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.

Bernalph Snaders?

All right, Bernie. Ralph Nader could have just remained a gadfly in the late 90s and left an admirable legacy of anti-corporate activism and followers. A nice The Subject of College Entry Essay sort of remembrance. Instead, Darth Nader’s entry in the Book of Life begins and ends with Generalissimo Bush. Say what you will about Gore running a shitty campaign and that he should have won. That means precious little to those needlessly killed while the Bush junta was asleep at the wheel on 9/11, to say nothing of thousands dead or maimed in Iraq, or those that died but shouldn’t have after Katrina and, well, just read the archives of this blog.

Similarly, Bernie could leave a legacy on being ahead of the time on so many issues that eventually became popular; of, indeed, taking a more pure approach —  and that is meaningful as example if not in the workaday grind of progress. All of this could be capped by a stupendous presidential run that attracted millions of new and, importantly, younger voters to the Democratic Party. The future of the party could well be a hybrid that favors more of Sanders’ Indica than Clinton’s Sativa. One could see a Tulsi Gabbard strain running for President in eight years.

That is, if Bernie does the right thing and concedes graciously a few days after Tuesday’s votes are cast.

Conversely, if Bernie contributes at all to a bitter, quixotic anti-Clinton campaign then his legacy may begin and end with Donald Trump.

That is, if there is anyone left to record legacies.

Be a mensch, Bernie!


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.


“Hoonism” and Mitt Romney

Yes, IT can happen here. Indeed, a junior varsity version of IT did happen here during the Bush junta’s Fear Years (September 12, 2001 – September 1, 2005 or 9/11 to Hurricane Katrina) in which many of the American people, but just as importantly, our supposedly moderating institutions were meerily hoodwinked into starting Iraq War II to “keep us safe” and people with the intelligence to not support that disaster were labeled as treasonous. Of course, Generalissimo Bush left office as one of the least popular presidents in American history and 7+ years of “history’s judgment” have not been kind. Still, Bush II did not change from 9/11 to Katrina. We the People did. Enough of us removed the blinders of Bush’s lies and stupidity, proof positive that We the People (or at least way too many of us) allowed them to be put on in the first place.

Anyone dumb enough to think that Mr. T does not know precisely what he is doing in being a KKKonservative Klandidate is also dumb enough to think that he doesn’t mean it. Witness the half-lobotomized vocal cord with shoes Chris Matthews, bloviating on MSNBC that maybe Mr. T talks about infrastructure and building things in the general election ’cause he has built stuff and perhaps we get a “wall and roads” when he is President. Right. Like any politician that needs to be re-elected (assuming we still have elections) will not try to deliver for their base. Make no mistake,  Mr. T’s base is White Nationalism.

What does IT look like in Mr. T’s America? Here’s my guess: Mr. T will attempt to rally support for deporting eleven million illegal immigrants. Congress will reject most of it, but Mr. T can still make plenty of a difference via Executive Orders. If anyone thinks that the same interests that label Obama’s use of Executive Orders as “imperial” will have a problem with Mr. T using EOs to enforce his agenda , all I can say is HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!! Where formal ICE agents cannot or will not  deport all eleven million undocumented immigrants heavily armed “Patriot Groups”  will begin outing undocumented immigrants for them. Many people will oppose this, likely disproportionately those of other religious and ethnic minorities who will correctly see themselves as being next. Some in these groups will adhere to the side of “law and order” to keep themselves safe, but I suspect the majority will be motivated to protect and help their fellow humans. Thus other minority groups will likely fall under further suspicion, perhaps with more Patriot Groups doing their Patriotic duties to “out” those sympathetic to undocumented workers. The more this round up tears apart society and, along with the trade wars with China and Mexico, damages the economy the more impetus there will be to get rid of Them to keep Us safe and prosperous.

Last week: enter Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney and the rest of the GOP deserve 99.99% of the blame for Mr. T. They are the ones that have stoked racism as a fundamental political strategy since 1968. They are the ones that sought to oppose Obama at every turn — as though tail chasing delusion was better than governmenting with a black Democrat. As a result, they are the ones that no longer have any ideas for governing, or even acknowledgment of problems like global warming. Romney had no problem with Mr.T’s hammy birther racism in 2012. Yes, Romney’s “self-deportation” nonsense circa 2012 is the non-alcoholic beer to Mr. T’s 2016 nativism. Yes, Romney’s unprecedented opposition to Mr. T overlaps with his own interests to perhaps be the “White Knight” at a brokered convention. Yes, overall, Romney is a venal termite.

And yes, Mitt Romney recognized the unAmerican, authoritarian, violent nightmare of a Mr. T presidency and chose to forcibly speak out against it.

By and large, rather than taking Romney’s denunciation of Mr. T as proof positive of Mr. T’s scary agenda, the Middle and the Left have resorted to the facile comfort of Hoonisms. In this case, the “Hoonism” is the man-bites-dog story of Mr. T beating up “the Establishment” and the easy peasy (and oh so very accurate) hypocrisy charge that Romney is largely guilty of the same resentment-mongering as Mr. T. Witness witless witness Maureen Dowd cheering the “wicked fun” or Mr. T’s candidacy tearing apart said establishment before limply acknowledging its “wickedness.” [For me the “wicked fun” of beating the GOP establishment was electing and re-electing a Democrat, having him enact much of his agenda, and having him “keep America safe” by actually killing Osama bin Laden through a pin point military exercise, rather than missing bin Laden in a pointless full-scale war.] Similarly, Saturday Night Live cut a funny “racists for Trump” fake commercial last Saturday. Their vehemence would stick had the selfsame Mr. T not hosted SNL a few months prior.

Will Willard Mitt Romney be remembered as a smarmy shape-shifting pol that was ultimately hoisted by his own petard by the very backwards elements he sold himself out to? Or, will Romney be recalled as a man whose ambitions silenced his conscious for so long that when he did let his conscious speak not enough people wanted to listen because he was so compromised and his warning was too unpleasant?

The remnant of the respectable Right is being routed. It’s up to those of us of the Left and the Middle to determine the outcome. If we want Mr. T to be a freaky funny footnote to history and for Mittens to remain a punchline, we have to stop Hooning away the warnings from anyone that demands that we contemplate the unwanted dangers of having Mr. T’s stubby fingers using the might of the federal government for an ethnic cleansing campaign in the USA. Even if that anyone includes Mitt Romney.

“Hoonism,” The GOP Establishment, The Media and the Rise of Mr. T

After the rise of universal white male (as opposed to only land owning male) suffrage in 1828 the quality and notoriety of Presidents declined (Pop Quiz! Name one president between Andrew Jackson and Abreham Lincoln)  and much of the intellectual heft of American government resided in the House of Representatives with three leaders providing the bulwark of statesmenship that, in the most altruistic telling, kept the Union whole until it was finally ripped asunder in 1860. This “Grand Triumvirate” consisted of Daniel Webster broadly representing the North, Henry Clay broadly representing “The West” (then states like Ohio and Michigan) and John C. Calhoun representing the South.

Of these three stalwarts Calhoun was dealt the worst hand. He needed to perpetuate the peculiar institution of slavery, whose existence was even in 1776 a compromise to the minority interest of politicos, even as the physical size and number of states expanded. Should the majority will hold true to those new states they would be “free”. In time, free western states and free northern states would outnumber southern slave states and slavery, as a minority regional interest, would end through the basic “majority rules” structure of the Republic even with its attendant check and balances.

Luckily for the South, Calhoun was smarter than Webster and Clay. Calhoun was a full throated booster for the “positive good” of slavery, but his arguments for maintaining slavery were not about its awesomeness; rather, he made legal argument over the need for “minority” rights, states rights, and even the idea of a “concurrent majority” of all major interests for anything that the majority does — in other words, the majorities of the rest of the United States that wanted to abolish slavery and keep new western states free, could be nullified if the majority of the Southern slave states disagreed.

Calhoun’s ideas are a ripe rabbit hole of worthy College sophomore bull session fodder to cannonball into: How are minority interests protected in a majority-rules Republic? Are Calhoun’s ideas a tyranny of the minority? These ponderances conveniently allow the self-evidently repugnant fact of slavery to become tacit background to the debate. The states rights argument was a tactic to perpetuate slavery; had the majority of the USA been pro-slavery than Calhoun would have been a genius scholar of the dictae of majority rules. The politics of antebellum America were about slavery with all of the genocide, violence, rape and subjugation that goes along with it.

“Hoonism” then, is an intellectual or symbolic rationale for ugly positions that allow both sides of the argument ground to disagree while keeping the hideousness of the subject matter at bay.

John C. Calhoun is the intellectual grandfather of reactionary conservatives, so of course the Right enjoys employing Hoonisms. Moderates dig Hoonsims too. Isn’t easier to focus Grade 6 through 12 history on yakking about “concurrent majorities” rather than how America’s founding fathers and most of its politicians rationalized the enslavement of the ancestors of several of the kids in class? A visceral examination of the sickening practice of slavery indicts everyone in an uncomfortable way.

Those that are that are surprised by the rise of Mr. T despite his Real Conservative apostatecy , then, have grown numb to the fact that the GOP has become the party of “Hoonism” ever since it employed the “Southern Strategy” in 1968.

Take abortion. The pro-life “Hoonism” is that people with deep religious convictions hold all embryonic life sacred. There are many, well-organized people for whom this is true. The pro-choice narrative is more informative: women should have control over the bodies. Ay, there’s the rub. The Pill and progress towards gender equality overall allows more women to choose their family and career options, thereby limiting some of the power once held by men. Some men find this untenable, but that’s kinda’ nasty so they are supposedly very religious in their pro-lifeness. Enter Mr. T who is all over the map on abortion, but is a barking misogynist that will put the Megan Kellys of the world in their place. He wins because for most of the Right “pro-life” is a Hoonism for misogyny.

And on the Hooisms slide:

“Welfare Queens” = Lazy black people stealing white people’s money. (Irregardless of the fact that most welfare is distributed to whites)

“Strong Military,” at a time when America has the most powerful conventional army in world history = Still Butthurt over Losing Vietnam.

