much to trade between developed countries. There, it pretty much does come down to protecting your special interests.

So, why not go all in for a free trade pact with the UK right now? or if not immediately, as soon as they invoke Article 50 of the EU treaty? It would give them leverage in their negotiations with the EU which would be a nice carrot, and the fact that they need to do something about their loss of status with the EU is also the stick.

I wouldn’t even mind seeing the UK join NAFTA.

Polemic Forecast

Hillary Clinton will win the presidency, but have a very short Honeymoon period to win voters over because she will be badly bruised by the election which, though she will win, will be given next to no credit for doing so. Trump being a bad candidate, Obama being popular, Bernie Sanders ultimately throwing his weigh behind her, and the economy will all be mentioned as “reasons” for her success with the notion that people support her agenda and don’t hate her as much as is advertised almost unmentioned.

In the end, the map will look very similar to the last two elections with only North Carolina moving into HRC’s column varying from 2012. However, though they will stay red in the end after third party voters come home, the races in Arizona and Georgia will confirm they are swing states going forward.

The Democrats will win a bare majority with 50 senate seats with holds in all states and pickups in Wisconsin, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire.

In the House, a modest pickup of 16 seats will leave the Democrats shy of a majority in the House by 9 votes.

With Congress on such a razor’s edge, she will have to decide between controversial appointments and consensus legislation like her proposed jobs bill.

With the likelihood that the TPP and Merrick Garland are approved in the lame duck session, some intra-party disputes will be quashed for her, but it will be increasingly difficult to hold the left flank of the Congressional party together with the demands of the 10 or so Republicans in each house she will have to work with to accomplish anything. The only thing that will be attempted will relate to the economy and jobs. Nothing of the liberal social agenda will be attempted including guns. The public option will not get a vote, though Obamacare will finally receive a technical fix bill.

Whether there even are 10 such senators and representatives remains to be seen. The GOP will tell itself that Clinton’s election, by less than the landslide many foretold, was both a rejection of Trumpism and only a tepid endorsement of Clinton and that she will be easy prey in 2020. There will be a strong urge to reinvoke the McConnell doctrine in an attempt to oust her in 2020. Amnesia will set in in the GOP, who still retain the House and filibuster veto points, and the scandal machine used against the last two Democratic presidents will continue. The anti-Trump Republicans will rejoin the fold and attempt to hold the party out as the conservative party despite its animating principle being white nationalism just as it was before Trump.

Any kind of disruption—another Supreme Court vacancy, a economic shock, a terrorist attack, a political scandal—will erase any likelihood of broad Clinton agenda in Congress. The best hope for that is a strong rebuke by voters in 2018 in a beefed up Democratic party at the state and Congressional district level to take advantage of voter disgust with gridlock in time to reverse some 2010’s gerrymandering in the 2020 census. Though it is likely that intraparty conflict in primaries in 2018 could do to the Democrats what it did in 2010 and prevent the degree of victory, (I am not a witch!)

In short, this election will do little to change the political equilibrium set out in the electoral college since 2000 and in Congress since 2010.

What will it take?

Trump’s going to get away with the stochastic terrorism of his “Second Amendment” comments—somehow a well-regulated militia has become code for a guerrilla army that will overthrow the government when they decide their “rights” have been hurt.

I have a very bad feeling about this.

Martin Luther King’s last speech contained this element:

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life — longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything, I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

The very next day, he was shot.

2016 isn’t as crazy as 1968 or even 1966, but there are muted parallels. There is heightened racial tension. There is a growing unease with the government at all levels. This is enough to make people who are already nuts go nuts.

I hope there are no further parallels, but I worry. And I worry what the consequences of further parallels would be for our country.

Prepare for the “comeback” stories.

The media is as predictable as it is stupid. Surely part of the Clinton lead in the polls right now is a convention bounce even if the race really has shifted. So when the polls drop down to “merely” 5%, watch for the Trump Comeback® narrative to spew forth, especially from MSNBC whose living embodiments of What Liberal Media will be sure to talk about it.

They will also equate Hillary’s statements about e-mails with Trump insulting a military family or threatening to use nuclear weapons. This is what the media does. No matter how shocking what one of the candidates does, they will normalize it.

Trump has done dozens of things that should have totally disqualified him. Many Republican leaders even agree with this and some of them have repudiated him, but old habits die hard and the media will continue to make it seem like a he said-she said.

The real story of this election—no matter the result—is going to be the cowardice of the media and Republicans who knew better. If he wins, it won’t be Democrats who didn’t try to stop him. Even most of the hard core Bernie crowd has come around and realize they don’t want to be liable for a Trump presidency. Some Republicans, whether or not it’s out of craven political calculation or genuine belief, like Mitt Romney, Ted Cruz, and the Bush family have withheld support from Trump.

The fact that we’re one WikiLeak or one fake Clinton scandal or one Muslim terrorist attack away from having this psychopath with his finger on the button is our fault—the voters’—but the people who enabled it primarily exist in the political and media real.



Who will be to blame for President Trump?

First and foremost, the media. Just like in 2000. They simply cannot break this habit of acting like there are two sides to every story no matter what one side involves. In doing this, they normalize that behavior. Trump’s statements a year ago should have been disqualifying. I mocked people on Facebook after he proposed the Muslim ban asking them what was it about building a wall and deporting 11 million people that didn’t trigger them enough. Yet at the same time, they cannot resist painting Hillary Clinton in the most possible negative light even if none of it is justified. This is why millennials actually believe the 90s Republican lies about her.

Second, obstinate butthurt leftists, just like in 2000. They are literally willing to risk a Trump presidency so that things will finally “change.” Oh, they’ll change all right. These people will blame it on Hillary, just as they blamed it on Al Gore. Some of this will be fair, but it won’t justify their recklessness. Indeed, if they are so convinced she’s a bad candidate then they should be working harder for her. Thinking this will do anything but blacklist another generation of leftists from the mainstream of the Democratic party and set us back for a generation again is insanity. For people who see conspiracy in every action of ideologically impure, they sure seem to require their share of fainting couches every time it is confirmed someone is actually, you know, doing politics. Fuck these people.

The reason the left loves to destroy Democratic candidates (and they’ve tried repeatedly to do so especially in 2016, 2000, 1968, and 1948) is because they get more attention and more sympathy during conservative administrations. The sane among us will miss Obama and think fondly of the Clinton years. The hard left misses the bunker mentality of the Bush years when Michael Moore movies were popular.

It will remain to be seen whether Hillary herself will have made some avoidable mistakes. So far, her choices have been smart looking forward even if in hindsight some of them could have been smarter.


Trump’s Appeal?

It’s fine when preaching to the choir to dismiss the spirit driving the Trump phenomenon as racism. And while there are quite a few actual racists that stand out in their words, the millions of people behind it are not all literal white supremacists. Understanding what they’re upset about is key to talking to them instead of firing them up more.

Trump’s appeal does not lie in uncovering a latent belief in a huge minority of Americans that minorities are inferior. It is not racism in that sense. The ugly tone of the rhetoric is more like a Tourette’s tic with the racist language a taboo that feels good to violate.

