Monday, January 30, 2017

Batshit Crazy

The whirlwind of lunacy emerging from the Oval Office since the inauguration has been nearly overwhelming, but one unifying principal (-al, not -le) has emerged, and his name is Stephen K. Bannon.  Now elevated to a leading role on the National Security Council, at the expense of the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the head white nationalist and dispenser of agitprop appears to be firmly in charge of the Tr*mp administration.

It's time to ignore the Imperial Tweets in favor of those tooled leather folders from which Our President so enjoys displaying his flamboyant signature.  The tweets are just little bursts of fandom for Bill O'Reilly (or, in the case of torture, the fictional Jack Bauer) — the leatherbound executive orders come straight from the twisted brain of Bannon and his not-especially-comic sidekick, policy chief Stephen Miller.

Fortunately, those executive orders are not being ignored.  The immigration ban drew strong criticism not only from traditional progressive quarters, but from essential Republican power brokers like the Koch brothers.  While it's traditional for a new administration to begin with a flurry of executive orders aimed at gratifying its base of support (like the inevitable Mexico City Policy/Global Gag Rule), Tr*mp seems to be tossing just a little too much red meat to his ravening hoards.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Tr*mp Won the Popular Vote!

I figured I'd lead with a lie, in honor of Our New President.  The sad part is that the poor, self-deluded asshole probably believes it.

I attended the Women's March in Philadelphia on Saturday, and was especially pleased to see representatives of a wide variety of dissenting groups.  The women took the lead, but there were plenty of others, including environmentalists, free speech advocates, LGBT rights advocates, Black Lives Matter and immigrant rights activists, and more.  It may be that the Tr*mp presidency will do more to unite progressives than a Clinton victory could have accomplished.

It's about time.

There has been a lot of talk about "identity politics" lately.  Now we have a real opportunity to bring disparate groups together into a mass movement, rather than just assembling the factions into faux unity for the sake of an election.  Lip service to "progressive politics" is not enough.  We have to actively support each other, in letters to Congress, mass demonstrations, public outreach, and every other conceivable means to bring about real and lasting change.  Let's get started!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Question of Legitimacy

A leader is politically legitimate when citizens accept his right to lead them.  They willingly cooperate, accepting his decisions even when they disagree, because they trust his intentions will be in accord with their nation's broadly accepted laws and practices.

Congressman John Lewis will not be attending the Presidential Inauguration Ceremony on Friday because he believes the incoming President is not legitimate.  Lewis cites illegitimate means the President-elect's campaign used to secure his victory — but that is not the test of legitimacy.  What matters is whether or not the mass of the American public accepts that Tr*mp is entitled to lead.  It is not a matter of how he achieved office, but of how willing Americans are to follow his leadership.

A significant minority of the American public never granted legitimacy to Barack Obama.  They were emotionally incapable of accepting the leadership of a black intellectual, so were willing to believe he was a foreign-born socialist Muslim  A recalcitrant Republican Congress acted as if that minority's misguided beliefs were true — but Obama had sufficient public support to guide the direction of the country through eight years in office despite bitter opposition.

Whether Tr*mp will enjoy that level of legitimacy remains to be seen.  His significant deficit in the popular vote is working against him, as well as his bizarre affection for Vladimir Putin — but the emotional element is key.  To many Americans, his innate persona inspires feelings ranging from distaste to utter contempt.

It is true that most people just make do with whatever government they get, so many authoritarian governments manage to persist by coercive repression of a small number of vocal opponents.  If the opposition is sufficiently vigorous, though, even those governments fail.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

That Dossier

Invited by Buzzfeed to judge for myself, I slogged through the 35 pages (some blank) of opposition "research" on Donald Tr*mp. It was less than enlightening.

For one thing, there is nothing to indicate that former MI6 agent Christopher Steele had more than a single "informant" with connections to the Kremlin, no way to decide if said informant was at all dependable, and no way to distinguish between genuine intelligence and disinformation.  Protestations by central figure Michael Cohen notwithstanding, there is no way to know whether or not the Tr*mp lawyer was in Prague at the key times: he was inside the Schengen Area of the EU, and border crossings need not have been noted on his passport.

As for the "Golden Shower" allegation, the document does not claim the self-described germophobe actually was on the bed formerly used by the Obamas when it was anointed by Russian hookers.  Even so, the scene described is suspect.  Had Tr*mp wished to dishonor the Obamas by wetting the bed they had used, wouldn't you think it would have been more satisfying to pee on it himself?

Still, it seems probable that the source for the dossier was Russian, and almost certainly a Kremlin insider — but whose side was s/he on?  Tr*mp will become the US President with the least political legitimacy since John Quincy Adams was awarded the office by the House of Representatives in 1825.  Did the Russians have reason to further delegitimatize him?

Probably.  Driving a wedge between Tr*mp supporters and establishment Republicans discourages any concerted action at all by the US government, leaving openings for international machinations by Russia to go entirely unopposed, and further weakening the confidence of Americans in their government — confidence which already is scraping bottom.

The dossier was "all over Washington" well before the election.  Who was the original leaker, prior to the Buzzfeed publication?  It just might have been the Russians.

Monday, January 2, 2017


In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi invalidated most of India's cash in an effort to fight corruption.  Many believe his attempt at a cure may be more devastating than the admittedly severe disease, but it certainly is a valiant attempt.

In the United States, many believe that our President-elect will not be tempted to use his office to further enrich himself because "he's already rich."  Well, he was born rich, and had more money, decades ago, than you and I could spend in a lifetime — but somehow that didn't slow his pursuit of lots more.  Becoming President is not likely to change his behavior.

A little thing like the Emoluments Clause won't stand in his way.  A Republican Congress is not about to impeach and convict a Republican president for a little bit of self-dealing — nor, for that matter, a lot of self-dealing.  We can expect revisions to the tax code to make the party's benevolent billionaires even richer, at the expense of the rest of us.  We can expect windfalls for military contractors, the banking industry, any company that takes advantage of "public-private partnership" opportunities and, of course, property developers.

Deficit hawks will insist such expenditures be "paid for" with spending cuts in other areas.  The most "obvious" places for cuts already are being eyed hungrily by GOP ideologues: environmental protection, health care (including Medicare and Medicaid), Social Security, the tattered remains of the rest of the social safety net, and regulatory enforcement.

Anybody who expects our President-elect to start behaving like a "normal" president when he takes office is even more delusional than he is.