“Against Big Government” = Schools should still be segregated and I resent federal power being used to enforce constitutional equality for everyone.

“New York Liberal” Slander = I don’t particularly care for the Jews, or the blacks or the queers or all the other “others”.

“Show Me Your Birth Certificate” = Any black person is illegitimate to be president.

And so on.

Mr. T’s skill has been in ripping off the Hoonism hood and racing the car with its untethered racist engine. One of the reason that he has been so difficult to contend with is the GOP Establishment is too inbred to realize that its Hoonism is a faceade, but even The Smarts like Nate Silver have been flummoxed. The reason for this, I suspect, is that being forced to acknowledge that Mr. T’s support is greatly predicated on a White Power (with all the ugliness that phrase implies) reaction to white disempowerment, forces one to look up from their equations on measuring the standard deviation “resentment” and acknowledge that a great many Americans do not like black people, latinos, Muslims, Jews, homosexuals, and so on. This hatred has been the organizing factor in right-wing politics since 1968. Acknowledging this forces people of good conscience to speak out against it. And that’s uncomfortable.

Baring some sort of deux ex machina the leadership of the free world will come down to a contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I cannot believe I just wrote that sentence. If the Left and the Middle wants to win this fight, it must acknowledge what the right has become, and has been since 1968 without the Hoonism woodwork to obscure it.








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.

Screw it! New Jersey Should Go First.

Now that the inane Iowa caucuses are over and the tail-chasing Boston Suburbs + Quebec Suburbs primary is ended, the rest of America can begin to choose between the candidates that our cornfield and flinty-faced betters have so expertly winnowed or story-lined for us. The primacy of IA and NH would be NBD if not for the fact that America’s candidates spend almost two years campaigning there; meanwhile, after a brief jaunt to Nevada and South Carolina, the totality of Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia (to say nothing of American Samoa) will all vote on March 1 with about 19 days of campaigning for the lot of them. Our candidates make a show of mugging at all 99 of Iowa’s counties and making multiple visits to each New Hampshire Nothingberg. If I’m lucky I might get one meaningful rally in my state, like we did for Obama in 2008.

I was going to suggest wonky solutions for this absurdity. Perhaps a random drawing of “Plus One” states to go along with Iowa and New Hampshire so that at least four states get the two years of attention. Or, perchance a series of regional primaries with a different region going “first” each four yeats. But, the umpteenth visit to Ida County and the media’s smiley smile tallying of Dixville Notch’s first votes have left a groady corn and granite slime in my mouth.

Yep. It’s time to move this entire grotesque carnival to where it belongs. The state of my birth: New Jersey.

There are intellectual reasons for starting with Jeerz. It boasts some of the richest and poorest sections of the country, meaningful numbers of almost every race, religion, and ethnicity in the world, dense urban areas, sprawling suburbs, and more farmland and rural pockets than an outsider would expect. That’s all well and good for an NPR segment, but the real reason that the Marco Polos, Mike Hucketerbees, John Kasichs, and Jeb!utante Bushs (etc.) and all their media should have to spend two years slogging the Oranges, Amboys, and Cape Mays is far more pointed: It will be a colossal pain in the ass.

Firstly, ad buys will have to be in the ultra-expensive New York or Philly markets. Yet, those ads will have a hard time appealing to Jersey’s ideal of itself. Half the state likes the Knicks/Giants/Jets/Yanks/Mets the other likes the Sixers/Eagles/Phillies. Debating Devils/Flyers/Rangers WILL start fights. Rutgers is there for everyone, but no one cares about the Scarlet Knights. Jersey has no central city, landmark or place. Newark is the largest population center, but I admit to never setting foot in it until I was in my late 20s. I’ve still never been to Camden. Most of the times I was in Trenton it was a mistake. Despite being easy Blue nationally since ’92, Jersey functions like a set of city-states and fiefdoms; intensely local subcultures that sometimes enjoy each other, but ultimately have little affinity for one another. The candidates will have to squeeze votes out of this incoherent melange.

Being so close to NY and Philly, Jersey will be unimpressed by the candidates, their entourage, or The Media. Nope. No corny aw schucks smiles when John Kasich mentions that Toms River has a storied history in the Little League World Series or that John Updike wrote about Elizabeth once. Hillary will get no bounce for trotting out Carl Lewis (he’s from Jersey, look it up). No one will entertain Ben Carson. That said, the instant Jersey learns that Marco Polo has been supping at Brooklyn’s Peter Luger every night or Jeb!utante calls the “shore” the “coast” then watch out, because the only identity Jersey has is a negative reaction to the rest of country’s “Toxic Avenger” perception of the Garden State. We will rally and defend Jersey to the death. It’s an incomprehensible composite rock of “I Don’t Give a Fuck!” and “Fuck You!” and anyone that wants to be president had better figure out how the hell to navigate it.

The candidates will get stuck in traffic. A lot. The people will get bored of security inconveniences. Familiarity will breed contempt. Months before the first votes are cast, Jerseyans will find that one little, peculiar bit that gets under each candidate’s skin and, like a coven of mini-Howard Sterns, pick at it endlessly. One would think that Crisco Kremey would be adapted to these environs and be favored in his home state, yet I suspect that he would merciless trolling for being  shitty at his day job. I Don’t Give a Fuck so Fuck You!

I want to see Mike Hucksterbee chum up to a dad with three kids at the Kendall Park roller rink and have the guy tell Huck to choke on his own vomit and die, and then go back to playing Buck Hunt.

I want to see overly tan women giggle and point at Jeb!utante Bush while he is wearing his creepy WASP shorts at the Shore and then have a guido laugh in his face.

I want to see Bernie face down a Libertarian heckler with aspbergers syndrome and a six figure salary from Bristol Meyers Squibb in a town hall in West Windsor.

I want to see Hillary “connect” over hoagie orders.

I want to see a beer bellied slob with half-chewed pizza in his mouth get into an Alpha contest with Mr. T on the Point Pleasant board walk.

I want to see the real life incarnation of Randall from “Clerks” make Marco Polo cry.

I want The Media to get grouchier and grouchier about the whole damn thing. New York and DC, so close and yet so far!

Finally, mercifully, the ordeal will end. Jersey will be sick of all you alls stupid, vapid speeches and boot slurping handlers. The candidates will be seething beneath false saber-tooth smiles, gamely thanking the volunteers and ready to book the hell out of here.

Thus, Jersey and The Election will part ways. Both reminiscing over scores of slights, brows furrowed, thinking about waving a gigantic stadium-style foamy hand with its middle-finger jacked up in each others’ face. I mean really, could anything be more American?

You Got A Problem With That!


What now for the GOP?

Trump won in New Hampshire and has been polling strong in South Carolina, which is next. Kasich is a surprise second. Cruz is still in there and probably gets to run for a while on his Iowa win. But Rubio? If he stays at fifth it’s hard to see where he’s going from here. After all, he was only third in Iowa and that was supposed to catapult him up, not into a blunder and a further back finish. I don’t imagine Jeb is going away right now either, even though he hasn’t done well anywhere.

I think the short answer is: it’s on to South Carolina. Maybe Carson and Fiorina drop out, but it will probably be well into March until the GOP field is down to a two person race and by then Trump may have gained enough of a lead to make him hard to stop.

Not much of a surprise on the Dem side. If Bernie can’t convert that win into progress in South Carolina and Nevada, people will lose interest. If he does, there’s no telling when this one will be over. Maybe even after the Republicans, who at least have a frontrunner.

Why I’m For Hillary

Yes, I support single-payer healthcare, drastic changes to funding of college education, and above all $15 minimum wage. But I support Hillary.

Here’s why. I believe that if Congress put any of those issues (let’s call them the “Bernie issues”) on Hillary’s desk, she’d sign them. But I also know that Congress won’t put them there and that she won’t waste a term Quixotically pursuing them.

If you think Hillary would veto any of these, then you’re right to support Sanders, I guess. But the reality is, she would and he can’t.

So, while Bernie is talking about things that will never, ever happen, Clinton is talking about things she can actually do. I know this is the kind of thing that the young and the revolutionary-minded don’t like to hear, but politics doesn’t work that way and 50+ million Republican voters won’t just disappear and can’t and shouldn’t be ignored in a democracy.

Response to “What the Western Left” Below

I agree fully, but I would just add that the case of whiteness = Jewishness is Exhibit A in the morally bankrupt political exercise that is “intersectionalism.”

The far left advocates of that theory, I think, believe that there is some moral compass driving the distinctions that they make, but there isn’t. It’s simply a political calculation with no more ethical insight that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

If there were any kind of rules guiding the hierarchy of oppression in intersectionality, the rank hypocrisy of advocating that European nations be burdened with refugees from the Levant seeking to escape slaughter while denying the legitimacy of refugees from Europe seeking to escape slaughter by heading to the Levant—even if there were no historical tie between those “refugees” and the Levant—would be a cause of some hesitation.

The scary part isn’t just that there is no moral compass in intersectionalism, it’s that the Jew has taken his traditional spot as the hated outcast within it just as we find again and again in history. Now, instead of wearing yellow stars, or being forced to run with pigs on easter, Jews are expected to denounce the “occupation” as an auto da fe anytime they want to participate in a lefty event when citizens of no other country are supposed to seek atonement for their sins. If the people enforcing these rules had any historical perspective, they would see that all their singling out of Israel does (ironically for them) is underscore the very need for Israel: as a place to go when the next society turns its back on Jews.

A few years ago, I might have thought all of this was harmless, but given recent events in Europe, I simply can’t deny that politics has not only blinded people to history, it’s blinded them to the present and to the principle of equal justice under the law.

I should add: recent events on American campuses too. The Intersectional Jew is the one minority who gets no safe space, for whom discrimination is not only not frowned upon, but is encouraged, from whom cultural appropriation is not shameful but indeed from whose own ranks traitors are sought and paraded as if they were part of a Roman triumph.

At least old fashioned right-wing antisemitism made plain that Jews were subhuman and filthy and were overt about it. This kind attempts to think that rather than a genetic defect, it’s merely a mental one that can be cured by reeducation.