But why is that a rewarding tic to scratch? Because from the perspective of these folks, it’s not a far left and politically irrelevant group of Berkeley liberals that are trying to impose their way of life on the, it’s one huge mass: the banks, the corporations, the government, and their tradition-destroying ways (you know, the revisionist defense of the Confederacy in a nutshell.) You cannot separate all of this if you want to understand these impressions. This isn’t to say these are correct, just to be crystal clear.

What liberals often fail to realize in the context of the culture wars (which they usually win) is that winning and “being right” don’t translate into permanent changes of outlook. Not many people honestly believe, for example, that things like gay marriage are going to be reversed, but that doesn’t mean everyone thinks it’s OK now and they were wrong then. They grudgingly accept (often in a self-martyring way) that this is the world now. This makes the next big change harder to accept. Progressives and conservatives are totally out of sync in how much change they are willing to accept. The problem comes when the progressives get out of sync with the majority (at least for them).

I don’t think that calling large numbers of people racists is persuasive even if it is true and especially even if it is only technically true. It’s also important to recognize that we have been screwed by the economy. Just because everyone isn’t sophisticated enough to figure out that the source of it is different or that the government isn’t really giving unfair advantages to undocumented aliens, blacks, and gays is a different issue.

So fine, when preaching to the choir you can wistfully marvel at the racist language coming out of so much of America. But to lead them, you need a plausible explanation that doesn’t involve shaming half the country for feeling like they’ve lost forward momentum in the last ten years.

What Brexit and California Reveal About Direct Democracy

Democracy means different things to different people, so it’s important to distinguish between representative and direct democracy. The former has been the basis of the two longest lasting existing systems of government on Earth, those of the US and the UK. Direct democracy has been increasingly seen as a solution to the corruption of elected officials in a representative democracy. But what does history show about the results it produces?

Here in California, we have three distinct forms of direct democracy all applicable at the state and local levels: referendum, where the people may agree to or reject a government proposal; initiative, where the people themselves may propose laws and constitutional amendments; and, recall, where the people may remove elected officials prior to the end of their term.

The record is bad. Perhaps the most justifiable of the three, recall, was used to remove a governor who happened to be in office when—you guessed it—a law enabled by initiative started to blow up. Worse, the infamous Prop 13 has strangled local government to the point where they are basically forced to make bad decisions to being in revenue. Terrible laws aimed at immigrants and gays have also been passed by initiative.

Why is this? In the Brexit context people cited numerous reasons for voting “out.” But much of the sour grapes were focused on it being a “protest” vote having nothing to do with the seemingly straightforward question of in or out. Unfortunately, Brexit was a very complex question and the fact that it was made so simply contributed to the confusion because the question of what “out” meant was left open.

And this is, in my view, the best critique of direct democracy as its implemented. We ask what amounts to an opinion question and leave the details out or don’t specifically ask people’s opinion about them. A politician concerned for his reelection would balk at voting for something even wildly popular among his constituents if the resulting implementation and consequences were disastrous. You’d think.

But the broader public failing to be able to distinguish between alternatives that don’t occur and necessary and sufficient causes has contributed to the mix of the demand for politicians to simply implement the popular opinion of the moment and ignore the consequences. This is what the Tea Party was about, perhaps best exemplified in the government shutdowns or the disaster of Brownback’s Kansas.

There is a tendency—a quite natural one, I think—to feel that direct democracy is the solution to an unresponsive elite. But it falls along the lines of thinking that shrinking government will increase freedom—only to find that corporations fill the void. In direct democracy, those that can out-organize, usually thanks to money, have an advantage that has nothing to do with the merit of their ideas and indeed usually trades on emotions like fear.

Recall is probably the most justified form of direct democracy in a representative democracy because it relates to the ability to pick our representatives, not do their jobs, though the chilling effect it has may produce the same result. But the other forms are simply producing bad results and need to be reduced.


They’re re-doing the election in Austria. While it’s just for the symbolic role of President, I suspect enough people will feel ashamed about the irregularities and perhaps the influence of Brexit to bring the far-right candidate into the office. Will this mean that Austrians are about to make an exit of their own?

We’ll see. This will be the first test of non-elite reaction to Brexit, even if it’s attenuated.

Brexit Denial

A number of articles out there citing the fact that the Brexit referendum wasn’t actually, technically legally binding are arguing that, therefore, it won’t actually happen. Most of this, I think is wishful thinking. The UK still has a tradition of more honorable politics than most places—though Jeremy Corbyn refusing to resign appears to be defying that.

But what I find the most odd thing is that commentators on both sides of the Atlantic are trying to batter the side that won with immigration->racism as the issue. Even David Cameron told the EU that that was the motivating factor of the referendum.

But that’s not entirely correct. Exit polls show that a significant portion of the electorate voted on the issue of sovereignty. And why not? The UK has the world’s oldest functioning constitution. It’s a legitimate issue. And something like 25% of Leave voters cited that as their reason. That’s more than enough to change the outcome if you remove them. So, it is a necessary, though not sufficient cause.

Because there is no single sufficient cause, you cannot logically isolate one thing as the cause of Brexit. The combination of factors—Britain’s independent streak, the EU’s blunders with austerity, the Euro crisis, and, indeed, the refugee crisis, and perhaps a series of other more minor issues like the Lisbon Treaty—all have to be assigned part of the blame alongside immigration.

So why give the immigration issue this much power? Why make it a self-fulfilling prophecy? Because the Remain folks want to be right and they want to bludgeon the winners more than they want to break the fall at this point, and that’s sad.

I can’t believe I’m about to type this, but, yes, Boris Johnson has it right. The UK should end up in a Norway-like agreement with free movement preserved. But asserting that the will of the people is entirely expressed in the immigration issue makes this result seem undemocratic.

Poorly played.

The Rout Is On, For Now.

A new series of polls show Hillary Clinton with a huge lead over Trump, including one showing her with 51%. Berniecrats are coming over faster to Hillary than 2008 Hillary supporters did to Obama despite Bernie’s continued presence in the race.

Trump is trying to #unskew the polls on Twitter by complaining about failure to weight by party ID, but ask President Kerry about that.

To consolidate these gains, Hillary needs to continue to present Trump’s lack of qualification, pick a solid running mate, and start talking about the economy. So far, her advisors haven’t failed to pick the right course.

US Danger in Brexit Lies In Liberal Reaction

Social media is full of Americans sighing that “fear won” in the Brexit vote. “They voted against their best interests.”

It’s true, but a vote is a vote. The same can be said of Trump voters (and to an extent Sanders voters). Fear about trade deals and immigration doesn’t disqualify you from a vote.

The British reaction from Remain folks (noticeably absent of claims of it being “rigged”) along the lines of “old people shouldn’t vote” betrays the totalitarianism lying beneath people who think they are “right.”

The problem with Brexit isn’t that it will destroy the world order the way an article in Vox claims; rather, that it’s likely a fraud, at least partially. To the extent it was driven by resentment of Intra-European immigration, the most likely outcome is that the UK, as part of the EFTA or EEZ will still have intra-European free movement of peoples. Of course not everyone voted on that issue alone, but maybe 3.8% did.