What the Western Left and Middle Eastern Arabs Do Not Understand About Israelis

In an effort to live out some bad karma, I occasionally read the comments section of Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, or Haaertz articles posted on Facebook. For all its faults, Comment Land serves as a useful proxy for the folk wisdom of current events – the one-on-one dialogue of personal arguments far from the purported nuance of elite` Thought Leaders.

In this sluggish and nasty realm the anti-Israeli argument goes something like this: Zionism and Zionists are fundamentally colonial and have stolen land in the British Mandate Palestine; therefore, Israel’s claim to said land is illegitimate and it should somehow be returned to indigenous Palestinians that, although never a nation-state [although many in Comment Land are ignorant of this fact and think that there was a formal “Palestine” that got turned into Israel], are still a cultural identity that should have had a formal state in what is now Israel.

The moderates in this camp will concede that Israel has a right to exist along with a Palestinian state but that a homeland is still owed to the Palestinians by the Israelis, the radicals say “Palestine from the river to the sea!” None of this contends with the fact that the “Palestinians” could have had a homeland on multiple occasions and started all the wars that they lost, but I digress.

There is so much ignorance in the Zionism = Colonialism argument that it is almost impossible to unpack all of it, but because it is elemental to the ongoing Arab-Israeli peace problem  address it we must to achieve a lasting peace.

The first problem with the Zionism = Colonialism narrative is that it assumes that there is no connection between the land that is Israel today and contemporary (say, from the 1880s to present day) Jews. This would stun anyone that has ever been at any Jewish prayer service. Even not understanding a word of Hebrew you would hear “Yis-rah-ale” and “Jer-ru-sa-li’yim” chanted again and again. There is ample archaeological evidence for humans identifying themselves as Jews lived in what is now Israel since almost the dawn of recorded history. This includes Judea and Samaria (“The West Bank”), whose moniker itself should be revealing.

Israel is foundational to Judaism, but the anti-Israeli narrative (if it even acknowledges that people called Jews have lived in Israel historically) rests on inventing a statute of limitations at which point Jews no longer get to become Israelis after the Diaspora: by this logic, Diaspora Jews are not Israelis or Judeans, they are “Europeans.” This ignores the reason that Ashkenazi Jews became Zionists and ultimately Israelis: the European majority considered them Jews and not Europeans. The major Aliyahs of modern Israeli history are not Colonial swashbuckling but refugees fleeing horrific discrimination, pogroms and the Holocaust, often with just two suitcases or less. Call their migration Colonialism all you want, they called it survival.

Finally, despite the fact that (for just one example) the Incans were conquerors of local peoples before they themselves were Conquistadored by the Spanish, Colonialism is seen as something that Whites do to Others. Again, the supposed whiteness of Jews disqualifies their ability to live in their historic Homeland that also has non-white people in it. Yet most Jews were  expelled from other lands because of their Jewishness. Jews’ expulsion from the Arab world was not a catastrophe in 1948 because Zionism worked as intended and they went to Israel. The same holds true for Ethiopian Jews in the 1980s and French Jews today. As a result, as anyone that has ever been to Israel will attest, Jews are multi-racial. That’s not to say that discrimination towards Mizrahi Jews in Israel was not and is not problematic, but Israel  and Judaism is not a monolithic “white” region, religion or culture.

The Zionism = Colonialism slander underlies the Palestinian/Arab strategy towards Jews. It is the same strategy used in Afghanistan against the Russians and Americans, and used in Iraq against the Americans: Blow stuff up, weaponize young children as suicide bombers or terrorist stabbers, keep committing violence and make staying so horrible that eventually the occupiers leave. The problem is, as far as so-called “the occupiers” are concerned, they are home! It doesn’t matter how many freshman College essays labeling Israelis as Colonialists get an A-, or how often Arab TV fulminates about them being “European.” For Jewish Israelis Israel is Israel and they will not be boycotted or terrorized into thinking otherwise. Trying to do so is a foolhardy strategy for anyone that actually wants to achieve peace, as the Palestinians prove with each rejected peace offer.

Naive Pundits

I really don’t know if it was all the Aaron Sorkinesque praises of “real America” but the Pundit class doesn’t seem to understand politics very well or why Donald Trump would receive and endorsement from Jerry Falwell.

Even Nate Silver thinks this means the Republican Party is failing.  Why? Because he thinks the party is no longer capable of nominating a Presidential candidate that advances the agendas of all of their factions.

But that presumes that Donald Trump’s failure to be a doctrinaire market conservative or a religious fundamentalist means that. It doesn’t. Because the Republican party isn’t just a coalition of business, fundamentalists, small government purists, and hawks.[1] Since the realignment of the parties in the 60s at least, and arguably since the end of World War II, the Republican Party has been the White Christian Nationalist party. If you see that as the center of gravity for Republicans, then Trump’s candidacy makes perfect sense.

Just think about what all of those tired liberal charges of hypocrisy against Republicans are saying after all. They favor small government but want to regulate contraception or abortion? Well, not exactly. Those are two “wings” of the Republican coalition. But the reason they work together, the reason these folks have an easier time imagining a low tax world where abortion is illegal than a high tax one where it’s illegal or vice versa is because that world is a Saturday Evening Post cover. It’s every white person’s gossamer memory of the 1950s. In that world, unwanted children are a problem for other people. Paying taxes to support them is to support other people.

This may just be an Instrumentalist Theory of the GOP. It may not actually be “real” in anyone’s head but it perfectly explains their behavior in the last 70 years.

So, in sum, what I’m saying is, there may be some Republicans who have a red line on abortion or a red line or privatizing social security or a red line on this issue or that, but they are mostly willing to operate under the banner of someone who will use those as chits to preserve the world dominating role of the American white christian middle class.

I think this also explains the other side of it: why Obama using markets to improve healthcare from the libertarian/small government think tank wing of the GOP, why Clinton making the economy boom and enacting ideas from the same, while also tickling the law and order G-spot with the crime bill and welfare reform, or Carter balancing the budget did nothing or in fact made Republicans hate them more. Because those ideas are not sacrosanct to them the way that preventing the universalizing of opportunity or the changing of identity roles are.

[1] There are liberal evangelicals like Jimmy Carter, pro-business Democrats like Bill Clinton, Hawkish Democrats like Joe Lieberman, Jim Webb, or even, according to liberals, Barack Obama. There are “small government” governing Democrats like Bill Clinton and Al Gore who wrote “The Gore Report on Reinventing Government.” There are taxcutting Democrats like Kennedy. There are Neoliberal Democrats and Neoconservative Democrats. There are isolationist and globalist Democrats. There are even a few Democrats who aren’t “gun grabbers.” None of these things alone, therefore, can be sufficient to be liked by Republicans.


Are Boomers About to Reverse the 60s?

Pat Buchanan used to say that the left won the culture wars and the right won the political ones. This was during the first Bush administration when there had been Republican presidents for 25 years with only the one term of Carter in between.

As the Boomer generation heads into retirement, we are very close to seeing some of those advances reversed. If a Republican wins the White House in November, it is extremely likely that the Supreme Court will reverse Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood either leaving abortion rights to the states or going so far as to make abortions unconstitutional altogether.

It would be conceivable, though less likely, that the Supreme Court could reverse itself on gay marriage. On the other hand, I think we will soon see the end of affirmative action regardless of the outcome of the Presidential election unless the case is put over for a term, which seems unlikely.

On the other hand, a certain economic populism that didn’t exist in the 80s has arisen. For right-wingers it is directed mostly at the government, for left-wingers, mostly at the banks. Right now we have a candidate leading the Republican primaries who is for taxes on the rich, for not cutting Social Security, and for universal healthcare even if he’s for deporting 11 million workers from Latin America.

I won’t be shocked to see a less tolerant yet more economically fair America in 5 years.

The “Pinkwashing” Slander

This week, a Jewish LGBT group was excluded from an event. The pretext was security reasons, but the subject immediately turned to BDS and the term “pinkwashing” which is a term invented to allege that Israel “overemphasizes” its gay rights record in order to “cover up” other “crimes.” The truth is that the term and those pushing it are covering up for the intolerance of the societies they are defending.

This is another one of the many contradictions of the toxic mix of “intersectionalism” and illiberal practices on speech and participation. The state policy of course is about denying platforms to those that spread oppression, but the problem is, almost everyone is part of some group that is more privileged than another or comes from a country with an imperfect record. I wonder how Americans are ever allowed into any of these events with our record both past and present.

But my big problem is that this actually punishes good behavior. If you care about liberal values, if you care about gay rights, more gay rights are good. If North Korea became a gay paradise, it wouldn’t make North Korea a great place or give it a responsible government, but it certainly wouldn’t add to its demerits. Indeed, I detect a bit of a claim of “Jewish swindle” in the whole concept of pinkwashing as if this isn’t a genuine thing. It’s genuine. A just like most places, not everyone is on board. Religious conservatives in Israel don’t care for how open Israel is about gays and have even engaged in acts of violence recently. It’s a shame.

StandWithUS-on-gay-rights-in-Israel-e1438804981259.pngThe test is simple. If you are gay or a woman (or even a Muslim!) you have to ask yourself, where would you rather find yourself if you were parachuted into a foreign country? Those who have brought themselves to believe that Israel isn’t probably the best in its region have found out the hard way what the truth is.

The entire concept, the term itself, and every time it is raised are simply attempts by Israel’s enemies to try and poison one of its positives. Oddly, it’s only Israel that gets left out in these cases. No one seems to think of banning people or organizations actually from countries that punish homosexuality.

Worse, the organization that was banned worked with Palestinian gays, including those in trouble with the religious conservatives who govern the Gaza strip.

“Intersectionality” is a recipe to accomplish “none of the above” and to completely undermine western civilization in a doe-eyed sophomoric attempt to bring about “justice” when it’s simply a set of values created by politicking and personal tastes.Pew-Survey-April-2014-Homosexuality-Views-by-Country

A Dangerous Gamble

Though I still expect Hillary Clinton to be the Democratic nominee,  I must admit that it’s less certain than it was before. Sanders is starting to get his first serious critiques from pundits like Jonathan Chait and Ezra Klein and he’s not holding up terribly well. I wonder, though, how much of Sanders’s rise is connected with Trump.