In other words, I’m skeptical much will change for a UK already not in the Eurozone or part of the Schengen agreement.

However, I must say I think that the EU is a failed institution and its imposition of austerity post 2008-crisis is what drove this at its core—along with the refugee crisis.

Anyway, the lesson is, you can be “right” but still lose elections. You could be “right” about refugees and the people who are “wrong” will still vote. Too much immigration is always going to spawn nativist resentment. Americans retain their complaint about Latinos, but Latinos have always been here and already have established communities that aren’t shocking the conscience the way Muslim immigrants are. Granting, of course, that most Muslims are closer to “model minorities” than it appears, fears are irrational and as long as they are there they will create votes.

Going forward, Hillary must be very careful to understand the difference between being “right” and winning or else UK out will pale in comparison to Trump in.

The Inverse Politics of Supreme Court Decisions

There are exceptions to the rule, but in the short term, it is usually the loser of a Supreme Court case that accrues political momentum. I guess this is because grievance motivates better.

Today there were two decisions. Affirmative action lives another day and immigration reform is held back.

The likely politics of this? Latino voters get the message loud and clear once again that a vote for Republicans is vote against them. To be honest, I’m not even sure how much this pushes the margins since Latinos who will vote will already likely vote against Trump, but it may help with turnout and/or downballot.

But Republicans will be allowed to continue their assault on affirmative action, which, while a bit stale and perhaps not as personal as the immigration reform issue is, still plays into the politics of white grievance.

To be clear, I’m not talking about what the good outcomes were or ought to be. I’m looking at everything through the lens of the Presidential election. Which, though perhaps a bit cynical, is relevant here since the winner will tip the balance on the Court itself.


Crime, cont.

It’s not a coincidence that the context of the Clinton Crime Bill is lost on younger folks. After all, they have enjoyed a massive drop off in crime since (coincidentally or not) the time of that bill. They don’t remember what the older generation remembers and apparently dismiss what they read in books about it as the construct of a racist system.

The problem is not addressing crime, I would contend, is more harmful to more minorities. You see, they are disproportionately the victims. This is why so many black leaders, for example, not only pushed for Clinton’s Crime Bill but for the higher sentences for crack versus powder cocaine which later came to be seen as racist. There is simply no denying that the crack epidemic was like setting bombs off in inner cities. The fact that more of the offenders were minorities was secondary to the problem.

The same could be said of guns. I imagine if there is a major crackdown on guns, that too will come to be seen as having a disparate racial impact even though we associate “gun people” with working class whites.

It would be helpful to look not only at who is impacted by penal measures but who is helped. In the end, is there any denying that the dramatic drop in crime that has revitalized so many cities served to benefit those city’s residents the most?

On lower crime, not so fast

One of the interesting debates in the Democratic primary that needs a thorough post-mortem is the issue of crime. It came up when somehow Sanders was able to attack Hillary Clinton for Bill Clinton’s crime bill—which she couldn’t vote for but Sanders did vote for—and has been a theme for a while. We hear about “mass incarceration” and “militarization of the police” among other things.

This debate has always struck me as a sure way to give the Republican Party a lifeboat when they should be thrown an anchor. While it’s true that crime has declined since 1993, no one is really sure why. This interview today talks more about culture and dismisses the abortion and lead theories. This means that letting lots of people out of jail, especially violent offenders, and worrying too much about “militarizing” the police should lead to a rise in crime rates. There are already some incipient evidence that crime rates are going up in response to taking our foot of the gas on crime.

It sure sounds to me like a classic case of “if ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

My VP Pick.

What do you want in a running mate?

Some of the things that have gone into the decision in the past include regional balance or ideological balance, but there have also been cases of doubling down on perceived strengths. Sometimes you want an attack dog. During the primaries, everyone always talks about the top two candidates teaming up, but that rarely happens (Kerry/Edwards is really the only recent example).

People need to feel that the running mate fills the most important role of a Vice President: ready to be President in a crisis. Everything else pales compared to this.

Only in desperation have candidates picked a history-making choice such as first woman. John McCain and Walter Mondale both faced uphill climbs and rolled this dice picking a woman to try and give some extra mojo to their campaigns. McCain’s pick may have cost him the presidency, though he still lost by a lot. It’s hard to tell if anything made a difference for Mondale.

But in both of those cases, the risk was run of taking the focus off the top of the ticket. Lloyd Bentsen polled stronger than Michael Dukakis after his debate performance against Dan Quayle. Ferraro was more interesting to follow than Mondale who was always going to be blown out.

Someone who understood these dynamics well was Barack Obama. He understood that his role in history as the first black president was a story. He tried not to make it the story, but no matter what he or his campaign did, that was always going to be a factor. A little revolution is usually enough for most people. Perhaps the best reason not to bring Hillary Clinton in as Obama’s running mate in 2008 was that it would have drained energy from the top of the ticket and done little to make people feel comfortable about relative inexperience, since, standing on her own two feet, Hillary only had four years more of Senate experience. Joe Biden, on the other hand, brought decades of experience.

And let’s be honest. A white man next to Obama actually right-sized his narrative instead of making it all about race or identity politics in a way that primary voters don’t want to acknowledge but that in an election where you need some nervous Republicans to cross over to get the result you want might be indicated.

So, even if I thought Julian Castro and Tom Perez were qualified to be president, and I don’t think they are, I would say first that the story needs to be about the history-making aspect of Hillary, not her running mate. Second, more cynically, I would say is there really anything that can be done to bolster Latino turnout this election that Donald Trump doesn’t already provide? Also, Perez and Castro speak terrible Spanish.

I also don’t believe in ideological balance. Any daylight between the candidates becomes a story, just as it would when they’re in office. Elizabeth Warren also has very thin chops to claim being ready for the nuclear codes. Remember, we’re going to try and emphasize the risks of putting a rookie like Trump in charge. A first-term senator doesn’t bolster this argument no matter what anyone says or how smart her policies are. This is also why I wouldn’t want Sherrod Brown. I don’t believe that regional balance is a factor anymore. Brown wouldn’t be a decisive factor in delivering Ohio.

Two who are qualified to be president are Xavier Becerra and Tim Kaine. Kaine has been a governor and speaks actual fluent Spanish. He’s a boring old white man. He’s qualified to be President. He won’t steal the spotlight. If you really think running mates can deliver states, Virginia is almost as good to have as Ohio. Becerra would take some of the spotlight off of Hillary because he’s not a national figure, isn’t a senator or governor and therefore might be seen as a pick based on his demographics.

So, by process of elimination of all of those rumored to be on the list, I would most strongly support Tim Kaine and very much be against Castro. Everyone else falls in the middle.

Sanders Missed His Point Of Maximum Leverage

Bernie Sanders is the first candidate since the major reformation of the primary system to persist even though he lost. And he’s doing it on the pretense of winning some concessions at the convention. The problem is that he doesn’t have the leverage to do this even though he did and that he doesn’t realize this just underscores why the problem was less with his far left ideas than with the man himself and his terrible strategic decisions.

Who is the most influential member of the Obama administration that ran against him in 2008? It would be tempting to say Hillary Clinton, who became his secretary of state. But that’s because you forgot that Joe Biden ran in 2008 as well. Joe Biden got the maximum result by dropping out early. This is the counterpoint to the Clinton/Obama scenario.

Sanders doesn’t need to stay in the race to be influential. He has influence. Simply staying in the race to win some on-paper concessions on the platform is a waste of his time and his supporter’s time. But outside of his speeches, the news reports hint at a darker reason. Sanders appears to be seeking personal revenge against Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Barney Frank, and Daniel Molloy, the Connecticut governor, as his top priority. His second priority? To change the primary rules that he thinks defeated him. All of these noble progressive policy planks seem to be a distant third in what he hopes to achieve.

This is yet another disgusting act by a man that has been given all kinds of plot armor by a horserace hungry press and an idealistic youth who is on a spin cycle between admiration for the fan based on his ideas and then ideas based on the man, having completely lost sight of where it all started. Only in such a vortex of personality could idealistic lefties excuse a flip-flop on Superdelegates, the data theft then blame the victim dance with the DNC, or the continual denigration of progressive heroes who didn’t support the “revolution” meme.

Another thing not on Sanders’s list? Gun control. Neither in his Thursday night speech nor in his reported lists of ransoms did he list gun control. Since he was apparently so butthurt by Clinton’s attacks on him for his record on guns that he broke his vow about negative campaigning, you’d think he’d try and do something especially in the wake of yet another horrible incident.

And that’s not even the icing on the cake. The icing on the cake is that this man, who has come to take literally the polite language included in the eulogies for his campaign, could have had an awful lot of these things if he was smart enough to identify the point of maximum leverage with any precision.

That moment came when Donald Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee unexpectedly quickly, received the backing of the party unexpectedly quickly, and narrowed his polling gap with Clinton quickly. In that moment, Sanders could have had his ransom. But by persisting with the result of being destroyed in California, he lost it. In that same stretch of time, Clinton has opened a 10-point lead over Trump, a lead wide enough to obviate the need for state-level polling.

Only the most paranoid Bernie cultists are following him down this march of lemmings. Hillary Clinton is going to win this election with or without them. If it’s without them, and with the help of moderates, the progressive agenda will be even more irrelevant to the incoming administration as she looks to be reelected with the same coalition.

Chances are this is what will happen. The victim/martyr/purity complex of this group will be better served by that result anyway. They are constitutionally incapable of being part of the people in charge anyway.

Some precedents for gun regulation

Alcohol can only be bought from state-licensed vendors. Some states give these licenses easily, others reserve a monopoly. This is allowed under the U.S. Constitution.

Airplanes can only be flown by pilots who pass 40 hours of instruction a written and solo flight check and a medical exam that grounds them for life if they have taken any psychiatric medication for more than just a little while.

The Military is subject to a separate legal code, the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

So, if you’re going to rely on the excuse of a “well regulated militia” to own a gun, you should have to buy it from a government monopoly after an exam on par with a pilot’s license (or at least a drivers license, which is still harder than the existing rules for guns) and your behavior when using it as part of the militia should be subject to the UCMJ.

The Boring Pointlessness of The Post-Shooting Dialogue

Someone will attempt to shame someone else for “politicizing” the shooting, itself a political attack. Conservatives will somehow explain that this means we need more self-defense and repeat ad nauseam that this is a problem with Muslims. Liberals will explain that guns are the problem and Islam is a religion of peace.

None of this will be thought out at all and most it is knee-jerk reactions. Guns, bad. Muslims good/bad.

The first mistake is confusing Islam and Muslims. Islam the religion is irrefutably homophobic just as the Christian Bible is. Anyone who denies this is out of their minds. That a majority of Muslims might not act on this is an entirely separate question.

In an environment where liberals want “safe spaces” free of “hate speech” it is disgustingly ironic that they champion a religion that itself is replete with hate speech against gays. Why? Being anti-establishment is why. There’s no logic to it.

Conservatives will tie themselves in a similar knot trying to defend the availability of assault weapons to, well, to anyone who isn’t a Muslim. And privately have a good chuckle about Muslims killing gays.

And it’s these very obvious, very ridiculous contradictions that will not only fail to move the political stalemate on this issue but entrench it any deeper. Why should conservatives accept this liberal contradiction about gay rights and Islam? Why should liberals accept the contradiction about who should have guns? Neither will. Nothing will happen, and we will just keep having these happen.

The Danger of Trump Is Incompetence, Not Fascism

Even many Republicans have called Trump names like Mussolini. But the thing is, it’s not entirely clear that Trump is some kind of mob fascist. It’s without doubt that many of his followers want him to be, but other than a guy who will say anything, it’s hard to know what Trump will do, exactly, precisely since he is constantly changing what he says. Muslim ban? It was a suggestion! He’s flip flopped on climate change, on the Clintons, on being a Republican, and, since the beginning of the campaign on wars, abortion, and all kinds of other issues. We just don’t know what he would actually do. This isn’t to apologize for  what he’s said—it’s actually disgusting how cynically he is manipulating his voters.

Would he be tightly handled by Republican elder statesmen? It doesn’t seem like that’s even possible at this point. Is that a risk we want to take?

The real decision in this election isn’t between some kind of Clintonian Third-way centrism and neo-fascism. It’s, quite frankly, between someone who knows what she’s doing and someone who doesn’t. At the end of the day the Hillary Clinton administration is likely to have as many compromises in it as the Bill Clinton administration for the simple fact that there is likely to be a Republican Congress—at least a Republican House. Bernie Sanders couldn’t have made that much different either. In fact, it’s quite possible that on some issues, Trump is to the left of Hillary. At least as it’s currently defined, Trump does appear to be to her left on trade.

For those too young to know, it was never Bush’s right-wing governing that brought him down. He won re-election after appointing right-wing judges, cutting taxes on the wealthy, and launching a war of choice. It was when his administration’s incompetence after Hurricane Katrina was exposed that he really began to fall down.

Now imagine that literally everything the executive branch touches becomes a Katrina. That’s a Trump presidency for you. And the damage to our credibility as a nation will be worse than any errant right-wing policy.

So while Lindsey Graham is right to say that there will come a point where love of country must trump hatred of Hillary—for Republicans—there will come a point for independents and Democrats where love of left wing policies will have to be trumped by love of country and we’re going to have to accept less than perfect policy outcomes to avoid a total disaster.

What do I mean by this? I mean I think it would be irresponsible for the party to try too hard to shoot the moon on control of Congress this year if there is any doubt at all about the presidential race. If every poll shows Hillary up by double digits, that’s one thing. But if it’s anything like the last 4 elections, then we need to—as Obama said—run scared.

The Political Law of The Mirror

Whatever you think is about to happen in the other party is going to happen to your party first.

Democrats thought they could indulge themselves in a long primary because the Republicans looked sure to head to a contested convention with the unlikeliest of candidates leading the pack, Donald Trump. They thought Republican disunity would hand the White House to the Democrats in 2016. Instead, it is becoming increasingly likely that the opposite will happen and that the Democratic party will split into two de facto sub parties and watch Donald Trump become President, or, in what now seems the maximal scenario, Hillary wins a close election but the Dems don’t make gains in Congress worth much.