No, I’m not suggesting their peas in a pod the way others are on the basis of the superficial fact that they are outsiders, but that their candidacies both reflect dissatisfaction with the slow workings of politics and that many Democrats figure, hey, if they are going to nominate Trump, why can’t we nominate Sanders?

That’s the dangerous gamble, for both sides and for the country.

Imagine if Barry Goldwater ran against George McGovern. The two iconic failures of each party never faced someone equally as far out on the other side. Goldwater faced the incumbent President who had led the country out of the chaos of the Kennedy assassination, and McGovern faced a president who, despite being disliked, hadn’t caused the world to end when he took power and had a handful of decent accomplishments by the time the election arose.

First, everyone has to admit that we have no idea what the outcome of such an election would be. We also have to speculate about what a term for either man would mean for liberal values. I suspect a Trump presidency would set back the conservative movement for a generation, even more than Bush II did. It would finally force the Republican party to recalibrate towards the center. Maybe. Or it could diverge into a scary “it can’t happen here” scenario. A Democratic controlled senate would stymie everything it could, but it wouldn’t matter. The damage to the United States would be irreparable.

A Sanders presidency, I think would be damaging to liberalism as well. It’s impossible to imagine that anything he wants to accomplish would occur. It would be blocked by Congress. If the kind of economic collapse occurred that opened a door to his ideas, it would be blamed either on his fellow Democrat Obama or on Sanders himself. Similarly, the kind of crisis that would require a transition to single payer would indicate a failure, not a success, of Obamacare and would not set the table well for such a change.

He would most likely be a feckless and obstinate commander in chief, a sort of reverse Bush, whose certitude contrasts with Obama’s empiricism and pragmatism.

The best I can offer about a Sanders presidency is that in his 4 years he would likely be able to replace some Supreme Court justices, though that is far from certain if he can’t gain control of the senate or if senators distance themselves from him.

His failures would be even more disheartening for the progressive movement than Obama seemed to be because while many progressives believed Obama was a crypto-left-liberal, he campaigned as a pragmatic center-leftist and delivered on that. But someone who campaigns as a left-liberal and whose government will only result in moving the country further to the right would be a disaster of Buchananian proportions.

I suspect that in their hearts, many folks know this about Trump and Sanders but are restless with incremental change but when the time comes, I think we’ll see different results.




After months atop the polls, Trump still surprises opponents

Why is Trump ahead? There’s more to it than the extreme statements and refusing to bow to critics. What no one seems to be noticing is that he’s actually pulling off a masterclass in appealing to his voters. Are mainstream politicians so drowned in mainstream narratives that the best they can do is make hints about what they’ll do here and there and otherwise snap back to the main talking points? It appears so.

Trump knew that the “natural born” question was more complicated than the media, who hadn’t bothered to look, was reporting. Now it is an ongoing story backed up by renowned Constitutional scholars and will certainly dog Cruz for the rest of his run.

Trump knew that despite what seemed “shocking” that most of his voters favored stopping and removing illegal immigrants and preventing Muslims from coming here. The fact that the implementation of all of this is complex can be left to the pinheads in government to point out. It’s what the voters want, and we live in a democracy.

This is seemingly transparent. He’s saying what voters want. Yet it still surprises everyone and seems mysterious to the press.

When Jeb Bush and the rest point out we need the other Muslim countries, or that requiring fair trade with China would make [Chinese] products more expensive, it’s music to the business interests’ ears, but the actual Republican voters don’t want to play in their neoliberal sandbox anymore, if they ever did. And they don’t care if it’s wrapped in the sympathetic cosmopolitan political correctness of lefty versions of neoliberalism.

In this way, and not in the superficial anti-PC “hate” label, he is leading the American version of the UKIP and similar movements in other European countries.

Dismissing this as merely racist or xenophobic is to forget the very narrative liberals tell themselves about Republican voters, which is that they vote against their self interest when supporting the business elite of the Republican party. And when both parties can be seen as doing so, and one party seems, from their point of view, bent on making everyone equal, but equally average instead of forcing more income equality, why side with the Democrats? To put it in terms of Supreme Court decisions, it’s a world where corporations can spend billions on elections, teachers unions are likely to be defunded, but a court decision made gay marriage legal. That is the Neoliberal political order of the United States as it is now. So why side with Democrats who are at least somewhat complicit?

My answer is that in their guts, the instinct of Democrats is to help working people. They took it on the chin to pass the ACA and shouldn’t be blamed for failing to achieve what the Republicans stopped them from doing regarding Wall Street. But when Democrats don’t talk about working people, they aren’t as strong.

But not everyone buys that answer. And those that don’t are likely to at least hear a few things coming from Trump that they agree with and while they might not totally agree wit what Trump says about immigrants and Muslims, it’s not a deal breaker for them—and why should it be if we live in a democracy where people can vote for their own self-interest however they construe it?

This should surprise no one. At all.

For me, the notion of expelling Latino immigrants is a deal breaker that would change life as we know it not just for the workers, but for anyone who buys food. It would cause a disgusting human toll. But again, that’s the implementation. The theory of it, heard as “give American jobs to Americans” is harder to dismiss.

With the birther issue unlikely to be off of Cruz’s back in time, I suspect Trump is the most likely person to now win the Republican nomination.

He is very beatable but he must not be dismissed.

European Elites Have Failed

In the last 10 years, the ruling parties of most major European countries have failed to protect their citizens from an economic collapse, an influx of terrorism, and now myopic but well intentioned policies towards refugees have shaken the continent in the wake of the Cologne attacks.

Let’s not forget that Germany found a way to pay for a million refugees to come into their country but could not let Greece off the hook for a much smaller amount. European unity, indeed!

And yet people still sort of wonder what these new insurgent parties are about. Why are UKIP, Five Star, Sweden Democrats, Syriza, Podemos, Front National, Pegida, the True Finns and so on all about.

These certainly aren’t the kinds of “right wing” parties that we associate with the wealthy banking elites pulling the strings of masses to enrich themselves. Indeed, it’s been the center-left and center-right parties who have governed these countries to the benefit of the neoliberal order and who have failed, not the other way around.

What they reek of is nationalism and xenophobia. But it’s unclear why in a democracy people don’t have the power to exclude outsiders. The United States is a different case, a nation founded on immigration and a culture based on ideas. European cultures are ancient and they are entitled to preservation in their homelands if that’s what the inhabitants choose.

What’s interesting is how the relatively comfortable and progressive welfare states of postwar Europe responded to the economic collapse with austerity while the United States and Canada were more pro-growth, with the United States doing massive stimulus packages and expanding the safety net to include health care for most people.

It’s easy to label these parties as “neo-nazi” or “nationalist” or “right-wing” but what I think they are is anti-establishment; they are against the prevailing order that has failed.

When libertarianism fails, libertarians dissemble into a No True Scotsman fallacy—”there’s never been a truly libertarian state.” Marxists say the same thing. As if we have the opportunity to start from scratch with any country. Political ideologies need to include ways to get from point A to point B without total anarchy or the destruction of the state.

It seems now that the message from the European elites: more austerity, more immigration resulting from a situation where that plan and its ideology have failed.

This is why a majority of the British now favor an EU exit, which may collapse the whole project. These same stupid leaders must see this but won’t act for the same stupid reasons they’ve failed in the past.

Trump’s Gamble on Refugees

Politicians are usually risk averse, but Donald Trump is gambling that something like what happened in Cologne, Germany on New Years Eve will happen in the United States. Worse has happened in San Bernardino, but Trump only announced his anti-Muslim policy after that occurrence. He’s betting it will happen again, and he’s probably right.

What Trump does is announce the policies that sound ridiculous to pundits but are the exact kind of solution talk average people engage in. Too many illegals from Mexico? Build a wall. Terrorism in the US? Ban all Muslims. Forget for a minute if these things are good policy or feasible. You have to admit that to most people they sound like solutions, perhaps even of the very kind they themselves have thought of.

To some extent, Bernie Sanders does the same thing. All of his cerebral supporters would surely tell you, very polysyllabically, that what he proposes are sound policies. But is it really feasible to break up all of the big banks and make college free in the current political environment? No, of course not. But these are the very things that liberals talk about when they get together and complain about things.

When people are frustrated or scared, they don’t want to hear about implementation and compromise. They want action. They even want rash action. This is how we got talked into Bush’s war in Iraq.

You can mock racists for suddenly caring about women’s rights or rape culture when it involves muslims, but accusations of that kind are double edged because it shows that people who claim to care about women’s rights have their own exceptions, asterisks, and rules. It’s these rules that are political and decided by elites in their dialogues about “intersectionality” that determines whose oppression is most important, and this is too complicated for most people to understand or care about. We understand when people aren’t given a fair shake; we don’t like that. But when we compensate for that and then are told it doesn’t always apply, that seems less like fairness or justice and more like a complicated framework meant to screw anyone not at the top of the oppression ladder.

Given these dynamics, every time something like San Bernardino or Paris or Cologne happens, Trump can say I told you so and his solutions will sound like many people’s own dinner table or water cooler conversations.

I think it will happen, I think that will bolster Trump. I don’t think any kind of 2008-like collapse is likely on Obama’s watch so I don’t think the left will be as thirsty for a cowboy as the Republicans are.

Israel and the Sunni Bloc

As we watch the diplomatic kabuki intensify between Saudi and Iran, the media is both over- and underplaying the significance. First, the tension between the two nations is not new in any scale you want. It’s century old, millennium old, decades old, but it’s also been heating up in the Sunni/Shi’a conflict in Yemen (even though the majority of Yemeni Shi’a are Yazidis, which are not all that different than Sunnis) and in Syria where the Saudis are aligned with the Sunni factions if not officially with ISIS.

Some interesting angles in all of this include the position of Bahrain, which has a majority Shi’a population but a Sunni ruling class—and a major US naval installation on it.

There’s Iraq which has its own internal sectarian tensions. We can pretty much expect the Gulf emirates to line up with the Saudis. Turkey borders Iran and Syria but is overwhelmingly Sunni, though it may want to see itself as a power balancer. Factions in Palestine have been supported by Iran but could risk their own survival if they align against Sunni powers. Lebanon and Syria have Iranian-aligned factions, but this is far from a lock on the whole territory.

This leaves Israel in the position of possibly finally finding some alliances in the Middle East which could be used against their allies for propaganda reasons to be sure, but which could be a spark towards changing the dynamic altogether. If Israel allies with the Sunni bloc, it would give them added security both with respect to the Palestinians and the Iranians, the former as I see it the real challenge for Israel and the latter the worst external one at the moment, but still only distantly second. But this creates problems on Israel’s norther borders.

Or, perhaps, Israel could align itself with Turkey and perhaps Egypt to form a Mediterranean bloc.

The United States’s interests seem best served by staying aloof in a Sunni/Shi’a conflict. Will we be able to?


Free College Is A Dumb Idea

In a very middle-class mindset, it sure would be nice if college were cheap. I’m not saying that the way things are doesn’t have issues. Why the cost of college has gone up so much is a good question. But making it free for everyone, or enabling everyone to go, regardless of what the outcomes are for people can only be something that the middle class fishbowl has foisted on people.

It’s interesting that this is associated with the lefty Sanders campaign, because it, just like “intersectional” identity politics are really concepts that come from the upper middle class and people already in college. Poor people don’t really care about the white male cishet hegemon. This politics is about making all of us equally poor.

If the same amount of people remain in low wage, downwardly mobile jobs, there’s little reason to suggest that they should be spending instead of earning money for 4 years.

It won’t make you earn more if everyone has a degree. It will just cheapen a degree. It won’t make a smarter workforce, it will make a more disaffected one. That is not a recipe for a stable and thriving society.

Something like a $15 minimum wage and an even higher level of free healthcare would actually help everyone and give people a chance without a degree, which is the only way we’re going to really deal with poverty and inequality.

However much free college would cost, dump that into healthcare, childcare, minimum wage increases, and housing for the poor and you’ll do way more good.

Sanders Is More Honorable Than His Followers

And he should probably fire his campaign manager. If you’re going to run as the last honest man then you should do what Sanders did and apologize. You should not vent your spleen and deflect the issue on to literally everyone else involved in your misfeasance.

And the worst part is that he (the campaign manager) did that not because he had a legal or principled argument to stand on, but because he knew it was good politics. It fired up Sanders supporters and hauled in a lot of money, some of which is going into the toilet on their Quixotic lawsuit, but never mind that.

That is completely perpendicular to Sanders’s style and message.

And let’s not get into the bleating conspiracy theories from the Regressive Left’s blathersphere on this who are either completely ignorant or are faking the old Polyanna routine. The DNC is political?! Oh. My. God.

The DNC is not a public trust or the federal elections commission. It is made up of elected delegates that vote people into executive positions and set policy. The fact that more of those people support Hillary Clinton is just part of politics. In a democracy, having more support means you get to run things. Clinton is not rigging the system to give a minority candidate majority powers. On the contrary, her almost total support among DNC members has done virtually nothing to harm the chances of any other candidate. The debates the Sanders people complain about have only coincided with his rise in the polls from single digits and irrelevant status to being a competitor in some states. Maybe they should be careful what they wish for. I’m not sure that Sanders’s angry grampa routine would really benefit from all that many appearances, to be honest. Only those drunk beyond sanity on the Kool-Aid honestly believe that anything the DNC has done has stunted the Sanders campaign at all which is considerably outperforming expectations at this point (unless your expectations are winning all 50 states and enacting Sweden unanimously in Congress).

The whole complaint coming from the Sanders campaign (but not so much from Sanders) is that the DNC is supposed to ensure that everyone gets equal time in the time most advantageous for them.

But based on their conduct with the data scandal and its fallout, we know that if Sanders’s supporters were in charge of the DNC there would have been 15 debates about whatever they though Sanders’s strongest issue was whenever and wherever they wanted. And let’s be honest: would a Sanders DNC give equal time to Jim Webb and Martin O’Malley? Please.

If you’re going to take the holier than thou ground, doing it in the wake of your campaign getting caught stealing is not the time to do it and it’s even more ridiculous to do so in a way that’s asking for everyone else to play by rules you wouldn’t play by which is, just to spell it out, not holier.

Sanders has been good, so far, for the Democratic party by keeping the base’s issues in focus and preventing a demoralizing coronation. But if he cannot talk some sense into his own people, if he can’t get them to stop with the conspiracy theories, or at least act and vote in their best interest even if they don’t get exactly everything they DEMAND (like they’re used to in college, I know) then he will have simply been an undetonated Nader (assuming he does not run as an independent).

There will be a reckoning between the far left and it’s Moral Relativism For Me, Authoritarian Identity Politics For Thee bizarro world and the party’s current electoral coalition, but that doesn’t appear to be in this year’s primary season, thank god.

GOP Nightmare Scenario

I always get a combination of surprise and condescension when people in the national media and pundit corps forget that we live in a democracy. Not that democratic will isn’t easily thwarted in this country on certain issues, but that eventually, you can’t get away from the fundamentals.

So, in the Internet era, which for most people is just barely younger than the Fox News era, it shouldn’t surprise people that men like Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Ted Cruz lead in the GOP primary. This is the fruit of 20 years of Rupert Murdoch and his Internet imitators.

They had been buying into “we need someone who can win” until 2010. When the Tea Party wave swept the country, that was the sign that Republicans had bucked their elites. After all, it was Bush, who despite being one of the most conservative presidents ever, screwed up by not being a winner and creating, in their view, Obama’s win, Obamacare, and everything else.

The Internet is doing some of the same damage to the left, where politicians and leaders have ever more and more purity tests put to them. But for right now, the Democratic party nationwide is being very pragmatic. Most Democrats support what Bernie Sanders says but most realize he probably couldn’t have even won in 2008, let alone in 2016 when the fatigue is directed at their own incumbent.

After looking—just quickly—at delegate math, it seems unlikely that the GOP primary will be over in February. The Democratic primary could be over the first week of February if Clinton sweeps Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, and, even if she loses New Hampshire, the huge number of primaries on March 1 should effectively end the race.

The GOP race—where Carson is still in it in Iowa—has 4 or 5 candidates that have a good chance of being awarded delegates in all of the early proportional primaries.

And, again, I’m just looking quickly at this stuff, but it looks to me like getting a non-insane Republican candidate will require Marco Rubio to last at least until April to get a head-to-head against either Trump or Cruz, and even then, it might come down to a three-way race.

In other words, unless things start changing fast—and they aren’t likely to change much until after the first week of January due to the holidays—the Republicans are looking at these scenarios being the most likely: Trump, Cruz, or brokered convention in that order.

I think all three scenarios augur a 400EV blowout for Hillary.

If Cruz and Trump are first in second in all of the February primaries and the March 1 super tuesday, Rubio will more or less have to be third in all of them for there to be any chance of an establishment candidate to win. And I think in the end that only gains them 50-70EVs.

The Terrorists Want…

They want us to be scared, they want to suck us into a land war in the Middle East…

The list of things that people who aren’t experts on terrorists tell us they want is almost limitless these days. In fact, you can try to persuade people not to do something just by saying that’s what the terrorists want.

But I don’t understand what we’re supposed to do then. Simply not react? First of all, that’s just humanly impossible. You cannot train millions of people to react to such things with perfect stoicism.

To me this is just more evidence of how badly the invasion of Iraq broke our national discussion about security. It was stupid and pointless, and more or less caused this problem, and now has made it politically complicated to do anything that must be done.

Did Trump Go Too Far This Time?

I doubt it. If the Republican party wants to save itself, running attack ads against Trump, as I’ve read they are planning, isn’t the solution. The solution is to everyone except Rubio to drop out now. There’s my advice, guys. Don’t be mad if you don’t take it.

Trump has made the same error that people are making. Muslims, especially those coming to the United States, aren’t the problem. Islam, the religion, though, is in a crisis. I could write essays and books on why that is, but keeping people from being radicalized is really the issue.

Protestant Islam

The Islam of the “moderate Muslim” as described by most western liberals sounds like a great religion, one that is vastly superior to Christianity or Judaism. The truth, however, is that Moderate Islam doesn’t exist and Moderate Muslims are mostly apostatizing.

In Christianity, starting in the 16th century, there was a Reformation that made Protestant Christianity a personal religion, based on an individual’s personal relationship with god and his personal reading of scripture. Over time, this took on many variations and the pluralism that created led to the notion of religious toleration and then religious freedom. Protestantism’s general distrust of authority and its pluralism led to the separation of church and state, which ultimately led to the liberalization of both church and state.

Even Catholicism eventually was sucked into modernity by the competition from Protestantism. However, even today, Catholicism is more like Islam in that Church doctrine hasn’t changed so much as most of its followers simply ignore its teachings. In Western countries, over 90% of Catholics disagree with the Church about birth control, for example.

In Judaism, the situation is similar. The Jews remained in a medieval timewarp until the Jewish Enlightenment, or Haskala, starting in the late 18th century. Immediately thereafter, Haskala theologians essentially created a Protestant version of Judaism, which eventually led to the liberal streams, to which the vast majority of American Jews belong. In other places, most are either Orthodox or secular.

The main distinction to be made between the Islamic world and that of Christians and Jews is that the latter two have a way to be religious—devout, even—without subscribing to a medieval or quasi-medieval version of the faith. This isn’t to say that some don’t choose the latter; they do. But when there is no moderate version of the faith to speak of, then anyone drawn into a more religious life is drawn towards the older ways.

Certainly, this doesn’t mean that everyone drawn towards Muslim spirituality becomes a terrorist, but it does mean that, for example, they won’t be likely to have modern attitudes towards women, gays, or other western behavior.

Affirmative Action Done For?

Affirmative action supporters are worried about the fate of race-based college admissions programs with the Supreme Court taking another such case up again after only a short break since the last.