In 1992, the Republican party also seemed to be in trouble. The Democrats had a 38-year long winning streak in the House and had just scored the White House. Instead, the Republicans took control of Congress by moving to the right and becoming increasingly more hostile and whose full-court press against President Clinton surely led to the election of President Bush despite the peace and prosperity of the 90s.

This works two ways. It looked like the Republicans were immortal between 2002 and 2005. But the public finally caught up with the craziness of the Bush administration about 5 years too late to really change things and threw Congress and then the White House to the Democrats in 2006-08.

Of course how it looks isn’t necessarily born out by the data we have. Republicans seem far unhappier with things now in their party than Democrats do, and above all, Democrats still love President Obama, who has very high approval for this time in his term. We can look at that and say maybe Hillary is OK after all.

But what we know about how similar scenarios played out in the past under similar facts can’t accurately forecast as bizarre of an election year as this one, can it? Some people will not be able to stomach the idea of Donald Trump with the nuclear codes; for others, they will have had 6 months to get used to the idea.

Anger and amnesia are driving this, along with ADD. I am better off than I was 8 years ago by a mile and better than 6 years ago by a hard to measure amount. What may be hard for some people to put together is that we may not be better off than we were 10 years ago or 20.

Somehow this is generating a world where people’s long histories and records are casually discarded as irrelevant. It doesn’t matter what someone did 20 years ago. It matters what they’re saying now. It doesn’t even matter if there is no chance what is being promised can be brought about, or, if it does, it will result in a calamity that will unleash even worse anger.

It’s very tempting to let Trump try and do what he’s saying and watch him fail miserably, but in the 4 minimum years it will take to remove him, people will suffer. We can’t make gambits with this just to prove a point.

As for the rancor in the Democratic Party, it’s a depressing lesson in facing the fact that, at least at the grassroots level, “both sides do it” is true.

If Trump wins, the Bernie people will say they told us so, that Hillary was a bad candidate. If she loses, that will be almost certainly a correct claim to make, but it won’t have helped that they couldn’t put aside their feelings for her to help out, and it will certainly not prove that Sanders would have done better (the same polls that show him beating Trump, by the way, are the same ones Sanders has to shove aside to convince anyone he has had a chance in the primaries after March 15). Sanders’s label of social democracy is attractive to the left, myself included. The problem is, his implementation of it doesn’t pass even the lightest scrutiny.

But the problem is, there will be no way to prove this and I suspect that the core of Sanders supporters after a Clinton defeat will never accept the blame and will in fact feel vindicated. The other party is prepared for the Trump loss and will simply return the conservatives to power. They caught a break on this one, because usually after 3 presidency losses, a party moderates. Now they can credibly maintain it was a failure to be true conservatives that cost them, if it does.


South America: 3 down, 2 to go.

Neoliberalism is a bad word in Latin America. It’s associated with arrogant yankee executives with money falling out of their pockets condescending on the place. It’s associated in many American liberals’ minds with the World Bank building leaky oil projects on the jungle land of noble savages.

A little bit of this is chauvinism in resenting anything from outside being helpful, but there is some basis in fact. But let’s look at one set of data that shows just how good the last 25 years have been in the region.

**Stretched definition of coup; more of a constitutional crisis

Here is a list of all of the coup and coup attempts since 1991, 25 years ago. Ecuador 2010*, Honduras 2009**, Ecuador 2005, Venezuela 2002*, Ecuador 2000, Guatemala 1993*, Peru 1992***, Venezuela 1992*. That’s a total of 8 coups only 2 of which were successful or unqualified, non-hyperbolic coups. These occurred in only 5 countries, with three in Ecuador and 2 in Venezuela.

What about the 25 years prior? Panama 1990*, Argentina 1990*, Panama 1989*, Paraguay 1989, Argentina 1988* (Dec), Argentina 1988* (Jan), Argentina 1987*, Suriname 1980, Bolivia 1980, El Salvador 1979, Argentina 1976, Ecuador 1976, Uruguay 1973, Chile 1973 (Sept), Chile 1973* (June), Bolivia 1970, Bolivia 1970 (Counter), Brazil 1969, Peru 1968, Panama 1968, Argentina 1966. That’s a total of 21 14 of which were successful in 12 countries.

In other words, all three of the incidence, the success rate, and the number of countries affected has declined dramatically since the end of the Cold War and the “hegemony” of the Washington Consensus, Globalization, and Neoliberalism.

What’s so amazing about this is that the region has suffered plenty of shocks since then. Mexico’s currency imploded in 1995 as did Argentina’s in 2001. Right now, much of the region is suffering from a bad economy, as much of the world has since 2008, yet in that period the only places to suffer coups were Ecuador, which has almost no history of peaceful transitions of power, and Honduras, which is wracked by narco-gang violence. Even in Brazil, only the heated rhetoric of failed politicians is calling the instant process a coup—they’re following the constitutional procedure.

In other words, places that have suffered terrible shocks have not suffered coups and others have grown very much more stable. Even Venezuela where there are now shortages of basic supplies, medicine, and electricity is currently debating a legal procedure to remove Maduro, not a coup.

The contingent of resistance to this yanqui domination gained power in Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, Venezuela (with its chief architect, Hugo Chavez) and Brazil. Using the language of socialism and anti-american nationalism, these countries had temporarily successful leaders who unsustainably took advantage of temporary conditions to do some good with respect to poverty, but in most cases virtually nothing to address the deeper issues of government. Indeed, it’s in these countries alone where we’ve seen post-cold war coups at all.

Just in the last year, the people have realized these people were clowns. In Bolivia, Evo Morales’s attempt to make himself, in effect, president for life, was rejected by voters. In Argentina, the Kirchner dynasty and its retainers were finally deposed by the kind of policies (if not necessarily the exact person) that can finally bring it into the developed world. Now, finally, the socialists of Brazil have been deposed.

To understand why what happened in Brazil is good, you have to reconcile yourself to the fact that corruption and good policies aren’t always mutually exclusive and that the reverse is true. Dilma may not have been corrupt, but her government, which had the good idea of direct transfers to the poor, did nothing to ensure those payments were sustainable. Milking a temporary bubble for a social safety net without investing in sustainable institutions is bad government no matter your corruption or purity.

That leaves Maduro and Correa in Ecuador. I think it’s only a matter of time with Maduro since he is the poster child for the failure of the so-called Bolivarian pink Latin America. Correa seems to be making hay out of the devastating earthquake that just struck Ecuador, but its doubtful he will survive alone.

Unfortunately, no sooner does this pink wave recede than one of the relatively more stable countries faces a test of its own with the potential election of Keiko Fujimori. Replacing left wing semi-feral rulers with right-wing ones won’t help.

Thomas Frank

There’s this sort of weird prairie populist sector of liberal intelligentsia that likes to get meta on liberals and wag fingers at them for culturally condescending on flyover and promising that if liberals would just get behind a kind of Henry Wallace like rural socialism the Democrats and the country would be saved.

This rings true on the surface. It’s not nice to be tribal against the flyovers. And certainly they are equally dignified in their rights as anyone else and a vote is a vote. But this all relies on a sort of “good old days” theology of the New Deal era.