Given the Court’s attitude towards the Voting Rights Act, the worry is probably well founded. What can be done?

First, the majority of high-profile Supreme Court cases involving affirmative action involve the fate of students who end up at a slightly worse school, hardly a death sentence. Of course, the reverse is true: the minority student ending up merely one rung down the ladder at one law school instead of the other is still on track to become part of America’s professional elite.

Rearranging deck chairs on the ship of the professional elite is probably not the only end racial equality advocates had in mind when the program began.

Meanwhile, basic education for minorities is hardly better than it was decades ago.

If the Supreme Court stops race-based college admissions, the appropriate response would be to shore up Kindergarten, not law schools, in poor and minority neighborhoods. That, in the long run, would do much more for the fate of far more minorities than moving them one rung up the law school hierarchy.

Can’t Stump Trump

Another poll is out today showing Donald Trump with a commanding lead in the GOP primary race. This seems to be confusing the pundit class. By now, a few have figured out that he isn’t going to be the 2012-style candidate du jour—something that most of the other candidates are apparently counting on. Ben Carson appears to have played that role this time.

But for those who cannot believe Trump is showing persistent support and who can’t believe anyone could vote for him, I’ll just leave this right here:




On an Internet site I visit from time to time, the users had posted a link to a website that repeats police scanners over the web. Before noon they had recorded that the San Bernardino Police were looking for a man named Syed Farook. NBC News did not report this name until about 9pm, several hours after he was dead.

I can think of a number of possible explanations for this, but the ones I’ve heard don’t make sense. Would it hinder police work? Maybe, but if it’s on the scanner how much of a secret is it? Once he’s dead and the SUV is shown on TV anyone they’re hunting would have access from the same source of information that won’t print the name.

No, of course, the reason is the name is an Arabic language name (Muslims from non-Arabic speaking countries uses Arabic names too). The CAIR and the pundit class have worked the refs on the media very hard. If they “prematurely” report anything like this, they will be accused of Islamophobia. There was no such compunction about reporting the identity—including a mugshot—of the Planned Parenthood shooter.

As the facts came out, it became apparent that there is at least a possible link to terrorism. But the specificity of the target maybe points to some combination of an ISIS copycat or someone motivated to “martyrdom” that used it to settle a personal score.

Does it seriously not concern liberals that someone like this is potentially getting trained and encouraged to do things like this? Or is gun control all that matters?

I certainly think we must severely restrict gun availability in this country, but being in denial about the growing worldwide problem of Islamic terrorism is just as stupid as ignoring the gun problem.


Multipolar Middle East

After the Iranian Revolution in 1979, the United States came increasingly aligned with the Sunni Arab states. A few years previous, Egypt had switched its alliances from the Soviet bloc to the United States. Baathist Iraq and Syria remained in the Soviet bloc until the latter’s collapse.

But the invasion of Iraq—something I must continue to harp on as the strategic blunder of the century, and it was only made in 2003—redrew the map, by, among other things, turning Iraq into a Shi’a governed state (Iraq is majority Shi’a).

Oil politics required that we maintain decent relations with the Sunni Gulf states (many of which have substantial Shi’a populations, including Saudi Arabia in the part of it that has the oil) once Iran became anathema. When the Saudi government was threatened and the Kuwaiti government was ousted by Saddam, we ran to their defense. This was smart from an oil point of view.

But so much of that money goes to fund the very branch of Islam that attacked us on 9/11 and is in the process of creating a refugee crisis that is destabilizing Europe: salafism. Wherever you turn where there are Muslims, there are Saudi-funded salafi centers. Even in places like Ashland, Oregon.

Our stalwart ally in the region, Israel, now seems to feel more threatened by the radical Iranian regime than by the sunni regimes. This is fair enough since it’s Iran that funds Hezbollah to their north and Hamas in Gaza. But the salafi supremacists have no love for Israel. If they are allowed to succeed in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, and now even Afghanistan, it will not improve Israel’s security.

This is not to suggest that we change alignment to the Shi’a. It is to suggest that we keep our distance from both and allow this centuries’ old conflict play out on its own without our being in the middle. This has the added advantage of ceasing to act like a desperate suitor with respect to the Sunni Arabs and let them try to increase their bidding for a change, something Dennis Ross astutely argues that we have done too much of in his recent work Doomed to Succeed. (In his work he argues that distancing ourselves from Israel has never impressed the Arab regimes.)

Just look at the two sides at war in Yemen at the moment. The Houthis, who are presented in our media as the bad guys, are Yazidi Shi’a—different than the Twelver Shi’a of Iraq and Iran, but nevertheless allied with Iraq. They have been in conflict with the Sunnis to their south for centuries. Their allies include Russia, Iran, North Korea, and Hizbollah. Yuck. But look at the other side! Saudi Arabia. ISIS. Al Qaeda. They are fighting each other! Great, let them. Can we arm both sides?

We did this in the Iran-Iraq war (with no follow-up in our relationship with Iran thanks to the scandal it generated), and the British did this successfully during the pax britannia between Napoleon and World War I.

Hezbollah is fighting ISIS in Syria, too. We don’t need to hope for one side winning or the other. We don’t need to decide either are our friend. Just let them beat the shit out of each other for now.

If this works, if we can finally warm up just a little with Iran, and play them off the Sunni Arabs a little bit, it might even improve Israel’s lot by giving us more leverage, should we choose to use it to boost Israel.

The money for ISIS is coming from somewhere. It’s likely Saudi Arabia. Someone is paying Afghani fighters $700 per month (!) according to Frontline to switch from the Taliban to ISIS. Where is this money coming from? Our great ally, Saudi Arabia.

It’s time to be a little more coy in the Middle East.


What about the idea we should back up our allies? A lot of the thinkers on this issue note that we don’t give the impression of being in it for the long haul. This is true, but I’m not entirely sure why it should be different. As a democracy, we are constitutionally required to be able to change course from time to time. If “moderate muslims” need a 50-year commitment from the US, then I don’t think they’re serious about improving their lot. Plus, our perfidy is overstated. We have stood by many of our allies for a very, very long time, even in the Middle East, such as Israel when both our values and our interests align.


The Hawkish Neo-Con Gates Institute seems to have something similar to say, but in the context of a few years ago. This didn’t stop them from hating the JCPOA.

In the New York Times, something from 2007 from Noah Feldman of the CFR, who, I must say fatuously states that Shi’a and Sunni have mostly lived side-by-side peacefully.

Here’s a Cato Institute guy arguing, I think, mostly to not be seen as taking sides.

Note: reading through a lot of articles on this topic, you see a lot of people trying to sound like hard-headed realists who can’t seem to get over their butthurt at Iran.

A 2014 New York Times article, sorta of the “man bites dog” variety about how Iran and US have shared interests in the Middle East. Think of the scene where the Israeli and the Arab smile and shake hands to unite against the alien/zombie apocalypse.

A long rambling blog with some mention of the situation in Yemen at HuffPo.

Of course, here’s something from a Hoover Institute guy playing the “Obama is naive” tune in the WSJ, warning against a Shi’a alliance. A lot of binary thinking on this issue.

Here’s a headline in something called The Fiscal Times saying we can’t support both, but nothing in the article really says why or follows up on that headline.

Andrew Sullivan, someone I seem to think like to just argue with people he doesn’t like instead of sticking to his guns, says no point in picking a side.

Blame for Terror

Some of my friends still scoff at Pat Robertson blaming hurricane Katrina or 9/11 on gay people. The absurd notion that the mere existence of certain kinds of people in a certain place can metaphysically pollute that place in a such a manner and that the consequence would be a man in the sky altering the laws of nature to bring untold suffering to that place is impossible, so it would seem, for the liberal mind to comprehend. It is so absurd that it is an evergreen source of derision and humor.

And it should be. Such a notion is, in fact, absurd.

It’s startling then that the same liberals who wonder if their brains are wired differently than Pat Robertson’s ascribe the same kind of metaphysical pollution as the cause of terrorist attacks. The mere presence of a Jew in Samaria or an American in Saudi Arabia is “why they hate us.” (Remember The Nation was onto this just days after 9/11.)

The proximate cause of terrorism is the terrorist’s conscious decision to engage in civilization destroying activity. To the extent his free will is at all constrained, it is due to a systematic ideology that promotes this. Either way, it is not the fault of those who are attacked, whether they are gays in New Orleans or French teenagers at a concert.

There can be two wrongs

Here’s an article downplaying and at the same time defending political correctness. (i.e. it doesn’t exist, but it’s justified)

I’m sure there are people on the right who don’t like “uppity” blacks, but college administrators are not those people. I for one don’t blame people for being mad about the disparity of death sentences or the fact that people irrationally freak out about interracial couples.

But framing the behavior at Yale etc. as some sort of reaction to those issues is ridiculous. It is possible to mock students for deliberately misreading an e-mail to create the pretext for someone losing their job on the one hand and on the other be completely passionate about ending race-based police brutality. There is no contradiction there.

Is there anyone outside of the fringe that doesn’t believe minorities deserve respect?

Politically, this is bad because it polarizes and alienates those most sympathetic to that cause and gives fuel to the people who were against this all along.

To say that well, black people have had to put up with this forever, so now it’s your turn!  Ha ha! Is just the road to nowhere. If it was wrong then, it’s wrong now. Everyone can be at fault and everyone can deserve respect.

And the oversensitivity goes for white people too. Freaking out about how people wear their pants is pointless and miserable.

You’ll notice that I didn’t write a single word about protests after Ferguson or any of these other police events because I understand that. I don’t understand this. They are not part of the same movement. Regardless of skin color, millionaires cannot understand the day-to-day life of the poor even if they have one thing in common. That’s a lie.

The fact that people are trying to connect these two things just shows the level of delusion. Every college president in America could be fired tomorrow and it wouldn’t change the behavior of a single police officer.