It’s quite possible that there is such a deep racism embedded in these folks that they will never assent to a unity of purpose with poor minorities, but I kind of doubt that.

There are poor rural conservative folk in much of the world. Making their material situation improve may make some of them happy, but it’s unlikely that it will separate them from their traditions and morals.

And refraining from condescending towards these people makes it sound like liberals are superhumans just as much as the condescension does as if we are immune to misunderstandings of other cultures or a sense of security in our own choices and beliefs.

You can take away my liberal card, but I, for one, would gladly call a truce in the culture wars freezing the status quo if it meant that we could really finally get real wages up and do other economic equalization. But that’s not happening.

Look, I do wonder with Frank’s fellow traveller—the dude who wrote “The Smug Style”—why it is that people can get socially blackballed for asking questions about a transgendered person but businesses that pay shitty wages suffer no such consequences. Unmentioned in that article is the worrying tide of anti-science in the left as well. But this really amounts an intramural argument about priorities.

Social Justice requires suasion which makes it political, but it also makes it confrontational. It forces change and often the change side is seen as unquestioningly correct. Everything is the 60s; everything is the next civil rights movement—except it’s not: America had one original sin, slavery, and remedying its effects are unique in all American history. It is just assumed that the change side represents the right side of history. But new isn’t always better. And the self-righteous on both sides are blind to their own hypocrisies. How many liberals do you know who eat plenty of meat but not just wouldn’t attend a bullfight but think it should be banned? or who wouldn’t see how demanding radical animal rights legislation while wanting abortion to be legal doesn’t rub some people the wrong way? (For what it’s worth it was the sheer lack of hypocrisy about marriage equality that made it winning: we want everyone to have stable family units because families are good, not that we want to do as the right says and use slut pills, abortions, and debauchery to destroy the family!) My opinion on these matters is irrelevant; it’s the difficulty of the contradictions for others that requires some of this to be delivered at the point of a federal law. So, I get why maybe there’s an argument we should give each other a break here. But I don’t think that will result in the lack of need of suasion either positive or negative to bring about the kind of cultural changes suggested even if we are making real wages skyrocket.

What Frank and others are really suggesting is trying to foment some kind of realignment of the political alliances of the two parties, putting the liberal sub/urban professional classes back into the Republican party in exchange for the peasants joining up with the other underclasses. All well and good, but to what end?

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. You can lead flyover to economic assistance but you can’t make them like it. We should implement the social safety net anyway. Once it’s strong enough we won’t have to worry about tribal friction between coastals and flyovers.


How to fix the GOP

Donald Trump’s candidacy isn’t going to destroy the Republican party for several reasons. First and foremost, our first-past-the-post voting system makes it difficult to have anything other than a two party system. So even if the faces and the issue change, there will very likely be a Republican party in some form permanently. Second, the party itself is strong in the states and local government.

But the mystique of the presidency, which is much greater than its actual power, has been a difficult ask for the Republicans for a while now. Without completely omitting too many details, this is down to one simple reason: the Republican party is the white christian nationalist party. People can deny this all they want, but it’s the only unifying thread of the vast constituencies. It is this, as evidence by Trump’s nomination, even more than it is the conservative party. A conservative party never would have enacted No Child Left Behind or Medicare Part D.

I actually believe, unlike most liberals, that there is actually more or less always going to be a demand for a pro-business party of the 1% (or at least of the 5%). I actually believe that in moderation this can be a good thing—that our way of life demands a properly balanced yin and yang of capitalism and safety nets that is neither Ted Cruz nor Bernie Sanders. But, unlike most people, I simply don’t believe that the Republican party of 2016 (or really at any point since 1968) has been the party of business. Business has been one of its constituencies, but not the only one.

I actually also believe, unlikely most liberals, that we could be less punitive with respect to religion—and I think most liberals’ hatred of religion mirrors the intolerance they claim to deplore. This doesn’t mean agreeing with their bizarre logic about “religious freedom” including the right to force your beliefs on others.

I actually also strongly believe, like most mainstream Democrats, that the world is not ready for a major withdraw of the American presence across the globe. In 2016, even the stability of Europe is in doubt between terrorism, refugees, and economic crises—not to mention separatism and the Ukraine crisis. If Europe can’t even seem to manage alone, how do we expect the more troubled regions of the world to do so? This doesn’t meant we need to keep repeating the mistakes of Iraq and Vietnam, but it does mean that there’s no going back to 1916.

So there is a market there for the supposed strengths of the Republican party. But what keeps them from it? Their anti-identity politics. As much as I dislike the identity McCarthyism of the left, especially in its current “intersectionalist” form, it’s at least preferable to making the situation worse.

But this is what will be the hardest for them to let go of. It may not be possible. For whatever else Trump stands for, he stands for being against this. Being against accommodating anyone with our choice of words, or any of our practices for that matter. The Mexicans are the enemy; build the wall. The blacks are killing police; police lives matter (ha! on you). Et cetera.

People, especially young people, seem to see no middle ground between these poles. You are either a racist or a social justice warrior. The irony is, we are just months away from one of the most rapid and politically successful liberation movements in history: that of gay rights. The reaction of the left is to immediately push this to include new genders and sexualities that break the logic of fairness behind the gay rights movement. The reaction of the right? The aforementioned “religious freedom” ruse. At least the left is trying to consider the underdog.

On all of these issues, the group that strikes the right balance (to me) between these issues is actually the mainstream of the Democratic party as represented by Barack Obama. But it appears that there is a pull to the left that may manifest itself even more aggressively in the next few years.

But assuming they want to be a national party again, the Republicans need to moderate their relations with minorities. This is hard because it actually means listening to their issues even when they demand exceptions to your ideology. (For example, as Bernie Sanders learned, class before race doesn’t appeal to minorities.) And in doing so, you’ll find that they will have to moderate their extreme pro-market views, moderate their christian triumphalism, and their hawkishness will need to be founded on security concerns rather than nationalism or hatred of the enemy, at least to a greater extent.

This is necessary for any party that wants to win nationally simply on the basis of demographics. Before long, whites will be a bare majority or even just a plurality, and assuming there are even a few white Democrats left, this dooms the Republicans. Their only hope is to find a way to appeal to the minorities on their other issues by not ruling themselves out on other issues.

Only a Republican presidential candidate with this goal could change the whole party, the way Reagan and Goldwater remade it the last time, but local candidates could give it a test run in blue states. They might be ready for this in 2020 if everything unfolds as we think.

Sic Transit Sinistra?

How to resolve the contradiction that people see conspiracy, corruption, deceit, fraud, and failure behind every word every politician says with the cultic adoration and relentless craving for purity sought out by the same cynics?

This contradiction seems to infect all corners of the electorate these days. But surely the Internet must have something to do with it. The Internet may not replace social life for everyone, but it adds a new dimension, one where you needn’t interact with anyone that challenges your point of view. In other words, we laugh at college students creating physical “safe spaces” but we seek them out online routinely.