The Unhinging of the Campus Left Means We Can’t Mock The “Both Sides Do It” Narrative Anymore

Whatever the causes, whether it’s that the online generation has sought out only the kind of information they are comfortable with online, or whether their parents were overly protective (obviously, I think, the answer is all of the above) there appears to be a chasm opening on the left. It’s interesting that so many of the “Netroots” bloggers of the 2000s defend this behavior; they created the liberal hugbox on the Internet in response to a perception that the media was too Bush friendly. At the time, they were proud of being “the reality based community.”

Much like the Tea Party/Country Club Republican split, the differences are often more of style than substance, though there are important substantive differences. The main objection from my generation of liberals appears to be that speech and debate is being stifled. Jonathan Chait points out that through this behavior, they essentially inoculate actual racists by letting them whine about the PC police.

I think it goes further than that, because I don’t agree that this is simply a case of a group of passionate youth rejecting certain things like racism out of hand. This is because they actually use hate speech and hateful speech. They do hold biased and prejudiced views. But their cultural logic permits this as long as the target is a political enemy. Even if we stipulate that a few stray heated and frustrated comments against white male elites are ok, they are still made. They are not taboo. But lumping together people and attacking them on the basis of perceived qualities pervades their dialogue, whether it’s the police, or even politically incorrect minorities, like Jews.

So, to be clear: it’s not about suppressing “hate speech” or speech that is hurtful or harassing a particular group on the basis of their group characteristics. It’s about policing speech according to a political logic that permits “hate speech” against some and not against others. And by “hate speech” we mean, according to the protesters themselves, anything that hurts their feelings. They define it. They get to legislate for everyone individually.

At the University of Missouri, an unconfirmed photo (one that appeared online 11 months ago) of an Indian-style, not Nazi-style, swastika was taken as a threat to black students, not to the Jewish students who were the chief victims of Nazism. But that’s not the issue here, the issue here is that this was consciously chosen as the causus belli for these students.

The graduate student who was formerly on hunger strike for reasons related to health care benefits had his cause “appropriated” and when the football team threatened to go along with it, the scalp of the university president was offered on a plate like Imam Husayn’s to the Caliph.

What’s ironic is that in all of this discussion of privilege and institutions, no one seems to point out that this is the privileged class. Yale more so, but Mizzou, Wesleyan, etc. are nothing to sneeze at. These folks may not end up in the 1%, but they are at least headed for the middle class. Their deepest concerns are offensive halloween costumes?

Maybe they’re frustrated. Maybe they expect things to be different in 2015, as John Oliver keeps reminding us. But as a person with some experience in politics they have only managed to push their cause back years by alienating allies and kicking up an opposition by blowback.

I would also point out that the intellectually disdainful way that the left has looked at the non-left over the last 20 years, as if the right was nothing more than a sociological petri dish of Hofstaeder’s paranoid style, or the way guys like Paul Krugman lampooned centrist “both sides do it types” basically loses it’s justification with behavior like this. The left has turned into a paranoid style reflection of the right, by creating its own media on the Internet, which reflect the right creating its own media in response to the perception that the mainstream media had a liberal bias. Campuses have become islands of leftist correctness in response to the perceived fascism of the rest of the world.

Probably due to the Internet, but perhaps due to some of the childhood factors people have suggested, it appears that the tribalism of our politics is making us all forget why we joined the tribe in the first place, what our values really are. I suspect this is going on on both sides. I suspect there many folks who lean Republican because they’ve had trouble with a bizarre regulation on their business that have been pumped so full of the tribalism and conspiratorialism of modern politics that they think the only way to solve their problems is to go along with the flat earth society that dominates the right.

Likewise, I bet there are quite a few liberals who know that the economy is so biased towards the rich that they are willing to tolerate fellow travelers who have buried economic issues in favor of New Left Totalitarianism.

Remember what you really value. I bet you value a good justice system, a clean environment, equality under the law, fair economic opportunities, strong families, good schools, and, though we don’t want it to trump all, we want security too.

No one should be so confident of their politics that they can guarantee all of those things without criticism. Sure, much political criticism these days is made in bad faith. That’s the price of a free society. Free societies are inefficient. The bad faith criticism can shut down a lot of progress. But only a total snot would look back at even the last 10 years and say that massive progress hasn’t been made. Marriage equality is a reality. We have a vehicle for providing universal health coverage. We avoided a massive depression. If that’s not enough fast enough, then consider what the other side might do if they could move so fast. It was happening in the first Bush term. It was scary.

I’m a liberal, at least in my own mind, because I believe in a certain fundamental fairness and because I think government has a role to play in providing that fairness and I have disdain for bias on the basis of inborn qualities that no one can help, both because it makes for a moribund society and because it seems morally wrong.

I try not to forget that even if it means sometimes that I think other liberals and Democrats have completely lost their grip on reality.

Have Progressives Progressed Too Far?

Molly Ball at The Atlantic says so, but I think using an off-off year election as evidence is strange. Some of the writers at Vox share concern that the Democratic party is collapsing outside of the federal level. (They don’t live in California, I guess.)

The Vox authors don’t connect the issues to the problem and lay it at organizing, claiming the party hasn’t organized well enough or that it’s the teachers unions’ fault or something. But why is that? Why are issues that matter to organized people turning against Democrats?

The echo chamber has hit the reality based community, I’m afraid. Both liberals and conservatives are guilty of assuming that “if everyone knew” they’d vote for their team. But is that really true?

Here’s some of what lost this week:

  • Legal pot—but monopolized—in Ohio
  • Transgender issues in Houston
  • A corrupt sheriff in San Francisco (after a sanctuary city controversy too)
  • Gun issues in Virginia
  • Pollsters in Kentucky

Look, none of this is all that suprising and I think Ball sees a pattern that just isn’t there. As for Democrats’ failing to organize, part of the problem is that the agenda of the party has become the agenda of wealthy white liberals which are almost by definition not organized.

Serious danger lies in the recent turn of the Democratic party back towards an aggressive social agenda. The crime issue strikes me as a serious powder keg. Democrats have unquestioningly parroted calls for “prison reform” and every good liberal will tell you that we incarcerate more people than every other country. If you point out that this coincides with a reduction in crime, they’ll tell you it was because of lead or that some other study says mass incarceration only had 1% to do with it. Right. Unfortunately, any rise in crime will be blamed on this and it appears we are back in a rising period of crime.

Like so many lefty social agenda issues, they mix altering outcomes with altering procedures. Police brutality is a problem. Racial disparity in arrests and imprisonment is a problem. But just releasing people who were convicted isn’t going to help at all. I would compare this with the obsession of affirmative action advocates for making sure everyone gets into the #10 law school instead of the #25 law school instead of making sure everyone has kindergarten. Or, in women’s issues. Waving a magic wand and making half of all corporate board directors be women would just push the glass ceiling lower down to wherever it actually stands, whether it’s business school admissions or middle management.

The political problem with these issues is that they run contrary to American Fairness. What is that? It’s our cultural sense of right and wrong. It’s often very ignorant and myopic, but it’s very easily manipulated by either side of the political divide to win on issues.

It was impossible that religious groups would ever hold back gay marriage because it went against American Fairness. Gay people didn’t choose to be gay–who would?! So why not encourage clean living among them?

You can also call American Fairness something more pejorative like American Self-Centeredness. The question might be, how would I feel if I were in that position? So, if I were denied a position not based on merit, I would be pissed and if I earned one not on merit I would (we want to believe) be ashamed.

I tend to believe that the left liberals are convinced as much as the right wing that our society is degenerate, sick, and evil. Instead of imposing old values, they want new ones and they never will stop wanting new ones. Often, this is beneficial to progress. But politically, it has to be both be compatible with American Fairness and not be too out of the mainstream.

This is why I worry about transgenderism. I don’t think people understand this one yet, really. I think people pretend they are tolerant, but wonder about this one. The “LGBT” formulation equates being gay with being transgender, but that only makes sense to people in the humanities department. The critical difference for most people is choice and it seems like this is understood as a choice.

But the worst part of all of this is that none of this is going to change with the presidency or with control of Congress. All of these issues require social movements, not political ones. If you want to have an anti-cop transgender gun-grabbing presidential candidate just because, then fine. But s/he will lose and even if s/he wins, it won’t change many minds.

Bill Clinton was smart. He was a good president. What was his motto? It was “IT’S THE ECONOMY, STUPID!” Well, it’s the economy and don’t get bombed by terrorists, but it’s not let everyone out of jail and appear to be enforcing identity quotas, stupid.

NYT and The Atlantic on Killing Baby Hitler

NYT: 42% Yes, 30% No, 28% Not Sure

The Atlantic writer goes on to show how much he knows about history, but it’s really a simply problem: why are you asking me this? Is it to prevent World War II? To prevent the Holocaust? To prevent a specific person’s death? Am I allowed to assume that will be the result or must I weigh the probabilities.

The Atlantic writer gives the Kantian answer, but I think that’s bullshit. Of course we would do it, whether or not some ethical system says so, if we thought we could save more lives. I agree with him that killing Baby Hitler won’t prevent most of the historical wave that came about and people in that alternate universe might be asking whether it’s OK to kill Baby Goring or Baby Himmler.

There’s not enough information to solve this problem and it’s more or less an ethical Rorschach test less than the Trolley problem that the writer suggests. After all, trolley problems usually give you two or more lives versus one whereas here, we don’t know if we’re guaranteed to save millions or if there is only an infinitesimal chance this works.

For people who say “no” to the trolley problem, though, I’d love to see them show on some empirical basis that that answer is better instead of within their own self-referential framework. It’s more or less a form of pacifism.

Left and Right.

From the point of view of the average European, and indeed to many Americans, there must seem to be not much difference in substance between the right and the left these days. Both have more or less surrendered to a finance-heavy, lightly-regulated form of capitalism, only to slightly varying degrees. There is some separation still on the manner and amount of benefits, but usually even from the left benefits are tied to production: free college for a smarter workforce, free healthcare for a healthy workforce. (Not for more healthy soldiers as we might have seen in the past.)

But is this argument really over?