The result is a black and white view where all means are justified against the dark side and every doubt is given to the good side. A moderator asking an unfair question deserves to be fired; an outlier poll means the pollster is corrupt; a vote decades ago on a complex bill means the person can never be questioned.

Part of this too must be the obsession with process. People seem to be taking an unusual interest in delegate rules and we are all concerned with whether they correspond to the (new) benchmark of whether the most people voted that way with almost no reference to the question of whether this process produces the best nominees and even less to whether it produces better presidents.

Has anyone asked whether a low turnout election in unrepresentative states almost a year from the general election, no matter how overwhelmingly their pronouncements are, a good predictor of presidential quality? Has anyone raised the point that presidents and presidential candidates surf the waves of political change, they don’t create them?

Anal insistence on a process that no one ever formally agreed to connected with an unrelenting purity on every issue is a standard no president has ever met and never will.

This is clearly, plainly, obviously demonstrated in the Republican primaries. Donald Trump is winning a plurality of his party’s vote and may gain a majority of its delegates. Does anyone believe for a moment that he would make a better president than John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Lindsay Graham, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio or even Ted Cruz?

Yet we are being told that for the party to “steal” the nomination from Trump would somehow be wrong. Implicit in this is also the concept that every vote for a primary candidate is a vote that means my candidate or #never the other guy, when in fact most Republican primary voters would prefer almost any of their other candidates over any Democrat.

It would not surprise me to see this in 4 or 8 years in the Democratic Party. We’ve been able to say “both sides don’t do it” for a long time now, but there are clear signs that purity is being demanded of candidates at all levels on the Democratic side as well. Maybe it’s that Fox News and talk radio gave the Republicans their own echo chamber several years before the Internet became the Democratic one.

The prior pinnacle of Democratic purity was Russ Feingold’s attempt to defund the Iraq war in 2007. Even Bernie Sanders voted for the final bill when the amendment failed (something neither Obama nor Clinton did).

Obama has faced the attack of brogressive and demands for purity as well, though it’s hard to separate a demand for fighting fire with fire here from a separate demand for purity on its own.

There hasn’t been a remotely serious primary challenge to a sitting president since 1992 when Pat Buchanan almost won New Hampshire. You have to go back to 1980 to find anyone but the incumbent president winning a state.

Something tells me that if Hillary Clinton is elected president this year that because she will inevitably fail to enact Sweden, just as Obama failed to enact Sweden even with a filibuster proof senate majority, she will face a serious primary challenge, perhaps from Bernie Sanders.

We have barely survived having one party controlled by black and white idealists. I hope pragmatism can yet win the day in the Democratic party. But the presidential primaries are just one indication. Clinton seems to be handling that fine. At the lower levels, the party’s constituent coalition members are increasingly demanding ever higher levels of purity even for candidates at the local level, denying anyone aspiring to higher office the chance to build consensus and govern smartly.

Would you believe that one of America’s most approved of Governors, Jerry Brown, who recently sign a $15 minimum wage law, who talked California into raising taxes for education, and (the list goes on) is actually not well lived by the left?

Yes, Governor “Moonbeam” is not popular among the progressive left in California.

In California, you might win enough elections naming purist liberals. Nationwide? Only the purists themselves believe that if people “only knew the truth” they’d turnout at 90% and cast out the other side. Purists on both sides believe that.




What the obsession with privilege says.

Check your privilege!

What this statement does—rightly or wrongly—is it impeaches the value of the statement based on the source, making it a classic case of logical fallacy. Leaving that aside, because after all, the speaker can affect the importance of a statement, it nonetheless allows for political mediation of speech. The politics comes in when who or what is privilege or privileged comes into the equation.

And therein lies the rub. The problem with this (and almost all far-left politics) is that it simply seeks to replace the arbiter of what kind of speech should be privileged rather than focus on the content. The center and the right either ignore (in the case of the center) or prefer (in the case of the right) the existing rules. Under those rules, the privilege associated with wealth (primarily) is seen as having an unfair advantage. Unfair, if you’re a liberal. If you’re a far leftist, it’s not really that the advantage is unfair, it’s that the wrong people have it.

As a result, the real meaning of debate squelching refrains like “check your privilege” is the desire to be the owner of privilege not to neutralize it altogether.

People are free to hold these beliefs if they want. That’s part of what we accept in a liberal society. But I feel that it begins as a desire to level the playing field, which is what liberals want, and instead becomes a politically controlled validation of speech based on identity.

It would seem that the test is simple: if you’re a minority or a historically oppressed group, speech by you of for you should be amplified and speech against you should be filtered through a very severe audit.

The trouble comes when we start to decide who is given the in label. Under prevailing conditions, this category seems to include enemies of the United States no matter how numerous, wealthy, or oppressive they themselves are and it seems to exclude groups like Jews who, according to this philosophy, are now “white” despite millennia of historical oppression.

What has made the United States what it is was the realization that, though it is hard work, denying any political class the ability to moderate speech has kept us from the endless cycle of revolution and counter-revolution that has roiled Europe for centuries, and, despite a postwar Golden Age, appears to be at it again.


Hillary’s Decent But Imperfect Plan For ISIS

Politics is tough; leadership is tough. Sometimes it’s hard to represent people, especially in their less rational emotions like fears and hopes, without stirring the pot. So, the day after a murderous terrorist attack in Belgium, many Americans are wondering if we will ever be done with attacks like this.

And make no mistake, despite lower body counts than many other events, these attacks truly are terrorism in that they scare us apart from each other, out of our public spaces, and into different ways of life. They are intentional; they are meant to hurt us—this is different than an accidental plane crash, or even a school shooting. Both of these can be reduced in certain ways. But can we ever stop a suicide bomber without losing too much? It’s a tough question.

With those feelings so raw it can be tough to swallow Hillary’s language that we need to not alienate Muslims at home and abroad that might help us. Why should we trust them? Well, in the case of Belgium, it appears that the Batacalan attacker was caught through just such efforts.

We have also had some success at rolling back ISIS with only a handful of advisers on the ground, using mostly local troops.

Leaving to one side Donald Trump’s insane suggestion that we damage our NATO alliance, which Hillary dismissed outright, her plans for ISIS are very conventional. They will not bring about a catharsis and we will only ever watch the problem slowly decrease instead of disappear in shock and awe.

Many people are so frustrated with the crimes of the Bush years that they reflexively want to end or drastically cutback all American intervention abroad both in security and economic matters. If only it were so simple. If only spastic radical changes would reset everything into a brave new world. But such changes would create more losers, more upheval, and more friction.

For one, Obama is showing that we have a lot of work to do in our own hemisphere. As the Castro/Chavez/Morales axis wanes in the region, an America not obsessed with fighting the Cold War needs to responsibly fill the vacuum.

It’s worth preserving the international status quo of the Clinton-Obama years and Hillary is the only candidate standing likely to do that, unless you consider John Kasich to be “standing.”

But it’s obvious that her technocratic approach, while certain to be effective, may not be forceful enough to contain the volcano of discontent spewing from the Middle East. Right now, we have had a better year than last. We have a nuclear deal with Iran and tentative cease fires in Syria and Yemen. But pause too long to exhale and these will only result in more conflict if the underlying dynamics aren’t radically altered.

So, for now, Clinton’s involuntarily trademarked cautious incrementalism is indicated. But if the paradigm shifts due to some external factor, we need to be ready for more dramatic action.


Every time there is a mass shooting at a school, we hear about how there must be gun control. What is striking is that, for the most part, the same folks who want gun control—something I agree with—react to terrorist attacks with the same kind of victim-blaming and dissembling that the NRA people peddle after a mass shooting.

The NRA says #notallguns. The left tends to say #notallrefugees. But in the wake of a tragedy and in the absence of a ready way to figure out which guns and which refugees, the heuristic most people apply to deal with the sadness and fright they feel is to generalize. Is it the highest minded rational thinking? No, probably not.

But what should be clear is that on the other side of the Atlantic, a political philosophy has created a cultural crisis that never would have happened if people had been realistic about the integration challenges they face. This was no surprise to me, since Europeans have been assuming, for example, that inside every Palestinian was a parliamentary democrat trying to get out. But it’s wrong.

On our side of the Atlantic, a belief that guns keep us free is killing us. They’re both ideological blinders to the facts with deadly consequences.

In Defense of Alleged Moderates

Before we get started, we have to define some terms. There are moderates with a record of doing something and those without one. Beyond that, I have to wonder if the moderate really exists. For example, did someone passionately believe that civil unions were the solution to the question of gay marriage or was it someone who believed in gay marriage being tactical? I suspect most so-called moderates are simply choosing different tactics.

Maybe there are really a few people out there who intensely like the death penalty only in cases of terrorism, who don’t see it as either totally OK or not. Maybe there are really a few people who intensely, deeply feel that it makes a big difference whether you have an abortion in the first trimester or the first day of the second.

I suspect, at the end of the day, in the majority of cases, the difference comes down to the person’s relationship with the opposition (and therefore democracy itself) or their examination of the political landscape. It is all too tempting to believe that when a country elects a Democratic president that it’s ready for a massive political revolution. Maybe that’s true on a certain level, but within our constitutional framework, it’s contingent on that support spreading to Congress, like it did in 2006-2008.

The progressives and the revolutionaries in today’s debate seem to think that doing anything half ways is corruption. But when things are accomplished, it helps actual people. When it does so in a way that both sides can grudgingly accept, that’s democracy.

So, the moderate with a record of success deserves our thanks. The one that fails, or who gives up too much ground, however, deserves a critical review.

But the ideologue held to this same standard will likely fail. The Ralph Naders and Bernie Sanders of the world have been good at making people hold progressive ideals. They have been terrible at translating those ideals into progress. Since I am skeptical that many people are “intensely moderate” and most people have up-or-down beliefs about most things, it’s good to get people to those up-or-down beliefs through persuasion the way people who build movements like Sanders can do. Convincing people that health care is a right is great work. Being sad that not every person that holds that belief is headed for the ramparts to get it is not.

The truth is, we need both, but the fill different roles in our politics. The movement leaders change minds; the elected officials have to put those ideals in action. A rare few people have been both.

Martin Luther King lead the movement, but it took a wily political operator like LBJ to get civil rights enacted. Such partnerships are there throughout history if you’re willing to look.

One alleged moderate hated by today’s progressives is Bill Clinton. But when Clinton came to office, he led with two rather revolutionary policy initiatives: gays in the military and universal healthcare. It was the Democratically controlled Congress that stopped both of them. Then, in 1994, when the Republicans came in, it was a miracle he got anything done at all.

Another alleged moderate that today’s progressives are more shy about hating is Barack Obama. But when Obama came to office, he led with a revolution in health care reform that passed by the skin of its teeth through a Democratically controlled Congress and it was in doubt until the very last vote, in doubt until the Supreme Court finally, barely, let it stand. Yet somehow, Obama needed to enact single payer? Then, in 2010, when the Republicans came in, he bargained harder than many give him credit for (including myself at the time) and won substantive improvement for many people’s lives.

I am very inclined to hear arguments that our system has very serious flaws, including far too many veto points (though I imagine myself eating crow on that one if Cruz or Trump are elected) but an argument for systematic change isn’t and can’t be an argument against someone who did what they could in the existing system.

And the reality is, massive Constitutional change isn’t popular at the moment. Maybe someone should start a movement about that.


You say you want a revolution…

I’ve written extensively on this site about America’s failure to have a reconciliation of the Bush years. We have sort of passively endured the fallout and let time pass. We’re to the point where picking at the scabs may inflict its own damage, but the wound is obviously infected. Consider:

• No substantive changes came about after the Bush years except arguably the ACA

• Not only did Jeb Bush have to drop out early despite being arguably one of the two most qualified Republicans in the race, he had to drop out because the leading candidate abused him and his brother’s record as President

• Trump and Sanders are both attempting to entirely reconfigure their parties. Trump is more successful so far, because of or despite his attacks on Bush

The problem is that people have become so enthralled with Presidential politics that they don’t realize that it is no forum for a revolution, at least not by itself. You need the presidency, but you also need a Congress that supports the agenda. Electing a revolutionary president isn’t what our constitution has in mind for better or worse.

Neither Trump nor Sanders will be able to deliver on their promises or meaningfully reshape politics in their favor under our system of government.

Revolutionaries in this country are largely lazy.

They are repeatedly trying to shoot the moon by winning a Presidential election (Nader, Kucinich, the imagined Howard Dean, the imagined Obama, Elizabeth Warren, and now Bernie Sanders) which is both extremely unlikely and almost entirely useless on its own.

In order to meaningfully change politics, you need a party that can compete in every congressional district, every senate election, and that can also tell a compelling narrative of their vision while moving in that direction, leading the public, but not lapping it. You need to remove interference from the Supreme Court. And then you need to repeat this at the state and local levels.

This is a long, hard slog and it is one that Democratic presidents have been trying to bring about for decades, only to have their efforts dismissed by impatient revolutionaries. Once that effort bore fruit with the Congressional zenith of the Democrats in 2009, the passing of a once in a generation piece of reform legislation left everyone cold (except the millions of newly insured…)

Now there is a once in a generation chance to change the direction of the Supreme Court and get it out of the way. Because that is a precondition of a revolution, it should be handled first.

The myopia of the revolutionaries also sounds in their issues. Other than climate change, which is an issue that isn’t going to go away, chances are that the economy will heat up, at least for a while, and take some of the pressure off of this issue. There are worrying signs that decades of decreasing crime is at best hitting a dead-cat bounce, at worst on the upswing. This will change the conversation about criminal justice reform. If this issues persist, then they will create more energy. But the demand that these issues trump climate change or anything else is just more of this impatience. Get in line.

If the revolutionaries were ready to work and endure, by the time their work was completed no one would even sense there was a revolution. Think of the persistent, steady, patient labors of the gay marriage movement. It took 20+ years. It worked. And when the Supreme Court finally went their way, no one was surprised in the slightest.

God damn it.

Fuck you you stupid fucking fucks. If Ruth Bader Ginsburg hadn’t become a meme and had faced more pressure to resign we could be looking at a 5-4 majority of liberals on the court for a generation. Now we’ll be lucky to have it for a year or two.