A new round of identity politics has floated its way into the front of leftwing politics despite the fanfare of Occupy Wall Street, Elizabeth Warren, despite the economic crash, despite everything. Just like the old, this supposed quest for justice is just the same old bigotry, done small time, dicing people even further into smaller groups and adjectives, justified by questionable history and sociological theories. Every single racial, gender, or sexual preference issue gets eclipsed into this nonsense.  The result is that well meaning people from other groups simply ignore all of it. This is not progress.

Politicians throughout the developed world are at a loss for a grand strategy. You hear piecemeal solutions to every world event. We will bomb this group in this city. We will evacuate these people here. Events are far outpacing our leaders’ ability to react. It’s too early to say, but it may be that the status quo of international politics that has held since the end of WWII is collapsing. Too many states lack the basic component of sovereignty that is a monopoly on the legitimate use of force, and worse, many have no legitimacy in the eyes of their populations. Is this too much wailing Cassandra? Perhaps. The old order has done a very good, if not perfect, job of prevent interstate wars. But it has utterly failed at dealing with civil war and the collapse of states, where numerous genocides have occurred such as in Cambodia, Rwanda, Yugoslavia, and Sudan. It seems incapable of dealing with the collapse of the Arab states, either.

In the US, we have a toxic mix of xenophobia, isolationism, exceptionalism, pacifism, and bleeding hearts. We want to pretend we can stay out of everything until we get carried away with emotion about something and we have to act on that, instead of having a plan. Then when we get there we don’t want to get our hands dirty because we went in to be heroes.

Americans have always known very little about the outside world. But today, we know very little about where our interests lie, and if we do understand those interests we dismiss them. Oil in the gulf? Eh, let’s just get off foreign oil. Nukes in Iran? Eh, we did fine against the Soviets.

Getting into land wars in Asia or invading Afghanistan, or whatever other quote you want to cite entirely miss the point. Never get into any war that isn’t over an important national interest, but when you do, go all in. And once the interest is achieved or defunct, leave. That would have meant withdrawing from Vietnam in 1966 after making it clear we wouldn’t surrender entire regions to the communists cheaply–this containment deterrence was the only strategic justification for that war, though it does exist in contrast to many popular myths about our having no interest at all. This would have meant never invading an Iraq that had no nuclear capacity or connections to al Qaeda and would have certainly meant a departure from Afghanistan after Osama bin Laden was killed.

But, to get back to the basic point, neither the right nor the left seems wiling or able to develop a grand strategy at all, let alone one worth following. This leaves us to chose between the same basic economic arrangement.

As someone who does sweat the details, there is no choice. In the United States, the Republican party is febrile, incapable of non-political decision making, incapable of long-term thinking, disdainful of the middle class, and utterly dominated by antiscience nationalism. For all of the Democrats’ many faults, they can still pilot the ship. They can govern, respond to problems, develop solutions, and sometimes implement them.

Where this distinction doesn’t hold, where the right-wing parties aren’t completely dominated by their loonies, such as in Canada, the UK, Germany, France, Israel, Spain, Finland, and Denmark, it’s worth asking if the nihilistic social agenda of the left doesn’t demand defiance.

The Clash of Civilizations

I’m to the point where I think the burden on proof has shifted from those who deny as alarmist the notion that the west is going to have to fight the Islamic world. Much of the same conventional wisdom that denies this seems to think we’re on a collision course with China, but that seems like the desire to sound visionary more than a cold assessment of what’s going on right now.

Right now it seems like we have a vague strategy of containment, but we seem to be living in denial that each state that turns to Islamism, though isn’t one we need to fight, is at least one more that’s embracing a way of life we reject, something we were much more clear about with communism.

It seems like the cultural logic of the west in 2015 forbids any interpretation of events in this way. Even if all of this turmoil is the result of western colonialism, does that mean we have to accept it as our just deserts? Even if you make that argument, you have to convince me that people will accept that and as long as we live in a democracy that matters. And they won’t. I certainly refuse to die for a mistake that wasn’t even made in my lifetime, or even by own ancestors. Round up Queen Victoria’s children if it’ll make you feel better.


Imagine that the next President and Congress pass a sweeping education reform. Forget how it works. Just imagine that the outcome is the best outcome you can imagine actually happening. It exceeds the upper bound of the sober forecasters by an amazing amount. It’s enough to make this President’s legacy. Yes, I know this won’t happen; bear with me.

There will be magazine covers smugly asking Is Government Back? and all kinds of celebration. This is in a sense a Rorschach test for you, but the point is to stipulate that government has done everything it can do. It’s the best thing they’ve done since the Moon shot.

Then what?

Let’s even grant that this leads to some strong growth in the economy and some nice, productivity gains.

The fact is, even if you conjure massive amount of economic growth from this, you aren’t giving everyone economic security. The point of “fixing” education is, largely, to provide people with skills to earn a living and be good citizens. But when you have a lot of idle labor working “below their station” and political scientist will tell you this is not good.

The truth is until the robot singularity arrives we still need janitors, farm laborers, garbage men, and construction workers. Sure, it might be good for society if all of these people had a well-rounded education that helped them be good voting citizens, but if, at the end of the day, they are only paid $10/hour all of that is for nothing.

Pay teachers more. Break their unions. End testing. More testing. Free college. Charter schools everywhere. Whatever mix of reform and non-reform solution you come up with, no matter how idealized, is missing the product that the system is supposed to deliver, and that it can’t deliver on its own.

If the labor movement can’t deliver this–and there’s no evidence that they can anymore–then the solution is to demand that Americans get a fair deal from the economy. A much higher minimum wage, a stronger safety net, basic healthcare, and preserving and strengthening Social Security would go a long way to fixing these problems.

Would a much higher minimum wage cost jobs? Probably, yeah. My magical pony plan includes a stronger safety net. This would in fact require a slight reconfiguration of the economy, but at least it would do what it supposed to do instead of deluding everyone into thinking they’re going to be a doctor–and even if they were this would only mean doctors made minimum wage.

Education is great. Free education is great. It helps people find jobs and roles that they are well suited for and helps them feel fulfilled in life in the process. But the notion that this is the fix for everything is wrong. It might be an important step in a developing country, but here we have an educated class. What we need is to improve the lot of the working class.


Things that happen in foreign countries produce strange effects in the media. If you’re a Fox person, you hear one set of talking heads. If you’re an NPR person, you hear another, and so on. There’s still a little bit of overlap, but the usual partisan divides are a little less marked here, but this doesn’t mean that the ideologies aren’t more forceful, just that they are cryptic to the usual news consumer.

For the most part, cable news has already gone wall to wall on the 2016 election. This is sociopathic. The print media and NPR seem to be all about Syria. Last week it was the refugees, this week the Russian involvement.

So we hear some intelligent-sounding, informed-sounding experts with fancy job descriptions saying almost completely the opposite things about Asad or whether the US has an interest. Then there are commentators who think they know a lot, like David Ignatius, warning the president not to cede Syria to the Russians! You know, the columnists who are disguising their hackery in wonk’s clothing.

The fact is these debates are cloaked in so many cognitive dissonances, it’s hard to keep them straight. Largely it has to do with that 21st century American obsession with the Double Half-Decaf Half-Light Mocha Cappucino in a tall cup mentality. We want to have what we want, but we want it “our way” with the atmospherics to match. We want to enjoy our $5 coffee—more than hundreds of millions of people live off of in a week—but we want it to be “organic,” “fair trade,” and with no peanuts.

Similarly, we want our wars to be noble, for the purposes of democracy, without hurting civilians, without any possibility of ethnic cleansing, the propping up of dictators, and the threat to us must not be that it would do something that would make us homicidal (like raising the cost of that coffee to $10!) but that it would mean another 9/11 at home. Fuck you rest of the world, we don’t want to bomb you. We want all of globalization’s fruits with only attention to risks at home.

So, we want to prop up Syrian “moderates.” Moderates are shit at civil war. Have moderates ever not been purged in any civil war, ever? What the hell is a Syrian moderate anyway? Stupid. We want there to be democracy. Great, then they’ll have elections in ethnoreligious blocks and try to buy each other off with the foreign aid money for a while before they start shooting again.

We also don’t want to risk any civilians getting killed so we do nothing that will end civilians getting killed. We don’t want there to be ethnic cleansing so we force people with blood feuds and revenge on their mind (and weapons!) to live next door to each other. Literally!

I understand that nothing will persuade the American public that there’s enough of an American interest in Syria that it would be worth sending in the Marines and having them force transfer groups into ethnic enclaves and blow up everyone who gets in their way. But unlike most of the pundits, I also understand that our unwillingness to do this means that we aren’t serious about an actual solution, we are serious about crying about how the mess won’t work out according to our ideals.

I don’t know enough about the micro-level dynamics of the Syrian groups to draw a map or say what to do with every inch of territory or every subgroup. But it seems to me that you need a coastal Alawite state, a Sunni state, a Kurdish state, and some other map alterations, maybe moving some Druze areas into Lebanon or (gasp!!) Israel. Then you need some kind of neutral zones enforced by someone less limp dicked than the UN—maybe the Russians can guard the Alawite frontier. Whatever.

Yes, ideally, we could all live next to each other and celebrate our common humanity, but when one group is killing your friends and family in another group that gets hard. Sometimes separation is what’s needed.

As for Asad, you can’t put Syria back together with him in charge, but you can’t put it back together anyway. He might as well be used to build a rump Alawite state on the coast. You need an authoritarian state to bring these anarchic lands out of the dark ages anyway, unfortunately. Do not hold any fucking elections.

After all of this is done, if we need to land the 101st in Raqqa fine.

Explaining how this affects US interests isn’t easy. But this situation has already destabilized Europe and if we let the whole country collapse, it probably means the end of Jordan and Lebanon, even more trouble in Turkey too. How does that affect us? Well we do business with Europe and even though not as much oil comes from the Middle East as most people think, it still more or less sets the price world wide. Whether all of that meets your worthiness test is up to you to decide, but don’t tell me it doesn’t affect you. It does.

There may be no solution to insurgent warfare. Counterinsurgency may be fraudulent. It may be that there is no clean way to fight a war and that in order to beat insurgents you have to be much more ruthless than our current politics allows. But politics change. Especially when a long string of military failures confronts an electorate.